Loren’s party hurriedly left the store and got back to their inn. They headed for the stable, where their donkeys were kept, as soon as they arrived. Sensing something had happened, the innkeeper asked them about the current situation, but they had no time to answer him. They packed and loaded the donkeys, but before they could take them out of the stable, the situation had changed.
“Ah, this is no good, ain’t it?”
Gula, who was pulling the donkeys’ reins, said the moment she left the small hut. In front of them rose a thick, billowing column of black smoke, completely different from the wispy one they had seen at the grocery.
Apparently, some people weren’t satisfied with the havoc they had wrecked somewhere else, and had stretched their hand to this town. Or maybe it had been their intention from the very beginning.
“Are we too late?”
If the town had already been under attack, it was unlikely that the bandits would let their party leave so easily. Not to mention that the smoke was rising from the south, where they were heading to. They couldn’t leave town without passing the area where something was surely happening.
“We have no other choice but to leave through another exit and take a detour later.”
“If only our opponents were stupid enough to let that happen.”
Their opponents were large in number, and if their operation method was good, they would never leave a gap for townsfolk to escape.
If the town was larger, the bandits wouldn’t have enough men to keep watch and even if they did, the crew would be spread thin. But in not-so-large towns like this one, that was too good to hope for.
“Even if they are stupid, we still won’t be able to move fast in the current situation. They’ll discover and surround us sooner or later.”
Lapis said when looking at the donkeys’ loads, which had become huge again after food restocking. The two creatures looked somewhat tired. Donkeys weren’t fast animals even at their prime, and considering the amounts of luggage currently on their backs, they could barely walk, let alone be able to run away from anything.
“I’ll take responsibility and deal with this…”
“Don’t talk about things you can’t do.”
Gula tried to say, but Loren held her back.
Tizona probably thought Gula was feeling responsible and tried to solve the situation alone even though she couldn’t, and Loren was dissuading her from doing so. But the truth was, Gula really could solve all this by herself, but Loren had no idea what Tizona would think after witnessing that, so he had to rein her back. His ‘can’t do’ carried the nuance of ‘can’t show Tizona’.
“Then lemme check the situation first.”
“What do you plan to do?”
Gula didn’t answer Loren, she just threw the donkeys’ reins to Tizona, then placed both hands on the stable’s wall and smoothly climbed up to the roof.
Loren and Lapis just watched her climb while Tizona asked in amazement:
“Isn’t she a magician?”
“…If you think all magicians are delicate, then you’ve made a big mistake.”
“Is that so?”
Loren couldn’t answer that. To his knowledge, amongst the small population of magicians in this world, none could climb a wall with almost no foothold or support using only hands and feet like Gula did. But if he was asked how she did it, he wouldn’t be able to answer, so he had no other choice but to keep his silence.
“Loren, this is bad! I can see fire coming from the south!”
Gula, who was standing on the rooftop with one hand shading her eyes, looked at the direction of the flames and said. From her position, she could see things they couldn’t down here.
“Then it’s truly a raid, and we have no choice but to act accordingly.”
“There should be a limit to our bad luck. Is there anyone with ties to the God of Pestilence here?”
“I-it’s not me, I think.”
Tizona was the only one to get flustered by Lapis’ question and Loren didn’t think it could be him at all. The only one who seemed likely to have links with the God of Pestilence was the one currently on the rooftop. But, since he didn’t know the difference between the God of Pestilence and an Evil God, he couldn’t consider the two entities to be the same.
“What do we do now, exactly?”
“There’s no other way but to repel the raiders. I’m not sure how many of them are there, but they should withdraw if we kill about thirty, right?”
“Does it mean there are almost a hundred of them in total?”
Lapis sounded shocked, but Loren thought it was not that bad. On the battlefield, killing thirty men wouldn’t make any impact on the war outcome, unlike here.
“So, who should do it?”
“Shouldn’t we all go?”
Tizona asked. Loren looked at the reins in her hands then at the loaded donkeys behind her and wondered if she planned to go in battle like this.
“We need someone to guard the luggage, don’t we?”
“I can fight like this though?”
If Tizona used her blessings, she could indeed still fight without letting go of the donkeys’ reins or leaving this place. That didn’t mean the donkeys would be safe though. She might burn them down along with the luggage.
“It won’t do. If you burn our luggage, and we lose our stocks, the one up there will get hungry.”
Loren pointed at the rooftop, from where Gula was watching the discussion.
After this raid was over, the stores probably wouldn’t be able to resume business as usual. If they lost their luggage, they would be stuck in this town, and completing Tizona’s mission would become difficult. If the payment terms of Tizona’s reparation claim was lax enough, they could wait until the town resumed its normal operations, but no one knew when that would be.
“So, what’s your plan?”
“Tizona will guard the luggage. Lapis too. Gula and I will manage somehow.”
“That sounds good.”
Lapis voiced her agreement before Tizona could object. Bringing Lapis, who was a priest, to a chaotic area might be a rather dangerous act. That didn’t mean they could let her watch the luggage alone though. They would need someone else, and from Loren’s point of view, Tizona was suitable for that role: she could handle multiple enemies by herself after all.
“I have no problem with that, but…”
“So it’s decided. Gula! Memorize the location and come down quickly. We’ll take care of this.”
“Alright. I should work as much as I eat, shouldn’t I?”
Gula jumped down from the rooftop, and Tizona’s eyes slightly widened at her agility. Her movements weren’t something Tizona would associate with the word ‘magician’ at all. Her landing was as soundless and lithe as cat’s. She doubted that Gula was truly a magician, but there was no time to confirm it now.
“So, we’re going. We’ll leave this to you.”
“Come back safely. We’ll stay put here like good girls.”
“I’ll heal you right up if you’re injured but still, be careful, both of you.”
Lapis’ words were said to their backs. Loren already had his hand on the hilt of his greatsword, whereas Gula ran towards the flame barehanded as always. Tizona followed their backs with her eyes, then turned her gaze back to their surroundings. She believed that the bandits split up their forces.
“Do you think they’ll be alright?”
It was hard for Tizona to imagine a mercenary nicknamed ‘Decapitating Wind’ would be hindered by some bandits. And it was not bragging, but the same could be said about herself, who had the nickname ”Hellfire Sword’. Still, she felt a touch of anxiety to have only two people dealing with a group of bandits in a town raid.
“They will, won’t they? The soldiers stationed here won’t be suddenly wiped out either.”
Even if only a few of the guards survived, they would still be able to lessen Loren’s and Gula’s burden. Also, Lapis couldn’t imagine those two being defeated by the bandits at all. To be honest, she wondered if it was overkill to send a twice-named mercenary and an Evil God to deal with a hundred or so bandits.
“Rather than them, I’m worried about us bumping into bandits.”
“It’s alright, I’ll do my guard duty properly.”
Or so Tizona said, but Lapis was worried exactly because of her. Tizona’s blessings were a bit different from normal fire manipulation, but fundamentally she could only attack by using fire to burn. On the battlefields or empty plains, her skills were indeed very powerful. But in an enclosed area like a town, even though <<Roast>> wouldn’t cause collateral damage to the surroundings, <<Heat>>, which Tizona tended to use when facing a large number of enemies, surely would.
Loren left Lapis here because they told Tizona that she was a priest, which meant she should have been useless in a fight to repel raiders. But there must be a reason why he took Gula instead of Tizona.
“Anyway, just leave it to those two and standby here quietly, shall we?”
Lapis said, slightly stressed the ‘quietly’ part. Tizona found her way of speaking a bit dubious, but still nodded earnestly.