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Dec 04, 2022 6:32 AM
a girl with a dark secret in the glorious empire with many dark secrets
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A sunny hillside overlooks an idyllic meadow. In the distance, planted fields stretch to the horizon. Large mushrooms, as big as young woman, sprout here and there. And hints, in the rock, in the dirt, that not all of the terrain here is natural. Some of it is shaped much like it was once something build by hands and magic.

On this hillside there are many caves, large and small.

And all of the Sisters of the Collegiate, brought out here on a hired caravan, had been given strict instructions to not wander off. Especially not into any of the caves!

Granted, there were dozens of them, and only a pair of minders. Ser Kalar of Quatrus and Miss Polie had given that warning but it was wishful thinking to believe the entire group had heard it before the excitable young women had scattered through the cozy little village at the base of the hills.

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A girl by the name of Annabelle, clad in the red and silver uniform of the Collegiate, is poking worriedly along one of the ridges.

"Christa!"

She calls out, having just realized she hasn't seen her friend all day.

"Christa!"

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Aire is far enough away that she can just barely make out Annabelle’s voice. Rather suddenly, she forms a plan. The first step is to suddenly swap out which of her bodies is going to the outside world. She'll need to have as many of Christa's abilities at her disposal as she can manage. Christa's mind is gone enough that it should be difficult to get more than associations out of her, but even that will be useful, and easier to get if she's physically present.

She’s fortunate that Christa happened to be relatively curvy and within half an inch of her height. She didn’t need to alter her clothing at all to fit. And thus, her disguise is already partially complete.

It takes her a moment to dredge up the right syllables to illusion up her face and skin-tone to match Christa’s, but it doesn’t take her a horrendous amount of time. Soon enough, she’s finished her preparations, and puts her plan into motion.

“Hello? Who is that? I’m lost!”

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Annabelle perks up at the faintly echoing shout and hurries to the mouth of the cave it came from.

"Christa?! Is that you?! It's me, Annabelle!"

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"Christa" moves down to meet her halfway.

Aire spent a while interacting with Christa and watching her think. Most of that time was spent with Christa rather intoxicated and then more than a little overstimulated, but it shouldn't be too hard for her to imitate Christa's general demeanor.

When she reaches Anabelle, she says, "Oh, Anabelle! It's so good to see you! I may have done something rather silly and wandered off and encountered a bear. And then ran into a cave to hide. And then fallen asleep. But I'm okay!"

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"A bear?" Annabelle gasps. "That's so scary! I'm so glad it didn't get you!"

Annabelle glomps on and hugs 'Christa' tight.

Annabelle has hugged Christa before. Something is different this time. A scent, a feeling, an urge...

Annabelle squeaks, leaps away from her friend, and starts rapidly reciting alchemy recipes in her head as she turns and hurries back down the ridge.

"Well c'mon okay? We should get on back. It's getting late and we wouldn't want to be late, right? Right! C'mon!"

 

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“Christa” really does smell nice, doesn’t she?

“Right!” she says. “We don’t want to be late!”

Aire keeps tight control over her arousal. Too much from her lust aura would perhaps be enough to arouse suspicion where just her pheromones would not, and she doesn’t know how distant the place they’re going “back” to is.

She does, however, want Annabelle attracted to her. So, she catches up to Annabelle and makes sure to walk in a way that makes her chest jiggle and her hips sway just enough to be noticeable out of the corner of Annabelle’s eye. Little enough for it to look accidental, natural even, but enough for it to grab her attention.

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Annabelle is very conspicuously not looking. Alchemy recipes. What is wrong with her what was that she hopes Christa didn't notice ALCHEMY RECIPIES. ALCHEMY RECIPIES ARE REALLY INTERESTING AND SHE'LL GET TO TRY NEW ONES WITH ALL THE NEAT HERBS SHE GATHERED. LAB FUN AWAITS.

 

Shortly, they are back at the cozy village. Little brick houses with chimneys and a solitary pole lamp in the center round with a light enchantment on it. Flowerboxes in the windows and cute little fenced gardens.

A gaggle of chattering red and silver in cargo vests and mini-shorts fills the small village round, where Ser Kalar and Miss Polie are calling roll off a scroll. A few of them greet 'Christa' and Annabelle with friendly waves, a few others look down their noses at the two.

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Ooh, apparently her new identity comes with people looking down their noses at her. Interesting. She wonders why.

