“Don’t ask.” Was all that Shelly said as she approached the two who had come to see her. “And for god’s sake, can someone go fetch me a towel?” She said while hugging her body embarrassed.
“Hast thou asked me, i’d have gladly given thee some bathing garments from mine store.” Ammon said as she looked at Shelly in a mix of amusement and curiosity.
“I wasn’t planning on taking a bath.” The leviathan said while avoiding their gazes. “In fact, I hadn’t even noticed I was underwater until Luna called me.”
“How did you not notice that?” Alunxa asked while looking at Shelly worried. However, recalling what she had brought with herself, She quickly offered the small cup with tea to the girl who gladly accepted it.
“That’s why I said, don’t ask.” Shelly said as she thankfully accepted the warm tea. Though, being honest, she wasn’t feeling cold at all. Still, after taking a sip from the tea she felt her exhaustion alleviating for a bit.
“Ermm… Let me help you a bit, dear.” The mermaid said as she approached the still drenched Shelly, and while the Leviathan looked at her confused, her hand glowed slightly as she used her magic.
Before the Leviathan could even comprehend what was happening, she saw and felt as all the water that had been clinging to her body and clothes floated into the air, forming a large sphere that was soon thrown back into the pool, leaving her completely dry.
At the same time she felt couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed for some reason.
Shaking her head to clear that out-of-place feeling, Shelly quickly thanked the mermaid before taking another sip of the tea.
“Thanks for the tea, Alunxa.” Shelly thanked the witch as she felt her body filling with energy again. “Am… err… Chief?” She greeted Ammon, not entirely sure how to direct to her.
“Worrieth not how thou calls Us. Thou may do it however thou feel more at ease with.” Amon quickly dismissed her confusion. “We came here to check on thy conditions.” She said seriously. “How hast thou fared today?”
“Ah. Surprisingly… Fine.” Shelly said a bit hesitant. “Well, besides this last scene at the pool, I haven’t had any real issue.” It wasn’t entirely true. She did feel a bit mindful of the particularities of her body, mostly the weight on her shoulders and the feeling of the underwear digging into her skin. But then, these aren’t really issues per-se. “Well, that said, all I did was mostly train here for the day, so I can’t say one hundred percent right now.”
“Hmm. We understand.” Ammon nodded heavily while fishing something out of her pocket. “Are thou in possession of thy cellphone in this moment?” She asked while showing her cellphone.
For a good three seconds Shelly simply stared blankly at her, the scene of an archdemon holding a cellphone just seeming so wrong that she had a hard time accepting it. However, once she noticed Ammon looking at her confused, she shook out of her state and nodded.
“I think I left it somewhere before starting to run…” Shelly replied while giving a quick look around the room. Noticing it in a corner near the start of the track, she almost paled once she noticed that a piece of debris from the track that had broken off on her run had landed right besides it.
Without thinking twice, she darted towards it and skidded to a halt while picking it up on the ground. Once she noticed that it had only gathered a bit of dust and was otherwise completely untouched, she heaved a sigh of relief.
“You know… You should probably give them a head warning before doing that…” Kake, who had been resting nearby commented.
Blinking suprised, Shelly looked at him confused before turning back towards the place where she had been and paled entirely as she saw the scene. Luna, Alunxa and Ammon were all caught in a massive dust cloud and a small crater was where she had been just a second ago.
“…Uh oh.” She said guilty.
“Well, at least we know that thou are healthy.” Ammon said before coughing once and wiping the dust off from her face.
“I’msorrypleasedon’tfireme?” Shelly said while avoiding to look into Ammon’s eyes.
“Tis was but a newbie’s mistake. There be no reason in punishing thee for that.” Ammon said dismissing her worries. “Though thou hast to better get used to thy new limits.” She added in playful tone, which led to Shelly becoming even more embarrassed. “No matter. I came here to deliver thy uniform.”
“Uh? Already?” Shelly asked surprised. “Didn’t you say you’d have to make it from scratch?”
“Tis be a faster task than what thou might believe.” The demoness said bluntly while she fished something from her pocket. “Hast thy focci attuned to thee yet?” She asked curious while showing Shelly a dark crystal that she held in her hand.
“…Ermm… Not yet?” Shelly replied confused. “At least I don’t think so.”
