“We kissed…” Erin muttered as she parted from Aedan’s lips. Even if she tried to deny it, the thin translucent string dangling between their lips wouldn’t allow her to. Though this wasn’t her first kiss, it was her first time with a man. Was she thrilled? Was she elated? She couldn’t tell but what she did know was that she didn’t find it appalling.
Aedan nodded. “It would seem that we did.”
There was nothing between them but the steam of the hot spring that seemed to reflect their current feelings. The warmth from their rising body temperature was hidden amidst the heat of the water. Be it their warmth coming from their heart or the hot spring, it mattered not to them. They both knew the truth.
“Do you dislike it?” Aedan asked, brushing her cheeks with one hand and stroking her tail with the other.
Even though he was only lightly touching her, the sensation was tremendous for Erin. But she didn’t push him away. “I don’t,” she said.
“Then do you want another?”
There was no verbal response from Erin. She simply leaned forward again and lightly touched her lips against his.
“Someone’s enjoying herself,” Aedan teased.
“If you plan on being an arse, I will hit you.”
“If you can.”
Erin struck. No word of warning came from her but caught her wrist just before knuckles collided with his face.
“You are a lot stronger than you were.”
“Still not as strong as you.” She then flicked her fingers, lightly hitting Aedan’s brows.
“Ow,” he muttered dryly. “How sly of you.”
“Still craftier than you.”
They both share a laugh.
“Why?” he asked, vaguely.
But Erin saw through his intent. “Is there ever any proper logic in love?”
Aedan giggled. “I suppose there’s none but still, I would love to hear a reason.”
“Just so you can stroke your vanity with that reason?”
“You know me so well.”
Erin sighed. “Oh, Aedan… You’re such an arse. If you want a reason… I guess you being reliable would be one.”
“Just because of that?”
“You’re capable. Whenever you’re around, I feel like I’m not the only one carrying all the burden. You understand and you’re honest…. My arse has been kissed for reasons more false than a mogul’s humility. And also, you don’t hide your intentions, at least not from me. But I have to know, have you ever looked at me in that sort of way?”
“That sort of way, you say?”
“Well, I certainly have.” His gaze fell, his eyes veering downwards. “Like now. I’m still a person with desires and I was the type that enjoys the finer things in life.”
Before Erin herself knew it, she was panting from Aedan’s gaze. “It’s truly strange. I can’t even stand the thought of other men gazing at me with that sort of intent, let alone be gazed by them at my bare body. But if it's you… I don’t find it unpleasant.”
“Count myself fortunate then, to have gained your favour and love.”
“My love? How presumptuous of you, Mister Aedan.”
“How coy of you, Lady Erin.”
And they shared another chuckle. She loved him, Erin realised. She didn’t know if her love for Aedan was the exact same as her love for Lyra and Siv but the point was, she truly loved him. A part of her wanted to show him just how deep her love went but now wasn’t the right time.
“They’re watching, you know?” Aedan said.
Erin blinked. “They? Who?”
Aedan nudged at the direction of the camp with his head.
“Really?” Erin probed the area with Life Sense but she didn’t pick any presence. “I don’t sense anyone. I don’t smell or hear anything either.”
“Lilian's quite skilled in the Spirit Magic. But I’m better.” Aedan grabbed a pebble by the hot spring and tossed it into the bushes.
“Ouch!” came a cry a second later.
Erin immediately distanced herself from Aedan in a scurry.
“Now you’re just breaking my heart, Erin.”
“Now isn’t the time for your jokes, Aedan!” or so her glare said to him.
As Aedan had predicted, the rest of the group emerged from behind the bushes. Red filled Erin from her feet to her forehead. Lilian was sporting a smile, the only one who found the whole situation amusing. Siv bore an indifferent expression as if she had expected such an outcome. Aera was the only one uninterested. She merely looked bored and tired. Olivia had a solemn face as if she was deep in thought. The last two, Lyra and Nivia, were the ones who had the biggest reactions.
“Oh, my,” Lilian sighed in amusement. “Can’t say I hadn’t anticipated this but to think they are so brazen to be kissing under the moonlight with nothing to hide behind or under. Brazen, indeed.”
