A world of slaves – Part 3
The evening breeze blew the stench of blood into the wagon.
The men’s victory roars could be heard outside.
The bandits ripped the cloth that served as a curtain and popped their head in the wagon.
“Eheh… long time no see, brats.”
The children remembered well the face of the man who just talked.
A big man with a vicious smile.
The only difference was… his clothes stained with blood.
“Elves are way more precious than normal slaves. I made some money out of you brats, but this time I got pretty lucky.”
The man licked the blood from the blade of his sword as he laughed.
The slave merchants sold the elf and now they came to take her back in order to sell her again.
They didn’t attack a random wagon, they already knew the goods were valuable.
If they kept doing things like that, they would easily become rich.
Of course, it’s not something that could be done often, but it was clearly a good way to gain money.
“Boss, what shall we do with these kids?”
“Well… let’s just get back the elf. I only used the others to persuade these merchants, since there’re a lot. Even keeping them alive is a nuisance.”
As the man mocked the children along with his comrades, he raised his sword over an unlucky child.
“Kill us and you’ll kiss goodbye to the money.”
As soon as Takumi said that, the man stopped.
Rage and confusion painted his face as he turned to see who talked.
“Brat, what do you mean?”
“Exactly what I said. The coachmen that you killed were talking about money before, saying that they received their payment. They had already been paid for the elf, plus a little extra… and they hid it in a box. You guys heard about it too, right?”
Facing the children who were crying desperately, he saw them nod repeatedly.
“If you hand it over right away, I’ll spare you.”
“Good to see we understand each other… but those two said the box has a strange mechanism. You can have the money only if you activate it correctly.”
The children looked shocked at Takumi.
The coachmen didn’t only hide the box, but they also said that only a few people would be able to open it, and they didn’t say anything regarding the mechanism’s activation… Nevertheless, Takumi looked confident.
“I know how to open it. Let us go as soon as you have it.”
“Very well… interesting. Then, let’s play…”
The man said, then he grabbed Lilia and pulled her toward himself as he laid his sword on her neck.
“While you open it, I’ll kill someone every three minutes. Where’s the fun if there’s no spice on this matter?”
He tightened his grip on her, as she was shivering and looking at Takumi as to ask him to save her.
But Takumi wore his usual warm smile as he looked back at her.
“It is more interesting, indeed. Those coachmen said so many things out loud that three minutes will be more than enough.”
“Good! Now, since you’re that confident, how about moving your ass?!”
“Sure, but I need the keys for the trapdoor where they hid the box.
Also, I’d like you to take these shackles off, otherwise I could trip, since I’ll have to search in the dark.”
The man clicked his tongue, and as he rummaged in the corpse’s pockets, Takumi turned toward Karin and looked straight into her eyes.
She knew what they had to do, but still, her face cramped.
Karin silently referred the message to Kunon, then, the bandit threw a set of keys to Takumi.
“Hurry, or your friends will die.”
“Fine. I can’t see a thing, and finding the right key is no picnic.”
Takumi showed the man a key as the set rattled.
“With this I can open the trapdoor. It’ll take an instant to open the box.
Can we forget about the three minutes rule?”
“Tch… just hurry up.”
The man huffed, waiting for Takumi to give him the money.
The child turned his back nonchalantly and squatted.
As he smiled, he turned the key into the lock. Clang, the shackles opened.
The man was stiff and his smile disappeared from his face.
He felt paralyzed, unable to grasp what just happened.
As he whispered those words, he lowered his gaze.
He saw his arm on the floor. The sword still in the grip of his hand.
He couldn’t say another word.
Feeling his rib cage collapse with a loud sound of broken bones, the man was blasted out of the wagon.
“Uff, I’m not strong when I can’t use my hands…”
Said Kunon with a disappointed expression, her golden fur fluttering.
But no one minded her words.
Those attending the scene couldn’t grasp what happened. Lilia herself, the closest to the bandits, was too shocked to react.
The only thing clear for everyone was… that Kunon was a wolf-man, a powerful demi-human skilled in the art of war.
Even though the man’s blood splattered over her, she kept wearing the same radiant smile that she had when Takumi gave her bread.
“They… freed her!”
One of the men close to the wagon screamed terrified.
