Mimbi had never been so glad it was raining.
Lady Numia had been wanting to leave for three days, but the skies had different plans. It poured for the better part of two days. On the third, a light drizzle enveloped the camp, making everyone cranky and bored.
It seemed that she had even forgotten to 'punish' Mimbi for her insolence of refusing the clothes.
The air was chilly and damp, so the other girls were ordered to stay inside their tents, lest they catch colds which could then go on to infect any of the Hova that drank from them.
Even though Lady Numia ordered everyone to keep away from them, Mimbi noticed that some of the girls had fresh wounds from where the Hova had used them as food. Some sneaky guards had probably fed off them anyway, hoping that Lady Numia would turn a blind eye to some indiscretions. And the girls were probably too afraid to say anything.
Lady Numia had been feeding off the same three women since she had arrived. They were older, perhaps almost thirty years old. One had been a doctor back in Karai. Mimbi didn't know the other two. Despite the constant drain of blood, they looked healthy enough.
However, it wasn't the girls' physical health that worried Mimbi; it was their minds. With every passing day they stayed here in captivity, they seemed to be less scared. While that could have been a good thing, it also meant that they were assilimilating their situation, and that it was becoming normal for them to be used as food. Some even smiled at some of the Hova. The younger ones even greeted them jovially, as if they were friends.
She had been counting on the girls' support once they were on the move. It would be impossible to mobilize all of them at the same time if they didn't know about her plan beforehand. But now… she was realizing that perhaps they would be too scared, or too numbed to take action when the time came.
It was also true that she didn't have a plan yet. She couldn't know what the circumstances of their move to Lady Numia's estate would be. But it would definitely be easier to escape once they were moving. The camp was too heavily guarded.
It would still take a few days for the ground to harden. The mud made it impossible for carriages or horses to move, so there'd still be time for her to think of a plan before they left. But Mimbi was running out of time. It wouldn't rain forever.
So far, she had been spared. Lady Numia hadn't taken a drink of her blood thanks to Lord Galax's possessiveness of her, but she was afraid that if Lady Numia found her alone, she'd take a drink off her wrist anyway. The treacherous Hova woman was getting suspicious of her relationship with Lord Galax.
That morning, she had bluntly asked him: "Why do you like this one so much? Is there anything special in her blood?"
Mimbi had been sitting in a corner, looking inconspicuous as always.
"No. I just don't like to share my food," said Lord Galax, not even looking at Lady Numia.
"But surely you'd let me try her, won't you?" said Lady Numia, fluttering her eyelids. She looked even more terrifying when she tried to look sweet.
"Take your pick from the other girls," said Lord Galax, waving a finger.
Lady Numia just laughed and left the tent, without looking at him or at Mimbi.
So Mimbi had made it her mission to stay away from Lady Numia's sight. She wandered off to a small pond where the Hova and the girls washed their clothes. It almost covered in lily pads, and it reminded her of the fountains in Karai.
She sat on a rock and removed her shoes, washing off the mud that had accumulated in the soles. It was still drizzling, but she liked the feeling of the cool, tiny drops landing on her face.
Suddenly, she heard squishes behind her. Someone had approached the pond, waddling in the mud.
Mimbi turned, to see Lady Numia standing before her. She was so scared that she almost fell into the pond.
She had imagined that the noblewoman would stay away from the muddier places. She had been very picky about the paths in the camp, asking the soldiers to cover them with spare tents so she wouldn't have to step on the dirt.
But now, she had followed Mimbi through the mud, finding her alone.
"Don't think I forgot what you did the other day," said Lady Numia, picking up her dress and getting closer to Mimbi.
Mimbi stared at her, frozen in place.
Behind her, two guards appeared. They followed Lady Numia to the edge of the pond, right where Mimbi was crouching. She was still holding her shoe, which was now less muddy but wetter than before.
She wanted to run, but she wouldn't be able to get very far away from the guards. And where would she go anyway? To Lord Galax's tent, begging for him to save her? As she fought back tears of rage, she slowly stood up.
"What do you need? My lady?" she said, hating herself through every word she spoke. She wanted to blast the woman into smithereens, to barbecue her head off.
"Hold her," said Lady Numia to the guards, as they moved towards Mimbi.
She took a step back.
"What are you doing?" she asked. Her voice came out shaking.
They obviously didn't answer. Grabbing her by the arms, they turned her around. Their grip was strong, and their skin was icy. Now that she couldn't wipe away her face, the drizzle wasn't very comforting.
Behind her, Lady Numia spoke.
"I am teaching you a lesson, human. It is time you learned your place in the world. All of you think too highly of yourselves, as if you had the strength and intelligence of the Hova. I am not an evil woman, but I will not tolerate any kind of dissent, rebellion or insolence from you," she said.
Then one of the guards turned around and lifted Mimbi's dress.
"What the hell?" she said softly.
Something hit Mimbi's rear, tearing her clothes and perforating her skin.
Mimbi cried out in pain and doubled down, but the guards held her upright.
Another one. Pain seared through her buttocks and thighs, but she refused to cry out this time. The pain was stronger than any burn or any cut she had ever received while fighting.
In the back of her mind, she knew that she could destroy the guards the second she managed to get her hands together. She felt that her hands were getting warm, but she fought to keep her power at bay. She needed to conceal it until it was time. If she killed them here, there'd be no way for her to rescue the girls.
This time the pain was stronger. The whip fell on the two previous wounds. She felt something warm dripping down her leg.
The guards shifted in their places, as if they were uncomfortable. They were probably smelling the blood from her wounds. Could they sense that it smelled different from the the other girls' blood? Or any other human's blood they had tasted before?
This time the blow fell lower, almost above her knees. She realized that the thing Lady Numia was using to punish her was some kind of metal rod.
It fell again and again, until Mimbi was about to pass out from the pain. She lost count of how many they were after the twentieth one.
All of a sudden the guards dropped her, and she fell on her knees. The pain of bending her legs was unbearable. She tried to stand up, but her strength failed her.
"Do you understand now?" said Lady Numia behind her.
Nothing Mimbi had ever done had been as hard as holding back now. She couldn't kill the Hova just yet. She had to wait.
So all she did was nod vehemently, hoping that answer would be enough for her tormentor.
"Good," said Lady Numia. "Take her to the medic."
The two guards lifted Mimbi up again, not bothering to be gentle. Waves of pain went through her legs and thighs, but she made an effort to stand. She was still barefoot on one foot.
"Don't speak a word to Colton. If he requires your blood and you can't walk up to him, tell him you're sick," she said.
She looked up at the metal rod, and smelled it. It was stained with Mimbi's blood.
"When we get back to my estate, you will be my breakfast, dinner and lunch. I look forward to getting home soon," she continued, and smiled.
Then she walked back towards the camp, stepping carefully on the mud.