Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The "Best" RPG Ever-37

Aria practiced meditating in Blood Demon World. She didn't really have much choice—Katherine hadn't shown up, and despite having a lot more confidence about flying out over the abyss she couldn't make the static do anything on her own. So she sat down, crossed her legs, stared straight out at the gigantic demon in the distance. Maybe it was the training she'd gotten in meditation, maybe it was some of the self-control and blood hunger weakening abilities she'd learned that day, but somehow she did manage to pass the time in a much more mentally peaceful state. It was maybe an hour, she guessed, since falling asleep when her temporarily fox-like ears twitched at the sound of someone else appearing. She opened her eyes and turned to see Katherine standing there—not a cat, but the whole woman this time, wearing blue PJs with a pattern of white cat-paw-prints on them.

"Ah, hey, welcome. Meditation works, kinda." She stood up. "You learned a new trick?"
"A few of them," the catgirl nodded. "So I'm going to get us a setting by bridging your mind with Mika's, but uh..well, she looks a little different."
"How so?"
"Well, she's..." Katherine patted her own boobs with her hands. "..taller, for one thing."
Aria put her fists on her hips. "Now you're just making me curious. Bring 'er in!"

As easily as a flip of the switch, the static was replaced with Mika's setting again. She stood in her new body, in the dark forest from before, looking at a tree which very much didn't appear to belong. It had vibrant colors all over, its fruit were cartoonishly bright star and circle shapes, even the lighting on it seemed much brighter than that on the rest of the forest. "Hii," she said, waving over her shoulder but not turning around. "I'm trying to figure out what's up with this tree."
Aria came up next to her. "It is pretty weird. What's up with you, anyway? Trying to steal shapeshifters' thunder?"
"Hmn? Oh right. No, this just sorta, happened. I had aaa...growth spurt!"
"What, you eat one too many demons?"
She smirked. "Well, I wouldn't say 'too many'..."

"Hey, uh.." Katherine, floating a few inches off the ground near them, waved. She generated a table and some comfy chairs for them in the clearing near the tree. "One of our members isn't feeling too well, so I'm gonna be in and out of here all night to check on them. I'm the only one who can do that while still asleep, after all."
"Yeah, that's cool," said Aria. "Hope she gets better. Or, he?"
Katherine's ears folded slightly. "Me too." She disappeared to go check.
"She feels responsible," Mika explained, heading over to the new furniture. "I think all of us do."
"What, for a disease?"
"It's a thing the demon did to him. So it's sorta my fault. But I'm not really sure how bad it is and I can't spend all my time worrying about it, so I'd rather talk about literally anything else."

"Okay..." Aria sat down, stretching out. This was so much better than the ground. "So like, how do you keep that on you?" The shifter pointed to the witch's chest, specifically the part of her dress barely hanging off of it.
"I dunno, magic?" she shrugged. "I'm not making any kind of conscious effort. This whole new look..it comes with powers and improvements, too. I feel so much more capable of stuff!" Mika picked up one of the big chairs one-handed to demonstrate...although of course this was a dream, so just thinking she was strong was enough to do that. Putting it down again to sit in, she leaned forward excitedly. "I feel like a different person. I—what if I use a different name?"
"Well, that seems a little drastic, maybe. I mean, you are still you, aren't you?"
"I am, but.." Mika tried to think how to explain it without revealing that she'd already changed her name once, since that would involve talking about the whole "game" thing. "It's like...Mika feels like a chirpy little girl's name. I feel more...womanly than that now, I guess. I'm sure I look it, right?" She made a sweeping wave, and Aria shrug-nodded.
"What about Mira?"
"It's pretty, I guess. You'll have to convince your friends to call you that, though."
"I don't think it'll be too hard," she said. "I mean..." She paused, initially starting to say Zack insisted she was a boy and got everyone to use male pronouns, but then realizing she did not want to say that. It felt...mean-spirited, in light of recent events. "...they're, ac-cepting," she finished with, slightly awkwardly.

"What are we accepting now?" Katherine reappeared floating above the third chair in the set, and let herself sink down into it. "I'm kidding, I can hear the whole conversation in here whether I'm here or not. I mean, I'm literally the bridge making it possible."
"Fair enough," said the witch, "we'll tell each other secrets in person later. So what do you think?"
She shrugged. "Mira's a cute name. I mean, it's less adorable-cute than Mika, but I guess you are too. It's almost sad, though."
"You just don't like being the shortest one now," said Mira, smirking slightly.
"I really don't care about that. I'm gonna be able to float as much off the ground as I want in real life soon."

