“Melas? Dear, where are you?”
I looked around my room, listening to the familiar voice speak. Searching for the source. She was not here.
I ran out of my room, and glanced at the kitchen; she was not there either. I threw open a door, and glanced into the only other bedroom in the house— not in here too.
“I’m here, mom!”
I cried out into the darkness, my voice echoing around me over and over again, as if I was in some vast and empty cave. I turned as I heard a voice call for me.
“Come here, my dear. It’s not safe there.”
This time, I heard the voice come from the outside, beyond the front door. I raced in its direction, swung the door open, and then—
I saw my mom standing there, in her garden, the place I could always find her. She was bent over, tending to some plants, and facing away from me. Her long black hair ran down her back, and she had her signature purple pointed hat on, like she usually did. I ran up to her, as I called out.
My mother knelt there, ignoring me, and continued watering the garden. I paused.
“Mom? Is everything alright?”
I looked up at her back, worried. Why wasn’t she responding? I was confused, and afraid. Carefully, I took a step forward, and reached out to grab her hand.
“Mommy? Why aren’t you responding?”
The woman jerked up, and I backed away. The figure slowly turned her body to face me, and then—
I saw my mother looking down at me, smiling. She was fine. There was no hole in her chest, and there was not someone else’s face plastered onto her head. It was my mom, and she was as lovely as ever.
“Melas, dear, what’s wrong? You look afraid.”
I blinked at her, at first confused. Then I smiled, relieved.
“It’s nothing, mom. I just had a nightmare.”
But it was over now. My mom was here, and everything was alright. She spread her arms to her side, and a loving, warm, hug awaited me.
“Oh, Melas. It’s ok now. Everything will be ok. You are safe now. I promise.”
I looked up at my mother as she reassured me. She was my sanctuary. My only source of happiness in this world I hated. As long as I was with her, I was happy. So I took a step forward to embrace her, to enter my safe haven, and be away from this wretched world. I reached out to hug my my mother—
Then her head exploded.
I sat up abruptly, waking up in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding in my chest, and a lump was stuck in my throat. I didn’t scream, although I really felt like I wanted to right now.
But I did not. I stopped myself from screaming, out of consideration for the others in the room. They probably wouldn’t have liked me to hear me scream, because of their… second set of ears.
That’s right, they’re Beastkins. I looked around, and stared. There were at least a dozen Beastkins in the cages that filled the storage room we were in. Each cage looked like they could only fit a single person in it, but there were at least three of them in each cell.
In total, there were five cages sitting in the room, alongside dozens of small wooden crates that were stacked on top of each other. Unlike the cages, the crates looked to be transporting actual cargo, as they were no taller than me; and I was only average height for my age!
But I paid no attention to all that; I was only focused on one thing, and that thing was: Beastkins.
I remember being told about them by my mom… back when she was still alive. I felt a sinking feel in my chest as I thought about her again, but I forced myself to focus only on the Beastkins.
Beastkins are a species of half-animal and half-human people from this continent. There used to be twelve different races of Beastkins in total, but because of a variety of reasons, only half of them remain. These six races survive and rule the country of Anibes, situated in the eastern coast of the continent.
When I learned about them, I was told that they were animal-like; that they looked like a mix between a human and an animal. I always assumed that meant they were animal-looking humanoids. Like in Zootopia.
So when I thought of a Dog Beastkin, I just imagined a dog in a human body; a person with fur covering their entire body, and a snout protruding from their face. What I did not imagine, was a regular looking person with an extra set of ears, and a furry tail.
Like why? Why do you need two sets of ears?! What caused evolution to give you both dog ears, and human ears?!
I sighed and facepalmed again. That’s pretty much what I have been doing since I got here: thinking about the ridiculousness of their biology, and then swearing at the world. I bet this was that fake-god’s doing. I sighed out loud once again.
“Hey, you ok?”
My thoughts were interrupted by a gentle voice. I turned my head towards the source, and saw a young woman with an extra set of ears that were perking upwards, and a tail that was swaying from side to side.
Her hair was short, reaching only to her shoulders, and both her hair and fur were snow white in color, and her skin was pale to match. Her eyes were a luminescent green, with vertical slit-like pupils, and she had a small fold on her upper eyelid, covering the inner corner of her eyes.
She was the Cat Beastkin I met when I was first locked up in here, and also one of two cellmates I had. Her name was Rin, and she was looking at me with a face of concern and worry. “What’s wrong?”
