The stone floor under him was cold and hard, the rising sun shone bright, sending blinding rays of light through his half-opened eyelids. His cotton tunic was dirty, and half-off. This man laying in the alleyway was reaping the consequences of a night with a strumpet and a bottle of cheap rum which now lay spilled at his feet.
It had only been a couple of days since what the people of Varinas described as a ‘Message from above’ fell from the skies and into the city of Aria. This message that the people spoke of was—strangely enough—a man from another world.
This man—after getting over his own confusion of suddenly being transported to another world—began to speak to the people about his own world. He spoke of a strange place where they relied on the power of lightning and not mana, where people travelled in strange steel boxes and not horseback, or any other flying, swimming or land creature the rich and poor would use.
He spoke of a world where smoke and steam supplied their power, and wars were fought at distance, using strange automations and machinery to combat each other, and not blade and sorcery.
This man, who had been such an anomaly, talking about the world which he called “Two-thousand and seventeen”, this man who had amazed the people, was now laying in an alleyway, hungover and homeless.
Why you may ask? Because the people believed him to be a fraud. He—in his own words— threw away his only chance of becoming famous, recognised and respected by the gullible population of Varinas. He simply wanted a peaceful life, so they left him alone and he received no support in this strange world.
This strange world which had magic, and people who were fusions between animals and humans, and armoured guards with spears running to their favourite, run-down tavern at sunset after receiving their pay.
This strange man from a strange world, who was now sitting in an alleyway which he had spent the night in had—just yesterday—been kicked out of a tavern for refusing to pay and seducing a waitress.
He slowly got up into a sitting position and released a pent up groan from within the depths of his hungover lungs and his hungover throat. His hungover brain felt like taking the easy way out, but his hungover heart was soft, and to put it simply he was a ‘Little bitch’ as the fellas back home would call him.
He picked his miserable self up and stood, cracking his shoulders and closing his eyes.
“Damn hard to hold back the tears..” he sniffled and opened his eyes, looking around. “Well, only one way to go now.” He slung the leather vest over his shoulders and put his tunic on properly, and began making his way out of his cozy room for the night.
He exited the alley into a cobblestone street which extended as far as the eye could see. The street seemed to be the one circling around the gigantic city, as there was a very hard to miss wall along the edge of the road.
Stalls were set up along the wall, as well as beggars sitting and guards wearing cheap looking armour stationed underneath each archer tower along the massive, castle-like wall.
He looked at a beggar and chuckled, then he realised he wasn’t much better.
Come on, things will brighten up.. you were called here for a reason, were you not? He tried thinking optimistically, but the sad, hungover part of his hungover brain was practically delivering the exact opposite message.
He sighed once more. He sensed that he would be doing that a lot today.
Picking up a glass shard from the ground, he inspected himself, just to see how hungover he truly seemed to be.
A messy blond mop of hair lazily combed to the right, pale skin with a slight yellow tinge and dark blue eyes with even darker bags sinking under them. His lips were pale as well, as if they were losing colour. Looked just perfect for someone who was set to do Great things, as the soothsayers had proclaimed.
Just as he put the makeshift mirror down, a bystander snorted at him.
“Hey! Great saviour! Can’t afford a mirror?” The bystander shouted as him and his friend walked by, laughing.
The strange man grumbled loudly. Great saviour, they called him that just to spite him. The name originated from the thought that this great mysterious man from another world had come to save them and bring them out of the war they had been in for the past three years.
“Yeah…” He whispered to himself, scowling and looking away. This was met with a snort from the man who just insulted him. Him and his friend laughed obnoxiously as they continued walking.
The ‘saviour’ released a defeated sigh and sunk to the ground along the wall, looking up at the cloudless sky with tired eyes.
“…I give up…” he moaned, closing his eyes.
After sitting in his comfortable, damp and muddy corner for about five minutes with his eyes closed, the saviour’s consciousness faded away for the second time that morning.
He found himself in a world of white. Standing in a massive, royal white corridor which seemed to go on for eternity, surrounded by white pillars and white statues.
He was wearing white clothes and could see his reflection in the tiles under him. They told a different story then the shattered glass, he had white hair and golden eyes in this palace.
Suddenly, he was staring into a puddle on the ground.
