"Umm", Jack made, not knowing how to react. Of course he didn't want to tell her the truth about their wounds. Knowing that they where injured already made her upset, so obviously it would be worse if she knew the extend.
With his eyes he send 'help me!'-signals to Pete, who could find solutions to nearly all problems.
A pity though, that Pete felt like Jack needed to learn how to solve problems by himself and not throw every difficult conversation at his partner. So, Pete folded his arms and turned away, pretending that he didn't see the sorrowful look.
This action of abandonment made Jack think about knocking that bastard out cold. It wasn't only his problem, okay?! The lady was addressing the both of them!
In the end, he had no choice but to tell her. Being employed by the earl while at the same time not offending the lady was really like staying between a rock and a hard place. "Well... there may be a few scratches on our backs. But you really don't need to worry, they are minor injuries. Nothing serious."
"Hmpf.", Katherine made disbelievingly. However, she didn't want to pressure them too much. No, the thing she really wanted, was to help them. "Turn around. I will heal those 'scratches'."
She wouldn't need to remove their shirts for that. With the patient it was only necessary because she needed to see the poison so she wouldn't push it into dangerous areas.
Finally, Pete reacted. "The punishment is not only getting the scratches, milady. It is to bear them until they are gone."
They'd made the wrong choice back then, so they were willing to live with the consequences. Besides, they'd felt much worse pain in their lives and their pride didn't allow them to whine about those tiny things.
Fury ignited in Katherine's soul. They were neglecting themselves! "Don't give me that! You are my guards and if you are injured, how are you going to protect me properly?! Even scratches can make a difference in real fights! Now turn around. This is your last warning!"
Jack and Pete exchanged a glance in misery. The lady was too forceful today! Where had their sweet little girl gone to? Reluctantly, they complied. They knew even if she removed their upper uniform, she would see nothing but the bandages.
Yet, she didn't even try removing it, which made them feel glad. Like this she wouldn't know the extend of their injuries and the situation wouldn't get more awkward. They knew pretty well that being inside a lady's chamber - even if it was the anteroom - was already bad enough without being half n.a.k.e.d. With it... well, if the earl really liked the lady, they should be glad to 'just' go back into the dungeon.
Very carefully, Katherine placed her hands on their backs. She knew that their injuries were far from being scratches just by their resistance to show them but she didn't argue about it. It was somewhat sweet of them to not want to worry her. Besides, showing or not showing didn't matter as she had already made her decision about her next steps when she first knew they were punished.
The hands on their backs started glowing again. Nearly unrecognizable, two pairs of strong shoulders relaxed. The feeling of warmth together with the lessening pain was too soothing.
Quite some time they stood there in a comfortable silence. Hazel had her eyes fixed on Katherine with reverence. This was her lady. The lady, who called her a friend, was this awesome. She could heal people and make even the sturdy guards follow her commands. This courage, this friendliness, and willingness to help regardless of who one was!
Hazel's eyes couldn't stop sparkling. The lady was her role-model! In the future, she wanted to become like her, and stop being so fearful and helpless all the time.
Finally, all wounds were treated, and Katherine felt like she awoke from a trance. Her forehead was full of sweat drops but the feeling of accomplishment was more than worth it.
Seeing how Jack and Pete kept standing there, maybe in a trance as well, she slapped their healed backs. A grin was edged in her features. "Now, out with you! Before anyone notices you are missing!"
Of course her slap couldn't shake these mountains of muscles. Jack even chuckled while turning around. "Do you want to tickle me? If you want to, we can teach you some real martial arts as a repayment!"
Jack got another slap, this one by Pete. It hurt much more. "Idiot. Why would a lady need martial arts?" Silently, he added: 'And stop pulling me into you pits!'
However, he didn't see how Katherine's eyes lit up at the suggestion, before being filled with a pondering light. In her youth, Katherine once tried to convince her father to let her practice martial arts. It failed badly, and they never talked about it again. So much so that Katherine almost forgot about it before Jack now mentioned it.
Realistically, a lady didn't need martial arts. She had her guards to protect her. But hiding behind others' backs was something Katherine hated from the beginning, so she didn't want to do it if she had the choice. Becoming an expert, of course, was out of the question. But protecting herself at least should be possible.
Decisively, she stopped their on-going banter. "Teach me how to use a knife. And needles, if you can." Anything that could be hidden inside a lady's dress or hair.
Pete instantly rejected: "Absolutely not! You could get hurt, milady!"
Jack wanted to reply something but Katherine raised her hand to stop him. "You don't need to be worried that I could get a few scratches. As you've felt yourself earlier, scratches are nothing in front of me. So, I want to learn it. I will inform the earl about it, too, as I recon you need to tell him anything concerning me anyways. After that, I would be pleased to call the two of you my teachers."
Pete's expression darkened a notch. When did he say he would teach her? It was clearly Jack offering the both of them on his own account. But well... "As long as the earl approves of this..."
"Why do we even need the earl's approval?", Jack asked rightfully. "It's clearly not part of the rules if we teach her or not!"
Pete rolled his eyes. "You are a bit too eager to go down there again, aren't you? Just because he didn't think about that doesn't mean it is within the rules."
The mention of 'down there' made Jack shudder slightly. He didn't want to lose his remaining eye. Especially not in such a manner. "No, no, you're completely right! We should ask him first."
Katherine clapped her hands once. "It is decided then. Can you inform the butler for me? I want to make an appointment with the earl to discuss some new terms."
"Of course.", Pete answered and with a short bow he left the room.
"See you, milady.", Jack grinned and waved his hand before following suit.
When they were out the door, Katherine's smile transformed into a serious expression. Two done, one more to go. And it was the most difficult one at that.
Alone with her lady, Hazel was still watching her with a worshiping glance. It gave Katherine the chills. She didn't want to be worshiped by her maid as that would lead to Hazel throwing all reason over board when it came to her.
Some people may see that as a good thing but not Katherine. She wanted her companions to think for themselves, to not follow her lead blindly, so they could tell her if she made any mistakes. Worship could lead to subconsciously ignoring problems because one thought that the worshiped person wouldn't be bothered by such tiny, worldly things.
With a sigh, Katherine walked over to her maid, putting her hands on the girl's shoulders. Hazel shyly lowered her gaze, trembling slightly by the thought that this godly lady's attention was focused solely on her now.
"Hazel", Katherine said in a friendly tone. "Look at me."
The maid's eyelashes fluttered, before stealing a quick glance at the lady's face. Blushing like an inexperienced maiden in front of her beloved, she averted her gaze again.
Katherine chuckled and pinched Hazel's cheeks. "You're so sweet, dear. I'm not a goddess. I'm still the same girl as when you first saw me. You just know more about me now. Please try to accept it as just another side of a dear friend and don't put me on a pedestal. Please, okay ~?"
Hazel didn't react, too fl.u.s.tered by her lady's action. Katherine couldn't stop herself from pinching those red cheeks again. Having a sweet little sister was so much fun! Never in her life would she give up on this feeling. "Think about it: how can your demon teacher be a goddess, right? And if I were a goddess, wouldn't all my aims be fulfilled with a snap of my fingers?"
Finding a bit of courage by the teasing, Hazel finally looked up at Katherine. "But... how can you be so good if you aren't a goddess?"
This reply made Katherine speechless for a while. Didn't she just remind Hazel of her time with the demon teacher? That wasn't being good, alright! Did that girl develop selective hearing or what?