Edited by paradoxicalWitchling
Proofread by FallingLeaf
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 woke up early today, fully intending to reach the cooks before they started my breakfast. Unfortunately, I achieved my goal a little too well. I wasn’t entirely sure what the time was, without a clock or a window, but when one considered my habit of sleeping till near noon… Perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find that the majority of the kitchen staff hadn’t bothered to come in yet.
In fact, there was only a singular figure in the kitchen. She was perhaps a little on the small side, standing at about five foot three. She had long orange hair that ran all the way down to her mid-back and golden horns that rose from the sides of her head before sweeping backward. She wore a simple gray halter top, backless to allow for the leathery red wings that were folded against her body, and a black skirt, with a white apron over top. A thick red tail protruded from the bottom of her skirt, long enough to trail along the floor behind her as she walked. Red scales were scattered here and there across her dusky skin, concentrated especially about her elbows and knees. At first glance she seemed to have a small dusting of freckles curving around the bridge of her nose, but on closer inspection it was actually another spattering of tiny scales.
She was a dragon girl, a species I associated with pride and wealth. And she was currently sweeping the kitchen floor.
“Excuse me,” I called out, rapping my knuckles against the doorframe. “Do you work here?”
The dragon girl let out a little squeak at the sound of my voice and nearly dropped her broom. I watched as she frantically grabbed at the wooden pole, pulling it against her chest before turning her attention to me.
If my voice had been a surprise, it seemed my appearance was a shock. She let out another squeak, this time gripping the broom so tight that her knuckles turned white. She stared at me for several seconds, red eyes wide with fright.
“Is everything alright?” I asked, giving her the most gentle smile I could muster. I didn’t really feel like smiling at all, after seeing the reaction my appearance elicited, but considering her behavior thus far, I was legitimately worried that a frown might cause her to faint.
“Qu-Queen Devilla,” she stammered out. She started to curtsy, then stopped when she realized she still had the broom in her hands, which made the gesture awkward. “I… ah…”
“It’s fine,” I assured her. Although I was a little hurt by her reaction to me, I tried to inject a little amusement into my voice. “We can forget the formalities, this once.”
“Th-Thank you, Queen Devilla…” She bowed stiffly, still clutching the broom for dear life. “T-To what do I owe the p-pleasure of your visit today?”
It was a struggle not to make a retort, considering how little pleasure my visit seemed to be bringing her. Instead, I forced myself to keep smiling. “I’m afraid we need to borrow the kitchen. There’s something special I intend to cook.”
“I can wake the head chef,” the dragon girl offered. Her words were growing noticeably smoother as we talked, the stutter fading away bit by bit. Despite that, I couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were directed slightly to my right, fixating on a part of the doorframe. She couldn’t even look directly at me.
“That won’t be necessary,” I informed her, shaking my head. “The recipe I intend to cook is not known to her.”
“Miss Nola is very knowledgeable,” the girl insisted. “I’m sure if you described what you wanted, she’d be able to make it.”
My smile faded, lips pressing into a thin line. I made the effort not to frown, but I still saw the girl’s shoulders stiffen.
“…Perhaps we should start over,” I suggested, placing my right hand on my chest. “My name is Devilla Satanne. And you are?” I smiled brightly while trying desperately to hide my burgeoning annoyance. I was clearly a terrifying presence for this girl, and I didn’t wish to make it worse.
“Lenora Dors,” the dragon girl responded, bowing again. Her grip on the broom, which had been slowly relaxing over the course of our talk, tightened again as she introduced herself. I was honestly surprised that she hadn’t snapped the handle in half by this point.
“Dors?” Abigail called out from behind me. Before I could even vacate the doorframe, she was squeezing past me and into the room. “As in the Dors family? The ones who have stores on nearly half the floors?”
Lenora flinched at the onslaught of questions, and she took a step backward in order to press herself against the wall, quietly nodding her head when Abigail was finished.
“Th-That’s right,” Lenora confirmed, her stutter back in force now that she had Abigail to contend with as well. “B-But that’s my p-parents. I-I’m just an apprentice chef…”
“And I’m sure you’re a wonderful apprentice chef, at that,” I interrupted, taking the opportunity to walk further into the kitchen. Lenora looked as if she wanted to distance herself, but with her back already pressed against the wall, there was really nowhere for her to go. Again, her eyes refused to meet mine. This time I couldn’t exactly blame her, though, as her gaze was locked on Bailey, who had followed me into the room.
“She won’t bite,” I promised. At least, I didn’t think she would. To be on the safe side, I opened my mental link with Bailey again and made that an actual order.
“B-But she’s a monster!” Lenora protested, pointing an accusatory finger at Bailey.
“Her name is Bailey. She’s a demon, I assure you, and under my control, besides.” I didn’t like talking about Bailey like that, but her understanding of the world truly was that of a wild beast. Since I didn’t know what she might do without me present, I couldn’t blame Lenora for needing reassurance.
Bailey didn’t seem to care, at least. She simply sat down beside me, tongue lolling out. Wild or not, she was definitely adorable.
“She’s a d-demon?” Lenora asked. I could hear the doubt in her voice but chose to ignore it. I knew how dubious my claim sounded, true as it was.
“She’s a demon. Just like you’re an apprentice chef. And as an apprentice chef, you know where all the ingredients are, yes? Including the oil?”
