Alice frowned at the knock on her door. She hadn't been expecting visitors, and while she hadn't been busy right now, there was always time for more doll work. Still she composed herself and headed to the front door. It was possible this visitor had something to offer.
"How can I help?" she asked coolly as she opened the door. Then she froze mouth gaping.
Patchouli Knowledge was standing there on her front porch, wearing only a very large bath towel and her hat. If that weren't strange enough, the elder magicians body seemed to be lightly dusted with scales, there were fins behind her ears, and she'd acquired a lizard tail from somewhere.
Alice quickly recovered and threw out a few probing spells with a flick of her fingers. There were a lot of shapechangers in Gensoukyo. But that theory quickly evaporated. No shapechanger would have the layers of wards that Patchouli habitually carried around.
"A reasonable assumption, but this is me," Patchouli said in her normal dry tone. "Could you let me in? Remilia's towels are big enough for something resembling modesty, but it's still drafty."
Alice shook her head to clear it. "Very well. If you promise to explain what's going on."
"Acceptable." Patchouli nodded as she carefully walked in. The purple haired magician sat down in the kitchen, doing her best to keep the amount of leg that inevitably showed to something decent.
Alice caught Shanghai bringing over a camera and redirected the doll to get tea instead before sitting down opposite Patchouli. "So how did Koakuma talk you into this?"
"Why do you believe Koakuma is involved?" asked Patchouli as she fiddled with the towel.
"She's normally the person to blame when you appear half naked at my doorstep. Her attempts at playing matchmaker are rather obvious." Shanghai set the tea down on the table and Alice began to pour. "Or perhaps in this case I should say harem maker."
Patchouli nodded. "I suppose that is obvious, yes. However this time it isn't Koakuma's fault. It's partially mine, and partially my other familiar's."
Alice frowned for a moment. "Other familiar? Ah! You mean Elle? I thought you transferred her over to Yuki and Mai already."
"Mai has rather cleverly figured out a way to share contract status with a demon. While I don't think we're friends per se, our research sharing has turned out profitable." Patchouli slowly picked up her teacup and sipped. Alice noticed Patchouli's clawed hands didn't seem to mind the heat of the cup.
"I still haven't gotten a reason why you're a here as a dragon girl, showing off your legs," Alice noted.
Alice allowed herself a slight smile as Patchouli blushed a little. "I assure you this was the best I could do on short notice." She coughed then continued. "You may have noticed I don't have the best of health."
"That's one way of stating it," Alice replied. Patchouli existed on a diet of Remilia's desserts and whatever food or diet she was studying for magical reasons. In addition she preferred not to move unless someone was shooting at her. That happened fairly often in Gensoukyo, so Patchouli was much stronger now than she was when they'd first met, but the purple haired woman was still incredibly frail without her spells. "So how does this lead to you being covered in scales?"
Patchouli sighed. "I'm sure we've spent enough time together for you to know my magical style. I'm an alchemist, kabbalist, and elementalist first. Personal shapeshifting is not my forte." She waggled her clawed fingers. "However Yuki is a transmutational master, and Mai is a studied demonologist. Using some of their research I was able to learn about demons who have strong elemental ties."
The pieces all lined up in Alice's head. "And since that matches your strengths you tried shapeshifting into one of those." Alice sipped her tea. "However I'm still wondering why it requires you to brave the tengu reporters to visit me in your current state of dress."
Patchouli blinked, then smirked. "Ah, I don't worry about tengu reporters. Tengu are actually weaker than humans against curses. And they just give away fetishes with which to target them in their newspapers. After the first dozen tengu to cross a line with me got piles for a month they've learned their lesson."
"I see!" Alice slowly smiled as she considered that new information. She had a few old debts to repay. However, Patchouli tugging the towel back into place refocused her on the current incident. "Still, that doesn't answer my question."
"Right." Patchouli sighed and set her teacup down carefully before looking at Alice's wall for a bit. "I need you to make me clothes for these forms."
Alice stared at Patchouli. "What."
Patchouli grimaced. "The spells work surprisingly well. However there are three issues. One the spell damages any clothing worn when it is cast. Two my body goes through physical alterations. For example in this form I'm gained about four centimeters in all my dimensions in addition to this tail. Three these forms are suited to extreme environments. For example in this form I find myself warm despite the spring chill. Normal clothing wouldn't survive longer than a week."
Patchouli's face returned to her normal placid expression. "You're the best in Gensoukyo at creating magical clothes. Thus I turn to you."
Alice sighed. "Well that explains why you can't just have Sakuya do it." She leveled her gaze at Patchouli. "It doesn't explain why you're just in a towel."
Patchouli flushed again. "It was this or attempting to squeeze into one of my outfits. I thought this would be the lesser of two evils."
"Why not ask Sakuya to make you some temporary clothes first?" Patchouli blinked at Alice's suggestion, then pretended to become interested in the wall again. Alice just smirked and shook her head. "I'll pretend that's Koakuma's fault. In any case, you have to understand I won't do this for free."
