It was just as Isaac had said. Isaac’s open arms turned her attention to the nearby agents’ twisted faces. All of them seemed as if they’d rather die as they formed a protective circle around Isaac. Baffled, Rivelia shouted out.
“Why! Why do you protect him!”
“The fact you don’t know that is precisely why you’re the innocent damsel.”
The stare Rivelia sent to Isaac would have killed him a thousand times if it had physical form, but Isaac snickered away as he lit a new cigarette.
“O damsel of the great and magnificent Duke Pendleton, your family certainly has the power to cover everything up after you kill these retards and I. Why do these retards protect me you say? Don’t you remember? These retards placed their entire lives on the line for a reward in the distant future. But if I die, that reward will evaporate into thin air. Can the Pendletons or the Emperor promise the same thing I offered them? They are protecting me with everything they have because that’s impossible. Do you understand now?”
“Just… just for that…”
Isaac heard Rivelia’s muttering and shook his head.
“Those who look down from high above find it difficult to see how insects squirm under their feet. They don’t even understand why insects squirm in the first place. It’s not just for that reason but because of that reason. What seems like petty rewards to the great nobles are these retards’ lifelong goals.”
“Even if you say that, it still doesn’t justify this atrocity!”
Rivelia argued back, and Isaac stepped down from his box.
“You’re right if you use common sense. But common sense can always be changed to suit one’s palate. Now! Let me ask. What did Central say?”
“I’m sure you reported this to the higher-ups? What was their reply?”
“That it is an unavoidable sacrifice… But!”
“Hey, damsel, there are no buts. Now that it has been decided by those ruling this world, it is now our common sense.”
Isaac commented cynically, and Rivelia dropped her sword with utter defeat on her face. The agents let out a sigh of relief. Facing a Sword Master was an almost insurmountable challenge by itself, but Rivelia was especially untouchable. Duke Pendleton’s vengeance was a foregone conclusion if they dared lay a finger on her.
At that moment, the sound of hooves signaled the arrival of a group of wagons, who entered the village plaza. The agents looked to see what it was.
“… Huh? Was I late?”
Saints asked carefully as he noticed the heavy, awkward atmosphere that had befallen the plaza.
“No. Perfect timing. Welcome. We don’t have much time, so hurry up.”
“… Don’t tell me you’re going to rob the storage?”
Kainen asked, dumbfounded, as Saints and his men busily loaded goods from storage onto their wagons.
“Of course I am. We are bandits. You think anyone would believe a story about bandits leaving supplies behind?”
The agents were lost for words, and even Rivelia seemed too exhausted to be angry. She simply watched with a despairing look on her face. Suddenly, one of the agents that left to find the last civilian returned. The civilian was thrown into the middle of the plaza by the agents, and the boy quivered in absolute terror as he saw the dead bodies around him.
“Oh! The sole survivor. Kill him.”
Isaac waved at the boy warmly and gave his order.
Rivelia ran and put herself in front of the boy, her arms outstretched.
“Sigh. Do you really want to tire me this much?”
“He’s but a child!”
“He’s all grown up. Kill him.”
Isaac looked at the boy, who seemed to have just reached the end of puberty, and replied in annoyance. Rivelia lowered her head.
“I beg of you.”
Rivelia pleaded earnestly. Isaac, who was about to place his cigarette in his mouth, stopped and looked at Rivelia in disbelief.
“Hey, damsel, are you begging me?”
“Yes. I am begging you.”
Troubled, Isaac scratched his cheek as he saw Rivelia kneel before him. He sighed, and approached the boy.
The boy was quivering right next to Rivelia, his only hope, with his eyes shut.
“Hey, brat, raise your head. Oi, you listening?”
The boy quivered in place when Isaac called him. But when Isaac’s speech started to sound annoyance, the boy carefully raised his head. When the boy’s eyes met with Isaac’s, the boy gulped in terror and stepped back, and Rivelia, who had been watching, again put herself in between the boy and Isaac. Under Rivelia’s watchful gaze, Isaac spoke as wisps of smoke wafted out of his mouth.
“Brat, what’s your name?”
“So, Philson. How old are you?”
“Hm. You’re all grown up then.”
“N, no! My birthday has yet to pass, so I’m still sixteen! Trust me!”
Philson heard the two argue whether to let him live or not regarding how young he was. Worried that Isaac was going to push for his death for being an adult, Philson pleaded to Rivelia that he was sixteen.
“Whatever. Did you live in this village? What about your parents?”
“I don’t have parents. Please spare me. If I’m gone, my siblings will have nowhere to go!”
“Oh dear, you have siblings? Where are they now? How old are they?”
Philson saw a glint of hope as he saw pity in Isaac’s eyes, so he did his best to plea his case.
“Eins is twelve, Colin is ten, and Emilia is eight. They are all nice and adorable children. Without me, they will starve to death. I was supposed to leave the village originally, but I begged to be hired for this job. Please spare me.”
Philson begged desperately to Isaac, yet all that returned was a pitying shake of Isaac’s head.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you live.”
Rivelia shouted. Isaac smirked, never imagining Rivelia of all people would call him ‘Sir.’
“But I’ll make one promise. If you are prepared to die here, I will make sure to take care of your children.”
