「A Surprise Attack Isn’t Cowardly」Part 1
We continued down a neglected highway with considerable speed. As the horse-backed guards escorting the carriage travelled alongside it, the sound of the horseshoes echoed. The carriage jolts from time to time as its wheels got caught on the roadside stones.
I quietly watched the rear of the carriage, gazing into the rear viewing window. On the right of the road was the riverbed, with the water’s surface being lit by the fading sun, coloring the surroundings with the glow of dusk. A gently inclined hill was to the left, and a herd of animals could be seen moving along it. Straight ahead, small shrubs start to line the highway, and have begun to cast their shadows across the land.
Only sounds of the carriage wheels and the horses’ hooves echoed through the area, with no abnormality found anywhere. However, the escorts seemed to have fallen into a heavy silence. It was due to the unexpected situation that the group encountered a while ago.
Lauren Ojou-sama, as the representative of the Rubierute household, had attended the ball held by the Diento household. As we made the return trip, a group of bandits ambushed our party. With more than twenty thieves appearing, nine of the guards broke formation to delay them as long as possible and prevent further pursuit.
Only five soldiers and a single knight remained with the carriage. And there were no signs of any of the previous guards catching up from behind.
Inside the carriage, watching the passing landscape through the window, Lauren Ojou-sama had an anxious expression. Her long chestnut color hair loosely sways, and appeared to have lost all of it usual luster due to the tension and anxiety. She had a small face and narrow eyelashes, with her light-brown eyes giving off a sort of transient feeling.
The sixteen year old girl also wore a luxurious light-blue dress, with the glow of the sunset which entered through the carriage’s window giving it a crimson tinge.
Inside the carriage, the only other person was me, her maidservant. While usually it was a place for idle chitchat, now neither of us spoke a word.
After a while the speed of the carriage suddenly slowed, then the neighing of a horse was heard. The coachman’s window opened, and he offered an apology.
“Sorry, Ojou-sama. The horses aren’t able to last any longer, so you will have to walk from now on.”
From the time when the bandits ambushed until now, the horses have been constantly pulling the carriage. It appears that they have finally reached their limits. As expected, it was a harsh task even for four horses. Well, if anything, it was the horse of the knight that suffered the most.
When I peered outside the window, I saw the middle-aged man tying up his horse next to the carriage. He was one of the knights under the service of the Rubierute household, Maudlin-sama. The remaining escorts gathered around him.
Maudlin-sama finished wiping the sweat off his horse’s neck with a towel. His hair was short and tidy, and he sported a well-groomed mustache. Even though he was clad in light body armor, his stature revealed the toned muscle underneath.
“Maudlin-sama, did the bandits give up?”
From the window of the carriage, I asked while looking back at him.
“I was worried because the number of people sent against the bandits were so few, but since no one has come to pursue, perhaps it’s already safe. Convey this, if you please, to Ojou-sama.”
In response, Maudlin-sama showed me a reassuring toothy grin.
“Is that so? I can finally rest easy after hearing that.”
I looked at the highway in front of the carriage.
The bushes that were concentrated along the highway further back were now dispersed along the road. The hillside that was visible from the highway was now within walking distance. As I looked at it, I couldn’t help but feel an oppressive aura on the back of my neck. The prickling sensation made me furrow my brows.
After looking at me, Maudlin-sama also attentively watched the surrounding area. Just as we took notice of something, the sound of the air distorted as multiple arrows flew towards us.
With a dull sound as they penetrated flesh, two arrows struck the coachman. At that moment, the wheels of the carriage struck a stone on the road, causing the body to bounce and be thrown off. The corpse of the coachman then blocked the wheels, preventing it from moving.
Furthermore, numerous arrows flew from the bushes, piercing two of the escorts.
“Shit! There was another ambush?! How could this be happening!!”
Suddening appearing from the top of the ridges next to the highway, with the ringing of hoofbeats, six bandits charged down towards the caravan. The arrows pinning down the escorts allowed the horse-backed bandits to approach uncontested. Two more guards were pierced by arrows, and another fell to the bandits in an instant. Just as Maudlin knight-sama knocked off one of the approaching bandits with his sword, two people emerged from the bushes to regain control of the rider-less horse.
“Rita-dono! The carriage!!”
At the voice of Maudlin-sama, I felt my head finally clear up. I scrambled off the carriage and kicked the body of the coachman out of the wheels’ path. With the rear wheels now unblocked, the carriage could move again.
I tried to board the bloodstained coachman’s seat, only to have my maid uniform grabbed from behind, forcing me onto the ground. My back struck the ground heavily, and all the air in my lungs were forced out. From the corner of my eyes, I saw one of the guards collapsing onto the ground.
The bandit who had pulled me down and was now dragging me entered my view. He had a vulgar smile on his face.
At that time, a masculine voice full of pain sounded out. When I looked at the direction of the voice, an unbelievable scene unfolded before my eyes.
One of the guards behind Maudlin-sama had his sword slid in between one of the gaps of Maudlin-sama’s armor. Maudlin-sama’s face twisted intensely.
“Casuda!? So it was your guidance!!”
After being stabbed in the back, Maudlin-sama tried to twist his body to slash the former guard Casuda. However, his opponent who was similarly on a horse, with a faint smile, took the opportunity to push him onto the ground.