“Hmm. Tis be taking quite some time then.” She said curious. “No matter. Give me thy necklace.”
Complying to her demand, Shelly passed her the necklace and watched confused as she did the same thing with the crystal as what she had done with her male clothes earlier. However, much to her surprise, she wasn’t the only one who was surprised by this.
Luna also had a confused expression while Alunxa was shocked, staring at the crystal and back at Ammon as if she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I… Thought that this was still in the prototype stages.” Alunxa said in shock.
“It is. However, tis be the first piece stable enough for a field test.” Ammon replied as she prepared her magic.
“Ermm… What exactly is that?” Luna asked curious.
“Remember those magical girls who have been intruding in our plans?” Alunxa said. “We’ve been analyzing their magic residues and trying to understand how exactly their magic works…”
“Can I say that I have a really bad feeling about this?” Shelly interrupted her.
“Huh? Why?” The mermaid asked confused.
“You just spoke about analyzing a magical girl’s magic, and use it on the necklace that is responsible for exchanging my clothes.” Shelly explained with a worried tone. “I can almost guarantee that it will somehow end up with me wearing a frilly magical girl outfit.”
“Worrieth not.” Ammon interrupted her while giving her the necklace back. “The magic We imbued in this shall take a shape based on one’s personality, so thee hast no need to worry.” She said. “Once thy focci are done, just focus thy magic in them and thy necklace should react.”
“Then I absolutely don’t have to worry about ending up looking like a magical girl?” Shelly asked dubiously.
“Indeed. I heard from Vivian that thou will share Luna’s room tonight, is that right?” She asked. “In that case, thou may ask her for help later.” She stopped for a moment as a thought crossed her mind. “Hmm… Luna, if We recall correctly, thou hast a mission in a few minutes, is that right?”
“Ah, yes, chief.” The mermaid replied a bit surprised. “I was supposed to inspect our underwater relays near the city.”
“I see.” She turned back towards Shelly and motioned towards the mermaid. “Thou still need to get an idea of thy job, so I shall give thee the choice. The first would be to stay in this office and do some odd jobs. However, tis would be mostly desk job which I believe is not the reason why thou have joined us.”
“Well, I personally wouldn’t mind doing it if it was really needed.” Shelly said with a shrug.
“…We’ll keep that in mind.” Ammon commented. “Thy other choice would be to go with Luna in her job. Tis should give thee a better understanding of what exactly we do and expect from thee and what we do here.”
“I see. That’s a good ide… Wait, wouldn’t that means that i’d have to go outside?” Shelly asked worried while looking back at her tail.
“Ah, don’t worry. We have direct link to an underwater cave via a portal precisely for missions like that.” Luna explained with a smile. “Though we are also able to hide or change our forms if its needed. That said, it might take some time for you to learn that.”
“Haaah. Fair enough.” Shelly replied tiredly. “Well, Don’t see a reason to refuse then. Looks like I don’t have any trouble in staying underwater anyway.”
“Hmm. I’ll make sure to teach you at the best of my skills.” Luna said with a happy smile.
“…Is it just me who keeps seeing a halo form behind her every time she smiles?” Shelly asked in a low tone.
“We believe that she might unknowingly be half angel.” Ammon replied in a similar tone, much to Shelly’s surprise. “Well then. Luna, could thee fetch us some swimsuits from the store that might fit Shelly?”
“Yes ma’am.” The mermaid replied with a wide smile before walking off the room. However, Shelly simply froze in place.
“S-Swimsuits?” She said worriedly.
“Indeed. Thou weren’t planning on going to the ocean with these clothes, right?” Ammon asked while sporting a large smile. “We shall call Vivian so she can help us choosing thy new garments.”
Shelly could only pale as she recalled the last time they were choosing her clothes.
“Isn’t that enough, Vivian, Chief?” Luna said in a scolding tone. “The poor Shelly already lost all the light in her eyes!” She said while gently and consoling the shorter leviathan.
“This one begs forgiveness. Tis not be every day We find such a perfect model for Our swimsuits.” Ammon said while bowing deeply.
“Well… I had to deal with this annoying customer… And he was really getting on my nerves…” Vivian tried giving some excuses.
