A world of slaves – Part 5
It looked like the guards didn’t want to get involved with the wagon’s owner, who was the head of an organization of slave merchants called Valeria.1
Some of its members showed up as soon as the guards contacted their organization, but they didn’t look like friendly people.
More than merchants, they resembled street thugs.
When they confirmed the corpses of their former comrades, they openly showed their hostility and bloodlust towards Takumi.
Well, thinking that Takumi had induced a rebellion and killed the coachmen was normal in that situation, since none of them witnessed the scene themselves.
Still… no one laid a finger on the children. “Our boss wants to talk with you” was their only explanation.
The slaves were escorted to one of Valeria’s living rooms.
Kunon and Karin, as well as Lilia, Killfer and the others were all worried about the situation.
“Sorry for making you come here.”
In front of Takumi, a man sat on the sofa with one of his legs crossed over the other, and his feet on the table.
Yes, maybe “man” suited him better than “merchant”.
The thugs called him boss. He looked about the age Takumi was when he died in his old world. Maybe a little older, so just over his thirties.
Judging by the scars on his face and arms, he probably had a well-built and strong body.
“I’m Vatel Famille, the manager of this organization. Before starting to tell me what happened, make yourself at home.”
Takumi followed his words and sat on the sofa.
“The guards already explained me what happened. This situation was fishy since the start, given the low-priced elf, but I want to listen to your version before drawing my own conclusions.”
But contrary to his words, his eyes welled up with bloodlust.
“Still, I don’t get why you wanted to come here. I can understand that you fucking brats brought back our former comrades to mess with us, but I don’t see why you brought the elf too.”
The man analyzed the situation while lighting up a cigar.
“I want you to explain everything that happened. Try to hide something or lie to me and none of you will get out of here alive.”
His gaze was firm as he examined Takumi.
The child did the same.
If he was an average thug, it would have been easy to deceive him and turn the tables. Also, if a battle broke out, Kunon would be present to fight.
But Vatel was ready for that kind of scenario, since he already knew what happened.
Gathering information is easier when you have the upper hand.
Putting pressure on someone might make them slip, making it even easier.
Takumi started to talk while thinking that the man was no fool.
“Running would have been pointless since we have nowhere to go. We’re here to ask you a favor.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? You slaves want to ask us a favor? Selling people make us appear like shitty people, but do you think we will babysit you brats?”
“You know, we wouldn’t be able to make a deal if you weren’t shitty slave merchants.”
Vatel’s eyes lit hearing that answer, while the thugs in the hallway got upset witnessing such an outrageous scene.
“You fucking brat, how dare you talk to boss Vatel like that?!”
Said a massive man with a loud, angry voice.
“Shut up, Geiz. I know that you hate dealing with arrogant slaves, but let him be.”
After Vatel scolded his underling, his gaze returned on Takumi.
“Sorry for that, but putting aside the grief for our lost comrades, we don’t fuck around with kids.”
“I see. Neither I expected you could be bothered by someone like me.”
Takumi was unperturbed while the thugs glared at him.
Vatel sighed deeply.
“Fine. I acknowledge your bravery, but watch your tongue. Now, getting back to our conversation…”
His eyes shone behind a purple cloud of smoke.
“Before making a deal, you have to make sure to have the proper goods with you. What do you have, you penniless slave?”
“Well, I only have my body and the rags that cover it, but we can trade intangible things too, right?”
Asked Takumi tapping his temple with a finger.
“I have intelligence that will come in handy for you.”
Vatel fell silent, lost in thought.
“Go on. We will have a fair trade given the value of that intelligence.”
“But boss Vatel! Do you really believe this brat?! He will just try to save his own skin!”
Geiz rose again objection to his boss’ decision.
“Geiz, I told you to shut the fuck up.”
Voiced the man glaring at his subordinate. Geiz’s muscular body started to shiver.
“I want to know what he has to offer. If you don’t understand that and dare to interrupt our talk again, I swear that I’ll shut your mouth forever myself.”
