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February 1st, 2018

Ying and Yang Convienience Store, Lincoln



As was her schedule, Zhu often found herself back in her parents store on many evenings.  Just because she was at school didn't mean that she didn't realize how much help her parents needed.  Considering all they had given up to move here, a few hours during the week was the least she could do.  At least tonight there wasn't much in the way of customers, being a Thursday evening.  She'd be able to close things down soon after cleaning everything up and mopping the floors.  The Yin and Yang carried a variety of sundries for the residents of the poor, but not criminally ridden neighborhood.  So most of the customers were both regulars and local.  Still, they did carry a variety of medicinal herbs that her parents either grew themselves in a small greenhouse, or somehow imported from China.  When people came from elsewhere in the city, that's usually why they came.


Frankly, Zhu figured that they could likely just run the store on those, considering what people were willing to pay for some of the more rare plants.  While it wasn't really her call, her parents did welcome any advice from their gifted daughter.  Which considering she had placed a fully automated restocking robot in place was probably for the best.  She'd check the programming on the machine again tonight before heading out to let it do it's work.


However, for now she had more important things to do as she was busy texting Lexa even though her phone was sitting five feet away on the counter.


'Nothing's going on.  It's pretty dull here.  What did you think about Eric in Powers and Responsibilities?  I think he's pretty good looking, but what a temper' the text scrolled seemingly on it's own as she controlled it with her mind.

Edited by BlazingCoconut
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Jessica enjoyed her rituals. Sure the carnal spirits were more demanding that just a simple everyday task, but it was a time for her to unabashedly cut loose with the spirits that powered her magic. Though she couldn't do it all in one go. It would last night upon nights for some. Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Sloth were 'easy'. But Pride, Envy, and Greed demanded so much from her that she hardly ever ritualized them. Unless she needed them.


The cash was flowing low, so she wanted to press Greed in to action. Greed demanded expensive things. She'd already dumped her (near empty) credit cards, debit card, cash, notes, jewelry, and other valuables in a small circle made of salt and her own blood. But now? It only wanted something rare that belonged to someone else. It didn't matter how Jessica got it, but Greed wanted it. A light bulb of an idea popped in Jessica's mind. There was buzz around a new garden for reagents in the Southside. Specifically Lincoln. She wondered if she'd be able to make it in time.


Sure enough, they were open. Though there was just one person tending shop. She looked young. Jessica wished she had her mother's ability to tell people's age and sizes by sight. But she was pretty sure that was a school age kid. She sighed and walked around the store as the girl mopped. "How's it goin," she smiled and waved at the girl. As she looked around the store, she tried to make conversation, "I'm Jessica. How's your night been?"



Since there is no OOC thread, do I make the Ritualist roll here?


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Zhu hadn't looked up with Jessica entered, finishing her task as she replied, "Hello, I am doing very well, thank you."


Setting the mop back into the bucket she considered that for the thousandth time she was going to have to automate this task as well.  There were so many better uses of her time that could be spent rather than cleaning floors.  Besides, a mopping automaton wouldn't be that hard to do.  Wiping her hands on the apron that she wore while working, she turned and did an immediate double take.  The red skinned girl was visually striking in a way that made it hard to not look at her.  She immediately blushed, feeling guilty for staring at the friendly lady.


"I'm so sorry," she apologized, "I didn't expect anyone here tonight and you... well, caught me off guard."


How did one mention that really it's the fact that you're red caught me off guard without sounding rude?


"Alexa," Zhu finally said extending a small hand and introducing herself with her Americanized name, "it's very nice to meet you."

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Jessica looked at the dumbfounded teenager with a smile as she tried to put words to thought. The girl looked like she'd never been at a loss for words ever. It was something Jessica had experienced a million times before. The empty stares not the empty words. OK, the empty words too. "It's fine dear," she grinned, "you probably get stares too, being so gosh darn cute." The girl did look familiar, little did Jessica know that she'd watched several of Zhu's videos.


