Smoke painfully nestled itself in the air. Everything was rayless, dark and cold. The only thing that would ever remind you of the world that used to exist was the snow, crunchy and soft, resting upon the ground beneath your small, bare feet. Flashes of the past pulsed through your mind: bombs, fire and screams of help had spread so far, that the whole country could hear. The only light was the fire that came off the towering buildings, mercilessly falling onto the impaired roads. However, there was no longer any country. There was no longer any ‘home sweet home’. There was no more happy family.
The smoke attacked your lungs. It was choking you without an ounce of hesitation, taking you to the afterlife like how it had done to every person you loved and called dear. Nearly, every person you loved dearly. There was still a feeble shimmer of hope that desperately fought its way through, and that was your big brother. But he lived in a country ruled by the one who had done this all to you—that monster.
However, your cloudy sight snapped into pitch-black darkness. Your heart skipped a beat in panic, and as your eyes snapped open, no longer did you see the definition of discord.
Instead, your [E/C] orbs met with the dark brown ceiling of what was now your home—your last resort to escape the past’s pain. The sound of children laughing, adults conversing, and birds singing flooded into your ears. The smell of warm, vegetable soup attracted your nose, causing your head to turn over to the side.
Your eyes softened at the sight before you, seeing your older brother sitting by your bedside. His skin being a shade lighter than your own, cloudy grey eyes like a stormy night, and snowy white hair that stopped right above his shoulders. He wore a vibrant orange tunic with black embroidery mixing in splendidly. A thick black cloth was tied around this tunic, hugging his abdominal muscles tightly, as black shorts peeked through the bottom. He wore light wooden sandals that tapped pleasingly against the hardwood floor at a slow yet steady tempo. In his hands was a white porcelain bowl full of his enticing vegetable soup.
“Here’s breakfast,” He began, greeting you with a pleasantly habitual smile. “I noticed you had that nightmare again. I made something easy to eat so you can calm down a bit.” He said, placing the porcelain bowl onto the dark, wooden bedside table that rested next to your bed.
“Thank you, Kai. It smells delicious..” You responded gratefully, picking up the cheap and thin metal bowl that held the soup. You raised a spoonful to your lips, promptly greeted with the warm and delicious family recipe Kai had memorised and practised for so long.
“No problem, it’s my pleasure. I’ll be downstairs in the workshop; I have to add some finishing touches to my submission to the competition.” Kai announced nervously, sighing. He looked up to the ceiling, staring off into space.
“I poured my heart and soul into it, so I hope the Emperor chooses me as the victor,” Kai mumbled dreamily before resting his hands upon his knee and standing up. “Wish me luck!” He exclaimed before hurrying his way out of your bedroom, his loud thumping footsteps still being heard as he rushed down the thin stairway of the rickety old house you both owned.
You stared at the soup, remembering the competition Kai had entered. It was a unique competition held by the Emperor himself to find a suitable new tailor. Tens of thousands of people had joined, yet only the best of the best would be picked out by fashion experts and given to the Emperor for the final picking. Then, the winning tailor who created the outfit for the Emperor would be with no doubt, showered with riches of all kinds and granted prosperity and fame for the rest of their lives. Sadly, however, women were not allowed to join. They were seen as dolls who could only model fashion but could never really know how to make a fine outfit from scratch properly.
You sighed, upset with the gender-biased society that you lived in. Women had close to no say in anything until a group of ‘rebellious’ women stood up for equal rights, only to be crushed down again and again by men. You took in another spoonful of the soup, dreaming of how your life would be if Kai managed to win. Besides, even if he was not a very well known tailor, his hands had skills beyond comprehension.
Kai knew how to sew, embroider, plan, merge and do every sort of thing you could ever do in the world of fashion. He knew about every technique, every fabric and every element that went into making the final showpiece. However, the one area where he barely came second in, was embroidering.
You had many skills as well, though you were not allowed to show them off and get admiration for them due to being a woman. Despite this, you admired embroidering. You used the most ancient and complicated technique in the history of Intuuin, able to make the threads come together and form the sweetest melody, most pleasing to the eye.
