Chapter 3:

Chapter 3

Waking Up as a Gyaru in a New World

Kriv got up with the dawn and I got up with him. Reluctantly, I strapped my sandals back on. Kriv silently gathered up his axe and knife and set off. I followed, unsure if we were leaving or if he was just hunting or something. Since he didn’t really speak, it made me kind of nervous to ask him. After about an hour of walking, I was satisfied that we really were on our way to the village on the edge of the forest. Bookmark here

After a while, I worked up the nerve to ask Kriv some questions. I wanted to know more about the world before I met any other people. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t know very much. The region we were in was called Pekel and it was ruled by clans of beast people. According to him, the beast people were destined to take over the world at some point, seeing as how they were naturally better than humans. That was just common sense.Bookmark here

As for the rest of the world, there were the Ayyanar to the north beyond the mountains, who were apparently perverted, demon-worshipping scum that needed to be eradicated. The Altheans across the ocean were perverts and monsters who had ruled some of Pekel back before Kriv was born. I was already rethinking impersonating one of them. The only other people he’d heard of were the Mati. Kriv wasn’t sure exactly where they were from but he was certain they were cheats. And also perverts. Still, he seemed to have the least venom toward them. Perhaps it would be wise to change my background to Mati. Bookmark here

I had a pretty hard time talking to Kriv about anything, though. As I walked north at my best speed, he disappeared for long stretches. He only really appeared to correct my course if I wavered from north, lead me to water sources and bring me food. I didn’t even want to imagine how much ground he covered. I also didn’t know how I would have survived without him. Hunting and foraging were so far outside my experience that I had no idea how to even approach such things. Without him I probably would have died randomly wandering the forest. Was this part of the goddess’s plan? Was Kriv supposed to be my first party member? He certainly was useful. A little sullen but maybe he would come around. I wasn’t even sure why he was doing this. Was my ‘doki-doki’ attack really so strong or was he still considering this a form of obligatory hospitality. I kind of hoped for the former, since he was too young to...expect things. If it was the latter, I didn’t know what the proper way to repay him was. Bookmark here

We might have talked at the end of the day, when he built a small fire and we settled down for the night. But I always fell asleep almost instantly. The moment I stopped actually walking, Mina’s body demanded sleep. I did always find time to take off my sandals for the night. The straps chafed badly after a full day’s march. Putting them on in the morning was a harrowing experience. Kriv didn’t understand why I wore them but I saw the sole of his foot, all hard and calloused. I’d keep my shoes on, even if they did hurt my ankles, calves and hips.Bookmark here

Despite it all, though, we made it. After eleven days of hard marching, Kriv and I found ourselves at the edge of the forest, peering out at a small village in the distance. “I can’t believe we finally made it,” I said, wiping sweat away from my forehead with the back of my hand. I glanced at the sun. I didn’t have to be an outdoorsman to see that it was about noon. We might as well go into town now. I was getting a little excited. I stepped out of the forest and took a few steps before I realized Kriv wasn’t following. I glanced back at him. “Aren’t you coming?”Bookmark here

Kriv looked at me and for the first time I could see uncertainty in his eyes. “My father told me to stay in the forest. To stay away from other people.”Bookmark here

I put my hands on my hips. “Really. Did he say why?” Kriv just stared at me. “He really wanted you to spend your entire life by yourself? That seems really sad. I’m not even sure you could call that living…” I mean, there were shut-ins where I was from but at least they had online friends or, at the very least, 2D friends. Bookmark here

Kriv looked down for a long moment and then glanced back up. “Do you...need me to come with you?” Bookmark here

I thought about that. Now that I had made it to something approaching civilization, I might do alright on my own. I could also switch my fictional background easier. But was Kriv actually looking for an excuse to come with me? Back home, I never would have assumed such a thing. I mean, who would want to spend any more time with me than they had to? But maybe here I could be a different person. That’s what being in a new world meant, right? Well, as long as I was in Mina’s body at least. “I would be really grateful if you would come with me,” I said. With an effort, I bit back my instant instinct to equivocate. Bookmark here

Kriv glanced back at the forest behind him for a long time but then he sidled out, like he was leaving his house after curfew. He came to me and looked up at me. “I think you would probably die if I left you on your own,” he said flatly. Bookmark here

I couldn't keep from laughing. “Yes, I think you’re probably right.” We walked into the village together.Bookmark here

