Warning: This is erotica, meant only for those 18 or older. Only those who have reached the age of consent, in the country where they reside, should proceed. If you are not at least eighteen, please exit this page, immediately.
“…I can’t believe it,” Abigail whispered. True to her words, my maid’s eyes were filled with disbelief as she stared at me. Her mouth opened again, and then closed as if she couldn’t quite figure out what to say. Her hand reached out toward me, and I thought for a moment that she would prod me to see if I were real, but then she seemed to think better of it . “I really can’t believe it,” she repeated, shaking her head back and forth.
“…Don’t you think you’re being a touch rude?” I demanded, exasperated. “I do not see the need to stare at me with such shock just because I got up a bit early.”
“You never get up without being woken, first, your highness,” Abigail pointed out, narrowing her eyes at me. “And you certainly never dress yourself. Where did you even find those clothes?”
“Do you not like them?” I peered down at myself, not entirely sure what the complaint was. My blouse was solid black, with long sleeves and a stiff collar. My skirt was red, and ended just past my knees. I was wearing a pair of white knee high stockings as well, meaning that the vast majority of my skin was covered. Not exactly my normal M.O., but that was rather the point. I was a brand new person, thanks to regaining memories of my past life, and I saw today as my official debut.
Abigail didn’t seem to be impressed, though.
“It’s not like I hate them, or anything,” she told me. “But outside your coronation, I’ve literally never seen you show this little skin. Are you really comfortable wearing all that?”
“I am, yes,” I informed Abigail, cheeks tinged red. It was true that I had, in the past, always insisted on showing off as much skin as possible. The majority of my closet reflected this, meaning it had actually taken quite a bit of searching to put together an outfit so modest. I didn’t intend to make a repeat effort any time soon, either. While Jacob might have been the sort to hide his body, Devilla had always enjoyed being on display, and it seemed my current self was closer to the latter. I alsoI didn’t see much point in hiding my assets when everyone in the tower had gotten a good look at them already. None of that translated to me being actively uncomfortable being covered in clothing, though.
“I happen to have a reason for not wanting to wear anything too flashy on this occasion.”
“…And what would that be, my queen?” Abigail asked. Her face was pinched with worry, and her tone was cautious. At least her words were polite.
“It is quite simple,” I said, my lips pulling ever so slightly up at the corners. “Today I will be paying you a home visit.”
Again, Abigail opened and closed her mouth. She lifted both hands, this time, not to reach out to me but to cradle her head.
“A… Home visit, my queen?” Abigail choked out, hardly able to believe the words she was speaking. “You want to visit my home?”
“Since it is just the two of us, I will permit you to speak freely on this matter,” I declared, magnanimously. “Your first comments of the day prove that you are capable of it.”
“A home visit?” Abigail repeated, before groaning softly. “Why do you even want to go home with me? Do you want to have more sex? Is that it? We can do that here, you know! You don’t need to go slumming it!”
“…It would seem you have no problems with speaking your mind, once given permission,” I muttered, crossing arms in front of my chest. “Shall I take that as a sign you’re adjusting well to your new position?”
“Adjusting, huh?” Abigail sighed. “I mean, I’ve been your personal maid for less than twelve hours… and I spent most of it doing paperwork with your chief of staff, too. I don’t think I can say I’m really used to it, or anything. It’s more like I’m too damn tired to keep my shock in check, at this point. I mean, what’s the deal with you? You haven’t yelled, or threatened to whip me, or… And what’s the deal with wanting to pay me a home visit?”
“Perhaps I should have led with that,” I admitted, referring of course to the home visit. I was doing my best to ignore the other comments Abigail had made, since it wasn’t as if I could tell her about my past life memories. Ignoring Abigail’s suspicions didn’t seem like the best solution, but it was the only one at my disposal.
“I’m waiting,” Abigail replied, lifting an eyebrow. It was hard to believe that this was the same woman who’d demurely tried to beg off from being my personal maid just the night before. Had she reached the end of her patience with me so quickly? Or was it that she’d become emboldened in the absence of punishment? It was also possible that this was her true nature, and that she’d simply grown tired of hiding it. Regardless, all I could offer her was the truth of today’s goal.
“I wish to learn how to cook.”
Abigail just stood there, for a long moment, staring at me. I felt as if her eyes were boring holes into my soul, and I found myself shifting my weight nervously from foot to foot. I did not back down, however. I could not back down. This was essential to my future.
“You want to learn how to cook?” Abigail repeated, after a moment.
“It’s an essential life skill,” I pointed out. “I would also like to learn how to clean and sew. But I thought cooking might be a good place to start.”
Abigail lifted a hand to her forehead, kneading the fingers against her scalp as if trying to massage away a sudden headache.
“And why,” she asked me, “do you need to come to my house for these lessons? You have a massive kitchen dedicated to serving you. And cooks! Professional cooks who could teach you how to cook!”
“I would only get in the way in the royal kitchen. The chefs there are quite busy preparing meals for me and the generals.” That was probably true, but mostly just an excuse. The real reason I didn’t want to go to the royal kitchen is because I wanted to learn how to cook as a commoner. If I got used to using the amenities and spices available only to royal households, I’d be in trouble after I fled the tower and started life among humans.
“I won’t be able to cook anything fit for a royal palette,” Abigail warned me.
