Comparing the information Loren got from the bandit with Lapis’ map, they found out that the bandits’ depot was on a mountain. It would take them a day to get there on foot, but they could arrive in no time on horseback.
Wanting to save as much time as possible, the party decided to borrow some horses from the town. However, the town didn’t have enough horses for all of them, so they had to make do with one fast horse and a sturdy carriage instead.
“It’ll be very simple if I burn them all down.”
Tizona said from inside the dangerously jolting carriage. Loren did agree with her, so he had no objections to that.
However, the cost for a simple closure would be much less profit. As getting the loot was also their aim, they should avoid burning techniques as much as possible. Otherwise, it was very likely that the goods would be burned to ashes together with the bandits and become useless.
“Can’t eat them if they become ashes…”
“Yes, so can you shut up?”
As Gula was about to say something stupid in front of Tizona, Loren used his hand to block her mouth. Tizona watched them wrestling each other with a tilted head, while Lapis looked back from the driver seat with a reproachful expression.
They needed a coachman to drive the carriage, but of course, the city would not allow one to accompany them in an assault of a bandit hideout. Lapis had no choice but to take on the job, but she seemed to be already regretting it.
“You look to be having fun…”
Lapis grumbled, and Gula answered sincerely:
“Yeah, it’s unexpectedly fun.”
Lapis not expecting such an answer got so surprised that she lost control of the carriage for a moment, making it jolt violently. Gula found even that to be funny, and Loren had to acknowledge that she was a kind of good travel company.
Their carriage reached the mountain range at last. Even though it was slower than riding, it was still much faster than walking, as they managed to reach their destination before sunset.
They parked the carriage at some distance from the depot. Loren got down and muttered while looking in the depot’s direction:
“Isn’t it just the right time to attack?”
The sun was setting, the light was changing colors, and darkness would soon come. Just like Loren said, it was the perfect time for an attack. They could move under the cover of night.
“Do we have any attack plan?”
Lapis asked while tying the carriage to a tree. From the intel they had gathered, there were about a hundred bandits at this depot. She thought it was a bit too many for four people, but Tizona answered with no regards to her worry:
“I will charge in from the front.”
“That’s… Well, alright, let’s hear it all first.”
Number-wise, they were overwhelmed, and yet Tizona wanted to charge in head on? Lapis wanted to complain, but it looked like she had a plan, so Lapis decided to hear her out first.
“While I make a show to attract their attention, you sneak in and cause disorder from the inside. If we attack from both inside and outside, they will fall into chaos, don’t they?”
The plan was unexpectedly decent, so Lapis told Tizona:
“You really did think it through, didn’t you?”
Tizona snorted at her words with just a bit of annoyance. Lapis didn’t say anything, but told her clearly through facial expression: ‘If you don’t want others to think of you like that, then stop mentioning burning things at every chance possible’.
She then looked at Loren for his opinion:
“It’s not bad, right? Do you have any problems with the plan…?”
“Just that we suck at sneakin’ in.”
“Also, unlike you guys, I’ll die if I face a group of bandits alone.”
Gula scowled at Loren as if asking what kind of stupid thing he was saying.
Loren was speaking his true thoughts, but from Gula’s point of view, what he said was just an incomprehensible joke. Tizona seemed to have the same opinion, and was looking at him with the same expression.
The truth was, Loren believed that if he were to face the group of bandits alone, he would use up his strength sooner or later and die. Even when they intercepted the town raid earlier, he was able to make it because he could entrust his back to Gula, who, as an Evil God, was a being existing beyond common knowledge.
But the people around him didn’t seem to think so. Feeling troubled to be so overestimated, Loren cleared his throat:
“Well, if Tizona can attract their attention with her flashy display, it’ll be alright, I guess?”
“That’s right. And if we mess up, we simply have to crush’em.”
Lapis then concluded:
“We’re absolutely horrible at things like stealth and subtlety.”
They looked at each other and, except for Loren, everyone laughed at almost the same time, even though the laughter was somewhat forced. It could be said they were all feeling self-conscious because of Lapis’ words, and could only laugh to gloss it over.
“So, I’ll go in from the front and make a show.”
“And we’ll detour and sneak in as stealthily as possible from the rear.”
Tizona snapped her fingers and walked straight to the entrance of the depot. Loren watched her go, then tried to move as silently as possible towards the back of the depot.
“Hey, someone’s coming.”
A short while later, a gaudily-dressed, redheaded woman appeared in front of the bandits’ depot.