"So how's your friend?" said Aria.
Katherine's ears folded down again. "He's..not great. He keeps moving around and pulling at the sheets, and making little whining noises. I'm surprised nobody else in the room's been woken up by those, really."
Mira just crossed her arms and frowned again. "Literally anything else."
"Yeah, yeah, just asking. So you're friends with the uh, dragon girl Rose too, right?"
"Uh-huh!" the witch nodded cheerfully. "What about her?"
"Well, she surprised us by coming back into town tonight. She's staying in the Broken Dragon, so if you're not busy you could go visit her. Tell her about your, uh, growth spurt."
"Oh man, how am I gonna explain that to her?" said Mira, looking slightly distressed. "I don't really know how she feels about summoning demons, but she's all about nature and they are pretty unnatural. So, I'm less natural after eating them by extension too."
"I wouldn't worry about it," said Katherine. "I think it's more just that she really likes plants than anything about nature in particular. Besides, she seemed happy enough around you before, even after we explained what a witch is and does."
"Yeah...I guess you're right," Mira nodded, looking relieved.

Zack dreamed...he was a woman. She had the same body he'd been running around in for weeks, which of course was a girl's, but it was more than that: The mental content of the dream indicated that she was, in its context, absolutely and completely female.

She was in a vague impression of a bedroom with a large, soft bed, too big for one person. She was in a frilly set of panties and a soft, very revealing nightshirt of some kind. She felt physically warm, and burned with desire for...someone. It was obvious that a man was supposed to arrive...supposed to have been here ages ago. But there was no one here.
She paced around the room, lay on the bed and turned over and around, totally restless. The warm feeling grew less comfortable over time and fueled a deep-seated frustration. It never occurred to her to leave the bedroom or try to sleep; the only thought there was was "Where is he?" Repeated over and over, "Where is he?" It didn't feel like it mattered who exactly he was, as long as he appeared before long.

But nobody showed up the entire night. Zack woke up to find the bedding mostly off of the bed, entirely off of him, some of it torn up. He felt exhausted, restless, hot, and more than anything the deep sense of frustration from the dream lingered. The sun was up, but just barely; the others still seemed to be asleep.

He pulled himself off of the bed and sat up, then carefully stood. His legs felt weak and wobbly, even more than before. There was something really wrong, he couldn't let them see him like this. He stretched over to get some day clothes, a shirt and pants, and put them on without standing up.
"Zack?" The knight jumped. Katherine's voice; he turned around to find she'd gotten into the bed next to his, and was leaning up on an elbow looking at him with a concerned expression.
"Gh..go back to bed," he said quietly. Talking was a little hard. "I need to..go to the...doctor or whatever..they have here." He tried to stand up; his knees shook and he just fell back to his seat on the bed again.
"I'm glad you agree," she said, getting out of bed herself. "It doesn't look like you're in any condition to take yourself, though. Lemme change clothes real quick and I'll help you there, okay?"
He wanted to argue; this was embarrassing enough without someone else coming with him, much less her, but...she seemed to be right. "Hhh...fine."

Zack had to more or less use the psion as a crutch the entire way there. He had never felt this...weak or useless before. They were early enough in the morning that the healers weren't all that busy and let him into an office right away. After handing him over to what she guessed was a nurse-equivalent, Katherine stayed behind in the waiting room.

A stern-looking elf woman came in to see Zack. "Tell me what's wrong," she said curtly.
"A...monster did something to me, and I don't...I feel strange," he said, shaking his head in an effort to clear it. "I'm...hot, I can barely walk. I can't stop..thinking about...men," he said finally. It was true, that train of thought had been in the back of his mind since the dream. He'd had to close his eyes a few times on the way there to avoid looking at some men on the street, and bite back an urge to run after them for...something.
"Hm." She nodded as if to herself. "It sounds to me like you're just in heat."
"In..heat," he repeated slowly. That was a thing?
"Correct. A perfectly normal state for a mammalian beastfolk female in the right conditions. It probably caught you off-guard since a monster did it to you instead of those conditions. I assume you do not have a significant other, or this would have sorted itself out already."
"N..." Zack had to pause, swallow, try not to think about the idea of having a 'significant other'. "...No."

"Well, normally one's body only goes into heat when the mind tells it to," she said. "Whatever the monster did to you must have confused your body, but ultimately that drive always answers to your mind. If you don't want to just..." she paused, as if trying to find how to put it tactfully, "...satisfy that urge, things should return to normal within a week if you simply ignore it."
"Ig...nore it? How?!" He wanted to stand up to yell that at her but knew better than to try.
"Calm down," she snapped, sounding slightly annoyed. "I am not suggesting you should attempt to do that without help." The healer went over to a drawer and pulled it out, retrieving a necklace with a small metal charm in the shape of a 'female' symbol out of it.

