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Tengu Tango: Step Number Four

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Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Shizuha measures out her steps to the metronome with a frown. Even with the golden age of the internet, some things can only be ironed out with practical work. And she still seems to be getting the angle wrong… Well, she supposes the dance wasn’t made for someone with talons in mind.

“A tango, hm? Quite western of you.”

Shizuha falters and loses her rhythm. She clicks her tongue in frustration and corrects her positioning before starting again anew on the next beat. Usually, she wouldn’t be caught so off-guard by Maya’s sudden, silent appearance, but her concentration is currently elsewhere.

“‘First Japan, then the world,’ is it not? I’d hate to be unprepared for our debut,” Shizuha explains once she’s reacclimated. It’s hardly like she owes an explanation, but she doesn’t want Maya to think she’s being ignored; the kitsune can be quite greedy for attention, given the opportunity.

“I see. Forgive me for my curiosity, but could this practice not have been conducted in your own chambers? This is a terribly vulnerable position you’ve put yourself in.” Pointed politeness, a hint of a jab. Maya’s body language speaks otherwise, though, head tilted inquisitively, the faintest amusement colouring her expression. Her aura remains calm as well, hardly festering like it would with genuine vexation.

Shizuha hums, weighing the pros and cons aloud. “While it may afford the same privacy, I hardly have the space for such activities. Not to mention, your chambers are the only ones with a piano.” There is, of course, the unspoken; the tango is a partner dance, and she’d rather hoped for Maya’s company. “I do hope you’ll forgive the intrusion,” she adds as an afterthought.

Maya contemplates for a moment. Shizuha can see her tails swaying gently out of the corner of her eye. “I shall, on one condition.”

Shizuha raises an eyebrow and gives Maya her full attention. “Oh?”

Maya steps in, aligning herself to Shizuha’s uncertain cues. “Allow me to lead us in this dance. I believe you may gain more confidence if you practice with an actual partner, even if it’s in the opposite role.” She’s brimming with arrogance, as always.

Shizuha rolls her eyes, feigning irritation to cover her fondness. “Always looking for an excuse to take control, aren’t you?”

“I suppose we’re the same in that regard,” Maya remarks, baring her teeth. A smile? A threat? Does it matter? Shizuha loves it regardless. “And you haven’t objected, so...”

Shizuha finds herself forced backwards into the following position. Unlike her inexperienced movements, Maya’s steps are steady and confident. It’s easy enough to recover and follow suit, falling in sync with her.

Shizuha waits until she’s found her feet before broaching another topic. “There are more complicated variations of this dance, are there not?” She’d seen as much in her research, been inspired by them.

“Correct, but the basic casual tango is best for learning pace. Besides, as much as I would relish the opportunity to hold you closer, it would come at the cost of missing your beautiful visage.” The intensity of Maya’s eye contact burns, almost challenging Shizuha to look away. Shizuha stares back defiantly.

“Flatterer,” she chuckles. “Surely there must be a way we can indulge in both? Your touch and your gaze are equally as potent, my love.”

“If that’s all you want out of this, there are other activities we could partake in that would be better suited,” Maya suggests, voice dipping into her lower range. Shizuha wishes she would dip her instead. “I imagine we’d cause quite the stir if we were to do that on stage, though.” Maya frowns in thought. Her eyes mist over, far away for but a moment.

Shizuha grins wickedly. “Ah, but we’re not on stage right now, are we? We’re in your quarters.” She clasps her partner’s hand tighter, and Maya blinks back to the present. “You said it yourself; I’m in a terribly vulnerable position, aren’t I?”

Their dance halts abruptly. Maya opens her mouth as if to respond, but her ears flick back, and her head snaps to the doorway. Her aura becomes stormy, not quite turbulent yet, but on the cusp of becoming a raging sea.

Shizuha, in turn, also turns to look at the trespasser. “Excuse me,” she says with as much contempt as she can muster, “We are rather clearly in the middle of something.”

The oni, who had been hesitating at the threshold, shrinks back at her vitriol, bowing so deeply that their head nearly touches the floor. “My sincerest apologies, your Highnesses! Lady Hanayagi found something and said it was urgent that you see it.”

Shizuha squints at the underling. “And I don’t suppose Lady Hanayagi gave you any further information than that.” It’s not a question; by this point, Hanayagi’s petty attempts at being enigmatic have lost their charm.

The messenger trembles under her critical gaze. Good. “N-no, she wouldn’t tell me.”

Shizuha glowers down at them, considering whether she should break another of Hanayagi’s toys. She decides against it, ultimately; she can punish her another time, in person. “Very well. You’re dismissed. Don’t waste any more of our time.”

The oni bows once more and makes a hasty exit.

Maya sighs. Her expression is unreadable now, but with her tumultuous aura and her pupils narrowed into slits, it’s apparent to Shizuha that the interruption has affected her. “Well, I suppose there’s no helping it. You know how she is.” She extricates herself from Shizuha’s embrace.

Shizuha readjusts her gloves, noticing the chill of the evening far more without her partner’s touch. “I look forward to the day we are no longer beholden to the whims of an heiress,” She remarks.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We still need to find our third.” Maya’s statement is carefully neutral, with the privacy of her inner sanctum breached.

“And here I was hoping you would partake in my delusions of grandeur.” Shizuha goads.

A smirk tugs at the corner of Maya’s mouth. “Perhaps I shall. A delusion nurtured becomes a truth. As of right now, though...” Maya takes Shizuha’s hand and presses a kiss to it, far too prolonged to be a mere courtesy. “My dear, our empire awaits.”

Shizuha hums, cupping Maya’s cheek. “We will talk later, naturally. I’d hate to see this conversation fail to reach a good conclusion.”

Maya’s eyes darken, and her tails start to swish in excitement. “Of course. I do so love our talks.”