Chapter 24 – EXPRESS TRAIN
“Hey, young lady. You want on that train, right? I know a way.”
I turned to the voice. It was a lanky man, around thirty years old. His clothes would make him look like a perfectly normal citizen, if you ignored the shady eyes and shifty mannerisms. Honestly, he was terribly suspicious.
“Come now, no need to be so cautious. And don’t raise your voice. It’s obvious the ticket price’s giving you trouble, right? Then I’ve got just the thing...”
The man moved closer and whispered in a barely audible voice.
“Tell me, how much can you pay?”
“...eight silvers,” I replied honestly.
The man scowled, looking obviously disappointed. “Hmmm... not quite enough, but it’s leaving tonight anyway. Fine, then. Come with me. Coincidentally, we have a free spot tonight. No guarantees of comfort, though.”
I just nodded. The man merrily walked off, and I followed.
He might as well be having bright neon signs above his head saying ‘illegal dealings here’. Normally you’d think maybe he was the type of smuggler who snuck people into the cargo room, but upon closer consideration, something felt not quite right.
The capital was far away, but it only took five days by coach. The train might be able to get there in a single day without delays and without risking bandits, but I didn’t think there was that much demand for this sort of passenger smuggling. The only people with that sort of need were probably wanted fugitives or refugees.
It was shady as all hell. But in my case, I had a good reason for following him.
We left the dazzling train station behind, following the rails. I saw less and less people. Houses began to be replaced by shelters made from dirt and mud. Perhaps the noise and vibration of the train had driven down the land price here.
We entered a large storehouse by the railway. There were some ten-plus humans checking on some sort of wooden crates, plus a few beastman slaves carrying a large crate.
The man shouted toward the back of the room. “Chairman! One last ‘passenger’ here!”
“Hey, good job!” A deep voice answered. It belonged to a wide-set man full of muscle, looking to be around fifty. He totally looked like a boss of a bandit gang under disguise.
The boss examined me from head to toe. He smirked, “Hell, didn’t expect this from you! You got us a fine one!”
“Heheh!” The lanky man creepily chuckled.
“Slaves! Get the cargo outside to the station! Girl, you go this way.”
At this point, I didn’t think there was going to be a twist revealing these men to actually be good people. I still quietly followed the so-called chairman. We stopped in front of a large crate.
“You’ll stay in here.”
Another man to the side of the crate opened the lid. I saw only little girls inside, both human and beastman. There were around ten of them packed closely together. All pretty, and looking like they were carefully chosen.
Some were sobbing. Some with blank faces, already resigning themselves to their fates. Some were cowering in fear...
“Hey... they didn’t look like passengers to me.” I muttered.
The chairman puffed out a chortle, which then turned into full-blown guffawing. “Is that so? Sorry to disappoint you, then. They’re actually getting pretty good treatment here. They’re still presents for the nobles in the capital, after all.”
Then he gave an order, his hands busy taking out a cigar, “You two, collect our newest passenger’s fare and get her in!”
“Got it.” The lanky man and another man sniggered. Their hands reached toward me.
...well, this was pretty much within expectations.
“Alright, give us all you-urk!” “Wha-aghk!”
I turned both my arms into mist, filling up their lungs and absorbed their life.
As I thought, my combat power was still too low to drain them dry in an instant. I’d only recovered ten percent of my magic.
“Come on, what’s taking you two so long...”
Their groaning prompted the chairman to turn around, and he was greeted with the sight of his men rapidly turning into standing mummies. The cigar, just lit, dropped out of his wide-open mouth.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (Low-Rank)]
[Magic Points: 206/776] 16↑
[Total Combat Power: 282/853] 17↑
I knew this already, but humans were really so much more efficient. I totally understood the feelings of those monsters that attacked humans as soon as they saw them, now.
And it wasn’t like I’d go on a human-murdering spree, anyway. Finding these kind of garbage-of-society people to kill was a rare occasion for me.
I kept my arms misty, throwing a smile full of gratitude to the chairman. His face twitched. He shouted.
“All you lot, come here! This damn brat’s a freak!!”
Answering the call, around five of his underlings ran inside from the entrance. Perhaps the rest were getting weapons?
“What’s wrong, chairman?!” “This is the brat?!”
Were they just underestimating me because I was a kid, or were they that loyal to their boss? The men came with only their bare hands or at most, small knives as weapons.
Their power were around 100. I supposed they were men used to violence at least, and I didn’t even have 300 in power at the moment. Still, they had no effective weapons. I would never lose.
“What the fuck is this shi-aargk...”
I choked one of them within bindings of mist. He collapsed like a dry, rotten tree branch. Fear of the unknown pushed the other four back a few steps.
Bang! Together with a ringing explosion, I felt something pierce through my stomach.
“H-Hahahah... you’re dead, freak!”
The chairman was aiming a curved tube in his hand at me. It looked like a pistol from older days.
“Here’s our chance! Everyone, get her!” He commanded. The men suppressed their fear, looked at each other, then nodded. They approached.
