Uraraka wandered through the unnaturally daunting forest with increasing anxiety. Clutching her intricately carved wooden staff like a lifeline to her chest.
Making her way slowly down the uneven muddy path, feeling a shiver make its way down her spine despite her cloak wrapping around her, hood up and enchantments emanating warmth.
She hadn’t planned to end up in such a horribly decayed and ominous forest. She had lost her bearings three forked pathways ago and hadn’t been able to locate the main road that was supposed to lead to the big capital of Yueii, her current destination.
A sweet lady from the tavern she stayed in a week earlier had warned her of many cursed forests as you got closer to the capital. Of course, Uraraka had listened and was sure she had avoided at least two others previously, but was unable to realise where she had ended up until she was deep in its ashen path.
Uraraka didn’t fear being harmed per say, she could very well take care of herself and knew there were very few enemies she couldn’t take on. She did however, fear getting lost. The most terrifying thing about cursed forests was not any predator nor monster lurking in the darkness. It was the way the trees shifted and moved with every step you took, making every path unrecognisable, whether or not you had passed it before.
Marching onwards, Uraraka repeated to words of her mother not long before she’d left home.
Her mother sat on the rocking chair in the corner of the room, looking out the window with unfocused eyes, her patchwork dress and apron she seemed to always be wearing sagging off her body more as the days went by.
Her voice was soft and sweet when she spoke, but despite addressing the young girl beside her, she didn’t seem to realise there was anyone else in the room.
“You know, Ochako. If you ever get stuck in a cursed forest, don’t turn around. Walk forwards and don’t change directions. I’d hate to see you walking eternally in such a place.”
With a new sense of hope and a flaring spark of determination, Uraraka marched on, ignoring the creaks and snaps of old wood behind her
It took more hours than she’d like to admit to find her way out of the rotting trees, but once she did it was like a breath of fresh air, literally.
She opened up her lungs like she’d never filled them with oxygen before and promptly turned back towards the dark mass behind her...and flipped it off.
”Ha! Take that you stupid pile of cursed wood! Some twigs aren’t gonna stop me.” She called back to the silence angrily, her finger still raised and sticking her tongue out like a child, she then flipped her hair and turned on her heel, stomping off in the other direction.
Because of her light-hearted nature, it didn’t take long for Uraraka to bring a smile back to her face, eyes crinkling and brightening further as she saw her destination just ahead.
Once she caught sight of the familiar large clock tower standing strong and tall in the middle of the tightly placed buildings, she started running down the dirt path, cheekily activating her magic to make her gait faster.
A sense of excitement bubbles up into a light giggle and she started running towards the big gates at the entrance, shamelessly using a little magic to speed up her gait and get there faster.
At the arrival of the main gate Uraraka was filled with awe. The huge wooden appendages were wide open and the main brick path was filled with people both entering and exiting, the girl wondering why anyone would want to leave.
Taking off the hood of her scarlet cloak she took in the sights and sounds of people bustling around the city, each seeming to have goals and plans of their own.
She quickly made her way past the edge of the city, following wide brick paths until she got to the more central areas. Her eyes wandered over each building lining the edge of the road, each at least two levels high, some appearing to be stores of many different kinds.
Uraraka didn’t doubt that she would love her time here. Wandering down the busy streets she spent time sightseeing and would occasionally wander into stores, always keeping track of her small pouch of gold and remembering her budget.
Wandering past a small little cafè, Uraraka decided to see if the food was just as magical as the rest of the city. She wasn’t particularly hungry, having eaten just before wandering into that horrid forest, but decided she could use a snack.
Walking into the small dining area and hearing the ring of the bell from the door she selected a table for two in the back corner right next to the window, it didn’t take long for a bubbly waitress to come up to her.
The woman had bright pink skin with matching hair and small horns protruding from it, her eyes completely black apart from bright golden irises looking back at her.
Uraraka felt excitement building in ber belly once again. She must be a pixie! It’s amazing how the different races live so happily together!
