It was only after a couple of minutes after Amy left that it finally sunk in to Shelly that the promise she had made fundamentally meant that she would have to change back into a girl even after she managed to learn how to change into a man. And worse, she would have to go see her childhood friend in that form!
Thoroughly regretting her inability to refuse any sort of request from Amy whenever she made that pleading face Shelly could only let herself sink on the chair while pulling the tip of her tail to fiddle around with absentmindedly.
However, she didn’t exactly lower her guard entirely and kept an eye out to the bakery that both Luna and her childhood friend had entered. Not being too worried about being seen since she had raised the window once again, she still had her eye out for anyone who might want to peek inside the car.
Of course, there was no need to say her shock when she saw the two of them leaving the bakery together, each carrying their own piece of cake and chatting cheerfully to each other like they were old friends.
“It was a pleasure meeting you.” Luna said while walking around the car.
“Hm!” Amy nodded in agreement before blinking surprised and noticing the car. “Ara? She’s your junior you mentioned?” She asked while looking at the window.
“oh? So you’ve met?” Luna said with an amused tone.
“Yes. Shelly here helped me with a little issue earlier.” Amy replied happily, making Luna give the Leviathan a warm and kind glance that made the poor girl almost burn in embarrassment. “Thanks again.”
“S-Sure…” Shelly replied quietly. Most likely not being able to look up due to her red face.
“Well, I have to go now since my little sister might get angry with me staying out for too long.” Amy said with an amused sigh. However, her small smile left Shelly with a feeling of fear for her life like no other.
Luna and Amy gave their goodbyes to each other before Amy went her way back to her house, leaving Shelly alone with Luna.
“She’s really a lovely person.” The mermaid said happily as she entered the car. “I can see now that… Shelly?”
“She’s mad… I’m dead… She’s mad… I’m dead… She’s mad…” The Leviathan kept muttering those words over and over while hugging her knees and tail closely, a look of sheer horror in her face.
“…Dear? Are you alright?” Luna asked while gently nudging the girl’s shoulder.
“She was mad with me… She’s going to kill me when I go back home.” Shelly said.
“Ara? She didn’t look that angry to me. Maybe a little sad, but not mad.”
“You don’t know her like I do… She was angry. So very angry… I’m so dead.” Shelly said hopelessly as her blank eyes stared into the distance. “Somehow, I suddenly feel like I don’t want to go back anytime soon…”
“Wow… Is she that scary?” Luna said surprised while looking at the Leviathan. Sure enough, the fear she was displaying didn’t seem to be lie or anything of the sort. Becoming even more curious about this Amy that was so much like her own boss, she decided to find out about a bit more about her later, and simply took her scared little friend to her own house. After all, cake is a very good way to deal with fear.
It took Shelly a few minutes to calm down, and while she never explained in further details what exactly she was scared out of her wits of, she at least went back to a state where her basic faculties were working.
A few minutes went by in silence as the mermaid drove her car slowly towards her apartment building.
“Hmm… Isn’t this a bit too far from the store?” Shelly asked curious after some time.
“It does looks like it, doesn’t it?” Luna said with an awkward tone. “We had a bit of trouble finding a place that was on top of a leyline to feed the portal and any other magical facilities we might need.”
“…Wait, you mean a portal like the one we took to the ocean and back?” Shelly asked confused. “Then why did we even need to take the cars here?”
“Because it would be strange if we just appeared at the building out of nowhere with no one coming to open up it, right?” Luna explained. “Besides, I had to come pick up the cake and thought that a bit of fresh air would help you calm down.”
“That last part seems to have failed.” Shelly said drily, earning her an awkward laugh from Luna.
“I’m sorry about that dear.”
“Well…. not like we could have known she’d be there anyway.” Shelly said while looking away absentmindedly.
“Hmm. We are here.” Luna said while pulling up to the parking slot.
