Huff, hah! Huff, hah! Huff, hah!
In a space separate from the world of humans, a young boy named Jem Hansen was breathing heavily while kneeling in the middle of hundreds of grotesque creatures of different sizes.
He was inside a spacious room with dark green illumination coming from the crystals embedded on the ceiling and walls.
The atmosphere was hot, yet his quivering and perspiring body felt so cold that even steam came out from his mouth every time he exhaled.
His trembling right hand was tightly gripping the broken saber. Sweat and blood blended and dripped on its broken tip.
His haggard looks at the moment were the evidence of how bitter of a situation he had recently.
Bruises and cuts were all over his body. Tears were running down from his sullen eyes, to his bloody face, and directly on the tainted ground.
He lost his left arm, and blood was dripping from its cut. He was gritting his teeth while regretting.
His hand lost strength and subconsciously released the broken sword that fell to the ground.
"No way..." He mumbled listlessly. "No way..." he repeated in a much grieving tone. His voice indicates the loss of will to survive. "Equality?" He muttered with his blank face, tiredly gazing in front of him. "Where is the equality?" He was talking to himself as it was the only thing he can do right at this moment.
"There's no equality for the weak," he continued. Then his face began to twist into a bitter expression.
He cried. "Waaaahhh..." It was not a loud cry. But it was a painful cry, physically and mentally. It was the kind of pain of being betrayed by someone he trusted.
His teary eyes were peering around him. But no matter how he glanced, the place was unfamiliar to him. And also, there was nothing or no one that could help him in his current situation.
"Why, why did you leave me alone in this place?" He began saying.
"Why did you choose to abandon me in this place? Why!?!" Tears and snot were pouring on his face as he began saying. "You didn't choose to save me because..."
"Because I'm weak... I'm weak. Even in the academy..." His voice wasn't so loud.
"I know... I know that everybody was mocking me behind my back!" He shouted. "That's why... that's why I don't want to join in this..." He returned to a whisper. "Why even bother asking me to come?"
"But now I know... I know your reason..."
"It was to use me... as a decoy in this kind of situation..."
He was talking to no one as he was currently alone. But in his mind, there were some figures. They were the subject of his insults. A moment later, he bit his lip that caused it to bleed. Well, a slight wound at his current situation was no different. Then he spoke in an ascending volume. "Cowards... Cowards! COWARDS! You are the most disgusting piece of shit! All of you are assholes!" Out of a sudden, he raised his voice as he was cursing with all his might to the people in his mind.
He paused for a moment and inhaled the snot that was about to escape from his nose. Then he opened his mouth again. "All those words. Hic! All those lies. I'll give them back if there's a next life!"
Soberly, He gritted his teeth; then he was groveling on the ground.
"What world defender shit?" Steam burst out from his mouth. "Why do I even have to defend the fucking hell?" The smell of blood was so strong, and his forehead was kissing the ground as he spoke. "And where are the fucking rescue team?" He continued. "In the end, all those were just empty words! A lie! A lie! All is a fucking LIE!"
He calmed once again. "I am just a sacrificial lamb to all of you..." His mind was a mess, cursing everyone and regretting everything.
Seeing the hundreds of vicious-looking creatures that were simultaneously stomping their feet while racing towards him, his face turned grim, and his heart sank.
But even without these creatures, he would soon die in his current situation. His blurry vision a while ago was now full of darkness.
Will he die at this very moment? A question flashed in his mind. He was unwilling to die. He was afraid of it.
Suddenly, he noticed an unusual warmth on his chest. It was coming from the pendant on his necklace.
Jem remembered his grandfather's words; whenever he found himself in a predicament, he had to clasp it and let it feed an ounce of his Ex-energy. Jem had no idea what his grandfather meant, but at this moment, he could only trust his words.
He sobbed. "Help me, Grandpa..." he whispered as he embraced in hand the pendant that his grandpa gave him.
