In the end, Loren wondered if they used more force than necessary to deal with the bandits.
Attacked from the front and the rear by Tizona’s fire and Gula’s Gluttony power, the bandits weren’t able to regroup for a retaliation. They fell into disorder with no need for interference from Loren and Lapis, couldn’t properly fight back, and ended up either being burned to ashes or becoming food to some invisible stomach.
“Don’t kill them all, alright? Leave some that look high-ranked.”
Loren reminded. Tizona was worried about the fire spreading and had been fighting as carefully as possible, but Gula was in high spirit and without his warning, she might had eaten them all.
“I’ve no clue what high-ranked people look like though?”
“Those that look fatter, or have better equipment, or similar.”
“They al’ look the same to me.”
“The ones who don’t come out to intercept us and draw back inside.”
“Is that so?”
Choosing some better-looking bandits, Gula made them lose consciousness without even touching them. Loren was concerned about how much of this could be explained by the magician ruse, but Lapis didn’t seem to care, and Tizona was too preoccupied with her own battle to even look in Gula’s direction, so they could probably feign ignorance when asked.
Loren himself didn’t have to use his sword at all. Even though some bandits attacked Lapis and him, all could be handled barehanded. Lapis never left his side, and didn’t engage in the fights.
The sounds of battles began to calm down and before long, they completely stopped. All that remained were piles of charred corpses and countless gouged marks on the ground. Only one part of the structure left almost untouched.
There should have been nearly a hundred bandits at this depot, but only about ten were still alive after the battle. The others had all been burned or eaten. Loren looked around the battlefield and believed that none had escaped. Even if some had been able to, their number would be too few to form a group, and they probably would return to their HQ or end up dead on the road somewhere.
“I’ve left some alive like you said. What do we do with them?”
Gula asked while lighting up the magic lights. She had eaten some of their spirit, causing them to lose consciousness. They would not wake up until Gula gave back what she had eaten, or until they had recovered the loss by themselves. She had done the same to him before, so Loren understood its effect very well.
“Let’s interrogate them, shall we?”
There was no other answer to Gula’s question. The town asked them to deal some damages to this depot, and what they had done was more than enough. They could end their job here and go back, but Loren thought that if they had gone through all the trouble to destroy one depot, they might as well get some intel about the bandits’ HQ.
“You plan to do that again?”
Gula asked with a frown and shivered, but Loren shook his head. When they intercepted the town raid earlier, Loren had captured and interrogated one of the bandits to acquire intel about this depot. However, he was just an ex-mercenary turned adventurer and torturing wasn’t his job.
Generally, only the tortured was subjected to pain during a torture session, but the act also took a toll on the torturer’s physical and mental strength. It wouldn’t be the case if the torturer liked it, but unfortunately Loren didn’t. In short, he was not very willing to torture someone either.
Loren picked one amongst the surviving bandits and tied him up. After checking multiple times to make sure he couldn’t move, Loren told Gula to wake him.
“Dun want to, y’know.”
Gula grumbled while returning what she had nibbled from the bandit. He regained consciousness, but seemed unable to grasp the situation he was in at first: he looked around with vacant eyes and squirmed on the ground. When he finally caught on, he struggled like a worm and shouted:
“You! If you think you can just walk away doing this to me…”
“I am thinking exactly that. Why don’t you look around yourself?”
Loren kicked at the bandit’s stomach, making him cough violently. He pulled him up by the head so that he could see his surroundings more clearly. Seeing how his base had been changed, the bandit lost his words and stopped making a fuss.
“You seem to have understood the situation now.”
“How the hell did you…”
“We are the ones to ask questions, not you.”
Loren replied curtly and lightly (from his own point of view) slammed the bandit’s head to the ground. Bone and meat hit the ground with a dull sound, and the bandit’s head bled. The wound wasn’t deep, but head wounds always tended to bleed more. The blood started drippomh down the bandit’s face, and he groaned in pain.
“Well, I only want to know one thing. Where is your HQ?”
“And what will you do when you know?”
Loren slammed his head again, this time with a bit more force. Being hit once more, the shallow wound opened again and blood flowed more profusely.
“I don’t accept questions. Just obediently tell me what I want to hear.”
“I can’t. I’ll be killed.”
The bandit’s resolution seemed to start breaking after tasting Loren’s violence twice. He slammed the trembling bandit’s head to the ground once more.
“That’s not an answer. Keep talking like that if you want to die. I don’t really have to get the answer from you, you know. If you die, I’ll just show your corpse to another guy and ask him.”
The wound had opened even more, and the bandit’s face was smeared in blood. His nose seemed to have been broken by the impact: it was crooked, and wheezing breaths were coming from his swollen lips. Loren asked him again:
“Talk. Where is your HQ?”
This bandit had said he would die if he told them and that was a proof he knew where their HQ was.
If he didn’t know, he would just have said so. That would be a good enough answer for Loren whether it was true or not, and he wouldn’t use unnecessary violence.
But as the bandit seemed to know, Loren wouldn’t stop his questioning.
“If you talk, this will end with you in the town officials’ hands. If you don’t, be prepared to make friends with the ground a few more times. Let’s see how much you can endure.”
“I’ll die either way! Please help me!”
Bandits who formed gangs to attack towns and villages usually received capital punishment once caught. Some might be turned into slaves and sold to work in mines, but they would have to work until death there, so their ultimate fates would be the same. In short, being handed to the post-town officials also meant death. The only difference was an easy death or a difficult one after a harsh interrogation.
Either way, Loren had a hand in his fate. Cornered, the bandit begged Loren with a pitiful voice, but Loren was unshakable:
“Isn’t it your fault, choosing to be a bandit? Just give up. Well, if you tell me about your HQ, I’ll put in some good words to the officials for you. How about that? If you cooperate that is.”
It probably wouldn’t change the bandit’s fate though. At least Loren had never heard about any bandits being spared for giving intel, but he wasn’t obliged to tell this bandit that.
“Yeah. But the officials will be the ones who make decisions, and I don’t know what they’ll decide.”
“I’ll talk. If I do, can you let me go?”
The bandit smiled slyly, and Loren considered his options. They would get some rewards for turning in the bandits, but the amount was insignificant. If he disregarded the rewards and let this bandit go, he would get the information more easily, so it didn’t seem such a bad deal.
But Loren immediately shook that idea off.
“No, just give up already. Haven’t you been doing whatever you want? It’s time to pay back.”
The bandit cursed. He realized that with him being tied and Loren’s grip, he wouldn’t be able to escape.
“So, what do you choose?”
Loren asked. The bandit desperately searched for a way to get out of this alive, but no convenient option came up.
A while later, after getting the intel he wanted, Loren asked Gula to make the bandit lose consciousness, and began tying up another bandit.
“What are you doing?”
Thinking that the interrogation had ended, Lapis watched Loren bringing out another bandit and asked.
The first bandit’s face was smeared with blood. Loren pulled him to the second bandit and asked Gula to wake the second one up.
“I need to double-check what he’s said.”
Woken up by Gula, the second bandit also looked around with vacant eyes. He began to struggle once he noticed the bloody form of his comrade, but of course he couldn’t move.
“Are you awake? I want to ask you something. Where is your HQ? Answer right away.”
Loren grabbed the first bandit’s head and pulled it closer to warn that if he didn’t speak, he would end up like him. The first bandit, unconscious and bloody, looked like a corpse. It was easy to see from his crooked nose and swollen lips that he was treated roughly. The second bandit immediately turned pale, thinking about how he might go through the same treatment.