Learning Phase, Chapter 2

  • Posted on January 9, 2021 at 3:13 pm

By Nuit du Loup

Three days later, Isana was once again back at Claire’s hotel.  This time she was in one of the private dining rooms that Claire rarely ever used. It was a remnant from over a century ago when the Hotel had been a very busy place and traveling businessmen would meet here.

The floor was made of a highly polished, golden-colored hardwood and the table running down the middle of the rectangular chamber would have cost more than some cars way back when it was made. A crimson tablecloth added to the richness of the décor as did the elaborate light fixture on the ceiling. It was a complicated weaving of glass that filled the room with warm light.

“Will you quit fidgeting all about?” Claire chastened Isana in a huff as she ran a fine brush through her fine white hair. “If you don’t I’ll have to do this!”

Isana felt one of Claire’s fingers scratch teasingly behind her right cat ear in a certain place and an involuntary shudder went up Isana’s spine. She arched her back in response and a surprised hiss escaped her mouth. Claire continued to rub the sensitive spot and it rendered Isana useless.

“Mom! Stop that!” Emi cried. She was kneeling behind the chair in which Isana was sitting. She had volunteered to brush out her tail so the white fur looked fluffy. Claire’s actions were making her tail whip around uncontrollably into the girl’s face. “I can’t work like this!”

“I will if Isana is going to stop being a baby,” Claire said primly, looking into her hazel eyes with intelligent brown ones. “She was the one who asked us to do this.”

“O-okay,” Isana gasped out. “Just stop doing that!”

“Good,” Claire responded with satisfaction and withdrew the finger. “You really shouldn’t have told me about that spot.”

“I regret it all the time,” Isana replied, gasping for breath.  That spot by her ears was extremely stimulating and her entire body was flushed. The brushing resumed from both of her friends and she tried to calm her nerves.

In just moments she would be meeting the three girls that she’d be taking in and it was driving her nuts. She’d arrived at the hotel in a near panic and it had taken nearly an hour for Claire to calm her down enough to put on the nice, patterned, dark-purple skirt she’d brought and the matching black spaghetti-strap top. Then she’d realized that her hair and tail were a complete mess.

“What are you so worried about?” Emi asked, holding her tail still and brushing it out some more in long, soothing strokes. “I think it’ll be fun to have more girls around here.”

“You just see possible new playmates,” Claire smiled. “Isana’s going to be responsible for feeding them, clothing them, teaching them—”

“Okay, okay, that’s enough of that!” Isana huffed, ending the list. “I just want to make a good first impression.”

“I see,” Claire said, setting the brush aside.

“Am I done?” Isana asked.

“You look perfectly fine,” Claire assured her, still sounding amused. “Emi, why don’t you go out and wait in the lobby now. It’s just about time for them to arrive.”

“Okay!” Emi popped up to her feet and bounded out of the room, radiating excitement with every fiber of her body.

“Maybe Emi should adopt them instead of me?” Isana said, smirking at her older friend.

“She’d love that,” Claire chuckled. “But give her a couple of days and they’d be helping her clean and cook.”

“If they are even old enough for that,” Isana sighed. “I can’t believe I forgot to ask how old they were.”

“Well, we’ll be finding out very soon,” Claire responded, looking over the set places at the table with a professional’s meticulousness.

The wait wasn’t very long. Even though Isana could swear several hours passed by, Claire insisted later that it was only fifteen minutes. The arrival of the group from Arbor was announced by only a single knock of warning on the door. Then the door swung open and Emi held it open with a welcoming gesture. When no one followed her, Emi looked back into the empty doorway in confusion. Emi, Isana and Claire all frowned, but before anyone could move and inquire as to what was going on, a soft voice hissed, “Just go!” and a short, young girl stumbled into view, obviously recovering from an unexpected shove.

The very pretty young girl looked to be somewhere around eleven or twelve and was only a couple inches shorter than Isana herself.  She wore a dark pair of jeans, a pink long-sleeved shirt and a navy vest that buttoned up the front. When she recovered her balance, dark, almond-shaped eyes swept the room nervously and small hands clasped into fists of fear. Isana’s eyes widened a little as she took this beautiful girl in and she noticed a naturally tan complexion, small facial features and long, silky black hair.  But what stood out most were the two thin, six inch long and pointed ears that twitched and quivered from the girl’s obviously strained emotions. She was so adorably cute that Isana felt an odd flutter inside her heart.

“Say something, dummy!” said the soft hiss again. The visible girl paled a little, but her eyes finally locked onto Isana’s face and it became clear her own description had been given. The girl stared at her for a long couple of seconds and Isana felt her own fears vanish entirely.

“Hello,” Isana said with a warm smile of friendly greeting. How on earth could she be nervous when this young lady looked terrified? “I’m Isana. Did Rebecca and Maya tell you about me?”

The girl nodded, easing up a bit. Her expressive ears lifted up as some of the fear went away. “I’m Sora,” the girl said in a soft, sweet voice.

