The Sawatari Trading Company Planned Construction Site (in fact it’s just another name for a vacant lot) was located in the city’s plaza.
I was standing there together with Lyle-sensei and our covered wagon.
And then, in front of me, there were thirteen petite slaves wearing kantoui(1), which could barely be called clothes. They were all standing in a row with their legs tied up in chains.
They are now the property of the Sawatari Trading Company.
The slaves were crouching down with their faces looking through their knees and had expressions similar to that of person with a death wish. It was quite painful to look at them.
Rather, if only there was someone who could agree with me on releasing these slaves.
‘That’s absolutely out of the question.’ – I was stopped by Lyle-sensei.
“Are you really okay with that? These children here are the lowest of slaves.”
“However much it is, aren’t you going a bit overboard?”
“I’m not. Are you okay with letting them go free? We have yet to prove their worth, but, it shouldn’t hurt to bet on them. What’s more, all of them are girls.”
How do you know that? Well, I guess Lyle-sensei is the type of person that can tell everything.
“There’s a reason for why I know that. To begin with, a male slave will be able endure any labor, no matter how heavy it is, as long it’s given food and gains weight. That’s possible for even a male child.”
“An adult male can be immediately converted into a working force, whereas, if it’s a girl in her blooming age, she can be made into a subordinate. On top of that, if the girl is of exceptional beauty, she can be sold to brothels.”
“However, these dirty, skinny girls won’t even amount to becoming normal slaves. Judging from their appearance, they had most likely been sold and were being taken to some mine by those slave traders, as they were not worthy enough to be raised.”
“In regards to mines, is there any way to utilize even girls?”
“In tunnels, there are small holes dug out in which only children can fit. The children are forced to work, regardless of it being day or night, til they become unusable. Therefore, there’s always a demand for them.”
While saying so, Lyle-sensei frowned his eyebrows in displeasure.
Even if the concept of human rights didn’t exist in this world, it isn’t like the people here didn’t feel any pity for the slaves that were treated as items.
Not to mention, forcing a child to work til it breaks is a cruel story.
Still, as long as nobody finds a clear solution for this, children won’t be able to survive in this harsh world.
“Just a while ago, Takeru-dono proposed setting these girls free, right? Did you think about what would’ve happened if you had done so?”
“They would become homeless beggars, as there are no jobs for them in this city. Being unable to endure their hunger, they would become criminals by resorting to theft, in order to obtain food.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t give it any thought.”
I see, so that is why the earl asked me so many times if I wanted to accept these slaves.
If I were to be irresponsible and release them, I would only increase the workload of the garrison, and nobody would become happy.
“You got it? You said you’d be taking care of them, so please have some responsibility. The master of slaves is in charge of giving them food and work, so that they don’t starve. Takeru-dono, you’re the master of these slaves.”
“I got it. I’ll do my best and assume the responsibility.”
As I promised I’d take over the slaves, Lyle-sensei finally smiled and handed me lots of leather-made collars.
“The earl too, probably felt a bit awkward when he let you handle the slaves, so he had these collars made for their identification. If you put these collars on their neck, they will act as IDs and the girls will be recognized as slaves belonging to the Sawatari Company.”
Apparently, there’s a rule where a slave, whose status isn’t recognized as that of a citizen, has to have chains, handcuffs, or a collar attached with their master’s authentication.
As long a slave has that, it will be considered safe for it to walk around in a city.
Saying that slaves, who are no different from humans, are less safe than vagrants was ironic.
“Everyone. This person here, Sawatari Takeru, shall, from now on, become your master! From now, you’ll wear these collars instead of your chains.”
The moment Lyle-sensei shouted that, he walked around and removed the chains from the slaves’ legs using his magic.
Following that, I proceeded with fastening the new collars. Everyone extended their heads and let me affix the collars obediently.
Was it due to them receiving some sort of training? Everyone kept silent, just like robots, and acted as they had been ordered.
I couldn’t recognize the base color of their hair and their kantoui (or should I say, a piece of cloth?), probably due to them being smeared. However, everyone looked gray. So this is where the name Cinderella derives from?
Despite being picked on by her evil, stepmother, Cinderella still sparkled with life.
However, all these girls here had faces and eyes filled with death wishes.
Everyone had worn-out clothes, but, I couldn’t afford to buy all of them new ones.
‘As expected, it will be bad if I don’t make additional purchases.’ – I looked into my wallet and made a sour look.
It will be fine if I can earn more money later.
Pulling its clothes, a single child was walking around half-naked, with its clothes having been torn apart by a monster.
It was too much for me, so I placed my gray, rat-man-made cloak, used for protecting against rain (it was also water and fire resistant to some extent.), around the child.
Well then, what should we do now?
