“You… hah… hah…” Frick collapsed to his knees.
“Just concede already!” Someone shouted from the stands.
The last thirty minutes were extremely boring. Frick commenced a one-sided battle against Carmine, but her defenses were top notch and were now further boosted by my presence. He simply wasn’t able to get through her armor.
During this time, I got to hear the mumbling of a lot of people. She was no one’s favorite contestant. At first, her extremely pathetic offense but strong defense accumulated a lot of fans, but as time progressed, as she depended more and more on her current style of just defending until the enemy surrendered, she lost most of the crowd. These days, her matches rarely garnered very much attention. She was considered the most boring contestant and was a thorn in the entire gladiatorial events side. Technically, she didn’t break any rules though, so no one was able to kick her out or do anything about her. People usually used her fight as a time for a bathroom break or to get lunch.
Today’s match had been unusual, as Frick’s Berserker Rage had earned him a lot of fans, and many people hoped to see the Shiny Knight finally taken down by his pure Berserker Rage. As the referee had excitedly explained, he was a creature of pure offense, and in theory, he should have been able to blow through her defenses and create a far more interesting battle. His success would have released a lot of pent up frustration that the crowds had been feeling as a result of her matches.
According to Salicia, this wasn’t a pipe dream either. Carmine and Frick were about even in a normal fight. They had already predicted that Carmine battling Frick had a roughly 50/50 chance of Carmine being defeated. It truly may have been a fight that would have nearly killed Carmine if I hadn’t shown up and simply by being present, passively boosted all of her stats.
The proud Berserker Frick who had expected to at least damage and beat Carmine down until they were both barely standing was now completely humiliated. No matter what rage he displayed to boost his attacks, it all fell on Carmine with little more than a thud.
Finally, after thirty minutes of being pressured by bored contestants shouting at him, because they already knew that no amount of jeering would push Carmine, he had collapsed under the weight of embarrassment and failure. He no longer felt rage. Instead, he felt a sense of helplessness. It was like the feeling an ant might have if he was asked to defeat an elephant.
“I concede…” He said, looking like he might cry.
Carmine appeared to have brought an adult man to his knees crying.
With the fight done, she left the stage. As she did so, she pulled off her helmet. She was still in full view of the entire crowd. She shook out her blond hair and let out a smile. The crowd collectively gasped. This was the first time anyone had seen her outside of her armor. They probably imagined all kinds of faces when thinking of the cold, unspeaking, unmoving tyrant that drove the crowds to boredom. They never imagined an immaculate beauty with a gorgeous smile.
Bernard jerked as he saw her face, clearly surprised. As for Frick, his mouth fell open, and he suddenly felt embarrassed that he had spent the last thirty minutes cursing and wailing on her with axes. A few other men instantly started shooting him glares as well, and as the Shiny Knight’s reputation suddenly skyrocketed, Frick’s reputation dropped.
However, the biggest blow to everyone wasn’t her beauty, but the reason she pulled off the helmet and smiled in the first place. She was waving happily, trying to get a certain person to notice her.
“Master! Master! Did you see me! Did you see?” She asked excitedly,
If people looked poorly at the man who had beat on such a beauty for thirty minutes, you can imagine how they saw the man who was her Master and forced her into battle time and time again. I let out a sigh. This was troublesome.
Although I received quite a few dark looks as I recovered Carmine and we made our way out, there was one person in particular that caught my eye. It was none other than Bernard, the undefeated champion. He had a downright hateful glare leveled in my direction, and for the life of me, I didn’t know what I had done to cause him any grief.
I wrapped my arm around Carmine and hastily pulled her out of the arena. I had no interest in seeing any more of the gladiator matches. Actually, after seeing how the last one went, I already had a feeling we needed to work on strengthening Carmine up. I’d never even assigned her a second job. Now that I knew her Paladin was completely defense-oriented I desired to get her an offensive job leveled up in time for the next battle.
I ended up getting a bit more attention than I would have liked, plus Carmine had revealed her appearance which she had carefully concealed up until this point. Thankfully, Lord Reign wasn’t there, and even if he was, he had no reason to recognize Carmine, so it was probably fine.
The group of us returned to the house, and as soon as I entered, Raissa was there with her wagging tail. Wait, was she waiting at the door for us to come home? She was sitting in front of the door in a kneeling position when we walked in! Ahem, anyway, it was as good a time as any to start preparing for our next fight.
