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Written by happiest_in_shadows :: [Sunday, 20 April 2014 12:49] Last updated by :: [Monday, 21 April 2014 21:38]

July 9th 679GR

Paul jerked upright in his bed as a loud bang greeted his ears. His eyes opened and he found himself looking into darkness. Another bang was heard an instant later and a sharp crack. Mixed in with this was the sound of clattering metal against metal and wood. He could just barely hear a soft whimper before several dull thuds greeted his ear and he glanced to the side of the bed he shared with his wife. Seeing that Elaine was no longer in bed with him and recalling the whimper he wasted no time hopping out of bed and quickly moving towards the kitchen.

Elaine could practically hear her own heart pounding against her chest. Given how powerful her heart was at the moment that wouldn't be surprising if it wasn't for the incredibly dense layer of muscle that also covered her chest. The handles felt wrong in her fingers now as they lengthened and expanded and she gave a sob of concern whenever she heard the crack of wood. She'd pulled the door open so quickly that she'd damaged the frame or something else. She hoped it wouldn't be hard to fix but she didn't have time for that right now. She could fill her robes sliding against her skin. It was a constant tingle that was slowly moving further up her arm, stomach and leg as well as over her shoulder. The room looked different now as she had put on an additional twenty five centimeters in height making her feel as if she was standing on a stool. It made it trickier to keep her balance.

“Baby what's going on?” Upon entering the kitchen Paul quickly made his presence known. If Elaine were to accidentally bump into him he could end up against the wall with some broken bones and then on the floor. She had accidentally knocked a few doors off their hinges whenever she forgot to open them entirely and instead bumped into them. He already had a rough idea of what was going on as he looked up at Elaine's towering form.

It felt like Elaine's heart had skipped a beat as she turned to face Paul. As much as she didn't want to tell him there was no way she could hide it. “Paul I lost my medicine. I'm so sorry. Just give me a bit and I'm sure I can find it though.” Elaine bit down on her lower lip as she looked at her husband. She knew how expensive her medicine was. How she'd managed to lose it was completely beyond her. The last place she could remember having it was in the secure cabinet just next to the spices. She had already looked in there though as well as the spice cabinet. If she didn't find it soon she feared she would end up outgrowing their home.

When he had heard Elaine moving around in the kitchen Paul had figured as much. “Alright give me a moment and I'll help you look for it.”

“There is no need! I'm sure I can find it!” Even as she spoke Elaine was looking around at the kitchen. Unfortunately she wasn't spotting her medicine.

This wasn't something Paul was going to argue with Elaine about. He knew how quickly she could end up changing without her medicine and the more she panicked the worse it would become. It was a rather strange concept to imagine Elaine panicking and he quickly left the kitchen and made his way down stares and towards his workshop. He could hear every foot step Elaine took as she continued her search and knew that they were getting heavier.

Currently Elaine found herself two hundred twenty eight centimeters tall. It wasn't just her height that had increased though. Her arms had gone from fifty three centimeters in width to sixty eight centimeters in width. Her legs going from sixty three centimeters to seventy two in width. Indeed she could feel her entire building building up and couldn't be certain if her robes were growing titer due to her increasing height or her even more rapidly developing muscles. As she picked through the spices hoping that one of the bottles would be her misplaced medicine she not only had to be careful not to crush them but not to throw them across the room.

In his workshop Paul opened a tiny drawer within his vault. It was the one space he had asked his wife never to open. He didn't mind her knowing what was inside. She was more then welcome to look inside just not touch anything. It was the most effective way he had found to insure that nothing was removed from it and lost. It only took him a moment to find a little packet with a red tag on it and retrieve two tablets from it. Rather then take the entire packet with him he placed it back in the safe before he began to run back towards the steps. “Hold on Elaine. I'll be there in a second just don't break anything.” Paul felt guilt whenever he heard Elaine whimper meaning she'd already broken a few things if not more then a few.

Was she just over looking her medicine because she was panicked? A slight yelp escaped Elaine as she thought she felt her hair brush against the top of the roof. Instinctively she bent down and glanced towards the kitchen entrance. She felt it whenever her long braided hair slammed into a glass jar and she heard it shatter. Immediately she tensed up and bit down on her lower lip as she heard Paul's foot steps moving closer. “I can't find them! I don't know where they are!”

