1 Chapter 1: Hope's Orphanage

How many people can boast of being able to teleport from one place to another just by closing their eyes? Kids, because during their sleep, their parents carry them from the couch to their bed.

Older people, because their loved ones, accustomed to falling asleep everywhere, are familiar with the same exercise.

But this event is rarely permanent. And rarely takes place over long distances.

It was gentle swings that awakened Asher.

All around him was black, which was already strange. But in addition, he could feel beneath his stretched body a sort of thin, rough cloth that was certainly not his bedspread. His whole cabin, whatever it was, was slowly moving, as if it were moving forward. He could vaguely hear voices coming from somewhere in front of him, but he could not clearly distinguish them.

Deciding that he was too tired to think about his situation, he put all the questions back to the back of his brain and went back to bed. Sleep struck him immediately.

He was awakened a second time by cries and cavalcades that made him want to throw something big and solid in their direction. Preferably an encyclopedia or a brick.

He tried to fall asleep again, but could not and resigned himself to opening his eyes.

To drop a shocked:

"What the hell is this? »

He was in an unfamiliar room with dirty grey walls, in an unfamiliar bed – horribly hard indeed – and obviously in an unfamiliar place too. Lowering his head, he noted his new outfit, a sort of big blue blouse badly washed and torn cloth trousers, and realized that he must have been. . . kidnapped.

Yeah, that's probably what it was. He didn't see any other explanation.

But why did he feel so. . . small?

He didn't even have time to think about it any longer: the door opened violently to a chubby woman in a blue dress and a white apron who yelled:

"Didn't you hear the bell? Get up and get down! »

Before she left like a gust of wind.

"How the hell does she speak to me? Asher was indignant in a low voice. And who is it by the way? »

He stood still for a moment, then decided to go down: perhaps he would learn more. He got out of bed, put on the torn slippers he found on the floor and went out. He found himself in a hallway whose walls were covered with doors from which several children dressed like him came out. This kind of scene made him think of a particular habitat.

"An orphanage", he murmured. But. . . it's impossible! What the hell am I doing in an orphanage? »

Last I heard, he was living in a real house, not on the street. Right?

Why did he feel that he had forgotten something very important?

"Hey, are you moving or what? Supervisors don't like it when you're late! »

He jumped, put his thoughts back into his mind and followed the kids to the end of the hall. They went down a wooden staircase that creaked on all sides and came into a large space with some furniture. To their right was a large blue door, and to the left another corridor. Twenty other kids were lined up in the middle of the room, and after blinking surprise eyes several times, Asher decided to imitate his fellow travelers who went to position themselves in the same way. No sooner had he stood beside a blond girl who looked like a murderer, than a woman dressed like the one just now appeared from the hallway with a wand in her hand. She stared at them all with a haughty air (the boy refrained from raising his eyes to the ceiling) and said:

"I'm Anna, deputy head of the Hope Orphanage. I hope you are grateful for your presence here: no other institution wanted to welcome you. »

Her brown eyes shot the children who took care to lower their heads as she continued:

"Most of you arrived recently, so I'll remind you of the rules: Nobody leaves your room after curfew, no late meals, otherwise you won't have anything to eat. I don't want anyone skipping class. And finally, you will abide by everything the adults of this establishment say. Is that understood?

'Yes, Mrs. Anna,' they replied with one voice.

-Good. I will now tell you about the other rules, which are less important, but which you will still have to respect. »

Asher listened to her with only one ear: he was too busy recalling the meager memories awakened by what he had heard.

Hope Orphanage. The only place where that name was mentioned wasn't even real. Or at least he wasn't supposed to be. . . It was an establishment that appeared in "MAGIC STORY", a rose water novel he had read some time ago. Since it had been closed somewhere at the beginning of the story, he didn't really care about it.

So. . . I was. . . transported in this book?

As if he had just pulled a lever in his head, a string of memories poured into his mind, so abruptly that it made him waver. However, he managed to contain himself.

He saw himself in a store, picking out his food for the week. Then a loud noise sounded at the entrance, making him turn around. After a sudden black, he saw himself lying flat on the ground, in the midst of other people, while men in black, hooded as they should, threatened them with their guns. By the time the police finally arrived, one of the robbers was pointing a gun at a boy who had stood up despite his mother's screams. He felt he was going to shoot, and his body moved by itself.

The next minute, he was on the floor, shot in the chest, while shouts were ringing around him. When he saw an ambulanceman come up, look at him and turn pale, he knew he couldn't survive it.

I don't care. It's not like there's a lot of things keeping him here. . .

Then he relived his surroundings at the moment he woke up in this world, before returning to the present moment.

