Fable - Ask Bright Lights

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Griffyn

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Dear Father,

I have finally arrived in the city of Dornoch, and the people here are proving to be extremely welcoming.


Griffyn's quill-hand, arriving at the edge of the page, bumped against the bare forearm of the young lady seated next to him.

"Ah." He glanced at her with a quick smile. "Sorry."

The young lady, who had introduced herself as Fumi at the onset of his evening in the Swallow's Fall, narrowed her eyes and pursed her lips. "You're a dedicated man, aren't you, my lord?"

He chuckled. "I did promise I would write home. You don't mind, do you?"

Fumi sighed, turning on her seat in the claustrophobic booth and resting an arm on the back of the padding, head in her hand. She was a slender woman, pale in complexion and with hair that shone with artifical colourings in a number of vibrant hues. She was dressed minimally in red silk, which Griffyn understood. The interior of the inn was sweltering, so much so that the young merchant's son fancied he could see a faint haze in front of his eyes. It was a stark contrast to the chilly night from which he had retreated.

"Are you certain you would not like to retire, my lord?" the girl asked, eyes dark and brow furrowed. "I understand your rooms upstairs are ready."

Griffyn smiled. "Oh, but I'm not tired."

Another sigh. "Then another drink, perhaps?"

"I should probably be careful!" He gave a self-depricating smile, taking in the empty bottle of rice wine in the centre of their table with a glance. "It would not do to reduce myself to a stupour on my first night in the city!"

"Then perhaps I might indulge myself?"

His hand moved on its own towards the coin purse at his belt, but he willed it to stop before it reached its destination. He had enough to be a little generous.

"Be my guest!" he replied with a smile. "You really are very kind for keeping me company. If my lack of attention isn't to your liking then please, I would hate to keep you from another's more entertaining conversation."

Fumi paused in raising herself from her seat to give Griffyn a look. The young traveller returned it with a quizzical raise of the eyebrow, and then she left with another trademark sigh. She brushed through the hanging curtains of red fabric and was gone from sight. Griffyn smiled to himself, and returned to his writing.

I have already made a friend!

Dornoch was the first major stop on Griffyn's tour of... well, of wherever he fancied in the coming year. As the young man sat back, loosening another button on his white shirt and brushing some of the beads of sweat gathering at the base of his dark, reddish hair, he thought on the possibilities this year would bring. People he would meet, places he would visit. It was all well and good seeing 'the fortress city of Vel Anir' written on a ship's manifest, one line in thousands filling the many pages of his father's ledgers, but this would be a chance to really know what that meant. Context! Experience! He was sure this would allow him to better fill his father's shoes one day, and allowed himself a brief wave of smug satisfaction.

The wave hit the rocks explosively as the curtains to his booth were pulled open. He had seen the Swallow's Fall's innkeeper (?) on his way in - she had given him a cheery smile and happily replied that he would indeed be able to spend the night here. She had done this funny thing with her eyebrows, some local mannerism most likely. Well, she wasn't smiling now.

"My lord von Spurling," the woman intoned, her impressive chest heaving with an exasperated sigh. "You will forgive me if I ask for tonight's fee up front. It is not that we are concerned you will not pay in the morning. Rather..." She looked over one shoulder, and Griffyn spotted the slender form of Fumi standing by the bar, watching with narrowed eyes. "Rather that we would hate for you to claim dissatisfaction before you rest your head. It does not reflect well on us, you understand."

"Oh, completely!" Griffyn smiled up at the imposing woman, who flicked a long strand of jet-black hair from her shoulders impressively. He only spent a moment wondering how it was she knew his family name, when he was sure he hadn't mentioned it. "And of course, I shall be happy to settle up now!"

"Good." Still she did not smile. "The cost shall be thirteen thousand."

It was the start of a bad night for Griffyn von Spurling.

Narumi Tsuri
 

Narumi Tsuri

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The Swallow's Fall what kind of tactless name is that?

Keeping to herself, Narumi made sure to allow for only the common clothes she was wearing to touch the interior of this sorry excuse for a house of ill repute. Out of everything she thought the merchant's son would fall into she could not believe that a group of amateurs had managed to captivate the young master.

Can't believe all it took was a pretty face and a shack to enthrall such a man, I expected at least some form of standards from the son of the Merchant House of Spurling... Though I suppose I should be grateful as dealing with these amateurs is far more simple than having to deal with another family.

Sparing Narumi from spending any more time within Swallow's Fall, the innkeeper and her bedfellows made their move. However, the disguised Narumi could barely hold in her laugh as the innkeeper asked for money up front. Can't even be bothered to wait for the man to bare his from before revealing your hand; suppose to hit them with a shot of reality after the deed has been done and they're just snapping out of their euphoric stupor.

Funneling out with the rest of the patrons, Narumi waited to be last before she braced the door as she looked over to von Spurling as the muscle stood at the ready around the unknowing mark.

Slowly walking towards the innkeeper and her group of thieves "Thirteen thousand for some company and average at best drinks with an underpar venue... Even at the Pink Lotus you'd have to have quite the 'appetite' to rack up such a fee".

