When she opened her eyes, Emily saw an unnaturally gray sky. For a moment she thought she was back in the Void. No, there was coherence in this world that did not belong to the realm of the Outsider. So she imagined being in Dunwall, recognizing the sound of the rain against the windows. But it was a heavy rain, contrasting with the finer and more regular rain of her native city. The room in which she was lying was immaculate. And the pain she felt in her leg was just as pure, piercing her.
Emily had no desire to cry: she was just a cup where a deep anger was growing up. So that was it to be the heiress to the throne of the Empire of the Isles? Being attacked by her aunt, transformed into a legendary creature, saved by a disturbing inventor and then targeted by fanatical witches? What other surprises awaited her on the road to the crown?
Her fists clenched, trying to repress spasms. Her mother was a fair and beloved empress, but the heiress was not sure that she could show the same leniency as the bruises accumulated. Having traitors executed could warn potential plotters—
"You're finally awake."
When she heard this solemn voice, Emily remembered the events in detail: Jindosh had been attacked too in front of the Conservatory. She turned to him to see that he was sitting near on a simple wooden chair, as sober as the rest of the room. In an instinctive gesture, Emily took his hand and Jindosh winced.
"Gently, Lady Kaldwin, the analgesic won't work if you hold my hand like that."
"Excuse me—" Emily unfolded her fingers and observed what she had pressed so hard: if the bandage concealed the wound totally, the absence of two fingers was obvious. His hand looked so fragile, so cramped. There was still blood turned brown under his fingernails.
"I'll kill them all." the young woman hissed, her eyes dark.
"You'll do what you want." replied the Inventor. "But before you avenge, try to recover."
"I'll avenge you at the same time."
"I don't need you to do that, Lady Kaldwin."
He took the newspaper that was on his lap and handed it to Emily. The name of the Karnaca Gazette was eclipsed by a title printed in immense characters: it claimed that the Grand Inventor had been attacked in the company of a young mysterious woman.
"All the newspapers talk about it."
The journalist, someone named Jacob Raspberry, had focused on two particularities of this minor news item: first, that the authors of the mischief were probably witches, criminals that the public thought had disappeared since the failure of the coup, secondly, that Kirin Jindosh, reputed for his tenacious single status, was accompanied by a woman and that the two seemed very close according to the witnesses of the scene.
Blood and romance, all the journalists and their readers enjoyed so much.
Emily continued to browse the article, reading the doctor Moretti had been called by a certain Aramis Stilton, a name that was not foreign to her without recalling a specific face. An investigation was opened and if the main hypothesis meant revenge directed at the Grand Inventor, it was contradicted by the fact that the first victim was the unknown woman.
Jindosh approached slowly to whisper:
"At least nobody knows that the Grand Inventor walked arm-in-arm with the future Empress."
"Why are you whispering so low?" Emily asked following his example.
"The doctor who treated us, doctor Moretti, doesn't know who you are. This Raspberry will certainly pay him a visit, so we shouldn't leave too many clues."
The most reasonable gossip, as well as the most improbable one, would soon appear various. The most skeptical would contradict the information, assuring that the Inventor had been attacked the first because guilty of a crime against witches. Still others would ensure that the woman at his arm was a witch herself and all of it was a stunt to kill Jindosh. But nobody would even be close to the truth of this case.
The principals were unaware of all the stories that were beginning to be written about their evening, more occupied with dodging the questions of doctor Moretti who was really intrigued. When Emily got up to take her things, the doctor tried to hold her back, but she assured him that she felt better, even if the way she had to stand on her cane contradicted this claim. The doctor did not get more from the Inventor than he had treated: Jindosh was sure he could go home. No, he did not need to rest. Yes, he could handle the latent trauma. No, he would not give the name of the one who accompanied him. And no, he did not know why they had been attacked and even though it was up to the Guard to investigate.
It was no longer raining but the black clouds were heavy like metal lids. As the day before, Jindosh lent his arm to Emily, who was leaning on it more by need than by desire this time. Each step planted raging needles in her calf, totally paralyzing her leg. The vegetable cone had damaged the muscle, barely irritating the bone. Although doctor Moretti had immobilized the limb in a tight bandage to limit movement, her walking was flawed. All Emily knew was that her recovery time was prolonged. She felt nauseous because of the pain and turmoil that was stirring under her stomach.
With his arm hanging, Jindosh was trying to move his remaining fingers, trying to get used to the new sensation. The clean cut had made the doctor's job easier. But his mind was haunted by an obsession: where were his orphaned fingers?
"I would have liked to keep them." Jindosh said as he climbed into the car while helping Emily.
"What I lost."
"It was too late for a transplant, Jindosh."
"I wasn't thinking of a transplant. Just keep them."
Normally, Emily would have laughed at him, but her mood had lost all sparkle and lightness.
It was only on returning to the Clockwork Mansion that Jindosh realized how dismal she had become. It was not the shock: it was the certain birth of hate that killed her smile, erased the light from her eyes and stifled her humor. The Clockwork Soldier in the hall, nicknamed Franklin, was ignored by the heiress who stubbornly climbed the stairs, swearing every time her foot refused to land. Emily exiled herself into the apartments, leaving behind her only a deep silence that finally regained its rights in the strange home of the Grand Inventor. Habits re-emerged as a curse and the philosopher took the direction of his laboratory, his heart drained of feelings, his head full of thoughts.