“Y-Yes!” Lenora confirmed, nodding rapidly, before suddenly freezing in place. “W-Wait. You’re really going to cook something?”
“I said so, did I not?”
The shock in her eyes felt mildly insulting, though I understood her reservations. A week ago, I hadn’t even known how to cook, but I’d worked hard and now could make porridge, bacon, sausage, and even eggs. Today I was determined to add fries to that list.
“The ingredients?” I prompted again when Lenora showed no sign of moving.
“R-Right!” Lenora glanced frantically from side to side for a moment, as if looking for something, and then focused her gaze back on me. “Um. What did you need again?”
“Oil.” I tried to be gentle with my response, but perhaps I was a touch too terse in my annoyance. Lenora let out a small squeak before nodding her head fervently.
“R-Right! The oil is over here,” she said, putting the broom down, then moving over to a cupboard. I caught a glimpse of numerous glass bottles inside it, mostly filled with dried herbs and spices. One, which looked to be half again as large as the others, was filled to the brim with yellow liquid. It was this bottle that Lenora brought me.
“Is this all the oil you have at present?” I asked her, a little disappointed. It was larger than the other bottles, but it was still only a liter of liquid at most.
“Y-yes, your majesty,” Lenora confirmed. “I can requisition more if you’d like? But it takes a while…”
“Then there is more?” I asked, my excitement building. She nodded, and a smile splayed across my lips. If she could get more, then I didn’t need to worry about using what the kitchen already had. I could use all the oil I wanted!
“I require a pot, and a metal strainer that can fit within it,” I informed her. “As well as a knife, a cutting board, and an empty jar.”
“R-Right away, Queen Devilla!”
To say Lenora moved quickly would be a vast understatement. She practically ran, going from one cupboard to another as she grabbed everything she needed. She put the jar and knife into the strainer, and the strainer into the pot, and then carried them all over using the cutting board as a tray.
I took the load and headed to the counter, taking everything off the cutting board. While there wasn’t exactly a sink, there was a basin built into the counter, complete with a drain and a lump of soap. I pulled some water from the air and used it to wash my hands, before reaching into the seemingly empty bag at my side and pulling out several potatoes.
My recipe for fries was fairly simple. First I pulled some more water from the air, forming a ball of it above the basin. Then I thrust one potato after another into the conjured water, agitating the liquid in order to forcefully scrub all dirt from the spuds. Once that was done, I placed my potatoes on the cutting board and cut them into planks. I’m proud to say I managed my strength fairly well throughout, despite my excitement. The wooden cutting board was only barely nicked during the process, and the knife’s iron handle wasn’t mangled at all.
“What are those?”
The voice caught me off guard, and I jumped a few feet backward in surprise, almost bumping into Abigail.
“S-sorry,” Lenora murmured, ducking into a curtsy. The moment that was done, she pointed a finger at the cut planks. “What are they, though?”
“Potatoes. They’re a foreign vegetable I learned about through the Rite of Insight.” The explanation was apparently enough for Lenora, who went wide-eyed at the thought. From the look on Abigail’s face, I thought she might be rolling her eyes at me, but I magnanimously chose to ignore it.
“Would you like to watch my process?” I asked with another gentle smile. “I imagine I’ll be asking for this dish quite a bit, so having someone who can cook it would be beneficial to me.”
“Really? I can?” Lenora’s eyes were alight with excitement, and her lips were pulled into a grin of such pure joy you’d think that I had offered her the world itself upon a golden platter.
“You’d be doing me a favor,” I assured her, walking closer to both her and the cutting board. Her red eyes were filled with fear, but she stayed right where she was as I reached into my bag. This time I pulled out a handful of white crystals, which I sprinkled upon the potatoes.
“Is that salt!?” Lenora demanded. Her thick tail thumped against the floor in excitement, and she actually went so far as to reach out and touch a stray crystal, before snatching her hand back.
I couldn’t hold back an amused laugh.
“You don’t have to laugh…” Lenora complained. She looked a step away from tears. “I… I was just curious…”
“Apologies,” I said, lifting my hand in a conciliatory gesture. “I was simply caught off guard by your excitement. Yes, it is indeed salt. Would you like some?”
“Wh-what? I can really have some?” Lenora’s tears evaporated as quickly as they’d come. Her eyes were sparkling with excitement, and it took all my willpower not to let out another laugh. It seemed Lenora’s moods were quick to shift. Even though she still seemed tense, it didn’t seem like she was going to run away from me so long as food was involved. Was this what you’d call “Passion?”
“You can indeed have some,” I promised her, reaching into the pot and pulling out the jar I’d asked for earlier. Narrow enough at its base for me to fit it in my palm, the glass cylinder was about a foot tall, and was topped with a glass lid. I seemed to recall that glasswork in the middle ages was rife with imperfections, but I could see none in the jar. Perhaps magic had aided in the crafting of it? Regardless, it made a fine receptacle for salt, and I turned my bag upside down over it, allowing the white crystals to pour into the jar.
“This is for the kitchen,” I explained, offering the newly full bottle to Lenora. “If you’d be so kind as to fetch me something smaller, I’d be happy to grant you your own supply.”
Lenora did not move for several seconds, instead staring slack-jawed at the jar. It took a gentle cough from me to get her started again, and even then her movements were quite stiff as she took hold of the salt and robotically carried it back to the pantry.
