Chapter 100 – Suspect

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The mood in class the next day was distinctly subdued. The news was now out about the vampire attacks, with the rumors putting the number of attacks anywhere from a half dozen up into the twenties.

To my knowledge, there had in fact been a half-dozen attacks when I went home the previous evening. I didn’t know if any more had occurred, but I was willing to bet the number wasn’t in the twenties. But, given I wasn’t entirely sure whether Jurmat was actually a vampire or something else, I couldn’t say what was possible any more.

The thing is, as I stood with my attendants and the rest of the commoners waiting for the magic studies class to begin, I heard a disturbing additional tidbit. Namely, that the attacks had only begun after a certain ducal daughter showed up.

Yep. They were whispering about me. It was kept at a volume where they were clearly trying to not be overheard by me, not knowing that both vampires and fairies have extremely acute hearing. But mixed into it was an additional tidbit. The faction who thought I was a succubus had now amended their belief and decided I was half-vampire, half-succubus.

What in heck is a half-vampire half succubus? I’m sorry if this sounds prejudiced, but mortals can really be superstitious idiots. A half-vampire, half-succubus isn’t even biologically possible.

Vampires must have a vampire mother. The female offspring of a succubus is one hundred percent of the time a succubus, so a daughter by a vampire couldn’t be a dhampir. A succubus can bear a male offspring of the father’s species if it is physically possible, or else they simply don’t bear a male offspring. Since vampires can’t have a non-vampire mother, vampire x succubus will, one hundred percent of the time, equal succubus. A dhampir must have a mortal mother, so a succubus can’t give birth to one of those, either.

The other way around? Exactly how, pray tell, is a vampire mother supposed to have the child of a succubus, an all-female species?

Incubus? That’s a demonic subspecies, unrelated to succubi. Relations with an incubus will either produce an incubus or nothing, provided the mother is mortal. They can’t breed with anyone else.

When it comes to Earth-style biological science, I have no idea how to explain Huade biology. I suspect one can’t. Just like Earth science wouldn’t accept beastkin man x human woman equals beastkin but human man x beastkin woman equals human.

I had to keep a straight face and ignore them. It would be worse for me if they knew I could listen in on their whispered conversations.

My worry that Magic Studies would be some sort of Hogwarts-style class where actual magic spells were taught did not come true, fortunately. It wouldn’t be practical, now that I think about it, because students would be all over the map in pre-existing skills, everyone would have different combinations of elemental affinities, and the majority would have insufficient potential in the first place. While magic isn’t rare in Orestanian society, it has limited scope. Powerful magic users like Ceria are not unusual among adventurers, but they are nowhere as common elsewhere.

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Frankly, in human society, magic skills work against somebody developing other marketable skills. It is too easy to gravitate into niches specific to simple mana production. Healers mostly become healing potion makers and healthcare workers. Persons with strong elemental mana will likely sell their mana by charging magic tools rather than go through the effort to learn how to cast spells. They’re also more likely to learn how to do saleable alchemy and potion-making than learn high-level magic. Only among certain species, the ones where everyone is a magic user, do you see magic pervasive in everyday life, like dwarves in their crafting halls, smithies and mines, or elves in their agriculture and artisanry.

So Magic Studies is just that, studying about magic, rather than learning how to actually do it. That knowledge is foundational to many professions, like engineering and medicine. And it is critical to the military. The royal academy is first and foremost a generator for military officers, and on Huade, a military officer doesn’t need to do magic, they need to understand how to lead the people under their command who do magic, and how to fight against enemies who use it.

To be frank, it’s a fscking boring class.

Especially if you’ve had royal tutors, elven uncles, fairy mothers and vampire instructors already pound it all into your head. Not to mention classes for squires, for all the reasons given above.

I stayed awake. That was my big accomplishment for the day. And I followed that act by staying awake in Military Science and Geography. Subjects I also already had beaten into my head in the Royal Knights. orz.

Lunch was a bit different. It started out very uncomfortably. The place literally went silent when I entered with my attendants.

Amelia frowned around at the room in general and beckoned me to her table. I had a wry smile by the time I arrived.

“Let me guess. They were talking about the vampire attacks.”

The princess scowled. “They were talking about you, Tiana.”

I nodded. “Of course. I’m the only vampire in the student body, so I’m probably the only suspect they can name.”

“And you’re okay with that?” Clara asked, looking a little surprised.

“Okay with it?” I mused on that for a bit, then admitted. “No. But I understand it. They have legitimate reasons.”

“But what is going on?” Erin asked, shaking her head. “Do vampires really need to drink blood that often?”

“If I don’t use any magic at all, I have to feed a little bit less than once a month. Maybe once in six weeks. And there are women who are willing to feed me, so I don’t need to attack people.”

“I was wondering about that. Why are they willing?” Clara asked.

I grew slightly red. “Well, there are women who… you can pay.”

“There are women who do that?” she wondered, leading both Amelia and Erin to giggle.

“Um… yes,” I admitted, not clarifying any further.

Clara frowned at the other two, wondering what was funny.