His voice overpowered the cackling of his comrades, who turned to see that gruesome scene.
Not caring about their boss anymore, the bandits started to flee at full speed, scattering as they saw a monster.
Still, the girl kept watching them like a wolf watches a lamb before tearing it to pieces.
“Oh, are we playing tag? I’ve played it many times already! People praised me… when I catched and killed everyone.”
“…Dumb dog! Who said you could kill them?!”
The instant before she jumped, Takumi grabbed her by the scruff, and as he tightened his grip, she went stiff and stopped moving.
“Ouchie! What are you doing?!”
“There’s no need to kill them.”
“Oh, c’mon! It’s boring if I don’t kill them! Can’t I have some fun?!”
She didn’t understand the reason he was stopping her.
A normal person would have wondered if she had a screw loose… but there’s someone who can understand that kind of logic.
“Right, that’s boring. Then, let’s have some fun.”
“Yay! So I can kill them?”
“No, stop it. Killing people is wrong.”
Kunon couldn’t understand his words and tilted her head.
Takumi wore the same twisted smile she had.
“Don’t kill them for no reason, let them live. Don’t kill their boss either. It would be much more fun to watch him die slowly.”
Takumi, on her same wavelength, proposed something even more atrocious before letting her go.
Kunon remained frozen, unmoving.
Leaving her alone, Takumi started freeing the children from their shackles.
Karin was the last one, and when she was finally free, she stretched gently.
“How did you get the right key on the first try?”
The set had fourteen keys, ten for the children and four for Karin and Kunon.
Finding the right key in darkness, and in such little time, wasn’t an easy task.
But Takumi replied with his usual poker-face.
“Since the merchants had the keys of our shackles but not of yours, they should have taken them when they bought you.”
As he said so, he showed her the set.
A simple thread united the keys.
“In that case, your keys would have been the last ones.
Also, since your shackles are made of different material, their keys should have been too.”
Since humans can’t see in darkness, they have to hone their senses to move in certain circumstances.
Once he understood the keys’ position, finding them by touch was a matter of mere seconds.
“Also, to bind Kunon they needed tougher shackles, so I only had to compare the last pair of keys of the set. Even if I were to get it wrong, I could have tried again, since it didn’t look like that guy wanted to keep playing. Anyway, it was really unlikely that he could see me.”
Takumi smiled at her as he started to spin the set of keys around his finger.
“Any other questions?”
Seeing him that confident, she shrugged her shoulders and put on a wry smile.
“No. I also forgive you for using Kunon, but only because we’re safe now.”
“Go thank that guy. Now, time for the next move.”
He approached the children who were huddled together.
“Hey, anyone got hurt?”
“Takumi! Thanks! Thank you…!”
Lilia came running and hugged him, crying.
She must have been the most scared, since she was threatened to be killed first.
The other children also said words of thanks to him.
The coachmen were dead and the bandits fled.
No one was binding them anymore. They were finally free…
Or so they thought.
“C’mon, we can’t stay here. Let’s go all together.”
“Go…? Where? Also, now that we’re free there’s no need to be together, right?”
Commented Killfer, as he glanced at Kunon and Karin.
Takumi guessed their presence wasn’t really appreciated.
“Of course, we should go where the merchants were bringing us as slaves. The horses are fine, so we should reach our destination without any more trouble.”
Answered a smiling Takumi.
The children didn’t understand his decision.
Why would they choose to go back being slaves again, and this time by their own will?
“No… Forget it! Why on earth should I return to be a slave?!”
As soon as Killfer voiced his thought, other children agreed with him.
Takumi expected that, so he started explaining.
“It’s true that we’re now free to do whatever we want, but where should we go? We could get caught again, starve to death, or live of thievery.”
“But why should we go meet the coachmen’s boss?!”
“Because now they owe us a big one. I want to negotiate with them to make sure you guys live safe forever.”
Takumi already thought about everything, so he smiled confidently.
“You have to become a slave again to be free in the future… but all of us need to stay together for this to happen.”
Of course… the children hung their heads.
They understood what he wanted to say.
If they fled, nothing would have changed. Their life would have remained hell.
Also, both bandits and slave merchants would have hunted them to get revenge.
