I grab my tankard and gulp the beer down before handing it to Yvonne for a refill, determined to follow Elizabeth’s advice to enjoy their company. The two imitate me soon after, Lance keeping one hand on my belly.
“She brags about you like you wouldn’t believe.” Yvonne tells me while Leomi is still drinking, which only allows her to cough in protest.
“I’m brag-worthy.” I jokingly comment. My kitten squeezes my stomach with her hand in apparent agreement and hurriedly finishes drinking.
“Don’t listen to her, my jay. Yvonne is the one who kept pestering me for answers.” Leomi speaks up.
“About what?” I question, getting a bad feeling.
“Oh, this and that.” She replies with a sultry voice while moving the hand on my belly down towards my thigh. “She has quite the perverse interest in how it works between two women.”
“I do.” Yvonne admits straightforwardly. “But I mostly asked about…”
“Stop!” Leomi interrupts panically, her body stilling in fright.
“How the two of you got along and felt.” The sword-sworn continues, ignoring the order. “Leomi is the one who kept deflecting to you instead of answering.”
“I was merely making it clear how much my jay enjoyed your suggestion.” Leomi quickly justifies, clearly diverting the subject to me again. “She took it up the…”
“Wait, stop!” I cry out, mortified by what she’s about to say before even hearing it.
“Ass like a warrior.” She finishes. “She likes to play coy but, trust me, she’s as much of a fighter in bed as in battle.”
“Rhh.” I growl and hide my face in Lance’s chest. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help me block out Yvonne’s cheery laughter and Leomi’s snickers. “We’ll tell her all about you.” I mumble the threat in her shirt.
“Oh, tell me, tell me!” The sword-sworn shrieks giddily.
“Jay, please.” Leomi pleads weakly. The one-winged bird on her shoulder pecks her cheek, startling her.
“Leomi acts all strong…” I start, turning to Yvonne.
“She’s taking advantage of us.” Lance murmurs urgently in my ear. “Steal her pouch, there’s leverage in there you want to see.”
“But she can barely handle herself in bed.” I continue, ignoring Leomi’s attempt for now because I’m so embarrassed already there is no point in holding my tongue. There is also the fact I love that side of her so I want to show it off to Yvonne who is listening without a hint of judgment.
“Jayyy…” Leomi whines, hiding her face behind my head.
“Leomi is too sensitive you see.” I explain, blushing furiously. “Once she gets past a certain point, she loses her self-control.” Lance squeezes me against her without much strength. “Also, she gets off on getting me off.” I add very seriously, because it’s important to me.
“Uuuummmm!” Leomi wails with a shrill pitch, clearly flustered.
Yvonne and I chuckle at her expense but part of me is focusing on something else. I draw a dozen portions of flow from Leomi’s reserve and assemble a horseshoe-shaped air-blade construct behind the table, out of Yvonne’s sight.
It isn’t difficult considering my eyes show flow in silver in a radius of four or five meters as long as there aren’t too many obstructions. I shift on Leomi’s lap to glance at the side of Yvonne’s chair, finding the pouch on the ground. I send the construct over and carefully hook the strap.
As I am about to order the construct to my hand, I pause. I close my eyes and think back to the method to use the air-blade construct with unstructured flow. While I’m more familiar with the lightning construct, I can’t do the same thing with it.
The reason appears clearly to me, it’s because I don’t understand how and why lightning moves, I merely have an inkling that charging the air is necessary to guide the path it takes but I haven’t worked on it as much as I have on the air-blade to create the blood-blade.
“So, what is…” Yvonne starts.
“One moment of silence please.” I speak up. “I’m thinking.”
Leomi raises a hand up, likely telling her to listen to me. I dismantle the air-blade shaped like a horseshoe but maintain its shape with my intent. I realize that I have been able to use the air-blade with unstructured flow because of the water construct I merged with the blood-blade, I simply hadn’t consciously made the connection yet.
Unlike water and blood, which are liquids, air is completely different. Or so it would seem but, in truth, they aren’t. Water and air behave the same way, when hot they rise, when cold they sink.
While this isn’t exactly much of an understanding, it allows me to adjust the way I think about the air-blade. I reach out to the unstructured flow around the strap of Yvonne’s pouch and change its form.
