I then continued on my own inside Victoria’s borders, leaving behind the fortress with dying flames, rushing forward just as undetectable as before. While doing so, I was able to feel everywhere around all kinds of presences, be it of the races or just some beasts wandering around. Then, while flying near a village, with my devil’s eyes I saw some kind of red and bluish-dark smoke rising from between some woods in the vicinity.
This is… I saw such smoke appear around Theo when fear took over him, as for the red smoke… Is different from the sickness Yuri had before. If I’m not wrong, those are strong negative emotions lived by living beings… By the color, that must be fear, anger and shrewd intentions. Hmm~ these devil eyes seem to be much more useful than I thought. → Shen
I then flew toward that direction and hid my presence. I landed atop a tree near the place from where the smoke was rising as saw a carriage surrounded by armored people, possible guards, which at the same time were surrounded by an even bigger group of bandits and what seemed to be the bandit-leader of around 30 years old, staying in front of the carriage with a great sword at his back while standing tall with his muscular arms filled with old scars, crossed at his chest. A little scar around his left eye while a confident and relaxed smile on his face. With his calm but sharp blue eyes, the leader ignored the guards and stared right at the old butler which controlled the pure-white Wind Horses.
“Hey old man. Nice day today as well, isn’t it?”
His voice calm and quite amused, feeling like nothing could bother him or his confidence in this life.
“Hmm. Indeed. It is indeed good weather, but it might turn bad at any moment now. I suppose your sudden encirclement is not just to have a chat with this old man, is it?”
The old man asked back with a heavy voice while trying to keep a calm demeanor. The bandit leader started laughing and the others did so as well, making the guards even more nervous as they tightly gripped their different weapons, being either staffs, swords, gauntlets, or knives.
“I like that you’re sharp, old man. Not yet senile, good. Well, the only reason why we stopped you is to remind you that there is a fee to pay for using this road. You know? It takes quite the effort to clean these alleys of wild and demonic beasts, and my men can’t work on an empty stomach. We just ask from your noble self some pocket money so my boys and I can have some bread for tomorrow as well. Am I right?! My Boys!”
Some roared in approval while some laughed amused by the nice choice of words their boss used this time as well.
“I see, then what might be the price? Your group is quite great and we have almost nothing on ourselves, just 100 golden coins.”
“Is that true? Well, just leave 60 golden coins here and we all can be happy. See? I’m already generous that I’m not asking for everything you have.”
The old man then glanced at the bandit-leader through furrowed brows. They were greatly outnumbered as the strongest from their guards was only a Master power-rank at the Adept stage, while the bandit leader was a Master as well, but at the Initiate stage. If they tried to struggle and fight back, everyone would’ve died while giving the bandits just a few loses. It wasn’t worth it and paying just 60 gold coins was quite a cheap sum for their lives.
He didn’t suspect that I was lying either. In truth we have more than 1000 gold coins on us, so a mere sum of 60 gold for our lives is nothing.
“Hold it, old man!”
“You mere bandits dare robe us!? Know your place!”
Just as the old man wished to agree with the bandit leader’s words, from inside the carriage a young man and woman stepped out with their thin swords unsheathed. The boy was a Sword Master while the girl was a Magic Sword Woman. Both of Great Warrior power-rank of the Intermediate stage. Both had revolted expressions on their faces while staring at the bandits with superiority.
The bandit leader glanced at both of them with a confused and even unimpressed expression on, then back at the old man with a business smile.
“So old man, as we said before-“
““Don’t you dare ignore us!””
Both of them shot out at the same time and the old butler together with the guards suddenly became agitated. Just as everyone prepared to rush in combat, the bandit-leader glanced at the two youngsters like at some idiots then he opened his mouth and roared:[Lion’s Roar]
The two youngsters tripped because of the pressure, falling right at the bandit leader’s feet. Everyone else froze just the same because of the loud roar while some of the older bandits, already used with their leader, shrugged their shoulders amused and sheathed their swords. Meanwhile, the bandit-leader placed his greatsword above the two and with a carefree expression on his face, he said to the butler.
