A/N: lalalala so here we are again
A/N: lalalala so here we are again. La di da.
The world was warm, not cold. Svara opened her eyes slowly and looked around herself. She could feel her feet and hands, could feel the air around her as if it were alive with magic. She flicked her gaze to an armory and then to her right was a smithy. In front of her, as she slowly began to realize that she was someplace else entirely, she saw a vast world she had never seen before in her life. But, did she not belong there already?
Svara frowned deeply at the sudden realization that something was amiss inside her mind. In her mind she felt strange, almost animalistic with base responses, but some small part of her was mentally tallying everything that was unusual about the world she had found herself in. The world looked strange, like a very large city, the largest since she last went to the great city nearest to her when she was a little girl, with various strange peoples moving this way and that all around her. Wait, what large city did she see when she was a girl?
Again, the strange feeling that something was very wrong with how she was thinking came over her. She rubbed her face and found she practically had claws, though it was really just her nails being far longer than she usually ended up keeping them. She looked down at herself and saw the familiar sight of her large breasts and further down her feet, but she was dressed in a strange sort of robe that was colored red with gold trimmings. When had she ever looked good in red?
"You are far more astute than the others I have brought to this place."
Svara snapped her gaze up to an older man, a very old man, with a long white beard, furry eyebrows and a strange style of ancient looking robes in a bronze like tone with what looked like a giant compass on his back. She frowned even more and moved away from him, but realized that the world around her had stopped. It was then that she noticed that not everyone around her was human. There were a few men in mid-flight past her as though they were fairy folk without wings, a woman with what seemed to be red fox ears and tail in mid stride wearing far less that Svara was and carrying a bow and quiver of arrows, and there were what seemed to be children in mid-run all looking to be in different professions themselves. The look in the childrens' eyes, however, was far different from any child Svara knew; they carried a look of age.
"Where am I? What is this place?" asked Svara croaked, the first time she had spoken at all in the time she had woken up in the strange city of fairy tale like creatures.
"You are in the mirror world, a reflection of your own, though imperfect. Most have a duplicate in this world as in the real world, but not all. Some are born here and others come from the real world to stay here. None go back to the real world," said the old man. He smiled after a moment and bowed to her, floating strangely in the air. "I am the Chasm King. You are Svara, named after the Goddess of Sound."
"My name…. I don't remember my name," said Svara absently as she spied a very tall and very well built man with a rather bestial face.
"You gave up that life, Svara, to be here and to be free here," he said softly. Svara turned to him and nodded toward her. "You are from the real world, Svara; that is why you feel so out of place. I feel that perhaps I should be far more truthful with you than the others because of how quickly you are taking in your surroundings. That is the sign of a good warrior, you know."
"I'm not from this world, then? I'm glad to know I'm not losing my mind," said Svara before looking around distractedly. He must have stopped time for the two of them to talk in private, she guessed.
The Chasm King frowned faintly as he watched Svara. She really was showing herself to be far cleverer than the others. Then, he smiled once more and nodded. "Yes, I did make time stop for us both to speak in private. No one has seen you yet." Then, he lifted a hand and a bright mirror appeared in the air beside him. "This is the Kunlun mirror, Svara. It was made to perfectly reflect the real world inside its magical depths, however, something went wrong with it and now everything is slightly askew from what it was supposed to be long ago when it was made. Human nightmares are made into monsters here, monsters that I feel might be attempting to cause more harm than they have in the past. To you, it is an artifact from ancient times when such creatures were not fairytales but real beings. Now, for those in the real world, they have long since disappeared, most retreating into the realm that is the mirror world, but for the people here they have always been here and have never changed since that time. However, some are dying out from the individual problems they face here."
"You chose the power of the Shura when you gave up yourself to be here. The Shura people are a proud and strong people, born to wield their strength with an iron will. However, they fight amongst themselves and killing each other off. They solve disputes with their fists rather than words and this usually does not end well. You, however, are different from them. You remember that you are not wholly one of them and remember how to keep your temper and use your words to solve problems. Use that to your advantage. That cleverness will be an asset when dealing with your new race."
