Sunday, July 1, 2018

The New Omega (MJ side-story)

Lue seemed different these days.

It seemed to have started some time last month; she had always been pretty quirky, a little dominating—clearly the alpha type—but all of a sudden she seemed a little more energetic and brazen. It was...a nice change to see. Roan had always liked her, and thought she was beautiful and cute, but the newfound confidence, wherever it had come from, was a welcome change and drew him to her even more. And evidently she was acting on that confidence rather fast, since the next thing he knew he was hearing of her forming a pack with Brie and a couple of other people he'd never heard of, probably from other high schools.

It was, he thought, time to act. With the way she was acting now, if someone didn't approach her then she seemed likely to approach them, and although there was no guarantee of success, Roan wanted to at least give it a shot. It still took him until Friday afternoon to work up the courage to say anything; her confident, dominant demeanor was...honestly pretty hot as far as he was concerned, but it also made her more intimidating, despite how physically small she was. But, they had been friends for a while, and he wasn't exactly unattractive himself: Tall, well-built, fiery red hair and eyes. He'd never really noticed her looking at him, well, that way, but maybe he could get her to?

They were walking out of school together. “Hey, uh, Lue..?”
“What's eating you, huh?” she answered, immediately picking up on his hesitant tone.
“Well...I...” This would go immensely better, regardless of her response, if he would just spit it out. “I want to ask you out on a date,” he said finally.
“Hmm. Nope.”
...Nope,” he responded. Well, that was blunt.
She put her hands up in a bit of a shrug. “It's nothing personal. I'm just not interested in that kind of relationship right now. You can respect that, right?”
“...Yeah, I guess so.” They
were still young, still in high school after all, however close they were to graduating. Had he made things awkward now? “..Sorry.”
“Hey, don't apologize! It's not like you could read my mind or anything. But I have a counter-proposal: Would you be interested in joining my new pack?” She grinned in a way that seemed friendly but had an edge of mischief behind it.

Uh..” Well, apparently she hadn't taken offense at all to make that offer right afterward. And...well, it was 'right now' she wasn't interested, right? Roan hadn't really had any intentions of joining a pack, but it was the kind of relationship that would keep them relatively close in case she ever changed her mind, right..? “I, think so, yes.”
“Great! Now listen, you don't have to worry about fighting me or anything.” That was good..he knew some self-defense but Lue was notoriously
strong. “As werewolves of a modern age, we have a different way to try out. I need to take care of a few things today, so if you're free tomorrow morning I can show you what it is at my place.”
“Okay, sure...” He was a little dubious of this “new try-out method”, but it already had the positive of probably not involving bruises or broken bones.

The next day, about midmorning, he knocked on the door to Lue's house and she let him in, leading the way into her living room. He'd never been here before, and couldn't help but feel a little nervous walking into the home of a girl he was attracted to..even if she had already rejected him outright. Doubly so as he realized that her parents seemed to be out. “S-so uh, what are doing...?” he said, looking around.
“Well, first of all, if you want to try out for my pack then you'll need to take this,” she said, picking up a small vial from the side table next to the couch. “I don't want you backing down after taking this, if you do. So think of drinking it as a commitment to see the try-out all the way through.”
“Um..okay..?” He took the offered vial and stared at it, feeling more than a little suspicious. The liquid inside was a swirl of bright pink and dark blue, with a slight silvery glow showing here and there. Lue could have a vicious sense of humor sometimes, and this was potentially a prank involving powerful magic. “What does exactly?”
“That's a surprise!” she said with a faux-innocent smile. “But I
can tell you that it's painless, and its effects will be totally reversible.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Lots of terrible things are 'totally reversible'.”
Lemme clarify: You'll be able to undo its effects completely yourself after drinking it, without any help from other potions or magic or anything, including me. So you don't have anything to worry about. You do want in my pack, right?”

He sighed; she always did know the right thing to say to make someone do something. “Yes.” He started to open it.
“Oh right, you
may want to stand close to the couch,” she added, grabbing an arm and pulling him over that way. “Juuust in case.”
That's reassuring,” he said sarcastically. But it was inevitable at this point, so he finished opening it up and chugged the small glass container's contents. It tasted vaguely fruity and sweet, not bad but definitely a little strange. Then he handed it back to her quickly in case it was going to paralyze his arms or something, not wanting to deal with any broken glass on top of whatever was about to happen.

“So...I wanna hear your guesses on what it's doing,” Lue said, still grinning widely. “I'll even tell you if you're right!”
“Um, okay.” He was beginning to feel a vaguely warm feeling near his stomach, and it spread out from there to slowly cover his entire body. When it reached down to his feet and up to the top of his head, his hair immediately began to rapidly grow longer. His bangs fell farther down his forehead, and locks began to tickle the sides of his face on their way down. “...Hair growth?” he guessed, picking one of the locks up in front of his face to examine it. It felt softer than usual...
Oh, that's part of it,” she said. “More of a side effect than the main attraction, though.”
“Uh..” Roan shuddered involuntarily, something sort of tickling his spine. And then abruptly he began to shrink, the room beginning to rise up around him as if he was standing on a slow-moving elevator going down. “Wha...?” He looked around, seeing the height loss accelerate and beginning to feel a strange, slight pressure across his body. His clothes started to feel looser on him, and he saw that he was actually shrinking horizontally too, his shoulders narrowing and his whole frame becoming slimmer.

Hair..and shrinking?” he said, noticing the hair was now past his shoulders and still growing. His voice sounded slightly off when he spoke, so he tried clearing his throat, but that sounded kind of weird too. “AaAnd..” His voice cracked slightly. “..Voice?” It was...higher now.
Aallll parts of it! Getting warmer,” Lue said teasingly. She seemed to be enjoying the show, at least.
Looking down at himself again, Roan noticed that his arm hair seemed considerably thinner and shorter than usual. In fact, the same was true for his chest, which the increasingly oversized shirt on him was beginning to show off more of. Right when he looked, it slipped down off of one of his shoulders, and then he noticed his pants starting to slide down his legs just in time to quickly reach down and grab his boxers before they left him too.

Roan shivered again, the odd spine tickle returning. Then he felt a sharp tug between his legs, followed by a wave of tingling down there. “Aah!” A voice he hadn't heard from his throat since the age of twelve cried out in surprise. “...Wh-whaAaa..?” His voice cracked again during the question, as the tingling died down and he looked up to find his shrinking slowing down as the top of Lue's head approached his eye level. Then he looked back down again, tugging on his boxers as the unsecured side slipped entirely off of his hips, the hem of his shirt falling down to his thighs and its collar slipping off enough to reveal his forearm. He looked so slim and small; his once-muscular arms were practically sticks and his legs, mostly exposed by the pants now around his feet, weren't much better. His hands and feet were so small, too, enough that he could just step out of his shoes if he wanted to. And his fell all the way past his stomach and was still growing, making its way down to his hips. Or maybe that was his height still shrinking, the floor below still very slowly crawling closer.

Another shudder, and tug, and Roan let out a very unmasculine “Aah~!” in response. His cheeks were getting warm from the strange tingling down there as he looked up and saw that his eye level was at Lue's forehead, but everything had finally quit getting taller. “I-I...your potion's turning me into a chick?!” he said, hearing his high, squeaky voice begin to mature back down in pitch, but in a distinctly feminine way.
“Ding ding ding!” Lue said, bouncing on her feet a bit with a wide, satisfied grin. “Thaat's most of it.”
M-most?!” what more was it going to do, Roan thought, just before he felt his ears pushing themselves up and out, fur brushing past his hair on the way up. They seemed much more..sensitive to that touch than before, and drew a startled “Wah!” from him in what was now an undeniably womanly alto. This was followed immediately by another “Aah~!” in the same deeply female voice as his tail also pushed its way out, sensitive fur brushing against the trailing hem of his shirt before simply lifting it up in the back as it twitched around nervously.