“Oy old man, You don’t want to die, and nor do I want to kill. You, or these two clumsy brats. Just hang over the 60 golden coins and we’re done here.”
“Quiet, down there.”
The young woman wished to get up and strike but the pressure from a Master power-rank was simply too great for her to make any move. Either her or the young man, both were kneeling down unable to move a muscle. The guards who were supposed to protect the two and the butler who served them were just as pressured, making them sheath their swords and raise their arms in surrender.
“Very well. We will pay you the 60 gold as long as our two young Masters are uninjured.”
“Sure~ no problem. As long as they try nothing funny, no harm will befall them. I am a man of my words after all.”
Then a young bandit stepped toward the leader and glanced at the white and seemingly soft tights of the young woman who was dressed in fancy and royal clothes, then asked with a perverted face on.
“Boss, can’t we have at least some fun with the Missy? Everyone been working for the past few weeks and had no fun at all ever since we joined the group. Our people are quite hungry if you know what I mean.”
His eyes sharp with a sly glint in them while licking his lips as he stared at the young woman. The girl’s complexion paled as her blood started to freeze, while the young man fumed in anger and shouted at the young bandit.
“You disgusting lowly bastard! Don’t you dare take even one more step toward my sister!”
“Huh?! Da hell you said f*****-“
Being insulted like that, the young bandit was unable to hold his hand. He unsheathed his sword and just as he prepared to strike, he suddenly felt like a mountain of pressure befell upon him as his body froze in place. The leader simply glanced at him with the same laidback expression, while a devastating pressure made the young bandit tremble and sweat profoundly.
“Who gave you the right to make a move on my customers? You think I won’t kill you for crossing the line?”
“N-no! Of course not!”
The young bandit then stepped back with other few men from behind him grunting in displeasure, while others laughing at the new members who still knew nothing of their leader. It seems there were more people who shared his thoughts, however, the leader gave them no mind.
The old man then took out a pouch filled with 60 golden coins prepared when nobody was looking and hanged it to the leader while glancing now and then at his two young masters.
“Here is the gold, young man. Now may I have my masters released?”
“Of course, that was the deal. I’m a man of honor.”
“Honor? You call yourself honorable-“
Just as the leader retracted his aura, the young man shot up and wished to rebuke him but the butler interrupted him with a harsh look, making him freeze, then turn back at the bandit leader and bow respectfully.
“Please excuse our young master, he’s still immature and naïve.”
“I don’t mind it at all. It’s pretty normal for such sheltered brats to not know of the world. You have it hard, old man hahaha~! Alright, folks! Let them pass!”
The bandits then retreated their encirclement and the guards hurriedly rushed to leave the place.
“Unforgivable. I won’t let you go just like that.”
The young woman from inside the carriage focused and just as they left the encirclement, she activated a spell which summoned a blue great-sword right above the carriage, then sent it flying toward the leader, feeling extremely ashamed and insulted by what just happened.
The butler paled in the face and quickly shouted after feeling the strong mana above his head. However, before he could do anything the sword was already sent flying with the tip right toward the leader.
The leader felt the change in mana and turned around just in time to block to great mana-sword.
“So that’s how is it? Well right back at ya! [Burning Gale]!”
He took out the greatsword from his back and blocked the strike then with his free hand he grabbed the great sword and threw it right back at the carriage. Right after, he spun and swung his greatsword to shot out a great sword-wave of fire which burned the green grass and trees from around even though it didn’t even touch them.
The young woman saw how her great sword was sent right back then how behind it a huge wave of flames rushed toward them. The power of the flames was something none of them could take head-on without suffering injuries.
“Young Miss! Cancel your spell!”
