The Soft-hearted slave merchant – Part 3
‘Workers Street’ was the boundary that divided the middle part of Listina from the lower one.
Since the latter had some criminality issues and people didn’t want to step into that dangerous zone, that street was created. It was also the middle part’s last safety zone, or so it was said.
Given the bad temperament of craftsmen, quarrels and fights were a mundane thing and the guards on patrol had to bring order back, but robbery and theft stroke exactly when they had their hands full.
It would’ve been safer if the artisans weren’t that stubborn and fiery.
“Don’t spit that bullshit!”
And that day too, someone’s angry voice almost made the workshop’s walls shake.
Takumi expected that reaction, so he immediately covered his ears.
“I’m not spitting anything, Master Geld. I was asking if you were interested in some slaves, as I always do.”
Despite the dwarf’s rage, his tone remained the same. The face under his mustaches was flushed red as if flames were about to burst out of his head.
“And I heard your question, but why did you bring here a damn dragon-man?!”
He thundered against the slave merchant and thrust his finger at Corona, who was trying to hide behind Takumi.
His voice was so piercing that the girl turned pale and tried her best to disappear from his sight, while tears welled up in her eyes.
Dwarfs hated other demi-humans and looked at them coldly. It was a sort of unexpressed rule to never share the workplace with another kind.
Among demi-humans, some races had superiority complexes.
“Do you understand that even lords ask me for guns?! Only a bonehead would think to put such work in the hands of another race! I won’t let you ruin my business!”
He slammed his fist on the table so angrily that someone might’ve thought Takumi was about to become the next target of his wrath.
Even though dwarfs were great artisans, they were excessively proud, and dealing with them could be extremely difficult.
Honestly, no man would try to sell demi-humans to a dwarf.
Tapping on his temple, Takumi kept talking.
“But Master Geld, isn’t it true that you need help?”
“It’s damn true! That’s why I asked you, and here you are trying to sell me some demi-human! I should have asked another slave merchant, maybe they’d have tried to sell me a human!”
“I don’t mind selling you one, you know?”
Takumi cut the conversation short and the dwarf stared at him stunned.
“Even nobles ask for your abilities, so you have to complete each commission due time, right?”
“But if you don’t buy a slave that already has some experience, you won’t finish in time anyway, you know? That means that your shop will become ‘the shop that can’t even do requests for nobles.’”
Geld was at a loss for words, but Takumi kept talking.
“You have to craft rifles for nobles who go hunting, and you have a lot of work… but you don’t have someone that watches the furnace, right?”
“…If I put a kid in front of that, they’d collapse from a heat-stroke. They wouldn’t stand it for long.”
“I see, so you need someone who can stand it, right?”
“Right. Anyone would work, so I don’t need any demi-human.”
“But even the one who was used to the heat collapsed, so even a new slave would meet the same fate. Do you intend to spend that much money?”
Watching the dwarf’s hesitation, Takumi smiled and put his hand on Corona’s head.
“This dragon-man has a fire dragon’s blood flowing in her veins. Your furnace won’t win against her.”
“Who is in charge of maintaining the flame has to know the temperature in the furnace. A demi-human can’t do that.”
Takumi noticed that he just contradicted himself and thought that he was impossible.
“Corona, how much is the temperature in there?”
“I-I’m sorry… I can’t understand it by watching alone.”
“See?! I was right, she is useless!”
“B-But maybe, if I touch the flame, I can understand!”
“What the… what did you just say?! Metal melts at that temperature, you know?! If you put your hands in there…! Stop, stupid! Stop right there!”
She ignored his protest as she got closer to the furnace, then shoved her tail in the furnace and endured the heat without the slightest effort.
She looked perfectly fine.
“I think that… it’s a bit too cold for melting metal.”
The nearby workers started whispering and the dwarf frowned his brows.
She was right.
Takumi tried to soften the conversation’s tone as Corona returned to his side. Her tail was unscathed.
“Listen… Master Geld. It’s all thanks to your abilities if your shop grew this much. If you carry out this work, your name will spread further. But if you fail… your reputation will be stained.”
For a mere instant, the firmness in the dwarf’s eyes wavered.
“Guns are mere playthings for nobles, given the supremacy of magic. If the King started relying on magic and you lost the chance to sell your weapons even as hunting tools… what do you think will happen to this shop?”
Geld had already lost his fighting spirit, so Takumi’s words settled the matter.
