When they were all settled in the small room - Hazel on the one side, pressed against the door as if she wanted to fuse with the wood and vanish, Pete and Jack standing opposite of her next to the exit, and Katherine in the middle between the parties - Katherine began to explain.
"I don't really know where to start. It's a long story but I want to tell you about it because I think it is right to do so. I only planned on telling Hazel at first but the circ.u.mstances have changed now."
Hazel cheeks flushed in excitement. Her lady wanted to tell her first. Did that mean she was her lady's favorite? The worshiping glitter in her eyes while looking at Katherine intensified.
Other than Jack knitting his brows further, the guards didn't react to the statement. They were still waiting for more information what all of this was about.
"The reason I am here in this mansion, the reason we got to meet, and also the reason you two" Katherine gestured to Jack and Pete "are ordered to watch over me - all of this is caused by the uniqueness of my magic power."
She paused to study their reaction but the three of them didn't show much besides further confusion.
"Uniqueness?", Pete dared to raise his voice first. "What kind of uniqueness if I may ask?"
"Well", Katherine hesitated shortly. "It is most likely the only one of it's kind in existence... although we can't be too sure about that. There is still no register about magic powers up till now."
In her head, Katherine made a note to bring something like that into existence, if she could. It would open up new possibilities for analyzing magic. Although there surely were some old fogies who were against analyzing magic in the first place as they claimed it to be a gift of the gods. A register alone, however, hopefully wouldn't threaten their believe.
Though not going on a magic academy herself, Katherine knew a lot more about magic than the average citizen. That bastard Ethan always borrowed her his academies' books, and the library of the late duke, too, wasn't something to laugh about. Especially compared to the one in this mansion.
"About what exactly my magic is, it would be the easiest to show you." She stepped over to Jack's side. "I will need your hand for that. Don't worry, it won't harm you."
Skeptically, Jack reached out his right hand. Although magic was revered, the common people feared it just as much. As a soldier, who witnessed the terrifying deeds of mages on the battlefield, Jack had high respect for them. However, because all he met were snobbish aristocrats up till now, he didn't really like mages.
Seeing how he automatically reached out his healthy hand, Katherine smiled. "The other one, please. And you don't need to hide it, I already saw that there is something wrong with it."
Jack laughed awkwardly. "You're too sharp, milady. Well, if you already know, there is now use hiding it."
He offered his other hand. The blood on the pinky, where his nail used to be, was already dried up but It would still take more than a week to be fully healed, not to mention for the nail to re-grow.
That was if Katherine wasn't there.
"Now look closely, all of you.", she instructed.
Pete leaned in from the side, while Hazel hesitantly walked over to them, staying half-hidden behind her lady as a last wall of defense between her and the bulky guards.
When all of them looked at her two hands holding Jack's left lightly, Katherine was a little nervous. It wasn't surprising, as she had seldom showed her magic to other people and she didn't know how they'd react. Hopefully their relationship wouldn't be disturbed by it.
Taking a deep breath, Katherine reached into herself. A strange warmth answered and followed her will to surface as a light glow on her hands. She heard Hazel gasp next to her ear. Jack stiffened, but his hand remained still.
Grasping the tip of the pinky in between her forefinger and thumb, Katherine took care not to obstruct the others view.
The light from her hand slowly spread to the wound. In a matter of seconds, it began to heal. The clotted blood vanished and a thin layer of skin grew instead. The redness lessened.
Katherine stopped there. She couldn't let nails or hairs grow anew, as she realized when one of Ethan's acquaintances burned her hair by accident when she was younger. The fire mage had been insanely sorry about it but that didn't quench Katherine's thirst for revenge back then. She'd only been satisfied when he landed himself in a quagmire of manure the next day. A smug smile resurfaced together with the memory.
It vanished as she realized the silence in the room. All three of them stared at Jack's hand. Where they stupefied? Unbelieving? Repelled? The uncertainty made Katherine nervous.
To hide it, she took her trembling hands back and hid them in her dress.
