“This has become a kind of odd story, don’t you think?”
Loren muttered after finishing his interrogations, and the others all nodded to show their agreement.
After Loren had questioned all the surviving bandits, they had checked the information with Lapis’ map, and had found the approximate location of the bandits’ base. And that was what Loren mentioned as ‘odd’.
“No matter how you look at it, this place is…”
“It’s where Tizona-chan’s ruin is.”
Lapis and Gula, who were huddling over and checking the map, pointed to the same spot at the same time. That spot was at almost the same location as the unexplored ruin Tizona told them.
The bandits Loren interrogated didn’t know what the HQ looked like, so they couldn’t get any information about that. There were three possible reasons why the bandits’ HQ was at almost the same location as Tizona’s ruin.
“It’s possible that the bandits’ HQ and the ruin are at different locations.”
Lapis raised her index finger and said as if to organize her thoughts.
“If there really is an unexplored ruin at this place, it won’t be strange to set up a bandits’ base next to it. They can do illegal diggings as a side job.”
People would only need one look to recognize an unexplored ruin even if they hadn’t known of its existence before. If one had even just a little knowledge of how much fortune an unexplored ruin could hide, they wouldn’t be able to leave it alone, even considering the danger of illegal digging.
“In that case, the bandits won’t let the treasures be taken out of the ruin.”
Ruins were dangerous places by themselves. Aside from the guardians, all kinds of monsters might settle in there. Adding bandits to that mix, and the level of danger and troublesomeness just skyrocketed. Loren felt sickened just thought about it.
“Another possibility is that the bandits have settled in the ruin.”
Lapis raised her middle finger and said.
Tizona found it questionable:
“Is it even possible?”
“It’s unlikely for a ruin to be in pristine condition. If one part of it is damaged, monsters usually come in through that and settle inside. If monsters can live there, then so do bandits. Probably.”
Everyone wondered how she could equate bandits with monsters, but considering how very annoying both were, it could indeed be said that they were similar.
Ruins’ guardians only attacked if you entered certain areas, so if you were careful, you could still live there.
“But there are lots and lots of bandits, right? Can they all fit in one ruin?”
“Yea, so der’s another possibility.”
Lapis raised her ring finger and answered Gula’s question:
“The third possibility is, the bandits set their HQ up around the ruin.”
Lapis believed this to be the most troublesome of all possibilities. It was a fusion of the first two possibilities, and it would take twice as much time to deal with.
This third theory would be unlikely to happen if the number of bandits at HQ was low. However, from what they gathered, there were quite a lot of them, so this theory was the most likely.
“Are there really a few hundreds of them at their HQ?”
“I think it’s a lie.”
All the interrogated bandits said the same, so its credibility was actually high. Loren just didn’t want to believe it. Their HQ must be on the same scale as a town or a fort if they really had a few hundred there. A bandit gang that big was so unexpected that it was unbelievable.
And there was still another question: Where the hell did they gather that many people from? Assimilating other bandit gangs in the region wouldn’t be enough. For this to be possible they had to assimilate some remote villages.
“At this stage, it’ll be a big trouble if the kingdom doesn’t step up, won’t it?”
Multiple depots with a hundred at each, and a few hundred at the HQ, in total, the member count of this bandit gang must have reached a thousand. The person who could command that many people must be quite a character, and it was difficult to imagine them as a nameless bandit.
“If I’m told that the head of this bandit gang is a spy from another country, I’ll believe it.”
“It’s actually the most desired scenario, isn’t it?”
Loren sighed. Rather than the act of some character that suddenly appeared out of nowhere, this being linked to subversive activities of another country was much more comprehensible.
“Well, whether it’s an unnamed great man or a spy, what we have to do is still the same.”
“Do we rly have to? It’s too troublesome.”
“We can’t complete Tizona’s job if we don’t.”
Lapis chided at displeased Gula and clapped her hand to gather everyone’s attention. When everyone had turned to her, she smiled like a blooming flower and said:
“Alright, it’s time for a long-awaited house search.”
Tizona and Gula had destroyed the depot quite splendidly, but they had been careful to not damage what shouldn’t be damaged: the warehouses.
Valuable loot would be separated and transported to HQ, but they should be stored in the warehouses before sorting, along with less-valuable goods.
