Interlude, Ifa, at the official residence of the Governor of ProtoAsta (3)
The day after visiting the palace harem.
Ifa and Rize left the royal city of Asta in an early morning carriage and arrived in Proto Asta before noon.
When we returned to the Governor’s residence, we were met by Prince Cecilio with several guards.
“Oh! Welcome back, Ifa. Everything all right on the road? Well, with Rize around, I’m sure everything was fine.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you …”
Ifa replies with reluctance, but shook her head inwardly.
Why does he have an escort with him? It may be a replacement for Rize, but was he meeting with someone else?
The prince says with a smile.
“I’ve been waiting for you. Now, come this way.”
I had no choice but to follow along with Rize, as I was told.
I was brought to a room that looked like a conference room on the second floor of the official residence.
There is a terrace facing a large garden, and the windows are open, perhaps to let in the breeze.
There were several other men in the room.
The prince calls out to one of them.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Mr. Curtis. It’s her.”
“Oh, this is a top product, isn’t it? This is …… a fine item.”
An obese, middle-aged man pulled his face close to hers and turned his eyes on her as if he was assessing her. Ifa involuntarily pulled a face and backed away.
“Originally, it’s normal to be naked to see if you have skin diseases, scars, or nutritional status, but … well, that’s not the case.”
The obese man then asks the prince.
“She has some learning, doesn’t she? And can use magic.”
‘It’s difficult ……. It’s hard to read the demand for such value-added slaves, and it’s hard to put a price on them. However, I would still give a rough estimate. ……”
The man had the boy who was waiting for him bring a piece of paper and a pen, and he filled in something on it.
He hands it over to the prince.
“I think it’s around here.”
“Isn’t this almost what we prepared……? Good. Curtis, I think that qualifies as official value.”
“Yes, Your Highness”
A man with a beard, who was handed a piece of paper by the prince, says.
“It bears the date, the seal of the Chamber of Commerce, the name of the comptroller, and the name of the slave. I, Curtis, the tax collector, can confirm that this is a solid document that objectively shows its value.”
The bearded man continues.
“The release tax is one-twentieth of the face value.”
As the prince called out, one of his guards opened a leather bag he was carrying on his desk.
Ifa was taken aback.
Stored there was a large quantity of gold coins.
“Oh, um, what’s this ……?”
Driven by an inexpressible sense of anxiety, Ifa asks the prince,
The prince turned to Ifa, smiled and said.
Your release papers, Ifa.
“From this day on, you will be free.”
To the confused Eefa, the prince speaks up as if to admonish her.
“You know, in Astilia and in the Empire, slaves have a system of liberation. If you pay the same amount of money as your own value to your master and pay the prescribed tax, you will be free.”
The prince continues.
“The government has to go through the procedures, but since I am the head of the executive branch, I have no problem with it. And I will pay all the money for the release……”
“You will pay the appropriate amount of money to Seika-dono and pay a portion of it to the city as a liberation tax. In a sense, you have bought yourself back. Don’t worry. We will take care of all the formalities.”
“Eh … No way! I can’t do that.”
Ifa says, as if to herself.
“You need Seika-kun’s approval for the release. You can’t just go through the process on your own. ……”
The prince goes on to say.
“It should have been the norm for the wealthy in the empire to reward slaves for their work and eventually free them. Refusing to free a slave for whom you have been paid enough money is not a very honorable thing to do in the eyes of the public. But…… still, if Lord Seika does not approve of your emancipation, then…..”
The prince tells me.
“Then I will issue a slave requisition in Proto Asta and forcibly purchase you from Lord Seika.”
“Eh……! I, such a thing……”
“The system was originally intended for wartime, but it can be issued at the will of the mayor without the approval of the Board of Supervisors. Once you are treated as a public property of the city, I can decide what to do with you after that. All I have to do is buy you again and then release you.”
Ifa says in a panic.
“I didn’t ask for that!”
“Rize has told me all about it.”
The prince says in a calm tone.
“I, who cannot see spirits, do not understand the horrors of Seika-dono. …… But I can’t leave you under the thumb of a master who could be dangerous.”
“And …… you must have had a hard time being a slave all your life. At this time, I do not ask for the price of freedom. You can decide if you want to be in the palace or not. I only want you to live your own life.”
Ifa asks in a slightly trembling voice.
“In the empire, …… freed slaves need adult guardianship. When I’m free, w-will I be able to return to the academy ……?”
The prince looked away with an embarrassed look on his face.
“It is …… necessary to designate a guardian and then have the procedure done in the empire, but ……”
Ifa learned that her bad premonition had come true.
Under imperial law, a freed slave needs a guardian to guarantee his or her life and position.
By convention, it is usually served by the former master who liberated them.
However, Seika is not yet an adult.
And even if it is a client state or a local territory, it is not possible to spend time in a big city or an imperial institution with an illegal status without a guardian.
Once released, she will not be able to return to the academy.
It meant being separated from Seika.
“…… Seika-sama said that if it was up to your will, he would be happy to let you go free in this country. Originally, he didn’t seem too attached to you.”
The prince’s words, uttered as if in pursuit, shook her heart greatly.
After all, I just can’t accept it.
“No, no. I do not want to be liberated.”
“Why……. Don’t you want to be free? Don’t you want to live your own life? A slave puts his life in the hands of another. Why do you want to serve an unknown master?”
“I decide what I want! My identity may not be free, but I am free to do what I want!”
“…… I have the paperwork ready for the release procedure, what would you like me to do? Your Highness.”
The bearded man said in a chilling tone.
“I need the slave’s thumbprint for this.”
“… But Ifa’s will …”
“You seem to be troubled, Your Highness. It’s not unusual for slaves to want to be slaves themselves.”
The obese man says with a light laugh.
“When people are put in a difficult situation, they try to protect their hearts and minds by believing that the situation is something they want. I have seen many slaves who have said things like the girl did. Well, in a sense, they have lost their minds.”
“…… how do you bring them back to their senses?”
The obese man shrugged.
“It is impossible right away. But if the situation gets better, she will eventually realize that she was wrong. For now……First of all, I wonder if it’s okay to let me approve it even by force.”
“I see. Hey.”
At the prince’s call, two guards hold Ifa down.
“I’m sorry, Ifa ……. take the thumbprint, Curtis.”
“Yes. Ink is here.”
“Stop it! Now, or else ……!”
Ifa calls out to the spirits that clothe her.
When push comes to shove, use magic.
I knew that the experience of being scolded by Seika was for this moment.
“Don’t use magic”
The spirits that were about to respond.
All of them suddenly silenced.
To Ifa’s horror, she saw countless white butterflies dancing around the entire room.
A spirit of light.
It was a magic of light, similar to the barrier art used by Seika.
Rize with a stern look says.
“If you wield your power here, the matter will not be yours alone. —- Well, I can’t help you in my [sanctuary].”
“Forgive me. This should be good for our country …… and, by extension, for you.”
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain in my left thumb.
A hot sensation of blood. A small bird, glowing green, flashes across my vision.
Ifa quickly realizes that she has been cut by what looks like a blade of wind.
“A blood thumbprint will do just fine, Curtis.”
“Oh, as expected of you, Rize-dono. You’re a terrific shot.”
The left hand held by the soldier gradually moves closer to the parchment lined with letters.
Fingers gripped so tight that they turn white are forced open.
Ifa involuntarily squeezed her eyes shut.
A thumb, wet with blood, just about to touch the parchment —-
Inside the room, a gust of wind blew.