Idali shifts on the spot, her right leg twisting at the thigh beyond what a human leg could. I carefully inhale, tasting the air. I pick very little other than a scent that makes my nose prickle. The Little one is agitated and struggling against my control.
I put my symbiont down, hard, using a combination of the signaling construct to tell it to obey while also pushing my will down on it by moving its articulations for no other reason than that of making it obey my orders.
“Do you mind showing me?” I ask her.
“Jessica.” Yvonne protests.
“Keep your underwear on.” I tell Idali.
“Of course I will.” She grunts.
“Oh, and you probably shouldn’t let it connect to your spine.” I add.
“Too late.” She replies, reaching to touch her lower back.
Idali takes a seat at the base of the Rykz’ log wall and slowly pulls her pants down. My sense already informed me where the parasite is, as its temperature is just slightly cooler than her body, but the sight revealed to me still catches my breath.
The parasite is entirely contained within her leg, it was implanted in a space that goes from her waist-bone to a dozen centimeters above her knee. It seems like her flesh was scooped out of muscle and bone, leaving only a chasm of skin.
There is a large oval patch of epidermis missing, leaving the parasite’s brown rubbery skin visible. Her skin bears red scars from the Tianeels’ attack but there are also dozens of straight incisions around the place where she was injured.
The red points all around the cut wounds seem to be what remains of the holes where the string that was used to sow her passed. I carefully place my left hand on the side of her waist, using its sense to get a clearer perspective.
The Little one stiffens, and so does Idali and her parasite. I don’t feel aggression coming from our parasites, merely caution. Her parasite doesn’t have any articulations like mine does at the elbow, it has a kind of rib-cage and is elongated in shape.
There are eleven tendrils protrude beneath her upper-thigh, seven anchored around her waist-bone while four spread out in her lower back and stomach area, one of those is attached to the base of her spine.
“This is…” Yvonne gasps.
“What allows me to walk again.” Idali finishes her sentence in a grim manner. She’s now trembling.
“Trust me, it does much more than that.” I whisper.
I pull my left hand away to place it above her knee. I focus to detect how the parasite holds her leg straight. There are five short roots set alongside her bone, I also find the last tendril whirled around an artery.
“Can you feel anything below the pa… symbiont?” I ask.
“Depends what you mean.” Idali grunts. “Its muted so I have touch but I haven’t felt pain.”
“I’m going to let mine touch yours, if that’s okay.” I tell her.
“I’m real nervous.” Idali tells me.
“Is it you or your symbiont?” I question.
“I… I don’t know.” She replies.
“Okay, mine is as well so we’ll wait until they get to know each other, alright?” I ask.
“S, sure.” Idali nods.
I sit down on the cold earth next to her. I notice that her left arm isn’t moving much, it hung by her side when she stood and is now resting on her left thigh. She seems fidgety, and so is Yvonne.
“How do you feel?” I question.
“Not a clue.” She mutters, blushing. “Too many conflicting emotions.”
“Spell them out.” I tell her.
“H, horny.” She grunts, glaring at me. “Scared, ashamed. Pissed off.”
“Pissed off?” I blink.
“Because I’m realizing that half of those aren’t from me.” Idali utters between grit teeth. “The thing is acting like a subject to yours, it’s playing subdued.”
“Ah.” I nod. “Makes sense I suppose, mine is older and more experienced.”
I shift my left hand up towards her symbiont’s brown rubbery flesh, laying the bare palm directly upon it. Idali pales as the Little one starts sending aggressive pheromones. I do my best not to roll my eyes.
“It’s posturing, don’t worry about it.” I tell her.
“No!” She shouts in a primal expression of fright.
Idali’s arms suddenly flash out and shove me back. She then pulls her legs to her chest. Her wide panicked eyes are fixed in empty space, absent intelligence. I swiftly put some distance between us and tell my symbiont to stop.
The Little one pouts, refusing to respond. I frown and send the friend signal a good hundred times. My symbiont quickly yields and relays the feeling to the other symbiont. Too late, we triggered something.
Idali’s body relaxes somewhat but she still seems scared out of her mind and remains mute. I bite my lower lip and get back up on my feet. I walk backward until Idali’s breaths grow steadier. My stomach knots up in anguish.
“Okay, this might be bad.” I tell Yvonne, whispering.
