Her first few memories were fuzzy, indistinct, with brief moments of clarity in between.
Like the dark eyes of the man who would sometimes hold her with infinitely tender care, as if he was quietly terrified of accidentally breaking her.
Or the warm voice that would hum to her when she was feeling particularly distressed and uncomfortable.
Full self-awareness, as it turned out, wouldn't come until shortly after she turned one.
”Kyo-chan!” A familiar voice called out, drawing her attention from where she'd been contemplating the baby blanket she was sitting on.
It was a soft yellow, like the sun in early spring.
Or at least what had passed as such in her memories.
Looking up at the smiling woman who was crouching in front of her, she once again took in the clean, familiar features, the smile that softened dark, otherwise sharp eyes.
”Kaa-san,” she returned clumsily, her tongue feeling thick and uncooperative in her mouth.
Her voice was high, light and unrefined in a way she still wasn't used to, and it'd been months since she realised what all this was.
What it must be.
”Are you hungry, Kyo-chan? Kaa-san's made you breakfast,” the woman said, in a shade too dignified to be a croon.
She managed a nod, lifting her arms in the universal request to be lifted.
Something the woman, her- her mother, gladly answered, effortlessly lifting her off the floor and into strong, secure arms.
As she was carried to the small kitchen table, she couldn't help but compare everything she was now experiencing to what she could remember before... Before.
She was reluctant to call it a different life, because she couldn't remember dying. But what else could it be?
Not that her previous existence had been perfect, or anywhere close to it, the thought of having actually died...
God, her mother must be a wreck.
Had her siblings cried for her? Where they doing so even now, more than a year later?
Were they even alive? How much time had passed between her supposed death and rebirth?
Not that reincarnation was a new or at all foreign concept to her. She'd been a rather firm believer of it, it fact. In an off-hand, casual sort of way.
But she'd never actually expected to experience something like this herself. Not with memories of half a life-time intact.
Ra- No. The woman who was her mother here called her Kyo, and that was what she must go by. At least until she knew for certain what was going on.
She'd always remember her real name, of course. The one her mum had given her, that everyone had always had trouble pronouncing -for some inexplicable reason, it wasn't like it had been that hard- and everyone always asked where it came from.
Kyo was nice enough, even though it sounded strange in reference to herself.
At least the food was good; she'd always loved rice.
Stubbornly ignoring the woman's attempt to feed her, Kyo stuck a poorly coordinated hand into the bowl of the soft white grains and brought a small fistful of them to her mouth, sucking them off her fingers with what was without a doubt abysmal motor skills.
She didn't mind as much as anyone else in her position probably would; she'd always loved eating with her hands, and her 'kaa-san' made sure to keep her relatively clean, so it wasn't like her fingers were filthy.
Ah, well. Some dirt went a long way to clean out your stomach and build up the immune system. It'd always been a strong belief in their house, Before.
“Such a stubborn little lady,” kaa-san mused, not so much as blinking at the less than stellar table manners she was displaying. “Don't forget the fish; protein is important for growing children,” she smiled, pushing another plate a bit closer.
Kyo eyed the fried fish with interest, even as she stuck another handful of rice in her mouth.
She ignored the minor mess she was making, focusing instead on more important matters. Like the fact that she didn't have enough control of her own hands to grab the fish without crushing it.
Well. It would look worse in her stomach, so.
As she ate, kaa-san gave a pleased hum, leaning back in her chair to observe. Taking note of her every move.
Kyo wasn't used to this level of attention fixed on her person; not even when she'd been a child the first time.
Having been the middle child, born between two loud, very demanding siblings, she'd gotten used to being content to amuse herself in the background. Intervening occasionally -or a lot- as mediator when her older sister had reached her limit with their baby brother.
Someone had had to stop her from accidentally harming him when tempers and emotions ran high and there wasn't an adult conveniently close at hand.
Most of the time nowadays, she felt like she was living with a spotlight following her every move.
There wasn't anything of the sort, of course, just her kaa-san's hawk-like gaze.
“So,” kaa-san said once Kyo had decimated her breakfast. “What would you like to do today?”
“Park,” Kyo piped back, turning towards the woman to make it easier for her to wipe her face clean.
Toddlers were messy eaters, and Kyo was determined to regain her hand-eye coordination as soon as possible, which meant she wanted to do as much as possible by herself.
It had been something of a personal motto already her first time around, and she saw absolutely no reason to change that now.
God, the story with the soup had haunted her even in her twenties. Eat soup with your thumb instead of a spoon one time as a baby and everyone insisted on bringing it up for the rest of your life.
It had been done with love and warm amusement, but still. It got old after the hundredth time or so.
Her kaa-san tilted her head, eyeing her thoughtfully, before flicking a considering eye towards the living room window, visible through the doorway to the kitchen.
“Very well then, Kyo-chan,” she said, picking her up and taking her into 'her' room.
She was dressed quickly and efficiently for a day spent outside, a white, rather nice little sun hat shading her eyes, and a shoulder bag was packed almost too fast for her to see what went inside.
When they were both ready, her kaa-san picked her up again, carrying her on one arm so that she was leaning comfortably against her chest and shoulder, and then they were off.
