We were at an impasse with the guards. It was rapidly becoming apparent that my previous bath had been insufficient, as my skin was again in distress, and they were willing to let me use the tub… but no, they wouldn’t be leaving. They were under orders to watch me.
Genette and I were in total disbelief. How could these men possibly think they would get away with this? They wouldn’t call for female substitutes? They expected me to strip down and bathe, right in front of them?
My lady’s maid was beginning to forget her training and revert to the street language I had woken up to in the morning. I decided to step in and stop her at that point.
“The solution is quite simple, Genette,” I told her. “I shall not undress.”
“I cannot wait any longer. My dress will simply have to become wet. Gentlemen, would you be so kind as to allow me out to use the tub?”
The main guard scowled, then shook his head and told the others, “Push that tub into the cell.”
“I won’t be able to heat the water inside the cell…” Genette protested.
“Too bad,” he declared, then gestured for his guards to get to work.
I faced away from the guards so I could I raise the front of my skirt while Genette removed my petticoat and panties in something at least vaguely resembling privacy. We then worked to get my chemise off without removing my tea gown. I wanted those at least to remain dry. Then I sat down on my rump in a tub full of cold water, in my dress, commando.
Genette looked mortified when I directed her to ladle water onto me, but there was no helping it. The shallow water around my legs and butt didn’t contact enough of my skin.
I shivered as the water soaked my hair and soaked into my clothing. Unfortunately, after a while, I suspected that we were only slowing down the progress of of the psoriasis.
“Genette, look under my backflap. Is it still getting worse?”
She lifted it and checked my skin. With a troubled look, she nodded.
“Thought so,” I sighed, then nodded and tipped my head forward. “Undo me, please.”
I crossed my arms over my bosom to keep my dress in place and said, “Do it. Too much of the water is rolling down my dress. The little bit that soaks through the cloth is not enough. I’ll hold my dress up while you bathe my shoulders and back.”
Her eyebrows bunched up and her ears flattened. Not the droopy flattening like when she gets depressed, but sticking straight to the sides. I wasn’t sure what that meant. I thought I knew all of her wolfkin body language.
“Yes, Young Mistress,” she finally surrendered, and brushed my hair to the front so she could remove the backflap, which was attached with buttons on my shoulders, and undo the laces that held the back together above the window for my wings. We went through the process of getting my arms out of each sleeve while I kept hold of my dress with the other hand, then I sat there, back exposed, clutching the dress to my bosom, while she began scooping and pouring water over my back.
“I don’t understand, Young Mistress…” she started in a low voice, then stopped speaking.
After several more scoops, I asked, “Genette?”
She bunched up her mouth, then complained,”Why are you taking this so well? Why aren’t you angry?”
I thought about it, and then answered with calming tones. “I’m exceedingly angry, Genette, and I am grateful to you for being angry as well. But I see no point in complaining to deaf ears.”
“I’ve served long enough to know not to expect you to act spoiled, Young Mistress, but the least spoiled daughter of the least powerful baronet in the land would have complained by now!”
Genette continued to ladle as I smiled wryly. I couldn’t tell her about my meeting during the night, and about everything the celestial beings had said. After all, the magic they described wasn’t part of this world’s common sense.
The angels had stuck around much longer this time before putting me ‘back to sleep’, to allow the IT lady to give me a lesson covering the potential effects of the mystery magic. I learned things no theory teacher on Huade could tell me, even about my own fairy and vampire skills.
Fairies and vampires have innate skills that our best mages cannot imitate. She taught me that the reason the mages fail is that no species here can sense one of the components of our magic. We see the part that is Light or Darkness or Aether, but not the secret magic buried underneath. And we have some skills we don’t know we have, that use only the secret magic, because nobody can sense them in action at all.
“Your charisma is a good example of this,” the IT lady had said during her lecture.
“You mean the Vampire Charm?”
“No. That skill has a non-elemental component as well, but I’m talking about the innate skill that both your species, and others such as succubi and amazons, use to induce attraction in an undetectable fashion. It functions at very low power, so that even those species that are considered very sensitive to mana on this world can’t sense it. The English word ‘charisma’ is a good term for it. There is no Ostish word.”
“If it’s low power, how does it accomplish anything?”
“Increasing the power at a given point is only one way to increase effect. Your magic users do everything by brute force. But, most on your world do not know the two other methods to increase the effect of magic, because the mana types that are good for them are unsuitable for the way you use mana.”
These other magics increase effects by working faster instead of increasing mana quantity, and by spreading out to affect the environment around the target rather than acting on the target directly.
