TL notes for readers:
- Been really trying to spice up my writing lately. Dunno if I’ve went too far.
- Lastly, switching between two non-native languages is not recommended. That said, part of this chapter was translated while in Spain.
- And because I feel whimsical, Imma just call out aggregator sites with no consequences, and also no real practical reason.
Chapter 61 – The Travelling Swordsman
Author’s note: There may be depictions of violence, so the reader’s discretion is advised.
Again, the main character doesn’t appear. Instead, we have a new character.
As the winds of war approached, the decay of humanity accelerated.
All over the Lemmroussel Empire, the consequences of humanity’s hard-fought war against the monsters were apparent.
The regions furthest from the border suffered no major damage, though the northern regions were a different story. Many refugees from there had abandoned their villages and towns, fleeing from the encroaching demons.
Most of them had nowhere else to go, and ended up stuck in the slums of the other cities.
Those who couldn’t even find a place in the slums resorted to pillaging food from others.
Among the many roads that connected various villages to the new highway between Simurgh and Clennad, a group of refugees-turned-bandits were raiding a wagon.
The only people on the wagon were a mother and daughter pair. The mother, who was in her thirties, was the one steering the horses, while her daughter, no more than ten years old, was making sure the things in the wagon did not fall off.
They had gone to a village to trade their produce for the village’s specialty products, and were on their way back. Neither of them had imagined them being attacked by bandits so close to the capital. After all, the worst thing that had ever happened to them was an injury or two by wolves, bears, or a small monster. Even then, such incidents had been rare.
The bandits’ horses were clearly taken from others. They were bandits after all, but that did not mean the horses were particularly strong or fast. However, even without being prize mares, the horses they had were more than enough to catch up to the cargo-laden wagon.
“Hey you, stop right dere!”, one of the bandits yelled.
Since they were on a small subsidiary road, it was too narrow for the wagon to go around the bandits. Knowing this, the bandits drew closer.
“Eeek!”, the mother screamed as several arrows sprouted in front of the wagon, narrowly missing the horse.
The arrow did not need to hit the horse, as just the threat of it was enough to startle the horse into stopping. Once the horse was stopped, the bandits were able to surround their prey.
“Oi, don’t be killin th’ two wenches, aight?” A man who appeared to be their leader barked out an order at the other bandits who were brandishing their rusty swords menacingly at the cowering mother and daughter.
“Aight boss, lesee what we got ‘ere… Sum food, veggies… this weird grass too, but it ain’t nuthin’ I know.”
“Shit! Nothin’ but a buncha food! We can’t make coin offa this!”, the leader cursed.
“So boss, wut should we do wit’ these two? Dat woman’s a bit on the older side, but she’s still quite the looker, ain’t she?”
“Ya think she’d fetch a good price when we sell her?”
“Boss! Hey Boss! Do ya mind if we… play with ‘em for a bit?”
One of the bandits looked at the two women with a vulgar smile plastered on his face.
The mom hugged her daughter tightly, shielding her from the bandits. Her daughter also clung onto her mother. However, the girl’s eyes never left the bandits.
“Eh, do whatever ya want. Just don’t leave any scratches, okay?”
“Guhehehe… Got it, Boss! You’re the best!”
“Dun worry ‘bout it. Gotta help a man sumtimes, yanno?”
One of the bandits took a step closer.
“Stop! Don’t get closer to mommy!”, the girl yelled, trying to keep the bandit at bay.
“Shaddup, ya dumb kid!”, the bandit yelled, as he pulled the mother up by the arm. Another bandit ripped the girl from her mother’s grasp, and slammed her against the ground with an audible thud.
“It hurts! MOMMY!” The girl flailed around, trying desperately to get out of the bandit’s grasp.
The girl’s mother screamed wildly, trying in vain to reach out to her daughter while struggling to escape from her captor.
“Don’t hurt da brat. She’s still young, but I’m sure there’ll be some twisted bastard who’d take her. We’ll get a better price for undamaged goods. The wagon may be a dud, but two new slaves should make up for some of it.”
“Whatever you say, Boss!”
