Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The "Best" RPG Ever-56

Mira burst dramatically into the living room with a glint in her eyes. "At last, I'm free!"
Nora looked up from a book she was reading for just a second, and then promptly returned to it. Lynn said, "You know, you're not really selling the 'good witch' thing when you say stuff like that."
"Good people need to be free, too!" the witch protested. She looked around the room for a second. "...Where'd Rayna go?"
"She said she'd meet you upstairs, in private. So I think that means her room, but I guess you could check yours."
"Say, does this stuff bother you? I mean, isn't she your best friend or something?"
"The former, and no, in...the opposite order," said the human. "She's been asking me if I wanted to pet her, and frankly the whole idea just weirds me out," she said, making a bit of a face. "If you keep her happy then I don't have to worry about it! Besides, she dragged along the whole party to spy on my date the other day, so if this is at least as embarrassing as that, I can call it revenge."

After giving a small shrug to that, the witch went upstairs, trying the fox-girl's room first and finding her there, as expected. She had apparently taken the time Mira was stuck writing out her skill tree to take a bath (judging by some still-wet hair) and change clothes into kind of a yukata thing, or...well, she didn't really know the term for it to be honest.
"Um, hi. Welcome to my room, I guess," she said, waving vaguely.
"I've been wondering, is wearing mostly Japanese-looking clothes a normal habit of yours, or a new thing?"
"It's pretty new," she said, turning herself around a bit and seeming to pay particular attention her present outfit for the first time. "I used to be happy in a t-shirt and shorts...okay honestly, that sounds pretty good too, at least around the house—but since turning into uh, this, every time I walk into a clothes store this kinda stuff is the first thing I gravitate to."
"Not that it doesn't look good on you," said the witch, which Rayna responded to with a nervous chuckle.

"Are you..still comfortable with this idea? It's never too late to back down," said Mira.
Rayna sat on her bed. "I'm—yes, I'm nervous but I think the desire to have someone rub my ears has only been getting worse. Maybe it'll go away after sating my curiosity, or maybe it's a part of the 'new me' just like the kimonos and stuff." She patted a spot next to her.
"O-kay then." Not seeing any reason to further delay, the witch took the indicated seat and reached over, gently running her hands over the fox-girl's ears.
"Mmnh..." Rayna's tail swished back and forth slowly, and her eyes fluttered shut.

They were delicately soft and warm, not too unlike Zack's—although maybe a little better or just more recently groomed. "Heheh..how's it feel over there? I could tell you were sensitive there, but..."
"I dunno...it's, relaxing..." she said quietly, her voice slightly distant like she was in a trance. She leaned over, her head landing on Mira's shoulder and rubbing back and forth a bit.
The witch scooted closer, pulling her arms around Rayna and leaning in toward her while continuing to gently rub her ears. The response was a soft, animal-like churring sound and a return of the hug, both of them steadily maneuvering around until Rayna was firmly in her lap, their chests pressed together, and her nose landing on the witch's cheek to start gently nuzzling it.

After a moment, she realized what she was doing and pulled back slightly, opening her eyes again and blushing. "Uh—um..."
"I don't mind. It's just part of your instincts, right?" said Mira.
"Y-yeah...j-just, it'd be nice if I got a warning label on that."
"You want me to stop?" she said, letting go of the ears.
"Nooo," the fox-girl whined helplessly.
"How about this?" The witch curled her own slim tail forward and brushed it across Rayna's.
"Mrrh~...that feels nice, too," she said, her eyes closing again. Once Mira started on her ears again, she was back to nuzzling the witch.

After a little while, Rayna's movements slowed, and she let out a loud yawn. "Sleepy?" said Mira, running her hand across the top of the fox-girl's head.
"Mnh, guess so..." Rather than pulling herself off, she leaned over onto Mira's shoulder.
"You want me to leave so you can sleep?"
"Alright then, uh..." The witch carefully stood up, pulling one arm around Rayna's waist and being thankful for that freshly-minted demonic strength to make this possible. Her tail stayed around the fox-tail while her free hand pulled out the covers; then she sat back down again and pulled Rayna around with her until they were lying on their sides, facing each other. As one final trick, the witch got the sheets and top cover over them.

