"Ugh... what happened?" Alisa Reinford said, rubbing her head to assuage the lingering disorientation from suddenly plunging into the darkness, tousling her long blonde hair as she did so.
"I believe we must have triggered some sort of trapdoor," Emma Millstein replied, her bespectacled eyes flicking back and forth as she rapidly took stock of the situation. Besides her studious nature as Class VII's premiere honors student, there was a reason why she had been elected Class President. "Are you hurt, Alisa?"
"No, I'm fine... But jeez... it's so dark and musty down here."
"To think that the tunnels beneath Heimdallr would go so deep..." Emma murmured. "We have to find a way back to the rest of Team B," she said more decisively after a moment.
"And just how are we going to do that?" Alisa asked with annoyance. "As I said, we can barely see anything! How will we know where we're going?"
Emma stood up, feeling the walls. After a moment, she touched what had to be a torch and whispered "Flamma." At once, a row of long-forgotten torches illuminated the underground corridor.
Alisa's eyes widened. "How did you do that?" she asked with amazement.
"Um... I think I just found some mechanism that lit the torches," Emma said with a practiced shrug. "Shall we be going?"
"I don't see what choice we have."
They didn't have to go far before they encountered monsters infesting the tunnels.
"Tch! More enemies here?" Alisa grimaced. "This makes me really wish we had Rean with us." She noticed Emma looking at her quizzically. "Ugh, get your mind out of the gutter! It's just that we could use his sword right now. I have a bow, and you have an orbal staff, but that means we're in trouble if a foe gets too close."
"You're fond of Rean, aren't you?" Emma asked gently.
"Hey, don't get the wrong idea! I may have gotten over that "incident" in the Old Schoolhouse, and we're friends, but we're not like that." She turned on her classmate, her voice carrying a hint of jealousy. "And you aren't? Don't think I haven't noticed you two studying together."
Emma simply blushed slightly. Her role was to act as Rean's guide toward his destiny as an Awakener. But she couldn't tell Alisa that, not yet. Nor could she honestly deny that she hadn't grown fond of Rean over the last few months as she affected the role of an ordinary honors student at Thors Military Academy and an experimental orbal staff tester on the behalf of the Reinford Group. She at all times had to remember her duty as a witch, but Rean, like all of her companions in Class VII, had become a precious friend to her... And with her mission, it was natural that she would grow closer to him than anyone else...
"Emma? Are you okay?" Alisa asked, noticing the unfocused look in her friend's eyes. "I'm sorry if I pried too much."
"It's alright. Let's just focus on finding our way out of here."
The labyrinth of tunnels seemed to go on interminably. But eventually, they faintly heard voices in the distance.
"Is that Team B?" Alisa said, sounding heartened. "We'e saved!"
Emma raised a pair of fingers to her mouth. "I don't think so. Approach carefully. If someone else is so far down here, chances are they aren't up to anything good."
Moving forward stealthily, they soon saw that the tunnel opened up into a wider chamber, and they hid behind a pair of large crates so that they could spy on the conversation. It seemed to be between two men, though a number of henchmen surrounded the conspirators.
'I know that man," whispered Emma, peering through a gap at a bespectacled man with a cruel but almost professorial look to him. "He was trying to start a war last month in the Nord Highlands." She shuddered slightly, recalling the enormous arachnid he had set upon her team, summoned by his demonic flute. "He's codenamed G. He's with the Imperial Liberation Front." She paused, sniffing the air. "That scent - it can't..."
"Who are those other people with him?" Alisa asked, interrupting her.
'Greetings, Comrade C," G said as one of them stepped into view, a man with a long black cloak and a helmet with a red visor that concealed his face.
"I trust everything proceeds as planned, Comrade G," C said, his deep voice echoing through the tunnels and filled with menace. "Do not think I have forgotten last month's setback."
"Those brats from Class VII will not be able to stop us this time. We will give the royal family something to remember for their support of the Chancellor."
"I would not be so sure of that if I were you," a female voice said from behind C, mature yet playful, and with a melodious quality to it. "I had the privilege to meet with some of them in the opera house not long ago. They're quite a capable bunch. Are you sure you can handle them, C?"
Emma covered her mouth, suppressing a gasp. She knew that voice!
"I did not ask you to show yourself here, Vita," C replied, though perhaps his tone was softer than it should have been.
"I guess I'll leave you to handle the two ladies of Class VII who are spying on you right now then," she said.
