It takes some finagling, but we finally get Madeleine to admit she is trying to get revenge on me, or more precisely on my house over the fact that her father was a bastard son of a house my grandfather paupered. I'm honestly not even sure what to do with this. Granted, Philippe Gillespie was a cast-iron bastard with cruel and inventive mind, but given that Madeleine's father was a bastard, what difference does it make? He's be left without any support regardless. He WAS, at that. Additionally, and most damningly, Madeleine herself does not even KNOW what house she's supposed to be a scion of, her father for some inane reason never given her a name. I have a suspicion he hated them even more then my grandfather... And I'm not even sure what was his beef with my grandfather in first place. Then again, some people tend to take family name awfully seriously.
Add on top of it that Madeleine's "revenge", if it could be called so, only hurt Elaine's chances of getting to know me... Amusingly enough, Madeleine seems to flat-out fail to grasp that it was Elaine who ultimately wants to build up ties to me, not vice-versa. She seems to be willfully stuck on an assumption that table of ranks is absolute and favor is only ever curried from bottom towards top. I don't have patience to deal with this. Ultimately, Madeleine's actions hurt only Braltars, they can sort out their unruly servant. I express this much and bow out after promising duke to send him the papers for the business we discussed and notice on lie detectors if I actually make physical versions of it. Elaine, in spite of my slight reluctance, gets a promise to be invited to one of the airship trips in the near future, as soon as airship makes it back from Kraut. I'm very grateful neither of them thought to question what I'm doing here if I ostensibly departed to Kraut. Or maybe the tales of me teleporting to Sultanate and back are already in the rumor mill and they assume it's par for the course. Of course, I also got assurances from Elaine that any and all harassment of my harem will cease or else.
Anyway, back to academy. Girls are cautiously optimistic when I explain that the most egregious perpetrators had been... talked to. Then I get a lot of being talked to of my own. The gist of it is that I shouldn't really bother myself with such pettiness, to which I entirely honestly explain that not handling this pettiness would be seen as tacit admission of weakness and thus, invitation for further indignities for myself and them. Lily-Anne helpfully pitches in to confirm that it is exactly as I say, and therefore it is actually good that I handled it preemptively, but then she wants to know what was handled and why.
Explaining new arrangements takes a bit of time, but thankfully no one seems to find any problem with those, at least. Though, I do notice some lingering disquiet over my treatment of Vinnie. They think I'm being too brutal here? Maybe. Yet another thing to worry about. Joy. While we are at it, there is an interesting movement at the sweetshop. A boy comes running with a message from "madame Konistan". Oho. The message is delivered to the office as per my orders... and I spin up the instance in the shop to take a look. Curiouser and curiouser. The note outright orders the overseer of shop to prepare ledgers and coffer for "inspections" by both madame Konistan and one marquis de Brege? Good grief, I think Abe will actually have to bust him down to viscount this time.
Thinking quickly, I send back a note that implies compliance. I'm guessing she's hurrying to "sell off" as many of my properties as she can while I'm in Kraut, and starts off with the most well known... And sells it to someone who recently had altercation with me, to boot. Too bad for her, whoever she is. Summoning the actual overseer, I give him instructions. The duo that's about to arrive is to be escorted with all requisite obsequiousness to the office where I am waiting for them with great interest. My plan for this is straightforward. De Brege still remembers me. He'd fucking better. So in a confrontation between me and madame Konistan, he should know better then to think she has upper hand. And if he proves his worth as an idiot once again, well, he was slated for demotion. I'm sure Abe will not be particularly thrilled if de Brege crops up in complaint on his radar so soon after the whole mess with sweetroll-obsessed offspring.
A quick shift of attention back to Academy to update girls with latest news, then even quicker switch to Kraut to ensure all is quiet on eastern front, and I move my attention back to shop. Not a second too soon, while at it - there's carriage moving up to the doors. Goodness, I wonder what kind of story did this madame Konistan spill for de Brege to make him move so quickly. In order to maximize the surprise, I lay out the ledgers on the table, set the coffer right next to it and then step next to the door, hiding behind it.
"Whyyyy, moost sooortainly." - someone offers with accent I can't characterize as anything other then atrocious - "I assooore yooo, thoo shop is in gooood condiiishon. T'is biin opened but two moooonths agooo."
"Yes, indeed, most pleasing." - and this is definitely de Brege - "I have been overjoyed to find out the actual owner of the shop is so agreeable. That horrible lady Gillespie claimed to own it even, could you imagine? Thankfully, I am not the gullible kind, nope. I am so looking forward to banning her from this very shop for life, just as she threatened to do to me! The nerve!"