The sky imitated the sea, spilling torrents of water to disturb the waves. A thunderstorm threatened and the rain was hot, inviting all the children to go out bare-chested in the streets shouting with joy, inviting all the perfumes of the gardens to dance under the windows.
In the laboratory, there was no laughter or fragrance. Motivated by morbid curiosity, Jindosh unrolled the bandage around his hand, watching the sutures that looked like white crocuses coming out of his skin. Curious flowers upon a strange earth where the blood had made the artist, brushing the closed wound with its red color. His long fingers unfolded and fold and so on, pain overlaid with an indefinable discomfort.
"I can't stay like that. I need my hands complete to work."
To test the stump, Jindosh grabbed a screwdriver but without his thumb, his gestures were clumsy, if not impossible. The tool passed in his right hand and the Inventor was tempted to throw the object with all his might, to plant it in a dead or alive skull and break the bone just to let off steam. He kept his calm however, still repugnant to the mess and soothed by an idea that was emerging little by little. He needed both his full hands as Emily needed her legs. If he had been able to give a whole body to the heiress, he would be able to find a hand supplemented with a prosthesis. Ignoring the rain hammering against the dome, Jindosh sat down at his desk and began sketching with his right hand, glad to be ambidextrous since his childhood.
After the wet impacts against the windows, a first thunderclap imposed a frightened silence. In the streets of Karnaca, only the brave children continued to play, mocking the comrades who had hidden in the houses. The leaves of the trees were attacked by drops as big as pearls, their green flesh hit by watery arrows. Emily could no longer see the landscape from the balcony, the rainy curtain hid the peaks at her feet, and the silhouettes of the mountains had disappeared, but she clearly heard that constant pounding. Weather was crying for her. Legs stretched out in front of her, elbows planted on the armrests, eyes fixed, the heiress wished that her hate could engulf the world as the storm destroyed the horizon—
"If only you had cut off Kirin Jindosh's hand before he operated the Kaldwin—" Blanche sighed.
"It doesn't matter: Breanna still has her plan."
"Which is interesting, isn't it?"
Billie shrugged. There was usually a pleasant coolness in the basement of the Royal Conservatory, but the storm had infiltrated everywhere, annoying those it was touching, weighing on shoulders and warming the spirits. Billie took off her jacket to stay only with her shirt, already feeling the sweat sticking in her back.
She watched the witches apply lavender oil on Claudia's body. The smell of death refused to submit to the mauve fragrance, but it was a funeral ritual dear to sorceresses. Soon, this beloved body would join the earth, no longer welcoming the woman's caresses but only those of the earthworms, and the broken jaw would not receive any kiss anymore.
Billie wanted to throw up.
"You still loved her, then." her neighbor observed, but Billie persisted in her habitual silence.
Yes, she still loved Claudia: six long years of love and complicity could not bury themselves under a few flowers as she had wished. Under this green face, beneath these creepers clinging to the skin, Billie always saw her Claudia, the one who danced after the fourth glass of whiskey, the one who pecked blackberries in kilos, coloring her teeth, the one who deliberately wore low necklines attracting Billie's eyes toward the brown stars that covered her throat.
The Claudia she knew and loved tenderly. The Claudia who loved flowers without ordering them. The Claudia who was not witch.
"Well, I'm not stupid, Billie, I know you agreed to join us for the opportunity to kill the Inventor, but believe me: follow Breanna's instructions and Kirin Jindosh will suffer more than if you stuck a blade in his neck."
Blanche tried to get closer to the woman to comfort her as a sister would do with a fellow, but Billie moved away.
"No matter what I intend to do or what Breanna wants to do to him: the Inventor will never know what it's to lose a dear person."
She thought her mind had become more hardened since Deirdre's disappearance, but it had broken in the same way with Claudia's death. Yet a doubt had wrapped its creepers around her poor heart, planting its roots to her unconscious: Billie did not know if her grief was caused by Kirin Jindosh or Breanna Ashworth. Who had taken Claudia away from her first?
"Didn't you say that Kirin Jindosh and the Kaldwin were— 'partners'? Maybe once Jessamine's daughter is dead, he'll know what it is."
"I doubt a man like this, if all the rumors are true, is able to love."
"You're not wrong—"
And even so, Billie denied that the affection she shared with Claudia or Deirdre was compared to another. Jindosh could not understand her suffering, unless the man observes how Emily's dislocated body was prepared for eternal rest, to understand that this familiar voice was forever extinguished, to know how these arms capable of warm embraces could become cold and indolent. And then only, Jindosh could claim to experience the same suffering caused by absence.
The heiress stood abruptly from the wheelchair, annoyed by the immobility. Earlier in the day, she had seen in the small laboratory in Jindosh's room a blade of a Clockwork Soldier. A sword too big and abandoned on a table, ready to complete an automaton arm. But for the moment, it was linked to a very alive and furious arm.
Returning to the balcony, Emily slammed the blade on the wheelchair, rejoicing at every sound of the attacked wood. Sometimes she missed her shots, destabilized by the evil nibbling her leg, but Emily stubbornly and concentrated a terrible force each time she pulled down the sword. The mess was so loud that she did not hear the crackling of the speakers:
"Lady Kaldwin! May I know what you're doing?!"
