Chapter 12:

Divine Retribution (at the Bathhouse)

Chained Regalia

I let out a soft sigh. Not out of exasperation or annoyance, but in relief. As much as I hated to admit it, Lucia had been right, and I had been the ignorant fool: relaxing in a hot bath after an exhausting day truly did ease the pain of my withering soul...

Okay, that was maybe a slight exaggeration, but it does feel really nice. I was glad I’d finally taken her up on her advice.

Up until now, Lucia had been using some kind of cleansing spell—apparently that of Yondel-aquis, God of Purification—on the two of us every night to keep us clean. The spell removed dirt, sweat, and the like from the body, and, in terms of hygiene, it seemed about on par with what you’d get from bathing in an ordinary fashion. The casting was more complex than other spells I had seen her use, though, so perhaps its convenience was a trade-off.

Apparently, gods’ full names tended to be on long side; they could range from just a single word, like the first ever spell I’d seen Lucia cast, to massive multi-minute performances. As far as I was concerned, any god who had a name longer than a few words was definitely trying to compensate for something. Or they were just a massive narcissist, I supposed.

Yondel-aquis wasn’t quite as bad as others, but it still took Lucia at least half a minute just to recite their name. Combined with the required movements, learning to cast a single spell looked like it would be similar to memorizing a song-and-dance routine. That sounded like a huge pain, but, thankfully, Lucia had yet to try teaching me any magic yet.

Given that she knew this spell, though, us going to a Nerush bathhouse like we had was not done with hygiene as the primary concern. Rather, it had been Lucia’s insistence that we would both benefit from taking a nice, warm bath that brought us here today. I had been against the idea—mostly because I was always too exhausted after training to want to walk to the other side of town for this—but after several days of nagging, I’d finally agreed to go.

The bathhouse featured two large public baths split by sex, as well as a handful of small rooms with rentable private baths. Our range was still too short to feasibly split up and use the public baths, but getting adjacent private baths was close enough to work. Physical barriers didn’t appear to impede our connection, which, once I thought about it, had surprised me, but then again, I wasn’t qualified to question the logic underpinning soul magic.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I wasn’t qualified to question any logic in this world; after all, I had never lived in it before now. Lucia had never explicitly stated that my soul came from an entirely different world, but I’d encountered more than enough evidence to come to that conclusion myself. The discrepancy between my accumulated knowledge and the laws of this world were too different to ignore.

My amnesia behaved strangely sometimes, but, in general, I had no problem recalling what felt like general knowledge even though I struggled to recall personal memories. Yet, despite that, there were plenty of things Lucia seemed to consider ‘general knowledge’ that were completely unfamiliar to me.

Magic was the best example. As I had come to learn, magic was the backbone of modern society in this world. Even something as simple as the bath I was in now was a complex product of magic: the transportation, cleaning, and heating of the water was apparently all done using magic as opposed to conventional methods, and, from what I understood, it wasn’t uncommon for an ordinary person to know a small handful of simple spells that were useful in their day-to-day life.

Conceptually, I understood what magic was from the beginning, but my knowledge ended the moment it came to its actual use, as if I had never seen it in action a single time in my previous life. This naturally led me to a single conclusion: I hadn’t. I couldn’t have originated from this magic-filled world.

I thought myself somewhat clever for piecing this together, but I knew I was just acting self-satisfied. I just wanted to concretely distance myself as much as possible from the world in my dreams. It was the only way I could handle the painful nostalgia I felt night after night.

Dammit. I’m thinking about them again. I slapped both my cheeks in unison, but, as I expected, I couldn’t physically slap thoughts out of my head. Instead, I set out to distract myself by washing my body. I had been soaking for a while, and although Lucia had encouraged that, I didn’t want to take too long in here and have her wait on me.

Although I didn’t distrust the effectiveness of the cleansing spell, there was a feeling of reassurance I got from manually washing my body myself. After I had finished, I dried myself off and mentally prepared for putting my clothes back on.

