2 Life in Year 102

[Setting: Present time]

A century.

More than a century has passed since the lands on this planet all began to move. The shift in the tectonic plates eventually merged the countries that were once far apart, igniting the needed spark for people to start a war – a fight to subdue the surrounding lands, and a fight for power and wealth.

In the end, instead of seven, only five continents remained.

The Northeast was dominated by a religious faction. Its leaders ultimately concluded to simply call their land the Republic of Lysette.

Then going downwards, two continents that hold animosity towards each other are found. Those are the Kingdom of Aksha and Sloane, both of which are ruled by their king or queen – a monarchy, to be precise.

For the Western continent, however, its rulers have decided to name their land the Empire of Yara. Seeing how large their land has become, it's ironic for them to act as a 'helper' for the lands that were destroyed by its sudden movement. Its Emperor also doesn't seem interested in dominating the whole world.

"They're an inspiration." Says the man on the television, who continues to explain world history. He wore a suit and a tie that didn't complement each other. "A land that continues to prosper, compared to our own."

"He'll lose his job after this segment." A lady in her early 20s comments, all the while taking a sip out of her morning coffee. With her blonde hair tied into a bun, sharp nose, and intense yet alluring gaze, Cassandra Lou is the embodiment of natural beauty. "And why the fuck are you watching world history this early in the morning? It's not something you haven't watched, you know."

While giving her friend a small shrug, all the while trying to ignore the incident that happened a few minutes ago, the lady in question simply tucks herself into the comfort of their sofa, relishing their peaceful morning. "It's the only available channel."

"Is it?"

Chuckling, the little autumn grins. "Probably."

Shaking her head in reply, the blonde lady already looks so done with her friend. "It's freaking 5 am, Yuzu. Don't make me go there and tickle the hell out of you."

Laughing at her friend's joke – or what she believes it to be – the little autumn returned her gaze to the television, intent on finishing the show.

The little autumn wasn't exactly interested in world history. She only learned about it upon reviewing for the certification exam to become a businesswoman, two years before this moment.

The year when billions of humans celebrated their 100th year of survival after the catastrophe that caused the lands to merge, while others to be destroyed.

'Why the fuck do we need to learn about this shit?!' The little autumn recalled her friend's rant two years ago, all the while continuing to read a book about world history. Upon deciding to ignore her friend's complaint, the little autumn glanced back at the page where she left off—a chapter that summarizes the creation of the last and fifth continent, which was located in the very middle of the map. It was the Republic of Veto, which was formerly known as the Central Kingdom of Veto.

It was said that Prince Amos Brigh III despised his father, due to him being a coward and an oppressor, which eventually led him to order the military to bring him the head of the king. Using both his knowledge and charm of becoming a wise and respectable leader, he took the throne and secured his place.

In the year 80, King Amos of the Central Kingdom of Veto took the throne.

The book eventually started to explain how merchants began to sell their goods at a reasonable price, ever since the new king reigned the Central continent. The crime rate decreased, and the economy prospered. People were singing and shouting with praise all for the King of Veto. Hail King Amos, the rightful leader of the Central Kingdom!

Pfft.

'That's full of crap, Yuzu,' Cassandra once commented after she was done complaining about how crappy the qualification exam is. Just before the little autumn reaches the part where the monarchy was about to be disbanded, her bored friend takes a seat beside her before continuing. 'The fuck do they know about the leader's ignorance and candy-ass?'

'How foul, Cassandra.'

The little autumn remembered her friend snorting as she took a sip of her coffee before responding. 'As if you don't agree.'

'Yeah…'

Seeing her agreeable response, Cassandra eventually took a comfier position before snatching the book away from the little autumn.

'Let's just watch a movie. We can study later.' She licks her lips before lifting the remote control to continuously press the arrow button. 'Being unaware of how the world works leaves us vulnerable, my dear friend. We should at least prepare ourselves, for as long as we're alive.'

"And that concludes our history segment!" The man on the television eventually broke the little autumn's stupor, making her blink a couple of times before finally reaching for the remote control to shut the television off. But before she could do so, the host continued. "As for our next topic, rumors have it that the infamous victim of 'Krama' is now starting her detective agency! Ezra Bennett was last spotted-"

And with him getting cut off, the little autumn turns the television off, refusing to hear what he has to announce– lest her mood be dampened for the day.

"Work starts in an hour!" Her friend reminds her as she was taking a step inside their bathroom. "Don't go and fall asleep on me now, you hear me?"

