There was once a small town, a ghetto really on the outskirts of a much larger and grander city. In this twisted maze of discarded cargo containers and machines turned into homes and businesses there lived a family of magicians. They were well known to the community, especially for having in their possession a magic rose bush, from which a single petal could summon a bucket full of water. They kept this miraculous plant inside their building on a pedestal, under glass.
As it happened the magician, the last member of the line of this family had three children all very close in age, an eldest son, a middle son, and the youngest a daughter. Despite his magical powers his wife was taken from him when the children were still young by a plague that swept through the area. At a young age his eldest son showed a knack for magic, even more so than he himself did at that age. Thus to his great joy he named his eldest son his successor and trained him diligently; focusing all his attention of the child.
By the age of ten the eldest son had shown such promise with magic that the mayor of the big city took notice and the eldest son was betrothed to his youngest daughter. Likewise the youngest daughter of the magician was betrothed to the mayor's oldest son. The poor son in the middle however, had shown no promise for magic, although he constantly asked too try. He was clumsy, he could not mix a potion, or remember an incantation either. He was regarded as a simpleton who would stay and help the old man keep his shop clean and guard the rose bush; the father even went so far as to dress them all differently. The eldest son wore fine clothes of a gentleman, the youngest daughter the fine clothes of a young lady, the poor son was required to wear frumpy clothes good for keeping one clean and protected during harsh chores despite the heat and even keep his hair cut very short for the same reason; he looked more like a poor servant than a son of the house.
As it happens with the passage of time the children grew older, the eldest son grew cocky with his skills, the youngest daughter was groomed to be lady like for her future husband despite her surroundings so was never allowed outside. The poor son in the middle, despite their father's wishes had been the playmate of his sister. Neither were allowed too do much and neither were allowed to play together; as it was considered un-lady like for a girl to play any games with a boy, even Majong with her brother was forbidden. They had to keep the fact they were friends from everyone, especially their older brother who despite already carrying so much of their father's favor would like nothing more than to have all of it.
Now a time came when the children came of age, in one week the daughter was to be sent to marry the son of the mayor, she had barely come of age when he was told the date was only a week away. She wept in her room that night when she realized she would have to leave to live in a strange place, be the lover and essentially the slave of a man she's never met and never again play any games with anyone; especially not her brother whom she cared about. She thought of every thing she could to find an excuse for him to come with her to the mansion; perhaps as a servant, her personal attendee. Nothing would work as he was a boy; and besides their father already said he was to stay and watch over the rose bush. She couldn't even think of a way to bring the subject up with her father that wouldn't reveal their secret.
The middle son, although simple in mind, was not as foolish as people believed him to be. He could not stand it. So he hatched a plan of his own. The next day as he was cleaning the store house; when no one was around he took down a box containing a magic mirror his father used to communicate with spirits. He looked into the mirror and begged any spirit that could hear him to grant him wisdom and magic powers so his sister would not need to be lonely. An odd request to be sure to anything, he waited a moment but nothing answered. He asked again for wisdom, magic, and for his sister to always have a friend in the mansion. He heard a slight shuffling sound inside the mirror, so he leaned into it and said he would sacrifice everything that he is if anything would just give him wisdom, magic, and to keep his sister company at the mansion.
Somewhere deep in the dreaming darkness, something heard his plea. He heard a voice, a soft singing sound almost like a hissing sound in lyrical tone respond to him. He would have dropped the mirror had his hand not been unable to let go. He could not be sure what the voice said in this moment of panic, but he did hear the end when it said it would grant him his wish, a sample now, but he would come to her later for the rest. He didn't know what this meant; however as he put the mirror away he saw the world differently. It would be hard to describe, it was clearer yet there was this aura to everything a blue wave, that seemed to be different depending on the object. He could even think clearer and he formulated ideas based on his observations that perhaps the waves indicated both type with a more subtle wave to indicate individual object.
Such thoughts and more would come to him as he continued his chores. As the day progressed he saw his sister through a paper door along the deck, dressed in a fancy kimono. The wedding planners from the mansion had shown up early to prepare her for the ceremony and observe her wife skills. They were harsh as he secretly watched. All those times she was supposed to have been studying for this had been spent secretly playing games with him. He felt both guilt and anger, he never expected to feel guilty, he never knew the feeling before, and yet their harshness made him angry. In a flash fire appeared in his hands. He jumped back in surprise, almost shouting out, if not for the fact he couldn't feel the heat. He tossed the fire into the brush pit where it caught a flame. Now he could feel the heat. He looked at his hands and with focus gathered up more fire, filling his arms like a pile of sticks and tossed it into the brush pit. He knew, despite the fact he couldn't be sure where he learned the name, a spell called Fire Womph. He stared at his hands in amazement, he learned it with out incantation, with out practice, and despite the fact, a fact he was not sure how he knew, that his family were always water based magicians or only knew spells and potions.
