“I have the map that you need, but if you want, it, I’ll require you to go on a quest!” The mysterious man we located in the alley based on the bartender’s directions stated.
“Yes… you see, the other day, I was fighting for my life, and my prized armor was lost. I need you to find all five pieces of armor. Each piece is in the hands of a different scoundrel located all across Alerith.”
“You will need to acquire the armor from them, which may require you to complete their requests in turn! However, that is a risk I’m willing to take.”
“Um… can’t I just give you the money for the armor?” I asked with my eyes narrowed. “Heck, I’ll pay double, I just really need that map.”
“No! That armor is particularly important to me!” He snarled. “You must recover it! Once you do that task, and also clean my house and do my taxes, I’ll give it to you!”
“What were those last two? You live in a tent and you’re a criminal who probably doesn’t pay taxes!”
“Hmph! Don’t judge me! Do you want the map or not?”
Why does this world randomly turn into a game at times? I’m already on a side quest, and now I had an errand in the side quest which may lead to another side quest. I just wanted a map that indicated some good places for a Bandit to hit!
“And don’t think you can find this map anywhere else! I’m the only man in the poor district who has a Cartographer job. Plus, I used to work for the Merchant’s Guild and still have some contacts there, so my information is good!”
“Can I just glance at it, to make sure it’s real?”
If I just looked at it once, I’d be able to update it on my Map skill, and then I wouldn’t need to do anything ridiculous. This guy was seriously pissing me off. No one would care if I murdered him, right? I mean, he could just be resurrected later, right? I supposed if I started thinking and acting that way, I’d be just as bad as all of the others. I resisted the urge to end this man’s life, but I was thinking about it.
The man folded the map and then put it in his back pocket. “You think I’m a fool? Armor first, or no deal!”
“Can I kill him?” Salicia mouthed the words.
“No, we can’t.” I sighed. “Very well, this map better be freaking worth it.”
The man then gave me the location of all of his pieces. Some seemed easy to acquire, while others seemed to span day-long adventures. It was truly disheartening. Maybe that’s what it means to be a Hero. Never give up, even in the face of constant side quests. The pair of us turned around and left. After leaving the wiry man behind, I checked my map and considered how we were going to get the armor.
“We probably should start with the mysterious mage. I swear to god if he has a backstory, I’ll-“
“It’s fine, Master, I just pickpocketed him.”
I froze. “What?”
She didn’t even get close to him.
She pulled out the map, “It’s one of my skills. How could I be a Bandit Queen and not be able to pick someone’s pocket from the other side of the room.”
“I don’t even want to go into how little sense that makes.”
“Well, whatever. He was annoying so I just took the map.” She handed it to me, and then let out a noise. “Ah! But… I’m sorry Master, I know you don’t like theft! Do you want me to return it and we can do the quest fairly?”
“Hell, no!” I pulled the map away and opened it.
Once the information appeared in my Map skill, I let out a breath of relief.
“Salicia, I could kiss you!” I declared, marching back to our house with renewed purpose.
“K-k-kiss…” She blushed, touching her fingers together and then speaking very lightly. “W-well, if that is what Master wants…”
I looked back to see Salicia standing a few dozen meters behind me, not moving as she had her lowered and her face flushed.
“Come on? What’s the holdup?”
“Ah! Y-yes!” Salicia ran up next to me and we made our way back to start planning tonight’s raid.
The girls all returned, one by one. That had finished their jobs, and we’d be opening our shop in the next few days. In the meantime, we needed to carry on our task as Bandits. By that point, I had decided what we were going to do. This wasn’t exactly money this time. It was a shipment of metal from a nearby mine. It wasn’t anything so impressive as mithril or orichalcum. It was a shipment of processed steel.
“Steel is about as good as it gets without going into the mythical metals,” Ruby explained. “Some people try to push for diamond swords or something ridiculous like that, but steel is cheaper, reliable, in high quantity, and it doesn’t lose out to most standard metals.”
“Of course, there is elvish steel and dwarvish steel. Elvish steel resembled mithril in many ways, and since the elves are extinct, so is the recipe for elvish steel. No one cares that much, because mithril already does most of what elvish steel could do.” Carmine added.
Mithril wasn’t necessarily the toughest metal to fight with. Orichalcum was technically better at toughness, and there were supposedly even metals better than that, although I hadn’t looked more into it yet. Mithril was known for two things. First, having a high capacity to contain magic. It was a great metal for using enchantments. All the best enchantment items used mithril. Copper and tin also could accept spells, but the quality of said spells decreased with each downgrade. The other reason it was popular was that it was extremely light. That’s why ultimately our boat contained so much mithril instead of some other metal.
