A/N: This story has been a thought that has been sitting in my mind for quite some time now. For those of you who have read my stories before, you know that I am not good at maintaining a reasonable writing pace. So I was hesitant to start a new story considering that it has been a few years since I last posted anything. But our world sits at a halted pace right now, as many of us prioritize the health and safety of those around us, we sit at home working, reading, writing and wondering. I hope to take the time to work my way back to creative writing. For those of you reading Lost, I have not forgotten. Right now, this story along with Lost will be the two stories I will work to move forward. I hope you forgive my failure to do so up until now and I hope you enjoy what I have to share now. *Please be safe, take care and stay healthy*.

Disclaimer: It may not be obvious now, but I will be creating the world for this story from Japanese/Chinese folklore. I take no credit for the mystery and fantasy that already exists surrounding these myths. Just the characters. :)

Prologue: Pain

Searing pain.

She awoke to searing pain.

Iliana gasped; she knew she wanted to scream, echo the pain searing through her body, the pain that blinded her gaze even as she fought for air.

"Calm down, relax," a soothing voice hovered above her. "Relax."

She wanted to panic but she fought to control it. Fought to pull herself together. Slowly her lungs opened up, oxygen rushing through her airways. She breathed, erratically but she breathed. The pain in her lungs dulled. But that wasn't the only pain.

Iliana let her gaze adjust. "Where am I?" the words came out a faint whisper, she wasn't even sure she had managed to get them out.

A woman was leaning over her, a moist towel in hand, she reached over to dab at her face. "How do you feel?" she asked a question instead.

Iliana wanted to answer, felt compelled to do so but she held back her answer. She stared up at the woman above her. Beautiful. No other way to describe her. Clearly Asian in race, she was wrapped in what Iliana thought was a kimono, soft brown eyes clouded in worry were staring down at her. Her dark black hair pulled away from her face and held in place by a comb studded with white pearls. A soft layer of winged eyeliner accentuated a gentle gaze set in an oval face, soft pink on delicate lips…porcelain skin. She had never seen someone so beautiful.

"Who are you?" the words came out before she had even processed them.

The woman smiled. "That hardly matters right now. Tell me how you feel," she prodded again.

Iliana hesitated. "It hurts," she said finally. "Everything hurts…I feel like I got pulverized…like every bone in body is broken…like I may never get up…" her voice had started to shake.

The worry that already clouded the woman's face intensified. "I see," she whispered. "I want to look at your back, I'm going to turn you…" she moved slowly to place a hand on her left shoulder and left hip. "If you can try to roll, it will help."

Iliana felt her push and it took all her strength not to cry. But she strained to move her body with the force of the woman's movement. She felt cold…her back felt cold. And she realized with shock that she wasn't clothed. She was lying under a soft warm blanket, but she couldn't feel any clothing on her. She was naked. Entirely.

Something warm ran down her back and Iliana felt a pang of pain radiate from her back. She gasped.

"I'm sorry," the woman apologized. "You're wounded, I need to clean it out before it gets infected."

The towel. She was wiping down her back…because she was wound? How? Too many things to process. To comprehend. Where was she? How had she gotten there? Why was she in so much pain? Where were her clothes?

Iliana could barely keep her head clear. With every stroke of the towel, her body spasmed with pain. She could feel herself trembling; silent tears had started to streak her face. She could barely kept herself conscious.

"It will be over soon," the woman whispered as she moved behind her, Iliana felt her tabbing again at her back but it was different this time. Like she was layering on something against her skin. "This will help dull the pain," she promised.

It was a slow process, Iliana wasn't sure how long she lay rolled on her side but it felt too long. How wounded was she? The woman kept dabbing at her skin for quite some time…what had happened to her?

"There, all done," the woman spoke finally. "We have to let this dry so I'll need to lay you face down." She shuffled around and started shifting Iliana's body. Her legs, her hips, her waist…slowly she turned her body until finally Iliana was lying face down, her back cold against the open air. But the woman brought over a blanket, wrapping her body gently but warmly. Iliana felt strangely comfortable, like a child wrapped by a mother's embrace.

