Salt, pepper, garlic butter, and anonymous meat danced together in a large frying pan.
“Are you done yet?”
The growling croak of the Tripclox’s lone patron was nearly swallowed by the sizzle and pop of heated grease. A mesmerizing and familiar sound. Lucilla loved it.
It was one of the remaining things she could love, without danger and freely.
“Mmhm.” Lucilla hummed with a single shoulder shrug, unbothered when the voice at her back faded into irregular counter tapping. It was just another beat, easily mingled with the rest of the noise that constantly surrounded her. Each sound as wonderful as the next.
The Tripclox bounced from her patron’s shifting as he stood then sat again on his tiny stool. The food truck’s wheels, near flat and lumpy, struggled to support the weight of his scaled body.
Deeper within the confines of truck, beside a pile of clothes and rumbled blankets, the beeps and boops of a tiny television begged for her attention, quite literally—
‘Love me. Hold me. I need you.’
Lucilla bobbed her head as she lowered the flame of her stove and considered her choices within a cloud of food smoke. The television repeated its frenzied request as she fiddled with a game controller beneath her outstretched foot.
Option A, B, X or Y—
“How much time is left there, girly?” The scaled man spat.
Lucilla spared him a glance, hearing a brief click clock at the back of her skull. “Thirty seconds, sorta. Maybe.”
Drool formed between his open maw, the scaled man was more crocodile than human, most were more than human in Rainbow Grand. “You sure? I asked for it raw.”
“Rare,” Lucilla muttered, distracted. “You asked for it rare. We don’t do it ‘raw’.”
She pressed the ‘A’ button on the game controller with her big toe and was rewarded when the television squealed. The pixelated man on the screen bounced with a wild smile, and held out a rose—I love you, do you love me too?
With a stretch she removed a plate from a shelf over her head and deeply inhaled the food smoke that curled from the stove—croc-man’s meat was done. She curled her toes around the square controller and tugged it closer despite the strain on the cord.
Croc-man banged on the countertop, muscles bulging in his too-tight suit, and the Tripclox jerked hard enough her tiny television bounced.
Lucilla stared at him and held the plate hostage despite his growls. His sounds were not louder than the sizzling stove and she had dealt with his type before. Entitled and hungry. Late for something.
When he went quiet with a coughed snort, Lucilla set his plate down, paying him no mind as he snatched it closer. The Tripclox was host to all sorts of clientele: man, woman, and monster. Had been ever since their city had become Rainbow Grand.
The capital prefecture owned by the Mistress of Monsters.
“Pay me,” squeaked a voice from the register, owned by her long-eared kittenish companion.
The croc-man sneered with sharp and bloody teeth before he clumsily gathered three misshapen gems from the pocket of his straining vest.
The cat gave the gems an unblinking stare before it leaned around the register with a loud hiss, “Not enough!”
Lucilla clicked off the stove and plopped on the floor in front of the television. With the controller now in hand, she squirmed onto a cushion, flattened and spilling its fluff.
The television screeched—Your love is not enough!
It was never enough.
She bit her bottom lip so hard it bled.
“My meat ain’t raw, she took too long. The girly was late,” Croc-man said.
“I’m never late,” Lucilla replied from the floor, though her amber gaze remained glued to the stomping man glitching out on the television. She licked a dribble of blood from her bottom lip. “Never.”
The clock tick-tocking in her head wouldn’t let her be. It had not since her sophomore year of college, when she’d found the talking magical cat that had since been regulated to manning her busted old register.
Continuing her education was no longer an option, but at the Tripclox they were free... unlike the others.
“Is Senator Gor giving you trouble, Luc?”
Lucilla’s hand tightened on the controller and accidentally, she pressed the ‘Y’ button. The man on the television raged before he stormed away, stepping on the flower he had once held for her. False crying came from the television, the sound of her character’s tears and woe. Unbidden a whisper swept across her mind, a haunted wail using her voice, beneath the constant ticks that occupied it—Come back, please. Don’t leave me alone.
She turned away from her game and faced her new company.
Croc-man had paused in his eating, maw open with all those teeth on display while his meat hung limply from his fork, half eaten. At the back of his head, reflecting the light of the stationed streetlamps, was the silver barrel of a magic-blessed gun.
