Female Warrior Prologue Volume 1: Light and Shadow
Original novel in Chinese by: 御 我 (Yu Wo)
Chapter 4: Light and Shadow Part 4 – translated by Azakura
“Save your breath. They’ll be back again later to force you into signing a slave contract.”
The bard turned to look. The one who had spoken was one of the slaves. He was covered in so much filth and had a thin and weak body that if it weren’t because his voice was indeed that of a man’s when he had spoken just now, it would have been impossible to tell his gender from appearance alone.
“But how can that be?” The bard stated heavily, “Slaves are only permitted to sign the slave contract on the ‘Slave Contract Signing Day’ that happens once a year! There must also be someone whose status is at least as high as a city lord present as witness!”
“So where do you think you are right now?” The slave said in a mocking tone, “Aren’t you in the city lord’s prison?”
Hearing this, the bard stared in a daze for a while before he realized what was going on. He stuttered, “The city lord is v-violating the laws set by the Holy King, privately letting slaves sign their lives away? H-how could he dare to do such a thing?”
The slave spoke unenthusiastically, “If there were no money in this business, people wouldn’t do it. However, even if the business was killing others, people would flock to do it so long as there’s money involved. Nowadays, even ten gold ducats are not necessarily enough to buy a slave through legal means. But if someone were to kidnap slaves to sell, he would earn ten gold ducats just like that. Could there be any business easier to do than this?”
Hearing this, the bard became very curious about this slave. His tone and language were hardly like those of a slave. He could not help but ask, “Were you also kidnapped and brought here?”
The slave fell silent for a while. He replied indifferently, “You could say that. One of the slaves escaped yesterday, so you were probably captured as his replacement. After all, the day of the auction is almost here. They probably didn’t have enough time to go look for him.”
The bard froze. He questioned curiously, “An auction?”
“Yeah, the underground slave auction.” The slave continued on unenthusiastically, “It’s probably the biggest selling event of the city. There are still two days until the auction. You’d best hurry and make yourself appear dirtier.”
“Why?” The bard’s eyes widened. He was one who loved being clean to the extreme!
The slave said in a tone much more mocking than before, “Dirty slaves are sent to do manual labor. Slaves that are too beautiful are sent to do work in bed. But I suppose if you would rather lie on a bed, then do preserve your pretty appearance!”
Hearing this, the bard’s face flushed red. He quickly scooped up some soil from the ground and spread it over his face. However, the moment he applied it he almost threw up. The soil in this place was really too smelly. It did not only smell of soil but also had the stench of excrement and rotting food mixed into it.
The bard was so disgusted by this smell that a number of tears had already fallen from his eyes, yet he could not rub the soil off of his face either. He wailed as if he were at a funeral, “Why on earth is such a thing happening? Isn’t this supposed to be a time of peace and prosperity? The Holy King definitely does not permit such a thing…”
The slave snorted coldly. “Hmph! Holy King? To lowly people like us, whichever king it is makes no difference. We’re not in a position where we’re entitled to receive his grace, and he likewise doesn’t bother with places like this one.”
The bard wanted to rebuke those words, as he had seen plenty of peaceful cities under the rule of the Holy King on his journey, and this was the first time he had ever witnessed such a situation!
But instead, he abruptly closed his mouth and appeared to be deep in thought.
The slave looked quite oddly at the bard and held some curiosity as he asked, “What? You’ve fallen into despair that quickly?”
The bard shook his head from side to side then said in a rather confused manner, “No. I just suddenly thought of one of my friends. He just abandoned me a moment ago and didn’t care for the fact that I was kidnapped.”
“And you still call him your friend?” The slave rolled his eyes from under his disheveled hair.
The bard paid no attention to what the slave was saying. Instead, he started talking to himself, “Ooh! On the contrary, having considered all that you said earlier, I feel as if it would be far from a coincidence if she were to appear here. Maybe it was all in wait for the illegal auction. If that’s so, I guess I have no need to be troubled anymore…”
But then again, just now, the patrol leader had said that Red Cloak is a man, but the Warrior Queen is a woman. So if Red Cloak really is a man, then he’s definitely not the Warrior Queen… Aaah! To think that I went back to square one!
“Sob, sob… Never in my entire life have I wanted to see a woman so badly.” The bard wanted to cry but had no tears. If Red Cloak really was a man, then not only had he failed to find the Warrior Queen, he might even henceforth become a slave… Have mercy on me!
“You’re stuck in jail, yet you’re still thinking of women?” The slave’s face twitched. He really wanted to inflict pain on the idiot spouting reckless words in front of him.
The bard rebutted, “Of course I have to think of a woman! If I don’t, then who would come to save us?”
“What?” The slave froze. However, he then thought about how clean and fair the man before him originally was. Perhaps he was even the gigolo of some woman, so naturally, he would wish that this same woman would come to his rescue.
“But I don’t know if Red Cloak really is a woman or not… Sob. If I had known this would happen, I wouldn’t have left God in the forest because otherwise, He would probably be able to come to my rescue? After all, He’s God! Even if He’s the God of Slimes, God is still God!”
“… So you’re actually just a mad man?”
“Hey! Wake up! How on earth do you manage to sleep like a pig in a place like this!?”
The bard rubbed his eyes and asked in bewilderment, “Oh… Is the sun up already?”
“You can wait for sunrise if that’s what you want, but I’m going to go off first!”
“You’re going off?” The bard stared blankly as he asked, “Where to?”
