Chapter 15: Strawberry juice?
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Andrew stared as the bracelet on Cameron's wrist disappeared. Cameron had been prodding Lisbeth's body while laughing hysterically and had ignored Andrew's touch. 
 
Cameron immediately stopped laughing and fear flashed across his face momentarily before falling slack, his eyes open but lifeless.
 
Andrew. Shimeirin said after a moment. 
 
Are you OK? Andrew worried despite it looking like Cameron hadn't made shown any signs of struggle like Eric had.
 
Shimeirin told Andrew what she had heard. When she had finished, Shimeirin is sorry. Shimeirin killed Cameron.
 
Cameron was dead the moment he put on the bracelet. I would be too if I had chosen a different one. I'm so thankful for you and if you hadn't done it, I would have. Andrew knew if he lived through this he would have major PTSD.
 
Thanks Andrew...
 
The door to the room burst open. The entirety of Lisbeth's harem rushed into the room, weapons raised. They looked terrified, and some looked like it wouldn't take much to scare them off.
 
"She's dead. He killed her." He knew this situation should scare him, but he just didn't care.
 
"Lady Lisbeth is dead?" The men murmured. "What will happen to us?"
 
"I'm guessing you can't just go free." Andrew imagined they would be confiscated with the rest of the property and sold.
 
"No, if we're lucky we'll be sold to a new master." The most handsome man said.
 
"I'm sorry." Andrew doubted there was anything he could do to help them.
 
The men murmured amongst themselves then the handsome man spoke again. "You couldn't use your influence to help us could you Lord Terran?" The men all looked like they doubted anything would happen.
 
"The best I could do is get you out of the city and let you do your thing." Andrew walked to the window but didn't really look out.
 
"As long as we have these slave anklets we would be fugitives." The man held out his leg, showing a crystal anklet just above his shoe. "Unless you can take them off we would have to hide for the rest of our lives."
 
Andrew looked at the anklet. It was clear and didn't reflect much light so it wasn't very noticeable if you weren't looking at their legs.
 
Magic crystal. Shimeirin said with amazement. Some noble Winged Kin had some, but that was it. Is it more common here?
 
What's special about it? If it's magic, it must do something.
 
Shimeirin heard it can take basic properties of magic and make it easier to use. Anyone can use fire crystals to make fire. Wind crystals to make wind. Shimeirin even heard one noble had one that lets you talk to someone with another one. 
 
Sounds convenient but I doubt they would give slaves something like that.
 
Shimeirin thinks so too. Maybe there is a normal crystal that doesn't do magic? 
 
That sounds like the best answer. How hard are they to break?
 
Shimeirin heard only magic crystals can break magic crystals.
 
So we could smash them together? No... if it were that easy they wouldn't use them.
 
Andrew would have to worry about this later. For now he would think about how to get rid of the bracelets. There was also the fact that the Spider Kin were up to something.
 
"I have a feeling something big will happen soon." Andrew looked at the group of slaves. "Hide here and take the chance to escape or whatever when it happens."
 
The men murmured before the handsome one spoke again. "OK. It should take a while before anyone notices Lady Lisbeth is missing." He looked to her body. 
 
Andrew looked around the room after he too looked at Lisbeth and Cameron. The room was still sparse but contained some new decorations since the last time he had been here. There was also a large chest with lock tucked between the bed and wall. He had almost missed it because Lisbeth had made it look like a night stand. Andrew fiddled with the lock but doubted he could force it open. 
 
He looked up to see the men watching him. "You should probably make the house look... as busy at it normally does."
 
The men looked at each other, then all but the handsome man, left the room. 
 
Andrew stepped away from the chest. There has to be a key somewhere. He looked to Lisbeth's body. I'm going to have to search Lisbeth...
 
Shimeirin doesn't want to see Lisbeth's body up close again.
 
Andrew looked to the remaining man. "Do you know where Lisbeth keeps her keys?"
 
The man nodded. "She..." he looked at the dead maid, "kept the house keys on her but I think the key you are looking for is on the necklace Lady Lisbeth wears."
 
