Luca and Galen spent the next several days in a similar pattern. Gardening in the morning, then lessons and training Luca's anima in the afternoon, occasionally some house maintenance.
His regular morning anima training had become both the most important part of the day and the most frustrating for Luca.
“That’s enough for today,” Luca had come to dread those words. He was again brought out of his meditative state without any noticeable progress. His tail lashed back and forth as Luca breathed deeply in an attempt to hold down the scream that was caught in his throat. Despite how bristly his little cub was getting Galen couldn't help but think it was cute. He considerately hid his smiles though. He had enough awareness to know it wouldn't help Luca's state of mind.
“Your improving Luca, even if it doesn't feel like it,”
The soft growl that came in response just made Galen have to resist the urge to squeeze his baby. Due to Luca's young, childish voice, the little kitten noises failed to properly convey his emotions.
Fortunately before Galen broke down from cuteness overload and frustrated his little kitten any further. A distraction turned up at the door in the form of a mostly washed Donovan. Galen preened smugly at Donovan's unwarranted fear of scaring his child. He grumbled internally, a little miffed the change didn't come directly from Donovan listening to him. But just like any true merchant he wasn't against using whatever tricks he had up his sleeve.
Luca threw himself at his father and cast pitiful eye's at him.
"I can't make it work!" Luca wailed as he told himself the tears falling from his eyes were intentional and he wasn't really crying in frustration.
Donovan threw a panicked look at Galen as he held his crying cub. Galen just smiled and turned to the kitchen.
The pout on Luca's face had slowly taken on a desperate edge over the last few days. Galen had felt more distressed with every passing day he was unable to help. If harassing Donovan made Luca feel better Galen wasn't going to stop it. Besides he'd suffered for day's being unable to help Luca, Donovan could handle suffering for a moment or two.
Poor Donovan was left floundering as an incoherent Luca wailed in his arms and Galen ignored his silent pleas for help. Unable to understand the incoherent wails, Donovan did the only thing he could think of and picked him up and sat down holding his cub protectively in his secure arms. Patting his back as he rocked him gently.
After unleashing the storm of emotions that had been brewing on the growing mountain of frustration. Luca felt the dark clouds break apart with the sunrise of embarrassment ushering in clear skies.
Luca was curled up in his father's lap. Using his broad chest to hide his red cheeks. He wasn't sure he had the courage to face the room after his childish display. Using his father's shirt to surreptitiously wipe his tears he explained himself to Donovan “I want to see where you work, but dad says I can't go unless I can control my anima properly.” Pleading teary eyes peeked up at Donovan.
Donovan brightened almost noticeably but returned to his usual expressionless state as Galen's withering glare hit him over Luca's head. Instead of immediately agreeing like he wanted too Donovan compromised. "You will, I'll help," As usual not explaining much of anything, Donovan pulled out a hemp bag and dumped the contents into Luca's lap.
Cheeks still slightly red, Luca happily accepted his father's timely distraction. Luca looked down to find a myriad of softly glowing crystal objects of various size, shape and colour haphazardly scattered in his lap. It was a veritable rainbow of glowing gemstones. Luca gamely ignored the fleeting thought that waved about a warning flag about radioactive materials. Luca gingerly picked up a stone with just his thumb and one finger believing his father wouldn't put him in any danger. That thought was now blowing a whistle from a safe distance.
The stone was snatched out of Luca's hand by Galen. "What are you doing, giving him unprocessed crystals to play with!? He hasn't been tested yet and he doesn't have control of his anima. What if there was an accident!"
Luca's faith in his father immediately took a flying leap without a parachute.
"These are cast offs, just colourful, residual energies depleted."
Luca's faith found it had a bungee cord attached all along, and that it didn't like extreme sports.
Galen breathed in and closed his eyes then smiled stiffly as he tossed the crystals up and down in his hand. "Yeah, I know you wouldn't." he looked back at Donovan and sighed shoulders relaxing with an apologetic smile "Sorry I've just been on edge," his eye's flickered to Luca and back, "since the Library," he said with a studied casualness and deliberately didn't look at Luca again.
