We spent the next four days working on our mana manipulation. During that, Lily had proven to be extremely talented. She could control the flow for several minutes and was even learning how to use healing magic from Anna. Allison and I, on the other hand, showed no progress whatsoever. I was growing more impatient with each day.
Concerning my transformation, the nicti-something membranes Anna mentioned made themselves present. Unlike my wings or tail, I had no trouble moving them from the start, and I could see through them almost as if they weren't even there. They were a single transparent eyelid that closed from the side of my eye and fully covered it. They looked alien, but I couldn't deny that they were quite useful, especially when taking a shower. No more shampoo accidentally getting in my eyes. I also challenged Allison to a staring contest while using them, and it took her some time to realize what I was doing because of how transparent they were.
My skin patches also reached their final hue. One trait all demons shared was that this skin colouration always matched our nails and hair. The purpose of this pigmentation was still a mystery. Some thought it helped reduce glare, like a raccoon's mask, while others claimed it was meant to appeal to the opposite gender. Dr. Blake was among the latter group, although he considered the first option to be true for those demons with darker pigmentation like me. That said, any efforts to prove it had anything to do with attraction had not been favourable.
I didn't really care about its purpose, though. The dark colour only made my already scary eyes stand out even more. No matter how long it had been since they changed, I still couldn't ignore them whenever I looked at myself in the mirror.
The training area was slowly taking shape, too. The biggest change was a group of rubber and straw target dummies Dr. Blake gifted us in hopes of increasing our morale and in case we actually discovered a more destructive kind of magic.
Despite being hired by the government, I heard that the workers were quite curious about the dummies at first. To avoid any suspicions, Dr. Blake purchased a few cheap training swords of varying sizes and six rustic wooden bows to use as an excuse the next day. He claimed they were only recreation props for the staff, and it seemed to quell the worker's interest.
Anna was the first one to make use of this new equipment. Since Connor and I were the only patients at the moment, she could complete all of her laboratory work early, which meant she was free to do whatever she wanted in the afternoon.
With her being an elf, I thought it would be cool if she tested her abilities with the bow. She liked the idea and grabbed one of them to begin practising with it. She gave us a good scare at first when she dropped the arrow before firing, causing the bow to crack loudly. Our first thought was that the bow was simply defective, so we paid it no mind. That was until the second one broke the same way.
Having lost a third of our bows, she did some research online and learned that 'dry firing' sent the energy, meant for the absent arrow, straight to the bow instead. Our low quality weapons couldn't resist the force, so they broke. I wished Anna had done such an investigation before losing them in such a way, although I doubted her father would be too stingy about buying more.
Regardless of her initial disappointment, she kept working on it and was steadily getting the hang of the weapon. She still got tired rather quickly and got hurt with enough frequency that Dr. Blake was forced to get some protective equipment regardless of her insistence in simply using healing magic to fix it. Her accuracy was definitely not the best either. So much for the stereotype.
While the elf kept on juggling with practising and helping Lily, Allison and I concentrated on our mana unsuccessfully. We repeated the same procedure over and over, and I even tried changing my approach a few times to no avail. I couldn't imagine how Anna was able to come up with it so easily. From what she told me, it came naturally to her and Jack after Dr. Blake was badly hurt, days before my arrival. Apparently, one of the angry patients she had told me about didn't like the doctor's 'informational speech' and went violent. According to her, they got the hang of it pretty quickly after that emergency push.
Seeing my frustration, she insisted that it was too early for me and suggested waiting until my transformation was complete. It made sense, but it didn't explain why Allison couldn't either. Tired of not getting results, I decided to take a break from my meditation and grabbed a bow to try archery instead. This turned out to be equally frustrating since every single bow was meant for adult use, and I was too small and weak to use them properly.
That was the last straw for me. I needed to vent somehow. My eyes focused on the storage shack they built for the training ground's equipment. I felt the urge to grab a sword and mercilessly attack one of the dummies with it. Realizing what I was planning, Anna reminded me of my condition, but I didn't care, I was too fed up with everything to listen.
As I made my way to the small building, a shadow loomed over me, and Allison then stood between me and my objective with her arms crossed. She was clearly upset about my careless choice. Her size probably had a huge influence on it, but her scolding was one of the scariest I had ever experienced. She didn't need violence or any kind of physical contact. Her tone and presence were enough to make me turn around and resume my meditation while sobbing.
It took me a few minutes to calm down, and when I did, I felt guilty. They were only trying to help, and I was acting like a spoiled brat. I knew that wasn't the real me. I couldn't let the child take over. I'd do my best to prevent it from happening again.
As sunset approached, I was about to call it a day and head back when I finally felt it. That tingling Anna mentioned came and went so suddenly I barely had any time to register it.