“That is fine,” I promised. “A queen should know how her people are eating.” Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure that the royal food fit my palette, either. I hadn’t had any since recovering memories of my past life, and while I remembered the royal food tasting quite good I wasn’t sure how it would actually stack against what I’d eaten as Jacob. I was already missing fries, for example. Still, whether it was royal cuisine or commoner food a demon queen needed to eat.
“In fact,” I added, I would appreciate it if we could go cook up a few commoner delicacies immediately. I am quite hungry.”
“Don’t you have royal duties to do?” Abigail protested. She sounded a little frantic, for some reason. “Paperwork to sign? Things to… I don’t know, survey?”
“My generals can handle all that,” I told her, rolling my eyes. “In fact, I am quite certain that they will be happier without me butting in.” Besides which, my long term plans involved the generals betraying me for the sake of our people. Building a relationship with them, in the meantime, would only make things more difficult. “Is there a reason you do not wish me to enter your home? I am starting to become perturbed by having my personal maid so set against me.”
“N-No…” Abigail said. She wasn’t quite meeting my eye – but then, I’d never actually given her permission to start looking directly at me, so perhaps that was why.
“You may look me in the eye from now on, by the way,” I told her. “Now gaze upon my features and say that again.”
“I…” Her black eyes met mine for a moment, and then broke contact. “I’ll go talk to your head of personnel, and get us some guards.”
“Guards will be unnecessary today,” I insisted, quickly. “Have you forgotten that I am dressed to avoid attention? Guards would only defeat the purpose. …And I’m stronger than them, anyway.” That’s right. You wouldn’t know it to look at my slender frame, but I was the demon queen. There were few who could rival my physical strength, and pretty much no one who could match my magic capacity. Even the heroine would need to gain power from my generals if she wanted to face me on equal terms.
For some reason, though, Abigail was giving me a funny look.
“Is something the matter?” I asked. “I should be quite strong by my reckoning, yes?”
“Well, yeah, that’s not the problem,” Abigail said, rubbing at the back of her head. “It’s just… Changing your clothes isn’t going to make you inconspicuous, you know? You’re the demon queen. Everyone in the tower knows what you look like.”
“Such a triviality,” I said, letting out a smug laugh. “I have already thought of that. A simple illusion should suffice.”
My voice was confident, but inside I was actually trembling with a heady mix of fear and excitement. While I had cast magic as Devilla many times before, the entire thing now had a far more romantic feel to it. I was excited to do it – and a little worried about messing it up.
Unlike the Rite of Insight, which was actually holy magic, most spells didn’t involve an incantation. To use arcane magic, you simply had to imagine what you wanted and supply the magic energy to make it happen. It worked better if you had a solid grasp of the process, too.
Creating an illusion, in this case, basically involved projecting an image over my own face. I couldn’t change my eyes, since covering them with light magic would remove my ability to see, but I made my cheeks a little rounder, my nose a little bigger, and my lips a touch thinner. I also made my hair black, for good measure, and added tiny little red horns to my forehead so that I would not be mistaken for a human.
The actual casting felt like… Like warmth, in my soul. Heat flowed through my body and out through my skin. Since keping an illusion up required a constant supply of magic energy, the feeling didn’t go away, either. It was strange, even more so because part of my brain accepted it as natural while another part had never dealt with it before. It also felt pretty damn good, though.
“So?” I asked Abigail, grinning widely. “Does it suit me?”
“I’m not even sure how to respond to that, my queen…” Abigail lamented, shaking her head softly back and forth. “For one thing, your lips aren’t moving. Which is strange. How did you even manage to cast an illusion spell that doesn’t move with the user?”
That was a fair question. The image I used when casting the spell was that of a projector, plastering a solid image across the expanse of my face. It was no wonder that wouldn’t move, now that I thought about it. Fortunately, it seemed that the people of this world used a different mental image; one that would work better. Unfortunately, I’d always deferred magic lessons, saying I would receive all the knowledge I’d ever need from the Rite of Insight. I had no idea what the proper way to cast the spell was.
“I don’t suppose you would happen to know anything about how to cast illusions?” I asked Abigail, hoping against hope.
“Of course!” she replied, surprising me. “I’m a succubus, you know. We’re pretty much masters of showing people what they want to see. You just need to think of it like a paint job – like someone took your face and drew an entirely new one over it. That way the illusion will move with you.”
“I see,” I murmured, giving a small nod. I released my spell, causing the warmth that was flowing out of me to draw back inside again, then called upon that same energy to cast another spell. “Is this better?” I asked.
“Much better, my queen,” Abigail promised. She looked a little relieved. I could only imagine it had been somewhat creepy having my voice emanate from a motionless mask.
“You shouldn’t call me ‘my queen’ while I’m like this,” I warned her. “It would ruin my cover, if people heard you. You should call me…” I hesitated, unsure of what a good name would be. Jacob wasn’t quite a good fit, and I’d die all over again before using “Jacoba.” After a few minutes of thought, I settled on “Eena Divington,” which I thought was a normal enough name, at least by the standards of my new world.
“Eena,” Abigail parroted back to me. “Are you sure my – Eena?”
“It is fine,” I promised. “In fact, if you would like to call me Devilla when we are alone, I would not object. Being called ‘my queen’ all the time is honestly somewhat stifling.”
