The following morning was one that I kind of didn’t want to come. I was already awake even though my eyes were still heavy. The sun glimmered over the horizon, reflecting its light into my eyes from the surface of the ocean.
Meanwhile, a drooling, semi human wyvern was snoring so loudly that I could feel my eardrums vibrate. “Gods have mercy.” I flinched with every time I heard her ear grinding snores.
I rubbed my eyes and decided I had enough. It still seemed somewhat quiet around this time but when I looked some way further down the beach, I could see a herd of Kestodon peck at some crabs and oysters that were swept onto the shore.
The lack of sleep and the remaining exhaustion from last night left me with a pumping headache as the blinding light did nothing to help it go down.
I groaned as I carefully moved Jaina’s claw from my bare chest. The moment I touched her claw, memories of last night flashed in front of my eyes and I couldn’t keep the blood from rushing to my face in embarrassment. “Right… we did… it.” My face slackened when the realization hit me. I straight up had sex with a wyvern. I had no idea how I should feel about this; proud or worried.
I let her hand go as I sat on the edge of the rock we… had sex on. My hands clench around the edge of it and my mind raced with what I should do now and how this was supposed to go from here. I promised her that the research commission would take her in. What was I thinking?! I couldn’t make promises like that!
I got up to my feet, shaking my head as I decided to wash off the tiredness first before I would make any further decisions. I knelt down at the edge of the sea where the waves could just reach me.
Looking down at the clear water, it occurred to me that it has been a long time since I had a chance to look at myself. My face reflected on the surface every time the waves swept by. Over time, you tend to kind of forget what you even look like if you don’t see it.
My hair was still as black as ever, being held back by the pair of goggles that came with my hunter’s armor. “Right, I forgot I even had these.” I thought to myself as I took them down and washed the lenses. Despite them being gone, the imprint of them was still left in my hair and it was still spiking backwards and up as it always had. It was of medium length, maybe having grown a little bit longer after the last few days.
I touched my face, noticing that my formerly shaven chin and cheeks had grown a light stubble beard, just enough to see the shadow of it fade in. And lastly, I noticed the light scar on my forehead that I got when a Kelbie kicked me in the head once when I tried to sneak up on it. I was kind of glad the goggles covered it so far. If anyone asked me what I got the only substantial scar I had from, I’d probably embarrass myself to no end.
I took a scoop of water and splashed it into my face. With the water dripping down my chin, I looked over at the Kestodons who seemed to be looking my way. Even though they probably couldn’t understand it, I waved them with a friendly smile on my lips. But they weren’t looking directly at me and rather a bit behind me.
And I would quickly find out why as a pair of round, fleshy orbs flattened against my back and two claws threw themselves around my neck. The force of the way I got pounced almost made me fall into the water. “Ooof! *cough* Jaina?”
A chipper, energetic voice reached my ear. “What gave it away that it was me?”
“It’s not like there are many other naked lizard girls out here… I think…” I chuckled, trying to hide my worries from her. “You sure sound like you slept well.” I looked over my shoulder and smiled at her. The smile I got in response was on a whole new level though. It was infectiously endearing.
“The best sleep I’ve had in a loooong time! I’ve slept like a rock. I think a certain someone is to thank for that.” She chirped, trailing her claws over my chest. I could feel her whole body smother against me from behind and had to be careful not to get excited again.
I craned my neck, only to have my lips pecked at by hers. It still sent a stir through my heart to kiss her but this wasn’t the time to give in to temptation. We had to get going soon.
“I didn’t expect you to react to my pheromones though.” She said with a soft, seductive voice.
“Yeah, you didn’t think you were the only one who was aroused, did you? It just happens when a male I like is around.”
“Aroused? I wasn’t… aroused. Your pheromones must’ve clouded my mind.” I could feel the blood rushing to my face as I recounted everything that we had done together.
“Heheh, you can’t weasel yourself out of this one. The pheromones only enhance what was already there. I didn’t think they’d have an effect on you like they did. You were pretty… active back there.” Her eyes scanned me from head to toe as she visibly enjoyed the sight of my still naked body. I was getting even more flustered than before.
