The moment that I opened my eyes, I could see pillars of orange fire dancing all around me. Though I had always been well-versed in the ritual with which to bring one into the cipher matrix, the experience was not something which one could ever acclimate to. As the fires drew closer, they began to distort until they resembled – albeit roughly – the shape of the dragon priestess herself.

Open your mind to me, child… Share with me the purest, deepest memories – their pleasures and their pains…” Her form continued to shift, expanding now into that of a much larger dragon, orange flames brightening to a blinding blue. Naladir lunged forward, her jaw lowering to scoop my legs out from under me. There was a slight pressure and an incredible heat as my existence descended deep into her ethereal form. Shortly after, my world went dark.

“…Songbird… Audrey Songbird… Wake up!” The priestess’s sharp shouting caused me to bolt upright. I was laying across the same crescent-shaped table in the very same lecture hall as where I had previously met with Astertis. To why this was again where my memories had taken me to, I knew not the answer.

“How…!? Why…!? What…!?”

“Calm down, Miss Songbird! You were explicitly told to close your eyes! It wasn’t my problem that you failed to listen.”

My body was covered in sweat, but I was otherwise unharmed. I sat up and lowered my feet to the floor. “Why did we end up here?”

“Don’t look at me; you’re the one with greater knowledge of this place, not I. After all, it’s your dreamscape which we currently find ourselves in. Yet even so, a classroom? Were you the scholarly type, Miss Songbird?”

“I wouldn’t say that much; rather, it would be more appropriate to say that my interests lay in activities not attainable by book, Priestess Naladir.”

“Curious, indeed. Now then, where was it that you would usually sit?”

“Here,” I answered, motioning to the middlemost chair.

“My, what a model student you must have been. Are you absolutely certain that you lack in a penchant for higher learning, Miss Songbird?”

“Well… It was a move made of necessity, not passion…”

“Most interesting. I must say that I am enjoying this dreamscape of yours.” The woman reached into the table’s alcove, fingers catching upon a leather-bound notebook. “This too appears an interesting sight. I know not many who would use something so ornate for their daily note-keeping.”

“What-? Give that back!”

“Could this be what we came here for?” Naladir raised the booklet over my head and just out of reach. Only after I had backed away did she decide to lower it, flicking her fingers through the first few pages. “I see, I see… So it stands that your earlier explanations were in-fact not-so-modest after all. Riddle me this much, dear girl: what would you do if I were to choreograph the contents of these notes for us to view together?”

“No, you wouldn’t!” I was practically begging, and my cheeks were practically burning. In no way had I anticipated that this would be how things turned out, and given how it was impossible to interrupt a vision after it had started, I was along for this ride whether I wanted to be or not.

Naladir skimmed through each page with an increasing degree of excitement until reaching a point which made even her blush. “I can’t say that I’ve heard someone’s body depicted in such a way! You would perhaps better been suited to the role of a poet!”

“This is too embarrassing! With all due respect, Lady Naladir-!”

“Oh, I am enjoying this more than you can even imagine. It isn’t often that I can experience such… interesting extra-curricular activities up close. Oh, to be so young again…” She suddenly snapped the book shut and moved to whisper in my ear, “Feeling a bit tongue-tied, teacher’s pet?”

Tongue-tied was a bit of an understatement. “That is to say…! I was being experimental…!”

“Such is the virtue of education! Who be we to scorn the young seeking only to blossom of their own will?” She turned the pages faster than my eyes could keep up. “How scandalous! …Very scandalous indeed! It’s no wonder you’ve achieved such mastery of your ‘talents’ at your age!”

“How exactly are you reading through them so quickly!?”

“Excuse me, young lady. Why is it you think that I have this job?”

“Point taken…”

“You have made me curious. Shall we next take a look into how this journey of yours was given its beginning?” Naladir set the leather-bound notebook on top of the table. Leaning forward, she took a deep breath and exhaled over the pages, causing them to glimmer and their contents to distort. When next she picked up the tome, her fingers moved instead from right to left.

“You departed from the capital Fwerina at the age of fourteen, and with your grandfather’s pull, you managed to gain entry into a very prestigious academy for the White Arts. Although, it was not as rosy as you tried to make it appear, was it?” She kept reading. “It says here that you once ate from a garbage bin.”