The Chasm King pulled a long pipe out and filled it slowly before lighting it while Svara sat on the ground. It was then that she noticed that she had an extra appendage. "I have a tail?" she asked as she looked up at the Chasm King.
"Ah! I have forgotten myself! You have yet to see yourself!" He chuckled to himself and the mirror became full length and she found herself staring at someone who was both familiar and not so familiar. She had blonde hair that was rather oddly cut in an almost savage and layered cut just past her shoulders. She had bright jewel blue eyes that had slitted pupils like a cat's. She had red fox like ears where her ears should be and a long red fox tail at the base of her spine. She was very curvy and strong looking and looked as though she really could be a fighter, though her attire left little to the imagination. Reflexively, she covered her chest with her arms and looked at the older man with surprise. He only chuckled at her.
"Most Shura women believe that the power of their sexual appeal is their strong point and wear very little in regards to that. In fact, most of the attire built for Shura here will reflect this, so I would get accustomed to it eventually if I were you," he said gently.
"I doubt that," she muttered and looked to an inn. "And how do I live here when I've no money and no trade?"
"You'll figure that one out on your own, I expect," he said and then faded to nothing in the air. She grumbled and looked around as the world started back up as though nothing had happened previously.
A sudden feeling of her heart pounding very hard in her chest caught her in mid-step. She trembled and looked around wildly for any reason why her heart should be acting so strangely. Was this some sort of magic spell? Did a wizard or something attack her without her knowledge; not that she would have been able to do much with the small dagger she found at her side. She caught the smell of a man, though not a human man. Though somewhat unpleasant, it held an odd affect over her as she continued to look around. Then, the feeling passed and she could breathe and her heart was back to normal.
She explored the city, to get to know her new home better. All around her were enormous buildings, Shura women and men running around or getting into fights, Sylph women flitting about both on the ground and in the air, Sylph men keeping either near their own kind or to themselves, the little children, Sprites, scurrying about to either end of the city and humans, old and young, working shops and whatever else. There was a large, golden, observatory on one side of the town square, the governor's hall opposite of it, a bank, a clothier, a boutique, a job finder building and a brightly lit landing pad for people flying past on their own weapons. On either end of the city were temples and everywhere in between was packed with people.
She found a dojo and walked into it, her arms still crossed in front of her as she looked around at the men and women practicing. There was a small little desk with a man dressed in a scholar's robes behind it as a small line of people waited for their turn to talk to him. She looked to the name plate on his desk and found he was someone called a "career advisor". Perhaps that was what she needed to talk to, to find what sort of trade she could take up while she remained in the city. Of course the Job Finders building might have been a better place, but she was so very uncertain as to what to do in this world that anything was better than having nothing to do.
When it was her turn, she stepped up to the career advisor and smiled uncertainly at him. He smiled and opened a book. "I take it you don't know what you're looking for in a profession," he said.
"N-no," she said as she rubbed her arm self consciously.
"Well, you're a Shura, so I expect heavy work will be just your niche," he said. Immediately, Svara had in her mind a construction site where she was forced to lift boulders. The smile on his face said it would indeed be something she might enjoy, however. "Talk to the fencer or the swordswoman over there. They will take you on in their class if they like you. Or, you could try being a mercenary, which there is a notice in my book here that a mercenary is in need of an apprentice again."
"I'll… I'll take the fencers," she said before wandering over to two Shura women talking to one another. One had at her side a long curved blade that was familiar to Svara and the other was leaning on a long broadsword that was also familiar to Svara. In fact it was so familiar that Svara found herself seeing men training with such weapons inside her mind, though it seemed so long ago that she had seen it.
The two women looked up and eyed Svara carefully. Svara realized then that she was a good several inches taller than the two women. "My name is Svara. I'm... looking to apprentice," she said, trying her best to sound confident, though she didn't feel it.