“We will find them but first.” Paul went silent as he rounded the door into the dining area. The bits of glass that decorated a few spots was actually a welcome site. It could have been a lot worse. “Down.” As he spoke Paul pointed at the ground with his free hand and walked over to the sink. The cabinet above was fortunately intact and as he opened it he caught a glimpse of something with a bright orange top. Rather then retrieve it right away he quickly filled a glass and walked over to Elaine who despite her position was still almost eye level with him as she had continued to grow.

Elaine knew what was coming and opened her mouth rather then trying to take the pills from Paul. She didn't want to risk harming him. She felt his fingers reach into her mouth and then place the pills on her tongue rather then just drop or toss them in. Despite feeling his hand leave her mouth she still closed it carefully to make sure she didn't bite off his fingers. She then felt the rim of the glass against her lips and tilted her head backwards.

As he let Elaine drink Paul looked down into her well slanted eyes. Each one was a blue that was more beautiful then sapphires. “Elaine you need to start waking me up whenever these things happen. I don't mind. You're my wife and I'm happy to be there for you whenever I can be.”

Once Paul lifted the glass away Elaine made no move to stand up but continued to look her husband in the eye. “I woke up before the transformation became bad and thought I could just come in here and take my pills. Where did you have those pills?”

Rather then respond right away Paul brought his face forward and placed a kiss on his wife's cheek. Despite the increase in her muscle size and density due to the transformation her skin was still soft and her face still had a nice layer of fat keeping her cheeks soft and full. At least they felt soft so long as you didn't hit her. “That I'm going to be keeping a secret. I can't risk them being misplaced as well.” Paul gave a slight chuckle whenever Elaine responded by puffing out her cheeks slightly. Her smile broke through soon enough.

“At least I can look for my pills now without destroying the kitchen. I'll clean up this mess as soon as I find.” Elaine felt her skin warming up and she turned her eyes towards the ground as she watched Paul reach up and heard him push a few glasses to the side. Whenever he brought her medicine out of the cabinet she could hardly bring herself to look up at him. Apparently whenever she'd retrieved a glass she'd set her medicine down in its place. “Sorry.”

“It's alright. Okay I'll just get this glass swept up.” Before Paul could begin to walk away he felt Elaine's hand wrap around his upper arm. Her growth had stopped by now but the reduction process was always much slower then the growth. Curiously he turned his head around to look back at her.

“No. You're going back to bed. I'll clean this up.” As she spoke Elaine gestured to the kitchen. If she hadn't been so panicked she would have seen her pills setting there with the cups. She had already woken Paul up and damaged their kitchen she wasn't going to let him clean up her mess as well.

“It's fine I.” Paul didn't get to finish speaking as Elaine pulled him forward and pressed her lips against his. This was yet another layer of fat that he was glad she had. When she broke the kiss he found himself not just listening to her words but reading them as those soft pink cupid form lips moved framed by her ivory skin.

“You're going back to bed you need your wrest and I need less of it then you. If you want I'll carry you back but you're going to bed.” Elaine grinned as she once again stood up so that she was looking down on Paul. As she got her feet back under her she brought herself forward slightly so that her breasts just bumped up against his chin. The feeling of his stubble brushing against her skin sent a pleasant tingle through her chest.

“Hey now! Just because you're taller then me doesn't mean you can treat me like a child.” Paul wasn't surprise whenever Elaine pulled him forward and placed an arm around him. He could detect no strain in her arms or body as she lifted him from the ground and cradled him against her body. It was a bit awkward given that he wasn't quite child sized to her at the moment. Her arms had a solid hold on him though that assured him he wouldn't be going anywhere.

“Sure I can. This is my kitchen after all and in here I'm the queen. I suppose this is better anyway. This way I don't have to worry about you stepping on any glass on your way out.” Elaine was actually a bit surprised whenever the first thing she felt after she began to walk was a bit of glass push against the bottom of her foot. She had given up wearing foot wear shortly after her body had began to undergo its transformations. Any material that was elastic enough to survive her transformation amounted to little more then socks. It wasn't as if shoes offered her any protection except from things she wished she hadn't stepped in anymore. Even an iron spike may go unnoticed.

