Chapter 24:

The One Dipped in Envy

Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!

A young woman yawned as she lazily rolled around in bed, sheets messily bunched on top of her. Stretching out her hand, she reached around to a bedside table, knocking into a glass partially filled with red wine. She glared at it, eyes glowing yellow in the darkness.

Yuck! How horrid! I’d rather drink from the trough!

Wine that had been left exposed to the air grew foul, not the best thing to cleanse one’s palate in the morning. Slowly, her body crept out from the sheets, and she sat up on the bed.

Even with the dim glow of sunlight barely outlining her body, one could immediately see something off about her. Something distinctly inhuman.

Wings spread from her back as she stretched her arms out. In addition to that, more featherlike protrusions jutted from the sides of her face and waist. Taloned feet and sharp claws decorated the ends of her limbs. The girl looked briefly in the nearby mirror before turning away in disgust. She loathed her appearance, the body of a monster-like subhuman referred to as a Harpy in this world.

Since harpies lived in the wild and were treated as monsters that attacked society, one would find it strange to see one kept in the lavish room that she slept in. Certainly, the silky fabric and expensive furniture were much too fancy for any monster as a pet. But the collar around her neck sure made her feel like one.

A knock sounded at the bedroom door.

“Bella, it’s morning. Time to get to work.” A deep, growl of a voice called out to her from the other side. The utter lack of emotion made the man there sound robotic.

“Yeah, yeah. I gotcha. I look forward to stringing up the hags,” she replied, a sneer lightly dancing upon her lips. “Just wait for me in the lab.”

Hearing footsteps walk away, Bella sighed before walking to the window and opening it to bask in the scenery. Outside, the sight of a grand castle appeared below. The cobblestone that made up those tall towers also reached the windowsill upon were she looked out from.

Bella was currently residing in the Royal Castle of Edelwinn, capital city of Roswalia. And given that she could converse like a normal person, she was an otherworlder reincarnated into the body of a harpy, one of those so-called blessed beasts. How that happened, she had no idea, but there was a cushy life within these closed walls. Not at all like when she first woke up in this world.

Chased and hunted by people in the beginning, it had taken some effort for her to figure out how to train her throat to speak properly. But once she did, their minds completely changed. Blessed beasts who held knowledge of other worlds were worshipped. And it didn’t take long for the leaders of this kingdom to find her. That was the only reason for her special treatment, because they needed her. The ideas she offered where more valuable that gold and armies.

Bella leapt out of the window and spread her wings, gliding down to the structures below. Twisting and turning around them, she spotted one tower off in the castle’s corner, with a window that led down into the dungeons.

She wasted no time in diving through the window and landing upon a stairway that spiraled down, one giant flight of stairs where the sunlight slowly faded and was replaced by the glow of torches burning along the walls.

Why was she going to such a place? What could possibly be so important that she would be allowed to live in the royal castle of all places?

The answer to that was behind the door at the bottom of the stairs, which swung open as she arrived.

“Aw, man! And I thought that I had you beat,” Bella said with a childish shrug. The man at the door wore priest robes and spectacles, merely grunting in reply. Wordlessly, he held the door for her to go in.

“Geez, Chrome Dome. Not even cracking a smile this morning? You have to learn to be excited about some things, right? I mean, c’mon. We’re readying the final steps of our great big invention. Of course, thanks to my brains!”

Bella teased the man, whose bald head was covered by a skullcap. Truly, he seemed like a person who reacted to virtually nothing. But that had been why he was chosen for the task. A man that felt no emotions couldn’t be swayed by the scenes that lay ahead.

“Alright, Bernardo. Since you so kindly came to fetch me today.”

Bella waltzed right in, immediately seeing a room that would instantly make a normal person uncomfortable. The muffled murmurs of women echoed in the dimly light room. Seeing Bella show up, their voices instantly hushed as they knew what would happen soon.

Igniting a magic lamp, a glow permeated across, revealing the faces of over a dozen ladies. Tired, beaten, and starved – they were all secured tightly against some large device. Around them, various machinery dotted the room. It looked like some madman’s workshop.

Even in this sorry state, many of them had volunteered to be here, as they would have been treated even more horribly otherwise. That was the life of a woman possessing magic in the Kingdom of Roswalia, forced to be used until they no longer drew breath.

For the next hour, Bella worked on the machines, tweaking and tuning various parts silently. She was the only one with any knowledge of what this technology was capable of. That was why her existence was so valuable. When she finally finished, she motioned to Bernardo who had stood there the entire time, stock still like the guards for the Queen of England.

Bernardo walked up to a lever and pulled it down with no hesitation. Within moments, the women jerked their bodies, feeling the mana within them sucked up forcefully. Slowly, the device glowed, combining the mana from each of the sources into one. Various gauges hummed and shifted to measure the input of energy that was being stored.

The machine in question was a simple battery that stored magical power, harvested from the women who possessed it. As they were imprisoned for the crime of potentially turning into a Witch, the kingdom sought to use their magic for its own purpose. Why squander a resource that could regenerate on its own?

