Ch. 76: Waiting and Seeing, Then Choosing
When the two of them reached the town, all that was waiting for them was flame and soot.
The small town was destroyed and burned down, with red flames roaring everywhere.
The black smoke emitted from the flames rose up into the sky, and a burning smell filled the area, along with the sick smell of burning bodies that could be seen among the rubble.
There was a body lying next to Lapis' feet as well.
It was the body of a middle-aged man, most likely a resident, and his face was one of terror.
Loren crouched next to the body and frowned as he saw a single cut, from its shoulder down its back.
"A strike from behind. Do you think a monster did this?"
Loren couldn't find any traces of claw or teeth marks of a beast type monster.
Then maybe a monster that wielded a weapon.
When Loren asked Lapis if it could be the work of goblins or orcs, Lapis looked at the condition of the body and shook her head.
"The cut is too deep to be a goblin, and too shallow to be an orc. Either way, they wouldn't just leave the bodies here like this."
Both goblins and orcs were omnivorous and ate humans as well.
It was hard to believe that they would just leave bodies that weren't even burnt without eating them even a little bit.
"Then I guess humans did this."
"Most likely. They made quite a mess."
Lapis sighed as she saw a burning house collapse in the distance.
The humans that had raided the town seemed to have destroyed everything thoroughly.
They looted everything they could, destroyed everything they could, and set the town on fire after they were done.
"If there are, they'd have quite the luck. They should give us a little bit."
Lapis joked, but her expression was serious.
Loren thought anyone would be the same, but he had a different problem to worry about.
"Our beds just disappeared."
"Your boldness to think of that in this situation is reassuring."
"It's not like the first time I've seen something like this, so."
Seeing raided towns and villages weren't rare when being a mercenary.
Loren himself, or the group he was with rather, had never done things like that before, but he had seen mercenaries hired by their client's enemies do so before, as well as the remains.
It didn't mean that he was used to seeing it or not feeling anything when he did, but he experienced it enough to know that nothing came out of panicking or getting angry.
"A fire this big is going to be a pain to extinguish."
"Why do they do this to people of the same race?"
Loren scratched his head at Lapis' question.
He didn't have an answer for it.
He could just say that there was a town and then there were bandits, but he knew that Lapis wasn't looking for such an answer.
"My bad. I can't answer that."
"Sorry Loren. I didn't mean to trouble you."
Lapis said in a hurry as Loren managed to squeeze those words out.
"It's just that we demons have a strong bond with each other because we're a race that's hated by others. Of course, we fight each other because of clashing interests and rivalries and such, but this is different. I was just wondering why."
Thinking of demon kind gave him an image of a brutal society, but it seemed that he was wrong.
Humans were easily doing things that even demons couldn't understand, so Loren couldn't help but think that maybe humans were a cruder and more vulgar species.
"Well, we demons are ones to do things even more thoroughly so that this would seem like child's play, though."
"That's sort of relieving."
"Their way of starting the fire wasn't good enough. There's going to be remains at this rate."
"Alright. Shut up for a little bit."
Lapis' words spoiled everything, but for some reason Loren felt relieved.
Now his value of human beings as a peace loving, logical race didn't crumble.
"So, what should we do now?"
"Let's see. We could start with searching for survivors I guess."
"And after that we look for valuables, got it. As expected of you Loren. Let's get to it."
"You'd be a beautiful and pure looking priestess if you just shut your mouth…"
When Loren said beautiful and pure, Lapis put her hands on her cheeks, which turned so red it was noticeable among the glow of the fire.
Watching her turn her back to him and start muttering something under her breath, Loren sighed, thinking that they didn't have time to be talking like this, as looked for a tree far away from the fire to tie the donkey to.
"They really went through everything thoroughly. They might actually deserve some recognition for this."
The two of them searched the burning town, but the town had been raided so thoroughly that even Lapis was slightly impressed.
First, there were no survivors.
There may have been some who had been able to escape the town, but for within the city, not a single living resident could be found.
All of them, from young to old, male and female, were killed.
On top of that, there were nothing of any value left behind either.
Anything that was of any worth, from money to furniture to accessories to food, was all taken, and although he knew it wasn't a good thing, he couldn't help but be impressed at the clean plunder.
"They're really skilled. They aren't ones that became bandits a yesterday or the day before."
"These sorts of experts should just die."