“How bad?” She asks, half-drawing her short sword.
“No need for that.” I berate her. The sword-sworn hesitates but sets the blade fully back in its sheath. “I think…” I pause. “I believe her symbiont is taking a more direct approach to her than mine ever did.”
“What does that mean?” Yvonne asks.
“It doesn’t have the freedom that mine does so I believe that it’s trying to control her emotions and reactions when it’s uncertain or feels threatened.” I explain. “We were never so close that she would just up and kiss me.”
“What can we do?” Yvonne questions.
“I have no clue.” I bluntly reply. “I doubt there is anything to do.”
“Poor girl.” Yvonne whispers.
“How long did it take for you to learn how to walk again?” I ask Idali.
“…” Idali remains silent, her frightened eyes fixed on me.
“Idali.” I insist, taking a step forward.
The Little one bristles and sends out a burst of aggressive pheromones again, but this time it feels contemptuous. I clamp down on my symbiont, berating it for its behavior. It whines at me, apparently implying that it is helping.
“About, a week?” She replies questioningly, her gaze still hazy.
I slowly approach again. Idali pushes against the log wall to slide forward and lie on her back. I have the disturbing feeling that she’s exposing her belly like a wild animal submitting. It excites me, and that makes me feel ashamed.
Idali spreads her thighs just slightly in an obvious reaction to my lust, making me freeze on the spot. I swiftly and firmly use a signaling construct to order my symbiont to focus on healing. It protests as it has no need but I repeat the command, sending it into a passive sort of slumber.
I reinforce the command with my will, using the certain connection between us that goes beyond the use of constructs that has existed since one of its tendrils connected to the base of my skull.
The link has been weaker since Celyz separated the tendrils that merged with me but it remains. The Little one makes its displeasure known but it does recede, somewhat satisfied by the fact the other parasite submitted to us.
“Yvonne, can you give us a moment?” I ask.
“What’s happening to her?” She returns a question instead.
“She’s like a kid that has a wild dog but no leash.” I explain. “I had to learn to deal with my symbiont because we were both in danger while she’s been living with it for weeks and had to depend on it from the start to walk. The dependency is higher and each has less freedom.”
“Why do you want me to go?” She asks.
“Because I’m going to do something I don’t want anyone else to witness.” I reply firmly. “And I need to teach her things you can’t know about.”
“Can I stand guard a hundred paces away?” Yvonne questions.
“You can stand within yelling earshot but out of sight.” I reply. “Sorry.”
“I’m aware that I don’t need to coddle you.” Yvonne says. “But there’s no sense in taking risks. Call if you anything happens.”
“I will.” I nod.
Yvonne departs, making her way around the Rykz camp’s wall. I hear her stopping as soon as she turns a corner. Good enough. I squat in front of Idali and snap my fingers in front of her eyes, startling her.
She opens her knees further and spreads her arms out. I can detect that she’s moist but the fright deep inside her eyes convinces me that she is in no mood to tangle. I slowly reach out to her throat with my right hand.
Idali tenses but makes no move to stop me, she remains eerily still. I slowly take hold of her neck, pressing my palm on her throat. She gulps, apparently still lost for words, she starts panting. I take a deep breath.
“Idali.” I call. She spreads her legs further. “Answer me.”
“Yes.” She replies in a tiny voice.
“You don’t like me that much do you?” I ask.
“I do.” She mutters.
“Develop that thought.” I tell her.
“You’re, a good friend. Only one, left.” She stutters.
“But do you want to have sex with me?” I ask.
“I, I want to have sex.” She replies, blushing up to the tips of her ears.
“With me? Right now?” I press. “Think it through, carefully.”
“Y, Y, Y…” Idali stumbles on her answer, clearly unwilling to complete it but pressured to. She falls silent.
“Idali.” I insist.
“N, no!” She yells out. “Yes, later.” She adds in a gasp.
“Okay. Hang onto that first immediate refusal.” I tell her. “Keep repeating that over and over in your mind.”
Her right leg twitches. I squeeze her throat until it stops. Idali bares her teeth but shows no sign of attacking. It takes a while for her to realize what she’s doing and stop. I nod in encouragement.
“It feels like I’m losing it.” She says, shivering.
“You’re not.” I shake my head. “You just have to learn to recognize which impulses are yours and which come from the symbiont.”
“I’m certain the lust is mine.” Idali grunts.
“But you wouldn’t act on it like that, would you?” I ask.
“N, no.” She shakes her head.
“Because that’s not how humans act.” I add.
“Yes.” She agrees, looking away in shame. Bad choice of words on my part considering her past.
“Your symbiont will learn that if you make it clear it is making you act suspicious, which might expose it.” I tell her, relying on the fact that these parasites adjust their appearance to hide, meaning their primary defense is to conceal themselves.
“Make it clear?” Idali asks. “It doesn’t talk!” I ponder for a moment.
“Reinforce yourself, stay firm and intense about what you want from a situation. It’ll translate to the symbiont because it does take cues from you.” I explain.
“Is, is that why I couldn’t talk a moment ago?” She asks, shivering.
“I don’t know, what were you thinking?” I question.
“That, that maybe if I don’t do anything, you’ll leave me alone.” She admits, looking down.
“Were those your thoughts or your symbiont’s?” I ask rhetorically as I know the answer.
“I’m not sure.” Idali replies, looking panicked. “Both?”
“Likely both.” I affirm. “As far as I can tell, you both wanted to appeal to me from the get-go but it went south when my symbiont tried to affirm itself so you went defensive and submissive because neither thought you could win.”
“O, okay.” Idali gulps. “That makes sense, I think. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t. You’re stronger than I was.” I compliment her.
“I’m flat out terrified right now.” She denies. “But, I went through worse and I can walk now.”
“Then walk.” I say. “It’s what I do when mine gets rebellious. I reaffirm the command it received to obey me by making it move as I direct it to.”
I hold my right hand out for her. She doesn’t just take hold of it, she grasps at it. As I pull her up, the Little one reached to run its root-like fingers along Idali’s right thigh in a protective and reassuring manner that syncs up well with how I feel. Idali pushes her chest into my face and rests her cheek atop my head.
“Not that I don’t enj…” I start, attempting to joke.
“Please teach me, Elizabeth.” Idali interrupts me with her formal question.
It makes me feel out of place to have this tall woman, a gorgeous blond with admirably sized breasts, behave like this. I got Leomi, but it took a struggle and several fights, not to mention our relationship is very different.
I can tell that the symbionts are communicating, I can even smell the acrid and sugary pheromones they’re exchanging even though they’re doing so through skin contact.
The content of what they’re expressing is foreign to me. It resembles what I sometimes grasp of the communications between the Silver Hive’s Princesses but it’s so vague that I can’t really depend on that.
“First, pull your pants up.” I tell her, pulling my symbiont away.
“Right.” Idali chuckles, doing so.
“Second, we won’t be sleeping together.” I add.
“B, but…” She protests.
“Unless you want to become the third wo… female I get obsessed with, it’s a terrible idea.” I grunt. “I’m clingy like you wouldn’t believe.”
Fourth, I still dream about taking Teva in front of Leomi. That was more about Leomi than Teva. We should go and apologize to her again. She won’t like it if we do, she was pretty adamant.
“Clingy wouldn’t be so bad.” Idali whispers.
“Idali.” I insist, berating myself for the mistake. “I wasn’t serious about that. I’m not free.”
“B, but who else would want me now?” Idali responds with anguish.
“You can bandage it and say you’re injured.” I reply calmly. “It seems like your skin is growing over it anyway so you could apply a healing construct to speed it up.”
“Lie, hide.” Idali mutters, dissatisfied.
“I know.” I sigh. I assemble a messaging construct with all the commands to give the Little one that Celyz gave me and then a signaling construct. “The first one has the commands, the second one will allow you to communicate directly with the symbiont.”
Idali pulls away from me to take hold of the constructs, which tells me she likely does not have access to the symbiont’s ability to sense its surroundings. I ponder about not telling her but determine that the benefits outweigh the vague risks involved.
“The symbionts have a sense to detect their surroundings.” I tell her. “I don’t exactly remember how I got access to it but I think it occurred because we were in danger and I needed it. You could train your spear skills and try to detect things you can’t see.”
“You won’t help?” Idali asks, throwing me a worried look.
She moves towards me, trying to hold me again. I step back. She pauses, looking utterly confused. I wait for a moment to see how she’ll react. Idali takes a big step back and lifts her right leg before stomping it down.