He looked up, it was dark and windy, hard rain pelted at his thin, dirty and hard clothes and relentlessly hit his skin with each drop. It was cold and dirty, and the distant flashes of lighting could be seen in front of him. He could barely find his footing in the dense mud under him.
Lightning cracked through the space in front of him and struck the ground under his feet. A blinding flash of white filled his vision for a moment and he was sent tumbling on his back, onto the cold, wet ground.
An unfamiliar echo called out to him through the dark emptiness ahead.
Come on, get up!
He opened his eyes and violently shuddered, crawling back slightly and spreading mud all over his trousers.
The man awoke to find himself in the same intersection he had fallen asleep in earlier. The streets were quiet, night was beginning to fall as the blood orange clouds set over the high walls of the city.
He shook with a raspy sigh and rubbed his stinging face.
“…a dream..” he whimpered, it felt as if he just got slapped.
“Fuck…” he groaned and laid on his side, sighing.
The man heard a voice next to him and jolted, moving back.
“You’re going to fall ill if you stay like that…” the voice continued.
He spotted the source of the voice. A young girl, well dressed, with hazelnut hair and green eyes, and a peculiar feathered cap. Her voice was delicate and worried.
The man paused for a moment. He looked up at the girl.
“Hello..” he croaked.
The girl smiled lightly. “Finally awake?”
“Uhm.. y-yes, as you can see.. I’m awake..” he nervously muttered.
The girl chuckled lightly and kneeled next to him. “Calm yourself, I have no ill intentions.” He showed the man a friendly smile.
He was taken aback. Never in this peculiar world did he find a person he could trust. Was this woman his first beam of hope?
“I don’t like doing most of the talking. What’s your name? I’m sure you don’t like your title.” She stood back up, and offered a hand to him.
The man took it and shakily stood up, almost stumbling as he did so.
They were both silent for a while.
“So?” The lady broke the silence.
“Huh? O-oh.. uhh.. name.. sorry..” He whispered, and shook his head, sighing.
The girl giggled.
“It’s Longinus. Longinus Madonna, nice to meet you… I think…” the last part came out as a whisper.
“Ah! Longinus!” She clapped her hands together and smiled. “Such a pretty name.”
“T-Thank you…” Longinus smiled. He was finally being called by his name.
“I’m Marie! Pleased to make your acquaintance!” She smiled and held out her hand.
Longinus slowly and carefully shook her hand, as to make sure not to get any of the dirt on his hands onto her.
“Likewise…” He gulped and slowly nodded. The air between them was awkward and slow, and it didn’t seem like they were getting anywhere with this conversation.
Marie realised this, and smiled awkwardly, trying to change the topic. “Why don’t we get you cleaned up? I’m sure you’re not to comfortable in that fit.”
“You… would do that for me?” Longinus looked up at her, surprised.
Marie nodded with a smile.
By the time Marie had lead Longinus to the entrance of her family’s Villa in the plains outside of town, the sun had set and the moon was halfway through the sky. They travelled by carriage, lead by a horse garnished with jewellery and surrounded by guards.
Longinus was inside the carriage, sitting on a cushioned leather seat with silk lining, with Marie besides him. For the first part of the ride, they hadn’t made much progress with introductions and small talk, but once Longinus began speaking of the world that he hailed from, the awkwardness and unfamiliar feeling quickly faded.
He had gone on and on to Marie about his world throughout the ride, and Marie listened intently and absorbed all the information he had given her. How their world functioned, how it looked, how people lived…
Just as Longinus had ran out of things to talk about, the carriage stopped.
“Ah, we’re here!”Marie popped out of her seat and stretched as much as she could in her posh clothing.
Longinus stood up and dusted himself off, before slowly making his way out of the carriage.
As he exited, his eyes widened.
He found himself in a massive garden, polished marble covered the floor of the garden as four circular, maze-like hedges resided in a square shape around him, all with a majestic fountain at the centre.
Ahead of him stood a mansion which towered up above him, constructed from what seemed to be expensive, quality materials in a Greek style.
A short marble staircase stood ahead of him, leading up to a pair of towering mahogany doors, lined with silver and adorned with gold statues of mermaids.
“Wow.. this place is…” he ran a hand across one of the doors in front of him.
The door moved, giving him quite a shock as he jolted and stabbed back. He watched as it slowly opened, revealing what was beyond.