”Hello! Welcome to Styx! My name is Ashido and I’ll be your server today. Here’s your menu, would you like some water to start off with?” Her voice was as bright and bubbly as her hair and she didn’t lose enthusiasm for a minute.
”Nice to meet you, Ashido. Yes, some water would be lovely.” She responded with a much softer but equally friendly smile.
Ashido padded off to collect a glass and water as Uraraka’s eyes wandered over the menu.
Oooh the lemon meringue looks so good! Oh but it’s so expensive. There’s tiramisù too? And it’s made with mascarpone and not cream? Ugh, that’d be too filling though, just a snack, a reward for making it here, still on a budget- OH MY GOD THEY HAVE MOCHI.
Not realising how long she’d been sitting there Ashido returned to ask if she’d found what she’d like. Uraraka frowned but decided that it might be best to ask Aishido what she recommended.
”Um, Ashido?” She perked up at the sound of her name and smiled sweetly in response.
”Well, I’m having a bit of a struggle. See, I just got in town so I’m on a really tight budget but everything looks so good but I also ate not that long ago but I know I could finish it if I really tried but it’s supposed to be a snack but if I order an expensive one then I won’t have enough for a drink and-” She was promptly cut off by the bright laughter from the woman standing beside her.
“Sorry, it’s just you sound like me when I first got here. I had some very similar struggles and someone helped me then too, it’s almost ironic isn’t it? Anyway, I recommend the sweet peach tart and a spiced chai. You’ll leave with plenty in your pocket and your stomach.” She responded.
“Alright, I’ll have that. Thanks!”
Uraraka waited another few minutes, hearing the machines turning on and off, likely preparing her chai.
As soon as Ashido placed the small but elegant tart and chai with impressive designs in it, Uraraka was quick to dive in, finishing the whole tart and half her chai in just a couple of moments.
It was safe to say, Uraraka was satisfied. As she got out her pouch to pay, Ashido spoke up again, tapping a few buttons on the register and printing a receipt.
“You said you’re new so you probably don’t have a place to stay yet right? I don’t know how big your budget is for beds but I have a friend who runs a nice little tavern near the city wall on the east side. Its a bit of a walk to get to the city square from there but it does make it cheaper. Its by no means a permanent place to stay but it should get you started.” She informed, handing over her change and one again smiling.
“I’ll be sure to check it out. Thanks again!” She called while leaving the cafè and wandering back into the streets.
The sun had set considerably and a warm orange hue covered the city like a blanket. As much as Uraraka wanted to keep exploring to see the city at night, she knew it would be smarter to find somewhere to sleep first.
Heading over to the tavern Ashido mentioned and asking a few people for directions along the way, Uraraka found herself feeling a sense of freedom. A light feeling blooming throughout her body, making her feel comfortingly relaxed.
Upon reaching the tavern, Uraraka couldn’t help but notice how much nicer it was than she expected. The last tavern she’d stayed at was run down, not completely dirty but held spots that were often missed and had and assortment of damaged supplies. This tavern...was much different.
It was made using a much brighter type of wood and had clearly been built within the last couple of years, windows clear and without smudges and not a tile missing from the dark maroon roof.
Uraraka collected the key for a single room and made her way upstairs, feeling exhausted and contemplating a nap or just going to sleep now.
The room was modest but not fancy, the bed was soft with clean sheets and a small desk was placed just beside it, facing the window. The bathroom was similarly modest and she decided she’d have no problems staying for a while. Taking off her cloak and placing her staff, pouch of money and waterskin on the table she decided a shower was much needed and spent much longer than necessary under the steaming water.
After she finished her shower she changed back into her clothes and scrambled into bed. Deciding that exploring the city more could wait another day.
When waking up the next day Uraraka quickly realised she’d likely slept in until late morning, the sun outside just a few hours off reaching its peak.
She promptly got up and decided she couldn’t wait any longer, she had things to do.
Collecting all her things again she left her room and made her way back onto the streets, mentally listing all the things she had to do that day, the top of her list being, find a job.
