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Chapter Thirty-Seven: Relearning the Basics

Posted in Book Three, and Of Astral and Umbral

Chapter Thirty-Seven: Relearning the Basics

 

“A-Arianna…enough.”

I shot up in bed, my pulse pounding my ears. The room was lit just enough for me to determine that I was alone. Nalithor wasn’t there. Someone had changed me into a short, airy nightgown and the bedsheets were fresh. There was no blood or dirt clinging to my skin despite what the bastard Elder had done.

“…stop…”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I scanned the room, frantic. It was Nalithor’s room—his domain. The feel of the aether and the opulent decor was difficult to mistake for anywhere else. I vaguely remembered him bringing me there the prior night. I had passed out on the bed and, when I came to, Nalithor was sprawled out beneath me and writhing in ecstasy while I drank from his throat.

The sounds that escaped him were…incredible. His blood and the feel of his sexual energy were both exquisite. They spurred me on. To bring him please, to…

‘But he told me to stop!’ I pulled my knees up to my chest and buried my face in them. ‘Hates me now, doesn’t he? That’s why he isn’t here. Told me to stop, I didn’t. Venom… I probably have venom, right? Was…was that the only reason he seemed to enjoy it? Hungry, I was so hungry, b-but…

‘He said something else…what was it?’

A door nearby slammed, causing me to flinch and dive under the covers to hide. I buried my face into a pillow to stifle my sobbing. Three women, all familiar voices, argued about something in the next room. Nalithor sounded even angrier than them. His power crackled and coiled through the air, teasing along my skin in a manner that, after what happened, seemed inappropriate.

‘D-didn’t I… Didn’t I r-rape him?’ Just the thought of it send me into a new fit of muffled sobbing. ‘I-I mean, I don’t think we did that. Pretty sure I’d still be feeling it if I’d…’ I shook my head hard when arousal threatened to rise despite my despair. ‘I really didn’t we could use our tails like that.

“You killed an Elder, Nalithor! One of the women roared. “Three mortals in your domain pales in comparison to that!”

‘He killed a…what? I raised my head off the pillow and glanced at the door. ‘I know I said for him to hurry up and kill the bastard, but, he actually succeeded?

“Keep your voice down—my ayraziis needs her rest.” Nalithor’s dangerous growl made me tense.

“Your whore is the least of my concern!” the Elder snapped.

A feral snarl was soon followed by the sound of flesh colliding with flesh. The Elder shrieked when she was sent crashing into what must have been furniture—wood crunched and then something shattered. Horrible-smelling blood caught my attention, making me bristle and glare at the wall. My tail twitched beneath the sheets and I stifled a few curses when the linens were sent tumbling to the floor by it.

‘Fucking hells. How do I control this damned thing?!’ I sat up again and grabbed my tail, glaring at it like it was a misbehaving snake. ‘How am I supposed to keep warm when you’re sending the sheets flying everywhere?!’

“If you continue to refer to my ayraziis in a derogatory manner, you will be the next one that I test the Godslayer on, Nalithor rumbled, distracting me from my irritation with my tail.

‘His…ayraziis. Why is he still calling me that?’ I clenched my jaw when I felt tears welling up again.

‘Calm down, Arianna. If you draw any more power to you the Elder will notice you are awake,’ Nalithor spoke softly, intruding upon my thoughts. ‘She is looking for an excuse to end us both and I would rather not give her—

‘W-why are you still calling me your ayraziis? Aren’t you angry with me? Upset?’ I whimpered. I was angry with myself for losing control, angry because I was crying, and angry because there was a stupid fucking Elder in the other room. She needed to die.

‘Upset? Angry?’ Nalithor paused. ‘I see. You weren’t in a complete stupor?’

‘Y-you told me to stop and—’ I cut myself off in disbelief when the Adinvyr began laughing. ‘Why are you laughing?