"What did you think of Lisbeth?" Andrew doubted the man would answer honestly.
 
The man fidgeted. "She was... well... honestly better than we could have hoped for in a master. Aside from chores and training, we've had it easy."
 
Thank goodness he's leaving out the other things they do for her. Andrew shuddered.
 
Shimeirin is glad Lisbeth wasn't mean to them. Andrew noted Shimeirin's embarrassment.
 
Andrew walked to Lisbeth's body and crouched over it. "I never really liked her but never enough for her to die."
 
The man watched in silence as Andrew searched Lisbeth's neck for a chain or string that might have the key.
 
"What's your name?" Andrew asked the slave as he found a sting and pulled it out. There were several keys on it.
 
"Uneth, Lord Terran."
 
Andrew looked at Uneth and stood. "Andrew is fine. No Lord."
 
The man considered for a moment then looked at Andrew. "If you wish, Andrew."
 
Andrew smiled at him and then went back to the chest. Now, what are you hiding in here, Lisbeth? Andrew fiddled with the different keys until he found the right one. The chest opened and revealed a mostly empty chest. Not much.
 
Lisbeth must have spent it all on the house and slaves. Shimeirin felt disappointed.
 
"I think most of that money is what she took from Isaac." Uneth said from his spot.
 
Andrew scratched his chin. How was she planning on paying for food and whatever if she spent all her money? All that was inside were two small leather bags and some parchment. Can you read these for me? I know you've been teaching me but you know I'm still not good at it.
 
Shimeirin thinks she was stealing food from the peasants. And Andrew should try reading anyway. It's good practice! Shimeirin gave Andrew a stern push with her emotions.
 
Fine, you're right. Thanks again for teaching me. Andrew was glad he had found out a few days ago Shimeirin could read and asked her to teach him. It had been awkward considering she couldn't write or draw the letters herself.
 
Andrew picked up the parchment and unrolled them. 
 
They're slave documents. Shimeirin said not long after Andrew had started.
 
I thought you would make me read them. Andrew smirked.
 
Yes. Keep going! 
 
I'm glad you guys don't use pictures for writing like the Chinese. Andrew said again.
 
Shimeirin is glad too. Shimeirin thinks it's silly people still use pictures to write. Shimeirin commented with her usual response.
 
Andrew quickly grew bored with the documents. I'm not going to bother with these. I don't care about the details of slave purchases.
 
That's why Shimeirin made you read them. Shimeirin's emotions backed up her words.
 
Andrew put the papers down and picked up one of the leather bags. Just for that I'm eating the most disgusting thing I can find tonight.
 
Shimeirin never should have told Andrew Shimeirin can taste what Andrew tastes... Shimeirin will use fire magic to burn it before Andrew can eat it! 
 
Andrew chuckled. I'll use my hands to eat.
 
Andrew could tell Shimeirin was going to say something but she stayed silent.
 
Andrew shrugged. He looked at the leather bag and opened it. Inside were several dozen silver coins and a few gold coins. I don't think we'll have to worry about money now. 
 
Shimeirin thinks we should save it. 
 
Probably. Andrew opened the second leather bag and saw it filled with only bronze coins. We'll take this with us and leave the other coins in the chest.
 
Shimeirin thinks that is fine. 
 
Andrew closed and locked the chest before standing up and looking at Uneth. "Mind if my friends you kidnapped stay here?" Andrew felt Rah'asu and Insu deserved to stay somewhere nice for once.
 
"I apologize for that." Uneth bowed. "We were just following Lady Lisbeth's orders. If you want your friends to stay here, we won't harm them."
 
"Thanks." Andrew looked to the bodies. "Could you give them a proper burial?"
 
Uneth looked at the bodies. "I... Yes, that is a good idea."
 
"I will be out on business tonight. I trust you have enough food for a while?" Andrew wondered if the slaves would do anything while they had no official master. Too bad we can't just free them. Can we? I'll ask someone tomorrow.
 