Fumi did her best to keep the man's attention away from Narumi and the group as the innkeeper's group turned their attention towards what appeared to be nothing but a fellow common. However, to the knowledgeable, Narumi's movements and posture held nothing common about them.

"And who are you little girl? If you're so knowledgeable why not partake in the other establishments and leave it up to Lord von Spurling to decide where his gold is spent".

Smiling, "Call me a concerned citizen, and to answer your other question; it's not my poison. Though how does it look on the dynasty as a whole if foreigners only experience such poor quality".

The innkeeper's eyes narrowed as she snapped her fingers signaling the thugs to remove the smart mouthed girl. One of the thugs casually walked up to Narumi and tried to place a hand on her shoulder before suddenly screaming out in pain as Narumi kicked the back of his knee while wrenching his fingers back towards his arm. Sending the man down on one knee and reeling from the pain.

Realizing that the woman was more than a commoner two more thugs rushed Narumi, who kicked their friend away out of the way before meeting a similar end. One of the thugs went to grasp Narumi caught a knee to the face while the others' punch was dodge with ease, as she grabbed the back of the man's head and forced it forward as she kicked his shin bouncing the man's head off the group.

"Who are you...! Wait those eyes that face"! Falling to her needs putting her head on the ground. "My deepest apologies my Lady if I knew it was you I would have never tried to lay a finger on you".

"Oh so if I was just a normal citizen it would have been different? Also foreigners or not theft, extortion and entrapment are still illegal". The Innkeeper fell silent as her own words doomed her.

Walking past the 'Innkeeper' and peering just around the booth to see Griffyn and Fumi. "You should be more careful, Griffyn von Spurling as everyone in Dornoch knows your name. Now as I know men tend to think with their loin I can show you a proper establishment".
 
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Griffyn

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There was this one dream that Griffyn had from time to time. In the dream, he was dressed in some fancy troubadour's getup behind the heavy red curtains of a stage, only to have the curtains pulled back revealing a sea of expectant face. He knew he had lines to perform, maybe a singing number, but for the life of him could not remember what they were supposed to be.

Watching the flurry of violent activity erupting in the Swallow's Fall in front of his eyes now, Griffyn felt like he had stepped into a living nightmare.

The diminutive young woman looked oddly familiar, as well, even before the proprietress named her 'Lady'. As a part of his frenzied evaluation of the scene around him, Griffyn delved his memories for that face and recalled someone similar. Shorter hair, different eyes... less fair? Family, then?

The traveller realised he was probably expected to say something. He stood to his feet. "Um, right. Yes. I should probably..." He reached down and grabbed his satchel from the seat across from him, slinging it over one shoulder with his coat and sheathed blade. His journal he tucked under his arm with his other hand. "I'll just..."

He stepped out of the booth, but was prevented from moving by the tight fingers of Fumi, who had taken to clutching his arm. Her eyes were wide and fearful as she took in the newcomer, as though visited by the spectre of a displeased ancestor. Griffyn cleared his throat, and with a glance and a murmered apology the young woman released him.

Griffyn stepped lightly over the prone forms of the gentlemen - the way that their bulk and rough clothing clashed with the cozy red aesthetic of the inn made the traveller ashamed that he hadn't seen them before now - and picked his way towards the exit. He stepped back inside briefly after his cold feet touched the paving outside, and he sought and claimed his boots from the rack by the door. The young lady everyone was afraid of was following him, and he cast her a self-deprecating smile.

"They asked me to take my shoes off..."


Out on the street, boots now firmly afoot, Griffyn looked up at the signage for the establishment. Swallow's Fall. His ears were burning, and a lump of coal was melting its way through his gut. He felt his consciousness want to crawl deep inside himself where it couldn't be seen. But as his saviour (??) emerged from the inn, he allowed himself a deep, reflective breath and rode the wave of his embarrassment.

"You know, back home," he said to her, "they have the decency to label a thing for what it is. Perhaps with a descriptive image on the sign."

He chuckled to himself and shifted his belongings on his shoulder.

"It would appear you, and indeed everyone in the city, has me at a disadvantage. You know my name, my lady, but who might I have the pleasure of speaking to now?"
 

Narumi Tsuri

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Narumi waited patiently with a small smile across her face as Griffyn collected his jaw from the floor. However, the man gawking prolonged a little too long, earning a verbal prod "It's rude to stare", calling forth the man's previously misplaced voice. Griffyn's response would have been almost cute if they were not standing in a yūkaku.

As Griffyn started to depart, much to Narumi's pleasure, Fumi, the one who led Griffyn into the trap, hanged off him while attempting to play innocent. "Enough with the act you were fully aware and complicit in the act. Release him and accept the minor if nonexistence punishment you'll receive as you and your companions are well aware that actions against a lone foreign man are more than often dismissed". Turning her back on the both of them she would make her way to the exit with Griffyn as she had stayed within the Swallow's Fall far more than she had wanted to.

