I Became The Pope, Now What? - Chapter 627
As Sylvester looked around, he slowly began to understand how deep the evil permeated. Slavery wasn't a mere trade there. It was a way of life; And it had been like that for a thousand years. The workers working there were most likely born and bred there—as he presumed from how unhinged they seemed. The chains around the necks of the workers clearly showed that they were also slaves, but their better clothes told a different story.
'Destroying this place is easier—but fixing the broken minds will be the real challenge.' Sylvester muttered to himself and remembered the path to take according to the available maps he had seen.
He turned around and walked through a slave waiting area. It was a massive hall where hundreds of slaves of all types and ages were chained together and made to sit as they were being prepared to be sent off through secretive means. It was usually in wooden crates or some hidden compartments of ships.
'I hate the scent here.' For Sylvester, who could smell emotions, being there was a nightmare. The hopelessness and sadness blended together and smelled like the scent of bitter death itself. It was evident that most in the Tower of Godless wished for a swift end rather than prolonged suffering.
But there was something Sylvester found strange, 'I still don't see any high-value slaves. No elven women, dwarven men, or giants.'
He walked across the hall and arrived at what he could only describe as chaos. The ceiling was high, but it was visible. At a glance, it felt like he was inside a cave since he was in the first underground level.
However, the market started from there. Long pathways were set with intersections. The paths aligned with shops on both sides, some looking like open stalls, and some had formal structures. They all showcased slaves, some naked and others not. Blacksmiths, goldsmiths, literate ones—slaves for all sorts of work were available for sale there. But he didn't notice any slaves younger than ten yet. It was a sign that the more heinous and less socially accepted sale was done on different, much higher, or deeper floors.
"Ugh… The prices are so much higher this month…"
"This might be my last purchase…"
"Nobles are scared of buying slaves now…"
Sylvester heard chatter from the crowd of buyers. It was clear that his policies had started to show results, and slavery was on the decline. But he knew that as long as the Tower of Godless existed with all its riches, they'd do anything possible to keep the business going.
Avoiding most hawkers selling their 'merchandise,' Sylvester went one level upward since his destination was the top, where the five Slave Gods resided. As he arrived at the first floor, he was stopped by the soldiers standing at the entrance to the massive hall. This one was different and looked artificially made with high ceilings, gigantic pillars, and brightly lit with Light Crystals.
Sylvester assessed the soldiers. There were about a dozen. In black-colored metal armor, they looked like sentinels without even a single part of their body visible. Even their helmets only had a tiny gap for two eyes.
'No emotions—slaves turned guards?' Sylvester found the emotional state of the soldiers somewhat strange, as if they were conditioned for that work.
Sylvester immediately handed over the token and waited for the soldiers to assess it carefully. They placed it through a large round ring. Soon enough, the ring began to shine white through the various runes inscribed on it.
"Welcome, John Lincoln." The guard greeted and returned the token to Sylvester.
"Haha… Thank you," He kept himself nasty and walked forward, having already tempered with the ring. It had some runes on it, and overpowering the runes with his Elder Magic was all too easy. Not to mention, he had a backup plan as well, something that would help him even now.
"Halt! How did you enter?!"
As Sylvester walked onto the floor, he heard chaos behind him. A simple smirk remained on his face as he sacrificed a random slave buyer by causing his token to seem fake. The tokens were simple objects for him, but for the common world, they were high-level crafts. They weren't easy to overpower for simple wizards, and the detector runes could easily see through false tokens.
With that, Sylvester began going up through the floors. It was easy to overpower the checkpoints, as all detection rings were the same. However, he didn't let his guard down as he expected something different on the fifth floor—a reason why most other Clergymen got caught going beyond the fifth level.
'The quality of slaves has been improving in terms of looks and physical condition. The crowd is also less. It'll be hard to blend in as I go up.' Sylvester spent much time on the fourth floor to assess every possible situation.
The sellers weren't shouting but welcomed potential buyers into their stalls with big smiles. The buyers also appeared far richer through their attire and mannerisms. Of course, Sylvester still kept his persona of an erratic man.
"What are you selling, boy?" Sylvester asked one of the shop owners. The man, despite having a white beard and a hunched back, didn't mind being called 'boy.'
The old man merrily invited Sylvester over, "What are you looking for, my good friend?"
"Those I have the finest!"
Sylvester smiled, "Then lead me right in, boy."
Sylvester was sure he was under someone's gaze at that point. So, he attempted to act like a genuine buyer. He silently followed the man into his shop and soon arrived in a long room at most two meters wide. Throughout the entire length, slaves stood at the sides, shoulder to shoulder—all of them naked.
'No tears—Must have already shed all they could cry.' Sylvester reckoned as he looked at the 'merchandise.' They all avoided looking at Sylvester in the eye and kept their gaze down. They didn't flinch and made sure they covered no part of their bodies.
"All women, turn around!" The slave owner shouted.
Immediately, Sylvester began nodding his head, "Give me the number by age group."
