TW: abuse, fantasy violence, fantasy body horror (forced transformation)

Paki's story is heavily linked to Researchy's - it's recommended you read her story after reading this one.

Rii texted me at about 9:00 PM, saying that we needed to talk, and could I meet her at the coffee place down by Shadowlawn Park? This didn't really bother me. What would probably happen is that she'd claim that she wasn't going to let me run her life anymore and that I'd never really been a good friend, let alone girlfriend, but I knew it wouldn't stick. She'd probably end up calling me a couple hours later crying and begging to get back together just because she missed my face. Can't blame her. My face is pretty great. I got on my scooter (not like the ones kids use, an actual bike) and started heading that direction. I'd see what she had to say and humor her long enough to be able to comfort her when she got sad about what she'd done.

It almost sounded like she was for real this time. Huh. She wasn't much fun anymore anyway. Always accusing me of ditching her, or disrupting her workday, or something. Rii didn't feel like the person I'd fallen in love with anymore. It was clearly her "colleague" Hurika's fault. Probably wasn't good for her to spend all her time at work doing whatever it is she does. Something with animum? I'd always assumed it was one of her LARP campaigns, but she was getting paychecks from something. I knew she'd come right back to me. If nothing else, I had her key to our apartment and it wasn't like she had anywhere else to go. Either way, the breakup wasn't worth fretting over since I knew it wasn't real, and even if it were, she hadn't handled it very well. She could have at least bought me a coffee. Anyway, I started on my way back, and the drive was uneventful until I encountered a hole in the world. It almost looked like what Rii had described dimensional rifts being like when I, misguidedly, asked what she'd done at work that day. Time seemed to stop, and all the cars and cycles around me appeared to vanish. A serpentine creature with a tuft of feathers or something on its head emerged from the rift, coiling around my arm and refusing to let go. It dug in some spikes, breaking through my scales. Even weirder, the little creature started talking.

"You're mad at someone, aren't you?"

"Well, I suppose so. I did just have a fight with my girlfriend. It's no big deal, though, I know she'll come right back."

"Don't lie to me. I can smell your malice."


"Your desire for revenge was so strong I could even feel it from the other side of that rift. And I know I'm not wrong. So, want to get back at her?"

"Well, maybe a little bit..."

"It's more than a little bit, Pacisu."

"How do you know my name?"

"I know lots of things. I am Akuoro, Thorn of Eternal Malice! I exist to spread hatred and discord, and I think we can help each other."

"So you're some sort of demon? I must admit, I expected a legendary corrupter to be bigger."

"I'm far more powerful than this body would let on, Pacisu. All I need is a proper companion and I can demonstrate my true power."

"And let me guess, I'm that companion? Yeah, no. I'm not into that kind of anime junk. Now unfreeze time so I can get back to my apartment. I haven't eaten in hours."

"Don't deny what you feel. You hate Researchy, don't you?"

"Well...I wouldn't say I hate her, exactly..."

"There's no need for you to limit yourself. You can trust me."

"Okay, yeah, I hate her. She was a terrible girlfriend, and projecting all her flaws onto me only demonstrates that."

"You're right. It wasn't your fault. Nothing was ever your fault. Now, what do you want to do to her?"

"I guess I wouldn't mind humiliating her or something...maybe getting her fired."

"What do you really want?"

"Well...I guess I kinda want to hurt her."


"Maybe even destroy her."


"Okay, fine. I want her gone. Forever."

"Great. Now, how are you going to do that?"

"Well...I don't know. I can't exactly mete out vengeance and keep my job and apartment."

"You may not be able to. But I can."

"Your point?"

"We can work together. You can give me a better body and delicious malice, and I can help you get back at your ex. We got a deal?"

"Yeah, sure, why not. Besides, you're kinda cute. My lease doesn't let me have a pet, but it doesn't say anything about demons. Can I just call you Thorn? Akuoro just sounds like a character from one of those cartoons Rii likes."

"We'll deal with that later."

