Hearing the words of the head guard, Trent was stunned.
Silver. It couldn’t be. Perhaps he heard it wrong.
He stared at the guard, hoping he would say, ‘I was wrong. I’ll start the test’.
And that blonde guy will show his horrendous skills and then…
Trent’s delusion ended there.
Airn Pareira and the others nodded and turned around, and the guard didn’t call for them.
Seeing that, he hurriedly ran towards the head guard.
“Hm? What is it?”
“Th-Those people. Why did you let them pass without taking the test?”
“Ah. Of course. Orc fortune tellers are known to bring good fortune, so why not let him join? I’m reluctant about the black cat, but if its bad luck is raised by the Orc, then it shouldn’t matter.”
“What about the blonde one?”
“Didn’t you hear? You were in close distance… that young one, um, has a silver mercenary card. It’s amazing considering his age.”
“Ah, no, I heard it… that, it might not be…”
Trent, who wanted to speak, couldn’t say anything.
It was because the head guard’s expression didn’t seem nice.
His gaze went stiff for a while, and Trent lowered his gaze.
In a low voice, the man asked.
“Are, are you saying that like an idiot I didn’t even properly check the mercenary card?”
“Ah, no, not that…”
“I have seen fake cards hundreds of times. That means I know whether one is real or fake.”
“Besides, that young man got his card from Alcantra.”
“If I forged cards, I don’t think I nor anyone would use the name Alcantra on theirs. Don’t waste my time. Next!”
After that, the guard changed his gaze to someone else.
That also meant he had no interest in what Trent was going to say.
Trent moved away with a black expression.
‘He got a silver card from a mercenary agency in Alcantra?’
Trent was familiar with that place.
Isn’t that where the swordsmen who admired the Krono gathered?
With such a background, the mercenary agencies in Alcantra were exceptionally tough, and those who received high cards there got a lot of attention.
That said, it wasn’t a good place to use when forging.
He knew that because he, too, got his card from Alcantra.
Even mercenary cards were made with magic, so they were difficult to forge.
‘… silver? At that age?’
He couldn’t believe it.
No, he didn’t want to believe it.
A guy who acted like he didn’t care about anything had a better card than him?
“Trent, what are you doing?”
“Don’t stand around and come with us.”
Of course, there’s nothing Trent could do.
Nothing but stare secretly at the face, which didn’t seem to suffer since birth.
The recruitment of escorts to cross the Alhad Mountains ended.
The head guard, the people, and the mercenaries all started the hike with satisfied faces.
Although they had to break through where a huge group of bandits lurked, most of their faces didn’t show tension.
Well, all but two.
One of them was Trent, who was sarcastic about Airn.
And he didn’t know why Airn had a stiff expression.
Lulu, who noticed it, looked at Kuvar.
“Kuvar. Give that.”
“Ahh. I understand. Where was that… here!”
Kuvar rummaged through his bag and pulled out something.
Pieces of iron.
The shape of the parts was similar to the armor worn by knights, but they were small.
He tossed them into the air.
Thanks to skillful throwing, each part flew without being cluttered.
And then, Lulu quickly jumped and spread her limbs.
The pieces of iron, which were coming down because of gravity, clung to her body with a clattering sound.
The black cat turned into a cat with armor.
Kneeling on one knee with her sword thrust into the ground.
She had a serious expression on her face while speaking with Airn.
“Sir Airn Pareira, if anything is weighing down your heart, please tell me right away. As thy sword, I’m ready to slaughter whoever the opponent is.”
“Oh, Oh, Oh…”
People who saw Lulu reacted.
Some applauded, and those who knew Lulu was a sorcerer were wide-eyed.
But Airn was calm.
This wasn’t the only time the black cat acted strangely.
“Where did you learn those words?”
“I learned them from the novel I read yesterday!”
“Hehe. But staying in this pose is uncomfortable, so it’s hard to stay like this for a long time.”
Seeing Lulu walk, it seemed to be true.
He burst into laughter, and Lulu took off the armor.
Taking back those armor pieces, Kuvar asked.
“Lulu said it as a joke, but I’m curious too.”
“Look at your face. You were normally expressionless, but today you don’t seem to have that normal look or a smile. If you have any concerns, let me know. It might be a bit old-fashioned, but I’ll give you advice as your senior.”
Airn let out a low moan as if he was troubled. Kuvar and Lulu waited patiently.
After a while, what came out was heavier than they expected.
“I have a lot of thoughts, but the biggest concern right now is… if I can wield a sword against a person.”
“I haven’t killed anyone.”
Horrible words came out gently.
However, since he was a swordsman and a mercenary, it was a natural thing to say.
It was even more concerning as they were going to face bandits.
Kuvar’s face turned serious, and the mischievous grin on Lulu’s face turned stiff, and they stared at Airn.
“Of course, it may sound absurd to veteran mercenaries to not take care of the bad ones who loot the good merchants, but… still, there is a thing called life.”
It’s right to protect innocent merchants.
And it’s also right to defeat vicious thieves.
However, if he could kill the people in the process, Airn couldn’t answer it.
His troubles didn’t end there.
“Doesn’t beating the group’s head mean the surrender of the group?”
“Or would it be right to end the fight with threats?”
“But if the bandits survived by always doing bad deeds, they wouldn’t stop, either…”
Thoughts kept growing and growing.
