Another dry branch snapped under Ritsuka's boot, causing her to freeze in place. Not even an arm's length away, Musashi stopped in mid-stride and raised her left hand, simultaneously placing her right one on the hilt of her sword. At her partner's signal, Ritsuka crouched down, masking her silhouette among the dense underground of the forest. Ritsuka covered her mouth with her hand, in an attempt to mask the sound of her breathing. She had never been so frightened as she was here, in a land populated by horrifying demons. Although, this wasn't the first time she only had shadow servants at her command, who seemingly popped out of thin air only when Ritsuka was in grave danger. Bereft of her kohai once again, her only companion was a fellow human. Ritsuka looked up at her guardian, admiring how the swordswoman could be so calm when they were being hunted by such powerful, bloodthirsty monsters. Musashi's breathing was as calm as the waters of a mountaintop lake, her eyes focused on any threat that might emerge from the dark forest. Just as Ritsuka's leg muscles began to burn, Musashi put her hand down and exhaled. Ritsuka was unsure if the sigh meant that Musashi was grateful that nothing emerged to attack them or disappointed that she didn't get to fight. Musashi turned and extended her hand, helping Ritsuka to her feet. Musashi's palm was warm and sweaty, and Ritsuka felt a small bit of comfort that even this mighty warrior got nervous.
They continued on in silence, the only sound coming from the gentle clanging of the sword hanging from Musashi's waist. Despite being masterpieces, the weapons were forged from simple steel, a far cry from the spiritron-infused weapons of the servants they had met so far, which made it all the more impressive that Musashi could even block a single blow from Raiko without her arms snapping like the twigs under their feet. Ritsuka slipped a finger into her boot, trying to free a loose stone that had gotten caught between her toes. She wished that she had been pulled into this world while wearing a tracksuit, instead of her usual getup. Perhaps, she mused, it was better than showing up naked, although that would've led to a far more intimate first encounter with Musashi. She felt a new burning sensation between her legs that couldn't be attributed solely to her straining muscles. Rubbing her eyes, she reminded herself that she was in a life-or-death situation, and any wrong move could prove fatal. She walked in Musashi's footsteps, confident that her partner would lead them both to safety. However, in the failing light of the evening, Ritsuka failed to notice a particularly large tree root on the ground until it caught the toe of her left boot. She had enough presence of mind to catch her yelp of surprise in her throat, but couldn't muffle the sound of her body crashing to the ground. The world spun as she rolled down a ravine, sharp branches tearing at her clothes and leaving deep gouges in her skin. When she finally came to a stop, she brushed leaves from her face before raising her body into a kneeling position. She heard the sound of crashing branches as her senses rebooted, and knew instinctively that Musashi was rushing to her aid.
"Ritsuka!" Musashi said in a hoarse whisper, as she slid to a stop. "Are you alright?!" Ritsuka felt Musashi's hands gripping her sides, helping her up.
"I'm fine, I'm just a little cut up, that's all!" Ritsuka tried to reassure her partner. Her boot came completely off her foot and was presumably still lodged in that tree root. Her stockings were now torn up, exposing bits of scratched flesh. She tried to take a step forward, but as she applied her weight to her left foot, a bolt of pain shot up her spine. Her nose crashed into Musashi's armpit as the taller girl caught her companion to keep her from falling. She could feel the warmth of Musashi's body heat against her cheek, and the smell of the woman's exertions.
"Hey! Careful!" Musashi said, wrapping her arm around Ritsuka's waist to steady her. "Here, lean against me."
"No, I can walk, really. You need your hands free to fight." Against her will, Ritsuka pushed Musashi away, to show that she could stand on her own two feet. "Just go on ahead, I'll be right behind you."
Before Ritsuka could even lift a foot, she felt Musashi lift her off her feet, cradling her just like when they first met. "I'll never leave you behind, Ritsuka. No matter what, we're in this together, until the end." Musashi's expression was deathly serious. "But you sure are heavy! I guess there's a lot of food in Chaldea, huh? I sure would like to visit sometime!" Just like that, Musashi's goofy side came to the forefront, with a smile on her face. Ritsuka just grunted and moved her arm around Musashi's neck, both to help support her weight and to move it from where it was resting atop Musashi's impressive chest. Musashi was gentle with her cargo, gingerly stepping over bumps in the terrain so as to not aggravate Ritsuka's injury.