Roan shuddered again, feeling another spine tingle. “Rrgh..aa~aah...!” This tug was sharper but slower, and left him with very little down there. “Wh..why..?”
“I'll explain when it's over,” Lue nodded reassuringly. “Just enjoy it for now.”
“E-enjoy?” The tingling down there that followed a tug hadn't let up, and as it grew more intense instead of less, it made the blush on his face grow even hotter and brighter. “This isn't rh..really, m-my idea of...” Roan felt a gentle inward slipping as his sex began to change. “Aaaah..aah~rrf!” His eyes closed as he felt his equipment shifting, an inward push that traveled up to the pit of the stomach. Roan's ears sank down to the sides of his head, his tail whipping rapidly back and forth in spite of herself; the change came with a pleasant fuzzy feeling down there that was hard to ignore. She lost her grip on her underwear just before feeling a sudden push from her hips as they quickly grew, along with her butt puffing out behind her, giving her increasingly womanly proportions and conveniently just catching the boxers before they could fall off.

“Rrh..rrf! Arf!” Roan was briefly incapable of speech, and her instincts took over instead, reacting to the tingling in her chest with more excited barks. It made her blush more and seemed to give her newfound womanhood more pleasant sensations to feel as her chest gently pushed itself forward, newly-sensitive skin growing and brushing against the t-shirt as it went. Her canines sharpened and slightly lengthened themselves and her tongue grew a little longer as she continued to bark and yip in response to all of the new sensations; her chest grew and grew and grew for what seemed like several minutes but must have only been a few seconds, before finally, with one long “Aaa~aahhAArrf!” from her lips, the new breasts gave one final outward shove and then gently bounced a little bit from the motion.

The new girl slowly opened her eyes, her face still feeling like it was on fire. Lue was grinning up at her...her own ears and tail out and the latter wagging in a way that seemed very pleased. “Lue, w-what was..what even..?” she stammered out.
“You like it? I had to special order a potion to get all the effects I wanted,” she said. “First, it's transformation potion with a little bit of moonlight in it to give you wolfy ears and a tail. Plus there's some extra stuff in there to make sure the biggest change is comfortable...or a little more than that. And I'd say you turned out
super cute, too~.”
“Wh..what does
this have to do with being in your pack?” she demanded, her blush changing from...well, from just a reaction to the 'comfortable' aspect of the change to sheer embarrassment at it all: Her tiny soft new appearance, Lue watching the whole time...!
It's very simple. The new trial my pack uses is petting,” said Lue. “I believe it reaches our most primal instincts and forces us to reveal how we really feel about each other. Buut, knowing you're attracted to me would make that super awkward if you were still a boy.”
“Th-that's just..weird,” Roan said, her ears drooping a bit. But of course, Lue had anticipated this reaction and already informed her that drinking the potion was a 'commitment'. “What about..?”
Ah, it doesn't just transform you though,” said Lue, anticipating the next question. “It actually gives you the power to switch between your new appearance and the old one whenever you want. Buut that effect is really hard to make work alongside everything else, so it'll take around six hours to activate.
hours?!” Roan had more or less cleared his schedule for today in anticipation of something strange, but the idea of being stuck like this for so long was a little hard to bear.
“Shh, it'll be okay,” said Lue, moving a little closer and putting a finger to Roan's lips. “I'd even bet you'll be enjoying yourself before too long.”
“M-mmnnh!?” The new girl tried to physically back out of the weirdly intimate gesture...“Waah~!”...and tripped over her oversized shoes and the pants still pooled onto the floor, falling back onto the couch.
“Oh, good!” Lue pounced on her, pulling her into a close hug that squished Roan's new assets against Lue's own pair. She had always wanted to be this close to the alpha girl, but...not quite like this. Still, it drew yet another harsh blush to Roan's cheeks and made her ears fold themselves back most of the way.
Lue paused, her happy expression turning to a slightly worried one. “ it really that bad?” she said, loosening her grip a little bit. “I know what I said before, but this is too extreme to do without real consent. I mean, if you don't want to then it'd be wrong to force you..”” Roan blinked a couple of times, not having expected this sudden burst of concern at all. Lue had almost puppy-dog eyes; it was clear she wanted to do it. In some ways this was like situations Roan had always wanted to find himself in with her, but in others it was all wrong—she'd been turned into a girl, and her body felt all weird, and...! But, it felt kind of nice, too. She was almost the same height as Lue, making it easier to fit their bodies together in a hug...and their busts squished together felt kinda good in a way she'd never really imagined something could. There were undoubtedly some..feelings exclusive to her newfound sex, and Lue's potion more or less gave her the power to feel those any time she wanted in exchange for a little bit of discomfort and waiting.
The red-haired werewolf could feel her expression steadily softening as she brought herself around to the idea. that she really thought it through the idea of Lue petting her was...pleasant. Exciting, even! Her tail began to wag and her ears moved forward before slowly sinking down toward the sides of her head in a submissive expression. “I...” she said quietly. “I want...I want you to,” she said finally.
do?” said Lue, seeming a little surprised by this. Roan wouldn't believe that she expected anything but an eventual agreement, maybe after some more convincing or time to think, but it seemed that admitting to wanting it was more than the alpha anticipated.
“Y-yes.” She blushed. “I, kinda wanna know what it feels like. S-so..”
“Okay!” Lue pulled her into the close hug again, and this time Roan returned it eagerly. And then...!

Roan felt the smaller girl's tail brushing against hers, and let out a soft “Rrrf!” in response. Lue's tail was rough, textured, a little like feeling a brush run across her fur, but it was also so warm..! Then a pair of small hands ran up through Roan's long, soft hair up to her ears and began gently rubbing and petting them, drawing a few small yips from her in response. Roan found herself steadily pulling her head closer and closer to Lue's, lost in the feelings of her wolfy parts, and began vigorously nuzzling her cheek, letting out small pleased “Mmh” and “Rrf” sounds the entire time. Lue returned the nuzzling, continuing to pet her for a good few minutes before finally dropping her hands back down, running them through Roan's hair again and wrapping her arms around her waist. Roan continued nuzzling her for a little longer before they both slowly pulled apart, both of their faces just as red as Roan's hair.

wow,” Lue said. “Your affection for me is definitely not skin-deep. Mnnh..” She rubbed her nose against Roan's cheek again for a second, and then drew back with a pleased smile. “I could feel it even after all the weird stuff I've already put you through, even despite you being totally female right now..”
“Y-yeah..” Roan blushed. “I um..I don't, hate this form nearly as much now. Soo, uh..?”
“You obviously passed!” Lue declared, rubbing the top of Roan's head a bit. “That's phase one: I know now that I want
you in the pack. So before we make it official, you have to do the same thing to me.”
“I..the same..?” she said, in a breathy, surprised voice.
“The petting, not the feeding of a potion,” Lue clarified. “So you can get a sense of how I feel about you, and make an informed decision on whether to be in the pack or not. Plus it's only fair we both get equally embarrassed, right?”
“Oh..I-I guess so,” she said. It seemed kind of sensible when you put it that way. But it did still mean...petting Lue. As before, this was the kind of thing Roan had
dreamed of being able to do with her, but this was nothing like what she'd—he'd imagined. Still...

Roan pulled herself closer to Lue, enjoying the feeling of their breasts pressing together without reservation this time. It occurred to her that the other girl had been braless this entire time, or it wouldn't have felt quite like this. Another matter of 'fairness', she wondered, or just Lue being a weird pervert..? Oh well, now Roan was basically one too—either recently made one by the young alpha's influence or maybe just outed as one, at least when it came to Lue. Regardless, she brushed her tail against Lue's, which was still entwined with it, and brought her hands up to feel of the other girl's ears.
The reaction was electric. Lue let out a sudden “MrrrrhhRRF!” and immediately pulled Roan as close as she would go, pressing her nose against her cheek again and rubbing it back and forth. As she continued the petting and returned that close, friendly gesture Roan could feel and hear Lue's heart racing, her body squirming around in place from excitement. It gave her an increasingly confident feeling that the alpha...Lue...was actually very happy with her, enjoying not just her newly female body but her entire self. There was genuine attraction to Roan—any version of Roan—hiding somewhere deep in there that her current instinct-driven self couldn't help but show. Roan couldn't help but get a little excited herself, realizing that maybe not now...but in a year or a few years or however long it was going to take...there was hope..!