That caused Patchouli to sober up. "I'm aware. After all I'm taking your precious time. I'm willing to pay double your materials expenses, and a tome or spell of your choosing."
Alice considered the offer. It was an interesting project, even if it wasn't directly benefiting her. If it hadn't been something she'd enjoy she'd have dumped it out of hand. "One tome and one spell, in addition to the polymorph spell you're using or something similar." Alice replied.
"One tome, a copy of the tome I used to construct this spell and the polymorph spells for each variant," Patchouli counter offered.
"Ah, of course. I should have expected you'd have one spell for each element." Alice noded then traced a rune in the air. "Done. I swear on the throne of Makai to abide by this deal."
"So I swear, by the Word and my true name," Patchouli said tracing her own symbol.
Alice nodded as she felt the pact take effect. In all honesty she trusted Patchouli to keep her word, but the older magician liked the rituals. Alice had to admit she was fond of them too. "So do you have designs, or are you letting me play dress up?"
Patchouli pulled some notes out of her hat. "I left most of the fine details to your discretion. However I fear the spells have strict requirements for the materials and attributes."
"I see." Alice looked over the figures while sending Shanghai and a few other dolls to collect her sewing kit and tape measurer.
It was surprising how used to Patchouli's notes she'd become over the years. While the scribblings and lines weren't any neater, the magical theories they contained made more and more sense to Alice's mind. The three of them had stolen and traded so many spells from each other that their schools had almost blended. Patchouli's assumptions, power sources and limitations were almost second nature to her now.
Unfortunately their spell masteries still were different. Some things required a lot of prior knowledge and skill to work with. Alice sighed and shook her head. "I'm afraid I can't do it by myself. There's no way I can make the clothes like you specified."
"Really?" Patchouli seemed more surprised than disappointed. "But you're a master at enchanting clothing."
"Yes. I'm a master enchanter. NOT a master elementalist." Alice pointed out the offending formulas. "I can make a spell to do what you want, and enchant the clothes with that spell, but I can't make the clothing passively have these magical properties. It'll always be an active spell. You'll need an elemental alchemist who's also an artificer to do what you want."
"Damn," Patchouli muttered. "I can't have those attributes messing with my other spells." She tapped the table a few times before deflating slightly. "I suppose I'll have to call Marisa."
"She's the best for this," Alice agreed. "She has more experience binding power to items than either of us, and she's less likely to gouge you price wise than anyone else who can do it."
"I know. I just hate being shown up in my own fields," Patchouli muttered softly. Alice could understand the disappointment. Marisa was, for all her impressive skill, a hedge magician at heart. To come in second to her in an entire field of magic was grating for an academic like Patchouli, even if it was a field that most youkai magicians didn't use. Alice knew as an artisan she'd be incensed if either Patchouli or Marisa came close to her in doll work, even though she respected the other two magicians.
Finally Patchouli flopped down on the table. Alice turned to the side and focused on her tea as the purple haired woman's towel loosened. "Well I suppose organic alchemical enchantments really is her field. I'll have Koakuma drop by and bring her over along with your payment."
Alice took a long sip before replying. "Very Good. I suppose I should do the measurements while we wait for them to arrive. After all your knot's come undone."
Alice closed her eyes as Patchouli started. Sure enough she heard the sound of a chair falling backwards, followed by the *thwump* of the towel hitting the floor. She let Shanghai hand her a tape measure as she carefully stood. "Now turn around and raise your arms."
She heard Patchouli shuffle around and she opened her eyes. The woman was blushing furiously, but she'd followed Alice's orders. The woman's spine was more heavily scaled, and more importantly the robe had been hiding a pair of decently sized wings. "Well. I see we've got another challenge to work around," Alice remarked as she pulled out her measuring tape. "You'll need to extend your wings as well so I know how big the hole in your shirt will need to be."
"Remilia has this so much easier," Patchouli muttered as she stretched her wings. "Maybe I should look how those animal youkai do it..."
"I think most of them just materialize the clothes, barring a few items," Alice said as she checked the distance between the wings, then the arm length. "Alright, relax the wings please." Patchouli complied and Alice checked the woman's bust, stomach, and hip sizes with little issue other then more blushing. "Now, lower your arms please." She did a check of neck and shoulder, then height.
Alice took the list from the doll she'd had scribbling down her measurements and shook her head. "You really did just grow four inches proportionally. That's somewhat impressive."
"Dragons are supposed to be big, so that comes through." Patchouli recovered her towel and began the impossible task of tying the knot properly and still having enough towel to cover herself. "So what do we do while we wait for Marisa and Koakuma to show up and shame me for the rest of my life?"
"I'm going to design something that will last until we finish your new clothes. You sit here and think of all the suggestions Koakuma will have for you so I can enjoy your blush more," Alice replied as she pulled out some fabric.
