“*Huff *Huff *Huff…” [Ryouma]
Aided only by the light of the moon and the light in his hand, Ryouma quickly moved through the dim paths of the canyon. Only a few minutes has passed since he left the city after receiving the threatening letter. Adventurers passed him from time to time as he traversed the canyon. They were probably still out because of the lich case, but regardless, Ryouma passed by them without sparing a glance as he hurried on his way.
The farther Ryouma ran, the less adventurers passed by and the more undead appeared. Yet he ran quickly through such a perilous canyon, avoiding needless fights to avoid needlessly expending his energy, as he knew that this was probably a trap.
Of course, there were times when he couldn’t avoid a fight too.
“U…” [Zombie 1]
“A…” [Zombie 2]
Two zombies appeared before him, blocking his path.
But with a swing of his ki-reinforced adamantite katana, he cut the two zombies in half with a single stroke. That alone wouldn’t kill the zombies for good, but it was enough to keep them from moving until they regenerated, giving Ryouma ample time to leave them in the dust, which he did.
Ryouma madly rushed through the canyon likes this, but unbeknownst to him, he was being watched.
“*Aho…” [Harris Crow] 
A lone harris crow was flying up in the skies, hidden behind the veil of darkness, as it watched Ryouma running through the canyon. This harris crow was not here by coincidence. It was here precisely to watch Ryouma, as it sent everything it saw back to someone far away.
Beneath the shade of a rock in a place not too far from the city, were a man dressed in metal armor from head to toe and a man dressed in leather armor. They were both members of the group responsible for the kidnappings. The leather-armored man was watching Ryouma through the Harris Crow.
“Has he made any suspicious movements?” [Metal-Armored Man]
“He doesn’t look very happy, but he’s following our orders alright. Only, he’s moving a bit too fast. at this rate, he’ll arrive ahead of schedule… How’s the city?” [Leather-Armored Man]
“No word yet… Never mind, he’s here.” [Metal-Armored Man]
A man wielding a bow suddenly appeared from the shadows. He was obviously one of their friends.
“Yo, how is everyone?” [Bow-Wielding Man]
The man covered in armor asked in a jovial tone.
“You’re late. Has there been any movements in town?” [Metal-Armored Man]
“None. The guy called Ryouma did as instructed, and left town after getting some random request from the guild. He did go to the toilet once, but he just went to relieve himself and wash his face. He didn’t contact anyone.” [Bow-Wielding Man]
“You sure you didn’t overlook anything? No one’s following him, right?” [Leather-Armored Man]
The bow-wielding man responded in a voice slightly more serious than earlier.
“I had people in place to watch the guy. There’s no one following him. Preparing everything was a pain, but he definitely vanished into the crowd properly. There’s no point investigating the toilet either. I mean no slime or rimel bird came out, and there’s nowhere to hide there anyway.
Anyway, enough about me, what about your side? You made sure to watch him, right? One of the orders given was to not use dimension magic until after he gets far enough from the village.” [Bow-Wielding Man]
“Everything is clear on our end too. He looks vigilant, but he can’t do anything anyway, so it’s fine. It would be great if he just kept running and ran out of gas, but that’s probably not happening. Can’t even buy time…” [Leather-Armored Man]
After the leather-armored man said that, the bow-wielding man started complaining.
“…You know I said this before but that old geezer is really dangerous. I really don’t wanna face him in a straight-up fight. If the plan changes any more than this, I’m out.” [Bow-Wielding Man]
“Yeah, if he arrives late, he can kiss the woman goodbye…
…I can monitor him while he’s running, but once he starts teleporting, my harris crow won’t be able to follow. You know, something really just might happen before he arrives…” [Leather-Armored Man]
The metal-armored man interjected.
“…Stop it. And there’s no need for dimension magic anyway, since it’s not that far. Besides, it’s better than his allies finding out.” [Metal-Armored Man]
“Right, someone coming to support him would indeed be worse… We left someone to watch the town, so we’ll just have to brace ourselves.”
Not long after the leather-armored man said that, Ryouma teleported. With that the duty of the leather-armored man was finished, and they also teleported away.
