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Author Topic: Shinobi 1 - A tapestry of lies and violence  (Read 5148 times)
Gatac
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« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2012, 02:04:17 PM »

Po counts the money quickly with a polite smile, then whisks it into his purse and walks off to provide the room.

"Not to give you the impression that we're pushovers or that we bilk other customers," Tuku says. "It's just that my uncle, he's a real sweetheart. And he's in charge. Me, I charge everyone the same. That's my policy. So! Do you want me to guide you now, or do you want to rest first? It's fine if you want to rest, that's what you're here for anyway, but if you're gonna sleep I'm gonna head back to the pier and get some more customers in the meantime, if you don't mind."
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« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2012, 04:43:03 PM »

Aiko chuckles at Tuku's forthrightness.

"Well, my young friend, which would you prefer? A single large payment that leaves this place empty to the eyes of others, or a series of smaller payments that add up over time to a larger amount and which lets others see you carrying out regular business? Your uncle is as wise as he is generous."

She gives him a genial pat on the back. "I believe I shall rest and allow you to return to the docks."

« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 08:24:36 AM by Mister Andersen » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: November 11, 2012, 12:12:30 PM »

Tuku looks at Aiko like she just invented the concept of marketing. (Fun history fact: marketing was invented in 1884.)

"I prefer a sustainable profit margin, thank you," Tuku says. "I'll see you later."

---

Suitably rested, Aiko picks her way back to the harbor. In a way, this place is charming. It's not as regimented as the docks in the Forge or as dreary as the harbor of Kargbeck - there's a light breeze coming in from the sea, and the sun lazily hangs in the sky like it's telling you to not take everything so hard. The vision upon entering the harbor is that of Tuku pushed against a wall by a fellow whose appearance suggests both a lot of time spent working out and a truly unfortunate taste in haircuts. Aiko cannot make out what their disagreement is about from a distance, but given Tuku's all-around stellar service, it can hardly be a dissatisfied customer, right?
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« Reply #18 on: November 12, 2012, 10:14:44 PM »

Aiko rubs the bridge of her nose. Given the lad's earlier conversation with Mina, the chances that this is simply the landlord looking to collect the money owed him is high. Of course, given the way her luck's been running, it could just as easily be a stand-over man for the local crime lord, or just some thug trying to claim the best touting spot.

"Truly an auspicious beginning to these preceedings," she sighs, settling her twin jitte slightly more accessibly in her sash before heading towards her erstwhile associate, As she does so, she scans the docks for signs that the man accosting Tuku is not acting alone before focusing on him and trying to read his body language.

"Tuku," she announces her presence in the tone of voice typically used by responsible adults in charge of children with a tendency for testing their leash. "There you are. Excuse me, but is there a problem?"


(click to show/hide)

« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 08:24:47 AM by Mister Andersen » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: November 24, 2012, 03:07:18 AM »

The henchmen of the big-muscled lunk are almost criminally bad at hiding, at least from Aiko's perspective - they hang around on the periphery of the scene, keeping anyone from approaching too closely. She counts four of those, some with sticks pushed through the back of their belts, others apparently unarmed - street thugs, in other words.

The large fella snarls at Tuku. "Do we have a problem, Tuku?"
"Not at all, Ox!" Tuku replies.
"Because it looks like you're spending my money on hiring bodyguards."
"No!" Tuku says. "No, she's a customer!"
"You have customers?" Ox says. "What a likely story." He turns to Aiko. "I don't know what twig-neck Tuku paid you, but it's my money. Hand it over and we won't be having problems."

The appraisal of Ox's personality is brief, as is indeed his personality: he is used to swinging his power around, and he hasn't hit anyone yet who swung back. He clearly recognizes that Aiko's no stranger to fighting, but his threat assessment seems to be "Eh, she's small and alone, we can take her." and not much beyond that. And you know what they say about guys with short...thought processes.
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« Reply #20 on: November 25, 2012, 06:31:15 AM »

Aiko eyes Ox speculatively.

"My name is Shimura, and Tuku speaks the truth," she states simply, "What exactly does he owe you?"

"I don't know," Ox says, "I'm bad with numbers. Oh, wait." His face turns into a grin. "How about everything in your purse? That should do nicely as a down payment."

Pursing her lips slightly, she looks past the human roadblock at her erstwhile guide. "Tuku, how much do you owe him, and for what?"

Tuku's attempt to generate sounds other than a weak warbling of his throat are stymied by the large hand around his neck. "I don't think you understand how this works, little lady. I tell this idiot how much he owes me. And he hands it over, and then we don't have a problem. Now, you're going to give me everything you have, or my hand's gonna be around your neck."

"Ox, I want you to remember that I tried to be reasonable and treat you as a man," Aiko says in a reasonable, friendly manner. Then she punches him him in the throat before drawing her jittes.