But not every child was mature enough to leave the freedom they just gained behind, even though they understood it was the right choice.
Said Lilia standing close to Takumi. The others children looked at her.
“Lilia, are you kidding?! There’s no need to do what he’s asking for! We’re free now!”
She shook her head at his objection.
“Takumi is right. We might get caught again and if it doesn’t happen today, it might happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, or the day after…”
She replied, and Killfer hung his head while gritting his teeth.
They would have lived with the constant fear of being chased down. Their life wouldn’t be so different from before.
“Also, Takumi saved me. He overcame an impossible situation, that’s why… I believe in him.”
Killfer clicked his tongue after seeing her smile and turned to face the child near her.
“Hey, can you really do this?”
“I’m ‘sure’ I can. I know that asking you something like this is crazy, but I’ll keep my promise.”
Killfer sighed and hung his head in front of Takumi’s obnoxious, condescending smile.
“What should we do?”
“I’d love to tell you to leave everything to me, but some children still haven’t understood what we need to do, so I want you and Lilia to explain everything and convince them. If someone refuses, things will get complicated.”
“Explain…? Lilia is one thing, but I don’t know how to do it.”
“I’m sure you two can do this because of who you are. Let Lilia explain the situation, you will only push things a little when needed.”
He looked conflicted, but decided to go with Lilia anyway.
When Takumi saw they were ready to go, he turned around after feeling someone behind him.
“Takumi… I have a favor to ask you.”
Kunon’s blond hair dazzled under the moonlight.
Her face frozen in a cold expression.
“People always told me to kill, and that’s all I ever did… I won’t let go of a life this fun.”
Her dead, golden eyes were emotionless.
“That’s why ‘leaving them alive’ was… interesting. If you could think of something like that, I guess you will think about many more interesting things.”
Her expression softened and returned to normal.
“So… I’ll start from leaving you alive.”
An innocent smile bloomed on her lips and Takumi smiled back at her.
“Nice. Feel free to kill me when you get tired.”
“Ugh… killing you will be hard, but it might be fun…”
“There’s no fun about squashing a fly, right? Anyway, keep your eyes peeled. I’ll show you a good time, but you have to work for me in return.”
“Leave it to me! I’ll obey your every order like a doggy!”
After her reply, she got back on the wagon while wagging her tail.
“Now that your friend made her choice, what will you do?”
“…If Kunon remains, I shall too. You are truly interesting… and there are other things I’d like to see.”
She pointed at his head.
“I’ll ask again. Who are you?”
“Well, I can’t say I’m a normal person.”
“You’re not normal…? It’s hard to believe.”
“I’ll do my best to make you believe it. We have a lot to talk about and having someone who can understand me right away can be useful.”
Since he didn’t have enough information about that world, who knows what consequences he would have to face if he said that he reincarnated.
Karin could read his mind thanks to her ability. She could find everything out over time, he didn’t need to tell her directly.
“Let’s save the small talk. Let’s retrieve the corpses and go.”
“I agree, but… why should we bring them with us?”
Karin was used to see those corpses now, but she didn’t understand why they needed them too.
“I said no one has to be missing. Of course, they’re not excluded.”
After he closed the coachmen’s eyes and repositioned them with dignity, he dragged them in the wagon.
Neither the children, or Kunon and Karin, the coachmen or the bandits that attacked the wagon could be missing if they wanted negotiations to go smoothly.
“Since it’s pretty complex to explain, it’ll be faster for you to read it yourself.”
“No, reading your mind is tiring. When I did it to know what we had to do earlier, I saw so many thoughts that I felt like puking.”
“Oh, that’s why you made that face. But from now on, I’ll make you read my mind, so you have to get used to it.”
He said, and looking into each other’s eyes, Takumi got… a little too close, so Karin blushed.
“I-I’m not interested in a child… but I read that there’s an adult within you… this is complex…”
“Thanks for the cute reaction. I enjoyed it.”
“…I’ll punch you if you say that again.”
“Well, now you can read the answer you seek, but don’t do it if it makes you feel worse. It’s better if you take a deep breath and rest.”
“Yeah, I’ll pass for now… What do you want to do when we get there?”
“I want to show the adults that they made a mistake.”
Replied Takumi with his everlasting smile.