「Hey……what is this.」
In the depths of the forest that Rei and his companions had stayed the night next to, Rei, Taenia and Louise had gone to raid the bandit’s hideout. But what they found there was an unexpected sight.
No, for Rei, it wasn’t unexpected as he had felt the bloody smell drifting around with extraordinary senses as well as the brightly burning flames, angry cries and screams.
At a group of bushes overlooking the bandit’s hideout, Rei and the others surveyed the surroundings.
And what they saw in before them was a struggle between nearly 50 people
Swords, axes and clubs were swung around. Shields blocked attacks as spears were thrust out to intercept.
Louise was astounded and Taenia stunned as Rei calmly looked at the battle taking place.
「Why are they already fighting before our raid?」
At Taenia’s muffled voice, Rei replied as he watched the battle taking place before them.
「As far as I can see, it looks like a fight between bandits. ……No, can you even call it a fight?」
Yes. As Rei said, both sides were not wearing metal armour, only coats for protection, so it was clear the attacking side weren’t knights. And considering the equipment they wore, the chance that the attackers were adventurers was also low. All that remained was a battle between bandits, and yet the battle had already fallen to a state where it couldn’t even be called a fight.
There were only about 20 bandits who were left after the rest had been killed by Rei in his retaliation. The attacking side had around 30 bandits in their group, about 10 more than the defending side, and they were also several levels higher in terms of combat skill.
The defending bandits had lost in quantity and lost in quality. It was obvious that the defending bandits had no chance of winning. Normally, they would immediately run away in such a situation, but the attacking bandits had spread out and surrounded them, they couldn’t escape. Their purpose was soon known the three who were watching from the side. Rather than trying to make them surrender, they were planning to annihilate them. Killing every single bandit.
「……Well, it’s also quite unexpected. Those aren’t the skills of a bandit in the first place, ah.」
Taenia whispered as she looked at the numerous bandits.
「Yeah~. Their average strength looks to be about F rank~.」
Louise agreed with her usual dragged out words.
Speaking of F rank adventurers, although it was still a beginner rank, bandits were basically a group of amateurs. At worse, there were quite a few people who just called them armed farmers. What would happen if they ran into a group of people who had the same level of skill as ordinary low ranked adventurers? The answer was the massacre that was now happening in front of the three of them.
「What do you plan to do? They’ve completely beat us to it.」
「Even if you ask me what to do……this is troublesome. I want the stuff the bandits have accumulated, but there are too many enemies.」
Their own strength consisted of two rank D adventurers and a rank C adventurer. As for Rei being rank C, he was outside the norm, but his rank was the only real way to account for his strength at the moment. Moreover, Louise’s main role was an archer.
Such thoughts passed through Taenia’s mind.
While Taenia was thinking, Rei suddenly made a sound. He had recognised one of the bandits who was fighting.
However, that person wasn’t really someone he knew well. Rather, they had only met once. And that was when he had tried to attack Rei.
「What happened Rei?」
Taenia asked if Rei had noticed anything.
Rei pointed towards the man who was directing the large number of bandits from the rear.
「No, I was almost attacked by bandits on the way to Sabrusta previously. Back then, I took the initiative and forced them back, but just now I saw a face I recognised.」
「Heh, a bandit who dared to attack Rei. Which one was it?」
Taenia asked Rei. The reason she could joke around was because she knew Rei’s fighting strength and thought that it was quite possible for someone to try to attack Rei if they tried to gauge his strength from his appearance.
However……when they saw the person Rei pointed to, Taenia’s cheeks twitched. It was the same with Louise.
There were a number of scars on his face and at first glance he clearly looked like a bandit. He also carried a huge battle axe. However, unlike his appearance, he was giving detailed instructions to his bandit companions to minimize the damage they took.
「Hey, hey. That guy is……」
「Yes, I’m pretty sure~. I think that’s Egg, the boss of the Prairie Wolves~.」
Yes. They knew who the man was. As Louise had mentioned, he was the leader of a small but renowned bandit group operating in this area.
Unlike other bandits, they didn’t conduct acts of murder or rape, but would simply disappear after obtaining the goods they wanted. Sometimes there were even stories that they would take the sides of merchants and help those attacked by bandits.
Of course, as long as they remained bandits, they would still be targets for subjugation. However, their danger level was still far below that of other bandits. Some even considered them to be heroes.
Taenia told Rei as much as she knew about Egg and the Prairie Wolves.
As they discussed, the fight between the bandits continued and eventually victory and defeat became clear. Only three bandits had survived the attack until now. One was savage looking man, probably the bandit leader. He carried a battle axe and wore monster fur on his body. And following him were two men, wielding a bow and a sword. The leader aside, the other two seemed to be looking for a way to survive as tears fell from their eyes and their limbs shook from fear of death.
「Egg! You, what are you thinking!」
「What? What do you mean?」
Egg replied to the words of the bandits leader as if it were something troublesome. But contrary to his tone, his eyes were sharply hostile against the 3 remaining bandits.
「Aren’t you a bandit like me!? Why are you doing this! Are you crazy!?」
「……Bandits like you? Kukuku……the same is it. The same as you……? I guess I’m the same as you here as you are on the highway!」
He laughed as if the bandit leader’s words were funny, but the next moment, his expression changed into one filled with anger as he shouted in a roar.
