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1 Chapter 0-1. Arc 1 – The mine

The magnificent ceremonial hall was bustling with noise and excitement

The noble ladies and gentlemen were whispering to each other, ignoring decorum.

"Who is this ugly guy?" and "Why is he marrying Princess Kara?" – These two questions were on everybody's mind in the room.

Meanwhile, the ceremony was coming to an end.

The bridal couple had exchanged the rings.

The bride named Kara had a truly outstanding appearance worthy of a princess. Her slim curvy body, dressed in an incredible white and burgundy wedding dress, caused excessive drooling in all the guests. They tried to smother the urge to kill the lucky groom.

Kara's beautiful piercing eyes had a demonic charm. Their beauty was breathtaking, but at the moment, an unknown, weak, far from handsome boy was enjoying the privilege to look into those eyes. It was unfair!

The husband, 15-something boy, whose make up made him anything but handsome, was smirking like a cat that had cornered a mouse. If the pressing glances of the jealous guests had any physical strength, they would have killed him hundreds of times, but it only fueled his passion.

The princess looked at the boy with an expression: "How is it even possible?"

The elder of the family glanced sympathetically over Kara, then jealously over the groom and said loudly:

«Seal your union with a kiss.»

Kara recalled this formality in the human race not without irritation and burned the groom with a disgusted look as if saying "Don't you dare or you will regret it later!"

The boy smiled cunningly, convinced in her helplessness. - {She won't dare to stop me. She won't turn against her mother} - The atmosphere of permissiveness thrilled him to pieces, flowing through his insides.

The princess's full cherry lips were enticing... The boy couldn't hold back anymore. He gave her a passionate kiss on the lips, enjoying the supple softness and sweet scent of the girl's body. He savored his power over the charming girl, and to get even more pleasure, he put his arms over the bride's thin waist, slightly pressing her ample boobs against himself. He knew it had left numerous people breathless.

The guests, envious and jealous, could not take their eyes off the kissing couple.

It seemed that the earth was to erupt, marking the end of the world and common sense.

The husband didn't cross the line. Any sticking his tongue a bit further, and she would bite it off.

Have you ever seen a girl staring at a creepy-crawly slimy, nasty slug? That was the way the princess looked at the boy intoxicated with kissing her.

Nevermind... Her imminent revenge would be terrible. Most likely, it would find the new husband very soon, right on the wedding night.

She could do it right now, but her mother stood there, gazing intensely at her, and she didn't dare.

«I now pronounce you husband and wife!» - said the elder with watery eyes, breaking the solemn silence.

...

His head was pounding so badly... He felt foggy.

He half-opened his eyes and could see a dim light from the flashlight.

Any physical effort was almost too much for him. His muscles throbbed with pain as if after extreme exercising. He was parched.

With the last of his strength, he raised his body, trying to remember anything.

He was in a cold, damp cave. He couldn't see two meters in front of him. A single flashlight built into the helmet radiated soft azure light. A crystal was faintly blinking inside, it was about to fade away.

The boy came to his senses, rubbed his temples, and began to analyze the situation. {Judging by the migraine and memory loss, I had been badly hit on the head.}

He stared at his hands as if he had never seen them before. - {It's odd.} – The skin was hard, rough, calloused. - {I most likely work here. But is it legal to work in the mine at my age? After all, judging by the size of my hands and body, I'm hardly 15 years old.}

The boy picked up the helmet with a built-up flashlight lying nearby, struggled to get back on his feet, and set about exploring the area.

He found a metal tool with a handle and a pointed end that looked like a pickaxe. It was a tool to use in the mine, which suggested ideas. A funny device lay nearby. It lacked figures and symbols but had a randomly spinning hand. - {It doesn't look like a compass.}

The boy carefully examined himself. He had worn clothing and shoes, pale skin, dirty broken nails, slim build, short hair and height. He had a strange feeling of looking at an absolute stranger. When he gingerly rubbed his forehead, he felt a strange tingling and outlines of some symbols.

{It is definitely not a scar… Is it possible that I'm branded?!}

The symbols meant his name - Kyon - but he wouldn't know that.

Still in shock, Kyon saw the light of the flashlight fading.

{Time is of the essence. I have to get out of here if I don't want to be stuck here forever.}

He shoved the tool and the device of unknown purpose under his belt and made his way in the only accessible direction.

The surrounding landscape had not changed much, even after a half-hour walk. It was the same dark wet cave with no end in sight. His unsuccessful attempts to remember anything were depressing. Suddenly he came up against a half-meter ledge of rock. It took him great effort to climb it and move forward. Soon he found out that the cave began to narrow.

The boy resolutely climbed uphill.

The cave was getting smaller and smaller, but his lean body had its advantages.

Finally, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

The boy climbed out of the cave, grunting. He got to his feet and dusted himself off. Eventually, the signs of civilization started to emerge. Wooden beams 3-4 meters in width and height backed up the walls. Railway tracks crossed the rich soil. Every ten steps, there was a bright flashlight on the wall. He was in the mine.

The smell of dampness and mustiness that accompanied the boy since the moment he woke up gave way to a more pleasant working atmosphere. Only, there were no workers at all… He could hear no sounds either. There was complete silence.

A smile flashed across his grim face: {I am on the right track.}

He looked back and noticed that the cave was well concealed with small boulders. It couldn't be detected without careful examination. His curiosity disappeared as soon as his stomach started growling. His hunger and thirst were unbearable, and his body was treacherously weak. Despite the weakness, his mind stayed clear.

