Women and children made up a large portion of the slaves being sold in the illegal trafficking market. In this iron-straight harem novel, the world didn’t have any concept of homosexuality. The male slaves were only bought for hard labour, or to act as punching bags. No one thought of doing anything else to the men and boys being sold.
For Ian, besides being a punching bag, his status as a slave also included the shame brought on by his face.
The trader didn’t want to waste that face and sell him for the lesser price that male slaves usually went for, but the trader also didn’t want to invest the extra money to change Ian into a female. So he had Ian dress up in women’s clothing and pretend to be a girl in order to trick the buyers.
The first time he was bought, Ian had felt guilty and restless. He had wanted to come clean to the buyer and express his loyalty, but in the end the expression of shock on his new owner’s face had quickly turned to disgust. Ian’s body became battered and bruised during his new owner’s fit of rage.
Human trafficking victims had no basic rights. After ceaselessly cycling through the process of being bought and returned, Ian’s heart had already turned to stone. He no longer rebelled or hoped for escape, and the insults and beatings that came his way instilled into him a deep self-loathing.
He hated himself and this world, and everything that lived in this wretched world.
He wanted to end it all, end himself and take the world down with him.
The beautiful boy’s name was Ian. When Astra pulled him up from the ground, the boy’s eyes were already red. Tears gathered at the corners of those eyes like morning dew, threatening to fall and spill over the long lashes that framed his pair of beautiful eyes. The boy was breathtaking even when he was crying.
Astra passed him some paper towels. Ian hurried to refuse with a flapping motion of his hand, his torn clothing slipped down his forearm with the motion, exposing the purpling wounds and bruises that marred his skin.
Ian’s slim fingers clutched tightly at Astra’s sleeves, his voice held a note of uncertainty, as if he was at a loss for words. “Thank you, master.”
Seeing a beautiful, androgynous youth call out ‘master’ with such a sincere gaze was enough to satisfy anyone’s desire to control and subjugate.
Astra sighed. “You don’t need to call me master. I have no intentions of becoming your owner. If you’re interested, I want to invite you to collaborate with me.”
The beautiful youth froze in shock.
This child didn’t seem as innocent or frail as he was acting. Astra, the team’s little ray of sunshine, didn’t seem to be capable of handling someone like the boy that was standing in front of them.
Wen stepped forward and draped an arm over Astra’s shoulder before leaning closer to whisper into his ear. “Astra, it’s time to go.”
The wind lifted strands of Wen’s hair, and the silky strands slipped by Astra’s face. A faint and refreshing scent emanated from Wen’s body. This was something that Astra had discovered after transmigrating into this book. The male lead’s body had undergone some strange physiological changes after consuming the NK-03. Changes that gave his body a light but alluring scent.
A person’s scent changed for many reasons. Sometimes, the scent might not even be there. Because Wen’s scent always changed so drastically all the time, and catching that faint scent all depended on luck, Astra became fascinated by Wen’s unique fragrance.
Astra turned his head as if he was trying to listen to Wen more closely, and breathed in as his nose drew close to Wen’s silky hair. “Yeah, we have to go.”
Ian was very interested in Astra’s ideas regarding the collaboration. He was worried that Astra would suddenly change his mind. “Master, I…”
Astra, “Follow along. After we’ve finished what we came to do here, there’s something I need you to decide on.”
Ian nodded and followed them quietly.
Wen’s brows wrinkled in a frown. He asked Astra, “Where do you plan to put him?”
Astra pulled Wen into his arms, catching another whiff of that enticing fragrance. “I’ll figure something out.”
This position was too close and not very comfortable. However, after peeking at Ian who followed closely behind, Wen settled more securely into Astra’s arms and nodded in agreement to what he said.
The more intimate they acted, the less likely the person walking behind would do something to harm one of them.
The official auction site had yet another gate-keeper at its entrance, but this time they didn’t have to show the ticket to enter.
They arrived a bit early, so they found some seats in a corner and settled down to wait for the auction to begin.
Not long after, the dim auditorium was filled with people. A person walked up to the stage and spoke to the audience, “The time is here, so we’ll waste no more words — let the auction begin.”
Astra didn’t recognize most of the items being sold, but upon seeing Wen’s uninterested gaze, he understood that nothing particularly special had appeared yet.
When the auction passed the halfway mark, a chair was pushed onto the stage. A stunning woman with animal ears was tied to it.
The most attention grabbing feature of this spectacle wasn’t her beautiful face. Rather, it was those pair of gorgeous, deep blue eyes that had the room enthralled. Those blue eyes contrasted with the woman’s wicked figure and seductive features, making her seem innocent and naive.
Just like the little fox they had seen on Vagor.
Astra rubbed his forehead and turned to look at Wen, who remained seated and unmoving next to Astra.
The male lead’s gaze was cool and indifferent as he looked at the woman on the stage, as if he had absolutely no interest in what was going on in front of him. As if he didn’t give a damn about who it was. As if the woman on the stage wasn’t a part of his harem.
“You’re not interested?”
Wen replied with a question, “Do I really seem that hedonistic to you?”
