Volume 4 - Criminal Crow, Chapter 24 -Treading Softly
Tsuen realized she was alone in the house when dinnertime rolled around and Mara didn’t come running. Tsuen checked every room in the house, but Mara was nowhere to be found.
To distract herself from her growing unease, she started to prepare dinner for herself, chopping up some fresh veggies for a salad. While she worked, she ran through a simple mental checklist: Haru and Yuisu are out on their date. Check. Yamato came by and picked up Misaki. Check. I’m here, preparing a salad for myself. Check. Mara is here, eating something made entirely of meat, or bugs, or something else gross.
“Not check.” Tsuen set down the knife because her hands were shaking. She was starting to panic now.
Should I call Yuisu? She walked from the kitchen counter to the phone, but stopped and turned back. No, I don’t want to ruin their date…
Tsuen paced back and forth. Her ears were folded down against her head and she frowned in concern. Or should I call Agent Will? But what if that gets Mara in trouble?
As Tsuen fretted, she tried to think back to when she had last seen Mara. She had been there when Yamato arrived to pick up Misaki, but Tsuen couldn’t remember seeing her at all after the two of them left.
“That’s it!” Tsuen shouted out loud. “She must have snuck off with Misaki!”
She stomped back to her abandoned salad and picked up where she left off, chopping lettuce. That silly girl, I bet she wanted to spy on Haru and Yuisu on their date, and she roped Misaki and Yamato in on it.
Tsuen picked up the cutting board and slid all the veggies into a bowl, then carried it to the table. She kneeled next to the table, and set the bowl down a bit too hard.
“Argh, I’m still worried,” she muttered to herself. “I hope she doesn’t get into trouble.”
Tsuen saw headlights climbing up the mountain and she ran out onto the porch before Yamato’s little car had slowed to a stop. Mara climbed out of the backseat, opened her parasol over her head, and bounded up to the house. Once Mara was safely on the porch, Yamato waved and drove off.
Tsuen was fidgeting side to side impatiently when Mara ran up and said, “Hiya, Tsuen!”
“I was so worried, Mara!” Tsuen exclaimed as she suddenly scooped her up into a tight hug. To hold her better, Tsuen lifted one front leg and supported Mara’s weight on her knee.
Mara couldn’t really talk or even breathe. She only managed a “Mrrrmph!” until she pulled her face back. She was looking right at Tsuen’s breasts, bouncy and perky even though she wasn’t wearing a bra under her light t-shirt. Screw ‘busty is better’ and ‘flat is justice’, Mara thought, As the French say, ‘moyenne est mieux’. [meaning ‘Average is best’]
Mara moved to return the hug, but as she shifted her weight, she couldn’t help but realize where Tsuen’s leg was. The raised knee was right between Mara’s legs, and was rubbing lightly against her groin. Between that and the set of beautiful boobs in her face, along with having been spying on a romantic couple all night, Mara was getting kind of aroused.
Let’s see how Tsuen likes it… Mara thought as she opened her mouth wide and leaned forward. “Nom!” She bit down lightly on Tsuen’s nipple.
Tsuen let out a surprised whinny and dropped her front leg that was holding Mara’s weight. Out of reflex, Mara grabbed around Tsuen’s torso to stop her fall, which happened to push her lips harder onto Tsuen’s breast.
“Uuah!” Tsuen let out a moan and her long furry ears went rigid. A ripple of pleasure ran through her body from her nipple outward. It seemed that Mara had found Tsuen’s weak spot.
The strength drained out of Tsuen’s legs and she fell to a kneeling position. Once Mara had her feet on the ground, she let go of Tsuen and stepped back.
Tsuen shook her head to clear it. “What… the heck… was that for… Mara?” she asked between quivering breaths. “I’m stuck here at home… worried about you… and then you do… that?”
Mara shrugged, wearing a foolish grin. “Well, you seemed to like it.” The grin faded to a serious expression. “Seriously though, I really am sorry that I worried you, Tsuen.” She put her arms out to her sides. “Forgive me?”
