Rei emerged from the bushes, holding the Death Scythe on his shoulder, as he appeared before the bandits of the 『Prairie Wolves』.
About half the bandits looked at Rei in surprise, the other half in astonishment.
The former were those who hadn’t run into Rei previously and were wondering what such a weak child was doing here. The other half, including Egg, were the ones who had tried to rob Rei previously and had withdrawn after they were forced into a situation where a fight would end in a one-sided defeat.
「Hey, that guy……」
「Ah. There’s no doubt. What’s he doing here.」
「What a moment. If he’s here……then is that Griffon also nearby!?」
「Hey, hey, if we have to fight a Griffon in a dark forest, we have no chance.」
Those who had seen Rei before exchanged information in whispers.
Despite their almost silent whispering, their conversation was still all heard by Rei.
(Certainly, with Set, it would have been possible to handle this situation quite simply……but because I was hired as an escort, the safety of the client was the highest priority. There’s no helping that.)
「……Why are you here?」
In the midst of all that, Egg asked Rei while carrying his battle axe on his shoulder.
His face, filled with countless scars, looked confused as he asked the question without any underlying intent.
Even Egg knew how strong Rei was. After all, he had a Griffon following him. Even though he only looked like a small kid……or rather, an apprentice mage, he had no intention of letting his guard down.
At the the same time, with the strength of the person before him, there was no need for Rei to have been working with the bandits. More than that……
「I felt the presence of two people. I couldn’t feel you at all, the other two are still in the bushes. What did you come out for?」
「Hey, hey, you have a bunch of strange questions. ……Well, I don’t want a pointless fight, so I’ll just tell you honestly. As for why I’m here……that’s easy. I’m escorting a merchant that was attacked by the bandits here. So, I had been thinking of coming here to dispose of future trouble……but you got here before us.」
「……I see. With their skill, those guys wouldn’t have been able to deal with monsters like you with their skills. They’re unlucky. Although if they were lucky, they wouldn’t have been killed by us in the first place.」
As soon as Egg’s words were heard, the bandits around him began to buzz.
After all, they had absolute trust in Egg as the leader of the Prairie Wolves. Many people had been attracted to his character, but in addition to being their leader, it was also true that he was the strongest person among the Prairie Wolves. Yet, the strongest person among the Prairie Wolves had described Rei as a monster, all except the ones who had seen Rei before looked at him in amazement.
「You already cleaned them up before I got here though. As far as I could tell from your conversation, the bandit leader seemed to be a dangerous person in various ways.」
「……Ahh. He was someone who found pleasure in murder and killing the weak. That’s why we took the initiative so that we wouldn’t get dragged down with them. …….So what do you plan to do. Your target has already been wiped out, but what do you plan to do with us? There’s no chance we can beat you, but you’ll have to pay a price, right?」
They wouldn’t go down without a fight. Even as his head was cut off, he would still bite at the neck. Rei smiled at Egg’s defiant words.
「Hey, Rei. What are you trying to do? If they let us off, we’ll pull back!」
Rei heard Taenia whisper to him from the bushes
「……Are you sure? Didn’t you want the stuff that the bandits collected as well?」
「Yes, but the prerequisite was that we could get it safely! Even if you can, don’t expect me to fight against the Prairie Wolves.」
「That’s right~. I agree with Taenia~.」
「If you’re fine with that, then I don’t mind.」
That said, Rei still really wanted to try out some of the rusty spears he had recently acquired.
(Well, if Taenia and the others fought here and got injured, that would hinder the escort request. That said, it’s a pity to go back without any harvest…….that’s right.)
Thinking to himself, Rei swung the Death Scythe on his shoulder.
Due to its speed and weight, the sound of the air splitting could be heard by the members of the Prarie Wolves.
One slash. Just looking at that swing, even those who hadn’t run into Rei before could instinctively feel that Rei wasn’t someone to make an enemy out of.
「As I said, I don’t like pointless fights. ……But regardless of your attitude towards those bandits, bandits are bandits. I could hunt all the Prairie Wolves here, but……」
As soon as Rei said those words, there was a sense of tension around him. Even if they fought, they couldn’t win, maybe half of them would die if they tried to run away. But, as their boss, Egg, had said, they would at least make him pay for it. With such determination, the atmosphere tilted towards a fight. But.
「But, of course, I do owe you a favour for dealing with the bandits before I got here. I’ll overlook it this time.」
It was the words from someone who stood above them. If Rei were serious, he could kill them at any time.
If it had been any other adventurer to say the same thing……if Taenia, who was hiding in the bushes, was the one to say that, he would have killed her on the spot.
However, the way Rei said it was different from other adventurers. Rei was also the strongest person in the area, so even the Prairie Wolves couldn’t carelessly refute what he said.
If they refuted what Rei said, Egg was sure that if the small, robe wearing person in front of him decided to get serious, they would suffer an incalculable amount of damage.
「……What is your condition?」
Egg spoke as if squeezing out his voice.
Egg had considerable combat strength, as had been shown in his fight against the bandit leader earlier. However, he still judged that he was no match for Rei and sought to end the matter with Rei without fighting.
