Nothing happened in the campsite during that night.
The next morning, Vandam asked Lecan with an intrigued look on his face.
"That overcoat. It's awfully clean. I thought it'd been bathed in blood spurts from when you cut down those apes."
"These bloodstains are inconspicuous y'see."
They arrived at a town early in the morning. There must be a reason for them to camp out the night when they were this close. The head clerk of an inn whom Chaney Company regularly used was desperately asking them to take a rest, but there was nothing of note besides that.
They approached another mountain path after leaving the town.
As they were about to go down a ridge after reaching a rise, Lecan suddenly jumped on top of the wagon. Ghett the coachman was surprised at this.
"Le-Lecan-san. What's the matter?"
Vandam turned around while still on his horse when he heard that.
However, Lecan kept staring at the forest below without replying.
Then he suddenly raised his hand and cast a spell.
"Hyaa. What's going on?"
The flame spear landed several hundreds step ahead, producing a loud blasting sound.
"What was that. Lecan, just what was over there."
"You'll see when we get there."
"That much firepower from this distance. Unbelievable."
By see, Lecan means that the impact point of his magic is close by the path they're taking soon, hence it'll be clear what's in there then. Still, Vandam just can't believe Lecan would fire a magic without any warning all of a sudden.
When they eventually reached the spot, there was a dead man. Moreover, his upper half has been torn with most of his lower half missing, quite an awful way to go out. Judging from his clothes, he seems to have been a mage, there's a cane in his right hand.
Zeki recognized who the dead mage was.
"This guy's <Jiba the Evil Eye>."
"What. This guy huh."
Vandam was aware of the man's name.
"He someone famous or somethin'?"
Since Zeki wasn't going to explain, Vandam did in his place.
"If memories serve me right, he was a user of magic, <Illusion>. Bedazzling his opponents with illusion magic before killing them. Apparently, he even made them kill each other. It's said that there was no way to guard against this magic unless you got a specific dungeon item with you. And also, it seems like women who got targeted by this guy would meet an appallingly terrible fate."
"Uwaa. What an awful man."
"This cane looks to be of quite a value. And this assassin appears to carry a bag with a <Box> function. There may be other valuables inside. I'm sorry, but would you be willing to let me take hold of these cane and bag."
"That's for the best. Please."
Lecan and Vandam agreed, ending the discussion.
"But to think we've been getting raided three days in a row. This is a first."
"Musta cost a lot too. Bufuz, Jiba and magic beast user. Gotta be lots of work to assemble the lot of them."
"Yes. Hence it's probably... No nevermind. Let's press on ahead."
In the end, they never stayed at any town or village they passed along the way and camped out all the way through.
The raid ended with the third one.
The group arrived at Vantaroy a day later than scheduled after an eight day journey.
The plan is to stay here one or two night before going back to Vouka.
Since they arrived late at noon, the goods were to be delivered the day after.
Vandam and Zeki are guarding the goods in the same room as Orst. Lecan, Nike, and Eda are staying in adjacent rooms each, keeping watch. Renting this many rooms must have cost them in excess, yet it proved just how much precautions they had to put into this.
The day after, they went around to have three business talks, with five adventurers accompanied them everywhere.
Later that night, Orst met with Nike, Lecan and Eda to consult something.
"Originally the plan was to go back with the same member composition, but the situation has changed. Vandam and Zeki will have to go on horses back to Vouka ahead of us to do some business. Which means you three will be the only escorts for our return trip, or would that be too much?"
"Just leave it to us ssu. Us three will overcome anything that stands in our way!"
"I have no objection either."
Lecan nodded in silence.
The meal that night was grandiose, but lacking boozes.
The day after, Vandam and Zeki left the inn early in the morning.
Afterward, Orst went around two merchant houses with Lecan as his sole guard.
The group set out on their journey back this afternoon.
<TLN: If you're reading this novel at any other site than Sousetsuka .com you might be reading an unedited, uncorrected version of the novel.>
The group unconsciously were on edge during the return trip since they had received constant raids on the way there. Eda's bottomless cheerfulness cleared the tension that was running high.
"I sure would like for Lecan to lead the way. And with Eda-chan right behind him, that'll cover for support fire. Then I'll walk behind the wagon and watch out for rear attacks."
Since Nike said that, Lecan began walking in front of Eda. When they got to a wide path, Eda came over and walked next to Lecan, talking to him all the while. Lecan couldn't help but admire her ability to chatter endlessly while walking in these bushes.
"Oy, Lecan. You're gonna teach me <Recovery> once we get back, aintcha. No backsie ya hear me."
At the time, Lecan thought that Eda probably got no aptitude to learn <Recovery> anyway.
They stayed the nights in towns or villages during the entirety of the return trip. Since they got treated with good food in towns, Eda was overjoyed.
"Oh right, Nike. Why wasn't Zeki surprised when I cast <Recovery> without chanting."
"Aah, that, well of course. <Recovery> is the only case where the majority of those who can use it never studied to learn the spell. Except for those who got taken in by the temples."