"This is an abstinence charm, it suppresses the normal attraction of women to men. Usually people will give this sort of thing to their young daughters in an effort to help them get through puberty." She handed it to him, and after glaring very briefly at the shape it took he put it on. "It should in your case suppress the signals from your confused body enough to function normally until things get back to normal."
Zack felt better immediately. The strange feelings between his legs faded off, the heat over his body lifted away mostly, though not entirely, and after a moment he felt able to breathe and talk and move normally again. "Thank you," he said finally. Then, lifting the charm enough to look at it again: "I...assume these don't come in any other shape."
"The shape helps the charm work," she said matter-of-factly, "Why?"
"No reason." Just my luck, he thought, tucking the charm under his shirt.

The elf nodded. "Now, if I'm not mistaken you're of the party that stopped those bandits a few days ago."
"Right.." he said, assuming she wasn't mistaken about which bandits.
"They had been raiding carts with important healing supplies we can't get out here any other way. You've saved more lives than you know by stopping them. You won't have to pay for this visit, or if you need anything else from us in the future."
"Oh. Okay." Since she seemed to be not charging them out of gratitude it didn't make sense to say 'thank you' for it, but he wasn't sure what other phrase to use. Zack stood up, and found that his legs worked normally again.
"Are you hurt in any other way?" she asked.
"I don't think so, no," he shook his head.
"Then go, I have other appointments."

Back in the waiting room, Katherine stood up to greet him. "Well, that was fast." She observed that he still had a slight blush on his cheeks, but seemed to be walking more normally, and had far less erratic thought patterns.
"It..wasn't hard for her to fix," he said. Then he added more privately in a thought to her, That demon put me in heat. Which apparently is something beastfolk can be in.
"Well, I'm glad. I'm sure the others will be relieved too." She led him just outside the building, and around toward a less crowded alleyway. "I wish we'd just come to the doctor last night, you seemed like you were suffering in your sleep."
"...You're right," he said after a pause. "To tell the truth, I've always had trouble...I don't like, telling other people when I have a problem."
She frowned at him. "What do you do, just hope it goes away?"
"I...well, normally I would just go to the doctor and not tell anyone else so they wouldn't have to worry about me. But this was..." His blush brightened. "It was embarrassing. It still is. I don't want anyone to know about it. That thing..it...I let it in."
The catgirl gave him a concerned look, and spoke kindly: "It used some kind of charm spell...it was magic. You're not to blame."

"I thought about killing you," he retorted quietly. "You, and the others. I—for a second it felt like the right thing to do, like what I should do. I would've tried, if, if it hadn't—that's not supposed to be..." He sighed. "You three are the only friends I have in this world, and I thought about hurting you. It wasn't just something I was forced to think, it was...whatever that magic was, it's not like it made up entirely new ideas. It tapped into something I was already thinking, or—feeling, or..." Zack held his head and let out an animal growl of frustration, not finding the right words to explain.
"We might be on your side, but we're all still part of a situation you want out of," said the psion, nodding slowly. "And, I bet it feels like you're the only one who still wants to go back to Earth. Right?"
"Well, it's not true. I've got people back home I want to see again too, who I'm sure are worried about me if, you know, time has passed back there at all. I'm sure the others feel the same way. I know, it's still different; you...don't just want to see people again, you want to go back to being you. Right?"
He nodded.
"I should feel stranger than I do about my own body, I admit," she said with a slight sweeping motion at it. "Something about this place, or whatever happened to us when we changed, just makes it so easy to accept who and what we are now. I think it's just your raw stubbornness that keeps that effect—or at least some of it—from working on you, honestly."
He crossed his arms, mock-frowning. "Gee, thanks."
"Well, even if we don't feel the same way you do about the changes, we're still here for you, alright?" She pulled herself up to him in a side-hug, and he surprised her by returning it after a few seconds. His tail wagged and even brushed itself against hers a couple of times before they released, and returned to facing each other. "I'll try to be a little more understanding, and I think I can get through to Mika to be, too."

"Okay, now we need to get back to the others," said Katherine after giving that last thought a few more seconds, putting her hands on his shoulders and looking up in his face. "Like it or not, you're our fearless leader, and we did have a disaster of a fight last night. We need to talk about why, and hopefully figure out how to do better against this kind of attack in the future. And.." She frowned slightly, releasing him and taking a small step back. "..However guilty you might feel about briefly wanting to hurt us, you know, Nora actually did get hypnotized into trying to attack me. She never landed a hit of course, 'cause I'm way too fast for her, but..."
"We need to make sure she's okay," said Zack, nodding. "Anyway, I'm starving."
"Yeah." The catgirl smiled and followed the knight back to the tavern. By the way, did the healer tell you anything about heat besides that we can go into it?

