In my deep slumber, I started feeling a slight pain and dull aches throughout my body. Slowly, I began to awaken.
My thoughts were hazy at first, but as I remembered being abducted, I jolted awake.
(Where is Ashera?!)
I tried to look around, but my hands were tied behind my back, rendering me immobile.
Like a caterpillar, I wriggled and crawled to get a better view of my surroundings. There, I spotted Ashera tied up just beside me.
I called her name in my mind and inched closer to her.
(Is she breathing…)
I brought my ear close to Ashera’s mouth and heard the sound of her breathing—soft inhales and exhales.
(Thank goodness… she seems okay. Maybe she’s just sleeping from that drug…)
Relieved that she was safe for now, I shifted my focus to our predicament.
(Why would they abduct us like this?)
I recalled the events leading up to our abduction and couldn’t help but notice how efficiently it was executed.
(They took us by surprise and used some kind of drug… but why both of us? Their methods seem too skilled…)
I started considering the possibilities.
(They couldn’t have planned this too well… transporting unconscious children like this would attract attention. Maybe they use something to carry kids like us normally? Kidnapping children must be their regular business…)
I couldn’t help but feel angry at the thought that these criminals were likely habitual child abductors. However, my priority was our safety.
(Regardless, we need to escape from here… but where are we? How can we get out?)
I scanned my surroundings again. It appeared to be some kind of warehouse, with farming tools, hoes, sickles, ropes, and other items stacked inside.
Crawling like a caterpillar, I moved closer to a hoe that was propped up against a wall, its blade facing toward me. I concentrated my mental energy and enveloped my arm with magical power. It was the body enhancement technique I had recently learned.
At first, I had underestimated this technique. When I had tried to use it, I realized it required precise manipulation of magical power, making it more challenging than I had initially thought. Currently, I could only use this enhancement to increase the defense of my arm’s surface and briefly enhance my speed.
Carefully, I used my magically enhanced arm to rub the rope against the hoe’s blade, and eventually, I managed to cut it.
Now free from my restraints, I knew I needed more information about our situation. Silently, I stood up and cautiously approached the only door in the room.
I stood in front of the door, my ears straining to catch any sounds from the other side.
Ten seconds passed… Twenty… One minute…
Touch the doorknob slowly, first checking to see if it’s locked. I slowly turned the doorknob…it turned…apparently it wasn’t locked.
My heart pounded loudly in my chest as I prepared to investigate what lay beyond the door.
Making up my mind, I slowly open the door a little…a small gap is created, and I bring my face close to look outside the door…(If it were a movie, this would definitely be the timing for something to happen)
The area beyond the room turned out to be a corridor, and in the distance, I could faintly hear people talking. I took a moment to revisit the room, making sure Ashera was still within sight.
(Should I wake Ashera first, or should I check the corridor first? Can she handle this situation?)
Honestly, expecting a 7-year-old girl to handle this situation was unrealistic.
(Perhaps it’s best if we escape together. However, I need information first.)
Killing was not an option, especially given the uncertainty of our situation. I had to gather information first.
(If I escape first, I might be able to get help faster. But if something happens to Ashera while I’m gone… Worst-case scenario, if they realize I’ve escaped and silence Ashera…)
Our top priority was our safety.
(Alright, we’ll escape together. But I need information first.)
I carefully closed the door behind me, making sure it made no noise, and then silently moved towards the direction of the faint voices.
The corridor led to a small room where the voices were coming from. I approached this room slowly, my heart pounding with fear.
“Is that slave trader coming today?”
“How am I supposed to know that?!”
I could hear their conversation, confirming that we had indeed been kidnapped.
“Ganchi-san, those kids are from noble families, right? Are you sure this is okay?”
“Of course! Just keep your mouth shut. You’re such a coward, Tab.”
“Tab, don’t worry. Once we sell them, there’ll be no trace. You need the money, right? So, you’ll have to take some risks.”
Three voices in total.
“At least three of them for sure… but there could be more allies nearby.”
I knew the number of our enemies, at the very least: Tab, Ganchi, and Jarrod.
(Three enemies minimum… I need more information.)
The room seemed like the only way out, but I needed more information.
(Based on what I’ve seen, we have to go through this room to escape. But how will we get out?)
As I contemplated our escape, the conversation among the three men took an ominous turn.
“Shouldn’t those kids be waking up soon?”
“What can they do even if they wake up? Cry and call for mommy, probably.”
“In any case, let’s not make too much noise. Tab, keep an eye on them. If they wake up, use this to put them back to sleep.”
With that, Jarrod picked up a small vial from the table.
“That must be the sleeping potion!”
I glared at the vial, where my own drugged fate had likely originated.
Tab replied and received the vial. He then reached for a piece of cloth on the shelf.
(That room will be my destination… I have to get back there or I’ll be discovered.)
I couldn’t afford to be found out. I needed information first.
I hurried down the hallway, being careful not to make any noise.
I opened the door carefully but quickly. Ashera is still sleeping.
(What should I do? I have to get through it for now…)
I grabbed the broken rope that had fallen in front of the hoe behind my back and hurriedly laid down.
I can hear the sound of footsteps walking down the hallway.
The door opened slowly.
The footsteps gradually draw nearer… It’s scary.
The presence seems to be moving toward Ashera. He must be checking if she’s still asleep.
He confirmed that she’s still sleeping, and he seems to be observing her while sitting down.
I hear a faint voice, but it’s too soft to make out.
Tab stands up, and it appears he is coming closer to my side.
Either to confirm that I’m asleep, just like Ashera, or to sit down and peer at me, I’m not sure.
Suddenly, I feel a touch on my head. I remain feigning sleep, puzzled by this unexpected gesture.
