“She was a beauty without equal. Hearts stopped upon beholding her and nobles fell to their knees.”
“They'll never control me!” I mumble to myself, walking down the streets. My encounter with Alias taught me something very important. And that's that I've underestimated the inhabitants of this world. It's clear that he has an ability which is able influence the people around him.
I already knew that ability users can be powerful, but I didn't expect something as complicated as influencing the minds of others. What if there is someone who can enslave people with a mere thought? Never again! I'll not be a puppet who dances to the whims of others.
I bump into a pedestrian. At first, he puffs out his chest, but he doesn't dare to complain when I glare at him.
Right after Alias left, I tried to come up with a plan to protect myself from mind magic. This time, the mask was barely enough to protect me. It means that I need a lot stronger protections. I need something which warns me that I am influenced. Sadly, I know only one way to do that. It requires me to rely on another person. Urgh! I could vomit at the thought of what I am going to do.
Last night, I created two inks, one with a high content of gold and the other one with silver. They should be compatible with the human skin. Thankfully, this world's people know about tattoos, so all I had to do was to ask around. I need someone with enough skill to tattoo a protection ward directly onto my skin. The ward is complicated and I combined it with a few more functions which should enhance my magical abilities. I need a skilled artist to do that. There is absolutely no room for mistakes.
Arriving at my destination, I stop and study the shop window. The big letters on the window proclaim the shop's name. “Zimil's Tattoos.”
There is a frightening display of dried human skin behind the glass. Everything is covered with artful tattoos. Okay, I have to admit that he is good. Though it disturbs me that he is displaying his skills like that. Did he wait for his customers to die? Or did he pay someone who was willing to be skinned alive? I suppose that a good healing spell can prevent death, even if a large portion of the skin is removed.
I enter the shop, but it's empty. Maybe there aren't a lot of people who want tattoos? The entire room reeks of alcohol, but the disinfecting sort. I would’ve turned around had it been otherwise. “Hello?”
There is a cough from behind the counter and an old man appears from beneath it. He is bald and his skin is covered in tattoos. There isn't a single spot of normal skin. I squint my eyes to see better. “Are you Zimil?”
The old man coughs again. “Yes, Yes. What do you want? I am busy!”
“I want a tattoo?” Isn't that obvious? “Why are you so old? Shouldn't you have enough money to buy rejuvenation treatments?” Is he lying to me? Everyone told me that Zimil is the greatest tattooist in this town. Even some nobles take him under contract. I assume that someone with such a good reputation has enough money to pay a healer.
Maybe I should’ve invested the time to search for someone else? It’s not like I don’t have the money to visit another town. But the tattoo just has to fulfil its function, so I didn’t bother to invest too much time.
His expression turns angry. “If I make myself too young, my hair grows back and then you won't be able to see the art on my head!” He bends forward and points at his bald pride. “The future spiral which I engraved on myself is my masterpiece!”
Considering his reasoning, I nod slowly. There is something like a mandala on his bald head. I can understand... no, wait. That's so stupid! Why doesn't he just shave? And how did he tattoo himself on the top of his head!?
I swallow and place the two bottles with ink on the counter. Then I add a sheet of paper where I outlined the complicated rune system which I want to have. “I've a special request. I need that on me and you have to use this ink.”
He looks at the paper and dismisses it. “Bah! My works are pieces of art! Not run of the mill runes like this! Who would want to look like an ork with tribal painting on him? I refuse to sully my reputation with this.”
I clench my teeth. “This isn't art, it's a perfectly functional spell. And I need it to be perfect! Every rune and connection has to be exactly like on this sheet of paper. I don't have the skills to tattoo myself and the thing is too large to fit on an arm or leg, which makes it even more complicated.”
Zimil raises an eyebrow and studies the sheet of paper. “No. Mages! No sense for beauty!”
I take the ink and the paper. “I guess that I'll have to find someone with a better reputation. I am sorry to have wasted your time.” Then I turn around to leave.
He runs around the counter and blocks my path. “Wait! What are you saying!? That you would rather have some third rate tattooist mutilate your body? Look at you! You are a diamond! Why would you scratch something like that into your skin? It doesn’t even look beautiful!”
I scowl at him. “What’s wrong? Did you change your mind?”
Zimil claws the air with his fingers as if he is fighting an invisible enemy. “I’ll do it! But I won’t make something so horrible! Let me change it! It could look like an animal! Or a pattern! It doesn’t have to be just runes!”
I draw in a deep breath. “I said that you can’t change the runes.”
“I understand. Other mages had similar requests. I don’t understand it, but I can use normal ink around your design, right? It’s just about the metal inside your ink. I’ll not touch the runes, but I’ll design an image around them. It’ll make it seem like a decoration, not something functional. It will mislead your enemies, should they ever get a look at it.”
Other mages had the same idea? That’s the first intelligent thing he said. “What do you suggest?”
He takes the piece of paper from me and studies it. His attention wanders back forth between the paper and me. After a few moments, he steps forward and takes my hand, studying the white fingernails and the tiny scales. “A stylised dragon! On your chest!”
I hit him! “Pervert!”
“Ow! Stop it! Mercy!”
It takes a while until he has me convinced that he isn’t a pervert. He explains that the tattoo would cover the centre of my chest and the left collarbone, including my left shoulder. That I would be the best spot for a tattoo with the intended dimensions. At some point I simply give up arguing, because I want to get it over with. We enter his workshop, which isn’t dirty like the rest of his shop. It’s surprisingly clean.
“Your ink won’t really look golden or silver, once it’s beneath the skin. I’ve to work with several shades of grey and yellow. I just hope that you considered the toxicity of such colours? Don’t look at me like that. I have to ask. Think of my reputation if you end up poisoned and drop dead on the street.” He draws a few suggestions onto a wooden puppet. Finally, he decides that the design is acceptable, then he gets to work.
His tools are a magical needle and healing salve. I study the needle before I allow him to use it. The thing is nothing more than a brute force device. It emits a short burst of air which pierces the skin and transports the pigments. He uses lots of healing salve to avoid the issue of having to wait for my skin to heal after applying a layer. I even get a towel which is drenched in alcohol. It’s partly to cover myself and to disinfect the skin. Zibil gets to work as soon as the healing salve numbed the pain.
Several hours later, Zibil steps back and studies his work. “They are perfect!”
He quickly clears his throat and hurries to get me a mirror. “It! It’s beautiful! You have to promise me to advertise my art!”
“I won’t strip in front of an audience!” I reprimand him.
He drags a large mirror in front of me. “Wear at least a shoulder free dress!”
I hold the towel in order to cover my chest and inspect the tattoo for mistakes. If I have to rip it off, I’ll do the same damage to him. Though, the art is decent and looks extremely good on me. I want to go as far as to say that I am even sexier than before.
Most of my reincarnations have been male, but now and then fate throws me a curveball and I end up as a woman. Nobody says that I like it, but I am not depraved enough to deny my gender when I have to play for the other side. Female body, female fashion.
I smile. “This looks dangerous.”
Zibil nods. “I don’t know why, but the bad-ass, sexy dark-mage style fits you perfectly! Do you want more?”
I look at him and scowl. “Let’s not overdo it! I don’t want to look like a map of the world. What do I owe you?”
The old man shakes his head. “Nobody understands my art. Just give me five gold and we are even.”
I reach into my pocket and give him the money. “You charge a lot for a single day of work.”