His mind wrestled with the events that happened the previous night as they were having breakfast.
No matter how much he thought about it, he was in the wrong.
If he had not approached her to begin with, Saadra would not have been disciplined. If he had simply paid the obstruction fee and walked away, it would have lessened her pain. Yet due to his meddling and unwarranted “help”, he had only made the situation worse.
The food before him became tasteless as his own experiences flashed vividly in his mind. Memories of an age long past. Memories without a family or home to return to. Of hate and anger, spurning the kindness of others and distrustful of any who would show a hint of sympathy.
Yet she was different. He recalled her stunning smile after giving him directions and answering his questions. Of eyes filled with wonder as she listened to his pointless blabbering.
He dared not compare their lives for he could never know the depths of her story, as none had ever known his. Yet even after all she had been through, even in such a situation with no way out, she was able to smile so brilliantly.
He looked up to see Vick staring back at him. “Yes?”
“What are you doing? Eat up. You’re leaving soon aren’t you?”
“I am.” He replied, shoveling a spoonful of soup into his mouth.
They had already talked about their parting the previous night. He would leave to go after Tal’hrus, while Vick investigates the Liberation Army and if possible, clues regarding Karugas.
They would both be traveling alone from this point onward, each with their own role.
“Say, how much money do you have left on you anyways?” Vick questioned.
“Hmm? A little less than five hundred. Why do you ask?”
“Here.” Vick slid a small pouch over to him.
Opening the pouch, he saw a lustrous gemstone inside. A Rae, worth five hundred erns.
“I thought u said you were only given four hundred for this trip?”
Throughout their trip, they had split almost everything evenly. From their voyage fare, to the inn costs, to the food they bought in Esperen. Yet, it looked like Vick had been holding onto more than what he originally professed.
“Captain only gave me 400,” Vick held up his own money pouch to show him. “That was not for me. I was holding onto it for you.”
“Oh. Who’s it from?”
“Take a guess. Red hair, older than you, calls you son.” Vick grinned.
Troyle’s face surfaced in his mind. “Father…”
“Don’t know when we’ll be seeing each other again, so take it with you in case you need it.”
“I see. Thanks Vick.” He replied, putting the rae in his pant pocket.
“No need to thank me. Just finish your breakfast. Wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least make sure you were eating.”
“Right.” Having taken his mind away from his thoughts, Kaidus dug into his slice of meat.
Instead of leaving Karpes after parting with Vick, he made his way toward the street where he met Saadra the previous night. They would probably never meet each other again, but he wanted to see that she was fine, and to give his sincere apology.
He walked, clutching onto the rae in his pocket as his thoughts turned to home and Darsus.
Upon reaching the establishment, he took a moment to gaze at it: a large stone building painted red on the outside, and standing three-stories tall. There were no signs in front or around it, yet he knew what it was.
After entering, the place was exactly what he had suspected. Wearing tight and vibrant colors to pronounce their figures, beautiful ladies walked about, serving and being playfully attentive to the men who were already utilizing the brothel.
While the older ones entranced and captivated their customers, he noticed many young girls moving in the background, carrying jugs of wine and treats out to them.
“Good morning, young man. Haven’t seen you here before.” A young woman possibly in her early twenties saw him and greeted him with a practiced smile. “Are you here for entertainment? Maybe company? Or perhaps pleasure?” She questioned, glancing at his apparel and what he was carrying.
Although it was not Darsus, the customs were the same. There were little differences to the sort of events that went on in brothels throughout the world, and he knew exactly what she was talking about.
“Good morning,” he returned her greeting, looking back at her. “Is Saadra around?”
His reply sounded very comfortable in such an environment—more than he had expected.
“S-Saadra? I’m sorry, but Saadra is unavailable right now. Would you like another girl?” He saw a tinge of dishonesty in her eyes.
“Is she with a client?”
“No. Nothing of the sort. She is… unwell. The night’s air had given her something of a headache and she is currently bedridden. I am sorry.”
“I wish to speak to her. Is that possible?”