Kyo watched everything with wide, intent eyes.
She'd only been outside a few times so far, that she could remember clearly, and she found it equal parts fascinating and mildly unsettling.
It was warm here, far more so than back home. The sky was a deep blue it'd rarely even gotten at the hight of summer Before, and the people looked different.
Oh, it wasn't anything blatantly obvious, but little things here and there. Things that were just ever so slightly off.
The way some people dressed was foreign. And she meant that in a literal sense. Combined with the food -almost always accompanied by rice- and the seemingly constant heat, she wondered if she'd been reborn somewhere in Asia.
The language, somewhat familiar, seemed to enforce the impression.
Soon enough, the busy street changed into soothing greenery, with far less people hurrying about and less noise grating on her small, sensitive ears.
Kyo took in her new surroundings, though they were slightly more familiar; she'd been here twice before already.
She was soon enough sat down on pleasantly cool grass, and amused herself by pulling up fistfuls of it while her kaa-san took out the yellow blanket, shook it out on the grass and then settled herself on top of it.
Kyo looked up to meet the woman's gaze, wondering if she'd be relocated away from the grass, but her kaa-san seemed content enough to leave her at it.
Bolstered by this development, Kyo continued her quest towards fully functioning, dexterous digits and pulled up another clump of grass.
She could admit, when she stopped to think about it, how little it took to fascinate her nowadays. Just the sight of the butchered blades of grass falling from her pudgy fingers was enough to near-entrance her.
They were a very pretty green, admittedly, but she was used to slightly more exhilarating stuff.
The soft rustling of paper drew her attention away from her own activity back to her kaa-san, who had withdrawn a book from the bag and was now scanning the pages with the quiet competence she did almost everything.
Shit, she was so vastly different from her mother it wasn't funny.
She couldn't help but love her, though.
Kyo was aware that she was a very young child, and that this woman was her biological mother. It was only natural for there to be a connection, for there to be love, there.
And it wasn't like she'd ever been zealously guarded with her love Before, not in a familial sense, but... it didn't feel quite right. She could remember her mother bringing in strays left right and centre, their home always open for those who needed it, and she'd always aspired to grow up to be like the woman who had shaped her entire being; who had made her the person she was.
She'd been proud to be that woman's daughter. Had thought the world of her mother even after she was old enough to realise she was just as fallible, just as human as everyone else.
Reassured that her kaa-san was where she'd indicated she would be, Kyo turned her attention to the rest of the park.
There were a few other mothers around with one or several children that presumably belonged to them, all running around or playing in the sandbox.
Hm. She'd liked playing in the sand when she'd been little.
Why not give it a try?
Actually, to be entirely honest, she'd liked playing in the sand even as an adult. It was fun, and strangely therapeutic.
With a new spark of determination, Kyo slowly managed to push herself onto wobbly legs, keeping her hands on the ground for as long as she needed until it felt like she wouldn't fall right over if she tried to stand up properly.
She could walk, thank you very much, she just... needed a bit of time to get upright. Once she was there, however, she was mostly good.
“Kaa-san,” she said, attracting the woman's attention instantly.
“Yes, Kyo-chan?” She asked, holding the book open with one hand.
Scrunching up her face as she tried to remember the word for sand, she eventually just pointed in the direction of the sandbox with an inquisitive expression, even though this was more along the lines of her telling her kaa-san where she was going.
Something the woman seemed to appreciate and approve of.
“Of course,” she said with a slight smile. “Go have fun.”
Kyo grinned at her kaa-san and then made her way across the grass until she could pull herself over the wooden frame keeping the sand from spilling all over the place.
There were already a couple of kids there, one of whom seemed to be eating the sand more than playing with it.
Kyo was perfectly happy to ignore him in favour of burying her hands as deep in the sand as she could get them, smiling a little to herself at the feeling of the tiny, tiny grains of rock against her skin.
It didn't take long at all before she was gathering sand in a steadily growing pile in front of her, determined to attempt to build one of the huge sandcastles she could remember making with her mother and little brother in the sandbox they'd had in their garden when she was little.
Her brother had been more of a hindrance than a help, to be honest, as he'd been mostly interested in tearing the thing down than help build it, and she could remember how frustrated and angry she'd been with him, no matter how silly it seemed in retrospect.
Frowning a bit as she patted the sand to make it more compact, Kyo contemplated her own feelings.
Missing people hadn't really ever been something she'd done. Much to her sister's despair, but it'd just been how it was. She supposed she'd always lived very much in the present when it came to the people around her; enjoying the ones she had close while it lasted.
She could feel the gaping absence, though. No one was just a phone-call away any more. Not here.
As she didn't have any tools to work with save for her hands, she began to painstakingly dig out a cave at the bottom of the mostly cone-shaped pile she'd made, finding herself wishing for the impressive collection of toy cars she'd had as a child.
This would have made a perfect garage.
Kyo had just started on a smaller cave, or maybe a window, higher up on the sand construct when a foot came down on the thing and sent the sand cascading down into a sad-looking pile that didn't look like anything other than a crumbled ruin.
