“You’re the prince?” I asked.
“Of course!” He bowed.
“Why were you in a commoner bathhouse on the street then?”
“Oh? Well, you see, when you’re a man’s man, sometimes you have these urges to-“
“Forget it, I think I understand now.”
“Haha! As a fellow man’s man, I knew you would!” He chuckled.
“Actually, I asked Brother to take me…” Eliana spoke up, blushing, “I like to occasionally step in the shoes of the common folk so that I might understand the city better. Brother was actually just catering to my desire.”
“Before I agree to this game, I must be clear here. I have no great desire to hold on to my girls as slaves. If they could be free… well, that would be for the best. However, I’ve found myself unable to remove them as a slave. I’m under a curse that prevents this from happening. Even if I were to lose the game, I wouldn’t be able to cater to your request.”
As I said this, the noble’s around me started to frown. It was finally Edward who spoke up.
“Let’s talk about this in private.”
I was suspecting he’d take me somewhere, but instead, he snapped his fingers. The room cleared out of everyone except the Esmere, the three nobles, and my group. Chairs to sit and even refreshments were brought out with us barely having to move. Although Lord Tibult was eyeing the Prince nervously, he didn’t seem at all unaccustomed to this act. It must be nice being a powerful lord of a nation. Upon sitting down, all of the eyes went to me.
“Now, why is it that you think you’re cursed?” Edward asked, a serious expression on his face.
His usual perverted self was quickly hidden and a man I believed could be a prince was now displaying himself. I considered coming up with many options. However, one of the reasons I had come to the Capitol was specifically to see if I could remove the slavery markers, thus, if the most powerful people in the city couldn’t find someone who could do it, then who could? I decided it would be best to simply be honest about it. I pulled my foot out of my boot and then put it on the table. Eliana made a displeased noise but I ignored her as I rolled up my pants leg. Oi, why was she suddenly blushing? I wasn’t putting on a show!
As for Edward, as the tattoo, an indescribable language wrapped around my leg, was unveiled, he stared at it in wonder.
“What is this? Words? They look… like a script?” He said, curiosity rich in his voice.
Lord Tibult also snorted and looked away, seemingly disinterested in whatever it was I was showing the group. It was Eliana who finally allowed herself to look at my leg who suddenly gasped when she saw the tattoo. She jumped forward and grabbed my leg, her mouth moving as if she could read the text.
“Sister, do you know what this?” Edward asked.
“It’s… it’s… lore. The very curse of a dungeon has been burned into his very skin. No… but it’s different now. It’s… like a blessing?”
I shook my head wryly. “I wouldn’t call this a blessing. It has its uses.”
I accessed the dungeon point store. Although I was the only one who could see it, when I was accessing the store, the tattoos on my skin glowed. The one wrapped around my leg suddenly shone with light. Eliana who was holding it let it fall to the table with a thud and made a noise of surprise. However, a moment later a pretty smile formed on her face as she stared at the glowing tattoo. She reached out towards it, gently touching the skin.
“It’s beautiful.” She said, the glow of it in her eyes.
I didn’t like the way she was talking or looking at me, so I quickly exited the store, causing the light to instantly go out. She looked somewhat disappointed. I pulled my leg off the table.
“There was a glow on your shoulder too!” The prince declared in disbelief. “Just how many of these guys do you have.”
I grimaced. “To date… three.”
“Three…” He sat back, an expression of disbelief on his face.
“What are they, though?” Pait demanded.
“I got this tattoo when I completed the lore of the dungeon in Chalm,” I explained, pointing to my shoulder. “When that tattoo burned itself on me, it also gave me a perk. I could not have a slave removed from me.”
“Completed the lore.” The prince’s eyes widened. “You’re a True Dungeon Diver then?”
I nodded without hesitating. “I am.”
“Are you honestly going to listen to this?” Lord Tibult slammed the table angrily. “We know very little about this guy. He seemingly came out of nowhere a few months ago. Now you’re offering to make him a lord? And on top of that, he’s claiming he has the hero status and a True Dungeon Diver job? This is ridiculous! Besides, he registered under the White Mage job, whatever that is. Had he gotten the True Dungeon Diver Job, it’d clearly be his favored job.”
“Favored Jobs are tricky.” The Prince shrugged uncertainly. “He might have had a priest change his job. Or the level of White Mage has a higher priority than even True Dungeon Diver. Of course, determining if he has the True Dungeon Diver Job is a simple matter of asking a priest. We’ll confirm that with time, but for the moment, we treat it as if he has spoken the truth.”
“I have.” I insisted.
“Hmmm…” Lord Tibult glared unhappily.
“As for your problem being unable to get rid of the slaves, I’ve come up with various means of getting around this curse.” The prince responded casually.
“What?” I sat up. “I have been trying to come up with a way forever. How have you already thought of something?”
He put on a grin. “I am the prince, after all. It’s my job to be clever and decisive.”
That got an eye roll from his sister. However, he had intrigued me, so I leaned forward to ask.
“Alright then, what is the plan?”
“Cut it off.”
I blinked. “What?”
“We can see where the lore is, clearly. Simply cut it out. With the leg, it’s easy. A quick chop and you’ll be free. It’ll be a little more difficult for the shoulder, but a skilled swordsman and perhaps some nearby healing potions and he could chop off your shoulder without killing you.”
“Pass!” I immediately dismissed it, it was no wonder I hadn’t thought of it, such a horrible idea!
“Some healers are of sufficient skill to regrow limbs. You need not be an invalid for the rest of your life.”
“I said pass!”
He let out a sigh. “Well, I have another idea, but I don’t think you’ll like it any better.”
“What is that?” I demanded, feeling a sense of foreboding.
“We kill the girl. Remove her dead slave mark while it is no longer connected to you, and then resurrect her.”
The girls next to me all made out noises of fear.
“Rejected!” A voice sprung out, but it wasn’t mine. “Brother, how dare you suggest something like that!”
“It would work.” The prince shrugged. “Maybe… well, we could always try.”
“We’re not going to murder four people to try something!” Eliana protested.
“You’re not murdering them at all!” I added. “There has to be another way!”
“Look, the curse is embedded into your skin!” Edward sighed. “Either the skin has to go or your girls do. Even if we had a level 100 Slave Master, I don’t think they’d be able to break your blessing. Alright?”
“Then what are we going to do?” I asked. “We’re at an impasse.”
“Not really…” Lord Tibult spoke up. “In fact, I’d say it’s very clear how we proceed.”
I shot him a dirty look, but Edward spoke up. “What is it?”
“The bet is simple. We have a competition. My slaves against his slaves. If he wins, he keeps his slaves, gets his lordship, heck, I’ll even release my own slaves as part of the deal. However, if I win, he releases his slaves, one way or another.”
“One way, or another?” I gulped.
“Either you give up a pound of flesh, or you watch your women die one at a time.” Lord Tibult grinned darkly before shrugging. “Of course, this is a consequence you’d never have to face. If you win, of course. However, don’t think I’ll go easy on you. Not only have the slaves from before grown stronger under my care, but I’ve acquired a new slave recently who is extremely powerful and capable. Even you little… tigress… won’t be able to keep up with her.”
“This… “ I shot a look back to the girls. “I…”
Lord Tibult really had me in a bind here. It was truly a cruel thing. I couldn’t afford to lose. Either I’d be disfigured painfully, or the girls would have to be killed one by one, which was traumatic in its own way. I knew that from personal experience.
“It’s okay, Master… we won’t lose!” Lydia put on a strong face.
Her words seemed to break the layer of fear that was permeating the other girls. They all put on grim expressions and nodded in turn.
“The people of Chalm have been good to us,” Miki said. “We have to do this for them.”
Celeste nodded. “I won’t have anyone saying I don’t belong with Master anymore!”
“I will follow Master regardless,” Terra added.
I sighed and then turned back to the men. “Alright, we’re in.”
“Excellent!” The prince clapped his hand. “Then, tomorrow we’ll be postponing the championship. I need time to set up some particularly worthwhile challenges. In two days, we’ll convene to have a slave-off between Deek and Otto Tibult., would be much more impressive if done in the arena with roaring crowds!”
“Can you just postpone the competition like that?” I asked.
“He’s the head of the competition, and I’m the prince! Of course, we can!” The Prince let out too, “Now since all of this is settled, weren’t we having a banquet? Let’s start!”
“Finally, something I can agree with.” Pait declared. “Although, you did chase all of the guests outside.”
“Well, bring them back in!” He said in a carefree manner.
It must be nice being a lord and doing whatever you wanted.