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I slumped onto a leather couch, unconcerned about dignity. I was wearing a backless black halter top, with a boob window, that ended somewhere north of my midriff. My red skirt, which ended barely halfway down my thighs, was so small that even my Devilla side was a little embarrassed to be wearing it. And now I was sprawling myself out on a couch, thighs spread, with my black panties utterly visible to the world. One could safely say that I had given up on modesty as well.
Then again, demon queens weren’t actually expected to be modest, were they? Today’s outfit was the result of me telling Abigail I wanted to, “dress to impress,” and I couldn’t deny that it had done the job. At the very least nobody had given me trouble when I demanded entry to the royal vaults, using the excuse that I wanted to take one of our national treasures for my own use.
It had all been for nothing in the end, though. True, I got a fairly decent magic item from it, but my real goal – rereading the Rite of Insight – was a total bust. I had gotten my hands on the spell again, without much issue, but no matter how many times I read the spell nothing more had happened. No light, no darkness, and no insight. That knowledge could have been really useful to me, too, so I was fairly distressed.
“You seem pretty upset,” Abigail remarked, walking into the room behind me. “Did your new toy not bring you any joy?”
“It is a national treasure, not a toy,” I told her, firmly, frowning. My ancestor had only brought two items down from the heavens, after all, and – putting aside the collar Lucy used on me in the game – they were the only enchanted item I knew of in this world. We’d lost the indestructible sword during the last war, making the item I held even more precious.
Abigail, however, did not look impressed. “Weren’t you the one who said you wanted to ‘play around with it’?”
“Urk… Is it just me or have you grown more and more pointed in your remarks?” I asked, attempting to change the subject. It was true that I had made a comment along those lines, but it had all been an attempt to keep up appearances. I needed to keep things on track for my people’s eventual rebellion.
“Why don’t you whip me for misconduct, then?” Abigail suggested. “Or you could put me on the rack in the dungeons. Or you could even paddle my ass a bit during sex tonight. It might even make you feel better.”
“What? No. Your insolence aside, I do not see how punishing you would do anything for my mood.”
“Really? You always seemed to like punishing people in the past,” Abigail pointed out, raising a blonde eyebrow.
“Urk…” She’d gotten me again. “Th-that was then, this is now. I enjoy your company far too much to enjoy punishing you for no reason.”
For some reason Abigail looked a little dejected when I delivered that news, her shoulders slumping and her head hanging low. Was it that much of a blow, knowing that someone as reviled as I enjoyed her company?
After a long moment, Abigail let out an even longer sigh. “If you won’t punish me, then what will help? Do you want to call a musician for a song? You want the chef to cook your favorite meal? It’s depressing watching you mope like this.”
“I am not in the mood for music right now,” I confessed. “And the chefs cannot make my favorite food…” Ahhh, I wanted fries. Potato chips, too. Salty and delicious… I had not had either of them once, as Devilla, but the mere memory of them was enough to make my mouth water. “If only we had oil…”
“Huh? Of course we have oil,” Abigail told me.
“What?” I jumped to my feet. “Where does it come from? Why have I not used it yet? Is it expensive?”
“It’s peanut oil,” Abigail informed me. “And it’s affordable, I guess. We haven’t used it yet because you’re a novice, and I didn’t want you splattering hot oil all over yourself. I’m surprised you even knew that you could cook the stuff, and not just, like, pour it on your enemies.”
“I learned it from the Rite of Insight,” I lied. Lying came with a surprising ease to me, in this life, thanks to years of practice as Devilla. My conscience wasn’t entirely at ease with it, but there were some things I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone. Like how this world had been used as the setting of a porn game in my last life. “Now what about potatoes? And salt. I haven’t seen salt at all.”
“I’ve never heard of… poe-tay-toes?” Abigail informed me. “And we all ran out of salt years ago.”
“…Yes, I suppose that would be the case,” I sighed. I’d been learning to cook over the last three days, and had added bacon, sausage, and eggs to my repertoire. I’d used a fair amount of spices during that time, too. Apparently we grew the stuff ourselves, alongside all our other food, with the aid of magic. Which was probably actually the crux of the problem. We couldn’t grow salt.