Another few minutes later, Roan gently let go of the ears and moved her hands down to return the hug once again. Lue continued nuzzling her for at least two or three times as long as Roan had kept going before, and then finally pulled herself off, softly panting. “So..hff..whadd'you..hff..think?”
I wasn't sure when you asked me yesterday, but...” Roan said, “I need to be in your pack.”
“Heehee. See, this is why I think petting should be the way of the future,” said Lue. “It's so much fun too, on top of that. Oh, but you might have to be omega for a while.”
“O-omega?” Even knowing that Lue probably didn't run her pack this way, Roan's head rang with the long history of omegas being bullied and generally mistreated by their packs.
“Well, at our last pack meeting we decided on seniority as a ranking system. Purely provisional, you understand, until we come up with something better. But as the newest member that would make you omega.”
“O-oh. So...”
“Not forever. I do intend to build up a pretty big pack over time,” said Lue. “Anyway, it's just a title. Nobody in the pack so far really cares that much about rank anyway.”
“Oh. Well, that's..not too bad then.”
“Mm-hm!” Lue pulled herself off and picked herself up onto her feet, offering Roan a hand. After a moment's hesitation she took it and stood up too. She hadn't noticed it in all the excitement before, but her stance and sense of balance were rather seemed like something she would've definitely had trouble adjusting to, except that the potion had probably 'fixed' it for her, which was convenient at least.

“Now, how would you like to have some clothes that fit you like that?” said Lue.
“I think..that'd be pretty nice,” she said, looking down and blushing again on remembering just how poorly clothed she currently was.
“Great! My beta started studying magic lately and that inspired me to look into it a little bit myself. I only know one clothes-morphing spell, but I guarantee it'll give you something that fits!”
“That sounds..” Roan's ears drooped a bit. “..suspicious.”
“Well, you don't know until you try, right? The last suspicious thing you agreed to turned out great, right?”
She sighed. “Fine. You're just eager to have somebody to test it out on in general, aren't you?”
“Yep!” Lue giggled. “Now then, stand on top of your boy clothes and hold still.”

Roan did as instructed, and then watched as Lue waved her hands and spoke the incomprehensible language of magic before pointing at her. Right away, her clothes from the shirt down to the pants and shoes on the floor began to glow, before pulling themselves up and in and out and around in a rapid whirl of motion. Roan felt cloth squeezing close against her narrow stomach and slim legs, a bra fixing itself over her shoulders and around her back and gently lifting her breasts, something spreading its way out around her hips...and something light placing itself over the top of her head.

The light faded from the clothes, and Roan found herself wearing a frilly maid outfit. She looked down at it, up at Lue, and back down and up again with an increasingly warm blush in her cheeks. “S-seriously!?” she demanded, closing her eyes in embarrassment.
“Hahaha! The look on your face is
priceless!” said Lue. “It does fit though, if I do say so myself. Isn't it comfy, too?”
“It, uh..” Roan's blush continued as she realized that it was. “Yeah. B-but it's..!”
“Hahah! I should introduce you to the rest of the pack in that outfit! Say, 'hey everyone, meet our new omega'!”
“Rrrgh...” She growled, tugging at the weirdly short skirt and noticing that her tail was running down inside of it instead over over the top, which meant a huge risk of flipping it up in the back

Lue smiled and said quietly, “You actually look super cute in it, too...” And she was..blushing? Roan was tempted to think it was still from what they'd been doing a minute ago, except that it went brighter after that admission. That was...she was looking at Roan the way he'd always wanted her to...except that he was a girl right now, wearing a slightly bizarre outfit. Maybe she would...look cute in some more normal clothes too, though?
“Okay..maybe I will meet 'em in this, then,” she said, starting to smile herself. “You think their reactions would be funny enough to be worth it?”
“Oh yeah. Kael's for sure, at least,” said Lue. “Hey, the spell is temporary, but it gave you some fitting undies at least, right?”
“R-right.” She blushed a bit at the attention being brought to the tight, soft panties and the bra over her chest, the close-hugging cloth of each only making her feel more exposed somehow.
“So..I could lend you some more normal clothes of mine over them, and we could go shopping?” Lue offered. “I'll even buy your first four outfits if you want.”
“O-okay. That sounds like fun,” said Roan, her tail picking itself up (and the back of the skirt with it) despite her best efforts so it could wag steadily back and forth.
“Oh, yeah, my clothes might be a little tight on you,” said Lue, starting to lead the way into a nearby hallway and probably to her bedroom.
“There is no way they'll be more embarrassing than this. Which is already pretty tight as it is,” she responded, following.
“While we're out, we can work out the details. I'll put out some texts and figure out when everyone's available for another pack meeting,” said Lue.

The best day seemed to be the following Wednesday. So when they arrived, the first thing that the senior pack members saw on the front door opening up was a girl in a maid outfit...

“Uh, hi, welcome. Come on in,” said Roan, blushing slightly at having other people see her like this. But it would be worth it for their reactions...and more importantly, to make Lue happy. “Alpha' the back,” she gestured, before moving out of the way as if this was all perfectly normal...

(Warning: Dull, overwrought explanation below.)

While I was queuing up the most recent post (Midas Journal 27), I realized that the very next post would be the 300th one on this site. Granted, some of the previous posts are captions or stories I'm not particularly proud of, some aren't anything of value at all, but in the name of arbitrary enjoyment of reaching round-number milestones I felt like it would be nice to do something special.

Well, I've had the general idea for this story for a long while now, but just kept searching and searching to no avail to find the right image. I knew that the person in question had red hair, and pictures with red hair that would work just didn't exist. Eventually I found a picture that I thought would almost work with some small adjustment to the story's ending, namely this one. Except..the hair still wasn't red. So I decided to see whether I could "fix" that, and discovered that with the right image editing software I actually could, in a pretty convincing way even! I did put some effort into altering the image this way, carefully seeking out every little missed spot I could find, but obviously most of the work is technological magic that I probably couldn't hope to understand. Either way, I finally wound up with an image I felt I could use and wrote the whole thing pretty much right away!

So, long story short: This is special for a few reasons—it's the first "side story" in the same vein as the "side caption" we had before, for basically the same reasons (the uniquely limited first-person perspective would make it impossible to place this as part of the story itself); I feel like it's a pretty good "extended caption style" story, it's yet another werewolf, which I'm always a fan of, and it involves an image altered to fit the story. That's why I feel happy putting this out as post 300, and hope you enjoyed it too. Here's hoping I get even more writing done soon!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Midas Journal 27

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Entry: May 24

I switched back to being male again on Saturday because Brie wanted kisses.

Anyway, today at lunch Adena seemed really out of it. She sort of floated up to the table with her food, sat down, and stared into space in silence for a few minutes. It didn't seem like she was upset or anything, more like she was in some kind of happy daze, so for an awkward few minutes I didn't really want to say anything to bother her. Eventually, though, I had to ask.

“ okay there?” No answer. “Hello?” I waved. “Earth to Adena?”
“Hmm?” She snapped out of it, seemingly noticing I was there for the first time. “Oh, hi. Sorry. Uh..”
“What's going on?” I've never really known her (or Aden before) to be much of a daydreamer.
“Uhm..sooo. Rhia figured me out Friday night. Or...well, actually she figured me out way before that and confronted me about it then.”
“You seem happier to say that than I expected..”
“Well. The thing is, she's not. I mean. Uhh..we're still, you know.” She made a vague gesture with her hands.
“You are?” I gave her a confused look. “So she was okay with you lying about...basically everything for weeks?”
“I know, right? She wasn't angry or anything! She just..uh..”

Adena closed her eyes and blushed. “Sh-she made me tell her the truth. Aaalll the truths. And then, her words were, 'I've had lots of boyfriends you know, but never one who was actually a pretty girl before!' I did apologize but she cut me off from explaining why, she just found the whole thing exciting. Um..I do too, really.”
“You found the whole deception 'game' fun,” I pointed out. “So...this is more exciting somehow?”
“Yes! You have no idea. It's—I lost that game and it's amazing. And she's amazing. She wanted me to show off a bunch of magic I could do, and so I did, and eventually I realized that I was basically doing anything she told me to, and answering all her questions totally honestly, all without even thinking about it!”
“I...feel like I'm missing some kind of social context,” I said, really not getting what was so great about what she was describing.