It meant that the only things that were left in the town were the buildings and bodies.
"It's a post town. Didn't they have any soldiers?"
"Seems like they did. They were all burnt to a crisp over there though."
Lapis was pointing towards the center of the town, and at the clearing, she had found the bodies of armed soldiers, piled up and burning.
Even though it wasn't a large town, it was important to travelers, so it seemed that there were a few dozen soldiers posted there, but all of them had been killed.
"Were there some really skilled bandits? The might've not been elites, but they're soldiers, right? But they still got wiped out by bandits. Maybe they were new soldiers?"
"I'm not sure about that. They're all burnt, so."
If the band of bandits were a very large one, it wouldn't have been surprising to have heard some rumors about it, but Loren hadn't heard anything of the sort back at Kauffa.
"I hope not, but ex-mercenaries? The battle that destroyed my group. A lot of other groups met the same fate."
The battle that destroyed the mercenary group Loren was a part of, which marked the start of his life as an adventurer, had many groups that were participating in it.
Loren's side had lost as a result, but both sides suffered great losses, so Loren guessed that there many of them disbanded as well.
Such mercenaries becoming bandits wasn't uncommon, but almost never became such a large organization like the one that had raided the town.
Because if they were so large, there was no reason to call themselves bandits when they could just be a new group of mercenaries.
"Some group became bandits…and became larger as it consumed stray mercenaries, seems likely."
"They can't go back to being mercenaries, now that they've sunk their hands into crime. That's not a happy story."
No matter how large the organization became, if the core was made up of criminals, it would stay criminal.
So, Loren's guess was that while they continued their criminal acts, they continued to consume others that were in a similar predicament and grew like a snowball.
As a former mercenary, Loren hoped he was wrong, but from the skilled method of raiding, with the way they plundered and killed, he guessed that there was a very high chance that he was right.
"By the time a strike force is sent out, there's no telling how many villages and towns would end up the same way."
If the organization was so large, there was no way the soldiers stationed at the villages and towns stood a chance.
The nation would eventually find out about it and send a strike force to destroy it, but Loren couldn't guess how much damage would be done before that happened.
"That's troubling. Should we destroy them?"
Lapis asked Loren after hearing his words, but Loren looked at her and blinked for a moment, not understanding the meaning behind her words.
After a while he understood what she had said and replied with a nervous laugh.
"Our opponent is a group with at least two hundred people you know? And if my guess is correct, they're battle accustomed mercenaries. They aren't people we can deal with just the two of us."
"Then will you watch the damage spread until the nation starts moving?"
When she said she didn't mind doing that either, Loren couldn't give her an answer.
Loren didn't have a desire to become a hero.
He may have had a chivalrous spirit that didn't let him ignore someone in need, and it shouldn't have been anything more than that.
But his personality didn't let him ignore damage that he knew was going to spread, but it wasn't as optimistic to let him walk towards possible death.
"The best course of action would be taking another day to return to Kauffa and alert the soldiers…but how long would it take for the nation to start moving after that?"
"That's…well, yeah. But still, does that mean we can do anything…?"
"Can we really not do anything? Loren and I…with the amount of power between us, can we really not do anything about this situation?"
'Onii-san! I'm here with you, so it's okay even if you die! You can become an undead!'
As Shayna appeared in the corner of his eyes, Loren silently declined her offer with a laugh, looked up, and started thinking.
Getting his ass kicked like this wasn't fun indeed.
He wasn't exactly the victim, but the residents wouldn't be able to rest peacefully, and would be wanting him, who discovered the destroyed town, to do one thing.
There was no reason to wipe them out.
If they dealt enough damage, they would slow down, and if it went well, they would scatter.
Then it would be easier for the soldiers to deal with them, and the damage would lessen.
"Alright. I won't be able to sleep well until I thank whoever took our nice beds, I guess."
"Then speed is key Loren. The bandits' guards would be down since they just succeeded a raid."
Looking at the burning town, a wicked smile appeared on Lapis' face from within the darkness.
Loren smiled back, with a fresh recognition that Lapis was indeed demon kind.
Hey guys Kaoto here.
I’m glad a lot of you like the illustration pages.
It tells me that my hard work is appreciated 🙂
There might be more errors and parts that don’t make much sense than usual.
Other thoughts kept crossing my mind the whole time I was working on this chapter.
Finally…I can get some sleep…