Before long, just as Loren had sensed and Ange had confirmed with her <Distant View>, a group of riders arrived in the village. But by then, Loren’s group had already cleared their camp and left the plaza.
At first, they had thought about hiding in a warehouse or some cattle pen; however, after some careful consideration, they concluded that once the riders arrived and found no one in the villages, they would search those places next. So, they chose a suitable home in the village and hid there.
Dealing with the donkey that carried their luggage was another problem. But in order to be able to apologize and explain things in case the villagers came back, they also led it into the house.
“They have nice equipment.”
Loren muttered. He closed the window’s shutter so that it wouldn’t look out of place, and was peeking outside through the slits to check out the riders.
He believed them to be Vargenburg’s soldiers. There was still the possibility that they were robbers though. Still, Loren didn’t think that there was a robber gang powerful enough to mobilize dozens of riders like this.
“Vargenburg’s regular soldiers. I’m sure of it.”
Layla, who was also peeking outside the window, confirmed their identities. Loren considered that if she, a former knight of Vargenburg, had said so, then it couldn’t be wrong.
“What do Vargenburg’s soldiers do at a place like this?”
“I don’t know, but I’m sure it has something to do with the war.”
As Layla answered Ange’s question, the troopers rode deeper into the village, and some of them spread out. Judging by their behavior Loren assumed that they were likely scouting and checking out the state of affairs here. That didn’t say anything about their intentions though.
“Would be fun if we could snatch one.”
To understand the situation, asking the person himself would be easiest. But if they did that, they would definitely be branded as criminals. Working in such a large number, it was certain that these Vargenburg soldiers were acting on someone’s orders. If they hindered their job, things would be neither pretty nor fun.
“Should I secretly capture one of them?”
Lapis proposed in response to Loren’s words, but he shook his head.
“If you do, you’ll turn the whole empire into your enemy.”
“Miss Layla, would your connection manage somehow?”
Layla had looked startled at the word ‘capture’, but her expression stiffened immediately, and she pondered for a short while. She tilted her head in contemplation while groaning quietly.
“It’ll be difficult. I’m not sure if I can get through to them or not. These soldiers are following some secret order; if this is handled poorly, it’s very likely that we’ll be arrested here.”
“Even that will be fine, I think.”
Loren grumbled. He had been unwilling to take on this job from the beginning; bumping into the kingdom’s soldiers and getting arrested halfway through would be a splendid reason to give it up, wouldn’t it?
However, being tied up, even for a short a time, wasn’t a pleasant experience. Loren himself couldn’t bear the thought of it, letting Lapis and the others have such an experience, was not an option.
“It’ll be easier to talk if there’s someone I know… No, wait, that person is probably…”
Layla, who was looking outside with bated breath, seemed to have discovered a familiar face among the troopers that had stopped at the plaza; she inched her face close to the window slits.
“I’ve probably found someone who I can talk to. I’ll go out first. I’ll call you out if things go well; if not, I’ll shout, and you guys run. It won’t be a big deal if only I get caught.”
Said Layla, after looking closely at the troopers for a while, as if to verify her memory. She then moved away from the window and before the group could ask any questions, she leapt out of the house.
There was no time to stop her; Klaus and the others couldn’t do anything but watched her leave in shock. Loren and Lapis took up the reins of the donkey, ready to run away at any moment and listened closely for any sounds from outside.
The troopers immediately noticed Layla and surrounded her, but it seemed like she had introduced herself as a Knight of Vargenburg immediately: they didn’t arrest her, but took her to the square where troopers were gathering instead.
“Will Layla be alright?”
Ange asked worriedly. As if to reassure her, Klaus hugged her shoulders and pulled her towards him. Roll seemed to be jealous of it and quietly leaned on Klaus; he put his hand on her waist and also pulled her to him.
“What are you guys doing?…”
Loren questioned bluntly; he was feeling doubtful about whether they really understood the situation. When he noticed Lapis, who was beside him, looking up at him with expectant eyes, he scratched his head.
“No, I won’t do that?”
“You’ve lost to Klaus here, I think.”
“It’s not about winning or losing, not that I want to win, in the first place. Rather than that, focus on the current situation. If Layla gives a warning, we have to run right away.”
Loren said as if chiding. Smiling wryly, Klaus took his hands off the girls, and they hurriedly distanced themselves from him while blushing. Lapis looked dissatisfied, but she seemed unwilling to pursue the matter further and just quietly watched for any progress with bated breath.
Finally, they heard Layla calling from outside:
“Talk is done! It’s alright to come out now!”
Klaus and the other two girls were relieved that Layla had seemed to handle things well. But Lapis still looked tense, and Loren once again put his hand on his great sword in alert.
“Loren? What’s wrong? Layla said it’s alright…”
“That’s not something to accept without questioning. I’ll go first.”
He and Lapis believed they shouldn’t let their guards down until they could be absolutely certain that everything was alright. But it was probably no use telling Klaus about that, so Loren decided to go out by himself first. It was so that he could buy some time for the others to escape if anything happened, but they didn’t seem to understand. Klaus still nodded with a puzzled face though.
As Loren pushed the door at the entrance open, a number of soldiers were waiting for him. They looked surprised that his hand was still on his great sword. Layla stepped out a bit quickly from behind them and spoke to him:
“Of course, you’ll come out first. It’s alright, really. There’s no problem at all.”
“Won’t they tell us to disarm or something?”
“They won’t. But don’t go berserk. If you do, I don’t know what kind of damage you’ll cause. I, knight Layla, will guarantee your safety myself.”
