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The Life She Could've Lead

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As she rode on the outskirts of the most recently visited village she passed by, Cassandra began to notice the sky that was only a little while ago bright blue, was changing to an orangish-pink color as the sun started to rest in the distance. The weather was becoming a bit more chiller as night began to fall among her and Fidella, so she began to slow down to give herself a moment to think about what to do next. She gently pulled on Fidella’s reign to signal her to slow down a bit to make getting off her saddle a lot easier.

“Its starting to get dark out. I better find a place to stay tonight.” She sighed as she reached for the map to find an inn close to her to have a good night rest. While Cassandra did prefer camping among the wilderness, she didn’t at the moment possess enough supplies to hold herself a camp out. Her only option now was to hope that she had enough money to afford to stay at an inn for the night.

She rode back into the village, as she noticed that the citizens were closing up their businesses for the night and retiring back to their homes to be with their families. Even though it's been a couple months since she left Corona, she still hasn’t gotten used to missing her father and the few friends she made. At least she had Owl and Fidella to keep her company on her journey to who knows where, but it wasn’t completely the same.

She awakened herself from the lonely thoughts as she got back to what she was doing, finding a place to stay for the night. Thankfully for her, she saw that a man was still out and she ran up to him. “Hey, sir. I just need a quick second of your time.” She called out to him while running in his direction, luckily he noticed her and didn’t try to shoo her away or something of the sort. “Ma'am, is there some sort of problem,” the nice man asked.

“No, I was just wondering if there was a cheap inn for me to stay at tonight nearby.” She hoped that she could get to one fast as the sun was resting even faster now. The man gave out a response to her question, “well there is this place called the ‘Seeing Inn’, but its kind of a strange place. Cassandra nodded and nonchalantly told the man, “I’ve seen a lot of strange things, I can handle some weird inn.”

The man seemed surprised by her cool of the situation, “well, if you want to go, its only two blocks over from here and its pretty cheap too.” Cassandra warmly smiled at him, thanked him for the directions, and headed towards the location. The walk was pretty quick since there wasn’t much sightseeing to do as most of the village was closed for the night.

Once she reached her designation for the night, she took a quick observation of the building. There wasn’t much special about it, a decent size, white-painted, brick building with windows going up and down. Though one detail did stick out however, it seemed to be separated as a two-part building. While the first half had a door serving as an entrance, the second half didn’t. Maybe this was the strange part the man was referring to. She didn’t care that much about it and went inside.

Once inside, she was greeted by an older looking man at the desk. The innkeeper had grey, thin hair, wore thick black glasses, a green shirt, brown pants, and matching color boots. He seemed pretty happy as she walked up towards him. “Hello, young lady, welcome to the Seeing Inn. A room for one night cost only five silver pieces.” She rummaged through her pockets to find the money and pulled it out to the man. As he gave her a key, Cassandra took a small look at the place. Nothing out of the ordinary came from its appearance, a couple rooms in the hallway, some chairs and an unlit fireplace. What was so strange about it, she thought it couldn’t hurt to ask.

“So, just wondering. Some man who told me about this inn, said that it was pretty strange. I saw a lot of strange things from my journey, I’m just checking if this is legit.” She wasn’t lying about seeing strange things, mostly magic related, but not just when she followed the black rocks with Rapunzel around a year back or so. Since heading out of Corona for herself, Cassandra had come across the wildest things you had to see to believe, such as giants, genies, and people who could bend elements of nature to their will.

The man enthusiastically grinned at the question, “well most people don’t really even take a look at it, but we do have this separate building where people can see many alternative realities of themselves. Its amazing, sadly most customers get freaked about that and tend to stay away from it.”

She didn’t know what, but something about seeing all the lives she could’ve lived out fascinated Cassandra’s curiosity and made her feel a little excited. “Can I check this place out,” she was pretty excited when asking about it. “Of course, its always open at any time. Before she followed she went outside for a moment to whistle for Owl. He flew and perched himself onto her right shoulder and she came back inside.

“You don’t mind me having Owl, do you,” she cautiously asked. The man thought about it for a moment, “I usually would, but because you actually want to see my Cave of Alternative Wonder, I’ll allow an expectation this one time.” They followed him down the hall until they reached a door that really stuck out like a sore thumb as it was french door style and was made of gold.

