The crystal was still giving her that tingly feeling as she held it, but something was definitely different. She could feel as the tingles merged with the smoother energy that now sat inside her and was subsumed by it. It felt like the crystal's energy was helping her recover faster, and perhaps increasing her energy-strength overall? She wasn’t sure just yet, but it seemed good.

The thinker’s scent interrupted her thoughts surprisingly quickly. She had barely left the cave when she smelled them. She was a good distance from where she had left them before.

I guess they didn’t wait.

Not that she’d really expected them too. It confirmed her theory that just willing the thoughts at people wasn’t going to be a winning communication strategy. She needed an alternative. Making the gibbering noises was out, for the moment at least. Maybe with a lot of practice? She didn’t have high hopes.

What did that leave her with?

There had been other components to the communication she had witnessed.

Their facial movement was part of it. Their faces showed at least where their focus lay, which was similar to other creatures, but there was more to it. They had many interesting ways of moving and contorting their faces, which clearly had some meaning. She wasn’t sure about what though.

Thinking on it more she realized that her… former… siblings had also shown some rudimentary communication this way as well, what with the baring of teeth, scrunching of the face, or growling. Nothing complicated, but in a way, they were telling her to go away or move out of a desired spot. She hadn’t really thought about it as the proper transmission of thought because the understanding had just been instinctual, but it really was, wasn't it? It had communicated with her on the level of instinct rather than thought, but that didn't make it any less true communication.

Maybe… they had had some thoughts… just simpler?

She… really didn’t want to consider that right now.

This instinctual knowledge probably wouldn’t be as helpful with the thinkers, given that they were very different from her in their physical forms. She’d already figured out that baring of the teeth wasn’t necessarily hostile with them, despite her feeling like it was.

Their limb movement was also involved. Specifically when the female had indicated in a direction with her foreleg (or perhaps she should call it an… arm? It wasn’t like she’d ever seen the thinker walk on it.) and the male had gone over to the spot indicated. It was clear that the gibbering (perhaps she should categorize it differently, it wasn't simple noise and she was sure it was communication at this point.. perhaps speaking? or talking?) had played a part in the instruction, but she had been able to understand that the limb pointing indicated a direction. Or a location. Something like that.

In a way, that specific part of the thought had indeed made its way to her through the gesture, even if the rest of it, contained in the gibbering somehow, did not.

Well, she could move her limbs and point them at things. Could she communicate anything with just that? She could contort her face too, but wanted to better understand the expressions before she tried too much on that front.

She thought about her options.

What would I be able to understand, if only through gestures?

Maybe relations? Like, if rocks were pointed at, she would think about rocks, and if a spot was pointed at afterward… perhaps she would think they wanted her to move the rocks to the indicated spot? Or perhaps it could mean that she would find more rocks over in that location.

The scent was getting fresher as she thought. She was starting to get closer. Her heart was beating faster in excitement as her mind raced.

Perhaps I could point at legs and then somewhere else to tell them to move there? Or maybe they would just think there were legs over in that direction…

She realized there had been another type of gesture too, when the female had offered her its food.

She had held the food and extended it toward her, and the intention had been decently clear.

She could do that one too!

Although she didn’t want to give them the crystal. It was her crystal. She just wanted to show them the crystal.

Maybe she should go hunt something and give them that! She could offer them food in return for what she’d been given!

She decided to do just that before their meeting.

She hid her crystal before she went to stalk her prey. She’d quickly spotted one of the hoppers the swarm tended to find underground in the night once she’d started looking. They were very skittish in the day but this one didn’t appear to notice her as she slowly approached from a shadowy nook.

She was using her new ability, and it appeared that the hopper didn’t consider the shadowy area to its right a threat.

It was mistaken.

She pounced and the hunt was over before it really started. That had been surprisingly easy. This shadow ability was going to come in handy. Especially considering she'd be... hunting alone from now on.

It was mid-day at this point and she was getting hungry again so she took a few bites off of it before lifting it up and carrying it over to her crystal.

It was wonderful not having to worry about the acid spit anymore. She could carry things without a worry in the world. However, carrying both the hopper and her crystal at the same time was going to be annoying. She thought back to the thinker’s straps and holders.

Having some of those would be very useful.

For now, she just fell back to the “balance it on her head” method of transport for the crystal, although it did take some effort to work it up there with its size. She would just keep the hopper in her mouth.

She took off toward the thinkers again, and it didn’t take long to start hearing their talking in the air.

”So, we’ll come across it today you think?” The male’s tones rung out.

“I believe so. The divinations aren’t terribly clear, as you should know given our objective, but I’m sensing that we’re getting close.” The sounds of the female responded.

“Why is this thing so hard to track anyway? I thought it was supposed to be huge.”

“Divination isn’t affected by how big something is. The reason its hard to track is its magic resistance. Once we come across its physical trail the tracking should be much easier.”

She came over a rise and saw the pair walking.

It was fascinating watching them walk. It was much different from the way she did, with them balancing on their pair of legs. They were essentially falling forward and catching themselves repeatedly, but somehow making it look graceful and natural. It obviously wasn’t hard for them. It looked fun. She'd have to try it sometime.

She just followed along for a little. They were surprisingly brazen in their travel, seemingly not very worried about a possible attack. She was having fun watching them… and also gathering courage for her offering attempt. She didn’t want to mess it up somehow. She felt more nervous about this than she had hunting the flame-horn, despite there being no real danger. Well, she thought there wasn’t much danger at least. Unless they were hungry now and would try to eat her? She was offering food though… and the female wouldn’t have saved her just to eat her later… probably. It had just let her run off afterward. She shook her head to clear her thoughts, she was worrying needlessly.

