B1 — 8. Initial Preparation

Rachel followed Julia through the hospital; outside of the Mythickin area, the floors were packed with patients.  She smiled a little as she heard Maria going around helping people; a few of her bigger gang members escorting her.

“Hey, Unicorn!  You forgot about me.”

“Bajate, naco,” a gang member said, stepping up to the man.

“Okay, okay!  I just—you healed that boy’s broken arm.  You can heal my broken finger no problem, right?”

Maria hummed.  “No hay bronca—ey, chido, that’s a nice watch you have.  Tell you what; I’ll fix you up good as new, your heart problems too, and it’ll just cost you the watch.  Good deal, eh? No pain or weeks of recovery.” She’s something else.

Her focus shifted back to her immediate surroundings; Julia kept talking about all the outfits she’d look great in, mostly from an anime perspective.  When they made it to the relief area, Rachel wasn’t surprised at the volume of people. People are still making their way here all around the hospital … a few casualties from a robbery north, home invasions to the east, an ability user that was just shot to the west.  It’s calming down, but there’s still so much chaos. So many Beastkin crying out for help … the National Guard need to escort a lot of them. A lot of people haven’t heard the President’s address that they’re changed humans.

“Something wrong?”  Julia asked, looking at her.

Realizing she must look downcast, Rachel nodded.  “I can hear so much suffering and fear with these ears.  It’s hard to explain just how accurate and wide my hearing has become.”

Brow furrowing, Julia hummed.  “Do you feel responsible for all those voices?”

Rachel shook her head.  “I don’t—out of seven billion people in the world … there’s only so much one person or even a military can do.  The noise just makes me sad.”

Julia went silent as she thought on her words.  “It’s—I’m trying to imagine hearing hundreds of people crying out for help and being unable to help them all … all I can think about is chaos in my head.  How do you filter it out.”

“I could filter it out,” Rachel said softly.  “However, then I wouldn’t be aware of threats…”  She paused at the word. When did I start thinking like that?  Children crying around me … I don’t feel the urge to rush over there and save them.  Does that make me a monster or realist? My enhanced hearing definitely has changed my perspective on situations.

Clearing her throat, Julia guided them to a volunteer.  Rachel had heard her name from previous conversations. “Kelsey, thank you for the work you’re doing.”  Kelsey and Julia were stunned for a moment

 “You know my name?”  Kelsey asked, eyes scanning her appearance.  “Are you that Mythickin bunny-girl?”

Smiling warmly, Rachel nodded.  “Yes, but I’m a Lunar Hare, not a rabbit.  My name’s Rachel.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Kelsey muttered, looking at her large white ears.

“It’s fine,” Rachel said, turning to Julia.

She jumped, realizing she had the floor.  “Right, umm, Kelsey, do you have anything that would fit Rachel?  Something that would be easy to move in.”

“And would accommodate my tail,” Rachel added.

“Tail?”  Julia asked with wide eyes.

Chuckling, Rachel nodded.  “It’s currently hidden beneath this gown, but yes, I have a fluffy white tail.”

“That’s so cute!”  Julia squealed. “I want to see it.”  She said with pleading eyes.

“Let’s first get me some clothes that fit.”  She turned to Kelsey. “I’ve heard that some companies are donating clothes for tax write-offs.  Are there any running or sports attire that were donated, including shoes?”

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Frowning, Kelsey looked back to an elderly gentleman that was going through a stack of papers.  “I think you’ll have to talk to the lead supervisor.” Nodding, they walked up to the man. “Umm, Mr. Huckly.”

Rachel knew the man had looked at her a few times and knew he’d been listening, but he feigned ignorance.  “Ah, Kelsey, and this is that Mythickin, correct?”

She nodded.  “I am.”

Julia stepped in.  “We’d like to see if you have any sports attire that would fit Ms. Park here.  She needs training clothes.”

Huckly leaned back with pursed lips.  “There’s a concern that was brought up during the donation meeting.  To be frank, we need to be careful who represents certain brands. Some don’t want anything to do with the animalistic or monster looking—humans.”