The one carrying the curved sword snorted derisively, making Svara want to claw the woman's face off that very moment. "I don't care how big you are, if you carry an attitude like that you'll be minced meat the minute you pull your blade out."
"Now, Felincia, you should be nicer to the commoners than that," said the one carrying the broadsword, "After all, she is approaching us and asking to apprentice. I am Alincia, the fencing teacher. This is my sister Felincia the sword teacher."
Svara frowned, attempting to keep her cool to the hot headed and condescending swordswoman and the very saccharine and very condescending fencer. "What is the difference? They're both using a blade."
"That's why you're a commoner," said the swordswoman. "Alincia, drop it and just ignore her. She has no desire to do anything but act stupid. Not a proper Shura at all!"
"Felincia, you should keep an eye on that temper. After all, you never know who might be able to best you, especially with that flimsy armor you wear," said the fencer.
"You're a fine one to talk! I can't understand how you could ever fight wearing that string up your ass and your cheeks to the wind!"
"At least I have lovers."
The two women's heads collided with one another as Svara grabbed them both by their collars and practically tossed them at each other. Both fell backward and unconscious for a few minutes as Svara glowered at them both. When they came to they attempted to get back up again and Svara grabbed their swords from them and held them to her body. "I've seen better, far more disciplined, fighters than you two squabbling children! You're both so certain of your prowess as fighters that you outright dismiss anyone who wants to learn as being too weak or scared to succeed. Why don't you try talking to me instead of assuming you have the advantage!"
The two women made a grab for their swords, but Svara moved back and then let them tackle a dummy as she moved to the side. The career advisor came out from behind his desk and walked over calmly. "Alincia, Felincia, why are you both trying to capture a recruit? I thought one of you two would be able to use another student since your class is down in number."
"She took our swords!" the women shrieked. Svara snorted and dropped the blades at her feet, having had enough of the foolish pair. The women scrambled for her and grabbed the swords before trying to take swings at her. It surprised Svara just how easily she could dodge the pair. She was only armed with a dagger and her strangely quick eyesight. How could a new recruit be able to do so much to a pair of women who probably have been fighting for a lot longer than she had been?
The pair dropped to their knees from exhaustion and leaned on their blades as they glowered at Svara. Svara was covered in bruises and a few cuts, but they were minor to what they should have been. Already the cuts and bruises were beginning to disappear with very little trace left. Svara blinked at herself and then looked to the career advisor, who smiled at her very strangely. "Magic in the air, it seems," he said. He turned to the pair of women and shook his head. "You two should be ashamed of yourselves. You're acting like children, and poorly raised children at that. I have a mind to fire you both and hire on more competent fencers and swordsmen to teach the classes."
Alincia and Felincia immediately bowed their heads to the career advisor. "We're sorry, sir," they said in unison, "The woman has passed both our qualifications!"
The career advisor nodded and looked to Svara. "Be here in the morning every day at seven and we shall teach you the art of the sword," he said with a smile.
Svara couldn't help grinning in triumph. She was certain the pair were merely saying she qualified for the professions they taught because their jobs were at stake, but it did not matter. After that, she went south and an inn where she traded cleaning the floors for staying there while she learned a new trade in the mornings. The owner, Mr. Marshall, a small, very strange and creepy looking man, merely smiled at Svara strangely as she swept the floors and tossed out the garbage. And, not for the first time, she found herself somehow happy to move freely around without pain in her toes. She wondered why it was that this was such a happy thing to her, but she dismissed it as of little importance to her at that moment.
The mother massaged the girl's feet gently, rubbing oils and other things into the girl's feet as she sang little songs to her, though her voice did not convey any of the cheerfulness in the songs she sang. The girl was tall for her age and growing quickly, though she was a very pretty child. "Mama," said the girl, "Why are you singing so sadly?" asked the girl. The mother seemingly ignored the little question, but quieted her singing entirely as she moved away from the girl's feet.