I blinked, and just barely managed to stop myself from snapping at her. What’s wrong? Are you seriously asking me that?! Everything’s wrong about this!
I only managed to keep my cool because I had gotten used to her over the last day of being locked up with her. I took a deep breath, and replied in a level tone.
“I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong. Thanks for asking.”
“Oh good!” She clapped her hands together, and sat back in relief. “Nn, I thought you were hungry, you know! Because I am! They haven’t fed us all day!”
This time, I didn’t need to resist the urge of saying something rude, as the other occupant in the cell spoke up for me. “Of course she’s hungry, Rin. We all are. And she’s not fine either. Please don’t make her feel even worse by reminding her of that.”
He spoke disapprovingly at her, almost in a lecturing tone; he turned away from her and gave me an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry about her, she gets a bit… silly, sometimes.”
You could say that again! I say she’s a full-on idiot!
I quickly shook my head, and tried to cast away those thoughts. Calm down. Don’t be a jerk, Melas. You had friends like her before, and you got along with them just fine!
But that was back on Earth. In a relaxed setting. Not when we were literally being kept as captives to be sold as slaves. It was a whole different world, and an entirely different scenario; didn’t I deserve to be at least a bit upset? Not only that, with all these people around, I could not practice my magic. I was annoyed to say the least.
I looked up at the orange haired man— a Dog Beastkin with a droopy pair of ears and a furry tail— and met his blue eyes. “It’s fine. Thank you, Mr Shang.”
I spoke succinctly, and nodded my head at him. He looked just like Rin, in that his hair and fur shared the same color, and had an epicanthal fold on his eyelid. But his eyes did not emit the dim glow like hers did. That was a trait unique to the Cat Beastkin, as a result of their night vision, their eyes shone dimly in dark places.
Shang smiled at me reassuringly— at least, I think he tried to smile, as instead he bared his teeth at me in a toothy grin. “Of course, Young Melas. And please, there’s no need to call me… hrr, a ‘Mister’. That’s a human formality, not something a Beastkin like me is used to.”
“Of course, Shang.” I nodded my head to him once again, then I remembered to smile. “Thank you.”
And that was that. Well, it was until Rin spoke up once more.
“So… you’re not actually hungry?” She looked side to side, and met our blank stares. “What? She did not say!”
This time, it was Shang’s turn to sigh as he began reprimanding her.
“Rin, what did I just say?”
“You said she was hungry! But she said she was not hungry!”
“No, Rin. I meant after that.”
“Nn, I… forgot?”
“What do you mean you forgot? I just said it.”
“I don’t know, Shang! You say a lot of things, ok?!”
“Hrr, and do you listen to any of it?”
“And that’s exactly your problem, Rin. You don’t pay attention to anything.”
“Nn, why do you gotta be so mean!”
“Because it’s for your own good, Rin. You need to learn to be more considerate of others, and to do that you have to listen.”
“But I do listen!”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes I do!”
“No. You don’t.”
“Yes! I do—“
I looked on in disbelief as the two began bickering over something so… trivial. All I could think was, how? How could they be so carefree?!
This has been happening both constantly, and consistently, ever since I met them. They really did not care; and if they did, they cared very little. I gaped on as the ‘argument’ (it’s not an argument, it’s literally a comedy-routine) came to a close, and when it did, Shang turned to me and apologized once more. “I’m really sorry about that. Please, just… ignore her or something.”
“Rude!” the Cat Beastkin called out, “I can hear you say that, you know!”
“Please be quiet, Rin.” Shang said without even turning to look at the young woman. He met my gaze, and bowed his head slightly. “She’s a bit annoying at times, but she’s a good person. I promise.”
It was at this point, I finally could not take it anymore; for the past day I stayed silent, but now, looking at this, and hearing Shang apologize about it as if it were a normal thing— as if this entire situation was not literally the most terrible to happen to you— I finally snapped.
“H— How?!” I barely managed to sputter out the word. I inhaled deeply, trying to calm myself down, and continued. “How are you all so calm?”
This time, both Shang and Rin paused and turned to face me. They both blinked at the same time, as I went on.
“And I don’t just mean the two of you,” I pointed around the room, at the other cages filled with Beastkins; Dog, Cat, and two Rabbit Beastkins were all locked up in cages, and just chatting with each other without a care in the world. “All of you! Why are all of you acting like this?!”
The room went silent, as I shouted out the words. All eyes turned to me, and I met each and every gaze with anger. Not righteous fury, or any kind of blazing hatred. Just an annoyed kind of anger, the kind you had when you did not understand something.