The sound of some glass shattering beneath Elaine's foot was obvious to Paul. As she moved he feared she might end up banging either his head or feet against something but now that she was calm and had taken her medicine her usual grace was returning. That she wasn't currently undergoing a major physical transformation helped as well. “Elaine I'm sorry about all of this. If I had.”

“Shush Paul. It's not just your fault. I was the one that wanted your help. It was my choice to drink from the pools of Izaya and to follow your advice.”

“Yes but you were relying on me to know what I was talking about.”  Paul didn't get to continue as his wife lifted him higher and silenced him with another warm kiss. This time he felt a few strands of her hair brush against his face. A few unruly strands of that obsidian adornment had broken free of their braid. He felt it whenever Elaine shifted so that she could get him through the kitchen door without hitting his head or feet against anything. Given how they had to widen the door for her that didn't require much shifting anymore.

“Paul I would be a fool to complain about someone doing their job better then I had hoped.”

 

*****

 

September 15th 677GR

Elaine took in a deep breath as she looked at the cup of tea in front of her. It contained roughly a forth of a liter of fluid. Calling it tea was actually a misnomer meant to comfort her as much as it could. In truth the contents were extremely bitter and tended to make her sick. Rather then soothing her she often spent the next few hours after drinking a few milliliters trying not to throw it back up. She was getting better at it but it was still a battle and if she had drank any before training there would be no way she could keep it down. Yet this was what Paul had prescribed for her and she was going to take it. They both wanted and even needed this to work for both their sakes. It was the only way she could hope to be with him.

The pool of Izaya was a wondrous wellspring of strength that would transform those who drank or bathed in its waters. Those who drank from it would be strengthened even more then those that bathed yet there was risk. If your body wasn't strong enough you wouldn't survive. The transformation was also rapid, irreversible and not repeatable. The tea that Paul had been sending her wasn't just meant to insure her body would have what it needed for the transformation. He believed it would extend the time of the transformation. How long it would extend the affects he wasn't certain but he believed it would be significant so long as she could choke down at least one cup a day a few months before her exaltation. Elaine had insisted on beginning well in advance knowing that even extending the duration by a second would be worth it.

At least she believed it would be worth it. At times she had to stop and convince herself it would be. Just like she was doing now. By now all Elaine had done was taken hold of the cup and take in several deep breaths. As she took in yet another breath she finally reached up and pinched her nose shut before lifting the cup to her mouth and downing it as rapidly as she could. She could feel the hot liquid rolling over her tongue mercifully vanishing down her throat while only leaving a slightly lingering after taste. Before she dared remove her hand from her nose she'd already placed the cup down and secured a spoonful of honey which she more scrubbed her mouth with then swallowed. Even then the slightest bit of bitterness seemed to linger on her tongue for hours.  

 

*****

 

September 19th 677GR

The ascended. Those born from a parent or parents that had undergone and survived the exaltation were born into both privilege and with a great burden. They were born into wealth and comfort yet they were expected to follow in their parents' foot steps. They were held above those with less noble heritage. Those who were part of an unbroken chain in which not just their parents but their grandparents and beyond had all been exalted were even more so. Elaine was one of these and Paul wasn't yet they still desired to be together. They had spoken of running away together yet Elaine was hesitant to abandon her homeland. It had been her grandfather Mathew that had offered him a chance.

The entire point of wedding two exalted was to insure the next generation would be stronger then the last. Normally this was done by the passing on and combining of strong ascended blood. If he could find a way to strengthen Elaine enough he could do the same thing despite his weak blood and earn the right to marry her. Indeed Mathew had assured Paul that he would have the full support of the family if he succeeded in this. Naturally it would have to be proven on Elaine. It was a difficult task but one Paul had accepted. Yet he had never agreed that he wouldn't marry Elaine if he failed anyway.

He wasn't expected to do this entirely on his own however. The Dranon family had provided him with an old but very well built workshop and equipment. They granted him an adequate budget and more importantly were able to provide him with some precious water from the Izaya pools. The amount was never sufficient to transform a human but there was enough to work with. He had began by poring over the histories of the pools and all those who had trained to enter its waters. He had studied those that had particularly impressive results very closely. A grin formed on his face when he looked to the pile of letters he'd received from people he'd written to. The history books had been useful but they didn't detail everything. One very difficult question was exactly what they had been eating.

