His mind swam in shadows. Clouded by the darkness which brought to him the sweet scent of a peaceful, never waking slumber. He tried to reach out, to remember what had brought him to such a place. No memories came. His mind was completely blank, just like the neverending void all around him. Nothing existed in this world but the blackness and the blacker than blackness. Dark tendrils writhing around.
Raithe squirmed as one wrapped around his wrist. A thick, black goo which dripped a liquid substance from it, to the non existent floor. Another wrapped around his ankle. This time he let out a startled whimper. Then another wrapped around his neck, his torso, pinning him there and he couldn't move. Raithe struggled against them. The more he tried however, the more they tightened...
His eyes snapped open.
Still he could see nothing. It was like blindness had taken over. So had his other senses, the feel of rough wood beneath his fingertips. A swaying motion with gentle creaks that followed. Water lapping, the scent of salt water air. He could hear the wind and seabirds singing. So I am on a ship then?
The scents, the sounds and even the swaying motion and texture of wood, were calming. Raithe breathed in deep and waited. He felt his heart move from a heavy tempo, down to a rhythmic lullaby. Soft and easy. Every thought came clearer now, like an untainted spring. All the panic he had been feeling before, washed away. Then he tried to stand.
Both legs wobbled unsteadily for a moment, before he flopped right back down. Weakness spread throughout every limb, making him immobile. The kind of weakness one gets after they've not eaten for days. Weak and blind... that was him.
Then there was the cool breeze which brushed against his skin, caressing it like a lover. It chilled him to the bone and Raithe had to bend both knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around, to keep in as much body heat as he could. It only partially worked. He shivered with the effort.
“Is someone there?” asked a small, feminine voice.
In the silence, her voice was almost deafening. A rooster's call at dawn. That is to say, the volume of it. If he had to describe the sound, it would be a small bird in the morning, high pitched, but melodic.
“I'm here little lady,” answered a masculine voice. He had a thick accent which Raithe couldn't quite place. Southern maybe.
“My my,” said another male voice, in a higher pitch. “What have we all gotten ourselves into... I wonder.”
“Don't ask me,” the first male voice said.
“So I'm not alone?” an older sounding female said. Then in a quieter tone, “thank god!”
Raithe chose not to speak, but raised his head instead. Squinting, he could just barely make out the shapes of other people. They were shadows within a shadow, mysterious individuals with a purpose unknown. Some nervously looking around, others frightened of what was happening to them. Frightened of not knowing anything. He was one of those. And then there were carefree individuals, who could talk amongst each other and laugh. Not nervous, not scared, but inquisitive.
“And what about you?” asked the high pitched male.
It took a moment before Raithe realized, it was actually him who was being addressed. “Me?” he asked.
“Yes you,” the other man said. “What do you make of all this?”
Raithe shook his head.
“You don't know huh?”
“I don't,” Raithe replied.
“That's too bad,” the man said with a sigh. In the darkness it was hard to tell, but he seemed to move his head to look right at him. “So, what's your name?” he asked.
Raithe scowled. “Isn't it polite to give yours first?”
The man put his hands on the floor behind himself and leaned on them, looking up. “I suppose,” he said. “The name's... Gin.”
“Oh cool name!” Gin said enthusiastically. “I wish I had one like that.”
“Then why not change it?” Raithe asked. It was a perfectly logical question. If the others were anything like him, their memories would be gone as well. It was like a clean slate. Whatever they might have done in the past, they could change that now. Become a new person altogether.
“Because it's mine,” Gin said. “It is... the only thing I have left.”
“Ha!” another voice shouted in the darkness. Male again. “The only thing, if the name is even yours to begin with.”
“Hmmm,” Gin said thoughtfully. “I was going to argue but no, you're right. If they could remove our memories they could pro-” he stopped talking and moved his gaze past Raithe.
Everyone went silent and tensed as a pair of unsteady footfalls sounded from somewhere beyond, whatever container was holding them. They created a thunk... creak... thunk sound upon the wood. Then the footfalls stopped. A brief moment of silence followed and in it, Raithe could hear every sound. People breathing, shifting around where they sat. It was the kind of nervous quiet which is over quickly, but actually felt more like a very long time.
In the darkness, a door creaked open. Light flooded in after it, causing a lot of groans and complaints from the others. Raithe had to shield his eyes. When the stars in his vision began to fade, he looked up. The figure standing there, was still a shadow against the bright glow. Someone of average height, wearing a top hat and walked with a cane.
