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The Living and the Dead

 
The Living and the Dead

The change is abrupt.

As you're going about your daily life, your vision suddenly wavers, then darkens. You believe something may be wrong with you and as your balance begins to give way, you fall toward the ground. Surprisingly, however, the impact does not come. Instead you are met with a mixed feeling of falling and floating as if in a dream; as if you will never reach the bottom that is so close and yet so far away.

As you descend into this unseen landscape, lights blink into existence, some of them soft glows, like fireflies flitting in and out of your vision, while others are bright, and far-off, like distant stars. Some of these lights move about as if you are standing still, while others fly past as if you are still falling. The effect is jarring and disorienting and you feel for a moment like you might be ill.

You are struck with a sudden sense of dizziness that further drives your instincts to vomit, but before you can, you feel an impact as if you have finally hit the ground and your vision goes completely dark again. For a brief moment you wonder why it felt like you had just fallen over, instead of falling from a high cliff.

As you come to, your vision fades back in as if you've just awoken from a dream, but what you see around you is not what you expect to see at all.

You seem to have awoken in some kind of shrine. The room is fairly dim, lit only by the light of the morning sun streaming in through the open front door. There are several torch stands, set in pairs leading down the center of the room toward the aforementioned door, but none of them are lit at the moment. There are two smaller stands for incense at the side of the stone slab you've woken up on, and these are lit, creating a calming fragrance that fills the air, but may be slightly strong considering your close proximity. The room itself (and it does not appear there are any rooms leading off of this one), is made of rough-hewn, but well-cared for wood, and despite the apparent age of this place, it is very well maintained and immaculately clean.

The large stone slab you've woken upon is placed near the back of the room. On closer inspection, the slab appears to be a marble cube, colored a dark purple that's almost black in the dim lighting of the room. On the top upon which you sit, there is a very intricate carving made up of symbols and patterns that mean absolutely nothing to you.

You don't feel the presence of anyone else in the room, but you can hear the sounds of daily life beginning outside. Unfortunately, the only thing you can see through the door in your current position is the sunlight and a thin whisp of morning mist attempting to creep into the room.

Ling blinked and rolled to her side, bracing herself against the blessed solidity of the stone, ignoring the confusion of her location until her stomach settled and her head stopped feeling like she was falling, the scream she'd tried to scream during the dream that the fall was fading into stuck in her throat. Slowly, she began to take better stock of things. She was clothed, that was good... She didn't know this place, though. That wasn't so good.

She eased herself off the altar, her shoes ringing oddly on the well-worn floor. Slowly, she crouched down, creeping to doorway, a tumble of thoughts in her mind. Was she a prisoner, a guest, a sacrifice? How did she get here? What was this place?

She eased the door open slowly and peered out into the morning, the chill fog wafting over her feet.

The scene beyond the doorway is something out of a Japanese historical drama. Small houses dot the edge of a spacious central square with a large, blooming tree in the center. The floating pink blossoms and the morning mist create a very ethereal atmosphere to this place. Perhaps it really is a dream?

People mill about as they go about their morning chores, while an elderly gentlemen sits on a bench below the tree, gazing into its branches. The men and women wear kimonos and hakamas similar to what you would expect to see, given the atmosphere, and the sound of their wooden sandals clop along the unpaved ground.

As you're inspecting this scene, another odd thing literally floats into your vision. Whatever it is, it appears to be carrying a basket of some kind of fruit, though you can barely make out its body, as the purple mist surrounding its spherical head blends into the morning fog so that you're unsure where one begins and the other ends.

No one seems to have noticed you yet. Either that or they do not find your presence disturbing in any way.

Ling watched through the door in fascination, feeling as if she'd been transported back in time somehow, or was watching the result of some elaborate hoax. Maybe this was one of those historical-reenactment places. She was just making up her mind to go out and approach someone for answers, had in fact set foot out on the first step, and then the, the purple misty thing, floated into view.

"What on..."

Wary at first, she withdrew a little into the shadow of the doorway, watching its progress. What was it? Intrigued, she couldn't stop herself creeping out again until she was making her way down the steps, something about that ethereal shape calling to her.

The creature, whatever it is, doesn't seem to have taken much note of you. As you follow after it, you notice there are other odd creatures mixed in amongst the various people. One looks like a purple weather doll with multicolored eyes and pointed head, while another looks like a purple balloon with a tuft of cloud on its head and a yellow X-shape, like a bandage, between its eyes where its nose might be. None of them are like any animal you've seen before.

Before long, the first misty creature enters a rather large house on the far side of the square. A few people mill about in the front of the house doing common chores. Their clothing is a bit more subdued than some of the others in the square and they have the feeling of servants about them.

Ling wandered further out, other things in the village catching her attention here and there as she followed the drifting misty form with its basket. There seemed little better to do, and it really was fascinating...

When no one else seemed to pay her any mind and nothing offered any explanation of the strange 'fall' and her 'landing' here in a place she'd never seen before, she frowned a little to herself and stopped to look around a bit more closely, her curiosity fading into concern again. She stopped at the tree, though, bowing slightly to the elderly man there. Such a venerable man was likely to know a great deal about the local area. "Good morning, Grandfather. If it would please you, could you tell me where this place is? I find that I may be lost," she said in the soft, somewhat indirect manner of polite Chinese conversation from a young person to her elder.

The man comes out of his reverie and smiles. "I see. I see. This would be Sing, birthplace of the high priestess Miroe. Though I suppose it does not function very similarly, you could call this place the capital of our tiny country of Liva. And how did you find yourself here, little one? Not knowing where here is?"

"Liva?" Ling frowned, trying to place the name. "I am afraid, honored Grandfather, that I haven't heard of this place... I believe I fell on my way to work, I am sorry that I don't know know how. The ground just opened up. I woke up in a place that looked like a temple." She sighed, troubled, and looked up at the cherry blossoms overheard. At least that looked familiar.





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