Things were pretty quiet for a while after that. Thorn insisted on coming with me everywhere, but I didn't get any questions from my coworkers or landlord. Guess they couldn't see him. I could, though, and I wasn't pleased with what he was doing to me. I started getting these weird black veins that looked kinda like vines twisting up my arms, and the whites of my eyes turned back. My voice changed, too. It got a bit deeper, and almost sounded like there was some distortion and reverb attached. I got the slightest hint that something horrible was going to happen and that evil powers were gathering around me and waiting to be released, but I ignored it. After all, any demon with that cliche of ways to mark his ownership of me probably wasn't that powerful. Besides, Thorn was absolutely adorable. He wasn't going to hurt me. Heck, he probably wasn't even really a demon or whatever he said he was. One day, I was on my lunch break and saw Rii eating lunch at Zaida's. She called me over, and I braced herself for the inevitable tears and her begging to have me back.

"Hey, are you okay?"

This wasn't at all what I expected. "Uh, yeah, I'm great. How about you? You doing okay without me?"

"Yeah, I haven't really thought about you that much, in all honesty. Just asked because you don't really look right. I'm getting really bad animum radiating from you, and the veins and the black eyes and all don't seem healthy. You should probably get that checked out. Doesn't look like they're good for you, the scales underneath them look kinda wrinkled and spiky."

"My skincare routine is my business and mine alone."

"This isn't about skincare. This is about your soul. I heard that a dimensional rift opened and some sort of chaos entity came out right as you were riding home last week. Are you okay? If you got caught in it, it could be dangerous."

"Honestly, Rii, I don't know what you really do at work, but you're an adult. You've gotta stop living in a fantasy world."

"It's not fantasy anymore, Paki. It never was, and if you'd actually listened to me, you'd know that. Dimensional rifts are genuinely dangerous. Dragites have been severely injured in attacks from creatures on the other side. I don't want that to happen to you!"

I don't know why, but her statement of concern utterly infuriated me. I started having thoughts that didn't quite feel like mine, the veins on my arms started glowing red, and I think my voice dropped a couple of semitones.

"It already has. The Pacisu you know is dead. Behold Pacoro, Rose of Malice!"

A massive vine burst out of a crack in the sidewalk and lifted me onto the roof of the restaurant. It began thrashing around, and more just like it emerged from my back. I didn't feel any pain, and they moved reflexively as if they'd always been part of me. They lunged toward Rii, only partially under my control, constricting her and digging in with their spikes.

"Paki...what are you doing? I don't think you want to do this." Rii hopelessly struggled against the vines, which only tightened their grip. "I believe you can change. I can help you. If you come with me to WHAT, we can do some scans and figure out what's going on and how to reverse it."

"I'm the one who saved you, Rii! You know you'd be living on the streets without me. Do you expect me to accept your pity?" I clenched my fist, which had now gained the texture of wood and had some sinister-looking leaves and flowers growing out of it, and a vine tightened around her neck.

Rii glared at me, and the vines around her crumbled into ash. "You know, I really just wanted to eat lunch and have a civil conversation. But if you want a fight, I'll give you one. I am Researchy, head combat operative of W.H.A.T., and anything that threatens Veritas is my enemy!"

Flames began gathering around her, and she fired them at the large vine which had gotten me onto the roof. It exploded, scattering rosy-smelling sap around the parking lot. As we continued to fight, my body continued hardening, with the woody texture, leaves, and flowers expanding across it. The flowers had grown as well, releasing a pleasing scent and moving a little more than flowers were supposed to. They almost looked like snapping mouths. Clouds of pollen floated toward Rii, paralyzing her completely when they made contact. I enjoyed it more than I cared to admit. Maybe Thorn really had something with the whole power-to-destroy-her thing.

I surveyed the destruction and thought about what I'd done. I could barely remember the fight. I'd completely lost control; it was like something other than me had occupied my body. Looking at my wood-encrusted hand, I contemplated what I'd really gotten myself into. I could have killed Rii right then and there and she couldn't have done anything about it. Was that level of power really right for anyone to have, let alone me? Yes. It totally was. It felt amazing. She was completely under my control, and nature itself bent to my will. This whole plant-demon thing was going to be pretty fun. I could get revenge on Rii, get myself known for ages, and make people cower before me. I could do whatever I wanted. After all, who was going to stop me?

