New Equilibrium IV

Naomi wore her best smile as she waited in front of the estate’s entrance for Alexa. It was all going almost too well–a few drinks, a few smiles and Alexa had risen to the occasion to lend her services to the Empire. The sun was out in the Myyhera sky, illuminating the country estate with its familiar yellow warmth. Servants walked to and fro, their heads occupied with their allocation of chores for the day. An attendant stood near Naomi–one of the many unnamed faces of the Household Affairs office.

Alexa exited one of the family’s sleek black cars–one of a fleet that were adorned with the family’s crest. Naomi loathed the crest–engraved upon so many trinkets and artifacts throughout the manor, as it was; the seal was in and of itself a silent watcher of her every action. And she imagined it would scream if it was given a voice. But she would hear plenty of screaming once she had her brother and his wife on their knees.

“Welcome to our humble abode, Miss Alexa,” She curtsied.

Alexa bowed, “Thank you, Naomi. And you can call me ‘Alexa.'”

“Very well, Alexa,” She glanced at the facade of the manor building, motioning for the attendant to begin taking notes, “What security flaws do you see?”

Her tone was careful. She wanted to see how much Alexa could pick up on body language and voice stress, so she asked her questions with a veneer of calculation–her tone could have suggested danger or a threat.

“Very few. I would… hesitate to reveal them directly, Naomi, but security is clearly fairly strong.”

So not completely ignorant. 

She nodded, “Why don’t we take tea inside one of the parlors and we can discuss it there.”

“After you, Naomi.”

Naomi walked slowly through the manor, pointing out various conversation items. About half-way there she relieved the attendant of his duties and called upon the staff to provide a tea service in one of the parlors, but that they would take their tea privately. The result was a silver tea service awaiting them with no other souls in sight.

She made her way to the service and took on the role of server, “Do you take sugar or cream?”

“Both, please.”

She nodded, then provided Alexa with a teacup upon a saucer–the sugar and cream present. She imagined that her brother would say something idiotic around this time such as “Mother always told me milk before the tea…” But she chose instead to provide Alexa with a different hallmark–the muted smile of the nobility.

Alexa took a sip, giving her thanks. Their eyes met for a moment, then Alexa said, “You are… quite a lovely woman…”

Poor thing! 

Naomi feigned embarrassment, “Oh, thank you, Miss–ahem–Alexa. You are as well.”

Naomi quickly glanced around after steadying herself–it was not quite time to flirt, yet, “We should be free to speak, here, but sometimes I wonder if I can trust the household staff.”

“The security around the Manor is excellent,” Alexa began, “I have a few concerns–the guards patrol a predictable path, for example, and it might be wise to make some discreet inquiries into the… social alignment of the staff…?”

Naomi, feigning ignorance, raised an eyebrow, “Social alignment?”

“Who assigns their duties? How much access does an outside party have, should they wish to turn one of your employees?”

Naomi responded matter-of-factly, “The house receives deliveries once a week and the staff are on a rotating schedule that gives them leave to visit the town or even go into the city. Their duties are assigned by the Household Affairs office, which I oversee directly.”

Alexa nodded, Naomi continued, “I’m afraid it seems very porous when you cast it in such light,” She put on a downcast expression, “Spies could be rampant.”

Alexa seemed silent for a moment, as if thinking over something critical. Finally, she offered, “If you wish, I could contact some of my associates and see if any of them have unsavory connections.”

She hadn’t considered that as a possibility. It was threatening though it was sincere–an investigation would ultimately lead back to her own operations. She couldn’t have that.

“Alexa,” Naomi put her cup of tea down, hoping to slightly shift Alexa’s course, “If you had the choice to rule out of fear or out of love, which would you choose?”

Alexa hesitated, but finally replied, “I do not like the idea that people are afraid of me–though I understand the usefulness of such perceptions, from a military perspective. Were I given a choice… I would rule out of love.”