The depot was a fort-like structure surrounded by wooden fences, with two bandits guarding the gate. The guard who noticed the woman picked up his bow while wondering why would she come alone. He watched the other guard to also pick up his own bow while knocking an arrow in his bow.
“An attack from the town?”
“If so, isn’t it strange that she’s alone?”
Even the guards knew that after they had their ways with almost all of the villages in the surrounding area, they decided to touch the post-town a bit, but had failed. The survivors scurried back and told them that they had been done in by only one or two opponents, but everyone at the depot was half-suspicious of how absurd the story sounded.
The sight of a woman unhurriedly walking towards them alone was a vivid reminder of that story, but doubt was still dominating their hearts.
“Whatever. Just shoot first.”
The guards chose acting over thinking and released their arrows at the woman, who still didn’t change her speed despite knowing that she had been spotted. They were quite accurate for bandits, and their arrows went straight on a trajectory to pierce the woman. They smiled, imagining the woman being dyed in blood and collapsing to the ground. However, their faces immediately stiffened.
The woman didn’t put up any defenses or dodge the arrows, just continued walking forward, but the arrows suddenly and violently burst into flames before they could reach her and turned into ashes, which was then scattered by the wind.
“What’s that just now?”
They exclaimed like idiots. What happened before their eyes was so incomprehensible and unbelievable. Tizona just stopped, smiled daringly at them and beckoned them over in an act of provocation.
Having no patience whatsoever, the guards’ blood rushed to their heads at Tizona’s gesture, and they shouted:
“I don’t know what she did, but she’s making fun of us!”
“Hey guys come out here and shoot her down!”
Other bandits burst out at their shouts, knocking arrows and firing at Tizona one after another. Quite a large number of arrows rained down on Tizona’s head, but none touched her; they were all burned to dust in a blink of an eye.
By the time the bandits realized that their attacks were futile, they shot almost all of the arrows they had.
“Wh-what in the world is that woman?!”
“Hey, let’s call for reinforcement…”
Realizing that their arrows were useless and decided to call for backup, but their decision came a bit late. Noticing that the rain of arrows had stopped, Tizona charged at them.
The bandits were surprised to see the woman charging at them barehanded, but they all had some experience in actual combat. Just as they dropped their bows and picked up their swords and axes, one of them was suddenly engulfed in flames with no warning. He burned into ashes right in front of their dumbfounded eyes, but things didn’t end there. Another one was immediately covered in flames and burned out without even the time to scream. Then yet another caught fire.
The bandits’ morale, which hadn’t been that high, collapsed.
“What the?! What’s happening?!”
“Don’t know, but that woman is no good!”
“Isn’t it magic?!”
They shouted while running inside and shut the gate. They unconsciously thought that she wouldn’t be able to do anything if they closed the gate, but to Tizona, wooden gates were no different from no gates.
“Let’s burn it a bit more flashy!”
As she spoke, Tizona changed from <<Roast>> to <<Heat>>, raised her hand high and brought it down, and a wave of flame surged out. The bandits weren’t even aware of her attack – they were burned down together with the gate by the deep red fire. The flame spread to the wooden fence surrounding the depot and cast a brilliantly red light in the darkness of the night.
Loren watched the fire on the opposite side and muttered.
Believing it to be the signal to start their attack, Lapis began to walk into the depot, but Loren grasped her shoulders to stop her.
“Aren’t we going in?”
“Let’s go in from the side. Not all of them went to the front.”
“That’s true, but… Isn’t coming from the side the same as coming from the back?”
“Well, that’s why we won’t go in from the back.”
Loren answered and tapped Gula’s shoulder, who was watching the situation beside him, and pointed to the gate on the opposite site of where Tizona was attacking:
“Go eat and mess them up.”
“Leave it to me!”
Having obtained permission, Gula immediately charged at the gate without giving Lapis time to stop her. The guards’ eyes widened as she jumped at them with way too much energy, but their upper bodies immediately vanished as if being bitten off by some gigantic beast. Their lower bodies also disappeared soon after as if being dug out from the ground they had fallen on.
Loren watched the gate being grandly scooped out from where it was standing and tapped at Lapis’ back, who had been watching Gula with her mouth wide-open:
“With this much uproar, the flank will be rather sparse. Let’s go.”
“This can only be called a tragedy… I have no sympathy for them, but still.”
Gula seemed to be unsatisfied with just the gate, so she began dismantling the fences. Which was better, being burned to death or being eaten alive? Lapis was caught by such thought while watching the fire burning yet higher and the fences being gouged out.