Thursday, March 19, 2015

The "Best" RPG Ever-14

Rayna was looking through a rack of furisodes, eyeing one in particular in a darker red color than her current outfit, when she saw someone familiar seeing her through a store window and coming inside.

"Hey Rast," she said on hearing him step up behind her. "How are you today?"
"I'm alright. Cap has me on town duty for a while, least 'till Pirr is off the mend. Less dangerous and all. Uh, you and miss Lynn haven't accepted another job yet, have ya?"
"Nope," she said, turning around. He was wearing lighter armor than the day before, and no magic helmet, so his face and long hair were visible. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, ah, Cap has a special job...another of the patrols found something out there needs looking into, and she thought you'd be good for it."
"Sounds interesting," said the fox-girl, putting a hand close to her lip. "I'll have to check with my partner about it."
"Yeah, of course. Er, where is she by the way?"
"Just changing. She should be out soon if you can wait."
"Sure."
She pulled out the furisode she'd been looking at and held it up in front of her, looking it over. "Hmm.."

Lynn walked out of the changing room in a black tank top and knee-length skirt, with the same shoes and long socks she'd started out with. "Oh, hey Rast," she said, trying to ignore a noticeable jump in her heart rate and a slight heat in her cheeks. "What's up?"
"Well, ah, Cap wanted to know if you'd be int'rested in a special assignment," he said.
"Did...she say why she wanted us specifically?" asked Lynn, uncertain why she hesitated at the start of the sentence.
"Somethin' about illusionists having a good eye for details, I think..."
"Well, I'm already curious enough to at least hear her out," added Rayna. "What do you say? We weren't gonna do anything else interesting today anyway."
"Yeah, probably not." Looking back at Rast the archer said, "So do you need to bring us to her or do we just go off to the guardhouse on our own?"
"You'd better do the second one, miss Lynn. I have ta attend to my patrol route still."
"Don't want to make the Captain upset, eh?" said Rayna.
"Well, ah, I ain't paid to do nothin', is all," he said.
"We'll head over there as soon as we're through here, then," said Lynn.
"Thanks kindly." He nodded and then walked back out of the store.

"You know, I think he likes you," said Rayna with a mischevious grin, on her way to the changing room with the outfit she'd picked out.



"Hm...what about this one?" Nora pulled a notice off of the main board, showing it to rest of the party. "I-it's just, gathering information, so maybe it won't be too difficult?"
"Not with our luck," said Katherine, taking the paper to read it over.
"Your luck, maybe. My luck's awesome," retorted the witch.
"There's more to luck than good or bad. Harder work for better rewards is technically neutral luck. Anyway, yeah, I like this one. It's different." She handed it to Zach next.
"Hey, why do I get it last? Lemme see!" said Mika, hopping and trying to take the paper from the taller girl.
"Ugh, stop being so childish. Here. It's not even that interesting." He shoved it at her face and she had to take a few steps back to actually take the paper and read.
"Oo, mysterious castle exploration. Recommended for people who...can run away really fast? Well, that's us to a T!"

They took it to a desk worker at the guardhouse, a blond elf whose right arm was in a sling. "Hm..yeah, you look like you can handle this one," she said, looking at the four of them over the top of the paper.
"So, where is it and what exactly do we need to do there?" asked Zach.
"For that matter, why do they care about some old castle?" added Katherine.
"Well, the frontier isn't supposed to have been inhabited for centuries. So it's rather strange to find a big castle just standing there untouched. Some archaeologists went in with some of the guard, but they came back without the guard saying they had seen something terrifying, but none of them could agree on what it was exactly, just that they wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. The guardsmen showed back up a few days later with a similar story and no idea what they'd been doing in the intervening time.
"It seems like whatever's there isn't bent on killing people, which is why it's out on the main board and not in here. Here, take this," she handed Zach a small notebook and a map with directions from the town the castle in question. "Your job is just to find out what exactly is in there so we know who to hire to go and either exterminate or negotiate with it, depending on the situation. We need you to take notes in case there's some kind of forgetfulness magic involved."

"I assume you don't want notes on the castle's architecture," said Zach.
"No, just anything unusual in there. The first people to notice the castle just thought it was abandoned, so keep notes on anything about the place that doesn't match that description, especially anything especially supernatural in there. In fact..pardon, miss, are you a weaver?"
Nora took a second or two to register that she was being addressed. "M-me? Well, uh, yes, but not a very good one yet..."
The elf nodded. "You'd be best for taking the notes, then. What with the higher...magic sensitivity or whatever it is. Experienced mages should be able to make sense of anything your senses pick up that you can't understand yet if you describe it well enough."
"Okay."

"Hey, I have magic senses too," said Mika.
The elf tilted her head slightly, looking down toward her. "Nowhere near as fine-tuned, but I guess you'd be able to tell if it's a demon. If that's what it is, I'm sure no one would mind if you ate it."



Once they had taken their old clothes and the new ones they weren't wearing back to the room at the inn, Rayna and Lynn set out for the guardhouse.

"So hey, what do you mean you think he likes me?" asked Lynn.
"You're still thinking about that? Wow, I guess you really do like little wolf-boy too~," said the foxgirl.
"N-no," she said, blushing visibly now. "I mean—maybe, but it doesn't matter. Look, I just wanna know what you're talking about."
"These big fuzzy ears pick up all kinds of things," she said, pointing to one of them. "As soon as you walked out and he saw you I could hear his heart moving a little bit faster. Yours too, actually."
"And you think that's enough to go on? Maybe he's scared of me for some reason."
"You're not scared of him, though."
"Pshh. I'm not scared of anything."
"Not even a little romance?" she said, teasingly.
"I'm not scared of that, I just don't have time for it. We're trying to win this game so we can get out, right?"
Rayna shrugged. "I'm just trying to have fun, myself."

The archer stopped. "So wait, you don't want to go back to normal?"
Rayna stopped too, giving her friend a serious look. "I do..I mean, I've got people back home probably missing me just like you do, and I'm worried about them, too. It's just, what's happened to us is so crazy that there's no reason to assume any kind of rules apply. If this even is what we think of as a game, maybe it doesn't even have a win condition. Maybe we'll be pulled out and turned back to normal at complete random—or maybe we won't, even if we do 'win'. I'd rather adapt to and enjoy what's going on now than worry about what might happen in the future."
Lynn sighed. "I guess so. I just don't think I can accept this body as really being me anytime soon."
"Even so, there's no reason you can't have just a little fun with it. Heck, you even went with a cute outfit like that rather than jeans and a loose t-shirt or something."
The other girl fidgeted with the material on her skirt a bit with a hand. "This was comfortable, and I can move around in it just fine...and I have bike shorts on under this in case I need to high kick for some stupid reason, too."
"Sooo, A dinner date, maybe?"
"Mmngh." Some of Lynn's earlier blush came back. "Maybe. If he's interested. And not today, either."



Zach, now back in his original armor, stood a short ways outside of the town, looking at the map.
"You're not reading that map correctly," said the cat-girl from behind him.
"How do you know? Your eyes are closed!" Zach
"I can skim your neurological processes. The part of your brain that's supposed to be involved with navigation isn't even lit up. I bet you think that way is north," she said, not opening her eyes but pointing in the general direction of the afternoon sun.
"Well—you read it, then," he said, pushing it into the arm she had out.
"Thank you. Not interested in wandering around lost for hours." She opened her eyes and scanned the map. "We need to head south, which is this way."

A few minutes of walking later, Mika said, "Say, how do you know which way is south? Is that a psion thing?"
"No, I'm just paying attention to where the sun is."
"W-wait, this isn't earth," said Nora. "How do you know which way the planet spins? Maybe it rises in the west..."
"Oh...right. Hang on." Katherine closed her eyes again.

Excuse me. One of the guardsfolk standing at the town's edge snapped to attention, looking around.
"Whowhatwhere?" 
Shh. I'm a psion. Just need to ask you a quick question.
"Uh...what's that?" he said, under his breath.
Does the sun rise in the east?
"Nnnnno..everyone knows the sun rises in the northeast. Is this a prank?"
Thank youbye.