Abigail stared at me for a long moment, before slowly nodding her head, and holding out her hand. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you, Devilla, but I really hope it stays there. Now come on – let’s get going.”
It was my turn to stare. I had been acting differently of late, obviously, and it was no surprise that she’d realized it… But I really hadn’t expected it to make a difference. After a lifetime of acting like a brat, there was only so much one could do to make up for it. That’s why I had pretty much given up, from the start, on making friends. Yet now a hand was being offered to me, if not in friendship than at least with the intent of walking together toward a shared destination. It was such a small thing, and yet it struck me harder than I ever would have thought possible.
Trying hard not to cry, I reached out and took Abigail’s hand in my own.
Walking through the tower was an entirely new experience for me. Normally I would simply fly, utilizing the large windows that dotted the tower. In an emergency I could even use a teleportation circle to go directly to any one of my generals. Utilizing either method would make it impossible for me to pretend I was just an ordinary demon, though. The teleportation circles were only for high ranking officials, and no one in the tower would fail to recognize my void-like wings. So we walked.
Walking, as it turned out, was quite fascinating. There were many sights I had never seen when flitting about the tower by wing. For example, I had never realized just how big the tower was. The ceiling on the hundredth floor went maybe twenty feet above my head, but the ceiling of the lower floors stretched far further than that. It stretched so far above that, if not for the lack of stars, one could be mistaken for thinking they were looking up at the night sky.
It was also incredibly dark in the tower. Away from the windows, there was only the occasional lantern or conjured light to brighten the various shops, houses, and apartment buildings. Despite that, I could still see. Small details, vibrant colors – I could see it all so clearly that you’d think I was standing beneath the midday sun. Looking at the demons around me, I could tell that they were the same way. I imagined that it might be different in pure darkness, just judging by the small amount of light provided, but I honestly thought there was a good chance that even then I’d be able to see.
We had to travel through six floors to reach Abigail’s home. Other than my own floor, and that of General Sylvanna right below it, each floor we went through seemed to contain the equivalent of a large town, or perhaps even a small city. It made sense, really. The entirety of demonkind had been forced to live in this tower, after all. It was just that there were a lot more of them than I’d thought. More than there had been in the game, for sure.
“It would seem that I have a larger force at my disposal than I thought,” I muttered to myself. I still thought that the best route forward for my people was to join forces with the heroine and make peace with humans. No matter how many of us there were, there were undoubtedly a hundred times more of them. Still, seeing such a large fighting force gave me hope that the demons would be able to hold their own at the peace talks, without capitulating to demands from fear.
Abigail quickly shot that hope down, however.
“I hope you aren’t expecting anyone here to fight,” she said, glaring at me. “Most of these women have never even held a pitchfork, yet alone a sword.”
Indeed, while I saw many women were sharp teeth and claws, none of them seemed like hardened warriors to me. They were shopkeepers, business women. The most any of them would be able to tell you about a weapon was how to price it. It seemed that I did not have much of an army here, after all. Just ninety or so towns full of women who needed my help.
Sobered considerably by that thought, I took another look at the townsfolk around me. They came in all shapes and sizes. I saw a lady who looked to be part frog, for example, talking to a woman who looked mostly human except for some spikes. I saw another woman with wolf ears and a tail, kissing a girl covered in wool. There was even a bee girl, running a flowerstand. She seemed to be trying to sell roses to a lady who looked to be part goat.
It’s seriously all women, though… Not that I was surprised by that, per se. I knew full well that demons, or monster girls as they could properly be called, were all women. In fact, as Devilla, I had never once seen a man in my life. It wasn’t as if I had some longing to see one, either. It was only that I had been a man in my last life, and it was a little odd having that gender simply removed from the equation.
“Oof!” A loud noise, and a light impact, broke through my reverie. There was, for some reason, a redheaded woman, with long rabbit ears, sprawled out on the floor, laying on her back.
“…I apologize,” I murmured, realizing I must have bumped into her, in my distraction.
“Not your fault,” she laughed, to my surprise. “I’m the one who bumped into you, lass, not the other way around. Guess I was in too much of a rush.”
“Really?” I asked, looking to Abigail for confirmation. She gave a small, reluctant nod. She looked quite concerned. Did she think I would get mad, or some such? I had more compassion for mistakes than that… These days. “It’s fine,” I told the bunny girl. “I’m sure I’m as much at fault as you are, for not paying attention.”
“Well, that’s mighty kind of you to say!” The rabbit girl hopped back onto her feet with a single smooth motion, dusting herself off and smiling brightly at me. “Well. Hate to bump and run, but it’s almost time for work! I’ll be seeing you around, maybe.”
“Of course,” I said, smiling faintly back. “May the Fallen One’s grace be upon you.” My memories as Devilla told me that was a perfectly normal farewell. Perhaps it was only common among the upper ranks, though, because the woman opened her mouth in surprise, before letting out another laugh.
“Feeling pretty formal, there, ain’tcha?” she asked me, giving me a thump on the back. It didn’t seem to have much force behind it, but the intention was obvious enough so I gave a smile in return.
“Guess we can use whatever blessings we can manage around here, though, the way things are going under Queen Devilla’s rule,” the rabbit girl added. “Bet ol’ Luci would be twisted up something fierce inside to know she ended up with a descendent like that.”