"There! How's that?" she said, resuming the petting of the ears.
"Warm...mrrh~..." Rayna yawned again. Mira had never realized just how irresistibly cute she was before now, and just kept at it until the fox-girl was clearly fast asleep. Since her arms were still around the witch, it wouldn't do to disturb her rest by pulling herself off, so the most natural course of action was to stay there with her.
Lying in bed with a woman as beautiful as this was the kind of thing she wouldn't have imagined being able to do back on Earth, and although her...enjoyment of it was rather different from how that nonexistent imagination would've guessed, it was very pleasant nonetheless. She was cute, and so curvy, and soft and squishy, and...even the odd feeling of another girl's breasts pressed gently against Mira's own pair was kind of exciting...! Not so much so that she had trouble falling asleep herself before too long, of course; Rayna was also a bit like a big warm pillow, relaxing to hold on to after a while.

Nora dreamed she was back at Haestra's temple again. This time, she was being guided by a senior priest around a maze of hedges that on closer examination probably didn't make any physical sense. The hedge maze itself was familiar, but this path through it was not, and indeed the destination, a small flower garden partially roofed by an elaborate construction of vines, seemed deeply unfamiliar to her. Obviously all of it was technically strange, the entire temple a place she'd never really been to, but even in the logic of the dreams where it was supposed to have been her home for at least a couple of decades, the garden she was in felt like an unfamiliar, impossible location. The priest leading her seemed to walk off to the side and fade from view as her eyes focused on the single person sitting in the middle of that garden: A senior priestess, a wolf beastfolk—a Canis woman, rather. She was beautiful; her looks didn't betray her age at all, and yet something in her quiet manner as she slowly turned her head up to face Nora spoke of long-earned experience.

"I'm pleased to see you again, Nora," she said. "Please, take a seat," she gestured on a patch of grass between the flowers, and the elf obeyed, sitting cross-legged just like her host. Despite saying "see you again", nothing about this woman registered as a familiar person...just as strange and alien as the place they were in.
She leaned forward slightly, and spoke more quietly: "Your path has taken you far from here, but you should not regret it. It is, after all, the path you have chosen. I believe it will lead you to do far greater good than you could while stuck here." Her lips curled upward in a smile. "And it doesn't mean you can't learn a few new tricks from me, all the same..."

The elf woke with a start, with the impression that the woman in her dreams had leaned closer still just after the last thing she'd said. Nora was sitting up in her bed, as if she'd just been preparing to sleep-walk; her heart was going a little fast and she was panting slightly even though it hadn't been a particularly upsetting dream. She got out of bed, her body calming down quickly enough, and looked around. Had she heard or...felt something unpleasant nearby? Reaching out with her strange "extra senses", there didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Looking out the window, things appeared normal, too. The whole house was silent. Judging by the position of the moon, it had to be a little bit past midnight; a few minutes in the dream had been a few hours in the real world. She went out of her room all the same, and when she didn't find anything there, proceeded down the stairs toward the living room.
The front door—that is, the one leading to the front yard rather than the city—was slightly ajar. Maybe she'd somehow felt the draft from all the way upstairs? Nora quietly approached the door, opened it carefully in case there really was something to worry about...

Zack was standing a few feet out from the door, staring up at the sky. He was still in what he'd put on to sleep that night, an oversized t-shirt that fell down to his thighs, so clearly not planning on actually going anywhere. "..Zack?"
He jumped slightly, and then righted himself and slowly turned around. "Uh..hey, Nora." His voice seemed calm and normal, but she could 'feel' the traces of recent tears channeled down his face. She decided not to bring that up. "The uh, wolf wake you up to look for me?"
"No..I j-just, had a strange dream, a-and wanted to check whether everything was alright," she said.
"Well, no, no problem here." He waved around vaguely, indicating the empty yard.
"A-are you okay?" she said, concerned.

He looked like he was getting ready to say 'yes' without thinking about it, but stopped. His ears lowered slowly and he looked away to one side. "...Not really. I had a, real bad dream." He sighed, visibly fighting a natural reluctance to keep talking. "I came out to get some air, and try to get my mind off of it."
"D-d you want to talk about it?" she said. "I-I mean, you don't have to if you d-don't want to, but..."
"No, maybe it'll help," he said. "...Having a hard time opening up to people isn't a new problem for me."
"W-well, it's a little c-cold out here, isn't it?" she said, opening the door the rest of the way and gesturing inside. Zack looked inside the door, back at her, and then nodded, walking slowly in, over to the nearest couch, and sitting down like a ton of bricks. Nora closed the door as quietly as she could and joined him, sitting lightly on the opposite side.