Shelly looked out the window and towards the building. Looking at it from outside, the first thing that came to her mind was how normal the building looked. A ten story tall building with something around three or four apartment per floor. With a contemporary look to it that matched perfectly with the nearby other buildings.
“You know… You guys sure go out of your way to blend in with the surrounding, don’t you?” Shelly commented.
“Well, we don’t want to cause a commotion, do we?” Luna said. “Anyway, it’s only similar on the outside. On the inside, all rooms are customized for each individual living there.”
“…So your house is a huge aquarium.”
“Guilty as charged.” Luna said cheerfully. “Well, there are dry-areas for visitors though, so you can stay there if you want.”
“I’ll take your offer.” Shelly replied with a tired nod while leaving the car. “I think I already stayed underwater long enough for a few years today.” She said tiredly.
“Well, it’s your choice.” Luna said slightly disappointed. “However, I can guarantee that sleeping freely underwater is completely different from anything you’d ever felt.”
“I’m not sure I like being underwater that much. Kind of feels like my instincts takes over…” Shelly complained, but upon seeing Luna’s worried gaze, she shook her head. “Yeah, I know. We already talked about this.”
“Then, will you give it a try?” Luna asked worriedly.
“…Maybe another day.” The leviathan gave in. “Today I’ll take the sofa.” She stopped for a second. “…You do have a dry sofa, right?”
“I do indeed.” Luna said with a relieved giggle before leading her guest towards the building. “Anyway, Amy was commenting on how you were extremely heroic earlier. I’m really surprised you’d do that in your current situation.”
“I wasn’t being heroic so much as I was saving myself of future trouble.” Shelly said, and while she did sound serious about her words, her looking away with a small smile left the mermaid with a warm smile in her face.
“You mean that you wouldn’t need to swoon your cute childhood friend from another man?” Luna said half teasingly, half warmly.
“Not really.” Shelly replied with a tired tone. “It’s as easy to make her understand you are hitting on her as it is to make the sun rise on the west.”
“Yeah, it is a bit of an understatement.” Shelly cut her off with an answer that was clearly not what the mermaid was expecting. “Anyway, what I was doing was avoiding that those two guys got her annoyed and ended up with a smashed in nose. Which would lead to police hitting at our doors and I had to explain them what happened since Amy would be entirely unable to explain why she did that.”
“I… It can’t be that bad.”
“Happened twice last year.” Shelly replied coldly. “It would take a black belt to manage to survive an angry Amy unharmed. Which takes me back as to why I’m absolutely terrified of going back to my house once everything is done.”
“I see…” The mermaid said awkwardly.
The two went back to an awkward silence as they walked into the building. Being allowed in by a guard at the gate that was apparently a monster, seeing how he didn’t even bat an eye at Shelly’s tail, they reached the elevator, which brought some suspicion from the Leviathan.
“…B3?” She asked when seeing the available floors.
“Some of our members feel more at ease underground. That, and ten floors wasn’t just enough to house everyone.”
“Makes sense. I guess.” Shelly agreed while watching the mermaid press the button for the fourth floor.
“AAAAH! Hold up!” A shrill voice echoed as the door started closing.
While Shelly was still surprised by the call, Luna pressed the open door button, and soon after a group of small creatures stormed into the elevator, filling both the floor and the space above it.
Walking back in surprise and to open up space for the newcomes, Shelly simply watched in awe as the various small monsters flooded her vision. From some rat-like creatures to others more fantastical looking, such as a slime, a three tailed fox, a hat and boots wearing cat, a flying eyeball with bat wings and a floating cloud-like creature in the shape of a serpent.
“Thanks for the ride, ladies.” The cat in boots said in his shrill voice while nodding towards the two.
“Don’t worry about it, Doug.” Luna waved it off. “Ah, and this here is Shelly, she’s the newcomer that joined us today. And before you ask, things are complicated.”
“Fair enough.” The cat replied with a surprised tone. “Looks like you’ve had it tough today, huh?”