Waiting by the entrance as Griffyn stepped out of the building barefoot before quickly releasing his mistake as he returned for his boots with a embarrassed smile as he added yet another blunder onto his ever increasing list of embarrassments. "The inside is likely far more filthy in both senses than anything you could possibly bring in. However, what is far more important is for you to calm down as you're obviously flustered". Exiting she motioned for the the guards waiting outside to take away the group as Griffyn calmed himself down to hopefully reduce any further embarrassment. Her brow furrowed at Griffyn's informative joke. "Really, you seemed to be enjoying the company, and while Uytani is not a very literal language the name is fairly obvious. Furthermore this business has been abandoned for quite some time as it's design was meant to appeal to a foreign palette, though it forsaked it's roots which led to its failure".

Turning to face the man with a pause as he asked for her name. "Asking a lady her name without a formal introduction nor thanking her for saving you from returning to your father like the way you were born, it seems that your break did nothing to clear your mind? Thankfully for you though i'm not so strict when it comes to formalities''. Smiling with a light nod more than a bow, "I am known as Narumi Tsuri, though Narumi will suffice. Now, perhaps you should retire to a proper establishment to clear your head"?
 
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Griffyn

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The name of his rescuer clicked home in Griffyn's mind. Tsuri! Yes, that rang a very specific bell! It was good to see that his family's chief connection here in the north commanded such respect among the local business owners.

It was less good to be on the receiving end of her barbed tongue.

"A pleasure, Narumi," he said, bowing slightly over his arm. "I'm glad to receive your, um, tutelage in these matters. And yes, I would appreciate the chance to properly catch my breath. Somewhere where nobody can see me, for instance." He grinned, sheepish. The chill in the air bit through his thin shirt, and he started walking, following Narumi as she led the way through the streets of Dornoch.

It was one thing to hear about the high status given to women in the sprawling metropolis, another entirely to see and live it. Griffyn had been looking forward to witnessing the fabled fiery women of the Erdeniin, perhaps getting to know a few more personally. A refreshing change of scene from the blushing, demure lillies of his home city, the colourfully-dressed but timid merchants' daughters and the barmaids who wouldn't meet your gaze. Clearly he had failed to take into consideration that as the women of Dornoch rose in status, his own dropped. He had anticipated being able to trade wits with an equal when dealing with the Tsuri clan. This felt a lot more like being scolded by his aunt.

The streets passed them by, the colourful locals and their voices a numbing throb of noise against the young man's cranium. Griffyn suddenly felt like he was underwater, and was rapidly realising he didn't know how to swim.

"Your family is well, I trust?" he asked Narumi. Safe, familiar smalltalk would provide a solid foundation on which to pick up the pieces of his confidence. "I dimly remember meeting... it must have been your sister at some time in the past?"
 

Narumi Tsuri

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Most of Dornoch slept at night, however as the two entered it's famed pleasure district night turned to day as the streets were lined with food stand, performers. To noise, lights and colours overwhelmed the senses as many a man and woman beckoned towards the mass of visitors to partake in their baser needs.

Narumi looked to Griffyn quizzically as he asked about her family's well being before then referring to her sister. Confused momentarily by the sequence of his questions though quickly writing it off, as his mind was still an addled mess and it appeared the sights and sounds did nothing to help. "It would make sense that you would know of my sister as she is the administrator of Dornoch's ports. No trade by sea can happen without her express knowledge. However, i'll try not to be insulted that i'm not even a whisper in your mind as I have saved many of your father's trade ships from man and beast". Sighing as even abroad her sister comes first over her. "As for my family we are as we have always been. We oversee Dornoch's port and waters making sure to continue the dynasty's safety and prosperity".

Reaching a multistoried peach building with gold gilded loti depicting women performing all manor of arts within a loti. "See a far more proper establishment for someone like yourself". Entering the building only further accented it's opulence as it's decor rivaled that of a noble house.

Upon their entry the two were immediately greeted as two women dressed in colourful loti adorned kimono moved towards Narumi and Griffyn producing a pair of slip on shoes for the both of them as they bowed.

"Welcome to the Pink Lotus my lady and my lord. Please seat yourself so we may adorn your world weary feet with cloth befitting a patron of our house".

Narumi raised her hand to stop the attendant as she took the shoes while leaning towards the attendant. As he words reached the woman she bowed before quickly leaving towards a flight of stairs.

"Well my lord would you like to seat yourself or do you favor your independence". The woman moved closer to Griffyn lightly running her fingers along the man's hand. " My specialty is massage and I can tell you've built up a lot of stress quite recently. Allow me to help relieve some of it while we prepare to receive you fully".
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn chuckled as Narumi berated him. It stung, but he felt like he would soon develop an immunity.

"Right, my sincere apologies. Surely you deserve my thanks a hundred times over for your service!"

He was reasonably familiar with his family's trade routes between Alliria and Dornoch - he could list both the imports and exports with the fluency of a poet - but the staffing was admittedly a different matter. So the Tsuris not only manage the exchange of goods, but also personally protect the shipping? That was news to him. He cast a glance at Narumi as they walked. Hard to expect this pale beauty to also be a martial leader, but then again he had seen the efficiency with which she had taken down men twice her size.

The Pink Lotus rose up before him, and his hands tightened nervously. He had wanted to to limit the opulence of his living arrangements while abroad - he had access to money in each of the major cities if he needed it, but he had been resolute that he would not need it. This gilded flower of a building looked like it would cost him. On the other hand, to turn away now would be to damage any hopes at camaraderie with Narumi, who he was swiftly learning would be an invaluable ally. Both for tonight, and also for the future. Perhaps he would indulge himself, just this once.