“Are you trying to give the girl a heart attack?” Abigail hissed, sidling up next to me while Lenora was distracted.
“I do not see the problem,” I protested, frowning. “It was always my intent to reintroduce salt to the tower.”
“There are better ways of doing that than handing someone a literal fortune! She’s nervous enough already, if you hadn’t noticed!”
“As if I could avoid noticing it,” I muttered, taking the strainer out of the pot. “She will have to adapt. Salt might be seen as valuable for now, but I intend to make it commonplace before much longer.”
Abigail looked as if she had more complaints to make, but she shut her mouth when Lenora returned. The dragon girl was carrying another glass bottle. Between the bulbous base and the cork stopper, it looked more suited for potions than spices.
“Is this really okay?” Lenora asked. Her voice was faint, and her eyes refused to focus directly on me, as if she were in a daze.
“It’s fine if I say it is,” I asserted, taking the bottle from her and uncorking it. Since this container had a more narrow opening, I used magic to funnel the salt into the vessel. Once it was full, I corked it once more and proffered it to her.
“But I’m not even a full-fledged chef… Why would you waste something so precious on someone like me?” Despite the protest, Lenora still took the bottle and cradled it against her chest. She even smiled at it, like a mother looking down at their precious baby.
“I intend to make salt a common commodity,” I explained. “I brought quite a lot of it. You’re simply the first to be served.”
“S-Still… Isn’t it strange to waste something like this to an apprentice chef?” Lenora insisted. She stared at the salt for several long moments and then held it out to me with trembling hands. “Y-You should give this to the head chef, instead…”
“Is that how you really feel?” I demanded, raising an eyebrow. “Perhaps this is hypocritical, coming from someone who was born to her title, but if you aren’t a full-fledged chef now, then you simply have to become one.”
“B-become one?” Lenora echoed. “Do you really think I can?”
“And how could I possibly know that?” I asked, dismissively. “The only one who can ever know your limitations is you. But when it comes to salt, the head chef should be an amateur, too.”
For a moment there was silence. Lenora stared at the bottle of salt in her hands. Then, right as I was starting to think the decision was too much for her, she tightened her fingers about the container and slipped it into the pocket of her apron.
“You’re not at all like the rumors say you are,” she told me, meeting my eyes for the first time. There was a small, shy smile on her lips. It was nice to see something other than fear directed my way.
Still, my own expression was somewhat strained. “The rumors of my cruelty are all too true,” I confessed, sprinkling a little more salt on the potatoes, and hand tossing them to spread out the seasoning.
“For a long time, I was nothing but a spoiled brat.” I uncorked the bottle of oil and began to pour the liquid into the pot. It took the majority of the bottle to satisfy me, since I wanted to eventually submerge the potatoes and strainer both.
“I’m sure that’s not true!” Lenora protested, wide-eyed. “You’re nice. Or… You’ve been nice to me, at least…”
I glanced at Abigail, looking for backup, but she only gave me a smug look, as if to say “I told you so.” It seemed I would receive no support from her.
“I’m nice now, perhaps. But I have a lot to make up for, all the same. Denying the rumors would be like denying the pain I’ve caused, and I won’t do that.”
“Because denying all the good you’re doing is so much better….”
My cheeks flushed red at Abigail’s words, but I didn’t respond to them. To begin with, they were spoken so softly that I wasn’t entirely sure they were meant to be heard. Lenora certainly hadn’t heard anything; she seemed too focused on the pot of potatoes to really process words whispered behind her. Answering a question she hadn’t heard in front of her would simply lead to awkward confusion. At least, that’s what I told myself.
But, truthfully, I just wasn’t sure how to respond.
“The next part is heating the oil,” I said, pressing onwards instead. “You’ll probably have to experiment a bit with the size of the fire, and how long to cook them, but I’m going to cheat a little and use magic to heat it directly.” I knew that too low a temperature would result in greasy fries, while making it too hot would burn them. What I didn’t know was what temperature was actually required. I’d have to experiment.
I focused on a point in the center of the oil, building up heat rapidly until the surface began to boil. I then took a few of the fries, put them in the strainer, and placed that strainer in the pot. As makeshift fry baskets went, it was a definitively terrible replacement, but with magic at my disposal, I figured I could make it work. I’d need to get some proper fry baskets made at some point though. Hopefully, we were as good at working metal as we were with glass.
After a few minutes, I used magic to pull the strainer from the pan. The fries in it came out soggy, so I put them aside and raised the heat a little more, making the bubbles pop and sizzle even faster. The next test batch looked right, but when I bit into it it was far too hard, so I shifted the temperature back down a touch and waited for the bubbling to slow. In this way, I eventually narrowed down the temperature until I had a perfectly crisp, golden fry.
“Almost done,” I promised the girls with a smile, “though I think it could use a little pepper… and perhaps some malt vinegar if we have any?”
“Right away!” Lenora jumped, running back to the cabinet.
I added the rest of the potatoes to the strainer and used magic to lower it back into the oil while she was getting everything. I wasn’t exactly sure how long the fries were supposed to remain in the oil, so every minute or so I’d magically lift one out. In the end, it took a little under five minutes.
“The fries are finished!” I declared. “Fetch me four plates.”
“Four?” Lenora asked, looking around the room. Her eyes flicked between me, Abigail, and Bailey, then darted around some more as if searching for a hidden person. “There’s only three of you, though.”
