The soldier who contacted Loren was, as they had expected, a messenger from the Imperial Army.
He had come to inform Loren’s team that there was a general who wanted to meet the group to ask them directly about their experiences, as their names had been listed as the only survivors in the reports of the destruction of the guerrilla units.
Loren had been thinking of getting in touch with someone of high rank in the Imperial Army, so he gladly agreed to an audience. After getting himself ready, he was escorted by a soldier to the building where the Imperial troops were stationed.
As for who to bring along, there was no option at all, and Lapis was by Loren’s side. Luxeria was out of the question, and Gula was still not in her best condition, so there was no point in forcing her to move if it would make her wounds worsen.
Actually, Loren had considered taking Klaus with him.
The reason was that Lapis was a demon, and although she was currently living as a priest of the God of Knowledge without being discovered by anyone, there was no guarantee that she would not be discovered by chance. If this were to happen, the way the generals of the Imperial Army responded to the situation would be very different, and it was necessary to be aware of the risks involved in mobilizing Lapis.
On the other hand, Klaus, aside from his affinity for women, was a young man of good looks and a well-known adventurer, someone the Empire would not treat lightly. However, since he had nothing to do with what they were being summoned for, Loren had no choice but to give up on bringing him along.
Of course, the option of Loren going alone did not exist from the beginning. He was not so reckless as to think of going by himself to meet a person of high rank – a General – in an army that he could not be absolutely sure was on his side.
Loren had tried, but he could not get any information from the messenger about the General who wanted to meet them. When Loren asked about it, he was told that he would understand when he met him, but the messenger refused to give Loren any further information.
Loren found the guy to be a competent soldier in a sense. Information might give them unnecessary prior knowledge or impressions, which in turn might affect the flow of the conversation. It was not a bad idea to take them to the person without giving any details beforehand.
The question remained, however, as to how many more people would ask for them without even giving their names in the future. Loren decided that this was probably due to the difference in status between the Imperial Army authorities and adventurers. There was no need to guess which side was in a higher position in the Empire, where Loren and his team were currently located.
The messenger took Loren and Lapis to a building that looked more like a private home or a merchant’s house than a military-owned barracks. However, the fact that it was a military facility was obvious from the soldiers guarding the area. Two of them, accompanied by the messenger, were led inside under the openly watchful eyes of the soldiers guards.
“Please wait here until the General arrives.”
After handing over their weapons to the soldiers due to security rules, Loren and Lapis were ushered into a reception room.
The room was not especially glamorous, but was decorated with furnishings that looked too expensive to be considered simple. They sat downside by side on the sofa they had been pointed to, with Loren looking somewhat uncomfortable and Lapis looking about curiously.
“Hey Loren, the empire is very rich, isn’t it?”
Loren replied to Lapis, who was looking around the room, in a hushed voice, seemingly uninterested.
“Of course. It’s a country, so it must have money, right?”
“No, I think it’s quite impressive that such a facility in a town so close to the border, which in a sense is at the very edge of the country, can be so well furnished.”
Loren looked around to see if that was the case, but there was no way he could tell if the furnishings were good or bad, and he didn’t have the knowledge to appraise their values.
But Lapis seemed to be seeing a different scenery than Loren.
“The items are not showy in appearance, but they are well-built and made of materials and colors that are pleasant to the eyes. It may look plain to some people, but it costs quite a lot of money to have all these items in one place.”
“I am happy to hear you say so, young miss. You are quite knowledgeable.”
The voice of a middle-age man resounded, in response to Lapis.
Loren got up from the sofa as if he had been struck, and when he looked toward the entrance of the room, he saw a man standing there at the open door, looking just how Loren expected him to from his voice.
The man was shorter than Loren, but from appearance alone, he gave a much more intimidating and dignified impression. The clothes he was wearing were probably the uniform of the Imperial Army, but Loren knew that the body hidden under the thick and lengthy garment was that of a well-trained warrior. His face was chiseled, and his long black hair, with just a hint of gray, was pulled back. He looked to be pleased about the praise for the furnishings of the room, but his gaze was strangely sharp.