Opening her eyes again, the psion consulted her map again and then made a 45-degree turn to the left. "We need to go this way."



"Hey, I'm Rayna, this is Lynn. Rast said the captain wanted us for something?"
"Hm?" said the desk worker. "Oh, sure. She's in that door over there, same as usual, Just knock."

"Good morning," said the captain flatly after letting them into her office. "I hope you don't mind me making a request so soon after you got in town."
"Oh, that's fine, we need all the work we can get anyway," said the fox-girl.
The captain nodded. "Right to it, then." She handed Lynn a map with a specific location outside of town marked on it. "Our regular patrols found something unusual there...some burn marks in the grass that don't look like a monster made them, some kind of symbols or something. I have my suspicions as to what it is, but their description wasn't enough to confirm them."
"Soooo...you want us to go get a better description?"
"Right," she said, nodding, and handed Rayna a small sketchbook. "I'm hoping between the keen eye of an archer and someone whose magic deals almost entirely in appearances, you'll be able to pick up on things your average warrior wouldn't. I need you to draw any symbols you find out there in as much detail as you can manage. And...I don't know exactly how magically sensitive you are, but if you notice any peculiarities to its flow around there, make a note of it."
"Hm...I'm not complaining, but I am curious," said Rayna. "This seems like a really easy job for a slightly more observant guard, or really any adventurer. Why seek us out in particular?"
"Yes...this is the other part of my request," said the captain, leaning forward on her desk a bit. "If this is what I suspect it is, I don't want word getting out about it. Don't discuss it in detail with anyone but me. I had Rast go after you for this in particular because seem trustworthy, and I'd hate for you to prove that wrong. Understand?"
"Well, of course," said the fox-girl, giving an emphatic nod. "But...what is it you think it is that would get people so worried?"
"Hmm...I'll explain it when you get back. It'll just sound silly if I turn out to be wrong."

"Okay," said Rayna, looking at Lynn.
The archer nodded, and turned back toward the captain, "We'll take it, then. Probably...right after lunch?"
"Sure. Just don't put it off too long, I'm having patrols go around that spot for now and I don't want to arouse the suspicion of any nobles about that."

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nevermind: March 23rd

EDIT/UPDATE: Turns out the thing this was about isn't even happening at all anymore. Cool!


A small bit to let everyone know I'm alive, and to give notice of a hopefully minor point of order.

Recently I'm seeing a notice on my blogger dashboard that says: "On March 23rd, Blogger will no longer allow certain sexually explicit content."

I made the decision to mark this site as "adult" to be safe, legally and otherwise, but I do not consider any of the works on this site to fall under the category of explicit, so I do not expect anything to change. If nothing changes, I might even delete this post altogether, as it will be essentially meaningless.

In the unlikely event that some higher-up at the company disagrees with me and does whatever kind of "making the site private" they're talking about, I intend to seek out hosting elsewhere (which probably involves figuring out the finer points of how wordpress works), re-post everything over there, and eventually re-release this site as a public one with probably nothing but a link to the new location.

All the best,

Whatevr.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The "Best" RPG Ever-13

The Captain lived up to exactly her reputation, except that Rayna hadn't expected her to be so short. After sending Pirr to a medic and shoving Rast out to the same place after he'd delivered a report, she turned to the two players. "Thank you. Out here, we need all the help we can get. I'll make sure you're rewarded for this, but I have to go through some red tape first since this wasn't an officially posted bill or anything..at the very least, I can put you up in an inn for the night. I'm sorry if this business sidetracked you much from wherever you were going before."
"Ah, actually we were headed to this town anyway," said Lynn.
"And neither of us is that good with directions, so if anything we got here faster," added the fox-girl.
"That's good to hear. I'm guessing you two are adventurers coming out to the frontier for work?"
"Pretty much," said Rayna.
"Well, you're better than you look." She turned toward a board on the wall covered in papers. "These are the guardhouse bills. They're tougher jobs than the ones out on the board in the main square, but give better rewards. Normally we require people to take on some of the easier ones first, but I can make an exception based on Rast's recommendation. Just..don't take these jobs lightly. Lot of people get killed trying to do too much, too early."

She shook her head, and then turned to one of the guards. "Heron."
"Yes!" he said, standing upright at attention.
"Show these two to the Broken Dragon. Tell 'em it's on me."
"Sir!" He nodded to them, and they followed him out.


The guardsman left once they had reached the inn in question, and they looked at each other briefly before walking in and finding a seat.

"'Better than we look.' Is that a compliment or an insult?" said Rayna.
"Well, to be fair, I look kinda frail and you look..." Lynn waved vaguely at the other girl, "...worse."
"Hey, what's that supposed to mean?"
"Your clothes don't exactly look combat-ready, for one thing."
"Well neither do yours, you're just wearing a dress..thing."
"It's all one piece, and I can move around in it without worrying about it falling off."
"I'll have you know I'm not worried at all about my clothes falling off," said the fox-girl with a slightly mischeivous grin.
"That worries me more. And you're kind of overweight, too."
"No, I'm busty and charismatic. There's a difference. If I was overweight this thing wouldn't fit me at all," said Rayna, pointing at the belt-thing around her waist.
"Well, you aren't exactly built for running."
"I'm a mage. Mages are never built for running."
"...Fair point.

"But they should be. If I was being raised as a mage I would take up every sport I possibly could at the same time. People would come and try to beat up on the squishy mage and they wouldn't even be able to land a hit."
"Ehh, you didn't exactly do that your first time around—being raised as a nerd, you know? Maybe real people just aren't built for min-maxing."
"Sure they are. Just isn't a lot of fun to live that way..."
"Hey, speaking of clothes," said Rayna, "I don't think either of us has a single thing besides what we're wearing right now. You think we could go and buy a few with whatever the guard captain pays us?"
"Eh, sure, I guess so. I mean, I need to buy a few more arrows—which isn't something I usually think about, so I assume I'm only thinking about it because of the same class-based mental whatever that lets me know exactly how to make an arrow light itself on fire—but that can't possibly be too expensive. I mean, most game shops sell you arrows for an in-game cent and won't buy them because they're just that worthless. Anyway, we could both use something more practical for fighting monsters."
"Psh, practical. I just wanna have more cute but culturally inaccurate furisodes."
"So you're not worried about being useless after your clothes fall off or get torn up in the middle of a battle, then?"
"Lynn, my class is entirely charisma based. I'd be just the opposite of useless if that happened...and anyway, I can make illusory clothes if I wanna."
"Well, speak for yourself. Archer class does a lot of jumping and running around, and this stupid short dress thing isn't gonnna cut it for me."



The first time he'd gone and bought clothes, Zack had taken as little time as possible between removing his armor and putting everything back on in the right order, avoiding the changing room mirror as much as possible. This time he had a lot of clothes to try on and needed to make sure they fit right since they weren't just acting as an extra layer of undergarments to the armor. Besides which, avoiding mirrors for however long he was in this game was ridiculous. He needed to get used to this..body..so it couldn't be used against him in combat. Someone could get hurt.

So this time, he removed his armor and put it on the opposite side of the room from the clothes he was going to try on, and forced himself to turn fully toward the mirror. A beautiful woman looked back, blinking a couple of times. She had a very generous figure and a pretty face, but also a kind of physical sturdiness, some visible muscle on her stomach and limbs. Her expression was (aside from a slight blush) serious, stern even; her ears were folded back slightly, but still twitching occasionally, picking up the noise from the shop outside. The lingerie she was wearing was black and lacy, a little too ornate, really.