The setting sun began to cast long shadows throughout the forest, causing deep pools of blackness to blanket the ground. Ritsuka kept imagining that an enemy was crawling out of the inky dark at the corners of her vision. Raiko's terrifying strength was still fresh in her mind, and she had no idea how Musashi could defend them both without throwing Ritsuka to the ground. She pressed her cheek to Musashi's neck, strands of pink hair tickling her nose. If Musashi was bothered by the sudden contact, she said nothing. Although she knew she should be keeping a close eye out for enemies, Ritsuka couldn't resist the temptation to close her eyes and enjoy the gentle rocking of Musashi's embrace. Even the pain her throbbing ankle melted away into the background as sleep overtook her.
"Wake up, sleepy head," Musashi whispered gently in Ritsuka's ear. Ritsuka forced her heavy eyelids open. Night had overtaken the land, and they had arrived at a tea house alongside a road. Ritsuka felt a flush of embarrassment that she fell asleep in Musashi's arms, and was glad that the darkness hid the redness of her cheeks.
"Just be glad that I didn't ask for some warm milk," Ritsuka said.
"Where would you - O-Oh, I'm going to go talk to the owner, see if we can rent a room in the back," Musashi said, gently lowering Ritsuka onto an ancient wooden bench. Musashi disappeared into the structure, the glow of a candle illuminating her silhouette. Ritsuka listened to the sounds of the creatures and insects that came alive at night. It seemed to be teeming with life, a sensation she felt as a kid when she would walk to the outskirts of her sleepy hometown. Just as she was about to nod off again, she heard Musashi's footsteps coming up the path.
"Good news! Because of all the trouble, the shopkeeper says he's packing up and leaving. Oh, and he said we can sleep in the back and eat all the leftover food and drink the sake he couldn't take with him!" Ritsuka could practically see the hearts in Musashi's eyes. She hoped that they never had to sneak past a buffet table, they wouldn't make it a dozen steps before Musashi would try to sneak off with some food.
"Great, I'm starving. By the way, is there any way I could take a bath?"
"Sure, there's a stream right down this path. I wish there was a cold waterfall around instead, though," Musashi said with a sigh. She carried two robes and towels under her arm.
"I don't." Ritsuka was relieved that she could now put weight on her foot, although it still throbbed. Musashi helped her down the steep path, and it wasn't long before she could hear the sound of a burbling creek. Ritsuka sat down on a conveniently located tree stump and removed her boots. She had to suck in her breath when she moved the footwear past her swollen ankle, but it did begin to feel better once the pressure had been released. She took off her tights, which had an entire tree's worth of branches stuck to them. Flexing her toes, she rubbed her sore soles. Ritsuka blushed when she looked up. Musashi was already in the nude, having hung her clothes from an overhanging branch. Ritsuka looked away from Musashi's bouncing ass as the swordswoman unceremoniously splashed her way into the water.
"Ahh, it's freezing! Hey, what are you waiting for? Come on!" Musashi said happily. Ritsuka undid the straps of her shirt and took off the rest of her clothes. She held an arm over her breasts as she approached the bank, not nearly as carefree as Musashi in terms of showing skin.
"It's a little slippery here," Musashi said. "Here, go slow." Musashi held out a hand to Ritsuka, who had to uncover her boobs in order to take the proffered help. Ritsuka took Musashi's wet hand in her own, gingerly walking down the gravel bank. Her toes slipped on a loose stone, sending her bowling into Musashi. Ritsuka closed her eyes, expecting to face plant into the rushing water. Instead, her chest slammed into a soft, wet cushion. She locked eyes with Musashi when she opened her own, realizing that their boobs were smushed together like a head-on pillow collision. Ritsuka's nipples rubbed against Musashi's as they separated, a sensation that sent a chill up Ritsuka's spine, and not from the temperature of the frigid water. Ritsuka immediately dunked her head under the water from sheer embarrassment, until the added pain on her ankle became too great and she surfaced for air. She sat down on a large rock, letting the cold water soothe her swollen ankle.