“Magical scum,” the croc-man sneered, though Lucilla recognized fear in his beady shifting eyes, “you can’t harm me. I’ve broken no law beneath the ever-watching gaze of our Sovereign Queen.”
From the pillow on the floor Lucilla said, “It’s true, he hasn’t.”
The magical cat said differently, “He’s hurt me!”
The gun’s barrel shifted until it pressed against the back of the senator’s neck, “Oh?”
Senator Gor’s scaled face quivered as he fought for words, “Magical scum.”
The gun pressed harder and his fleshy scales somehow bunched around the barrel. He swallowed in a way that made his throat abnormally flex and Lucilla was briefly fascinated. “Alchemist Red Scum—”
“It’s Alchemist Red Riding Hood,” Lucilla interrupted, twirling the controller on the end of its wire, “It’s rude to call her Red or scum. It’s not like you know her.”
Senator Gor released a thunderous sound but it petered out abruptly at the playful tap of the gun against his skin, “Of course, of course.”
“You should go, or you’ll die,” Lucilla continued, perhaps unhelpfully, but she had no desire to spend her evening cleaning monster chunks off of Tripclox’s stools. “This one doesn’t like monster folk, she never has. The Mistress couldn’t get rid of that aspect of her.”
Gor’s clumsy shifting was slow and cautious, and when he reached for his plate a cat paw held onto the other end.
“No,” the magical cat squealed, now on the table counter, “this stays here.”
Gor opened his mouth as Lucilla stood and swept up his misshapen gems into the open register. A reminding press of the gun at his back had him snapping it shut again.
“Goodbye, Senator Gor.” Lucilla said, eyeing the ‘Game Over’ screen on her television.
She didn’t watch Senator Gor walk away, though she did eye the Alchemist as the Tripclox swayed, now supporting a new—more manageable—weight.
With a painfully familiar face.
The Alchemist picked up the greasy meat and eyed it curiously before she bit into the half-chewed end.
The magical cat tapped a paw on the table, “Pay me.”
“Still impatient, Dinah?” The Alchemist questioned.
While the Alchemist fished for her misshapen gems Lucilla took a moment to glance at her companion.
Former, in all the important ways.
“Don’t look at me like that.”
“Can’t help it,” Lucilla answered, though the pain that normally laced her tone had died some time ago. Possibly after the second anniversary of Rainbow Grand’s survival. The name of the city danced on the edge of her tongue, but the information was no longer relevant. Easily forgettable, compared to the many other things that were more impactful. For one to survive under the reign of the Obsidian Government, all they had to do was be eager to obey.
She’d been the only one not to bow, long ago, and now she was alone.
Your love is not enough—the television had said, but in her head, against the shades of her memory, it wasn’t the game that casually said that phrase. The Mistress of Monsters had been very clear when she’d taken everything away.
All she had now was the ruins of her legacy and the faces of those she could no longer claim.
The clatter of gems was loud absent the noise of cooking meat and begging games.
“Do you want something else, Red?” Lucilla asked, cautious of the silence.
Since silence left room for ticking clocks and words with power.
The smile Red gave her was full of affection, though it lacked something human and natural. “You know what I want, Alchemist Alice.”
Lucilla crouched down on the balls of her feet and occupied her hands by fiddling with the off switch of her gaming system. The click clack was usually soothing. “It’s Lucilla King.”
Red nodded absently as she took another bite of Gor’s forcefully abandoned meal, “For how much longer?”
Lucilla looked Red over, from the awe-inspiring cloak that covered her magical uniform, sparking with untapped magic around the frill of her skirts, to the alcacraft gun that floated unmanned by her side, now that Senator Gor was gone. Once upon a time, when they’d been a team—framed by the moon as they stood for valor—Red had been a temperamental but fiercely loyal nuisance. Wild, impetuous, and a head and a half taller than Alchemist Alice (with an argument that claimed that should make her the leader). She’d had a name—something human and average—but it’d been forgotten. Now all that remained was Red Riding Hood the Alchemist. Being a magical girl had become her existence.
