The start of Chapter 2 and a later moment between Arbalisth spy Sharina, and Cain, who is unaccustomed to the way the girl treats him or how he feels towards her, making the genius bumble his words while trying to compliment her.
CHAPTER 2 START
Foreign lands were such a part of Sharaina Fafnir's life that she no longer considered them foreign.
At some point, during her illustrious yet short career, seeing new places and meeting new people became tedious and dull. The excitement of the unfamiliar dissipated into a chore, but she had never lost her wonder when it came to shopping.
She knew it was stereotypical for a woman to love the market, but there was always something about it; the air, the smells, the sounds, the sights, the bargains and not-so-bargains that made her happy, and it was never so much about the trading between customer and merchant, but the brief moment when one world met another, through trinkets or food or art. Thus, today was like any other in which she found herself perusing the wares of a merchant, taking that one moment for herself.
Sharaina knew the merchant was watching her look, and she also knew the reason. Part of her job depended on it. Her white, low-cut blouse was purposefully tied so the bottom of the shirt was pulled into itself, leaving her midriff for the world to see. It was so high that, occasionally, her "assets", as she had once described them, would hang out slightly. The blouse did have sleeves that reached down her arms, but this was of course by design. She had found it imperative to get the right kind and amount of attention in her line of work, but also be able to keep an air of mystery, for many reasons. Her legs were dressed much more conservatively, the dark fabric of her slacks slit down equally on both of her legs, a metal ring connecting them over the bare skin of her thighs. She had often forgotten how cold the rings could get when she wore the slacks, but they were the perfect fit that she never really cared.
The woman knew how provocative her outfit was, to say the least, but it never hurt when playing the innocent with foreign soldiers and constables to have herself looking vulnerable.
Still, the ensemble had it's drawbacks, such as the elderly man who was now transfixed by her.
"We're having a sale today," he said with a big smile, the gap in his front teeth as dark as the rest were white. If Sharaina had not been as annoyed as she was, she would have found the way the old merchants dry skin pulled at his mustache comical, but as it was, she could only be flustered.
"And what's the sale on?" she asked, her voice filled with more honey than any hive.
And just as many stings.
"Whatever you're buyin'." the merchant answered.
"That's alright," she offered, standing up straight so that her height advantage could play with the merchant's likely fragile psyche. "I'm really just passing though. Can you show me to the Walters shop?"
The merchant scratched his chin, clearly disappointed his offer did not gain him a smile.
Give him what he wants.she reasoned.Best way to get what I need.
Sharaina smiled, bowing her deceptively delicate face towards the merchant slightly so that her wavy blonde hair fell forward, making her just pleading enough. His ego assuaged, the merchant forced a chuckle and nodded, motioning for her to follow.
"Easy enough, young miss." he said as he waddled past her. His overalls were stained various colors in the back, and Sharaina could not help but wonder how someone stained their clothes in such a manner. After a moment of following him to the front door, it dawned on her.
They were being worn backwards.
"All you have to do is reach Center Square, the big area down there were the seven roads meet, and there are all the pointy buildings." he instructed, opening the door to his shop and pointing for added help. "The big road, with all the stations on it, leads you to the Capitol Palace. If you go over one, two roads to the right," he continued, pointing at each road with one hand at each. On his other hand, he counted.
Sharaina held a giggle at that, her face still one of a false sincerity.
"Well, that's Walters Road, for obvious reasons. Follow it down as far as you can, towards the edge of the city, and the big old building with large doors and a tower will be Walters' shop. He's always really busy, what with working with the Bellox kid, or on someone's steam car. You may have to wait for him."
"Oh, thank you," she said, bowing slightly, both as a way to indicate thanks and to further ingratiate the merchant. "But I'm not worried about a wait."
"Ah, well, a lass like you, I'm sure won't have to wait at all." the merchant said with a laugh, turning to make his way back to his counter.
Story of my life,Sharaina thought.Okay, all I have to do now is contact Walters and get his assistance. I know where to go, though. It's a start.
"Your eyes... are like water." Cain said at last.
Sharaina arced an eyebrow and her head titled back, as if to discern Cain's meaning by giving him a more thorough look.
"I'm a well-traveled girl, hun. Seen a lot of places, been to a lot of schools, danced a lot of balls, but you're going to have to explain that one."
Cain rustled his own hair nervously.
"That is, not to say that your eyes are 'like water' as a simile, in regards to color or radiance, but rather, a metaphor. Though I suppose that works, too, depending on the body of water."
Sharaina was silent, understanding but not yet satisfied.
"Go on," she said at last, her expression softening, her lips remaining split and pursed from her words.
"Well, see, water is a bit of a miracle. It gives life, sure, and is fun to swim in, but it's a scientific miracle. It's the only thing that expands when frozen, for one," he tried to explain.
"So you're saying that my eyes expand?"
Cain rustled his hair again, but this time more quickly.
"No, that's not it. The main thing that fascinates me about water is that it can change between all three types of matter. It starts, well, we'll start with it as a liquid, but if you heat it, it turns to vapor, a gas, but if you freeze it, it turns to a solid. No other element or material can do that, it's unfathomable! Well, close to unfathomable, as it was obviously fathomed at some point or else it wouldn't be pertinent to fathom.
"Now, obviously I don't expect your eyes to turn into ice or float away as vapor, but that was not and is not and will not be my point. My original meaning was that, well, your eyes are unfathomable, but clearly, they are what they are. But that doesn't make them any less of a miracle."
Cain finished, but had turned his head away from the woman he had tried so hard to compliment. Sharaina surmised it was either out of embarrassment or lack of confidence, but either way, it mattered little to her. Her eyebrows had shifted as the mechanic, among other things, had spoken, as she felt herself give away her emotions without deliberation, perhaps for the first time in her recent memory. She bit her bottom lip once, and then, slowly, leaned over to Cain, and gently turned his face towards hers. Cain looked away, but Sharaina didn't need to look into his eyes to do what she desired; she leaned in further, pressing her lips to the part of his face, where his mouth met his cheek, and kissed him. Sharaina deliberately neither kissed his lips or cheek fully, not to tease, but to be memorable.
She closed her eyes, getting lost in the feel of his flesh against her lips. The smoothness of his lips. The poke of new stubble from his face.
When she had enough, or rather, when she felt any longer would turn the moment awkward, she pulled away, opening her eyes.
Cain's eyes had closed at some point during the near-kiss, and when he opened them, he was still looking away from her.
"Uh,"' he stammered once. His head tilted down and he finally looked in her direction.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"Because you deserved it." she answered. "Now come on, lover boy. Time to get some sleep. We have to continue to Arbalisth in the morning.
"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep." Cain admitted as she rose.
Sharaina took a quick moment to kiss him on his forehead as she did, then watched him close his eyes and reopen them again. She smiled, trying her best to keep any of her own urges from the gesture, then turned and made her way from his bed roll.
She stopped and turned back, and despite his previous comment, Cain had indeed lain down and turned away. She took no offense; the boy was most likely maxed out on his already low social interaction skills.
The blonde finally walked into her tent, and slowly let the flap fall down behind her.
"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep."he had said.
Again, for what felt like ages, Sharaina allowed genuine emotion loose on her face in an expression without worrying about any repercussions.
It was one of regret.
"Neither will I,"