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With a sharp intake of breath, my eyes flew open as my pulse beat faster. Where was I? What was I doing here? Who am I? My thoughts started coming. Softly, like a gentle breeze. They were whispering to me. My name is Sun Rai. But I'm known as simply "Rai". Thoughts came faster and faster, and they started pounding my head like torrential rain. I managed to stand on my feet. I seemed to be the age of 12. Blonde hair with red streaks cascaded over my shoulders, and a smile slowly spread over my face.
The smile faded as I scanned my surroundings.
Long, twisted trees blocked the sunlight from touching the ground. Wavy ferns and vibrant flowers crowded the space I was in, and their fragrance was pleasing. But that was the good part.
The bad part was the dark gloom that covered the surrounding forest like a blanket. Who knew what was hiding in there, possibly watching me even as I thought these thoughts?
Then I heard the sounds.
Footsteps, echoing throughout the fog, and creaking of the undergrowth. I saw the light before I noticed the face.
The light came from a torch, raised high above a pale figure. She had black hair with some strands of color, and wore a white shirt with a red skirt, trimmed with red. I guessed she was Asian from her attire and complexion. I watched as she scanned the gloomy trees, not daring to move. Would she throw that torch at me if I talked to her?
Her gaze landed on me, and I noticed her large eyes turn dark. The stranger started making her way towards me.
Should I run? I thought, debating what to do. I could flee, sure, but who knew what awaited me in the undergrowth? Better to take my chances with a stranger.
"State your business." The girl said, in a way that suggested she didn't want to be messed with. Her tone was warm— yet contained a trace of coldness.
"S-Sun Rai. But you can just call me Rai." I replied shakily, holding out my hand. The stranger tilted her head, looking at me like she couldn't believe her eyes. "There's no time for politeness out here. Come on." Gesturing me to follow, she started making her way through the thick fog.
Her skirt was frayed at the knees, almost like she had cut off the longer hem in a hurry. What would that be for?
I tried to hide my misgivings. Stepping into the gloom, I traded the peaceful clearing for an uncertain future.
"Call me Kagami." The stranger said as I followed her trail.
The mud sucked the soles of my feet as I walked. She still carried the torch, although it had grown dimmer and fainter than when I had seen it earlier. Peering around Kagami, I noticed a small reflective surface in her right hand.
"What's that?" I asked her. She was looking intently on it, like maybe she life depended on it, or something interesting like that.
It was several moments before she responded. "It's a magic mirror that shows me literally anything I wish to see. I'm using it to find the others."
"The ones who were also patrolling with me. You'll see them soon enough."
A few minutes later, I noticed the sound of muffled footsteps. Two figures were approaching in the gloom.
"Kagami, where were ya? We were looking all over for you!" A girl with choppy purple hair and cat ears bounced straight through the fog like it was nothing. "Well, I was looking, and Dreamkeeper talking about the possibility of you getting eaten by whatever strange creature was stalking us."
Another girl with a long, black ponytail threaded carefully through the mud behind her. "I was just suggesting that you might be able to survive well enough, and find your way back with that stalker-ish device of yours."
"Thanks for being supportive, Dreamkeeper. Thanks for looking for me, Kitten, though I could've survived a few hours alone."
"Um... hi?" I started, feeling a little invisible. The girl I guessed was Kitten (the cat ears kinda gave it away, I guess) jerked her head to stare at me. I smothered a gasp as I noticed she had one red eye and one purple eye. "W-w— hi, Kitten." I stuttered, trying not to show how startled I was.
"We have a prisoner!" She sang happily.
The other girl, Dreamkeeper, glared at me with such intensity, I wondered if she was trying to glare me into oblivion. Maybe deciding I wasn't worth her time, she turned to face Kagami once more.
"Onward?" She asked. Kagami nodded, and they started trudging through the forest again.
Kitten bounced around me, a crazed expression on her face. "Can't wait to rejoin our civilization!" She said to me.
I glanced around the twisted trees, the gloomy air, the muddy undergrowth. "Your civilization is here?"
"No, silly, this is our second civilization! The first fell, really hard, off a cliff, figuratively of course." She said breezily.
She skipped away into the fog, running ahead of Dreamkeeper and Kagami, who walked in mutual silence, leaving me confused and curious about their world.
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