There was a sudden burst of energy, and the crates Emma and Alisa were hiding behind splintered to pieces, leaving them in full view of the terrorists of the Imperial Liberation Front. Emma and Alisa would have turned to run, while there was still distance between them and the terrorists, but they found themselves rooted to the spot.
"I've heard quite a bit about your Class VII," C said. "Bring them here," he commanded pitilessly.
A few of the henchmen broke off from their ranks and dragged Emma and Alisa before C and the other leaders of the Imperial Liberation Front.
"Vita Clotilde! The opera singer! She's with-" Alisa gasped, seeing the woman standing by C, who was wearing a long azure dress, before being silenced by a rude shove from one of the henchmen. With a cascade of brown hair and long legs revealed by a cut in her dress, and draped in the scent of lilac, Vita definitely fit the part of Heimdallr's most famous diva, which made the singer's participation in this plot all the more confusing to Alisa.
"It's been a while, Emma," Vita said with a gentle smile and a pleasant tone that belied the danger they were in.
"Seven years..." Emma nodded. While she could speak and move her head a bit, the rest of her voluntary muscles still refused to work. It had to be Vita's spell. Try as she might to throw it off, Vita was far more powerful than herself.
"I can see you've grown into a capable young woman," Vita said amiably.
"You know her?" Alisa murmured, before receiving another shove for her trouble.
"The heiress of the Reinford Group," C said, regarding Alisa. "And a witch," he continued, turning to Emma.
Confusion entered Alisa's eyes. Emma, a witch? What was he talking about?
"Comrade C, allow me to deal with them," G said with a wicked grin. "I'll just play my flute, and then monsters will tear them limb from limb."
C raised a hand. "As much as you have a grudge for them foiling your plans in Nord, that would be a waste." The leader of the Imperial Liberation front stepped forward and took a few steps around them, his helmeted head slowly moving up and down, as if he was appraising them. "Such beauty... I believe I have another solution in mind." He turned, nodding to Vita. "One that our friends in the Noble Alliance can help us with... A way to make them disappear in plain sight."
"That can be done," Vita replied. She brandished her staff and approached Emma and Alisa.
"Vita, why?" Emma asked.
"It's nothing personal, Emma," Vita said with a sad smile. "We just ended up on different sides this time. Now just relax, and it'll be over before you and Miss Reinford know it. You'll barely feel a thing." Vita closed her violet eyes, and when she reopened them, they were an eldritch gold. "It's time to sleep my children... Fall into a loving oblivion, cradled in your merciful mother's arms..."
"Mother..." Alisa said entranced, a dazed look in her eyes...
Emma herself was unaffected by Vita's hypnotizing words. The spell required direct eye contact to work, and Emma was still wearing her glasses. Moreover, she had been on guard against it thanks to her training as a witch. "Alisa, don't listen to her!" She too received a shove from a henchmen for speaking up.
Alisa showed no signs of hearing Emma's warning. "Shh...." Vita smiled gently. "I'll take care of you in a minute, Emma." The sorceress turned her attention to Alisa, her voice layered with enchantment. "My beloved daughter... would you strike a pose? A pose sure to get everyone's attention..."
"Yes, mother..." Alisa said. Standing up, she raised an arm behind her head, letting the other trail off at the side, and placed one foot in front of the other, in such a way that her curves were more apparent, even through her Thors Military Academy uniform. "Is this okay, mother?" Alisa asked.
"Very good, my daughter," Vita said. "Now just hold that pose, stand on your tiptoes, and part your lips."
Alisa did as she was ordered without question.
Vita began a lengthy incantation. Emma knew most of words used for spells, but there were a few in Vita's chant that she didn't recognize. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good - she had caught the word "transfigura", a word used for transformation. But what was Vita turning Alisa into?
There was a slight creaking sound, and Alisa slowly began to take on an artificial sheen, becoming very still, like a statue, with not even the faint rise and fall of her chest from breathing. Unblinking, the light faded from Alisa's eyes, until they were left with a vacant stare. Wobbling in the drafts of the tunnels, Alisa lost her balance and began to pitch over, but C caught her and set her down with surprising delicacy. Alisa showed no reaction to any of this, and remained unmoving as she lay silently on the floor of the tunnel.
"Alisa!" Emma cried.
"Dear Emma," Vita said, bending down to her, "she can't hear you. That's not Alisa Reinford anymore. It's a mannequin in her shape. Alisa is in a deep, dreamless sleep, never to awaken."