Cash should be at the main building where the bandits lived, but Loren didn’t have much expectation for it. When it came to ‘collecting valuable goods’, the first things that came to mind would be jewelries and cash. Not to mention that they weren’t bulky, so they should have been transported to HQ already. Even so, with about a hundred bandits living at this depot, there should still be something left. They had gone through the trouble of destroying the depot, so might as well take as much as they can.
“In the worst case, we can recruit some people from the town to help us with transporting.”
Loren knew from the beginning that they wouldn’t be able to carry everything out by themselves. He was considering following the bandits’ method: carrying only the valuable goods, and asked the townsfolk to help with the rest in exchange for some cash.
“Lapis and I will check the warehouses. Gula and Tizona, you two search the main building.”
“Aighty, leav’it to me.”
“Understood. Let’s do that.”
Under Loren’s command, Gula and Tizona jogged towards the half-destroyed main building. Loren watched them go, then walked towards the warehouses with Lapis.
Lapis promptly ran around the heap of goods in the warehouse as soon as she entered. She returned to Loren after a while and said:
“I’ve guessed as much, but there’s really not many good things here.”
Loren hadn’t looked very carefully himself, but it seemed like all that remained in this warehouse was food and the bandits’ equipment. All were bulky, and not very valuable.
Loren was beginning to think that this was a letdown when Lapis came back bringing a longsword and some daggers, together with a pair of gauntlets and a helmet.
“These are the most valuable.”
“What on Earth are these?”
From the first glance, they looked just like ordinary stuff sold at the stores around here. Loren picked them up, believing that they must be special if Lapis had brought them back, but he couldn’t see anything outstanding in particular. They also didn’t look very well-maintained. Loren looked closely at the conspicuous dirt marks.
Lapis answered with both hands on her waist:
“These are infused with magic.”
“All of them?”
Lapis hadn’t found many, but these arms still made a decent number. A longsword cost 10 silver coins, and the price would be higher if it was infused with magic. The gauntlets and helmet were only parts of an armor, but they could still be sold for a reasonable amount. If they could find the complete set, they could earn gold coins selling them.
“What are these doing in a bandits’ warehouse?”
“Well, maybe they found them in Tizona’s ruin, and decided to use them.”
Many treasures slept in a ruin. There were ancient currencies, jewels, objects made from rare materials, and magic-infused arms like the ones Lapis had found. If the bandits had entered one part of Tizona’s ruin, then they were likely to scavenge it. The items Lapis had found might have come from that.
“Or maybe they got them from attacking some caravans? We can’t know for sure.”
“How much will these cost?”
Even magic-infused items were varied in performance, so it wouldn’t be strange if their values could be as different as heaven and earth. A dingy sword might be worth dozens of gold coins, while a dazzlingly decorated armor could be as valuable as an ordinary item. The ones found in this warehouse were plain and dingy, and they didn’t look to be that valuable. Loren asked just in case, and Lapis folded her arms and looked at the items with a pondering expression:
“Probably not that much, I think. They’re just a bit sharper or tougher than ordinary items.”
Lapis said while picking up two daggers from the pile. They were sheathed in plain leather scabbard, and looked just like ordinary daggers. Lapis gave the two seemingly-average daggers to Loren:
“Only these two are a bit special. This is <Dragon Slayer>, and this is <Painful Addition>.”
Loren took the two daggers, thinking how amazing Lapis was to be able to appraise items by her own eyes without having to visit an appraiser in some big city.
Both daggers looked very average, but Dragon Slayer had its pommel inset with a blue gem, while a red gem adorned Painful Addition at the same spot.
“What did the person who made Dragon Slayer think when giving a dagger such a specification? I don’t think there’s anyone who can come close enough to use it.”
“The person probably did it as a hobby? These look interesting, so maybe you should keep them.”
Dragons were the highest-ranked amongst the monsters in this world. The highest-ranked amongst the Dragon, the Ancient Dragons, which were said to have power rivaled to the Gods. No one knew whether the story was true or not though. Facing the Ancient Dragon generally meant death, and even a much lower ranked dragon would require several parties of silver-ranked adventurers working together to subjugate, but not before claiming multiple victims.
Using a dagger to fight such creatures was really a bad joke, but the name “Dragon Slayer” did have a nice ring to it. Loren planned to add the two daggers to his equipment if Tizona allowed it.