The Mistress of Monsters liked them better that way, to see them in uniform on their knees. All that power, tamed.
Lucilla could not help wondering what it looked like now, with her friend’s grimaces of defiance twisted into awe and drooling satisfaction.
Red licked across the ruby of her bottom lip, the umber of her cheeks rosy and flushed. “What are you thinking about?”
Lucilla answered without hesitation, “The Mistress of Monsters.”
There was something eerily calm beyond the green of Red’s eyes. A liquid shifting that made Lucilla’s heart skip, “I am too.”
She whispered those words with a treasured reverence. Lucilla stared at the floor, reminded of her predicament.
This wasn’t Red, her hot-headed friend. Not really. Just a woman like her who worshipped their enemy.
Lucilla was the last true Alchemist of Valor, incapable of transforming, lest she find herself taken.
“Luc,” Red tapped her plate, finished with Gor’s dinner.
Quietly, Lucilla stood and gathered the used utensils.
“Don’t be afraid,” Red whispered, her tone low and pulling. “Our Mistress would bless you too, if only you’d let her.”
Lucilla turned on the kitchen station, hoping to fill the space with the noise of running water and not the low and husky tones of her former fellow warrior. Her throat tightened, but the taste of despair was weak against the might of something other. This was not the first time Red had come to Tripclox to convince her that more was within reach if only she surrendered.
Each time it became a little harder. Not because Lucilla was lonely, though that was certainly a factor. Dinah, magical as she was, wasn’t a conversational guardian. But because Red carried a sense of confidence and something thicker. An elseness that wanted to press against and squeeze her.
That final battle had changed all of them.
Lucilla had always been sensitive to the ebb and flow of magical power. It constantly rubbed against her skin, like a caress of ethereal curious fingers. Hot and demanding, a pulsating presence that pushed and moved her. Dinah had called it low-grade possession, a mild form of madness when the moon was fuller.
Lucilla hadn’t told her how good it felt when it touched her, and when it spoke to her, she badly wanted to listen.
It had been easier to ignore it, back before their ruinous final battle, when the hungry magical forms of her team had demanded more of her. She’d been the battery of their group, funneling magic into their mystic abilities and fixing their weaponized Alchemist artifacts whenever they broke.
And though she could scarcely remember, hadn’t it been her that had given them their transformations? She’d been a party of one before, drowning beneath the weight of monster after monster. The magic had been insistent then. Fresh. New. Overwhelming. Cradling her consciousness and filling her body, not waiting for her to answer yes or no—
Here Lucilla paused. Craving, for a moment, something she shouldn’t.
—until she’d been consumed with unspoken orders. Magical Truth, Dinah had called it.
Terrifying, Lucilla had thought it.
But she’d gotten used to it, the swirling raw heat of magical purpose.
After an episode of thoughtless action there would be a new Alchemist, a near instantaneous friend timidly smiling to greet her when she woke.
Lucilla knew her purpose on the team. Leader. Creator. Avatar. A modern-day Princess of Magic. Something like that. Dinah had failed to properly explain. Dinah was crap at explaining anything—
Back at the register, Dinah sneezed cutely.
—but it shouldn’t have been able to move her so absolutely, and only sound and action kept its presence under wraps without the constant threat of battle to satisfy the strangeness of her need.
She was so damn full of potential, begrudgingly connected to the leylines that thumped and hummed beneath the city. Changed and connected to the underground palace at its center.
If she transformed… would she be able to hold back from the things magic might bid, her to do?
She might snap. How could someone seek justice in a city put to sleep.
At the counter, Red spoke, not as fond as Lucilla of the sound of running water, “You weren’t at court last month.”
Lucilla’s shoulders stiffened as she soaped the single plate again, “I don’t belong at court,” Lucilla answered slowly, “I don’t belong to…”
Her voice trailed off as she felt the wild snap of Red’s demanding magic. Lucilla didn’t have to look over her shoulder to see her expression. She could imagine the near grotesque twist of Red’s lips in her rage that displayed the hidden sharpness of her teeth. There’d always been something primal inside her and maybe the Mistress of Monsters hadn’t tamed that.
