Apollonia instructed Sid to bring a small pouch and give it to Tanya.
“With what’s in that pouch, get me 20 packs of food, blankets, and enough clothes for us and your family for a few days.
You can hire a porter if you need to.
Bring me back whatever’s left.”
Tanya hesitantly took the pouch and opened it.
When she saw what was inside, her eyes widened.
“Th, these are… real gold coins.”
The heavy pouch in her hand, made of thick red velvet, bulged with shiny gold coins.
No matter how much your lord charges you, that should be more than enough.
You could buy a carriage in the capital with that much.”
Tanya fiddled with the pouch.
She’d never seen that much money before in her life.
“If you need anything else or want to eat something, take some of it.
If you have a sick person in your family, you can buy some medicine.
I can give you more later, too, if you need it.”
Tanya held the pouch gingerly.
Her eyes, which had been briefly filled with fear, were shining again.
“Yes!” She nodded, and disappeared out the door.
Later that evening, Tanya returned accompanied by three young men and an old woman.
They were carrying piles of food and clothes on their backs.
“I’m back! This is my grandmother and my older brothers.”
“These are very important guests, just take a look at their… arghh! Just now, you…” When her brothers saw Uriel, they screamed in terror.
Even though his face was covered by a hood, his sharp eyes were familiar.
One of the brothers was one of the bandits that Uriel had beaten up.
With a closer look, he wore a belt and a pocket watch that appeared to have been stolen from the knights and escorts.
“G-go away! We didn’t even steal that much!”
“I’ll give you everything, even my life….
No, even Tanya and Grandma’s life….”
Their beautiful eyes, similar to Tanya’s, shimmered pitifully in the dark.
The second they’d noticed Uriel, all three of them had sunk to their knees and begun begging for their lives.
An outsider looking in might have thought that Apollonia’s group were the bandits, and they the victims.
––––––– chapter division here
The old woman’s long braid snaked through the air as she carried three bottles of an unknown beverage over to Apollonia, Sid, and Uriel.
Apollonia had watched the earlier raids, and she recognized this old woman as the elderly masked woman who’d led the raid, and even been so bold as to bravely smack Sid in the back of the head.
Uriel was feeling impatient at the woman’s slow pace.
He yanked her collar and pushed her forward.
“For now, since you’ve come a long way,” Tanya interjected, “please take a seat and relax.
Have a drink! I didn’t realize you were the precious people from earlier…”
She handed the bottles to Sid, who looked puzzled.
He seemed like he wanted to say something.
“Grandma, brothers, these people are our guests.
They promised they wouldn’t burn me as long as I guide them to Mt.
They’re the ones who gave me enough money to buy us food and clothes.
They’ll give us another reward later, too.”
“Is that true” Her family members glanced at each other in surprise.
Sid nodded, smiling, and all four of them beamed.
“Oh, my god! Why didn’t you tell us that sooner”
“I knew it! Just as expected, you’re quite the influential man, aren’t you.
A swordsman like you doesn’t just appear out of nowhere.”
“Aiya… then you should put that down.
I’ll serve you another meal.” The old woman snatched Sid’s bottle out of his hands.
“No, you gave it to us.
We should at least try it – it looks delicious! What’s the name of this drink” Apollonia said cheerfully, trying to ease the tension in the room.
But the old woman ignored Apollonia, and smacked her arm.
Apollonia jumped in surprise, and dropped the bottle.
The woman kicked it away and glanced guiltily towards Sid and Uriel.
“…!” Sid and Uriel had a simultaneous realization.
Uriel, the bottle poised to drink at his lips, jerked and threw the bottle across the room.
The old woman picked up the bottles of the transparent liquid from the ground and put them on a shelf.
The reason people called them witches and avoided them… wasn’t just because of their unique appearance.
They were masters of poison and sorcery.