‘Do you really think that I couldn’t have stopped you?’ Nalithor’s mirthful tone made heat rise to my face. ‘Ahhh… I was concerned about your venom. However, luck was on our side. While your venom is quite potent, it also wears off quickly.

‘You are, effectively, a “new” or “young” Adinvyr, Arianna. You can’t control your venom. In fact, I am quite certain you emptied your fangs in me. My concern, my dear, was that you would either take too much from me, or that your venom would incapacitate me for weeks.

‘I rather enjoyed the attention, but… Mmm. You should have been submitting to me.

‘Submit… Hey! I wasn’t trying to dominate—’ I protested and shot a glare toward the door before yanking the blankets off the floor and into bed with me.

‘You used your venom, hands, and tail to make a dominant lose all control of himself.’ Nalithor purred, his tone one of mock-innocence. ‘I can’t let you get away with that so easily now can I?’

The sound of a fist striking wood distracted me from any retort I might have made and instead drew my attention to the wall. I sensed the Elder attempting to exert her pitiful power but it was…laughable. A small frown formed on my mouth. ‘When did the fakes become that weak? Or is it just her?

“Take me to his body at once—and get these mortals out of your domain!” The Elder’s voice was more like a screech, though her waning patience was clear. “If he truly died to a replica Godslayer, as you claim, and was drugged on the beast blood—”

After I take my ayraziis somewhere safe to rest. Nalithor cut the Elder off. “I will have Yumeko take Rymia and Rylda back to Dauthrmir. Once I have seen to Arianna, then and only then, will I meet you in the woods near Dragon’s Watch.”

“Fine. Make it quick.” The Elder sniffed haughtily before her presence vanished.

‘If only her shit scent vanished with her…’ I grimaced and hugged a pillow to my chest.

“This is going to take some getting used to…” Nalithor murmured a few minutes later when he walked into the room and then stopped to examine me. “Now, now, why the tears? Were you truly convinced that I would be angry with you?”

“Of course I was!” I exclaimed. “You said ‘stop’ and ‘that’s enough’! For all I know, my venom is the only reason you seemed like you enjoyed—”

“Did you really think that I would abandon you?” Nalithor sighed when I flinched. “Arianna, I am quite capable of stopping you if I want—or need—to do so. I let you feed from me. You needed to feed. When an Adinvyr is that starved there is no controlling themselves.”

“That doesn’t answer—” I began, but Nalithor closed the distance between us in several strides and then pinned me to the bed. Intense fire shone in his eyes as he stared down at me.

You are mine.” Nalithor growled. “My ayraziis. Mine to protect, mine to care for, mine to feed on, to be fed upon by… Mine to take.

“I killed an Elder for harming you, Arianna. I let you feed on me because the thought of you feeding on someone else is far too painful to bear. Do you truly think that I would be angry with you for a choice that I made? That I would abandon—”

“Sorry…” I grumbled, averting my gaze. “I can’t remember much aside from you telling me to stop. Everything else is hazy, so I thought you were…”

“I know you remember more than that.” Nalithor smirked at me before rising to his feet and scooping me into his arms. “Alas, the Elder is impatient and you need rest.

“How are you feeling? Still hungry?”

“Sore… Tired, too.” I managed to swing my tail up and over my lap so that Nalithor wouldn’t step on it. “You said you killed the bastard that attacked us? How did you manage that?”

“Sleep, Arianna. We will talk later.” Nalithor lifted me up momentarily to kiss my forehead. “Rymia and Rylda were able to keep you from losing too much blood or otherwise harming yourself during your shift. However, they’re quite adamant that you need much more rest. Such a change, so soon after sustaining a fatal injury, isn’t a matter you can take lightly.”

“When you said I’m ‘yours to care for’…?” I trailed off when Nalithor chuckled. “You sound like some sort of evil mastermind when you laugh like that. Should I be worried?”