I could sense a derision in her voice which caused me then to swallow roughly. Before she could turn to the next page, I urgently brought my hands together and channeled a force of magic which engulfed the book entirely. Ashes were scattered through the air in every direction. Naladir stared at me incredulously for a moment before realizing that a part of her finger had become singed. She brought it to her lips, licking away the soot with her tongue.

“F-Forgive me, Lady Naladir… It was irresponsible of me to do that.”

“Fault lies within us both, here; think nothing of it. You’ve certainly as many stories as could be said of those twice older. The road you’ve traveled has been one of multiple twists, of multiple turns. I would like to hear of them in your own words if you wish to divulge them.”

“I mean…” Reluctant though I was, even I had to admit that her request had warrant. How could I hope to pursue the mysteries of Astertis if I couldn’t even face my own insecurities? “V-Very well, Lady Naladir. I’ll tell you.”

“Please, feel free to rest upon the table again if it helps you.”

“Thank you; I will.” Once comfortable, I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths in and out. “My first year at the academy was… absolutely wonderful. I made so many friends that year, and it was the first time that I was able to truly explore the outside world. I could move about wherever and whenever I desired, be it day or night. In my haste to enjoy life to the fullest, I began to lose sight of my reasons for being there. It didn’t quite hit home for me, however, until my second year.”

“What happened during that second year?”

“Because I failed one of the proficiency exams, my stipend was reduced by a substantial amount. I couldn’t tell my grandfather. When he wrote to me asking of my living situation, I kept to saying that I was handling things on my own, but in truth… I just couldn’t.”

“So what did you do?”

“I can remember skipping a meal every other day. The trash incident you caught a glimpse of was neither first nor last. In my state of mind, I thought to myself how much of a waste it would have been… It sounds so shameless in hindsight, but no matter how low my pride sank, such was never enough to convince me to return to Fwerina. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have afforded it without some help. My options, therefore, were to cause a miracle to happen or to die trying. Thankfully, I managed to fall into the former instead of the latter.”

“What was this miracle, Miss Songbird?”

“Vayne’s Troupe – I was being scouted by them without my knowing, and then a representative came and pulled me aside one afternoon. Rather…”

“…Rather?” Naladir raised an eyebrow, quite obviously drawn into my story by this point.

“The woman – Kiene – bribed me with a luxurious dinner followed up by a trip to a bathhouse which was much, much too exorbitant for a mere student. She even offered me wine, though I abstained. I couldn’t help but to think how this woman, being just barely seven years my senior, had already amassed so much wealth and success and prestige. Here she was, offering me this opportunity which at that age seemed almost too good to be true.”

“What made this different as opposed to seeking help?”

“Kiene told me that there would be requirements. During my final year, I would need to successfully complete every exam. From there, I was to be indentured to the Troupe for not less than the amount of time needed to pay back the money loaned to me. Somehow, I managed to settle all of my debts within three months. I don’t know; everything just fell into place after that.”

“You continue to be with them now, correct? Why so?”

“…I wanted to hold onto the ideals I once carried with me.”

“You refer to the ones from your first year in the academy?”

“That’s right…” Recalling it in detail had nearly brought a tear to my eye. To think that it had been only five years; in many respects, it had seemed longer.

“I can sense that there is even more to the story. This lecture hall, for example, introduced you to multiple professors varied in their methods and skill levels. Why does one particular instructor appear to be different from the rest?” Naladir reached again into the desk, pulling this time from it a single sheet of paper. Upon reading it from end to end, she began to smile from ear to ear. “You simply must allow me to choreograph this one.”

“What is that?” I took the sheet from her outstretched hand, and as I saw what it contained, I nearly rolled over. “You can’t be serious! No way am I going to allow that!”

“Consider this your penance for the betrayal of your grandfather’s trust. Surely this is a modest price?”

Modest, my beautiful round ass… With a sigh of surrender, I sat upright, set the paper across my lap, and placed my hands together in front of my chest. Calling forth the memories wasn’t the difficult part. In seconds, a mirror image of myself materialized alongside the image of a man barely thirty. Their hands were clasped firmly together, and the two were staring deeply into each other’s eyes.

