The prices in Alerith were high even by the Capital’s standard. Thankfully, I had accumulated a fairly decent amount of wealth after our recent dungeon visits, and I could afford to shop here.
“I’m looking for weapons and armor that wouldn’t look amiss on a Bandit.” I began to explain my plan to Salicia in detail.
It wasn’t a particularly bright one. One of the reasons I pulled her out was to find out if it was feasible before wasting time on it. I also wanted to give the girls more time to recover. After a single night, they might be able to fight, but they’d still be a bit weak. The more time I gave them, the better. However, the people were suffering, so a day was all I could afford them. Then, we had to start working.
In short, I planned to infiltrate the Bandits. I originally stole Bandit outfits so that we could launch surprise attacks, but that backfired spectacularly. After only a single day, they had found us out and created a countermeasure. There were too many mysterious aspects to these Bandits. Perhaps, I had been a bit too arrogant and prideful. I had expected everything we had been through to be enough to deal with simple bandits.
The result of that was the death of my entire party. I figured that no matter how clever they were, we’d defeat them with strength and resolve. I figured no matter how tricky they were, we’d have our courage. In the end, I hadn’t just put Raissa in danger, I had put all of my girls.
Unless we could find out how they are resurrecting everyone like that and stop it, we were powerless against these guys. That led me to this conclusion. We had to go in and figure out the cause of their Resurrections.
“So, that is your plan?” Salicia asked, “We won’t be able to just march in and declare ourselves bandits. They are familiar with their people and would quickly notice an unfamiliar face.”
“If we captured a small bandit troop, Shao should be able to replicate their faces and we could sneak in that way.”
“Perhaps…” Salicia stroked her chin thoughtfully, “But would you be able to replicate their mannerisms? Their relationships with the other bands? Although the group is united under some Bandit King, each band is inherently self-serving. Some bands are allies, and some bands are bitter enemies. The larger the group of bandits, the more complex their connections are. Some bands are successful. Some are not.
“These aren’t like your soldiers. They don’t all wear the same armor and clothing, fight and train alongside each other, and have a sense of unity and loyalty. These are cutthroats, thieves, and murderers.”
“What do you suggest?” I asked.
“Our only option is to try to get them to accept us as one of them. We have to form our own band.”
“I understand. How do we do that?”
“Isn’t the answer simple? We rob people. We make a name for ourselves. We become bandits.”
“You don’t seem surprised by this?” Salicia raised an eyebrow.
“Why do you think we’re in Alerith?” I asked, looking around.
Salicia looked around, not seeming to understand what I meant. However, I already had a plan. Alerith had been taxing the poor for a while now. Since we needed to form a band and get our name out as the baddest in town, then what better way than to take from the rich, and give to the poor?
As Salicia had said, bandits don’t wear uniforms. They wore a random assortment of equipment from their cut of what they stole. If they were successful bandits, their outfits might be better, but if they were crappy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in rags. That meant that my girls couldn’t go out and about dressed in matching outfits of fine magical quality. We also couldn’t wear most of the gear found in the dungeons. A Bandit would usually sell off anything too valuable, as Salicia put it, so if we wanted to be bandits, we had to look cheap.
Unfortunately, I didn’t buy stuff of a cheap make. So, nothing I had in my storage would work. Even if we could use some of the stuff I bought, all of the girls had lost their storage rings and all of their equipment once again in another fire attack. Another reason I didn’t stick around the house and left so early was that I didn’t want to be there when the girls, particularly Carmine, realized just how much she lost in that last attack. She had even gone out of her way to carry more than she needed. Seeing it all go up in smoke had to be hard.
I was starting to dread storage rings, not that I’d be able to buy any more in the near future. Thankfully, I had my Storage skill and my time-stop storage ring, so I was good. I did fear it’d get destroyed, which is why I tossed it in storage before every encounter. Even if I had died, I’d only have lost what I had out to use quickly.
Still, I had the Bandit weapons and outfits we had stripped from the Bandits on our first day there. The original purpose had been to wear them to get close to the Bandits so that we could take them out by surprise. The disguise didn’t need to hold up for more than a few seconds until we got the first strike on them. However, I couldn’t use those outfits now.
Most Bandits marked their items when they acquired them so that other Bandits couldn’t steal them and say that they were theirs. If we ended up going through all of this effort pretending to be Bandits only for a Bandit to notice our armor and accuse us of stealing, it would be a major waste.
So, I ended up buying used armor and weapons for the girls. I didn’t have an eye for stuff, and Salicia kept having to direct me to shoddier armor than I wanted to buy. Bandits depended on the idea of good quality that looks like crap. They want to protect themselves without their armor being envious of others. As a result, certain types and metals were more popular among bandits. In the end, we ended up picking out seven crappy looking pieces of armor and weapons. They are something I never would have willingly picked normally.
On top of that, because Alerith’s taxes were so bad, this stuff cost way more than it should have. I ended up spending as much for a pile of beat-up crap as I would have for shiny new furniture somewhere else. Maybe I should have gone to the capital to find these weapons? Oh well, it was done. The guy was even susceptible to Barter, the level 10 skill of Merchant which seemed to be an evolution of Haggle. I was able to take a 15% discount out of him.
“What now, boss?” Salicia asked.
“Let’s get the girls. I’d like to see the gladiator fights before we plan our next move.”
With the new purchases safely in my storage ring, the pair of us returned to the house. At this point, most of the other girls had woken up. Only Shao remained in bed and needed to be encouraged to get up. As it turned out, the promise of a kiss was all she needed to get moving.
“Now remember, while we have a large supply of fairy dust, it won’t last forever. Try to be as careful with it as possible.”
Compared to the vial I found in Karr’s Dungeon that one time, we now have about ten vials worth in all, and the fairy fountain produced more every day. I still wasn’t completely sure what fairy dust was. I knew that it could be produced when a fairy was really happy. I also knew that it acted as an aphrodisiac if used on fairies. I had two vials with me, and I didn’t like the idea of returning to make more. That meant that we needed to use it sparsely. However, that would be impossible if we all needed to wear a mask continuously.
I could be spared because of my amulet. I would give anything to have six more of these amulets, but I just didn’t. As a result, the only choice was to have Shao disguise everyone. That meant a lot of fairy dust though.
“I don’t think we even really need to change our faces,” Miki explained. “The lord wouldn’t have paid attention to me or Shao. Only your face will be remembered.”
“You think? But… what about the bandits.”
“I stay in the back to attack their minds, and Shao hides in the shadows. It’s unlikely any bandits would remember us so clearly.”
“We also were not seen,” Salicia said.
“I wore my helmet when I encountered Bandits, they would not recognize me.” Carmine nodded.
“I made sure not to reveal my face as well. Being seen is a good way to ellicit vengeance.” Ruby added.
So, it was only me then. Everyone else had hidden their faces while we encountered Bandits. I hadn’t even noticed. I was the only one who went around showing my face. I wondered if the disaster that night even would have happened if I had hidden my face. They wouldn’t have known who I was and they wouldn’t have initiated a countermeasure. Well, that was what I thought.
With a sigh, I gave a nod. It turned out that while trying to be cautious, I was the only one who hadn’t been careful. I made sure that Miki and Shao took their Trait Hiding dungeon skill so that they appeared human. Without horns or a tail, neither girl drew any particular notice. Next to Carmine in her dazzling paladin armor, which thankfully hadn’t been the armor that she was wearing when it was destroyed, the other girls were hard to even notice.
She had thankfully brought her back up armor for fighting with Bandits. As to why she had backup armor, I decided I wasn’t going to ask about her spending habits. It’d just give me a headache.