This skill grew from the pain of your past and was something you would always treasure. Back in the countryside of the fallen country of Geniroa, your mother had taught you the art of traditional embroidering techniques. All before the disaster occurred, you had learned how to use them to the best of your ability. You shook your head, desperate to banish the melancholy memories from your mind—these memories which would stick with you for the rest of your life.
Being a sick, frail and bedridden child gave you the underhand of being delicate and barely having enough strength to push the lightest things. Yet as you sat bedridden in most of your childhood days, imagining yourself playing outside with the other children, you focused on embroidery. You were determined to become the best of the best, after all.
You mindlessly ate the vegetable soup as you scrolled through your mind, thinking of the overwhelming sadness of your childhood. You smiled solemnly to yourself, shaking your head. “No, today is not a day to be sad. Today is a day to be hopeful.” You reminded yourself, finishing the last of the vegetable soup.
You threw your legs off the side of your creaky and uncomfortable hay bed, slipping on your white slippers with faded pink detail and frayed edges due to old age. You had no money to spend on flashy and expensive clothing, so you wore a simple dark blue dress all the time. It hugged your figure in all the right places, becoming looser at the bottom of the sleeves, and with a plunging collar. There was orange embroidery carefully detailed, by your pretty self on it. You headed over to the large white door whose paint peeled off like a frozen battlefield and grabbed the old wooden doorknob, twisting it to the right and opening the door gently, careful not to damage it in any way. Doing so would take a painful bite out of the household funds.
Your figure slowly made its way down the narrow corridor that consisted of another door, Kai’s bedroom, and an opening leading to the stairs. As you descended the stairs, you entered the cramped kitchen, with three medium-sized windows that had red, translucent curtains barely keeping out the daybreak.
You placed the bowl and spoon into the rusting white sink with a small ‘clunk’ before heading over to Kai’s workshop. If you couldn’t become an independent tailor/designer, you could at least assist Kai when he needed it. Plus, he did manage to pay the rent and provide the basic human necessities for not only him but for you as well.
Turning to your left and leaving the black-and-white themed kitchen, you saw Kai’s orange door, paint just starting to chip away. You knocked timidly, not wanting to surprise him and therefore cause him to make a mistake on the masterpiece he was working on. “Come in, [Name], come in.” He called from inside, allowing you to enter. You opened the door and stepped into the medium-sized room, closing the door behind you.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” You asked him, smiling at the beautiful yet somewhat messy workshop. The walls had light blue wallpaper with charming white flowers blooming on it. There were three large, dark wooden desks, each filled with either material, paper with plans of future outfits, books on the art of tailoring or needles, thread, buttons, brooches and all sorts of small items. In the middle of the room was a black stand, only about a foot off the ground. On it was a dark black mannequin, orange and white flowers painted on it some time ago.
Upon the mannequin’s figure was a long red tunic. On the tunic was a golden adornment of coins to symbolise wealth, long-legged birds symbolising longevity in life, and white flowers purity and innocence. Much the opposite of the Emperor you so despised. However, this opportunity had the chance to change your life, so whoever the opportunity came from, you and Kai had to take it. There was a black collar with the words’ fortune’ sewn into it in cursive, adding a special touch to the outfit. There were also black cuffs on the end of the long sleeves, trailing slightly further down than how long the Emperor’s arm could be. A lucid black fabric was wrapped around the waist and abdominal region, a thick golden string holding it in place. The shoes at the mannequin’s feet were matching in colour, with flourishing red flowers on it. However, there was no headpiece as Kai most likely expected the Emperor to own a much more fine headpiece, decorated with the most dazzling jewels.
Kai looked over to you, his deep grey orbs gazing towards you. “Little sister, there is nothing I need at the moment. However, there is a huge favour I must ask of you.” He commenced, dropping all he was holding and turning his entire figure to you in a severe manner.
“What is it, big brother? I’d be happy to help you.” You respond, wondering what his orders were for you.
“[Name].. I want you to take the outfit to the Emperor’s palace. As you know, I have poured my heart and soul into this, as well as a lot of time. Unfortunately, I now have barely any time to waste. I have multiple orders to finish and completed orders I need to drop off while you are gone.” Kai stated, looking at you expectantly.
