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 next time, okay? I can't lose you, Maru. You and Uwyn are all I have left." Olivia said emotionally towards her son.
"I'll never leave you, mom. Don't worry, I'll watch out for those guards later." Maru assured his mother.
"Just be safe, Maru." Olivia said to her son.
"I will, mom." Maru replied to his mother. The three continued their breakfast in silence. They were not in good condition. Their mother was sick and his sister, Uwyn, was so thin because of the lack of food. Maru was even thinner than Uwyn was. They prioritized feeding their mother for her to get well as soon as possible. Taking care of the sick was not a simple job. Especially if only kids are doing the job and with a glaring lack of resources.
"Do you know why dad left, brother?" Uwyn asked in a soft voice. They were now outside as Maru was once again going to beg for food in the city. Or at least that was what he told his family.
"I don't know, Uwyn. Mother won't talk about it. I heard in the city that men leave their wives because they found someone more beautiful." Maru answered innocently.
"But mom is the most beautiful mom there is! There has to be some other reason for dad to leave us." Uwyn argued with Maru's words.
"I know, Uwyn. Mom is the most beautiful wife a man could hope for. Let's just believe that father died and he wanted to come back to us but he couldn't. It would be a more comfortable thought for us, wouldn't you say Uwyn?" Maru said glibly towards his sister.
"Yes! I think that's why he did not come back after all these years, brother. But… Sometimes I wish I'd see dad again. Do you still remember his face, Maru?" Uwyn asked softly. She also uncharacteristically said his brother's name. It was a clear sign of how troubled she was. This was very important for Uwyn.
"No, Uwyn. I can't remember dad's face anymore. I don't think I've ever seen him. We were still babies back then." Maru replied to his sister. He wanted to add that they were still babies now but that would hold no significance to them. They can't change what they were right now. What was best was only to survive through this and hope for a better tomorrow.
"Take care of mom, Uwyn. If I could stop by the Scavenger's Haven later, I'll buy your favorite sweet candies, okay?" Maru said after Uwyn hadn't responded anymore. She was deep in thought.
"Okay, brother." Uwyn replied softly. She was still not her usual self. The topic earlier clearly bothered her.
"Don't worry, Uwyn. If we grow up and dad is still alive, I'm surely going to find him for you. And if I do, we'll see him together, okay? After that, we would hire a painter to draw us. You, me and dad. If mom agrees to come, it will be a complete family painting. That way, even if father leaves us again, you will remember his face forever. So cheer up now." Maru tried his best to uplift Uwyn's spirit. He couldn't bear to see his sister sad. It broke his heart to see her this way. His irresponsible father still continued to give them pain after he was long gone. Maru hated his father.
"You promise, brother?!" Uwyn said excitedly. Her eyes sparkled as she pictured the image drawn by her brother.
"I promise, Uwyn!" Maru tried adding more volume to his voice to be as convincing as he can be. He was also hurting deep inside. How could he lie to his sister this way? But he had to. He will bear everything for Uwyn and for his mother, Maru vowed.
"Good. Don't you dare break this promise like you did yesterday! And don't forget to buy me sweet candies! Take care, brother!" Uwyn was back to her usual lively self. She smiled at Maru hoping for what was to come later. She loved eating those expensive sweet candies.
"I know, Uwyn. I'm going now." Maru said in goodbye to his sister and he started to walk. They had no neighbors near them because his mother said that having people near you in these lands was more dangerous than not. Desperation would lead even a good sane man to do unspeakable evil in these parts. That was why their mother had chosen a location away from people. They were alone but they were together and alive. It was all that mattered to Maru. He did not go far. He took shelter under a lone willow acacia tree after only ten minutes of walking.
They were in open land. There was a forest nearby but his mom told them not to go there. There were beasts and the occasional magical beasts that roamed the edges of the forest. Oftentimes, Maru wondered what magic beasts are like. Were the tales true that they were fierce and would eat anything they laid their eyes on, even humans?
"Magical beasts. Why am I thinking of such things when I should find ways on getting money or food? Hopefully both if I'm lucky. Hmmm." Maru thought under the willow acacia.
"Are you there, madame?" Maru asked after he could think of no solution for his problem. He knew he could not go back to the city today. If he got caught again, who knows how that would end for him. He almost died once already, it would be stupid to tempt fate again. Or at least until he found out who this mysterious lady voice was. It was time to get answers, Maru decided.
"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
The dagger aimed for the fatal spot in one of the carotid arteries located at the neck of the boy. The ugly looking man was successful in his right handed slash but the tip of the dagger missed by a mere centimeter. His attack was dodged. He tried to do a second combination offense by throwing a left punch but he was stopped in his tracks by a heavy force."Thank you for giving me the opportunity to get out. Too bad you lasted prematurely. I would have loved to give you a ride you won't forget. Goodbye." Madame Ais said in farewell. Her right hand had gone through the ribcage and crushed the ugly looking man's heart, literally. Her victim tried to open his mouth to say his last words but he was not given the luxury of it. He died with his eyes open in disbelief."What happened, Madame Ais? Maru asked when he was forced to awake from his slumber."The target has been eliminated, Maru." Madame Ais replied."Is he dead
"I know, brother. I'm big now and very responsible." Uwyn said as she smiled at Maru. He was the foundation of the family since her mother succumbed to sickness. She looked at him with love and adoration."Yes. You're a big girl now, Uwyn. Wait here." Maru said to his sister. He went outside to kill the light from the torch in order to conserve it for further usage."Come here, Uwyn. Don't make a noise, okay? We don't want to disturb mom's sleep." Maru said after he went inside and closed the door of the hut. He was now sitting on his bed. Both then huddled in the corner, away from their mother's ears."Okay, brother. Where's the surprise?" Uwyn whispered to her brother. She looked at Maru's hands to see if he was holding something but was disappointed. Her brother's palms were empty."Wait a moment, Uwyn. Just stay quiet for now." Maru said to his sister. He deliberately closed his eyes to give a mystical effect on
"Okay, brother." Uwyn replied. Her eyes were wide in excitement as she waited for her brother to do some magic."How come I know which are the food fabricator and the medicine fabricator, Madame Ais?" Maru asked the system after he closed his eyes in front of his sister. He and Uwyn don't know how to read. Even his mother, Olivia, also didn't know how to read and write. No books were present in their humble home. They could barely find food to eat. How could they afford those expensive books which contain knowledge from their ancestors? But Maru could see the different letters in the book and instinctively knows which is which between the two books."You are connected to the system, Maru. Items on your inventory will be recognized by you spontaneously." Madame Ais replied