The chapters are so long~ It is kind of annoying XD
Enjoy the chapter ❤ ~!
Chapter 2, Episode 12: Bandits
Imperial year 1023, July 27.
The brilliant sun which rose from the eastern sky sinks into the west as it lights up the ground.
A black curtain will soon fall, and it will be the time when night reigns over the surface.
Running across a desert with hot winds violently blowing is a lone dragon.
Not allowing the sand to hold its feet down, it sprints along, graceful at times, and rough at others.
On its back rides a young boy— Hiro.
Though he’s unable to ride a pony even, he’s somehow able to straddle a 「shiryu」 and ride him without being thrown off.
He wants to keep riding, but for the 「shiryu’s」 sake, they need to rest.
「There should’ve been a village around here…」
He gently tapped the「shiryu’s」 neck. It dropped its speed to a walk in response.
Then, he pulls a piece of paper— a map of the Lichtein Dukedom from his breast pocket.
Hiro surveyed far ahead of him and saw a small silhouette on the horizon.
「Can you hold out for a little while longer?」
The 「shiryu」 lowered its head as if to nod, and started running once more.
The silhouette began to grow steadily, and eventually, rows of houses made of clay came into view.
Hiro immediately sensed something unusual. No, even if it were anyone else, there’s no doubt they would have noticed something was off about the small village.
Hiro jumps off the 「shiryu」 and examines the village as he walks in.
There was only a strange silence in the village, and every single one of the villagers looked anxious.
Hiro immediately asked 「Black Camelia」 to make a hood, which he pulled low over his eyes.
「Umm, excuse me. Did something happen?」
Hiro calls out to a nearby farmer.
At first, the farmer was startled at seeing Hiro. Then, he cast his gaze on the boy as if to evaluate him and opened his mouth to speak as he looked extremely cautious.
「… You a traveler?」
It’s not hard to image the response he would get if he said he entered the country from the Grantz Grand Empire.
And so, he introduced himself as a traveler from the neighboring Republic of Schteizen.
Originally, the Lichtein Dukedom was a part of Schteizen. That was until 200 years ago.
Maybe that was the reason why, but the apprehension in the farmer’s expression slightly faded.
「I see… I’m surprised you came here from such a distant land. But you sure did come at a troublesome time.」
He’s probably referring to the fact that the Grantz Grand Empire had come for an attack.
There’s another possibility too, but… Hiro wanted to gather information so he decided to ask him.
「It looks like the Grantz Grand Empire has come to launch an attack.」
「That’s not all. The slaves are rioting in the south. The duke led soldiers there to suppress them, but he lost. So the country might not even last much longer.」
「… The duke’s army lost?」
「But Lord Karl of the duke house took action. He began to gather soldiers again to suppress the rebel army, so we’re completely shorthanded while there are bandits running amok here and there. And that’s not all. Even the monsters have begun to form groups. And the Imperial army’s here on top of all that… Who knows what’s going to happen to this country now?」
The farmer finishes off defeated and cradles his head. Then, he looks at Hiro once more.
「You should hurry and leave this country soon.」
「Are all of you not escaping?」
He thought it was a foolish question to ask, but he couldn’t help but ask it.
「What’s the point of leaving our families and escaping? We don’t have anything saved up. Even if we did escape, the only thing waiting for us would be death from starvation. Besides, once the war is over, the soldiers will come back.」
The farmer picks up a rusty sword by his feet and shrugs.
「Other countries call us a slave nation, a barren land. But still, this is the land we were born and raised in. No matter what crisis we’re forced to face, we’ll endure until the soldiers come back.」
He’s acting confident, but looking down, you can tell his knees are shaking.
The nobles could probably flee the country with their accumulated wealth.
But these people don’t have such luxury.
It’s only a handful of people who can survive away from the land in which they were born and raised.
Hiro was about to open his mouth to offer the brave farmer some advice.
But then, one of the villagers shouted at them from the village entrance.
「We’ve got trouble! A group of bandits is heading this way!」
The man pointed— There’s a line of dust clouds rising up.