And I did not understand any of this. Why did I have to become a slave?! Why can’t I practice my magic?! Why did… Why did my mom have to die? I sniffed, and realized I was crying. I felt so useless. I just wanted to run away from all this.
Shang gently placed a hand on my shoulder. Well, not one hand, but both of them since his arms were chained together by a manacle. But it was not him who spoke.
“Sorry.” Rin spoke, her voice soft and contrite. “I— I did not mean to make you upset. And we’re not just carefree.”
“Yes, we’re not happy about being chained up like this, either.” Shang nodded his head in agreeance. “But we can’t let ourselves be broken down by this. We can’t let them break our spirits. If they do that, that’s when these people win.”
Shang spat on the ground in front of him, and Rin nodded her head. I looked up at them in shock. Win? They’ve already won. We’re slaves! I was absolutely dumbfounded, but it seemed like Shang read my mind, as he continued.
“The city the Mancis Company operates in— which is the same place we’ll be heading to— is Bys. It’s the largest city in Besha, and it’s also one of the biggest cities in the Free Lands. Just like Boleria, it’s known for one thing that makes it stand out from all the other Free Cities. Can you guess what it is?”
I shook my head, but I could already guess what it was. And I was right.
“Slavery.” Shang said the words acidically. “Bys is known as the Free City of Slaves. And that’s because slaves make up almost three quarter of its entire population. Hrr, that’s more than a million slaves in a single city.”
I blinked my eyes at that. That’s a lot of slaves. More than the biggest Confederate State in America in the 1800’s. But so what?
Shang was clearly going somewhere with this, and Rin happily picked up from where he left off.
“Nn, that’s right. A lot of slaves in one city. More than enough to overwhelm their masters. But they don’t. And that’s because they’ve given up!”
The Cat Beastkin nodded her head sagely, as if she just imparted some sort of great wisdom upon me. But I already knew that. That makes sense, and anyone who heard those statistics would intuitively already come to the same conclusion. The slaves have given up. So what?
I did not understand. Did they mean to stage some sort of coup? A rebellion? A slave revolt? How were they going to even do that? I did not know.
But they weren’t finished. Shang picked up on my doubts, so he quickly spoke to explain himself.
“I’m not saying we have some grand plan to destroy all of Bys, Young Melas. We’re saying that we will not give up on trying to escape. That’s all. If all the slaves in Bys never give up on escaping, the city would never have survived this long. But their wills were broken, and the city persists. So they will never gain their freedom. But for us, with any opportunity we get, we’ll take it. We will never give up trying to get back our freedom”
“And we will escape.” Rin helpfully interjected. “I’m sure of it.”
I was in complete disbelief. How? They were just… hoping? This made no sense. But I realized that they were the same as me. I had no plan to escape. But I wanted to get away from all this. And I wanted to make these slavers pay.
But it’s not good enough to just hope. So I met their gaze, and challenged them.
“And how exactly will you do that? Say you get a chance to escape. What will you do?”
Rin and Shang exchanged a look. They both paused, and then they laughed; not just them, every Beastkin in the room started laughing and giggling to themselves as if I made some kind of joke. Then Shang turned back to me, and grinned.
“We fight, of course. We fight the guards. We fight the red haired man. Then, we escape.”
I hesitated. That was something I could get behind, but once again, I asked myself the same question: how?
“And how will you guys do that? I’ve seen the red haired guard— Marcus— fight, and he’s strong. He’s fast, and he’s good with a sword. He also has a gun that shoots explosives that could instantly kill any of you here. How are you going to beat that, even if you somehow managed to break each other out?”
Shang looked at me, and then he shrugged.
“He’s a human, is he not? Humans are… fragile. They rely too much on their tools to fight. Unless they’re a saint, if you take away their weapons, they only have their hands and feet. Meanwhile.” Shang lifted one of his fingers, and pointed a sharp nail— not sharp enough to be like a claw, but definitely sharp enough to draw blood if he stabbed someone with it— at the thing on his mouth; it was a muzzle. “Meanwhile, other species’ like Elves are naturally more agile, Orcs naturally more strong; and us Beastkins have our own weapons that you could never remove from us— unless of course you get up close and personal. And I assure you, that would almost always end with one of us dying.”
Rin was nodding her head, and smiling. Everyone in the room was grinning and smiling. I looked around, and noticed something about the Beastkins for the first time: other than being a bit starved, they looked… untouched.