Rachel breathed a heavy sigh.  I was afraid something like this might happen … Zoe was spot on when she said there could be social upsets.

She was a little surprised as Julia spoke up, tone heated.  “You’re joking! You know you have no right to withhold donated items that have been registered with government write-offs.  They are no longer within your company’s control, but the U.S. government and relief parties to hand out to anyone in need.”

Huckly breathed a long sigh before looking at Rachel, swallowing.  “Okay, look, there are a lot of things we could do to block you from getting specific clothes; there are other options, after all, mass-produced clothes that don’t have the specs you’re looking for.  However, if you want the quality sports gear these companies can provide and not the generic mass produced low-quality products…”

Julia huffed, crossing her arms.  “How can you think about profit when the world has been flipped on its head?”

“Flipped on its head?”  Huckly shook his head with a long sigh.  “Some places, sure, but I’m seeing things from a global scale.  Not everywhere has taken The Oscillation as badly as Miami; Japan, for instance, business is booming.  Some scuffles, for sure, but they’re embracing The Oscillation. Heroes all over the place … I heard someone talk about Otaku or something; a dream come true.”  Otaku … yeah, my parents hate Otaku, but I guess that’s good to know; the world isn’t falling apart.

“Oh,” Julia’s eyes widened.  “Well, yeah, Japan is taking it well … but, still!”

“Business will go on.”  He smirked. “I need to look out for the corporate interests.  It’s only natural for a company to try and protect their brand … imagine a terrorist wearing a major brand’s logo.  What that could do to a company’s reputation. ”

Julia’s nostrils flared.  “That’s outrageous! Comparing Ms. Park to…”

“Julia, I’m sensing a but,” Rachel huffed.  “What is it?” This guy would line up just fine with Maria; all about that profit … perhaps for different aims though.  So, what do they want from me that could make a profit? It would need to be something decent enough to propose in front of Kelsey and Julia.

He was silent for a moment as he studied her appearance.  “This is a rare opportunity for you and me. Let me take a picture of you and send it to the Board of Directors of a few companies I’m in contact with.  If one of them likes how you look then you’ll sign a contract to wear their products exclusively for promotion.”

“Really?”  Julia asked with a furrowed brow.  “A contract.”

Rachel didn’t hesitate.  “Okay, can your phone send it right away?  I’d like to get clothes as soon as possible, and there’s two other Mythickin that I’d like added to that contract.”  Free high-quality sports clothes!

Huckly frowned.  “Which Mythickin would those be?  Are you referring to the Unicorn? That would leave one more…”

“It’s a package deal,” Rachel stated.

Julia leaned in to whisper, “Do you really think Maria would follow that contract?”

Rachel chuckled.  “Of course, they’re free, high-quality clothes.”

“So, the Unicorn is one,” Huckly whispered as he thought on her counteroffer.  “This could be a big opportunity … I’ve heard rumors about a black-haired girl that arrived with you … let me contact a few of the companies and see if they’re willing to gamble on the mystery Mythickin.”  Taking out his phone, he took a picture of Rachel before sending out a mass text. The response was quick, which made the man hum. “Looks like we have a taker. They’ll want a few pictures to post on the website and for a few covers.”

“That’s fine,” Rachel said.

Nodding with a smile, he rose.  “I’ll grab the contract that’s being faxed; as stated on the front line, they can void the contract at any time, but you must complete the time stated, or else pay a very hefty fine.”

“Let’s get this over with,” Rachel sighed.  “Tell Kelsey where the boxes are so I can get changed while you get everything set up.”

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He nodded with a devilish grin.  “Mythickin have a bad name now, but the public is fickle.  Once this blows over, and they get a good look at the civil ones … I think it’s reasonable to say you’ll be a celebrity.  Kelsey, here’s the product list for the company in question.”

She took the clipboard with a frown as he left.  “I can’t believe he did that.”

“I’m getting used to it,” Rachel said with a light chuckle.  “The world hasn’t ended just yet, and there’s money to be gained—human nature.”

