The Rejected Family
"Huh? My wish? I-I want to be part of the richest family in town!" says a little child in a beautiful town square.
His speech is then followed by a magical feat: a coin suddenly appears in the boy's hands, and he mockingly tosses the object into the air and grabs it again, showing off to the others around him.
"How can you be a noble person saying that? It sounds like a commoner's wish," a colleague of the same age comments.
"Huh? And what is yours then?"
"I want to be strong!"
Suddenly — inexplicably — one of the child's arms gains extraordinary muscle mass, becoming visibly stronger than before.
"Isn’t your father a high-ranking warrior?” Another boy raises the question, clad in elegant social attire.
“Yeah… He ends up stealing all the attention for himself.”
The pompous young man continues the conversation, “well, what I want most is to be able to eat seafood forever!”
The surreal happens again: two juicy prawns appear in his hands.
The one with the exceptional muscles raises his eyebrows in disappointment.
The group then turns to the other side of the square. The place is deserted. A comforting quietness hovers over the area, which appears to be empty, except for a fragile little girl sitting alone on that vast ground.
“Hey, girl. You are a commoner, aren’t you? What is your wish?” asks the boy with the coin.
The question has a mocking tone, which makes his colleagues wear intimidating smiles on their faces. With her back to the others, the small child seems to be feeding on something. After being asked, she slowly turns to the nobles, limited by her blatant shyness.
“I-I… I do not want in any way—” she stutters.
The group who watches her is scared and taken aback by what they see.
“Hey, hey, what is this?” one asks.
Dozens of different fruits appear in the space around the girl, falling from the sky in assorted sizes and shapes, ranging from the most exotic types to the most consumed ones.
Near her feet, various cuts of meat appear, encompassing everything from fish and chicken to red and processed meats.
There are different carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, and meticulously detailed cakes on one of her arms. On the other arm, there are handmade sweets of unimaginable luxury.
The poor child turns entirely around, trembling in front of the nobles. With her ragged dress and only one of her feet shod, she stares at the boys.
“I don’t want to starve.”
Reject labels, Part 1
The Foot of the Mountain. With dozens of villages around it, spread across its entire length, is the Mountain of Trials. The immeasurable topography has its peak as the center of attention for the whole world: the Summit.
At the mountaintop, one can find the most incredible fortune and prosperity anyone can dream of. The most moderate yet most desired of all the villages. The smallest, and yet most secluded of all locations, with the most abundant riches but with the smallest population.
Whoever reaches the Summit will enjoy incomparable peacefulness, free from any threats, living from the sheer splendor of everyday life. In contrast, those who do not reach it can only keep trying.
“STOP!” The residents of The Foot of the Mountain hear the voice of the bubbly Toki, once again shaking up the crowded streets of the largest city.
The energetic child runs around the town’s commercial district. Countless stalls and street vendors fill the space of this place, along with storage items such as barrels full of food products and boxes containing hundreds of utensils.
Numerous queues hinder the flow of consumers, adding to the stress that makes up the chaotic atmosphere of the lowest village on the Mountain of Trials.
“Hey, Nico! This way, mom will lock me in my room forever!” exclaims the girl.
She chases Nico, a disheveled small bird with a shard curved beak and messy plumage, the image of pure disorder. The creature flies quickly around the place.
“Nico, I will be left without food!” she persists.
In the heat of the chase, Toki passes by Kikyo — her mother — who is shopping at a craft stall. The woman ponders what to buy, only approaching the attendant after being sure of what she wants. Unfortunately, the commotion caused by her daughter disturbs her plans.
“Come on! I just came here to buy new cutlery. How can it be so difficult to leave the house?” she vents to the stall attendant.
Toki tries to catch the bird, jumping over piles of higher and higher objects until she manages to climb onto the roof of a stall.
Aware of her new height, the girl uses it to her advantage, shouting at her target, “Nico, if you keep doing this, Mommy will hit me!”
The commotion draws the attention of those around them. Kikyo can hear the others muttering nearby.
“Hit? Did you hear that?”
“Hit this cutie? What a terrible mother!”
The child’s mother takes a deep breath and rushes the craft seller, “oh, can you hurry up? It is simple and cheap cutlery. I even have the exact money.”
Toki jumps from the roof of a stall, trying to catch the bird. Her body flies through the air and can be seen throughout the commercial district.
With the strong sunlight highlighting her presence even more, she shouts, “Nico, my face will turn purple from all the punching!”
Listeners from all over the commercial district are stunned. The mother loses her patience and heads towards her daughter, embarrassed by the situation.
“Toki, if you don’t stop blabbering, people will believe you! That way, I’ll end up being hunted down!”
The child can’t reach Nico and falls face-first to the ground. She cries and screams at the same time. Desperate and loud, the girl keeps running after the bird.
“Nico, Mummy’s going to rip my tongue out!” She wails around the place.
Still waiting, Kikyo asks for help, “seriously… Muro! Control your sister!”
Focusing her attention on the other side of the fair, the distant voice of a confident young man answers her order.
“Leave it to me!”
On the main avenue of the commercial district - next to the street where the mother-daughter duo meet - a man walks boredly, surrounded by a group covered in luxury. Walter draws all the local attention.
Their clothes seem to have been made exclusively for each one of those individuals: shiny suits and dresses whose cut fits their bodies like a hug, as well as jewelry that covers everything from their hair to their feet.
“Tsk-tsk, walking around this place is always a disgrace.”
The citizens there run to the street corners, making way for the nobles. Doubts and fears become disturbing whispers.
“A developer? What is he doing here?”