“Your siblings will get to live doing whatever they want for the rest of their lives, as long as you die.”
“You know how important an oath is, right? I swear on the sky, earth, and myself that I will take full responsibility for your siblings if you die.”
“What nonsense are you saying now!”
“Wow, that’s harsh. This is a fair trade.”
“How does this have any resemblance of a fair trade!”
Isaac shifted his glance away from Rivelia out of annoyance and looked into Philson’s pupils as he spoke
“You better decide quickly, because we are running out of time. What do you say?”
“You promise you’ll take care of my siblings right?”
“No! Don’t trust him! There’s no need! I will protect you and your siblings as a Pen-”
Isaac quickly intervened before the Pendleton name could escape Rivelia’s mouth.
“Oi, damsel, I can understand insubordination, but don’t make me doubt your capabilities. That’s a problem that won’t just end with me. There’s only one person who would like that outcome.”
Rivelia closed her mouth in face of Isaac’s cold remark. No matter how twisted and wrong this mission was, it was a covert mission under Central’s order. But if one of the participants, the 2nd in command no less, revealed their true identity?
It didn’t matter what the situation was. The fact she revealed her identity meant she would be banished from Central. Only Duke Pendleton would like such an outcome.
Philson seemed to have made his decision when Rivelia fell silent. He gulped and spoke.
“Alright. I’ll die. You will keep your promise right?”
“Don’t worry about it. Even I can’t just run away scot-free when there are so many witnesses. You see, I have many enemies that are dying for a chance to slit my throat. Even this damsel next to you won’t stay put if I don’t keep my promise.”
With that, Philson nodded even as his feet quaked underneath him. He closed his eyes, ready to be killed.
“So, who wants to do it?”
Isaac stood up and asked the agents around him, but no one seemed to volunteer for the job.
“What the? Now you’re saying you don’t want to kill any civilians? Since I’m the one who killed the civilians, I may as well finish the job? Wow! What self-serving bunch you are. You think I’ll let that slide? This time, I won’t pick someone. Any one of you, come out and do it.”
Nobody volunteered still, and Isaac sighed as he clicked his tongue.
“I swear, these retards are hopeless. Brat, I have to let you live.”
“What? No! Kill me! You said you’ll take care of my siblings!”
“Ah, what can I do when nobody wants to do it? Just continue living your poverty ridden-lives with your siblings.”
The agents were confused, watching the irony of the victim pleading for death.
“Are you done packing?”
“Yes sir! We did it as quickly as we could.”
Saints shouted out from the corner of the plaza, and Isaac moved away.
“Then let’s go. Brat, you stay here. Oi, damsel, what are you waiting for? Let’s go.”
Rivelia got on her feet after Isaac’s badgering, yet she stayed on guard in case Isaac changed his decision on a whim. Philson, on the other hand, begged at the hooded agents silently to fulfill Isaac’s commands despite the fact that he couldn’t look at them in their eyes.
Isaac, who was distancing himself from the plaza, stopped and turned around. Rivelia reacted sensitively but Isaac ignored her and shouted out.
“Oi, brat, do you know who we are?”
“W, who are you?”
“What are you doing!?”
“He’s the sole survivor. We need someone to spread the rumours about who we are.”
Rivelia pulled at Isaac’s arm in an attempt to stop him, and Isaac simply replied with a frown and shouted at Philson.
“We are the Black Bandits. The marauders that robbed this supply base!”
Rivelia was relieved to hear this and let go of Isaac’s arm. Immediately, Isaac added.
“But our true identity is Central’s Agents of Security.”
Rivelia immediately ran toward Philson the moment Isaac revealed their identity, but Kainen, who stood behind Philson, let out a depressed sigh as if he saw this coming and thrust his sword into Philson’s back.
The sword’s tip emerged from Philson’s chest, and when the sword was pulled back, Philson fell to the ground. Rivelia held Philson in her arms, not caring about his blood smearing over her.
“Philson? Philson! Listen to me!”
Philson opened his eyes feebly and weakly smiled at Rivelia.
“My brothers and sister will live a good life now, right?”
“… They will. I promise.”
“Hehe. It’s a promise…”
Rivelia wailed, watching Philson die an unfair death with a smile on his face. It was such a crushing wail that one would worry about Rivelia’s sanity. In between Rivelia’s wail was Isaac’s burst of laughter.
“Kuahaha! See? Did you see that? These retards didn’t kill him when I asked them to, but the moment I revealed who we were, they didn’t even hesitate! Do you see how retarded all of you are now?! At least keep your hypocrisy in check, retards! Now! Applause, applause for these fools!”
Within the dreadful silence, only Isaac’s twisted laughter and his dry claps echoed in the village. Rivelia who wept with Philson’s chilling body in her arms, raised her head, her eyes bloodshot. But when she tried to stand, Kainen stopped her.
“Move. Or I’ll kill you too.”
Rivelia glared at him murderously, and Kainen replied.
“It was me who killed him.”
“I’ll commit even greater atrocities if it’s to rebuild my family that was destroyed by that bastard. Do you only feel sorry for this boy’s death? Have you never thought that we all have our reasons to commit these atrocities? If you want to kill him, you’ll have to kill all of us first.”