Third Death Row Series: According to God, Death Is Salvation and Killing Is a Good Deed. The Source Is Me. - Chapter 21
- Third Death Row Series: According to God, Death Is Salvation and Killing Is a Good Deed. The Source Is Me.
- Chapter 21 - Days in Ciscima
Translator: MadHatter Editor: MadHatter
The following couple of days brought about tranquillity.
When I reunited with her, Sharon, at the church, I was somewhat taken aback, but not particularly discouraged or disappointed. It was evident from our meeting at the bar that she was experiencing some complications, and I wasn’t that attached to her. Perhaps I wasn’t young enough to feel that fate was in store for me.
The team was somewhat on edge when the mission at the checkpoint finally got going three days after my conversation with Father Roy at the church, but once things got underway, the days were uneventful and consisted mostly of playing cards at the checkpoint.
The checkpoint invariably had a number of officials waiting to collect tolls based on the status of individuals who wished to pass through. Since these tolls were not cheap, I figured that there would be a fair amount of commotion and trouble, but in reality, the situation was so tranquil as to be almost surreal.
I had been informed that while the Kingdom’s security situation was by no means poor, it was not excellent as well. Well, I could only speculate that this was how affairs were, but one day, while exchanging information over drinks in Michel’s room, I found out the truth of the matter.
“They are, you know, what you call bribing people.”
The inn where Michel and his group were accommodating seemed to be a rank above ours, and Michel’s room, as the captain of the group, was large enough to accommodate ten people, so I was musing about how tedious it would be to perform the cleaning.
Seated across the table, Michel bent over as if to crowd toward me and spoke in a hushed tone of voice, “If you had been at the checkpoint, you would have understood. Aristocrats and merchants make up the majority of those who pass through the checkpoint, and they are extremely affluentWhen it comes to those who are incredibly well-off, they frequently enter and exit the checkpoint despite that it costs them a lot of money to do so. Don’t you find it strange?”
The peanut shell I picked up was tougher than I expected, and I struggled with it. In all honesty, I wasn’t that keen on this topic. Rather than that, my priority was to get the peanut in front of me in the bare skin.
“I can’t speak too loudly… but it seems that among the people who pass through the checkpoint is the most influential merchant in the area, who is apparently selling their goods to the government officials at a discount. In exchange, the aristocrats and merchants under this guy’s control are charged greatly reduced tolls, or in some cases, even free of charge.”
“That sounds familiar.”
Having finally removed the shelled peanut and tossed it into my mouth, I gulped down the blood-colored liquid that first popped out when I tore at the skin. Although Michel’s sense of justice may be a bit overbearing at times, he seemed to have a good sense of wine selection, and we decided to continue our frequent exchange of information.
“But if a bribe were to be discovered, the official would be fired immediately. Is there any commodity that all government officials would be willing to risk that much for?”
Even if they were colleagues in the same business, there was a risk that they might be betrayed if only one of them took a bribe. To get a pass through the checkpoint every time based on their faces only, they would need to bribe all the officials who would be crammed in there.
After slurping down his wine, Michel exhaled through his nose with a sour look on his face. His cheeks were tinged with the color of sunset, and it was clear that this was something he couldn’t talk about without getting drunk.
“This is still under investigation by me, and I have no certainty, but… it seems that the merchant at the center of the bribe is selling slaves.”
The first thing that struck me when I heard the word “slaves” was the slave soldiers, boys and girls, who were being taken care of by our unit. The conditions and treatment of slaves, nevertheless, were considerably different in Michel’s subsequent account of what happened to them.
“Let’s call the slave trader, for example, ‘X’. That X often trades in commonplace goods while posing as a typical merchant to attract more clients. Eventually, X will discreetly hint at a dialogue with a consumer who appears interested in buying their ”genuine items and wait to see how the buyer responds. Then those customers who are receptive to their stories are apparently sold the slaves that are the product, allowing them to make substantial profits. The officials of the checkpoint have probably become X’s regular customers, and they must be in close contact with X. I only learned of this because I happened to overhear the officials mentioning their slaves, and it is still sickening to think back on it. Do you want to hear it?”
“Well then, for future reference.”
It would never have occurred to Michel that my words were meant to be taken literally.
“…It’s really awful. First of all, the slaves have been abducted from the inhabitants of small settlements and exiles from neighboring countries, just beyond the checkpoint where we are guarding. Even though the bulk of them seem to be young women or children, they are evidently not protected by the Slave Protection Law since they are deemed to be illegal slaves. This means that, as slaves, they are not even guaranteed the most basic human rights. The officials were talking about… Oh, it really bugs me just remembering it… They said that they use women and children as their playthings, but it wasn’t enough to just violate them. They used a special toy that X sells along with the slaves―a torture device―and made them compete to see which slave could hold out longer to scream. If all they did was beat and kick, that would have been fine, but the way they did it was in the worst possible taste—’driving nails into the slaves’ fingertips one by one’… The first slave to scream was compelled to run for kilometers while having a nail driven into their leg without any change, and they were eventually unceremoniously dumped outside… Excuse me.”
He must have felt really ill from talking about it. Michel took his seat and left me alone, so I sipped the remaining wine by myself.
Well, I guess that’s the extent of it.
That was my impression after listening to Michel’s story. Certainly, the environment was far worse than the slave boys in my unit right now, but the content of the story was very clichéd, like something an amateur beginner would come up with.
Truthfully, I didn’t like the way they were treating the slaves, but according to Michel, there were several high-status aristocrats engaged in this matter, and it was obvious that if I meddled in it, I would wind up in a lot of hassle. Besides, it would be fine if it was just me, but should Thilia hear about this, her strong sense of justice would no doubt make her go out of her way to resolve the problem without regard for the danger. Ultimately, our mission was to guard the checkpoint, and anything that might interfere with that mission should be kept out of our hands as much as possible.
In the end, I left Michel’s room that day, only asking him to let me know if there was any progress on the case, as he was going to work alone to solve it. A week has passed since then, and I have yet to hear from Michel.
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