"Here," the woman brought a cup up to her mouth. She lifted Iliana's chin so she could bring the cup up to her mouth. "Drink, it will take away the pain."

Iliana hesitated briefly. What would refusing get her? She felt like she was dying…maybe she was dying.

The liquid was warm…it tasted like tea but bitter, faintly gingery, faintly sweet. It tasted like medicine.

"That's good," the woman smiled. "Rest now, you will need your strength."

She moved away and Iliana lost sight of her…and her eyes began to droop. Exhausted. She was exhausted. Iliana was asleep before she even knew.

12hrs earlier.

She wanted to scream.

Iliana was staring at her desktop computer in frustration. The error message that kept popping up on her screen mocking her and her efforts. Fudging server. This was not how she wanted to finish off the week.

She sighed heavily and turned away from her computer. She needed to clear her mind, this week had been to much. Nothing had worked…too much failure for one week. The office was quiet, 6pm on a Friday and everyone was gone. Had left to go home to their family and children. It was just her and another researcher, a young man who lived and breathed by the process of his work.

Iliana walked calmly through the office, stretching her arms as she went, her mind still on the data she had failed to analyze. Something was wrong with the code…she didn't know what but the server had never popped back such a vague error message. She was going to have to email the boss.

She walked down the long silent hallway, the click of her boots echoing with the hum of the instruments. She liked it when it was empty, there was a peacefulness to the place when it was just her working alone…she walked until she reached the last lab at the end of the hallway, pulled on her safety glasses and walked in.

It was a lab, like any other. PCR machines, plate readers and centrifuges on every bench. Iliana walked in to clean up the mess she had left earlier. Too late to move forward, she was too frustrated to even try. It was time to go home, drink a glass of wine.

She moved quickly and efficiently. Stashing away tubes and pipets, freezing down DNA and protein. Throwing away the failed remnants of an ELISA she had tried to run earlier. She would try again next week.

She walked back to her desk and powered down her computer. Easily cleaning up the paperwork and stashing it into a drawer. She locked her desk, grabbed her purse and walked out. Waving goodnight to the last researcher who was left behind.

It was cold. It was always cold. Six years she had lived in the bay area and still she was always unprepared for the cold. Today wasn't any different. She wrapped her arms around her waist, tightening her coat and kept walking, through the campus of research buildings; the place that had made itself famous for developing one of the most successful antibody treatments for breast cancer therapy. A biotech giant, leader in the San Francisco industry.

Iliana climbed up the stairs towards the parking structure. The lights that illuminated her path flickered. She slowed down to glance up at the light post. A gust of wind rebounded from the walls behind her. Iliana frowned, she turned around to look back at the buildings she'd just walked past.

It was quiet. Too quiet. There was no wind; she couldn't feel the usual breeze of the bay brushing against her face. She could feel the cold air but everything was standing still. The light post flickered again.

"You're being paranoid," she whispered to herself. But even so she turned back towards the parking structure, her feet carrying her up the steps at an even quicker pace.

She rushed to her car. It was one of maybe ten vehicles still left on site. No one else was there. The silence echoed. She walked quicker, closing the distance between her and her tiny two-seater Mazda. A car she had painstakingly saved for.

She was maybe six feet from the driver side door, her inexplicable panic subsiding when wind gushed around her again. Something fell in front of her. Not something…someone.

A tall figure had appeared standing between her and her car. The lights of the parking lot all flicked out casting its silhouette in shadows. She could barely make out the shape of a face, sharp features marred by long hair…hair that cascaded down board shoulders.

She stepped back and opened her mouth to scream. But the figure was faster. She had barely taken a breath when a hand clasped over her face, covering her mouth, covering her nose. Another hand came up grip the base of her neck, holding her in place. Iliana started kicking and punching; she hit firm muscle but nothing about what she did seemed to change the firm stance of the person who held her.

Her strength waned. She was losing the air in her lungs and her panic flared. Her vision spotted…she was fainting.

She felt the grip relax slightly, a trickle of air but not enough to stop the inevitable. Iliana fainted but not before she saw it.

Wings. She saw wings.

A/N: Feel free to review, comment or critic. Always appreciate the feedback.