by Mark Andron and Time Lady
“Did you....?” begins Tegan.
“..see what I saw?” continues Tora.
“I guess we did...”
“Man, that plays with your head, though. I feel like I need a few aspirin right now.”
“Then it is true...” murmurs Ayla.
“Those images ... that was ... us?” asks Tegan.
“As I suspected when I first saw you two,” agrees Ayla
“Then that means...?” Tegan begins.
“The pool you fell in was the one in which you drowned, about a thousand years ago,” says Ayla firmly.
“And that would make me...” Tora starts to say.
“The spirit of the warrior Toran. The crystal containing his spirit was stolen when the temple of Pharangese was destroyed by Mongolian raiders,” explains Ayla.
“So the reason for my hair and my eyes when I’m like this....” Tora says.
“I would say it is due to the mystical residuals from the spells that joined your spirit with the body of the tiger,” surmises Ayla. “The one who drowned in the pool of drowned man was not a half breed. Also, half-breeds have a slight point to the tips of their ears and a few fur markings on their body.”
“This is just all so much to take in...” says Tora.
“Yeah...,” Tegan agrees. “It’s almost too weird...”
“It will take some time to adjust to the new knowledge,” responds Ayla.
Tora looks at Tegan again, as if she had some sort of answer as to what to make of all this for him. “How do we know all of this is true?” asks Tegan.
“Look into your heart child. The answers are there,” Ayla explains.
Tora is lost in thought for a moment. “Wait a minute. Who in the hell would try to merge the soul of a half-breed warrior with that of a tiger?”
“Those who did not know what they truly had,” replies Ayla. “By the time I traced the crystal, it was too late. I... compelled... one of the madmen to tell me what they did. They were convinced that nothing happened, that the crystal simply broke. I detected no spirit within, and hoped that Toran’s spirit had been freed. You, or should I say, the tiger, had already been removed from their premises by the time I arrived.”
Tegan looks at Tora. “It does explain a lot, Tora.”
Tora takes a deep breath. “It does... but it’s still hard to take in.”
Suddenly, something connects in Tegan’s mind. “Ayla... you wouldn’t have happened to have written a book, would you?”
Ayla smiles. “I did, in hopes that other members of cat-kind might read it. There are several small communities scattered throughout the world.”
“Tegan, tell me you have that book with you....”
“Errr... yeah... I think I tossed it into cat space.” She reaches in and pulls out the book.
Ayla’s eyes widen when she sees the book popping out of catspace. “Well, now..”
“I’ve... kinda learned a few things... don’t know if it was memories sneaking through or what...,” admits Tegan.
Tora picks up the book that Tegan pulled out of cat space. “They’re still out there, huh? I guess they’ve learned to hide rather well.”
“Most have learned masking spells and use it when outside of their community,” explains Ayla. “I even found a small community in the United States. Unfortunately, the numbers are not as great as they once were. I try to keep channels of communication open.”
“I can only guess how hard that could be.” Tora looks at Tegan. “You okay now, kitten?”
“Yeah. A lot better,” says Tegan. “Ayla, could I ask you something? Something kinda personal?”
“Of course child,” Ayla replies.
“Uh... Tora... do you think you can leave us alone for a few minutes?” Tegan asks. She smiles sheepishly. “I need to talk to Ayla about something... privately.”
“You sure about this?” Tegan nods. “All right. But if you need me, I won’t be far.”
Tegan waits until Tora is out of earshot before beginning her conversation. Meanwhile, Tora plops himself under a tree. He can’t hear Tegan and Ayla, but he can see them. At first wondering what they are talking about, then thinking he’d rather not know, he decides to just take the time to rest. About a half hour later, Tora hears Tegan calling him out. He walks over to see Tegan almost smiling. “I take it everything went well?”
“Yeah... I found out a few things I needed to know... about being a cat woman...”
Tora raises an eyebrow for a moment. “Oh. I see. No wonder you had me leave.”
Tegan smiles and blushes.
“You don’t know how good it makes me feel to see you smile. I was getting worried there for a while.”
“Considering we now know why this place was getting to us... there’s a bit more to smile about.”
Tora smiles, but then looks at his watch. “Do you want to head back now? Or do have a few more questions for Ayla?”
“I think I’ve got my fill of answers. We should head back before it’s dark,” she replies.
