And while you are sitting indoors
waiting for the storm to pass
I will be outside dancing in the rain
Another day, another performance.
Clover Town was such a nice place to visit. Not quite like Magnolia. Out of all the places she had performed in so far Magnolia was definitely the most beautiful with its various kinds of plant life and colorful personalities. But Magnolia was rather packed to the brim with people, like sardines stuffed into a metal can. If she stayed in that town for long periods of time it usually managed to overwhelm the girl, being use to smaller populations, having come from the small and tightly knit group of Peace Village. The amount of things happening all at once was too much for her, which in the end didn’t help her motion sickness when she arrived there. It took even more effort to swallow the sickness down, and was rare to not gain a migraine from it.
While Clover Town didn’t have the same bright atmosphere it was definitely more calm than Magnolia, something Astrid missed from her life. Calmness. Her life after venturing out into the world had not let her rest for even a minute. She was always doing something. Jobs, performances, talking to guild mates or town folk, planning out her next adventures. No matter what time or day it was the slayer was always on her feet. And soon enough paperwork was going to be stacked upon it all, balancing on her already full schedule like a giant black and white mountain of doom. Along with all the other Ace responsibilities, it was going to shove into a lot of her free time. Just thinking about it tightened the girl’s throat, like she was being choked out with all the expectations she was labeled with now that she was a Ace.
The violinist exhaled outward, hugging her pink stickered violin case close to her chest. She shuffled her sitting position at the base of the tree trunk, leaning her back against the bark as she noticed she had started to slide down when her thoughts had overtaken her consciousness. The slayer rolled her shoulders back, cracking her neck on each side before closing her eyes with a content smile upon her features as she felt them crack and pop back into place, releasing the stress and tension she had gathered up in her joints. This was the first time she had relaxed like this. Or at least the longest she had relaxed in a while. She could not remember the last time she had just taken the time to sit and let all her responsibilities roll off her back. Something about Clover Town was relaxing. The crisp grass smell, the cool air, the friendly people. All of it gave off an aura of nostalgia that quickly took over the girl like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. It caused her to feel sluggish and warm, like she would be fine with staying in this town forever, looking up at the pale blue painted sky from underneath this towering oak tree, not doing anything else in her life other than watching the fluffy cotton clouds pass, pushed by the light breeze like toy boats on the water of a bathtub being moved along by the gentle blows of a child. But it would not last for long. She knew it. Sooner or later she would have to return to the guild hall, and have her responsibilities once again forced upon her. But, a few more minutes of rest wouldn’t hurt, surely. Her performance had taken place in the morning, about nineish. At least that was the time it was after she had gotten off the train. And though she stopped for a few minutes to swallow down her motion sickness she supposed not much time had passed from getting off the train to making her way down to the center of the Town.
This performance, like all the others, had gone smoothly. She played, she danced, and used her light magic to sparkle it up a bit. At the end they clapped and rewarded her on a good job done with gifts, though she refused any jewel offered to her as she didn’t like taking money from other people by doing what she thought of to be her most joyful pastime. If she started receiving jewel for it playing would begin to feel like she was only working for the money and not to spread joy, like a job. That, and she already had way more jewel than she really needed, so taking it from folks felt wrong when they probably needed it more than her. But she had noticed most of the people in this town seemed to be old retired mages, and older people tended to throw money away more easily on the younger generation. Maybe that was why she had to refused jewel here more often than in other towns. Either way, she would continue to keep up her no jewel reward money when it came to performances. She did, however, accept other things. Like food and flowers. With how many flowers she had at home she could probably open a boutique and never run out of supplies. It was nice to receive the. Flowers and nature is something the girl enjoyed a lot, but found herself running out of places to put things quickly. If worse came to worse maybe she could start decorating the guild hall with them, or make some flower crowns to give out to the members just as small little presents. Elyx wouldn’t mind… Hopefully… Maybe he would feel it was too girly. Though she guessed she wouldn’t find out until she asked.
Feeling her tiredness catching up to her Astrid opened her jaw in a big yawn, placing both hands behind her to cradle her head against the hard bark of the oak tree. The sounds of clucking chickens from the farm a little down the hill overtook her hearing as she closed her eyes, giving in to the will of sleep.
But as soon as she closed her crimson eyes, it felt as though a big weight was pushed upon her head, crushing down against her skull like a big dumbbell weight.
