Vigniti Tres : Part Four
Lounging on her side, the smooth fabric of her evening robe pooling about her in dark green waves, the violet-haired woman traced her nail along a pattern in the folds of the sheets she was lying upon. The day had been lucrative; the clients she chose from the ample selection were quite generous with their purses as well as their words. It wasn’t everyday three men propositioned her to become their exclusive girl at the brothel. Anyone in her position would be happy.
Except she wasn’t.
Takatsuki Shiori played the part they expected her to, cried out and moaned at all the scripted times, because that’s what they wanted her to do. The owner, the clients, even the city guard, all had the way a good brothel girl behaved set into their minds. She’d always figured, from the moment a family debt landed her in the upscale whorehouse, if she played along well enough, was what they wanted her to be, eventually she’d find a way out, a way to be more than what she’d become – a shade of the girl she’d been before.
Five years and she still hadn’t paid her debt off. She was beginning to think she’d never get rid of it and escape the masked confinement she’d been thrown into. She longed for it; yet, she was scared of it all the same. What would she do once she was no longer indentured? She had no skills outside her current station aside from her keen sense of artistic design of which she had no idea how to apply to anything other than the decorative way her room was laid out with hanging fabrics and other items to create a layered atmosphere. She was woefully untalented in anything else that she hadn’t learned purely for survival.
Shiori was distracted from her spiraling thoughts at the sound of the trunk on the far side of the room scraping along the floor. The sound was brief, almost as if it had never happened, but it caught her attention nonetheless. Eyes matching her hair darted immediately in that direction just in time to catch the fleeting ends of long hair and cloak before they disappeared into the folds of fabric as if fleeing the light of the single candle by the bed.
A smile found its way upon her lips. “I thought panthers were supposed to be graceful,” she called out to the intruder.
Juri paused behind one of the draperies and shot a glare back at the trunk she’d failed to notice while looking at the girl, lost in thought. “They are,” she replied. “A panther can walk across a wire, slip through the city guard unnoticed. Tread across dry leaves without making a sound.” She moved around the room, using the shadows to her advantage.
Shiori chuckled and sat up a bit. “Do all panthers stumble across trunks in plain sight?”
“Only one, when she is distracted by something so radiant it blinds her to what is at her feet,” came the reply.
Swinging her feet around, the dark green fabric slipping to expose a thigh and hint at the bare clothing beneath, Shiori placed one foot on the floor and tried to track down exactly where the voice was coming from. “I believe you are wrong; radiance does not live here – only darkness. What you have been watching for many nights is not what you think it is.”
“Aye, I have been watching,” Juri said as she continued to move about the room. “Radiance is not only found in the form of light. It is different for each who finds it, fair lady. I am a creature of shadow, fur black as night. Do you really believe I seek the light?”
Shiori took to her feet, that small smile still on her lips, and slowly walked toward where she thought the voice was coming from. “But what else could blind one so comfortable with the shadows than the light?”
“Light can be blinding, but so can the other side of the coin.” Juri slipped around unheard to the other side the girl. “It’s not always something seen with ones eyes that blinds.”
Shiori turned quickly at the sound of her intruder’s voice at her side as the words were spoken only to find the slightly moving curtains. She pushed back her hair and turned around the room again. “Do you enjoy toying with your prey?”
“The chase is as much fun as the catch.”
“What makes you believe there will be a catch, dear Panther?”
Juri grinned from behind the girl. “Because you are playing with me as much as I am with you.” She darted away once more as the girl turned, but hooked her fingers on the edge of the girl’s robe, pulling it away with her. As she disappeared into the shadow, passing through it to one twenty feet from the girl, the robe fluttered to the ground and Juri could take in the look of the black lingerie upon the girl’s figure.
Shiori made no attempt to grab the robe as it was pulled away; her smile just grew. Following suite, she flitted away into the hanging fabric about the room and tried to track the elusive panther down. “This is the first time you’ve ventured into my room. Why haven’t you come inside before?”
“This is the first time you’ve left your window open.”
For a brief moment, Shiori caught sight of the woman. She couldn’t make out much in the darkness, the light from the candle barely reaching this deep into her room. Tall, long hair, graceful… Shiori wanted to see more. “I doubt that a mere closed window could keep you out; I know your reputation.” She tilted her head to the side in thought. “I wonder if what they say about you is true…”
Juri laughed, “I assure you – it is all true.”
Pushing her way through the hanging fabric, Shiori grinned. “Ruffian… vagabond… scourge of the ivory city… master thief… what are your intentions?”
“Why, I’m here to steal,” Juri said as she slipped out of the shadows before the girl, drawing her into a kiss once the words had left her lips.
Shiori had but a second to see the Panther, Ohtori’s most infamous criminal, appear before warm, passionate lips took her own. A moment later and she returned it in kind. Her hands traveled up to the long hair, the curls in the front tickling her cheeks, and she pulled the tall woman closer.
This wasn’t the first time she’d kissed a woman, but it was most definitely the best kiss she’d ever received, regardless of whom it came from. A moment later they parted and Shiori looked up into amazing hazel eyes, the light from the candle faintly reflecting within them.
A sly grin touched Juri’s lips as the girl fought to catch her breath. “It seems I’ve managed to steal more than just that kiss.” She traced a finger down the girl’s cheek. “Tell me, fair lady, what name shall I call thee, so that I might know whose treasure I have rightfully taken?”
“Shiori,” the girl said, breathless, her eyes still locked on the hazel eyes before her, a part of her registering how exquisitely beautiful the Panther was as she was being released.
“Shiori,” Juri repeated as she backed toward the window, hand slowly drawing away from the girl’s arm. “I must go before they find me. I have put you in enough danger as it is. But I will return.” She turned and dashed to the window.
“Wait!” Shiori called out to the Panther, following her, a sharp expression on her face. “You don’t need to protect me. I’m not afraid of the guards,” her voice somewhat defiant.
Juri paused in the window to look back. “I’ve no doubt of that, Shiori.” She just couldn’t bear something happening to the girl because of her presence. “But I will not bring the dogs to your door.”
Shiori saw the Panther’s eyes flash for a moment and quickly crossed the space between them to pull her down for a parting kiss. “Tell me who you really are,” she said as they broke apart.
“Exactly who you think I am,” Juri said, eyes locked on Shiori’s, and then dropped out the window. She leaped across the rooftops and quickly melded into the night.
The violet-haired girl leaned out the window to watch the Panther leave. Could a miracle really exist? Is this charming rogue really her ticket out of her current situation? She closed the window and drew the sheets over her. Believe in miracles and your wish will come true. Shiori smiled, a true smile, and blew out the candle.