Today, I decide to hold our training in our private garden. I choose a shaded patio that has a ceiling of hanging vines and is surrounded by flowery hedges. The gaps between the leaves let cool air pass through, making for a good private spot to relax.
I think I've become a bit lazier than before. I was already a shut-in, but now I'm a hoarding, hibernating, asocial, giant scary lizard. Which is cool as fuck, to be honest.
"'Giant,'" Roxanne repeats through [Bind] with big internal air quotes.
"I will be, one day," I retort and pout internally.
Dokkanchee starts setting up the crystals for our open carriage. We'll have to ride it at the start of the ceremony, so it needs to be perfectly enchanted for our plan to work. Her magic works best in larger, and also immobile, rooms, but she seems to be enjoying the challenge of our request.
Osaria leaves with Enomosa to find a discreet sculptor and painter. It's tradition to have our busts spread throughout the town, and there's also the gigantic golden portrait of us that needs to be carved into the Shell's wall.
I leisurely spar with Lina since keeping my body moving around helps Dokkan calibrate the illusion.
We equip our Bastión armor, but every time I want to use my sword, I'll have to equip my gauntlets. They're padded with something very resistant, which makes it easier to grip my sword without ruining the handle.
We play with some of the enchantments, but they lack the finesse of actual spells, though they're still more efficient than my instant-cast Gift, making them useful for quick and dirty attacks.
Considering how one of my strategies is to simply overwhelm my opponent with a wide variety and large number of attacks, using the armor's enchantments will save me some headaches from mana overuse.
Alissa asks for some points in [Sense Mana], then starts paying a lot of attention to Dokkanchee and her crystals, taking in every detail that she can. Theory followed by practice is the most efficient learning method, but pure observation is also pretty good. It's just training through repetition that could be considered as "inefficient," time-wise.
I also spar with Hana, but her superior grasp of the enchantments has made her extremely mobile, nullifying some of the advantages I previously had over her.
I could win the duel by using my wider variety of tools to their fullest extent, but the enchantments level out the playing field now, so the only way that I can guarantee a win is by going all out, and I don't want to do that.
"Come on, hit me! Hit me hard!" Hana shouts and pants excitedly.
"I'd rather do that when you're naked," I respond with a cringe as I notice a small scratch on her perfectly polished armor.
Hana growls and grunts, "What's the point of armor if we're not to get smacked while wearing it!"
Lina frowns angrily. "Don't do it too often or I'll stop you from sparring. There's only me and a few other enchanters in the entire town who can actually do maintenance on such a heavily-enchanted set of armor!" She exclaims indignantly.
Hana snorts and backs off a little, "Alright, alright, but let's at least test the limits of this metal."
I look at Lina, and she shrugs. "Just don't pierce through the plates."
I sigh and start casting [Discharge]. I'll make her suffer, then.
Ciel calls on Sainalai, and the two of them take a look at Dokkanchee's back while she rests for a bit.
"It seems that she has bone spurs along her spine, and they're pinching some nerves," Ciel shares her diagnosis.
Sainalai palpates the region and pays attention to Dokkan's pain response, then she frowns in thought and asks, "Can you tell exactly where it is?"
"Not with much precision unless we can open up her back and inspect-…"
"I'd rather not!" Dokkan suddenly exclaims fearfully.
Ciel gives her a good nurse smile to calm her down and explains, "Just the skin to expose the spine, and you wouldn't feel anything."
Dokkan is still not convinced. "I don't do well with blades, or blood…" She nervously admits.
Ciel maintains her calming smile and insists, "We can put you to sleep before we start, and you'd wake up without even being able to tell if we did it or not."
"Hmm…" Dokkan grunts stubbornly.
"How long would a [Regeneration] treatment last?" Sai asks, taking a different approach.
Ciel crosses her arms, making her tits almost burst out of her dress, and muses, "A few months, I believe. Bones are notoriously slow to correct without [Alteration Magic], that is, unless they're straight-up broken or removed…" -Dokkanchee whimpers- "but at least [Regeneration] would ease the pain."
"I already visit the priests every half-cycle to ease my pain," Dokkan comments, trying to deflect.
"Which is why we should use [Alteration Magic] to fix your spine, already," Ciel insists.
Sai turns to Ciel and discloses, "I've done a lot of small internal alterations in exchange for money, so I'm confident that I can repair the vertebra if I can see where the problem is. I could even do it this afternoon if you give me some time to prepare."
Ciel lights up and nods vigorously, then they both turn to Dokkanchee.