And Rei, who was waiting for those words, spoke with a smile.
「You owe me a favour. If ever something happens, I’ll ask you to pay it back. You should return the favour then.」
To owe Rei a favour. He didn’t know what it would be, but it was clear which was the better option to take with Rei. Moreover, they had just finished fighting not long ago. Though they hadn’t suffered any major losses, there were some who were injured and they were mostly exhausted.
After a few seconds of silence, Egg spoke.
「Fine. In the name of the Prarie Wolves, we declare that we owe Rei a favour.」
Egg declared that in front of the cave where the dead bandits had fallen.
「……Those words, you were the one who said it.」
Nodding at Egg, Rei finally asked the question he had been wondering about.
「You seem to know my name……?」
「Hmph, we also have our own information network. And above all, that was what those two hiding in the bushes called you.」
「Huh, sounds like you have pretty good ears.」
「I’m not happy to be praised by you. Rather, I’m worried that you have ulterior motives.」
Egg frowned as he spoke, but Rei replied without care.
「Don’t take it like that. It was purely admiration. ……Well then, since our targets have been taken out, we’ll go back to our escort.」
「Do that. Seriously, between them and you, today has been the worst day.」
「Is that so? All the goods that the bandits have collected are yours now. Of course, I know that wasn’t your goal, but I don’t think you’re not getting anything out of this?」
「Hmph, the money that they’ve accumulated doesn’t go into our own pockets. There are a lot of people we have to give it to.」
Rei, exclaimed softly at Egg’s words.
Rei understood from Egg’s previous remarks and actions how he intended to use the money that was in the hands of the bandits.
(I asked for a favour because I didn’t have anything to lose……but surprisingly, I made a profit out of it.)
「Then, we’ll be leaving soon. I’ll see you next time if I have the chance.」
「I don’t want to see a person like you again. Leave quickly.」
Rei left the place while hearing such words from behind him.
As he passed by the bushes, Taenia quickly pulled Louise’s hand and joined him.
She looked back several times anxiously, but none of the Prairie Wolves had gone after them.
「You know, when you suddenly asked all the Prairie Wolves for a favour, I was skeptical. I didn’t care if you were crazy, but don’t drag the rest of us with you.」
Taenia muttered to Rei as they walked along the dark path in the night.
Their direction was being guided by Louise, just as when they had headed for the bandit hideout, followed Rei and Taenia.
The difference was that they didn’t have to worry about being detected by the bandits and didn’t have to speak quietly. That was why Taenia, who was particularly scared of the dark, complained without pause.
「That said, we had gone all the way there. We should at least get something out of it right? To get a group of righteous bandits to owe me a favour, that was a good enough harvest for me tonight.」
「……Well, yes. You’re right. But, we didn’t get anything in the end.」
「But~, we ran into the Prarie Wolves and survived~. And a person like Egg let us go as well~.」
Louise, who was in front of them, said that without looking back.
In fact, if only the two of them had been there without Rei, they didn’t know what they would have done.
Even though the Prairie Wolves were known not to harm other people as much as possible, their temper and skill were why they were called wolves. They had shown that in their fight against the bandits. Of course, in terms of pure skill, they were better than most of the Prairie Wolves. However, there were nearly 20 of them and there was no chance they could have beaten Egg. When she thought about it, her complaints to Rei were completely pointless.
「I know, seriously. ……That aside, let’s stop talking and hurry back faster. If they got attacked on their side, it wouldn’t be a joke.」
「Rei and I both have good night vision~.」
Who was the one slowing us down? With that being implied, Taenia gave snort as they made their way through the forest.
「Rei-san? Taenia-san and Louise-san as well. You were fast. Have you defeated the bandits already?」
Seeing the three of them, Alektor asked unintentionally.
As he said that, he saw Set acting spoiled to Rei as Louise stroked Set. Taenia looked on dumbfounded at what her party member was doing.
Taenia gave a sigh towards Louise before shaking her head at Alektor.
「It was no good. When we arrived at the bandit’s hideout, they were in a struggle against the Prairie Wolves and were losing one-sidedly. We weren’t able to do anything.」
「……The Prairie Wolves, I heard that they were an exceptional bandit group in this area.」
「Yeah. Rei managed to deal with them without a fight, but the bandits were wiped out already and we couldn’t take anything in that situation, so we came back. Did anything abnormal happen on this side……?」
Taenia looked around.
At the back, Fabel, who she had left in charge of the escort, waved her hand lightly to indicate there were no issues.
The eyes of the merchants had adjusted to the dark after the previous bandit raid and the subsequent disposal of the corpses. Most of them were still awake even though it wasn’t dawn yet were drinking some sort of soup as they overcame the winter chill by the campfire.
「As you can see, we haven’t had any issues. As previously discussed, the bandit corpses have been dealt with. ……But, was that so? It’s quite unexpected that the Prairie Wolves came out.」
「Apparently, the bandits that attacked us were a bunch that enjoyed murder. The Prairie Wolves had tried to warn them but it didn’t work……eventually, they resorted to force.」
Taenia explained their meeting with the Prairie Wolves to Alektor and the merchant caravan set out for the city of Sabrusta at dawn.