Unlike the slaves outside who were regularly beaten for misbehaving, it seemed like these Beastkins were usually left alone. Despite being locked up in cages, and despite all Dog Beastkins having a muzzle ; despite all Cat Beastkins having manacles that covered their hands entirely; and despite the two Rabbit Beastkins having chains reinforced by mana crystals around their legs; they were all being avoided.
I realized the slavers were wary of them. But I remembered seeing them fight. The guards were all humans, and yet they moved faster than anyone in my world could. If humans here were already that strong, then how about these Beastkins? I looked around, and met every eye in the room.
I always wanted to escape, but I had no plan; I always thought to wait until the chance showed itself for me. But that’s not good enough. Noone’s going to save us, except ourselves.
“So, what’s the plan?” I turned to face Rin, and our eyes locked. “You said you will escape. Do you have a plan?”
Rin looked at me, her eyes serious and full of conviction. Then she smirked.
“Of course we do. You’ve noticed, haven’t you? They won’t come near us, out of fear of making a mistake. But they will have to when they want to sell us. When they do, we will pounce on them. Then kill them all. Or at least, the ones in charge like that Marcus guard, or the old man.”
“That’s not enough.” I shook my head at them.
I realized one thing the other day, from the battle with the rich man. And that was, waiting did nothing. Nothing happened as I waited and hoped to somehow escape. But when I acted, something did happen. It sparked the fight, which if I knew better, could have helped me escape.
And even that, it was at the wrong moment. I acted out of impulse, not out of any pragmatism, which still nearly could have gotten us out of here. Perhaps if I called out for help to the Bolerian Officials earlier, instead of just ignoring them; if I called out when the crowd was still around, there would have been too many people to witness what happened.
So it was not enough to just stand around at wait. They broke the spirits of everyone else, but they have left me, and these Beastkins mostly untouched. So we are the ones who had to act.
“Nn?” Rin looked at me confused. Bewildered by my statement. So I explained my plan.
“If you wait for them to gather around and come close to you, they’ll be prepared for you to resist. And especially if you try to escape in Bys— you’ll have to fight through a whole city. That’s why,” I hesitated only for a moment, but continued, “I’ll help you all. I’ll give you the moment you need to break free, before we reach Bys; then we can all get out of here.”
Shang raised an eyebrow at that.
“And how exactly will you do that?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you. But please trust me.”
I gazed around the room pleadingly. I could not tell them about my magic. But it was my magic that could get them the key. Everyone in the room, including Shang looked at me skeptically, but Rin spoke out in support of me.
I smiled at her, relieved. “Thank you, Ms Rin.”
And she smiled at me back. “Aw, you called me Ms Rin! Shang did you hear that? I’m a ‘Miss’!”
Shang shook his head disapprovingly, and they were back to bickering with one another. But I did not look at them with annoyance, like I did before.
Instead, I relaxed as I watched on.
It took us a week before we left Boleria, the Free City of Trade.
I don’t know why it took so long; perhaps it was because of the reduced personnel— they had to hire more guards to replace those who died in the battle— while selling off more slaves to reduce the ‘cargo’; or maybe it was due to the whole killing of a rich man and his bodyguards, which they had to spend a lot of money to cover up.
Regardless, our time in Boleria was much longer than initially planned. But when we left, I felt a renewed vigor inside of me.
I felt almost excited. I’ll live, mom. And I’ll avenge you. I promise. I looked around the cages, the wagon, and felt it jolt as it hit a bump in the road. I stared at Rin, and Shang. And then I laid back down. But first, I’ll get out of here.
I closed my eyes, and I dared to dream.
- Beginner Writer
I don't read books, but I fell in love with Web Novels in 2019's Summer.
My top three favorite Web Novels are:
1. Apotheosis of a Demon: A Monster Evolution Story (Novelupdates)
2. The Wandering Inn (Wordpress)
3. Kuma Kuma Bear (Novelupdates)
And my top three favorite characters across all mediums are:
1. Ruby Rose (RWBY)
2. Miko (Mieruko-chan)
3. Erin Solstice (The Wandering Inn)
If you look into each of the stories and characters, you'll find quite a couple of things in common, making my tastes in stories and characters quite obvious.
I have never written a real story before. The last time I wrote a 'story' was in Primary School, and that was a non-fiction essay about how my weekend was. I got a C... in Primary School. So if you think my writing sucks, that's probably cause it does.
However please let me know what exactly was bad. I want to improve my writing skills, so any constructive criticism is really appreciated.
I also write really really really slow.