Didn’t mean she hadn’t collared her, all the same.
Still, Lucilla was used to Red’s unchanging temper, and something wicked rolled through her at the idea she could still inspire it.
She turned to face Red, the plate slick between her hands, “That is, I’m no longer Alchemist Alice. I’ve nothing to offer to the Obsidian Government”
As she suspected Red was mad struck, scowling at her from over the counter with the assumption Lucilla meant to deny the rulership of the Mistress of Monsters. However, after a thrilled heartbeat or two, Lucilla saw her expression dulled. The choker around Red’s neck tightened, forcing her to gasp and swallow. The single hanging crystal at its center pulsed in a strange… fascinating pattern. Bobbing to the flex of Red’s neck muscles.
Lightning flashes of violet sucked at Lucilla’s attention, brilliant across the crystal’s surface. She thought it terribly pretty as she tightened her grip around the plate she’d been washing. With each breath her fingers tingled, making Lucilla question whether the plate really existed. The rock and rattle of the Tripclox softened—she’d never realized the noise of the street was so harsh and grating—as something cotton and warm pressed against the skin of her belly.
Then it was within her, spindled and heavy.
Magic of a thicker sort. Wrong. Good. She couldn’t be certain, she felt so… fuzzy.
Only Dinah sinking her claws into her calf was enough to draw her attention from the crystal choker charm.
“Ow, you little fucker.” Lucilla spat as Dinah climbed paw over paw up the length of her side, sinking claws into her shorts and plucking threads from her off-shoulder shirt.
Red, with no trace of her earlier anger, only smiled fondly. “It still speaks to you.”
Lucilla resisted the urge to fling Dinah from her shoulder as she eyed the red scratches the cat had left against the copper of her skin. “What does?”
Her head ached slightly, sloshy even, while her stomach clenched, painfully empty. Had she missed something?
Dinah moodily chewed on Lucilla’s yellow beanie, “Alchemist Red is sneaky!”
Red had the gall to pout, “Don’t tattle tell, Dinah.”
Lucilla frowned and carefully plucked one of Dinah’s paws from her box braided hair, “What spoke to me?”
Red eyed her with a strange intensity. It made Lucilla’s back stiffen uncomfortably, “Our Sovereign Queen’s magic.”
Lucilla was not happy to hear that. Her expression must have shown as much if Red’s dramatic sigh was any indication.
The Mistress of Monsters had a strange and unfathomable ability. One Lucilla struggled to comprehend. In college, it had been easy—they’d been aware of her existence but blessed by the mystery that came with her lack of presence. Monsters had caused trouble in her name. Corrupt human generals had claimed her as their owner. But defeating their machinations had been as easy as Lucilla’s coursework in Advanced Pottery—which, in retrospect, wasn’t that simple.
When battling evil at night and attending classes during the day had become too much, Dinah had offered a solution.
Take the fight directly to the Mistress of Monsters.
Dinah had taken them to her underground palace, located beneath their local arcade center.
How had they missed its magic and power, right there beneath the inconspicuous barrel jumping cabinet?
She barely remembered the confrontation—now that she was no longer twenty-something—but she did remember the Mistress pulse of intention and the pain in her knees as she’d rushed to kneel.
Dinah had saved her but not the others. Did that make Lucilla immune to the weight of the Mistress’ power?
Or, maybe the Mistress just liked to play catch and release.
Red cleared her throat and Lucilla shuffled, uneasy.
“Sorry, I know it’s rude to daydream when I have company.”
With a husky laugh Red waved off Lucilla’s apology.
Dinah chewed on her hair.
When Lucilla turned back to the sink to return the lone dish to the water, Red spoke again, “Come to court tomorrow.”
Lucilla felt petulant as she dropped the dish on the counter. “I don’t want to.”
Red was unnervingly quiet after that and Lucilla took the time to rub at her stomach. She felt some unnatural urging to look at Red’s choker, despite knowing the crystal there made it more like a collar. Luc turned off the running water from the faucet and swallowed hard when whispers and ticking filled the resulting silence—incoherent and wispy, pulling back at her attention. The call of magic.