Staring dispassionately at the mess, Kyo wasn't exactly heartbroken at the loss of the less-than-impressive castle she'd attempted, but it was still annoying.
When she looked up at the gleeful, smug boy who was still stood before her, she felt her annoyance tick up a few notches.
He was older than her, by at least a year, more likely two, she estimated critically; she wasn't exactly an expert on children. And he was grinning to himself, all but dancing on the spot.
“Mean,” she told him quite bluntly.
The kid paused, and then turned to her to give her a mildly confused and dismissive look. As if she didn't matter.
Frowning at the boy now, Kyo pointed at the pile of sand. “Help fix,” she demanded firmly.
“I'm too big to play with babies,” the boy declared with a sniff.
And oh, that was just insulting. Who was the baby, destroying other people's projects?
With a scowl, that no doubt looked more like a pout -toddlers' faces weren't made to scowl- Kyo scanned their immediate surroundings until she spotted what she'd been hoping for.
Getting to her feet, indifferent to the amount of sand clinging to her bottom and clothes in general, she reached out to grab the boy's shirt in her pudgy, dirty hand, Kyo put all of her rather inconsequential weight into pulling the boy with her out of the sandbox.
“Hey! What are you doing? I don' wanna,” the kid whined, trying to get her to let go, though she was pleased to note that he was largely unsuccessful.
If that was because she'd managed to build up enough strength in her hands during the last few weeks to make it difficult, or because he was just incompetent, she didn't know.
The boy tried to jerk away from her, and while it was enough to disrupt her balance and land her on her butt, she didn't lose her hold on his shirt, which she was pleased to see looked a bit stretched as a result.
Without a hint of remorse, she used it to pull herself back onto her feet and continue her trek.
When she reached the bench placed strategically close to the sandbox, she slapped a hand onto one of the women's knees to get her attention. And why wasn't she keeping a better eye on her son, anyway?
The kid sure seemed to need it, if his actions had been anything to go by.
The woman in question blinked her brown eyes and then turned to look at her, having to look down even when she was sitting.
“Ah, yes, dear?” She asked tentatively, taking in the sight of her son struggling to make the little child let go of his t-shirt.
“He breaked my sand,” Kyo told her quite clearly, even though she was pretty sure she'd gotten something wrong. Such were the hazards of learning a new language, she knew, and that wasn't even mentioning the fact that she was learning how to speak again in general.
“Er-” the woman looked quite blind-sided, to be honest.
Not that Kyo cared overly much. She'd gotten enough of spoiled children at work, and she really thought this woman ought to put in more effort into raising her spawn. Instead of gossiping with her friend, she should keep an eye on him and make sure he didn't terrorise the rest of the playground.
Not that she had any actual proof this wasn't his first offence, but it was best to nip these things in the bud.
Kyo was aware that it might be a bit hypocritical of her, considering the fact that she hadn't had any children of her own, but it sounded like common sense.
“Where's your mother, little one?” The other woman asked, leaning over her with an overly concerned look on her face that made Kyo want to frown uncomfortably.
“That would be me,” kaa-san's familiar voice said smoothly from a little ways behind Kyo, and she instantly relaxed. “Your son was bothering my daughter in the sandbox, infringing upon her personal boundaries with no provocation.”
Kyo nodded, because yeah, that was one way to put it.
Now that she'd brought the issue to the adults' attention, she gratefully released the hold she had on the boy's t-shirt, feeling the strain in her ridiculously fragile fingers.
The two women shrank back when they looked up and laid eyes on her kaa-san.
Kyo blinked, took in their suddenly rigid postures, the way Sand Boy's mother made an aborted move to grab her child, as if to pull him behind her.
She wasn't stupid, but she couldn't quite grasp the reason for the sudden fear.
Her kaa-san hadn't done anything to warrant it; hadn't so much as raised her voice or puckered her brows into the mild frown she sometimes got when she was displeased with something.
Looking over the two women carefully, Kyo took in the feminine dresses they were wearing and their long, loose hair, reaching half-way down their arms. They had simple sandals on their feet, more leather straps securing soles to the bottom of their feet than anything else.
In comparison, her kaa-san was wearing sensible trousers, a t-shirt similar to the one Kyo herself was wearing and a pair of sturdy-looking almost-boots. Admittedly, the toes were bare, but it was warm and it really only made sense to try and let some air in.
“We're very sorry to have disturbed your day,” the woman hastily apologized, pushing her son's head down in a rushed bow.
Her kaa-san made a soft noise she might have been tempted to call a scoff, though she looked more amused than anything.
“Kyo-chan?” She questioned, crouching down to be closer to her level, ignoring the two women and the boy now, focusing instead fully on her own daughter.
“Was rude,” she grumbled, disgruntled, wiping her hands on her shorts in a half-hearted attempt to make them less dirty. Her kaa-san held her hand out expectantly, and Kyo happily held out both of her own hands in response, perfectly pleased to let the woman wipe them clean with the wet-wipe she'd pulled out of somewhere.
“There are a lot of rude people, Kyo,” she said calmly. “There'll be plenty of time to work on how to handle them, though.”
Kyo peered at the woman who was her mother, trying to take the words to heart.