(click to show/hide)

Ox swings back, but he's not nearly fast enough to hit the nimble detective. Two of his guys draw their sticks and close into melee range, the other two stay back.

That could have gone better, but at least Tuku's free, Aiko muses as she takes a step backwards and adjusts her grip on her weapons. Ox would seem to be as solid as his name suggests, and is likely the greatest threat. Still, his minions and their weapons can't be ignored. So deciding, she moves to take out the nearest of them.

(click to show/hide)

The first thug's grip on his weapon is all bluster and little skill; twisting it out of his hands with one of the jittes is child's play, as is the brutal back-hand she deals him with the other. He topples backwards like a felled tree, opening his partner up to a swift probing attack. Sadly, he weathers it stoutly, and it provides Ox with the opportunity to catch Aiko in a bearhug from behind, opening her up to a retalitory attack

The first blow catches her across the hip and belly, a stinging blow that knocks the wind from her body. As he wind back to deliver a second blow, Aiko goes limp. The sudden lack of resistance causes Ox to pitch forward without warning -- straight into his minion's swing. The resounding crack and the way he slumps to the ground are both pretty good indicators that the behemoth isn't going to be getting up for a while.

(click to show/hide)

Squirming out from beneath Ox, Aiko finds herself able to capitalise on the thug's shock to twist the club from his hands. But instead of following that up with the expected beat down, Aiko instead waits to see if he merits further effort on her part or if he's going to realise the futility of further aggression

Futility. Definitely futility. The henchman mumbles a half-apology and then takes off. A quick look around confirms that the other two henchmen who held back are also gone. Tuku's picking himself off the ground while... well, actually, the crowd doesn't seem to give much of a hoot. "What did you do?" Tuku croaks. "Oh, man. This is not good."

Tuku's reaction is not... unfamiliar to Aiko, given her line of work. Victims fearing the repercussions of their abuser's temporary defeat. "He attacked you and threatened me with similar violence," she shrugs. "So I'll repeat my question: how much do you owe him, and what for?"

"Oh, him," Tuku says. "It's not that I owe him anything in particular...he just goes around and he roughs up people for their money...the problem is I owe his boss, Auntie. She's not gonna be happy one of her guys got beat up." Tuku forces a smile. "Hey, like, it's not that I'm not grateful, you saved my ass, thanks, and it felt good watching you clobber those guys. Just... this ain't over. But don't worry, Auntie's more reasonable than this idiot. I'll smooth it over with her."

Hmmmmmm her inner detective latches on to the evasive explanation. "Different creditor, same question," she repeats herself, looking around the docks for anything or anyone useful. "I imagine Ox's friends are probably running off to tell her what happened, so alacrity of response would be appreciated."

"Geez, you're really nosy," Tuku says. "I just owe her, okay? It's not about money. More like I did a really stupid thing and she saved my ass..."

"I consider myself to have a vested interest in you continued wellbeing," Aiko answers. "After all, you are the best guide in these parts and I'm staying at your Uncle's place, and I'd hate to lose access to either of those." She favours the lad with a quick smile. "I assume Ox here is probably not one of thise island's favoured sons by the general populance?"

"Hardly," Tuku says, ushering Aiko away from the slowly-recovering brute. "If he was just a random thug, nobody would give a shit. But he works for Auntie, and she has a way of making you give a shit."

"And I take it she condones his extortion?"

"Condones, tolerates, is cool with, however you want to say it," Tuku says. "I don't know what her opinion is, I just know she doesn't stop him."

"Then I suggest we go to see her straight away and discuss the matter. He'll be sore, but if this Auntie tells him to back off, I'm guessing he'll do what she says. Otherwise I might just have to kill him, and I'd rather avoid that if I have to."

"Alright," Tuku says. "And the tour of the city after that?" he adds with a small smile. "I still intend to do that and charge you for it, you know. Verbal contract."

"Verbal contract it is. Getting Ox to lay off you might be a down payment."

"Personal favor," Tuku says. "Sorry, but if I considered that a down payment, I would have to charge you less at the end and I charge everyone the same."

Aiko smirks. "Yes, I do recall you making that boast. Just how much is this going to cost me?" An idea strikes her, and she rolls Ox over with her foot, checking him for his purse.

"10 silver," Tuku says. Ox's purse turns out to hold about five times that. "Uh...you really want to add insult to injury there?"

"Personally, I'd happily bury the idiot in the sand up to his neck and let the tide come in. But in the interest of your continued god health, wouldn't it make more sense for us to take charge of this and return it to Auntie, rather than let some cutpurse claim it and for us to get the blame?"

"Oh," Tuku replies. "Yeah, that makes sense, I guess." He looks at Aiko. "So, uh, Shimazu...I don't wanna pry, but you seem...pretty used to this stuff."

