For the next week or so, I alternated between Bernice, Veronika, and Neriah in my bedchambers. Terah didn’t return to me after that first night, but I had several other girls to choose from. Sleeping with a different woman every night, it almost felt like my time back in Amaryllis. Furthermore, I was trying to get them pregnant. It was unclear whether I had succeeded though. There was magic that would allow me to tell instantly, so I asked after it. That was when I discovered that the doctor who was previously on staff was killed for being unable to save me from my poisoning.
I had complicated feelings about that. I had spoken with my mother and told her never to kill anyone associated with me and my business without my direct permission. She conceded that fact, and I hadn’t had to witness any scenes such as that in some time. However, this really was a place that was cutthroat. For years, the insane prince and his over providing mother had let to a dark atmosphere to cover the palace.
That atmosphere had started to change a little at a time. Even the guards, who always seemed to be on the edge of a razor, started to relax a bit. There was laughter filling the halls, and I commonly took my harem out on dates. The dates never went farther than the front yard. After jumping off the palanquin and disappearing for a few weeks, mother had not trusted me to leave again except on a direct route to the family mansion. So, that was why she was wearing a frown when I asked her if I could take the girls out to the hospital.
“I haven’t hired a new doctor only because I’ve been busy.” Mother sighed. “This is hardly something you need to worry about right now.”
I wouldn’t be surprised if they were having trouble filling the role too. Who would want to risk their lives like that? Then again, in this world, doctors weren’t that knowledgeable about medicine. Outside of learning a few dozen healing spells, was there any point to a doctor? They had to be a dime a dozen in this world.
I shook my head. “No, Mother, I need to have all of my girls tested. You included!”
“Your mother too!?” Mother ended up blushing. “I’m far too old. Then again… I have felt a little bloated lately.”
I nodded emphatically. In just two days, we’d be on the boat. If I had gotten anyone pregnant, I needed to know who. That was important for my future decisions. I was very worried about that old man’s threats. When it came to this assassination plan, I wasn’t in the loop. I’d rather not make my decisions on the assumption that he’d be dead. Did I think Mother was pregnant? Probably not, but I also knew that if I included her, she’d be a bit softer when it came to requests.
‘Mother, you will also join me on my voyage. A-as one of my harem,” I proclaimed, selling that point home.
It was an embarrassing thing to say, especially to a woman who should be your mother, but I knew Talitha was weak to these kinds of things. Predictably, she was so enamored to me calling her my harem, that she didn’t ask any other questions. As a result, I found her agreeing to pull the car around and get a doctor on the line.
I informed a guard to go collect the girls. One last visit through the town, it’d be fine. I was surprised. The guards were very thorough. I had mostly been thinking of getting Terah, Bernice, Veronika, and Neriah tested. If I even got one of them pregnant, it’d leave me a bit of bargaining room on this voyage. However, Kemala, Lyra, Brooke, and Rhea were also dragged out of their rooms and brought before me.
“Th-this is ridiculous.” Lyra flushed. “Where are they taking me?”
“Ah… sorry.” I immediately apologized. “We’ll all be going to Amaryllis in a week’s time.”
“Ah!” It was clear this was the first time Lyra heard of it.
“I want you all to get a physical. In particular, I wanted to see if anyone became pregnant. Since we have no on-staff doctors at the moment, I thought this would be a good time to figure everything out.”
“S-s-seriously?” Lyra’s voice raised an octave, “Even though…. That… I’m not pregnant.”
“That’s fine.” I reassured her, “We just want to check officially for everyone.
Brooke snorted and put her arms in front of her. Of course, I had only slept with her once. The chance of her being pregnant was pretty slim. When it came to Kemala and Rhea, they were both women I hadn’t slept with at all. When it came to Rhea, I was mostly just afraid she’d grow triggered if I tried to bring her in my room. I remembered her fellow harem member trying to smother me with a pillow. Rhea had warned me I was in danger, but wouldn’t that be what a person who wanted to hurt me would say to try to earn my trust? Well, those were all thoughts, but the main reason was simply that I didn’t want to push things and end up traumatizing the poor girl.
When it came to Kemala, there was no particular reason I hadn’t slept with her. It wasn’t because I secretly suspected she was the girl who poisoned me. Rather, I just didn’t want to corrupt her just yet. Unlike Veronika, who seemed very bold and determined to get what she wanted. Kemala came off as a bit immature and child-like. Then again, her child-like innocence would be crushed if Grandfather had his way with her. In that respect, it was pure selfishness that kept me from tainting her immediately.
Lyra continued to raise protests, but I managed to get everyone into a long limousine and we headed for the local hospital. Mother came as well, getting into the car at the last minute. While many of the girls had opened up to me, they were still very uncomfortable around Talitha. The lively conversation ended up dying down and the trip occurred rather quietly. Lyra had a strange look on her face. Brooke looked relaxed. Veronika had a determined look.