Few recalled such information or didn't care to share it. One of the letters he had received though was from an elder ascended that had undergone the exaltation. She spoke of a medicine that had been in her family for generations that was believed to improve the process. They had stopped using it though after their chain had nearly been broken when four out of five siblings had died during the exaltation. She didn't remember the exact ratios but she had shared what she did know.

It had taken much trial and error and even now Paul couldn't be entirely certain of the results. He had found that when combined with the minerals used in the medicine in the right ratios the water retained its properties longer. His confidence had been bolstered whenever he'd found additional evidence hinting at some medicine that the ancient exalted used. It had apparently fallen out of favor when they came to believe that while it did increase the power one would gain it also increased your chance of dieing. Paul had been horrified whenever Mathew had told him that he'd informed Elaine of his discovery and she wanted to know when she'd receive her first dose.

Elaine was very much a Dranon. The family wasn't afraid to take a risk when the reward was great enough. Even now he continued to test his tea and in truth the results were promising. The last few flasks of water he'd received had been shipped in beakers he prepared with the minerals. The water had arrived as potent as if he'd been working within the town of Izaya itself and not three days away. At least the first two had. His most recent delivery had been weakened. If they had simply delayed the shipping it would mean nothing but that seemed unlikely. The handling of the water was too carefully coordinated and guarded for that to be the case. If it hadn't been for the medicine preserving the strength of the water he doubted he would have noticed the difference but now he felt certain he was onto something.

If this would win the approval of Elaine's family so she need not pick between them and him he would not be content with just one solution. He would find as many answers as he could until the day of her exaltation. Unfortunately what would seem the most direct solution to the problem, undergoing the exaltation himself, had never been a choice. Paul didn't have the bloodline or the body to undergo the exaltation. Even if he was allowed to do so his odds of survival where dismal at best. His mind was more then sufficient to be chosen but that only meant they had even less of a reason to risk him. It wasn't as if he had a weak body after all. It was good one but to survive the exaltation good wasn't enough.

 

*****

 

July 9th 679GR Morning

It had been Elaine's intentions to clean up the kitchen then go back to bed. That hadn't been how thing worked out. It hadn't taken her long to clean up the kitchen and she'd even examined the drawers that she had damaged. She was rather certain one of them was going to have to have its frame reworked. There was no way she could have it worked on during the night without waking Paul up so she had went back to bed and tried to go back to sleep. Unfortunately despite having Paul to cuddle she hadn't been able to fall back asleep she simply wasn't fatigued. After what she guessed to be an hour of laying there she'd finally climbed out of bed.

After her exaltation she had slept for twelve to sixteen hours a day for nearly a month as her body had finished its change. Now it was rare that she slept for five hours. She wasn't sure how long she'd been asleep before her transformation had began but she knew she wasn't going to get back to sleep. She had taken some time to do some laps around her and Paul's property before noticing a change in the night air and came in to begin fixing breakfast. After waking Paul up she wanted to prepare a nice meal for him. This desire was spurred on by the fact that she could feel her own hunger coming on.

It still amazed her how different things felt now. As an ascended Elaine had always been strong. Though at times she wondered if this was due to genes or the training she received as a Dranon. She had been born this way though so she didn't think anything of it. The exaltation was a sudden and rapid change the first time she'd picked up a potato in her hands it had exploded as had every ceramic cup she held. They had taken to having her drink from a copper cup which would bind instead of shatter. It was only thanks to the medicine that Paul made her that she could hold a tuber in her hands without leaving a mess.

Even with the medicine the feeling had changed. If the common objects she had interacted with before could be likened to buckets filled with water now they felt empty. Without the familiar pressure it was harder to tell how deeply she was cutting into the potato. Indeed the first time she'd settled down to cook something for Paul after the exaltation she had been a bit embarrassed. A good deal of her ingredients had ended up being cut away with their peels. Even now she tended to take out the peels and other remains before Paul had a chance to look at them. He had never said anything and it wasn't as if they couldn't afford some waste but it was still embarrassing.

