Hime x Hime
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It felt like a dream.
I stared into the great blue unknown. I was alone and freezing, sinking further into the abyss. My arms reached out as the sun, reflected on the surface of the Toyohira River, grew more and more distant.
What was I doing again? Oh yeah...
"There was a woman, and she was drowning."
"Did you save her?" The voice of someone I recognized spoke out to me. It was my sister, Yuki.
"I don't know, Yuki. But..." I had a wide smile on my face. "I sure hope so."
A buzzing sound filled my ears.
My face was greeted by a warm light. The dream was over.
My sweat-drenched body felt weightless as I sank into the soft surface beneath me. It was clear that I was lying on someone's bed, but I didn't recognize it as my own futon at home. The scent of old linens filled my nostrils. It was accompanied by a mature-smelling perfume, and the dust particles that hung in the air.
Letting out an audible yawn, I kept my eyes firmly closed. The way my body felt reminded me of when I was on the swim team. Especially after an important meet, my muscles would ache from head to toe.
Eh? Wait a minute... Where the heck am I!?
"Are you awake, young man?" A motherly voice called out to me. I felt a hand press to my forehead.
It reminded me of my own mother's voice one day back in middle school. I had spent the previous night playing video games until morning, and slept right through my alarm. I wasn't always the stickler for schedules and punctuality that I am today. It was something I picked up just before I entered high school.
Back then, my mother's wake-up call was often the only thing that could rouse me when I was fully immersed in a dream. My eyes finally crept open. The room around me seemed very strange, and very western.
The wallpaper was a burgundy color with a jewel-like pattern worked into it. The carving used for the bedroom door was quite detailed, and the bed I was lying on was massive. Upon scanning the room, my vision came to rest on the figure beside me.
"Oh! You are awake, after all." Sitting on the bedside beside me was a middle-aged woman so strikingly beautiful, that she could have easily given most magazine models a run for their money. Even despite her age.
She had porcelain skin, and short brown hair in curls cut just above her shoulders. Her crimson-red eyes were bold, and unusual to say the least.
My mind was still scrambled upon waking up in such a strange place, but then it dawned on me.
"Oh, you're the cosplayer from before!" I sat up in bed, creating a bit of distance between myself and the woman sitting over me.
She wore a fancy purple dress with white frills around the edges of the neckline. It had many sequins and jewels sewn onto the front, and she wore white gloves to complete the ensemble. It all looked rather expensive.
She was without a doubt the same woman who was struggling for life in the river's current. I felt a sense of relief seeing that she, and I were seemingly unharmed.
"Cos-player?" She looked puzzled.
"Yeah, the outfit. You must be dressed up for something, right? I’m no expert, but you did a nice job with both of those dresses. Although, I wouldn't try swimming something like that again."
She flashed another confused look, and my eyes were drawn to the golden crown on her head. It seemed oddly authentic, like she was royalty or something along those lines.
"*Pft* Hahahaha!" She began laughing. "Ahh, I certainly don't blame you for being confused. I know how it must look, but please allow me to introduce myself."
The woman stood up from her place on the side of the bed, and gave a small curtsy.
"My name is Veranda Aurelia Davenport. I serve as High Queen of the Aurelia Matriarchy, the western-most nation in the world of Casca. You have my humblest gratitude as High Queen for saving my life at the risk of your own."
"Oh, that's quite alright.......... Eh?"
Aureli-say what now?
The gibberish sandwiched between her introduction and gratitude threw my train of thought way off its intended course. Even so, I decided to introduce myself, and hopefully get an idea of what was going on.
"Pleased to meet you, your highness. Uhh, my name is Sakuta Yamada. Just Sakuta Yamada, from Sapporo. Sorry, but what was that you said about a kingdom? Where are we exactly?" I asked.
"Please, dear. You can call me Veranda! Can you stand?" Reaching out her hand, she helped me to my feet. "I don't think it would do much good to explain, so I'll just show you. Please don't worry Sakuta, I won't bite."
She winked, and put her index finger up to her cheek. I blushed slightly at her using my first name so casually, but I couldn't say I disliked it. Exercising caution, I followed her to the window. She seemed confident that whatever was outside would explain things in clear enough detail.
"Welcome to the capital of the Kingdom of Aurelia, the city of Morningstar!" Swinging open the curtains, she stepped aside revealing the light and a view unlike anything I had ever seen before.
We were in the highest tower of a castle, overlooking a sprawling city-scape. The buildings tiered downwards from the castle, which was in the direct center of the city. A great victorian-esque cathedral could be seen on the edge of the town, it's bell ringing loudly.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" The Queen looked thoughtfully over her kingdom, glancing over to gauge my response.
"No kidding! I've traveled outside of Japan before, but this is something else entirely." My attention was drawn by something extraordinary. A large wooden battleship passed by the window. Other than the gliding wings on either side, it appeared to be suspended in the air of its own accord. Or so I thought. "Woah! Is that—!?"
"A flying ship? Why, yes. Magic is prevalent in this world, and our entire armada is powered by wind magic." She explained. If that were the case, then I figured there would have to be other kinds of magic in this world as well.
I doubt I'd believe such a fantastical thing existed if I hadn't seen it with my own two eyes.
Amazing... Wait a minute!
For the first time since waking up, my anxiety started to bubble to the surface. If this really was another world then what would happen to me? Would I ever get to see Jun, or Yuki again?? My palms sweat profusely.
Calm down, Sakuta. Breathe! The Queen came here from Earth so she must have a way to travel back-and-forth.
I decided to play it cool, and wait for my opportunity to ask about going home after I had gotten my bearings. Besides... It's not everyday you get to visit a castle in another world! I exhaled, releasing some tension.
"Oh, yeah. I've been wondering... What happened after I blacked out? All I remember is fighting against the current, and everything goes blank after that..." I scratched my head, trying to search my memories for something to jog them.
"I was unconscious as well until we found ourselves on the bank of the river. I was just visiting Earth on a personal errand, and didn't know what to do." She crossed her arms.
"You didn't try the hospital? There was a clinic just down the block." I added.
"I couldn't read the local language that well so I couldn't find medical help. As for how we can speak the same language freely here..." She walked back in the direction of the bed, running her hand along the windowsill as she did. "I think it has something to do with The Crossing. You were in bad shape, so the guards that accompanied me helped bring you back here for my court mages to heal."
"The crossing?" I repeated.
"It's what we call the magic gate connecting Earth, and Casca. I'll explain everything a bit later in further detail, but you must be absolutely famished! The maids should be preparing the table for dinner as we speak, shall I show you around the castle in the meantime?"
Real life maids? Have I died, and gone to heaven?
And so, I followed the Queen down the stone spiral staircase into the main wing of the castle. There was apparently much more that I hadn't yet seen.