We didn’t have to walk far before we heard a man yelling out orders. I led the group over to him. He was a bald, skinny man with a worn look. He was wearing piecemeal armor, but it didn’t look nearly as nice as the dungeon gathered assortments I was used to wearing. I actually hadn’t found any particularly good armor lately, and various fights had destroyed several of my best pieces. The one thing role-playing games never taught me was how easy it was for armor to break down and be destroyed. Well, maybe part of that was my own personal life choices, but I didn’t want to get into that at the moment.
As we approached him, a sudden explosion nearby caused the earth to shake and the soldiers nearby to start moving with a bit of speed. The man who appeared to be in charge bellowed out some orders.
“Get some water on that!” He yelled. “Get some archers on the walls! Keep those magicians back!”
“This is less like a bandit attack and more like a siege.” Ruby muttered.
“You, are you soldiers sent by the Capital?” The man noticed our group approaching and immediately barked that question in our direction.
I tried to look confident, resting my hand on my sword. “I am Lord Deekson, I’ve come…”
“Whatever! Get to the wall! I don’t have enough men right now.” He eyed the women behind me and made a face. “I guess a bunch of slave women will have to do. I asked the city for reinforcements, and they sent me some haughty noble.”
The somber expression on my face slipped to a frown. As I went to say something, Ruby grabbed my arm and pulled me along. The man was already barking orders at other people, not paying us any mind. That was probably for the best, as Shao was giving him a dangerous look, and even Miki looked like she wanted to bite him.
“He’s a busy man. It’s best not to get into fights here. You may be a Lord in Chalm, but in Regency you’re just a C-class adventurer who took on a quest. Technically, you’re not even that, as I’m your mentor.” Ruby advised. “In short, follow after me. Although you are helping out Aberis, officially, you’re working under Adventurer Guild bylaws right now.”
I nodded, although the frown didn’t leave my face. I motioned for the other girls to join me, and we followed Ruby up to the wall. As I glanced out over the field, it was definitely an eerie sight. There wasn’t a row of people waiting outside, or a group of tents blocking our spot. In fact, there didn’t appear to be a single bandit in view. They were all hiding in the forest beyond. If I squinted hard, I could just make out movements hidden within the shadows.
What made the battlefield so frightening wasn’t the bandits waiting to flood into the city, but their absence. In their place was a massive field. Not a single body remained on it. They had either been picked up or reincarnated. Their old bodies turned to dust as their new bodies were assembled with Resurrection. Yet, it was still clearly a battlefield. It bore countless scars. There were arrows, abandoned equipment, carts, craters, and smoking holes.
The land was pockmarked from uncountable battles. There was another boom, but this one came from another wall. People ran to that wall to try to protect it, but it was clear that the bandit’s attacks could come from any side at any moment. They were just buying their time and slowly bringing the city to the breaking point. Without intervention, the city would fall to bandit hands in days, maybe weeks if they were lucky. Then, all of southwest Aberis would be lost, and even Chalm’s connection to the country would be severed.
This was more serious a problem than I had been led to believe. Thankfully, we were there.
“Officially, the requirement for a C-ranked bandit quest is to destroy one band of bandits. Officially, that is ten Bandits. A troop of Bandits would be 50. A murder of Bandits would be 100. Anything more would be an army. Given your current rank as an F, completely a single C quest would be enough to bring you to E. Another 5 would bring you to D, and 50 to C. So, in short, to reach C, you’d need to bring down 500 bandits by yourself to be able to just reach my rank.
“In general, I’d say this was the worst way to gain levels as an Adventurer, and I’d advise anyone else to do something else. However, I’m also aware that you were ordered by the future King to help clear out bandits, but a single formation cannot reverse the tide of a battle this bad. It’s going to take the army and powerful generals to be able to recover this land. I guess what I’m saying is that this mess is outside of our pay-grade. If it wasn’t for your need to level and your promise to the King, I’d have already returned and paid the cancellation fee myself.
“I recommend that we play it safe. We engage when other people engage. We work with the town to repel them. You gain a few levels, and then we can see about finding you other missions to complete.”
I knew that Ruby was just expressing her genuine feelings at this moment, but she also hadn’t seen my group fight. I supposed she was basing us on her experience with other groups. However, my girls were not like other groups. It wasn’t the fact their levels were higher that differentiated them from an average Adventuring team. Rather, it was all the boosts they gained from being close to me. As slaves of a Slave Master, they were stronger. As girls of a Harem Master, they were stronger. As the party of a Hero, they were better. Any given boost might be small, but they were adding up, and this discrepancy would only grow as I grew as well.
