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[11] Potions

Most of what Regina wants of her involves organizing bottles and vials and pouches of strange materials that Elaine can't recognize. She hasn't seen any of these supplies before. It's an educated guess, considering Regina's comment about poisons, that most of them are some degree of toxic.

Elaine eyes the various herbs, powders, and fluids with nervousness. Potion magic is a variety that's known for its complexity. Even with as little as she's overheard about how it works, she knows that it's an extremely delicate balance of substances that could easily blow up in someone's face. Probably literally. Some of these liquids do look a little glowy.

"Put the sachel of Valerian— yes, that— over there with the other red ones," Regina commands, barely looking in Elaine's direction. "And then, the ginger. I need it over here in the basket."

That's how it continues. Elaine scurries around the room, moving bottles of this and bags of that, all while having absolutely no idea what she's dealing with. Crystals and candles soon join the mix, with Elaine eying the vibrant, colorful objects even more warily.

It's vaguely terrifying. Regina clearly knows what she's doing, and that's the worst part of this.

Or, scratch that. The worst part is that Regina talks.

While Elaine is busy organizing a miniature chest of drawers, filling each one with tiny crystals of a different color, Regina decides that it's the best time to speak to her again.

"Are you familiar with potions at all?" she asks.

"Not a bit, my lady," Elaine replies, stifling her bitterness.

"Oh, what a shame. The magic is quite delightful, you know. It's very slow-paced and simple. No need to react quickly or come up with the right words in an instant. It's all about remembering the right things to mix together."

As she says it, Regina traces her finger around the rim of a large, tinted, glass bottle filled with strange-looking golden fluid. Elaine watches out of the corner of her eye. At this rate, she's starting to get worried that Regina's going to try to poison her or something. Listening to her explanations is getting kind of creepy.

"And you enjoy it, my lady?" Elaine questions, even as she feels like a broken, overly respectful record.

"Very much so." Regina's voice takes on a gentle, fond lilt. "As I said, I was given a few textbooks when I was young. The practice came naturally to me, and since it's all but required that a child of noble standing learn how to use at least some form of magic, the next step was obvious," she explains. "I never had to branch out or attend those tedious selection lessons. It was all decided before I was old enough to properly practice."

How lucky, Elaine thinks. For a girl like Regina, born into the lap of luxury with nothing in her life gone wrong, finding a form of magic to master before she was even old enough to attempt anything unsupervised seems natural. Elaine isn't surprised at all. It's just another case of how different their lives are.

"But Nikola," Regina continues, "is impressive as well. You know, the prince. We've spoken about his magic a bit, and from the sound of it, curses are his specialty. I've been told he's capable of quite powerful ones— and in addition to that, he's capable with lightning and manipulating his arrows in his beloved archery. It's incredible. I feel quite left behind," she giggles.

The subject crossing over to Nikola makes Elaine feel vaguely sick. Her fingers fumble a translucent, pink crystal, leaving it bouncing to the table and a few inches away.

"My apologies, my lady."

As she goes to grab it, Elaine can't think away from how Nikola, Niko, helped her just a bit ago. Dishes. The prince of their territory stepped low enough to help a mere servant girl with dishes. Regina would never be capable of something like that, Elaine thinks. She's far too removed from anyone else's life.

But... as Elaine works, she begins to notice things.

Regina's knowledge of the ingredients in the room is better than any textbook, if Elaine can make a guess. She knows absolutely everything by heart, recognizing what's in a bottle or pouch with nothing more than a quick glance.

And she's efficient. The way she directs Elaine means that the job of organizing progresses at twice the pace she thought it would. Everything has its place— despite the fact that Regina probably hasn't even been in this room before today. Watching her organize and arrange things on her own is just as incredible. Regina's fingers are deft and her hands are steady. It seems like she barely even needs to think.

It leaves Elaine watching bitterly, almost distracted from her own jobs. How unfair can this get? She's stuck with a perfect little rich girl who can do everything right, while Elaine herself seems to never be anything but wrong. It makes her chest feel tight and cold and leaves a deep sense of disappointment in her heart.

Nikola must like her, Elaine thinks. There's no way he doesn't. Someone like Regina has to be loved by everyone around her. And as kind as Nikola is, he'd surely enjoy Regina's sweet smile and pleasant company.

Elaine herself feels almost trapped by it.

It's easy to hate Regina for who she is, but just the same, she's forgiving of Elaine's mistakes and hasn't shown a sour moment yet. That makes it worse. It's much harder to resent someone when they won't do anything actually wrong. All Elaine can hold against her is her insensitivity and inherent selfishness.

And even those things are things that Regina herself likely isn't aware of. No one stepping on an ant thinks twice, after all.

Before too long has passed, the room is more or less organized. Elaine is amazed at the progress they've made— and even more so at the sheer complexity of Regina's 'simple' workshop.

That's when Regina sets the bag of dried flowers she's been arranging aside and turns to Elaine once again.

"So... I have a request for you."

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