“You are the submissive half of our partnership—pet or otherwise,” Nalithor replied with a smirk. Darkness swirled around his legs while he constructed a portal back to Falrrsald. “As such, your physical and emotional wellbeing are my responsibility.”

“If you say so…” I mumbled, resting my head against his chest. “Sleep does sound…nice…”

‘Do I smell pancakes?’ I rubbed at my eyes with the back of one hand. ‘Ugh… How long did I sleep? Feels like a hangover.’

The moment my feet touched the ground I tripped over something soft. I yelped and caught myself on the floor, striking both my forearms and knees. Pain lanced through my elbows, eliciting a string of curses from me in both the common and Draemiran tongues. I glanced around to see if I had landed on Alala and caught a flash of white fur, so I chased after it.

However, after a few moments, I realized that what I was chasing was not Alala. Not by a long shot.

“Are you going to sit there and chase your tails all morning, my dear?” Nalithor’s purring voice made me stiffen and stop mid-reach. “I heard a thud and thought perhaps you had fallen out of bed… This is not what I expected to find. Please, don’t stop on my account.”

Tails? What in the hells happened to my other tail?!” I demanded, gripping one of several fluffy white tails in my hands. ‘If ‘lala’s tails were about four feet long… So, fox tails? Why do I have fox tails? What happened to my Adinvyr form?!

“Hmmm, I wonder if you had this form when we were children.” Nalithor strode over to me and tugged at one of my ears. “Fluffy…”

Before I could spout off with a smartass remark Nalithor picked me off the floor, set me on the bed, and then buried his face and torso into my pile of tails. I tried to reclaim them from the purring Adinvyr but his grip was far too tight, and my tails felt much too delicate to yank on. Instead, I grabbed Nalithor’s braid and tugged hard several times.

“Stop that!” I protested, watching as Nalithor nuzzled his face into my fur. “That tickles!”

“Sensitive?” Nalithor shot me a sultry glance and drew his claws along the underside of one tail, making me flush. “You’re so soft. Perhaps I will take a nap here…”

“Hey, my tails aren’t pillows!” I attempted to tug my tails away from him. “Don’t lay on them. You’re making them fall asleep! Not comfy!”

“Mmm, I’d argue they’re quite comfy.” Nalithor rubbed his cheek into them again but kept his eyes on me. “I suppose I can’t let you starve, either… Come, I’ll make some more breakfast.”

Nalithor rose to his feet and then offered me a hand. His serious expression broke into a boyish grin, his gaze flicking up to my ears for a moment before returning to my face. Everything felt…weird. I didn’t know how to describe it. My shift into an Adinvyr-like form had been strange enough to me. Yet there I was in a Rylthra form. Vulpine ears and tails were far too removed from anything I was used to having as part of my body.

“Pancakes?” I pouted and accepted his hand.

“Eggs and ham to go with it, if you like.” Nalithor nodded and then pulled me to my feet.

I managed to follow Nalithor a few paces before losing my balance and toppling to the floor. One of my tails got trapped beneath me and I yowled in pain. Nalithor whirled around to see what was wrong, but another crooked grin settled onto his face while I cursed.

“Trip on one of your tails?” Nalithor inquired, amused. “They are quite long.”

“How in the hells do you balance with one tail, let alone… One, two, three… Nine?!” I demanded. Nalithor’s tail swished neared me so I reached up and yanked on it, growling. “How am I supposed to walk when—”

The grinning Adinvyr picked me off the floor, slung me over his shoulder, and then laughed when I smacked him in the face with my tails. He kept me in place with one arm as he walked through our hiding place. The fingers of his other hand danced along one of my thighs. My struggling seemed to amuse him further.

“How are you feeling? Aside from your lack of balance.” Nalithor carried me into a small sitting room and set me on a sofa. “You fell asleep so quickly that I didn’t even have to use my power to calm you. However, I didn’t expect you to sleep quite so long…”

“I’m feeling better, but a little like I have a hangover. Everything feels…weird. I’m not sure what I expected, but this wasn’t— Hey, I’m not a dog!” I batted his hand away from one of my ears and pouted at him.