Having the knight using her own name to assure it, Loren accepted that everything was alright and finally moved his hand away from his weapon. He felt relief flooded the atmosphere as he did so. Turning around, he met Lapis’ eyes; she was peeking out through the slits. He beckoned them over, indicating that all was good.
“Could you please come this way? The captain wants to talk to you about something.”
A soldier told Loren once everyone had come out and led him away. Following him, Loren was taken into the center of the group of troopers gathering in the plaza, and came face to face with one of them.
“Excuse me for staying on horseback. I am Karl Belnadotte, a Knight of Vergenburg. I am currently the Captain of this group.”
The one who introduced himself was a middle-age man, who dressed in nicer armor than the surrounding soldiers. He had an impressive beard, and the gaze he gave Loren from his horseback was not that unpleasant despite the hint of caution it held. Loren bowed slightly in return.
“Loren, adventurer. I am here due to some circumstances.”
It was good manners to introduce your name after being introduced; even Loren understood that much.
In this kingdom, knights were also a part of the aristocracy, and Loren had thought that they wouldn’t have bothered about things like the name of an adventurer. But the reaction of this knight didn’t make him feel any distaste.
“Thank you for letting me know your name. I have heard a bit about your circumstances from Knight Layla. As I understand, you were entrusted by the neighboring village to investigate the unusual happening here; is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s about it.”
Loren felt a little reluctant about the term ‘entrusted’. To be correct, he was temporarily instated as the leader of the party, but he had no intention to explain that to the knight in front of him. Even though it couldn’t be helped, having others known that someone like him had taken the role of the temporary leader was embarrassing to him.
And, by all rights, Klaus should have been the one to stand here and talk to this knight as the leader. In a manner of speaking, Loren felt like he had been cajoled into this somehow. Even though he had been the one to step up first, he wanted to complain about how wrong the role assignment was.
“Is that… Sir Klaus? There’ve been rumors about him for some time now. I’ve heard he’s a brilliant adventurer.”
Glancing behind Loren, Karl saw Klaus and bowed ever so slightly. Klaus also bowed to him in return. Admiring the difference in treatment, Loren tried throwing a question once Karl’s eyes had returned to him:
“What are you doing here, Sir Knight of Vargenburg?”
“It’s a classified military mission, so I can’t talk about it. But we plan to enter the forest and head for the northern exit.”
Was it proper to say that, Loren wondered. With the war going on, he couldn’t think of any other reason why they would come out of the forest from the northern exit except to strike the enemies from the flank or the rear.
Riding through a forest didn’t seem like a very good idea, but the forest wasn’t that dense to make passing it on horsebacks impossible. They probably could make it if they slowed their speed.
“However, there’s something that bothers me a little. That concern has gotten stronger once we arrived at this village.”
“Would it be alright for me to ask what it is?”
Lapis asked Karl before Loren could open his mouth.
Karl looked alert for a moment, but once he noticed that the one who had asked the question was a girl in priest clothing, he softened just a little. When Loren was thinking how convenient it was to have clothes that could announce to everyone that one was a priest, Karl spoke.
“You have known that there is a war going on in this vicinity, I believe.”
“Yes, we’ve heard of that.”
“The truth is, desertion has been happening one after another in both armies.”
That was not anything unusual, Loren thought.
In the first place, there were very few people going to wars because they liked it. Most people did because they had no other choice, and as they could die at any time, he could understand why some wanted to run away.
It was a bit concerning if desertion was happening in both sides, but the chance of dying wasn’t that different for front line soldiers whether their side was winning or losing. So, it was not like people would run away only when they were losing.
“It seems like the deserters have taken refuge in this forest.”
Karl turned his stern eyes to the forest and scowled.
“I thought that they would hide in this village before passing through the forest, but if this place has become vacant, then where did they go?”
“Are you thinking that they’re staying in the forest?”
“I don’t know. But we don’t have the time to ponder or investigate it.”
Having said that much, Karl made a proposal to Loren as if he had just come up with it:
“If it’s alright, what do you think about travelling together with us? Since the village has been in this state, I believe you have also thought about investigating the forest.”
“I don’t want to take part in wars.”
“Don’t worry about that. If you come with us, you’ll be able to grasp the state of affairs in the forest to some extent, and it’ll be safer than you going through it alone, don’t you think? I also believe that it’ll be safer for us to cross the forest with some adventurers than by ourselves. What do you think?”
It could be said that the ability to detect danger of adventurers was superior to that of knights or soldiers, whose main purpose was to fight. In exchange, they could borrow the knights’ and soldiers’ combat ability to pass the forest – that was what Karl was proposing.
It was not such a bad bargain, but was there a catch in it somewhere? Loren wondered. He looked at Karl, who was waiting for his answer while considering what to do about it.
Silavin: So, we took up this novel. The previous translator did not reply to my initial email. (Though, it was not a request to ask for us to pick it up, it was more of a message saying that it’s almost going to be three months, someone else will pick it up).
Well, it has been more then three months and Lizz and I were looking for another novel to translate and came across this one. Coincidentally, Xemul was also reading this novel, so he is coincidentally positioned to check for terms to follow the previous translator. LOL.
If you are the previous translator and wishes to contact me, here is my email: [email protected]
Anyways, we will continue to translate with a schedule of 1 a week (Every Saturday +8 GMT at 9 PM). If you wish to support us to translate this, there is a Patreon for it to read ahead.
LOL. I wrote a side-story for the tiers for fun. First time I did something so extra for a novel. Haha. (Except for Martial Peak and the 0.5 Chapters. Those are just for further education.)