13.0 Grayscale_Chapter 1: Snow

I wiped the sweat off my forehead, immediately regretting it as streaks of dirt and grime spread across my face. I frowned and lifted my shirt to clean my face before realizing that that would ruin the shirt. I couldn’t let that happen because I’d prettied up just for today.

I cleaned my face as best I could with the back of my hands while I walked down the busy street, getting jostled by strangers who didn’t even bat an eye as a short fifteen-year-old girl tried to push her way through the crowd.

I was thinking about the plan while crossing the road and didn’t notice the truck barreling towards me. A loud horn spooked me and I jumped just as the truck rushed past.

My heart was racing and I was panting, but I quickly calmed down, cursed the truck driver, and moved on.

After all, the plan had to be executed.

I stopped outside a supermarket and looked around. I found the person I was waiting for and walked up to him.

He was a skinny, brown haired boy wearing a grimy yellow t-shirt and patched up jeans but despite his impoverished appearance, Dusty’s eyes had a spark in them that couldn’t be found in your average beggar or street urchin.

“Dusty,” I said, nodding towards him.

“Not gonna gimme one of ya usual hugs huh Lily?” he said, smirking at me.

“Course not, gotta stay clean today,” I replied, not really facing him while I spoke. No passerby would be able to tell that we knew each other. “Right, you go wait by the fire exit. I’ll meet you back at the den when we’re in the clear.”

“Gotcha.” he said, moving towards the alley besides the supermarket.

I walked towards the supermarket’s front door and took a deep breath.

I was nervous. No matter how many heists I pulled, my heart would always go into overdrive. Well, maybe calling them ‘heists’ was a bit of a stretch, we just stole a little money and food.

Most of the time.

I took a deep breath and opened the door, plastering an innocent smile on my face. I walked through the aisles and stuffed a few snacks into my clothes.

Kelly wanted cookies and Chen was crying for chocolate milk. Damn brats, they should be more grateful. I never had anyone to get me chocolate milk when I was growing up on the streets.

I slightly chuckled as I grabbed some chocolate milk, thinking of the little boy’s reaction when he sees it.

After grabbing everything I needed, I walked into the bathroom, stood on top of the toilet, and looked out through the air vent that we’d opened yesterday.

“You there Dusty?” I whispered.

“Yeah,” he replied, softly.

I grinned, took out the stolen goodies, and threw them out the vent. After confirming that Dusty had gotten everything and getting him to promise to not give the goodies to the kids at the orphanage without me, I walked out of the bathroom.

Another perfect heist by master thief Lilith Grayscale!

I smiled complacently as I reached out to open the doors but suddenly, a strong hand grabbed hold of my wrist. My eyes widened and cold sweat formed on my back as I realized that the man who had grabbed me was the shopkeeper.

“Now where are ya off ta in such a hurry, lil miss shoplifter?” He revealed a mouth full of crooked yellow teeth.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just looking around,” I said, trying to pull my hand from his grip.

“Now, now missy. No need ta lie. After all, yer lil friend told us everything.”

I stopped struggling. “What do you mean?”

“Ye shoulda checked who you was stealin from missy. This is the Gecko gang’s turf and they don’t take kindly ta dirty lil urchins takin their stuff. The boy was smart ta tell us bout ya in exchange fer membership in the gang. ‘Course, there’s no tellin what happens ta him.” He dragged me to the back of the supermarket. The other shoppers didn’t seem to notice that a large, middle aged man was dragging a little girl to a room alone.

I tried to shout for help but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. After all, who would help a random street urchin like me in the middle of gang territory?

I struggled in vain but my eyes lit up as I saw something in front of me. I quickly grabbed it and smashed it onto the shopkeeper’s hand.

“Fu-” The man released my wrists and held his bleeding arm with his other hand. I quickly tossed aside the broken soda bottle and ran towards the exit.

A terrible pain pierced my shoulder and I fell on the ground. The impact with the ground knocked the wind out of my lungs and my eyes started swimming. I barely managed to make out a few figures standing over me, just as the shopkeeper made his way back to me.

He cursed and spat on me. He started kicking me in front of the store in broad daylight.

But nobody gave a damn.

Surprisingly, after the first kick, I didn’t feel much pain. In fact, my thoughts wandered to what the shopkeeper had said when he first grabbed me.

Dusty… the little fucker… selling me out to the Geckos…

Soon, the pain I felt at Dusty’s betrayal surpassed the pain of the kicks. But as my consciousness slipped, my vision didn’t start going dark.

It went white. And that reminded me of something more painful than anything else…

Snow drifting in the cold, winter winds…

A woman shivering on the ground…

A little girl shaking the woman, crying out to her, promising to get her some food…

The woman’s eyes losing their light as she gave the girl one last smile…

And more snow drifting in the wind as the girl wept over the woman’s body.

“Congratulations child!” said a voice. Even though it sounded gentle, it made goosebumps pop up on my skin.

Huh? What happened? Where am I?

I opened my eyes and my vision became so white I couldn’t see anything. Although the bright light didn’t hurt my eyes, I still closed them because it reminded me of… snow.

I was exposed and vulnerable, and it made me uncomfortable. I’d learned to avoid standing out on the streets, or else I’d get beaten and all my stuff would get stolen. Some of my friends had even been raped.

I was lucky. I learned quickly and I adapted.

“Welcome Hero! I know that you are confused right now, but I am certain that I can dispel your unease and answer all of your questions!”

This voice, what does it want from me?