Geiz moved his lips, but no sound came out from them.
Overwhelmed by the pressure of his boss’ gaze, he left the room while biting his lips.
Takumi remained indifferent and started talking again without changing his tone.
“Didn’t you agree too easily? That guy might be right.”
“If you were that stupid I would have already buried you in a field up to your head, or you would’ve already died from starvation on the side of the road.”
While he exhaled another cloud of purple smoke, his expression seemed to soften a little.
“Let’s keep going. What do you think, what are you aiming for, what did you see… tell me everything and show me evidence, so that I can have a clear picture of everything.”
Takumi was waiting for him to say that.
Vatel thought that the trade was going to benefit him, so he didn’t show the slightest hint of shame making a deal with some ordinary slave child.
As he exhaled, Takumi started to talk.
“First, I want to explain why no slave is missing. We were finally free, so it’s weird that we are all here right now, but that’s exactly the reason we have room for negotiation.
If you stopped thinking for a moment, you would have at least listened to us.”
He said in a monotone voice.
“Looking at the box that your former comrades brought with them, I confirmed that there was someone who used his brain in here. That’s why I preferred to come here, rather than run around in search of a safe place.”
That box didn’t have a key or a keyhole, so it was impossible to open for a normal person.
“Since it can be opened only by a few people, the way to open it must be complex. But judging by its dimension and shape, hiding a real mechanism within it is impossible. Also, it isn’t even necessary since it doesn’t have to keep money for much time. So… actually, anyone can open it.”
A box without key and keyhole was interesting.
Assuming that “it could be opened only by a few people,” Takumi thought that those who had both of them probably belonged to that organization.
Maybe only magic could open it, thought the child, but if that was the case, one of the coachmen would have said that clearly.
Still, none of them mentioned anything in that regard.
“The corpses of your former comrades are the evidence of our innocence. If we had killed them, their bodies wouldn’t have suffered those injuries. A children’s cut wouldn’t go so deeply and with those angles. Also, if a beast attacked them, they would be way more mauled.”
Takumi was explaining calmly.
The thugs started to be creeped out by him.
How much did he guess?
“I already said we can make a deal because you’re slave merchants, right? This is because your way to resolve problems is based on brute force directly, so the only thing I can offer you as a child is information.”
Everyone present was feeling fear as the child kept going with his explanation.
“Now, time for the fun part. I know the plan, physiognomy, and special traits of the bandits who attacked us, and we have one of their boss’ arms too… Also, those idiots already attacked other wagons in the very same way. They came to take the elf back and steal any valuable object.”
Then, the child curled his lips in a creepy smile.
“So… I’m here to offer you money and vengeance.”
The room was filled by silence.
After a while, Vatel’s laughter cut through it.
“Nice, you did great! Deal!”
For the first time, Vatel faced Takumi with a friendly expression.
“As Vatel Famille, head of Valeria, I promise to take care of all of you. Tell us what we need about those bastards.”
He kept smiling even though his eyes were painted with bloodlust.
“If I can kill them with my own hands, I’ll give you whatever you want.”
The thugs wore insane smiles while their hearts were blazing with the sweet flames of vengeance.
Takumi smiled back and replied.
“They’re still around the city. I suggest you hurry.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I should have mentioned it before.”
Takumi crossed his legs arrogantly.
It was a behavior totally unsuited for a slave.
“Running would have been really stupid. Also, thanks to the werebeast, we now have an arm that belongs to one of them, so they are hunting us right now.”
Even though he was just a child, he collected a huge amount of information.
“They won’t think that the whole wagon came here. While they search for us, we’ll stay here, and you’ll be free to do whatever you want.”
“Coming here knowing that they would try to hunt you down is an astute move. Getting your hands on a werebeast, who is also one of the belligerent wolves and have the ability to handle her is… not bad.”
