I Could Not Bring My Passion from the Common Spring

Shigeru could admit that, while he was listening to Kuroka's… retelling… of the history of the Khaos Brigade and its eventual downfall, he was distracted. He was making sure to get down the parts that would be important for later, having gone as far as to start taking notes on the back of his napkin. His memory might have been good, excellent even, but he did not want to have to hear this particular explanation again.

Everything that Kuroka was saying, from the way that certain factions had been trying to take advantage of Ophis, all the way to her descriptions of the beginning of the end… it all made him so unbelievably angry. Shigeru had always thought of himself as being mild-mannered. He had never had particularly strong emotions about much of anything until Ophis came along at least. With her, though, he had finally started to feel what he could only assume was real contentment, a real connection to someone else, and, if he were to let some corners of his mind that he tried to suppress have their way, maybe a little bit of affection that ventured beyond Philia into some more dangerous territories.

And now he had learned that she had been betrayed by the ones she had shown her favor. That royally pissed him off. 'If I ever get my hands on those so-called heroes' he fumed, squeezing Ophis yet again with his free arm while he took down the Khaos Brigade's internal faction names with the pen in his right, 'I'll… I'll… what, glare them to death?' He deflated, as he ran into the fact that had been an inkling in the back of his mind ever since he had discovered how much more to the world there was than he had previously known. He was Weak. Utterly and despicably weak.

The tax man might have been able to take down Al Capone or a couple of Yakuza bosses, but something told Shigeru that trying to serve Cao Cao – as Kuroka had referred to the leader of Ophis' main betrayers – a warrant for tax evasion would end up with only one very dead head rolling. Well, maybe two. One for Shigeru himself and one for whatever mook let him get close enough to pull that stunt in the first place. That thought was just absurd enough to drag Shigeru out of his rapidly deteriorating spiral long enough to refocus.

'Ophis is here now.' He reminded himself, as he took a second to put down his pen and scratch Ophis behind her ear with his now-freed hand as Kuroka paused to take a drink… from a bottle that Shigeru did not recognize. 'I'll worry about it later,' he told himself before he fell into yet another rabbit hole that would distract him from more important things. Namely, the girl in his lap.

'She came to me. She asked me to care for her. She trusts me.' He repeated to himself as he tried to calm down. The rage was still there, but he needed to think. There would be time for action later when there was something he could do. Trying anything before that would just be throwing his life away, and he didn't think Ophis would be pleased if he got himself killed in his impotent flailing.

"…no dying" The once leader of the Khaos Brigade reprimanded – quietly enough that Kuroka didn't even seem to notice. 'It was almost as if…' no he'd worry about that later too. He had more important things to do right then. Like making sure that he didn't get himself killed.

"Hah, I don't plan to," Shigeru broke the silence that had settled over the table, reassuring Ophis that he didn't have any intention to go before his time. Kuroka was still nursing her bottle, whose odor gave away as holding alcohol. Something strong at that. 'I can't say I blame her… for drinking' he amended. Kuroka was going to get her just deserts as it were, he would make sure of that. Making up his mind, Shigeru decided to figure out exactly how mad he needed to be at the woman Ophis had quite literally dumped on his table.

"Ok. I think I've got most of the important things down by now, Kuroka" Shigeru began, looking at his note-napkin. He'd be reviewing it later when he was in a better mental state, but for now, there was a certain… hole in the story he had gotten. A very… Kuroka-shaped hole at that. That was something he could – and would –rectify.

Intent on doing just that he continued, "You've told me about how the Khaos Brigade was organized, some general plans for causing, well, you know, chaos, that I can only presume would have served some larger plan, a-and… and you told me about how Ophis was attacked." The last bit came out a bit shaky, and Ophis brought her hand to rest on top of his as he held her close.

Resetting his expression into his attempt to be intimidating, Kuroka having figured out he was going probing again if the way she tensed was any indication, Shigeru got straight to the point. "How did you fit into all of this?" He demanded. "You haven't mentioned which 'faction' you were a part of, or what you were doing when Ophis was attacked…" Shigeru noted, a hint of accusation slipping into his tone when he realized the last part. 'If she had any part in this…' he grumbled to himself…

As if Sensing Shigeru's train of thought, Kuroka hastily came to her defense. "Nya, nya, I was getting to it!" She quickly got out, eyes darting between Shigeru and Ophis, whom he could only assume was the more threatening one. Something about using Ophis as a bludgeon to get Kuroka to cooperate seemed wrong… but well, he didn't have any power of his own, so he'd have to borrow hers for the moment. He'd make sure to pay her back… eventually.

Getting to an actual answer to Shigeru's question, Kuroka explained, "I was technically in one of the groups… but that was all but a formality… I mostly ended up w-working for O-Ophis-Sama directly, nya…" The Nekomata's voice grew shaky as she finished her explanation.

'Good.' Shigeru thought. That gave him somewhere to start. And besides… if the cat-woman was that familiar with Ophis already… "What did you do for her?" he inquired, nodding down to the girl in his lap. Not only would that tell him a bit more about Kuroka's abilities, but it would also probably tell him something about Ophis in her more… business-like mindset. 'Two birds with one stone,' he dryly approved of himself.

"I, nya…" Kuroka stalled, probably trying to figure out how to give an answer that wouldn't offend him while still being true. It helped to have Ophis there to verify what he was being told, Shigeru noted, letting a bit of a grin come to his face at the way Kuroka was squirming.

Eventually, even Ophis in her ponderance seemed to grow tired of Kuroka's delay tactics and answered his question herself. "…She did what I asked her to… spying… smuggling… keeping me company…" If Shigeru hadn't gotten to Know Ophis, he would have missed the way that his roommate's voice quivered just the slightest bit with her last admission.

He would have had to have been blind to have missed the way Kuroka shrank back into herself as if stuck upon hearing the same thing. Ophis wasn't done though, continuing, "She did what I asked… until she didn't." After that, the room descended into silence, Shigeru doing his best to contain his simmering rage… as Kuroka seemed to be doing her best statue impression.

Resigned, Shigeru tried his best to ask evenly, "Kuroka, what were you doing when Ophis was attacked?"

Kuroka, to her credit, answered immediately, if a bit desperately, "I was out on a mission, nya!" She exclaimed as if hanging onto that explanation as a lifeline.

Ophis wasn't having it though, and for the first time all evening addressed Kuroka directly with a statement, rather than a command, "… When I called for you… you ignored me… you didn't come," She reprimanded. Kuroka went silent again at that, her eyes wide.

It was all Shigeru could do to limit himself to trying to glare a hole through Kuroka's skull, rather than doing something he would have regretted later. Instead, he took a deep breath, before letting out what might best be described as a disappointed sigh. "I was going to try to make sure you didn't hurt Kuroka, Ophis… but well, after that particular revelation… honestly, you can do whatever you want with her," He deadpanned.

It wasn't that he had suddenly calmed down or anything. No, he was still massively pissed off at Kuroka for abandoning Ophis when she needed her the most. Instead, his emotions had gone over the limit of his expressiveness. Instead of exploding with screams or trying to attack the source of his anger though… Shigeru stopped emoting entirely. His expression was perfectly blank. His posture was perfectly straight. His voice was perfectly even. The only warning someone would have had that they had garnered his wrath would be the sudden difference from how he was emoting before.

Ophis at least seemed to notice, Kuroka too busy trying to appease Shigeru's companion by agreeing with his statement to do the same. "…She will… teach you… Shi," his one anchor to sanity responded, which drew only more rapid nodding from Kuroka, who seemed to have lost the ability to speak since her last revelation. That was fine… for the moment. He still had a couple more questions to ask her.

"Teach me, huh?" he pondered out loud, some of his anger fading as Ophis turned herself over in his lap so that she was facing him. It also meant that she was now all but straddling him. With the fact that she was wearing a skirt, and her general attitude towards panties that he had noted earlier in the night… Shigeru distracted himself from those dangerous thoughts and feelings by giving his companion a more proper hug, one hand on her back and another coming up to cradle the back of her head as she pressed her face into his chest. Comforted by the contact, Shigeru reluctantly resumed his questions.

"We'll get back to you teaching me –and what that entails– in a moment," he declared, having built up enough fortitude to look Kuroka in the eyes once again as he did so. He had also apparently spent long enough being comforted by Ophis that the Nekomata had stopped hyperventilating… even if she still looked like she was about to vomit on his table. 'That's the least she deserves to suffer,' a savage part of his mind told him… and he couldn't say the rest of him didn't agree… but vengeance would have to wait. "For now, though," he continued, assured that he had Kuroka's attention, "I only have a couple more questions for tonight… like how long ago all of this happened." It had probably only been a couple of weeks, he reasoned. Ophis must have found him pretty soon after everything fell apart… 'So that I could comfort her,' he mused, before being pulled out of his fantasy by Kuroka's mumbling.

"It's been… it's been a while nya…" Kuroka got out, even if she refused to meet Shigeru's eyes. It only took his disapproving hum at the vagueness for the Nekomata to clarify her statement, revealing, "... it's been two months since the attack nya…" trailing off as if expecting that Shigeru might have been upset at her statement… and that he may have had the ability to do something about it.

The thought had passed his mind, that he might get his pound of flesh… for lying to him… because she had to be, right? Ophis nodded against his chest, confirming the truth in Kuroka's words. She went a step further, voicing the confirmation that sent Shigeru into his non-emotive state once more. "… She's right." She whispered into his chest, as he could only think of holding her closer. That, and pushing her away so he could look into her eyes. Holding her close eventually won out, and his rage started to dissipate once again once he realized what he had been considering.

"I… what were you doing for all that time… before you found me?" Shigeru choked out, clinging to Ophis as much or more than Ophis was clinging to him as she worked her arms around his back. Had he been in a different mental state, he might have had some reaction to the way her body was pressed tight against his, but as he was, it was all he could do to let the embrace calm him down.

As comfortable as she was going to get, and still speaking into his chest even as she tilted her head up to meet his eyes, Ophis replied, "… wandering." The implications of that were almost enough to send Shigeru spiraling again, but he had had enough of that for one evening, and quite frankly, his emotions were drained. It also helped that Ophis was adorable looking up at him like she was.

With a Shaky breath, Shigeru replied, "… well, I-I'm glad you're here now," he stuttered a bit, the weight of everything finally coming down around him making itself known. 'Just a bit more tonight,' he reassured himself before he realized something. "But wait, if people were trying to find and hurt you… wouldn't wandering around in the open have been dangerous?" he asked tiredly. The "for you" to his question had been implied… though Kuroka had either missed it in her own rapidly growing exhaustion or chose to ignore it.

"Ha. Ha-ha, nya," She laughed as she began her explanation. "If Ophis didn't want to be found, no one would have been able to find her… I didn't even notice she was there this morning until we were on the same street," Kuroka admitted as if that was some sort of failure on her part. As far as Shigeru knew, it may well have been. Kuroka wasn't done though, going on "besides…" she petered out, looking at the way Ophis was clinging to him in a mixture of shock and resignation before she continued, "the only reason she was in danger in the first place was that she wasn't expecting anyone to attack her… if she had… well, there would be one less hero faction around…" she trailed off as if contemplating something.

Shigeru was in a bit of the same boat himself. 'I knew Ophis was strong… but Kuroka's making it sound… extreme,' he finally decided as he pondered. 'Though come to think of it…' he trailed off, before opening yet another can of worms. "For all that we talked about tonight… well, we haven't talked about you, Ophis, that much," he stated while rubbing his companion's back with his hand. "We've talked about things around you… but not much about you yourself," he continued, making sure to be as gentle as he could as he did so. If Ophis hadn't told him already, he could only assume it was something… sensitive. 'I… don't want to push her,' he reminded himself. 'I just… need to know… eventually.'

Once again, Kuroka's slightly deranged chuckling brought Shigeru out of his musing. "Nya, nya, nya." Her voice tinkled before she suddenly grew serious once again. "If you want to know more about The Infinite Dragon God, The Dragon of Infinity, The Ouroboros Dragon, Ophis… well, you better just ask her. And make sure you've got a good long while to hear it all, nya," She declared.

Shigeru couldn't help but laugh. "You've got yourself some pretty neat titles, don't you Ophis?" he asked lightheartedly while reaching up to ruffle her hair. Yup, if his lighthearted side was coming out –especially in this situation, he was tired. That didn't mean what he had said was wrong though. He had never been much for pompous titles himself, but he could recognize when something was badass. Ophis had that in spades… not that he was thinking of where she was sitting on his lap, of course... That would have been… inappropriate.

