A six-year-old boy was holding the hands of his five-year-old sister. Their father abandoned them when they were still babies which left them in the care of their mother, Olivia. Their mother cared for them the best she could. The siblings could see her working day and night without rest. They would even wonder if their mother ever slept. They were young and their innocence shrouded everything as if all were normal to have.
They were incomplete but the family of three was happy. Until a year ago, their life made a complete change. Their mother came home, sick from work and became bedridden. She was so weak that she could not even stand on her own. Thus, this made the older child go beg on the streets. His sister wanted to come with him but the brother would not allow her. He was the man of the family now. He would shoulder everything for his beloved mother and sister. They were all that he had left.
"Take care, brother! Don't worry. I will stay here with mom. Promise!" the sister said to the brother.
"I trust you, Uwyn. Remember to feed mom on time, okay? I will be back before nightfall." The brother reminded his sister.
"You can count on me, brother!" Uwyn assured his brother.
"Maru…" a weak voice called from the room. They live in a shabby hut that has only one room. They tried to fix it the best they could. Now that their mother was sick, she needed to be protected the most from the elements. It was hard especially when it rains. Their roof leaked and even their thin walls could not completely defend against the wind.
There was one time when their roof caved in, drenching them all in rain. They could not move their mother and so they could only cover themselves in blankets while waiting for the rain to stop. The three lived a tough life. It was what was given to them and so they had to wade through its challenge no matter what. For themselves and their loved ones.
"I'm here, mom." Maru went inside the hut to answer his mother's call.
"Sorry, my child. Mom is sick and not able to provide for you and your sister. If only I still have my strength, you would have never gone to beg in the streets." Olivia said to her son. Her voice was weak, the same as her body.
"I can do this, mom. I'm big now. You don't have to worry about me." Maru said, smiling to his mother. The brave front he was showing was very convincing.
"Just please take care of yourself, okay? And avoid the bullies. If you got into a fight with them, don't fight back. They will only hurt you more if you do that. Just run away from them. Promise me, Maru." Olivia said to her son.
"I know, mom. I promise." Maru answered his mother.
"Good." Olivia muttered as she closed her eyes. Her strength was sapped from that short talk with her son.
"Bye, mom." Maru whispered and kissed his sick mother's forehead. He went out of their home and hugged Uwyn before also saying goodbye.
"Bye, Uwyn!" Maru said to his sister.
"Take care, brother!" Uwyn said in response to her brother. Maru went to walk for 30 minutes to arrive in the city. They could not afford to live inside because the city requires tax for the inhabitants within its walls. This was not to say that there aren't slums in the city, there was. The poor also have to pay protection money to the government. Their family had a humble house in the slums before but because they could not afford to pay the monthly tax anymore so in the end, they had to go outside the city to build their home.
Maru did not go to the entrance of the city. He doesn't have money for the entrance fee. And even he had, the guards on the gates would have never allowed him to enter after seeing his dirty torn clothes. He went to the sewers to get access inside the city. It stinks but Maru had been used to it already during the year that he had frequented by this passage. After he got through the sewers' puzzling twists and turns, he exited to see the slums welcome his view.
He ducked low to avoid being caught out by the people of the slums. They don't like vagrants like him to increase competition in the streets. Maru ran quickly and after 20 minutes of navigating the slums, he finally reached his destination. The market. This was heaven for people like him. There were people all around. There were rich people who wore glamorous clothes and there were also people with clean servant's clothes. These were his targets.
He would not approach a rich person here in the market. Most, if not all, would go angry when he approached. Some would even use violence upon him. There was one time that he had been hit by a baton of a rich woman's bodyguard. Maru would never forget that because his hand was swollen for almost a month after that incident. He approached a young lady in servant's clothing.
"Could you spare a penny for me, miss? My mother is sick. I need money to feed her and my sister." Maru said to the young lady. This marked the start of his long toil inside the city of Antavale.
Nine hours quickly passed for Maru. He had been able to get 15 pennies as his harvest for the day.
"Hmmm. It was a good day for me. I could buy fifteen breads for this or 2 kilos of rice. I should buy the rice. That would last us five days if I don't eat too much." Maru thought. He had already been used to eating little. Most of the food was given to his sister and mother. He was ready for any sacrifice for his family. Maru loved both of them. The rich kids his age would still be too young and immature to act like Maru did. That was because their situation was a difference between worlds. Hardship forces a child like Maru to grow up fast. He had to adapt in order to live, for him and his family. Even if he was still a baby himself.