“OK.” He turns to Ayla and bows. “Thank you, Ayla. If what you’ve shown us is true..., well, just thank you.”
“It is no trouble,” Ayla replies. “It does this ancient heart good to see you two together again... and particularly to see your spirit, Toran, freed from its prison.”
Tora smiles. “Do I detect a regret?”
“Mostly for my poor choices and my blindness.”
“Well, you’re immortal. I’m sure you have the chance to make amends.”
“Yes...” Ayla notices the sun beginning to set. “It is time I resumed my journey, if I wish to get to my destination before dark.”
“Same here. Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“I am sure we will. Fare you well,” says Ayla, before leaving for her destination.
Tora puts his arm around Tegan’s waist as they watch her go. Tegan and Tora turn back the way they came. “So, kitten, what do you think?”
“I’m still not quite sure what to think. I need a bit of time for things to sink in.”
“Same here.” Tora pauses. “So how in the world do we top what happened today?”
“I have no idea. Right now, I just want a hot meal and a relaxing bath.” Tora says nothing, simply preferring to hold Tegan closer to him as they walk back to the guide’s home. Tegan rests her head on Tora’s shoulder as they walk.
They soon arrive at the front door. Tora looks at Tegan’s eyes. “Well, I guess it’s back to our semi-normal lives.”
“Yeah... but I have a feeling things aren’t quite going to be the same.”
Tora lets go of Tegan to open the door for her. “Just another of life’s twists to deal with, I guess.” Sighing, Tegan goes inside, followed by Tora.
“Hey pop, we’re home!” There is no answer. “That’s funny....”
“I guess he’s either asleep or out. I would have thought that he would have stayed.” He looks from side to side. “No great loss, I guess.”
“Means that we get some quiet time. I kinda figured that we were a bit loud when we were catching up earlier, so if you want a quiet bath, now’s the time.”
“OK... which way’s the bathroom?”
Tora points. “Down the hallway, second door on the left.” Tegan looks at him for a moment. “He gave me a decent tour of the house while we were catching up.”
“Whatever.” Tegan goes back to her room for her robe and towel, then manages to find the bathroom. She notices there is just a tub, a toilet, and a sink, but no shower. Sighing, Tegan begins to fill the tub, then undresses and twists her hair into a bun. As soon as the tub is full, she climbs in. The events of earlier, in combination with the events of the last year or so, jumble together in her mind. She tries to push them aside and relax.
Tora simply jumps onto the couch to relax. The events of the day were just too much for him to take in all at once. He closes his eyes, and just lets his mind wander, trying to relax.
As soon as the water cools, Tegan stands. She takes her towel and dries off, before wrapping herself in a robe. She picks up her clothes, then dashes back to her room.
Tora hears the thumps of Tegan’s feet, forcing him to open his eyes again. He looks down the hallway, then lies back on the couch, but his eyes won’t close again.
Once inside her room, Tegan takes off her robe and begins to brush out her fur. She almost laughs to herself. Rather than shaving her legs like she used to, when she was human, now she has to brush them so the fur lays smoothly. Once this is done, she lets her hair loose and redresses.
Tora sighs. Him, a holy warrior, and her a princess? He shakes his head. He tells himself not to worry about it, not today. But his eyes still won’t close so he can sleep. He undoes his pony tail to feel more relaxed, but it doesn’t help.
She walks into the living room and sees Tora tossing and turning on the couch. “You okay?”
Tora twists his neck to look at Tegan. “Huh? Oh, it’s nothing. Just trying to ... relax.”
“Mmm... sit down on the floor in front of me,” she tells him. Unsure of what Tegan is up to, Tora slides to the floor. “OK. Now turn around so your back is to me.” Tora complies. Tegan begins massaging Tora’s neck and shoulders.
“Oh... oh my... I should’ve asked about this sooner.”
“Mmm.” Tegan continues her massage, occasionally running her claws along the length of his spine.
Tora’s trembles with the feeling of her claws against his back. “Oh.... that feels good.” He doesn’t see her smiling behind him. “Where in the world did you learn to do this so well?”
“From having it done to me. I used to go in to have massages for my shoulder problems... back before my curse became permanent. The claws were just inspiration.”
Tora smirks, but Tegan can’t see it. “Well, whoever worked on you must have been a master.”
“They damn well had to, for the prices they charged. Anyhow... feel better?”
