It was less than two weeks until the deadline set by the Marquis of Gramp. In the afternoon, we got on a carriage to head to his territory.
By the way, the carriage is designed by Alice and me with no prudence in mind.
The carriage has temperature control thanks to Alice’s inscription magic, better suspension, and the ride is less bumpy thanks to the material, that’s similar to rubber, we used to make the wheels. It is a much more comfortable ride compared to any other carriage.
Claire, Sophia, Alice, Tina, and I all ride in the carriage. In addition, there are also six knights guarding the carriage.
Claire and I were the two invited. Tina is coming as a representative of the students and Sophia wants to help using her ability. The knights are our escorts…..
“Hey, Alice? Why are you here?”
“…….Haven’t you been treating me poorly lately?”
She stared at me with scornful eyes.
“O-Of course that was just a joke. It’s just, I thought it would be better if you stayed back to protect the school.”
“The school is safe with the knights protecting it.”
“Well, that’s true. However, we’ll be away for a long time. Aren’t you anxious? Will you be fine for that long?”
“….Leon you idiot. If I stayed at the school, I wouldn’t be able to see you for an entire month. I wouldn’t be able to meet with the person I love. I…..I don’t want that.”
I…I wasn’t ready for that answer! The power of her watery eyes is too much!
Calm down. I need to calm down.
It’s fine. We’re in the carriage with Tina, Claire, and Sophia. This sweet atmosphere can’t last in this situation.
“Hey, hey, Claire onee-chan. Is that what you call a frontal assault?”
“Basically. When a normally outspoken girl unexpectedly shows a weak face the effect is doubled. It’s the most basic move, but works every time.”
“I need to study harder.”
Stop it! What are you even studying!? Besides Tina, why do you need to learn this!? I don’t know who you’re planning on using this on, but don’t do it because it would be troublesome to them!
“Ah, I’m sorry. I was just a little worried about the school for a moment. Of course, I’m happy that Alice is here with me.”
“Fu~fu~, I’m glad to hear that.”
Alice started smiling brightly. Why is she so obvious with her feelings?
“Leon-sama, can I speak with you for a moment?”
Suddenly, I could hear a woman’s voice coming from outside the carriage. A red-haired knight on a horse could be seen walking alongside the horse-drawn carriage.
“Is something wrong?”
“No, the surroundings are clear and there have been no reported issues so far. I just haven’t had an opportunity to introduce myself yet.”
“Now, that I think about it I don’t recognize your face.”
“Yes, I’m here for Claire Ridill-sama. I’ll be the commander of the guard unit on this trip. My name is Elsa. I’m looking forward to working with you.”
“He~e, you’re so young, but already a commander? We’ll, we’ll be in your care.”
After I said this, Elsa’s face became slightly surprised.
“Is something wrong?”
“Ah, no. Rather, I just thought you were worried that I was too young or about the fact that I’m a woman.”
“When it comes to age, neither Claire or I can really complain. As for being a woman…”
I glance at Alice.
“Hou, is she strong?”
“She’s able to use spirit magic. Even if we were attacked by bandits, Alice could take care of them with little effort.”
“Fu~fu~, that’s reassuring. However, we’ve here to protect you so leave the fighting to us.”
“I’ll rely on you at that time……But, are there any monsters in this area?”
“Because this is a highway, I doubt any monsters will try to attack us here, but there is a chance that bandits will try to attack us.”
“You don’t need to worry about anything. No bandits would be stupid enough to attack a carriage with so many armed guards.”
You just raised a terrible flag!
— One week later. We were now in a mountainous area in the Gramp territory. Of course, we are surrounded by about 20 bandits.
…..Right, I was expecting as much after Elsa raised that flag.
“If you don’t want to die, you’ll give us all of your valuables right now!”
“Bastards. Do you plan on attacking the Earl of Grances!?”
“Even better. That means you’ll have plenty of valuables.”
“Guh, clearly there’s no room for negotiation…..Everyone! Don’t let a single bandit get near the carriage!”
Under the command of Elsa, five knights surrounded the carriage.
“Hey, Elsa? Will you guys be alright?”
I poke my face out of the carriage and ask Elsa this.
“Don’t show your face, Leon-sama! They’ll try to target you with a bow!”
“Ah, right….I’ll be careful, but can you really take care of all of them?”
“Don’t worry about anything! Even if we have to fight to our dying breath, we won’t let a single enemy reach you!”
This is quite the predicament.
“I admire your resolve….But, I’d rather you not die in a place like this. How about — we take care of half of them?”
I got out of the carriage and turned my eyes to Alice.
“They’ve completely surrounded us, but we might be able to capture them all alive”
“Eh, right….You plan on capturing them by yourself?”
As I was thinking of what to do, Alice jumped on top of the carriage.
“Listen up, bandits!”
Alice yelled out to the surrounding bandits.
At that moment, a large blade of wind was sent out in every direction —- Oi!? What kind of devil attacks immediately after telling everyone to listen!?
The blade of wind cut clean through all of the surrounding trees but didn’t hurt a single bandit.
The bandits looked around at all of the trees now lying on the ground. As soon as they understood what had happened, all of their faces turned white.
“If you try to escape, your body will be split in half. If you try to attack us your entire body will be turned to ash. Your only choice is to throw your weapons aside and kneel where you stand.”
— All of them surrendered.
….Well, it was a good idea to demonstrate how powerful she is before asking for their surrender….Are elves just naturally destructive?
Ah, maybe it’s because she was a human in her previous life.
“Umm….Leon-sama, Alice-sama, well…..are you some kind of legendary hero?”