“I’m afraid not.” The young woman shook her head apologetically. Yet he could see that she was hiding something.
“Is that so…” Not moving, he focused his mind. By his will, a torrent of mana erupted from his body, dispersing throughout the brothel—phasing through the living and inanimate alike—to do his bidding.
“Young master?” The woman spoke, curious about his sudden silence.
Kaidus opened his eyes. His mana had detected a familiar presence in the far corner of the establishment’s second floor, along with another presence in the same room. Without answering the woman before him, he started walking toward the stairs.
“You can’t go up there! Sir?!” The young woman called from behind him and quickly ran over to block his path. “Myrna! Someone! Help!” She shouted.
“Move.” He commanded threateningly, grasping the sword at his waist. She looked at him with an alarmed face filled with confusion and took two steps to the side, making way for him.
Eyes turned to him and he could sense movements. Before anyone could obstruct his path, Kaidus quickly ascended the stairs to the second floor.
“What’s with all the commotion? What’re you doing up here?” A man questioned, walking toward him with two men at his sides. The man was well-dressed, and in a sharp outfit of velvet and black. He seemed to be in his mid-forties, was well-groomed, and looked leagues apart from the two who were following him.
The three men stood side by side, blocking his path. “I believe a girl named Saadra is up here. I’ve come to see her.” Kaidus replied, unfazed by their blockade.
“Ah, so you’re little Saadra’s customer from last night. I heard all about it from Myrna.” A smile appeared on the man’s face, undoubtedly misunderstanding something. “She’s inexperienced, but that’s only because I haven’t gotten around to teaching her yet,” a vile smile appeared on the man’s face. “Hopefully she was satisfactory to you?”
Kaidus’ calm face twitched a bit at the man’s words.
“Forgive me, I tend to go off like that when it comes to my own work. You said you’ve come to see her right?” The man made a regretful expression. “Unfortunately, she’s feeling under the weather and is declining all visitors and customers. Would you please come back some other time?” The man held out his hands to stop the two beside him.
“And you are?” Kaidus inquired, staring back at the man.
“Ah, where are my manners? I am Coragus, the owner and purveyor of this establishment.” The man replied cordially as he made a skillful bow—arm to his chest and bending at the waist, not the back.
“Forgive me, Master Coragus!” Someone exclaimed, having ascended the stairs. It was the same woman he met last night. “And you! What do you think you are doing here?!” She glared at him again.
He looked to the woman, then back at the three men. “I wish to express my apology for what I did to Saadra. Surely you would not deny me that, considering the copious amount robbed from me last night.”
“That was no robbery and that amount does not excuse your behavior!” The woman roared angrily from behind. “Now, if that is truly your request, go downstairs and I will listen to your message. I will even have one of the girls pass it on!”
He looked back at her. “It would be cowardly of me to send someone else. I will do it myself.” He answered, not complying with her words.
“Boy.” The man spoke, dragging the word. “Firstly, thank you for your business. Secondly, Saadra does not need or require an apology for whatever you did to her. Lastly, if you would like her services again, please come back in a few days.”
“You misunderstand. I am not here for her services.”
“Ah, I see. I thought u had fallen for her after your little experience. Forgive my misunderstanding, for it is not uncommon for a hot-blooded young man like yourself.” The man smiled as the two beside him laughed. “Regardless, I’m afraid I cannot allow you to proceed any further. Why don’t you listen and go downstairs with Myrna? She’ll hear what you have to say.”
There was something wrong. Girls who were not working were given time to do as they pleased whether it be outside or inside the brothel. Visitors were not uncommon in such a vocation, and he could not see any real reason for their refusal.
Kaidus narrowed his eyes. “Surely a moment of her time would not impede your business in the slightest, seeing how she is bedridden.”
“Whether it does or doesn’t, is irrelevant. I am the master here and I say no. Now leave before my friends get antsy and do something to you. Boy.” The man enunciated the last word to clarify his position.
“I’m afraid I cannot leave until I see Saadra for myself. My conscience would not allow it.”
