Wortenia Senki (LN) - Volume 2 - Chapter 1

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Chapter 1: Assailant 

Three figures moved through the dark forest, trying to stifle their footsteps as they went. This was the forested area extending to the north of Pherzaad, the largest trade city in the western continent. This place was far off the main road, several days away from the nearest village. 

Never thought the techniques Gramps taught me would come in handy here... 

Parting his way through the trees while trying to hide his presence as best as he could, that thought crossed Ryoma’s mind as he felt the presence of the Malfist sisters at his back. 

Ancient Japanese martial arts were a comprehensive, systematic set of techniques developed to ensuring soldiers’ survival on the battlefield, and wasn’t limited simply to methods of killing the enemy. It also taught how to dampen one’s presence and sense the presence of others, which was imperative for scouting purposes; how to swim while wearing armor and a helmet; what native herbs could be used for medicine; and other techniques necessary for survival. 

At the time, I kept asking myself when the hell would I put these skills to use. Pretty ironic... Skills that were useless back in Japan became so much more meaningful once I was summoned here. 

When people hear the words “ancient Japanese martial arts,” the first things that come to mind are jujitsu and kendo, and those technically weren’t incorrect associations. Most currents of martial arts that have persisted since the time of the warring states into the modern age have systemized, and ended up becoming specialized and refined for a peaceful world. 

As a result, jujitsu and swordsmanship were sublimated into judo and kendo respectively, cutting out what was deemed unnecessary in the process. There were many techniques that, despite being written in the manual, weren’t practiced by most people. 

But even in such a period, Ryoma Mikoshiba’s grandfather taught him all the family traditions which had been passed down since ancient times, not leaving out a single one, and among them were skills that one wouldn’t, or rather couldn’t, put to use in the modern age. 

This method of walking that Ryoma imparted to the Malfist twins was one such technique that was lost to the ages. Walking while muting the sound of one’s footsteps was an obvious technique for those who spent their lives in the forest and lived through hunting. Failing to do so would not only result in prey escaping, but also put one’s life at risk. 

That said, in the modern age, where most people live in cities, this technique likely only remains in use by the Matagi, the small population of native hunters that live in the Tohoku region, or otherwise in special guerilla training in the military. 

Whatever the case, such techniques for surviving in a forest were deemed as unnecessary for modern life. Nature, however, was different. They may have been unnecessary in Japan, one of the more developed countries in Ryoma’s world, but were immensely useful on this Earth, which had many areas that were undeveloped and untouched by man. 

These skills were useless for life in Japan, but here in this world they served as his lifeline, and Ryoma couldn’t help but break into a self-deprecating smirk at the irony of it all. 

Standing at the lead, Ryoma suddenly stopped and raised his right hand. 

It’s up ahead... As always, I’ll act as bait and draw his attention. You two look for a chance to get the drop on him... Go! 

Without turning around, Ryoma silently signaled as such with his hand to the Malfist sisters, and then crouched and took a chakram out of one of his leather sacks. Abiding by his signal, the sisters’ presences disappeared from behind him. 

This was their tactic for certain victory, one they’d practiced and pulled off countless times by now. Prowling at the end of Ryoma’s line of sight was a single praying mantis. It had a slender, green body and two massive scythes for hands. But one thing set it apart from the type of mantis Ryoma was used to seeing; its massive form stood at one hundred and forty centimeters tall. 

A Large Mantis. 

Infamously known as the Woodland Butcher, it was a type of monster feared even by seasoned adventurers. In Ryoma’s old world, praying mantises were never any larger than a dozen or so centimeters, but the one standing before him now seemed to openly mock the idea of common sense. 

Ryoma could only see its back from where he was standing, but the large mantis seemed to be currently occupied with eating. The severed lower half of a wolf lay at its feet. 

Bending his body like a bow, Ryoma unleashed the chakram, which cut through the wind and flew toward the mantis. Despite having compound eyes that were capable of seeing in every direction, it still wasn’t able to pick up the sight of a chakram whizzing through the air from a thick forest. 

The next moment, the chakram drove itself deeply into the large mantis’s defenseless back. He didn’t know if this thing could feel pain, but the large mantis turned around without so much as a moan of agony, tossing the carcass it carried in its front legs, and facing Ryoma, its wings spreading out to intimidate the one getting in the way of its meal. 

Its eyes seemed inorganic and cold; the emotionless, glass bead-like eyes of an insect. But Ryoma could tell it was enraged for having been attacked and injured by surprise. 

That’s right. Keep your ugly eyes fixed on me, big boy! Your enemy’s right here. 

Holding its front legs before its face like a boxer, the large mantis approached while tightening its defense, looking for an opening. 

Its sharp mouth was dyed red with wolf’s blood, and its two saw-like scythes gleamed in expectation of the blood of a new prey. 

Taking it from the front is impossible... 

Ryoma threw two more chakrams with the intent of keeping it in check, but the mantis swiped them away with its front legs. They truly were menacing weapons, capable of tearing prey to bits, and yet the iron-forged chakrams had no effect at all. 

Ryoma silently unsheathed his sword, holding it beneath his right side while hiding the blade behind his back. 

A flank stance. 

It was a stance that allowed one to adapt ad-hoc by observing the opponent’s movements. And Ryoma didn’t divert his gaze from the mantis for a moment. Because if he would look away for even a second, the large mantis would cover the ten meters between them with a single bound and attack him. Both animals and insects flock enemies the moment they show an opening. 

Good boy... Stay focused on me! 

Their gazes remained locked for only ten seconds or so. Still in his flank stance, Ryoma covered the distance with one bound, and the mantis swung its front legs as if rising to the challenge. Fluttering its wings, its green body rose into the air. 

A hard impact crashed against Ryoma’s body. His tempered muscles swelled, clashing with the large mantis’s massive frame. His face went red with effort and his breathing stopped in his throat. The mantis kept pressing downward, intending to crush Ryoma. 

The sword and the scythes locked and pushed against each other. If Ryoma were to relax his strength for even a moment, he’d be knocked down against the ground immediately. Instinctively realizing this, the large mantis’s thoughts were fixed entirely on finishing off the prey before its eyes. And that would render the wide range of its compound eyes meaningless. 

Its consciousness was fully concentrated on Ryoma, and not knowing that doing so would only hasten its journey to the grave, the large mantis slowly approached Ryoma’s face, opening its sharp jaws at the same time. 


With Ryoma’s shout as their cue, the Malfist sisters jumped out of the bushes, their blades whistling through the air as they swooped down on the mantis. 

The Malfist sisters’ prana streamed to their first chakra, the Kundalini Chakra located in the perineum, filling their bodies with superhuman strength. Their blades were aimed at the four hind legs supporting the large mantis’ massive frame. 

Even this creature, which prided itself on its vitality and agility, couldn’t have blocked a surprise attack from both sides, and the sisters’ slashes, reinforced by martial thaumaturgy, dug into its joints and cut through them. 

“Sara, keep cutting off its other legs. Laura, aim for its torso!” 

Cutting off the front legs of the mantis, which had collapsed due to having lost the ability to support its own weight, Ryoma urged caution. It was when one was most confident of their victory that they were the most vulnerable. 

Ryoma was determined to snuff out the enemy’s life. Some may call it abnormal cowardice, but Ryoma instinctively knew that those who lacked it could never survive in this world. 

“Let’s take him out in one go!” Ryoma shouted, seeing the mantis’ severed legs twitching on the ground at the edge of his field of vision. “These tenacious buggers have a bad habit of not staying dead when they should!” 

No matter what world it was, insects boasted the highest vitality of all living things. Even with their heads sent flying into the air, they were capable of continually fighting until their vital signs were completely quelled. 

That said, something truly unexpected would have to happen to overturn Ryoma’s victory. Even with a sword plunged into its body, the mantis would have unflinchingly retaliated, but having lost its scythe-like limbs which served as its greatest weapon, it had lost the means to strike back. 

The time to finish it off was now. Ryoma plunged his sword into the mantis’ head, gouging at its wound. The mantis struggled desperately at first, but its movements gradually grew duller until its large body became completely still. 

What a feeling. I could never taste this back in my peaceful life in Japan... But... 

An exchange of lives. Ryoma looked down on the mantis’s remains, a savage smile on his lips. He’d felt so alive, as if he was basking in the afterglow of an exhilarating moment. It stood as proof that Ryoma Mikoshiba was adapting to this world. 

But on the other hand, Ryoma felt as if there was a lump in his heart that simply wouldn’t go away. 

What am I going to do from now on? 

Pleasure and emptiness stood back to back. With those two conflicting emotions in his heart, Ryoma began skillfully dismembering his prey.

After leaving Mireish, Ryoma and his group made their way to Myest Kingdom, where Pherzaad, the greatest trade port of the western continent, waited. 

According to the book they borrowed from Annamaria, Ryoma learned that any chance he had of returning to Japan was essentially close to zero. So he decided to give up on finding a way back, and instead focus on surviving in this world. 

No amount of crying would change the situation, and once he’d realized this, Ryoma’s heart went through a great change. That change was profoundly influenced by the Malfist sisters’ great devotion and affection for Ryoma. 

Still, if he were to live in this world, he would need some kind of purpose or objective. If he was some hero summoned to save the world, things would be simpler and his objective would be made apparent soon enough. But as things were, Ryoma didn’t have any purpose to speak of. 

Of course, even if the environment he lived in before being summoned to this Earth was a bit unusual, he enjoyed a fairly normal high school life, and naturally had dreams and aspirations just like everyone else. 

