Vigniti Tres : Part One
Arisugawa Juri did not make mistakes. Never in her six years terrorizing the ivory city of Ohtori as The Panther had she ever fallen for such an obvious trap. She most certainly did not stray too long in the eaves of a house looking at the beautiful women of the guild through the panes of glass. She most certainly did not miss the signal one of the ladies gave to someone just outside the door. No… Juri did not make mistakes.
“Then why are you in the city’s holding cells?” Juri grumbled to herself as she paced the small barred room. It was bad enough that she’d fallen into the trap, her reputation as a lady killer well-known, but to make things even worse, she’d let the profile of that violet-haired beauty as she ran across the rooftops distract her enough that the sheathe of her rapier got caught on one of the peaks.
That’s how they’d caught her; she had fallen rather ungracefully onto her face. The men of the city guard, those unwashed dogs, had been on her an instant later. Strong and agile as she was, she couldn’t withstand the onslaught of the five men as they piled on top of her, pinning her to the rooftop. At least she’d given them several punches in choice places and it was amusing watching the one guard roll off the rooftop clutching his groin. In fact, she’d almost wiggled free when something seized her like a vise. She thought it had been one of the men, but thinking back on it now, she was quite certain someone had ensnared her with magic.
Well, at least she felt slightly better now. Magic wasn’t something she was accustomed to despite having been born of noble blood where they expected her to take up a scholarly career such as a mage or a bard. Then again, she was also expected to marry a rich noble to tie two families together. It didn’t go over well when they discovered her preference for women and out on the street she was, written out of the family history. Technically she wasn’t supposed to be using her family name anymore, but she always liked sticking it to them each and every time Arisugawa Juri, a calm serene merchant-by-day, introduced herself.
Sighing, Juri continued to pace her cell for a bit longer before she started poking and prodding at the bars. Maybe, just maybe she’d find a weak point and be able to figure out how to escape. After a bit longer, she sat down heavily on the tiny bench and looked at the nearby water bowl with disdain. Did they expect her to drink out of it like the dogs they were? She was a noble lady despite being the ivory city’s most notorious criminal; she did not lie with dogs. If only she had magic at her disposal…
An hour of silent brooding passed and she heard the heavy boot steps of someone approaching her cell. Back on her feet, Juri ran her fingers through her long auburn hair and adopted a pose of relaxed confidence. One never let her opponent see how much her situation was affecting her. The approaching figure stopped outside her cell and the dim light reflected off long blood red locks.
“Captain Kiryuu,” Juri began, her voice slightly amused, “what brings you to my chamber of elegance?”
Kiryuu Touga raised an eyebrow at the woman inside and smiled. “I came to look at the woman that broke my heart once more…” He let the pause hang in the air, venom sliding off every word, before continuing. “Before they hang you.”
Juri barely maintained her façade as she heard those words. Sure, she’d stolen more than her fair share from the richer families of the ivory city and did accidentally kill those couple guards, but hanging… She walked closer to the bars and reached a hand through to run her fingers down Touga’s arm. “Now, Touga… you won’t let them hang me,” she purred. “I know you too well to believe that.”
Touga narrowed his eyes at her touch and drew in a breath. It was painful how much this woman toyed with him, how much she knew he wanted her. “Considering you left me hanging all those years ago, I find it fitting that you be hanged in turn.”
“But…” Juri prompted, her finger still tracing his arm.
“You’re right,” he said through gritted teeth. Touga knew Juri would never love him, knew she favored the fairer sex, but it never stopped him from trying. He turned away from the cell and drew in a deep breath. “You know I can’t just let you go. I’ll have to find another way. But…” He looked back over his shoulder at her. “You owe me.”
“Use a mage,” Juri prompted. “One that isn’t associated with the guard at all.” She backed a step and nodded. “I know I do. You have my thanks. You should probably go before anyone begins to suspect. Let them believe you still despise me for what I did to you.”
Touga put a hand on the bars and watched Juri for a long moment. “A mage,” he said and then turned on his heels. Juri listened to him leave and, sure he was completely gone, let a wicked smile touch her lips. He was so easy to play.