One morning, I woke up and my sheets were tattered. Apparently my spikes had torn them while I slept. spikes? Thorn said that I was only supposed to go into Rose of Malice mode when I was actively battling and wanted it. I wasn't battling at the moment, which means the little shit had lied to me. I surveyed myself in the mirror, and found I had completely transformed. Wood, thorns, flowers, leaves, and all. I woke Thorn up and decided to ask what was up, in the deep, reverberating voice I'd grown used to.

"Thorn? Are you to blame for this? I'm not supposed to be a demon now. I've got to go to work and people are going to ask questions if they're getting financial advice from a plant."

"Oh, I think your job is the least of your concerns."

"What did you do? Are you going to take over my body and turn me into a vengeance rose or whatever it is you are full-time?"

"Not directly. It's not me doing this, even if it uses my power. It's all you. Distorted animum will eventually bring its distortion onto its user's body and soul. If you spend enough time using demonic powers and acting like a demon, if that's what you want to call me, don't be surprised if you start turning into one. Besides, don't you prefer this? Pacisu was so boring, wasn't she? All concerned about her job and apartment and girlfriend. Not as powerful as you are now."

"Well...yeah, I do really like the power, but I don't want to transform full-time. It's so much more fun to have the whole beauty and beast thing going on. Adds suspense and interest."

"What are you going to do? You can't keep using the power without getting the side effects. Animum doesn't work that way. You're powerless to stop me, Pacoro!"

"I may be. But I know someone who's not."

I pulled up to W.H.A.T. HQ on my scooter, parking in Rii's reserved spot just for the hell of it. She and her little friend Hurika would love this, probably. Rii's big bad demon ex asking for help. Pathetic. This whole thing was pathetic. But I wasn't sure who else to call. I guess if dimensional rifts were real, maybe Rii was telling the truth about what she did at work. I walked up to the front desk, where a little black and white Sluslis was trying to hide that they were watching cat videos.

"Gyah! How did you get in here? We're supposed to have wards against chaos entities from the outside. Go back to wherever you came from! The power of Xinonix compels you!" They held up some sort of talisman they'd probably made in shop class.

"Look, kid, I'm not an extradimensional entity. Okay, maybe I am, but I'm here in hopes that I can be one less of the time. Who's the leader of your operation?"

"Uh...that'd be Xiampe. He's not in right now, but I can get you in with Hurika so you can explain your situation for when he gets back. Please don't hurt me, demon lady."

"You do know I heard that, right? And yeah, I guess I can talk to Hurika. Whatever gets my soul fixed faster."

"All right, we can do that. Right this way, please."

The kid directed me down a hallway and into an office which looked like a display at a furniture store, complete with a succulent and some mass-produced art for "a splash of color". A Sluslis whose ensemble attempted and failed to combine a lab coat and blue glitter sat behind a desk, alternating between typing on a thin, light, iridescent white laptop and looking through H thick, boring-looking book, armed with a blue highlighter.

"Hey. Are you Hurika? Your friendly greeter told me to talk to you about getting to Xiampe about getting my soul fixed."

"Well, souls can't really be 'fixed' or 'broken', animum doesn't get anything like physical ailments and...oh. I see." Xe looked up from the laptop and book and scanned me, as calm as ever while radiating a distinct aura of "What did this idiot get herself into? I so don't get paid enough for this." I could tell that I didn't like xem.

"Yeah. In case you didn't notice, I basically got turned into a demon plant here. So what can you do about helping me?"

Hurika hesitated, tapping their highlighter against their chin. "Well, we've never seen anything like this before, but given that your state is definitely anomalous, it's definitely interesting for our safety and scientific interest that we get it fixed. We probably would need to put you into containment at least briefly in order to analyze your condition and get a better idea of how to reverse it."

"Containment? Look, you little psycho. I'm not some thing for you to do fucked up experiments on. You're not going to dissect me or anything. I don't think it'd work, besides; I'd probably just regrow with enough fertilizer."

"Relax. We've developed instruments and tests which can detail changes to your soul and body from animum exposure without even needing to touch you. Now, there is the question of how you'd compensate us for this. It'd take a lot of work to cure your condition and exposure to distorted animum potentially puts us in danger, so we wouldn't be working for free."

"I can barely even pay for normal medicine! How the fuck am I supposed to cover soul doctoring?" Just then, Xiampe burst in, looking at me in utter horror.

