Chapter 25: Slave Market
I blended in, but I didn’t immediately participate in the auction.
I remained inert and decided to gather information first.
At the first venue I ran into, I held my breath and observed the auction taking place from the back.
That was to check if the intel I had obtained was correct.
But all the while, the same discomfort that I felt when I saw the slaves in the Labyrinth built up inside me.
That time, however, I disciplined myself with reason.
I focused only on what was logically necessary for me and put nothing but the bare minimum amount of information in my mind.
With great prudence, I managed to not buy any slaves in the first venue.
Of course, I would have inserted myself in the auction if there was a slave that stood above the rest, but they were all average.
Apparently, there were different types of slave markets.
The first market was for beginners, which was why the transaction was comparatively clean.
In other words, more special slaves who excelled in some way or the other wouldn’t be sold there—goods like them would be exhibited in a darker part of the slave market.
By the way, all of that was information I acquired from eavesdropping on all the chatter of the participants by using «Dimension».
It was quite a crude trick, but I buried the shortcomings with a lot of MP.
Among the chit-chat, I picked up the location and time of the special slave market that would be held later in the day.
Many ruffians tried to mess with me since I was still young, but I was able to deal with them in places out of sight.
Many of the attendees in the venue had escorts with them, and so I—who was participating alone—stood out a little, partly also because of my youth.
I went from one venue to another, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible.
That meant I was diving deeper and deeper into the depth of this world.
Gradually, the markets turned from common ones to the more illegal ones.
The price of their slaves rose, and individuals that were not simply prisoners of war also rose to the platform.
There were daughters of some kind of rare beastfolk who had been kidnapped and children much younger than those who were exhibited in the general slave market.
Other goods also had some peculiar constitution, like the loss of pigmentation in their skin and hair.
There were all kinds of individuals.
The primal enthusiasm of man in that infrastructure hit me hard, making me feel vertigo.
I was supposed to know that already.
I should have been prepared for it.
However, there was a difference between what I had predicted in my mind and what I experienced in real-time.
I didn’t consider myself an upstanding person by any measure.
I had gone that far with the determination to accept the culture of slavery.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t adapt to that space.
A narcotic-like scent clung to my nostrils; every kind of human odor mixed with it.
There was also the vulgar laughter of the wealthy who dominated that space.
To make matters worse were the pathetic-looking slaves exhibited on the platform.
I continued to watch them from one corner, hiding my expression.
And what drove me crazy the most was the Constitution of the slaves.
My ‘Display’ showed no falsehood nor trickery—only the truth laid bare.
My face contorted on its own.
A slave auction held at midnight exclusively for the rich—there was nothing good about those venues.
Most of the customers there were looking for slaves for the sole purpose of using them up as disposables.
I continued to check the slaves’ talents even as my mind was being whittled down.
I looked at their level, their ‘Status’, and their ‘Skills’ as if they were a task, and I didn’t give a glance at their names.
Never look at their names.
I had to be thorough about it or I would be emotionally involved with them.
And then, another slave was brought to the stage, and the man hosting the auction raised a loud voice that echoed throughout the venue.
“This brings us to our next item.
Let me explain slaves number five through ten—”
I didn’t lend an ear to the host, merely focusing on the slaves at my own discretion.
Number five: parameters were low across the board, and Skills were average.
Number six: parameters average, no Skills whatsoever.
Number seven: high status and similarly high parameters, but no Skills.
Number eight: good balance of parameters and four Skills, but suffering bad status on Constitution.
Number nine: no parameters or Skills to speak of, and the Constitution was…
“…I should stop.”
I stopped myself.
I thought I could push through with extra determination, but it was still not enough.
I could still hold my own in the shallow end of the slave market.
However, it didn’t seem like I could keep my wit around and continue my search for an appropriate talent in that environment.
The adults in the gallery all laughed and bid on the slaves without any remorse, and I would be no different from those well-off snobs.
Once I realized that, my eyes refused to continue looking at the slaves.
My dejection notwithstanding, the masked host introduced merchandise slaves one after another.
It was an auction-styled event, after all, and goods were given prices at a fast rate.
I wondered what would happen to the slaves that had been purchased.
What would that fat man do to the red-haired young girl that he bought? I had gained the habit of observing people, hence why those questions popped up, despite my best wishes.
It’d be best if they were bought as servants or labor hands.
However, no decent customers would buy slaves in a place like that.
Those slaves might lose various parts of their bodies, depending on the tastes of their buyers.
Those who fancied minors would be the worst of the worst.
Some of those slaves perhaps wouldn’t live to see the next day.