“Master… while you were out, I collected this.” Raissa rolled out a map.
I realized it was a Traveler’s Guild map. It had merchant paths and various other notes that were useful for anyone traveling to and from the city of Alerith. If we were normal Bandits, it would have been extremely useful. However, I didn’t want to destroy the lives of normal people. Rather, I was looking more toward dismantling the nobility’s sources of wealth.
Even though the map only had minimal use, Raissa’s wagging tail suggested she needed a head pat. I made sure she got one, and she closed her eyes and grinned happily. This was the future mother of my child. I didn’t know how I felt about that.
“Hey, boss…” Drake spoke up. “If you want to hit them hard all at once, then you’ll want to strike tonight.”
Drake had previously not been part of the conversation, but he happened to overhear us as he came down to get a drink.
“Ah… tonight is when the gambling guild does their money exchange. They send out the gold and then get back coppers and silver. The exchange isn’t done in the city but at a hidden location outside.”
‘How do you know this?”
“Ah…” he blushed, “I’ve been betting on the events. Got to pass the time somehow. I heard that they exchange every fourteen days. Since boss keeps giving us a gold piece instead of 10 silver, I’d come and have them break to 100 coppers every day for a week, and found that they weren’t able to break it the day before, and were the day after.”
“You just randomly did that, huh?”
“Th-that… I mean… it used to be my business, yeah? They always say the man who knows where the money moves has all the cards. Or something like that.”
“Then, where are they meeting outside of town.”
“That… is a closely guarded secret.” His face lowered slightly, but then he glanced up again. “However, I know someone who will be there!”
“So, our goal is simple. We’re going to hit the drop off point.” I explained. “Shao has followed Drake and will mark the man he insists is involved with the drop-off. We will follow behind, trying to find the spot where they will do the currency exchange. Pretending to be bandits, we will hit them just as they bring out the money and we will hit it hard. Once we have taken all the money, we will break off and redistribute it back to the public secretly. Any questions? Salicia?”
“What’s our name?”
“Any other questions?”
“I’m being serious! The entire point of this is to catch the notice of the southern bandits and get them to offer to let us join, right? Then, we need a recognizable name as well as an identifiable feature. How else will they be able to find us?”
I had to admit that Salicia’s words did make a lot of sense. There was no way that we could be contacted and asked to join if we didn’t have some means of being identified. The remainder of the day ended up dedicated to planning out our band’s information.
The band name we settled on was Reign’s End. It sounded appropriate and quickly revealed what our goals were. Plus, if it’d make Lord Reign a bit uncomfortable, that made me happy. We also decided to tie a dark red band on our sleeves so we could easily recognize each other. I didn’t want us accidentally having friendly fire, especially if we ended up fighting other Bandits down the line.
We also went so far as to discuss relationship dynamics. If I was the leader and every girl was my slave, that would certainly look suspicious. Bandits were Bandits exactly because they were trying to free themselves from oppression, supposedly. They didn’t really keep slaves. That was told to me by Salicia, and I already had come to realize the way she ran things was vastly different from how they ran things in the south. Besides, even she admitted that they would sell people into slavery if the price was right. There weren’t any fast rules for being a Bandit. They were really just the whims of the local Bandit Kings.
In the end, we decided it was best if I wasn’t the leader of the group. Instead, Ruby, who was the most physically imposing, would act like she was in charge. At first, the thought of this embarrassed her. She had mostly just been along for the ride. I wasn’t even sure if she agreed with most of our decisions, but she knew enough to not get in the way. She was a mentor and guide, assessing me for my adventure ranking. The fact that this quest had devolved into committing the very crimes we were trying to stop, well, it was best if I didn’t focus too much on that.
Soon, the night fell, and our group did our best to leave the town without drawing attention. Only once we were out of sight from Alerith did we change into our Bandit garb. At this point, I had the map in front of me, and I was following the man that Shao had marked. Since Shao marked him, not me, it wasn’t like I could see him marked on my Map, but she had pointed him out and I had more or less figured out which red dot he was in my Sense Life. As long as I kept an eye on it, I wouldn’t lose him.
With the sun setting, the band of Reign’s End headed out to start a life of banditry.