The mother had told the girl that this was an old practice for all women to do so that they would be pretty to men when they were older. The girl didn't entirely understand, but she was sure her mother meant well. A girl as the only heir to the family was a very disgraceful thing and quite useless to the father's business after all. He needed a son or a son-in-law and the mother wasn't bearing anymore children for some reason.
The mother came back with a bowl with something rather iron like smelling mixed with other things. She then took the girl's left foot and closed her eyes, gritting her teeth before slamming the girl's foot down on the toes. The girl screamed and tried to move away from her mother, a couple of her little toes broken from the impact, though the rest were still all right. The mother's eyes opened wide and then she clenched them shut as she started sobbing and tried to wrap the toes under the little girl's foot and bind them in the silk strips that her own mother had taught her to use. The girl kicked at her and fought to get away, crying for the mother to stop; she cried out "What have I done to be punished for, mommy?"
The mother stopped wrapping the foot entirely and looked up at her little girl as she was so white that she could have been compared to the snow outside. The mother picked up the girl and carefully forced herself to stand up on her own bound and broken feet and teetered out of the house to find the midwife that lived nearby. The woman had had several boys in her lifetime and knew about setting broken bones as well as taking care of crying children.
The old woman opened the door to her house and found the mother cradling her little girl who was wrapped in a blanket with one foot bound and drying in the animal blood soaked bandaging that would have served to crush the girl's foot further as it continued to dry. "I need your help, ma'am," said the mother, frantically.
The old woman nodded and allowed the mother to walk in and set the girl on a table as the old woman started gathering various things, a bowl and a bottle of animal blood to start with. "I'll help you finish the job," said the old woman kindly. "I was never able to pass this tradition on to a daughter, so I am happy you are going to allow me to—"
The mother was quickly unwrapping the girl's foot, the girl having gone silent from shock. The old woman stared incredulously at the mother and slapped her away. "What are you doing!?" she snarled. "What sort of woman are you? Will you have her grow up and be unable to marry off?!"
The mother slapped the woman back, harder if that were possible, the woman's nose bleeding a little from the impact as well as a couple of claw marks on her old cheek from the mother's nails. "Don't give me that!" said the mother, though her voice shook terribly from fear and sorrow, "Set my daughter's toes! Please! I don't wish her to suffer as I have!"
"How dare you!" snarled the old woman. "You are ruining your daughter for marriage!"
The mother's tears streamed down her cheeks, making her beautiful face streak with tear stains. "Please, madame," she asked simply.
The old woman stared at her and then looked to the two broken toes that the mother had managed to break. "Her feet are too tough to break, anyway. She will just have to live with being different," said the old woman before checking the girl's toes carefully. "Hold her still."
The mother held onto the girl and the girl screamed once again, though weaker this time, as the old woman set the toes and put a sort of splint on them to keep them straight while they healed. "She will be able to run and do whatever she wants, I think, but she will still have pain in that foot for the rest of her life," said the old woman.
The mother smiled, genuinely smiled, and kissed her daughter's sweaty cheek as she stroked her hair. "Just sleep," she whispered gently into the girl's ear, "Just sleep and mommy will take care of you."
Snow covered the ground where the girl stood, now much older and dressed finely in silken robes. She looked at a mirror as it floated in the air in front of her. Her mother was not around and the old matchmaker was not around either. The mirror was the only company she had and it was a compelling thing to her. "Are you willing to give it all up to be free?" it asked; the voice deep and sent a thrill through her cold body. It was not kind and elderly sounding like the old man's, but a deep, younger tone, though gruffer, as though from a man slightly older than her who had fought too many long years.
"Am I willing to give up… what?" she asked, though she felt strange, as though her body were growing warmer.
She saw someone standing behind her, though she only saw his very well built and tanned chest. She saw his large, gloved, hands place themselves over hers on the mirror and his voice in her ear. "Your life."