As a reward for subjugating the Grinder by themselves, 『Bright Stars of White Night』 had gotten a total of fifty gold. With each member getting ten gold, it wasn’t a bad sum.
With the threat of Grinder gone, the logistics and item prices are returning to their normal state, the territorial army and the Lord were praised of their quick action.
Of course, there were deaths during the subjugation. Totaling the main unit that was attacked first, and the other squads that was attacked later, there were almost twenty casualties.
It can be said that they got away with just that much casualties thanks to Ardis and the others. If Ardis and the others didn’t take part in the subjugation, then the worst scenario of everyone being wiped out might’ve happened.
Albeit that, the public was told that it was the army who succeeded in the subjugation. It’s not like Ardis has any complaints with that, since Ardis and the others had gotten their befitting compensation for participating.
Even if the army didn’t do much and the Grinder was actually subjugated by Ardis party, it’s no denying that the subjugation army is formed by the army and they have the most men in it.
Few days have passed since the Grinder subjugation. Ardis was hunting with Nere as usual but, he noticed presences surrounding them.
He thought it was his imagination at first, but it didn’t seem to be so. Even the residents who used to talk with Ardis seemed to be avoiding him.
When he’s walking around on the streets, soldiers would appear and interrogate him. Every time he entered or left the town, the border check was strangely stricter for him.
Even when he goes to his frequented store to buy groceries and other necessities, the shopkeeper there would make a troubled face too. There was even one that yelled at him 「Don’t come to this shop anymore! 」and chased him out.
The citizens’ gazes which were directed to him turned cloudy by the time he noticed it. It’s not like there’s any special harm towards him but, he felt a sense of unexplainable sense of uncomfortableness from them.
And someday like that, Ardis was called out as he walked on the empty street alone.
「Ardis-san. Ardis-san, here here― 」
Turning around to the voice, it was a girl waving her hand from an alley. She looked familiar to Ardis. Ardis put up his guard just in case as he followed the girl to the back alley. The one waiting there was a lovely girl with her dark blue hair tied up.
「Umm……, you are Kashiha? 」
「Ah, you remembered me. Onee-san is a little happy. 」
It’s the girl at the 『Perch Inn』 that Ardis and the twins stayed in for some time.
「Do you have something with me? 」
「Ah― unn……. To be honest, well, it isn’t fine for me to be interfering with a customer that I basically drove away……. But, well……. Ardis has his own situation too……」
Although she was the one who called out to him, she couldn’t open her mouth properly.
「Ardis-san. Recently, are you getting eyed by the army? 」
「……What do you know? 」
「Eeh……umm. There were some soldiers that came to the inn. It was a young soldier named Decken. He’s strangely bothered about you……」
「Could it be that you talked about the twins? 」
Under the sharp gaze of Ardis’s, Kashiha had no choice but to shrink.
「N-No way. It’ll be a breach of trust if my inn started spouting guests’ secrets. I didn’t lie to the soldiers and told the period you stayed in the inn but, I’ve never muttered anything about the twins. In the first place, I was the one invited you to my inn. It’ll be going against me belief if I did something like that. Just that……」
「Just that? 」
「They’ve asked around the other guests and the surrounding neighbors……, so the matter about the twins might be known……」
Ardis suddenly wanted to click his tongue badly. As he suppressed his instinct to do so with a bitter expression, he took out a silver coin from his pocket and handed it to Kashiha.
「Thank you. Now I finally know what’s the reason behind the uncomfortable feeling in the past few days. 」
「Sorry. I couldn’t help……」
「Don’t mind it. What you’ve told me just now is more than enough. You are running a business at your place as well, I know well that a bad rumor will be fatal. 」
See you, Ardis left that words before walking out to the main street.
「I guess I should tell Ted and the others too huh……」
He changed his schedule and headed towards the inn where Ted and the others are staying and explained what he had experienced.
The average citizens don’t know the details of the Grinder subjugation. Of course, the fact that the army were useless, and the subjugation was done by mercenaries was only known by the participants.
But the soldiers in the subjugation team witnessed it. Especially for the Corps Commander or the Company Commander, their reputations in the army were probably dragged in the mud. There’s a possibility that they are holding a grudge against Ardis and the others because of that.
But after telling Ted and the others about it, it doesn’t seem like they had such changes in their surroundings. In other words, it will be right to assume that the problem lies within Ardis himself. Since he was glared by the army’s commander that is the general in the first place, it isn’t impossible for their animosity to grow into hostility.
Having said so, it still doesn’t explain why the citizens are directing unfriendly gazes to him. In the end, Ardis returned home with the unsolved mystery, but was called out by Ted and the others two days later.
「We found out the reason. 」
Norris said directly. There’s no need to ask what reason he’s talking about at this point. Ardis kept silence as his eyes conveyed Norris to elaborate.
「Basically, the twins’ existence had been known. And the reason behind that is the woman living at your house――Nere. 」
It seems that Norris had taken the entire day yesterday to investigate.
The first reason was something Ardis expected. The information he heard from Kashiha from the Perch Inn is more than enough for him to hypothesize that.
Just that, he couldn’t grasp the reason behind the soldiers. If it was because of the subjugation that day, there’s no way he was the only one being investigated.
