Chapter 10 – Onus
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POV: Kuro

As the maid admitted me into Julia's bed chambers, I couldn't wipe the silly grin off my face. Today had been exhausting, and I could hardly wait to savour my prize.

After each 'lesson' I attended, it had become habitual for Julia to treat me with some late-night activities as a reward for my 'hard work'. It was a shame that I only met Vetter a couple of times a week; maybe I should make it a daily thing.

"Julia~, Kuro is finally back, nya!" I declared, expecting an equally enthusiastic reply.

However, the only thing I could hear was silence. That was odd.

"Hm? Julia…?" I called out, concern for my partner clear in my voice.

Was she feeling unwell?

I circle my way to where she sat on the bed and lowered myself. Julia was usually never this reserved. She was being abnormally pensive. Something was deeply troubling her.

"What's wrong?"

She stopped fiddling with her golden locks and placed her palms on her lap. I watched as they balled into fists, an ominous feeling settling over the room.

Finally, she looked at me, her cloudy blue eyes piercing mine.

"Kuro, what is the High Priestess?"

First, my mind went blank. My tail seized up, and I felt sick.

Countless thoughts began rushing through my head, waves of nausea clouding my mind.

Judging from the peculiar expression Julia was sending me, I was doing a terrible job of hiding my emotional turmoil.

My survival hinged on the continuation of our master-pet relationship. If Julia my act was uncovered and Julia felt that she was no longer in control, I would be ruined.

Losing her support now would be akin to a death sentence.

It was risky, but I could feign ignorance. I'd needed more information, and playing it off would force her to provide more details.

I shrugged my shoulders and shook my head.

"Kuro isn't familiar with the term. Where did you hear of such a thing, nya?"

Julia eyed me incredulously, which was not a good sign. It proved that she had more conviction in her questioning than a mere hunch.

"It was a recurring theme in your lessons."

Oh.

POV: Juliana Von Wickten

The look of horror on Kuro's face was quickly concealed, yet again. Despite her steadied breathing, her tail and ears always told a different story.

Apparently, she did know of the High Priestess and was alarmed of my knowledge of it.

This was the first time she's tried to hide something from me. Innumerable reasons for doing so came to mind, ranging from benign, or if the servants are to be trusted, quite malicious.

"I-It's nothing too important…" She waved her hand dismissively. "My Lady shouldn't worry herself with such things!"

Did Kuro think I'd be convinced after such little contest? While it was a little offensive, she probably didn't mean for it to sound so patronising.

"Kuro, you should know when to stop digging a hole. If it's nothing important like you claim it is, there shouldn't be an issue with me knowing. I have respected your privacy, but it seems I've been too lenient. I'm intrigued as to what goes on behind closed doors…"

Kuro's ears twitched at the connotations of my words.

"I-It's just a title that I asked Vetter to call me from time to time; it hasn't much significance…"

The first part was somewhat believable; what followed was not. Why else did Kuro act so uneasily when I mentioned it?

There was meaning behind it.

"Kuro, why did you ask Albertt to address you like that? 'High Priestess' is a religious title; surely you don't affiliate yourself with any sects…?"

Kuro's face flushed, and she turned her head away from me.

"I-I was reading a few books, and I thought it was… c-cool. Juliana, please don't repeat it anymore… It's too humiliating…"

Ah.

So that's what it was…

I was reading too far into things. Her mature demeanour and prodigious talent had muddied my judgement. I had to remind myself that Kuro was basically still a teenager.

She'd go through phases of thinking some things were cool, and some were lame. Maybe she was already growing out of it, judging by the embarrassment she displayed.

"You worried me for a moment," I sighed with a wry smile.

"Eh?" She squeaked.

"Some servants of mine were professing some grand conspiracy occurring between you and Vetter. I'm just glad that it turned out to be something small like this," I clarified.

Kuro seemed to digest my words carefully, a mixture of relief and apprehension crossing her face.

"So, High Priestess," I teased, "any other dastardly machinations of yours I should know about?"

