Helantri Deru is...well, a calm oasis in ways, but a fortress beneath its beauty. The mansion holds influences from Earth's China, but a good many other sensibilities are merged into that as well. It appears open, well-lit, and airy...but can be sealed to virtual impenetrability at a moment's notice. The grounds around it are graced by beautiful gardens, practically a horticultural museum or botanical masterwork. There are what appear to be training areas scattered throughout, but they fit into the landscape as though they belong. They do. The protective and cloaking fields around the entire area are exceedingly similar to those around Saea's Gardens.
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Huo winces quietly, pausing just a few moments to hold his lame arm. Weak, but not incapable of feeling pain, and some drow casters last week had done a nice number on him. Still, he's improving. And while he does, he's keeping an eye on the old estate while Ting is off attending to something or other. Since worshipers of her are popping up, she's actually...trying to take them kind of seriously.
As seriously as a Ting can take things, anyway.
Anna meun-Soo looks up from her routine on the mats, just across the garden. "You're supposed to be watching me and not hurting yourself even worse, Huo," she calls, sitting on her knees to rest a moment. She picked up gymnastics a while back, once it became utterly apparent that her mystical talents were nil.
"Sorry. It was the pure agony of your utter grace and beauty," Huo grins at her. Hey, gay men can say that to cousin-like people. "In seriousness, though, that last flip was pretty impressive. You inherited a lot of your mother's agility."
"I'm trying," Anna nods. "It'd be nice to have someone to compete against, though. Makes me kind of wish I was, y'know. Human."
"Have you thought about asking your sister to get together another big athletics competition?" Huo inquires, jumping up to seat himself gingerly on a tree branch. "I bet she could facilitate that."
"Ai-baby? She's pretty busy these days, what with populating her planet with Dewei." Anna intentionally lets that one hang for a second, eyes narrowing and ears at full flick. She smirks, amused at herself. "Um. Dewei is helping her find people to live there. Also, the other thing."
"Mostly the other thing." Huo snickers. "Well...my mom and your dad were both really vigilant when she was doing that, I'm sure that my mother saw or could see every important step of the process. We could still probably recreate it if you want, I'm sure she'd let us use the arena at Raufante." Okay, so he's kind of in the habit of spoiling his cousin regardless of their close ages.
"You're probably right. I dunno, though, it's hard to find people who can actually compete at a close level! Everyone's so different, physically, magically, psychically." Anna pushes herself onto her feet, languidly of course.
"Physically will be the trick...magic dampening fields can be used on competition arenas." Huo's saying this like he so often does with everything: he's working it out in his head like a puzzle to be solved. "For gymnastics stuff, unusually heavy emphasis can be placed on scores like style and choreography to help balance physical differences."
"That makes sense," Anna nods! She wiggles a little, a very Mara-wiggle, which is almost a stripper-wiggle in a blue leotard. "But... hm. Last time, didn't the universe almost end? Monsters and stuff?"
"Well...yes. But how many days is that not the case around here?" Huo grins a crooked grin.
"True! At least this will get the monsters in place." Anna saunters toward the garden; she's not the vegetation buff that everyone else seems to be, but it's certainly there, and she doesn't mind the warm sun shining on her back. "So what ARE you doing, anyway, Princess?" This as she peeks at him between to tall, free-standing flowers.
"Ostensibly watching Helantri Deru while Ting's away. That's not all that necessary with its shields and safeguards, of course, but it does mean that I keep her pets entertained."
"Pets?" Anna slips between the flowers and looks around, searching for said pets. "I thought we were her pets."
"Everyone is Ting's pet. Unless they're Mara's pet or Yue's pet, and that doesn't necessarily discount the other two.
A rustling, mid-sized, goes streaking through a tall batch of flowers, and then is still.
Anna's observant eyes follow the motion, cat-like, of course. "Whazzat?" She cranes her neck and looks.
At this point, what looks like...a labrador-sized plant monster springs out of the flowers at her from the bush. It's an ugly thing, all told, with gnarled, root-like limbs and body--though they're fairly soft to the touch--and a red, eyeless, bald head. The mouth is open...and it's a drooler.
Anna shrieks and leaps to hide behind Huo. "Gaaaahwhathehellzat??"
The plant-monster misses the pounce and just looks around, confused.
"That's Bob, of course." Huo laughs. "He has a face only a Ting could love, but he's good-tempered. If hyper."
Anna peeks out from behind Huo. "Bob?" she asks, looking again at the thing. "Hi bob!"