He would have asked a girl like that out on a date any time...even though the wolf ears and tail were a little strange. Zack started to open his mouth to say something to himself, but paused, noticing that some of the girl's teeth actually looked sharper than usual. Curious, he stuck out his tongue and saw that it was actually longer than a normal human tongue, or at least it was able to move farther out of his mouth than seemed quite right. This didn't make any sense; teeth like those and a longer tongue should make it harder to speak normally, or at least to speak human languages. Then again, his hair (which he noted was still ridiculously long) should have been chopped up in fights at least six or seven times by now. The "game" made accommodations like that that clearly weren't magic at all, but were still in violation of basic physics, so why should he be surprised?

Zack crossed his arms, trying to find a comfortable way to do it with the big chest in the way, and thought about finding some new underwear, too. After all, anything else he wore was apparently subject to damage from fights, and it would suck to have none at all. It would mean actually changing underwear, which in turn meant not wearing anything for a few seconds...but oh well, this was his body right now and he'd just have to put up with it. Someone could get hurt.

He tried briefly to imagine what the girl in the mirror would look like as a guy: Taller, very muscular, short hair thanks, but the image of a muscular guy gave him an odd feeling between his legs and a slight heat in his cheeks that he immediately did not like. He shook his head to dispel the image, his hair swishing around, and wondered briefly how it stayed so straight, like it had just been brushed, after lying in bed multiple times. Did this world have "no-bed-hair" magic, too? Whatever.

Dismissing the thought, Zack turned toward the pile of clothes with a small sigh, picking up the first few to try on.



Katherine came out of the changing room wearing a t-shirt, some jean shorts and dark stockings. "What d'you think?" she asked, giving a small spin.
"It looks cute!" said Mika, Nora nodding in agreement. "Kinda like a Pokemon trainer, though."
"With a bust this size?" she said, prodding her chest with an finger. "Please. They're like, twelve. You'd look like a trainer in this..but only with a ridiculous hairstyle."
"Haha, yeah."
Nora said, "Wait..h-how does that fit with your tail..?"
"It comes out above the hips, see?" She turned to one side and pulled the back of the shirt up a bit to demonstrate. "Why do you think my skirt never got flipped up at the back?"
"I j-just thought you were being careful.."
"In the middle of a fight with a giant goblin?"
"W-well, I wasn't there to see that..."
"The fire thing chasing Mika around?"
"Oh..y-yes."

"Sooo, is this the last one?" said Mika.
"Yeah, I'm starting to get hungry for lunch, actually. Maybe they'll let me wear this one out after we pay."

Once they were out and on the way back to the inn, the catgirl said, "You know, it's never really occurred to me before now how weird it is that girl shorts are so..short. It's like, if you're a guy and you wanna wear shorts, they'd better go down to the knees, but for girls...way up on the thighs is the norm?"
"I think there are some, uh, cultural..historical reasons or something," said Nora. "N-not that that explains why it's like that in this world, though."
"It's the same thing, though. If this world really is inside of some kind of super-advanced video game, then that game was made by someone from our world," said the witch.
"B-but there should still be s-some kind of internal reason, for the setting to make any sense..right?"
"You know, the same kind of lore would be needed to explain why girls wear skirts at all in this world when they apparently fight just as much as guys do here, since pants are way better suited for fighting," said Katherine.
"Um...I guess so. But it hasn't stopped you or Zack from fighting in them..."



The archer and the illusionist received their pay for saving a couple of the town guards the morning after they arrived in town. After eating breakfast, they went out to look for clothes.

On the way, Rayna stopped dead, turning toward a window. "Hey, look at that!"
Lynn nearly ran into the fox-girl, and wound up a with a facefull of fur. "Pfft! Hey, you have a tail now, y'know!"
"Yeah yeah whatever, look."
"What?" She turned to look. "Ray, that's a weapon store. We have—well, I have a weapon already."
"Yeah, but look. The sign says that quiver is self-refilling. Didn't I hear you complaining about having to go pick up or make your own arrows all the time?"
"I wasn't...well okay, I said I didn't like it but it makes sense because it's realistic."
"Who cares about realistic when you have magic like that? Let's go get one."

She ran inside, the human girl following her.
"Okay...that is definitely too expensive," said Lynn. "We'll just have to come back for it later."
"But they only have one. What if someone else buys it first? Anyway, we do have enough to buy it..."
"...And then no new clothes. I'm not doing it."
"Hmm. Well, I have an idea, and I'm gonna try it."
"That sentence has heralded so many disasters, Ray.."
"Raynaaaa," said the fox-girl, "and just watch me."

She picked up the quiver and walked up to the store's counter, looking the skinny guy behind it square in the eyes. "Hey," she said, leaning forward on the counter and putting the quiver down next to her. "My friend and I are adventurers, and we just moved into town, but we already helped the town guard out once. Lynn here is an archer, and a quiver like this would be really useful, but we can only afford to pay half of its price right now. We're gonna take another job soon that should pay for the rest of it, and even if it doesn't we're planning on sticking around for a while, so we could always return it if things don't work out. Do you think we could just put off paying the other half for a few days?"
"Uh, um," said the guy, blushing a little bit and conspicuously not trying to look at her chest. "Well, I mean, we didn't pay all that much for it...if you can pay half what it was marked for, you can have it, miss..."
"Rayna's the name," said the illusionist, standing back up with a big grin and taking his hand before shaking it, "you've got a deal, sir. Thanks so much!" She handed him the money, and then walked out of the store with the quiver, the archer following.

"Well, was that great or what," said Rayna, handing her friend the prize.
"I'm not even sure what that was," said Lynn in retort. "I thought you were just gonna buy it anyway and make me wait to buy more practical clothes."
"Aww, what kind of friend would that make me?"
"The kind you always are," said Lynn, starting along the road again. "But seriously, what did you do?"
"I just figured, I have all this ridiculous charisma, I may as well use it..and it worked!"
"But you, you were totally flirting with that guy."
"Yeah. That's how you use charisma on the opposite sex, silly."
"Did you like him, though? Do you like guys?"
"Sure. Don't you?"
"I..." Lynn paused to think. "Huh. I guess I do. That's weird and uncomfortable."
"Really? I think it's exciting. Like seeing the whole idea of romance from a completely different angle."
"Are you gonna get you a bizarre fantasy world boyfriend, Raynanana?"
"Mmmmaybe. I mean, if I find someone I actually really like. First things first, though."



The three girls found Zach sitting with his legs crossed at one of the tables in the inn, reading a newspaper and wearing a loose-fitting shirt and jeans. The wolf was asleep next to him.
Still near the doorway, Katherine whispered, "I really wish she'd quit this 'I'm still a guy' business because I swear she looks gorgeous in everything. It's ridiculous."
"I know, right?" whispered Mika back.

Once at the table, the catgirl said, "A newspaper? Where did you even find a newspaper?"
Putting the paper down, the knight said, "I just asked the waitress if they had any. Thought it might be useful to get some clue about the overall setting here."
"Well, were there any interesting articles?"
He shrugged. "A few. Apparently a prince of the country that actually owns this town wants to visit soon, but they keep saying the trip is too dangerous. They actually have statistics on the number of people that die trying to get out to the frontier."
"What kind of statistics?" asked Mika.
"Oregon trail statistics. Even though this is a huge city, anyone who makes it here is lucky."
"Then how do they know the prince wants to visit if they can't reliably get messages back and forth from the castle or whatever?"
Zach shrugged. "Magic, probably. From what I can tell, these people use magic the way we use computers."
"To screw around and play games all day?" said the witch.
"For everything," said Zach. "You have a disease, go find someone with healing magic. You're rich and want a ridiculously tall thing built to honor yourself? Find some people who'll do earth magic for cash." He pointed at another article with a picture of a giant statue of a man on horseback, with an actual person standing by the statue who looked tiny in comparison. "I really wouldn't be surprised if there's a magic telegram system or something where you can pay to have messages sent back and forth between cities. Maybe rich people have magic two-way radios made out of carved wooden ears or something."

"You didn't eat ahead of us again, did you?" said Mika.
"No..you're not that late this time."
"Great, get a waiter, I'm starving!"

