I pause in the tunnel, forcing my three companions to stop as well. I expel a cloud of mostly golden unstructured flow and cover my face with it before taking my mask off, handing it over to Leomi. I pass my hand over my traits, rubbing them to clear my mind. I flinch when my fingers touch the scab on my cheek.
“What happened?” Leomi asks, concerned.
“Don’t, really know.” I reply.
“You know some.” She insists. “They used pheromones, I can guess as much. Did they try to screw with your mind again?”
“I, doubt it.” I grunt. “They were trying to talk.”
“Does it have to do with what they did to you?” Leomi presses.
I tense, focusing on her. She is holding her small breasts high, a sign of how wound up she is. I clear the energy blocking my sight and look into her eyes, finding a restrained anger and that she is keeping a careful distance from me.
“I’m sorry about, your mother.” I mutter.
“This isn’t about that right now.” She shakes her head. “What did they do to you, Elizabeth?”
I fall silent, not in a state to challenge how certain she is they did something. I carefully take the mask back to set it over my face. I shift my grip on my weapon while barely registering how uncomfortable that slight movement made Edusa and Roisia.
“Which way out?” I ask.
“Down.” Leomi replies, placing a hand on my lower-back to guide me.
I take a sharp breath, shivering in pleasure from the pain as she presses on the barely healed wound underneath my skin. I don’t even consider telling her to stop. Since when did I… Who cares.
“Give us some privacy, will you?” Leomi asks.
“Of course.” Roisia agrees, pushing on Edusa to make her move faster.
“My Liege, Councilwoman.” Edusa hurriedly salutes, obviously reluctant to leave.
As the two make their way ahead, Leomi’s hand slowly edges down my back to rest over my backside. I almost regret the loss of the pain. We slowly make our way out, emerging out of the hill at the same point I entered.
Roisia and Edusa are already on their way to the human camp. She pushes me in a different direction, however, closer to the coast where there are less Rykz. I let her guide me, finding comfort in her touch while I try to sort out my emotions about what just happened.
Celyz didn’t say a word. She hinted that Cenwalh’s will to sign a peace mattered, perhaps because the Rykz might not be able to leave soon. My disappointment in the Princess is aggravated by the fact that she was so honest with me just a short moment before.
I hear waves crashing on rocks as we approach the coast. Leomi leads me from behind, directing me towards a tree that grew alone, surrounded by many hard rocks.
Leomi lets go of me, guiding me to sit down and rest my back against the trunk. She crouches in front of me. I do my best not to let my eyes fall on her assets, intensely attracted but too perturbed to fixate on us.
“They’re screwing with your head.” Leomi tells me.
“I, don’t think they can help influencing those around them, it’s how they communicate.” I dismiss halfheartedly, still feeling a pounding headache.
“If they couldn’t choose their words, their pheromones, they wouldn’t have a civilization.” Leomi stubbornly responds.
“Like you did to mess with her?” I spit out.
“Yes.” Leomi admits with some guilt, not enough. “But…” She bites her tongue. “Celyz didn’t…” She takes a deep breath. “In this matter, and this one alone, I don’t think that Princess tried to…” She suddenly sighs. “Celyz did not act against you there. I think she sabotaged her Hive’s chances at convincing you, or at the very least set them up to fail.”
“W, what?” I ask.
“Celyz likely cannot go against her Hive. She probably realized the toll this is all taking on you and wants to preserve you as an agent that she can later make use of.” Leomi explains, her jealousy obvious in her tone if not in her words.
“She’s not…” I pause, realizing that I could do to her what she did to Elizabeth with Jessica. A grin rises on my lips. “Celyz is sweet, what you’re seeing is yourself reflected in her.”
“Which is why you’re with me, you want a fight, not a cuddle.” Leomi counters so quickly that I can’t help but think she thought of it a lot. “At the end of the day, she is Rykz, she does not understand your throes. Not like I do.”
“She gives me the truth, unlike you.” I gripe, mad that my pike didn’t land.
“I’ve never lied to you.” Leomi frowns. “While you’re repeatedly deceived me.”