Back at home, finding a job had been easy. Mages were in high demand and although many people can use magic, not so many are practiced in it. However she was fairly certain that the ratio of people trained in magic to people not was quite a bit different and was expecting to struggle a bit. Although, she hasn’t expected to struggle this much.
She’d wandered in and out of every store, restaurant and establishment she’d come across and found that barely anyone was looking for employees, or if they were, they were small jobs that paid far too little to live off of.
Figuring she could look for work in another portion of the city tomorrow she moved on to her next task. Find a magic shop.
Although many of the shops she walked into had sold magic items and spell scrolls, she had yet to run into a shop just for magic. Reeling in her pride she decided to ask the shopkeeper of a nearby florist, those are always nice right?
Luckily, it was a lovely old man and he explained that while there were no rules or laws about the location of magic stores, they had mostly accumulated in the northern parts of the city. She thanked him and quickly began making her way north, happy at the thought that something could go right.
It became very obvious once she had entered the northern parts of the city. As she looked around, slowly slowly more stores and restaurants seemed to have workers and items containing magic. Her own magic stirred, fingers tingling at being surrounded by so much wonder.
She walked for a couple of minutes before she came across a store on the corner of a two storey block, eminating large amounts of magic. She almost bolted into the store and instantly her magic called to her. Home.
Looking at all the items along the walls and shelves she made her way to the counter, inspecting each item closely. The rang the little bell at the counter and waited for someone to appear.
The man who appeared made her magic flare with curiosity. His long blond hair was broken by a black stripe on the side, his equally gold eyes smiling at her.
She quickly deduced that he was a mage, or at least had decent control over his magic, but something about it made her twitch. Sensing his magic swirling was like putting your hand in a rushing river, no. More like the heavy wind in the middle of a storm or-. Then it hit her.
“You’re a lux mage!” She cried, slamming her hands down on the counter dramatically.
The man before her simply laughed, covering his mouth with his hand as he did so.
“Yeah. I am, it was unexpected but I’m impressed. That’s the second fastest anyone’s figured it out.” He explained, still chuckling a bit.
“Second fastest?” She mumbled. She knew her physical magic wasn’t at its peak yet and she was aiming to fix that, but she’d always found that her ability to sense and understand magic was better than most, so it was surprising to find that someone else had sensed the lightning in his magic before her, who had only taken a few moments.
She supposed he heard her because he then replied.
“Yeah. I wouldn’t feel too bad about it though, that guy’s insane. Said he could feel it the minute he walked in. He described it as ‘that feeling when you remember you left the fucking stove on but it’s constant’ and then he said ‘reel that shit in, you’re making me anxious just being around you’.” He explained, laughing at the end.
Uraraka found herself laughing along with him, curious about who this person was, but also excited at the knowledge of a talented mage in the city.
“Anyway. The name’s Kaminari. How can I help ya?” He asked, an arm leaning over the counter casually.
“Oh! Actually I was wondering if you have some mermaid silk and some vir crystals”
“Sure do. What grade do you want for the crystals?” He asked, walking towards the back of the store.
“Um black ruby please. And two bottles if you don’t mind.” She called back to him, once again wandering around the store and looking some some unique items in cabinets.
Wow. He has some amazing stuff here. Phoenix feathers, crystallised leviathan tears, even a piece of time from the ancient war!
Hearing him arrive back with her requested items she made her way back to the counter and pulled out her pouch, ready to spend a bit but knowing it was worth it.
“Alright so the mermaid silk is from the Mirth mermaids so if you’re using it for a potion you’ll have to counter the water bacteria with a bit of lemongrass, and the vir crystals came in yesterday so they’re still a bit tender, they should be good to use by tomorrow though.” He explained, putting each item in a box and then a bag as he mentioned them.
“No worries. Thank you very much!” She said, handing him the money and being surprised that it was about the same price as back home. It was good to know that the population of the city didn’t raise the price.
”Have a nice day!” He called, waving to her as she left.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment with what she had bought, Uraraka headed back to her room at the tavern and dropped off her items, arranging them neatly on her desk.
It was a little past noon so she decided it was about time to go find somewhere to eat lunch, although she expected it to go a little smoother than it did.