So now she had a way to stop her mother from spying on her. On the other hand, if she did it too much, she wouldn’t put it past Victoria from physically coming all the way here to find her.
Right now, Victoria was probably waiting for her, right?
“Is she gone?” Kagriss floated up next to her to stand on the platform. “I apologize for not being able to protect you, Mistress…”
Mistress this, Mistress that. Carmen suppressed a sigh. “It’s fine. She’s my mother after all, so don’t worry about her. I’m going to go see her now, and I might not move for a little while. Could I trouble you to watch over my body?”
This came at a nice time, actually. Now, she could test Kagriss’s loyalty one last time. If Kagriss does nothing while she’s gone, then she’s safe. If she does something that’s unfavorable to Carmen, then at least she’ll have nipped trouble in the bud.
Kagriss nodded and created a small barrier of spiraling darkness around them. “As you wish.”
Making sure to pay attention to her actual body, Carmen dove back into her mind after finding a comfortable sitting position. She found the river of blood that she imagined to represent her bloodline. Two red glowing crystal balls floated above the river.
Figuratively wading up the river, she encountered the brightest kin, her mother. Much dimmer was probably Ismelda.
Ignoring her silent cousin for now and feeling her real body one last time for good measure, she instead reached toward Victoria. Although she encountered a brief resistance to her intrusion, the barrier disappeared and she could go further. As she touched the ball and pushed against it as if trying to slip her hand into the crystal, her mind was drawn into it and everything became black for a moment.
When she regained consciousness, she was floating around a luxurious room. The walls were lilac, and a rose-tinted carpet covered the floor. A huge canopy bed stood in the corner of the room, while the walls were lined with drawers and a huge mirror.
It was a bedroom, and an awfully bright and feminine one at that.
Sitting at the center of the room while pouring tea into two delicate teacups was Victoria, but instead of being in the dress that Carmen had just seen her in, she was wearing a nightgown similar to the one Carmen saw in the mental imagery spell Victoria had left in the gem.
When both teacups were halfway filled, Victoria put down the teapot on its plate with a soft clatter and pushed one of the teacups toward an empty seat. Then she looked straight at Carmen, causing Carmen to flinch.
“I can sense you right there, Camilla. To manifest, simply try to interact with something, or you can just imagine that you are in this room. Be aware of your balance.”
Feeling a bit like a voyeur, Carmen floated over to the empty seat and tried to sit down. As she did, she felt a sudden nausea as mana drained from her real body and passed through the bloodline that she and Victoria shared.
Using Victoria as an exit, the blood mana poured out, changing into blood bats that combined to give her a physical body that fell out of the sky. Carmen barely managed to steady herself with her little wings. Her landing into the empty seat wasn’t exactly graceful, it wasn’t too ugly either.
Still, her experience left her heart pounding and clutching the edge of the table with her eyes wide open.
“Welcome to my room, Camilla. Be sure not to stray too far from me or you’ll disappear.” Victoria took a sip from her teacup.
Still a bit shocked, Carmen touched the table and felt the teacup. She clearly felt everything—the heat from the tea and the smooth glassy texture of the table. It was real, she really was here.
“My, aren’t you daring? Let’s get dressed, shall we?”
Looking down, Carmen found that she was completely naked. There was not a single scrap of cloth on her body. Immediately, she hid her body with her hands. “What’s going on? You had clothes on you when you came here so why am I naked?” she demanded.
Victoria thought for a moment before she shrugged. “I don’t know. If your clothes are bloodbonded to your blood, they should’ve crossed over with you. Something must have gone wrong, so choose something else.”
Carmen blushed. “Actually, I haven’t bonded anything to my blood. Everything is still in the moonstone you gave me,” she admitted.
Even her undead greatsword was bonded to the stone instead of her, which was a pretty stupid choice now that she thought about it. Something bonded to her blood would always be with her, but she could be robbed of her moonstone. Then she’d be left with no weapon.
It’s just that by the time she figured out how to bloodbond her own things, she had already gotten used to using the moonstone so the alternative choice slipped her attention.
Victoria shook her head. “How careless. It can’t be helped then. I’ll have to lend you some of my clothes. With your height now, I think it’ll fit quite nicely”
She stood up and headed toward one of her closets and threw it open.
Rows upon rows of dresses revealed themselves to Carmen. While the collection in the moonstone Victoria gave her was large, the size of Victoria’s storage easily put it to shame.
Victoria rifled through the clothes until she finally found one that satisfied her.
She took it out and held it up against Carmen, trying to judge how it’d look before she stopped and shook her head. “Silly me. You look like me, so what I look pretty in, you will too. What do you think about this dress, Camilla?”
Even as Victoria asked for her opinion, she closed the closet. Clearly, there was no room for negotiation.
Carmen’s face froze at the sight of the dress. It wasn’t that it was ugly or anything. It’s just that it was so full of frills and ribbons that she’d never have considered wearing it of her own volition. There were plenty of examples of this kind of dress in the moonstone and she passed them up without even thinking twice
This sort of aesthetic fitted Victoria, not her.
But it’s not like she had much of a choice now, did she? Is it too late to head back to her real body and transfer her dress from the moonstone to her blood?
Knowing Victoria, once her mother had anything in her grasp, she won’t let anything go.
Resigning to her fate, Carmen stepped forward and held out her hands.
“Oh, I don’t think so. You have no idea how to put on a dress, do you? You’ve always relied on your bloodbond.”
“It can’t be that hard,” Carmen protested.
Smiling, Victoria took the dress off the hanger and laid it on the bed. From the drawers next to the bed, she took out a lacy underwear and dark stockings before she beckoned over to Carmen.