But those aspirations were limited to the frame of life in Japan, and in this Earth, which was inferior to Japan in terms of both cultural and societal development, they were only unattainable dreams. 

If he had to think of a single purpose, it would be to exact revenge on the empire of O’ltormea that summoned him to this Earth. But he’d already killed the one who directly summoned him, Gaius, and lacked the power to exact revenge on the country itself. And even if, on an individual level, he would slay the emperor, he still wouldn’t kill the system that made this empire function. 

So he gathered his strength, for the day he would be able to exact revenge. He hadn’t given up on his dream of going back to Japan, but living for nothing but vengeance felt all too barren. If revenge was all one lived for, they would eventually degrade into nothing but a demon. 

And so Ryoma traveled the continent, earning money by completing the guild’s requests. He thought that perhaps by seeing many places with his own two eyes and gaining experience, he’d find and earn something. 

Of course, there were other options he could take. In Ryoma’s bank account slumbered a sum of money the common person in this world wouldn’t be able to earn in a lifetime. That said, Ryoma had no intention of reaching for the money he’d gained from the slave merchant Azoth. It was a large fortune, enough for him to spend the rest of his life without having to work. 

Even in such a turbulent world of war and strife, the power of money remained as mighty as ever. Money might not have been able to buy everything, but it did enable one to force their will in most matters. If he’d wished for it, settling down in some safe town and living a comfortable, extravagant life was perfectly possible. 

But that wouldn’t give any meaning to his life. Ryoma craved it, from the bottom of his heart... A purpose to live for in this world... 

The trade city was surrounded by sturdy walls. In the city’s east was the largest harbor in the western continent, where circulated not only merchandise from across the continent, but also goods imported from the eastern and central continents. 

People walked busily through the streets, which were lined on both sides with buildings made out of stone. The trade city of Pherzaad was such a lively, bustling city. 

“Let’s stop by the second-hand store first.” 

“Stopping by the guild to report our requests would be more efficient.” 

The group of three walked down the main street, their large sacks digging into their shoulders. They were full of monster fangs, claws, skin, flesh and bodily fluids, which were useful for producing food, medicine, weapons and tools. 

In many fields, the developed nations of Ryoma’s world were far more advanced and affluent than this world, but this Earth wasn’t inferior to Ryoma’s world in every way. A major factor in that was the existence of monsters, which were only products of fantasy and imagination in Ryoma’s world. The many items one could produce from their bodies sometimes yielded effects far more advanced than anything Ryoma ever saw. While monsters were pests that threatened people’s lives, they were also an irreplaceable resource unique to this world. 

“Laura... Our guild requests still have plenty of time remaining. Can’t we dispose of the goods we’ve harvested, have lunch once we’re light on our feet and do it then?” 

They were careful to pick things that wouldn’t be too bulky but would still fetch a decent price. Though, given the amount, each sack weighed slightly more than forty kilograms. The large mantis’s bodily fluids were especially precious, and would have to be processed quickly by an expert; otherwise, its quality could degrade. 

Of the materials one could gather in the forest near Pherzaad, the large mantis’s bodily fluids— which served as a key ingredient for extremely effective medicine for external wounds— was among the more valuable ones, and was constantly in a state where the supply for it never quite kept up with the demand. As such, it sold for a pretty sum. 

In addition, the guild request they took to pick medicinal herbs still had several days remaining for its time limit, but reporting it as soon as possible was the wiser choice. There was no telling when something unusual might happen. 

“Really? I thought it would be better to report it now, than forget and panic about it later. That way, we’d be able to relax at the inn with nothing to be concerned about... What say you, Master Ryoma?” 

The Malfist sisters’ glances fixed on Ryoma’s back, who was leading their stride ahead. For all they were concerned, both choices were moot. What mattered was their master’s opinion. Still, each of their gazes were filled with the honest expectation and hope Ryoma would pick their own personal suggestion over the other’s. 

“Well, let’s see... I’d love to kick back at the inn for once, but forgetting to report our quests wouldn’t be good... Well, I guess we could split up, finish all the work and go back to the inn for a dip in the bath. I’d rather not look for some place to eat in when I smell like this.” 

The sisters beamed at Ryoma’s words. After several days of hunting, their bags were full of materials they got from the forest. Walking around town with those bags was taxing, and having spent days in the wilderness, they naturally didn’t have any chance to bathe. The most they could manage was wiping themselves off with a wet cloth. This was, of course, more of an issue for the sisters, being young ladies as they were, but this was unfortunately an unavoidable part of the mercenary and adventurer lifestyle. 

All of these were circumstances Ryoma came to realize after traveling with them for several months, of course, and seeing their master show them casual consideration made the Malfist sisters grin happily. 

“Give me your sack, Laura. You go report our requests for the guild. Sara and I will get rid of this stuff.” 

“As you wish.” 

Laura’s expression was a bit disappointed, but she realized Ryoma’s suggestion was the most efficient. 

Not getting to be with Master Ryoma is a shame, but... I suppose this is for the best. 

And looking at it another way, he’d permitted her to handle this on her own because he trusted her more than her little sister. 

“In that case, while I report our requests, I’ll also check for any promising requests we could undertake.” 

“Yeah, you do that. Maybe we could decide what jobs to take next over lunch.” 

Before leaving Mireish, the three of them registered in the guild as a squad. This allowed for any one of them to accept and report requests in the name of the whole squad, which saved a lot of time and trouble. 

“I will see you two later, then.” Laura bowed her head slightly, and disappeared in the direction of the guild. 

“All right. Let’s go cash these in, then.” 

Ryoma spurred Sara forward, and took off with two sacks on his shoulders.

“Right, so that’s ten blades of moonlight grass. Please give me a moment.” 

“Thank you.” 

The guild’s clerk confirmed the contents of the small sack Laura placed on the table, and then smiled. 

“Great! We were just running low on these, so this is a great help. It’s actually become a bit of an issue, since most people have been avoiding the northern forest recently. Even intermediate level adventurers have been hesitating to go there.” 

Moonlight grass was a medicinal herb crucial for refining medicine, but it was hard to preserve for long and couldn’t be cultivated artificially. Because of this, it would need to be periodically picked from spots where it grew naturally. 

It had very characteristic light blue petals, which made it easy even for an amateur to identify, so one didn’t need to be an apothecary to pick them. However, they only grew in forests, so the only way to collect them was to hire adventurers or mercenaries, as any inexperienced person loitering about in the forest would obviously only serve as prey for the monsters. 

No, even an intermediate level adventurer might find themselves in trouble. Forests were the kingdom of insect-type monsters, which were among the most fearsome of monsters. The fighting potential of an insect-type monster, which felt no pain and counterattacked unflinchingly, was not something to be underestimated. 

And on top of that, insects tended to live in large groups. Given each individual one’s size was different from those in Ryoma’s world, they didn’t mass in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but they still proved a very menacing threat. 

Areas near the road weren’t as dangerous thanks to the protection of the barrier pillars, but the deeper one went, the more they would advance into territory where mankind was the weaker species. The depths of the forest were simply that dangerous. 

In fact, even Pherzaad, the largest trade city in the kingdom of Myest, lacked people capable of completing this request, and getting those who were capable to accept it was difficult, even for the guild. 

“Really?” Laura tilted her head at the receptionist. “I didn’t get the impression it was that dangerous.” 

There was certainly danger involved, which was obvious given many monsters, the large mantis among them, were on the prowl. But on the other hand, they hadn’t run into any kind of monster they knew they wouldn’t be able to beat. 

Even the large mantis, abhorred by many an adventurer with its terrifying insect’s vitality and two sharp scythes was certainly a threat, but during this one visit to the forest, Ryoma and his group had defeated at least ten of them. 

“That just goes to show how skilled you all are, Miss Laura. The moonlight grass only grows rather deep into the forest, so your recon skills must be impressive... Oh, here is your reward. Be sure to check it.” 

As the receptionist handed Laura her card and the bag containing their payment, she eyed her with concern. Apparently she thought Laura and her group collected the grass by avoiding battle with the monsters. 

Certainly, Laura was still a novice in terms of her rank, so she couldn’t imagine her beating a large mantis, which even seasoned warriors struggled against. And Ryoma took all the materials they gathered from the northern forest’s monsters to be converted into money in the second-hand store, as they didn’t accept any delivery quests from the guild. 

“Thank you.” Laura nodded after checking the contents of the sack. “Everything looks to be in order.” 

“But really, though, don’t push yourself too hard. Your group is still only beginner rank, and there’s plenty of easier requests you could take, so I think it’d be for the best if you focused on raising your rank for now.” 

“Yes, I’ll consult the others about raising our rank... But that will be all for today. I’ll come again.” 

Replying to the receptionist’s innocent concern with a vague answer, Laura took the bag containing their reward and turned her gaze to the request board. She’d looked around for any requests that seemed worthwhile, but they were all the kind Ryoma couldn’t undertake. 

That wasn’t to say there were no requests they could take at all, of course, but they were all time-consuming or bothersome tasks that weren’t worth their pay. 

I think raising our rank might be a good idea at this point... 

Laura herself thought raising their rank wouldn’t be bad at all, but Ryoma seemed to have little interest in raising his rank. He didn’t say anything of the sort directly, but she realized this naturally from seeing which requests he did accept. 

It’s like he doesn’t want to make a name for himself... 

It was true in this case, too; he’d accepted the request to collect the moonlight grass, but no subjugation requests for the monsters on the way in or out of the forest. Of course, Ryoma’s low rank meant he couldn’t accept many subjugation requests, but there were some that he could. Despite that, the only request he took was the one for delivering moonlight grass. 