She's careful to wave back at those that wave at her, of course. It's what Christa would have done.

Is there anything conspicuous separating those who are friendly with those who aren’t? Amount of jewelry, for example, or ethnicity, or anything of the like?

The slightly-sexy walk continues, as do her pheromones. Aimed primarily at Annabelle, of course, but any collateral damage is more than welcome.

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Annabelle continues to be very focused on her alchemy recipes.

The friendly ones are mostly thinking generic friendly recognition-of-that-nice-person-I-know things, though one of them is thinking about... nothing. Her mind is shielded.

The snobby girls are mostly thinking about how Christa is a telepath and therefore so creepy she should stay away from the people who matter... though one of them is instead thinking apologetic thoughts tinged with fear around something she's trying not to think about---some kind of petty crime that Christa seemingly already knew about...

"Girls! Girls!" Miss Polie calls. "Please return to the wagons in an orderly fashion!"

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Telepathy stigma is not what she’d have guessed. The ability is useful enough she would have naively expected it to lead to increased respect. But now that she has people to observe, she can see the tangle of fear and jealousy and instinctive distaste of the different and realize how that would shape things differently. Such knots they tangle themselves into.

She’s learning so much. It really is a good thing Aire can read all of these thoughts, or else this would be rather a lot more difficult.

That petty crime there is a wonderful opening. Not that she really needs it, she suspects the combination of her sexual skills and her pheromones would be enough to get most people to do nearly anything she wanted, but still, more levers are better.

And oh, this wagon trip is going to be delightful. All of those people in such tight proximity to her, vulnerable to her pheromones. Off she bustles to the wagon, seating herself next to Annabelle.

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The wagons are large, with metal frames and large, rubberized wheels. Each is sumptuously appointed with cushioned seats and beverages.

The teams of Guardian Dolls that pull the wagons at Ser Kalar's command have been vandalized again. Lewd comments and crude drawings adorn the hard grey rubbery skin of the golems' bodies. Most of the crude drawings are of the entirely unoriginal but at least slightly artistic attempts to add nipples and vulvae to the Guardian Dolls' featureless lack of anatomy. (They're made in the likeness of cute young women because the magic that animates them operates more efficiently that way, much to the amusement of many young males across the Empire, and much to the misfortune of whoever gets stuck with the job of scraping the graffiti off.)

The girls who join 'Christa' in her assigned wagon are mostly the friendly ones. They chatter about their plans for the rest of the day and tomorrow, about what they'll do with what they learned and gathered on this trip, and about the generic polite gossip of high society.

Occasionally they drag 'Christa' into this, but it isn't hard to read in their thoughts the response they expect, and more than once one of them thinks about Christa being too nice to say anything bad about this bit or that bit of rumor.

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Aire decides to be cautious and sticks to within the constraints of what people expect Christa to do. She could push slightly, but she doesn’t feel like she has enough information to get a particularly solid handle on how to do that without arousing suspicion.

The only exception to her general plan to act perfectly in character is her decision to allow her pheromones and the barest hint of her lust aura to creep out. Ideally, this will slowly give people the idea that maybe Christa is more attractive than they realized while still being subtle enough to avoid notice. The more primed their attraction to her is, the easier seducing them will be later.

From what people are thinking, who here is Christa closest to? Aire thinks the answer is most likely Annabelle, from a combination of Annabelle's thoughts so far and the vague impressions she can see in her pet's mind, but better to be sure and not take the risk. 

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The girls get more playful and touchy-feely with each other as the aura of lust has time to work on them, but they all seem to flinch away from the obvious next though. Some of them are thinking up plans to masturbate later, some are fantasizing about boys in too-tight uniforms.

It does seem like Christa was closer to Annabelle than anyone else. A stray thought reveals that the two of them are roommates, in addition to friends.

The wagon train continues along a well-kept road between crop-fields for several hours, proceeding north and east.

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Oh, is there some sort of stigma against same-sex attraction here? How odd! That must run entirely off the distaste for the different, unless there’s some grand power only wieldable by women who fuck other women.

And good, that Annabelle is a roommate is a stroke of good luck. If she works on her enough, she should be able to get her to the point where, even if she learns, she won’t care than Aire isn’t Christa.

Aire allows the bumps and jostles of the wagon to ‘coincidentally’ squish her into Annabelle more often than would be normal and escalates her level of physicality with her and the other girls to match.