“You…” I pause, feeling like I’m wasting hard-won anger on an argument I don’t really want to have. “Forget it, I’m not in shape for this right now.”
“I noticed.” Leomi smiles gently. “You haven’t demanded that Jessica’s deal be respected yet, have you?”
“I… thought I did.” I groan.
“She certainly orchestrated this in such a way that you wouldn’t until you had the knowledge that the Rykz cannot safely return while keeping herself out of it. If you demand it be respected, they’ll be forced to respect their word or break it.” Leomi explains.
“You’re biased.” I sigh, letting myself slide down the trunk a bit more.
“I’m saying that she set them up to fail. Celyz is likely the only Rykz that had a shot at convincing you to keep the war going.” Leomi tells me, looking vexed. “Whatever her aim is, it obviously isn’t the same as her Hive’s, and I doubt she’s doing this only to stump my plans to take advantage of the war.”
“War, war, war.” I growl. “Always war when leaders could resolve this by stabbing each other.”
“The Emperor did try that, the Hordes were never satisfied and the Rykz refused to engage.” Leomi comments. “He may not be as good as stories paint him, but He is no fool. Which leads me to believe that the Bloody Claws were truly set to ambush the Rykz. It will either prolong the war here if they found out, which He likely thought would be the case anyway, or force the Rykz to make peace because they can’t sustain a war of attrition. Or, like we found out, make the attempt to win without risking too much.”
“Don’t you hate the Rykz?” I ask, embracing the chance to have a straight talk since she’s being so conciliatory and I’m so out of it that I can without losing control.
“It isn’t the whole species, only those I’ve met.” Leomi replies with dark humor. “I had time to settle my emotions in Meria and during all this time they kept me prisoner. But this Princess, she turned you by using your humanity and then twisted that to make you do their dirty work.”
“You did that.” I snap. “You and Nobility, by being what you are. What you did to Jessica, it was the final nail.”
“I‘m, sorry.” Leomi chokes, repressing tears. “It was only meant to convince her, save her.”
“It’s far from enough of an excuse for what you did.” I spit out. “And you call Celyz a manipulator.”
“I… may not be clear-sighted about this.” Lance admits with difficulty. “But she set the trap to capture us, the tunnel itself was bait. That Rykz is more sinister than she appears.”
I take a deep breath, trying to summon some anger at Leomi but finding myself too preoccupied with Celyz to focus entirely on her. I sigh, feeling physically drained from the operation I just went through, which likely didn’t help resist those Princesses’ influence.
Was that on purpose? Celyz only put an end to it when I grew aggressive. If she was this manipulative, she wouldn’t have stopped me before I struck Lance, she would have waited.
“You’re tired, you already were when I arrived.” Leomi suddenly speaks up, reaching out to me with her right hand and uses her thumb to press on the spot right over my heart, the exact same place I cut to touch her heart. “Did you betray me again?”
“No.” I shake my head.
“I warn you.” She utters, her lips pulling back to reveal grit teeth. “I do not know what I will do if you’re lying to me about this or Jessica, but it won’t be pretty and one of us will not make it out alive. You’re with me, if apparently not entirely mine yet.”
I take a lazy swipe at her with my double-bladed staff, which she easily blocks by seizing the handle just beneath the blade. She smiles and rises up to her feet, looking satisfied.
“I’m going to go, I have things to… prepare.” She tells me, shivering a little with her cheeks almost imperceptibly rising in temperature. “You need to think about what you want and make a decision because this situation now revolves around you. The Rykz’ safety isn’t your responsibility, they invaded. While the Princess’ abduction did go too far, do not forget that they have regularly attacked the Empire to seize land. Although, so have we.”
“Are you ordering me?” I ask, extending my hand out. She takes hold of it and helps me up.
“Do I need to?” She questions, raising an eyebrow.
“Do you have the right to?” I attack.
“We’re together, I can try.” She grins. “But no, you do not owe me obedience. That works for every being.”
“Yet, you thrive to be on top.” I say, definitely not criticizing. Leomi pinches her lips, her cheeks growing hotter.
“I want to impose my will on you, but I imagine I would be quite disappointed if I succeeded.” She admits in a single stride. “Winning only has worth when the competition occurs between equals.”