"Hmm.." said Katherine a little later, looking at Zach.
"What?"
"I dunno. You seem more relaxed than usual."
"Well, I'm finally wearing something halfway normal for once, I guess. And you're not being annoying right now."
"You'll have to wear the skirty dress-armor again if we go out to fight any more monsters, though," said Mika.
"Yeah..but at least I'm not wearing it all the time. Anyway, there's no reason I can't afford better armor once we do a few more jobs. I actually saw some sensibly-designed armor that would fit me on the way back here, so I know it exists."
"Wow, if I knew all it took to cheer you up was a change of clothes I would've suggested it ages ago," said Katherine.
"It's not all, but I'll take it for now."

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ring 5.4: Sowing Confusion

Ring 5.4:
Sowing Confusion

“I'm tired of this. Can we leave after lunch?”
“Aww, come on. You promised you'd come with me today.”
Sam sighed and continued looking for an empty table. “I promised to come with you, not take up permanent residence in the mall.”
“We've only been here for two hours, Sam. That's not even enough time to put together a whole outfit!”
“Maybe not for you. Your problem is—hey, look.” A tall blond-haired guy at a table by himself was waving at them.
They went over to him. “Uh, sorry, I couldn't help but notice you were looking for a table? I'm not using these seats.”
“Thanks!” said Sara, taking a seat. Sam took the other one. “I'm Sara, this is Sam.”
“Uh, I'm...Lewis. I'm a little new in town.”
“Oh, maybe we could show you around,” said Sam.
“Maybe later, we're a little busy right now.”
You're busy, you mean. I probably have enough clothes to last me a whole year at this point.”
“Ah, well, I was getting some clothes too. Just...a few spare changes, I'm basically done myself,” said Lewis.

They kept talking and eating for a few minutes, until Lewis suddenly stood up. “Uh, e-excuse me, I have to go. I'll be back in just a minute!” he said, before taking off at a run toward the bathrooms.
Sara stared at him as he went. “Huh..?”
“What?”
“Something is up with that guy. Something weird.”
“What, like needing to go to the bathroom?”
“No, I..his hair was growing, Sam. Like, visibly?” She tugged at her own hair to illustrate. “And I swear he looked shorter by the time he got in the door.”
“Things tend to look smaller from a distance, Sara.”
“That's not what I mean! I..ugh, I don't know what I saw. But he was acting kind of weird before that too, like he doesn't know how to talk to girls or something.”
“So maybe he isn't used to doing it. Nothing wrong with a guy trying new..” Sam paused, finally noticing someone just off on the right side of her view who had definitely been there for longer than expected, and turned toward them. It was a dark-haired girl with her own tray of food, looking at both of them. “Uh, hello?”

“Excuse me,” said the stranger with a smile, “I was just eavesdropping. I can leave if you want.” It was an unusually calm smile, almost too calm, and it didn't seem to want to leave her face.
“No, there's another chair here,” said Sara, “Take a seat. What's your name?”
“Oh, I am Leiko,” she said, “and thank you for the invitation, Sara.” She pulled back the chair back and sat down. Her movements seemed unusually graceful, like she was dancing on a stage or something, but not quite that exaggerated.
“Well, what do you think? Did you see anything weird about that Lewis guy?” said Sara.
“Hm..I have yet to see him at all. But I do not doubt that you have.”
“You think people can just start growing long hair and getting smaller?” asked Sam.
Leiko shrugged. “I have learned a great many things to be possible. For instance, I hear that a boy turned into a girl recently around here.”
“Oh yeeaah, Kevin,” said Sara. “How did that happen, anyway?”
She gave another grinning shrug. “Can't say. I find it's usually best to not overthink such things.”

Lewis walked back to the table, looking to Sam just as short-haired and tall as ever. “Oh, uh, hi,” he said, noticing the new member of the table.
“Greetings. I am Leiko.” She offered him a hand.
“Oh, I'm, uh, Lewis,” he said, awkwardly taking it but recovering a more natural-seeming shake.
“Pleasure to meet you. Have you been buying clothes?” she asked.
“Uh...” Lewis hesitated for a second, but even Sam had to admit the question seemed a little strange. Besides that, she hadn't seen him, so she couldn't have heard him say something about buying clothes...right? “Y-yeah, why?”
“You might have seen my friends around. We entered the mall together, but seem to have become separated.”
“Yeah, maybe...I mean, what do they look like?”
“Hm..one of them is blonde, short and chipper, one is thin with white hair, and the other is dark-haired and well-endowed.”

Short and chipper..? “Is that first one named Aki?” said Sam.
Ah, yes, I think so,” said Leiko, nodding slightly. “Do you know her as well?”
Well, I've met her once. But I haven't seen her around the mall today. Would that make the other two Flora and Jenna?”
The other girl nodded again. “They're around each other quite a lot.”
But..I thought Flora's hair was light brown or something, not white.”
Leiko shrugged. “It's always been white around me. Perhaps she had it dyed when you met her, and changed her mind?”
Either way, I haven't seen any of them around.”

Me either,” said Lewis.
Oh, so you've met my friends as well?” asked Leiko.
“Um—uh, no, I just meant that I hadn't seen anyone like what you described, or anything. But, uh, wouldn't, I mean..did you not set up a place to meet when you all split up?”
We weren't originally planning on splitting up at all. Once I finished with my purchases, I thought I might wait here, as it is a central sort of location.”
Why don't you just call them?” said Sara.
Leiko shrugged. “I neglected to bring my phone. Rather a blunder on my part. I suppose I should just walk home and get in touch from there.” She calmly pushed the chair back and stood up. “It's been nice meeting with you,” she said, “we should hang out sometime I'm not looking for someone else.”

When she had disappeared back into the crowd, Sara said, “She's kinda weird, isn't she?”
“I dunno, she seemed nice enough to me,” said Lewis.
“Of course she did,” she answered, with a touch of sarcasm. “But look, she's all..smiling all the time. And the way she talks. And the whole..eavesdropping thing. Isn't it kinda creepy?”
A little..but maybe she was just raised differently,” said Sam. “She was obviously trying to be friendly.”
Well, what about her story with the missing friends? It's like she was making it up as she went along. None of us saw them all day today. How do you split up from people without noticing it? And who doesn't bring their phone?”
W-well, the people she mentioned are real,” said Sam. “I met them at the arcade the last time there was a free night.”
“Yeah, but who supplied the names, hmm? Not her.”
Huh..”
A-and, you even said that Flora doesn't have white hair, like she said, right?” added Lewis.
Yeah..you're right, that is a little strange. Maybe if I see one of those three I'll ask if they know her. If they don't, then maybe the whole thing was made up.”

What was made up?” The sudden interjection of the new voice made all three of them jump slightly, before turning to the source: A certain tall redheaded girl who hadn't been either of those things just a few weeks ago.
Oh, hey Kevin,” said Sam. “Or, uh..Kell?”
“Either one's fine,” she nodded, “I'm thinking of having it legally changed..maybe moving my old name to a middle name, since I've never had one of those before.”
Um..” started Lewis.
“Oh yeah, you're new, right?” said Sara. “Well, the gorgeous girl you see there was a shy little boy named Kevin a few short weeks ago.”
Wow, really?”
Um..yeah,” said Kell, blushing a little from the 'gorgeous' part. “So, what were you talking about?”
Oh, this girl named Leiko was here a minute ago,” said Sam. “She said she was looking for her friends, but the story sounded sort of fishy.”
How do you mean?” The tall girl moved around to an empty chair and took a seat.
Well, she claimed to come into the mall with three people, none of which any of us has seen,” said Sara, “and even though Sam said their descriptions almost matched some people she's met once, one of them had the wrong color hair.”
“Yeah, it sounded like her friends were Aki, Flora and Jen,” Sam interjected. “But she said Flora's hair was white.”
“..It wasn't?”
I didn't think so.”
Kell scratched her head. “Well, uh, I guess I wouldn't really know, since technically I wasn't actually there.”
What are you talking about?” said Sara, becoming increasingly confused.
At some point before he started turning into a girl, Kevin dreamed of being Kell on free night at the arcade,” said Sam. “But a person named Kell who looks just like she does now was there, and did all of the same things that Kevin remembered doing in the dream.”
All the same stuff?” said Sara.

