We are finally on the dragon's road. The entrance is just as grand as the name. This place may be infested with bandits, but this is also a gateway to the rest of the continent. This must be the reason they made a really huge dragon head at the entrance. This thing is huge, maybe about the size of a baseball stadium. I can see the light right through the mouth so maybe it is only the head. However, this is still a grand sight. A huge metal head as the entrance, does that mean we will exit through the butt hole? I do hope we go out through a tail, I am also fine without any kind of design.
Even if this is a gateway to outside trade, it's also the easiest place to invade. There is a guardian protecting this place but compared to the sea monsters infested ocean, its easier to fight on land.
So far the early morning laziness theory is working. The scenery changed a lot though. We have been through deserts, dry lands, and every kind of rocky terrain travelling here. However, I am finally seeing some grass and trees in this stone infested continent. Its still the same grey and brown coloured kind but its a nice scenery.
The road is also paved with bricks, so we won't be shaking as much. There aren't many trees so its harder to hide a group of people, the problem with is the terrain. There are a lot of trenches and hills. Its doesn't look natural so this should be the setup of the bandits, maybe.
"See anything brill?"
"Somehow I'm feeling nervous and excited."
"I thought you merchants are used to this sort of thing?"
"Every time we got stopped by bandits my father is the one who negotiates if we can't defeat them. Also, I heard how bandits that patrol here are tougher. They fight everyday with stubborn merchants and other bandits."
"This is why you should have learned how to fight."
"Victor is right chatterbox. If your family wants to do business at the central island. You and your family should learn how to defend yourselves. You will earn more income if you don't have to pay a toll fee every time you pass this place. There are times when you encounter huge bandits groups but if you fight off the small and medium groups you won't lose too much. There are only about three huge bandit groups after all, and they don't attack a prey that the others already stole from, its like eating your rival's leftovers."
"I don't think it would help that much. Its much easier to just hire a large group of escorts to scare off small fries, that way we only need to worry about the huge groups."
"If you have a smaller group, you will save money and the bigger bandit groups would just let you pass. If you have a bigger caravan with lots of escorts, it shows that you have a lot of valuables and lots of money and when the huge bandit groups bargain, they won't bargain like the small fries. They would take almost all the profits that you made. It is best to stay out of their zone of interest. If you have a smaller group, only the small to medium-sized bandit group would attack you and if all of you can fight well, you can drive them off without suffering too much."
Even if they say how piling up a lot of small things could become a mountain, attacking every group that passes through this place would expend a lot of time and energy. I doubt the huge groups would do something so tedious. It will all defend on their mood but its better to take all the precautions necessary.
Is it finally here?
"W-what!? Are we under attack? Is it the bandits? Quick, raise the surrender flag and shout out for negotiations."
So much for your 'merchant calmness'. I guess you hid behind your parents during times like this.
"...Shut up chatterbox. Brill do you see anything?"
"...No, I think it came from the front."
Ah, the carriage started panicking. So much for keeping quiet.
"Shut up! I will knock out those who keep making a noise. Lily, jenny, go and check the situation. May, viola go and guard the back for ambushes."
Looks like the combat healer leader is taking command here. I can also hear an iron rhino behind me and a couple of footsteps on the roof. This must be one of the escort group leader along with its subordinates.
You can feel the tension inside the carriage right now. The usually talkative miners and the arrogant alchemist who always contradicts them, are now shivering while nervously looking around. At least this is better than them pretending to be brave to show off to the combat healers but the anxiety is spreading to the others, even the lower year combat healers are starting to shake now.
Everyone is waiting for the news to break this tension, waiting for the combat healers to the front relay information about our situation. I also want to know what is happening outside since I didn't hear any kind of noise after that initial one. It also doesn't help that the army students, teachers, and combat healers don't talk anymore. I think they have some kind of coded hand signs to avoid alerting the enemies and spoiling their strategies. That is one way to make any hearing boost passive useless. I only need a scouting skill to avoid enemies so as long as they breathe, as long as they have a beating heart, I can hear them coming. The quieter they are the closer the detection range would be, but I haven't had any assassination attempts on me, except the princess coming to capture me, so I only use it to eavesdrop for now.
They sure are taking their time. It has been 10 minutes since then but the combat healers haven't returned yet. Are they being extra careful or there really is a danger? Keeping up this state of emergency has already exhausted the production students, and I am sure it is going to strain the lower year military students soon. We can't keep being alert all the time, its a mental burden that keeps eating away at our strength. I guess this could be part of training but please don't involve civilians when doing it. Wait, maybe the added worry of protecting someone is what the leaders want them to learn. However, I am sure we need to sign a waiver for cases like this! I doubt there is such a thing in this world, not to mention people here aren't that soft to need such things. The human continent may have something like that but only for the rich kids, most likely.
