A girl in her older teens woke up, bunching the sheets that she was lying upon with palms of bitterness. Her long, blond hair was a mess, spread out around her head like she had tossed and turned all around. She let out a deep sigh as her mouth held back sobs, recalling what had happened to her before she was unconscious.
One would only need to see her current state of undress and facial expression to infer what had happened. The various bruises that ran along her arms and legs, as well as her torso, indicated that she had been roughed up, played with, and treated like a toy.
However, some of these marks looked older than others, a sign that this wasn’t the first time. A metal cuff was attached to her right wrist, keeping her chained to the bed that she was on. Several months had passed already, abused by a merchant that had purchased her. She was a slave to the man, sold to another nation by backstabbing nobles, some who she thought of as family once.
That had happened because of the secret skill that she was born with. Charm – a magical technique that allowed her to appear particularly alluring and convincing to those around her. While it drained her mana quite rapidly while in effect, she experimented with it plenty throughout her childhood to give herself unfair advantages.
Due to its nature, she couldn’t use it for long periods, but it was useful to make a person avoid questioning her lies. Of course, she had to be careful. The more blatant her claims were, the higher the chance it would fail. But she knew the limit of its boundaries quite well.
As a result, her standing in society rose dramatically as she courted the sons of various high-ranking nobles, receiving many wondrous gifts. However, someone took notice of her seemingly natural appeal just after coming of age. One day, her parents came to her with the news that the Duke had taken special interest in her and wanted to arrange for a meeting.
The girl clicked her teeth. She did not want to meet with an old, frivolous man who was known to play around with his women only for short times. And when he grew tired of her, she would become one of those maids that served his whims in his mansion. A boring life of being locked up was not in her plans.
However, her parents had already decided for her, the greed in their eyes obvious at the anticipation of a connection to the powerful Duke. She had no choice in the matter, as she was simply their daughter, a pawn for increasing their family’s self-worth. Not being satisfied with taking small steps up the rung, they had literally sold her off for a boost in prestige.
With the decision already made, she had no chance to use her Charm skill to reverse it. Going forward with the meeting with Duke Charlemagne was a given. However, she still held hope.
‘I should be able to control him. That’s exactly what I will do! Just think, the Duke as a puppet with me holding the true power!’
She giggled silently as she met the man for the first time, sharing goblets of wine in a lounge for visitors. The lascivious Duke made it obvious what he was in the mood for, directing his servants to clear the way. After they left the room to give them some alone time, the girl activated her skill and poured on the charisma.
She tugged at his collar, drew him forward, and waited for the moment where his eyes would gloss over with worship. However, that never came about.
The Duke grabbed her arm, flipped her onto the table, and pressed her face down onto it.
“Just as I expected… a skill to deceive the mind and win it over. I must thank the Chancellor for his gift.” The Duke brandished a ring upon his finger, an accessory that negated the Charm skill that the girl possessed.
As she struggled under his weight, the Duke bent over and whispered into her ear.
“…as well as finding me such a tantalizing girl to break for my own amusement.”
Those words sent a shiver down her spine, as she fought even harder to break free. No man had been able to deny her, but she had been careless. Never did she think that someone would notice, much less counter it. However, the man was too heavy. She barely noticed as a hand was brought to her face, containing a vial of liquid that he poured into her mouth.
The girl choked and tried to spit out the mysterious concoction, but the effects were instantaneous. Her body went slack for several moments, an electrifying sensation invading her head and shooting out to the rest of her body.
Before long, she realized that she had crashed to the ground, and she was gazing vacantly at the ceiling. The Duke bent down to look at her, a devious smirk on his face.
“I command you to get up. Our nighttime activities await.”
As disgust filled the girl’s mind, her body suddenly moved on its own. Though she tried to will her limbs from walking, from following the dreadful man to the bedroom, it was as if her mind and body had become disconnected. The cloudiness between her consciousness and her actions made her feel like a puppet on strings.
Her face scrunched up in hatred and embarrassment as her hand went toward her clothing, delicately pulling each article off. While her mouth still worked to throw curses and insults at the man, it seemed to only further arouse his sick demeanor.
And soon, she learned. That was exactly how the Duke liked it. He reveled in the screams of refusal and the cries of despair as he easily claimed what wasn’t voluntary. The more the girl rejected him, the greater the enjoyment the Duke appeared to have. She had found out why the Duke went through women so quickly. They were simply gathered to be broken. A fleeting moment of desire that made his partners disposable.
And after nearly a week of torture, the girl could barely fight back anymore. She had lost the strength to even ball up a fist in response to his advances. Simply lying on the bed and pretending to be one of his broken toys was the best course of action. She bided her time, waiting for a chance to get revenge. There would be any number of chances as one of his puppet maids.
But to her surprise, that opportunity never came. Soon after, she found herself shoved into a caravan to who knew where.
“Can’t have someone around with such a dangerous skill. I have a greater purpose for you… as a bargaining chip.”
And with that, she was drugged into a deep sleep and smuggled over the border to Purnesia. One of the Duke’s black-market contacts made the rounds to Fort Valga, where a few shady characters helped transport the special cargo to the other side, away from the watchful eyes of the fort guards. They were professionals at getting goods between the closed borders, carrying special equipment to avoid detection.
The next time the girl woke up, an unfamiliar emptiness seeped into her body due to the lack of mana in the environment. It made her feel colder and more alone than she had ever been. But all she thought of was how she could add yet another thing on her list to take revenge on.
Her parents who sold her for their own prosperity.
The Duke who violated her.
The authority that allowed for such things to happen.
