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'.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The "Best" RPG Ever-12

Zack woke up late the next morning, stood up and stretched, and then went and put his armor on. The others were still asleep; Mika had said she was going to go experiment with her fire powers in the training yard for a while, but apparently had come back after a bit. The wolf opened its eyes slightly when he got up, and then shut them again. Feeling hungry, he went downstairs to get breakfast, the wolf getting up and following him, before plopping down to go back to sleep the instant he sat down. Just as lazy as any real dog, he thought.

After a while the others came down. "Morning."
"Good morning~," said Mika, taking a seat next to him. "What are we gonna do today?"
"Well, I'm going to go buy some more sets of normal clothes. It's really getting annoying going around town in armor, especially this armor."
"What if you get attacked without your armor?" said Katherine, which Zack responded to by pointing vaguely at the wolf sleeping next to him. "Okay, fair enough, but you know buying a bunch of different clothes is just begging the universe to start tearing them up at every opportunity."
"No, it's what normal people do. It's not normal to go around wearing exactly the same thing all the time, unless you work in uniform."
"Are you saying I should get some new clothes, then?"
He shrugged. "You can if you want. I know I'd want to in your place, since there's definitely no reason you have to go around in a short skirt all the time."
"You don't think it looks good on me?"

Zack glared at her for a second or two. "It looks fine, but annoying to wear nonstop."
The catgirl gave a devious grin. "I dunno, I just thought out of all of us you'd be the last one to want to go clothes shopping, Zack."
He managed to somehow frown even harder. "There is nothing feminine about buying clothes. Especially if you have exactly one outfit to your name."
"I know, I'm just teasing you."
He gave that a large sigh. "Look, I'm through eating, and I'm going to go now. Do whatever you want for the next few hours. Maybe test out those rings we found if you wanna do something useful." The wolf, naturally, followed him out the door.

"Y'know you're poking a hornet's nest there, Kath," said the witch. "One of these days she's gonna bite your little head clean off~."
"But it's just so much fun. Besides, I can always tell when it's time to stop."
"A-aren't you being a little mean?" asked Nora.
"A little. But it's the friendly kind of meanness."
"That sounds like a, uh..a contradiction of terms."
"No no, it's perfectly normal. Only really good friends can throw verbal abuse back and forth nonstop."
"If you say so. But, um..I thought you just met two days ago?"
"I'm good at making friends," responded the catgirl.

"Soooo, what about it?" asked Mika after a bit.
"About what?"
"Are you gonna go look for some clothes?"
"Are you?"
"Mmmaaaybe..but I might not buy anything because I'm really picky. It has to have room for my wings, it has to keep up the whole witch look, and it has to be cute! You still didn't answer the question, though."
She shrugged. "I guess so. I am a little curious what some different outfits look and feel like with this body. And..hate to admit it, but Zack was right about this getup not being the most practical thing in the world. Do you want to look for some clothes, Nora?"

"Oh! Uh.." The elf hesitated a bit. "I-I guess I could, but uh, it almost feels pointless.."
"How so?"
"Well, I wish I could get something that hid a little more of my skin..b-but, anything that covered much more than what I've already got on would make it hard use my powers correctly. And, I don't know how to explain it, uh..even just having covers over me feels all wrong, like having a blurry filter over my eyes or something covering my ears."
"Well, that's fine, but it'd still be sensible to have a spare outfit or two, you know, in case what you're wearing gets damaged in a fight? I'm sure you don't wanna be left with even less."
Nora's face turned bright red. "O-oh, no. Definitely not."



"So, how long have we been walking now?"
The fox-girl looked up slightly. "Hmm...about an hour."
"And you're sure we've been going in the same direction."
"Yep, ever since leaving that weird castle place. Whoa, you hear that?"
"What?"
Rayna paused, her ears twitching a bit. "Sounds like..a wildcat roaring. Maybe someone shouting. I bet they need help."
"We shouldn't go looking for trouble."
"Well, I'm gonna go check it out anyway." She started running, and Lynn very quickly caught up.