It was depressing.
They were all human beings. They’re a person just like I am a person.
That wasn’t something unique to this otherworld.
I knew for sure that the same kind of people had been doing the same kind of cruelty even in my previous world.
The world was riddled with society’s blind spots, after all.
I just happened to, unfortunately, stumbled upon one that time because of the rule-breaking «Dimension» magic.
I couldn’t bear watching that any longer.
“…Let’s go home.”
It was a bitter experience but also a learning one.
That was all that mattered at that time. I’ve gained something invaluable. I told myself that and then slowly got up from my seat when…
“Hm? Going back already, Onii-san?”
Someone called out to me.
Is it bad manners to abruptly leave one’s seat? I was conspicuous enough with my young age.
I seemed to have caught the eye of that man.
He was a tall man.
He was dressed like a merchant, and his profile was defined and masculine, unlike most customers there.
I was surprised, but I quickly thought up a bland excuse for leaving.
“…I’m not feeling well.”
I guess this is too much for the young Onii-san, eh?”
There was no need for a lengthy chat.
I went to leave the venue, parting with only those words behind.
Haha, poor girl.
That noble who bought her is infamous for his nasty hobby, you see.”
The man spoke loud enough to allow me to hear him.
I stopped in my tracks at those words.
Then, I glanced at the slave girl, and she was shrieking.
Perhaps she was aware of the rumors about the nobleman.
She resisted bitterly, even saying that she’d rather die than be bought by that noble.
I casted my eyes away… and looked at the smirking face of the man.
“…what’s your point?”
You just look like someone who’s fun to poke around, Onii-san.”
There were no good people there, after all.
I sighed and decided not to deal with him before I resumed my tracks.
“—Allow me to describe our next entry.
Number 13: a girl from Fania with dark hair and dark eyes, a rarity in this world—”
As I was leaving, I heard the host’s voice.
From Fania…? Dark hair, dark eyes…?
Having heard those bizarrely particular characteristics, something tugged me back.
I had tried time and time again to leave that place, but my weak heart had kept me from leaving.
I hated that weak part of me, but I compromised by deciding that it truly would be the last, and thus I glanced at the stage for a moment.
It was a girl whose name I had unfortunately known… The girl who had told me her name a few days prior.
“…I am Maria.
My name is Maria.”
Her voice haunted me, and her name occupied my mind.
At the same time, my gaze was drawn to her vacant eyes as she stood on the platform.
And by pure coincidence, she noticed me as well.
We had met each other just once—an encounter that lasted only a few seconds at that, and yet she seemed to remember me as well.
A hint of spark flashed in her vacant eyes, and our gazes met.
The gallery and the platform.
That girl and I.
We looked at each other, and we couldn’t look away.
“Hm, Onii-san? Is there something about that slave?”
It was as if the man’s words had never entered my ears.
“That face doesn’t say ‘nothing,’ Onii-san.
That’s why people like me can’t help but poke fun at you.”
Despite the man’s words, I kept my eyes glued on the Maria girl.
She was an ordinary girl.
Her ‘Status’ hadn’t changed since the day I first saw her.
She was good at cooking—and was gifted with some talent.
There were plenty of others with such a degree of ‘Status’.
However, I had talked to her, and I even knew her name.
That had fulfilled the conditions of empathy that I had feared.
—That was the worst.
“Oh, the auction is starting.”
The man continued to speak as though trying to pry out words from me.
At the same time, pent-up emotions began to swirl in my chest.
I was starting to lose control of my feelings.
Calm down… Calm.
Remember what just happened… The slaves you met in the Labyrinth, in the end, their fate was never up to you… Learn from that experience and grow, Aikawa Kanami…
If you leave this one, she’ll be bought by that noble as well, you know… I bet he’s saved up to procure a lot of toys today.
—But Maria’s circumstance was different from those slaves that I had met in the Labyrinth.
And I couldn’t help but notice.
I couldn’t do anything to those slaves because they belonged to someone else.
However, the slaves there belonged to no one.
I could easily scoop them up from that place.
If only I could speak up there, I could prevent Maria’s voice from ever being corrupted with grief.
On the other hand, leaving her there meant leaving her to die.
I doubted my immature mentality could bear the guilt.
For good measure, I talked to the man.
How do you participate in this auction?”
“Hm? You’re entering, Onii-san? If you want to bid, just raise your hand and speak up about your price.
This place isn’t much different from any other.
Just copy the people around you, and you’ll be fine.”
If I measured my actions, there was no way I’d get it wrong.
However, the logical part of myself kept pestering me to stop until the end.