Jindosh's voice was angry. Ignoring the question, the heiress continued to hit the seat. She had dreamed of that day and would not wait another minute before getting rid of that ridiculous throne.
"I've particularly sensitive ears, Lady Kaldwin, and I'm working on something delicate so stop that noise immediately!"
"Leave me alone, Jindosh!"
"Only if you leave me alone first!"
The back of the seat ends up splitting and the wood creaked, imitating the roar of a storm. The blade was barely scratching the metal rods, but Emily knew she would get it done.
"If you don't stop, I lock you in a cage under the laboratory."
For answer only, Emily swung her makeshift sword behind her, wavering because of the weight. She mumbled some insults that Jindosh heard, confirming that her spoken word was not worthy of an imperial person. Then the inventor heard a new thud.
Emily had not been able to lift the wheelchair, so she sent it roll to the guardrail and passed it over, sending it to the forest depths.
"Leave me alone, Jindosh. I want to be left alone since this is only way for me to be safe, far from traitors, hypocrites and plotters, without wanting to kill everyone. So shut up already or you'll be the first I'll fight."
A sizzle let Emily believe that Jindosh had just cut the line, but he said in a very calm tone:
"Come to the laboratory, Lady Kaldwin."
"So you can lock me in a cage?"
"Anyway, if you do that, Jindosh, you won't come out unscathed."
"I would like to see that."
"Don't tempt me, I'm not in the mood."
Their voices clashed coldly.
"Come to the laboratory, Lady Kaldwin." repeated the inventor more gently. And this time, the communication was over, the invitation becoming an obligation.
It had been almost two days since they had seen each other: Jindosh had not left his laboratory and Emily had confined herself to the Inventor's bedroom, ruminating on her hatred. She had thought the Inventor was doing the same, like a wounded cat going into its lair to lick its wounds and yowl at the first hand that would approach it, but maybe she was wrong.
Free from the wheelchair but not from the cane, Emily leaned on it to cross the corridor that led to the laboratory. The Inventor was busy at one of the workshops, turning his back to her. When she saw him, Emily felt her anger flicker. She would have liked to hug him but her pride hindered this need for comfort. Moreover, she had threatened him and he could therefore be mistaken about her gesture. After sitting on a high stool, she folded her arms, trying to keep herself in her bitterness.
"Why did you ask me to come?"
Jindosh showed her his hand, looking for her reaction. Emily was speechless: the hand was complete again but strange, with a thumb and an index made of smooth, white material. Curious, the young woman touched the articulated fingers, feeling the freshness of the ceramic that contrasted with the warmth of the skin. It was not a classic prosthesis, there was something more.
"What is it?"
"A prosthesis that also serves as a pipe." replied the Inventor with pride. And Emily, forgetting her animosity in a moment, let a great burst of laughter warm her throat.
"But why did you invent that?"
"Does your question really need an answer?"
She was still holding this original hand in the hollow of hers, enjoying the sweetness of vitrified ceramic. Jindosh pulled the silver cigarette case out of his pocket and handed it to the young woman.
"I don't need it anymore and I'm certain you'll make good use of it."
She inspected the case, opened it and took out a cigarette before trapping it between her lips.
"There are your initials engraved on the case, Jindosh." the heiress remarked. "Luckily your name is Kirin, the letter K can work for Kaldwin, I'll just add an E just before."
"You'll find a jeweler able to erase the J."
"No, I keep the J. EKJ will be carved on it— Anyway, thank you, I really appreciate the gift."
Especially since she knew they were rare. She admired how the light reflected on the metal, seeping into the engravings. With a courteous gesture, Jindosh lit Emily's cigarette before burning the stuffed tobacco in his knuckle, which made the young woman laugh again.
"I still don't know if you're completely a madman or a genius."
"One rarely goes without the other."
"That's right and you're a perfect example."
Emily flattered him: she suspected the lack of empathy with the Inventor's thirst for knowledge, although she was totally unaware of the sound of the cogs that kept his mind awake or how he saw the world overflowing with mechanisms to understand, but even disguising her admiration with that eternal touch of humor, she recognized how great the Inventor was. And it was for Jindosh the most beautiful compliment.
He had asked her to come in his laboratory to show her this prosthesis, convinced that the invention would give her a smile. And Jindosh was not mistaken: when amused, Emily had the habit of turning her face slightly as if she was trying to mask her joy without being able to stop laughing frankly. An attitude she shown exactly at that time.
"I prefer you that way." Jindosh observed.
"Mischievous. Alive. Strong. You have an expressive look, very subtle but for an observer like me, nothing very complicated. But these last days, you looked too much like your father. You were dreary and withdrawn. I appreciate the silence and calm, certainly, but I don't want a female version of the Royal Protector between my walls.
"You don't know my father very well. With this austere reputation, he can make the best jokes at the Dunwall Tower without ever being suspected. I envy him on this point."
Satisfied with his work, the Inventor left his laboratory with the heiress. When she came down from her perch, she straightened up, leaning on the cane to palliate the weakness of her leg, resistant to pain.
"So you're really starting to like me, aren't you?"
"Could you stop asking such obvious questions, you sound stupid."
Emily expected such a response. She had never mentioned what she felt herself and she could not blame the man for showing the same coyness.