It was an obviously ineffective way of taking requests, and frankly speaking, Ryoma could increase his rank basically any time he wanted. Even without yet having gained access to thaumaturgy, Ryoma had enough strength and tactical foresight to defeat a large mantis. 

But still, for reasons unrelated to their actual strength, the three of them were still at a novice’s level. 

Maybe he has something in mind... Or perhaps he’s still worried about pursuers from the empire of O’ltormea? 

A small doubt sprouted in Laura’s heart regarding Ryoma, but it disappeared almost immediately. To Laura, the life of her master took priority over all. 

“Oh. Moonlight grass, I see. Thank you very much.” 

As Laura turned around to go back to the inn, a man who had been sitting on a table behind the reception desk and handling some paperwork called out to her. 

He seemed to be in his mid-thirties or so, and his golden hair was neatly combed back, giving him a refined appearance. Judging from his well-tailored clothes, it seemed he had something of a high standing in the guild. 

“Laura Malfist, yes?” The man asked her with a serene tone. “Partnered with Ryoma Mikoshiba and Sara Malfist. I’m not mistaken, right?” 

“That’s correct... Who are you?” 

They’d used Pherzaad’s guild a few times already and recognized the employees by face, but she’d never spoken to this person before. The most she could remember was seeing him seated at his desk, working through a mountain of paperwork. 

“My apologies. I am Wallace Heinkel, this city’s guildmaster. Could I have a moment of your time?” 

As the man called Wallace suddenly appeared before her and claimed to be the guildmaster, Laura could only nod. 

Ten or so minutes later, Wallace ascended to his office on the second floor of the guild. 

“What do you think?” Looking down the window, Wallace asked the man standing next to him. “I think the girl fits all of the criteria you were looking for.” 

The two watched Laura walking toward the inn like merchants appraising a piece of merchandise. 

“Yes... Her silver hair is quite eye-catching, and her age is just about right, too. But I’m curious. How did you get her to accept?” 

The one who answered Wallace’s question was a young man with black hair, which was tied up at the back of his head. His body was slim, but toned from harsh training; the glint in his eyes gave anyone who laid eyes on him a cold impression. He looked to be just about thirty. 

He was clad in thick armor that gave him the veritable appearance of a knight, and the elaborate design of his sword made it clear he was a high-class knight, at that. His face, however, didn’t give off the impression of someone who fought fair and square. If anything, he looked to be the type that spun plots from the shadows. 

“Her comrades are still low ranking novices. Heheh, let’s just say they don’t have a grasp of the guild’s rules.” Wallace responded to the man’s question with a clear tone, tapping himself on the chest. 

It had been just ten years since he inherited his father’s place as guildmaster, and judging by their experience, he didn’t believe Laura and her group had a good grasp of the guild’s regulations, and even if they did read them carefully, he was confident his position as guildmaster would be enough to convince her. 

“So you tricked her into accepting... Understood. I’ll leave the matter to you, then. If no one else fits the bill but her, we don’t have the leisure of choosing.” 

“I’ll handle everything. Not to worry, I’ll be sure to work in accordance to the sum I’ve been paid.” But as he said that, Wallace’s face was dyed over with greed— an expression he wouldn’t let others see. 

“Yes, I’ll be relying on you. Let me give you one warning though, as a precaution of sorts.” The black-haired man’s cold gaze stabbed into Wallace like a stake. “Don’t fumble this. The duke is not tolerant of those who fail. If you value your life and the lives of your family, you’ll do as you are ordered.” 

The fact he brought the other man’s family into it as a threat cast the black-haired man’s humanity into question. It was the kind of threat the mafia or yakuza would make. 

“Do you really think I’d fail a job as simple as this? I can’t help but feel I’m being looked down upon here.” Wallace shook his head, as if he’d taken offense. 

If he was the kind to flinch from that sort of threat, he wouldn’t last as a guildmaster. 

“Then all is good, so long as you don’t betray our expectations. Preparations are already complete on my side, and the rest hinges on your efforts. You recall the arrangement, yes?” 

“Of course. I will just need a little more time.” 

“Very well. I’ll be going back to my country, now.” 

The black-haired man cut off the conversation one-sidedly, as if to say his business with Wallace was done, and opened the door to leave. Wallace watched his back disappear, keeping his head down respectfully until he left. 


What sum would one have to pay to make the leader of the guild— which, at least on the surface, claimed to be completely neutral— to be this accomodating to their needs? Wallace’s attitude despite his position as guildmaster and being one of the more influential people in Pherzaad made ominous implications as to the amount of money being passed around. 

That said, money could buy superficial subordination, but not another’s honest heart. That was one truth that didn’t change, even in this world. 

“Fool... Throwing threats around when you’re just a traitor’s lapdog.” With his gaze still fixed to the floor, small words of contempt slithered from Wallace’s lips. “But so be it. I’ll do the work for the price I’ve been given.”

“A compulsory request?” Ryoma asked Laura, biting into the meat he’d picked up with his fork. 

It was just after one in the afternoon, and since it was past the usual time for lunch, the dining hall Ryoma and his group occupied was fairly empty. 

“Yes. That’s apparently what it is.” Laura nodded. 

They used scented oil in their hair when they bathed in the inn, and a flowery fragrance wafted from the Malfist sisters’ bodies. 

“A compulsory request, eh... A system where the guild’s master or higher brass specify a specific adventurer or mercenary, and forcibly have them complete a request... I think that’s how it goes.” Ryoma kept speaking, trying his hardest to recall the contents of the booklet he’d read once before. “But that’s reserved for high-ranking mercenaries and adventurers. At least, that’s what the booklet said. Are you sure that Wallace guy is the guildmaster, and he’s the one who told us to show up at the guild tomorrow?” 

Laura silently nodded at Ryoma’s question. She didn’t quite know the details herself. What she did know was that, as she made to leave for the inn, a man named Wallace Heinkel approached her claiming to be the guildmaster, and asked her to ensure the three of them would come to the guild the next morning. 

“But it’s strange the guildmaster would call on us.” Sara said, placing a finger on her chin and tilting her head. “The guild knows our rank.” 

“He said he’d explain everything, that matter included, tomorrow.” 

The two’s gazes fixed on Ryoma. Honestly speaking, Laura wasn’t pleased with having to go along with this. As far as she was concerned, she’d simply told them what she was asked for, and it showed on her demeanor. Sara was just as unenthusiastic about this as her sister. 

Compulsory requests were the kind not just anyone could accept, and were usually only made in emergency cases; if the case wasn’t an emergency, it could wait until someone more appropriate would become available. If they needed someone specific for the job, it would mean whatever task this was, it was so bothersome or dangerous that no one would take it of their own volition. 

Even if Ryoma would accept Wallace’s request, it was unlikely it would end in a satisfying result for them. Ryoma had no intent of underestimating his power, but overconfidence would only get him killed. 

“We’re probably better off turning that request down... Assuming we even can.” 

Those were Ryoma’s honest feelings. He wasn’t hurting for money, so it wasn’t like he had to accept any request he could. There was no need to take up any requests that wouldn’t pay off, and most of all, something about the whole thing felt off. 

On the other hand, though, Ryoma got the feeling that turning down the request wasn’t an option. Seeing the look in Ryoma’s eyes, Laura heaved a sigh and spoke up. 

“I thought of declining myself... But apparently, if we don’t accept, our guild registrations might be revoked...” 

“So he threatened you.” 

“He didn’t say anything blatant, but what he did say meant pretty much the same.” 

Hearing Laura’s words, Ryoma grimaced and looked up into space. In his mind, he weighed the pros and cons of the situation. 

For starters, I don’t like that he threatened Laura. And the part about revoking our registrations— can a guildmaster really exert his authority that easily? He definitely has that kind of authority, but he shouldn’t be able to revoke them one-sidedly like this. 

As far as Ryoma’s individual feelings on the matter were, it looked horrible. Ryoma hated nothing more than people who pushed work onto others from above. 

And he had his doubts about the validity of the threat itself. Even if this was the guildmaster, Ryoma was dubious as to whether he had the authority to just erase their registrations like that. But on the other hand, the part of him that wanted to stay on the safe side gave another answer. 

But there’s always the off-chance he isn’t bluffing... I don’t have anything to prove my identity in this world except this. The money I got from Azoth is still untouched, and I earned some good money from hunting. If I use this money, maybe I’ll be able to buy myself a citizen’s standing... Nah, I’m not familiar with anyone influential enough, so that won’t fly... Even if I end up leaving the guild sooner or later, there’s still value to holding my position as an adventurer. I guess I’ll just have to turn a blind eye to him strong-arming us and stay with the guild, huh... 

Eventually, it all came down to whether Ryoma thought of the potential gains and accepted Wallace’s proposal, or believed in his gut feeling that the matter seemed fishy and suspect, while aware of what it would entail. And this choice was for Ryoma alone to make, as the Malfist sisters would abide by his choice no matter what it was. 

After thinking things over long and hard, Ryoma finally parted his lips to speak. 

“Let’s at least go there tomorrow... We can hear him out, and if it’s too big of a request, we can reconsider things.” 

The sisters nodded wordlessly at Ryoma’s decision.

The next day, Ryoma and the sisters entered Pherzaad’s guild, equipped with new gear. The time was just before noon. They approached a young clerk, and after informing them of their business, they were immediately ushered in and instructed to go to the second floor, where the guildmaster’s office was. 

“Wow, this room looks like a lot of money went into it...” A small whisper escaped Ryoma’s lips. 