One hour later—
Directly south of the center of the canyon was Ryouma, standing at the top of a tall cliff, looking down the staircase-like path of the cliff that led to the location designated in the letter.
(There’s something there…)
In the designated location was a pillar of stone as high as one’s waist, upon which was a scrap of paper. When Ryouma unfolded the paper, he found out that it was a map.
(They didn’t tell me about this. They’re really being cautious.)
Climbing up and down the staircase-like cliffs and passing through some thickets here and there took him all-in-all about 20 minutes.
(…So they are planning on ambushing me. I’m surrounded…)
As the wind blew throughout the canyon, the sound of clothes ruffling resounded along the sound of weapons being readied. The enemy didn’t seem to have any intentions of attacking, but Ryouma could sense their numbers growing as he drew deeper the designated location.
When the location pointed out in the new map came to view, what he saw was a level area about as big as a basketball court, around which was a fence with uneven height reinforced by earth magic, blocking any other paths of escape. Further up ahead was another cliff, atop which was a lit torch surrounded by several men.
When Ryouma took a step further, a young man seemingly still in his 20s called out to him.
“Walk to the center! Don’t make any unnecessary movements!” [???]
Ryouma did as he said, though he did so while making sure there were no traps buried under the ground. When he reached the center, magic wrapped around Ryouma, and 40 people showed themselves. They were mostly men with a ratio of four men for every woman.
Most of them wielded ranged weaponry like bows. They looked down on Ryouma from atop the cliff, where his katana couldn’t reach them. As Ryouma braced himself, he focused his senses to unravel the purpose of the magic he felt earlier.
“—A magic barrier.” [Ryouma]
Ryouma said that in a weak voice, but the earlier man managed to pick it up.
“It would trouble us if you ran, after all. These guys have their weapons out just to be safe, but they won’t do anything as long as you listen to me.” [???]
When Ryouma heard the man say that, he started analyzing the situation. Ryouma had no intention of just blindly doing what he was told.
(He says that after going out of his way to secure a hostage? He doesn’t trust me at all, does he? Though it is true that I can’t use my dimension magic. Judging from the flow of magic power, it’s scope is quite big… I don’t think a person casted this. More than likely they used a tool or a magic jewel. It’s a barrier pretty much meant to be used for buildings. Since they’re able to prepare something like this, I suppose there really is someone behind them.)
Magic tools that could erect barriers were by no means cheap. Your run-of-the-mill bandit couldn’t possibly procure them.
Upon realizing that these bandits weren’t just bandits, Ryouma sent an order to the shadow slimes hiding in his shadow.
(Since the magic tool is turned on, it should be emitting magic power. Use that magic power to find the tool, then hide yourselves in its shadow.)
At his orders, 8 shadow slimes began to move to all four directions without anyone noticing.
(The slimes can take care of the barrier, so I should just focus on confirming Elia’s whereabouts…)
“I came as you asked, but you are the people responsible for kidnapping Elia, right? While I do want to know why you had to go out of your way to call me out like this, there’s something I want to know first. Is Elias safe?” [Ryouma]
Ryouma firmly asked.
“It would have been troublesome if she made a fuss, so we put her to sleep and gagged her, then stuffed her in a bag.” [???]
“I want to see she’s safe.” [Ryouma]
“Oh, then it that case… Oi! Bring the bag!” [???]
(Is this young man the leader? Sure is different from all the chief heads I’ve seen until now. He’s quite young too. Actually, it’s not just him, they’re all young.)
The kidnappers all looked fairly young. Even the oldest among them looked no older than their twenties.
(…Will they really bring Elia?)
“The place where we keep the hostage is a bit far, so it’ll take a bit of time until they arrive. Why don’t we talk until then?” [???]
Ryouma’s gaze became sharp at those words.
“Don’t be like that. It would be a waste to just wait without doing anything, right?” [???]
(Well I do want to know why they called me out here…)
“Let’s hear it then.” [Ryouma]
And so the young chief head told Ryouma his demands.
 The cry of crows are said to sound like ‘Aho’, which means idiot.
Here’s one in action: