“This is the Nightborn princess,” Requiem responded flatly.
She appeared to have made something for the young slave, who was huddled in a corner, eating the food quickly. She didn’t act much like a princess at all. In fact, she was grabbing the food with her hands, and she stuffed her mouth until her cheeks were full before she chewed and forced it down. She looked more like a loose animal than some long-lost noble. When Requiem spoke, her eyes jumped up from her meal to meet him, and recognition spread on her face.
“H-he can’t be trusted!” She said, spitting out food as she spoke.
She stood up, still crouched over, with the plate of food held close to her like she was afraid someone would take it, she immediately tried to run past them, but Requiem moved to block her path. She glared at him, backing into the corner defensively. Requiem didn’t pursue her. He recalled a saying that people were always the most dangerous when they were in a corner. As for Ginger, she was confused and her eyes looked back and forth questioningly between the pair of them.
“Do you two know each other?”
The slave princess swallowed whatever she had in her mouth and shot Requiem a hateful glare. “The last time I escaped, it was this bastard who turned me in! I thought you said you’d protect me!”
Ginger looked at Requiem with a shocked expression. “I-is that true?”
“If you call her running into me in the crowded street while being pursued by two guards, and giving her over instead of my life is betrayal, then sure.”
Ginger calmed down when she heard Requiem’s description of the events. When she looked back at the slave, the way the slave turned her head and looked down showed that he was telling the truth. She at least wasn’t so bold that she felt a little guilty when she was so brazen in condemning Requiem.
“I said I wouldn’t turn you in and I’d give you a meal.” Ginger finally spoke helplessly. “I didn’t say I’d protect you.”
In fact, Ginger turned back to Requiem, looking completely helpless as if she didn’t know what to do. She seemed to want him to come up with an answer for her! He grabbed her sleeve and pulled her close, bringing his mouth to her ear to speak quietly. For some reason, her face turned slightly red when he did this.
“We should talk about this in private for a moment.”
“Ah… ye-yes… of course.”
“What is the noise all about out here?” An old woman came walking out the back once again. “It isn’t more of those damned androids, is it?”
“Grandmother!” Ginger cried out, while the slave girl jumped like she was about to run. “Go back to sleep! There are no androids.”
“Hmph… that’s what they want you to believe.” She grumbled, hobbling into the kitchen without minding the group of them.
While they all watched, she got a glass of milk, cleared her throat, and then turned around. Soon, she waddled back upstairs. She didn’t even mention the fact Requiem was back in the kitchen, let alone the slave girl wearing almost nothing while noisily eating food. After a moment of awkward silence, Ginger let out a sigh.
The pair of them left the back area and returned to the front of the store. She looked at Requiem hesitantly, as if she was a daughter awaiting a father’s chastising. She likely knew what Requiem was going to say, but she dreaded hearing the words.
“We need to contact the security,” Requiem said simply.
She looked away. “She’s a slave… I found her out back when I took out the trash. She was eating out of the dumpster. I don’t think they treat her very well.”
Requiem nodded. “You’re a kind woman. However, don’t allow that kindness to destroy you.”
Requiem let out a small sigh. “You have a family and a home here. If you were implicated, it could mean the end of your family. How could your grandmother fair if you weren’t here to take care of the inn?”
A defeated look started to appear on her face. “I understand, but allowing them to keep her enslaved, it is wrong!”
“Ginger, do you trust me?” Requiem asked suddenly.
Ginger jerked for a second but then gave a slow nod. “I… trust you. I do! I wouldn’t have shown you the girl if I didn’t!”
Requiem nodded. “Then, we must contact security and have her picked up.”
The flash of hopefulness in her eyes dissipated. “Right…”
“She is a slave in this colony. She isn’t just a slave, but an important prize for tomorrow’s tournament. Saphire personally has promised her to the winner. If he doesn’t have her by the end of the tournament, it would be an embarrassment to him. He would turn this city upside down looking for her. Furthermore, there is no way that you’d be able to get her off this island. She is a ticking timebomb that will destroy your family at any moment.”
She looked about ready to cry. “You don’t need to say more. I understand.”
Requiem clenched his teeth for a second and then shrugged. “Ginger… I will save her.”
