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The young man who was saved from the death’s door by Ardis confessed his financial problems.
「I don’t have any money left……」
「I didn’t have enough to pay the escorts」
The unexpected answer made Ardis’s eyes turn round.
「Could it be that you were robbed of your money? 」
It would be unforgivable if it was the case. They didn’t just abandon the young boy in the middle of the escort, but also robbed him. There’s a need to find and report them to the police.
「No, that’s not the case……」
At the young man’s response which was weak, Ardis had a bad feeling.
「Then couldn’t it be……, that you paid all the escort fees in advance? 」
「Eh? That’s right……, is it not the case normally? 」
That naivety made Ardis sigh unintentionally.
「You see. It’ll be fine if you paid just a part of the entire amount in advance, if you paid the whole sum like that, there’s no guarantee that they will do their job until the end. 」
It became a troublesome matter as Ardis’s brows furrowed. It seems that the young man, although he had hired mercenaries as escorts, he paid all of the fees in advance and got abandoned in this middle of the forest.
「But, if I didn’t, there weren’t anyone willing to accept my request……」
The young man said so as if it was unavoidable.
「So? How’s it gonna be? If you want to return to the capital, I can bring you with me. 」
While squinting at the young boy’s excuses, Ardis returned to the main topic.
「Thank you for the offer. ……But I can’t return like this. 」
「Ha? Did you forget that you almost died just now? Do you know here is where even veteran mercenaries would die even if they are in a party? Just by yourself, on top of that, you don’t even know a single bit of fighting, you would be a cold corpse in just an instant. 」
「That’s……, I’ve known that. But, there’s a reason that I must continue no matter what. 」
Although it was a soft voice, Ardis felt that it had a strong will behind it. It piqued his interest, as Ardis sat on a fallen tree and continued the conversation.
From what the young boy says, he seems to be looking for a certain relic. His destination was clear, and the goal of his expedition, 『Find the sword that was left in the ruins』 was clear too.
But the problem is the location of the ruins. If Ardis’s memory didn’t fail him, it’s right in the middle of the Whips’ habitat. It’s a place where average mercenaries wouldn’t be able to reach.
「How many did you hire and how much? 」
「It was four mercenaries with one gold coin. 」
If it’s four person and one gold coin, then it’s just two silvers and five coppers for each person. It was the bare minimum for mercenaries to be willing to take his request.
On top of that, that’s only if it’s around the forest outskirts, if they are supposed to escort the young boy to his destination, the compensation isn’t even near enough.
At first, Ardis was angry at the mercenaries who abandoned their job simply and returned. But, from the compensation, they probably weren’t veteran mercenaries. In any case, it’ll be too far of a stretch for them to escort the young boy deep into the forest if they were just average mercenaries.
On top of that, the young boy is determined to continue his expedition even if there’s no escorts. It might be also that the young boy was refusing to listen to the mercenaries to return, as such, the mercenaries couldn’t do anything but went back without him.
「That much is about barely enough for escorts to bring you around the outskirts of the forest huh. If it’s until here, then there’s a need to hire about five or six trained mercenaries. And the bare minimum should be five gold coins. 」
「Is― that so……」
He was probably refused by the mercenaries in the capital many times.
The young boy had a mix of convinced and disappointment in his expression.
「You want to continue no matter what? I’m saying this in case you’re still ignorant, there’re demonic beings even stronger than the snakes just now, you know? It’s one in ten thousand chance that you will even make it alive. 」
In other words, if it’s not a miracle, it’s certain that the young boy’s life will be lost.
「Even so……. If it’s one in a ten thousand chance, it means that it’s possible right? 」
It’s either that the young boy is not right in the head, or there is a reason for him to do so despite losing his life. He did not seem to have any signs of changing his decisions. Ardis took a deep breath and sighed deeply, and finally he asked the young boy’s reason, 「Tell me your situation」.
The young boy’s name is Kyrill. It seems that he’s an orphan raised in one of the orphanages in the Coalition located west of Nagras Kingdom.
When he reached ten in age, he had joined one of the merchant associations as an apprentice, and it’s the second year for him now. In the first place, for an orphan to be joining a merchant association, he would have needed more than talent.
On top of that, Kyrill who can think fast and make use of opportunity, it seems that the owner of the merchant association, his master, had taken an interest in him.
It was half a year ago when the trouble started happening. It seems that the head of the merchant association had failed considerably, and got the association in quite a debt.
Of course, the head had tried various ways, but it seems like there’s no result no matter what. And finally, they had no choice but to request help from the merchant association from the capital.
「But, the condition was that Nee-san will be forced to be a mistress to Julis. 」
『Nee-san』 refers to his master’s daughter. Although she’s not his real sister that is bound by blood, she had been caring for him countless times ever since he became an apprentice, she treated Kyrill like her real little brother.
It seems that she doesn’t discriminate against the rich and poor, she has a good personality that can be benevolent to anyone, even the apprentices and the employee children are all close to her.
The man who is serving as the head of the large merchant association in the capital, Julis, he had already offered Kyrill’s sister to be his mistress before to his master.
But, since she was the master’s sole daughter, also the sole successor of the merchant association. If he agreed, it meant that their association will go under the opponent’s. Even if it’s not that, as a father, Kyrill’s master couldn’t approve of the fact that his daughter will become a mistress rather than the formal wife.
But, that changed when Kyrill’s association failed in their business and incurred a huge debt. For the association to survive, there wasn’t any method left for them but to offer the daughter.