The first thing he saw when the door opened was a woman, wearing a French maid outfit with a broom between her crossed hands. She had gray hair, but she seemed young, younger than Longinus.
“Welcome home…” The maid started with a smile on her face. As she realised that Longinus was standing ahead of her, her tone change and her face shifted to a confused expression.
“You’re not the young miss… where’s Marie?” She stepped forward, reaching behind her back.
Longinus stumbled back, fearing for the worst. “M-Marie..? She’s right-“ He stammered.
“Right here!” Marie’s cheery voice finished, as she was suddenly by Longinus’s side. This was met by a relieved sigh from both three maid and Longinus.
“Ah! Welcome home, miss!” The maid smiled pleasantly and tilted her head, moving her hand back in front of her. “Who’s this young lad?”
The moment the maid walked out of the door to greet Marie, Longinus instantly noticed something off.
Two peculiar, gray fuzzy extensions were coming out from each side of her head, drooping down. As Marie approached the maid, Longinus noticed that they suddenly jumped up and revealed a white, fluffy inside.
“Bunny ears..?” He whispered to himself, squinting.
Just then he noticed something even more peculiar. A furry silver tail coming out from under her skirt, curling up at the end and wrapping around her leg.
He wiped his eyes and slapped himself just to make sure he wasn’t dreaming.
“Something wrong?” Marie looked at Longinus, confused.
“Am I seeing things, or does she have a tail and bunny ears?” Longinus pointed at the maid.
“I can assure you that you’re not ‘seeing things.’” The maid answered, a hint of sourness in her tone.
“I..— so, you’re a..” Longinus started.
“A monster, yes.” The maid continued, nodding. “More specifically, a Kikimora.” She smiled lightly, chuckling at the man’s confusion.
“Whaaaat…?!” Longinus’s jaw dropped to the floor. “So monsters exist in this place?” His eyes widened.
Both the ‘Kikimora’ and Marie laughed slightly as the maid welcomed the two into the manor.
Longinus was blown away instantly as he stepped through the doors. They gave way to a large open room, with a bright marble floor and a set of pillars running through the sides, making a pathway to the front of the room, with expensive sofas, bright statues and glass tables and desks.
The room continued for a short distance behind the ‘lounge’ ( as Longinus has decided to call it ) and ended with a bright wall, with another towering pair of mahogany doors.
Longinus walked around and admired the beauty and elegance of the room. Never before had he been in a place like this.
“Welcome to my home! Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?” Marie called out.
Longinus slowly nodded and made his way to the sofa, sinking into the comfortable velvet.
Marie sat across him and clapped her hands twice. The Kikimora from before made her way over.
“Yes, Miss?” She asked, without being told anything. Marie whispered something in her ear and the maid nodded, making her way off through the doors which were opposite to the entrance.
“Just to clarify, I’m not seeing things, and that’s an actual m-monster?” Longinus gulped.
Maria simply smiled at him and nodded.
“A Kikimora, as we mentioned earlier. A majority of Kikimora are maids, actually.” She continued.
“Oh.. so are they slaves of some sort?” Longinus asked, dumbfound.
“No! Goodness me, Longinus..” Marie gasped, covering her mouth. “They simply enjoy serving people like us, is all.” She answered him, but not before laughing at his question.
“That’s.. good to know..” he smiled lightly.
Their conversation was interrupted by the door on the wall behind Longinus creaking open. The Kikimora came through, holding a platter in one hand, filled with condiments and several types of drinks. On her other arm was a neatly folded set of pure white clothes.
She slowly made her way over and set both the platter and the clothes down, placing them on the large table between him and Marie.
“F-For me..?” Longinus looked up at the maid, wide-eyed as he pointed to himself.
“Yes.” The Kikimora nodded. “Pick up your garments and follow me, young master. I’ll show you to the changing rooms.”
“Young master..” Longinus chuckled. “I can’t say I’m not enjoying this..” He continued with a giggle.
Many hours had passed since Marie had taken Longinus in to her home. After changing into the clothes ( made of silk— more expensive than anything he had worn in his life ), he was lead to his room, where he now lay in a massive four-post bed, which felt as if he was sleeping on the clouds of Haeven themselves.
He had skipped introductions with Marie’s family, as Marie herself had insisted to do that favour for him.
Everything was going well. He had a comfortable bed… a friendly face to turn to in this world… his first good nights sleep in half a week…
This… was perfect.