Chapter 9 : Bandits Gang⑤
「Thank you very much. We can’t thank you enough for your help…」
At this time, Lambert was surrounded by the villagers in the middle of the plaza. At the helm was an elderly whose hair had already turned gray, the village chief. And, he was currently expressing his gratitude to Lambert with the other villagers. They had basically prostrated themselves before Lambert at this point.
「Unfortunately for you guys…this isn’t the end.」
「Knight….sama? What…do you mean?」
When Lambert separated the bandit’s leader away from the villagers, Lambert had tortured him and managed to extract information about the real mastermind behind it all. It seemed that the bandit’s leader attacked once he received a certain information that said:
『Earl Aubock, the lord of this region, wouldn’t dispatch his private army even if this village is attacked.』.
As it was, Lambert was completely unaware of the current information gathering method, as such he couldn’t get further information details from the bandit leader since he died before he could try. However, there was no mistake in the information he had got. Earl Aubock had intentionally let those bandits run rampant in his territory.
And, from asking around with the villagers, he gained the gist of the situation. It seemed that after his death, there were great changes in Regios Kingdom compared to what he knew. Such as the limitation placed on the amount of tax that could be collected from the citizens by the Lords of each area. Just like what he’d heard from Aurelia a few times before.
『When I unite the western continent, I’ll revise the national laws to reduce the number of people suffering as much as possible. And since a long time ago, I have spent every single night putting together the reformation idea into a cohesive one. But…I want to hear your opinion regarding the plan I have been making.』
『…you’re being too hasty, Your Majesty. The Archduke is going to catch a wind about this plan of yours if it’s in such a plain view.』
『Don’t worry about it. There are only a few people who are allowed to enter this place. My mother. My caretaker, Ginie. That old counselor of mine, Sage Carl…Glyph, and you. No one else can enter this place except the people who have my trust.』
At that time, Lambert had witnessed the ‘Limited the amount of taxes a Lord could impose in their areas.’ amongst all the other improvement plans that Aurelia had shown to him.
And hearing that term again from the villagers, realizing that Aurelia’s plans had been accomplished, left Lambert with mixed feelings.
Then again, it looked like many people had found a loophole in that system. And, one of them was Earl Aubock. Through villagers’ lack of knowledge about complicated matters such as taxes and national law, he collected many illegal taxes and confused the naive villagers.
And the travelers who passed through the village happened to notice that abnormality and told the villagers the truth. Then the travelers suggested to the villagers that they should refuse to pay the amount of tax the Lord demanded, since it didn’t comply with the national law. Once the villagers did what the travelers suggested, they found out that it was far easier for them to pay the taxes. Even for someone who had nothing.
But then, the bandits came and raided their village.
In short, Lambert speculated that Earl Aubock was using this village as an example for the other villages so they wouldn’t get any ideas or raise questions about his decision. To make them meekly accept what the Earl had decided, especially in regard to the amount of tax.
This sort of corruption might not be limited to just Earl Aubock’s territory, but also to the other territories. After all, as long as one noticed the loophole, it would immediately spread to other areas in the blink of an eye.
Thus began the exploitation of the loophole. The Lord of an area would threaten the citizens by forsaking his duties, leaving the commoners at the mercy of fate when they were attacked by the bandit gangs, like this village.
「What an extremely childish scoundrel we got here. But fret not. I shall do something about this matter. After all, I can’t just stand by and let those insects that haunt this Kingdom freely fatten themselves with the blood and tears of the citizens. You lot do not need to worry about this matter anymore.」
The villagers didn’t understand what Lambert was trying to say. However, despite that, they still felt reassured that nothing untoward would happen. After all, they had witnessed Lambert’s skills and his singlehanded action that decimated the entire bandit group which had been terrorizing their village. Knowing that, they had no need to worry about him nor could they bring themselves to ask more from him.
Suddenly, a group of three stepped out. They were the three adventurers who were captured days ago and became the bandit’s hostages against Lambert. And while they looked pale a while ago, they seemed to be doing better right now. However, when Lambert’s eyes fell on one of the adventurers, the woman who stood in front of the other two, he was extremely surprised with the woman’s appearance.
「You saved us there. If you’re okay with it…. is there something that we can help you with? After all, even though we came to look at the village on our benefactor’s behest, we ended up being captured by those bandits and unable to do anything. You seem like you’re one of the famous fighters, so may I have the honor to be introduced to you?」
The strong will that dwelled in her blue eyes, her less than shoulder length elegant golden hair, a high nose bridge paired with long eyelashes.
Despite the fact that her face and clothes were soiled and a tad disorderly due to those bandits, it couldn’t even put a scratch on her overflowing beauty.
「Y-YOUR MAJESTY! ? 」
Yes, her appearance bore great resemblance with Lambert’s former master, Aurelia.
At this moment, Lambert completely forgot about his resentment towards Aurelia. He instinctively kneeled before the woman. He was extremely shocked by what he perceived to be their sudden reunion. So, he fell back to the old custom, keeping his head bowed down in front of the woman.
「Please forgive my impoliteness. I never expected Your Majesty to be in-…. Why did you come to this village….?」
Lambert finally regained his composure.
Yes, firstly, the woman’s age was different from Aurelia. The woman in front of Lambert was at least ten years younger than the Aurelia in his memories.
Aurelia should be older than 26 years old.
But, the woman before him was at most an 18 years old girl.
And, when Lambert glanced at the woman’s expression, he saw that she was completely shocked by his behavior, looking even younger compared to her formal appearance she displayed a while ago when she was thanking him.
The awkward silence between the two of them that spread at the moment of his outburst persisted for a while.
「O-Oi, do you have any idea about your household? 」
「I-…. I don’t want to be involved with the trouble Fiona’s house will bring, eck….. i want to say that I’m glad that you saved me though…」
The two people behind Aurelia-look alike were agape; jaw dropped to the ground.
It seems that the woman’s name is Fiona.
Lambert was relieved since their name was different. Still, his uneasiness remained since they looked extremely similar in appearance. Almost mirror-like. However, upon a closer look, he saw that Fiona had a mole under her eyes, unlike Aurelia.
「Y-You’re mistaken！….. I, think. No, wait. I am really unrelated to someone with such skill. Though I am not sure if we’ve met somewhere before in my childhood…. Someone as powerful as him should become really famous by now. U-Uhm, may you take off your helmet for a moment? 」
At that, Lambert unintentionally pressed his helmet as if to protect it.
「No…. I mean, it seems I mistook you with my acquaintance. Please don’t mind my previous action」
「I-Is that so….」
Fiona looked like she wanted to ask something. However, she held back from pursuing the line of questioning even further; perhaps sensing something from Lambert.
「By the way, since you guys came from the city. May I ask for your help to guide me to the city?」
「Of course, our base of operation is the area around Ainsaz city. If you’re okay with us, we will be glad to become your guide….」
「Is that where Earl Aubock lives? 」
「EH? Yes, but…uh, do you have some sort of business with the Earl? 」
「…. No, I do not. Anyway, thank you very much for your willingness to become my guide till Ainsaz.」
Lambert had no intention to share with Fiona and others his conjectures, since he didn’t want to involve her in this kind of situation.
He was puzzled about something she’d said though. He had never heard of a city named Ainsaz before. Nevertheless, he didn’t ask about it and just tagged along with them for now.