"A Change of Face" by NobodyAtAll

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After our meeting with Edward and Erdrick, me and Marley appear outside of an apartment building, and not our apartment building.

I’ve got a good idea of what we might be facing in Drakonia, so now I’ve got a good idea of what kind of team members I need on the squad.

Although now I’m not sure that “squad” is the right word.

One of those team members lives in this building, with his girlfriend and their fluffy.

There’s a fourth resident of that apartment, but you can’t exactly say that he lives there.

Me and Marley ring the buzzer, and I hear Glenn’s voice from the speaker.

“Cal? What are you doing here?”

There’s a camera, y’know.

“We’ve got another mission, and I have a hunch that it’ll require your talents. You got the time?”

“Oh, well, uh, Sander is here, but he was just leaving.”

You’ll find out who Sander is in a bit, dear readers. But he’s been mentioned before, if not by name.

Glenn buzzes us up.


We enter Glenn’s living room.

“Hewwo, mistah Caw! Hewwo, Mawwey!”

“Hey, Darby!”

“Hewwo, Dawby.”

Darby is Glenn and Leene’s fluffy. He looks like Glenn did, back when Glenn was cursed with his fluffy head. Leene and Cyrus are here too, the latter in mortal form.

See what I meant? It can’t be said that Cyrus lives here. He’s a nephilim, you can’t say he lives anywhere anymore!

Speaking of the curse, Sander Gwenn, one of the few decent blood mages, is holding the mask said curse was sealed in.

You’re probably expecting a blood red robe, crazed, wild eyes, a sinister goatee. You’d be a fool to expect that. That’s what the bad blood mages look like. Sander just wears a black business suit. He’s got shoulder-length grey hair, with a significant bald spot, and a beard. He looks like an aging hippie who got an office job, but hasn’t entirely let go of his hippie lifestyle yet.

Or like Tommy, in his Halloween costume last year. He came as, and I quote, a “total square”.

The mask looks different from the last time I saw it. It used to look like Glenn’s cursed head. Green fluff, dark green mane, yellow eyes, a white patch around the mouth.

But now…

The fluff is pure white, so is the mane, and so are the eyes. Completely blank.

I know that Sander has been examining the mask. I’ve met him before. Between stories.

Do you really think we spend all that time between stories sitting on our asses, waiting for the next one to start?

Blood magic was involved in that mask’s creation. Cyrus’ blood, in fact. Ianos loved the irony of using Cyrus’ blood to curse his best friend.

So, it falls under Sander’s territory, and he’s been trying to figure out what could be done with it. If there’s any use for it.

If you’re wondering, Sander gets the blood he uses from a local butcher. Any blood will do for blood magic, yet so many blood mages insist on using human blood.

Valerie is wondering if NuBlood could be reformulated again, so that blood magic could be done with it, but that’s a work in progress too. They already use NuBlood as a substitute for real blood in hospitals. So if the Nerd Squad could accomplish this too, it would essentially be identical to real blood in every way, except getting it wouldn’t be a crime.

The entire reason blood magic is considered so abhorrent is that you need blood to do it, and it’s getting the blood that’s the problem. Like I said, most blood mages go straight to human blood, without considering any other options.

According to Sander, a lot of blood mages stubbornly believe that human blood is the best kind of blood to use, but again, any blood will do, and Sander knows it.

He doesn’t like hurting people, and he doesn’t even like blood magic, but he also knows that blood magic is the best way to fight blood magic.

Gold doesn’t do jack shit to blood magic.

I turn to Sander.

“Uh… so what exactly is different about it, guys? Why does it look like that now?”

Sander chuckles.

“Perhaps you would see if you put it on, Cal.”

This actually isn’t my first time putting that mask on.

Since Glenn finally broke the curse, a lot of us ChaotiX members have had plenty of good laughs, taking turns putting the mask on and laughing at the fluffy head.

Yeah, it works for anyone.

So, when Sander hands me the mask, I readily put it on.

It takes me a few seconds to realize what’s different about the mask.

When I look up at Sander, and speak.

“Otay, wut da fuk am-- oh.

I waddle over to a mirror. Glenn put a full-length mirror in the living room when he got his real face back.

Holy shit, you gotta be kidding me.

“It tuwned Cawvin intu a fwuffy?!?”

Then I start laughing.

Funniest shit I’ve ever seen!


Everyone else starts laughing too.

I’m laughing hardest of all, but Glenn takes the silver medal.

“You’re so cute, Cal!”

This is so cool! I’ve always wondered what the world looks like from a fluffy’s point of view!

I mean, I’ve got Umbra’s account, but you know how cynical he was.

And Marley can turn human, this was the logical next step.

In fluffy form, I’m an earthie. I’ve got brown fluff, mane, and tail, matching my hair in human form. My mane is still tied back into a… ponytail. My eyes are blue, as they usually are. I’m still wearing my bag of holding and the Sword of Kings, but they’ve shrunk down to fluffy size.

I hope this isn’t permanent. It’s a bit cramped in here now.

Me, Cal and Memories are in the exact same boat, Fi! A fluffy brain is SMALLER! Cal, don’t start thinking about “huggies an wub”! And if you get a hankering for sketties, I WILL get the imaginary sorry stick!

Niv, there’s just not enough room for all of US in here, we think the pool table has to go.

Don’t you DARE throw the pool table out, Memories! Don’t you know how much imaginary money it cost me?