「It’s the request we brought to you originally but, you brought Nere to the lord’s mansion right? 」
「Yeah, it’s that time that I’ve met with Nere. 」
「Then, after Ardis brought her to the mansion, you didn’t accompany her right? 」
「Well, that’s a given. I don’t have any reason to do that, and in the first place, I don’t think I can even enter the mansion. 」
「Unn, that’s right. The problem seems to be originated from that. 」
Of course, he had known that after bringing Nere to the mansion, she had come to his house a little while later. Since Ardis wasn’t interested, he didn’t ask.
「This is well, it’s a matter disgracing the army, so there was a gag order. Nere, she had apparently caused various troubles for them. 」
「You see, it seems that she was totally disrespecting the minister and the General, and even beat a Corps Commander to the ground. On top of that, when the lord came out, she just spoke her own things and left after that. 」
What is that woman doing, Ardis felt pain in his head.
Now, she is a trustworthy self-proclaimed Ardis’s servant but, occasionally, her action can still betray that entirely. Honestly, Ardis hasn’t known what happened before Nere came to his house but, now that he knew, there’s no way he can escape from it. She pretended to look docile but, now it’s revealed that she was actually carrying a huge bomb on her back when she came to Ardis’s house.
「So, the best guy of the army that time, it was apparently the same Decken, one of the Corps Commander for the subjugation. Remember him, Ardis? 」
Ardis silently shook his head.
「It seems like that Decken guy, he was unable to do anything about Nere and was shamed in front of everyone. On top of that, as he thought to take back his name with the Grinder subjugation, the result was that more than half of the soldiers died, and all the work was done by mercenaries……」
He probably has deep hatred for you, as Norris lightly laughed and continued.
「Couldn’t it be that they are targeting not you but Nere? That’s why they went to investigate about you, but doing so, they found out that you were sheltering the twins. 」
「But, isn’t that Decken’s personal problems? Leaving aside the rumor in the town, isn’t it strange that the entire army is being strict with me? It might be rude to say this but, does a Corps Commander even have that much authority? 」
「Well Ardis. In the first place, the reason that Nere was invited to the mansion, was because she defeated the Company Commander. 」
「She was challenging people on the highway right? And apparently one of them was the Company Commander. 」
Ardis’s brows furrowed.
「Yeah. In other words, they invited Nere to the mansion to relinquish that fact, and sent out the strongest warrior, but still lost. On top of that, the effort of subjugating the Grinder was stolen as well. So, it probably wasn’t very amusing for the army. 」
「So, it’s that? She’s being targeted by the whole army? 」
「Unn……. You said it was weird? Since Ardis was already targeted by the army in the first place, now that Nere did the same thing. 」
Ardis buried himself on the table.
The one who set the fire was Nere but, it seems that Ardis’s action in the past had contributed to it as well. Then it isn’t entirely Nere’s fault.
In the past, Ardis had refreshingly refused to teach his sword magic, so he had a bad image to the commanders and general of the army, and now that Nere did this, it all piled up and the army became hostile to him. And the result was that the information regarding the twins was leaked.
「The majority of the army seems to think that we are miser who stole their efforts, if the top twists the truth a little, then wouldn’t the soldiers at the bottom believe that? Basically, it’s something like the personal hatred towards Nere who had costed the army’s reputation became a collective hatred? 」
And so, Norris finished his explanation.
「Be careful, Ardis. 」
Ted who judged the topic is over opened his mouth.
「With the rumors of those children spread, the gazes of people on you will turn worse. Some of them might even do something direct to those children. 」
Of course, that possibility is already in Ardis’s consideration. But in the end, being able to understand it doesn’t mean he is convinced.
「Having said so, there’s no way that doing harm directly is fine. 」
「I know that without you telling me. Well, the average citizens probably wouldn’t be a problem. But you see, those fanatic believers of the goddess are different. With that much belief, some of them are even worse than a demonic being. On top of that, even without violence, there are many other ways to mess with the children. 」
「Other ways? 」
「You should realize it already but. The way that people refuse to interact with you. 」
That he understood, so clearly that he doesn’t want to.
The way people walk around him would purposely shift their gazes from Ardis. The way that they would look somewhere else when Ardis talks to them is also so that they can distance themselves sooner. It’s to show that Ardis is different from them.
Even if their individual purposes and reasons are different, all of them showed the same reaction.
「Even farmers and merchants, all of them are believers you know? If they don’t sell you bread or weapons, then no matter how strong you are, you will be in trouble. 」
Ardis could neither agree nor disagree. If it’s himself, then he can procure some food in some way, living outside the town is fine by him as well.
But it’ll be hard to ask the twins to do the same. With the weak and defenseless twins, they have no choice but to live in a town.
「In a society, you can kill someone even without a weapon. Even if the ones doing the killing don’t have any intentions to do so, people can easily die when there is too much animosity. Don’t forget that. 」
Ardis knew something like that long ago. The animosity of human beings, it was something more dangerous than monsters that one could never let their guard down around.
「Don’t worry. I wasn’t raised in a nice enough world to not look down on people’s animosity. 」