Itami diid not look at all pleased. “I did not need you coming to the rescue like that!” she said angrily. She was busy collecting her books, stowing them in her leather knapsack. “We go through and have heated discussions about it all the time, something that I could have deflected away with some words that I would have spoken if I were given the chance too!”
Rin knew that Itami was right, but at the same time she was wrong. “I am sorry Your Highness,” she said with a bow as the young girl stormed off. Rin looked up and saw Sir Hanar mouth the words “I thought you were right,” as he left to follow the girl out. “I will talk to her.” So much for the nice homecoming.
Rin sighed as she walked along the path away from the Colleges. Itami was still not having any of her that evening, so she decided to go to a local bathhouse that lay off campus. The White Willow was one such onsen. It has the painting of an Earth willow tree on the front and was one of the first that was built here as was incredibly old. The painting has been redone many times in the centuries that it has been in place. The stones were old and worn to a smooth sheen that she walked along. There were many other onsens that catered to partying students, but not this one. It was quiet and that is what Rin craved.
The smiling proprietor was Master Wan and if you believe the stories his family has run The Willow ever since the laid the first paving stone. “Hello Lady Rin. It is so nice to see you again.”
“Hello Master Wan. Sorry I came late and I am sure you want to close, but can I convince you to stay open for an hour or so?”
“Of course my lady,” he said with a bow. “For you, anything.” The tensions seemed to melt away off of Rin as she sighed contently. “Stay as long as you desire. I will see if Mistress Wan can get you a little something to eat as well.”
After bathing, Rin stepped into the murky hot springs. The water was a pale white due to a higher concentration of calcium and occasionally bubbled from beneath the water’s surface. It was an outdoor hot springs, one that had the cover of its black, stoned walls. She sighed as she leaned back and laid there with the towel folded over her eyes. She did not know how long she was laying there and she did not care. The hot waters where warming and comfortable.
“Ahh, Mistress Wan,” Rin said when heard the door open. “You can put the food here,” she mentions blindly as she motioned to a flat rock beside her.
“I am not Mistress Wan,” she heard an even voice say to her. Rin lifted off her towel and she saw a well-muscled form that still had all the curves of a beautiful woman. She had to swallow hard as the wavy blonde hair of Sofia began to slowly edge her way into the pool. There wasn’t a scar or blemish on her and that was something that Rin felt an instant disliking for. Even the Princess has her fair share of scars from her years of fosterage. “Fancy meeting you here, Lady Rin,” she said. Rin cleared her throat, keeping all but her head underwater. Sofia still sat straight up, carefully bundling up her long blonde hair into a bun at the top of her hair. Her breasts slowly submerging under the hot, white water when she was done.
Rin had to swallow hard.
“Yes it is,” Rin said as Sofia leaned back and spread her arms out wide to rest them long beside her. “I would almost say you following me.”
Sofia smiled. “Please. This is just the quietest one off the campus that is within walking distance. Just like you I assume. Having to get away from the hustle and bustle of having to watch over the princess. One could not blame you for taking a relaxing bath.”
Rin took off the towel at the top of her head and raised an eyebrow. “Yes,” she simply said, “the other bathhouses are filled with students who do not know how to relax properly.” Sofia just nodded staring intently at Rin. Rin was seriously thinking about getting up and leaving when the sliding door opened again. Rin jumped. It was slight but she did and was sure that Sofia picked up on it. She didn’t say anything but turned to Mistress Wan entering the small bath.
“Saved by the Mistress of the House,” Rin muttered under her breath. She smiled up at the plump woman who brought her a tray filled with small dishes and a small hand blown bottle filled with a blue liquid is a bowl of ice.
“Something cold for the hot bath,” Mistress Wan smiled. She has brought a bottle of winter wine. A drink that was alcoholic as long as it was served ice cold. It was an eladrin drink and was a most welcome surprise. She poured two glasses as Rin noticed that Sofia has moved over to sit next to her. Mistress Wan smiled and excused herself from the bath. Sofia took her glass and marveled at the blue liquor.
“So is it true that if it warms up, the taste is spoiled?” she asked.
Rin cleared her throat. “Yes.”
“How so?” Sofia asked as she sniffed her cup.
Rin lifted her right hand up and out of the pool and took the second small cup. “Magic.” She said the word as it were normal. It was to her, but Sofia for a moment did not look convinced. The moment passed but still nagged at Rin.
“To your health,” Sofia said.
“For now and forever,” Rin countered with the traditional Baronial toast. The women both drank down there cups and it burned with a cold sensation all the way down to their cores.
Sofia raised an eyebrow. “My. That is good,” she said as her breath came out in a chill fog that dissipated over the simmering waters.
“Help yourself,” Rin said as she waved a hand over the tray of food. Sofia stretched out of the water. She wasn’t musclebound but very well put together. “You are Spartan related aren’t you?” Rin asked. Sofia looked over her right arm at Rin as she was getting a steamed bun.
“That is what my mother told me,” Sofia said as she sat down and ate the bite sized bun.
“Of what family? Hess’s aren’t one of the Spartan Blooded families.”
“No they aren’t. My mother was a whore,” she said angrily. “Literally. She was a prostitute who lived in Undershadow, south of The Wall. So I do not know who my father is, or really who my mother was. She would always berate me for being Spartan Related, not fully Spartan Blooded. She felt that if she had a child who was Spartan Blooded that she would rise in position. I was ten years old, already a couple of centimeters taller than she was when she tried to whore me out,” she said as she looked in the water. “She said I looked of age thanks to my Spartan father. That I should earn my keep. I left that night and never looked back.” She sighed and looked up at Rin. “So that is my sad story,” she said as she turned to the winter wine and poured herself another glass.
Rin sat there and quietly stored her story in her mind. “I am sorry,” she spoke. “I did not mean to bring up unfond memories.”
Sofia looked up after she drank her second cup of wine. She sighed again and let out her breath. She calmed herself down and slowly her previous demeanor came back. That sly and slinky vamp that made Rin uncomfortable. But she wasn’t that uncomfortable now that she knew Sofia. She would still need to watch her step however as Rin suspected that there was a lot more to Sophia than meets the eye.