“Those bandits’ life is a great deal for you, and you’re not the kind of people who would let such a golden opportunity slip through your fingers. Am I right?”
“So, you wanted to trade that from the start? You’re smart, kid. Why don’t you try to become a slave merchant?”
The man’s laugh sounded guttural. His tone was ironic, but his expression and praise sincere.
“Well… let me be one of yours, then.”
Vatel opened his eyes wide in surprise.
“Do you… want to work for me?”
“Exactly. I already have some goods, after all.”
Takumi said pointing at the children behind him.
“I’ll sell them and bring you ten times their price.”
The thugs were flustered by that, and even Vatel wore a sore expression.
“Listen… I also tell myself I’m wicked. I don’t hesitate when I have to kill someone, and selling werebeasts or humans doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But I defend logic and reason. Only a bastard would discard someone because they’re not useful to them anymore, don’t you think?”
The children who had tasted the hope of freedom and the despair of slavery were a perfect example.
But Takumi remained calm as Vatel stared at him.
“I want to sell them for their own sake.”
“Those are nothing but fine words. All slaves die in the same manner. Men die working themselves to the bone, and women are forced to be prostitutes and die from illness.”
“That’s why I should just sell them where that can’t happen. If they are capable, buying them becomes convenient, and if they’re so good that they can’t be replaced, they can have a normal life… no?”
“Do you really think you can achieve something like that in this shitty world?”
“Of course I can. Nothing is impossible for me.”
It was inconceivable.
Still, someone wanted to try the impossible.
“I could even… change the image of slaves itself.”
In that instant, Takumi made a smile suitable for someone of his age.
Vatel smiled back out of reflex.
“You… really are a weird kid.”
“Vatel, do you really want to accept his request?”
“Why not, Jill. I mean, look how far he went for this. If he will bring us profit, that’s fantastic.”
“…I see. What should I say to Geiz?”
“Tell him that I have some work for him. When we talk about money, he’s second to none.”
Jill, a man of few words, bowed respectfully before leaving the room.
While he exited, a little face framed with beautiful platinum-blonde hair and decorated with two big, jade-colored eyes appeared from the door.2
“Dad, did you finish your work?”
“Yes, sweetheart. Mirta, could you bring these children to the guest room? We’ll have lunch later.”
“Yes! Cook well!”
Mirta smiled innocently while Vatel patted her on the head.
She piqued Takumi’s interest, so he tried to ask.
“Is she also a slave?”
“Try to say that again and I’ll kill you. Mirta is my lovely and innocent daughter. She helps me with work.”
His overwhelming presence was replaced by the looks of a fool and loving father that patted his little baby.
Takumi wanted to tell him that he shouldn’t have her help him, but he stopped and kept observing the scene, amazed.
Mirta tilted her head.
“Dad, is he also a slave?”
“No, he isn’t a slave anymore. From now on, he is our new comrade.”
“Comrade…? Will he work with you? Even though he’s still a child?”
As she examined Takumi, she childishly tilted her head again.
“That’s right. He will count on you too, so help him if he needs some.”
“He doesn’t look like a child…”
“Pfuahahah! That’s true, he doesn’t!”
As soon Mirta expressed her thought, Vatel burst out laughing.
“You are now a member of Valeria. Do whatever you want with the slaves you brought here. I’d love to get my hands on the elf and the werebeast, but I’ll leave them to you.
Think of them as your first investment.”
“Thank you, I won’t waste them. I wouldn’t sell without them, since no one could seriously deal with a child.”
“Well, as long as you are this smart there won’t be any problem. Feel free to do whatever you want.”
As Vatel was smiling, he approached the exit, but stopped in front of it and turned his face again toward Takumi.
“Let’s talk about the work’s details tomorrow… but thinking about it, you still haven’t told me your name.”
“I’m Takumi. Hope we can get along.”
He answered with his usual confidence.
1 鈴蘭 <– Written like “lily of the valley” (Convallaria Keiskei) but pronounced “valeria”.