The creature opens its mouth in response--and has long, nasty-looking teeth similar to venus fly-trap's--but looks happy enough. No sound emenates.
"He doesn't do very much in the way of vocalizations...kinda has this raspy thing when he's really happy." Huo grins a bit. Bob, meanwhile, begins circling the tree. He wants teh attention, darn it!
Anna hops in front of Huo, lowering herself in kitty butt-wiggle-preparing to pounce position. She smiles at Bob. "Welcome to ThunderDome, Bob!" And leaps!
That mouth opens wide...and the whole plant monster goes tumbling over backwards, rolling with an overgrown vampire-kitty. Of course, as soon as he shakes off, he pounces straight for Anna's chest with a quiet rasp of delight. After all, she's a lot like his absent mistress!
"Hey, watch out for the...!" Huo covers his eyes as they approach the pond.
Anna tries to catch the leafy beasty, and does, but goes tumbling end over backward end until plunking into the still surface of the pool. She squeals happily; yeah, she's more and more like her beloved Ting every passing day. She flits to the surface with Bob in arms, giggling.
Bob, for his part, just paddles around with half-serinian in tow, happy as can be. Also...he's now a vibrant green instead of the dull brown from before.
Huo chuckles. "I forgot to mention, he's also conveniently colour-changing. Just add water!"
"Like me!" Anna snickers. She's a little sad that she can't magic herself another color and add focus to that statement. She lets Bob tow her around, laughing, smiling at Huo. "He's a natural swimmer!"
"He's a forest fellow, but there's a closely related species of swamp ones. It turns out, they actually switch quite well."
This, as soft padding footsteps pat pat through the clover groundcover. "Ack! Anna. You watered my Bob." Ting titters as she wanders into the clearing. Her hair is much longer nowadays, and she actually wears a soft, long, very plain, somewhat drape-y white dress, as she has for about half Anna's life.
"Auntie!" In a blink, Anna is out of the water and racing for her Ting, dripping wet and smiling huge with a leaping pounce of absolute luff.
"Eeep!" Of course Ting could stop it. But of course she doesn't, rolling over backwards and hug-pinned happily. She giggles, and hugs Anna. "Hiya, Drippy!"
Of course, this is about the time Bob wants in on the action and goes careening for Anna's back.
Anna smiles at Ting, and kisses her face on both sides. She's about to respond before Bob crashes into her, knocking her right over Ting's head and onto the ground.
Ting titters. "I love you both, too." And she walks over on her knees to hug them both tightly. Bob is excited and squirming to no end, and sort of lightly, repeatedly--and wetly--nipping Ting's cheek and jaw, which is the nearest area to him.
Anna smiles at them, and then up at Huo. "I missed my Auntie," she declares. "So Auntie-pie, whatcha doin back?"
"I'm done! There was a drought. I fixed it. Hopefully I didn't cause a bigger weather calamity by doing that, Dewei could probably tell me." Ting giggles. Ruffles Anna's too-wet-to-ruffle hair. "So what's this I hear about you being bendy nowadays?"
"I yam a gymnasticist." She smiles at her favorite being in all existence. "Since I can't magic, I thought I would physic. Like my leotard? I'm leotarded!"
"You're very leotarded, and I love you for it." Ting titters. Stands, and helps Anna up against the bouncing Bob. "You ought to show me some gynasticistic stuff after you dry off, cutie! And hi there, other cutie. Thanks for watching Bob, Sam, Lilah, and Sweetiepie."
"No problem." Huo smiles.
"Did Sweetiepie give you any troubles?"
"Only when she tried to chew my face off."
Ting giggles. "Yay! She's healthy and feeling herself."
"Sounds fun! Who's a Sweetiepie besides me?" Anna is, of course, unduly interested in Ting's petamajigs.
"Sweetiepie is! She's a naga-thing. Natural born, not one of the creepy created ones! Stupid." Ting giggles. "But still, I think she's sweet at heart. She was trained to be an attack doggie of sorts and abused to be vicious, but she's very sweet and loving to me. Not so much to most other people. But she's sweet at heart, she is! She just needs time." Ting purrs. "Want to meet her?"
Anna shrinks a little at that. "I don't like vicious," she says, quiet.
"She won't hurtcha if you don't touch her and I'm there," Ting purrs. "And her keepers were male, so she already didn't like Huo here. She does a lot better with girls. But it's okay if you don't want to, yes! Oh." She holds up a box, which of course hadn't been there a moment before. "I come bearing cookies!"
"I just came seeing cookies," Anna purrs, smiling happily. "Kitchen? We're all outside and I'm sticky."