Shimeirin wonders what it is like to be a slave. Is it the same as not having wings? Shimeirin felt sadness whenever Andrew looked at Uneth.
 
I imagine. People who own slaves are scum. Andrew shook his head. Would Lisbeth have bought slaves without the influence from the bracelet?
 
"We should have enough for now." Uneth said after thinking for a moment.
 
"Okay. I'll leave everything to you." Andrew nodded to Uneth.
 
"Yes, Andrew." Uneth bowed and left the room.
 
Andrew was tempted to look at Lisbeth's body again but decided against it and left the room.
 
***
 
Nobody bothered Andrew as he left Lisbeth's house and made his way back to the castle area. Cameron said the inn was around here somewhere. 
 
Shimeirin wonders if all the other Terrans are here yet. Should we wait until we know they're all here?
 
I don't know... If we wait too long the spirits might start taking them over. 
 
Shimeirin thinks Andrew is right. We have to do this tonight even if they aren't all here.
 
Andrew's heart was beating faster. He would soon be in an inn filled with barely sane killing machines and it would only take one finding out what he was doing to...
 
It didn't take long to find the inn as it was near the front gate of the castle.
 
The inn was a large building for Calorin standards. It was three stories tall and about twenty-five meters. It was finely decorated and was plastered a bright white color with finely carved wood trim. The grounds were well maintained with decorative shrubs and trees. A cobblestone path made of colorful stones not only led to the entrance but also to either side and behind.
 
Shimeirin likes this place. It's so pretty. 
 
Andrew nodded. If we keep Lisbeth's place I might have to steal decoration ideas.
 
Shimeirin doesn't want to live there. Shimeirin let out the emotional equivalent of a shiver.
 
I... yeah, I don't think I could sleep in that upstairs room after today. Andrew had to shake his head to get the image out.
 
Yes...
 
Andrew entered the main entrance to the inn and was immediately slammed with the noise of merriment. In front of him was a large, open room filled with tables and chairs, many of which he saw Terrans, many accompanied by attractive Calorin men or women, slaves and otherwise. He saw a bar to one side of the room where a well-dressed man was taking orders and passing out drinks. There were several well-dressed women patrolling the tables, either taking orders or cleaning.
 
"What can I do for you, Lord Terran?" A rather tall Calorin woman wearing revealing clothes greeted him. Andrew had actually never found the stretched features of the Calorinites to be appealing, but this woman was the most attractive he had seen yet.
 
She's so pretty. Shimeirin exuded respect and a little envy.
 
Meh, you know how I feel about Calorin women. Shimeirin and Insu both had tried getting his preferences for women several times independently.
 
Shimeirin doesn't understand why you don't find Calorin women attractive. Shimeirin finds them very elegant. 
 
"How much for a room and food?" Andrew was glad he had an out from the conversation with Shimeirin.
 
Mnf! And she was upset as expected at the brush off.
 
"For the next few days room and food is being provided by the Crown. At least until whoever killed the king is caught and punished." The woman didn't look like the king's death meant anything to her.
 
"Oh, thank you. Food would be nice but I have a place to stay so I don't need a room." There's no way I'm sleeping surrounded by... them.
 
Shimeirin is fine with the Bat Cave. 
 
Not even Lisbeth's house? 
 
No. 
 
I don't blame you.
 
"Very well Sir." The woman bowed slightly. "Any requests for your meal?"
 
Shimeirin? Andrew was fine with anything at an inn this nice compared to what he had been eating.
 
Juice and a meat hot plate with lots of vegetables. 
 
What kind of juice?
 
Shimeirin doesn't care... unless they have strawberry juice.
 
Strawberry juice? Andrew wondered if that was even possible as he had only seen it in juice mixes.
 
A nice old lady that lived near me would make it with strawberries from her garden. 
 
"You wouldn't have strawberry juice, would you?" Andrew doubted they would.
 
The woman raised an eyebrow. "Strawberry juice? I've never heard of anyone making that before. We have apple but that's it. Is that fine?"
 