It wanted her to answer. She belonged to it. Even if that magic pulsed from the crystal. How much louder would that become if she had to be Alice?
She couldn’t risk that.
“I think, this time, I can’t give you a choice.”
Lucilla whipped around as Dinah clutched her shoulder. The pain of her claws was grounding, stronger than the chill that swept through her. “I’ve always had a choice.”
Left unspoken: you’ve always given me one.
Red stared at her with a glassy gaze, “We’re tired of waiting…”
But there was more behind that statement.
With a slow blink Red’s lips quirked into a fervent smile, “and Mistress has scrubbed me of the desire to hide you.”
Lucilla approached the Electric Carousel Arcade and wished she didn’t have to.
While most things in Rainbow Grand’s entertainment district had been forced to evolve or close, the empty building, with its peeling paint and digital signs, had remained unchanged. The static hum of its flickering lights was unpleasantly grating to her ears as she slipped beneath the torn awning that blocked the buildings revolving door.
“Still the same in here,” Dinah squeaked.
Lucilla shook her head, “It’s cleaner.”
The last time she’d visited Carousel the floors had been cracked and the wallpaper peeling, evidence to a space lived-in and well-used. Now the center carried a stale sort of silence, sterilized and scrubbed of any human activity. Some of the arcade cabinets still beeped and booped, but most of them were muted or off.
The Electric Carousel was no longer a simple arcade. It never had been.
“It’s the gate,” Dinah rumbled, before she leapt from Lucilla’s shoulder to twine around her ankles. “Of course, they’d keep it clean.”
Lucilla stepped further into the center and fought against the desire to immediately leave, “Is there another gate?”
A louder one?
She did not like the stillness, the lack of living beings, nor the absence of energy. This place was an unguarded vacuum. Even the streets were muffled beyond them, which left too much room for other things to knock about Lucilla’s head.
She rubbed the top of her chest with nervous fingers and focused on the sound of her own thumping steps. The tick and tock that never left her had mingled with the thud of her speeding pulse.
“No,” Dinah meowed with impatience as she slipped further into the darkness of the arcade.
Lucilla followed with a hand in her pocket, fingering the tiny scroll that would admit her to court.
The barrel jumping cabinet was in the same place as before, a center piece to be celebrated. As a pixelated figure leapt over generated obstacles, Lucilla brushed her hands across broken-in buttons, tracing groves run into their surface from frantic presses. When the screen switched from gameplay to a list of high scores, Lucilla noticed her name was still the highest.
That no longer filled her with pride, unfortunately.
Dinah broke her from the stirrings of better memories, “Well?”
Lucilla froze and stared at the cabinet that had spelled her team’s doom. A chill grip her spine and her hands shook as they idly played with the cabinet’s joystick. To willingly subject herself to the atmosphere of the Obsidian Palace had to be an act of madness. Though the memories of her time below the arcade’s surface were fuzzy, something within her still remembered its horror.
That something twisted with knotted anticipation.
Summoned or not, she should have tried to inflate the lumpy tires of the Tripclox and leave Rainbow Grand.
She bit her bottom lip, “Dinah…”
“Do it.” Dinah ordered, tone stripped of its kittenish squeak. “You don’t have a choice.”
Dinah’s voice was a cycling mantra, echoing against the ticking in her head. With parted lips, Lucilla pulled the invitation from her pocket, lost to the thrum of her only remaining thought; I don’t have a choice.
She pressed it against the cabinet screen and watched the dancing character disappear, sucked into sudden darkness as the scroll slipped through its glass and light.
She blinked as the cabinet groaned, disorientated from a lack of thought and the way her mind still tripped over Dinah’s spoken words, ‘do it.’
The cat bobbed her head and squealed. “It still works!”
Had Lucilla imagined it; her own suppression and the low pulling growl that had leapt from Dinah’s throat?
The machine’s rumble made the arcade tremble as unseen gears rattled. The cabinet sunk into the floor, sucked into a section of writhing black. Lucilla had to step back and away from the newly formed hole as more of the floor collapsed inside it. Had she not witnessed the ‘gate’ open before, she might have felt a tad more frightened.
As it was, her stomach churned with dread at what lay beyond it.
