lunedì 15 settembre 2014

The Rising of the Shield Hero: Volume 1 Chapter 9

Something Called a Slave

One, two, three...
Two weeks and only 40 silver coins.
I gathered a bit more than what I had thrown at that bastard spear hero, it seemed.
This was all pointless.
The places I could go with my attack power was extremely limited.
But I did try going into the forest once since I wouldn't take any damage.

---

Was that a Red Balloon?
When I struck it with my bare hands, I received a shock similar to hitting a can.
Even after 30 minutes of whaling on it, the monster wasn't getting any closer to dying.
I had enough and left the forest.
Basically, I couldn't fight any monsters beyond what was found in this grassland.



---

By the way, after two weeks I was now at level 4.
Though I don't know how much those other bastard heroes have leveled.
The Red Balloon was still relentlessly biting my arm, trying to sever it.
Had it already been a week since I went into the forest?
Maybe I should give it another shot.
BANG!*

"Hah..."

Nope. My attack power was still too low.
Since I couldn't deal any damage, I couldn't defeat any monsters.
And since I couldn't defeat anything, I received 0 experience points.
And with 0 experience points, I couldn't raise my attack power.
What a detestable loop.

---

From the tavern, I was walking through a back alleyway which led into the meadows.
However, today was a tad different compared to all the other days up until now.

"Looks like you're facing quite a predicament."
"?"

A strange man wearing a tailcoat and a hat, which looks to be made of silk, stopped me.
This eccentric gentleman was wearing - how should I say this? - a pair of super obese sunglasses.
He really is a weird guy.
He left the impression that deviated away from the medieval theme.
It's best to simply ignore him.

"'I don't have enough manpower.'"

Bull's eye!
A direct hit right into my weak spot.

"'I can't defeat any monsters.'"

He was the type that continued making unwanted conversations.

"If that's the case, then I have something just for you, kind sir."
"And here's where you're gonna advertise some companionship service to me, right?"

I don't have the time or luxury to babysit some loser who's only after my money.

"Companion? No no, I'm not providing such an inconvenient substitute."
"Huh... Then what are you providing?"

That man swiftly came closer and asked.

"Are you interested?"
"Don't get too close to me! It's disgusting."
"Fu fu fu, I like the look in your eyes. Good, I'll tell you!"

The weird gentleman teasingly shouted while waving his cane.

"A slave, of course."
"A slave?"
"Yes, a slave."

'Slavery is a system where certain people are are forced into labor and treated as tradable property. Slaves can be held against their will; deprived of their basic freedoms such as leaving, demanding compensation, and refusing to work.'
This was written on a Wikipedia page, I think.
So slave trade exists in this world. Wow.

"Why would I want a slave?"
"In order to have a person who's both competent and loyal."

Twitch...

"We cast a curse that will castigate the slave to death should they ever betray you."
"Huh..."

Very interesting.
Die for disobedience. Someone who wouldn't foolishly think about taking advantage of me was exactly what I needed.
I had low attack power, so I wanted party members. But they were all disloyal money mongers.
Therefore, I couldn't afford to keep them around.
But slaves will never betray you. Because betrayal means death.

"What's your reply?"
"Let's have a look."

Smirking, the slave trader led the way.

---

We walked through the back alleys for awhile.
It seems this nation has its own state of corruption.
Ducking into a dark, hidden side street, we came across what looked like a circus tent.

"Right this way, Sir Hero."
"I'm coming."

The slave trader walked creepily. How should I describe his steps? They were too big to be called hops, at least.
Then, as expected, the slave trader led me inside.

"Now, I'm gonna say this just in case. But if you're thinking of conning me..."
"That must be the so-called 'Balloon Release' which has made you infamous around town. Planning to escape amidst the chaos, are you?"

Huh... They're calling it by such a nickname now.
Well, it was a convenient way to punish idiots. So its fame was only understandable.

"There was a customer who wanted to enslave a hero. So I intended to approach Sir Hero with that open possibility, but I've changed my mind. Oh yes."
"?"
"You have the qualities of a fine customer, both good and bad."
"What do you mean?"
"Who knows? What do you think?"

I don't get this slave trader. What does he expect from me?
GACHANG!
The heavy gate opened from inside the circus tent.

"Huh..."

The interior was dimly lit with a faintly necrotic odor hanging in the air.
Because of the strong, beastly smell, I could easily tell that the environment wasn't clean.
Within the numerous cages, humanoid shadows wriggled and squirmed.

"Now, this one here is my recommendation."

I approached closer to the cage and checked what was inside.

"Grrrrrrr... GRAR!"
"It's not human."

Inside the cage partially resembled a human with fur, fangs, and claws.

"This is a beastman. It's classified as a humanoid, more or less."
"Huh, a beastman."

A species which shows up fairly often in fantasies, mostly as enemy monsters though.

"I'm a summoned hero, so I'm not well-informed regarding this world. Tell me more."

