Though Eryn had been imprisoned in the Duke’s mansion, she was still able to move around the premises. However, that didn’t mean that she was free to do as she wished, as her presence was closely watched by the numerous maids and guards that worked throughout the area.
While the Duke was busy making preparations for the wedding, Eryn carefully took note of the workers’ tasks and routines for the next several days, keeping an eye out for gaps in surveillance.
She had to be careful not to arouse their suspicion, as the bracelets on her wrists had sealed away both her physical and magical abilities. All she could do was gather information on the Duke’s weaknesses to prepare for a counterattack. At the very least, she hoped to find something damaging to the Duke’s reputation that she could pass on to Cornelius for leverage.
She walked through the gardens, looking for breaks in the bushes for hiding places. She checked every door to grasp the layout of the mansion. She chatted with the maids and guards, trying to understand their backgrounds and situations. In particular, she was searching for signs that helped her distinguish those loyal to the Duke versus those reluctantly under his service. At this point, Eryn needed every ally she could find, especially if she wanted to reconnect with her friends outside. However, she didn’t find any obvious discontent among the servants.
Through her investigation, she had noticed that the Duke’s personal study was off-limits by nearly everyone but his personal secretary when the door was closed. Doubling as his sleeping quarters, the Duke would occasionally bring a woman there, presumably for his ‘hobbies’. It was noted that the women who spent a night with the Duke never behaved the same afterwards, though none of them would say what happened. None of the guards nor maids so much as strayed ten steps from the door leading to the room at these times, opting to use a bell and sound tube located outside to contact him if needed.
One maid recalled the story of a servant who had disregarded the warning and opened the door after hearing a voice of distress emanating from there. She had disappeared the next day and was never heard from again. From then on, all who passed by feigned ignorance should they notice anything happening there.
This bit of information unnerved Eryn, as she was only weeks away from a similar fate. However, the Duke had insisted on their betrothal, hinting that she had qualified his standards for a permanent plaything. She shivered at the thought of being ravaged by such a disgusting, cynical man on a continual basis.
Fearing the worst and with nothing to lose, she waited for an opportunity to search the study for his secrets. Having memorized the patrolling pattern of the guards and maids, Eryn found an opportunity one afternoon as she strolled through the garden. The Duke would be away for most of the day on business, so the room would likely be empty.
When the nearby guard looked away, Eryn casually slipped into the crevice of a bush and waited for the next guard to pass. Slowly, she maneuvered past the gaps in surveillance until she stood underneath the balcony that led to the second-floor study.
The direct path to the study from within the building passed by too many sets of eyes, so she couldn’t risk it. However, she had noticed some vines that had been sturdy enough to hold her weight growing up the side of the building. She should be able to climb to the roof and hop down to the balcony below.
Checking to make sure that no one was around, Eryn effortlessly climbed up the vine and found herself on the roof. Peering over the ledge, the balcony was about ten feet down. She took a few minutes to ensure that not a single sound came from the room below. Gritting her teeth, she pushed herself over and landed with a thud.
Immediately, she felt the bracelet on her right wrist activate, creating a tremendous pressure bearing down on her body. Bringing her to her hands and knees, she had expected this fall to count as a trigger for fast movement. Ten seconds later, the pressure lifted off her body, allowing her to lift her head up. A deep breath was exhaled out, one that Eryn hadn’t realized that she was holding.
Thankfully, no one was around. A neat and tidy desk sat in the middle of the room, showing no signs of documents tossed about. Walking right up to it, Eryn checked the drawers, but they were all locked. A man as important as him was not likely to leave anything damaging in unsecured locations. She would need to find a way to open it, but it seemed to be secured magically.
Looking side to side, Eryn could only find furniture that was typical of any bedroom. Moving from the bookshelves to the dresser to the bed, Eryn could find no irregularities or hidden objects within.
Suddenly, a slight breeze tickled the side of her cheek. She turned in that direction only to find a wall. Had she been imagining it? As she walked up to it, her dress started swaying gently. No, there was definitely something there!
Eryn pressed her hand against the wall and felt along its surface. A few minutes later, her hand brushed over a certain spot, which caused a magic circle to glow faintly. Putting her hand on top of it, a section of the wall slowly receded back, revealing a staircase leading down.
As she walked forward, small torches along the wall lit, providing just enough illumination to see the steps below. Eryn slowly walked down the steps, her heart pounding in anticipation as to what lied below.
Reaching an old, rickety door, she opened it to find…
A fancy room?
A moment of surprise swept over her at the scene in front of her eyes.
Judging from the conversations with the servants, Eryn had predicted horrible devices of torture, perverted contraptions, and unspeakable fetishes being kept secret in a dungeon-like prison. But the room before her looked like any other room in the mansion.
Puzzled by this, Eryn went over to a large closet and opened it. An assortment of different colors jumped out at her from within.
Eryn reached in and grabbed one of the pieces of attire. Looking at it up and down, the clothing appeared a bit strange and unlike anything that one would normally wear. Taking out each piece one by one, she realized that all of the clothing stored within were for females to wear.
Some were cute, some were revealing, some appeared to be overly-sexualized versions of occupational clothing. Looking elsewhere, there were even accessories that complemented those styles. Just what was all of this doing here?
“I see you have found one of my secret chambers. What a naughty girl.”
A voice sounded behind Eryn, causing her heart to jump. She threw the clothing in her hand aside and turned around with a surprised expression. The Duke had unexpectedly returned home early.