We got plenty of looks as we did so. I knew it was mostly me they were looking at. For better or worse, I don’t think it was the hair or eyes or skin. The people in the village had a whole host of colorations because most of them were beast people, though I thought I saw a few humans as well. It was the clothing that made me stand out. Like most premodern societies, the clothing style of the townspeople was pretty ubiquitous. The men wore the same vest and pants combination as Kriv, though their pants were more like breeches than trousers. Kriv’s pants were probably just too big. The women wore bikini-style tops and breeches. Some had vests as well. Many wore flat sandals that laced up most of the way up the calf, though plenty were simply barefoot.Bookmark here

The village was so small, it wasn’t hard to figure out where to go. All of the buildings were small and squat, made from stacked logs and thatched roofs but there was only one two-story building in the entire place. I was betting that if there was somewhere that rented rooms, it would be there. When I reached it, I hesitated, however. There wasn’t a sign on the door indicating it was an inn or tavern. What if this was just some rich guy’s house? But why would a rich guy live out here? I grabbed my head. Wasn’t this supposed to be simple? Go into a strange town, find the tavern and fall ass backwards into an adventure. Why had the goddess put me in the middle of nowhere? Bookmark here

Kriv was staring at me so I gathered my courage and marched up to the door. I knocked lightly. Nothing. A little louder. Still nothing. Damn it. I pushed the door open and poked my head inside. “Excuse me?” I said, loudly as I dared. “Is this an inn?” The door was heavier than I expected and it swung all the way open. It revealed a small foyer and beyond that a sitting room. Not a tavern or an inn, just a regular person's house. I blushed and tried to close the door before whoever the owner found us. But I had only just gotten my hand on the handle when a large figure bustled out of the room behind the sitting room.Bookmark here

He was such an unusual looking person that I froze, killing any shot I had to make good my escape. The man was tall and very, very wide. He wasn’t fat, exactly, just thick and strangely squarish. He had dark leathery skin and a bulbous head with small black eyes and strange, upward thrusting tubular ears. Clearly, he was some kind of beastman though I wasn’t sure what kind. He was wearing the same breeches and vest combo as the rest. His vest was so large I think I could have comfortably used his vest as a blanket. He rumbled toward me, not running but moving like a slow-motion avalanche. He could have trampled over me without slowing, I was sure. Was I about to die? Bookmark here

“Oh, I am sorry,” he said. His voice was deep but surprisingly soft. “I was in the middle of cooking and thought the knocking was that dreadful fool Viktor coming to complain again. Welcome, welcome, strangers. Come in. My name is Artur, late of the Double Black Sept. What has brought you here, friends?” Bookmark here

I blinked. His conversation was like an avalanche, too. He stopped in front of me, a little too close for comfort. I barely came up to his chest. I think he might have been wider through the shoulders than I was tall. “It is an honor to meet you, Artur,” I managed, my voice cracking a little. “My name is Selene. My ship wrecked, leaving me stranded in the forest south of here.” I gestured at Kriv, who I now noticed was trying to bore a hole in Artur with the intensity of his glare. Some kind of dominance thing? Artur didn’t seem to care. “This is Kriv. He helped lead me out of the forest. I was hoping there was an inn we could stay the night at?” Bookmark here

“Oh, my, how terrible. Shipwrecked you say? Were you the only survivor? Terrible, terrible. Good of this young fellow to help out a young human. Many wouldn’t, these days. Especially wolves. So quarrelsome. I was still a warrior during the days of the Bloodletting. Awful. The Cobras followed, even though they owed more to the Altheans than any clan. Tragic. The memories. I once saw the Dreadwolf, from a distance. Dreadful. But an inn? We have never had one. Never needed one. Until now. So many guests. The human before. Tragic. I wish I could have stopped it. They are gone now, though, so you should be safe. You are more than welcome to stay here. I do so enjoy having guests. Another is here but I have room. So much room. Such an empty home. You may stay here as long as you like. I am happy, too happy to have you.” Bookmark here

I stared at him and opened and closed my mouth a couple of times. Was he finally done? There was so much information in that rambling that I was finding it hard to parse it. For now I just said, “Thank you. I appreciate that.” I might have lucked out. The owner was a weirdo but if I didn’t have to pay to stay, this was much better than an inn. I’d been planning to trade using MIna’s jewelry and was happy I didn’t have to. Even though I was pretty curious about this ‘Bloodletting’ stuff and ‘the Dreadwolf,’ I felt obligated to ask, “Did you say you had another guest?” I couldn’t be that lucky, could I?Bookmark here

