The slave merchant’s prediction – Part 1
Several hours before Karin and her comrades departed for Renunt village, something strange happened in the capital.
“We’re totally against Takumi’s trial! The slave merchant didn’t do anything wrong!”
The man who was shouting was using a magic tool to boost his voice, and many other followed his lead.
Those voices came from the gate dividing the upper layer from the top one.
Usually, there weren’t many people there, but that day there were just too many, and no one could have ever imagined why.
Half of the upper layer was filled with people of every age and some of them were pushing at the gate.
It was the first time Richtert experienced something like that.
The people of the slums couldn’t set foot in the top layer without a sound argument, since there lived many nobles who wanted to live far from crime and criminals, thus they were obliged to have a permit of some sort.
“Oh, man… who would’ve expected this many people to come?”
Lux smiled wryly as he watched the throng in front of him from the gate’s walls.
Lise bowed her head as soon as she saw him.
“Thank you for allowing all these people to be here, Lord Lux.”
“Don’t mention it, I had to help Takumi anyway. I thought to solve it like this as well, so I arranged a long list of people and worked in advance.”
Lux had worked to sign all these people’s permits himself.
The guards would surely stop them if anyone were to break through the gate by force, but no one could act against them for now as they were legally covered to be there.
“We are here for Takumi! We have legal documents that prove in detail the slave merchant’s innocence!”
Takumi had helped each and every one of these people, and now they were trying to return the favor.
The merchants gathered their deals with Suzuran—the Major company now ran by Geiz—trading contracts from the middle layer and the slums, official letters showing deals about safe commercial routes with far away countries; everything showing Takumi and his affiliated company’s goodwill.
The slums did the same, as they had deals concerning public order and fixing caved-in roads for free. Many orphans and homeless had their job contracts, all of which earned thanks to Suzuran or Takumi, and some even brought crime-prevention maps showing safe routes that no merchant wanted to cross if they cared for their life.
There were also people with documents that showed Takumi’s solutions to specific problems or, generally, anything that could prove how kind-hearted he was.
Gathered at the gate of the layer were all the good deeds that Takumi had achieved in the last seven years.
“I didn’t expect them to try so hard to save Takumi… and even less that they all prepared some kind of document to raise their credibility.”
“Many do not know how to write, so I had all the scribes in the slums collaborate and contact the other offices they knew in Listina to cover all these people’s documents. They are resting now, but they worked day and night for this.”
Killfer acted as a representative for the operation and coordinated the whole process to create all the documents the people had now… which were above the four digits. That surely wasn’t a quantity the authorities could just ignore.
“See?! I was right to entrust this to Lise~!”
Eluria’s proud voice came out the magic tool they used for correspondence.
“I have the authority to grant Takumi forgiveness. Elvis does not have a say in this matter.”
The holy text had a very handy line: only those whose blood descends from the Goddess can bestow absolute forgiveness upon those who they believe innocent.
Eluria, who sat on the throne as a direct descendant of Filia, was the only one who could grant Takumi’s salvation, and Elvis had no choice but to accept it.
“My, I knew you could do it, Lise! My tiny sweetie smart patootie is so perfect I just cannot believe it!”
“Huhhh… Your Highness…?”
“Highness, don’t embarrass Archbishop Crest, please. Save it up for later.”
“Oww… Lux, everything is proceeding smoothly, you should have some fun too.”
“I can hardly have fun when my stomach is hurting so much it’s about to tear apart… anyway, be quiet until we’re done here.”
A man shouted from the crowd the moment they cut their correspondence with Eluria.
“What the hell is happening here?!”
He was clad in neat clothes.
He clearly was a noble living in the upper layer.
“Lord Fairstadt! Why are these filthy people in this holy place?!”
“Oh, Lord Keemaseine. Sorry for the commotion.”
“You better be! Call the guards and drive this scum away!”
“Unluckily I cannot do that. All of them are respecting the law of the Holy text – everyone is allowed to protest a groundless accusation – and provided us all the paperwork to do this legally-wise.”
No matter how good their reason was or how well they were following the rules, the nobles would never accept all that people from lower layers to be there.
They saw the slums as a genuine eyesore, no different from open sewers.
“Nonsense! I don’t care about why they’re here, I can’t accept these disgusting monkeys to step where we nobles live!”
The man reached out to the short sword tied to his chest.
“Are you going to use magic on these people?”