"What are you doing?"
"I know a quest hook when I hear it. Besides, if there's people they can lead us to an actual town."
"This is such a bad idea."
"Bad idea, good idea. They're all the same until you try them out!"
"Said the guy who stuck his finger in a light socket."
"Whoa!" Rayna stopped short right the top of a hill; Lynn didn't, and went rolling down, recovering her feet only after reaching the bottom."

"You could have warned me, ya ditz!" yelled the archer.
"I didn't see it any sooner than you did!"
"Yeah, right! This--!"
"Excuse me!" said a male voice from behind Lynn. She turned around to see a man with wolf-like ears and a tail in some fairly torn-up leather armor, standing between three unusually large, spotted wildcats and an unconscious person in similar armor, holding a long spear out toward the cats. Two more of the same were lying unmoving on the ground nearby. "Little help please!"
"Right, that." Rayna quickly placed an illusion of herself holding a samurai sword right next to one of the cats while she dove down the hill to get in better range. The illusion swung the blade loudly and clumsily at the cat, which immediately got out of the way while its friend pounced at her..and straight through emtpy air, landing snout-first on the ground.

The third cat chose this moment to pounce at the man with the spear from the wrong angle. He batted it away with the side of the polearm and moved around to keep himself between it and the body behind him.
Lynn drew out an arrow and concentrated, causing it to start sparking while stringing it. Rayna got up, making another illusion of herself next to the cat that dodged the first one. The cat, now apparently suspicious after its partner's mishap, tried rearing up and taking a swipe with its claws. This of course hit empty air, but also gave Lynn a good target. The arrow sailed straight into the animal's underside and electrocuted it, stunning it.

The other cat recovered from hitting the ground, and turned, growling, toward Rayna. It charged, stopped, and swiped at her, hitting another illusion as she danced to the side. The fox-girl moved out of the way of another swipe while making three more of herself to keep it guessing. When it attacked one illusory Rayna and failed, she made herself invisible just long enough to move into its place.
Lynn shot a cold arrow at the cat the armored man was holding off; it ducked under it, making a small burst of snowflakes on the ground on its other side, and then hopped backwards away from his spear. She caught it in the side with a burning arrow, and then had to jump out of the way of the cat she had stunned earlier. "Ray!"
"On it!" Rayna kept an illusionary self between 'her' cat and the other one, made Lynn briefly invisible, and put a fake Lynn between the fake Rayna and that cat. It looked..off, with pointed ears, a small tail, and definitely too large of a chest, but it was enough to fool the animal. Both cats pounced, jumped straight into each other, and started clawing at each other before checking what exactly they were attacking. The fox-girl grinned wide, placing an illusion of herself, injured and lying on the ground, on top of each cat as they backed up and opened their eyes. So they pounced at each others' throats again.

"Come on. Come on." The cat with the burning arrow in its side growled at the man in armor. He nudged his weapon forward and then back again, and the animal moved with it. Then it was knocked over, on its side, by an arrow with what seemed to be a big rock for a head. "Good enough." He stepped forward and stabbed it, hard, and then stabbed it again, before turning toward the two remaning cats.

They were very angry, and running after Rayna. Of course that wasn't the real Rayna, who tapped Lynn's shoulder to clue her in to that. When the fake Rayna was far enough away, she turned around, allowing the cats to hit her and dispel the illusion while the real one briefly disappeared and another illusion appeared between the cats and Lynn, and started running toward the archer. One of the cats chased her, while the other started going around. An arrow hit the one chasing her straight between the eyes, and a couple of vines shot out from the head, wrapping themselves around its cheeks. That didn't actually do much, since the animal slumped over anyway.

The other cat jumped at Rayna, who very quickly ducked under the pounce, leaving an illusion standing up. Lynn quickly turned around and ran over next to the armored man's unconscious friend before drawing her bow back, aiming it to arc over his head. The man turned around briefly and nodded before getting his spear back up into position.

The last cat was in a rage, swiping at false Raynas every couple of seconds. She had to actually run and keep moving back and forth to keep out of its random swings, and when she finally got to the others she fell into a sitting position, panting more rapidly than she thought should be possible. The animal charged through her last illusion and straight into a rock arrow to its head, followed by a swift spear stab while it was stunned.