I’m hoping this isn’t permanent either, guys.

Eventually, we manage to stop laughing.

“Otay, otay, how du Cawvin undu dis?”

Glenn grins.

“Have you tried killing a phantom Ianos?”

“Vewy funee, Gwenn. Nu, see-wee-us-wee, Cawvin nu knu wut Joo-dee am gunna say, if Joo-dee see Cawvin wike dis.

Sander kneels down.

“Here, let me help you with that.”

He makes a motion like he’s trying to pull my face off.

Then I’m back in human form, and he’s holding the mask, which he hands to Glenn.

Okay, so I know about the pros of a fluffy body. Hey, Gaspode’s gathered lots of information for us because some people will tell a fluffy anything. So has Paul, because some feral fluffies don’t trust humans, but will happily gossip with other fluffies, or at least, someone who currently looks like a fluffy.

Sometimes, Chaos will take fluffy form, blending into a feral herd, seeing how long it takes them to catch him.

He won’t pull that shit with the Fluffy Cartel, though. Blueberry’s sharp. At least as sharp as Alpha, when Chaos pretends to be the statue of himself.

But I know about the cons of a fluffy body too, and this mask has a big one:

You can’t get out of fluffy form without help from someone with hands.

“Alright, now that we’ve had our fun, here’s why we’re here…”

So, once again, me and Marley recap today’s events.

When we’re done, Glenn cocks an eyebrow.

“Cal, I’m not sure I’m the right guy for this. I’m a vampire hunter by trade, y’know.”

He’s got a pretty deep voice now that the curse is broken. Refined, too. He’s another of our British members, as is Cyrus.

Leene was willing to trade Glenn’s fluffy head in for that, because she’s one of those women who thinks British accents are so sexy.

Yeah, back when Glenn was still Fluffy-Head, his voice was just as high-pitched as an actual fluffy’s.

And he could still kick more ass than you can believe, so, ultimately, he didn’t care if nobody took him seriously. It took him a long time to get to that point. Cornering the bastard who cursed him in the first place definitely helped.

Glenn and Cyrus have both rejoined the Hunter Association, and when Leene’s got her combo move with Glenn down pat, she’ll be joining too.

If you want a hint about what that combo move is: he’s got hydrokinesis, she’s got cryokinesis, and which liquid is incredibly dangerous to evil vampires and demons, even when it’s frozen solid?

I glance at Glenn’s armor, steel with silver plating, on an armor stand. He’s in street clothes right now. A dark green leather jacket, white jeans, blue sneakers.

“Yeah, but you wear a suit of armor on the job. And your vampire-killing weapon of choice is a sword. Call me crazy, but… I think we’re gonna need a knight for this.”

“We awweady haf a mage an a woge.”

“Exactly. And we’re going to a land of magic and dragons. Glenn, you see where this is going, right?”

Judging by the look on Glenn’s face…

Yes.

Yes he does.

Look on the bright side, Cal.

What bright side, Niv?

You guys aren’t gonna have to DIE to get there.

Huh. You’re right about that. Honestly, part of me was hoping that would happen when I eventually die for real.

On the other hand…

I’ve always wondered what Valhalla is like.

I dunno if Odin and Thor and all of those guys will be there, though. I mean, all of the gods were kicked out, right? All but one, and He’s the one who kicked the others out, right? Except the Tennebites’ God of Destruction. Which wasn’t actually a god, just a fucking mecha, which me and Marley destroyed with our mechas, so it wasn’t even well-made.

Yeah, just because a given piece of technology is ancient, or comes from a forgotten civilization, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s better than modern technology. I mean, Adam Omega’s chronal equalizer burned out during our fourteen thousand year trip to the past, just like my temporal stabiliser did.

Getting back on topic, I was told by Chaos, Law and the Deaths that all but Big G were banished. Satan’s technically not a god, but a fallen angel, which, along with the Pacts, is why he and his boys weren’t given the boot.

But what those four didn’t tell me is…

Where did all of the gods go?

They have to have gone somewhere, right? Did they go back to whatever afterlife their flock believes in?

A lot of things on the Other Side are driven by belief, y’know. Belief’s stronger than you think it is. Belief can change the nature of a man.

But if the gods didn’t go there…

Where did they go?

I’ll have to ask some of my friends on the Other Side about that, but there’s no time right now.

Finish this candy bar before you open another one, Cal.

Okay, so we’ve got a mage and a knight, and if Victor’s down, a rogue too.

Who else do we need?

A bard? Maybe one of the spoony persuasion?

A cleric, perhaps?

Eh, everyone knows bards are pretty much useless for this kind of thing. Let’s go with a cleric.

And I happen to know someone who is devoutly religious and also possesses healing powers.

Even though he didn’t get the latter from the former, like an actual cleric would, it’s good enough for me.

So, me and Marley say goodbye to Glenn, Cyrus, Leene and Darby, and depart, Sander following us down, happily telling us what he’ll be doing today.

He’s gotta go pick up some more blood, and then he’ll be meeting with Deston.

They’ll be taking a swing at the Pit of Giaga issue together, to see if blood magic can’t open the passageway. Sander is the best blood mage who isn’t, y’know, evil.

And then he’s gotta swing by the Morris Clan’s house.

The remedy for Harley’s “small problem” is ready.

It ain’t a cure for vampirism, but…

At least there won’t be any awkwardness if Harley and Jackie start dating.

No spoony bards this time around.

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