The unblemished ebony table set near the window was obviously made by a craftsman and set with ornaments, making it a clear balance of utility and artistry. The carpet set over the floor gave an equally refined impression. 

The room was also full of items that gave the pronounced feel of another culture, likely imported from other continents. Even the bookshelf, stuffed as it was with books, was made by a skilled craftsman and had the kind of quality even an amateur would recognize. Even the leather sofa intended for visitors had a magnificent lace cover weaved with silk laid over it. 

One glance at the empty office put Ryoma under the illusion he’d just entered the estate of some grand noble or multi-millionaire. With the power of a man who reached the post of guildmaster laid bare before him, Ryoma could only click his tongue. 

“I apologize for the wait. Please, take a seat on the sofa over there.” 

As Ryoma’s group stood still at the room’s entrance, they could hear the relaxed voice of a man speak to them, accompanied by the sound of the door opening. 

“I thank you for coming over today.” Seeing Ryoma and the sisters sat down on the sofa, Wallace began by bowing his head politely. 

The guildmaster of a large city was bowing his head to low-level adventurers. That wasn’t a scene that would normally take place. 

This guy... 

Judging by Wallace’s attitude, Ryoma’s heart hardened with caution. On the surface, his attitude seemed to be the height of intelligent courtesy, and anyone who would look at this scene without any context would surely consider Wallace to be an upstanding person. 

However, if Wallace’s attitude right now was genuine, why did he hint to Laura that he might have their registrations erased? 

“Not at all. I’ve heard you had a request for us?” Ryoma asked, keeping his true feelings hidden. “I’m actually a bit unsure as to how we should answer a request from the guildmaster himself.” 

Choosing his words carefully so as not to commit to anything too soon, Ryoma probed at his intentions. 

“Yes, that’s right. There’s a matter that’s been a bit of a problem for me... I’d appreciate your cooperation with regards to resolving it.” 

So said Wallace, and began his explanation...

Arrows fired from behind them zipped through the wind. Ryoma held the carriage door he’d torn from its hinges over his head like a shield. The sensation of the arrows piercing the wood reverberated through the door and into his hands. 

“I don’t care if it kills the damn horses, don’t lose any speed!” 

The highway was fairly well maintained, but since the carriage’s frame didn’t have a suspension system, it shook and rattled violently. Ryoma desperately maintained his posture, guarding Sara’s body from the deluge of arrows flying their way. 

But of course, a single door couldn’t block countless arrows. One arrow brushed against Ryoma’s left earlobe and hit the carriage’s wagon. Drops of red blood dripped down to the floorboards. Ryoma wiped his face in annoyance. 

“Master Ryoma!” 

“Shut up! Just be quiet and focus on handling the horses!” 

Shouting back at Sara, who raised her voice at the sight of his bleeding earlobe, Ryoma returned his focus to blocking the rain of arrows. 

He had no experience riding horses or driving a carriage, and so Sara, who now sat at the driver’s seat, was Ryoma’s lifeline. Her holding of the reins was their only means of survival right now. Even though those words were spoken out of genuine concern for him, they held no meaning for him at the moment. One wouldn’t need an overly active imagination to picture what fate would await them if this runaway carriage were to lose control. 

The frame of this carriage, pulled by four horses, was dyed black. It was also currently pierced with countless arrows like a pin cushion. If all Ryoma would need was to protect his own well-being, he could have easily taken refuge inside the wooden, canopied compartment, but the situation didn’t allow for it. The trajectory of the arrows from behind them flew in a parabolic curve over the compartment and toward the driver’s seat. Since Ryoma didn’t know how to manage the horses, all he could do was guard Sara. 

“God dammit! They’re still after us!” Ryoma spat out bitterly, glaring at the cloud of dust behind them. 

How long had it been since this deadly game of tag started? If the ones chasing them were bandits who were in it for the money, they’d have gone after the wagons they left behind in the ambush point, and if they were simply trying to silence them to hide the fact the raid happened, they were chasing Ryoma around too persistently. It almost felt like this attack was made with the objective of claiming Ryoma’s life... 

“Master Ryoma, I think this really is...” The look in Sara’s eyes seemed convinced. 

Ryoma only nodded wordlessly. It was a good thing they considered this possibility and planned accordingly. 

“That son of a bitch Wallace pulled a fast one on us... But now’s not the time to be dwelling on that...” Stifling the anger bubbling up in his heart, Ryoma kept his eyes fixed ahead. “Sara! We should be near where Laura and the others are hiding. Don’t miss the signal, no matter what!” 

“Yes!” Sara held on tight to the rampaging horses’ reins, whipping them to go forward. 

Desperately blocking the rain of arrows with his wooden shield, the conversation they’d had in the camp on that night seven days ago flashed through his mind.

That day, a trade caravan departed from Pherzaad on a straight journey to Pireas, the capital of the Kingdom of Rhoadseria. 

Rhoadseria sat between Xarooda, the kingdom known as the land of iron which lay protected by steep mountains, and Myest, which included many of the continent’s greatest sea ports, including Pherzaad. The majority of the country was made up of plains, and the river Thebes blessed it with abundant water that enabled vast agriculture and farming which served as the country’s primary industries, making it one of the wealthiest countries in the western continent, second only to Myest with its ports. 

The contents of the compulsory request given to Ryoma and his group under the name of the guildmaster Wallace was the escort and protection of a trade caravan heading to one of the three great eastern countries, Rhoadseria. Ryoma reluctantly agreed to take the request after having been told that they would be joined by mercenaries who joined in for the money, but there were plenty of unnatural aspects to the job right from the start. 

For starters, they were gathered as guards for the caravan, but the carriage Ryoma and his group were given to sleep in was a decorated one with a canopy. It was a magnificent vehicle that was suitable enough to carry royalty and nobility, and not at all something adventurers and mercenaries would ride in. 

The next suspicious point was that while this was supposedly a trade caravan, all the wagons were completely empty. If some of them were empty to serve as decoys, that would be understandable, but all of them being empty made little sense. Since it had left a large trade port like Pherzaad, one would expect it would be stocked with many goods, and considering the merchants’ efficiency, there was little chance of them going out to trade empty-handed. 

But the merchants were another suspicious point. They all had very well-built, refined bodies, and their hands were dotted with solid calluses. One’s hands wouldn’t be like that without handling a sword daily. It was only natural Ryoma would feel apprehensive after he greeted the caravan leader with a handshake. True, life in this Earth wasn’t as safe as Japan, but they seemed far too proficient to use weapons only for self-defense. 

I think it’d be a good idea to make sure we have some guarantees this doesn’t blow up in our faces... Out of all the people they gathered, that red-headed woman looked like she’d be the most understanding. 

The image of one of the mercenaries, who was looked up at as a boss and older sister by her group, surfaced in Ryoma’s mind. 

With the first day of their journey over, the mercenaries who accepted the job of protecting the caravan sat in a circle around the fire, discussing things. The main topic was, of course, what they were to do about this suspicious caravan going forward. 

“I’ve been pretty dubious ’bout that, meself...” said Lione, the leader of the Crimson Lion group, with a slow shake of the head. “If nothin’ else, I ain’t never seen no caravan like this before.” 

She was an experienced mercenary, with a physique that towered over 180 centimeters in height and brown, tanned skin. Contrasting her supple, feline-like muscles, she also had a prominent bust, which declared proudly of her status as a woman. Her red hair reached shoulder-length, and complimented her golden eyes, which burned with strong will. Overall, she was an attractive woman that gave off the charm of a matured female. 

“We been in the mercenary business for a long time now, but it’s the first we’ve heard of anything like this.” So said Boltz, a man who looked to be thirty or so years old with short cut, black hair that had been brushed back. He served as Lione’s staff officer. 

His face looked rather tough, but his most distinctive feature was his missing left arm. Apparently he’d lost it in some previous battle, but from the impression Ryoma got during their first meeting, he seemed to have a fairly plain personality. 

“We’ve handled security for caravans before, but...” 

Boltz had served as a mercenary for even longer than Lione, and if he’d never run into this kind of job before, it was certainly suspicious. 

“And what’s... your take on it?” Lione turned to Ryoma, who was simply listening quietly until now. 

“Me? I’m honestly regretting I took this request...” Ryoma replied honestly. 

Something felt off about the whole thing from the very start, and apparently his hunch was correct. Looking back, he should have gone with his gut feeling and refused, even if it meant having their registrations erased. That regret reflected in the bitterness mixed in with his words. 

Lione and Boltz nodded at Ryoma’s response. 

“We took this job because the pay was good, but looks like this one’s a bust...” 

“Aye, it looks like we stuck our necks into somethin’ fishy.” 

These two, who had been mercenaries for many years, said their intuition was warning them that this was trouble. But there seemed to be some people around here who didn’t share that sentiment. 

“But Sis, we took this gig from the guild. Don’t you think you’re being too itchy about this?” One mercenary voiced his objection at Lione’s words. 

Hearing this mercenary, whose name he didn’t know, speak made Ryoma’s expression fill with scorn. 

I’m surprised this guy’s survived this long... 

This Earth was a place where death was much more of an everyday occurrence than Ryoma’s old world. Lione seemed to have thought the same thing as Ryoma. 

“Ya got rocks for brains? I’m surprised ya can function as a merc when you’re this oblivious to danger.” 

The man went red as Lione looked at him with cold, contemptuous eyes and shook her head. 

“What...!” He shouted. “Even you don’t get to talk to me like that, Sis!” 

Even with no sense for danger, he apparently had enough of a head on his shoulders to realize when he was being mocked. Lione shook her head with pity at the man’s temper, and Boltz’s lips contorted with disdain. 