When we stopped at the hospital, the guards stepped out and went inside. Apparently, they were getting things ready. Well, I supposed I was a Prince after all. So, it wasn’t that surprising when nine nurses came out, each pushing a wheelchair. One girl got into each wheelchair, and then they were wheeled off while the guards followed me on each side. I entered the hospital, which didn’t look quite like the hospitals I recognized. It was well decorated, and I could tell this was a higher-end location, but it also lacked a lot of the technology I’d taken for granted from a hospital.
The environment didn’t focus on sterile, but on being comfortable. Since infections weren’t a problem, I supposed that made sense. The lighting was darker and the entire place had a much more calming feel to it. There were no noisy machines, and their dresses were more casual than the standard scrubs. As I walked down the hallways, I felt the place was a bit peaceful.
“You will need to wait here.”
It turned out that I had to remain in the waiting room for the actual tests. It was odd for a man to come to the hospital. Most men would be treated to a home visit. One could probably even say that hospitals were women’s only territory. I recalled similar issues even in Amaryllis when I wanted to be present for the children’s birth. I had received a lot of complaints but had ended up pushing my way in anyway.
Perhaps I could do the same here, but the girls were really just peeing on a stick or having some rune hovered over their stomach to detect another life sign. There was really no reason I needed to be here other than that I wanted it. Fortunately, Mother hadn’t asked. If she had, I might have said something about how unreasonable it’d be that I didn’t learn about my own child’s existence right away.
“Hey, Mister… do you want some coffee while you’re waiting.”
A little girl had moved in front of me while I was thinking to myself. However, her voice lodged itself in my ear, and a sense of familiarity washed over me. I immediately looked up at her. It was a girl, but she was wearing a cat mask over her face. It was made out of paper, and it looked like she had colored it herself. She was about 8 years old.
“You…” My eyes furrowed as I reached for the mask.
“D-don’t touch!” The girl suddenly jumped back, holding her mask tightly to her face, her eyes looking frightened.
Her sudden movement caused the two guards to touch their knives and sidearms. I immediately waved them down and then turned to the girl.
“N-no, you don’t need to worry about me at all.” I said, smiling, “I won’t touch your mask again. Who are you?”
Despite my smile, the girl’s expression didn’t improve and she looked away. “The people in the hospital just call me the burned girl.”
A flash of a certain girl. A boiler explosion. It couldn’t be, could it?
“Mister, you want me to bring you a drink. I’ll deliver!” She declared. “Just 50 quid!”
“Quid? Ah… pay her.”
I barely remembered the currency from Amaryllis. As a Prince, the currency seemed even more distant to me. One of the guards instantly pulled out the money and handed it to her. It was paper money, so it was probably a lot. In fact, her eyes even popped when she received the money, but she recovered quickly.
“I’ll be right back!” She spun and ran out of the room.
I reached out for her, but she was already gone. I glanced up at the guard who had handed the child the money.
“My lord…” she coughed. “1 quid Is more than enough for a coffee.”
I nodded in understanding. “It’s fine… I wanted her to have it.”
The guard only returned to attention, not daring to question my words. I sat contemplatively, waiting for her to come back to me. A few minutes later, she came running back into the room. The cup in her hands looked humungous next to her. She was barely able to hold on to it. I immediately grabbed it from her and then proceeded to burn my hands on the glass.
“Ah! How were you holding something this hot!” I said, shaking my hands.
“S-sorry mister!” She looked genuinely scared. “The heat… I’m numb to it…”
I reached out a grabbed her hands. It was then I realized they were covered in scars. More specifically, burn marks.
“Burned girl…” I whispered.
She seemed to be growing into a panic, struggling to get out of my grip. “Mister! Please don’t tell the nurse lady! They said they’d kick me out if they caught me peddling again! Please. I don’t want to sleep on the street again or go to the prince’s mine with all the other bad girls!”
“Prince’s mine?” I let go of her hands.
Was that what the commoner’s called the mine underneath the city? They must have been hearing about people being kidnapped and pulled into the mines for weeks. It got to the point, it must have turned into some kind of fairy tale. The girl pulled back, her eyes fearful. She turned to run but collided with a woman whom my guess was one of the nurses. She had her hair tied back and her hands on her hips.
“Are you bothering this man? Do you even know who you’re dealing with! Foolish girl. We allow you shelter, and this is how you repay us?
“M-madam, I’m sorry!” The girl bowed instantly.
“No apologies!” The woman said, “This is the last time.”
“Actually, this is my fault.” I stood up, smiling at the woman with my best smile. “I was thirsty and gave her some money to go get me something. She wasn’t trying to sell me anything. Just the opposite. I was nosey and got into her business.”
“P-prince!” The woman called Madame bowed immediately. “Of course… my apologies. I didn’t mean to suggest you did… rather, let us be out of your way immediately!”
