18 Hand it over

"Aaaah! Finally, fresh air." Beth shouted, stretching on the pavement in front of her room.

She had spent the whole day cooped up inside the room. For a while, she dragged herself inside the four walls happily. Her stomach was full, and she had plenty of sleep. She played around with the bracelet until she was tired of trying to bring it to life. When the night fell, she was bored.

Fifty-eight had visited her again with a plate full of gravy and a loaf of bread. Seeing that she was walking around, the girl was surprised and assumed that it was the work of the balm that Three had given her.

The girl even praised her needlework, saying that her dress looked brand new- as if it had never been torn. Beth took the compliments with a tight smile and didn't bother to correct her. She sent the girl on her way as soon as the bell for the curfew rang.

Though she was bored, she didn't want to spend her time talking to people. Beth knew that something was missing in her life- books. Now, where was she going to find any books in heaven at all? She wondered.

As she walked up the lane, she passed by busy slaves and servants rushing towards their place of work. Most of them didn't bother to look at her, yet others carefully sidestepped her and tried their best to avoid her. She heard whispers about how she brought bad luck to those who talked to her.

It seemed like her reputation had plummetted within only three days of her arrival- not that she cared about it. She was rather happy about the situation. This way, she wouldn't have to put any effort into socializing.

Beth kept her head down and eyes on the ground. Her sandals looked dirty. If only she had someone to wash it for her, she thought with a sigh. Though she didn't like being dirty, she hated making an effort to look presentable. It was way too much work.

The early morning sun was gentle on her skin. She relished the soft warmth of it as she kept walking. Beth was so immersed in all these subtleties that she didn't notice what or who she was walking into. She banged right onto the leg of a minor god who was standing in front of the office with a huge book in her hand.

Startled by the impact, Beth jumped back, rubbing her head that had struck a hard surface. She was about to say something in irritation when she noticed the wall that she had run into. Number One stood in front of her like a tall tower, looking down at her with an angry glare.

"You seem like you cannot keep yourself out of trouble, Twenty-Three. I see that you're up and running about." One

said coldly, "I wonder how your wounds healed."

Beth licked her lips nervously. Number One was a dangerous person to have as an enemy. She had understood that the other day. The woman's warning still rung in her ears. It was best to lay as low as possible and act weak, she thought to herself.

"I'm sorry," Beth mumbled, hoping to avoid the question.

One huffed. Narrowing her eyes at her, she leaned in close to her face. "Answer the question," She spat, "slave."

Beth shivered. She started, "I received a balm-"

"Who dared to send a medicinal balm to a slave?!" One thundered, suddenly looking enraged.

"I-"

Beth paused, seeing a shadow behind the woman. Three was standing at the top of the stairs, looking shaken. Seeing one's reaction, it became obvious to her that such things were not to be handed down easily to the likes of her. Three would definitely get in trouble if she told the angry god about her source.

"Spit it out!" One shouted, grabbing her collar.

Her heartbeat skyrocketed at the violent touch. The woman looked ready to kill. Fine. Just this once. An act of kindness should be repaid by another, Beth thought nervously.

"I don't know. When I woke up from sleep, it was there on the side of my futon." She lied, casting her eyes down.

The answer made the god release her collar. Pushing her back, One extended her palm towards her. "Hand it over." She said, gritting her teeth.

For a moment, Beth was conflicted about what she was to do. If she were to hand the balm over to the woman, she'd know immediately from its contents that it was not used. She couldn't risk leaking such information. It could land her in huge trouble and her system could as well be taken away. Thankfully, she had left both the tin of balm and her bracelet in her room, rolled inside her futon.

"I uhh.. used it all up." She lied, keeping her eyes on the ground.

Beth cursed her ability to lie. Any fool could sense the nervousness in her voice- let alone a minor god who was so thorough about every little detail. She was so screwed if-

"One! One! We have a problem!" Two's desperate voice reached the both of them before she finished that thought.

The man rushed to One, panting as he finally stopped before her. Beth sneaked a glance at him. He looked troubled and scared. What could happen that would place a minor god in such a situation? She wondered. Three quickly ran down the stairs, joining one and Five.

"What is it?" One asked, turning to her colleague.

Two opened his mouth to say something when he noticed Beth standing in front of him.

"Uhh.." He trailed off, looking at her hesitantly.

Noticing his reluctance, One pointed a finger at Beth. "You." She said, hurriedly. "You're cleaning all the streets in the Northern end of the town. Hurry now. Scram!" She waved at her dismissively.

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"Yes, Number One!" Beth shouted, glad to escape the situation.

But her curiosity made her linger around the suspicious gods. Slipping into the equipment shed outside the office, she sharpened her ears, listening to their conversation.

"What is it, Two?" One asked, nodding at the man.

Two shook his head. "Come, there is no time to explain." He said, rushing off towards the direction he came from.

The other two gods quickly followed him without wasting any time. Beth sighed. Seems like she wasn't going to be able to find it out. She thought as she picked up the broom and a basket.

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