Kyon had been walking up the rails for about 20 minutes until they led him to the main branch. Weird symbols were engraved on the wooden beams, but he couldn't read them. Soon he heard some distant voices. He failed to understand them, either. {How odd… I don't know this language…} - He listened carefully to the strange speech for a while but then gave up on this pointless activity. {Now is not the time for this.}

The boy focused his mind and walked wearily towards the sounds of the voices. He was ready for anything.

The working shift was over two hours ago.

The workers with minimal personal rights, to put it simply the slaves, were sleeping in their beds. However, Bob and Mob, the supervisors, were not getting any sleep. A boy named Kyon went missing three days ago.

«There could have been a rockslide. His tracking formation must have shattered.»

«Nice idea, but it's highly unlikely. My faithful dog Rogash would have found the body under the blockage.»

«Someone might have set him up and...?»

«Nonsense. Our people would have reported to us about the accident. Besides, Rogash would have smelled it as well.»

«What if he had escaped?»

«Are you crazy, man? No one escapes from here alive! As you know, the dead can't run. And even if they could, my dog...»

«I am sick and tired of your dog! Do you have any idea how we should report to Flitz about this!» - Mob exclaimed angrily.

After a moment of reflection, Bob, the happy owner of Rogash the Almighty, cautiously asked:

«What are the punitive measures in such weird cases?»

Mob's eyes flashed. He pulled an intimidating face and began to "enlighten" his buddy. «I heard that they took the previous supervisor's dog. The poor animal was gutted, filled with sawdust and put up in the prominent place as a reminder of his owner's guilt, and then…»

«Screw you and your jokes! It isn't a good time for them.» - Bob interrupted him, visibly annoyed.

Death of a slave meant nothing to a supervisor, but fat Bob was a rare exception. He had always been a softie and liked to help people in need because when he was a child, any help was vital for his impoverished family. Later, Bob managed to earn acceptable means of livelihood and landed on his feet. As a result of his malnutrition, he had gained weight and began to help others in need.

However, under the conditions in the mine where slaves often died of starvation, exhaustion or rockslide, his character had slowly changed.

Now both of them had something to worry about. Tomorrow the supervisors had to hand in the weekly report to their severe boss. It was impossible to fake the death of a slave. Everyone in the mine had a magic mark on their forehead called a "tracking formation." It tracked the location as well as the health condition.

If Kyon had died, the signal about his death would have reached the database. Then they could have closed his file without further proceedings. But there was no signal, and his formation did not respond. There were no witnesses to his death, no one knew anything, and the law had to be strictly observed. «Any activity in the mine must be under control.»

In the history of the mine, inexplicable losses happened rarely. The marks were incredibly stable magic formations that ordinary people couldn't destroy... Such cases were out of the ordinary and called for thorough analysis.

Bob and Mob were doing their best to find the missing guy three days long. They interrogated the slaves but found out absolutely nothing. Nobody had seen or heard anything. Bob even sent his faithful watchdog Rogash on the search, but he couldn't get a scent. Upon return, he whined pitifully and waggled his nose.

Outside footsteps interrupted their lively discussion.

The supervisors took a closer look and saw an exhausted boy aged 14.

He had black hair and dark brown eyes. The boy was of slim build, about 165 cm tall (5.4 ft).

«It's... It's him!» - Mob exclaimed uncertainly.

The boy could barely stand. Bob had to run up to support him. «What's the matter? Where the hell have you been?»

However, the boy kept silent. Next moment, his skinny body went limp and would have flopped to the ground, hadn't the supervisor backed him up. He lost consciousness.

«Finally, he's here! Whew... Such a weight off my mind... I wonder where he has been?» - Mob sighed with relief. However, he frowned as soon as he looked in the glassy device and failed to see any reaction in the formation on Kyon's forehead. - «Fuck, his formation doesn't respond!»

Bob was no less surprised. He wanted to say something but only shook his head. «It doesn't matter now. Look how exhausted he is... He is surely dehydrated, as well. He needs some rest to recover. We will find out the story from him later.»

«Bob, wait ... What are we going to say when they find out his formation is out of order? We have no idea where he has been, and the report is due tomorrow!»

«What the hell does it matter? We must help him first. He is dying!»

«Are you nuts? Let's get rid of him. He is nobody but a half-dead slave… His death will solve all the problems with the authorities...» - Mob approached the half-alive boy with cold determination.

Bob growled furiously:

«How can you be so insensitive? We must help this boy! All right! If that's what you want, I'll take full responsibility! Get out of my way.» - He pushed Mob away and dragged Kyon to the hospital.

«Moron! You are not looking for easy ways.» - Mob sneered at Bob's manifestation of humanism. His friend was always screwing around. - «By the way, your boasted dog couldn't find him... Do as you like as long as it's none of my business.»

The boy focused his mind and walked wearily towards the sounds of the voices. He was ready for anything.

He saw two men in the distance. They were shocked to see him.

Both of them were middle-aged. One man was stout and short, the other was tall and thin with a sly expression on his face. It struck him as strange that they had no formations on their foreheads. But then it only highlighted his guess that he was just a slave, and they were his superiors.

{Damn it... If this is the case, I am in an unenviable situation. These two would gladly get rid of me... Hell, I have no strength even to raise my hand... Am I done? I have no choice... I have to try.}

The boy was on the brink of death. A slave was nobody here. He carefully studied the expression on the supervisor's faces before taking his next step.

Is it possible to change your destiny?

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