His confidence grew, as did his pride. That night when the preparers were gone he waited in the rose room for his sister. Every other night they would meet here to play their games, as it was the one room their father and older brother didn't enter except twice a day to tend the bush or take a clipping for a water potion. She was tired, and could not play. He understood, his behavior baffling his sister as he said he had something to show her. He created fire in his hands. His sister was astonished, and told him she too had been secretly practicing magic, but was afraid to show anyone, even him as she feared it would scare him. He was a little insulted, but as she began to glow, he knew as he was just earlier this same day this might have actually scared him; or made him jealous. He knew what it was somehow, a Defense Shield, even before she told him. She asked him to throw some fire her way and she's snuff it out. He didn't want to at first, but he knew it was alright by how bright she was glowing. He threw one and she caught it and snuffed it out in her hands with a clap. She then showed him another secret, she could fly. She was even able to catch the fire balls while in flight. Quickly despite what she had said it became a game, they were having more fun than ever before, even laughing out loud despite their father and older brother. However as these things happen they grew careless in their fun and knocked over the rose bush, shattering the glass and badly damaging the plant.
The poor son was quick to pick up the pedestal, as the sister ran from the room to look down the hall to see if anyone was coming rain clouds formed inside the room and began to fill the room up with water. If not for the few steps out of the room and the indent shape of the room; possibly implying something like this has happened in the distant past the whole residence would have flooded. The sister was lucky as she had gotten out of the room before it flooded. She watched on as her brother attempted find and pick up the rose pieces and glass through the water below and all around him. His sister looked on, she wanted to help, although doing so would get her the fancy kimono from the mansion she was wearing wet.
Just as she was about to step into the room her father and brother arrived from down the hall and saw the mess. The father yelled at the poor son as he performed some spell that stopped the rain. He told his daughter to go back to bed and accused the son of waking her as well as clumsily knocking over the rose bush. He's supposed to guard it, not play with it. Telling him if he can't even do this right he's not sure what he's going to do with him.
After the water was bucketed out the father was angered over the water logged and badly broken rose bush as he picked it up and sat it back in the muddy dirt in its pedestal. The elder son, confident as could be told his father not to worry as he performed a spell that made the pieces of glass glow and gradually fit back together, melding as they did so back into the shape of the container. The father was most impressed by his son's skills. The eldest son made a comment, something akin to comparing his younger sibling to the primitive age, his father to ancient times, and himself the epitome of the modern era of intellect and skill. Something deep inside the younger son snapped, something he'd never felt before, ego, and pride. He had earlier that day made fire, his sister could fly and produce a Defense Aura, the best their elder brother could do was this slow repair and some potions. Not knowing how to handle this sudden surge of emotion, like a tiny commanding voice in the back of his mind he spun out, lunged, and back handed his older brother into the wall, knocking a tooth out. With out a second thought the father yelled at his younger son and ordered him to leave their home and never come back.
The daughter watched through her window as her precious sibling left the house, nary a bite to eat, nor any of his possessions save for the clothes on his back. He wandered the massive ghetto, no one near his home dared speak to him, the news of what he did spread quickly the next day. He had damaged the miraculous bush and attacked his brother out of jealousy. Somewhere deep down he wanted to tell them it was an accident, he and his sister had been playing. But they were not children anymore, such a statement would cause all sorts of scandal; something he wouldn't have been able to contemplate before the day before. He prayed his sister would not try to save him by telling the truth; as it would only ruin both their lives.
He could not stay where he lived, so before him were only three options. One to cross the Silver Bridge that expanded across the ocean from the city to the neighboring country; except he had no money to board the train; the second option being to wander out into the desert which with the heat, dryness, and vicious creatures meant certain death; his third and really only option was to find his way into the big city and live on the streets homeless; a fate even worse than living in the ghetto but at least there someone might give him food or hand-outs of money. It was not very long before he was wandering those streets, less than a week in fact. He even watched from an alley with other homeless as his sister and the eldest son of the mayor rode through the main street on their wedding carriage. He watched, when she looked his way a moment he cowered out of sight not sure if she saw him or not. In either case the sad expression in her eyes betrayed the smile she was forced to wear.
