" Beautiful." Ikaris blurted out honestly, making Ellie smile up to her ears. But the next thing he asked made her blush with shame. "By the way... what was all that moaning?"
"Cough, yeah... Right... We were wondering the same thing..." Kellam cleared his throat in embarrassment.
Ellie stole several nervous glances at the Arch Imp walking out of the room after her and muttered bashfully,
The knowing glances from the males in the room made her face heat up so much one could have cooked an egg on it. It was obvious they didn't believe her, given their skeptical looks.
Fortunately, Glenrow, the man responsible for her predicament, came to the young woman's rescue. Winking at Ellie, he chimed in,
"She was so stiff I had to give her a quick massage to loosen her up a bit. Otherwise, I can't do my job properly. My duty is to reveal the inner beauty of my clients, to match their personality with their clothing style."
"Aaaand what kind of massage was that?" Nardor grunted disdainfully.
"Hmm? A grumpy dwarf?" Glenrow muttered aloud, prodding the swelling of a throbbing vein across Nardor's forehead. "Maybe you need one of those massages yourself..."
"Hmmph! I'd rather die than utter such humiliating moans!" The dwarf bellowed before looking awkwardly at Ellie. "No offense."
"None taken..." Ellie just wanted to disappear far from their boring stares.
"Then why don't you be next?" Glenrow suggested invitingly with a laugh.
"Hmmph, fine! Bring it on!" Nardor took up the challenge fearlessly.
The Arch Imp and the angry dwarf entered the other room and the door slammed shut behind them. Ikaris and the rest of his group were curious, but Asselin and his companions were gloating inside.
'I've been through this awkward situation too! That dwarf doesn't know what's coming.' The blond boy sneered to himself.
And indeed, after a short silence, implausible moans that Ikaris would never have thought would one day be emitted by the vocal cords of an old dwarf resounded from inside the other room, giving them goosebumps.
" Ahmm... I'm not sure I want to go into that room." Taguchi cringed as he took a few steps back.
No one made fun of him. They were of the same mind. Ikaris instead glared at Asselin in search of an explanation. The whole thing looked like a huge prank, although Ellie's final outfit was worth it.
Sensing the boy's animosity that was no longer puny at all, Asselin immediately held up his hands to profess his innocence.
"I swear I have no bad intentions in bringing you here. This Arch Imp may be a bit of a...tease but he's not a bad guy. You won't find custom clothing of this quality for cheaper anywhere else in Tartarus Shade. I swear it upon my Stele and my honor as a Lord."
Ikaris snorted, but the fact that he didn't push the questioning signaled that he believed him. A few minutes later, the door leading to the other room opened and the dwarf stepped out with a rosy face.
He was clearly embarrassed and did not dare to meet their eyes, but it was clear to all that he was in a great mood. It was hard to believe that this was the same "grumpy dwarf" mentioned by Glenrow a moment earlier.
His new look fitted him, perfectly representing the image of the wise and powerful dwarf that Nardor wanted to embody. He wore a dark green brocade doublet, a leather belt, black pants and thick leather boots. A cloak of an even darker green than his doublet draped his shoulders, giving him the presence of one of those rich lords. His battle axe was too cumbersome a weapon, but Glenrow had provided him with an elegant guitar-like shoulder holster to store it. Like Ellie, his hair had been combed back and his beard had been trimmed, braided and oiled.
"So... How do you feel, Nardor?" Kellam asked apprehensively.
Knowing full well what the Dwilde really wanted to know, the dwarf brushed off his embarrassment and answered coyly,
"Not too bad."
It was then Taguchi's turn, then Kellam's, Danchun and Malia's to get a makeover. Each time they would emerge refreshed and elated with their new looks, but the annoying moans always went hand in hand with this "rebirth".
Taguchi and Kellam now looked like rich, but humble aristocrats, which was in keeping with their personalities that did not like to be the center of attention. The former had a preference for blue, the latter for gray, but the result was impeccable in both cases.