Patchouli's face turned even darker. "You've spent too much time around my familiar. She's corrupting you."
Alice shrugged. "She makes taunting you look like so much fun. And since you and Marisa both seem to insist on being flustered and glaring at each other instead of making a move on me I have to find my enjoyment elsewhere." Alice smirked as Patchouli buried her face in the table. "Try not to light the upholstery with your sighs by the way. My fireproofing isn't designed for dragon breath." Patchouli glared at her as she started sewing the makeshift skirt. It was going to be a rough work, but hopefully serviceable.
About ten minutes later Alice tossed over the skirt and a makeshift top. "It's not much but it should keep you decent while we work."
Patchouli looked at the work. "It looks like something Koakuma would ask me to wear, but I guess this is quick notice."
"The wings make things difficult," Alice said with a grimace. "You can grab a blanket as well if you want."
"Best to just live with it," Patchouli sighed as she moved to the closet to change. Alice took the time to reinforce her wards against scrying and people peering into her windows.
Patchouli walked out a little later, and Alice nodded at her handiwork. It was crude, but actually looked like clothing. "Does it fit well?"
Patchouli nodded and stretched her arms and wings out again. "Very well. My compliments on your technique. I knew you were skilled with sewing, but I didn't realized you were so accomplished as a tailor. Dolls rarely complain if a dress is too tight after all."
Both women started in surprise as the door banged open. "Heya," Marisa called out as she started walking in. "Koa's told me you two have an interesting project you need my help wi-..." The younger mage froze at the scene she'd barged into, while Patchouli quickly folded her arms and wings and turned away from the open door.
Alice glared at Marisa. "Will you ever learn to knock?"
Koakuma's eye glimmered as she spun happily behind the black white magician. "Oh no! Patchouli's made her move Marisa! You'll need to stri-Ah!" Koakuma stopped as Shanghai hit the little devil with a pan.
Marisa pulled the stunned familiar in behind her and shut the door before locking it. "Right. My bad. You were looking into clothing. Sorry." Marisa looked over Patchouli then shook her head. "Still I'm kinda impressed. I knew you have a book horde but still being able to transform into a dragon's gotta be tough."
"And has a large number of side benefits," Patchouli said as she grabbed Koakuma and dropped the devil into a seat. "Which I assume you'll be stealing within the week."
"Well, might not go dragon, but pretty much!" Marisa said as she flopped down on the couch. "And I was hoping to have the spell done today. After all Alice is going to have to take my measurements as well. I'm not going to run around naked after learning this spell."
"Drat," Koakuma muttered.
Alice blinked. "You're actually thinking ahead for once. I'm surprised." She didn't mention she'd forgotten those details herself. "Of course if you want me to make clothes for you, you'll have to enchant my clothing as well. And give me some notes to help me with Patchy's spell."
Marisa nodded. "Done."
"And what will you be stealing from me?" Patchouli asked.
"Your spell, your clothing notes, and that ritual of yours that makes peridot," Marisa replied.
Patchouli grimaced then nodded. "Well, let's start with the clothing notes. What can you do with this?" she said as she handed over the list she'd given to Alice before.
Marisa looked over the notes for a while as Alice picked out another set of fabric. "Hrm. Doable, but really difficult. It would be easier if Alice just sewed the spell runes into the clothing directly. It'd also be better to put some of these enchantments on the caster themselves, but I'm not interested in tattoos."
"There might be a workaround for that, since we're already using transformation magic. But we can look into it later," Alice said. "What patterns should I be using on the clothes?"
"Let me sketch them out," Marisa said as she grabbed a piece of paper. "Patchy double check me will ya?" Patchouli nodded, then walked over to look over Marisa's shoulder.
Alice looked over at Koakuma as she began pulling out cloth for another makeshift outfit. "So did you forget to warn Patchouli about this part of transformation magics?"
Koakuma sighed. "I wish I was so devious. I kinda forgot myself. Back when I was hiding my true nature I had to transform in private." Koakuma shrugged. "I usually used glamors. Easier on the wardrobe, and my back."
"Fair enough." Alice began stitching based on Marisa's old size. She'd use her size changing magics to alter it to fit, so to speak. "So, have you two agreed on the runes? Or will I be designing clothing based on random guesses?"
Patchouli looked up. "No, but we've agreed on the base design. The clothing should be plain other than the runic enhancement. Pleating should be avoided obviously, except on the fringes and accessories."
Marisa nodded. "We'll want to enchant the base fabric first, before putting on the runes, so you can make the outfits before we start throwing all the expensive stuff at it."
"I'll still need to know the rune placements and sizes to know what to make," Alice pointed out.
"Yeah, I know," Marisa said. "We'll need to figure out the placement as well. Like this damage protection rune here should probably be on an armband or something," Marisa said tapping a ornate squid like rune. "That way we can tweak it if needed."
