In the desert, the Reitri Merchant Group’s carriages stopped so that people could rest, but a sudden gust of wind came along with a large dimensional portal that opened.
“W… What is this?”
“Call Mr. Reitri now!”
The group was restless since last morning because the Priestess had disappeared all of the sudden and now a portal had appeared. The merchants were packing their luggage and the appearance of the portal was enough to make them panic.
Having heard the merchants, Nara and Rorona, the ones in charge of protecting the merchants, quickly went to the place.
“Please don’t panic and go back to what you have been doing.”
Nara looked at the outer rim of the round portal and confirmed that it was the gray color that he had seen many times before, so he asked the merchants to calm down.
“Commander, that color is grey, right?”
“Yes. It’s Ms. Nainiae’s magic.”
It seemed they were right. The portal opened in middle of the place where the carriages had gathered. Through the portal, Iphalleta’s maid showed herself first.
Nainiae found Nara as she came out of the portal. It seemed she was glad to see him as well, so she brightened her face, walked over to Nara and Rorona and lowered her head.
“It’s been a while.”
“Although you are saying that, it has only been a few days.”
Nara was looking at the portal which hadn’t close yet. He found that Riley and Priesia followed suit and sighed in relief.
“Ah, Ms. Priesia.”
“As I thought, the Young Master and Nainiae had taken her.”
After Karuta Desert’s cleansing prayer was completed, that morning, Priesia had disappeared without any notice or sign and that threw the group into chaos. Now, Priesia came back and seeing her return made everyone, including other merchants, sigh in relief.
“I’m glad that our guess was correct.”
“I was so worried that some outsider might have taken the Priestess like what happened with Kabal.”
Nara and Rorona relaxed their shoulders all the way. They seemed relieved to know that Priesia was safe. Priesia looked ashamed. She lowered her head and apologized.
“There is no need for you to apologize.”
Nainiae said there was no need for Priesia to apologize. Nara and Rorona looked at Nainiae and asked what had happened.
“Was it something very important that you had to take the Priestess?”
“It would’ve been better if you had just told us beforehand.”
“I am sorry, but it was a situation where we could not tell you about it.”
Nainiae glanced at Riley and lightly lowered her head.
Nara took a step back and asked,
“I said, what happened.”
Riley stepped in as much as Nara stepped back. Riley leaned in his flinching face and asked again.
“What do you mean?”
Frustrated, Riley flinched his facial muscles. He gritted his teeth and asked about what he has just heard from Priesia.
“I’m talking about Ian.”
“Mr. Ian? What about Mr. Ian…”
Nara was stepping back. He was trying to ask back again while being clueless. Rorona quickly butted in and explained the answer that Riley wanted to hear.
“Yes! He was here!”
It was not a perfect answer. However, it seemed it was not the wrong answer either. Riley turned his gaze at Rorona and asked,
“A few days ago. It has not been long.”
She said that Ian, the butler of Iphalleta Family and a famous hero among all mercenaries, had visited this place a few days ago. Riley clicked his tongue.
A few days ago, when Nainiae and Riley were still in the cave, Riley thought about the scenery of this place that he had seen just before kidnapping Priesia. There was a man who had hid his entire body under the hood. Thinking about this vagrant, Riley asked Nainiae,
“This is… that from that time, right?”
“I think so.”
Nainiae carefully nodded and looked at the orange haired young man who was coming this way.
“The merchants were all getting excited about there being guests. I wondered who came, and I see it was you, Young Master.”
Reitri was scratching the back of his head with awkward look on his face. Riley figured it would be quicker to just ask him. He grabbed Reitri by the shoulder and dragged him to a carriage.
“Uuuhk? Y… Young Master? Wait! What are you doing all of the sudden?”
* * *
“Ian was here a few days ago?”
Riley borrowed the same carriage he had used the last time. He slammed the desk with his hand and asked Reitri.
“Pardon? Ah, yes… He was here.”
Riley leaned his face all the way to Reitri’s face and asked. Reitri gulped and nodded.
“What did he say was the reason for the visit?”
Last time, his old butler hadn’t managed to pass through the teleportation portal. Now, the butler was not at the mansion but instead in the desert. Riley wanted to know why.
“If you are asking why, don’t you know about it better than I do? Wait… By any chance, did you two not meet?”
Reitri figured out the gist of the situation based on Riley’s reaction. He broke out in a cold sweat and asked. Riley slammed the table again.
“Meet him? How am I supposed to meet him!”
Riley and Nainiae appeared through teleportation and disappeared through teleportation…
There was no way Riley and Nainiae would have run into Ian in the process. Riley let out his frustration and scratched his head big time because the situation was getting convoluted.
“Uuuu. Ian is… again! Again!”
Reitri had absolutely no idea about what to do. He carefully opened his mouth and explained what happened when Ian had come to visit.
“It was about three days ago. The Priestess’s cleansing prayer was not complete at that time. A man who hid himself completely under the hood was walking to our group, so I went to greet him.”
Because the cleansing of sand in the desert was not complete yet, the traveler, who was apparently going through this desert regardless, looked suspicious to Reitri. Reitri remembered this.