Um, well, we compared notes, but not in detail,” said Kell. “It sure sounded like the same stuff.”
“But you remember Flora's hair being white?”
“I
think so?”
“But if you remember that differently from how it actually happened, then it would be the
only thing you remembered differently.”
“Ye-eah...”
“That doesn't make any sense at all.”
Not unless Sam just remembers it differently.”
“But—” started Lewis, and then paused for a good few seconds. “But if you could find another person who was there that night, they'd be able to tell you that—I mean, whether Flora's hair was white. Right?”
Look, maybe I'm just remembering the dream wrong. It's been a while, and I don't exactly keep a journal or anything. It's weird enough that I remember it at all.”
But another witness would still tell us whether or not Leiko was just blowing smoke,” said Lewis.
Or if I actually manage to run into Flora somewhere,” added Sam. “At any rate, I'm sure I'll see those three again at the arcade next weekend.”

Uh, anyway, how are you doing?” Sam asked.
Well, I think I finally stopped, um, growing,” said Kell, her face turning slightly red.
I didn't mean that...just, you know, in general.”
Oh! P-pretty well, then. The other day I punched Morley in the face.”
Why would you do that?” asked Sara.
He wouldn't leave me alone. I told him I was gonna do it if he didn't shut up.”
Well..don't make a habit of it,” said Sam.
“Oh, don't worry. I swear I'll only use this fist of mine for good.”
Being overzealous about using it for good is just as bad,” said Lewis.
Well I just won't be overzealous then!” said Kell, and laughed.

Then she noticed someone else in the food coort, which immediately drew the attention of the other three. It was a white-haired girl in a t-shirt, some dark shorts and stockings. “Who is that?” said Sam.
Isn't it Flora?” asked Kell.
But—that doesn't—hold on. Hey!” She waved at the girl, who walked over.
“Oh, hey Sam, Kell.”
“Are you Flora?” asked Sam.
Last time I checked. Why?”
“I thought..weren't..wasn't your hair a different color before?”
Oh, yeah. I tried dying it, but I didn't really like the color. Don't you think this looks better?”
Yeah, it looks great,” said Sara. “Hey, I'm Sara, and that's Lewis. You wanna join us?”
Sam noticed movement out of the corner of her eye Kell was in, but when she turned to look the redhead wasn't moving. “Uh, I would,” said Flora, “but I'm looking for someone. Any of you seen a, kind of Asian-looking dark-haired girl? Talks really formal, grins all the time?”
“Named Leiko?” asked Sara, and Flora nodded.
She was just here,” said Lewis. “She said she forgot her phone, and was just going to try and get in touch from home.”
Oh, well, that's nice,” said Flora, sarcastically, and sighed. “I guess I have to go chase her down, then. See you later.” She walked off.

Uh, wait..have you talked to Flora at all since your dream?” asked Sam.
No. I think she doesn't even know I used to be Kevin.”
But you remembered her hair being white,” said Lewis.
“Well..I guess I just
did remember the dream wrong.”
He abruptly stood up, his things already in hand. “Um. Excuse me, I have to go. I'm starting to get a nasty headache.” And with that, Lewis walked off.
I think I have to go too,” said Kell. “Nice talking with you!” She stood up and walked away.

Once everyone was out of earshot, Sara said, “I tell you, Sam, there is something fishy about every one of those people. Except Kell, he's cool.”
“You really think so?”
“Yeah. Just a victim of circumstance. Weird, unexplainable circumstance, sure, but still.”
Well, I'm getting out of here, too. See you later.”
“Sure, sure. Ya lightweight,” said Sara, with a grin.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Midas Journal 15

Wow! It's been a long time since I wrote anything for this one, to such an extent I think I've seen a few comments assuming I never would get around to it. Truth is, this was started a very long time ago and very, very slowly written with a large amount of writer's block thrown in my way repeatedly as it went. But of course, the last more-than-half of it came out all at once, as usual with that sort of thing.

Anyway, here's to maybe not taking so long to make #16, eh? As usual, ideas are appreciated.

Entry: April 27
After all the stuff that happened on Friday, I had an idea. Well, it was really more like a thought. Okay, long story short, it occurred to me that Rio keeps telling me she's an apprentice witch and in all the time she's been trying to help me learn about and control my powers she hasn't once suggested I talk to whoever the master witch, or I guess wizard, is. So yesterday I decided to confront her about that.

First thing I did was ask her to meet with me at the coffee place again. I'm guessing she didn't want to discuss her being a witch in school with a bunch of muggles or whatever. Once we were there, she said, "So what's this about? Anything new happen?"
"..Sort of. I don't know anything new about my power, but I wanted to ask you something."
"Okay. Shoot."
"You're an apprentice, right?"
"Yeah." She nodded. I could sort of tell she knew where this was going, but wasn't about to try and stop me either.
"So..does that mean you have a master? Like, someone who's already a full-fledged..mage? Wizard? What is the right term?"
"Witch if female, wizard if male, so in this case witch. And yes, I study with her on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend."

"Okay. So have you ever mentioned me to her? Or, like, asked an awkward hypothetical question about someone with reality-warping powers?"
"No, I haven't."
"Well..why not? I mean, am I in some kind of danger of a wizard society killing me or something if they find out about what I can do?"
"No no, nothing like that. Witches and wizards are the academics of the magic world, Kael. They...er, I should say we are about as likely to try to arrest or kill you as a chemistry professor is a businessman. Even if some witch or wizard did dislike your powers for some reason, they'd know better than to try attacking you."
"So why haven't you told her anything about me, then? It seems like someone with more knowledge and experience or whatever would be able to help me more, right?"
"Hm..maybe. I mean, I've done my research, and there are pretty much no records about a power like yours. But..I didn't really want you to have to deal with her."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my master is..the kind of mentor who's always pushing you as far as she can, even when you're pounding your head against the wall. It's..effective, but kind of harrowing. I'm used to it since I've technically been her student for so long, but I wouldn't want anyone to have to deal with her if they don't have to. In addition to that I don't know exactly how she'd react to someone with as much power as you have, and as odd a power as yours. She might want to experiment with it, learn what makes it tick or something, and..well, I trust her, okay, but I'm scared she might poke something that shouldn't be poked. I guess I should have asked you anyway, though..sorry."

"It's fine. I probably wouldn't have wanted to deal with that, either. But I think I'm kind of desperate now. Um..you know how I turn into a girl to go shopping with Lue sometimes?"
"Yeah, sure. It's good practice, isn't it?"
"Well..yes, but the other day I was doing that and I saw a guy, and..well, I don't know exactly how to say this but I...almost lost my mind for a minute or two. I know it's normal for me as a girl to be attracted to guys, and I was kind of used to that in general, but this was kind of extreme. And nothing like that's ever happened to me as a guy, so I'm worried it might be something to do with the way my power makes the female me. And I'm worried if it did that to me, it could do it to other people I've changed, which is even worse, since I have no idea how to stop that from happening when I change people, or how to tell whether or not I did with someone." I didn't want to mention that Lue was playing matchmaker at the time. We'd figured that out between the two of us. "So if there's some other way to make my power easier to control, well, I want to at least try it."

"Okay," Rio said. "If you're sure, I could take you with me tomorrow after school and introduce you. Are you sure?"
"Yeah," I said, nodding. "I mean, if she does something I really don't like I don't have to come see her again, right?"
"Of course."
"Err, I mean I don't want to make things difficult for you, but she isn't going to harass you about it if I don't come back, right?"
"I don't think so. She's more reasonable than that. Even if curiosity got the best of her she'd snap out of it in a few days or so."

