I could feel it, the first tinge of magical energy in my veins. This is only temporary until I change it, I reminded myself. To test it, I must begin with something small, something trivial that anyone can do, and definitely not the crafts that had earned me the title of “witch” in my previous life.
That is not to say I didn’t remember every single one of those arts as well.
I walked to one end of the wall, away from the windows, and raised a hand. The teaspoon that had previously been resting on the plate on a table in my room came flying at me.
Yes, I thought, I haven’t grown rusty at all.
All I needed was practice now, and wait for the next major event in the story. Bluebloods normally did not use their magical powers in one another’s presence. They did so mostly in front of humans, with the sole purpose of showcasing their nobility. Remington and Ellerie were no exception, although Remington rarely used his powers at all, no matter who he was dealing with.
...or so the public believed. The truth was, his abilities were quite intangible and sometimes even invisible. His whole self was the embodiment of magic; it coursed through every artery and every vein, his eyes could house a whole other soul—or did you think it was my witchcraft alone that allowed me to be reborn? However, Remington was as intimidated by his own powers as anyone else who knew what they were. If anything, he minimized his usage of it so as to minimize his chances of going berserk.
In other words, Remington was a ton of talent and not enough practice. I could put that to use.
That day, Ellerie would come see me, most likely alone. I made some preparations, and took a seat by the couch by the window, awaiting her arrival. The last time that happened, I had been reading at the time that she arrived; this time, I wouldn’t let her know which books I was interested in.
Sure enough, when the time came, Ellerie stepped through those doors alone, a small bouquet of petunias.
Petunia, the symbol of resentment and anger.
Well, I’ll play dumb for now.
“Good evening, Larissa!” Ellerie greeted, her smile as bright as ever. Ah, I’m going blind. Give me a pair of sunglasses.
“Good evening, Lady Ellerie. What have I done to be so honored as to have a personal visit from you? Surely the butlers and guards would appreciate it as well—” there, I winked playfully, “—you know, those that keep chasing you around the courtyard trying to be inconspicuous.”
“There is no such thing!” She waved dismissively, almost too eagerly. “We’re just friends.”
“I was just teasing you,” I said, gesturing to the spot next to myself, “Please have a seat.”
“Thanks,” she said, then took a seat next to me. “Lord Remington is great, isn’t he? This library is so big, but he entrusts the whole of it to you.”
Straight to the point, huh. That’s fair enough, you’re not worth my time either.
“What do you think of him, Larissa?”
There was a twinkle in her large gray eyes, the kind of twinkle that looked the same every time they appeared, practiced as it was. As Ellerie leaned toward me just a little, placing her hands on one of mine, her soft blonde curls brushed against my dress. Those curls reached her waist, the perfect length to strangle someone with should the situation turn dire—not that she needed them. She acted fragile only for the sake of Remington’s pride as a man, never once even trying to find out if he needed her frailty. Ellerie was a petite young woman, befitting of the role of “protagonist” in just about any story.
“What do you mean?” I asked, unfazed.
“I mean, like...do you like him?” She retracted her hands and raised one to play with her hair, blushing.
Your expressions really come and go on command, don’t they? How admirable.
“Like him? How do you mean?”
“You know what I mean,” she said, a little annoyed now, “The kind of like that makes your heart beat faster!”
I chuckled. “I didn’t, actually; there are many kinds of like. But thank you for your clarification, because now I know what you mean. No, I am not in love with him.”
“Really?” came a feigned expression of surprise, “This is the first time I’ve heard any girl say they’re not in love with Lord Remington.”
“Why do you sound offended? Isn’t that good news? You and he are going to be engaged at some point, right? Don’t tell me you’d rather everyone be in love with him?”
“Uh…” To that, she had no answer. Hence, she stood, pulling me up in the process. “It’s about now you receive your first surge of magical energy, isn’t it? Was it today?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Show me what you got, Larissa! If there’s anything wrong I can tell you!”
This is when it happens.
“...alright, but I’m new, so you be careful,” I said.
Ellerie nodded. She would not be careful, this I knew.
I raised a hand as if to shoot a beam, and just then, her body lifted itself off the ground and threw itself back into the wall. Ellerie gave a very realistic-sounding grunt, complete with a pained expression, and when she fell back onto the floor, she let herself sit, bent over.
Aaand the best actress award goes to you.
I stood there in front of her, unmoving, my gaze probably cold as ice. I needed her to believe—at least at the moment—that I had fallen for her tricks, so that she would act accordingly when her white knight came.
And come he did.
Remington walked in on the sight of me standing and Ellerie sitting on the ground. His first expression was one of utter confusion, although that was very quickly overtaken by the usual calmness.
“What happened?” he asked.
Tears in her eyes—and god was that irritating—Ellerie looked up at her lord, taking his offered hand to stand up. “I came to ask Larissa about her powers and see if she needs help awakening them...I think she just doesn’t have a full grasp of the powers yet, so she accidentally knocked me into the wall. Please don’t punish her!”
Remington glanced at me and my stoic gaze.
“Did I say I was going to punish her?” he asked.
Both Ellerie and I perked up in alarm.
Larissa shot a beam that appeared as purple lightning, a weak magical beam, given her being new to the arts. It hit Ellerie on the chest; at the same time, Ellerie flew backwards into the wall. There was no telling if it was Larissa’s beam that did the deed, or if it was some other force.
“I’m...sorry,” Larissa muttered half-heartedly. Part of her was pleased to see Ellerie hurting.