“Hah… to come in here and be so selfish, I’m speechless. Are you Mister Tarlray’s son? Old man Maffanis’? Or perhaps Sir Erabort’s?”
“I am not.”
“Ah, good. Good. I wouldn’t know how to explain it to them if you were. Warren. Arafel. Would you both mind showing our guest here to the back door?” The man replied with a smile.
“How much?” Kaidus questioned as they moved to grab him.
“Hm? What’s this?”
“If it is money you want, how much?”
“Oh? Now you’re speaking my language. Should have said so earlier.” The owner replied with a smile, pretending to think. “Let’s see… Myrna there told me you willingly paid one hundred for her last night. You match that, and I just might let you see her for a bit.”
Without bothering to negotiate, he reached into his pack and pulled out his money pouch. Taking out two green fers, he held them up, then tossed them to the man.
“I love it. An adroit businessman like yourself is welcome in here whenever you wish. Come, I’ll personally show you to her room.” The owner laughed mockingly, pocketing the two fers as he turned away.
It was robbery, but he had no other choice besides resorting to force.
Wordlessly, he followed the man through the corridors and toward the back of the brothel’s second floor. Passing various rooms, he could hear the silent cries coming from some of them. Behind him, the woman called Myrna and the two men followed closely.
They eventually stopped in front of the corner room where he had sensed Saadra’s presence earlier.
The owner took out a set of keys and began unlocking the door.
“Sarah! Sarah! What are you doing?!” A familiar voice called from inside.
The door opened, and he was pushed in. “Don’t hurt my sister anymore!” A young girl two or three years younger than himself was standing between them and Saadra—who was sitting on the bed with a blanket covering her body. The younger girl looked angry, but there was fear in her eyes as she glanced at him and the three men behind him. On her arms, he could see bruises.
Kaidus looked to Saadra who was sitting on the bed, and she gave him a terrified look before turning away. He saw the pain in her eyes in that brief instant. Not just emotional, but she looked to be in physical agony as well. Her eyes were not filled with life as they had been the previous night. Instead, they looked like they were empty and longing for release. “Saadra… what did they do to you?” He asked, scanning the room as he took a step toward the bed.
It was a small room and barely half the size of his own at home. Besides the small bedside table with a lantern on top, it was missing all the necessities of a proper room. There were no drawers or chests, no clothes hanging on the walls, no decorations to lighten up the room, not even a window to gaze through. It was bare and devoid of any physical objects.
“STOP!” The young girl before him shouted nervously.
“Warren, get Sarah out of here.” Coragus, the owner ordered and one of the men stepped into the room.
“NO! Please!!” Saadra cried out, reaching out to her younger sister. As her arms came out of the blanket, he saw that they were lined with bruises.
The man named Warren stalked forward, ignoring the pleas and reached for the young girl.
Kaidus’ right hand shot out and grabbed onto the man’s outstretched arm. “What happened to them?” He questioned, looking at the two sisters who were now huddling together.
“Let go of my arm before I teach you a lesson.” The man named Warren replied harshly, shaking off his hand.
“Now, now, let’s not get carried away you two.” Coragus delightfully joined them in the small room. The man walked over to the bed and with a sudden movement, forcefully pulled the blanket away from Saadra and her sister.
“NO!” Saadra screamed, quickly wrapping her arms around herself and turning away to hide her shame.
She was wearing nothing but her underclothes. There were fresh swellings and bruises all over her body, and the only place that was untouched was her face.
“Like I said earlier. As you can see, she is unavailable. Such blemishes would be unable to attract any proper customers, wouldn’t you say?” The man explained as if talking about livestock and not a human being.
The world froze for an instant, and in front of him, was the young girl from a lifetime ago. A dying girl, begging for his help. Blood oozing from her mouth as she pleaded, trying to reach out to him as she laid in a pool of her own blood. Powerless and paralyzed with fear, he could do naught, but watch as her life slowly faded away.
He gritted his teeth as cold fury swelled from within. “What happened?” Kaidus questioned again, trying to keep himself calm.
