We departed from the Imperial Capital of Centralle, and when noon had come and passed, the Johnny Village expedition stopped for a rest.
We did leave early in the morning, and we were to take a break when it got to noon.
The large mess of a group was unable to match walking pace, so I found it quite annoying.
“We’re moving slower than the information gathered had me believe.”
My comrades were the same, but the problem were the surrounding allies.
Using the Fifth’s and Sixth’s Skills to check the surroundings, I found us surrounded by yellow points.
It was a situation I couldn’t think of as surrounded by friendlies.
The Second gave a warning from the Jewel.
『I said it before, but don’t just concentrate your attention on your enemies. No matter how you look at it, they were insufficient in scrapping together supplies. When night falls, there’s sure to be some idiot on the move.』
I clenched the Jewel, and looked at Clara.
“Clara, I’ll operate Porter next. You can rest until your turn comes around.”
But she shook her head.
“Before a support like me takes a break, I think it should be Aria-san and Miranda-san getting some rest.”
It was an earnest response fitting of her, but using my Skills, I could tell.
Everyone was more fatigued than usual.
(So an unfamiliar environment is rough on all…)
I tried persuading Clara.
“There’s a need for us to keep Aria and Miranda-san on lookout duty. Also, the reason I wanted you to take a rest now was so you could keep watch at night.”
Clara looked around.
She had lived quite some time as an adventurer, so she had more experience than us. But it seems she had never taken up a mercenary job like this one before.
However, surveying around, she did seem to notice it.
“There wasn’t an order for nighttime watch, but it seems we’l have to take responsibility for that ourselves. Understood.”
As Clara consented, I looked over the camp.
Separated from the main road, we were stationed by the roadside.
I tried gnawing on the provision bread, and found it to be more modest than what we had prepared ourselves. Perhaps it was a blessing in just that it was edible, but there were quite a few unsatisfied faces.
From the Jewel, the Fifth spoke.
『Lyle, this gathering is brittle. Even if the knights have a certain level of ability, there are plenty that don’t even have any decent equipment.』
Since we stood out so much, it was actually quite thinkable that we would be targeted.
And when monsters come out, just what are they…
(Small fries have appeared only twice. The knights eventually take care of them, so we aren’t suffering any damages, but they really slow us down.)
There were quite a few small parties that couldn’t react when monsters appeared.
There were also those participating individually, and when it came down to actual battle, they had no idea how to move.
Close to me, besides Clara, there was the two targets we were to guard.
Novem was remaining vigilant of the surroundings, Aria and Miranda-san were lying down, drinking the hot beverage Shannon had prepared.
Monica did try to come out, but I kept her contained within Porter.
The Third gave a proposal.
『It will be a pain for you all to move separately. I want to propose you all stay together. Lyle, go tell Marcus to report to the higherups.』
Having marched with their full equipment in tow, both Marcus-san and Breid-san were making tired faces.
“Marcus-san, there’s something I want you to convey to the person in charge.
“Eh? What’s that?”
He was quite spaced out.
(No, there are lots of people around, but that doesn’t mean you can grow lax… I guess it’s fine for now.)
Before I could caution him, I made sure to convey the proposal to him.
“There are a lot of people operating in parties, but there’s a considerable amount of individuals as well. If possible, I think it would be easier to handle if we were grouped together, so please propose that to the corresponding parties.”
There, Marcus-san scratched his head.
“No, well, there’s no one I’m acquainted with here. Wouldn’t it be best if you went and told them, Lyle? You’ve got some experience with this, right?”
Yes, it certainly would be easier if I said this, but it’s at times like these that my status as an adventurer becomes a pain.
To the end, I’m just participating under Marcus-san’s hire.
The Fourth offered a complaint.
『Even if Lyle says it, he’ll be rejected, so why don’t you go swing about that status you’re so proud about!? … Che. Not that he can hear me or anything.』
He seemed quite irritated.
I softened up the Fourth’s opinion, before conveying it.
“I doubt they would hear me out. They’re more likely to listen to you.”
After I said that, Marcus-san reluctantly stood up, and went off towards a knight resting nearby.
Seeing his back, Breid-san opened his mouth.