“But there are four of us,” I countered, putting emphasis on the final word. “Or did you think you were helping me for free?”
I’d thought most of the nervousness had leached out of Lenora over the course of my cooking, but now her stutter was back, and a look of pure panic had returned to her face.
“I-I can’t!” she protested, “Th-This is food meant for the queen! For a commoner like me to even think about eating it would be… I mean. I couldn’t!”
“I hardly see the problem. I’ve been ordering extra food for Abigail for almost a week now, have I not?” Well, excluding the days I’d been absent at least.
“B-But-” She glanced at Abigail, pleading with her eyes for help. My maid’s only response was a helpless shrug of her shoulders, as if to say she didn’t understand me either.
The way they were acting almost made me worry that I was being unreasonable, but I couldn’t back down. If people started to treat this as some sort of extravagant, royal dish, it might very well become impossible to spread fries.
“I do not see how you intend to repeat the recipe if you don’t even know what the end result is meant to taste like,” I pointed out. “I intend to request this quite a bit, you know? Not to mention my plans of spreading it throughout the tower.”
“Th-throughout the tower…?” Lenora repeated.
“…Seriously?” Abigail muttered.
“Well, I’ll have to introduce everyone to potatoes first, but once you taste it, I’m sure you’ll understand that this is a dish worth reprising.”
“Maybe,” Abigail conceded, looking somewhat doubtful. “But it takes a lot of oil. I don’t think anyone but you could afford doing this regularly.”
Lenora nodded firmly. “I was really surprised when you emptied most of the bottle.”
Ah. Perhaps I had been a little quick on the draw there. Between the quantity of oil we possessed, and the assurance that we could get more, I’d jumped to the conclusion that it was cheap. But thinking about it now, even the relatively inexpensive oil of my last life had been pricey enough to keep me from deep-frying at home.
“Very well,” I declared after a moment. “In that case, we will simply need to employ the oven method next time. I will teach it to you later – after we partake.”
Having found no help in Abigail, Lenora turned her attention next to Bailey. When the wolf responded by licking her own nose, I could almost see the will to fight leaving Lenora’s body. Her shoulders slumped in defeat, and she moved to pull four porcelain plates from a cabinet.
“I’ll serve them,” Abigail volunteered. “I think Lenora might break if you did it.”
I wanted to scoff at the idea, but the wide-eyed look of terror on Lenora’s face strongly reinforced it.
“Is the position of Queen truly such a big deal to you?” I inquired, looking down upon her. “Most of my citizens seem to think of me as an incorrigible brat.”
“Th-They shouldn’t say things like that to you,” Lenora complained, ducking her head.
“Even if it’s true?” I questioned, arching an eyebrow.
“It’s not true. But even if it was…” Her hands curled into fists, which trembled at her sides. “Even if it was, it would be wrong to talk about you like that.”
“Why?” I pressed, “If it doesn’t bother me, I can’t imagine why it would cause you such consternation.”
“B-but… you’re the Demon Queen…”
Like Lenora before me, I turned to Abigail for help. Unfortunately, I received no more than my predecessor.
“How the heck would I know? No offense, but I didn’t think there was anyone on your staff who actually respected you. Except me, and that’s a recent development.”
“You respect me?” I balked. I had thought, from the way she’d been acting toward me of late, that we had perhaps crossed the border between dislike and neutrality. Considering her recent remarks, I even thought it possible that she’d begun enjoying my company. The way she talked to me and countered my self-deprecations felt almost like the actions of a friend. But I’d never thought that actual respect was on the table.
“A little. Sometimes. Don’t let it go to your head,” Abigail warned, narrowing her eyes. “You’re still not off the hook for hiding so much from me. Or making that stupid plan.”
I gave her a faint smile, choosing to ignore the more acrid words, then turned my attention back to Lenora.
“I really am just a person. Stripped of my powers, I would be no more special than you.”
“That’s not true,” Lenora argued, shaking her head vigorously. “Y-you’re different from anyone else… I mean, you’re the Demon Queen!”
“Lenora,” Abigail interceded, “what exactly do you think a demon queen is?”
“A hero.” The smile on Lenora’s face was bright and pure, so much so that it almost hurt to look at it. The admiration in her eyes was particularly difficult to deal with, as I couldn’t think of anything I’d done to deserve it. “And not a fake one, like the Heroine. A real hero.”
“A real hero?” I probed.
Lenora gave a firm nod. “Even though you’re an angel, instead of a demon – even though you could live forever – you’re still putting your life on the line for us, just like all the demon queens before you. How can anyone not respect that? How can anyone think you’re selfish when your life’s been promised to us from the very start?”
I didn’t know what to say to that. It wasn’t exactly untrue. Prior to recovering my memories of being Jacob, I really had thought my story would end in death; if not at the hands of this heroine, then from the next one, or perhaps the one after that. Some of my behavior could probably be attributed to that. I’m sure deep down, I thought that I deserved the luxuries I demanded since I was already doomed to be their sacrifice.
But it didn’t excuse the way I’d treated everyone. If I was going to survive and live among my people, then it was up to me to make amends.
I let out a long sigh, placing my fingers on my temple. “…I’m sorry, Lenora,” I said, offering her an apologetic smile,“but I think I’ll be serving the fries.”
