In the early 1900s, the nation of Aetheri came out of its long interdimensional isolation and revealed to the humans of the Symphony Archipelago that they were not alone in the multiverse. Things swiftly got ugly after that.
In the early 1990s, Aetheri's leadership changed, and in the Archipelago, a tiny broken family of half-siblings banded together in the face of the bile and hate that was boiling up between the humans and the non-humans.
In the early 2000s, that family was split apart. Hawk Press and his sister Liya Kiski both begin a long and exhaustive journey towards understanding the difference between friend and enemy--and between the family you're given, and the family you make.
The purple twilight gave out to a cobalt-blue dusk that lingered over the glassy, wide river which lay between the Palace and the city of Escalus. The bus--if it could be called a bus, because it was fish-shaped, with windows like scales and no wheels at all--sped across the bridge that spanned the river, suspended in midair, its fins tracing electric-blue tracks set into the road. The air was full of clusters of bright yellow lights, bobbing this way and that, swarming in bunches on the thin cables that ran between each pillar of the bridge. The fish-bus passed unlit, slow, lumbering wagons drawn by elephant-like beasts, heading leisurely for the Palace.
"Who is Shinobu, anyway?" Liya asked presently. She sat next to Yoshi, on her knees, peering out the window at the river whipping by. The bus was full of creatures, some human-looking and others not at all, but she was looking outside. "She's not your mom, right?"
"Right," Yoshi agreed. He'd changed from his torn uniform into a dark shirt, a subtly-patterned skirt that fell to his boots, a wide leather belt, and a mint-green scarf edged in pale orange. "She is, um..."
He paused for a moment, mulling it over.
"My seradh?" he said finally, shrugging. "There is no good translation for it. Someone who brings you up, like family, though they may not be related to you."
"Serad?" Liya repeated, curiously. Yoshi actually smiled at her pronunciation.
"Seradh," he said.
Yoshi pointed at his mouth. "Touch your tongue to your teeth. Seradh."
Liya sat up. "Stherad," she tried.
"On the 'd.' Seradh."
"Seradth. Seradth. Seradth!"
That drew a chuckle from Yoshi, as the bus finally reached the bridge's down slope and sped towards the glittering city.