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Chapter 4 – Bygone Buddies

 

Pax was a clever man, full of determination.

Whether it was Mathematics, the Magical Arts, or even entirely theoretical concepts, he was quick to grasp them all.

It was quite apparent he held a strong interest in the fields of Territory Management and Economics Some of his remarks in class were, in fact, very creative and made a great deal of sense.

While we were both looked down upon and ignored by the aristocratic brats, it was still enough to open the eyes of the teachers.



 

Moreover, he was also able to utilize three languages.

They were Central Continent’s Human Language, Begaritt Continent’s Fighting God Language, and the Great Forest’s Beast God Language.

Furthermore, it has been said that he was learning the Sea God language now as well.

 

Incidentally, the only languages I could get a handle on were just the Human Language and Demon God Language. (Magic God Language? Need to check BT wiki)

Mother tried to teach me some other languages, but I was simply unable to learn them.

The only reason I was able to get the hang of the Demon God Language was because there were many people of the Demon Tribe living close by.

My Shishou had the blood of the Demon Tribe running through his veins, and the person my Aunt married was also of the Demon Tribe.

But even though I say that, there is almost next to no opportunity for me to use the Demon God Language.

 

「How are you able to learn so damn much?」

 

When I asked, this was the reply I was given.

 

「When the time comes for me to manage my territory in the future, I imagine that I will meet with those of the Demon Tribe or Beast Tribe who happen to not understand Human Language quite often.」

「If it’s just management, then wouldn’t it be good enough to just hire an interpreter?」

「Then, when it comes time to hire an interpreter, will it not be necessary to verify whether or not they will be able to carefully pass on the words I need them to?」

「Would it be particularly necessary for you to be the one to do it?」

「Rather than necessary, it is something I absolutely must do. At any rate, my allies still number quite a few, after all.」

 

He was not the kind of person to talk about his situation very much.

What I understood was he is originally from the Ouryuu Kingdom, so other than his mother being an Aristocrat, I can’t say that I know anything else worth mentioning.

Also, he himself has said that he doesn’t have very good memories in regards to that.

As a result of being continually ostracized, he has few people that he can call allies, and he was separated from the man charged with educating him and his mother. Not only that, but he was then sent to Asura Royal Academy under the pretense of “Studying Abroad.”

I was able to understand this much from the conversations we had patched together with some of my own guesswork.

 

「Still, do you find it really necessary to learn the Sea God Language? Aren’t they the kind of people that actively try and avoid contact with those living on the surface?」

「While it’s not viewed as much of a problematic matter, from the olden days, those of the coastal area and “them” have engaged in disputes many times. They eventually turn into full-scale disputes and then devolve into fighting. In many cases, it leads to a lot of blood being spilled over pointless matters.」

「Then, is there nothing that can be done about it?」

「I do not think so. After researching some documents, though I say fighting, it’s really just a great number of trivial matters. Before they were even aware of it, the Human tribe had already gone and defiled the things which were important to the Seafish Tribe.」

「Wow…」

「If some dialogue can begin, then some of the problems can be solved in short order. However, there is the matter of one village already being annihilated. Of course, there are going to be many cases which won’t be solved with just dialogue. However, if there can be an understanding of words, for both parties to take it as far as fighting, I expect there can be a place to negotiate and end the hostilities.」

 

He said this with a smile.

For myself, there weren’t any particular feelings that sprung up within me from this, but there was a very persuasive power behind it.

So together with him, I studied the language.

And, when it came to studying together with him, I even found it surprisingly easy to learn it.

It was surely because of his, ‘If it were me, in what way would I use it?’ attitude, all while diligently studying and doing our very best while taking it into consideration.

Leaving aside whether or not I would actually end up using what I learned in practice, having such thoughts while studying in that manner, I find that I have come to be somewhat excited.

 

By the way, even though it was him, his talent in fencing was just ordinary.

For me, who had started to study the North God Style at a young age, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t best me even once.

I am in no way saying he is weak.

He had studied the same North God Style as me and even had the foundations firmly built.

But, even after saying all that, he is still unskilled.

 

「Zeke, you are really strong!」

「What’s strong was all this innate power I was born with.」

「Like a Miko?」

「I don’t believe it’s quite to that level, though perhaps it might feel somewhat similar.」

 

Miko (God-Child) is the name given to children who are born with an extraordinary and terrifying ability.

I pictured in my mind many of my father’s acquaintances, and before long, there was a single person who possessed superhuman strength.

However, the difference between my superhuman strength and their superhuman strength was vastly different!

To have obtained the strength I have now, I’ve had to train my body a considerable amount. However, it’s said that person never even once had to train theirs.

Furthermore, even as strong as I am now, I am still no match for his physical strength.