"What is that?"

Hurika turned xyr office chair toward him, with them both proceeding to act as though I wasn't in the room.

"This is Pacoro. I can't be sure exactly what happened without getting detailed readings, but it appears exposure to distorted animum has produced drastic changes in her body and soul, with the risk of them getting consumed entirely. She came to us in hopes that we could reverse or at least control her condition."

"Hmm. Does she have any anomalous abilities?"

"Yes. Have you seen this video?" They turned their laptop towards him and pressed the spacebar, playing what looked like a security camera video. "She seems to have various powers involving the manipulation of animum resembling plant matter. We've never dealt with physical manifestations this complex before and the shown alterations of Dragite bodies have terrifying implications. We need to understand what's going on here in case of alterations that aren't as easily managed, and if we can get this much power controlled and working for us against less reasonable chaos entities..."

"I agree that we need to analyze the situation further and determine what's going on with the physical manifestations, but I don't think it'd be a good idea to harness the power in combat given Pacoro's known mental instabilities and our lack of information about distorted animum."

I was trying to act like I didn't hear them. They apparently wanted me to work with them at fighting demons or whatever, as well as doing experiments on me to describe my animum or something like that. I wondered what Rii thought of all this. And for that matter, what happened to her after I left her paralyzed in the parking lot the previous week. As though I'd summoned her (maybe I had, who knows what I was capable of?), she walked in, quite nearly literally burning with rage. She was covered in bandages for her various cuts, which were visibly charred.

"What are you doing here?"

"Oh, Rii. So good to see you. I honestly didn't mean to disrupt your work day. I've just been having some issues with my demon."

"Don't tell me that you've been associating with the creature from that rift."

"What I do with whom from which dimensions is none of your business. Anyway, your colleagues have been talking about me working with them while I pay off my debt so they can keep Thorn from eating my soul or something."

"They want work with us? Seriously? Don't they realize that you nearly killed me back at Zaida's?"

"Look, I've got nothing against you, right now, anyway. Now, can we take this professionally or are we going to have a problem? I can probably file a complaint to your sensitivity department or something."

"Yeah, and I'm sure Limina would take your side as the literally toxic demon who tried to kill her ex. And this isn't a matter of maturity or professionalism or whatever excuse you're making. Chaos entities aside, you've attacked me with intent to gravely harm. That would invalidate you from nearly any job, let alone you working in close quarters with me."

"Oh, close quarters? I can make us get even closer."

I started sending my vines toward her. I could deal with my soul getting eaten or not later; I needed to teach her a lesson in professionalism. I was just about to ensnare her and push her up against my spike-covered tail and she'd started heating up her flames when Xiampe stepped in and broke us up, immediately nullifying her fire and making my vines shrink back.

"I won't tolerate this kind of behavior at my facility. Researchy doesn't interact with the containments regardless, so we can plan things so that you don't interact. Besides, if Pacoro is truly being influenced by distorted animum, we need to take that into account when assessing her behavior. I'm sure she didn't really want to hurt you, Researchy. Now, then, regardless of our personal feelings, Pacoro in her current state possesses anomalous animum which we need to understand and poses a threat to the safety of Veritas and its inhabitants, so we're obligated to help her control her condition. Does anyone have a problem with that?" His hair began blowing in a seemingly nonexistent wind, revealing a third eye in the center of his forehead, which radiated intensely bright white light from its pitch-black core. Even given the little I knew about animum, I could tell objecting wasn't a good idea.

"Okay, fine. I mean, I guess I can tolerate working in the same place as my ex if my soul's gonna get eaten if I don't. You can 'contain' me if you want and do your experiments or whatever, s'long as you all treat me with respect. I'm here by choice. I paid for a service, and I expect to get it. Don't forget that." I glared at Rii one last time as I was led down the dark hallway into who knows what. This was gonna suck.


  • Name: Pacoro. Technically Pacisu Suriko, but I like Pacoro better.
  • Species: Sluslis - or maybe some sort of demon.
  • Gender: Female
  • Pronouns: she/her/hers
  • Age: 26
  • Orientation: Bisexual
  • Occupation: Financial advisor. And containment at W.H.A.T., I guess.
  • Abilities: Before the whole incident with Akuoro, I was just good at math. But now I've got so much more. I can grow and control thorny vines, use pollen to paralyze and poison people, regenerate damage, and make regular plants grow.