She wanted to live something with the Inventor despite the difficulties that such a spirit could impose. Little worn on compliments, Emily would easily endure Jindosh's greed about sentimental aspect. She was independent herself, so she would got along with the fierce temperament of the man without the slightest difficulty. As for all his faults, like the arrogance he often showed, she would be able to ignore them for his bad days. But her future as Empress was more important than her love projects and the future crown was dragging her to a different path than she had imagined.
And Emily was gradually becoming aware of it.
"Too bad. But I am ready to lose your affection."
Jindosh looked at her, surprised.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm still only the heiress but I understood that I must prove myself from today, to make my people understand that I'll be an intractable Empress. The throne, these legs and my desire for revenge, all that comes to my right and I decided to keep it and defend it. It isn't with humor or malice that I'll achieve it."
"Whatever you do, the Dunwall nobles are eternally dissatisfied, and you already know it." replied Jindosh absently.
"But I can dissuade them from becoming traitors."
"And how will you do that?"
"With to you. I want you to be my Grand Inventor in Dunwall. Forget what I said earlier, Jindosh: never leave me alone, your talent could be useful to me in my projects."
"Are you becoming a tyrannical empress?"
"I would be if I didn't leave you the choice. But it isn't an order, it's a request."
"Ah ah! Once again, you look like your father! When the Royal Protector came to ask me to take care of you, he supported a very polite request from your mother who was actually an order."
"I let you make your choice, Jindosh. I'm sincere. I ask you to be my Inventor or whoever you will accept to be. I'll be inflexible with my subjects, but with you it'll be different."
The man was suspicious. He noticed the blade of the Clockwork Soldier on the balcony and the pieces of wood. He understood the origin of the din. Little by little, he discovered a violent tendency in the young woman.
Jindosh wondered if he had really managed to grasp the heiress: she had shown honesty, sympathy and even tenderness. Now that she asked him to be at her service, he suspected a maneuver to manipulate him. And as if she guessed his doubts, Emily approached slowly adding:
"I've too much respect for you to want to manipulate you, Jindosh. And even if you refuse, I would be disappointed but still— very attached to you."
The heiress felt more vindictive than before, feeling in the depths of her entrails an anger that would only be extinguished with witch's blood. However, Jindosh's presence soothed this fierce hatred, making her forget her wishes for massacre. Far from being cheerful, this feeling actually made Emily face a dilemma: welcoming the Grand Inventor at Dunwall was to keep those feelings more noble than hatred, reassured by a trusted person, but it was also to let his amoral tendency influence her character, at the risk of making her as cruel as he was. As his absence could preserve her from these odious tendencies while sharpening her mistrust, accentuating a feeling of vulnerability.
But in the end, Emily knew with some relief that she did not have to decide for an answer: it was the decision made by Jindosh that would count. A decision that the Inventor had already made.
"You know I won't come to Dunwall, Lady Kaldwin. But what does it change? You want me to work for you and my mansion is the best place to work. My inventions are not bought only in Karnaca, we'll work from remotely."
Of course. Jindosh saw the professional plan first and foremost, his work was his priority. If his choice was different, Emily would not have believed it.
"And you already knew my answer. Will you stop asking absurd questions today?"
"There is no absurd question, just answers that help. Your presence would have been dear to me, but obviously it's unaffordable even for an empress."
"Exactly." his feline smile reflected all his pride and if the man had been a cat, he would have purred. Conversely, the heiress sighed.
"When Sokolov told about you to my parents, I wasn't there, I was out at sea, convinced that I would never find my lost human condition again. But today, since I can compare, I can tell the marine environment is much less dangerous than the civilized world. That's why I wanted you by my side: you know what it's like to defend yourself against a world that seeks to hurt you."
"'A world that seeks to hurt you', we always come back to the same point, Lady Kaldwin. Three witches attacked you, enemies you already knew. It just means this battle isn't over. You boast of having survived at sea without the help of anyone and now that you have legs, you're weaker than when you were a mermaid. Even you, with a more ordinary mind than mine, you should understand it's illogical. Forget this aggression, it poisons your head."
"I'm still shocked, Jindosh. You lost half of your hand and I can't forget that. You prefer me alive and mischievous, but that's not how we protect those who are dear to us. So too bad if I lose your esteem, I prefer to be sure you're safe."
"I've already escaped several accidents in my workshop, my luck might not have lasted. And then what would you have done? Destroy my laboratory so that I couldn't hurt myself anymore? Your naivety is appalling. I've been wounded so I'll avenge myself, because just like you, I know how to fight. In the meantime, I surpassed this ordeal." Jindosh said, showing his left hand. It was complete again, so the loss was compensated. "Do the same, your majesty, since you're so strong."
"I'm not strong enough. But I can be with you by my side."
"Since when did Emily Kaldwin need someone to feel strong?"
Emily was silent, bewildered. She was nearing a quarter of a century but she realized how immature she could be. Court members thought of her as impatient and sometimes selfish, and even though her mother assured her that these traits would pass over time, she feared that her character was definitely poisoned by these flaws.
Nobody had the same audacity Jindosh had to speak to an heiress like this, and she realized how much this speech, offensive at first, opened her eyes.
"Now, if you allow me, Lady Kaldwin, I need rest, and you should do the same."
He pulled the lever of the room, counting on the movable wall of the bathroom to leave the heiress behind him. Despite her disability, she rushed to him and, deprived of her cane she had dropped, clung to his shoulders to not stumble because of the movement of the platform.