The man stepped forward into the darkness, his full appearance coming into view. His hair was ashen white, fell to just passed his ears and was perfectly straight. He wore a well ironed suit. Black with grey stripes... or was it the other way around?
Still holding the cane in one hand, he spread out his arms.”Welcome to your orientation!” he said and lowered his cane, tapping it three times. The sound reverberated across the room and anyone who was whispering, stopped. “I am your host and your guide. You may call me Wish.” he finished with an elaborate bow. Once he straightened, Wish stretched out one hand, palm up toward the door.
Two more figures appeared. They were tall and –
Raithe's eyes went wide, as did the eyes of every other captive male. The two figures were women, both wearing the same dark, skimpy outfit. Both had large breasts and Raithe couldn't decide if they were real or not, but they both had very tall, slender rabbit ears. As one of them walked gracefully down the set of steps, he saw too, the black rabbit tail. Draped over her arm were thin, white pieces of fabric. Clothes perhaps? Clean and neatly folded.
“Nefu here, is one of my assistants. As she walks by, you will take one of the white gowns provided,” Wish spoke with the kind of finality a mother might to her misbehaving child.
More silence as she walked by, handing them out to each individual. Raithe followed her form around the room and counted at least twenty others present. All looking as confused and terrified as he felt. Nefu began with the youngest. A short girl, maybe fourteen years of age. Brown curls flowed down to the nape of her neck and she had forest green eyes. In them, he saw fire. Determination and resolve. She took her gown and slipped it on.
His eyes then fell on Gin. A man, maybe as young as he was. Long black hair hung low to the small of his back. Raithe noticed the way his eyes were squinting and gave the impression, they were always closed. The man wore on his face, a concealing smile. He was odd, mysterious and quite possibly, mischievous.
“Take this,” Nefu said in a flat tone.
Raithe looked up at her and nodded. He reached for a gown and slipped it off the pile. Then he slipped it on. The gown was made up of a really soft fabric. It was smooth like silk and immediately warmed him. “What is this?” he asked.
Nefu said nothing, but continued her chore instead.
“And this is Sefu,” Wish said once Nefu had returned to his side. “You should all be weak from hunger right about now. Sefu is going to remedy that.”
The other female walked down the steps, as graceful as the first. Hanging on one arm, was a basket with a pink cloth draped over the contents inside. Unlike her sister, she began with the oldest. Pausing beside each person, long enough to hand them a piece of bread. Raithe received his.
Instead of eating it right away, he inspected it. A round loaf, no bigger than his palm. Fat and fluffy and warm. A fresh loaf of bread which emanated from it, the most mouth watering smell. He licked his lips and swallowed. Raithe turned it around in his hand, trying to see if this was a trick. If maybe they were being deceived. He looked up.
The same rabbit woman who had handed him the loaf, was now crouched in front of him Eyes narrowed. “Eat it,” she said with a hint of anger.
Raithe brought it up to his mouth and again, he swallowed. Then he breathed through his nose, preparing himself for the worst and bit in... He felt as if his eyes were about to leap out of their sockets it was so good! The succulent, warm ball of fluff, was sweet and savory. He chewed... and chewed... and chewed some more, not wanting to give up the taste, now swimming around in his mouth. The warmth of the bread, spread all over his body. Raithe swallowed and took another bite and another. And then it was gone. Even though he was now feeling full and with all that lost energy returning to his bones, his muscles, he couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment. It was gone.
He raised his eyes to meet the eyes of the rabbit woman and furrowed his brow. There was a pause. Then she nodded her approval and stood up, returning to the side of that man.
This time it was his turn to descend the steps. Wish limped down them and took up position, facing the room of scared individuals. He started by saying nothing, eyes watching with interest. Then he sighed and spoke. “Watch carefully and I will show you how to bring up the interface.”
Wish extended one hand and with his index finger, he drew a horizontal line. It appeared, suspended in the air as a light blue glow. The line then opened up into a translucent, blue box. Words in perfectly legible writing, appeared within it. “This is the interface,” he said. “Try to bring it up.” with a snap of his fingers, it was gone.
Raithe looked around and everyone he could see, was copying what that man had done. He breathed and then tried it himself. A straight line with his index finger opened the interface. He glanced at each of the words. They were in a language different from the one he was born knowing. Somehow, Raithe could still understand their meanings.