“So, mistress enjoys this kind of play… I see,” Siv muttered.
“I enjoyed no such play!” Erin wanted to shout but that wasn’t the problem here.
“E-Erin…” Lyra was stammering. The shock and betrayal was apparent in her eyes. Her shoulders were trembling. “W-why…?”
Erin felt her heart throbbing with pain from the guilt. “Lyra, I—”
“Why didn’t you ask me to join!?”
“Wh-what?” Erin blurted out dumbfoundedly.
“W-what are you saying, human!?” Nivia shouted. “That’s not the point here!”
“Oh, shut up, you virgin elf,” Lyra barked, surprising Nivia. “Erin and I had talked about this. And don’t bother asking the details. You wouldn’t understand and you wouldn’t like it.” Finishing her retort at Nivia, she approached Erin in stride, taking her garbs off in the process. She then hopped into the pool, positioning herself right between Erin and Aedan. She shot Aedan a glare and latched herself onto Erin as if to assert her place.
“L-Lyra?” Erin tapped her shoulder. “What are you doing?”
“What does it look like? You sneak off somewhere to get fucked but you didn’t tell me anything.”
“That was not my intention. I came here to take a bath and rest. He followed me.”
“So he’s the one who’s trying to fuck you?”
“What? No! No one else is fucking anyone here, damn it! Calm down, Lyra!”
“Really? Then what’s all the sweet nothings between you and Aedan for? I may have not heard everything you and Aedan told each other but I heard enough to know this, you fancy him. You do, don’t you?”
At Lyra’s words, all eyes were on Erin, except for Aera, who looked uncomfortable to be in this situation. Though she liked Erin, her love was a different kind. Olivia wasn’t that different from Aera. The two were outsiders of the relationship web before them. But Olivia had an interest. The person-of-interest in this ordeal was her lord after all.
Erin looked to Aedan for help but he too sported an anticipating look. “Traitor,” she muttered under her breath as she realised no help would be coming from Aedan. She turned to Lyra with a resolute face. “Yes, I do like him and not as a friend.”
“I see…” Lyra said. “But who do you love more? Me or him?”
“I-I can’t answer that. That’s an impossible question.”
“So you love Aedan as much as me? Is that it?”
“No, that’s not it. I-it’s complicated, Lyra. I can’t—”
Suddenly, a loud clap resounded, turning everyone’s attention to the one clapping. It was Lilian. “Alright. That’s enough, everyone. We all had our fun and our meal. What say we all take a nice dip in the hot spring and let it wash all of our troubles and fatigue away? Sounds good?” She didn’t wait for the others’ reply and was already taking her robes off.
“Whoa…” Erin gasped unconsciously. Her mind was so focused on other matters that she didn’t get the chance to truly appreciate Lilian’s figure and that fact she was wearing a loose robe didn’t help either. Lilian was a little on the plump but she still had a figure that would invoke envy and jealousy in the hearts of women. From Erin’s perspective, the extra meat on her wasn’t a demerit but a bonus.
“Oh, my, Erin. If you keep staring at me like that, I’m going to start blushing.”
“It’s hard to keep my eyes away when you have such a voluptuous figure, Lilian.” Those words came out of her mouth as natural as breathing.
“Dear me,” Lilian gasped. “You’re even bolder than what I have heard from Nivia.”
“Don’t twist my words, Lilian!” Nivia finally let out her voice after she was stunned into silence by Lyra. “Please don’t misunderstand, Erin. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Erin couldn’t help but chuckle. Nivia was still the same as before, for the most part. She noticed Nivia’s gaze was friendlier than before when she was glancing at others. Namely, Aedan. Knowing him, he must have said a lot of things that would get on Nivia’s nerves but to her surprise, Nivia showed no such hostility towards Aedan.
“What are you all waiting for?” Lilian asked, stepping into the hot spring with nothing on.
The remaining four outside of the hot spring stared at Aedan as if to answer Lilian’s question.
