"Are you ready for this?"
"Yes, I think so."
"You can't just think so. You need to be sure. This will be the most important piece you've ever done. In fact, it will probably be the most important thing you will ever do in your life."
"Gee, that's no pressure at all," Dragon said sarcastically. Philesia ignored him however, and double checked her makeup in the mirror.
"I just want you to get it right, that's all. It's quite possible that both of our careers depend upon this moment." Philesia blinked her one huge eye and picked off an abnormally long eyelash that had gone askew.
"Both our careers?" Dragon repeated, humoring her.
Philesia sent him a condescending glance before returning to her reflection. "Yours as an artist, and mine as model. If this comes out badly, people may think that I'm not fit for the profession."
"I thought you wanted to be an actress?"
"Oh, I don't mind being both," Philesia said casually. "Wherever my calling lies, I'm sure it will be fabulous." Finally satisfied with her already flawless appearance, the mutant Aisha turned to her white Aisha brother.
"I'm thinking of wearing my Asparagus scarf. It's both cute and unusual, and since I'm a mutant, I think it fits the theme well. Plus the green compliments my fur nicely." Philesia held the scarf against her arm, as if proving her point.
"I like your regular collar better. The red and gold makes a nice contrast to your mostly blue and pink hues," Dragon told her honestly. His paw flicked towards the tubes of paint, ready to be used, but he waited patiently for his sister's decision.
"Oh, Dragon, don't be such a bore! Everyone will be expecting me to be wearing my Aisha collar. It's become such a trademark of our species; it's almost tacky! About as popular as a Bruce's bow!" But Philesia was not one to throw away compliments, and she examined the bright and shining Aisha collar in the mirror, considering. "Perhaps I could wear both.... Oh, but what am I thinking? Of course I can't. I want little accents of collar, not one big blobby mess. Besides, the scarf would cover up my collar if I tried to wear both. I'll go with my instinct – I'll wear the scarf."
One of her mutated ears licked its lips in approval of this decision, sneakily snaking its way down to Philesia's neck and hoping for a taste of the edible apparel. Philesia chastened it with a small swat and her ear resigned to the top of her head.
Dragon wandered over to the window and tugged the curtains open, letting in the glorious mid-morning sunlight. A beam fell across the room, highlighting the colors and making them much more magnificent. The light was a bit too harsh, though, throwing dramatic shadows across the surfaces, and Dragon made to close the blinds.
"No, leave it," Philesia said. "It's all about being unexpected, brilliant, terrifying. This picture doesn't need to be just beautiful. If I want to win the Beauty Contest, it needs to be fabubeast."
"Fabubeast?" Dragon repeated, dumbfounded.
"Yes, fabubeast, a combination of fabulous and beastly. I wouldn't expect you to be familiar with the term, but basically, it's beauty with an unexpected, dramatic, slightly horrifying twist. Fabubeast."
"All right then," Dragon sniggered. Philesia gave him another significant glance but otherwise ignored his rudeness.
"May I draw now?" he asked her hopefully. He had agreed to draw Philesia's next entry in the Beauty Contest not only to pacify her, but also to test his artistic skills. He was curious to see how the public would react to his style. Dragon's talent was art, and he loved it more than anything else.
"Not yet," Philesia chided in a sing-song voice. Her eye swept over the room while her ears yawned lazily. Dragon's mind was already developing artistic ideas, and Philesia certainly did look exotic in the harsh sunlight with her Asparagus scarf.
"The pose!" she said suddenly, startling both her ears and clapping her hands together. "Perhaps a pout?" She wondered out loud, casting her mouth in a slight frown and looking up through her eyelashes. "Hmm... no. Too many pets are pouting these days." She tried on a cheery, girly smile next, but rejected it much more quickly. "It clashes with our fabubeast look."
"I've got an idea," Dragon said. "Sit facing the window with your back to me, and your head turned so that I can see your face. Stare out of the window as if you're contemplating something. Yes... yes, just like that," he said excitedly, for once Philesia had taken his advice without a snarky comment.
"I think this will work," Philesia said, straining to see the mirror from her vantage point. "If I look contemplative... yes, people will wonder what I'm thinking about. Am I pondering my epidemic as a mutant? Plagued by stereotypes of monsters and lab-ray accidents? Abandoned by some owner who no longer cares for their horrific pet? Or perhaps my thoughts are happier: I'm looking forward to my owner coming home. I'm thankful for the beautiful coat I've been giving. Yes, this will definitely intrigue our audience and attract many adoring fans."
Dragon was barely listening to her; he had his easel set up and was sketching an outline in pencil; her pose was so perfect that he wanted to get it down on paper in case she broke it. Philesia proved to be an extraordinary model, however; she only insisted on moving once.
"Just let me see, Dragon," she pleaded. "I want to make sure you're doing it correctly."
"You have to trust me on this," he argued, still adding finishing touches to the sketch. "You're doing your job; let me do mine."
He relented, though, after several more minutes of bickering, and brought the sketch over to Philesia. She studied for a few moments, as though determined to find a critical flaw, but eventually let him continue with just one comment:
"Make sure you make my whiskers and tail extra fluffy. People don't expect fluffy mutants; they always look for scalely, mangy, patchy creatures. Remember: fabubeast!"
Finally satisfied with his outline, Dragon poured the different paint he was planning on using and mixed the colours, trying to match perfect shades of blue-green and pale-pink. He applied the colours onto the paper as carefully as if the paper were made of eggshells, ready to fall apart at any moment. Philesia's ears grew more and more bored, but Philesia herself remained perfectly still.
Dragon wanted to finish before the sun got any further in the sky and threw the shadows off; he shaded in several parts and added finishing touches; the sparkle in Philesia's eye, the gleam on the teeth of her ears, the curls found in the fur on her tail.
Finally, he could find nothing else to fix or add; he stepped back and admired his handiwork.
"Are you done at last?" Philesia said, a note of annoyance in her voice that barely covered up her enthusiasm and excitement. She wandered over to stand behind Dragon and look at the piece of art.
"Well, it's only natural that it would be beautiful," Philesia said with airy relief. "I mean, I am the subject of the painting; it would be impossible for it to not turn out perfectly."
"It's not just beautiful," Dragon replied, smiling. "It's fabubeast."