༺ Cultist Nymph and Pluto’s Underground Labyrinth (8) ༻
The demoralized gang of bandits was quickly subdued.
In all honesty, the individual skills of this ragtag gathering of bandits were not particularly outstanding.
If they had excelled in combat skills, in the first place, they would have pursued a more respectable profession instead of resorting to robbery and theft.
From what I’ve heard, it seemed that the people who couldn’t even gather the 20 silvers required for guild membership fees were the ones who usually fell into this kind of wicked path.
It was a significant amount of money, equivalent to 2,000,000 won. However, unless they were slaves, if one made the effort for it, 20 silvers was still a sum that could be accumulated within a year by just about anyone.
Those scoundrels who only engaged in despicable schemes to rip off others without putting in any effort would never become strong in their lives.
Of course, some named individuals among the criminals, wanted by the kingdom itself, were a different case altogether. However, compared to their initial confident appearance, these guys turned out to be all bark and no bite.
Condition: Night Blindness 》Tenosynovitis 》Dupuytren Contracture 1Just Google the names.
In reality, Zod, the dual-sword-wielding leader of the bandits, only had an overall level of 7.
Upon feeling their pulse, I found out that the remaining surviving bandits ranged from about level 3 to, at most, level 5. They were barely around the iron-tier level of adventurer ranks.
Excluding the two who died from the Ice Arrow attack, piercing through their throats, the remaining eight had all been cornered and captured in one spot.
“B-Be careful. Tie me gently. I have a condition where I feel pain if tied too tightly!”
“Then try to make some three-line acrostic poem in that rotten head of yours and see if you can recite a good one to me. Depending on the quality of your poem, I just might tie you gently.”
“Take this hit on your head, you motherfucker! You asked for it, you punk!”
I swung my club with all my might toward the head of the bandit who was whining nonstop and was even demanding to be tied gently.
The pleading noises surrounding me, that were buzzing around like the broadcast of a local radio station, instantly died down, along with that scream.
“Good, finally, it’s a bit quieter. These damn rascals talk way too much.”
Having around eight bandits all huddled together and kneeling in one place was enough to create a great deal of pressure and momentum. Even if their levels were low, their attacks would become stronger when they worked together as a team.
A great hero would still die when they got stabbed by a sword. In the same way, they could also die if surrounded and beaten by multiple people.
Therefore, I pondered how to deal with this ragtag gang of bandits.
“They are truly despicable and ignorant. All of these guys should be executed!”
Velmina, the ice mage, insisted that all the tied-up bandits should be killed here and now.
She must have been furious because of what they had mentioned earlier— the talk about taking her to their cave and making her an ice-making slave. Well, even aside from that, the mage, Velmina, had been merciless to the bandits from the get-go.
As she had been the one who pierced the throats of the first two bandits and killed them in cold blood. She didn’t even hesitate for a second in killing people. Was it because she manipulated the ice element that her heart was as cold as chilling frost?
“What do you think, Mr. Didier?”
“If you are going to slit throats, it’s better to end their lives in one swift motion, making it painless and instantaneous. Even if I was the one who delivered the final blow, I will probably have endless nightmares from hearing a dying man’s screams. So, it’s better to do it swiftly and silently.”
After uttering those words, Didier immediately raised his large double-edged axe, readying it for the act of execution. Indeed, if he were to slice those bandits with such a heavy weapon, the bones in the neck would definitely be severed as easily as soft tofu.
“The duty of executing the prisoners is an exclusive privilege of the party leader. Here’s the axe. Party leader bro, since it will be difficult if you use your club, I’ll make an exception and lend my weapon to you this time.”
Just like Velmina, the ice mage, Didier also seemed to have the same opinion about the execution of these bandits.
Considering how this world treated concepts like human rights and respect for life like the jokes of a madman, taking these criminal bandits’ lives was no different from killing mosquitoes that sucked on human blood.
However, from my perspective as a modern person, I found myself questioning whether it was right for me to take their lives so easily in this fashion.
“What about you, Luna? What do you think?”
“Me? Well, I….”
Luna’s emerald-hued orbs glanced over the huddled and restrained bandits. There seemed to be a complex emotion flickering in her eyes as she saw them. But it was difficult even for me to understand just what that expression meant.
“I will leave it to you, Hassan.”
Ultimately, it seemed that the decision was up to me.
I accepted the double-edged axe that Didier had passed over to me and hung it over my shoulder. The despairing bandits trembled even more violently at that sight. They probably sensed their impending death at that action of mine.
I spoke to them in an apathetic tone.
“You have committed numerous crimes. Firstly, the crime of robbery. Secondly, the crime of violence, and third… damn, I don’t even know what it is, but you guys must have committed many other atrocities that I can’t even fathom.”
The bandits remained silent at my harsh remarks.
A quiet atmosphere settled in the air; as if everyone was waiting to hear what words would come out of my lips next.
“However, I will forgive all of you.”
“But, this axe says that it can’t forgive you insufferable lot.”
So it was only half forgiveness.