“Look, it's...maybe you'll get it if I put it this way. Since you became a werewolf and all...most werewolves like being in a pack and having an alpha, right?”
“I mean unless you're the kind of person who wants to be an alpha yourself, it's nice to have someone dominant around who'll make you say how you really feel even if you don't want to. you figure out what to do when you're not sure. Right?” she said excitedly.
“I dunno if I'd put it that way. Lue's just...I mean, I 'joined her pack' because I'm her friend and I don't really care that much about being in a pack or not. I get the sense we're not really a normal pack anyway, just some friends who get together on the full moon...”
“Uuhh, what about your girlfriend? Or boyfriend, whichever applies at the time.”
“What about her?”
“You do what she wants sometimes, right? Because, not because she's holding something over you or anything but because you just want to. It's...urrrgh, I don't know how else to describe it.” She leaned forward a bit, and said quietly, “Maybe it's just me, but it feels so good to have someone to submit to!” she said.
“Okay, maybe I understand that a little bit?” I said, feeling some heat in my cheeks on thinking about it. “I'm pretty sure our relationship is different from whatever you're thinking of, but as long as you're happy with it...”

“Oh, I am,” she said, leaning back again. “I'll bet you know exactly what I'm talking about though when I say we spent the night at her place, most of it petting each other~. Right?”
“Okay, that—yeah,” I said, my face feeling even warmer.
“Hahah, you do know!” she said, smiling. “Your girl-fur is way too floofy to be a coincidence. I bet your girlfriend's tail is like a huge pillow, too.”
I couldn't exactly deny that, but this was getting into embarrassing territory. Adena just laughed at my expression again and then changed the subject to something less extreme.

That isn't really the reason I started writing this, but since I've put a few conversations about their dates and relationship in here in the past I figure it makes sense to mention it. The real reason I started writing this goes back to yesterday, when Giri sent me a text. It said, “K, got someone who could use your special talent <3! Free tomorrow?”
There was some homework and spell-studying I was otherwise going to put off until today, but there was still plenty of time to get that done. I answered, “Sure. I always talk before touching though.”
Her response was “Good rule!” and then in a different text gave me a location to drive to..out in the woods. I thought that was a little weird, but remembered that things went okay the last time I agreed to meet with her, I could use my powers and/or new magic to avoid being in any actual danger, and that Brie trusted me. So I gave one more reply to confirm the time I expected to get there.

I drove out there, and pulled off onto a parking lot for a campsite nearby. Giri was already waiting in the lot, and waved me over.
“So..what's going on?” I said.
“Well..back when I was an old rage demon, I made lots of friends,” she said, starting to lead the way into some trees and distinctly not the clearly marked trail. “I decided to check on one of them recently, you know, see if he was still alive and all, and accidentally sorta woke up a dragon.”
“You woke up..wait.” I put two and two together while carefully navigating around some roots and quietly casting some spells to make myself temporarily immune to poison ivy and its worse cousins, just in case. “Your 'friend' is the dragon, right?”

“I told him that I heard about him from, you know, my old self? He's been asleep in his treasure cave for over two hundred years. I tried explaining everything that's changed in that time, with where humanity is as far as society and technology goes...he got overwhelmed really fast.”
“That' does anything sleep that long? Shouldn't you starve to death after just a few months?” She started to answer, and I interrupted, “Wait, let me guess: Magic.”
“Yeah. Dragons just live on a different time-scale from the rest of us, even immortals like demons and stuff. That's also why they're so rare, especially these days. I've heard of a lot of them lately waking up from their slumber, not 'getting' the way the world is now, and then either going back to sleep or flying off to even more deserted places and living like hermits. I estimate it would take a few decades for him to learn English and understand enough of what's happened and what's going on right now to react even halfway normally just walking around our town. So that's what I told him, and he looked about ready to go back to sleep to be honest. He's never been the patient type, ironically. Sooo, I suggested that I had a friend, who might have a shortcut. He said 'like a knowledge spell?' and I said 'suuure'. Knowledge transfer spells aren't exactly a real thing, but mages have been trying to create them for years—for obvious reasons.”

“And I'm your shortcut,” I said. I looked around, and it occurred to me that the forest was clearing up a bit, and also that I had no idea just how we'd gotten to where we now were.
“Right. Getting turned into a girl is at most a minor inconvenience with the magic capabilities that a dragon has. Sooo, we're on our way to his hoard-slash-home to meet him. In case that wasn't clear.”
“No, I guessed as much.” The trees cleared even more to reveal a mountain. There are no mountains that close to my town, which meant that some kind of magic travel had happened. Either we went through a portal and I didn't notice, or maybe this was some kind of magically hidden pocket dimension including a mountain with a huge cave opening now in front of us. I guess it's interesting to know that this kind of thing exists, either way.

We stopped a short ways in front of the cave. “So...what's his name?” I said, realizing she hadn't shared that detail yet.
“Frelbayrentirth.” (I had her text me this later, or else I would have no clue how to spell it)
“Frell. Bayy. Renn. Tee. Erth,” she repeated more slowly, one syllable at a time. “Dragon names tend to be long and hard to say, and they usually don't like to hear them mispronounced. Another thing that'd make modern society more than a little tough to deal with. But dragons have a lot to offer the world, not just money but a perspective I think we may be sorely lacking. That's why, Kael, even if he would be equally happy just going back to sleep I'd like to make a modern person out of my old friend. That, and it'd be nice to talk with him—or her I guess—about things nobody else remembers.”
“If he doesn't like the idea of his memories being shuffled around, I still won't do it,” I said, crossing my arms.
“I know. Really, I'm happy to hear that you have strict rules for this stuff. You ready to head in?”

Before that, I decided to try and say the dragon's name, and got something like “Frel-bearintenth.”
“Frelbayrentirth,” she repeated again, emphasizing the parts I got wrong.
“Ferrenbayrithel—uugh. It's just getting worse,” I said.
“Don't stress, I'll introduce you and you shouldn't need to say his name anyway.” She started to take a step forward.
“Wait, wait!” She stopped again, and turned back toward me. “You said he doesn't know English?”
“I'll use a translation spell, duh.”
“So magic has a universal translator but not information transfer?” I said.
“It's not universal. It's more like, I'm acting as your translator but without the part where I have to actually repeat what you say to each other. You'll know I'm speaking Draconic to him when my mouth doesn't match my words. And the grammar will be a little off because the languages are soo different from each other.” She put her hands on her hips. “Anything else?”
“No, I guess not.” To be honest I was just getting nervous about meeting a dragon at this point, from a general self-preservation perspective, even though she hadn't made him sound violent and even though I knew I had lots of options for self-defense if things did get violent. Just the idea of it was kind of imposing.

But we went anyway, walking up to the cave. Giri stopped just in front of it and put her hand up, moving it as if knocking on a door. It actually did touch something solid, sending white ripples out across some kind of magic-force-field spread out over the cave opening. After a few seconds, I could see the field opening up in a doorway shape in front of her, and she waved me through first before following.
We went down for a short while, enough for the sunlight to start getting dim, and then there were some kind of stones in the wall and ceiling giving off a pale blue glow to see by. Eventually the cave took a sharp left turn and suddenly we ended up in a gigantic chamber filled probably two stories high with a pile of treasure. I could see gold, silver, all kinds of gems, and the odd piece of armor or weaponry (enchanted, I guessed) sticking out of it too. It all glittered, even in the pale blue glow of the light-stone-things, and I was briefly stunned by just the size of it, craning my head up to try and comprehend what I was seeing.

I was snapped out of it by a strange, deep guttural growling sound, and immediately snapped my head in the direction it came from. About midway through I suddenly heard “—is it not?” instead of the rest of the growling. The dragon himself, in kind of a humanoid form, was the one talking, and he stepped a little closer to us. He was tall, like probably eight feet or more, and covered in scales with a lizard-like, horned head, gigantic wings and a long, thick tail coming out of his back, and his hands and feet were big and clawed, more animal than human. His scales were mostly red, with some white on the underside of the tail and his front; he was wearing some kind of gold-mail-cloth as a loose shirt and pants.
“Frelbayrentirth, hello once again,” said Giri in a friendly tone of voice, sounding perfectly calm. “This Kael, the one having the shortcut I mentioned.” I was still as nervous as before, and rattled from him coming out of the shadows talking like that.