Lux asked as the noble unsheathed his sword slowly.
“We nobles can use magic only in emergency cases. These people are abiding by the law and have officially compiled all the paperwork necessary to be here. Using magic against them means that you will turn your back at Her Majesty’s orders, you know?”
“Lord Alfas?! Why a noble so important like you is by these plebeians’ side?!”
Alfas, the Count of Lingen, gazed at the confused man and spoke calmly.
“I’m not by their side, I’m stating that they have abided by the Holy Text’s rules following Goddess Filia’s will. Thus… going against them now means going against our Goddess.”
The count unsheathed his own short sword with a sharp light in his eyes and pointed it to the man, who understanding his place showed a sour grimace on his face before putting his sword away and leaving.
The next moment, the surrounding people let out boisterous cheers of joy.
Lise felt deeply moved by that and let out a whisper.
“Honestly, I would have never imagined the nobles helping the lower layers’ people.”
“I only influenced his actions, nothing more. Things turned better than expected with the count, though, don’t you think?”
Lux said and shifted his gaze to Geiz, who was acting suspiciously.
“W-What, m-me?! I only suggested stuff to the nobles we have deals with, everything else was settled by your words, Lord Lux!”
“By the way, why do you look so hesitant?”
“B-Because if we were to fail… I’d end up…! Urghhh!”
Geiz hugged his own head and started groaning like a madman about to die. Jill, who was nearby, tried to shut him up with a solid kick on his butt.
“Don’t snap under the pressure now, Geiz. Our Archbishop’s idea is flawless. If we keep this up, we’ll manage to rescue Takumi without problems.”
“Hahaha… You shouldn’t kick him that hard, Jill…”
Mirta was dressed up and wore a wry smile as she walked towards them.
“Lord Lux, Suzuran and the guards’ arrangements are ready. If some violent act springs up now, we will collaborate to suppress it as agreed.”
“Sorry for having you do Elsa’s job, Mirta. Are you sure about helping us, anyway? Suppressing people of the lower layers now might bite your back in the future.”
“We already warned everyone. Also, violence is no good. If they cannot understand it now, they will learn it from their errors.”
“Yeah… there’s no doubt you are Vatel’s daughter.”
“Eheheh… my father used to spank the bad kids.”
She commented while shifting her gaze on Lise, who wore a stiff expression while her body trembled slightly from nervousness.
“Everything will be fine… we are doing everything we can.”
Lise truly took care of everything she could think of to save Takumi.
She was sure her plan was flawless.
However… thinking about the chance of something unexpected arising was shaking her.
What if Elvis had found a way to win anyway?
Her expression was sour in front of that hypothesis.
In that moment, she felt someone hugging her tight.
“Everything will be fine. You did your best so far, Lise.”
Mirta’s kind words were trying to brush the anxiety weighting on the child’s shoulders away. Lise felt a bit warmer.
“I saw many people getting out of Geld’s gunshop head-down. It’s all thanks to you that the carpenter heads, the doctors, the entire chartering area, the astronomy chiefs, the artisan bureau and many other people are gathered here.”
The noise in front of them was the living confirmation of how many people she had moved.
“Many of them surely follow Takumi… but it was you who managed to bring them all together. It’s because you acted to save him that everyone followed your lead.”
Then, Mirta circled around Lise and looked at her straight in the eyes with a smile on her face, trying to give courage to the child.
“You are our leader now. You are the one leading all of us. That’s why you cannot let anyone see you this anxious.”
The woman inhaled deeply to speak the words she had heard in the past properly.
“True leaders embody their ambitions!”
Lise laughed seeing Mirta bumping her fist on her chest.
Finally, the child managed to lift her face with determination.
Her body stopped trembling and no ‘what ifs’ were bothering her anymore.
She had to play the role she chose for everyone’s sake.
She knew she had to face the worst opponent eventually… and saw him in the distance. He was approaching them from the castle, behind him was following another old man and lots of guards.
The one leading them looked ruthless and stern.
“I wanted to see what all this commotion was about… there are many faces I know here.”
The leading old man spoke with icy words—they were sharp like an ice blade.
“It looks like you are leading quite the uproar, Lise Crest.”
Elvis, the man who had bound her in the past, glared down to her, but she didn’t avert her gaze or lower her head.
She faced him with a cool awe-inspiring expression.
“We are here to object the Inquisition’s choice!”
She rose her voice clearly.
