Chapter 26: Highway Bandits

Since Diana had her own horse, she rode point to the wagon. Howard controlled the team of horses that pulled the wagon. Kira slept so she could be the night guard, and James worked in the back. To the casual observer, they seemed like a guard, servant, and concubine serving a rich merchant.

Before leaving, James met with the wyvern [Stable Master] and assured that Jeffry would be well cared for. While the wyvern had not seemed pleased seeing his master abandon him and even less happy about Tom, James also knew there was no way to keep him while on the road.

With a bit of disappointment, Jeffry viewed this as an opportunity to surprise his master by how much he would improve when old James returned. Perhaps, he’d evolve his monster Class [Royal Wyvern] at level 10 to something completely new by the time he returned, much as the words in his head suggested.

Diana reviewed the route they would take from her memories of James’s map: three days to the border, four weeks to Marjon Mountain Pass, where they would spend the winter underground, and in the spring, finishing over five months of journeying, barring a bad winter season, they would arrive at her father’s estate before summer. However, the sword banging against her hip with her horse’s movements reminded her that this travel was not the only thing occupying her mind. The added fire effect did not seem natural or achieved by normal imbuing methods. She suspected this was why the flames could not be countered by typical methods either. The same (although less magical) went for her new armor.

The note that had arrived with it had stated that Kira had found her measurements, which had briefly annoyed the [Knight], but she had also quickly realized that this new gear fit better than what she had left her home with over a year ago. She had grown since then, as both a person and a woman.

Only allowed on Creativenovels.com

While clopping down the road, she noticed the road was quiet, their travel unaccompanied by any passing travelers or twittering wildlife. She scanned around cautiously because even well-patrolled roads like the one they were on suffered bandit attacks occasionally, and a wagon with a small escort was a good target. Her grandfather was just as wary, reaching for his own weapons while she fumbled for her sword to unlatch it. The moment she did, an arrow landed in front of her horse. It reared up, but she kept enough control to not fall off or have it take off. Patting its mane, she yelled ahead, “Who goes there?”

A trio of men in rough clothes appeared: an [Archer] and two [Highwaymen] from the looks of it. Kira grabbed her sword, recognizing that the stage of Combat had been set as her grandfather gripped his own bow, an arrow notched. They were both prepared to fight. Since she was on horseback, she should have charged first, taking advantage of her mobility, but she worried about leaving the wagon undefended.

Instead, the back of the wagon opened, and James appeared surrounded with a shimmering blue aura and a strange weapon in his hand that looked like some club. She figured he had some sort of skill that allowed him to attack first in engagements. “Timer count: fifteen seconds. Three seconds to load; one second to buck each of my three slugs. Two seconds to take aim at Highwayman one and shoot. Two seconds to take aim at Highwayman two and shoot. Two seconds to take aim at Highwayman three and shoot. Three seconds to assess the damage.”

As soon as he said that, a timer over his head appeared. He had finished loading by the time he reached her side. He aimed at the closest Highwayman by shouldering his weapon like a crossbow and firing. The weapon’s loud roar made her horse jump. It took everything in her to keep it under control, only for a second roar almost as bad as the first to resound. At the third roar, she was forced to dismount to prevent the horse from running away. Those on the wagon faced similar issues. She turned to James again, seeing a two left on the timer.

“Quick shot.” Diana covered her ear as she was near the weapon as it roared again and watched the last attack tear into the two stragglers who were already pouring blood. The first downed had a hole in his head, and the other two each had two similar holes through their chests. The rain of damage from the last attack had finished them off. James sighed in annoyance. He patted a hand on Diana’s shoulder to signal that she should finish the battle.

All that was left was looting, and these poor bandits had only a few Seedz worths on them, as befitted their hard lives. Nevertheless, their arrows were good, so she took them and marked the kills to be cleaned up later by the patrols.

Later in a roadside inn, the four sat in a room James had paid for. It was rather spare, with two beds: one fit for two, the other a single. On the road, they had all encountered far more enemies than they had originally hoped to during their trip. Only when their opponents had seriously outnumbered Diana, had James come out again. As Kira stuffed her face, the other three performed maintenance on their weapons. While wiping the grit and traces of blood along with her undulling sword, she curiously observed the array of parts and pieces that composed James’s weapon. He noticed her curiosity.

“I call it my boomstick. Think of it as a merger between a magic staff and a crossbow.” James lifted a tube and shoved a cloth and brush through it to clean the barrel.

“So what was that magic you used to act first?”

Dear Readers. Scrapers have recently been devasting our views. At this rate, the site (creativenovels .com) might...let's just hope it doesn't come to that. If you are reading on a scraper site. Please don't.

Wriggling the cloth a bit, James kept quiet a moment before lowering the barrel to check another part. “Call it a mix of initiative and haste. I have an amulet that allows me to increase my speed by three times at the start of a fight. However, after my first turn, that buff is removed and replaced by a steep penalty. I also have an accessory that increases my health by five hundred, but that health is nonrestorable in combat. My clothing is made up of a lightweight material that offers rather high protections against almost all the elemental magics at the cost of overall defense. Since my amulet reduces projectile damage by half, I am overall a tank because of all that, I guess. It’s what let me save you.”

Hearing James speak made her think. The way he spoke made perfect sense to her. With the exception of becoming a very fast melee attacker, he was well suited to fill almost all roles. “Can I ask something? Why didn’t you come out every fight then?”

James considered that as he started to assemble his weapon again. “First, unless Howard said that you seemed to be in trouble, I was too busy working in the back of the wagon. Second,” James held up a shell for the weapon. “I do not have a lot of these. They are easy enough to make, all things considered, but they are expensive. There’s been a lack of materials of late as well.” James looked at it in annoyance for a moment. “That’s one reason why I’m coming on this journey. I hope to make contacts with suppliers of elemental crystals. Each crystal can make a different type of shell, which have different functions.” James showed her the shell again. “This used an iron crystal. It does a lot of damage to a single target and also has half armor penetration.” James lowered it and brought up another shell. “This was a wind crystal. It does varied damage over a large area of enemies but little against armor.”

Diana remembered him using those in the first fight. He demonstrated another shell. “This needed a fire crystal shell and causes a lasting AOE damage that ignores armor but is low damage overall.” James thought a second, rummaging for another shell. After realizing that he could not find it, he sighed. “I have the ability to make one more, but I seem to be out of them. With water crystals, I can afflict an enemy with cold damage and slow them down like a debuff while they take damage. Hit them enough times with the cold damage, and they freeze. Taking them out of the fight for a time and making them more susceptible to damage.” Diana blinked surprised upon hearing that his weapon was surprisingly similar to mage-craft.

“So how do you make the shells?” James ignored her this time and focused on his weapon again. After reinserting screws at key points the machine was back to working order. He did a few quick tests to check that it operated properly, and Diana figured that it had been foolish to ask after one of his trade secrets. He loaded a single shell into it before taking to his bed. It was clear that his willingness to talk had ended for the day. Kira relaxed and retracted her claws from her bowl of leafy greens, glad her master had found no offense at the [Knight]’s curiosity.

- my thoughts:
Need to post all my chaps before posting the new ones :l
You may also like: