Sunday, February 11, 2018

Battle Vixens! - 7

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Trouble. That was the first word that came to Light's mind to describe it. It was a weird term to use, but the appearance of that word connected back to the night before her powers had first appeared. It felt certain that this was it, the promised trouble itself. Light's fur stood on end just seeing the thing form, and her fight-or-flight instincts kicked up even harder than they already had been by the last few minutes. The police girl must have had the same kind of reaction, as she began firing on it as soon as it landed.

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG click click click click click click. The normal people around were screaming and mostly running away; one or two were standing there in shock. The creature, or whatever it was, drew itself up and then started charging, apparently unaffected by twelve direct hits to the center of its body.

Light ran forward, and around the thing. Its right foreleg was already up and ready to slash; the police girl was standing there with the gun still in her hand, either continuing to try to fire it or just too shocked to move. The sword appeared in Light's hand again and she leapt with it, clashing length-wise against its claws, catching a swipe that would've torn the other girl in half. The force of it sent her flying backwards through the air, just barely long enough to regain control of her positioning and land in a kneeling position halfway into the alley she'd just run out of. Its hook-claws grabbed her sword, wrenching it out of her grasp, but she just unsummoned it as soon as she realized it wasn't in her hands anymore.

The other girl had finally shaken it off, just in time to jump out of the way of the next swipe. Now Light had a clear view of the thing's front; it did have wounds from the bullets all across its underside, leaking a little bit of the vague black mist it seemed to be made of, but they looked remarkably shallow. Its face was completely flat, with glowing red eyes because of course they were, and also a mouth that seemed to be composed entirely of gigantic teeth, with no lips or anything to hide them. Well, at least it had eyes, which meant it relied on sight to at least some extent. Light gave it a blinding bright flash to look at instead of the two of them, and then set to work on placing numerous illusory fox-girls around for it to attack whenever it did start seeing again.

The other girl, sword in her hands, circled over to the thing's side while it roared, swiping at the air in response to the flash. Light stood up slowly, finally a little out of breath from all this running and jumping around, not to mention the amount of light manipulation at work just now. But she walked forward anyway, reforming the weapon in her hand and watching for an opening.

With some visibly hard concentration, a few floating water spikes formed from the air again, and she charged up, slashing with her blade and causing the spikes to stab it as they followed her motions, then dissipate and splash across its side. The blade and spikes both made visibly deep cuts and holes in it, the sword going all the way through the body rather than getting stuck partway through. Of course, with pain to guide it the creature didn't need its eyes, and swung hard at the fox-girl with an unnatural speed. She dodged the swipe by a couple of centimeters maybe, and that only because she was already on her way back away from it; her flowing cape-thing wasn't so lucky and got torn half to shreds.

Light spent a little more concentration to make her temporary ally invisible, allowing its next hyperspeed slash to just go through the air. It had its uninjured side toward her now, and her breath was back; that was enough. The white-haired girl ran at it, leapt into the air, and fell blade-first at its shoulder, digging the weapon into its body down to the hilt and immediately wall-hopping away toward its back to avoid retaliation. Only after she'd landed did she start to process the sound the thing made.

It was at once a hiss, a loud, low guttural rattling and a high, wailing screech—a little like hearing two or three different animals in distress all at the same time. But there was something distinctly unnatural and wrong about the sound that she wasn't sure she could place her finger on. Even though it meant that monster was feeling pain, and so must be taking damage, it was an unsettling sound, maybe enough to terrify anyone hadn't already seen what it looked like. Hearing it stunned her for a second, and she was grateful to have illusions to keep it from actually taking advantage of that.

Light called back her sword, leaving its deep hole in the thing's shoulder to spout more black mist. The other girl had run up next to her, mostly because that was the opposite direction from the area the monster was attacking right now. Since it was facing away from them, she took a moment to narrow down the illusions to just one particularly good at dodging and then concentrate some of the sunlight above them into a heat laser—like the ones she'd aimed at Ning the other day, but with an intensity that would do much more than a mild sunburn. The hulking thing made its awful noise again, when it caught that full against its back, and whirled around before jumping up toward where the laser was coming from, swiping up toward the source with its good arm.

She couldn't keep this intensity up for more than a couple of seconds, and returned focus back to invisibility and an illusion or two. The other girl had found a sewer drain to pull water from, and got three or four times the little blades she'd been able to make from vapor to just start swirling around her in a tornado of pain. But she didn't seem to know how, or maybe be able at all, to just send them at the monster, instead choosing (or maybe being forced) to charge right at it. Well, she was invisible, but that many rapidly-moving parts was just plain impossible to hide properly with Light's powers, so she went for another flash in its eyes timed just as it landed from attacking the air and the water-wielder came close.

Her play was to jump right at its chest and stab it with her sword, letting all the water blades follow suit and bury themselves all over the thing's wide body. The sword's aim was where Light guessed a heart surely would be, if something like this had organs like that. But of course this didn't kill it right away, and she hadn't caught on to how wise the backup plan of "jump away immediately" was quite yet, so the thing was able to grab her off of itself, holding her in one of its giant hands.

She was obviously not going to struggle free of that, and it might have started crushing her already. Light ran. Its mouth opened, wider than it had for making noises earlier. It opened and opened, looking like a snake unhinging its jaw. Halfway there, the thought occurred to her that that thing was going to eat that girl. It was a good thing she was already on the way to do something about it.

Another flying leap from the ground took Light up onto the wrist of the arm holding the other girl. Her momentum wouldn't let her land there, so she kept going with another jump forward off of it, toward the gaping mouth. But since her arms were free and not wrapped in giant monster-claw-hands, she was able to lead with her blade, sticking it right into its disgustingly way too open maw, angled up slightly. Then Light's feet were on its upper teeth and she bounced back again, landing on the wrist for real this time. The sword's tip was sticking out of the upper-back of its head very briefly; then it disappeared, just in time to be lodged firmly into the wrist just behind its hand. Then it finally let go of its captive and staggered backwards, spewing mist from the several holes all throughout its body.

The other girl landed roughly, gasping for air. Light tumbled for a bit and popped back to her feet, feeling rather winded herself. She brought her sword back again, holding it out in front of her, standing defensively between the big beast and the police girl, only for it to collapse onto its back, destroying more of the road in the process. Then it faded, just as it had appeared, turning to black mist and then seeming to blow away down the streets in a strong wind nothing else felt.

"Hh..hhhf...that was, way too close." Light released her sword after a second and turned around. "Are you...okay? Anything broken?"
She was already kneeling, and slowly stood back up. Instead of answering the question, she stated, "You could away at any time." Her voice had returned to the steady, genuine calm it had had at first.
"What, and leave you to die? That..thing to run around and hurt people!?" She wasn't even sure exactly why she thought it would do that if left alone, but it felt so...obvious somehow. "What kind of person lets that happen?"
"I...thank you. But, it wasn't a good idea." She pulled out her pistol again, pointing it at Light. They were just far enough apart to make trying to smack it away or grab it a very bad idea. "I have to...uphold the law. You know I have to take you in for questioning." Something about the way she said 'have to' here seemed to suggest she didn't want to at this point.

Light put her hands up. The light was was almost certainly sunset. There wasn't that much less light right now, but her usual powered-by-the-sun-ness didn't seem enough to cure the exhaustion from all the recent running and fighting. When the sun did go down she'd probably be in even worse shape. "Well, I never attacked you. Just for the record. And I'm not doing it now, either. Look, I'm not even gonna run away. I just don't want to change back."
"You should..reconsider—"

The girl dropped her gun, convulsing to the ground. Light's mind had to trace back a couple of steps to realize she'd seen some electricity arcing at her from behind, and then noticed Ning standing just a couple of feet back from the police-girl. A quick glance down made it clear she was still breathing, just stunned; it probably had been about the level of a taser, or slightly more to get past heightened fox-girl defenses to basically everything. The small girl made a 'come on' gesture, and Light took off running behind her, both of them fleeing the scene.