“They never come to this village. What happened?”
A little boy - having the most delicious soup of his life - is abruptly pushed into the crowd, knocking over his longed-for meal.
As the contents of the bowl spill onto the floor, the desperate boy crouches down to eat the spilled food.
“Why are you still here?” Walter asks the boy, the only citizen left standing before him.
The boy, licking the floor after his food, pleads, “I-I'm on my way... I need some... I used my last coin on this meal."
One of the nobles accompanying Walter kicks the bowl of soup away and steps on what remains of its contents.
A direct kick hits the helpless boy's torso, and just like that, no interruption is left in the way of luxury.
"Avoid wasting time, boys. The order we received from that idiot is straightforward. Let's find the troublemakers and hush up the mess."
“How dare they cause so much trouble over such a simple result?” Stress was building up inside one of the subordinates.
Also entering the main avenue, Nico flies towards Walter's group, with Toki still in pursuit. The child is the only inhabitant in the Foot of the Mountain, walking in the middle of the street. She suddenly stops her prolonged crying and breaks into a smile.
"Boy, that's fun. Keep flying, Nico! It would be fairer if you walked on the ground like a—"
Toki bumps into one of the nobles, with Walter right behind him.
"What are you doing, brat?" Asks the group leader angrily.
“Oh, I was after Nico. Mom would end up drowning me in the lake if I didn’t do this.”
“Get out, you’re disturbing us.”
The girl keeps walking in a straight line, avoiding those in her way.
“Nico is fast at flying; I should go—”
A firm grip holds the child, who can no longer move one of her arms.
“Don't you get it? When a developer is on the streets, you need to get out of the way," one of the men imposes.
"Just get her out of here; you choose the method," Walter orders.
Sweat beads up on the girl's body, and she trembles as she faces the stranger. A height about three times her own, with a physique capable of knocking down a tree. It was as if a wall was blocking her view.
"You heard the boss, no hard feelings," he deepens his voice while holding the little victim's increasingly slippery limb.
Toki tries to break free but fails. The noble person lifts her by the arm, preparing to throw the child away.
The girl tries to open her mouth, gathering the last energy reserves in her body, which stops moving altogether.
“Help me, Nico!”
“Just shut up and—”
A powerful punch crushes the guy's face. The clenched fists of a young boy cover every millimeter of his menacing face. That frightening attacker is now propelled straight into the corner of the street, falling over the crowd of citizens after the impact of the unexpected blow.
"What are you doing to my family, you hothead!" He angrily asks his fallen enemy. With broad shoulders and an upright posture, he faces his opponent with a bag over his head, hiding his true face.
Toki recognizes the boy's warm voice as a refreshing drink that relaxes all the tension in her back. Mamoru Muro reassures his little sister.
The child — previously frightened — is immediately excited, "oh, you're also a good fit! Mu—"
The masked man covers the girl's mouth to stop her from talking too much. He then carries her on his back and flees into a dark alley.
The surrounding citizens laugh at what has happened, sniggering at the nobles, "Hahahaha, do you see that?"
"You were great, kid!"
Walter loses control, "Do not stop until this kid begs for forgiveness."
"But sir, what about our mission?"
"That bastard thinks he can make a joke out of me and get away with it. You're right; I need to follow the order I received."
"As professional as ever, sir."
"So, bring him to me."
Muro and Toki talk away from the chaos while hiding in an alley. The boy takes the plastic bag off his face.
"I knew it was you, Muro!" Toki cheers up.
"Toki, can't you stop worrying our mother? I was buying new shoes. You've ruined my moment."
"I didn't do anything. It was Nico who ran away!"
"Did Nico open the cage by itself and fly out?"
"I told it not to leave while I opened it. It was its fault for failing the test."
Muro looks down the alley to find out what is happening on the main street. Dozens of people are leaving the place, just around the corner from the siblings.
"What's wrong with these guys? They always avoid setting foot down here," the boy wonders.
"Could it be a problem with the trial?"
“Even so, they don't usually leave the waterfall."
The reflection hits the boy personally, and he curls up, depressed.
"Ah, damn. I have never been to that place..."
"My bad, I brought up a sensitive topic..."
Lost in thought, Muro tries to regain his focus, searching the skies for something.
"Do you know where Nico went to?"
"Yes, it flew over the nobles and got separated from me."
"Right, let's go back there then."
"Huh? Are you going to fight with those bad people?"
"I was in a mask, remember? Let’s walk like everyone else in the area, find Nico, and head back to Mom. They won't recognize me."
Toki reasons quickly, trying to understand the boy's logic.
"You're a genius, Muro!" She gives up thinking.
Back on the main avenue, emptiness takes over. As if they were in a desert, the pair can see the whole area without anyone getting in the way. Empty and abandoned stalls in the middle of the street are all that remain of the place that used to be the busiest area in the capital.
"Muro, I don't think we should walk around here..."
"What are you talking about? As long as I'm by your side, you can go anywhere."
"I think this situation is a bit different."
Walking down the middle of the street, the boy shouts.
"Hey, Nico! Let's go home!"
The boy's call echoes amid loneliness. No answer is forthcoming, and complete silence looms over the area.
"Where's Mom?" The girl begins to rethink her actions.
"Maybe three streets back. You ran too far."
An unknown voice is heard behind the siblings, "Is that idiot back? He'll make our job easier."
"How can anyone be that stupid?"
"It won't make any difference to leave them here. We should go back to Mr. Walter."
Three nobles prepare for combat, aiming for the two siblings.
"No worries, folks. We just have to be quick."
Muro turns away, completely surprised, "huh?"