"Don't cry, Emma," Vita said, removing the younger witch's glasses. Emma blinked. She could in fact see perfectly well without her glasses; they were simply part of her cover as a honors student, though a part she had grown quite accustomed to, and a way to prevent her from accidentally hypnotizing anybody. But now she was exposed to Vita's mesmerizing golden eyes.
"It's alright," Vita continued, hugging Emma and raising her chin to maintain eye contact as Emma tried to look away. "Your friend is free of worries now, and of the conflict brewing in this land. Rather than suffering, she'll sit things out, forever young and beautiful. I don't want you to suffer either, Emma. Aren't I your big sister? Would I ever wish to harm you?"
Emma had long looked up to Vita like an older sister figure... that she knew to be true, even without Vita's hypnotic eyes. She of course knew that Vita was trying to manipulate her, and with her guard up, she didn't succumb to the suggestions immediately like Alisa did. But Vita's voice was so soothing, her eyes so deep, and in the end, Vita was far more experienced as a witch than Emma was.
"You're... right..." Emma agreed slowly, the words coming out even as a small part of her fought against them.
"I'm glad to hear that, my little sister," Vita said, smiling warmly. "I would have liked to see you continue to grow more powerful as a witch, but considering the circumstances, it's better this way. You really should be more confident in your figure, Emma. You're going to be a lovely mannequin alongside your friend."
"Thank you, sister," Emma replied. Her voice was happy, but her words sounded as if they were from a distance.
"Why don't you pose as well? Make sure its something you're comfortable with. You're going to have it for a long time."
Emma draped her braided hair over her left shoulder and stepped forward slightly, bending her left knee while her right remained straight, arching back slightly to better emphasize her curves and chest. Perhaps it wasn't quite as showy as Alisa's pose, but still very alluring, especially after she offered as small smile.
"Tiptoes please," Vita said sweetly. "I'm sure you'll want them to be able to put heels on your feet from time to time. Yes, that's good. Don't worry about holding that pose for long... soon it will be effortless for you."
Vita recited the incantation, and Emma felt her skin tightening and hardening... but it was not an unpleasant feeling. Indeed, she felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her. She was almost giddy, even as her expression remained frozen in place. Why had she been so worried? It was all so easy when she stopped fighting her sister, who only wanted what was best for her. She had once been somewhat self-conscious about her figure, especially her breasts, which sometimes drew unwanted attention, but now she knew there was nothing to be ashamed of. As Vita had said, soon she would be a lovely mannequin... And though it was a little selfish on her part, she hoped Rean would come by and admire her new form.
That was Emma's last conscious thought. A moment later, her awareness flickered out, plunging her into the loving oblivion that Vita had promised.
Like Alisa, the Emma mannequin couldn't maintain its own balance without continuous self-adjustments, and started tilting forward. But Vita was there to catch it as it fell. Caressing the mannequin's cheeks, she said, "It is done, my little sister."
The Emma mannequin did not respond. It was only plastic.
"Impressive," C remarked as Vita laid the Emma mannequin down, and placed the witch's glasses back on its face.
"I still say we should have just killed them the old-fashioned way," G scowled. "Do you think people aren't going to notice when they appear in window display?"
Vita raised a hand. "I did not lie when I said they were sleeping. Powerful of an enchantment as it may be, it's not the same as death... not quite... a small mercy. But even one as powerful as myself would be unable to break the spell. Even our elder would likely find it beyond her. So for all intents and purposes, the transformation is irreversible. They will never interfere with your plans again."
"This way, we will also be able to use them to send a message," C said, sounding quite pleased with himself. "I look forward to seeing them on display."
Some time later, a pair of crates were hauled up from the tunnels under Heimdallr, though it couldn't quite be said that they were out in the light of the Imperial Vermillion City, so nicknamed for the seemingly endless red-brick structures that comprised it. Instead, they emerged among its shadows, and moved through darkened alleyways. In a city of 800,000, the largest in the Erebonian Empire and indeed the whole continent of Zemuria, it was easy to remain hidden, even as the Chancellor's agents, the Ironblood, remained vigilant in their patrols.
