19: Bandit Chief
Part 1: Vagabond Arc "Ash-crowned Princess of Slaughter" Chapter 1: The Heroine Went Against Fate
"Just when I thought I heard something...you little shit...did you kill that guy?"
Finding the corpse of his comrade in the darkness, the man glared at me with his sword drawn as I held my knife at the ready.
Did he hear the noise I made when I killed that guy? Either way, it seemed impossible to catch him off guard by pretending that I was just a kid, so I also pointed my black knife at the man.
If I didn't count that time with Viro, this would be my first real battle.
Still, having experienced Feld's and Viro's killing intent, I felt tense but not fearful to the point of shrivelling up at the killing intent that was being released by the man.
Hard leather armour and a one-handed longsword. The equipment itself looked old, but it was the typical "warrior" equipment.
He appeared to be in his early thirties. There was only one bandit whose combat strength was 90, higher than the others around him, but if it was this man, he was probably not a bandit or a villager, but a deserter or a failed adventurer.
I've heard that even during the large monster outbreak that killed my parents, some of the soldiers who had only ever dealt with humans ran away from fighting the monsters.
If he was a deserter, Dad might not have died if this man hadn't escaped. I knew it was just a hindsight-based opinion, but when I couldn't help but stare at him coldly, the man grimaced without hiding it.
"...What an eerie brat. So you did him in after all."
Even I would find it eerie for a child to appear in the depths of the forest like this and not be frightened when I pointed my sword at them.
Even if this man was a deserter, I had no hatred for him. But instead of anger, a thick, cold killing intent seeped out, making the man gulp at my Intimidation.
Rather than being lunged at in anger, it was still easier to handle a wary opponent.
A combat strength of 90 or so would mean that he's a rank two warrior.
Most likely, his Sword Arts skill was level two, and his Defence and Martial Arts skills were only level one. As I recalled, his magic power was around 50, so if he had any elemental sorcery, it was at most level one, but I would guess that if he had that amount of magic power at that age, he probably didn't.
Regarding projectile weapons, I believed that if he was a former soldier he would be able to use a bow to some extent. Since Archery was a skill that could be used on its own even without Throwing, I kept my vigilance against projectile weapons such as knives at a medium level.
While analysing the situation with a level of composure that surprised even myself, we readied our weapons while releasing our killing intent on each other, and gradually shifted our positions in a clockwise rotation.
This man...let's call him a bandit chief for now, and let's try to find a way to fight him.
Assuming that the bandit chief's combat skill was really Sword Arts Level 2, if we engaged in a serious fight, I would be blown away by that alone because I was just a child.
I wouldn't be fighting him directly. I also wouldn't be careless. Feld and Viro have caused my sense of values to become strange, but even this man's combat strength was enough of a threat.
The bandit chief exaggeratedly dodged the steel skewer I suddenly threw at him.
He must have been drinking. He might have thought that his level of drunkenness wouldn't be a problem when dealing with a child, but that was because his judgment was impaired by the alcohol.
Not having the Throwing skill, the skewer would have simply bounced off of this man's armour, but I was able to break his stance more than necessary thanks to his vigilance against me.
Instead of foolishly using the opening to attack, I leaped backwards to create some distance.
"You're not getting away!"
Having gained some distance, I turned around and started running normally, with the bandit chief following me.
Considering the state of mind of the bandit chief, he was wary of me, who had killed his comrade and exuded killing intent and intimidation even though I was a child. But since I was a child, there was no way he could be so shameless as to call his buddies. Yet because I was a child, he assumed that I ran away at the sight of his weapon.
Although he was trying to be cautious, his pride as the leader of the bandits prevented him from being too cautious towards a child.
So he didn't hesitate to chase me as I fled into the darkness where the light from the campfire couldn't reach.
I had no need to win against this man. It would be my victory if I could buy enough time for Viro to take care of the other bandits. For me, the most troublesome thing would be for him to cause a commotion in that place, dragging the other bandits into a chaotic melee.
Although there was a difference in speed between an adult and a child, I estimated that it would be about the same between me with my luggage removed and the bandit chief with his armour on and his weapon drawn.
The bandit chief, having chased after me as I expected, noticeably slowed down when he entered the forest where even the moonlight couldn't reach, and he stumbled over a some roots, losing his balance.
