A short story.

She had no great skill with politics, floundering pathetically in this strange world of fancy dress and fine yet deceptive speech. Her normally silver-tongue was half-stilled as she tripped over the false-curtesies of the upper class. 

This must be what hell was like, Aki decided. The corset she had been strapped into made even the simple task of breathing nearly impossible. It fit her like a glove. A child’s glove, mercilessly strapped onto a full grown man. Being short and lithe, Aki had never thought of herself as “fat” before, or even terribly large…but after feeling what it felt like having one’s waist compressed to roughly half its usual size, she felt like a cow.

Thus far, her evening had been spent dodging people. Dodging her commander, who was flirting with everyone but her. Dodging the women who had no doubt set their minds against her tomboyish demeanor. And, most of all, dodging the half-dozen or so young men who had, somehow, convinced themselves that Aki was the woman of their dreams. They nearly incited the mercenary to violence, for she would rarely allow herself to be counted as a member of the fairer sex.

Leaning against the wall, she attempted to recount the events that had lead to this evening and its uncomfortable outfit. She remembered with a frown the smile that had played across Felix’s lips when he returned from the Barony of Fontaine.

“How’d it go?” Kit asked. Aki looked up from the documents she was scribbling. Her eyes met the commander’s and she fought a blush from her cheeks. 

“Fantastic. But first, I have good news.” 

“Better than a contract?” Sorkhan enquired. Felix nodded. 

“We’ve been invited to attend a ball in honor of the Earl of Marshall’s oldest son.” 

“We’ve what?” Kit asked. 

“There’s been a major peasant uprising in the north.” Felix said, flopping himself into a chair, “I think the Earl might be in need of auxiliary forces.” Aki pursed her lips. 

“I thought you were going to secure a guard contract with Baron Angus.” 

“I was, but this came up. We can still do both.” 

The mercenaries conversed amongst themselves for a moment. Aki was initially against it, being grumpy about the lack of a Fontainese contract and generally opposed to this particular brand of outing.
“Come on, Aki.” Felix said, giving her a melting smile. “Lady Bronwen even made you a new dress for the evening, you wouldn’t want to insult her by denying the gift.”
“But I…I um….” She tried to argue, but one look into Felix’s eyes tied her tongue in knots. She turned away, staring very pointedly at the stones on the floor. 

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