Unexpectedly, Hazel was the first to react. "Milady..." her bright eyes shined with worship. "Are you a goddess?"
Katherine's mouth twitched and she did her best to suppress a laugh. A giggle still escaped her lips. "Are you for real? Me, a goddess?!"
She expected Jack to laugh uproariously over it and looked over to him - but as she met his eyes, it was one of the few times he looked dead-serious. Even more serve than Pete's current expression.
"No way!", she exclaimed, shocked. "You two, too?!"
They didn't answer directly, so she tried dissuading them: "No way, no way! I'm a perfectly normal girl, you see?! I may be a mage but nothing more. I didn't regrow an arm or sorts, I just healed his finger! Don't make a mountain out of a molehill, please!"
The following silence was just as unnerving as the first. Uncertainty fluttered over Pete's face. "Does that mean you could... regrow an arm? If you had to?"
Katherine threw her hands in the air. "I don't know, okay? It's not like I ever tried! But I don't think I can, so don't make a big deal out of this. It's just special because it's rare. It has absolutely nothing to do with being a goddess or sorts!"
She didn't want them to treat her differently. Especially Hazel was still gazing at her with worship in the eyes.
Suddenly, a bright smile spread on Jack's serious face and he chuckled. "Alright, milady. Roger that. You're not a goddess, just our abnormally gifted lady. That's something good, isn't it? Don't worry, we will keep your secret. If people knew about it, they would come from everywhere to get treated right?"
Slowly, Pete nodded approvingly. "A heavy burden to decide about life and death at your age."
Up till now, Katherine never really thought of the reasons to keep her magic a secret. To her it just always was one. But now she realized that maybe there were other reasons besides Ethan wanting her power for himself. A tingle of embarrassment colored Katherine's face in a light shade of red. "I don't know... maybe there are such people?"
Hazel, though, was unconvinced. Why should her lady keep her skill to herself? Even if she was not a goddess - which she was very unsure about - , healing magic was a gift by the gods to all of mankind, right? This meant, her lady herself was a gift by the gods! Shouldn't she use it for all the people in pain all over the world?
"Milady... why do you hide that gift? Why not treat everyone?", the maid asked in a hushed voice.
"Well" Katherine scratched her neck. It really did seem unfair to keep it to herself, right? And didn't she want to improve her ability anyways? An idea formed in her head but she pushed it aside. There were more important matters to attend to first.
"You know, I think I need to hide my identity so people won't come knocking at my door day and night, but maybe I can still... help in a different way. However, that wasn't what I originally wanted to talk with you about."
She locked her gaze on Jack and Pete. "This isn't the only wound caused by the punishment, right? It should only be the tip of the iceberg. Tell me truthfully: where else are you hurt?"
The maid behind her gave a sharp gasp out of shock, and her wide green eyes flew to the two man towering over them like mountains out of muscles. They had more wounds? How come? If it wasn't her lady who said it, she would never believe it. The injury obviously didn't affect them at all. Maybe they were just some tiny scratches? But as she had clearly seen the nail missing where her lady healed the guard, it didn't seem like that.
It was the first time Hazel dared to look at Jack and Pete for so long. Her gaze was full of sorrow and pity. Being punished... she knew it all too well. To know that people here, where she'd been safe for weeks, experienced it, too, and recently at that, made her hopes waver. Maybe... here wasn't that different from everywhere else.
"It's just a few scratches. They don't affect us much, milady.", Jack tried to play it down.
The darkness, which had dozed a bit while Katherine explained to her trustful followers, stirred and slowly filled her violet eyes again. They could feel the air in the room getting cold.
Where did that chill come from?, Jack thought irritated. It felt a bit like... two red eyes surfaced in his memory, and he hastily threw a glace at the door. No, the earl wasn't there. Why would he? But where was that chill coming from then?
He would never expect it to come from the petite and pretty girl in front of him, not even as she said with a grave, nearly threatening voice one word: "Where?"