The bandit strengthened his grip on the girl’s head. But a sudden kick planted into his flank sent the bandit rolling across the ground.
“Ugh!” The bandit had no idea what had hit him.
“Wha!? What happened? Who are you!?”
An unknown man had suddenly appeared in the midst of the bandits. The man wore a thick fur coat, shirt and pants made of durable cloth, and tough leather boots. His mouth and nose were wrapped with fur to block out dust. He was clearly dressed for a long journey.
“Damn… I seem to have come across a sickening sight. Well, I don’t even know if I should consider this good or bad luck. They definitely won’t be able to help me…”
All they could see was his unkempt and disheveled hair; even his eyes were barely exposed, but they could hear from his voice that he was quite young. A sword hung strapped to his waist. He was unsteady on his feet, much like a drunk man who had too much at the taverns.
“The hell are you doin’, you bastard!”
“You’re fucking dead meat!”
The bandits yelled angrily at the stranger who had attacked their comrade.
“Hold up for a second, boys. Hey mister, that’s a nice sword ya got there…”
The traveller shook his sword. The scabbard was plain and hardly worth noting, but even the uneducated bandits could tell by the ornate hilt that the sword was worth a pretty penny.
“Hand over that sword, and I’ll let you go for what you did to one of my men. Alright? But dere’s a toll you’re gonna need to pay for passing through. And that toll is… your life!”
“Hee hee hee…” the other bandits laughed along with the macabre joke.
“Sorry, no can do. It’s rather important to me, you see. Also, I’m afraid I can’t afford that toll either.” The traveler reached for his sword as he replied apologetically.
“It don’t matter if you can’t or won’t pay. You’ve got no choice but to comply, got it? You’ve only got your own bad luck to blame for ending up on this road.” The bandits laughed after hearing the words of their leader.
“Oh man, and I thought I finally caught a break from my bad luck. I’ve been lost in that forest for over a week, and the first people I meet I run into you guys…”
“Wahaha, you truly are an unlucky fellow, mister. You’ve even made me feel something for you for a bit!”
“And so, lassie.”
The traveller suddenly turned to the girl, causing her to stutter in surprise.
“Are you from around here? Do you have any food? Could you share some with me?”
“H-huh? Um…. Yes, I live around here…” the girl stammered out an answer, bewildered by the rapid fire questions.
“How… how about a meal? I’ll help you in return,” the traveller gasped the words out.
Bewildered, the girl nodded.
“Alright! My luck has turned!” Suddenly yelling, the traveler went from despondent to elated in an instant.
“Hey mister, what’re ya talking about?”
“Ah, my apologies. It seems that I’ll be pushing my bad luck onto you guys.”
“Huh? What the hell are you saying?”
“Boss, why don’t we start killing him already?”
The bandits began to encircle the traveller, weapons in hand.
“Good for you eh, luck is finally on your side. You can’t have bad luck when you’re dead! ”
“Um…Just making sure you know, but despite your numbers, I decided to show up right in front of all of you. You know what that means, right?” The traveller left the implication hang in the air.
As soon as he finished speaking, they heard a metallic crash. But the only evidence that a sword had been drawn was the sound of the traveller putting his sword back in the sheath. Just as the sword clicked against the scabbard, the bandits crumpled to the ground.
“I would not do something as boorish as to kill you in front of a child. However, I doubt you will be able to get up for a few days.”
The last thing the bandit saw before he blacked out were the traveller’s eyes partially obscured by long, unkempt hair. Eyes with the fierce glint of a seasoned veteran in them.
“I’m… so… hungry… ” the traveller croaked as he collapsed to the ground after incapacitating all the bandits.
“Thank you so much for helping us.” The mother thanked him as she and her daughter timidly approached him.
“No problem… Just… gimme some food… ” the traveller panted out while laying sprawled on the ground, completely out of energy.
“H-here…” The girl handed the traveller a piece of bread from the lunch they had packed. The traveller’s body instantly shot up. He moved his scarf aside and tore a giant bite out of the bread. The mother and daughter looked bewilderedly at the man as he munched heartily on the bread. It was a stark contrast to his previous state of exhaustion. When they learned he was also headed to Simurgh, they offered him a ride on their wagon.