“Why are you so…” I trail off, failing to formulate the feeling in words.
“Nice today?” She asks.
“No, I was thinking about your penchant for causing emotional… and physical pain, but also that nice thing too.” I reply, caring little about how harsh my words sound.
“Sadism.” She tells me, briefly looking away. “And the reason I’m nice is that I’m afraid you’ll break if I’m not.”
“Like she did?” I scoff. “Arrogance, you didn’t, and you don’t have the ability to do it, for either of us.” I lie.
“Well, I could take that as your challenge.” She responds vehemently, snapping back to glare at me.
Leomi sets her palm on the center of my chest to shove me back against the trunk, a dangerous light in her eyes. I tremble with fear and desire. My lips half split as my body wishes for her to rob a kiss, all the while keeping my liangi ready to strike as a threat if she tries.
Her eyes catch the movement but she doesn’t do anything to guard her flank. She advances, pressing her perfect pair of small breasts against my upper chest. I can sense her erect nipples underneath her uniform.
My breathing grows heavier, each of my exhalations resounding inside my mask. Her right hand reaches up to it, starting to pull it away. I don’t panic, having forgotten to remove the unstructured flow hiding my traits anyway.
Her left hand slips under the intricate chain-mail shirt and then pulls the other one up to pass beneath it. Her palm slides along my right side’s flesh to reach my lower-back, awakening more pain which hangs me to her touch even more.
Her mouth approaches mine as she slides her slender fingers inside my tight pair of pants and under my pair of white panties to directly seize my ass. My lower lip trembles as Leomi opens her jaw. She seizes it between her teeth, causing me to yelp in pleasure.
“A real kiss.” I demand.
Leomi shakes her head, pulling on my lip as she does. I reach out behind her back with my right hand and squeeze her against me, the two of us moaning as our breasts press against the other’s body.
She suddenly bites down on my lip, making me straighten up in surprise, also loosening my grip on her. She takes advantage to slip away, putting a couple of meters between us.
My intimacy is moist, demanding more. How quickly my resolve to keep a distance between Elizabeth Vil and Lance melted, I’ll have to rip the bandage off because I simply can’t resist her attraction in the long-term.
“Now, this is better.” She satisfyingly declares in a rough voice, glancing up and down at my disheveled appearance.
“Ugh.” I groan, feeling a pang of agony in my heart. “I hate you.”
“You love it.” She replies with a knowing expression, which annoys me even more because she’s right. “And we can’t do more before I pay the earlier price.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” I reply in a tight voice, squeezing my thighs together to alleviate my lust. “But now’s not the right time for it.” I add mysteriously despite only now thinking about a fitting way to repay her. “Did it help your organization?” I ask.
“Yes and no.” She replies with a worried frown. “The trail of destruction you left behind went above even my expectations.” She pauses. “We’ll need to talk about that.” She adds, looking concerned about… me. “Still, like I said, I’m going. Try to find some fire back if you want a shot at me tonight.” She starts walking away.
“Wait!” I exclaim, wanting to keep her here if only to keep talking, finding her to be so much closer to who she was before we ran into the Rykz.
Leomi turns a deaf ear to my demand as she departs with a spring in her step, apparently aggravatingly satisfied with herself. I let myself fall back against the tree, blaming Celyz for the fact that I lost the initiative.
My Lady even had the gall to remind me of the price she owes, she is obviously not afraid enough. I stare at Leomi’s thighs, finding her gait lacking in comparison to the Princess’, not by much but enough.
“You should ask Celyz to give you walking lessons!” I yell, the implication obvious to me.
Leomi stumbles, showing that she got it too. She flips around, a furious look on her face. She starts assembling a small air-blade. I set my mask back over my face and arrange the unstructured flow into a lightning construct.
We launch both at the same time but I suspect that she delayed the activation because I was taking my time as well. My bolt crushes her construct. She starts assembling another construct but I raise my hand to stop her, having noticed that a scout patrol is heading in our direction.
Leomi slams her heel into the ground, peeved. I laugh, glad to have won the small exchange, but still considering this as a loss considering she got me pent up enough to demand more.
