Despite the lack of sleep the previous night, Dee felt much better in the morning. Sarfina tried to not to let it show that she had heard her crying, but Dee’s sharp eyes picked up on the subtle pity and bad conscience in her eyes. Nothing was said about what happened though. The servants showed no sign of having heard, and she didn’t think they would able to hide it if they had.
‘Thanks for small mercies, I suppose.’ She though with some relief.
That said, the behavior of the servants had not improved in the slightest. Thus Dee decided that she would have to go through with her plan tonight. The servants would most likely provide a good opportunity during the evening dinner, so that would most likely be the best time to confront them, as the dinner was attended by several servants and word would spread quickly afterwards.
“Seeing as you were able to handle work yesterday, I think we should start your training today.” Sarfina announced suddenly.
“Uh, alright. Up to you I suppose.” Dee managed to stammer as Sarfina’s words interrupted her machinations.
“We’ll start with swimming. Once I’m satisfied that you’re fully healthy and there are no lasting effects, I will arrange for some test for you to perform so we can determine your current level in various fields. That will help us plan your future training.” Sarfina continued, and noticed the slightly unsettled look that came over Dee once swimming was mentioned again.
The two walked to the large pool, and Dee started to half-heartedly strip her clothes off in preparation. Sarfina took this chance to properly observe her new student and assess her development. For a nine to ten year old girl, Dee was rather tall. Not the height of an adult human yet of course. Without exact measurements she couldn’t judge the exact height, but Dee looked to be a little under 1,5 mels, maybe 1,4.
She was fairly thin, but covered in clearly defined muscle thanks to her constant training and heritage, which was decidedly odd for a girl her age. She was covered in clear white but short fur that was like a second skin or a layer of clothing. Her kitsune heritage showed clearly in her two tales that were rather fluffy, in stark contrast with her otherwise short and sleek fur.
Her head was also reminiscent of a fox, which deviated slightly from normal rakshasa who usually had feline features. However, Dee also had something of a wolf in her features, with golden eyes and a snout that was slightly longer and thicker than a fox tribe beastmen had. All in all she looked very much like a demi-human beastman of a mixed heritage. Her demonic heritage didn’t show much currently, unless she showed her extra pair of arms which she mostly didn’t. Sarfina knew she also had long and sharp claws, which were currently retracted.
“You didn’t have to strip completely naked.” Sarfina suddenly said with a realization.
“I’m not really naked by your standards and there wasn’t any swimwear among the clothes your servants provided.” Dee said with a wave, referring to her fur. “Besides, luckily I don’t have much to show yet anyway.”
She was mostly right. Dee had only barely started developing those characteristics that usually required hiding, and her fur did a barely adequate job of hiding the important bits. It would look decidedly indecent in the future though, when she actually did develop, as the fur looked almost like clothes that had been painted on.
“Luckily?” Sarfina asked in slight confusion.
“You didn’t want to look too alluring among the Zabaniya.” Dee replied with a shudder. Sarfina didn’t require further explanation, as she could guess the rest.
In a slightly morbid twist, just a moment later Sarfina had to actually struggle to stop herself from laughing out loud. Dee looked positively adorable in her attempts at swimming. She first did the thing sometimes seen with pets, where she just slightly tipped her toe in the water and quickly pulled out. Her eventual entry into water was slow and gradual. To top things off, Dee managed to do something that could generously be counted as swimming, as she did an imitation of doggy paddle without using her legs at all.
It was funny, endearing, adorable and one of the most hilarious things Sarfina had seen. The girl who seemed so capable and mature sometimes, completely turned into a kid in water. And not a very competent kid at that.
As Dee stopped and stood in the water, Sarfina couldn’t help commenting. “One of these days you’re going to have to tell me what is with you and water. You seem almost skittish.”
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answered.” Dee replied seriously.
“I do want answers, but I don’t want to force you into giving them.” Sarfina replied, already imagining some sort of torture training.
“No you really don’t, but that’s alright. I’ll answer this once anyway, just so you know what I mean in the future.” Dee said with a sigh. Then she proceeded to tell Sarfina about the experiments with the boiling blood in order to strengthen her fur.
“That’s…” Dee had been right, Sarfina felt much worse after knowing. “Was something like that normal?”
“To the other kids? No. To me? Yes. I got ‘special treatment’ because of my regenerative abilities. Not that they had it easy either, but you can do so much more to a punching bag that keeps healing from even the worst injuries.” Dee replied with another sigh.
Sarfina couldn’t really say anything in reply. She had imagined that Dee had survived so well mostly because of luck and getting a softer treatment for some reason. At worst she had imagined that Dee had gotten the normal treatment and she had survived because of her regenerative abilities. In hindsight though, people like the Zabaniya wouldn’t ignore an asset like the regeneration, and would utilize it to the maximum instead.