It was slowly closing in as the villagers fell into a panic.
「Aren’t those the guys who came and attacked us last time?」
「Damn it, looking down on us like that… We’ll fight back this time!」
「That’s right! We’re ready to fight this time! This is the perfect chance to get back the children who were kidnapped!」
After listening to the villagers, Hiro called out to the farmer in front of him.
「You were attacked before?」
「Yeah. Remember when the duke invaded the Grantz Grand Empire? That’s when the bandits saw their chance. With the garrison unable to come rushing over, the village is a fine feeding ground for them. Every village is in a similar state, and a lot of women and children have been kidnapped.」
「Even my kid…」 he said regretfully, but he slapped his face with both hands as his expression stiffened.
「Have the women and children take refuge in my house! The men grab your weapons! Don’t let them have their way any longer!」
After raising his voice, the farmer had a look of resolution on his face.
「You hurry and escape.」
Hiro shook his head a number of times and refused.
The Lichtein Dukedom is the main cause of the current situation, but the Grantz Grand Empire coming for an attack is likely a factor as well.
He can’t let the people of a foreign country be hurt needlessly.
Even though they aren’t a direct cause of this, because they are at least partially responsibility, he must fight.
「… I want you to leave this to me.」
「H-Hey, what are you—」
The farmer tried to question him, but Hiro walked away as he summoned 「Excalibur」.
The farmer squinted at the blinding light and watched Hiro walk off while overcome with surprise.
Hiro began to walk slowly outside the village.
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There are three bandits straddled atop camels.
Unlike the others, the man in the center— the leader of the bandits has a silver armor on which is especially eye catching, glittering in the light of the setting sun.
The equipment of the men beside him is lower in quality, but it’s worth more money than that of the underlings running around them.
There are a total of 26 bandits. Their objective is obviously to attack the village.
「Last time, the garrison came back just when it was getting good, so today, we’ll make sure we steal everything you have!」
As the leader shouted out cheerfully, the faces of the men to his sides twist in joy.
「Hehe, the women we had our eyes on got away the last time we attacked them.」
「They’ll be on guard this time. Won’t it be a problem if the men of the village resist?」
After laughing down the worries of his underling, the leader focused his gaze ahead of him.
「They’re just farmers. Their brains are only capable of waving around a hoe or digging a well! Boys! Don’t be afraid just because they put up some resistance!」
「Got it!」replied his underlings in unison.
In their hands, they held axes, swords, spears, and bows.
「Don’t kill the women and children. They’re valuable products!」
「Boss, there’s some strange person up there!」
「Huh? Who is that…?」
There was a male in black standing alone in the desert.
Thinking this to be odd, the leader skillfully maneuvered his camel’s reins and approached the young boy’s side.
「Are you the village representative?」
This happens sometimes. There are people who petition a group not to attack their village in exchange for food.
Most bandits attack without hesitation because they’re going to steal everything anyway, but sometimes, there are villages who hire mercenaries, so they sometimes change their minds depending on the negotiations.
It’s rare for poor villages to hire mercenaries, and it’s not likely that the village they’re about to attack right now has that much money saved up.
What’s more, the leader of these bandits was a cautious man.
He sent out a few of his underlings a number of times for preliminary investigations, and the village right before him had been completely analyzed.
He brought his underlings with him because he had determined it would be safe. The leader unsheathed his sword from his waist and spoke.
「I’m not negotiating. We’ll be stealing everything there is from your village.」
Said the leader, but then he suddenly noticed.
He couldn’t tell because of the hood and eye patch, but upon closer inspection, he noticed a young face.
The leader thought he could probably sell him for a high price to those with that sort of preference.
「Kid, don’t make a fuss. You won’t get hurt if you don’t resist. Hey, tie this guy up.」
The leader instructs his underlings to capture the young boy.
— The young boy laughed fearlessly.
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After looking around at the bandits surrounding him, Hiro laughs at them scornfully.
He pierced 「Excalibur」 in the ground and stretched out both arms.
