Chapter 1: Escape

Another world, a mythical place that exists only in books and minds of theoretical physicists. Isekai novels were one of my favorite genres. I dreamed of my own adventure in such a world. Who wouldn’t want to be a hero, right? Yes, I wanted to be the heroine who will stand up to every evil in that world and annihilate it. Nothing could stand in my way, and all the villains would tremble at the sight of me. Well, now it’s not just the villains who trembled when they looked at me.

I wish some king or his daughter summoned me to this world, and I became a heroine fighting the Demon king. With my cheat-like ability, I would gradually cut my way through demon armies to his castle. But that didn’t happen.

I could also appear in this world in some mysterious way or just by chance, maybe by cosmic convergence or something like that, in the middle of a wasteland or a dangerous forest. That would be nice, too, but it didn’t happen either.

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Some kind of reincarnation would be tolerable too. Living as a child would be challenging but manageable. I would have parents, friends, and mostly normal life here. But there was a catch, a big catch, I never died. I didn’t die of old age, I was still young, and I wasn’t hit by a truck that fans affectionately call Truck-san. I really wish I could meet him.

No, I met something else.

After an extremely long day at work, I was returning home. The sixteen-hour shift wasn’t standard, but everyone in the flower shop was needed on Valentine’s Day. I was tired, I saw myself in bed, but first I had to stop by the supermarket to buy some food. I never got there. I took a shortcut through one back alley. It wasn’t your typical urine smelling garbage overflowing back alley. On the contrary, it was a clean and widely used shortcut during the day, unfortunately, unlit in the evening.

I wasn’t afraid to go through this alley, but I should have. I should have avoided it, but I was sure that I would handle the situation even if something happened. I took a few self-defense courses. But how do you neutralize a twenty-centimeters-tall creature with wings hovering in front of you? This wasn’t something taught in self-defense classes. When I saw the creature, I was confused. What was the appropriate reaction in a situation like this, stay still, run, yell, or shake its hand? I didn’t get a chance to find out. 

That small flying creature reached out to me, but not to shake my hand, which was in my purse searching for pepper spray, but to attack me. I was engulfed by a blinding white light. The next thing I remember is standing in a dark cellar behind bars, through which a wide-smiling man was looking at me. It wasn’t a pleasant smile of people with good intentions, people who wanted to help you. This was the creepy smile of a man who was excited about his new experimental subject.

I wanted to run away or defend myself, but my self-defense training wasn’t very useful here, and running wasn’t an option either. I was locked in a damp cellar, without any windows and light. I had no idea where the place was and how I got there. Later I discovered that it was magic of that man on the other side of the bars, which kept me from showing the madman a few grabs I had learned.

Just like with the creature, I never got a chance. Before he opened the cell door, he bound my body with magic, and thus my destiny was sealed. I couldn’t move, couldn’t even scream as he put an iron collar around my neck. When he activated it, I was acquainted with the system working in this world for the first time. At that moment I got a new title and a new class. There was no blue box in front of me, a floating window with information. No, the information was only in my head, yet I could read them as if they were in front of my eyes. However, it was not a pleasant read.

My new title was [Slave: Master Frederic Dungreen], and I was forced to choose the Class [Slave]. Yes, there was a system of Classes in this world. After reaching adulthood, everyone could choose one of several classes offered to them according to what they had been doing until then. I could choose from a variety of them too, but that lunatic forced me to choose [Slave]. He was familiar with the concept of other worlds and knew that even though it had been a long time since I had reached adulthood, I still didn’t have a Class. If he didn’t know about other realms, he wouldn’t pay the Fae for my kidnapping. That it was Fae who kidnaped me is information I was told later by the madman himself.

So I discovered that this wasn’t a world full of singing birds, flying across the sky, which was crossed by a rainbow over the flowering meadows, along which beautiful unicorns ran. This was a cruel world full of suffering and pain, where slavery was a real thing that took away man’s free will if his master wanted it. The freedom that has been a part of me all my life, and I couldn’t even defend myself.

It was cruel but much crueler was what that psychopath wanted to do with me. He didn’t see me as a human being, nor did he see me as a slave. To him, I was only an experimental subject, one of the lab rats in his basement that had the potential to achieve his goals. He didn’t hide them. On the contrary, he often talked about his dreams and wanted us to understand how noble his vision was. Neither I nor the others in the six basement cells shared his opinion. Probably the same was true for the rest of the public, his idea wasn’t as noble as he thought. If the people liked his vision, he wouldn’t have to do his experiments secretly in some basement.