“She wanted to stop doing her job so I gave her a reason to take a break.” The man replied with a pleased grin. “Now I’m not blaming you, but a whore is a whore and you best remember that before you start filling their heads with ideas.” The man grabbed Saadra’s face and forced her to look at him. “You bitches have one thing to do, and it is the only reason why I am feeding you. Try to show a little appreciation for everything I’ve done. It is all I ask… now, come Sarah. We need to leave your sister and this young man here alone for a little bit.” Releasing Saadra, Coragus grabbed the younger sister’s arm and pulled her away. “You have until the count of one hundred. Start counting now, because anymore will be extra.” With a wink, Coragus dragged the younger sister toward the door amidst her howling and begging.
Kaidus reached into his pocket and clutched the rae within.
The excuse of an apology was quickly struck from his reasoning. His mind was clear and calm now, just like a serene lake without wind.
‘Should you choose to do something, don’t regret it later.’
His father’s words—when he first revealed his plans to leave Darsus—resounded in his mind.
Though very different from his original purpose, it was futile to try anything else.
The act of offering one’s body for money was a way of life, and he will not condemn someone for willingly choosing such a path. The morality of such a choice was in their own hands and he would not abhor or look down upon them for it. Yet for those without a choice, for those who were dragged into it unwillingly, he couldn’t simply look away and pretend he didn’t see. His own morals would not allow him to do so.
“One hundred.” He counted.
*BLAM!* the door suddenly slammed shut before the others could leave the room.
Without warning, Kaidus elbowed the thug beside him in the stomach, sending the man to his knees. As the man fell, he simultaneously rotated his body and delivered a left knee into the man’s face. Something cracked, and the man stopped moving.
“What the fuck are you doing?!” Coragus shouted in surprise at what he did, and loud banging erupted from the door.
Kaidus turned around. His body flickered, and he was upon the older man. His right hand gripped the man’s face as his left quickly disarmed the hand that was holding onto Saadra’s sister. Freeing the girl, he pushed the man into the door.
“You uncultured little shit!” The man roared, trying to open the door to no avail. “You won’t get away with this!” The man shouted, bracing himself for a fight.
Not answering, Kaidus lurched forward, delivering a kick into the man’s chest and breaking open the door.
““Master Coragus!”” The two who had been locked out gasped in shock.
“Guuu…. Ge-get him… Huaaahh…” The man managed to order his thug while in the midst of gasping for air.
Standing at the entrance of the door, the third man lurched at him with a fist. Empowered with mana, his right hand easily caught the attack that was aiming for his chest. Pulling the man’s momentum to the side, he turned his body to dodge the charge. He saw the man rotating for a backhand strike and before the man could follow through, he slammed an open palm into the thug’s side. With his left hand, he caught the thug’s head as the man fell and smashed it against the side of the open doorway.
“Help!” The woman called Myrna was shouting loudly. Yet being in one of the corners of the building, no one showed up.
With the second guard down, Kaidus stepped over to the bed where Saadra and her sister Sarah were huddling together. He picked the blanket off the ground and threw it over Saadra once more. The younger sister seemed to be unable to protest his actions, and he was thankful she didn’t.
Having covered Saadra, “Do you wish to leave this place?” He questioned.
She looked up at him. Her blue eyes were filled with shock and shame while her mouth was frozen and unable to speak.
“This place is dark and unfitting for one such as yourself. Say the words. Ask for my help, and I shall grant it.”
Her mouth twitched then twisted, and tears began rolling down her cheeks. “Kaidus… please help us…” She cried.
“Understood.” He knew too well that helping her would only condemn another girl to the same fate of endless and depraved debauchery. He understood quite clearly that he could never save them all, but even so, he would save those in front of him. He had made his choice.
For the weak who asks for it, he will grant them his strength.
For those unable to protect themselves, he would be their protector.
It was why he had sought power.
It was why he had rebelled.
It was why he had conquered.
If the world did not have a place for the weak and the helpless, he would create one for them.