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Chapter 30 Slave of a Different Form


 Suddenly, when Diana suggested that I should buy some slaves, she piled her words on top of each other.
 
 "Now that we know that our crops are not selling as well as we had hoped, there will be a surplus of food in the settlements. If this continues, the food will just rot, so we should add people who can hunt animals and monsters, and sell off the materials while securing meat as well."
 "Hey, you say it so simply, but do we have such people conveniently? I mean, there may be people with hunting experience, but it's hard to find such people in a family unit."
 
 The first requirement for the slaves to be hired in our settlement is that they must be purchased by a family unit, and the family must be strong and united so that they will never abandon their family members.
 Otherwise, there was a possibility that one of them might take the wagon and run away, which was an absolute requirement for those of us who had no time for supervision.
 
 "Yes, it would be difficult for ordinary slaves."
 "Ordinary...? Hey, Diana, you can't be serious."
 
**a
 The word "ordinary slave" gave me a bad feeling.
 
 "Let's use a criminal slave..."
 "No, no, no! That's not good!"
 "What's wrong with that? We are not doing anything illegal."
 "It's not illegal, but..."
 
 Criminal slaves are those who have committed some crimes and have been degraded to the status of slaves, but they are different from ordinary slaves in that they are under the mental control of dark magic.
 Although they seem to be able to move of their own will, their actions are restricted by magic, and they are absolutely obedient to their masters' commands.
 Another difference between criminal slaves and normal slaves is that while normal slaves are "basically" protected in terms of minimum human treatment such as food, clothing, and shelter, criminal slaves are not only protected in terms of minimum human treatment, but also have no guarantee of life.
 Therefore, only some criminals who committed serious crimes and were sentenced to death by the court can fall into criminal slavery.
 
 "It's not right to make a mentally controlled person work, no matter how much he is a criminal."
 "What are you talking so naively about? We're dealing with a serious criminal who's been sentenced to death."
 "I know that, but..."
 
 No matter how serious a crime a person has committed, there is no reason to ignore the dignity of a human being, to twist his/her will and manipulate him/her at will.
 When I was not able to step on the last line like this, Diana grabbed my arm and started to pull me forcefully, as if she was getting frustrated.
 
 "Come on! Let's go!"
 "No, wait a minute!"
 "I won't wait! We'll lose the day if we wait for Master Neil!"
 "Just because they're criminals doesn't mean they should be forced to do what I tell them to do."
 "Then why don't you just treat them the same way you treat other slaves?"
 
**b
 Well, it is the master's freedom how to treat his slaves, so it is a perfectly reasonable opinion that if I don't like to treat them as criminal slaves, I should not treat them as criminal slaves, but treat them as mere laborers like other slaves, but I have a feeling of resistance to the idea of buying slaves in the first place, so I could not make such a decision.
 But Diana didn't care what I thought, and she kept holding my arm and kept moving forward, and we came to the front of the slave trader's shop.
 
 "Come on, let's go in."
 "A-are we going in here?"
 "What, you're still hesitating after coming here?"
 
 Of course I'm hesitant because I didn't come here of my own volition, but I'm more concerned about something else right now.
 Even though slave trader are a business recognized by the government, they still existed quietly in a dimly-lit place in the back streets, not in the main street, as if they felt some sort of gloominess about selling people.
 To tell the truth, the store had a certain atmosphere, and it took courage to enter the store, so as a timid person, I really wanted to avoid it.
 
 "Huff... it can't be helped, I'll go and find a suitable slave. Master Neil, please wait here."
 "Huh? Here!?"
 
 I have a feeling that I'm going to be involved in an incident if I'm left alone in such a backstreet where slave trader are doing their business quietly.
 Thinking that it would be better to enter this place, I decide to step over the slave trader's threshold with Diana.
 We pushed open the poorly constructed door and stepped over the threshold of the slave trader's store. I was relieved to see the bright and clean store, which was a complete change from the dimly lit backstreet, when a person sitting at the counter came up to us rubbing his hands when he saw us.
 
 "Welcome."
 "Ah, hello."
 "You look like a nobleman, are you looking for a slave?"
 
 I thought I was very low profile.
 But, anyone in fine clothes and a retinue of servants would understand.
 
**c
 "Well..."
 "Yes, we're looking for criminal slaves who can fight. Is there anyone?"
 "Oh, criminal slaves?"
 
 The owner's face changes when Diana tells her business on my behalf.
 In fact, not just anyone can purchase a criminal slave.
 Criminal slaves cannot disobey any orders because of their mental control.
 Therefore, only those who have a clear identity are allowed to buy criminal slaves, because there are people who plan to use criminal slaves to do evil.
 
 "Excuse me, may I ask your family name?"
 "This is Neil Atmiras, Count Atmiras. Here's the proof."
 "Ah! What a surprise!"
 
 The owner was surprised to hear the name of Count Atmiras, but accepted the pendant that Diana took out, and checked the crest engraved on the surface of the pendant.
 
 "It is indeed the coat of arms of Count Atmiras, please excuse me very much. If it is Master Neil, no problem, I will sell you a criminal slave."
 "Thank you very much. May we see the slaves?"
 "Yes, please."
 
 It's funny, I'm supposed to be the one who is supposed to be named, but the conversation is going on and on, ignoring me.
 I guess the owner must have guessed my position when Diana interrupted me and started talking with the owner, but I don't understand why even the owner, whom I've never met before, is slightly ignoring me.
 With this thought in my mind, I silently follow them into the back of the store, and we come out to an aisle lined with ostentatious cages on both sides.
 