They didn't stop until they got back to Gerald's house, and then inside. Light was panting heavily again; the sun was mostly gone now and her tiredness had only compounded from that panicked run. But the lights were on in here, which was enough to help a bit. "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner," said Ning. "I saw it on the news, and the helicopter footage of you fighting that huge monster, and started running right away. least I helped you get away, right?"
Light sat at the front of the nearest chair. "Yeah, that was..thank you, but you...really shouldn't have done that."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean—she's a policeman. Woman. You assaulted a police-person. And she just wanted to question me."
Ning crossed her arms. "Questioning someone doesn't involve pointing a loaded gun at them."
"Things were a little tense. She saw a lot of people get killed by a fox-girl the day before. But—I mean—it was also a bad move tactically."

The smaller girl didn't appear to understand, mostly just still seeming mad about the whole gun thing, or possibly disappointed that Light wasn't happier to have been rescued. "Look, I really appreciate that you came to help me and that you did help me get away. I do. It's just—we don't want them to find out you robbed the bank, and we don't want them to find out that we or I am working with the person who robbed the bank. The evidence points to someone with electricity powers, and you just showed them I know someone with electricity powers. And on top of that she has water powers and can use them to detect me past illusions; I don't know if she might even be able to track us here with those."
"Well—well what else were you gonna do?! Go down to the station where they'd make you tell them everything? Try to run away and get shot?"
Light realized something. "Actually...wait. It wasn't loaded."

"You should reconsider running away."

Rowan stood up again. She'd been about to let that girl get away. Her magazine had been spent within a few seconds of seeing the monster, and she hadn't exactly thought to bring extras before deciding to chase down a shadow on the rooftop. It was wrong, what she'd thought about doing. A person doesn't become immune to the law just because they saved a police officer. Or because the officer tried to kill them.

Her body ached, but breathing, standing, moving her arms..all seemed to work fine. Sensing the flow of water in her blood, it seemed like there was some moderate to pretty bad bruising, but thankfully nothing broken and nothing internally bleeding. That was worse. That she'd actually done. What had she turned into for those two or three minutes!? Shooting someone who was basically a civilian, someone probably innocent and apparently only interested in helping out? Her mind spun back to the day before...the crazed look in that girl's eyes. Was that a crazy person gaining undeserved power, or the power making her crazy?

No, no, that couldn't be it. She was herself—was Rowan, still. It had been...what she knew they were capable of, had seen happen to her friends and coworkers. None of them had deserved it; there were families missing fathers and mothers, husbands and wives. That was all; something about the way this white-haired girl was acting had brought her to that moment, and she'd just...snapped. It took a giant black mist monster appearing out of nowhere to un-snap. Coming back to work the day after that happened had been a mistake. He'd thought he'd be able to handle it, as he had a few times before in the past when officers he'd known had gotten killed, but this had just been too much.

The word was out that it was safe to come here again. There were police, emergency responders, news crews flooding in. Rowan stood still. Trying to kill that girl was wrong, and she was lucky that it turned out to be a decent person who wouldn't just let a cop get killed to make her escape, no matter how little the cop acted like they cared about the law. Somewhere in there, in the middle of the fight with the giant creature, she'd realized all that. And then pulled an empty handgun to encourage her to get away, planning to pretend she hadn't realized it was empty until it was too late. It hadn't happened that way; someone else had hit her with a taser or something. She hadn't heard them coming, and didn't hear anything but two pairs of feet running away while briefly lying on the ground. But it had still been her plan: Try to apologize for doing the wrong thing once by doing it again, in the opposite direction. Two wrongs didn't make a right, as far as the law was concerned.

Finally, people had arrived and started to ask her questions. One of the officers from this precinct asking if she was hurt, and how badly. Newspeople asking all kinds of things while being shooed away—what was that she'd just fought, where had the other person gone, so on so forth. Some of the other police were even asking things like that, and more. She opted only to answer the first oquestion, explaining she was injured and wasn't sure what would happen if she changed back in this state, best to have it looked at right away like this. They helped her over to some non-shattered road and into an ambulance parked at the edge of it. Nobody was going to ask her anything much until they were sure she wasn't going to die, which would give her more time to think. That was what she needed the most right now.

Amory saw Blake leaving the bathroom from a distance, on his way out of class with a crowd of other students. An impulse told him to follow, and he did—slowly, from a distance. It didn't seem like he noticed. He went on to stare at some posters for a while and then leave. That was...weird behavior if he ever saw it. The posters were—well, first of all they'd been there forever, so there was no way he hadn't seen them before, and secondly they were not that interesting. Just a picture of Isaac Newton with googly eyes pasted on, or a large-printed version of the cover of an obscure scientific book most of the professors, much less the students had never heard of.

When he left, Amory finally followed to where he'd just been. Was there a secret message on the posters or something? Well, no—a quick glance told him that they were the same old posters as before. But there must have been something there, some reason for him to...there. A door just across from the wall those posters were on was cracked open, just slightly. The classroom past it was empty, but the door wasn't on the system that usually auto-locked the classroom doors outside of classtime, and nobody had bothered to lock it manually.

A careful search eventually led Amory to a girly pink backpack. The conclusion that someone had just left their backpack behind here was rebutted by the fact that it was in a far corner of the room, rather than next to or on top of one of the desks. Someone had to have put it here deliberately. Blake hadn't even come in here, but he'd been conspicuously and suspiciously nearby for a notable period of time. So maybe this was it. What 'it' was, he still wasn't sure.

What now? Amory's sense of decency forbade him to actually open a girl's backpack and dig around inside, especially if he was wrong about it. The classroom was always unlocked anyway, so if someone had left it behind, they would be able to come looking for it here instead of having to wait for the building's main offices to open to check the lost and found, so he couldn't justify even picking it up.

Eventually he came up with something. Of course, as roommates, they had each other's numbers, to let each other know if something was going on or ask to be let inside in case a key was left behind. So Amory got out his phone and sent an innocent text asking what his roommate was doing for supper. It was the opener for a conversation inviting him to join Amory and some friends or something, if it was responded to. Instead, a very audible came from inside of the backpack.

That was it. Blake's phone was in here for some reason. Amory's suspicions seemed much closer to being proven true. But maybe it was a coincidence? Well, the buzzing had come from right near the top. He knelt over, slightly unzipped the pocket the phone seemed to be in, and found what he knew to be his roommate's model of phone. It didn't exactly say "This is Blake's" on front, but one more test would clinch it. He waited a minute or two, then sent another text saying "actually nevermind". The phone buzzed, and showed that a text from Amory had just arrived, the second of two unread ones.

Amory zipped the backpack up again, and stood up. Blake's phone was in a pink backpack in a room he'd stood next to for a while. It wasn't direct evidence of him being one of the fox-girls and going around playing superhero while trying to maintain a secret identity, but it was a very hard to explain set of events. It was enough to justify asking him directly. But that was best done back in their apartment, where it would definitely be a private conversation. And he didn't want to give his roommate a panic attack by taking the backpack or anything in it; the worst thing would be if Blake suddenly decided to run off into hiding or something like that because he thought he was compromised. So he started on his way home for the day, and began to try and plan what he would say to even start the bizarre conversation they were going to have to have.

Friday, February 9, 2018

The Free Puppy

A long time ago, I had a similar idea to this using an image with a catgirl in it, but never managed to actually write that one...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Battle Vixens! - 6

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Officer Rowan Shepherd had very nearly died. People had died around him, strangled to death or thrown into buildings by an insane woman with inexplicable powers. But he hadn't died; instead, he'd killed her, and learned some strange words he also didn't understand. He had spoken the words shortly after, during debriefing, and the results had been surprising...frightening, even. Since then he had been interviewed live on the news, showing off the strange power that killing that girl had given him, and he had been half-interrogated by his superiors and told or showed them everything he knew. But when he walked back to the precinct the next morning, there was something new he hadn't told anyone, and didn't intend to.

After going to bed that night, Rowan had seemingly awoken in a lavish bedroom probably three or four times the size of the entirety of his apartment. He spoke the words as if by reflex, and immediately felt himself shrinking down in the bed. He sat up, feeling his hair flow down across his cheeks and fall to the bed before long, a big loose mass of light blue silk. His nightgown shrank to fit the narrowing shoulders and slimming frame as with the increasingly familiar gentle tug downstairs, he was changed into a woman. Her chest puffed forward not long after, a tail sprouting from her back and her ears stretching up into tall, fuzzy triangles just as comfortable as stretching her arms after exercise.

She looked around, uncertain whether this was real. Dreams were normally not so..coherent. Eventually she stood up, the normally long nightgown trailing just to her thighs despite a considerable loss in body height, and then the bedroom door opened, and in walked a far taller, more beautiful woman sporting seemingly countless tails, in what seemed like the pajama equivalent of royal robes.
"Well well," she crossed her arms, smiling—maybe, more like smirking. "You got a lucky shot in, didn't you?"
She felt uneasy around this woman; not like she was hostile, but like she never wanted her to be. "Who..are you?"
"Oh I am a lot of things," she answered. "Some choose to call me a queen or a goddess, but such titles are really still far beneath me. Suffice to say that I am the origin of your new powers. Really, I'm glad to see you get them; the girl I gave them to first had no imagination." She moved strangely, instantly coming noticeably closer—not quite into Rowan's personal space yet, but threatening to be. "You must have noticed by now, you aren't capable of as much as she was. Those are the rules: The killer gets but a fraction of the original's power. But in cases like yours there's an exception. You can regain the full extent of what she was capable of in one of two ways."

"And..what are those?"
The woman nodded. "Practical, aren't we. I like that. Well, the first way isn't even worth mentioning," she said, counting off a finger, "it puts you at a great disadvantage in exchange." Drawing out a second finger, she said, "The second way lacks that disadvantage, but I can't promise it will be easy: You have to kill another of those I have blessed. It even comes with a bonus; you get the full extent of both your new power and theirs if you do this."
"You want me to...kill someone," she repeated.
"Someone else," the woman retorted, suddenly appearing next to her and putting an arm over her shoulder. "You've already proven your willingness to kill those who harm the people. It's part of your duty, isn't it? Surely you can find another wild criminal among the multitude I have blessed to take power from. Anyway," She pushed off, and then leaned over so her mouth was close to one of Rowan's ears—and as much as the smaller girl wanted to move away, she seemed to be momentarily paralyzed, stuck in place. "What's one life next to all those you could save with the full extent of your powers? You must know people like yourself are already mostly water in the first place; with as much control as you should rightly have there are very few wounds you wouldn't be able to heal."

And then...the woman was back to being across the room from her. "Think about it. And anyway...perhaps I should give you the warning I gave everyone else. Trouble is coming to your world, and it's coming soon." With that ominous statement, she disappeared, and right away, Rowan began to wake from the dream. She appeared back in her apartment, in the nightgown and panties her clothes had shifted into in the dream, but thankfully was able to change everything back to normal by speaking the phrase again.

Part of him wanted to think that it was only a dream, that maybe whatever had happened to people caused them to dream that way, and speak the words to change in their sleep. But it had felt completely real, and even now the memory of it was perfectly vivid. What exactly had she meant by 'trouble'? He told himself that he couldn't report this to his superiors even if he wanted to; they'd just laugh it off because to them it really would appear to just be a dream.

Could he...should he try and gain the full extent of his powers? There were a lot of criminals and lunatics who had been given those powers, and with his own new powers, there was already talk all over the station of him being sent out to deal with them. All he had to do was...shoot, or slice, to kill, and later claim he had no choice. But...that was wrong. Even those who had gained these strange powers, and were abusing them, were people—citizens, with rights like everyone else. He couldn't kill someone just to serve his own desires, even if those desires involved saving lives.

Maybe it wouldn't even matter. Just like yesterday, perhaps his hand would be forced regardless. And if it did happen, and had the effect the woman suggested, then he could mention the dream; there would be solid evidence then that he'd learned something true from it.

Classes were not cancelled on account of worldwide fox-girl epidemic. Blake found it deeply difficult to concentrate on the math lecture when he was thinking about what had happened over the weekend. Was trouble coming? Had he accidentally partially mind-controlled Ning, err, Gerald? Had he left enough of a trace somehow, despite being extremely careful, for the police to track him down? Or worse, track the 'bank robber' down? ...That would be bad.

There were happier thoughts to distract him, too. The idea of patrolling around town this afternoon between science class and suppertime was deeply appealing, even if he probably wasn't going to run into any criminals, since this was the real world after all. He caught himself daydreaming of dashing around town, maybe jumping from rooftop to rooftop where it was reasonably safe to do so, like the chase with Ning the other day but without any stakes...It was just too much fun to pass up. None of his homework was due until later this week anyway, so he could just do that tonight.

On the way to lunch, he opened the map on his phone and tried to plan out a route to run around and building-jump on. Preferably businesses that had nice, flat, sturdy roofs on top of them rather than people's homes. The sudden ability to be amazing at parkour changed the normally dull commute to the dining hall into a survey of places to wall-kick or -run, things to jump off of or onto, and so on. He was still doing it during lunch, enough to make the people eating across from him turn around a couple of times to try and figure out just what he was staring at.

He told himself to be patient, it was only an hour , but physics class just seemed to drag on and on. He wondered: Didn't he violate physics now? Probably in a lot of different ways, honestly. Or, well, what did they do when something violated known physics? Write new physics? Nobody was even asking their teacher about this, despite the fox-girls being all over the news, and Blake sure didn't want to be the one to do that, what with the whole secret-identity thing. Well, they had things to learn, and a class to pass, and maybe most of the people here were just holding on to normality as hard as they could. Sure, back at lunch and walking around and on the way in and out of this class there were people talking about it, with a wide diversity of opinions represented...but it was all hypothetical talk of something distant, almost fictional to them.

Maybe this was just what the human mind did when confronted with such a deep-seated defiance of what it thought to be reality. All of this hardly felt real even to Blake, for as tight of a grip on the reality of the danger as he consciously kept while being Light. Well, everything would sink in sooner or later, and it did seem better than outright, paralyzing shock.

Finally, it was time to go play hero for a while. Blake had a better plan than just using his apartment's bathroom this time, instead finding one of the several single-occupant restrooms on campus, chosen carefully to be one that didn't have a camera pointed at it, and stuffed the contents of his pockets into his backpack before quietly speaking the phrase to change form.

Light's familiar form came with unfamiliar clothes, including the same shoes as before but short socks, blue-denim short shorts and a blank white t-shirt instead of the dress top and jacket. Also, her backpack had shrunk in size a bit and turned pink, which she frowned briefly at the silliness of before shrugging and deciding it didn't matter that much.

After all, the next step in the plan was for 'Blake' to walk back out of the bathroom and to a certain never-locked classroom with no more classes scheduled for that day and stow the backpack in an inconspicuous corner there. It wouldn't do the whole secret identity form any good if someone stole the backpack from her and Blake's ID and phone and so on. This plan was thrown off slightly by the pink backpack, but it would still be better if it was somehow discovered there than if it was taken off of her person. 'Blake' stood out in the hallway slowly reading some of the posters on the wall, not even opening the door to the room, while she took care of that, and then he casually strolled outside and finally out of camera view.

Light breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, free to do what she'd been thinking about all day! She took off at an invisible run right away, toward the denser part of the city. The first thing to do was find a place with a small enough gap between two buildings and hopefully nobody present—easy enough, there had been a few candidates on the map on her phone before, and a little bit of tweaking of the trick she'd used to look inside of Gerald's house allowed her an easy 3D-image map of the surrounding area to compare the memory of that against.

Before long, she was there. She paused in the middle for a moment, feeling as if she ought to be out of breath or at least a tiny bit tired..but she wasn't. Of course, the sun was still out, so she was getting tons of energy from the sunlight or whatever. Well, the next thing was to try some platformer-protagonist stuff for real!

The fox-girl grinned wide, taking off at a run straight for the wall. A short hop and quick rotation in the air had her running up it, and then with a sudden sideways squat and hard push with her feet she was on the way to the opposite wall. Doing a quick corkscrewing somersault in the air to orient her face-up with the feet aimed at that wall came nearly as a reflex, and in no time she was running up the other wall. Then she did it again, and a third time, before seeing the end of the line rushing toward her and taking one more jump off the wall, a quick reorienting spin, she landed on top of the roof.

"Heheheheh..!" While conscious of her need to be quiet and not literally shouting from the rooftops, Light couldn't resist a small giggle. That was just as amazing as she'd imagined! The wind rushing through her hair (and her ears and tail too) felt great! If anything, that series of ridiculous acrobatics had her feeling more energized rather than at all winded. Well, it was just the beginning. Looking out from way up here, there were plenty of buildings to jump across. She'd thought she was going to be worried about heights, or need to be worried about heights, but the former just didn't apply at all, and the latter...well, being able to wall-run and just being agile in general gave her a lot of options for recovering from a botched jump.

So she went jumping. This was as much fun as it had seemed like it would be, and only after doing it for a few minutes did she remember she was supposed to be looking out for criminal activity. She stopped, kneeling over and then laying down so just the top of her head was poking past the building's edge, looking down. Well..there were certainly people down there. It was a little hard to tell what was going on from this height.

Light stood back up and brushed herself off, feeling a little silly. Of course she couldn't see things from this height. She'd just have to pull the light up to herself to take a look. The image in front of her just showed some normal people milling around..nothing particularly suspicious there. Monitoring the news would've maybe been a better way to hear about crimes happening, but, well, it wouldn't have been nearly as fun. She'd figure something out...

The fox-girl dismissed the image and moved on, jumping over a couple of other gaps before stopping and looking down again for a second. Even from this distance she could see a few police cars down there...of course! If the police were doing something, she could quietly help them out, right? That was a pretty obvious way to find out what needed to be done...maybe getting one of those police radio listener things would be good, too. For now, she made another image in front of herself of the scene down there.

It looked like they weren't up to anything particularly special; that just happened to be a police office down there. But one of the cars was from out of town; on the side it clearly said the name of another city. Two officers stepped out of that car, one of which looked vaguely familiar...they were talking with the others there. The less-familiar one had an extra shoulder-gun-holster thing hung from one of his hands. Light paced a bit, watching as the familiar one took off his badge and handed it to the other one. What were they...? He said something else, seemingly not to anyone in particular, and there was a burst of water; it became abundantly clear why this one had been familiar.

Even with the remote image from her powers, Light was able to see the change in full, unlike over the TV. The officer started shrinking rapidly right away, his hair turning light blue and flowing out across his back and the sides of his face. His body steadily flowed inward and downward, narrowing and slimming all over. His uniform melted into a white vest, a short black skirt, a cape and some blue sleeves. Soon a fairly short girl stood there instead. Her tail spilled out from her back, her ears burst up into the hat, which immediately responded by turning to water and moving to the left ear, attaching itself as some kind of decorative attachment to it. Finally, the last of the water from the explosion speaking her words had created formed into a sheathed katana, which dropped from above her to be caught in her slim, small hands.

It was the girl from the news yesterday. She released the sword, and it turned to mist (water vapor, maybe); then the officer who'd been in the car with her offered her the badge and holster. The former seemed a little awkward to pin to the vest, but the latter had clearly been sized specifically for her current, smaller form, and fit perfectly fine.

Why in the world had they shipped this guy...girl out to Light's town, from her own city? Surely there were plenty of things to be doing with those new powers back there. She was scratching her head about this when one of the other officers had a sudden, surprised expression and pointed. With the different perspective of her image it took Light a second to realize he was pointing up at the roof of a nearby building—specifically, the one she was on right now. The blue-haired girl reacted by saying something quickly and then taking off at a run, prompting Light to drop the image and do the same.

Stupid, stupid! She'd let herself get distracted, pulled too much focus from being invisible. Of course she was back to being invisible now, and just in case sent an image going off in some other random direction, but she shouldn't have been so careless in the first place! After running for a short while, Light dropped down, hanging off of the edge of the building to get a brief aerial view and see if she still needed to be running. That police girl was...still coming right toward her! What was going on here?

Since she was already partway down, Light let go of the edge and bounced off of the walls a little bit to make a relatively gentle landing, then started running through some of the streets and alleys, still invisible. If she'd even seen her drop off the building, she at least wouldn't have an easy time following this trail, right? And after that, she took to the walls again, climbing back up to the top of the building, and kneeling over to be a bit less visible...even though she was invisible right now.

A quick look around...nobody else up here right now. So she'd been followed down. Her ears twitched, picking up a pair of shoes coming up the walls again. Well, running didn't seem to have done much good at all. Light sighed standing up and taking a few steps backwards, away from where she was pretty sure her pursuer was going to land. That prediction was correct; the other girl did a rolling flip from the building across from this one onto that spot, and immediately popped up, water condensing and gathering into that sheathed blade again, pointed toward Light with its hilt in her right hand.

She seemed a little bit out of breath. "You can't...hide from me," she said calmly, between huffed breaths. "I can see...the water in you."
"Well, thanks for telling me that." Light dropped her invisibility, at least for the police-...girl? in front of her. It was pointless anyway, right? "Is there some good reason you're following me around?"
"You are wanted for questioning." Her breath was mostly back already; she didn't have as much stamina as Light but still seemed able to recover pretty quickly. "Is there some good reason you were running from a police officer?"
"I was just running in general, until I noticed you were behind me. What do you wanna ask?"

The other girl glared. "That is not how this works. Change back to your normal appearance and come with me to the station."
"Um.." Light pointedly looked around at where they were just now. "It'd be a little hard to do things in that order. Anyway, who says this isn't my normal appearance?"
"You know something about the robbery two days ago. Someone with abilities matching yours was involved in a later, related incident." Her voice remained calm and still, almost untingend by emotion.
"The only thing I've done recently was help catch a couple of kidnappers. You want to arrest me for that?"
"If you won't come with me, I can arrest you for obstructing justice. I won't ask you again."

"Well, fine." Light crossed her arms. They wouldn't be able to keep her very long; she could probably escape if it came to that anyway; and she could continue to claim not to know anything about the robbery. "But I'll stay like this. There's no law against that."
"People like you have shown the ability and willingness to easily kill people." Her voice showed its first spark of emotion, and it wasn't a good one. "That would be like walking into the precinct with a deadly weapon in your hands."
"Like me?! You're also—and you're the one pointing a weapon at me."
"I have good reason to fear for my life." The sheath turned to water and fell off the blade, and she drew it back, moving to a ready stance. "I won't hesitate to use this if you continue to resist."
Light made an exasperated expression with her hands. "I'm not resisting!"

The girl responded to that by running up and slashing. Light saw the attack coming more than early enough to dodge, jumping away to one side. "Whoa, hey! There's no need to escalate this into violence!"
She stood up, the blade right in front of her in both hands. Water appeared rushing up from around her feet, swirling around her. "You already did! You and other people like you. You think just because you have some kind of powers you can do whatever you want?! That you're above the law?!" While she spoke the water gathered up into several discrete pieces, blade-like shapes all around her.

She wasn't exactly listening. She charged, slicing at Light; the water-blades followed this up, forcing her to dance around and back and sideways and under to not get cut into pieces. One slash came after another, some of the blades surrounding them to keep her from getting too far away. Light was able to keep dodging, but just barely. The girl was in a rage, yelling about lives destroyed, families going without fathers and mothers, but it was just in the periphery of her mind, nearly all of its focus taken up by the task of not getting cut in half or stabbed. Eventually she was maneuvered into a corner, a position she couldn't dodge out of, and with that sharp blade coming down at her her reflexes had her hands come up, a shimmer of light forming into a sword in them just in time to block the strike.

The police girl seemed to look at the blade clashing against hers for a second or two as if it meant something, and then suddenly jumped back, the water-blades turning back into normal, gravity-obeying water and splashing onto the concrete around Light. In the same motion she transferred the hilt to one hand and the other snapped to the holster on her side. Light jumped aside before realizing why: Finding the roar of gunfire even louder with these ears and seeing the pistol aimed right at where she would've been if she hadn't.

"Can we please calm down and talk for just a second?"
"You had a chance to come quietly." The gun was fired again, and barely missed. Without being able to use illusions to misdirect those shots, one of them was going to hit soon. "Then you drew a weapon on an officer." Her voice was completely calm again all of a sudden, but it wasn't the serene calm it had been at first; it seemed almost cold and calculating.
"A wea—what?!" Light noticed she was incidentally still holding her sword, and disappeared it. "It's gone, stop shooting at me!"

The next jump took her off the roof of the building. It would be much better if she didn't have a clear shot at Light, right? If there was somebody else she had to worry about hitting, especially? Surely she wasn't berserk or crazy or angry enough to start firing on civilians, right? Light made a quick few hops across the walls to land in an alley and started running as soon as her feet hit the ground. Another shot rang behind her, along with a sound she thought was maybe the bullet going into the asphalt.

Light kept running, out into one of the main streets. She made a decision to be visible at this point; if that other girl was going to shoot her she would have to do it in front of a whole lot of witnesses. There were people on this sidewalk, who took notice as she ran past and around them, over the road briefly and onto the other sidewalk. They had probably also heard the gunshots; what were the chances anyone around here hadn't? Light stopped in front of a store window, turning around to look. The other girl was on the other side of the street with her weapon still drawn. There was a car coming, and she'd stopped to wait for it. But...

There was something wrong with the light. She could feel it somehow, being bent unnaturally somewhere just over the middle of the road. The car drove past, and Light saw the other girl looking up at the same spot. It was like a ripple in a pond, only it was in the air, and not a heat wave. It spread and grew, turning from waves to something black and..fuzzy, indistinct. Everything else seemed to be crawling by; this was the same kind of slowed-down perception as seeing a person change to their other form.

The shadow grew into a huge shape, like a giant bear. It solidified and grew more distinct, gaining something between feathers and scales all across a huge body with four thick legs, each ending in long, hook-shaped bladelike claws. Before long, the pitch-black creature fell to the ground, landing square on its hind feet and shattering the road. Even fully formed, it seemed to have a smoky, mist-like quality to it. It was facing away from Light, straight toward the other girl.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The "Best" RPG Ever-44

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Zack woke up face down on a couch, his head turned to the right, facing the back. "Mngh..?" He pushed himself up onto his knees and looked around., in the brief moment of confusion from waking up somewhere unusual, before getting a sense of what had happened. This was the library, and he'd fallen asleep again. Nora and Mira were on the couch opposite him.
"Morning, sleeping beauty~," said the witch, waving.
"Rrrrgh..why didn't you wake me up?!" he jumped to his feet, blushing in embarrassment with his ears folded down over his cheeks.
"I-I-I, thought you n-n-needed the sleep, a-after, last night," said the elf nervously; she was, suspiciously, blushing almost as much as it felt like he was.
"By the way, I was saying 'sleeping beauty' as a gender-neutral cliche, just for the record," Mira added. "Even though I do think the haircut looks really cu—nice. Good." She gave a thumbs up.

"Whatever. How long was I asleep?" He felt hungry; it had to at least be lunchtime.
"Um, ab-about two or three hours, I think?"
"You just waited around for me to wake up," he said, crossing his arms in annoyance.
"Noooo, I got here like half an hour ago and we were just talking," said the witch. "Quietly. 'Cause it's a library. I figured Katherine would track us down eventually and then she could wake you up with psychic whatsits so nobody had to get near you to poke you."
"I'm not a bear."
"You are part wolf, though~," the witch winked. Zack realized he'd put his hands on his hips and quickly dropped them to his sides again. Nora was giving her a look he didn't fully understand, but turned back toward him before he could process it.

"Somebody say my name?" Katherine walked out from behind a nearby shelf. "What up, nerds?"
"Hi..!" Rose skittered along behind her, looking around nervously as if she was afraid of knocking over the shelves or something. To be fair, she was more than strong enough to do that.
"Zack here was just taking a little nap," said Mira, "Nora was telling me about a book. Once I was here we agreed it'd probably be easier to wait for you to come to us." The elf nodded in agreement with this. "Anyway, it's like..past lunch, right? I'm getting really hungry." Hearing that, Zack realized he was also famished, as if breakfast hadn't even happened.
"Yeah, yeah." The catgirl nodded. "The Captain asked me to bring everyone else to talk about another job, but I think there's time to eat before then."

Lynn asked, "So, did a crystal thing appear in your inventory? Did you notice anything like that before?"
"I..wait. Waaiiit." Aria paused for a second, closing her eyes, and then opened them again to a deeply frustrated expression. "Rrrgh! I am so stupid!"
"Whaa?" The human across the table headtilted a little bit.
"I never checked! I didn't check once before now! I just assumed it was empty to begin with and kept track of what added to it in my head. Of course there might be some items you start out with! Look!" She produced and half-slammed onto the table first a small, glowing blue crystal, then a seemingly blank piece of paper, then a metal charm shaped like an ankh with two circular parts side by side instead of one. They were in the patio of a restaurant, and this made for a small scene and a few stares at first. "And there's a sword in there. Like, a normal sword, a..falchion thing. Rrrgh." Rayna gave a calm, smiling wave to the more persistent onlookers and they understood immediately that everything was fine and they could go back to whatever they'd been doing before.

"Well, at least you checked it now?" Clera said.
"Yeah, but now is after seeing something in my dream. I have no idea if this stuff was really always there or if it was somehow 'added' after I saw something related to it. I'm missing what might be a really important clue to the story!"
"Wait, which story?" said Rayna.
"Mine," she gestured emphatically to herself for a second before dropping her hand. "My character's. Whatever. I don't know for sure if what I saw was a 'real' memory," (she gave air quotes around "real"). "Maybe someone stuck it in my head somehow, and gave me things that matched with it along the way. Did you get item identification yet?"

For a second nobody was sure what that meant, until the fox-girl remembered an obscure branch of her skill tree. "Um, not yet."
"Well, if you have any points can you take it now? See if it tells us anything useful about this stuff?"
"Sure, I guess," she shrugged. After buying it, she turned on the HUD filter to look at the things on the table. "Hm..non-magical," she said, pointing to the charm. "I guess it's supposed to go on a necklace or something but there's not anywhere to attach it except through one of the hoops. Maybe handmade?"
Lynn said, "Wait, is the skill telling you all of that, or are you..?"
"That's just stuff I would say from looking at it, except that it's not magical. My vision just says 'Charm', nothing helpful. The paper is 'Blank Paper' and there's some kind of magic involved but I can't see what without a way higher level in the skill. Maybe it's a moon-letter kind of thing?" She turned her head slightly. "And..the crystal. Immediately I get the label 'Beacon' and that it's magical, but nothing else. I would guess your dream is at least telling the truth about it being able to help someone find you..."
"But it doesn't tell you how I turn it on, huh?" Aria put the other items in her inventory and picked the crystal up to turn over in her hand. "I'm guessing it's something really simple but I just don't 'remember' the instructions."

"Why would you want to turn it on?" asked Clera. "You just expressed fear that what you know about it may have been falsified."
"Not fear, just annoyance at not having evidence that I could've had if I'd acted like I had half a brain," said Aria. "But, if I can activate this and get whoever 'gave it to me' to show up and talk, that'll give me loads of evidence. I have to sit around doing no fighting for two or three days anyway, so I might as well occupy my mind with working this stuff out instead of being bored and/or driven insane by the slow building of my sword's hunger for blood. This should be a fighting-free activity, after all."

Rayna looked up at something behind Aria's side of the table, so she carefully turned around to look. "Um, hello." It was Rast again.
"Hi Rast," Lynn piped up right away, "What's up?"
"Errr, the Captain wanted me to check how you all were. I hear those goblins did a number on ya?"
"Just me, mostly," said Aria. "Clera burned her magic out fixing the problem. But we're still alive and walking..sorta."
"Good, good," he nodded. "She also wanted any of you who're in fightin' condition to meet up with her an hour from now. Long as Rayna's one of 'em."
"Well, my arm was a little sore earlier," said the fox-girl. "But why me specifically?"
He shrugged. "The Captain don't tell us why she wants things. We're lucky ta even know what message she's havin' us deliver." He scratched his head, thinking. "If I had to guess, though, maybe somethin' about your magic bein' able to track things? Anyway, should I tell her you can come or not?"

Rayna and Lynn shared a look briefly. "Yeah, the two of us will go," said Lynn right after. "On another subject, when's the next time you're free, hmm?"
Aria (facing forward again, away from Rast, by now) rolled her eyes before looking back at the crystal still in her hand, turning it over for a moment. The first step was..probably to find some kind of magic item shop or something. A professional identifier kind of shopkeep. If the paper was instructions, making it readable could be unnecessary if somebody in this town already knew exactly how to use this beacon thing.