Wen’s luck with women was indescribably good, to the point where he could just randomly walk out of his front door and a beautiful lady would be there waiting to fall into his embrace. But because there were too many members in the male lead’s harem, the author didn’t have enough time and energy to properly plan out the character of each and every beauty, so all of the female characters in the book turned out to be quite boring and unoriginal. None of them were realistic or unique enough to stand out from the rest.
“Just kidding.” Astra poked Wen’s hand. “I’m just trying to say that you’re really handsome in a roundabout way.”
The corner of Wen’s lips curled up. “Only a tiny bit more handsome than you are.”
Up on the stage, the male lead’s harem member didn’t even get to say a single line before she was soon taken away. The rest of the auction proceeded along very fast. Not long afterwards, a wrinkled old man with a hunched back walked up to the stage.
Astra and Wen immediately became alert. They straightened in their seats and stared hard at their target.
The old man was selling a newly developed medicine. Even though the medicine was very hard to come by, it was not rare or dangerous enough to be on the Empire’s list of illegal substances. After he finished selling his wares, the two youths looked at each other and quietly left their seats.
They found the old man outside, at the back of the auction building.
Everyone at the auction referred to the old man as the Medicine Man.
The Medicine Man wanted to walk around them, but Wen reached out and stopped him in his tracks before speaking politely, “Don’t leave yet, sir. We have something that we’d like to ask you about.”
“I don’t know anything,” The Medicine Man lowered his head, he spoke slowly, and his voice was raspy with age. “You’ve got the wrong person.”
Wen’s lips curved upwards into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “But you’re so famous, how could we mistake you for anyone else?” Wen bent down and drew closer to the old man. “If you’re in such a hurry, I won’t delay you for long. All you have to do is tell me who bought the NK-03 from you.”
The Medicine Man raised his head for the first time and looked up at Wen. “I’ve never come in contact with NK-03. I’m sorry, but you’ve heard the wrong information.” He took a step back in caution, but before he could say more, an invisible thread caught around his neck and tightened. The thread continued to constrict, wringing as though it would slice clean through his neck.
This sort of injury could only be inflicted with spiritual energy, but the white bracelet on his wrist didn’t make a single sound signalling its presence within the vicinity.
The old man panted for breath, his heartbeat quickening with alarm. “I—”
“May I ask what you are doing?”
A man in his twenties walked out from somewhere behind the old man and smiled as he looked at the group of people standing in front of him. “Why are the guests over here instead of inside?”
The Medicine Man felt the threads on his neck contract. For a brief moment he thought he was going to die, but in the next second the spiritual energy wrapped around his neck suddenly disappeared, leaving him to cough violently as the pressure was abruptly lifted from his windpipe.
Ian spoke softly to Astra and Wen, “Master, this is the owner of the auction.”
Astra and Wen met each other’s gaze. Astra took the initiative to reply, buttering up his naive act as he spoke, “We just thought that this old grandpa’s face seemed a bit familiar, so we came over to talk to him.”
The owner, “Really?”
The smiling expression never slipped from his face, but that somehow made him seem even more unreadable. His gaze scanned each of them one by one before he turned again to Astra. “Medicine Man, did you do something to trick our guests? Again?”
The Medicine Man trembled under the owner’s gaze, his voice shook as he replied, “N-no, I didn’t.”
The auction owner’s smile stretched wider. “Come here.”
The Medicine Man’s terror was obviously visible, but he still did as he was told. When he stumbled to the owner’s side, the man snatched him up by the neck and snapped his limbs with deft and cruel movements.
The Medicine Man shook like a leaf in the wind, his pained cries rang out ceaselessly as he struggled in the owner’s grip.
Astra’s expression shifted from the innocent mask. He stepped forward to stand protectively in front of Wen and Ian, his gaze sharp as he faced the auction owner.
Wen and Ian stilled in surprise.
No one had ever tried to protect them from danger before.
Astra’s figure stood firm. His body was well built and strong, conveying a sense of security that made people feel at ease. Astra was very much a man.
But this feeling of being under someone else’s protection… It was hard for Wen and Ian to decipher what they were feeling.
The auction owner’s smile was still warm and cordial. “My dear guests, are you satisfied with this sort of punishment?”
Astra suddenly smiled. “There wasn’t much of an issue in the first place. We’ll feel guilty if you do something like this.”
The owner looked at Astra with renewed interest. “Tell me then, how may I help you absolve the guilt in your heart?”
“We’ll take care of the medical expenses.” Astra walked to the owner and took the Medicine Man from the owner’s hands. Surprisingly, the owner let the Medicine Man go without much resistance.
But the moment the owner let go, the Medicine Man’s chest cavity ruptured. The blood burst forth like a flower bud exploding into blossom, red liquid splashed all over the place. Astra had felt something off and had tried to back away quickly, but he still wasn’t fast enough to save the Medicine Man from the owner’s hands.
The expressions in Astra and Wen’s eyes became chilling.
The owner’s smile didn’t slip open a bit. His gaze was still fixated on Astra. “How can I let a guest feel bad? Honored guest, what is your name? The auction will give you a gift for our mistake in showing you this shameful side of our organization.”
