After arriving a bit closer, a small stage with four stocks which are often used to restrain criminals enters our sight. There’s a person in each of them. Or specifically, a demi-human. A small crowd has gathered around the makeshift stage and is curiously observing the spectacle unfolding in front of their eyes.
We push through some people to get a bit better view. I notice a man dressed in quite a noble-looking clothes walking around the elevated area. Besides him, there’s one more person, holding a long and heavy axe. Their clothes are much less aristocratic, they just wear a leather vest and pants.
I focus on the stocks. The demi-humans being held in them are of some kind of a lizard-like race. There are three women and one man and they are all completely naked, having their heads and wrists locked in the wooden structures.
Their skin looks pretty much like your usual Human. The features that make them stand out are, first of all, the scales around their bodies. Trying my best to catch as many details as I can, I discern that those are similar to a dragon’s scales.
They cover the outer areas of their limbs to some extent, like starting on top of the foot, going up along the front of their legs, stopping and joining just above their nether regions, then branching to the sides and moving to their backs, leaving their bellies and chests exposed while the area around the back is covered in those scales, also leaving a little window along the spine, then joining again around the shoulders and the collarbone, going up the sides and back of the neck and ending around their cheeks. The scales also travel over the top of their arms, finishing on the backs of their hands.
Another very distinct feature is their lizard-like tail. It’s not very wide and thick, more like long and agile. From the looks, it seems like they can control it very well and I can imagine this race being able to grab things or fight with their tails easily. And the last parts to mention are their horns. They all have them sprouting out from above or behind their ears in the form of a sharp spike or two, matching the colour of their scales.
From all those details and the fact that most of their appearance is similar to that of a Human, including their faces and hair, I have an idea on what they are. If I’m not mistaken, the four people locked in the stocks are members of the Dragonewt race. All Lizardfolk have their whole bodies covered in scales and their tails are much tougher looking, so I don’t think they are some rare variant, not with those horns.
I catch a glimpse of Elea’s expression turning a bit sour as she watches the man circling the prisoners. Being too focused on trying to figure out who the people on the stage are, I stopped paying attention to the words of the crowd and the noble. Fixing that mistake, I move my gaze to him and listen closely.
“—ore, we need more people! This has to serve as an example! All those dirty scoundrels living in our city need to hear of this! They need to know what happens when they dare to raise a hand against our people! Against nobles! Against me!” the man screams to the crowd which is cheering after every other sentence.
「Example? Example of what? The hell are they doing in the middle of the square—」
While I’m pondering over this whole ordeal, my eyes move from the demi-humans onto the man holding the axe, who is just now beginning to walk closer to the convicts. Suddenly, the word example connects with the weapon, or rather a tool, in this case, in my head, and the intentions of that noble clear up to me immediately. My eyes go wide.
「Surely, they aren’t going to hold a public—」
Unfortunately, they are going to prove me wrong even before I finish my thought as the muscular man with the blade finishes walking to the first locked person and nonchalantly drops the axe onto their neck from above, beheading the poor girl with yellow scales. Her head lands in some container, which we can’t see from our position, with a soft thump.
“And that’s what you get for attacking our caravans! No mercy for filthy bandits! And especially none for those beasts!” The noble spits to the side. “Right?”
Another wave of cheering follows while a grimace appears on my face as I clench my fists in disdain. This is not a mere bandit execution. You don’t strip Human bandits naked for everyone to see. This is humiliation in the name of the law.
Holding self-righteous events like those is illegal in the kingdom so someone must have issued a permit for this to happen and I’m sure Ross didn’t get even a whiff of this. I bet one of the governmental bodies just went with the great idea of this fucker on the stage. The King would never allow such a shameful display, no matter what the person did or which race they belonged to.
As I’m mauling over the issue, another demi-human girl loses her head. I click my tongue. I obviously had to have this perfect timing to walk into something like this. And I even brought Elea with me.
When I look at her, she seems to be calm. From the way her face is tensed and unnaturally neutral, it’s actually easy to judge how much she is trying to tame down her emotions. And those are pretty noticeable through our connection. There’s a lot of anger and disdain, but more importantly, a huge chunk of helplessness. She wants to do something, but at the same time, she must be aware there’s not much she can achieve alone in the middle of a Human city.