“Well, Sora,” Isana replied, savoring the name. “I was told that they weren’t going to be giving you any food so that you’d be hungry when you got here. Would you and your friends like to come in and eat with me so we can get to know each other? I promise that I’m not scary or mean at all.”

“She’s really nice,” Emi said, adding her two cents. The girl glanced at Emi and then slowly walked into the room. Isana stood and they met halfway into the room. She reached out a hand and Sora took it with a growing smile that really lit up her face. As Isana led the no longer nervous girl to the dinner table, Isana addressed the two that were still hiding behind the doorway.

“Would the two of you like to eat as well?”

“Is she nice?” asked a calm female voice. It wasn’t the same one that had been whispering earlier.

“I think so,” Sora answered, now looking at Isana very curiously. She seemed especially interested in her cat ears. Smiling wide in amusement, Isana ducked her head toward the girl and was rewarded with a short giggle of delight as the girl reached out a hand and softly touched those ears. “They’re so soft and furry!”

“Glad you like ’em,” Isana grinned. Then she gave the girl a conspiratorial wink, “Looks like it’s just going to be you, me, and my friends eating.”

“What?” The squawk was followed by the head of another young girl as she peeked into the room and saw Sora at ease, happily stroking Isana’s fur covered ears. This girl had very dark, almost wine-colored red hair and a darkly tan complexion. A smooth, white horn came out from the very top center of her forehead and then curled up along the scalp only to curl back upwards at the tip. Her eyes were also a fierce red in color and had a more angular shape. Her nose was small and very slim and her lips were opened in surprise.

The rest of the girl followed after a moment and Isana saw she had to be a year or two older than Sora. She was dressed in a short, black skirt that was deliberately tattered and a black long-sleeved shirt that curved over the small buds of breasts. There were odd speckles on her skin in places. The new girl watched for a second and then the third and final girl stepped into the open.

“See, Karin?” the third girl said to the second in a tone that suggested a tried patience. “There was nothing to worry about.”

The third girl was obviously the oldest or most mature of the three by a tiny bit from her attitude. She stood a couple inches taller than Isana would, an easy feat, and her face looked like she was a bit miffed at the second girl, Karin. She had long, curly, cinnamon-brown hair that fell to her thin waist. Her movements were much more sure and graceful than the other two and her green eyes were extremely intelligent ones. She wore a thigh length skirt of dark blue and a very tasteful green halter top. Isana felt a moment of amusement when she saw that this young lady’s breasts were already a tiny bit bigger than own small endowment. Isana regarded these two calmly and she realized that all three girls were very pretty.

“So, your name is Karin?” Isana asked the second girl.

“Ah-huh,” the girl answered with an urchin grin. “Nice to meet yah!”

“I guess that leaves me,” girl number three laughed. “Sorry about Karin, she insisted on checking you out first. I’m Ayaka.”

“It’s alright,” Isana said with an easy shrug. “Nice you meet you too, Karin and Ayaka. But why did you send poor Sora in first?”

“Because she’s so cute and adorable!” Karin laughed, “and she’s really shy so if she trusted you, so could I.”

“And you?” Isana asked the oldest girl.

“I wanted to come in right off,” Ayaka answered easily. “I had to humor Karin though so I hung back. But Sora seems remarkably taken with you already.”

Sora just smiled and pulled her hand back to lay it on Isana’s arm. “She’s nice,” the girl said as if that answered everything.

“So we see,” Ayaka replied with a sisterly smile in return. “But you mentioned food?”

“I did,” Isana confirmed and glanced towards Claire, who had retreated to lean against the far wall with Emi to watch. “This is Claire, a very good friend of mine and the owner of this hotel. Emi there is her daughter.”

“We met at the door,” Karin nodded, walking over and seating herself next to Sora with a playful flounce. Ayaka snorted in amusement and calmly sat on Isana’s other side. Now that she was closer, she could see the flecks on Karin’s skin looked a bit like scales.

“Well, Claire and Emi have prepared a very nice dinner for us,” Isana told them. “Where are Rebecca and Maya?”

“They handed us off to Emi and told us to enjoy ourselves with you,” Ayaka replied with an amused roll of her eyes. “It is nice to meet you, Claire, thanks a lot for the dinner.”

“No problem at all,” Claire grinned back. “I’m just happy you girls are going to take care of my friend from now on. I’ll go grab the grub and be right back. Come on, Emi.” She and her daughter slipped from the room and Isana regarded her new charges.

“Are you really a witch?” Karin asked after a moment. She was looking around Sora at her inquisitively. She definitely had a mischievous demeanor.

“Yeah!” Sora said, perking up considerably to match Karin’s expression. “Are you really gonna teach us magic?”