 "Wow..."
 
 I let out a word akin to a moan at the blatant slavery atmosphere, which is a far cry from the neat entrance we had just entered.
 Although the central passageway is brightly illuminated, there are no lights inside the cage, so the light does not reach the back of the cage, and I feel an inexpressible sense of fear at the sight of several people staring at me from the darkness.
 
 "T-these people here..."
 "They are ordinary slaves. The criminal slaves are locked up in the basement at the end of this passageway, so please don't worry."
 
 What is there to be relieved about?
 Still, I wonder if I'm just too scared, even though those are just ordinary slaves.
 But seeing both Diana and the owner walk in front of the cage as if they don't feel anything in particular, I guess I'm just a little bit scared of them.
 So, I follow Diana with my timid self, clinging tightly to her back as if to hide behind her.
 Am I too pathetic to hide behind a woman? Shut up and leave me alone.
 
**a
 Now we pass by the ordinary slaves and go down the stairs to the basement where the criminal slaves are.
 The cellar is almost unlit, and the owner lights a torch on the wall and takes it to illuminate the cell at the far end of the cellar.
 
 "Look, these are the criminal slaves I own."
 
 The people illuminated by the torchlight all stare at me with squinting eyes.
 It seems as if they are staring at me because of their squinting, or perhaps they are actually staring at me, but I am involuntarily pressured by their stares, and I back away.
 
 "Are these people under mental control?"
 "Yes, of course we have already done that. We also have a dedicated magician, so we can immediately transfer control of them to Master Neil."
 "That's good."
 
 No, it's not good at all! I shout inwardly as I spy on the prison through Diana's back.
 There are about fifteen people in the cell, all of them are near the doorway of the cell, and I can see them clearly even by torchlight, but they all seem to be men.
 I wondered if the criminal slaves were kept separately, while the upper slaves were kept in the same cell with both men and women.
 
 "Master Neil, what do you think?"
 "Oh, no, I was just wondering if there were any women here."
 "Oh, Master Neil is looking for a female crime slave, I see. Unfortunately, they're in such high demand that they're sold out as soon as they're in stock. Do you want to know why?"
 "No, no, that's okay."
 
 Seeing the cold smile on the merchant's face who asked me if I wanted to know the reason, I responded reflexively.
 It is obvious from his smile that the reason is definitely not a good one, and there is nothing good in knowing it.
 
 "Anyway, which one of them can fight?"
 "Oh, yes, you wanted someone who could fight. Then..."
 
 The owner looks like he thinks for a moment and then points at some people.
 
**b
 "This man was a thief who broke into the nobleman's mansion many times and took away his valuables at random, but he has such a strong fighting power that he didn't get a single wound even against the three guards guarding the safe. The other one is a street thief who has killed more than twenty people in this city, but he has beaten back the guards who rushed to the scene many times, and he is a proven fighter as well."
 "Hmm, you said they can fight, but can they fight against monsters as well? We're looking for slaves to use in the settlements."
 "You are looking for slaves who can be useful in the settlement? In that case these two may not be enough."
 
 The owner of the store held up a torch to light the way to the far end of the prison.
 
 "Then how about that man in the back?"
 "In the back?"
 
 At the owner's words, Diana and I stare into the darkness at the back of the cell, and we see a shadow.
 It seems that there is another person in the back of the cell, but we cannot see him clearly because the torchlight does not reach him.
 
 "Hey, get up and come over here."
 
 As if in response to the voice, the shadow of the darkness moved stealthily, approaching step by step, and revealing its outline.
 As the shadow approached us, those who had been clumped at the doorway of the prison fled toward the darkness of the prison as if they were spiders.
 It seems that those people were clinging to the doorway of the prison to get as much distance from the shadow as possible, and I sense the reason not by reason but by instinct.
 
 "This is... Ah, I'm sorry!"
 "No, it's okay."
 
 Even Diana was intimidated when she saw who it was, and she tried to back away from the man even though he was in jail, bumping into me behind her and bowing her head.
 The shadow in the darkness was a big man, more than two meters tall, and not only big, but his muscles were so heaped up that they were almost unnatural, like a rock, and his face looked relatively small because of his enlarged muscles.
 The owner of the store started to explain from the side when we were at a loss for words because of the awe-inspiring appearance.
 
**c
 "Have you two heard about the recent incident at the Baron Florence's house?"
 "Yes, the murder of the master of the house, his relatives, and all the servants in the house? Of course I'm aware of it, but..."
 "Yes, this man is the murderer. He killed everyone in the house and went on a rampage for more than five hours against dozens of guards and magicians without a scratch on him, until he finally exhausted himself and could be captured. He's a monster."
 "I see, this is indeed a perfect asset. Okay, let's buy this guy."
 "Wait, wait, wait, wait! Diana!?"
 
 I've been silent until now, but I can't keep my mouth shut about this.
 
 "The guy we're talking to is the one who killed a nobleman! He definitely hates the nobles! There's no way he will obey me, a nobleman!"
 "Isn't that why there's mental control? Don't worry, as long as Master Neil is the master, you won't be harmed."
 "Physically I'll be fine, but mentally I won't last! Just having someone who hates nobles by my side is chipping away at my spirit!"
 
 Even if he won't touch me, it's impossible to be around such a person who is thinking "I'm going to kill you, Neil!"
 But there was no way that Diana would be put off by my words, which had no meaning other than that I was just a coward, and in the end my words were ignored and I signed a master-servant contract with the big guy.

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Edited Kanaa-senpai.
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