"Then I will be going now. If you need anything, please look for me straight away. I'll come running immediately."
"Thanks for your consideration."
"Haha, no problem. Please relax!"
Gordon maintained the respectful attitude until the end as he bowed and then moved to the front of the procession. He was a model example of a reputable merchant who refrained from extreme flattery. Even though Theo was wary and vigilant against other people, Gordon left a good impression on him.
Vince stroked his seat a few times and nodded.
'…A good carriage. He is resourceful to be capable of preparing such a carriage in advance. After a few years, Gordon may become a key figure in this company.'
The carriage Gordon offered to the two men was one which would only be arranged for VIP guests.
It hardly shook while travelling on the steep mountain trail, and the blanketed floor gave off a soft warmth. Additionally, the curtains hanging over the elaborately carved windows were able to give some shade. It was just like a travelling inn room.
'I didn't think I would be able to see the Nadun Mountain Ranges in this way…'
As they left the academy, Theodore looked out the window with a feeling of excitement.
The people of Meltor Kingdom knew the harshness of the Nadun Mountain Ranges. It was a land where numerous groups of monsters fought. In the deepest parts of the mountains, there were many dangerous things which would cause even famous adventurers to die.
This massive procession was merely passing through the outskirts, never going near the depths.
However, Theo's interest soon faded.
'Apart from the thickness of the vegetation, it is just a normal mountain.'
All types of strange creatures grew in the depths. There were no such things in the outskirts where the massive procession was moving.
He lost interest in the procession and watched the spectacular sight of the mercenaries climbing up the mountain for a bit. There was nothing much for Theo to see, so he soon turned his attention to something else again.
The girl answered his call like she had been waiting.
It seemed like she was in a good mood. Mitra loved all the soil around her as she spun round and round! She ran around every corner of the carriage. Theo laughed as he watched her and extended a finger unconsciously.
Mitra clung to his finger. The moist texture of the soil was unpleasant, but her behaviour was so cute that he left it alone. As his right hand gently stroked her head, she swung herself on his finger. He doubted if this would be helpful like Professor Vince said, but at least he wouldn't be bored.
Thus, Theodore took the time to play with Mitra while the carriage headed to Mana-vil.
* * *
In the end, the procession didn't encounter any obstacles and the sky gradually turned dim. The people, who had climbed the steep mountain trail all day, took out pots and dishes to make dinner, pushing away the cool evening breeze with a campfire.
Thanks to Vince, Theo was also treated as a VIP and was able to eat stew and a few pieces of soft bread.
'Isn't it quite a treat for eating outside? Indeed, merchants won't go around chewing on things like dried sardines.'
Eating was one of the most important things on a long distance trip. Even if the purpose was nutrition, a meal which didn't have a minimum of taste would just disturb the people's minds and bodies.
A warm and delicious meal didn't just alleviate physical fatigue but mental fatigue as well. The group which realized this faster than anyone else and devised a solution was a high-ranked company.
After finishing the satisfactory meal, Theo looked at the head of the procession and muttered, "Hoo, I feel sorry that I am more comfortable than the professor."
Vince had gone to install alarm magic near the campsite after his meal. It was also possible for Theo, but the reliability of a 5th Circle alarm compared to a 3rd Circle alarm was like the difference between heaven and earth. The practical effect would differ significantly depending on the level.
As a result, Theo was left alone with nothing to do.
'Well, it isn't necessary for me to do anything.'
Rather than returning to the boring carriage, he called Mitra and set her down on the ground.
Mitra cocked her head hesitantly for a moment, before sitting down and using her hands to play with the dirt. The soil touched by her hand became soft or hard and turned into her desired shape. This was possible because Mitra was an earth elemental. Mitra had just completed the fifth of her small earth carriages when…
'-Uh?!' A cold chill ran down the back of Theo's neck suddenly.
"Detect Evil!" It was a magic to detect enemies.
A magician of the 3rd Circle could detect enemies up to 50 meters away. So, with Theo at the center, a wave of magic power spread out over 50 meters. Theo ignored the confusion of mercenaries around him and focused on analyzing the results of the magic wave.
'…It didn't catch anything? That is impossible!'
Alfred's perception was still predicting the approach of enemies. He couldn't tell where it was coming from, but the chill which hit his neck was freezing. It was proof that a threat was approaching.
