Chapter 27:

Blonde Bandits II

Sword Quest

Waking with a start, Mel gradually regained his wits and took stock of his situation. He was in a cramped room that resembled a cell without bars.

The only thing of note, other than the burning pain he felt around his neck and throat, was the girl standing against the door, holding a lantern. The only light in the room, the lantern, cast a weak glow over the petite girl. Her exceedingly slim figure, along with her small, expressionless face, gave the impression that she was a few years younger than him.

More notable than that, however, was her shoulder-length, golden-blonde hair. Her bangs hid a good portion of her face, giving her an air of shyness, which, along with her blonde hair, contrasted against her thin brown pants and hooded cloak.

As he attempted to sit up, he discovered his arms and legs had been bound tightly. Grimacing, he slumped back down the wall.

“You… are you people nobles? Yet, you’re criminals?” Mel blurted out, insensitive to his own position.

“Bandits.” The girl spoke softly and curtly, not bothering to look at him.

“Bandits, huh? But you didn’t answer my question—”


Her short, deadpan response and annoyed look caught him off guard, and he could only stare silently for a moment, pondering how to go about talking to the girl.

Tch. I don’t do well with this type…

This is exactly why Selmy isn’t so bad, as much as I hate to admit it…

“Uh... if possible, I’d like to speak with your boss. Would that… be too much trouble?”


Mel waited patiently, as the girl seemed to be thinking silently over which option would cause her more trouble. And then, without regarding him at all, she suddenly exited through the door, allowing him to release a heavy sigh.

Shortly after, the door opened, and the man who seemed to be the leader stepped in, followed by the quiet girl and one more—a girl who closely resembled the first. The man had dressed down to an even more raggedy set of robes, revealing moderate scars along his shoulders and chest. Without a cloak, his features were striking—golden locks that were swept out of his sharp green eyes, and a cunning smile beneath freckled cheeks.

The newest girl took her place on his right, opposite the girl who looked to be her sister, if not her twin. Her figure, hair color, and facial features were amazingly similar. The only noteworthy differences were that her hair was pulled back, and that she wore a devious smirk the other girl surely wasn’t capable of. Their eyes shared the same shade of green as the man, whose baby face put him no older than twenty.

“Um… could we not talk alone?” Mel asked, conscious of the two girls.

“Ohh no, see, we’re family, the three of us; so, any business should be conducted with all three of us present. You understand, right?” the man said in an overtly polite tone, leaning in as if to challenge him.

“Sure, whatever,” Mel responded, ignoring the attempt at intimidation. “Anyway, who are you people? It’s bothering me, you don’t look like the type to be making off with nobles for money.”

The man smirked modestly, careful not to break eye contact. “Hmm, like I said, I’m no one important. Just a side character, if you will.”

“You’re talking about a play in this kind of situation?”

“Haha, but plays are quite nice, aren’t they? I’m sure you know, as a noble. I myself have a friend, Reiji, who happens to be a Black Shlank from Shraunts Island, and he’s shown me a few reeeally good performances in various places. The guy knows plays well, as expected of a Shraunts native. By the way, you ever wonder why all the interesting new things like that come from Shraunts? Those Black Shlanks sure are impressive, hehe.”

“For a side character, you sure run your mouth about irrelevant things…” Mel muttered as he narrowed his gaze at the man, unable to hide his frustration.

“Oh, hehe, that’s right. You wanted to talk negotiations, I presume? I can’t wait to hear it. You’ve gotten my hopes up, so I hope you’ll give us something good.”

Mel sighed deeply, before straightening his back. “So, let’s get this understood first. You’re planning on demanding ransom money for me, right?”

“Well yes, that much is quite plain to see, isn’t it? We send a letter, do some scary threatening stuff, and meet at a safe place to exchange you for a bunch of gold. Oh, and you’ll be in a potato sack, of course.”

Mel scowled at the jovial look the man wore as he said this but chose to ignore it to prevent the conversation from stalling.

“Whatever it is you’re trying to get for me, I’ll do you one better…” He paused to allow himself to fully regain his composure. “… I have a proposition for you.”

“Ohh? Better than half your family fortune?”

“Much better. I’ll give you more work than you’ll ever be able to find on your own.”

The bandit raised his brow, nodding for him to continue.

“I’ll supply you with information on the best potential targets. From how much money their family has, to where you can find them at specific times. How’s that sound?”

The three bandits lost their daunting air in an instant, their jaws all dropping in sync. His words drenched in an ice-cold candor that matched the look in his eyes, Mel knew he’d successfully taken control of the conversation.

“What the… how old are you again, kid? And wait, were you actually planning on being kidnapped today? Even though you’re our first target?” The bandit regained his exaggerated tone but remained stupefied by Mel’s forthright proposition.

Mel scoffed at his banter, glaring at him expectantly. “Don’t be ridiculous. Tell me what you think.”

“Ah… hmmm? Well, yeah, it’s not a bad idea at all, but what makes you think you can get all that information so easily?”

“My father is the chief of security. There probably isn’t much I couldn’t figure out, so thirty to forty young Teutons shouldn’t be much.”

“Wow, do you have ice running through your veins or something? I do like it, though! But, then again, what reason would you have for doing that? Wouldn’t it be just as easy to pay the ransom and be done with us? Hmm, there’s a catch, isn’t there? Tell me, what’s the catch? Eh?” the bandit fired off over-excitedly, leaning closer to Mel with every word.
“Yes, there is. In return, all I ask is that you bring the targets to the lake at the middle of the forest, preferably drugged and blindfolded.”

“And… we’re doing… what, with them?” he asked with a dubious look, taking a step back.

“We’ll have them try to pull the red sword from its seal.”

“Ohhh…” he replied, his facial features relaxing. “And, if they do it?”

“Then you’ll help me deliver the sword to the Wolverine army.”

The bandit began scratching his head, face twisted in perplexity.

“I can explain the details of it all later, if you like,” Mel continued. “Ideally, when I’m not tied up in a dusty old cell of a room.”

“Yeah, yeah, never mind that, I’ve more questions,” the bandit cut in despite Mel’s request. “Why are you talking about multiple targets? Aren’t you one of the three Heir candidates? Assuming you’re no good, why don’t we just go after the other two?”

“That’s… a last resort,” Mel answered, his gaze drifting away from the bandit. “Besides, as far as I know there isn’t any reason to believe it must be one of us. Everybody’s so damn vague or completely ignorant of how and why the Heir is chosen, and this whole ‘Heir race’ often feels more political than anything, so as far as I’m concerned it could be someone totally different, or perhaps multiple people could pass the test… if the test were to pull the sword.”

“Whew, that was an earful,” the bandit teased, rubbing his head.

“As far as what our strategy would look like,” Mel continued after clearing his throat, doing his best to ignore the man’s whimsical provocations. “I’ll find targets that fit the bill in terms of a strong will, family history, and the like. All you need to worry about is kidnapping and moving the target. I’ll handle the rest.”

“Hmmm. As crazy as it sounds coming from a rich kid who should seriously be a lot less calm right now… I like it. You’ve got a deal, pal!” The man stooped down even lower and stuck his hand out while grinning widely, his eyes narrowed.

“Could you stop mocking me, now?” Mel replied with a grimace. “Not that I’d normally shake the hand of a criminal, but I’ll humor you if you’ll just get these damn ropes off me.”

“Oh, what’s that? Somebody at the door? Okaaaay, the three of us’ll be right there!” The man sang out in an over-the-top voice and proceeded to prance out of the room with the girls in tow, one having a harder time fake-prancing than the other.

“Oy, bandits!”