Two gorgeous young women greeted him as he entered. He was impressed with their exceedingly fine yet demure clothing. The design concealed much of their bodies, and yet drew the eye much more than Fumi's more revealing garments had done. Showing off the qualities of the silk that, at twenty-six gold per foot, was one of his family's imports.

The young woman took his hand. She was warm, a pleasant sensation after the relative chill of the twilight. Griffyn transferred his journal to his satchel.

"You would not believe the stress I've had to put up with," he remarked to her with a grin, taking a seat on a rich wooden bench to one side of the receiving room.

The woman smiled at him, eyes dark like moonlit pools, and began to work the tendons of his palm with her fingers. There was a floral scent in the air that caught his attention, and his eyes wandered, senses freed to explore in the relative peace of the building. His eyes settled on Narumi.

"You said you, um, had business here?" he asked, mind dulled by the relaxing sensation of the massage. "Do you own the property? Do let me know if...-" The woman pulled hard against the base of a finger, eliciting a surge of muscular heat that left a wake of soft warmth. "Oof... if I can support you with anything. I'd like to repay your kindness in some way, if I could."
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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“I do, though I would have thought the son of a renowned merchant would have warned his son about prying into others affairs”. Turning around to face the thoroughly relaxed Griffyn. “Though do not worry it has nothing to do with you if that’s what you fear”.

Almost as if to one up his previous misstep, Griffyn’s poor assumption of Narumi’s business ventures earned the man a simple click of her tongue as she went back to trying to ignore his presence.

Moving around to the back of Griffyn, the attendant began to work the back of his neck as she giggled playfully. “It does not seem like your companion is overly fond of you, though with words like that it is not hard to see why”. Moving her hands along his chest as she leaned closer to his ear. “ Unlike you and I nobles have to adhere to a strict code hence the reason she is dressed like a commoner. They are not allowed to partake in vices. Of course not all noble houses perfectly adhere to the rules as many of them come here, but the Tsuri are one of the few remaining houses that truly represent what nobility is”. Patting Griffyn’s chest as a warning to the foolish man to not make any further disrespectful comments before returning her hands to his neck.



Narumi's enjoyment of the reprieve from Griffyn's gaffes would soon be replaced by another as a raven haired woman adorned in gold with a multilayered kimono draped in loti design that barely concealed her sizable chest rushed down the stairs and immediately latched onto Narumi.

"Oh my little sylph it is so good to see you again". Quickly the sly older woman's hands try to explore more of Narumi's form before they are smacked away by Narumi causing the older woman to let go as she playfully sulked before looking to Griffyn. "And this must be the young von Spurling", slightly approaching Griffyn the woman would bow making sure to place her assets on full display. "Welcome to my establishment young master I am Sen Sekime or Mistress Sen I'm sure I can provide everything you ever wanted and more". Returning to a standing position before she clapped her hands signaling a large group of women to appear. The group ranged in opulence as if to give the customer a gauge on how expensive their services might be.

Mistress Sen stepped aside as the women lined up all smiling and flaunting themselves in front of Griffyn. "Now Master Griffyn comes the fun part. Tell me your inner most desires and I'll properly direct your attention to the woman who can fulfill them". As Griffyn had his pick of the litter, Narumi moved around the women focusing on one in particular. "

"Oh what's this Little Sylph does one of my girl's have your attention"? Shifting over to Narumi, Mistress Sen held a playful expression of jealousy as she followed the young woman's eye to one of the women who strangely resembled Narumi.

"Care to explain why one of your girls tries to appear as me"?

"...Well, my dear people have desires and you are quite popular.... Many women and men come to Little Narumi here to express those desires onto a proxy even if it's lacking compared to the real mccoy". Mistress Sen tried to latch back onto Narumi as she gave the woman puppy dog eyes.

"You're not mad are you"?

"No, as I'm sure you'll have plenty of interesting notes for me on all those who have requested her. However", Narumi looked to Griffyn expectedly. "He still has not chosen, i'm very curious about his choice".
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn sat back into the ministrations of his attendant and turned his face to her with a sour expression. "You too?"

The understanding that Narumi's family were real, dyed-in-the-wool nobility was not much of a surprise - the distinction wasn't obvious when Griffyn could expect to be addressed as 'my lord' for just wearing a coat that had been pressed. But he was surprised that his attendant (he'd have to ask her name) remarked on the young lady's clothing. Griffyn had certainly put together that she was not dressed as befitting her station, but there was an almost mystical grace with which Narumi held her head, the way she walked the streets of her city, that marked her with her higher standing regardless of her attire. It was the same way Griffyn had spotted accomplished swordsmen among the guests that visited his family on business - their stance and gait pervaded their every mundane action.

He smiled as Mistress Sen made her greetings, making sure to mark her assets visibly and appreciatively with his eyes. Though he would be ashamed to admit it in some circles, Griffyn had played this game before. He folded his arms as the Mistress stepped to the side, permitting him a view of the girls of the Pink Lotus.