“This is pretty disturbing.” She mutters.
“What’s it doing?” I ask.
“I have no idea but I can see that I’m being way too needy.” Idali frowns “That’s not how you get people in your pants, that’s how you get into someone’s pants.” She shakes her head. “And, either way, I want to find someone not keep screwing around.”
“Good.” I sigh in relief. “I was starting to think I’d never get my friend back.”
“Okay.” She takes a deep breath. “Spear training?” She asks.
“Short of battle, it’s all I can think of.” I reply. “But, I would advise against fighting.” I pause. “I’m going to get mine removed if you didn’t know.”
“I knew.” Idali replies, giving me a look of concern.
“The symbionts, they push our bodies as far as necessary.” I explain. “I don’t want to get far into it because Celyz will likely explain this to you a lot better than I would.”
“No problem.” Idali smiles, hitting her right leg with her fist. “Your tip’s working already. I think it pushed me around because I let it.” She pauses, looking away. “And also because I really need a pair of arms to hold me.”
“Sorry.” I mutter.
“No, it’s fine. I blew my shot with you, if I ever had one, when we met.” Idali shakes her head. “We can still…” She trails off, throwing me an inviting look that I sustain with a flat gaze. “… fine. How is it going with you and Countess Lance?”
“I’m skirting disaster but we’re both insane enough to make it work.” I reply, giggling. “How are your other injuries?” I ask.
“It’s not pretty.” She makes a grimace. “Hope you got that Odo good.”
“Ripped his tongue out and crushed his neck.” I reply, for once not even shuddering at my past actions. “Mind showing me?”
Idali gives me a corner smile and starts slowly pulling her shirt off. I blush and quickly stop her by pulling on the bottom hem of her shirt. The Little one briefly awakened, apparently trying to make use of my attraction to the blond woman’s breasts.
I suspect my symbiont to have been trying to subdue Idali and her parasite from the start, doing so while communicating as little as possible to me because it likely could tell I would go against its instincts.
“You don’t need to take that off.” I gripe at Idali.
“You know that casual relationships are a thing, right?” She counters.
“Not for me, and the two of us have symbionts that introduce doubts about what our own feelings are.” I warn her.
I take hold of her collar and throw a look down, finding more red scars and dots, showing she was sown up there too. There is one huge angled scar running from her left collarbone down to her waist, where the other Tianeel bit into her.
“Fine.” Idali sighs, pulling her shirt back up.
Idali is rather fidgety, shifting her weight from one foot to the other but still seems unbothered by her scars. I admire her for it considering how hard it still is for me to deal with mine as I’ve yet to show them to anyone in full light.
“I think that’s why Fenyz has been trying to keep me away from you and told me to go to Hetlan.”
“Hm.” I pause. “Where is Fenyz?” I ask.
“Inside.” Idali replies pointing to the camp over her shoulder. “She keeps sending scouts to escort me but it’s pretty easy to lose them since they can’t really jump and they give up on chasing me pretty quickly.”
“That’s probably your symbiont’s doing.” I tell her. “But… going to Hetlan might not be a bad idea.”
“Why?” Idali asks.
“I’m going to go back to a peaceful life so I doubt you’ll want to stick around.” I reply, shrugging. “You said you wanted a fresh start before and Edusa is going to reform the entire duchy so it would be a good chance for you to spread your wings. I found that having a clear goal helped me control myself, not sure if it has any effect on the symbionts.”
“I’ll think about it.” Idali nods. “Fuck, I feel so much better.” She suddenly exclaims. “I felt like I was in a dream up to now.”
“I was lucky to have a clear objective and Celyz’ guidance.” I tell her. “You should beware of the fact that the Rykz’ ancestors, which these symbionts are close to, used to attract other animals with pheromones to eat them or take care of their predators for them.”
“I’ll remember that.” Idali nods.
“I’m going to go in, I need to talk to Celyz about you and something else.” I tell her. “I can give you some pointers about the constructs on the way.”
“Later, I need to take care of something you won’t.” Idali replies with a wink.
She turns to face the spiked wall and squats down. A moment later, she bursts five meters up in the air, flying far above the barricade seemingly without an effort. I hear her land with a thump and start running soon after.
“I could do it too.” I mutter, jealous at her ease.