She focus her blue-eyed gaze on Tuku. "When you have a gaijin father who was absent from much of your life -- through no fault of his own, mind you -- you learn how to take care of yourself." She attaches Ox's purse to her belt, wincing as the movement stresses the no doubt rapidly brusing welt across her hip and belly where the thug managed to land his all too solid blow. "Come on, let's go."
« Last Edit: February 05, 2013, 08:25:08 AM by Mister Andersen » Logged

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« Reply #21 on: December 15, 2012, 05:14:33 AM »

The walk to “Auntie” is as short as it is quiet; Tuku seems to be composing a speech in his head, while the bag of coin taken from Ox weighs a little heavier on Aiko than expected. A couple of eyes have been following you since the beatdown, but they’re accompanied by bemused smirks - it seems some dockworkers are interested in how this will shake out. The road leads to a - well, it seems to be a tavern, except it’s airy and bright and there’s more eating than drinking going on, a deeply weird state of affairs. Tuku seems to know where he’s going; he passes the barkeep and the servers with a few nods and leads Aiko to the back, into the kitchen. Inside, you find three cooks in the process of creating lunch for the patrons, as well as a forty-something woman with an apron over her short-sleeve kimono and a big smile on her face.

“Tuku!” she says, rushing in to hug the guide. “How are you? And who’s your friend?”
“I’m fine, Auntie,” Tuku says, returning the hug. “And that’s Shimura, she’s taking the tour with me.”
“Oh, that’s so nice!” Auntie says. “Did you just get here? How do you like the Pearl so far?”

Aiko inclines her head respectfully. “Yes, I arrived here only this morning. Your island has a character all of its own.” She smiles a little. “And so far, its best guide has been living up to his promise to show it to me.”
“That’s great!” Auntie says. “Why don’t you two settle down outside and have some lunch? My treat.”
“Sure,” Tuku says. “Would you join us? We have something to discuss.”
“I would love to!” Auntie beams. “Just find a table, I’ll be with you in a moment.”

Tuku leads Aiko back out; they find a table and take their places, with Tuku smiling at Aiko. “Not the crime boss you were expecting, eh?”

“Perhaps,” she answers, looking around the establishment as she remembers the gaijin city of Kargbeck and its charming barkeep come cold-blooded criminal mastermind and his army of mind-controlled child thieves. “You never can tell. Good choice of table, by the way. The wall’s at our backs, and the window is an easy enough dive away but far enough away we can’t be grabbed through it.”
“I knew you’d appreciate that,” Tuku says. “So, tour with free lunch, am I the best guide or what?”
“My L--” Aiko catches herself. “Someone I used to work for had a saying that there was no such thing as a free lunch. We may not have to drop any of our own coin, but I have a suspicion that we’re going to earn our meal.”
“Tour, free lunch and employment opportunities,” Tuku says with that salesman smile of his. “See, Shimura, I like you Northerners, I really do. But you have got to learn to go with the flow a little.”
“And if the flow ends in a waterfall?”
“Clench your buttocks and hope the water’s deep!” Tuku replies.
Auntie arrives, carrying two plates, each generously stocked with fillets of freshly steamed fish and assorted greens, half of which Aiko does not recognize. “Here you go, dig in!” Auntie says, then grabs another chair and sits down at the table. “Oh, the sticks!” she says, grabbing two pairs off a neighbouring table. “I’m sorry, I must be getting a little forgetful at my age.”
“From the way Tuku describes you, I can’t believe it diminishes your edge even slightly,” Aiko smiles politely. Gesturing with her chopsticks at the greens, she says “I’ve not seen the like of these on the mainland. What are they?”
“Oh, they’re from the islands to the South,” Auntie explains. “You have mangos, potatoes, a mixture of things they call ‘salad’...it’s all as fresh as I can get it. And before you ask, no, we don’t serve rice. I’m a little proud of that, actually. It’s just so...well, you come here, you know what rice is. I want to give my customers something new. Come on, try it.”
“I’m familiar with potatoes,” Aiko explains. “I was in Kargbeck a while ago, and they served them there. The only way I really found to enjoy them was when they were sliced thinly, fried in very hot oil, and salted.” She pokes the slices of mango tentatively, taking a couple of attempts to capture one in her sticks. When she tastes it, however, her eyes go wide. “That’s amazing.” She grabs another slice. “It’s... it’s...” she tries to capture the thought. “It’s like eating a kiss shared with a lover.”
“I’m glad you like it,” Auntie says. “Tuku, you said you had something to discuss?”
Tuku stops stuffing his face for a moment, chews, swallows, then turns to Auntie. “Yes,” he says. “We...well, we kind of...uh, we beat up Ox.”
“The entire incident is regrettable, but Tuku is of value to me, and all attempts to reasonably discuss Ox’s belief that he was entitled to Tuku’s money and limbs were met with with threats and eventually violence.” Aiko unhooks Ox’s purse from her belt and places it on the table. “We relieved him of the burden of this, lest its presence in the middle of the docks without him awake to discourage them present anyone with too great a temptation that it overcame their senses.”
“Thank you for your forthrightness,” Auntie says. The bag of coins quickly disappears into a pocket of her apron. “Ox is a hothead and a bully, but he is useful in his position. That you intervened to save someone in trouble speaks highly of you, Shimazu. As does your ability to handle Ox and his friends in a fight.” Auntie smiles. “You understand that the business demands that I do not simply forgive you, but I believe we can enter into a mutually beneficial relationship. You are staying at the house of Tuku’s uncle, I assume?”
Aiko nods. “Yes. Tuku’s family have been both generous and useful to me in my brief time on the island, as I’m sure they will continue to be so. As, I have been led to believe, you have been to my young guide in a time of need.”
Auntie smiles. “I see we understand each other. I will speak to Ox later and impress upon him the importance of using his brains every once in a while. Well! Thank you for coming right to me to settle this issue. Enjoy your meal, and I hope you have a great time here!” Auntie gets up and returns to the kitchen, leaving Tuku and Aiko to enjoy the rest of the fish.
“See?” Tuku says. “Totally reasonable.”
“So, what sort of criminal empire does Auntie run?”
“Oh, smuggling and protection money,” Tuku says, “about what you’d expect. She doesn’t have a ninja clan at her disposal, like some of those Northerner gangsters I’ve heard about. Is that true, anyway? I just...I can’t imagine how that works, all those trained assassins hiring themselves out. Oh well. Just one more thing from the empire we’re not looking to adopt here.”
Aiko nods. “Does she actually offer protection, or is it more like protection from Ox?”
“No, it’s protection,” Tuku says. “You don’t want to know some of the characters that sail into this port and think they’re gonna take us for all we’re worth. We don’t exactly have a military, or lawmen...but we do have Auntie.”
Aiko taps her fingers thoughtfully to her lips as she considers that. “How interesting.” Interesting, even tempting, really. Bare months ago, the idea of this lawlessness would have dismayed her even for all of her fallen lord’s world of grey morality to which she largely subscribes. If it weren’t for her oath to avenge his murder, and then the bestowal of Matsumoto’s quest after the fate of the Emperor, the idea of staying here, of making a difference, instead of just enforcing justice... “Any ideas on how she plans on calling in the debt for Ox’s misfortune?”
“I don’t know,” Tuku admits. “You seem like the ‘point at a problem to make it go away’ type, so...if Auntie has any problems right now, she might be thinking of you as the solution.”

