Yesterday had more been a trial period to get our feet wet. Now was the time we truly began the operation to retake southwest Chalm. I haven’t given up my plans to instill fear into the Bandits, but this would need to be a slow, gradual process. If I scared them too much, they were likely to flee, and then we’d never be able to stop them. They would cause havoc all over Aberis and possibly in Esmere and the Ost Republic too. To truly win, our victory needed to be absolute.
For now, I wanted to push against their territory. Most of them were concentrated around Regency. If I started taking out the smaller bands on the edges that were currently occupying small villages and ransacked cities, then they would be forced to resurrect closer together. I wanted to shrink their realm and get them to start becoming just a bit reckless.
I spoke with the elder of the village, and he fortunately had more knowledge than his son. There were about ten villages within a day’s walk of us, and we were about a five-day journey from Regency. Of course, if I used portals, I could cut that to a few hours, and now that I was here, the journey to Regency took half a second, but that wasn’t the point. Once I reached each of these places, the return journey would be much easier, and if I used Portal as a shortcut, I likely could visit half of them in a single day.
Where the Grand Master’s ability to cause awe came in impressive looking magic, all I had was extreme speed. If I tackled several cities at once, they’d think our army was far larger and more capable than they imagined. It would likely take some time before all the dead men would realize they were defeated by the same group. At that point, they’d become cautious of our ability to get around and further stay together. If I wanted to get rid of all of them, I definitely needed them not to spread out, but to grow closer together.
“See, Carmine? This brother and sister couple are married and deeply in love.” Salicia declared as she had a conversation with a young man and his wife.
“Yes ma’am… I love my sister more than anything!” The man declared. “At first, she was resistant, but I kept at it and eventually she accepted my love.”
“I see!” Salicia’s eyes brightened. “So, as long as I keep at it, I’ll win my sister’s love!”
“W-wait!” The man’s eyes widened. “You love your sister as well?”
“I do! I will definitely keep at it!”
“But you’re a woman!”
“She’s a perverted freak!” The woman said.
I grabbed Salicia’s hand before she stabbed the incestuous couple to death. The pair winced when she lunged at them, and then ran away, all while shooting her disgusted looks. Carmine giggled upon seeing her sister’s attempt to rub it in going haywire.
“Those… bigots!” Salicia cried. “Are we really going to save this town?”
“Didn’t you tell me just yesterday we absolutely must save this town, because it gives hope to your relationship with your sister?”
“That was before I realized the dark corruption underneath! This village is clearly beyond saving!”
Rather than continue to fight with her, I created a Portal and then stepped through, starting my journey to the first village on our list.
Keeping an eye on the Map, I progressed slowly toward the closest village they had indicated. If I ran out of Portals, I’d probably use the points from Shao and Miki to keep going. I hadn’t expected my primary mode of travel to be Portals, and it was certainly a waste of such a skill, but it was efficient for what we were doing right now. The map kept me orientated so that I never ended up lost.
To be clear, my Map skill long had the map of Aberis filled out by looking at maps created by professional Cartographers in Aberis. In the absence of having visited an area, the map updates with the most readily available data. At the moment, that was any maps that I had studied since I had been here. Any area I visited was filled with an increasing amount of information. I couldn’t travel just anywhere on a map. It needed to have a certain level of detail first.
From what I understand about the Map skill, most people would need to survey the land in order to update their Map. Where simply seeing an area instantly gave me an update to the map that clearly showed every detail, the original Map skill required a bit of work to fill out. At the very least, someone had to consider all the variables and actively keep updating it. Since skills purchased with dungeon points always represented their highest tier, my Map was like a level 100 skill, which is why it worked so smoothly for me.
With the studied maps, it wasn’t necessary for me to be in an area to see said area, but the details were only at the level of the map, and if the map was drawn incorrectly, then the map in my head would also be off. Only by seeing it by eye do I have the maximum level of detail, which is also a requirement for Portal.