Fluffy.” Nalithor curled up on the sofa beside me and gathered all of my tails in his arms. “I could certainly get used to this. Warm, soft, and—”

“What happened to breakfast?” I flicked one of his horns. “I’m not a stuffed animal, you know. If you want to cuddle at least wait until I’ve eaten, okay?”

“Maybe I want to have you for breakfast.” Nalithor planted a kiss on my hip and then shifted so that he was on all fours above me. A mischievous grin sprawled across his face. “I’m quite drained after all the power you took from me, you know.”

“Humph. Says the one who has grown even more powerful since we left your domain.” I reached up and gripped his braid, pulling his head back when he dipped down toward my throat.

“We’re both stronger.” Nalithor stopped with his face close to mine. “Didn’t you notice? Your heart returned to you—of its own volition, I might add.”

“Then…shouldn’t you be weaker?” I frowned, reaching up to nudge at his dangling jewelry. “I thought that— Watch where you’re sliding that tail of yours!”

I pulled my tails away from Nalithor’s and scrambled out from beneath him and onto the floor, clutching my tails to my chest. He tracked me with an amused yet predatory gaze, which soon traveled down to my bare legs and the short skirt of my nightgown. Nalithor smirked and rose to his feet, his tail swishing as he took a few steps toward me.

Craning my neck to look up at him was too much effort, so I pouted at his knees instead.

“Pancakes or waffles?” Nalithor’s hand came to rest between my ears, drawing my attention slightly more upward. “The seats in the kitchen aren’t quite as cozy but I can bring you with me, if you prefer.”

“Pancakes,” I mumbled, peering at him over the fluff of my tails. “Don’t carry me. I have to learn to balance with all this fluff somehow.”

“You can’t shift back to your other form?” Nalithor arched an eyebrow at me when I shook my head, and then offered me his hand. “At least let me help you to your feet.”

I hesitated and then reached up to let Nalithor assist me. I wobbled, caught myself on the edge of the doorframe, and dug my clawed toes into the floor. Nalithor moved to brace me but stopped when I shot him an annoyed glare. He sighed, ruffled my curls again, and then walked to the kitchen.

‘Fucking hells…’ I glanced down at my rump. ‘If they’d just stop moving so much, then maybe I could actually walk!

Several minutes later I managed to arrive at the open arch that led into the kitchen. Alala was curled up in the corner, asleep on a few oversized pillows. Nalithor stood at the stove with his back to me while preparing more food.

“Um, Nalithor…” I gripped the edge of the arch and glanced between the tile floor and Nalithor’s back a few times.

“What…?” Nalithor trailed off when he turned and spotted me.

“I…need some help after all…” I grumbled, heat rising to my face. “How in the hells am I supposed to balance with all of these? They won’t stop moving!”

“Well, at least they make it easier to tell what you’re thinking,” Nalithor mused, striding over to me. “I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that you’ve forgotten how to walk with a tail. You scarcely used your other form when we were children—and it has been at least two hundred years since then.”

“How are we supposed to continue our mission if I can’t even walk?”

“Can you access your magic again, at least?”

“Think so…”

“Perhaps I can carry you on my shoulders while you fling fireballs?”

“That’s not funny!”

“I’m being quite serious.” Nalithor grinned, lifted me up by the waist, and then settled me into a chair at the kitchen table. “We can worry about that after you’ve had your breakfast. You also wanted to know what transpired after you fell asleep, did you not?”

“Right…the Elders.” I nodded and pulled my legs up beneath me. “I thought your domain was ‘safe’ from those bastards?”

“Under normal circumstances, it is,” Nalithor answered as he strode back over to the stove. “I wasn’t just trying to get a rise out of you when I said that you managed to make me lose all control of myself. Even if it was only brief, it was enough to weaken the barriers around my domain.