“Well, I’m sure I’ll be hearing from her sooner rather than later. I’m standing for you while I’m here, but she’s too canny not to realise that I might be gone and might feel the need to ensure a certain degree of security for you and yours before that happens if she doesn’t call in the marker soon enough.” She finishes the fish as she talks these thoughts through. “So, with today’s Ox disaster averted for the time being, what’s next on our itinerary?”
“The markets,” Tuku says. “I thought you might need to do some shopping - and it’s a grand sight, too.”
“Sounds like fun.”
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« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2012, 08:26:22 AM »

The markets of which Tuku speaks are a sight, indeed. Here, the sprawling port has left an expanse of nothing, like a grand plaza, with a fountain in the middle - and then someone said “Let there be capitalism”, and there was, and it was good. The free room is crammed full of ramshackle stands, clad in a full-blown visual offensive of colorful cloth to protect shopkeepers against the sun. The cacaphony of murmuring voices is pierced by a few vendors who put their vocal chords on the line to scream out their daily bargains to anyone who will listen. It certainly seems like everything is for sale here, except for peace and quiet.

“So!” Tuku says. “Souvenirs, or information?”

“Well, considering my financial situation, I’m thinking information first is going to be the most prudent course.”
“You are such a stick-in-the-mud,” Tuku says. “Prudent, pah. But fine, since you saved my ass...”

Tuku leads Aiko through the market stalls, maybe hoping she’ll stop and buy something - no doubt he’d get a cut. Leaning against the central fountain but shaded from the sun is an old man dressed in rags, fast asleep. Tuku gives him a soft kick to startle him awake.
“Whu?” the man babbles. “Tuku, what in the Hells...”
“Wake up, old man,” Tuku says. “My friend has coin and questions.”
“I can fix that,” the old man says, sitting up straight, throwing a glance at Aiko. “Now, why don’t you run and buy me something to drink so the lady and I can conduct our business.”
“I’ll be back in a bit,” Tuku tells Aiko. “Try not to let him talk you to death.”

As Tuku leaves, the old man fixes Aiko in his gaze - which isn’t easy, as his eyes don’t seem to be quite willing to do so. “Now, what are you looking for?” he asks. “Come on, I don’t have all day.”