“Obviously to escape from this place!” The slave rolled his eyes. He snapped, “You’re still sleeping? Well, I’m not going to wait for you. Bye!”
The bard remained stunned for a moment. He blinked his eyes hard, and then he was finally genuinely awake.
The slaves were all crowded at a corner, but the number of people there was gradually reducing one by one… Only when there were about three or four people left did the bard realize that they had dug a hole and left through that!
He stayed stunned for several seconds. It was only when almost everyone had already made their way out that the bard came to his senses. He breathed a soft whisper, “Wait for me!” and proceeded to squeeze through the hole after them.
When he reached the other side, he took a deep breath of stench-free, fresh air and then proceeded to gaze at the star-filled sky. The bard suddenly understood how precious freedom was. Being able to escape from that destitution truly filled his whole heart with feelings of bliss.
He turned back to look at the hole. Although it was not very large, its size was just enough for a grown man to climb out of it. It seemed nothing like what could be dug with one’s bare hands.
“Hey. Hey. Um… You! How did you manage to dig this hole?”
The slave rolled his eyes and said, “Hey? I have a name you know. It’s Cale! I was having a meal at the time I was captured, so I hid my soup spoon on me right on the spot. We used that soup spoon to dig.”
“Oh, Cale. Nice to meet you. My name is Silvester.”
“Such a long and stuffy name… Are you a nobleman? This way.” After speaking, perhaps because the bard had also given his name, Cale helpfully tugged the bard to prevent him from being separated from the rest in the dark of night.
“I’m no nobleman. This name was given to me by my teacher.”
Silvester stifled a laugh and shook his head to express his denial. However, he was not entirely sure either. After all, Lorenzo Louis, as the imperial bard, was not only a nobleman but also held one of the highest ranks possible. And since Silvester was Lorenzo’s only student and successor, even if he failed to inherit everything from Lorenzo, it was true that he would still be of some status.
“Everyone, stop. Let’s hide here for the time being!”
Silvester widened his eyes. This place is only roughly two streets away from the city lord’s residence! And I thought we’d be pulling an all-nighter to escape. I was even scared that I’d be left behind by everyone since I’m so physically weak!
“Cale, are we not leaving the city?” The other slaves also appeared to be worried.
Cale shook his head and said, “The city gates are not open at night, so we won’t be able to leave the city tonight. However, no need to fret, everyone. The city lord would not dare to create too big a ruckus searching for us within the city. After all, privately selling slaves is illegal.”
Everyone walked into a house. Cale immediately squatted down and felt the floor with his hand. In the end, he pulled up a secret door. “Go on. There is a basement below.”
The slaves jumped down one at a time. The basement was not all that small, and there were even numerous pickled foods laid out on the surrounding shelves. Despite the fact that the jars were covered in dust, to these prisoners who had not had a proper meal in a long time, they would even eat bread that had been stepped on off the floor, let alone something from a jar covered in dust.
Cale threw over a jar to Silvester. The latter was unable to react right away and scrambled around for a good while before managing to find his balance.
“Eat. Don’t worry. I’ve eaten this before. I admit the taste has gone a little bad, but you won’t die from eating it.”
Silvester frowned as he looked at the exceedingly dirty jar. Nevertheless, he could only wipe the jar on his pants, and then he proceeded to eat the food inside with no complaints.
Although Silvester loved gourmet foods and was considerably picky about what he ate, after following his teacher around the wilderness for many years, he had since eaten a hideously messy array of food. Not to mention that at the time when he had just met his teacher and had yet to become good at cooking, being able to eat dried rations was the equivalent of fine dining. And if they finished all the dried rations and still could not locate any town whatsoever, then he would have to mentally prepare himself to taste all kinds of things, be it half-cooked, burnt frog meat boiled in weeds or a banquet of slimes.
While eating the pickled food that had gone slightly bad, Silvester began considering his situation.
I can’t help but feel that this escape was too easy. I feel like I’m forgetting something… Ah! That’s right. The guards did not try to prevent our escape at all! He exclaimed, “We’re so lucky it so happened that the guards were away for some reason!”
“Lucky?” Cale laughed coldly and then said, “I observed them for several days. Those guards are incredibly lazy. When they change shift, the earlier shift would leave early and the later shift would come late. The interval where no one is around is half an hour long at the very least.”
Half an hour? The bard was aghast as he realized, There’s no more than twelve hours during daylight… These guards are really slacking off to an unbelievable extent!
Cale gave orders to everyone like a general. “You’re free to do whatever you want after you’ve finished eating, but make sure to keep the noise down. Try not to talk at all if you can, lest you want the search party to notice us.”
What? No one intends to go off by themselves? Silvester looked in astonishment at the people around him. There were about twenty or so people around, and practically everyone wore an uneasy look. Perhaps no one dared to leave alone and would all rather stay with the group. At the very least, Cale seemed like a guy who knew what he was doing, and he had already succeeded in getting everyone out of jail.
Silvester was also afraid to leave. He had already clashed with the guards twice. If he were to even set foot on the streets, he would definitely be caught right away.
After eating, no one dared to speak a word. Most simply lowered their heads and slept.
Silvester originally intended to have a chat with Cale, but he was glared at instead and was even reprimanded, “Keep it down.” He had nothing to do and was also not feeling particularly sleepy, but he still tried to sleep.
Bit by bit, he drifted into slumber. At first, he could not sleep at all, but when he was half-asleep, he suddenly felt someone push him. Immediately, he jolted awake, and the color red flashed before his eyes…