1 Lost and Found in the Forest of Fae

"What the hell kind of joke is this?" Hinata's voice was loud and angry, but feminine in the same breath.

To catch you up, Hinata was a young man, and a high school student in modern Tokyo. However, after falling face first down a flight of stairs, he found himself in an alternate world, but no longer as himself. Now, the guy was a girl with shoulder-length white hair and a bit more than a swell to her chest. She didn't know what kind of twisted prank this was, and half of her was convinced that she was unconscious at the bottom of that subway staircase. However, now, as she came to her feet, bare toes squishing in the rain-softened dirt, there wasn't much of a ray of hope for this being a coma-induced dream.

All around, seemingly for miles. Nothing but the chilly gray rain that fell lightly against the Earth, soaking Hinata's clothes and plastering them to her body. She needed to find shelter, she thought to herself, and at the same time internally raged at the fact that her body was changed. She even felt shorter than before, now! Weren't reincarnated guys supposed to be super hot and have big harems almost the second they're reborn?!

Yet as Hinata started walking aimlessly forward, confused beyond reason, all that she had to her name were a few articles of clothing and a lot more shivering. Eventually, there was a sound nearby, when Hinata couldn't stop shivering, and when her legs were near to giving out from underneath her.

"Hello? Hey!" It was an bold, concerned voice from Hinata's right. When she turned her eyes that way, head beginning to ache, legs trembling, she saw a very strange girl indeed standing there. Her skin was a pale blue, her eyes orange with black scleras, and small, feathered black wings were clearly folded behind her back. In spite of her vaguely demonic appearance, though, she wore a heavy coat, hood up, and had her head tucked against the rain.

"What are you doing out here alone, dressed like that, without a weapon?! Come on, I'm headed home, can you follow me? It isn't far!" Hinata tried to open her mouth, to say that she could walk... but the words failed to leave her mouth. Head swimming, she didn't even realize she was falling for the second time until she was unconscious in the mud. The currently-a-girl's last thought, as she faded from the world, was; 'This is getting old...'

However, it may have been the last time for quite a while. When Hinata woke up, she was warm, wrapped in soft blankets, and more comfortable than she remembered being any time before... school, that morning?

Confused yet again, Hinata sat up and looked down at him- no, her, self. She wasn't clothed, but it wasn't as embarrassing a thought as it might have been, considering this body was so entirely alien to her. On closer inspection, she was fit and strong, rather than slightly soft as she'd been before, with faint muscle lines along her abdomen, as well as arms and thighs that were tight and defined.

Still... what the hell? She reached up and guided her hair into her peripheral, then; it was an odd mix of black and white smeared like oil throughout snow. The hair was clean and soft, though, so it must have simply been two-toned for some reason... as she was moving her hair around, something odd became more noticeable; her ears weren't where they should be. Instead, furred stumps rose, and poking out of the hair on top of her head were small, rounded, triangular ears, like an animal's.

Being the otaku that she was, her hand shot behind her, and sure enough, she was able to pull a long, fuzzy tail around and into her lap. It wasn't completely identifiable, right away. Flat but thick, black and white, it seemed like a cross between a beaver's and a raccoon's... a badger, maybe? That would explain her hair color, rounded animal ears and a tail like this, at least. Sighing, she slowly swung her legs out of bed and stood up, feeling strong and free of any sort of sickness she'd felt coming on in the rain.

Where was the blue-skinned girl? Surely, Hinata should thank her...

"Ah, but I don't have any clothes," she found herself murmuring as she looked around the bedroom. It was warm and cozy, if somewhat small, decorated with a number of paintings that filled the walls- well, they didn't quite fill the walls. There was a mirror, and Hinata walked closer to it, trying to get a better look at herself.

Wavy white hair, fading into black as it reached her shoulders, but not a perfect gradient, the black being rough and choppy in distribution. From that hair rose a pair of black, round ears full of fluff. Her eyes, too, had changed; going from brown to an icy, glacier blue. The biggest change, though, was not even her face, now soft but defined; it was her body, athletic but completely opposite the gender she was used to.

