「Why did you let them go so easily? Do you really think that bandits would become good people just like that?」
With a questioning expression, Rei made a big swing with the Death Scythe to shake off the blood on the blade. Then, after using his magic power to make sure that the Death Scythe was in perfect condition, he stored it back into the Misty Ring.
Taenia watched his actions before shrugging lightly when Rei glanced at her.
「Whether bandits would seriously regret their action……I don’t think they would. But that can’t be helped, right? Because it’s their employer’s request.」
「Well, let’s join up with Alektor-san and the others for now. I’ll explain it properly there.」
Taenia headed back, leaving Rei and Set where they were.
After a few seconds, Rei gave a small sigh before leaving the dark forest, when the smell of blood and organs drifted around.
The fire, which had started due to Rei’s first spell, had already gone out, leaving countless bodies in the dark night.
(I guess it would be better to burn them now……)
Rei thought that to himself, but he couldn’t do it alone in the dark, so he put off dealing with the corpses and headed out of the forest to join back with Alektor first.
「Rei-san! It’s great that you’re safe!」
The first person to call out to Rei when he left the forest was of course Alektor, the leader of the merchants.
His eyebrows raised slightly on seeing that Rei’s robe didn’t have a single drop of blood on it, but he didn’t mention it as he greeted both Rei and Set with a smile.
「So, why did you let the bandits go? If we disposed of them there……or would it have been better to take them to a city to sell as slaves?」
「Yes. I had thought about it at first. However, as you can see from the current state of the carriages, there is no room to hold the bandits. You could tie them up with rope and make them walk, but since there’s only the three of us in Beautiful Raindrops and you, we can’t keep constant watch on them and it’s very likely that they’ll run away because our main job isn’t to watch them. To be honest, it’s quite regrettable that we can’t sell them as criminal slaves considered the losses we made on this trip.」
「……Then, why not kill them?」
It wasn’t Alektor who answered that question, but Taenia, who was standing guard next to him.
「Rei, even with Set, you didn’t notice that Louise isn’t here?」
「Hm? Now that you mention it.」
Set tilted his head as he looked at Rei and Taenia.
Certainly, from their experience so far, it was very strange that Louise didn’t come to hug Set right after they showed up.
「Although Louise looks like that, she’s actually good at covert actions. Well, it’s not that unusual for an archer.」
As Taenia said, archers often fought with a style of staying hidden as they shot arrows. Louise was probably one of them.
And that was why Rei was able to connect her disappearance with the fleeing bandits earlier.
「……So that’s it. Did you deliberately let them go so that you could find their hideout?」
「Yes. Even if we weren’t escorting a merchant like Alektor-san, we would do the same thing. The bandits probably have some savings in their hideout. ……You can’t expect a share, is that okay?」
「Yes. As a merchant, reducing the number of bandits is of the highest priority. Of course, I’d like to have a share too……but I won’t force it here.」
At Taenia’s mischievous smile, Alektor also replied with a jestful smile.
Fabel listened to the conversation between her leader and employer with a wry, but aggressive smile.
They came to kill them without asking any questions. There was no being too careful.
「That’s why……will you cooperate with us Rei?」
When Taenia asked, she looked at Rei with a strong gaze to press Rei.
After all, it was better to have a stronger force to attack the bandit hideout. Rather, with just the three of them in Beautiful Raindrops, it was was basically impossible to deal with the bandits if there were still 20 or so of them. Only Rei and Set would be able to kill nearly 30 bandits in such a short period of time with overwhelming strength.
「I don’t mind, but……can I have priority with the bandit’s treasures?」
And of course, Rei knew that as long as he was the core of the operation, he could claim priority on the compensation.
A fairly large bandit group with over 50 people. At that point, it was pretty much certain that there would be some items that he would be interested in, like magic items or weapons that could be thrown.
「……Can’t help it can I. But don’t be too greedy.」
Even Taenia knew Rei held the initiative at this point, so she could oly grit her teeth and accept the negotiations.
Louise finally returned by the time the moon was starting to go down.
「Sorry to keep you waiting~.」
「Hey, aren’t you too slow?」
「But~. I’ve been busy you know~. I wanted to come back as soon as I could~. Besides, I can’t help it if the other party has to carry an unconscious person on their backs~.」
Louise protested by puffing up her cheeks at Fabel’s words.
「Okay, okay, that’s enough Fabel. That aside, did you find where their hideout is? According to the bandits we interrogated, they said they were in a cave deep in the forest.」
「Yes, there are definitely bandits in the cave~. But, you need to be careful because there are traps~.」
「…….I see. As expected, they’re quite cautious.」
「So, who’s going? Do you want me and Set?」
「Hmm, that’s a bit hard. I think Rei and Set are more than enough, but we also want to go.」
That was what Taenia said, but basically what she was considering was the possibility that Rei might take away all the good stuff that the bandits had gathered if no one from her party went along.
(In any case, Rei has an item box. So no matter how much treasure the bandits have amassed, it wouldn’t be possible to prove if he went by himself.)
「But wouldn’t that make the division of our strength bad? We are just merchant escorts and this bandit subjugation is just a coincidence. If you come as well, aside from me and Set, the remaining escort would be too sparse.」
「Yes. So I’m going to have to split you and Set. Rei, Louise and I will kill the bandits. Set and Fabel will stay as guards.」
「Eh~, I wanted to be with Set~. Fabel is so cunning~.」
「……Well, if we’re dividing our strength, that’s how it is. It’s a bit regrettable, but I’m fine with that.」
Fabel nodded at Taenia’s instructions, and Louise, who wanted to play with Set, complained. But Taenia responded with some astonishment.