‘Bing-bong—please wait for the doors to open and those within to exit.’
A soothing voice swept through the arcade as an elaborate elevator rose from the floor. Various roses of brass shook and shivered around the structure, the metal somehow alive as it waved and stretched forward. Its size was enough for just one person, smaller than the last time she’d been there, trying to stuff herself inside along with seven others.
It had been unpleasant before, tangled up in the limbs of the others, but she had a feeling this wouldn’t be better.
“Dinah?” Lucilla mumbled as the elevator doors swung open, spilling a strange warmth across the arcade floor in visible cloudy tendrils.
“Go on,” the cat meowed.
Lucilla peered into the elevator, “You aren’t coming? We’d both fit.”
The cat turned away from her with a show of its butt, “Not yet.”
“Wait,” Lucilla jerked to follow, but Dinah had already disappeared.
Leaving Lucilla alone.
You don’t have a choice.
Lucilla shivered and pushed her hands into her eyes, as if that would ease the ache that had started behind them. Dinah was right, wasn’t she? The Mistress of Monsters was tired of waiting and had sent Red off to confirm as much. Did the Mistress know she was Lucilla King? Did it matter when she couldn’t hide her identity from Red who grew more possessive with each Tripclox visit?
Lucilla shivered from the flutter in her belly. It didn’t.
She shook herself and stepped into the low lighting of the elevator.
It shut with a whirl before it began to descend.
‘Bing-bong—the elevator is currently in motion. Please relax and be welcomed.’
Lucilla felt the movement of the elevator as vibration beneath her feet. Each wall was a shiny reflective surface. There were no rails, mirrors, or destination buttons. Not even music to distract from the monotone hum of unknown machinery pulling her down. It was just an enclosed box, uninteresting and silent, eerie in its lack of features. Maybe that was why the outside had been so elaborate.
Lucilla hoped she reached her destination soon. She was starting to feel the pull of motion as a lump in her stomach.
Or… was that something else?
Within the quiet of the elevator, without the immediate distraction of fear or noise, she noticed another feeling against her skin. It was… quite warm in the small elevator.
How long had she been in here?
She squinted at a far wall and ignored the sweat beading upon her forehead. Had the wall just moved? Squirmed? The light had dimmed at some point during her descent, so she couldn’t really tell. When had that happened?
She took a steady breath and shook her head as the ticking in her ears became more apparent. Constant. Steady. It was normally just a soft undercurrent beneath her thoughts, something to align them to a beat. To keep her on time. Aware. Ready. A gift, Dinah had told her, from the alcacraft that had granted her the blessing of transformation. A reminder that she was Alchemist Alice, even when she wasn’t.
She hadn’t known accepting the burden would force the magic-blessed item into her, to sit heavy and pretty between her breasts. Alchemist Red Riding Hood’s alcacraft hadn’t turned her hands into guns. In fact, none of the girls had been afflicted as she had, forced to accept and absorb more than she’d been willing. So why was she the only one with a pocket watch embedded in her chest?
The face of which currently glowed a cute electric blue.
It was not supposed to do that.
The wall at her front swayed forward, then popped back, making Lucilla jump. She blinked rapidly as the surface swirled, catching the shape and image of the watch in her chest—though failing to reflect anything else.
‘Bing-bong—alcacraft detected,’ husked the elevator voice, raspy instead of soothing, ‘preparing Alchemist.’
Lucilla stiffened, “Huh?”
What did that mean?
The vibration of the elevator crawled up her legs in a manner that made her entire lower torso quake. To steady herself she held onto the wall behind her, only to discover it was warm and slick. It felt like flesh. Flesh that sucked at her fingers and made them itch.
Lucilla pushed away from it, but the itching hadn’t stopped. It crawled up her arms, urging her to scratch—don’t! Don’t do that!
She shook her arms instead and stared at the forward wall, only to see the reflected image of the watch within her chest, no longer softly glowing. It pulsed with electric light instead.
A tightness filled her chest, strengthened by the sudden power of her heartbeat. Why was it—?
