“Here are a few maps of where there may still be people.” The village leader brought out a pile of unsorted maps.
He looked apologetic for the mess he handed me, but I didn’t mind so much. Each map was sketched by a different person. He had used various scouts, and their reports, and none of that information had been sorted. It was a complete mess, and even the village head himself struggled to make sense of it. For me, it was no problem at all. I glanced at each map, letting it update in my Map skill. In short order, I was able to update my skill with all the information and see it as a whole.
Despite what we were led to believe the last time we were here, there were actually quite a few pockets of people still living out there. They had either been harassed or overlooked by the Bandits. Some of them gave the Bandits bribes and women to stay afloat. Even this village contained several women who had been traumatized by being made the Bandit’s entertainment for a few nights. If I didn’t have a worse enemy I was going after, I wouldn’t be willing to work with these people at all.
At least, when I was done, they would all be slaves, and they would literally pay for their crimes by working under me for the rest of their lives. I would see to it. Unlike other Slavers, I could instantly collect any slave who tried to run from me. All it took was bringing up my Map and selecting them and creating a Portal. In fact, since my Map filled out based on where my slaves went, they’d be doing me a favor by traveling to far-off places and allowing me to expand my portal network.
Maybe I should have been making slaves of people and sending them off long before this. I might have had no trouble getting around. Well, maybe not slaves. There were other means of marking people on my Map with skills. As long as I got a job with an appropriate skill, then I could mark any number of people. A better option might be to tame monsters. If I tamed a low-level monster, like goblins, and then just ordered them to walk off in every direction, I could create a map that reached every corner of this continent in a year or so.
Well, that wasn’t something I could worry about right now. Instead, I had to focus on the areas indicated. I needed to bring those people into the relative; safety of Deeksville. The more people I gathered here, the more interest the Bandits will have and the more likely they are to notice us. At that point, I’d need to come up with a way of getting control of them. That might involve using Salicia and her former status as the Bandit King. I wasn’t certain yet. I didn’t have a plan. I just knew that we had to get this done and we had to do it quickly. A plan would come to me eventually, it always did.
“Going to get the other survivors. That’s what we tried to do last time. Then we ended up dying.” Shao warned.
“This is different. We won’t be challenging the Bandits directly. There is no point in killing them, anyway.”
We were going to be safe this time. I didn’t want another accident like last time.
I opened up a Portal and walked through. I portaled as close to our target as I could manage. We still would end up having to walk nearly an hour to get there. That wasn’t too bad. I could waste another Portal by climbing a tree and getting theere faster, but I wasn’t in the mood for that. I had the girl’s move quickly. Unfortunately, my poor physique quickly got the better of me. I was panting with some difficulty and I couldn’t keep up. Even Miki could easily outdistance me, and she was usually the slowest one.
“Master, if you can’t do this…”
“My body won’t get stronger unless I train it.” I made up an excuse on the spot. “Just, for now, carry me?”
I found myself being carried the remainder of the way to the first location. Apparently, according to the village head, these people had survived by hiding. A certain tassel tied to a trunk using a certain knot was supposed to be the mark they used to identify they were there. The entire area had adopted this code. That would be anyone resisting and hiding from the Bandit’s presence. It only took us a few moments of looking, as the girls had really good eyes and I had a really good Map complete with Sense Life.
“You’ll be safer if you go to my town. It has walls and everything.”
I wasn’t the smoothest talker, but I did manage to convince the group to leave. Rather than waste another Portal, I instead pointed the way. The Bandits had been removed around the city, so as long as they were careful, they wouldn’t run into any Bandits along the way.
We continued on our way, sweeping all the closest groups, before portaling to the next location. We remained away from the main area of the Bandit activity, only skirting along the edge. Any place deeper we considered lost or otherwise unreachable. It went surprisingly well, and a few hours later, we sent the last group on their way. It was about fifteen groups in all, and not a single group was over ten people.
We also informed them that anyone who had died over the last month we would resurrect. So, we might be able to double that number if we’re lucky. I had also considered the possibility that a Bandit spy would be mixed among one of the groups, so I did make sure to check all their jobs before sending them on their way. After a long night of working, we had finished up. To be fair, Deeksville had already been clearing things out for the last two weeks, so we were just sweeping up what was left.
“Now, where are we going to go, Master?” Miki asked.
“There is just one more group of people that we’ll need to collect.” I explained. “Ah… this one is really going to be difficult too.”
“Huh? Didn’t we get them all?” Lydia frowned, taking a look at the map I had quickly sketched so the girls had a visual based on my own superior Map.
“No, we still have Regency.”
The last standing city in the west, Regency. We needed to clear it out. We’d take the entire city.
“Are you sure they are willing to leave?”
“I need the power of that wizard.” I admitted. “The grand magus? He’d be instrumental. Plus, there should still be soldiers there as well. I can resurrect anyone they’ve lost in the last month, and overall it’d be a fresh beginning for all of them.”
“Yeah, but they’d be abandoning their home to Bandits.”
“So? It’d be logical that they join forces with us.” They’ve been surrounded by Bandits and cut off for ages. Deeksville, on the other hand, is backed by the forces at Chalm. If they even tried to get around, we could crush them.
“Even so… not everyone is willing to make logical choices.” Miki spoke uncertainly.
I wasn’t sure what she meant. This was life or death here. They had to be able to see that staying there was suicide. They were desperate weeks ago, and now the city was about to fall. Anyone who stayed would die.
“Weren’t the Bandits trying to get into the city to find something?” Celeste asked.
“We don’t know that for certain.” Terra shrugged. “They seemed to want to defeat the city, but it could be because it was the last stronghold of the west. Once it falls, then the Bandits have complete control.”
“It’s fine.” I shrugged. “If they are looking for something in Regency, then, we’ll just have to make sure they don’t get it.”
“We’re going to find it?” Miki asked.
“Oh…” She lowered her head, looking a bit regretful she asked.
Before I left, I would summon a Meteor down and wipe Regency off the map. That should do the job of destroying any artifact they’re trying to get.
Either way, we needed to return to Regency. It might even fall tonight, so there was no waiting. I lifted my arm and began to chant, opening a Portal. The girls went in ahead of me and I followed behind. As soon I stepped through, I began coughing. There was a thick scent of smoke in the air. Looking around at the situation now, my mouth fell open.
Half the city had already burned to the ground. There were still fires going in various parts, complete with people desperately trying to put them out. The walls were still up, but at least in one spot the wall had collapsed, and they had shoved seemingly anything they could find in order to create a barrier. The people that I could see were sitting on the ground, looking haggard and starved. Their eyes had deep black circles from many sleepless nights.
“I take back what I said.” Miki looked over at me with tear filled eyes. “You’re right, we need to get these people out of here.”
Miki was someone who had a strange relationship with death. Seeing these people who were so close to dying, it naturally hit her harder than everyone else. This was a place filled with despair. It was like a graveyard for a Spiritualist like her.
I gave her a nod, and then lifted my hand. “Alright! Everyone in Regency! Load up! We’re getting you all out of here!”