“Who’s a cute little fat glutton?” Tafel asked as she rubbed the phoenix’s belly as it drank beakful after beakful of steaming hot lava. “Yup. That’s right; it’s you.”
“Not fat,” the phoenix said after it finished drinking the ball of lava that was twice the size of its body. It wobbled a few times, trying to flap its wings to stay standing, but it fell backwards onto Tafel’s lap. “This is water weight.” It exhaled and let out a tiny burp. Its legs fluttered in the air as Tafel ruffled the feathers on its belly.
“Mm.” Tafel nodded. “Just water weight. Such a noble bird can’t be fat.” She smiled at it and tickled its neck with her finger. “Do you remember what you promised me?”
The bird cooed and squirmed under Tafel’s finger. “Yup. You want to see my momma.”
“And?” Tafel asked, running her fingers down to its belly.
The phoenix squirmed and laughed. “And I’ll only say good things about you,” it said with a nod.
“And…?” Tafel asked again with a smile. She squinted at the phoenix, causing it to fall still for a second.
“And I’ll ask her to make you my sister,” the phoenix said with a chirp.
“That’s right,” Tafel said and beamed. Fire and earth appeared in the air, mixing together by miniature vortexes. “Want more lava?”
“Yes, please!” the phoenix said, rolling onto its feet. It hopped up and down as the lava approached it.
“It’s going to explode if you keep feeding it like that,” Alice said from the side. Sweat poured down her face and body, soaking her clothes. She panted while resting her hands on her knees, her back hunched over as she struggled to regain her breath. The trees in the vicinity around her had hundreds of gouges that fit the edges of her shield perfectly.
“Will you?” Tafel asked the phoenix, tilting her head.
“Nope!” the phoenix chirped. The ball of lava lowered enough for it to dip its beak inside.
“See, it’ll be fine,” Tafel said to Alice. “And weren’t you chasing Mr. Skelly? Why’d you start training all of a sudden? Don’t tell me you really managed to kill him.”
“Hmm.” Alice scratched her head as her shield shrank. Her already flushed face burned as she pursed her lips. “There’s a temporary truce of sorts between us. And it’s much more interesting to watch someone manipulate a baby phoenix than to chase after a mole-like undead.”
The phoenix stopped drinking and looked at Tafel. “Are you manipulating me?” it asked and tilted its head to the side.
Tafel smiled at it and patted its head. “No, of course not,” she said. “Why would I manipulate a fellow as adorable as you? It’s impossible for a noble phoenix such as yourself to be manipulated.”
The phoenix blinked and nodded. “Okay,” it said and turned back to the lava while Alice rolled her eyes.
“How come it gets along so well with you?” Alice asked and sat down, pulling out a flask of water from her bag. She poured some water on her hair and shook her head, splashing the ground around her. “I heard phoenixes are pretty arrogant and unwilling to associate with people they deem unworthy.”
“Well, then I guess that means I’m worthy, doesn’t it?” Tafel asked and stuck her tongue out at Alice. “But really, it’s probably because my stepdaughter-in-law is a phoenix. I get along really well with her half-dragonboar daughter, Floofykins.”
Alice furrowed her brow. “Disregarding the fact your stepson married a phoenix,” she said. “How is a phoenix’s child half-dragon, half-boar? Shouldn’t it be part phoenix?”
“Eh, I guess I didn’t word that properly,” Tafel said and scratched her cheek. “Floofykins is half-phoenix and half-dragonboar.”
“…You’re not going to say she’s 150% Floofykins like Stella did when Vur couldn’t figure out math, right?” Alice asked.
“No! Vur’s son is a boar, Snuffles, but Snuffles was imprinted by Vur to become part dragon,” Tafel said. “So he’s a dragonboar, I guess.”
“Right,” Alice said. “Do you have any, uh, real children?”
“Hey. It’s not like Snuffles isn’t real,” Tafel said with a scowl.
“Alright,” Alice said and rolled her eyes. “Did you give birth to anything yet?”
“No!” Tafel said, her face turning red. “I’m still young! There’s still so many things I want to do before I get bogged down by children.”
“Like making a sword grow wings?” Alice asked, raising an eyebrow. “Speaking of which, where is it? I haven’t seen that weird sword of yours in a while.”
“Oh, yeah,” Tafel said. “I’m refining it right now with the tears of a hundred people in despair. At least, I think the elves are in despair. If they’re not and it doesn’t work, I’ll be pretty miffed. It took forever to make them all cry.” She tilted her head. “Huh, I guess commissioning someone to find fairy tears makes sense now.”
Alice stared at Tafel before shaking her head. “So you really think you’ll be able to talk your way out of this mess with the phoenix matriarch? I don’t think she’d be very forgiving considering the undead have probably captured nearly half the elven population.”
Tafel glanced at the phoenix in her lap, who had finished drinking the lava. Its eyes were closed, and its head was tucked under its wing. Well, it tried to tuck its head under its wing, but only about half of it was covered. Its body was too round. “I think it’ll be possible,” Tafel said with a nod. “I mean, even if it doesn’t work, I can teleport us out of danger. Ah, I wish Vur was here though. He might be able to subdue it.”
“Subdue the phoenix matriarch?” Alice asked. “I know Vur’s strong, but aren’t you thinking a bit too highly of him? Even the dragons chose to leave the phoenixes alone when they first came to the continent.”
Tafel shrugged. “Vur can do anything, even things he shouldn’t do,” she said. “I don’t think he was ever taught the meaning of impossible.”