Naomi crossed the distance between them. Wearing an expression of virtuous ambition, she looked into Alexa’s eyes then took Alexa’s hands in her own, “Then we are the same.”

“My brother rules by fear and the family loathes him. I want this family to be one where we can love.”

Alexa merely nodded, staring into Naomi’s gaze. Perfect.

“He uses spies to provide him with information, to quell dissent,” Naomi shook her head, “That’s not what I want. I want my brother and my new sister-in-law to return to a transformed family, one where we don’t have to live with barriers of fear erected between us.”

Alexa responded, “I will do all I can to help you achieve that goal.”

Naomi smiled, then acted as if she had just realized they were holding hands. She faked a blush and turned away, “I’m sorry. That was improper of me.”

She heard Alexa take a deep breath. In that breath she heard a symphony of success–the hook was deep indeed.

“Y-you need not apologize, Naomi. I-in fact, I do not know precisely the reason, but… I wish you had not stopped.”

Naomi turned back to Alexa, “You would have allowed me to… to continue?”

Alexa blushed a response, “I would. If you wish.”

As if guided by God, a servant knocked on the door, breaking the moment. Naomi almost burst out laughing at the manifestation of Providence, the servant indicating a message had arrived for her.

She looked at Alexa, “Will–will you stay, tonight? I feel… safer, when you are nearby.”

Alexa nodded, “Yes… yes, of course, I will.”

Naomi smiled, then proceeded to attend to the messenger. She had already won. And now, the reel.

***

It was several hours after she had parted with Alexa. The message had been both a chore and a blessing all at once. On the one hand, the matter was an incredibly dull issue of ledgers, but on the other, it actually made her feel tired. For Alexa’s benefit, she would look exhausted, weak, and vulnerable. All the same she took a deep breath when she heard the knock on her bedchamber’s door, then prepared herself for the act.

“Good evening, Alexa,” She said, looking worn.

“Good evening, Naomi,” Alexa smiled, perhaps a little nervously.

Naomi indicated a place-setting for a meal amidst her room, lightly decorated as it was. Indeed, it seemed rather sparse for the immediate sibling to a Holder. She wondered if it would trouble Alexa, what with her being an agent of the Empire. She hadn’t prepared for this at all–part of her wondered if she should have played this out in one of the gaudier rooms of guilded gold. But it was too late now.

She hoped Alexa would focus on her and on her alone. Looking exhausted, she said, “I know I said we would take dinner together, but do you mind if I just… lie down for a bit?”

Alexa took a seat, her smile appearing a little easier, “I don’t mind at all… is everything all right?”

“I just,” She acted as if it was a battle to keep her eyes open, “I haven’t been sleeping well. The slightest sounds wake me and I feel I’m succumbing to paranoia.” She shook her head, laughing, “Some nights I feel I’m going insane, unsure of whether I am sleeping or dreaming.”

 “Do you wish me to check on you in a few minutes?”

“Actually,” She faked another blush, “It sounds childish of me, as if I’m afraid of the dark, but… would you mind staying?”

“I would not mind at all,” Alexa smiled, clearing her throat nervously.

Too simple! 

Naomi smiled, a little too earnestly, “Thank you!” She glided over to the bathroom to prepare for bed, calling from inside, she asked, “Is there anything you need? I hope the food is to your liking.”

“Everything is lovely. The food is wonderful and so is the company.”

“I’m glad.”

Naomi shrugged her clothes off in front of the mirror, then ran her fingers across a silken nightgown she had chosen for this occasion. It was very modest, barely showing any skin except for her neck and collarbone. Thin straps held it loosely upon her shoulders. She wanted to look innocent and yet desirable as she slowly wiped away her make-up, peeling layers away from the Steward of the Sakakibara family. She would look her purest for Alexa.

She emerged from the bathroom barefoot, the silken nightgown shimmering slightly against the light. Her eyes fell upon Alexa. The kameira was blinking in astonishment, appearing speechless.