So today after school I followed Rio to her witch-mentor-person's place. I think we went in a circle at one point, but at the end of it we were in a different place, probably some kind of hiding-stuff magic. Anyway, it was a huge freaking manor. I was glad Rio knew where to go once we got inside because I thought I could've gotten lost in there.

We went up a couple of flights of stairs and eventually went through some doors to a big, nearly empty room with chairs along the sides. There were some kind of symbols all over the floor and ceiling and walls, magic symbols I guess. And at the other end of the room, looking out the window, was this tall woman in jeans and a sweater, but also a ridiculously giant black conical hat.
“Rio. You brought a visitor,” she said, turning around to look at us. “Do you want to introduce us?”
Uh, this is my friend Kael.” She sounded a little nervous, which is weird, because I don't ever remember Rio being very nervous about much of anything. “Kael, this is my teacher, Threa.” (She told me the spelling later, it's pronounced like “thray-uh”.)

She nodded. “Good to meet you, Kael. Rio, would you mind just doing your usual exercises for a while in the other room while I help your friend out?”
“Not at all,” she said, nodding, and then left.

Threa walked up to me, looking at me the whole time. It wasn't straight-up staring, more kind of an analytical look, like the way an art critic looks at a painting. Once she was pretty close, she said, “Now, Rio explained some of your situation over the phone, but it might be easier to understand the details from the horse's mouth so to speak. Would you go over it with me?”
So I started explaining everything I knew about my power again.
A couple of minutes in, she said, “Hold on a moment,” and kicked the floor a couple of times. Two chairs rose up out of the floor like it was being brought up on an elevator. She took one of them, and waved at the other. “Take a seat, if you like,”
“Uh, sure.” And I went on with the rest of the explanation, her nodding occasionally the whole time.

It ended with me saying something like, “..and that's why I'm here.”
“Well,” said Threa, “before I get into the rest of it, have you considered that you might not simply be attracted to that person more than you are most girls—or boys, when you're female?”
I shrugged. “I mean, I might be, but it seems like such a fluke for that to have only happened once.”
“I suppose so. But suppose you tried speaking to that person with your genders reversed? You have the means to do it, and it would likely decide your suspicions more definitely.”
“Yeah..but I don't really want to do that to him, is all,” I said.
“You might try explaining the situation and asking whether he'd be willing to test your theory. But enough of such personal matters.”

“It really isn't all that unusual for sufficiently high-level powers to come coupled with highly inconvenient rules—for example, the power to turn things to gold by touching them might come with an inability to turn the power off for anything. Yours, of course, is of an even higher level than that. But when it comes to controlling the power further than you've learned to already, it may help to re-frame what you want to do as actions within the rules themselves.”
“Um..okay,” I said, obviously not getting it.
“A concrete example should help,” she said. “You mentioned that your power seems to be able to grant you any changes to appearance, even changing you from human to various magical people, complete with the powers inherent, such as becoming a werewolf with the ability to actually shift forms.”
“Right, but only if I stay a girl.”
“Yes. And it seems like your power could even incorporate, into a female form, any power you might imagine that makes enough sense to you yourself, since your power reads in some way from your own mind.”
“Right..”
“That being the case, you should be able to get around the restriction of only adding powers or changing the appearance of your female form, by giving yourself a female form with the power to become a male version of that form, complete with any magical race the female form is, and any powers you've added to it.”
“..Oh. That's...wow.”
Threa nodded. “I may be wrong, but if you are correct about your power's rules, they don't actually prevent you from doing that. It's worth testing, at least. But..you can do that on your own later. For the moment, I would like to test a few traits and rules I suspect your power might also have.”

“Okay..like what?”
“Hm...well, if you wouldn't mind standing up, I can show you my first test. It ought to be quite harmless, but it will tell me slightly more if I don't immediately tell you what it's for.”
“Sure.” We both stood up, and the chairs sank back into the floor again. That was still weird.
“Now, I am going to attempt to cast a spell on you. Tell me if you notice anything at all.”
Threa made some motions with her hands, which made them glow, and then pointed at me, which made the glow disappear again. For a few seconds, I didn't notice anything; then I did.
“Um..I have some kind of weird feeling like something's pushing at me, trying to get in,” I said, “but not making it.”
She nodded. “Could you let it in, if you wanted?”
“I..think so,” I said.
“Please do, then.”
I tried to tell my body to let whatever was pushing at me in. As soon as I did, I started to feel a lot of direct, physical pushing, nearly everywhere. “Whoa--!” It was worst at my stomach, arms and legs, and pretty soon I noticed that it was actually doing something—I was shrinking again! My body was getting thinner, and Threa was starting to look even taller than she did before. “Aah—ow.” My voice was starting to move up in pitch, and now the uncomfortable pushing had started in my private parts, too. My clothes started to change, my underwear quickly turning into a pair of panties while my pants spread out into a skirt and stockings, my shirt getting tighter and a bra appearing under it. I could feel my hair making its way down my back and onto my shoulders, and then the pushing finally started to ease off. When the pressure released from between my legs, I could tell I was already a girl. “Aa-aack!” I yelled slightly in surprise, in girl-me's voice, at another sudden, uncomfortable feeling. It was like something had grabbed my hips and chest, and was pulling out at them. I could feel my center of balance moving, and the weight on my chest, and after a few seconds the material of the bra up against the growing breasts, and then, as suddenly as the pulling had started, it stopped.

I noticed that I was panting and sweating slightly. “Ugh..your spell turned me into a girl?” I said.
Threa nodded. “It was a fairly standard sex-change spell, almost as comfortable as one can get. Potions are generally considered the most pleasant way of doing that, but I needed to use a spell for the test.”
“You..wanted to see if my power would stop your spell from transforming me?” I said.
She smiled, and nodded again. “Yes. You're very clever. And, it would appear that indeed it did. Very impressive, I must say, considering the amount of power I put into the spell, along with the amplification runes around this room that normally make my spells even more powerful. To a person with a powerful magic shield active that would have been difficult to repel, but you only felt it as a slight push. So your power likely includes an effective immunity to any outside attempts at changing your appearance.”
“Well, that's good,” I said. At least I wouldn't have to worry about being turned into a girl against my will. Or anything else for that matter, like a frog or rat.
“Now, I wonder—can you change yourself back from a form I've imposed, having accepted that form?”
“I'll try it,” I said, and gently prodded my shoulder with a finger, telling my body to turn back to normal. Immediately I started to feel my chest tightening, and the rest of my body loosening, and I grew back into male Kael within a few seconds. “Apparently, yes.”
“I suspected as much, but it is interesting what I saw happen,” said Threa. “The spell I cast was a temporary polymorph—meaning that a normal person's magic would eventually return them to normal anyway. There are immensely stronger, more difficult spells that actually alter the 'template' one's body uses to 'return to normal' from polymorph spells, but I'm reasonably sure anyone as totally immune to the latter as you are ought to be immune to the former, as well. Your power might have accelerated the usual process to return you to normal—that would be the way to spend the least energy on changing you back. But instead, it appears that it actually rewrote your body's state in reality to be as if you had always been the form I changed you into, and then rewrote it again to return you to your usual state.”
“So you're saying my power actually thinks it's easier to warp reality instead of working inside of it?”
“That would be a reasonable hypothesis,” said Threa, “though I wouldn't go so far as to personify the behavior. It's more that it always takes a path of least resistance, like most things in nature and magic, but it just so happens that what it considers 'least resistance' is changing reality from one state to another, rather than directly interacting with any other magic at all.”

