Along with saying something terrible had happened, Horai also mumbled that the color of the arrow was strange. Having noticed Horai’s response, Reitri rushed to the window that Horai had his face peeking out.
“Why the arrow…”
Reitri peeked his head out to the outside of the carriage through the window just like Horai. He saw the lighting arrow that was shot to the sky and put up a serious look on his face.
“That color is not right.”
“What does it supposed to mean?”
After discovering the arrow’s color, Reitri fell to silence and was petrified. Wondering what this was about, Riley tilted his head to the side.
“What? What is it?”
“… It’s red.”
Riley had no way of knowing what the color was supposed to mean. He furrowed his brows as if he was trying to tell Reitri to explain properly. Nainiae, who was looking at the map she got from Horai, strained her eyes. It seemed she detected something.
She succeeded in finding something using the search magic she used earlier. She tapped on Riley’s shoulder.
Riley turned to look at her. Realizing that Nainiae had serious look on her face, Riley got up.
“You found them?”
“I cannot pinpoint the exact location, but…”
Nainiae held Riley on the shoulder and used a short-range teleportation magic.
They instantly got on the top of the carriage. She pointed at the lighting arrow that was rising to the sky in the distance that was shot by someone and said,
“Over there. At that place, something is happening.”
The rising smoke’s color was red. It was the lighting arrow that Reitri mentioned earlier.
With the search magic, Nainiae was able to recognize loud sounds or traces of battles there. She narrowed her eyes and said something was off.
“That arrow is definitely the lighting arrow that Ms. Rorona told us she will use to contact us. However… the color is different.”
Having heard Nainiae, Reitri, who had his upper body out through the window, looked up and explained about the lighting arrow.
“If things were going as planned, the smoke’s color should be green. Unless there’s something wrong with my eyes, that color is…”
The smoke’s color was red.
“If it is red, then what does it mean?”
“It means we should not come.”
‘It means it is an emergency and dangerous, so we should not come… That’s what it means.”
They could not know what was happening at the place where the smoke was rising from. However, it was certain now that they were in a dire situation.
Nainiae quickly assessed the situation and decided what to do. Nainiae extended her hand toward Riley and moved her mana. Riley seemed like he was thinking the same thing. He promptly grabbed hold of her hand.
“Two of you? Wait!”
When Nainiae and Riley just grabbed hold of each other’s hands, Reitri realized they were about to teleport just like earlier. Reitri quickly called them.
Although he called to stop them, it seemed the timing was not right… Despite the calling, the two could not be seen on the top of the carriage. They were already gone without a trace.
“W… What should we do, Sir?”
With vacant look on his face, a merchant was watching the two disappear through teleportation. He moved his wide-open mouth and asked Reitri.
It was like a habit when he had to demonstrate his intuition as a merchant who leads a group.
“What are you going to do, Uncle?”
Now, even Horai was asking what he was going to do. Reitri thought hard about this for a moment. It seemed he made a decision after using his merchant instinct. He opened his mouth with serious look on his face.
“Let’s go there.”
“R… Really? Are you really going to go there?”
“We need to at least check what happened there. However, I’ll go there myself and come back afterwards.”
Having heard that he will go there, other merchants jumped up and asked him to reconsider.
“M… Mr. Reitri… Won’t it be better if one of us or other mercenaries went to check it out?”
“I think so too. If it is red arrow, that means it’s an emergency and we should not come, right? Instead of going there, I think it would be a better idea to turn back and wait for Mr. Nara and everyone from the Lightning Boulder Mercenary group to come back.”
Reitri shook his head. He turned to look at the place where the red smoke was rising. Reitri said,
“I think it would be best if we went there.”
To the merchants, a figure like Reitri was hard to run into. Reitri was a great man.
He didn’t look down or belittle people under him. Also, as a merchant himself, he made sure to get all that the merchants wanted. He was a good man and skilled in the business. The merchants didn’t like the idea of him getting involved in a dangerous situation like this.
“Do you have to go?”
“Just why do you need to go to such a dangerous place….”
“… It’s an intuition.”
Reitri borrowed another merchant’s personal carriage. He grabbed the lead and said,
“My intuition is telling me that.”
A merchant making his move based on intuition was actually a very ridiculous idea. However, Reitri shrugged. It seemed he didn’t change his mind. He just swung the lead and had the carriage start to move.
* * *
Nainiae and Riley moved from the top of the carriage to the middle of desert. They quickly directed their gaze toward where the red smoke was rising from.
‘What is this…’
Before she found the red smoke, Nainiae found the surrounding in utter disarray. Finding it hard to believe, she opened her mouth.
“Young Master, this is…”
Riley also found the surrounding in disarray before finding the smoke and had serious look on his face.
The sand in the area had craters as if there were explosions.
Moreover, there weren’t one or two craters. There were several dozens of them.
While they were looking around, they heard someone moaning in pain. Riley and Nainiae both had their heads turn toward the direction.
The moaning in pain was coming from Rorona, the archer of the Lightning Boulder Mercenary. She was collapsed on the ground.
To Rorona, her bow was like a part of herself. However, her bow was broken into three pieces. Also, her body was in shamble just like her bow. She was drenched in blood and sand.
Rorona’s consciousness was still only faint. She was not quite able to come to her senses. Nainiae brought out herb from the dimensional space and had Rorona bite on it. Nainiae asked Rorona if she was all right as she washed black sand on Rorona’s body.
Because of blood and sand on her face, Rorona was not able to open her eyes properly. Now, thanks to Nainiae, she was barely able to regain her sight. However, she was still not able to recognize Nainiae.
“Someone like you… Why?”
Nainiae figured it could not be helped that Rorona was not recognizing her. She raised her hand and had a small flame bloom on her palm.