In answer to Karin’s question Isana flicked a finger towards a glass of water in front of her place at the table and the liquid inside exploded up into the air. As the girls gasped in surprise, all the water shifted and in the next instant a veritable hoard of ice crystal butterflies were flapping around the room in a loose cloud. Her audience gaped at them.

“They’re so pretty,” Sora said in visible wonderment. “Will I be able to do that?”

“I have no idea,” Isana shrugged, answering honestly. “Like all other things, some people have specific skills when it comes to magic and some are good with a lot of things. But I’ll teach you all, everything I can. Are you a witch, Sora?”

“You bet she is,” Karin snorted, and gave Sora a quick smile to show she didn’t mean it in an insulting way. “Last week we were all woken up in the middle of the night because she started screaming in a panic. Somehow there was a tiny rainstorm going on in her room. There were clouds and lighting and everything! It lasted for almost twenty minutes before it went away.”

Sora flushed with embarrassment, her ears drooping, and Isana chuckled. When the girl cringed at her laugh, Isana reached out a reassuring hand and stroked the top length of Sora’s left ear affectionately. Sora blinked in surprise at the gesture and then leaned in close for another. Isana smiled as she obliged and addressed all of the girls as she gave the ear a few more strokes.

“Don’t ever be embarrassed around me. I can guarantee that I’ve probably done something just as bad or worse in my past, so any problem you girls cause won’t be that big a deal to me. You will cause problems because magic is funny that way, but I won’t insult or mock you when it happens. For example, I can top Sora’s little rainstorm. I once caused every toilet and sink in a small office building to overflow at the same time.”

“Even ones people were sitting on?” Karin asked, breaking out into laughter.

“Every single one,” Isana confirmed with a grin. “Including the one I was sitting on at the time.” Even Ayaka burst into giggles at this and a visibly amused Sora was leaning in close enough now that Isana put an arm around her in hug. “So, other than Sora, who is the other witch?”

“That would be me,” Karin said, reigning in her giggles. When she leaned forward Isana noticed something odd lying against the back of her shirt. Karin saw her gaze and after visibly thinking it over, she raised a pair of small, bat-like wings outward from her back. “Are they weird?” she asked tentatively.

“No more than the fact I have a tail and cat ears,” Isana assured her. “I still think you’re incredibly pretty. Can I ask what you are?”

Karin beamed at the compliment and shrugged, “I was told that I have dragon blood in me. I don’t know what that really means entirely, but it’s why I have these wings and the horn.”

“And she breathes fire,” Ayaka said, smirking at the younger girl. “I noticed you left that bit out.”

“Spoilsport,” Karin grumped with a smile, and then stuck out a very long tongue at her. When Isana raised an eyebrow at her, Karin pursed her lips and a tiny flame licked out into the air.

“So what about you?” Isana asked Ayaka.

“I’m not a witch at all,” the oldest girl replied pleasantly with no hint of jealousy of the other two. “But what I am is an Okami.”

“Okami?” Isana said. She’d heard that term somewhere.

“A wolf-kin land deity,” Ayaka answered helpfully. “That doesn’t mean I’m a goddess or anything that impressive, but I can shapeshift and a few other things. The deity part originates from the fact that my power comes from the nature energy in the land around me. In Arbor I could hardly do anything because of the city.”

“Isana!” they all turned at the exasperated moan and saw Claire pushing in a trolley cart laden with food. Emi followed in behind her with another one and they did so while walking through the ice butterflies. “How can I see what I’m doing with these things all over the place?”

“Sorry,” Isana chuckled. “I was just giving the girls a brief demo.”

She waved her left hand and all the butterflies melted into water and then streamed through the air and back into her glass. She smiled at the looks of disappointment on every face except Claire’s. She was becoming a bad influence around here.

Claire and Emi brought the carts to the end of the long table and began setting out plates in front of everyone already seated and also at their own places on the other side. Tonight they were having chicken cacciatore and it smelled absolutely divine. The girls apparently agreed because all their faces lit up when the food was laid out and the smell of the pasta and sauce wafted up. This was one of Isana’s favorites. Next to come were big bowls of buttery breadsticks and smaller ones of salad. Lastly, Emi poured some fresh lemonade for everyone and then both she and her mother took their seats.

“It smells great,” Isana said to Emi, since she knew who had probably made the main dish.

“It should,” Claire snorted as Emi blushed. “Once she knew it was your favorite, she made damn sure she could make it perfectly. We were eating the leftovers for a week. Go ahead and dig in, girls!”

Not needing any more encouragement than that, everyone gleefully reached for their silverware. Since there was a momentary pause in the conversation, Isana looked over the girls again and thought that maybe it really would be nice having them around. They had such diverse personalities that she didn’t doubt that things would be interesting and in just meeting them she felt a warm glow.

“This is really good!” Sora said, smiling at Emi. “Did you really make it?”

“Yep!” Emi nodded in a proud affirmative. “I always make the food whenever Isana eats here. My mom has been teaching me everything she knows.”