"I'd love to say this is just a dream... but how likely is that, really..." Her voice, too, now that she thought about it, was female, sure... but not girly, as she still spoke like a man. Flipping her hand, palm down, she pressed the back of her hand against her breast without thinking about it, then dropped the hand, feeling slightly shameful. "Weird..."

"Um, hello? Do I hear you awake in there?"

Hinata couldn't be sure, but it sounded like the blue girl from whenever she'd been in the forest.

"I'm awake, yes," she called back. "I'm naked, though, I don't..."

"That's fine, isn't it? I had to take your clothes off, they were soaked, and ripped to tatters anyway... but, I took your measurements while you were asleep- sorry! I wanted to go into town and get you some clothes that would fit, and I did. Can I come in?"

"Ah, yeah...!" Hinata turned away from the mirror as the door opened, a weak smile crossing her lips as the odd girl stepped into the room, her jet-colored wings twitching around behind her back. She was dressed in a simple, white dress that fell to her mid-thighs now, with knee-high travel boots, under which stockings were visible, reaching nearly to the hem of her dress. In her arms, this girl carried a bundle of fabric, too large to be only one outfit.

"My name is Emily," the demon girl said in a spritely tone, walking across the room and setting her load down on the bed. The way she fell quiet after that, it made Hinata realize that she was supposed give her name now, as well, but as her name was that of a boy, or a man, she decided to cut off the final letter, for now. Given that this wasn't like any isekai/reincarnation story she'd ever heard of, maybe Emily would look at her as a lunatic if she started rambling about being from another world.

"I'm... Hina," she murmured, stepping toward the bed and the bundle of fabric. It was weird, to feel the long, soft tail brushing against the backs of her legs... that, would take some getting used to. Really, though, who gave a damn about a tail when she was missing other key parts?!

"Hina, huh? Well, what were you doing all alone in that forest, Hina? I was there to meet up with a friend, and on my way home when I bumped into you... you really could have died." There was silence, for a moment, as the newly dubbed Hina tried to think of some sort of excuse to give. It was only a few seconds before Emily supplied the answer for her, though.

"Wait... the day before yesterday, when I found you." She sat on the edge of the bed, and Hina did the same, feeling a tad bit odd about standing there in the nude. "It was the day of the summoning. Ten summoned heroes to fight back the demons that plague the land, right? But there's a rumor that they messed up, summoned ten but only got nine... are you...?" Her orange eyes were widening, a look that probably should have been creepy but that was instead quite cute.

"That makes things a lot simpler for me, then," Hina agreed. "This place is all new to me, yes, I'm... summoned, I guess, or at least reincarnated. Them messing up would explain why I slammed face-first into the mud, I suppose..."

"Really?" Emily leaned forward, eyes widening just a bit further with curiosity. "Where were you before? I've never heard of summoned heroes being anything but human!" She was beyond intrigued, evidently, and thankfully didn't seem to care in the least that Hina was unclothed.

"I was... actually, I was a human, and a guy. My full name was Hinata, but I dropped the 'ta' to make it more of a girl's name... I wasn't sure how much it would be okay to tell you, until a few seconds ago." Emily blinked, leaning back just a bit.

"You were a... human guy? Why would your body change so much when you were summoned, I wonder... and come to think of it, the heroes were supposed to be summoned on a grand dais in the Capitol, so why would you have woken up in the Faerie Forest?" She didn't sound like she doubted the new girl, though, which was a relief. "It must be weird," she added, "-to change as much as that, huh?" Back to interested. "I mean, personally, I can't imagine having a, you know."

"Well, it's pretty strange, yes, not having one," Hina agreed, laughing. Suddenly, she was struck by a vague curiosity. Why, in her own mind, was it so entirely easy to accept these changes? She'd had it pretty well off back in Tokyo, so what reasoning could there be that she'd have no trouble at all. Really, she did hurt a bit, thinking of leaving Aika behind, but that thought was accompanied by the one that said such a pretty and kind girl would have no troubles finding herself a new boyfriend. Ugh, she was a worse boyfriend than she'd thought, if that was how she was thinking...