“There was no food or water in the desert at that moment… Instead, there was just black sand in Karuta Desert at that time, yet there was a traveler. I wondered why, so I checked his face, and…”
Riley was still messing up his hair. He finished the sentence that Reitri could not.
“You are saying it was Ian.”
Riley realized that his butler had come all the way to the Karuta Desert, where Reitri Merchant Group was to be precise and then had disappeared. Riley sighed big time and asked again,
“So, did he say why he came?”
Riley was asking why Ian was wondering around the desert while covering himself under the hood. Reitri carefully answered,
“That is, he said he was on his way to meet you, Young Master…”
Riley figured as much. However, it seemed he was hoping that was not the case. Riley dropped his face immediately. He covered his face with his palm and shook his head.
“Ian… you did it again…”
Riley muttered quietly. Meanwhile, Nainiae knocked on the door to let them know she will be entering the carriage. She entered.
“I think Mr. Reitri is telling the truth.”
Riley lightly opened the gap between his fingers and looked at Nainiae.
“As you ordered, I just visited the mansion. I asked Ms. Sera and Lady Iris, and… they said Mr. Ian really did leave the mansion to find us…”
Riley closed the gap between his fingers and buried his face in his palm again. He muttered again,
“Ian, you did it again…”
“What do we do?”
Riley lowered his palm a little and pulled the lower part of his eyes. Riley looked at Reitri and asked,
“Ian, that rascal… Do you know where he went?”
“I… I am not sure?”
Reitri tilted his head to the side and pondered about it for a moment. He said he could make a few guesses and said,
“Perhaps he went straight to the Rainfield? I told him that you and Ms. Nainiae went to see the doctor who healed Ms. Nainiae.”
It looked like Riley was feeling trapped. He was about to leave the carriage, but he tilted his head to the side and asked back,
“Yes. Didn’t you say that the doctor who healed Ms. Nainiae was there?”
From Iphalleta Mansion, Karuta Desert happened to be along the path to Rainfield, so Reitri’s conjecture could be considered accurate.
“By the way, from Iphalleta Manor to Karuta Desert… How did Mr. Ian know and come to find us by himself?”
Reiri followed Riley and was coming down from the carriage. He thought about Ian who must be walking around the desert by himself. He muttered as if he was impressed. Nara was waiting outside the carriage for the two to come out. Nara said,
“Because he is a mercenary.”
“Because he is a mercenary?”
“He is no ordinary mercenary, you know? He used to be called the mercenary hero. Tracking down and catching up to someone by himself… I don’t think that is impossible. It is just that…”
Nara glanced at Riley’s mood and added,
“Young Master has a Seven Circles mage with him, who can teleport around the world at will. That was the unusual variable.”
Riley casually turned and glared at Nara. His gaze was saying ‘why don’t you go ahead and keep on talking.’
Nara pursed his lips to indicate he was not going to speak anymore. Riley turned to look at Nainiae and said,
“For now, we have no other choice but to go there, to Rainfield.”
“We could go there first before him and wait. We could also catch up to Mr. Ian who is currently headed there. Which option… would you like to go with?”
Nainiae was aware that Riley was feeling uncomfortable, so she asked as carefully as she could. Riley narrowed his eyes and muttered,
“Will it be very cold there?”
Having heard him, Reitri told him the information he had on Rainfield as a merchant.
“Rainfield is a city where it rains through whole day even during the winter. It will feel colder there because of the rain as usual. However, I was informed that it had not been this cold in 17 years.”
After hearing Reitri’s explanation, Riley thought about how Rainfield must look like, the icy scenery that is drenched in frozen rain everywhere. He was not liking it at all.
It seemed the answer was decided. Nainiae lowered her head slightly and whispered to Reitri.
“I think I’ll have to be in your debt again.”
“I… It’s all right.”
* * *
It was at the entrance of the Romella village. There was a girl who was leaning against a large boulder to sit down. She was pouting big time.
“She doesn’t even have much time left, yet she is talking about fate? Who’s fate? Once the time is up, it won’t matter…”
She was wearing a big, round hat to cover her face. The girl had her hair parted in two. She held a sword that was leaning on her shoulder. She was fiddling with the sword and complaining.
“Just wait… I’ll definitely find the brave hero who will save grandmother.”
It seemed Iril was a famous figure in Romella village, enough that everyone passing by greeted her in a friendly way.
“It’s a great morning, Iril. Are you standing watch again today?”
“Thank you for your hard work.”
“I’m just crunching down and sitting here.”
“I heard that you dragged Hanson along and went up the red mountain? Just what were you thinking? Next time, don’t go there.”
“I won’t give up.”
Each and every one from the village was saying something to her as they passed by. Iril was deflecting them in clear and terse words. However, she narrowed her eyes after noticing a hooded man walking toward the village.
His way of walking looked suspicious. Also, he was carrying a sword on his waist. Iril grabbed the sword she had in her arms and got up.
Fiddling with the sword, she was standing in the path of the man who was walking in. She twisted her eyebrows and the tip of her lips at the same time and muttered,
“I think this guy is not bad?”
On the traveler’s cape, there was an insignia of Iphalleta.