Chapter 124 - Crossing the Wilderness (4)
There were no more raids after that day.
They may or may not have been regular soldiers disguised as bandits, but their superiors could probably guess that something unbelievable had happened when they didn't return. Thanks to Theodore, the horses could move during the day without hesitation and rest at night.
The Sipoto Plains might be bleak, but it wasn't a bloody place like the Red Plateau.
With a merchant's intuition, Bear, who had been watching the horizon all day, suddenly cried out, "Oh, I am beginning to see it!"
Theodore turned in the same direction and saw sturdy walls. It was a dark colour, like baked mud. This was different to the white bricks of Meltor. They were the walls of Sipoto City, a border city of Kargas, the trade kingdom.
Theodore confirmed the sight and calmed down his senses. 'Phew, I'm glad we arrived without any more difficulty. If people, stronger than those who came the last time, came again, I wouldn't have been able to finish it quietly.'
Truth be told, exposing the living armor wasn't that wise a move. Living armor artifacts weren't rare, but they weren't common either. However, Theodore wasn't so cruel as to sacrifice people who could be saved, especially when their carriages were taking him to Kargas. He couldn't let Bear shoulder that burden.
Some might say it was stupid, but it was part of his beliefs.
As they approached the outer wall of Sipoto, the procession gradually slowed down to be checked by the guards at the gate. The name of the Polonell Company could move a few people out of the way, but Bear chose to wait patiently.
However, his lips weren't good at staying still. "By the way, it was really dangerous! I knew that refugees from the Austen Kingdom had started turning to robbery, but I didn't think we would be attacked as soon as we got close to the border."
"Yes, I hear they have increased due to the drought. The price of water has risen 10 times higher, while those in power have run away to other countries. So, it is natural for the people to feel impatient. Tsk, tsk. For the time being, I won't be able to step into the Austen Kingdom."
Bear clicked his tongue, but Theo was forced to smile bitterly.
It would've been better if the people who attacked them had just been refugees. Bear didn't know that the regular army was the one doing the looting. Did this mean that the Sultan's Janissaries were commanders of the looting operations? It was safe to say that the kingdom was accepting it.
However, Theodore wasn't willing to tell the truth.
'At this point, it is too big to publicize carelessly.'
Additionally, the enemies from the raid didn't have anything to prove their identities. The warriors used rough shamshirs, and even their turbans were just pieces of shabby cloth.
The Austen Kingdom would have their honor completely tarnished if this were revealed, so the warriors had used every means to get rid of their identity. Even if this wasn't the case, the scale of the incident wasn't something that Theodore could get involved in.
"...When you go back, you should increase the number of escorts." In the end, Theodore kept his mouth shut and changed the topic.
Bear nodded before exchanging a few more words with Theodore. Fortunately, there was no need to continue the unpleasant conversation when the checkpoint guards approached. As a business company, the procedures were completed quickly. The guards' mood was heavy due to the recent lousy atmosphere, but there were no problems.
The identity card, which had been forged directly in the Magic Society, was enough to prove his identity in any country, and even if it wasn't, the name of the Polonell Company was enough to send Theo in.
Once beyond the gate of Sipoto, Theodore said goodbye to the procession, including Bear.
"Wait, are you going to leave immediately?"
Theo's purpose was in Kargas, so there was no reason to go together. Additionally, his identity might be revealed the longer he stayed with them. It was hard for Theodore to change his diction and demeanor, since he had never been taught to do so properly.
Bear grumbled as he faced Theo's rigidity.
"Hoo, a man who I owe a favour to. I never dreamed I would be sent away like this," Bear said before pulling something out and handing it to Theo.
It was a plaque engraved with the two horses which symbolized the Polonell Company, as well as Bear's name. Sensing Theo's confusion at the unfamiliar object, Bear explained while scratching his head, "In our company, this is given to the top merchants, and one of its functions is proof of identity."
"Well... it is also a type of guarantee." Bear avoided his gaze like he was embarrassed. "If Theo presents this plaque, then you can receive the best treatment from any branch of this company. You can rent a carriage or borrow money without any interest. In many ways, there are a lot of benefits."
"So, the responsibility... Ah."
"Yes, it falls to me since I am the one giving you the plaque."
Theodore realized the meaning of this gesture and accepted the plaque from Bear. In a sense, this plaque was also a request. It was a tool signifying a good relationship between the two of them. He didn't know what value Bear saw in the fake Theo, but regardless of his intentions, the uses for this were endless.
The Polonell Company had many branches in various places, so it was possible to obtain accommodation and other miscellaneous things.
"Thank you, Boss Bear."
"Hahaha! It is nothing. If anything comes up, please use my name." Bear laughed for a moment before speaking in a coy voice, "And that bracelet... Is it really not possible to sell it?"