A little later, they were on their way. "You're just shameless, huh? Flirting and setting up a date right in front of the rest of us?" The fox-girl gave Lynn a small elbowing.
"Whatever. You'd just all spy on anything I tried to do privately anyway. At least you know when I'll be busy and why without me repeating myself."
"True, I guess."

The archer thought for a moment, and had an idea. "...Hey, so, you can see people's classes, right?"
"Have you ever..done that with just random people on the street we're passing by? I mean, is it only players that have classes or everyone?"
"I guess I haven't. Let's see..." Rayna had a quick look around with HUD-vision on at various people on the street. "..I guess regular people do have classes. I see some 'classless' out there, but the town guard people have classes like 'swordsman' or 'guard'...some of those street vendors have concerning classes like 'rogue' or 'trickster'...hmm. I wonder what the Captain's class is."
"Well, it's not hard to check. It just seems weird we haven't before." They reached the guardhouse, and went inside.

When Rayna knocked on the Captain's door, she heard her say, "Can you get that?" and then an unfamiliar voice say "Sure." A girl with white hair and wolf ears opened it in a second.
While she got out of the way, the Captain waved at the two of them. "Come in, if you can find room. You know, this office seemed too big when I first had it built.."
She still had the vision on to see what people's classes were, among a few other things, so the person right in front of her briefly stuck out. After they had walked inside, Rayna's brain fully processed what she had seen: The first row said "Zack –" and then "Canis", but the symbol between there that normally indicated sex was fuzzing weirdly between "M" and "F", like it was glitched; the next line identified her as a "Knight". The broken symbol was weird, but also the name sounded familiar...

"Hi!" Rose was here too, and three more people. Rayna and Lynn, and Zack behind them, only found room to stand awkwardly in between where all the chairs were and the Captain's big desk. The chairs were occupied and the empty corner that didn't have a chair on it had a giant white wolf sitting there instead.
She didn't wait to start introducing people. "This is Rayna and Lynn. You two've met Rose before. The rest are Zack, Katherine, Mika, Nora."
"Umm, Mira," the third one corrected hesitantly. She was dressed very much like a witch, which the HUD confirmed. Right, Katherine, who Aria had met—that was it. And they were also Rose's other friends, it would seem. Interesting..coincidence. None of the rest of them had glitchy letters, either, so it couldn't be a common thing.
"Mira," the Captain echoed dispassionately. "I should get to the point so you don't have to be crammed in here any longer than necessary."

"Our city's supply of livestock is in danger." The fox-girl had almost forgotten the reason she had the extra vision on in here, and looked at the Captain with it, listening to her at the same time of course.
Lynn said, "Wait, we..have one of those?" The Captain's name was apparently Ezra; she was identified as a female human with the class "Bard".
"Of course. I hope you don't think we've been importing meat from the homeland this whole time." A bard, eh? That was...not what she would've expected at all. "They're out in the pastureland with the rest of the farms. Anyway, there have been some reports from the farmers of them disappearing in large numbers. The pens they were in are typically torn apart, and the ground typically looks like an explosive spell was set off just under it. Those are good signs that we're dealing with at least one giant worm." Okay, no..bards were supposed to know a lot of lore. Just immediately knowing what species of monster they were dealing with made perfect sense. And that kind of knowledge would be perfect for someone assigning monster-slaying jobs, huh. She hadn't really thought of it that way before.

"So, you want us to kill that," said Zack. Katherine looked distracted, but he was determined not to be.
"Right. The reason these two are here is that those worms are notoriously difficult to find. They tend to keep a den deep underground, through an ever-changing maze of a tunnel system. Rayna is an illusionist; her powers allow her to track monsters. The extra support in general won't hurt here, either. If you'll all take the job, that is."
He tried getting Katherine's attention with a brief look, but she didn't seem too interested. The others were nodding, at least; Rose a bit like a bobblehead. "...Yeah. We didn't have any other plans anyway."
The fox-girl shared a brief look with Lynn only briefly before agreeing also. "Sure, we'll take it."

"Good," Captain Ezra nodded. "The sooner you get to work the better. We'll see a price hike for a lot of food if this isn't dealt with quickly. Worse still, if it runs out of animals to eat it'll come deeper into the city and start taking people."

They were on their way out after that. Zack paused, kneeling in front of the wolf. "Look, you should just stay with the Captain for a while," he said. It growled some displeasure at the idea. "I don't think you'll be much help against a giant worm. We'll be back." The wolf responded with a low bark that indicated it still didn't like it, but would obey anyway.
Katherine was still here. She still looked just as distracted as before. What are you doing? He tried to communicate mentally.
She seemed to snap out of it and finally realize most everyone was gone. She stood up. Looking at our new friends. Two minds at once. Sorry.
Well stop. They're probably fine. He caught up with them outside, with the catgirl not far behind.

Mira asked, "Sooo, what do illusions have to do with tracking monsters?"
"The world is an illusion," said Rayna in a mock 'mystic person' tone. " powers just extend farther than they seem to."
"I liked the first answer better."
"Then believe that one. Anyway, I already tracked down a bunch of goblins earlier, so we have proof it works."

"You two are Aria's friends, right?" said Katherine.
"Yep." Rayna nodded. "She got herself hurt while we were fighting those goblins, so she isn't in fighting shape right now. But she'll be fine later."
"That's good..."
"Interesting to finally meet you," said Mira. "I, um, hope you don't mind working with a witch."
"Why would I mind that? Do you smell or something?"
"I eat demons for power. Actually, I don't know if that affects my breath or not."
"We already work with someone using a demon for power. Sooo..." Rayna gave an arms-up shrug.

"Is Clera hurt too?" Rose didn't want to interrupted a conversation that had already moved on, so she turned this question to Lynn.
"Not exactly. She burned out her magic and fainted a little bit, and needs to rest."
"Ohhh." The dragon-girl didn't really know what burning out magic meant, but burning sounded bad, and needing to rest made sense enough.

Katherine moved back until she was next to Nora, letting Zack continue to be in the lead. I hate to ask, but..what are we doing again?
The elf 'thought' toward Katherine her memory of the entire conversation in the Captain's office.
Thanks, sorry.
You weren't paying attention? Don't you have a heightened attention span or something?
Yes, but, um, I was looking at the minds of those two...both at once at first. Did you know the Captain's name is Ezra?
She never really introduced herself. How do you know that?
Rayna can 'see' people's names and part of illusionist powers or something?
You're reading minds all the time. Two more doesn't really seem like enough to distract you. I mean, you juggle three or four knives at the same time without any trouble.
Well, that's not really why I was distracted. See, she also saw she was a Bard, and was reasoning about how much sense it made for a Bard to be the guard captain...thought something about knowing lore and that meaning it made sense she would know what monster we were dealing with just from a few signs. I thought something about that thought was..suspicious, I don't know how to describe it, so I was actually digging deeper and looking for the thought pathways related to it...
I can tell you have a point. Nora meant for her to get to it.
I'm not sure if I should say right now. With Rose here...just don't react aloud, I'll bring it up later or something.
I can stay quiet. The elf looked around at the group all chatting with each other, and Zack busy leading the way out to the last place the worm took animals from; they probably wouldn't notice her ever-so-surprised reaction to whatever it was anyway.

Okay. Look, I realized what was suspicious about the thought about a Bard as I was going. It's kind of a DND description of what a Bard is, you know, to know lore and stuff. Inside a fantasy world, or like, midieval Europe, you'd expect a "bard" to just be a lazy useless person who plays music sometimes. So I traced it back and that's exactly what the thought was about!
They have something like DND here?
Katherine's expression out in the real world was neutral, but she mentally made the annoyed face one makes when the other party seems to be intentionally missing the point. Wha—no! Maybe? That's not the point! The thought was about DND. OURS.
So you think they're more players, from Earth.