Neat = I like order and numbers and organized lists. It's why I got into finance.

Outgoing = Just ask my exes. Love me or hate me, everybody knows me.

Lazy = I'm more of a fan of recreations of the mind than the body, and don't talk to me unless I've gotten enough sleep. If I can't relax, I get even worse than usual.

Serious = When I've got something I want to do, I don't waste time. I'm an adult, so I should act like one. Unlike some people I used to know...

Mean = I don't sugarcoat things. I say stuff as it is. If people's precious feelings are hurt by that, that's a them problem.


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Adoptables Etcetera


Back To Work

My phone vibrated against my bedside table. The angry buzz startled me enough that I blearily woke up and picked it up to see who was bothering to call me. I hadn't gotten many telemarketers since the demon thing. The voice usually scared them off. The caller ID stated a number that I recognized immediately. I grimaced slightly and picked up the phone.

A cheery, high-pitched voice answered. "Hello, is this Pacisu Suriko? This is Flora, your supervisor."

"I go by Pacoro now. But yes. What do you want calling me this early?"

"Paki, it's 10:00 AM. You should have arrived at work 2 hours ago. This is your third unexcused absence this week - is everything okay?"

"I've been working remotely."

"You need to submit a request to work remotely! It's against company policy to use personal devices for corporate purposes and you know that. Can you come in and submit your request?"

"Fine. When?"

The voice on the other end paused briefly, in an attempt to assure me that it was considering my feelings. "How I'll be waiting for you in my office." Muttering under my breath, I grabbed my keys from the nightstand in a daze and shoved on a baggy hoodie over my vines. They thrashed angrily in response, serpentine mouths chomping at the unseen threat.

"Look, guys, we're going on a little field trip. I can't let my coworkers see you, so stay under there. I'll start some comment section fights and give y'all a nice little treat if you behave, okay?"

As I slithered past Thorn's bed, he crawled up my tail and slithered into one of my pockets. At least he was smart enough to know he shouldn't be seen with me in public. Despite this, he kept whispering in my mind throughout the drive to the office.

Hey. I can tell you're really annoyed with someone. Who is it? We can take 'em out, you know. We can take out anyone you want.

"That 'someone' is my boss, Thorn. I can't take them out if I want to keep the lease on our apartment." Hoping no one saw me talking to what looked like no one, I entered the office, plastering on a fake smile. A pink ball of fur immediately bounded toward me. I grimaced upon the sight of Flora. She was one of the most unpleasant Dragites I had ever met, and her overly cutesy demeanor only intensified the effect. Thorn mentioned taking her out again and the mouths started to thrash. I had to admit their ideas had some appeal.

"Paki! Hi! So good to see you! So, if you could come into my office so we can talk about your remote work request, that'd be super great!" She smiled and bounced off into a side room.

"So, Paki, is everything okay? You're one of our best employees, and if anything's wrong, I need to know. After all, we here at Rose Financial are all one big family, and we take care of each other!"

"Yeah, everything's great, I've just had some mental health issues lately which make it overly stressful to go to the office. Anger management, you know? I've been turning in my timesheets, so why do you care?"

"Oh no, are you having issues at home? I heard about your girlfriend. Well, we're doing a corporate stress management retreat this weekend if you'd like to sign up..."

"That won't be necessary. It's just that I've been having some stress issues with social situations lately and work onsite aggravates them."

"Don't be stressed! Just cheer up! Get a plant; it'll make your workplace more vibrant and alive!" She excitedly gestured to a potted daisy on her desk. It was missing about half of its petals and drooped slightly as I looked at it. Thorn snickered. Flora looked around for the source of the sound, her saucer-like eyes bright with confusion.

"Yeah, I think I know enough about plants. My stress is related to a medical condition as well, in case you couldn't tell by my inflamed skin and eyes. It wouldn't be safe for me or others for me to go to work regularly right now."

"If you're well enough to go to the doctor, you're well enough to go to work! And you know that without an official diagnosis, I'm going to assume you're faking."

"Look. I'm not looking to slack off. I just want to work from home. What's the point of giving us portable computers if we're not allowed to...port them?"