“H-huh?” Lenora’s ruby red eyes widened in surprise. “I… But… But… You’re the Queen…”
“I am the Queen,” I agreed, taking the plates from Lenora’s unresisting hands, and placing them on the counter. I used magic to transfer fries to the topmost plate and then offered it to Lenora. “And as the Queen, I am ordering you to eat these fries alongside me and my friends.”
“B-but… But why?” she asked, her hands trembling. She looked conflicted, torn between following my orders and offering me the respect she insisted I deserved.
“Because I am not dead yet.”
“Huh?” She tilted her head in confusion, and even Abigail looked at me askance. Bailey, of course, remained oblivious and simply scratched at her ear with her hind leg.
“I am not dead yet,” I repeated. “I am not one of the many demon queens who have laid down their lives. I have not yet crossed the barrier from which there can be no return. I am alive. And while I yet live, I wish to enjoy myself with friends. Not as the Queen, but as Devilla.”
“I-I don’t understand,” Lenora stammared. “What does that have to do with serving me fries?”
“Everything. I am asking you to be my friend.”
Lenora froze in place. Even her hands stopped trembling, as her red eyes locked onto mine. When she spoke, she did so with a voice so weak I doubt anyone but me could have heard it.
“…I’m just an apprentice chef…”
“No. You are Lenora Dors, the one in charge of making my future fries.”
Lenora’s mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Thought it might be a bit cruel, I’ll admit that she looked something like a fish.
“Thank you,” she said at last, speaking softly. “But I can’t.”
“No?” I arched an eyebrow. Abigail, too, seemed curious, just judging by the way she leaned closer to hear.
“I got my current job because of my parents,” Lenora explained, “and everyone knows it. They talk about it whenever I leave the room, even when I’m still in earshot. And they won’t let me do any of the cooking… All I can do is sweep the floors and watch.”
“Then I’d think you’d leap at the chance to do more,” I remarked, not bothering to stifle my inquisitive tone.
“Y-yeah,” Lenora agreed. “But… I want to earn it myself this time. If I get another job based on who I know, instead of what I’ve done, then there’s no way I’ll ever live it down…”
“I see,” I murmured, running a hand idly through the tresses of my long white hair. Thanks to Abigail’s good care, there wasn’t a single knot in my locks. It felt like the tangles missing from my hair had knotted themselves into this situation instead.
“Very well,” I conceded. “We will do things your way, but there’s one point I won’t back down on.”
“Wh-What?” Lenora looked on edge as she answered me. No doubt she was readying herself to refuse, in case I asked too much. I wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer though.
“You will eat these fries with me, and before they grow cold, at that.” Lenora had helped me considerably with making them. I would pay her back for that.
Besides which, even if I couldn’t give her a position, I could create an opportunity for her. As the only one in the kitchen who’d actually tasted fries, the head chef would need Lenora even after receiving the recipe. It would be up to her to take advantage of that opportunity to prove herself.
“…Can you at least let me serve my own fries?” Lenora asked, biting her lower lip.
“Oh, very well,” I conceded with a sigh. “Fries are best when one simply helps themselves I suppose.” Thankfully I’d planned to give Lenora a solid fourth of the fries, meaning I had quite the generous portion on my own plate.
Trying not to be impatient, I waited while Lenora grabbed some tongs, and began portioning out fries for herself. Surprisingly, both she and then Abigail put only a few fries onto their plates.
“I hope you two aren’t thinking this dish will be too rich for your blood?” I chided, looking between the two of them as I prepped Bailey’s plate.
“I-it’s not that. It’s just…” Lenora trailed off, and ducked her head down, refusing to meet my eye.
“It’s just that we’re not sure what to make of it,” Abigail explained after it became clear that Lenora wasn’t going to continue speaking. “I mean, you bring in some entirely new type of vegetable, add a substance we’ve never seen in person, and then used a cooking technique I’ve never even heard of. I’m sorry, Devilla, but you might end up eating most of this yourself.”
“I’ll remember you said that,” I warned them, picking up my first fry. Despite the highhanded words, my own heart was pounding fiercely as I lifted the food to my mouth. What if they weren’t as good as I remembered them being?
There was only one way to find out. I leaned forward to meet the fry halfway and bit into the crisp potato plank. As my teeth crunched through the surface, and the salty food touched my tongue, my eyes practically rolled back into my head from pleasure.
“Is it really that good?” Lenora asked, doubt written clearly on her features. “I-I mean, not that I don’t trust you, but you didn’t even add anything to it. I thought you wanted pepper and malt vinegar?”
“I simply wished to taste it once without any affectation,” I explained, reaching for the pepper. “You can ask Bailey if you doubt me.” The wolf had already devoured her portion and was now licking the remaining grease and crumbs from her plate. For my part, I added a generous portion of pepper to my fries, before making a small puddle of malt vinegar on my plate. I then dipped a fry into it and ate the result.
“Delicious!” I declared, hastily repeating the process. “Absolutely divine!”
“Really?” Lenora asked, doubt apparent in her curious gaze.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.” It was mostly true, too. Even if I had memories of eating fries in another life, this was the first time that their salty deliciousness had ever touched this tongue.
Lenora scrunched up her face, gathered her courage, and hastily stuffed a fry all the way into her mouth. Her eyes widened in shock when the taste hit her tongue, and her eyes darted from me to the plate in front of her, before finally settling on the rather large pile of fries still in the strainer.