Liquid heat pressed against her skin as something low in her stomach spasmed. The wispy clouds of warmth against the floor had risen slowly over time, escaping her notice. Lucilla had been so busy ignoring the affliction of her alacraft watch that she hadn’t noticed how hot the inside of the elevator had become. How that heat was weighted as it swept across her belly and pressed, just like Red’s crystal gem—
Oh! The elevator was… flooded with magic, saturated in it. So thick she could practically taste its demand to let it in.
But something was different, the magic was concentrated with its passion as it pressed against the back of her skull. There was a tightness around her chest and legs like something trying to grip and hold her. It stirred a prickling beneath her skin as pressure filled her. The lump that she’d blamed on the elevator’s descent stretched and burned as it settled lower.
She flushed with a gasp as the thrill of magic woke her nerves with a lick of moist desire. Never had she wanted to transform so badly, to allow the magic to guide her, to twist her. It felt wicked and strange—
‘Alchemist Alice,’ the elevator voice cooed causing the watch in Lucilla’s chest to feel alive in a frightening way. ‘You cannot enter the court as Lucilla King.’
Lucilla worked to keep her legs locked so she wouldn’t fall into the cloud of fog rising past her legs Its wet form felt like a caress, squeezing around her hips as she dug her fingers into her palms. “I… I am not Alchemist Alice.”
The elevator buzzed a sound of screeched disapproval that rocked Lucilla’s head. She almost pitched forward, choking on the anger of the magic against her skin.
‘Bing-bong—that is wrong. Lucilla King is Alchemist Alice, Leader of the Alchemists of Valor.’
Dizzily Lucilla gasped as the itching of her skin continued to journey toward her chest. Her nipples pebbled from the strange sensation as new heat spread through her breasts. By the time she felt the invasive magic brush across her watch’s face, the itch had become an agitated throb that felt carnal in its urging.
Wanting to transform, needing to transform, had never felt like this.
‘Magical Girl, Alchemist Alice,’ the elevator purred, ‘please speak your words of valor.’
Lucilla shook her fuzzy head, glaring at the reflection of her pulsing watch. “I…”
The elevator buzzed again, and Lucilla’s knees buckled.
‘Lucilla King cannot enter the court. You are Alchemist Alice, shed your false self.’
Lucilla groaned as the elevator’s voice seductively plucked along her scattered thoughts. She had… she had been Lucilla King first. Alchemist Alice was the… the…
The voice softened further, low and thick with dark promise. ‘Assistance will be provided.’
The elevator released a long groan that appeared strained and human. The vibration within the space increased so strongly she could feel the tremor against her tongue. It groaned again and the pressure within it squeezed, causing the watch’s arms to stutter and jerk.
Then they raced forward.
A familiar sense of delirium flushed her mind as the ticking of the clock grew frenzied. All she could hear was its rapid tocking as her body pulsed, exhilarated. The words meant to trigger transformation rushed from someplace within her heart—white hot and ready to be spoken.
Lucilla gritted her teeth and swallowed hard. She would not fall to the false adrenaline that tried to enthrall her and made her body thump with alien yearning. She tensed up on purpose willing to shoulder the pain of holding back. If she relaxed and became Alchemist Alice in this perverted way, she wasn’t sure what would happen.
How much longer would she be held before she reached her destination? Some part of her knew they were still moving, but could the elevator keep her trapped inside even after arrival, drowning in the sound of her alacraft’s ticking until nothing remained but the magic’s rule?
‘Oh! I see.’ The elevator chirped, though what it had seen Lucilla couldn’t be certain. ‘Lucilla King has forgotten how to reveal her true self. Initiating guided transformation.’
“Wh-what?” Lucilla barked; blinking sweat from her eyes.
The elevator didn’t answer. Instead its loud vibrations weakened, becoming a faint buzz that shook her legs. Magic still rolled beneath her skin, stirred by the suffocating presence of whatever the elevator’s intention had been, but it was not as sharp. She found she could breathe through the warmth—
Wet heat oozed from her lower lips, which throbbed to the heavy beat of the alacraft’s ticking. A sense of pleasure tickled her spine, guided by the weight of the magic in her belly.
‘Release your tension. Breathe deeply. Relax. You will be released to court after involuntary transformation.’