“Uh—hello,” I said.
“Hmm.” He crossed his arms, looking down at me with what I was confident must be a very skeptical expression. His eyes actually glowed (or I might say it looked more like they burned) with a bright orange color. “You are just a werewolf knowing some magic. I see no knowledge spell nor anything else helpful to this one.”
“I get that a lot,” I said, drawing myself up slightly and taking a quick breath through my nose to calm down. “My power, isn't directly visible to 'magic vision' or things like that. I can at least show you that I am capable of more than I appear to be.”
“Very well.” He gestured vaguely.

So I reached up and tapped my ear a couple of times, thinking: Elf, Neko, Kitsune, back to usual werewolf self. The first change came along with me shrinking into female form; my tail also disappeared and my ears tingled slightly as they retreated halfway inward. Then a cat tail pushed its way out and my ears grew back, and then the tail puffed out into a fox tail and the ears grew much taller, before finally I changed back to normal—well, normal ever since I became a werewolf at least.
Frelbayrentirth watched the sequence of changes with a confused expression, his eyes still glowing brightly (I guessed at this point that it must be the same kind of thing as Ren did the other day, but probably more powerful). “I will admit to at least being fooled,” he said. “Your shapeshifting somehow the minds of watchers affects?”
“It's—well, I guess it is shapeshifting but it's kind of more than that,” I said. “My power shifts around reality—does that idea translate?” I checked with Giri. She nodded. “If I touch someone who wants something badly enough, then it transforms them not just physically, but gives them a new history that they and everyone else remember. Usually only the people who see the transformation remember both versions of events, with the 'new' version being the one everyone else remembers.” Well, the “seeing the transformation” part isn't why people remember or don't both versions of events but I didn't want to overcomplicate my explanation, and I thought it would best explain why Giri would know he'd changed afterward. “The power is activated by touching,” I added.

“This is a strong claim,” he said, looking between the two of us with his eyes narrowed. “If you wanted to take from my hoard I would not trust you from such evidence. But a touch has no chance of harming me.”
“Good. Listen, it does mess with your memories too, though,” I said. “And my power tends to change people it affects into girls, like you saw happen to me for a minute there. If it gets you what you want, are you okay with that?”
“Yes,” he said. “It remains to see if it will do anything at all, but if this is the effect it would acceptable.”

Really “looking” at him, I could see that there was something the dragon wanted badly enough for my power to emphatically indicate that it was going to work. Of course my power can't tell me what, but the context clues in this situation suggested that he really did want to learn about modern society and technology, enough to explore the world beyond his cave at least. So I stepped a little closer, reached out, and gently touched his hand, before taking a few steps back again.

For a few seconds, nothing seemed to happen. “Hrrm.” Frelbayrentirth put his hand up in front of his face as if he was feeling something in it, and then dropped it. “Is this all? If your claims true, it does not seem this power—” He was interrupted by some feeling, and shivered slightly. “ is...” Then he started to visibly change, beginning with the more beastly parts of his appearance. His muzzle started to shrink back, the claws on his hands and feet also shrinking and turning the appendages rapidly into more human ones. “What is...?” His eyes widened as this first change approached completion, and a second one started: Scales began to flake off of his body, a few falling first from his face as it flattened into the shape of a human one.
“This...I am...truly...?” More and more scales fell from his body, pooling onto the cave floor near his feet and beginning to reveal soft, pale skin underneath. Ears grew out from the sides of his head (where I guess there must have just been “ear holes” before), becoming long and pointy, and as the scales disappeared from the rest of his head, soft, dark hair sprang out across it, immediately giving him long bangs and falling down across the sides of his face.

I glanced over a Giri for a second; her arms were crossed and she had a bright smile on, clearly enjoying the show. “Rrghrrmm...” It seemed like she'd stopped “translating” at this point. I looked back to the dragon and saw his face lose its last few scales, leaving it soft and smooth; his hands and feet were the same way. Then he opened his mouth and let out a low, startled “Aah!” as he started to actually shrink. His height sank down, his frame visibly thinning, and his face became smaller, rounder, and prettier. The horns still coming out past his hair shrank too, rapidly losing length and uncurling themselves until they were just slightly curved out toward the middle with their points aimed straight upward. Even his wings shrank, mostly upward toward where they were attached to his back.
“Aah...!” His voice sounded less deep, a little younger. All of this shrinking caused his pants to fall down, and his shirt to hang awkwardly over his rapidly-narrowing shoulders, showing off a smooth, pale neckline and increasingly feminine legs. The scales were totally gone from his skin by this point, except for the tail and wings.

“I...I am...” he said, his lips moving with the words in a way that confirmed he was actually speaking English now instead of being translated. His height loss slowed down, but he continued to get slimmer, his hands and feet shrinking into small, delicate shape and his shirt threatening to fall right past his shoulders and off of him. He tugged awkwardly at it, beginning to blush. “” The masculinity was steadily draining out of his voice, too; I knew it wouldn't be long now. Finally, his height stabilized right as his eye level sank slightly below mine, and I saw his cheeks brightening even more, his wide eyes looking over at me. This was...really tall for a girl still, I thought, but then considered just how much he'd shrunk to get here. It had to be at least as drastic of a difference as Brie is from Brian.
“Aah..” A high, boyish voice, came from his throat, his tail whipping back and forth and his wings (now quite short, but also finished shrinking) flapped themselves in a way I somehow saw as nervous. “Th-this is really..” His voice sounded like a girl's. “I c-can't believe...” Then its pitch dipped down again, maturing, but only sounding more feminine. The dragon's eyes closed, his blush deepening yet again. “Rrrrraaaaaa~aaaAAAH!” It was kind of a startled roar, accompanied by a gout of flame from his mouth, and I perceived that there was now a girl standing in front of me; the change of sex was complete.

“O-oh!” She looked down at herself, still blushing, and tugged awkwardly at the shirt again. Both it and the pants below began to gain a soft golden glow. Her hips began to visibly push apart beneath the shirt, and she let out a slightly longer “OoOooh~!” as two little bumps appeared on her chest as well. The glow on the clothes brightened steadily; by this point they seemed to be more made of light than of material, and they began to shift and move around all on their own. The pants crawled up her legs, pulling tight and splitting apart as they made their way up to her thighs; the shirt abruptly shrank close against her slim, narrow form, the hem fluttered out into a skirt-shape, and some of the glow detached out into a jacket while the inner part grew frills around the collar and down the middle.
She panted, huffing out more small puffs of fire and smoke, as her chest continued to visibly grow. “Oh, aah..aaAAaah..Rraaarrr...!” The glow faded from her clothes as she squirmed slightly in place, her legs wiggling against each other. It left behind a black pair of stockings with a decorative pattern at the top, a short red plaid skirt and a dressy top complete with a red part around her slim stomach with some yellow buttons, a frilly white undershirt, a blue jacket and a red ribbon tied around the collar. Then she let out another small “Aaah~!” as her breasts gave one last push forward, and the transformation completed.

The dragon-girl panted, still exhaling fire or hot dark smoke, while her blush slowly faded and her eyes opened up. I began to remember coming here to visit the house of one of Giri's...friends, a female dragon by the name of Frelye—only to be surprised, of course, when the 'house' was a cave under a mountain that didn't fit geographically into the area near those woods at all (so at least that part was still the same).

She bent forward slightly, nervously adjusting the ribbons. “Th-this really...I hardly know what to say, and that is a new one for me,” she said. Then she stood up fully again, and looked to Giri with a smile. “I..thank you immensely. I haven't felt...anything like that in centuries. Or, I suppose I have, but I haven't?”
“I know what you mean,” said Giri.
“I presume...Giriah? What brought you to...turn to this sort of thing?”
“I was gravely wounded defending the world,” she said, crossing her arms. “We really could've used a dragon's help at the time, but someone was busy hibernating.”
“Oh, well, it worked out in the end, didn't it? And you,” she added, turning to me. “This truly is an amazing power! I don't just feel young again, I really am! Look at me, I'm only seventy-two years old!” she said excitedly, with a small twirl.

“Uh..” I was going to ask something about that number.
“Different time-scale, remember,” Giri reminded me quietly.
Frelye nodded. “The first few centuries after adulthood are a dragon's prime egg-laying days, if you know what I mean. After that we start running out of energy and needing to recharge our batteries more and more often, until eventually someone stumbles into the hoard and gets a lucky stab in...or, that's how it usually goes anyway. Oh wait, batteries!” she said excitedly. “I understand that now! And—so many other things, too! This is great! I can't wait to go out into the sun and actually speak with people again! Even though, I feel as if I just did that yesterday.”
“I know that feeling too,” said Giri. “I'll join you if you want.”