"I did it! I finally did it!" I screamed joyfully, leaping to my feet. Allison congratulated me and patted my head. No matter how brief, it was enough to boost my morale once more. That was until I turned around.
Anna didn't hear me at all. She was too focused on Lily, whose hands were glowing intensely. She was so excited by it, she even cut herself so Lily could try to heal her. Allison was furious because of that, but Anna shrugged it off by saying the wound was too small, and that she could heal it even if Lily was unable to. It seemed to me like having healing magic had made her too careless.
The wound was fully closed in mere seconds. Lily turned my way with a huge smile on her face, one that faded as soon as she saw me. "What's wrong, Nora?"
I was unsure of what kind of expression I had at that moment. Still, I tried hiding my jealousy. Lily was not guilty of anything after all. "S-sorry. I guess I still haven't gotten used to seeing magic. It left me speechless, that's all. Oh, right, I could finally feel the energy!"
Allison and Anna didn't buy it, of course. However, Lily flew straight to me with an enthusiastic cheer. "That's great, Nora!"
You're too innocent...
"It's nothing compared to you, Lily. I mean, look at that. You're already able to use healing magic! You're amazing!" I meant it this time. Despite my frustration, it was nice seeing one of us do so well.
Allison proudly nodded at me whilst sitting behind her. It made me giggle, not only because of how absurd a fairy and a giant looked next to each other, but because I knew I was only a child in her eyes. Despite knowing my real age, her image of me didn't change. When I thought about it, I couldn't really blame her since she didn't get to meet me before my transformation, and my recent behaviour didn't help me either. At this point, it was probably better to accept it as something normal. I didn't mind the cuddles, anyway.
The fact that she kept trying to usurp my mother's role was still something I couldn't understand, though.
Three more days flew by after that, and while the first two were pretty uneventful, the third came with a nice surprise for me. I was suddenly able to keep control of the flow of my mana for several seconds. It was a far cry from what Lily had achieved, but it was enough for me.
I could feel it with ease. Just like Anna mentioned, the energy was strongest in my chest. It then spread to the rest of my body, only to reach the tips of my limbs and eventually return to the core where it began. The tingling was less noticeable with each try, but I could feel the flow regardless of it.
As to why I managed such a jump in skill, the answer was simple.
My transformation was finally complete!
Anna had been right the whole time. All I needed was to wait until my core was ready. Unfortunately for me, while I was eager to see how far I could get, it was difficult for me to concentrate. The reason being, ironically, the end of my transformation. This meant Anna would notify my family about it and give them the green light to pick me up. It made me excited and nervous at the same time.
It was early in the afternoon when the moment came. I had somehow finished my training for the day, so I simply watched Allison meditate. She had yet to feel anything at all. When Anna walked into the training area, both of us stood up, and I ran to greet her. I was so glad I could finally move without limitations.
"I made the call, Nora. They will be here in two hours. How is everything going over here?"
I frowned. "Not so good. I kept thinking about my parents so I couldn't focus. I'm scared."
Allison looked at me in confusion. "Don't you want to see them?"
"I do, it's just... What if they don't accept the new me?"
Lily rose from her spot the moment she heard me and flew away. Anna hesitated briefly, then followed her back to the building. I felt guilty since I probably made her remember that day. Even though she acted cheerful most of the time, I could still hear her cry at night when she thought I had already fallen asleep.
Allison stared in their direction briefly before looking back to me. "I'm sorry, did I miss something?"
"A few days before you woke up, they brought Lily's parents so they could meet her after her transformation. Their reactions were, well, the opposite of what we expected. They went as far as claiming she was dead right in front of her."
"And you think the same will happen with yours?"
"Yes, I mean, no, I mean, maybe? I don't know..." I sighed. "That couple was crazy, but it doesn't mean my appearance won't cause trouble. I mean, look at me. What do you see?"
"Forget I asked," I interrupted, realizing Allison wouldn't get it. "I'm a monster, Allison! I have wings, horns, and a tail! I'm a demon through and through!" I looked down as I felt my eyes water. "All I get whenever someone sees me is their terrified screams!"
Allison sat down next to me and gently brushed away my tears with her finger. "Please don't say such things, little one. You're not scary and most definitely not a monster. Did I react like that when I first saw you? Hmm?"
I looked intently into her eyes. She still had that gentle expression of hers. It amazed me how easily she could ignore my stare when not even I could.
"No, but that's only because I'm tiny compared to you."
She hummed in contemplation. "Well, I can't deny that completely, but I'm scared of mice, and they are tiny too." Her arms wrapped around me. "You're a nice girl, Nora. I'm sure your parents know that very well, and will love you no matter what you look like. They'll be happy to see you again, I guarantee it."
