Even in the city of Gilm, there were slums. There, there were several people inside a hut that seemed like it would collapse at any moment.
「Tch, the guards’ patrols have expanded much faster than expected. If this were the Imperial Capital of the Mireana Kingodm, they would have been slower to mobilise.」
A seemingly ordinary man in his late twenties clicked his tongue as he looked outside through a gap in the hut.
At the end of his line of sight were five men. From their uniform, it was clear that they were guards belonging to the city’s garrison.
Fortunately, the five guards just seemed to be looking around normally. ……Or rather, even if they were specifically looking for something, they judged that the residents of the slums wouldn’t do anything and would leave them be.
「It’s not unreasonable. Postguerra-sama, who had been hiding in this city, was caught several weeks back. They’re probably still worried about the existence of foreign enemies.」
Near the man, a woman in her early 20’s muttered with a sigh as she watch the guards leave the area.
「If possible, I would have liked to rescue Postguerra-sama……」
「Don’t say that. By the time we got to this city, it was already after alchemist-dono had been escorted to the Imperial Capital.」
「In other words, with regards to Postgueraa-sama, there’s no choice but to leave him in the Imperial Capital?」
Hearing the woman’s words, the man shook his head bitterly.
「It’s too late for that. According to information that came through a while ago, the shadows that had infiltrated the Imperial Capital attempted to rescue him but were taken out instead.」
「-!? Such a thing, hadn’t a large number of shadows infiltrated the Imperial Capital?」
The woman had an astonished expression at the man’s words.
As a woman with equal strength……no, she had spoken those words involuntarily because she knew that those that had been dispatched were much stronger than her. She wanted him to say that it was a lie. That was why she turned to look at her boss, but the only response she was was a silent shake of his head.
「Rank A parties seem to have taken on a request. Two of them.」
「Such a thing……the nobles of the Imperial Capital would go as far as to tarnish their own honour and hire adventurers?」
In a sense, what the woman had said was correct. The nobles were the ones that controlled the Imperial Capital. The largest factions were the Royalist Faction made of nobles supporting the king and the Nobles Faction with Duke Kerebel at its center. And although it was the smallest power, there was the Neutral Faction, that had succeeded in capturing Demon Soldiers and an alchemist, who could be considered the trump cards of the Bestir Empire. Even though the nobles had their own private soldiers as well as the kingdom’s knights, the fact that they had hired adventurers was as good as saying that they may not have been skilled enough to deal with the present situation. This was something which the nobles, who placed a high importance on reputation and pride, would take very seriously. However, the woman had just been told that something as impossible as that had just happened.
「I can’t believe it……」
The woman murmured to herself.
However, the man who seemed to be the boss looked at her sharply and reproved her.
「The nobles of the Mireana Kingdom are definitely not unified. However, that’s the same even for our Bestir Empire. Even in our Empire, which we consider to be superiour to this kingdom, we wouldn’t be able to do the same thing.」
The woman nodded reluctantly in agreement at the man’s words.
「More importantly. Haven’t you found the others yet?」
「Yes. Each of them are in their own shelter near this hut. There’s no sign that the city guards or knights have found them yet.」
「I see. We can only keep low until this disturbance settles down.」
「I could escape immediately if there were more transition stones.」
At the woman’s words, the man took out a stone from his pocket and spoke while looking at it.
「Don’t say that. In the first place, this magic item called a transition stone is a cost intensive item to make. Still, it can transfer 2-3 people. It’s already a big deal for them to give us one even though we’re in such a remote region.」
「……That might be the case. Seriously, it’s because that woman failed her mission that our plans are ruined. Even though she was full of confidence, she wasn’t able to recruit him and also got herself and her subordinates caught as well. I could hardly see her as a captain of the shadows equal to me.」
Although she gave a low cry of resentment towards the woman who had been entrusted with that, she shivered involuntarily at the draft which came through the gaps of the building.
It was currently cold enough to snow. Naturally, the wind blowing through the city was also cold.
The only fortunate thing for these shadows was that there was currently a barrier around the city. Because of that, it was somewhat warmer than outside the city to some extent.
However, they still couldn’t be happy about it when they thought about the fact that the summoner among the shadows was unable to fly them out on summoned monsters because of the barrier.
「Calm down. Anyhow, we will continue to hide until the noise settles down. I don’t think they will be able to keep their tight stance for so long. Even if it’s such a annoying barrier, it’s not possible to maintain it forever considering the amount of magic power consumed. Probably a week or so. That should be it for the barrier, after that they will start to loosen the searches.」
「A week is it. If that’s the case……」
Just as the woman said that. Suddenly, the man forcibly covered the woman’s mouth.
Although the woman opened her eyes widely at the sudden action, she suddenly noticed that the man was looking at the outside through a gap in the building and quietened her breath.
Following his gaze, the woman saw the figures of two men, one large, one small, wearing robes and a Griffon more than 2m in size.
(-!? Impossible! That is!)
Yes, approaching this place was Rei and the Griffon, his follower. The one her superior and her colleague had been tasked with recruiting or silencing.
(I don’t know who the big guy is, but the smaller one is definitely the adventurer called Rei. Why is he in such a place!?)
The woman quietly hid herself while feeling chills down here back. She had already heard about the combat capabilities of their target, Rei. Even if all the shadows hidden in the surrounding area attacked, there was probably a large enough gap in strength that they stood no chance of victory.
(In that case, all we can do now is hide and quieten our breaths.)
The shadows hid signs of their own presence as they watched them approach one step at a time towards the hut that looked like it would collapse at any time.
Going back a bit in time.