The old Kabar woman sighs, and her white feathers seem to subtly wilt. "Alright… as long as it doesn't take too long."
The two surgeons grin in satisfaction, and Ciel assures her, "The entire inspection should only last ten minutes from when you take the sleeping pill to when you wake up."
"Five minutes for me to remove the spurs, depending on how many there are," Sai adds.
Dokkan weakly nods, then they allow her to continue working.
Ciel joins us for sparring practice. With [Refresh], she's the only one of us who can outlast Hana in a battle, even though our armor is also enchanted with the spell. Her levels in [Light Magic] really do make that much of a difference in efficiency.
Since her [Fly] is a personal spell and not an enchantment, she's also the only one who can actually act as an aerial combatant. My [Telekinesis] is just too slow in practice, and Aoi still isn't as maneuverable as Ciel can be. Though she might want to get some tips from Oritiki since [Imperial Hasterrum Style] doesn't include anything for aerial combat.
Aoi is still an ogre-like fighter, relying on raw strength and the durability of her armor or scales to keep her safe, and that won't change any time soon. Human-Aoi has the "Dexterity," but lacks the needed "Strength," so she is also unable to fight like an average melee fighter. However, her "water bending" could evolve to become a precision tool to make up for her shortcomings.
Yunia's Spirit spells make her untouchable when going up against any melee physical fighter, but while hybrids like me can counter her, she now has access to [Rush], so I can't even guess at who'd win if we went all-out in a duel.
Then Roxanne causes a few more explosions before she's finally ready to showcase her research, but we hold off until lunchtime so that Dokkanchee leaves the garden before we start. This is definitely something that we don't want to share with others yet.
We all sit down near the wall on one side of the patio while Roxanne goes to the opposite side to keep the experiment at a safe distance from us.
She pulls out a flask with a small quantity of a somewhat yellow, sticky, and runny substance, then she pours it into a depression in a small, pillar-like earth elemental.
"Behold! Draconic Climax!" She proudly shouts with a puffed-out chest.
"Are you sure that's safe? Don't give the gardeners more work than they already have," Ciel cautions her with a knowing smile.
"Wha-…" Roxanne mumbles, then she looks up and frowns. "Oh…"
She scoops out half of the Climax with a spoon and stores it back in the flask, then she rushes towards us.
"Well it kind of looks like cum," Hana comments with a smirk, making Roxanne giggle.
"No, it is just like the real thing," Alissa suddenly shares, and even Roxanne stops to look at her a bit oddly, then her ears go flat, and she faintly blushes. "I've never seen it myself, only read about it."
"I didn't expect you to know that," Yunia comments, with a rather incredulous tone.
"I had a phase when I was obsessed with dragons," she quietly admits.
"It kind of looks like it's rotten…" Lina mumbles, pulling our attention away from Alissa, then we all wrinkle our noses. "It does smell like it's rotten."
"There are still some improvements that could be made to the formula," Roxanne admits impatiently, then she creates a small [Fireball] at the tip of her finger. "Ready?"
"Do it," I breathe with an evil grin.
She throws it at the pillar, then plenty of sparkles go flying.
A huge cloud of smoke erupts from that little squirt of dragon cum, followed by a full second of bright sparkles bursting out, then a lick of flames that nearly reaches the ceiling of leaves.
"Woow…" Lina hums in wonder at the light show.
"This shit is powerful," Hana approves.
"It smells much better, at least," Alissa comments wryly.
It actually does. The smell is pungent, but it reminds me of baked bread, so maybe there's some kind of Maillard reaction going on.
But the important thing about it is: this is fantasy-gunpowder. If we can produce it cheaply enough, then it'll give our armies a significant power boost. Defensive spells like [Wind Shield] ensure that melee combat won't become obsolete, but it'll change how the average, non-magical armies fight their battles.
I rest my claws on my lap and calmly ask, "How easily can you produce more of it?"
Roxanne shrugs and smiles guiltily, "I haven't identified the main ingredients yet, so I can only [Transmute] or [Duplicate] it."
I raise a hand to reassure her. "There's no rush, not yet at least since we aren't at war, but I'd like us to start working on a rifle." Then I turn to Aoi. "If you're up to it, then maybe you could be the one who creates it for me."
Aoi's large tail sways from side-to-side, in complete sync with mine. "Hmm… sounds interesting," she accepts.
Alissa walks forward to inspect the aftermath as the cloud of smoke clears away. "It doesn't sound very subtle, though," she comments, then she runs a finger along the bowl and inspects the extent of the charring. "It's also not very strong. How was this supposed to work again?"