"If you want a change of scenery, we have lovely collaborative areas!"

I hated that phrase so much. Ever since she pushed for an "open, collaborative workplace", the pre-existing annoyances had multiplied. Removing the cubicle walls had destroyed my last layer of sound protection and my last shred of peace. If I had to hear the jerk next to me blasting Kid Battle one more time...that was why I'd stopped going to work after the demon thing. I didn't trust Thorn not to do what I'd always secretly wanted to. Thorn had started projecting much more vivid images into my mind, and I couldn't deny their appeal. The potted daisy suddenly perked up and began to twitch. I gritted my teeth as I tried to make my last explanation.

"Look. I've been turning in timesheets. If anything, I've gotten more commissions since I started working remotely. Contrary to what you seem to think working from home means, I haven't been playing role playing games all day. What makes you think that would change if you let me do it officially? And if Rose Financial is really a 'big, happy family', why can't you accept that maybe I don't want to be part of it? Some of us just want to do our damn work!" I'd stopped trying to keep my voice contained at this point, and was yelling by the end of my rant. Some employees in neighboring cubicles - excuse me, "collaboration areas" - turned their heads in my direction.

"Paki, there's no need for that. If you're not going to be nice, then don't come to me with sob stories. Collaboration is our main asset, and it seems you've forgotten that. Now, tell me why you really want to work from home."

The daisy exploded out of its pot, a snapping mouth growing out of its center and turning its attention toward Flora. She looked at it without breaking her composure. As I seethed, the vines burst through the back of my hoodie, turning their mouths toward her as well. I grimaced thinking about the holes they'd made. It was my last memento from freshman orientation. Where I'd first met Rii. Eh, maybe it was better off destroyed. I pulled it off as spikes burst from my skin. I glared at her, Thorn slithering up my arm to smirk, his layers of fangs visible.

Flora's eyes twitched as she scanned me, as well as judging the distance to the nearest exit. I loved it. It was always so much more fun when they didn't want to admit they were afraid. "Please don't tell me you brought your pet. Put your shirt back on and answer my question, Paki. I mean it! This delinquency is beneath an employee of your caliber!"

"You want delinquency? Careful what you wish for..."

I released a burst of pollen at her. It didn't hurt her, as much as I might have wanted it to. If it had, I'd need to go into the office again to deal with her successor. While she was unconscious and my coworkers were too stunned to say anything, I typed in on her spreadsheet that my request had been approved indefinitely, and then grabbed my laptop from my "collaboration area". I couldn't help but to smirk as Thorn and I left. This was one way to deal with office politics I hadn't thought of before.

Emotional Support
TW: sexual solicitation, drug use (fantasy)

"Yo! I have a question."

Huri or whatever was in their room as always, reading the dictionary or whatever it was xe did when xe wasn't doing science or homework. Didn't realize how right Rii was when she called them "Team Mystic personified". They turned their head towards me with their characteristic calm disdain.

"What is it? It would be preferable if it didn't pertain to my dating life or lack thereof."

"Nah, this is actually your department. So, correct me if I'm wrong, but soulstuff works with your emotions, right?"

"Yes. Changes in one's emotional state produce slight changes in the composition and expression of one's animum field. The chaos entity linked to you appears to feed on that, allowing it to enhance your powers and feed off of your energy when you or others around you experience hatred or malice."

"So, Thorn changed me because I had strong emotions is what you're getting at."


"So, if he can only change me because I have strong emotions, if I take a drug or something that numbs my emotions, can I change back?"

Xe put xyr hand up to xyr chin and paused for a few seconds. When xe talked, the first couple words were unnecessarily lengthened like xe really didn't want to say whatever xe was gonna say.

"Well...this is pure speculation on my part, but especially since your soul produces less animum than that of Thorn's natural hosts in Distortion, it certainly would not be implausible that a substantial reduction or regulation of emotional response could temporarily cause the projections on your body to subside. I would not recommend it, though. Given that you have been transformed to such an abnormal extent, there may have been changes to your physiology that could result in unpleasant side effects if an external substance interfered with your body chemistry."

"So, get blazed, no vine mouths. Correct?"