"Yes, I like apple juice. Oh, and can you make a hot plate with lots of meat and vegetables?"
 
The woman thought then smiled. "That we can do." She gestured towards the tables, "Take any seat you like and we will bring everything when it is ready."
 
"Thanks." Andrew nodded towards the woman and found an empty table.
 
Strawberry juice? Andrew was very curious.
 
It's very thick, but it was Shimeirin's favorite. There was even a special house that could grow strawberries all year.
 
A greenhouse? Andrew tried to use a direct translation from English.
 
Greenhouse?
 
It's a house made of glass that is used to trap heat for growing in cold weather. He had seen glass in the Winged Kin village so it was possible.
 
Yes! That was it. Greenhouse. Greenhouse.
 
Maybe we can build our own and grow strawberries inside?
 
Shimeirin likes that idea! 
 
Andrew had just finished the best meal he's had since coming to Calorin. Shimeirin had chosen well, and the inn had done an excellent job preparing it. They had also gotten lucky and the other Terrans had completely ignored him, though this was mostly because most of the were drunk or absorbed in their own groups. 
 
By time Andrew had finished it was well past dark and most of the Terrans had headed upstairs to sleep and the rest were passed out or playing some card game. The staff looked like they wanted to clear out the rest but worked around them and even dragged out the passed out Calorinites.
 
Ready? Andrew's heart began to race at the thought of what they were about to do.
 
Yes. Shimeirin appeared to be the less scared than he was. Shimeirin thinks it will be easy if they are asleep.
 
I hope so.
 
Andrew, trust Shimeirin.
 
...Yes, I will. Andrew used this resolve to stand up and head towards the stairs.
 
The stairs and hallway were fairly dark, only being lit by several lamps, so he couldn't make out too much detail. Other than a long hallway that went in each direction, all he saw were the outlines of small tables that had various decorations.
 
Andrew walked as quietly as he could to the nearest door and put his ear to it. He heard nothing so reached for the handle. If these doors have locks on them we will have to get creative.
 
Shimeirin thinks only nobles use locks... but this is an inn for nobles and rich people.
 
Andrew twisted the handle slowly and didn't feel any resistance from a lock. Either there isn't a lock, there's no one in here, or they forgot to lock it.
 
Andrew opened the door a crack and looked inside. It was dark but the light from the hallway gave him a good idea of the layout. Other than what was probably furniture, he saw a bed in the far corner. There appeared to be an outline of someone sleeping in it, but he couldn't tell if it was a Terran or Calorinite.
 
Andrew squeezed through the door and crept towards the bed. So far the shape hadn't moved and he could now hear their steady breathing. As he got closer, he could finally tell that it was a Terran. 
 
Ready? Andrew hoped Shimeirin was right about the sleeping making everything easier.
 
Yes. Shimeirin was finally beginning to feel anxious.
 
Andrew looked at the Terran, a man most likely, and noticed his exposed feet. Hope you don't mind going in through the feet. Andrew put his hand on the man's foot as gently as he could.
 
Shimeirin is off! 
 
Andrew felt Shimeirin's presence weaken then almost entirely disappear. It was weird not having someone in his head. Shimeirin's emotions had been a constant for months and it was like a pressure had been lifted from his mind but also that a part of him was missing.
 
Andrew turned to see the bracelet but found the man's blanket covered it. He looked back to the foot he was holding. What would happen if he let go? Would Shimeirin be trapped? Would it yank her back into his body? Could he even let go at all?
 
It is done! Shimeirin had only been gone moments. They were both asleep, so all Shimeirin had to do was break the bracelet's connection.
 
Somehow a part of me feels disappointed. This is too easy.
 
Shimeirin thinks so too. The connection isn't hard to find and is easy to break.
 
Hmm. Andrew knew there was something more to this. The Servant said it was an experiment so maybe things like making the connection harder to break hadn't been developed yet? It could also be on purpose? It doesn't matter. It just makes things easier to us.
 