Dee broke the silence after a few moments. “So how about you show me how to do this? I’m clearly bad at it, so it would help if I got to see a proper example. You can then tell me what I’m doing wrong when I copy you.”
Sarfina agreed with a smile. She had anticipated the necessity, and wanted to swim anyway, so she had prepared proper swimwear in the morning unlike Dee. Now was Dee’s turn to get a proper look at Sarfina. It was actually the first time she had seen the elven woman out of armor, and she also realized that she hadn’t paid much attention to her looks before, which was a rather bad mistake for an assassin. Always pay attention to people who might turn out to be important. If you’re able, also pay attention to the unimportant because they might turn out to be important later.
Sarfina wasn’t exactly curvaceous, instead she could be described athletic and was covered in lean and lithe muscle. She wasn’t without her charms though, and she did have enough curves in the right places, and elves usually tended to be on the moderate side in these things. Sarfina was actually surprisingly shapely for an elf, but it was covered in armor most of the time.
Her muscles were clearly the result of constant training, but she was right in saying that swimming built her lean and taut, instead of bulky. Elven women were usually slightly taller than human and beastmen, and Sarfina wasn’t an exception, measuring around 1,7 mels. She also had a moderate length golden hair tied in a ponytail that framed her sharp and refined elven features. The face was highlighted by a pair of deep green eyes.
During the day Sarfina taught Dee several swimming styles, and Dee was a quick study. Once she got the hang of it, her analytical mind went to work, and she started making minute adjustments to her movements to improve her swimming. She didn’t even need that much aid from Sarfina, just a proper example. By the evening, she wasn’t exactly a great swimmer yet, but they both knew it was only a matter of time and practice. Dee actually started to enjoy swimming as well, though she still wasn’t so keen on getting her tails wet.
As they were sitting for the evening meal, Dee was prepared for a confrontation and wasn’t disappointed. She noted that her portion was different from Sarfina, but the two were seated far enough apart at the ends of a long table, so the latter didn’t notice the difference. Dee suspected this gap was created by the servants on purpose when setting the table, subtly guiding Sarfina’s actions. The food wasn’t bad and used the same materials, but it was clear that there wasn’t the same amount of care and attention used in making it. The servant also didn’t exactly gently set it in front of Dee, coming just short of slapping it on the table.
There were several servants lined on the walls, in case their master needed something. Dee noted that the situation was good, and that she had the necessary excuse. “So this is the level of servants trained by House Arazana.” She said raising her voice, which dripped venom.
Most of the servants turned a sharp eye towards her, the head maid Qinlana looked at Dee with indignation and started to argue. “You dare…”
Dee however cut her off immediately. “I don’t have to dare anything. You actions during the last few days have said more of your level than anything I might say. And no, I’m not stupid enough to think your performance has been the best you are capable. That’s the whole point. Your actions show your disregard for your master and your lack of ability and judgement as servants. That says more clearly than any words that House Arazana apparently doesn’t have any idea how to train their servants.” Dee had chosen to attack their pride as servants and the House that raised them instead of lashing out at bad service directly.
“What would you know about House Arazana and training servants? I’ll have you know we have all been trained since we were children.” Qinlana replied in anger.
“And the fact that this is the result is the biggest indictment that can be made. Let’s start with the obvious. You clearly have no respect for your master, and your actions shout that out to the world, shaming her and you at the same time.” Dee said with slightly mocking tone.
“What would you know about our respect?” One of the servants yelled from the side defensively. Dee was quite happy they decided to play straight into her trap.
“You obviously don’t trust her judgement, and you actively work against her interests. In addition, it’s clear that you are not really loyal to her, but to her family instead. If that’s not lack of respect then I don’t know what is. All of you have judged me and openly show your disdain and your work can be described as poor at best. Not to mention a good servant, I wouldn’t judge you even as bad servants, you’re complete trash.
Your master has brought me here for her own reasons. What makes you worthy to judge her motives? What makes you worthy to work against her intentions? What makes you worthy to judge her guests? Did you even consider that my presence here might be, for example, important for her future career? And that with your actions you might destroy that future? What if I was the daughter of someone influential, and your master was protecting me incognito in her house? What would I report to my family in such a case after your actions?” Dee started firing off accusations.
Qinlana scoffed with disdain. “I don’t think…”
Once again Dee didn’t let her finish. “No you didn’t and that is the problem. None of you think. You make judgements when it is not your place to make them. And that is what I mean about you showing lack of respect, because you don’t trust the judgement of your master. Even assuming I was a beggar that your master picked up from a street, what kind of servants are you to openly show such contempt?
Even if I was someone who murdered your family in front of your eyes, a professional servant would not let that show on her face. You would do your job to perfection, not giving me any reason to judge your master due to any mistakes you make. Your mistakes reflect on your master and any guests would assume she can’t train or hire proper servants. Even if I was her or your enemy, a proper servant wouldn’t give me the chance to look down on your master because of your lack of skill. Instead a proper servant with respect towards her master would trust her master to handle any grievances and to seek justice in their place. That in turn is the duty of a proper master.” Dee made an audible scoff at the servants that had been suppressed for now.
