“Zero? And Auntie Fiethsing too! I’m back! ”
Kaguya had successfully made the extra-planar trip back to her home world. She heaved a sigh of relieve as she felt the rush of air and familiar scents of the forests, as she emerged from the rift in space-time. She couldn’t help but beam at the sight of her foster parents. She had missed them, even if she was only gone for a fortnight or so. She got the sense, however, that a much larger amount of time had passed here than on the other world. Kaguya promptly decided to disregard it though. Zero was better with confusing stuff like that than she was. There were far more urgent issues to take care of at the moment anyway.
Kaguya had brought two others with her back home. Alice, who she had expected to take back with her, though not in such dire condition. The other, Charlotte, she had not intended to take back. Yet after the timid girl aided Kaguya, she couldn’t just leave her. Together with Zero and Fiethsing, the three girls, including the unconscious Alice, made the short hike to the Light Palace.
The five were quiet during their walk. There was a tense atmosphere of urgency and anticipation that made Kaguya far too aware of a nervous lump that had developed in her throat. She looked over to Charlotte, who followed close to Kaguya. What was she thinking? Kaguya wondered. Would she be alright? She had lost her home. Would she ever see it again? Kaguya shook her head. Now was not the time to worry about what might be.
“There is always a way” Kaguya whispered, reassuring herself.
As they approached the great golden gates of the world’s capital, Kaguya realized that a significant amount of time must have passed, even without asking Zero. She had visited the Fairy Tale Kingdom once before, but at the time there was still much construction being done on the castle town. People had been bustling about, carrying lumber and stone. If she hadn’t known better, Kaguya would have mistaken this place for another kingdom entirely. Its smooth alabaster walls shone with a faint golden radiance, and passing through the outer gate, scores of people and fairy tales came into view. They all went about their daily business without paying much mind to the five travelers.
“Fairy tales and humans living together in such a big city! This is amazing! Charlotte, look! Do you see that one?” Kaguya pressed her cheek to Charlotte’s, and pointed out a young man. He looked, by all accounts, to be human, but there was definitely something different about him. He smiled with an almost otherworldly cheeriness. He pushed his dark red hair from his face as he counted something, putting them into a bag and tying it around his waist. Marbles? Neither Kaguya or Charlotte could tell.
“Wow a lot of time has passed here, huh? The Light Palace didn’t look anything like this, the last time I was here. Grimm’s really done a pretty good job of sprucin’ up the place. Wahaha!”
“King Grimm.” Zero stressed. “It’s been about...twenty years here since we last saw you.” Seems in that long stretch of time, Zero had remained just as strict as she’d always been. Not even time could get her to relax, Kaguya thought.
“It reminds me of the liveliness of Gloria...I wish my brother and sister could see this...” Zero and Fiethsing turned to look at Charlotte, her growing sadness about her current predicament was obvious. Fiethsing cleared her throat to garner the attention of the group.
“Why don’t you two look around the markets for a while? I’ll take Alice to the palace healers, and Zero will meet with the king. When you’re done, just come find us. It shouldn’t be too hard, just head for the castle and ask the guards.”
“Hmmmm.” Kaguya put a finger to her temple. “I’ve got some stuff I need to talk to King Grimm about too, so I’ll head there after a while. Okay! Charlotte, let’s go look around!”
“O-okay!” Charlotte answered, somewhat surprised. Kaguya took her hand, as Charlotte blushed, leading her away into the dense crowds of people.
“Alright, Fieth, let’s get going.”
“Ah, actually I was thinking of checking out the market too.” Fiethsing was slowly pacing towards the many street vendors, as if somehow Zero wouldn’t notice if she inched silently enough.
”No.” Zero glowered.
“Tch. Party pooper.” Fiethsing clicked her tongue.
”Alright, Charlotte, let’s go over there first!”
“Here, there, anywhere! I don’t worry too much about the small stuff! Everywhere looks fun, wahaha!”
“I see, that’s a very interesting way to look at things, Kaguya.” Charlotte gave a weak smile, her hand still clasped in Kaguya’s.
As the two moved between the vendor carts, something unusual caught their eye. A small cat, standing on two legs as a man would. Even on two legs the creature would only come to the waist of either of the girls. What’s more, the odd animal was wearing a pair of thick leather boots. Kaguya tilted her head at the sight. Surely it must be hard for him to move around in such footwear, she thought.
“I’ve never seen a cat look so...self important.” Charlottle giggled.
The two turned down another street, coming to a confectionary. Curiously enough, it seemed the building itself was made out of candies and gingerbread, it shone with a sweet glaze, easily standing out from most any other building in the district. Through one of the windows, the two girls could make out the shapes of a boy and girl with similar features. Blonde hair, the same eyes, it was easy to conclude the two were siblings. Charlotte took a few steps towards the shop.
“Hold on, Charlotte!” Kaguya grabbed the back of her collar, reaching out to stop the girl.
“Eh? I-is something wrong?”
Even if it had been twenty, years Kagya knew Hansel and Gretel’s confectionery. Hansel’s skills as a maker of all things sweet were unmatched, legendary even. His fairy tale magic also ensured a near endless supply of the treats. The problem was his younger sister, who partook of her brother’s confections each and every day. Kaguya leaned in and whispered to Charlotte.
“That store is run by a brother and sister. The brother is the baker, he makes all the stuff, and doesn’t eat any of it. The sister is the one always eating them. She’s, ah, gotten a little large in the barge as you can see. Which means the sweets...”
“Are really fattening!” Charlotte exclaimed. “But it’s not like we’ll eat them every day, just one or two couldn’t hurt...” Charlotte looked eagerly through the window and the many scrumptious candies and pastries that lied within. After a moment, Kaguya joined her.
“You’re right, one or two should be fine...”