"The interface,” Wish said. “As you travel throughout this world, taking on the tasks that are given to you by your superiors, this will be your friend. What you see before you are words which can be pressed.” he nodded his head. “Go ahead, press the first word on the list.”
Raithe ignored the others, completely entranced by this strange, magical thing. He pressed down on Character and the blue box flashed for a moment, before fading away and reappearing with more words written down within it. He had a fairly good understanding of what the first few words were for. The others don't make any sense, he thought. What are... status points?
|a race within the animilia family (humoids with animal characteristics). The Purren are a lot like cats, not just because of their tails and ears, but also their unusual flexibility and keen eye sight at night. They say cats always land on their feet right?|
Wait... what was it saying about a tail and ears? Raithe reached up, feeling the top of his head. His hand landed on something soft and furry, he felt the thinness around its edge and how it formed into a curved point at the top. It was a cat ear. He noticed then, that his hearing was also quite acute. Small sounds which no normal human should not be able to hear, he could... but he... wasn't a human. At least not according to the translucent blue box.
Three loud reverberating claps, brought his attention back to the front. Wish was holding his hands together after the last. “Those are status points. They will not directly effect you, nor you them. That is merely a representation of what your capabilities currently are. By mastering different skills, those points will go up.”
Raithe looked over them. According to the stats, he was more intelligent and dexterous than he was strong. So they were fairly accurate than. Sure there were some species of cat out their which were relatively strong, but he didn't feel like the half of him that was cat, was one of those. His eyes lingered on the last stat. Luck... why was it so low?
“As you explore this world, you will receive tasks by the people and those who sent you to this place. They will automatically be stored in the journal area so that you may keep track of them,” Wish continued. “That section isn't as important, this early on. The next section is. On the top is an arrow facing left. Press it.”
Everyone did. Raithe found himself back in the main menu and then he pressed down on skills. Another menu appeared.
“What you see here, are different kinds of skills. There are even more types than that, but they'll only appear in this menu once you've discovered them,” Wish said. “Each race will have special skills that only they are able to use and the others on the list, are the ones given to you based on your status points. I encourage all of you to look at them, before we leave this room. You will have a few minutes to do so.”
One at a time, Raithe pressed down on each of the skill types and glanced over them. Whatever this world was, it seemed important for him to know how to defend himself.
|allows user to twist in the air like a cat in order to either dodge attacks or land on the ground from a high place without injury.|
|like any nocturnal animal, you will be able to see in the dark. How far and how well, depends on the level of this skill.|
|user is more adept when it comes to balancing on unsteady, thin or really precarious objects than others.|
|Air Hop||Active||Mastery 1||6||2|
|allows user to control air currents below the feet in order to propel one's self either to the side, forward or up.|
|Aqua Rise||Active||Mastery 1||1||3|
|known in short as martial arts in water. Damage will be doubled if combined with Jet.|
|allows its user a short burst of speed in the water, to dodge and evade attacks. This skill alone cannot damage an enemy.|
|just as the skill tells you. User can swim in water.|
|Spear Mastery||Passive||Mastery 1||6||5|
|mastery with spears.|
|a thrust toward an enemy in order to damage it.|
|Spear Block||Active||Mastery 1||4|
|using the spear like a quarterstaff, user can block incoming attacks.|
“That's enough!” Wish said. His tone had become harsher and he sounded agitated. “Close the interface by snapping your fingers and then follow me.” with his two retainers, he vanished beyond the open door.
Quiet fell. Raithe looked around the room and what he noticed was that no one made a move to leave. Not even with the freedom given to them by their obvious captor. Surely someone had to be curious enough to see what was on the other side of that door. But fear was a powerful emotion. In the face of it, nothing else mattered and Raithe could tell from a single look, they were all still afraid. Fearful and unsure.
“Can't sit around here forever. So let's go see what's beyond those doors, shall we?” Gin said as he stood up. The man staggered forward, almost like a toddler learning how to walk for the first time. He made it up the steps and gripped the side of the doorway to steady himself. Gin peered outside. For a while, he said nothing but just continued to stare. Then he turned around, “you've got to come see this.” and like Wish, he vanished beyond the door.
Gin's actions seemed to give the others courage, as one by one, they all stood up. That little brown haired girl was the first to leave. Raithe rose to his feet and a dizziness swept over him. He shook his head, trying to banish it away. Then he closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge above his nose. It faded and when he opened his eyes again, he could see everything more clearly. Raithe staggered to the top of those steps, took in a big, deep breath and then he took his first steps through that door and into a wonderful and unique world.