Approaching the building was another provocatively dressed woman, though perhaps not as provocatively as the devil girl. The woman was older and had long blonde hair and silver glasses. On her head was what seemed to be a dark blue witch’s hat with white straps and a red ball attached to it. She was wearing a matching dark blue corset and micro skirt, along with a pair of thigh high boots. Both the boot and the corset were covered in belts. Completing the outfit was a white fur coat that hung off her shoulders, leaving them bare. In her hands was looked like a riding crop.
The older woman sighed with her head in her hand and a hint of an irritated blush. “Ichika… what are you up to this time? This doesn’t seem like your usual thing.”
“No, you’re right. I was asked to do some clean up duty, when I happened to wander across this little cutie here.” The girl, whose name was apparently Ichika, winked at Stanly. He would normally be much more embarrassed, but at the moment he was far to confused to think about such things.
The new woman turned to Stanly. “You should get behind me while you can, before she escapes.”
Stanly wasn’t completely certain what was happening, but something inside him gave him the impression that this new woman seemed safer than the demon girl he first met. “Y-Yes ma’am.”
Without wasting any time, Stanly carefully stepped out of the bushes and ran towards the woman. Running made several of the strange new sensations on his body even more obvious, like his long ponytail, his bouncing chest, and his legs left completely bare by the leotard he was wearing.
As Stanly approached the woman, she gave him a slight smile. “You alright?”
“I-I believe so. Thank you for your help, umm…”
“Elma. And don’t worry about it. We aren’t out of trouble yet.”
Ichika giggled at Elma’s warning. “Aww, you know me so well.” In an instant, Ichika disappeared as her body faded into a pink mist. The mist effortlessly escaped the chains and moved to the top of the steps, before rematerializing into Ichika’s body. “Alright boys, girls, and everyone else, come on out and get me that ribbon.”
At her call, several shadows rose up from the ground. They took on humanoid shapes, but never quite managed a fully physical form, instead appearing as amorphous beings of inky blackness, with bright red eyes. Dozens of these shadows appeared around Stanly and Elma, blocking their path to Ichika.
“Don’t worry, I won’t have them rough you up too much. You’re way too cute for that. Although I should warn you that these guys aren’t the best at taking specific orders.” Ichika sat down on the steps and crossed her long legs as she watched the shadow beings close in on the other two.
Elma turned to Stanly with a serious expression. “You’re a bonder, right? Can you fight?”
“I… have no idea what you mean by that. But I am a blackbelt in martial arts.”
“That’s not… ugh, it’ll have to do. Just try to stay close to me.” Elma held out her riding crop and pointed it towards a group of shadows. A bolt of lightning leapt from the tip of the crop, blasting through the enemies and dissolving them into nothingness.
Stanly’s jaw dropped at the sight. “Wh-What was that.”
“No time, they’re coming.”
Stanly looked up to see one of the shadows running towards him. Fortunately, Stanly was not joking about being a black belt, even if that belt came from a dirt-cheap dojo at a shopping mall. Still, Stanly had plenty of practical fighting experience to fall back on.
He adopted a fighting stance as the monster approached. As it swung an arm at Stanly, he dodged to the side and countered with a punch of his own. The force of his punch shot a hole through the shadow’s chest, and it dissolved away.
“W-Wait, that seemed easy…”
“You’ve got powers now. They’re probably making you stronger.” Elma was fending off several shadows at once using her riding crop as a melee weapon, while restraining approaching shadows with magical chains. “Just try to focus on the fight.”
“Right!” Stanly squared up his fists and began to punch the shadows that came for him. His body felt lighter than it ever had before, and his punches had far more force than normal. He was almost ready to believe that he might actually have magical powers.
As the two fought, Ichika leaned back with a stretch, her eyes locked on Stanly. “You aren’t bad. But I wonder how many you can handle.”
Ichika blew another kiss into the air and a wave of reinforcements appeared, bolstering the shadows’ numbers. To make matters worse, they all turned towards Stanly and began to swarm. While he wasn’t a complete novice to fighting, he stood no chance against numbers this large.
Elma tried blasting through some of them with magic, but more kept appearing to take their place. “Dang it, there’s too many. Hey, kid, we should try and get out of here.”
“U-Understood, ma’am!” Stanly looked frantically for a path to escape, but he was surrounded by shadows. There was no way out, even with Elma doing her best to make an escape path.
“This… this can’t actually be happening right? This must be a dream. There’s no way I’m going to die here, is there? I… I can’t die here. If I did, then… Alex would be…”
As panic slowly began to set in, Stanly felt fear take over. Inside that fear was a primal urge that Stanly could not bring himself to ignore. It started deep in his chest, growing and growing until it was about to burst.