As it happened not long after this as he was wandering through a back alley he came upon a most unusual sight; an elegant woman with white face make up with thin black lines for eyebrows and red lipstick; in a stark white kimono, her jet black hair tied up in a bun with long hair pins, and with a massive golden scaled snake over her shoulders, its head moving back and forth and long body over her shoulders; even though he couldn't see where the tail went to behind her; vanishing into her kimono ribbon as though it were but a part of it. This woman sat, side saddle, on top of an old bicycle, which was balanced on its two wheels not moving and with out a kickstand. She watched him with her jewel like blue eyes. He briefly looked around, no one else nearby seemed to even notice this woman. So he decided to do the same, as he walked by her, her head turned watching him, as did the snake. Something else caught his eye, she was holding a pile of what looked to be graphic novels in her hands.
Such a curious sight grabbed him, as he turned the golden snake creature lunged out hissing at him and flicking its tongue out. Despite having a head and body easily twice as thick as his arm it moved through the air with ease. For some reason he couldn't understand rather than be frightened by this thing he reached out a hand and petted it on the head. The snake purred like a kitten. The woman smiled and asked him if he could help her; her ride has stopped and she would like to go home. The snake retreated, seeming to shrink back into the ribbon with just enough out to drape over her shoulders as she held her arms out for him like a child wanting to be picked up. This innocent posture and her dainty expression despite the snake got the better of him as he reached out. He had expected to lift her up and put her on the ground, but she instead leapt into his arms. The back of her knees over one arm, and her back nestled into the other as she held her arms around neck and laid her head into his shoulder. He could now see her snow white socks and wooden sandals, between these and the stark cleanliness of her fancy kimono it was clear she had never stepped foot on the ground in this city and certainly didn't look like she belonged in this alley sitting on some old bicycle…which was no longer there. Of course such matters mattered not as he realized how heavy she was. Lifting such a dainty woman should be no problem, but it felt to him like he was lifting a bag of stones.
He asked her where to carry her too, she merely pointed at a lit alley. The back entrance to some bar, he struggled to keep her off the ground as he made his way there. After entering this small alley off the main alley, a place he'd been before something was different. Behind him no longer stood the alley but another street lit with paper lanterns, the doors were now those to some fancier establishment. The snake reached out and opened a door. Inside was a place, a red carpet leading down a hall lit with crystal lights at the end of which entered a large room. It had many shelves filled with many books, shelves with jars holding various odd objects and fluids, they had entered a door behind a counter. He realized this woman must be a sorceress. She pointed to another door and asked him to carry her there. Beyond this door was another hallway, they went past doors to a study, the door to a bathroom, he knew what was behind each door somehow. At the end of the hall was her bedroom. A massive room decorated in red, white shelves covered with stuffed toys of snakes, cats, and fake roses, she even had some in a vase beside her vanity mirror.
She pointed to the massive bed. He blushed naturally as she carried her over, intent to set her down and retreat like a gentleman. However as he walked over she got heavier, and with a slight twist of her body knocked him onto the bed so that he was sitting with her on his lap. Even as he blushed she took of the books she was carrying and asked him in a soft voice to read it to her. He took the book which had a cover that seemed to imply it was about her, as it had a picture of her in a large eyed exaggerated form on it, as did all the books only in different poses in different places such as a rose garden or standing behind a counter. As he opened the book however rather than pictures he saw puzzles, words scrambled in odd directions, strange symbols. As he looked at her confused she took his small hand ever so gently in her own and guided it along the swirls and words which gradually took shape. He understood; it's a magic book, encrypted secrets.
The next thing he knew he was staying in a small room studying the books and magic with this woman whom he barely spoke to. The longest sentences he ever heard from her were from that first day when he met her. As time went by, not much time, or more time than he realized as he had lost track of the days, he found himself dressing finer, wearing her kimonos in fact as they were the only things he gave him to wear as after his perhaps third day there she had thrown away his street clothes. He also found the snake spending more time with him. Then came a day where he could read the books, they fully made sense to him. That day he left the room as quickly as one can wearing a kimono and balancing on wooden sandals to find the sorceress whose name he never even knew. She was not in her room, although here the snake found him and wrapped around his kimono clad shoulders. He walked out into the main lobby where he had been forbidden to go before until he could read the books. Here he had a most unusual surprise as a customer mistook him for the mistress of the shop. He stepped back and went back into the back rooms. He stopped before a mirror, and there stood the sorceress, her face in white paint, her hair done up, wearing her kimono, with the golden snake. He just stood there gazing at her, at himself in the mirror; there was a moment of confusion before she righted herself and smiled at her reflection.