Or so I thought, but I was wrong. Partly. Someone shared his goal, someone high enough to be able to keep this maniac’s experiments a secret. Someone with great interest in the outcome of these inhuman experiments. Someone interested in creating a new Class, new soldiers, to give people more power than they were given. Trick nature and cheat the system.

That lunatic tried to combine humans and beasts. Allow people to fly like birds and be as strong as bears with dragons’ magical power. Fortunately, his experiments didn’t involve stitching monster limbs to humans and things like that, but it wasn’t far off. He prepared extracts from the monsters, the essence of what he wanted to put into people, what they were to gain. The first extract I received was to allow me to fly. I got an injection right in the back between my shoulder blades. This injection containing two deciliters of monster essence worked like all its previous ones with serious side effects. These were mutations.

That madman didn’t use a scalpel, but he could. It was as if he was cutting into my body and operating on me while I was fully conscious during mutation. This mutation gave me wings and general ability [Flight]. The fool considered it a huge success and an incredible advance in his research. I was not the first to acquire this ability nor the first to grow a pair of wings. However, I was the first in whom the resulting mutation was relatively small and symmetrical. So the size of both my wings was the same, and the mutation was limited to a few exceptions on my body. According to him, a successful experiment, despite the fact that he stabbed me with that injection between my shoulder blades but wings grew in the area of ​​my hips, even though their span was only three meters and therefore incredibly little to allow me to fly. Their size and location made it completely impossible, even though I had full control over them.

As I found out over time, I was lucky to survive the experiment. Not everyone did. Although it was hard to tell if it was luck or a curse. Most slaves didn’t survive more than two mutations. No one survived fourth except me. I survived eight of them, but I died five times.

During the fourth mutation, my heart stopped for half a minute. After the fifth, it was over a minute. It took my heart five minutes to start beating after the sixth mutation, and I was practically a quarter of an hour dead after the seventh extract injection. I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, I did not go to heaven, nor did I fall into hell. I don’t remember anything during my death. It was like sleeping but not dreaming. There was nothing.

I don’t know how long I was dead after receiving the eighth injection, but it was long enough for that madman to consider me dead. Long enough for him to take off that slave collar from my neck and get rid of my body.

I’ve seen it many times because I’ve been in his hands longer than anyone else. Dozens of people like me died in that basement, and I have to admit, I envied them. They had my respect for what they went through, but they didn’t get it from that lunatic even after their death. The only luck was that he didn’t dissect their bodies. But he still didn’t treat them with the respect those people deserved. He stripped them of their slave collars and threw their bodies into the sewers. I say he threw them in the sewer, but I mean the rest of us, as he ordered us to do it.

I never saw a corpse before I appeared in this world. I attended several funerals, but all the dead were already in coffins. Here, at the behest of that maniac, I had to throw over a dozen corpses into the sewers with the help of other slaves. It broke me. My stomach couldn’t stand it, all my strength left my body, and my mind began to collapse. The thought that I would end up like this, that it would be my destiny, that one day a new pair of slaves, who were so unlucky that they fell into the hands of this bastard, would throw me into the sewers, was appalling.

Were it not for my passive ability [Indomitable Will], I would have gone mad long ago. I think “dr. Moreau” didn’t mind if someone went crazy as he only needed his subjects to be healthy of  body, not mind. Thanks to him, I didn’t even know the names of the people I helped get rid of. He gave us numbers and ordered us to use them instead of our names. Concentration camps for me were just terrible stories of people during World War II, but now I lived my own. My number was FX001. F as a female, X because I was the first experimental subject brought to him by the Fae.

I could only hope to be the last one because this experience wasn’t something I wished to anyone.

My nightmares and pleas had to be heard at the same point in time. I died after receiving the eighth injection. The psychopath probably took a few notes, took off my slave collar, and ordered a pair of slaves to throw my body into the sewers leading under the basement. I wanted to die many times before, and I did several times, only I never remained dead, even now.

That’s why I was shivering now, gnashing my teeth and sitting curled up on the river bank, somewhere in another world. I was frozen, my feathers wet, my fur as well as the mane on my head soaked with water. The weather wasn’t nice to me either. Heavy rain fell from the gray sky as if it was crying with me.

I don’t know how long I sat there with my legs pressed to my chest, my tail wrapped around my body and hidden under my wings, but it must have been long enough for the rain to stop. The rain passed, and the sun peeked out from the clouds.