I glance at the stage again. It’s not like there’s much I can do too. Intervening could possibly have some unforeseen complications and there are lots of people around. I can’t just jump up there and free the two people who are still alive. But am I going to just stay here and watch?
The noble riling up the crowd with his hands comes to my vision again. I catch a glimpse of his smile as he turns around to order his partner to cut down another person and I freeze. This is not a simple smile of someone glad to be able to bring down justice on some criminals. It’s way more sinister. He’s enjoying every second of this whole spectacle. A very bad feeling starts growing inside my heart, telling me that this may not be as simple as it looks. Sirgia’s situation flashes in front of my eyes and I clench my fists even harder while gritting my teeth.
Something touches my hand and I glance to the side. Elea came closer and is now gently squeezing my fingers with a concerned expression. She must have sensed my emotions through the link.
“Master, I think we should leave. Our friends are awaiting your—”
Third one. The sound makes Elea shiver. I can feel her fingers squeeze me harder for a moment and notice a bit of pleading in her eyes, hidden behind a wry smile, trying to assure me that everything is fine. She is not fine.
I take a deep breath and sigh heavily. She’s still placing me on the first spot even though I can feel how bad she wants to save the last girl from her fate. I escape her hold and brush her cheek softly, surprising Elea completely.
“That’s not how you say ‘please, save them’ in Common.” Her eyes widen in response to my words.
“I much more like girls who are honest with themselves, you know? Stay here.”
I have been idle for too long. Whatever happens, happens. I don’t want to blame myself for not even trying. Three people already lost their lives because I hesitated. I have the King behind my back. If things go to shit, I can always bring up the royal sigil I have on me. I’m a saviour in Elea’s eyes so let’s do what the saviour is supposed to do and save at least one person.
The last thing I catch from Elea while turning around and pushing through the crowd is a truly beautiful, relieved smile. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to adore it. The executioner is already heading for the last girl, a Dragonewt with fiery red scales and dark crimson hair.
Arriving close, I can see that she is struggling in the stocks, trying to break free before she ends up like her friends or family. Who knows if they really attacked this dude or if he’s just some sadist scum who kidnapped random people on his path.
Pushing myself off some random guy near the front of the stage, I jump onto it and immediately feel unimaginably disgusted. Even from afar this sight was awful, but seeing the naked bodies of three headless Dragonewts from point-blank can’t even compare to it. Some other scars and wounds on their vulnerable skin are now visible to me, proving that they definitely were at least beaten, if not tortured.
I shake my head to clear my mind and see the muscular man already bringing his axe up. Both of them are so into it that they haven’t yet noticed that someone got up onto their stage. Words may not be enough so I grab the draconic hilt which I always hide under my coat behind my back and quickly activate the whip form.
Before the axeman manages to make a complete swing, I send the rope to coil around the handle of his weapon and pull it to the side, altering its trajectory. The blade sinks into the wooden floor with a loud thud, a bit before the place where the stock is set. The crowd goes silent and both of the men look at me in confusion and surprise.
「Made it. Time to improvise again. Why does it always end up like this...」
I retract the whip, making a few snaps left and right on its way back to flaunt my weapon a bit. With it on my right, I start walking towards them. On my way to their positions, I scan the surroundings to check for any guard patrols. There seems to be one just leaving the market square. Let’s hope they don’t suddenly turn around.
“Who the hell are you? And what do you think you are doing?” the noble asks, visibly annoyed.
“Shut your trap for a moment and let me inspect the goods,” I say to him with an authoritative tone. He definitely didn’t expect someone talking to him like that as his face gets painted with shock.
“What? Is this some kind of a sick jo—”
The tip of my whip cracks the air barely centimetres from his ear, making him flinch and step to the side. The noble covers the side of his face and stares at me wide-eyed.
“I told you to shut it. Or should I use something else than words to convey the message?” I glare at the noble while preparing the hilt for another strike. He quickly shakes his head. “Good. Tell the big guy to drop the axe if he doesn’t want to lose a hand or two. I don’t like the way he’s staring at me.”
The executioner glances at his boss hesitantly and the latter nods frantically. He looks back at me, shrugs and throws his weapon to the ground. A smart guy. I send the whip to the axe, coil it around the handle and pull it back, sending it into the air and towards myself. I have no idea why I suddenly thought about showing off even more, but I, fortunately, manage to catch the spinning pole with my left hand.
