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Chapter 616

“We don’t know how long they’ll take to get someone to check us, so we need to get moving.” I instructed. “Another group of ten is heading down the road we’re overlooking. They’ll be here in a minute. This time, try to kill them without damaging their outfits.”

“It’s not wise to engage parties of bandits larger than your own.” Ruby said helpless and sighed. “Why do I bother? I feel like you’re going to do this either way.”

“I’m sorry, Ruby, but if it makes you feel any better, by the time we engage with them, they won’t be any larger than our own party.”

“…”

We waited until they came into view. They were the typical ruffians, except for one guy who was in a robe. My guess was that he was either a Dark Priest or a magician. The magician would probably prove to be a lot more dangerous to us. Ruby’s brow furrowed. In her previous assessment on five hundred, she was only including Bandits. Dark priests, Black Mages, Shadow Mages, Assassins, Bandit Kings… they all had their own points assigned to conquering them. She had been hoping that we wouldn’t be countering more than large groups of bandits.

It was also clear they were moving with some kind of formation. The last group I had fought had been rather unorganized. These guys moved more like soldiers. I still wasn’t worried. Compared to the Knights sent from Alerith, they didn’t have that kind of atmosphere. I was certain we were more than enough to deal with them while not raising any alarms.

“Ah… before we go, loot your target quickly so their stuff doesn’t just disappear.”

Usually, it’d be miasma that would eat up objects and convert them into more miasma to fuel the dungeon curse. However, I noticed that when these guys disappeared, their armor and clothing had gone with them. Whatever process found and resurrected them within moments of death seemed to even bring their items with them. It was no wonder the bandits were so bold. Usually, even if they didn’t fear death, they feared losing the money they worked so hard to gain. Armor wasn’t cheap for common folk and losing everything to a soldier or Knight had to sting for any bandit.

“Carmine, you’re up!”

“Yes!”

Carmine just jumped out and right into the middle of the path. She slammed her shield down, making no attempt to act hidden. I had expected that from her. She was the diversion. Shao, Salicia, and Raissa had already left. They’d attack from behind. I was a little worried for Raissa, but she was a professional. When we were battling harder units, I’d keep her back, but letting her gain levels now would only be in her best interest.

“Miki, get ready to daze them.”

“Yes!”

The bandits who were walking down the path came to a stop. They weren’t too foolish. They were uneasily looking in the forests. It clearly looked like a trap.

“A Paladin? Here? All alone?” The cloaked man said in a raspy voice. “What does the church want with little old us?”

“All your money!”

“Eh?”

“Give me your gold! Or death!”

“Y-you’re robbing us?”

“The church?”

“Wait! Where is my coin pouch!”

“Mine is gone too!”

“I’ve been robbed!”

“Ahh… two of our men just collapsed! They’re dead!”

“Salicia! Why do you have ten coin purses?”

“Eh? Master said to loot first!”

“He said loot quickly!”

“I did! I looted them before they are even dead! Now you can kill them!”

“I can’t tell who are the bandits and who are the good guys?” Ruby said tearfully.

I wasn’t sure either.

Chapter 617

“Shao! Dark Cloud! Miki! Befuddle! Carmine! Shield Bash!”

I could have given these orders through Slave Communication, but since Carmine and Salicia were not used to working together, I called out everything for their benefit as well as Ruby’s.

Ruby grabbed her sword and jumped onto the path, running past Carmine. However, just as she reached the black cloud that was now blocking the vision of Ruby, it disappeared. She stopped as she saw that all the bandits, the robed man included, were on the ground. Three girls were standing in the middle of them. Shao and Salicia were standing out confidently, while Raissa was standing back a bit, holding her weapon tightly as she looked to me for approval. Ruby leaned down and checked one of the bodies.

“Unconscious?”

“I didn’t feel like undressing them in a rush.” Shao shrugged.

“Miki…” I nodded to her.

“Working on it.” She squinted, sending a certain spiritual attack at the men.

“Cut all their throats.” I ordered as I walked out among the group. “Ah… leave the robed man alive and tie him up.”

“Deek!” Ruby’s expression turned sour, “They’re not a threat. We can just send them through one of your Portals to a prison. It isn’t just cruel, it’s pointless. If you kill them, you’ll just be sending them for Resurrection. You’ll have accomplished nothing.”

“Is that so?” As I walked by each man, I touched their shoulder, and then nodded.