"… I do… don't I?" Ophis responded, her reply taking on a bit of a sleepy tinge as she spoke over Kuroka's strangled yelp of either indignation or frustration. Shigeru just pulled her back into him again before he spoke.

"Ok, well, clearly, we've been at this a while…" he trailed off as he looked at his clock hanging behind him, grimacing. It was already almost ten o'clock. Making up his mind he continued, "… and we're pretty clearly all exhausted." At the nods of both Ophis, and surprisingly enough Kuroka, he concluded, "I only have one call I need to make tomorrow morning, so we'll start with a lesson about Ophis after that… and Kuroka, you'll be sleeping on the couch." The last part was less a statement and more an order.

That wasn't what Kuroka decided to challenge though. No, her sleeping arrangements were probably the last thing on her mind. Instead, she demanded, "and who put you in charge of deciding what I'll be teaching you, nya?" The Nekomata seemed to regret it the moment the words left her mouth… but Shigeru was tired too… and there were parts of him that had been looking to put his fist down ever since Kuroka's… transgressions had been revealed. Parts that Shigeru couldn't – or wouldn't – suppress in his tired state.

"Let's get one thing clear, Kuroka," He intoned: his face once again perfectly calm. It was an interesting contrast between him and Kuroka, the one that should have been agitated being calm while the one many would have expected to be calm was so nervous… but neither of them noticed it. Instead, Shigeru continued with his chastisement. "You do understand that, as far as I'm concerned right now, you belong to Ophis, right?"

"I- I do, nya…" The nekomata didn't bother to dispute his claim, which was good. Shigeru's angry side didn't get much exercise, so if she had rebutted him, he could admit that he wouldn't have had a response. That didn't matter though, as things had gone as planned. Instead, he continued.

"As much as you might belong to Ophis…. Ophis is MINE." Shigeru didn't notice the way that Kuroka went into her submissive position at his declaration or the way that Ophis startled in his lap. Instead, as if in a trance, he continued, "I will do anything I need to, to protect her… to care for her… and if that means I have to do something impossible like stand up to you myself… So be it." As the last words fell out of his mouth, Shigeru took a deep breath as he came back to his senses.

He wasn't quite sure what had just happened… but he knew that whatever he had said was true. He'd have to ask about it later… but first, he had dishes to clean up, then to get Ophis to bed…

He was interrupted in his musing by the girl in his lap. "…Thank… you," she whispered, with as much of a smile as he had ever seen from her on her face. Looking up to Kuroka for some sort of explanation, he was just in time to see her fall face-first onto the table, out cold.

"Well… guess I better deal with her," Shigeru eventually declared as Ophis slid out of his lap after one last squeeze. He was mad at Kuroka, but he wasn't a heathen. He would at least make sure she wasn't covered in his dinner before he put her to bed on his couch. "Agh, she got cat hairs in the potatoes…" he griped as he got to work.

I Could Not Bring My Passion from the Common Spring

Shigeru was too distracted to notice the content smile that Ophis allowed herself. That was all right though. 'He will give me… more.' She nodded to herself. 'Many more.'


"Good night," Shi whispered as he kissed Ophis' forehead. The dragon god just snuggled deeper into her pillows as she got herself comfortable to sleep. After cleaning Kuroka off and setting her on the couch, Shi had taken care of the leftovers from dinner, directing Ophis to take her shower while he worked. She had come a long way since her first night living with Shi. She didn't need help with the basics of living as a human anymore… 'even if it was… nice' she mused, to have Shi doting on her. It was also nice to be able to do things on her own.

For example… she was self-aware enough to realize that she probably would have done something she would have regretted if Shi had joined her in the shower that night. As it was, she had kept her promise of waiting to… explore… her body with Shi. '...Soon' she promised herself as she drew on her will to keep her hand from drifting downward. Even then, after getting tucked into bed by her… well, by Shi… she could still remember it so clearly. It took her a moment to force her thighs to stop rubbing against each other. 'I'll get Shi to indulge me… soon,' she reiterated to herself. The low but consistent heat between her legs had been there since… well since Shi had claimed her.

That had awoken something d̵̛̬̦̍̈́e̶̺͔͆̇͘ẽ̵̗͓̟͗̉p̵̞͝ inside of her. Part of her instincts had told her to mount him then and there, and to ride him until… until… 'uhng…' the Infinite Dragon God whined. She was happy that Shi could make her feel that way. Ecstatic even… 'I just wish we could… be together… soon' she sighed, as she turned over in her bed.

It had been a long, long time since those particular instincts had been awoken in her. The last time was certainly not her first encounter with Great Red back before she knew just how much of an annoyance he would be. 'Baka Red…' she grumbled as she flipped herself onto her back.

After what she counted as half an hour of tossing and turning, Ophis let out a sigh. She wasn't getting anywhere like this. It had become more than a bit harder for her to fall asleep over the past few weeks. Why? She still didn't know… but she didn't entirely mind it. 'More time to think about Shi' she noted. Still, though, she was tired. It had been a draining night for her, as it had been for Shi… 'and for Baka-Kuroka' she begrudgingly admitted.

She was tired, but she couldn't sleep. It was a common problem, for mortals, she knew… but she didn't particularly feel like dealing with it right at that moment. Thinking over her options, Ophis came to something promising… but… 'would Shi… mind?' she wondered? They hadn't done what she was thinking of yet, for one reason or another… but… 'only one way… to find out' she decided, as she disappeared from her room.

She reappeared just a few feet away, in Shi's room. He was already asleep, conveniently laying on his side with his back towards Ophis and the rest of the room. 'Good…' Ophis noted, as she ever so gently lifted the covers. 'Less chance to make a… mistake,' she admitted as she slid in behind the one who had claimed her.

Draping her arm over Shi's body, though making sure not to wake him, Ophis luxuriated in the close contact, before letting herself drift to sleep. 'This is… nice…' she mused, asleep before she could even finish the thought. She didn't realize that the strange compulsion that had kept her from joining Shi in his bed was missing entirely.

That night, Ophis dreamed.


Out past the end of the world, two great dragons were. As tended to be the case when beings like them truly acted, the stances of their physical bodies were mostly irrelevant. One might have noted though, that one of the dragons was as one might expect. Massive. It had two sets of wings and an imposing horn. He was colored in a vibrant crimson that would give him his name in the common tongue: Great Red.