"Whatever you're going to do, I had no involvement in it. But seriously, Paki, I don't recommend it. Even ignoring physiological and psychological dangers associated with intoxication in general, Xiampe and the other containment staff would be furious and you really don't want to damage your reputation any more than you already have."

"Oh, I think pretty boy's gonna be rather pleasantly surprised if I can pull this off. See, I don't know if you're old enough to understand, but his birthday's coming up and I really wanted to...surprise him. You know how it is. As a woman, I have...needs that rose demons can't easily fulfill."

"Why do you never refer to anyone by name?"

"Later, kid. Thanks for the tip."

Over the next couple days, I placed some online orders and went to pick them up with some groceries at one point when I knew that Scooterbitch wasn't gonna be guarding the door. When the day came, Xiampe was out in the morning attending a funeral or something so I had time to prepare. My first order of business was to deal with the number 1 obstruction to my plans. I pulled a resealable plastic bag out of the old trenchcoat I used to hide anything I didn't want folks knowing about, poured a pale blue powder into an old jar lid, and inhaled deeply. It worked almost instantaneously. While my mind descended into a comfortable haze, I could feel the vines contracting and my scales smoothing out as I greeted my much-missed true face in the mirror.

"Hey, beautiful. We ready to conquer some animum?" I didn't realize how much I missed hearing my voice without a couple octave filters and reverb.

Once I'd gotten into a state where I could wear it, I dug through my drawers for the subject of one of my online orders. It was a paired set of an absolutely adorable top and tail wrap, each in a deep wine-like fuchsia and run through with strategic lacing sections that left just enough to the imagination. As I slithered toward the kitchen, I looked around and made sure no one was looking and pulled my custom ordered cake out of the fridge. I remembered he mentioned liking Tayna nut and orange at one point, and I also knew that both of those things went great with dark chocolate. There was a great custom bakery down on Broadway, I used to go there whenever I needed to attend an office holiday party to keep my reputation up. Course, if everything went according to plan, the cake would be the least interesting thing at this birthday party. I checked my watch and figured he'd be back pretty soon, so I went up the stairs to his room to get everything set up.

The place was about what I expected. Lots of pictures of him with his parents all around the walls, a bulletin board filled with newspaper clippings about strange occurrences and artifacts pulled out of the Shadowlawn rift, and a computer setup that looked like something out of a 20-year-old science fiction movie. The box was covered with multicolored light strips, airbrushed metallic finish, and stickers for various companies and organizations I didn't care to look up. Hell, he was lucky to have me. Save certain extenuating circumstances, I wouldn't have gone for his type. I dimmed the lights, pulled up some smooth music on my phone, and left myself and the cake strategically placed on his bed. I considered laying out rose petals, but figured that wouldn't work given their...associations.

I heard the door creak as it opened and prepared myself for the most interesting thing to happen to me since the transformation incident.

"Happy birthday, pretty boy. Got you something. It's your favorite flavor. Feel free to...dig into anything you like."

His eyes darted around the room, eventually settling on me. They widened, but not in a good way.

"What. Did. You. Do." Every word came out of his mouth through gritted teeth in monosyllabic sharp breaths.

"I don't know, things just got better all of a sudden. Don't you feel like rewarding me for...good behavior?" I got closer to him to the point that I could feel the air getting sucked into the hole in his face.

"Get out of my room and get that stuff out of your system. We'll talk about this later. Thanks for the cake, I guess." His tone didn't change. Not even the slightest bit of flustering for me to work with. He slithered over to the speaker I'd set up to turn it off and pushed the dimmer switch back up. I left since he didn't appear to be interested in anything but glaring at me.

When I got back to my room, Hurika was waiting for me with a decidedly unanalytical smirk. "So, I may not be old enough to understand, but I take it that your hypothesis failed?" Their pitch went up and down the scale throughout the first part in obvious mockery.

"Should have seen it coming. With his hair and the whole avant garde computer, should've realized he probably doesn't swing my way."

"I don't think Xiampe swings anyone's way. Anyway, I'm sure he appreciated the cake. That was...nice of you." They briskly went back to their room, leaving me in the hallway in a rapidly dissipating haze.

All content by Enforcer unless otherwise stated

Background edited from official Neopets SWF of Lonely Garden Path Background, sourced via Dress to Impress.