Fae was grateful that she was employed. Despite the fact she nearly died fighting her superiors. It was a part of the game. She always got into fights, and fought until she couldn’t. (In this case, she thought it, wise to back down.) She always had something to prove, some righteous cause. Or maybe it was pride, a thick shell that covered up her insecurities.
Fae shook these thoughts as she made her way to the baths. Being a part of the Dapper Gentlemen has its perks, one of them in the form of a proper bathhouse. Regular bathing was something she took for granted in the sewers. She could only bathe when she had the money, sometimes going weeks without. She cringed, memories of the pungent smell coming back to her.
By this time, she had relieved herself of her robe, and stepped into the bath. She was glad that she was alone. She then sat down, sighing as water warmed her body, and relaxed her tired muscles. She stretched out her legs, staring as she lazily lifted one out of the water before letting it sink again.
She sank deeper in the water, slouching until her knees surfaced. Her brown skin shimmered in the dimmed light of the room. White scars peppered her knees and exposed thighs. The slivers of white danced up her skin, sometimes in the shape of slashes and crescents. She traced these scars up her leg, her eyes watching blankly.
Fae was snapped from her idleness, her head turning so fast that it threatened to break. She recovered quickly, relaxing at the familiar face.
“Ah, Chuntao, is it?”
She hadn’t known this woman long but found her intriguing nonetheless. She was one of the original Dapper Gentlemen, and of noble status. But unlike herself, she was sure that she wasn’t of noble blood. Though Fae was not pretentious, she could tell a noble from the average citizen. She was one herself, of course.
“Yes, Fae- Duchess Fae.”
Fae cringed at the use of her title, and the mocking emphasis added to it. “Yes, but just Fae, please.”
Chuntao gave Fae a curt nod before shrugging off her robe, pool around her ankles. Fae adverted her eyes, even if she has noble blood, she still couldn’t look upon someone as high as Empress in the nude. It would be, improper.
She kept her gaze adverted, choosing focus on the torches instead. She waited until Chuntao had entered the bath before turning around.
The other woman glanced over at her, smiling slightly. “You nobles and your rules; we have the same parts.”
“It’s indecent,” Fae mumbled. “It’s just courtesy.”
Chuntao lifted an eyebrow. “You weren’t thinking about manners when you were trying to kick my ass. You didn’t hold back.”
Fae’s cheeks tinted pink and she sank in the water until she was beneath the surface. After a few moments she slowly resurface, her eyes avoiding Chuntao.
“I didn’t know you then. You were just some…”
Chun’s green eyes narrowed, and for a second she looked like a cat ready to attack. Instead she kept her eyes on Fae as she pulled her curly hair into a messy bun.
Fae unconsciously pushed her dark wet bangs from her eyes. The orange light of the torches gave her red eyes a glowing effect as apprehension swirled in them. Though Fae still obeyed the rules of her class, she never held her tongue. A reason her father thought it proper to leave her body with enough scars to make her question her convictions.
Chuntao pressed her back against the edge of the bath and pushed a stray strand behind her ear. Her eyes were still narrowed, and only softened slightly.
“No wonder you get into fights and get all those scars. You don’t really know subtlety.” She motioned to Fae. “You do have the luck of being soft-spoken, though. So people usually don’t hear you.”
Fae pulled her knees up to her chest, leaning forward so that her chin rested on them. Her eyes were lidded and her hair fell in a way that nearly covered them. Her neck tingled as the hair moved and exposed the damp skin.
“It’s not like my mouth doesn’t get me in trouble. But I just…deal with the consequences.”
Chuntao’s shoulders slumped and her faces softened. She stared down at the water, watching as the reflective light was shattered when the surface rippled.
Fae watched this and swallowed thickly. Chuntao looked absolutely stunning in this setting. The light of the torches illuminated her back, giving her a glowing appearance. Her eyes pierced through the shadows, like emeralds that catch light. The small amount of jewelry, earrings and a necklace, shimmered like the water on her skin.
Fae heard her heart thud obnoxiously in her ears, and she sat up and inhaled. She hugged herself for a moment, trying to calm down her flustered reaction. She looked over at Chuntao again and those green eyes were on her. Quiet yet amused.
The other woman’s smile widened until it was a smirk. “Isn’t rude to stare, Duchess?”