“That's...kind of scary,” I said.
“Well, it need not be, but I'm glad you have that attitude, rather than its opposite,” said Threa. “You shouldn't be afraid of what you can do, as long as you are fairly able to control it. Just don't let it go to your head. I imagine if you abused your power, it still would not be able to prevent you from being killed by its victims in one way or another.”
“Y-yeah, I really don't want to abuse it at all, vengeance or not. I'm worried I already have, though.”
“Has anyone you've changed indicated as much?”
“Well, no, but what if they just don't know that I did something wrong? Like, it took away whatever parts of them didn't like the other things it did to them?”
“I suppose that is possible, but it seems unlikely. If a person disliked the idea of the changes your power made to them deep down, then they would behave completely differently as a result of that deep change, right?”
“Yeah.”
“So if the people you knew both before and after the change profess to be perfectly happy, and any differences in how they act now compared to before can be attributed to something other than the surgical removal of a dislike of your changes from their mind, then you must conclude that at least with them, you've done nothing wrong.”
“That...makes sense, I guess.”
“It would be logical to extrapolate to the ones you did not know before as well, since your power likely behaves about the same among all instances of your accidentally changing people. All the same, if you want to be absolutely certain...” She thought about it for a few seconds. “I suppose, with the control you have over it now, you could order your power to return them to the exact pre-change mental state, along with memories of the intervening time, and ask whether they feel any differently about the change itself. You would not even need to alter their bodies to do so, but it would be wise all the same to ask permission first, and do it somewhere private and sufficiently safe, since the difference between their old and new mental states would naturally include at least bodily coordination.”
“Yeah. I might do that with..at least a couple of them.”

She nodded again, and smiled slightly. “All right. I cannot think of any more tests for the moment, unless you can?”
“Uh, not really.”
“Then I should probably get to training my apprentice. She's probably tired of those exercises by now. Just let her know if you want to speak with me again.” She'd started walking out of the room, and I ran after her.
“Hooold on a sec!” She stopped so I could catch up.
“Hm?”
“I, uh, don't actually know how to get out.”
“Oh, sorry. The layout is magically determined. Just keep turning right and thinking about wanting to get out, and the front door should be in front of you soon.”
“...Is there anything about this house that isn't ridiculously magical?”
“Hmm. I've never had it posed that way, but I suppose there isn't. At least, I am hard-pressed to come up with examples.”

The directions worked, somehow, and I left for home. Later, like a few minutes before I started writing this, I decided to try the loophole. I turned myself into Kayla first, and then I tried to give myself the power to shift between being Kayla and Kael, complete with clothes, and then I tried to use that power. It worked, and changing back and forth feels exactly the same as when I use my actual power to change. This is convenient, at least, but I decided to test the rest of idea by turning myself into a kitsune like Adena while Kael, and my power insisted on turning me back into Kayla first. My fur is black like my hair, but with white tips to it. I was still able to shift back and forth, though, and keep the fox tail.

I'm still guy-kitsune-Kael right now, and having a tail is kind of weird. I only had one one other time, and it was the cat tail I had for like two seconds while testing the fact that I could actually change myself to have one in the first place. This one is really soft and fluffy, which is nice, but at the same time it feels weird touching it with my hands because I'm not used to anything that fuzzy also having feeling on the inside, like, being a part of my body. I'm going to get rid of it before I go to sleep, I think.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ring 5.3: Close Enough

Ring 5.3:
Close Enough

Rolf had been careful, this time, to really clear his mind of anything extra before putting on the ring. He made absolutely sure that his only thought to the ring was, Show me my True Form, whatever that is. And after thinking that for a few seconds or so, the ring glowed..somewhat brighter than usual. He wasn't really sure if anyone else noticed it, because they didn't react, so he wondered if he might have imagined it. It didn't really matter—if something had somehow gone wrong, it was definitely too late to do anything but stall taking the ring off. And, better deal with it now than later. So he took the ring off, and braced for whatever might happen.

His hair began to grow first. It wasn't long before Rolf could see his bangs before his eyes turning increasingly bright colors. He then noticed that his ears seemed to be moving, stretching upward, and brushing against his hair as they moved.

Soon the hair framed his face, and everyone else could see that his face's skin had become a bit smoother, and its shape was becoming shorter and rounder. Once he blinked, and his eyes turned a bright purple. Rolf noticed that his shoulders were narrowing as the now pure-white hair fell across them, his arms starting to get thinner. His shirt turned white with black at the edges, split into two sections held together with small buttons down the middle; it then seemed to grow a purple tie around his neck, followed by black collars folded over the sides and back. Next he felt another collar, the psuedo-pet-collar-type, squeezing his neck slightly before seeming to settle in and become strangely comfortable.

“Uh..why am I..?” he started, and paused at noticing that his voice had shifted up in pitch, now sounding like a deeper female tone.

Eyes were on Liam, who tilted her head a bit to the side, thinking. “That's..interesting.” She watched very closely as Rolf's stomach pulled in at the sides, the shirt tightening enough to show it, and a long-sleeved black jacket found its way onto his shoulders, growing down a bit past the hips. “Hmm, yes,” she said with a nod, and moved over, closer to Rolf. “Now, do me a favor and don't panic yet. I think I'll be able to explain when it's done.”
“O-okay,” said Rolf. By now his ears had become large triangles covered in fur the same bright white as his hair, poking up from the corners of his head. One was straight up and the other was horizontal, both making slight movements every now and then. His hair kept on growing down his back to the hips. His jeans turned into black cloth and split at the thighs, the leggings pulling down slightly. His legs became slimmer and his hips widened as the cloth pulled tighter.

A tail pushed out from Rolf's back, growing long and thick with the same white fur as his ears, and he started to awkwardly stumble around. Liam took a hand and helped him down to a sitting position while the shorts pulled increasingly close between his legs.

Rolf could feel his underwear turning to panties again, followed by a bra forming under the shirt. He could feel the soft cloth pulling tight between her legs, and the odd sensation of suddenly being a girl again. Then she could feel her chest gently pushing its way out. Her hair finally stopped growing out, and she got a hold of the tail to take a look at it, her other hand running through her hair.
Liam sat down in front of her. “Well, how do you feel?”
“Uh..kinda weird. I think I should be more upset about this, but something feels right. Is..my 'true form' really...female?”
The fox-girl shook her head. “No, but the ears and tail you've got are part of what your true form should look like. Probably the hair color, too, I think.”
“Okay..so, if I'm not supposed to be a girl, why did it happen? I made sure to only tell the ring to turn me to my true form.”
“Well..remember that the ring acts using your magic. Normally your magic should know even better than the ring what your true form is, but I think it got confused because of the way your powers work.”
“What do you know about how my powers work? Are they like yours?”

Liam shook her head. “No. I think yours are a little different. I think you can sort of absorb enchantments to your own body and then use them yourself. And the ring you've been using, that turns you into Flora, is an enchantment. I think your magic is used to that enchantment turning you into a girl, so using a similar enchantment to take on your true form got that form tangled with the original one.”
Rolf grabbed the other girl's shoulders. “W-well, how do I get it untangled? I don't want to be stuck as a girl!”
“Easy, easy, champ.” She patted one of Rolf's hands. “I think if you hide your ears and tail you'll turn back easily. And if you can get a feel for your powers, you should be able to untangle things to where you can turn back into a guy separately from hiding them.”
“O-okay.”
“First let's get you a sense of balance with that tail. C'mon.” Liam stood up, and grabbed Rolf's hand, pulling her up to her feet.

“Now, just try to stand normally and ignore the tail for a minute.” She let go of Rolf's hand, and she carefully adjusted her stance. “It moves to help you balance, unless you tell it to do something else. See?”
“Yeah..okay. This still feels kind of weird.”
“I know, I know. But try walking a bit.”

Rolf took a couple of experimental steps, and then just walked normally a bit. “Okay. Yeah.”
“Great. Now, try to get rid of your tail.”
“Um..how?”
“Try to kind of..pull it back in. The way it felt coming out, but backwards. Same for the ears.”
“O..kay..” Rolf's ears and tail slowly began to retreat, and then her clothes body started changing back as well. Before long Rolf was male again, and back in his original clothes.