He was truly a sight to behold. The archetypal dragon. One any of their kind could look to and aspire to emulate. He was strong too, or at the very least invulnerable to just about everything. That would have been great, had Ophis not been trying to evict the damn pest from her home.

"Leave." She commanded as she sent a blast of energy that would have cracked continents toward the overgrown lizard. Said lizard arched his neck to dodge and was mostly successful. Mostly. Anything else would have been obliterated by even the greatly reduced attack.

"Ha. Ha-ha! This is great! ▅、▂▂▃▃▅▅▅▅▅▅▃▃." Great Red laughed. Well, he laughed and spat his fire back towards Ophis by way of counterattack. She would not normally have been concerned about something as simple as a gout of fire, but… Ophis wasn't taking any chances. Disappearing one moment, she reappeared the next behind Great Red, letting off another blast of pure




into his back. It barely seemed to leave a dent.

"You're too… l̶̲̍o̷̡̓u̷̻͘d̶̦͐," the smaller dragon complained as she dodged Great Red's attempt to whip her with his tail as he turned to face her new location. That was the crux of their… disagreement… after all. Just how l̶̲̍o̷̡̓u̷̻͘d Great Red was… both physically and metaphorically.

"Ha! have you ever considered… that you're just too q̸̡͌ụ̵̏i̶̠̍ę̴̓t?" The larger of the two prodded. The effect was only slightly dampened by the interruption of a bolt of pure power glancing off of his face. Only slightly.

"...No." Ophis retorted dryly as if they had been having this conversation for a long, long time. By any mortal reckoning, they had. It had been at least a few months since their bout had started… and neither side had made much of any progress in their goals… well, Ophis at least hadn't made any progress in hers. Great Red was able to claim victory by simply not losing, not being forced out of her home… that was cheating she decided. "Baka-Red" she grumbled, letting herself get lost in her thoughts.

Like that, a battle that had been going on for months came to a very sudden end.

Somehow, even though there was no floor in the dimensional gap to slip on, Ophis managed to lose her footing anyway. Flailing for a second, it wasn't totally unexpected that she lost control of the next attack she had been building up. As she landed face-first on a bit of nothingness, the energy discharged, traveling off in some random direction. It didn't even have the courtesy of striking Great Red before disappearing into the distance.

"Ha. Ha-ha. HA HA-HA HAHAHA!" It was Great Red's booming laughter that caused Ophis to realize what had just happened. With a blush coloring her face, though she would never admit it, she blinked out of the Gap. It would be another decade before she got over her embarrassment and was ready to face Great Red again. He never let her live that day down.


As her consciousness returned to her, Ophis couldn't help but feel well-rested. Even if her dreams had been making things up - as clearly, 'that… never happened' she reassured herself - she still felt better rested than she had been in… well, as long as she could remember. As she realized where she was, well… "Thank you… " she whispered, meaning it just as much as every other time she had spoken those words to him. 'Even while you sleep… you still… Help me…' she mused as she settled into her Shi-watching state.

It was almost her normal experience… if she ignored the fact that she was pressed into his back rather than watching from across the room. 'This is… better' Ophis decided after a moment. It wasn't like that was in any doubt though. Of course, it would be better when she actually got to touch Shi… or if Shi started touching her… Ophis did not start drooling. She did not. That would have been rude, and it would have gotten all over Shi's shirt.

Eventually, time moved forward, and Ophis' Shi watching turned cuddling time came to an end. He was always cute when he was waking up, she had decided long ago. At first, it had been the novelty of him not just suddenly being at full capacity that had attracted Ophis' attention, but over time, she had moved on to observing Shi himself. It was… nice, seeing him when he didn't have time to school his expression or make himself 'presentable' as he would sometimes call it. 'It's nice to see him… carefree,' she mused as Shi started to stretch as he returned to the waking world.

"Uh… mrgle," he groaned as his body finally accepted that it was awake and that it wouldn't be going back to sleep. Ophis' internal clock told her that it was still a few minutes before Shi's alarm was going to go off. She almost let herself grin at that realization.

'If there is still time…' she mused as she shifted around a bit behind her Shi to get into a better position… 'he might let us cuddle some more,' she hoped idly. That would be the ideal outcome. Anything that let her spend more time in contact with Shi was ideal, after all. It was her movement behind him that seemed to draw Shi's attention to her presence there in the first place.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, sleepiness still tinging his voice. It took him a second to gather his thoughts and to turn his head to look in her direction, but once he had, Shi he smiled. "You comfortable there?" He questioned, as he turned himself over –probably so he could look her in the eyes without having to crane his neck.

"…Yes…" Ophis replied after a moment. She was comfortable. Getting to see Shi's face only made it better. With her companion now fully facing her, Ophis buried her face in his chest, drawing a muffled oomph out of the man.

"Ha… that feels good," he responded, as he put his arms around her back. After a beat, during which he was probably looking at his clock, he continued "we've got a couple of minutes before my alarm goes off… so we can cuddle until then… but like I said last night, I do have a call this morning so I will need to get up," he explained. Ophis would… accept it.

She communicated that by nodding her head into Shi's chest. He acknowledged by drawing her closer and rubbing her back. It was disappointing that they would have to get up so soon at all, but… '…'s better than Shi leaving again,' Ophis reminded herself. With that thought, she let herself just enjoy the close contact while she could.

After a minute or so though, Shi broke the silence, even if he didn't pull away. "So, when'd you end up in here with me?" he asked softly. It was a normal thing for him to want to know, so Ophis didn't have any problem answering.

"Last night…" she replied. After a beat, she added, "after you went to sleep." She had a vague understanding that if she wasn't, well… her… it might have been weird for Shi to wake up with someone in his bed. With Shi though… it just felt right. That… in itself was a bit strange though. 'Hadn't something felt… wrong… about doing this? … before?' she wondered. That would have to be something that she looked into… or have Kuroka look into at least. For now, though, she was much too busy enjoying being with Shi to think about that.

"Huh. Any particular reason?" he asked gently after another moment of silence. As far as Ophis could tell, he was still calm, so it didn't seem like he was upset by her addition to his sleeping arrangements. That was good.