That action dislodged the crystal from its spot on her head and she yelped, scrambling to try and catch it, and failing. The noise drew both thinker’s attention, and they laid their eyes on her.

She froze.

Well… The time is now!

She cautiously approached the female, hopper in mouth, steering wide of the male, as he’d taken out his sharp stick again. No need to antagonize him. She’d go back and grab the crystal after this initial offering. She didn’t want to confuse the matter trying to offer one thing but not the other.

The male still looked and smelled hostile but his eyes seemed somehow less focused? Less certain maybe? She didn't really know. Whatever it was it seemed different from earlier. The female had her eyebrows raised. One of her hands had been glowing but was now faded back to normal.

“Well. What do we have here?” The female said.

“Is that the one you saved earlier? Looking for more handouts perhaps?”

She sat back on her haunches and outstretched her forelegs, paws facing up, and dropped the hopper on them. It was, unfortunately, a little too heavy for her to hold up like that. She was forced to drop it to the ground, and settled with just keeping her paws under it. Her legs weren’t very strong when trying to hold things up like that.

She scooted it forward toward the female.

Its eyes had been becoming wider, and its eyebrows continued their upward migration.

“I think she’s returned for rather the opposite reason. She's offering me her prey. Poor rabbit.”

“That’s… well, I want to say that’s absurd but I’m not really sure what else to make of this. This is not a normal shadeling. I wasn’t kidding around before when I said they’re supposed to be hyper-aggressive. They’re not supposed to do… whatever this is. And it’s the middle of the day! It should have run off and gone to sleep somewhere. They’re strictly nocturnal!”

Do they understand what I mean?

They were speaking to each other but not taking her offering.

She shifted it forwards some more and did her best to try and lift it at least a little bit in her paws.


She let out small screech to try and indicate that they should take it. She couldn't say things like them but perhaps they'd respond anyway?

“I’d have to agree this is not your usual specimen. She’s clearly more intelligent than your average beast. Look at how she’s making the offering. She’s mimicking me from when I gave her food earlier. Her 'arms' outstretched with her ‘hands’ palms up. That is clearly not a natural position for her. She’s half-fallen over trying to maintain it.”

The female finally crouched down, and gently took the offering.

“I… thank you little one.”

She understood!

Its hands glowed for a moment, squiggles squiggling when touching the hopper, and it gently shook its head. It took a smaller container out of the large one on its back, and put the hopper in it.

In the meantime, she was running and hopping in circles unsure what to do with all the excited energy running through her, before dashing up and rubbing her head against the wonderful, understanding, female's leg again, hoping the thanks and affection would come across.

You understood me! Thank you!

She remembered her other plan and dashed off back to grab her crystal.

“How intelligent? Intelligent monsters are far more dangerous than normal beasts. We should be cautious with this thing. I know how you feel about this but I’m serious, it may be a good idea to end it now. Where’s it gone to now?”

”How can you say that? She’s been nothing but friendly toward us. We have no reason to believe she’s a threat to anyone. Plus, she’s small, and that limits the damage she could do even if she was hostile. Weren’t you yourself talking about how they were only really dangerous in large swarms? I don’t see a- IS THAT MAGICITE!?”

She walked back up, crystal in-mouth, and saw both the thinkers staring at her, mouths slightly open. No, they were staring at the crystal. Their speech was noticeably higher volume and their arms were moving all over the place.

I think they like it!

She set it down to distinctly to her side, and looked up to study their reactions.

“She had that in her mouth!”

“Isn’t that poisonous?”

“You’re not supposed to let it contact skin! You’ll get mana poisoning in no time!”

The female’s face had become scrunched as it had directed its speech at her. Its hands lit up again as it ran them over her. She felt a different sort of feeling from the previous healing pass through her body, less warm, and more like some sort of a ripple that bounced around inside her. She shivered a bit.

“She’s… fine. No signs of mana poisoning.”

“This thing is just getting more and more aberrant. We should-“

“We aren’t killing it, dealing with it, or any other thing. I know I hired you to protect me, but this is a research mission and I’m most definitely not paying you to go around slaughtering every interesting creature we come across because it could be dangerous. I’m done with this argument. If you want your bonus at the end, drop the matter.”

“Yes ma’am. As you wish ma’am.”

“Oh don’t be like that!”

“If you wish to continually disregard the good advice of your protector, I will respect your decision ma’am. After all, I am just your hireling. Ma’am.”

Jonas, I didn’t say... curses. He can be so difficult sometimes.”

The male had turned and walked a distance away before turning around and looking at them with narrowed eyes.

He smelled much more agitated than he had before. She wasn’t sure what exactly had transpired between the two thinkers but the sounds had become much more growly and high volume. She could smell the stress on both of them.

Are they angry about the crystal for some reason? It seemed like they were fighting.

But the female just turned back to her and started to get her, the expression with the upturned sides of the mouth coming back. It started to rub her down her head and back again, in that way that felt good. She was taking it as a sign of affection.

I have no idea what's going on.

“Well little one, if you keep following us around, perhaps I can see how special you really are. And if you're sticking around, you’re going to need a name.”

A note from Zat

Just wondering how people feel about the chapter titles. I've been trying to keep them on-theme for the chapter but vague so that it doesn't spoil anything.
Let me know!

If your opinion is not in the poll feel free to leave a comment!

Also, Our little protagonist is getting a name!

If you have any suggestions feel free to leave them. I have one in mind but if I see something I like more I might change it. It probably makes sense to keep suggestions pet-name-y given our namer being in that mindset.


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