From the inside, was huge and mystical. There must have been at least a thousand doors from the inside that decorated the walls, each door different from the last. The only other thing she saw was a small table with a book with a hand dent on the cover. The book was about the size of a full encyclopedia set. While the room was glamorous, a tinge of worry began to grow in Cassandra’s gut. This place was a little too similar to the House of Yesterday's Tomorrow with all the doors. She started to think that this could be a trap by Zhan Tiri to try and trick her into doing her dirty deeds again. What if this man was an apprentice of her and wanted revenge for turning her back for destroying the moonstone.

What should have been against her better judgement, she decided to ask about the intentions of this place instead of just leaving. “I have to ask, sir. Does this place have any connection to a demon named Zhan Tiri?” His smile completely dropped upon hearing this question and his tone grew serious. “Just because a place is of magic, doesn’t mean it has connections to that evil demon. I feel a little offended that you would ask.” The atmosphere grew heavy within and the wanderer barely felt that she could breath.

“I apologized for asking. Its just that around a year or two ago, I and a few other people came across a place called the House of Yesterday’s Tomorrow and that visit led me down a path of disgrace”, Cassandra shuddered as she thought back to that event that changed her into the worse version of herself.

“Wait, are you the Cassandra that stole the moonstone from the dark kingdom?” She could only nod in shame to that question. “I guess that's why you asked about Zhan Tiri. Well I can assure you that she doesn’t hold any connection to this place and you're safe here. Also, just a note. Everyone in the magic community knows about your moonstone theft and well..” instead of finishing the sentence, he gave her an ‘esh’ type sound while shaking his head.

Sorely wanting to change the subject, Cassandra walked over towards the book, “so, what is this book for,” she asked while pointing at the object of interest. “That’s how this place works. Just put your hand into the indent of the cover and you can see thousands of realities that you are currently living in right now.”

She slowly put her hand into the book, upon doing so the book began to glow in a light blue and she felt a power surging through her veins. She tried to remove her hand from the book, but it forcibly remained intact despite her best efforts to rip it off. At last, the book finished glowing, her hand jerked instantly out of the book and she nearly fell down from the force.

She got back up on her feet and ran back towards the book, the man stood on the opposite side of her and opened the book showing thousands of pages that show all kinds of paths that Cassandra could’ve gone down her life.

She took a glance at the book and read a couple of the pages. There was a pattern of how the book was set up. It was a red bullet point followed by a brief description of what her life was like. There were paths that show stories with her still possessing the moonstone, life on the guard, staying as Rapunzel’s handmaiden and many more. It was actually creepy how much this book showed of her life and its many directions that it could have taken.

There was one thing she found odd, though. While most of the bullet points were red, a couple of them were black. “So, I noticed that these points are black, while the rest are red.” The man took a look at it, “oh yes. Those are realities where you are no longer currently living.” Cassandra skin turned cold for a second when hearing that, she didn’t remember the details of her temporary death, but the idea of it being permanent freaked her out.

She continued reading on. None of the book was categorized so there wasn't any way of knowing what exactly she was looking for. The realities that turned her off the most were the ones that involved romance, for some reason many of them involved relationships with Varian and Rapunzel. She knew that the young alchemist at least used to have a crush on her, that probably changed after everything she put him through, but she was too old for him. It would be punishable against law for her to persuade a relationship with him. The Rapunzel ones just confused her, she loved Raps as a friend, but she never owned romantic feelings towards her.

She continued to flip through the book until she noticed something that instantly caught her eye and forced a cold sweat down her body:

“A reality where you grew up being raised by your biological mother, Gothel”

Memories of being at the House of Yesterday’s Tomorrow came flooding back to her. Finding that Gothel was her mother was the reason she began to do so many terrible, irreversible things she could never take back. Being blinded by a hatred of being tossed aside for someone else and trying to make the world burn for her own petty feelings. She truly wished she never found out and just lived oblivious to what her birth parents were really like.

Yet, a burning curiosity stung in her stomach just from staring at those words. Part of her didn’t even understand why she wanted to know about this at all. She knew what Gothel have done, she kidnapped Rapunzel for her hair and physiologically torture her for eighteen years. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that being raised by her would have been a picnic if the memory she visited or the mirror she found was any consolation. However, she still wanted to know and see it for herself.

She called over the man, “I want to see this one,” she stated pointing at the aforementioned description. He nodded, “okay, all you have to do is press the button and a door will come to the center of the room and bring you into that reality.” She glanced at the pages but couldn’t find any buttons, and the table didn’t have any either. “Where are the buttons?” “The buttons are the bullet points.”