“Duke Elvis Fortesea, you framed Takumi the slave merchant with groundless accusation and unintelligible evidence! We are here today to prevent the trial and his disposition in the name of our Goddess!”
She didn’t yield, her words sounded strong.
“Your evidence come without concrete material, and it is still unclear if the murder was premeditated or if there was any intent to kill in the first place! Furthermore, there is no eyewitness testimony! The one thousand two hundred thirty documents we filed to be here today show plenty well how beneficial the slave merchant has been to Richtert!”
She had gathered a huge lot of people to bash at the man who had the city in his iron grip.
A strong but lone man like Fortesea would have some difficulty facing that many people at once.
“As Her Majesty Eluria’s personal messenger, I state that the slave merchant’s death would badly harm the nation, as his presence is beneficial! Thus, we ask the Inquisition to stop their sentence!”
Elvis was stoic and silent until that moment, then he rose his face as if deeply interested.
“I understand your claim. Now, what if I were to reject it?”
“In that case you would clearly act against our nation, and as its Archbishop I will sentence you to death!”
She thrust her index to Elvis as if to point at her target.
“Elvis Fortesea, you would be executed by the Inquisition!”
A familiar smile full of pride floated on her face.
Her voice rang so loud and clear that the entire place fell into silence—no one dared to speak or move.
A girl far to be an adult or a full-fledged woman had been so bold to declare war against one of the strongest people in the city, an Overlord.
Then, the sound of a cane stabbing the ground started to fill the air—tack, tack.
“Interesting. How very interesting. The child I kept under my wing and who has been frightened of my family is now baring her fangs against us, imitating that man… I was underestimating you.”
Tack, tack, tack, tack…
There was a satisfied smile on the old man’s face.
“Your request is to forgive the slave merchant and let him free, yes?”
“Exactly. Even if we did not take into consideration all the various deeds he achieved, we should remember that Suzuran rose from the slums to being one of the Major Companies, taking the place of the former Amberg, which Suzuran greatly contributed to shut down and arrest due to their illegal activities.”
“I see. Considering his achievements, he should be forgiven. Taking into consideration his other deeds which has never been made public, we can say that he is a huge contributor of Richtert.”
Elvis was hinting at Takumi’s slave repatriation.
He brought home all the slaves Amberg had deported from other countries before any friction would burst between their nations.
“However, forgiving that slave merchant is impossible.”
The old man’s words sounded grave.
“Should I take your words as a rejection of our demand, Lord Elvis Fortesea?”
“I believe you are misunderstanding something, Archbishop Crest. You requested the Inquisition to stop the execution because ‘the slave merchant’s records are filled with good deeds and achievements’.”
Lise didn’t understand his retort and shut her mouth.
Elvis waited for an answer while repeatedly stabbing the ground with his cane, but the child looked at a lost for words.
“If he were a man who could be forgiven, the Inquisition would not hold his trial and investigations would be performed to prove his innocence or guiltiness. However, as a man who cannot be forgiven, this cannot apply to him.”
“Her Majesty Eluria Richtert, the divine ruler of our nation, is the only one who can express her judgment on this matter! You do not have a say in—”
“You are missing the point, Archbishop Crest.”
He cut her words without hesitation.
“As you mentioned, only those whose lineage reaches up to our Goddess can bestow our country’s forgiveness at their will, and you are right by saying that Her Highness Eluria is our divine ruler… however, Goddess Filia’s blood does not flow into her veins.”
There was only a brief pause in his words. On the other hand, Lise’s train of thoughts froze in front of that statement.
She didn’t understand. That couldn’t be real.
Then, she felt a wave of rage rushing to her head and her face turned deep red.
“TAKE YOUR WORDS BACK THIS VERY MOMENT! INSULTING OUR QUEEN IS TOTALLY OUT OF PLACE—”
“I only stated the truth, I never meant to insult her. Lady Eluria is not the legitimate daughter of the late queen. Once the former perished, her closest relative was chosen to take the throne.”
“THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE! ONLY…! ONLY A DESCENDANT OF GODDESS FILIA HAS THE RIGHT TO SIT ON RICHTERT’S THRONE…!”
Lise’s thoughts were a messed tangle she repeatedly failed to tidy up.
In front of her, Elvis’s icy gaze pierced her.
“The late queen was murdered fifteen years ago by a thug. That man kidnapped the princess too, whose whereabouts are still unknown nowadays.”