“What happened?” came the voice of the master as he bolted into the library.
“I’m fine,” Ellerie mumbled, “I think Larissa just doesn’t have a full grasp of her powers yet, so she accidentally knocked me into the wall. Please don’t punish her!”
Remington looked from Ellerie’s tearful eyes to Larissa’s nonchalance.
“Alright, if that’s what you want. Come, Ellerie, let’s have you visit a doctor.”
“Um...no…” Ellerie was clearly not expecting that reaction from him. “I was just saying, in case…”
Remington turned his attention to one of the women waiting outside. “Get Lady Ellerie to a doctor. I will have a word with Larissa.”
The woman bowed her head in acknowledgement, and supported Ellerie out of the library. When they were gone, Remington closed the door behind him and inspected the wall into which Ellerie had been thrown into. I stood, waiting.
“Aren’t you going to fend for yourself?” he asked at last, shifting his gaze to me.
“Until you question me, I will not say a word in my own defense. You are the master of the castle. If you intend to penalize me, no word of mine will make any difference; on the contrary, if you think me innocent, I need not say a word.”
Remington nodded, pacing to the couch and gesturing for me to follow, which I did. Once we sat, he spoke again.
“I will ask, then: what happened?”
I’d like to know what happened, I thought, why wouldn’t you be defending her?
“When I came,” I began, “I took a few tools with me in case of emergency. One such tool is directly above our heads—surely you know how to operate it.”
Remington looked up and found the device I was speaking of: a gem the size of a nail, used for recording all that surrounded it. Opening his hand, Remington had the gem fall into his palm. He placed it in between us on the couch. A light shone from within the gem, magnified into something akin to a crystal ball. The whole incident, then, replayed.
“I didn’t know you had a recording gem,” Remington remarked as he watched.
“I am the most famous merchant’s daughter,” I reminded him, “We have many blueblood treasures, even if we ourselves are human.”
Once again, he nodded. Remington lifted a finger and hovered over my silhouette in the crystal ball, and then Ellerie. Then, he sighed in disappointment.
“There is no magical energy coming from you, but plenty from her,” he said.
“What was it exactly that she did?” I asked, even though I already knew.
“What Ellerie does best is the manipulation of her own body. She can easily throw herself into the wall and make it look like someone else did. The more important question, though...is why she wanted to scapegoat you.”
“Hold on a second,” I said, lifting a finger to emphasize that, “There is no scapegoating involved, my lord. The whole incident only happened because she staged it.”
“Apologies,” he said. “So, what did you do?”
His attention went back to the crystal ball as he replayed the scene again. “Are you really not in love with me?”
I chuckled. “Are you, perhaps, suggesting that it’s jealousy? Then, my lord, if someone insists on believing a certain way, how I actually feel makes no difference. Besides, there are many ladies here who have fallen head over heels for you. I fail to see how that would make me, of all people, a target.”
Remington gripped the gem, shutting off the replay in the process, and tossed it back into the ceiling. “I wasn’t suggesting that,” he said, “I know why she acted that way. I was asking because I want to know.”
In these situations, a dramatic pause is often warranted, so a dramatic pause I performed.
“The world wants you and Lady Ellerie to be engaged,” I noted, “What’s the point of knowing?”
What I had told Ellerie was the truth, and I did not lie here by evading the question—however, the way I evaded it would put a different answer into Remington’s mind. To achieve my ends, I needed Remington to trust me as much as possible, most preferably to the point of primal instinct.
This time, it was Remington who paused. He stood from his seat and began pacing around.
“She may have noticed that I treat you differently. I treat you differently because you are capable of holding conversations no one else is. You opened my eyes to a wide range of possibilities that I previously did not know existed.” There, he halted in his steps and turned to face me. “Ellerie is only of ordinary mind, and she usually means no harm. She made a mistake this time, please forgive her.”
Having heard one of the (many) things I hated most, I stood too, and walked to him. He may have found comfort in drawing a physical distance between us, but if that was the case, I would close that distance and make him feel my presence and the impact it made.
When I spoke again, I was directly in front of him, only a breath away. I needed no more than to whisper, so whisper I did. “I am not sure, my lord, if I should be grateful that you acknowledge my intellect, or enraged that you use that as an excuse to dismiss a clearly malicious act.”
I was tall enough to be able to look him in the eye without raising my head, though he was still taller than I. This height was perfect to exercise the full effect of my glare.
Before he could answer, I backed off, dropping my second-long intimidating aura.
“That being said, I’d prefer not clashing with women. If she doesn’t do anything, I won’t either—after all, I’m just the new librarian. And you too, my lord, you don’t need to stick up for me, that would just put me in precarious positions. Besides, what good would it do you?” I added in a lighter tone.
“What do you mean by that?” he muttered, displeased.
“Worst case scenario, you put some kind of crime on my name, call me a witch, and send me home. That shouldn’t be hard to do on your part, and I also regain my freedom. A win-win situation, wouldn’t it be?”
By shoving that possibility at him, it was almost ensured that whatever he did in the future, this would not be it. The ability to say “no” holds an insurmountable degree of power, regardless of what you are saying it to. Superior as I had behaved just a moment ago, Remington would most certainly appreciate the opportunity to say no.
“I will create a safe environment for you,” he promised, his rage quiet and motivated.
Aha. The “no, and what’s more”.
I curtsied, returning to him the upper hand of the conversation. “I trust that whatever decisions you make, they will be wise.”