Hearing the thoughts of the 21-year-old man, who seemed innocent, Kuvar smiled.
He liked this side of Airn.
It may seem frustrating at first glance, but it was much better than the attitude of those who handled swords lightly without thinking about the situation.
Hearing everything, he nodded and gave his answer.
However, it was different from what Airn was thinking.
“There’s no need to worry.”
“We don’t need to fight. No one here will draw their sword while crossing the mountain.”
“But, on the mountainside, there is a fearsome bandit boss called Kazhar…”
“That Kazhar wants peace.”
“Identification of power, greetings, and a small toll. That’s all the bandits in Alhad do.”
The explanation of the bandits which Kuvar gave was unexpected and different from what Airn thought.
It was true that Alhad’s people were led by the one called Kazhar, and it has been that way for 5 years.
Only a handful of times were swords drawn during those five years, and those who paid the toll could cross the mountain safer than anyone else.
The reason the merchants seek escorts is to put pressure on the bandits, not to fight.
“In a way, they are merchants and not bandits. I don’t think merchants think of the bandits that badly either. They are annoying, but it’s like a city’s tariffs.”
“Well, even then… aren’t they not merchants of the state and evildoers who eventually take the goods of the merchants without pay? Those… aren’t the surrounding kingdoms sending subjugation troops?”
“They can’t. The bribes the bandits pay to the surrounding estates aren’t small.”
“Haha, the more you hear, the more shocked you are.”
“Honestly yes. But I think it’s going to a place with too many problems…” ⁽¹⁾
“But it’s okay to conclude this as an okay thing. It can be seen as an advantage to everyone.”
It wasn’t a bad thing, but Airn couldn’t understand it.
How was it not a problem for the country when the bandits were exploiting the merchants?
However, Kuvar’s next explanation made Airn look more shocked.
“First of all, it’s good that the surrounding provinces have less work. It’s difficult for anyone to claim ownership because it’s geographically ambiguous, so it’s difficult for the state or a kingdom to directly manage the road.”
“You can see that the bandits are working for them. Besides, he’s only a bandit with horses, and what Kazhar is doing is shockingly stabilizing the region. The conflicts will be resolved by properly controlling the surrounding territories, and the robbers around will be removed, so security will also improve.”
“It was said that before Kazhar was the boss, the damage to property and life was much greater. However, it was a situation where they had more troops, and it was tough to constantly send subjugation troops and merchants to risk their lives.”
“… it’s complicated.”
“Hehe, this is the world. There is good and evil, right and wrong. It’s almost impossible to find the difference between the two.”
Airn nodded at those words.
It was shocking.
He didn’t know all these things when he was at home.
In his narrow world, he spent each day thinking about the sword.
But the world was different.
It was more complex than he thought, and it only complicated his mind.
Since he couldn’t easily decide what was right and wrong, he had to be too careful with each action.
‘So burdensome. My head hurts too.’
However, Airn Pareira couldn’t stop worrying.
He didn’t want to.
“… I need to think a lot more.”
“About what? About Alhad’s wild bandits?”
“That and what I said at the beginning.”
“Beginning? Ah… talking about murder?”
“Yes. It’s not something that’s happening right now but something we could face in the future. Sigh, I still haven’t come up with an answer to it. Instead, my thoughts are more complicated now. Even then…”
It was better to think ahead.
That way, he can make the right choice when things happen.
Kuvar looked at Airn, who said that.
“It’s a good thought. I will cheer for you.”
“I will support you too! It’s a difficult problem, but be strong!”
Lulu said that as if she was concerned about it.
But what Lulu felt for Airn was sincere.
Airn smiled brightly, yet he continued to worry, and they continued to walk quietly.
However, those around them had different opinions.
‘He never cut anyone?’
‘He doesn’t even know what the Alhad is? Isn’t he too inexperienced?’
‘I heard he has a silver card, but looking at his age, it seems like a lie…’
Some doubted Airn’s ability.
No matter how good the eyes of the head guard were, they couldn’t believe that a kid with such inexperience had a silver card.
Trent, too, was the same.
‘Maybe he only saw famous swordsmen.’
‘It’s because he grew up preciously.’
‘How can he not know the world?’
‘Why is he worrying so much?’
Others didn’t question Airn’s ability.
Often there are such cases.
Because he grew up in a nice family, he had excellent skills, but he knew nothing about the world.
However, they looked down on Airn.
To question the order which has been maintained for five years. There was nothing more meaningless to worry about than that.
“Everyone is here.”
As they were with each other, the time passed quickly, even when everyone had different thoughts.
In front of the Alhad Mountains’ top, the bandits arrived, including Kazhar.
However, the atmosphere was strange.
Unlike usual, the owner of the bandits, Kazhar, didn’t smile.
And the bandits lined up behind them with a firm expression.
The question was soon resolved.
Unacceptable conditions flowed out of Kazhar’s mouth.
“Leave half of the stuff and go away. Then I’ll spare your life.”
“Wh-What! What are you sayin….”
The merchants were embarrassed.
Airn, who had been thinking for some time, muttered quietly.
“That person… I can feel Magi from him.”
⁽¹⁾ “It’s” refers to the discussion about the region’s politics. He’s saying that he thinks the discussion has too many problems around it. He gets interrupted before he can finish which is why it’s a bit confusing.
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