Of course, Peers didn’t have any particular problem with this boy confessing his love to me. If anything, he poorly hid a grin behind his hand, his eyes holding back the laughter as I desperately tried to explain the situation that led up to this. I couldn’t help that the Cambion colony didn’t have fine materials like I could find in the human villages. The only things that could act as an undergarment were scratchy wools. This wasn’t a world with breathable cotton and as the heat continued to increase, I didn’t want my nether region smelling rank in a world absent of most feminine hygiene products. Thus, I chose to air out the area by wearing nothing.
However, the worst part of all of this, after being forced to reject the boy while Peers struggled to keep a straight face, was the female friend that chased him around. She no longer possessed a gentle and sweet look. Rather, with me threatening her future boyfriend, she could only stare darkly. Rejecting him only made her glare even more piercing. Now, I wasn’t the woman who stole her boyfriend’s heart, I was the woman who broke her boyfriend’s heart, which was even worse. Sure, that didn’t make sense, but those were the complicated thoughts of a young maiden, and the second I was upgraded to rival, there was no winning her over.
Perhaps, I could make her an enchanted gift. Maybe a weight loss potion or a cute enchanted necklace that emits a pleasant flowery smell. The girl was still a young kid, so any shiny bauble should be sufficient to regain her trust. As I was contemplating how to be liked again by this young girl, Peers tapped me on the shoulder. I looked up at him and he gestured me to follow him while still wearing an amused look on his face that I just wanted to slap off.
Now was not a good time to have a spat with him for various reasons, so I allowed Peers to lead me back down the rows of tents. It was only when we turned past a small hill that I saw a small building tucked away at the edge of the village surrounded by trees. It was only the second structure that I had seen within the Cambion village. It wasn’t as wide or large as the prison, instead merely looking like a small fishing hut.
When Peers stopped and gestured for me to continue onward, it was at this point I began to feel a bit of the pressure of the situation. This would be my first appearance in front of this so-called council that made all of the decisions in the village. In the end, it’d be their decisions that decided how my future would proceed. Even though they lead a group of beings the numbered less than a hundred, the fear I felt was not insignificant. Taking a deep breath, I steeled my nerves and stepped into the building.
Taking a step passed the door, I was shocked to find five people lulling around a room with a simple table and a couch. As the door shut behind me, the two that were currently sitting stood up, and five pairs of eyes locked on me. My brain had conjured up some kind of courtroom. I’d stand behind a lectern while a giant desk positioned above me would house five people, partially shrouded in darkness. The reality was far less exciting than the fantasy I had built in my head. The Cambion lifestyle of modesty infected this building as much as everything else in the village.
Five attractive people, the oldest looking to be in their forties, stood in front of me while giving gentle looks with soothing smiles. They wore casual clothing, and other than their exceptional looks, they looked like any other Cambion I’d seen. Rather than intimidating and stern, they merely looked curious. Immediately I recognized one of the five.
“Mary? You’re on the council?”
Mary chuckled softly. “I’m not merely the spokesperson for the council, I’m a member of the council. There aren’t so many of us that we can skimp on positions. I’m sorry for hiding that piece of myself from you, but we needed to be careful. I hope you understand.”
“Enough small talk,” one man suddenly interrupted wearing an excited look on his face. “I’ve heard that you can create enough potion to provide lifeforce to everyone. Is that true?”
“Bermont!” Mary tried to admonish the man.
“I’m actually more interested in the grounds she’s made in enchantments.” One of the other women spoke up. “Especially this idea I heard from Crish called an oven.”
“Shouldn’t we just marry her to Peers and get it over with?” A third woman declared.
“What’s the rush? Why tie her off already? According to Peers, she can generate life inside her body. He said the experience is… exceptional. Should we not further test this ability? Why, my son is still not-“
“You horny old man!” The two women immediately gave him hateful looks while Mary could only provide me with a helpless and apologetic glance.
This was the powerful council that ruled my life? These guys came off more like a group of busybodies and spinsters! The palpable relief exploded over my face, and I couldn’t help but let out a relieved chuckle. This noise caught the attention of everyone present, and just like that, I had five sets of eyes on me again. I cleared my throat and straightened my back. Pulling back to my training on being a princess, I tried to utilize the parts that focused on speech and presence while ignoring the arrogance and unfounded pride.
I immediately launched my speech on mass production. If I could explain to the Cambions that they didn’t need to consume humans, then I could immediately start bettering the lives of this colony guilt free. As to whether my speech was convincing, I had no particular clue. I was so focused on my own words that I didn’t really have much mental power left for seeing how they were responding. When I finally finished talking, I took a deep breath and glanced up at the five of them.
“Well, isn’t she lovely.” One of the women spoke gently. Although it wasn’t said in sarcasm, it was spoken more in the way a grandmother might dote on a child who was looking for praise.
As to the others, Mary and the guy named Bermont seemed to have thoughtful expressions. The other woman wore a slight frown where the last man was looking down at his hands, and I wasn’t even certain if he was paying attention at all.
“So, does that mean we can?” I finally asked flatly.
“We’ll consider it.” Bermont responded simply.
My frown deepened. To me, ‘we’ll consider it’ might as well be saying no. In my old world, it was that kind of response you gave someone just to humor them while you really wanted to do the exact opposite.
“But, you see, if we…” I tried to put my thoughts back together.
“It’s alright, dear, we’ve heard your request, “The one who had called me lovely spoke up. “We will genuinely think on this. However, much must happen before then. Our population needs to grow. Fennis and Patty will be another two months until they become of an age to lay a clutch.”
“I-I’m sorry? Lay?” I asked in confusion.
The five looked surprised for a second before Mary leaned forward with a gentle smile. “Cambions are born from eggs.”
