Despot Dragon Presents
His world had become muddled. Existence had taken on a new meaning: pain. He had never before experienced pain like this, and quickly decided he never would again.
On the one hand, the pain he felt was purely physical, that of being rent and shunted into multiple existences at once. That pain was harsh, but it could be dealt with… unlike the other.
That pain was searing, hateful, the pain of wounded pride and emotional upset. Nothing in either world seemed to help that one. Well… nothing except one thing…
"Everything… will… burn…"
"…Ow!" Ruki's rear hit the floor hard, propelled by a rather forceful shove from Rei. She jumped up almost immediately, both hands clapped over it. She could hear Tori snickering… that wasn't hard, given the size of her ears.
"You're distracted, Makino-san," Rei chided, and Ruki looked up to see the hard edge of her bokuto halt in mid-swing, barely an inch from her forehead. She fell again, this time giving nothing but an odd whimper as she hit the floor. Rei's own long ears twitched, as she relaxed her own stance, lowering her wooden sword until the tip touched the floor.
And then she was in the air, jumping easily over a rather well-timed kick meant to sweep her legs from under her. Ruki grinned at this, one hand snapping upward to grab Rei's shirttail, and yanked her back down, tossing her to the floor just as forcefully. Tori clapped, without changing his enigmatic expression in the least.
"Ah… you learn quickly," Rei observed, rolling to her feet. "An airborne opponent cannot recover so easily." She brushed herself off, cocking her head as she noticed Ruki still seemed to be moving with a bit more care. "Is something wrong?"
"N-no," the fox-hybrid grunted. "I think I landed on my tail when you pushed me." Her own ears were flattened against her skull, betraying the pain she was in. Rei, however, just nodded.
"Then I believe that was enough for today," she said. "The bath is yours, Makino-san, we will discuss this later." She picked the wooden sword up, starting a different set of exercises.
"…As if there's something to discuss," Ruki muttered, as she slipped away.
I still can't believe this is an apartment, she thought, as she passed back through the living room to the bathroom. How can Rei afford this? It'd been three days, and she still marveled at it. Somehow Rei could afford to rent an entire floor for herself, it seemed.
Even the bathroom was huge… the "tub" took up half the room, and looked more like a pond than anything else, constantly filled and refilled as it was with hot water. Thankfully, there was a screen in place to obscure it from the door, for privacy. Ruki deposited her clothes on this side, and shut the screen behind her, before slipping into the water.
She gave a pained hiss as she sat down… her backside was still tender from Rei's push, apparently. She sighed. It was going to be a pain to dry off her tail, after this…
That wasn't the only thing bothering her, though. That Devimon seemed to remember her… even acted familiar to her. Could it be the IceDevimon that had once courted her as its tamer? But Guilmon had absorbed its data… right? It couldn't be the same…
"What was that?" she wondered aloud, sinking further into the water.
"Doesn't look like she's skilled with physical attacks, like you are," Tori mused, watching the dragon-hybrid practice her swings. "Guess we really are all different, eh?"
"The only skill she has, it seems," Rei replied, "is that she is quick to adapt. That may yet change." She finished her set with a flourish not unlike the attack she'd used to finish the Devimon, and raised her sword almost irreverently to her shoulders. "I suppose you should start dinner, then…"
Tori nodded, rather promptly producing a pen and notepad. "What'll you have, boss?" he said brightly. Rei gave him a none-too-gentle tap with the sword. "Er… right…" His smile faltering slightly before he realized what she'd meant, he nodded again and started for the door. "About half an hour, Rei?"
Rei nodded, heading for the bath herself.
Ruki's ears twitched, shaking her out of her thoughts. She heard footsteps. Very unique footsteps. Click-click-click. Those were claws hitting the floor. She sat up, ignoring the new pain it brought her still-tender backside.
"Makino-san?" Rei sounded almost hesitant… that was a first, in Ruki's experience. The screen opened after a short while, revealing the dragon-hybrid there, clad only in a towel. Ruki blinked, a bit dazzled by the light glittering off those blue-white scales. "Ah, you're awake."