"(Hic!) I don't want to die..." he muttered sobberly.
Jem summoned the last bit of his Ex-energy.
After doing it, he lost consciousness.
[Guardian System booting up!]
[GSID: Soul Collector And Death Instigator aka The Trader]
Year, 250 NE,
"My grandson, don't forget that hardships are what makes a man a true man. Never forget my teachings as they would come to help you one day," said an elderly to his grandson.
"Yes, grandfather," nodded a young man.
One autumn morning.
A 15 years old Jem Hansen, an orphan, lived with his adopted grandfather in a shabby wooden house.
He had short black hair and subtle bangs, and he stood up at an average height. Not so small and not so tall. He had lazy-looking eyes and ordinary looks.
For all his life, they were living peacefully outside the city and near the mountain.
Monday morning, he was pulled out from his dreamland by the hard-knocking sounds against the old wooden door of his room.
Tok! Tok! Tok!
"Jem, Jem, Wake up! Are you still sleeping? Wake up, you dimwits! We'll be late, idiot!" Angry shouts by someone outside the door.
Jem deliberately opened his unwanted eyes. He was welcomed by the beam of sun rays that passed through the crevices on the window.
TOK! TOK! TOK! When he heard the hard-knocking sounds becoming louder and louder, he hastily got up. He worried that the door could not take it and broke down because of the intense knocking on it.
Even though still tired and sleepy, he pulled himself after a long yawn.
It was the start of another day, a brand new day for someone like him who would be attending the military academy. That's why he understood the irrational behavior of that person behind the closed door.
After opening the window and allowing the brightness of morning into his room, he took a peek outside and, "WHAT THE—!" Jem uttered when he noticed that the sunrise was unfavorably high.
He quickly tidied up himself and opened the door.
"Sorry, Desty, I was hunting some little boar last night, so I ended up oversle—" He tried to reason out after opening the door but stopped when the door suddenly fell upon opening it. "Gueee!" Jem freaked out.
The door broke down.
Jem was soberly looking at his door.
He was about to open his mouth again but stopped after seeing the twitching brows of a girl. "No more talk, let's go!" After saying it, she reached out on his shirt collar and dragged him out of the house. She did not even take a glance at his broken door. "Eh, w-w-wait! D-Desty?!" He was calling her, but she hadn't listened to his pitiful yelp. 'Shut up!' Desty shouted but in mind only.
"Geez, I can't believe you. How many times did I remind you yesterday to wake up early today, huh?!" Annoyed, Desty barked at him. "S-Sorry." It was the only Jem could say as he was clearly at fault.
"Humph!" She pursed her lips. "Good thing for you. I did not blast your whole room!"
"I, I thought so, hah," he said in defeat and sighed.
It was fortunate that the two of them were able to ride the second locomotive train.
Jem was sighing heavily. He was not able to eat breakfast and was not even able to wash his face. Regrettably, the money in his wallet was just enough for him to buy train tickets. But he regretted more that he failed to say goodbye to his grandfather, whom he believed was gathering herbs on the mountain at the back of their house at the moment.
But they already talked last night about him going to the military academy. So his grandfather would probably not mind that he left in haste without having to say his goodbye.
Jem was blaming himself for failing to wake up as early as he wanted to be.
He glanced at the girl beside him. 'She's mad,' Jem thought after noticing her expression that was difficult to carve in the stone. She was silent after riding the train.
His grandfather had told him once that sometimes a girl had this kind of behavior. So, as a man, he had to widen his patience.
Jem suspected that this was the same as what his grandfather told him before. He scratched his head and decided not to bother her for now.
Also, he must be mindful not to make her angrier than she already was.
Desty was his childhood friend. But she was just on vacation in that place, visiting her grandparents, who were Jem's neighbors.
Speaking of neighbors, it is a kilometer away from their house.
Desty's parents were living in the city, and only at the end of the school semester did he have a chance to see her every year.
