Chapter 28:

Blonde Bandits III

Sword Quest

Later in the night, Mel had finally been freed from his restraints. Reconvening in the main room of what looked to be an old log cabin, the two men sat at an aged wooden table, where Mel explained the details of his father’s inner circle, and their beliefs. The bandit remained surprisingly quiet through the whole conversation, listening with a look of interest.

The two girls sat around a small fireplace near the table, half-listening to Mel’s speech. The livelier of the two would occasionally let out a long yawn, to which Mel would shoot an annoyed look.

“Sooo, basically, get it out of here and let the Shlanks and Red Wolves fight over it, eh?” the bandit asked.

“That’s the idea, yes,” Mel answered. “There’s no reason to harbor something like that when it will continue to make us a target.”

“Hmmm, I dunno,” he responded, shifting his chair closer to the table. “You might be right. But, ya know, what if the Red Wolves go back on their word and use it against you? You’d look pretty stupid then, wouldn’t you?”

“I’ll admit there is that possibility,” Mel said, looking down. “Trusting any non-Teutons is dubious, but that’s why the Shlanks are key. We’ll find a way to hurl them into the fight at the right time. They’ve counted on our reluctance to use the sword all this time, but if it were to be taken by another state and used as a weapon, they would surely throw all their military might into recovering it. That would get our two greatest enemies off our back, and allow us the time and space we desperately need to rebuild our strength.”

“Yeah, you’ve certainly given this a lot of thought, I see,” the man replied with a look of satisfaction, cheeks rested in his hands. “Not that I care one way or another, hehe.”

Mel frowned at the man’s nonchalant attitude regarding his state. He wanted to ask how it was even possible to have such a deviant will, but he held his tongue.

“Weell, I suppose it’s time for you to go for now, pal. Girls, be dears and grab the potato sack, will you?”

“Again, with that?” Mel sneered, crossing his arms.

“Heh, okay, okay,” the bandit replied, standing from his chair. “But, you know, we can’t go trusting you with knowledge of our hideout just yet, so we’ll be taking you back to town blindfolded. You understand, right?” he asked, the same sneering grin plastered to his face.

“… Yeah, I get it. Let’s just go, then. Ah—” As Mel stood up, he paused. “Would you mind dropping me off in the desert village ruins, instead of High Town? There’s a certain person who sticks annoyingly close to me and is undoubtedly waiting for me. I’d like to avoid letting them see us together. You understand, right?”

“Mm certainly, that would be troublesome for us as well,” the bandit answered.

“And, if by chance we still run across her, please do not do anything stupid,” Mel continued, a serious look on his face. “She won’t tell anybody about you if I tell her not to.”

“Ho-ho, the controlling type, eh?” he teased, a precocious grin breaking out on his face. “True, you do come off that way… is she into tha—?”

“Shut up,” Mel cut him off, his composure shaken. “Anyway, it’s unlikely, I just thought I’d cover that just in case.”


Upon entering the ruins—

“Mel! Are you okay? Who are these people?!”


“It’s quite alright, young miss,” the bandit called out, waving his arm. “Just a precautionary measure, nothing to be worried about at all. Boy, you sure weren’t kidding about her, huh?”

“What? What’s he talking about, Mel?” The petite girl looked back and forth in confusion between Mel and the bandit as he removed the blindfold.

“Don’t worry about it, Selmy,” Mel answered calmly. “They’re new business partners, is all. I’ll explain everything later.” Mel sighed as he approached the girl, eyes drawn to the dirt accumulated on her frilly dress and thin boots.

“Well, you’d better get back before your parents begin to worry you’ve been kidnapped or something, hehe.” The relaxed bandit turned and walked away, the girls following, glancing warily at Mel and Selmy.

“One more thing,” Mel said with a glance at the man’s back, disregarding the girl pulling his sleeve.

“Hah?” The bandit slowed his stride, leaning his head back without turning his body.

“Do you not have a name?”

“Hmmm, a name, huh?” The man pondered, raising his left pointer finger. “I’ll tell you once I feel I can truly trust you, as a partner of a bandit. How about that?”

“Whatever,” Mel scoffed, turning his back. “I’d feel pretty tainted the day I gained the trust of a criminal, anyway.”

“Hehe, I’d bet you already feel a bit tainted, though,” the man quipped. “Bye-bye, now, young master, and young miss.” The man waved casually as he strode away.

Mel frowned at his words as he followed suit.

“Until tomorrow, bandit.”