I adjust my non-existent glasses and start the lesson, "This is just the propellant, which is used to accelerate a metallic [Earth Bullet] of various sizes to such a high speed that it pierces through even metal armor like nothing.
"The advantage over spells is that it's so simple to use and cheap to make that even children and old commoners would be able to make use of it."
Yunia's long elven ears twitch, and she lets out a rare stutter, "I-I didn't imagine it'd be that revolutionary."
"With magic, there are innumerable ways to counter it, though," I pull her back to reality.
She shakes her head at me. "This will make it much easier for commoners to hunt and acquire levels, and the Townsguard will gain a huge boost in power. This will raise the average level of humanoids, which will improve the lives of everyone."
I tilt my head and scratch my horn. "Well, I guess that's something big, after all," I understate as I fail to find any better words to express myself in the moment.
I'm really going to fuck with this world's balance…
Ciel frowns in confusion and turns to Yunia. "But it's going to reduce the power of Lords," she interjects.
Yunia nods confidently and proudly points her nose upwards. "If it's for the betterment of civilization, then I won't stand in the way," she declares.
"I have a feeling that the Head Priestess Teresina would be glad to 'remove us from the way' the moment we did that," I add, and Ciel begrudgingly agrees.
We turn our eyes to Roxanne, and she's frozen, her eyebrows raised high in surprise.
"No pressure?" I ask teasingly with a smirk.
"No pressure…" She grumbles back.
Today, Krysta makes some not-fries and seasons it with parsley and dried not-onions, reminding me of fast food, and I eat an unhealthy amount of this dish.
"We might want to add this to the 'limited menu' so that we don't overindulge. There's such a thing as something being too tasty for our own good," Yunia comments with a wry smile, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Dokkanchee finally starts to activate the illusions, and it makes my draconic parts feel really funny.
"Is your cock okay?" Hana asks me with very clearly fake concern stamped on her face.
"Yes…" I groan and glare at her.
"Then everything will be fine," she tries to comfort me with a gentle tone, but her face is warped into a shit-eating grin.
"Bitch, you're lucky that I'm bound here," I grumble and harden my dick to show her what I really mean.
"And this would go faster if you stopped talking," Dokkan interrupts us, her face stiff in annoyance.
I give her an apologetic smile, then I grimace for a moment as it feels like a not-so-pleasant vibrator is attached to my scales. They're not literally vibrating; they're just resisting the spell.
"Let me just increase the frequency…" She grumbles, then starts sending some really weird-tasting mana to one of the crystals.
I grit my teeth and start joking to distract my mind from the discomfort, "I wish… this was… on my… diii~-…" The trembling suddenly stops. "Oh, cool. I'm fine now, an-… AH!" I shout in surprise.
My hands have suddenly become human, but they're even bigger than before, and my nails look like swords. It's a fucking freaky sight.
"The fuck…" I mumble in wonder.
"Hm… needs a lot of adjustments," Dokkan talks to herself, then she adjusts the crystals one-by-one.
I give her a flat and short earth elemental to use as a mount to speed up the process because she'd have trouble reaching the crystals otherwise.
My hands gradually shift back to their previous human shape while my horns are simply erased from existence.
Just to test it, I tilt my head to the side and feel my "skull" snag on my seat. I try to pull it out, but then I hear a rip when my horn cuts through some of the padding of leaves.
Dokkan angrily wets her lips and asks, "Why would you do that?"
"Uh, sorry?" I apologize reflexively.
"Trying to move hidden parts could break the illusion," she explains tiredly and turns back to her crystals.
"What about my tail~…!?" I'm suddenly launched from my seat and have to use [Telekinesis] to stop myself from faceplanting on the tiled floor. "Holy shit."
"You lose control of any hidden limbs, too…" Dokkan warns me a little too late, trying her best to keep herself from smiling.
The girls, especially Hana and Roxanne, aren't as discreet, making fun of me, both internally and externally.
While playing with the illusions is fun, it's also rather dangerous due to how much power is going into them. Like a pressurized can, it's best to not fuck with it too much.
Dokkan gradually warps reality more and more, and I start to return to normal. Well, to human normal.
It's nostalgic, but it makes the dragon inside me grumpy. I feel feeble and uglier, and my pride takes a hit.
I'm a fucking weredragon, bitch, a mean mother fucker; I'm not a bald monkey anymore.
Having human fingers again just isn't the same after the experience of having those big-ass and unbelievably sharp claws, though I feel a very pressing need to finger a pussy.
Of all the bad ideas I could have right now, I think that is one of the worse ones.