 

「Also, I’m proud to say that my Shishou is the Northern God. Northern God Kalman III. It’s likely the difference between the masters!」

「Ah, I see. The person who came to teach me the sword, despite how considerably strong he is with it, he might not be as good as the head of the faction after all.」

 

When it came to the matter of losing to me in fencing, he really did not seem to pay it much mind.

To begin with, he probably doesn’t have the disposition suited for fighting.

 

In any case, school life with him was enjoyable.

If I think about it, it’s very possible that he is the first person I could consider to be a close friend.

Though while there were some very close friends at Magic City Sharia, when I think about it from the bottom of my heart who my closest one was, it was just him.

 

 

Having been reeled in by Pax, I had reached the point of becoming diligent in my studies.

Pax’s method of teaching was quite skillful, and in no time at all, I had recovered from how far behind I had fallen in my class work.

Even though I had just caught up, my best grades placed me dead center in the upper ranks.

However, that was only limited to the academic portion.

When it came to my ranking pertaining to martial arts, I was the top of my class.

Or perhaps, it was the top of the entire academy?

I didn’t feel the need to look too deeply into that.

 

Pax taught me how to study, and in return, I taught Pax how to fence.

Much as how I was not a great pupil in academic learning, Pax likewise wasn’t a great student of the martial arts.

His body was strengthened, and he seemed to have a good understanding of the basics, but it seems he was just unable to improve.

And so, because of this, his results were similarly a dead center of the upper ranks.

Though, for him, that was only in martial arts.

His ranks in the academic portion were top of the class.

 

Even after we started hanging out, we were still being ignored as usual.

Steadily, our results improved over time, except where we ranked at the top. That never changed.

At this point in my so-called school life, it’s as gray as ever.

But compared to the times when I was alone, I have definitely seen some color.

Thankfully, I was able to pass the time in an enjoyable way.

Mostly due to Pax, definitely.

 

「You are not going over there today as well?」

 

A close friend as him, of course, had a certain hobby.

No, I don’t know if it’s alright to call it a hobby.

Rather, a habit or… no, it’s probably better to call it a bad habit.

 

At Asura Royal Academy, every 10th day is a school holiday.

Students are free to spend time however they would like on campus, but leaving school grounds is prohibited.

Mainly because problems tend to arise from it.

The Royal Academy is situated right in the middle of the district that insulates the middle-class nobility from the upper-class nobility.

Leaving the boundaries of where the middle-class nobles live, one arrives at where the lower class nobles live, and past that is where the common folk live.

 

As for the Royal Academy, it accepts not only exchange students from other countries but also commoners with particularly high abilities.

However, it goes without needing to be said that the majority are the children of the Asura Nobility.

Those aristocratic brats who were raised in that boxed off environment, under the pretense of adventure, descend upon the place where the commoners are.

And thus, as would be expected as a matter of course, problems arise.

At times there is a real likelihood of a student dying, and when that becomes a point of concern, it is only natural for it to be prohibited.

 

Nevertheless, though not much time has passed since the founding of the Academy, there are students who are unable to put up with it.

After several years, a loophole was created, and it became a holiday for the students to start being able to move about freely outside.

Now, while the Academy, to preserve its integrity, prohibits it on the surface, there is definitely the feeling that it has completely given up on trying to obstruct that loophole.

 

So without pretense, we also use the loophole and use the holiday to head out into the town.

After exiting from the small hole which was opened up from behind the school building, we are already there in the Asura Kingdom’s capital city.

 

The place we were going was a particularly dark place, even in the Asura Kingdom.

Should I call it a “dubious place”?

Well, if you looked at it from a certain viewpoint, it probably is.

It’s the place to go to for the very purpose of being dubious.

 

This is the place where the drainage from the areas of the Royal Castle and the Aristocratic Wards spills out to.

It is the area were the commoners live, an area that is especially filthy and smells terrible.

What is otherwise known as the Slums.

 

The slums are surrounded by the castle walls, and there are always guards posted on the ramparts.

The reason for that is to prevent the vagrants from the slums from getting inside.

Of course, the other part of their duties is to protect those of us with high enough status and let us inside.

Pax, however, was well versed in the art of infiltrating places such as this.

I was told once that it was the person in charge of his education that taught him how to do such things.

 

For those of the slums of the capital city in Asura Kingdom, such sparkling places like the Royal Academy or the Aristocratic District sound like outright lies.

Small and shabby houses are lined up in a row, and there is a man lying down on the road in his own vomit whilst holding fast to a bottle of liquor.

 

Bare-naked children run around with sticks and disappear off into the back alleys.

Having said that, not everyone is burdened with the needs of food, clothing, and shelter—the necessities of life.

Peeking into one of the small houses, while sipping on tasty soup, a mother, and her children could be seen laughing together.