Poor thing! 

Alexa averted her eyes, “I am sorry, mi–Naomi. I shouldn’t stare like that.”

Naomi acted ignorant, knowing full well what Alexa’s gaze entailed. Instead, she asked, “Does it look silly on me?”

“No, no miss. Naomi. It… looks wonderful. You… look wonderful.”

Naomi twirled once around to check the nightgown over, “You’re certain?”

Alexa nodded, “A-Absolutely, Naomi.”

She could feel Alexa’s eyes upon her, glued to her as she completed the turn. This was going far too smoothly, but she was not one to deny a gift.

She giggled, “All right, Alexa. If you’ll excuse me for a moment…”

And now, the finishing touch. She found a patch of moonlight against her bed, the milky beams illuminating her as she knelt down. She clasped her hands together, then began whispering evening prayers–she meant none of the words. It was all an act. And yet, she was the image of piety. Alexa whispered her own prayers in the distance.

She rose gently, then peeled off the covers of the bed, “You can leave the plate there, I’ll have a servant take care of it in the morning.”

She slid beneath the covers gracefully, then let out a sigh of ecstasy. She really did feel tired after all.

To her surprise, Alexa approached the bed, then removed her jacket and pants. She almost gasped at the boldness, then realized Alexa simply didn’t understand. She said nothing as Alexa climbed into the bed with her tanktop.

Too easy! 

Once Alexa was under the covers, Naomi giggled, “I wasn’t expecting you to come into bed with me.”

“Oh. Oh, I apologize for my presumption,” Alexa blushed magnificently, “Do you wish me to leave…?”

Naomi placed a reassuring hand on Alexa’s arm, “But since you’re here…” She then slid her body gracefully next to Alexa’s warmth.

Alexa paused for a moment, then gingerly placed her arms around Naomi’s slighter frame. Naomi snuggled closer, her eyes closed. She whispered a soft, “Have I told you how safe I feel around you?”

“Yes… but I like hearing it. And… my heart is racing. Wh-why is it doing that?”

Naomi gently placed an ear against Alexa’s chest, every move calculated, every word handpicked for effect. She chose an innocent explanation, “You must be having a heart attack.”

She felt Alexa shiver as they drew closer together.

Alexa confessed “It only beats so fast… when I’m with you.”

She smiled at the confession, not because she was particularly surprised–she knew Alexa was falling rapidly in love with her–but because her plan was working perfectly. She opened her eyes gently, then raised her body up so that her face was level with Alexa’s, “Does it, now?”

Alexa nodded slowly, gazing into Naomi’s eyes. Naomi could almost feel Alexa’s heart thumping wildly.

She asked a question, her eyes shining, “If there was one thing you wanted right now, Alexa. What would it be?”

“… To know love.”

Naomi leaned in close to Alexa, their lips separated by mere centimeters, “And how would you want to come to know love?”

Alexa licked her lips nervously, “B-by being with s-someone… that loves me…”

“So precious,” Naomi smiled sweetly. She whispered, in the same soft tone, “Alexa, have you kissed before?”

Alexa shook her head, “No. I… have never had the need…”

Naomi smiled once more, but pulled away from Alexa’s face. Instead, she rested her head on Alexa’s chest, then drew Alexa’s arms into a tighter embrace. The kiss would wait–a lingering longing in Alexa’s mind that would ensure the completion of the seduction. And as a result, provide Naomi with significant military might. All the same, she listened to Alexa’s heartbeat, enjoying the rhythm as a child may have enjoyed a lullaby.

She felt Alexa place a hand on her head, then begin to gently stroke her hair, “I-I don’t know what I am feeling.”

“Don’t question it. Enjoy it.” Naomi replied.

Alexa nodded, “Naomi…?”

“Yes, Alexa?”

“… Teach me about love.”

All too easy. 

“I will. I promise.”

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