“Good grief, all the ones unworthy of their position are getting Noble Status. How lamentable.”
Hearing that, Clara sat down with her knees to the ground, and shot me a sidelong glance.
The road here was the same. Breid-san was always full of complaints.
Towards me and Marcus-san, that is.
Since he learned I was the former heir to a Count House, he began to take some distance.
The Sixth spoke.
『I won’t tell him not to envy, but that man sure is a bag of bitchery. Having him along will ruin the mood of the whole march.』
The Second agreed.
『It’s at times like these that I wish for a bright mood maker-like entity. Aria and Miranda-chan are down in the dumps, Shannon-chan and Monica are stuck inside Porter… they really should consider the mood.』
The resting knight looked in our direction, before saying something to Marcus-san.
But he didn’t move at all, so the Third gave up.
『… This is no good. It’s as if this group has no motivation whatsoever. Let’s change up the objective. Lyle, the next time a monster pops up, do whatever is in your power to stand out as you defeat it. Make it as flashy as physically possible.』
It was something possible, so I gripped the Jewel.
It was the sign of affirmation.
The Fifth offered a suggestion.
『Marcus and Breid are useless. There’s no time. Have all of your party observe the faces around. Try to spot ones who look the least bit useful, and win them over.』
I moved to Clara’s side, and acted in accordance with the Fifth’s instruction.
“Clara, do you have a moment?”
“When we begin moving after this break, can you try observing those around us?”
“You want me to be vigilant of those that look like they’d cause us harm, correct?”
“Ah, no, there’s that as well, but… if possible, I’d like to find some that look willing enough to help us.”
I lowered my shoulders, and looked at Marcus, as I tried thinking of some words to encourage him.
“If possible, I want to increase our numbers.”
After I left it at that, Clara seemed to understand.
“It looks like it was the right course of action to gather up so many supplies. Just offering some out may be enough to gain allies… I’ll inform Novem-san and the others myself.”
Clara stood, and headed over to Novem.
And I went and walked towards Marcus-san.
Just his posture was enough to make it clear he had failed.
In a small voice, Breid…
“This is why this man’s…”
… I’d like it if he made it so we couldn’t hear his complaints.
Marcus-san did hear it, but because he was the one who failed to get the proposal accepted, he irritatedly held it in.
“Sorry. They just told me, ‘yeah, go do whatever you want.’”
“They really don’t have any motivation. Well, just knowing that much is enough. When it comes down to it, we’ll do something ourselves.”
“What’s that? You have a plan?”
Marcus-san asked, and I answered while remaining vigilant of the surroundings.
“Well, I’m just going to go on a flashy rampage.”
As Marcus-san looked at me in wonder, I used my Skills to search for enemies in the vicinity.
The battle happened a while later.
Perhaps reacting to the movement of such a large force, we suffered a goblin attack the moment we broke through the woods.
When I got to the volunteer attacked by the armed monsters, he was already covered in blood.
It wasn’t my job, but I looked around, and raised a loud voice.
“Fall back! I’ll take them on!”
Drawing a sabre with my left hand, I let out a slight complaint.
“I’d have appreciated it if they appeared in a place easier to keep watch of.”
The number of goblins attacking was five, but I instantly slashed at the closest one, and began to cast magic.
“Let’s make it flashy… Lightning!”
Attack speed, output.
Lightning attribute magic was easy to use, so I used it in a considerable frequency.
Of all else, it sure was gaudy, so it corresponded with my current objective.
The goblins that tried to run were charred black, and discharged sparks as they collapsed onto the ground.
Because he had heard such a loud rumble, a horse-mounted knight raced over.
After finishing them off, I sheathed my sabre, and looked at the approaching knight.
A crossbow was fastened to the horse, and a plump, short knight came over to me.
Skillfully maneuvering his mount, he was a middle-aged man with a slight mustache as his trademark.
“Where’s the enemy!? What’s the damage level!?”
I sent a glance to the goblins, and began to explain the situation.
“The five bodies here account for all of them. They’ve already been defeated. There’s one wounded from the attack. There’s one among my companions capable of treatment. Should I bring her over?”