“Are you guys family?” Karin asked, stabbing a hunk of salad and popping it into her mouth.

“No,” Claire said with an amused smiled. “But Isana may as well be. She and I have been friends for over two decades and she was there at the hospital when Emi was born, so she’s known my daughter literally since birth. She’s like the crazy aunt or something like that.”

“You don’t seem that crazy,” Ayaka said, laughing and looking amusedly at Isana.

“I dunno, she might be right,” Isana smirked playfully. “In fact, just the other day I fought a giant chicken all by myself.”

“A giant chicken?” Karin asked with interest.

“Yeah, a giant chicken that breathed fire and had talons that could tear up concrete,” Isana grinned back at the girl.

“It’s her job,” Claire interjected, deflating Isana’s boasting.

“Your job is to fight giant chickens?” Karin asked disbelievingly.

“Not quite,” Isana laughed. “When the town has a magic related problem and they can’t solve it themselves or they want a magical working, they give me a call and I get paid to fix things. It just happened to be a giant chicken this week. Since I’m just about the only magic user around, I get all sorts of different requests.”

Isana reached for her napkin to wipe some excess butter off her fingers and her arm brushed against Sora’s. It was then she noticed that the girl had moved her chair very close without Isana noticing and the contact sent warmth flooding through her. Sora smiled pleasantly at her at the touch and Isana had to once again remark mentally that Sora was a very good looking young girl. Feeling a need to distract her thoughts from that track, Isana was thankful when Ayaka asked a new question.

“Do you live close by here?”

“No, not really close at all,” Isana answered quickly. “I live about ten miles outside of town in the middle of the deep forest.”

“All by yourself?” Sora asked.

“Yeah, but it wasn’t that bad,” Isana assured her. “Now you girls will be around to keep me company.”

“Her house is huge!” Emi added.

“Cool,” Karin smiled. “But what…”

***

The rest of the dinner passed good naturedly and Isana was more than a little pleased that Ayaka, Karin and Sora were relaxed about being with her. She had worried that they might resent her for pulling them away from the home they had known, but it seemed the exact opposite was true. They seemed very pleased that they would finally have a house and a home that was truly theirs and not a communal place. They also seemed exceedingly happy with the fact that the four of them would essentially be a family from now on.

The only thing that gave her pause was the odd quaver she felt whenever she looked at Sora. The girl seemed to be becoming much attached to her and a certain something inside her was very happy with that. It had been years since she had last had a lover, but she recognized the signs of physical attraction when either of them looked at the other. That could make things weird soon, but she hoped she could explain things clearly to all the girls before anything happened and something would. Sora’s magic was awakening much to strongly for them to resist the desire for very long, even if Sora didn’t yet realize what it was she was feeling.

Eventually all stomachs were full of good food, and it was time for Isana to take the girls to their new home. Claire and Emi escorted them to the lobby where the girls’ bags were waiting, and Isana could see that Emi was sad to see her new friends leaving already. Claire’s daughter, despite being younger than all three of the others, had been a hit. So as they walked out of the hotel’s doors it was with exchanged promises to see the others again. When the door shut, it was just Isana and her three new charges standing out in the late evening sun.

“Well,” Isana said with a content smile as a soothingly warm breeze sighed through the air. “You girls ready to see your new home?”

“Of course we are,” Ayaka laughed brightly, speaking for the others from their similar expressions. “How are we getting out there?”

“In that!” Isana grinned proudly, pointing at the red behemoth truck she drove. It was one of the few powered vehicles in the small lot. Around back would be the stable for those that rode in on horses and a storage space for bikes. “That monster is mine.”

All three girls looked at the huge vehicle and Karin seemed to try and fit them together in her head.

“That is yours?” Karin asked in amazement. “You could pitch a tent and live in the bed of that thing!”

“It is just a tad large,” Ayaka added diplomatically, but she actually seemed a little impressed.

“I like it,” Sora said last. She frowned at the looks from the other girls and felt a need to defend her opinion. “It’s cool looking.”

“Thank you Sora. I’m glad somebody likes it,” Isana said with a rueful smirk. “Now come on. Time’s wasting away.”

She led them over to the truck and unlocked the passenger side first with a simple wave of her hand. In a move that apparently surprised the other two girls, Sora quickly moved forward to claim the front passenger seat. Karin and Ayaka obliged their youngest sister and even helped her climb up into the seat. Karin climbed in behind Sora in the backseat of the cab and Ayaka followed Isana around to the other side and helped load all the bags into the truck bed. Once they were all aboard, Isana made them all buckle their seatbelts before tapping a small copper plate near the steering column.

The magical engine revved up with a deep, powerful hum and Isana saw her passengers exchange doubtful looks. Isana just smiled, backed her truck out of the parking space and drove out onto Main Street. Isana stayed silent as she drove because the girls were far too interested in their new surrounding for her to interrupt them. Occasionally one would point out something particularly interesting and then the others would quickly turn to marvel as well. It was terribly cute.