“Just how well tapped in to the local goings on are you?” Aiko asks. “Hate to think I was wasting my coin.”
“Little lady,” the old man says, “the whole damn city’s here, every day, shouting over each other to tell me their business. What they don’t say, they act out, thinking I ain’t watching. If it’s happening, I know about it. Ask your questions.”
“I’m looking for a man, a northerner like myself whom I ‘m told most likely came here over 10 years ago. He would have had the bearing of a noble, even though he might have been pasing himself off as a common man.” She proceeds to give an accurate physical description of the Emperor -- not as he would have been known to the public, but as his inner circle would have known him, stripped of the artifice of office and pared down to the man who ruled the nation as you would ride a spirited steed.
The old man starts nodding absent-mindedly in the middle of Aiko’s description, then finally gives her the “Get on with it” hand gesture. What a rude fellow! “Lady, I didn’t figure you for one of those people, but here we are.” He sighs. “Like clockwork, I get one every year, rolls through here asking questions about this guy. Emperor something or another. And I’m gonna tell you what I tell everyone else: get out of this city. Get as far away as you can. I don’t know if he’s here, but I know asking around about him gets people disappeared. And here comes the part where you tell me it’s too important, or that you’re not afraid of a fight, or whatever, but I’m telling you, if you take my advice and leave, you’d be the first, and it’d be real good for my conscience if you’re the last to ever ask about this guy. Don’t feel so good watching all you young’ins get themselves into trouble for that.” He sighs. “I suppose you’ll want to know where all the other guys said they were going next in their search, or am I actually getting through to you?”
Aiko shrugs. “Actually the idea of a fight I don’t need to get involved in terrifies me. But not as much as the idea of one I do. I literally have nothing left to go back to: my enemies have killed everyone I called kin or friend, they have cast me down from the calling I once dedicated myself to. Dying is something I figure I’m due to do pretty soon, and if it happens then I might as well do it this way and hope I piss enough of them off before I go down as I can. Actually succeeding at this point would be gravy.”
The old man raises an eyebrow. “Okay, that’s a new one,” he says. “I usually get the ‘destiny and honor’ speech. Well, however you want to do it is fine by me. Turn around, do you see the cross on that building way down that street?”

A brief visual inspection does indeed reveal a building with a cross mounted on top. A place of worship built by the foreigners; Aiko knows them well from her time in Kargbeck.

“Supposed to have hidden in there at some point,” the old man says. “Don’t see a lot of people coming or going anymore. Nobody who went looking for him there came back to me, so...that’ll be fifty silver, good luck, thank you, come again.” The old man reaches for a bottle of sake fashioned from a squash and takes a swig.
Aiko raises an eyebrow. “I take it that they just turned around and went straight into the Church as soon as you told them about it?”
The old man nods. “A couple even ran. Honestly, it’s been years, do you think a couple of minutes are going to change anything? Young people, pah. Always in such a damn hurry.”
“So they never asked you to tell them what else you knew. Say about that church, and the priests that run it, and which ones haven’t tried to proselytise their strange faith.”
“No, they didn’t,” the old man says. “Like they think I’m just here to point them at that church. But I’m gonna need to see some coin before I say anything more about the church, lady.”
Aiko smiles a touch grimly. “Like I said, I want to take as many of them with me as possible. Now, I could just run off to that church without giving you a backwards glance or a handout, like I figure most of the others have done. And that’s probably not going to end well for either of us. Assuming, of course, that you’re not simply the bait in a long laid trap. So why don’t you tell me all about what I’m going to end up walking into, because telling me it’s death trap when we both know I’m already essentially in it is worth exactly squat. Now, telling me what I need to get out of it on the other side? Well, that’s worth something. Consider it an incentive, because I’m not going to give you anything right now. You can keep quiet, sure, and you’re not going to get anything more than you’re already getting. Talk to me, and you’ve got at least an even chance of coming out ahead.”
The old man reaches for a crutch and rises - unsteadily - to his feet. He sizes Aiko up, then takes another swig from his bottle. “Lady,” he says, “you better pay up, now.”
(Sense Motive: 1d20+15=25)

The old man is clearly past his prime, but seems quite willing to fight. Besides, even if you win, do you want to be known for beating up the elderly?