Ranga’s actions were quick after hearing that it might be possible to track the people who had attacked the escorted carriage with Set’s sense of smell.
He took Rei and Set to the site of the attack and showed the remains of the burnt carriage to Set.
「……I wonder, Set. Can you track it?」
「Guru~, Guruu~, Gurururuu~」
At Ranga’s words, Set’s pointed his eagle head in all directions as he sniffed around. As Rei and Ranga held their breathes and watched Set for about 5 minutes, Set eventually gave a cry while setting his eyes towards a certain direction.
「-!? Did you really find them!?」
Ranga raised a voice of surprise while asking.
Rei was also a little surprised, but as he often left the night watch to Set while he slept, he wasn’t as surprised as Ranga.
「So, what do we do? Do you want to call the guards right away?」
「……No. I’m sorry, but we’re still not completely sure that Set will be able to track the attackers all the way.」
Why? Set seemed to say as he tilted his head.
A feeling of guilt passed through Ranga’s chest for a moment after seeing Set’s sad expression. However, it really wasn’t possible for Ranga to gather the guards based on the vague possibility that they might be able to track down the scent.
「Set, I’m not doubting your ability. However, it’s a fact that I can’t just gather the guards based on that alone.」
While saying that, Ranga gently rubbed Set’s head.
「Then, how about you guide us to the source of the scent? If I can confirm with my own eyes that the attackers are really there, I will be able to justify gathering the guards.」
Set looked towards Rei.
Leaving the final decision to Rei, Rei gave a sigh as he spoke to Ranga.
「If you just want to verify the attackers, there’s no need to call for the guards. Wouldn’t it be better just to leave it to me and head back to the headquarters to await the results?」
It was unusual for Rei to say something like that, but Ranga shook his head.
「No, it will be more persuasive if I’m the one who actually confirms they were the attackers since I’m the captain. No matter how famous you and Set are, I’m sorry, but you are still only D rank adventurers. The persuasiveness is different to say the least.」
「……I see. If you’re fine with that, I won’t say anything more. Set, I’m counting on you.」
If it was about his rank, Rei could understand he lacked persuasiveness as he turned to Set.
At Rei’s call, he gave a cry as he lead the two of them.
As the two of them followed Set, children would sometimes come over to give food or play since Set was present.
Set gave a cry in apology as Ranga, who was known by the residents, explained the circumstances to them and asked them to withdraw.
The good news was that most adults that saw Ranga and Rei together understood that it was something related to the case of the attack on the knights. They quietly made way for Set without saying anything.
Like that, Set would occasionally halt to look around the area while sniffing before tracing the smell to street stalls and looking regrettably at them before advancing down the road. Continuing on for about an hour, the surrounding area changed from the streets Rei was familiar with to the back streets, reaching the slum area.
「……It’s the second time I’ve come here.」
Rei murmured as he looked at the surroundings.
All around were buildings of considerable age, he worried whether they would survive the snowy winter.
「You’ve been here?」
Since they had free time, Ranga, who had been silently following Set, asked Rei after hearing his murmurs.
「Ah. It was a short time ago during the incident with Azoth Firm.」
In response to that reply, Ranga gave an unintentional smile. After all, as it was such a big incident, Ranga had to leave his post as a guard for a while to deal with all the aftermath.
However, lucky for him, the knights had given him a lot of help as alchemists and Demon Soldiers of the Bestir Empire had been involved. Otherwise, he might have collapsed from the business, it had been hectic enough for that to be a possibility.
「Anyhow, it seems the the attackers are hiding in the neighbourhood around here. There are many vacant houses here. It wouldn’t be inconvenient to hide here.」
Rei looked here and there.
(And……there are a lot of signs of people for vacant houses. Not all of them are the attackers, some of them are residents of the slum……well then, what should I do? Besides that, a lot of people are looking at us right now. Are they cautious looks at people who have come to the slum or are they looking for guards who might come to capture them.)
Ranga turned to look at Rei, but didn’t notice what Rei felt. However, he still felt something. His usually calm eyes changed drastically as he looked at the surroundings with a sharp gaze.
「Given this atmosphere, I feel this area may be suspicious.」
「It’s easy to hide here, you might think that this should be the first place to look. But in fact, we’ve reached here due to Set’s sense of smell. ……Did the guards not check?」
At Rei’s natural question, Ranga gave a bitter smile as he nodded.
「The people in the slums here……they’re rather hostile towards people they feel are in power. So, if they did try to inspect the slums, there’s no choice but to do it in one sweep. If that were to happen, it would naturally require a lot of manpower. ……After checking the city, if we still hadn’t found them, I had thought about finally checking this place. Though there might have been some guards that came round here, they probably just gave a quick look from the entrance to inspect it.」
「A lack of manpower is it. ……I see.」
In the first place, adventurers comprised of most of Gilm’s workforce. Of course, there were a good number of guards for the times when wild adventurers made a fuss, but they were still not as numerous as adventurers.
(Especially in this case, it seems that people are being used in various ways to collect information. A certain number of guards are required to maintain the security of the city, so it’s not unreasonable considering the remaining guards conducting investigation. As expected, it’s impossible for them to have a large force like the police.)
「Well, it can’t be helped. For now, I understand that this whole area is suspicious. I’ll head back to the guards and get more to move hear……tch-!」
While talking, Rei heard the noise of something flying towards him and quickly swung the Mithril Knife at his waist. Kiiin-, the sound of metal colliding was heard several times as several daggers fell to the ground.
「To find our hideout so easily……as expected of a Griffon, should we say. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to play with us for a while.」
Along with those words, nearly twenty people appeared from several buildings on the verge of collapse.