I’m actually surprised how light it seems to me, but then I realize that my stats are quite abnormal and even with the limiting, Human physique, they are high enough to be visibly manifesting in reality. A rogue smile appears on my face as I shove the axe into the wooden planks. The guy seems to be a little impressed.
Nevertheless, I turn my attention to the girl locked to my right. She’s sending all of us quite the ferocious glares. Her crimson eyes with vertical pupils hold a lot of courage and will to fight. I come closer to her and take a good glance at her head. She has two pairs of vertical horns coming out from above her ears. They seem really sharp and tough. Her straight, medium-long, dark red hair falls to the sides of her face, just adding to her exotic beauty.
I crouch down in front of her and glance at her face. She immediately spits at mine. I slowly wipe it down and catch her head with my hand by the chin, squeezing her cheeks a little, acting like I’m examining her face in detail while angling it to the sides.
Moving my head really close to hers, practically arriving at her ear while trying to look like I’m checking on the horns, I whisper secretly.
“Just bear with me for a moment. I’ll get you out.”
Judging by her violent reaction, she must have understood Common, but also, most likely didn’t believe my words. I stand up and move to the back. I still need to act according to what I said, so I glance all over her body on the other side of the stock. I don’t notice any slavery mark at any place. That’s good. I can continue with the plan.
Even in this situation, I can’t help but admire her beautiful figure and fair skin decorated with a myriad of crimson scales. They just accentuate her charms beautifully while also functioning as armour for the places covered with them. Dragonewt’s scales are as tough as tempered steel, Lizardfolks don’t even come close to that, although the fact that the former have no cover on their bellies, chests and a big part of their back is quite a downside.
A very alluring downside I must say. The way her scales surround some of the more sensitive areas creates a very hard to resist image. Seeing them shyly reach towards the private parts from above can invoke some indecent thoughts at a moment’s notice. But let’s not dive into those thoughts. I’m not looking at her to satiate my desires but to keep appearances.
I walk to the stock and lean onto it from behind, having the prostrated body of the dragonewt girl on my side. She tries her best to tilt her head so she can look upwards at me, but the restraints don’t really allow her to do that.
I glance at the not so noble, noble.
“I’ve heard that you captured them after they attacked your caravan, right?” I question him.
He keeps nodding with an awkward smile. “Yes, yes! That’s exactly what happened.”
“Then am I right to assume that you are a merchant?”
I smirk at him. “That’s great. You see, I’m a man of opportunities. I see a valuable one, I can’t hold back from pursuing it. You should be able to get what I mean, hm?”
More nodding follows.
“And thus, there’s an opportunity in front of you too.” I tilt my head and point at myself.
“I see… and what would that opportunity be, Sir…?”
“Roderich. And it’s simple. I have a few pure-blood male Beastkins in my forward team. Those are some good dogs, they fight on the frontline without a yelp. But you see, there’s one small inconvenience that even the best slavery seals can’t fix. During full moons, they go into unimaginable heat and if it’s not taken care of, they are useless for at least a few days after. So, in short, I need this bitch here as emergency relief. Dragonewts are quite durable. She should last for some time.” I give the girl a light slap on the ass.
“Just try laying even a finger on my body and I’ll rip your dick off! I’d rather die than be a toy!” she finally speaks, or rather shouts, in what I think is Draconic, and begins to struggle again.
The noble furrows his brows. “I’m not sure what the opportunity here is—”
“Oh, for Goddess’s sake man… And you call yourself a merchant? The opportunity is for you to not lose your pathetic life and instead earn some decent coin from selling this waste here to me.” I roll my eyes and show him an annoyed expression.
He starts smiling even more nervously and frantically looking around. “You don’t mean… you can’t kill me, I’m—”
“Do you think I would bring that up if I wasn’t going to follow my words?”
I stop leaning against the stock and start walking towards the panicking noble. I take a slight detour to pick up the axe. He starts waving his hands, scared shitless. I’m surprised no one reacts in any way. The crowd is just whispering between themselves.
“Wait! Wait! This is a great opportunity! Of course, as a merchant, I can’t pass on it! What do you say about 20 gold coins?”
I reaffirm my grip on the axe’s handle. “Twenty?”
