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The Lady Yixi Chronicles - Chapter 1: Sky Blue

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By TwistTheFray   |   
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 Her eyes hurt. They were closed. Why?
 It was bright. She could tell that much through her eyelids. Was she asleep? Was it morning already? It felt like sunlight warming her cheeks and her chest.
 She forced her eyelids to reveal her eyes to the world, fighting her reflex to cover her sensitive sight. As her eyes grew accustomed to the powerful rays, the world around her began to take shape.
 There was something large and circular directly in front of her. It was centered around the height of her stomach and a couple feet in radius. Its edges were ridged in a pattern, but her vision was not yet prepared to make out details; was it spiked?
 She blinked several times. The sunlight shone so brightly in her eyes that a few tears ran down her cheeks, but determined to see just what the morning had in store for her, she opened her eyes wide to everything before her.
 That's when she recognized the shape. Quickly afterward, she recognized her own hand on it, then immediately felt its rough texture in her palm. It was the wheel of a ship. The wood was old and looked rough, but polished and finished well. Handles protruded from the circle, aligning with symmetrical spokes on the inside connecting to the ship's turning mechanisms. It was on one of these handles that her soft right hand rested, feeling the polished wood inside the curl of her fingers.
 Behind the wheel was a thick wooden railing finished to a shine. A speck of dust would stick out on its surface like a tower in the sea. The railing stretched for several feet to her left and to her right in a straight line before curving sharply toward the bow. Posts attached to the rail that topped the stairs leading down. The posts were crowned with decorative wooden spheres.
 She ran to the post on her left and wrapped her arms around the globe adorning the rail. Before her lay a short set of stairs leading to a long, wide open wooden deck that came to a point in front and had solid guards around the edges.
 She walked to the closest edge guard and looked over it. No, she did not see the spray of seawater; what she saw was even more wondrous. Stories and stories down below sat a plethora of bleach white buildings with blue rooftops. She and her vessel floated weightless high above them all. By they went at a snail's pace as she and her ship gently slid through the air.
 She turned her head to her right and cast her gaze out past the bow of the ship. She stared at the landscape. As the white buildings came to a gradual end, the deep green of plant life took their place. Grassy knolls shaped the surface like gentle waves of greenery. Beyond that, the sun that had dazzled her eyes moments ago dazzled her again -- this time not with painful brightness, but with awesome beauty. An unstoppable grin crossed her features as she watched the reflection of the sun gleam off of the surface of the sea that laid past the lush hills. She knew immediately that she wanted that to be her destination.
 Could she reach that destination? Of course! After all, she already had the airship!
 She reached over and grabbed a nearby rope. The line was taut. It ran down against the rail over the side of the ship to some location far below her feet and up far above her head to the upper part of the ship: the balloons.
 Above her head floated three enormous balloons: the first one, high up above her head, was painted black; the second and much larger one was dark blue and loomed above the center of the ship at a significantly lower height; and the last was white, smaller like the first, and situated above the front of the ship.
 The front of the ship was called the... aft? No, that was the back. No, the back was the stern. She thought back to what she had read about airships. She would have to ask one of the help later... when she returned... whenever that would be.
 How long would she be gone? Where would she go? Maybe she could make it all the way to the fjords; she had always wanted to see snow. Maybe she could visit the magnificent cities of the Mercantile Guild.
 Giddy with excitement, she returned to the helm. She grasped a handle with her left hand and reached for the gear controls to the right. Her chest bumped into the wheel awkwardly as her right hand missed its mark.
 She took a moment to grab the helm with both hands and stand herself upright. Then her eyes looked to the right of the wheel in search of the gear lever.
 She found no gear selector. It should be just to the right of the wheel. She had seen so many pictures. She knew the gear lever sat on a pole next to the wheel. It was a big circular mechanism with a lever on the right side attached to a face plate that outlined the currently selected gear. Pulling the lever up counter clockwise put the engines in higher forward gears; pulling the lever down clockwise put the ship in reverse gears. There were four forward gears and four reverse. She recalled all of this clearly in her head. She could picture it. She knew that it should be there.
 This is when she realized something else that she found strange: there was no wind in her face. She did not feel her cheeks resisting the force of air as she was carried forward. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind that she felt the air stir around her. Her long dark hair gently nestled against the backs of her shoulders. The ends of her long sleeves rippled once, then again. She realized that the wind was coming from behind her -- astern! She remembered the word. It was definitely "astern".
 She turned around. A gentle breeze blew against her cheeks. It seemed that perhaps she had a tailwind. She walked back to the edge guard and looked over. She saw the same little house she saw before. She recognized the big triangular roof section that sloped off to her right and reflected the sun. It had been directly below her before; now it was to her right.
 Why was it to her right?
 She looked straight down and found something to watch. She located a lamp post at the base of the porch stairs of a relatively large house. She watched it closely and saw it slowly move toward her right. She was going backward.
 She was moving backward against the wind? The setting was quiet; the engines were off... she thought. She didn't even have the means to turn on the engines and though she had only seen pictures of airships before now and never actually been on one in flight, she thought that the engines would be loud; a few times in her life, airships had flown over her house and she had heard the echo of the grinding gears.