"Thank you, Jindosh. I needed that."
Jindosh had thought he had offended the heiress but she remained the same person he knew: humble as a noble, proud as a woman. Vindictive when she was hurt, sweet when she was loved and stronger than she seemed to think.
"I need you for so many reasons. You're someone who manages to talk to me as an equal, able to reason without worrying about propriety."
Jindosh accepted her embrace that reminded him of all he could feel for her. In the end, he understood how tired Emily had been: he had suffered a greater loss and she had witnessed the tragedy. If the witches had ransacked the heiress' legs, he would certainly have felt a greater anger because she was his creation. Because she was Emily Kaldwin.
"I don't know which Empress I'll be, but with you, I'll stay true."
Because they were reconciled, Emily buried her face in the hollow of Jindosh's shoulder.
"I'm glad to hear it, you know how much I value your thinking, your outspokenness."
"Since you are talking about outspokenness, maybe it's time for me to be totally frank—"
Sticking her cheek against his, Emily held her breath for a handful of seconds. Perhaps by measuring her breathing, the words would come out more easily. The young woman closed her eyes and surrendered herself in her declaration with a barely audible whisper. As Jindosh's grip tightened, she knew he had heard her.
"It's certainly the worst thing that could have happened to you, Lady Kaldwin."
"I know. It's horrible, isn't it?"
"It's worse than that." Jindosh held her against him. "Reciprocity makes our situation worse. Do you think there's a theorem about the symmetry of feelings? Or is it just an axiom about attraction that no one, not even me, can understand?"
"I know you can't help yourself, but there are times when you've to stop thinking, Jindosh." Emily answered. If Jindosh had enough effrontery to lecture the heiress, Emily had enough insolence to ask the genius to shut up. And since the courage was reborn in her like a flower after the dreary winter, the young woman counted on gathering this momentum:
"Did you plan to use the bathroom or was it just to shut me out?"
"I planned to use it."
"So when you go out, don't get dressed. And yes, it's an order from your future empress."
The day mimicked the night and rivers poured into the streets of Karnaca, echoing the water Jindosh had heard pouring from the other side of the wall while Emily occupied the bathroom in her turn. He felt anxious: while he had imagined himself immune to certain emotions, he became aware, in his mid-thirties, that riddles still punctuated his life. A mind like his dreaded boredom, and Emily was a woman who could chase this misfortune. He could still hear her voice cracking when she told him about her feelings. Jindosh pitied her as he pitied himself.
When she returned, Emily turned off all the lights, plunging the room into darkness. The step still clumsy, she walked carefully, putting one foot after another while maintaining her balance.
"The light would help you."
"No. I don't want light."
Jindosh had operated on her and already knew the scar around her hips, but Emily was not used to that mark yet, preferring to hide it. Especially for tonight.
"By the way, I hope you removed your prosthesis."
"I don't want you to damage it."
"Like I was going to break what you made—"
The heavy rain continued to fall, striking the shutters, the windows, the facade. Despite pounding on the glass, Jindosh heard the towel fall to the ground. Then he guessed that Emily had just leaned on the edge of the mattress, concentrating her weight on her arms rather than her legs. She lay down beside him, sharing the warmth her skin still gave off. They dared not touch each other. It was not shyness, it was pride.
"No more ambiguity then?"
In the shadows, Jindosh guessed the hard look that accompanied this question. He leaned over and found her mouth to kiss. He placed a hand on her lower back.
"There is no longer any ambiguity."
The woman turned on her back, dragging him with her. She invited him to caress her chest, almost nonexistent, Jindosh knew it after all his observations, but he lingered his palms on these shy breasts, also granting caresses to the shoulders, arms. He felt a growing attraction for the heiress and she accentuated his desire by kissing his throat, his jaw, sometimes surprising him with a lick, then she wrapped her legs around the waist of her lover.
In the bedroom, everything was just suggested hints, shapes of velvet rustling on the sheets, and sometimes a flash of lightning shone in the room before roaring in the distance.
Since he did not want to be the only prisoner, Jindosh gripped her wrists and placed them over her head, choking her in a kiss. Thumb against Emily's pulse, he noted the pulsations that accelerated as he pressed against her bruised body. It was a double-edged game: the more excited she was, the more he was. When Emily tightened her thighs, Jindosh strengthen his grip.
He did not see the smile on her lips. The young woman had him just like she imagined him: with an arrogance and a force that inspired a violent passion.
She felt his incomplete hand slip between her breasts, drawing a slow line to her navel, touching the lower abdomen before reaching her crotch. Emily closed her eyes and savored the contact.
"My mutilation doesn't bother you?"
"On the contrary." she did not care at all for this detail: his caresses between the lips of her sex alternated between gentleness and insistence, making her forget the rest. "Even with only three fingers, you're quite good." Emily added with a laugh.
"I'm glad to know that." And Jindosh accentuated the pressure of his hand, tearing a moan from the young woman. Then another one close to a cry when he ventured beyond. His fingers slipping inside were like a key that steered Emily to spread her thighs further, freeing him from her embrace. A future Empress totally reduced to his mercy. The idea pleased him.
