Chapter 20 – Happy Now/Sad Later And Sad Now/Happy Later
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The stars in the night sky twinkled more beautifully than any holo-projection could show. These were the times that made me regretful that Aurora could not venture outside the bunker.

Aurora had health problems since she was a baby, though over time she had outgrown them.

Yet, I had not yet reached the point that I was ready to risk the possible ramifications that bringing her outside could cause.

Even if she was as fit as a fiddle, I didn't want her to see the slums for the Hell on Earth it was.

Still…

As gruesome as the world was for us, it also held beautiful, picturesque scenes like twinkling stars, large green lands, and crystal clear waterfalls.

The world, itself, was an unsolvable conundrum.

After all, how could such a beautiful world be so ruthless?

I asked myself that question many times over the years, but have yet to reach a definitive conclusion.

I still recall the times my mother would explain the pains of the world through a story – a story that I tell Aurora almost every night.

A story that I was now repeating for the small child that clung to my back in tears and fear.

"My mother used to say that there were only two types of people in the world: Happy Now - Sad Later, and Sad now – Happy Later.

She often said that the world was created with a unique balance.

When the world was created, The Gods gave humans a black stone to represent pain, and a white stone to represent happiness.

Both stones were equal all the time, and people always held the stones in their hands… never putting them down.

The Gods then retreated into the clouds and watched humanity to marvel at their creation and the changes it would undergo.

Centuries passed…

People would experience pain sometimes, but they would always bounce back and be happy once more.

One day, A mother lost one of her children to an animal attack. Many children died from the animal attack that day. This was not uncommon for the uncivilized time in which they lived.

Animal attacks were common, and losing family members were just as common.

People eventually got over it and moved on with their lives because The Gods made a balance between pain and happiness.

But this specific mother loved her children so much that she thought that she could never be happy again.

Of course, that thought was faulty and the mother would be happy once more, but then something changed before she could heal.

The second son, seeing his mother's pain, came up with the most absurd thought since humanity's creation.

He walked to his mother and asked 'I don't want to see you cry anymore. You deserve all the happiness in the world, so would you please give me your pain?'

The mother, in her moment of weakness, gave her black stone to her son.

Now, the mother had eternal happiness with just a single white stone, and the son had two black stones and one white stone.

And henceforth the balance the Gods created was broken.

But the story was far from finished…

The second son was a strong person by nature, so he felt that carrying two black stones did not weigh heavily on his heart.

Then he thought 'Aren't other mothers suffering as much as my mother with the loss of their children?'

Suddenly, the second son had a mission, so he went from home to home repeating the phrase 'Give me your pain'.

The mothers did not think twice to give the boy their black stones. After collecting all the black stones of the suffering mothers, the boy had reached his limit of the sufferings he could bear.

Luckily, he still had his own white stone and he clung to it with all his might. With a single grain of happiness, he bared all the suffering of the mothers.

His back was hunched, steps were heavy, and his eyes were dull, but he still moved forward with his single white stone and many black stones.

Until… one day he collapsed by the riverside accidentally.

Just as he was about to stand back up, he realized that he couldn't.

You see, the moment he fell, many people ran out of the nearby bushes and threw their black stones onto the pile he already had.

When people realized that others were living with eternal happiness, they too wanted to get rid of their pain.

But the boy was not taking any more black stones, so they watched… and they waited for an opportune moment to discard their own black stones.

The moment the boy collapsed, they tossed their black stone onto him and ran away. The boy was crushed under the weight of the new black stones and could no longer stand up.

Thinking the boy was dead, others from all over the world began to discard their black stones on the ever-growing pile.

Years and years passed by, every adult would come to the area known as 'Black Stone Mountain' to toss their pain and suffering away.

One day the mountain shook and the boy once buried under all the suffering exited from the top of the mountain.

The boy that was once buried beneath suffering and pain, came out a man stronger than even the Gods.

While under the mountain of suffering, he learned to treasure his one white stone of happiness. Eventually, he consumed the white stone to keep it safe.

That made him realize that happiness could only be found within himself… literally.

Knowing that, he never had to bear anymore sorrows and pain.

He now stood above the world… on a mountain of meaningless pain, looking down on everyone.

At that moment, a new stone formed in the free hands of everyone on Earth.

In one hand, they had a white stone for happiness, and in the next hand, a new stone grew.

This stone was much larger and infinitely heavier… so heavy that everyone sunk to their knees and was never able to get up again.

The stone that grew in their hand was multi-colored because it was made to balance all the years they spent with only happiness.

Rage, jealousy, sin, lying, gluttony, pain, suffering, anger, lust… The new stone was made of all things negative in the world.

From then on, only one man, who bared all suffering for countless years, could stand with his head held high in the world…"

The moment I finished the story, Erin and I had already reached the wall separating the slums from the outskirts of the city.

The wall was established for reasons unknown, and the only way to cross was by the escort of a Corporation Robot.

The wall was over ten meters tall at the highest point, and eight meters tall at the lowest point. Still, nobody from the slums ever made it over the wall because of the constant monitoring of the Corporation Robots.

I originally lived in the city, but the bunker was located under the slums. The tunnel that I once ran to enter the slums had long since collapsed to avoid anyone finding Aurora and me.

I walked along the wall carrying Erin, my body still weakened from the earlier fight but I still trudged forward.

Erin was about to leave the slums, and her memories would be wiped as she entered a better life. Unlike the rest of us, Erin did not suffer any major trauma.

Rodge protected her from all the sins that came with slum life, so she never saw or did anything she wasn't supposed to.

It seemed that Rodge was betting his chance to join her on the device that could mask trauma ever since he heard about it. It was considered an open secret at this point, even though I learned about it just a couple of hours ago.

I stuck to the shadows of the wall to be less conspicuous. The last thing I needed was to be taken by a Corporation Robot.

Unlike Erin, I had too many traumas to pass the mind-scanning portion of the test.

"Are we here?" Erin asked, hopping off my back while also quickly wiping the tears that had smeared her chubby face.

"Yeah!" I replied "After this, you will have a happy life free of hunger and fear,"

'Not that you went hungry in the slums judging from your shape,' I thought internally.

Erin seemed hesitant to walk from the shadow into the light where the Corporation Robots could view her.

"Can't you come with?" She asked, finally showing a childish expression that befitted her age.

I shook my head to show her that I couldn't.

I knelt in front of her, pulled a small string from my pocket along with the fragment of the Quartz-Crystal I cut.

With a couple of knots, I had created a small chain that I swiftly put around her neck.

Truth be told, I wasn't exactly sure what Quartz-Crystals were used for, only that they were very important. I once heard Rocky say they somehow made you stronger.

"As long as you have that around your neck… you will be fine," I said, taking a couple of steps back while signaling her to move into the light.

It was both symbolic and literal. By moving into the light and out from the darkness, she would also be leaving the slums behind.

Erin still appeared hesitant, but she steeled her gaze and gave me one final once-over before stepping into the light.

"I will remember you," She whispered, but I knew that she wouldn't because nobody ever remembered their life before the erasure.

With Erin in the light, I saw several beams scan her body, and then a Corporation Robot floated from the top of the wall and guided her forward.

I did not observe for long. Tonight, I had several more tasks to complete.

As I stumbled along with the shadows of the wall, I removed the necklace Karl once wore from my pocket and headed for The Red Light Street.

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