Calling it a barrack was farthest from the truth. It all ended up much more like a college dorm than what it was supposed to be. The only difference was that each person slept in the same room and all shared one bathroom. It was hectic for the uninformed. It was even worse once the showers were turned on late in the evening. At this time it was all girls and Dante, who most likely was hiding somewhere watching all of this unfold.
The squad’s resident housecat was otherwise occupied. She pulled the short straw and was showering last. It didn’t bother her much, she was at least certain she’d get hot water by some Taianese miracle water heater somewhere on the base.
Kikyo wouldn’t be the only one in the showers that night, her alone time interrupted by the angel of the squad, Rikka. She currently stood in the room alone, less armored than usual but still with her gauntlets on, and the tabard she usually wore which obstructed the view of her face save for her eyes. Otherwise, she wore her usual underclothes which consisted of a simple pair of pants and a shirt, nothing fancy for the usually shining example of armored to the teeth.
For the moment though she was lost in her own inquisitive thoughts as she looked the handles and shower head up and down in confusion, not exactly sure how they worked nor just what they did.
“I guess… Water comes out? But where is the bucket? Where is the fountain to gather the water for this… thing?” She mused aloud.
One of Kikyo’s ears perked up from the farthest shower stall. “It drains through the floor.” Her voice was simple, she was already getting ready. She kept going through a very quiet checklist of stuff she brought with her. It was only when she looked at Rikka did she actually lean out from the stall, naked from at least the waist up.
“Have you never used a shower before?” It wasn’t a mocking question, it was genuinely curious.
Rikka jumped a little as she heard the voice beside her. She was shocked to say the least at Kikyo joining her and quickly enough her eyes looked back and forth to see if any others had joined with her, yet when it seemed they were alone, Rikka shook her head unabashed.
“I haven’t used one of these… Showers?” Rikka tilted her head at the word before she started to speak again. “In the heavens, we usually had spells, or if we needed to purify after retu- WHY ARE YOU NAKED?!” She shouted into the showers as she cut herself off and quickly turned away from the woman.
Kikyo blushed, she had forgotten that Rikka wasn’t like the rest of the squad. She was as pure as pure could possibly be. She covered herself with one arm and walked out from the stall. She was still wearing her bodysuit though it was coiled up in the small of her back and tied with the sleeves. “We use them to bathe ourselves to be clean. Not all of us have magical affinity.”
Kikyo quickly undid her jumpsuit and put it on just enough that it covered the sensitive parts of her bust but was far from fastened. “You can turn around, Miss Angel, I’m covered.”
Rikka did turn around, but the exposed flesh that wasn’t arms or legs or neck still caused her to turn away. “No you aren’t! I can still see you! Is this how all you mortals are?” She asked with a groan.
Kikyo blinked and hid her rising anger behind a sigh. “Rikka. We’re just humans, mortals as you call us we are not Angels. We don’t have magic to clean ourselves, well minus our dipshit priestess who probably couldn’t if she tried. Anyway, welcome to the mortal realm. Nothing is perfect. Everything sucks, life hates you, blah blah blah.” She put her jumpsuit all the way together and gave another sigh. She really wanted to take a shower.
“Am I good enough now?”
Rikka turned and peek through her fingers of the hands that had covered her face after she had seen the still exposed flesh, but as she saw that Kikyo had covered herself up, Rikka nodded and lowered her hands.
“You can’t clean yourself with magic?” Her eyes conveyed her confusion as she tilted her head again and looked back to the showerhead. “And this helps you clean? I thought water was just for drinking and cleansing rituals…” She asked, still confused. “Do you use anything else to help?” Her curiosity had started to get the better of her again as she moved to the stall next to Kikyo.
Kikyo shook her head. “We use soap to clean our bodies but use something called shampoo to clean our hair or else we dry out our scalps.” She fumbled around at the front end of her stall and held out a bottle of a slightly expensive but almost too massive shampoo that was marketed to smell of lavender. “I will demonstrate, but it will involve me being naked again.”
She gestured to herself broadly. “I want to be clean, so think of it as me washing away my sins for the day. Sometimes that’s how I feel when I’m here.” She gave a wink and turned the water on as if trying to force an answer out of the angel.
Rikka’s blue eyes went wide at the thought, but ducked down quickly so just her eyes the top of her head could be seen. In her mind it worked, since all she could see at that time was above Kikyo’s shoulders. “I-I think this will be acceptable…” She admitted, though made no show of leaving.
Kikyo slowly undid her jumpsuit, walking out of it one foot at a time. She gave a slight stretch before folding the suit and placing it on a bench nearby. As soon as she turned to walk back to her, Kikyo’s face had gone to more of an older sister than a soldier.