“Are you well-versed in furnishings, Miss Priest?”
“As a person in the service of the God of Knowledge, I am familiar with a wide range of things, but only casually.”
Lapis, who had also got up and was standing by Loren’s side, bowed courteously. The man slightly inclined his head in response, and Loren, somewhat taken aback, greeted him.
“It’s been a long time, Loren. I was wondering if it was you when I found the name in the report. It’s fortuitous that you survived.”
The person who slowly sat down on the sofa facing Loren and Lapis while saying this was Yuri Mutshildt, the leader of the mercenary group, to which Loren once belonged, before he became an adventurer, and whose whereabouts have been completely unknown since the destruction of said group.
Loren, seeing the face was exactly the same as the one in his memory, sat down as if collapsing on the sofa, while Lapis gently sat down next to him.
“I’m sure Loren doesn’t need any introduction, but you must do, young miss. I am Yuri Mutshildt, former mercenary commander, and current general in the Imperial Army.”
“My name is Lapis. I am a priest in the service of the God of Knowledge, and I am currently a fellow adventurer of Loren.”
“Can’t you introduce yourself normally?”
Seeing Lapis bowing to Yuri in an impeccably mannered, Loren couldn’t help but say. Hearing this, Lapis looked offended for a moment before suddenly smiled like a blossoming flower and declared.
“I am Loren’s bride.”
“Now, Loren. What have you been doing since the destruction of the group?”
“That should be my line, Commander.”
“Ah, this? I feel like things just went through very naturally?”
The two looked at each other, and Lapis unthinkingly put her hand on Loren’s shoulder and shook him.
Loren did not shake her off. Annoyed, Nig raised his forelegs to intimidate Lapis, but she continued to shake Loren without caring.
“No, I’m not deflecting. I just can’t believe that Loren, who was so out of touch with the ladies to a degree that many in the group thought he might have actually gone that way, has found such a refined young lady.”
“Now, where did that rumor come from? Tell me the details. I’ll go find the one who spread it and make him regret!”
“Well, who was it? I’m getting very forgetful in my old age.”
Loren’s expression turned vicious when Yuri made an innocent face. He glared at Yuri with such an angry expression that would make a weak-minded person faint if they met him on the street at night, but the man didn’t seem to mind at all and laughed.
“Well, almost everyone in the group was talking about it.”
“Fuck them… Well, whatever… I’m not interested in that side of the road one iota, but I don’t care about the old rumors.”
Loren’s expression was about to become even more vicious when he was told that he was the only one who did not know, but he reigned in his temper, took a deep breath and tried to change the topic.
Yuri, who was watching him, said in an impressed tone.
“You’ve learned to be patient. You’ve grown up.”
“You make it sound like I was insufferable when I was a mercenary.”
Staring at him intently, Yuri asked earnestly. Loren’s face lost some of its grimness and his gaze turned away from Yuri, albeit only slightly.
That seemed to be enough of an answer for Yuri. The smile remained unchanged and, without further inquiries, he clapped a few times.
As if on cue, the door through which the man had just entered was opened, and a woman’s voice was heard from the other side.
“Can you prepare tea for our guests? We have much to talk about, but a parched throat would make speaking difficult.”
Loren muttered something like a curse under his breath and tried to calm down, and Lapis and Nig tried to help soothe him.
Yuri looked at him in amusement, and Loren managed to calm his breathing and his feelings before he started speaking again.
“That does not matter. I want to hear about you first.”
“Well, don’t be in a hurry. The situation is not very comfortable right now, but there will be enough time to wait for the tea to be prepared. And since it has been so long since we last met, don’t you feel emotional? Or did you not even want to see me?”
“…How could I not?”
Loren answered sulkily while turning his head away.
Once Loren calmed down after realizing that he had been worked up by the Commander’s sudden appearance, Lapis next to him and Nig on his shoulder finally showed signs of relief.
“We both have things to talk about. For now, let’s have a cup of tea and relax, and then take our time.”
As Yuri was saying to Loren, several women in maid’s uniforms entered the room quietly without making a sound as if they were waiting for their cue, carrying trays of the tea he had requested.