80 Inner Change
The next morning, Zoey took some time after waking up to inspect herself to see what changes had taken place after she had found the Dark Star Shard in the dungeon. Ever since she had attained the Dark Star Shard, her body had seemed more responsive and reactive than before. Her senses had improved and her control of her body had been improved as well. Closing her eyes, Zoey entered in to her inner world to see if anything had changed there. She also was a little worried about Viridi. She had not heard anything from her friend since Viridi had somehow entered into her inner world a few days ago.
The moment she opened her eyes in her inner world, Zoey was greeted by a sight that shocked her. Her essence lake had previously been floating in a sphere of space that had a clear boundary. Zoey had been unable to see beyond the boundary before, as it only extended as far as her essence lake had and formed a sphere that encapsulated her inner world. However, now she could see beyond the boundary. In fact, her entire inner world seemed to have completely transformed!
Her essence lake was still the same size, but it was now encircled by a sandy shoreline where Zoey now stood. Around her she could see green, grassy fields stretching out to the horizon in every direction. Above her where there had been only the ceiling of the sphere was now a vast night sky filled with stars and tinged with a brilliant aurora that gleamed with fantastic colors. These colors reflected off the lake and created a magnificent collage of light that danced on the ripples of the lake. The young tree in the center of the lake now sat on a small island that was also covered in soft grass, and for some reason, Zoey felt that something about the tree was different.
Still slightly stunned by the changes that had occurred, she slowly floated herself across the lake to the island while she let herself take in the amazing beauty on display. She then realized something odd on the ground next to the tree. It took her a moment to realize that she was looking at Viridi! As Zoey stepped onto the island, Viridi woke up from her slumber and looked around to see what had disturbed her peace. Zoey realized that Viridi had gone through some significant changes herself while she was in here. For starters, she was considerably bigger than before! As Zoey approached, Viridi got up to greet her happily giving Zoey a good look at her new form.
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Once standing on all fours, Viridi's height at her shoulders reached up to Zoey's chest, and her head was almost higher than Zoey's! That alone was a considerable change, but there was more. Her appearance now was a strange combination of panther and draconic features that gave her a striking silhouette. The small bone ridge that had been on her head before had developed into a dorsal ridge of bone-like spines that stretched from just above her nose, along her back to the end of her tail. The spines were slanted back at an angle and enhanced her look of a fierce predator. Her tail was thicker and more robust than a cat's would be, leaning more towards the draconic influence, and the end of it was shaped into a wicked looking spear.
Viridi's paws seemed to had retained most of their panther look, but Zoey could tell the claws that were hidden there were considerably more dangerous than they normally would be. Viridi's teeth were also considerably reinforced and her lower jawline was protected by a ridge of hardened bone, giving her head an aggressive look.
The one thing that Zoey noticed was that Viridi's wings were missing, so she sent a question to Viridi asking what had happened to them. In response, Viridi blinked her eyes, and then smoke started billowing out of the fur on her back! A moment later the black smoke solidified into a pair of magnificent wings that stretched out wide from Viridi's back. Zoey could not help but marvel at the massive wingspan and powerful muscles that controlled the wings as they brushed the air. The wing's leading edges were a gleaming, serrated blade that promised a gruesome end for anyone caught in their way, and the overall profile and design clearly was drawing from the draconic influence as well.
Despite the huge change to her friend's physical form, Zoey could still feel the powerful link that connected their souls to one another. Viridi's emerald eyes still held absolute trust and love for Zoey, and that would never change. Zoey found herself wrapping her arms around Viridi's powerful neck in a warm embrace. It had only been a few days, but she had missed her friend.
Once the two had greeted each other, Zoey continued to look around while Viridi sat and watched her curiously. The tree was the only feature on the island, and it had not changed at all since she had ranked up. Zoey had expected that the Dark Star Shard would have influenced the tree in some way, but there appeared to be no change in the crystalline structure of the tree despite the feeling Zoey had that something about it was different.
Zoey spent some time looking around before leaving her inner world. She would know soon enough what the changes in her inner world meant. For now, she could only go with the flow.