Danchun had settled on a long-sleeved, white silk scholar gown embroidered with silver that typically matched the image Ikaris had of a revered cultivator. Her mobility was unhindered and she could still fight to her full potential if the situation called for it. Her long black hair hung loosely behind her back, her minimalist makeup highlighting the flawlessness of her features but unlike Malia and Ellie she came off more classy and aloof than sexy.
Malia, to Ikaris's great relief, had only let out one tiny startled moan and then nothing. She had swapped her sundress exhibiting her luscious legs for black boots with red laces, tight black leather pants, a crimson red shirt long enough that it could have served as a short dress but tightened around her slim waist with a black leather belt. She was wearing one of those high-collared cloaks that fit perfectly to the stereotypes of those mythical Vampires inspired by the myth of Dracula. Glenrow had also fixed her hair, applied makeup and polished her nails, a first in her short life.
Now, Malia really did look like an inspiring true Vampire, but her Kitsune charm had been openly revealed to the world as evidenced by the bushy orange tail about two meters long flapping out from beneath her coat on its own.
"T-this tail..." Ellie couldn't help but pounce on her friend to stroke it as she spotted the fluffy appendage.
Ikaris and Kellam who had seen her in her beast form before were not too fazed, but it was also the first time for them to see her in this humanoid form. There was now no doubt about her hybrid ancestry.
"What made you change your mind?" The youth asked softly, also noticing that her ears were also a bit more pointy and covered with a fine orange fuzz.
"Glenrow convinced me that it would be to my advantage as a Dhampir Kitsune not to repress the traits of both my lineages." She murmured with a wry smile. "It is the combined charm of my two bloodlines that is my strong point, not my fighting strength."
"Glenrow... is not wrong. He knows his stuff." Ikaris nodded as he held back from touching her ears. She was already getting self-conscious with Ellie's petting of her tail.
The Arch Imp came out of the room at this time and having overheard their discussion he said,
"I know it can be embarrassing to flaunt your differences, especially when you want to be accepted or avoid attracting unwanted attention, but with your status and where you are going, trust me. The more original and eye-catching you are, the more respect you will get. First impressions can do wonders. There are a few Vampires in the Warring Lands but Kitsunes are rare. What is rare is precious and it is not the racism, discrimination and rejection of a few dim-witted retards that will change that fact."
Malia nodded with a thoughtful expression and it was finally Ikaris' turn to enter the mysterious room. When the door closed behind him, he felt as if he was entrapped in the lair of a terrifying predator, but when he turned around he found only Glenrow's benevolent grin.
"Relax. I know what you're thinking, but I've never done anything inappropriate with my customers. Just a few tricks I used to put my clients at ease. The evocative moans are just an unintended consequence but to this day no one has ever held it against me."
Ikaris opened his mouth but could not think of anything to retort. Glenrow went to work and very professionally began to take all sorts of measurements. The boy wondered what had made the others moan, for even when the Arch Imp pressed a few knotted nerves and muscles he felt only a pleasant sensation, but nothing so extreme as to make him moan.
Suddenly he realized why Malia had only moaned once and nothing more. Her charm was her strong point and whatever methods Glenrow was using had a limited effect on someone with his Soul Strength.
"Hmm? How high is your Soul Strength if you don't mind?" The Arch Imp frowned, impressed with the teen's stoic attitude. "I can see that you are also a Vampire, but you also have traits from other races. Your lineage must be pretty damn complicated."
When Ikaris kept his lips zipped, Glenrow didn't insist and chuckled,
"You obviously don't have to answer. It was just a question out of curiosity. Back to the topic, you are the Lord of these guys, right? Your appearance must absolutely reflect your ambition and power without appearing unduly intimidating, frightening or hostile. A kingly, approachable, charming, yet respectful presence is what we're looking for. Luckily, your physique is very close to perfection so it will be extremely easy to achieve this goal. I'm afraid that even these rags are not enough to contain your charisma. I'm pretty sure that many female Lords would want to marry you even if you were a slave or they would at least try to make you one of their fucktoys.
Not knowing how to take these words, Ikaris replied casually after a fleeting moment of hesitation,
Fifteen minutes later, he returned from the room also restyled.
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