“W-What th- aïe-aïe-aïe!” She hissed in pain, blinking open her eyes only to be met by darkness. Was it… Night already? Surely she didn’t sleep through the entire day, that wasn’t like her at all. Her body was trained to make sure that didn’t happen. Sure, she took naps, but never for this long. But then again, what was this weight upon her head, smothering her? Moving her head back to see if the weight would follow it came as a surprise when her eyes was met once again with the same Clover Town meadow she had fallen asleep in, still as bright and sunny as she remembered it if not even more. When she moved her head, her violin case was the thing that plopped down upon the grass in front of her. It took her a second to realize what had happened. Ah, she must have fallen down on the grass while she was asleep. And while that happened the case must have fallen on top of her face, blocking her vision and weighing down on her head. Ah, that made sense. Though it was rather uncomfortable. She would make a reminder to herself to never fall asleep with the case in her gasp ever again. Maybe she could use it as a pillow next time, now that she thought about it… But her thoughts were quickly and cleanly interrupted by the throbbing pain inside her skull, rocking her brain to the core.
Feeling a red mark beginning to form upon her forehead the slayer reached up a hand to feel the damage. But was then met with the strangest sight. Instead of her normal, pale, human arm she was met with a brown and black feathered wing.
“H-Huh? What the…?” She mumbled through the pain, thinking the pain was making her see things. But the more she blinked, the more she realized the vision wasn’t going away. If anything, it was getting clearer.
“Huh?!” No matter how many times she moved the wing, it would match the way she was trying to move her arm. Up. Down. Left. Right. Then left again, just to see if she would confuse it, but it didn’t seem to work. Her words caught up into one tight ball inside the middle of her throat, squeezing at her chest. What… What was this?
Just to see what would happen, either out of curiosity and in need of validation the girl peered over at her fallen violin case in front of her. It was as she feared. Looking upon the reflective surface of the case instead of crimson eyes, silver hair, and pale skin she was met with a yellow beak, brown and black ruffled feathers, and a red wattle to match. A rooster.
What was she to do? All the light mage could do at that moment was stare, staring in disbelief at what she had become.
Maybe this was a dream? Of course, this had to be a dream! She was still human, sitting underneath the oak fast asleep. Yeah, that was it. A dream. Nothing more. What was it that people did to wake themselves from a dream? Pinching, wasn’t it? Pinching to hurt themselves so they would feel the pain and wake up.
Backing away from the case, realizing she didn’t have any fingers to pinch herself with Astrid used the sharp end of her break and drilled into her chest feathers, stabbing into her skin.
“Aïe!” She jumped as she screamed in pain, though it came out more as a loud clucking sound. Wasting no time in checking herself out her swung her head around to her side with bright eyes, ready to sigh in relief and call this a bad dream… No… Nightmare was the correct word. But as she turned her body around in a circle, only the haunting truth was revealed to her. She had no changed. She had felt pain, and not changed at all. The feathers were still there. The spurs she had for feet was still on the ground. Her height wasn’t any taller. She was still a rooster.
Black eyes widened as the truth settled in, beak ajar, almost positioned in a silent scream as she found herself waddling backwards until finally falling onto her backside. She was… A rooster.
How… Did this happen? All she did was fall asleep. Her mind couldn’t come up with an answer, leaving it blank as it failed to process anything that was going on right now.
What had happened to her?
“What are you doing out here, little rooster?” A rough voice growled from beside the tree. Astrid, popping out of her bewildered state, turned her head towards the location the voice came from. From beside the tree a gray wolf sauntered out, fluffy tail hanging low to the ground while his haunches rose and lowered with every pawstep, circling around her slowly. Dark amber eyes narrowed, managing to strike fear into the girl as she looked deeper and deeper into them, like something sick hid behind those darkly colored orbs. The human-turned-rooster instantly stood to her clawed spurs, though a bit wobbly at first as she got use to the weirdly shaped feet. She took one step back, not enjoying the rough aura this guy was emitting from his movements.
Wait… Was that his voice she heard? The slayer stared at the wolf, refusing to take her eyes off of him. The wolf gave her a sickly sweet smile, rolling a pink tongue over his muzzle before making a slurping sound.
“You’re either brave or stupid, being this far away from your coop. What happened? Not enough babes to keep you satisfied? Or maybe that damn farmer finally had enough of ya and threw you out? Or maybe you escaped the slaughtering? Or maybe…” He paused, placing a paw under his chin, looking up to the sky thoughtfully before giving her a wide open mouthed grin. “Maybe you’re just suicidal.”
Her legs began to shake with the amount of fear taking over her body. Her colored feathers ruffled, letting out scared bawks under her breath while she tried to keep her distance away from him. Wolves were a prime predator of chickens and roosters. It was a fact. She could recall back in Peace Village, chickens were killed by wolves all the time when the farmers had not been careful enough with the fencing. And now that she was a rooster, she was easy picking.