Still, an overall beneficial conversation, even if it only confirms she still doesn’t get that what she did to Jessica isn’t acceptable despite it saving her, my, life. Not to mention I’m starting to think she got off on refusing to give me a kiss back then, or more likely the memory of doing so.
I’m starting to recover but Celyz’ constructs are running out of energy so I inject a large portion of my flow into them while I think about the situation, my mind a lot clearer after this short tryst with Leomi.
The Rykz were requesting permission to stay, but weren’t preparing to leave. They’re in a sort of legal and moral gray area, they can’t plan to stay because of the deal but they don’t have to go before I demand they do.
I decide to wait for Celyz here, relying on the fact that she wouldn’t want to leave things as they are, she would want to explain. After quite a while, I spot Celyz leaving the hill in the center of the Rykz’ camp at almost running pace.
It didn’t take all that long for her to show up but still much longer than I thought she would, especially if she cares about me like she claims. She heads out from one scout patrols to the next, apparently looking for me.
She heads in my direction after the forth she stops, showing uncharacteristic sloppiness as she could have sent each patrol to reach out to the rest to get the information quicker.
“I apologize for being late, Cetyz needed to be explained the situation further, she was not entirely aware of the circumstance of your deal as Fenyz and I did not want her to see you in a bad light.” Celyz speaks up. “I… got yelled at by my sister.” She adds, her ovaloid head dropping.
“It’s between you and your sister, I won’t hold whatever intentions you had towards me before we got to know each other.” I tell her, remaining seated. “But what was that, Celyz?” I ask coldly.
“My sisters responded to your symbiont’s raw communications by using the same tone instead of talking to you, it is not entirely their fault but they should have known better. The two of you were overwhelmed as your symbiont is young and has not learned to deal with the intensity it uses.” She tells me.
“I could guess as much. I meant you.” I utter flatly. “You’re dancing around our deal, you won’t like it if I join in.”
“I, I.” Celyz hesitates. “The Hive is not is a good position right now, the Bloody Claws would not be able to defeat us outright but a battle with them would result in heavy losses. We need time, Fenyz has an idea but we are just beginning to examine it.”
“You know I don’t care about any of that right now.” I reply, feeling wounded that she would so blatantly avoid the subject. “This is about the two of us, first and foremost. You manipulated me to ensure I wouldn’t demand our deal be respected. Why?”
“T, to.” Celyz stumbles on her words. “I, I.” She inhales deeply, producing a high pitched sound with her six pairs of breathing holes on either side of her head. “To set you free. Both of us. So you can be who you can be. Heal from the path I set you on.” Her voice drops to a whisper as her ovaloid head turns to the weapon in my hand. “One that humans apparently cannot bear without deep consequences.”
“You, admit it.” I say, pushing the words past the block in my throat.
“I did this because, even if you realized that I did it for you, it breaks something between us.” Celyz tells me in a brittle voice. “It, sets you free.” She repeats with audible pain.
“It does not.” I utter, giggling. “It, only confirms how messed up I am.”
“W, why?” Celyz stutters, failing to understand despite her intelligence.
“Because I still love you.” I growl at her in mad, aggressive, happiness.
She stumbles back, undoubtedly hit to her core by the word I used. I stand up, feeling bitter, resigned… insane, but so damn thrilled. I toy with my double-bladed staff, making it spin in my hands.
Celyz’ tendrils are twirling with uncertainty, with embarrassment, with longing, with relief. But without fear, the fool. She’s glad her gambit failed. I settle my weapon on my left shoulder.
“You’ve, just done to me…” I choke on my own laughter. “Exactl, y, what she did, back then. You haven’t set me free, you‘re pushing me further in her grasp while tightly wrapping your tendrils around my heart, my Princess. Both of you tugging at me, trying to shatter me. I, didn’t, think you, had it, in you.”
“You are, crying.” Celyz says, all the while producing a small whining noise that sounds like she is as well. “I hope you’ll, be well, Jessica.”
She departs, leaving me there, standing tall while crying and laughing from the painful rip in my heart. Like an idiot. Again. We don’t end with this, Celyz.
“Not now, not forever.”