Journeying into the forest hand in hand with my friend, I started humming a song from my past. It caught Esha's interest and she started humming alongside me. I could only smile at her innocence as we hummed together. See, this song was made for a folk legend in my kingdom about a group of friends who banded together and brought down a deity that tormented their town and it has served as my inspiration growing up. That story is how I gained my appreciation for friends not as tools but as lifetime companions, as though they were a part of my soul and I a part of theirs.
Moving forward, we reached the forest which lies in wait past the town's guild hall. Our town has an adventurer's guild where seasoned veterans and hunters came together to share stories, take up quests and form parties to subjugate a beast or fulfill a request. It is an archaic form of an organizational structure but it is one based on mutual trust and sacrifice, which is probably why it just works for the people of this small community. From time to time, foreign adventures stop by but none of them are on the level of the so-called heroes or the people who could move worlds with their deeds.
Of course, my father was a part of this guild and he held the rank of Captain. Captains are essentially adventurers who have been given the authority to form their own parties which are essentially 5-man cells. They are valued for their experience and their skills. The highest rank is Hero but there hasn't been a Hero for over 300 years now, or so I hear. My father is a relatively simple guy. He likes hunting, he loves his family and he knows how to have fun. He is generally hard to offend but wrongdoers or people with evil intent are a different story. He can't stand injustice or corruption, which is probably why I grew to respect him and his values. I smile to myself as I thought of how lucky we were to have people like Beatrice and Nelo watching over us. I gave Esha a pat on the head as she led the way.
We found ourselves entering the first layer of the forest where the trees are not too close to one another to visibility shouldn't be an issue. This layer of the forest is accessible to adventurers who are novices or unranked as the monsters here are suitable for training. Of course, they are deadly but taking them on one at a time shouldn't be a problem for two or three adventurers. It's a different story for two children but I was confident that I could protect Esha.
The monsters that inhabit this layer range from Foxes to Wolves to the more dangerous Trolls but they are rarely found and they settled somewhere near the second layer. So long as we encounter Foxes or Wolves then Esha and I should be fine. Esha kept walking in front of me as she hummed the song I taught her earlier. We seem like a good example of a responsible brother and sister pair but what we were doing was far from that - it was extremely reckless.
I realize that real life isn't like those stories of convenience where people would come and rescue us should we find ourselves in a tight pinch but I planned ahead and it isn't like I was unarmed. The fact of the matter is that I probably possessed the most advanced weapon that this village has never seen - The Ikazuchi Alpha. Theoretically speaking, the explosion that this bomb should produce should be at the level of at least 3 dynamites but I wasn't sure of that - hence, this field test.
Following the forest path, Esha suddenly stopped and looked to our left. I realized that she was pointing at a nearby shrub which was moving. There wasn't any wind blowing so it could only be one of two things: It's either a threat or a hunter like father. I decided to find out. I climbed the nearest tree and helped Esha up. I placed her on a branch and signaled for her to be careful so that she would avoid falling. Mind you, it wasn't that high up but precaution is better than a cure, or so they say. I climbed down and prepared an Ikazuchi. I positioned my body close to the ground to minimize the sound my movements produced.
With the discipline of a soldier and the grace of an cat burglar, I moved through the shrubs, barely making any noise but keeping a hundred percent visibility for any threats that could pop out from behind me. I also kept my eye on the one known bogey that was hiding in the nearby shrub. As I got closer, I could faintly hear the sound of a soft purr. It reminded me of the barks that a small dog would make but I knew better. It was a fox! I was now presented with a few options.
1. Throw the bomb and end its life. Risks are missing and unnecessarily attracting other foxes to the area which wouldn't be good. It's a straightforward approach but not exactly wise.
2. Lure it out and figure out a way to bomb it - in silence. Highly improbably but then again, fortune favors the fool! I mean the bold.
I scanned my immediate vicinity, for anything I could use as bait and luckily, I found a caterpillar nestled near one of the trees. It was probably preparing its cocoon but no use worrying about that now. Our survival is at stake, after all. See, in the real world, self-preservation is the first law of nature. No one has the right to blame anyone for prioritizing their own protection and of those around them. Sorry, Caterpillar.
I grabbed the caterpillar which was probably as big as my arm and stunned it by ramming its head near the tree. It was still wriggling around but I knew it was confused as green blood was coming out of its opened wound. I threw the caterpillar in an arc towards the bush and to my surprise, a fox as big as the pudgy boy earlier with its mouth opened! I think it was trying to catch the caterpillar in its mouth. I then saw my chance and flicked the Ikazuchi I was holding and it sprang from my hand and it shot inside the fox's mouth.
The fox, surprised by the sudden unwelcome attack, closed it's mouth, chomping the Caterpillar clear in half suddenly turned on me. It was chewing the prey that it bit but then..
Boom! An explosion that vaporized everything in a three meter diameter around the fox followed! Logic dictates that the fox chewed hard and bit the bomb by accident, resulting in a release of the hellfire which ravaged a big chunk of land. It was extremely loud, too. Luckily, the fire was contained to a small area which I then extinguished with snow. I'm sure people are going to be talking about the loud bang that they heard later so I have to make sure to get home before then, otherwise, questions will be asked of us!
Esha: Heron, can I go down now?
Heron: Of course! Wait for me, I'll help you.
Esha smiled at me and stood on the branch with grace. She then jumped off and landed on the ground gracefully. This child really is cute but how did she do that? Gravity should have taken hold. Reasoning doesn't work well with this girl.
As if reading my mind, Esha sticks her tongue out but then puts up a V sign.
Esha: That was really cool, Heron! Do it again!
