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Following the direction told by the woman, they traveled for several dozen more kilometers until they saw a campsite at the edge of a large lake.
Neighing horses, laughing marauders, and crying women.
“Mister Padt… That woman meant to guide us to these people, right?” Tulu looked at the bandits and a number of cages in which more people were trembling in the night wind because they didn’t have any clothing.
“You just noticed?” Angor didn’t seem concerned.
“A*shole.” Tulu spat. “If we were mortal travelers, we would have fallen into her trap. You shouldn’t have given the prick anything to wear and just let her freeze to death.”
“Pfft. We went to her on Gondola. Do you really think she took us for common mortals? I don’t see a problem with her action. We were looking for people, and she showed us people.”
“Yeah but… She’s using us. That doesn’t feel right. Don’t you feel angry at her, Mister Padt?”
“What? Do you want to turn back and give her a lesson?” Angor maintained his plain look. “I’ll not stop you if that’s your wish.”
Tulu remembered the woman’s looks and didn’t believe he’d actually hit a pregnant woman no matter what reason he had.
“Say,” Angor continued, “let’s suppose that the woman is a VERY big villain, like Nayah’s evil sister. Will you change your mind and punish her?”
“I don’t know… What about you, Mister Padt?”
“Whatever my choice is, I’m free to treat her however I like because she has no hope of fighting back. But you’re different. You’re still a mortal without any useful power. If she meant to harm you, she might succeed.”
“If that’s the case, that she’s such a criminal who wants me dead for her own gain, then I’ll kill her, Mister Padt.” Tulu showed a determined look.
Angor chuckled and didn’t say any opinion about Tulu’s final answer.
They heard someone screaming below and looked that way, only to see one of the gangsters dragging a captured woman away while stroking his crotch.
What was going to happen next was plain to see.
The woman had been struggling in vain, which only contributed to the thug’s violence.
A child about five years old shook free of his shackles and began kicking the harasser with his tiny legs.
“Get away from my mom, you f*ck!!!”
The kid was kicked away several times but insisted on protecting his mother. The horny thug lost patience and aimed his machete at the boy’s neck.
The woman covered her eyes, while the thug’s companions gladly watched the bout for fun.
All the other prisoners closed their eyes as they didn’t wish to witness the cruel sight. Yet they couldn’t fully avoid the sound of the murder. They expected to hear the boy’s last breath, but something else unexpected happened.
They looked again and saw the crying child still there, unharmed. Instead, the attacking bandit had frozen up in place, and his neck was bleeding badly from a giant cut.
The bandit wanted to turn his head to check who hurt him, but his action caused his head to fall off his body. This was followed by a giant blood splash coming from his headless corpse.
The body then collapsed, allowing everyone to see another figure they didn’t recognize—a dark-skinned young man with a strange-looking headscarf, who was holding a long, bloodied blade.
It was Tulu, who just jumped off Gondola to rescue the child.
Tulu was a bit surprised to see that the weapon was sharper than he expected, but he didn’t have time to think about it too much when the other bandits were already surrounding him up.
Tulu felt a bit afraid since he was at an obvious disadvantage, but the glimmering weapon in his hand somewhat gave him confidence.
A fight broke out.
Angor remained on Gondola to watch Tulu skillfully fending off a dozen offenders. Tulu could fight so well probably because he learned much about combat after dealing with all kinds of sea beasts during his career.
Tulu was using a “Tang Dao” he just borrowed from Angor. It wasn’t a tiered weapon, but it was still a lot deadlier than most weapons forged by mortal blacksmiths.
At first, Tulu was holding back because the other bandits didn’t directly commit any crime against him yet. He wished to avoid unnecessary deaths.
But when he realized that his naivety only earned him several gashes on his body, he decided to go all-out.
The fight soon settled down with no surprises because Tulu’s superior reflexes could mostly help him waste an enemy with every swing.
After killing the last bandit he could see, he looked at all the bodies on the ground, took several deep breaths, and walked back to the kid in danger.
“It’s okay now.” He put a hand on the child’s head.
The kid’s mother quickly dragged her son away and stared at Tulu warily.
Tulu then looked around and saw all the prisoners giving him uncertain glances, and he suddenly felt at a loss.
Angor jumped down from Gondola and pointed to the corpses while asking, “Who are these people, and who are you?”
None of the adults made a sound. It was the kid Tulu saved who replied by yelling loudly, “They’re the bad guys while we’re the innocent ones!”
His mother quickly covered his mouth.
Tulu grimaced and stabbed his blade into the ground. “I just saved your freaking lives, you ungrateful mammals! If you aren’t going to answer such simple questions, then I don’t have any reason to let you live!”
Hearing Tulu’s warning, a young woman in one of the cages spoke up with a serious expression, “Please excuse us, good sirs. They… are soldiers from Heylan. We came from a village nearby.”
“Soldiers? You’re villagers?” Tulu checked the dead bodies that were dressed more like hijackers or slavers.
“Yes. The Heylan Imperial came and occupied Inkhorn Province, after which they started clearing out all settlements. They already slaughtered everyone from several villages nearby. But they also kept prisoners on their way.”
Slaughter… Tulu immediately thought about the ruined village he saw earlier.
“Do you know why they kept you alive instead of killing you too?” asked Tulu.
“I’m not sure, sir. Maybe they’re planning to sell us for gold…” The woman looked down.
“Really?” Angor looked at her. “Villagers, huh?”
The woman jerked her head back up upon hearing Angor’s voice.
Tulu was just as surprised to hear Angor suddenly speaking in a completely different accent he never heard before.
“You’re from Goldspink?!” the woman exclaimed in shock.
“Just like you.” Angor grinned.
Angor just used a more gentle and distinctive tone for speaking, which was popular among noble members of the Goldspink Empire. Such an accent was usually favored by women because it sounded emotionally attractive, while men… not so much, as such a voice would make them less manly.
Knowing Angor’s origin, the woman and the other prisoners all relaxed.
“We did come from a village, sir. I’m Rinya, and these people are my subjects. We are currently inside Sumai Colony. My family owns it. Or… we used to.”
“Heylan Imperial occupied the entire Inkhorn Province, you say? Did Heylan win the war against Goldspink?” asked Angor.
Rinya gave Angor another careful look.
“Not completely, but Heylan has advanced a lot. They already took Inkhorn and Moondrop along with many provinces along the coast.”
Angor suddenly felt his heart drop. Grue Town was under the administration of Yamei Province, which was also a coastal state.
Also, Yamei was not very far from the front line of the war. His family was responsible for providing provision to the vanguard camps.
“Is Yamei still fine?” he quickly asked.
“Well, last time I heard, Yamei is protected by the Morn Family and has yet to suffer any real damage yet. But… I don’t know how long they can last.”
Angor felt reassured because this meant his home was safe. However, Rinya’s information might be outdated. The situation of war could always change rapidly.
“Can you tell me how to reach Yamei Province from here?”
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