“Th-That’s enough!” Abigail protested. She was still holding my hand tightly in hers. So tightly in fact that her knuckles were turning white; it was almost starting to hurt. “You should know better than to speak bad about our queen.”
“Or what?” the rabbit girl demanded, rolling her eyes. “She’ll throw me in the dungeon for a few days? How’s she gonna even find out? If everything everyone said was reported to that woman, the whole damn population would be in the dungeon, Probably forever!”
“Th-That’s not true,” Abigail insisted. Her eyes flicked to me, then back to the rabbit. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her voice was firm, and her words were sweet to hear. It would have been nice to think she meant them, but it was fairly obvious she was simply frightened of how I’d respond.
“It’s fine, Abigail,” I declared. “The woman is simply speaking the truth. The queen has been less than ideal, so far as rulers go.” I couldn’t keep the bitterness from my voice as I spoke. I worried the rabbit girl would notice, but she was too busy glaring at Abigail. “Did you not have to go to work?”
“What?” The rabbit girl looked at me, at last. “Right – sorry about that. Got so distracted by your idiot sycophant of a friend there, that I-”
The rabbit cut off her speech, mid sentence. That was no surprise to me, considering I was lifting her by the collar. My dominant hand was still occupied by Abigail’s grip, and I could not cast any spells while maintaining my illusion, so neither a slap nor a splash of water had been feasible. Instead, I had simply grabbed her with my left hand and dragged her toward me. Since I was slightly taller than the rabbit girl, we’d ended up with me lifting her in the process, something I hadn’t intended to do. It was possible that I was quite a bit stronger than I’d thought I was.
Not that I cared at that moment. The bitch had just spoken ill of the closest thing I had to a friend.
“You may speak ill of me all you wish,” I told her, my voice soft as a whisper but hard as steel. “The queen, the country, even Luci herself – all these are fair game before my eyes. But if you dare to speak another ill word about my companion you will find yourself wishing for the safety of the dungeons. And I don’t just mean in my presence – if I so much as hear a whisper of a redheaded rabbit girl talking ill of a succubus, I will personally hunt you down. Understood?”
The rabbit girl nodded, fearfully. I let her go.
“Good. Now go.”
She scurried away without even looking back at me, leaving me with a sense of deep self-satisfaction. That only lasted a moment, though; then I saw the shock on Abigail’s face, and a rush of embarrassment consumed me as I realized just what I had done.
“I… Perhaps I went a touch far,” I muttered, not able to meet her eyes. Truthfully, I hadn’t known I had that in me. While I had always had a temper, as Devilla, I had always been a calm and well tempered individual as Jacob. Since my memories of being Jacob had tempered my personality so considerably, I had assumed that my fits of anger were all but gone. Apparently all that had shifted was the trigger.
“W-We should get going,” Abigail told me. She was smiling, but it was obviously strained. “People are staring.”
“…So they are.” Indeed, several sets of eyes had locked on me during that little show and the area around me had grown quite quiet. The moment I noticed the staring crowd, however, everyone scattered and noise returned to our part of the ninety fifth floor.
“Come on,” Abigail said, tugging lightly at my hand. “We’re almost there.”
“Almost there” turned out to be quite accurate. A mere moment later Abigail and I had come to a stop again.
“Home sweet home,” Abigail told me. She was indicating a tall building, built of red brick. It was maybe five stories tall, which certainly made it one of the tallest buildings in the area. There was a flower shop on one side, and another apartment building on the other. A brothel by the name of “Demon’s Desire” was situated across the street from it. In other words, it seemed like a rather nice neighborhood. I was pleased to know that I paid Abigail well enough to live there.
“Shall we go inside?” I suggested. “It would be good to begin cooking soon; I am quite famished.” Indeed, with everything that had been happening, I’d skipped both last night’s dinner and that day’s breakfast.
“I don’t know what you’re expecting, but this is going to be a pretty simple breakfast,” Abigail warned me, frowning. “I’m talking eggs and porridge. Maybe a ration of salted pork. Nothing fancy.”
“Just the porridge will be fine, this time,” I told her, honestly. “I do not wish to use up all your supplies.” Actually, I’d be satisfied just knowing what sort of stoves they used, and how to utilize them. If they had an oven, I’d ask about that, too. I rather doubted they would, though.
“…” For some reason, Abigail was giving me a strange look. It seemed as if she had something to say, so I raised an eyebrow to indicate that she should get on with it. “This time?” she asked me. “Don’t tell me you’re planning to do this again?”
“Of course I am,” I told her, blinking in surprise. “One does not learn how to cook in a single lesson, after all.”
Abigail stared at me for another long moment, and then let out a long sigh. Still holding my hand in one of hers, she used the other to turn the knob and then proceeded to drag me inside. It was even darker within the apartment building than it was “outside” but, as I had predicted, the absence of light did absolutely nothing to impede my vision. Abigail didn’t seem particularly bothered by it, either, leading me past several doors before stopping at a door just in front of the stairwell.