Without another word, Tsuen stood and turned around. She stepped inside but she left the door open for Mara.
Mara found Tsuen in the living room in her favorite spot. Tsuen had laid across much of the couch and she was peering out the window at the darkness outside.
“Are you okay, Tsuen?”
“I don’t even know. What was that all for, Mara? Why’d you do that to my breast?” she said with a wavering voice.
“I guess I got turned on by your hug, and I wanted to see what you’d do.”
“Turned on? By me?” Tsuen’s eyes were wide and watery.
“Hell yes, by you. I guess I coulda have said something earlier, but I thought it was obvious. I’ve got a huge crush on you, Tsuen.”
Tsuen blushed furiously, but she thought back to all the times Mara seemed to cling to her over the others. Other than occasional things like tonight, Mara does spend far more time with me than anyone else. And I do like spending time with her…
Mara scratched at her chin with one finger and gazed up at the ceiling. “I guess I’ve had a crush on you since I met you, back before you helped me with my agoraphobia and gave me that umbrella. All that just made me like you even more.”
Tsuen’s ears lifted and she broke into a smile. “I like you too, Mara. And I want a relationship, like Haru and Yuizu have, but at the same time, I don’t.” Her smile faded again.
Mara put a carapace-covered hand on Tsuen’s knee. “Why not?”
Tsuen looked away, back at the window. “I never had one before, and the only time I tried backfired.”
Mara settled in on the carpeted floor, all of her legs tucked under her body, and peered up at Tsuen on the couch. “Oh? Do you want to talk about it? I’ll listen.”
Tsuen took a deep breath, let it out slowly and said, “There was a girl in my village. She was my best friend, and we did everything together.” Tsuen wore a sad smile. “I thought I loved her, and I told her that.”
Tsuen paused, dreading what came next. Mara gave her an encouraging nod and she continued.
“She said that it was gross, and wrong. She told the village elders, and they thought the same thing. They wanted me gone, so I couldn’t ‘corrupt others with my deviancy’. They banished me from the secret valley, the only world I ever knew.” Tears rolled down Tsuen’s face and fell onto the arm of the couch.
“I wandered around rural China, trying to find anyone that would take me in, but most humans just wanted to use me as a tourist attraction, or worse. Eventually I heard about Japan’s Interspecies Exchange Program, and I signed up. I thank the ancestors every day that I was accepted and got to move here with you all.”
Mara stood and wrapped Tsuen in a hug. “I’m so sorry, Tsuen. I can’t imagine how hard all of that was. For what it’s worth, I’m also thankful that you live here.”
Tsuen wiped the tears from her eyes and hugged Mara back. “If you’re okay taking it slow, and with me not knowing what I’m doing…” Tsuen leaned back so she could see Mara’s face. “Want to date?”
Mara’s smile widened into a silly grin and her eyes sparkled. “Of course, Tsuen! If you want, we can kick things off by going to the gym together in the morning.”
There was a minor hiccup in Mara’s plan. In order for her and Tsuen to go to the gym without Yuisu driving them in her truck, they’d need to run there, and they had very different running speeds. Before they even made it to the property’s gate, Mara slowed to a stop, panting.
“I can’t keep up with you, Tsuen. Curse these adorably tiny legs!”
“I’m sorry. I did try to slow down, but it looks like even my trot is too fast.”
“What if I rode on your back? I’m pretty light, so I bet you’d be fine.”
Tsuen’s ears went stiff and her face flushed red.
“What? What’d I say?” Mara asked.
Tsuen stammered, “Uh, it’s just that riding is a very special thing in centaur cultures. In my tribe specifically, it uh, is a very…” She trailed off.
“Oh, it’s a romance thing? Well, no problem then! We’re dating after all.”
