I could hear people all around quickly heading up to the chamber. I was a bit surprised after the fuss we had made that they weren’t already upon us. However, when I stepped out into the hall, although I could hear countless demons coming toward us from both directions, I hadn’t seen any yet. If I had Portal, this wouldn’t even be an issue. I’d simply cast the spell and escape with ease. However, I couldn’t teleport.
“Teleport! Of course!”
The idea hit me immediately. I spun, grabbing Carmine, and then diving into a room right next to the chambers that held the princess. A few moments later, I heard men run by in the hallway, and even kick in the door. However, I had a feeling that they wouldn’t be checking this room at all. I had a feeling that those guards would treat this room like it didn’t even exist.
“A… safe room?” Carmine looked around worriedly.
“Is your mind clearing?” I asked.
“Ah! Y-yes!” She nodded. “I mean, I’m a Paladin, so the miasma wasn’t affecting me too much in the first place, but I suppose if this was a safe room, then it wouldn’t affect me much in here either.”
Within a safe room, the miasma was repelled. Monsters wouldn’t usually enter this room, and it was a good place to rest up if you were feeling beat. I didn’t know why it existed, but it was a concession that the curses gave those that tried to challenge them. In this case, all of the demons out there wouldn’t notice this room. Only Bernard would be able to see it, and there was a good chance he wasn’t looking for it.
It wouldn’t show up on a map, and what person would just randomly check doors while pretending to be the prince? He would trust his soldiers, not even thinking that there was a room that fell out of their perspective. I looked over at Carmine who was looking at the mural with some curiosity. Technically, the mural was about her.
“If the curse wasn’t affecting you so much, what was all that talk earlier?” I asked.
Carmine blushed. “I told you but you weren’t listening. The curse did infect my heart a bit. You’re right, it was making me feel things that I didn’t before. Once I became aware of it, I was able to cleanse my body of it with one of my Paladin skills.”
“However, the effect it had wasn’t to make me have feelings for the Demon Prince.”
“Really? But that was how the story went?”
“The story went that I fell in love with the knight that protected me.” Carmine touched the mural that showed the princess in the arms of the demon knight.”
“Yeah, but no knight rescued you, I came in and… oh…” I stopped, closed my mouth.
“I already have complicated enough feelings when it comes to Master. To suddenly have a curse bullying me into loving you like a helpless princess… it was all I could do to keep from embarrassing myself.”
So, that was ultimately why she was acting the way she was acting.
I nodded slowly as I considered things. Carmine was my slave, and we had both had times where we were close and times when we were apart. I had the Charm Up ability as well as Harem Master, Slave Master, and Affinities for both. Simply put, it was very easy for a girl to fall in love with me. It was something I had been conscious about for some time.
I had always been worried that the women in my life didn’t have genuine feelings for me. I had told myself things like a person couldn’t control their looks, and if a woman more easily fell in love with something because they were attractive, how did that differ any more than Charm Up? Slave Affinity? At least, when it came to Lydia, Miki, Celeste, Shao, and Terra… I knew their feelings were genuine. They had stood on a stage and shown me they had genuine feelings for me.
As for Eliana, she was a princess, and wouldn’t be so easily swayed by something like Charm Up. She likely had her means of resisting such a cheap trick. Thus, I also knew her feelings for me were genuine. That’s perhaps why I felt comfortable getting closer to Eliana compared to anyone else.
When it came to Astria and Elaya, they were powerful creatures, and I was too worried about keeping them under control to even think about something like love. However, when it came to Carmine, Salicia, and even Raissa… I wasn’t so quick to say that what we had was love. I was their Master, and they were my slaves. There could be love there, and attraction, and desire, but that didn’t mean it was at the same level as with the other girls.
So, when Carmine was suddenly inflicted with such an overcoming feeling of love, I could understand how it was embarrassing and didn’t match how she felt. Once we left this safe room, those feelings might surge back up again. Where I had some kind of strange control over my karma thanks to my new job, Carmine could only suppress hers. It’d be like a disease with flare-ups, except it’d be emotional flareups that caused her to act more like a princess in love with her knight, than Carmine.
At least it wouldn’t get to a level where she’d forget her name or something. As a Paladin, there is no way the curse could infect her so strongly. However, from the moment we leave the safe room, her emotional state will be having a tug-a-war with the dungeon curse until we ultimately leave.
“I meant what I said though.” I found myself grabbing Carmine and pulling her to me. “You’re my woman, and I won’t let any other man have you.”
I kissed Carmine. With those thoughts, I hoped to keep her grounded. She gasped as our kiss broke off, but she didn’t collapse against me as the princess might. Instead, she looked at me with a cocked head as if seeing something interesting.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Master, if I may say something. I’m not the only one who has changed. Your personality is a bit different too!”
“What do you mean?” I asked, feeling just a bit confused.
“First, can you tell me what happened when you were intending to break into the castle,” Carmine asked. “I’ve been quite confused for a few days now. The group just disappeared. I received a message that said that everything was okay and to keep doing what I was doing. Salicia was gone, and all of the other girls had left.”
I frowned a bit at that message. Maybe, the girls just didn’t want to worry Carmine. Maybe, they were afraid Carmine would attack and try to free me, so they decided not to tell her what was happening. I decided to explain to her everything that had happened from when we got into Lord Reign’s keep, to how I tried to use Return, and then was captured and tossed into the dungeon alongside the champions as some kind of cruel joke of his.
I even told her about my new job, my disappearing tattoos, and perhaps the most worrying thing, I could no longer detect her as a slave! As far as I could tell, my connection to Carmine as a slave was gone. Carmine admitted that it was the same with her. She just didn’t feel my presence. It was like when she was in a dungeon and I was outside the dungeon. Our connection was distant and foggy. However, we were right next to each other, so I should have been able to detect her perfectly. The party connection between us worked fine.
Carmine listened and added when she thought things were relevant. Eventually, she looked up at me with a bit of a serious expression on her face. “I think I can tell you what happened.”
“I’ve only heard of such a thing happening once before. It’s in the archives of the church. It has to do with the origins of our most recent split in the church.”
“Huh? Split? Oh, you mean the church of big breasts versus the church of small breasts? You’re saying there is a story to that?”
“Yes… the story goes that the Archbishop once battled a powerful demon lord. Her goal was only to keep him distracted long enough for reinforcements. She succeeded. That demon lord used a soul sword and struck the Archbishop down. However, she was a powerful healer, and her soul power was strong. Rather than dying, she managed to keep her soul alive… both halves surviving. However, they were completely split in two.
“They ended up forming two separate bodies, with two separate personalities. One woman had the breasts, a cool demeanor, and a cunning mind. The other was flat-chested, excitable, and fiery-tempered. However, they were both the Archbishop. At first, they were trying to work on a way to bring themselves back together, but as their studies continued, they became more different and more individualized. The two halves became irrecoverably separated. They refused to turn into one woman again.
“That fighting continued to grow, eventually turning to how they wanted to run the church. Instead of loving the mother and the child, the larger breasted Archbishop put favoritism on the mother, and lesser importance on the child. They fought relentlessly until they split the church in two. The church of the flat-breasts went south into present-day Esmere and the Ost Republic, while the church of the large chest remained in the area that is now Aberis.”
“What are you saying? What does that have to do with me?” I asked, getting a sinking feeling.
“Master, I believe that when you cut free your party to let them return, you also cut off a piece of your soul!”