Stanly let out a shout that echoed as if magnified through a dozen speakers. Elma and Ichika both covered their ears as the scream blasted their eardrums. At the shout rang out, the many ribbons decorating Stanly outfit shot out, extending in length and piercing through the shadows, dissolving them into light. When the powerful attack finally ended, Stanly collapses to his knees, panting for air.
“Wow, wasn’t expecting that.” Ichika stood up from the steps. “I think I’ve done enough for today. I might actually get hurt if I stick around here.” She turned into mist and disappeared into the night sky.
As Stanly caught his breath, Elma approached and kneeled down next to him. “Hey, you okay?”
“Y-Yes… I think so…” Stanly sat down on the ground. “Do you, uh… know what’s going on?”
She shrugged. “Kinda sorta. Hasn’t your arete filled you in?”
“Arete… you know the thing giving you powers. You do have one, right? Kapella and I can sense one on you.”
Stanly looked himself over to try and see if he could figure out what the woman was talking about, but none of it made any sense. He was also reminded of the fact that he still appeared to be female. “I really have no idea what you mean. And… is there a reason why I’m a girl?”
Elma raised an eyebrow. “Were you… not a girl before?”
Stanly shook his head. “Definitely not. I’m not sure where these clothes came from either.”
Elma put her hand over her mouth and furrowed her brow for a bit in thought. Stanly could’ve sworn he saw her hide a small blush.
There was a long pause of silence, leaving Stanly watching in his confused state. “Umm… are you going to an-…”
“Shh, give me a sec.” Stantly’s mouth snapped shut at the retort. Perhaps she was just thinking to herself. For a very long time.
Eventually, Elma finally turned her attention back to Stanly. “Hey, do you need to be anywhere? If you want, you can come back to my place, and I can explain more there.”
Stanly’s cheeks turned red at the thought of this scantily clad woman bringing him back to “her place”. However, he did want to know what was going on. “Well… I do have a younger sibling back home. I should probably at least let them know what’s going on.”
Elma nodded. “Sure, take your time.”
Stanly took out his phone and realized that there were several messages from his younger sibling, Alex, all asking where he was. “Shoot, I made them worry. What kind of big bro am I? Er… well, I guess I’m not a big bro at all at the moment.”
Stanly: Hey Alex. Sorry about that, I feel asleep.
Alex: Oh, that’s all? No worries! I figured you were out with some girl.
Stanly: Th-That would be silly!
Alex: Lol, did you just type a stutter? XD
Stanly: Anyway, I won’t be back for a bit. It might not be until morning. Will you be alright?
Alex: Yup, I’ll be totally fine! Just working on some designs. You have all the fun you want big bro. ;)
Stanly: THAT IS NOT WHAT’S HAPPENING!
Stanly let out a sigh. “Well, I should be alright.”
“Cool. It’s not too far from here.” Elma stood up and extended a hand to Stanly. He took it and got back on his feet.
Before Stanly put his phone away, he decided to pull up the camera app to get a look at his new appearance. As he expected, the face staring back at him was that of a young woman. It was hard to tell exactly how old she was, but she seemed fairly close to Stanly’s age of 20.
Stanly assumed he would look like himself, only feminine, but that didn’t seem to be the case. This new face was distinctly different from his own, down to his new blue eyes. He had soft, gentle facial features, a small nose, and long eyelashes.
His bangs were cut straight just below his eyebrows. The rest of his hair was tied up in a ponytail that reached to the middle of Stanly’s back and seemed very straight and well managed. The hair was an unnatural bright pink color. A large white ribbon sat perfectly on the back of his head, clearly the thing that the girl from before was after.
As far as his body, Stanly was fairly certain he was shorter than before. It would explain why Elma and the other girl seemed so tall. He also had a modestly sized chest that he was trying not to pay attention to.
His outfit looked like a stage outfit, something that an idol or actor might wear. He wore a star-patterned leotard with a formal, pale-blue jacket over it, and a cape and epaulette decorating a single shoulder. Several multi-colored ribbons adorned the sleeves of the jacket, and a white cravat was wrapped around his neck. While his hips were mostly on full display, a piece of cloth was wrapped around his waist that flowed along behind him, like the back half of a skirt.
“You okay? We should probably get moving in case more trouble comes.” Elma had been patiently waiting as Stanly assessed his appearance. Stanly snapped to attention and nodded, putting his phone away and following the mysterious woman to her apartment.