I woke up to the rumbling of wheels and a splitting headache. I forced my eyes open, and once I could focus on the hay I was apparently lying in, I lifted my head to look around desperately. Even with the accompanying dizziness, my eyes locked on Min’s small form right away. She was in a corner, hunched over and looking down at her feet. Someone had put a shirt back on her, but she also still wore the slave collar. At the very least, she was still alive.
I immediately let out a sigh of relief and then immediately attempted to stand up, but my movements were stopped with the rustle of chains. I looked down angrily to see that my hands and feet had been restrained to the wagon.
“Watch it, lass.” A voice came directly across from me, “You wouldn’t want us to have to activate the collar again, would you?”
The man sitting across from me was the leader who had threatened Min with the sword in the first place. He was a grizzled man, with a face somewhere in his 30s. He wasn’t particularly bad looking, with a strong jaw, dark eyes, and a warrior’s physique, but he had a look that came off as condescending to me. I almost moved to attack him, but I remembered the chains just in time to prevent myself some embarrassment. My muscles relaxed a bit and I lowered my eyes.
“That’s better.” He said the voice like he was complementing a dog. “I know your change in status should come as shocking, but it’ll just be easier if you accept your new role as a slave. Humans are commonly taken as slaves for the demon continent.”
“What about Tark, Dirk, and Giff?”
“Ah, well, they bring us humans from time to time. We bring them demi-humans. It’s a trade really. Humans like demi-human slaves, demons like human slaves. It works…”
“And what about you?” I demanded, looking at his human appearance.
“Me?” He looked surprised for a second before laughing.
He pulled the cap off of his head. It had been covering his hair, but a second later I realized he didn’t have any hair. Instead, he had some kind of skeletal like ridges with ran in spirals over his head. It looked somewhat like an impromptu helmet grafted into his skull.
“I’m a Kappa. We’re a race of demons created by a monster called the tartarygus. They’re a rare species of monster, so I’m not surprised that a human like you haven’t heard of them.”
The realization that I was the only human alone among demons came crashing home, “So, that’s it then? I’m a slave to demons?”
The Kappa shrugged. “It’s not like you have a choice in the matter. You… and that elf bitch, will net a decent profit. Given your beauty, you don’t need to worry too much. I’m sure you’ll be hired as a maid to some wealthy noble. The elf might not be so lucky. Demi-humans don’t sell for as much in the demon continent. It’s humans who have those strange fetishes for animal features. After killing two of my men, I should have just murdered her.”
He raised his hand. “I won’t. Not because you asked me. Or because she’s a woman. But because money speaks. I take no pleasure in killing women. Even a couple coins profit is more valuable than nothing. I almost let me own anger affect my wallet. As long as the gain is greater than the risk, you’ll be safe.”
I relaxed at his words, but I wasn’t sure I should have. Min was still a slave. I had put her in that situation. I was in that situation myself too, but for some reason I didn’t seem to worry about myself as much. In the back of my mind somewhere I felt that I genuinely deserved this fate. Wasn’t my life always heading in this direction? Compared to death or goblin breedstock, a slave maid didn’t seem like the worst life.
“You’re… being awfully nice.” I responded cautiously, just trying to fill the silence at this point.
“Is answering a slave’s questions nice? What kind of life you must have lived that talking is a pleasantry.” His irritating smile widened. “I could say the same about you though? You’re being quite relaxed. Most of the recently collared freak out and lose their minds, or become extremely introverted like your friend over there.”
“I’m not like other girls.” I responded flatly.
“I can tell. Not that I’m complaining!” The man nodded thoughtfully as he waved his hand. “I, too, like to see myself as unique. Unlike the stories you hear about slavers, at the end of the day, it is simply a means of being paid. I have no ill will towards the slaves. In fact, I love the slaves more than most. You are my paycheck. Beat you? Berate you? That behavior effects my bottom line. Don’t get me wrong, cause me too much trouble, and I will settle things quickly, maximize my profits and I will maximize your comfort. Simple as that.”
I wore a wry smile as he spoke. He said he didn’t berate people, but he still seemed to speak with an air of superiority. His words were gentle, yet no nonsense, like he was speaking to an animal. That was right, to him, I was not a person anymore, I was a commodity.
“You mentioned some kind of master you shared with Tark…”
“That is not something I will share with you, lass.” The Kappa’s words were firm to the point that it was clear that conversation line had ended.
The pair of us ended up sitting in silence as the cart continued to roll on. My eyes turned to Min more and more, but a wall seemed to have been created between the pair of us. The last time it was like this was when we were in the goblin cave desperately trying to survive. Min had turned in on herself, and refused to acknowledge the world around her. She wouldn’t look at me no matter what.
“It is strange, though…” The Kappa suddenly spoke up, drawing my eyes back to his. “You shouldn’t have been able to move.”
He’d been watching me as I tried to make eye contact with Min. After a moment, the curiosity got the best of me, and I spoke up.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“The collar. It should have immobilized you. But it was almost like you ignored it. No skill in your status suggests an ability like that. Plus… such a strange class. I’ve never seen it before. I said we’d sell you to a noble, but with your skillset, perhaps a rich merchant would benefit as well.”
“You can see my status!” I was genuinely shocked by this reveal.
For the first time in a long while, I felt completely exposed. The secret behind my class and abilities was something I had kept hidden to everyone since Denova. Even Min had never seen my status in its entirety.