It was Chancellor Osborne's heavy-handed tactics, ruthlessly crushing any dissent as he consolidated his power, that had united the members of the Imperial Liberation Front against him. They found common cause with the houses of the Noble Alliance, who were concerned the Chancellor's reformist policies would take away the privileges and status they had enjoyed for centuries, which already seemed under threat since the start of the Orbal Revolution, fifty years before, making all manners of technology possible that served to erode the nobility's economic and military dominance over the Erebonian Empire. Class VII itself was also a shared thorn in their sides. The Imperial Liberation Front hated Class VII for being all too successful in disrupting their plans to date, while the Noble Alliance detested everything Class VII stood for, for it was the first class in the 250 years since the founding of Thors Military Academy to freely draw members from talented commoners and nobility, without regard to social status.
The henchmen sweltered in the afternoon heat of midsummer as their neared their destination. The rest of the city was busy preparing for the revels of the Midsummer Festival, and even if the Ironblood were to pass by, few would think it unusual to see laborers bustling back and forth. Still, that was an encounter they would rather not chance, and they were looking forward to dropping off their loads, as while they were not particularly heavy, they had carried them for quite some distance already. Their leaders had already directed them to a contact who was friendly to the Noble Alliance, and by extension the Imperial Liberation Front, and had called ahead so that they would be expected by the store's proprietor. It wasn't much further now...
They arrived in the Garnier District, home to the famed Heimdallr Opera House, and a number of high-end boutiques that nobles liked to frequent. Consequently, the district saw substantial, though still tacit support for the Noble Alliance. Navigating the last alleyways, they came to the backside of the particular establishment to which they were to make their delivery, and knocked on a small door used by employees.
"Come in," a female voice said, sliding back a deadbolt. "You can just leave them in the backroom. I'm eager to see these mannequins for myself."
The henchmen did as they were bade, and then left, their task complete, leaving the proprietor with the crates. She was a middle-aged woman, but she remained devoted to fashion and the arts, and enjoyed the patronage of both Heimdallr's elite and visiting provincial nobles. The famed Vita Clotilde would often stop by her shop, and would even at times buy something, which was a great boon for her business, a de facto celebrity endorsement if there ever was one.
Opening the crates, she saw that as promised, there was a mannequin inside each. They were remarkably detailed, to the extent that for a moment she thought she was looking at real girls, but their sheen and stillness hinted at their artificial nature. Then again, she recalled the message that she had been sent - that these had been some troublemakers who needed to disappear in plain sight. Lifting the blonde mannequin up out of its crate, she gave it an experimental tap on face. The mannequin made no reaction, but there was a satisfying hollow sound.
According to what she had been told, this had once been Alisa Reinford, member of Class VII and the heiress to the Reinford Group, the Empire's largest manufacturing company, whose executive was wealthier than most nobles.
She then lifted out the red-haired mannequin and performed a similar test. Another former member of Class VII, Emma Millstein had been its Class President, and according to Vita, a witch.
Realistic-looking mannequins like these were still a novelty in the Erebonian fashion world. The orbal technology necessary to make and mold plastic materials was a relatively recent invention. Most of her competitors were still using traditional wooden forms to display their clothes, even rivals as prominent as Le Sage. Having such lifelike and eye-catching mannequins would undoubtedly give her an advantage, pushing her boutique to the forefront of high society fashion in Heimdallr. It wasn't as if anyone would be able to prove that these mannequins hadn't been manufactured at all, and had once been living flesh and blood. The fact that they lacked the joints used to take mannequins apart and to put them back together so that their clothes could be changed might raise some eyebrows... but that would be rectified shortly.
She was almost done making her preparations when she heard the deadbolt sliding open by itself, and Vita appeared in the backroom.
"Are your new acquisitions everything you had hoped?" Vita asked.
"More than that! I'll have these two in the window modeling swimsuits tomorrow. After the Summer Festival, everyone is going to want to cool off, and how better to do so than at the beach? With these two on display, my big sale will be a huge success!"
"May I watch?" Vita asked. "Part of me won't be satisfied that the job is done properly unless I see it myself."
"Of course. We are grateful for your regular patronage, and the gift."
The proprietor set the blonde mannequin on the workbench first. Taking an orbal-powered saw, she first gathered up the long blonde hair so that it wouldn't be cut, and then pressed the whirring blade of the saw cleanly through the mannequin's neck. There was no gore or cry of pain, for mannequins had no blood to shed and were numb to such feelings. Placing the blonde mannequin's head on a nearby table, she continued with her work until it was simply a pile of plastic pieces.
Even if the spell upon her could be broken, the girl would die almost instantly if restored to flesh and blood now, unless she could be made whole again first. With another level of complication, Alisa's chances of being successfully restored were rapidly nearing zero. At least, Vita told herself, the girl hadn't felt a thing.