It makes no sense to try to save just one person… That’s nothing but ugly hypocrisy…
Indeed, it was attacking me with reasons.
I fought it back with more excuses. It makes me feel better if I can save even just one person.
Hypocrisy it might be, if I can literally shovel money to prevent the «???» Skill from going berserk, then why not? And what luck, I happen to have a huge amount of money.
“—Double that price.”
I raised my hand and said it loud enough for everyone to hear.
* * *
Translator – Mab
Proofreader – ilafy
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* * *
Maria, the slave girl, looked shocked.
Her widened eyes kept staring back at me with the same curious gaze she gave me when we had first met—like she had found something.
The entire hall erupted in a stir.
Some looked at me with interest, some were amused and started to cheer, and some began to discuss curiously—all those rich snobs, they studied me and murmured between themselves.
“—and here comes a bid from a wealthy young man! And who’d have guessed?! The price is now over a gold coin! Is there any other gentleman who’s interested in this slave who has won over that young man’s favor?!!”
The host ramped up his speech.
He raised his voice to enliven the gallery as though not to lose that heat.
The man next to me laughed.
“Haha, you raised the bid too quickly, Onii-san.
Copy that tactic without knowing better, and lo and behold…”
The man smiled and pointed.
His finger was directed to the nobleman who had been bidding on Maria before me.
The nobleman shouted loud enough to be heard over all the noise in the venue.
“I’ll double his price!”
“And Fevre-dono declares his bidding! Another price double! Only the finest of the finest has ever reached two gold coins! The item has jumped up to five times the market price!”
The nobleman raised the price further, then looked at me.
His seat was a bit further away, but even from the distance, his dislike of me was apparent.
Meanwhile, the host looked excited and overjoyed at the raised price for his merchandise.
The man next to me shrugged.
“See, they got agitated.”
I had been thoughtless, alright.
I was so impulsive I ended up doing something idiotic.
Because of me, the others became interested in the girl, which in turn gradually drove up the price.
The girl wasn’t special whatsoever.
It was those people who were idiots.
The more the gallery worked up, the more I cooled down.
“You seem to be in trouble.
I can win the bid easily for you if you want, Onii-san.”
—The man’s sweet deal almost had me lose my wit again.
“…easily? Why would you lend me a hand?”
I responded to him, choosing my words so he wouldn’t belittle me.
In response, the man only smiled.
It just seems fun.”
“…If you can do it, then be my guest.
My budget isn’t that big.”
“I can do it alright.
What’s your upper limit?”
The man stated he could do it simply and then asked me for my budget.
I was swayed by his easy way of talking and calculated the money I’d dare to spend in my head.
“…Three gold coins.
That’s all I can spend.”
I can tell that this one’s gonna hit four.
“I never said I’d entrust it to you.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine.
The man then joined the auction.
He raised his hand, raised the price ever slightly, and placed his bid.
I continued to watch in amazement.
Even though he kept cutting off people to raise his own bid, he didn’t seem to attract any attention.
Although, he sometimes waved his hand to the host.
Seeing him, the host also waved his hand back.
It seemed like that man was well-known.
In the end, he and Fevre-dono had a bidding war, but it didn’t end badly, with the man winning the bid for three gold coins and a little more.
“And I won it.”
He easily won the bid for Maria the slave girl.
However, the winning bid price was over the budget I had offered.
“…I told you I can only spend three gold coins.”
“Did you? I guess I can talk to Fevre-dono to have him take her off my hands then.”
“It doesn’t change the fact that I had your help.
I won’t go back on my words.”
“Kuku, you’re interesting.
Pay me four gold coins then.”
The man demanded his share as he was holding his stomach from laughter.
I raised an eyebrow at his demand but quickly gave in with a sigh.
“Oh? You sure?”
“I’d just keep dancing in your palm either way.”
“It’s not much fun if you give up this easily, though.
You could’ve let me have more fun, you know? Kuku.”
With a sly grin plastered on his face, the man smirked and then got up from his seat before he beckoned me over.
“You can’t bear watching it, right Onii-san? Why don’t we leave the venue and get your goods early tonight?”
“…you don’t need to tell me.”
The man seemed to know exactly how I felt.
Feeling that there was no use going against his words, I followed his advice.
He and I left the venue behind us.
We had a staff member that was standing by to lead us around to the back of the venue.
There, the slaves who had been sold to the highest bidder were lined up in a narrow space.
Maria was amongst them.
Her eyes kept staring at me fixedly.
The man finished the procedures with the staff and took Maria’s hand with him.
He then walked towards me and held his palm out.