Heron: I cannot. The bomb I made is too strong. We will attract unwanted attention if we stay here, we should go.
Unknown Voice: What's the rush? For a youngling, you sure are in a hurry.
Panic struck me but before logic and reasoning could return to my senses, I see that Esha was grabbed by a Man who then covered her mouth. Esha soon passed out after struggling for a few moments. That cloth the man used is most probably coated with is chloroform, a type of mixture that could cause people to faint or worse, convulse.
Unknown Man: Kid, do you know why we are doing this?
Heron: Please give me my friend back... uguu.
Even in the most dire situations, I have to keep my cover. I need to keep myself unnoticed. I know that these men would probably not listen to reason, however, I have to try before I do anything I may regret.
Unknown Man: See here Kid, this little bitch is that witch Arianna's offspring! The magic association is offering a hefty reward for her head, dead or alive. Why not think of your mommy and daddy and just give her to us. We'll give you a share of the bounty, I pwomise!
The man with him snickered as they started tying Esha up.
Unknown Man: See that explosion earlier? It was probably caused by this little cunt as well. See how dangerous these magic folk are if they aren't collared in the Citadel? C'mon kid, be wise. Do the smart thing.
It was no longer time for games. That time has passed. I promised that I would protect Esha, but how. If I used an Ikazuchi, it would probably consume her and I in the blast as well as these ruffians. Obviously, I cannot fight them head on. I will just have to resort to my wit to resolve this issue and kill them if I have to.
I calmly analyzed the scenario. I am currently 14 feet away from the three men, the second man behind who I believe to be their leader has Esha bound. If I throw an Ikazuchi, it could probably kill them all, maybe including me. I then thought of a daring plan. Who dares, wins. Right?
I took out my father's flask and pretended to drink from it. Reason being is that the three men looked parched. It seems as though they were hunting for days and on their way to our village. Suffice to say, these men are foreigners so no one in the village would miss them. If a search party from their hometown came, by then their corpses would have probably been burnt to a crisp or decomposed enough to avoid identification. Back to why I was pretending to drink. As they are tired, thirsty and hungry, their moves will become easier for me to read after this simple act.
Unknown Man: Boy. Is that water? Give it to me.
Heron: Eh. But this is my father's flask. I can't just give it to you, you haven't even given me the money that I you would give me for that girl.
Thinking that the man could probably trick me, his eyes sparkled. There's the 'tell' that I was looking for! This scenario is mine. What I'm doing now is a simple bait and switch. I needed to earn his trust by betraying Esha. Of course, I wasn't really betraying her. If I show them that I was willing to play their game, they will start to get confident of me, that I am on their side.
Unknown Man: Here.
The man produced a small bag which clinked as he threw it to me. Money, how typical. I caught it with my left hand and hastily stuffed it into my pocket. I then walked towards him with the flask in hand. The next few steps is critical so now, I have to be extra careful.
Four feet away from the three men and Esha whose head was covered by a sack and tied up on the floor, I began my play. I pretended to hand over the flask to the man and when he reached his hand out, I slashed in the air using the flask spreading the Gunpowder α in a straight, horizontal line. As the powder was spread all over the air in fine particles, In their state of confusion as they were scratching their eyes and coughing, I then slid between the leader's legs and desperately grabbed Esha's hand and dragged her back to the forest path. As I was running away, I pointed my hand at their immediate vicinity as they kept coughing and rubbing their irritated eyes and then ignited it using Fire Magic <Fire Spark> and like a vermilion phoenix, the air burst into flame and the sudden oxidization caused it to expand and directly harmed the three men whose faces were now razed beyond repair.
Now vengeance comes into play. Equivalent Exchange, of course. As the men were lying passed out and obviously in pain due to the third-degree burns I etched into their faces, I grabbed two Ikazuchi Alphas and placed them in the leader's shoes. The moment he stands up, boom. Instant death. No need to kill them now where the sun is high and Esha and I conveniently away from home. It can be done in a few hours. Justice may not be swift but it is true and it applies to everyone equally, bandits included.
I carried Esha home and gently placed her on my bed. I started wiping her face. Oh you poor child. I'm not yet strong enough to protect you but I swear on mine honor, I will aspire to become strong enough to protect you. This is alongside my original plan, of course. If I am to get power, I must amass it for myself.
Esha eventually woke up and then gave me a hug. We both cried for a few minutes as relief flooded the both of us. I then gave her head a pat and stood up to answer my mother who was calling for us. She informed us that dinner was ready and that we should go wash our hands.
Heron: Esha! Mommy's calling us! Wash your hands first, okay!
Esha: Okay Heron.
Esha gave me a smile and I headed downstairs first.
Faint Voice: If you didn't...I would have.
Eh? I went back upstairs and called out to Esha.
Heron: Did you say something?
Esha: No, my dear Heron. Anyway let's go! Esha's starving!
During dinner time as my Father was telling us about this huge explosion that he heard earlier in the forest (which caused him to pee himself a little, apparently), a bigger explosion sounded from the forest and this time, it caused quite a fire.
Esha and I looked at one another and shrugged.
The next day, my Father's hunting party found the three bandits burnt to a crisp and barely recognizable, however.
Nelo: Oh no. It's Sylvain's Party. Sound the alarms! Retribution is coming!
Hey everyone. Alizoned here. How are you liking the story so far? Don't be shy to let yourselves be heard, in fact I appreciate all of your comments and encouragement for me. Anyway, do you like the story enough to warrant a review from you? Or do you dislike it enough to give it a constructive criticism? Whatever works! Let yourselves be heard! Thanks for reading the chapter! I hope you enjoyed!