‘‘Lad, what might you be from?’’ An old man with wrinkles on his facial features, and wearing casual farmer clothes while sitting down on a seat inside a small moving carriage, looked at a young man in front of him and asked.
Said young man was also sitting down on the seat of the carriage while having his head turned toward an angle where he could view the outside road, and watching it move away as the carriage continued to proceed forward along the dry road.
The young man had short brown hair that goes in a cowlick and falls with its weight and wore a tan shirt and a white underneath it and a plain grayish-pant. He was also wearing a combat glove that seemed to be made from bear skin of some sort, and his boots were made from leather brown color.
Hearing the question of the old man opposite of him, the young man turned his head to him and said with a polite voice. ‘‘Where I came from… I come from a fairly small village beyond the outskirts of the empire. It's actually not that far away from here, only one or two days on foot at the most.’’
‘‘You look really young and from the look of that sword, are you by any chance thinking of going to the empire to join the military force?’’ The old men took a careful look at the young and youthful features of the young men and then glanced at the sheathed sword right beside him.
The polite young man shook his head lightly and answered the old man's question with a smile. ‘‘Becoming an official military officer is not for me, I am more inclined to becoming a mercenary or a bounty hunter instead if that was the case.’’
‘‘Why not a military officer? I thought joining the army and becoming someone renowned throughout the land is every young and highly ambitious dream of a young person like you nowadays?’’ The old man questions again, after being in deep thought for a moment after hearing the youth's answers.
This wasn’t the first time the old men came across a young man like the youth here, but every time he asked them questions like these, they would always say that they wanted to go to the capital and join the military, and make a name for themself.
‘‘Although joining the military and making a name for oneself is something everybody would want, even me, however’’ the young-men rolled his eyes over to the outside and said further. ‘‘... it lacks freedom.’’
‘‘If I become a soldier it would mean I would have to follow and not be able to refuse my superior order, not only that it would also restrict my freedom. And I really don’t like the thought of that.’’
‘‘Haha, lad. It seems you are someone who would prefer to have your freedom to do what you want instead of having some glory that would restrict some of it.’’ The old man laughed heartily as he said.
‘‘Heh, yes I do truly love my freedom.’’ The young man laughed back a little.
After that, the young man looked at the old man and said with the same polite voice. ‘‘Old man, is there any village close to here somewhere?’’ The old man smiled kindly at the young man. ‘‘You're looking for a village?’’
The young man nodded his head.
‘‘You're in luck then. Just a few hours from here we’ll be able to reach my village with this carriage’’ the old man explained to him.
‘‘That’s great,’’ the young man smiled when hearing from the old men that there was a village just a few hours away from here. But as he continues to smile, a question within him...
‘‘Old man. By what you said your village should be at least more than a few hours away from here, so what are you doing this far away from it? I heard that there are also a lot of bandits roaming about on these roads, making it dangerous for travel.’’
As he heard the young man question, the old man chuckled with a bitter expression. ‘‘To make a living.’’
‘‘Although going from my village to another town is a long and hectic thing to do, my only way to make a living is by selling crops that I grow from my backyard farm. Hah... and with the rise of tax from the empire these past few years, it is only getting harder to make a living, not to mention the bandit's problem.’’
Listening to the old man talking about how hard it is to make a living, the young man could hear a bitter and furious tone contained within his voice. Just as the young man was about to say something to comfort the old man, the carriage that they were on suddenly stopped, and caused him and the old man to slightly bounce up from their seat.
After the initial bounce, the carriage suddenly stopped moving. The young man was quickly able to regain his bearings and turn his head toward the right and saw a relatively old wall made from wood.
He calmly said to the carriage driver through the old wall, ‘‘Why did we suddenly stop?’’
The moment he said that he could immediately hear a reply from the carriage driver. ‘‘I-I-It a bandit! there is a group of bandits in front of us!!.’’
‘‘Bendits... heh our luck is really terrible’’ Having also regained his bearing and hearing what the driver said, the old man said bitterly.
Even after hearing what the driver had said, the young man's calm expression didn’t disappear, he instead calmly said. ‘‘How many are there numbers?’’
‘‘I-I don't know, it should be at least more than 15’’ the driver replied back.
‘‘More than 15.’’ The young-man repeated what the driver had said before and went into a deep thought for a second or two, he then quietly said to himself. ‘‘That many, can I beat them?’’
‘‘Lad, what are you thinking of doing?’’ The old-man in the farmer's suit said when looking at the young man, who was in deep thought and contemplating whether he could beat those bendit or not. The young man turns his head to him and cracks a tiny bitter smile, ‘‘I’m thinking of doing something reckless.’’
‘‘You want to fight them?’’ The old man looked deeply at him, who seemed to lack confidence in whatever was on his mind.