"We have twenty under thirty, fifteen under twenty—and if you want better ones, I can get you connected with the right folks," the slave owner said, openly revealing what he shouldn't have.
'No lies—I sense desperation. It seems my policies at the Holy Land have pushed them to the edge..'
"Perfect! I shall buy all the under-twenty you have, boy. But such are the times, I won't pay you more than five gold," Sylvester haggled right away, as it was supposed to be his character.
The old man merely smiled and invited Sylvester to the side for a drink, "One of the girls is the daughter of a minor noble, and others are also from good backgrounds. They are fine women who will serve you well—Worth more than five gold, my friend."
Sylvester didn't even bother asking the man his name and took out seven gold coins, "You either take this and seal the deal, or I walk out and find another place."
There was an immediate silence. Sylvester smelled the desperation in him and knew the deal was almost done.
So, he used the oldest trick in the game and stood up to leave, "Fine, I'll look elsewhere then."
"Wait! Deal—I'll sell them. Let's sign the sale deed!"
But Sylvester didn't give in anymore, "My hand will only shake yours if you point me to better merchandise. Business is good. The Septem Council is dead—demand for elven goods is more than ever; even Vampires are being asked for. I'll give you a silver if you help your friend here."
The old man immediately jumped to grab Sylvester's hand, "Of course… My brother sits on the tenth floor. The good, non-human goods start from there. Can you show me your token?"
Sylvester kept his sense of emotion sharp and revealed his token, but never handed it over.
"Oh!" The old man exclaimed in shock. "I don't know what you are doing on this floor when you can be at the fortieth—But I thank you for doing business with me."
'Fortieth?' Sylvester had no idea his token meant that. 'Of course, the Septem Council would have such access. But I can't risk going up, as the crowd will thin out.'
"I merely hoped to find some good deals on the lower floors before I got serious with my visit. Have the slaves fitted with clothes—I don't want those holy men sniffing out my goods." Sylvester ordered the man and decided to go before any more questions were asked.
"That will require five silvers, my friend."
'So that's how they make higher profits?' Sylvester came to a realization. It was common sense that one wouldn't take slaves outside naked.
But he didn't waste any more time and flipped a coin toward him. Right away, with the certificate of purchase, he made his way toward the staircase that led to the fifth floor. However, he took his time, allowed a few men to go before him, and observed the entire process. It looked the same, but now, along with the large ring for tokens, a metallic square frame was used to check the identity of each person entering.
'There must be some form of registry attached to the square.' Sylvester tried to check the strange contraption from a distance using the solarium in the air. With Elder Magic's manipulation, he attempted to probe the contraption and learn everything.
He soon went ahead and stood in the line and tried to change the runes. It was pretty tiring as he had to ensure the tool didn't malfunction before arriving at it. Silently, he watched two men being checked thoroughly.
At last, he handed the golden token and passed through the square frame. A white light emerged from runes soon after, and he found the token returning in his pocket. However, the two dozen guards there didn't clear his path.
"John Lincoln—Which floor do you wish to tour?" the one checking the tokens asked.
Sylvester replied in the usual persona, "Haha, I'm merely looking around for a good catch. But my destiny is the fortieth floor—the finest goods are there, aren't they?"
"Certainly. Please follow us to the moving room—we shall escort you to the fortieth floor." The guard replied and gestured for Sylvester to follow.
'No emotions—It's hard to make anything of this.'
"Of course, lead the way then," he decided to follow, since not going could mean a fight would erupt. "Have there been any additions to the eleven goods? Perhaps I might buy them all today."
The guards didn't say a word and led Sylvester to an elevator. It had no door and just a wooden frame inside the elevator shaft that was continuously moved by an operator's control panel. It was a very rudimentary style elevator. But it was quite spacious.
Right away, as Sylvester walked in, a dozen armored guards followed and crowded him to a corner. He turned around and noticed the guards were still facing him.
'No wonder nobody ever went beyond the fifth floor.'
He noticed the elevator moving through many floors and much faster. However, what alerted him was the increasing number of guards on each floor facing the elevator, appearing as a fleeting image as he moved up.
'A battle seems imminent.'
The floors went by very fast, and before Sylvester knew it, the speed began to come to a slow halt.
All the guards unsheathed their swords, black in color and very thin—but sharp. Outside the elevator, countless guards crowded the space. The entire floor seemed black as he could only see the black armors and blades.
Sylvester laughed in his disguised persona, "Hahaha—Why so many for this lowly one's escort? I'm flustered."
"John Lincoln, follow us." The guard who had come with him from the fifth floor's entrance said. "The Slave Gods wish to speak with you. There is no way out."
Sylvester just smiled and walked forward. He didn't even have to make any effort as he pushed the massive crowd of armored guards back. He pressed onto their bodies. Their armors clanked and smashed onto each other, denting and caving in, making them groan. He plowed through them but very slowly.
"Oh, apologies for moving so suddenly. I didn't realize you're this fragile—It seems there truly is no way out."
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