Part of me wanted to write off last night as something that I had no control over, but I had to realize that I had to take responsibility. And honestly, I could hardly say that I didn’t love it.
I sighed and let my lips melt into a smile “Guilty as charged. You looked pretty into it yourself.”
“That’s because I was, silly! None of the other males ever cared whether I felt good or not. But you did…” Her mouth swapped between a cute pout and a flustered smile as her arms tightened around me.
I touched her claw and carefully intertwined it with mine. But then I saw the sun slowly rising even further. I wanted this moment to last a bit longer, but we had to go.
“Jaina, we should really get our bearings now. We’re gonna get noticed by the other monsters if we don’t hurry.”
She reluctantly stepped away, a sulking look on her face. But as she looked around, this sulkiness turned into confusion. I put my old hunter armor back on as hard as it was to do so, but Jaina just kept watching me with a puzzled look. “What am I supposed to wear? The wraps you made me are kind of… well… useless now.” She blushed a little as she showed me the torn scraps of plant fiber that once covered her body up.
“Ahh, shit… well there has to be something around. Something more sturdy.” I tossed that wraps into the sea as I kept my eyes open for any materials I could scrounge up to make something decent.
Jaina looked at me with a shrug. “I don’t get why you need to cover up your body. I feel pretty comfortable in my skin as it is.”
And just when she said that, I stopped. “Your skin. Your skin!”
“Yeah, that’s what I said…” She said bewildered as I pulled her along by the hand.
“No, not that! Come with me, I need to see if it’s still there!” I cried out as I led her back up the slope from the beach to the forest. We were in a hurry, but I can’t meet the research commission coming out of the forest alongside a naked, semi human woman. I inspected the surroundings, checking if I could find the spot where Jaina and I had fallen down from when we fought.
And as I finally started to recognize things around me, I found what I was looking for. “Thank the gods, it’s still here.”
Jaina looked confused as I knelt down next to her old, shed body. It was still in one piece and nothing seemed to have touched it yet. “My old skin? What would you want with that?”
“Something that hunters have done for ages. Carve materials from it.” I exclaimed as I pulled out a carving knife that came with my armor. I leaned over the thick, empty hide when I looked up at Jaina. “Do you… think you want to see this? I mean it’s your old body after all.”
But out of every reaction I expected, she just smirked and shrugged. “I’ve shed my skin so many times before. It’s like a chipped claw to me at this point. Carve away, hunter.” She chuckled.
“If you say so.” I shrugged back as I started to cut parts from the body that I thought would make for some good clothing. I found that the belly especially was very easy to cut since the skin there wasn’t that thick. After carving a diamond shaped patch out of it, I carved up some of the thickened scales from the back as well as the entirety of her old mane.
After cutting a significant chunk of materials from her hide, I piled the parts I collected onto each other and pulled some vines from the nearby trees to hold them together.
“What are you doing? Are you trying to rebuild my old body or something?” Jaina giggled, probably thinking that what I was doing looked weird. And it probably must have been from her point of view.
“No, nrrghhh… but I thought if I was already the one who got you out of your skin…” I grunted as I pulled together the parts, finishing my heavy-handed attempt to form something wearable. “…I should be the one giving it back to you. At least a part of it.”
I finally cobbled together a piece of clothing made from the remnants of her scales. It was like a poncho that could cover the most part of her body. At least the parts that needed to be.
Jaina raised her arms as I signaled her to and I threw the poncho over her. The skin of her belly served as the underlying layer while her back scales made up a colorful, yellow overcoat. Her mane on the other hand was shaped into a hood that she could throw over her head before we entered the commission’s headquarters.
Jaina’s eyes widened as she felt the weight of her old skin again. She nostalgically touched the rim of her old mane and affectionately petted it. “Wow, this feels exactly like being my former self again.” She whispered almost inaudibly.
I smiled as I saw her so visibly happy.
“Where did you learn to do this? How did you know how to make clothes like this?”
“I grew up on the countryside. If you don’t know how to stitch up stuff there, you might as well go naked.”