Aiko moves away, well out of range of both crutch and any particularly fortuitous displays of drunken mis-coordination. “So, a likely fatal visit to the church it is, that neither of us stand to profit from,” she shrugs expansively. “Shame, but such is life. Guess you’ll have to spend another year wondering what might have been.”
“Come back here, you cow!” the old man shouts, but doesn’t seem willing to follow you. You now note that his right foot seems to be missing. “I won’t forget this! You’ll be sorry you cheated me!”
“No. As you said yourself, I’ll be dead, and, as such, beyond all caring. The only one who’ll care is an old man that life has left cowed, who’ll probably be cheated next year too, if the drink and the fear and the shame that he had nothing left inside of him worth the risk of spitting in the face of fate or the 50 silver you’re trying to wheedle out of a dead women hasn’t claimed you first.”
The old man glares, then sits back down in the shade of the fountain. This is Tuku’s cue; he appears from the market with a new squash bottle and sets it down next to the old man before following Aiko.
“That was a pretty loud business transaction,” Tuku says.
Aiko seems genuinely disappointed at the old man’s failure to rise to the bait. “Salvage jobs, especially failed ones, are never exactly quiet,” she answers as the pair move off. “What’s the story with his foot?”
“Gangrene,” Tuku says. “The surgeon had to take if off. He’s been a drunk layabout since.”
“Ah. What can you tell me about the church?”
“Not too much,” Tuku says. “Foreign traders hang out there every seventh day, when they ring loud bells. The priests keep to themselves for the most part. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been inside.”
“Have many of the locals been swayed to the gaijin faith?”
“A couple, I guess,” Tuku says. “Nobody I know, though.”
“How long until the next gathering?”
“Should be tomorrow,” Tuku says. “Um, Shimura...it’s not that I don’t trust you or anything, but you’re not going to stiff me on my fee for the tour, are you?”
“Only if I’m unavoidably killed.”
“Yeaaaaaah,” Tuku says. “I’m gonna have to ask for my money up front.”
“I’m not surprised you’ve not been inside there, he of little faith,” Aiko jokes.
“What, I’ve totally got faith!” Tuku protests. “I go to the temple and light the sticks and everything. I mean, when I have the time. I don’t get paid to pray, you know.”
“No. You have to be a priest to do that.”
“But if I was a priest, who would guide you?” Tuku says. “See? I’m just playing my part in the eternal path of the Heavens. So I won’t have you complain about my lack of faith.” He smiles. “Besides, you’re a manipulative tightwad. I’ve got to make sure we both still know what you owe me when we’re done talking.”
“It’s 10 silver against your continued good health, isn’t it?”
“It’s 10 silver, and if you’re fishing for a discount, forget it!”
“Well, we can’t have your life being worth anything can we,” Aiko teases, poking out her tongue.
“Careful, Shimura,” Tuku says. “The last girl who teased me like that is still stuck with me. Now, are you sure you don’t need anything else from the market?”
Aiko shakes her head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Well then!” Tuku says. “The next part of the tour are Shinju’s famous thermal baths...if you’re interested.”
“Sounds fun.”
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« Reply #23 on: February 16, 2013, 08:55:33 AM »

Even before I breathe, I stare.
I stare at the towering brown buildings chased in regal red and blue and yellow, built like arrowheads stack end-to-point towards the sun. From them pennants snap and twist, their lines rippling and lashing against the playful harbor wind. A thousand flags, a thousand clans, a thousand ambitions all fluttering against the vast blue sky in the forms of cats and birds and fish and an infinite number of other siguls and signs and icons. Many of the same are draped from gleaming banners that flap against the buildings, and my eyes wander up one, following a line of leaping silver fish hurtling up a green-blue stream that splashes through silver rocks.

Above me maidens lean over a balcony, slender lips pursed and eyelashes glittering, calling down from behind fans and facepaint. They're dressed in robes patterned in birds and flora and fish, dyed in vibrant purple and emerald green and deep blue with great bows in elaborate knots holding them shut. Some robes are threadbare and worn, and some eyes are wary, and some hide splashes of freckles that run down their necks into puffed up, pale bosoms.
Oh.
Perhaps not maidens, exactly.

I stare that them, capturing and storing every line and freckle and mole, instinctively building a composite of a what it is to be a person in this exotic, colorful place.

They soon stare back, their hands slowing, and their twittering lips caught in surprised "O" shapes.

Before me stevedores lift and grunt and chant the same strange bird-words but in a gruff basso as coffers and chests and great rough timbers are heaved onto carts which dart off behind limber, wiry runners. They wear headbands of twisted fabrics stained by sweat and spray, but even they don't go unadorned. Rings glint from ears and pendants and necklaces chime in abundance. Beards and mustaches are wild and curly or meticulously tamed and sheathed in slender silk, and thick, strong wrists are wrapped in twists of still-bright colors.

And the people. A riot of golden faces and sharp eyebrows, slight lips, pointed chins, high foreheads and upturned noses chattering and gesturing. They argue and laugh and bargain and threaten and cajole, hands darting and fidgeting, accenting every statement. And more from every nation I have never seen, and I am filled with a sudden, surprisingly deep ache to see more of the world.

No one is quiet. Nothing is plain. Everything is enameled and painted and carved and I am captivated by the sheer decadent vitality of it all.

Than there is stillness.

The runners stop. The stevedores lean on pilings. The maidens are hustled in by lean figures in plainer, more subdued clothing. Men in elaborately layered robes stop stroking beards and tugging their earlobes. Some figures step back, and some step forward. Some have knives, some have hatchets, some have billhooks, and some have bodyguards.

And they all stare back.

...I am not breathing.

I forgot to keep breathing.

I force my lungs to compress to speak and from my lips sluices a torrent of filthy harbor water.

I am aware that within my armor things that were wriggling and pinching have stopped, and from my leggings slide various dead things and weeds and bits of garbage.