The elf looked over at the two of them briefly. And if they are, it's likely the others in their party are, too.
Right. Maybe? It wouldn't be hard for me to get that information out of them if we brought it up, it'd just be right there in their surface thoughts.
Or we could just ask them as soon as Rose isn't with us, Nora mentally deadpanned. I don't know of any reason they'd want to hide it.
How are you being so calm about this? It's a big deal! Two—maybe four more people from where we're from! Who knows how many more there are?
You told me not to react, so I'm not reacting.

The catgirl sent over a mental expression like throwing one's arms up in incoherent confusion, so Nora elaborated. It's probably good news, but it hardly seems shocking. We already each met three other people from Earth, so the existence of many, many more who we haven't met seems extremely likely.
...Oh. Katherine mentally blushed a bit. You're right, I guess. I was just, thinking of it differently. Like: In a game, the DM would always put the party near each other and arrange things so circumstances push them into meeting up. But this world is real, so..there's no DM to do that, and it's a coincidence we met, which with this many coincidences would make people from Earth weirdly common here.

...Wait. That doesn't make any sense either; we would've either heard of massive disappearances or large numbers of people remembering playing a game that sent them here, or...something like that. Right?
Unless we were just the first, thought Nora back. That was a bit of a chilling thought to both of them.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Midas Journal 26

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Entry: May 21

The first thing I did after school on Wednesday was go to Brie's house to see her. Of course I'd checked she was actually there and available first, so when I knocked on the door she answered it. “Hey, so, what's up?” she said, leading the way to her living room.
“Um..yesterday something happened I think I should talk to you about,” I said. “It's...someone else I used my power on.”
“Uh-huh?” She said, sounding interested, and sat down. I took a seat on the other side of the couch and she immediately scooted over to put her arm over my shoulders.
“Well, it know, the attraction thing, I'm just more worried about this one than usual,” I said, stumbling awkwardly. “I..I'll just tell you what it was about.” I gave a brief summary of who Giriah had been and why I'd decided to use the power on him..finishing with, “and...well, he turned into a succubus. Her name's Giri.”
“Okay,” said Brie, obviously not seeing a problem with that. “So, if she was a heroic demon before there's no reason to think she won't be one now. I guess you're worried a succubus will actually act on the new attraction to you more than anyone else has?”
“Well, yeah,” I said. “I—one of the first things she said was something like, 'you can have two girlfriends if you want'. But—I don't want that, even though she is cute and all. I told her that, but she still kept sorta flirting with me a little, and I don't know if that's just her personality, or like, how hard it is for a succubus or whatever to even take no for an answer.”
“Mmh. I don't really think you have much to worry about,” said Brie. “The way I understand it, if she offered something like that to you and you were even able to say no it means you have some kind of resistance to their usual powers over boys. Anyway, you could always just be a girl for a while till she cools off.”
“She...didn't seem bothered by the idea of me turning into a girl either,” I said.

“Look, I'm not really...I mean, I guess I am worried I'll screw something up about as much as usual, but what I'm really worried about is, is what if she starts spreading a rumor or something that I was dating her? I mean...even if I wasn't, just intentionally lying to break us apart. I have a hard time believing she wouldn't be able to convince someone else that was happening,” I said. “I—I wouldn't really know what to do in that situation, if you actually believed it I mean. I wouldn't know how to prove I wasn' I just wanted to tell you ahead of time, I'm not. I never will be. No matter how attractive someone else is, it's you I'm in love with,” I said finally, and sighed. “I don't know what else to say.”
“Awwh, Kael,” Brie smiled and tickled the tip of one of my ears a bit. “I'd never believe something like that about you. For one thing, you're a really bad liar.”
“Well—yeah, but if I'm trying to lie about something I sound nervous, and I'm scared I'd sound the same kind of nervous if—” I started, but she put a finger to my lips.
“I wasn't done,” she said, sounding mock-annoyed. “More important than that, though, I trust you. I have a lot of good reasons to trust you, I mean, I don't even know if you realize how much power you gave me over, like, all of you, and even though at first it was supposed to just be for one experiment you've never even thought about taking that power over you back. Right?”
“, I guess not,” I shrugged.
“But even better than that, I know you love me,” she said, wrapping her arms around me, pulling close, bringing her face nearly up against mine. “And I love you, too.”

She punctuated that with a kiss, and I returned it as eagerly as she gave it. It started gentle and romantic, with us both gently holding onto each other. Slowly we both started to get more excited, pulling ourselves closer and kissing a little harder, and before I know it I was on my back with my head on the armrest, in the middle of what I think is the longest and most intense kiss we've ever had. And then, after that, Brie did something new.
I felt a tingling racing out from where her lips were touching mine, out along my face to the rest of my head and my ears, and then down along the rest of my body. I realized what it meant as I began to feel my body getting smaller against hers, and became aware of hair pooling on the armrest behind me. My tail, still wrapped around hers, grew thicker, fluffier, softer, and also more sensitive; my ears had done the same thing already, I knew when her hands ran across them. I was making small “Mmh” sounds through the kiss, each one in a slightly higher pitch, as I felt my clothes wrap closer against my body, my hips stretching out and back while my stomach gently flattened and curved inward.
Before I knew it I was down to Kaela-size, her voice in my throat, my clothes completely changed to a girl's and my memories shifting over to the female ones...but I was still, just barely, male, and my lips were still locked against hers. She pushed herself against me a little bit harder for a few seconds, my body seemingly frozen mid-transformation, and then with a loud smacking sound our lips parted and I let out a soft, high “Aaaaah~!” as I finally changed sex, followed immediately by a gasp as I felt my breasts grow into place all at once, squishing directly into hers—neither of us was wearing a bra now, of course.
My hands crept up to her soft, fluffy ears; she was petting mine already, so it was only fair. Our tails were sliding across each other, each feeling every inch of the other's velvety fur, and with this it was enough for us to start nuzzling each other as closely as we'd been kissing a moment ago, letting out small, high, puppy-like barks and yips to each other. After a while, though, we pulled our heads apart again, our faces both bright red.

“Uh, w-wow...what was that about?” I said.
“I-I was like two inches away from going into heat, seriously,” said Brie with a nervous smile. “I don't think either of us are ready for that right now so we'll just have to settle for the soft touches. We could both be a little softer if you want though...” (She meant we could use our werewolf forms again, like on the full moon. I didn't get that at first.)
“Maybe..but uh, the couch is starting to hurt the back of my head.”
“To the bedroom, then!” Brie pushed herself off of me and stood up, her tail beginning to rapidly wag as soon as it pulled free of mine. Then she started to walk a little unsteadily off toward her room.
I got up to follow. “I'd have settled for swapping positions for a while, you know...”

I stayed over for the rest of the night. We did eventually go to sleep, still hugging each other, and the next morning we walked to school together before finally splitting up. I wasn't exactly paying much attention to my phone that whole time, so it wasn't until school was almost over that I noticed a text from Giri.
It said, “Hi again Kaela! There's someone I want you to meet but NOT use your 'special skill' on. I think they'll help put your mind more at ease.”
I understood what the part about the special skill was but not exactly what the rest meant. Still, it didn't sound like she was planning anything bad, and I felt a lot better about the whole situation with her after the night before. So I replied to see if they wanted to meet that afternoon. Within a couple of hours I was sitting at that restaurant full of magic people Rio took me to a while ago, waiting to see what would happen.

Looking around, I noticed some things. Of course it was mostly completely different customers from before, but I could clearly pick out werewolves, kitsune, cat-people..even a couple of Rabbits (rabbit-people, I still think that's needlessly confusing). And there were some demons around too, with some inhuman skin colors and various combinations of wings, horns, tails, and so on. I couldn't help feeling amazed and a little weirded out that I had gone from an outsider to this completely different world from the one I (really) grew up in, to a life-long insider with new, not exactly fake memories of growing up in it.

The door rang (it's one of those with bells that make noise every time it opens), and I looked to see Giri walking in, thankfully much more fully clothed than when we'd first met, and a Kitsune girl with white hair, glasses, and white hair and fur following. I waved lightly at them and they came over, taking two of the three free chairs.