She didn’t respond to the innkeeper, as all of her attention was directly focused on the page in front of her. She found the passage she was looking for, placed her finger upon it, and shut her eyes upon clicking. For the next few seconds, she kept her eyes shut closed but heard movement in the background. When the moving had stopped, she reopened her eyes and found a door in the direct center of the room.

The door that she laid her eyes upon wasn’t practically special looking in any way. Standard curved door with a round window below, made of wood, and with a simple gold doorknob. With each step she made, the tension in the atmosphere felt heavier the closer she was. Even Owl was giving her a look of discomfort as she made her way over. She wasn’t sure if she should do this or not.

She looked back to the innkeeper, “is there anything I should know before I walk inside?” Her eyes screamed of fear, she only hoped that the man would stop her before she could even try and make a mistake. The innkeeper scratched his chin, “well, there is one thing you should know. While these doors show other realities in real time, they are merely only illusions. Technically, nothing is actually real on the other side.” Cassandra made a small gulp, somehow things of the past are still repeating for her, yet she feels the need to follow anyway.

Touching the doorknob, she slowly crept the door open, she took a small peek inside to only see pitch darkness for as long as the eye could see. What if the door was just leading to a void for her to be trapped in forever. Cassandra pushed those thoughts down, forcibly shut her eyes, and took a step into who knows where.

When she opened them back up and saw that she was back in the cottage where it all started. Compared to the flashback and the trip she took around a year back, it was a lot more clean and neat. The floor shined to the point of seeing a reflection off of it, there wasn’t a speck of dust in sight, and the furniture was more upgraded. Despite the nicer appearance, everything about the place still felt cold and unloved.

The appearance of the cottage wasn’t the only change, as she was dressed differently than she was from outside the door. Her skin was a lot paler, fairly white, her hair reached down to the middle of her back, full of curls, and her breasts were much more firm and at double in size. Cassandra was more feminine in her appearance, probably enough so that if she was back in her reality, nobody would notice it was the same person.

Her clothing was the most odd thing about her. It was much more formal than what a pheasant would typically wear. She was dressed in a long sleeve green dress with a white corset along with it. The dress skirt reached down to her ankles and it contained several layers of fabric. A silver necklace hung by the neck. Lastly, while she didn’t look down at her feet, she sensed she was wearing heels since she felt some elevation of her feet.

What could be the reason she was wearing this formal getup. The only reasons a pheasant would need to dress up was either for an event in the kingdom or for a suitor meeting. It wasn’t anywhere close to her birthday and there wasn’t an event held around this time. It could be possible that it was Gothel’s birthday, but Cassandra doubts that she would want anyone dressing up better than her for it. The only option left was the suitor meeting, which instantly made Cassandra’s stomach want to drop ten stories long.

Her thoughts were interrupted when a yelling came from the entrance door. “You are absolutely unbelievable, Cassandra. I work this entire year to make you actually look presentable to people, yet you still managed to chase every single suitor out of this house.” Cassandra felt sweat go down her as she kept yelling at her, it managed to make her body throb at the same time, which only added to her discomfort.

“You always have some type of excuse and its getting annoying.” She began to add a tone that was to mock her disappointment of a daughter, “ I’m too shy to be with him, he wouldn’t even listen to me, he tried to invade my personal space.” Cassandra couldn’t help but shrink the more she yelled at her. “I don’t care about the excuses. They’re all pathetic, just like you are. Is there something you would like to say about the disaster of this and all the other nights.”

Since she landed here with a lack of context, she didn’t know what to say while sounding natural about it. Does this Cassandra actually try to stand up to people or did her ‘mother’ berate her so much it made her a hollow shell. She actually felt a bit scared saying the wrong answer, but she couldn’t stay silent forever. “I feel that instead of you trying to push me to find someone to love, that you should try letting me wait.”

Gothel’s eyes became full of rage hearing that response, so much so that she tightly pulled on Cassandra’s arm. “Have you become ill? I made it clear that I don’t care if you fall in love with the boy or not. The only thing I care about is you providing me with a grandchild to make up for your meaningless life.”

To Cassandra’s surprise, Gothel’s grip was a lot stronger than she expected it to be. She could feel her wrist becoming numb under the pressure. Cassandra tried the best to resist her strength, but she ultimately gave in as Gothel slammed her right to the ground. Without even bothering to check on her, Gothel angrily walked right back to her room, slamming the door shut.

She quickly picked herself off the floor and cleaned up herself by fixing her dress and taking a small wash at the sink. This was the person she was trying to avenge for months on end, someone who would only berate and hurt her if she did something wrong. Was this the life she actually wanted, an abusive parent who wanted nothing to do with her. The guilt of her stealing the moonstone became a lot worse than it was before. Everything made her feel terrible about herself.

