The Slave Ship
Clouds slowly drifted across the sky. The temperature wasn’t high but that didn’t stop the glaring sun from shining down. Slaves who were wounded or weak felt dizzier, especially with the pungent stench of decomposition circulating about.
Zero slowly dragged his chained arms and feet forward. Anemia and hunger left him lethargic. Dispirited, he stood on the charred earth, wondering at times whether he was still in the living realm or not.
Raising these doubts didn’t mean that he was weak. To him, punishments like beating and starvation were the norm. The reason why he thought that he wasn’t in the living realm was that before him was a massive slave ship, bigger than Place de la Corde. The body was made of oak, the masts were made of fir, and the large triangular sails and the air around them smelled of tung oil.
This was something from the Middle Ages. Being so close to it made one wonder whether this was just an illusion. However, it was all real.
In a queue, those in front and behind him were real slaves — dirty, disgusting, smelly slaves. He didn’t think that this was a dream and that modern-day technology had fallen so far back that the world returned to the Middle Ages. Of course, he also didn’t rule out the possibility that there were secretive islands where slave trade still occurred. But after a month of hardships where he followed the ships passing through five to six islands and getting resold no less than five times, would he still imagine that this was the 21st Century? Even if he was sold, those filthy traders and politicians would have covered up the scheme nicely.
But with this kind of trade slave where everything was openly revealed, Zero could only believe that he had transported. How ironic for this to happen to him. He was sure that this wasn’t just a coincidence and that this was related to that person somehow, the one who had first tried to buy him — that nasty old snake Saad!
A strong breeze blew over, easily sweeping the sooty gravel beneath him, and swirled, lifting his grimy and foul-smelling linen shirt and his blackened gauze that was still sticky with blood. To be honest, the dirty wraps didn’t help much but he needed them and the wooden stick to secure his broken left arm.
“Hurry, get moving! You lazy pigs! Slugs!” The slave driver cracked his whip, his face contorted in disgust as he maintained order. None of the slaves muttered a sound. They quickly lined up. The heavy chains made their every movement inconvenient, in addition to their old and fresh wounds. Underneath the bright sun, their every step forward was painful.
This time, they were sold aboard a large ship! Last night, a few of the slaves had mentioned that this ship was named Rohm, the largest slave ship in this land. Not bad. It was very gigantic. As far as the naked eye could see, it was obvious that the deck alone could hold a thousand people. It could be concluded that this world’s natural resources were far more abundant than the original world’s.
With such a big ship, a problem arose: Cruel and inhumane slave drivers would form gangs behind the slave master’s back. The strong would oppress the weak and the weak would oppress the weaker. Mankind had always been like this. Nobody would willingly help each other just because they were slaves. Instead, they would step on another’s corpse and use the weak as a tool for venting their frustration.
Just like Zero had thought, the slave ship’s atmosphere was stifling and somber. From deep within, howling cries resonated. Although faint, the slave drivers’ cracking whips could not muffle the sounds of agony.
“Move along, you son of a bitch!” Flogged with a whip across his body, Zero cringed slightly from the sudden pain. His head was wrapped with a white towel and dirt was smeared across his face. One could not see his expression.
His body seemed weak as if he was the type who would collapse easily from heavy workload on the first day, from a beating, or from sickness and then get thrown overboard.
But in reality, few in this group of slaves were stronger than he was. Most looked sickly and frail.
Walking a few more steps forward, he was suddenly doused with water from head to toe. It was actually a bit cooling but soon Zero thought otherwise. It was seawater! He almost shrieked because of the pain from the salt entering his wounds.
This was a cleansing routine before boarding the ship, to prevent infectious diseases from spreading and to eliminate the slaves who were nearing death. Still, this was a painful process. Which slave didn’t have wounds? Not only that, they had to deal with the pain as they trudged, continuously doused until they boarded. Along the way, those who had collapsed were quickly tossed overboard or beaten to death and then tossed.
More than half of the slaves were African. The Caucasians consisted of some blonds. Asians? Zero was probably the only one. As such, in front of him from not far away were a couple of pale-faced, blond-haired youths with few wounds on their bodies. It was hard not to notice them. The five to six of them had comely appearances. Compared to the others, it could be said that they were extremely pleasing to the eyes.
Naturally, that meant that they were worth more. Their purpose was different from the rest, of course. As a result, they didn’t suffer as much as the other slaves.
The truth was that Zero was more beautiful than any of them but his face was hidden. He had hung his head low and covered his face with the towel and his now semi-long tousled hair. For an assassin, Zero’s complexion was overly attractive. It was a good tool to use at certain times but he didn’t want to use it now.
A cry of despair grabbed Zero’s attention. Within the “high-quality goods” in front of him stood a pretty-looking youth who was crying. His blue eyes were pure, he had a small frame, and his steps were airy when he walked, but in his eyes were undying flames. Even though he looked scared, he undoubtedly had some courage left in him.
“Yo, baby, why the tears? Let me touch you!”
“Jeez, look at this thing. His little behind is probably as fair as his face!”