It was not long after this that the mayor's son; now the lord of the manner as his father left it to him became deathly ill. The doctors and spell casters of the mansion couldn't figure out what was wrong with him or how to cure him. Word came to them however of a sorceress in the business district with skills possibly surpassing those of the mansion staff. Despite protests from the staff she was called in; a sight to behold in her white kimono, done up hair, face paint, and her gold snake. It wasn't long before she diagnosed the lord of the house and began a regiment of medicine so precise and strict that it required her to be moved into the house. As it happened during this short time the sorceress took an interest in the lady of the house; so much was noted by the mansion staff. They even spoke on a regular basis, for some reason the lady of the house who to them had previously always been a quiet woman with a sad expression except in public; yet always with a sad look in her eyes became genuinely happy around the sorceress. An attendant of the young lord overheard her one night tell the sorceress her sad past and how much she missed her brother and even how they'd secretly play together growing up. The sorceress offered to play majong with her, and after this it became a nightly thing for them; quickly becoming close friends.
Now it came to be not long after the young lord began to feel better, yet was told he needed to say in bed despite this; much to his annoyance that the attendant who had begun to spy on the dealings between the mistress of the house and the sorceress overheard something unbelievable. The mistress demanded that the sorceress take her make up off and show her the truth, that the mistress had suspected for some time the sorceress was indeed her brother. The attendant could not believe his ears and peeked into the room as the sorceress wiped off her make up and the mistress despite herself hugged her; the sorceress was indeed her long lost brother.
The attendant was quick to report this to the young master; who was furious and had them both arrested. He claimed it was all a plot, that the sorceress had drugged him, and that is why only she could cure him, all part of some plot to get into the castle. Perhaps even to slowly kill him off so he and his sister could take over the manner for themselves as some kind of spiteful revenge plot against their father. All this…well most of this story was told to the judge and the jury in the court case to follow. Only now, it has come to full light on the events.
"Am I right?"
The court room is still, all parties as silent as mice staring down a snake as the woman standing in the middle of the court room before the judge finishes the tale. A woman dressed in a long black regal dress with corset and cleavage revealing top; her long blackish red hair adorning her back like a short cape decorating her ebony gown. The sister and her brother, still dressed in the sorceress attire sit at the defense stand, the young lord and his lawyer at the prosecution stand.
"What is not told," continues the woman, "is that this young lady is not a boy. Her father raised her as a son, forcing the idea of being a simpleton upon him as he knew he'd have to marry off one son, and any daughters he had, but needed another to watch over his precious Water Roses. This young lady never even knew the differences between the genders, her mind warping under the stress into two separate personalities, one masculine, one feminine, till the feminine one could gain control. A clever self inflicted spell if I do say so myself; naturally the result of looking into the mirror that reflects the inner self."
She walks up to the judge, "I have been watching this sorceress for some time, her sister too and her latent skills that have gone un-educated in this environment. This branch of the Lee family has until now shown little promise. They may have no future here, but I will have them transferred to my palace for proper education in the mystical arts. Serendipity brought them back together, the circumstances would harm them, but I am a sucker for a happy ending."
The judge gulps and says, "Case closed by order of the Empress."
The father was not happy to hear his secret come to light; his old business acquaintances and friends shunned him. Some of his oldest friends couldn't believe he'd do that to his own children and wandered what his deceased wife would think of him. The eldest son and the mayor's son were hit my more paparazzi than they could stand. The daughter and her sister who she had thought was her brother moved into the massive castle of the empress where they were trained in combat and magic much to their surprise as the daughter's magical talent was one more for fighting than anything else. They became famous and trained hard. The sorceress sister even re-opening her shop in a near by town. In time the daughter re-married, although her sister having been raised a boy for so long never could bring herself to view men like that; although its said she did have more than a few female lovers possibly a few of the more feminine looking men as well during her long and now happy life before she settled down with a very lovely looking man who was often apt to wear an enchanted feather boa as she was to have her enchanted bow snake around her shoulders.
And that dear readers is where I close the book on this little tale; happily ever after.