“What right do you have to claim she is yours?” I demanded.
“Hmph! Naturally, I previously owned her.” Lord Tibult responded.
“You sold her, and she was then purchased by me,” I responded.
He frowned. “I’ve seen her battle in the competition! Naturally, her talent was far greater than I was led to believe. According to her slave paperwork, she is registered a rare tigerkin, instead of the catkin I was lead to believe. I was clearly bamboozled by that slave trader and this man! They conspired to cheat me out of the proper value of my slave to net a profit. Witnesses found them colluding together, as such, repossession of this slave is only correct.”
“You abandoned her in a dungeon!” I responded angrily. “How would you say I made a profit?”
“Hmph… I have my sources and I’ve made sure to check up on you. Although this slave clearly has a value of 500 or more gold, you bought it for a mere 100. You ended up getting a 500 gold slave for 100, and he ended up getting 100 gold without having to work at it. How is that not dishonest?”
After finding us in the competition, he must have sent someone to the Slavers Guild to look up our transactions. Figuro was an honest man, and all of his transactions would have been placed there. Naturally, a catkin being purchased and sold for one hundred gold coins without any overhead profit looked incredibly suspicious. He actually had some room to make this argument.
However, it was clear that he really didn’t care at all about such things. Although he spoke of treachery, his attitude was less angry and more smug. It was abundantly clear he didn’t believe in his own words. Rather, he was simply looking for a way to punish me. He had lied initially with the plan that I would go to the Capital only to find her already sold. Fortunately, Figuro revealed the man’s deception and I was able to buy Lydia back anyway.
“That’s not true!” Lydia yelled out. “Figuro didn’t know I was a tigerkin until he had me examined!”
“Figuro didn’t, but did your owner Deek?” He demanded.
Unfortunately, he had accurately predicted that I had known about Lydia’s race. Lydia was unused to lying and was caught completely off guard by this question. She could only shut her mouth and turn her head. However, she had already accidentally revealed the truth of things by the expression on her face. I had known that Lydia was a tigerkin. At the time, I had no clue what that meant when it came to slave value or anything. It wasn’t like I could have predicted that things would have turned out this way.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if these other slaves were acquired through such means as well. Although there is paperwork available, I have confirmation that the 9-tail fox was never officially purchased. Perhaps the slave trader gave her as a gift? As for the other two, you have no official claim on them!”
My face started to turn white. He was right when it came to the other two girls. I hadn’t even considered it, but one was taken from a fairy queen, and the other was acquired through a magical control rod. Both girls had no official paperwork. As slaves, I technically had no right to them! Lord Tibult’s grin started to grow as I felt slightly nauseous.
“These girls have no paperwork as well?” Eliana also seemed to grow a little excited. “So, how were they acquired as slaves?”
“What are you trying to imply?” Pait said, stepping forward. “Are you calling him a criminal?”
Eliana looked down at the little man and softened her expression slightly, clearly treating him with more diplomacy than she was treating me. “Bandits pull women off the street all the time. It is possible that these girls were enslaved by him! He’s already a very shady individual, I must say!”
“They are both my slaves by choice.” I immediately stated, turning to the girls hopefully.
“Mm! I’m Master’s!” Terra immediately declared.
“I follow Master by choice!” Celeste added.
“Even if they say it…” Eliana pouted stubbornly. “They could be coerced into saying it. There are many women forced into slavery that claimed to be slaves, even when they were isolated from their masters. Some masters have the ability to control what their slaves say, think, and feel. It has long been decided that a slave can’t be taken by their word!”
Those words, in particular, stung a bit. It was a bit too close to my own thoughts about the girls. Although, when they said they followed me by choice, I did feel a bit of happiness, the reality was that I was their Master and I had that damn curse on me that increase my affinity with them. For all I knew, it was essentially brainwashing.
“Ridiculous!” Pait growled. “These girls have shown no distress or discomfort around their Master. Your so-called refusal to take slaves at their word was meant for situations when the slaves were knowingly abused by their Master. Unless you have proof that this boy is abusing them, then your entire argument is flawed.”
“Even if that is so, they should have proper paperwork!” She deflected and pointed at me. “What answer do you have for that?”
“I only recently arrived in the city. The slave traders left my city months ago. I simply haven’t made it to the Slavers Guild yet. I have plans to submit the paperwork once I am there.” I explained myself clearly, trying to keep my cool despite the tense situation.
