She slowly wandered around the hill during her watch. She tried to keep focus but despite her best efforts, it didn’t take long for her to get bored. It was a weird problem to have. Normally she would cure boredom by going off and exploring, or making up some game. Sometimes she would practice a skill.
She couldn’t do any of that now because she had to keep watch.
She’d told Jonas she would, and she planned on keeping that promise. It’d be a poor thing for her to disappoint him when he’d trusted her with his duty.
But that led her to this unfortunate situation. She was bored. She tried to come up with an idea to keep herself entertained.
Perhaps this was a good chance to really think over her situation. Things had been really close back there. Again. She’d been remarkably close to death a few times in the last couple of days, and that wasn’t a good thing.
She needed to get better at fighting. If her group was going to get into fights, she needed to be able to pull her weight, without almost killing herself. She thought the most obvious way to do that was with her strange new abilities.
That was probably something she could mess with while she was looking around.
Her energy-self felt a lot weaker than it had before the fight, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as that first time she had… shifted herself. She would swear she could feel it recovering faster than before as well. But despite having used the acid spit and shadow fluff repeatedly, she hadn’t taken the time to really figure out what else the energy could do yet. She had a feel for the acid spit, shadow fluff, and shadow… jump? Mainly because she’d been using the acid spit accidentally for a while, and the other two were sort of the same ability.
Her… awakening had sort of implanted the feel of how to use her shadow fluff right in her head. She could remember how it felt when she'd used it without thinking the first time and that made the subsequent times simple.
She hadn’t experimented outside of that hardly at all. She’d been so busy doing stuff she hadn’t really thought to try.
Her boredom had quickly transformed into anticipation. She was confident she could mess with her energy in weird ways while keeping an eye on the forest.
So what to try? When using the acid spit, it felt like she was just pushing energy into her mouth. There was a… trick to it that she couldn’t quite describe, but it worked. Some part of her was familiar with the motions, even if she hadn’t been aware of them before. She would push the energy and shortly after she could feel the telltale tingling of the acid in her mouth.
The shadow fluff was different, in that making it was actually simpler than the acid spit. She just pushed outwards and the fluff rose out of her. It was a lot more exhausting though. She had to strain much harder than with the spit, even if the… motion… was much simpler.
Well, perhaps she could try pushing the energy into other body parts? If she got acid by pushing energy into her mouth, what might happen by pushing it elsewhere?
So for the next while, that was exactly what she tried. Weakly pushing what energy she had around at different body parts, while still keeping watch on the surroundings.
She was making a low hiss as she brooded. This was becoming frustrating.
She could feel something happening, but it also felt clear she wasn’t moving her energy right. For example, she would push energy at her ears, and something would definitely change, but it wasn’t stable. It was like she could hear images, but only in little snippets. Not enough to actually make anything out of what she was 'seeing'. She knew it was because she couldn’t get the energy to settle. For her acid and the shadow fluff, once she pushed the energy in the right way, it felt like it was slotting into a comfortable nook made just for it. She could keep it up without much conscious focus.
It wasn’t like that at all for the rest of the parts she tried it on. She could feel how it was supposed to work, but despite her best efforts she just couldn’t get the energy to… fit properly. So she only got these tantalizing flashes and feelings with nothing actually useful happening.
She was sure she could figure it out given practice, but for now, she was spent and frustrated. It probably didn’t help that her energy felt so weak right now. Maybe manipulating it would be easier once it had recovered a bit?
The sun was rising over the horizon now. Her testing had kept her busy for quite a while. She felt sleepy again with the addition of the light, but she just shook it off. She needed to get used to this. She wouldn’t always have the unending excitement of some new discovery to perk her up in the daytime.
This is your awake time now. She told herself, hoping it would get through to whatever part of her kept wanting to make her sleep in the daytime.
It didn’t help that she kept waking up in the middle of the night.
It’s only been a little bit. I’m sure it’ll get better with practice. Same with my energy testing.
At least her eyes were getting a lot more used to the light now. It was still too bright but she could stand in it without being in pain, even with the sun up. Well, in the early morning at least, assuming she was still in a forested area.
There was still some more adjusting to do.
Despite that, she was just happy there were signs of improvement. She hadn't been looking forward to dealing with eye pain whenever the sun was up for the foreseeable future.
She caught movement out of the corner of her eye and looked into the valley. Annie was stirring, unwrapping herself much like Shadow had (although with more proficiency).