“You may have as many as you wish,” I informed her, not bothering to stifle a chuckle. “I was only teasing earlier.”
“And you’ll really teach me how to make these?” Lenora asked, eagerly reaching for the tongs and gathering more fries. “Without using so much oil?”
“That I will,” I promised, chomping down on another delicious morsel. “And not just fries, either. There are all sorts of things that you can do with potatoes.”
“Really?” Lenora’s eyes were bright with enthusiasm, and I released another soft laugh. It seemed to me that this girl all but shed her nerves when it came to learning new recipes. She was now acting the same as she had when we were cooking.
“Really,” I confirmed, another fry disappearing down my gullet. “But I want to focus on fries, first. It’s important that people know the full deliciousness of the potato – or I’m sure that people will be as reluctant to partake as you were.”
“It won’t be a problem,” Lenora assured me. “Once they’ve tasted this, nobody will care if it comes from something strange.”
“Come on,” Abigail scoffed, “you guys are talking about this like it’s the next big sex position. There’s no way anything made from those ugly brown lumps could taste that good.” She poked at one of the fries, squinting at her plate. “Are you absolutely sure these potatoes are edible?”
“Quite sure,” I insisted, placing a hand on my chest. “In fact, I will go so far as to make a vow – if you find no joy in consuming these fries, then I’ll allow you to ask any one favor of me. So long as it’s within my power to grant, it shall be yours.”
“One favor, huh?” Abigail muttered, turning her head to the side. “So if I were to say, ask you to go over my knee and take a spanking?”
My cheeks flushed bright red. “Th-that’s not really what I meant-”
“Too late!” Perhaps in an attempt to seal the deal, Abigail’s hand darted out to grab a fry. Without a moment’s hesitation she brought it up to her mouth and partook.
Of course, in doing so she had fallen right for my trap! There was no way that she could possibly eat a fry and not enjoy it. So there was no world in which I would actually have to put myself over her knee.
Yet despite my self-assuredness, Abigail didn’t moan or even make an expression of pleasure. She just slowly, methodically chewed, and then swallowed.
“…Did you not like it after all?” I asked, beginning to get a little worried. While I was very difficult to damage, my body was still as sensitive to sensations as anyone else’s. A spanking would hurt!
But I should have known better than to doubt the power of fries. The moment Abigail finished eating one fry, she reached for another, and another after that, until her entire plate was gone. Then she stared forlornly at the nearly spotless porcelain, which had been cleaned of all food.
“Is there something you would like to say?”
“I was wrong,” she admitted, without a moment’s hesitation. “I’ve never had anything like that before! Is that what salty food is like?”
“And it wasn’t just the taste!” Lenora chimed in, “The way the hot oil got the outside all crisp, without ruining the soft fluffy goodness within… It was a stroke of genius! I’m not sure we’ll be able to get it that crisp in the oven…”
“You likely won’t,” I admitted. “Though I suppose you could try air frying it…”
“Air frying?” Lenora asked, instantly attentive. “I’ve never heard of that.”
“Yes. You’d essentially need to use magic to circulate hot air about the fries,” I explained, reaching for another plank.
We ended up talking about frying techniques for some time. I knew little on the subject, but what little I knew was enough to spark Lenora’s imagination in a big way. She ended up begging me for other potato recipes, too; I was more than happy to oblige.
The one sticking point occurred at the end after we’d finished our fries when I mentioned that they might have tasted even better if we had access to ketchup.
“What’s ketchup?” Lenora asked, eyes wide and bright with excitement. “How do you make it?”
“It’s a tomato-based sauce, but I’m not actually sure how to make it.”
“Tomato-based…? Yeah! I can see that going well with fries!” she exclaimed, practically bouncing on her feet. “Oh, but if you don’t know how to make it…” Her enthusiasm dropped. I’d brought up a way to improve upon the taste of something already delicious and then snatched it away from her. I felt bad about it. I was considering apologizing when her tail slammed excitedly against the floor.
“I’ll just have to make my own sauce, then! Something totally original!”
“I suppose you will,” I agreed, smiling softly. “I look forward to eating it on my fries.”
“Th-the queen will be eating a sauce I invented?” she whispered, most likely speaking to herself. “Oh Goddess, what did I just get myself into…”
I resisted the urge to sigh, calling upon the memories of our chat in order to find the strength to smile. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. But for now, I really must go.”
“That’s right,” Abigail confirmed, moving to stand next to me. “You need to go meet Sylvanna.”
“Agreed. After I bathe.” I moved briskly toward the door, but Abigail reached out to catch my hand.
Abigail grabbing ahold of me and speaking loudly caused Bailey to stand up and growl at the maid, baring her teeth. I shot the wolf a displeased glare, and she shut up immediately, which brought about the return of my smile. She was a very smart pup. Though that only made sense, considering she was a demon.
Abigail, unfortunately, continued to glare at me throughout the entire exchange. I was a little impressed by how little Bailey’s growl phased her, and a little intimidated by the way she was staring me down, with her arms crossed in front of her chest and a scowl on her lips.
“Abigail,” I began, “I haven’t been touched by so much as a damp cloth in over three days. I know I don’t precisely smell, but I still feel quite unclean. I’m certainly not fit for meeting with a general.”