Like those bastard heroes, I'm completely clueless when it comes to this parallel world.
But without a doubt, I've noticed people with dog or cat ears in town. And I do get a phantasmic feel when I look at them, since they are rare.

"The Melromarc kingdom has a human superiority custom, which makes it a difficult place for demi-humans and beastmen to reside in."
"Huh..."

While I certainly do see those species around, they're only venturing merchants or vagabond adventurers. In other words, they are segregated from society and can't hold a proper job.

"So, what are demi-humans and beastmen anyway?"
"Demi-humans closely resemble humans, yet they have defining non-human traits and features. Beastmen are even less humanoid than demi-humans. Oh yes."
"I see, so they belong in the same category."
"Correct. And since these demi-humans are thought to be closely related to monsters, they have trouble living in this nation. Therefore, they are often treated as slaves."

Every world has its own darkness. And in this place which is fully aware of the non-human sentiment, there's no creature more convenient to use than them.

"And you can punish a slave."

The slave trader snapped his finger. A magic circle appeared on his arm while a similar circle implanted into the werewolf's chest started to glow.

"GRAAARRR! GHAAAAA!"

The werewolf held its chest and twisted in pain.
When the slave trader snapped his fingers again, the magic circle disappeared.

"With one simple action, as you can see."
"A very convenient spell."

I whispered, looking at the werewolf who fell on its back.

"Can I use it too?"
"Certainly. You can change the trigger command, so it doesn't need to be with a snap of your fingers! The trigger can be implemented as a conditional clause as well."
"I see..."

It's got a pretty convenient design.

"However, a ceremony to input your body's innate code into the spell will be necessary."
"So it won't be confused by commands from other owners?"
"Your sharpness on this subject is greatly appreciated."

The slave trader smirked creepily.
What a weird guy.

"Anyways, how much does this cost?"
"As you know, this werewolf is from a capable species..."

When it comes to money, I'm sure there are many rumors about me.

"How does 15 gold coins sound?”
"I'm not sure about the market price... But you're stating a modest fee, I trust?"

1 gold coin is equivalent to 100 silver coins.
There's a reason the king delivered them with roses. Because of their high value, the gold coins are hard to exchange.
The shops in town mostly dealt with silver coins, since they were more commonly used as the form of currency.

"But of course."

...
The slave trader smiled as I stared back.

"You showed this to me knowing I couldn't afford it, didn't you?"
"Yes. You will become a prominent person one day, and it'll be inconvenient for us if you aren't aware of our high standards. We can't have some other incompetent trader sell you inferior goods."

He's a peculiar guy either way.

"This is the status of the slave, for your reference."

The slave trader showed me a small crystal. An icon began to glow and words appeared.

Battle slave Lvl. 75. Species: Werewolf.

Other skills and techniques are displayed as well.
75... Almost 20 times my Lvl.
How easy will fighting be with someone this powerful under my command? It's likely stronger than any of the other heroes right now.
Though the pricing was iffy for its quality.
Because of its poor state of health, it was probably still a drawback even if it could follow my orders.
And does this price include all the other troublesome fees?

"It had previously been fighting at the Colosseum. I picked it up when it was discarded due to its broken arms and legs."
"Huh."

So this is an inferior model.
Weak despite its level.

"Now that you have seen our best product, what kind of slave is to your liking?"
"Something cheap and not crippled."
"Neither for fighting nor labor? So according to the rumors..."
"I didn't do it!"
"Hu hu hu, either way is fine with me. So what other qualities are you looking for?"
"Being domestic will be inconvenient. And of course a sex slave is out of the question."
"Huh... Seems like the rumors were indeed false."
"... I didn't do it."

Yeah, I can say it, since I didn't actually do it.
What I need now is simply someone who can defeat monsters for me, as long as they're usable.

"Gender?"
"Male would be preferable, but I won't stress over it."
"Huh..."

The slave trader scratched his cheek.

"The quality won't be good enough to be deemed as a pet. Is that alright?"
"What do I care about looks?"
"Even though its level may be low?"
"If I want strength, I'll train it myself."
"... A humorous answer for someone who doesn't trust in people."
"A slave isn't human, is it? Training a slave is no different than practicing with this shield of mine. So long as it doesn't double-cross me, then I can train it."
"You've got me there."

'Pft pft.' The slave trader held back his laughter.

"This way, please."

We walked through the cage-filled tent for several minutes, passing the chaotic area into one which was less noisy.
I turned my gaze and saw both decrepit youths and the elderly with forlorn faces.
After walking a bit more, the slave trader stopped.

"These are the cheapest slaves which we can provide to Sir Hero."

He said while pointing to three caged slaves.
The first one was a bunny-eared guy around the age of 20 with an arm bent at an odd angle.
The second was a bony girl around the age of 10 with circular dog-like ears and a strangely fat tail, shuddering and coughing in fear.
The third was a blind lizard man. He radiated a strangely evil aura, however, he looked much too human to be a lizard man.