The man stuck his spear in the ground and physically relaxed. "Phhew..."
Lynn went over to Rayna, squatting slightly and putting a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"Y-yeah, hh-hh-hh-hh-hh, I think, hh-hh-hh, I think I overdid it, but yeah."
The armored man, meanwhile, knelt next to the person he'd been protecting. "Oh, thank th'gods," he said after a bit, "she's just knocked out."
Lynn stood back up and went over to him. "What happened, anyway?"
"Well, ah. We were just doing our regular patrols, and those cats came at us outta nowhere. I don't think we'd have been able to report it if you hadn't showed up."
"Is it normal for a bunch of animals to attack you like that?"
"Well..you never know out on the frontier. Not usually in such big groups, though."

He stood up. "Guess I ougtha introduce myself. Hold on." He removed his helmet, which obscured his face, and immediately a bunch of black hair fell to a bit past his shoulders. His fur was the same pitch black as the hair, except inside of his ears, which was a dark gray; he had bright yellow eyes, and a small but well-built face. He was of a more slim, athletic build, but obviously strong enough. "Name's Rast. I work with the town guard." He offered a hand to shake, which Lynn did, but she had trouble talking for a second or two after getting a look at his face. Something made her feel a little excited, almost light-headed.
"How did you fit that in there?" Said Rayna, now recovered enough to turn toward him.
"Oh, um..it's a special enchantment, long story with the, ah--"
"Never mind," said the archer, having shaken off the momentary..whatever it was. "I'm Lynn and this is Rayna. You're from around here?"
"Sure! Well, about 's much as anyone's really 'from' the frontier."
"Well, we're not. I'm assuming you know how to get to town?"
"Of course! But I can't go back without my partner."
"Hm..neither of us is all that strong, but I think you and I'd be able to pull her a little while."
"Sure. Town's not all that far off."

Rast carefully picked up one of the armored woman's arms, and Lynn got the other. The armor made her heavier than expected, but she managed. Rayna slowly got up, then took a deep breath, and then the three of them started walking.
"Oh, ah. M'partner's name is Pirr. Hate that you have to meet 'er like this, though."
"That's okay. You're not too badly hurt, are you?"
"Nah. This armor's pretty good at takin' damage for a body. Captain's sure to throw a fit about it, though, least till she hears how many of those things we clobbered."
"Is he strict or something? Did you not follow some rule?" asked Rayna.
"Nah, she just don't like the cost of replacin' and repairin' equipment all the time. More of a, 'this state of things I don't like much', fit than much else. Nah, we all know better than to really mess up with her in charge."
"Do you respect her or fear her?"
"Ahh..that'll be both, miss Lynn. For sure. She could scare off an Archdemon by looking at 'em the wrong way. Comes off as gruff, but always fair, you know? And generous in a pinch, I hear, but, well, in a you-didn't-hear-that-from-me kinda way."
"You mean she doesn't like that to be known," said Rayna, "because she'd rather be seen as tough, so people will only come to her for help if they seriously need it."
He shrugged with his free shoulder. "Guess that's it. Uh, you wanna change sides Lynn?"
"Sure."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ring 5.2: Resistance

Ring 5.2:
Resistance

Kell (or mostly-Kell, at least) showed up at Liam's house Friday afternoon looking unusually pleased with herself. “Hey, what's up?” said Liam.
“Oh, that Morley guy decided to follow me off the school grounds today and start calling me names and stuff. So I punched him.”
You punched 'im? Great! Where?”
“Just square in the face. He nearly fell over, and then said something about me hitting like a girl, I said 'I am a girl, you jerk', and then he started walking off, muttering something about getting me back later. I called after him, saying to put some ice or meat on his cheek, 'cause I'm pretty sure it was bruising up.”
“Hah! Serves 'im right. Oughta keep 'im off your back for a while, at least. So long as ya didn't do it unprovoked.”
“Nah, I gave him like five whole minutes to leave me alone. I think once I even said I was gonna punch him if he kept it up.”