They went through the boxes, looking for her size.  Should I go with stealth or comfort and breathability?  Probably breathability; I need to be able to perform. Eventually, she found clothes to her liking, everything in black; crop-top sports bra, underwear that just fit under her tail, performance bike shorts, and a seamless tank.  They moved to footwear, and she chose breathable socks with matching performance running shoes. She put it all in a plastic bag.  

A thought crossed her mind.  “Do you have any armbands? They come in handy to wipe away sweat if you’re working out pretty hard, and do you have any scissors to cut my hair?  It’s just too long.”

Julia gasped.  “What, no—it’s so silky, thick, and pretty!”

Rachel smiled sadly.  “As much as I fantasized about having hair like this … it’s just not practical.”

“Okay,” Julia said, looking at her hair with longing eyes.

She added the wrist bands to the bag with her clothes and moved to the showering area with Kelsey and Julia.  Setting up a chair, Rachel sat down and grabbed a handful of her hair. Chuckling a little as Julia brought a bag.

“Hey, this could make an amazing wig for someone that could use it!”  She said with chagrin.

“Alright,” she said.  “Okay, Kelsey, cut it at my shoulder, could you?”

“I’m no professional,” Kelsey muttered with a bit of distress.

“You’re fine, just cut it at my shoulder.”

Swallowing nervously, she carefully grabbed a clump of her hair and brought the sharp medical scissors up and squeezed.  Rachel frowned, she didn’t hear the sound of snipping hair. “What’s wrong?”

“Umm, it won’t cut?  I’m squeezing really hard … it just won’t cut.”

Lips pursed, she hummed.  “Maybe it’s stronger than normal hair.  Give me the scissors; I should be able to cut it.”  Kelsey handed her the utensil and Rachel brought her hair around.  Fitting her fingers into the holes, she tried to cut the lock she’d selected; the scissors broke in her fingers, falling apart.  “Seriously…” Rachel muttered.

Julia breathed with awe.  “Your hair is like—as strong as steel, but feels no different—no, even silkier than normal hair!  I need to message Richard about this.” She was almost bouncing on her toes.

“Yeah … wonderful.”  Rachel glared at her thick white hair.  “I guess it’s another form of defense. I should probably leave it unbound—since it always goes back to the same style, fanning around my back.”  She sighed. “I’m stuck with long hair forever.”

Kelsey smirked.  “The curse.”

She chuckled.  “Right, well, guess I’ll take a shower and then get dressed.”  Nodding, both girls left, letting her clean herself up. There was an assortment of bottles already in the staff shower room, so she helped herself.  Just how has my biology changed?  Will I still have a period? I don’t even know … I don’t even know if I can have kids.  I mean, there was that case I heard back at the college, but is it different for Mythickin?  What myth am I from anyways? Figuring that out might help me better understand my abilities.

She stretched out in the shower.  I’m so much more flexible; does that have to do with my decrease in muscle mass?  She frowned as she focused, watching the water slow around her.  She moved back and to the left, watching the air pressure from just that movement shift the liquid around her.  Slowing to a stop, the water shot along the explosive burst of wind. I wasn’t moving as fast as I was back in the fight, but still, I can cause this much change in air flow?  My mind also compensates; that’s the interesting part … my mental state can accelerate. Though, just like my speed, I can’t sustain it for long.

She looked down at her physique with a sad smile.  I’m stronger than I ever was as a human; so, why do I feel so depressed looking at this soft skin?  I guess it’s all the hard work I put in seems lost…

She finished washing; making sure to thoroughly scrub her skin so Scarlet wouldn’t make fun of her.  Drying off, she left her hair to air-dry after patting it down. Donning all her new clothes, she walked out to meet Julia; Kelsey was gone, back to work helping people.

“Wow,” Julia clapped.  “I swear, you’ll look good in anything!”

“You’re so cheerful all the time,” Rachel smiled.

“Of course!  I’m living a dream right now!”

“I’m happy for you; say, would you mind cutting a small incision for my tail?”  It doesn’t have to be big since the fabric can stretch.” She took out a piece of the broken medical blade.

Julia looked like a kid on Christmas day.  “Really? I guess the fabric is very well made.  It should hold up, right?”

Turning around, she pulled her hair over her shoulder.  “You see the bulge in the back … it does feel uncomfortable having my tail compressed.”