“Just a moment,” Abigail said, “I’ll unlock it.” Despite saying this, she did not reach into her dress for a key, but simply closed her eyes and grabbed hold of the handle. Since any halfway decent magic user could shift the inner mechanism of a lock, most demon’s didn’t bother with physical keys or even keyholes, preferring instead to use a combination style locking mechanism, with the dial hidden inside the knob to prevent others from seeing anything. Indeed, a moment after Abigail grabbed the knob there was a soft “click,” and Abigail was able to push the door open.
“Abigail?” called a voice. “Is that you?”
“M-Mom?!” Abigail called back. Her cheeks had grown pale, and her eyes were wide as dinner plates. “Wh-what are you doing up this early?”
“Oh, I had a late night at the brothel, dear,” the voice replied. “I was planning to make myself something to eat and head to bed, actually. But what are you doing here? Don’t you have work, today? You didn’t get fired, did you, dear?” The owner of the voice came into view with that question, stepping out of what I assumed to be the kitchen and peering curiously at us. She had long, wavy brown hair cascading down to her waist and pitch black eyes. She was well endowed, much more so than Abigail, with breasts you could bury your face in. Probably a D-36, about, if I had to guess? Her ass was pretty big, too, more than big enough to fill the average person’s palms. She was wearing a backless red halter top, and a black skirt. She looked to be in her late twenties, or maybe early thirties, but judging by her conversation with Abigail I doubted that either was actually the case. Judging by the black leathery wings that stretched out behind her, she was a lesser succubus like Abigail. That meant her lifespan was almost as long as… Well, mine, I supposed.
“I didn’t get fired, Mom,” Abigail promised, scowling a little. “I… I got told the queen didn’t need me today. And then I ran into my friend Eena, who’d. Been uh. Begging me for lessons on how to cook. So we came back here to make some porridge, and-”
“Porridge?” Abigail’s mother asked. “You’re going to teach your friend how to cook porridge? I can’t imagine she doesn’t know at least that – wouldn’t you be better off teaching her something like your onion soup?”
“We’re going to start with porridge, mom,” Abigail insisted. “Trust me, Eena will have a hard enough time with that.”
“Really now?” The mother’s eyes were on me, now. Just like when her daughter stared, her eyes seemed to see straight into my soul. “You can’t even cook porridge?”
“I’m afraid not, Mrs…?”
“Bevola,” she told me with a smile. “Just Bevola. I don’t have anything so fancy as a last name, I’m afraid. And I’m not married, besides.”
“Bevola, then,” I said, wondering whether I should drop into a curtsy. It was technically a big deal for the queen to even so much as lower her head, but I was pretending to be a commoner right then. She might think me rude if I didn’t… Then again, the disguise had mostly been for the sake of getting through the city. It was probably best to at least let my host know of my true identity. “I fear I must apologize, though, for a small deception. You see, I’m actually-”
“Very hungry!” Abigail interrupted, digging her nails lightly into my palm. “She’s incredibly hungry, and she’s been trying to hide it ‘cause… You know. Rude, much? But I guess I’ve kept her waiting long enough. Porridge time, right Eena?”
“…Yes.” I nodded, slowly, understanding what she wanted from me. I could even guess why she wanted it. Meeting that rabbit girl had driven home how people saw me. Including Abigail, no matter how much I wished that wasn’t the case.
“I will make delicious porridge,” I vowed, turning my attention back to Bevola. “So may I ask that you please wait for sustenance until you can consume it alongside us?”
“My, someone’s quite the flirt,” Bevola teased, letting out a high pitched giggle. “And such formal language, too. Did you pick that up working as a maid? Or perhaps my girl made friends with the daughter of a general, or some such?”
“Today I am simply Eena,” I replied, sidestepping the question with a small smile. “A simple girl, with a simple wish: to learn how to cook. Since your daughter is being kind enough to teach me, the least I can do is feed you after, yes?”
“Well don’t go burning the porridge, in that case, you hear?” Bevola responded. “I’m hoping to eat something delicious, today, after that little speech of yours.”
“You have my word.” I bowed my head, ever so slightly, trying to strike a balance between who I was and who I was pretending to be. “Now – I believe the kitchen is this way?” I started walking toward the room Bevola had left behind. Abigail, still holding my hand, had little choice but to follow. Once we were in the kitchen, however, I grabbed her wrist and forcefully took my hand from hers. It had started to feel rather less like the hand of friendship, and more like a parent’s grip of restraint on a wild child.
“So this is where the magic happens?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. It was indeed the kitchen we had entered, so far as I could tell. There were cupboards and cabinets on one wall, alongside counters and drawers. A basin was set into the counter. It had a drain, but no faucet, leading me to wonder where the water was coming from. There was a metal contraption in the corner that I assumed to be the stove. It was a square thing, standing on four thin legs, with a flat top and a door in front.
“Magic?” Her brow wrinkled in confusion. “It’s. Where we do the cooking? I mean, I guess you’re technically doing magic right now, but usually it’s more about. Like. Chopping and heating things?”
“…Of course. How silly of me.” I didn’t feel like explaining the saying, so I simply let it go. “You said you would teach me how to make porridge, yes?”
“That’s right,” Abigail confirmed, opening one of the cupboards and pulling out a large iron pot. “It’s pretty simple, actually.” She moved to open a drawer, pulling out a long metal ladle. “You really need only one ingredient.”
“One?” I asked, honestly confused. Oats, of course, were the main ingredient of porridge. Water, however, was undoubtedly essential as well. I still wasn’t sure where she was going to get it, either.