“Please let me go. I didn’t do it! Please!” I said, trying to make myself sound as pitiful as possible.

“Child, you are not in trouble. In fact, all your troubles are over! This is a new beginning for you, an opportunity to live a life of honor and dignity!”

“What do you mean?”

“Child, try to remember what happened.”

I did, and a flood of awful memories and emotions slammed into me. I winced as I remembered the pain.

“I apologize, my remarks were insensitive.”

That didn’t sound apologetic at all. I frowned.

“Did I die?”

“No child, your soul was summoned here while you were on the brink of death. And now you have the honor of being a hero!”

“No, I don’t like standing out. It gets me beaten up and I don’t like getting beaten up.”

“Alas child, there is nothing I can do about this. Fate has decreed that you will be the new hero, destined to vanquish the evil demon lord or die trying. Even I cannot oppose Fate child.”

“Who are you anyway?” I asked.

“I am the Light goddess.”

“Never heard of her.”

“Well, you will hear of me on Erath. Now, because you took so long to wake up, it’s almost time for you to leave.”

Finally, this stupid light’s hurting my eyes! I blinked and rubbed my eyes.

“Nonsense! My holy light cannot harm you!”

Sure, sure, whatev- wait, you can hear my thoughts?

“Of course, child, how else do you think we were communicating? You haven’t moved your lips since you arrived.”

Shit.

A bright flash of light filled my vision. Thankfully, it began fading within moments. A bunch of people in white robes surrounded me. I was in the center of the circle, the center of the room. Everyone stared at me.

I panicked. I was standing out way too much.

“Mighty hero! Thank you for answering our summons!” said a white robed man as he fell on his knees. The others kneeled as well.

My heart skipped a beat. I ran.

The white robed figures were too stunned to stop me so I quickly passed through them. I was just about to reach an open window when a large, armored knight stepped in front of me. I tried to turn around but I couldn’t do so in time and got caught gruffly. I struggled for a bit before going limp.

“P-please let me go. I didn’t do it, I swear!” My eyes started getting moist.

“Do not be alarmed, mighty hero,” said a voice behind me. The knights turned so I could see the person who was speaking.

He was a partially bald, middle aged man with brown hair and a short, well-trimmed beard. He sat on a shiny white throne and wore a white cape and crown.

I stared at him for a bit and then observed the room. After noticing the glowing stones around the hall, the swords on people’s hips, the medieval attire they were wearing as well as the person who was obviously a king, I stood stunned for a few seconds before accepting the situation. I’d always been good at adapting.

Seeing the change in my expression, the king ordered the knights to release me.

“Hero, I apologize for our rudeness and hope that you can forgive us. However, it is of paramount importance that you listen to our request. Our lives and the lives of our people depend on it!” the king passionately said.

I swept the room with my gaze. After mapping the place inside my head, I nodded.

“Mighty hero! The detestable Dusk Alliance has summoned a vile demon lord to lead their forces of evil against us. But we of the Holy Union could not stand by and let evil prevail, so we summoned you, our greatest champion, in the hope that you would lend us your strength. Please, I beg of you, help us!” There were quite a few murmurs and mutterings when the king begged me to help but I ignored them.

“What do I get?” I asked, nonchalantly.

“Beg your pardon?” The king gaze me a puzzled look.

“If I were to help you, what would I get in turn?” Some of the people in the room gave me angry glances but I ignored them.

“Satisfaction? Honor? Dignity?”

“I can’t eat any of that.”

“Hero, is serving the goddess and saving lives not an honor in itself?”

I shook my head. The king made a worried face.

“Ah, of course! We will give you a large sum to aid you in your journey and besides, with your strength, earning money should not be an issue. And if we win, great riches and rewards will obviously be bestowed upon you!”

I thought for a moment before nodding.

“Splendid! Now, initially the hero was supposed to leave for their journey as soon as they were summoned, but we have long since decided to train the hero for at least a month before they can leave, to ensure they are strong enough to survive.”

Perfect! I can run away and hide until I can understand this world better.

“Of course, we will be providing an experienced teacher and bodyguard to protect and train you.” He gestured to the door behind him as a tall, red haired young woman stepped out from inside the other room.

She stared at me and I stared back. Then she walked over and hugged me for some reason.

The fuck is going on?

King Seleo smiled a bitter smile as he thought of the Hero they had summoned this time. The goddess had found a truly troublesome child.

The hero grew at an astonishing rate, even for a hero, but her personality was incredibly troublesome.

She tried to hide whenever she could, stole food whenever she could get away with it and always asked for money and items with a pitiful look on her face.

The king shook his head and sighed.

“Your Highness! The hero, she-” A messenger rushed in.

A cold sweat went down King Seleo’s back. “What happened?”

“Your Highness, the hero- we can’t find her anywhere! She’s gone!”

“What?” the King exclaimed. “Where could she-”

“Your Majesty, your majesty!” Another messenger rushed in.

“What now?”

“The sacred equipment, it’s- it’s gone!” The messenger panted.

The King’s mind blanked for a second before an uneasy smile appeared on his face.

The King knew Fate would direct the hero to her destiny eventually, so he wasn’t surprised she left unannounced. In fact, he was happy she at least had the sense to take the sacred equipment with her.

Only, how did she leave even though he’d stationed tens of guards all over the palace and especially around her room? Moreover, a high-class barrier surrounded the sacred equipment. How did she…?

The king shook his head. This hero…was truly quite troublesome.

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