After a long silence, he said, "I...dreamed about home. Like, Earth. Everyone I know back there, my family. I, I could see them looking for me, or...yelling my name out. None of them were in any danger or anything, but I kept seeing them...just, trying to find me. It doesn't really make any sense now, but the way it made me feel while I was just being forced to watch it, over and over again..." His voice was cracking slightly; he seemed to physically bite back some tears and then sniffed. "I-I don't know...it feels like it ripped a hole in my heart and it won't go away."
"Zack..." Nora didn't really know what to say to that. They just sat in silence for a long moment instead, but somehow this did seem to help.
He took a deep breath, calming down. "I just...that kind of dream makes me not want to go back to sleep again. Even if I could go right back to sleep after waking up from that, I wanna stand up and force myself so awake that by the time I do go back to sleep whatever stupid flickering connections in my brain made it happen will have all just died. So I, thought the cold air might help me do that. I guess."
This was more 'opening up' than Zack seemed to have done with anyone since appearing in this world. The first thing that came to Nora's mind was a reminder that he seriously trusted her, despite...

"Sorry, I'm just rambling. Shouldn't talk on this little sleep," he shook his head.
"N-no, it's okay. I um..I have a c-confession to make."
"Hmm?" His head tilted slightly, which was not one of Zack's usual expresssions. Maybe a canine instinct usually repressed? Nora shoved the distracting thoughts aside, focusing on what she was supposed to be saying right now.
"Wh-when you um, y-yesterday, a-at the library. I uh, I j-just wanted t-to know what, um, I-I mean. I s-sort of touched one of your ears," she said. And then after a pause just long enough for Zack to prepare a response but not long enough for him to actually start saying it: "B-but then you, I-I mean your body since you were asleep, k-kind of fell on t-top of me and g-grabbed me a-and wouldn't let me go! I-I um, you're a lot stronger than I am s-s-s-so it was hard t-to get out from under you, and i-it took me s-several minutes I think! I um.." Her face was kind of warm just from partially reliving the whole strange experience just to talk about it. "S-so, I, I'm not really worthy of that much of your trust. I'm sorry..." She had cowered herself back on her side of the couch about as much as physically possible by this point.

"...'S fine," said Zack after a moment.
"..Huh?" She had been bracing for him to storm off in anger or something. A calm response was the least expected result.
"You were just curious what it felt like, right?"
"And this stupid body just imposed itself on you for that. Probably still weird from the whole..demon, heat, thing that happened the night before..." He paused, remembering: "I dreamed I was hugging someone at the time, I think, so I guess...that was why."
"U-um, you were hugging the couch cushion most of the t-time," she said.
"Yeah, I know. Just didn't know how I got there. So, thanks for clearing that up."
She nodded awkwardly, still uncertain how he felt about the whole thing. Zack didn't seem like the type to save up revenge for later or anything, but it still felt to her like enough of a betrayal to change their relationship somehow or other.

He looked around the room; following his eyes it seemed like his primary focus were all the doors and the way upstairs, one by one and then over all of them a second time. After that, he looked back at Nora again. "..Do you want to feel them again?"
Zack gave her an annoyed look. "You heard me." He sighed, a light blush now visible on his cheeks. "Since my body apparently likes it so much, maybe it would help me relax."
"U-um, I mean..I-I would, but if you're—I don't want to uh..."
"Please don't make it any weirder than it already is," he said. "...If that's even possible. Just...here." He leaned toward her a little bit.

"O-okay." Nora reached over slowly and ran her hands across the wolf-girl's ears again, finding them just as soft and pleasant as ever. Zack's tail started whipping back and forth almost immediately; his eyes closed, and he leaned steadily closer into it. Eventually he just fell right on top of her, drawing a surprised squeak from the elf.
He pushed himself up off of her with his hands on the couch to either side of her. "Uh..sorry. It uh, I-I didn't mean to do that."
"I-it's okay," she said. Both of them were blushing about equally as brightly, Nora in part due to the realization that he wasn't actually wearing a bra under that shirt. There had probably been opportunity to notice that before now, but her eyes hadn't been focused in quite that direction. And...that feeling, along with a few others, drove home the very feminine shape of Zack's body, which was now on top of hers.