Nodding, Julia carefully pulled back her bike shorts; Rachel felt her tremble of excitement as she caught sight of her puffy white tail.  “So cool,” she whispered while cutting a small section for her tail to exit. “How’s that?”

Rachel shifted to guide her tail through; it was a bit of a tight fit at first, but when it poked through it didn’t constrict the base of her tail.  “Wonderful, well, let’s go sign that contract … I hear him making preparations for a photo shoot.” She groaned.

“It’s not all bad,” Julia shrugged.  “You’re so gorgeous that you don’t need a hint of makeup or photoshop!”

“Lucky me.”  She muttered as Julia followed her to where Huckly was setting everything up.

He grinned as she appeared.  “Striking, especially your pinkish-red eyes.  Natural, not edited; it’s perfect!”

Forcing a smile, Rachel nodded.  “Okay, let’s get on with it—first, where do I sign, and I won’t be here all day.  Twenty shots for now; I have things I need to do.”

“More than enough!”

She finished the photo shoot quickly; Julia taking a few pictures of her own.  Rachel sucked in a deep breath as she moved to intercept Maria. On sight, all of her gang members stiffened, but Maria’s smile grew.  Rachel’s eyes widened; her horn was showing. Made out of white energy, it was thin and spiraled, attached just above her forehead. Wow, it’s really bright and pretty.

“Ah, Rachel, got some new threads, buena onda.  Like the black.”

Maria

Rachel smiled as her bright aura dimmed slightly, horn fading.  “So, I’ve got you a deal for some clothes.”

“Oh?  All ears.  What kind of deal we talking?”

“So, this company,” she pointed at her tank.  “Has offered to supply us all the clothes we want if we only wear their products and take a few pictures.”

“Hmm, sólo para vestirse con sus ropas … todo gratis, huh?”  A broad smile lit her cheeks. “You’re thinking like a hustler now!  Think I’m rubbin’ off on ya.” She turned to one of her boys. “¿Cuánto crees que podemos voltear eso?”

Chuckling, Rachel nodded.  “Right, well, go to the support area and get a new set of clothes.  See if you can get some cash on each picture taken too; I’m sure you can hustle it out of him.”  Several of Maria’s gang members nodded with broad grins.

“Aye,” Maria snapped, glaring at them.  “¿Qué estás pensando tontos, eh?” They all looked away, trying to shrug it off.  Huffing, she turned to Rachel. “Anyways, good job. I’m gonna go do that and get some sleep.”

A sly smile lit Rachel’s lips as she heard a soldier asking the surveillance room for Maria’s location.  “Did you slip your tail?”

“Ah,” Maria looked back with a frown.  “Hear them looking for me? It’s pretty easy when everyone crowds you; they get shoved back, and then the boys cause a distraction.”

“Well, keep an eye out for the cameras; they’re looking for you.”

“Thanks for the heads-up,” she suddenly smiled.  “What did I say. You’d be great in the crew; welcome aboard.”

Rachel scratched the back of her neck.  “You’re funny.”

“Tsk,” Maria marched up to her.  “You’ll join, liebre blanca, just you wait!”  She tilted her head, and her group broke away.

“I don’t get it,” Julia muttered.  “You’ll join, just you wait … I get what she means, but…”

Walking back toward the Mythickin section, Rachel shrugged.  “Don’t think about it too much. Now, let’s get Richard and start testing.”

Julia’s heart escalated.  “Oh, finally! Yeah, let’s go get ready.”

She noticed the attention she was attracting seemed to be increasing rather than decreasing; people watched her with bated breath.  Rachel paused as she passed a waiting area, catching sight of a news station that showed a colossal tree, sprouting out of a large riverway.  She listened to the report with Julia:

The Nymph's Tree

“We’re here at the Houses of Parliament, and as you can see, there is a massive tree growing out of the River Thames.  We have confirmation that the boat that sunk had a Mythickin Nymph onboard; she was transformed during The Oscillation, just before the hull was pierced by unknown origins, some speculate the Nymph herself.