I think of the bond-strengthening segments that solidify the air as I would a chunk of ice. A solid I can shape by melting it, or in this case weakening the bonds. I reach out with my hand to focus on liquefying the air.
The air follows my intent better than I thought it would, and consumes a moderate amount of energy. I wrap air around the pouch and then solidify it to propel it to my hand.
“Hey, that’s my bag!” Yvonne exclaims.
“Yes, it is.” I agree with a grin.
I quickly check the quantity of energy I’ve burned before returning the flow to Leomi, finding only four portions missing, and I think half was consumed when I still used a construct, which means I’ve made huge progress but am still inefficient. A standard air-blade would cost less to make than only guiding flow through intent, although it is far less flexible.
“Leomi!” Yvonne cries out in protest as her friend starts searching the pouch.
“So, what’s in it?” I ask.
“This.” Lance replies, fishing a thick stack of parchment tied together with two thin boards of wood.
“I haven’t finished it!” The sword-sworn says, vainly extending her hand out on the table.
“Will you two stop playing riddles and tell me?” I ask, seizing the object from Leomi.
“She’s writing things down to make a play about us.” Lance tells me, returning her hands to my thigh and stomach.
“Yvonne?” I say, throwing her a glance. She turns away, looking embarrassed.
“You’re both so dramatic I couldn’t resist writing things down, it just a bit out of control.” She mutters. “And I might as well benefit from your shenanigans since I can’t leave the two of you alone.”
“You don’t need to worry, she assured me that there are no secrets in there.” Leomi says.
“It’s better to keep the revelations until the last act, for suspense and shock.” Yvonne explains awkwardly. “I won’t do anything before asking you to check it out first.”
“How detailed is it?” I ask, shuddering at the thought that she recorded our spats.
“It’s a play not a history book.” The sword-sworn replies with a quizzical expression.
“I meant the personal stuff!” I yell, cheeks burning.
“Oh.” Yvonne utters before turning to Leomi with a grin like she’s about to make a prank. “There is still a lot of research to do.”
Leomi suddenly passes her right arm inside my elbow and pulls it back, locking my limb behind my back before I can react. I fight but her hold is too strong. The sword-sworn stands up and approaches Leomi.
“Let me go.” I tell my love. “You can’t win against us both.”
“Aww. Your naivete almost makes me feel bad.” Leomi fawns, kissing my cheek.
“What?” I ask. I suddenly realize that my friend isn’t coming over to help. “W, wait!” I protest.
“Leomi sold me out, but you stole from me instead of asking as a best friend would. Besides, as your best friend, I have to know everything.” Yvonne justifies as she reaches for me. Her hands pause just a few centimeters away from my waist. “You’re my best friend right?” She asks with a concerned tone.
“I am, but…” I start but Leomi places her left hand over my mouth to silence me. My fault for not being able to bear them doubting my sincerity, really.
“Good enough for me.” Yvonne says with a nod.
I shake a little as the sword-sworn reaches out, quite certain that she’s going to check the tattoo on my very lower stomach. As I prepare a lion strike to free myself, she surprises me by actually changing course to grab Leomi’s wrists and pull them away.
What might be even more stunning is that my kitten doesn’t even try to resist, she even helps Yvonne help me get up to my feet. I stand there like an idiot as the two chuckle, making fun of my surprise.
“You little vixen!” I throw at Yvonne.
It would be meaningless to say anything to Leomi, even though she’s clearly the only one of the two who would go through with actually tormenting me. Yvonne raises her hands in surrender.
“Sorry, sorry. But I really do want to see, if you don’t mind.” She replies, looking far too amused by my discomfiture.
Leomi makes an odd grunt of displeasure but doesn’t interfere. I find it amusing she minds that I would show the tattoos myself but didn’t have an issue holding me down. I throw her a glance over my shoulder.
“Are you okay with it?” I ask her because, while it’s personal and she already showed hers off, I would rather she feel comfortable about it.
“What would you do if I wasn’t?” Leomi returns.
“I’d still show her but I would rather you agree.” I honestly tell her.
“Go ahead.” Lance tells me with a stiff smile.
