After considering her answer for a moment, the IT lady stated, “We believe that there are forces outside our expectations interfering with this world. Our evidence of this is works of magics not native to this time period on Huade and not worked by the very few who might work them.”
“And that involves me how?”
“These magics are operating upon you,” she answered. “I detected them while investigating you.”
I shook my head, “I haven’t sensed anything, though…”
“You would not. It is a very wide area-of-effect Wizardry.”
“A very wide what?”
“Wizardry, a methodology you should rarely if ever encounter on this world. But you seem to be very definitely near the center of such magic.”
My skin crawled. “Does this have anything to do with the weird things that have been happening around here?”
“Weird things?” The HR manager queried.
“You must have noticed by now! There’s this weird shoujou manga thing going on around me, except the order is all mixed up!”
“Ah. So you are aware of it,” she nodded.
“How could I not be?! A commoner who is attending the royal academy because she is blessed with remarkable magic has some sort of relationship with the prince I’m engaged to. Except the official engagement didn’t happen until after that interaction began, and worse, the engagement occurred after I was already thrown in jail, an event that shouldn’t happen until the end of the story! Everything’s happening in the wrong order! And what’s with a vampire attacking five times a day, in the middle of all of it?!”
I ended my rant feeling a little embarrassed. I had no reason to vent my frustrations on these two. But they had waited me out with patience.
Looking almost amused, the HR manager noted, “Not to mention, you easily and willingly entered into your engagement despite a deep-seated personal difficulty with it.”
Again with that crawly skin feeling. “Are you saying that someone caused me to accept?”
The HR manager pursed her lips, then shook her head. “No, given your personality. You would have entered voluntarily as a duty. But I believe the magic caused you to more easily say your vows early. Quickly establishing it as final seems to have been necessary for some goal.”
I remembered the almost inevitable, unstoppable feeling to the actual event. As if I were only watching it happen. Had I been feeling invisible magic at work?
She continued, “The nature of wizardry makes it difficult to determine specific effects without understanding the goals. Wizardry is a form of systematic magic, subtly affecting large scale systems rather than targeting specific phenomena. For example, the sort of widespread steps required to control the weather.”
“I’ve never heard of magic to control the weather!”
“Precisely. You should never have heard of such magic except in fiction, in this world or your previous one, because the underlying theory is alien to both worlds at the current time.”
“And you don’t know who is casting it?”
She looked at the IT lady, who hesitated, then nodded. “I detect conflicting goals. My working theory is that multiple magics are intefering with each other. That suggests more than one anomalous magic caster is at work. But also makes identifying the casters difficult.”
“Can we ask for your help to unravel this mystery?” the HR manager asked me.
“That’s something I’ve been wondering about. Why would you guys even need my help at all? You seem a lot more powerful than me.”
“Regulations,” she stated. “We are limited in whom we can directly track, or even directly observe, and we can only rarely take direct actions. We also must not interfere with the work of other departments. But you have become a resource we can employ to good effect. The regulations allow us some leeway to interact with any persons who are already involved, and very few people in this world have both a belief set that allows them to accept the existence of people like us and access to power at your level. You are probably unique among our resources here.”
Huade has two basic formats for their religions that I know of. Most religions involve a handful of gods that get involved directly, while their demigods and spirits rarely run around like underlings of the main gods, the way angels do in Christianity. The oddball is the Dorian faith, but they believe only in nature spirits born from an impersonal Heavenly Will. So it had to be me because nobody in this world believes in angels? Nobody except the Braysians, but they think they’re all dead.
“So you’re saying I work for you now?” I wondered.
“Perhaps you can think of it as mutual assistance,” the IT lady suggested.
I sighed, then nodded. “Fine. Mutual assistance, it is. I’ll assist you. Although I can’t do much from inside this cell.”
# # #
It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that I never did find out what “IT” stood for.
I woke in the morning to a very testy argument. Genette was standing at the bars, berating the guards, who didn’t seem very impressed.
I had no idea Genette knew language like that.
As I rose, the guards, who at least maintained a thin veneer of respect for aristocratic prisoners, gave me bows that barely existed while saying, “Good Morning, My Lady.”
That, of course, ended Genette’s rant. She had to act properly in front of me.
I learned shortly thereafter that they were in no hurry to arrange either for my morning bath or my breakfast. Actually, it seemed that they didn’t consider it their job at all.
“I’m terribly sorry, Young Mistress,” she was telling me as she served me tea. It seemed she had been able at least to obtain hot water from them for the teapot, but it hadn’t been terribly hot. Her ears and tail hung like they were bearing a terrible burden as I tasted it.
“Pour yourself some tea, Genette.”
“After you have finished, Young Mistress.”
“Either I will guzzle it down now and excuse myself, or you will pour your cup and enjoy it while I enjoy mine. I refuse to make you drink lukewarm tea. This is nearly there already.”
Genette looked conflicted. She was very much in the ‘the help doesn’t sit with the master’ camp.
She tried to change the subject instead. With her ears twitching with irritation as she glanced at the guards, she griped, “They’ve received no orders to feed us and nothing about bathing, so they seem to think we should arrange for someone on the outside to provide food and services.”
I boggled for a moment. That can’t be right. You have to feed your prisoners, don’t you?
After letting loose a sigh, I said, “Genette, this is an order. Take that chair and have your tea.”
She looked dissatisfied, but she sat and poured her own cup.
The previous evening, the guards on the night shift had noticed we had no dinner and managed to obtain some sandwiches for us. At the time, I thought it was a mix-up due to our recent arrival. Perhaps this was the reason, instead.
Had the previous guards been more amenable because they had seen me with Rod? Quite possibly. This new shift of guards might know nothing about the events of the previous evening.
“So they’ve sent word to Pendor House?” I asked.
Briefly, Genette’s ears stood upright and she bared her teeth slightly. She quickly looked away so she could carefully put her neutral expression back in order.
“They do not consider it their job to do that, either. And…”
She chopped off, looking like she regretted the last word.
With a bitter frown, she said in a lower voice. “They suggested that I’m in here to be your food, anyway.”
After a brief period of shock, I realized what they meant and scowled. More idiots who believed vampires actually subsist on blood.
She studied her cup with a pensive frown. A couple times she looked up at me, then immediately looked away again. I wasn’t sure what was on her mind, but I had a guess.
“Genette, at some point you must have been told accurate information about my kind. Surely when Benedetta assigned you as my lady’s maid she spoke with you.”
“Yes, Young Mistress,” she nodded, still looking down at her cup.
I took a sip, and noted, “Considering the circumstances, you managed some decent tea.”
She smiled bitterly. “I couldn’t preheat the pot or control the temperature. It really isn’t that good.”
“I’m blessed to have someone who can do this much,” I insisted. Then I added, “Unlike those idiots, you know that your blood will not satisfy my normal food needs, so there would be no point in me feeding on you. And I will not be in need of blood any time soon, so you may be at ease.”
Again she contemplated her cup for a while. At last, she said, “Young Mistress, If you do become in need and they will not take care of you…”
I interrupted her. “Tell them to move you to another cell for protection. I do not wish to attack you.”
Genette looked up at me and her eyes grew wide. “You want me to abandon you?”
“If that’s the only alternative to me forcibly feeding on you, then yes.”
She looked away again.
After a while, in a small voice, she said, “If it becomes necessary and I am the only choice, please do not hold back, Young Mistress.”
I had no idea how to reply. Genette had been explicitly ‘hands-off’ since the day Benedetta assigned her to Tiana. Really, all the Pendor maids were, but Genette had proactively told Tiana so, herself.
So, I simply nodded and sipped my tea.