Ready to give him some pleasure too, Emily tried to free her wrists but Jindosh refused to let her go. Her strength was troubled by a desire to appreciate. But being totally submissive would feed the man's pride too much and Emily would rather surprise him, just to remind him who she was. Her legs hugged him again and she caught him off guard with a pelvic motion to throw him to the side. Ignoring the hint of pain that burned in her leg after, Emily settled on Jindosh's basin, adopting an empress position while arching. Being the dominated one this time, Jindosh stood on his elbows and preserved a semblance of equality with the noblewoman. Then she kissed him like she had the urge to kill him, devouring his lips, trying to knock him back but without success. Under her mouth, she felt a smile as he resisted the capricious assault.
Gentler, she caressed him, flattering his erection, exploring his crotch that few women had the honor to discover. They communicated only by sighs, agreeing their gestures. The storm had a metallic sound that contrasted with the softness they shared in their breath.
Impatient and at the same time languid, she welcomed him into her. The first penetration was always the most delicious and the gasp that Emily let out echoed through the room, filling Jindosh with pride, savoring every sensation she conveyed to him. He nibbled her breasts and the former mermaid started to wave like she had never done before. Whenever he moved in her, he snatched from her heart a plaintive sigh.
"Slowly, Emily, slowly—"
He held tightly her waist to preserve her and Emily slowed her movements but to accentuate them better. She loved his voice so much she could become a fanatic, so she asked him to repeat her name. And that name he hated so much, Jindosh pronounced it many times with tenderness.
Clinging to him like a drowning woman in this ocean of sheets, Emily felt like she melt: a fire liquefied the whole interior of her stomach, leaving her to die of happiness. Fascinated, Jindosh slammed her into his body and felt each tremor against him, around him. He heard she hold back a scream while curling up like a spider when it dies. The little death was as impressive as the big one. After an intense heat, Emily felt a cold envelop, giving the impression of falling. But she was still in this bed, still in Jindosh's arms. The orgasm sometimes left a sensation of emptiness, but she felt fulfilled instead.
Orgasm gone with some loosing and Jindosh had refused to give in to this feeling at first, still too cautious for this mystery. He preferred to listen to Emily's deep breathing, to notice how she shivers.
Dunwall's newspapers did not speak of the enthusiasm of the heiress of the throne for love, and her lust surprised the inventor. Afterwards, Emily had followed Jindosh into the bathroom, showered with him, still in the dark, before kneeling near the bed to offer her mouth, making him discover more intimate and more surprising kisses. The locks of hair slipped on his thighs and the nails touched all this sensitive area. Jindosh had wondered where and when the heiress had learned to kiss a sex that way, this way to nibble and lick it, reviving and caressing in turn, but the Inventor, for the first time, did not want to know the answer and let Emily take care of him. He forgot the impression of being dominated. She sometimes felt on her tongue a taste of salt, confirming the pleasure she gave him. Then her hands replaced her mouth which ventured on the stomach of the man. Her gestures tore the first spasms from Jindosh and Emily approached his ear and called him by his name, although she doubted that the effect was as devastating as it was on her.
Finally, she killed him. Feeling his face close to hers, Jindosh kissed Emily as he felt a sudden warmth like an electric current burning his lower abdomen. His fingers tangled in the long black hair, gripping his executioner, holding her against him until the feeling evaporated, leaving him exhausted. He relaxed his embrace and left her, little by little, regaining her freedom.
Sitting cross-legged, Emily ran a towel over Jindosh's stomach, wiping her hands at the same time. In the shadows, he could not see the triumphant air she wore to have made enjoy the man who had long imagined machine.
Lying on his back, Jindosh felt the muscles of his pelvis aching. He had the vague recollection that he had left his laboratory to rest after working, but in the end it was the body and mind that were now exhausted. They had spent a good part of the night making love with a medical sweetness sometimes supplanted by a fire quickly suppressed but still present.
"I think you've awakened muscles that I knew existed but were not active until now."
She laughed and rubbed his groin, pressing the tips of her fingers into his flesh and exercising circular movements.
"Do you realize that we will have to repeat these experiments several times?"
"Because you liked or because you have things to check on the subject?"
Her fingers went back to his chest and Jindosh pressed them in his hand.
The facade of the Clockwork Mansion reflected the rare rays of the moon that the clouds allowed to pass. The high white walls seemed to gorge on this bluish light, rushing to the top of the forest like a rising moon.
Sitting on the edge of the cliff while Billie looked through the telescope, Blanche hummed with her broken voice. With this hard stamp, the witch seemed to be closer to rock than flora.
From what Billie was seeing, the mansion was plunged into darkness: there was not a lighthouse betraying the patrol of a Clockwork Soldier, not even the glare of a wall of light.
"They may have fled to Dunwall." the observer suggested.
"Billie, I can't cast spells if you interrupt my songs all the time. Jindosh and Kaldwin haven't fled to Dunwall, the journalists are watching the docks, and if they weren't so afraid of the Grand Inventor's mansion, they would all be clutching his door. Anyway, it doesn't change our plans."
Frowning, the witch then resumed singing, having trouble concentrating again. Billie totally ignored her colleague and continued to inspect the surroundings. She knew the place better than Blanche and she had suggested going through the roof or the corridor without soil, giving the idea to the sorcerer to accelerate the growth of ivy and branches at the feet of the manor.
Despite the dim light, Billie saw a slow but steady movement, imitating the stubborn cadence of rats climbing a wall. The plants were building their ladder. Her cast done, Blanche got up and the two intruders took the direction of the manor.