Their hungry gazes were interrupted by the timely ringing of a nearby clock tower.
“Is that the time?” Kaguya exclaimed. “We gotta get to the castle! The sun’s already setting!”
“You’re right, let’s get going.” Charlotte agreed, tearing herself away from the window.
The two girls hastily made for the castle. However they had barely left the street with Hansel and Gretel’s shop, when a girl with long white hair, eyes of crimson, and riding a rather large wolf, came leaping down in front of them from one of the rooftops.
“Hehehe. Hello there, little ladies. Where might you two be off to? No lying now. Hehehe. Lying leads to thievery after all. I’ll be glad to get you where you need to go.” The white haired girl smiled widely, as if she was about to pounce on a pair of unsuspecting rabbits.
Kaguya considered this girl for a moment. She was certain there was something unusual about her. She wasn’t a fairy tale, but she felt close, as though there was something strange about her identity.
“She reminds me of you, Kaguya” Charlotte spoke up.
“What?! How?” Kaguya jumped back, startled. Charlotte turned a light shade of pink. She looked down at the ground and fidgeted with her hands before answering.
“W-well, she seems kind of dramatic...wild...dashing...” Embarrassed, Charlotte buried her face in her hands.
Kaguya frowned, disapproving of the comparison. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off about this wolf girl. She pursed her lips.
“Okay, if you can bring me five things, then I’ll trust you.” She took a dramatic stance, pointing to the wolf girl as if she was a prosecutor in some lord’s court. “First, bring me a jeweled branch of Horai, next-”
“Giving up already?”
“I can’t do something that’s impossible. That tree hasn’t existed for a millennia . I don’t lie about what cannot be done.”
“Nnnnnn, fine.” Kaguya said after a moment. “How about getting us to the royal palace?”
“Something like that is a cinch. No lie, hehehe.”
Kaguya and Charlotte followed the wolf riding girl through the winding streets of the fairy tale kingdom. Oddly, it seemed as though they were passing by the same streets more than once, but the wolf girl hadn't even noticed.
“Who is this weirdo...” Kaguya whispered to herself.
Inside the the palace court room Fiethsing and Zero stood waiting. Fiethsing tapped her foot impatiently. The two had already finished their meeting and it was pushing towards nighttime.
“She’s late. I thought for sure Kaguya would have grown tired of looking around and come to the castle far earlier. Something must have happened.”
“You know, you’re predictions aren’t always right. I’m sure she’s fine.” Zero felt uncomfortable. She wasn’t usually the positive one of the two.
All of a sudden, the doors to the great hall burst open, and a girl riding a wolf, carrying Kaguya and Charlotte in one hand each, came bounding in. She dropped the two on the floor just in front of Zero and Fiethsing.
“We’re...we’re here.” Kaguya’s speech was slurred as though she might vomit.
“What happened?” Zero eyed Kaguya suspiciously. Fiethsing looked cautiously relieved.
“Get this.” Kaguya stood up, dusting herself off. “This crazy wolf girl just showed up and said she’d give us a free lift to the castle. I wasn’t sure at first, but how could I refuse? Wahaha!”
“It’s not every day Kaguya can fool someone into helping her.” Zero clearly still didn’t believe Kaguya’s story.
“It’s true! This girl came flying down out of nowhere on a wolf and said ‘The royal palace? Of course, I’d be happy to take you there. Hehehe, it’s no lie’.” Kaguya attempted to deepen her voice when speaking for her transporter.
”And so she took you, then what?”
“We got lost!” Kaguya exclaimed very matter of factly.
Zero scowled, but Fiethsing chuckled and applauded Kaguya. After a sigh, Zero moved to Kaguya’s side.
“You’d best not keep the king waiting any longer. Go one.” With a light tap she urged Kaguya up the great set of marble stairs to the upper tier of the throne room. For all the city’s splendor, the throne itself seemed to embody it best. The magnificent electrum chair was laid with crimson velvets, and intricate design works.
Grimm had grown into a much older man in the time Kaguya had spent on Attoractia. When she last saw him, he felt more like an older brother, a young rash king who still had the willful freedom of his days as an adventurer. The man smiling before her now, looked old enough to be her father.
“Kaguya.” He said warmly. His voice was just as kind, but age had deepened it. “My word, you haven’t aged a day. One day, you and those sages will have to tell me how you manage that, hahaha!”
“It seems time works differently in other worlds.” Kaguya started. “Ah, this isn’t the time for that!” She reached into a haversack and produced a smooth orb of a sickly green color. A thin, black miasma emanated from it. I found the Earth back on the other world. I came to you because I was hoping we’d be able to restore it with Lumia’s power.” Grimm sighed before answering the girl.
“That...may be difficult. My sister has recently disappeared. Infact, I was just talking with Fiethsing and Zero about organizing a small, capable team for a search party.”
“Really? After all that we can’t even save the Earth...” At Kaguya’s comment, Grimm’s eyes sank, sad to see the girl so defeated and clearly worried for his sister.
Kaguya had thought this tiring adventure to be over, at least for a while. This was supposed to be the part where Lumia fixes everything.
“Hold on there!” A voice rang out through the hall, as the wolf riding girl came dashing up the steps.
“Ah, Lunya, I thought I’d heard you before.” Grimm’s expression returned to a smile.
“What?! You know her?!” Kaguya was dumbfounded. Grimm stifled a laugh.
“I know where Lumia is, no lie! Hehehe. You can trust me on this, I’d stake my life on it.” She puffed out her chest confidently with a smug look on her face.
For a moment, Kaguya thought she saw Lunya change. For an instant, she seemed to be someone else. No. Not someone else, the same person, but...different somehow. It felt like looking at the same person, but at a different angle.
-Lore written by Rajadeem the Seer, last of his order