The flame had grey color. It was the color that the mercenaries, including Rorona herself, misunderstood during the last summer.
“Ah… By any chance…”
At first, Rorona was weary of her, but having confirmed the flame’s color, Rorona recognized Nainiae. Rorona was tearing up.
“What happened? What happened here?”
Supported by Nainiae, Rorona opened her eyes. She bit her lips lightly and turned her gaze away.
“… We were ambushed.”
Cringing, she barely managed to say those words. She struggled to hold in tears.
“Isen was the first one. After that… It was the Commander, and then the Priestess…”
In brink of tears, Rorona explained what happened. Riley brought his face close to Rorona and asked who were the ones responsible.
“By any chance, is it that mercenary named Kabal?”
Rorona was surprised, wondering how he knew. In anguish, she nodded.
“Because of a favor asked by the Priestess, we were here to help cleanse the desert, and that bastard came. Probably… It seemed he was tailing us for a long time… but I didn’t notice.”
Due to injuries, it seemed Rorona was having difficulties. She stuttered as she continued explaining. She took a deep breath and continued,
“Many of the Kabal’s Mercenaries came. The small fries were not the problem. It was Kabal.”
Rorona mumbled that they were powerless against Kabal’s incredible battle strength. She looked at the crater ridden desert in disarray.
“Honestly, I’ve only heard about him in rumors, but his monstrous strength is…”
Rorona looked around the craters as she talked. It seemed she was parched in her neck. She tightly closed her eyes and started to shed tears.
“That man is?”
Nainiae also directed her gaze toward one of the craters. She found a man there who was in shambles just like how Rorona was earlier. Nainiae muttered,
He was the middle-aged man in Lightning Boulder Mercenary group who always carried a shield. Isen was lying on one of the craters.
“I could not… protect him.”
Having realized the man was not breathing, Rorona pulled her chin as if she could not look anymore. Tears dropped from her eyes.
Riley was looking at Isen’s corpse. He redirected his gaze to Rorona and asked.
“Where are the two?”
They could be corpses now. They could just be collapsed somewhere. Regardless, they should be nearby, but Riley couldn’t find them.
“As for the Commander and Priestess… They were captured.”
“I think that was their goal to begin with.”
Riley responded immediately to her words. He widened his senses and checked if there was anyone moving away from the area.
‘To that direction?’
There were about seven to eight people who were moving away from the location. It seemed certain that they were the Kabal Mercenary group, Nara and Priesia.
“Young Master, wait!”
It looked like Riley was going to head there immediately. Nainiae, who was supporting Rorona, rushed and extended her hand toward Riley. However…
Riley already took off after kicking the ground.
* * *
“Tsk… Nara…. That rascal sure makes things bothersome for me.”
Kabal pulled out the spear that pierced through his shoulder. Annoyed, he threw it away as he looked back at his subordinates and the two who were being carried by them.
“Well, anyway, we grabbed what we wanted. I guess what’s left is convincing them. The Head needs to come soon.”
Kabal was looking at his subordinates who were carrying people on their waists. Kabal cringed and approached them.
“Hey. What are you doing?”
“Pardon? As you ordered…”
It seemed Priesia was unconscious. She was just hanging there with her eyes closed. Having heard Kabal, the mercenary who was carrying Priesia flinched and started to step back.
“That hand… It would be good for you to not massage her the wrong way unless you want me to choke you.”
Kabal leaned his face right at the man. Kabal completely forgot about the hole on his own shoulder and put up violent look on his face.
“C… Commander. There is no need for you to create such a violent mood…”
“Why are you being so careful with her as if she is the most precious one in the world? Who is she?”
“Weren’t you going to sell her as a slave? She is quite pretty. I think she is a high-quality product. If you sell her to a nobility… No, before we sell her, if we have fun with her first…”
Slave, high-quality product… The subordinate was yapping away at will. Kabal glared at him and quickly walked toward him.
Kabal swung his tightly made fist at him.
The mercenary who was hit by Kabal’s fist was thrown off to the far distance over the hill. Other mercenaries, choking in fear, were petrified. They looked at their Commander.
“Fools. You just like pretty faces… You guys still haven’t figured out who she is? Who this lass is?”
The girl was now on Kabal’s waist, but she was still completely loose. She wasn’t moving at all.
The mercenaries were merely mesmerized by her beauty. They had no idea who she was. They merely tilted their heads to side. Frustrated about his subordinates’ stupidity, Kabal ground his teeth and said,
“She is the Priestess! The Priestess! There is a reward placed on her recently by the Solia. She is the Priestess of Solia Holy Temple.”
The mercenaries finally learned who she was. They panicked and started to mumble.
“She is. She really is! This is the real deal.”
The subordinates were all excited. Kabal calmed them down and said to the mercenary who was holding Nara on his waist.
“The same goes for Nara. He is the last survivor of the Basilisks, humanoid beings. He will be useful in many ways, so be extra careful about how you handle him.”
Nara was completely loose like Priesia. He was unconscious while being held on the mercenary’s waist. However, unlike Priesia, Nara was in shambles.
His small body was full of bruises. The hands that held the spear before had he fingers twisted in wrong ways as if someone twisted them by force. The fingers were just hanging there.
“Ah, Yes… I understand.”
Despite the bleeding on his shoulder, Kabal didn’t even bat an eye and continued with violent look on his face. The mercenaries gulped and nodded.
“Be extra careful when handling…”
The mood rapidly got heavy. There was someone who was mixed in middle of the mercenaries. The man quietly mumbled.
They never heard this voice before. They all floated up question marks on their faces and turned their heads toward the voice.
There was a boy.
“How kind of you.”
The boy had chilled look on his face.