“All you need to do is take a pot, like this one…” Abigail placed the black pot on the stovetop, and smacked it lightly with the spoon. “Then you grab some oats…” She moved to a cabinet, pulling out a big burlap sack. It seemed to be something of a struggle for her to lift, so I bent down and casually picked it up.
“How much do I add?” I questioned her, moving over to the pot.
“For three people? About four cups should be more than enough. …Though I guess you don’t know how much a cup is, just eying it, huh?”
I rolled my eyes. “I think I can manage…” And in went the oats. It wasn’t a precise measurement, of course, but it seemed close enough. “Now what? You said that was the only ingredient, yes? You can’t mean to say that you simply cook it like this…?”
“It’ll burn in an instant if you try,” Abigail promised me, a faint smile on her lips. “I meant it’s the only ingredient you need to have on hand. We conjure the water.” Saying so, Abigail held the palm of her hand out toward the pot. In response, a ball of water appeared, growing steadily bigger. When she had what I thought was close to a cup’s worth, she let the water drop into the pot, where it landed with a resounding splash.
“There,” Abigail said, with a smug smile on her lips, “…We’re gonna need to do that about nine more times, but since there’s really only so much water in the air it takes a bit of time to gather it all.”
Gather water from the air? Was she referring to moisture in the atmosphere? It was true that you’d find a bit of it, there, but the tower didn’t feel particularly humid so I couldn’t imagine there was too much of it. If I waited for her to make another nine cups like that, it was going to take a while… Then what if I used a different method?
“May I try filling it?” I asked her, stepping forward. I dropped the illusion I was wearing without asking for her response; I could always put it back.
“Huh? Uh. Sure. But it’ll still take a bit – like I said, there’s only so much water in the air…”
“Yes, that’s true,” I admitted, unperturbed. It was indeed a fact that one would find only so much moisture in the local atmosphere. But why did I have to restrict myself to what was local? Letting my power flow out of the room, and into the apartment as a whole, I drew water toward myself. Slowly, a ball of it began to form, growing bigger and bigger. When it was the required size, I let it drop into the container with a loud splash.
“How did you…?”
“Demon queen secret,” I replied, trying not to laugh. I’d really only used brute force to solve the problem, in the end, but I saw no reason to clue Abigail in on a feat she wouldn’t be able to repeat.
“Right… The Rite of Insight. I guess it really did give you the wisdom of your ancestors, didn’t it?” Abigail nodded to herself, seeming convinced. “Alright, well. Now that we have the water, we just need to set the fire…” She opened the door I’d noticed on the stove, revealing an empty space where wood would no doubt go. “There’s wood under that cabinet,” she said, indicating one near me. “Can you get some for me?”
“Of course,” I readily agreed, bending down to the cupboard and peering inside. There were four logs inside, and I grabbed the smallest one. “Though… wouldn’t it be better to simply create a magical flame for the duration of your cooking? It wouldn’t burn wood, and you would have better control of the temperature.”
“Most people don’t have enough magic power to cook an entire meal with it, Eena,” Abigail pointed out, sounding exasperated. “I don’t think I’d even be able to keep up an illusion spell like you were, earlier. And you should conserve whatever you have left for the road back.” She reached for the wood, as she spoke, but I pulled it back and tossed it back into the cupboard.
“Nonsense,” I told her. “I’m sure wood is expensive – and you are not giving my magic capacity the credit it is due, besides. Tell me when to stop growing the flame.”
I pictured an ember, floating in the space beneath the stove, and it appeared. Then, ignoring Abigail’s slackjaw stare, I began to slowly increase the size of the flames.
“Th-that’s enough!” Abigail called, quickly, once I had a ball of flame about twice the size of my fist. “That’s more than enough. Do you think you can keep it up for five minutes, or so? We need to let it boil, and then reduce the heat.”
“No problem,” I promised her, stepping closer to the pot so that I could peer inside. “I’m fairly certain I could keep this up for days.” Indeed, despite the last hour’s constant expenditure of magic, I couldn’t say I felt much of a dent in my magic power. I was either recovering my magic faster than I was using it, or I simply had an unimaginably large capacity. It was quite possibly a bit of both.
“Is everything going alright in there?” came Bevola’s familiar voice.
“M-Mom! We’re fine! Don’t come in!” Abigail called back. She sounded a touch panicked.
“Don’t come in? Now you’ve really got me curious,” Bevola teased. I could hear her footsteps coming closer. “You wouldn’t happen to be preparing something special for your old mother, would you dear?”
“I told you! I’m just teaching D-Eena how to make porridge!” Abigail insisted. “W-we haven’t even gotten it to a boil yet, so there’s no point in you coming in! Just take a nap or something!”
“I’ll nap when I want to, dear,” Bevola said, entering the kitchen. She walked up to the stove, standing besides me and peering curiously at the open door. “Why, you haven’t even put the wood in yet, have you?” she accused, frowning. “And you’re talking about bringing it to a boil… What’s wrong with you?” She moved over to the cupboard, pulling out a small log and carrying it back to the stove. This she dropped inside, and lit with a spell of her own. “There. Now it should start cooking properly,” she declared, closing the oven door.
“Honestly, my dear,” she added. Looking at me, “you should have had me teach you instead.”