I slip my thumb inside the hem of my pants and lower them until the lance is in full view. Yvonne crouches as she whistles wistfully. I roll my eyes and give her a few seconds before turning around to show her the name on my lower back. She pulls my shirt up to take a closer look.
“Her handwriting is usually rigid, it doesn’t flow this good. It’s impressive you managed to do this with a scalpel.” Yvonne tells me, complimenting Leomi.
I pull the hem of my pants up and turn around. I grab Yvonne’s shoulder as she stands up. She gives me a questioning look. I smirk and extend my leg out to trip her up as I shove her towards Leomi.
“Hey!” She cries out.
Yvonne falls over and almost drops to the ground but Lance catches her before she does. I give my love a meaningful look. Leomi’s eyebrows raise in surprise and her eyes widen.
She doesn’t waste any time and flips Yvonne to make her sit on her lap before restraining her arms behind her back as she did to me. The sword-sworn tries to fight but soon pauses to throw me an accusatory glance.
“Don’t worry, I want to see if you have any of your own, as your best friend.” I tell her.
“I don’t.” Yvonne quickly assures me.
She isn’t even trying to fight against Leomi and focused entirely on looking pitiful for me. She knows her ward well, there’s no way Lance will give up after I told her to help me torment someone.
“It’s okay to be shy. I understand.” I tell her, nodding.
“I’m not, I don’t have any!” Yvonne protests.
“Oh, well.” I say and move right in front of her.
I place my hand on her cheek and lean in to run my nose alongside hers. She blushes but her breaths remain steady, confirming she has no interest in women, or rather in me. Not that it matters, we aren’t each other’s types and the point is to mess with her. I reach down and unfasten her first button.
“I didn’t tell the two of you when I began but I didn’t keep hiding it!” The sword-sworn protests.
“Well, I’m more worried about how we mentioned double-teaming but never settled on which two were teaming up.” I tell her. Leomi grins and tightens her hold on Yvonne’s arms. She starts fighting back a little while glaring at me.
“Jess, she’s corrupting you!” She utters urgently.
“I assure you, we have impure intentions.” I tell her.
“Unless you want us to give you a good time since it’s apparently been a while.” Leomi whispers in her ear, using a very soft voice that makes Yvonne shiver.
“I’m okay.” She replies with an awkward tone.
“Jay?” Lance asks, looking up to me. “She didn’t say yes, but she didn’t say no either.”
I freeze, baffled that she’s letting me decide when she’s clearly a lot more into this game than I am. I shake my head in response. Yvonne’s irises dilate and her face turns crimson as she realizes what’s being implied.
“Kh, kh, kh.” I fail to fully suppress my chuckle at her embarrassed expression.
“It meant no!” Yvonne exclaims in outrage.
Leomi makes a disappointed groan but releases her friend who takes hold of my arm to pull herself back to her feet. She then kicks our shins with the point of her boot and returns to her chair to take a long gulp of beer.
“So, what is it you two don’t want to tell me? There’s always something.” Yvonne asks us, having recovered much quicker than I would have thought.
“It’s…” I hesitate to continue.
Leomi takes hold of my hand and pulls me back into her arms. I roll my eyes at her rampant jealousy but I don’t say anything because Liz can be just as bad. Sister… I take a sip of my beer, affecting the pose to show I haven’t heard my second-favorite sister. A mad rumble shakes my mind. What? You like Cetyz more than me, same as I do. Ah, yes, but she’s a special case.
“If you need to say something, go ahead my love.” Leomi whispers in my ear. “I might react adversely but I can allow myself to be with you because you speak your mind and don’t hold your punches.”
“You sure?” I ask her hesitantly.
“I am.” Leomi confirms, squeezing my thigh to reassure me.
“Yesterday, we tied Leomi up and toyed with her.” I bluntly tell Yvonne, Leomi tenses, her body almost becoming rigid, but she doesn’t try to stop me. “She went a bit mad afterward, she became a bit incoherent and lashed out by faking an attempt at drowning me.” The sword-sworn turns livid. I raise my palm to stop her from speaking. “We’re screwed up, whether we change is up to us.” Liz warns.
“… Okay.” Yvonne mutters.
“I punched her right after I got out of the water and that’s that for me because, while it terrified me, I can handle it.” I tell her and then nudge Leomi with my nose to tell her it’s her turn.