“Oh, yes. Strange girl.” Artur led us deeper into the house. “A warrior, most certainly, but won’t give her sept. She’s on her own. One of the Banished? Somehow I don’t think so. Tigers are naturally solitary. I wonder if she is just wandering, searching for something that she can’t name. Tigers are like that. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be tigers. She spends most of her time sleeping. She is asleep right now. Oh, Aliya is her name. How rude of me. I would give you her sept but she didn’t give it to me. Are you hungry? You must be, after all you have been through. I was just making a midday meal. You are welcome to join, though I don’t know if the wolf will like it. I am not very fond of meat, you see. Not very fond at all.” Bookmark here

The kitchen and dining room, like everything else in the house, was constructed mainly out of the dark wood of the forest. A large, rectangular wooden table, wooden counters and a stone wood-burning oven. Artur bade us sit at the table. The chairs were wood and hard but it felt insanely good to be off my feet. As he cooked, Artur continued to talk, rambling on about this and that. He talked a lot about goings on in the village but he did so as if talking to someone intimate with all the people and history of the village. It was impossible to follow but his voice was soothing and I began to nod off. Bookmark here

I woke right up when he put a plate of food in front of me. It was an entire loaf of dark bread. It smelled wonderful but I studied it with some skepticism. I was more of a white bread kind of boy. It would have been rude not to eat, though, and I was starving anyway. I took a nibble and found the bread a little bitter for my taste but tolerable. I took a bigger bite and was surprised to find it stuffed with nuts and fruit. After a few bites I identified the fruit as pear and the nuts as pistachios. They transformed the bitter bread into something delicious. I ate the whole thing and washed it down with an entire mug of water. Kriv only ate about half of his. Now that I thought about it, he’d found some kind of meat for just about every meal while we were traveling. Bookmark here

Artur scarfed down two of the loaves. He asked me if I wanted to eat the half Kriv had pushed away. When I shook my head, he ate it in three big bites. When I thanked him for the meal and told him it was delicious, he seemed incredibly pleased. “I am so happy you enjoyed it,” he said. “My recent guests haven’t shared my palate at all. Meat eaters, like your Kriv. Even the other human confessed he couldn’t stomach it. I never did learn where he was from. He was like no person I’d ever met. A very strange person. Very strange. And I have met many unusual people in my life.”Bookmark here

I had been waiting for him to take a breath but he seemed to be able to talk while breathing or something, so I just had to break in. He’d caught my attention for obvious reasons. “You had another guest before us? A man?” I asked. Bookmark here

Artur blinked. “Yes.”Bookmark here

Before he could continue, I hurriedly said, “You didn’t know where he was from? Was he wearing strange clothes? Could he speak your language?” Bookmark here

“Why, yes, he was indeed wearing curious clothes. I’ve seen Alteans in my time and even Ayyanar but never someone wearing a style like he was. Now that you say it, you are wearing strange clothes as well. Similar to what the Alteans wear but different. Are you from the same place that he was? You are right that he could not speak our tongue at all. I taught him a few words but we had so little time together. I had never heard his language before. You speak as if you were native. Very curious.” Bookmark here

He continued talking but I began to tune him out. So she hadn’t given Mina, or rather me, universal translation. That bitch. This goddess was my enemy, even if it was Mina mostly suffering the brunt of her incompetence and maliciousness. I was constructing a devastating speech in my head that I almost certainly wouldn’t have the guts to actually say to her when Artur said something that caught my attention. Bookmark here

“Slavery?” I repeated. “What did you say about slavery?” Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s tragic, yes tragic,” Artur said. “As I said, I wish I could have stopped them but they were Cobra Clan. Here to inspect, they said. Inspect what, I said. But I couldn’t defy them. They are Cobra. I think they were just here to fool around and harass. They were hated and it was a relief to see them go. I wish I could have kept the stranger from them. They did not hear it from Artur. But they came and they demanded him and what could Artur do? I had to give him. They will sell him as a slave. Maybe not for very much but they did procure him with no effort.”Bookmark here