“So, how's the progress with the ring?”
“Um..I barely notice any changes when I put it on, but it still glows. I'm sure it'll do something different when it's all done. I'm more curious what you're gonna look like as a girl..”
“Ah, don't worry about that. We have ta wait for the others anyhow.”
“Why don't you just use my ring and do it now?”
“'Cause I wanna use it as a demonstration for somethin'. A little bit 'a magic education for those guys.”


Akio was late, so the other two had to wait for him before heading off to Liam's house. Cole had a question. “Hey, Rolf. What do you think of Liam?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean..you deal with a lot of bullies. He's kinda..isn't he?”
Rolf shrugged. “He's not a bully, if that's what you're asking.”
“Well I know that. But don't you think he could be, if he wanted? He has kind of a way of dominating people.”
Rolf nodded. “He does like being in charge of things. But he doesn't do it like your average bully. He talks people into doing things, keeps secrets and tells 'em when he wants 'em known. But..the best way I can put is, so far it looks like he uses his powers for good.”
“Yeah. I'm glad about that, at least.”

The missing member of the trio finally came running up, and stopped, panting. “Hff..hey, sorry I'm late!”
“What'd you do this time?” asked Rolf.
“Do? I didn't do anything. I just had to finish something in my last class, is all. No big deal.”
“Well, then let's go.”

Rolf led the way, and before long they were at the door. Liam opened it. “Welcome. C'mon in.” And then he led them to where Kell was waiting. “You bring your ring?” Liam asked.
“Yeah, I have it here,” said Akio, holding it up. It occurred to Cole that he didn't remember handing Akio the ring the other day, but since he'd managed to not lose it, he decided not to bring it up.
“Alright, lemme borrow it then.” He held out his hand, and Akio gave him the ring. He put it on his index finger and a few seconds later it glowed and he took it off again, handing it back to Akio.

“Now, consider this a demonstration,” said Liam. “As you c'n see, I ain't changing much at all. Folks with talent in magic, and who are magic, have a lot of resistance this sorta thing, and I've actually trained my own past that small bit 'a talent.” His hair was very slowly growing out—well, slowly compared to the explosion of hair that Akio and Cole had seen when changing, at least. “But it's my own magic workin', and I want it to happen, so it keeps goin' anyway.” Now he started to get shorter, very gradually and slightly.

“However, since I know how ta use magic, I can actually turn down that resistance and make it go as fast as someone not so resistant,” he said. “Watch.” He made a slight sweeping gesture with his hand, and suddenly his hair growth and height loss sped up. Within seconds he was reduced to about Akio's height, and his hair was down to his stomach on the sides and back. His eyes' color shifted to a bright purple, and then the more specific changes began.

His shirt turned black and pulled tighter on his stomach as it got slimmer. His shoulders pulled in, and his arms and legs thinned; his sleeves broke off at the shoulders while his jeans split at the thighs. The denim turned to white cloth as the leggings combined with his socks and pulled tight on his legs. His skin became smoother and paler all over, and his face shrank a bit, becoming rounder and softer-looking. His eyes took on a slightly more slanted shape; a pair of hair ornaments that looked like small leaves appeared on the sides of the top of his head, each bringing a lock of hair up and apart from the rest of the hair. Meanwhile, the sleeves grew longer, bits of purple cloth and a nature-themed pattern appearing on them.

Next, Liam's hips pulled their way out and back. Still standing, he took the change of balance gracefully, moving the position of his feet as necessary. The remainder of his jeans spread out into a skirt, the denim softening into purple cloth. His shirt split in the middle, turning to a sleeveless kimono top, and then her chest began to swell into it. A tall belt appeared around her stomach, along with a purple rope around its center held by a large purple ribbon near the front. Her breasts stopped growing at a medium size, and bounced slightly from the force of their rapid growth.

And then, Liam's ears suddenly grew, pulling their way up to the top of her head. Black fur appeared on their outside, and tufts of white appeared on their inside, and within seconds they had become two tall triangles. Then a long, wide tail burst out from her back, covered in thick black fur other than a white tip..and then another one came out, and all of a sudden Liam lost her balance, flailing slightly before falling over on her face.