Any ordinary person would never need mental preparation for something like that, but despite how I may have looked on the outside, being a Chain was far from ordinary. When I had taken off my clothes before the bath, I’d thrown them into a pile near the door. I thought for a moment, then focused my attention onto the pile from a short distance away.

Now that I’m out of the bath, it’s cold. It’s uncomfortable. Focus on that discomfort… focus on it… focus on it… and…

It wasn’t flashy; there was no dramatic effect or flash of light. The pile merely disintegrated into nothingness as if it had never existed in the first place.

Heh. I’m getting a lot better at this. Though I guess I’ve never really struggled with subtracting objects from my manifestation in the first place.

Unfortunately, I still wasn’t good enough to intentionally manipulate sensations like pain or exhaustion yet, though thus far I had done so while asleep every day without fail.

How many days has it been? A week or so? Every day of training blurred together somewhat in my head, so I wasn’t completely sure. Still, in that relatively short period of time, my abilities had definitely improved. Well, my Chain abilities, at least, had improved; I wasn’t confident I’d gotten any better at combat, but that was also a difficult skill to measure progress in.

I closed my eyes again and focused. My objective was basic enough that merely focusing on my discomfort should be good enough, and this was proven true moments later when a set of clothes appeared over my body.

I smiled in satisfaction. I can’t believe I can make these ones now.

The clothes that appeared over my body were different from the strange ones I had first awoken in. I had always thought they looked out of place compared to what other people here wore, but that made sense if they originated from a different world. Rather, the clothes I had manifested just now were of this world’s style and materials, something that I had finally first succeeded at last night.

The primary limitation of manifestation was that it required familiarity; without intimate familiarity of whatever I wanted to manifest, the result would be botched. The more complex the desired object, then, the more difficult it was to sufficiently familiarize myself with it. The only reason I was capable of manifesting something as complex as an entire human body was because my soul had become deeply familiar with it, naturally, after having been housed within it for many years. The same logic explained why I was able to manifest Estellous’ Blade during our run-in with the Lishkarn, as my soul was stored within the original. I hadn’t been able to manifest it since then despite trying, though.

Because of this limitation, Lucia had me begin my practice with something somewhat familiar but also novel: the clothes of this world. I had already been able to manifest clothes in general, but only of a specific kind—presumably it had been an outfit I’d worn countless times in my past life—so this had been a new challenge.

She’d bought me some basic clothes to ‘study’ with, and every night after combat training, I’d spend a while practicing manifestation with them. It was a tedious process of trial-and-error, where I’d manifest something vaguely reminiscent of an article of clothing, identify the discrepancies with the original to figure out where I’d gone wrong, delete the failed attempt from existence, rinse and repeat. It had taken many hours over several days, but I had finally succeeded last night at manifesting a full copy of those clothes. The process of familiarization was far from trivial, however; it took until I’d been able to visualize the clothes in painstaking detail in my head before I could properly manifest them.

The end result had definitely been worth it, though. The clothes themselves weren’t all that crucial, but the effectiveness of my manifestation in general had sharply improved. Most notable was the range increase; I was now capable of manifesting my body nearly twice as far away from Estellous’ Blade as I had been able to originally. It was still only about four or five meters, but that extra distance had been enough to make something like this bathhouse visit possible.

Having replicated my success, I exited the room with satisfaction. I glanced to my right, where Lucia’s room was, and jumped a little in surprise when I saw the door turn open. She stepped out, and noticing my simultaneous exit, said, “Perfect timing. So, how was it?”

I sighed. “It was nice, I guess.”

She smirked in response. “I told you so.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”

With that, our uneventful bathhouse visit came to an end.

Not even one scandalous interaction during a bathhouse visit? Seriously? Fiction lied to me. I couldn’t actually remember any fictional stories specifically, but, for some reason, I felt like that kind of thing happened a lot. Or maybe this is just how the gods are punishing me for calling them narcissists… those selfish bastards!

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