“You’re a rank B, right? And sure, ya have the strength to back that rank. But when it comes to straight up judgment, that boy over there has ya beat.” 

Lione’s words prompted every mercenary present to turn their gazes in Ryoma’s direction. 

“It may’ve been me who called ya’ll here, but it’s this boy who spoke up first.” 

A stir rustled through the mercenaries. 

“Heh! Taking instructions from a kid like that? So much for Lione the Crimson Lion, I guess!” The man shouted with his face red. “The kid’s a damn novice! I dunno what the guildmaster’s thinking, sending an amateur like him to handle security! Who cares what a brat with no experience has to say?!” 

True, Ryoma was the youngest person present. He was sixteen years old, but his mature face made him appear to be in his mid-twenties; still, everyone around him was in their thirties at least. If his guild rank matched theirs, things would be different, but Ryoma was indisputably still a beginner with a rank of E, and to top things off, since he hadn’t gained thaumaturgy yet, he was still at level 0. 

It made sense for the mercenary to run his mouth at Lione after she humiliated him, but Lione wasn’t going to take him running his mouth sitting down, either. For mercenaries, nothing was more important than strength and honor. Anyone who backed down from another person treating them like a fool wouldn’t survive as a mercenary going forward. 

“Aaaah?! Didja forget who yer talking to here...?” Her voice was calm. 

But Ryoma could only see it as the calm before the storm, and apparently the other mercenaries felt the same way, as all the cheering that followed as he ran his mouth earlier had died down. A long silence fell over the place. 

“Fine. I understand how you all feel.” Boltz, who had thought now would be a good time to break the silence, soothed the strained air. 

None of them really wanted to antagonize the Crimson Lion’s captain, who held the most power in the group. 

“We haven’t really gained anything concrete out of this conversation anyway, so how about we break it up for today?” 

Accepting Boltz’s suggestion, the mercenaries got up hurriedly. Lione didn’t have any intention of arguing with them any longer, either, simply watching them retreat. 

“Well, ain’t this a shitty situation...” Lione muttered. 

Boltz and Ryoma both nodded at her words. 

There wasn’t much they could do about the mercenaries being dense, but letting their comrades die over that wasn’t acceptable, either. 

“Looks like we’ve got a nice little gallery of morons gathered up here...” Boltz said with a sigh. 

For how calm he seemed on the surface, the man had quite a bit of displeasure at their attitudes, it seemed. 

“No point bitchin’ ’bout it, though.” Lione nodded at his words. “If we don’t think of some counteraction in case things go south, we’ll be in trouble.” She then threw a probing glance in Ryoma’s direction. “What’re yer plans now, boy? Got any brilliant ideas?” 

“Well, for now I don’t think there’s much we can do but focus on the job. We can’t throw away the request just because things are a bit suspicious.” 

It was an official request they had accepted from the guild, and if they were to discard it without a valid reason, the guild would enforce severe penalties on them. Their hunch that it seemed suspicious wouldn’t be seen as valid grounds to resign from an official request. 

“Yeah, that makes sense. But boy... If there really is an angle to this whole request, what do you think it could be?” 

“Using us as bait to lure something or someone out, maybe. In which case, we should probably have some kind of backup plan ready.” 

He didn’t have any basis for this theory, but them being here to act as bait to draw out bandits felt like it fit everything they knew the most. Ryoma answered Lione’s words with a deep sigh. 

Ryoma knew full well something was off about this request. But all he could do was gain Lione’s support and make a backup plan as insurance in case things went south.

Four days passed since the meeting with the mercenaries, and they didn’t run into a single problem during their journey. Not a single unwanted guest, bandit or monster, had descended on them. 

It was truly a safe, peaceful journey. And of course, if nothing happened, that was fine in and of itself. There were a few small clashes between Ryoma and the other mercenaries that weren’t part of Lione’s Crimson Lion group, but those were trifling matters. 

But Ryoma was convinced. The times which were most quiet were the ones heralding the coming of a storm... 

And on the afternoon of the seventh day after they left Pherzaad, Ryoma’s premonition proved to be correct. 

A rain of arrows descended upon them. 

It happened as they passed through a woodland near the border to Rhoadseria. Arrows were suddenly fired from the trees on both sides of the road. 

““What the hell?!”” 


“What are you doing?! Protect the horses!” 

As the soldiers raised their voices in panic, one of the merchants came out to scold them. 

“Calm down! Don’t break formation!” 

Warnings left the lips of the mercenaries who were standing guard around the carriages. There were ten carriages overall in the caravan, with the merchants sitting at the driver’s seats. The mercenaries guarded them by riding alongside on horseback. 

Even experienced mercenaries would be taken aback when attacked by surprise, but Ryoma eyed the merchants suspiciously, as they seemed to be giving commands calmly despite the chaos around them. 

“Everyone, calm down! Hide yourselves from the arrows! Use boards, cloaks, whatever you can find! Cover your heads and block the arrows for as long as you can!” 

Their orders were perfect and precise. Though, when subjected to such a barrage of arrows, such a way of ordering the others around was probably ideal. 

“Master Ryoma!” 

“Yeah. Looks like it’s happening now. Everyone, listen up!” In contrast to the other mercenaries, Ryoma’s voice wasn’t trembling from surprise. “Just like we agreed to earlier, protecting the horses is top priority! Don’t mind anything else.” 

Ryoma had already predicted someone might attack the caravan, but there were still problems. Namely, the questions of who, when, and why they would have attacked. 

“You ready, Sara? Everything’s hanging in the balance here.” 

“Yes, I know. But Laura...” 

Ryoma nodded silently at Sara’s words. They’d checked the map ahead of time and noted this place would be the most apt point for an ambush, so they had already completed their countermeasures for the hypothetical attack. All that remained was to put that plan into action. 

“It’ll be fine. We can trust the mercenaries Lione placed with her...” Ryoma swung the spear in his hand, knocking down the incoming arrows. “The rest depends on how long we can keep them on our tail... Shit, I knew it was going to end up like this!” 

The carriage Ryoma and Sara were riding on was receiving far more arrow fire than the other ones. As proof, it only took a short time for Ryoma’s carriage to become so covered in arrows that it looked more like a pin cushion. This made the attackers’ intent clear. 

“Master Ryoma! Take this!” She had removed a part of the wagon to serve as a shield. 

Ryoma clicked his tongue, taking the wooden pane she gave him to shield the driver’s seat from the flurry of arrows. 

I knew something was fishy, but they’re definitely after us. Which means Wallace set this up... The question is, who put him up to it... 

The most obvious candidate was the empire of O’ltormea. It had been several months since he shook off Princess Shardina’s pursuit, so it wouldn’t be surprising if she’d acted in some way by now. However, Ryoma decided to stop thinking for now. 

Am I stupid or something...? I need to focus on staying alive right now. I can leave the sleuthing for later. 

What mattered was surviving this situation... 

The deluge of arrows finally stopped. In terms of time, it was likely only a few dozen seconds, but to Ryoma, they felt like an eternity. 

Seven mercenaries had been hit and killed by the rain of arrows. There were fifty mercenaries hired to guard the caravan, and roughly a seventh of them were dead in the first wave. In addition, most of the horses attached to the carriages perished in the onslaught. The only horses left unharmed were those from Ryoma’s carriage and the ones the mercenaries were riding. 

Ryoma cast a rapid gaze around. His carriage was just at the center of the caravan, which meant there was nowhere to go, either ahead or behind. 

“Sara, move the carriage ahead!” 

At Ryoma’s order, Sara gripped the reins tightly and glared at the road ahead. 

“I cannot. The other wagons are blocking the road ahead.” 

The line had gone out of formation because of the attack. The road should have been wide enough to accommodate for the carriage’s width, but things were different with the wagons blocking the way. The positioning was odd, almost as if it was all set up to trap Ryoma. 

Hearing Sara’s reply, Ryoma clicked his tongue and cast his gaze behind them. The road was blocked all the same back there, too. 

“Boy!” Lione approached him, with her group members following in tow. 

Since they’d somewhat predicted this was coming, Lione’s group didn’t suffer any casualties. They all got away with minor wounds. The mercenaries who did die were the ones who didn’t take Ryoma’s words seriously. 

All of a sudden, battle cries erupted from the rear. 

“Here they come...” 

The arrows were meant to nail them down while another group swooped down to attack them. A safe, reliable tactic that stuck true to the basics. Had they not seen the attack coming, Ryoma and his group would surely have been killed at this point. The raid was that meticulously planned. 

“Boy!” Lione exclaimed with annoyance as she heard Ryoma mumble to himself. 

“Lione... Stick to the plan.” He directed a gaze as sharp as a blade at her. 

There wasn’t a trace left of his usual, pleasant countenance. Lione nodded, as if overwhelmed by Ryoma’s unflinching words. They’d already agreed on what to do if their path of escape was cut off. 

“I know. We’ll blow away the wagons ahead of us and open a path!” Ignoring the protests of the mercenaries around her, Lione ordered one of her group members to go ahead and destroy their obstacle. 

“Sis... Are you serious? Are you really going to abandon the merchants?” 

As her subordinate directed a clinging, frightened look at her, Lione replied with cold eyes. 

“Quit yer yappin’ and do it! If ya don’t like me orders, ya can stay here and die for all I care!” 

“Ah... Sis...” 

“I ain’t tellin’ ya to believe me! But if ya wanna live, you’ll do as I say!” Lione silenced the other mercenaries with her shouting. 

They stood there, their ethics grappling with their survival instincts. Eventually, some of them silently turned around and ran toward the carriage, but soon turned back around and shouted. 