“I…” Lance pauses. “Jessica is right, I couldn’t handle it.” She admits with an emotionless voice. “I love the fact that she sets me free so I lost it a bit when she denied me in the harshest way instead.”
“Can I comment?” Yvonne asks prudently.
“Of course.” I encourage her.
“Sweetie?” She questions Leomi.
“If my Jess wants to hear it, then go ahead.” My love replies, burying her nose in my hair like she’s merely a secondary participant to the conversation.
“I think you need to say ‘stop’ instead of trying to fulfill the other’s every impulsive desire.” Yvonne tells us carefully. “You’re abusing each other and yourselves.”
“We can’t ‘stop’, not when we want to throw ourselves at each other with complete abandon.” I honestly inform her.
“Hm.” Leomi signifies her agreement. “We don’t do this often.” She adds after a moment. “I love spoiling her.”
“Well, you need to learn to deal with denial better since Jessica… and Elizabeth?” She asks. Liz nods. “Since Jessica and Elizabeth seem willing to match your penchant for rough play.”
“I can handle her.” I affirm. Leomi bites me in the pit of my neck, making my back arc in pleasure.
“She can.” Lance confirms.
“And she always makes it up to me.” I add.
“If you’re okay then I won’t say any more Jessica, but she has a hard time handling herself after she lashes out.” Yvonne tells me before directing a sigh at Leomi. “Did you sleep at all last night?” She asks.
“Not much.” Leomi mutters. “But I got to watch her sleep so I won out by far.”
“No, you didn’t.” I deny because waking up in her loving arms this morning was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
Yvonne gives us a smile, there is a hint of sadness and concern but mostly happiness. We finish our drinks, letting the conversation drift off to the work we did since we came here. The two of them don’t talk much but they listen to me without interrupting throughout the meal.
“You should try to cook this with two glasses of cheap wine, it’ll taste even better.” Yvonne tells me.
“I’ll keep it in mind.” I reply, wondering what price for wine could be called cheap.
“Any news?” Leomi asks.
“Apart from Vikiana’s return I’ve told you about, not much.” The sword-sworn replies. “There is a slight issue in Meria with Nobility, they’ve gathered some houses together in an alliance but have no true leader as far as we’ve found out. Huan Thrin functions as their coordinator.”
“Those who didn’t run?” Lance questions with narrowed eyes.
“And other houses who had no choice but to escape since they had no warning of the invasion, like the Buton.” Yvonne tells us. “They have people still supporting them in their demesne, and many in Meria who they have attracted to their cause like those of Odo’s soldiers who haven’t returned to Port-Odo.”
“E.Vil could strike without warning.” Elizabeth comments offhandedly.
“No.” Lance refutes.
“It’s a bit awkward but many of your supporters are on the fence about the Council and Nobility.” Yvonne mentions, likely to stop the argument. It isn’t needed since we reached an agreement consisting of each doing whatever we want outside of when we’re cooperating.
“How can that be?” I ask her with a frown.
“There are many reasons but most of it comes from anger towards the system that they don’t think has changed enough and doubt that the Council is strong enough to protect the Izla. The fact that bourgeoisie makes up a lot of the Council and their relative inaction caused many to think that a negotiation to reinstate Nobility would be a good alternative in your absence.” Yvonne explains. “There are as many points of views on the course of action to take as there are people, but they learned from how you dealt with the Rykz in a practical manner. Those with a stronger attachment to their principles than to results have joined the Hospitaliers.”
“I did disappear right after the Council was established.” I mutter to myself.
“I resent the implication I won’t get any results.” Leomi calmly speaks up.
“Sorry, people love and support you but Elizabeth got things done quickly, many think it would be worth the collateral damage if she could do so again.” Yvonne replies awkwardly. “Even reputable bourgeois, but it seemed mostly out of self-interest.”
“What’s your position?” I question her.
“That you will both cause the Empire to change but only the Emperor could gather enough power to control the way it happens.” She replies instantly. “I’ll support both of you because you’re my friends as long as you don’t ask me to pick sides.”
“You’re my sword-sworn!” Leomi protests.
“You’re my best friend!” I exclaim, a beat later.