Was she really prepared to condemn Emma to such a fate, she thought, as the blade approached her younger sister's neck?
Emma's plastic head rolled clean from her body, her smiling expression still frozen upon it.
Of course Vita had been prepared for this since the moment she had turned both of them into mannequins, though she couldn't help but feel a bit guilty about it.
Vita picked up Emma's head sadly, cradling it against her chest and running her fingers through its hair.
"Forgive me, Emma," she whispered, though she knew her surrogate sister couldn't hear her. "Rest well."
From there, the proprietor worked quickly, fitting sections to bridge the gaps (a quick inspection of which proved beyond all doubt the the mannequins were hollow, consisting of a thin shell of their plastic skin over nothing but air) and adding small rods to connect them together. She also drilled a small hole into the back of the left leg of each mannequin, so that she could insert the support rod that would keep them stably connected to a stand. Before Vita knew it, both Alisa and Emma had been fully rebuilt as proper store mannequins.
Vita relaxed a bit when she saw the finished mannequins. Emma looked at ease, still with no hints of a grudge in her unchanging expression. And she looked so beautiful... given a few more years, Emma could have easily rivaled Vita's own beauty, though now Emma had a sort of immortality, while Vita knew her own looks would eventually fade with time. And Alisa certainly wasn't complaining now either.
Vita departed, asking the proprietor to make sure the mannequins were well-cared for and received good displays, which the proprietor promised without hesitation. The two mannequins were then covered by large cloths to keep them from getting dusty as their new owner locked up the store for the night.
The proprietor returned the next morning, directing her employees to dress the new mannequins for the summer swimsuit sale, and warning in no uncertain terms that there would be severe consequences if they got any unprofessional ideas about handling the lifelike mannequins.
The redheaded Emma mannequin received a dark red swimsuit with plenty of cleavage to highlight its generous bust and a cutout to reveal its abdomen with crisscrossing straps holding the suit's top and bottom parts together. The blonde Alisa mannequin was given an expensive light blue bikini with faint pink tones, with a top shaped like seashells, a strap of pearls, and a frilled bottom.
"Only the finest for the daughter of the Reinfords," the proprietor whispered to the Alisa mannequin as it was set in the window.
"You thought you were so smart, getting into Class VII," she murmured to the Emma mannequin. "Now you're only an airhead. But Vita's fond of you, so I'll take good care of you here." On a whim, she slid the former witch's glasses back onto the mannequin. It just looked right with them.
As the store opened for business and unveiled the new window display, a small crowd gathered, admiring the new swimsuits on sale. And though few admitted it to themselves, they were admiring the new mannequins just as much. Of course, neither mannequin was perturbed in the least by the countless eyes falling upon them, just standing there, perfectly still, flaunting the boutique's wares and their gorgeous plastic figures.
Meanwhile, Rean Schwarzer, the de facto leader of Team A, was desperately looking for Emma and Alisa, who Team B had reported missing following an accident while exploring the tunnels under Heimdallr. His team had split up to search the city, and he had happened to wander into the Garnier District. It seemed one of the least likely locations to find them - they had vanished on the other side of the city. But it wasn't inconceivable that they might have found their way over here. Even if he was searching for a needle in a haystack, sometimes things were found where you least expected...
There they were, standing inside a shop, visible through its front window.
They showed no sign of having heard him, continuing to stand perfectly still behind the glass. Pressing through a small crowd to get a closer look, he saw that they were dressed in rather revealing swimsuits.
They looked so beautiful, that for a moment, Rean forgot why he was there, and found his eyes running up and down their figures, and felt a trickle of blood from his nose. He wasn't sure why Emma and Alisa were dressed as they were, especially when they weren't at a beach, and normally Emma would have been blushing profusely, while Alisa would surely have accused him of being a pervert. But they just stood there for him, posing away like statues with alluring expressions....
As he continued to stare, he slowly realized that in spite of being exquisitely detailed likenesses of the girls he was looking for, they weren't girls at all, and really were statues of some sort. The right word worked his way into his consciousness. Mannequins. He had never seen such realistic mannequins before, but the proof was there, in the artificial sheen of their skin, to the thin lines cut across their bodies, to the metal rods holding them in place, to their blank stares.
Arousal turned to confusion and a sense of dread. What was this boutique doing with mannequins of Emma and Alisa? Just last month, he had encountered monsters that tried to petrify his fellow classmates in the Nord Highlands... But was there such a creature that could turn his friends into mannequins?