“Much. Maybe I’ll actually get some sleep tonight.”
“I have a feeling we’ll both be sleeping better tonight.”
Tora turns around and gently kisses her forehead. “Thanks. And I hope you’re right.”
“Now, how about some dinner?” “That... sounds like a plan. [pause] Do you want candles?”
“What about your dad?”
“He’s not here, remember?”
“Yeah, but when’s he going to be back?”
“Well, I don’t really know. Some times he’s out until late at night.”
“Hmm... candles are up to you. But you better show me where the kitchen is.”
Tora gets up, and extends his arm. “Follow me, milady.”
“Certainly,” says Tegan, taking Tora’s arm.
Tora guides Tegan from the living room through the dining room to the kitchen. Although the decor of it looks as modern as the rest of the house, it is notable lacking in appliances.
“This is going to be interesting...” she mutters.
“Well, electricity is hard to come by out here.”
“So what am I supposed to work with for food?”
“Actually, maybe we should consider going out for dinner. After all, it’s been a while since we’ve done that, no?”
“Why not? So... where is there to go around here?”
Tora clears his throat. “The amazon village.”
“Well, I guess... that is, if it’s the only place to go. But how far away is it? And do we want to walk that far in the dark?”
“Its a moderate walk, away from the pools. As for it being dark, well....” Suddenly the two of them hear a door open. Moments later, the guide walks in carrying a pair of boxes.
“Sorry I late. I thought you might like dinner. Fresh from village.”
“Oh, thank you,” says Tegan. “We were just figuring out what we were going to do.”
The guide puts down the boxes on the counter. “Is no problem. I know son is lousy cook.”
Tora blushes. “Pop...”
“Yeah... I’ve experienced his.... attempts... a few times,” says Tegan with a grin.
Tora crosses his arms. “You’re criticisms are duly noted, milady.”
“Maybe if you’d learn to follow a recipe...”
“One of these days, I’m going to surprise you.”
“Yes... that will be a surprise.”
The guide steps between the two of them. “Is enough talk. Is time to eat.”
“I’ll set the table,” offers Tegan. “Err... where’s the plates?”
The guide points to a cabinet. “Right there.”
“Okay,” says Tegan as she goes to get some plates.
“Let me help you with that, kitten.”
Tora takes a couple of plates out of the cabinet. “Why don’t you check what pop brought home?”
“I’m satisfied so long as it isn’t seafood.”
Tora puts the plates on the counter and then begins rummaging through some drawers. “I doubt he got any. I can’t remember the last time he got seafood.”
“Good. I’m allergic to seafood... or at least I was... don’t know if that’s changed or not.”
“Well, really, there’s only one way to find out, I suppose.” Tora pulls out several chopsticks. “Come on, let’s eat. Today has just left me drained.”
“You and me both.”
Tora simply looks at Tegan for a moment, but then takes the plates and chopsticks out to the dining room. Tegan follows, taking the boxes with her. The guide is already sitting, waiting for them. Tegan sets out the boxes while Tora puts out the plates. Tegan and Tora sit, then open the boxes of food.
“Well? Any seafood?”
“This is rice. What do you have?”
“I’ve got ramen noodles here.”
“Then I guess I’m safe.”
Tora smiles. “Ah, you’re still adjusting to the way your body works. Now come on, let’s eat.”
Tegan serves herself from several of the containers, taking a taste to start, then passing the containers to the guide. The guide readily places both rice and noodles on his plate. Tora does the same, but takes noticeably less than the guide. The table is silent as they eat. As Tegan finishes, she takes a little more of the dishes she likes.
The guide empty his plate. “Son, I no be here tomorrow.”
Tora looks up from his plate. “Why’s that, pop?”
“More people come to Jusenkyo than ever before.”
“So you’re going to be busy, is that it?” The guide nods. “I thought that you’d be around more this time of year.”
“I know. But no one else want do job. And with pools now turn crystal, more people want to see cursed springs.”
“I’ve been at the ‘no one else wanting to do the job’ part myself,” says Tegan.
“Hey, don’t start worrying about the manor. You needed a vacation as much as I.”
“I was talking about before Mystic Manor.”
The guide stands. “So what you two do?”
“I don’t know... I think Tora wanted to take me exploring tomorrow.”