"What was it like, where you lived before?" Emily was back to her amicably curious questions, now, it seemed, and Hina answered readily.

"Well, where I'm from, there are a lot of stories where humans are summoned to another world as some sort of legendary heroes. Though, I've never read anything quite like what's happened to me. It would take a long time to explain all about where I'm from, but ah... well, really, I don't even know where to start." Emily nodded, leaning back and bouncing on her ass a bit.

"Understandable, it's an entire world after all! Then, I'll just have to keep you around until I learn more. Really, though. What kind of "mistake" ends up turning a guy into a cute Demi-Human, you have to wonder." Her voice turned somewhat playful, and Hina grinned, fighting a laugh.

"Well, hey, at least I'm cute. I was never much for it, but there were plenty of people who wished they were a cute girl back on... my old... planet? I'm not quite sure how to word it."

"Yes," Emily nodded sagely. "How awful it would be if you'd been turned into an old, ugly thing." She giggled again, then, and rolled her shoulders. "Well, why don't you get dressed? If you've been reincarnated as a cute girl, then you might as well look the part, don't you think?" She nudged the clothes on the bed toward Hina, then, and the new animal girl began to look through what was there. There were undergarments that looked just right for her size, dresses and pants and shorts and tops and skirts, and then two pairs of boots, one that rose to the knees and one that only rose as far as the ankles.

"Ah, and I also got you a few of these, they're pretty popular around here," Emily added, and laid a few pairs of what looked like black and white stockings across the pile. "You'd probably prefer men's fashion, but..."

"No, really, this is fine, and I appreciate it," Hina said, attempting to put Emily's small worry to rest. "I mean, I'm not really... myself, you know? So it doesn't quite feel like my body that I'm dressing up, at least not yet." As she said this, she took a pair of the stockings, a pair of shorts that looked sturdy, durable, and a simple, plain top that looked almost like the tank tops some Westerners wore back home. Of course, she also snagged panties and one of the bras, but it felt a bit awkward to grab them, even if they were necessary.

"You mentioned that I was a Demi-Human... what are we, the both of us? Aside from animals, there were only humans where I'm from." She began to get dressed, noticing that there was a convenient gap in the back of the panties and shorts alike, apparently meant to let her tail breathe.

"I'm a Devil," Emily answered sweetly. "You, on the other hand, are a beast-man. In short, that means that you are inanely powerful compared to a human; faster, stronger, and in general, your brain runs a lot faster. You get some sweet heightened hearing and eyesight when you focus, from what I hear... and, as a general rule, each hero has a special talent or spell that sets them apart from the general crowd. If we get you a status band, you'll be able to see your skills and stats."

"Status band? Skills? Stats? You completely lost me," Hina murmured quietly, shaking her head. That was a lot to soak in at once, no matter who it was that said it to you.

"A status band is like a plain bracelet, it can project your abilities and stats into the air for you, and anyone else who can see, to read. We'll get you one, I know a guy."

"Thank you," Hina answered slowly, keeping up for now. "What about you? How is a Devil different than a human, aside from the obvious answers?"

"Well," she responded with a sweet little laugh, watching shamelessly as Hina finished working the top over her head and settling it at her waist. She, Hina, had seen Aika get dressed in front of her plenty of times, so the bra had proved no problem- working her tail through her panties and shorts was a bit harder, but they weren't really much of an obstacle either.

"A Devil has access to Hellfire. It's called that, but it really shouldn't be; Hellfire is just a fancy name for magic that doesn't originate in Heaven or the Earth itself. Dark spells, and all. I can infect others with my mana, turning them into demons themselves or mutate them into something else, and I can do a lot of things with fire, ice and lightning. I can use mental magic to influence the thoughts of others, but I can't control them fully... and the wings aren't for flying, they're weapons. The feathers can become razor sharp and go flying whenever I want, I just have to aim my wing like a bow."