Patchouli rolled her eyes. "Tweak it with what? We know what element it will need to resist. I think you are being overly cautious here."
"Marisa the conservative one? That's a rarity," Alice said.
"Yeah, well I'm thinking ahead for myself," Marisa said. "Patchy here might be a dragon, but I'll bet we'll end up as different hybrids. Locking ourselves into a generic spell is a bad plan."
Koakuma stretched. "Why not do your transformation then, Marisa? Alice can make Patchouli's outfit, while you see what you'll transform into, then you can design your own rune set."
"Hrm, while I still think it's unnecessary, that sounds like a good plan," Patchouli mused. "Let's get together the runes I'll need, then I'll help you through the spell."
Alice moved to look over as Marisa sketched out several runes. "These two sets need to be separate, so it'll have to be a two piece outfit."
"Right," Alice pulled out a sheet of paper for herself. "I'll make a few designs then. You can pick the one you like Patchouli."
As she began creating the outlines for a few outfits, she listened in on Marisa and Patchouli as the elder mage showed Marisa the transformation spell.
"Alright this looks like Mai's stuff, but where's the demon name?" Marisa asked as she tapped on the parchment.
Patchouli tapped another part of the paper lightly with her claws. "This part of the ritual matches the demonic form closest suited to your personality and desires."
"And what if that changes? People aren't exactly consistent you know," Marisa asked.
Patchouli shrugged. "Unless you really despise the form, it will become part of your self image, meaning even if you change, you'll still transform into that entity. Even assuming you change a lot you should get a good fifty years out of the clothing."
"I'm more interested in what monster Marisa will become," Koakuma said. It seemed the familiar had recovered from being stunned earlier. "That spell's fire based so it won't be the really interesting transformations, but there's still so many fun options!"
Marisa gave the devil a look, before turning back to Patchouli. "Koakuma didn't help with this rune that reads what you want right?"
"No," Patchouli said. "It's an old spell that the Norse developed. So you don't need to worry about ending up a succubus yourself due to an 'accident'."
"Unfortunately," Koakuma sighed.
Alice finished her first design and grabbed another piece of paper. "As hilarious as your efforts to get Marisa and Patchouli to turn red are Koakuma, is there something I can do to keep you occupied while we work?"
"Ah! That's right!" Alice started as Koakuma rushed over to her. "Do you have grey ash berries?!"
"Of course. They're the best component for boosting the explosions of gunpowder-" Alice's eyes grew wide. "Wait! Ash berry pie!"
Koakuma grabbed her hands and pumped them up and down while Shanghai spun around the two sprinkling confetti. "Exactly! I knew you'd understand, Alice! Let's make some!"
"Pie?" Patchouli blinked in confusion.
Marisa shook her head in confusion. "The way they're acting it's the secret to eternal bliss instead of a dessert."
"Not eternal bliss, but temporary bliss," Alice replied. Shanghai put on some glasses as she continued. "While ash berries are on their own woody and bitter, when properly heated they gain a sweet and sour taste, with a creamy texture. It's one of the greatest delicacies of Makai, and is traditionally eaten during the creation day ceremonies."
Koakuma nodded happily along. "It keeps well too, so there's usually enough even for lesser devils like me and my sisters."
"While interesting, I fail to see what this pie has to do with our current endeavors," Patchouli said.
"Because properly heating them requires dragon breath," Alice replied. Shanghai pointed at Patchouli as three more dolls brought in a bowl of the berries. "And you are a dragon."
Patchouli looked at the bowl. "Well, I suppose I can help."
"Anything that makes both Alice and Koakuma that excited has to be pretty interesting," Marisa said peering at the berries.
"I can think of something else that would excite us both," Koakuma purred.
Shanghai whacked the devil with a book. "It really is a unique experience," Alice said.
Patchouli shrugged, then breathed on the bowl. Alice's dolls moved back as blue white flames engulfed the ash berries. Alice winced as the cheap pottery deformed, but that was the reason she chose the bowl. More importantly the small round grey berries turned gold and grew small bumps.
"Thank you," Alice said as she had her dolls cart the delicacy over to the kitchen. "Koakuma do you know where the flour is?"
"Yes you showed me last time. And the eggs as well." Koakuma stepped into the kitchen to begin cooking. Alice sent a few helper dolls over to make sure the devil didn't get in over her head, then started the next design.
"Well that was interesting." Marisa said as she stood up and walked towards the back room. "Anyway, let's give this spell a shot. You have a spare towel Alice?"
"I do, but if you've improved your size alteration magics you can use this," Alice said as she tossed the makeshift top and skirt she'd sewn up.
"Hrm," Marisa considered the matter a bit before picking up the clothing. "A foot or less shouldn't be a problem."
Koakuma poked her head out. "I can help with the fitting!"
"Weren't you baking?" Marisa said, causing the devil to pout and retreat. "Anyway I'll be transformed and out in a bit." She walked into the side room and shut the door.