"Can you...keep going?" he said slowly. "It really does help...I don't really know how to put it into words."
"Okay," she nodded, reaching her arms up and around his waist first. Zack took the signal to carefully lower himself back over her, pushing his arms under her to return the hug, and then she gently ran her fingers over his ears a little more.
He made some soft, high canine yips this time, his head eventually landing over hers. This seemed a significantly less agressive version of the same girl he'd been while asleep the day before. Nora could feel his nose rubbing across her cheek—nuzzling—and after a moment found herself instinctively returning the gesture. Just where this instinct came from wasn't clear, but it felt somehow like the right thing to do.

Part of her couldn't believe this was actually happening. She'd had the faintest impression that she might like a chance to do this with the wolf-girl, but...had never seriously entertained the thought that it was ever going to happen. At the same time, another part seemed strangely confident in her movements, keeping the woman in her arms calm and happy, and enjoying the feeling of his body against hers...it felt distantly, impossibly familiar.
Steadily, the elf became able to feel something inside of Zack the same way that she could feel the fire and water and earth and so on all around her. There was a person there who was, for the moment, very pleased with their current position in spite of himself, but tied closely to that was an animal's spirit—a wolf, of course—which was the source of the all the instincts he usually kept buried as deep as possible. That animal spirit was unabashedly female, and very happy to be free if only for a little while; this way of releasing that mass of instinct was giving Zack a kind of relief that he probably didn't even fully comprehend...but somehow Nora could feel it going on.

More than that, she felt as if she could weave with that spirit just as she usually could the various base elements of the world. The wolf spirit was something different from the physical realm; it wouldn't be manipulated around anywhere near as freely as just some fire or lightning would. But with his body so close to hers, and the affection expressed by that closeness, Zack's spirit was just close enough to Nora's to sort of...tie them together for a brief moment.
Pushed forward by the same curiosity that had led her to want to know what his ears felt like and then...honestly, the rest of the wolf-girl's body after that, Nora tugged gently at the instinctive, animal spirit, moving it across her own for just a second. She could feel its tremendous strength, ferocity, and wildness, but also a deep desire for companionship. From just the brief contact she felt able to understand it, and to pull that understanding out from her spirit across her body. Of course, this too she tried right away.

"Mmnh..?" Nora felt her ears gently tingle and stretch, widening themselves. Her teeth felt strange, some growing longer and sharper; her muscles tensed slightly with newfound strength. After a moment of that, a tail spilled its way out from her back, falling off the front of the couch before curling forward to wrap itself around Zack's. "Mm..mrf..?" She made an odd barking sound at the feeling of the new, very sensitive tail running across his soft, fluffy fur, but didn't stop.
"Mmn...hmm?" Zack pulled his head back from hers and opened his eyes slightly. "Wha..?"
"U-um..I th-think I temporarily uh..something with your um..." Words failed to properly explain whatever Nora had just achieved and/or experienced.
"Hmm." He closed his eyes again, leaning his face onto hers again and pulling a hand up to feel her ear. Zack's hand was soft and delicate, and the combination of that with his tail now brushing across hers was more than her mind was able to coherently process, instead drawing more high-pitched, confused barks from her. But it felt very nice...

Zack let out a slightly deeper "Mrrf," and rolled over with her onto his side, his back nearly against the back cushion and his arms keeping her from rolling off the front. Then he kept petting her ears, and she resumed petting his, feeling it quite obvious that was what the wolf-girl holding her wanted. They stayed that way for a while, until Zack dozed off enough for his grip to slip and nearly drop Nora off the couch and onto the floor. She caught herself and quickly spun around, sat up and stood, looking around in a moment of confusion.
"Mnh..?" Zack sat up on the couch while she oriented herself again, pulling the new tail forward briefly to see it had the same color as her hair. "I guess that's your 'mystery skill' or whatever," he said, slowly standing up.
"Oh! Um...m-maybe it is," Nora said.

She was about to close her eyes and go into the 'menu' to check, expecting Zack to pretend most of this didn't happen and run upstairs to get some sleep now that he was relaxed. Instead he put a hand gently around her forearm to get her attention and gestured vaguely toward the stairwell.
"Please?" His ears were down and his tail wagging, body language that her borrowed instincts informed her echoed what he was saying aloud—as if that wasn't obvious.

They ended up back in the same position as before, but in the middle of Zack's bed where there wasn't a risk of either one falling off. Nora's usual weaver senses could feel the wolf-girl's body more relaxed than it had ever been before, and she fell asleep to the feeling of strong arms around her and a soft body against hers, feeling like it was something she'd never even known she wanted before tonight.