It appeared like Elvish Steel was just an alternative to mithril, and since mithril in this world was more prevalent than elves, it sort of got forgotten. However, I was more focused on the other type of steel that they had mentioned.
“What about dwarvish steel?” I asked.
“Dwarvish steel is a step above normal steel in strength and quality. Only the dwarves know how to make it, and it’s a trade secret. They’re not nearly as extinct as elves, but they typically keep to their cities in Esmore. That’s the reason that dwarf slave contains so much value.”
So, that impish Rubee contained such an important piece of knowledge? How had she ended up leaving her city and ending up in Aberis? That was a question I’d like to know.
“They live in Esmore…”
It might be possible to get in touch with some dwarves. After all, I knew a certain guy in the Capital. I wondered if Pait would be willing to help me out, we’d always been friendly. He was the ambassador of Esmore, it’s kind of his job.
Ruby seemed to read my mind and she shook her head. “The Esmere don’t get along with the dwarves very well. The dwarves live in the mountains between the Ost Republic and Esmore and don’t concern themselves with anyone. They are notoriously reclusive. That’s why that dwarf slave is such a find.”
“Yeah, I’m starting to get that.”
I had only met the dwarf girl in passing, but she had ended up being enslaved by Lord Reign and put as a trophy for the gladiator competition. In the beginning, she wasn’t a Magic Blacksmith, so my interest in her was more just a vague thought that she might have some potential. I was mostly trying to free her because the Blacksmith who I had relocated to Chalm had asked me to do it as a personal favor. Now, I was starting to think that we should win her at all costs!
Part of the reason I was attacking a metal shipment as opposed to a money shipment was because I was still worried about a trap. The Bandits down south had been far too prepared for us. I believed that part of that reason had to be because of Lord Reign. It was clear he had spies in the Capital and had told the Bandits that I was coming. He also had some awareness of my capabilities. After all, anyone could send someone to the Capital to ask around about a particular Hero. I kept to myself, but others didn’t hesitate to toot their horn about my accomplishments. The more my name was spread, the more honor would be brought to Chalm.
Lord Reign might have already made changes in the hopes of killing off this new Bandit group. I couldn’t allow myself to believe he’d guess it was us. Who could predict that we descended into a life of banditry? Well, it was a ploy, but it was one we had selected so we wouldn’t get caught.
I was out with Shao, Ruby, Salicia, and Carmine. The other two girls weren’t here tonight. I sent Miki and Raissa back to our village in the south. They brought supplies we had purchased with Lord Reign’s money. More importantly, Miki would resurrect the people who died when that vicious fireball was used on us. Since no traces were left over, she’d get their effects from their families to bring back the poor women. The only hope was their trauma wasn’t too severe.
We couldn’t hope to sell this ore, but we could give it to a Blacksmith in the village and have them start making weapons and armor for all of the people there. That was the final reason I had decided to attack this spot. We were waging a war on two fronts, and I had to consider both with every decision. Miki and Raissa would push forward the war front on that side. Miki could set the mood, motivating a beaten people into a bloodthirsty group looking for revenge. Raissa was a survivor, so she could give these people the fundamental knowledge they needed, if not to become killing machines, then to at least survive any encounter.
I didn’t need them to grow to the point where they could take out the bandits. That wasn’t part of the plan. I just needed these people to make the bandits feel a bit pressured. That wasn’t today though. We were just preparing for the encounters to come.
It was evening, not night yet, and there was still plenty of light. That meant, unless we picked our spot just right, they’d see us coming and have time to defend. The trick to ransacking a carriage was that they didn’t have time to put up spells or defensive formations. That also meant that the most important one to take out first was the mage. Salicia helped pick out the location and plan the attack. She was becoming more reliable every day, it seemed.
We picked an area where there were a lot of hiding places very close to where the cart passed. Just as it passed, the girls jumped out, and the battle began. It lasted only moments before the last of them was knocked out. We had caught them all with their pants down.
I decided not to waste any time in case Lord Reign had some trick up his sleeve. I opened up a Portal and sent the carriage back to the village, and then brought it back empty. Looking at the empty cart, I frowned.
“What is it, Master?’ Shao asked as she noticed me looking at the cart.
“Lord Reign will continue to hide our deeds, which prevents our name from getting out.”
“True… he doesn’t want people to know there is a bandit out there threatening the safety he charges an exorbitant price to maintain.”
The only reason most people put up with him was because despite living next to the wilderness, his city has stood safely for years. They convinced themselves that it simply cost that much to be safe in that place.
A small smile formed on my face. “I have an idea.”