But starting today, he would be seeing her more often. Because, starting today, he will be studying in the same academy as her.
Every Ex-Human could enroll in this academy for free. They would also get an allowance from the association that manages all of them.
Desty is a pretty girl with long brown hair, flawless white skin, and big round eyes, and she stood a little taller than him. And she had a healthy figure.
Inside the cabin, there were some other young people like them. Everyone was lively conversing with the people beside them. They were talking excitedly about the incoming Evaluation for the Ex-Humans.
Ex-Humans were humans enveloped by light at the time they were born. This light was known as Ex-energy.
Right now, Jem was sitting beside Desty. In front of them was another person, a girl. The girl had shoulder-length pink shaggy hair and round blue eyes. Based on her appearance, he could probably tell that they were of the same age. And if not, there would not be much of a gap.
Jem admits that this person was also a beauty like Desty.
They both have spotless skin. When Jem looked around, he noticed that even the males inside had better-looking skin than him.
But he wasn't a bit envious. He had to work under the burning rays of the sun. It wasn't like he had a choice in this matter. After all, he needed to eat.
To be able to eat two or three meals a day, they had to farm. He was enjoying his life, even in that shabby-looking wooden house. He's not the pampered type or a city person who cares much about appearances.
Even the clothes he's wearing right now are made of poor quality and out of trend. It was a birthday present to him from his grandfather when they went to the town a few years back then.
It was oversized to him at that time, but it fits him now. It seemed like he only grew slightly.
After becoming a teenager, he realized that he needed more. He wanted something, something unlike before when he was a child.
He was even more eager now to change himself after he saw Desty this year. With her appearance that could steal a man's heart at first glance, he developed a self-conscious disability. He wanted at least to become a better person than he was right now.
Desty told him before that Ex-Human becomes more and more handsome and beautiful the stronger they become. She said it was one of the advantages brought by Ex-energy.
Certainly, Jem could already guess that these people around them were also Ex-Humans.
However, for some unknown reason, he could feel the atmosphere around him was unusual. It was tense and was making it difficult to breathe.
Jem Hansen was stiffly sitting while avoiding making a single noise. He was even avoiding making a gulping sound and avoiding making eye contact with any of them.
He was wondering why the atmosphere inside was so rigid and awkward.
The girl in front of them suspiciously darted her eyes to Desty and Jem. On the other hand, Desty was silent while crossing her arms across the chest and with a brow that slightly bends upward.
"Oh yeah, Desty, is this boy here your—"
"Shut up, Wendy!"
Before the girl named Wendy could say something, she was stopped by the sudden objection of Desty. The girl named Wendy showed a smug face, then she chuckled amusingly.
"Hm, sounds suspicious," said Wendy with scornful eyes.
Jem noticed Desty's irritation on Desty's face. "He was just my childhood friend. Nothing more and nothing less," Desty flatly stated.
Jem Hansen felt even more awkward that their topic was him.
However, the girl in front giggled at Desty's reply.
"Hm, okay, though, I didn't mean to say that he's the guy that you like. (Chuckle)." Wendy laughed while looking at Jem with a face of pity. Desty glared at her. "I could not even think that someone like the daughter of the great Ny family was fawning over someone..." Wendy eyed Jem like evaluating him. She continued saying, "that somewhat..." she giggled and ended her words with, "ordinary?"
Jem Hansen secretly sighed. He could not even disagree with her words. Saying that he was ordinary was already an overstatement for him.
Regardless, Jem envied Desty a little for knowing more people than him.
In his 15 years of life, he knows no one the same age as him besides Desty. He was yet to attend school, but he learned how to read and write from his grandfather.
Nonetheless, Jem wished that they would stop talking about someone who was in the present with them because it was too awkward for him. And also, he was not a socialist type of person. It was hard for him to converse with someone he did not know for long.
"Hey, my name is Wendy... what is yours?" Wendy extended her slender white arm towards him.