Katherine reappeared in the dreamscape. "Uh, he's getting up. I need to wake up and help him get to the doctor, which means splitting your dreams back up."
"Aww, too bad," said Mira, but shrugged.
"Hey, is it morning?" the shifter asked.
"Pretty early still, but yeah."
"Can you sorta..snap me awake, so I don't have to wait around in boring demonland by myself?"
The psion thought a moment. "I think I can do that. You wanna wake up, Mira?"
"No," she shook her head. "I could stand to sleep in a little more, maybe try and figure out what that sugary tree means. Besides, I think Zack really won't want even one person to see him in that state, much less two, and...I think you'll have a lot more tact than me about all this."

This made Aria the first one in her party to wake up, and after a quick trip to the bathroom and a change of clothes she decided to wake up the others, too. "Hey, get up, we've probably got a busy day ahead!" she said semi-loudly first, which was enough for Clera to sit straight up and look around. Rayna's ears twitched a little it but she and Lynn pulled the covers over themselves. "Aww, c'mon. It's a bright new morning! The sun's already up."
"That's no excuse," Lynn mumbled. Aria went and sat on the side of her bed since the fox-girl appeared to be getting up by now.
"C'mon, everyone else is up." Since the human girl was face-down, she patted her back a couple of times. Except at this point the "Rayna" who'd gotten out of bed and stretched shimmered and disappeared, revealing the real one still in bed and back to half-sleep. She popped up and bent over to put her head close to the fox ears and said, "Hey!" which made her jump. "I want you up, not your illusion!" Clera had quietly headed to the bathroom herself by this point, leaving Aria to keep trying to get the others up. After a while her stubbornness won over theirs, and everyone was dressed and headed down to breakfast.

Once they were seated, the winged girl surprised her with an unusual question: "Aria..when is the last time you bathed?"
"Um..why, do I stink or something?" She gave a small sniff of one of her arms; there wasn't anything really to smell there.
She tilted her head slightly. "I mean, have you done so since arriving in this world? There is something I am curious about when it comes to shapeshifters."
"Well, I haven't, no," she shook her head slightly. "Have you?"
Clera shook her head, but Rayna volunteered: "I did!"
"Me too," sayd Lynn quietly.
The foxgirl continued uninhibited: "I recommend it, it's refreshing to take a relaxing bath now and then. Anyway, what were you curious about?"

"Well...when you change sizes, you gain or lose mass, which already spits in the face of the conservation of matter," said the winged girl. "..But also, you gain or lose an appropriate amount of skin. I was wondering if, for example, a shapeshifter is covered in dirt, shrinks as small as possible, and then grows as large as possible, how much of the body is still covered?"
Aria raised an eyebrow. "Well I guess I could see if they have mud baths or something and test it out. But I mean, it's probably just gonna be arbitrary magic and just depend on whether I'm fully covered or not, like gain new dirt fom growing If I'm covered but if there's just a tiny patch just expand and contract the size of it."
"I suppose it would be more accurate to say I am concerned about microorganisms. If there is something living on your skin does some of it simply disappear or more of it appear?"
At this the shapeshifter shivered. "Eegh. I don't really want to know that. Look, I'll take a bath tonight and report back to you on what the suds do or something. For now can we just think about what we're gonna kill today?"

"I mean, there's not much point in that until we look at the quest board," said Lynn, "we don't even know what's available.
Rayna raised a finger. "Ah, I do actually! A HUD upgrade skill I took let me see a menu of all the currently available quests on any board I've been to recently enough, and even a list of quests we've completed. Did you know 'survive Aria's attack' counted as a separate quest from 'investigate the suspicious symbol on the ground'?"
"Well, read it out then I guess," said Lynn. "What sounds interesting? And...compatible with the need to kill things," she added, briefly looking to the shifter again.


  1. Hmm... Wonder how long it will take before the charm either breaks, gets stolen, is rendered ineffectual, etc.

    Additional things I wonder about:
    -when will the parties realize they both involve Earthlings?
    -when will Zack's party realize that they are making their party's background information on the fly?
    -what will be the effects of the various back stories?
    -are Rayna and Lynn going to pull in any of the adventurers from either group or Rosa for their eventual show?
    -how long will Mira's luck last? Does she have enough to get through all the demons necessary to become an Archdemon?
    -if Zack was that thrown off by almost being mind controlled (through lust), how bad does Nora feel about it?
    -is there a character limit on these comments?
    -would diced pickles taste good mixed in with Mac and Cheese? Or should I just go with tartar sauce and tuna for cheesy Mac and Tuna casserole?

    Hopefully some or all of these get answered eventually!

    1. Will they be able to decide their own destiny, or will they be doomed to follow the path of our marketing department?