Just when I was pondering about what to do with the thirteen slave girls in front of me, Louise arrived.
“So, you were here? I managed to get an insane amount of meat and pelts, so if it’s fine by you, I’ll put them on the wag….”
Once she got silent, she threw a glance at the slave girls, drew near to me and stared into my face.
What’s this? Please don’t look at me with that much pressure while staying silent.
“I was given these slaves as a reward. They all have become members of my trading company.”
“Hmm, then, do you plan to buy a large pot?”
Saying so, Louise put an implicit smile on her face, as if recalling something interesting.
Like always, I couldn’t understand Louise-nee-san’s words and conduct that well.
Well, I guess it’s Louise, so what she says must bear some meaning.
Like always, Louise didn’t care to explain things to me, so I went out to buy a large pot, like she had suggested, and helped her with carrying the meat and pelts.
The slave girls followed our covered wagon in succession.
For the time being, they didn’t try to run away despite them being no longer bound by chains.
We returned back to the field where the battle took place a moment ago. It looked even more tragic than after the fierce battle when it was filled with corpses.
According to what the garrison has said, things were put in order as soon as they carried out a burial for the dead merchants, but……
What I saw now was a bizarre scene of green and earth colored skins lining up in a row.
Thanks to Louise’s master class dismantling skill, the skins were neatly dried and set up without a gram of waste.
Next to that, there was a heap of pink colored internal organs that resembled a mountain.
Seeing that, I recalled the view of a dissected frog and felt some disgust.
For some reason, the neatly arranged humanoid skins felt more gross than a splattered pool of blood.
Just what kind of tools can you make from those skins?
Well, whatever, I’ll use their extractable fat to make soap.
“I talked the garrison into giving us the wooden clubs from the monsters, whereas, they can have their swords.”
It looks like the wooden clubs swung by the ogres came in handy just the right time, as we can make them into firewood.
As expected, the garrison didn’t express the desire to keep the ogres’ meat.
Taking ash from the burnt firewood, we can use it as a soap material without any waste.
As one would expect from the big sis Louise.
“Let’s quickly put these organs into the pot.”
Yes yes, I knew this would happen.
Louise’s favorite food was monster organs.
She skillfully fixed the pot on an ogre’s large wooden club and made a bonfire. The organs boiled well while simmering.
Being at a loose end, the slave girls only watched her cooking.
–The slaves won’t move less they’re given an order–
Lyle-sensei gave me this advice in a casual manner.
It feels kinda weird, so I’d rather you stop blowing into my ear.
Still, the real me wanted him do it much more. Sensei smelled nice, which made me thrilled.
A young man’s heart is a complicated thing.
Ah, that’s right. If I don’t give them an order,
“Everyone! Right now, let’s go search for burnable things in this surroundings, like withered grass or wooden pieces. It’s dangerous, so don’t go anywhere outside the range of view.”
There were no trees growing in this wasteland, but, you could at least find small wooden pieces here for fuel.
As I commanded the girls and searched together, I recalled the day I first met Louise.
Back then, it wasn’t that bad, as the monsters were those crazy dogs, but, now I was reluctant about eating these humanoid monster organs.
For the sake of surviving in this world, I guess it can’t be helped.
Once we collected enough firewood and returned, a soup made from the ogres’ organs was done.
It was a simple dish made from water, meat, organs, and salt, but, it gave out quite a delicious smell, which was scary.
However, won’t these organs, belonging to the ogre race, upset my stomach?
‘Lend me an antidote.’ – When I pointed that out, Louise ordered me.
Just as being told, I handed over one of my antidotes.
‘This should do.’ – Louise replied this way as she poured in the potion into the large pot.
The cooking has become way too hearty.
And then, everyone proceeded with eating the food.
Because we had no spare wooden plates, we decided on the order when eating.
I was fine with being the last, as I was quite reluctant about eating meat from a humanoid monster, but nevertheless, the slave girls didn’t appear to have such reservations.
They were gladly eating their portions.
I wonder if they’re hungry.
Judging from their waiting look, they were drooling all over that food.
Somehow, I felt pity for them, but, I wondered to myself about how to cheer them up.
As soon as everyone finished their meal, it became night.
We had yet to process the skins and make dried meat, so we couldn’t leave these things behind. Therefore, we decided to camp here tonight around this bonfire.
I think you could say we were eating out of the same pot.
Surrounding a pot and collecting firewood together, the girls’ stiff expressions lightened up.
Perhaps, they finally became able to accustom themselves to their new surroundings and calm down.
Thinking it was a good opportunity, I talked with everyone in an easy-to-understand manner.
About the purpose of the Sawatari Trading Company, and about us creating and merchandising soap and gunpowder.
I told everyone I wanted them to assist me with making and selling the soap for the time being.