“Well, that can wait for a bit. Maybe we can hit the shops in the amazon village or something like that.”
“I just tell you so you know. Now I go sleep.” the guide takes Tegan’s hand and kisses it. “Sleep well.”
“Thank you,” she replies. Then she comes over and kisses Tora goodnight.
“Think you’ll sleep well tonight?”
“Well... I guess I’ll find out.”
“Indeed.” Tora gets up, and the two of them walk to their respective rooms. They look at each other one more time.. “Ah, you know, if you need to use my open door policy...”
Tegan blushes. “Good night,” she says, before going to her room.
“Night.” Tora collapses on his bed. “Going to have to do something normal soon. Need to keep preoccupied.... “ He takes off his clothes and then lets his eyes close to carry him away to sleep.
Tegan undresses and slips on her sleep shirt. Then she crawls under the covers and snuggles up to her teddy bear before dozing off. However, her sleep does not last long. Not because of the usual nightmares, but because her mind keeps turning over all of the day’s events. Sighing, Tegan gets out of bed, slips on a bathrobe, then goes down the hall to Tora’s room. She softly taps on the door. “Tora? Are you asleep?”
Tora sits up in his bed. “You neither, huh?”
“No... can I come in?”
“Hold on a second,” Tora reaches for a robe and slips it on, then opens his bedroom door. Tegan comes in and sits down on the edge of the bed. “What do you think... about our past lives?”
“I... I... well, I don’t know. I mean, that was then, and this is now...”
“But what she showed us... it was all so strange... can it really be true?”
“I would like to believe it... it does answer a large number of nagging questions I’ve had... “
“The nightmares I’ve had, for one...”
“Yeah... I guess that would explain mine, too.”
“I guess that makes our nightmares more like residual memories...”
“Then who was the man with the headband?”
“Ayla had a band like that too... something about that guy freaks me out.”
“Well, if what she showed us was true, then he should be gone... I just wish I knew what is making those memories come up so frequently...”
“Maybe it’s because they were repressed for so long... if what Ayla showed us is true, then your spirit was trapped in that crystal for around a thousand years. Maybe now that you’re aware of the past, the nightmares will stop.”
“Then maybe we can look forward to a good night’s sleep for once, neh?”
“That would be nice for a change. I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep.”
“Neither can I. Seems like I’m about overdue for one. So I’m going to sleep.”
“Tora? Do you believe in what Ayla said?”
“I... guess so. It just resonated in me so much when she showed us.”
“So what does that say about us now?”
He grins. “If all of it is true, then we’ve been given a second chance [pause] and I’m not going to let it slip away”
“Hmmm...” Tegan yawns. “I guess we can talk about this more in the morning.”
“Yeah... this all has been one long day... maybe tomorrow it’ll all make sense”
“Good night.” She leans over to kiss him.
“Pleasant dreams, my love.”
Tegan’s eyes sparkle in the dim light. “You too.” She turns to go back to her room.
Tora sits there for a moment, not doing anything. “Well, I have to admit... it does explain why I’m always hypnotized by that tail of hers...” Tora’s eyes open wide for a moment “... and it does explain what I found a long time ago.... maybe I’ll take her to it tomorrow.” He looks at his watch. “Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream...”
The next morning, Tegan stirs as the sun comes in the window. She sits up and stretches, then slips out of the bed. After putting on a robe, Tegan goes in search of a shower. She and Tora both put their hands out on the bathroom door. “Ah... You’re up,” says Tora.
“And so are you.”
“Yeah... ah... listen, I want to show you something later... something I came across while I still lived here.”
“Can I take a shower first?”
“You’ll have to make do with a bath, I’m afraid. Apparently he put in a tub, but not a shower.”
“Bath, shower... whatever. I’ll let you know when I’m out.”
“Hey, I can wait. If I waited a thousand years, I think I can wait for another few minutes”
Smiling, Tegan slips into the bathroom. She emerges about 15 minutes later, a towel wrapped around her hair and the fur on her arms and legs glistening from wetness. “Your turn.”
Tora can’t help but stare at Tegan, his eyes mesmerized by the light reflecting off the wetness. “You really shouldn’t leave your jaw open like that. Flies are like to go in if you do.” Tora shakes his head. “Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.”
“I bet you couldn’t.” Tora grins, and then enters the bathroom. After twenty minutes, he emerges with a towel around his waist, light glistening off the water on his body.