While wearing a stiffening look, the young man nodded at the old man.
‘‘...you don’t seem too scared at the thought of fighting those bandit, but nor do you seem confident that you could beat them.’’ Looking at the lack of confidence on the young and youthful face of the young man, the old men suggested. ‘‘If you don’t have confidence in beating them you could just run away.’’
‘‘And leave you and the driver behind.’’ Hearing the old men have suggested for him to run away, the young men couldn’t help but blurt out.
‘‘Heh heh, even though we have just met I could tell you a kind-hearted lad.’’ The old man chuckled with a smile.
‘‘O-one o-of t-them i-is c-coming o-over h-here!’’ The driver sided with fright while stuttering over his every word.
When he heard that one of the bandits was coming over toward the carriage, the young man had a conflicting look for a very short moment but ended up smiling toward the old man right after.
‘‘Well, old man, I can only hope that I have sufficient skill to beat those Bandits,’’ he said with a little nervous voice that also seemed to hold his lack of confidence over this upcoming fight of his.
‘‘Lad, you have a long life ahead of you. You shouldn’t force yourself like this’’ the old man seriously warned him.
The young man only laughs slightly at the old man's kind-hearted warning.
‘‘My morals aside, even if I managed to survive by running away I would still probably have to face these types of situations a few more times throughout my life. So I guess I'm as well tried to gain some experience the first time it happens.’’
The young man then rubbed the back of his head and continued, ‘‘Besides… I trained my entire life so I could have the strength to protect myself in this type of situation.’’
He then picked up his sword, gently jumped off the carriage, and smiled at the old men, ‘‘Don’t you think I should at least see if all that training pay off or not.’’
Looking at the youth who seemed to lack confidence in the thought of fighting those bendit, but hidden behind those, the old man could see deep excitement from him. ‘‘Haha, you sure have guts, lad’’ he laughed out gently and said.
The wrinkly old men in farmer suits then look at the young men deeply, as if trying to imprint this interesting Lad he had just met into memory.
‘‘What is your name?.’’ The old man asked.
Hearing the old men inquiring for his name, the young men simply replied. ‘‘Tatsumi, it’s Tatsumi. what about you old men?’’ The old men kindly answer, ‘‘Brown Luke, but you can call me old-men Brown.’’
Tatsumi nodded his head at him and took a huge deep breath of air, before slowly releasing it.
Although I’m fighting against another human and not a dangerous beast, I can do it. I have been sparring with Uncle since I was little, though, this won’t be a spare and death is likely the conclusion of it. It shouldn’t be too different.
A determination could be seen flashing inside Tatsumi's eyes as he thought of his upcoming battle with the group of bandits.
Arriving more than a foot further away from the front of the carriage and the driver, Tatsumi was able to see the entire group of bandits that were blocking their rides including the one that was moving slowly toward their way with an arrogant smirk on his facial expression.
The bandit that came toward them was a middle-aged man over 6 feet tall with an untrimmed mustache, rough-looking face, and bandanna on top. He was wearing white clothes that seemed to be made from an old-looking fabric, his pants were black but they also seemed to be made from the same material. He wore black leather boots and had his sword sheath tie around his waist.
He didn’t take his weapon out from its sheath as his expression shows that he didn’t care for Tatsumi who seemed to want to fight him. For the bandit, this was just a daily occurrence that happened throughout his life.
Stealing the carriage and all the valuables inside, and then killing all the male passengers while taking the female make them a toy pleasure.
So there were bound to be people who resisted no matter how meaningless it was. For the bandit the more they tried to resist the happier he was.
that look in his eyes, it’ll be so satisfying to crush it and bring it to despair… The bandits thought while grinning darkly.
He looked really strong, just like uncle... Tatsumi thought while watching the bandit come closer to him with every step. ‘‘The distance between us is about… 6, no 7 feet. I should shorten the distance and attack first to gain some sense of how strong he is.’’
Tatsumi glared intently at the bandit, while placing his right hand on his sword handle and banded his knees slightly to gain strength from his lags. He inhales a large amount of air through his nose and slowly releases it through his mouth.
Here goes nothing.
Boom! Tatsumi uses the strength from his legs and instantly accelerates his body to leap toward the bandit at extreme speed. The ground where he was previously stranded on cave in with a deep crack, as his body instantly crosses the 6 to 7 feet distance that make out him and the bandit.
After reaching the bandit, Tatsumi didn’t hesitate to unsheathe his weapon and swung it horizontally at the neck of the bandit; cutting it clean off from his body.
Blood immediately flows and springs out without end from the decapitated head and the headless body of the bandit. Tatsumi landed on the hard earth and turned his head back toward the headless body that tumbled down to the ground, and the head that landed while creating a small blood trail that led to it.