Ophis took a second to decide how she wanted to reply, before ending up choosing the simple answer. "…Couldn't sleep." She replied quietly. A part of her was glad though, that she had felt that way. 'Finally slept... with Shi' she mused. If she hadn't been unable to fall asleep on her own, how much longer might it have been before she got to spend the night in Shi's bed? The thought sent a shiver down her spine.

Either not noticing the small tremor, or more likely choosing not to mention it if the way he started rubbing her back in small, comforting, circles was any indication, Shi just kept the conversation going. "Oh," he let out, either surprised by her explanation or simply still too groggy to filter out the exclamation. Either way, it didn't really matter.

What he had to say next was much more important anyway. "Did it help?" he inquired as he moved to sit up a bit on his pillow. The move pulled Ophis with him, but she didn't mind. Instead of verbally responding, she simply nodded into his chest as she let out a yawn. "Well…" Shi trailed off as if thinking over something, before finishing, "if you ever can't sleep… you're free to join me in here if it helps you that much.'

Ophis was pleased with that answer. "…Thank you" she whispered, looking up to meet Shi's eyes as she did so. She had every intention of taking advantage of that offer. They held that gaze for a moment…

Beep, beep, beep… Beep, beep, beep.

Before Shi's alarm went off, marking the true start of the morning. Reaching around her to smack the off button, Shi let out a sigh, before swinging his legs around to dangle over the side of the bed. Given his hold on Ophis, he had brought her along with him, and she was left sitting in his lap facing him. Before she could react, he had brought his head down and planted his lips against her forehead. 'Ah… lips would have been better…' Ophis' now mollified mind decided, but she would accept Shi's gift as it was… and make sure to get Shi to progress with her… 'soon.'

"Like I said last night, I need to get up so I can take a call…" Shi re-explained, before with a sigh, he started to stand. Ophis reluctantly slid out of his lap and onto her own feet. After a nod of appreciation, Shi seemed to remember something. "I need to go use the bathroom and brush my teeth," he explained, before smiling, "could you wake up Kuroka for me? She's been out for a while now… and well, you can get her to get you a drink once she's up."

At first, Ophis didn't like that idea. 'Don't need Baka-Kuroka's help.' A part of her told the rest. The other, larger part reminded her that Shi had asked her to do something… so she would. "All right… I will get her up." With one last smile toward Shi – one that he returned as he nodded with appreciation – Ophis turned and left the room. The sound of Shi disrobing simultaneously told Ophis that she had made the right choice… and made her wish that she hadn't had to go. The heat she had felt between her legs had certainly lessened since the day before… but it was still there. 'Soon…' she promised herself once again. 'Soon…'

Walking into the living room where Shi had graciously gifted Kuroka his couch to sleep on, Ophis paused at the sight of her once-trusted… subordinate. The previous day had not done her well. She wasn't unsightly by any stretch of the word… but she wasn't as well… as well-groomed as Ophis remembered that the cat woman liked to keep herself. Her hair had the beginnings of disarray forming, likely stemming from the way that Shi had lain her down without much care for anything other than making sure she fit. 'She… deserved it' Ophis decided, before moving on with her inspection.

Really, it was just Kuroka's hair that was out of place. Her skin wouldn't have started getting grimy for… at least another couple of days. Even if Ophis suspected that she was showing a bit more of that skin than even she would have intended. Sure, Kuroka may have dressed provocatively… but the Kimono she hadn't had the chance to change out of the night before had fallen off one of her shoulders as she slept, and well… Ophis was pretty sure that if she were to change her viewing angle, she would have been able to see Kuroka's nipples. Not that she wanted to in the first place.

'Small breasts are… better…' Ophis reassured herself. They certainly didn't get in the way during combat the way that a larger pair would have. Sure, that could have been rectified with a bit of magic… but 'too much… effort,' she had decided. Besides, she liked the aesthetics of smaller breasts too… though she could see the appeal in variety. '…what… am I thinking… about?' Ophis wondered as her thoughts ground to a halt. She had to pull her hand away from where it was rubbing below her chest as she mused, dangerously close to groping herself right there in the living room.

With a sigh, she decided that enough was enough. "…Wake U̸p̵" she commanded, putting just a little bit of her intent behind her words to make sure they had the desired effect. If the way Kuroka quite literally jumped off of the couch as she awoke was any indication, it had done the trick. 'That never… gets old…' Ophis decided, letting the corner of her lip twitch upward as she enjoyed Kuroka's struggle to recover from her wake-up panic attack.

I Could Not Bring My Passion from the Common Spring

Sitting at Shigeru's, or as Ophis insisted on calling him, Shi's table, Kuroka had to agree, he did have thin walls. Well, perhaps she was cheating a bit, what with the cat ears on top of her head and all, but well, 'if you're not cheating, you're not trying, nya!' she mused, trying to distract herself from the… situation sitting across the table… to no avail.

It wasn't very pleasant being woken by an Ophis on the warpath, Kuroka had decided. She had only experienced it once before that morning, and at least then the dragon god had been after something a little more meaningful than some juice of all things. She had even offered to cook something for the three of them if only to try to salvage at least some of her dignity, but Ophis had insisted that they wait for Shigeru to make the food. 'He's a single guy, what could he know about cooking, nya?' she had pondered derisively at the time.

That had been the wrong choice. 'I really need to remember, nya, that Ophis can read minds' she chastised herself as she nursed the headache that Ophis getting… ornery… tended to provoke. Still though, at least it seemed that Shigeru would soon come to rescue her from her boredom… and cast her into boredom tinged with existential dread.

"All right, just make sure to have the team run their audit report by me for final approval before they present their findings to the full board," he droned as if anything he was saying was of meaningful importance. At least he seemed to be drawing his call to a close. "That's everything on the agenda for this morning, if nobody has any questions… good. I hope you all have a productive day." With that, there was a pause, before the door to Shigeru's room opened and his footsteps tracked toward the dining room.

"Sorry for keeping you waiting Ophis," he greeted. After a moment – as if having forgotten that she was even there – he added, "and you as well Kuroka," the shock on his face from noticing her presence subsided as he recalled the previous evening. After shaking his head, he continued, "I'm done with my meeting, so once I get breakfast ready, we can start." He said it as if it was the most normal thing in the world, and that still pissed Kuroka off to no end. He wasn't finished though, glancing towards Ophis before asking, "anything you want in particular this morning?"

