Trying to keep himself from getting tangled in the Black Cloaked Envoy's hair doesn't really make it not happen. By the time the Black Cloaked Envoy is lifting him out, his tail has somehow managed to wind itself into his hair anyway. Zhao Yunlan swears that that thing has a life of its own.
This time the Black Cloaked Envoy pushes his hood down, probably because there's no one else around. Zhao Yunlan blinks at the sunlight and looks up at the bright sky from between the Black Cloaked Envoy's hair. He has no idea where they are.
"Stay still," the Black Cloaked Envoy admonishes gently, reaching up to untangle Zhao Yunlan again. It's only then that Zhao Yunlan realises that he's curling his tail, managing to get it more tangled in all the hair.
He chirps apologetically and does his best to stay still.
"It's alright," the Black Cloaked Envoy assures him. "The more time you spend as a dragon the easier it will be to control your body," he says while deftly unwinding Zhao Yunlan from his hair and lifting him away.
Zhao Yunlan nuzzles at the Black Cloaked Envoy's hand and gets a few gentle pets in return. He immediately feels his whole body relaxing under the Black Cloaked Envoy's fingers. Before Zhao Yunlan can start purring, the Black Cloaked Envoy stops.
"Do you want to change?" he asks.
Zhao Yunlan tilts his head, looking up at him as he thinks about it for a moment. He wouldn't mind staying like this and getting petted, but maybe that's not what he's supposed to be doing. He chirps an agreement to the Black Cloaked Envoy's question, echoing the sound with a brief nod of his head. He really does want to be able to talk before they do anything else. Whatever they're actually here for.
The Black Cloaked Envoy crouches down, settling Zhao Yunlan down on the ground. Then he just stays there and waits. It only takes Zhao Yunlan a moment before he's crouched on the ground in front of the Black Cloaked Envoy, all human-shaped again. He braces himself with one hand on the ground and smiles at the Black Cloaked Envoy.
For a moment the Black Cloaked Envoy smiles back, before quickly straightening up. Zhao Yunlan follows him, standing up, absently rubbing his hands against his trousers as he looks at the Black Cloaked Envoy. His hood is still down and he looks so much softer like this; long hair falling down his back, braids keeping it away from his face, slightly messy from having a dragon stuck in it earlier. The mask still hides most of his expression, but there's still a slightly softer turn to his lips, even though the smile is already gone.
"You should smile more," Zhao Yunlan says before he can quite think better of it.
The words make the Black Cloaked Envoy's jaw stiffen, and he turns away slightly, his hand lifting towards his hood.
"Ah, just ignore me," Zhao Yunlan says quickly. "So, where are we?" he asks, looking around. They're in a clearing surrounded by trees, different flowers growing around the clearing. It's really quite pretty.
From the corner of his eye, he sees the Black Cloaked Envoy lowering his hand. The hood stays down. Zhao Yunlan bites back a smile and doesn't turn to look at him.
"These are Flower Yashou grounds," the Black Cloaked Envoy says. "No one will disturb us here."
"Oh," Zhao Yunlan says, looking around a bit more curiously. He supposes it explains the flowers, but other than that there's nothing to set the place apart from any other random bit of forest. "And the Flower Tribe doesn't mind us being here?" he asks.
"No, they don't mind," the Black Cloaked Envoy answers. He sounds very sure about it, and who's Zhao Yunlan to question the Black Cloaked Envoy?
"Did you take me here for dragon lessons? Or did you just want me all alone?" Zhao Yunlan asks and just about manages not to make it sound too suggestive at the last moment. He turns to look at the Black Cloaked Envoy and smiles. "But I suppose if you just wanted to talk to me, we could have used my office."
It's still strange to see the Black Cloaked Envoy with his hood down, the mask might hide his face, but now he can see the way his ears have turned just a bit red. Zhao Yunlan wants to grin but somehow manages not to. He's trying to hold back on the teasing, and not make the Black Cloaked Envoy too uncomfortable. Zhao Yunlan has the sudden urge to walk over and straighten out his hair, it's his fault it's gotten tangled anyway.