Alice looked over at her designs then at Patchouli. "Actually... how much do you care about clothing Patchouli?"
Patchouli looked surprised by the question. "What do you mean? Obviously it's useful for keeping me covered."
"Yes. I've noticed you prefer to just a pull on nightgown normally. Which is good for being covered, but hardly the pinnacle of fashion or function," Alice pointed out. "What I'm asking is, do you want clothing that looks good or provides function but requires some time to put on, or just something you can throw on so you aren't walking around naked? There's no point to me designing something intricate if you're just going to wear it once then give up on the spell because you're too lazy to deal with all the laces and buckles."
Patchouli frowned at the comment, but actually seemed to consider the matter. "While I admit I don't pay much attention to dressing up normally, I do recognize the importance of proper clothing in some situations. So long as there's a functional reasoning I'll just consider the dress part of the spell ritual."
"Right." Alice made some notes. "I'll try to keep it easy to put on or take off. And on that note, what level of exposure are you willing to accept? Nineteenth century prude, modern makai, beachwear or something Koakuma might suggest."
Koakuma popped her head out again. "Ooh! Ooh! Pick door number four!"
Patchouli flicked a harmless firebolt into her familiar's forehead. "Nothing worse then the third, unless the perversity of the universe demands it."
Alice smirked. "I doubt it, but I needed to make sure you were paying attention. I'll do my best to keep it reasonable."
"What the hell?!" Everyone jumped at Marisa's outburst. Shanghai moved to peer at the door, while Koakuma looked out from the kitchen.
"What's happened Marisa?" Alice asked. She hoped nothing had gone wrong with the spell.
There was a creak as Marisa poked her head out, revealing her hair had gained a crimson tint. Her skin also seemed a little more ruddy, and had a sheen to it. She'd also gotten some fins behind her ears but they looked different then Patchouli's. "This spell of yours is a mess, Patchy! What the heck did you end up turning me into? This isn't even a fire form!"
Patchouli blinked at the accusation. "What are you talking about. It looks like you received a similar transformation to me."
"Similar my ass. I'm covered in slime!" Marisa pushed open the door. While her transformation looked similar to Patchouli's there was a soft look to the red and yellow scale patches, and her skin shimmered with the liquid that had soaked through the clothes Alice had given her. The witch woman did her best to gesture angrily at Patchouli while covering her chest. "What nonsense did you hand me?"
"My spell isn't nonsense," Patchouli huffed. "It worked perfectly. You just seem to have turned into a Salamander." Her mouth twitched into a smile. "A perfect form for a slimy thief like you."
"How is an amphibian a fire creature?" Marisa snapped.
Alice shook her head in exasperation while Marisa fumed. "Westerners assumed that Salamanders were creatures of fire for a variety of weird reasons. I'm guessing that because you don't see a need to produce fire, you wanted a form that was immune to fire and had a number of other abilities. That mucus covering you can probably swap between healing properties, poison and a number of other abilities."
Marisa picked up a spare towel and draped it over her chest. "Well isn't that wonderful. Too bad it also means I'm covered in slime."
"Very useful and expensive slime," Patchouli said. "You've found a form you can use to make money without waiting for your scales to fall of. Very Marisa."
"If the stuff is so wonderful, I'm sure you won't mind a hug," Marisa shot back.
"You can hug me~!" Koakuma called from the kitchen. All the magicians shook their head at that.
Alice handed over a sheaf of papers. "Either way, you'll want waterproofing runes."
"I guess so." Marisa started scribbling notes down. "Hope you can live with slime on your seats."
Alice pointed to the door. "It looks like the mucus mostly sticks to you. Cleaning should be easy. Just don't think poisonous."
"I suppose it will have some uses," Marisa mused as she continued work.
"Uses I'll regret you figuring out later," Patchouli sighed. "Since this form is the one you'll want the most. Eventually."
"Seems more like the form Koakuma would want the most," Marisa muttered. But the initial annoyance was gone.
Seeing that problem was dealt with Alice looked back towards the kitchen. "How's the pie coming Koakuma?"
"Almost ready to start baking," Koakuma replied. "Just need to finish getting the crust ready."
"So another half hour then?" Alice asked.
Marisa looked up from her notes. "A half hour? Is that with cooling?"
"Five seconds to cook, the rest to cool," Koakuma said. "The berries were heated with dragon's breath, remember."
"I'm not sure if I should give the recipe to Sakuya or use it as a way to keep Koakuma busy," Patchouli muttered.
Alice stifled a laugh, then stood. "Well while you two play with runes, I should practice the spell myself. Marisa can I see your runework?"
"I'm not done with..." Marisa frowned then nodded in understanding. "Oh you mean the notes for the spell itself. Sure here you are."
"Thank you." Alice looked down at the scrawl. It worried her that Marisa's messy notes made almost as much sense as Patchouli's, but given the number of spells the trio had shared it was almost inevitable. "I guess we really are a coven," she muttered to herself.