For every man I touched, Salicia or Shao would walk by them and stab down into their throats. They rarely needed a second strike to finish the job. Ruby didn’t look at them, but she watched me with judgmental eyes. I hadn’t wanted to bring her in the first place. If the Guild Master hadn’t forced her on me, well, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. In fact, I had been very particular about who I brought for specific reasons.

Neither Shao, Carmine, nor Salicia balked at this kind of death. Other than Ruby, only Raissa looked uneasy about it, but not to the level where she was going to protest. That was actually one other reason I had sent Lydia, Celeste, and Terra away. I didn’t want them to see what I had to do. Shao had seen all of me, and wouldn’t hesitate to do any manner of ugliness in my name. As for Miki, she already understood what I was trying to do. Miki, who was closest to death, was the least threatened by it. It wasn’t that I thought they would reject me, rather, it was that I didn’t want to force them to act against their nature if possible.

Seven of the men were stripped naked, while all the equipment was confiscated and placed in a storage ring. As for the man who was unconscious, I dragged him off the road and put some distance between us and the spot where we had killed the first two. Then I propped him against a tree and had the girls tie him to it. When I looked away, Ruby was still watching me.

“That’s eleven dead.” She said in a somewhat bitter voice. “You successfully destroyed a band worth of bandits. Congratulations, you’re Rank E.”

Chapter 618

As the man lay unconscious, I found a flat spot on a log and laid out a sheet of parchment I pulled from my ring as well as a quill. I began drawing the immediate area around us. I drew the city, the forest, and the path. It was at moments like this I wished I had wasted even a little bit of time leveling Cartographer. If I did, my map would assuredly be much better. As it was, it was barely passable.

“That’s incredible!” Ruby gasped as she watched me draw and finally realized what it was.

Well, it was pretty nice, but that had less to do with Cartographer and more to do with the fact I had the real map in front of me using my Map skill. I was just copying what I saw to paper, which was much easier than one a normal Cartographer did. I wasn’t going to attempt to explain this cheat. It was a part of me, and the tattoos all over my body were proof that I had earned it. When I was finally done with a rough copy of the area between the mountains and the city, I rolled it up and turned my attention to the unconscious man.

I didn’t like wasting magic on an enemy, but in this case, I didn’t want to wait. I lifted my hand and healed him. That was followed immediately by Refresh. He ended up waking up with a gasp a few minutes later. As his eyes grew focused, he tried to move, and finding he wasn’t able to, his eyes ended up narrowing on me. He had rightly determined I was in charge here.

“What do you want?” He demanded.

“What do you think?” I responded, unrolling the map. “I want troop positions. I want to know where your people are hidden.”

“I’m not telling you! And they’re not my people!”

“Funny, I wasn’t asking.” I said. “Miki?”

“Yes, Master… Pain!”

“Ahhhhhhh…Ahhhhh….” He screamed as Miki used a skill on him.

From what I understood, the feeling was like having a hundred needles jammed into your brain. It didn’t look comfortable.

“So, troop positions…”

“I… I won’t say anything! Just kill me?”

“Why, so you can get resurrected and report about us?”

“Y-you bastard!”

“Miki…”

“Ahhhhhhhh…Ahhhhhh!”

“Deek! That’s enough!” Ruby cried out. “Besides, nearby bandits might hear us and come to investigate!”

“Haven’t you noticed it’s a bit quiet?”

She blinked and then listened and looked around. She only realized now that there was a dark haze around them, and it appeared to be blocking sound.

“I can’t control sound like Celeste, but if it’s just muffling some screams, I can manage that much!” Shao chuckled.

Ruby looked like she was going to be sick while Miki stopped causing pain to the man. I kneeled down next to him.

“So, I hope you understand. We can keep doing this for ages. Troop… positions!”

“Y-you… you’re crazy!”

“Miki!”

“No! No… I’ll tell you! Anything!”

I looked up and nodded to Salicia. She cut a rope, freeing one hand of his. He pointed to a dozen spots. I highlighted each one on the map.

“That will do,” I said after he seemed to run out of places to point.

“Th-then you’ll let me go?”

I nodded. “Shao. Give him release.”

“Yes, Master!” She pulled her knife, and just as he thought it was going for the rope, it slid into his ribs.

He let out a single cry. “Y-you…”

Then he died.

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