"Ehehe," Musashi giggled. Ritsuka looked over at Musashi, admiring the woman's lean muscles and rock-hard abs. She found it hard to take her eyes away from her partner, as Musashi took out her hairpiece and tossed it into the grass. Pink hair flowed down to the women's shoulders. Musashi dunked her head under the water, cleaning out the dirt with her fingers. Ritsuka rubbed herself down the best she could, feeling the sting of the cuts on her body being cleansed by the water.
"Do you want me to wash your back?" Musashi asked, wading over.
"Sure," Ritsuka said. She spun around on her butt towards Musashi. Rough, calloused fingers began to rub her back, with just the right amount of force to massage her muscles. She closed her eyes, feeling a bit of stress melt away. Musashi's fingers never went anywhere inappropriate, although Ritsuka wouldn't mind if they had. The pressure released, then Musashi announced that it was her turn. Ritsuka stood up, cupping handfuls of water and splashing them on Musashi's skin. She rubbed Musashi's back, feeling the taut muscles and the sharp edges of her shoulder blades. Her fingers drifted down to the very edge of Musashi's butt. She wanted very badly to cup those cheeks in her hands, but felt it was probably a bad idea to possibly piss off her protector. Ritsuka felt a warm, fuzzy feeling as it reminded her of all the times she would wash Mash's back in the bath after a mission. Her stomach growled, loud enough to be heard over the sound of the water.
"Sounds like someone's hungry!" Musashi said, clambering out of the water. She started to dry herself off, then handed a towel to Ritsuka when she pulled herself out. It was rough and scratchy, nothing like the fluffy ones they had at Chaldea, but it did the job. The full moon cast a dappled glow over the water as Ritsuka put on one of the robes. She grabbed the belt in her hands and tied it neatly. Musashi looked impressed.
"I have to tie Mash's yukata whenever there's a festival in Chaldea, so I'm used to it," Ritsuka explained, as put her boots back on.
"That sounds like a lot of fun! I'd like to go sometime," Musashi said. They walked up the path together, their shoes making soft crunching sounds on the grass. Musashi opened the sliding door at the back of the tea house. Ritsuka saw a set of bowls laid out on a wooden tray on the floor. A straw mat was placed on the floor of the small room, just large enough for the two of them. The bowls contained some rice and dried fish, a far cry away from the sumptuous meals she was used to devouring in Chaldea. Of course, Musashi immediately reached for the slender bottle of sake, and began to pour out two cups.
"Oh no, I'm still a minor," Ritsuka said, when Musashi tried to give her a cup.
"Huh?" Musashi looked perplexed.
"Er, I haven't reached the legal drinking age in my world yet."
Musashi blinked, then emptied her cup in her mouth. When Ritsuka leaned over to grab a bowl of food, Musashi locked lips with her. Surprised, Ritsuka's mouth was flooded with a warm liquid. She could taste a bit of a nutty flavor as she swallowed, followed by the burn of the alcohol. Ritsuka started to cough as Musashi cracked up with laughter.
"You should've seen your face!" she said, poking a finger into Ritsuka's cheek.
"Hey, that was my first!" Ritsuka said, slapping Musashi's hand away.
"What, drop of alcohol? I've been drinking since I've been old enough to hold a sword," Musashi said, taking another swig. Truth be told, it wasn't just her first drink of booze, but Ritsuka felt no need to correct her companion. However, she did think that Musashi's declaration explained much about the woman's behavior. Ritsuka poured herself a cup, feeling its warmth begin to course through her body. They chose not to light a candle, afraid that the light might give them away to their adversaries. Instead, they simply left the door open. Ritsuka looked at Musashi's profile in the sharp moonlight. The warrior was as beautiful as she was strong, and her breasts were nearly spilling out of her robe. Ritsuka looked at Musashi's elegant nose and plush lips and felt her own face grow hot, and she tore her sight away from Musashi's lips long enough to grab one of the bowls of food.
The petrified fish was sour but edible, and she was grateful for the feeling of food in her belly. They ate in silence, the only sound the clinking of chopsticks against ceramic. Ritsuka washed down her meal with sake, making her head feel a little light. Her cheeks held a pleasant warmth.
"Well, I guess it's time to turn in for the night," Musashi said, after the last drops of sake went down her throat. Ritsuka reached over and placed her hand on Musashi's, causing the woman to turn around until their lips met. Their kiss was sloppy, Musashi's hot breath dancing on Ritsuka's tongue. Musashi was wide-eyed when they separated.