It was actually more than that, but she couldn’t figure out how to say it. In Tsuen’s tribe, a centaur allowing someone to ride on them was a very sexual thing, seen as deviant and naughty. Before Tsuen could say anything, Mara leapt into the air and landed gracefully on Tsuen’s back. Her eight main legs grabbed securely onto Tsuen’s back, and her palps and arms latched around Tsuen’s torso.
“Giddyup!” Mara joked.
Tsuen somehow turned even redder. It was all too much too fast and she couldn’t even manage to speak. Instead, she decided to power through and started walking. It’s only a sexual thing back in my village. My former village. Here and now, I’m just giving my friend a ride. She was barely holding together and sweat dripped down her face. There’s nothing sexual about this… even though she’s my girlfriend… and I can feel her pressed against my back… and she’s touching my stomach… and bumping the underside of my breasts.
She sped up to a canter, trying to distract herself. The familiar comfort of running had almost pushed all those thoughts out of her head when Mara spoke nearly directly into her ear.
“Wow, you’re really fast, Tsuen. I guess never realized just how fast, because it’s hard to tell on the treadmill. It’s pretty impressive, and sexy.”
FWEEEEEET! “Stop right there!” A police officer on a bicycle was suddenly racing along next to them, blowing a whistle and waving his arm, trying to get Tsuen’s attention. He couldn’t keep up with her at her current pace and was falling behind.
Tsuen slowed to a stop and the officer pulled up next to her and got off his bike. Despite worrying about why the officer had stopped her, Tsuen was actually relieved for this new distraction.
“Ma’am, I need to see your ID. You appear to be out alone without your host—” He cut himself off when he noticed the little pink arachne on Tsuen’s back. “Okay… you aren’t out alone, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Now I need to see both of your papers.”
Mara dug into her purse and brought out two sets of IDs and other papers. “We’ve got approval to travel to Sports Club Kobold, sir,” she said as she handed him the papers.
He looked over the papers. “And that’s where you’re headed now?” He peered over his sunglasses at the two liminals.
Tsuen nodded. “Yes, sir. We’re dressed for the occasion, even.”
He swept his gaze over their brightly colored running clothes, then nodded. “Very well. All your paperwork is in order.” He handed the papers back to Mara. “Sorry for the delay. Have a good day, ladies.”
As the sound of hoofbeats on pavement faded into the distance, he muttered, “An arachne riding a centaur… Never thought I’d see that in a million years.”
After about an hour of exercise at the gym, Tsuen and Mara headed back home. They didn’t bother showering before leaving gym, since they’d be getting sweaty again on the jog home. The return trip was less eventful, and they made good time. Tsuen’s endurance seemed limitless, to be able to run uphill while carrying Mara, even after all that other exercise.
When they got home, they split off to their own rooms to get clean clothes. A moment later, they nearly collided in front of the laundry room, since they had both beelined for the bath to clean off.
“Ooh, we can bathe together, Tsuen. That’ll be nice,” Mara said with an innocent smile.
Tsuen swallowed hard and mumbled, “Uh huh.” The thought of bathing with Mara had taken on a new vibe now that they were going out.
Tsuen rinsed by herself, but when it came time to get in the bath, she froze. Mara was already lounging in the pool, and she was totally naked.
I guess I don’t need to cover up with a towel like I do around the other girls… I can do this, she thought as she lowered her arms to her sides and strode purposefully toward the bath.
FWEE-FWOO, Mara whistled when she saw Tsuen approach. “Looking good, Tsuen. I’m diggin’ that strut.”
Tsuen darted the rest of the way to the bath and hid in the water. It was just deep enough to cover her chest, but not her blushing face.
Mara giggled, then apologized, “Sorry for embarrassing you so much, Tsuen. It’s just too fun!” Mara half-swam, half-walked over next to Tsuen and put an arm around her shoulders. “I’ll stop making everything sexual. Let’s just relax for a bit.”
Tsuen eased up and smiled at Mara. “Yeah, that’ll be nice.”