Hello, I’m Odette the Duck, Princess Dawn’s tutor. I trained her in morph magic.
Does my appearance bother you? Truthfully, I am not a duck, but a schwanenjungfrau, a species of shapeshifter. Shapeshifters are not always liked, so I prefer to keep my true species hidden. I’ll share with you my knowledge about shapeshifters.
Shapeshifters are species of animals that can transform using morph magic. While there are morph mages who are normal animals (that’s what we shapeshifters call animals who don’t have our powers) who can transform themselves into different things, they are different. They don’t become more powerful when they transform themselves; it’s more like a disguise. True shapeshifters have a special innate form that they instinctively know how to change into.
Each empire classifies shapeshifters differently. We Roncefleurais call our shapeshifters weres, and Kikusekin call their shapeshifters yokai.
Weres, Roncefleur’s shapeshifters, are extremely powerful, but lack self-control. Moonlight and other triggers compel us to use our wands and transform. We are even stronger on clear nights. When the moon shines bright and the stars have broken through the clouds, I feel truly alive, like nothing in the world could stop me!
Unfortunately, our greatest strength can be a weakness. Even the most talented and experienced weres can’t control their power well. I’ve been purposefully practicing self-control my entire life, and I still can’t. This is why Roncefleurais are often wary of shapeshifters. Many weres are also predators who will hunt and eat normal animals. Most weres prefer to live among our own species, though we mingle with other animals. My species, schwanenjungfrau, are friendlier. Since schwanenjungfrau can only be female, we need males of other species to marry and produce offspring with. Unlike yokai, we weres can’t transform into anything other than our innate form, or use our magic in as many ways. However, yokai are incredibly weak compared to us.
Yokai, Kikuseki’s shapeshifters, are more versatile with morph magic, but far smaller and weaker than weres. They don’t seem to be any stronger than normal animals. On the other wing, they can use their magic to transform others and themselves into many forms. I’ve seen yokai transform enemies into stone to paralyze them, and even into glass to make them frailer. Like normal morph mages, they can transform themselves into other forms aside from their innate form.
Kikusekin have a less strained relationship with yokai than Roncefleurais do with weres. While yokai have a reputation for being tricksters, they don’t hunt normal animals and have far more control of their morph magic. To my knowledge, yokai usually live in their own clans and territories within the Kikusekin Empire, though they are much more apt to live among normal animals than weres.
When a shapeshifter and a normal animal reproduce, they create a half-shapeshifter. The children of these unions have unique traits that their parents do not. They can’t transform unless they inherit the shapeshifter parent’s species and they have an unusual shine to them. My mother was a shapeshifter, a schwanenjungfrau like me, but my father was a normal animal. That’s why my eyes and feathers shine purple. Schwanenjungfrau have purple eyes when they transform, and that same purple shade appears in the shininess. Unfortunately, half-shapeshifters tend to be frail and are much harder to care for than normal Liddluns.
Roncefleurais do not think highly of half-shapeshifters because of their poor health, but they still think half-shapeshifters are more trustworthy than pure shapeshifters. I doubt the royal family would have hired me and let me into the castle if I were a full-blooded were. It is taboo for shapeshifters and normal animals to breed, although we schwanenjungfrau will do it on occasion because our species is only female. My parents struggled to care for me and keep me healthy. Despite my incredible strength when transformed, I still have plenty of health issues.
Kikusekin have a very different view of half-shapeshifters. The previous emperor married a shapeshifter from a very prominent noble family, and while this marriage was controversial at the time, it led to more tolerance for relationships between shapeshifters and normal animals. Kikusekin find the odd shine that half-shapeshifters have to be very beautiful and desirable. In Kikuseki, it has become a status symbol to marry a shapeshifter and have half-shapeshifter offspring, not just because of their shininess, but because of the cost of maintaining them.
This has also bred many social climbers: normal animals seeking to marry shapeshifters to have half-shapeshifter offspring, and shapeshifters seeking wealthy normal animal spouses to marry and boost their status. I don’t know how I feel about this. I’m happy that shapeshifter-normal animal relationships are becoming more acceptable, but I think it’s irresponsible to bring half-shapeshifter Liddluns into the world unless you can afford to care for them.