"Hm?" Patchouli looked over. "Did you say something?"
Shanghai ducked down behind her. "Nothing. Just figuring out this spell." She stood. "I suppose it's time for my transformation."
"So quickly?" Patchouli asked.
Alice nodded. "Between you and Marisa it's easy to pick out the spell from the insanity. Now I just need to roll the dice for what form I get."
"Try for succubus!" yelled Koakuma from the kitchen. Alice rolled her eyes while Shanghai waved a golf club menacingly.
"Hope you get something better then me," Marisa said. "I'm done with my runes, so we can move on to picking designs when we get your runes together. Maybe even get to making the cloth."
Koakuma walked in from the kitchen. "The pie's baking, so I'll just sit here and draw my own designs for the clothes you should wear. Maybe watch Miss Patchouli and Marisa gawk at your new and improved body."
"Of course. Well I'd best transform quickly so they can recover by the time the pie cools," Alice smirked and walked into her room as the other two magicians sputtered.
The door safely closed, she took off her clothes before looking over the notes again. The spell was complex, but she'd learned most of its components already. She focused on the intricate runework of the unfamiliar parts for a bit, then began the incantation.
The spell took a bit of time to form, but it snapped together nicely halfway through. There was a moment of disorientation, and a darkness over her eyes as it completed, but that was normal with transmutations. As Alice's sight recovered she saw herself in the dressing room mirror, but there wasn't any huge changes to her visible form.
Alice blinked and stretched, then froze as she realized there was a lot of stretch there. Slowly she looked down. She was bigger, but more obviously her legs had fused together into a snake tail with red scales and a white underbelly. She followed her new body back around one, then two loops. Her snake half was at least twenty feet long, and only slightly slimmer than her hips for most of it.
"Well then," Alice muttered. "I guess it'll be a dress for me."
She magically increased the size of the skirt and top she'd brought in and put them on. Her frown deepened as she realized her new clothing did nothing to keep her warm. "Stupid cold blood." Shanghai picked up a cardigan, but Alice waved her away. She didn't want to damage the expensive sweater.
With a sigh she slithered out of the room. "Well. I think I've got some designs to rework."
Alice took some comfort in how the entire room just stopped and stared. She took advantage of their stunned silence to slither over to the table and put aside her chair. "So, apparently naga are fire related."
Marisa blinked. "Uh. Wow. Yeah."
Patchouli shook her head, then smirked. "Well. It seems I'm not the only one who gained a few pounds."
Alice's tail lashed out and lightly tapped Patchouli on the back of the head. "Ha ha ha. Keep that up and I will take Koakuma's design for your outfit."
"Oh! Oh!" Koakuma waved a sheaf of papers over her head. "I've already got some great ones! Especially since Marisa reminded me that you can add magic tattoos during transformations!"
"I'll be good," Patchouli replied with a glare at her familiar.
Marisa gave the devil a sidelong glance. "This is all part of your plan to have Makai rule the magical world isn't it?"
Koakuma pouted. "Marisa, please. I'm doing this because it's fun!"
All three magicians sighed. "Devils."
Alice coiled up to preserve her heat, and was pleased at how natural the movement was. She had been a little worried about acclimating to the new form's movements, though that meant there might be some problems with instinctual reactions. She'd have to keep an eye out for that. "So now that we've all transformed, what do we need to start on? Other than finding a kotatsu?"
Marisa started scribbling out runes. "Your form shouldn't require anything too different from what Patchy and I need, so we can work off the old material plans. Just need a few heating runes on it."
Patchouli looked over the pages of calculations. "Very well then. The first thing we'll need is silk."
"You mean spider silk," Marisa pointed out.
"Spider silk?" Patchouli glared at the other magician. "That seems like an extravagance worthy of Remilia. Why would we need spider silk?"
Alice grimaced. "It would be costly."
"Yeah but if you want some heating on your clothing you're gonna need it," Marisa said. "And I want some water proofing so I'm not in sopping wet rags all the time."
Patchouli glared at Marisa, "There's no way that spell needs spider silk instead of regular silk!"
"Well we could use regular silk, but then you'd have to use powdered diamond for the runes, which means we might as well ask Koakuma to design the outfits, since we won't be able to afford anything larger," Marisa snapped.
Alice sighed as Patchouli snatched Marisa's notes. "Let me see those calculations! There's no way that's right!"
Marisa slammed the notes in front of the other witch. "Well if you find a way past the bad reaction between cyclical runes and normal silk I'll-"
As the two magicians fought, Koakuma wandered over behind Alice. "They're at it again," the devil said.
"Hm? What are you acting so serious about?" Alice replied. "This is them getting along rather well. You know Patchouli loves fighting over magical minutia, and Marisa enjoys showing up Patchouli when she's right. It's good to see them having fun together."