Shock, astonishment, and surprise plaster across his face as he blurts out uncontrollably. ‘‘He’s that weak!’’
A short moment passes in silence as he gazes down at the headless corpse of the bandit.
Tatsumi then shook his head and quickly got rid of his surprise over the bandit being too weak.
Turning his head back toward the rest of the bandit, Tatsumi could see an unbelievable look on their expression when looking at him and their dead comrade lying on the dry road.
Tatsumi didn’t care about the look they gave him, he licked his lips and mumbled. ‘‘The feel around them is not that much different from their comrade here… and if he's not that strong.’’
‘‘...Then the rest shouldn’t be either. I won’t have to be careful of them.’’
Not wasting time, Tatsumi sped up and rushed toward the group of bandits, and with the speed he was going it would only take him a few seconds to reach a foot of them. But within that short amount of time, the bandits snapped off the daze and were able to recollect themself over their comrade’s death and arm themselves with weapons.
Swords, clubs, spears, and a few more types of weapons were pointed at the rushed figures of The-young-men who shortened the distance between him and the bandits by a huge margin with every second passed.
‘‘Attack him all together!’’ A bandit with a tall and muscular figure standing at more than 6 feet in height shouted at the rest of the bandits.
The bandit had a bald head and scar covering his face, he wore an armor plate around his body, and his pants were so short that his scar and hair were shown all around his legs. His shoes were just plain leather sandals.
Wariness and caution reside in his two brown eyes as he watches the blurry figure reach a mere 10 feet of them.
Reached 10 feet and had a big figure full of scars and a seemingly bald head that was really noticeable.
With that built and look he should be the leader, he's also likely stronger than the other. Hmm, I’ll kill him first to prevent any unlikely accident. Though judged by the last one strength it’s unlikely that would happen.
The tall and big bandit suddenly felt a chill through his spine when Tatsumi directed his gaze at him.
Is he after me…? He thought with fear.
His question was immediately answered as Tatsumi's blurry figure suddenly shifted direction and moved toward him.
‘‘Hmph! I’m not that easy to beat!’’ That tall and big bandit said while raising his sword in a position that was easy to swing it downward. He grabbed the handle of his sword tightly while the rest of the bandit around also did the same.
Tatsumi didn’t pay any attention to that little action of theirs, as he had already deemed them to be weak. That conclusion wasn’t just because the first bandit was weak, but also because when seizing them up a moment ago, he could see that their fighting stance and the way they held their weapons were really sloppy and untrained.
In his eyes, it was like they had never truly learned to fight properly before, and the way they held their weapon tells him that they were accustomed to only swinging it around without any practice at all.
Tatsumi figures accelerated forward and breached the 10-feet distance instantly without any of the bandits able to react to him at all. With that sudden change in acceleration of speed, Tatsumi arrived at the tall and bald bandit. And, at that single moment, he reached him he slash his sword outward at the bandit.
Blood instantly springs outward as the tall bandit's upper halves from his shoulder to his left side fall down to the ground with a thud! In that dying moment before the tall and bald bandit's brain function shut down and died, he expressed his disbelieving and unwilling look at Tatsumi.
Seeing their assumed boss being killed without being able to clearly see how it happened, the bandits immediately become alarmed and terrified.
Tatsumi moved a step forward and brought his sword downward at another bandit. Cutting him from top to bottom with a single swing of his weapon. He then moved to the side and slashed his sword at a rough-looking bandit who held a club and was trying to smash it down at him.
The bandit was cut horizontally in half, including his club which was separate in two as well. While killing the bandit, Tatsumi suddenly felt something flying toward the back of his head, without turning back to look at whatever was coming toward him, he instinctively tilted his head to the right and cleanly evaded it.
The thing that he dodged landed and embedded itself on the forehead of one of the bandits a little further away from him. Tatsumi moves his head slightly to glacé at the thing that was flying toward him but ends up hitting the bandit instead.
It was a small black object with a sharp nail on top after it embedded itself on the bandit's forehead; blood leaked from it and the bandit's body tumbled to the ground without moving.
‘His dead… so it was a poison dart.’ Tatsumi thought with a bit of fear and relief while killing another 3 bandits who were thrusting their spears and swords at him.
While killing those three bandits he didn’t forget about the one that was throwing poison darts as he swept his eyes across the few bandits that were left.
When roaming his eyes across them, his gaze landed on one of the bandits with a small stature and huge ugly buck teeth that go down all the way to his chin. Sensing his gaze the bandit with an ugly buck teeth immediately turned around and attempted to run.
Seeing the bandit with wiggly buck teeth trying to run away, Tatsumi picks out a spear from the dead bandit's grasp and directly throws it at him. The spear cut through the air as it emitted a whistling noise. It quickly reached the bandit, then penetrated and went right through his body without stopping.