Slave 1 was hiding in a quiet corner without anyone else. He took out a lighter and lit up the cigarette he took ages to get.
Huff—puff— It was as refreshing as it could ever be.
Huff—puff— His tensed emotions finally found relief.
Huff—puff— His mind cleared up a lot.
Huff—puff— He only went out for a smoke. Why did he have to hide?
‘Aha! You’re smoking!’ Slave 2 emerged from nowhere all of a sudden, which made Slave one jump out of his skin.
‘Be quiet!’ Frightened and annoyed, Slave one threw the cigarette butt away. He pounced forward and locked his forearms around Slave two’s throat, shutting him up.
Desperately struggling in his arms, Slave 2 gestured with his hand that he would immediately keep quiet, and only then did Slave 1 loosen his grip, who picked up the cigarette and continued to savour it. Slave 2 was like a famished monster, greedily taking deep breaths of the puffs of white smoke puffing out of Slave 1’s mouth.
Slave 1 had now finished the cigarette. Still engrossed in the nicotine, the two sat with their backs facing each other and struck up a conversation.
‘Where did you get that from?’ Slave 2 remembered that Master had forbidden all slaves from smoking.
‘It’s a secret.’ Slave 1 was not keen on spilling the beans, as he was afraid of getting into trouble.
‘I thought Master made an exception for you!’ A sly grin grew on Slave 2’s face. He now had the goods on Slave 1.
‘I have a mouth, a nose, a pair of hands, and a lighter. It is my choice to choose whether I smoke or not. I don’t need permission from Master.’ Slave 1 was indeed a slave, yet his eyes sparkled with freedom.
‘No! Master said…’ Slave 2 was a birdbrain, and he didn’t fully understand what Slave 1 had meant by that. After a while, something came across in his mind, and fear arose within him. He couldn’t help but to shudder in terror. ‘Don’t tell me that you came across the “human rights” the disaster victims mentioned about. Don’t listen to them! Master says that’s a pack of evil nonsense. That’s sugar-coating!’
‘Master is human, and so are we. We were all made equal in the first place, so nobody has the place to exploit others’ rights.’ Slave 1 laughed bitterly, poking fun at himself for casting pearls before swine.
‘Then…’ It finally dawned on Slave 2. In a flash, his thinking had leapt to levels at such a height that was unheard of. ‘Why are we made to do hard labour here?’
Bang—bang— Apart from the sound of bullets being fired, the two got their answer from the butler. ‘You’re all good for nothing, that’s why!’
After completing his mission, the butler returned to his warm little woodhouse. He enjoyed the dinner prepared by his lovely wife, which consisted of thin soup, fresh veggies, and bread. It was a huge, sumptuous feast compared to the rotten potatoes given to the slaves. After a full stomach, he cuddled with his wife and drifted off to sleep, satisfied.
Their beautiful dream was interrupted by a series of rapid knocks at the door. They opened the door, and out there stood several burly men who held them down. It was only after then the mistress in elegant clothes stepped into the house gracefully. ‘It’s so dirty here! Why is there such a stench?’
‘Forgive me, my lady. Please excuse us.’ The butler mistakenly thought that his punishment was due to his mistreatment towards the mistress, and he begged for mercy.
The mistress didn’t even bat an eye at him. She drew her servant’s gun and aimed it at his wife’s belly.
Bang—Blood flew everywhere.
‘You want to be the second lady? You’re good for nothing!’ The mistress let out a laugh of contempt, then left the scene by leading the crowd. She couldn’t care less about the butler behind her, who bid her goodbye on his knees.
Just as she stepped into the mansion, the mistress was called to the study.
Slap—slap—slap—Countless smacks had already dragged across the mistress’ face. Her swollen cheeks were flushed red, and there was blood seeping out from the corner of her mouth.
Sitting on the edge of the couch was the master. He was watching the mistress being slapped by his servants the whole time. Meanwhile, he was enjoying his cup of milk tea made by tea leaves of high quality. It was pure, aromatic and smooth. ‘Power is what I give you, not what you have from the start. You should clearly know your place. Don’t make me take away your power.’ A sense of indifference slipped between his words.
As the mistress was about to pass out, one of the master’s servants hurried to the study and whispered a few words into his ears.
‘Stop.’ The master ordered his attendant and generously put off the mistress’ punishment for the time being. ‘All of you, wait here and look after your mistress. I have business to attend to now. I’ll take care of the second-rate ones later.’ A wave of his hand, and the master left the room with his attendant, leaving the inferior ones behind, utterly stunned.
The two got on a carriage and reached the castle to see its owner—the general.
The general didn’t bother to care about the fake smile upon the arrivals’ faces. Along with the nobleman beside him, he capriciously examined the master from head to toe.
‘His nose isn’t high enough, and his eyes lack lustre…’
‘The northern rioters live far away from the capital. They’ve only seen your Majesty’s painting, so they can’t really tell the difference. I think we’ll get by from this.’
‘Very well then. We shall employ this shabby fellow.’
The master wasn’t even sure what was going on, yet from their conversation, he could sense an endless stream of malice and danger ahead of him. Too bad he was a good-for-nothing. A piece of meat on the chopping board. He was at the mercy of the high and mighty. During the next few days, under the protection of soldiers, he left the South and headed off to the North. He ate well and dressed well on his way, and he remained chubby even the time when he was caught by the disaster victims. He looked almost like the king in the painting.
Completely tied up, he was beaten black and blue.
When the master was forced onto the guillotine, he still obeyed the general’s command by neither confirming nor denying whether he was the king.
‘Maybe, if I muster enough courage and tell them my true identity and the things I’ve been through, they will release me immediately.’ The master did think about this, but he didn’t carry it out.
Because he thought that he himself was a good-for-nothing!
He should sacrifice his life for nobler people! He should give it all he’d gotten for a higher ideal! He should give up everything for the greater good!
All of a sudden, a wave of heat surged up his chest, rushed into his throat, and gushed into his mouth. The wave of heat morphed into words and he spluttered at the victims, ‘All of you are lower than me!’
Slash— Down onto the ground went his head. It rolled and rolled and rolled to the feet of the crowd of victims.
From this angle, they were like giants. Ironically, the master had become mud on the ground, and had become the lowest of all good-for-nothings.