Several minutes later, they returned to the hotel they were staying at. The first thing they saw upon entering the room was Darian, Rumble and Wolfenstine sitting. They were cheerfully speaking to each other.
Seeing them enter, the three of them greeted them cheerfully.
“Hey there!” Darian said cheerfully.
“Welcome back!” Rumbly said happily.
“Good work!” Wolfenstine said energetically.
“Yeah…” Ondine said moodily.
“Hmm? What’s this I hear? You don’t sound too energetic! What happened?” Wolfenstine asked them curiously.
“Well…” Ondine said hesitantly and turned to look at Lakshman.
Lakshman had walked over and sat in an empty chair and covered his face with his hand. She walked over and sat next to him and looked at him with a worried expression on her face.
“What’s the matter?” Darian asked when he noticed the air around those two.
When both were silent, Tetra transformed into her human form and sat on the other side of Lakshman.
“We just witnessed a slave treated badly and punished severely under the Slave Seal,” Tetra told them.
“Oh…!” Rumble said and they suddenly looked unhappy.
“Master’s been looking like this after seeing what happen at the slave we saved,” Ondine said in a sad voice.
“Saved? What do you mean?” Darian asked curiously.
Ondine began telling them what happened. About the parts where they came across the salves being killed and their swift action to save them. They also learnt of how the slave is half-Serprad Demon Clan and half-human. Then she told them about the slave’s treatment upon returning.
“I see…” Darian nodded in understanding.
He finally understood why Lakshman was looking so depressed. From the beginning, he understood Lakshman to be a kind, cheerful and nice person. Seeing the harsh cruelty of the salve must have upset him.
“Are you perhaps feeling sorry for the salves?” He asked curiously.
Ondine shook her head, but with an angry expression she said “I just dislike how the humans treat slaves! It’s disgusting that they do that sort of thing!”
“That’s out of our control. No amount of worrying or caring for them will help! In the end, they will always be treated like tools to be used and thrown away!” Rumble said and he sighed heavily.
At that moment, Lakshman suddenly removed his hand off his face and looked at them seriousl.
“That’s wrong! Life isn’t some sort of toy to play with! So many slaves died today and that noble guy didn’t even feel sorry or pray for their deaths! It’s like they mean nothing to him! It’s like slaves are just purposeful tools for use!”
“I know how you feel, but unfortunately that’s how the society functions. There is nothing we can do to change it! Nothing! No amount of arguing, discussing and threats, it will continue to happen!” Rumble said and he sounded irritated.
“But still… It’s wrong… Life is not a play thing. Their lives are not meaningless…” Lakshman said in a pained voice.
Ondine and Tetra tried to console by patting on the back. They knew he was young and innocent so the shocking truth was hard to swallow.
While they were consoling him, Darian looked at him intently. Lakshman’s outburst of anger and strong words made him remind of someone. In his long life, he had witnessed many things happen.
This, however, was the second time in life someone had spoken with such anger about the Slave System. The first person to wage a war against the Slave System was Felix Phoron, the Phoenix Emperor.
To some extent, Felix managed to create safety and lower violence towards them. Which made him wonder if he should bring Lakshman into it. It is a painful world, but he knew the kid will learn eventually. He finally decided to enlighten Lakshman about Felix’s efforts in that area.
Nodding his head at his decision, he rose to his feet and said “Lakshman! We’re going out for a bit!”
“Eh?” Lakshman said in surprised voice.
“Don’t give me that! Come on! We’re going!” Darian said and he walked towards the entrance to the room.
“R-Right!” Lakshman said quickly and he followed Darian.
When Darian noticed others following, he told them “Only the two of us! I don’t need interferences from anyone else!”
Darian spoke to them with a finality in his tone. They understood it to mean none of them are to be allowed to follow them. Unable to oppose to his firm order, they simply fell back into their chairs.
Darian and Lakshman quickly left the building and went out for a walk. For a while, they walked in silence as Lakshman tried to keep up with Darian’s long strides.
“W-Where are we going, Darian?” Lakshman asked curiously.
“You’ll see soon enough,” Darian said shortly.
A while later, Lakshman realised they were headed in the direction of the Labyrinth. He momentarily wondered whether they will be entering the Labyrinth.
Just then, Darian veered away and entered a side alley. It was dark and a feeling of murkiness filled the air. Like the last time, Lakshman did not like the feeling he received upon coming there.
“We’re here!” Darian announced and he came to a stop.
Lakshman stopped and looked around. They were standing in front of what looked like a shop. He looked up at the heading of the shop which read “Slave Hires” which puzzled him. It made him wonder if this was the Slave Market Emilia was referring to.
Darian pushed the door open with tinkle and Lakshman followed behind. From behind a counter, a man came to greet them. He wore dishevelled robes with oddly matching teeth. Just from looking at him, Lakshman had a recoil.
