Vigniti Tres : Part Seven
The gypsy camp was unlike any other place Juri had ever been. A sprawling lay of blazing campfires, colored tents and the few wagons stashed in the tree line, the camp was always thriving with activity. Between the groups gathered around the various fires, the drums, fiddles and pipes painting a captivating melody through the air, it appeared warm and inviting. Indeed it was – if you were welcome. If you were not, the camp took on a whole different feel as the presence of weaponry masked as mundane items or pieces of clothing were apparent.
Once upon a time Juri had seen both sides of the camp in one day, the Kaoru Clan changing it's stance upon her in a moment's notice. She supposed she brought it upon herself, but she refused to be what Ruka wanted and when he tried to force her, she had drawn her blade, the tent cut to ribbons. She didn't even have time to state her position before she was expunged from the camp by the elders and she learned very quickly that she would never truly be accepted. And that hurt.
Yet, years later things changed and she could return. Juri still wasn't fully accepted, but she was granted her previous place within the borders of the camp by the power of the current clan leader, Kaoru Kozue. A lot of the gypsies had forgiven her, especially when Kozue made it clear that Juri was not to be judged by her actions with Ruka – the man had deserved them, but there were still those that had been loyal to Ruka back when the elders had stepped down that watched the Panther like a hawk. So, no matter what the changes were, Juri could never be as comfortable in the camp as she had once been.
The Panther and the blue-haired sorcerer stopped beneath a copse of trees, sheltered in shadows from the fire, to look down upon the camp. It was very late and the firelight flickered across the field the camp sat in. Near the largest, most colorful tent, was the largest gathering around a veritable bonfire. Music filled the air, the beat of the drums powerful enough that it was felt deep in the chest of anyone nearby. All eyes were drawn to the single woman cavorting around the fire in dance.
Kozue was enchanting when she danced. Her lithe form glided around the fire, every movement in time to the music as she twirled in a pattern of controlled energetic movements, hips twisting in just the right manner to turn the traditional dance into something much more seductive. She was wearing a black leather corset that laced up the sides and her skirt was nothing more than several panels of colorful cloth hanging from her waist.
Every movement of Kozue's flashed thigh or more and, from within the shadows where the firelight didn't quite reach, both Juri and Miki drew in a quick breath as they watched. Juri licked her lips and slowly let out that breath. She'd forgotten exactly how beautiful Kozue was; the woman's wildness woven into her very being, within every individual roll of her hips, the disheveled mop of cerulean hair, the way she surveyed her domain with sharpness as she looked for her next target. Kozue was most fitting of her title as this clan's mistress - a keen mind hidden behind those hungry eyes.
One of the men around the fire left, and his departure allowed more of the firelight to reach into the shadows where it glinted off hazel eyes. The reflection drew Kozue's attention and she grinned at the hidden panther. Stopping on the side of the fire closest to the Juri and her brother, the primal woman shook her hips in time to the music, eyes still upon the newest arrival to the camp, and started drawing pieces of the skirt up in a provocative manner. Again, both Juri and Miki had to draw in a few choice breaths.
“She's teasing me,” Juri said in a low voice as she felt her resolve start to slip away in time with Kozue's hips.
“You're telling me,” was Miki's quick reply, his voice breathy.
Juri swallowed hard as Kozue extended a hand toward the copse of trees, her fingers beckoning the panther to join her. The rogue felt her resolve weaken even further until it was practically nonexistent. She wanted to be able to tell the gypsy no, but she knew she wouldn't be able to – not this night. Her eyes never leaving the seductive beckoning by the fire, Juri undid her leather cloak as well as her sword-belt and handed the items, including her rapier, to Miki.
“I owe her,” Juri said in a low thick voice. “I might as well enjoy it.”
Miki took the items and nodded as Juri bounded across toward the fire, her long auburn hair flying behind her. He completely understood where his best friend was coming from - understood the extent of his sister's effect on people. Especially those she wanted to play with. He stayed in the shadows for a moment to watch Juri reach Kozue where the two paused in their movement to stare at each other before they began to move together, Juri taking on the part of the male counterpart to the dance his twin was modifying. He chuckled a moment as he noted how very quickly Kozue's deft hands had managed to manipulate the state of Juri's shirt to expose much more of the panther's skin than before.
“It seems like I won't have to worry about setting her tent up tonight,” he mused as he finally tore his eyes from the two women to make his way to his personal quarters to stow Juri's equipment.
The scent of Kozue was intoxicating and the more Juri danced with her, hands moving across each other's bodies in a dance all their own, the more she was able to push thoughts of Shiori from her mind and simply enjoy her present company. Even though she was taking up the mantle of the man's steps in this dance, she let Kozue take the lead just as the clan's leader preferred. The eyes of the clan were upon them, drawn into the passion and flame of the way the two moved, but it didn't bother her. Thankfully, the gypsies were very accepting of any kind of human relationship, some even encouraged, even though traditionally only a man and woman could wed. And everyone was aware of their mistress' ways.
Juri bent her head to brush the tip of her nose up Kozue's cleavage, taking in the young woman's scent, before rising to meet wild blue eyes. “Thank you,” the rogue said as the dance neared the end and they were both breathless.
Kozue grinned. “It was too good to pass up,” the wild woman replied as she slid one hand up beneath Juri's shirt. “What would I ever do if I lost my favorite playmate?” She tilted her head to the side a little. “Well, my favorite female playmate, anyways.”
Juri chuckled, “I'm sure you'd find a replacement. Though, you'd never find one as good as me.”
Kozue pulled Juri down into a deep kiss, biting her lip once she pulled away. “Exactly,” she said, the grin growing as she watched the predatory smile grow upon the panther's lips. “Meow,” Kozue said temptingly with a smoldering look before taking off for her nearby tent.
Juri chuckled as she watched the woman run away, the game of predator and prey suddenly switched. “Me-ow,” she said in a low voice as she quietly stalked after Kozue. Yes, she would definitely enjoy it, and after her encounter at the brothel earlier, she certainly needed the release.
As the Panther ducked into Kozue's tent, up high in a tree, one blue-haired man watched her passage with narrowed eyes. He slipped a hand underneath his tunic to run his fingers over the nasty scar upon his chest given to him by the most beautiful of untamed creatures. Some men knew when to quit; some men knew to fear where the wild things were. But not this man. He did not fear the fire. He did not back down once he'd decided he wanted something.
He would have the panther.
The man dropped out of the tree, his own rapier not catching on the branches as he descended, and he gave the large tent one more look before turning his back on it. The first thing he needed to do was eliminate the rival and claim his rightful place. But first he'd need the opportune moment. He was sure it would come and then, that day, he would have exactly what he wanted. Everything.