Maru went to the slums once more. From there, he could again exit the city with the use of its sewers. When he was halfway through the slums, a group of children barred his way. He tried running but the much older boys were faster than him. Maru got caught."Well well well. What have we have here, boys? A mouse! Hahaha!" the leader of the group laughed at Maru. Two boys held him and he got searched all over his body."15 pennies. An abundant income wouldn't you say, mouse?" the leader asked Maru."Please. You can't take the money. My mother's sick and I need that for us to live." Maru begged the group of boys. He was now crying as he had worked very hard to get those 15 pennies. He spent nine tough hours just to be able to collect those from good people. Those
"Are you talking to me?" Maru asked the voice that he heard. He did not speak with words but used his thoughts to connect with this welcome newcomer. He was surprised that the voice could understand what he was trying to say."Affirmative, host." The voice answered Maru."Can you help me?" Maru inquired towards the voice."I will try, host.System scanning…1%2%3%99%100% complete
The bright morning rays of the sun awakened Maru. He got up from his bed and went through the already opened door of the hut. He saw Uwyn was cooking rice for their breakfast. Maru went towards the back of the hut to get vegetables from their small garden. They must harvest only little portions from the vegetables in order to save it for longer consumption. The soup from the few vegetables would have to do for their nutritional needs. The morning chores were quickly done and the family had their breakfast. Uwyn was the one feeding their mother, Olivia."What happened yesterday, Maru? Why were you back so late?" Olivia asked her son during the meal."The guards saw me, mom. I had to hide for a while to avoid their search." Maru replied to his mother."Be careful
"Affirmative, host." The female voice replied to Maru."What should I call you, madame?" Maru asked tentatively. He doesn't want to offend the lady voice. She saved his life once. He owed much to her."You can call me anything you want, host." The female voice responded to Maru."Is that okay? Wouldn't you be offended by that?" Maru cautiously asked the lady voice."Affirmative, host. The system has no emotions." The female voice sounded."What are you?" Maru could barely comprehend about the things the lady voice was talking about."I am an Artificial Intelligenc
"Affirmative, host. The system can produce medicine for any kind of disease provided that you build the technology it needs." The female voice answered Maru."Do you know what disease my mother has, madame?" Maru asked the lady voice."Negative, host. Do you want the system to scan your mother?" the female voice asked Maru."Yes! Yes, please!" Maru answered the lady's voice excitedly."Affirmative, host.System scanning…1%2%3%99%100% completeThe system found that your mother has polymyositis. This disease deteriorates all the muscles of the body and causes them to ultimately collapse making even simple motions extremely hard." The female voice reported her diagnosis to Maru."What technology would I need to cure my mother's disease, madame?" Maru asked the lady voice aft
"Nice. Let's be friends from now on, Madame Ais." Maru said. His innocence showed through his simple words."...…." Madame Ais did not deem what Maru said worthy of a response. She was not built to have complex algorithms to emulate feelings or emotions."Okay. Scan the area for the nearest deposits of any of those precious metals, Madame Ais." Maru instructed the system."Affirmative, Maru.System scanning…1%2%3%99%100% completeFound 1,946 valuable and precious metal components within a 5 kilometer radius. The nearest is approximately fifty feet to the west." Madame Ais answered Maru."Nice. Thank you, Madame Ais. We'll get a fabricator by noon!" Maru was excited to start this new adventure. He looked unto the future with bright prospects.1 hour2 hour
"No! Please, don't!" Maru yelled and started to run away from the ugly looking man. He got only a few feet before he was stopped by the unwelcome intruder. His neck got held so tightly that he could barely get air to come into his lungs. He was slowly suffocating. Maru cried from fear and tears went flowing freely down his cheeks."You better cooperate, kid. Or else, it might get bad for you real quick. Hehehe. You will have to serve me well.You can do it with pain or no pain. Either way, your ass is mine. Hahaha! Choose wisely, kid." The ugly looking man said to Maru after he released his tight grip from the boy's scrawny neck."Hah.. hahh… hahhh…." Maru was gasping for breath. His neck hurt a lot. Deep imprints of the ugly man's fingers were decorating his neck like an unnerving collar. A mark of doom and a symbol of possession."Please. I will do anything. Just don't kill me. My family won't survive without me!"
"Please! Wait. I'm coming." Maru said as he stood on shaky legs."You seem to forget something, kid." The ugly looking man reminded Maru."I'm coming, daddy." Maru indulged the sick fantasy of the ugly looking man. The weak have no right to complain. He was determined to do this and get it over with. Maru only wished to live through this ordeal."Hahaha! Smart kid! You will see your family again after this. I promise." The ugly looking man said to Maru. Lying was a way of life for him. He felt no guilt whatsoever in toying with the boy."Thank you, daddy." Maru replied towards the ugly looking man. There was hope as long as he still lives. No matter what he will go through, the word surrender would never be his. For he knew that there were people waiting for him to come back home safely. Maru would go through hell and back just to see them once more. To be with his mother and sister, that was all that mattered