30 Little Moochers
Whumph... whumph... crunch... The repetitive sounds of his footsteps and the occasional snapping of twigs added to a feeling of monotony that Finn had grown accustomed too.
In a spontaneous motion, Finn swung his body hoping to spot what he sensed.
...Nothing once again... Finn couldn't help but sigh.
I'm definitely being watched... Finn looked around carefully. Over the past few days of wandering, something kept pricking at his senses, but every time he looked, there was nothing there.
That feeling did not go away though, even after inspecting his surroundings in detail.
What could it be? Finn didn't sense any danger or ill-intent, but there was certainly something following him.
Every now and then, he could detect a whiff of a unique scent that alerted him to something hiding nearby, but he could never spot it.
Trudging along for many hours, Finn came upon another break in the forest that allowed sunshine through.
That's the spot... Finn decided he would rest there. Maybe take a little nap.
Who knew boredom could be so tiring? Finn yawned as he laid upon the ground, beginning the rejuvenating process of sunbathing.
Finn sighed in bliss as his body started releasing a golden aura. It had become so habitual, that Finn could even maintain his recharging state while he napped, granting him great sleep.
Finn was beginning to sleep more during the day because of this, as sleeping at night couldn't compare to snoozing during the day under the refreshing sunlight.
As Finn lay prone on the ground, a breeze rustled the surrounding trees, bringing with it that same unique scent that had been tormenting Finn the past couple of days.
Ugh, what the hell is it! Finn was growing tired of being stalked by something he could not see. Again, while his instincts told him there was no threat, there was still something he had yet to identify nearby.
What if I just ignore it? Unlike the previous times, Finn debated if he should move to investigate the source. Every time he tried, there had been zero success in spotting whatever was stalking him.
It was like a ghost was haunting him, invisible, but still making its presence known.
Hmph forget it... Finn did not want to interrupt his rest again. As long as he didn't sense any danger, he figured it wouldn't hurt to disregard it.
Time passed and the unique scent grew stronger as Finn lay under the sun. Several times he glanced around only to see grass and trees in all directions, no lurking magical beasts.
His sense of sight and sense of smell were in disagreement. Whatever he was smelling was getting closer, but he still couldn't see anything.
Maybe I'm just hallucinating... Finn thought of a worrying possiblity. Maybe I've been alone for so long that I've started to imagine things...
This was not impossible, Finn had read about the effects of prolonged isolation in his old life, hallucination was one of the many possible side effects.
Whoa! Finn felt a shiver go up his spine. Something had jumped onto his body!
He could barely feel it through his scales, but it was there, something very small was currently sitting on his back!
Very slowly, Finn lifted his head up and turned so he could examine the spot where he felt the pressure. His eye twitched. There was nothing there!
No wait! There has to be! I can literally feel it right now... Finn held back the thought that he was losing his mind. Taking a deep whiff of air, a flowery scent entered his nostrils.
That unique scent he had been smelling was now overpowering. Yes, there was definitely something small sitting on his back. Finn turned his head to look at his surroundings one last time to see if he could spot anything.
When his gaze returned to that spot, Finn nearly jolted. There it was!
As if it had materialized out of thin air, a small fluffy creature was currently curled up into a small ball on his scales.
It looked similar to a fox, but had a shorter body and rounder ears. It was kind of fat looking, and its poofy fur was as white as snow. Some kind of magical beast maybe? Finn wasn't sure.
It looked like it was sleeping, but Finn noticed the small creature was channeling the golden aura he was emitting into its own body.
Finn could see how the golden aura that was radiating from his scales flowed into the little puffball like a sponge soaking up water.
Finn couldn't believe it, the thing that had been giving him headaches over the past couple days had been this fat little speck of a creature.
It even had the audacity to sit on his body and steal his energy... well, excess energy... but still! Finn was curious at how it managed to get so close to him without being seen.
Without warning, Finn felt an inexplicable urge to attack and kill the little creature resting on his back. How dare it use me like this! He felt his pride had been sullied by such an act.
Wait... Finn quickly realized that those weren't his real thoughts. That foreign emotion stemming from deep within his body was acting up again, trying to turn him savage and brutal.
