Episode 47: Imperial Noble Merchant, Butan
A cobble-paved road extended from the east to the west across a vast grassland.
This road was one of the paved highways that were laid all across the continent in the era of the ancient super-empire.
A variety of products from both the east and west were carried by merchants using it, and it played an important role in logistics and cultural exchange between the cities it connected.
Right now, a ‘suspicious’ group was heading towards the east in such a road.
Said group had a luxurious carriage in the center, and several mounted troops were around guarding it.
This was obviously a horse-drawn carriage belonging to a noble or a rich merchant.
Although a large amount of money went into the making of such carriage, it moved at a considerable speed, disregarding its own integrity.
Surrounding it were forty mounted mercenaries hired as a measure against bandits.
After all, if bandits were to kidnap a noble or a wealthy merchant, they could claim a huge ransom.
A mounted escort of this size would cost a considerable sum of money.
However, looking at it carefully, this group had a sense of incongruity.
First and most important, there were no national flags nor family crests to be found anywhere in the carriage.
In the continent it was common sense to flaunt your status and wealth, and in case of such a luxurious carriage, reveal your identity as its owner.
Otherwise, it would be troublesome to be caught in inspections every time one was crossing a border.
Secondly, the horse-riding mercenaries’ action as escorts were ‘strange’ on a closer look.
These riders were considerably well trained.
Their leather armor and equipment were dirty and weary, matching their ‘mercenary’ look.
However, they all moved as a single unit, at even distances from each other and at the exact same speed as the carriage. Therefore, it clearly showed that this mercenary group have had real military training and experience.
Despite that, there was no insignia nor flag showing their affiliation.
That suspicious armed group and the horse-drawn carriage of unknown nationality in the center of the ranks, were speedily galloping towards the east.
“Butan-sama. We’ll reach the border of Orn in a little more.”
Riding in parallel to the horse-drawn carriage, the escort leader reported.
They had escaped from the trade city of Orn and would soon reach the border to their destination.
“Good, good. After that, they surely will call me the Hero Viscount Merchant Butan in the Empire, what a nice ring it has. Also, I told you to call me ‘Lord Butan’! “
“Understood… Butan-s… Lord Butan.”
Reluctantly, the mercenary leader replied with the title the merchant noble Butan asked.
Even if this was his mission, he couldn’t come to like the haughty Butan, who had bought his noble rank in the Empire using money.
“Heh… after they find I managed to bring “this girl” to the imperial capital, I’m sure my position will rise even further… uhihihi.”
On the other hand, Butan wore an evil smirk while looking at a place inside the shaking carriage.
There lied a girl knocked out by some sleeping medicine in the back seat of the carriage… Orn’s Consul Regent, Isis.
“It was costly to gather all the information needed. It was also quite the expense to hire all these mercenaries… but after delivering this girl I’ll make many times more than that. Uhihihihi….”
The merchant noble Butan was in reality, an undercover merchant working secretly for the Hisan Empire.
His original purpose was to gather information in the city of Orn, and work behind the scenes to collapse it from within according to the Empire’s plan.
However, after becoming aware of the existence of the Consul Regent girl Isis, he secretly tried to kidnap her.
And finally, that golden chance came earlier this afternoon. He succeeded in abducting Isis as she was on her way to the bazaar.
And after that, he escaped the territory of Orn and his mission was close to come to an end. He only needed to join the Empire’s army at the fort ahead, and calmly return triumphantly to the imperial capital.
He was sure that his achievement of successfully kidnaping the Consul Regen girl would impress the Emperor and he would be handsomely rewarded.
The sleeping girl was unaware that she soon would become nothing more than a mere tool for the Empire’s diplomatic ploys.
All the while, Butan would receive a promotion and wealth as a reward.
“Butan-s… Lord Butan. There’s something approaching from behind…”
“Eh? What did you say? “
The cavalry leader again came to report.
He explained that ‘something’ was chasing them from the west, and had only noticed due to the different elevations in the highway.
“Is if the Knight Order from Orn!? No… It is too soon, they wouldn’t be able to catch up to us anyway…”
What Butan feared the most was the Orn’s army coming to rescue the girl Isis.