The scent of lilac filled his nostrils, and before he could process what that meant, he found Vita Clotilde, the Azure Diva, by his side.
"Like what you see?" she asked in a teasing tone.
"How-" he began, startled by the Diva's sudden appearance.
"Your reactions are so cute," she said with an airy chuckle. "Don't worry about your friends. They're in a safe place."
"You know something?" Rean asked, trying to latch onto something that would let him regain control, even as Vita hung over him, her very presence intoxicating.
"I might. I have a lot of friends throughout the city. A diva doesn't just sing... she also listens."
Vita raised a finger, silencing him. Her eyes now seemed a brilliant, mesmerizing gold. "Now my child, listen to my words." Her voice seemed even more melodious than before, layered and echoing through his consciousness. "Hurry back and rejoin your other friends. You'll have more than enough to keep you busy soon. Put these two from your mind, but remember what happens when you meddle in matters you do not understand."
"Yes... mother," Rean murmured softly, before turning to leave. He was disappointed that he hadn't been able to find Emma and Alisa, but it was time to regroup with the others. What had they gotten themselves into? Was it really worth it?
Vita watched him go, and then turned her attention back to the window display. She wasn't concerned about any of the bystanders repeating any part of her conversation with Rean. A spell she had cast when she had approached would ensure none of them would even remember that she had been at the storefront at this time.
"Bewitching your charge even as plastic, dear Emma?" Vita whispered with a small, knowing smirk as she approvingly appraised the mannequin of the young witch who had been like her sister. "Though I can't really complain too much after bewitching him myself. If only you could know what he thought of your beauty."
"As for you," she said turning to the plastic former Reinford heiress, "that look suits you, and I'm glad to see you've mellowed out now. You'll keep my dear Emma good company, won't you, Alisa?"
"Splendid. Well, I hate to leave so soon, but there are urgent matters that I must attend too. But I'll see you two later."
Business was brisk at the boutique that day, thanks to all of the traffic the two plastic beauties in the window brought in. And later, when the Imperial Liberation Front made its move, the resulting chaos ensured that no one would have time to look for the two missing members of Class VII.
But soon, life in the capital began to settle down once again, and the nobility, as always, had expensive tastes in fashion. The mannequins' outfits changed with the seasons, showing off the latest styles. Sometimes, they would be dressed in elegant ballgowns, which were always cut to tastefully show off their best features, decked out with jewelry, and slipped into high heels before parties at the Valflame Palace or other high-society functions. At other times, they modeled lingerie. The first time they did so, it was sexy black lingerie for the Emma mannequin with a garter belt and stockings sheathing it sleek legs, while the Alisa mannequin received innocent-looking lacy white lingerie belied by its pose. Both were adorned with fluffy faux angel wings in colors matching their lingerie. They even modeled everyday styles from time to time, though these always had the flair expected by nobility.
Months passed into years, and the two mannequins remained fixtures of the Heimdallr fashion scene. Other boutiques had been forced to adapt, installing their own lifelike displays to better compete for customers, but none could match the quality of the two mannequins that had driven the trend.
There were whispers of course about the two lifelike mannequins perennially in the boutique's window. There were even rumors that they had once been real girls, who had been caught and punished for attempting to spy on the allies of the Noble Alliance. Such wild claims were never substantiated, and indeed the tale seemed fanciful to many, but it did give others pause, and thus they served their secondary purpose as an example to others well.
As for Vita, she was true to her word and visited the boutique regularly, always looking forward to seeing what the mannequins would be dressed in. She had plenty of time to admire them now; Class VII wouldn't be bothering them now, its members fallen, captured, or dispersed during the civil war that the Noble Alliance had inaugurated with the help of the Imperial Liberation Front. That confirmed to Vita that he had been right in her decision. Her dear Emma had been preserved through it all, along with her friend, and both were just as beautiful as they had been years ago, ignorant and untouched by the ravages of war. It truly had been the merciful alternative for them.
Maybe she would buy back the Emma mannequin one day, so that she could personally look over her sister. As a former diva, she had plenty of mira to spend. The proprietor certainly couldn't stop her if she chose to take Emma back one day. Vita could be very... persuasive when she wanted to be. But for now, she would just admire them... and maybe go in to buy the outfit Emma was modeling now. It would certainly flatter her figure, just as it did Emma's.