Finn quickly squashed those thoughts, forcing them back down, deep into his internal abyss. He refused to let such primitive emotions control him again.
Meanwhile, the little ball of fur noticed nothing amiss as it continued to absorb the golden aura leaking out of Finn.
Bringing his head closer, Finn took a sniff of the puffball to confirm that it was indeed the source of that unique scent.
Sensing it was being inspected, the small creature stopped its channeling.
EEP! It let out a rather adorable squeal before it... vanished!
It's gone! Where did it go? Finns eyes and jaw opened in shock. One second, it was there, and the next, poof!
After it vanished, Finn heard similar squeals around himself as if they were responding to the first one. There were more of these things?
Swinging his head around quickly, Finn could not spot the source of the other squeals, as if they had vanished too.
Wait a minute... After Finn's surprise faded, he could still sense a slight pressure on the scales where that little puffball had been sitting. It was still there? Hold on...
It didn't vanish... it was just invisible! Amazing! Finn couldn't hide his astonishment. Now it made sense why he couldn't see them before. Somehow, they were able to turn invisible!
How do they do that? Finn's insatiable curiosity reared its head. Calming himself down, Finn pretended to lose interest as he placed his head back on the ground.
Ten minutes later, he moved his head again. The little creature was back! Well... visible anyway. Finn wondered what gave the tiny creature such courage. Does it not fear that I will crush it in my jaws? It wouldn't be hard to do so at all...
Moving slowly, Finn also observed three other fox-like creatures almost identical to the first one sitting around the periphery of his body.
Finn felt a pronounced feeling of incredulity. This family unit of furballs were casually siphoning energy from his aura!
Finn did notice that two of them looked to be bigger than the one sitting on his back. From this difference, Finn assumed that they were either a family or a pack, and the one on his back happened to be an infant.
Finn internally nodded to this assessment... That would indeed explain why it dared to rest on my back. Children often lacked awareness for danger, giving them blind courage.
That being said, Finn still didn't know what to do next. Should I scare them off? They weren't exactly threatening him in any way, and their presence did not hinder his sunbathing.
Although, watching the excess light energy he emitted be absorbed by these little creatures made him wonder...
Were they magical beasts as well? Finn was quite certain that the bestiary he had read with Bryn was limited in scope, because he had already seen many magical beasts that did not match any of the descriptions.
He had not read anything about a small creature that looked or sounded familiar to the white little cottonballs he was looking at currently.
If they are able to siphon off my aura, does that mean they also have a light affinity? Finn brought his face up close to the one on his back, watching the little fox creature carefully.
When it noticed Finn's face moving closer, it once again let out a startled cry before disappearing...
There! It was incredibly faint, but Finn sensed a power familiar to his own being utilized.
Compared to his own, the little fox creature's power was like a spark next to a roaring flame, but due to its proximity, Finn could still sense it, just barely.
A sudden and inexplicable sense of kinship to the small foxes bloomed in Finn's heart. They were like him! Finn had been reminded over and over about how rare a light affinity was, and yet sitting around him right now were four other beasts like himself.
Although they must be only rank one with how small and weak their power felt compared to his own. Subconsciously, Finn started referring to them as light foxes due to not knowing their species' name.
Did they sense that I was similar to them? Is this why they dared to approach me? This thought made Finn wonder about other magical beasts. Did those of a similar affinities attract each other or was this unique to him only?
Finn could only ponder these questions, as he had no one to talk too. Seeing that Finn had not moved to attack it, the infant light fox slowly faded back into existence under Finn's disbelieving eyes.
How? How does it do that? Finn had not lost his focus, and was watching as it reappeared. From what he saw, the process was very quick, but not instantaneous.
It appeared as though the infant light fox was channeling its power through the filaments in its white fur. At least, that was what Finn was able to garner from watching it closely.
Somehow, the little creature was using its magical power to manipulate the light traveling through its fur, making it appear as though it simply disappeared.
Was this an innate ability to the light fox? Even further, am I able to do something similar since I can also manipulate light energy? Finn felt a flash of inspiration after witnessing such a scene.
