That’s the first thing I hear when I wake up. My view is graced with square, white tiles above me and I feel restricted in my movement. My whole body feels weak--just like how I felt lying on the ground, watching my… sister.
But she’s not here. It’s strange. The last thing I remember is being in her royal chamber but this, here, is clearly not it; there’s no ostentatious ornamentation, nor gold filigree on anything in sight--there’s barely even any furniture!
So far, the only movement I’ve got is with my head. I can turn it side to side but not much else. Occasionally, wispy, orange hair falls in front of my vision and it’s very annoying. Wait; orange?
What’s with my hair? It’s not this strange, garish colour! It’s a striking, ink-black like the rest of the royal family. Why would it be such an unnatural colour?
Moment by moment, the perplexing things I’m experiencing just compound upon themselves.
For instance, the windows of this room were similar to a bed canopy--they had fabric drapes--but with the window, they were hung to the side, allowing light to stream in and illuminate the whole room. That’s not strange--it was the same way for every window in the royal chambers of the palace. What is strange, however, is the crystal-clear material that the panes are made out of.
In the palace, all the windows were always hued differing tones of yellow for they were made out of flattened animal horns. Having windows that weren’t open to the outside like we had was such a rarity that only our royal family and nobles built houses in such a way.
But even we didn’t have such fine, expensive, crystal-clear windows. I’m not even sure what the material is that they’re made of.
Why am I focusing on windows? Because they’re the most familiar thing to me inside this room; I’m scared to look at the other things here.
For instance, the strange, blackish-greyish box-like contraption to my right, displaying weird and fine glowing lines and making an incessant, unnerving noise. Frankly, it’s discomforting.
But it’s fine. I’m fine. I’m not in any danger and I’m alive so I’m sure this is just something benign and any moment now, Father will appear. Yes, definitely.
It’s very quiet. Even in the palace, the wide, long, echoing halls meant you could hear a maid or servant from one end to the next. There was rarely a moment if it was not night that it was silent. Compared to the bustling, noisy life I lived before, this eerie quiet is, frankly, alien to me.
Quiet isn’t bad, though. If the palace will adopt this kind of quiet frequently, I reckon that would be rather comfortable.
Quite like this bedding. The thick, padded piece of fabric laying on top of me and restraining me like nocturnal tangleweed of the Southern Forest is of unimaginable luxury. The thickness is unlike anything in the palace and while I should feel hot underneath all this, I feel rather pleasant instead. I find it hard to think about sleeping in a bed like this in the tepid nights of winter, let alone summer.
Maybe I’m not in the palace after all? If not, then, where am I? It certainly doesn’t seem like I’m in the Arden Kingdom from the temperature and the furnishings.
Wondering about this question, I turn my mind inwards like we’re taught to in times of peril. Whispering a question within my heart, I ask ‘System?’.
[System initialisation complete.]
[User registration required.]
Again? The last time I was asked to engage in user registration was during the coming of age ceremony at the age of thirteen. I’ve never heard of someone being required to register twice.
Now that the user registration has happened again, does that mean the System Specialisation has differed?
[System Specialisation initialisation…]
[Specialisation has been chosen: Library of Echoes]
Library of Echoes? I’ve never heard of that specialisation before. Maybe it’ll be better than my previous one…
Unfortunately, my contemplation over this new System Specialisation is interrupted as from the brown and strangely flat wooden door comes a middle-aged woman unknown to me. Her hair, just like mine, was of the strange, orangish hue and her stature is similar to my eldest sister.
Her clothing, though, is beyond my imagination. Compared to the complex and intricate garb my sisters and mother wear, this woman’s clothing resembles the same fine construction but with the simplicity more associated with commoners for she wears a beige blouse covered with a dark jacket of unfamiliar design and blue bottoms, again, from an unfamiliar material.
If that isn’t enough for my confusion, while her upper clothing looks of the quality rich merchants would often parade around in and sell to the nobles, her bottoms are ripped and tattered in an unnatural pattern, as if she got half of her clothing from the nobility and half from the peasantry. Very unusual.
My thoughts, however, are swiftly interrupted as the moment the woman sees me, her eyes open in surprise and a smile is briskly plastered upon her face as she excitedly makes her way towards me.