“Actually, I would like the girl to stay with me. I have to wait on the Queen and my girls, you see, and I’d like this kitty to keep me company. Is that alright?”
The Madame’s tune changed instantly, and she turned and pushed the girl towards me. As for the girl in the paper cat mask, she seemed genuinely confused. She looked back, but the Madame gave her a stern no-nonsense look that said she better do anything I suggested. Well, I just had my suspicions on who this girl was. It was clear by her hands that she was white. The age-matched up. So did… the condition. Thinking about that dampened my heart a bit. Had this really been my fault? Charlie was truly a strong girl.
“Come… give me company, I patted a seat next to me. “You’ve seen boys before. You didn’t seem shocked at my appearance?”
The girl cautiously sat next to me, but once I asked the question, she immediately shot into an answer. “Of course, I was married to a man!”
“Eh, married, at your age?”
She nodded excitedly. “He… he… uh… passed away.”
“Oh… a widow at such a young age.” I humored her, even though I suspected I knew just exactly who she was talking about. “What was he like?”
“He was a pervert!”
“He liked to do this and that with me…” She touched her cheeks and I could even tell through the mask she was blushing. “And he pees standing up. He also liked to put all of his white stuff on me and rub me.”
“That’s a lie!” I accused.
“Eh?” She stopped and I let out a cough.
“Ahem… I mean… you’re so young. Are you sure you’re not embellishing?”
“Mister, you kind of remind me of him.”
“Do I?” I asked, smiling, but when I remembered what she said about him, my look broke slightly.
“What are you waiting for?” She finally asked, kicking her feet against the seat.
“My women, I’m seeing if I got anyone pregnant,” I answered honestly. “In a few days, we’ll be going on a journey to Amaryllis.”
Her eyes jumped up. “A-Amaryllis?”
“Have you heard of it?” I asked.
She paused for a moment but then nodded. “Y-yes…. I used to… I used to live there. My… mother died.”
“Would you like to go back?” I asked.
“There is no one there to watch me. I was supposed to go to extended family, but I got lost on the way.” Her voice sounded melancholy, and I really got a feel for exactly how much she had to sacrifice to make it this far. I felt really bad for her. I felt relieved that fate had ordained that at least I could make right one of the biggest mistakes in my life.
“I could find a place for you. A mansion. Full of big sisters. And a man who will love you and take care of you like his own sisters. How does that sound?”
The girl stared up at me, her mouth slightly open but no words coming out. Had I been a bit too forward? I didn’t want to scare her away. Then again, I was a prince. All I had to do was point at her and say I wanted her and mother would make it happen.
Before we could say anything more, the door opened and then women were let out from wherever they had their exams. They were all in their regular clothing, so I assumed whatever they had to do was over. I looked up at the nine women who currently made up Caleb’s harem.
“So, what is the news?” I asked, “Who is pregnant?”
The girls all glanced at each other, stretching out the anticipation. A terrifying thought shot through me. What would I do if none of the girls were pregnant? What if I was sterile as Caleb? I had assumed having a male in his body would be difficult, but what about having anything? Maybe I was wrong about him, and he genuinely had been made sterile for the last few years. Or maybe it was the poison that had done it. There was any number of problems I could have.
All of that worry popped up over the course of a second, although it felt like hours. Then, Bernice excitedly stepped forward and raised her hand up like a girl in class.
“I am! I’m pregnant!” She said, immediately giggling happily.
Mother closed her eyes and then opened them again, a relieved smile on her face. With those simple words, years of built-up stress were burst in an instant.
“Is it a…”
“Too early to tell,” Bernice admitted.
“She isn’t the only pregnant one.” Terah stepped forward. “I was also impregnated.”
“Really!?” I let out a noise of surprise.
Bernice, Kemala, Neriah giggled excitedly.
I shook my head. A feeling I had put behind a long while ago returning. I made two babies. I was going to be a father in this life too.
“I am also pregnant, Daddy!” Veronika suddenly declared.
I choked, nearly keeling over. Even Veronika? I mean… I had been sleeping around a lot with her, but it didn’t occur to me she’d get pregnant. She’s so young herself. Three pregnancies at once. Of nine women, 1/3 of them were pregnant. This was truly what my future life was going to be like. How interesting. That bastard Grandpa would probably lose his shit when he realized how many girls I got pregnant. There was no way he was going to keep that ridiculous proclamation, right?
“Three babies on the way. This is good.” I nodded, crossing my arms. “This is really good.”
Mother suddenly elbowed Lyra in the back. “Go, girl.”
Lyra looked resistant and half in tears. She was holding herself and didn’t seem to meet my eye.
“C-caleb…” She said a hesitant expression on her face.
“Wh-what is it?” I asked a strange sinking sensation inside me.
“I… I’m pregnant too.”