"Alexa, huh," she said looking through the store, keeping conversation, "you must get it all the time. The machine name, I mean." Looking at some of the oddball things that convenience stores carried. She didn't want to seem suspicious, she'd slide into the conversation about the garden soon. But then again, she thought Zhu might assume that of her anyway. Still, act smooth. Jessica looked at the shopkeeper, "so, what do you know? I mean, I'm probably not the only strange thing you've seen in your... thirteen, fourteen, fifteen at most years?"

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Zhu sighed, but smiled while she did.  The cheerful conversation from the red skinned lady made anything she said disarming and friendly and there was an immediate instinct to like her on the spot.  She resisted the urge to snoop on the woman's cell phone as she imagined that had quite a colorful history... then groaned internally at the pun that she was thankful wasn't voiced.


Blushing just a little at the cute comment, she replied, "thank you... but I'm actually 17 even if my body refuses to realize that.  Maybe someday I'll develop.  Maybe.  And yes, the name was a bad choice, but it's not my real name so I guess I don't mind.  It's just that most American's don't appreciate Chinese names and it's easier just to assume one.  If you want, you can call me Zhu."


She walked back to the counter, coming closer to Jessica as she continued to chat, "I mean, you're not strange... well..." then she grinned, "okay, the red skin was a little odd and I'm sorry it threw me.  But um, it really suits you and look um... well I'm a little jealous."  Reaching the counter, she sat down and found her phone, slipping it in her pocket, "we do get some odd people coming through, but that's mostly for the herbs that mom grows.  I mean, not like drugs.  We don't do that here."

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Jessica was anything but a late bloomer. She showed off with a stretching yawn. The jeans and pullover hoodie she'd been known to wear through the winter - to blend in and not look any more weird - fit her snugly. "Well Zhu. I'm sure you'll find other ways to wow them. Cute looks aside, you seem to be well versed," she said taking a bottle of milk, a hot dog - which she took a bite of, some playing cards, and a sticker book of Freedom League heroes, "also, I do enjoy getting to know people," she said changing the subject, "I'm just sorry I can't trade you any information back." She put the random stuff on the counter.


The talk of herbs was just what she wanted to hear, "oh, dear, you don't have to entice me, this is exactly the reason I came here. The herbs I mean." She grinned and leaned closer, a soft tone, "it's amazing what you can do with them with the right knowledge."

Edited by Jessica Witchblood
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She tried not to stare, but that was hard as Jessica seemed to practically exude beauty and knew how to show it off to devastating effect.  Zhu had to imagine that she wasn't going to be babysitting on Valentines day unlike the young super genius who had just taken that job at the request of the headmistress.  Blushing even more and biting her lip with a smile, she tried to downplay her reactions by tucking her hair back and busying herself with whatever was on the counter.  Thankfully Jessica had set several things she was buying there which gave the young Zhu plenty of opportunity to look busy as she fumbled to ring things up.


"I like people too, it's one of the reasons that I'm so glad we moved here.  Everything is so different than back home... and it's great to be able to make friends, that wasn't as easy as you'd think where I grew up."


She shrugged and flashed a very cute, pleasant smile back to Jessica.  Although, inside, her curiosity was burning as the red skinned woman mentioned trading information.  If Zhu had one prevailing vice, it was that she loved to snoop.  Perhaps it was her persistent connection to the internet.  Perhaps it was just her nature.  Regardless, one of her favorite pastimes was scanning other people's phones.  She never did anything to them, but those digital bits practically cried out to her begging to be seen.  Perhaps, just a little peak...


Zhu suddenly gasped and her face turned crimson, not the little blush where she had been embarrassed to be caught staring at the very attractive woman, but a full on blush that left her flustered enough to drop the milk to the floor as the container broke.  It hadn't taken more than a moment of scanning Jessica's phone to realize that she definitely led a very VERY social life and she now was certain beyond a doubt that the woman was not going to be alone on Valentines day!  The things she had seen made the woman's stretch earlier very tame in comparison as she withdrew her mind from the phone as quickly as she could, blinking and totally uncertain what to do next.


"I'm sorry... what did you say?" she stammered, not even realizing that the milk was now puddling on the floor.

