“Join us.” [Bandit Leader]
Ryouma thought for sure the man would ask for wealth or goods. Never did he think that the man would actually ask him to join them.
“We work in the slave industry for the Dark Guild. We’re responsible for the securing and selling of slaves and people who know how to fight. Strong people are really important, you know?
We’ll have to put a magic tool on you to keep you from rebelling, but we can promise you food and treatment no different from us. It would be a pain if you couldn’t fight when needed, after all.” [Bandit Leader]
“I thought the Dark Guild saw me as a thorn in the foot? I heard it from time to time from the bandits I’ve caught.” [Ryouma]
The bandit leader chuckled when Ryouma said that.
“A message did go around saying to avoid recklessly messing with you, but that was only because there was no point in those small fries attacking you.
There are people in the guild who dislike you, yes, but everyone acknowledges your strength, which is why there is value in enslaving you.
Many would rather sell you afterwards, but we have no such intentions. In the Dark Guild, money and achievements are everything. No one can take another person’s achievements, doing so means either a beating, excommunication, or even worse, the cellar. As your captors, you belong to us, Ryouma Takebayashi. No one can force us to sell you.” [Bandit Leader]
The man said as he made a cutting motion to his neck.
Ryouma, however, did not understand what he meant by the “cellar”. Sensing that, the man called out behind him.
“Ahh, by cellar, we’re referring to that… Oi! Bring that old man over!” [Bandit Leader]
The thin-haired man behind the leader entered a small path, then when he came back, he was dragging a hooded man. The man brought that hooded man to the leader.
“Those who commit an unpardonable crime end up in the cellar. They become slaves of the Dark Guild.” [Bandit Leader]
When the leader took off the hood covering the man’s face, Ryouma twitched.
The man’s face was covered with wounds clearly inflicted by another man. There were scars even on the hands that peeked out of his long sleeves, but despite all that, what really bothered Ryouma was those pair of eyes that were full of hostility as they glared at Ryouma.
“He won’t be able to get in town with all those wounds, and if he does run, we’ll be able to easily bring him back. People who fall into the cellar aren’t given any opportunities to redeem themselves. They are made to work minor jobs away from prying eyes. Many of those who fall into the cellar never make it out, only quietly dying, never to be heard of again. That’s why we call it the cellar.
Well, they do sometimes get lucky and end up getting transferred. If they’re really lucky, they get put to use instead of just letting them rot in the cellar. This man, for example. I heard he once fought with you before, so I brought him here with me. It’s thanks to him that I found out all about your fighting style and your weird magic.” [Bandit Leader]
After saying all that the man looked at the scarred man with a mocking face. Ryouma also woke up from his pondering to look at the scarred man.
“If you want to say a word of complaint or two, I won’t mind.” [Bandit Leader]
“Thank you.” [Scarred Man]
As the scarred man thanked the leader, he looked down on Ryouma from the top of the cliff.
“It’s been a while… Do you remember me?” [Scarred man]
Ryouma became thoughtful for a moment, but…
“…Who are you?” [Ryouma]
“Heh… Don’t remember, huh.” [Scarred Man]
The man started laughing in self-derision, then with a voice full of rage, he bellowed.
“You forgot me… But I didn’t forget you. Not once! Did I forget you, Mr. Takebayashi! It was because of you that I ended up like this. Because of you that I ended up in the cellar! All because you had to squeal about the Dark Guild branch!” [Scarred Man]
“Dark Guild branch? …” [Ryouma]
It was then that Ryouma finally began to recall the man.
It was such an old story that Ryouma had already forgotten about it, but some bandits once attacked his home (Tunnels) out of vengeance for catching their comrades. Of course, Ryouma took care of them, but he let a few of them go to find their base, which he did. The man before him is one of those men that he let escape. He doesn’t know his name, though.
“So you’re that guy!” [Ryouma]
“You remembered, huh.” [Scarred Man]
“Wasn’t the branch destroyed? Why weren’t you caught?” [Ryouma]
“Apparently, the others you caught helped him, so he wasn’t there when the raid happened.
In his place, those who were in the branch at the time were caught, and even the deal previously agreed on was broken.
After some investigation, we found out that this man here is the reason behind everything, so we threw him into the cellar.” [Bandit Leader]
It was the leader who answered Ryouma’s question. The scarred man didn’t say anything more, and just smiled creepily in agreement to the man’s words. He walked back behind the leader while grumbling.
(They make me sick. So this guy leaked information? The magic I used back then was an original if I recall correctly… But I specifically picked out the ones I let escape, so this guy shouldn’t know about my secrets either.)
Around this time, Ryouma received word from the shadow slimes that they had successfully hidden in the shadows of the magic tools responsible for the barrier.
(Good. All that’s left now is Elia… Since they kept talking about some cellar, there’re probably a lot of hidden places here… She’s probably in one of those. And this so-called ‘leader’, he seems to be hiding something. Let’s try poking around a bit.)
“I’ve heard your story, but Elia comes first. Where is she? Are you really planning on bringing her?” [Ryouma]
“It ain’t easy carrying another person safely up the steep slopes. It’ll take some time. I’ve said it time and time again, we haven’t laid a hand on her. So as long as you obediently become a slave, we’ll let her go home.” [Bandit Leader]
“Why do you have to go out of your way to make just me your slave? Wouldn’t it benefit you more to have both of us as your slaves?” [Ryouma]
“You’re plenty enough. After all, you’re the man responsible for all that ruckus with the Tamer Guild and the Dark Guild. Those incidents really made you famous, you know. Anyway, being too greedy isn’t good.” [Bandit Leader]
When the leader spoke this time, the tone of his voice seemed far more serious than before.
