“Don’t be sad. I will help you hunt down a jumbari, sister,” Alessi said. “If it is weaker than a nightwalker we can…”
I didn’t reply to her. I was sitting in my workshop skull and thinking things over for the hundredth time. In a twist of fate I was reincarnated into a creature that hunted down… people.
According to everything I had learned thus far from Eunice, chimera cendai were abominable doppelgangers, monsters that killed humans and took their place in a large city on the other side of the chasm.
“Status,” I whispered.
Nothing happened. My System was gone, my soul too mangled to support it.
I put my head between my knees, wrapped my hands over myself and started to cry. A decade. It would take ten years for my magic to return, unless I killed a human. A third of my painfully short chimera life!
Alessi stepped closer to me and hugged me tightly. I buried my head in her silver-crystal hair and started to sob into her.
“Oi u lisi
Da oi u lisi
Da na gorici
Da ta i zozuliya
Da kuido zvilaa”
Alessi suddenly started to sing the “U lisi” song back to me. She was copying every single word and intonation with perfect cadence.
I joined my voice to hers and we sang together in unison, in a duo chorus.
“You memorized the entire song perfectly, just by hearing it once?” I asked when the song ended.
“Your memory is that good, huh?” I tilted my head.
Alessi bowed her silver hair. “When dad was gone and mom stopped doing things… I had to learn things… very quickly or starve to death. I realized that my own star was already being imprinted into the chorus of my ancestors. I… learned to weave every moment from my own life into the shawl, so that I would never forget anything of value.”
“Heh,” I smiled, feeling a bit calmer. “See? You don’t need to see the still forest to be a cendai, Alessi. You already know magic. Mind magic that allows you to have perfect memory!”
“Oh,” she blinked. “But every chimera knows how to access the chorus…”
“I don’t,” I said with a slightly sour face.
“I’m sorry,” Alessi lowered her eyes.
“Don’t be!” I shook my head. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll learn things from you the hard way, through shared experience! The important thing here is that every chimera has mental magic and yours must be particularly strong! You’ve something to be proud of!”
“Hrm,” she looked back at me, not looking very confident.
“The ancestral chorus is some sort of innate magical skill, I’m certain of that now,” I explained. “You’re already a pro at it, looks like… but you could be an expert!”
“Yep,” I nodded. “Train it, expand its limits, experiment with it! Try something new! Innovate! Think outside of the uhh… skull.” Chimeras didn’t really have a word for “box” since they had no cardboard boxes.
“Think outside of the skull?” Alessi scratched her head. “Sounds very silly, but alright.”
We stayed quiet for a few minutes.
“You were practicing magic before even learning anything from Eunice,” Alessi spoke up.
“Yes,” I winced.
“Why?” She asked.
“I… uhhh,” I attempted to formulate a decent answer.
“You got hurt due to your inexperience,” she stated, looking at me with a serious look. “My mom and I can’t protect you from something that we cannot even see.”
“Yeah,” I sighed.
“Why?” She asked again.
“The other life I led… the other world… I’ve lived there for many decades, an entire lifetime. It wasn’t anything like this place. It was a lot safer there. Nobody was trying to eat me. I had a workshop. I could experiment freely with anything that I wanted. I made tools, clothes, armor and weapons. I had the support of thousands of observers and with it I could acquire anything I want… even wings,” I said, trying to explain my life on Earth in chimera words and terms. “Nobody stopped me from flying there. I didn't have to hunt to get food. I sought danger for fun, because otherwise life was dull."
"Support of observers? Danger… for fun… not food?" The young chimera frowned. “I don’t understand. Why would anyone do that?”
"Earth was a world without magic. I was a danger-seeker," I said. "My observers were dedicated to me. They watched my adventures from the safety of their homes. I had friends from thousands of… ugh… tribes… observing me… remotely," I tried to explain 'cities' and ‘computer monitors’.
The little chimera squinted at me. She didn’t look like she believed me.
"Here… for seven months I was extremely, painfully alone. I had no support, felt trapped, alienated, lost." I rubbed the back of my head. "My mom basically gave me up to the high-cendai because I was a still-born. I am broken chain. Mom and I don't understand each other because the shared knowledge link between us is torn, missing. She expects me to know everything, to behave just like her… but I don't. I don't know anything about the Chasm. My ancestral chorus will never awaken."