Hearing that, the knight looked around as he gave his thanks.
“I see. You’ve really saved us there. Even so, you used magic… you look like quite a skilled magician. What’s your name? Oh, I’m 【Clark Usher】, by the way. The adjutant of this expeditionary force.”
To Clark-san, who named himself as the aide to the female knight I saw before departing, I named myself.
“I’m Lyle. An adventurer hired by Marcus Carning.”
The Second opened his mouth.
『You’re really selling the name. If only their lookout was a little more competent… well, those that are to pass this point later are sure to see the aftermath of the battle.』
I headed towards the injured volunteer, and the ones surrounding him, that seemed to be his comrades.
Clark-san called out to me.
“Oh, so you’re from that peculiar party… I’ll remember it. Since you defeated the monster, the magic stone and materials belong to you. If you plan on collecting them, make sure you don’t fall behind. I have to give a report, so I must be on my way.”
Saying that, Clark-san gave instructions to a number of the surrounding knights, and galloped off.
The nearby knights were watching in a daze.
Everyone else was also looking at the knights with troubled faces.
They had been stationed in order to keep watch of the troops, but it was if they hadn’t done anything at all.
The fourth spoke.
『It looks like there’s a reason they were sent on this mission. It’s best if you keep that adjutant in mind. Perhaps you should take some wine over to him when night comes.』
The Seventh added on.
『Lyle, even if your main goal is that knight, he’ll have plenty of subordinates around him. If you’re going to go, bring a considerable quantity. Have Monica cook something up.』
The Third added on even more.
『A hot meal will make all the difference. But make sure to make Marcus do it. You’re just support here, Lyle. 』
While wondering if it was really alright to do such a thing, I decided to consent.
And I called out to the collapsed soldier.
He was bloodstained, but perhaps his wounds weren’t too deep, as he maintained consciousness.
“Are you alright?”
“Does this look alright? Dammit! Even when I finally got to go out as a volunteer soldier!”
Seeing the injured young man let out a mortified voice, I made a bitter smile.
A nearby older man came to my aid.
“What do you think you’re saying to the man who saved you!? I apologize. He isn’t a bad kid. You said you had someone capable of treatment, right? I understand how discourteous the question may be, but can you save him?”
Looking at their equipment, the older leader-ish man had chainmail equipped, but the younger one, and those around him had mixed and matched protective gear.
“My comrades are stationed further back. Can you help me carry him there?”
There, one of his comrades spoke up.
“O-oy, what about the monster? Won’t someone nab it up?”
I looked around at the surrounding eyes.
Using my Skills, I was able to find a number of red markers. They were examining us.
“I’ll collect them when we pass. If they’re not there anymore, I don’t really mind. Right now, the injured is more important.”
As I said that, the Leader-ish man gave his thanks.
“I apologize. I’ll definitely make this up to you.”
Bringing along their party of three, I returned to Porter’s side.
Within his tent, Clark recorded the events of the day.
It wasn’t for his squadron, but a personal record of sorts.
“Little rest, low movement speed, four small-scale battles. Two injured…”
As he tallied it up by the light of the lantern, he found relief in the simple fact there had been no deserters.
If there had been casualties on the first day, the command of the corps would likely shift.
Especially if it were from something of goblin level.
He doubted his own ability to lead.
“Hah, why can none of them understand…”
Collecting up his records, Clark decided to sleep early in preparation for tomorrow. But near the tent, he heard the sound of footsteps.
“Vice chief, a guy called Marcus brought over provisions! He says he wants to give you a greeting.”
Hearing that, Clark looked to his subordinate, who seemed to be in a good mood.
Perhaps he had guided them here. Behind, were two men carrying packages.
(… Now then, what to do…)
Clark wasn’t the neatest of people. He did have experience of getting curried favor with a couple of times, but after accepting it, he would have to do something in return.
And if he turned them away, he would be making enemies.
“Let them through.”
His subordinate let the two of them into the tent, and returned to his post.
Because the entrance was left open, Clark could hear the outside situation quite well.
They seemed to be having a drinking bout.
(They sure use some underhanded methods. We barely brought any alcohol ourselves.)