"Why, Mistress, are you honestly telling me that you yourself are not part of this sumptuous lineup? Such a pity." He shook his head with theatrical mourning.

The young man cast his eyes along the line, noting that though the state of dress grew more fanciful along the expensive end of the spectrum, the girls were never what he would have described as gaudy. A house like this in Alliria might have employed an almost parodical costume for its higher-paying customers, who may wish to indulge a fantasy involving a prominent local figure or foreign royalty. But his eyes stopped the second Narumi remarked that one of the girls had been done up to look like her.

Griffyn's eyes locked onto Narumi's, and he smiled slowly. She already knew the answer. If she had expected her charge to sit back and take all of this frustration without saying anything or biting back, perhaps even to enjoy it, then she was a fool. And Griffyn did not think the young Miss Tsuri a fool.

"Why, I hadn't even spotted the resemblance!" he remarked expansively. "Although, now you mention it, it is a most impressive likeness. I like what you've done with your hair, especially. Well," he added as he stood and stretched out his newly-realxed muscles, "I think my mind is made up."

He stepped forward to the lineup, and slipped his arm through Narumi's. Then he stepped back again, theatrically aghast. "Oh, my apologies! You're the other one!"
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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Griffyn's theatrics deadened the room as only a few whispers between the women could be heard before they were silenced by Sen's glare. The pause seemed to last for eons as all eyes were on Narumi whose neutral expression gave no indication of what would become of Griffyn.

As time passed everyone began to assume that the foolish man would quickly meet his end, however an amused laugh broke the silence as Narumi looked to Griffyn as she tried to hold back her laughter. "The start was not bad, but I can't believe you jokingly mistook a lady and a geisha.. are you trying to get yourself killed". Continuing to laugh for a bit more as it slowly died out into a giggle as she focused on Griffyn with a far more sincere smile. "Equal parts bravery and foolishness though i'm aware that you did not mean it as an insult". Still shaking her head in almost disbelief at his words, "Well, if you're going to choose me, you might as well make use of the baths if you're going to stand up the Pink Lotus' hospitality as being covered in sweat will do nothing for your health".

Making her way over to Sen before looking at the group of women before the two would depart "It looks like you'll only have a mere moment with your dear guest as I have stolen him from you. Be sure to get everything you can from him". Narumi followed Sen who gave Griffyn a none to pleased look as she was neither happy with the man's words nor him parting with a full coin purse.

With their Mistress and Narumi gone, most left Griffyn as he would not be the golden goose they'd hoped for while a few of the lesser ranked women would stay and offer to help the man wash and keep him company while their Mistress and Narumi carried out their business.



While Griffyn freshened up Sen and Narumi entered her office with Sen seating herself at her desk while taking hold of a nearby pipe. "I'm curious as to what you see in the von Spurling boy as to me he does not seem like much".

"You'd be right on that part, he is not much as of yet, and yes as far as his likelihood of taking hold of his family's business is slim, however, he has a hint of greatness which may be tempered by his travels. Perhaps my gamble will pay off and I'll gain a powerful ally not based on fear, but on comradery".

Puffing out a cloud of smoke, Sen would open a drawer and take out a bundle of scrolls. "You're always one to try the high route first, just like Ichika, but unlike her you understand that not everyone can be dealt with honorably". Sliding, the scrolls forward, "Here, reports on our more influential clientele".

Taking the scrolls and looking them over, Narumi saw plenty of dark secrets and information she'd rather not know about her fellow houses'. Closing the scroll, "I suppose that will make us even then, i'll have to think of another way to gain your favor".

Striking her pipe against the table Sen looked Narumi up and down. "You'll always be in my good books for keeping the pleasure center operational, but future cooperation will have to be met with a more 'material' offer". Sen bit the tip of her pipe as her fantasies got the better of her as she examined Narumi.
 
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Griffyn

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In the bath, Griffyn was strangely quiet. The reflection on the steaming water, resting just at his waist, showed paper lanterns with flickering flames attached to the wooden beams on the ceiling. A lot of wood in the city of Dornoch, he had noticed, and less stone. Despite the thin walls and close, cosy confines of the bathing chamber, there was a deadening to the peripheral sound that accented the trickle of water as the bath was slowly refilled as it drained around the young traveller, and that made him feel as though he was the only one currently making use of the tower. He slowly raised a tightly-muscled arm out of the water and rested it on the chilled ceramic ledge that circled the bath. He rested his head on his hand, breathing slowly and deeply.

"My lord?"

He turned to his left, where Narumi...- no, the girl who looked like Narumi and whose name he did not know, was watching him with a slightly tilted head.

"Apologies," Griffyn sighed with a sheepish smile, "did you ask me something?"

"A drink, my lord?" The girl raised a familiar-looking bottle, label pastel and intricate.

He shook his head. "I've had enough for one night, thank you."

Not-Narumi nodded, lowering the bottle and lifting herself onto the rim of the bath, her pale legs dipping into the hot water. Griffyn watched her movements silently for a moment. And then...

"I am about to ask you a question which may frustrate or unnerve you," he said. "I trust that isn't a problem?"

The girl shook her head with a faint smile.

"Well first, may I have your name?"

