Chapter 9:

Chapter 9

Waking Up as a Gyaru in a New World

Back in our room, Dorsa was upright and dressed. She looked alright if lacking her normal manic energy. “Hey, Selene,” she said with a limp wave. “Cray night last night, right?” Bookmark here

“More than you know.” She looked at me with curiosity but I just shook my head. It was strange that she seemed unable to look out for herself. I mean, I was from a much safer world and had been a girl for less than a month so I think my mistake was understandable. Maybe Dorsa needed the bodyguard for lots of different reasons. A thought occurred to me. “I’m surprised Elvina and Kharkov are still letting us use this room. I thought they would have tried to kick us out once the sun was up.” Bookmark here

“They did,” Revaz said, “I had to pay for an extra night. We have the room tonight.” Bookmark here

“I’m sorry, Revaz.” I pulled my backpack around. “How much was it? I’ll pay you back.” Bookmark here

The tiger man shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. He gave me a good deal.” The way he smiled made me think the negotiations had been unpleasant for Kharkov. Bookmark here

I glanced down. “Still, I feel like I owe you a lot.”Bookmark here

He shrugged. “It’s Aliya you owe. She asked me to watch out for you.” Bookmark here

“Yeah, you said that before. How do you two know each other?” I was proud of myself for the question. I wasn’t assuming they knew each other just because they were tiger people. Not a racist. Bookmark here

“She’s my sister, of course.” I glanced from Revaz to Aliya. They didn’t look alike at all. It wasn’t just the coloration, either. Did he mean sister like all tiger people were brothers and sisters? Did they all just naturally help each other because they were the same type of beastman? Wait, was that racist?Bookmark here

“They are from the same sept,” Dorsa explained. “I didn’t get that at first, either. Groups of children are raised together by the sept. They don’t have the same kind of blood relationships other peoples do. Being sept-siblings is the same as a blood sibling would be to you and me.” Bookmark here

“Ah, thank you. That makes sense,” I said. Revaz and Aliya exchanged looks like me and Dorsa were the weird ones. Bookmark here

Dorsa stretched her hands above her head and said, “If we are going to stay here tonight, I really need a bath.” I nodded my head rapidly in agreement. After last night, I was desperate. I’d been getting whiffs of myself since I got up and it wasn’t pleasant. Bookmark here

Revaz nodded. “Sure. There is a bathhouse nearby. I could use one myself.” It was only when we were standing outside of the long wooden structure that I realized what it meant to be going to a bathhouse.Bookmark here

I considered running but I had no idea how I would explain it and I really needed a bath. The price was a copper each and I insisted on paying for all of us. It seemed the least I could do. The bathhouse was segregated by sex so Kriv and Revaz went one way while me, Dorsa and Aliya went the other. There was a small changing room with woven baskets laid out for storing clothes. I undressed nervously, keeping my eyes fixed on the basket. When I was naked, I took a cautious glance around for some kind of towel or something. There was nothing. Bookmark here

“What are you waiting for, Selene?” Dorsa called. Bookmark here

I glanced over automatically and caught sight of both of them waiting at the exit to the room. Neither one had a stitch on and neither seemed bothered by it. Why should they? Aliya looked like a supermodel or a pro-athlete. Dorsa was softer and curvier and just as gorgeous in her own way. I took an involuntary step back and tripped on the basket, falling into it ass first. I tried to scramble out of it but was completely stuck. I guess I could be an embarrassing mess even when I was a beautiful woman. Bookmark here

Aliya and Dorsa helped me out. I brushed things I didn’t want to think about as they hauled me out. They were so close. I’d never even seen a naked girl in person before I looked at Mina’s body while inside it. Now I had two attractive, nude women touching me. It should have been a fantasy but I felt like I was on the edge of having a nervous breakdown. Bookmark here

The bathhouse wasn’t too terribly different from a Japanese one. There weren’t any faucets, of course, but there was a small trough of cold water with little stools set up nearby for washing up before entering the bigger pool of hot water. I concentrated very hard on washing up. There was a cake of soap, the first I’d seen in this world, that let me get squeaky clean for the first time since Artur’s. I tried not to think about the fact that we were all sharing it. No shampoo, though. I hoped Mina’s hair wasn’t getting ruined. Of course, Aliya and Dorsa both had great hair. Was shampoo a scam? Bookmark here