There had of course been the knifes broken against the cutting board and several broken cups and bowls even after she'd began taking her medicine. Her father had said that they should just higher a maid and even offered to provide one of her choosing from the family's main home but Elaine couldn't bring herself to accept that offer. It wasn't that she minded having someone help clean up around the home. They were more then welcome to do that. When she prepared a meal for Paul though she just felt satisfaction at feeding her man. She wanted to show him how much she cared for him. Any ascended and especially an exalted could have shown this with money but few would learn to cook for them.

It was when Elaine had began frying the eggs that Paul had finally begin to wake from his sleep. While part of it was the smell it was also the result of the occasional clanging together of ceramic cups and metal against the stove top. This was a huge improvement compared to when she would shatter whatever she held between her fingers if it didn't bind instead. The hinges on the stove also tended to squeak. He would pretend it was the smell when he entered the kitchen though after all it did smell quite good.

When Paul stepped into the kitchen Elaine immediately gave him a large smile and placed her spatula down to step around the stove. “Good morning Hero.”

“Hero? I wouldn't say that.” Paul smiled as Elaine stepped around the stove once again back to her natural height of one hundred and eighty centimeters leaving her just a bit less then ten centimeters shorter then him. At least that was her height after she took her medicine. Before then she had been one hundred seventy centimeters tall. Height and the width of his waist was the only thing he beat her in now though. As he wrapped his arms around her and she him he could feel the impressive width of her shoulders and their strength. He gave a slight chuckle as she brushed her cheek against his chin. “Okay I get it I need to shave. I'll take care of it in a bit.”

“Huh? I didn't say that.”  Releasing her hold on Paul Elaine walked back around the stoves to tend to their breakfast. “I believe you should let it grow out a bit actually. I remember whenever I came back home to visit three months before my exaltation ceremony. You'd been so focused on your research that you'd forgotten to shave for I don't know how long. You looked distinguished.”

 

*****

 

October 3rd 677GR

Was Paul trying to find ways to make the exaltation more effective or was he just being mean? Currently Elaine found herself looking over the most recent letter she had received from him. It explained how he had found that the quality of the water from the pool of Izaya depended on the container they were transported in. The better insulated the container the more potent the water. His experimentation had revealed something more though. When combined with the minerals from her tea the potency of the water could be increased by heating it up. The greatest results being between ninety degrees Celsius and ninety five. He hadn't managed to restore the water to its original potency but it was an improvement.

This had led him to theorize that by drinking the water while it was extremely hot one would gain better results. Elaine had to admit that it made sense when she thought about it. Those who earned the right to step in or drink from the pools did not do it at the same place. Those who had just barely passed were not only advised not to drink the water but to remain close to the edge where the water was coolest. Those who had done the best were encouraged to journey to the center of the pool were the water was the hottest and drink from there. Yet the temperatures Paul spoke off even exceeded those at the center of the pool. If there was any location with such high temperatures it wasn't just in the center of the pool it would be deeper within it.

Elaine had finally adjusted to drinking the tea. She had not only stopped throwing up entirely but she no longer felt any sickness. She had considered increasing her dosage but Paul had told her not to. Apparently a quarter of a liter was the optimum amount for her to drink daily. That or the minerals were more expensive then she realized and drinking more would threaten to exhaust his budget meaning he would have to ask her grandfather for more funding. Perhaps she would ask her father for more funding. Despite that though she did not like the idea of drinking scalding hot water or submerging herself into it. Yet Paul's work was encouraging and she would only have one shot at this. Wouldn't it be better to endure the pain and get the greatest affect she could rather then hold back and be left wondering for the wrest of her life?

“Paul I don't want to drink scalding hot water! I swear you had better not be joking about this just because I stopped complaining about the tea.” As she spoke to the air Elaine opened up her desk and retrieved a pin as well as some paper. If Paul truly believed that this would be for the best she would do it. However, she wanted some more information before that day come. He was asking her to do more then swim to the center of the pool and drink from it. He was asking her to submerge herself into the waters and swim into their depths for a single powerful swallow. She couldn't think of anyone who had ever done such a thing and if she was going to be the first she wanted more information.

 

*****

 

October 7th 677GR

“Are you sure you don't want me to carry those Sir?”