When they hit the guard station they were quickly passed through the checkpoint since they were leaving, not entering. Then Isana really put the truck into gear and allowed the powerful engine she and a real mechanic had put together to show its stuff. Surprised gasps came from the girls and she smiled proudly as they saw how fast they were now chewing up the miles. Most drivers might have worried about hitting one of the many deer that often strayed onto the road and kept to a slower speed, but Isana had carefully worked layers of shields onto the front and the rear of the vehicle to shrug off any collisions. There was also a spell worked into the headlight lamps that projected a long range ward that would warn of anything ahead, but the road was completely clear all the way home.

When they finally reached the turn off onto Isana’s property, it caught the girls by surprise. Unless you knew to look for the massive pair of trees that framed her driveway, you’d drive right past it. She always got complaints from mail carriers because whenever a new guy got assigned to this route, he or she always took more than one try to find it. But Isana plowed the truck into the dark forest drive without any hesitation.

The driveway, if that was even the right word for it, went another half a mile into the dense, shadowy woods. The sun had almost completely fallen by now and that meant that her headlights were just about the only things lighting up the way except for the occasional shaft of dim moonlight. Isana waited to see who would spot the house first and she smiled when she heard Ayaka’s gasp.

“Is that it,” the girl said, dropping her air of maturity for the moment, “That dark shape in the woods ahead?”

“Where?” Sora asked eagerly, leaned forward to peer through the windshield. Her ears quivered in excitement.

“It’s up there, on that big rise,” Karin said, pointing forward over the front seat so that the youngest girl could sight down her arm. “It’s that big, blocky shadow. It’s huge!”

“Emi was right,” Ayaka agreed softly.

“Why did you build such a big house in the woods?” Sora asked.

“I didn’t build it!” Isana laughed. “I’ve made plenty of changes, but I certainly didn’t build it. The great-great grandfather of the woman that adopted me had it built over two-hundred years ago, back when her family had been much larger, wealthier, and lived in a big extended group. I think there were actually six different families within the main family living in it at one point. But most of those moved away or died during the Fall. I inherited it from my master and adoptive mother when she died in an accident.”

She rounded the last bend in the snaky drive and slowed down in the wide, open space in front of her garage with the crunch of gravel. Behind that garage loomed the massive two-story structure of the house itself. The outside wall of the house was built of well-fitted, dark-colored stone blocks. Isana knew that must have cost a dear fortune, but the result was a very well insulted house that could withstand even the harshest weather conditions.  The garage though was a wooden shingled add-on to the main structure.

Isana flicked a hand towards the garage and the double-wide door rose up smoothly on its track and a light flicked on inside. Using the open space to turn around, Isana deftly backed her truck up into the garage with the smooth ease of long familiarity. Once she was satisfied she was in far enough, another hand wave had the door closing again.

“Well, we’re here!” Isana said, turning a little to see all three girls. Sora was looking at the collection of random junk filling the remainder of the garage with open curiosity and her long ears were flicking. Karin and Ayaka were far more interested in the door that led into the house.

“You’re really alright with us moving in with you?” Ayaka asked after a brief silence.

“I didn’t drive you all the way here just to show you my awesome garage,” Isana laughed, smiling her assurance at the girl. “At first I was just as nervous as you guys were, but so far I like what I’ve seen and I like all of you. So hop on out so we can get inside. I spent all day yesterday cleaning and stuff and I’d hate to have wasted all of that.”

Isana followed her own words by climbing out of the driver’s seat. Sora quickly followed suite and when she came over and stood close, Isana felt perfectly natural in putting arm around the girl’s shoulders again. Sora didn’t complain at all at the action and even moved a little closer. The two older girls followed more slowly, but that was only because they had each paused to lock their doors on the truck which Sora hadn’t even thought to do. They were also thoughtful enough to grab the three luggage bags.

Isana walked them over to the house door and placed her free hand on the red painted oak. The complicated and powerful wards of the house recognized her instantly and the sturdy bolts locking the door came undone. They entered into a small mudroom and when Isana kicked off her shoes onto a reed mat, the girls politely did the same. Then they finally entered into the main house.

The house was dark from the evening light outside, but there was just enough to see that the first room was the spacious kitchen and adjoining dining room. Since it had mostly just been her living alone, both were very clean and organized. The kitchen had a small island with a few barstools, a breakfast nook with a large bay window, and a long set of cabinets and polished stone countertops with a range and magically cooled refrigerator at one end. The dining room just had one long table of dark oak that could seat ten in its cushioned ladder-back chairs.

Isana willed a large cluster of small gem-like lights into being and they floated up into the air and scattered near the ceiling.  When the rooms were more fully illuminated, the girls wandered more deeply inside to look around their new home.

“Feel free to poke around,” Isana assured them when she saw Karin hesitate to open a cabinet to look inside. “This is your house, too.”