However, a lot of money had been used, and many plans were laid in advance. He was sure that at least, the regular army and the knights wouldn’t be able to sort out yet.
“It appears to be a dirty wagon… and a few horses… most likely a small bandit group.”
Answering to the visibly anxious Butan, the cavalry leader reported as he looked at the distance.
Other than that, the insides of the wagon were not visible, so the other party’s strength was unknown.
“It would be troublesome if they catch up to us… ‘dispose of them’! “
Even if the other party were mere thieves, he had no time to spare for such trivialities, since he was in a hurry to return to the Empire.
Therefore, Butan ordered the cavalry leader to kill all those who followed them.
“Fifteen of you, come with me. We’ll go ‘kill’ some time! Ha! “
The cavalry leader spoke to his subordinates who were running in parallel, then some of them lowered their speed and turned left and right.
Their opponent were bandits, but for all they knew, they were most likely amateurs. It was not an opponent who could match up to their mercenary group, they who used to be soldiers.
They launched a pincer attack on the other party, collapsing from the left and right. If they were to use their bows, they could kill their opponents from a distance, without risking losing even one man.
To accurately shoot a bow on a horse, you needed a rigorous training and talent as a horse rider. It was not something mere thieves could imitate.
Their employer, Butan, knew they possessed such skills and had paid a lot of money.
“Hmph. Let’s show them how we mercenaries work to earn our pay…”
The mercenaries then prepared to attack the wagon coming from the rear.
Butan watched the scenery comfortably from a small window in the carriage.
But, he noticed ‘something’.
Why… is that cart… so fast…?
A wagon built to carry baggage couldn’t reach a fast speed. That’s because stability and speed was mostly ignored in order to focus on it being able to carry more luggage.
The carriage which he was currently riding was a special-made vehicle.
He spared no money in order to make one fitting for himself, who was a merchant noble.
And of course, a dirty farmer wagon could never even dream to achieve a performance that would allow it to catch up to him.
Is our speed falling down? …no, that doesn’t seem to be the case…
He sent a glance at his men driving the carriage, but nothing showed that they were slowing down.
Rather, the sight of them desperately trying to make the horses go faster reflected on his eyes.
Then, is it something else? He asked himself.
The cautious Butan thought of several possibilities.
“Hmm…? …Wha-!? “
After finishing being lost in thought, Butan moved his gaze to the back again, and after looking outside the window, he unintentionally raised his voice.
The dirty wagon was unexpectedly catching up to them.
It had a tremendous momentum and in the blink of an eye, it was almost running parallel to them.
“What!? …That leader guy… where did he go!? “
The cavalry leader and the little over a dozen subordinates he took to take care of these bandits were nowhere to be seen.
Have they betrayed me…? With that thought in his mind, his gaze moved further back.
“How can that be!? …they were annihilated…”
Butan yells in a rough voice as his eyes look back.
All the mercenary riders were lying all across the meadow by the road, clearly annihilated.
Some had their head blown away, some had clearly and lethal arrow wounds.
From that scene, it was obvious that they were on the receiving end of a one-sided slaughter, even from outside their bow range.
Inch by inch, the dirty wagon was getting closer and closer.
“If you value your life. Stop!
The other party then advised Butan to surrender, as they approached the carriage.
『There’s no point in useless fight. Just stop the carriage and surrender all your baggage. If you do that, then we’ll spare your life』 That was the command given by the bandits.
“Hmph! Do you even know who you’re speaking to!? I am the great Viscount Butan, a famous merchant from the Empire! “
“Sorry. I’m a little illiterate, so forgive me for not knowing who you are.”
“What! Kill them! Kill them all right now! “
Provoked by the words of the man in the wagon, Butan ordered the rest of the mercenaries in an angry tone.
To kill all the bandits in the cart.
They were unknown and eerie opponents, but they were just a few archers and some horse riders
And he still had close to thirty mercenaries remaining.
Butan believed he could overwhelm them with this difference in numbers.
“Negotiations have broken down. Let’s do it… Mountain Dog Group.”
“” AYE! Boss (Aniki)! “”
The man in the dirty wagon revealed their identity as “Mountain Dog Group”.
And thus, the leader of the Mountain Dog Group… Yamato, ordered the children of Urd to attack the imperial carriage and the mercenaries.