“Still, I really want to eat something salty,” I muttered to myself. “Let’s see, salt, salt… I don’t even know where to begin beylikdüzü escort with mining the stuff… but there’s plenty of it in the sea, right?”
I turned my attention to Abigail, a slow smile slipping across my lips. Abigail’s response was to shudder a little, and take a step backwards. A little rude… But I wasn’t going to let it bother me. Not when I was so close to an idea. “Abigail. I require a map of the continent. Including our current location and the location of as many human settlements as possible.”
“Yeah, that sounds like military intelligence?” Abigail suggested, frowning. “I think you’d need to talk to general Mifa about that.”
Ah. The harpy general, on the fortieth floor. It was perhaps obvious to put the fliers in charge of reconnaissance, and even I hadn’t been stupid enough to mess that up. Hopefully Mifa had been doing a decent job of it, too, because I’d never really checked.
“Very well,” I declared, standing upright. “I shall head to Mifa immediately.”
“You can’t be serious,” Abigail protested. “Aren’t there like. Proper channels for this stuff? Shouldn’t you be setting up appointments a week ahead of time?”
“Probably,” I admitted, shrugging my shoulders. “I will have to ask her to forgive my selfishness, one more time. For the sake of my taste buds – no, my people’s taste buds – no, for the sake of the enrichment of our very soul, I swear I shall bring salt to tables across the tower!”
Abigail stared at me for a moment, her mouth opening and closing like a fish. Then her shoulders slumped forward. “I don’t care anymore,” she mumbled. “The rite must have driven her insane, or something. Or maybe I’m dreaming…”
“You will think you are dreaming when you eat a properly salted dish,” I informed Abigail, grabbing her hand and moving toward a nearby window.
Abigail did not resist, and soon I had I unlocked and opened the window. A tickling sensation ran down my back, a moment before my black wings sprouted, and I moved to stand on the windowsill. It was there, however, that I hesitated.
I had flown many times as Devilla. More times than I could count, really. But not once since I’d recovered my memories as Jacob. I knew, intellectually, that the process had not changed. I should be able to do it as easily as I ever had. It was only that it was a touch scary, staring down at a ground so far away and getting ready to step out into nothingness. In fact, I was starting to get just a touch sick to my stomach.
“Is something wrong?” Abigail asked, exasperated.
“N-No,” I lied, not entirely able to hide my nervousness. I took a deep breath, and centered myself. “I’ll be fine…” I took another deep breath, closed my eyes, and pressed against the windowsill. It was meant to be a small jump, carrying me just far enough out to spread my wings, but I must have misjudged the strength of it because I ended up jumping about twenty feet into the air.
For a moment I hung there, the momentum of my jump tuned perfectly to the gravity of my new world. Then I began to fall, plummeting faster and faster. My eyes were still closed, but I could feel the wind tearing at my body as I fell.
Then my wings pumped, just once, and all movement ceased. It was not like the flight of an actual bird. It did not rely on my strength, or on air currents. It was simply that the act of flapping my wings activated my magic, keeping me afloat with barely any effort at all. It was like a spell – but distinctly not one. For one thing, I could cast other magic while flying. Which was good, since I’d be relying on illusion magic to hide my presence when I was flying above human towns.
“You’re flying like a fledgling.”
“I do not need the commentary,” I grumbled, opening my eyes at last. Abigail was hovering before me. “Do you have the time to waste on such things, anyhow? I do not believe your magic power is strong enough to support prolonged flight.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ll just let myself fall down a bit, and then catch myself. And I’ll take breaks at the windows if I need them. That’s how I usually do it.”
“…That is a terrible way of making it down,” I said, flapping my wings to move a little closer to her. Without asking her for permission, I slid my hands about her back and knees, taking her into a princess carry. She let out a little squeak, but didn’t resist. “It is a long way down and I refuse to spend it all falling. It would mess with my hair.” And give me serious nightmares besides. I had done my fair share of freefalling as Devilla, but now I had little things like the law of gravity screaming in the back of my head and telling me not to take any stupid chances.
“Your hair.” Abigail looked like she was torn between laughing and yelling, but settled for simply crossing her arms instead. “You could have at least asked first.”
“My apologies. Next time I will.”