“How many rooms does it have?” Sora asked, not moving very far away from where Isana watched. She seemed content to watch the other two.

“Well, there are four master-style bedrooms and three more regular ones. Then there are two additional full bathrooms upstairs and a half-bath down here. The bottom floor has the living room, a small library or study, a pantry, these two rooms, and a certain, special room that I had remodeled and did some work on myself.”

“How is it special?” Karin asked, pausing in her inspection of the inside of the refrigerator. She ended the sentence with a long, tired yawn. Isana could understand how the girl felt. She’s been so nervous that she hadn’t slept at all the previous night and her own body wanted a bed badly.

“I’d rather show you than tell you,” Isana smiled. “But I think we can save a grand tour for in the morning when the sun is up. You all look kind of bushed and I think we should get your bags up to your bedrooms before you’re too tired.”

“Can we pick our own room?” Ayaka asked, turning around excitedly from her inspection of the cabinets. Her delight at the house was apparent and Isana was very happy to see it.

“As long as you don’t fight over them,” Isana agreed amiably. She grabbed Sora’s bag from where Karin had set it down and led them to the back staircase that led from the kitchen and up to the second floor. The upper floor had a square of hallways with the rooms around and inside it. Once up there Isana pointed toward the partially open door on the outside of the East hallway. “That door there is my room, so pick any other one you want.”

Karin and Ayaka both separated eagerly to search inside the other rooms and a cluster of the light gems kept pace. Sora however hesitated and then took her bag and walked straight to the door that was exactly opposite from Isana’s. She opened it and after giving it the briefest glance came right back after dumping off her luggage inside the door.

“I’ll take that one,” Sora said matter-of-factly with a warm smile.

“You’re sure?” Isana asked. “The middle rooms don’t have any windows.”

“That’s alright,” Sora replied happily. “I just want one that’s near yours and that one is right across the hall.”

Well, if you’re happy then I’m happy,” Isana shrugged. “Let’s see how the others are doing.”

Predictably enough, they found Karin flopped on her back in the queen-sized bed of the master bedroom that was on the opposite side of the house from Isana’s. The room had the bare essentials, like a dresser, closet and a rug over the wooden floor, but it was otherwise undecorated. When they walked in Karin had a wide smile on her face and was watching the slowly circling trio of light gems above her.

“I see you like this one?” Isana laughed.

“Uh-huh,” Karin agreed quickly, sitting up. “Sora, come lay on this thing with me. I’ve never been on a bed this comfortable before.” Sora joined Karin on the bed and immediately agreed with the older girl; then an amused snort came from the doorway.

“Find one you like?” Isana inquired as Ayaka entered the room and stood next to her.

“Yeah, the north master bedroom,” Ayaka smiled back. “I tested my bed out too. Which one did you pick Sora?”

“The one across from Isana,” Sora answered, rolling up into a sitting position to look at them.

“Nice,” Ayaka nodded as if that had been expected. “You were right, Isana. I think we can wait for morning to look around. I’m more than ready to go back to that bed.”

“Cool, then let’s get a few necessities from the closet,” Isana replied.

They followed her back out into the hallway were she then led them to the large walk-in size storage closet. They continued to follow her inside and she took them to stacks of neatly folded sheets and blankets on shelves.

“These stacks,” Isana waved at several stacks of matching sets, “are for the queen-size beds. So Karin and Ayaka, you go ahead and grab one you like. Sora, you need one of those on the next shelf up. Do any of you need help making your bed?”

“No way,” Karin laughed, taking down a set of red bed clothes.  Ayaka had chosen a patterned purple one and Sora’s was a light blue floral. “We had to make our beds every day back at the orphanage and wash the sheets once a week. So we’ve had lots of practice.”

“Did you have your own rooms?” Isana asked curiously as they exited the closet.

“No, we all had one or two roommates,” Ayaka answered. “The three of us all had different rooms there.”

“I didn’t like mine,” Sora said, frowning.

“Yes, well, Marta certainly isn’t here,” Ayaka said, smiling at Sora. “None of us are going to bully you. We’re sisters now.”

“This Marta person was unpleasant, I take it?” Isana asked, automatically disliking anyone who’d act that way toward Sora.  The wave of protectiveness surprised her, but it wasn’t unpleasant.

“Yeah!” Sora responded, fuming cutely. “She always messed with me and my stuff or stole things.”

“I tried saying something to the women that ran the place, but they didn’t really care,” Ayaka sighed. “The three of us weren’t very popular with the others.”

“I heard,” Isana nodded sadly. “But you’re here now and I sure as hell won’t ignore you. I’m hoping that you’ll love it here.”

“Us too,” Karin smiled happily.

“Well, while you guys are making your beds, I need to go get something that I prepared for each of you,” Isana said. “I’ll be back in two minutes, okay?”