Suddenly, a bandit with a slightly better physique than the rest jumped off his horse and stabbed Maudlin-sama in the neck with his sword. Blood sprayed out, and the ground around Maudlin-sama was dyed red.
“Hey, kindly remove the Ojou-sama from inside the carriage.”
The better-built bandit gave instruction to the others while revealing his yellow teeth. He had squarish features that are complemented by the tied-up long hair behind his back, with a messy beard that covered his jawline and made it impossible to see his neck. He carried a single-edged sword with an arm that was covered in old scars. This man seemed to be the leader of these bandits.
Following his order, the other bandits dismounted from their horses and ran up to the carriage. The door of the carriage was flung open, and Lauren Ojou-sama was pulled outside.
“Noo! Release me at once!!”
Although Ojou-sama desperately struggled, twisting her body, her arms were bound by two of the men. I was grabbed in a similar fashion and dragged along.
“Hey! Take care when removing her clothes! We can sell them for a good price!” The bandit leader yelled at the two who held Ojou-sama.
“Boss, because I killed that guy, can I have a taste..?” One of the bandits who was taking off the clothes asked the leader.
“Moron!! I’m the first to stick it in!! You can have a turn when I’m done!!”
“J-just wait a minute! I was the informer so I should go first!!”
Casuda the former escort loudly protested to the boss of the bandits. The boss glared at back at him with dangerous eyes, and then casually shoved his sword through Casuda’s throat.
A weak cry was uttered by the traitor as a sword protruded from the back of his head. Casuda fell like a puppet with its strings cut, while the other bandits watched with nasty smiles on their faces.
“From the very beginning, I don’t share!”
As the boss said this, he kicked the head of the now dead man. With a dull sound the skull broke off, as the neck twisted towards the direction of the rising sun.
Ojou-sama uttered a short scream upon seeing this. A yellow stain spread on her underwear, and a small puddle appeared beneath her.
“Augh, the girl pissed herself!”
At the bandit holding Ojou-sama crying out, the surrounding men began to laugh vulgarly.
“We can’t sell dirty underwear, toss ’em.”
At the boss’ words, the stained underwear was removed quickly. Ojou-sama’s wet chestnut bush was exposed to the obscene eyes of the men.
“Nooo!!! Let me go!!”
Desperate wanting to get away from the stares of the men, she flailed her feet in an attempt to get away. However, the boss made one of the bandits hold her feet down, while he removed his pants and exposed his dirty thing.
“Stop! Do you know what will happen if you do such a thing!!” I voiced my condemnation to the men.
“Before worrying about others, you should first worry about for yourself!”
As one of the men who held me said this, he carelessly teared open my simple maid attire. My bra was teared as well, and one of my breasts was exposed. I covered up it quickly, but was then roughly thrown onto the ground.
“I will make you feel good along with that Ojou-sama over there, hahaha!”
When the man laughed, a wave of rancid air hit my face. He then began to pull his pants down. Both of my arms were held down by one of the men, while one of my legs was caught by another one. As it was hanging above me, the boss was preparing to hit the very depths of Ojou-sama’s private place in one go.
At the moment ─ a large shadow appeared behind the bandits.
It was an event that occurred in an instant. A towering knight stood behind the bandit boss on top of Ojou-sama.
With an armor that shined with a brilliant silver with white and blue undertones and decorated with the finest details, he appeared as if he were a holy knight out of some fairy tale. The pitch-black mantle that fluttered behind him seemed to have been made from the starry night sky itself. The helmet’s visor concealed his face, and, as a result, his expressions and emotions were all hidden.
The sword raised in his right hand seems to extend without end, and pulsed with an overwhelming presence as it flickered with a mysterious indigo light.
The knight’s sword flashed in the direction of the boss and the bandits who held Ojou-sama’s feet down. The blade moved as if it could cut the air, and left a trail of light in its wake. The knight took a large sidestep, and with a reverse slash, the sword released another wave of light. The sword’s arc seemed to cover the sky itself as a line of light glimmered between the two men holding Ojou-sama’s wrists.
──All of which happened within a split second.
In the next moment, the torso of the boss slid off. The bandits who were holding the feet had nothing from the neck up, their heads rolling on the ground faced the direction of sunrise. The bandits in charge of the wrists had their heads split in half, the spraying blood magnificently covered a nearby thicket, dyeing the scenery already colored by the sunset even more red.
The boss’s upper body landed near Ojou-sama, and in a half-frenzy she kicked it away. The remaining lower body released a white cloudy fluid from a certain thing that stood erect in the pool of blood.
For the man who had his dirty thing out while straddling my abdomen and the man who held me down, their brain finally realized that something abnormal was happening.
The two men scrambled to get away, but the man who had his pants down tripped, and fell down close to me. Before I noticed, the tip of the knight’s sword had already swung down, and the man collapsed on the ground like a frog that had been stepped on.
The silver knight pulled his sword from the skewered man, and turned towards the man still running. Slowly, with a single step, he swung his sword, once again sending out a white flash. By all accounts, he merely cut the air in front of him, while the man had run quite a distance. And yet, the upper and lower body of the fleeing man separated, collapsing onto the ground.
Until the bandits became lumps of flesh the knight did not speak; I simply sat there and blinked three times. With a light swing, the silver knight sheathed his sword. He then looked towards us, and a slightly muffled voice could be heard from the depths of the helmet that completely hid his expression.
“Are you alright?”