“I don’t want your excuses.” Luna said without raising her voice, but letting her disapproval clear. “The poor girl is still not used to her body and is clearly very conscious of it. Not only that, but since it’s a swimsuit, she was constantly being undressed entirely, making it even worse for her.”
“…Twas not my intention to go that far…” Ammon said dejectedly.
“I might have overdone it a bit…” Vivian agreed.
“She was in really a pitiful situation, you know?” Alunxa joined in the scolding. “The two of you can really get a bit too focused on the task at hand sometimes.”
The scolding proceeded for a few more minutes. More than enough time for both Ammon and Vivian to thoroughly regret their actions and for Shelly to recover from her shock. Taking advantage that they were too occupied to make the choice on her own.
Initially, she thought on simply picking a sports swimsuit since it covered more skin. However, she quickly changed idea once she noticed how it actually seemed to accentuate her shape instead, so she quickly changed a bit her idea.
Besides simply putting on a swimsuit, she also put on bathing short to cover her legs and considered putting on something to cover her upper body, but since anything she could come up with was going to simply stick to her skin once wet, she decided that she’d have to be happy with it.
“Aaah. I see. The tomboy looks.” Ammon said while watching her in interest. “That’s also quite good.” She turned towards vivian and raised an eyebrow. “What dost thou think of making it an official line next season?”
“Hmm. it is a look that’s not really explored. We could get some surprising customers from there.” She said impressed. “And I must say, you really have a knack for fashion Shelly. Are you sure you don’t want to work as our model for teen’s clothes?”
“No.” She replied bluntly. “Okay, I think i’m as ready as I can be.” Shelly turned towards Luna as she tentatively wrapped herself on a bathrobe that was offered.
“Then let us go dear.” Luna said with a smile while motioning towards the door. “Chief, Girls, see you later.”
Following her cue, Shelly also gave her goodbyes to the others before following mermaid out of the facility. Looking a bit worriedly as the mermaid walked down the hallway wearing naught but her swimsuit, Shelly shrunk a bit under her robe.
Thankfully, the seemingly endless corridor was mostly empty at the time.
“Our job is mostly for a regular maintenance of a siphoning system that we have spread around the city.” The mermaid explained. “We use it in conjunction with a discreet magic that we imbue in the clothes we sell to syphon mana from the people of your world.”
“Syphon… Mana?” Shelly asked dubiously as she recalled the feeling of exhaustion that befell her. “You mean that you make everyone feel that way?” She asked suspiciously.
“Oh, no dear. The chief makes sure to avoid that.” She said with a horrified expression. “You see, the enchantment we use filters out those with a significant mana pool. For example, someone like you would never be affected by the enchantment.” Shelly listened to her explanation attentively, however, she became confused. Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to exclude those with little mana? “Ah, it must seem strange to you, right? Well, it is a bit counter intuitive.”
“Well, to explain it in simple terms, those who have smaller mana pool are also less sensitive to alterations in it. Kind of like adding or removing a tiny pinch of salt to a pool of water. Except for the more sensitives, it would simply go unnoticed. On the other hand, those with bigger mana pools are also more likely to be affected by changes. Like adding or removing a whole bucket instead.” The mermaid turned towards the Leviathan and gave her a gentle smile. “For example, removing too much mana may result in a Pranic-Exhaustion. Or the feeling of exhaustion by the lack of mana.”
“I see… Not what I expected, but it makes enough sense for me.” Shelly replied a bit hesitantly. It’s not like she was an expert in magic to be able to agree or deny with her logic after all. “But, doesn’t that means that you are taking away their chance of using magic? By absorbing all their mana and all?”.
“That’s also wrong.” Luna shook her head. “You see, there’s this small topic when it comes to magic that it’s ignored so often that most people don’t even remember it. But to use magic, any type of magic, there’s a certain condition that all casters must meet. Whenever we use a spell, we first have to use a small amount of mana to use as a catalyst for the spell itself. The mana isn’t actually used by the spell, but it is is needed if you want to cast it. It’s basically a minimum threshold for being a magician, you could say.”
“Then… You only syphon from those below the threshold?” Shelly asked and Luna nodded. “And there’s absolutely no way around it?”
“To be honest, not much research has been done around it, seeing how all the inhabitants from our world easily go over that threshold, it was mostly deemed unneeded.” She said with a wry smile. “But the thing is, we are making sure that those who could certainly use magic in your world will never be affected by our syphoning.”