“One witness to the event stated that as everyone was thrown into the water, this enormous tree began to grow, saving many that had fallen into the River Thames.  However, there are still several people unaccounted, including the Mythickin Nymph herself.

“The tree roots are currently blocking traffic on Westminister Bridge, Abingdon Street, A3212, Lambeth Bridge, A3036, and penetrating into the roads all around the area; thankfully, most buildings seem to be unaffected, and there are no reported casualties from the tree itself.  There are rumors that these roots reach as far as the North Sea and the English Channel, but there are multiple confirmed sightings of large roots spread across England, and this mythical tree continues to grow. People are already comparing its height to the Burj Khalifa as its enormous branches shadow London.

“We’ve consulted multiple experts on the pictures we’ve been able to secure, and it seems there are plants of unknown origin growing near the base and further up in the large branches where waterfalls can be seen.  You can see that the water, plant life, and even the trunk itself seem to have a glow, radiating their colors in an almost magical way; reports have been issued that it is not radioactive. It almost looks like a forest itself is sprouting out of the trunk and branches.

“Experts theorize that the mass spread of its roots must reach far underground and tap into many underground rivers and water sources across the country to sustain its massive size; as you can see, it seems to be pulling in water.  Waterfalls are gushing out of various openings and cascading down multiple branches further up the trunk. Some are already calling this the Eighth Wonder of the World, The World Tree.

“The area is being sealed off by local authorities as the military prepares to enter the tree’s inner hollows at the trunk’s base.  We will continue to keep you posted.”

“That’s so cool…”  Julia mumbled, eyes sparkling.

Breaking away, Rachel hummed.  So, there’s a Nymph Mythickin in England.  That thing’s massive though … if she can do that, then what can I do?  Well, in any case, that makes fifty-three Mythickin discovered. Could there be more of a specific kind … it’s a good question; are there duplicate Mythickin?  There are two Vampires, but they aren’t the same. I guess only time will tell.

Richard came into view.  “Ah, Ms. Park, you found wonderful clothes.  Feeling more comfortable?”

She nodded.  “Yeah, a lot more comfortable.”

“Wonderful.  Are you ready to test your strength in the sunlight?  Dawn broke about forty-five minutes ago.”

“Mhm, where’s a good spot?”

Richard shrugged.  “Not a clue. I guess we could just go out on the street and go from there.”

“That seems reasonable; the National Guard are keeping the building and surrounding area fairly secure.”  They made their way to the front entrance, Julia’s eyes alight with excitement. Rachel smiled as she kept looking over at her.  “What’s up?”

Julia swallowed as she stared into Rachel’s eyes.  “I think I found out which myth you’re from.” That’d be great!  She did the research for me.  What’ll she do if I motion with my ears?

“I’m all ears,” Rachel said, ears shifting to beckon Julia on.

She breathed in sharply.  “I know you’re doing this to get a squeal out of me!  You actually have that much control over your ears?”

Rachel responded by moving her ears into a heart shape, causing Julia to pull out her phone.  “Just one more picture!” She said, taking the photo; she stared at the picture with a beaming smile.  “So, I think you’re from the Moon Rabbit myths; I know you’re not a rabbit, but you’re in the same family.  It dates back to China and has a lot of different variants to it. Usually, the rabbit is depicted with a pestle and mortar, pounding away at something, what exactly differs between myths and translation.”

Rachel hummed.  “So, I guess you could say my power and speed could come from that.  Always pounding away, but wouldn’t that mean I have a lot of endurance … which I don’t.  I have a lot of stamina, but not high endurance…”

“Wait,” Julia hummed.  “Stamina and endurance … oh, so … explain.”

“Well,” Rachel rubbed the back of her head, ears shifting to the left.  “Let’s see … it’s like I have a high energy pool, but it drains really quickly.”

Julia’s eyes lit up.  “Oh! So, it’s like stamina is represented as a bar or pool, and the cost of abilities or skills increases or decreases based on your endurance stat.  Sounds just like a game.” She grinned.

“That’s the only way I can think about explaining it.”  Rachel chuckled.