And the entire Kingdom of Sistina that had essentially thrown her away to some unknown, foreign place.
She had done nothing to warrant such cruelty, aside from mildly exploiting her natural abilities to gain a place for herself. But fate had decided to punish her for it. Or rather, the greedy hearts of men with their endless desires had trampled all over her.
And they would continue to do so.
She was thrust upon a wealthy Purnesian merchant named Rostov. He was a portly man that could have been her father, wearing clothing that was much more refined than the rags and tatters that she briefly glimpsed the normal residents wore.
Unlike the skin and bones that were hidden under peasant clothing, it appeared that she wouldn’t starve at the very least. But there were times that she wondered if even that was a blessing or not. She was essentially chained down, not allowed to go anywhere without supervision. Anywhere she needed to go, whether it was for food or the bathroom, a servant would have to unfasten her chain and lead her there. That was to reinforce that she was nothing more than a pet for Rostov, not allowed to do anything without his permission. The man liked to keep strict control over his possessions, particularly exotic ones.
Apparently, he knew about her Charm skill. Because of that, the chains that she wore constantly siphoned out her mana, leaving her easily exhausted from even the normal day-to-day activities. They had ensured that she would not have any chances to use it.
And above all else, her new owner had a violent streak, especially when his deals ended up going poorly. When it was time for him to ‘play’, her resulting condition depended on his mood after work. If he was in a good mood, he would simply release his desires and promptly leave.
It was when he was in a sour mood that she dreaded. A broken rib, a dislocated shoulder, deep bruises where he nearly crushed what he grabbed – soon, she lost count of the number of injuries that were inflicted upon her body.
The servants would arrive afterward to treat her battered self, pulling out magic stones as catalysts to accelerate various healing techniques. This was the only time the girl would see that dull glow, so familiar to her but rare in Purnesia. People here could hardly use magic without them. These magic stones were likely very expensive, but she was a ‘worthy enough toy’ to use them on. How laughable that seemed.
The girl didn’t know whether to feel fortunate for the treatment or curse that it meant how thoughtlessly she could be abused. Quite simply, there was no point dwelling on that after the first several times. She could put her mind to better use elsewhere.
After several months studying the routines of the servants and Rostov, she could finally see a crack in her dreadful daily life. She checked herself after the latest bout of ‘playtime’. Rostov had gone rather easy on her today as she could still make use of all her limbs. Though his actions made the bed rattle quite a bit, she had purposefully guided him into purposeful roughhousing.
The more noise that was made, the easier it was to trick the servants, who had grown accustomed to thinking that healing was needed after an eventful night. Sure enough, the door to her bedroom clicked open and two male servants arrived. The girl put on her best act to convince them that she was in excruciating pain.
As one of them bent over to examine the leg that she popped out of her joint purposefully, the other servant pulled out a magic stone. Immediately, the girl sat up and grabbed the stone, using the mana housed in it as fuel for her Charm skill.
“Look at me. Don’t I look so pitiful? Does it not hurt your heart to see me in such a state?”
The two men nodded with their eyes glazed over. Her skill had worked. Holding the gem gave her just enough mana to activate it. She gestured for the men to come closer so that she could pluck the other stones from their possession.
And then, pointing to the chains, she nicely asked them to undo them. “Would you kindly?”
Within minutes, she was freed from her shackles, and the servants left the room, thinking that they had fulfilled their normal duty. Picking out a fresh outfit, the girl crept out of the room. There was only one place she could go if she hoped to escape.
Creeping through the dark hallways in the dead of night, the girl moved through the mansion. By now, she knew where every guard was stationed, every path of their patrol. And with only two more uses of her Charm skill, she made her way to the storeroom where Rostov kept many of his goodies that were waiting to find a buyer.
Scurrying inside, she found treasure troves of fancy goods, but her eyes quickly scanned around the area for something that could help her escape captivity. Sure enough, there were swords and armor, but that was a lost cause for a dainty lady who knew nothing of combat. Her life was that of a spoiled member of nobility, waiting to be married off. The weapons were far too cumbersome to use.
Rather, she needed some magical tool that would aid her efforts. However, all she could find were crafts and the basic utilities that furnished the homes of the rich. Aside from that, there was an excess of magic stones to supply mana. The girl had barely learned the basics of magic, so the extra mana would merely supply piddling spellcraft. The Charm skill wouldn’t get her very far either, especially when people started searching for her in hiding.
What she needed was some form of protection, someone that would fight for her…
The girl stared back at the large pile of magic stones. There was even magic-infused chalk for spell incantations. Every child of Sistina nobility was taught about familiars, regardless if they had a need for one. Quickly sorting through her memory, she picked up a piece of the chalk and drew a magic circle for summoning. Praying that the teachings from years ago hadn’t left her, she filled in the inscriptions that called out to the Gods for help. Since it required a decent amount of mana, she then set several magic stones around the edge until it finally started glowing.
“Please, grant me a familiar that can help make my escape. One that can plow a path through to freedom!”
All she could hope for was some strong beast that could pounce upon her enemies, or one that could carry her far away. Mana drainage was also a concern. For once the mana was spent from the magic stones, it would be difficult to maintain a familiar in this barren land.
Even more, she wanted a partner to help her take revenge on everyone that had wronged her. A figurative knight that vowed himself to her. But she knew that was asking for too much. Even with all the mana in the world, it would be impossible to summon a being that could overthrow entire nations.
As the light around the magic circle died out, she was taken aback at the sight of a man sprawled on the ground. That only meant one thing, she had summoned an Electi, the one type of familiar that didn’t require mana to sustain.