“Ugh…”, groans Lev, his eyes closed and his chest aching. He tried to get up, only for two hands to gently stop him.
“Woah there buddy, don’t move much. You’ve taken a shot to the chest and you’re still in a critical condition.”.
Lev was shocked as he heard a voice he thought he wouldn’t hear for a long time.
“Brutus?”, asks Lev and looks to his left.
“The one and only.”, said Brutus with a wide grin on his face.
“So it was just a dream… Thank god…”.
“What did you dream about?”, asks Maria who was sitting on a chair near his bed in the hospital.
Yes, he was in the hospital. The white room with a grey floor, the beeping machines, and the smell of disinfectants.
“Hah… You won’t believe how crazy it was… It started with me being stuck in a void for a long time, then I was some kind of a slave. I wasn’t even human. Can you imagine that?”, he said as he looked at his human hands and clenched them tightly.
“That really sounds crazy.”, Brutus replied while shaking his head.
“I know! Anyways, give me your hand, we all know that I can’t stay here much longer. Considering that their attack has failed, we can use this to our…”.
Lev froze as he looked at his stretched hand, he had seven fingers…
“This is a dream, isn’it…?”.
“I’m sorry, man. We all hope that it wasn’t, but there’s nothing we can do…” said Brutus with a sad tone.
“I miss you two.”.
“You can bet we do too. But it’s time to wake up, Lev. Promise us that you’ll make the best of your new life and never give up.”, said Maria whose facial features are becoming vaguer as time passes.
“I do. You can count on that.”, Lev promised with a determined tone.
“Great! We hope you’ll change the world.”, the duo said simultaneously as they fade away with everything in the room.
“Is that supposed to be a question? You of all people should know that I’ll shake its foundations. Just try to visit me as much as you can.”.
“We will, but it’s time to wake up, Lev.”.
“It’s time to wake up, Lev.”.
“It’s time to wake up, Gherm.”.
“I said it’s time to wake up, Gherm! We’ve got a lot of work to do today!”, yells the older sister as she tries to force her lazy brother awake.
He opens his eyes and looks at the girl who was about to kick him awake.
“Good morning sister. Looks like you’re pretty hyper this early in the morning.”.
“Well, one of us has to be, and you called me sister? Since when were you formal?”.
Lev stood up and looked her in the eyes “Starting now. Are you ready for breakfast?”, He told her with a confident smile - something his old self wouldn’t show.
“So it started to change you… Please don’t change much…”.
“…Let’s go eat, shall we?”, he put an end to the conversation before it could become even tenser.
And so they both prepared the remains of yesterday’s meal and ate it as fast as they could. But as they were eating, Ghorza took a glance at Lev and found that his posture was more confident and his eating habits were more refined.
“Are you sure you didn’t get the memories of a noble?”, she asked, her mouth full of grey meat.
“Yup.”, He replied after swallowing.
"You sure are acting like you are one. Without the condescending attitude though.".
"Well, the memories came from a different life with an entirely different lifestyle. The owner of these memories tried to make his society a better place, only to get assassinated by his noble rivals.".
"You're not going to try to overthrow the rule of the blues, right!?", spoke Ghorza hurriedly, mouth filled with food almost causing her to choke, fear and panic dripping from her tone.
Lev stared at her as if she was the village fool. "How dumb do you think I am?", he asked in a stern tone.
"Sure, sure. Fight them head-on! Just let me go grab my armour and spear while you go call my loyal armies and mages to fight not only the rest of our kind but also our lovely goblin overlords. Oh wait, I'm not a warrior to have weapons and armour, and I have neither armies nor mages.".
"Mages?", asks the dumbfounded girl. She didn't expect her brother to talk to her like that.
"Magic-users like shamans, only less spiritual and more logical.".
"Oh, I get it. Wait... does that mean you know magic!?", the idea of her brother knowing magic gave her as much fright as the idea of overthrowing the chiefdom, for it's forbidden for greyborns to rediscover and practise the art of magic.
"Nope. And can you please stop jumping to wild conclusions like that? If I know magic, why don't you feel it?", asked Lev who was getting more annoyed every time Ghorza says something that would end with him either having a slashed throat, a noose around his neck or his decapitated head on a stick. And speaking of ‘feeling’ magic, though greyborns forgot the arts, they're still sensitive to magical energy, leading to them to being forced to work as expendable scouts during expeditions to the lower levels.