“Is there anyone who don’t know about me?” Shelly asked tiredly, only to be consoled by a wing of one of the smaller flying creatures. “Thanks.” She said awkwardly before pulling out her hoodie.
“So, coming back late from work I take it?” Luna asked curiously.
“Indeed.” Doug replied with a nod. “Laffula there was almost caught in the battle earlier, so we had some issues meeting back up.” The cat said while motioning towards the cloud creature, who took the shape of a familiar magical girl, before waving her wand, flying to where she had pointed just a second before and dissipating in tens of smaller clouds. “Like that.”
“Damn… Are you alright?” Shelly asked worried, and the clouds all gathered back together in the shape of a hands giving a thumbs up.
“Well, truth to be told, she’s making it worse than it was.” Doug said while shrugging his nearly non-existent shoulders. “Well, it was scary nonetheless.”
“I see…” Shelly nodded while staring at the other creatures on the ground, who were cheerfully talking to each other on the ground. “Soo… All of you work together, I take it?”
“Yeah. We are the information department, so in a way we all have to work together.” Doug said just as the elevator dinged. “Oh, we are here.”
Shelly gave the floor indicator a look and soon followed after the small critters as they and cheerfully left the elevator. Being met with a short corridor with three doors, one on each side and the last one at the opposite end.
“So, you keep an eye out for the magical girls?” Shelly asked curious.
“Well. Yeah… We also do that.” Doug said indifferently. “We mostly check on the other brands storage to see what they have in plan for their collections.”
“I’m both greatly surprised and not at the same time.” Shelly said with a raised eyebrow.
“A lot more down to earth than you expected, huh?” Doug said with a chuckle. “Anyway, nice talking to you, lady… Sir.” He corrected himself awkwardly.
“Don’t worry about that.” Shelly shook it off.
“Sure. Well, see ya tomorrow then.” As he said that, he followed his other friends through a smaller in-scale door made at its bottom.
Shelly just watched amused as the flood of critters and creatures made its way through the small entrance, with the cloud creature staying last, taking the shape of a hand waving a cloth much like those old movies when the ship or airplane was taking off.
“Do they all live together?” She asked Luna curious.
“It’s much easier to have twenty or so people living in one apartment when they all are only a few centimeters tall.” Luna explained while opening her own door. “Home sweet home.” She said cheerfully while opening up the door.
Shelly stared amused at the room behind the door, as a yellow pathway made way to a simple and small living room that was surrounded by a massive pool of sorts. With underwater lights contrasting to the lamps standing near the sofa.
Looking around, she noticed that the dry part of the house extended through bridges towards various parts of the wall-less house. Well, except for one room down the corner that she guessed was the bathroom, but that didn’t matter at the moment. She could see some curtains that hung from the ceiling and could be dragged around both the living-room and the bedroom, probably for some personal space for the guests.
“Wait, didn’t you say that you sleep in the water?” Shelly asked confused.
“That bed is for guests.” Luna explained. “Though I admittedly did sleep there a couple of times. Just to change things up a couple of times.”
“I see. In that case, I take it that I can take the bed?” Shelly asked while looking around curiously.
“Feel free to do so. But first, why don’t you go dry yourself so we can have a bit of cake?”
“Dry… OH, GODDAMMIT!” Shelly cursed loudly once she noticed she was already waist deep into the pool.
She received a warm smile from the mermaid as she stomped out of the pool.
One thing that she noticed with her new body was that things seemed to taste slightly different from what she was used. Fact being that, despite never really liking strawberries, she couldn’t help but devour the small red fruit that came with her slice and look full of desire towards the one in the mermaid’s.
Another thing was that, despite her firm desire to stay in dry land for the night, she finally gave in to her repeated waltz into the pool and decided to stay the remaining of the night submerged. At least until they decided to sleep.
And as much as she wanted to avoid water, she had to admit that being submerged under it felt extremely relaxing and comfortable. As she floated absentmindedly through the pool, looking amusedly at the underwater version of the various household furniture, such as sofas, a table and even a simple kitchen counter on the opposing side of the house.
Feeling slightly annoyed, but at the same time glad that her ‘uniform’ worked perfectly well as a swimsuit, which was extremely helpful in her current situation.
“Sorry about that. She was a bit worried about me having someone over.” Luna returned with a warm smile and cellphone in hands.
“No worries. I can relate.” Shelly said while straightening herself up once again.
“Anyway, where were we?”
“You were showing me how I should focus my mana.” Shelly replied while extending her hands.
“Ah, yes.” The mermaid gently took the Leviathan’s hand into her own and smiled gently. “As I probably had said, during this part of the spell, you have to first fill your entire body with magic power. Leaving no nook or cranny unfilled. Despite not being too difficult to do it with all your magic, It’s very important that you do this step very thoroughly, as it might be dangerous if you miss it.”
As the mermaid said that, Shelly could feel as Luna’s magic power slowly filled up her hand, and as stated, spread throughout every nook and cranny of it, including the nails. Once she was sure that Shelly had caught a grasp of what she had done, Luna let go of one of Shelly’s hand and raised her own so that the Leviathan could see. Opening up her fingers, revealing a thin reptile-like membrane that extended between them, to aid in swimming.
“Once you have done this step, your next action would be to focus on the shape you want.” As she said that, the membrane in her fingers slowly dissipated, taking on shape more familiar to Shelly as a completely human form. “Since we aren’t shapeshifters ourselves, the shapes we can take are limited to a certain few, so if you try anything too exoctic, you’ll immediately feel yourself getting exhausted. That said, even non-shapeshifter like us usually have one or two default forms that we can change around without issues.” Her hand changed back to its underwater form. “I personally have my mermaid form as its main, and my human form is a variation on that. This basically means that I slowly spend my magic to keep the human form.”
“Then, that means this is my default shape?” Shelly asked curious while looking at herself. However, she didn’t need to hear the mermaid’s words to have her answer. “…At least, one of them, right?”
“Ah, so you noticed.” Luna said with a happy and surprised tone. “Indeed. Leviathans, like most dragons, have a default form that’s more akin to what you think of. Large serpentine body. However, your demon heritage grants you your current form.” The mermaid explained.
“Hmm… So that explains why I’m not some kind of massive monster.” Shelly said while looking at her own hands. “So, I guess that if I just follow my instinct, I’d be able to change into that other form?”
“Yes, but please don’t do that here. I don’t think my apartment would be able to hold your entire body.” Luna interrupted her.
“Ah, yeah… I didn’t think about that.” Shelly said with worry as she noticed the huge mistake she had almost committed. “Sorry. So… I guess I should stay in the human shapes then?”
“I’d be glad if you did that.” Luna said. “Anyway, why don’t we start with hiding your ears? Since it’s just altering its shape and not completely dissolving it, you shouldn’t have any issues.”
Shelly nodded and followed the mermaid’s orders. Focusing on spreading the feeling of magic throughout her body. More specifically, through her head. Being sure that the magic was spreading throughout every single nook and cranny from her body, including each individual strand of hair or scale in her ears.
With her eyes closed, Shelly didn’t manage to catch Luna’s pleased smile as she completed the task on her first attempt. Once she was done, she slowly opened one of her eyes.
“Now, just form in your head the shape you want. The clearer the image, the less mana you’ll use and the faster it’ll go.”
Shelly nodded before focusing back into her body, recalling how her ears were while she was a human. For a few seconds, she couldn’t feel any difference, but as the time went on and the longer she focused, she started feeling a slight tingle in her ears.
“It’s working?” She asked in a mix of surprise and excitement, only for her to feel as the feeling receded. “And I just failed, huh?” She said with an awkward smile.
“You shouldn’t let go of it while under the process.” Luna said with a comforting smile. “And don’t worry. This isn’t easy even for some experienced magicians, and you just started dabbling in magic.”