They separated to their respective rooms, lights following, and Isana watched them for a moment before she ducked back downstairs. In the living room she picked up three smallish baskets she’d filled with a few items for the girls. Then she went back up the main stairs and made her way to Ayaka’s room this time. It matched Karin’s except for a slightly larger window on the far wall. She found the girl there, flinging out the third and top sheet over the bed. When it settled onto the others, Ayaka quickly and efficiently smoothed it out and had it tucked in. Finished, Ayaka turned around and wore a smile of satisfaction. She was visibly happy that Isana had come to her new room.

“You have had a lot of practice,” Isana noted, nodding appreciatively toward the bed. “That was pretty fast.”

“I’m good at these kinds of things,” Ayaka replied with a slight reddening of the cheeks, but she seemed proud and happy at the compliment. “Actually, I kind of like making a place clean and orderly and doing small chores like this. It used to drive my roommates nuts.”

“I have no complaints,” Isana chuckled. “Here.”

Ayaka took the basket just as the other two joined them again.

“What is that?” Karin asked.

“There’s one for each of you,” Isana told her, handing them each their basket. “I didn’t know what you had in terms of basic supplies, so I made up a basket with all of them. There’s soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, a hairbrush, and since I forgot to ask how old you guys were I added razors, shaving cream and other hygiene items. I also bought you each a few brand new towels for each of the bathrooms.

“Wow,” Ayaka said, looking through her basket. “This is really cool. I was actually a bit nervous before coming here about asking to borrow stuff from you. But this has everything. Thanks so much!”

“Yeah, this is cool…um Ms. Isana?” Karin floundered as it was the first time any of the girls had tried to address her by name.

“Just plain Isana is fine,” she smiled. “Now I need to do one last thing before we all turn in.”

She walked over to the wall next to the doorway and placed her hand over it. Bluish light glowed between her hand and the wall and it quickly gathered together into a think-lined circle of light. Sort of like a vertically aligned halo. A thin white line cut the circle at about the six o’clock position. When she took her hand away it seemed to sink into the wall and disappear.

“What was that?” Sora asked, walking up close to get a better look.

“It controls those,” Isana said, pointing at the gem lights in Ayaka’s room. “Ayaka, can you come here a moment?”

“Sure,” Ayaka said cooperatively, and stood next to her.

“Hold your hand up like I just had mine near the wall by the door.” Ayaka did so and the circle rose up out of the wall. Ayaka blinked at it in surprise. Isana smiled at the expression. “Now you can use your finger to rotate the circle, which will dim or brighten the lights. I’ll do this in all your bedrooms and bathrooms since you haven’t learned to use your own magic yet.”

“Cool,” Sora said, and watched even closer when Isana repeated the magic in the spacious bathroom.

“Do you need anything else before I do Karin and Sora’s rooms and then head to bed?” she asked Ayaka when she was done and they all stood by the door.

Ayaka stood there for a moment and Isana saw she was visibly warring over some decision. Then the girl sighed in resignation and leapt forward, embracing Isana in a tight hug. Isana chuckled at first, realizing Ayaka had been debating how “mature” she should be, but then sighed in a pleased tone and gave a soft rub of her cheeks against Ayaka’s. Ayaka made a pleased sound too and then they separated.

“That was very nice of you,” Isana said, smiling at the girl. “I’ll see you in the morning, Ayaka.”

“Yeah,” Ayaka agreed, apparently a little embarrassed but also happy. “In the morning.”

After leaving Ayaka’s room Isana made up the lights in Karin’s room just as she had in Ayaka’s and the girl found them briefly fun to play with. Then when she was going to leave and do Sora’s, Karin wanted a hug too. It was then Isana found out just how affectionate a person Karin was. Once they were together Karin didn’t seem to want to let her go. But Isana also found out that the junction of Karin’s wings was a ticklish place and they separated with Karin giggling like crazy.

“Aww, that was mean,” Karin laughed, dropping onto her bed heavily as she caught her breath.

“Just be thankful Claire and Emi aren’t here,” Isana replied. “Those two will remember every weak spot you have.”

“What’s yours?” Karin said, her giggles subsiding.

“I’m not going to tell you that so easily,” Isana smirked. “But what I will say is that Sora here was the closest to finding it out.”

“I was?” Sora asked with her eyes wide. “But all I did was… oh!”

“Where is it?” Karin asked eagerly, leaning forward.

Sora reached up a hand towards Isana and then paused with a frown.

“It’s alright, Sora,” Isana laughed. “I suppose it’s only fair to show her since I found hers just now. Go ahead.”

Sora’s small hand continued up to her head and Isana felt those small fingers scratching near her ears. Using her own hands, she adjusted them slightly until they hit the sweet spot. It was readily apparent when it happened because Isana felt her knees try to buckle from the pleasurable feeling Sora was giving her and she couldn’t help letting out a sharp hiss. Sora gasped in surprise and jerked her hand away.