Before I can even open my mouth in question, I feel her arms grasp around and roughly pull me upwards into a sitting position. For a woman, the strength in her grip is contrary to my expectations and I actually feel aches crowd themselves in my back like I’m being crushed.
Have I really weakened that much?
As I’m being hugged, she’s mumbling something into my back but her voice is so quiet I can’t quite hear what she’s saying.
Alas, the hug doesn’t last too long and I’m swiftly released from the warm embrace, my face slightly aflush from the sudden intimate contact with an unknown woman. Even as a member of the royal family, my focus was on training my body and combat rather than courtship.
“Are you okay?” She asks, her voice tinged with a hint of worry. I’m no longer in her embrace, yes, but her hands are firmly gripping my shoulders as if afraid I will disappear the moment she loses contact.
Confusion overwhelms and I try to eke out a response but my voice is weak and raspy, as if it hasn’t been used in a while. Never-the-least, my lack of an audible answer doesn’t seem to bother her as even the squeak of a sound that left my mouth has gotten the woman tearing up, her eyes moistening and without much of a respite, I’m clutched against her again as she embraces me once more.
Why is she hugging me so much?
“I’m so glad it’s worked,” she says, close to my ear, before pulling away, “We thought we were going to lose our daughter for sure,” she finishes by wiping her eyes dry with her hand.
Dau-Daughter? What’s going on here? She can’t possibly be referring to me, can she? Surely, she’s just hugging me to express her happiness over her daughter. Me, a random stranger, is being hugged.
Yep; I’m sure that’s what’s happening.
“Okay,” she begins, as if to calm herself down rather than me, “I’m sure you have a lot of questions but they can be answered once the doctors have looked you over,” and with that, she kisses my forehead and runs out of the room before I can even get another word in--though I doubt I would’ve been able to anyway.
All I’m left with is confusion over where I am, who she is, and the relationship between me and her. At the very least, she isn’t anyone I recognise.
What should I do, then? First and foremost, I should familiarise myself with my new System Specialisation. To do so, let’s ask for a summary of the Library of Echoes.
[System Specialisation: Library of Echoes]
[An archive of information the user has found while in possession of the system which may be accessed any time at the volition of the user.]
That’s it? It’s just the palace library, then. That’s rather disappointing. Oh well, at least it’s better than the one I had before.
An actual blessing of the meeting with that woman was my change in position. Now, after being forcibly manhandled, I could move my body! Okay, well, not all of my body; just my upper torso and arms and head.
Now that I’ve actually moved a bit, the fabric covering me has loosened a bit but, even then, my legs feel so strangely weak and I can hardly feel anything if I try to move them.
Looking over my arms, they’re a pale white, contrasting my previously tanned skin tone. Deciding not to think about it, I instead observe their shape.
They’re slender and lacking in muscle definition or mass. Actually, rather than slender, I think it’s better to describe them as skeletal, for it seems that I’ve been starved recently. Have I not been fed while I’ve been asleep? Have I been asleep for a really long time?
Oh no. I’ve just noticed something disconcerting. My clothing is a light, blue fabric that feels weird to the touch but it doesn’t bunch up like peasant clothes. No; it’s more like the fashion amongst the nobility of tight trousers which accentuate any bulge. Personally, I was never fond of them when I wore them on myself but, wearing this loose, dress-like garb, there are two bulges which really shouldn’t be there--two protrusions where there was flat canvas before.
It seems that I have breasts.
I-I don’t know how to feel about this revelation. I mean, physically, I couldn’t feel anything at all--which is probably due to how they’re more like small hills than mountains--but emotionally...I just don’t know.
I actually have breasts? Really?
Wait; does that mean that woman was referring to me when she said ‘daughter’? Am I her daughter? Am I no longer the prince?
Ahhh; the thought of my current situation has me frozen, unable to move.
How-How could this have happened? My System Specialisation most likely couldn’t have done this but then… Was it the invaders? But, why; when I’m the enemy?
There’s no other option that I can think of; the Temorial Confederacy must have some mages with unknown System Specialisations in the Adren Kingdom, someone who can alter a persons body… Or something.
But what System Specialisation will change someone’s gender? Maybe, instead of changing my gender--seeing how I apparently had a mother I was unaware of--they instead swapped my mind with someone else?
Does that mean I died? No, surely not. If I died, I wouldn’t be here. Maybe that means I can meet Gwendoline here as well?
I can only hope.