1 A Shift In Time

I opened my eyes blearily as a dim candle stared back at me. I turned to the side and saw that I was inside a small dimly lit room. More than twenty people were sleeping in the room and all of us wore dirty grey rags that could barely be called clothes.

I wondered where I was but I didn't allow the confusion to show on my face. I racked my brain for any information about this place and I was surprised once I remembered that this was the underground mine. I immediately pinched my left hand and I winced in pain so I knew that this wasn't an illusion. I stared at my too-small hands and I immediately knew that there was something wrong here.

Did I go back in time? I haven't been in the underground mines for more than fifteen years.

The first thought that came to my mind was to check my system tab. It had become second nature to me and I immediately tried to bring it up, but no matter what I tried, there was nothing. I sighed as I realized that I had come back in time

I didn't have my system tab anymore because I didn't have any magic yet. The system tab can only be activated by rankers that already acquired magic. Servants like me that have lived in the underground mines their whole lives couldn't even dream of getting systems.


Suddenly, I heard the door of the room burst open and slam into the wall! Some of the boys sleeping on the upper bunks were unfortunate and they fell to the ground in fright. I turned to the person that opened the door and I almost snarled. It was a burly black man with dark black eyes and a criminally ugly face. His head was completely arid, and among the servants, he was known as the bald punisher. He was the caretaker of this prison.

"Get up you useless maggots! You think we feed you for you to sleep all day! It's been three hours already! Get back to work, you rats!"

The bald punisher yelled at us with obvious disgust in his voice and I quickly moved off my bed and kept my head down as I followed after the other boys who were all leaving the room. I noticed the bald punisher moving toward my direction and I squeezed my hands into fists as his footsteps became louder. I didn't want him to see my eyes because I knew that there was a lot of anger in there. I didn't need to antagonize him yet until I come up with a plan.

But luckily, the punisher was only going to slap a boy behind me that wasn't moving fast enough. I released a sigh of relief and continued walking with the boy in front of me.

I had a lot of hatred for this prison and that man in particular. I may have managed to climb to the very top of this tower in my last life as a ranker, but I can never forget that this is where I began. At the very bottom of the food chain, as a rat.

Down here, the rats that didn't have any family or magic worked to keep their lives. Everyone inside the tower was a part of one large ecosystem managed by the tower itself. The tower was in charge of setting the power level for each floor to make sure that there was a balance of power on every floor.

For magicless rats like myself and the other boys, the lowest floor was the only place that we could survive. If we tried to go higher, only the pressure of the magic in the air would be enough to kill us. We were all either orphans or children that were abandoned by our parents when they realized we didn't have magic power.

We were treated like rats by those with magic, and since anyone could easily kill us, we had no choice but to become part of a system that exploited us as slaves in exchange for food and resources to allow us to live. Even the punishers here were once rats that survived long enough to become the evil they once hated.

I looked around at the room that we were led to. It was a huge mine with strange blue glowing rocks buried in the ground. We were tasked with mining these rocks and the number of rocks we can mine per week will define how much free time we had at the end of the week.

For every thousand grams that you mine, you will get an extra five minutes of free time on the last day of the week. Those that are not able to mine up to an hour of free time at the end of the week will be punished by the bald bastard and they will be put in cells for their free time.

I could recognize the stones that we were mining easily. They are Quartz. A very precious mineral that people usually call mana stones. Their name is quite deceiving, at first, I thought they were stones that contained mana, but they aren't. The stones here are very good mana conductors, so they are very valuable to those on the upper floors. The people that own this slave business are selling the stones to the magic users up on the higher floors for a lot of money.

The boys all went and picked up their blunt pick-axes to begin breaking the rocks and I also went to pick up an axe at the side. I looked at the axe's edge and I saw that it was very blunt. Even if you use a lot of force, it is very hard to break even a little bit of the stones with tools like these.

But that might just work in my favor.

I began to break the mana stones slowly as I focused on one part of the rock. Some girls that stayed on the other side of the prison came into the mines after every hour to pack up the mana stones that the boys broke. The girl that came to pack my stones was a dirty little girl with dirty pigtails and a dirty gown on her dirty body. I was resting my back calmly against the wall as she bent down to pick up what I had broken.

"You'll be in a cell at the end of the week if you continue like this." She said solemnly as she looked towards me pitifully. "Can't you see that you barely broke anything?"

I shrugged at her and she looked surprised by my laid-back attitude. I didn't bother talking to her again until she finished packing up and prepared to leave. Once she was gone, I looked around to see if anyone was watching and once I saw that there wasn't, I immediately threw small mana stones into my mouth and swallowed. It tasted like sand and iron, but it was very important for what I needed to do and so I just squeezed my face and tolerated the strange taste.



"Who told you that you could rest, rat!? Get back to work!" The bald punisher screamed at some of the boys that were trying to rest as he cracked his whip against the floor. The boys quickly scrambled to their feet and scurried towards their axes to continue mining.

I picked up my axe as well and went back to mining but I heard footsteps coming towards me from behind and I knew it was the punisher. He grabbed my hair with his large hand and I immediately glared at him as he bent to speak into my ear.

"So you're the one that sent that pitiful number of mana stones to me?" The punisher said with a sneer. His breath smelt worse than garlic and shit mixed together, "Maybe I've been going too easy on you lately. I'll be keeping my eye on you, and if you don't meet the quota at the end of the week, then I'll personally make sure you suffer in that cell."

He threw me to the ground and I squeezed my hands into fists as I immediately braced for what was coming!




I grit my teeth tight as I felt white hot pain travel across my entire back. It felt like they put a piece of burning metal on my bare skin! But I wouldn't give him the satisfaction of hearing me scream.

The punisher stopped whipping me and my arms shook in anger as he spat in my direction and ordered me to pick up the axe and continue mining before turning and leaving. I could feel the stares from the other boys behind me as their looks of pity only fueled my anger. I slowly stood up on shaky legs and grabbed my axe once more.

The look in my eyes would have been enough to kill any lesser man as anger threatened to overwhelm me. That man. I was going to enjoy killing that man.

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