I keep quiet in my seat while Dokkan prods and pokes all over my body. The tail is the most difficult part to deal with, and there's even the adaptation for my Bastión armor since it needs to be hidden, so her work is far from over, but the time for her "surgery" eventually arrives.
Once Sai appears, the frightful old woman tries to look around for an exit, but the only one she can spot is behind me, and I can keep her in place with just my gaze.
"Please enjoy our hospitality. You'd be hard-pressed to find more competent healer mages in this town than these two," I gracefully corner her.
She wets her lips nervously and glances at Sai approaching her, then she turns to me again. "Thank you, my Lord," she grumbles through gritted teeth.
I simply smile back, then Sai stops on her left while Ciel stops on her right.
"Would you like to go to a private room?" Ciel kindly asks.
"I'm fine. Let's just do it here since it's faster." And she points with her cane to a free bench.
I pull out a clean bed for her and offer, "How about this? It'll be more comfortable."
Dokkan grunts in agreement, and the two "surgeons" lead her to it.
"Do you mind if we watch?" I politely ask.
"No. Do as you wish," the grumpy old woman grumbles as she sits on the bed.
Ciel gives her a pill with a cup of water, and Dokkan gulps it down immediately as if she just wants to get this over with as fast as possible, then the surgeons help her lay on the bed, face down.
Ciel holds her hand to monitor her pulse and only has to wait for a mere three minutes until Dokkan is fully asleep, then they poke her to make sure that she won't wake up, and start the surgery.
Sai opens up her dress, exposing her back, then Ciel pulls two pairs of thick gloves out of her [Item Box] and casts [Clean] on them once they're both wearing a pair. They also wrap shawls around their hair to keep it tied up, so they seem to have a fairly good grasp on germ theory, but curiously, they don't put on masks.
"What if your saliva falls into her open body? Wouldn't that be bad?" I carefully question them.
They both stop and give me blank looks. Ciel doesn't understand how that could happen.
Before they can say anything, I explain myself, "When you speak, small droplets of your saliva fly out of your mouth. The same happens when you breathe."
Sai knits her eyebrows in incredulity and asks, "Really…?"
Ciel believes me right away since she knows my background, and I've had a lot of experience with masks, so she immediately enters deep thought about it.
"Wear a mask and start talking. You'll notice that it slowly gets wet with your saliva," I answer Sai.
She's still unconvinced. "Wouldn't that just be the condensation from the heat of your breath?"
"The air needs to get its humidity from somewhere; for your breath, it comes from the saliva in your mouth."
She raises her eyebrows in surprise and finally gets it, "Oh…"
"I'll have to share this knowledge with the rest of the temple…" Ciel makes a mental note.
I give them one last suggestion, "It also helps to do surgery in a completely sterile environment, such as a room that's been scrubbed by a deep [Clean] and has controlled ventilation so that dirt and dust from the outside can't easily get in."
"We do that in Mountainhome. Bad air can make an entire undertown sick," Lina chimes in.
"I guess that isn't just dwarven fastidiousness," Sai comments and chuckles softly. We chuckle along with her, but Lina doesn't laugh, so Sai immediately cringes. "Apologies, my Lord."
"Hmph…" Lina grunts in acknowledgment.
They fashion masks from some spare pieces of cheap cloth we had, then Ciel brings out a scalpel, and Sai takes one of Dokkan's wrists to keep watch on her pulse. She needs a small stool to keep herself at the appropriate height, and I can't deny that she looks like a child playing doctor, which is quite a nostalgic memory, if you know what I mean.
Through hushed whispers, the two surgeons coordinate and talk their way through the surgery as Ciel deftly makes an incision in Dokkan's skin, exposing her back muscles, and I notice that her HP drops a mere three points.
Ciel finishes after just a moment more, then she takes out some metal clamps to keep Dokkan's skin pushed apart, allowing them to clearly see the bones of her spine. They're like inverted pliers.
Roxanne groans in disgust and announces, "I'll be over there, far enough away from this place. I don't feel like seeing any blood right now."
"You're the one who literally explodes people's heads," Alissa notes in confusion.
"That doesn't mean that I enjoy it!" Roxanne shouts from the other side of the patio.
Aoi and Hana show a modicum of curiosity, but they have no idea about what's going on, so they're like children who are watching a documentary with pretty pictures. Lina simply enjoys soaking up information, so she's paying attention to everything. Alissa isn't really interested in this, so she goes back to her [Illusion Magic] training but keeps glancing at us every once in a while. Yunia's sole interest is in [Alteration Magic], so she's just waiting for Sai to do her thing.