The master had no choice as he tearily accepted the offer from Julis, and the daughter herself seemed to have accepted it as well.
As a conclusion, well, it’s quite the common story. It’s not as if she would be sacrificed for her life. Albeit a mistress, she is still going to be fed by a head of a large merchant association, so there couldn’t be any possibilities she will have any difficulties. Rather than that, she might even be able to live a more luxurious life.
Although it would mean that the merchant association that Kyrill is in would lose its successor, at the very least, they can avoid the path of definite ruin.
On top of that, it might be even more of a merit instead if they got the protection of a large merchant. And why did that led to Kyrill’s current detriment, Ardis couldn’t understand.
「Sister, she’s……a 『Pruned』 」
「Pruned? What? 」
Ardis asked for the meaning of the word that he’d heard for the first time.
「The pruned, it refers to those that are born as twins and 『The one who is allowed to live』. 」
From what Kyrill explains, in the town he lives in, whenever twins are born, it’s the practice there to kill the one that are born last as the 『Filth』. With one of them dying and carrying the twins’ sins, it’s believed that the other half would have their sins atoned.
That’s why, after dealing with the 『Filth』, it’s the norm to raise the one twin that is left normally.
『Depending on the region, they might kill one side off and raise the other. 』
Suddenly, Ardis recalled Ted’s words. Although he never thought anything important of it before, now that he’d heard it again, it felt terrible.
By cutting off one of the twins as the 『Filth』, the other one is allowed to live as the 『Pruned』. But just with that kind of title, it’s easily imaginable how the society will treat the living half of a twins.
「The bad rumors about Julis had never stopped in the first place. There were several times that he’d welcomed orphans or daughters from poor family as his mistresses as well, but all of them passed away in just a few years, and the witnesses of them are hardly even there. It’s from what the others say but, the corpses of the mistresses all had countless bruises. 」
Although it’s not clear since it wasn’t verified but, hearing from Kyrill, it seems that this Julis is suspected of abusing his mistresses.
「And if Nee-san who is also a 『Pruned』 end up in that kind of place, I can’t imagine how she’ll be treated. 」
Although Kyrill’s expression was dark, it seems that there was a glimpse of hope in his eyes.
「But this month, there was another large merchant association who agreed to help us out with another condition. 」
「And that condition, is it regarding the sword in the ruins? 」
The reason why Kyrill himself would dive this deep in the forest even knowing that it’ll be dangerous is now clear.
But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s too dangerous. He should hire appropriate escorts to dive that deep in the forest, and if he can’t pay, then he shouldn’t try the impossible. Because that the chances of Kyrill gambling actually paying off in this cruel forest, was basically nil.
Ardis suddenly had an idea as he faked an evil smile.
「I see what’s your situation now but, do you have the need to go that far? In the end, she is just another stranger, and also of a twin. Twins are the cursed children after all. 」
Kyrill magnificently caught onto Ardis’s words.
「Nee-san is not a cursed child! She’s amazing! She knows all kind of things, even her handwriting is neat, and she’s also the best in calculating in the whole association! Even when I was sick, she would take care of me gently! She didn’t treat me badly even though I’m an orphan! She’s a very nice person! There’s no one else as nice as her! The matter of being a twin or not doesn’t matter! 」
「But aren’t twins the devils who are against the goddess? In fact, they are regarded as heretics by the church. There won’t be anyone blaming you even if you abandoned her. 」
Kyrill’s dark blue eyes were glaring at Ardis.
「I won’t be able to forgive myself, if it means to abandon someone that had taken care of me so much even though there’s a chance to help her……」
As Kyrill bit his lips and said so, he fixed his posture and continued.
「I’m really thankful to you for saving me. But I will still go. If there’s even a single hope, I want to help Nee-san. 」
He probably had no intentions of hearing Ardis’s reply. Kyrill had already turned around and walked deeper into the forest.
And Ardis asked towards Kyrill’s back.
「Even if it means going against the teachings of the goddess? 」
「Of course. Just because she’s one half of a twins, it’s wrong that she will have to suffer. If that’s what the goddess taught, …………something like that isn’t a goddess! 」
Kyrill who answered without looking back, denied the goddess angrily, before disappearing from Ardis’s view.
Ardis who was still sitting there gazed at where Kyrill disappeared for a while, before facing the sky while shutting his eyes.
The practice of 『Pruning』 that he’d just heard from Kyrill was painful for his heart. The cruel story to kill one side of the twins the moment they are born, it might even be the result of what their seniors had thought of painedly to save even one of the twins.
With a renewed anger, Ardis thought about the young boy, Kyrill. A child that is still obviously young, he’s walking straight into the forest filled with demonic beings.
The fact that he had paid all the escorts in full in advance can be thought as his inexperience with his age. But as a twelve-year-old child, he is more than enough smart.
It might be that he had gotten good teachings in the association of his apprenticeship, the answers he gave was satisfying and his thinking speed is good too.
The courage to bet his own life for a sister not of the same blood, taking action by himself to come out this far to Nagras Kingdom, and the persistence to not give up no matter what.
On top of that, the fact that he had the values which would even go against the forbidden children teachings face front, it was exceptionally satisfying for Ardis who is shielding Filia and Riana. He was too precious of a person to be dying a dog’s death here.
『Just because she’s one half of a twins, it’s wrong that she will have to suffer. If that’s what the goddess taught, …………something like that isn’t a goddess! 』
「That’s right. 」
As the words that Kyrill left behind resounded in his brain, Ardis muttered as if he was persuaded.
「Who would stand something like that being a goddess. 」