“Hey! I'm back to normal!” he said, grinning.
“Well, mostly,” said Cole.
“What do you mean?”
“Your hair's still white,” said Akio. “And your eyes are purple.”
“Purple?”
“Well, they turned purple when you used the ring.”
“Ugh..well, I guess I can always dye my hair..or say I dyed it. But I don't know if anyone will buy that I wear contacts.”
“Don't worry about it,” said Kell. “I've actually heard of people changing eye color before. You can probably shrug it off, say you woke up that way one day. Anyway, everyone we know has already seen something way weirder than a little eye color change,” she added, poking a thumb up at her own head.
“Yeah..I guess so.”

“Rolf and I are going to sort his magic out over in another room. You guys hang out till then.” Liam started on her way out, and Rolf shrugged before following her.

A few rooms away, Liam stopped, and Rolf followed suit. “So, can you still feel the tail now?” she asked.
“Uh..Yeah. My ears feel kind of weird too. Like I just folded them away somewhere. It's kind of uncomfortable.”
“You'll get used to it. For now though, try to let your ears, and only your ears, back out.”
“Okay..” Rolf's ears pushed their way up, growing back into big fuzzy triangles. His hair grew out slightly, almost framing his face. “I..” He reached up and felt of his hair, “I think it's still confused.”
“That's okay, we're making progress. Try going back and forth a few times.”

After a few more tries, Rolf finally manged to make his ears grow and shrink without any change to his hair.
“Good. Now..try making your hair grow out without changing anything else.”
“Okay..” Rolf, currently with normal ears, tried to make his hair grow it. It grew all the way to his hips again. Then, with another of the same kind of thought, it shrank back to its original length. “Wow. I guess I can save on haircuts.”
“Now try just growing the tail.”
Rolf did that in one try. “I think I might have the hang of this.”
“Can you turn back into a girl without the ears and tail there?”
“I can try.” Rolf concentrated. His tail retreated, but his hair grew out and his body and clothes quickly shifted back into the female form again.

“This is kind of nice,” she said with a smile. “I don't have any of the weird mental compulsions I get when I turn into Flora, and I feel..I don't know, more athletic than her? Actually, I don't feel any weaker than I do as a guy.” She pushed her ears and tail out again. “It's weird, I've lived my whole life without fuzzy ears and a tail, but having them feels more..natural somehow. Do you mind if I stay like this for a while?”
“Not at all,” she said with a smile, “I'm doing it, after all.”



“Hey, I have an idea,” said Akio after the two girls with tails left the room.
“I'm not going to like it,” said Cole.
“Aww, how do you know?”
“Your tone of voice. You never have any ideas I like with that tone of voice.”
“Hey, that tone of voice got us into the arcade, right?”
“Yes,” said Cole, crossing his arms. “I still didn't like it all that much.”
“Are you gonna get to your idea or should I go get some popcorn?” asked Kell.

“Yeah, yeah, just get it over with.”
“Well,” said Akio, holding up his ring, “I think we should have a sleepover here as girls. You know, since Kell's a girl, and everyone can be girls, but none of us have ever done that before?”
“We've stayed over at each other's houses before, Akio,” said Cole.
“Yeah, but as guys, and this is different. Besides, Liam's house is huge. I bet there's all kinds of cool stuff here we haven't seen yet. And it'd be kind of awkward if everyone was a guy except Kell, right?”
“I wouldn't mind that much,” said Kell.
“Well, I still wanna do it,” said Akio.
“I don't,” said Cole, “but it will be awkward for me if I'm the only guy left, which I'm guessing you're already making sure is gonna..yeah.” Akio had already put on the ring by now.

When he took it off, his clothes immediately turned into bright pink cloth. The shirt sleeves grew out as his body started shrinking, and it all began to pull tighter against his body as a pattern of little red hearts appeared on it. Akio's arms and legs slimmed, his face shifted to a rounder shape, and his hair grew out.

“Sheesh, could you look any more obnoxiously girly?” said Cole.
“I'm sure I could~,” answered Akio in Aki's high voice, “but I can be as girly as I want when I'm a girl~.” His hips pushed out as the pants pulled tight between his legs, showing that he had crossed over. She grinned as her chest pushed out against the tight shirt, which pulled closer against her slim stomach. She gave a quick spin around to take a look at herself, and then tossed the ring at Cole, who caught it with a sigh.

“Hmm..” Kell walked closer to Aki. “You know, you look a little..bigger every time I see you.”
“W-well, I didn't like being short,” she said. “And I figured a, uh, a little more figure would fit better if I was taller. You think it's bad?”
“Nah, but don't go too far overboard. I think being small makes you look a lot cuter,” she said, ruffling the other girl's hair.
“H-hey!” She stepped back away from Kell. “No fair, I can't reach your head.”

Meanwhile, Cole examined the ring for a bit before finally putting it on his hand. It glowed, and he took it off again, and found himself shrinking, too. His hair flowed out, his stomach and limbs slimmed down, and his face shifted. All of his clothes except for the underwear joined together into a single piece of white cloth. The sleeves pulled in and the collar sinking a bit, leaving straps on his shoulders; the pants spread out into a skirt and then shrank up to just above the knees. Then he turned into Jenna, and her chest pushed gently out into a bra underneath the nightgown.

Rolf and Liam returned before long. “Hey,” said Aki, “we're having a sleepover!”
“We are?” said Liam.
“W-well, I mean if it's okay with you.
She shrugged. “I suppose it's fine. As long as you have your parents' permission, mine won't care either way. I would not mind hanging out a little longer with you three.”
“What, you don't like me anymore?” said Kell.
“Aww, I'm always hanging out with you,” Liam answered with a grin. “I'm..going to change to some less formal clothes, however.” She took out Kell's ring again, and put it on to shift back.

“Hmm,” said Rolf, “I wonder if I can change what these clothes look like..”
“Welcome to try,” said Liam. “I don't know what all your powers can do, so I can't very well tell you what won't work.”
She closed her eyes and concentrated. The stockings shrank into normal white socks, her shorts became gray gym shorts, and the shirt, jacket and tie shifted into a simple, slightly loose white t-shirt. She opened her eyes again to take a look at the results, and smiled. “Well, what do you know?”
“Good.” Liam was back to himself, but still with the fox ears and one tail, and put the ring on again. “I have ta wonder what the limit is for that, but you got plenty of time to mess around with it later. Here ya go.” After it glowed, he handed it back to Kell.

“Hey, Li,” she said. “You figure out a name to use as a girl yet?”
“Hmm, I hadn't really thought about it much,” he said, already back to female height. His clothes were simply shrinking to keep fitting until now, but as his stomach pulled in and hips pulled out they started to get tighter. “Maybe..Lia? I'm sure if Akio can get away with just dropping a letter, so can I.” He became female, and the jeans turned into blue cloth, their leggings pulling up as far as her knees. “It's sort of boring, though. Mia, perhaps? Or..” Her second tail grew out as her breasts pushed back out again, then it receded back as soon as she had stopped changing. “I think I like the sound of Leiko, actually.”

“Are you going with that one, or going to keep debating all night?” said Jenna.
“Hmm, Leiko's fine.” she said, with a nod. “What about you?” she asked the other girl with a tail. “Still going by Flora?”
“Maybe? Do I really look similar enough?”
“Hmm...” Aki walked over to take a closer look. “You're taller, your bust is a little smaller, your hair's a different color and way straighter, and you don't act much like her. I guess you could say you had a makeover or something for the hair thing, and the rest someone who's just seen you once might think they remember wrong. But if you've hung out with anyone not in this room as Flora it may be a little hard to convince them you're the same person..”
“Well, just Lauren, besides the night at the arcade,” said Jenna. “I really doubt anyone would expect to know someone all that well after talking to them just one or two times. Frankly, I think you could get away with a hidden depths angle if you still wear frilly clothes half the time.”

“Yeah..I guess that's worth not trying to maintain two different alternate identities for you guys' sakes,” said Rolf (or perhaps Flora), trying not to smile too much at a mental image of herself in a 'frilly outfit'.