Chapter 5 – Morning in the new world

“If you continue doing this, we’ll have to stop letting you sleep without a chemise,” Melione scolded as she dug for my clothing. “Honestly! I knew we should have put one on you last night!”

The girl was exactly like the writer’s description of her. She was the youngest member of the party, having just turned fifteen at the beginning of volume five, yet she was the one who firmly held the elder sister position.

After turning around to intimidate male eyes into pointing elsewhere, she yanked the aforementioned garment down over my upper body. It was Tiana’s spare tunic. Melione calls them ‘chemises’ but a real chemise has sleeves and is longer. Tiana wore the same light tunic she used under her armor instead, but to Melione, a ‘tunic’ is a man’s garment.

The dangerous look in her eyes once the garment had restored my modesty made me do my best to look properly remorseful. I had the feeling she wasn’t buying my act though.

I really am here, I mused. This really is Melione and the others. This really is the setting of “Isenai”. This really is Huade.

Melione placed her hand across my forehead and again the healing magic spread warmth through my body. The girl shook her head. “Your recovery speed is really amazing. I knew you weren’t human, but this is almost a miracle.”

Because it actually is a miracle? I kept myself from replying.

Uncle Arken came over to my cot and knelt down. His eyes glowed slightly, then he grew a wry smile. “It must be due to your unusual combination of racial characteristics. Do you feel you can stand now?”

“I’ll try,” I nodded, ready to do so, but Melione threw up her hands.

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“STOP! Keep that blanket over your legs while I find your kirtle.” She went digging into my traveling bag for the garment in question.

Melione could not object to the fairy-made armor, which revealed more skin than a modest human girl of this country could imagine showing. It was a gift from Tiana’s fairy mother, who was not to be argued with. But when Tiana was not equipping it, Melione had insisted she wear ‘proper’ clothing. She had very particular standards for noble behavior, and demanded that I adhere to them.

My tunics all have windows in the back, from just below the shoulders down to mid-back, to allow me to materialize my wings, and they reveal way too much leg for Melione’s tastes. Although they seem like plenty of coverage from my point of view, the kirtle is an absolute necessity in her mind.

Finally, the girl deemed me ‘decent’, and allowed me to stand. I didn’t even wobble. It was as if I had never suffered an injury.

I took my place at the table while the elder’s wife ladled gruel into bowls for Melione and me. A pair of mugs holding weak ale were already poured for us.

“With that beast gone, perhaps the hens are laying again,” the woman stated once she was finished, and headed outside.

I took a spoonful of gruel. This morning, it was cooked with some dried fruit that tasted like cranberry, making it very tart. After a couple spoonfuls, I noticed the others looking at me, and put my spoon down.

“We need to talk,” Ryuu declared.

To stall just a few seconds more, I took a sip of the ale. It was sour and cloudy, but refreshing.

“Before all of you start,” Melione said, “I should tell you that I was forewarned of the risk. His Majesty told me before he assigned us to you.”

“Why keep it a secret?” Brigitte demanded. “Why not tell all of us?”

“Because I’m the only one who had to know,” she stated plainly. “I’m the healer of this party.”

Ryuu forged ahead, crossing his arms and addressing me again. “We were told you don’t need to drink human blood. Your fairy half overcomes the need.”

As they waited on my answer, Graham’s eyes were narrow and Brigitte’s ears were flattened a bit. It looked like, along with Ryuu, these two also distrusted me. Melione had known already, as she said, and Arken as well, since he was an old friend of Tiana’s mother, so they were neutral.

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I shook my head. “His Majesty is well aware that my fairy half does not eliminate my need for blood, it only allows me to wait longer between feedings. But both he and my mother believed I could manage things during the quest. His Majesty told us to keep quiet about it with the rest of you.”

“Does being only half-vampire really allow you to go longer?” Brigitte demanded. “You haven’t been secretly preying on villagers as we travel?”

Tiana’s emotional response took me over for a moment. My eyes widened and my fist clenched.

“I would never…” I had already said before I was able to control my temper. Letting Tiana’s annoyance with the word ‘prey’ and its insinuation get the better of me would not be any help here.

After a deep breath, I started over. “I should have been able to go longer. What I did yesterday was instinctual, a vampiric response to a nearly fatal injury. It was also inexcusable, and I apologize to Melione for it. I have no desire to feed on the unwilling.”

“Who do you normally prey on?” Ryuu demanded.

I had to fight with my inner Tiana once again. After glaring at him, I did my best to force my emotions back to neutral once again.

“I do not ‘prey on’ people, Ryuu. Usually, Mother summons a courtesan from a brothel for me. The girls come to no harm and she tells them in advance what she is paying them to do. They have the right to refuse the job.”

“But they just accept it?” he pressed. “Really?”

I decided to let some of that annoyance show. “Law-abiding vampires normally obtain blood from those in their profession. Most of them have fed my kind before. His Majesty expects me to slip free and find such establishments when the need arises. I’ve done so three times on this journey so far, twice while we were working out of  Eridus and right after we arrived at Bray seaport.”

The books had never mentioned this custom that vampires have, nor did they describe the stops at brothels I had just mentioned, but this, too, was coming directly from the Tiana’s memories. Perhaps the clairvoyant writer had not known about it? I couldn’t imagine him passing up the fan service opportunity of a female vampire sucking down a fellow female’s blood. Or of the pretty teenage knight visiting a whorehouse.

I took another spoonful of gruel and sipped more ale. I now wished it were the strong stuff instead of the watered down drink that people here normally had with their meals. I had found confessing to going to such places as disturbing as Tiana would have found it.

“If another emergency comes up, I will feed her again,” Melione told them. “Let her be.”

Melione’s promise and Uncle Arken’s assurances weren’t enough for the others though. The final blow came from the villagers.

The elder summoned us out to the village green after breakfast. Once we had gathered, one fact became painfully clear; the villagers knew about me. I noticed a large number of the men were carrying sharpened ash poles.

- my thoughts:
Well, the sharp sticks didn't strike me as very friendly...
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