“…How many days have I been here?”
Mumbled Elise, who was laying on a bed, but I didn’t have an answer for her.
“You were already here when I was kidnapped. You’re the only one that would know.”
“Hum… You came three days later, I think.”
“Then… I’ve been here for seventeen days, and you’ve been here for twenty. And I guess it’s been fifteen for Elmer and Joseph.”
“That’s amazing Ronia.”
This compliment annoyed more than it made me happy.
“It’s not amazing! We can’t stay here forever!”
“The food is nice, we don’t need to take lessons, no one complains when we spend all day reading… This is nice.”
This girl was just too naive. She wasn’t bad, but had no sense of danger whatsoever.
The four of us have been kidnapped.
The house we were in was kind of nice. It was probably somewhere in the east part of the Labyrinth City. It was made of wood, had three floors, and looked like the sort of residence merchants would live in. It wasn’t the sort of fancy place nobles lived in, but it was spacious and comfortable.
But we weren’t allowed to go outside.
The windows were nailed shut with storm shutters, and the front door was locked with chains and some sort of spell.
I assumed that probably wasn’t all. I imagined there was probably something outside that alerted the old man right away if we did manage to go outside.
“But Old man Narga isn’t scary.”
“You know… Just because someone doesn’t show you a scary face, that doesn’t mean they’re not scary. People can pet a cow they’re planning to turn into meat later.”
“Are we going to be eaten?”
It was reasonable to assume we’d be sold to questionable nobles, or worst case scenario, unregistered sorcerers to be treated as lab rats.
But there was no point in telling this to a sheltered girl that looked like she would believe babies came from storks. I didn’t want to deal with her bawling when she could not accept reality.
She told me she was about twelve, but she felt like she was younger than ten.
“Anyway, we need to look for a chance to escape.”
“What if we end up like Martha?”
Martha, the first kid to get there, who wasn’t there anymore.
“That was an accident.”
Martha was about my age, and my friend from before we were kidnapped.
She had a pretty face, and people said she would eventually marry some merchant who fell in love at first sight and become rich.
But for some reason, she had the bad habit of stealing.
She had parents, but her friends taught her how to pickpocket, and she would steal anything she could. Not just wallets and keys, she could even steal rings from people’s fingers.
If she lived an honest life she could’ve become a normal adult and live a happy life, but her talent was her worst enemy.
She stole a small bottle from that old man’s pocket. I’m sure what she was really looking for was a key to those chains, or some other way to escape.
She opened the bottle, found bloody gauze inside it, and touched it. She immediately realized it was dirty, threw it away, and wiped her hands with a wet cloth.
But she had the habit of biting her nails.
That man’s face turned white when he heard what happened.
He took her somewhere when she started coughing. I could more or less guess what happened. The blood in that bottle came from a sick person, and it infected her.
“…In any case, we don’t even know what will happen if we stay here.”
“But there’s nothing we can do. We should just get used to it, and stay quiet so we don’t end up like Martha.”
Said Elise as she laid on the bed, reading a book the old man left here. He left picture books for children, and textbooks that taught magic. Elise loves reading them.
Her parents were harsh. They would make sure to train her for homemaking, but wouldn’t let her study much else. They planned to send her to a baron’s house to learn proper manners while working as a maid after she completed elementary school, but she was obviously not happy about that. She wouldn’t be staring at that magic textbook if she was.
It was like Elise didn’t fear that man at all. And the other two tried to come up with ways to escape at first, but gave up after they failed.
They completely forgot about escaping, and were now completely immersed in the board game they were playing. I couldn’t count on them.
“I’m hungry. Let’s eat some bread or something.”
“The other two, Elmer and Joseph, yawned on their way to the kitchen.
“Don’t eat too much again.”
“It’s fine. There’s not much else to do.”
“That man doesn’t mind anyway. What about you? Stop hiding food while pretending to eat.”
They were all so unconcerned.
These two had parents that were worried about them and everything.
“If you want to stay here forever then be my guest!”
“I want to get out, but you know we can’t. That old man is dangerous, you really shouldn’t cross him.”
Joseph was surprised to hear what Elmer said.
Elmer was about the same age as the rest of us, but he was smart. You wouldn’t think he was the same age as Elise.
Elmer and Joseph had been friendly since the day they met, and Elmer treated Joseph almost like a little brother. Joseph was far bigger than Elmer, so he looked like a sheepdog following his owner.
Elmer didn’t seem to mind, and looked after him. It would be adorable if not for the circumstances.
It would be hard for them to see their families again if they stayed here forever, but to be honest, it was not like I didn’t understand their apathy.
Both feelings of wanting something and the sense that nothing could be done swirled inside my head.
I felt like a dog chasing its own tail.
“Hey! Is someone there!?”
There was suddenly a voice from outside.
Everyone froze in place.
We hadn’t heard anyone except for old man Nargava in three weeks.
“Wait! Don’t just answer like that…!”
Elmer covered my mouth, and Elise held me down.
Joseph seemed like he didn’t know what to do.
“We don’t know for sure that they’re here to help us. What old man Nargava is doing is very shady, so who knows if we’re getting involved in an underworld dispute or something.”
“When you kidnap someone, it’s usually for a ransom or slavery. None of us are that poor, but we’re not nobles either, so it has to be slavery.”
“W-what does that have to do with whoever’s out there?”
“Whoever’s there can’t be good. I’m sure this place is well hidden. No one noticed us all this time, no matter how much noise we made.”
“So what do we do!? Just wait for them to leave!?”
“…That’s what we got to decide. What do you all think?”
After Elmer’s whisper, we all realized this was a decisive moment.