"I gave it back," Ritsuka said, a slight slur to her words. She gently pushed Musashi down and got on top of her. The difference in their strength meant that Musashi could easily push Ritsuka away, but she just averted her eyes. Her robe slipped open, exposing her deep cleavage.
"Ritsuka, please. I can't reach the void by giving into the pleasures of the flesh," Musashi said. Her blue eyes reflected the moon.
"Are you saying you don't want this as much as I do?" Ritsuka said, slipping a finger into Musashi's robe and undoing it all the way. The warrior's skin gleamed ivory in the moonlight, from her throat all the way down to the pink patch below her navel. "We could both die tomorrow. Someone dear to me told me to never leave behind any regrets, right before his very existence was erased from the very memory of the world. I've fallen for you, Musashi." Ritsuka burped. "In more ways than one."
"I guess… the void can wait," Musashi said. She reached out, her fingers sliding against Ritsuka's cheeks. Their lips connected again, this time for a passionate embrace. Ritsuka stuck her tongue in Musashi's mouth, tasting her passion. When they separated, Ritsuka ran her tongue over Musashi's nipples, taking one into her mouth and sucking on it hungrily. Musashi moaned thickly, a sound quite unlike her battle shouts. Ritsuka cupped Musashi's breasts in her hands, enjoying their firm warmth.
When Ritsuka's face got passed Musashi's stomach, she could smell her partner's arousal. "Void, my ass," Ritsuka said, running her fingers through Musashi's pink patch. "You're as wet as a waterfall."
"I never thought I would be the one to fall first," Musashi said. "But I've wanted this ever since you fell out of the sky. Maybe I'm not meant to reach the void after all. If so… then maybe this isn't so bad after all."
Ritsuka's lips closed around Musashi's bean, causing the woman to yelp. Musashi's arousal wet Ritsuka's cheeks as she went down, her tongue slipping into Musashi's void. The warrior's juices were thick and strong-tasting, as they began to flow freely. Musashi moaned, clamping her muscular thighs around Ritsuka's face as she came. Her body relaxed back onto the tatami mat, a sheen of sweat making her glow under the silver moonlight.
"Did you reach a different void than you imagined?" Ritsuka said, licking her lips.
"I did… and this was far better than I imagined. "But Ritsuka," Musashi said, sitting up on her elbows. "I don't know how to return the favor."
"Really?" Ritsuka ran her fingers through Musashi's damp hair. "There's something the great Musashi doesn't know?"
"I've been in a lot of bar fights, and I've killed a lot of people, but I've never been like this with anyone. I've never even thought about it until I met you." The fearless warrior suddenly looked meek.
Ritsuka undid her own robe, tossing it aside. She took Musashi's hands in her own, and touched them to her chest. Musashi grinned, her rough fingers caressing Ritsuka's nipples. She tweaked them, and now it was the master's turn to moan. Ritsuka took Musashi's hand, and pushed her lover's index and middle fingers out, then curved Musashi's ring and pinky fingers back towards her palm. Ritsuka felt along the curve of Musashi's nails, pleased that the woman kept her nails trimmed. She lowered Musashi's hand toward her crotch, and gently inserted the extended fingers between her legs. She gasped as she felt Musashi's knuckles brush against her lips. She moved herself against Musashi's hand, feeling each callous and scar touching her inner walls. Musashi curled her fingers in tune with Ritsuka's movements, and it wasn't long before Ritsuka came on the hand more used to swinging a sword than pleasuring a lover.
Completely spent, Ritsuka collapsed on top of her lover in a sweaty heap. The sound of their labored breaths filled the room. A gentle breeze blew in, cooling their bodies. Ritsuka reluctantly peeled her face from Musashi's breasts and rolled over. She grasped Musashi's hand, feeling her own cooling wetness. Dewy blue eyes looked back at her in the darkness. The girls cleaned themselves up, then shut the sliding door. Soft illumination outlined Musashi's silhouette as Ritsuka embraced her. Pulling up the rough covers, she closed her eyes, listening as Musashi's breath slowed to a steady rhythm. Ritsuka smiled as she heard Musashi begin to gently snore. As she drifted off to sleep, she knew that, no matter what happens tomorrow, she could depart this world with no regrets.