“Uhhh, I meant to say ten! It’s quite hot today and I’ve been in the sun for a bit too long, hahaha.”
“You still seem fine enough to make a good decision! Let’s make a deal then, Sir…?”
“Trance Leyton! The pleasure is all mine, hahaha.”
「I hope you are ready for a fucking raid first thing in the morning tomorrow if that really is your name, scum. I wonder how the King will react when I tell him about your little show.」
Trying my best to fake a satisfied smile, I shake his hand and give him ten gold coins. His lackey frees the girl and ties down her hands and feet together with a tough-looking rope. She does her best to somehow escape but to no avail. He pushes her forward, making the restrained dragonewt fall to the ground. She sends me a furious glare.
「Sorry, just a little longer, I swear.」
I apologize in my mind. Can’t really do anything else right now. I take off my coat and throw it at the girl before picking her up and placing her over my shoulder. I can do at least this much. Checking if the two men are truly going to follow through and not try anything behind my back, I head to the stairs leading down from the stage.
Everyone in the crowd makes a way for me, clearly not wanting to annoy me after the given spectacle. I smirk at them and confidently walk towards Elea. I can sense her happiness and gratitude already, but the charming smile she tries so hard to get rid of before I come closer is enough to clearly let me read her mood.
“Let’s go, Elea.” I tap her shoulder with a smile. She nods and we quickly disappear into an alley.
The moment we get out of the sight of the crowd, the dragonewt girl starts wriggling on my shoulder.
“Damned Human! This is your chance! Let me go or I’m going to kill you so hard that your ancestors back from before the Great War will feel the pain!”
She actually uses Common this time, most likely wanting to raise her chances of talking me into doing her bidding. I try to calm her down. I don’t mind releasing her, but doing so in the middle of the city is a bad idea.
“Stop struggling so much, I will set you free at my home. Just play along for a little longer.”
“You fucker! Like hell I will believe that, grrrrh!”
Unfortunately, that doesn't work. I don’t think she’s the type to believe in some simple words, especially when they come from a Human. Elea slows down her pace and moves behind me to face the red-haired girl.
“Master is not a liar so please, stop slandering him. He saved your life. You should be grateful,” she tries her best to succeed where I failed.
But, similar to before, she gets spat on. “Eat shit you disgrace of an Elf! Fucking broken, mindless doll at his every command!”
I can sense Elea feeling hurt after hearing her words. I quickly turn around, surprising the elf woman. My hand touches her cheek and I brush through her hair around her long ear with a kind smile.
“Don’t listen to her, I know best how noble and loyal to your beliefs you are. I dare to say that there’s no other Dark Elf so strongly devoted to their community.”
She blushes a bit and the tips of her ears get slightly red. “Yes…” she says with an appealing smile and then steps closer to hug me. I pat her on the back with my free hand. It might be my imagination, but I feel like she is sniffing my neck and her hands are wandering dangerously close to my butt before quickly jumping up.
“A Mage? Illusion? Charm magic? Don’t think you can break me so easily!”
The girl keeps kicking so we leave the hug. Elea continues walking as if nothing has happened. I guess it really was my imagination.
All attempts to talk with the dragonewt end up in vain. She doesn’t believe me even when I use Draconic, saying that I’m using magic to fool her. I really hope that she calms down after talking with the other girls. I send all of them a whisper to gather in the main hall since I’ll be bringing a demi-human who is a bit sceptical.
We somehow reach the mansion without me dropping the wriggling girl to the ground. Seriously, that was hard. She really lives up to her race’s strength and endurance, struggling for the whole way back.
After entering through the door, we are greeted by everyone already waiting. Safi and Emi don’t waste this chance to show their learned etiquette and make a bow while standing on both sides of the entrance. I give them both a pat as a reward.
“Okay, I’m now going to place you down, cut your ties and step back. And that’s all I will do. Got it?” I speak as calmly and kindly to the girl as I can.
With her on the ground, I fix my coat on her shoulders a bit. I still have a full view of her front, including the private areas, but I do my best to keep my eyes on her face. It’s not that hard with her being only slightly shorter than me. She seems to be around 170cm or so, excluding the horns.
It looks like she finally calmed down to some extent. She still sends me angry glares but stopped creating such a fuss physically. I smile at her and bring out the draconic hilt. She jumps a little seeing a weird, purplish mist suddenly forming a solid shortsword.