"Thank you," I replied, returning the hug.
We waited for me to relax a little more before we walked back to the building. Once there, we separated, and I waited for my family in my room. I thought giving them a similar setting to when they left me would increase my chances of them accepting the new me. I was still anxious; I couldn't avoid it.
After closing the door, I grabbed my phone and climbed onto my bed. I turned the device on and read the latest issue of Mysterium. I needed some sort of distraction, and this was the best thing I could think of. As always, it had very interesting legends and stories. When I got to the news section, there was one particular article that caught my attention. It mentioned a few recent cases of vampire attacks.
Knowing that vampires were real now, I couldn't stop thinking about them. I thought it was a coincidence since Dr. Blake mentioned they didn't crave blood like the ones from folklore, yet the timing of this article was too convenient to be only that. I was still trying to process what I read when someone knocked on my door. I could identify my mother's voice as she talked with Anna.
I was so focused on the magazine; I didn't even notice when the car arrived. Anna spoke from the other side of the door. "Nora, are you ready?"
"Y-yes..." My reply came out weak, but I knew she could hear it, so I didn't repeat myself.
The door opened, revealing Anna and three other silhouettes. My family stood there, looking straight at me. Or at least they tried, for I was already hidden under the covers of my bed. I could see their shapes through the thin white sheets as they approached slowly.
Mom was the first one to speak. "Is everything okay, sweetie? Can you come out of there so we can see you?"
I took a deep breath and slowly revealed my face to them. That was all it took for her to jump on top of the bed and hug me. Dad joined her in an instant. Just like that, all the remaining insecurities were gone, and only tears remained.
Allison was right. I feel stupid now.
I was truly happy to see them again. We embraced for a long time before they stood up and backed a bit.
"It's worse than we thought, dear. She can't even do her makeup anymore."
"Ha ha. Very funny, Dad."
He laughed and asked, "Why don't you come out of there and show us your new look?"
I did just that and looked at their shocked expressions. They remained silent for a long time. It felt like when they sang on my birthday. I didn't really know what to do or say.
"Wow," was the first thing that came out of Allen's mouth. He walked closer and looked down at me with a frown. "They weren't kidding when they said you were getting younger."
My official height was 1.16 metres at the end of my transformation. I could easily be mistaken for a seven-year-old girl, or maybe even younger.
Wait a minute!
"More or less, yeah," Dad replied. "Jack told us about your changes a few days ago. He mentioned a change in policy or something. He wouldn't show us any pictures of you, but we did get to see others, that gave us an idea."
Bewildered, I turned to Anna. She smiled and nodded slowly. "I was aware of how nervous you were after what happened with Lily. We knew your family would accept your new look, but we saw no harm in telling them beforehand to prepare them mentally for this moment."
Allen's frown was replaced with a smirk as he continued to look at me. "I guess I have a little sister now."
I glared at him and shouted, "Hey! I'm still three years older than you!"
"No way! It would be too weird to tell others you're my older sister!"
"He makes a good point, don't you think?" Something told me that Dad wasn't joking this time, adding salt to the wound.
"Dad! Not you too! Hey, Anna. Do you still have that bat? We could use another test subject, don't you think?" I commented, eyeing my brother.
Allen stepped back at my comment, pretending to be scared.
Anna burst out laughing. "I'm sorry, Nora. My dad would kill me."
Mom seemed worried, however. "Why do you need a bat, sweetie?"
"I look like this because a bat bit me, Mom."
Dad raised an eyebrow at my comment. "I don't remember any bat mentioned last time we came."
"Looks like they didn't tell you everything. I'll explain things in more detail on our way home. Which reminds me, is it really okay for me to leave, Anna?"
She crossed her arms and glanced at my parents, then back at me. "It's up you guys to decide. While we would prefer for you to stay here at all times, we know we can't separate you from your family for no reason. The government doesn't support the idea too much, but they've agreed to let you visit them during the weekends. Just make sure nobody sees-"
"What? You mean I still have to stay here?" I turned to my parents. They clearly didn't like it, but they didn't look surprised. "Did you know?"
"Well, yeah. We've already discussed it with them." Anna answered instead. "Think about it. You're the member of a race that was just born a few days ago. It's almost the same as Lily. We lack plenty of information, and we need you here for that. You're also learning magic, which I strongly recommend you not to practise inside your house in case you discover something dangerous. Last, but not least, now that you're fully transformed, it's about time you learn how to use those wings of yours, don't you think? There are plenty of reasons to come back if you ask me. Don't worry, though. We'll give you a full week this time, so you have plenty of time to catch up with them."
