“I found the stairs!” A dreaded yell came from the distance.
That likely came from the floor above us. That meant that these damn bandits had actually caught up again. We were on 18th floor now. If we could make it to the 19th floor kiosk room, we could lock ourselves in and battle the guardian at our own leisure. We could always escape back to the 1st floor kiosk, although we’d have to leave Carmine alone and we’d be giving the weapon to the Bandit King. We rushed down the stairway and began racing along the cooridors
“The stairway!” I said in a hushed whisper, afraid that if I made too much noise, I’d give away our location to the Bandits trailing behind us. “Terra, where is the door?”
“H-how would I know that…” She said awkwardly. “I don’t like coming down here…. He’s down here.”
I was hoping that Terra knew the way and after carrying her for the last couple of floors would endear her enough to tell us. However, she claimed she didn’t know. I wanted to stop and ask her about it, but there was no time for that. It turned out she really did have some kind of Guardian trauma, and didn’t like the creature at all.
Although the dungeon was small, it still was about the size of a mansion with multiple wings. It took about 15 minutes to search the whole thing. At this point, running into the Bandits was just as likely as running into the room. Also, by the time we reached the room, the Bandits might already be there.
Just as I was thinking about such worrisome things, we turned a corner and at the very end was a group of people. Standing in the forefront was a full armored person in furs who looked to be the best armed of the bunch. They had a dangerous aura about them.
“Carmine!” The melodious voice laughed. “I’ve finally found you!”
“Run!” Carmine cried out, turning and racing the other way.
“Hehehe… run all you want, you can escape me!” Their voice had a slightly perverted tinge to it.
I considered testing our might against the Bandit King, but I knew I wouldn’t be making the first blow. Lydia would. In my mind, I saw Lydia leaping out to meet him, only for the Bandit to use some trick. In an instant, Lydia was cut down. I shook my head of the vision, but there was no way I could risk her life like that.
“Fireball!” I shouted, tossing my spell down the path.
“Wind slash!” Celeste joined in, also sending her own spells joining it.
We turned to follow Carmine, not waiting to see what came of the attacks. Although their was a loud sound as the attacks landed, it sounded like they struck some kind of hard surface. I had a feeling the Bandit King had managed to block the attacks completely.
“They’re over there!” Another shout came as we passed an intersection, managing to be seen by yet another group.
“There it is!” Carmine cried out as she turned a corner.
There was a door leading into the kiosk room, but it was a good 100 meters down the hall. Worse, the Bandit King was standing on the other end of the hall, about equal distance.
“Hehe… you’re done for now!”
“S-scary…” Terra buried her head into my shoulder.
It turned out that Terra wasn’t good with this high adrenaline stuff. Carmine stared down the hallway at the Bandit King, as if personally challenging him.
“Follow me!” She said, “Come!”
She threw back her cloak and pulled out a large sword. A white light sprawled across the hallway, nearly blinding everyone. With a shout, she began to race forward, heading straight for the Bandit King!
The Bandit King stood there and held out his arms. He didn’t appear to be charging Carmine at all. Rather, he had his arms spread out, and dark shadows were crawling around his body. It was clear, especially with the light Carmine was throwing off, that he was planning on casting a really powerful spell. With Carmine barreling forward, I realized I had no choice but to follow along.
The five of us followed Carmine as she raced down the hallway. The hope was that we could reach the door before his spell went off. The amount of time and mana he was pulling told me that this spell was particularly powerful. I didn’t know how strong the Bandit King was, but this was at least at the level of the strongest spell that Celeste could cast, and that could chop apart monsters like sushi.
“Salicia!” She screamed.
“Carmine! Let us see if you still have what it takes, sister!”
Sister? We reached the door, but just as we did, I could feel the explosion of power coming from the Bandit King. Carmine took two steps forward past the door and then slammed her sword down. A massive pillar of light exploded around her. Just as that happened, the darkness slammed into her.
The force of the powers colliding caused my ears to pop. She was almost shoved back as blackness curled around her shield of light. Some of the darkness still managed to get through, and her robes were torn asunder in various places. Underneath, a chainmail armor made of pure white was revealed. On her chest was a noticeable cross.