“I didn’t want to hurt you!” Karin exclaimed in shock, misinterpreting Isana’s reaction. Isana heard a strangled sound and as her head cleared she saw Sora was clenching her hands tightly. Her face said she was ready to cry, and Karin wasn’t much better. “Why did you do that?”

“It didn’t hurt me at all,” Isana said, smiling wide to show she meant it. “It was just the opposite, in fact.”

“Huh?” Karin looked confused.

“Haven’t you ever seen that on some cats that if you scratch in just the right spot they go all gooey and beg for more?”

“Yeah,” Sora answered, still looking at her worriedly.

“Well, that was my spot. It just feels really damn good; so good that I almost can’t do anything else and it seems that Sora’s fingers were especially good.”

“You liked it?” Sora asked, perking back up.

“Oh, yeah!” Isana grinned. Then she looked warmly at Karin. “That’s why it’s my weak spot.”

“I’ll remember it,” Karin smiled back, wiping her eyes.

“Hah, goodnight Karin,” Isana said, shaking her head in amazement.

“G’night!” Karin returned. “And you too, Sora.”

Sora’s room was the fastest to do since it was only the one bedroom. In contrast, Sora’s goodnight hug took the longest of all. Isana couldn’t bring herself to do what she had with Karin.  In Sora she felt someone that badly wanted to be loved, and the girl was probably betting everything on Isana. It probably didn’t help that Isana knew she must be experiencing some new feelings and desires, now that her gift as a witch was blossoming on its own. That made Sora a lot more fragile than the other two girls, and something inside her responded strongly to that.

After a while of just sitting on Sora’s bed hugging the girl in peaceful silence, Isana reached over to the basket of stuff which Sora had placed on a small bedside table, and took out the hairbrush.  Sora very willing moved onto her lap, facing outward, and Isana began to gently brush the girl’s long, silky hair.

After about fifteen minutes of this treatment Isana smiled when she saw that the soothing feeling of the brush was having its desired effect. Sora’s eyes were drooping and her breathing had become slow and steady.

“Time for sleep,” Isana said then. She pulled back the covers and laid Sora down. “You should change your clothes for bed. Goodnight, Sora.”

Isana stood slowly and left Sora’s bedroom, closing the door behind her. She then crossed to her own bedroom feeling ready for her own bed. She’d long since made the room hers in almost every way, but her bed was the most unique. It was a massive nest-like collection of blankets, pillows, comforters and sheets that covered the biggest bed she’d been able to purchase. After a brief pit stop in her bathroom to pee and shed all of her clothes, she made her way to it and climbed inside that nest. It took only moments for her naked body to feel comfortable and warm. Then a light knock sounded from the partially closed door.

“Yeah?” she called out.

The door cracked open slowly and Sora stepped inside, bathed in moonlight from the window. She was dressed only in an oversized t-shirt that went down to her knees and Isana saw cute little toes curling into the thick, heavy shag of the rug she’d put down on the wooden floor. Sora took in the room with a tired glance and then locked onto her face.

“Need something?” Isana asked pleasantly, knowing only her head was sticking out of the mass on her bed.

“Can… can I sleep in here with you?” Sora asked. Her hands clenched onto the shirt and then released it in an idle fashion. “Please?”

Isana knew that she should probably make Sora get used to her own room, but something else stopped her. She was too tired and comfortable to think of what that was at the moment though. Instead, she nodded her acceptance.

“Come on.”

Sora’s face brightened immediately and after quietly closing the door again, she quickly climbed onto the bed. At first, she seemed very confused by all the blankets and stuff but she crawled her way to Isana and wriggled down next to her. Isana wrapped her arms around Sora until they were snuggled together with Sora’s back to her front. There was a small moment of surprise when Sora realized she was completely naked, but they were both too comfortable to deal with that right now. Instead, Sora just sighed happily and relaxed in the embrace.

Minutes later, they were both asleep.

On to Chapter Three!

 

6 Comments on Learning Phase, Chapter 2

  1. chef73 says:

    Wonder where this story is going? Will wait and see.

  2. kacey says:

    First time i fully read this story, about 4 months ago, my first thought on reading this part was ” Margot, Edith and Agnes!!!”

  3. Lakeisha says:

    I love this story! I am looking forward to reading the chapters that follow. Would love to see this turn into a bit of a novel. It’s quite enjoyable!

    Lakeisha

    • Lakeisha says:

      Even though I read both chapters a couple of days ago I had to read it again. This is such a tender fanciful heart warming story, one that I will never tire of reading! Thank you Nuit du Loup and JetBoy for bringing this wonderful story to Juicy Secrets!

      I eagerly await installments of new chapters of this delightful story:)

      Lakeisha

  4. David says:

    Mmmmm another great chapter, I love the build up and the descriptions of the girls. So many ways for this to go and I am looking forward to reading future chapters. Love the story line too, it is a refreshing change to add magic and the super natural to it.

  5. Mukhtar says:

    Fantasy, romance, affection combine to great effect. Thank you.

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