I took out four gold coins from my pocket and handed them over.
“Mhm, four gold coins alright.
The registry on the slave collar is blank, so go ahead and fill it.”
The man put the gold coins in his pocket and then handed Maria to me.
He was quite eccentric, so I was expecting he’d try to get more deals out of me—his not doing so threw me out of the loop.
I immediately pulled Maria close to me and told him exactly what I had in mind.
“Since it’s you we’re talking about, I was expecting you’d add your own terms.”
“Nah, I’m happy I can see you being so panicked up there.
Don’t think bad of me.
If anything, I am interested in you, Onii-san.”
“…you’ve bad taste.”
“And I saved your hide nonetheless, no? …Or wait, can you say you wouldn’t have been so at a loss without my interference in the first place?”
The man continued to tease me, suggesting that he could peer into my inner thoughts.
She’s going with me.”
Sensing that further contact wouldn’t be a good idea, I tried to separate myself from the man.
He, however, stopped me.
“Hold your horses.
No need to be in such a hurry.
Why don’t we introduce ourselves before we part? I’ll even take your complaints later.”
“…name yourself if you want.
I decided that I wasn’t going to tell him my name, but hearing his name wouldn’t hurt.
In response to my words, the man smiled and began to introduce himself.
“My name is Palinchron Legacy.
I am a knight of Whoseyards, and one of the Celestial Knights.”
With that said, Palinchron made a gesture as if he were swinging a sword with his empty hand.
His gesture was too fluid.
It was so natural that I’d have thought there was a sword in his hand—a technique I intuitively understood could only be acquired through endless repetitive practice.
Feeling threatened, I took a step back and checked Palinchron’s ‘Status’.
Name: Palinchron Legacy
HP: 301/312, MP: 59/62
STR: 7.89, VIT: 9.86, DEX: 11.89, AGI: 5.67, WIS: 7.34, MAG: 4.77, APT: 1.80
Divine Magic: 1.23
Martial Arts: 1.87
—The highest leveled human I’d seen.
Unparalleled in quality.
Skills practical and of high values.
I quickly understood that this Palinchron man wasn’t someone to scoff at.
My body strained, and I quickly deployed «Dimension» without chanting, then I put my right hand behind my back, ready to pull a sword out of my ‘Item List’ at any moment.
“Ku ku, no need to get so nervous.
I’m here just for a look today.”
Palinchron was amused by my response and indicated that he meant no hostility by showing both of his palms towards me.
“A look, you mean at the slaves…?”
“No, I mean at you, Onii-san.
Trying to follow you unnoticed and procuring a seat near you was quite a chore.”
Palinchron casually told me he had been tailing me like it was nothing.
That absolutely astonished me, and I was convinced that he wasn’t lying.
Palinchron’s parameters were that high, and his mannerisms were unusual.
“Why would you… tail me?”
“I’ve heard you’re our lady’s beloved.
I just had to take a look before anyone else did.”
‘His lady’s beloved’?
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about.
This “lady”, you mean Franrühle?”
There was only one person that I could think of: Franrühle, whom I had met back in the Labyrinth.
“Franrühle? Nah, not her… but whoa, I never thought I’d hear the name of the daughter of the Hellvilleshines from you.
You’re amusing indeed, Onii-san.”
Palinchron claimed that it wasn’t Franrühle.
However, I couldn’t guess who else.
“I don’t know who your lady is.
I don’t remember meeting any lady.”
“Huh, that’s weird.
Well, that’s good enough for me.
I just came here first to have a look, is all.
Don’t worry about it.”
Having said that, Palinchron turned his back on me.
“See ya later, Onii-san.”
Palinchron raised his hand to say goodbye as he walked to the exit.
He seemed to really be going away.
I had no idea what was going on, and if I could, I’d go after him and ask him about it.
However, with how high his level was, I couldn’t bring myself to.
I couldn’t see what would happen if I had to fight him.
If he was going to leave, then it was better not to force myself to go after him.
While I was lost in my own mind, Palinchron left me alone with Maria.
I turned to the girl, and she was still looking at me.
I realized that she must have been looking at me the whole time, ever since Palinchron had won her.
My shoulders dropped, burdened by the oddity of having Maria attached to me and all the troubles that came with it, and then I grabbed her hand.
“Come with me…”
Maria gave a small nod.
In the end, I had taken in a slave because my emotions had gotten the better of me.
I fully understood it then—my mental capacity would never be able to overcome the problem of slavery.
That night’s incident was the definitive proof.
I vowed never to go to the slave market again and walked homeward, pulling Maria’s cold hand along with me.
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