Back in her room, Tegan has blown dried her hair and fur. She takes a brush out of her makeup case and begins brushing the fur, smoothing it. Then she gets dressed in a black blouse and blue jeans. She comes out of her room, and sees Tora about to go into his room. She notices how the light dances on his wet flesh. “What’s taking you so long?”
“I still have a curse, milady, and you have _no_ idea what it’s like to wash yourself while you’re a tiger.”
“Do you realize what you just said?”
“What do you...” Tora almost blushes “Oh. I mean that I still have to be careful around water when taking a bath or a shower...”
“Hmmm... well, today do you think you can beat what happened yesterday?”
“Don’t know. But what I have to show you... well, I think that it’s something important.”
“Okay... don’t take too long.” She turns and heads down the hall, her long black tail swaying with the movement of her hips.
“You know I hate it when you do that to me!” Tora yells as he enters his room. Tegan’s only response is a hidden smile. Tora comes out of his room about 10 minutes later, dressed in a white T-shirt, a twin tiger design in black and gold on the back, and a pair of jeans. He looks for Tegan in the house, eventually finding her sitting on the front porch. “Ready to go?”
“How about breakfast first?”
“Only if you’re willing to make it. You remember the last time I tried to make breakfast for us?”
“Well I was waiting for you. You didn’t want cold eggs, did you?”
“No... You’re right. It would be a terrible waste of eggs if they went cold.”
“Come on... you’re going to have to show me where your dad keeps everything.” He follows her to the kitchen.
“Well, it’s been a while, but...” Tora shuffles around, pulling out the necessities, “Unfortunately, Pop’s been a stickler for the traditional style of cooking, so I’m going to have to fire up the stove.. literally.” Tora runs out of the house, returning with some firewood, and soon gets a fire roaring in the wood-burning stove. “You couldn’t have gotten him a hot plate?”
“I tried... I think he gave it to one of the amazons around here.”
“Wonderful. *sigh* I guess I’ll have to make do.” Tora starts the stove, and Tegan begins frying bacon and eggs. “So where’s your dad this morning?”
“He told me this morning that he had to go off and show a few people around for the next few days. Tourism is his only source of income, so he has to work when he can.”
“So he left us all alone?”
“Hmmm... and what are your plans for us for today?”
“I want to show you something that I stumbled across while I still lived around here. Something that I think you should take a look at. After that, well, it’s your call.”
“Should I make some sandwiches to take along? Or will we be somewhere where we can get lunch?”
“Its a bit out of the way... maybe we should bring something to eat along with us.”
“Just wanted to make sure before we shut down the stove.”
“All right.” Tora savors the smell of bacon and eggs, Tegan style. “One of these days, you have to show me how to cook beyond the bachelor style.”
“Just tell me when,” she says as she puts down two plates on the table and sits across from Tora.
“Maybe after we get back home.” Tora and Tegan start into their meal, and after a few moments, Tegan asks “What is so special about this place you want to show me?”
“Well, let’s just say that I didn’t know what to make of it before, but I think I know what to make of it now.”
“Sounds interesting. After we finish breakfast and pack up a lunch, we can head out.”
“Not a problem..”
Tora and Tegan soon finish the meal, and Tora then takes the plates, places them into the kitchen sink, and begins to wash them. Tegan soon follows, and looks for the necessities of sandwich making. “Don’t want to leave a mess behind?”
“Well, I want Pop to think that I have grown over the years...”
She begins searching the cupboards for bread, but finds none. “Err... does your father buy bread?”
“Ahh... I think he normally gets it from the amazons, but I do believe he has a cold storage somewhere around here. Just hold on and let me check.”
“OK. I’m not sure how much of a traditionalist he is, and I know bread isn’t too common in some areas of China. If he doesn’t have anything, we’ll have to figure out something else to pack for lunch.”
“Well, I keep asking him to at least get some of the niceties... ah, well, back in a sec.” Tora leaves, leaving Tegan to rummage further in the cupboards. Tora returns a few moments later, a loaf of bread in hand, as well as a slab of ham. “I guess you found it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t realize that he gets deliveries from the amazons. I just ran into them. They kinda look spooked. Probably my eyes...”
“Well, from what I’ve learned about them, they can be a pretty strange lot. Let’s get these sandwiches made and hit the road.” Tegan slices the bread while Tora slices the ham.
