The Cat-Eared Historian Mage on the Crumbling Planet
“I’m home,” Ashtin called out as he entered his penthouse apartment, two days later.
“Welcome back,” a gynoid greeted him. “Did you eat? Would you like dinner?”
“I’d love some, thanks mom.” he gave the gynoid a quick kiss on the cheek. “Can it wait a bit though? The doctor cleared me to try growing a tail again.”
“Already? It’s only been three weeks since your last attempt.”
“But I finished building my staff, and it makes casting spells so much easier.”
“Indeed you have.” She turned her head to inspect the staff floating upright behind Ashtin. It had small cat ears on its sides, and a muzzle protruded from the front. Small wings of pure magical energy floated next to the ears, shimmering silver and gold. More magical energy collected above the staff’s tip, congealing into a reflective orb. “I read the council’s report, but it is even more eerie in real life.”
“You shouldn’t call it eerie when you can’t feel fear.”
“Adrenaline may not course through my circuitry, but I can tell it is dangerous.”
Reaching behind him, Ashtin grabbed the staff and pulled it close to examine it. “But it’s so cute.”
“I wasn’t referring to the aesthetics. The rogue mages of ancient Earth crafted similar staves. Nothing like it has existed for millenia.”
“Right, and the mages of old Earth used to cast transformation spells all the time. They didn’t even feel pain. With this staff, I’ll finally be able to grow the cat tail I always dreamed of!”
Ashtin was practically bouncing up and down in excitement as he spoke. Even though he had succeeded in growing cat ears, a tail had eluded him for years. It was just too large to manage with his magical energy alone, but with the staff’s help, it might be possible.
The gynoid, however, did not share his optimism. “Some mages from old Earth cast those spells. Most could not, and—”
“I know, I know. They didn’t feel pain because they blocked it out, but that was dangerous. They sometimes didn’t notice their spells going bad until it was too late. I’m not trying to be like them. You know I can take the pain, so why can’t you ever support my dreams?”
“Because I want to be happy, and the path you are treading will leave you broken and depressed.”
“You sound like every nagging mother in human history. Don’t you realize I can’t be happy unless I follow my dreams?”
“In that case, I advise you to get some better ones. The tail is one thing, but becoming the council’s tool was a mistake. You should never have agreed to this mission.”
With a heavy sigh, Ashtin hung his head. “Do we have to argue about the council every time I come home? I’m happy to be useful.”
“Only because your loyalty is misplaced.”
“My loyalty to the organization that saved humanity from its worst excesses? The organization that put an end to war? If I shouldn’t be loyal to the organization that spread human life to a million planets, who should I be loyal to?”
Noticing that Ashtin’s knuckles were turning white from gripping his staff in anger, the gynoid relented. “You know I have no disagreements with the council’s goals, only their methods. They could allow for more individual freedom and still maintain peace. It would be more optimal if people could be happier.”
“For a gynoid, you care a lot about happiness, mom.” Ashtin’s grip loosened, his ears drooped, and his voice was so soft it almost squeaked. “I’m sorry for getting mad. I know you want what you think is best for me, but it’s not like the council ever gave either of us much choice, so can we stop arguing?”
“Agreed. It is getting late. I will assist you, but be careful when using the staff. We don’t yet fully understand its capabilities.”
Nodding, Ashtin led her to his bedroom. As he removed his robe, she grabbed a bit gag and rope from a dresser.
“Oh come on. I don’t need those.”
“That is what you said last time, but you almost bit through your tongue.”
“But I didn’t. I’m not a child anymore.”
“You are still my child for the next few months. You can do whatever you want when you come of age, but a responsible adult would not attempt a spell like this without proper restraints and a spotter.”
“But my healing magic—”
“Can’t fix everything.” She poked at one of the scars on his left shoulder. “If you are not going to listen to me, then you will have to wait until you come of age and I leave this house.”
“No, it has to be now. I want you to remember me as a true catboy. Of course, if you’d stay…”
“My answer will not change no matter how many times we have this discussion. It is best for you to live on your own once you become an adult.”
“But I’ll be lonely.”
“Then perhaps you ought to make more friends. Maybe start dating.”
“You know I don’t have time for that. Besides, nobody wants to be with a mage, not even other mages.”
It was true. Although most mages never lost themselves to their magic, a large chunk of them did. It was difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with someone when you lived in constant fear that they might try to hurt themselves and those around them. It could also be difficult to deal with a mage partner’s eccentricities.
“You’re right. Many mages live lonely lives, and you will probably be no different. You’ll have to find happiness in other ways. For now, let’s get this over with. Open up.”
Ashtin obediently opened his mouth and the gynoid placed the gag across his teeth. He bit down on it, holding it in place as she fastened the strap behind his head. He then laid down on the bed, and she tied his arms and legs before rolling him onto his stomach.
Taking a deep breath, Ashtin focused on casting the spell, wiggling his pointer fingers as best as he could in his restraints. Before long, his sacrum began to press against his back, above the buttocks. It grew, stretching the skin. His coccyx shrunk and disappeared, and the first tail bone began growing to take its place. A muffled grunt of pain escaped from Ashtin’s throat as new nerves formed around the bone, causing him to bite down hard on the gag. It was far from the worst pain he had ever felt, but it had come earlier in the process than his previous attempts, catching him by surprise.
As black fur began growing over his tail, he regained his composure, but it didn’t last long. More tail bones grew from the first, faster than he expected. The nerves were growing so quickly that his new, half-formed tail was in constant, intense pain, causing him to thrash around involuntarily. He briefly lost control of the healing spell that he needed to keep running at all times throughout the process, but his staff automatically cast its own healing spell to compensate.
He managed to grow fifteen tail bones, out of the twenty he was shooting for, before the process started going awry. All of a sudden, his skin stopped expanding, leaving no room for new bones and muscle. A mild burning sensation at the base of the tail made itself known through the more intense pain he was feeling. His body was rejecting his new tail. With one last anguished grunt, Ashtin reversed the spell, and the tail began to shrink. The disintegration of the young flesh still hurt, but not as much as growing it had, and Ashtin managed to control his body for the rest of the process.
Bending over, the gynoid untied his hands. “That was a good try.” He almost couldn’t hear her over the sound of his heavy breathing and the beating of his own heart. “You got much farther than last time.” She reached for the gag and found it drenched in various bodily fluids, like much of his face. “Get yourself cleaned up, and I’ll have a healthy dinner waiting for you by the time you’re finished.”