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46 Part II

 At long last Elder Lucas had arrived at the pinnacle of his seventh decade. The old man was a withered toothless being with a wide forehead that had many lines.

Monica aided him to the gate where he would embark on his next journey. He waved goodbye to her, and soon he would say a last farewell to his closest companions, the aches and pains he felt in his old bones.

As he walked, he grinned through his chapped lips, and he folded his hands behind his hunched back. For so long he sought for peace, and from his view, he could see the grand gates emitting a white bright light.

"Grandpa!!!" He could already envision her voice and her small body. "Grandpa! Grandpa!! Grandpa!!!" She sang from the sweetest voice that could rival a bird's early morning tweet.

"I'm coming, Anna!" The last time he'd seen her was when she was still a little girl, and before his village burned down. His family died along with it, and the beastmen that attacked declared there were no survivors except from his poor self.

He loved his granddaughter so much, and he could already picture a pleasant life with her. If not on earth, then beyond the clouds, to a far, far place where there's eternal harmony.

The rest of the Webb family showed afterwards. They all stretched out a hand for him, and he also put his hand out as if he wanted to grab something at all costs.

The watchers at the keep steadied their arrows at the man. Before he could pass the gate, the archers launched their arrows.

"Anna, wait for me." With those words stated, he tumbled to the ground and closed his eyes "I'll see you at the other side."

***

"Tell me about yourself kid" The man beside Artemis was too energetic for a slave. He was just happy he had a new gossip partner, and not some walking dead like Elder Lucas.

Artemis wanted to ask her questions, but he was asking too many at the same time. A toothpick hung from his mouth as he continued to throw more questions, both relevant and irrelevant. And from the pace of his words, she couldn't make out what he was saying most of the time.

"I'm Armin Willis from Morbon. Nice to meet you" Artemis sat in front of her kennel, not wanting to go inside yet. She wasn't sure if she would fit, but if Keith could, maybe it would be big for her.

"Telling me your name alone doesn't answer all of my questions but let's start with that!"

Artemis narrowed her brows, "S-sure."

"I'm Keith Aleman, from Arica."

"Tell me Keith, what will happen to that old man?" Artemis asked.

He blinked twice before raising a brow and tilting his head, "I hope you're not thinking he's going back to earth."

That's what she had in mind, but she wanted to make sure.

"Look kid, the best gift you can give to a slave is death. That is what we call freedom." He stretched before putting his legs first into the kennel.

"Old man Lucas is probably dead by now. I'm happy for him. He'll get to see everyone he cares for in Walhalla. I can't wait for my turn," He pillowed his head by crossing his arms.

"You better sleep, boy. Work starts early, and you have a lot to do."

A few hours passed by in what seemed like a blink of an eye. A guard slammed his baton against a metal rod and all the slaves woke up.

"Finally" Keith said as he yawned "Breakfast is served!" He turned to his side, and fear struck him once he found Artemis was still fast asleep. He tried to remember her name, but he tapped her before the guard for their lane would find her asleep.

"Hey boy, are you mad?!"

"Huh?" Artemis rubbed her eyes, fighting the desire to continue sleeping and pick up from where she stopped in her splendid dream. Keith shrieked when he noticed the fast approaching guard. He slapped Artemis hard, and it forced her to sit up "What is it?"

"Humph!" The guard was already beside her. He glared his nose down at her then spat into her bowl before moving to Keith.

Keith's actions stunned Artemis.

"Woof!!!" There was no difference between his behavior and that of an actual dog. His eyes were fully open and he stuck his tongue out, panting heavily and desperately just to get the guard to drop something into his bowl.

"Good doggy" The guard praised then dropped a half-eaten lap of a lamb before moving to humiliate the others.

"You got nothing but the stinky saliva, right? Reminds me of when I was new in this place."

He moved his bowl close to Artemis, but she appreciated his generosity before pushing it back to him.

"Food is essential, kid. If you don't eat, you'll pass out before the day runs out."

Artemis hadn't eaten ever since she got to Sol. It had been two days, but she was yet to feel the tightening of her stomach. She looked at the window and could see the sun wasn't up yet.

"What time is it?

Keith shrugged as he bit on the bone, "I don't have a clue, however it's very early. This is the normal time slaves get up to begin working."

Start working so early? Thinking about it already nauseated her, but she swapped her thoughts with something more pleasant.

The same guard slammed the metal rod in the hall again, and the slaves bounced to their feet uniformly. All except Artemis, who was seconds late.

"Keith whispered. It's almost time to work. We have to get changed."

Monica came in with a cart, and the slaves cued up to take their clothes. They were all the same size and patterns; they didn't have to worry about anything. She left afterwards, and so did the guards. They didn't like the sight of their horrifically thin bodies, and neither did Artemis.

They were all stark naked as they dressed, and Artemis could feel the heat on her cheeks.

"What's wrong?" Keith asked as he slipped his sackcloth over his head. "Oh, you don't like the slave clothes. None of us do, but we don't really have a choice."

Artemis's ripped clothes were better than what she had in her hands. But like Keith said, they didn't have a choice but to wear it to avoid complications.

Artemis took in a deep breath and turned to face the wall. Keith observed her and questioned why his frame was so much like an adolescent girl.

"Why are you shy?"

"I'm not!" Her voice wasn't convincing enough. He squinted his eyes before jumping to Artemis's front. What he saw left him speechless.