Kuroka was not disappointed that he didn't ask her if she had any preferences. She was not. 'It's not like I'd enjoy anything he could make anyway, nya,' she decided, before realizing what she had just thought… and that Ophis was glaring at her again. She braced for something unpleasant to happen, but it never came.

Instead, Ophis turned away as if having lost interest, and instead responded to Shigeru, "Do you have… fish?" she asked innocently. Kuroka was torn between shock at the surprisingly compassionate gesture… and the feeling that she was being patronized in one way or another.

'Just because I'm a Nekomata doesn't mean I like eating fish, nya~' she complained to herself half-heartedly. No, her preference for seafood was entirely born out of conscious choice on her part, rather than any sort of race-based predisposition. That was her story at least, and she was sticking with it.

Oblivious to Kuroka's internal ramblings, Shigeru acquiesced to Ophis' request. "Sure, I should have enough for the three of us." He affirmed, though after pondering a moment he continued, "…I'm going to need to get more groceries, aren't I?" Kuroka took only a small bit of sadistic pleasure in the pain she would cause his wallet.

'He's being a pain in the ass for me… it's the least I can do to return the favor, nya,' she smirked, before once again feeling like Ophis was smacking her on the back of her head. Well, if Ophis smacked the way her frame would have suggested, at least. 'If Ophis-Sama smacked me with her real power… there would be a stain that needed cleaning up, nya.' She mused. That was the situation to avoid, even if it meant enduring some discomfort.

Breaking Kuroka out of her thoughts, Shigeru once again spoke, his mind seemingly made up. "So, fish it is… well, I'm going to go get that ready, so hold tight Kuroka." With a nod in her direction, Shigeru turned and made his way to the kitchen. It was a bit surprising that Ophis stood and followed him, but in all honesty, she had pretty much given up on expecting the two of them to act normally around each other.

Still, though, after one last glance from the Dragon God, Kuroka was left alone in the dining room… even if that meant vanishingly little against someone like Ophis. Gazing towards the apartment's front door, she let out a sigh before shaking her head. Whatever Shigeru might have thought, she hadn't been entirely out of it the previous night. Not the whole time at least. She had woken up in the middle of the night, with all the confusion that waking up in a new place entailed.

At that moment, the thought of escape had crossed her mind… before being quickly discarded. Having been made aware of Ophis' presence, Kuroka could search out and feel the pressure that the Dragon of Infinity was exerting on reality simply by being there. She would not make the mistake of trying to teleport away from that again. 'The first time was embarrassing enough, nya' she decided, her hand involuntarily coming up to rub her forehead. Even if the bruise from teleporting face-first into an alley wall the day before had long since healed, the bruise on her dignity never would.

Her defiled honor aside, Kuroka had ruled out escape by mundane means as well. Even if she simply stood up and walked out the door… even if she somehow managed to avoid being recaptured… 'I would still end up dead, nya,' she had convinced herself. It wouldn't be enough. Nothing she could do, nowhere she could go would ever be enough to keep her out of Ophis' grasp.

Once the ouroboros had truly set her mind on something, as rare as that might have been… she just didn't stop. Her ceaseless crusade against Great Red was proof enough of that to Kuroka, even if she wasn't technically supposed to know about that. 'Quote unquote "advantages" of being close to Ophis, nya' she mused as she finished off the drink she had been nursing since sitting down with Ophis.

It was fair to say that it was a bit stronger than juice. It was also fair to say that she had, unfortunately, done something to warrant Ophis' attention. It may have only been a sliver, but a sliver of infinity was still infinite, much to her chagrin. That wasn't to say that Ophis was literally infinite in her powers or anything. Kuroka knew that there were limits to what she could do, again thanks to her previous 'closeness'. 'Not that it matters anyway, with how strong she is compared to me, she might as well be infinite, nya,' Kuroka sighed, resigning herself to what her future held in Ophis' grasp.

It didn't seem that there was anything too bad in store for her. At least not yet. 'Ophis needs me in good enough shape to teach Shigeru, at the very least nya,' she reminded herself, taking comfort in the small protection that her ability gave her. After Ophis decided that her task was completed though… well, she'd burn that bridge when she got to it. For now… 'I should probably figure out how to explain Ophis in the first place…' she realized. It would have been rather… unfortunate… if she couldn't deliver the lecture that Shigeru, and more importantly; Ophis, were certainly expecting after his… display… the night before.

That was a whole different can of worms, one that Kuroka frankly didn't have the energy to deal with at that moment. "Stupid weird human… nya" she grumbled as she began to sketch out an impromptu lesson plan. 'At least he had enough sense to be born with a good hair color, nya,' she mused, as she drifted off into her work.


It wasn't too long before the scent of what Kuroka could only assume was going to be breakfast started to filter into the dining room. It had been maybe fifteen minutes, but in that time, she had come up with at least part of a plan for what she was going to tell Shigeru… 'even if it might be a bit less than I alluded to last night, nya,' she giggled. She'd just have to wing everything other than the basics… but well, for all that she had ever planned anything… She usually ended up winging things anyway, and she had turned out fine. "Snrk," she couldn't keep a straight face as she thought that.

Kuroka knew she was a hot mess, and that trying to pretend otherwise was an exercise in futility. She was a mess, sure, but it had worked for her in the past, and she would make It work for her now… even if it would be difficult. She may have gotten herself into hot water… but there was nothing to be gained by falling into despair. Eventually, she was broken out of her pondering by the sound of footsteps returning to the dining room. 'One pair… did Ophis get bored, nya?' she wondered idly as she sat back up in her seat. It wouldn't do to be slovenly before her… employer… after all.

It was only a moment before she got her answer anyway, as Shigeru stepped into the room, a platter in hand. "Huh, you can step pretty quietly when you want to, can't you, nya?" Kuroka asked with a bit of surprise. 'I could have sworn it… was… Ophis…' her thoughts stalled as Shigeru's back came into view. Even her cold, dead, jaded heart took a moment to appreciate just how… peaceful… Ophis seemed to be as she clung to Shigeru's back, as if asleep. That illusion was broken when the diminutive dragon god gracefully dismounted Shigeru's back before finding her way to her chair.

"Yeah, I guess I can… didn't want to wake her," Shigeru explained after a moment, a smile on his face as he nodded his head toward Ophis, oblivious to just how ridiculous his actions truly were.

