School actually starts tomorrow, but I'll still continue crackin' today.
Asked around for critiques from a few author friends; it appears I tell rather than show and my writing is minimalistic. Please do look for signs of these and notify me if they show up in my writing so I may improve!
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Updated! Chapter 5 is out!
Sona woke to the sound of her instrumental companion's voice. The etwahl, who had christened herself as Maria, asked a question most tentatively.
"Your love for the former animal peaks like a crescendo.”
Sona was not taken aback in the least. After all, Maria was privy to her thoughts, and Sona was just about to embrace Ahri in her dream. As in hug. Sona herself did not know what would follow, but Maria evidently assumed the nature of the events that could have transpired would be lewd, to say the least.
The etwahl continued. "Why, though, does the tempo of your heart accelerate when your thoughts are of bodily matters? It was not so intense with Lestara."
The reason Maria asked this question was that Sona herself did not know. It would normally be *concluded that Ahri, the seductress, used some manner of magic to charm the Maven, but the Institute had its eye on her. That speech, too, was unnecessary if Ahri could just use her charming magic.
Sona thought back to the speech Ahri made. The Ionian was rather dashing, brimming with courage, even through Maria's temper tantrum. Sona's mind, though, was fixed on how cute Ahri was when she fumbled over her words, and how sweet it was that Ahri promised not to let her be lonely. It was odd that Sona trusted the temptress, yes, but the Maven couldn't help but feel Ahri was sincere.
Sona's musings were interrupted by a rap on her door. "It's me, Ahri. I did say I'd stop by this morning, right? That wasn't all a dream?"
Her voice was brighter than Sona had ever heard it, though awkwardly and shakily so. Ahri was earnestly enthused. And this touched Sona enough for her to go straight to the door to answer Ahri's beckoning without getting changed, or even fixing her amorphous mass of teal and gold hair.
Ahri peeked through the now open door in a comical manner, her hair tousled and eyebrows askew (it seemed Ahri rushed over as soon as she woke), prompting Sona to briefly place her lips upon her partner's.
When Sona's smiling face retreated, Ahri mussed her hair sheepishly and asked, "When did you get so... touchy feely? That was embarrassing! G, geez."
Ahri's face was considerably flushed. Sona imagined she was probably fighting lewd thoughts. Concerning her; normally lewd thoughts wouldn't affect the considerably sexually experienced nine tailed fox. Just what thoughts Ahri was having concerning Sona piqued her interest, indeed. As such, Sona inquired by touching her palm to Ahri's cheek and giving a coy grin.
Ahri's eyelids drooped slightly, her cheeks growing warmer. She probably looked really dumb, for so famed a seductress/manizer/womanizer/geisha/what-have-you. Realizing this, she perked up, smiling sheepishly. Embarrassed, she admitted to having lewd thoughts: “Yeah... I was... thinking about how it would feel to feel you.”
Maria was understandably upset at this. Not only was it a bad pun, but it had only been two weeks since they met, and Ahri was already making such forward advances on Sona! Of quite a sexual nature, too. The etwahl trembled slightly, discording ever so slightly in order to show her disdain. The target of the etwahl's disdain giggled and grinned, winking. “Oh, oh, do you want me to 'play' you first?” she said.
Just as Maria was about to erupt into a key-spam screaming “Oh no you didn't,” Sona placed a reassuring hand on the etwahl. She gave an eager smile to the Ionian across from her, as if to say “That sounds like a great idea!” Ahri did not misinterpret the cue, and began to inquire about the instrument. “Your etwahl looks similar to the Guqin of Ionia. Does it play the same way?”
The focus of Sona's eyes traveled to the ceiling as she made use of her knowledge of music. The etwahl and the Guqin did have similarities, yes, but the etwahl was not grounded, and was magical in nature – this changed things entirely. A different sound would come out with the strings pressed, and there was a different quantity of strings. It could not simply be guessed which strings pressed and plucked would produce a certain key. Moreover, Maria was fickle, and didn't make particularly nice sounds for those she disliked (Sona once tried to get Lestara to play her – it didn't work out so well).
Discarding these thoughts in favor of a more literal and mechanical line of logic, Sona nodded.
Ahri took note of this affirmation, entering Sona's quarters and seating herself on the cushy teal sofa centered in the entrance room. She briefly noted how her behind sank into it, before Sona sat herself beside Ahri and nudged Maria towards Ahri. The etwahl muttered in disdain, “I will not concede. Her fingers will only coax the twang of an out of tune instrument from me,” before withdrawing herself from the Ionian fox. Sona giggled and nudged her back again, this time while running her fingers down some strings, releasing a humming noise. The etwahl stayed.
“So, Miss Etwahl,” breathed Ahri, in a playfully seductive manner (though more playful than anything, considering how giddy she was), “which of these is the G string?”
Sona, looking to her left, beheld Ahri's countenance. The Ionian's eyebrow was raised. Sona's lips refused to remain in a neutral position, instead transitioning into a smile. Resistance was futile; she would be wearing a terribly huge grin the entire time.