“I see…” Shelly said a bit awkwardly. “But is there even any meaning to this then? I mean, wouldn’t you only acquire almost no mana this way?”
“Not really.” Luna stopped before another door and opened it, giving passage to Shelly to enter first. “If you take in account that their mana is constantly recharging, and the sheer number of people we can syphon at once in this city more than makes up for it.”
“That sounded really evil out of context.” Shelly commented dryly before stopping to take in the scene of the room before her. It was a locker room much alike what one would expect to see before entering a public pool.
Understanding what their use was, she quickly took out the bathrobe and left it in one of the lockers, together with her wallet, cellphone and such.
On the opposing side of the entrance, a single magical circle stood. Luna activated it, making the entire room be bathed with a bright light for a few seconds before it finally died down to a more acceptable level. With a white circle of light in place of the magical circle, Luna nodded towards her before walking into the circle.
Taking a deep breath to prepare herself, Shelly soon followed.
A feeling of nausea overtook her for a moment as she felt the magic of the circle taking effect. Once she recovered from the feeling, she shook her head and took a quick look around.
She was in a cave of sorts. A dark cave without any source of light that she could find. However, it was still just bright enough for her to understand that it sunk into a pool of water a few meters away from her, and that it had pretty much nothing else of interest.
Well, the pool of water was enough to grab her attention, though.
“Are you here yet?” She heard Luna calling for her while looking nowhere in specific.
“Yeah. It was… A unique experience.” She said awkwardly while approaching the mermaid, who reacted surprised by her presence. “Something wrong?” She asked confused.
“Did… Did you know I was here?” She asked surprised while looking around, as if looking for Shelly.
“…It’s not that dark, is it?” Shelly asked confused.
“Ah… Right. Leviathans… Deep sea dwellers.” Luna replied awkwardly before shaking her head and chanting something. Soon a small sphere of light fell on her hand and illuminated the cave. “You probably have a better night-vision than most. Let’s go?”
“Ermm… Sure?” Shelly said with a shrug before turning to the pool of water. Since she couldn’t see any kind of exit, she assumed that it’d be underwater.
After a brief moment of simply staring at the pool, she briefly bent her knees for a moment before leaping towards it. Stretching her arms forward while arching her back so that she’d land headfirst.
The water barely made a ripple as the leviathan entered the pool, the feeling of saltwater gently enveloping her as she submerged. As soon as she was completely underwater she spun herself around so she could stand up straight.
Shelly lazily stretched herself as she awaited for the mermaid to come in. Not too long after, she heard as the water gave space for the mermaid.
“Fu fu fu. You really are enjoying yourself, aren’t you?” Luna commented with a smile.
Shelly froze in place for some time while staring at her, before finally noticing that she had a wide smile on her face. Besides, why had she even leaped into the water in the first place? Noticing that, she quickly put herself back together and looked a bit worried.
But her worries soon dissipated as a relaxing feeling washed over her.
“No! Bad Michael! Focus!” She said while slapping her cheeks with strength. “Geez, what’s happening to me.” She said in a low tone.
“It’s alright.” Luna said while gently holding her shoulders. “It’s most likely just your instincts as a leviathan. Just like humans tend to gather in groups by instinct, leviathans, and even other aquatic beings like me tend to feel drawn to water.” She said. “So that’s why it’s fine if you suddenly feel like swimming aimlessly for a while, you know?”
Shelly looked at her for some time before finally nodding and sighing heavily. Once again having second thoughts about her current situation despite knowing that it was a bit too late to change, she took a deep breath to calm herself.
Only to quickly cover her mouth with fear of drowning.
Inciting a few more giggles from Luna, she blushed embarrassed before following the mermaid, who was happily swimming towards the bottom of the pool, where they could see a light emanating from it.
The leviathan quickly started swimming after her, but she met a small problem. While she wasn’t a dead weight when in the water, Michael was, in no way, an excellent swimmer, so she felt a bit at loss on how to proceed.
Changing her technique, she tried to copy Luna as she undulated her fishtail to generate propulsion, and while the results were a bit more satisfactory, she still could feel in the back of her mind that she could do something a bit better.
In the end, she couldn’t figure it out before they left the cave.