“Get rid of your stubbornness and take this chance, or keep clinging to your ideals and lose everything. It’s up to you.”
“…Aaaah! Fine, okay! But you won’t hear me saying you won!”
Scratching his head fiercely, the dwarf turned to Corona.
“Hey, dragon-man! There’s a lot to do other than looking over the furnace, so you better prepare yourself!”
“Y-Yes! I’ll carry stuff if needed!”
“I won’t buy you if you can’t even carry a box of tamahagane1, you gnat!”
“I-I’ll try my best to carry three!”
“Idiot! You’d break your spine if you try that! Takumi’s slaves aren’t superior at all!”
The other workers burst into a loud laughter hearing him.
“Jeez, we’re wasting a lot of time! Come with me, there’s a lot of work to do!”
Returning to his usual serious attitude, the dwarf walked towards the inner part of his shop.
“…We did it. I’ll drop by to check how are you doing, so if he does something bad to you or things don’t work, tell me right away, okay?”
“Okay… thank you.”
“You have no reason to thank me. I’m a slave merchant, so it’s normal to sell slaves like you, nothing more.”
“I think… that there’s no one like you.”
“One soft-hearted slave merchant is more than enough, otherwise I’d have to live out in the cold.”
Seeing Corona tilting her head, he gave her a wry smile and pushed her back.
“C’mon, go before Master Geld starts to shout again.”
“Y-Yes! Thank you again!”
After bowing her head, she dashed in the same direction her new master went.
“Great job, Soft-hearted slave merchant.”
A voice reached him the instant he let out a sigh of relief.
It was Becht, one of the children who was a slave with Takumi seven years before.
Working as a blacksmith forged his body to the point that he didn’t look like a young guy anymore.
“I knew that you were going to bring the perfect slave, but… who would have expected a dragon-man. Everyone was worried.”
“My bad. Something unexpected happened and now I have a lot of demi-humans.”
“Selling a demi-human to a dwarf is pretty troubling… he is even more stubborn than others of his kind.”
“It’s all thanks to Lilia and the others, I did nothing.”
Takumi knew from the start that Geld needed someone to help him, even though the dwarf didn’t ask for an assistant.
Several days before, Takumi heard Lilia talk about how troubled Geld was after the guy who looked over the furnace collapsed.
Also, thanks to the supplier of tamahagane and the members of Valeria, Takumi gathered quite a lot of information.
That’s why he brought a slave who was resistant to heat like Corona.
A slave merchant must know what the customer needs… that was the trick.
“What I wanted to say is that you listen to anything, even trivial rumors, and put them to good use. You even came up with selling a demi-human to a dwarf.”
Said Becht while handing over a box wrapped in clothes.
“Anyway… this mechanism was really hard to create. Thinking about a way to substitute the flint and applying it was something.”
“Well, people who don’t think about rifles are quite rare.”
On the wall of the gun shop hung the sign ‘Corundrum.’
Corundrum produced what in Takumi’s old world would be called muskets, weapons too outdated to be used in the modern era.
“Magic is used for long-distance assaults, that’s why people started to increase their physical abilities and send demi-humans as sacrificial paws to the front-lines.
The invention of guns wasn’t groundbreaking, given their consumption of ammo and their low utility compared to magic.”
In this world, guns were recognized as mere playthings.
Given the overall expenses needed to use them, they were toys for bored nobles who had too much money on their hands.
Rather than weapons, they were considered as decorations or industrial art objects in the market.
Also, the nobles who possessed some also used magic.
Even though magic’s mastery was hard to achieve, magic was generated by the body and regenerated constantly until the individual’s death.
Given how handy it was, the time spent in crafting weapons was utterly wasted.
Still, there were plenty of eccentric craftsmen in the slums’ Worker Street who worked with iron, like Geld’s shop.
“Jeez… Seeing nobles use things they don’t really need is ridiculous.”
“Don’t be like that, Becht. They actually need them, don’t they?”
“Yeah, only to play with them. Shooting a person isn’t an easy task, so they’re a perfect toy for nobles who grew tired of magic.”
“Exactly… also, they have to calculate the wind influence on the trajectory of the bullet before firing with a musket, so they can’t even fire right away.”
“What’s that? Musket?”
“Rifles are called that in my birthplace. Don’t mind it too much.”
Takumi soon changed argument, leaving Becht tilting his head puzzled.
“Anyway, thanks for helping. I’ll come ask you again if I get the chance.”
“Sure. It was amusing researching so much for that, even though I’m the one who made it.”