The wind blew through his black clothes, making the hem flutter in the wind.
「Now, who wants to die first?」
After hearing those words, the bandits around him suddenly started to laugh.
「This kid’s pretty funny!」
「I think I just heard the funniest joke of the year!」
「Wait, it might be some new form of negotiating. Hey, kid! I’ll die first—」
A man who was holding his stomach with tears in his eyes came forward.
From the point of view of the men, Hiro didn’t show any signs of having moved.
The wind didn’t make a sound and the silver sword was still pierced into the ground.
And yet, the head of the man who was approaching Hiro disappeared, and a spray of blood redder than the setting sun painted the sky.
Despite being showered by their friend’s blood, they were unable to grasp what had happened.
The specks of blood floating down paint the desert red, and the body of the now headless man raises a cloud of dust as it collapses.
And once more, while still in the same position as before, Hiro ruthlessly says aloud with both arms extended.
「Who wants to die next?」
A timid looking bandit in the rear let out a sound from deep inside his throat which couldn’t even be considered a scream.
He turned his back in an attempt to retreat, but his head goes rolling across the sand.
His corpse collapses with a thud, and everyone focuses their gaze in that direction.
「Next. Who wants to die?」
Hiro lets out a spine tingling voice. The faces of the bandits stiffen up.
A sudden gust assails them. It swirls the sand up and covers everyone’s field of view.
It was just for a short moment.
When the cloud of dust cleared, the hood was removed from Hiro’s head, and his black hair and black eyes were exposed.
The bandits grow tense with his black, gem-like eyes fixated on them.
They all gasped as they saw his black hair fluttering in the wind.
In order to break the silence, one of the bandits atop a camel yells silently and raises his sword up.
But his arm never swings down. Again, this man’s head disappears.
However— Hiro hasn’t done a thing. That’s how it appears to the bandits.
「… Shall I begin the hunt?」
Hiro pronounces. He grips the handle of 「Excalibur」 and twists his body.
His black clothes expand before the bandits’ eyes. Jet black— The symbol of fear, and the emblem of darkness.
It’s a sight that would leave anyone dumbfounded and their body’s petrified.
In a flash, one bandit was slashed and felled, while the one next to him was pierced flamboyantly and kicked away.
Immediately after that, Hiro, who had been in the center of the group of bandits, disappeared, and a silver line smoothly passed through the bodies of the bandits.
It was as if they weren’t even wearing armor. As if cutting through silk, the bandits were easily sliced apart one at a time.
The desert absorbed the blood of the bandits as the flames of each of their lives were extinguished with a single flash of light.
As they watched their friends lose their lives, the group of bandits fell into a panic.
It’s understandable, seeing as how they didn’t even know how they were being attacked.
Some ran. Some stood boldly. Some were frozen in fear.
The group of bandits displayed different reactions, but those who turned their backs had their torsos cut into pieces, those who stood boldly had their heads cut off, and those who were frozed in fear died by the blade of an assassin.
「… What is this?!」
He can’t think of any other words. That’s what the leader’s expression is saying.
「A-Am I seeing a dream or something…?」
The leader stares in amazement at the number of dead bodies which still had life in them just a moment ago.
Then, a pale faced underling approached him.
「Boss! This guy’s a mon—」
Unable to finish his sentence, his body was buried in the sand like an offering.
Fear takes over the scene as the screams of the bandits spread throughout the quiet space.
「Damn it, we’re running away!」
The leader turned the head of his camel and tried to withdraw.
Hiro propelled himself off the ground to dash over to the leader, grabbing his head to make sure he didn’t get away.
Hiro forces him down off the camel’s back by sheer force and swung his fist down at his face.
「Agh, urgh! Ah!」
After swinging his fist down a few more times, finally, he stomped on the leader’s face and knocked him out.
Hiro takes 「Excalibur」, which he was holding with an underhanded grip, deftly turns the handle around and holds it perfectly level.
The bandits, to which its tip was pointed, drop their weapons as their eyes welled up with tears.