Donovan's eyebrows tilted downwards by a millimetre it was the kind of expression that was only readable to someone who knew him well. He nodded sharply once at Galen then peeked at Luca, who's ears flicked in irritation. Luca glared at the crystals in his lap in place of his parents. He knew they were only worried about him cause they thought he was a child, he wasn't though, really. He just had a little trouble controlling his emotions sometimes, and maybe didn't have the full control of his body an adult beastman would, that's all. As he wasn't a child at all, he completely understood what they were alluding to while talking over his head like he wouldn't understand. Luca determinedly used his whole hand to pick up a crystal.
It was rounded and curved from a large base to a pointed tip. Luca stared at the blue, glowing gem that was twice as long as his palm and looked suspiciously like a tooth. On closer inspection several of the other gem's looked like they could have been harvested from rather large animals as well.
Puzzled Luca turned to his father and held up the gem in his hand, "Where did this come from?"
"Snow bears mouth," Donovan stated plainly.
Luca's eyebrow twitched as a million questions competed to be asked "Oh," Luca's tone and inflection perfectly matched Donovan's.
Galen turned away to the kitchen shoulders shaking with repressed laughter . Donovan started pointing to the stones, explaining in one word sentences what monsters they came from and what abilities those monsters had. Luca quickly used the opportunity to further his original goal and got a brief explanation on the economic value of monster parts. These particular gems didn’t have any economic value due to not being harvested correctly. Which made sense considering Donovan basically brought them home as toys for Luca. Luca welcomed the distraction his new learning material provided. Happily taking a break from his anima problems.
With Donovan's return the next day's training session saw a change of teacher. Galen gracefully acceded his instructor position to let his two cherished family members have this time together. Galen lovingly watched over the two as he went about the house chores. Usually he'd rope Donovan into helping with everything when he was home, but seeing his mate and their unexpected cub bond together warmed Galen's entire being. Of course he'd never let them off entirely so he'd occasionally pull them both in to help. The family of three settled into simple routines.
The different timber of Donovan's voice threw Luca off the first time he trained with his father but the rich deep tones soon lulled him into the required state.
Despite feeling like he wasn't achieving much Luca had grasped the trick of finding his anima amidst the maze of clouds. Attempting to sense it’s location would always point him in the right direction and he’d unerringly drift towards it. The problem came when he tried to catch it. His anima clearly preferred playing tag to hide-and-seek.
Luca once again snuck up on the little furball and tried to grab it. Like always a static discharge of raw instincts and emotions zapped through him as soon as he touched it. Leaving him frozen in place momentarily as the little blighter zipped off again. Not knowing how it worked didn't matter when the electric emotions flipped a switch on his tear ducts. His mental self was left behind snivelling in a ball of tears. It didn't always leave him in tears but no matter what emotion it triggered he'd always be debilitated long enough for it to flit off elsewhere.
Luca crouched down glaring at the mental manifestation of his anima. He watched it float around peacefully as he brainstormed for a method he hadn't tried yet. He mulled over what he'd gleaned so far. It didn't seem to be intelligent, or even think at all really. It seemed to be just a kittenish, fluff ball of instincts and raw emotions. Luca's mental self chewed on his lip. He couldn't think of a way to catch it that he hadn't already tried.
With his father's return he'd settled down with renewed determination, but as soon as he started up again and the failure just stayed the same, his confidence just started to trickle away. After a while his mind was so jumbled he couldn't even maintain the state of meditation any more. His despairing thoughts dragged him back to the surface.
As hard as he tried he couldn't stop the tears from forming in his eyes. He stared at his hands squeezing the rug, the fur from the animal pelt felt soft but a little coarse under his fingers. The black fur of the wolf pelt crinkled as he squeezed harder. Luca studied the rug to hide the tears he couldn’t stop from overflowing. His throat constricted making it hard to breath. Negative emotions mixed together into a slurry of nausea in the pit of his stomach, his lungs burning with every shuddering, breath.