Theo thought about where he'd gone wrong. Detect Evil was a magic which sensed the enemy on the surface. Even if an enemy magician neutralized the magic, it couldn't hide the fact that someone existed.
'No, wait a minute.'
"It can't be…!"
Theo's eyes fell to the ground where Mitra was playing.
"Mitra! Go into the ground!"
As soon as he gave the order, Mitra instantly plunged into the ground. While she sank into the ground like it was water, she showed Theo the landscape under the ground. The connection of their souls was a strong bond, so it wasn't hard to share audio and visual.
Theo's and Mitra's vision captured the enemy.
Creatures with dark blue skin and ugly faces were coming up through a tunnel in the ground. The axes in their hands indicated that they weren't friendly. The headcount was approximately 20-30 enemies. It was a force which could do considerable damage if they did a surprise attack in the rear.
"Professor, I have to tell Professor Vince…!"
Theodore reflexively turned his gaze and saw a scene of flames rising in the front of the procession.
There was an intense wave of magic power! This was a spell which was possible for 5th Circle magicians. The head of the procession was probably also being attacked by enemies. In this situation, it might cause unnecessary confusion for Theo to try and contact Vince now. Additionally, there was no time left.
The hobgoblins in the tunnel were 5 meters below the surface. The time remaining was less than 15 seconds. Theo only had one option remaining.
'I have to respond on my own!'
Preparing his mind, Theodore took deep breaths and shouted like he had never done before, "O-h-h-h-h!!"
He hadn't enhanced his voice with magic, but the desperate yell was enough to reach the mercenaries near him.
"Ooh, what a surprise!"
"What is that kid suddenly doing?"
However, Theo just dropped his palm near the ground where the hobgoblins were coming up. Now, it was 4 meters—no, 3 meters. If he didn't adjust his timing properly, chances were that he would fail. Nevertheless, Theo didn't worry that he would fail. Instead, he concentrated on using elemental magic through Mitra.
"[Turn into mud!]"
The advantage of elemental magic was that he didn't need a magic formula; he just needed a clear image to get results. After accepting Theo's power, Mitra naturally transformed the surrounding area into mud. This was a disaster for the hobgoblins about to come out of the tunnel.
Some of them slammed their heads into the mud, while others got their waists stuck, and some hobgoblins only managed to get their heads out. However, all the hobgoblins stuck in the mud were furious.
That said, Theodore wasn't done.
"[Stiff like a stone!]"
His magic power swept the ground once again, and the mud solidified. It was just a temporary phenomenon, but the power was great. The hobgoblins screamed as the ground hardened into a grey clay, and they became stuck. The ones who were hardened at the top slumped down.
Theo wiped the sweat off his face and shouted at the mercenaries standing around him, "What are you doing? Kill them now!"
"What is going on?"
They lived on the battlefield, so they soon realized the situation. It was currently a good opportunity. The hobgoblins, which had their heads or upper bodies exposed, were killed, just like crops being harvested. Halberds broke the hobgoblins' heads, while others were smashed to death.
In an instant, the 30 hobgoblins from the tunnel had been wiped out. However, the chill Theo felt hadn't disappeared yet.
Pew pew puet—
If it wasn't for his extreme concentration, he wouldn't have noticed the sound. Theo turned in the direction of the sound and saw something familiar.
The hobgoblins were monsters who used tools like humans and also attacked tactically. If Theo hadn't responded to the ambush, then many mercenaries would've died from the previous attack. This was why hobgoblins were troublesome and dangerous monsters. They stole loot from humans and used them to attack humans.
In his head, he recalled Alfred's memories.
–The speed is normal, with a wooden shaft and metal tip.
If this was the case, the arrows could be stopped without much difficulty. Together with that intuition, Theo instantly created a wide area wind barrier. There was no need to stop it with armor.
He just needed to affect the trajectory to kill the power of the arrows. After encountering a headwind, the power of the projectiles would fall by half.
The evening breeze passing by lent a hand. Strong winds were helpful in this situation. Just a slight change in direction could reduce the threat of the arrow. The arrows affected by the headwind eventually fell to the ground before they reached the procession.
Theo was satisfied with the results, but his eyes narrowed as he gazed in the direction of the arrows.
'…They are coming.'
The hobgoblins, hiding in the shadows, started to move after knowing that two ambushes had failed. In the darkness beyond the campfire, eerie shrieks and red eyes could be seen.
During the night in the Nadun Mountain Ranges, a full-fledged battle began.