I felt sick to my stomach. Mina had been taken as a slave. In my body. Was that what my fate was supposed to have been? I wasn’t big and I had been majorly out of shape in my past life. I wouldn’t be any good for manual labor. I doubt I would be purchased for some rich woman’s harem. I might have been able to be a tutor or scribe or something except that I didn’t have universal translation. So I wasn’t worth much. They would probably sell me to do some horrible job that didn’t have a long life expectancy. That would be Mina’s fate. I had already been planning on finding her but now the task took on new urgency. Bookmark here

“Where did they take her? Him?” My voice sounded hollow to me. Bookmark here

“Oh, to High Rock, I suppose. That would be the closest place to find a good market and where they were from besides. It still sounds wrong, the cobras lairing in High Rock. Those reptiles. The High Rock is where the lions belong. Such tragedy.” His half-closed eyes suddenly popped all the way open. “But you can’t mean to chase them! You must not. They will take you, too, and fetch a much better price, I would suppose. No, no, however you came to be in the Cobra Clan’s lands, you must depart as quick as you can. You and the wolf both.”Bookmark here

“Would the lands of other clans be safer for us?” I asked. Bookmark here

“Of course! I would think you would be wise to go to the lands of the Bear Clan or the Frog. They have protections, even for humans. Even for Altheans. Indeed, if the cobras had still been in town, I might have been obligated to send you away. This is no place for foreign humans or, indeed, for wolves.” Bookmark here

I glanced at Kriv and he nodded. “Clan Wolf and Clan Cobra have a Blood Feud. It is death for one to enter the lands of another.”Bookmark here

I gaped at him. “Why didn’t you tell me that?!” Bookmark here

He glared at me balefully. “I told you my father told me to stay away.” Bookmark here

“From everyone! Nothing about this being a particularly bad place to show your face!” I put my head in my hands. I wanted to ask him why he had been living right on the edge of a territory that was death for him to enter but this wasn’t the time for that. I needed more information. “Do you have a map?”Bookmark here

“Oh, oh, yes. I believe I do. Would you like to see it?” I nodded wearily. Artur hefted his bulk out of his chair and bustled away. I heard stairs squeak as he went up them. I took the time he was gone to try and get my thoughts in order. I had to go after Mina. There was no choice. She was getting screwed by this world. Even though it wasn’t my fault, I felt guilty. It was happening because I interrupted her death and reincarnation, because she was in my body. I couldn’t leave her. I thought I should’ve been excited. I was going on an adventure to rescue a damsel in distress...kind of. I just felt anxious and overwhelmed, instead. Bookmark here

Artur returned with the map. It was old and stained and even torn in a few places. The continent it showed was roughly ovoid, though it had large peninsulas on the western edge both to the north and the south. The north was bordered by a large mountain range. Artur pointed to a spot to the southwest, very near the ocean. I guess my shipwreck story would work decently well after all. “This is where you are, on the edge of the Zorya Forest. This is where we are, yes. You should go east. If you reach the Svarog River and follow north to the territories of the Bear.” He pointed at a place called Kresnik Gorge.” My eyes drifted up to where High Rock was marked on the map. It was almost straight north. It didn’t look very far but I didn’t have a sense of scale. Bookmark here

I didn’t argue with Artur about where I was going. Let the old man think I would take his advice. He would fret otherwise. Also, my exhaustion had come back with a vengeance. I really wanted to sleep. But first…”Thank you for showing me this, Artur. I am afraid to trouble you further but…” Bookmark here

“Oh, have no fear on that count. Your arrival has brightened a cheerless day.” Bookmark here

“Thank you. Do you have a bath that I could use?” I hadn’t bathed since I’d gotten here and had been sweating like a pig every day. Hell, I hadn’t even gotten out of my clothes one time. I hadn’t never been particularly scrupulous about hygiene before but I felt gross. Gross enough to take on bathing Mina’s body. Bookmark here

“You are in luck. I have the only bath in town. Most of the villagers bathe in the river, when they do, but I can no longer relax without a nice hot bath. There is a hot spring on the grounds of my sept. I miss it often. I think my aches would be less if I could soak in my old hot spring.” I helped him drag up water from the well in back of his house and fill up a copper tub. There was a pit underneath for hot coals to heat up the water. Once the water was heating, Artur excused himself, leaving me alone. Bookmark here