It was akin to leaving them in a state where they were neither dead nor alive.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The items looted from those bandits consisted of seven long swords and about five silvers. The remaining items were more or less worthless trinkets, so I simply discarded them into the fields.
As for the bartering and distribution of the seven long swords, I decided to leave it to the dwarven warrior, Didier, for later, while the five of us divided the five silvers among ourselves. Each person received one silver.
Didier spoke while loading the seven longswords in the trunk-themed storage compartment of the carriage.
“Nothing accumulates karma better than killing people. The party leader is given the power to do the execution as a reward for taking care of various troublesome tasks along the way, you know?”
“However, you refused to take that chance. I can’t understand. Perhaps in the eyes of the Samaritan warrior bro, those guys aren’t even worth killing— is it something like that? Those bandits were weak indeed, that is an undeniable fact.”
Instead of answering, I recalled what happened when Velmina’s ice magic rapidly froze those people into living sculptures of ice and frost.
We pushed them into a deep pit dug by the mud golem.
Their frozen state will more or less dissolve by the time the guards, Luna had summoned using her summoning voodoo spell, came and threw them into prison.
Didier told me off for letting go of the chance of gaining more karma. Honestly speaking, there was no advantage for me in killing those bandits.
The reason I could build my karma points, or in other words accumulate task points, was not because I killed people but because I gave people a massage that could resolve their strange quirks, curse, and abnormalities.
Also, beheading the throats of eight people would most likely make me lose sleep at night.
Task Points: 42 → 182
Blessings: Blessing of Chaos 》Shinning Hand 》Night’s Cloak
Anyway, before we froze those guys, I quickly applied some quick acupuncture treatments to their palms and significantly increased my task points. From my perspective, I could consider that I had obtained everything I needed from these punks.
While I was satisfied in my own way, Didier, who closed the carriage’s storage compartment, added a few more words at the end.
“To be honest, I don’t know what those bandits can do with their prolonged lives other than living aimlessly and eating the rest of their days out in prison. In fact, from a warrior’s perspective, you’re a failure through and through bro. There’s no denying that.”
I couldn’t help but think that it was a harsh evaluation of myself. From the very start, I had never boasted about being a great warrior; not even once.
It was just that others would easily form prejudices based on my appearance and either praise or criticize me accordingly.
“However, as a person, I find you quite likable. Although it might be good to have someone who can cut a person’s throat without hesitation as a comrade, I wouldn’t want them as a friend.”
“Then does that mean you and I have become friends, Mr. Didier?”
“Haven’t we all become friends from the moment we started riding the same carriage together to embark on this difficult journey? Anyway, all of the baggage has been loaded. It seems we can depart now.”
Leaving behind the eight half-buried blocks of ice, we set off for the road once again.
Unintentionally, half a day had already passed since we left the city, so I told the coachman to hurry up and urge the horses to run faster.
With the soft, rhythmic sound of horseshoes, the two horses started zooming along the roads at faster speeds. Before we knew it, the flower-filled meadows of Acheron began to be tinted by the red hues of the setting sun.
Only the sound of Didier’s snoring echoed loudly inside the carriage.
Everyone was exhausted from the fight with the group of bandits, so they crossed their arms and closed their eyes to doze off or became busy with their own work.
I, too, decided to take advantage of the silence to replenish my stamina. Just as I was getting used to the tranquility, the ice mage, Velmina, wiping her small wand with a handkerchief till now, opened her mouth and spoke in a gentle tone.
“Did you call it the Shadow Binding curse?”
Luna, immersed in looking out the window till now, flinched visibly at the words that were clearly directed towards her.
“Well, it may pale in comparison to instant freezing magic, but it seems to have quite the useful effect in restraining people’s movements.”
“T-That’s an incredibly advanced spell that only the great shamans of Ideope can use. I guess I got lucky that it worked out this time.”
“A great shaman, huh? It seems Ideope’s sorcery has some unexpected usefulness to it.”
“Yes, your magic was quite powerful too. You can pierce through two people’s throats in an instant…”
“That’s a given.”
With that, the women’s conversation swiftly came to an end. Was this the depiction of a heartwarming picture where they acknowledged each other’s strengths?
If we continued this harmonious atmosphere, we just might be in good enough shape to successfully go through and succeed in our upcoming labyrinth conquest.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As the evening approached and the tired horses needed rest, we decided to stop the carriage and set up camp. The place we used as the campsite was the abandoned temple we had utilized for rest when we were tasked with suppressing the cultists on the previous quest.
Back then, the surroundings were filled with eerie mist and swamps, resembling the terrifying set of a bonafide horror movie.
Now, under the moonlight, the swaying flowers and tall reeds gave the place a rather beautiful and charming appearance.
“This place used to be the temple of the goddess Ceres, but it has been abandoned for a long time. Tsk. It pains me as a follower of Ceres to see it in this state. Party leader bro, should I just clean up the surroundings? What do you think?”
“Sure, why not? After all, since we will set up a camp here, we should naturally tidy up the area.”
With everyone’s agreement, the work to set up the campsite began in earnest.