“I’m not suicidal…” The rooster replied, continuing to shake. “A-And i’m not a rooster! I’m a human!” Maybe if he heard her story he would leave her alone, or even help her, if she was lucky enough. They were both animals, well one of them was actually a human… But that didn’t matter. Right now they were animals. Couldn’t animals help other animals? Perhaps she could put aside his predatory instincts and help her return to normal. Animal to animal, in a dire situation.
An eruption of laughter followed her statement, bursting out of the wolf's throat, wheezing it out like he was some sort of chain smoker. Not understand what was so funny Astrid looked around nervously before beginning a sheepish laugh herself, hoping if she laughed also maybe it’d show him they were friends?
“You’re not suicidal! You’re crazy!” The gray wolf continued laughing as he forced out the words through a fit of cough-like chuckles. At this statement the dragon slayer halted her laughing and stifled it with a gulp, realizing they weren’t exactly friends like she had thought… Crazy. He called her crazy. He didn’t believe her… He thought she was some crazy rooster who had one too many chemically enhanced seeds at the last feeding.
Sniffling as his laughter ended the wolf wiped a tear away with his paw, shaking his head.
“You know what, looney toon? I like you. You’re funny.” He chuckled a bit more before looking back to her, any trace of a smile gone, replaced with a deep, dark frown.
“But i’m still gonna have to kill ya. Wolves gotta eat, roosters gotta die, yadda yadda.” Without any time to spare the wolf had her pinned against the tree with his heavy paws in a blink of an eye. Astrid let out a cry of pain as she was lifted off the ground and her head knocked itself back against the bark painfully. She winced back as she felt his hot breath heaved against her feathers, able to smell his rotting teeth very well, causing her to almost gag. She stared as he opened his mouth, revealing sharped, white, glistening teeth, spit forming at the edges of his lips. He rolled his tongue over them, a snarl sounding from the back of his throat. This was it. She was going to die. As a freaking rooster! This was how her life was going to end? At the paws of some wolf? She shivered, staring at the weapons of her own demise.
… No. No! This wasn’t how she was going to die! The things she had been through since she left Peace Village began to pass through her mind. She survived a youkai attack. Two, in fact. Both almost killed her, but yet she managed to survive. She took down an entire cult, even punching the leader right in the face! She’s taken down a murderer, vulcans, heck even a terrorist, and she was still alive to tell about it! She had been through too much to just lay down and have a wolf of all things kill her. She was a Foss, a family full of survivors and filled to the brim of brilliant stories, fighting against impossible odds. Even if she was a rooster right now, at her core, she was still a Foss. The Charmer of Light. The Guardian of the People. The girl who was going to kick this guy’s fluffy butt and send him home crying to his mama!
Gaining a new surge of courage the light mage’s right wing began to shine with a silver aura. And raising it, she punched the wolf straight in the muzzle. He was sent back flying, letting out a tiny yelp as he rolled onto his side. Though trying to claw at the ground he was unable to get a good hold on the earth, and began to roll down the steep hill the two had been talking on.
Flopping down from her pinned position of the tree Astrid fell to the ground beak first. Letting out hisses of pain as she rose to her feet she rubbed her break with her left wing while looking down at her right, watching as the silver aura retracted back into her feathers. Her slayer powers… They were still with her! Even as a rooster she still had her magic! If a rooster could, she would have been smiling from ear to ear right now. She had done it. She had once against beaten the odds. Her pride swelled up within her, causing a gleeful shiver to run across her body. But her celebration was interrupted with an audible growl down by the start of the hill below. Black eyes widening as she heard it she figured the best option was to get out of here now before the wolf got back up to the top and tried killing her again over what she had done. If her slayer powers were still with her even in this form… That would mean her speed also came with her too. Or at least, she hoped.
Taking a deep breath the rooster ran like hell towards the dense trees in the distance. Though tripping over her talons every once in awhile she somehow had managed to reach the entrance to the forest in no time, may it be out of pure luck or fear.
White Dragon Slayer speed sure was something…
It took her a while before she felt safe enough to stop. She didn’t know exactly where she ended up, only that she was far away now for the wolf to no longer be a problem.
The rooster breathed heavily, plopping down onto her backside as she leaned against one of the thin trees around her. Now that she had escaped the wolf, the only problem was… Getting back to her human form and figuring out why this had happened in the first place.