“That’s amazing…” Jaina admired herself in awe and even I had to admit that the poncho made her brutish appearance a whole lot cuter. “But why the hood?”
“We might need to cover you up when we visit the commission.”
“But didn’t you say…”
“I know what I said, and trust me I’ll do anything to get you inside. But if we don’t want to scare them immediately, we should keep your identity on the down low at first.”
Jaina didn’t seem to like the idea at all, but she nodded reluctantly. “Well, I guess if that’s how it has to be… Do you really think I’m that scary looking?”
I waved my hands in front of me in denial. “Of course not! Well… I don’t. But I’ve gotten used to who you are; they haven’t. Once we’re inside, we need to find someone who will react appropriately and not cause alarm. If we convince them that we mean no harm, they’ll accept you. I’m sure of it. You trust me, right?” I cupped her claws with my hands and made her look up at me.
She looked to the floor dejectedly but soon after gave me a confident smile and a nod. “Right!”
I smirked back at her as she gave me her hand and I nodded in confidence to reassure her. “Lead the way then. You know where it is, right?”
“I know EXACTLY where it is.” She proclaimed proudly.
“What are we waiting for then?” Were the last words before Jaina enthusiastically ran ahead. I followed her to the best of my abilities as she pulled me along by the hand. And off we went.
After pulling me past the beach and through a patch of brush, we finally reached a massive, definitely man-made structure. A gigantic gate made from logs and ropes.
“There it is. I saw humans walking in and out of this thing before. If there’s any place that looks like what you’re looking for, it’s this one.” Jaina explained to me as I approached to gate in wonderment. I had finally found the place where I was meant to be.
After I was done admiring the massive structure I turned around to Jaina and gave her a serious look. “Alright, now should be the time for you to put your hood on. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to show yourself to them in due time. But for now: Slow and steady. Okay?”
“Slow and steady.” She repeated to show me that she understood. “But before we have to do that, one more thing…”
“Yeah, and what’s that? *smack*” I was taken aback when I felt her pair of lips meet mine. Her soft kiss was filled with a calmness that I could really use right now. I held her shoulders as I returned it and simultaneously pulled her hood over her head before I parted.
“Just a small thank you.” She sighed.
I smiled and signaled her to follow me. I once again approached the gate and yelled out for whoever was in charge of it. “Hello?! Anybody there! I’m from the Fourth Fleet! I come to join the Research Commission!”
My cries rang out into the emptiness, but soon after, I heard a ruckus from the other side. “Another Fourth Fleeter coming in! Open the gates!”
With heavy creaks, the palisades began to move, swinging and crackling as they were reeled up. Jaina and I stood before the grand open entrance as a group of 10 men came at us, looking confused. I saw them having satchels of herbs and phials of potions around their belts as they arrived.
One of the men stepped forward, his eyes flicking between me and Jaina. “You’re… you’re alright?”
I felt around my body, looking for any signals of injuries. “Still in one piece I suppose. Why would you think I wasn’t?”
“You… said you were with the Fourth Fleet, didn’t you?”
“I am! I fell off the ship when we got attacked by some unknown monster or something! It was huge! Larger than anything I’ve ever seen or heard about!”
“We’re aware…” The man looked back at his men mumbling something among them before he turned back to me with a worried look. “What about her? Is she with the Fourth too?” He asked and looked at Jaina.
“She was the one who guided me here. I met her in the forest and she knew her way around here. Her name is Jaina.”
“Never heard of a scout named Jaina in our group. Are you from the First Fleet or something?”
“Umm… I…” Jaina jerked up when she was suddenly put on the spot. She was unrecognizable to the man as he tried to inspect her before I jumped in front of him to get his attention again.
“That’s not important right now! What happened to the Fourth?”
The man sighed and looked away again. “You… might want to see for yourself. Follow me to Astera. We’ll explain everything there.”
The group of men led the way, visibly anxious and confused.
I heard a sigh of relief from behind me as I could basically feel the trembling of Jaina’s lips. I reached behind me and carefully took Jaina’s hand, making sure that none of the men saw it.
Jaina gulped and followed me as I guided her by the hand and followed the men that led me to my and hopefully OUR new home: Astera.