“Hmmnn, oh but wait! I should actually get something to thank you for this!” she turned over toward the giant pile of treasure (which I'm pretty sure was still the same size after the 'reality shift', and had to guess from that was partially some kind of inheritance from her former self) and dove toward it without warning, practically going swimming through it.
“Uh..” I looked at Giri and she made a gesture like putting a ring on her finger and pointed vaguely toward the treasure pile. “Th-that's okay, I don't”
Her head popped up out of somewhere midway up the pile. “What, are you worried about it being an engagement ritual or somethin'? You're cute and all but you're not even twenty, it'd be like kissing a hatchling to me, eww!” And then sank back inside. “I'll get something nice for Giri too while I'm at it!”
Looking back at the demon, she shrugged to me. I have to guess this was something that used to be true but isn't for younger dragons, or at least for this younger dragon. Anyway, I really hope so. Anyone could lie about their intentions and then claim to have meant something else all along, and with as long as I'll probably live and the 'dragon time-scale' thing there is some room to worry. But in the moment, I decided it was better not to offend her by refusing a gift even though I could probably just 'create' any object I wanted with my powers anyway.

While she was still busy digging around, I looked back at the spot Frelye had been standing on when she changed. The scales I'd seen falling off of him onto the ground were gone. “Hm.”
“What?” Giri followed my eyes.
“It seems like my power's been getting flashier lately, is all. Lots of 'special effects' like the scales coming off earlier, or what happened with you...”
“Maybe. I'd have to know how the other changes looked to make any meaningful comparison.”

The only other “unusual special effects” I could think of was when Annabel changed and got...sort of lifted out of the chair at first. That seems like it had to do with “healing” the paralyzed legs, and Giri had some effects that I would guess were like healing magic too, before the change actually started. Thinking about it more, Giri and now Frelye probably had the most ridiculous amount of magic power before changing out of anyone. So maybe that somehow plays into it? If I wanted to test that, I would have to change someone with no magic and then someone with a lot of magic, and it'd have to be now, after I've seen the special effects, in case it actually is just some kind of progression with my power actually becoming fancier-looking over time...

I was interrupted from thinking about that by the dragon-girl popping back out of the gigantic pile and onto her feet again, even her clothes seemingly untouched from the journey through tons of solid metal. “Here we are~!” She presented me with a ring with a small, spherical rock set on it that glowed faintly silver, and I eyed it suspiciously for a second or two.
“Now listen, I get it already.” Frelye put her free hand on her hip. “You must have someone else in your life, considering you came here with a succubus and haven't so much as flirted with her,” she said. “Furthermore, my guess is that your girlfriend is a fellow werewolf 'cause that's pretty common, always has been. Right?”
“Uh...yeah.” Although either of us could make that not true whenever we wanted, the werewolf selves had sort of become (or always had been in her case) the default ones.
“Mm-hm! So, this is a Moonstone ring. They say that the stone fixed on it carries the light of a thousand full moons.” She leaned in slightly. “But actually it just takes in whatever light hits it and converts it to moonlight, storing it up and glowing like this when it's full.” And stood up straight again. “If you wear it then you can project the moonlight out of it at will. A long time ago, they used to use stuff like this to sniff out werewolves and chase 'em out of town, but I imagine you—or her—can find a better use for it.” Then she offered it to me again.
“Okay then...thank you,” I said, taking it.

“Aaand,” she turned toward Giri. “How much of your old magic do you remember?”
“Literally all of it,” she smirked. “I have a way easier mana source too, now.”
“I'll bet. Well, then this should be helpful.” Her hand opened to reveal a small black gem, shaped like a diamond and glowing faintly purple.
Giri picked it up gently and examined it against the light of one of the glowing stones above for a moment. “How do you even have one of these? I thought they were all destroyed!”
“Well, you know, collectors do have this awful habit of wanting the forbidden things all the more. At any rate, I'm sure I can trust you with that.”
“Oh, this is a demonic focus,” Frelye said, noticing my confusion. “It's good for reducing the cost of any spell using dark magic, and/or making them way more powerful. Since all demon magic starts off as dark magic, it's especially useful to demons. All the big ones were shattered several centuries ago to prevent a certain disaster from being repeated, and there are some trying to track down all the small ones to destroy them even to this day.”

Giri pocketed the focus thing for now, and I did the same with the ring. “Good things in small packages, eh?”
“Yep,” Frelye nodded. “Most of my real collection is items smaller than a golfball. All the gold and silver and stuff is good for looking at and sleeping on, but there's nothing particularly special about it.”
“You could destroy the precious metals market by selling a tenth of that,” I pointed out.
“We dragons are always doing our part to keep the economy from collapsing,” she joked. “Anyway, let's get out of this place!”

I followed them out and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with them. Frelye went excitedly from one place to another, treated us to dinner as an extra thanks, and eventually we went back to the parking lot and I drove home, leaving them both walking back to her hoard. The entire time they were talking like old friends, discussing things that happened and people who lived centuries ago. I asked questions once or twice but mostly just let them hang out and made some mental notes to look a few of those things up if possible. With whatever Giriah did half a century ago, this makes at least two different major crises the world has faced that I never had any idea about, and neither did anyone else with no magic. Even my “new” memories as a werewolf had never heard about this stuff, which means it's probably not even well-known in the “magical world”, either. It opened my eyes to an entire history of world-shaking events happening behind “normal” humanity's back, and I feel like I should be studying up on it all. I mean, if someone with a lot of power did something wrong before, then I should avoid doing that, right? Maybe it would give me a better idea of what I should do.

The knowledge of that history might be not so widespread for a reason; maybe it's something like horcruxes where public knowledge would risk causing a lot more murders or worse. I don't want to risk using my power to “learn about” those events because I might accidentally change something about those important moments of the past that led to things being relatively peaceful now. I have at least Threa, Giri and now Frelye that I can ask for more details of what events they know about, and maybe they have connections to a few more people, or Threa specifically might have some books I could read on the subject. I just need to make it clear that I want to know specifically so I can eventually do the right thing, and not so I can cause another disaster like whatever happened ages ago.

Of all things, I finally had an idea for another of these entries! First I just had a vague idea for "how about a dragon next?", then I managed to find a picture I liked, and then I finally came up with a good reason for Kael to even meet a dragon in the first place.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Battle Vixens! - 36

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Episode 36: Garde

As part of getting things running again, the college had offered Dr. Quinn (both of them) an extra TA to be in some of their classes, able to fill in and continue the class if something should force them to leave in a hurry. Whoever volunteered for that work would receive extra pay, which aside from free food was the best possible motivator for a grad student. Besides having the freedom to run off immediately in case of monster attack, the extra help itself was nice. Today Rory was having to catch up on dissections scheduled all throughout the previous week, and the current one was right after lunch. She made a point of letting them know that she had just eaten lunch at a normal time as an example to the more squeamish of what kind of fortitude one needed to build up to be a biologist—or any other kind of scientist that dealt with some kind of dead bodies on a regular basis.

She occasionally glanced out the window, although that was clearly unnecessary with the app installed on her and probably half the class's phones. They had supposedly worked on the alert noise after the initial testers complained about how loud and jarring it was, and now it was supposed to only be just loud enough to get everyone's attention. There were kids handling sharp and/or pointy instruments in here, so hopefully the second pass had done a bit better of a job.

And so, about halfway through the lab...there it was. Their strategy seemed to be to start the sound much quieter and gradually raise the volume until either the noise finished or you tapped the button to make it shut up. After doing the latter (and mentally noting the location of the monster) Rory nodded to the TA and went for the door, giving a brief wave to the class. "Back in a few! Stay safe, kids. I'll still be expecting your lab reports by tomorrow!"