I took a deep breath and started to undress. How strange it was to actually be nervous to be naked when I was completely by myself. I pulled off her blouse, being careful as I could despite the fact that it was already probably ruined from dirt and sweat. The skirt went next. It had a stretchy waist, rayon or something, and after so long on my body it almost felt glued to my skin. That left me in just her underwear. Lingerie might have been more accurate. They were matching and black and very lacy. Clearly meant to be seen, which I didn’t want to think about. What happened on her date to drive her to do what she did? I shook my head. No use thinking about it. Bookmark here

I had become aware that she had her bellybutton pierced during one of my many tumbles earlier. I had to twist around awkwardly to see what it was past my breasts. The pendant was a little cat’s head. Very cute. I also knew I was just putting off what came next. Another steadying breath and bent my hands behind my back to undo my bra. It took a while to figure it out and my arms were aching by the time I got it. When the bra unhooked and popped forward, though, I couldn’t help but groan in pleasure. It felt so good to be free. Bras were definitely not meant to be worn for that long. Bookmark here

I kept my eyes closed for a long moment but I had to open them and glance down. It wasn’t like I could pretend they didn’t exist. I soothed my guilt with the knowledge that Mina would have certainly seen my junk by now. There were red rings where the cups of the bra had been digging in for far too long. And, as I had begun to suspect, both of her nipples were pierced through with little silver barbels. I shook my head, even as I admired them. What had happened to Mina? Who had she gotten involved with? I hadn’t pegged her as the type of girl to get her nipples pierced. But maybe I was being prejudiced. Maybe it was sexist of me to think she would have only done this at the prompting of a boy. It is what I thought, though. Bookmark here

I slid her panties off last and added them to the pile. A quick and, hopefully, professional search confirmed that she at least didn’t have any genatalia piercings. That was a relief. It also confirmed that she had shaved before her date. I sighed and closed my eyes. This was my body, for now. A person shouldn’t get turned on by their own body. I just kept telling myself that as I lowered myself into the tub. Bookmark here

The water was hotter than I would have liked it and I hissed sitting down. But once I was in and my muscles started to relax, I changed my mind about the temperature. This was amazing. I felt like I was melting. My eyes started to flutter closed and I had to force myself to sit all the way up before I fell asleep. This bath needed to be all business. I got down to it, scrubbing myself with the cloth that had been sitting on the lip of the tub. There wasn’t any soap so I assumed it didn’t exist here. Hot water did alright, though. I concentrated very hard on getting all the dirt off my skin so I wouldn’t have to think about other things. Bookmark here

By the time I was clean, the water was nearly black. Suddenly grossed out, I got up and out of the tub. There was a thick and soft towel waiting for me. Luckily, cotton seemed to be readily available here. I wrung out my hair and then combed it out. Luckily, Artur had a comb despite being bald. Since I only had one towel, I just combed it back and let it hang wetly to my shoulder blades. I looked at my clothes, dirty and sweat-stained on the ground and really didn’t want to put them back on. A thought came to my head. I wrapped the towel around myself. Covering my chest left the towel distressingly high up on my thighs but I didn’t have any choice. Bookmark here

I left the room with the tub and found Artur and Kriv seated at the dining room table, playing a game that looked like chess but with different types of pieces. For some reason, Kriv looked embarrassed when he saw me. I doubted it was my state of dress and assumed it had something to do with me seeing him play a game. He was odd like that. “Do you have a basin I could borrow? I want to wash my clothes.” Artur got me the basin with his usual bout of talking. I thanked him and got away as soon as I could. I collected my clothes and retreated to the room he said was mine. Bookmark here

It was a small room, with a narrow bed and a small stand. I settled on my knees to wash my clothes, even though my body was begging for sleep. I tried to be as careful as I could, especially with the bra and panties. Even I knew that delicates were called that for a reason. Once they were done, I spread them out where I could. I wasn’t going to sleep in the damp towel obviously so I hung it on the doorknob. An impromptu trap for any invaders. I normally did sleep nude at home but this was the first time I had privacy since I’d come here. I didn’t know what I would do next time but at least for tonight, I had a good excuse. Bookmark here

I fell into the bed and almost started crying. It was so comfortable. An actual mattress. It might have been a little lumpy and the sheets were a little scratchy but it felt so good to be sleeping on a real bed, with a real pillow. I rolled over in annoyance as Mina’s piercings pressed into my ear. How did she sleep with these things? It was the last thought I had before blackness sucked me under.

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