“And the reason you didn’t bring this up earlier?” she pressed, narrowing her eyes yet further.
“…I thought perhaps you’d make me skip breakfast if I bathed first,” I confessed, a faint blush on my cheeks. I felt like a child must, right before they’re about to be scolded. I deserved it, too. My actions so far had been selfish, and more than a little manipulative.
Instead of yelling at me however, Abigail released a pent-up sigh of her own and shook her head. “Are you really that afraid of meeting with Sylvanna?”
“Fear has nothing to do with it!” I protested. “I simply don’t like the way she makes me feel about myself…” She always made me feel stupid. Not to mention small, petty, and worthless. I knew now, that it was all deserved, but that didn’t mean I looked forward to it.
“Fine,” Abigail groaned. I got the impression that her eyes were locked on mine, and I held my own gaze in place so as not to break eye contact. “But don’t blame me if Sylvanna gets upset about this.”
“I’ll take the full blame,” I vowed, placing a hand on my chest to show sincerity.
“Um… Should you really be discussing all this in front of me?” Lenora asked. “I mean, I really am just the apprentice chef, and you’re talking about your relationship with a general…”
“It’s fine. After all, you’re also my friend.” I smiled brightly, and she ducked her head in embarrassment.
“You totally forgot she was there, didn’t you?” Abigail whispered, softly enough that only I could hear.
My only response was a bright red blush.
I stepped into the bathing chamber, closing the metal door behind me to seal myself in. Despite the extravagant name, it was actually a fairly plain room, fit for its simple purpose. It had no windows and only gray stone walls. The only furniture in it was a large, porcelain bathtub, but that alone was massive enough that I could practically swim in it.
Since the tub was so large, it actually took several maids to conjure enough water to fill it. Since this room had no windows, and the interior of the tower held only so much water in its atmosphere, they were forced to pull water in through a window in the adjacent room, and carry it carefully to the tub. Then they had to work together to heat it.
In the past, I had treated all this as a simple luxury. Now, I was all too aware of the hard work that went into its operation. Since my plan so far had been for my people to turn against me, I’d initially chosen to let things continue as they were. Now that my plans had changed, I would need to either get a smaller tub or start filling my own baths.
That was a choice for later, though. Today, the bath had already been drawn and heated. I’d only offhandedly mentioned my destination to a single maid, yet they still managed to do everything before my arrival. The speed my servants worked at was obviously nothing to be sneezed at. Perhaps that should have made me proud? But when I considered that they’d gotten so fast in order to meet my unreasonable demands, the only thing I could feel was guilt.
Shaking off my melancholy, I reached down to grab hold of my pale green shirt, pulling it over my head. My breasts sprung free of the cloth a moment before my head did, and the weight of their movements caused my eyes to travel downward.
I really did have nice breasts. Large enough to overspill my hand when I cupped one. Soft like a cloud, but firm, like the perfect pillow. Perkier than I would have thought possible without the assistance of a bra, and tipped with stiff nipples that were practically begging for a pair of soft lips to wrap around them.
It wasn’t just my chest, either. My stomach was flat as an ironing board. My ass was prominent, without being fat. My hands and feet were small and delicate. I had no body hair, excluding a small landing strip above my currently concealed slit.
None of this was new to me. It wasn’t as if this was my first bath, after all. Just counting the time since the Rite of Insight, I’d had a handful of them already. Yet every time I had one, I found myself staring at my body, wondering just how it had changed since my last life.
I couldn’t really remember how I looked as Jacob. Even though my other past life memories were clear as day, I simply couldn’t picture myself as I used to be. Indeed, whenever I tried to imagine my past self I’d end up mentally substituting my current form for Jacob’s. I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps my mental image of myself had simply shifted too dramatically to recover?
It hardly mattered, really. Regardless of how I used to look, I was comfortable with my current self. Indeed, the very thought of ever-shifting back filled me with revulsion, but it was strange to think that I’d drifted so far from my starting point.
What was it that brought about this change in me? Why was I so comfortable in this form? Was it merely a case of the body affecting the soul? That was the only explanation I could come up with, but it didn’t feel quite right. Maybe it was simply that I’d lived this life as a girl for so long that I couldn’t imagine anything else. I didn’t know.
It really wasn’t that important. Finding out the cause wouldn’t undo the effect, and I wouldn’t want it to in any case. It was simply that it bothered me, not knowing something so basic about myself. But thinking about it too long wouldn’t get me anything but a cold bath.
I pushed my skirt and underwear down in one fell swoop, then stepped out of my clothing altogether. Striding up to the bathtub, I stepped carefully inside and lowered my body into the water.
It was warm. Not too hot, not too cold; the perfect temperature. That wasn’t really much of a surprise though, as I always wanted my bath the exact same way. I’d thrown quite a few tantrums over it being too hot or too cold in the past. Especially hot. I’d accuse them of trying to scald me.
How ridiculous. Was being scalded even possible for me? I wanted to say no, though I couldn’t be sure. It was certainly true that I could take high temperatures – I’d realized that during cooking. No matter how hot Abigail said the food was, it never burned my mouth. Even when I reflexively caught a pot of hot oatmeal in my hands as it fell from the stove, it didn’t hurt me at all. Still, it wasn’t as if I’d ever gone out of my way to test my limits. For most of my life, I’d acted as if I didn’t even have them.