"Yeah." The little autumn replied as she was stretching her arms out. It was her way to remove any form of unneeded stress. "I'll open the store in an hour, don't worry."

After a few more stretches and a lazy yawn, Yuzuru Aki then stood up and made her way to her room.

'It's been two years.' She thinks to herself, eyeing a small picture that was hung on the wall beside their dining table. It was a picture of her and Cassandra in front of their newly built café. 'Two years since we escaped that hellhole.'

And just as she was feeling forlorn after gazing at their smiles in the picture, the little autumn decided to shrug it off before entering her room.

Once inside, she immediately went toward her bathroom before taking both her shirt and shorts off. Unintentionally, her eyes then wandered to the nearest mirror.

The first thing she noticed was her straight black hair that only reached her nape before her gaze wandered off to look at her dull and lifeless black eyes. Hesitation once again entered her system, forcing the little autumn to look downwards, just to see the scars which dominate the majority of her skin. The most noticeable wound, however, was the brand that occupies the right portion of her waist – bearing the number nine.

'No one will help you, so scream away.'

'Don't even think that you're a person.'

'You're worth nothing, cattle.'

"Two years have passed…" The little autumn whispers to herself just as she was about to touch the mirror. "And yet…"

'I feel like I'm still trapped… caged in that diabolic place.'

***

Work usually starts early. Morning here in their little café which was stationed at the very corner of the mainland often includes serving the elderly their morning coffee, or the late employees their packed lunch. In a sense, it was very peaceful.

With an old couple running a flower shop nearby, and a graduate culinary student running a simple restaurant at the other end of the street, Yuzuru Aki was content where their café was stationed.

That's why it shocked the little autumn to see two ladies standing outside their store, even though it was currently 5:45 am. She didn't even have the chance to flip their sign yet, and here they are, their first customers of the day.

'Might as well let them in.'

"Welcome!" The little autumn greets them, just as she was flipping the sign at the entrance. "Our store opens at 6, but I can at least offer you both an available seat."

"Oh? How kind," A lady wearing a plain gray shirt and short jeans, probably in her mid-twenties, smiles. "Sorry for the early intrusion. It's just… our apartment is a bit noisy at this hour."

'Ah…' Not knowing how to reply, the little autumn took the easy route and simply let both of them inside.

"Oi Yuzu? Why are the lights-" Just before she finishes that sentence, Cassandra Lou did a double take, forcing her disheveled self to run back into the comfort of their home.

'Oops.'

To redirect the customer's attention, the little autumn stood straight – and like how they always practiced – began for service. "It might take a while, but if you're ready to order then I'll note it down."

"…"

'Hmm?'

Confused by the blank looks that the customers are giving her, the little autumn still forced herself to smile. "Is… something wrong?"

"An angel."

"Too bright."

"I may need to buy sunglasses soon."

"Ah…" Having those opinions thrown right to her face, the little autumn couldn't keep her composure any longer and just had to let out a slight giggle.

'How warm.' Yuzuru Aki thought to herself, all the while taking their orders down on her notepad.

Just as she was writing down the last word, Aki once again opened her mouth to speak. "And may I get your names?"

The lady wearing a plain gray shirt was the first to respond. "My name is Gail. And my friend over here," She pulls the other lady by the arm before continuing. "Is Sera."

"Sera, okay," For one last moment, the little autumn gave them a polite smile. "Order's up in a few minutes."

"Thanks!"

But before she could even take a step behind the counter, an aura filled with annoyance can be felt from a few meters away, prompting the little autumn to make a detour.

"It's not even six, Yuzu!" Cassandra whispers to Aki just as she was putting their apron on. Taking it as a sign to check the clock, Aki could only shrug her shoulders, an attempt to show her friend that there was nothing she could do. "You could have at least warned me!"

"Ahaha, there~ there~" Yuzuru Aki pats her friend's back, amused by their current situation.

With her pouting face that has a tint of red on her cheeks, her whole image and action deeply contrasted her past – one where she's always on the verge of death or wanting it to claim her life. The little autumn remembers her gaze from time to time, the look on her friend's face when she feels angry or hopeless.

'And I don't want it to happen ever again.' Because they've had enough.

But life always seems to have another plan in store for them. As cruel as it has always been, the strings that connect every one of them shall soon find their end. After all, destiny loves to toy with people's lives.

"Let's just open our shop, shall we?"

After a few seconds of silence, one of which where the little autumn saw various expressions changing back and forth on Cassandra's face, she finally responded with a shout. "Yeah!"

"Let's do this!"

*****

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