“Haha,” Astra replied. “They call me Big D.”
‘Big D’. It was probably a nickname with some special meaning.
The auction owner nodded and glanced at the corpse still in Astra’s arms, before leaving to prepare gifts for the three of them.
Wen, “Just throw it here.” His voice was cold as he spoke. His spiritual energy had already tunneled into the owner’s brain.
Astra put the corpse down. His body was covered with blood. As they were about to leave, Ian knelt down beside the body and examined it closely for a while before he raised his head up to look at Astra. “Master, there’s something embedded under his skin over here.”
Upon hearing that, Astra didn’t say anything more as he picked up the body he had just put down. “We have to hurry.”
Ian turned to the side to hide his flustered state as he followed the pair out of the auction building. This person, Astra, how could he be so naive as to believe everything others say? What if Ian was a bad person? What if he had been lying? Did these thoughts not cross Astra’s mind before he chose to believe what he was saying?
…Astra was…really stupid.
They found a secluded spot after leaving the auction. Astra tossed a military-grade dagger to Ian and set the corpse down in front of him.
This unquestioning trust made tears well up in Ian’s eyes. He didn’t dare to raise his head. Instead, he sliced down on the Medicine Man’s back with deft movements. No one could see what Ian did, but after a while he stood up and handed what he found to Astra.
The object embedded under the Medicine Man’s skin seemed to be some sort of human or animal skin. There were strange numeric symbols written on the flap of skin. Astra stared at it for a while in silence before tossing it to Wen, feeling as if he was illiterate. “I can’t make out what it says.”
Wen chuckled. “This is an encoded message, how could you understand it?” He didn’t even look at it before he stuffed it into his jacket. Wen turned to look at Ian, his eyes narrowed in contemplation.
Ian stood there silently, his dull eyes only showing signs of life whenever he looked at Astra.
Astra and Wen had to return to school.
Astra spoke to Ian, “Now, the collaboration I was talking about…”
Astra’s requirements weren’t too strict. He freed Ian from his slave contract and gave the young man enough money to get started. Astra wanted to see Ian stand on his own feet, he didn’t want to see the youth become yet another person’s servant.
Astra had always admired powerful, confident people.
Before Ian left, he stared hard in Astra’s direction. He wanted to remember the boy that had changed his life. Ian bent his knee and knelt on the ground, his tone was filled with determination as he spoke, “I will definitely make you proud, my master.”
From the depths of his heart, Ian sincerely believed Astra to be his master.
After returning to the school, Wen gave the skin to Linus. “Can you solve the code?”
Linus picked it up and looked over it carefully. He was intrigued by the puzzle being presented to him. “Let me give it a try.” And then Linus hurried back into his room, not wanting to waste a single second.
Astra and Wen were covered in blood. They had covered it up with their cloaks on the way back, but once they took them off inside the apartment, their blood-soaked clothes gave their teammates quite a fright.
The apartment only had one bathroom, so Astra asked Wen, “Wanna shower together?”
Wen nodded casually. He suddenly thought of something else. “That nickname you mentioned, Big D, what does it mean?”
Could it be that the people in this world didn’t know what it meant?
Astra was silent for a moment before he replied, “It’s something people would say back at home, to describe how naive and adorable I am.”
Wen thought it was pretty funny. “Then you’re really a Big D.”
Astra made a complicated expression. He didn’t know whether he should be happy or not. “Thank you.”
They got their clothes and entered the bathroom. The shower was built to accommodate many people at once, so there were different partitions. Each one was separated from the neighbouring stall by a special, waterproof material.
Astra stripped off his clothes as he walked into the bathroom. His movements were graceful and caused the muscles on his stomach to ripple. In an instant, the bathroom was flooded with masculine pheromones.
Astra bent down to put his dirty clothes into the washing machine. Wen also took his shirt off and leaned over Astra’s naked back, tossing the clothing inside as well.
The male lead didn’t have that amazing scent anymore.
Astra felt a little unhappy.
He thought, when the male lead does it, what kind of scent would his body have?
In the book, when he was rolling in the sheets with all his women, did he also have this scent that could put all those women to shame?
“Your figure’s pretty great,” Wen unbuttoned his pants, “but mine’s just a little bit better.”
“Hmmm, I can’t see how yours is better.” Astra rubbed his chin thoughtfully as his gaze swept over Wen’s upper half. “I’ve got everything that you have. Unless… Why don’t you turn around and let me see the other side?”
Were all teenagers this competitive?
Wen laughed and turned around. “So? What do you think?”
Steam from the shower rose all around them. Astra’s voice sounded deeper as it echoed in the bathroom, “Yeah, definitely better than mine.”
T/N: 叶(Ye, leaf) 安(An, peace) sounds like Ian, so he’s Ian now. Also advanced chapters are avaliable on Patreon (note that the 1 chapter advance option is actually open up to Ch. 12, so take everything and +2 if that makes sense). I’m also doing a poll on Patreon to decide on my next project, so if you want to pitch in on that, make sure you check it out 😀