The town of Leopard Hill stands with its gates open and its guards ready to close them if anything happens, which it probably won't. Sesat might be at war but this town is far from Azan. With all that territory in the way it's probably safe to go run errands outside of town. Right?
"That depends, but I expect so."
”How do you mean?”
"I don't believe your promises."
“Do you at least believe that I don’t plan on hurting anyone?”
“What do you believe?”
"That you're going to try to kill or enslave me and everyone else in Sesat."
“What, me personally?” she says, but she regrets it even as she does. “Listen, we’re enslaving your army. It’s what we do. But we don’t harm civilians if we can avoid it.”
She makes a face. "I'm just lucky not to have a husband in the army, then, aren't I."
“I guess. But he’d likely be freed eventually.”
"If I had a husband in the army I wouldn't want him back like that."
“Why not? I’ve known plenty of former slaves. They’re excellent people.”
She shrugs. “Same as anyone. Kind, clever, funny...”
Teru just stands there uncomprehending.
“Where did I lose you?”
"I don't know whether to say 'the part where being kind, clever and funny makes you excellent' or 'the part where you can respect someone who you know was a slave enough to laugh at their jokes' or maybe 'the part where you care about slaves enough to try to bring that out in them' or... maybe you should start over with more detail."
“When we take a territory, we can’t afford their army getting together and fighting us again. So we disarm them and enslave them for a time, generally a couple years, until the risk passes. They don’t have freedom of movement through Azan or a choice in what their work is, but other than that they’re essentially the same as any other citizen.”
"We don't use the word 'slave' for people like that. Those people are prisoners of war. If you tell people who have loved ones in the army that you're going to be enslaving them you're going to alarm a lot of people who would be much less worried if you said you were going to keep some prisoners for a while."
“Aha, thank you. We’re keeping them as prisoners, then.”
"And if I had a husband in Azan right now I'd be very worried but not write him off as dead, which is what I'd do if he were a slave."
“I see. I’ll pass this on; it should help a lot.”
"Who will you pass it on to?"
“All the Azani I talk to. This is a huge difference in understanding.”
Well, that's not a helpful answer.
"May I go now?"