Chapter 5-23 : Encounter Ⅲ
Iris-san raised her sword and stuck it out toward the man who was walking toward us.
「W, Wait! I have no intention to fight! I threw my weapon away. You saw that, right?」(man)
「I did, but you’re probably a martial artist who can fight without a weapon. Who knows?」(Iris)
「What? No, no! I really don’t want to fight! I just want to talk. I swear!」(man)
By the way, the man’s legs were buried in the snow up to his knees. Because of that, he looked like he was the same height as Lorea-chan and me.
He wouldn’t be able to move quickly like that, let alone attack us, and considering that he didn’t do anything to hinder us while we were fighting the centipede, he might not be lying when he said he didn’t have the intention to fight.
However, we can’t let our guard down. Iris-san was doing the right thing to keep holding her blade toward that guy.
「Don’t worry. We’re not a barbarians who would attack you without reason. Whether we will attack you or not is up to you. First, I want you to answer my questions.」(Iris)
「You guys are Baronet Kirk’s soldiers, aren’t you? Tell us your name and your purpose here!」(Iris)
「…My name is Madison. I’m the commander of the sixth garrison force from the town of South Strugg. The feudal lord ordered us to lure a Giant Snow Centipede to that alchemist girl.」(man)
Saying that, the man called “Madison” glanced at me.
He answered Iris-san’s question honestly without trying to deceive us.
However, Iris-san frowned as if she became more suspicious of him.
「Hee… I didn’t expect you would answer so honestly.」(Iris)
「I told you the truth because I want to gain your trust. I watched how you defeated that giant monster. You are just young girls but you are stronger than us. We would die for sure if we fought you. ーNo. Even if we don’t fight you, many of us will die for sure. As the captain, I want to increase the chance for my men to survive as much as possible.」(Madison)
While saying that, Madison turned his face and looked at his men.
Some of them can walk, but others can only lie on the snow, writhing in pain.
I can’t tell how bad their injuries are from here, but the number of injured people clearly exceeds the number of people who can walk.
If we abandon them, most of them would definitely die on this mountain. Only a few of them might be able to return safely to the town.
「I see. You have chosen wisely. Next question. How did you lure that giant centipede?」(Iris)
「The alchemist who works for the feudal lord gave us a substance that can attract Giant Snow Centipedes.」(Madison)
「I see. But didn’t you think that we could have taken a different route? What if you didn’t cross paths with us? You would all be dead!」(Iris)
「Of course, I took that into account. We didn’t use the substance until we saw you. After we saw you and confirmed the route you were taking, we used the substance to lure a giant centipede. Well, I didn’t take into account how dangerous the monster was though… We were desperately trying to dodge its attacks while bringing it to you…」(Madison)
「Hmph. You seem to be a reasonable person who cares about your men, but why did you accept this horrible job?」(Iris)
「How could we refuse? We are just mere citizens who are hired to be soldiers. I swear that nobody wanted to do this job. It was very risky, and we didn’t want to hurt anyone. We became soldiers because we wanted to protect people, not to hurt them. However, we had no choice but to accept this job. We had no power to refuse the feudal lord’s command… I’m not asking for forgiveness, but please take that into consideration on how you will treat us.」(Madison)
Madison sighed and frowned. He then looked at us with an entreating face.
However, Kate-san shook her head resolutely.
「No. How we will be treating you depends on your actions from now on.」(Kate)
「Hold on. I still don’t get how you planned to lure the giant centipede to us. Look. If we decided to abandon you and run away, you all would be killed, right? How could you guarantee that the centipede would attack us?」(Iris)
「When we got close enough to you, I planned to throw this at you.」(Madison)
Saying that, Madison took out a small vial from his pocket. He then stepped closer to me and handed it to me.
I carefully grabbed it and opened the lid a little.
Soon after, a slightly sweet yet pungent smell leaked out from the vial.
As soon as I realized what it was, I hurriedly closed the lid and frowned.
「Store Owner-dono, you know what it is?」(Iris)
「It’s similar to the substance that can attract insects but I think this one has the odor that can make giant centipedes excited and increase their killing intent. Once this odor sticks to your body, giant centipedes will definitely try their hardest to kill you.」(Sarasa)
It was just my guess though. I’ve never made this kind of substance because it’s not listed in the volumes of Alchemy Encyclopedia that I could read.
However, I’ve heard from Master that there are some alchemical substances that can make specific monsters angry, so I think my guess was correct.
This man said that he got it from an alchemist who works for Baronet Kirk, right?
There are two alchemists in South Strugg; Leonora-san and the male alchemist who once tricked the Collectors from my village.
There’s no way Leonora-san would help Baronet Kirk harm us, so it must be that sly alchemist.
I heard that he went bankrupt because no Collectors had visited his store since I warned people about his evil deeds.
I see… It seems that he has been staying at Baronet Kirk’s place and working for him since then.
They are both bad people, so they would make a good team, I guess…
「While we were busy fighting that giant centipede, you could have thrown this vial at us, but… Why you didn’t do that?」(Sarasa)
It could increase the giant centipede’s killing intent and would make it move faster.
Well, I don’t think we would lose anyway, but if the smell stuck on our bodies, at least it would force us to fight more giant centipedes on our way to the bottom of the mountain.
Listening to my question, Madison smiled wryly at me.
「…The moment I realized how young you are, I couldn’t bring myself to do it… You reminded me of my daughter… I just… I don’t want to kill girls who are the same age as my daughter… I shouldn’t have lured and brought the centipede to you, but…」(Madison)
「But, what? If you really didn’t want to kill us, you could have just returned to the town and told that evil lord of yours that you failed, right?」(Iris)
「It would have been great if we could do that, but… No… Someone from the feudal lord’s private army was watching us.」(Madison)
「Hold on… What do you mean? Aren’t all of you from the same army?」(Iris)
「No, that man was from the private army. The private army is the feudal lord’s most trusted people. They will do any dirty work for their master, but me and my men are different. As I said, we are from the sixth garrison force of the town of South Strugg. Our original job is to maintain public order and protect the town. To be exact, we patrol around the town, catch thieves, stop fights between citizens, prevent monsters from entering the town, and things like that. It’s rare for us to receive direct orders from the feudal lord himself.」(Madison)
After explaining to us, Madison let out a long sigh.
From his face, I could tell somehow that he was forced to accept this job.
「My men and I have families in South Strugg. If we refuse the feudal lord’s order… Well… you know what he would do to our families, right?」(Madison)
When Madison said that as if asking for our consent, the first one who nodded and replied to him was Lorea-chan.
「I think I can understand… Commoners have no power against nobles after all…」(Lorea)
「But, Lorea, not all nobles abuse their power to oppress commoners, you know?」(Iris)
「Fufu. Of course, I know.」(Lorea)
When Iris-san muttered with a little dissatisfied face, Lorea-chan replied to her with a smile.
「So, where is the man from the private army who was watching you?」(Iris)
Iris-san bluntly asked about that person even though we didn’t know if he was still watching us or not.
I was a bit worried, but Madison answered Iris-san’s question with a giggle and a mischievous smile on his face.