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Jessica knew not that Zhu was scanning her phone, but the young girl's red skin was delicious. So full of what she wasn't supposed to be doing. The drop of the milk bottle sealed it. Of course she wasn't paying for it, but she felt responsible for it nonetheless. "Yeah, babe," she giggled, "sorry about that." She pulled back up and reached in her pocket. The greed spirit drained her of almost all of her cash. Luckily she had a ten dollar bill in her back pocket. She knew how that got there, and would have to thank her mother later. It was almost Kara's birthday! Jessica really hoped this greed ritual paid off.


"Don't worry about that, dear. It was just a distraction," she put the ten on the counter, "I am eating that hot dog though. Those stickers are cool. I'll share if you want."

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For the moment, Zhu had a hard time not seeing some of the imagery on the phone superimposed over the woman in front of her with the impish smile.  Did she know that Zhu had been peaking?  That was nearly worse than the embarrassment that she already felt!  


"A... distraction?" she managed to stammer as she hopped off the stool like it had suddenly turned to fire and got the thankfully close mop and busied herself in the mechanics of cleaning up the spilled milk.  Typically, customers came first, although in this case, she desperately needed a distraction to allow her guilt ridden and very shocked mind a moment to recover.  As she did, she said some other words, which likely didn't make sense as she desperately tried to think of what she should say.


"You'll share?" she finally said and while her mind was still thinking on the content of the phone and didn't quite connect the offer on the stickers, "No... no... I mean... I don't, well I couldn't... no could but shouldn't."  


The milk had only taken a few swipes of the mop to fix and she was sitting back down still trying to say something articulate to the beautiful woman in front of her.  Taking a deep breath, she finally said, "please, you can get another, the phone's on me."  Which turned her crimson again, "I mean MILK!  The milk is on me, not the phone.  Why would I say phone.  I meant milk.  Milk..."

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Zhu's normally coy act was growing weirder. Jessica thought it was just her tripping over herself because she wasn't used to Jessica. Not like that hadn't happened before. About the time Zhu mentioned the phone, she noticed someone familiar in the photos. Jack. From Claremont. He and Jessica were at Original BurgerShack on the Boardwalk. Nothing more salacious than a hug, a kiss on the cheek, and her winking while standing in front of him to show their height difference. Certainly something the overactive mind could chew on.


Jessica's phone did buzz after Zhu mentioned it. Pulling it out of her hoodie pocket, there was a text from an unknown number. Jessica thought she's check her 



<?> A... distraction?
<?> No... no... I mean... I don't, well I couldn't... no could but shouldn't.
<?> Please, you can get another, the phone's on me.
<?> I mean MILK!  The milk is on me, not the phone.  Why would I say phone.  I meant milk.  Milk...


Jessica looked confused at the phone and then the girl. Strange things were afoot. She walked towards Zhu. Slowly, methodically, with a smile. "I'm not mad," she said looking down, putting her hand on Zhu's cheek, "Impressed, actually. I just want to know what you did." Her voice lowered, "I'll know if you're lying, sweet girl." Some parts intimidating and friendly at the same time. And here she was just to get some herbs.

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Zhu's face turned the color of the milk that had just been cleansed from the floor, she was busted and she knew it.  


She sighed and covered her face with her hands before lightly bumping her head onto the counter, looking down at it.  Of course she knew that browsing the content of people's phones was TECHNICALLY wrong.  She never did anything malicious and she was good at keeping secrets.  However, it had become quite a tempting habit for her, kind of like being able to share a little secret with people that she bumped into.  Yes, there was the occasional embarrassing conversation or picture, but she never shared or copied or anything other than read.  Somehow she had made the mistake of actually using the girls phone to text herself.  Her only guess was that in seeing some of the very risque photos and reading some of the more lurid messages, that she had goofed badly.  It hadn't helped that she had seen Jack on her phone being kissed no less!  


Her voice was subdued as she muttered through her hands and against the counter that her head still laid on, "I can hack electronics with my mind... and I like reading people's phones.  It's kind of a hobby like watching soap operas.  Um...  I think yours shocked me... I didn't mean to change anything on your phone if that helps..."


It probably didn't and she was likely going to go to jail for this.