Elvis’ expression didn’t budge in the slightest as he spoke.
“That day we lost our queen, our princess and the Goddess’ lineage. Those scandals could have destroyed our nation, thus Lady Eluria was selected as the new heir and set up to the throne.”
“T-That’s a lie…! You are LYING! This nonsense… it… it cannot be real…”
Her words weakened little by little.
She knew what happened to the late queen, that’s why she couldn’t say for sure that he was lying. His words were so plausible that even the slightest hope she had left was getting smashed.
“Ohoh… I’m sorry for you, Archbishop Crest, but what Elvis said is true.”
The man behind Elvis stepped forward with a hoarse old voice.
He was one of the three Overlords, the one who controlled the ‘harmony’ of the city.
“Lord Cramer…! Are you supporting Elvis’ nonsense?!”
“Don’t boil like that, Lord Lux. I am an Administer and I only act in the name of ‘harmony’. Did you perhaps forget that I am the most neutral Overlord among us?”
Cramer tried to calm Lux down while swaying his moustaches.
“Putting aside the slave merchant’s deeds, if you wanted to use Her Majesty’s right to decide for his life, I cannot support you as it would hinder the harmony of our city.”
“Damn you…! Opportunist geezers…!”
“Oh oh, youngsters should not bark like that. I’m not supporting Elvis, I’m just preventing you to use Her Majesty however you like.”
He smiled while cunningly adjusting his glasses on his nose.
“I swear on the substitute of our princess, on my name as an Administer and an Overlord, and on our Goddess Filia, that Elvis’ words state the truth.”
Lise didn’t register that.
Cramer’s words entered her head and just bounced around her mind unprocessed.
The only thing she understood was that all her efforts had been in vain.
“What a shame, Lise.”
The icy tone of Elvis’ voice coiled around her entire body, paralyzing her.
“If there was a way to save him, I am sure you would have found it.”
There were shades of emotions in his cold voice, as he mouthed that sentece almost like humming a song.
“You said his deeds counted over a thousand achievements, right? If we were to ask the Inquisition to look through all the proofs and confirm what you said, it would take around one month of investigation.”
The Inquisition’s executions took priority even over national’s affairs.
The grace period usually extended to a maximum of seven days. If up to three days were already elapsed and it had to be stretched for some special reasons, it would reach no more than two entire weeks.
So an entire month was totally out of the question.
“I knew Lady Eluria’s messenger would use Her Majesty to save the slave merchant in vain. Now, I am sure you know that trying to force your way with magic or violence will only be a waste of time, as no one wants to face Fortesea and none has more authority than us.”
Lise had planned everything based on the law exactly because she knew she couldn’t rescue Takumi with sheer strength… but it had all been for nothing.
“Now… your last ray of hope disappeared along with your special role…”
Eluria’s authority couldn’t decide for Takumi’s salvation, and the Inquisition couldn’t confirm all the evidence they had brought in time.
Everything had been vain.
“Your hope has fallen apart, did it not, Lise…?”
Each word Elvis spoke mauled the child’s heart.
She failed to save Takumi.
As that inevitable truth sank inside her, her vision started to blur.
“Aaah! Aaah! Mic test, mic test!”
Then, a familiar voice resounded all through the place.
“Lise, you’ve been cool as heck so far, don’t you dare to cry now!”
It came from behind Elvis, Cramer and all the magic knights.
Everyone faced that direction in confusion, and what they saw was a man with a smile full of pride on his face.
“It cannot… be…”
Lise didn’t understand how he could be there. Even Elvis stiffened.
There was only one who didn’t budge.
“Right, I forgot to tell you…”
Cramer laughed while swaying his moustaches.
“I thought the situation could explode any minute now, so before people started shouting so loud this layer would be in danger, I brought the slave merchant out here.”
“Yup. Thank you, old man, it’s been a while since I last saw the sun. Feels great.”
Elvis started stabbing the ground with his cane out of frustration.
“What is the meaning of this, Lord Cramer?”
“I just finished explaining it. Wasn’t it enough?”
“Those waiting the Inquisition’s execution are to wait in jail until their last moment. Having the slave merchant brought here without the Inquisition’s consensus will be taken as an assistance to his escape.”
“No, not at all. I have no intention to let him escape. He is handcuffed and under heavy surveillance.”
Takumi was surrounded by guards, and behind him were dozens of magic knights. He was well restrained and the only thing that allowed him to be heard so well was some sort of amplification devise.