“Sis, the merchants are still in the carriage, and the mercenaries aren’t moving away from it either! What do we do?!” 

Apparently, the scales tipped in favor of their survival instincts, it seemed, but they still hesitated to blow away the wagons with the merchants still inside. According to Ryoma’s plan, the merchants would have abandoned the battlefield as soon as the raid began. 

What is this? Weren’t the merchants in cahoots with the attackers...? Wait, no. If they’re allies, they’d have no reason to run... 

Lione directed a gaze at him that seemed to ask, ‘what now?’ With no time to bother explaining himself to a bunch of morons, Ryoma had only one choice he could take. He looked back at Lione and nodded, his eyes hardened with unwavering resolve. 

“Forget about ’em! Blow ’em away along with the wagons!” 

“Y-Yes, ma’am!” 

The mercenaries that looked up to Lione’s words nodded back with their faces full of fright, and ran back to where they were. 

A few dozen seconds later, an explosion shook the air. The carriages and wagons were enveloped in flames and blown away along with the mercenaries around them. Screams and shouts of vilification filled the forest. 

“Sis, the road’s opened!” 

“Good! Don’t look back if ya wanna survive!” Ordering her men, Lione turned to face Ryoma. “Everything’s gone as ya planned so far, hasn’t it, boy?” 

“I only considered the possibilities. Have you finished the preparations for what comes next?” 

Ryoma’s eyes burned with cold murderous intent. Their lives hinged on this plot being successful. 

“Y-Yeah. Everything’s ready on our side.” Lione answered with an overwhelmed look in her eyes. “Only thing’s left is hoping yer little missy and Boltz handled their side of things well.” 

“That’s good, then. I explained the plan to Laura already. She’s smart, so I don’t see her screwing this up.” Ryoma’s trust for Laura was absolute. “As for the rest... That’s up to us.” 

“I gotcha. You make sure to stay on yer toes, too!” 

“Yeah, you take care too, Lione.” 

With Lione in the lead, the Crimson Lion group’s set forward on horseback. They had a vital role to play in what was to come. 

“Master Ryoma, they’re coming!” 

Before Ryoma knew it, the sound of clashing swords reached his ears from all around. All the mercenaries, barring the Crimson Lion members who went ahead, were likely being disposed of by the attackers. 

“Let’s go!” 

Sara gave a nod at Ryoma’s words and whipped the horses into a gallop. The view that streaked past Ryoma as they rushed forward was that of an empty road. Lione’s group needed only to ride forward until they reached their objective, but Ryoma served as the bait and couldn’t afford to do that. 

Theirs was a four-horse carriage, but even then, it didn’t have that much speed. Of course, discarding the passenger car and running on horseback was a possibility, but Ryoma elected not to do so. 

And that was because there was a chance they’d actually shake off their assailants that way; Ryoma’s true objective was to maintain a safe distance from their foes without losing them, and lead them to a certain spot. 

The wind beat against Ryoma’s face. Defending Sara’s body from the arrows coming down on them from above was rather difficult. A few arrows had already slipped through his defenses and pierced the driver seat; several red streaks of blood trailed down Sara’s body and seeped into her clothes. Ryoma was also bleeding profusely from when his earlobe had been nicked by an arrow earlier, and the blood painted him red from his neck down to his chest. 

“Are we there yet?” Ryoma asked while blocking the arrows, panic seeping into his voice. 

“We should almost be there... Ah, that’s it! I can see it!” 

Standing along the long road ahead of them that seemed to stretch without end, something fluttered in their field of vision. Sara clearly saw the sight of a black flag with a symbol of a red lion, flapping about in the wind. 

“Good! We should make it if it’s that close...” Ryoma sighed with relief and turned his gaze to Sara. “Ready?! It’s do or die!” 

Everything up until now was for the sake of this one moment. This was why they led their enemies here instead of trying to shake them off. 

“I know.” Sara said, and used the reins to gradually slow down the horses’ galloping. 

The silhouettes of a few men on horseback surfaced from the cloud of dust behind them. 

“Right... Like that. Drop your speed just a little more... And when they slow down, too... Yes, good.” 

Ryoma caught sight of the men drawing their bowstrings. 

“Now! Do iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!” 

The moment Ryoma’s carriage passed by a spear stuck into the road, Ryoma grabbed onto the spear and brandished it upward, towards the sky. 

“““Our mother earth, abide by the will of thy children and unleash thy rage! The locks of thine hair are as lances that pierce all of creation! Rock Bamboo!””” 

As Ryoma cried out, Laura’s incantation resonated through the forest accompanied by several other voices, and, in accordance with their chant, a massive circle appeared beneath their pursuers’ feet. The next moment, the sound of flesh being pierced filled the area. And with that, the sound of horse hooves clicking against the ground behind them suddenly ceased. 

Ryoma descended from the carriage and walked over to the stone pillars that had sprung up behind them, with Sara naturally following behind him. Those earthen spears stuck out from the ground and toward the heavens. The raw, rusted scent of blood mingled with the wind blowing toward them. 

“Looks like it worked.” 

“Yeah...” Ryoma nodded shortly at Sara’s words, “But don’t let down your guard. Some of them ought to have survived.” 

Ryoma didn’t think his ploy had failed. On the contrary, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. But at the same time, it was too soon to be complacent. Lack of caution was the deadliest enemy. 

Following Ryoma’s footsteps, Lione, Boltz and the other Crimson Lion members came out of the forest, with Laura in the lead. The twelve of them approached the stone spears in the center of the highway with cautious prudence. 

“Make sure no one escaped from the spell’s effective radius!” 

At Lione’s command, the group broke off into two and began their search. 

“Hey... A few of them got away. There’s trails of blood leading into the woods.” 

The mercenaries observed the assailants limping away with moans of pain and agony with a somewhat sobered gaze in their eyes. They had little mercy for the enemies who had attacked them. 

“You don’t mind if we finish them off, right?” 

Ryoma nodded wordlessly at Boltz’s question. Confirming his approval, Boltz made a signal by brushing his right hand through the air, and the members who saw it disappeared into the woods without a word. 

“Lad, what are you gonna do now?” 

“What?” Ryoma’s expression filled with surprise at Boltz’s way of calling him. “Lad?” 

“Heheh.” Boltz scratched at his cheek awkwardly. “Think of it as an expression of respect.” 

Apparently, seeing Ryoma’s plan succeed changed the image Boltz had of him, and so calling him ‘lad’ was Boltz’s way of showing his respect. Realizing this, Ryoma simply smiled wryly and remained silent. 

“But really, boy, what next?” Lione asked, having finished issuing orders. 

She didn’t have any intent of changing the way she called him, it seemed, but Ryoma didn’t mind much either way. 

“Well, for now we should gather information. Looks like there are quite a few survivors, so we should have a way of doing that.” 

Ryoma looked around as if confirming there were survivors, with a cruel smile on his face. Cold enough to send a shiver down the spines of veteran warriors like Lione and Boltz. 

The sight of that expression made Sara and Laura inadvertently pray to God. They could likely imagine how gruesome the demise of these fools who dared place their master in danger would be...

With his body bound and pulled by rope, Mikhail Vanash was dragged to where he would be tried for his actions. The bandages wrapped around his body were stained with blood. 

Mikhail’s injures were fairly severe. He had no mortal wounds or fractured bones, but the earthen lances had pierced and skewered his body. Had it not been for the thick armor he was clad in and the fact he was distant from the epicenter of the spell as he lead the charge, he would have surely been counted among the corpses. 

Even if he’d simply been left skewered on the rocks there and deprived of necessary healing, he’d likely have met the same fate. 

Why did they save me? The question tugged at Mikhail’s heart. 

Standing in front of Mikhail were a largish red-headed woman, a middle aged man missing his left arm, a hulking man who seemed to be in his mid-twenties and two girls who waited on him from behind as if they were his shadows. 

Mikhail’s heart stirred. And that was because the girl in front of him was the target of this raid. 

It had been three hours since Mikhail and his group of assailants fell into Ryoma’s trap. Of all those hurt by the stone spears, only a handful, including Mikhail, survived. The majority of them perished from the linked thaumaturgy unleashed by Boltz and his men, and those who survived and escaped into the forest couldn’t shake off the vengeful pursuit of the Crimson Lion members. 

The only ones left alive were those men beloved by the goddess of fate. Though if one were to consider the state they were in, it was questionable whether their fate was truly fortunate. The minimal treatment they’d been given only stopped their bleeding, after which they were gagged, tied up and thrown into the carriage’s wagon. 

The carriage was then taken to a safer place, after which they were hauled off of it one by one. At this point there was no questioning for what purpose they were taken. Then it was time for the commander of the attack, Mikhail, to face the music. 

“You’re Mikhail Vanash, the commander of the raid, correct?” 

Mikhail could only nod to the largish young man standing in front of him. His voice wasn’t coercive, and most of all, his tone was calm and polite. Being on the side of the attackers, a calm and polite tone of voice was nothing short of unnerving. If he were being questioned while being shouted at by someone with a reddened, angry face instead, it wouldn’t have terrified him as much. 

“I’ve heard most of the story from your subordinates. It looks like this was an unfortunate set of consequences for both our sides that landed us in this situation.” 

Mikhail kept quiet, but he felt something was off about the young man’s words. During knight training, one would be taught how to carry themselves when captured by an enemy, and not giving the enemy any information was an ironclad rule in war. 

“You really don’t have to be so nervous. We don’t intend to do anything to you, for the time being.” 