The bandit chief chanted a Daily Life magic, which caused a small candle-sized light to be lit on the tip of his sword.
The forest was once again enveloped in darkness as I easily cancelled it out with a blast of magic particles from a distance.
Additional enemy information. The bandit chief didn't have the Night Vision skill.
After that the bandit chief chanted Light a few more times, but it kept being erased by my Dark.
It was difficult to send the magic particles where I wanted, but I was still able to cancel out the light even if the released dark magic particles were scattered to some extent. Besides, my study of Noise to make a sound where I wanted helped me here.
The magic power value of the bandit chief was around 50. In contrast, mine was around 70. Not only that, but the bandit chief had been using Body Strengthening ever since he pointed his sword at me.
It had been approximately a dozen minutes since the battle began. Since Body Strengthening consumed roughly 1 MP every 100 seconds, the bandit chief's magic power kept decreasing during that time.
In the first place, I didn't even use Body Strengthening except in combat, so the bandit chief finally gave up using Light in this never-ending battle of magic power consumption.
"You son of a bitch! Come out and fight like a man!!"
Don't demand something so unreasonable from a child. One more additional enemy information. The bandit chief probably also didn't have the Detection skill, since he couldn't even keep track of my location after entering the forest.
But he probably could still sense my presence. When I started to move, he swung his sword at me guided by the slightest sound of footsteps.
A Sword Arts level 1 Battle Technique, Slash, cut through the darkness right beside me.
The attack was surprisingly accurate. As I thought, level 2 Sword Arts was not to be taken lightly. My palms were moist with sweat from having a Battle Technique directed at me for the first time.
Neither of us had a decisive course of action. I couldn't do any damage without exploiting an opening. The bandit chief also couldn't attack me unless I attacked him.
But there was a crucial difference between us. I was the one who held the initiative to attack.
The defensive bandit chief couldn't afford to cut off his Body Strengthening, while my goal was to stall for time, so I could preserve my magic power without being rushed.
However, before reaching the time limit when Viro's battle should be over, the bandit chief's Body Strengthening vanished, perhaps due to overusing Light and reaching the limit of his magic power, causing his legs to stagger slightly.
The bandit chief, finally realizing he was at a disadvantage, broke into a run toward the village, his face distorted.
Even though he was still stronger than me without using Body Strengthening, he exhausted his magic power because he was wary of me, and ran away when he didn't really have to.
That was a bad decision. He had pride, but lacked resolve.
However, my "training" would be meaningless if I just quietly overlooked his mistake.
When I jumped out of the shadow of a tree, the bandit chief reacted to the faint sound and swung his sword behind him.
But his sword's movement was clearly dull. Not only because of the loss of Body Strengthening, but also because the bandit chief, whose former profession was that of a soldier, was probably afraid of fighting without Body Strengthening due to that being the common sense of combat professions.
Even if the speed of his level two sword skill's attack was still fast, it was no longer so fast that even I, with my level one dagger skill, couldn't dodge it in the darkness.
My knife made a shallow slash across the man's thigh.
The knife may be sharp, but my muscle strength didn't allow me to cut deep into the muscles of an adult. But that wasn't a big issue.
"You little shit!!"
Even if you scream in anger and threaten me, I will not be scared of you.
On the contrary, the terror of being sliced to bits in the darkness caused the man's swings to become increasingly wider, to the point where his Sword Arts skill couldn't compensate for it any more.
I then took my time to repeatedly slash at the bandit chief's legs whenever I saw an opening.
It was partly to keep him from escaping the forest, but also because at my height, I'd have to step pretty far in to reach the upper half of his body. I was tempted to try out my own Battle Technique, but it would be wiser to refrain from using something like that, which had a large swing to it, in this situation.
The bandit chief was stronger than me. So I would immediately distance myself away whenever I landed a blow. That was why I would never let him escape from this darkness.
None of the wounds I inflicted were fatal. There were many areas that had been slashed, covering the lower half of his body in blood, but there were still no wounds to any vital organs.
But then, the situation I was afraid of finally happened.
"...Hah, hahah! I can finally see you, you fucking brat!!!"
Morning came, and the slight rays of the morning sun made my ashless, pink-blonde hair glitter.
"It's over, you son of a bitch!"
Time's up, huh. I guess my "training" is over already.