"I thought we should get started on having you not fall to the ground as soon as possible," the Black Cloaked Envoy says, just a tiny bit pointedly. Yes, well, Zhao Yunlan can't really argue with that. He hasn't enjoyed that part of things either. "I fear flying for any length might be beyond you for a while yet, but perhaps a somewhat controlled descent is achievable for now," the Black Cloaked Envoy tells him primly.
Okay, someone definitely hasn't liked Zhao Yunlan almost falling to the ground. By the way he sounds, the Black Cloaked Envoy might have liked it even less than Zhao Yunlan, if that's even possible.
"Sounds good," Zhao Yunlan agrees. It does too. He'd very much like to learn how to actually fly, but he'll take 'not plummeting to the ground' if that's all he can get. "So, what do you need me to do?" he asks, a bit of excitement slipping into his voice.
The Black Cloaked Envoy smiles at him, and Zhao Yunlan's insides might just feel a bit tingly at that. Or maybe it's just the overall excitement. But the Black Cloaked Envoy does have a very nice smile.
"I'll show you what to do first," the Black Cloaked Envoy says, and for a moment Zhao Yunlan could swear he seems just as excited.
"Okay, sure," Zhao Yunlan agrees immediately even if he still has no clue what the Black Cloaked Envoy wants him to do.
"You should shift into your dragon form," the Black Cloaked Envoy prompts.
"Yeah, of course," Zhao Yunlan agrees and then looks at the Black Cloaked Envoy. "Maybe you could just… move a bit closer? In case I—" He lifts a hand in the air and attempts to mime falling. It makes the Black Cloaked Envoy's smile disappear, and Zhao Yunlan immediately regrets saying anything. But he doesn't really want to try falling again. He's pretty sure eventually he'd learn to fly just trying to avoid that, but he'd prefer any other way. He's not too keen on finding out what happens when a very small dragon body gets rapidly introduced to the ground.
But the Black Cloaked Envoy does come closer. Zhao Yunlan's body sways towards him like it has a mind of its own. He hesitates for a moment before actually reaching out, his fingers brushing lightly against the Black Cloaked Envoy's hair.
"Sorry for messing up your hair," he says. The Black Cloaked Envoy has grown very stiff again, but he's not stepping away. Zhao Yunlan tries to act like he didn't notice and brushes his fingers through the long, silky hair, straightening it out as best he can. "There, that's better," he says brightly, pulling his hand away. His smile feels a tiny bit forced, his heart beating hard and fast in his chest.
He's not quite sure why he's so affected by the Black Cloaked Envoy.
"Thank you," the Black Cloaked Envoy says, retreating back to that solemn Black Cloaked Envoy tone of before. He really just doesn't know how to react, does he?
Zhao Yunlan's smile softens to something more real. He resists the urge to reach out again. "Ah, it was my fault anyway." He rubs his forearm with one hand, keeping his hands from doing anything he doesn't mean to do. "Right, I was going to change," he says, a bit awkwardly.
Then, before he manages to make things more weird, he does just that. He's barely even in his other shape before the Black Cloaked Envoy's hands are already cradling him gently, so quick that Zhao Yunlan doesn't even get that lurching feeling of almost falling in the pit of his belly.
He chirps quietly and butts his head against the Black Cloaked Envoy's fingers in thanks. He scratches Zhao Yunlan obligingly, his fingers finding the underside of Zhao Yunlan's jaw. Zhao Yunlan trills happily, a small purr stuttering in his chest.
But before Zhao Yunlan can get too comfortable, the Black Cloaked Envoy lifts him up higher. Zhao Yunlan chirps in confusion as he's suddenly set down on the Black Cloaked Envoy's head. He squeaks in something a whole lot closer to panic when the Black Cloaked Envoy's hands pull away, leaving him there with no support while he really, really, tries to not have his talons grasp at the Black Cloaked Envoy's scalp.