“Rikka, do you want to follow along or do you just want to watch?” She checked the shower’s temperature while waiting. Her movements deliberate and calm. Her violet eyes seemed to pierce anything that they met, but it was most likely the light than anything else.
“I… Uhm…” There seemed to be a bit of conflict in her eyes as she ducked out into the changing area for a few moments. Soon enough though, Rikka returned, dressed now only in her tabard which she pulled down tightly. Somehow it seemed to hide all of her more intimate parts just enough, as if magical. She followed after Kikyo rather subdued as she looked away from the woman.
“I-I want to try… a shower.” She offered meekly.
Kikyo raised both eyebrows in surprise. “Okay, turn on the water with the panel ahead of you. You just press on. Then, adjust the temperature using the dial until it’s hot but comfortable for you.” Demonstrating, Kikyo pressed the panel’s screen and adjusted the temperature to a setting quite hot. The steam was visible within an instant.
Stepping inside, she gave a very warm expression, matching that of the temperature. “You’ll need to remove your tunic I’m afraid. Don’t feel afraid. My sister was shy. I’ve shown myself to you, I want you to trust me.”
Rikka’s concern was easy enough to see across her face, but Kikyo’s tone and body language certainly helped to put her at ease. She reminded her of her own mother, and with a hesitant nod Rikka lifted the bottom of her tabard over her head slowly. As the hood peeled away, it would be a strange sight for Kikyo, at first no head was there. But slowly, like fire burning across a page, Rikka’s face came into view. She was gorgeous, as most angels were, her face untouched by scar or cut or blemish save for a few freckles across her cheeks and her cute button nose. Bright blue eyes, fiery orangish red hair done into a braid that rested between her shoulder blades, Rikka squeezed her knees together and looked down.
“I-I’m sorry if I look strange... “ She offered meekly to Kikyo.
Kikyo’s eyes went wide. She was an angel and it was extremely prevalent. She’d only seen a handful and Rikka had but all of them to shame. She thought her beautiful and without fault. It was only after blinking a few times did she come back down cloud nine.
“Rikka, you’re an Angel of angels. If anyone here is strange…” Kikyo blushed, ear falling back to her scalp, “it’s me.”
In an instant, she snapped back up. She wasn’t ready to completely fall apart into why she wanted ears yet. Yet. Now beet red she spoke incredibly quickly. “HOWABOUTYOURWATERISITWARMYET?!?”
Rikka’s blushed matched Kikyo’s as she studied the floor for a while before Kikyo asked about her water.
“N-N-No! I-Uhhaven’tstart-” The angel shut herself up quickly and went about fiddling with the controls for the water. She had started it out to cold and after a yelp and shying away from the water, she quickly set it to a much more warm temperature. A moment or two and she tentatively stepped under the water. It took her a moment or so, but she blinked and looked into the shower head.
“This feels… nice.” She admitted, confused how the simple running water could feel relaxing.
Kikyo beamed, having felt suddenly accomplished. “I know right? The hot water relaxes the muscles, exfoliates your pores and just calms you down.” She stepped into her own shower of water. Only about the top half of her shoulders and up were showing.
With every few moments, one of her ears would flap against the water before they both just went back against her head. “Now, what I do first is use this,” She held up a large bottle of combined shampoo and conditioner, “You put a little on your hand and massage it into your hair. I’d undo your braid too, it’ll help get the kinks out.”
She once again commenced to demonstrating, putting a dollop in her other hand and placing the bottle down on the ceramic divider between the two stalls as if saying “take it.” Kikyo’s hands quickly went to work massaging the pale violet gel into her hair which soon turned to bubbly white suds.
Rikka followed the instructions with a little nod, like a child listening to her mother as she started to undo her braid. Hair free, it hung a few inches further down her back and after a moment she took the bottle of shampoo and began to lather her hair up. “And this helps it?”
“Mmhmm!” Kikyo turned towards her with one eye open. “Just don’t get it in your eyes, it’ll sting. It’s okay though, all you need to do is just wash them out with water.” She kept massaging the foam before letting her hands fall down to her sides. Washing them off out of sight she then held up another bottle. “Once you’re done with that, we’ll move on to bodywash.”
Rikka nodded and did as she saw Kikyo do and after a few moments of massaging her scalp, Rikka let the suds wash from her hair and down the drain. As she waited for the next step, Rikka broached a subject she had found strange a few days ago.
“Your ears… They aren’t real are they?”
Both of the Catgirl’s ears perked up. She was blushing again She kept her eyes closed and began washing out her hair. “No, but yes. To you this is going to sound strange. I wanted to look like this, I wanted to look like them; the Tigresses. I grew up in two different nations that no longer exist. Being human to the Taianese is almost like you looking at the ants. You’re better than them, yet they still find a way to survive. Like pests they break in to the breadbasket.”