Pretty soon, the sounds of wailing joined the clamor as the women were being stripped clean of their powers. As they grew emptier, the machine’s suction made their bodies feel like a wet rag that was twisted and wrung dry. Tears streamed down their faces from the strain, before finally, no more energy could be drawn from them.

Completely spent and having passed out, the ones treated as Witches made Bella scoff at them. “How was that Bernardo? Enough energy to satisfy you?” She only got a slight nod from him as her voice held no pity for the human energy sources that hung limply now. They were merely a means for a magical weapon to deal with their enemies.

But why would she care? Bella found people to be simply insufferable. She hated the chirps of gossip and lies that sprouted from their very lips. The only one she could handle being near was Bernardo, whose silence was music to her ears.

As she looked upon the prisoners, a feeling of disgust welled up within her. Even in this state, some people could have mercy on them and call them pitiful creatures. Some would feel pain at seeing this torture even if they were Witches, simply because they were still human in appearance. And lovely ones at that.

But not her. No one would treat Bella as a human. The grotesque features that jutted from her skin gave her a monstrous appearance. If she walked around town, a blade would be aimed right at her before she could so much as speak a word. Blessed beasts were normally more animal-like creatures of nature, and not perversions of monster and humankind.

When a human-like creature possessed features that were grotesque in the eyes of humans, people moved to erase it from existence. It was like a knee-jerk reaction of wanting to purify anything that didn’t fit their mold. And certainly, this kingdom had it bad.

That was why they could look upon women who simply possessed magic with such disdain. They were quick to weed out any signs of trouble. And that had nearly been the case for Bella herself.

She woke up in a world that was no different than her own. The jeering faces, the spiteful words, and the false pity that were forced on her were no different from her old world. All because she looked different than normal. All because… her body was scarred all over from a dreadful fire. The desire to cast away that horribly ugly form became too strong, but she awoke only to find herself as something similarly horrendous.

In her bitterness, the only thing that made her feel better was to see other humans, more attractive than herself, wallow in suffering. That was why she was here. Someone gave her a chance to take revenge, and she took it. It didn’t matter that she was being used. She had knowledge that no one else did, and that made her valuable despite her appearance.

The result of that knowledge was finally coming to fruition – the creation of a mobile turret that could fire a tremendous beam of energy using people as an energy source. Of course, she felt no pity. It was her own design. Everything. All to give herself a sense of relief about her own horrid self.

If life was unfair to her, then she wouldn’t need fairness. She would bring everyone down with her, and they would suffer a glimpse of Hell together.

A hand suddenly grabbed Bella’s wrist and pulled her back. Looking up in surprise, she noticed that one of the unconscious women was bleeding. Apparently, she had become too self-absorbed and was stabbing her with a claw.

“Do not damage them. We do not have any to spare,” Bernardo said flatly.

It was not out of any real concern for the women themselves that he stopped Bella. He was simply doing his job in preserving useful resources for the kingdom. Nothing more. Nothing less.

“Yeah, yeah. I know that we’re running out of our darling supply of magical girls to fuel the kingdom’s death rays.”

Bella had to be careful with the kingdom’s precious little resources. Especially since the troublesome Witch of Orphans had gone around stealing away any new ones to add. Now, she was left with only old ladies to torture. Though, she considered anyone older than her teenage self as one. Hardly able to keep it a secret, she wondered how torturing someone younger than her would taste then.

Bernardo signaled to her that she was done for the day. He normally stayed behind to treat the women back to a stable condition. It wouldn’t do to have them unhealthy at a crucial moment. How kind of him.

Bella bounded up the steps and flew out of the nearest window. Letting her wings shoot her up high into the air, she flew up to the very top of the castle. Upon a flat outcropping, she stretched out and gazed at the world beyond the city walls of Edelwinn. This was her personal spot of leisure, a place no one else could reach her.

The only eyesore that disrupted her scenic view was the giant tree looming in the distance. It was not the tree itself that bothered her, but who inhabited the area. It was where the Witch of Orphans had set up her base, a place unreachable by normal means. Ground troops had a hard time passing through the fog that wiped out any desire to proceed forward. Aerial units were few and expensive, due to the difficulty of training flying beasts. Any attempts were met with a barrage of magic that sniped them out of the air.

The only way forward was to blast their way through. That was exactly why she was asked to build a power supply. A mobile turret that strong could tear through the fog and let them access that cute, little village of theirs, a haven of more power sources for them to exploit.

And with that, they would no longer need to fear other Witches. Even taking on the world wouldn’t be out of the question. But of course, none of that mattered to Bella.

She just wanted her lavish life. Being needed was her one big desire, while standing above all those who flaunted their appearances, especially a certain Witch that spoiled her plans. She reminded her of one girl in her past that ruined everything.

“I’m coming for you, Witch of Orphans. I wonder how you’d look, helpless and suffering, along with all your precious friends. Fufufu~”

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