I spit and cough, mostly in forced exaggeration.

I am aware that I stink. Terribly.

...I should say something.


"Uh."

Groping my sodden, slimy backpack for my purse, I dig out a fistful of silver.

"...I need a guide..?"
---

Well, here's something that the sailors and mariners of Shinju haven't seen yet. This...this thing not only just climbed out of the ocean, it also looks around and stares and coughs and generally acts like it only has half an idea what being alive means. Soon, there's mumblings of demons and bad omens and people try very, very hard not to look at Jett or even acknowledge she's there. Even when she asks for help, the reactions are more "That thing can talk?" than any genuine interest in her wellbeing.
Still, as Jett arranges her gear, a woman's voice - unsteady, but audible - comes closer. She wears a flower in her hair and has an unsteady smile on her lips. "You...you said you need a guide?" she says.
Jett snaps her head in that direction. "...yeah." She starts gearing back up, not bothering with the armor, though she's definitely getting her weapons set up right. "...I need to be clean. And new clothes. And...uh, that is it for now."
The girl still smiles. "Um, okay. I can help you with that for ten silver. Do you...do you have money?"
Jett grabs her coins and gives out 13 without counting. "..."
The girl takes her money, counts it out "One, two, three, four -" and then hands back three coins. "And here's your change. Thank you for hiring me. My name is Mina, by the way." Under her breath, she mutters "First customer, Gods..."
Jett cocks her head. "Oh. Thank you. Lead on." She looks around for signs of arms and armor. "Err, Lead on, Mina. Sorry." Jett smiles a small, awkward smile.

The sailors on the dock are definitely armed, even if only with a working knife. Armor however seems to be utterly absent from the people of Shinju, probably an artefact of heavy armor not being conductive to surviving going overboard. Mina still smiles as she quickly ushers you past a few particularly grumpy sailors. "*ahem* The city of Shinju was founded more than 400 years ago by one of the three great families, although there is no definitive record of which started it. Our scholars assume they all saw the favorable trading conditions here and worked together." Translation: they all claim to have founded it, and the wrong answer can get you cut. "Shinju means Southern Pearl, by the way. Pretty name for a pretty city, don't you think? Oh, forgive me, I am so rude...what is your name? Like I said, I'm Mina." She repeats it like for a slow child.
"...oh. Jett. Uh, Jett the Cold, Javansdottir, 3rd Rangers...." She squints. "...do you care where I'm from?"
"Uh, yes?" Mina answers. "Um, I mean, yes, of course, I love hearing about where people are from! You meet so many people from all over the world here! Not like the empire, where anyone that doesn't live on their island is a 'foreigner'."
Jett visibly brightens. "That's good. I'm....hmm. I was from Gibraltar...oh. I was _born_ in Byrnhild. A village not far from Mordheim, owned by Jarl Torvald the Great."
"Oh, are you a northman?" Mina asks. "That's...something you might not want to tell people. There's a northman in these seas, he's a pirate. You don't want to be a pirate in a city of sailors, trust me."
Jett nods. "I'm not a pirate. I'll keep that quiet."
"So..." Mina says. "Not a pirate. Good. I'm sorry if I'm prying, but you want supplies...what for? You're not a pirate, but you are a...mercenary?"
"...I guess I could be.." Seconds trail by. "Oh! I have a letter..." She rummages around in her meager belongings. "...the...Sage..."
"...she gave me this..."'
There is ominous squishing from pack.
"...gods be damned. She gave me this letter."
Jett produces a fistful of muck that might have been parchment.
"...to find a Shoe-gen-Jah."
"And...it's ruined."
"......Fuck......"
Jett looks crestfallen at this development. "That's why I sailed here. I'm...uh..."
(click to show/hide)
"I'm...uh....a lost family! To the Woo-gen."
"...okay," Mina says. "Well! If you're going to lie to me, you can just not say anything, you know?"

"Actually, forget I asked," Mina adds.
"....it....yeah. I'm not a pirate. That's still true."
"It's just," Mina explains, "you don't seem like a bad person. But I can see you're a violent one. And I'm...I'm a little nervous, because I'm with you and I don't want trouble."
"...Ah." Jett smiles. "I am. I won't cause you harm. I know myself, and I know this: the Sage Ataraxia, of Gibraltar, cast my fate. She said Sanin would have my answers to my...uh...quest. Destiny."
"I'm sorry the letter was ruined. I bought a hammock on a ship traveling to Sanin, but the sailors tried to steal me."
"They failed. But I had to hide in the midden, and swim through the harbor."
Her face wears a genuine smile. "Life is messy."
"Sure seems like it!" Mina says. "I bet Tuku would eat you right up, he's more of an adventurer than me...I'm just, I'm a little boring, I suppose." She looks at you. "So...speaking of messes, I think we should get you clean first."
« Last Edit: February 17, 2013, 12:58:53 AM by Gatac » Logged
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« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2013, 09:30:16 AM »

Shinju's bathhouse is justly famous for its architecture, its historical significance as one of the oldest buildings in the port capital of San'in, and as a social hub where the simplest sailor may sit right next to a noble. Endowed with generous funding by the noble families (who realize that good public health and sanitation is the key to keeping a trade port alive), the baths remain affordable to all without descending into the poorer fates suffered by equally ambitious yet sharply underfunded institutions in the mainland empire.

