As I lay in that underground jail, only that person reached out to me.
This year was a year with a bad harvest.
The crops withered on the fields, becoming unusable as food, and fetching low prices when selling. We had a stockpile, but for a family of five it wasn’t near enough to last us through winter.
By the time the wagon from the slave company came by, we no longer had any options.
My family consists of dad, mom and my two brothers, one younger and one older than me.
Since men are more useful during harvest, the one being sold necessarily turned out to be me.
I say sold, but it’s not that sort of system, what the slave company does is ultimately a sort of loan contract. The slave merchant loans father a certain sum of money, and the security of the loan is me. Yet, everyone would understand that paying back the loan is impossible. The slave company also seems to work under that assumption, and if the loan taker immediately gives up their right to pay back the loan, the money granted is higher is what I heard.
While averting his eyes from me, dad told the slave merchant that he didn’t intend to return the debt.
With something bad happening this time, I wished that something good would happen next, but the Holy Goddess-sama is apparently not that lenient against those who rely upon others. Misfortune followed misfortune, and while inside the carriage heading for the town, I caught a fatal disease. Even sitting up was painful, causing a throbbing pain in my chest. I was also attacked by violent coughing fits, coughing blood. Apart from me, two other slaves were also afflicted by disease. The slave merchant put us three in a heap in the other carriage where the luggage was transported to avoid having us spread the disease to the other slaves. Because of our disease which reduced the chance that we’d be sold, we received less food than the other slaves, but I didn’t have particularly big appetite anyway.
When the carriage finally arrived at the town of Riemer, I was already close to dying.
In the store of the slave merchant, I and the two other slaves who had fallen to disease were thrown into the same cell. It was a cell filled with those already near death. The slaves that were naked because the slave merchant didn’t want to suffer any needless expenses were loitering as they pleased within the cell. By the time we were thrown into the cell, half of the slaves didn’t show the slightest reaction, wallowing in despair which caused a chill to run through me. That is how I am going to be in the future, and that future isn’t that far ahead.
I was told by the slave merchant that the reason he kept dying slaves was to sell them so they could be killed. For example, adventurers or town garrisons could use us as living shields when fighting powerful monsters or as magic test subjects and sometimes simply because of lust, buying a cheap slave to use, then summarily killing the slave. Those who want to buy dying slaves are few but they certainly exist.
If I’m bought I will be killed, but on the other hand not being sold…
My body that was struck by a fatal disease, and above that the slowly settling despair.
Those days it seemed like my mind would die before my body.
A few times, a customer came, and the number of slaves steadily decreased.
One day, the slave merchant once again brought a customer.
I was lying against the wall, dazedly watching what was happening.
Most of the previous customers were men, yet this customer was wearing a black robe with her face covered, yet I could see that she was probably a woman… What’s more, she seemed only slightly older than myself.
The slave merchant and the customer exchanged a few sentences, whereafter the girl walked towards us, took off her hood, exposing her face.
The moment I saw her eyes, my heart that should have been frozen, for some reason trembled.
[This girl is?]
[Her name is Tena, and she’s fourteen years old. She was born in a village a little distance from Riemel, and is a debt slave, but on the way here she was attacked by a fatal disease and she probably only has a month left to live.]
Hearing the merchants words caused me to tremble. I’ve already understood that I do not have long to live, but after concretely hearing about my remaining lifespan from other people, my fear of death began to seethe.
I don’t… want to die…
[If it’s me, then I might be able to save you.]
It took me a while to process the words the girl threw at me.
Saved? I am saved?
The eyes of the girl who intently gazed at me were black, but her eyes were serious and I couldn’t detect any falsehood in them. Moreover, for some reason when I look into her eyes, something in my heart stirs.
[I don’t have any proof, but if you’ll believe and accept me, then take this hand.]
Together with her words, the girl reached her hand through the iron bars towards me.
For a while I simply stared dumbfounded at the hand and face of the girl, but trusting the something stirring my heart, our hands met. In any case, as matters stand I don’t stand a chance of being saved anyhow, so I decided to follow my heart.
My body was washed, and after a short while I was given a simple cloth to wear. While I looked on in blank amazement various things happened, but when I recieved clothes together with a slave collar, I finally recognized that I had been bought.