“Enough of this!” Lord Tibult snapped, “None of this matters! The facts are clear. I had agreed to sell my slave to this man directly, but he conspired with a slave trader to steal her from me for pennies. As a result, she should go back to my ownership. As far as the others, they should be given as compensation for my emotional trauma!”
“No!” Eliana declared. “I have already agreed to buy the girl’s freedom! You can’t argue with me on this, Lord Tibult. The law is abundantly clear. If the slaves wish to be freed, their cost can be covered at any time. You know I’m good at it. If you want to fight this… this… man and the slave trader over the gold coin value, then you’re free to do it!”
Lord Tibult chuckled and then bowed. “Of course, it is as you say. However, an agreement is met. These slaves should be removed from this man.”
They were talking now like a decision had already been made. As for me, I had lost all interest in selling them to this girl. Somehow, I had a suspicion that shortly after being freed, they’d end up in Lord Tibult’s control after a short period of time. I was half a step from using Return and just going back to Chalm with the girls. Chalm was no longer in Aberis, so their laws didn’t really matter. I would have failed to get Chalm accepted as part of Aberis, but at this point, I was starting to not care about this country in the slightest. It might be better if we just set out as our own country.
“Get ready…” I said light enough that only my girls could hear.
“Then it’s decided-” Eliana began.
“Not so quick!” A voice broke into their conversation. “I have a better proposal for you all.”
“Deek!” An attractive guy in silk noble’s attire approached us. “I’d never thought I’d run into you here, and so soon after we last met.”
“Huh? Who are you?”
His face dropped for a moment, “You… don’t even remember me, and after we walked the path of manhood together…”
“Forget it, Brother, his head is bad!” Eliana snorted.
“Oh, you’re that guy… um… him…”
“You don’t even know my name, do you!” He let out a long sigh. “I’m Edward! My name is Edward!”
“Ah… what do you want?”
My response didn’t seem to make him happy, but he shook his head and quickly recovered. “Actually, I was listening to my sister and Lord Tibult talk, and I thought of a simple solution.”
“What is that?” Lord Tibult demanded.
“Well, it’s really quite simple,” Edward said, smiling, “A competition! Specifically, a Master-Slave competition. Three challenges that test the skill of the slaves and the capacity of their master. If Lord Tibult is the better Slave Master, as one would expect of a noble of our fine country, then Deek here will be found unfit to possess these slaves. However, if he wins-“
“What is in it for me?” I demanded. “I’ve been wrongly accused and insulted here. You’re suggesting I go through the trouble of this competition when I’m only guilty of owning slaves I acquired legally. If I’m proved innocent, shouldn’t I gain some recompense?”
The only reason I was able to remain calm at that moment was that there was really nothing they could do. The curse on me made it impossible to remove them as slaves, even if they tried. If things got messy, I would flee the country with them rather than give them up to these bastards. I must have had that kind of expression on my face because the man lifted up his hands reassuringly.
“I will definitely make it worth your while. If you win this competition, then I will rectify the paperwork you submitted. Your lordship and the city of Chalm will be established immediately.
“Lordship!” Lord Tibult cursed. “Absolutely ridiculous!”
“You want to make him a lord?” Eliana said similarly.
Edward silenced them both with a look before smiling back at me. “Furthermore, I will help you get a property in the city. I’ve heard you’ve been looking for one.”
“You’ve heard a lot about me,” I responded with a frown.
For a guy I randomly ran into at a hot spring, he seemed to know just about everything about me.
“Of course, I apologize!” He bowed. “However, I had you investigated after our chance meeting. I like to help the people that I have good feelings about, and I had good feelings about you. I was surprised to see that we had such an illustrious guest. The Hero of Chalm and the unproclaimed Lord of the Wilderness. Rumors have it you’ve conquered two dungeons on your own, and even did it with only three people.”
Eliana seemed shocked by his description, suddenly looking at me with a slightly different light.
“It was three dungeons, and all of my girls helped,” I responded, and then shook my head. “But who are you?”
He let out a laugh. “Ah, I’m sorry, I forgot to introduce myself before. I’m Edward Aberis. Prince Aberis. How do you do?”
It was my turn to turn surprised. This pervert was a prince? He wasn’t just a prince. As I heard it, the king only had two children. That meant he was in line for the throne! And, the girl who had been such a source of headaches and had given me so many problems… was the princess of Aberis!