“Don’t worry, it’s just for the ropes. After we get rid of them, you can go with any of the girls here to get some clothes and ask them about anything. Ah, maybe besides the elves, they aren’t that good with Common, okay?”
She looks around at everyone and nods after returning to me. I first take care of her wrists and then move to deal with her ankles. Dematerializing the blade, I raise myself back up to speak with her again.
As I’m reaching her height, I notice that she seems to have turned her back to me.
Rather than turning her back to me, she spins around and slams her tail into my stomach with incredible strength, sending me flying backwards until I hit the reception desk with my back.
Somehow, the wooden counter survives the impact. It still hurts like hell crashing against it with my body though. I instantly start Rejuvenate focusing on the most painful places. As far as I’m aware, from spreading my mana all around my body, there doesn’t seem to be any broken bones. My high Constitution is starting to pay off.
“Quickly! Run away with me while he is recovering!” the dragonewt girl shouts to all others.
Predicting what might soon happen, which is not that hard to do with so much anger and rage flowing into my mind through almost all my Partners' connections, I try to order my girls to stand back, but no voice leaves my throat. I hit my back too hard and can’t speak yet.
“Why are you not moving? Do I need to kill him to release you?” she shouts again after seeing all the angry glares aimed at her.
Cornelia runs up to me to check my injuries and I watch as Sirgia is the first one to take action. She either ignores or is too mad to hear my magical whispers so I focus all my efforts on healing my chest area while seeing as she arrives in front of the much taller woman and grabs her by the hand.
“What are you—”
The dragonewt has no chance to finish her sentence. The next second she is thrown onto the floor with a loud thump. Slightly shocked, she manages to roll to the side and dodge the fist coming at her from above.
The main hall shakes a little and Sirgia creates at least a three-meter wide crack in the floor. This had to be a punch supported by her Physical Strengthening skill. There’s no way she can exert this much force with just her body.
The red-haired girl gets into a crouching position after getting out of danger. She stares at my dwarf with wide eyes. If that did hit, she would have been turned into paste. She trembles after locking gazes with Sirgia. I can only imagine how furious she must look right now.
Three of the elves pass by me and Cornelia. They were standing on the stairs above and are planning on joining the fight right now. I send another whisper, this time to Elea and Cornelia, to stop everyone. I don’t want to risk other elves not hearing me too and I can see Safi and Emi preparing something weird together. I have a really bad feeling about that.
Fortunately, Elea and Cornelia didn’t lose their cool, even though I can feel their animosity towards our guest. The former uses her magical focus to summon some vines and catches her friends before they reach my assailant. The latter whispers a quick chant and a wall of ice appears between the girl and Sirgia, just in time to block her next punch.
I see my dwarf’s head jerk to the side as if she received some kind of a message and she jumps away from the obstacle. Relieved that perhaps my whisper arrived with a delay, I glance at the slimes and instantly realize why she did so.
Safi and Emi joined their hands and feet, creating something akin to a circle standing vertically with how they extended their bodies to the sides while leaving the middle empty. There is some weird, gurgling orb of green substance hanging in the air where the cleared space is. Their cores start racing around the loop faster and faster.
The bad feeling grows even more. I quickly glance at Cornelia, finally being able to utter a word.
“Cough… cough… Cover her!” I say, still a bit quietly.
She instantly generates another three walls between the slimes and the dragonewt and we watch as a pressurized stream of acid shoots at it like a water jet. It eats through the first obstacle in a flash, puncturing another a second later. Cornelia keeps summoning new ones, but that won’t hold on for long. Sirgia somehow makes it to the dragonewt girl without her noticing and holds her down in place so that she doesn’t run away from the deadly laser.
Gathering up as much strength as I can, I shout to the girls, hoping that they will hear me this time, “STOP IT! EVERYONE, CALM DOWN!”
The ray of acid slowly loses its power and soon disappears. Safi and Emi turn back to their usual state. Sirgia finally breaks out of her frenzied mode and glances my way. She releases the dragonewt girl who falls onto her butt, surprised, and breaks into a run towards me.
Making quite big leaps she arrives at my side in a flash and gets on her knees in front of me with a really concerned expression. Her eyes dart all over my body, especially around the place where I’m still clutching my chest.
