Vur and Tafel laughed as they walked side by side through a dense rainforest spotted with all kinds of colors. Frogs, insects, parrots, brightly colored animals were everywhere amongst the foliage. Thick vines hung down from trees, and thinner vines grew from the soil, circling around tree trunks. Clouds of insects hung in the air, but as Tafel and Vur walked towards them, they’d disperse before reforming a while later only to disperse again as a woman with blue hair and golden eyes staggered by. “You two! Wait for me. How do you balance so well without a tail!?”
Vur and Tafel paused as they waited for the gasping woman to catch up. She wasn’t wearing any clothes despite Tafel’s earlier pleading. Alora had said it’d be easier for Tafel to find genie bean vines since she was a small human, so Vur disabled his dragon form and polymorphed Alora against her wishes. Tafel bit her lower lip as Alora caught up and placed her bare hands on Vur’s shoulders from behind while panting for breath. Tafel crossed her arms over her chest and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to wear clothes? They help with balance. Look, even Vur’s wearing pants.”
Alora squinted at Tafel before lowering her gaze to Vur’s black leather pants. She crouched down and pinched it, pulling it while tugging it up and down. Her head tilted to the side as she released the material. “I don’t get it. You can’t control it like a tail at all. How does it help you balance?”
“It just does, okay?” Tafel asked. “Not all phenomena are explainable yet, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t happen.” She stretched her arm out and into a portal, taking out a bathrobe. She held it out towards Alora, who sniffed it before wrinkling her nose, causing Tafel’s eye to twitch. “Try it on. And don’t wrinkle your nose like it smells bad! I just washed it.”
Alora snorted. “I don’t want to.” She tilted her head up and to the side, pointing her chin at the treetops while closing her eyes and crossing her arms. “Have you ever seen a dragon wearing a wooly sweater? It’s embarrassing. Grandma makes us wear them all the time in the winter. I’m not going to voluntarily humiliate myself in the summer.” Her eyes opened, and she raised her brow. “Oh? Is that a genie vine?”
“Where?” Tafel asked, her head snapping to the side, following Alora’s gaze. A blueish-green vine appeared in her view, barely noticeable against a greenish tree trunk. Three bean sprouts grew out of the vine, dangling like Christmas lights. “I see them. How do you summon the genie?”
Alora walked over to the base of the tree and looked up at the sprouts that were out of her reach. “You pluck the bean sprouts, but you leave the vine for future genies to grow on. Or you can wait here for a few months until the genie beans fall off on their own. There’s a higher chance that those genies can fulfill your wishes.”
Tafel furrowed her brow, but before she could decide, Vur climbed up the tree and pulled off a bean sprout. A silver light flashed, and a tiny man appeared on Vur’s palm, looking much like Stella but male. Alora’s eyes widened. “That’s a genie king!”
“I called it!” Stella shouted from Vur’s chest. “Who said Vur was going to find a genie king? I did!”
Tafel’s mouth fell open before she heaved a sigh. “Slow and steady….”
“Ah?” the genie king’s head swiveled around before his gaze settled onto Vur. He yawned while stretching his arms up towards the sky. “I wanted to sleep for longer…. Will you let me?”
“Oh,” Vur said before nodding. “Yeah, I know how you feel. Go back to sleep.”
The genie king’s eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Huh!? Really!? You’re the first person to let me do this. I’ll sleep inside you for now. When I wake up, I’ll grant you any wish you want!” The genie king dissolved into motes of silver light that sank into Vur’s chest.
Less than a second later, Stella’s scream rang through the rainforest. “Deedee, Sherry, Zilphy, Misty! Help! There’s a naked man in my home! H-he fell asleep on my bed!” Her voice choked up as she wailed, “My blankets are tainted now; you have to burn them, Sherry!”
Sheryl’s sun-like tattoo on Vur’s shoulder lit up. “When did my name become Sherry?”
“When mine became Misty,” Mistle said from Vur’s back.
Vur ignored the chattering elementals and looked down on Alora and Tafel. “Should I grab another one? There’s only two left.”
“Let me pick my own!” Tafel said as she scrambled up the tree. She pursed her lips before grabbing the rightmost bean sprout. Nothing happened.
Alora coated her fingers and toes with mana and dug into the tree like a squirrel. She climbed up and clicked her tongue. “There wasn’t a genie inside that one,” she said, pointing at Tafel’s sprout. “But you can eat the beans or give them to Grandma as cookie ingredients.”
Tafel sighed as she stored the bean sprout, sneaking a peak at Vur’s chest. Vur noticed and raised an eyebrow. “Do you want the genie king?” he asked. “I don’t need it.”
Tafel bit her lower lip before shaking her head. “No. I want to find one myself. I can’t always rely on you.”
“Hmm.” Vur scratched his head. “You should rely on me more. I’m your husband.” He shrugged before letting go of the tree, dropping to the ground.
“I’ll rely on you now,” Tafel said to Vur. “Catch me.” She released her grip and fell over backwards into Vur’s waiting arms. She smiled at him as she righted herself. “When it comes to getting stronger, I want to do as much as I can by myself. It wouldn’t mean anything if you improved my strength for me.”
“You two should get a room,” Alora said from above with a disgusted expression. She plucked the last bean sprout, causing a blue light to flash. A blue-haired genie materialized on her palm. “Oh, lucky, lucky.”
The genie blinked at Alora before making a face. “Tsk. Alright, what do you want? I’m a busy person. Make a wish, chop-chop.”
“I wish you weren’t such a rude little bugger,” Alora said with a snort. The genie glared at her with murder in his eyes. He raised his arm and a blue veil of mana enveloped him.
“Your wish has been granted, ma’am. Have a nice day.” The genie smiled at her before dissolving into motes of blue light that floated back into the vine.
“Was that wish worth it?” Tafel asked as the polymorphed dragon struggled down the tree.
“Rude genies ruin wishes,” Alora said once she was on the ground. “If I wished for something, it’d have done everything it could to screw me over. Like if I wished for a cookie, it’d be poisoned. If I wished for a non-poisoned cookie, it’d taste horrible. If I wished for a good-tasting, non-poisonous cookie, it’d be the size of a grain of sand. Too many things can go wrong with wishes.”
Vur tilted his head. “What if you wished for a large, good-tasting, non-poisonous cookie?”
Alora made a face. “Then it’d probably be gluten-free or something. Blech.”