“Didn’t feel that difficult to be honest.” Shelly admitted while closing her eyes once again.
“Well, you do have a massive mana pool, and your uniform improves your skills passively, so it’s not that surprising.” Luna explained, upon which Shelly nodded.
Once again, Shelly nodded as she repeated the previous act. Focusing on changing her ears back to their human shape, this time she didn’t let her excitement get the best of her and kept the process until it was over. Once the tingling stopped, being exchanged for a slight feeling of numbness she took her hand towards her ears, and in amazement, she felt as it ran around a simple round, human feeling ear.
Despite being a bit uncomfortable thanks to the numbness, she was still very excited about the success, and quickly decided to move up to her tail. Being much bigger and voluminous than the ear, she was already expecting a bigger work.
Imagining herself tailless, Shelly started working on shrinking and hiding her tail, however, she hadn’t even got one fourth of the way before she felt the whole process becoming… heavier, more difficult to process. It didn’t take long for her to even start sweating as she forced herself into keeping her focus.
“Calm down dear.” She felt as Luna gently rested a hand upon her shoulders. “You are removing a lot of mass from your body with this. This is a lot harder than just an ear.”
“Then… If i… Spread the mass…” Shelly asked in the brink of becoming breathless.
“Ahh… Hmmm… It should work… I never had to do something like that so I don’t know.” Luna said apologetically.
Shelly nodded weakly before trying something else. Not letting go of her current form, she quickly started thinking of a way to spend the extra mass of her tail. The idea came quickly and in a few seconds, she felt the magic doing its work. Literally.
Since she didn’t have one specific place to relocate all the mass at once, she had to spread her mana through her entire body before letting all the mass from her tail spread through it. However, instead of just letting herself get bigger, she focused on trying to spread it in a slightly different way.
Feeling as her body stretched itself, taking a more elongated and shapelier form. It took only a few moments for the weight of the transformation to reduce dramatically, and thus she went back to the previous process while keeping spreading the mass through her entire body.
“Did this work?” Shelly asked once she was done. “Hmm… I think it did.” She said once she heard her own voice.
“Oh my… Now that’s an interesting answer.” Luna commented surprised. “And you look really beautiful right now, you know?”
Shelly gave a wry smile as she looked around at her body, twisting her torso while searching for her tail, which wasn’t there anymore. While on one side she was glad that it worked, on the other she couldn’t help but be unable to shake this annoying feeling of missing a part of herself.
Afterwards, she extended her arm ahead of her, checking how much it had changed. She turned towards Luna and prepared to ask her where she could find a mirror, but the mermaid had already foreseen her question and pointed towards the opposite side of the underwater living room.
Shelly clumsily swam towards the mirror, severely missing her tail to do all the work for her, and looked at her reflection upon it. Still wearing the same idol-ish clothings that she had been wearing earlier, however the girl looking back at her was significantly different.
If earlier she looked like a fifteen years old, now she was in a much more mature twenty years old body, closer to her original age. With her voice now sounding a much more mature, and even alluring, tone, and her body taking a more elegant and fuller shape.
“…It would have been such a nice view if it wasn’t a mirror.” Shelly said in a tired voice as her shoulders slumped over.
“Well, on the bright side you can look at it whenever you want, right?” Luna said playfully, and Shelly let out a chuckle.
Chuckle that quickly changed into a surprised gasp as her body quickly shrunk back to its original size and shape, her tail and ears coming back in their full glory as she let go of the transformation for a brief moment.
“…Well, looks like I still have some way to go.” She commented with a sigh.
“Hmm, with time you’ll get used to keeping it in place even without noticing it too much.” Luna said while patting Shelly’s back. “Well, the night’s still young and we only just begun your training in magic. So, would you rather keep going with transformation, or do you want to go through water magic?”
“That’s… A very good question.” Shelly said with a slightly more excited smile.