“If you come to understand what your charisma does and whom you are affecting, you may become able to spot other magic of this nature. For you, it will require spotting clues, rather than directly sensing it in the way you are currently accustomed.”
“So what does it do and whom am I affecting?”
“You unconsciously use your charisma on targets that are advantageous to you. For example, as a vampire, you sexually attract healthy, comely young women who would make good blood sources for you.”
That news hit me like Truck-san too. You mean I’m causing all those lesbian come-ons myself?
My Tiana side was aghast at the idea, and apologizing silently to people like Ceria. But I will admit, my Robert side was saying, cool!
Hey, a twenty-five-year-old virgin suddenly starts having girls coming on to him… Robert’s only human, you know?
But it wasn’t just potential donors. Apparently, fairies elicited attraction and goodwill with magic as well. I might have been doing so to people at Mother’s estate and at the Palace. I thought about Rod and Ged and how head-over-heels they had become, about all the fangirl maids, about Amelia and her friends, about Uncle Owen and Mother. The IT lady had said the most my fairy nature could do was enhance existing goodwill, but I still had to wonder how much of it was existing and how much was enhancement.
A shiver brought me back to the waterlogged present and my frustrated maid. I told her, “I don’t believe that complaining or whining is going to accomplish anything, so I wouldn’t be able to put my heart into it. I’m not a very good actress. And I might even make things worse.”
She poured water on my back again, and shook her head. “It isn’t decreasing.”
“But my water mana is increasing again. I can feel it. You just won’t see the improvement to my skin until I can receive [Healing].”
Her expression grew horrified. “You mean it’s going to stay like this?”
“It will heal eventually, if we can keep bathing me properly. Is it bad?”
“Very,” she answered with a small voice.
I shrugged. It couldn’t be helped.
She still looked troubled, and heaved a frustrated huff, but she pressed her lips together and nodded. Although one of her ears kept twitching.
It wasn’t Genette’s imagination. The behavior of the guards really was inexplicable. Bizarre, frankly. It was rational to keep me locked up; I was currently a suspect. It was irrational to blithely ignore the fact that I was as high on the ladder of nobility as it is possible to be. Frankly, since governing dukes are royalty, even a governing marquess is at best my equal (ignoring the princess thing.)
Antagonizing such a person in a stratified society like Orestania to this degree? Especially knowing Orestania is a land of law? Even if you have information that the prisoner is to be executed tomorrow, you’re still one pardon away from having someone very powerful angry at you. And even the family of an aristocratic criminal expects the name of their house to be respected, even if the criminal isn’t.
To be blunt, the way they were acting now was at the very least an act of career suicide.
“I believe at least one wizardry operating on you is ‘Fate magic’,” the IT lady had said. “It subtly alters trains of thought regarding the target. It is impossible to turn around someone who has a strong opposite view of the target, but the vast majority surrounding the target have no opinion of them. They are easily swayed. Those who have actual feelings in the desired direction about the target are strongly swayed.”
Not understanding at the time how strong that sway could be, I had shrugged it off. “That’s it?”
“That is only one effect of the magic, My Lady. If the goal of the spell is specific enough, other effects can lead to dramatic changes. Especially when it can use people in positions of authority to directly command the accomplishment of those goals. It is called fate magic because of how severely it can alter the target’s fate.”
“And it works on everyone?”
“Some will have more resistance. Especially, those who already have strong opinions contrary to the magic are unlikely to change. Also, those who are themselves proficient at that type of magic.”
I thought it might explain those unexplainable demonic curses that frustrate researchers, but she disagreed. It seems demons have something called ‘blood magic’ that can utilize some of these mysterious otherworldly mana types. Although ‘Wizardry’ such as ‘Fate magic’ was beyond what the demons of this world were supposed to know.
Genette continued her ladling, but she called out to the guards. “You can see her skin, can’t you? She needs healing magic.”
“It’s just a bad rash. It’ll heal in time.”
But I heard one of the guards say in a lower voice. “Are you sure about this? It looks really bad.”
“It won’t kill her,” the head guard declared.
“We should note in the log that she needs a healer.”
“Eh. If I get around to it.”
I gave a wry smile again. All they were doing was watching me. There were currently no other prisoners on this floor. He had an ideal opportunity to make that log entry at that very moment.
A knock came on the door, and I looked over my shoulder to see that direction. One of the guards outside opened the door to let in a visitor.
I watched as a petite pink-haired girl in an upper school uniform entered. She spotted sopping wet me in the cell, seated in the tub being basted by Genette, and her eyes grew wide.