Shivering, Carmen went to stand by Victoria and followed her directions as she learned how to put on a brassiere. Although it was difficult at first, she had enough coordination to get it down on her second try. The underwear, garters, and stockings went on then, followed by the dress itself that was surprisingly easy for how complex it looked, with only her wings causing a bit of an issue.
Luckily, there were buttons for her wing holes.
Finally, Victoria fetched a pair of boots from another closet.
When all was said and done, Carmen was wearing a long black dress that reached her knees. Frills on the dress made it look layered while small ribbons decorated the dress at regular intervals. Slender black boots reached halfway up her calves while dark stockings covered the rest of her exposed legs.
The clothes fit her almost perfectly, growing larger and smaller as needed.
“This…” Carmen didn’t know what to say. She turned in the mirror, looking at herself. Surprisingly, the dress didn’t look out of place on her like she expected.
“There’s no need to doubt my eye for fashion,” Victoria said. When Carmen looked over, Victoria had already changed out of her nightgown into a dark purple dress much like the one Carmen was wearing. “Come on, you have a busy day tomorrow, so let's make the most of the night.”
Carmen allowed herself to be pulled out of the room. As she was dragged down the short hallway outside, she looked around. All over the walls were reliefs and paintings of vines and leaves. However, it managed to not look like a petrified overgrowth. Instead, the vines were stylized enough to communicate its intentions without being overbearing.
Once again, Carmen was reminded of her mother’s elven origins.
“Do you like how it looks?” Victoria asked. “After you finish whatever it is you have to do, you have the option of living here. However, I hope that by that time you’ll have fully accepted your vampirism.”
“Accepted my vampirism…Mother, you’ve never told me when I asked. Why me?” Carmen stopped. “If you just wanted to create another vampire, couldn’t you have chosen someone else? I’m sure there are many people willing.”
She stared into Victoria’s eyes. “Why did you have to choose someone that was unwilling like me?”
“Does it matter now that it’s already happened?” Victoria asked. “It’s reality, and you can’t change it.”
“But I still want to know why,” Carmen said, “if only for my own sanity.”
Victoria sighed and continued to walk. Carmen went along with her, knowing that her mother had given in.
“The reason may sound quite vain to you humans,” Victoria said. “But it has to do with your appearance.”
“What do you mean by appearances?”
“I witnessed your battle with Ismelda and your holy magic was quite powerful. I then tested your conviction in the dungeons and found it satisfactory. I had thought that perhaps you’d be the one of the few that manage to suppress the vampiric side and retain your existence.”
Victoria stopped walking and touched Carmen’s hair. “People like you are quite rare among vampires, you know? This hair proves that you had a conviction strong enough to partially resist the blood of the vampire while still reaping the benefits.”
Carmen looked at her own hair. Amidst the sea of silver, there were precious few strands of gold, but they stood out prominently. She had no idea that vampires placed such significance in these strands.
“And you saw that potential in me…”
“Correct. I suspect you’ll be quite popular among our kin once you join us.”
They came to a large interior balcony overlooking a grand hall and a large, ornate front door.
Carmen had expected Victoria to live in a castle, but the more time she spent in here, the smaller the place seemed compared to her initial expectations. Victoria’s residence seemed like a large manor house at most.
“Mother, your will doesn’t seem weak. Why don’t you have your original hair color?” Carmen asked.
“Me? Because I willingly became a vampire, so I embraced my current appearance. Only those that initially resist their transformation have a chance to keep part of their original hair.”
“Isn’t it bad to only have potential enemies be special?” Carmen asked. Although she had mostly come around, another person might not.
Victoria laughed. “Don’t misunderstand, Camilla. Having a different hair color does not make you any stronger in any way. It simply boosts your prestige among vampires, who for the most part look the same. So, having different hair isn’t really special in the way you imagine it…
“…Although, you’re quite special in your own way…two, actually. You might be the first vampire to manage to kill herself resisting the transformation. Pfft...hahaha!” Victoria’s laughter grew louder until she had to hide her open mouth behind her hand.
Carmen grimaced. “So…there’s no way to get back my original hair color?” she asked.
She didn’t expect much from Victoria’s answer. After all, she already knew that vampire blood trumped all other kinds of transformation magic.
But instead of a flat denial, Victoria actually hesitated. Hope flared up in Carmen’s heart, unextinguished even when Victoria shook her head. Hesitation meant there was a chance, and Carmen wanted to know of that possibility, no matter how small it was.
“Please tell me!”
“No. I can’t tell you yet. First, the chance of it actually succeeding is quite low, and second...” Victoria said, looking away. “Well, it's too soon for you to know. Finish your current task before biting off another piece of cake. I’ll tell you when you are stronger.”
“…Okay.” Carmen nodded. She won’t forget the goal she had set for herself when she first woke up as a zombie. Even if it means remaining a zombie, even if it means what she finds will alienate her from the Church—although she hopes it won’t come to that, she will continue to pursue it.
“I didn’t make the wrong choice by picking you. You’re not a disappointment at all,” Victoria said, breaking into a smile once more. “One day, I’ll tell you everything, but it’s too soon now. It involves a great ambition of mine, after all, and you are quite crucial.”
Together, they descended down the stairs that led into the grand hall. While the place was large, it seemed quite empty, devoid of workers that should have been hired to maintain the place. She hasn't seen a single other living soul beside Victoria.
“Where is everyone else? Maids and servants?”
“I don’t have any maids,” Victoria replied. “Someone comes here every so often to clean. For now, the only people living here are myself and Ismelda. If you join, that will be one more. But enough of that. You’ll have plenty of time to explore the house when you come. For now, allow me to show you the nearby town and see how we live.”