And just as they come into the room, I slam the door closed behind them and step in front of it. They whirl around in surprise. Then, their expressions pale in matching rictuses of horror.
"Why hello there." - I purr happily - "I do admit, I am quite impatient to find out just who it is about to try selling MY POSSESSIONS. Burning with curiosity, even." To underscore the point, I let the fingers of my left hand ignite with lazy flame whisps, leaving trails of smoke through the air as I gesture for my would-be doppelganger to come closer. She doesn't. Instead, she backs off to the furthest wall and starts screaming her head off enthusiastically. After a moment of stupefied stillness, de Brege joins in with his own vocalizations. Whoops. A little scale showing up. Then again, do I really mind that much? I mean, really, dragons protecting their property is rather iconic and all that.
I give them a bit of time to run out of air, then continue happily. "Marquis de Brege. This shop belongs to ME, and I have no intentions of selling it. To you or anyone else." - I tell him first - "I'm aware you're under a misconception this shop is owned by someone else, and I do not give a damn. You're entirely welcome to complain to merchant guild and the king about it. I will certainly be making a complaint to king about you trying to acquire my properties in underhanded manner. Not sure yet what I'm going to ask - to have you demoted to viscount as his highness already threatened before, or just to sanction blood feud." I smile at him, making him gulp and shiver at the sight of currently very carnivorous dentition - "Please DO be belligerent enough to make the second happen, I beg of you. Julien is very pleasantly fattened, I'm certain he would be scrumptious roasted with some pepper and saffron."
Aaand... I might have overdone this badly, because both of them swoon, roll their eyes in the back of the head and faint in surprisingly synchronized manner. Rolling my eyes in turn, I tamp myself down to human form, summon some of the shop's workers and have them move the bodies. De Brege is brought back to the carriage, settled in and the driver is told that his lord had fainted unexpectedly and thus is being brought back to his carriage to be returned home and attended to by his personal medic. The story is accepted without a hitch and carriage promptly disappears. The other body is wrapped into a length of tarp from neck to feet, including a couple poles roughly her height to stiffen the bundle up, then her mouth is stuffed with rags and tied in, and a sack is thrown over her head to mask it up. She will keep, I have little desire to actually interrogate her without sir Malachi, Mihel and maybe Abe and dad too. So the bundle is brought to the Gillespie estate and upon a brief inspection, unbound and locked in a cellar along with a pile of hay, loaf of bread and a jug of water. Mansion servants are appraised about the status of prisoner and given permission by me to use truncheons to beat her into submission in case of unruly behavior. Not that I expect any, given my orders to never visit her in numbers less then two, with one person mandatory standing by with club outside the door. I'll give her a couple days of isolation on bread and water, then we'll hear what tunes she'll whistle.
This is somewhat alarming. I'm threatening to eat people far, far, far too often. If this continues, it will change up from an off-color threat to actual rumors about my cannibalism. Which would be a problem because I am not really adverse to that and used the method to get rid of a couple bodies, so I'd have to answer yes to a direct question on if I ever ate any people or be spotted as liar. Admittedly, I can always joke it off as bawdy "in the eat them out sense", but that won't work more then a few times at best. I need to ease up on that. No shortage of other means to get rid of people I need to be rid of, after all. Not all of them even lethal, while we're at it. I need to work on that. Not murdering everyone inconvenient, that is. I have political capital, I have wealth, I have reputation, I have tons of means of exerting pressure on people without rampant killing sprees... Even though it's ever so convenient. Damnit.
I end up settling everything in Parsee, parking my instances there, including Academy one and shifting my whole attention back to Kraut in short order. Well, partially. I still have enough attention on my instance back in Academy, but all I'm doing there is sulking on the bed. It alarms the girls, I'm afraid, but I just can't help but brood. I've never been particularly humanitarian-minded in my previous life and having body that predisposes me to blue and orange morality does not help feigning my thin veneer of normality at all. Honestly, I'm downright grateful I have my harem right now, without girls anchoring me I'd go haywire way, way, way sooner.
But, I digress. The reason why I'm focusing on Kraut now is because I've just been told by nervous servant that infamous seer Kassandra expresses a desire to pay me a visit and is in fact waiting for me in my anteroom. And, since it was so sudden, Bridgit had no time to blink in, and now I have to face the seer without my supermaido hanging around as moral support because it would be seen as very odd if she were to walk out of a room she wasn't in, considering the only door leading into it is the one servant used and it's third floor of palace, which means six touse drop from window to ground, because they don't skimp on ceiling heights here.
