For the preceding chapter, click her for Arcana X: 3rd Assignment – Cruelty and the Beast Chapter 1!!
“Mmm, this is what the Goddess ordered,” said Tiphanee as she settled further into water.
“You said it,” Amanda agreed.
Feeling stressed from the meeting in Eshtar’s Grand Hall, Tiphanee and Amanda decided to ease the tension by relaxing in the hot spring behind the Elrich Inn. Councilman Leopoldo Knoxville has already made arrangements with the owner, Alberta Elrich, to give Lady Beatrice and her troupe the full treatment. Their rooms and meals are paid for, and they get exclusive access to the natural hot springs. Tiphanee found her uncle’s arrangement unnecessary, however she finally accepted after Beatrice insisted upon it. Of course, she doesn’t mind the special treatment.
Beatrice soon enters the grounds from the inn. “Well, it seems you two have already settled in,” she says as she removed her robe.
“Mm-hmm,” Tiphanee replies. She looks up at Beatrice. Her eyes widen as she got a full view of the Lady High Captain’s mature body. Fit and well-toned, and curvaceous with smooth skin that shined like porcelain. Her golden mane swayed behind her like silk curtains as she approached the spring. Tiphanee watched as every curve of her new superior slowly entered the water. Her full bosom, which appeared larger without being covered with armor, caused the water to ripple. Beatrice notices the young Knoxville girl gawking. She takes in a deep breath, gently heaving her chest out and smiling at Tiphanee’s hypnotized stare.
“Enjoying the view?” Beatrice said calmly.
Tiphanee jumps back with a start. “I’m sorry, Lady Beatice!” she quickly apologized. “I didn’t mean to. It’s just…um…”
Beatrice chuckles. “It’s alright, Tiphanee. We here to relax. There’s no need to be nervous,” she says kindly. “And when we have moments like this, you can address me without formalities. Alright?”
“Yes, Mila—Alright, Beatrice,” Tiphanee replies, catching herself before formally addressing Beatrice again.
“That’s better. And if it’s any consolation, your reaction is no different than when Amanda first saw me in the bath,” Beatrice tells her, drawing reaction from Amanda.
Beatrice nods. “Poor girl couldn’t stop staring at me. I thought she was going to jump me right then and there. Although, I think she might prefer my sister,” she teases.
“Don’t tell her that, Beatrice! That’s so embarrassing!” Amanda cried.
Tiphanee laughs as Beatrice begins to tell an embarrassing story about Amanda when she went out to the pub with Willow. Amanda wined for her superior to stop. When she first met Beatrice, Tiphanee saw a woman who should be revered for her strength and beauty. However, that is only one side of High Captain Ashcroft. Being with her in the hot springs, she sees a woman who can be stern yet kind, fierce yet friendly, bold and beautiful. Tiphanee is going to enjoy her time serving under her. Suddenly, she feels twinge in her mind. Then, she hears a voice.
“Lady Beatrice,” says Tiphanee. Beatrice looks over at her. Looking her in the eyes, Tiphanee tells her, “Your sister wishes to speak with you.”
“Willow? She’s here?” said Beatrice. She turns around to see if her sister is in the inn or the hot springs grounds.
“No, Milady. She’s speaking to me across the Astral Flow,” Tiphanee tells her.
“Wait, you can connect to the Astral Flow?” Amanda said with a stunned reaction.
“Yeah, most of the women in family can, including Tami,” Tiphanee answers, rubbing the back of her head with a sheepish grin. “Did I forget to mention that?”
“Yeah, you did,” Amanda says with a sour look.
“Well, that’s interesting,” Beatrice says plainly. She then approaches Tiphanee and takes the spot next to her. She places a hand on her shoulder. “Alright, put her through.”
Tiphanee replies with a nod. “Reconnecting to Astral Flow.” A light blue aura wraps the young female Squire. “Connection established,” she says.
Beatrice thanks Tiphanee before speaking with her sister. “Hey, Willow.”
“Betty, hey! How are things in Eshtar?” Willow said excitedly.
“Same old story. Alchemists versus Steamists. Nothing special,” Beatrice replied.
“Yeah, Ecks and I just got done talking to the White Sage and Tatianna,” Willow tells.
Just then, Ecks quickly interjects. “Yo, Beatrice. What’s up?” he says with his usual flare.
“Lieutenant,” Beatrice said with disdain.
“So, His Grace told us you got another subordinate.”