“I only want to prevent things from escalating too much. We Administer value peace and balance over everything else in our country.”
Cramer smirked the next moment.
Elvis frowned and faced the magic knights.
“Catch the slave merchant. Kill him if he acts in any suspicious way.”
“Hey, geezer, don’t be so hasty. I won’t say anything unnecessary. I’m here to calm things down as Cramer asked me to.”
Takumi spoke in a light-hearted tone of voice.
“Okay everyone, now take a gooood listen to what I have to say…”
Then, he took a sharp breath and shouted:
“…I, the slave merchant Takumi, killed Kiad Fortesea by my own hands!”
His voice was so loud that it resounded all through the layer.
All sounds died along its reverberation. Even Elvis stopped stabbing the ground with his cane for a few seconds, then let it touch the ground again with a tickling sound.
“That’s it, guys, you’re free to go now. Especially you guys from the slums, what the heck are you doing out here scratching your crotch? Get back home and work if you wanna earn some money.”
“N-No, wait up! Have you any idea about what you just said?!”
“About me killing Kiad? Well, yeah, now that I said it there’s no helping me anymore, Lise. But at least you all get why I’m getting executed, right?”
Takumi spoke in his usual tone, but he couldn’t have said anything worse.
He had been suspected of murdering Kiad so far, and he could’ve avoided being executed if there weren’t ironclad proofs about his guiltiness.
However, he chose to shatter that chance.
“You’re kidding, right, Takumi?! You were forced to spit that bullshit, right?!”
“Huh? Hey there, Master Geld. Why the heck are you not working in your gunshop, man. Go home and stop wasting time here, dang it. By the way, you sure gathered a lotta people. Gathering all of them in three days is quite impressive.”
He carefreely gazed at the faces of the people gathered outside the gate.
“Wait a minute… the ingenious carpenter heads, the merciful doctors, the offbeat gunshop master, the klutzy guys from the chartered ships, the accurate divinator mistresses and the youthful artisans…? I see you really pulled all the slums up here.”
“We gathered all these people to save you! Some come from the middle layer and the upper one too! We know you’re innocent!”
Geld’s shout was supported by many others’.
The situation was about to turn grim, but then Takumi howled to silence everyone.
“Did you forget what you did two years ago?! I’m talking about Vatel Familie’s burial at sea! You’re a bunch of troublemakers, but when he died you just respected him and gave a proper goodbye!”
He flashed his usual smile and dropped the tone of his voice a bit.
“Stay calm and do the same for me. Compared to criminals, Vatel was simply beaten to repent his sins. I only have to go through the same thing, nothing more.”
His words expressed plenty well that he accepted the Inquisition’s execution.
“Thank you everyone for coming here today. Lise, I’m impressed to see how much effort you put into all of this. I’m glad I underestimated you.”
No one could rise their voice again in front of his smile.
He saw some people standing dead still, some others were tearing up, and some were stifling their sobs.
After watching them for a few seconds, Takumi opened his mouth again.
“Geezer, I said what I needed to. I bet these people will go home in a bit, so toss me in jail.”
“Are you planning to win their sympathy and their goodbye here…?”
“Plan? Please, stop doubting so much about anything I do, geezer.”
Elvis stood still for a few seconds looking straight at Takumi… then closed his eyes.
“Magic knights, guards, toss that man in jail.”
“B-But Lord Elvis, all the people gathered outside the gate…!”
“They lost their will to fight for his sake. The slave merchant crushed it with his own hands.”
Then, the old man faced Lise, who was standing still and flabbergasted.
“In the end… he saved you again.”
She understood what he meant.
Takumi confessed his crime to save the people gathered here.
They had gathered thousands of evidence to witness his innocence, but if Takumi was to be executed anyway, all the people directly affiliated to him would’ve been treated like traitors of their country, thus getting executed.
“Asking for the slave merchant to be forgiven and bringing here all these people has been in vain. We, the Inquisition, have no intention to waste any more time in fruitless investigations.”
There was something deeper in his words: we’re turning a blind eye to this matter.
Maybe executing Takumi alone was a sort of grace in itself.
In the end, the slave merchant chose to save all of them instead of himself.
“The Inquisition will proceed without further delay.”
With those parting words, Elvis turned his back to the crowd and slowly walked away, towards the royal castle.
Lise couldn’t move.
All she could do was looking at her hope getting ever so far away.