I couldn’t hear that earlier, but Tab was indeed apologizing.
(Kidnapping us and then apologizing? What’s going on?)
Meanwhile, Tab gets up and appears to be leaving the room.
I decide to take a gamble. I have no real advantage here. I’ll trust my instincts and try to engage Tab in conversation as they attempt to leave the room.
“Hey, mister, why are you apologizing?”
“Eh? You were awake!”
Thinking I was asleep, Tab seems surprised when I address them.
“Shh, mister, be quiet.”
I instruct Tab to remain quiet, and he seems completely bewildered by my words.
“Did you kidnap me, mister?”
Tab averts his face as if in pain and starts speaking with difficulty.
“I… I’m sorry, but I needed money… for my daughter’s medicine… there was no other way… it couldn’t be helped…”
The word “money” catches my attention.
“I can give you money. That’s why I want you to let us go.”
“Something like that… is impossible…”
“My grandpa is the lord here. So, there’s money.”
“Th-the lord’s grandson…”
Upon hearing my words, Tab collapses to the ground.
“I thought you might be some noble’s child, but the lord’s grandson… The knights will come running… It’s impossible… Marl, forgive your father…”
Muttering what seems to be his daughter’s name, Tab breaks down in tears.
After a few minutes, during which Tab somewhat composes himself, I speak again.
“You accidentally witnessed the kidnapping of a child, which happened to be us. Worried that you might have seen too much, you followed us.”
I start explaining to Tab, who is now looking at me with a puzzled expression.
“And then, you found an opportunity to help us escape. The child you rescued turns out to be the lord’s grandson. Naturally, there will be talk of a reward. That’s when you ask for your daughter’s medicine.”
I continue with my story, and Tab looks at me with an open mouth.
“What are you talking about?”
“The story of the future”
“There’s no way such a story exists. I’m a kidnapper, and you’re the victim. Nothing changes…”
“That’s only if you tell the truth, right?”
Tab, who had despair written all over his face as he bowed his head, suddenly turned to me with wide eyes.
“No one else has seen me besides you. So, if I tell the story, it becomes reality. No one will believe what Ganji and Jarrod say.”
“No one will believe…”
A spark of hope returned to Tab’s eyes.
“E-Either way, if it’s known that you kidnapped the lord’s grandson, it’s certain death. There’s no escaping from the knights…”
Tab appeared genuinely torn between the current situation and my proposal.
“Fine, I’ll believe in the lord’s grandson…”
To Tab’s words, I dropped the rope binding my hands and stood up.
“You, even the rope…”
“Never mind that. I’m counting on you, Tab.”
“You even know my name…”
I extended my hand for a handshake. Tab cautiously reached out, and I firmly grasped his hand. At first, it was a weak grip, but by the end, we shook hands firmly.
“I’m Aldo, nice to meet you.”
“I’m Tab… I’m counting on you for the medicine.”
“Leave it to me.”
Tab provided some information. First, there were no other accomplices; it was just the three of them. The location was a corner of the slums in Blue Ring, and it had been about an hour since we were put to sleep.
Thanks to Tab joining us, our chances of escape had significantly improved.
The most reliable option would be to call the knights to our rescue, but that might not give Tab enough credit for his efforts. He deserved something more for helping us.
(If that’s the case, the most certain option would be to use the sleeping potion Tab has…)
“Is there any other way to use that potion except inhaling it?”
“Yeah, drinking it or applying it through wounds both work.”
“I see, so it works when ingested…”
Failure was not an option. I had to ensure that the potion was taken.
While I contemplated the best method, Tab began speaking again.
“I can’t be away for too long, or they might come back to check. I’ll try to give them the medicine somehow. Please wait.”
I nodded in response to Tab’s words. However, I wouldn’t just idly wait. I needed to prepare for any unforeseen circumstances.
I scanned the surroundings for anything that could serve as a weapon. It was makeshift, but I fashioned a makeshift spear by attaching the blade of a sickle to the end of a stick. I tested it by thrusting it forward. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than bare hands.
It was about time to wake Ashera up and explain the situation. As I approached the sleeping Ashera, I removed the rope binding her. I gently shook her and whispered to get her attention. Slowly, her eyes opened.
At first, she gazed at me with a dazed look, but gradually, she became more alert.
How should I explain the current situation to her? I was at a loss. Suddenly, Ashera looked around. She must have remembered being abducted and waking up in an unfamiliar place. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Ashera, it’s going to be okay. We’ll be able to go home soon! Just wait a little longer.”
Tears continued to well up in Ashera’s eyes as she looked around.
“Wait. Be quiet for now. If you make a loud noise, scary people might come.”
The mention of “scary people” caught Ashera’s attention, and her tears welled up even more.
“Shh, Ashera. It’s okay. I promise we’ll get out of here safely.”
She sniffled but nodded, trying to be brave despite her fear.
(She’s a strong kid. Even I, at 34 years old, am scared…)
I continued to stroke Ashera’s head while observing her. She seemed startled at first but appeared to be calming down. She should be fine like this.
As I kept an eye out for any signs of activity in the hallway, I couldn’t hear any sounds of a struggle. Just when I started feeling anxious due to the uncertainty of the situation, I heard hurried footsteps echoing down the corridor.
I instinctively readied my makeshift spear and stepped in front of Ashera.
(Is it Tab? If it were Ganji or Jarrod… Can I even fight them?)
My mouth went dry. I was terrified…
Without the opportunity to use my body enhancement, the door slowly creaked open…
“Aldo-sama, are you okay?”
It was Tab. Tab’s voice. I felt a profound sense of relief and lowered my makeshift spear.