Now was time to strike at their racial pride. “Instead you act like a pack of human peasants that haven’t been taught the first thing about being servants. Thus I repeat: so this is the level of servants trained by the House Arazana. I guess it was too much to expect better.”
Finally one of the servants that were openly angry snapped. “What gives a mixed mongrel demi-human the right to judge her superiors?” And there the racism was in the open.
“Shows what you know. What gave you the impression that I have even a drop of beastman blood in me? If I were you, I wouldn’t talk about racial superiority to me. More to the point, if you lot don’t start doing your job properly, maybe it’s time I start doing mine.” With the final words Dee stormed off leaving her food untouched. She didn’t worry about going hungry, after all Croestia still had a mountain of food stored.
As she had assumed, there was a huge commotion after she left. Also as she had assumed, Qinlana finally posed some questions to Sarfina who had observed the events in silence so far. Sarfina had noted that the servants were treating Dee badly before, but she wanted to see how the girl handled it. Call it a test of character. She’d had intervened eventually, if necessary.
“What did she mean by her job? And her race?” Qinlana was the one to ask, but her words suddenly brought a silence to the room.
“Well, I’ll start with the race. She was right you know, you have no grounds to feel superior. She is a demon and has at least kitsune, Beowulf and Rakshasa Rani blood in her. As for her job, for the last five years, she has been forcefully held by the Zabaniya and trained as an assassin. I wouldn’t take her skills or words lightly.” Sarfina replied with a smile. She had not even considered that Dee might handle it this way, but she knew what strings to pull now.
“An assassin? And what do you mean five years? She couldn’t be even ten years old.” One of the other servants asked in shock.
“She was kidnapped when she was four. For the last five years she’s been living in a hell that none of us can imagine, and you know the types of places I’ve seen before. She’s seen more death and abuse than all of you combined.” Sarfina’s words made the servants feel pity, which mixed with their anger.
However, Sarfina wasn’t finished. “She is right on another subject. The behavior you have shown towards her is deplorable. In addition, from the start you have been servants of my house instead of being my servants and your actions show, at best, disdain towards me. I have also had enough, and will not tolerate it any longer. All of you have a choice to make tonight. You can either leave or you can fix your act.
I don’t care that you were trained by my house, and in fact I will count it against you from now on. I will not be keeping disloyal servants no matter what my family says. I’d rather hire and train my own servants. You have until tomorrow to decide. Are you my servants or servants of my parents?” Sarfina said, while standing up from the table and leaving the room. She had wanted to make changes to the current situation for a while now, and Dee had just provided the perfect excuse.
The next morning saw most of the servants stay. Some had decided to return to House Arazana, but most realized that returning after getting thrown out by the young daughter of the house would not earn them any good will. Many of them also realized that Dee had a point. They were angry at her words and accusations, but she did have a point. They had not shown professional behavior. Even if they retained their attitudes of racial superiority, that should not show through in their work.
The servants had also spent years with Sarfina. While there was the issue of divided loyalties, there was little chance for genuinely warm relations to form. That said, Sarfina was a good and fair master, and didn’t bring much in the way of trouble to her servants. Despite their original loyalties lying with House Arazana, they had over time also grown fond of their life here.
As a result, the remaining servants had a much more professional attitude towards Dee the next morning. Their eyes still showed that they were not fond of the girl, and had some grudges from the previous night, but their actions and faces no longer showed their emotions. Dee received the kind of service that was appropriate for professional servants, and during their now daily swimming practice her wardrobe was renewed to what it should’ve originally been. The switch was done in silence, and neither party said a word about it afterwards.
Sarfina took to Dee’s swimming training with gusto. She seemed to be dead-set on drilling the necessary skill into Dee in the shortest amount of time possible. Dee on the other hand displayed her learning abilities, and within two weeks her form at least could be described as perfect. She still didn’t have the speed and stamina Sarfina had, but that was the natural result of being smaller and weaker and would improve with time and age.
Finally Sarfina was also satisfied that Dee had fully recovered and was in good condition. She cut their training that day a bit short and called Dee over. “Eat well tonight and go to bed early. Tomorrow we’ll start testing you.”
“Testing me how exactly?” Dee asked slightly suspicious. She knew they had to determine her current level somehow before starting her real training, but she wanted to know details.
“Stamina, strength, footwork, balance, dexterity, agility, hand-eye coordination and of course fighting abilities. Well test your skill with several weapons as well as unarmed and we’ll also chart any other skills and abilities you might have.” Sarfina had a slightly evil grin. “Be prepared because I’ll be calling in some help for these tests, and we’ll run you ragged tomorrow.”