“Ah, yes. A seductress… with so many unique skills too. From the appearance of it, I’m glad the collar is on you. I’d suspect you were a succubus if the information didn’t tell me otherwise. Was that why you were trying to cross the border? You wanted to reach the Cambion colony? I would avoid those creatures personally. Manipulative and nasty bunch.” I refused to speak, lowering my eyes, but he continued. “Well, it doesn’t matter to me how you got so many things. It just increases your value. If you just gained some more practical skills, I’m sure you could become a top tier slave. With the charm and beauty that even competes with a third classer, amazing…”
“What does that mean. Even a third classer…”
“Huh? Your status in this world. Don’t tell me you don’t know the basics?”
I shook my head, even though it resulted in his eyes growing more condescending. He seemed to be a guy who loved to talk. He liked to talk down to people, to explain things over a sense of superiority. At the moment, I was just trying to keep him talking. The more he gave me, the more I could work with.
“Well, you’re level 30, right? Each level you gain 1 point in every status. An average person reaches level 30 by about age 30. At that point they have gained 30 points. That’s everyone. All human beings. 30 strength. 30 intelligence. 30 Wisdom. Unless they reach a second class, that is what they are. If they do manage a class up, then they work towards level 60. So then they have 60 intelligence, 60 strength, 60 wisdom. Do you know what that means?”
“That they are stronger?”
“Stronger, yes. And wiser. And faster. And more charming. Almost twice as much. When a person classes up, they don’t just reach a new class, they become a higher level of person. Of course, people could use points to bring up their stats. If you wasted all 30 points on strength then a level 30 could have the strength of a level 60. And you can gain status by working hard. Someone who studies every day can increase intelligence, for example.
“Work hard, study hard, and your stats will increase. However, in general, everyone is 30. Some might lift heavy items and have slightly higher strength, some might study more and have slightly higher intelligence. But at the end of the day, a third classer is always 3X stronger, brighter, more attractive, and simply better than a first classer, on average. When a first classes fights a first classer, the only thing that separates them is how they’d lived there lives. Unless someone like you or that elf comes around with higher than normal status in some unexpected areas.
“You should be lucky I’m in my third class. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to resist your charm. You are a very beautiful woman. Woman reaching third class is exceptionally rare. I’d even consider taking you as my wife, if the money wasn’t considerably more tempting.”
“Charmed…” I responded dryly, my mind working furiously.
I had been wondering about that since I had came to this world, but it really was like that. A second class person wasn’t just a more specialized career, it was a higher state of being. The implications of that were interesting. A third classer would be more charming, smarter, and faster than a first classer. However, to another third classer, the only differences would be the physical differences, the actual training they did. Since all third classers are beautiful, no third classer would find another third classer irresistible. In fact, 1st class women without my stats might seem bland in comparison.
How is this fair? Is it really that surprising? Those with the power and resources to reach a third class are better educated with a greater time to focus on fitness. Wouldn’t an educated person be smarter than the uneducated? Wouldn’t an aristocrat be more charming than a street thug? Would politicians be intimidated by other politicians? Would beautiful celebrities surrounded by other beautiful celebrities be nearly as impressed by beauty? This classism already existed in everyday life, the status system merely assigned it numbers.
As I thought about the things I had learned from the slave trader, the sun was already starting to set. The group of guards escorting the pair of us numbered eight, certainly more than I hoped to overcome. While I worried about Min, I had no thoughts of escaping on my own. It felt strange even to me that I was so eerily calm with the collar around my neck.
I did have a great deal of mental resistance. Compared to some of the things that had happened to me, being enslaved could be considered light. I didn’t think my skill mental fortitude was necessarily kicking in, but given the likelihood I’d be sold as some sort of sexual slave, it might be working to some effect. For a female, her greatest fear from being enslaved might be from sexual abuse, a fate that my mind simply couldn’t fear.
The slavers eventually stopped, and I was finally removed from my chains. I was hoping they would move me to Min so that we could finally get a chance to talk, but to my dismay, they had chosen to keep the pair of us apart. I looked on in frustration as she was pulled to the right of the cart as I was dragged to the left. Worst off, she didn’t even spare me a look as she was dragged away.
I told myself that this was what I had been aiming for. Min was no longer supporting me. However, now that we had found ourselves as slaves, I felt like this wasn’t the time to cut off my emotional support. I felt responsible for getting Min in this situation in the first place. Like that, I was given a little bit of bedding and was chained to the wheel of the wagon. The weather was getting warmer now and most of the snow had melted. The ground was wet and cold, but it was tolerable. I got a sense though that even if it was the middle of winter still, they wouldn’t have given up anything more. Min was chained to a nearby tree, but I had to crouch under the wagon to see her.
“Don’t move from that spot.” The slaver ordered.
As the night wore on, I decided to stretch myself under the wagon to get one more look at Min. Even now, I was so pathetic. I just wanted to use her appearance as a means of emotional support. As long as she was still there, a part of me told myself I could cope. When my eyes focused on the tree, they froze.
Min was being pulled from the tree by two of the guards. She was being pulled into the woods by them, and she was still showing the introverted lack of resistance she had been shown since we were captured. The look on the guard’s face was unmistakable to me. It was a look I had received an innumerable amount of times. It was a lustful look. They were planning to rape Min!