'He wants to learn more about Ophis.' Kuroka reminded herself. 'Things will go back to normal soon, nya. He'll be screaming his head off like a normal person soon, nya.' That was her attempt to console herself. Shigeru would realize just how much of a mistake he was making, he would flip… and she would do… something. Yeah, something. She could only hope that it would be something good. For now, though, she needed to respond. "Wouldn't want to wake her, nya," she parroted weakly, just trying to fill the air. Accepting her words with a nod, Shigeru went back to placing the breakfast down on the table.

Kuroka had to give him credit, it did look appealing… and that wasn't just the fish talking. Everything he had prepared seemed to be well made, even if it wasn't anything particularly special. It was a traditional Japanese breakfast, which she supposed made sense. 'We are in Japan, nya…' she reminded herself. She had spent a good long while away from her 'homeland,' as much as it could be called that, but that didn't mean she had lost touch with Japan.

When Shigeru was finished, there was rice, what looked to be some sort of spinach dish, the fish she had smelled earlier, and soup for the three of them. 'He must have had some of this pre-prepared, nya' Kuroka noted, considering the spread and the length of time it had taken to make, it couldn't all have been made from scratch that morning. Not that that was a problem, but it did indicate a knack for planning, to some degree.

Still, though, she could analyze Shigeru to her heart's content later – Ophis would make sure she had plenty of time to do just that. At the moment though, she was hungry, and scheming could wait. When Shigeru clasped his hands, she joined him in intoning "Itadakimasu." Much to her surprise, Ophis uttered the phrase as well…

Kuroka shook her head. Things were weird. They weren't getting any less weird… 'Food is normal, nya.' She tried to convince herself. Eating the meal that she had been provided with would be something normal. Something grounding… even if it had been made by the source of her vexation… she wouldn't look the gift horse in its mouth… 'too much, nya~' she mused.

"So, how did I do this morning?" Shigeru questioned, breaking Kuroka out of her reverie. It seemed she had gotten lost in her thoughts, and that Ophis had already dug in her – bordering on comically large – portion. Shaking her head lightly in exasperation, Kuroka put the thought behind her and got to work herself.

"… it's… good." Ophis replied after her characteristic pause. It seemed so out of place to Kuroka, being used in such a… domestic setting, when she had only ever experienced Ophis' ruthless side before. Either way, there was no point in stopping to stare in shock. Things had changed. Ophis had changed in one way or another, and if she didn't adapt, she would find herself quickly falling off a cliff, literally or metaphorically.

Still, though, Kuroka could agree with Ophis' assessment, strictly adhering to the words at least, if not the meaning behind them. Shigeru had made a perfectly serviceable meal. The rice was done correctly. The salmon was well-cooked and pleasantly seasoned, and the soup was as she would have expected. Altogether, it was a good, if slightly uninspired meal.

Kuroka knew better than to take Ophis' words at face value though. If she had learned nothing else in her time with the Dragon God, it was that she was the master of understatement. It had been something of a headache really, given that the Nekomata had found herself often being called upon to help translate Ophis' seemingly unreasonably low expectations into something that more closely represented the urgency that the Dragon God wanted.

With the benefit of that experience, Kuroka could tell that as far as Ophis was concerned, she may as well have been eating the single greatest meal on the face of the planet. It wouldn't do for her to imply otherwise. "It is, nya," she interjected languidly, trying to appear simultaneously as casual and as relaxed as she could. She wouldn't gain anything by provoking her captors – 'hosts, nya' she corrected herself. 'I won't get anywhere thinking like that either,' she reminded herself grimly. She would need to live with this for however long it took.

"Well, I'm glad you like it," Shigeru responded, oblivious to Kuroka's internal strife, before continuing, "We can start the heavy stuff after we eat, but for now, just try to relax." … Maybe he wasn't that oblivious after all. Either way, she had no reason to disobey. And so, a human, a Nekomata, and a Dragon God ate their breakfast.

"I swear there's got to be a joke set up in here somewhere," Kuroka grumbled, once again losing herself to the absurdity of the situation. All she got in return were light chuckles from Shigeru and a strangely, impossibly comfortable atmosphere for a meal. 'Maybe I'm overreacting, nya?' she wondered for a moment. It was possible that she wasn't in as much danger as she thought she was… but 'better safe than sorry nya.' She would be keeping her guard up, for as long as it took… for as long as it took to make sure she would finally have some peace.


"You know, one of these days, we're going to end up having a conversation before we eat," Shigeru observed as he returned to the table. It was probably intended to break the tension that had been building ever since breakfast had drawn to a close. Most of that Kuroka could admit was coming from her… but she had also noticed Shigeru grow tense before he cleared the table. He had done a good job to calm himself while he had the opportunity away from observing eyes, but he hadn't been perfect. His heartbeat was still elevated, and his palms had started to sweat.

Most surprisingly of all though, Ophis had even started fidgeting, even if the movements were minute. Kuroka refused to think about what might be causing that. She had her sanity to preserve after all. Still, it would only be polite for her to respond to her host… and soon-to-be student. "I suppose we will, nya… as long as you'll let me take a drink beforehand, I should be fine nya," She joked, taking out her bottle before stashing it away again.

It was a dangerous game, but she wanted to keep everyone in a good mood. Good moods meant not getting punished by Ophis. Not getting punished by Ophis meant not getting erased from reality. 'Wouldn't want that, nya,' she dryly mused, even as she took a steadying breath.

"Just as long as you don't vomit it back up on my couch, I'll allow it," Shigeru replied to her joke with his own. Had his tone been harsher, that might have been a command… but no. That had been an attempt at humor. 'He doesn't hate me, nya,' she reminded herself. '… just that I didn't help Ophis…' She shut that train of thought down. She could think about that later, but for now, it was time to get started.

"Thank you for your consideration, nya," Kuroka replied, pausing as once again Ophis got out of her seat and joined Shigeru in his lap. 'How can they look so cute and so… terrifying together at the same time, nya?' Some clearly less tactful part of her mind wondered, before being shut down. She could worry about that later as well. She had a lesson to give.

"Now, before I just start talking, do you have any specific questions about Ophis-Sama?" She coaxed. If she could get Shigeru to think he was the one leading things, that would be good. Play into his ego. He didn't disappoint… even if he did his best to drive her insane by ruffling Ophis' hair without a care in the world.