A memory surfaced, unbidden. Walking back into the village, after taking care of the wolves, my vision blurry and my body heavy. I’d managed to run completely out of magic, using up even the dregs. As a result of that, I fell unconscious for three days, all because I hadn’t realized I was approaching my limits – because I hadn’t even known what that would feel like.
What if I wasn’t as immune to heat as I believed? Was it possible that I could be hurt by a hot enough flame? If I ended up face to face with such a blaze, it might very well be too late to conduct an experiment.
In that case, the obvious answer was to check what I could handle now, in a safe environment. And since all this began with the question of whether I could be scalded…
I began to pour my magic into the water around me. In contrast to how I heated the oil, this time I chose to suffuse the entire bath’s worth of water with my magic. Then, I began to heat the entirety of the tub’s contents at once.
First, the bath started to simmer. Then it began to boil, bubbles bursting across the surface of the water. It was strange – I could tell the heat was going up. It was certainly hotter than any bath I’d ever sat in, but it didn’t hurt one bit. My skin didn’t even turn red.
I upped the temperature. More and more steam began to rise from the surface of the water, but since my magic was suffused through the vapor I could control that as well. I called the steam down to myself, making it wreathe my upper body even as the boiling water bubbled against my lower half.
Eventually, the entirety of the bath turned to steam. Since I had no liquid, I decided to raise the temperature of the vapor instead. The more heat I poured into the steam, the more pressure I was forced to exert upon it in order to keep it from dispersing. I could feel the steam pressing against me as if it were a physical force, yet this hurt me no more than the increasing temperature.
I don’t know how hot the steam got before I gave up. Enough that things began to get a little strange. The water, which I had most definitely turned into steam, seemed to no longer be vapor or liquid, but something beyond both. Perhaps if I kept up the pressure, I would eventually turn it into a solid, and encase myself in some strange form of hot ice? The thought disturbed me, so I decided to stop adding heat and pressure.
Only then did I recognize the fatal flaw in my experiment: I had a bathtub’s worth of superheated water under my control and no idea what to do with it. Generating heat is easy, but getting rid of it is another matter entirely. It was impossible to make the heat simply vanish – it had to go somewhere.
Of course, given time, the heat would naturally disperse. So long as I didn’t prevent it, I’d eventually be left with nothing but traditional steam. But I didn’t even want to think about how long it would take to cool something that had grown this hot. If I waited that long, Abigail would probably yell at me for delaying my meeting with Sylvanna yet further.
Thankfully, I had a solution. If all I needed was a heat sink, then I’d simply use my own body to contain the heat. It was a bit of a risk, but this too was me wanting to test my limits.
With the threat of Abigail’s glare driving me onward, I began to draw the heat out of the water and into my own being. At first, I worried that there might be an issue – my blood might begin to boil, for example, or my organs start to falter. But no matter how much I took in, I felt absolutely fine. I was starting to think my body might simply be immune to heat.
I continued sucking up the heat, refusing to stop until the steam returned to being water, and flowed back into the tub. I had forgotten about the actual bathing, ignoring the soap entirely in favor of my experiment, but I was fairly sure no germs had survived.
Unfortunately, I still had a problem. Namely, that my body was now superheated, to the point where my change of clothes began to smolder and smoke when I touched them. Hastily, I dunked them in the bath to avoid them catching fire, causing steam to once again rise up from the tub. It was clear that I needed to get rid of this heat, immediately.
I had an idea. The room I was in had no windows, for security reasons, but since water was drawn from the room next to it that one had a rather large opening. All I needed to do was open the door, enter the neighboring room, and stride to the window. Then I could expel all this heat into the sky, where it could do no harm.
The only problem was that I’d have to do it naked.
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and gathered my courage. Then I breathed out, opened my eyes, and walked right up to the door. On the other side of it were two maids, dressed in much the same way as Abigail: a black dress with white ruffles and a headband.
How I wished it was Abigail who’d been waiting for me instead… but there was no time for that. I needed to get this over with and go back to my room before too many people saw me.
I marched into the next room, practically skipped to the window, and pointed my palm up toward the sky. A jet of fire erupted from my hand, flying high into the sky before exploding into sparks like a firework.
With the heat safely drained, I let loose a sigh of relief and turned to leave the room. The maids were peering in, eyes wide and mouths open, but they quickly closed their mouths and stood at attention. I ignored them, walking to my room as quickly as I could. I did my best to act confident, as if this were perfectly normal, but I couldn’t help the faint flush on my cheeks. I was proud of my body and happy to show it off, but preferably only under circumstances I could control.
Upon reaching my room, I yanked opened the door, and slipped inside, hastily closing it behind me. Then I let my eyes slip shut, leaned back against the door, and let out a haggard sigh. In the end, I was only seen by those two maids, but worrying over who else would see me and what rumors they would spread had put me very much on edge.
“You would not believe the bath I just had, Abigail,” I complained, opening my eyes. “It was productive, I suppose, but-” I stopped. Not just talking, either. I stopped moving, stopped breathing, and even failed to blink, so great was my surprise. Then I closed my eyes and let out a low groan.
I was being terribly rude, and I knew it, but I couldn’t help myself. Standing right in front of me was the general of the 90th floor. The toughest person I knew, excluding myself. The absolute genius who always made me feel like a fool.
Sylvanna the slime.