By the schedule, I should have sat with the tutors after lunch again, but Ged had already planned for the demon patrol to do a sweep of the grounds in the afternoon, supplementing the rounds now being done by soldiers from the garrison. Lady Chiara knew in advance this time and was available to escort me to the commandery, so I had Cord escort the maids to their classes.

When we arrived, the looks I received were mixed. Nandi looked annoyed at some of the others, and I suspected she had been defending me.

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Ged wasn’t present, but we already had our instructions. We split up into the same teams and headed out.

Just as we reached our patrol route, though, I heard something like a chime in my ear, causing me to jump. Nandi gave a mild smile and pointed at the ring on her finger, although I already knew it at that point. It’s just disconcerting.

Ged’s voice spoke in my ear courtesy of the magic tool I was wearing on my finger. “Nandi and Tiana, please return to the commandery.”

# # #

Ged told me to wait in his office. As she now lacked a partner, he sent Nandi to join her Elective period class.

While I sat there, I noticed a faint sensation, like a breeze passing through. It was subtle, but not able to hide from my fairy senses. I wasn’t sure what the spell was, exactly, but it felt similar to a [Detect Presence].

A short while later, the door rattled. I turned to see Ged opening the door for Niaela of Erna, the headmaster of the school. The ancient elven woman surveyed me with a calculating sweep of her eyes as I quickly stood and curtseyed.

“Cvedhiur til dhyn,” I declared as I dipped.

Her eyes narrowed, but she returned a nod– ladies of advanced age aren’t expected to curtsey– and answered, “Onh til dhyn, Frue Tiana.”

I thought greeting her in Elvish would ease up her cold glare a bit, but I saw no sign of it. Ged seated her while I settled back into my chair.

“I’ll be blunt, My Lady,” she stated. “We’ve now had ten vampiric attacks on school property, and they began after you set foot on our campus. Considerable suspicion has fallen upon you amongst the faculty.”

Ged looked like he was clenching his jaw. I tried my best to remain unbothered.

“That is natural, Headmaster,” I told her. “Although if you can supply the times of the attacks, I’m quite confident my presence can be accounted for.”

“By your own staff at your house?” she supplied, looking unimpressed. “A vampire using her dark arts on her defenseless servants to force them to supply her an alibi?”

Anger flared immediately in both my heart and Ged’s eyes. While I was forcefully clamping my mouth shut to avoid saying something unladylike in return, Ged inquired with a stiff voice, “Lady Niaela, are you making that accusation?”

The venom in his voice was not disguised in the least. But the ancient elve showed no contrition. She simply gave a dry reply.

“I am not. But that is what her accusers claim, Your Highness. They have suggested she used her powers to confuse your squad member yesterday as well.”

I looked at Ged with a worried frown. He had dropped his head and pursed his lips.

Niaela continued, “And while I do not yet make that accusation myself, I have very little cause to reject the idea. Her father was Lord Egon, a devilish and powerful vampire. Her birth mother is the fairy Deharè. She’s the offspring of two monsters who have stalked our land for centuries.”

“My mother is not a monster!” I retorted, now pissed, but she still showed no remorse at all for her words.

“Not biologically, no, but she has done as she pleased in our kingdom for many centuries, unrestrained and unchallengeable. Not even other fairies can oppose her. The only reason she doesn’t have a dark name among the people in the manner of your father is that she chooses mostly to do positive things. Such as eliminating the filth that begat you.”

Well, she was rude, but she hadn’t said anything I could disagree with.

I figured out a long time ago that Mother considers Orestania her personal playground. Her current work as Duchess of Pendor is the latest manifestation of a game she’s pursued for centuries, a hobby of meddling with this land. Her affair with Owen probably started as just another whimsy too.

“So I take it you don’t trust her?” I asked.

“I trust her, to a certain degree. She has made some mischief in her time, but nothing malevolent, and in recent years she has done many good things for Orestania. I know that it’s her that has been keeping her father and other fairies in check for us in recent centuries, as well. Before she began doing so, your grandfather and his kind visited many misfortunes on these lands. If you know your history, you know his amusements were large contributors to the collapse of the old empire. But I do view her influence over our King as fraught with danger.”

I then realized that Niaela had begun discussing ‘Lady Sasara’ and ‘Deharè’ as the same woman and looked over at Ged with concern. “Umm…”

“It’s okay, Tiana,” he said with his mild smile, “Father filled me in on the secret a long time ago.”

That surprised me. “Including the grandfather she just mentioned?”

The smile spread slightly, “Shall I start calling you ‘Your Highness’?”

“Please don’t,” I said with a wince, drawing a chuckle from him.

Did Rod and Amelia also know? I wanted to ask, but there was a more important issue on the table.

I looked back at the headmaster. “How do I prove to you that it isn’t me? You won’t believe any witness I provide.”

“Divination can’t prove a negative, and vampiric attacks do not leave evidence identifiable to a specific vampire,” she answered, “So I am going to do you a favor, something that will provide any accuser with irrefutable proof that the next attack was not perpetrated by you.”

“What is that favor?”

“I’m going to lock you up.”

- my thoughts:

This time, I didn't actually create another language. 'Elvish' is just a self-invented spelling system for an existing RL language. Those familiar with the real language can probably identify it in a heartbeat, even from the short exchange I put here.

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