I couldn’t walk because of my disease, so a lower ranked male carried me to a bed inside the store where I was laid to rest.
[Please touch her collar with your hand.]
After hearing what the slave merchant said, the girl who bought me reached out to touch the collar on my neck. After touching it for a while, the collar emitted light and I heard a voice in my head.
『Enslaved by Anri』
That was the moment I became that girls──Anri-samas slave.
[With this, she’s become your slave, and has absolute obedience to you. Because she can’t walk, would you like us to call you a carriage?]
[I don’t need it; I’ll carry her.]
Since the words were unexpected, I was slow in reacting and by the time I became aware of it I was carried on her back.
In what kind of society is the slave carried by the master?
I tried to somehow move my diseased body so that she’d put me down, but I was held firmly so I couldn’t.
She didn’t seem to have any intention to let me down, so I gave up.
Nevertheless, even though she as a girl didn’t have a very large physique, Anri-sama was unexpectedly strong.
No matter how thin and light I’ve become, a girl shouldn’t be able to easily carry me on her back.
At any rate, I wonder why she has bought me. The ways a dying slave can be used are few, but no matter how I think about it, she doesn’t strike me as that sort of person.
Just as I was wondering where she was going to take me, she entered a deserted back alley and dropped me to the ground. Without knowing why I was brought here, I simply dazedly watched Anri-sama.
[You swore to believe in me.]
My first word in a while were hoarse, but it seemed that Anri-sama understood. She poked my forehead with her finger.
[If those words of yours are true, then accept this──Divine Enchantment.]
『Divine protection has been granted from Anri』
Together with the voice that I heard for the second time, I was wrapped in a dark something.
It felt neither pain nor distress, but I felt how something fundamental inside myself changed.
By the time the black something vanished, my appearance had completely changed. The simple cloth with a hole in the middle had turned into a firstclass cloth adorned with ornaments, and my thin limbs had regained their former thickness.
Without understanding how, I stared at my hands and feet, when I suddenly realized that the constant pain I’d been assaulted with had disappeared.
The pain that had accompanied my strained breathing had disappeared like if it wasn’t there to begin with.
The words that Anri-sama spoke to me inside the underground jail [I might be able to save you] reverberated in my mind.
They weren’t a lie… I’ve been saved…
[Thank you! Thank you!]
Overcome with relief over having my life saved, whilst shedding tears of relief, I grabbed Anri-sama’s hand and continuously repeated words of gratitude to her.
I kept crying for a while longer, but when I reflected on my actions I grew pale. To have a slave bawl on her master is rude and could possibly call down the wrath of the master. I don’t want to believe that the saviour of my life, Anri-sama, would resort to something like that but, but rousing the anger of the master and losing your life wouldn’t be strange at all.
In order to not risk to further anger her, I swiftly stood. Which reminds me, I wonder when the last time I could stand by my own strength was. Whilst thinking such irrelevant thoughts, I trembled in anticipation towards Anri-sama’s coming words.
[I want you to live at my home and do the housework and shopping.]
Towards the words that I in a double meaning failed to understand, I ended up replying with a befuddled voice. One of the reasons was that instead of being scolded like I thought I would be, she asked me to do work for her, the other was the contents of the asked work.
[T-, That would be absurd! Only, umm… is just that much fine?]
Whilst flustered over her threatening words I shook my head, I didn’t ask her about the contents of the earlier said work. The usual reason someone buys a slave is to have them do difficult jobs that others don’t want to do or that they loathe. What Anri-sama asked me to do is what people usually hire servants to do, and isn’t usually left to slaves.
[Just that is fine. But, I live quite far from town, so shopping is quite a task.]
Far from town?
I wonder where this person lives.
After that, Anri-sama went so far as to buy shoes and underwear for me. Both articles are things that slaves usually don’t possess so I hesitated for a bit, but because she told me it was out of the question not to wear underwear, I meekly accepted them.
As I lay in that dark underground jail, wrapped in despair, the only that person reached out to me.
I still don’t know just what this person wants of me, but because she saved my life, I will follow her wherever she may go.
[Wait, isn’t this a dungeon!?]
[Of course, since I’m the dungeon master.]