Ruki blinked again, looking up as Rei came closer, shutting the screen again behind her. The towel came off, allowing Ruki a look at the dragon-girl's body just before she, too, slid into the water… icy blue scales ran up her legs all the way to her hips, and Ruki noted a faint difference in color between Rei's chest and stomach and the rest of her body. Rei had also clipped her hair up at the back of her head, giving her a different look… it was somehow more disturbing, Ruki thought.
Then those eerie red eyes closed, and Rei seemed a lot less aloof, just as vulnerable to girlish tendencies as Ruki was. "Are you certain you are all right?" she asked, leaning back.
"Ah… yeah, actually," Ruki gave a sheepish grin. "Started feeling better after I got in the water, actually…" She started to get up, and was just a little surprised to find that Rei didn't try to keep her in.
"I see," the dragon-girl mused. "Then it is probably nothing. Do tell us if it starts to worry you, won't you?"
"R-right…" Ruki hopped out of the water, scrambling just a bit to get dressed, and hurriedly put Rei behind her.
Behind her, Rei simply sighed, regarding the closed screen with half-lidded eyes. "Such a way you have with people, Akuma-kun…"
That was… awkward, Ruki concluded, as she finished changing into the pajamas Rei had adapted for her. She gave another hiss as she tied the bottoms around her tail… it felt different somehow. Too constricting. Odd… they fit fine this morning…
"What the hell…?" She was on the verge of taking them off again to see what the problem was, when she heard a tapping at the window. She started… Of course. I closed the window and drew the curtains, so he couldn't get in… A little exasperated, she walked over and flung open the curtains, ignoring the pain around her tail in favor of showing Tori that bit of exasperation.
"Ehehe… sorry," he said, as he climbed in. "Stepped out for a bit, didn't think I'd have a problem getting in when I got back… something wrong?" He tilted his head, having noticed that her tail moved a bit more stiffly than earlier.
"It's nothing," Ruki said, just as stiff as her tail. "Just a bit annoyed, alright?" She headed off into the living room, to dig through the refrigerator. "Hey, you're out of-"
"I called in for dinner tonight," Tori replied smoothly, as he sat down and turned the TV on. "Hope pizza's good…" Ruki just nodded, coming back with a bottle of water after a moment… and yelping again upon sitting down. Tori just watched, nonplussed.
"Aiya… that hurts, dammit…" Ruki rubbed her backside again, before deciding to just crouch on the floor instead. "What's on?"
"Something about a disappearance," Tori replied off-handedly. "Some kid named… Akiyama, I think they said." Ruki's head snapped up; Tori tilted his curiously. "Eh? You know him?"
It took a bit for her to regain her composure. "Y-yeah," she said, looking away so he couldn't see her blush. "Kinda."
Room service chose that moment to interrupt. "Oh, good," Tori mused, by way of relief. "Now Rei won't hit me when she gets out of the bath…"
That night, Ruki woke in a cold sweat, sitting bolt upright. Had she been normal – that is to say, not currently sporting a real set of fox ears and tail – she might have attributed it to the pizza. But this was different… she felt something. Something familiar… and yet, at the same time, not.
Ignoring the pain in her tail, she got up, crawling toward where Rei lay. Without much forethought, she shook the dragon-girl's shoulder, hissing urgently. "Rei… Rei, wake up…!"
It was a moment before Rei fought her off, propping herself up on one elbow. Those red eyes seemed to glow in the faint light that came so far before dawn. What Rei saw, a little blurry at first, was the face of instinct… Ruki's ears were flush against her skull, something she'd learned to recognize as panic.
"What is it, Makino-san?" Creepy as Rei was, even Ruki was forced to admit that most of her friends wouldn't have sounded so conscientious upon being shaken awake. Rei didn't even pause to correct her hair or the white tank-top she'd put on before bed, instead focusing entirely on Ruki as soon as she'd roused. Which, Ruki had to admit, brought the creepiness back in full.
"I felt something," the fox-girl hissed back. "Something big. Like the Devimon, but… not." She glanced rather anxiously toward the window. "Feels like it's getting closer, too."
Rei nodded and got to her feet, heading over to get a look. Having lent her pajamas to Ruki, she wore only a tank top and shorts… the scales on her legs glittered coldly in the grey light. "There doesn't seem to be anything out of the-"
She was cut off by a rather loud explosion.
Ruki put on a smug look, her ears lifting a bit now that someone else was in her position. "Told you there was something there."