"Mm. I'll just be blunt," he decided after a moment of thought. "I can tell that Ophis scares you shitless… but honestly, without any context, I don't have a good reference point to understand what that means… do you have something to put your powers in context for me?" He inquired.

'Ok… ouch, nya… it still stings being called out like that… but it's not like he's wrong… or that I don't have an answer for him, nya,' Kuroka reassured herself. "I do, nya," she replied, relishing the chance to finally put Shigeru in his place. That was, quivering in the corner out of fear of the stupidly powerful entity in his lap. Thoughts of the catharsis she would soon be feeling aside, "are you familiar with the Halifax Explosion?" She quizzed.

It was a good option for a measuring stick of powers, all things considered. Something far above what a normal mortal could ever achieve on their own, something that had gone down as a tragedy in human history… while still being far, far below the level of the largest threats in the world.

"I've heard of it yeah," Shigeru commented, adding "Wasn't it the… largest man-made non-nuclear explosion in history or something? I'm pretty sure that's what I read at least…" he trailed off as if trying to remember details.

Kuroka soldiered on though, providing the details before Shigeru could get bogged down in the weeds. She needed to keep the pace high if she was going to have the right effect. "That's right nya, it was a really big explosion in Canada during one of your human wars last century. Leveled a large part of a city by itself, nya" she confirmed. Satisfied that Shigeru knew the implications of what she was about to reveal if the way he was nodding was anything to go by, she steadied her voice, explaining, "It would probably end up killing me, letting out that much power at once… but if I needed to, I could produce a similar effect, leveling part of a city."

She expected that to draw a reaction. For Shigeru to try to flee, or to argue, maybe even to attack her… instead, all he did was look. She was sure that he was reevaluating her, yes, reconsidering their relative positions, but he was still far too calm about everything. "That's… well that's something," he replied as he tried to wrap his head around everything. That was good. He wasn't entirely sure about things anymore. Now was her chance.

"It certainly is, nya." Kuroka agreed, her voice gaining back some confidence now that Shigeru was seemingly on the back foot. "Now, I'm not the most powerful person out there. Some devils can do some crazy things in their own rights, and the Gods that can do more than even them…" she paused, hoping to build up some dramatic effect, before dropping the final bombshell.

"Ophis is stronger than all of them. She is the strongest entity that any of us" she gestured to herself and towards Ophis, "Any of the supernatural factions know about." Shigeru's face was still calm, so she put things in context. "I said that doing something like the Halifax Explosion might kill me… Ophis does things like that in her sleep if she's not careful, nya."

After a pause, she continued, even as her focus started to drift as she explained, "That's how much force she would use to swat an insect… when she found me nya, … I thought she was going to blow up the city, just to kill me. By conventional wisdom… I was right to think that way nya."

Taking a steadying breath, her eyes regaining focus, Kuroka took in the sight of Shigeru… who was somehow still calm. Instead of trying to get away from the as-of-yet silent natural disaster in his lap, he only held her tighter and ruffled her hair. After a moment he asked lightly, "I guess you are pretty scary if you can do things like that, aren't you?" Even though he said that he still seemed happy – if maybe a little confused.

What he felt couldn't hold a candle to Kuroka's incredulity, as Ophis – of all creatures – instead of smiting Shigeru for his insolence, instead of ordering him around as a servant, instead of being like Ophis… let out a whimsical "Rawr" in her patented monotone, as she arched her hand into a mimicry of a claw. It just didn't make any sense.

'What the hell is going on, nya?' Kuroka furiously wondered. That wasn't how either of them were supposed to react to what she had just revealed. That wasn't… it wasn't… '… Ok, time to wing it, nya,' Kuroka decided. 'I can still salvage this…' she reassured herself, but that was as far as she got before being interrupted.

"God you're adorable," Shigeru gushed as he continued cradling Ophis in his embrace.

After everything she had been through over the past day, Kuroka couldn't contain the pain elicited by hearing the Lord's name. "Fuck, Nyaaaaaa!" she all but shouted as she writhed in her chair. Having already been worn down, her mind weary and body sore, she suffered worse than normal at the hands of the Father's retribution. Finally coming down from her agony, Kuroka, with labored breath looked towards her hosts… and didn't even find what she was looking for in Shigeru's eyes.

There was shock there, sure, but he wasn't afraid. He wasn't disgusted. Just… concerned. For her. 'Damn him, nya….' Kuroka grumbled to herself. Not even her being tortured from on high by divine wrath seemed to break his stupid… stupidness. 'Real smooth, nya,' she panted, finally regaining her bearings. No longer capable of caring, she gasped out, "It's just going to be one of those days, isn't it, nya?"

I Could Not Bring My Passion from the Common Spring


Another one.

I'm back again with another chapter, though I will be taking a couple of days' break after this one. I wrote the last quarter of this chapter in a single sitting… and then wrote a similar amount again that night, working on something special. You'll see it eventually. The point is, I need some time to rest, mentally and physically. Turns out your writs don't particularly enjoy It when you type on your phone for three hours straight.

Anyway, onto the chapter. I am really happy with how this one turned out. In general, it came to me easily, and there was nothing that really fought me this time around. It just flowed. That, and I finally wrapped up the monster day that has taken up 50,000 of this story's now ~80,000 words. I know that the pace has been rather slow so far, but I should be able to pick it up a bit going forward.

Speaking of going forward, I can also now say that the plot of this story is finally underway. Again, it only took me 80,000 words to get there, but I got there nonetheless. I hope you're as excited about the ride as I am. I got to use some ideas and lines that I've been waiting to use since just about the time I started writing this story in this chapter. Getting the payoff of seeing them on the page is worth it in itself, but if you want to take a guess about what I'm referring to, feel free to do so in the reviews…

…Or in my new channel in a-Shifty-Sword's Discord Server. If you haven't read Shifty's stuff yet… well, go do that. He is an amazing author responsible for many of my favorite stories on this site and others. You can find the server here: discord .gg/shifty-writing (remove the space). My channel is the one with my name on it, but feel free to interact with the rest of the server as well.

That being said, I'm looking forward to getting to interact with some of you more closely than FFN's dm system will allow, but until then, thank you for reading, send a review if you feel like it, and until next time, I hope you all have a wonderful 2023.