“Oh, don’t mind him. He’s not interested,” Lilian said. “Are you?” But she still asked as she turned to Aedan.
“That’s beside the point,” Aedan responded.
“It’s just a shame that you will be left out while everyone else is enjoying a nice hot bath.”
“Are they?” Lilian looked at the four.
“If mistress allows, then I shall join.”
“I am not uncomfortable,” Olivia answered. “He’s my lord. If he’s not uncomfortable with it, then I won’t be either.”
“H-He can stay…” Aera said. Erin caught a glimpse of the faint blush on Aera’s cheeks.
“Well, how about you, Nivia?” Lilian asked. “Are you bothered? As a proud Fae, surely you won’t be bothered, right?”
Erin, Lyra, and Aedan, all stared at Lilian, impressed by her schemes. Erin also began to doubt if Lilian was a Fox-kin, not a Dryad.
“O-of course, I’m not bothered!” Nivia asserted loudly.
Spurred by the Dryad’s boldness and persuasion, Siv, Olivia, Aera, and Nivia relented to the mood and took off their clothes and joined the rest inside the hot spring. Erin found herself fixing her gaze on Nivia. The Elf had the most uniform figure among them but now that she was without clothes, Erin could finally see how lean and fine Nivia’s body was. It was even better than Erin herself.
“W-what?” Nivia asked upon noticing Erin’s stare.
“You’re marvellous, Nivia. I can tell you’re not just talented. You’re also quite a hard worker.”
“Obviously,” Nivia retorted, looking away. Her cheeks flushed like a pair of ripe tomatoes.
When everyone had entered the hot spring, Aedan stood up. He had his eyes facing the night sky. “Maybe it’s best that I leave you all to your own concerns. If you all will excuse me—”
“You are not excused,” Lilian said, dragging Aedan back down into the spring by his arm.
A heap of gasps echoed.
“They already gave their consent, Aedan. What’s the rush? Or are you tempted by them?”
“You’re a vile and guileful woman, Lilian,” Aedan said.
“Isn’t that your preference?” Lilian asked, sniggering.
“Is it?” Erin threw the same question.
Aedan sighed, exhausted. “Really?”
“It is a valid question considering there’s Iris and Maria.”
“And there’s also you.” Aedan shot back. “I supposed it is, then.”
“I see,” Erin said and turned away, shifting her attention to Lyra and Siv.
“Ah…” Lilian gasped delightfully. “How nice. It's always good to see love blossom.”
“You have a weird hobby, Lilian,” Aedan said.
“Is it weird to want to see lovebirds being honest with each other?”
Aedan pried his arm away from Lilian and stood up. His body glistened under the moonlight from the water dripping down his skin. Everyone looked away, except for Erin and Lilian.
Lilian could be heard chuckling and Erin found herself unable to pry her eyes away from Aedan but she at least resisted moving her gaze further down.
“I think I had enough.” And he left the hot spring and strode back to the camp, not before leaving towels behind that he had retrieved from his personal subspace.
“How considerate, despite being irked,” Lilian remarked. “I can see why you like him, Erin.”
“What’s your aim, Lilian?” Erin asked, her gaze narrowed.
“Nothing as bad as what you are imagining. I just want people to be free and honest with love. Is there a bad thing?”
“Some people don’t agree with that idea.”
“Not the people here. Or else they wouldn’t have stuck with you or put up with Aedan. Let’s be honest here, you and Aedan are the focal points here. They are either in love with you or him.”
“I am not in love with Aedan!” Nivia spoke up but she soon realised that she shouldn’t have.
Lilian giggled. “My, my. Why do you think we are implicating you with Aedan, Nivia? Wouldn’t it be more obvious for us to guess that you fancy Erin instead? But you thought of Aedan, why is that?”
Nivia opened her mouth but only a stutter came out.
“Aera over there fancies Aedan too.”
Aera didn’t refute and simply lowered herself deeper into the water until just above her lips.
“Let me guess, you fancy Aedan?” Erin said.
“I do,” Lilian admitted. “But I’m also interested in you, Erin. Just what are you?” she asked, smiling.
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