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As soon as its rays hit my body, I looked up. The warmth of heat fell on my cheeks, and a bright light cut into my eyes. But I kept looking and smiling. It was so long ago since I had last seen the sun, and had missed it every day. In that dungeon, I completely forgot how beautiful it looks, how amazing it is when its rays warm my body. It brought a broad smile to my face. I realized that this is the first time I saw this sun and for the first time in this world I smiled.

Suddenly, Eleaden was much more beautiful than before. Yes, that’s the name of the world, Eleaden, the madman told me.

I stopped crying and stretched out on the wet grass, where I spread my arms, legs, and wings. It was a fantastic feeling to just lie there in the warm embrace of the sun’s rays, accompanied by the sounds of running water and the rustling leaves of the trees. It was incredibly peaceful and quiet here, something I had not experienced during my stay in the cellar. There it was just terror, fear, pain, weeping, and shouting every day.

But everything had to end, and I couldn’t lie on the bank all day. As soon as I was dry, I jumped to my feet and started walking along the river. My only goal was to get as far away from the basement of terror as possible. I knew I was in the kingdom of Arda, the river to my right was called Traim, and if I followed it, I would enter the Sahala Empire.

It was a mystery to me why that lunatic threw his victims into a river that flowed into another nation’s territory. However, I never said my doubts out loud. In fact, I secretly hoped that one of those bodies would reach the Sahal Empire, and they would come to our rescue. It never happened, and I became one of those bodies. It was now my duty to end the fool’s rampage and save those people from further experiments.

From the little information I had gathered from the slaves and our captor, I knew that the Sahal was no holy land where everyone was equal, and there was no slavery. It was a Human Empire, but tolerant of other races. As elsewhere, there were rich and those who lived in poverty. Slavery was also there, but it had its order, and slaves were treated like humans.

It was not an ideal country, but beggars can’t be choosers.

For hours I walked along the river, whose slow current and my ability calmed my mind. For the first time after months spent in captivity, I was able to determine how time passed. I saw the sun slowly set toward a horizon and the shadows cast by the trees in the landscape lengthen. It was beautiful.

My march stopped at the bridge over the river. A man-made structure meant one thing, and that was an increased chance I would run into someone. The question was whether to risk such an encounter or to avoid it. I had no idea what territory I was in. Am I still in Arda? Or have I already passed the borders? I could be miles away from the borders of the empire or even within its lands. Without GPS on my phone it was hard to tell my exact location. I couldn’t say for sure that there was no such thing on Eleaden, but if so, I didn’t have access to it right now.

Hence the uncertainty. If I stay here and wait for someone to show up, I’ll be risking a lot. It could be an Ardian who would immediately report me to the nearest soldiers or Sahalan with whom I would have a chance to negotiate with. After all, my Class was [Slave], and everyone could see it. I couldn’t change the Class or even hide it.

I decided to hide and wait for someone to come and tell me where I was. Where did the road lead, which cities were at both ends? My ability [Faint Presence] helped me with my hiding. If I didn’t want to, and if someone didn’t turn their attention to me, my presence would escape their attention. Some slave owners simply didn’t want their property to be too noticeable and thus interfere with their daily lives. In these moments, this ability was quite handy.

It was not a very busy road. The sun was almost setting, and no one showed up on the road while I was hiding by the bridge. It must have been at least two hours. On the other hand, it may have been the evening time that discouraged most people from traveling. After all, it was more pleasant to find shelter in the city than to spend the night outside in the wilderness.

Eventually, my patience paid off. On the left side of the bank, a two-horse-drawn wagon appeared on the road. I was a little relieved to see something familiar. Not that I often saw horse-drawn wagons on Earth, but they were part of our history and used at some cultural events. Even in the light of the setting sun, I saw an old man sitting on a wagon bench. He was shrouded in a cloak, and a hood pulled over his head, yet I saw his beard-covered face. He looked tired but kind. Yet my whole body was tense, my stomach clenched, my heart was racing, my throat was dry, and had it not been for [Indomitable Will], I would have run away a long time ago.

[Merchant: lvl 78]

The man was a businessman and apparently a good one. People here gained levels in the Classes they chose, and the levels marked how successful they were in their lives. Most people reached the Class level around 50. When it came to the crafting professions, level 75 was considered an expert in their craft. One hundred and more and a man was considered a master in his field. For adventurers and soldiers, level one hundred was just the beginning of their careers.

I was [Slave: lvl 92]. Although the class level did not mean everything in combat, I was sure of my ability to escape in an emergency. That’s why I stepped out of my hiding place and revealed my presence to an incoming merchant.

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