The young man’s words sounded like the Devil’s seductive whisper to Mikhail’s ears. 

“Why won’t you kill me?” A question dripping with hatred escaped Mikhail’s lips. 

“Because we have no need to kill you, for the time being.” The young man shrugged, smiling as if they were gossiping about something trivial. 

But his words carried the implication that if they were to deem it necessary, they would kill him. 

“But that applies to both of us now, doesn’t it?” 

Mikhail couldn’t find a chance to argue against the young man’s words. He himself wasn’t fond of killing; if anything, despite it being his job as a soldier, he didn’t want to kill anyone at all if possible. But as a member of the Kingdom of Rhoadseria’s royal guard, he would spill blood by his hand if it would benefit the royal house. This incident truly didn’t align with his pride as a knight, but it was an unavoidable act he had to commit if he was to stop the nobles’ faction from achieving their ambitions. 

The young man smiled peacefully, as if reading Mikhail’s heart, and then continued to speak. 

“Well, far be it from me to assume your motives here, but I guarantee you that we are not your enemies.” 

“What are you talking about...” Those words made Mikhail’s expression wash over with doubt. “Aren’t you people from the nobles’ faction?” 

“See? That. That right there.” Ryoma’s smiled widened with significance. “That’s where your misunderstanding is. Let me confirm a few things for the time being first, Mikhail. We can answer any remaining doubts of yours after that.” 

The young man walked up behind Mikhail and pressed a finger to the nape of his neck. 

“...What are you doing?” Mikhail’s face contorted with suppressed fear. 

“Nothing much, just a little charm. This won’t hurt you, so you can relax... This nice girl here will ask you a few questions, so answer them as casually as you can.” 

The young man directed a pleasant smile at him, and signaled at a blond girl. She nodded, and stepped up to Mikhail. 

“Now, allow me to ask you a few questions. You are affiliated with the Kingdom of Rhoadseria’s royal guard, correct?” 

Mikhail averted his face from her silently upon hearing that question. He had no intention of confirming or denying anything. 

“Was the motive for your attack on the caravan related to the succession dispute over the Rhoadserian throne?” 


“Did you plot this raid to defend the princess?” 


“Are you affiliated with the knight’s faction, and currently opposed to the nobles’ faction?” 


“Did the nobles’ faction attempt to interrupt the first princess’s succession following the King of Rhoadseria’s passing?” 


“Is the nobles’ faction trying to use the existence of the late king’s will to back an illegitimate child as princess and heir to the throne?” 

Silence. Mikhail held his tongue in the face of the sequence of questions the blond girl presented him with. None were denied nor confirmed by his lips. 

Dammit... Those traitors... What are they getting at, stating the obvious like this...? 

With anger surging up in his heart and making him shiver in rage, Mikhail sent a hateful glare in the young man’s direction. 

“What... are we going to do with him now?” The blond girl asked the young man. 

The expression on the girl’s face told that she was already tired of Mikhail’s insistent silence. 

“Looks like he’s not too eager to answer us right now. Can’t blame him, I suppose...” 

But in contrast to the girl’s bewilderment, the young man’s face didn’t seem particularly bothered. 

“Laura, step forward.” 

Abiding by the young man’s words, Laura stepped forward, her silver, glittering hair swaying. The blond girl spoke her final question. 

“My last question, then. Was she the one you were attempting to kill?” 

Mikhail’s heart beat rapidly and wildly. Ryoma’s fingers indisputably picked up on his pulse accelerating at that question. 

“Bullseye...” Ryoma whispered softly and removed his fingers from Mikhail’s neck. 

So this was the plot Wallace Heinkel of Pherzaad’s guild had brewed up, and the reason behind this raid. 

The truth need not necessarily be put into words; insistent silence like Mikhail’s could speak volumes in its own right. The more he tried to stifle his expression, the more those around him were capable of reading into his feelings. And that wasn’t limited to just Ryoma, but also to Lione and the others who were watching over the scene. 

“I see... That slimy bastard Wallace... He used us as bait, he did...” Words thick with vitriol slithered from Lione’s lips. 

Thanks to Ryoma’s predictions, the Crimson Lion mercenary group avoided taking any casualties, but quite a few were injured in the raid. While most of the injuries were not serious, that observations was only possible with the benefit of hindsight; they only took so little damage because they were prepared. Had Ryoma not been there to make his prediction, or had Lione not taken it seriously... 

This was all hypothetical, of course, but it would have come as no surprise if this raid would have claimed great casualties on the Crimson Lion’s side. 

Judging by the circumstances of how Ryoma’s group had gotten their request and Mikhail’s attitude, it was clear Wallace the guildmaster was involved in the raid somehow. It was a betrayal by the guild, which advocated itself as being neutral. And this betrayal made hatred surge in Lione’s heart, in equal proportion to the amount of trust she once harbored toward it. 

“I think it’s safe to say that son of a bitch Wallace duped us.” Ryoma said, prompting nods out of everyone present but Mikhail. 

“The next issue is what comes next, though. What do we do...?” 

“How about we report to a guild in another town?” Boltz replied to Ryoma’s whisper with a hesitant tone. 

“Nah, I think that’s a bad idea. That piece of shit definitely pulled a fast one on us, but we ain’t got no proof. If we go crying to another guildmaster and they ask for evidence, we’ll have nothin’ to show for it.” 

Ryoma nodded in agreement of Lione’s objection. They may have been tricked, but they couldn’t prove it. Even if one were to be tried on false charges, losing the trial would lend them the verdict all the same. What mattered in court wasn’t truth or even justice; everything hinged on being able to get the verdict one desired out of the judge. 

And Ryoma’s greatest problem lay in his inability to prove their innocence. Without any physical proof, any attempt they made to indict Wallace would conclude with him playing dumb. Worst-case scenario, he would pin false accusations on them instead. 

Boltz himself didn’t seem to consider his proposal a realistic one, and didn’t seem to be all that confident in it himself. An oppressive air fell over them, as if they were groping their way through a fog that obfuscated their sight in all directions, where if they took one wrong step, they would end up dead. 

It was for this reason everyone doubted their ears when Ryoma spoke what sounded like borderline optimistic words. 

“Well... There is a way out of this.” 

“Are you serious?!” Lione regarded Ryoma with a clinging look as he smiled softly. 

While she truly wished for a way out, some part of her heart naturally doubted something so convenient could be true. Boltz, who was standing at her side, seemed to feel the same way. But even with their anxious gazes clinging to him, Ryoma’s face remained composed. 

“Yes. I mean, we just got our hands on a useful pawn.” Ryoma said with a smile and cast a meaningful look in the still-taciturn Mikhail’s direction.

“What are you saying?!” Upon hearing Ryoma’s words, Mikhail broke his silence and raised his voice. 

From the perspective of not giving his enemies any information, this was a poor decision, but those rules held no meaning for Mikhail at the moment. If only he’d have killed the silver-haired girl standing before him, this Laura, all would have been well. If nothing else, this was absolute truth to those belonging to the knights’ faction. 

It had been two months since the King of Rhoadseria’s passing, and that report reached the ears of First Princess Lupis, who was striving to inherit the throne. That report came as a bolt from the blue for the knight’s faction; a girl who was purportedly heir to the blood of Rhoadseria’s King Pharst the Second appeared in their neighboring country of Myest. 

An illegitimate child was by no means an unusual occurrence. The stronger the ruling class grew, the more valuable their blood became, which perhaps came across as natural when one’s bloodline is what decided the legitimacy of their rule. As such, rulers produced many children, so as to prevent their bloodline from dying out. They carried many wives and concubines, and at times even ravished the daughters of commoners on a whim. 

And the result of such acts was illegitimate children. In which case, the existence of an illegitimate child wouldn’t have been cause for such surprise in and of itself. But the timing of her discovery was far too poor. The fact she had announced her existence only now, when the former king had passed away and the throne stood empty, and claimed to be the legitimate heir to Rhoadseria’s throne, at that... 

When the report reached the capital, everyone simply dismissed it as “impossible” and “nonsense,” and paid it no mind. But while they thought the rumors might disappear, they instead began spreading through the kingdom like wildfire in the blink of an eye. And before long, the rumors began to take on a more realistic meaning. 

Duke Gelhart, head of the nobles’ faction, announced to all of Rhoadseria that he would support this illegitimate child as heir, and made a will supposedly left behind by the late king public... And at first, everyone in the kingdom suspected a forgery. The timing was simply too ideal. 

But as lacking in authenticity as the will may have been, it did support the illegitimate child’s right to the throne, and split the Kingdom of Rhoadseria in two. Princess Lupis concurrently also held the position of commander of the royal guard to begin with, and as such had a close relationship with the knights’ faction. Due to this, and her lack of involvement with political affairs, she had little connection with the nobles’ faction. 

And thus, Duke Gelhart, head of the nobles’ faction, declared his backing of the illegitimate heir, turning Rhoadseria’s political balance from a state of opposition of 30% to the knights’ faction, 40% to the nobles’ faction and 30% to the neutral faction into 30% supporters of the princess, 40% supporters of the illegitimate child and 30% neutral. 

Fundamentally, the knights’ faction was a group of military men, and a powerful group with much martial prowess, but unsuited for politics; they struggled to bring the neutral faction to their side. On the other side of the spectrum, the nobles’ faction lacked the military might of the knights, but were far superior to them in terms of political experience; they made efforts to bring the neutral faction to their side, and indeed, many of the neutral nobles did indeed switch over to their side. 

As the knights’ faction were in that plight, good tidings arrived; information that the illegitimate heir was being moved from Myest to Rhoadseria’s borders. 