(The tone of his voice suddenly changed… Is this guy the type to needlessly take care of his subordinates even when no one asked him to?
There were those types back in my previous life. The new comers sometimes had a tendency to hide their mistakes, but doing that only exacerbated the problems, so these subordinate-caring types would pester them to avoid that, only to be shunned. In the end, they get tired, and… Wait, that has nothing to do with the situation right now.
Anyway, these types don’t really like getting tangled up with problems and unnecessary complications.
Now, he might not notice if I just outright change the topic, but it would probably be better if I change the topic shrewdly.
The reason he gave wasn’t a lie, but it was a bit too weak.)
“Even though you already kidnapped her? From the letter you gave me, it seems you already know Elia’s identity. You should know, right? They’re not going to stop looking for you even if you send her back.” [Ryouma]
The leader didn’t reply, but he didn’t look perturbed either. Compared to him, however, the rest of his men were clearly agitated. It was a mystery whether they simply felt guilty or were fearful of having made enemies with a duke, but there was no doubting that they were restless. The leader glared at them, then he spoke.
“I know it’s a bit late, but we actually didn’t have any intentions of kidnapping the young lady of the Jamil Household. We were originally supposed to just kidnap another adventurer or two, then run away. Of course, we did consider kidnapping those girls with you. But our targets would have been either one of those two from the beast tribes.” [Bandit Leader]
(That’s still plenty bad though… I’d feel bad even if it were Kanan or Miyabi who were kidnapped. Although, it is true that it wouldn’t blow up as much if they were the ones to be kidnapped.)
“Then why did you kidnap Elia?” [Ryouma]
“The two beast girls just wouldn’t leave the others while they were waiting for you to come back. When the kidnapper assigned saw the Jamil young lady leave the group, he saw an opportunity he couldn’t let go.” [Bandit Leader]
When Ryouma heard that he remembered the Ghost House.
“If it were just the lich we were dealing with, we probably would have gotten back earlier, but there was another annoying magical beast that complicated things.” [Ryouma]
“Another magical beast? I never heard about that… But if we knew about that we probably wouldn’t have kidnapped the young lady.” [Bandit Leader]
“Why didn’t you just give up on the kidnapping?” [Ryouma]
“That should have been the case. I also chose someone who normally wouldn’t have done anything unnecessary. I even warned him time and time again not to, but… in the end, greed got to him.” [Bandit Leader]
(So that’s what happened. His subordinate’s mistake is what got Elia into this mess. But that’s not really the reason behind why that subordinate of his made that mistake. The real reason is that this place demands you to cough up result quickly or else…
But wouldn’t that kidnapper end up in the cellar if the search for Elia ends up implicating the dark guild?)
While Ryouma was thinking that, a man carrying a bag came with several people equipped with spears. That was the man the leader ordered to bring Elia. Spears were constantly pointed at the bag even as the man carried it; a little weight was all that it would take to puncture a hole into the bag.
The man walked away after leaving the bag beside the leader, but the spears remained.
“Open the bag.” [Ryouma]
“Before that I want you to throw away your weapon and armor. Ah, just the armor on your upper body is fine. Then I want you to put this on. It would be really problematic if you ran away the moment you saw her.” [Bandit Leader]
The leader threw a pair of metal rings to Ryouma. They were handcuffs, and a chain connected them. There was also a trace of magic power emanating from them. The handcuffs were clearly cursed.
(‘Identify’. A curse that blocks magic power. The counter to this is—)
“Put it on now!!” [Bandit Leader]
The leader grew impatient when he saw Ryouma move so slow, and he stepped on the bag.
“What are you doing!?” [Ryouma]
“Put the cuffs on! If you don’t behave…” [Bandit Leader]
Even when Ryouma reacted when the leader stepped on the bag, the leader just hurried him even more.
(This is a good chance. And besides, a curse like this doesn’t really matter to this body. Shadow slimes, ready yourselves.)
Ryouma placed his katana on the floor, and removed his armor along with his bracers. But he didn’t remove his other upper armor, the knife-proof vest that didn’t look like an armor, and was made from the stickly slime’s thread.
Everyone watched with rapt attention as Ryouma put on the cuffs.
“…Yes. Open the bag! Look!” [Bandit Leader]
As the leader yelled and opened the bag—
(Break the magic tools!)
Arrows, knives, and magic fell one after another toward Ryouma.
Ryouma jumped to the side to dodge the first wave, but more came shooting at him.
(Were they expecting this?)
As Ryouma thought that, he threw a projectile toward the leader.
“What!?” [Bandit Leader]
The leader immediately reacted, as he bended his upper body down, allowing the projectile to only graze past his cheek. But when he saw what Ryouma had thrown, he was shocked. That was none other than one of the very rings that should have been attached to Ryouma’s wrist.
As a cyclone was summoned, all the knives and arrows were blown away.
Ryouma stood at the center without any cuffs on his wrists.
Tl Note: Erm… I said we’ll finish this this week, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. Well, either way, we’re finishing it this week for sure. I’ll post another chapter tomorrow.