“A… Paladin?” I guessed.
Lydia nodded quietly. “She’s from the church. I know Master fancied her, but the church is notorious for disliking beastkin. That’s why she’s mostly ignored us since we got here.”
Miki nodded. “The church is willing to take on multi-tailed foxes, but only as slaves. We would be treated as tools. Some would say that is better than complete rejection, but after meeting Master’s kindness and speaking to those from Chalm, I’m no longer sure I feel that way. When I saw her dismiss me in her eyes, I really didn’t like it.”
“Eh? Is that why we didn’t like her?” Celeste touched her lips. “I just didn’t like her because her boobs are almost bigger than mine.”
“Geh!” Miki made a noise like she had been struck.
“R-really… I didn’t notice.” Lydia looked away, blushing.
I had noticed that too. Not her breast size, but that fact that she didn’t stand near any of the other girls, and she only ever addressed me. It was almost like the slaves didn’t exist in her sight. It appeared like there was some prejudice there.
Well, either way, she had put her life on the line to block that spell. Her white light was waning and the darkness was starting to win. We could have ducked into the boss room, but this girl had put her life on the line to protect me. Maybe it was more about challenging this sibling, I didn’t know, but she protected me and the girls nonetheless.
“Well, likeable or not, I should probably do what I’m best at… support.”
“Magic Circle!” I tossed out a circle around us, and to my delight it knocked back the darkness and enhanced her spell. “Moderate Heal. Refresh!”
I started tossing out spells. Meanwhile, I ordered Celeste to toss some wind spells behind us, where our pursuers were starting to catch up. They couldn’t make the 100 meter dash down the hallway with sharp wind spells being sent their way by a master magician.
“She really should be in my party…” I tsk’d in annoyance.
If she had the party up bonus, she might be fairing better than she was at the moment. I supposed enslaving her was a bit much to get slave bonuses, but anything would help. Unfortunately, it was too late now to invite her. That kind of thing couldn’t be done in the middle of battle. I continued to cast restorative properties on her. She managed to look back in shock. She had heard I was a healer before, but she must have taken it for granted.
Now, I was casting out spells that probably looked a bit like a Priests. Her eyes held just a hint of suspicion and worry, but she was too busy holding off the attack to do anything. She may be a Paladin, and she may work for the church, but whatever she was doing now appeared to be outside her jurisdiction. Perhaps, it was that this Bandit King was her brother.
It was a story that was easy to guess. A sister went on to be a paragon of good, while the brother went on to be a Bandit King. Now, after hearing about all the evil deeds her brother has done for too long, she decided to finally do something about it. So, she disobeyed orders, came to a town she knew he had an interest in. Perhaps they were both told the same childhood story about a magical guardian. She tried to get the weapon first and failed, and once he realized she was in the city, he came after her.
The attack went on for a solid minute, once again revealing just how powerful this Bandit King was. I eventually slipped her a mana potion and let her drink that as well to keep going. When the darkness finally drizzled to a stop and she let down her light guard, I could see several bandits on the floor, unconscious. It looked like he had drained them to keep using the spell.
“Sister… enough with this. Give me the guardian… and join me. Together, we can have riches more than you could believe.”
“I… will… never…” She collapsed to her knees.
I reached out and grabbed her. The Bandit King shot me a hard glare as he saw my arms around Carmine. He wasn’t some kind of siscon, was he? The rumors about him had to do with his desire to be with this woman. I had assumed when I realized their familial connection that this was probably just baseless rumor, but seeing how he was watching us, I started to wonder.
Either way, with the help of the girls, I pulled Carmine into the door. The Bandit King appeared to be spent by his spell, as he made no further attempt to attack us. Instead, he just watched with a glower as I slammed the door shut. We had made it into the boss room of Terra’s dungeon. It was time to fight the guardian, and hope he possessed the power for us to truly stop this Bandit King. Once we defeated the boss, they’d be teleported out to the entrance and would be waiting for us to pop out to attack.