My angel then pulls out a sharp, spoon-like loop to scrape the bones, fully revealing Dokkan's spine, while Sai uses [Clean] and a sterilized towel to dab away all the blood.
"Why did she never go for the [Regeneration] treatment? Someone like her should've had the money for it," Lina suddenly voices a question that's been gnawing at her.
"Old people can be stubborn and hold unfounded prejudices about all sorts of things," Ciel responds sagely.
Sai chuckles girlishly and adds, "And sometimes, they just need a push from someone younger. Most of the people who've hired me for my [Alteration Magic] are the grandchildren of the patients."
"How often did you say that you've done this?" Ciel changes the topic, just to make sure that Sai knows what she's doing.
"I lost count. I've done all sorts of small changes to people's bodies, but the most commonly requested is for the nose, for some reason," Sai responds casually.
"Just for money?"
Sai nods. "Yeah. I used to travel a lot, but it's hard to make money with just [Spirit Magic] alone. One day, I met a migrant Chimera in Aremut who was using Alteration treatments to fund her travels, and she taught me how to make permanent soul changes to help me earn some money.
"You wouldn't believe how much people would offer for just a small change to their bodies, but I never charged them too much; my work was only valuable because it was scarce, not because it was difficult."
Sai notices something and leans in to get a closer look at Dokkan's spine.
"I believe that's a pinched nerve," Ciel remarks.
"The disk is herniated, and it looks like there's some warping of the bone," Sai reports her observation.
"Exactly. Can you fix it?"
"I can. I'll also try to make it mirror the vertebra above it, which looks healthy. But I won't change her soul, so you can [Heal] her if my alterations are a bit off." Then Sai straightens up and looks around, and her eyes land on Alissa, who's practicing magic nearby. "Now, I'll need absolute silence while I focus, and also, please don't cast any spells until I'm done."
I make sure that Roxanne heard that through [Bind], and she gives us a wave in acknowledgment.
Sai closes her eyes and carefully controls her breathing for several long minutes. Gradually, I feel some extremely faint mana leaving her body, which then starts to focus on her hand.
She suddenly opens her eyes and touches multiple vertebrae of Dokkan's spine. She remains completely frozen like that for a short while, her eyes entirely unmoving as they stare down at her fingers, then Dokkan's warped bones start to glow, and a lot of stray mana starts to seep out of her.
My [Sense Mana] feels something similar to the Transformation racial skill of the were-races, but it has an entirely "abstract" flavor to it. It's really curious to see this similarity between them. I'd say that it's like unflavored gelatin if I had to describe it with an analogy.
In under a minute, the alteration is complete, and Sai sighs in relief, then we all release our breaths that we didn't notice we were holding.
"All done. Close her up," Sai states and sits down on the bed to relax.
Ciel undoes the inverted pliers, then she closes Dokkan's skin back together by hand and softly chants a careful [Heal], instantly bringing Dokkan's HP back to full and leaving no trace behind that her skin was ever cut.
After making sure that she healed everything properly, they close Dokkan's dress, then Ciel casts [Purify Body] on her, and the old woman instantly wakes up.
She spends a mere moment laying there, dazed, then she immediately rolls over onto her back and sits up.
"Careful! Your back will be sensitive for at least an hour," Sai warns her as Ciel holds her arm.
"I feel fine. I feel great, in fact," Dokkan energetically chirps, then forces herself to stand up with a strength that catches Ciel off-guard. "And my back doesn't hurt!" She shouts, then grabs the cane and throws it away. "I feel great!"
Ciel gives up and lets Dokkan do as she wishes. The old woman takes herself through cautious, but energetic movements, enjoying her freshly reclaimed freedom.
The slightly grumpy woman from before suddenly seems a few decades younger, and we just watch as she has her cute moment of revelry.
Hall of Fame of Patrons
The patrons who support Rupegia shall have their names sung by the bards for they deserve the glory and honor. Their names are:
Prince Creamy Spinach.
Lord Andrew Meyers.
Lord Samuel Lim.
Lord Michale Erwin.
Lord Nathan Vanbrunt.
Lord Mattirro Draca.
Lord Joshua Tal.
Lord Joxsan Herrera.
Lord Sean Drake.
Lord Brody Haugan.
Lord Mike Bartter.
Lord Cardinal Steiner.
Lord Jorge Franco.
Lord Kristopher Welsh.
Noble Salty Panda.
Noble Mild Fracas.
Noble Shawn Plumley.
Noble War God.
Noble Jorge Franco.