After lessons the following day, Mel found himself in his father’s study, a candlelit chamber in the basement floor of their home. Full of shelves adorned with old books and flasks of red liquid which had always creeped him out, the place had always been strictly off limits. His father would make very few exceptions, and only when he was in the room himself.

“Father, I’ve got something to discuss with you.” Standing before his ever-composed father as he silently stared down at a stack of papers on his marble table, Mel took a breath. “To tell you the truth, I overheard you and Shae talking the other day.”

“Oh, and just what did you hear, my son?” Wendell Eraldin looked up with slight interest, maintaining his composure without any hint of being upset at his son for eavesdropping.

“You were talking about Shae’s father—about Melvin… having a contact… and that contact getting impatient.” Mel gulped as his father stared at him unflinchingly.

“You were talking about me, weren’t you?”

“Oh? And what makes you think that?” Wendell asked, folding his hands.

“Because you’ve taught me well about your beliefs and intentions, father. And… you’ve told me many times that you want me to bring you the red sword someday, that doing so would make me the Heir. I haven’t forgotten those words, even if you stopped saying them six years ago.”

As his voice trailed off, he couldn’t escape the image of his eleven-year-old self, crying into bloodied hands. A scene that had changed his life and should have had an impact on his father. However, his father’s composure hadn’t waned at all.

“I’ve tried to pull it many times since then. And… even if I can’t, I’m thinking of ways that I can still bring it to you and become the Heir. Therefore, I’ve met up with a man skilled at executing kidnappings, and with him I plan on finding someone who can pull it, no matter how many people we must use. So, I’d like you to let General Melvin know, so he can make plans with his contact.”

Wendell remained quiet, seemingly in thought, for a moment. As Mel began to grow impatient at his father’s straight face, Wendell finally spoke up.

“Well, I must say I am surprised. You’ve grown into a strong young man, Mel.” His father smiled warmly, but he couldn’t help but perceive it as distant.

Not even going to ask how I got involved with someone like that, huh...

Let alone scold me.

“It’s possible for something like that to work,” Wendell said. “But that’s a drastic measure, fitting of a last resort. I will discuss this with Melvin, of course, but I’d ask you to be very careful, keeping in mind the people your actions represent. This is a very delicate matter, so if anything were to go wrong—”

“I’ll make sure nothing goes wrong,” Mel interjected.

“Very well,” his father replied, nodding. “It’s true that the war is reaching a critical point, and tensions are at an all-time high on both sides. Let me ask you then, if it came to it, would you use those friends of yours? Surely, you aren’t forgetting that they are the most likely candidates.”

Mel looked down, grimacing. “… I’m… certain I would.”


That night, Mel walked down High Town’s road with a sidelong frown.

“Do you insist on coming with me?” he asked, glaring at the girl who tried her best to keep up with his long strides.

“Of course, I do!” she answered. “You’ve gotten yourself into such a mess, how could I not go with you?”

“Ugh, you won’t be of any help though. Honestly, you’re like an overly-attached little sister.”

“Even though I’m older than you!” she replied, sulking. “Hmph…”

“Oy, maybe try to act like you’re older for a change, then,” Mel answered in a strict tone.

“Gosh, don’t be so prickly just because you’re embarrassed,” she said, turning to him with an exaggerated frown. “Besides, you like that side of me, don’t you?”

“Oh, look at that, she admits to her façade. And just who the hell is embarrassed?”

“You just don’t realize you are!” she exclaimed with a pouting face. “Of course, it isn’t cool to bring your girlfriend to your secret criminal meeting, but you just couldn’t refuse me since you actually really want me to be there with you!” Having tried her hardest to keep her voice to a high whisper, Selmy leered at the frowning boy more precociously than he could bare. Forced to hide his reddened cheeks, he resorted to palming her face and squishing it about.

“Who are you calling whose girlfriend? I don’t remember signing off on anything like that.”

“Beelll, zats by vaaaace!” she blubbered about, flailing her arms uselessly. Mel couldn’t help but chuckle at her helpless figure. Pulling his hand away from her cheeks, he continued his stride, gazing forward with a soft smile.

“Heh, looks like you’re a bit more energetic. Now just who was it that couldn’t possibly be of any help?” she asked with a smirk, holding her index finger to her cheek.

“Well… I guess that side of you isn’t so bad,” he mumbled, his gaze pointed ahead.

“Ah...” Her façade came down once more, and she was unable to keep her smirk through her reddened cheeks.