I would teach them from scratch, so it wasn’t that hard.
And if they did their job properly, I would provide them with life necessities.
I wonder if this much of information will be enough for now. I turned anxious, as everyone kept silent. I wonder if they were listening to me.
Lastly, I asked them if there was anything they were troubled about, wanted to say, or didn’t understand, and urged them to speak.
“U, Umm….I’m, a slave, trader.”
Among the slave girls, a single girl with exceptionally big eyes raised her hand.
I shivered because of that sudden response.
“Ah no, saying that you’re a slave trader. I’d say you’re the ones that are for sale.”
I thought she was a dunce, so I quickly retorted, but, my retort too, sounded quite harsh.
“No, uhm….that’s, not what I mean. I, was, before, becoming a slave, a daughter of a trader.”
For some reason, the girl with big amber eyes seemed to have difficulty expressing herself.
Ah, but somehow, I could understand this difficult feeling quite well.
During one summer vacation, I’d become a shut-in and play games the whole time. I’d rarely go outside, and when a clerk in a convenient store asked me if I wanted to warm my meal, my voice would turn hoarse, making me unable to express myself.
Certainly, I would’ve probably been told I hadn’t been talking for a long time.
If people don’t talk, they will forget how to do it.
“Is that so? So you have experience in commerce, right?
“Our shop, was attacked by thieves…. so our business became insolvent, and everyone in my family was sold.”
Uwaa, that’s some heavy topic. I don’t know what to say to make it right.
“If Master, sama, wants to trade, I can help with calculations.”
“Is that so? So you’re saying you can help me with accounting?”
Did she think our discussion was finally over? The slave trader-chan sat down, looking completely exhausted.
Following that, the other slave girls began to talk about their circumstances chronologically before being enslaved.
Insolvency, business failure, deception, betrayal, family breakup, their talks covered these topics.
Without holding back, everyone described their miserable, harsh life, which made me become speechless.
While we are at it, based on all the girls’ stories, 1 of them was a daughter of a trader, 2 of them – daughters of soldiers, 1 – of a flower vendor’s, 1 – of a miner’s, 1 – of a baker’s, 1 – of a prostitute, and the remaining 6 – of beggars.
Almost half of them were children of beggars, which was a surprising number, and at the same time, a cruel thing to me.
I guess what Lyle-sensei said about slaves becoming beggars once they’re released from their duties was true.
Afterwards, Louise, who had been silent the whole time, changed her expression and began to question the two slaves with the soldier parents as she heard about their life stories. I was surprised by her.
It was rare for the usually calm Louise to become this emotional, to the extent of her voice trembling when she spoke.
Apparently, the two aforementioned slaves were daughters of soldiers who had been stationed in the royal capital. Their parents were involved in some sort of factional dispute or power struggle; punished for no particular wrongdoing; and reduced, as a whole family, to being slaves.
Truly, there were lots of heart-breaking stories.
Louise, whose face was gloomy, finished listening to them and said:
“I’ll take care of these two.”
Making such a decision without asking me, who was their master, first, it was much like the big sis Louise.
That’s fine by me, however, who would’ve thought she would have taken this much of an interest in the slaves.
It would be nice if Louise could tell me why she suddenly became this enthusiastic, but, whatever.
“I intend to raise these two into warriors, but, do you mind that?
“Well, I don’t particularly mind, but still…”
Was it because I gave her my permission? Louise handed them swords in a bombastic way.
Somehow, even warriors seemed to be obliged to have some manners, so the two slaves accepted Louise’s short swords with trembling hands while kneeling.
Lyle-sensei laughed after hearing Louise’s talk.
“Then, shall I teach this flower girl some pharmaceutics?”
Is what he said.
“Choosing wildflowers is quite similar to distinguishing medicinal plants, you see. Perhaps, this girl has an aptitude for pharmaceutics. What’s more, it may be just my imagination, but she seems to be……
Looking fixedly at the flower girl, Lyle-sensei hesitated to say something.
“Is there something you’re concerned about?”
“No, perhaps the medicinal and wild plants won’t sell for as much as the soap, but, the more choices we have, the better our trade will be.”
Walking around the plains shouldn’t be that dangerous, since the two girls will tag along Louise.
Certainly, I was curious about the way to pick out plants, but maybe another time.
Well, does that mean I too should be doing my job?
I have to make soap and collect niter in this surroundings, otherwise, we won’t meet the demand.
“Well then, I’ll be teaching the rest how to make things, like soap.”
There’s a variety of materials that can be used for making soap, but, I’ve yet to carry it out in practice to see if the fat from ogres can be utilized.
Like this, The Sawatari Trading Company commenced its activity.
Notes and References:
- A simple type of clothing consisting of a large piece of cloth with a hole in the middle for the head.