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Jessica sighed, relieved. "It's OK, babe," she smiled and laughed, "if nothing is missing or messed up, I'm fine. The arcane information in there, I'm sure you cant understand, much less use. And the pictures and texts?" She grinned, "I'm pretty sure that's where all the red face came from." She softly lifted up Zhu's head to look at her again. "Nothing malicious, right?" It looked like the girl was truly sorry. Jessica wasn't going to hold it against her.


"Now, about that herb garden," she said before taking the last bite of the hot dog, "I'm looking for a list of what you have in stock." She went over to the cold storage to get a bottle of milk. Free was always good for her.

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Zhu didn't pick her head up, feeling chastised and embarrassed all the way around, "um... yes.  Sometimes when I look I see things I don't want too, but it's like a train wreck, you just can't stop yourself.  I don't even mess things up, that would be really wrong and I don't like hurting people..."


She sighed and finally peeked up as Jessica walked back to get a milk, it would come out of Zhu's pocket, but at this point, that didn't really matter.  She still had fleeting visions of herself in jail with a large lady named Sal.  Thankfully, it seemed that Jessica wasn't that upset and didn't seem like she was going to press charges.  As the vision of her cellmate faded from her head, she nodded and quietly said, "yes, we have a small greenhouse around the back, there is a lot of medicinal herbs that my mother brought from China.  She's very good with them."


But there was also something that was nagging her in the back of her mind, while she hadn't dwelled on the photo's in Jessica's phone too long, her heightened mind had sifted through all of them in a split second and a series that stood out was the beautiful red skinned woman kissing her friend Jack!  Valentines had been coming up and a part of her had hoped that he would have asked her to a dance or for coffee or something, but it appeared he had other plans indeed!  It was fine, they had just been friends and she had never said anything so she wasn't mad, but looking at the sensuous woman who was just opening her milk, she wondered how anything in life was fair.  Maybe she would ask her about it... or maybe she would keep her mouth closed and try not to call attention to the fact she was snooping.

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Jessica stroked Zhu's neck as she faced down, listening to her further confessions. "You didn't hurt any anything but your pride, baby girl," she said in a comforting voice, "that's not the worst thing you can hurt at all. Trust me, I know." She could have gotten angry, her privacy had been invaded. But Jessica was an open person. If not for the whole 'moves around in pockets' deal, she wouldn't have a lock screen. Granted there were some things people didn't want to know about, but she wasn't rude. She kept her business to herself, unless someone wanted to know something about her. It was a learned policy. Not too long ago, especially in high school, she was too forward. A lot of people learned about magic from her. There were some interested and some terrified. To wit, it's not something you open with.


After that she walked over to get her milk, she opened the thing quickly. The hot dog wasn't bad, the gluttony in her made everything palatable. It would have to be really stinking gross for her not to eat it. She downed the milk slowly, looking like some milk commercial from the 80s mixed with a healthy dose of late night television parody. She was listening to Zhu speak, as she counted the swallows it would take to finish off the small bottle. Eight in one go. A satisfied sound escaping her as she finished the bottle. "Well then, Zhu," she walked back to the counter, flipping the bottle in a near by container, "might you show me to this magical little place?"

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Zhu wasn't really used to people touching her, while she didn't have space issues, it just wasn't something that had been common in her childhood so far.  It was a nice really, and surprisingly did relax her.  Which considering what she had seen was quick a revelation.  So while Jessica was drinking her milk, Zhu managed to get her head off the counter and straighten out her top.  She watched Jessica drink her beverage, even making that look somehow sensual and attractive.  There was something completely unfair about that, but since she seemed to have forgive the intrusion, Zhu wasn't about to feel petty in any way.


Standing up she locked the register with her mind, not touching the keyboard as the drawer slid shut and the screen flashed to a login screen.  She nodded to Jessica, "yes, it's back this way.  Follow me."


The greenhouse was situated behind the stockroom as the wove their way through the narrow paths made by crates and cases of the stores good.  She paused at the door to the greenhouse before opening the door to the small family room sized greenhouse.  Inside was a collection of plants and other aromatic herbs.  The room had a pleasant mix of scents from the herbs and the rich dark soil that housed them.  "mom and dad brought a lot of these over from China, it was really important too them.  I know that a lot of them are pretty rare."