"I guess that's true," Koakuma gave the fight a long look. Currently they were pulling out books to cite their arguments. Alice gave them about fifteen more minutes of that before they started trying to attack each other's sources. The little devil cheered up. "I guess that's step one of my grand plan finished! One third of the way there!"
Alice reached out with her tail and grabbed Koakuma. As the little devil yelped Alice drew her in close. "I'd say you're almost halfway there. Though I'm a little hurt you forgot that you needed to convince me."
Koakuma stared at her, then over at where Patchouli and Marisa were still arguing. Neither of the two magicians had noticed. A smile slowly grew on Koakuma's face. "Does that mean I can fondle your boobs then, Alice?"
"Later," Alice said, looked down at the devil. "Right now I need you to be a good devil for once, and do something that isn't trying to embarrass and arouse one of us magicians. Also provide me with heat so I stop being so lethargic."
Alice could see Koakuma's mind racing over all the things she wanted to say, but finally she decided to actually listen to Alice's unspoken advice. The little devil was far more clever than she sometimes seemed. "What can I help with?"
"I want your assistance with designs," Alice said. "Legitimate designs that Marisa and Patchouli would feel comfortable wearing all the time. We both know you're capable of making something that looks good without cutting chunks out for blatant sex appeal. Prove it to Marisa. She might have forgotten."
Koakuma took the paper and pencil Shanghai handed her. "Alice, are you trying to manipulate a demon?"
Alice smirked. "I've been manipulating demons since I was five."
"Sorry, princess," Koakuma replied, but for once there wasn't any reverence attached to the title. Alice was pleased.
It helped that the little devil was pretty warm. Alice really did need the body heat.
The two worked together while Patchouli and Marisa argued the merits of various spells, reagents and clothes, occasionally diverging into rants about the basics of magic or attacks on the character of dead wizards.
Finally the complaints got serious. "Damn it Patchy, if we don't use ruby dust there's no point in making the clothes at all!"
"Cinnabar should work just as well, if not better," Patchouli snapped.
Marisa jabbed her finger at Patchouli. "You might not care about your body getting weaker but I-!"
Alice let go of Koakuma and reached out with her tail to grab the two other magicians. The two yelped in surprise as they were pulled together. "Alright you two, play nice. What have you agreed on?"
The two women squirmed a bit in Alice's grasp as Shanghai waved around a paper fan menacingly. Patchouli spoke first. "We agree on everything except the primary ingredient of the dye."
"I want super expensive ruby dust, Patchy wants cheap deadly poison," Marisa said.
"I have access to cheap rubies," Alice admitted. "Let's go with that."
"Very well," Patchouli said. "Now will you let us go before Marisa's slime soaks through my clothes?"
Alice smirked. "Kiss and make up first."
The two turned bright red. Patchouli seemed to be considering it, but Marisa squirmed in her coils. "Alice..."
"Sorry." Alice pulled her tail back over to her side of the table. Maybe she had been hanging around Koakuma too much.
"The pie's done!" Koakuma said, saving everyone from awkward silence.
Shanghai spun in excitement, as Alice sent dolls to grab plates. "Thank you Koakuma. Shall we have tea as well?"
Marisa resettled into her seat. "Sure."
"Me as well," Patchouli said.
Alice got a nod from Koakuma, so she sent her dolls to grab four cups of tea. As they set about the task, Alice organized her papers so they wouldn't get too damaged from eating. "Here's the designs we have. Look them over to see if Koakuma and I missed any required runes."
"Wait Koakuma actually made some of these?!" Marisa looked at the sketches nervously.
"I'm sure one of my cousins could have done better, but I think you'll like the designs," Koakuma said as she handed out slices of pie.
As Marisa stared at the sketches, Alice took a bite from her pie. Memories of home surfaced as the creamy sweet and sour mix hit her tongue. She'd really missed this pie. And surprisingly it was every bit as good as she remembered it. "Good work, Koakuma."
Koakuma looked like she'd been selected for the Makai founding day ball. "Ah~. It's even better fresh." She spun around then latched onto Patchouli's shoulder. "What do you think?"
"More sour than Remilia's dishes," Patchouli said as she finished a bite. "But still sweet. I wouldn't mind using this transformation to make more."
Marisa shook her head after taking a big bite of the pie. "Alright, 'fess up you two. When did you switch bodies?"
Alice felt her tail twitch at that. "What?"
Marisa jabbed her fork at Alice. "Koakuma's been playing happy homemaker and drawing fairly reasonable outfits, while you've been flirting shamelessly and have given Patchouli something that looks like one of the outfits from Sanae's seinen manga. And looking at the second outfit you made for me, the anti dampness charm will fail leaving me in a wet shirt and shorts." Marisa looked suspiciously between the two. "The only explanation that makes sense is you and Koakuma switched bodies."
Alice and Koakuma looked at each other. Then Alice folded her hands beside her head. "Kyaa~, Marisa found out! The gig is up!"