So I'm dead, understood Asher, and I've been reincarnated? Well, then. . .

He wasn't as shocked as he should be, but it might come later.

"Hey! Let's go!

-Huh? »

He blinked his eyes, coming out of his thoughts, and realized that the lady-Madame Anna- had vanished and that all the kids were heading for the stairs.

"What's going on? Where are we going?

-To take a shower. Breakfast is in an hour. »

A shower. That's a good idea.

Realizing that there was a certain order of passage to avoid the rush, he took advantage of his waiting time to search his room. When he opened a drawer, he came across a broken hand mirror. He took it and looked at himself inside.

It was him, flesh and blood. The only differences were that he was younger, thinner and had a little longer hair. It seemed that his change of world had also led to a regression. By the looks of it, he must have been about 7 years old. Why, in all the situations of transmigration/reincarnation he knew, were these regressions omnipresent?

Sighing, he stroked his face, feeling he was going into a phase of narcissism (his features were quite advantageous) when the door opened to a boy in a clean grey suit who announced:

"It's your turn! »

He took his own clothes on a chair and went out, following a small group of seven children, to an open door.

The showers were similar to those in the sports locker rooms, except that they were very dirty. That was a limit for a shower. He entered one of the booths, and placed his load on the small tablet on the wall. Then he took off his clothes, pulled the lever after some trial and went under the jet.

The soap was a small pink block that smelled of a mixture of roses and soot. He grimaced and hurried. When he went out, his companions had not yet finished. He returned to his room, lay down on his bed, and thought peacefully about his situation.

He had thus died in his "first life" had been thrown – with a regression in age – into a novel of which he knew only the outline, as an orphanage newly arrived in an orphanage destined to be closed in a short time. For what, anyway? He didn't exactly see the details, but from what he wrote, he had a shady story underneath, didn't he?

Knock Knock!

Shit. . .

"What?

-Breakfast! Hurry up! »

So I'll never have peace in this damn place. . .

He went out muttering to resume the same path as before to double doors opening onto a kind of cafeteria. Taking a plateau, he got into the queue, which was advancing surprisingly fast.

This was explained when he received a small glass of milk, a slice of bread covered with. . . jam-or at least what looked like it- and another glass filled with juice.

Even before her transmigration, her breakfast was more decent.

He nevertheless went to sit down. As far as he knew, the orphanage did not seem to be on the verge of bankruptcy, so he had to have some time left before the fall, and even more so before the main story began.

But if he had to wait several more weeks, or months, in this kind of place, he wasn't sure he could handle it.

A crazy idea came to his mind.

"What if I speed up the process? »

Hope Orphanage, like all other Orphanages, provided children with basic literacy, numeracy and geography until they reached the maximum age of adoption at home, which was 10 years of age. Asher learned that he was indeed 7 years old, and that he had to attend the said classes, which devastated him. Technically, he was a 16-year-old who probably knew more than any kid in this place.

But, unwilling to make waves, he joined his classmates in a room with blue walls covered with scribbles and arranged like a real classroom, and took the office in the far back. The course lasted two hours: he had plenty of time to rethink the novel.

If there was anything that had marked him in "Magic Story", it was the Beast Tribes, made up of the beast men of the territory, and their small backdrop battles. Unfortunately, they were practically undeveloped, which annoyed him.

Well, as soon as he got out of here, he'd go see them. He knew that there were a few nearby, like the Cat Tribe, which was the most accessible. Most of its members were scattered throughout the city in their animal form, and it was not uncommon to see them in homes demanding food. As for the others, he knew there was the Fox Tribe, the Wolves Tribe and. . .

"Asher! »

He jumped and hold himself just in time at the table. When he raised his head, all eyes were on him. Especially those of the supervisor (what was her name again?) who seemed furious.

"Do you think it's time to air-gazing?!

-Sorry, ma'am.

-If you think a simple excuse will suffice. . . »

Grabbing her wand, she knocked it down on the board, asking in an imperious voice:

"How much is 78 x 200? »

Seriously?

"15 600", he replied almost simultaneously. »

The woman's expression was a mixture of amazement and "that boy remains a garbage under my sole" before she reiterate:

"201 x 44?

-8844. »

If there was anything he was good at, it was the mental calcul. Although he's sure that even at the level of the worst student in his class, he'd look like a genius here.

The teacher seemed to refrain from bursting with anger. She just whistled:

"Being smart doesn't mean you can't listen! Stop dreaming. »

And she turned to the board, writing more forcefully than necessary. No more worried than that, Asher whispered only one:

"And one enemy, one. . . »

Before he went back to his thoughts.