Sir? Paul had to keep himself from laughing as he walked alongside the ascended towards the ground of trials. It was here those who sought the pool of Izaya were strengthened and tested to see if they were suited to enter its waters or drink from it. He had spent a few months there before being deemed unfit. He didn't believe he'd ever be back again let alone be called Sir by an ascended. “No thanks. I've got it.” As he spoke Paul shifted his backpack lightly. It was a bit on the heavy side but there was no way he was going to ask for help with such a tiny burden. It was rather amusing whenever the ascended looked a bit nervous.

Tagus took in a deep breath. He had been instructed by his master trainer to meet Paul outside the grounds and see him safely inside and to the gate of the conquerors. He didn't care that Paul wasn't one of the ascended right now he was to be treated like a member of nobility. People weren't invited to the gate without good cause. Unfortunately as bad as Paul carrying his own belongings would look taking them from him by force would look even worse. “Sir I would really appreciate it if you let me carry your belongings. If my master finds out that you carried your own belongings in well. I would much prefer if that didn't happen.”

For a moment Paul said nothing but looked at Tagus. “Tagus I get that you're just trying to do your job but really I have this. I don't want to look like I can't even carry my own belongings after all.”

“Sir I would consider it a favor.”

At last Paul gave a sigh. He understood what Tagus was saying. He didn't want him to be reprimanded for not carrying out his responsibilities because he wouldn't let him. As he removed his pack and held it out to Tagus he admitted to himself that having the weight off his shoulders was nice. “I have to admit you're not the ascended I was hoping to see. Do you happen to know Elaine Dranon?”

“I know of her Sir. Her chain goes back far longer then my own and she's in the intensive training classes. I on the other hand will be fortunate if I'm permitted to sip from the edge of the pool.” Tagus gave a slight sigh and shook his head.

 

*****

 

October 7th 677GR

Standing two hundred and fifty centimeters tall Elisha was quite an imposing figure. Anyone who looked upon her would know she was an exalted. That wasn't what held Paul's attention though as he looked past her and towards the pool. His attention was only drawn back to her whenever she spoke.

“So this is the new container you've designed.” Elisha currently held what some might mistaken for a lantern in her hands. At the top there was a beaker which contained the minerals for Elaine's enhancing tea held in place by four arms. Beneath it was a small burner and affixed to the side of the glass was a temperature gauge. “Please show me how it's to work.”

Paul gave a nod and stepped forward while Elisha offered him the container. “No problems. Okay you just remove the pins from the top and the arms open up like this. Take the beaker out and fill it from the center of the pool if you don't mind and the deeper the better. Put it back in, lock the pins, open up the fuel and then give the ignition a gentle flick and here we go.” As Paul finished speaking he held up the container once again with the flame at the bottom now going. The flame was a gentle one. Its purpose was to maintain a high temperature without boiling the contents of the beaker. “The flame doesn't get much higher then what I have it on now. It's less about providing heat and more about maintaining temperature.”

As he offered it to her Elisha took the container from Paul and looked it over. After a moment a slight chuckle escaped her. “I swear when Mathew told me about your new contraption I was expecting something so far beyond my understanding. This is pretty simple isn't it?”

“Yeah but not as simple as I had considered making it. At first I was just thinking of making the glass very thick.”

“Thinking about it? It looks like you did that to. Alistair come over here and fill the flask like Paul said.” As she spoke Elisha turned off the flame. “I hope you understand but even if the water is meant for you I can't let you leave here with the flask. I'll have one of my fastest couriers bring it to your study.”

“If you do that they're liable to beat me home!”

“I'll also see to it that you're given a ride home. I would like to talk to you for a bit however. I didn't call you up here just to see your new container after all.”

This was it. The closest he was ever going to get to the pool. The thought brought a slight sigh from Paul even as he turned to walk with Elisha. “Yes? What would you like to talk about?”

“I understand that you've been looking into the ancient ways and might have found something of interest. As you can imagine the Dranon family isn't the only ones who have an interest in this.”

“If you're about to ask me to share my research I'm afraid I can't do that. The Dranon family is my sponsor and thus all my findings are their property. You would need to speak with them.”

“I have and Mathew told me to speak with you. Tell me. This tea you've mentioned was believed to both enhance the powers of the pool but to also have lead to the deaths of many. Why have you revived it if your love for Elaine Dranon is so strong?”

