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Backstory

        “You bunch of trash! This is all you got for a whole day of work?” An elegantly-dressed man discontentedly asked as he pointed at the cart filled with grey stones. The miners could only listen as the man berated them, not daring argue with him even though they may not agree with what he was saying. The man kicked over the cart, causing the stones to scatter all over the ground. Andrew, one of the miners, eventually could not hold back anymore: “Santon! That’s enough! You’re just a supervisor!” Even faced with the miners’ anger, Santon kept calm and issued a threat: “If I were you, I wouldn’t say things like that. You know, it’s not difficult to find a replacement for you.” Upon hearing that, the miners’ foreman, Yocto, stepped forward and coldly asked, “What do you want? Make it short.”

        Santon straightened his clothing before ordering, “Dig deeper, until you find what I’m looking for!” With a downward flip of Yocto’s fingers, all the miners put down their tools. “Pay my men first.” “What?” Santon said in surprise. Yocto raised his brows and continued, “It would take quite some time to replace all of us. Am I right?” Seeing that all the miners were now sitting in protest, Santon was exasperated. He had used their salaries to gamble, and did not have any luck in the past few days. Not wanting to bear the responsibility of causing the work to come to a stop, he could only answer, “Okay! I’ll go into the mine with you. While you work, I’ll distribute the money.” Yocto flipped his fingers again, and the miners picked up the mine cart and pushed it back into the mine. Alvin, a younger miner, walked to Yocto: “We’ve already got him so much ore and he’s still not satisfied! I really don’t understand him!” “A man like him can only be after two things. Money, and power.”

        They walked deeper into the mine and continued their excavation, but a boy kept running around the miners, hindering their work. Yocto grabbed the boy and placed him onto his pet hound. After lightly patting on the hound, it ran toward an area without any miners while the boy’s laughter still echoed throughout the mine. Miner Benson then walked close and explained: “Sorry. If I had someone to take care of the kid, I wouldn’t have to bring him to work...” Yocto shook his head as a response. Watching the boy play with the hound, he could not help but recall his childhood. Although he had numerous servants at his house, he felt an unshakable sense of loneliness. His parents were always outside working, so they bought the hound for him as a present to keep him company. Suddenly, Yocto realized that he had long forgotten these feelings after his family lost their wealth. Only the rich can worry about being lonely; the poor were too busy feeding themselves. Yocto cleared his mind and stopped reminiscing. Just as they were about to push a cart full of ore to the exit, the mine shook vigorously! Before the miners could react, the mine had started crumbling. The quake was so forceful that no one was able to keep their balance. The walls cracked and rock rained down. Some of the miners wanted to escape before the mine was completely blocked by rubble, but it all came down too fast. They were crushed to death at the exit of the mine. The other miners panicked and did not know what to do. Yocto told everyone to crouch and find a place they could use as a shelter. When the shaking began to slow down, he gathered everyone for an analysis of the situation.

        “Can’t we just move the rock blocking our way?” A few miners walked toward the exit, but were stopped by Yocto: “No! It’ll speed up the cave in. Move it if you want to die faster.” The miners immediately stopped moving and stepped aside as instructed.

        “S...Someone will come and get us out soon. I don’t want to die here!” Santon yelled in fear.

        “Humph! If you hadn’t told us to dig deeper, we wouldn’t have been trapped here!” Alvin grumbled. Santon wanted to argue but the other miners held him down.

        All those present lost their sense of direction. Only Yocto acted; he lit a torch with a fire he created by grinding two pieces of ore together, and observed the mine’s changes. He placed his hand on a wall and found that slight vibrations were still occurring. “This place is dangerous. Who wants to come with me?” As Yocto said this, he put various tools into his backpack. Other miners shouted, “We don’t know what’s happening. Acting rashly might be even more dangerous! People from the outside will save us soon!” Yocto knew the freedom of choice was rare in the lowest level of the social hierarchy, so he deemed it unnecessary to alter their decision: “I’m not giving orders as a foreman. Do what you think is best.” Benson said to Yocto with a worried voice, “My boy could come back for me anytime. I want to stay and wait for him.” Yocto nodded as a gesture of understanding before he turned to leave. Only Andrew, Alvin, and the troublesome Santon followed him.

        Not long after their departure, the violent shaking began again. Yocto and his followers lost their balance, causing them to lie on the floor to avoid further injuries. Just then, not too far away, screeches reverberated throughout the cave. Although they wanted to turn back and help their fellow workers, rubble rained down again and blocked their way back, leaving them with no other options but to proceed...

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