 

Then, from time to time, a young woman with a collar of iron attached to her being led by a well-dressed man could be seen.

Probably a slave on her way to being sold off. The man is clearly a slave trader.

The young girl has a pained expression on her face, too tired from resisting, with an expression of defeat… to say of her appearance, well, it’s a just an ordinary face.

In other words, the normal face of those who clearly understood that they were being sold off as an object.

 

In order for us to chase after them, we move within the slums.

As for the residents of the slums, when they look at us who are well dressed, sometimes they would come out and put out their hands as if hoping we would fulfill some kind of demand.

Pax didn’t even give them a single glance and instead said “You must not give them anything at all. Otherwise, they will never stop swarming you, okay?”

 

After coming out of the dark alley, there was a plaza-like area.

It’s the interior of the slums, a place you would never know from the looks of the area around it.

A place overflowing with a zealousness all its own.

On a platform located in the center, there are a group of naked people being displayed there.

 

The slave market.

Compared to the one in my hometown, it’s a bit smaller, but there is no mistaking it.

 

In the Kingdom of Asura, the official stance on slavery is that it is prohibited by law, but that is just outward appearances.

For it is in fact secretly done here.

And now, for some reason unknown to me, Pax has the hobby of coming to take a look at the slave market.

I can say, however, that the reason Pax has come here is not to buy a slave.

 

「That slave over there looks like they have considerable skill in fencing, huh? The blisters on their palms, how do they look to you?」

「No, those are not the kinds of blisters you get from holding onto a sword. Perhaps, they’re from something like farmwork? Here, take a look at my hands. If you only do fencing, then you cannot get blisters in these places.」

「Then if it’s the case of a different school of fencing, might it be possible for such types of blisters to grow there then?」

「Maybe…」

 

However, he made observational comments.

What kind of person is that slave? What’s their forte? What kind of experiences has that person had?

Before you became a slave, what did you do? What kind of social status did you come from?

Sometimes we compare answers, but mostly it’s just him saying whatever he wants.

 

「Ah, that man who is being watched by everyone, although he is wearing worn-out-looking clothes, his hair and fingernails are clean.」

 

Incidentally, the commentary was not limited to just slaves.

 

「It’s an employee who serves a noble. By some chance, maybe even someone from the Royal Family.」

「Whoa!」

「That slave trader is a member of the Beast Tribe, isn’t he? He’s also selling those from the Beast Tribe. However, the atmosphere around here feels different from the usual human areas. Maybe, perchance, someone from a thief company has betrayed his companions and was selling them here instead. Slaves of the Beast Tribe fetch a very high price here in the Asura Kingdom don’t they?」

 

The slave trader and the slave buyer who came to shop again once more became the targets of Pax’s observations.

Though there were a lot of hit and misses on his observations of the slaves, he was good at inspecting the customers. He was able to distinguish those who held a high status and those who held a lower position in an instant.

 

「Pax, you are really detail-oriented, you know?」

「I received instruction in this from my mother. How to see through disguises and how to see though those who lie about their social status.」

「In Ouryuu Kingdom, such things can be taught?」

「No… Mother it seems had been taught this by my father, or so I understand.」

 

When Pax said that, he had an indescribable look on his face.

It was one of longing, and different from nostalgia, his facial expression seemed complicated.

 

Because of that, it might be something that I probably should have known already.

For him, what kind of place is this place?

For him, what kind of existence is his father?

 

「Be that as it may, the fact that you like coming to a place such as this is really quite surprising.」

 

Though I wanted to know about it, I didn’t inquire about it directly.

I might not have had enough courage inside of me too.

 

「Such a place as this? You’re here, so exactly what kind of place did you expect it to be? 」

 

Listening to his reversal of a question, for just a moment I was unable to reply.

As for the slave market in my own hometown, Magic City Sharia, I haven’t set a single foot into it.

In the past, when goofing around with my older brothers and sisters, we tried to sneak in and take a peek, but we were discovered by mama and subjected to a very angry lecture, so never again did we try.

It would be a lie to say that I wasn’t curious about it, but I would never have thought a smart and noble man like Pax would ever intentionally come to this kind of place.

 

「This place… is a wicked place. And the bad guys are in control of it.」

 

I said as much while looking at the surrounding area.

First of all, the slave seller is quite vulgar.

The upper half of that person’s body is bare and covered in tattoos. They also seem to have a number of scars, and they are glaring at everything around them with displeasure.

Secondly, the slaves they have for sale, they are all in poor condition healthwise.

The slaves you can look at openly don’t look visibly ill, but I can tell they aren’t getting a satisfactory amount of food to eat at all.

The location itself is bad as well.