“That’s right. It must feel extra good to screw him. The nobles sure know how to enjoy themselves!”
“Maybe his blood will be delicious too.”
“Hehe! For sure! He’ll be sucked dry like a french fry, all shriveled and ugly. Haha, before that happens, why don’t we all enjoy the taste of his tight little ass?”
Such spine-chilling and lubricious words were constantly being echoed into the ears of the new slaves.
On the third day of his arrival, Zero finally learned that this world had vampires, real ones who have lived for hundreds and even thousands of years. There was a religious establishment as well, except the Church and their Lord were far from their reach. They were now in vampires’ territory. These average slaves were to become their fodder and plaything.
True, they could become blood slaves, just like these slave drivers who acted at their bidding in exchange for survival.
He was a little numb regarding the fact that vampires existed. This world had too much that he didn’t know of. Aside from this, even in his world, humans killing humans was nothing uncommon.
However, just because he wasn’t afraid didn’t mean that he didn’t care. After all, he had to find a way to return back to his world. His goal right now was to focus on surviving in this harsh environment.
As for that youth from before, his life would most likely, eighty percent, end in tragedy. Of course, he wasn’t any better off.
The aroma of the water-resistant tung oil on the Rohm was a bit strong, creating a headache for some people. The new slaves’ chains had been removed and they all lined up in rows in the deck’s center. Surrounding them were sailors with their whips and a few of the old “ship’s guests” who sat around.
These “guests” were slightly excited about the arrival of the new slaves. The strong ones wanted to recruit a couple of lackeys while the weak looked for ones weaker than they were. There were, naturally, those who wanted a bedmate. This ship had no women on it because they were delicate and couldn’t handle the labor.
Not to mention, vampires didn’t care for the sex of the person. If it was a male, they’d still go for it. Besides, they didn’t have to worry about their descendants either. As long as they were approved by the Prince, vampires could have as many toys as they wanted.
“Stand straight, you slaves! You trash!” The sailors oversaw them until someone prominent appeared — Rohm’s captain, Samis.
“On my ship, there are two points that you must remember! The first is that you must never rebel against me! Be an obedient little child! Second, you’re all just cheap fodder and slaves. Always remember that!” Captain Samis cackled a bit. Anybody could hear the mockery in his tone. “Children, you are the vampires’ playthings. Be smart and don’t think about running away or resisting! It’s useless!”
“That’s right. For the sake of your health, meals for today and the next are canceled. See how nice I am? You all just came from Bansa so you mustn’t be used to this place yet. Eating less will do you some good!” He cackled strangely again. The captain’s pudgy body swayed as he left for the cabin.
Burnett, the deputy captain, wasn’t as nice as the captain. The first thing he did was whip everyone twice. Skilled, his two flogs were enough to make them alert and honest.
“Those two were just a warning! You’d all better be on your best behavior; otherwise, I’ll toss you into the sea to feed the sharks! Alright, get to work, you bastards!” After barking his order, the slaves were directed to either move the cargo or raise the sails. Even though Zero was working, he did all he could to preserve his stamina. It was important to know that tonight, the first night on the ship, was the most dangerous night of all.
He didn’t intend to resist but he won’t guarantee that an incident wouldn’t happen.
At this time, a cargo box fell from the shoulder of the person before him. Zero reached to help him steady it. In the next moment, he had begun to regret. Thinking that his reaction was too swift, he carefully surveyed around. Good thing that nobody noticed.
“Thanks….” A soft voice was heard.
“No problem,” replied Zero coldly. He wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. The one in front of him was the blond-haired youth who was crying earlier.
The youth opened his mouth and then explained in embarrassment, “My arm’s dislocated. I don’t have any strength so…”
Zero wanted to laugh. “And my arm’s broken!” He had experienced these types of fractures numerous of times before. His body’s healing rate was faster than that of an average person so he didn’t feel much pain. The only issue was that he had to be careful of the bone growing back unnaturally.
The blond-haired youth was stunned momentarily. He then furrowed his brows and asked, “Does it hurt? Do you need help?”
Zero again wanted to laugh. This person was denser than he had thought.
“I’m Angelo from Sangyang. What about you?”
So he was someone from the Holy Land. No wonder why he was so well-protected. Followers of the Church were all fake. They always said that the Lord was the Savior of the human race and then they would all pretend to be a good person.
Zero didn’t answer him but proceeded, “Your name attracts danger. You’d better change it.”
Angelo was indeed a catchy name. In a land full of monsters, who’d bother with someone named ‘Angel’?
Surprised, he then smiled. “Are you worried about me? Can we become friends?”
Zero sighed. This person was too naive. Dangerous!
He wanted to distance himself from the boy but this Angelo was too persistent.
“My name is Zero.” Feeling helpless, he stated his name.
“Zero? Perfect! Let’s be friends from now on!”
“Shut up! No talking allowed! Get back to work!” The supervising sailor cracked his whip at Angelo’s feet, causing him to scream loudly. An evil laugh soon followed.