“I should have realized those shackles wouldn’t be enough to quell your fiery self. But now that you have seen this, I can’t very well let you go unchecked.”
The Duke cast a spell, creating a wind that gripped Eryn’s arms. Momentarily forgetting about her shackles, Eryn reflexively tried to bat it away. This action triggered the bracelet’s gravity magic once again. Being held down by the strong force, the wind magic finished wrapping itself around Eryn’s body, spreading her arms and legs in an ‘X’. When the gravity magic lifted, Eryn futilely tried to blow the spell away with her own magic, only to have her mana sucked out.
“Keep struggling. I’m rather enjoying the show,” the Duke said as he went over to a drawer and pulled out a small bottle. “It is a bit early, but how about you have a taste of what’s to come?”
As the Duke brought the bottle back over and uncorked it, he grabbed Eryn’s chin and brought it to her lips. The pungent aroma of an unknown spice and alcohol floated into her nose.
“This is a magic potion that controls one’s will and forces the drinker to obey. Of course, I had it specifically designed to allow one to keep their thoughts so that you can futilely resist against my commands. It wouldn’t be any fun to play around with a mindless puppet after all.” He gave a wicked smile as he tilted the bottle upwards.
Eryn jerked to knock the bottle away, but his hand firmly held her face still. Being restrained, Eryn couldn’t take advantage of her superior attack stat against the Duke. In a circumstance like this, her strength was that of a typical active girl, inferior to that of the larger man. Such was the system of this world.
All Eryn could do was look spitefully at the Duke as the liquid was forced down her throat.
“That gaze! Such anger, such fury, tinged with a speck of fear! I can’t wait to see the ever-growing scorn that you give me as I strip you of everything!” He laughed with glee, as the empty bottle was discarded to one corner of the room.
As Eryn’s vision started to black out, she could feel the potion start taking effect. She tried to spit it up, but she no longer had the strength to. Fear crept up her body as she fought back the darkness, knowing that she would no longer be able to resist after she woke up next. After a few minutes, her body gave out.
The Duke went to one of the closets to ponder what outfit he would choose first, knowing that the potion would only knock her out momentarily.
The hairclip in Eryn’s hair started glowing gently at that moment, giving off a faint greenish light.
After a short while, Eryn opened her eyes to see the Duke holding what appeared to be a skimpy outfit with animal-like accessories.
“Good, you’re finally awake. Now, let’s perform a little test.” The Duke bent over and peered into Eryn’s cloudy eyes.
He released the wind magic, lowering Eryn gently to her feet.
“First, let’s remove that dress, shall we? Take it off for me.”
After a moment of hesitation, Eryn nodded in response, reaching for the buttons to undo her dress. Her hands unfastened them one by one down the length of her chest, until finally, all of them had come loose. With a brief tug of the sleeves, the dress fell downwards, crumpling at the base of her feet. A reddish blush spread across her cheeks during this time. Now, only her bra and panties were covering her chastity.
“Now, how do you feel, my dear? Feel free to speak your mind.” The Duke anxiously waited for her reply.
“You. Disgust. Me.” Eryn gave a sharp look of indignation towards the man.
The sight of Eryn in this state overwhelmed the Duke. The look of defiance and pride, contrasted by the submissive state she was in, was everything he had anticipated. His heart pounded with a fervor never felt before. The desire to take her made his hands reach forward in a creepy manner. However, just before he touched her, he suddenly drew back.
“I mustn’t get ahead of myself.” The Duke coughed to clear his mind. “That time will come soon enough. I must refrain for now. If we go any further, I may just lose myself to this temptation.”
The Duke turned away, satisfied that Eryn was now under his control. Adjusting his collar and brushing his hair back, he made himself look impeccable in the mirror before making his way towards the door.
“You can dress yourself now. I’ll take you back to your room.”
Eryn robotically complied and slipped the dress back on before following behind him and up the stairs to the study.
As the Duke moved the wall back in place to seal the entrance once again, Eryn’s gaze wandered to the back wall behind the desk. Her attention became fixated on a sword that hung there. She knew that sword from anywhere! That was her mother’s sword! But what was it doing here?!
About to take a step in that direction, the Duke’s voice interrupted her, making her turn to face him.
“Come along now. No more distractions for today.”
Eryn nodded and continued along silently. After the Duke brought her back to her room, she walked inside and sat down on a nearby chair.
“Join me for dinner?” The Duke said.
Eryn simply turned her head away dismissively.
“Your defiance tickles my heart, but I’ll be back to retrieve you later. You are free to do as you wish in the meantime.”
The Duke closed the door with a click. Several minutes passed by in silence.
Feeling that the coast was clear, Eryn let out a long sigh.
“Somehow, I made it through that. I hope he doesn’t get suspicious.”
She reached behind her head and pulled the hairclip loose. Examining the object closely, a window popped up.
“Resists negative status effects, huh? Lucky that it worked. I nearly forgot about this, until I realized that the potion had no effect.”
After the Duke gave his first command for her to undress, she decided to play along, hoping that he would let his guard down. She didn’t know how much more she could have endured, but thankfully, he had backed off before going any further.
For the time being, it was best to make him think that potion could control her, in hopes that he would let his guard down at the most opportune moment. Either way, this event had given her a glimmer of hope in breaking out of this situation.
But first, she had to find out why the Duke possessed her late mother’s sword.