Eager to try this, Finn began focusing inward. He tried drawing his power out through his skin and into his scales directly.
Feeling a kind of resonance on their surface, Finn was surprised to see a thick golden film forming over them.
It's just like how the ironhide bear had used its earth energy to protect itself from my attacks! From previous encounters, Finn realized this must be a natural defensive mechanism all magical beasts can utilize.
Finn looked over his glowing body in awe. The natural aura he emitted when sunbathing was more mist-like in fashion, while this was more like wearing a blanket of light.
All this time, I have been thinking too one dimensionally... Finn had never once thought about using his own body as the medium for channeling his power, only focusing on how he could use it to shoot devastating beams of light.
Actually, when he thought about it, using his power this way was similar to using it to heal bodily wounds, just taking it a step further.
Using this train of thought, Finn next directed his energy through his claws, which appeared just as receptive to it as his scales had. They started glowing a brilliant white, the ground beneath them starting to smoke.
Meanwhile, the light foxes surrounding Finn were watching his actions in confusion.
Finding new ways to use this power is always exciting... Finn raised one of his glowing claws in wonder, admiring the heat radiating off them. They would be quite deadly if used against another living being...
Having thought of this before, Finn again wished he had been born with an instruction manual. He wondered what other tricks he could use his power to do...
That being said, through observing the cute little light fox, Finn had discovered a way to enhance the defensive capabilities of his scales as well as the offensive capabilities of his claws.
However he didn't know how to manipulate the light around his body in the same manner to achieve what the little light foxes had done.
Here was the main dilemma.
I absorb light as energy and am able to use that same energy to accomplish many miraculous things, but am I capable of manipulating light itself? Finn pondered this question.
Although similar, naturally occurring light and the light energy stored within his core were two different things.
In simple terms, his light energy was natural light that had been filtered and turned into his own. However, was he able to manipulate the light that existed outside of himself directly?
Finn had never attempted this before, because it seemed outside the scope of his capabilities.
To be able to control ambient light itself, is it possible? Finn figured there was no harm in trying.
Focusing inward, Finn tried visualizing warping the light around himself. Initially, there was no success, but Finn had felt a strange inclination.
When he had visualized warping the light around him, he felt his core stir, as if it was trying to... activate? Finn didn't know how else to describe it, his core and its amazing powers were still an enigma to him.
Using this experience as a base, Finn tried again, this time rotating the energy stored within his core as he did so.
As he did this, Finn sat back on his haunches slowly, the light foxes around him adjusting themselves accordingly and watching him with curiosity.
Holding up his claws as if they were hands, Finn tried visualizing compressing the light between them, as if he was squeezing a ball.
Finn's eyes were closed as he focused hard. His core was starting to stir just like before. As he wasn't quite sure what he was doing, he let instincts guide his rotation of the energy in his core.
After some tweaking in the flow, it was like a final puzzle piece had been popped into place.
Finn's core started... humming! A resonance only Finn could hear and feel stemmed out from his core and connected with the outside world. Opening his eyes, Finn was astonished to see that he was holding a... a black hole!
The space between his claws was pitch black in the form of a sphere. Is this the result of compressing light in a certain space? Finn marveled at the unthinkable phenomena happening by his own will.
Curious, Finn released his control over the space. The resonance from his core ceased, and the black hole in his hands suddenly exploded like a flashbang, momentarily blinding him.
Damn... Finn had to blink several times to regain his vision. Although he thought of it like an explosion, there was no force, just a blinding flash of light.
Despite feeling slightly foolish and blinding himself, Finn was elated. He had just confirmed the he had the power to manipulate light itself! What an extraordinary discovery!
High in spirits, Finn decided it was time to move on. He still needed to find some way to get his bearings in these god forsaken woods.
With a spring in his step, Finn started walking further into the woods. To his surprise, Finn noticed the four little light foxes were following closely behind as if they intended to stay with him.
Hmm, ok then... Finn did not really mind of course. They weren't annoying him in any way.
And besides, at least I will finally have company... Finn decided to look on the bright side of things, for once.