The sewage ditch with the runoff from the slums gives off the smell as if something is rotting away. Surely, if any of that water is drunk as is, very likely they will be sick to the very pit of their stomach. Also, the sanitary conditions are reprehensible.

Furthermore, any of the Royals or Aristocrats who would come to this place to buy a slave, I can say with certainty aren’t ever the kind of person that could be considered virtuous.

 

「Evil huh?… Well, at the very least it’s not a great place, right?」

 

As Pax said this, he began walking.

While looking at the slaves, while looking at the merchant, and while looking at the customer who is looking at a slave, appraising it seriously for the sake of making a purchase.

 

「But my father seemed to have a fondness for such a place as this.」

「Seemed to have?」

「By the time I was born, my father was already dead. I have never heard the voice of my father and have only ever seen his face on a portrait.」

「… is that so?」

 

He’s usually not one to talk much about his personal history.

Thereby, today is the first time I had heard that his father was already dead.

Well, I had a vague impression it was something like that.

 

「Though I don’t know what there is to like about a place such as the slave market, for your father to slip out of the castle often and visit such a place, it seems like there may have been something causing a problem. 」

「Huh?」

「However, he seemed to have gathered a group of people who were there for the purpose of controlling them. After hearing that, I wanted to make it something I did too.」

 

While talking about his father, he had a far-away look in his eyes.

The father he had never seen outside of portraits.

That, compared to how I look at my own father, might have been given an image much larger than life to look at.

 

「At one point in time, the man in charge of my education asked me why I was so obstinate about wanting to hear about why my father was fixated on such a place. Though his words were a bit evasive, he also spoke about it to its end. “Your father was definitely disliked in the country. So where else do you think he’d find a place he could be himself but in the slums?”」

 

His father was said to be originally a prince from the country formerly called the Shiron* Kingdom.

His small stature was probably due to the curse he was born with, and because of that, his behavior had worsened too, even being neglected or mistreated among other things by the royal family.

It can be said to be an inevitable thing for him to find the place he could feel he belonged to.

 

「It’s not just my father. I had heard that my grandmother was originally a slave. My grandfather, who was the King of Ouryuu Kingdom, though I don’t understand the intention behind why my grandmother was bought, eventually became a plaything for my grandfather, and my mother was born. And mother, of course, being the child of a slave, was shunned.」

 

His grandmother it seems was said to have had blue hair.

When you think of a race with blue hair, it’s got to be the Migurd Tribe, is that the blood flowing through those veins, or is it the blood of another tribe of the Demon Race? Or it is unrelated to it entirely, and the hair color was just merely inherent? I can’t be sure of it just from his story alone.

However, a certain daughter and son had inherited the hair color.

And that stigma then marked them as being descendants of a slave.

 

「And then, it was my turn to be ostracized. However, I do not bear a grudge against my grandfather. My grandfather acknowledged my mother as his daughter, so she was brought up properly because of that.」

 

After he said that, he came to a stop.

Exactly in the middle of the slave market.

 

「My father found his place in the slave market, and my mother was the child of a slave.」

 

All around us, the slave merchants were showing off their slaves as they saw fit to do so as they spat out their selling points.

Breathing in the smells that wafted in from the surrounding environment, there were signs everywhere that were plastered with vulgarities.

 

「So, I wonder… the slave market here is filthy, stinking, and, as I understand, not a good place at all. But, I cannot think of it as an evil place.」

 

Pax said as much with a strained smile.

 

「Well, whether good or evil, it’s necessary. Though I can’t say slavery is a good institution, even if it has been kept to this street only, on the other hand, it shouldn’t be left as it is. If it’s not managed and maintained properly, the number of misfortunate people will only increase. When I receive my territory in the future, you will be able to make a clear decision if you will come to a place such as this again. With correct management and since I intend such a place to not become a place where the bad guys are in control, I feel it’s necessary that I should know very well what kind of place it is inside and out. Therefore, the reason for coming here is to study it.」

 

Pax, while giving a bitter smile, shrugged his shoulders.

For him, the slave market is not a place of evil.

Of course, slaves aren’t evil either.

If it turns out it is evil, then his existence, surely at that time, will become evil as well.

 

「Studying, you say…」

 

Did he want to affirm his own existence?

Or, did you want to affirm the existences of your own neglected mother and father?

I just don’t know.

There was one thing I did understand, though.

Whatever it might be, he has been aiming for something very grand.

Otherwise, why else would he come to study something in a country so far away from Ouryuu Kingdom and not just observe and study his own nation’s slave market?

 

「Is it that detestable to you? Coming to a place such as this…」

「… Though I’m not enthusiastic, we are study buddies.」

 

Pax looked dazzling to me.

For the me who had given up on the dream to become an Ally of Justice and for me who lived a school life without any purpose at all, he was a very enviable existence.


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