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Annabelle is repeating a mental refrain that this is just normal affection between Sisters and whatever strange feelings she's having are probably because she tripped over something Corrupted while she was playing with herbs.

She shoots 'Christa' an apologetic, pleading glance, thinking about monopolizing the bathroom for privacy when they get home along with a wordless promise that this is Annabelle's problem, not Christa's.

 

They've arrived. The wagons make the last turn of the approach and enter the City of Arcadia properly, massive walls and gleaming spires scraping the sky.

The wagons park just inside a massive hall of arches that serves as a parking lot, and the Sisters are soon dismissed for the day. But not before the wagon train containing their age-cohort of Brothers arrives as well. The boisterous young men are giddy with excitement and shout flirtations comments at the gaggle of Sisters. It seems that while the Sisters were out learning Herblore, the Brothers were petting dragons at a dragon enclave. A lucky few even got to ride along with the Dragoons, flying through the sky on dragon-back.

A few of the girls experience a pang of longing jealousy at that, but not many. This is just The Way Things Are.

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She pats Annabelle on the arm reassuringly. Christa understands!

 

That is quite the city. Aire is suddenly concerned there might be people here capable of seeing right through her illusions, or at the very least noticing her channelling them. Well, no way around that problem but through. If worst comes to worst, she has another body a distance away.

 

The Way Things Are is quite the tangle of concepts! And oddly enough comes with no sense of justification, or rather a sense that justification simply isn’t needed! How odd. What are the limits of that? How unfair and skewed can things be, before they even notice it as something to mentally remark on, rather than justified simply because it is?

If this is the level of cognitive sophistication she can expect to see in general, more people will be falling victim to the obedience-encouraging effects of her pheromones than she’d guessed.

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Annabelle is grateful.

As the genders mingle on their way onto the wide, bustling street that abuts the parking hall, there are quite a few boys thinking about how they never noticed that Christa girl before but she sure is pretty!

White stone and canals wend their way through Arcadia, latticed and bridged by clean streets and colorful shopfronts beneath large townhouses. Electric lights hum softly, casting their steady, warm glow over building faces.

On two separate occasions, as 'Christa' follows Annabelle back to their shared flat, someone passing them on the street suddenly squints at her, their mind honing in on the presence of Illusion Magic. But none of them know 'Christa' personally or have any idea that she shouldn't have Illusion Magic. They both simply conclude she is one of those girls using Illusion Magic in place of cosmetics and hair dye. They could look deeper, but neither does, having peeled back one layer of untruth already.

 

Their shared flat is a spacious area with luxurious furniture and a private bathroom, as Aire saw in Annabelle's thoughts. Annabelle locks herself inside as soon as they arrive, and proceeds to take a very long bath.

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Well, the squinting magic users are frightening. Fortunately, Aire has rather good control of herself and manages to just look sort of embarrassed when the people on the street squint at her, reinforcing their impression that she’s just a girl trying to make herself prettier.

 

When Annabelle goes off to the bathroom, Aire carefully allows herself to grow more aroused at the thought of what Annabelle is doing. Or, rather what her ability to cause Annabelle to do that implies about her ability to wrap the girl around her finger. As she does, her lust is channeled outward by her lust aura. She keeps it low enough that she can, if required, kill off her arousal. The goal is to enhance Annabelle’s bathing experience, not drive her to throw herself at Aire. It’s a rather difficult needle to thread, but her willpower and telepathy mean she thinks she can manage it.

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Annabelle has the best orgasm of her life, and she totally fails to think entirely hetero thoughts as she does.

When she emerges, she gives 'Christa' a smile but can't quite meet her roommate's eyes.

She organizes her haul from the field trip, then changes for bed and turns in. She reads in bed for about half an hour, then falls asleep.

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Once Annabelle is asleep Aire goes over her illusions again. Can she make them more refined, more difficult to notice- no, that’s not the universally right choice here. If she’s interacting with people who know Christa, yes. But if they don’t, she wants her illusion to seem clumsy. It turns out her spellcasting capabilities are rather advanced, and “illusion as cast by someone who barely knows what they’re doing to make themselves a little prettier” is rather easy to manage. Her original illusion, rush job as it was, turns out to be difficult for her to improve on, however.

Well, now that that’s sorted out, the only question is whether she wants to seduce Annabelle tonight or give her time to marinate. Either way she’d have to be careful not to cause enough damage for anyone to notice. And before any of that, the first thing she should do is plunder the sleeping Annabelle’s mind for information.