The demon-girl frowned slightly at me. “Are you really that worried about little old me? I mean, that look's pretty cute on you, but..”
“I'm not..I didn't actually,” I failed to start twice. “Look, my girlfriend decided on it for reasons that didn't have to do with you. Anyway. Hi, I'm Kaela.” I offered a hand to the other girl, and she nodded, shaking it.
“Ren. I've heard just a little bit about you.”
My head tilted slightly. “Um..a little off-subject, but how are your glasses staying on straight?”
“Magic. It's really not that hard. I could prolly teach you the spell in a few minutes if you're halfway intelligent.”

Anyway,” Giri interrupted, “Ren here is my mana battery. She's..well, actually male normally. Closest thing to a boyfriend a succubus can expect to have.”
“We're awfully clever,” said the fox-girl, leaning forward onto her elbows. “Giri drains masculinity out for her magic and then uses a tiny bit of it to turn me back later.”
“Uh-huh.” That explained not wanting me to use my powers on her. But she wasn't setting off any alarms, and at any rate I'm not really sure how it would work if the person is already physically female.
“You seem skeptical. We've got a few backups in store in case she accidentally used too much in the span of a few hours.”
“Oh, I wasn't thinking about that. Uh..out of curiosity, do you um, enjoy being a girl?” I said.
“I might as well ask you if you enjoy being a werewolf,” she shrugged. “The drain affects my mind too..but with it being temporary, I don't have to deal with the worst of it. So that's nice, I guess.

“ I understand it, you had some part in helping Giri meet Threa?”
“, it's more like..”
“We met at her house,” Giri said. “Basically a coincidence. But Kaela here has some unusual powers. When I met her, she was a boy named Kael.”
“What kind of powers? You help unlock the ancestral knowledge?”
I gave a confused look. “No...I, don't actually know what that is.” It occurred to me after saying that that this probably had something to do with Giri not telling her “boyfriend” she had only recently become Giri, but honestly, I'm a bad enough liar when I know what the lie even is. I decided to just continue with the part of the truth that was mine to tell. “Ever since my eighteenth birthday, I have some kind of reality-altering, wish-granting...thing.”
“Reality altering?” Ren's eyes glowed slightly, and she looked skeptical. “You don't look all that powerful to me. Mostly just normal werewolf stuff there...”

“I don't know how it works exactly,” I said. “But, I can prove it exists at least.” I tapped my wrist, asking my power to shift me from werewolf to kitsune, and let Ren and Giri aware of the change. I felt a subtle tingling across my fur, and my memories shifted slightly; my body pulsed with magic and some knowledge appeared of how to use it.
Ren jumped back slightly, blinking. “Whoa! How did were definitely a werewolf a second ago! And—and wait, no you weren't? Is this..some kind of mind magic? It can't, I would've...”
“Well, that's how it works,” I said, crossing my arms. “It just sort of reconfigures everything. It can work on other people, but uh..usually it changes a person from male to female, and it has a tendency to jump out and work when I don't really want it to. Only if someone wants something badly enough, though. And, it's touch activated. You have no idea how many different versions of memories I have by now.” I quietly switched back to werewolf, since I'd made the point.

“Amazing...I've never heard of anything like that,” said Ren. “I I suppose if a power can just make people remember things differently then it'd be very easy to keep it a secret. So you've actually used your power on some people? Who?”
“Err, I mostly consider that their secrets to tell, not mine,” I said, trying hard not to look in Giri's direction. “But uh..a few people, yeah.”
“Hmph. I'm sure I can guess a few of them. Like your girlfriend, right? And obviously yourself, if she wants you to?”

I frowned. “Look, it's really not any of your business.”
“Ohh come on, I'm a kitsune. I'm good at keeping secrets!” she said. “Don't give me a puzzle to solve and then not tell me if my answers are right!”
“..Well, it's not exactly a secret if we say it here,” I said, waving at our general surroundings, and specifically people with ears like mine that could probably eavesdrop without even meaning to.
“I uh, cast a privacy spell when we sat down,” said Giri. “Seemed like the right idea. Probably should've mentioned that earlier.”
“I think I'm going to need to know that spell,” I said. “Fine, who do you guess? My girlfriend, fine. Not that you know who that actually is. We met while I was messing with using my powers on myself. We sort of switch roles back and forth.”

“Hmn...well, what about Adena?”
I paused, raising an eyebrow. “How do you know her?”
“I'm helping her keep up appearances of an alternate male life. She's mentioned you a couple of times, actually. She's always struck me as strangely amazed about her own powers, even though—y'know—always had them? So I'm guessing your power made a normal human boy into her?”
“Fine, yeah.” I nodded. “I was actually trying to make a male friend my power wouldn't affect. I didn't understand it as well as I do soon as he started talking about how cool it would be to have magic, it just sort of happened. I really doubt you know anyone else I've changed, though.”
“Heheh, well, for someone who was technically not always one, she plays the trickster role pretty well,” said Ren. “Just some friendly advice though, try to keep out of the situation if you can. It's bound to blow up pretty soon.”
“Yeah, I've been telling her that...”
“Don't worry too much. It's a pretty normal stage for a lot of foxes, and she's clever and optimistic enough to come out of it better than ever after the fallout. Eventually you learn to lie in ways that won't blow up on you personally.”
“That isn't all that reassuring,” I said. “How much are you lying about right now?”
“Hmn...not much.” She shrugged. “I've always preferred the magic and knowledge route over the trickster one. Mostly I just throw the occasional support string on others' webs of lies.”

We were interrupted by a waiter showing up and asking us for our order. Giri offered to pay for supper, and our conversation moved out of magic to some more mundane introductions. Ren and Giri are actually college students, a couple of years older than me. In all the confusion of learning about magic I almost forgot about normal things like graduating from high school and moving on from there, which I guess I should be thinking about pretty soon. It's all still a little surreal; I could technically reality-warp my way into whatever job I want, even weird magic ones, but it feels wrong somehow. I'd miss out on really experiencing a lot of things that way, and...sooner or later I should probably admit to myself that I don't really have to worry about running out of time. When Adena talked like she'd be alive for centuries I was surprised and in some denial because the same thing basically applies to me, and probably at least a few other people I know, even if I don't try to do something about the general problem of death (which is still very much on my mind).

Today Rio showed up at my locker, while I was stuffing things into my backpack. I'd finally decided to try out the inventory spell I'd learned and just empty the whole thing out and not ever have to come back to it. “ learned an inventory spell?” she said.
“Um..yeah.” I looked around, suddenly worried someone else had seen me putting more into the backpack than could ever possibly fit. “Someone new I changed suggested I'd be able to learn spells by just..shifting things a bit to where I already knew them, and it works fine as far as I can tell.”
“Oh, wow. I can't believe I didn't think of that!” she said.
“Er..sorry. I mean, I know magic's kinda your thing but..”
“No, no,” she shook her head. “Magic's not a zero sum game, Kaela dear. It can only be better if more people enjoy the benefits, especially good people like you. Anyway, I wouldn't have magic if not for you, and you can turn to casting spells in self-protection before jumping straight to reality bending. Right?”
“Yeah, I guess I could do that,” I said. “Um, I've been using some of Threa's spellbooks as references so I don't accidentally create new spells.”
“I have a few suggestions if you ever want to do that intentionally,” she grinned. I was finally done filling the backpack, so I set it down and closed my locker for probably the last time. She seemed to take this as a sign that she should tackle-hug me, which I returned automatically. It was a brief goodbye hug, and I set her back down on her feet after a second or two. “See ya later, then!”
“Bye!” I didn't find doing that weird until she was already running off and I thought about it. Girls just...hug each other when guys wouldn't, I guess. Even among completely platonic friends.

I've started learning a bunch more spells this afternoon. I'm trying to do it slowly so I get used to the ones I know at each step. I don't want to overwhelm myself and risk getting confused, and do something like try to cast a face-cleaning spell and throw a fireball instead.

I wonder if I'll change someone new next week, too. It's getting to be less of something I'm worried about and more of an exciting curiosity, a “what's gonna happen next?” kind of thing. There's still a lot of the list I haven't seen yet, especially after Giri helped fill it up more.

I've had this written for a little while, but held off on it because I've had some trouble writing captions lately. I've decided to just not worry about it too much. Sometimes there'll be a bunch of captions, sometimes there'll be a bunch of story bits. That's just how it is sometimes.