Already in fox form, Rory opened the back door to the building with just under the force that probably would've broken it and found a blond-haired puppet with a naginata just standing there a few feet away from the entrance, the weapon at her side. Her mouth seemed to twist itself open to speak in a halting, stilted manner: "Doctor, Quinn."
Rory knew that the weapon was likely magic, and didn't know what other magic she had available to attack with. But whoever was in control probably expected her to say or ask something, so she took advantage of that, instead pumping up her speed as much as possible, taking a big step toward her, feinting a right hook before forward-sidestepping around an instinctive counter from the naginata, grabbing the weapon and wrenching it out of the puppet's hands and bashing her over the head with the nearest end. "Thanks for the donation, bye!" And she punched its head the rest of the way off for good measure before continuing on her way.

It did occur to her that this strategy probably wouldn't work a second time.

"Doctor, Quinn."
"You know, whenever someone says that I have to double take to figure out whether they're talking to me or to my wife." Clark removed the needle from her ear, suspecting that the brown-haired puppet with a longsword in her hand was not standing just outside the doorway to wish her a good afternoon.
"Don't, attempt, to leave. I have, business, with Light."
"Ohh, you're here to change the lightbulb? It's right in there," she pointed behind herself with a thumb.
"Ha ha." She raised her free hand and some of the grass next to the sidewalk suddenly turned into big, thorny vines, lashing out at Clark. She got away from one but the other wrapped around her right arm. "Stay."

"I don't know if you get the news wherever you really are," said Clark, "but if you did, you'd know my lovely wife is not the sort of person you want to provoke." She struggled slightly, letting go of the needle and allowing the puppet to watch it fall to the ground. The thorns cut into her skin a bit, nd the girl came a little bit closer with that sword—but her eyes were off the needle now. Clark concentrated on moving it without moving her hands in any obvious way.
"Do I, hear, fear?"
"Who's afraid? You haven't announced an intent to kill me yet, just acted really hostile and threatening with your every move!" She just needed another second or two. "I'll tell you a li'l secret, though."
"Neither am I," Clark grinned pleasantly.

The needle had made its way into her left hand, and she pulled it. Sharp string pulled taut around the vine, cutting it off from the ground. More string pulled taut around the puppet's ankle, tripping her in the middle of a small step and sending her stumbling forward toward Clark. She moved aside as the vine rapidly withered and crumbled out of existence, and shoved the girl to one side as hard as she could, knocking her the rest of the way over onto the ground. Then she got moving, making some distance between herself and the puppet while turning the needle over to the bulb side to quickly heal the minor but bleeding cuts on her arm.

More vines jumped up out of the ground, aiming to whip at or grab her; these she was a bit more prepared for, dodging some and throwing her needle just right to catch the others on string. She turned back toward the puppet as it came charging, sword raised, and twirled the needle on a few loops around the weapon before jerking it to one side, throwing the entire body off balance and making her stumble several steps to one side while Clark ran the opposite way.

This was not a good long-term plan. Literally every other person she'd met with powers—well, except for Amory that is—had some huge advantages when it came to one-on-one combat with another person. Clark, on the other hand, had no strength, decent speed but little endurance, and a lot of fancy tricks that didn't work well without either distance, the element of surprise, or a convenient distraction. Having spent up the second one, the first was proving difficult to maintain, so hopefully the third would show up soon. She couldn't even try to close the gap by borrowing Rory's power because of that ominous line about Light, which meant another puppet was waiting for her wife, and/or (more likely) that Rory was already much farther along on the way to helping Light with that "business".

The puppet righted herself and threw her sword at Clark; she ducked aside of it and then responded to some vines grabbing her ankles with a quick twirl of string to cut herself free. Another vine jumped out of the grass into her opponent's hands, re-forming the longsword, and she took advantage of that moment of immobility to charge close and give a hard slash which Clark just barely dove out of the way of, rolling along the ground briefly before successfully popping back onto her feet. More whipping, thorny vines appeared and she hopped awkwardly back four or five times, watching the puppet run up and prepare another strike...any time now, distraction!

A small fireball hit one of the nearby vines and spread from that point all throughout the vine and several of the others near it, turning them to ash in under a second. It failed to spread to the grass below at all. Fire...wasn't supposed to work that way, but apparently this was a magic-magic interaction. Either way, it freed Clark up to run from the puppet while Gemma's bodies made the rest of the distance to them, and she dove out of the way of one last sword slash, rolling through the grass again and stopping on her back, sitting up just as Plus's blades clashed against the weapon.
"Are you hurt?" Minus was next to her, offering a hand, which she took to stand up again.
"No, but I think Light's in danger. Let's take her out quick." The longer reach and superior strength of the puppet let her throw Plus's knives right out of her hands, but she responded with a sudden jab of lightning, making her convulse for a second instead of getting a chance to follow up.
Minus moved between Clark and the puppet, throwing some shadow-blades and more fire at her. A wall of vines rose up to catch the attacks, and turned to ash as soon as the fire connected. Plus raised both of her hands and tilted the concrete beneath the puppet's feet, throwing her into another off-balance stumble sideways. Clark tossed her needle up over Minus's head and forward, wrapping it around the puppet's neck while she was still trying to regain her footing. The needle returned along the same path and then was pulled taut, causing the puppet to drop her weapon and grasp at the cutting string with both hands, staggering backwards.

Plus ran closer and jabbed blades into the puppet's chest before letting loose with more electricity channeled through them, making the body convulse even more. Then Minus run up next to her other body and threw a larger ball of fire from her hands at the puppet's center, scorching through her clothes and producing a stench of burned plastic. It finally broke Clark's string and lashed out with the sword, making both bodies scatter, but it didn't seem like it was going to last much longer.

More vines rose up, trying to whip at both of Gemma's bodies; Plus dodged around them while Minus destroyed them with fire. Seeing that she was busy with that, Clark sent her needle back at the puppet, striking its pointy end right into the burned part of the stomach, and then..pulling. This was a new thing to do, not exactly a physical pull, but something like the opposite of what she did to heal people with the bulb-end. The puppet's arms and tail went limp, its head falling forward and its legs seeming to struggle momentarily at holding its own weight. Gemma saw the opportunity this provided and threw a couple of arrows right into the puppet's neck, which finally destroyed it.

Clark inhaled deeply and let it out in a quick puff, drawing the needle back to herself and instinctively stowing it back in the usual spot in her ear. "No time to rest. You know where, right?"
"Yes!" both of Gemma answered, and took off at a run. Clark followed as quickly as she could, which after tiring herself out with that previous fight was hardly enough to keep up. She noticed Plus pulling way ahead of Minus, and the part of her mind that always overanalyzed everything wondered if there were actual slight differences in the bodies' physical capabilities. It wouldn't be surprising...nor should it be too difficult to test if they got a chance to speak after this business was over with.

Almost as soon as class was out, Blake heard the alarm going on his phone. He had wanted to get the "secret" version of the app from Amory but basically forgot about it until it was morning and he was already gone. This one was good enough, though, reporting an attack incoming at...
"Aww, seriously?" he growled under his breath. There wasn't anyone close enough to hear it, and anyway there were lots of reasons someone might say that about a reported monster attack. After a moment's indecision, he dropped his backpack in some bushes (remembering the "pink backpack" incident last Monday) and went into a gap between two of the buildings, quickly looking around to make sure there were no cameras or people to see before changing forms.

After was back to the quad again. There were people running away from there already, and the crowd parted to let her through as soon as they saw her, a few of them yelling words of encouragement or cheering her on. That Not necessarily a bad thing, but definitely felt a little weird.

There was a distinct multitonal, unnatural roar from the direction of the quad as she approached. Its source came into view not long afterward: Another huge bear-thing just like her first introduction to the trouble a week ago. However, it wasn't alone; it made that noise as it swiped at a dark-haired puppet and its claws met a wall of shadow, the caster dancing backwards out of its range before dropping the wall.
"Well, if it, isn't, Light," she said in a distinctly stilted manner with constant, unnatural pauses.
The monster seemed to notice her and charged, aiming a swipe. Light jumped away, giving it an image to chase. "So you can talk through them." She raised her sword. "Too bad there's nothing to say."
Light ran at the puppet, going around two or three raised walls of shadow before just slashing through another, spreading the light out from her sword to destroy it the same as she had some of Minus's crescent blades before. Her next strike met the top of a scythe and then a quick swipe from the puppet's other hand forced her back again.