*step* *step* *hop*
Looks like they are back, I hope you bring good news otherwise the others here might lose it and do something crazy.
*gallop* *step* *step*
Oh? Looks like the group leader and its subordinates are returning to their previous post. I guess this means that there is no danger at the moment.
"Captain Roxanne, the noise came from spring goats fighting just behind the hill 500 meters from the first location. The escort leaders judge that it was natural but kept up the high alert until we pass possible ambush points. We are now on a plain so the alert has been lowered to dangerous passage level."
"Good work, You heard that production students! Loosen up and take a rest, if you faint later from all the mental stress you accumulate being frightened like that, we might just use you as decoy."
They are so relieved that they can finally breathe and when they breathe they immediately had the urge to puke. Only the alchemist are hurling though, the miners just stare blankly at the ceiling greedily inhaling air like a fish on land. I guess they also have a threat of death if they poke the wrong stone inside a cave while the alchemist, although under the threat of constant explosions, are more of a wealthy children protected from harm. My classmates are better though since we are under intense heat for a long amount of hours, we know how to handle pressure physical and mental.
This also brings forth the disadvantage of my seat since I am near the splash zone. They are all puking outside and we are high off the ground for it to splash inside but if the others clog up the entrance and the one behind can't hold it in, It might just splash inside the carriage. Speaking of it, here it comes.
"Go to the front! Go to the front!"
Just in time. He was looking at me with a 'I can't hold on, sorry' look but no one wants someone to puke on them.
"Just a little danger and you can't even hold your own guts! I wonder where your nerves went when you were hitting on my girls."
I agree with you combat healer captain but don't say it like that, they might come up with crazy ideas.
"I-I just ate something bad this morning. I wasn't worried at all! In fact, when a bandit groups shows up let me show you how I take care of them with the bombs I crafted! I will wipe them out before they can even say a word and the only thing we can hear from them are screams of pain."
See! This is what happens! I thought we were prioritizing safety so when an ambush happens, we try to negotiate first! If he gets all hyper like that to impress on of you ladies, forget negotiation, he might even bomb us by accident!
"Hoh! You have stomach problems because of breakfast huh?"
"Yes, Yes! Those lousy military students can't even cook a decent meal. They think all stomach are like theirs that can even digest poison."
"The combat healers are the one in charge of breakfast this morning though."
"I see, I see. The meal we made are like poison, huh?"
"Our stomach can digest potions, huh?"
"Can't cook a decent meal, huh?"
The one who cooked breakfast today are the teachers and the one who seasoned it is our homeroom teacher. He adds a ridiculous amount of pepper since he likes spicy food but its not at the level of inedible. She made up that they were the ones who cooked breakfast to not only have a reason to hit this show off but also stop him from doing anything crazy. I doubt he would stop if you just tell him no, he might say yes but later do it behind their backs to show he can really do it so she needed a reason to hit him other than the crazy stuff he boasted. It makes me feel safer to know we are under the command of a smart leader.
*thump* *thump* *thump* *crash* *crash*
"Silver Steven Bandit group seeks to have a chat with this caravan's leader!"
Tsk, I didn't even hear them. They actually used a spring goat's flock to camouflage their heartbeat and breathing. It wasn't aimed at me but any kind of detection that targets living things since they are underneath actual living things. From what I can see in my seat, they tied the goats by their feet, so they stay at that area while they hid themselves underground. Even if you did hear breathing or heart beats, you will only think that it came from the goats.
Maybe they even planned the loud sound earlier to make us alert and let us know a group of spring goats are near so we won't suspect why the goats are near the roadway. They also seem proficient with earth magic since they just made two earth walls to stop our caravan from going forwards and back. They also have us surrounded while aiming crossbows at us.
At the same time the bandit leader is declaring their intent for negotiations, the army students leader already went into a defensive formation to protect the caravan. They might have been fooled by the bandit groups tactic but that failure won't weight them down from taking action.
"You are attempting to attack a government caravan! Leave now or face the army's retaliation!"
The leader made his stance clear and casually warned them of the consequence. Will they stand down, will we have to surrender some of our cargo or will we have to fight our way through? I only got a glimpse of the side but I see archers with shields in front, I can't see the whole situation but I hope they don't outnumber us too much.