“This was certainly an attractive man,” mused the dragon priestess, and I of all people could not disagree. His long, black hair had been tied back into a bun, and his face was clean-shaven to more outwardly emphasize the contour of his jaw. His tunic lay open just enough to show off his muscular chest. His was roughly a head taller than I, though if I could remember correctly, his manhood had been a slight bit smaller than my own. It was currently hidden beneath his trousers, but it wouldn’t be for long.

We watched as the two continued their loving embrace a moment longer before they pulledaway. The mirror image of myself went to drag the corner desk toward the room’s center while the man began turning the crescent-shaped table around. Together, they made a small platform in which my other self could spread her legs along the crescent, her arms resting on the forward desk with her eyes facing the stone chalkboard. The man moved in behind her, his hands firmly planted either side of her rear.

Naladir, meanwhile, had her eyes completely open now, knuckles pressed to her lip to stifle the very deep red that she was now rather overcome with. Before she realized it herself, the fingers of her opposite hand had begun to trace an arc along her right thigh, coming dangerously close to the hem of her ceremonial robe. That someone as composed as her could too fall prey to something so fundamental as the human libido was strangely comforting.

…It was also pretty damned adorable to watch.

The man slid down his trousers, taking my other self deep and fast. Moans quickly filled the air, some of which came from the dragon priestess as she weighed heavily the consequences of defiling herself in front of me. Then, just before the vision was to proceed to its climax, I suddenly had the phenomenal idea of casting it aside, the two lovers vanishing into the nothing and leaving Naladir in a state of lustful agony.

W-WHAT THE HELL!?

“Oops, did I do that?”

“You know that your penance has now doubled, correct!?”

“How shall I make to resolve this duty, Lady Naladir?”

It occurred to her just then what I had been up to, and she dug her fingers into the table enough to leave marks. “Spread. Now.”

“Right away, ma’am!” Lowering arms to the desk, I positioned myself so that my shaft draped over the table lip, my slit exposed and inviting. Naladir fell to her knees, kissing from above and stroking from below, free hand used to finger herself like mad. My hips gyrated, back arching up and down, which caused my breasts to sway roughly against the surface of the desk. It was entirely possible that memories of this dreamspace would end up interwoven into the cipher matrix, but the two of us were having too much fun by that point to really care.

“Miss… Songbird… Agh…!” The dragon priestess let out a wild cry of passion as her orgasm caused an explosion of pleasure across her body. I soon followed suit, sticky fluid raining down all over her, amplified perhaps by a bit of extra magic. I rolled off the table and onto the floor; she rolled under it to lay next to me. We took some moments to regain breath before turning to each other and chuckling giddily. Naladir’s magic was quick to remove the evidence, and we sat down again so I could finish the story.

“Not very long after that, he came to me and told me that he was engaged to another woman.”

“Did he not enjoy the company of his betrothed?”

“I had never met the woman, so I cannot truly say. It shocked me when he told me, but at the same time, I knew already the limits of what we were. If anything, I was happy that he would have someone to be there for him once I had moved on to serve in Vayne’s Troupe.”

“Was this the last of things, then?”

“Not exactly.”

“There’s more!?” Naladir exclaimed.

“Well, yeah. What reason had we to stop? Later encounters happened only under the utmost secrecy, but that made it into a game for the both of us. Our final moment we held on the night before his wedding; now, that felt good.”

“What a deviant minx you are, Miss Songbird. How was it that you managed to be so proficient in the White Arts despite having such an unclean mind?”

“I’m not sure I could tell you, Lady Naladir. Although, if there is one thing I regret, it’s that nobody ever observed us while we were…”

“Doing so would have ended the game. You and he both knew that.”

“Even so, a girl can dream.” Stretching my arms over my head, I stood up from the table. “You know, letting all of that out finally was pretty cathartic. I also have this feeling that he still keeps me in his mind. He was the one who got me into erotic modeling, did you know?”

“Well, I do believe we’ve dabbled in the subject for long enough, Miss Songbird. Given what I have witnessed here in this dreamscape, I see no reason for me to delay you from your forward path any longer. Let us be off now into the next one. The way in which we get there is something which I shall leave entirely in your hands.”

TO BE CONTINUED…

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