Tora draws the knife back, almost like he’s attacking a mortal enemy. He brings the knife down with a hard ‘thud’, forcing a slice of ham to fall to the counter. “What the hfil are you doing?”
“What, this?” Tora repeats his slicing technique.
Tora looks at the knife, then at Tegan. “I guess this I kinda picked up from... the locals.” Tegan shakes her head and sighs.
“Looks more like you learned from Akane...”
Tegan takes the meat knife from Tora. “First lesson... cutting food like that can get your fingers taken off. You need to do it easily, drawing the knife through the food with a bit of a sawing motion. That way you don’t massacre the food.”
Tora looks at the knife again, then tries to follow Tegan’s instructions, successfully cutting off a slice of ham without resorting to the previous violence. “Very good, Tora. If I only had a gold star to give you...”
“Well, I’m sure a teacher as cute as you can think of something to substitute with.”
She puts her arms around his neck and kisses him. “How about this instead?
“I can live with it.” He pulls her a little closer to him, and returns the kiss.
“Mmmm...” sighs Tegan. She pulls away from him. “How far away is this place you wanted to take me?”
“I don’t think it’s too far from Jusenkyo. But I haven’t been there in a while.”
“Then we better get started.”
Tegan finishes making their lunches, while Tora goes to his room and grabs a compass and a pair of sunglasses. They meet each other at the doorway, Tegan carrying a bag with the lunch inside of it. “All set?”
“Yep. And don’t worry. We’re only going as close to Jusenkyo as necessary.”
“Not too close I hope. I’m finally getting used to being like this full time. I don’t think I could handle dealing with a curse again.”
“Well, it would be rather annoying, considering that I’m starting to get used to that tail of yours full time.”
Smiling, Tegan stows their lunch in cat space. “Let’s go.”
“As you wish, milady.” They step outside, and Tora looks to the horizon. “Let’s see, Jusenkyo is over there...” Tora points in one direction. He pulls out his compass, looks at it, then puts it in his pocket. “I know where we’re going. Come on.”
“I hope you have a better sense of direction than Ryouga...”
“I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?”
“Just being careful.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t anything bad happen to you.”
“You do and I’ll be sure you never forget.” Tegan feels a strange pang at her words.
Tora also feels strange at hearing the words. He tries to ignore the wrenching in his stomach. “Come on. It’s this way.”
Tegan follows Tora as he leads her across the countryside, wondering where they are really going. Tora also wonders where he is going, wondering where the landmarks he remembers could have moved to with the passage of time. They continue hiking, Tora helping Tegan up some of the rougher slopes. It takes them about half an hour before they come across a small river. Tegan sits down to rest, and Tora soon joins her. “Whew... I’m glad I’ve been training with Akane.”
She reaches into cat space and pulls out a thermos of cool water, then pours some for both of them. “I would never have been able to handle a trek like this before... in my natural form.”
“Do you miss it?”
“My old form? Sometimes I do... I mean, it can be a pain walking around in public with a cat tail and cat ears.... I look at pictures of me as a kid, and can’t believe the changes. But I’m getting used to it. I can actually take the stairs all the way up to the penthouse without getting out of breath. And my balance is better. And I don’t have to be on any stupid diet.”
“You know, I still remember how you looked when I came to get you for our first date.”
“Yeah... I was freaking out because everything in my closet was too tight and I didn’t want to have to worry about shopping. Jessica, the girl in 2A... you remember her, the one with the wolf....” Tora nods. Tegan continues. “She found a picture in a magazine. PATE cast a spell to turn one of my outfits into something that fit. Then after that was wrecked by all the stuff falling on it, I remembered I had an outfit from a previous shopping trip. But that outfit only fit me in my cursed form. I wouldn’t have bought it if Jessica, Lisa, and Fox hadn’t talked me into it.”
“Well, it did fit you rather well, I must say.”
“But in a way... my cursed form scared me... After I fell in the pool, and began turning into a cat woman, I began doing things that were more and more daring. I don’t think I would have taken on Madame WWW if I didn’t have the curse. I certainly wouldn’t have gone on that rescue mission against Ryuu. I think... maybe... after I got the curse, parts of my personality in my past life began to push through, but I didn’t know it.”