A slightly wider smile. "It is Hanna," she replied, "if that is what you wish."

"How much do you know about Lady Tsuri out there, Hanna? I imagine they have you copying mannerisms and the like, is that right?"

She nodded. "The stories that follow the lady are well-known both in the city and further afield. Her prowess on the seas, her brave nature and high standards, for example."

"I see." Griffyn could imagine how a night with this girl would traditionally go. He knew a number of colleagues for whom such an event would be most appealing. "She's an impressive woman."

Hanna nodded emphatically, hair twisting at her shoulders.

He sat back in the water, looking up at the ceiling. "Not typical of women from this part of the world, then? If she is held in such high regard?"

"Her family hold to the old ways," the girl explained. "I suppose you might instead say, they are very typical of our ideals. More so than many others."

Griffyn's eyebrows raised. "I see..."

A quiet moment passed. Hanna's feet moved gently under the surface of the water, casting little ripples and warping the image of Griffyn's body.

"I should probably move," the young man said at length. "The heat here is getting to me., and I imagine I am clean enough for a proper audience."

He raised himself out of the water and into the cold air. Hanna followed, fetching a long towel and gently drawing the moisture from his shoulders. Griffyn found himself slowly but methodically dressed in a long gown with a wide belt of thick fabric, with sandals for his feet. He gave himself a cursory glance in a tall mirror near the door to the chamber, cleverly protected from the steam of the room by a sliding mechanism that kept it sealed away until needed. He brushed an errant strand of hair back into order, and nodded slowly.

"If... my lord will permit me to say something."

Griffyn turned, nodding assent with curious eyes.

Hanna looked down at her feet as she spoke. "It seems to me as though my lord is trying so very hard to be someone he is not."

He blinked, turning his shoulders to face the pale, dark-haired girl.

"My lord may wish to concentrate on being true to himself, regardless of who that may be. Speaking from some limited experience, I believe Lady Tsuri will respect such honesty."

Griffyn stared down at her for a long moment. Then he grinned.

"That's good advice. Very good, actually. Thank you."

The two shared a brief smile, eyes meeting. Then Griffyn left the chamber to find his host. He needed to talk to her.
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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Narumi and Sen awaited Griffyn's return with Narumi holding a mix of displeasure and disgust as she was fully aware of Griffyn's choice thanks to Sen.

"I see you refreshed from your bath, both in body and soul by the look of it". Peering past Griffyn to see Hanna trying to remain out of sight and mind as current events did nothing to improve Narumi's outlook on the Merchant's Son.

Sen leaned towards keeping her voice to a whisper as she looked at Griffyn with glee "Looks like your gamble may be even more of a longshot than even you realized".

"True, though the low the chance the higher the payout".

Quite pleased with herself, Sen sauntered past Griffyn making sure to make her pleasure in the man's poor choice known.



"This is one of the very few times I've been at a loss for words. I cannot even begin to understand what insanity plague you for you to think that sharing a bath with a look alike when the person is in the very same building".

Her stare was cold and devoid of any remaining patience and sympathy for the man as he has shown the worst of what men and the merchant class could be.

"Vile, morally reprehensible and shameless! Not only to you insult my family and name, but you taint my very being with your impure actions, give me one reason why I should not simply end your life here and now"!?
 

SerpentTyrant

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This is meant to be more of a private tale. Sorry for the misinformation.
Oh no it's fine,i just thought to ask...Because you know...It's kind of rude to barge in on a RP in progress without warning (and i don't want to be that guy),so yeah it's good
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn kept his face neutral as he slowly entered the meeting room, taking a seat heavily and leaning back. He nodded slowly and thoughtfully, enjoying the chill that the robe allowed along his legs.

"I see. The blame is mine, then, for making use of that which was offered to me. Rather than...-"


He grunted in frustration, brushing the rest of his comment aside with a dismissive wave of his hand. Just when he thought he was getting somewhere...

"I suppose that's what we need to discuss, isn't it? You have been kind enough to try and shepherd me through this labyrinth of a city unscathed, and for that you do have my thanks. You could have just as easily turned me around and set me on a ship bound for home, or sent me to the nearest gate. So why do you continue to suffer my presence? Amusement? Pity? Need?"


He leaned forwards, elbows on his knees and brown stern. "We both are responsible for our families' success, and perhaps it was foolish of me to try and make this relationship of ours into anything but business. Allow me to rectify that, please. Let us start again."

Griffyn stood to his feet, hands folded in front of him. He had trained for this. He was not dressed for it. He was beginning on shaky ground. And yet... "Narumi Tsuri. What can I do for you?"
 

Narumi Tsuri

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Griffyn's opening argument was only met with silence as Narumi's eyes glowed with magical energy as she was preparing to cut the man down to size as she could make use of what was offered to her. However, unlike the man she can refuse to use what is offered to her even if it is a prominent figure offered to her on a silver platter.

Restarting his plea on better ground and with more honesty instead of trying to hold onto any false control and power he thought he had. " Why, because it is my duty to keep the people of Dornoch safe, and as a guest and a son of an ally of the Dynasty it is in our best interest that you are kept from harm". The magic in her eyes faded away as she returned to a more neutral stance. "However, I suppose you want a more personal reason. Even though you do not deserve any explanation I will show you one last kindness. I do not like those that exploit others, and while I am forced to play by their rules when pushed I prefer to deal with matters the correct way. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but I do what I think is best even if it's at the cost of my own personal values".

