Chapter 102 – Prison Cell

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I sat watching Genette on her knees, leaning over a large wooden tub with her hands in the water within.

Genette is not a trained mage, but she has strong Fire affinity and can warm water as long as she is patient. Basically, she does a raw release of Fire mana to boil the water near her hands. It doesn’t scald her because the water mixes with the cooler water around it. Of course, she has to stop once the water does start reaching uncomfortable temperatures. She can’t boil the water in a teapot like Allia, because she has to use direct contact. The pot gets too hot to touch long before the water boils.

While she doesn’t have the magic capacity to do enough water for a proper hot bath, she can manage enough for a sitting bath such as she planned to give me now.

Lady Chiara and a pair of female combat mages from the garrison were also watching her work. The basin and Genette were on their side of the bars.

My new home, you see, was the Watch Tower.

Two edifices rise high above the school and the town. At the center of the campus, the Bell Tower of the Old Main Hall tolls the hours, and at the back edge of the campus, between the garrison barracks and the flying stables, the Watch Tower broods like a titanic gray beast.

It’s an ugly reminder to everyone that their home is, in the end, a military facility. Ballistas point in all directions, ready against aerial threats, and the banner of the Royal Army flies daily from the top of a lofty pole at its center.

I suppose the purpose for putting the prison cells near the top, immediately below the ballista battery, is to dissuade prisoners from attempting escape. After all, the majority of my predecessors couldn’t fly.

And, I suppose, any that could fly would be easy targets for the ballistas. They are there for general air defense, after all.

I sat in a cell that was at first glance fairly comfortable. This ‘noble’s floor’ existed to house the occasional misbehaving aristocratic youth. At this time, my cell was the only one occupied. I had a nice table and chair, a writing desk, and a decent mattress and bedding. I also had a toilet with a low wall around it, so any male guards would only see the upper half of my body at such times. Not that it doesn’t change the fact that it is totally disgusting to do such a thing while being watched by a guard.

Ged had promised me they would arrange for female guards, but this was still the first evening. These women who had other jobs to do were all they could provide to guard me during this bath.

“I could warm the water for myself much faster,” I stated.

Chiara smiled at me through the bars and shook her head. “You aren’t allowed to cast any magic, My Lady. Please be patient.”

My current guard was her and the two female soldiers– normally army clerks, although they were equipped with army-issue staffs that identified them as combat mages. The usual guards had been shooed out so I could bathe.

This had all started when I discovered that my Water mana trick sets off the magic countermeasures inside my cell. That in turn set off a commotion with the guards, who believed I was attempting something nefarious and barged in to surround me. They forced me to lie on the floor on my stomach while drenched head-to-toe in water that had materialized as a result of the interference with my technique.

We waited like that for the higher-ups to arrive, with the guards threatening all kinds of violence with their drawn weapons for a full twenty minutes. The first escalation of higher-ups hadn’t been any better. Genette, who voluntarily incarcerated herself in order to take care of me, had been in tears by the time Ged finally arrived and made everyone stand down.

Honestly, I thought it would work because, while I was in the cell, both Melione and Ceria pulled mana through me and the countermeasures didn’t react. But coating my own skin with Water mana crossed the line, it seemed.

“It’s ready,” Genette stated at last, getting back to her feet.

One of the army clerks opened the door and said to the guard outside, “You can open her cell now.”

By the time he had loafed his way to the cell door, unlocked it at his leisure, and departed, my skin was becoming badly distressed. Genette escorted me to the bath and began undressing me.

Up until this point, the women guarding me had been bored and slightly annoyed at having to work overtime in order to pamper some rich girl who wanted a bath. They grew instantly horrified once they saw the very dramatic case of red, cracking psoriasis that was spreading out all over my body.

It starts on the belly and back and spreads toward the extremities, so the violent scarlet patches had been hidden under my tea gown while they were growing to the point of linking up with each other. Deep cracks were now forming in them, exposing raw red skin within. Exposed parts like my face and arms were only now developing what looked like a bad case of dry skin, but I could tell that those places too would get bad, soon.

As Genette had me step out of the last item of clothing, one of the combat mages hurried to help me into the tub rather than waiting for my lady’s maid. She even began anxiously scooping water onto me with her hands as I went down to my knees, before Genette could even pick up the ladle.

“Do we need to call for a healer?” Chiara asked, looking just as mortified as the others as she watched the process.

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“I could do it myself,” I said. “I can use healing magic.”

I was outside the cell now, after all. The countermeasures weren’t operational out here. That’s why they put the tub here when they brought it to the floor. Genette couldn’t use her magic inside the cell.

Chiara frowned, but then nodded. “Fine. I’ll take responsibility.”

“Lady Niaela said…” one of the mages began, but Chiara cut her off.

“It’s on my authority as a royal knight,” she declared. “Lady Niaela is not my superior. Go ahead, My Lady.”

I nodded and circulated healing mana, then coated myself with it.

Melione told me once that when she was in danger of being struck during a fight she would coat herself this way. It fortified her body, although it worked for a somewhat different reason than than fortification using Earth or Water mana. I had thought it might be useful to do both techniques since they were compatible, so it was fortunate I had already practiced it several times.

As my skin glowed, I experienced the feeling all over my body of sticking one’s hand into the oven, but the patches rapidly shrank and disappeared.

I let it go, and asked Genette, “Is my back okay?”

“So fast…” Chiara muttered.

Genette checked and nodded.

“So you’re okay now?” asked the girl who had been shoveling water onto me.

“I’m still short of water mana. I need to stay in contact with the water. Since so little of me is submerged and the bath is so small, it’ll probably take longer than normal. But I’ll be okay soon.”

At that moment, on the other side of the door, a commotion broke out. Someone was yelling, but the door and walls muffled the words too much. Then the door slammed open.

“TI! ARE YOU…”

Rod stopped with his mouth open, his eyes as wide as mine were. I quickly crossed my arms, defending my modesty. Sort of. Praise me, Melione.

Of course, by that time, he’d already turned his head away and looked down at the floor beside his feet. Rod’s more or less a gentleman, you know?

“S… sorry…” he stammered.

Bless him for not standing there staring at me like an idiot male protagonist in an anime. Given the way that Huade seems to work, the fact that he immediately looked elsewhere instead of gawking surprises me a little, actually.

Keeping my voice steady, I said, “Your Highness, your concern for my well-being is deeply appreciated. Please leave.”

“Yeah,” he replied, pulling the door shut as he turned back.

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