“Please wake up, Evil Dragon Lord.”
Rēko unexpectedly whispered into my ear when I was sleeping soundly like a log next to the weakly glowing campfire. While I was busy rubbing my cheeks on the grass in my drowsiness, I asked:
“What’s up Rēko? It’s still dark, should be a while till morning.”
“I’m sorry. It is probably a trivial matter, yet I still wanted to confirm the Evil Dragon Lord’s wishes, just in case.”
“It’s the middle of the night, something worrying you?”
“No, it’s not really a worry of mine—―”
Rēko turned her head and looked around us. When I followed her movement and cast my gaze at our surroundings, I noticed wavering in the darkness orbs of flame encircling us. Startled, after waking my drowsy self by blinking a couple of times, I immediately understood the true identity of the flame orbs. Slowly but steadily, drawing near us was a group of carrying torches humans on horses.
“It appears to be a gang of bandits. What should we do with them, Evil Dragon Lord? Disposing of them is a simple matter, however if you are set on forming an alliance with humans for the sake of Demon King’s subjugation, if we bring about an incident here by causing an excessive bloodbath, it might just breed future problems.”
“R-right, even you’ve that much of a common sense.”
“Naturally, that is why if I may be so bold, I would like to propose a plan of not leaving behind any corpses by completely erasing their very existence.”
I strongly dissuaded Rēko. Otherwise she’d just do something that couldn’t be undone.
“Hey there, you woke up. Lass, you’re surprisingly sharp. To be adventuring at this age, one can’t lower his guard.”
Floating a vulgar smile while urging the horse forward and contracting the encirclement, was a bearded middle-aged man with a hood pulled over his head. Most likely their customary nomadic clothes worked as a camouflage, helping them avoid alerting people. Since if they pretended to be a travelling nomadic tribe, they could move from country to country without raising any suspicions and it also allowed them to search out places where the novice adventurers were out camping. Or perhaps they really leaned towards nomadic lifestyle as their core business, and switched only to being robbers when they found easy targets, like us.
“—— Bandits, right? I’ll give you a fair warning; you guys should retreat obediently. I presume you don’t want to lose your lives in vain.”
I didn’t say it as a bluff, I really meant it. If by any chance there’d be someone who would aim his bow at me, Rēko would probably instantly take action and finish him off. And in the meantime, I’d be left dying with an arrow stuck in me.
At least I’d like to cancel the medicine’s effect. If I’d be able to turn back to the form of one known as the Evil Dragon Rēvendia, I could make them back down with my intimidating aura alone. However, my size now was that of my youth. After dinner, I’ve drunk a proper dosage of one drop, so the efficacy should still last some time.
“Oh! That’s rare. Here I thought how the girl has some incredible first-class equipment, but that dragon can speak human language. Both of them should yield a good price.”
“That’s right, aren’t you guys lucky? We also don’t want you to “lose your lives in vain”. Since at any rate, your value would lower as corpses.”
“What happened, young lass? You’re too afraid to move? Don’t you worry, though we may look like this, we’re a bunch of gentlemen.”
As a matter of course, it wasn’t that she couldn’t move. It was simply that she didn’t feel any necessity to move. In reality, Rēko’s expression didn’t waver one bit. She was quite naturally emitting an aura of complacency, as someone who was able to kill everyone here if she just wanted to. I was now really worried about the lives of these bandits.
“Boss, once we seize them, let’s soon transport them, along with the ones at our hideout to the market. Although the others will at best go cheap, sold as vulgar low-grade slaves——”
It was a word carrying an arrogant undertone with it, that was why it cut off the small fry and shut his mouth. However, when the bandits exchanged glances and followed the voice, they found the one who said “wait” was the young girl they considered as their prey – Rēko.
“Haa? Lass, if you’re gonna beg for your life, you should do it with more respect.”
“You humans holding slaves in contempt. From the ones who become slaves sought is a sense of service without any compensation along with excellence in all arts. It’s not a work anyone can do. Take it back.”
She narrated that quite abruptly. It was the same when she was a sacrifice, but it seemed her fixation on her own duty was really excessive. The attitude of looking down on the slaves’ duties has probably pulled on her heartstrings as a former slave herself.
“Take back? Haha, I should take it back, right? What do we do, boss? She says some cute things, that girl.”
“Yeah, you’re right. You should take it back. After all, we’re merely selling off the slaves; we’ve no clue about these things. It seems like this lady is quite educated on the matter, let’s have her pass her knowledge to our slaves.”
Those were clearly remarks full of sarcasm, but Rēko thought it over while nodding her head, after which she turned to me.
“What should we do, Evil Dragon Lord? Despite these being the words of our enemies, I believe they are worth considering.”
“What are you saying?”
“It appears there are a large number of people at their hideout who are aspiring to become slaves. Formerly being one myself, I could ascertain their aptitudes and point the ones unsuitable to some other occupation.”
“If you’ll be the standard criteria of comparison, I don’t think there would be anyone fit to be a slave.”
But it certainly would be nice to help the captured humans. I didn’t consider my sense of justice to be particularly strong; however, if despite knowing of the prisoners’ existence I’d turn a blind eye to it, it’d leave a bad aftertaste.
Well, in reality it wasn’t like I could do anything.
The one who had the strength to somehow resolve this situation was Rēko, so since she was saying she wanted to help them (let’s forget about the nuance), the least I could do was to back up her wrong assumptions.
“Very well. We can do it as you want. But you’ve to promise me one thing.”
“What could it be?”
After my words, when Rēko turned her head towards me, the bandit’s boss apparently got impatient and cut in.
“Hey! How long do you intend to keep whispering? You guys, quickly tie them up! Watch out, they might resist a bit.”
The men carrying curved blades nimbly jumped off from their horses and came at us all at once. For a moment, I got surprised by the vigour of their all-out offensive and opened my eyes wide, but somehow barely managed to pass a few words to Rēko.
“Killing and causing serious injuries is off-limits.”
The following morning.
Among the brightly illuminated by the sun grasslands. Ahead could be seen a figure of Rēko, who kidnapped herself, brazenly advancing forward to the bandit’s hideout while a bunch of bandits with their heads hanging low were accompanying us.