The witch had hidden a detail: if Kirin Jindosh and Emily Kaldwin were absent, there was actually a change of plan. And if the Clockwork Soldiers were turned off, which would have been surprising, Blanche would not like the turn of events: she had received the same instructions as Claudia, which involved retrieving the documents Breanna needed and leaving the novice for dead. But Blanche had seen how she knew to fight and she counted on the deadly birds to settle the account of her colleague, knowing herself unable to compete with Billie despite her powers.
This woman was close to forty but was as quick and swift as a twenty-year-old fighter. Blanche had seen how her knife, a blade made for hunting, had sliced off the Inventor's fingers without the flesh or bones showing the slightest resistance. In addition to her skills, Billie was intimidating with that square face, that stoic look. No, Blanche did not feel up to her.
This woman was close to forty but was as quick and quick as a twenty-year-old fighter. Blanche had seen how her knife, a blade made for hunting, had sliced off the Inventor's fingers without the flesh or bones showing the slightest resistance. In addition to her skills, Billie was intimidating with that square face, that stoic look. No, Blanche did not feel up to her.
She watched as the novice climbed the ivy, inserting her fingers into the good holds, weighing on her feet. Above their heads, the floor of the hallway was absent, freeing access in this trap all in length. Billie suppressed a shudder as she remembered how she had almost been sliced in half the last time she had been there. She could perhaps take revenge.
Blanche, more timid, let her colleague get ahead and did not enter the laboratory until after her. The dome was plunged into total darkness but noises rattled in this darkness. Gears for the most part, proving the existence of an artificial life in the recesses of this curious house. Distrustful in this hostile territory, Billie unsheathed her weapon. Breanna wanted the Inventor alive, yet she did not specify 'whole' and Billie would have liked to complete her work.
"The office is upstairs?"
A butterfly flight would have been louder than their whispers. Blanche teleported to the upper floor and ventured to light a lighter to locate the office. Billie, meanwhile, feared to attract a possible enemy with a light and was listening to the slightest sound. With slow but precise steps, she turned to the elevator. It was unlikely that anyone would arrive in the corridor, but the elevator could be activated at any time.
As she set foot, Billie heard a slight click and froze. The laboratory's blisters ignited suddenly, blinding the two intruders. And a horrible feeling seized them when they heard the voice of the Inventor wishing them good evening.
"I'm not mistaken if I suppose you're witches? Maybe one of you is even at her second visit, but believe me, it will be the second and the last one."
In a panic, Blanche recovered the most documents Breanna needed, stuffed them into her bodice and teleported to the floor below. The corridor through which they had entered was now passable and two Clockwork Soldiers were walking towards them. Shared between joy and fear, the witch looked at the novice. In her eyes, Billie understood her intend. She did not suspect the order about her death, but she knew that Blanche was going to abandon her, taking advantage of her powers.
"Too bad for you, Billie Lurk."
And the witch passed through the robots in an ephemeral cloud. Billie heard the elevator on her back and knew she was trapped. If she were going to die tonight, she would fight until the end.
The fence opened on the Kaldwin heiress. And despite the situation, Billie remained admiring in front of that face of empress who dominated all emotion. She still stayed calm when she suddenly raised her voice.
"It's her, Jindosh."
And without understanding more, Billie was thrown forward, jostled by a mechanical bird. With her foot, she tried to hit the machine but it was a metal colossus and it had no effect. This olive-tree head shone under the blinding lamps, their lights duplicated by the blade that had just risen. Taking by a grand lassitude, Billie recognized death in that long skull and her last thought was for Deirdre. Her dear Deirdre.
The blade swung with an admirable precision, ready to face all the obstacles and its edge damaged the glass floor. Billie screamed: the machine had not killed her; she had just cut off her right arm. The woman looked at the forearm a few inches from her: the impact had been so soft, so clean that she thought she was the victim of an optical illusion, but when she moved her shoulder, the member remained inert on the ground.
Lost, blinded, she still managed to recognize the Grand Inventor who was looking her over. The hand she had cut was complete again and he used his prosthesis to smoke. Billie finally wondered if she was dead and if the afterlife was just a succession of hallucinations.
"I know, I know: you've only deprived me of two fingers, and I'm depriving you of a forearm. But I've always been a little excessive."
Emily approached with chilling calm. A cord in her hands, she undertook to make a tourniquet to the victim. Billie was confused but obviously, the murder was not part of the projects of the Inventor and the heiress. She tried to fix her eyes on the dark eyes of the former mermaid.
"This is the third time we meet. I don't intend to kill you, even though I let Jindosh take his revenge, and I hope I wouldn't have to regret keeping you alive. Whoever you are, you'll talk. You'll give me information about your witch friends who're trying to kill me."
By taking care of his victim, Jindosh had prevented her from succumbing to a hemorrhage.
Before that night, Emily and he had agreed to wait for the witches' visit, suspecting the return of the woman the heiress had already seen who would certainly serve as a scout. Emily's first wish was to kill Billie, but she had changed her mind: keeping the enemy alive would help her discover the identity of her opponents. A wise decision because after a day of convalescence, Jindosh and Emily were surprised that the woman spoke with ease.