Still, in disarray, the young Miss hastily dispelled her spell and broke her connection with the greatsword. The butler then jumped from his place in front of the carriage and got behind it in a flash. The mana greatsword vanished in a blue smoke which was instantly evaporated by the fiery wave from right behind it. The old man stood in front of the wave and took out a thin black knife that had a white luster and released his own aura. The aura of a Master at the Initiate stage burst out and prepared to block the leader’s strike.
The wave reached and the old man blocked with his all, having his neat clothes burnt, his muscular chest completely exposed as a horizontal bloody burnt cut covered it. His breath was heavy as smoke evaded from his burnt clothes and even from some parts of his skin.
“Old man! Are you alright?!”
The young man got out and rushed toward the butler, the girl following just as worried.
“Please run! We can’t do anything about it now.”
The old man said while preparing for the worst. The guards also prepared for combat while the bandits returned for a second encirclement in high spirit. The leader also lightly stepped towards them with a mild smile but sharp eyes, his sword resting on his shoulder.
“Old man~. You should really put a leash on those brats of yours~. How can you simply let them make a sneak attack on me like that?”
“… I could give you the rest of the money if you could close your eyes on this blunter as well, honorable man.”
“Oh~? That sounds quite nice indeed, but that Missy should also receive punishment for that. How about a good beating from one of my men? If you wish to resolve this peacefully we can make my boys have a turn with her as well. Although shy, at least one of them should prove to be quite to her liking. Aye, guys?! Who can turn into a prince for this beauty now!”
They all laughed as they pushed another young man in front. A bright blush on his face as he wanted to have nothing to do with anything that happened here. The one who initially offered to have a go with her, looking with some indignation as for why someone else was named when he already offered.
The leader’s eyes turned completely cold as his benevolence from before disappeared like smoke. He offered them a chance but they spit on his face. No one would have remained calm after having some spoiled brat strike them from the back. The girl trembled while the old man’s aura exploded. Even though injured, he still had no wish to return alive if his two young masters weren’t in good shape.
“I’ll have to decline both offers.”
The young man from the front sighed somewhat relieved then took out his daggers, a ready-for-combat smile appearing on his face as he released his aura, shocking everyone from the noble camp with his. Energy Master power-rank at Adept stage.
S-such a powerful young man and he’s a bandit?! Just what has come of this world?
The old butler paled as he understood that the world was undoubtedly changing, and not sure if for the best. Then, the leader’s grave voice resounded, booming with incredible power.
“And here I felt like I could befriend you. On them, boys!”
Everyone roared and the leader gave the command after releasing another Burning Gale.
“Alright. That’s enough.” → Shen
Just before the wave struck the old man, the flames extinguished while everyone froze in place as an eerie aura struck them from above, giving even the leader a hard time standing straight.
With quite a surprised face, the leader looked atop a tree where I stared at everyone below with bored eyes. I then jumped down and landed gracefully, I walked in between the two groups. I looked at the old man with quite some pity then I sighed heavily. Both the leader and the old man knew what I was thinking and, the leader felt like laughing while the old man felt ridiculous for having even a mighty being of my caliber pity his destiny as a butler. Even the guards understood my actions and scratched their heads somewhat embarrassed, only the two young royalties were unaware of what happened as they stood with their guards up, wary in case I showed signs of being an enemy. Unable to look at the pitiful butler any longer, I turned toward the calm leader and said to the old man:
“You guys are free to go. Just leave this place.” → Shen
With his pride hurt, the old butler sighed again and bowed his head to me while thanking respectfully. The young lady saw this and took a step forward while doing the same, the young man the following suit.
“We thank the young lord for the timely rescue. If we could first learn about our Savior’s name so I could search and repay you later?”
“You don’t need to know. Now leave before I change my mind.” → Shen
Having a baselessly arrogant pair of siblings think they can even repay me made me truly feel like shaking my head. Not wishing to continue talking with them, I didn’t even glance at them and said in a cold tone while releasing some pressure.
“We thank the lord for his generosity. Young Masters, let’s depart now, please.”