It looks as if they tried to slash him from behind and failed.
「S-Spare us! Just spare our lives… We won’t attacked the village anymore!」
「I don’t mind.」
「If you’re able to run away that is.」
I’m saved— The man’s face lit up with hope initially. But his neck gets pierced through with a blade and his life comes to an end.
A large amount of blood overflows from his mouth and his body collapses at the same time. The bandits throw down their weapons and run like headless chickens in all directions.
Hiro, who was coldly looking at their backs, disappeared with a silver flash.
The villagers who were watching what was transpiring were dumbfounded.
A group of over twenty bandits were annihilated in the blink of an eye without having a chance to attack the village.
This reality left the villagers speechless.
Then, Hiro approaches them with the leader’s head in his grasp.
Hiro threw the passed out leader with his limbs sprawled out before the feet of the villagers.
Hiro and the leader— The villagers shift their gaze back and forth between the two.
「He’s the leader of the group that raided your village. I’ll let you deal with him.」
Hiro turns his back to the confused villagers and approaches the 「shiryu」 who is resting in a shade.
His powers were clearly not those of an ordinary person.
Even if he did save the village, to be shown this clear display of such extraordinary powers, it’s only natural they would hold some reservation towards him.
That’s what Hiro was thinking, but then…
「Wait a second. Where are you going?」
The farmer he first met called out to Hiro and stopped him.
Hiro turned back confused.
「I don’t have to spell it all out for you, do I? Desert nights are freezing cold. Do you have a place to stay the night?」
「I don’t… but I was just going to look for a rocky area and—」
「Then stay the night at my place. Don’t underestimate desert nights. And looking at your belongings, it doesn’t look like you have any blankets or heavy clothing.」
The villagers behind the farmer look at Hiro with mixed expressions.
They’re probably afraid that the strength which annihilated the bandits may be pointed towards them.
Most of all, his ominous black hair and black eye made the villagers wary.
There’s no way the farmer doesn’t realize this… But the farmer patted the shoulders of the hesitant Hiro.
「Don’t worry about it. Everyone in the village is grateful, too. It’s just taking them a while to take in the what happened.」
The farmer turned around and asks, 「right?」
The villagers nodded while wearing mixed expression.
「There you have it. My house isn’t grand enough to accommodate people, but it’s more comfortable than a night in the desert.」
After telling the villagers to, 「have him tell you where the kidnapped people are,」 he then patted Hiro on the back and urged him to walk forward.
「Ahh, also, I’m the village chief. But don’t expect too much in terms of food because of that. I can’t really serve you anything special.」
Hiro’s not exactly sure how to respond, so he just forces a smile.
But to think he was the village chief. Now he understands why the villagers reacted the way they did earlier.
They probably don’t want to get involved with a strange young boy, but if the village chief feels like it, they can’t refuse.
—Maybe that’s how much the villagers adore him.
As Hiro was thinking this, the village chief had stopped in front of his residence.
It’s likely his house— On the outside, it looked dirty and had noticeable cracks. You couldn’t call it a nice house by any standards.
But it’s size maintained the dignity of a village chief’s residence.
From the entrance, he caught sight of the women and children who had taken refuge there.
Hiro feels relieved. Deep down, he was glad the children weren’t forced to watch such a cruel scene.
After watching the people return to their houses, Hiro stepped into the large residence and was taken to a spacious area.
「This is my dining hall.」
It was a simple dining hall with nothing but a long table and wooden chairs placed along it.
Hiro was offered a seat so he settled into a chair. After a short while, some bread and warm soup appeared before him.
「I’m sorry this is all I can offer for the person who saved the village.」
「Not at all… It looks very good.」
「I appreciate you saying that. I’ll send something for your 「shiryu」 later, too.」
「Thank you very much.」
「No, no, it’s no problem. But aside from that, you’re able to ride a 「shiryu」?」
「I raised it since it was little. It’s like a sibling to me. I think maybe that’s why I can ride it.」
He lied on the spur of the moment, but it probably won’t make him wary.