Abigail blinked, apparently startled, but otherwise beyoğlu escort remained silent in my arms. For several minutes the only sound was that of my wings, which would flap every few seconds.
“…So…” I started, when I could bear it no longer, “have you been my maid long?”
“…What the hell kinda question is that?” Abigail wanted to know, putting her hands on her hips. “Don’t you know the work history of your own personal maid?”
“You know full well I do not.” It was my turn to glare. “I am aware that I am a flawed hu… I mean. Ah. I am aware of my faults. Perhaps chief among them is the fact that I never paid attention to you, or anyone else. But I am trying, Abigail. And I would appreciate it if you would meet me halfway.”
Abigail was silent for a moment. It was difficult, as always, to tell exactly where her black eyes were focused, but I got the feeling that she was looking me up and down as best she could from her position.
“You’ve changed,” she said, at last. “Ever since the Rite of Insight – it’s like you’ve been a completely different person.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I scoffed. “I am the same Devilla Satanne that I have always been. If anything has changed about me, it is merely that I’ve gained the wisdom and insight of my ancestors.” On the outside, I seemed perfectly calm. My voice was steady, and my gaze was centered on where I thought Abigail’s pupils were. On the inside, I was sweating buckets. My heart was beating like mad and it was only by exercising tight control over my breathing that I avoided the urge to hyperventilate. It wasn’t just fear of rebellion, or not wanting to let Abigail know about Tower Conquest. The terror I felt came from a far more surprising source: if Abigail found out that I used to be human, she would surely hate me.
“…The wisdom and insight of your ancestors.” Abigail’s voice was utterly flat. “Is that how you got so good at sex, all of a sudden?”
“Is that so strange? My ancestors were quite sexual creatures. They left quite a bit of knowledge behind in the archive.” None of that was a lie, so far as I knew. I was pretty sure there was carnal knowledge I couldn’t even dream of in that archive. Not that I’d ever get to find out.
“Knowing how to do something and being able to do it are two different things,” Abigail countered. Emotion had crept back into her voice, in the form of anger. Her wings pressed back against my arms, taking her back up into the air before I could protest.
“You learned my name. You suddenly wanted to know how to cook – but even though you were acting like you’ve never been in a kitchen in your life, you know things I’ve never taught you, like how to cook with oil. Plus you’re suddenly obsessed with the taste of salt, something that hasn’t been in the tower since we were both babies.”
“Th-The rite told me about the salt. It’s supposedly delicious.” My voice cracked a little under the intensity of Abigail’s glare. I felt sweat beading on the back of my neck, too, and it was all I could do to keep meeting Abigail’s eyes. If I looked away, I knew she’d lose all doubt.
“You said the chefs can’t cook your favorite meal without it. A favorite meal that contains an ingredient I’ve never heard of, an ingredient you didn’t know we had, and an ingredient we haven’t had since you were a baby. Who are you?”
“I am Devilla Satanne. Queen of Dimona Tower. If you are so deluded as to not recognize your own ruler, then I do not know what to tell you.” It felt like I was digging my own grave with every word. Abigail was looking more and more agitated, and more than a little disgusted with me, besies. There was also something else I noticed – she was sweating.
Although extreme temperatures in general seemed to have little effect on me, I could still tell that the air was fairly cold, what with us being up so high. Flying wasn’t very physically exhausting, as I’ve already covered. I wasn’t sure what could be causing Abigail to sweat, at all, and I certainly didn’t understand why it was getting more profuse by the second.
“If you… can’t… be honest… with me,” Abigail said at last, panting. “Then I… can’t… help you. I quit.” Saying so, she closed her wings and began to plummet toward the ground beneath.
I stared after Abigail for a moment, mouth open, but no words coming out. I wanted to go after her, to beg her to reconsider, but I wasn’t sure what I could say. Indeed, she’d made the decision based purely on what I did say, and unless I was willing to come clean and speak the truth I couldn’t see Abigail changing her mind. As such, as much as it hurt my heart, I could do nothing but let her go.