His voice alone caused the two bandits aside from the leader to drop their weapons to the ground as they fell unconscious.
(Was that…….a technique?)
Rei thought to himself when he saw that. Rei didn’t have the ability to sense magic, but watching the series of events, Milein’s shock wave technique passed through his mind.
(The shock wave technique that Milein created by herself used her magic power, which was insufficient for ordinary magic. In that case, there’s a possibility that the man called Egg could have created a similar kind of skill.)
Things continued to happen as Rei put his thoughts together.
The bandit leader stumbled for a moment after suffering from the effects of the roar before turning a bloodthirsty gaze towards Egg.
「You, are you serious? Are you really going to kill me?」
「Of course. Haven’t I been warning you for a while? That it’s good to steal. That’s our job. But, we don’t kill people for fun. The more we kill people, the more we are hated by the city, the merchants and adventurers guild. I’ve warned you again and again. But you wouldn’t listen to me at all……rather, just to annoy me, you would continue to kill everyone for fun.」
「Keh……keh, what are you saying! Our targets are our prey! What’s wrong with killing our prey!? The splashing of blood when human flesh is cut! And when they realise they can’t be saved, their sad look of despair! What could be more interesting!? No! You can’t get that feeling just by fighting and killing monsters and animals, only by killing humans and demi-humans!」
The bandit leader, who was being stared down by Egg, shouted as if trying to get rid of the fear born in him.
Suddenly, Rei heard those words.
Those words were spoken by Taenia, who was watching the fight between the bandits.
The first attack they had made in their assault. She now knew while they aimed directly for their lives without any intention of capturing them despite their decent looks.
「They get pleasure from murder……that’s what bandits are.」
「That’s not completely true~. But, the worse bandits are already dealt with, right~? Look~.」
At Louise’s words, Taenia turned her eyes back to the cave again. There, Egg held a huge battle axe as he stared at the bandit leader.
「Enough. There’s a line that even bandits can’t go past. You have gone too far……I can’t save you anymore. At the very least, I’ll dispose of you here.」
「Shut up, shut up, shut up! All the time, all the time! Why are you always talking like you’re the boss of this area! I’ll kill you, I’ll……I’ll aahhh-!」
Along with his cry, the bandit leader swung his battle axe at Egg.
Both of them had a battle axe in their hands, and from what Rei could see, the quality of their weapons didn’t differ by much. Sure, they were good weapons, but they weren’t first class weapons like magic items. However……
Egg smashed the bandit leader’s hand with a side sweep of his battle axe. The next moment, he hit the bandit leader’s head with the blade, bursting it apart and killing him instantly.
What took place before the three of them was not a one sided battle but a one sided execution.
Still, Taenia was astonished at the sharpness of Egg’s battle axe and unconsciously voiced her thoughts.
But, that was until Egg turned his eyes towards the bushes Rei and the others were hiding in.
「Hey, you two hiding over there. You’ve tried very hard to conceal yourselves, but it’s not enough to be able to track us back to our base. Are you with them?」
Taenia unconsciously raised voice of surprise at Egg’s words.
After all, he had only said two people. There were three of them hiding in the bushes here.
But while Taenia was still confused, Egg continued.
「Come out while I’m asking politely. Otherwise I’ll consider you as one of them and attack. You have 10 seconds.」
1, 2, 3……at the same time he started counting, Egg’s companions readied their weapons towards the bushes.
「Hey, what are we going to do!?」
「Do you want to go out? I can deal with them if they’re only at that level.」
「Don’t talk nonsense! Even if you’re fine with it, we can’t do anything ourselves!」
During their brief discussion, Egg’s voice counted from 8 to 9……and at the same time, the bandits who had readied their weapons towards the bushes prepared to attack at any time.
「Wait! We’ll come out, we’ll come out now!」
In that situation, Taenia judged that she and Louise wouldn’t survive regardless if Rei fought or not and called out from the bushes.
「Are you sure?」
Rei asked Taenia in a low voice, but Taenia shook her head with a sigh.
「We can’t help it. What else can we do in this situation? Besides, considering the reputation of the Prairie Wolves, they might not make too much of an issue about it. And they only think there are two people over here. So……」
「Tentatively speaking. There might be a way to handle this situation. If it all fails, there’s a possibility of a real fight breaking out……what will you do?」
Rei interrupted Taenia’s word to speak. At that moment, Taenia made an immediate decision.
If they went out as it was, there was a chance they would be able to get out without any issues. But the other party were bandits after all. Even if they were the Prairie Wolves who were said to be more honourable.
「……I understand. Are you okay as well Louise?」
「Yes~. In the case that happens, I’ll do what I can with my bow!」
「Hey! That’s enough! Get out here now!」
At Egg’s angry shout, Taenia looked at Rei.
Rei looked back and gave a small nod.
「I’m heading out, so you guys wait here. In the event anything happens, you should run away while I distract them.」
「Is that really okay?」
「It should be fine. As you said earlier, it should be fine if it’s just me.」
Saying that, Rei left Taenia and Louise where they were and took out the Death Scythe from the Misty Ring before leaving the bushes.
「It’s been a long time……it hasn’t really been long enough for me to say that. We meet again at an unusual place.」
Putting the Death Scythe on his shoulder, he looked around with a sharp glance to intimidate them.