It was a harmless response, and it seemed like he accepted it.
「Wow~ that’s amazing. If anyone, I thought it would just be the anthros who could ride such a temperamental dragon.」
The village chief’s voice bounces cheerfully as he carries a piece of bread to his mouth.
「Based on your appearance… I’d say you’re about 14? And yet, you were able to annihilate the entire group of bandits by yourself. Are you an elf by any chance? They don’t let on to their age.」
「— Yes, one of my ancestors was an elf… Apparently that blood is thick in me. Though I look the way I do, I’ll be over 50 this year.」
He could’ve corrected him, but just the thought of how much time it would take to convince him of the truth made Hiro shrink back.
If he can fool him into believing he’s a descendant of an elf, there’s nothing to lose in that.
— All I do is lie lately.
Hiro smirks as he mocks himself.
「I knew it. I hear there are many highly skilled elves. I’m sure you’re one of them. But I’m surprised you’re a traveler.」
He waits a beat after bemoaning that it’s such a waste, then opened his mouth to speak again.
「There’s a ton of stuff I’d like to ask you, but I won’t pry. I’m sure you have various circumstances if you live long enough.」
「That would help me out.」
Afterwards, Hiro ate silently, taking a sip of his soup after his stomach was satisfied. Then he began to chat with the village chief.
「Do you know where the Grantz Grand Empire headed?」
「I’ve heard a number of forts have fallen. It seems like they’ve forced their way south to the capital. Well, it’s right after a third summoning. It’s only natural that the forts are empty. What is the government thinking…? This is a huge burden for us.」
「To the capital, huh…」
The Imperial command from the emperor should have been to suppress the northern region and force the Lichtein Dukedom to sit down for negotiations.
Why did they arbitrarily decide to go all the way to the capital?
(Did they get carried away?)
The Fourth Imperial Army’s role is to gain control over the oasis city in the north, then watch over the activities of the other countries that border the south.
The Grantz Grand Empire doesn’t have the time to get involved with the Lichtein Dukedom right now.
The emperor currently has his eyes set on the Ferzen Province, and the nobles of the capital are trying to feel each other out for the benefit of their own interests.
If they received such unprofitable news as to the destruction of the Lichtein Dukedom during this time, they might lament the fact, but they would not likely be pleased.
(… Besides, what’s going to happen if they lose?)
No matter how powerful the Fourth Imperial Army is, it’s not going to be that simple.
If you fail to annihilate a country, their resistance becomes intense, and there’s the possibility of the war being drawn out.
This would mean the southern region would become impoverished, and that would lead to a drop in the country’s power.
Furthermore, munitions and goods aren’t free. Even if you gain supplies from the enemy country, there’s a limit to that.
(… I hope Liz doesn’t clash with the commander.)
Hiro makes a gloomy face and sighs. Then, a villager came in from the entrance of the residence.
「Mr. Kukuri, the leader of the bandits has his lips sealed tight. Everyone in the village is seething and they’re about to beat him to death. I can’t stop them. You need come, Mr. Kukuri.」
The village chief, Mr. Kukuri, stood up.
「Alright. I’ll be there soon so don’t let them rush into anything.」
The villager left and Chief Kukuri shot his gaze at Hiro.
「I’m going to go see the leader that was captured earlier. What are you going to do?」
「I’d like to rest.」
He wondered if it would be better to help them, but the villagers reacted the way they did to him.
He’d probably be nothing but a hindrance if he went.
「You’re right… that may be better.」
Chief Kukuri headed towards the north side of the dining hall and opened a wooden door.
「You can rest in this room. Use it however you’d like.」
Aftering leaving him with those words, Chief Kukuri ran out of the residence.
After watching him go off, Hiro stands up from his chair and heads for the room which he was offered.
He’ll leave early tomorrow morning. Considering what’s to come, he must recuperate his spirits.
Hiro threw himself on the bed, and perhaps because it had been a while since he was able to get any proper sleep, he quickly fell into a deep sleep.