Julia shrugged.  “It’s really cool.  Of course, the myth could be a metaphor; a lot of Chinese myths were used to represent something.  Maybe it’s perseverance or dedication. Speaking biologically wise, Hares have longer ears than rabbits, are usually wilder than rabbits, not kept as pets, they’re more solitary, and can run as fast as forty to forty-five miles an hour while being able to keep high mobility; they leap instead of hop.

“Hares also change their coat based on the season—you might change based on moon color; that would be awesome!  Let’s see, they’re nocturnal, they move close to the ground to escape detection, ears lying flat against their head when they move at accelerated speed; hares are excellent swimmers—you don’t have long, front incisors, do you?”  Rachel shook her head, soaking in the information. “Ah, that’s good, hare front incisors never stop growing; so they need to grind them down all the time. They have an excellent sense of smell—do you?”

“I’ve mainly been focusing on sound; I haven’t paid attention to smells since I was so focused on the commotion around me.  Umm, let’s see.” She sniffed the air and to her surprise, found a ton of scents meet her. I can’t tell what many of them are, but I smell flowers and other things.  I don’t know what a lot of these other scents are though … why have I not noticed until now?  At the thought, the answer came in the same way as her race.  I hadn’t unlocked it?  Does that mean I’m capable of further growth?  I must have a variety of other natural skills that can be opened to me … I’ll need to do my research on hares.

“Rachel?”  Richard asked, looking over at her.  “You usually look so neutral, but you seemed surprised just now.”  He’s still studying my features; I guess I can’t be too careful.

“Yeah, let me see if I can explain it—I just gained access to a deeper sense of smell.”

Richard and Julia’s brow furrowed as they stopped in front of a hallway with sunlight shining through the windows.  “What do you mean, gained access to a deeper sense of smell?  You didn’t have it until now?”  Richard questioned.

Rachel nodded.  “Yes … that’s what I just learned—it’s the same for identifying my race and type.  It’s a knowledge that just filters into my brain upon request … obviously, I need to be specific for it to work.  I just gained access; it’s like the biological function just opened up to me. I couldn’t smell anything deep or profound, and the moment I tried to identify all the scents around me … it was unlocked.”

Julia’s eyes widened as she slammed her fist into her hand.  “Like a talent in a game!”

“A game?”  Rachel and Richard looked at her.

She nodded enthusiastically.  “Yeah, it’s like an Isekai anime I’ve seen; everything you’ve been telling me sounds just like a game!”

“Isekai … the girl that taught me about my race and type said the same thing.”

“Right, so, it’s like a video game where you have multiple trees or skills, and you need to unlock them!”

Rachel licked her lips.  “Eh, this doesn’t feel like a game, Julia.  It feels very real.”

She shook her head.  “Of course it feels real because this is real, but it’s functioning like a game … not that it is a game.  Well—when you think about a stat menu or like, a gaming screen, does anything come up?”

“I know what you’re getting at,” Rachel muttered.  “Zoe, that girl I mentioned, told me the same thing.  Thinking like that made me aware of my general strengths; such as agility, and weaknesses, low endurance.”

“This is so exciting!”  Julia breathed. “It’s more of a hidden system then?  Some games don’t give you exact stats or abilities and let you develop your own style of gameplay as you play.  It sounds like that!”

“I see,” Richard muttered.  “I’ve never played any games, but if your hypothesis is correct, then we can develop a means of testing it.”  He looked forward at the light ahead of them. “I guess this is the first time you’ll be entering the light, Ms. Park.  Being based on a nocturnal animal and a Lunar Hare, connected to the moon, I wonder what the sun’s effect will be on you?”

Rachel took a deep breath.  “I need to know.” She turned to Julia.  “Keep thinking about your Isekai stuff, and we can test some of your theories in a minute.”  She turned back to the sunlight and walked forward, holding out her hand. Please don’t burst into flames…


Artist Plugs:

You can download the full images for free at my Patreon or Ko-fi.  The links to Maria and The Nymph’s Tree.  ^_^7

I commissioned Likesac for the image of Maria and my other characters.  He offers a really competitive price!

I commissioned Pino on Deviantart for the tree image.  He does amazing backgrounds for a decent price!

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