Allowing Griffyn to approach though shifting slightly to signal when he was at the limit of her personal space she allowed him to intrude upon. Listening to his words left a poor taste in Narumi's mouth as Griffyn's responsibilities and sacrifice were of no comparison. "If you wish to deepen relationships you failed when you tried to play something you were not as seen by your many failed attempts; all it did was lower any respect I hold out of principle for an ally".

Staring at Griffyn as he asked for forgiveness and a wish to start anew. "After everything you've done you think that you can receive clemency with an offering? The deed has already been done and it is not something that can be forgiven. The truth of the matter is that none of this truly matters as unlike you I am not the one to take the mantle of my house. Furthermore there is nothing you have to offer as you are just the son of a Merchant Council member that is all everyone sees. If you still wish to redeem yourself then stop being the son of a merchant and show the world and myself who Griffyn is”.
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn scowled, fists tight and temper flaring.

"What did you think I was here for, idle tourism? Do you think I chartered one of my family's vessels to get me here? Perhaps requisitioned a parade in honour of my family name, armed soldiers to carry me down the street in full regalia? Who have I told my name to since I arrived in Dornoch? And yet...!"

He held his arms out expansively, grinning sourly as if to an invisible crowd. "And yet, no matter where I go I am met with 'yes lord', and 'no lord', and 'not very becoming of the family name is it, lord'! As you yourself were quick to point out, I never actually introduced myself to you! I never saw the need, as you leapt upon my heritage as part of an opening volley of belittling remarks! The whole city is aware of my presence, most likely was so even before I set foot on a boat!

"So enlighten me, Tsuri, just how one sheds the ball and chain of one's family reputation? Should I be hiring myself an acting troupe to disguise my passage? A silly false moustache, perhaps? How am I to outrun this, when the world seems poised to remind me of who my father is?"


Breathing slowly, Griffyn fixed his eyes on the ground. "I had hoped you would be more understanding of what that feels like."
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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Narumi cocked head to the side as for some reason she was on the receiving end of a rant even though she was the injured party. Griffyn continued to throw his tantrum while Narumi debated in her mind whether or not to slap some sense into the man now acting like a child.

"Firstly I only referred to you by name, and if we're going to go on about focusing on heritage you, yourself did the very same and acted the part as you tried to use your heritage to try and play a game of wit when it was unnecessary and frankly unwise. Though what can you expect it's what we are used to so why would we not fall back on tried and true methods".

Rubbing her eyes as she began to truly understand why bodyguards referred to their task as babysitting as Griffyn sulked in a pool of his own self pity when there were plenty of worse off people that would trade places in an instant. "You want an answer I do not know, your asking the wrong person as i'm trapped just like yourself with only my actions eking out a small form of individuality and rebellion. Wealth, power and fame comes with a price. If you want to be done with it all, run away live a life on the edge of starvation. not knowing where your next meal will come from or when the strong will take what you have"!

Moving to Griffyn and raising the man's chin while lightly caressing his cheek to soothe the lost traveler. "Or you can hold your head and push through all of the words and thoughts as in the end the only thing that matters is what you think of yourself". Staring into the man's eyes, "So, Griffyn are you going to let the world beat you down and become what everyone thinks of you or are you going to fight and be whoever or whatever you want to be"!?
 
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Griffyn

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Something suddenly hurt in Griffyn's chest, a sharp and potent force like two stones smashing together and creating sparks. Narumi's words cut into him savagely, hitting a part of him that had stared at him from the mirror each morning, up to the day he stepped out the door and began making his way here. A future version of himself that he had already come to resent, resting on the laurels of his family's success and pampering himself as his fortune stagnated. His future if he had stayed home.

That was why he was here! That was why he had come all this way, and this just one step towards his goal of becoming someone other than himself! And this... this furious little hellcat...! She had the audacity to lecture him, as though he had already failed! As if he wasn't trying to do better! As if...!

It clicked as she stepped close, and Griffyn stared down into her gaze. Green flames like burning, liquid jade met the lightning of his own, a pair of forces seething and mingling between two children, born of something beyond themselves.

She was doing this on purpose! She was trying to rile him up on purpose! Because this was how a second daughter became a legend. This was how she grasped her own self, denying the dissenting voices of those she had no doubt suffered though all her life. The rage she felt... This rage that he too felt... there was power there. It could be harnessed.

Griffyn breathed out through gritted teeth, wondering that his exhalation wasn't steam for the heat in his belly.

"Right," he said at length. "Alright. Perhaps there is something in what you are saying. I will need to think on this."
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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Smiling as her hand patted Griffyn on the shoulder, "That is the best thing you've said all night, where was this Griffyn when we met as I like this Griffyn the other man cared too much about what others thought of him and rushed in head first".