Just as she was alone, her mostly loyal companion came flying through the window. She thought that she brought him in, he must have snucked out when Gothel came shouting at her. Just seeing her bird was starting to make her feel a little better about herself. Cassandra felt some strength returning to her body, so she decided instead of going back to the magic door, she should investigate this life a little bit more.

She luckily knew where her bedroom was as it was the only door open in the house. The room was pretty small with a single bed, a makeup vanity table, and a small desk. She felt a little warmer here than being in the living room, probably due to the lack of Gothel, therefore she felt a little safer too. The first thing she did was change out of the poofy dress she was wearing in exchange for whatever clothes she slept in here. She checked the closet for clothing and found that she had very few outfits. Besides the dress she was currently wearing, only one other outfit actually looked presentable to wear in public.

There was a brownish-grey dress that was patched up with some rags and had dust covered in it, a simple green dress that had a white top over it, and a grey nightgown with short sleeves that was also patched in rags. It seems that her mother only wanted her looking nice only in the public eye. When she slipped out of the dress, she saw that body was covered in bruises going up and down. Every new detail she found made her feel worse for this Cassandra.

Once she changed into her nightgown, she kept snooping around the room. It seems she wasn’t provided with much to do as there wasn’t anything on the table, besides from a plush owl toy and the music box that Gothel gave her. She felt memories from when her and Raps found Gothel’s underground lair. She wished that she was able to at least recover the box before it was destroyed.

She kept inspecting the room to find anything of interest that would give her more context of her life . Nothing inside of the desk or vanity besides some makeup and jewelry. Her room was spot clean and had little substance to it besides the owner living in it. She looked under the bed, where she spotted a piece of crumpled up paper. She removed it from the ball form and read it quietly to herself.

It was a record from the Corona doctor. The date suggested that she visited around a year ago and it wasn’t just for a yearly checkup. She read the report and possibly found the reason why she hasn’t found a suitor yet. To sum it up, due to some health issues, Cassandra was found to be infertile. Being considered infertile was practically the worst thing a lady could discover about herself. If found out, you were considered an outcast by the world and doomed to be an old maid.

Practically Cassandra never cared much for marriage and having children like most other women, but from Gothel’s rant earlier, it seemed this version of Cassandra doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Heavens only knew what Gothel would do to her if she ever found out about this. She would be lucky to only be thrown out of the house, but the worse was that her ‘mother’ would actually kill her for being unable to carry kids.

She re-crumpled the paper back into a ball and threw it back under the bed. Cassandra had enough of this nightmare world she threw herself into and decided to head back to her reality. She motioned to Owl and grabbed the music box on her way out.

She made sure to not wake up the witch that was hopefully sleeping in the other room. Once she reached the living room undetected, she began searching for the door back to the magic inn she was staying at. It didn’t seem to be anywhere in sight and that sent a tiny panic down Cassandra. What if she was to be trapped in this hellscape of a world forever. Cassandra wanted to start crying at that thought, but she resisted to prevent waking up that other creature in the house.

To stop herself from panicking, Cassandra used an inhale, exhale method to calm herself down. She knew there was a way out, she just had to find it first. She walked around the room to find any sign of a portal. There seemed to be nothing there, until Owl found the way out for her. It was the front door of the cottage, in her defense it didn’t seem that obvious.

She tucked the box right under her arm and began to reach for the door. She made sure that it wouldn’t make a sound to alert her presence and when it was fully open, she once again saw the dark void that engulfed the surrounding area. She once again closed her eyes and took a step into the void. When she opened them, she found herself back in the cave that she started out in back in her regular clothing. She stared down at her arms and found that she wasn’t even holding the music box anymore, which brought a single tear to her eye.
She walked back up to the desk where she saw the innkeeper reading a small book in his hand waiting for her to return. He glanced up and saw her standing in the center of the room, “oh, I see that your back already. Did you find anything interesting.” Even though his tone was genuine, it felt like it was mocking at her.

“No. I had a long day, can I go back to my room for the night.” The innkeeper nodded his head, “of course, just follow me.” She followed back to the lobby and went straight to her room. The trip made her feel exhausted and guilt ridden. Cassandra got to leave that awful reality, but there was one that was stuck like that and had to suffer for being that witch’s daughter.

Cassandra let those terrible thoughts to rest, as she slipped into the bed for night and let a good night sleep consume her as she prepared to continue her journey for the next day.