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Jessica followed Zhu, wondering what would happen if she replied to the text. She pulled out her phone and typed a message.



<D3m0nMistressX69> Dear Shu, I hope I don't fry you brain or anything.

<D3m0nMistressX69> You're very helpful. And if you need any help from me, I would be happy to oblige.

<D3m0nMistressX69> :h: Jessica


Looking around the greenhouse she got a special exhilaration from walking down the rows. Sure the greed spirit wanted rare, but the things she could do with these plants was magical. Figurative and literal magic. Though Jessica realized that she would have to pay for these somehow. The only money she had that wasn't stacked in the ritual circle was the change she had from what she bought earlier. She kept quiet, thinking how she would be able to finagle this.


"Hey Zhu," she said looking up from the Orzhav Magi Moonbloom - a purple grey stalk that only ever showed its plumage during rare eclipses. This would be the one she would sacrifice to the greed spirit. She beckoned the girl over with a hand "Do you have a list of prices?" She hoped it wasn't too much. She was also glad this was Greed and not Envy. Envy would tell her to dash with it. Whether she obeyed or not was if the ritual failed or not.

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As Jessica hit send, there was no indication that Zhu received the text other than her stride faltered for a moment.  She had been starting to point out different herbs, and it took her a moment to continue.  Her phone was still in her pocket yet Jessica received an immediate reply.



<Shēngyīn Héguāng> Thank you, after spying on you I'm not sure I deserve your kindness.

<Shēngyīn Héguāng> Is that really you in all of those... just is that really you?

<Shēngyīn Héguāng> I'm sorry, that's probably very rude to ask.



As they moved all the way into the greenhouse, Jessica could feel a faint discomfort from the far end.  It was likely that Zhu's parents used it as a makeshift shrine in whatever religion they practiced.  


"No," she said, "we don't have a set list.  My mother is funny about how she prices things and it depends on what your need is.  That one is a moonbloom and it's hard to cultivate.  I think it would be expensive if you want the whole thing.  But if you just need a cutting, then I think it won't be very bad."


Walking back over to Jessica, and looking at the delicate plant, she hesitated and then asked, "what are you going to do with it.  I can't find any recepie's for it online."

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Well, that was a surprise. Not really though now. Though Jessica wondered how much Alexa saw. It would explain all the stuff back in the store. She smiled and put the phone back in her pocket. She really didn't want to divide the conversation. Maybe when she was away from this place she'd hit her up.


Then again, getting away from this place seemed a good idea. It wasn't 'holy', but she did feel that this place had been hallowed or sanctified somehow. She was not a scholar on such things, but there was a gut feeling on wrong (right?). She felt it more and more as she wandered around. Maybe she trusted the little girl a little too much. Then again this place was too small to have some kind of altar.


She spoke quietly, "I need this plant." She looked at Zhu with a about the best 'I'm actually fine' smile of a lie she could. Speaking up, "can I... can we take this out of here? Or is it paid only?" As she stood up she finally saw the object of her discomfort. It wasn't that bad. A small yippy dog instead of a big angry dog. But still. "I promise to pay for it," she said eyeing the door.

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Zhu looked over at Jessica, concern flickering across her face.  She wasn't sure what was wrong, but it was something.  Perhaps the other girl had decided that she really was upset over the phone spying, perhaps it was something else totally unrelated.  Zhu let her senses expand with the botnet, giving her a much more complete view of the area, down to a microscopic depiction of the woman in front of her.  She could tell from her vitals that she was bothered, but that didn't give her any better clue than what she had already guessed.


"Yes," she said.  "We can take it back into the grocery store."  


As the stepped back out, Jessica seemed to be more normal than she had, perhaps the woman was allergic to plants?  Regardless it didn't matter, Zhu had been wrong and she was going to help.  Although that hadn't stopped her from checking again to see if Jessica had responded to her text question yet.  Some habits were indeed hard to break.