But it didn’t take long for her to be interrupted again. Hearing the cheerful voice the slayer pushed her head upwards, gazing around widely to spot where it was coming from. A wolf? Maybe a bear? She wasn’t sure exactly. But this voice didn’t sound too dangerous. In fact, compared to the wolf it actually sounded rather sweet. But she wasn’t going to take that chance. The rooster soon found herself on her feet, ready to speed out of the area if danger was once again within her reach. But what had popped out of the bush beside her… Was something she was not expecting. A human… A human? She guessed. It was definitely human in shape. A girl. Pink, twin tails. Green eyes. Strange and colorful robes surrounding her body. But what rested upon her head and behind was not human at all. A pair of brown rabbit-like ears held themselves highly above her head. A fluffy, ringed tail waved back and forth behind her. It was so… Animal. Yet so human. She was like Ney. Except where as Ney had cat features, this girl seemed to have a… Combination of animal features? She had the nails, teeth, and tail of a tanuki. The creature Izayuki was. But yet her ears… They were rabbit ears! It was a strange sight indeed. Who and what was this girl?
Though backing herself against the stump of the tree to place some distance between her and the woman, the tanuki-like human took a step forward for every step she took herself, making it impossible to do so.
“Ey ey, take it easy, kiddo. I ain’t here to harm ya.” The girl pushed her arms toward her like a signal for her to stop. Unable to find the courage to run away as her curiosity got the better of her Astrid ceased trying to run away, staring into the girl’s green eyes instead. A soft smile overtaking the tanuki’s features she crouched down to the rooster’s height, tilting her head to the side.
“How ya doing, kid?”
How was she doing? How was she… Doing? Why did this person care how she was doing? To her, she was just a rooster. An animal. Why was she talking to an animal she couldn’t understand?
“What do you mean…? How am i doing? Why are you talking to a rooster?” Astrid questioned, head bobbing from side to side. Was she crazy or something? Or maybe… Did she know what had happened? Was she the one who caused this?
“Rooster?” The pink haired girl questioned, blinking olive optics. “I ain’t talkin’ to no rooster. I’m talking to a human. The human named… What was it again?... Astrid Foss?”
Human… Human…? Human. This girl knew what she was? And she seemed to understand her. Did that mean she really was connected to this?
Black eyes widened, break gaping open in shock. Had she found her answer to this mysterious event?
“Sshh” the tanuki girl silenced her with a shush. The rooster didn’t speak another word as she watched the girl reach around on the ground beside her, moving her hand about for a good minute. She brought back up her closed fist afterwards, revealing a black and white beaded bracelet in her open palm.
“It’s better if you don’t ask any questions… You’ll find out in your own time…”
With now warning the girl grabbed at Astrid’s right wing. Though she pulled back, scared by the sudden movement and not liking the feeling of something pulling at her new body the girl slipped the bracelet around it.
Instantly the slayer began to feel woozy and lightheaded, losing her balance before landing onto her face, smashing her beak into the dirt. Her eyelids began to close by themselves as sleep threatened to overtake her senses. But before she could give in entirely, the girl’s voice rang inside her head, sounding distant and drowned out, like she was further away than before.
“Oh, and do me a favor. Tell that damn silver tanuki she owes me for this and all the other stuff i’ve done for her… And i guess say hi… Whatever…”
With that, Astrid’s eyelids closed entirely, the world growing further and further away as she fell asleep.
Blurry. The first thing she awoke to was the treeline above her slowly coming into focus. A throbbing sensation pounded the back of her skull, causing her to wince back. Out of instinct the girl grabbed at her head.
A hand reached up to her forehead. A hand… A hand!! Crimson eyes opening widely the slayer rose up from her sleeping position quickly, instantly looking over herself. No feathers, no beak, not even that flimsy wattle! She was… Human. She was human again!
Letting out a sigh of relief the slayer relax her posture, slumping over slightly. Was the whole thing of turning into a rooster, a dream? But she had pinched herself, and didn’t wake? And even know, she was not where she had fallen asleep. She was still within the dense forget where she had met that strange animal girl… Wait, the animal girl! She had so many questions that needed answering. Where was she? Crimson gaze turning around wildly she could not seem to spot the pink haired woman. Did she… Leave?
Remembering the bracelet the tanuki girl had given her Astrid looked down to her right hand, spotting the beaded wear around her wrist. Did this thing cause her to go back to normal? Was that girl… Trying to help her out? Incase that was the answer, she didn’t want to remove it, as much as she wanted to. She knew if she went changed back into a rooster she wouldn’t be able to get it back on again without help. And from what she could tell that girl wouldn’t come back if she did.
Hovering her fingers over the beaded bracelet lightly Astrid found herself smiling spite all of the events that had just happened to her. In fact, she began to laugh.
That certainly was… An adventure? Would that be classified as an adventure? She guessed it would.
It made sense. Even when she was trying to relax it seemed the strange and near impossible happened to her. Maybe she was just cursed to always be doing something, never to relax a day in her life. And if she wasn’t doing something, life seemed to find a way to make her.
… But in the end, she figured she’d rather be an Ace piled high with paperwork and other responsibilities than relaxing as a crazy, loose rooster. Much less dangerous.
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