Chapter 23

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Imani carefully touched Gaiana's back. Her shoulder blade was mostly exposed. Imani swirled the lit crystal pointed toward across her spine. It tickled her slightly, but Gaiana did her best not to show any pleasure.

"Turn around, Astrin."

"I wasn't looking." Astrin was facing towards the dark forest treeline. It was night out. The crescent moon provided just enough light for all of them, the campfire gave the remaining light needed for Imani to study Gaiana's tattoo.

Since Gaiana had to remove most of her dress, she ordered Astrin to face the darkness of the forest unless he wanted to get burned by her godly powers. She didn't know how to use her powers, but Astrin nonetheless understood the threat.

Imani asked, "you've had this tattoo since you were born?"

"You've asked me this four times. Yes. When I was abandoned on the hillside and my family found me, I had this tattoo on my back."

"And are you sure you were born with it?"

Gaiana growled, "I'm not even going to answer you anymore."

Imani nibbled her thumb. She said, "it's just... This is so strange."

"You're telling me," Gaiana pouted, "yesterday I found out I live in a world of monsters, and now you're saying this is strange? I think we have very different ideas of what strangeness is."

"Ugh," Imani stood up and pressed on her forehead. "Who designed this seal? I want to both slap him across the face and shake hands with him."

Gaiana looked up towards her, "why?" She glanced over at Astrin, who was looking in her direction. She grabbed a burning stick from the fireplace and threw it towards him. "I said don't look here!"

Astrin quickly turned around, and also stomped to extinguish the stick to make sure a forest fire didn't begin.

Imani began undoing the bun in her head. She tugged off the red colored tulip from the hair and rested it in the collar of her dress. She shook her head to let her curly hair drop wildly around her shoulders. After stretching her arms, she wrapped a strand of hair to turn it into a ponytail. Imani let out a sigh of relief.

"Okay. Time to confess, I have no idea why you have that tattoo."

Gaiana squinted, "you're more useless than Mimoza."

Imani shook her head, "what I mean is, this tattoo was designed to suppress your aether permanently. But, it was also designed to control your after your powers awakened."

She raised an eyebrow, "isn't that something all slave seals do?"

"Not quite. Slave seals can only work if deviant powers have already awakened. There's a reason scholars can only control deviants but not mortals. Its because deviants have aether flowing through their bloodstream. If a deviant hasn't awakened, they can't be controlled. For Pandora to control you, your powers had to have already awakened."

"So hold on, that time I tried shooting Astrin with lightning, it should have worked?"

"Yes," Imani said.

"What?" Astrin perked.

Imani pointed to her back again. "Whoever designed this tattoo, they wanted to control you and never let you use your powers. It acts as a suppressor. Ensuring complete control of your body to whomever copies this cipher, while guaranteeing you'll never use the aether to fight back."

"They wanted a plain slave," Astrin said from afar. "For you to be in their complete control, without the ability to fight."

"So what?" Gaiana said. "So take it off. How's that any worse than the kind of slavery Atenists and Persians do to deviants?"

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