The butler hurriedly grabbed the two naïve young siblings and rushed inside the carriage after bowing again. The guards hurriedly left with the carriage, afraid that the pair of sister and brother would do or say something which would bring them only more troubles again.
Seeing them quite far already, the leader opened his mouth in a carefree manner and asked.
“So? What kind of business does such a mighty being as yourself have with me?” → Bandit Leader
I turned around and with a firm expression, I opened my mouth while grinning.
“A bandit which takes only an amount of money when he could’ve taken everything. A bandit which keeps his words until the other party breaks their words. Someone like you I see as a quite unique personality.” → Shen
“I thank the young master for the kind words. I can at least understand that the young master is not after my head, I suppose?” → Bandit Leader
“You’re right. Only your head won’t necessarily be of help, so I need your everything.” → Shen
The bandits’ eyes opened wide as their grasp over their weapons tightened, fidgeting in their place, waiting for a command to go for the kill. Even so, they all knew they had no chance against me, so they glanced nervously at their leader, waiting for orders. The one in the middle of the attention looked back at me with a dark expression, his arms crossed to his chest.
“And may I ask what this young master means by needing everything? I’m sure that you could’ve killed us all by now if it was just that.” → Bandit Leader
I smiled again and shacked my head then continued.
“Oh but you’re so mistaken. What I meant by I need your everything, is that I need you and your group of bandits to work under me.” → Shen
This time even the leader was shocked, let alone the others as they glanced my way with confused and even suspicious gazes.
“Someone as powerful as your greatness needs someone like us, mere bandits, work under young master’s name?” → Bandit Leader
The leader asked with a suspicious glint in his eyes as if asking for a reason.
“In some manners, even if I was an Elder God rank I would still need some help. Nothing can beat the power of many. And don’t worry, all your services will be repaid accordingly. That mere 60 golden coins you acquired from that idiotic pair of siblings will become your daily income. Of course, as long as you’ll follow my lead for the time being.” → Shen
Even though every other bandit was already salivating at the thought of getting their hands on such huge sums of gold, the leader and some other veterans were still suspicious as his unasked question of why I was doing so, hasn’t been answered yet. Seeing him still so doubtful I smiled again at how wise he actually was and I explained.
“The true reason will be told to you the moment you and your group pledge your loyalty to me. Afterward, I shall fill you in with the details about what you guys should do.” → Shen
“… If I were to refuse…” → Bandit Leader
“If you refuse, then I’ll have to erase your memories about what happened here.” → Shen
“Hm? So you won’t kill us?” → Bandit Leader
The leader asked somewhat surprised by how mild the punishment would be, and a little bit shocked by the fact that I had the ability to alter memories.
“Of course not~. Didn’t you say so? You don’t wanna die, nor do I wanna kill ya. It’s just as simple as that.” → Shen
The leader closed his eyes and meditated over the offer he acquired out of nowhere. He then opened his eyes and with a confident smile, he said.
“Sure~, why not? But, young master, you’ll have to understand that we’re bandits. We’re outlaws. We won’t simply follow the rules you dictate us. If you’ll give us a command, we might do it in our own way as long as you won’t give clear explanations. Does the young master understands now?” → Bandit Leader
His eyes sharp while his smile wide. Even though he tried to intimidate me, I only felt more assured that I made the right decision on asking him to work for me, then I returned his pressure in full.
“But that’s exactly what I need!” → Shen
My aura sinister as my eyes turned red. Every bandit there sweated profoundly as, some with an excited grin while others with worry in their eyes, understood that a devil asked for their assistance right at this moment.
“I need no puppets. Do whatever you want, whenever you want. As long as you’ll follow orders, do as I say, and won’t trouble me or my people, you’ll be greatly rewarded and you’ll be under my protection at all times.” → Shen
Apparently calm and composed, mixed feelings of fear, excitement, and danger revolted inside the bandit leader as his heart almost jumped out of his chest at the sight of my demonic expression.