I turned my right arm tangible again, then took out one of the remaining daggers I had to slice the neck of the leading man. He went down in gurgles. The other three men were advancing without much care, so I quasi-mistified into a larger, adult-sized form and drained them dry in an instant.
Apparently the chairman had been under the impression that turning my arms into mist was just a special ability, much like those of the Children of God. Until now, he still thought I was a ‘human’.
Had I been one, his shot back then would have been truly fatal. Even with my body of mist, it still hurt quite a bit due to the high density I had in my humanoid form. I only just recovered my magic again, and already he made me waste a part of it.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (Low-Rank)]
[Magic Points: 226/816] 40↑
[Total Combat Power: 307/897] 44↑
I felt over ten people approaching from the entrance in my radar. Reinforcements with weapons, perhaps.
Well then... time to get serious.
I returned to complete mist, pouring myself out of my clothes and swelling up into a menacing cloud. In a corner of my vision, I saw the chairman’s legs giving out. He [Fear]ed me.
There was one thing I realized from the battles I’d had until now: I gained more magic from absorbing people who were thinking about bad things. And I could recover more magic from people who [Fear]ed the sight of me.
Which was why I fought in my true appearance, except... I forgot about the kids.
What a blunder. Poor kids, some of them even pissed themselves in terror. I really shouldn’t be leaving witnesses alive, but, well...
“Don’t tell anyone, alright? Or else...”
...I’ll eat you.
They seemed to have understood the three words I left unsaid when they saw my smile. All of them frantically nodded with tearful eyes. Blobsy snacked on all the corpses anyway, so I didn’t think anyone would believe the kids right away if they still decided to talk.
They could find their ways back home by themselves, right? I did feel pity for the demihuman kids, but I wasn’t obliged to save everyone, nor did I have the leeway.
So anyway, I visited the human traffickers’ office room to borrow a bit of money. I found 3 large gold coins and 5 small golds. This was plenty enough for an express train ticket.
I came back to the station, my mood buoyant. Waiting for me there was a shocking discovery.
“Wait, you’re sold out?”
Tickets to the capital were sold out. Who the hell would splurge that much on a ticket?!
According to the young man manning the ticketing office, the train had five cars. The first one was the locomotive, so there were four cars available.
One of those was for freight, another one for dining. People could ride on the remaining two, but these cars weren’t the type that had rows upon rows of seats like I imagined. Instead, they had private rooms with a capacity of six, and each car had four such rooms. There were only eight rooms in total.
The only people who’d pay so much for a ride were the nobles or the affluent, so generally these rooms weren’t shared. Paying for a whole room meant paying for six, but they had money. They didn’t care.
“This time around, there was some big-shot from another country. They rented out a whole car. So actually we were already out of tickets since yesterday... By the way, if you don’t have an inn room yet, how about coming to my place?”
And here I was, thinking he was surprisingly friendly...
It looked like the people here didn’t care as much about age as people on Earth, only looks and physique. In town, I even saw a man over thirty linking arms with a teenager.
Well, even with that difference, my body was still only that of a kid’s anyway.
That aside, what to do about the train ride...
Fine then, I guess I was smuggling myself aboard. In the end, I went back to my original plan. But now that I knew there was space for trafficking kids in the freight car, I had my way in.
If I remembered correctly, a day in this world was around the same as Earth. I saw a brand-new clock tower in the center of the town. I wondered if it was a sign of Earth culture leaking through.
The train would leave at nine o’clock tonight. People were getting aboard after having their dinner in town. I blended into the darkness and entered through the freight car’s window, just before the train set off.
As I was, I could just cling on top of the train, but there was a reason why I wanted to secure a relatively safe space.
[Shedy] [Race: Mistral] [Lesser Demon (Low-Rank)]
?The demon of bewitching mist that dances upon the northern seas. A canny spiritual lifeform.
[Magic Points: 565/935] 119↑
[Total Combat Power: 658/1028] 131↑
[Unique Skill: <Reroll> <Cyber-Manipulation> ]
[Racial Skill: Fear]
[Simple Identification] [Humanoid Form (Adept)] [Expert Packer]
[Class Rank-up Available]
I didn’t know if it was because my magic broke 900, or because my combat power broke 1000. All I knew was that I could rank-up again.
It said ‘class’, so my race wasn’t changing, right? I didn’t think there’d be a problem. Still, this was my first rank-up ever since I escaped the System.
Whenever I evolved, the process always finished before I could understand what was going on. All the same, I believed it was better to keep a clear image of what I wanted to be in my mind.
Alright... I wanted to be stronger while keeping my body of mist... if possible, I wanted to be strong enough for my human form to be combat-viable, too.
I kept repeating those words in my head, like a mantra, in an attempt to carve them deep into my mind. I sat with knees hugged in a corner of the cargo room. And before I knew it, my consciousness sank into slumber.
“Hey, Shedy. Wake up!”
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