Sitting down at the register she finally said, "do you need the whole plant?  I mean, as I said, I could give you a clipping for a lot less.  That's easier for use to regrow and maintain the plants.  Could I ask what you want to do with it?"

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Jessica rushed - not enough to cause suspicion - to the door, plant in tow. Not that she was scared of a little shrine. It was, as she reasoned to herself, just a little one. But no chance would be taken. When they got back to the store she breathed a sigh of relief. "Forgive my little outburst back there," she said not even processing Zhu's question. "I saw something that could have been bad for me." She nodded to the place behind her, "us magic types have certain things we need to avoid." There was a silent moment, "plants I mean," she lied.


"But this one," she said caressing the pot, looking at the thing that would give the Greed spirit power, "I'm all for this one. As for what I'm going to do with it? Since you've seen more of me than most who haven't," she grinned at her, "I'm going to let you in on something." She leaned forward and whispered in Zhu's ear the step she had went through to get to this part of the ritual. Pulling back Jessica smiled, it wasn't as bad as the stuff Zhu saw on the phone, but it opened her up to more of Jessica's world. "You see, dear, Greed can be used to help as well as harm. And if you ever need help I'm here for you."

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As Jessica whispered in her ear, Zhu's face turned red again and she gasped and covered her mouth, looking at Jessica with a look that wavered between shock, embarrassment, and perhaps a little jealousy.  It took her more than a moment to compose herself before she finally nodded, "thank... thank you."


She took a deep breath, "I hope it works out... I mean the ritual... um... not the other stuff.  I mean that too.  Okay, I really need to shift topics."


Setting her hands carefully on the counter, she finally smiled some, "you can have the plant, just leave me a cutting.  I'll regrow it... maybe in some hydroponics.  But yeah, I mean, I don't know how you manage it all.  I've never really even kissed anyone yet."

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Jessica watched as Zhu stumbled over her words. It was cute as much as it was endearing. Jessica never had such 'problems'. During high school she was the weird type, but her looks alone got her friends. Though personality wise, she jumped through so many hoops. Demure was never one of them. She was having too much fun showing off. She saw Zhu as someone she could help, if the girl allowed it. But that was not the business at hand. For now.


When Zhu offered her the whole plant, Jessica thought about it for a while. Maybe Zhu missed the part where this thing only bloomed during eclipses. She couldn't rip this girl off, not if she meant to hang around anymore. Then again, Greed would most likely want as much of it as there was. Though that last thing Zhu said threw Jessica for a mental loop, but she 'bounded up' with a smirk.


"Dear, that'll come sooner than you think," Jessica leaned forward again, looking across the counter into Zhu's eyes. There was a burning passion there, "you're a nice girl, yes? Quiet, unassuming. The boys and girls pass you over."  She lazily pulled  Zhu's hair behind her ear. "But you want to be more than just the girl who does people's homework."

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Zhu had often questioned her own sexuality when other kids she knew had found time and inclination to make out.  For a while she had even wondered if she was asexual as her time was filled with robots and code.  Yet, when she saw one of the many attractive students at Claremont, she knew that she wasn't.  Although, what she didn't understand was that she often felt similar for very attractive girls as she did boys, which made no sense.  While she had nearly the world's resources at her fingertips using the internet to look up anything on human sexuality was both embarrassing and the result set was often disturbing.


That question, of her own orientation was forced into her mind as Jessica was inches from her face and the intoxication from her presence made all of those questions very pertinent.  She nodded, unable to look away from Jessica and whispered, "yes..."


The space between them diminished as Jessica's lips brushed Zhu's.  The red skinned girl had kissed many people, and her nature and looks made people more than responsive to her advances.  Lust was heavy in her mind and enveloped the space between them, but she wondered for the moment if something was indeed wrong with the demure store clerk as there was no response.  In fact, it was like she was kissing a statue as the girl didn't return any of the energy and passion that she thought she had felt.  Not only that, but she didn't move at all.


It took a second for lust to release it's grip and for her to realize that Zhu not only wasn't moving, but she wasn't even breathing either.

Edited by BlazingCoconut
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