When we were all washed up, we got into the hot pool. There were a few newt women and one human in the bath before us but they ignored us. I did my best not to look at my companions. The noises Dorsa made as she lowered herself in were not helping. “You seem nervous about something, Selene,” Aliya said. Bookmark here

I jumped, splashing water and then forced a laugh. “I’m just not used to bathing with so many people around.” Bookmark here

“Really?” Dorsa asked. “That’s odd. I thought all Altheans loved the bathhouses. I’ve heard you guys even bathe with men.” Bookmark here

My hand curled into a fist and I hit my leg, hoping they couldn’t see it under the water. I really needed to figure out more about the Altheans. I hurriedly thought of an excuse. “Well, there wasn’t a bathhouse where I grew up. Not enough people.” I laughed, hoping it sounded real. “The first time I visited a city bathhouse I ran screaming when I realized it was mixed.” I glanced at them quickly to see how they were taking it. Dorsa seemed thoughtful and Aliya confused. Bookmark here

“I thought all Altheans lived in big cities,” Aliya said. Bookmark here

Dorsa saved me from that one. “Don’t be silly, Aliya. The Althean Empire covers all of Medea. Most of them live in the countryside, just like here. Otherwise, how would they have enough to eat?” Aliya shrugged, obviously never having considered it. Even though Dorsa had just saved me, she looked thoughtful. “What part of Medea do you come from, if you’re not from Althea proper?” Bookmark here

My mind churned, trying to dredge up every tidbit of information on the world’s geography it could. Dorsa had said that Gavodata was north across the sea from Althea. I wanted my false point of origin as far from her as possible. “South,” I said, “and east. Almost as far from Althea as you can get in Medea. Bookmark here

“Near that old port city? Zuexo?” Dorsa asked. Why was an expert on Medea’s geography?Bookmark here

“Kind of. A few weeks' journey inland.” There. I’d made my bed, now I just had to hope that the point I’d specified wasn’t important. Bookmark here

“I see.” Dorsa nodded. I glanced at her trying to see how she was taking it and noticed that she was looking a little flushed. Her head was drifting from side to side and back and forth. I turned to Aliya and the tiger woman was looking at Dorsa, as confused as I was. Abruptly, Dorsa slumped to the side. Bookmark here

Me and Aliya rushed to her side. “Are you alright?” I asked, touching her arm. Bookmark here

“I’m not so great with the heat,” Dorsa said in a wobbly voice. Bookmark here

I exhaled in relief. She was overheated. Ridiculous. “Why didn’t you say something?” I asked. Dorsa just shrugged. Me and Aliya helped her out of the pool. Between my panic at being questioned on my origin and Dorsa’s heat exhaustion, I’d forgotten for a moment that I was hanging out with two girls in the nude. As me and Aliya helped Dorsa lay out next to the pool, I began to get a little lightheaded myself. After she was settled, I stepped away close to one wall and acted like I was studying a piece of graffiti. Bookmark here

Truthfully, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the random, red picture. A sloppy pentagram? A man with an enormous schlong? A giraffe? Whatever. I just didn’t want to be around all the nudity for a moment. It was starting to do things to me. Things that weren’t easy to hide. Damn Mina and her piercings. I would’ve thought they would make things less sensitive, not more. And damn the Pekelnik. How didn’t they have towels in their bathhouses? I knew they used them. It occurred to me that we were probably supposed to bring our own, which took the wind out of the sails of my outrage.Bookmark here

After I was drier and less excited, I returned to my companions. We helped Dorsa to the changing room and dressed. Dorsa was still unsteady on her feet so me and Aliya let her throw her arms over our shoulders as we walked. Apparently, Revaz and Kriv had already gone back to the inn. Even though the situation was unusual in any number of ways, I still couldn’t help the rush of warmth that rushed through me as we walked side by side. It wasn’t sexual. It was just...I had companions. People who wanted to be close to me. I didn’t think I’d been in such close contact with a woman that wasn’t family since elementary school. Bookmark here

The sun was just starting to set as we left the bathhouse. We were only about halfway back to the Fire Belly when a woman stepped in front of us. She was tall with dark red hair falling in a ponytail down to her waist. Her face was severe but handsome, with dark eyes and a thin-lipped mouth set in a scowl. A scar crossed her face from nose to cheek under her right eye. She was dressed like no one else I’d seen in this world so far, with a red, long-sleeved tunic tucked into tan tights and black knee-high boots. She had a naked saber clutched in one hand. “Step away from her,” the mystery woman said. He had a deep and strong voice. Bookmark here