 She had no propellant with either a tailwind or no wind; what was making her go backward? She wanted to go forward!
 She stood up and removed her hands from the edge guard. She suddenly noticed that her long sleeves felt heavy. They hung just past her hands. She raised her right hand. The fabric was a pale blue fine silk with soft cotton trim on the ends of the sleeves. How long had she been wearing this? She just noticed it now. She remembered this dress, but she did not remember putting it on today... and she did not remember it being so big. The sleeves normally ended at her wrists.
 She looked toward the back of the ship. She felt the wind more strongly now. Amid the sea of blue roofs with white walls and greenery filling the gaps stood one large white shape directly astern. It peeked over the back of the ship. She took a step and nearly tripped on the fabric of her dress. She caught herself, adjusted the waist of her dress that got yanked out of place, and carefully walked forward, holding the fabric in her hands to prevent it from falling under her feet.
 She put her hands down atop the edge guard and looked out. She recognized the big white shape. It was her home. It was enormous compared to the buildings around it. If at all possible, the white of its walls seemed even more bright and clean than the walls of the surrounding buildings. It almost hurt her eyes. It did hurt her eyes. She began involuntarily squinting. She turned away and looked back out toward the bow.
 As soon as she turned around, something seemed out of place. It only took her a moment to realize that the ship's wheel was missing. Between her and the thick rail stood a short, wide wooden pole with a hole through it near the top. The hole was the slot in which the shaft connected to the wheel once sat. How could the wheel of the ship be gone? Of course, how could it be moving backward?
 Then her focus shifted further out. Her gaze wandered over the bow and out into the world. The sky was painted a deep hue; not a hint of a cloud marred the infinity of the expanse above her. A thought crossed her mind that this may be the truest form of "sky blue" that she had ever seen in her life. She wondered what her brothers and sisters would think of her thoughts on this sky; they would probably find it boring, but she found herself mesmerized by the magnitude of it all.
 She took a step toward the spot where the helm one sat. The fabric of her dress grew in folds under her feet. She stepped on the folds and tripped. She landed roughly on her palms, but her sleeves covered her hands; the thin silk softened the blow only slightly.
 Her dainty flat bottomed shoes a size too small for her feet scanned the ground trying to find the hard, unshifting deck of the ship, but all they found was the smooth dress fabric slipping under her toes. Getting frustrated, she put her feet down on her dress and stood tall. Carefully, she began to shuffle her feet along the smooth, polished deck toward the rail. The dress shifted under her feet seemingly of its own volition, nearly tripping her again. She planted her feet more firmly and grabbed the skirt above her legs to give her legs room to move. The dress that she had grabbed slipped from her fingers because she had to grab it through her sleeves, which at this point reached the deck.
 She struggled to the rail just behind the helm post. She threw her lengthening sleeves over the strong, polished wood and looked out at the world before her. With no control over her flight, she knew that she was headed back toward her home. She was moving away from the sea. The wind, strong at her back now, whipped her hair into her face.
 As the big ship silently flew in reverse, she felt tears welling in her eyes. She reached out her hand underneath her huge sleeves, the weight of the fabric seeing to pull her arm down. She held her reach out and imagined that she could feel the spray of the breaking ocean waves. Her eyes focused on the deep infinite blue before her.
 She saw no way to stop the ship's journey back to her home. She blinked a few times, forcing tears from her eyes.
 She decided that if she couldn't stop herself from leaving this beautiful horizon behind, the last she could do is enjoy it for as long as she was able. She looked out on the world before her. Her eyes scanned the broad expanse, memorizing as many details as she could and consciously committing them to memory. Her gaze drank in the depth of the blue sky. She listened and felt her chest rise and fall as she inhaled the air of higher layers of atmosphere than she has ever inhaled before. She tried to remember the shapes that the sparkling reflections of the sun made against the ocean as the waves wove in and out of each other.
 A bunch of her long hair was blown into her eyes. She blinked reflexively as it hit her eyes. She quickly pulled it out of her way and reopened her eyes. She stared at the yellowed spot on the ceiling -- the one that had been there for as long as she could remember. She felt a light weight on her and against her back. She was in her bed.
 She sat up. The fine sheets feel away from her upper body and collapsed in her lap. Though her eyes had been closed for hours, the sunlight in her dream made her swear that her eyes had to readjust to the darkness. She twisted to look behind her and upward. A few feet above her head sat the only window in her room. Soft morning sunlight crept into the room through the glass shielded hole.
 She stared at the dim light of day and cried. She cried both for the sorrow that the dream was only a dream, but also for the joy that she had the opportunity to experience such a dream.
This is a story based in the world of Guns of Icarus, a world of steampunk sky-drifting battleships in a desolate wasteland scarred by the last world war. Characters belong to the factions in Alliances, but most of the factions' backstories and all of the characters and plot are original.

This chapter briefly introduces the eponymous Lady Yixi. She sees the world in a way that many people don't. Her eyes drift upward.
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