“Maybe you can teach me my next recipe,” I said, with a faint smile on my lips. I had of course dropped the fire spell in order to restore the illusion from before.
“You drop by sometime when Abigail isn’t here, and I just might,” Bevola promised, trudging back out of the kitchen. “Now get along you two! I look forward to the food you cook.”
“A-Alright mom,” Abigail agreed. She waited until her mother had left the kitchen before sneaking a glance at me. “Thanks. For the quick thinking.”
“It’s hardly a problem,” I replied, cooly. “Though with the wood already burning, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to put it out other than drenching it with water. If you’re alright with it, I’ll simply concentrate on managing the size of the fire.”
I gave a small nod, and opened the door to the stove again so that I could focus on managing the flames. For a few moments, other than the sound of the crackling fire, the room was silent.
“….Your mother doesn’t like me, does she?” I phrased it as a question, but I was fairly certain I was right.
“Huh?” Abigail blinked, surprised. “No, she likes you fine. I mean, she’s been practically flirting with you since you got here, y’know?”
“The real me,” I corrected. “She does not like Queen Devilla. Does she?”
“Oh.” There was a moment of uncomfortable silence, during which Abigail looked at everything in the room except me. Then her eyes met mine and she spoke. “My other mother was a soldier, in your mom’s army. She died when I was a baby – fighting in the war.”
“And your mother blames me?”
“No. But…” Abigail let out a long, slow sigh. “She does think you’ve wasted mother’s sacrifice.”
“I see,” So that’s how it was. I couldn’t precisely say that Bevola was wrong. It was almost certainly my fault that demonkind hadn’t made any progress since the last war.
Without anything to say, on either side, an uncomfortable silence settled on the room. I did nothing but stare at the fire, keeping it controlled, while Abigail nervously poked the toe of one foot at the floor and glanced over her shoulder occasionally to see if her mother was coming back.
“Alright,” Abigail said, at last. “The water’s started to boil, so you should lower the heat down to about a fifth of where it’s at right now, and then start stirring the porridge.”
“You want me to be the one stirring it?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. It wasn’t as if I particularly minded; I simply thought that I’d tease her a little, to lighten the mood.
“Hey, you wanted to learn how to cook , right? You put in the oats, and most of the water, plus you’re controlling the flame. If you do the stirring, I’ll be willing to publicly state that you know how to make porridge.”
“And what would the tower think if they found that their powerful and bratty queen knew how to cook a commoner’s meal?” I demanded, placing my hands on my hips.
“Maybe that you’re not such a brat after all?” Abigail suggested. “Maybe they’ll even realize you’re… sort of… Not terrible to be around. Sometimes.”
“…My. Such words of praise, from my loyal maid. Careful or I’ll start to think you’re after a raise.” I held out a hand for the ladle, as I spoke, and Abigail handed it over with a blush on her cheeks.
Silence reigned again. The only difference from before was the clanking noise occasionally made by the ladle when it hit the pot. Despite that, I found the silence somehow more comfortable than before.
“I… never said ‘thank you.’ Did I?” Abigail asked, after a few minutes.
“For what?” I asked back, honestly confused. “You are the one who provided both the lesson and the ingredients. If anyone should be thanking you, it should surely be me.”
“No. I mean… When you stood up for me. I didn’t expect you to get so angry on my behalf – so…I guess it didn’t occur to me to say something. But I should have. Thank you.”
“…I simply did as I desired, in the end,” I confessed. “I did not consider how it would make you feel, having me threaten someone like that. In the end, I simply acted selfishly. Like the bratty queen I am.”
“That’s not true,” Abigail insisted, shaking her head rapidly back and forth. The movement sent her blonde hair whipping back and forth, and I paused a moment in my stirring to watch the spectacle, unable to resist a small smile.
“I’ve never had anyone but Mom stand up for me like that,” Abigail continued. “I don’t exactly like it when she does it, and I’m not sure you doing it was any better, but… Still. It’s nice to know you care.”
I didn’t respond, simply stirring the pot. The oats soaked up more and more liquid as I did so, until the porridge was thick enough to make stirring difficult. With that, Abigail declared breakfast a success, and withdrew three bowls from a cupboard and some spoons from a drawer. I doused my flames with a splash of water, recast my illusion spell, and filled each of the bowls. Carrying two of them to the dining room table, I placed them on opposing sides of the table.
“Mom!” Abigail called, sitting down herself. “Mom! Food’s done!”
“My, you’re done fast.” There was a loud yawn, and Bevola emerged from another room at the back of the house. She had put on a white nightgown, at some point. A backless one, of course, to make up for her wings. “Perhaps I should have napped instead of checking on you…”
“It’s just basic porridge,” Abigail warned, “so you’ll probably want some sugar, but I’m pretty sure she cooked it right.”
“How rude,” I complained, looking for the sugar myself. I was a little surprised that commoners could afford any of the stuff, but perhaps it wasn’t as expensive here as it was in most fantasy settings. “I assure you, Bevola, that it’s quite well made. Your daughter even helped me with it.”
Abigail took advantage of my conversation to grab the sugar first. It was in a very small bowl, with a lid that had a notch in it, fitted over a small, ceramic spoon. Abigail used the spoon to scoop up a bit of sugar into her bowl, stirring it up with one of the spoon’s she’d taken from the cupboard. Bringing a bite of porridge up to her lips, she blew on it twice before taking her first bite.