The bandit chief, having finally found me and ready to cut me down, collapsed to his knees on the spot the moment started to dash towards me.
The sword slipped from his hand as well, and I watched coldly as the bandit chief's deathly pale face displayed his bewilderment.
"It's morning already, you know? How many hours do you think it's been since then?"
My aim was to make him bleed to death. For this reason, I dared not drive too deep and only inflicted wounds that would increase the bleeding.
I recovered the stamina lost from staying up all night with Heal, kicked away the one-handed sword that had fallen from the bandit chief's hand, and approached him warily with my knife at the ready.
"Can you still fight?"
"I see. Then, sayonara."
While meeting his half-frightened, glaring eyes head-on, I ruthlessly slashed the bandit chief's throat with my knife.
There was no need to carelessly step closer. I kept my knife drawn and stared fixedly at the despairing man until the blood gushing from his wound quenched the fire of his life.
Dragging the longsword, which was my spoils of war, I returned to the abandoned village. An unharmed Viro, drinking fruit wine from his canteen, raised one hand lightly beside the corpses piled in the middle of the public square.
"Yo, you're late. Tough guy?"
"The leader of the bandits, perhaps? Here's the spoils."
It's fine to be a little more worried about me...
Viro took the longsword I handed him and inspected it with narrowed eyes.
"Not too bad a sword...amazed you won. This is a low-priced one, the kind ordered by the nobles. It has the crest of Baron Horace on the hilt but...well, a dead bandit's background doesn't matter."
"More importantly, light them up for me. I already poured oil on the corpses, but my tinderbox is busted so I can't even light a damn cigarette.
"Roger. ...How about giving up smoking?"
After making sure the fire didn't spread, we immediately left the abandoned village with Viro happily puffing on a cigarette and me nibbling on some dried bread.
"Fuwaa...as expected, all-nighters are getting pretty tiresome. Let's book a good inn when we get to the next town. Since the bandits had some money, I'll give you half, so pay for yours yourself."
And so we continued our journey, arriving three days later at the largest city in the territory of Count Taurus.
It was a rare battle that lacked any sense of exhilaration. (LOL)
However, Aria's battles are fundamentally fought with schemes and traps. The exhilarating battles will have to wait until she grows up a bit more.
Next time: The last part of chapter one. The destination of the journey.
I'm about to run out of stockpiled chapters.
I'm not sure if using "sayonara" was a good idea or not. Apparently it did become an actual English word (personally never heard it outside of movies), so I chose to leave it because I couldn't find a better replacement that stated clearly enough that she's saying her final words before killing her opponent (guess that's why I never heard it in real life). The alternatives are "goodbye", "farewell" and a few other variations, but putting "goodbye" aside, "farewell" is a bit too "nice".
Also, I chose to put the image a bit earlier than where the light novel translator put it (which would be at the ⁂ in this case) because it shows a clean knife, meaning she hasn't slashed the man yet. I think it fits well there. It's not like it was put in a good place in the raw anyway. It was literally at the end of the chapter.
- [+] Something that was added in the light novel.
- [–] Something that didn't make it into the light novel.
- [≠] Some difference in details.
- [+] Since in the web novel she wasn't made to fight goblins by Viro, she only mentions not counting him when she says that this would be her first real battle.
- [≠] In the web novel the man's combat strength was exactly 90, but in the light novel it was left more vague at "nearly 100".
- [+] Aria thinking that she still had no intention to withdraw after mentioning that she would also find herself eerie in that situation.
- [≠] In the web novel Aria kept her vigilance towards only projectile weapons at a medium level, while in the light novel it was a low level of vigilance towards both projectile weapons and sorcery.
- [≠] In the light novel Aria mentioned that the dark magic particles would scatter the light automatically so it wasn't that difficult, but in the web novel it was hard to shoot them to a particular direction (and studying Noise helped her with that) but it still worked even if they were scattered.
- [≠] In the web novel Aria mentioned the bandit chief's level two sword skill no longer being too fast to dodge even with her level one dagger skill, but in the light novel it changed to her level one martial arts.
- [–] The part about her not needing to carelessly step closer to the dying man. Not actually something that was cut, but something that the translator of the light novel left out for some reason.
- [–] Viro saying that the sword isn't too bad when explaining where it came from. The "amazed you won" part is also rearranged a bit in the light novel.