“Hey hey hey... don’t talk like that. You’re making it sound like a horrible thing, when it really might not be.”
“It’s just... everything is still sinking in.”
“Look, if everything Ayla told us was the truth, then we have been given a second chance, a chance that might not have been possible if you hadn’t fallen in that spring and if I hadn’t fallen in mine.”
“I know... everyone always tells me I tend to dwell too much in the past.”
“Reflection can be a good thing, but too much... well, you get the idea. Anyhow, we’re almost there, but if you want to rest a bit more...”
“No. I sit much longer and I’ll curl up somewhere and fall asleep.”
“Well, considering how often you use me as a pillow...”
Tegan grins and stands, then she puts the thermos back into cat space.
Tora stands and points downstream. “Its over here. But I suggest you watch your step.”
“Because.... it’s behind a waterfall.”
“A waterfall? This sounds interesting.”
“Well, let’s just call it one of life’s little surprises for now.”
“OK.” Tegan follows Tora, carefully watching the path ahead of her.
They soon arrive at the edge of the waterfall. Tora stops to take a view of the scene around them, the thriving plant life, the falling water, and the large pool beneath them. The waterfall was surprisingly high, and made Tegan a little tense. “Tora... you’re not going to make us jump, are you?”
“No. At least not from this height.”
“And just what the h-e-double hockey sticks do you mean by that?” she glares at him.
“There’s a small jump at the bottom... not higher than three feet, I swear.” Tegan still glares at Tora. “What? I said I wouldn’t let anything bad happen to you. And I know how you feel about heights like this.”
She looks down. “And just where are we supposed to be going?” Tora points down to a rocky platform at the base of the waterfall, where the water pools into a large basin. “Fine. I’ll meet you down there.” Before Tora can reply, Tegan shifts into cat form, then disappears into a cat space portal. The portal opens out on the platform. After stepping out of cat space, she shifts back to cat woman and looks up at Tora.
“You know I can’t do that!” Tegan grins is response. “Fine then!” Much to Tegan’s surprise, she sees Tora dive into the basin, and even more surprised when she finds herself splashed by a large amount of water resulting from the force of his impact. Tora soon bobs up to the surface. “Well? What was my score?”
Tora smiles as he swims over the platform and climbs out of the water. “What are you complaining about? I got a little more soaked than you did.”
“*You*, mister, are impossible.”
“And I thought you liked that about me.”
Tegan glares at him.
“Anyhow, milady, what I want to show you is in here.” Tora points to the waterfall.
“Are you even going to tell me what it is?”
“I think that it would be better if I showed you.”
Sighing, Tegan carefully follows Tora behind the waterfall to a hidden cave. The cave appears to be man-made, or at least finished by men. “Who...?” begins Tegan.
“I had no idea myself, until last night.”
*sigh* “Some of the stuff in here didn’t make any sense to me until I started thinking about what Ayla showed us.”
The cave entrance appears dark, but a light emanates from the back. Tegan follows Tora further into the cave. Strange lamps light the way. Tegan examines one, noticing that while there is a flame, there is no apparent fuel. The walls are polished smooth. “Do you think the cat people are responsible?”
“I would like to think so, but...” Tora stops. Tegan comes up from behind him, and stands in awe of the sight before her. The cave appears to end in a large room, with lights all along the walls.. Statues of what looks to be cat people are placed between the sources of light. A stone altar stands in front of what looks to be a hot spring, and a fountain that still works stands off to the side of the altar. “... you tell me.”
“Oh my...” whispers Tegan in awe. She walks around, examining everything carefully. Upon closer inspection, what appeared to be a green finish on the altar proved to be a thick bed of moss, speckled with tiny flowers. The statues look somewhat familiar. Tegan has a feeling that at one time she would have instantly recognized the figures of the statues. “I left the book the Wizard gave me back at the house. It might have something on this.”
“... this was a shrine dedicated to Misra.”
Tegan looks stunned “How do you know that?”
“I... I’m not entirely sure myself. I think you had better get that book”
“Want me to go get it now?”
“Cat space. Now that I know the location of this place, and since I know the location of your dad’s house, I can find my way easily.”
Tegan shifts into cat form and disappears through a portal. She reappears in her room at Tora’s dad’s home. For a minute she shifts to catwoman, gets the book and tosses it into catspace, then turns back into a cat. She returns to the cave, turns into a catwoman, and pulls the book out of cat space.