The noise attracted the monster, and then they both jumped backwards while it slammed its entire body into the ground they'd just been standing on. Light directed it toward shadow-girl with some flashy illusions.
She fell into the ground—the monster's shadow, rather—and popped back out next to Light. She saw this happen just in time to raise her sword in a defensive posture, but the puppet didn't attack. "You must, understand, what I'm, after."
"Look, if we're gonna do this could we at least change venues? I'm just really getting sick of having duel-slash-conversations in this spot, you know?" Light talked loudly, at the same time leading the monster back around with an image of herself, and then jumped back away while its arm went arm straight into the puppet's side, sending her flying.

Light's hand moved reflexively, swinging the sword to catch a bolt in midair and knock it away. It would've gone by a few inches in front of her face otherwise; just a warning shot to get her attention. Another puppet, green-haired—the one that had attacked Ning before—stood there with a crossbow drawn, then lowered it to her side. "You jump, in front, of attacks, to save others, even those who, wrong you." Light kept track of what was happening with the monster: It was still chasing the shadow-girl puppet as she got up and began running away—circling around, making more walls behind her to slow it down. "But you, never, even stop, to talk, on the news. You, don't want, power, or fame, or fortune. Many, don't, understand, just what, you do want." She kept her own sword at the ready, and listened carefully in case of a third puppet.
It was clear enough where this was going. "Just get on with attacking me already, you're not gonna like my answer." She raised her free hand in a 'come-on' gesture.

A shadow spike started to rise up from under Light, and rather than moving she concentrated nearby light into a birght aura around herself, destroying it before it could turn solid. Then the puppet in front of her dropped the weapon and chopped with her hand, forcing a dodge with a horizontal wind-wave. Light jumped over it and forward, slashing at her and moving into a small series of strikes and dodges. The monster followed the shadow-girl into position then and barreled through, swiping at them both and missing while Light went invisible again and used her power to highlight the wind puppet as much as possible to the monster so it would keep chasing her. A pair of scythes came straight at her right away, and she started blocking and dodging the shadow-girl's attacks after that.

"What use, is a person, sleeping forever? What are, a few lives, already lost? Already, previously, given? To save, many?"
Light waited until she tried slicing with both at once, and moved around the attack, catching the underside of both in her sword. They struggled against each other for a moment. "Listen very carefully: The ends don't justify the means. If your plan to save the world involves murdering innocent people then you're doing it wrong!!!" This she punctuated by grabbing the hilt with a second hand and giving a sudden, hard shove, jerking both weapons out of the puppet's hands and following it with a swift stab to her chest.
"You will, regret, making an, enemy—"
Light twisted the sword, pushing it the rest of the way through. "That's my line." Then kicked the puppet off, letting it fall apart into dust.

The monster swung back around and charged at Light, along with a number of bolts shot to either side of it in an effort to keep her in its path. She squatted, preparing to give her jump height a real test, and then saw a blur long and thin enough a spear go sailing over her head straight into the beast's chest with enough force to pierce the whole way through it and knock it over on its back.
"What took you so long?" Light stood up and turned her sword around, offering the hilt to Rory as she came up next to her.
"Some people can't read the 'no solicitors' sign."
"Do you actually have one of those or are you just—"

They scattered to either side from a barrage of bolts, Light going around to deal with the source directly and trusting Rory to probably take care of the monster issue, or at least distract it long enough.
Light spoke the phrase to borrow Ning's sword if she wasn't using it, and it appeared in her hand. When more wind-waves came at her she was able to cancel them out with some slashes of that, the electricity clashing right through them. Coming up on the puppet, her first slice was shielded by the crossbow, breaking it, and the next few were dodged. Getting tired of this, Light fired as high-powered a laser as she could at the puppet's back and then followed along with her sidestep out of it, slashing across the torso and tearing a visible gash through her plastic-like skin.
In a brief flash of apparent self-control, she looked down at the wound and back up again. "It still hurts, you know," she said—the actual person, going on the theory that their consciousnesses were still there and not just being faked by the puppeteer. "Every time. Wish you'd just end it quick."

"Okay—" Light was interrupted by the crossbow being swung at her like a club, and only just dodged it. The puppet's arm was raised for a downward follow up, but she jerked slightly from something hitting her in the back—several somethings in rapid succession.
"...Oh." The puppet collapsed into dust, and three knives, a piece of ice, an arrow, and a sharp bit of shadow all fell out of her back. Both of Gemma were standing there behind her.
"Are you—" "—okay?"
Light looked over to see what was happening; the monster connected a hit and sent Rory flying, but she kept the sword in her hand and drove it into the ground to help her land quicker and more stably before popping back to her feet and charging back at it again. "Little winded at this point. Help Rory out?" Light pointed to that whole situation with Ning's sword.
"Right!" both bodies said simultaneously, running that way.

Light's instincts were still on high enough alert that she whirled around weapon-first on hearing someone walking up behind her. But it was just Clark, and still a few yards off. "Hey, you take any hits?"
"Good to hear," she indicated a shredded sleeve. "I had some trouble myself. Gemma helped." Then she turned toward the monster, and Light did the same. It was trying to grab Rory when Minus ran up and threw more shadow crescents through the offending arm. Then Rory threw Light's sword into its stomach.
"Throwing borrowed weapons is really not a good habit."
"I'll...mention that."

Feeling she'd had enough of a break by now, Light retrieved her own weapon in her left hand and ran at the monster, jumping at its back, stabbing both blades into it, and pulling them out again with a backflip. The monster whirled around and swiped at an illusion going the opposite direction for Light while Rory ran up from behind and caught it by the ankle, using both hands to throw it over onto its back. A big ball of string from Clark fell straight down onto its stomach, making it spout black mist; Gemma threw in some lightning and Light slashed at it a few times for good measure. It made the usual multi-roar of pain and swiped at the air above it, trying to right itself. Rory took a couple of knives from Gemma, jumped on top of the injured stomach and stuck the weapons in as far as they would go, then did the same thing with the two swords offered by Light. Then she rolled off when the monster tried to grab at her again, and Light spoke Ning's phrase to hit her sword with a bolt of lightning from the sky, which finally destroyed it.

The four of them (five bodies) stood around where the monster was for a moment, everyone except for Rory catching their breath. "Welp, I got a lab to get back to," said Rory. "Someone else handle the news crews?"
After seeing a bit of a helpless look on Gemma's faces, Clark sighed. "I'll do it. But first—" she turned to Light, who had already gone invisible to anyone but the fox-girls nearby. "It sounded like the puppeteer really wanted to talk to you, like in private. She...say anything interesting?"
"...Everyone is the hero of their own story," Light said. "She wanted to convince me to not help Rowan, or probably just to kill me if I didn't agree with her reasoning."

"She tried to stop me with one puppet, but didn't really succeed," said Rory. "You?"
"Yeah," said Clark.
"That makes four bodies, almost half, spent here," said Light. "So at least some of the pressure was off the city today from that move. I'll..get a call through to Rowan detailing what happened, and tell you exactly what she's about later. You want to duck out?" she asked Gemma.
"Um—" "—one of me, at least. Am—" "—uh, you know who is waiting to see if we're okay."
"Alright, just have whichever follow me."
Light headed off, Plus following. "I thought you entirely wanted to flee the scene," Clark said behind them.
"Um, I'm just really nervous about, talking to people and answering so many questions by myself," she said. "I wanna try and get used to it, though, if I can."

"Are you..?" said Plus. "Um, nervous about talking?" she clarified, in case the conversation with her other body hadn't made it clear.
"Not really...there's a lot I could probably say." Light shrugged. "I just...I started running away like this because, well, I could, and the less I directly answer people's questions the less details I accidentally let out that give away who I really am. Oh, and the first time it really happened was right after Rowan was still threatening to shoot me?"
"Hmn. So, eventually, you'll.."
"Yeah, most likely. Right now, I just think getting through to Rowan is more important. Orr, that's just an excuse I'm making to put it off. I guess maybe I am a little nervous? I just don't know how to deal with the idea of being famous, of a lot of people wanting to talk to me or hear from me or thinking they 'know me'."
"I feel that, too," she said. "When I was in the city, Simon—Petra, had some things to say about fame..."

If the title of Episode 32 still doesn't make sense to you, then I suspect this one will be even more obscure. But the title of 35 is a big hint to both.