This is a damn landmine! Haha~! This overpowered brat actually gives me the goosebumps! → Bandit Leader
With a rare crazed smile, the leader reached out his right hand and said in the spur of the moment.
“To hell with it all! Even If I have to shake the devil’s hand, as long as my bacon is secured then I’ll damn do it! As for you, don’t you regret it later, yeah?!” → Bandit Leader
“Regret it? This is a gamble. Either we get to rule the world or we die trying. I’ll have your bones work until you’ll cry tears of blood. From now on, you and your men are forbidden from dying while under my wings.” → Shen
Both of us shook hands with wide grins while the other bandits felt how a calamity will befall them in the future. I made a cut on my finger and dropped it on a little cup I created from stone. I offered it to him while he was glancing at it with doubt and incertitude. Seeing his doubt I explained calmly.
“It’s fine. Even though we’ll do a blood oath, I shall swear on my blood and life that I will never command you like a slave, nor put you or your group in unnecessary danger just for my own good. I shall treat you all as one of my own and never take your loyalty in the mockery.” → Shen
“Then that’s fine by me.” → Bandit Leader
He immediately grabbed the cup and drunk all the blood in one gulp.
His skin turned red from the huge amount of energy that resided inside the blood and took a while until he fully digested it. Then my own blood appeared on the back of his left hand under the form of a black arrow-head, thus showing the sign of the oath. Now we were bound by blood and if one of us were to go against our own promises, the blood inside will turn into spears which will penetrate the entire body, killing the person instantly. While if I were to go against my own words, the bandit will acquire my powers through my blood inside him. Then we both calmed down and I said with a matter-of-fact face while starring sharply at him.
“So as a first rule of being under my protection and authority: No raping, no sudden raids or storming any weak villages, no stealing from the weak or poor. And the most important, don’t you EVER dare call out my name or try to describe my real appearance to anyone. You or your people. The first who does such will end up crippled by my hand. Understood?” → Shen
I glared at everyone around and they all nodded in a hurry. The leader thought for a moment then with a wide grin he asked.
“So we mustn’t rape, but if she wants it, you have nothing against it, right? No SUDDEN raids on villages, that means we must first ask for permission or we’ll get direct orders from you? Also, no stealing from weak and poor, but the nobles like before are fine? Also, I don’t even know your name yet, neither do you mine. Before all else, I’m Alexander, leader of the Last Cause. Nice to meet you.” → Alexander, Bandit Leader
Alexander smiled widely and offered me his hand. I looked at it then shook it again then answered all his questions.
“First: if you’re referring to prostitutes then I don’t give a damn. But don’t you dare drug innocents, okay? The village raiding is the same as not stealing from the poor. Have you ever seen a rich village? Except those that already turned into towns. As for my orders, anything is possible. Nobles are fine. As long as I don’t know them then I don’t give a damn, just don’t die on me. As for my name…” → Shen
I go by the name of Shen. The moment you said it aloud, you’re done. → Shen
“Oh my~ so filled with surprises, aren’t we?” → Alexander
I said telepathically and he simply smiled. He didn’t seem all that surprised but he didn’t ask anything either. Then I took out a pouch from inside my inventory and a little purple epic-ranked knife.
“Here the money for the beginning and here a weapon to protect yourself.” → Shen
“Oh wow~! Here must be around 300 golden coins! And what is this knife? It even has its own aura. Why the sudden gifts?” → Alexander
Alexander asked while a wide smile appeared on his face, then what he heard next made his smile freeze.
“What. Do you think I’m just making gifts? This is for your first task: Discover all the hideouts of the other groups of bandits and take control over them. Grow in numbers and absorb their riches. Afterward, find a good merchant which can be trusted and sponsor him while at the same time annihilate or collaborate with his or her competitors for-“ → Shen
“Woah Woah Woah! H-hold on a second!” → Alexander
For the first time since I met him, an exasperated expression appeared on Alexander’s stiff face as he suddenly felt the gifts weighing a few tons.