She flipped her hair back from in front of her eyes. “I was tired of being looked at like I was nothing, so I decided to look like something else.” She looked really emotional, but somehow was maintaining a weak yet sincere smile. She didn’t want Rikka to think that she made her cry like she was barely doing. She just hoped it looked like the shower water.
Rikka frowned a little at the words, though it was difficult for the angel who was so used to black and white emotions in the heavens, to truly understand what Kikyo felt. She tilted her head a little and let out a small breath before she shook her head. “I… I can’t say that I understand how you feel. I wasn’t the most… desired angel in my heavens, nor the most popular, but I was still happy regardless, even if my position held me at length with others around me. I always wanted friends when I was back home, but I had very few even in my own family.”
Kikyo wiped her eyes. “Well you have a friend in me. Now, lets get on to bodywash before we get too tilted off. I’ll tell you stories of home later if you want.” Kikyo took the second bottle in hand before putting a dollop on her hand. “I usually use a little fluffy thing called a loofa but I don’t know where it is. Rub this like you did your hair and drain it off. You can go once over or twice over but make sure you get the important places. I mean your armpits, your feet, and your… hmm… vitals. They are important to keep clean to prevent infection risks.” She began demonstrating out of view, intent on doing it right.
“Vit-...” Rikka risked a glance over to see just what she had been talking about and instantly regretted it as she quickly shot her eyes to the floor, wide and a bit shameful. She quietly went about doing as told though and hoped the shower would hide the redness of her face in the heat. She was fairly quick with her passes as she felt dirty just from touching down there but still did as told and moved on to other body parts.
Kikyo looked over with calm eyes. “There is no shame in innocence. You’re purer than most.” She began washing the suds to the drain by the time she finished speaking. She wet her hair again as if making sure everything was out and drained. She turned off the water with a flick of a wrist. “Once you’re finished washing that off, you can turn off the water. The Catgirl stepped out of the stall and began rubbing at herself with her towel, humming a tune.
Rikka blushed still and finished washing the suds off her body, though as Kikyo exited her stall, Rikka stopped. “Um… Those towels? Can you bring me one please?” She hid herself as best she could, still embarrassed to be naked with someone else in the room.
Kikyo left the room, covered only waist down in a towel and came back within a few seconds. “Here, just take my spare. There is a reason I picked the bunk closest to the showers. Now you know.” She gave another wink and tossed said spare towel towards Rikka. After a moment she sat down on one of the benches and picked up a brush from her small collection of items. She continued on with her tune as she began brushing her hair.
Rikka took the towel in her hands and awkwardly dried herself off. She had never really done this before and it showed as she tried to figure out the best way to do so. It took her a little bit, but eventually Rikka returned to Kikyo’s side, her tabard back on and hood up to hide her face. She seemed a little less… Bothered at the moment but it was easy to see she was still shy around the half nude woman as she looked away and held the towel out for her. “T-Thank you… You mentioned stories about home? We could share if you like?” The angel offered.
Kikyo smiled warmly, “We should!” Her ears perked up like two fluffy skyscrapers and if she had a tail like a dog it would most likely be breaking the sound barrier. Her hairbrush moved slightly faster as if to match her excited heartbeat. “What is your home like?”
Rikka smiled a little at the woman’s excitement as she asked her question and seemed eager to hear about her home, though the smile was hidden under her hood and her face was yet again seemingly in shadow. Her head looked skyward before she spoke. “It’s beautiful, there is a soft sweet breeze all the time, the sun is always up and it’s the perfect temperature all the time. We have trees that produce sweet fruits that are free for all to eat and everyone is so kind and nice to everyone. It is truly beautiful, especially the grand hall of the council. Great stained glass windows with beautifully done depictions of moments in the history of the heavens, the armor of the councillors gleaming in the light as it filters through, the glass floors that allow us to look below to the others in the halls… I do miss it at times.”
Kikyo’s smile faded somewhat, “I technically have two homes: Liang and Topia. Liang has changed since I was born and I never truly remember it besides my family’s original home and our small garden. Liang now is the occupied capital to Tai Pan, and it is now literally referred to as Tai Pan.” She shook her head somewhat, she knew that no one here would like to hear her call the Capital that, but in her mind it was true.
Her smile entirely disappeared after, her expression turned more sullen and pale. “Topia was beautiful. A jewel rivaled only by the Capital world of La Fleur in the Saint-Yves system in my mind. In fact, the entirety of the Wangdiao Colonies were magnificent. It’s all gone to ash now.” She shook her head again, her expression now blank. “That’s where I lost my adoptive mother and what little family I had left. It’s where I learned to be so confident in combat and where I learned to survive. I was lucky to be on a world that the remnant defense forces could conduct a pull-out rescue. That’s why I still have a lot of my old Shouwei patches and my old jumpsuit. They’re a relic that reminds me of why I’m still here.”