"From the left, we have a rabbit species with a genetic disease, a raccoon species afflicted with panic and ailment, and a beastman lizard man.

Ah, so the third is a beastman.

"All of them seem problematic."
"Only these fulfill your requested conditions. Anything lower than this, well frankly..."

The slave trader looked to the back. I did the same.
I could tell even from afar: the stench of death. That highly concentrated smell similar to a funeral. Something in there...
The necrotic odor was coming from there too.
I didn't want to look: it would be mentally scarring.

"What's the price, by the way?"
"From the left: 25, 30, and 40 silver coins."
"And their level?"
"5, 1, and 8."

Looking at the current standings, the beastman lizard man seemed to be the best. But the price and genetic disease, not to mention he was very thin.
Although the rabbit guy can't use one of his arms, the rest of his body should be fine. His expression was awfully grim... though it was the same for everyone else here.

"Speaking of which, they're very quiet."
"They'll be punished if they make noise."
"I see."

Either they were well trained, or the trader didn't show me the untamed ones.
The lizard man was probably useful in battle, but not for anything else.

"Why is this middle one so cheap?"

Although she was skinny and scared, she was still a girl. Her face wasn't all that pretty, however.
A raccoon species, literally a raccoon dog.
But a girl closely resembling a human could be sold for other specialties.

"The raccoon species is somewhat inferior aesthetically. If it were the fox species, then it could be sold at a high price despite any problems."
"I see..."

Too inferior to be a pet then.

"Her face is below standards and she panics during the night, so we're having difficulties with her."
"So this is one of your goods in stock?"
"Wow, right into the heart of the matter."

Not suited for labor compared to the other two. Her level was the lowest as well.
It's hard to decide which of these three is the best.

My eyes met with hers.


My eyes met with hers
Then. I noticed my emotions suddenly swelling deep inside.
Yes. This one is a girl, the same sex as that bitch.
Looking at its frightened eyes, I can feel the intense desire to dominate her.
It's good to imagine her as if I enslaved that woman. So even if I die, my soul also won't bear as much of a grudge that way.


"Then I'll buy that slave in the middle."
"Your immensely wicked smirk is very gratifying to see."

The slave holder took out the key, let the raccoon girl out of the cage, and chained her to a leash.

"Hee!?!"

Looking at the fearful girl, I felt extremely satisfied.
What a nice feeling to imagine that woman making this face.

Dragging the girl along, the slave trader returned and called someone from inside the semi-opened circus tent to retrieve a vase.
Then, he poured some ink into a small saucer and directed it towards me.

"Mr Hero, please share some of your blood. Then the ritual process will be complete, and this slave shall become yours."
"I see."

I used a knife to slightly cut open a finger.

If someone else tried to stab me, the shield would respond. Yet it was unresponsive if I ever harmed myself.
Furthermore, it won't activate outside of battle.
I waited for blood to ooze out, then dripped several drops into the saucer.
The slave trader used a brush to soak up the ink, then he tore the slave's clothes down to her waist and painted the stigma on her body.

"GYAAAAAAAAAAA!!"

The slave stigma started to glow, and an icon appeared in my status window.

Obtained a slave.

A message with terms of service agreement appeared.
Numerous terms and conditions are listed.
I skimmed through it and set the punishment for betrayal to extreme pain.
I checked the companion icon next to the slave entry.
Since her name was unknown, 'Slave A' was written in there.
It seemed like I can change the specifications however I wanted. I'll read it closely later.

"Now this slave is yours, Sir Elderly Hero. Please complete your purchase."
"Yeah."

I handed over 31 silver coins.

"There's 1 extra."
"It's for the ceremony service. You were going to demand it anyways, weren't you?"
"... You know me quite well."

If I pay the service in advance, he can't complain about it later either.
Though if he planned to demand more, what should I do?

"Well, it's fine. Since we cleared out our inventory too."
"How much were you going to charge for the ceremony, by the way?"
"Haha, our services were included in the 30 silver coins."
"Is that so, who knew?"

The slave trader laughed, so I chuckled back.

"You really are too sharp! I'm shocked."
"Feel free to say whatever you want about me."
"We're looking forward to your next visit."
"I'm sure."

---

I commanded the slave to follow and left the circus tent.
The slave trailed behind me with a dark expression.

"Tell me your name."
"...*Cough*..."

She turned her face away, refusing to answer.
But that reaction was foolish.
The slave disobeyed, so the punishment was activated.

"A, UGHHHHHH!"

The slave held her chest in pain.

"Now then, say your name."
"Raphtalia...*Cough* *cough*!"
"Raphtalia? Okay, let's go."

After announcing her name, the pain stopped and Raphtalia was able to breath again.
Holding her hand, I continued to walk through the back alley.

"..."

Raphtalia looked up to me, at the hand which held hers, and walked along as well.

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