Having learned of this, the knights’ faction mocked the nobles’ imprudence. Allowing such important information regarding the transfer of their precious banner stood as proof that the nobles’ faction was far from monolithic... If the girl were to be eliminated before she reached Rhoadseria, all would return to normal, with the nobles’ neutral faction swinging back to their prior stance. 

And while it was true this information was carried in urgently, and having to strike while in a neighboring country meant they would have to make do with limited manpower, Mikhail couldn’t pass up this golden opportunity. Even if it meant ignoring the wishes of his Lady, who was opposed to the assassination... 

But in contrast to Mikhail’s resolve, all the gazes of those around him were ones of pity and mocking. 

“I don’t know if I can make myself much clearer, friend...” As Ryoma glared at him like a teacher lamenting a bad student, everyone else present nodded silently. 

They’d already seen this play out, and were merely checking their answers at this point. 

“Well, let’s put it this way: you were duped. By the nobles’ faction, that is.” 

Even while Ryoma explained it in the most succinct manner possible, Mikhail’s mind refused to accept it. 

“Th-That’s... nonsense! You won’t fool me!” 

“Call it nonsense all you want, but...” Ryoma shrugged, as Mikhail refused to listen. “Well, just calm down for now. Let’s go over things one more time, from the top.” As he spoke, Laura stood in front of Mikhail. “Let’s start by setting one thing straight. This is not the girl you’re looking for.” 

“You lie!” Mikhail’s bloodcurdling shout echoed through the woods. 

If Ryoma was right, the entire purpose of going on this raid was null and void. He would have taken this counterattack and sacrificed his men for nothing. That feeling spurred Mikhail’s heart forward. 

“To begin with, did you think Laura was King Rhoadseria’s illegitimate daughter because of her silver hair?” 

“That’s right! She’s a silver-haired adolescent girl!” Mikhail affirmed with a raspy voice, as he brushed away the faint suspicion in his heart. 

“Well, Laura certainly is a silver-haired adolescent girl, but... Okay, let me ask you this instead. Are those the only physical attributes you have to identify the illegitimate daughter by?” 

Ryoma’s question made Mikhail sink into thought. 

Silver hair is rare in this continent, and she’s the right age, too. 

“That’s right! That’s all the proof I need!” 

The most striking visual attribute of members of the Rhoadserian royalty was their beautiful silver hair. Of course, that didn’t mean that every person with silver hair had to belong to the Rhoadserian royal bloodline, but all those who did definitely had that hair color; that was what kept Mikhail going. 

“...I’m sorry, but you guys are pretty dumb...” Ryoma answered Mikhail with a complicated expression. “I’m sure there’s plenty of silver-haired teen girls on this continent.” 

“If anyone is the fool here, you are! We’re not searching for just any silver-haired girl, but one who attempts to travel from Pherzaad to Rhoadseria at this time of year! Do you honestly think a girl who would fill every other requirement would just happen to be here in this place, at this time?!” 

Mikhail’s face was overtaken by a smile. 

That’s right! A silver-haired girl wouldn’t happen to be in this place at this time by pure coincidence! I don’t know what this man is getting at, but I won’t be fooled! 

The information that led him on this raid was provided by one of his fellow members from the knights’ faction. Of course, Mikhail knew that not everyone in the knights’ faction was necessarily on his side, but they were all united in their antagonism toward the nobles’ faction. Even if that weren’t so, they wouldn’t think Mikhail— who in spite of some lack of prudence was still given education as a high class knight— would so easily resort to assassination. 

“True, that probability is extremely low.” Ryoma said, eyeing Mikhail’s convinced gaze with pity. “No, to be honest, it’s probably closer to zero. But what if one such girl passed by here deliberately?” 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Unable to comprehend the meaning behind Ryoma’s words, Mikhail’s expression was awash with doubt. 

“What I’m saying is, a bunch of people who have nothing to do with this— i.e., us— were sent to Rhoadseria from Pherzaad on some arbitrary request, and that information was intentionally leaked to the knights’ faction. And of course, being at a disadvantage means the knights’ faction would have to jump on this chance to break the deadlock while they safely smuggled the real illegitimate child into the country. How about it? I don’t think it’s that hard to wrap your head around. If anything, I’d start wondering if the people who delivered you that information might be in cahoots with the nobles’ faction.” 

As Ryoma spoke, Mikhail’s proud, elated expression gradually froze over. 

“I-It can’t be...” As those words squeezed out of his lips, Ryoma shook his head and continued speaking. 

“Someone from the knights’ faction having that kind of insight into what the nobles’ faction were doing is pretty suspicious to start with, if you ask me.” 

Everyone’s expressions turned puzzled at those words. 

“That illegitimate daughter is an irreplaceable ace in the hole for the nobles’ faction. If they were going to smuggle her into the country, they’d put all the power at their disposal into planning it meticulously, and exert all the caution they could to make sure the information wouldn’t leak. And yet, it still leaked to the knights’ faction.” 

Ryoma then stopped talking and looked around at everyone present, as if making sure they understood what he meant. 

“So they leaked it on purpose, then? Is that it, boy?” Lione asked, and Ryoma replied with a silent nod. 

“If you think about it reasonably, that’s what it comes down to, yeah. Plus, it seems the nobles’ faction got Wallace in their pocket and got him to hire mercenaries. Namely, a silver-haired mercenary girl in her teens.” 

“And that... would be me.” Laura said, to which Ryoma nodded. 

“But Wallace is a guildmaster. Would he really act in such a risky fashion?” Sara asked hesitantly. 

The guild advocated neutrality. If they didn’t have absolute trust from both their clients and the mercenaries, they wouldn’t be able to manage requests the way they did. From that perspective, Wallace’s actions were extremely inappropriate. He’d gathered people under the pretense of guarding a caravan, and intended to use them as bait without consent. 

The chance of Wallace not being aware of this wasn’t zero, and Laura mentioned that possibility. But Ryoma shook his head in denial. 

“No, the chances of Wallace being unrelated to this are slim. We had to take this job because of a compulsory request, after all.” Ryoma then turned the conversation to Lione, who was standing next to him. “Let me ask you too, Lione. Aren’t compulsory requests assigned to high-level guys only... Specifically, people with a rank of single B or above? And it only applies to highly urgent requests, if I’m not mistaken?” 

“Yeah, that’s all written down in the guild’s protocol.” Lione gave a slight nod at Ryoma’s question. 

“Ergo, there was no grounds for us to have this request forced on us. In all likelihood... He was looking for a silver-haired, adolescent mercenary, and only found Laura. He then counted on us being inexperienced, and bluffed on the compulsory request to force us to accept. Then we’d just have to die in the knights’ faction raid, and that would be that. On the off chance we survived, we wouldn’t suspect the caravan’s merchants— or rather, the nobles’ faction soldiers disguised as merchants— who would go on to finish us off. And no one would be the wiser.” 

As they listened to Ryoma’s explanation, the image of the whole incident was pieced together in everyone’s minds. The caravan’s wagons were all empty because they knew an attack was coming. The calluses on the merchant’s hands and their toned physiques were owed to them being knights and soldiers in disguise. Ryoma’s group alone got the canopied wagon, in order to fool Mikhail and his men into thinking the illegitimate child was in there. And the formation was set up so as to block Ryoma’s path once they attacked, to ensure they were killed. 

All of those seemingly unnatural factors came together to form one conclusion. 

“Impossible... This is far too...” Words of regret and agony escaped Mikhail’s lips as he heard Ryoma’s reasoning. “But that would mean he fooled us... No... But, in that case...” 

The person Mikhail was speaking of was likely the person in the knights’ faction who supplied him with the information on the nobles’ faction. As Mikhail sat there devastated, Ryoma made him a proposal. 

“Well, there’s no point in crying over spilled milk.” 

Mikhail raised his head powerlessly, his gaze questioning. 

“I mean, you and us both were set up by the nobles’ faction, so this is kinda our problem too now and all.” 

That much was obvious. This request was supposed to be an escort for a caravan, and false as it was, it still existed in the guild’s records. Ryoma had attacked the merchants’ carriages, even though it was the only road to getting out of the situation alive, and fled the attack, leaving the merchants behind. 

If one were to look at the situation on a surface level, Ryoma and his group were despicable cowards who abandoned their guard duties and killed the merchants in order to escape. To make matters worse, if Wallace were to claim the raid was a bandit attack, it would be very easy to make it seem as if they’d been bribed to sell out their employers. 

And the worst part was that they had no way of stopping Wallace from doing so. After all, everything Ryoma had said was conjecture based on circumstantial evidence. Even if they were to use Mikhail as a witness, there was zero chance he’d testify truthfully, because this whole incident was a stain on the honor of the knights’ faction. 

And in the end, the one who’d decide what counted as truth would be the guildmaster, Wallace. It went without saying that telling the person who duped them that he set them up wouldn’t get them out of this mess. 

Plus, depending on the other guildmasters when they had no proof to back their claims up was a poor hand to play, too. Pherzaad was the largest trade port in Myest, and since he’d been appointed as guildmaster of that city, Wallace’s power within the guild was likely considerable. Who would be resolved to pursue the truth against this man when placed in such an inferior position? And who was to say if such a person could even be convinced to lend Ryoma his aid? 

“So, what do you say, Mikhail? Will you cooperate with us?” 

Ryoma’s words didn’t prompt a change of expression from any of his companions. Because they all realized they had no choice but to cling to the final ray of hope that was Ryoma’s wisdom... 

That day would go on to be one which would greatly change the fate of the kingdom of Rhoadseria. 

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