“But, brother..” You said, eyes widening. You had never been asked to go to such a grand and wealthy part of town, this was a new exciting adventure and certainly a scary one as well.
“But nothing. I beg of you, little sister. I will carefully pack the outfit into our largest and most expensive-looking case. Not to mention, I have summoned a fairly cheap carriage to take you to the palace. I just.. I want to make sure our creation can make it there in time.” Kai explained, simpering at you.
You smiled at him in a determined manner, with shining resilience. “Kai, I will not let you down. I will make sure to be respectful.” You assured him while making a mental note to be respectful and stay out the way of anybody who looked essential and of a higher status than you.
You dusted some imaginary dust off your dress, contemplating whether or not you should find another one more suitable for such a momentous occasion. That is if you even had one. Your closet was as barren as the Sahara desert: the only things inside being an apron, an outgrown pink dress from your childhood and two pairs of worn-out shoes, broken at the ends and looking as though they would collapse at the slightest touch.
As though he had read your mind, Kai walked over to you with a snowy, white faux fur scarf which appeared to be incredibly thick. A small smile graced his thin lips as he securely placed the fur scarf around your shoulders and, pushing either end between your arms, made it drape off your shoulders in a more fashionable sense of style. “I hope... that this slight touch will make them give you a little more respect. It’s not of the highest quality, and it is just a mere spare... however, I hope you treasure it as a gift from me.” Kai muttered to you in a significantly relaxed tone.
“Kai, I cannot do such a thing. You need all the materials you can get, and you have already given me so much. I am very indebted to you; I owe you my life. I cannot accept this gift. I will return it once I return, and that is that.” You answered quickly, eyes widening at the expensive fur that caressed at your skin. “I do not care if it is just a spare, you need it.” You argued in an attempt to convince Kai to keep the scarf, as it could go to a much better cause, in terms of money and finance of course.
Kai shook his head and laughed at your rejection of his gift. “No, keep it my dearest little sister. If you don’t, I will feel very disheartened. Do you want me to be solemn and isolated?” Kai pouted, playing the guilt card. He knew you were quite gullible and easy to persuade, especially when interrogated with feelings of sadness.
You became flustered, cheeks red in nervousness as you clung onto the fur scarf, your fingers intertwining with the long strands. “Fine, then, brother! If you insist. I don’t wish to see you depressed. Why do you guilt trip me in this way?” You questioned, your eyes squeezing closed with uncertainty due to your decision.
He let out a loud and hearty laugh, “Do not fuss. You are just too easy to persuade. Now, go and fetch anything you want to bring with you to the palace. Not too much, though, the outfit’s case will already be fairly heavy for your frail body.” He stated, petting the fur and enjoying its soft texture. He brushed it the correct way, trying his best to neaten it up before taking a step back and gazing at you.
“Ah, how you’ve grown,” Kai mumbled under his breath before you made haste and zipped around instantly, hurrying up the stairs and into your bedroom to take the belongings you wished to bring with you on the moderately long journey to the palace. An estimation of about fourteen hours long.
Once inside your bedroom, you searched every nook and cranny for your old, black satchel. Your eyes stopped and fixated on the black handbag, seeming to blend in with the dark bedside table it rested on upon first glance. You hastily swiped the satchel up into your clutches and opened it up, looking inside. There was a small, torn and crumpled up piece of paper at the bottom of the satchel; a reminder messily scribbled onto it from much too long ago. You grabbed the piece of paper and tossed it mindlessly onto your unmade bed from the early afternoon before digging your hand into the bottom of the satchel, collecting a few coins of spare change, not even enough to buy a slice of bread. You put the coins back into the satchel before looking at all the other bibelots it hid. One of them being a tiny box, with a pin cushion impaled with needles.
There were also varying types and colours of threads in the box, along with buttons and spare fabrics. Next to the box was a plain white textile scratched tightly in a wooden hoop, seemingly begging to be embroidered and made into something beautiful, vivid and new.