Kuro narrowed her eyes as if expecting a follow-up of some degree. She waited in silence, her tail unmoving.

Hm, did she not understand satire?

 

POV: Kuro

Was Julia taunting me, or was this just a coincidence?

I couldn't tell.

What did she know? Was all a test, or was she probing for answers?

Looking at Julia's smug expression, it could be either one.

If she already knew everything, I might as well tell the truth. Maybe if I plead guilty early, I would get a reduced punishment. But, if this was some strange joke, perhaps I could play along.

I stood up, puffing my chest out and exuding as much confidence as I could.

"Nyahaha! Behold, my Lady, the High Priestess has descended! With my dark powers, I shall ensnare the unwitting population and rule over them from the shadows…"

I snuck a glance at Julia, who was giggling to herself.

Yes.

This confirmed it; I was in the clear.

"And so, Kuro proclaims tonight that her quest of global domination begins here, in the humble Wickten Duchy, where I shall conquer the most powerful woman here…" I regarded Julia with a promiscuous sparkle in my eyes, "and I shan't stop till even the edges of the world chant my name!"

"Aww… Kuro, that was such a cute speech!"

 

---- Half an Hour Later ----

POV: Kuro

It was that damned curse of darkness again; I wasn't thinking straight.

I nearly exposed myself!

I needed to get my impulses under control soon. I was lucky this time; there wouldn't be another chance.

It was a miracle that Julia didn't even raise an eyebrow at my proclamation… surely, something that out-of-character should've rung some alarm bells.

I was pulled out of my brooding by a sweet voice coming from beyond the folding screen.

"Kuro? Are you done yet?"

"Just finishing, nya!" I called out.

Who knew that getting undressed would be this tedious? My maid outfit had layers upon layers of robes, accessories, and strings that needed to be undone, folded neatly, and stored. There was a specific method to it.

Modern clothes, on the other hand, were a luxury. Just slip them on in any order, fasten a couple of buttons, and you're out the door. It would take no more than five minutes on a bad day.

Too bad that kind of fashion would never catch on in this world. In my lifetime, anyway.

Putting away my headpiece in the closet, I slipped on a fresh pair of bras and underwear. While I knew they'd probably get stripped off as soon as I reached the bed, it was a formality I had to take, nonetheless.

Seducing your master was unacceptable conduct, let alone showing yourself nude. Only they had the privilege to appear naked, which in my opinion, wasn't too bad a deal in my case.

"I'm done~" I announced, emerging from the dressing area.

I stopped when I laid eyes upon Julia, my previous troubles returning with a vengeance.

"Kuro…?"

She was beautiful. But her appearance contained not an ounce of hesitation, something that only served to twist the knife of guilt further.

I had deceived her.

The act wasn't new to me, not at all. I was very familiar with the art of deception. I couldn't count the number of times I had unapologetically defrauded, cheated, and betrayed others, and it always felt good.

But not this time; what I'd done left a bad taste in my mouth.

I understood the rationale behind keeping her in the dark: it was for my continued survival, the one thing I always placed above anything else, regardless of the situation.

Julia approached, stopping just before me and resting a hand on my cheek.

"You feel bad because of what happened?"

I nodded weakly.

"I'm sorry…"

"Kuro, everyone has secrets, even me. Just be glad it wasn't anything too serious this time," she tried to reassure me. Her words were far from the truth.

Julia, one day I'll tell you everything. 

But for now?

I have a rebellion to defeat and a church to topple.

You need not lift even a finger, my Lady. Your loyal pet shall destroy those who dare threaten your wellbeing.

It's the least I can do to repay your kindness.

AN: Cheers to all that voted in the last poll! And sorry to those who wanted everything revealed, that probably won't come for a while now. Kuro will be acting extra cautious moving forward, fighting the 'curse' as best she can.

While Julia's trust has only strengthened during this chapter, Kuro is left feeling conflicted. Was this a positive or negative development in their relationship?

How will Kuro deal with both the insurgent counts and the meddling church? An impossible task?

Thanks for reading!

 

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