The expression on her face suddenly warped as she looked up at him with excitement and hesitation.
“The championship tomorrow, I will be taking a part in it. In other words, I will be competing to win the young princess as a slave. Once her ownership goes to me, naturally, I could free her from her previous predicament.”
Requiem was careful not to say he would free her from slavery, just her current circumstances. Even if he could, he wouldn’t. She was a Nightborn Princess, which meant that there was no one in the galaxy who wouldn’t be interested in capturing and selling her. Requiem couldn’t guarantee her freedom. Instead, he could use her. He wasn’t sure how he would use her, but he would find a way to spin it to his advantage. At the very least, he’d sell her to someone who treated their slaves properly. That was all he could do form either of them.
“Really? You promise that you will win?” Ginger asked, still holding a hint of hesitation.
“I will absolutely keep my word,” Requiem said. “I will win that competition.”
Ginger started to blush again after he said the words. Once again, she was acting strangely, and Requiem struggled to figure it out. As far as he could tell, there was nothing he said that warranted embarrassment on her part. From what he knew about humans, he would have had a reason for embarrassment more than she did.
Either way, the promise he made was cheap. He planned to win the competition either way. He needed the money. Getting the Nightborn Princess was more of a consequence of winning than a straight desire. He gave Ginger a soft nod and then the pair of them returned back to the kitchen.
The girl was looking through the cabinets. The food she had eaten was gone and she was now desperately searching for more. Requiem had a complicated look on his face as he looked at her. He wasn’t particularly equipped to deal with children like her. That required a parental touch and an ability to empathy, both were things that he lacked.
“You… what is your name?” Requiem asked the girl.
She shot Requiem a deadpan look, then glanced at Ginger. Only once she nodded in encouragement did the girl sigh, pull out a canister full of what appeared to be some kind of pickled root, and then shot the cabinet. She popped the lid, and then immediately began eating the contents.
“I have no name…” She said, speaking as she chewed with her mouth open. “The slave Master in my mine never thought to give me one.”
There didn’t appear to be any spitefulness or hostility when she said that. She spoke instead like she was merely speaking the truth. She didn’t offer any follow-up information, instead plopping her small rump on the counter and continuing to eat. The outfit she was wearing was short to the point that sitting like that had more of her butt on the counter than clothing. It also rode up, nearly revealing everything. When Ginger noticed this, she made a cry and went to get clothing for the girl.
When she came back, Requiem stopped her, “The less it looks like you helped her, the better things will go when we call security.”
In the end, she insisted on at least putting underwear on the girl. Requiem was made to turn around for that, although he found the whole thing meaningless. After all, his censors allowed him to detect everything in the room anyway. He could see her down to her dimensions at all times anyway, so the idea of being embarrassed by the naked form was pointless.
“You’re going to turn me in…” the princess said after she pulled the panties up, which were a bit too big for her small form and sagged a bit.
“N-no…” Ginger shook her head. “We’ll definitely save you, b-but first… we must call security…”
Although Ginger was trying to reassure her, the princess seemed more caught up dealing with her new garment. The underwear appeared to be Ginger’s, who grew flustered when the slave lifted her short dress to examine the underwear. She shot looks at Requiem, while also looking down at herself with a frown. Requiem couldn’t understand any of this until CLIPI who had been quiet suddenly spoke.
“Hehe… she thinks that since the underwear is loose on the girl, it means she has a big butt! Serves her right!”
Requiem frowned seeing the girls fret over something so trivial. He needed the pair of them to focus.
“Ginger, your butt looks nice,” Requiem responded.
Ginger’s expression froze. “W-what?”
Frowning slightly to himself, Requiem continued to clarify. “With regards to your underwear, I believe it’d look nice, if I saw you in it, I mean.”
“What is… what are… haaaa…” Ginger’s face grew completely red and she started acting strange. “Seeing me in my underwear… now…”
She started to touch her fingers together, murmuring incomprehensible things to herself about a maiden’s heart. Although CLIPI didn’t say anything, Requiem had a strange feeling of icy silence like he had done something wrong. As for the slave girl, she was still picking at her underwear, as if she felt it was uncomfortable wearing it. Flesh or machine, it seemed like Requiem still didn’t understand women.