Aria made a point of staying awake until Katherine went to bed, preferring a house she could wander around to the demon-cliff of isolation and boring scenery. This made it possible for the psion to immediately invade the dream and make it less boring with her presence.

"Welcome," she said, waving to the floating catgirl. "Still sporting the kitty pawprint pajamas, very nice." She gave a thumbs-up.
"Thanks, I guess?" She looked down, seeming to notice them for the first time this dream. "I don't actually wear this every night, but I guess this is how I think of myself asleep unless I focus on wearing something else..." With a few twitches of will, she was able to blur her clothes into the form of a t-shirt and shorts, a knee-length skirt and a blouse, and then back to the pajamas again.
"Anyway, who's invited to tonight's dream party?" said Aria. "I asked Clera again, but I guess she really likes being alone with herself. Um...that sounded less weird in my head."
"I know what you meant, though. Let's see.." She began counting people on her fingers: "Zack is still a no, last I checked Nora still really wants to figure out her 'backstory dreams' so I'll leave her alone, and I think I forgot to ask Lynn or Rayna about it one way or another. Mira pretty much always wants to come, so I'll bring her in for sure, at least."

Katherine waved toward the static-wall, and it did its usual thing, not one but two scenes appearing with a clear line between them right in the middle. On the right was a big circular room somewhere in the middle of a tower, with spiral stairs along the outside, and Mira—well, she looked like she had as "Mika"—sitting on a stool; on the left was Rayna standing in a pasture of grass with a wooden target set up next to her. Lynn was over on the far left, readying a shot at the target, but she froze in place as soon as the split-scene appeared.
"And as you can see—uh..?" The fox-girl paused in the middle of some kind of speech, noticing the audience she'd been talking to suddenly replaced by the demon-cliff. "Oh, hey." She turned further, and saw Mika's dreamscape. "Heyyyyy...." she repeated a little more awkwardly.
"Hi there!" Mika waved cheerfully.

"Um..whoops. Sorry about that," said Katherine, floating a little closer. "I was just aiming for her," she said, pointing to the witch, "but your uh...your heads are right next to each other."
"Wait—did I fall asleep with you doing that?!" Rayna said, slightly mortified.
"Yep!" Mika nod-nodded, and hopped to her feet, taking a deep breath and expanding up to her upgraded 'Mira' look. "I didn't think there was any good reason to wake you up," she said, her voice steadily deepening to the mature form's lower tone. "Anyway, I was pretty comfortable with you there too."
"Uhhh..." Rayna was blushing furiously and looking a little like she'd mentally short-circuited.

"I, can put you back in your own dream if you want," said Katherine. "Really, I shouldn't even be making mistakes as simple as this by now..."
"No no, it's fine. At least I'm lucid right now. People remember dreams you bring into this—merged space thing, right?"
"So I won't have to be in shock twice this way..."
"Is it really that surprising?" said Mira. "I mean, you invited me to your room and then fell on top of me."
"C-can we not talk about this with other people around please?"

"Anyway," Aria said, "last night Kath and I managed to get a reasonable facsimile of a few video games working. Or at least, like, the emotional feeling of having fun playing certain games. She said something about more processing power from extra brains, and more memories possibly helping make the experience more...what was it?"
"Distinct. Accurate. Etcetera," said the catgirl, waving vaguely.
"If either of you have experience in the same games I do, we could almost have the real thing in here! Sound like a fun goal to you?"
"Sure. Lynn and I have played pretty much everything, and nitpicked most of it to death," said Rayna.
"If you're talking console, I'm..pretty much a hundred percent PC master race," said Mira. "Though, I'd gladly be a guinea pig for the idea. You think Lynn would want in on this?"
"Almost definitely," said Rayna. "Experiments to test the simulation capabilities of a psion sound right up her alley."
"I'm going to do this the nice way and try to invite her in her own dream before jerking her over here," said the catgirl. "Be right back." She rippled out of view.

"We have established that she can see and hear everything even when she's not 'in here' because she is the link we're talking through," said Aria. "That being the case, I wonder why disappearing like that is even necessary..."
"Maybe it's not?" said Rayna. "Surely she could just make a million of herself in dreams if she wanted to, but it's like a...psychological thing."
"It's because I have different levels of concentration and my 'body' is where the highest ones are being spent," Katherine's voice echoed from roughly where she'd just been a moment ago. "Now stop talking like I'm not there so I can actually focus on what I'm doing over here."
"Definitely psychological," Mira nodded.
"I swear, I will turn this dream right around..."

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