"After that bath?" Ting inquires, aghast.
"Cookies, dear. COOKIES."
"Are you sassing the gift-bearer? Huo."
"Yes?" And then he catches the box of cookies, which had appeared immediately overhead.
And Ting pounces Anna, tickling mightily.
Anna squeals, of course, and wriggles, and almost cries, she does SO love her Ting! But the next thing Ting might now, she might find herself in a leg lock.
Leg lock or no leg lock, the tickling goes on. "Do not look a gift cookie in the sprinkles! Do not look a gift cookie in the sprinkles! Mwahaha take it!"
Anna squeals until she's breathelss and tickle-tears are pouring from her eyes. She finally lets go of Ting and tries to breathe, smiling and gasping.
"Auntie!" she squals, instead of 'uncle'.
Ting laughs. Fingers let up, and she kisses Anna square on the mouth...much like a certain buggerfly of long ago, it's just a general gesture of affection. "Okay. Grab you a shower, and then cookies!" She beams. Jumps off of Anna, and holds out a lightly spotted hand gently.
Anna reaches up and takes it, so happy when she's with her Auntie. She almost forgets Huo is there. "I shall," she purrs, and skips that way, toward the house. Stops. "Huo!" Sheepish. "Would you wash my hair?" He's ever so good at it.
He grins. "Yeah, sure." And follows along. It looks so much more like Moorn's working on another Felina-spawned in-law than is actually the case.
Soon enough, there are cookies, milk, and much smiling in the good old kitchen of this home.
"...and that's why I don't go into caves without a bra anymore," Ting finishes, giggling. "Oh! I think I'm going to go to check on one of those cities, Dahmasque. I'll just be keeping a really low profile, but want to check on them. It's kinda a...pushy city? But you guys are welcome to come." She smiles.
"I'll come! I wanna see other people who worship Auntie." Anna, dressed in a comfy robe, wiggles at the table. She's ready for another trip, even if it is a tame destination. "What's it like?"
"It's a typical human city, with medium-low technology--they have iron but not steel--and only a little weak magic used by a few people, in general. Pushy pushy, and stressful, but always pushing forward and being busy and getting places they haven't been before. Humans are cool that way." Ting smiles a bit.
"Also, you want to cover your heads and ears, or put an illusion on 'em. Definitely look human if we want to stay in-cog-nit-o."
Anna nods. "Would you do that for me?" She can't. Since the lich incident, Anna's magic is practically nil; whether she associated all that badness with it, or it died out for other reasons, it's gone.
'Course! Anna's too pretty to cover up, adn we'll keep her face intact." Ting purrs softly, and hops out of her chair to head over to her niece, stroking her hair thoughtfully as she thinks. "Now, how does Anna want to look as a human...?" she ponders, purring faintly.
"I dunno," Anna answers, as she generally does before applying thought to the question. "Whatever people look like there, I guess. Good butt, though. Gotta keep mom's curves intact!"
"Well, duh. You have better curves than me. And she worked hard to have those to pass on." Ting giggles softly. Mmm...
Soon after, Anna's hair is softly curling, red faded to a natural human red, skin tanned and unmarked. Her eye color is intact, though it looks fully human. Her clothes have been traded for a rather rich, gorgeous maroon set indigenous to the area, wrapping delicately around her body and embroidered in bronze in all the right places. Ting purrs, and ties back Anna's hair gently. Holds out a mirror. "Mirror!"
Anna takes it, and purrs, and coos. "My Auntie is so good," she purrs, and stands, intent on swinging around and providing a huge robe-y hug.
Ting "eeps" in pure happiness, and smiles. Hugs Anna in return. "And don't you forget it!" She purrs, and kisses her hair. Looks over to her baby brother. "Huo will be going with just covering his head?"
"I'd prefer it, yes." He smiles.
"Awesome. Shall we, then? Everyone ready?" Ting purrs.
"I'm ready if everyone else is," Anna nods. "Oh. Should we be armed...?"
"You may want to have a little dagger or something, but it probably won't be necessary. Just in case someone mugs you. But you could honestly take any human who tried bare-handed. So yes." Ting purrs as she pulls up the white hood on her robe-like dress, which covers the top part of her face and her ears pretty darned nicely. The lower spot on her mouth is visible, but not many people know about that who don't actually know her.
"Okay." Anna reaches under the table, rips some tape, and produces a stiletto. "There! I'm ready!"
Ting giggles. She does love this family. "Off we go!" And then they're all off for Dahmasque.
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