Koakuma rolled her eyes while Alice had Shanghai shrug next to her. "Ha ha ha. You've had your fun, Alice. Marisa I'm not that out of character am I?"
Now both of the other women were staring at them. Patchouli narrowed her eyes. "That is terrifying. Please stop."
Both Koakuma and Alice burst into giggles. The expressions on their faces were too good. Even Alice couldn't keep her composure. Patchouli and Marisa glowering with surprisingly similar faces was something inherently ridiculous.
Finally Marisa sighed and went back to the pie. "We're doomed."
"Yes," Patchouli agreed with a resigned shake of her head. "You should just confess to both of them so we can get on with our eternal suffering."
Marisa turned bright crimson, but managed not to choke on her tea. "Maybe when I'm not covered in slime."
Alice felt warmth filling her own cheeks and she turned back to her pie. The magician froze though as Koakuma sidled up next to her and whispered into her ear. "Too bad. That slime might be fun. Maybe next time~"
She burst out coughing at that while Koakuma grinned happily. Alice considered using her tail to enact some revenge on the familiar, but it seemed a bad long term plan. Instead she ignored the other two magicians' glances and grabbed the design Marisa had called out.
Sure enough she'd made a simple mistake. She mentally kicked herself before noticing her penmanship was faltering as well. "This cold is getting to me," she muttered.
There was a clatter as Marisa placed her hakkero on the table, and then the air began to warm. "Should have handled that earlier. You know new spells can be dangerous."
"It's hard to tell. This body just seems to treat it as normal." Alice replied. She held her hands out towards the warmth and she swore she could feel her mind speeding up. "I wonder if it was trying to get me to hibernate?"
Marisa and Patchouli looked at each other then both sidled around the table to sit next to her. "Well, we can't have that," Patchouli said.
"It'd be bad if you were sleeping on the job," Marisa muttered.
Koakuma hopped on her back. "Ooh! Can I strip down and snuggle too~?"
Alice had Shanghai whap her with the paper fan while sending some of her other dolls for a blanket. "Finish your pie." She followed her own advice, savoring the treat. It really was better than her memories. "We should get together again on Founding Day to make this."
"Maybe in the Mansion?" Patchouli said. "It sounds like one of the few holidays Remilia wouldn't complain about. We might be able to get Sakuya to cater a larger meal."
Marisa leaned a little more against her. "I kinda like the homey feel. The mansion's a little big."
Koakuma poked the short witch with a wing. "Oooh, you prefer a more intimate meeting place~? Someplace where you can sneakily rest on cute girls' shoulders without anyone else noticing~?"
"Alright. Fine. Enough of this," Alice started as Marisa dispelled her transformation. She felt Marisa's arms circle around her, then her mouth was caught in a fierce kiss.
For such a huge tsundere, Marisa was an accomplished kisser. She pressed her body fully against Alice, allowing Alice to feel the smaller woman's body, while at the same time distracting Alice with her tongue. Alice had to fight down the urge to wrap around her and keep squeezing Marisa close.
When they finally broke apart Alice smiled. "About time." She squeezed Marisa close to her for a long second before letting go and letting her eyes flicker over to where Koakuma was staring open mouthed. "Well, finish the job."
Marisa's blush deepened, but she nodded before flinging herself onto the succubus girl. Koakuma let off a happy "Mpmh~!" as Marisa claimed her lips in a kiss.
Alice turned from the two to lean towards Patchouli who was radiating heat like Marisa's hakkero at this point. "So, ready for your own confession?"
Patchouli hesitated a moment before leaning forward. "I'll stay transformed so my clothes stay on," she murmured before closing her eyes.
"Yes. We can fix that later tonight," Alice whispered before finishing the kiss.
Patchouli's kiss was light and breathless, lips and tongue reaching for each other. Not as passionate as Marisa's, but surprisingly romantic for the bookish magician. Alice made a note to switch styles between the two girls later.
When they finished Marisa had managed to extract herself from Koakuma's grabby arms. Patchouli moved to pin the familiar again, while Marisa slipped back to Alice's side, still blushing bright red. Alice put an arm around the other woman's shoulder. "Well now. That wasn't too hard was it?"
"I'm going to catch fire and die of embarrassment," Marisa muttered.
Alice caught Shanghai bringing over a glass of water to dump on Marisa and had the doll set it down on the table instead. "I thought you did just fine. You did well enough that Patchouli is trying to one up you with Koakuma at least," she said, tapping the purple haired magician's back to make the point. "You don't have any regrets right?"
"No," Marisa said quickly and clearly. She rested on Alice's arm. "None at all."
Patchouli and Koakuma pulled themselves upright and moved to let Koakuma place a wing around Marisa and her master. As Koakuma sat there beaming, Patchouli coughed and said, "So should we finish the clothing discussion tomorrow?"
"Of course," Alice replied. "You can all stay the night."