I glanced at the two women with me. Dorsa seemed frightened and Aliya confused. “Which one of us are you talking about?” Bookmark here

The woman gestured at us with her saber. “The two of you step away from Dorsa.” That cleared it up. I turned to Dorsa, a question on my face. Bookmark here

“Jael,” she whispered. Ah. The minder. I should have guessed. Bookmark here

Me and Aliya stepped away, keeping our hands on Dorsa until it was clear she could stand on her own. “Who are you?” Jael demanded. “What have you done to Dorsa?” Bookmark here

“Nothing,” Aliya said. “Fool woman passed out in the hot pool in the bathhouse.” Bookmark here

Jael’s eyes flicked over us. I imagined she was taking in our wet hair and flushed cheeks, plus the fact that no visible harm had been done to Dorsa. She straightened and slipped her sword into the sheathe riding her hip. She bowed low from the waist. “My apologies. I’ve been searching for Dorsa for such a long time and upon my first sight of her, she seemed injured. I have acted rashly.” I smiled a little. Lady knight. Neat. Bookmark here

Dorsa, who I had assumed was afraid of Jael, suddenly rushed forward, crying, “Jael!” The taller woman caught Dorsa and enfolded her in a hug. Dorsa pressed her face into Jael’s bosom, sobbing and mumbling things I couldn’t make out. Jael pet the pack of her head gently. My eyes widened a bit. The whole thing seemed a little too intimate for two friends. Had I perhaps stumbled on direct evidence that same-sex relationships were not veroboten in this world? Of course, I was in Mina’s body and I meant to give it back but, perhaps, until that happened, was I wrong to seek out a little companionship? I considered that for a moment when something else occurred to me. Oh, god, what if Mina had the same thought. My virtue! Bookmark here

Jael looked up. “Would you mind telling me what has happened?” Bookmark here

I nodded but Aliya said, “Why don’t we get out of the street first.” We returned to the inn together. Elvina was a lot more cordial with Jael around. I don’t know if it was because she liked her or because she was afraid of her but it was nice. She let us take a table and Jael insisted on buying us supper. Dorsa went to lie down upstairs with Kriv watching over her. The rest of us related what had happened to get us to this point. Jael was effusive in her thanks to us for rescuing Dorsa and protecting her. I noticed that Revaz sort of abridged what had happened the previous night, either to spare Jael’s feelings or maybe to keep her from going on a rampage. She seemed the type. Bookmark here

The topic turned to what we were doing in Paddletail and I slammed by palms into the table. “That’s right,” I said, whisper-shouting. “I need to see if anybody here has seen the cobras.” Bookmark here

“Oh,” Aliya said. “I asked the newts at Muddy River. Two cobras stayed at the sept house about a week ago. They had a young man in strange clothing with them.” Bookmark here

“Oh.” I settled back in my seat, a little disappointed. I’d kind of wanted to sleuth it out for myself. Oh, well. At least I knew we were on the trail. Bookmark here

The conversation sort of petered out after that. Jael wasn’t much of a talker and I was starting to get very tired. We decided to retire for the night. Some of the patrons called out at me for some music. I ignored them with mixed feelings. Jael decided to rent a room for Dorsa and herself and Dorsa and carried Dorsa out of ours. Bookmark here

Revaz, Aliya and Kriv stayed with me. The bed was small but Aliya and Revaz didn’t see any issue with sharing it with me. Since Revaz had paid for the room, I couldn’t see how I could argue. Both of them stripped down to just underpants. I didn’t really have any option but to do the same. Revaz’s vest would be way too uncomfortable to sleep in. Kriv disdained the bed, claiming it would be too hot. Bookmark here

I maneuvered so that Aliya was between me and Revaz on the bed and then turned so my back was to them and I was as close to the edge of the bed as I could get without falling off. The two of them snuggled together and I waited tensely, half expecting something to happen. But they fell asleep quickly. I guess they did consider themselves to be brother and sister, blood or no. Once they were out, I followed quickly. Bookmark here

I woke up once in the night as Kriv climbed in and nestled between me and Aliya. I had rolled over so I was facing the others. I sleepily rubbed Kriv’s head and fell right back asleep.Bookmark here

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