Despite living in a coastal city, Michael had never been one to go to the beach, but in the few times he had gone, he’d always been impressed by how clear the water looked. Even more after the city’s government decided to start a frequent coastal-cleaning project. Though the reason was mostly to get the attention of the tourists, the results still showed themselves.
And while the sight was pretty impressive from up there, looking at it from underwater was even more impactful.
It’s not like there was a coral reef or something in this area, and in fact, but the scene of the ever-stretching fields of sands, with the occasional algae and rocks was still a sight to behold. Shelly was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of fishes swimming nearby.
“This way.” She heard Luna calling her.
With a brief nod, she followed the mermaid as the two made their way throughout the scenery.
“We are searching for a square, purse-sized stone that’s dug into the ground.” Luna told her. “It might have gotten covered by sand, so don’t worry if you can’t see it. I’ll search for it using magic on my own.”
“Small square stone. Right.” Shelly nodded while looking down to the ground. “How many?”
“In total it’ll be ten. But they are all around five hundred meters apart.” Luna added while pointing ahead. “The first one is a bit ahead that rock there.”
“Ten… Five hundred… Are we seriously going to swim through five kilometers of water?” Shelly asked shocked.
“Oh dear. I doubt either of us would have a problem covering that distance in a couple of seconds.”
“…Touché.” Shelly replied dryly.
Once they reached the rough area around where Luna had mentioned the piece to be, the Mermaid raised a bit and started to cast some sort of magic. Shelly took the chance to look around while swimming near the sand.
“Is that it?” She said after a few seconds, pointing at an oddly uniform piece of square stone.
“Ah, yes.” Luna replied while swimming closer. “You better open some space.” She commented while waving her hand towards it.
A purple rune appeared on the surface of the stone for a moment. Following that, the sand started rumbling slightly as the stone shook. Soon after, it rose from the ground in a spinning manner, revealing that the square was but the top of an ominous black pillar.
The pillar, made of four long and thin rods in a square formation, with a larger square rod in between them, shone as a few runes formed on their surface. Shelly watched as Luna carefully examined the runes on each side of the pillar. Not having anything she could do, she leaned back and closer her eyes, enjoying the relaxing feeling that the ocean’s water gave her.
“Hmm… Looks like it’s almost time to change this one.” She commented after a moment.
“Hmm? Why’s that…” Shelly asked in a lazy tone while opening one of her eyes.
“Well, this is mostly because some runes are starting to show signs of overloading.” She explained briefly. “This one and this one in specific are almost goners.”
“Then, what will you do?” Shelly asked.
“For now, nothing.” Luna explained. “If we want to completely replace one of these, it’s easier for us to bring a brand new one later and then take this one back for repairs.”
“I see.” Shelly nodded before stretching herself for a moment. “Then, something else for us to do with this one?”
“No. we are done here.” Luna made a motion towards the pillar and it shone before sinking down into the ground. “In this case, there isn’t much we can do without risking to just makes things worse.”
Shelly nodded in agreement, since there wasn’t anything she could say to improve the situation, she simply agreed with her.
But the two of them suddenly flinched and turned towards their side in synchrony. While Luna made a surprised expression, Shelly was confused. Turning towards the mermaid in seek for an explanation for the weird feeling that had just washed over her.
The mermaid hesitated for a moment, before finally sighing and turning towards Shelly with a slightly worried smile. She swam towards the surface of the water, being quickly followed by Shelly.
Breaking out the surface of the water, Shelly let out a surprised shout at seeing the sky, now died in an unnatural glittering green.
“A barrier. Looks like the girls have attacked one of our operations.” Luna explained while pointing towards the shore.
Shelly blinked surprised before following her gaze, and after becoming surprised at how far they were from the coast, she managed to see a strange scene. Despite the fact that it should be a bit late in the afternoon, she couldn’t see anyone in the shore, despite the fact that her eyes were clearly seeing beach-gear in the shore.
However, her wonder quickly evaporated into nothingness as she saw a the scene above the shore.
A large two-headed serpent the size of a small building was facing off against a small green being, far off in the distance.
“I hope none of them get hurt.” Shelly heard Luna saying in a worried tone besides her. Her eyes resting on both the magical girl and the monster.
Truly a saint in mermaid’s clothing, was what Shelly thought before her attention went back to the scene.