“Djialkan did what he could, but our combined powers put the Elders on edge. They had already begun looking for me after finding the corpse of their comrade.”

“They found him that fast?” I frowned.

“They all share a psychic link.” Nalithor’s tail snapped in irritation. “The real problem here isn’t that they share a link—or even that I slew one of them. Despite their link, they were unaware that one of their own had gone mad on beast blood, unaware that he came hunting us, and unaware that he nearly succeeded.

That woman flew into a rage when I brought her to the corpse. A false Godslayer, an Elder attempting to assassinate one of the most important gods… Well, she certainly has her hands full now.

“Why she required me to bring her to the body, when her comrades were already there, I am uncertain.”

“A ‘fake’ Godslayer, hmmm?” I tapped my fingers on the table and shot a look at his back. “I doubt that’s what you killed the bastard with.”

She doesn’t need to know that,” Nalithor stated innocently. “Unfortunately, we are still close to Dragon’s Watch. We will need to be careful if we’re going to stay here for an extended period of time.”

“‘If’?” I questioned, letting my gaze trace down his back. ‘Humph, of all the times for him to actually be wearing a shirt…’

“We need to make sure your magic is in working order,” Nalithor began, making a vague motion with one hand as he continued, “and we need to keep an eye on both you and your heart. Whether it’s the heart of a ‘candidate’ or that of a full-fledged goddess, it is bound to provide you with more power than you are accustomed to having. You may have to adjust.

“Are you even listening, Arianna?”

“I’m listening.” I stuck my tongue out at him and then pointed at his shirt. “Why are you so dressed if we’re going to hide here for a while?”

“It is to prevent a certain vixen from jumping me on sight,” Nalithor answered dryly. He walked over to me and plucked me out of the chair while balancing a plate of food in his other hand. “Back to the sofa with you. Just looking at your tails cramped up on that chair is making my tail hurt.”

“Humph, jump you?” I tugged at the front of his shirt and dislodged several buttons. “I’m not that kind of hungry. Besides, what am I supposed to look at if not you?”

“If you want to take it off, you can beg me for it.” Nalithor pulled me down onto the sofa with him, handed me the plate of food, and then coiled his tail around my thigh. “I’m not letting you out of my grasp so easily, my dear.”

“Cuddles are nice and all, but how am I supposed to eat like…” I trailed off when Nalithor flipped my tails over my hip, scooted down behind me, and then rested his head on top of my tails and hip alike. “Hey! I’m not—”

“Soft…” Nalithor purred, rubbing his face into my fur yet again. “I think I’ll take a nap here.”

“But—” I twitched when one of his hands came to rest on my thigh.

Nalithor fell asleep before I could come up with a legitimate protest. I sighed and dug into my breakfast instead of trying to wake my nylziis. If he was that tired, I didn’t want to disturb him. His company was enjoyable, of course, but I wasn’t too keen on him using my tails as a pillow.

‘The purring is kind of cute though…’ I glanced away from my plate and down at Nalithor, examining his peaceful expression and his disheveled hair. He must have been exhausted. I could only assume that he hadn’t slept much, if at all, after our brief conversation in his domain.

His tail remained around my thigh and one of his hands rested alongside it. It was distracting, but there was no way for me to wiggle out of the situation without waking him.

‘I didn’t even get to thank him for breakfast.’ I pursed my lips briefly before returning to munching on my food. ‘Hmmm… How to entertain myself while he’s sleeping?’

It was so surreal to me. I’d known, or at least had suspicions, for a long time that I wasn’t Human. However, I never thought that I would live long enough to see the day when my seals were gone. I had always thought my seals wouldn’t be gone until I was dead.

Yet, there I was with a pair of fluffy vulpine ears and a set of tails to match. One of two forms that I had entered in a short period of time. My heart had returned to me and, instead of making Nalithor weaker, he seemed to be growing stronger.