For a moment Paul was silent but then nodded his head. “I can name three reasons. She's the one that wants to do this. The pool alone could kill her despite all her training and she believes the risk to be worth the reward. She's a Dranon after all.”

“That she is. Okay that's one reason.”

“They are eleven links in Elaine's chain. Whenever the tea was rejected there wasn't a single person that even had six links. She has also spent a young life time preparing for this day. In terms of conditioning and breeding Elaine is as prepared or more prepared then the best of the past.” Paul went silent whenever he heard Elisha chuckle once again and stopped for a moment.

“Oh don't stop! I agree. Now what's this third reason?”

“She has already done so much to acclimate herself to the tea. She didn't wait until it was only a week or the eve of her exaltation she began months ago.”

“Those are all good reasons. Now did you know that she's began spending extra time in the evenings swimming? She says that she must be able to get as far into the pool and as deep as she possibly can then still return to the edge. I've seen others in the past prepare themselves to swim to the center of the pool. It is after all commonly believed that the quicker you can reach the center the greater your gain. I have never seen someone planning to submerge themselves into the depths of the pool. Would this be your doing as well?”

For a moment Paul was silent then gave a nod. “I didn't know she was doing that but yes. I theorize that the effects of the pool are greater in its depths where the water is hotter then on the surface. My studies have backed up this finding.”

“Good now. Paul have you considered that these might have actually been practices in the past and the reason they were abandoned is no one could survive them?” By now they had reached the gate of conquerors which Elisha had opened.

“It terrifies me. At times I wake up in the night fearing that I've led the woman I love to her death. Despite my three good reasons.” Even as Paul spoke his mind turned towards the reasons he hadn't given for helping Elaine. Since she had began drinking her tea he had been using small samples of her tissue, something he detested taking from her, and blood to try to find out how her body would respond to the pool. What he had found was that as the amount of minerals from the tea increased in her skin the longer her tissue and blood samples would survive. This trend had continued with the increasing potency of the water. Unfortunately the water he was using to test his theory was nowhere near as potent as what was in the center of the pool. He needed a strong sample.

For a moment Elisha said nothing but pursed her lips together. “You'll make a good husband for my cousin. I'll do what I can to make sure she survives and perhaps while you're out there looking for a ways to raise her you'll find a few ways of insuring she stays up as well.” As she finished speaking Elisha gave Paul a gentle pat on the back. At least it was gentle for her. It sent Paul stumbling forward though that might have been due to his surprise.

“You're her cousin!”

 

*****

 

July 9th 679GR Morning

“What are you looking at?” As she spoke Elaine leaned over and pressed her shoulder against Paul to nudge him to the side a bit. Rather then setting across from one another the couple had taken to setting next to one another preferring the greater proximity to looking across the table. It also made it harder for them to hide things from one another. As she looked at Paul's plate though Elaine felt her jaw drop open. “Oh by the holy one! I thought we'd gotten rid of all those plates!”

“No. This plate is mine.” It was amazing how quickly Elaine could move. If Paul hadn't guessed at her next action she would have snatched up his plate before he could think. She probably would have succeeded anyway if she wasn't being careful not to harm him. He knew right away why Elaine didn't like the plate. Right near the edge one could plainly make out her thumb print. How she had missed that he didn't know. It was one of the metal plates she'd used before she had her medicine. That it only had one finger print was impressive. Either she had been very careful with it or it hadn't been used often. It was more likely it wasn't used often.

Elaine pursed her lips whenever Paul not only snatched up the plate but held it outside of her reach. Not that she couldn't simply stand up and take it from him but she wouldn't do that to her husband. “It's embarrassing though! I kept breaking everything I touched. You know you can't hold that plate like that for long.”

What Elaine said was true. The plate had been positively tiny to Elaine after her exaltation and her body had adapted but it was massive to Brian and quite heavy. Elaine had wanted to keep the ones that weren't damaged, which meant she didn't get around to using them, so that she could still feel like she had some dishware that had some weight to it. The added weight made it feel more natural in her hands. “Well then I guess I'll just go finish my breakfast in my workshop.”