Aire reaches out with her telepathy. Who’s nearby, just Sisters or more potentially dangerous people? How close are they, are they sleeping?

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Annabelle is having a peaceful dream about being in a colorful garden that is also a deep jungle cave that is also a bedroom and the bed is a carriage and its being pulled by clones of Christa and then she's back in the colorful garden with a Guardian Doll and telling it how it doesn't need to be graffiti'd since it has naughty parts in its heart. 

Annabelle shares a wall with one other flat. The people who live there know she's telepathic and did something so that her telepathy doesn't penetrate the wall. Or maybe Christa did. Below her flat is another apartment occupied by the owners of the ground-floor shop; a married couple who somehow don't know that Christa is telepathic, due to a coincidence of scheduling that's resulted in them and Christa never exchanging more than a handful of words the entire time she's lived here.

The people who pass by down on the street below are mostly thinking about various generic nonthreatening things like getting home to rest or to spend time with their families or to avoid spending time with their families or things like that.

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Oh good, she isn’t somehow sharing a building with a master of mind magic who’ll instantly notice any of her actions.

Well, the question now is whether to use mind magic or telepathy to ferret out Annabelle’s longer-term memories. Telepathy is defter, she feels, and most likely has a substantially higher skill ceiling. And will also not risk detection by someone passing by who can notice her casting. The issue with that is that Aire isn’t particularly practiced with her new telepathy, but her old instincts from before she got trapped behind that barrier are apparently completely online for her mind magic.

Perhaps she can get the best of both worlds? Inspect her mind magic instincts for what, precisely, to do to Annabelle’s sleeping mind to read her memories, but actually implement the procedure through telepathy?

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Christa isn't so powerful a telepath that this is easy, but with continuous effort Aire can indeed steer Annabelle's dreams from random hallucination toward recalling memories instead. What is she looking for?

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Aire plans out what order to do things in.

First, she will steer Annabelle’s mind towards memories of Christa, particularly the most salient ones, reasoning that she’s likeliest to reference those in conversation and not think about them in enough detail for Aire to appropriately respond. This would be the most disastrous to leave uncompleted if Annabelle wakes before she’s done. As long as her disguise holds, she can make more progress the next night, but if her disguise fails it is likely her infiltration would do so swiftly afterward.

From there she plans to move on to general information, to contextualize what she learns next. Where does she find herself? The city, the nation, the world? She should have memories of having various aspects of all of that explained to her at one point or another.

And then, last, the specifics of the situation she finds herself in. What classes do she and Annabelle take, does Christa answer questions in those classes, how dangerous are their teachers? Who are they likely to encounter that would be immune to Christa’s telepathy, or dangerous in other ways?

She expects finding all of this information to be quite difficult; guiding Aire to memories at all was somewhat difficult. If it's slow enough she can switch to mind magic, she supposes.

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She does have all night.

Annabelle's perception of Christa mostly matches the impression Aire already had from their brief encounter before Christa got too lost in continuous orgasm to have any awareness of her environment.

Arcadia is the capitol city of the Dragon Empire. The Dragon Empire is ruled by the legendary King Drago and divided into twelve districts based on the twelve former kingdoms that King Drago conquered and united. The Dragon Empire rules over the northeastern half of the Untainted; the region of idyllic low-corruption land in the heart of the western half of the continent. Their main rival is the Aurum Empire, and Annabelle's concept of the place, based on various history texts and popular culture, is that they're overspecialized around their anti-slavery moralizing and are a bunch of loud obnoxious thugs about everything else, stupidly crippling themselves with a ban on all but Holy-element magic.

Annabelle and Christa are both Sisters of the Collegiate, which seems to be a government title: essentially they are professional scholars under contract to learn certain skills in exchange for being granted jobs working directly for the Empire. For boys, the Brothers of the Collegiate, most join in the hopes of becoming dragon-riders. For girls, ambitions vary more. Annabelle in particular is on track to be employed as a state alchemist, brewing advanced potions.

There is a local institution called 'Library Gemini' where members of the Collegiate are offered specialized training, and which organized the field trip they just got back from. But it would be incorrect to describe Annabelle or Christa as 'enrolled' there. It's more like a marketplace of knowledge than a school, where learning is sold piecemeal to whoever can afford it. The only teacher who stands out as possibly-dangerous is the geologist. There's just something off about him, in Annabelle's impression.

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