I cleared the scattered rocks and leveled the bumpy ground. Meanwhile, the dwarven warrior, Didier, wiped the goddess’ statue with a cloth, removing the bird droppings that had marred its once majestic figure.
Gecko— Gecko— Geck— Geck— Geck— Gari— Geck— Geck—
“A-A moonlight lizard…! Holy shh! H-Hey, you there!”
Luna spotted an odd blue-colored lizard amidst the dark bushes and hurriedly ran towards it at full speed.
Luna was terrible at setting up tents, so that was how I ended up doing it instead of her.
“Even a soft and comfy sofa chair wouldn’t feel nice if one sat on it long enough. Somehow, sitting on this hard rock feels far more comfortable right now.”
Next to me, the ice mage, Velmina, rested on a flat rock. Meanwhile, Paranoy was basking in the warmth of the just-lit campfire.
I used stakes and ropes to set up the tent on the now-leveled ground, and after that, I called everyone over to sit together.
“Now, let’s boil some water, shall we?”
Anyway, we unpacked our belongings and surrounded the campfire after diligently setting up the tent and creating a barrier in the surrounding area that would make noise when someone trespassed inside. After that, we started boiling a pot over the fire.
As the iron cast pot simmered with herbs, mushrooms, and chunks of meat, emitting a delightful aroma, the dwarven warrior, Didier, took something out of his pocket with a cautious look on his face.
“Ahem, well… Ahem…!”
He seemed to have something to say to us but probably felt awkward starting up the conversation by himself. So he was more or less hoping for someone to converse with him first.
I decided to play along and asked him in a quizzical tone.
“This? Oh, this is… magic powder. When you sprinkle it, any food becomes incredibly delicious. I made this myself. How about I pour it inside this pot for you guys to try? If you don’t want to, it’s fine though.”
Didier explained as if he had been waiting for this very moment. The magic powder was suspicious as hell though.
So, after poking my finger into the small packet, I brought it to my tongue to check it out. It was strangely savory, yet indescribably artificial, spreading a peculiar taste on the tip of my tongue.
If I must compare it to something similar in taste then—
It tasted like MSG. Who would have thought this mysterious and delectable tasting salt would be created by a dwarf in this world and even be named magic powder?
“It does have a great taste.”
“R-Really? I meticulously ground rock salt, dried crab shells, and even dried yellowtail powder. It works really well when added to soups and stews.”
I vaguely understood that dwarves had many specialties. But some of these people seemed to have skills not only in handling iron or rock hammers but also in cooking.
Thanks to Didier, we were able to enjoy a decent hot pot meal during our makeshift camp dinner.
“It tastes better than the food we had outside.”
Even the ice mage, I thought to be picky about food, had two bowls of soup by herself.
After we filled our bellies with warm food and enjoyed the warmth of the campfire, the evening breeze of spring gently blew, lulling us to sleep.
As our hearts relaxed, we each tended to our equipment and exchanged a few words of casual conversation.
Although it was merely the discussion of the aspirations that inspired them to become adventurers and what they would do in the future, it was enough to make these awkward individuals feel somewhat like companions to all of us.
“Anyway, once I earn about 5 more golds, I’ll open a decent restaurant near the south gate of Sodomora. I’ve actually been preparing various recipes for that purpose.”
As Didier spoke optimistically about his dreams, Velmina, the ice mage, who had been silently listening to the conversation, spoke up in the middle.
“A restaurant run by dwarves. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine something like that. I can understand if you want to be a blacksmith or carpenter, but…”
“Sigh, everyone says the same thing. But wouldn’t this restaurant be more successful precisely because of that trait? It’s unique and fresh, you know?”
“Talking about something that doesn’t fit the image, the same can be said for a mage like you, no?”
“What about me?”
“You have exceptional skills in ice magic. With that level, you could get a job as a royal mage in a small kingdom and receive special treatment. Why are you lingering in a mercenary group like this?”
To be honest, I was curious about that as well.
Even though Velmina wasn’t as powerful as Elfriede, who wielded destructive flame magic, she was still the strongest among all the mages I had seen till now.
Velmina’s overall karma points were around 15 or so. However, since combat mages’ level was calculated by adding 10 to their karma points, she was as good as having an overall of 25 points.
If she were at that level, her abilities wouldn’t just be limited to dealing with groups of bandits in a place like this.
However, Velmina simply smiled as if she had heard something trivial.
“The story leading up to that development isn’t very interesting. Why don’t we listen to Miss Nymph’s story instead, since she has now decided to serve the Goddess of the Hearth, Lady Vesta? As a way to pass the time, how about trying out fire divination?”
At the mention of fire divination, Luna, who had been petting the blue lizard, suddenly stood up.
“I love fire divination! It’s boring just to pass time idly at night, so this is just perfect!”
Seeing Luna’s enthusiastic reaction, I had no choice but to ask.
“What’s a fire divination?”
“Well, it seems like Party Leader bro here doesn’t have any experience in this subject. That’s good. Since we have a mage here, it’s a great opportunity to find a suitable attribute.”
Finding an attribute? It was something I had never heard before.
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- 1Just Google the names.