“I’m fine. Just some minor bruises so don’t make that face, okay?”
I use my other hand to pat her head while smiling. She very slowly leans closer onto me so as to not cause more pain. I sigh heavily with her in my embrace and look around. Safi and Emi also have already arrived at my other side. They both assume apologetic expressions.
Elea walks up to the dragonewt girl sitting on the ground and extends a hand to her to help her up. Thank god at least one person is showing some kind—
—and she instantly hits her face after the girl stands up.
“I’ve already told you to stop slandering your saviour. Don’t make me regret asking him to save you.”
She leaves the still dumbfounded from the whole thing dragonewt and joins everyone gathered around me.
“Girls, I’m okay, thanks for worrying about me but let’s not escalate things further.”
I give Sirgia a peck on the forehead and stand up with Cornelia’s help. Elea invokes a much more potent healing spell than my Rejuvenate and takes care of me pretty quickly. Asking Sirgia to release me for a moment, I look at the dragonewt girl.
“If you want to run away, go for it. They won’t stop you. Good luck trying to escape the city dashing through the streets stark naked though.” I point at the entrance.
She glances at it and then back at me, most likely considering that option but not being sure about the not stopping part.
“Or, you can choose to finally believe my words and let me help you with that. I can get you out of the walls with ease. Do you really think I could brainwash this many strong people?”
She looks between all the girls and stops her gaze at Sirgia, who is clutching my right hand to her chest while staring daggers at her. Noticing that, I pat her head, surprising the dwarf a little, but she quickly looks up at me with a faint smile, still a bit of concern hidden behind it.
“What about… the beastkin…?” the girl decides to start asking questions.
“A lie. If you would have listened to anything I said on our way here, you would have known it was all an act.”
“Is he really not controlling you?” she asks others.
Everyone shakes their heads. “Do you see any slavery seals on us?” Elea replies with a question.
「Oi, oi. That’s misleading. You DO have them.」
But the fact that none are visible persists and that seems to calm the scaly girl down a bit. She makes a deep sigh.
“Okay… I will trust your words… for now.”
“Good. If you are that afraid of me then I will just keep my distance from you. Elea, could you show her the bath and give her some clothes?” I turn to the elf.
“Only after she apologizes for hurting Master.” She gives the girl a not-so-friendly smile, clearly not willing to move until her demand is fulfilled.
“That’s right! She has to apologize first!” Surprisingly, Sirgia jumps onto the case.
Cornelia chuckles seeing the girls’ devotion. I glance at her and she winks at me. “It’s obvious. You can’t expect to have a nice stay right after insulting the master of the house, can you?”
Everyone nods and turns to stare at the poor dragonewt. She shudders a little under their gazes. “I… I’m sorry for attacking you…” she apologizes quite hesitantly.
Elea claps her hands. “Great. Now come with me, we have a lot to talk about.” She walks up to the girl and grabs her arm, pulling her towards the stairs to the upper level. They soon disappear from our sight.
I sigh again and move to Safi and Emi to give them some hugs and pats. They did jump to my defence so I shouldn’t scold them for it too much. The technique they used was quite powerful though. If not for Cornelia’s walls, the hall would have been pretty much sliced like butter.
After dealing with them, I walk to the three-meter wide crack in the floor and stand near it with my hands on the hips. Sirgia trots shyly to my side, giving me guilty glances. I brush through her hair.
“How in hell did you hit it so hard?” I ask her.
“I’m sorry… I used both Physical Strengthening and Crushing Fury at the same time…” she answers while fiddling with her fingers.
“It’s like a Berserker’s Rage skill but unique to my Class. It’s still level 1 because I never used it in the past, being afraid that I may lose my mind and hurt my friends…”
“I see. So that’s why you missed my whispers. Well, you are the one who will have to fix it anyway.”
“I’m really sorry…”
I kneel down and give the cute dwarf a kiss. “It’s okay. You just showed me how much you care about me and that makes me really happy. She did start it so I can’t really blame you.”
She giggles cutely and leaves a peck on my cheek. We start fixing up all the furniture that fell over during this little bout. I hope that Elea won’t be too hard on the dragonewt girl up there. Looks like our opening night got delayed again. Nothing ever goes as planned.