I keep failing, won't they be disappointed? Is it because I was born late, or cause I transmigrated? Does having my human memories make me unqualified to be a beastman? Am I going to be stuck in the house forever, because I can't control my anima?I...I don't want that, I don't want that at all! Luca's emotions were overwhelming like a dark bottomless bog that he was sucking him down the more he struggled. The emotions smothered his rational thoughts pulling him under and strangely, he ended up in the place he had found in his meditative trances. For a brief moment he glimpsed the furry white fluff ball of kitten instincts that was his anima, before it puffed up like a scared kitten trying to intimidate an enemy. Then the fluff ball swallowed the bog of emotions and Luca with it. Luca opened his eyes and stared at the sudden darkness in confusion. As he tried to move he felt something light covering his whole body. Confused Luca went to push it off his head.
Before he could manage that a rush of light blinded him as the cloth was lifted off his head and a giant figure loomed over him. Luca stared up at the monstrous form of Donovan who was holding up Luca’s top that he’d been under. The little winged kitten covered it's eyes in embarrassment. The little bundle of fluff on the rug couldn't escape being lifted up and petted by his father.
"Good, now do the same in reverse,"
Luca who was still wallowing in his failure raised his head and tilted it in confusion with a total lack of comprehension.
Donovan sat him back down on his pile of clothes and looked at him in expectation but Luca just stared at him befuddled.
Hadn't he failed again? He'd lost control of his emotions and the anima had responded, he hadn't done anything resembling controlling it. A tiny little winged kitten tilted his head back and forth as he sat on a pile of crumpled clothes trying to figure out if he'd done it on purpose or by accident.
Donovan just started speaking in that peculiar tone to help Luca get back into a meditative state and try to reverse the situation.
Fine, I don't think I did that on purpose. but I'm sure gonna reverse it on purpose!
The determined little kitten shut his eyes. The fluffy, white ball sat there in a meditative pose trying to find it's centre again. Breathing, in through the nose, and out through the mouth. The kitten kept this up until the cloud maze appeared again. This time the anima wasn't drifting around in a field of coloured clouds. Or rather it was, but Luca was inside it drifting with it. It was like being in the centre of a ball of cotton. If the cotton was vibrating and sending out sparks of emotion. It was like being inside a giant, fluffy plasma globe, filled with a rainbow of different coloured, emotional sparks. Unlike when he was outside, this time the emotions zapping around him weren't negative.
Luca stared at the electric bolts that seemed to originate from him. He moved his mental hands back and forth and watched as the different coloured lighting gathered to his hands and wrapped around them dancing between his fingers. Each little bolt that touched him sent out sparks of warm emotions.
After he'd had his fill of playing with the little sparks Luca took in his situation. He was clearly surrounded protectively by the anima that had so far only run away from him. He clearly remembered it reacting to his negative emotions and swallowing them along with him.
Mental Luca put his hand on his chin in a thinking pose. Multi-coloured lightning played around him. His kitten self did the same.
The first time I transformed, it was when we got home from the library and I thought I'd given myself away. This time it was because I thought I was never going to get the hang of this and be stuck not controlling it forever. So clearly the transformations are triggered by strong negative emotions. So the key to controlling my anima is emotions? Was I going about this the wrong way after all?
Luca wasn't sure if it was possible to control his emotions, but what the hell worth a shot right? So he settled in and tried to consciously feel the emotions that had put him in this state. The effect was immediate, The lightning stopped playing around haphazardly and stretched, forming a bridge from Luca in the centre, to the outside of the anima. Luca could taste the sharp despair and bitter hopelessness that had overwhelmed him. Swarming on the outside of the fluff ball. Luca used the warm emotions in the centre as a buffer and dragged those negative thoughts and emotions back to him. As he did so the anima began to shrink until it was sucked into his chest in a spark of colours.
Luca opened his eyes to find the smiling faces of his parents looking at him.
"Well done honey, I knew you could do it," Galen congratulated him as he pulled him into a hug. Donovan nodded, a rare almost smile tugged at his lips. A smug air surrounding him Galen looked at his mate and sniffed unimpressed.
Luca clapped his hands in joy "I did it," his eye's sparkling as he looked at his parents.
Galen tossed Donovan to the back of his mind and turned back to his child, "Yes you did," a twinkle appeared in his eyes "But Luca honey you'll get cold like that,"
Luca's smile slipped as he slowly looked down to his naked body sitting cross legged on top of his clothes. A yelp escaped from his mouth and he tripped back into his clothes.