「What are you talking about? In the first place, only you know the exact location of the hideout. I’m going as well, so lead the way quietly. ……Is that fine, Rei?」
「Yes……of course. It’s true that to divide our forces evenly, Set and I should be separate. ……Set, can I leave the merchant escort to you?」
Leave it to me, Set seemed to say.
Giving a small smile, Rei stroked his head.
「Alektor, is this fine?」
「Yes, of course. I would like to ask you to subdue the bandits so that other merchants aren’t sacrificed. We’ll stay here quietly……」
When Alektor said that, Rei suddenly remembered about the bandits he and Set had killed.
「I’m sorry, but could you clean up the corpses of the bandits in the forest? I don’t think they will rot now because it’s winter, but if we leave them here until srping, they will rot and might spread strange diseases or turn undead. Aside from that, there’s also the possibility of drawing in strange monsters.」
Alektor thought for a moment at Rei’s words and nodded.
「I understand. We won’t be coming back down this road for some time, but it’s possible that other merchants and travelers could be affected. And it’s also not a pleasant feeling to stay the night somewhere near corpses might turn undead. But the equipment the bandits were using……」
Given the damage caused by the Icebirds’ attack, Alektor wanted to earn back as much as he could. He would have loved to have a share of the treasure that the bandits would have collected in their hideout, but either way, the majority would have gone to the adventurers actually assaulting the bandits. In that case, it wasn’t a bad choice to take the equipment the bandits were using, even if that only amounted to a small sum.
And since Rei had expected Alektor to ask for that much, he agreed and nodded without hesitation.
「Okay. Then, let’s get moving right away. Louise, please.」
Taenia looked at Louise sharply as she spoke.
「I understand~. ……This way~.」
Sighing, Louise walked into the dark forest, leading Rei and Taenia with her bow in hand.
「Set. I’ll leave the escort to you.」
「Fabel too. Work properly and don’t play around.」
「I know. Please bring back some presents. It’s pretty tough to have to buy a new shield.」
「Well, if you’re a good girl, I’ll bring some presents back.」
「Who’s your mum? I don’t need a child like you.」
Taenia face scrunched up at Fabel’s words.
「What, you’re the one who started it. Anyway, Set and I will protect this place well, so I’ll leave the bandits to you.」
Hearing that as they left, the three of them entered the dark forest to raid the bandits at their hideout.
The three of them went through the forest while trying to make as little noise as possible.
Needless to say, Louise was at the front, followed by Rei and Taenia.
Louise traveled through the forest wrapped in the dark of night without getting affect by the low light, whether that was because she had just passed through here before or because she had good night vision. As for Rei, his body had night vision in the first place, so he didn’t have a hard time following Louise.
But Taenia, the only one of the three who wasn’t used to moving in the dark or had good night vision, was desperately trying to keep up.
If the moon in the night sky wasn’t hidden by the clouds, she would have had greater visibility. No, even if the moon was shining brightly, not much light may have made it through anyway with the tree branches blocking most of it.
「Hey, hey. Both of you, slow down……kya!」
Taenia stumbled over the roots of a tree that extended out from the ground, almost falling over. However, as a D rank adventurer, she immediately reached for the tree trunk and avoided falling over.
「Already~? You should be able to do this much if you’re an adventurer, Taenia~.」
「Don’t be stupid! In the first place, I’m an ordinary adventurer. You can’t expect me to be able to run through a forest at night like you Louise. Anyway, Louise is an archer and trained to be able to move in the mountains, but why can Rei move around in the dark so easily!」
Taenia turned to look at Rei, who was moving next to her, as if to say it wasn’t fair. The moon was hidden by clouds and what faint moonlight came through was blocked by the surrounding tree branches. Even in such a state, the two of them could still manage to move as if it had no effect on them at all.
(Even if Louise was trained, Rei is wearing a robe, and even a hood……)
「Don’t look at me like that. I have good night vision as I lived in the mountains with my master until a short while ago. There’s no issue if it’s only this dark.」
「Well, it can’t be helped~. Here, Taenia. Grab my hand~.」
Although she wasn’t seriously injured, she already had several abrasions. Seeing Taenia like that, Louise reached out a hand without hesitation.
「Saying it can’t be helped……some people……」
Rei’s hand covered Taenia’s mouth just as she was about to say something.
Taenia’s eyes opened wide at Rei’s actions, but when she saw Rei’s sharp gaze into the forest, she felt something wasn’t right. She also held her breath and looked towards the depths of the forest.
And at the end of her line of sight, she noticed that it seemed to have gotten a bit brighter. At the same time, the shouting of voices could be heard in her ears.
Feeling that Taenia had calmed down, Rei removed his hand. As soon as Rei’s hand moved away, Taenia looked at Rei and Louise and spoke.
「I dont’ know. But I’m pretty sure that it’s not a big party or celebration……Louise, the bandit’s hideout is a bit further ahead, isn’t it?」
「In that case……are the bandits who failed their attack being scolded by the boss?」
「No, I don’t think so.」
Rei immediately denied Taenia’s guess.
「If you head over, you’ll understand.」
Rei gave a short reply as he started walking towards the bandit’s hideout.
At the same time, he frowned at the smell of blood drifting around.