Determining them unnecessary, Norma had reduced stock.
She was still too young, with too little experience in these fields. No, more than that, if she determined something a minus to her success, she would thoroughly fail to accept it.
Saying that alcohol would dull one’s decision making prowess, she had put a strict restriction on the carrying of such beverages.
“Pleasure to meet you. I’m called Marcus Carning. This time’s, well… perhaps we should call it a toast to acquaintanceship.”
Clark prepared some wooden boxes, and had the two seat themselves.
The orange-haired young man didn’t seem to be able to calm himself down.
But the blue haired one was the youth he had met during their travels.
“… So Marcus-kun and Lyle-kun, is it? And what is it you request of me? Rather than greeting the adjutant, with barely any authority, shouldn’t you be going to our captain?”
Norma hated things like this.
To be more specific, she thought that the less useful someone was, the more likely they were to take such actions to close in on those in leadership positions.
Marcus sent Lyle a glance.
After Lyle nodded, Marcus opened his mouth.
“… We want to survive this, and get some achievements for ourselves. It’s just that at this rate, our survival itself is in doubt. For that sake, there were some moves we wanted to make.”
“Oh, and those moves are?”
Clark looked at the food and drink set atop the wooden crate.
Even when they were camping out, it was nice and steaming.
The wine also seemed to be a relatively fine article.
Marcus looked to Lyle, so Clark spoke.
“It must be Lyle-kun’s proposal. Understood. I’ll hear you out.”
From how Marcus behaved, he likely understood just how adventurers were viewed by knights.
Clark put his hand to his chin, as he listened in on Lyle’s proposal.
“My suggestion is regarding the formation of the volunteer corps. Can we not gather the soldiers participating individually in one place? At the same time, I also want to get those working in parties together. Place someone on your side in charge of the volunteer body as a whole, and decide on the roles of specific groups during the march. And also…”
“With that idea still standing, instate Marcus-san as leader, and have him lead the volunteers. That is my request.”
Having the volunteer troops, which Norma had taken so lightly, to be put under firm and proper organization. That request was one that Clark and Lyle both agreed on.
But it’s not like Clark himself hadn’t been putting thought to it.
“… There’s no time to properly place them under leadership. Our captain prioritized movement, you see. I am able to gather together those participating individually. About the organization part of it, we won’t have the proper time until we reach the village.”
He looked at Lyle. After a while of silence, the boy grasped a blue crystal hanging above his chest.
(Is that a gem? Someone of such skill was hired for this expedition? Marcus doesn’t look like one to be able to put up that much money, but… it’s beneficial to us for now.)
Looking at Marcus, Clark was unable to understand how Lyle was hired.
“Well then, how about just organizing the groups in formation, and deciding on someone in charge, at least?”
“… Understood. We’ll do just that. But I doubt it will turn out so well. There’ll be quite a bit of quarrelling over who should be in charge. Also, if you get the consent, then I don’t mind if you go off and lead the volunteers. It’s because it doesn’t seem our side is all too concerned with them. I did think it would end poorly at this rate.”
Looking at Clark’s troubled face, Lyle thought to himself a while.
Marcus-san didn’t seem to know what to do.
(Looks like this boy’s the real leader. Seeing his skill in magic, he’ll be more reliable than our men.)
“… The food will get cold. Our cook has quite some skill, so I can guarantee the taste.”
“That so? Then I’ll gladly accept it.”
Reaching his hand to the food, and taking a sip of the wine, Clark smiled.
“It truly is good. This cold just makes it taste needlessly better.”
Within his mind…
(Well then, I’ll have to work off the share of what I’ve been given, but how should I go about organizing them…)
Even if he picked the highest ranked knight from the list, there were plenty of knights of equal standing.
There were also second and third sons that weren’t knights, and were striving for distinguished service.
Just selecting a leader would be dreadful, and if he did it poorly, there’d be no end to the quarrels.
It’s just that, in order to gain Lyle’s party’s trust, there wasn’t the option of not taking action.
(Hah, why is it that all these troublesome jobs always get thrust at me.)
The delicious meal and wine wasn’t able to lighten his heart.
Clark started to sigh at his own lack of luck…