The man sat with his legs crossed in the wagon as it trundled down the highway to Simurgh. As he sat, he worked away at devouring yet another, larger piece of bread the village girl had handed him.
“Well, gee, *munch munch*. You’ve really helped me out. You even shared your food with me and gave me a ride in your wagon.” Ravenously gulping down the last of the bread, the man beat his chest furiously, trying to help the food go down his throat.
“No, it’s nothing compared to what you’ve done for us. Thank you for saving us.” Seeing the man’s struggle, the girl handed him a canteen of water.
The traveller made a few unintelligible sounds as he snatched the canteen from her hands, and chugged it down.
“Ahh! That was nice. Thanks, lassie,” the traveller said.
The girl smiled in return before going back to holding down the items in the carriage. The comfortable-looking overcoat the village girl wore gave her a certain simple charm that was distinct from that of a city girl.
If I hadn’t stopped the bandits, she’d have definitely been sold.
The girl was only about ten years old. She was quite a bit on the young side, but there was sure to be someone with such… special tastes. The traveller didn’t regret saving them from the bandits, especially since they gave him food.
“Even if we leave right now, the sun’s already setting. Would you like to stay the night at our place? You look quite exhausted from your travels,” the mother offered.
“For real!? I’d really appreciate that! I really thought that I was going to bite the dust back there. Words cannot express my gratitude!” The man bowed so deeply that his head almost hit the floor of the wagon. That elicited a smile from the mother.
“We’re the ones who should feel grateful. If you hadn’t happened to pass by, I don’t know what would have happened. We might have died, or worse, might have been separated from each other.”
They had left the bandits tied to a tree using some of the rope they had carried on the wagon. The bandits would be out cold for several days, so if the forest animals didn’t get to them, the guards would once they reported the bandits. It wasn’t like they could run away.
“Anyways, you were hungry to the point of collapse. That must mean that you’ve come from quite far away.” The woman appraised the man curiously.
“Yeah, I came from the western border.”
“The west? Wow!”
“Well, I’m here to visit someone I know in Simurgh.”
“Oh, is that so? I thought that you were a mercenary or something, seeing as you had that sword and all. I’ve been seeing quite a few of those types lately.”
The traveller looked at his sword. “Oh, this is just for self-defence. By the way, have relations with Petersia gotten worse?”
“I’m just a simple townsperson, so I don’t know any of the details, but… there are lots of rumours that war is coming.”
“We just finished the war against the demons, and now we’re waging war on our fellow humans. How silly. Well, I guess I’m not the one to judge others.”
“Did you also come to fight, mister?” the girl, who was curled up beside the traveller, asked. In response, the man grinned and patted her head.
“I guess you could say so. I’m not here for war though. My old rival is in Simurgh.”
The traveller could never forget that rival. The traveller had begun his journey as a swordsman from a young age, and luckily, he was talented enough that his swordplay improved quite rapidly. He sought the tutelage of one famed instructor after another, but soon realized that nobody around him could teach him anything anymore. That got to his head, and he believed that nobody could beat him. He had heard of the formidable threat of the demon king and his minions, but so what? As soon as he made it to the front lines, he would show everyone that he was the strongest swordsman there is.
How confident he was. Until he met that person. He heard that she was also ten years old.
”A kid?” That was his first thought when he met her.
How could everyone place their hopes on someone other than him? And to make matters worse, it was a ten year old girl! He immediately demanded a public duel. He would put that kid in her place. He set the stage, in such a way that she couldn’t run. His plan was perfect. And the match ended with —
“She sure was strong…” the traveler mumbled as he brought his mind back to the present day.
The village girl looked up at his face curiously.
Now that I think about it, she was about this girl’s age when we first fought… The man looked down at the girl nostalgically,
“I’ll also be headed to Simurgh first thing tomorrow morning, so should I see you off?” the woman called out to him. She did have to report the bandits to the city guard, after all.
“I’ll gladly accept your offer.”
After all, he had no reason to refuse.