I was interested in how much an area could change before Portal ceased to work. After all, buildings came and went. Trees grew and were cut down. Even the landscape would change with time. I had to assume that eventually any place that I teleported to would eventually change to a point where I’d need to return to it and update my Map information if I wanted to have an accurate enough picture to Portal there. After all, I had to picture a place in my head, or select a target, to create a Portal, and if I pictured a place that no longer existed, then it didn’t work.
Unfortunately, portals were rare enough that there was no documentation on them that I had been able to find. Everything I learned was from trial and error. Was this how scientists felt trying to figure out the world before I could conveniently read about gravity and how tornados formed in science books? This world was kind of like that. Only I seemed to have the cheat of a system that told me what I was earning and unlocking, but even this only went so far.
It took only two portals before we were close to the city. I didn’t leap right into the city for obvious reasons. We didn’t know whether Bandits were in the city or what we were entering. However, in the distance I had seen a lot of smoke, and now that we were closer, I could see a billowing cloud along with the smell of blood and fire.
“Were we too late?”
Ruby reached down and grasped a hunk of ash. “Still warm, this didn’t happen too long ago.”
“Perhaps last night? These fires took a while to burn all the way.”
The town was nothing but ash. Every building had burned down, some of them didn’t have a single wall standing. Those that did were black and cracked. The fires were probably set by accident. Anyone who thought the bandits were trying to hide their dirty deeds weren’t looking in the streets. Bodies lay in the streets, sometimes in rows like they had been systematically lined up and executed. There were women, children, and men who had all been dragged out of their homes and killed, whether they were holding a weapon or not.
“This is a slaughter.” Salicia said, her expression shockingly stoney.
“You disapprove?” Ruby snorted. “A Bandit King?”
“We steal money. We only kill to intimidate or protect ourselves. We’re thieves. This is a massacre!”
My eyes widened as I realized that Salicia seemed somewhat angry. Her eyes were red and her fists were trembling at her side. I reached out and touched her shoulder. She looked over at me and then calmed down.
“Salicia…” Carmine watched with a somewhat complicated expression.
“It’s not how I would have done it… that’s all.” She turned and walked away, heading away from the city where she didn’t have to see any more corpses.
Carmine turned to me. “This is like… our village. It was a similar event.”
That was right. The pair of them had their home destroyed by Bandits when they were just children as well. In that way, it was odder that Salicia went on to become a Bandit King. Yet, I suppose she did have her own way of doing things then. Most people were allowed to leave once giving up their wealth. People who fled were allowed to go. Compared to this kind of slaughter, it was preferred.
“Gather all the bodies.” I ordered.
We had expected that the city would be like this. When I had gotten the list from the elder, I didn’t just ask for every city and village that might still be around, but every city period. When Bandits wiped out a city, they were knowingly condemning that city to death. Without any relatives to try to bring you back, or anyone even aware you were dead, that was the original fate of all these people.
However, the Bandits had found some means of resurrecting themselves, and I did too. Although I had Dark Ceremony, which was the Dark Priest version of Resurrection, Miki had already unlocked Resurrection from her high-level Spiritualist. Originally, the spell had required fairy dust to use as a combination skill, but her Spiritualist eventually reached a level where Resurrection was possible without a mana additive. Now, the additive was simply an extra she used if the Resurrection needed to be stronger.
To explain it simply, when someone died, their spirit left their body and slowly started to degrade, fragmenting into pieces. If those pieces get too near to a curse, it may eat them up. The rate of decay involved many factors, which a general rule stated someone could be resurrected within one month of death. After a month, the chances of success dropped significantly. If you added frequent deaths, a damaged soul, or a cursed dungeon in the mix, and this rate dropped even more.
Resurrection could be seen like a vacuum, sucking up all the pieces and putting them back together. If someone’s soul was lost in a dungeon, it’d be like cleaning under the furniture. The vacuum couldn’t reach it and recover the pieces. The more mana and power behind a Resurrection, the stronger and better the soul can be pieced back together. To the villagers here who had only died a day or so ago and still had their bodies, the Resurrection would naturally require very little mana to work efficiently, depending on the damage of the bodies.
In short, I would undo this massacre, and from the ashes would rise an army.