When the supervisor announced the end of the course, the young boy refrained from singing "Let it go" in his immense joy, went out as quickly as possible and followed those who preceded him to the cafeteria for lunch. Unlike breakfast, it was more complete: a plate of vegetables and red meat with a little sauce, a small chocolate cake and a glass of water. At least they weren't starving them.

He enjoyed his meal (especially the dessert) and went out last, heading straight to the huge courtyard at the back of the orphanage. He had an hour's break before evening classes, and he was looking forward to taking advantage of it.

The "garden", as it was called here, was simply a huge flowering lawn surrounded by enormous bushes, with trees planted all over the place. Asher did not linger in admiring the scenery: he went straight to a small group of shrubs in the background, pushed out a few branches to reveal a small passage, which he took, and ended up in a small grassy space. It was a relaxation area he had discovered just before school, perfect for a peaceful nap without the screams of the kids walking past his door.

He lay down comfortably and closed his eyes, feeling his whole body relax. A gentle torpor enveloped her whole body, allowing her to forget all her worries. If only that was the only thing he did all day, it would have been happiness.

"This is my vein, to be reincarnated in this type of life a second time. . . . »

Maybe he was destined to live like this in every life? He did'n't know.

At least as soon as he gets out of here, he'll be free. He was pretty sure that no one would adopt him, and if he did, he would be kicked out at the age of 10, either to be transferred to another orphanage that would take him for longer, or go to work somewhere. This case was rarer, occurring only in children 15 years of age and older.

"Anyway, after the closure of that orphanage, all the kids were transferred. . . »

He didn't know exactly how it happened, but with a small chance, he could take advantage of this moment to leave and start his life as a vagrant. Maybe they wouldn't look at the list of residents? Even if they did, he doubted that they would care about the disappearance of a single orphan.

It's not like all the street kids end up in orphanages. . .

He sighed and his thoughts drifted to his idea of investigating the orphanage. He regarded it mainly as a hobby knowing that the truth would be revealed sooner or later, but a strange feeling was running through his mind, as if he was forgetting something.

"Wait, what day is today? »

Wasn't there something going on in the next few weeks?

A loud voice interrupted him:

"Everyone in! »

He sighed deeply, thinking it would come back later, and came out of hiding.

But when he joined the other kids, he seemed to hear a voice:

"W-Wait. . . »

He turned sharply, scanned the surroundings, but saw no one. Was he dreaming? Seeing the supervisor who was looking at him from the door and tapping her foot, he murmured quickly:

"Wait for me, I'll come back tonight! »

He didn't even know if there was really someone, if that someone had heard him, or was going to do what he had said, but he didn't linger and ran to the group waiting for him.

Behind him branches shook, and two golden eyes appeared in the shadow of the branches, following his back, which went away.

Asher turned and turned in bed, but he couldn't fall asleep. His back was hurting because of the mattress a little too hard, and the blanket was itching him. He tried counting sheep to fall asleep, before trying the "think nothing" method that had worked so well before. Except it wasn't effective.

And there weren't even sleeping pills in that damn place.

Well ,fuck it, he whistled as he got out of bed.

Maybe a walk in the garden would tire him out enough to fall asleep like a log.

Retrieving his wool jacket, he went to the door, opened it and, after a quick glance, went out on tiptoes, taking care to close it behind him. He walked slowly through the dark hallway, trying to limit the creaking of the floor beneath his feet, and crossed his fingers not to meet anyone.

Of course, his prayers were not answered and he had to hide twice to escape from the supervisors on their rounds.

After a few minutes, the boy finally reached the back door and was able to go out into the garden. The latter was plunged into darkness, illuminated only by a lunar light (visually speaking). There was no noise, a slight breeze passing from time to time: the setting seemed almost magical. He walked to his hiding place, specifically to the place where the voice he had heard earlier in the day came from. Crouching down, he murmured:

"Hey, are you there? »

There was no answer. With a sigh he prepared to straighten up when branches to his right shook violently.

"Ha, so that's where you're hiding? »

And he brushed aside the leaves.

His eyes caught dark blue hair, bordering on black, before its owner jumped on him, causing him to squeal and fall to the ground. He let out a little scream, shook his head to remove the strands that had fallen on his face, and tried to move, only to find that his assailant was effectively blocking his arms on either side of his head.

The assailant was a younger boy who was currently grunting at him in an almost animal manner. And Asher would have found it odd, if he hadn't noticed the cat ears on the top of his skull and the tail beating furiously in the back.

With all his wisdom and gentleness, he uttered a light:

"Oh, a boy-beast. »

The boy only growled louder.