She barely kept herself from running down there to check on her and say hi. Despite her excitement, she was on watch, and she wouldn't fail now, after having kept it up all night. She settled for waving, another thinker gesture she’d figured out.
Annie noticed the movement and waved back with a small smile. She still looked very tired.
It was strange to see the thinker out of her normal clothes and armor. She still had some on but was missing most of them. Their normal bodies had fur on them, but it was very sparse everywhere but the top of the head (and face in Jonas’s case). On Annie, the body fur was so light she couldn't even see it unless she looked really, really close.
The thought of being able to completely shift your outer appearance by putting on some pants or taking off a shirt was still strange to her. It was such a fascinating thing to think about. She looked at the cloths wrapping her wounds. It’d be neat to have clothes she could wear that were shaped right for her so that she could make herself look different sometimes too.
She still wasn’t sure if clothes in her shape were possible though. She suspected they were. They were clearly made somehow, but even seeing Annie stitch things back together with a needle and thread didn’t tell her how the cloth itself came to be. She’d have to study cloth more when she wasn’t busy keeping watch.
Annie slowly got dressed and put on her armor, before coming up the hill to visit.
“So, I see Jonas is sleeping. I take it you’re up here keeping watch?”
She caught enough of that sentence to nod in affirmation.
Annie smiled and gave her a pat, before sitting down to join her.
“I suppose you inspired some faith in him with your heroics last night. Jonas only told me a little, but from what he said you sounded very brave.”
She gave Shadow a pointed look, gaze wandering over her injuries. Annie glanced down at her hands like she was considering something, then just shook her head with a sigh.
“Perhaps too brave. Please take better care of yourself.” She stated in a stern tone.
Seeing Shadow’s confused look, Annie just pointed at her wounds and slowly shook her head with a frown.
Hey! I got these rescuing you! It’s not my fault you had to mess with the tree-eater!
Shadow glared back, and gave a small hiss of displeasure, turning away from Annie, looking back out at the woods.
Then suddenly hands were under her chest and belly, gently lifting her into Annie’s lap. The fact that her chest just ached a bit from the action was more proof that Annie must have healed her earlier.
Shadow turned and glared at her again, making to get off her lap, but Annie just hugged her to her chest.
“I’m glad you’re ok.” She whispered. Her stern look had evaporated and now all she could see was a small smile. Her eyes looked soft and relieved.
Shadow gave up her token struggle and just let herself be held.
It only lasted for a bit before Shadow was released and Annie transitioned to stroking her back. Shadow just laid on her lap for a bit before getting back up. She supposed her watch was over now that Annie was up, but double-checked to make sure with some gesturing. Annie gave her the nod of approval, so Shadow headed down into the valley toward Annie’s backpack.
Once she got there she made a small shriek to get Annie’s attention—a huff was not loud enough to carry the distance—and pointed at the backpack, making a ‘rummaging’ motion then pointing at her flank, where a pouch would normally rest.
Annie gave her a nod, so she started through the big container, careful not to disrupt it too much; everything looked carefully organized. She found her belt with pouches quickly and pulled them out, but she spotted something else that caught her interest as well. Books like the ones that Annie had shown her earlier. She still wanted to know what the deal with them was.
Well, one thing at a time.
She made to put the belt on but quickly discovered that the operation wasn’t going to be easy or pleasant with her current injuries. After vacillating a bit on the idea, she decided to just leave them on the ground for now. Just having the pouches out of the backpack and accessible was good enough. She needed to be able to grab a gift for Jonas when he woke up.
She headed back into the backpack, and carefully grabbed a book in her mouth. There were more than just the ones that Annie had shown her before, but she decided to pick the one Annie had been using the pen on. Book secure, she limped back up the hill to Annie.
Annie laughed when she saw what Shadow’s cargo was, but happily took it, understanding what she wanted.
Shadow grimaced and made a small whining sound when she saw some shallow teeth marks marring the cover of the book. It appeared to have been a little too heavy and the cover too soft to be carried without damage, despite her light grip.
Annie noticed where she was looking and waved off her concerns.
“It’s fine, the cover is meant to protect it. The fact that it’s the only thing damaged shows it’s working.”
Shadow took the emotional cue and settled down.
“Well then.” She said, looking at Shadow with a smile. “Let’s try to explain what this is all about.”
Shadow was introduced to letters and the written word. She realized she may have been too quick to dismiss the usefulness of symbol making after all.