“It’s for the best,” I told myself. “She would have come to hate me, eventually, regardless…” I didn’t know why I’d been so scared of the idea. When I thought about it, her eventual hatred had always been a foregone conclusion. After all, I intended to abandon my people to bostancı escort the heroine, and flee into the sunset. Besides, it wasn’t as if she’d ever actually liked me to begin with. We’d simply gotten to a point where she could tolerate me, for a while, and now we were past the point where she could do so. It was best to think of it that way. I had already learned the bare basics of how to cook, anyway. I could probably figure out the rest on my own. Though I’d still need to find a teacher on how to do laundry.
Below me, Abigail’s wings opened. She came to an instant halt, before a window, and moved toward it. She was somewhere in the vicinity of the sixtieth floor, and I could only imagine she intended to let me pass before heading back up again. The very fact that she’d descended at all, when her home lay above, spoke volumes about how determined she’d been to put distance between us with what magic power she had left at her disposal.
Well, whatever. I would honor her decision, and fly past the window when I reached it. I would not follow her. I would not. I was washing my hands of her.
Or that was my intent, at least. But then Abigail’s wings suddenly snapped shut. Her hand, outstretched toward the window, snagged hold of the ledge for a moment, but then the weight of her body slammed against the wall and she lost her grip. She was falling down below me, tumbling end over end.
Abigail. The closest thing I had to a companion. The one who was so close to figuring out my secret I could cry. The one who chose to leave me. For a moment, seeing her fall, my mind almost went blank. I had been in the midst of such a torrent of emotions already that I simply didn’t know how to process the event. Yet even as my brain started to shut down, a single thought was running through my conscious, bringing with it an overwhelming impulse. Abigail was in trouble; I needed to save her.
There were many times in the past that I allowed myself to fall, while flying. It was generally accepted to be the easiest way of reaching lower floors. It saved magic power, and since it was easy enough to stop there was little risk associated with it. Just because it was the easiest way of reaching the lowest floors, however, did not mean that it was the fastest. If one truly wished to go somewhere in a hurry, and one was not afraid of the risk of descending too far, there was a far faster method at one’s disposal.
Turning about in midair, I pointed my head toward the ground and moved my wings to flap at the air. I did not flap once every few seconds, as I had so far, but instead kept beating my wings as strongly as I could manage. I poured magic into my flight, simultaneously casting a spell to lower my wind resistance. My mental image was a cone of condensed air, moving with me, helping me to cut through the sky at a speed that would make bullets green with envy.
In an instant, I had overshot my goal, and found myself at the fortieth floor to Abigail’s fiftyish. That was fine, though. I dropped my spell, and cast another, blowing wind magic up toward me and flapping my wings to come to a halt. Then I righted myself, using my wings to hold myself in place even as I continued to send wind rushing up above my head. The gusts I created caught Abigail, slowing her descent enough that I could safely grab her, and pull her flailing form against my chest. She was deep in panic, arms and legs flailing about, but I simply held her against myself and waited for her to calm.
“Are you alright?” I asked, once Abigail had stopped moving about.
“I… You saved me?” Abigail whispered, disbelief clear in her voice. As dark as her eyes were, I was absolutely sure her pupils were focused on mine.
“Who are you?” she asked, again.
“I am Devilla Satanne,” I told her again. “The demon queen. And your mistress.”
“…I quit, though…” Abigail’s voice sounded numb. Perhaps that was to be expected, though.
“Then you can quit again after we are home,” I told her, firmly. “I will not listen to it until then.”
I expected her to object, but Abigail didn’t say a word. Instead, she gave a slow, unsteady nod, furrowing her brow and looking me up and down once again.
“…In any case, we are here,” I declared. The number “40” was drawn in golden paint above the nearest window. It twinkled lightly in the sunlight, as if to welcome us to our destination.
Landing lightly on the windowsill, I hopped down onto the narrow strip of landing that hugged the edge of the tower beneath it. I was careful, and made sure Abigail had proper footing, before turning my attention to looking about.
This area was just like in the game. A narrow staircase, winding its way around the outer tower, with empty space where the floor should be. The only solid space, other than the staircase, was a single, massive, iron plated column that started on the thirty first floor and continued to the ceiling of the fortieth. There were perches attached to it, where the various harpies rested. A platform extended from the column, as well, where the floor of the fortieth floor would normally be. The landing I stood on, which marked the end of a long staircase, was connected to the aforementioned platform by a bridge. Another bridge extended from there to more stairs on the other side.
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