Theodore shook his head with a wry smile. "I'm sorry. This was loaned to me, so I can't just sell it as I want."
Bear had fallen in love with the living armor after what he had seen that night. There was no need to hire them with money, and he didn't need to worry about betrayal, unlike humans. Bear was willing to pay more than 100 gold for it.
However, Theodore knew the true value of this bracelet, so 100 gold was a ridiculously small amount.
[+? Defend Me, These Tin Cans! (Accessory)]
[This is an artifact made with ancient magic which can summon autonomously moving living armor. The soldiers attached to this bracelet, made by Yellow Tower Master Norden, will move with their owner's magic power. Additionally, their performance will increase if the owner continues to supply magic power. Up to six soldiers can be called at a time, and if they are capable of their full performance, an aura attack will only cause slight damage. The armor and swords are all made of an unknown material.
* The rating of this magic tool is 'Treasure.'
* When consumed, a large amount of magic power will be absorbed.
* When consumed, the digestion time will be four days.
* (Can't be grasped with the 4th stage Appraisal ability.)
* (Can't be grasped with the 4th stage Appraisal ability.)]
The living armor soldiers had a durability which could withstand an aura attack with only minor damage! As a test, Theo had tried fighting them, and their battle skills had been comparable to that of first rate warriors. The surface of the armor had only distorted slightly when hit by 4th Circle magic, so it had the durability of adamantium.
It wasn't at all enough to hand over this treasure for 100 gold coins. Moreover, in the first place, it was something which Kurt III had lent him, so Theo couldn't sell it.
There was no room for negotiation, so Bear soon gave up. Greed was a merchant's driving force, but reckless greed would only hurt him. Additionally, Bear's discerning eyes couldn't discover the truth of the bracelet, so it was best to let it go.
"Then I'll see you later! Take care!" Bear bid Theo a last farewell before walking away. Theo looked at Bear's back for a moment, before soothing the subtle emotions stirring within him. From now on, it was time for the owner of the grimoire, Theodore Miller, to move in earnest.
'Umm... It is still too early to go there.'
After checking the position of the sun, Theodore looked around slowly.
Kargas' border city, Sipoto, had the same name as the wilderness adjacent to it, but the atmosphere was completely different. The merchants and guests from other countries explored the streets, while sellers shouted in loud voices.
It truly felt like an exotic landscape to Theodore. Although Sipoto fell behind the prosperous Meltor, it had its own mood. There were eyes, hair, and skin colours which weren't common sights in Meltor. So, Theodore's eyes naturally moved back and forth, soaking in the sights.
For a brief moment, he forgot the weight on his back and moved like the young man he was.
* * *
Theodore's wanderings didn't last a long time. After eating delicious bread from the street stalls or eating fresh fruits, he realized that the sun was setting. The clear eyes of the young man instantly sank in, becoming as heavy yet sharp as a weapon. The time he had been waiting for had finally arrived.
'It won't appear if the sunset isn't at its peak.'
This was information he'd heard while interrogating Canis, the black merchant dealer in Bergen.
The shadows of the city were naturally close to others like them. Black market traders were famous for dealing with goods, but there were those who dealt in something else, like the Information Guild. Among them, the 'King of Mice' was the best.
"He never sets foot in the north, but in the central continent, he is more powerful than some noble families. I don't know what will happen later, so familiarize yourself with the information now."
As he recalled Canis' words, Theodore entered the back alleys of Sipoto.
'I didn't know I would use that information this way.'
Stories often had simple passwords in bars, but the reality wasn't like that. If they concealed the position of the Information Guild so poorly, who could trust the information coming from them? Therefore, Theodore focused his senses even more, and his eyes turned gold as he used Hawkeye.
He kept an eye on the graffiti carved on the wall, the garbage on the ground, and the shabby roofs.
'Six on the third pillar, three cracked planks...'
Even secretly trained agents wouldn't be as good as Theo. In one glance, he deciphered the password which looked like graffiti. He detected traps with his sixth sense and crossed the maze-like, twisted alleys.
After 10 minutes, Theodore faced a door at a dead end. It was evident that Theodore had come to the right place. Then he lifted a hand without hesitation.
Knock knock knock, knock, knock, knock knock knock knock knock knock.
Three brief knocks, followed by two single ones, then six brief knocks. He didn't know if the knock which Canis had taught him was still valid, but it was good if they responded.
If they ignored it, Theo would step back and find another way. He could use the plaque Bear gave him to obtain information without the need for the Information Guild. Additionally, he could also press with force and take what he wanted.
'Now, how will they act?'
Theodore watched the scene before him and...
The shabby door opened, and a burning smell floated out with the wind.