Power hummed around him even as he slept, sending small tingles of energy running across my skin.

‘Shouldn’t I feel more…different?’ I wondered. I set my empty plate on the coffee table and then redirected my attention to the sleeping Adinvyr. ‘Different because I fed, different because I have my heart back… Something? Was I really that connected to my heart all this time?

Nalithor mumbled something in his sleep when I brushed some of his hair out of his face, then shifted so his arms were wrapped around both of my thighs. He squeezed my legs tight but, once I stopped fidgeting, his grip relaxed again.

‘I guess I’m not going anywhere. Well then, how shall I entertain myself?’ I drilled my nails against the armrest while considering it. ‘Ah…magic. I should make sure I actually can use it again.

With difficulty, I managed to shift into a more comfortable position and rested my head on the armrest. Several of my tails were numb from Nalithor’s head resting on them by now, but I couldn’t seem to reclaim them without making him clutch me tighter. Once I was as comfortable as I could get, I closed my eyes and took several deep, nervous breaths.

I was met with relief when I opened my eyes to gaze upon the magics that swirled through the little Magitech cottage. No headache, no sharp pain, just really bright magic. Too much aether swirled around Nalithor and me. The myriad of colors and swirling patters were pretty, but far too bright to look at for an extended amount of time.

‘Maybe I’ll find a way to “dim” my vision later,’ I considered, resting my chin on my forearm. ‘For now though…’

Several small crystals of ice materialized in the air before me. I reached out with my free hand and nudged the closest one, watching as it bounced away from my finger and collided into the others, making a small tinkling sound. Nalithor’s grip tightened on me again in response to the movement, making me glance down at him again. Again, when I stopped moving, he relaxed.

‘Well, at least I can use my powers again.’ I sighed and summoned a pillow from my shrizar. ‘How am I even going to tackle the issues of “shifting” and walking?’

Several books and a great deal of cursing later, I found myself pouting on the armrest while my few free tails twitched in irritation. There was nothing helpful about shifting. It was all written for people that had grown up in their “real” body.

‘Oh sure, you just reach into your psyche and feel what it is you want to shift into! I suppressed a snort. ‘Like it’s that easy! I’m not an Adinvyr and I’m not a Rylthra. I’m Lucifer’s daughter, so I’m probably some mix of multiple things and I probably smell funny!

‘Tch, where’s a beast to kill when I… Except I can’t even walk, let alone run or fight. Great.’

“What has you so agitated, hmmm?” Nalithor purred by my ear, startling me. “Oh? You didn’t even notice me lavishing you with affection?”

“Lavishing…?” I shivered when he kissed the side of my throat. “How long have you been awake?”

“Long enough to see you throw a book or two.” Nalithor laughed and smoothed a hand down my thigh. “You could have nudged me off or woken me up, you know.

“Now, what has you so frustrated?”

“Can’t shift…” I grumbled, shooting him a sideways look. “And no, I couldn’t have nudged you off. Any time I moved you tightened your grip like a child clinging to their favorite toy.”

“Well, you are my favorite toy…” Nalithor purred, nibbling at my throat.

“Favorite…” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Really, Nalithor? That’s the line you go for?”

“It made you laugh,” Nalithor pointed out before reaching up to scratch the back of one of my ears.

Hey, cut it out!” I batted at his hand. “I’m not a dog or a cat, so don’t—”

“You’re a fox, and your tails give away your enjoyment.” Nalithor pulled me off the couch and smoothed his hands up my torso. “Let’s get you dressed and then see about teaching you how to shift, hmmm? Have you tested your magic yet?”

“Can see magic, can use magic.” I nodded, feeling my ears flick back when I began pouting again. “Our magics are both too bright to look at for any extended duration, but I seem capable of using magic without any issues at least…”

“Nothing helpful in the books?” Nalithor shifted his grip to my wrists. “You seem like you can stand fine on your own.”