Oh, and you can totally get a massage with a happy ending, if that is your thing. Tuku had to visually hold himself back from mentioning this as part of his standard shpiel to Aiko, which consequently leaves his introductory speech slightly...disjointed. It gets even less coherent when he spots Mina giving much the same speech to Jett, though he interrupts her before she can get to the part about happy endings.

"Uh, Mina?" Tuku says, walking up to her. "What are you doing?"
"Excuse me, Jett," Mina says with a strained smile, then turns to Tuku. "I have a customer!" she whisper-snarls. "And so do you, so stop talking to me!"
"Mina, we talked about this..."
"I know all the damn speeches!"
"...but you don't pay Auntie."
"All we're doing is paying Auntie!"
Tuku sighs. "Look, Mina, I've got it handled, okay? I just need you to do literally anything else but the stuff that you need Auntie's permission for, which you don't have, and you're getting us both in trouble here."
"Nobody knows - or at least nobody knew until you made a scene about it!" Mina says, now speaking openly.
"Oh yes, you break the rules, but I'm the one getting you in trouble," Tuku says. "Look, I know you want to help, babe..."
"Do not call me Babe, Tuku!" Mina snarls. "I'm not one of your two-week girlfriends! I have a name and you had better get used to treating me with some respect!"
"Please, Mina, don't be like that!"
"Like what, Tuku?"

Aiko and Jett exchange a glance. People are staring at the scene and it doesn't look like this little argument is going to end by itself.
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« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2013, 05:24:13 PM »

Aiko rubs the bridge of her nose, wondering if the favour owed Auntie might well focus on marriage guidance for her guide, then takes the opportunity to scope out Mina's tag-along.

A stinking gaijin -- quite literally! -- reeking of the brine... and other things. To look at her, she might be kin more likely to Olafsen than any of the Hanse of Kargbeck whose blood is mingled in her own veins. Still, there's something else unsettling about the woman that Aiko can't quite put her finger on that has nothing to do with being obviously armed.

Time enough to think on it later. Now, it's all about the spat.

She walks over and grabs the arguing couple by their ear. "Enough, the pair of you!" she orders with all the authoritarian certainty she can muster, keeping a firm grip to ensure she has their attention. "One more cross word from either of you and I'll toss you both off the docks."

She lets go. "Now, are you going to behave?"

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« Reply #26 on: February 24, 2013, 06:49:27 PM »

Right off I like the guardswoman. She's got clarity.
Well, I don't know she's a guard, but she's got the right focus, and weapon, to do the job.
And blue eyes. Hmm.


"...is...uh...Auntie a problem?"

Jett stares at Aiko for some long few seconds, then waves in greeting.

"I'm Jett...Jett the Cold."
« Last Edit: February 24, 2013, 06:53:23 PM by Valentina » Logged

"Cui bono?" -Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla, 127 BCE.

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" -Martin Luthor, 1483-1546.
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« Reply #27 on: February 26, 2013, 03:03:13 PM »

"Hey!" Tuku says at getting grabbed by his ear. "What the hells? Keep your damn hands to yourself!"
"Tuku..." Mina begins, already trying to smooth things over.
"No, we can have that out right now!" Tuku barks, then stabs his finger at Aiko's collarbone. "You owe me an apology and I better get it right now, or you are flat fucking on your own in this city, sister!"
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« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2013, 08:20:18 PM »

Aiko's eyes narrow. Tuko's a good kid, but he has this odd knack of standing up, buckling under, and giving grief, to the wrong people. Some of it she can understand. Some of it. But it's irritating, too.

"I don't pay people who walk out on their contracts," she answers simply and quietly. "Now, shall we all calm down and enjoy the facilities instead of squabbling like children trying to attract Auntie's attention?" She casts a glance at Mina and the odd woman who had announced her name as Jett, assuming they wil have the common sense to agree, then back to Tuko.
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« Reply #29 on: February 26, 2013, 08:55:36 PM »

Jett shrugs, looking blank.
"...yeah...I wouldn't pay to watch people argue either..."

Not if I could shut one of them up with a knife.

"...I remember...Corinth took me to the Opera once."
"Ha Ha, that was paying to watch people sing about arguing..."

It was surprisingly intense.

"Hey Mina, does Shinju have an Opera House?"
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"Cui bono?" -Lucius Cassius Longinus Ravilla, 127 BCE.

"Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders" -Martin Luthor, 1483-1546.
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