"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.
Found 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.
Four hours had passed and it was already 12 pm. He had collected only 504 world energy worth of those metals he found. Most were silver coins and he only lucked on finding a single gold coin. Maru was hoping to find treasure chests filled with gold and gems like in the stories his mother told him. But he never saw one in his search. He had asked Madame Ais about it and she answered that there was no buried treasure in the continent he was in.
"Were there treasure chests in other continents, Madame Ais?" Maru's curiosity wouldn't let the topic die just yet.
"Affirmative, Maru. Buried chests that contain valuable gold and other treasures are present overseas. This continent you reside in has been empty of those buried treasure chests you specified for the system to search." Madame Ais replied to Maru.
"It seems that the people in other continents are much wealthier than we are." Maru muttered aloud. How could they have so many buried treasure chests undiscovered, yet here it was nowhere to be found. Or maybe there were many buried treasures here before but had already been unburied by treasure hunters, Maru supposed. His mother, Olivia, loved to tell him and his sister about the grand adventures of those heroine and hero cultivators. She loved to fantasize about how great it would be like them. To soar into the wide sky and explore the enigmatic unknowns were a dream she would often romanticize about.
It was a life she would have loved to live in, Olivia believed. But that was not meant to be because she was born a mortal and had no connections to that world. She could only gaze at those mystical beings from afar and in silent anonymity.
"Better to stop wasting time. Where do we go next, Madame Ais?" Maru muttered after a moment of reminiscing his mother's tales.
"Two silver coins are located approximately 2 kilometers from your current position, Maru. Go south of here and…" Madame Ais continued showing directions to Maru. He would not stop when there was still sunlight he could use. That would have been too wasteful of a full day's worth. Maru was many things but he was not one to idle. Every second counts in life. Especially when there were lives who were counting on him to live.
"What's ahead, Madame Ais?" Maru asked the system. He saw smoke was rising from the distance he was going to.
"Nothing, Maru. Those are signs of combustible materials burning." The system replied to Maru.
"Okay. Hmm. Are those trees burning because of the heat?" Maru whispered. He had already spent 3 more hours on his search for the precious metals. One more hour and he would take his trip back home. Maru wouldn't want to get caught up traveling in the dark again. Even with Madame Ais now, he never wanted to experience that kind of helplessness again. It was traumatizing.
"You will get a silver coin approximately 20 feet ahead, Maru." The system reported to Maru.
"Thank you, Madame Ais!" Maru was excited. This would be his last harvest. He sped up and saw a canopy of trees met his sight. The collection of trees seemed so huge to him. He looked up and wondered what kind of trees they were. Maru continued walking and when he got beyond a tree to finally reach his prize. What he saw stunned him. There were wooden houses burning and many dead bodies were left sprawling on the ground. He panicked and ran to his left to get away from the scene of carnage but he slipped on something wet.
"What happened here?!" Maru said in a shivering voice. When he got up, he saw that he had fallen upon a cold body. He could not recognize if it was a man or woman. All he could see were the rosy blood covering the body. His stomach churned and he tried to stop what he knew was coming next. In the end, it was a futile attempt.
Maru vomited what he ate in the morning. He hadn't eaten lunch just as he was used to during his one year of struggles in this cruel world he was in. It was a tough life and it was about to get tougher.
"What a pleasant surprise! One rat has escaped the net we set up." An ugly looking man appeared in front of Maru.
"I'm not a member of this group. Please, let me go." Maru pleaded when he opened his eyes again. His stomach felt emptier with all that he had thrown up. He smelled of blood because he just noted now that his hands and feet were covered in them. It must have been during his fall, Maru guessed.
"That doesn't matter, kid. You're small. But it will have to do." The ugly looking man stared at Maru evilly. He took off his belt and put down his pants as a picture of pure lust mirrored his face. The women from this village were all taken to the camp for the chief and the other leaders to choose first. If he gets lucky, he would have to share a fat ugly old woman with a bunch of guys. About twenty or so would gang on that hapless woman. If he would get luckless, then he, together with his group of stinky men, would sodomize a fat ugly old man instead.
Such was life. It was hard and painful. But it was better to be the one administering it than be on the receiving end of such tragic endings, the ugly looking man thought. He smiled after he inspected the thin boy before him.
"Let's have some fun, kid." The ugly looking man said to Maru.
"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
"Okay. But first wait, Uwyn. I have something left to show you." Maru said to his sister."What is it, brother?" Uwyn asked Maru. She was curious about what other magical things her brother would let her see. Maybe another delicious food, she guessed cheerfully."It's a secret for now. Let me concentrate, okay? So that my magic can work." Maru asked his sister, Uwyn.".........…." Uwyn didn't reply with words but only motioned a zipping action with a hand on her mouth as her bright big eyes waited for another surprise, expecting to see her brother's magic once again. She was quite playful and energetic after she consumed one Fairy Yumyum and finished her milk.
"Get your sister to her bed, Maru." Olivia said to her son. After ten minutes of crying, she saw her daughter had fallen asleep already. Her position was quite uncomfortable as her knees were alighted in the hard wood of her brother's makeshift bed. Maru perfectly mirrored her situation."Okay, mom." Maru answered his mother. His voice was hoarse from crying so much. He went around his mother's cot and lifted Uwyn. Although he was thinner than his sister, that doesn't mean that he was weaker. His year in the slums, hiding and running away from the bullies, had raised his strength as well as his physical endurance. Maru even felt stronger now since Madame Ais had healed him. Uwyn weighed like feathers in his arms."Can you tell me what happened, Maru? Why were you two cryi
"Thank you, Maru." Olivia whispered while her son was hugging her after she cried for about two minutes. Both rarely had the opportunity to talk but that does not mean that the love they felt inside was any lesser. She thanked the heavens that she was given a son like Maru. Her husband may have left her. But he also left behind two wonderful gifts. Her children were her life now. They were the ones that sustained her to fight this sickness."I have something for you, mom." Maru said in reply to his mother. He disengaged from the hug and a basket appeared out of thin air between them. Her mom wasn't aware of the magical thing before her. She only saw her son reached for something in his front and then a bottle magically materialized atop his outstretched hand."So it's rea