Though Ecks does annoy her sometimes to no end, Beatrice keeps her composure to keep from falling into his casual trap. “Actually, Squire Knoxville serves under Amanda. I merely commissioned her.”
“Knoxville, why does that name sound familiar?” Willow wondered. “Isn’t there a Knoxville in communications?”
“Tamirei Knoxville,” Ecks answered. “His Grace mentioned this when we spoke to him, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I must’ve forgot,” Willow says, playfully bopping herself on the head.
Ecks shakes his head. Then he says to Tiphanee, “Anyway, Tiphanee, is it? So your sister is Tamirei Knoxville, correct?”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Tiphanee.
“Wow, so that prudish quiet girl is your sister. So now there’s two of them,” Willow said bluntly.
“Please don’t compare me to her,” Tiphanee quietly whined.
“Don’t worry about it, Tiph. Sometimes Willow’s mouth doesn’t match up with her brain,” says Ecks.
“Oh, you got some nerve, Ecks!” Willow snapped back.
Tiphanee laughs a little as Willow and Ecks banter back and forth. “So, you’re Ecks,” she says. “Gustavo told me about you.”
“Gustavo? Where have I heard that name before,” Ecks asks, scratching his head as he thought.
Willow exasperates a sigh and snidely says, “He’s the recruit who wanted to be your subordinate. Now who’s brain isn’t matching up with their mouth.” Ecks says nothing in response. He smiles and tugs on Willow’s hair, getting a sharp yelp out of her. “What the hell?!” Willow snapped when she looked back at him. It is then that she noticed that he is holding onto a small bundle of her long hair. “Seriously, you’re using my hair as a conduit?!”
“Well how else was I supposed to join in on the conversation?” Ecks says with casual flare.
“You could have put your hand on my shoulder,” said Willow.
“Oh no, I’m not treading those waters,” teased Ecks.
“And what’s that supposed to mean?!” Willow shot back.
Tiphanee listened to the banter between Ecks and Willow, finding it humorous. It reminded her of her family and the many exchanges between her other sisters.
However, Beatrice grew increasingly frustrated. Ecks and Willow always banter back and forth like this which annoys her to no end. Sometimes Beatrice will overlook it and find a calm way to defuse them. But not when they ruin her quiet moments. “Knock it off!” she yells. Ecks and Willow quickly respond. “Honestly, I don’t know how two people can create such a ruckus!”
“Sorry, sis,” said Willow.
“I’ll apologize for Willow as well,” Ecks says nonchalantly. Willow throws him a piercing glare.
Sighing, Beatrice rolls her eyes, knowing that this is the best apology she can get out of Ecks. “Anyway, let’s get back on track. How is your assignment going in Tulpaar?”
“Not so well, I’m afraid,” replies Willow.
“What’s the issue?” Beatrice asked. As with the White Sage, Willow tells her sister about the missing girls, what happened to Elga and the situation with Elanhor. She also adds in the ravine filled with merchant carts and the living corpses of merchant girls that attacked her and Ecks. Beatrice listens carefully to Willow as she explained the lack of carts in a merchant town such as Tulpex. “I see. That is an issue. Unfortunately, we’re here until the summit is over, so I may not be able to offer any assistance,” Beatrice tells Willow and Ecks.
“Hmm, that is strange. Tulpex is a merchant town and for there to be a decrease in activity is odd,” Amanda noted.
“You’re right. Perhaps it has something to do with the carts in the ravine,” Beatrice thought. Then she notices that Amanda had just given her input but is nowhere near Tiphanee. “Amanda, how are you connecting to the Astral Flow?” she asks curiously.
“Oh, I’m using the water as conduit. It isn’t necessary to touch someone connected to the Astral Flow directly, so long as there are other means of connecting with them,” Amanda answered.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Guess that makes sense since we’re in the springs together,” says Tiphanee.
“Oh no,” Beatrice said.
“What? What is it, Beatrice?” Tiphanee responded, hearing the distress in Beatrice’s voice.
“Do me a favor, Tiphanee. Imagine if your Aunt was in here with us,” Beatrice tells her worriedly.
Tiphanee rolls her eyes. She knows her Aunt Odetta all too well. “Where do I begin? You’ve already met her. If someone like that was let loose in here, she’d have a field day with…us.” As the words fell from her mouth, it is in that moment that Tiphanee realizes what Beatrice is getting at. “Um, Beatrice, are you telling me your sister is like my aunt,” she asks in a nervous tone.
“No, she’s worse,” Beatrice answers fearfully.