“At times none of this feels real to me. The endless Chasm, magic, monsters…” I muttered. “My other life was more solid, made sense. I was taught much by my… male elder about the nature of the world and how everything functions. Experimenting there wasn’t anywhere as dangerous… because I always had knowledge and lots of help and support from my family and friends.”
I almost started to cry again as I recalled my grandfather's garden and workshop filled with broken-glass sculptures, my forge and shelves upon shelves of various metalworking tools.
Alessi’s silver hands grabbed mine. "You have my support and friendship now. You can rely on me."
"I was foolish by rushing into things, I know." I bowed my head, strands of my amber and ruby crystals twinkling in rays of sunlight breaking through the circular windows.
“Promise me,” she said. “Promise me you won’t play with magic until you heal and learn how to protect yourself. I really don't want to lose my only friend, my sister."
"Yeah," I nodded, hugging her. "I'm not alone anymore."
“You don’t need to impress me with your magic,” she added. "You need not rush headfirst into things.”
I nodded, taking my hands into hers.
“I’ll help you kill a human, if that's what it takes to heal you,” she affirmed once again.
“No,” I shook my head. “I cannot kill a human.”
“Why?” Alessi asked.
“Because in my other life, beyond the Still Forest… I was a human,” I confessed. “I lived in a place built by humans and all of my friends there were human.”
The silver haired chimera gasped, covering her mouth with her hands.
“There is simply no way that I can bring myself to kill someone this young,” I tapped the faded portrait on the yellow parchment. “I cannot take the life of an innocent girl. It’s… wrong, abhorrent.”
“It…” Alessi muttered, her eyes darting from the portrait to my face. “It doesn’t matter what you were in another life, Juni."
I looked at her, not sure what she was going to say next. Her eyes became shimmering pools of liquid mercury.
When I stared at Alessi, I saw a skinny chimera girl who was barely a year old. If she was a human she would look about four… except for her eyes. Her eyes were nothing like that of a child. In them burned the flame of fierce determination. She was using the ancestral chorus to its fullest! The experience of a thousand generations shined from behind her silver-blue eyes, adding to her own conviction, magnifying her courage and strength from within.
When she opened her mouth, her lips spoke with the combined wisdom of many.
“You offered me your acceptance and friendship, when no-one else would, Juni. I’ll help you heal and become the best high-cendai. I’ll use my chorus to its fullest… I swear, I'll help you find a way forward!"
“Thank you,” I muttered. On one hand, my situation seems hopeless. On the other hand, I wasn't alone and I still had my knowledge from Earth. Even without personal magic I could craft things.
“What are you doing?” Alessi asked as she watched me.
“Exercising,” I panted. “Training my body to be faster and stronger.”
“Oh,” She tilted her head. “Can I do it too?”
“Sure, just copy what I’m doing,” I said, going through my stretching routine from my past life.
“That was pretty good,” I complimented my sister, taking a break. "Your form is quite good for someone who has never trained before."
"Form?" She blinked.
"The way you move your body, your posture, everything."
"I remember everything, plus my chorus guides me," she said with a small bow. "Girls defend the hearth while boys sleep at night."
“Right,” I nodded.
Chimera divide in the roles of labor was making more sense to me. Chimera men and women specialized in different skills, without even using the System. Girls used knives and a variety of powder-weapons to strike hard and fast at an enemy, driving monsters away from the home at night. Boys used wings and arrows to hunt down and tire out their prey. Possibly, the gulf between men and women grew wider when chimeras settled within skull-homes reinforced by rune-magics which were able to push monsters further and further away.
The System wasn’t a necessity if Chimera shaman were able to naturally grow their soul-threads in a specific direction. I hoped that even without summoning up my stats, I would still be able to reinforce, fix my existing threads by eating monsters. I wasn’t sure how badly torn up they were. The damn hollow phantom must have sucked up most of my human soul for the System to no longer respond to my commands. What was left? My chimera soul? My organic body? Could a body function without a soul? I had many questions for my Master. Thankfully, our next meeting wasn’t that far away.
I decided to bring Alessi with me to the high-cendai’s home, hoping that she wouldn't get kicked out.
Support "The Armorer and the Infinite Dungeon [Progression Litrpg]"
- Archbishop of Captania and sovereign territories
I was born in the year 1984, in the 4th most polluted city of Soviet Union.
On April 11/1997 fate has given me an unexpected twist and by means of aerial transportation I was dislocated 5555 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Ontario, Canada, wherein I currently preside in an 1890 cathedral and partake in writing and drawing things.