“Austin, you don’t have to fake a headache. Seriously. If you don’t want to come to the recital, just say so.”
“No! …No.” Austin had burrowed as far under the blankets as he could go, but he had to peek out so that Sianna could see he was sincere. The light seemed to stab at his eyes, but Sianna had to understand. “No, I promise-”
“You’re not supposed to promise.”
“Not unless you really, really mean it. I promise I really do have a headache. I – I wanted to see you dance.”
“You see me dance all the time Austin what’s going on with your head?”
“Not like – what? My head hurts. I told you that.” He was seeing spots, which had to be why he didn’t dodge Sianna grabbing him. “Ow, ow, my ears… wait.” He blinked up at his friend. “What?”
“You’re Changing, it’s not fair, it’s awesome, I mean, but it’s not fair. Come on, what did Miss Ascha say about Changes?” She finally released her grip on – on his ears? It still didn’t feel right, but those things at the top of his head had to be his ears. At least that explained why everything got louder when Sianna let go. “Come on. You’ve got to go see Nurse ’Adne.”
“What? No, it’s just a headache.” Samurai didn’t need to worry about a little pain, did they? What would Professor Inazuma say? “I’ll be fine.”
“Austin!” Dancers had strong arms; Sianna grabbed his arm and yanked. “Come on. You’re going to see Nurse Meliadne. Now.”
Having a tail was totally going to get in the way of being a samurai. Austin stared miserably at Nurse Meliadne’s three-way mirror. “I have a tail.”
“You have a tail, yes. It looks as if it’s some sort of cat, maybe a domestic cat, a house cat.”
“A cat?” Austin spun around again. “Not even a tiger or a lion or something cool, I’m turning into a house cat?”
“Not ‘turning into,’ not really. You’re going to get some physical characteristics of a cat – the tail, the ears, as you can see, maybe claws. And you’ll get some – I’ve heard them called emotional characteristics. Some people call it ‘the animal.’ For some, it will be something like wanting to take a lot of naps, or chasing small objects – or prey, so I’d watch yourself around mouse-like Changes. Or an urge to mark your territory – be careful with that, or Miss Ascha will be very irritated with you.” The nurse smiled.
“Oh, good.” Austin wrinkled his nose. “So I might act like an idiot, and I’m all messed up for being a samurai.”
“Why do you say that?” Nurse Meliadne settled into her chair and put her chin in her hands. “After all, cats are known for their balance.”
“Who’s going to take me seriously looking like this?”
“Meliadne, I heard Austin was Changing… Ah, there you are!”
Oh, no, it was Professor Inazuma. Austin hid his face in his hands, but couldn’t help peeking out to see the professor’s expression.
He was… smiling. Almost grinning, really.
“A cat change? Great! Now we get to figure out your balance with that tail.”
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