She quickly pushed herself up to a sideways sitting position. “Do not worry, I'm all right,” she said, in a higher alto tone, and grinned. “It has been a while since I had to deal with these tails..”


Akio walked over and offered a hand to help her up. “Ha, you almost stayed standing the whole way through,” he said.
She took the help, but glared once she was standing up. “You have no idea how difficult just one of these is for balance..much less two.”

“Wait, you've had a..you've had tails before?” asked Cole.
Liam nodded. “I usually hide them, for obvious reasons. But it was much easier to make a disguise which more closely reflected my true appearance in that regard.”
“Um..Liam, you're kinda talking different,” said Kell. She was right; Liam's usual accent was missing, and her speech had a kind of crisp exactness to it instead.
She shrugged. “It is part of the costume. I believe I was thinking of an older, more traditional look, so this result makes sense. Anyway,” she said, Liam's usual accent reemerging, “I c'n stop anytime I want.”

Cole had another question. “Okay, how do you hide something like that? Can you just transform at will?”
“To an extent.” The fox-girl demonstrated, pointing at one of the tails as it seemed to shrink away into her lower back again. “Seems like anyone magic can look non-magic if they want. I am not sure whether it is something magic people could always do, or if we adapted it at some point. But my ability is limited to just hiding my unique traits; I can not even alter the length of a fingernail at will without help from something like this ring.”
“Are you gonna get rid of your other tail, too?” said Akio.
“Hmm..it's safe enough to keep it around here. Why?”
“Uh, no reason.” Akio's face was slightly red for a second, and Liam's ears could pick up his heart beating very slightly faster.

Rather than comment on that, she moved on. “All right. Now..there is something I want to tell you. I believe I have mentioned maybe once that I have a certain extra sense, being magic. It lets me get a sense of what sort of magic potential other people might have. When I met you three in that restaurant, my extra sense pointed out something to me about one of you that I thought you ought to know..but I wasn't certain which one at first.”
“And..what is that?” asked Rolf.
“Well, Rolf, I think you might be magic.”
“What? You mean like you are?” He was still calm; after all, Liam certainly made it seem like being magic was really not that big of a deal.
“Hm..not exactly. There are many different kinds of magic people. And I'm not terribly surprised if you didn't know. After all, a magic human sometimes marries a non-magic human and hides being magic for their whole life, and the children are born with the more obvious traits hidden.”
He looked more concerned about this. “You think my--”
“Hold on now, I'm not done. It might not even be your parents. After all, a person born and raised looking and acting like a non-magic human might never find out, and their children might not find out, and so on. So..maybe that didn't happen with your parents, or even with anyone still alive, but it probably happened somewhere up the ancestral line. Of course, I might be wrong. My sense for magic isn't perfect, after all.”
Rolf nodded, looking thoughtful.

“And..how would we test whether you're wrong or not?” said Cole.
He looked up again. “Yeah, I dunno how to grow a tail or whatever like you do.”
Liam scratched her head, thinking. “Hm..well, I was born with a tail and learned to hide it. And you might not even have a tail, so even if I tried to tell you how to make one appear it might not work. But..I thought about that, and had an idea.”
She held out a hand to Kell, who handed over her ring. (“See, some people know how to take cues,” said Akio, and Cole replied “Shh!”)

She walked over toward Rolf, saying, “Hiding or revealing one's magical traits is a change of form, and these disguise rings are able to change one's form. So if you ask this ring to turn you into your 'true' form, then whatever that is, it should do that. And..it shouldn't be very hard to figure out hiding whatever unusual traits that might give you.” Then the fox-girl offered him the ring. “Would you like to try it?”
He thought for a few seconds, and then nodded, taking the ring. “...Yeah, okay. But if it turns out I can't figure out how to hide whatever, though, you're gonna be responsible for the mess.”
“Sure, but I doubt that'll happen. After all, you have me to help you.”

“Yeah..sure.” Rolf put on the ring.