“No! Don't do that. Can't we please get rid of that plate though? Just look at how much of it my thumb print covers.” As she spoke Elaine settled back into her seat and gave Paul the best doe eyes she could manage.

“The imprint is hardly there and I happen to like this plate. Your mark gives it personality and reminds me of what I'm working on. It also reminds me of you and that's always a good thing.” When Elaine smiled Paul knew that it was safe to set his plate down again. As he set it back down on the table he took a moment to look at his breakfast. “Plus it's big enough to trick me into thinking that I might actually be able to finish all of this. You remember that I'm not the one with the augmented digestive system right?”

For a moment Elaine said nothing but looked at her plate and then Paul's. After a moment she felt herself blush a bit. “Sorry I forgot the hand rule. I'll finish off what you don't eat.” While cooking Elaine had first filled up her plate and then given Paul a smaller portion. At times she forgot that her small portions were still too much for him. She was suppose to see if she could cover his serving with her hand while her fingers were spread. If she could it was probably enough. If she couldn't cover it with both hands finger spread it was too much. At the moment she doubted that she could cover Paul's serving with both hands and he had been eating on it for a little bit.

“That would be appreciated. Now I don't feel like I need to eat myself sick. So are you going to be resuming your training with Landon today?” Paul glanced to his side to see Elaine lightly shaking her head.

“No. I'm going to be meeting up with Trevor to continue learning the healing arts and my support abilities. I don't even believe Landon is injured anymore.  It's more like he's avoiding me.”

“Well you did break his both his arms and crack his ribs.” Paul had to repress a laugh when Elaine gave him a very annoyed look.

“It wasn't on purpose. He's my martial arts instructor. My body has changed. My center of balance has shifted. It's hard to judge how far I'm going to jump. The ground doesn't behave like it used to and it's harder for me to stop. I need someone to practice with. He's an exalted to anyway. He should be able to defend himself against my attacks.” Elaine gave a slight snort and shoved a spoonful of eggs into her mouth. Rather then chew she quickly swallowed relying on the remarkable strength of her inner muscles to force it down with ease before turning to face Paul completely. “Also my body developed more then my head did! It even grows faster then my head when my pills stop working. Even the biggest bite I can take does absolutely nothing to sate my hunger. Instead I end up shoveling mouthful after mouthful down like a starved wolf or a hog no matter how embarrassing it is.” Once again Elaine went silent. “I must look like a fat cow.”

“No! You look beautiful. Even when you're eating.”

“You don't mean that.” Elaine actually flashed a grin whenever she felt Paul's hand press against her thigh and he leaned forward.

“Yes I do.” Rather then remove his hand right away Paul took a moment to rub Elaine's leg. Even when she was relaxed he could swear he felt her legs positively pulsing with power. He held her gaze for several seconds before finally releasing her and returning to his food. “Your grandfather is going to be upset if Landon is skipping out on his duties. He isn't paid to hide from pain.”

“I don't believe it's the pain. I believe he's more scared that I'll accidentally kill him. Are you sure you can't make my medicine anymore effective?” As she spoke Elaine took another bite of her food. This time she held back choosing to savor her food rather then worry about how big of a bite she was taking.

Paul took a moment to finish chewing his food and swallow before answering. Unlike Elaine he couldn't just suck his food down. He had little doubt that she could have sucked down a t-bone steak bone and all. “I'm afraid not. You're receiving the optimum dosage now it's sort of like. Imagine that your larger body is a fluid that's flowing inside of you from several faucets. Your medicine effectively turns all those faucets off. Sure there may be some dripping but they're effectively off. Giving you more of it won't turn them to less then off.” Paul chose to leave out the part that he feared Elaine may develop a resistance to the medicine if she took it too freely as well.

“That dripping is when I stand up a little taller then when I set down right?”

“Yes but drips fade quickly. Okay I need to get cleaned up and get to work. I can't let you solve the problem all by yourself.”

“What! Hey hold on a minute I want to join you in the shower. Just give me a moment.” As she spoke Elaine lifted her plate and tilted it slightly.

“You don't.” Paul gave a slight sigh as he watched Elaine begin to effectively inhale her breakfast like he might drink down a glass of water after some hard work. He was going to tell her that she didn't need to rush but it was too late for that.

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