The Catgirl’s expression seemed to reset. “Anyway, I doubt your history is that dark. The horrors of the Blackout still bother me sometimes, but I make do with where I am now.” She gave a half-hearted smile concealing something. It would definitely explain why Rikka could hear wimpish mewling during the night from somewhere near where Kikyo bunked.
Rikka frowned a little under her hood and could only shake her head. “I have seen my share of things, but nothing like that. The heavens of my Pantheon are perfect in all ways, but I have been to the hells and fought there. I have done combat with the legions of the damned… But I still must say I do not understand why the mortal plane is so… Chaotic. You all hurt and destroy each other when you should help each other. You fight and squabble over mundane things and trick each other for the smallest things like money. I always thought the mortal realm was happy when they weren’t being invaded but…”
Rikka shook her head and looked down with a sigh. “I am glad I came to this realm, on this trip. It has given me a chance to start to learn little by little just what life is like away from the heavens. It makes my skin crawl at times to know I can’t perform my duties as I should, because I would get overwhelmed by how much injustice there is in these worlds.”
“That’s the thing, we’re mortals. We die. I’m in the auxiliary to the very nation that took my homeworld from me. Yet they did so with the same feeling that I fought the Heise on Topia. War is War, Hell just gets the victors.” Kikyo’s eyes were watery, evident that to some regard she was forcing her own composure.
“I know it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t even make sense to me. All I can say is our perfection is just being imperfect. I once heard a proverb that Hell is paved with good intentions. But what is heaven’s road paved with?”
It was true Rikka still had much to learn in terms of communication and even in the ways of the mortal realm, but she still knew when someone needed to be comforted. Uncomfortable as she was, Rikka shifted herself to sit near her companion and slowly put an arm around her shoulders to draw her in. It wasn’t tough to feel her discomfort at the bare skin hug, Rikka pushed through though in an effort to help the woman.
“Heaven is paved in gold for those who understand their intentions may not always be good, but do their best to help those around them and are able to see that what they do may or may not have been the right thing.” She offered up to Kikyo.
“Um… You know, back when I was at home… My sisters Lailah and Portia and I used to stay in each other’s beds at night. Since I’ve come to this realm I find myself lonely at night, it is difficult to sleep without someone else with me. Could you help me with that?” Rikka wasn’t good at lying, she usually slept like a log to the point of snoring at times much to the annoyance of others. But perhaps it was her way of comforting the smaller woman?
Kikyo let herself be enveloped. She quietly sniffled in the Angel’s arms, trembling. She didn’t know what to think of Rikka’s offer and she was too shaken to actually think about anything besides not breaking into another crying fit. Unable to form words she just nodded her head as a reply.
The angel gave Kikyo time to compose and settle herself down, a soft warm hug the only real form of communication between the two for a few moments as Rikka rifled through the spells in her head for anything that might help the woman to relax or calm down, yet nothing came to mind. She wondered what good was magic if it couldn't help someone in such a basic way…
"Well… let's get dressed so we can get some sleep. I'm sure the bird will have some mission or job to send us on tomorrow, so we should be rested…" Rikka rubbed the woman's shoulder after another moment and stood to let her get dressed. She took a few steps away to allow her whatever privacy she may need in case she wanted to let anything out and simply waited.
Kikyo had weakly attempted to protest the hold but instead just silently dressed herself in her pajamas that she had brought with her. Her face was red with embarrassment but she dared not protest any further. Once dressed she just looked to where she believed Rikka’s eyes to be as if silently saying that she was following.
Where Kikyo had been the big sister or even motherly figure earlier for the inquisitive and shy Rikka, it was her turn now as she drew Kikyo into another hug. It was late thankfully, yet Rikka was worried someone might see the embarrassed Kikyo, and in an effort to make her a little more comfortable Rikka's wings extended from their ethereal form to their more solid-state. Six large pearly white wings manifested with a small flutter of feathers as they wrapped themselves around Rikka and Kikyo who was pulled into another hug.
She would give her the cover of her wings back to their bunks if Kikyo so desired it, yet would give her space if that was what she needed. It was exactly what she wanted.
Kikyo took to the sheets first, rolling herself to face away from everyone but had left enough space for Rikka to lay beside her if she wanted to. Still silent, it was up to Rikka if she wanted to continue if she wanted.
Rikka's wings reverted back to their more smoky form as they made it to the bed and after a moment of consideration found herself under the covers and cuddled up to Kikyo's back. Like two spoons in the silverware drawer, Rikks molded herself to Kikyo's back with little care now that they were dressed and draped an arm over her body to give her a small hug.
Kikyo snuggled up to her and spoke just barely a sound. “Thank you.”