“It’s good!” she declared.
“Well, if it has my daughter’s seal of approval…” Bevola took an even smaller scoop of sugar than her daughter, mixing it in and taking a bite of her own. “Hmm! Not bad at all. You did well, Eena.”
“You give me too much praise,” I protested, taking the sugar bowl for myself. Since the others had only used a small amount of sugar, I assumed it wasn’t that cheap, and used a similar amount. The porridge was… bland. But passable. I had officially learned to cook my first meal and, with hunger as its main spice, I was quick to eat it all.
“Someone’s certainly a hungry woman!” Bevola laughed, taking another bite of her own porridge. She was perhaps half done, with Abigail only slightly ahead. I really had finished quite quickly.
“A growing girl needs to eat,” was my excuse. I was thankful that my painted on illusion didn’t allow for things like blushes to show.
“And which part of you is still growing, exactly?” Abigail wanted to know.
“…Perhaps these?” I suggested, indicating my tits. I had heard that they could keep growing into one’s twenties, so it wasn’t a falsehood. More importantly, however, it brought a glare from the relatively flat chested Abigail.
Bevola laughed from across the table, apparently amused by my joke. Well, she was almost as well endowed as me. Otherwise I never would have made the jab in her presence.
“My tits might be small,” Abigail muttered, “but they’re more sensitive than any of yours!”
If I had been offered something to drink, I would have spat it out in shock. Was that any way to talk in front of one’s mother?
“Aye,” agreed Bevola, apparently seeing nothing wrong with it. “You’re like Jazma, to hear you tell it.”
Jazma. That must have been Abigail’s other mother. The one who’s sacrifice I had wasted, alongside so many others. The one Abigail would never get to know.
“So,” Bevola continued, her pure black eyes turning to Devilla, “you never did tell me how you know little miss sensitive here. I’m going to start thinking you really are a general’s daughter, if you don’t correct me quick.” Her voice was teasing, but her expression was serious. It seemed that it was normal in any world for mothers to worry about their daughters.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Abigail protested, instantly moving to deny the area. “Eena is just-”
“The queen,” I interrupted, pushing my chair back and standing upright.
Abigail stared at me, eyes wide and mouth wider. “Y-Yeah, we both work for the-”
“My name is Devilla Satanne,” I declared, dropping my illusion. My eyes met Bevola’s unblinking black gaze, and though I did not break eye contact I did slightly lower my head. “I know you will likely not believe it, but I do apologize for deceiving you.”
Bevola made no response. It felt like there was a lump in my throat, but I forced myself to keep speaking. “I understand that I am not welcome in your house. I’ll find another kitchen to cook in. Thank you for the meal.” With my piece said, I turned to leave.
“Wait.” I had half expected Abigail to call out to me. I had already decided to ignore her, if she did. But it was Bevola who called out to me, and I couldn’t hide my surprise.
“…Yes?” I turned back toward her. Would she yell at me, for wasting her wife’s sacrifice? If so, I would accept it; I probably should have been prepared for that from the start.
“Why did you tell me the truth?”
The question she asked was unexpected, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. From the way Bevola’s black eyes were searching mine, I didn’t think she’d be satisfied with anything less than the truth. I couldn’t give her the full story, unfortunately, but I hoped part of it would do.
“I didn’t want Abigail to keep lying to you. Not for my sake, at least.”
“And why not?” Bevola pressed, her eyes narrowing. It felt like I was pinned beneath her gaze. I knew that I was stronger than her, yet the mere idea of resisting her seemed somehow futile.
“…Because I am someone who will never see her parents again,” I explained, at last. I didn’t know my parents at all, as Devilla. I had lost them too young to even understand what that pain meant. As Jacob I’d had parents who loved me, though. Parents I’d left behind, who I would never see again. I felt both Devilla’s irrational anger at the world for making her grow up without parents and Jacob’s grief at forever losing access to those he loved. Thus, I felt that I understood far better than most just how important parental relationships could be. “I did not wish to watch Abigail strain her relationship with you; not for the sake of teaching me how to cook.”
“Mom,” Abigail started, but stopped when Bevola lifted a hand.
“You’re a lot different than I expected, Queen Devilla,” Bevola admitted. “That doesn’t mean I like you, or anything. You’ve got a long way to go for that. But…”
I realized that I was holding my breath. I didn’t let it go, though. Not even as the moment stretched on. Not until Bevola finally spoke again.
“…But. I can’t say it would be a bad thing for my daughter to get close to you. It might even do her some good, one day, knowing the queen.”
“Then does that mean you’re fine with her still being my maid?” I asked, relief washing over me. My legs felt like they were made of jelly, and only my royal pride kept me from collapsing to the floor. I hadn’t realized how terrified I’d been of losing Abigail entirely over this.
“Your maid?” Bevola laughed. “That was never in question. I don’t tell my girl where she can or can’t work. No – what I’m saying is that you can keep using my kitchen. But no more lies!”
“No more lies,” I promised, willingly. “…Though I won’t say the same about secrets.”
“Well duh, dear. Every lady deserves a few of those, don’t you think?”
I could only smile in response. After all, how I became a lady was one of the secrets I intended to keep.