Lucia signaled for the driver to stop and hopped out of the carriage. “I know you’re out there,” she shouted and pointed her sword at the hill. A moment of silence passed with Lucia standing as still as a statue, the wind causing the hairs on her tail to rustle. “Come out!”
Were there really bandits? Now that I think about it, how trustworthy are Lucia’s words? I’d believe her if she told me this two weeks ago when we were still in the desolate mountains, but now…? She’s crazy and suffering from withdrawals. I wouldn’t be too surprised if she heard everything in her head. Her eyes did look a bit glazed over when she ‘noticed’ the ambushers.
“If I have to walk over there, I’m not going to spare any of your lives,” Lucia said and snorted. She took a step forward, causing the earth to fracture and tremble. It seems like she’s making her sword extremely heavy; I’m a bit proud of myself for figuring out that mechanic. I had always wondered why I couldn’t lift her sword back in Teacher’s laboratory. I only figured it out when Lucia forgot to lighten her sword while climbing a tree, causing it to fall over.
There was another heavy thumping sound as Lucia took another step. A group of heads appeared as the bandits started climbing up the hill from the other side. They were dressed in rags and filthy clothes, but their demeanors didn’t fit those of bandits at all: their backs were straight and their posture was immaculate—like they were soldiers. The bandit leader—I could tell because he was wearing an eyepatch and stood at the front of the group—stared at Lucia before asking, “A beastkin?” Then his gaze turned onto me. “Three people. Do you want to surrender yourselves or struggle futilely?”
The bandits standing furthest in the back raised their hands into the air. Massive fireballs sprang into existence above their fingertips. All of them were at least fifth-circle magicians. There was no way these bandits were actually bandits. A fifth-circle magician was a respected figure in society; bandits wouldn’t even make a quarter of what a fifth-circle magician would make as a guest teacher. There’s something really fishy about this. I might as well be straightforward and see how they react. “Are you soldiers?”
“Soldiers? We’re bandits; can’t you see?” the leader asked and gestured towards his eyepatch. He raised his hand and hooked his index finger in front of his face. “Arr.”
“Those are pirates,” Lucia said.
“Shut up!” the leader said, pointing at Lucia. Black lightning, symbolizing a seventh-circle magician or higher, crackled around his hand. “Surrender yourselves peacefully. You have no other choice if you wish to live.”
“Alright,” Lucia said and nodded. Wait, what? She was surrendering just like that? What happened to our deal!? Her tail’s not even stiff! Lucia glanced at the sword in her hand before making eye contact with the leader. “You’d feel better if I wasn’t holding a sword, right?” She grabbed her sword by the blade and gently lobbed it to the leader, hilt first. “Catch.”
“Good”—the leader caught the hilt—“choice!?” The sword dragged his arm towards the ground, and his face followed. Lucia dashed over and grabbed the leader’s legs while he was stunned. The leader screamed as he was lifted into the air and swung around like a ragdoll.
“Captain!” the bandits shouted. A few of them charged forwards while the magicians with the fireballs hesitated.
“Breaking Substitute Blade!” Lucia shouted, infusing the bandit leader with her qi. She swung him with one hand, using him as a makeshift sword. His body collided against his subordinates, and soon, they were all scattered along the hilltop. One of them tried shooting a fireball at Lucia, but after she blocked it with the leader’s body, the rest of them stopped. Without their spells, there was nothing they could do to her. Only when all the demons were groaning on the ground did Lucia stop beating them with their leader’s body. She looked at me. “All done. Or did you want me to kill them? I’m not a murderer though, so you can do it if you want.”
I climbed out of the carriage—I should’ve done that earlier, but I was too surprised by Lucia’s actions—and walked over to the fallen bandits. The leader was such a bloody mess that I wasn’t even sure if he was alive or not. I walked over to a groaning bandit while Lucia picked up her sword and polished it with her dress. “Who sent you?” I asked the man on the ground. “You’re obviously not bandits.”
“I’m a bandit,” the man said and stared at me. “My comrades and I have always been bandits.”
It didn’t seem like they were willing to talk. Someone probably ordered them to silence. I could always resort to torture…, but that was a job for my father. We’re almost at my home anyways; I can take them with us. There’s only one problem though. “Lucia, do you have any way to prevent these people from attacking us while we transport them?” It’d be bad if they started casting spells in the carriage; tying them up wouldn’t work.
“Aren’t you the encyclopedia? Shouldn’t you have methods?” Lucia asked and tilted her head. “Just bonk them over the head with a stick to knock them out.” She nodded. “Why am I so smart?”
“What if they wake up?” I asked. It would be possible to transport them if they were all unconscious. But if one of them woke up, pretended to still be asleep, and cast a fifth-circle spell, it’d be a disaster.
“I’ll just hit them every five minutes or so regardless of whether they’re awake or not,” Lucia said. “Easy.”
And that’s what we did. I thought it was a bit wasteful for Lucia to spend several gold on such a large and luxurious carriage, but I’m glad she had; otherwise, there wouldn’t have been enough space for all the prisoners. And capturing the so-called bandits was a good thing for Lucia. Hitting them every so often distracted her from her withdrawal symptoms.