Ghorza sighed in relief and nodded to her now different younger brother. She doesn't fully believe him, but she'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
They continue eating their meal in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Lev was thinking of what he must do to not only improve his life but also how to rise in the ranks of his race despite being grey. It was rare, but not impossible. There were times when the rules that kept greyborns at the bottom were ignored, but those times were extremely rare and could be counted on one hand; those greyborns had to perform miraculous feats, only to gain the honour of being treated as normal commoners; that honour was not passed to their future kin. While Ghorza was thinking of how fast her brother changed after becoming a lost one and would he one day become a different person? Usually, the inheritor of the memories would change a little but not this much. Would her greatest fear become true; that he won’t be her brother anymore?
After finishing their meal, Lev stood up “And done. Now let’s wash our hands and go to work.”.
“Again? We really can’t waste a lot of water. You know how expensive it is.”.
“It’s expensive, but not as expensive as medical care. I’ll work extra hard to cover the costs, so don’t worry.”.
“You? Work hard? Yeah, right!”, Ghorza laughed at the idea. He always earned half the amount of merits she does.
“You shouldn’t treat it as a joke. Trust me on this. After today, I’ll no longer have any problem making any merits.”, he told her with a smirk. For today, he’ll get rid of the problem once and for all.
Ghorza shrugged, not believing him for a moment, but complied with his previous request and proceeded to wash her hands.
After they ate, got dressed, and grabbed their equipment, they got out of the house and walked together to the work quarters to receive their assignments from the Task Master.
As they walked, Lev checked his surroundings to fill any discrepancies in his memory. It all started to become familiar. They were in the southwestern living quarters where the housing ranged from dilapidated shacks where the worst of the slaves lived to the low-quality huts of the better ones. Their abode can be considered to be in the middle of the range.
“What a surprise. I thought you’d die.”, said the Task Master to Lev with a grin as they arrived.
“Not this time, Kul. And I won’t die anytime soon if I can help it.”, replied Lev to the old pale green bogey. Kul was once an honoured member of the warrior class; he was considered to be one of the best and was a mentor to many elites, but due to failing to protect a noble’s son during the war with the Jiira, he was forced to step down and ended up as a taskmaster in the slave quarters. Throughout the years, he let go of his prejudice and managed to overcome the indignation of his downfall. He still hates the upper class for this humiliation, but unlike other taskmasters, he doesn’t take it out on the slaves and treats them as individuals leading to him being well-liked.
“Are you sure you’re ready to continue working? I can transfer some of my merits to you if you can’t.”, asked Kul with concern in his voice. Gherm’s father Gat was the first to befriend him and he helped him better his relations with the others. Any time Kul had trouble with a slave, as long as the task was reasonable Gat would persuade that slave to accept. Kul owed him a lot and since Gat was killed along with his wife by a swarm of lesser hivelings raiding the village two years ago, he could never repay his debt so he tries to help his children instead.
"Don't worry about me Kul. I'm feeling much better.".
“Yup, old-timer. He’s as fit as he can be.”, Ghorza (unhelpfully) adds.
"Old? Who're you calling old!? I can still beat your ass and everyone else's with one hand tied behind my back!", narked the miffed Kul causing everyone in the nearby vicinity to awkwardly laugh while slowly giving him some space. Though he meant it as a joke, they all know that he's capable of such a feat.
"Sorry.", she says while lowering her head.
Kul tried to maintain his angry expression, but in the end, he failed and burst out laughing.
“I know you didn’t mean any harm, lass. But make sure to not piss off the wrong people.”, he said with a gentle smile.
“I know that. I’m not an idiot. But I can still beat down anyone who pisses us off, right?”.
“As long as they’re fellow greyborns, no offence.”.
“None taken.”, Ghorza replies nonchalantly. She realizes the consequences of what would happen if a greyborn harmed another individual, even if they were a fellow slave, who wasn't a greyborn. She’s not even that interested in fighting others but showing weakness usually leads to exploitation so she had to act strong.
After they finished their talk, It was time to start their work, so Kul took on a professional visage and assigned them their tasks.
“Good luck, little bro. Make sure to avoid any trouble.”, said Ghorza before they separated to their respective works. Ghorza to the mushroom farms and Lev to the mining quarters.
“I won’t. But I bet trouble will come as always, the difference this time is that it’ll be the last time it will ever bother us.”, Lev thought as he continued walking towards the mining quarters to not only finish his job but also to take down one of the main hurdles of his life. A hurdle with the name of Rak.