“Ah…” I responded, this news caused me to feel a bit dazed.
I hadn’t delved too deeply into the Cambion breeding situation. In some ways, it was information I was hesitant to learn. Hearing Cambion’s lay eggs, for example, is just one more event that reminded me that I’m not one of them. At the moment, I needed to be moving towards fitting in, and ever reminder seemed to widen the gap between us. Although I was starting to understand why Peers was so unworried that I might become pregnant. It turned out the process might be more complicated than I thought.
“Still, girl, your achievements and what they mean to the Cambions can’t go unnoticed.” The other woman spoke up. “You are our tribe’s benefactor, and in your short time here you’ve proven how much help you can be. Besides creating warm blankets to help us through the winters and potions to help heal the wounded, you’ve given us the capacity to increase our numbers rapidly. We will continue to provide whatever supplies you request to make potions and enchanted items. However, is there anything else that you want from us?”
I was a little surprised by the final question. I hadn’t expected the council to just offer me something. There were several things I could consider asking for. A house instead of a tent would be one request. However, no one else in the colony had houses outside of the jail and council building, and by requesting one, I might be pushing some of the Cambions away, increasing the divide between us, which wasn’t worth the potential comfort. However, there was one other thing I was somewhat interested in.
After a bit of thought, I nodded to myself and spoke out. “I’ve maxed out my basic magic, but I’ve found myself unable to progress from there. Would it be possible to learn illusion magic?”
The silent looks the five council members gave each other immediately caused my skin to crawl. Even though I was planning on living here, part of me still couldn’t help wanting to improve my skills. In that respect, how couldn’t I be tempted by illusion magic? It was a type of magic that fit my class almost too well. However, based just on the look on their faces, I wasn’t too surprised when they started shaking their heads with a ‘no’.
“I’m sorry,” Mary spoke first. “Although we are very skilled with illusion magic, it is a skill we’d rather you did not learn.”
The way she said this, it almost seemed personal, like she was saying she wanted me personally to not know this magic.
“Dear, the illusion magic is a fundamental aspect of our bodies. If you learned it, you would be able to break through it. And nobody wants you to see-“
“What Margarette is trying to say.” Mary quickly interrupted the other woman. “Is that this kind of magic is something we have to keep to ourselves. However, if you haven’t learned anything passed basic magic control, illusion magic isn’t our only magic. “
My mood immediately improved with those words. “You’re saying you can teach me other magic?”
Mary nodded. “I’m familiar with most basic elemental spells. If you’ll have me as a teacher, I’d be happy to show you fire and water magic. Those are the two elements I have some decent strength with.”
“That would be wonderful!” I responded excitedly.
Although illusion magic would be nice, it really wasn’t necessary for me. I’d much rather throw a fireball than being able to case some intangible illusion. This seemed to be the answer the council was hoping for as well, as they all gave out noticeable breaths of relief, the tension immediately leaving the room.
We continued to speak after that. I gave them my account of the progress of the enchantments, and they put in their input as well, even though most of it was baseless and unhelpful. Even though they were the elders of this village, this didn’t lead them to any foresight of knowledge that exceeded my own. If anything, the council members frequently found themselves surprised by my insightful observations.
Soon, we were discussing other issues the Cambions faced with water stores, farming, and infrastructure. I offered my advice when applicable, and the council members often spoke excitedly as they discussed the implementation of my ideas. Cambions typically lacked any formal education even to the level of the compulsory noble education, so my broad knowledge base came as a constant source of intrigue for them.
Even simple suggestions, like rotating crops, digging irrigation channels, and keeping garbage and waste separate from the drinking water seemed to be shocking revelations for the Cambions. Once I started discussing water filtration, road planning, and establishing trade routes, every single council member could only look at me with respect. In truth, I could talk a good game, but I knew very little beyond the names. For example, I knew crops were rotated, but I had no clue which crops were rotated nor when. This didn’t seem to matter much to the Cambions. That would be something for the Cambion farmers to figure out. Simply knowing it was possible was enough for them.
What was supposed to be an hour meeting ended up lasting the rest of the day. The meeting only ended when Bermont’s stomach growled loudly and the group started to realize how hungry they were. The council even offered me the chance to stay and eat with them. I politely declined. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the company. After having only Peers and Crish to talk to for almost a month, having more people to talk to was greatly appreciated. However, after leaving Peers in such a situation earlier, I knew I needed to put on an appropriate performance to regain his trust.
Shortly after I left the room, the council sat around the table while eating from a few plates of food brought in by another Cambion.
“She’s something, isn’t she?” Mary responded with a smile. “The things that girl knows, she could truly bring the Cambions to a new age.”
“But she doesn’t know, does she?” The man across from Bermont stated with only a hint of a question at the end.
Mary’s smile broke and she shook her head sadly. “No. It appears like the illusion holds.”
“She’s an exceptional girl, she’ll figure it out eventually.” The one named Margarette said.
“Should we… remove her before it happens?” the man asked hesitantly.
Mary immediately glared at him. “Of course not! She… she’s too valuable. If you found a valuable ruby, would you toss it away because you’re too afraid it might get lost?”
“If that ruby was dangerous, like say it was being seeked by a stronger party, making me a target. It’d be better to toss it away than die holding on to it.”
“She’s just some simple slave girl, no one will come for her.” The other woman stood up in defense of Mary.
“Is she though?” The man asked cautiously.
The woman could only turn her head away, unsure how to answer.
“For now, let us just keep making use of her knowledge, and pray she never discovers the truth.” Bermont proposed. “If she does. We’ll handle it then.”
The five council members shared a nod, agreeing to the terms. She was too vital to their future to discard. In that short conversation, the council decided to throw their lot in with me. From that day forth, I’d be officially treated like a Cambion.