Shimeirin agrees. Let's go to another room. The faster we leave, the better Shimeirin will feel.
 
Yeah, let's just hope most of them are asleep by now.
 
Andrew glanced at the now soulless man, shook his head, and headed for the door. Tonight would be nerve-wracking.
 
***
 
It took them less than an hour to check all the rooms. All the ones that were occupied had had at least one Terran in them. Some they had had to revisit thanks to the occupants still being awake, but eventually they too had been taken care of.
 
Andrew leaned on the wall outside the last room they needed to check. They had even checked the third floor, so he was sick of checking rooms. Thankfully, there wasn't anybody on this floor. 
 
We still need to check the common room. Shimeirin reminded him.
 
Do you remember how many Terrans there are? Twenty something? Andrew wished he had paid more attention.
 
With Isaac, Lisbeth, Cameron, and Eric; Shimeirin counted twenty-one. Eric's female friend wasn't here from what Shimeirin could tell. 
 
It would make sense not all would come here. At least we found that perv. Andrew hadn't been sad to destroy that man's bracelet, but he hadn't been too keen on having to touch him either.
 
Shimeirin felt gross having to enter him. 
 
It was gross just touching him. Andrew stepped away from the wall. And we still have some drunk people to see in the common room, if there'r any left.
 
Yes, Shimeirin is exhausted, and not because Shimeirin can feel how tired Andrew is. Some sleep at the Bat Cave sounds nice.
 
Andrew did his best to look casual as he walked down the stairs. They had already had one run in with the staff and he felt like a criminal trying not to get caught in the middle of a crime spree.
 
Thankfully, they arrived at the common room quickly. It was now mostly empty and Andrew saw that all the Terrans had left. Looks like we're okay here. Should we double check the second floor in case any went to their rooms after we went to the third floor?
 
No, Shimeirin is sure they all went to their rooms while we were checking. 
 
There was that one time we saw those terrified maids carrying that passed out guy to his room so I guess the rest must have been too.
 
"Hello again Andrew." A familiar voice said.
 
Andrew looked to a nearby table and saw the Servant waving him over, a big smile on his face.
 
Shimeirin experienced a wave of emotions. First fear, then confusion, and finally anger. Does he know!?
 
Probably? It would make sense he would watch his experiment. 
 
"Having a private conversation with our little Bell? Wondering why I chose right now to show myself to you?" The servant motioned for Andrew to sit at the table with him again. "Come, sit! You've been busy tonight and must be tired."
 
Should we? Andrew already knew the answer.
 
Yes. Shimeirin felt like she didn't want to. 
 
Andrew wondered how she would have acted if this had happened when they first met.
 
Andrew waked to the table and sat down. "What do you need?"
 
"You've worked so hard and done me a big favor so I thought I would tell you a secret." He grinned.
 
Andrew furrowed his brows. "We did you a favor?"
 
"Yes. Apparently this experiment is a failure. I thought I had worked out all the problems, but no matter the conditioning one can't put a new spirit in someone elses body." Servant shrugged but didn't look too disappointed.
 
"What do you mean?" Andrew was curious but now that he had relaxed he felt his anger and disgust at this man well up so he was more interested in strangling him.
 
"How much do you know? Your innocent little Bell heard nothing like the others but I imagine you could talk to some others before you destroyed their bracelets." The Servant leaned back.
 
"That the Winged Kin spirits would transform and take over the bodies of the Terrans." 
 
"Yes, that is about right. Too bad that won't happen." The Servant grinned.
 
"Is that why you said the experiment was a failure?" Andrew was happy the experiment had failed. He hoped a man that was willing to do such cruel experiments never succeeded at anything.
 
"Not entirely. I admit I lied to them when I said they would gain new, immortal bodies, but it was the best way to get spoiled rich mortals to cooperate. Offer them power and they will do almost everything. Offer them immortality and they will do anything."
 
Spoiled rich nobles. Andrew hated nobility of any kind. 
 
Shimeirin didn't like most of them. Not that Shimeirin ever saw them up close.
 