“How may I be of service to you misters?” The man asked Darian curiously.
“No need. I’ve only come to check on the goods,” Darian said firmly.
“O-Oh… Then please…” The man said and he pointed in the direction to an entranceway.
Darian headed towards it with Lakshman following close behind. The man watched them go before returning to attend the counter with a sour expression on his face.
When Lakshman entered through the room, he was suddenly hit with a powerful sense of despair. He did not know why, but he jumped slightly when Darian began speaking to him.
“Relax. Ignore how this place gives because it’s just how it is. Okay?”
“R-Right…” Lakshman said nervously.
Lakshman followed Darian for a few minutes until they came to a stop. There were rows and rows of larges cages big enough for a person to fit into. As they slowly walked along the rows of cages, Lakshman looked at them curiously. He was shocked to see small boys and girls locked inside.
“W-W-W-W…!” Lakshman stuttered in shock and was unable to find words to express himself.
Darian understood his reaction and said “Everyone in these cages are slaves to be sold for the right buyer.”
“Eh? Eh?! EH?!” Lakshman exclaimed in shock as he looked at the people locked in their cages.
Each and every one of them had blank expressions. Some, hearing footsteps, looked up at them. Lakshman was horrified to see the emptiness in their eyes or the lack of life in them. He almost felt as if he was looking at lifeless people.
“Slaves… Kids even younger than me are… salves…?” Lakshman asked in a low voice.
“It’s not just kids. There are some adults. You’ll also find non-human species among them as well. There are different slaves and can be bought for the right price.”
“To be sold like objects or materials… This is wrong…!” Lakshman said in a hushed voice.
Darian nodded with a grim expression on his face. He took Lakshman by the shoulder and left the shop. Lakshman was still shaken at seeing such a depressing sight, but what bothered him the most was the lifelessness each of them showed.
“Even before they get sold, some slaves die of bad health, not enough food and such. It’s a horrible life to lead as a slave.”
“Eh?!” Lakshman exclaimed in shock. Then he asked “Why are the people letting this happen? This is not right to treat them like this!”
Darian stopped and looked at him with a serious expression on his face. Lakshman was taken aback because that was the first time he had seen Darian looking so serious.
“When Felix was in charge, the slaves were well treated. They got decent food and received proper health checks. He also made sure they were not abused because they are also living being like us! They have feelings, emotions, minds, dreams and ambitions of their own like the rest of us!”
“So when Felix was labelled a traitor, the slaves were returned to their old treatment?” Lakshman asked. Then Darian nodded unhappily, he looked angry and said “Bloody humans…!”
“With Felix nowhere to be found, the Phoenix Clan are losing their grip. I went to speak with them today and they were in total disarray! They are losing their grip on the capital and they will eventually lose their grip over the region! The nobles are taking advantage of their disarray to do things their way.”
“Eh? Why is that? Can’t the king and queen do something about this?”
Darian shook his head and said “In name, Floria Kingdom have king and queen, but it was officially governed by the Phoenix Clan! Those guys are the peacekeepers of the races and the original rulers of this region!”
“What? Then what’s the point of having a king and queen then?”
“They are the figure heads of society which is exactly what is happening now. Without the Phoenix Clan to fix things up, the nobles have taken charge and are working things their way. That’s why those slaves are being treated like that!”
Lakshman’s eyes widened in horror. He could not believe the treatment humans were capable of. Hearing all this made him really angry and he said “Corrupted trash bags!”
Darian’s eyes widened in surprise and he quickly said “Don’t say that out loud! While that is the truth, the nobles now have great influence over the masses. Along with that, they have more wealth than us! They could very well put us in jail or label us as evil people!”
“Still! Why isn’t the Phoenix Clan stepping in to stop this? Aren’t they supposed to be the peace keepers?”
“They are too much in disarray because they are focusing on capturing Felix! Without him, they have begun to do some things badly and needs to be stopped! Which brings me to realise that Felix could possibly be in deep trouble!”
Lakshman suddenly looked worried because he feared that might not be true. Although it was a hunch that Darian made, it was reasonable to assume so. Felix was the only one that could put a stop to this and taking him out will ensure their victory.
Understanding all this, it brought him to one final question.
“What do we do now?” Lakshman asked Darian finally.
Darian looked at him and smiled. Somehow, Lakshman did not like how Darian was smiling as he looked at him.
“You will become a hero, the Phoenix Titan,” Darian told him cheerfully.
At first, Lakshman thought it was a joke. Then, seeing Darian nodding as if he knew what Lakshman was thinking, all Lakshman could do was open his eyes wide and exclaim wildly.
“Eh…? Eh… Eh?! EEEEEEEHHH?!”