Elsa asks this while her face is completely blank.
“You don’t need to worry about anything. That was just the Alice cheat.”
“More importantly, tie up the surrounding bandits. I’d like to talk with them.”
“R-Right. I’m sorry, I’ll get right to that! — You, tie up these bandits immediately!”
Elsa issued instructions to her subordinates and the bandits were quickly tied up.
“Now then, who is your leader?”
I asked the question to the kneeling group of bandits. Shortly after, a man slowly raised his hand.
“Are you the bandit’s leader?”
“What’s it to you?”
“I’d just like to know what you meant by ‘even better.’ You said that earlier when you heard the name of our house.”
I’d like to know if he reacted the way he did because of the title of earl or because of the Grances name.
“…..If you’ll listen to my request, I’ll answer your questions.”
“— Bastard, know your place!”
Elsa roars at the bandit leader.
“Elsa, you can leave this to me.”
“But….Alright. If Leon-sama says so.”
Elsa took a step back and I turned my gaze back to the bandit.
“What is your request? You know I can’t let you escape from here.”
“I know. That’s why I want you to kill us here and now.”
“…..May I ask why?”
“If we’re to be killed anyway, I’d rather we die without any suffering.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but Elsa went on to explain that a thief would be sentenced to work as a slave. They would be forced to work in harsh environments until they die.
“I understand your request. I’d like to ask why you became a bandit if you knew this would be your punishment.”
“We had no choice but to resort to this life! The Marquis of Gramp took all of the food from our village!”
The bandit went on to explain the circumstances that led to them becoming bandits. Until recently, they all seemed to live in a nearby village.
But after several years of bad harvests and extreme taxes, they could no longer keep living as they had been.
Under these circumstances, their taxes would normally be reduced. However, this year their taxes increased and they had no choice but to become bandits.
By the way, a while back we did surveys of the Marquis of Gramp’s land and determined their soil was as poor as our own. So it’s likely they’re telling the truth.
“Was every village required to pay the normal taxes?”
“No, I heard the neighboring villages had their taxes reduced. I’m guessing…..we were abandoned.”
Is that really true? Is it just a coincidence that the one village required to pay normal taxes just happened to be on our direct route to the Marquis of Gramp?
…..Isn’t that too much to be a coincidence? No, it’s impossible for him to know they’d resort to this and for him to know the exact route we’d take. Besides, I don’t think he’d destroy a village just for that reason.
Or it could be similar to the situation with the Sfir family. Knights posing as bandits…
“I’d like to ask you something else. Are you knights?”
“……What are you talking about?”
The bandit scratches his head in confusion……..Based on his reaction I have my doubts.
Was this really just a coincidence? Or is this really a plan by the Marquis?
…..Well, Patrick seems underhanded, but……I’m not sure about the personality of the Marquis.
“Alright everyone, listen to me and honestly answer my question. Have you ever attacked people?”
“A-Ah, yes. We’ve attacked two caravans already.”
“Muu….Then, have you killed anyone?”
“No, we never killed anyone. We only took half of their money and goods.”
Well if they took all of the goods from a trader it would be as good as killing them.
If they didn’t resort to this they probably would have died, but this is still a crime……I’m not sure what is best to do in this situation.
They’re not bad people, but what they’re doing isn’t right.
“For now, what you’ve said is the truth, right?”
“No matter what we will either die or become slaves. There’s no point in lying now.”
“Fumu, is that how you all feel?”
All of the other bandits seem to feel the same as him. It doesn’t seem like they’re lying.
“Alright, I’ll give you three choices. First, you can die here as you wish. Second, you can become a slave here in the Marquis of Gramp’s territory. Finally, third, you can become a slave in the Grances territory.”
“…..How is the third option different than being a slave here?”
“You will still be inscribed with a slave contract. However, the quality of life will be better than an average slave…..No, it may be even better than how you were living in your village.”
If you use inscription magic to engrave a slave contract on a slave, they can’t disobey their masters. It’s unfortunate, but there’s really no choice but to do this….I have to do this to ensure they don’t try to kill or harm anyone.
“A slave that lives a better life than a villager? That’s impossible. Please stop trying to deceive us!”
“No, I’m being serious…..Ah~ right, Tina. Can you come out for a moment.”
I call out to the carriage. Shortly after, Tina timidly climbed out of the carriage.
“I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re scared to come out when all these bandits are around.”
“N-No, I’m okay. If I can help Leon-sama it’s fine.”
“Thank you. Then, please come here.”
Tina stands by my side and faces the bandits.
“Everyone, what do you think when you look at this girl?”
“Ah? Some noble lady. Maybe even a princess of some country?”
“Neither. Tina is a commoner.”
“….A commoner with that appearance? Perhaps she is your favourite?”
The moment I tried to deny this, I could feel Tina looking at me and closed my mouth. What is with that look? It’s like she’s expecting me to say something.
“Ah~, well…..Tina is certainly a favourite student of mine.”
The moment I said this, Tina seemed to clench her fist and avert her eyes.
I’m just going to continue talking with the bandits.
“However, that’s not the reason for her appearance. There are dozens of children like this in our territory.”
“There’s no way we can believe that. Even if that were true, there would certainly be a difference in how slaves are treated.”
“But this girl was originally a slave.”
“……Ha? T…That’s…a lie…..right?”
“It’s the truth. After being sold into slavery I was saved by Leon-sama and I wasn’t the only one. Leon-sama will help anyone in need.”
“Yes, Leon-sama is the most amazing noble.”
— That’s when they all decided they wanted to go to the Grances territory.
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.