"So if that part was a lie what was the part that went wrong?" Andrew wanted to run, to get away from this monster, but also wanted to know everything. He had been wanting to hear this since he had gotten caught up in it.
 
"How to attain the physical boosts that absorbing life force gives without the user slowly going insane. That's why you did me a favor in destroying the bracelets. By next week there would be Terrans killing not only the Kin but everyone they saw." Servant shifted in his chair. "I was thinking of doing it myself if it ever came to this, but I decided to add the little Bell to the experiment and see if she and whoever she chose would change anything in ways I didn't expect. And it did!" He grinned again.
 
"So you added Shimeirin on a whim!? Such a beautiful, sweet woman!? Heck, none of the Winged Kin deserved any of this corrupt or not." Andrew had to force himself from jumping over the table and strangling the Servant.
 
"I feel she benefitted from this greatly. For one, her life force wasn't ripped from her body when the bracelets were made and it looks like she found a partner that cares for her greatly. But yes, yes, she lost her body and all her kin were killed so I understand why you two are upset."
 
Andrew jumped out of his chair, sending it toppling behind him, and began to yell. "How can you be so calm about killing and messing with so many people's lives! I would kill you right now if I could! A monster like you doesn't deserve to walk freely!"
 
The Servant raised his hand, palm forward, to Andrew. "Learn more about this world before you criticize me. Sure they died, but they will be reborn. No matter how long and memorable their life, they will forget it. Over and over. A never-ending, pointless cycle."
 
"And what does this have to do with your experiments?" Andrew forced himself to take deep breaths to help him calm down.
 
"That is enough secrets for now Andrew." The Servant was looking bored. 
 
Andrew. Can you ask some questions for me? Shimeirin broke her usual silence she held when Andrew was talking.
 
Anything.
 
Will we go crazy like the others? Shimeirin doesn't want to become like them. And if he can get my body back?
 
"Two questions." Andrew was now terrified that he would slowly lose his sanity. He also wanted Shimeirin to get her body back for... reasons.
 
"I think we have time for one or two more questions before they get here." The Servant glanced to the west.
 
"Who gets here?" 
 
"You'll understand when you see them. Now, what are your questions?"
 
"First, will Shimeirin and I go crazy like the others?" 
 
The Servant shrugged. "I have no idea. I imagine if you don't absorb life force or have the little Bell try to take over your body you should be fine as nothing has happened so far." He took a sip from a drink he had on the table. "One more question."
 
"Can you give Shimeirin her body back?"
 
The Servant only thought for a moment. "No. It was destroyed during the transformation. Besides, as soon as either of your souls leaves that body they will immediately leave to the place souls go to when one's body dies and I won't be able to stop it. There might be another Deity or Servant that could help you. There are only certain types of souls I can catch and only in special circumstances. This isn't one of them."
 
"Can you...."
 
The Servant stood up. "No more questions. If you want to get the little Bell a new body, you will have to do it on your own. Now, I'm going to someplace nice to watch tonight's big event."
 
The Servant vanished.
 
Andrew. Shimeirin wants to think for a while. Shimeirin's feelings felt very mixed and confused.
 
Me too.
 
A man sat at the table across from Andrew. 
 
Andrew jumped back, he hadn't noticed the man arrive.
 
The man spoke in a familiar voice. "Your friend Isaac is now yours now that your part of the deal is over. We left him at the house you took from the other Terran."
 
Andrew relaxed slightly then looked at the man. He was probably a Spider Kin. "Thanks." He was too tired mentally and physically to feel excited or angry at him.
 
"We have also secured you safe passage out of the city. We promised your safety and this city won't be safe for you for much longer." The man stood up and looked like he was waiting for Andrew.
 
Andrew wondered what he meant by the city not being safe for a moment but assumed it was about what would happen when most of the Terrans were found to be practically dead. "Thanks."
 
"We will pick up your friends and leave immediately." The man headed for the exit.
 
Andrew stood up and followed him.
Well, that was easy. By design. Gotta have a failsafe, no?
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