“I wish I could do that sometimes...”
“From what I read in the book, most cat people can do it. There’s a few rare ones that can’t. Anyhow, let’s see what we can find in here.”
“I am certain this shrine is dedicate to Misra...” Tora examines the book for a moment. “I wonder if this thing has an index somewhere.”
“No index. But there is a chapter on religion.”
“Well, let’s see what it has...”
“I didn’t quite get up to that chapter. It’s towards the end. I’ve been spending more time on the culture.”
“I guess we start at the beginning of that chapter, then.”
Tora can’t help but smile. Tegan begins to scan the pages, looking for any sort of indication of what they have found.
“Here’s a picture... it kinda looks like some of these statues...” She shows Tora the picture.
Tora looks at the picture, and then at the statues around them. “They are.” He points at one of the larger statutes in the picture. “This was a representation of Misra.”
Tegan quickly skims the paragraph accompanying the picture. “It says here that Misra was one of several goddesses that were considered children of Bastet. According to this, she was the protector of love and....” She rereads the paragraph to make sure she isn’t mistaken. “Oh my....”
“What? What is it?”
Tegan’s face flushes. “She was the goddess of love and mating.”
“Then the time of the ‘Days of the Misra’ at the temple of Pharangese was...”
“I thought the warriors of Pharangese took an oath of chastity during their proscribed service.”
“During their prescribed service, yes. But there were those at the temple who stayed beyond the required service, and that includes most of the elders... oh my....” Ancient memories filter through Tora’s mind.
“Who you all thought also took the same vows?”
“Yes, well, Pharangese asked for chastity of her warriors, but these were cat people, and well, when they get in heat... well, they needed release. And since Pharangese served Misra...”
Tegan stared at Tora.
“But half-breeds were sort of given a holiday from the holiday... they weren’t allowed to join the others in the revelries, but were allow to celebrate as they saw fit.”
“And just how did you celebrate?”
“Well, the Mother had kept me busy with studies during that time, so I didn’t really celebrate.... You have to understand that Pharangese is a goddess of passion, tempered by wisdom. Unfortunately, because Pharangese served Misra, and because a large number of people forgot the part about wisdom, they assumed that by observing the Days of the Misra they would not anger Pharangese.”
“So... a lot of the warriors were true to their oaths... except on the Days of Misra?”
“Yes. It was a way of release for them. Although I can’t say I ... approve what they did then, those dirty old men.... I do see its necessity.”
“You’re certainly remembering a lot now,” replies Tegan.
“I guess Ayla broke through some sort of mental barrier.”
She returns to reading over the section on Misra, then begins blushing furiously.
“Ummm... errr.... I found a section discussing these hidden shrines.”
Tegan’s face burns red as she reads over the section again before summarizing it for Tora. “Errr... these shrines had a special purpose... they were meant to be secluded...” Her voice becomes almost a whisper. “... for couples first time together....”
Tora is silent for a moment. “Oh...”
“Read for yourself.” Tegan’s hands shake as she passes Tora the book.
Tora scans the section that Tegan points at. “Well, then... what do you suggest we do?” Tegan doesn’t reply. Tora can see that she is trembling. “Tegan, there’s nothing to be worried about. The gods have long since passed, at least for us.” Tegan is still trembling. “Look, if you’re afraid about defiling this shrine, well, [pause] we could always use this shrine for what it was meant for.”
Tegan blinks in surprise and stares at Tora. “You mean....?” Tora takes off his sunglasses, looks Tegan straight into her eyes, and nods. Tegan swallows hard and licks her lips. Butterflies begin fluttering in her stomach. She’s fantasized about a moment like this for what seems to be an eternity. Yet when faced with it in reality, she is swamped with uncertainty. Her eyes meet Tora’s.
Tora pulls Tegan to closer to him, and whispers in her ear “if you want to back out, I’ll understand.” Tegan responds by gently kissing Tora’s lips. Tora whispers again “As you wish...” He envelopes Tegan with his arms, pulling her even closer as they kiss again.
Writer's note: At this point, the story becomes a "lemon" - meaning that there is sexual content. If you are under 18, offended by or uninterested in sexual scenes, go straight to Chapter 8. If you are of age and do wish to read the lemon bits, continue with "Awakenings, Lemon Addition to Chapter 7."