Chapter 31:

Blonde Bandits VI

Sword Quest

The next day, Mel found himself in the apothecary ward. A certain boy had needed the infirmary, and Mel was forced to escort his brute of a friend.

“Really, how did you manage to slip in a puddle that small?”

“Don’ bake vun of be, ogay? You would hab slibbed, too!”

“Whatever, just pipe down, your dumb voice is going to force all the blood in your head to escape.”

“Why so bean to a hurt berson, Bel? Cedric would be nicer, at leasd.”

As the frivolous boy continued to whine, Mel brought him into the infirmary, where the puddle’s culprit was quickly discovered. After Tess left, the three boys sat quietly. The injured idiot fell asleep, while Mel sat in silent thought. The culprit, lounging on the infirmary’s bed despite the injured person in the room, peered at him suspiciously.

Ahh, there’s that look of his. As if he’s peering deep into my soul.

Even though… he doesn’t even have much of a soul of his own.

So, it isn’t as though he can understand mine.

I really hate that about him… although… if he wasn’t like that…

We probably wouldn’t be friends.

Annoyed, he shifted his glance to his sleeping friend.

And this one… acting so oblivious all the time.

Yet, he’s the most observant of all of us.

I wonder… if he’d actually fake sleeping like this…

These two fools are who I’m up against.

There’s no way I shouldn’t be able to take it before them.

Well… tonight’s my last chance to do it… isn’t it?


That night, the motley group of bandits and nobles held their final strategy meeting. This time, the girls sat at the table, just as focused on the discussion as the two men were.

“Soo, the idea is to draw them out to the lake and have one of them take it, yeah?” Hastor asked with a smirk.

“Yes, and you can leave getting them out there to me,” Mel answered, his bandaged hands clasped in front of his nose.

“You think you’ll be able to do it?” Selmy cut in, staring into Mel’s eyes.

“Well, I think Cedric is starting to suspect something. If I throw him a little bait tomorrow, he and Quentle should act as we need them to.”

“So then, what’s the tactical layout for this one?” the bandit asked, leaning back in his chair. “I have a feeling you’ll say it won’t go like the others, ehe.”
“That’s right, Hastor,” Mel responded, his gaze narrowed. “I’d like us to force one of them to take the sword to defend themselves. Only one of them needs to be captured, so that the other will have a reason to desire the sword immediately. Besides, we won’t have time to do things the way we have been.”

“Ahh, and why is that?” Hastor inquired.

“Well, according to my father, there will likely be Red Wolves in our midst once the night’s battle has reached a certain point.” Mel said this without pause, closing his eyes to the shocked faces around him.

“The enemy… will be inside the walls?” Hastor asked, dumbfounded.

“Yes, they will. Forcing whoever pulls the sword to either fight or give the sword up—which is what makes your involvement important.”

“Why us?” The livelier of the twins asked.

“I’ll say this now,” Mel said, baring a haughty air. “You’ll only receive payment for this particular job if the terms are fully met.” He opened his eyes and glared at Hastor, who grinned silently in response.

“Also, the terms will be non-negotiable.”

Hastor raised his brow at Mel, who took a slow breath.

“Equally as important as retrieving the sword and delivering it, you are to assist me in ensuring the survival of the targets.”

Selmy wore a soft smile as he said this, while Hastor chuckled.

“Ho boy, I can’t wait to talk about the pay for this one, huhu.”

“Yes, it will be sufficient,” Mel said. “And I understand this is a demanding job to take, so we’ll wait while you three talk it over. If you decide against it, we’ll break our ties here tonight and that will be it. You have my word that I won’t concern myself with you lot anymore, as long as you stay away from the names on the list I gave you the other night.” His stern expression did not falter as his words trailed off.

“Ahh, so cold toward your partner, Mel-boy! Well then… we’ll go ahead and take your suggestion and discuss this in private.” The last half of Hastor’s response lacked his usual loose tone, leaving Mel with a sense of just how dangerous the man was.

After the bandit trio moved to another room, Mel turned his gaze to Selmy.

“Selmy, it should go without saying, but I’d like you to stay home for this job.”

“H—huh? Ah, I guess I had a feeling,” Selmy brooded, looking down at her enclosed hands with a bitter smile. “I assume there’s no way you’ll budge on that?”

“Right,” he answered unflinchingly. “The danger involved this time is on another level, so I won’t hear any complaints. Especially after you failed to wait for me, tonight. Do you understand?”

After a short pause, Selmy looked up, regarding him with her warmest smile. “Yeah, I understand. But… is there something you aren’t telling me? Why were you so worried about me going out tonight?”

Mel nodded silently in response. “I was supposed to meet the Red Wolves’ contact tonight, at midnight—just before meeting you. I didn’t want you to worry and come barging in, so I didn’t tell you about it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get rid of the two idiots, and then there you were, waiting…”

“Ah—ohh,” she replied, shrinking back. “But… what do you think happened to the contact?”

“Well, he should have been waiting for me inside High Town’s walls when we left,” Mel mumbled, glancing at the door the bandits had gone through. “Who knows what became of him… but I’m worried Cedric might have run into him on his way home… which, as long as Cedric survived, would make baiting him tomorrow even easier. But we can’t let the bandits know anything’s gone wrong with the plan… it’s risky, but I’ll just have to let my father send one last communication, since I couldn’t convey the plan to them myself.”

Selmy nodded hurriedly, remaining silent. The bandits soon returned to the room and stood before them.

“Well?” Mel demanded, his tone as frank as ever.

“Hehe, looks like we have a deal, young master Mel.”