Lucilla opened her mouth to speak, but what ebbed past her lips was a long soft moan. The material of her shirt and the undergarments beneath felt uncomfortable against her skin. Her thoughts were focused on each individual thread and how they felt alive against her hard nipples. The exposed skin around the alcacraft was deeply flushed, making the freckles on her copper tones look red and angry. But the gentle pulsing from its face was more concerning as it spilled light with each erratic watch arm rotation.
The ticking had mingled well with the elevator’s tones as it somehow matched the irregular cadence. ‘Involuntary transformation is not as embarrassing as the pamphlets would have you think. Magical Girls must release their magic at regular intervals.’
“P-pamphlets?” Lucilla arched against the suckling wall and pressed her legs together. She had never felt so warm before, so utterly held in magic’s grip. She cupped the aching place between her legs and felt a wave of fresh yearning wash over her. The pain of holding back was sweeter now, less piercing. She moaned faintly, it felt… nice. Like something inside was straining, tender and full.
‘You can read more about it at the information booth within the east wing of the Obsidian Palace. It’s healthy to experience the relief of transformation. Euphoric. Natural. Top Magical Girl experts recommend remaining in Alchemist form to reduce the risk of involuntary transformation—’
The elevator’s voice trailed off, or perhaps it was devoured by the much louder ticking of her alacraft. She could feel each jerk of the watch arms within her body, speeding her closer to something strange. Involuntary. Her hips bucked as the pressure within her increased and her clothing kept prickling along her skin. Wrong. She wanted to wear something else. Something that wasn’t jean shorts and a baggy top. Something tight that would hug her skin and feel less restrictive and itchy.
Her magic pulsed white bliss across her mind, approving. She felt renewed moisture trickle down her thighs and swore the tendrils of fog drew nonsense in the wetness. She could not help but squeeze herself, knowing her pussy was swollen and her clit trembled for more pressure.
She felt messy behind the cover of her clothes. Why was she so turned on?
The magic lapping at her thighs trembled and she felt the heat of its touch against her lower lips. The burn beneath her skin increased, bringing back the feverous rapture of rightness she’d always felt before transformation.
It felt so good this time, being cradled by the gentle waves of her magic, pushed and urged by the elevator’s own.
She could not hold onto her tension; the elevator was seducing her properly now. She was helpless, an avatar, ready to burst. She had to get out of these civilian clothes. She had to transform!
The magic of the watch spilled, gushing out in an erratic pattern. Transformation was a normally smooth and graceful action, one she encouraged with her words of valor. With her throat tight and her tongue clumsy, she could do little else but moan as the power did whatever it thought mattered. For one breathless moment, she was completely naked with her image fully reflected on every elevator surface. The veins along her chest were raised and pulsing, throbbing to the beat of the watch’s electric blue. Her stomach was tight and twitching, her legs trembling, as the space between them pearled with moisture. With her mouth open and drooling, she had never looked so... erotic in the grasp of the magic that held her.
Then the power snapped upon her and bathed the entire elevator in its euphoric blues.
Lucilla’s mind was silent for one indescribable instant, knowing little else but the brilliant taste of relief.
When the ticking returned from the backdrop of her mind, she felt… better. So much better. Magic sparked along her skin as she flexed, good as it filled her with a familiar joy. The watch at the center of her chest began to settle, the arms no longer jerking outside its usual pattern. Her skin cooled slightly, able to breath in the flesh tight fabric that hugged her torso and ended in shorts above her thighs. Even the outerwear that enhanced the cuteness of her magical suit was less restrictive, the bunny-eared hoodie cool against her overheated back.
She collapsed against the back wall fully and loosened the shimmering gold of the scarf around her neck. Despite feeling the oppressive magic of the elevator lessen there was something wrong. She was still kind of… wet.
She shivered against the wall and floated with the dizzying weight of something changed in her head. Transforming like that should not have been possible, this hadn’t happened the last time she’d—
She groaned as she hobbled back to her feet and tugged on her now twin ponytailed braids.
Lucilla King was gone.
‘Bing-bong—welcome to the Obsidian Palace, Alchemist Alice.’
The elevator doors slid open.