“Those books are for people like you who’ve been able to shift their whole lives!” I huffed, prodding him in the chest. “And what, exactly, do you suggest I get dressed in? My clothes aren’t made for people with tails!”

“I won’t complain if you want to stay in this,” Nalithor remarked before gripping my chin and leaning down. “Or I could help you out of it instead. After all, you were quite desperate to have me last night. Perhaps if you beg as nicely as you did for a taste of my blood I will—”

Before I knew what I was doing, I let out a startled squeak, shifted into the form of a small fox, and went running through the Magitech cottage to hide. I barreled into the bedroom and darted under the bed, pulling my tail around me while I crouched near the headboard. Nalithor’s footsteps and amused chuckling weren’t enough of a warning to let me dodge him when he reached under the bed.

“Too much?” Nalithor grinned and held me up by my scruff while I kicked my feet. “You know, this is quite cute but significantly less sexy. Be a good girl and— Ouch.”

Nalithor winced and pried his hand out of my mouth, then nudged my snout when I didn’t run off again. I shook my head hard when everything spun, then toppled to the floor in my more humanoid form, sprawling out flat on my back.

“Dizzy!” I whined, bringing my hands up over my flushed face before licking my lips. “Tasty, but…”

“Oh? Is my blood too much for you in that form?” Nalithor questioned dryly, nudging my hip with his foot. “If you’re going to lay around naked, at least get in bed with me first.”

“Naked…?” I moved my hands away from my face and then glanced down.

“Back to the form of an Adinvyr, I see,” Nalithor remarked as I wobbled to my feet. “Here, put this back on and then I will take you out of the cottage and into the cave to walk around a little bit. Let’s see if we can get you adjusted to your tail, hmmm?”

“Okay…” I grumbled. “Thanks for being patient…even if you are teasing me far too much.”

“I haven’t even begun to tease you, my dear.” Nalithor smirked, taking in my nude form as I accepted the nightgown from him. “Let’s see how far you can make it through the cottage without my assistance. If you can’t even make it halfway, hmmm…”

“Really? You want to bet on that?” I rolled my eyes while pulling my panties on. ‘Tch, at least these are low enough to wear with a tail.’

I glanced toward the mirror and took in my long obsidian-scaled tail, platinum horns, and black scleras for a moment. Aside from those three things, I didn’t look all that different from before. ‘Next time I wind up in my Rylthra form I’ll have to check if my ears match my tail. Bah! I hope I don’t look weird with mismatched hair and fur…’

“You perform better when you’re competing for something, do you not?” Nalithor laughed. “How about this; if you make it halfway, I will use my power to shift you to whichever of your two-legged forms you prefer.

“If you can’t make it halfway, I get to choose which one you spend the rest of the day in.”

“Your choice is obvious.” I shot him a look. “If you start calling me ‘Fluffy’ I’m going to turn your tail into a new pair of boots!”

“Would you rather I call you ‘Prickly’?” Nalithor grinned when I glared at him. “If anything, I’m going to collar you permanently as my pet, and not because you have fluffy tails.”

“Earn it, then,” I stated as I rose to my feet.

“You still wish to be difficult?” Nalithor chuckled. “Even after—”

“You’re doing a terrible job of pretending you’re disappointed to be challenged,” I informed him dryly, pointing down at his tail and then up to his face. “The laughing doesn’t help either.”

“Very well, let’s see how far the White Fox can make it.” Nalithor motioned for me to move past him. “If she’s not careful, the Black Dragon might gobble her up. Every last inch.”

I tripped and had to catch myself on the wall, then turned to glare at Nalithor. “That’s cheating!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Nalithor spoke innocently, raising a hand to his chest in mock-hurt.

‘Right. Sure he doesn’t.’ I turned my attention to the hallway before me, flushing darker beneath the Adinvyr’s unwavering attention. ‘Humph. He’s enjoying this a little too much.’place

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