"An idiot with captain rank fighting prowess is still an idiot." Kael smirked at the man.
The bandit leader fumed. He sent death glares at Kael while eyeing his great-sword secretly, thinking about a way to acquire his weapon back, but he quickly abandoned the thought and grabbed with his right hand a rusted short-sword from one of his fallen bandit brothers and a well-maintained shield from the mercenaries with the other, quite a miss-matched sight.
"To have reached this level of prowess at your age one has to either be part of the royal special forces and enter the rigorous special training regimen, or enter a temple and train as a disciple under their tutelage. Members of the special forces can't leave their unit without an application for leave of absence and are forbidden from taking part in any kind of battle while they are out of service or they will be punished harshly, so under the assessment of the fact that you're here protecting a caravan this option is invalid, which only leaves behind the possibility of you being a temple disciple." The man assessed the situation quite accurately actually.
"Oooh. Seems like you're not as dumb as one would expect from you." Kael ironized.
The man glared, but an evil smirk crept onto his face and he began talking again. "Although it's true that you're stronger than me and I am at a disadvantage against you, it doesn't mean that you got no weaknesses. If I remember correctly, you temple disciples like to spout shit about righteousness and integrity. Your temples forbid you from taking lives."
"Men, take him on together. The one who gets the head of this impertinent brat for me will be the first to lay his hands on the loot later on." He turned towards his subordinates and shouted.
The bandits stared cautiously at Kael. They saw the previous encounter between their leader and this young teenager in his early twenties and they still possessed some brain. They knew that the youth had plenty of leeways left.
"Are you deaf? No matter how strong he is, he's just one sole person and he can't kill. What's there to be scared of? We hold the advantage in numbers. Take him down together and teach this kid a lesson about the cruelty of the real world." The burly leader shouted again.
The bandit's gathered their courage and charged at Kael together.
"You're right. The dharmic teachings forbid me from killing, but..." Kael spoke while continuing to smile harmlessly dodging a few incoming attacks. He deflected one of the incoming swords with his arm protector and his face turned gloomy, "the dharmic teachings don't forbid me from hurting evildoers, so as long as it's not lethal, I'm free to use any means I want."
Kael charged into the incoming crowd and began his onslaught. He continued dodging while sporadically striking out at some openings. The fight just lasted for a minute at most. The luckiest of them were unconsciously lying on the ground while the others were crawling and growling in pain. A few of them had bent legs or arms. One of the especially unlucky ones was staring at a bone sticking out from his shin while crying out in pain.
He turned towards the bandit leader and smiled amiably. "If that's all you got it'll take at most 5 minutes to take all of you down."
The bandit's expression sank and retreated a few steps. He turned towards the bushes and shouted once again. "Backup group. Engage."
Movements could be heard from the forest and figures could be seen emerging one after the other.
"NOW!" Kael yelled of a sudden.
A few archers behind the carriages took aim and shoot towards the trees at both sides. Explosions sounded out and the trees started falling down onto the incoming backup groups.
Anguishing yells spread out and the bandits were crushed in between the trees.
The bandit leader's eyes turned wide and his face turned red. His backup plan was crushed in mere seconds.
"YOU..." He turned towards Kael and shouted. "You tricked me. You little fucker dared to trick me."
"I knew early on that we were surrounded not only from the front and behind. Why would I not think up some countermeasures? Do you take me for a retard?" Kael answered honestly.
This trap was something Kael set up early on. When he jumped onto the trees at the sides and seemed to be observing the surroundings he secretly prepared the trees. He pulverized parts of the insides of the trees through channeling his dharmic qi. Not enough for them to break without any additional outside force, but a few well-aimed arrows could force them to fall, resulting in a chain reaction. When he talked to the archers after returning to the formation he gave a few of them orders to attack those spots at his signal.
The leader's blood drained from his face and it turned from red to white. He lost all reason and charged at Kael. It didn't take much for Kael to take down the enraged bandit leader and his remaining forces and the battle was finished after a few minutes. A few bandits tried to flee and the mercenaries wanted to follow them, but Kael called them back. During the battle, Kael unknowingly took over command and unexpectedly nobody opposed. The mercenaries quickly came back and waited for orders.
"Let's give first aid treatment to the critically hurt bandits and tie them up. We'll hand them to the authorities at the next city. There's bound to be a bandit hideout around here so let them question them and take care of it."
"Sir, I oppose. I agree that we should hand some of the bandits to the authorities for questioning, but our provisions are limited and a few of them can't even walk. They would only be a burden during our journey. I'd recommend to kill the heavily wounded ones and take the remaining ones captive. Why waste precious time and proviant on criminals?" The leader of the mercenary group Kael interacted with previously interjected. A few other mercenaries voiced up as well.
"Enough." Kael's waved his hand and began talking nonchalantly. "It may be true that they are criminals. But just because someone sinned, it doesn't mean his life is less precious as any other. Hand them over and let them repent for their crimes. If they want to continue walking down the path of evil their day of redemption will come, but not today and not under my watch. Get moving"