"Cause most <Recovery> manifested by chance. Reciting <Kirim> while frantically praying for their parent or sibling to be cured of wounds or sickness they suffered. The word <Kirim> carries the meaning <Be Cured> y'see. And then those who happen to possess mana and the aptitude end up casting <Recovery>. Afterward, all that's left is to polish their skill at their own way."
"You can construct a spell without learning?"
"<Recovery> is a special case you see. It's not about the perfectness of the spell construction, the key to its activation is how deep one's prayer is."
"Probably sounds like mumbo jumbo to you since you learned <Recovery> through logic. You'd get it one of these days."
They got back to Vouka on the seventh day.
There was a concern about another raid from magic beast user, but it never came in the end.
In a surprising twist, the magic beast user has already been arrested at Vouka Town. Not only him, those who gave orders to the magic beast user and their conspirators have been rounded up as well.
"The key was the raid on the third day. A raid at that spot at that time would have not been possible unless one was privy of our Company's planned route for the wagon."
The day they got back to Vouka, Lecan was invited to a dinner by Chaney. Orst is with them as well.
"Yet, the day of departure depended entirely on whether we could assemble all the escorts. Even I had no idea when that would be until a day before the departure date."
Nike probably proposed the escort quest because she knew about that.
"The first raid is of note in particular. The raid happened in the morning of the second day, but originally the wagon was supposed to pass through that spot in the evening of the first day. Then how come they could set up an ambush at that location for that time. That is because the person who had the intel on us and gave the order to attack was in this town. There is simply no other way to interpret it."
This store's dishes are pretty good. So are the boozes. Lately Lecan doesn't feel stuffy even when he's in a private room, maybe because he's gotten used to it. Tonight is a fun night. It would have been even better if Nike and Eda were here too, the moment that thought crossed his mind, Lecan shook his head. Nike aside, he must be very tired to even think having that noisy woman around fun.
"Then where would the magic beast user, the perpetrator of the first raid be located. Was he tailing the wagon? Oh non, non. Of course that cannot possibly the case."
Oh right, Eda was getting fussy about teaching her <Recovery>. She'd press on him again tomorrow for sure.
"He must have returned here to this town. It's only logical to think that. And that was what written in Orst's letter."
Chaney exaggeratedly waved at Orst who put his glass down and bowed back.
"I immediately hasted my way to the lord's mansion at once and asked for an audience. With information pertaining an individual who might have been the perpetrator of the sudden emergences of powerful magic beasts at the highway two and three years ago on hands."
Chaney seems to be a bit tipsy tonight. He holds his glass on eye's level, and sways it boastfully.
"Truthfully, we had had suspicions on a certain place for some time already. It's a certain store that has connections to Zaikaz Company. The guards raided the place and arrested both the magic beast user and the people who had been giving orders. For some reason, one of Midosco-sama's subordinates was also found among them."
"Is the matter with Midosco not concluded yet."
Chaney who was in good mood had a dejected look on his face.
"That's well, it's taking more time than expected. Recently, the madam's family side has been asking for Midosco-sama's temporary return home until things have calmed down citing that many of his actions have brought misunderstandings as the reason. We cannot let him go back there. He will leave this matter to go vague, and come back like he's never done anything wrong, I'm sure of it."
"Sounds like a pain."
"We will likely get hold of unshakable evidence had we raided his mansion, but lord-sama is unable to make the decision. If only we know of a positive proof, one that will surely be found, with no way to rationalize when found, something anything will do."
Chaney sent a sideward glance at Lecan. Since Lecan isn't drunk yet, he's aware of what Chaney is trying to say.
"What were we talking about again. Ah, right. We confiscated many items that would suffice as evidence, and obtained testimonies from those arrested. There is no way for Vouka's branch manager of Zaikaz Company to weasel his way out of his felony. I plan to use this opportunity to drive merchants who have been acting as Zack's lapdogs out of this town."
Since Chaney urged for a toast, Lecan reluctantly complied. Orst participated as well.
"It probably won't be enough to go after Zack himself though. That's something out of our control. However, Zaikaz Company's Vouka branch will fall into ruin. Zack surely lost not insignificant amount of money from this. And it will be much harder for them to carry out future business through the highways."
Lecan realized the reason why Vandam and Zeki had to quickly go back to Vouka.
The conspirators would have made their next move already had the full group gone back to Vouka from Vantaroy. Before that could happen, or in other words, before the information about that reached those people, they needed to get in touch with Chaney first.
"That means either these conspirators have a base at Vantaroy, or someone capable of making decisions there."
Chaney moved to another subject without answering that.
"Thanks to this endeavor, we Chaney Company have managed to open a new branch at Vantaroy. The person in charge will be Orst here. He's my right hand man. Lecan-san. Do please continue your patronage with Orst as well."
Chaney and Orst bowed together to Lecan.
"Ah, and I need to give you this."
"This is... a Quest Completion Coin?"
"The quest this time is a formal one accepted through Adventurer Association. By handing this over to the Association, your feat will be recorded."
Honestly speaking, Lecan doesn't really care about this Adventurer Association stuff anymore.
But Eda probably has another one in mind.
He gratefully took the coin.