My first impression of Kassandra is "cantankerous old biddy". Second is "cantankerous blind old biddy". And then she starts to talk.
"Ah, there you are, dearie." - she rasps - "Now, now, don't be so surprised. Old Kassandra might not see you, no, but she hears you breathe. Come sit with old woman for a bit, would you kindly?" IN-CON-GRU-O-US.
Then she turns to the servant... and the way she speaks is much more in line with my expectations. "What are you standing there for, you impertinent scoundrel? Raus!1Out! Out you go, let the women talk in peace." - she levels at the hapless servant, complete with a swing of her cane in surprisingly accurate direction of his position next to the wall. He swallows, looks on me, on her, then soldiers on.
"Many pardons, honorable seer, but it was his highness Alphonse's order that you are not to be left alone with guests, lest your regrettable blindness causes a problem." - he proffers remarkably bluntly, and dodges the thrown cane with surprising dexterity, catching it as it rebounds from the wall. Much to my surprise he immediately returns it to Kassandra and weathers the hefty strike with it across his buttocks with solemn stoicism, shrugging at me helplessly.
"And I said git!" - she growls - "I shan't leave this very chair, lest my remarkable blindness inconveniences anyone, indeed!"
As amusing as it is, I am actually curious as to what the seer has to say to me, and I have a hunch that Alphonse ordered supervision specifically so that Kassandra does not offend any of us with her cantankerousness, not because of any respect to her blindness. So I intervene.
"You. What is your name?" - I demand of servant.
"Me? I am Hans, jungfrau Gillespie." - he answers simply.
"Very well. Hans, correct me if I'm wrong, but his highness Alphonse gave you an order not to leave honorable seer alone with any guests out of concern her frank manner of speaking will give offense, right?" - I ask of him. He hesitates, but then nods as Kassandra snorts derisively.
"Fine. In that case, please vacate the room and wait for me to call you back outside the doors." - I tell him - "I hereby affirm that regardless of what honorable seer says to me or how, I shall not fault the kingdom of Kraut for that, nor shall I seek any redress from honorable seer herself. I am well cognizant she is an old woman and therefore might be more liberal with words then high society usually permits. Should I find that whatever it is she wants to discuss is unacceptable, I shall simply summon you to escort honorable seer out of my rooms. I am prepared to sign an affidavit to that effect, if you prefer to have a written proof."
He looks around helplessly, then nods - "I.. believe that a writ should satisfy everyone, jungfrau Gillespie, if you please."
Well, he is certainly cautious. Then again, if he was a fool, he probably wouldn't be entrusted to see after a nationally-important person like the seer. So I pick up the quill (fucking things, I really should invent a biro, or just skip ahead and introduce ballpoint pens), write out 'I the undersigned Alyssa Gillespie do hereby confirm that I have of my own volition and in clear mind agreed to have one private discussion with honorable seer Kassandra, and agree to indemnify kingdom of Kraut in general and aforementioned honorable seer in particular of any slights on my honor and character pursuant to the contents of aforementioned discussion, regardless of what shall be said during said conversation.' He grabs the signed paper and vacates the room, leaving me alone with old biddy. I cast a glance at her and throw a bunch of privacy-ensuring spells I cribbed from sir Malachi.
"Well done, my dearie." - old woman rasps. I wince.
"Right. Whatever is said is strictly between us. You can drop the act, it makes me cringe and I can see you cringing as well." - I tell her bluntly, and she sighs.
"Phah. As if old Kassandra would try to fool the void." - she grumbles - "Right-o, to the brass tacks then. I want to see. You can make it happen. Name your price."
I hum. This is actually pretty neat. Almost like talking to dwarves. Only more cantankerous.
"Hold still. I need to see what is wrong with your eyes to tell you what can be done." - I tell her and she scoffs.
"I can tell you what is wrong with my eyes right now, girlie. They've been poked out with a dagger on the orders of that good-for-nothing bastard Minze!" - she shrills - "Daft fool thought that would save him from the prophecy."
I toss a couple of medical spells her way nonetheless. "Let me guess, he could have dodged the whole thing if only he actually listened to what you say instead of fixating on the fact you're predicting his misfortune." - I muse, as I get back the results - "Hm. You're missing both eyeballs entirely. This went further then poking, they literally scooped your eyes out with a knifepoint. Then the eyesockets got inflamed and scarred over." The shudder that goes through the old woman confirms my results.
"The good news is, the inflammation somehow missed the chiasma." - I continue my clinical assessment - "So that is salvageable. You still have the nerves leading from chiasma to the brain intact. So... theoretically possible. Just so we are clear, in order to do this, I will have to literally cut your ocular cavities open, debride a whole lot of scar tissue and install some kind of replacement for actual eyes."