Maria did not respond. She'd given up, Ahri supposed, at attempting to ward away the temptress's charms. Or so the gumiho liked to believe. Taking this as a signal to being (attempting to) play, Ahri laid her eyes upon the etwahl. Yes, it did appear to be like a guqin. However, the board was separated by a wooden plank between the two “segments” of strings. As such, the dimension of playing technique was twofold: In order to play this instrument with just two hands, one side would influence the other. In addition, there were only three strings, as opposed to the guqin's standard six. The wooden board, therefore, was to produce the remaining three string keys on the other side of the etwahl.
Other than these significant details, the etwahl was a standard guqin. The side facing the player was dotted in a standard manner (denoting the string positions) for each side. Ahri concluded she should just try it out (she'd look cool if she could pull it off, and if she couldn't, then she'd get, mm, lessons from Sona) and placed her fingers delicately over the two upper strings, and her thumbs just barely pressing on the one lower string. On both sides, she simultaneously pressed her thumbs down, then plucked the string with her index fingers, stretching it upwards.
A clear, crisp sound echoed out. Two, actually – both harmonizing to create a C chord. Middle C. A gentle, neutral note that didn't quite leave an impression, but still caressed the eardrum. As the note slowly faded into nothingness, she created a vibrato/slide scale effect by sliding her hands up and down the board while alternating degrees of pressure on the string.
While her display of mastery over the etwahl in just a few minutes was impressive, Ahri decided it would be quite difficult to play one of the songs she still remembered on it. The layout was strange and even aroused her suspicion. What advantage would the etwahl have over the guqin?
Sona shifted to her left, leaning into Ahri, as if she meant to answer her question. Their bare shoulders touched, each surprised at just how smooth the other's shoulder was, and both attempting to pretend they hadn't noticed. While Sona looked away in a conspicuous manner, Ahri continued to examine the etwahl, although each definitely had her attention on the other's touch. In short, it was comfortable, yet did not bring either of them to comfort. It was soft, reassuring; the warmth was grounding. But, boy, were both of them unsure whether to indulge in more or to remain reserved.
Ahri made the first slip-up. Her mind no longer able to focus on what the etwahl was for, she shifted slightly in order to take her hands off Maria. The friction sent what felt like a jolt of electricity spreading from the point of contact (their shoulders) throughout their bodies, warmth finding its way to their (ample!) chests. A certain warm liquid flowed to Ahri's face, allowing her to notice that, yes, Sona's skin felt excessively good against hers. The way things were going, though, the etwahl would get very angry.
Sona made the second slip-up, though in all actuality, it was deliberate. She leaned into Ahri closer, twisting her torso to the side so she could rest her head on Ahri's shoulder and drape an arm around her partner's abdomen.
The Ionian's mind went blank. She couldn't really think about anything anymore, her brain blocking out all abstract thought and processing only sensory information. This only made everything more intense, and her only blaring thoughts were about how the mild scent of sleep-sweat mixed with whatever absolutely amazing soaps Sona used smelled like sexy, or how much she liked the real and intimate feeling of Sona's arm around her stomach, or oh gods is she breathing into my ear now?
Having had her fun, Sona withdrew her body (just enough to keep Ahri from exploding into naughty) and sat upright, positioning her hands on the right segment of the etwahl's wooden body.
“Ah,” exclaimed Ahri, who came back to her senses near-instantly, “that's what it's for. Duets.”
Sona smiled and nodded.
“How romantic!” Ahri grinned widely. “This seems a lot easier to play, too...”
With a bit of occasional guidance from Sona, the two managed to coherently play a song renowned over the entirety of Valoran – Ave Maria. With the last calming note, they looked to each other, content, each sinking into the other's embrace.
Maria seethed in Sona's head. “What's wrong with you? What about me? Hey!”
Ahri returned to Kyou, like always. They'd been something more than friends, but less than lovers for almost a decade now, though time was not important to the gumiho. As such, when Kyou brought up their decade anniversary, Ahri's response was rather rude and insensitive.
“What are you talking about? Moreover, anniversary?”
“Yes, it's a commemorative event my master had with his wife when I was a housecat. They would celebrate and hold-” Kyou said this part with glee - “intimate interactions with each other.”
More than slightly perturbed by this statement, Ahri replied, “But why should it matter how long we've been together? The humans have a limited lifespan, while we have centuries of free reign. It doesn't make sense to care. Or more accurately, it's a waste.”
“Of what, though?” Kyou asked.
Before Ahri realized her mistake, she blurted out her answer. “Time.”
Check and mate. “See? And, you know, since you've got so much time, it's even more important to value everything. After all, you've got the time for it.”
Ahri rubbed the bridge of her nose, scowling a bit. A faint “ugh” was heard when she returned to her original stance of arms dangling to the side. “Alright, I give.”
“You'd better!” laughed the nekomata. “Your province of Ionia is more respectful than mine, yes? I hear you bow to your elders every time you see them, bow really low!”
“I... I was a fox,” Ahri said. “Not a domesticated animal.” Sneering.
“Uh-uh, well...” Kyou lost her words for a moment, staring off into the lush canopy above her. Her hammock-buddy placed a hand on her head, ruffling her hair.
“Hey, don't imply I'm a kid!” squealed the feline. “A-anyways, you've got to remember to value your time!”
After all, her master passed away before she did, leaving her alone. Kyou realized, then, that she hadn't done all she wanted to do, hadn't seen all she wanted to see, with him. The fat cat of that time disappeared, slowly forgotten.
Ahri wouldn't forget, though. She'd kept all her promises. Kyou was confident of this.