"Don't worry. I won't let you fall," the Black Cloaked Envoy says soothingly.
Zhao Yunlan knows that. That is not what he's worried about!
Keep your feet relaxed! He tells himself very firmly. No clenching his talons.
His tail tenses instead, and then curls up around him as he tries to keep himself still. He glares at it, just as the Black Cloaked Envoy's hand comes back and steadies him a bit.
Zhao Yunlan chirps and then has to tell himself that he's also not going to bite the Black Cloaked Envoy's finger just to keep his hand there. It would kind of defeat the purpose of not trying to sink his talons into the man. Instead, he flattens himself down on top of his head. He's more stable like that anyway.
It's too late to tell the Black Cloaked Envoy that he should explain what they're doing before doing it.
And then Zhao Yunlan can feel the Black Cloaked Envoy changing. Not just because he's stuck on top of his head, and there are some very obvious changes happening. There's something inside Zhao Yunlan that can feel it, just like when the Black Cloaked Envoy had first shown him what to do.
This time, the Black Cloaked Envoy doesn't turn into a tiny dragon. Nope. That is a very big dragon under him, Zhao Yunlan thinks. Or maybe that's just the fact that Zhao Yunlan is very, very small.
He ends up nestled in the Black Cloaked Envoy's soft mane, between two horns curving back elegantly. This was definitely not what Zhao Yunlan was expecting.
He cranes his long neck, trying to lift his head while keeping the rest of his body lying flat. His unruly tail tries to get in on the effort too, but he stubbornly tells it to stay where it is.
"Are you alright, Zhao Yunlan?" the Black Cloaked Envoy asks. His voice sounds so much bigger too, but still definitely entirely like the Black Cloaked Envoy.
Zhao Yunlan takes a moment to take stock of things. Now that he's over the surprise, he's fine. He cranes his neck a bit higher, looking out over the forest from atop the Black Cloaked Envoy's head, his body for once doing what he wants it to.
He trills with excitement, the realisation of what the Black Cloaked Envoy is planning finally hitting him. There's a slow rumble from the Black Cloaked Envoy, Zhao Yunlan can feel it under him, vibrating through his tiny body. It takes another moment before he realises that the Black Cloaked Envoy is laughing.
He chirps indignantly. It's not his fault that the thought of actually flying is exciting!
The Black Cloaked Envoy's laughter cuts off and Zhao Yunlan almost regrets saying anything—well, chirping anything. He pokes his muzzle at the Black Cloaked Envoy, trilling softly. He wonders if the Black Cloaked Envoy can even feel it.
The Black Cloaked Envoy rumbles softly back. Well, good, Zhao Yunlan thinks.
"Are you comfortable?" the Black Cloaked Envoy asks.
Zhao Yunlan takes a moment to nuzzle his head back down into the Black Cloaked Envoy's mane, wriggling around long enough that he manages to part his mane so that Zhao Yunlan can still see. He can hear the Black Cloaked Envoy huff under him, and wonders if it… tickles or something. When he's finally satisfied, Zhao Yunlan gives out a firm chirp.
"Are you sure?" the Black Cloaked Envoy asks, sounding mildly amused. Of course he'd take advantage of Zhao Yunlan not being able to speak and start teasing him now.
Zhao Yunlan huffs, and then chirps again, a bit more insistently.
"Very well. I'll try to do things slowly, so just… see if you can feel what I'm doing? We can try again as many times as you need," the Black Cloaked Envoy says, like he has absolutely nothing better to do than spend his whole day trying to teach Zhao Yunlan how not to go splat against the ground.
Zhao Yunlan nods automatically, before realising that the Black Cloaked Envoy definitely can't see him, and then makes a small chirp of confirmation instead. And then… he can actually feel it—well, something at least, like a pressure against his scales.
He stares out at the forest, the trees slowly falling out of view as they rise up higher.
Zhao Yunlan can't help the excited trill that comes out of him. They're flying!