She shudders again, but then doubles down on it. "Whatever it is you need to do, do it." - she rasps forcefully - "What do you want for them eyes?"
"Tell me, what do I look like to you." - I tell her - "Not what are my looks, of course. What do I look like to you as a seer."
"You are a piece of void, girlie." - she returns - "You're not mortal, never been mortal, never be mortal. Them, the little people, they are like a stick figure with an ember within their heart. You? You're a pile of embers shaping yourself like the little people for shits and giggles. You blot them all out with your incandescence, they are invisible in your light shadow, and that shadow grows each day."
"Any other people with more then an ember inside?" - I ask and she cackles.
"Every single defiled, girlie. The void, it burns brighter then the sun, and you are the brightest of them all. The defiled, they are cloaked in luminosity, but you are the radiance itself, searing the steps across the lands everywhere you go." - she rasps in apparent delight - "Alphonse knows, and that old fool Klaus knows too. They think you merely defiled, the fools. You are the defilement itself and should they see you for what you really are, they would be but gibbering sacks of insane flesh."
"Sehr gut. Do you have any mementos related to your blindness specifically? Eyes would be better if I fashion them out of metaphysically connected materials." - I change the topic.
She smirks and digs into her pockets. "The bloody silver and two tears of heaven." - she rasps, setting down a sack on the table with a clunk. I turn it upside down. Two huge sapphires and a quantity of antique-looking silver coins. Crownmarks.
"They were given to you as compensation for the injury, right?" - I inquire, and she nods tersely. That will do. That will do nicely. The gems are first. Nice faceting, just right size to etch some formulae on. The front would be the focal lens, some air magic to assure variable curvature... The back would be recognition matrix. Just as I am about to start cutting, something occurs to me.
"Just to be sure." - I ask - "You are fully cognizant that what I will do to you will cause significant defilement, right? You seem to me like you`re willful enough to weather the initial shock, but it has to be said."
"If I am to see again, I must be touched by the void, yes." - she confirms - "But you still haven't named your price."
I snicker, as I quickly etch the jewels as I envision it, melt the coins and fashion them into decofilaments, braiding them into replacement nerves. The rest of silver is fashioned into frames to hold the gems within.
"You did not realize it?" - I ask, as I place my hand on her forehead - "You've already paid." She jerks as I sink tentacles into her eyesockets, turning off nerves as I go. The scar tissue is scooped out unceremoniously, processed and turned into plastic-like material, complimented with the entire assortment of flowers that were placed in my room to make sufficient quantity of neutral layer. The bloody tissue underneath is straightened out as much as I can manage and then grafted to the layer of neutral plastic, plating her ocular cavities in their entirety, save for a little bit in the back that accesses the chiasma. Silver pushes in, the tips grafting themselves into the nerve as I push my telekinesis to the limits.... Aand done, the connectivity checks out. More plastic, the last drops of it sealing up the raw nerve in the back, binding to it both to safeguard it and to ensure the silver wire is shielded from ionic corrosion. Frames are next, slotted neatly into the cavities and anchored within securely. The gems are last, they click into the frames with final-sounding snap. This is not a construct that could be disassembled, it will last for as long as old witch herself is alive. Finally, I push some light magic in to regrow the eyelids... and I run into a problem. Whoever did the blinding also managed to nick the bridge of nose badly. It's not strong enough to support all the requisite muscles. As I pause to think how to handle this, I notice one errant coin that was not melted. Perfect. Stretching it out a little, I graft it into old woman's nose, replacing the damaged part. The tissue itself is reworked into more of protective layer, and the replacement bridge is slotted in. I did not plan on it, but Kassandra ended up with a sigil of current king, Alphonse, sitting right between her newly reconstructed eyes. I briefly consider smoothing it out, but then elect against it. If it happened that way, then there are metaphysical reasons for it. Likely the connection Kassandra has with the king.
I step back and consider the result critically. With her eyes closed, she can pass for a regular woman... with prosthetic upper nose, that is. But they are currently open, and look pretty creepy with gems in her eyesockets. So I tap the bridge of her nose, sending an activation charge into the construct. From now on, it will support itself by leeching a tiny bit of magic from old witch. She won't notice the drain, it would be very well offset by increased defilement. She had some even before we met, of course, otherwise I'd have to think up something less impactful. Hm. Much less creepy with the gems all lit up with magic.
She blinks. Twice. Then shudders and throws her cane up in the air with a loud cheer.