Billie knew that the witches would not come to rescue her. She had lost Deirdre, she had lost Claudia and the horizon of her life was a thick fog where death itself was not certain. And in this confusion, Billie felt a stubborn rancor against Breanna, pushing her to betray everything, hoping to be pardoned by the Empress and leave all that behind her. Moreover, Billie could now explain Jindosh's cruel gesture against the woman she had loved: on several occasions, the woman had noticed how the Inventor's hand brushed the heiress' waist, how Emily leaned her head toward the man when they were side by side, how so stealthy and unconscious gestures brought the two people together, making their affection genuine. Billie had tried to kill the Inventor because he was responsible for Claudia's death, and Jindosh had killed Claudia because she had tried to kill the heiress. Similar motivations, different couples. If Billie did not forgive him, she accepted that gesture.
The hostage then confessed the truth, but when she revealed to them that the curator Breanna Ashworth was at the head of this plot to free Delilah, neither Jindosh nor Emily believed her words. Evidently her word was not taken seriously: this stranger without a title and without a fortune was nothing compared to Lady Ashworth, a curator for years, a respectable woman and a confirmed artist. Since she did not get out of this story, Emily took the initiative to leave for Dunwall, taking advantage of the docility of her hostage: in the palace, she would know what to do with Corvo and maybe this coup, after seventeen interminable months, would finally end with a conclusion in favor of the Kaldwin.
And while the sun shone again on Karnaca, Emily was gone. She had kissed Jindosh, assuring him that she would come back, but the separation left a curious feeling of emptiness, as if the Outsider had taken up residence in her own heart. In the cabin of the boat, guarding Billie, Emily was trying to clarify the source of her discomfort: she was hoping that she would leave for Karnaca in about ten days, but there was something else, as if her instinct were waiting for a misfortune. The young woman comforted herself by thinking that the Inventor took advantage of his sudden loneliness to move forward in his plans so she had to follow his example, unaware that in fact the man was leaning on the inner balcony, observing the underground waterfall where the siren had bathed so many times.
Fascinated by what the others called coincidences, the Inventor remembered all the stages since his meeting with Emily Kaldwin. He remembered when he saw her in the cylinder of water that very first night: he had seen her as an extraordinary specimen, but he had never imagined how their relationship would progress. Each event was in its place in a well-defined timeline, of which he was convinced and his meeting with the heiress was not about chance.
Jindosh paced the hall, watching two Clockwork Soldiers on patrol. Number seven and number eight. How did Emily name them? Benjamin and Alfred? Samuel and John? He was not sure and it did not matter: in two short weeks, these Mechanical Soldiers would be given their nicknames again. At this idea, the Inventor smiled.
What he thought was his most beautiful creation needed improvements and Jindosh hoped to be able to work on a new version of the Soldiers with Emily: she was so agile and alert; he could draw inspiration from her for the movements of robots.
Jindosh prepared to join his lab when he heard visitors enter the atrium. Expecting no visit, he went down the steps of the hall to see Amos Finch accompanied by several men who wore the nurse's uniform of Asylum of Karnaca. But it was on Breanna Ashworth that Jindosh stared at and he suddenly knew that the hostage had not lied.
"Come in, come in, although you don't have an appointment, I always enjoy seeing familiar faces."
"My dear Jindosh, I apologize, all my flatter apologies for coming out like this unexpectedly, but Lady Ashworth and I worry about your health."
The little director of the asylum was sincere in expressing his regrets, blushing while the curator had this pale complexion and a complete lack of compassion.
"My mental health? Has it changed since the last rumors?" Jindosh asked without being intimidated. The group was surprised by the original prosthesis which confirmed, for some nurses, the madness of the individual.
"Have you seen the heiress Emily Kaldwin lately, Jindosh?" Ashworth's voice was cold. After blowing a volute of tobacco, Jindosh replied with a grin:
"Of course not, no one has seen our empress' daughter for over a year, I'm not so exceptional, Lady Ashworth."
"Then how do you explain this?"
In Breanna's hands, Jindosh recognized the sketches and notes he had taken on Emily when she was still a mermaid. Without the silvergraphs that had been intelligently neglected, the file on the naiad looked like the account of an insulting fantasy for the imperial family.
The Grand Inventor knew he was trapped. He ventured, however, to be detached.
"Theories for imagination, nothing more. Witches attacked our empress, I wondered if they hadn't transformed the heiress to make her disappear. Maybe you know what it is, Lady Ashworth: these witches are totally degenerate."
"You insult especially the Kaldwin family by imagining the heiress half-naked and turned into a monster. Despite the clemency of our empress, I doubt that Jessamine Kaldwin would be amused."
"Lady Ashworth, it may not be necessary to go so far, to go that far—"
Amos Finch had not dared to loosen his lips while the Curator and the Inventor were engaged in their verbal jousting. The woman glanced at the doctor, implying that he had to pronounce the order that had been agreed between them. And with an uncertain voice, doctor Finch announced:
"Jindosh, we're convinced that you need rest, a good rest. I took nurses with me to avoid any refusal but don't do the difficult, please I don't want them to hurt you."
To everyone's surprise, Jindosh laughed.
"Are you arresting me?"
"We're asking you to follow us for your own good, for the sake of your mind; you're working way too much."
"I already see the titles of tomorrow. The Grand Inventor, after being assaulted, is interned in the Asylum of Karnaca! The Karnaca Gazette will talk about me for a long time."
Despite the feeling of abandonment, Jindosh accepted his fate.