She left me speechless. I wanted to complain, but had nothing against her arguments. It was still better than what I feared. I sighed in defeat. "Yeah, I see your point..."
"There's something we haven't discussed, though," Mom said. "How long does she have to remain hidden? Will she be able to go to college? We must think of her future, after all."
"She's already been accepted by the University of Eredel," Dad added. "We can't just throw that opportunity away. There must be a way she can go!"
Hearing the unexpected news, I quickly turned to them. "I was accepted!?"
Anna pinched the bridge of her nose and pressed her eyes closed in annoyance. "I understand your concerns, but we can't have a little girl with wings walk freely in public. At least not yet. If I remember correctly, we still have around six months before that. I'm sure we can come up with something by then. Jack and a few others are already working on creating an illusion spell that should help us with it. Even if we can't solve it by then, we can arrange for her to begin her studies at a later date."
Jack is working on another spell!? How diligent.
That aside, I hoped they managed to create that illusion spell quickly. It really wasn't a good idea to show myself to the world, especially when those rumours of vampire attacks had started.
"Oh, that's right!" I screamed, making everyone jerk in response. "Um, sorry."
I took out my phone from my bag and swiped through the magazine's pages. "It's just that there is something I wanted to show you, Anna... Here, look at this."
I showed her the page with the article at the end. She frowned when she saw what kind of magazine it was. Her mouth showed a wry smile as she read the last lines. "The descriptions match, I'll give them that. Still, vampires don't need to drink blood."
"I'm afraid it might be true, Anna." Jack was leaning on the door frame as he said that. He was too sneaky. "You should come and see this."
We followed Jack to Dr. Blake's office, who glanced at us briefly before turning his eyes back to the TV and pressed the play button on his controller. He was watching the news. Something regarding a massive storm hitting the northeastern coast of the continent. It was so large that a great number of cities were affected by endless raining and flooding. While it was worrisome, it was too far away to be of importance to us. I also failed to see what that had anything to do with vampires attacking people.
"What's going on?" I turned to see Allison at the door. My family was amazed at the sight of the giant girl squeezing her way inside. Mom seemed particularly interested in her for some reason.
Lily flew in after her and landed on top of my head, increasing their awe. "We saw everyone heading here in a hurry. Is there something wrong?"
"Wait for it," Dr. Blake said, keeping his eyes glued to the screen.
Soon enough, the images of the natural disaster were replaced by that of a cage and a crowd surrounding it. Inside the cage was a girl with snow white skin and red eyes.
"A vampire," Anna muttered whilst covering her mouth with one hand.
The reporter explained that the vampiress was discovered breaking into a small boy's room in the middle of the night. When confronted, she crouched and silently backed into a corner. She didn't seem aggressive, so the parents acted quickly and restrained her before calling the police. Apparently, the child remained in a deep trance for several minutes before he regained consciousness.
We could hear the angry crowd demanding to kill the vampire for attacking a child whilst some others, not believing her to be one, defended her rights as a person. The mayor of Kelpont, the city where that was taking place, stated that she'd be taken to a safe location for investigation. As that happened, I saw a guy step forward, pointing a gun at her.
How did he even get that thing!?
The police were trying to stop him when my vision went black. I heard the shot and the screams of the people. Everyone around me gasped, and I was suddenly pulled into Allison's embrace, still unable to see a thing.
"Allison, is this really necessary?" I said, trying to wiggle away.
She let me go. Her usual smile is nowhere to be seen. "Sorry."
I turned to the screen to see the guy being taken away by the police as some others moved the cage that contained the lifeless body of the girl. A chill ran down my spine. I could suddenly see myself in a similar situation. Both of my parents came to me and hugged me tightly. The whole room was silent.
Looking out the window, the sky was already painted with a beautiful red. My parents decided it was time to leave when I had somewhat recovered from the shock of that scene.
As the moment finally arrived, I stood by the entrance of the building looking at the friends I made during my stay. Anna came over to me and handed me my bag and the uniform I wore the day I arrived. I had completely forgotten about them. She also gave me a small card with her contact information written on it. I thanked her and turned back to the car.
The ground shook as I walked away, and a huge pair of arms wrapped around me affectionately before I could turn. "Stay safe, Nora."
"I will, don't worry." I replied, returning the hug.
After that, Allen opened the car's door for me and climbed in once I was inside. The vehicle started moving, and I turned to the building and waved at them one last time. I continued to do so until they were out of sight.
At that moment, my brother smirked at me. "Why don't you fill us in as you said, little sis?"
Somewhat annoyed, I glared at him. His smug expression told me he wouldn't give up on the idea, and my parents' silent approval was of no help either.
Guess that's another thing I'll have to get used to...
I sighed in resignation. "Well, the mess started when I opened this stupid window..."