It had been a long time since I had last done some serious leveling, and I had to admit I was eager to gain levels and get stronger. Every time I faced a powerful foe like Alysia, I was reminded of just how inadequate I was. It felt like a never-ending race with no finish line. The first thing I did was call out Map and then use Sense Life. My Sense Life could be spread out farther as long as I pushed mana into it. If I wanted to, it could work for the distance of a kilometer or two.
I was actually surprised at how well it worked here. The miasma of a dungeon, even with my high miasma tolerance, still restricted the distance of Sense Life. The often winding passageways further lowered it. I had never used it before on the surface. Although life was basically everywhere, it was able to determine all the enemy’s movements around the city in an instant. With me on a wall, I also had a good vantage point, and was able to take a good look around the perimeter of the city.
In short, it only took me seconds to gain more intel that this city likely had in the weeks before this. I almost wanted to act a bit smug about it, but I realized it wasn’t a good time for acting that way. Either way, it was time to make our first strike. I just needed to figure out how.
“As an Adventurer, do I have to listen to this mayor guy?” I asked Ruby cautiously.
She frowned hesitantly, but still decided to answer. “Not necessarily, but it would be safer for everyone if we just followed orders.”
“I see… and you said my Adventuring card will log any bandit kills I receive?”
She watched me suspiciously, “Yes, and as a Slave Master, any kill one of your slaves gets will count as yours.”
“Thanks, I appreciate the help.”
“Deek, what are you planning on doing?” Her voice was just a bit unsteady.
“We’re here to deal with the bandit problem. If I just wanted a few ranks in Adventuring, as you said, there are easier ways to achieve it.”
“You… I know that you have defeated a few dungeons, but even so…”
I raised a hand and opened a Portal. “You’re welcome to come with us.”
Ruby crossed her arms and made a pout. “You say that like I would make any other choice! I’m here to keep you safe, so I naturally must come along. Although, you’re putting me in a difficult situation. You’re the lord of my city, so I can’t just bully you. You’re asking me to put a lot of trust in you right now.”
Raissa’s hand touched Ruby’s shoulder, causing her to look over in surprise. The small wolfgirl gave a nod.
“He’s worth putting your trust in. I had similar thoughts about him when I first followed him into a dungeon. Yet, despite everything, he always seems to come out on top.”
Ruby glanced at the other girls. Miki smiled and nodded in affirmation. Shao only shrugged, while Carmine and Salicia seemed to not care much at all about the confirmation. Salicia was looking across the battlefield curiously, while Carmine was casually filing her nails.
This wasn’t the formation I was used to either. In truth, I was putting some trust in them as well. I was teleporting to an area without bandits, though. I also had a plan. With a breath, I took a step through the Portal into the land beyond. We were in a clearing in the forest. There was no life in this clearing. We were now roughly behind the bandits, who were mostly focused on the roads and the city itself.
There were bandits a short distance away. I led the girls toward them while keeping low. “Shao… Salicia, take them out. Swift death.”
“You don’t want them alive?” Miki asked.
I shook my head. “This isn’t like last time. We need to defeat the bandits permanently.”
“Ah… when engaging a thief or Bandit, the best way to… and they’re gone.” Ruby let out a sigh as Shao and Salicia left like smoke.
Both Shao and Salicia used the darkness attribute. This wasn’t to be confused with miasma, corrupted mana, although there certainly was a compatibility between the two. However, their abilities manifested in a much different way. While Shao was a Shadow Knight, her movements always clung to the darkness. She was like a creature of the night, always hidden until she struck. She killed her opponent with the slice of a blade he never saw.
“She’s like an Assassin!” Raissa said wonderingly.
Despite that, it was Raissa who had the Assassin job. I wondered how she had earned such a job. It’d be nice if Shao got the job too. I had a feeling it’d only improve her skills.
While Salicia’s Bandit King seemed to use the darkness attribute too, her magic was pure destruction. She shot a black beam which pierced the bandit’s heart, causing him to collapse to the ground dead. Of course, the church was opposed to darkness attributed jobs because of their similarity to miasma. Although the current church in the Capital seemed to not mind, the church of old before the break seemed to go to great lengths to suppress them. Even now, Priests wouldn’t change the job of a darkness attribute person.
Either way, the two men watching over the road in their hiding spot were wiped out in an instant. Ruby was impressed, as they were in a spot where even she hadn’t noticed them. Had I not been able to identify them on my Map, I might not have seen them either. However, she hadn’t seen anything yet. We were just getting started.