"I see," Hina nodded slowly. "What about a Demi-Human? Would it be possible for me to learn magic?"

"Just as possible as it would be for a human to learn, but most humans can't behead somebody with their bare hands... which leads to the problem, here." Her voice turned somber, hesitant.

"What's that?" Hina took on a cautious edge of her own, but she thought that she knew what was going to come next, and if she was right, it had a lot to do with the age-old problem of humans hating and fearing anything that they felt inferior to, deep down.

"I can see it on your face, and yes." Emily nodded gravely, a soft sigh leaving her. "In general, humans hate anything that isn't like them, even if just a little bit like you. We're second class citizens, but you could probably walk the streets of the Capitol safely, at least. If they saw me, they couldn't do anything outright, but I don't think anyone would stop them if they beat me half to death, left me with no choice but to defend myself and killed me from there!" Somehow, she sounded morbidly amused, and Hina paused, not quite sure how she should answer something like that.

"I'm actually planning to leave the country," Emily continued. "I'll go to the East, to Mir. If you were to come with me... well, they're very progressive, and non-human species are equal with humans. There's a council, elected by the people, and it's even got some demons like me on it. Ah... but, you probably want to go off to the Capitol and chase your noble adventure like most heroes, hm?" Hina paused, following and absorbing these words carefully.

"This... I need to think about this, but... well, if it's like you say..." The two-tone-haired girl took a moment to think before she answered. It did seem like, when she thought about it, her mind was running a thousand miles faster than it had before, and she reached a conclusion almost too quickly, compared to anything before now.

"If I'd woken up in some grand castle chamber, been given a weapon and some gold, joined a great party... I'd probably be high on delusions right now. Really, though... I'm just a kid who wasn't even done with formal schooling yet, I'm only eighteen. I'm not a hero, or anything special at all, no matter what kind of crazy powers I might suddenly have... for now, I don't really see a reason not to travel with you. If I'm a second-class citizen, they'd probably just disown me as a hero anyway... but as things are, they might not even know I exist in their world."

"That was a lot easier a decision for you than it would have been for me," Emily spoke with a laugh. "It's nice to have a friend, though. I've, ah, I've been without one of those for a long while... there are humans in the nearby towns who help me out, but to be caught associating with a Devil is everything but a crime, and likely any human who does so openly would go missing in the night."

"Why do you even live here, if it's such a hateful country?" Hina could feel her brow furrowing as she glanced down at her anime-reminiscent outfit and then back up at Emily.

"Parents had me here," she answered shortly, and it was clear that this was all she would be saying on the subject for now. The tailed girl nodded, and then realized she wasn't the only tailed girl here. Flicking around behind Emily was a thick black tail that came to a narrow, blunted end, like a cross between a bull whip and a tentacle. Suddenly, Hina had an odd feeling that she knew exactly what it took for Emily to "infect others with her mana" as she'd said, but it was just a hunch.

"Well, I think we should probably get you a Status Band, before any more time goes by. Do you want to come with me? You're all dressed for the part, if you get your boots on, and it's late, so we can slip into this village a little ways South without anyone knowing. There are houses that keep a lantern lit on their back porch, and that means that the person or people living there stay up until two hours after midnight to help out any Demi-Human who needs it."

"Well," Hina shot back, starting to slide into the comfortable-looking, knee high boots. "I think that sounds like a good reason to stretch my legs, and it's lovely to know that not everyone in this... kingdom, or whatever, isn't totally cruel. Count me in, anyway."

"Using words like lovely while talking like a boy. Did you do a lot of reading, where you're from?"

"Why do you ask," she answered with a question, not thinking about it.

"Just, the way you talk and hold yourself, you seem a lot more educated than a lot of people I've met. Anyway... let's get going, hm?"

"Yes, let's." Hina nodded.

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