“I’m glad to hear that. You’re a lifesaver for helping me with these crazy requests.”
“Don’t mention it. If you praise me like that, you’ll make me want to help you again.”
While Becht smiled brightly, Takumi returned a wry smile as he took the object from his friend’s hands and put it in his pocket.
“Right, you said you had a lot of demi-humans, but how many are they?”
“Do you… wanna try selling them to some of my acquaintances? I’m well known around.”
Proposed Becht as he cramped his face, but Takumi replied lightly.
“Nah, that dragon-man was the last one, don’t worry.”
“Wait… you just sold fifteen demi-humans?! In a single day?!”
“Yeah, I had to. I aimed to buyers like Geld and explained to them why it would be the best choice.”
Takumi took out from his bosom the contract and spread it open in front of his friend, who looked at it with admiration.
“…You really are amazing.”
“Wait, didn’t you know it already? I sold you, after all.”
“Hahaha, well, you’re right.”
Both smiled at each other, and Takumi returned the contract to its place.
“Okay, I don’t want to waste any more of your time. Later, I’ll write to Master Geld. I will make someone of Valeria drop by tomorrow.”
“Sure, I’ll warn him and also keep an eye on that girl. I’ll tell you if anything happens.”
“Thanks. The Soft-hearted slave merchant counts on you.”
Ready to return home, Takumi exited the shop while waving at Becht.
Karin was waiting outside on the wagon’s coachman’s sit.
“Welcome back. How did it go…? Okay, useless question.”
Said her as the slave merchant was approaching.
“Everything went smooth as you can see. How is Kunon doing?”
“She’s sleeping in the wagon. I’d feel bad for waking her up, so stay here.”
He climbed over and sat near the elf, who, with a flick of the reins, made the horses start moving. The wagon proceeded to their office while its wheels clattered on the road.
“…What can I say. You really are amazing.”
“Uh? What’s up with you?”
“I just wanted to say that. I didn’t have anything to do since this morning.”
She kept looking ahead as she talked.
“Remember what we were talking about before…? I’m really happy to help you in your work. If you weren’t there, I’d have been bought by some noble and lived my days in his bed until he would have had enough of me. My life now is really great compared to that.”
Elfs weren’t only gorgeous, but once they reached adulthood, it was like time stopped for them. That’s why they were essentially treated as sex-dolls by nobles or used as high-class prostitutes in brothels.
Karin hated everything that resembled their showy garments and clothes, so she only wore plain ones.
“You also saved Kunon and never hesitate to help other demi-humans… I’m really grateful to you.”
As she smiled at him, her face was somewhat clouded.
“Well, I might be different from the others. Usually elves have blond hair, unlike me. No one wanted to buy me, and even humans said I’m disgusting.”
Some time ago, she spoke about herself a little.
She was driven away from her birthplace due to her hair.
Demi-humans are slaves from the moment they’re born, that’s why Karin felt a deep sympathy for them.
Looking at her behavior, Takumi let out a sigh.
“I like your black hair. They’re so beautiful and glossy that sometimes I’d love to touch them.”
She looked at Takumi with a shocked expression. It was quite rare to see her so agitated and embarrassed.
“If your hair is a burden, all the more reason for accepting yourself. Overcoming the difficulties is what brought you here. That’s why you should feel proud.”
Said Takumi while touching Karin’s head lightly.
“Also… even though it’s unusual for an elf, our hair matches. Aren’t you happy about that?”
She relaxed seeing him smiling.
“You’re right. I’m different from other elves, but I can’t be disgusting if we are similar.”
“That difference and your praiseworthy chest are what makes you who you are.”
“…Why are you talking about my chest now.”
Her cheeks flushed, and she bared her teeth as she tried to hide her chest with her arms.
“Because in my birthplace elves are renowned to be flat-chested.”
“Oh, so you like them tiny? Lay a hand on Kunon and I’ll kill you, understood?”
“And what if I tell you I like them big?”
“…I’ll just punch you.”
“Oh no. Spare me, please. I won’t tell you anything.”
“You rarely talk about your tastes for women, so give me an answer. Tiny or big, which do you like best?”
Takumi started that as a joke, but she turned out to be more interested than expected and inquired further.
Thank goodness she returned to her usual self, and because she was in a good mood after punching him, Takumi ended up buying her various things without uttering a word. Oil and a brush were among the cheap stuff she wanted.
1 Tamahagane is a type of steel.