Removing her arm and turning to face the door as she raised one finger. "Though the other man did leave with a few debts. Firstly he does owe a young woman a do reward for her time and he did foolish attempt to claim me. Both debts require payment one in the form of monetary means... with a sizable bonus. Though I am starting to feel faint, dinner might possibly cure my ailment as I've yet to eat today as I have little time of my own and the man monopolized what little freedom I have left". Turning back around and facing Griffyn still smiled as she continued her ploy. "However, this man has left us, surely a just man such as yourself would not leave us poor women in the lurch". Placing a hand on her forehead and pretending to be faint from the lack of sustenance.
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn's mouth twisted despite himself, and his hand instinctively went to where his coin purse would have been were he properly dressed.

"This man doesn't have the faintest idea what a good meal out is supposed to look like in this city, so will require your expertise in that regard. It seems that even when trying to repay a debt I find myself in need of further assistance." He punctuated his comment with a wry smile. "Still, your company will be worth every penny, I'm sure."

The mention of dinner reminded Griffyn that he, too, was hungry. Moments ago he had felt aflame with fury, and the ashes of the young man needed sustenance if they were going to pull themselves back into a semblance of humanity. Maybe some of that rice wine that he had been turning down all night.

"Regardless, I shan't sully your name by taking you out on the town in this admittedly very comfortable bathrobe," he added with a laugh. "Allow me to reclaim my clothing, and I shall meet you outside." He nodded his head in a minimal bow, taking the chance to examine Narumi's 'common' clothing. Not a bad look, but his heart fluttered to think what she might change into for the rest of the evening.

He parted with Narumi with a smile. It wasn't the smile of the Griffyn who had stepped off the boat this afternoon, full of hope and excitement. That Griffyn had retreated to the dark of his subconscious for the time being, perhaps for good. This was an honest smile he gave now. The corners of his mouth somehow didn't get far up his face while still managing to reach his eyes.

---

Griffyn reclaimed his shirt and breeches from the bath chamber changing area. On the way, he passed Hanna. She glanced his way, and he offered her a small thumbs-up. She smiled, flushing slightly, and walked on.

Something fell out of the cabinet holding Griffyn's coat and belt. He snatched it up quickly. His journal. Feeling suddenly weary, he sat down on a nearby bench, belongings by his side, and opened it to the first page.

Dear Father,

I have finally arrived in the city of Dornoch, and the people here are proving...-

With a tug of his wrist, Griffyn tore the page from the journal and scrunched it into a ball in his hand. His brow was tense, eyes cold. His lips formed the smoldering syllables that would summon one of the very few College spells he had been taught, and the page began to smoke at the edges, blackening rapidly. He felt the telltale tingle in his palm as energy leaked out of his blood to fuel the magic. Then it all stopped. Sighing to himself, Griffyn took the page in hand and pulled it open. The parchment was creased and singed, but the letters still stood out:

I have already made a friend!

The young man was still and silent for a very long time, eyes distant, before he placed the crumpled page back into the journal and pressed the cover down hard, holding it in place. The journal went back into his satchel.

Rising from his seat, Griffyn dressed and left.
 

Narumi Tsuri

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As Griffyn exited the Pink Lotus his hopes were dashed as Narumi still wore her admittedly basic disguise as she was still in a place she was not supposed to be. "You took longer than expected, was about to come and look for you myself as they're are still many eyes on you". Turn to a nearby alley two womanly forms concealed by black clothing slinked back into the shadows.

Clapping her hands together, "Though don't worry as i'll be as they say in the Empire your knight in shining armor as they won't make a move as long as i'm by your side". Turning back to face Griffyn with a confident smile as she pinched the cuff of his shirt rubbing the fabric together. "Same clothes but a different man, odd".

Releasing his cuff and stepping back from Griffyn, "Well, as you asked for my assistance in the cuisine of Dornoch I'm happy to inform you that the very district you stand in is home to many venues to choose from". Bowing her head slightly with a wry smile of her own. "However, I lack the knowledge on Allirian dishes. All I can say to put you at ease is that the food stalls that line this district are exclusively tailored to citizens and merchants meaning that the food will be simplistic and rich which shall at the very least put your spending concerns to rest though unfortunately I am unsure on the quality as I personally have never partake in the food, as I tend to cook my own food". Looking sideways as the very thought of cooking for anyone but herself and her sister and a man at that was surprisingly embarrassing. Raising up and clearing her throat, "though do not worry my culinary experience will suss out any unsuitable food". Motioning Griffyn to follow, they began their search to repay his debt to her.



Slightly further in the pleasure district was a long road utterly covered in food stands. The first thing that hit the two were the pleasant and comforting feeling of rich down home cooking that covered the area. Next was the noise of the cooks or servers beckoning out towards the sea of people.

Tilting her head slightly up, Narumi would lightly sniff the air, "I can smell many diamonds in the rough lurking within, however I cannot pinpoint them. We'll have to look more closely". Forgetting her charge for a moment as she went ahead before stopping and looking at Griffyn impatiently.
 
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Griffyn

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Griffyn blinked, hopping to catch up with his guide and easing his way through the throng. Narumi, on the other hand, eased through crowds gracefully and unobtrusively. Griffyn could see in the young lady's movements the trained marine navigator at work, seeking currents and slipping through deep waters. Griffyn, his hands busy gently easing other cityfolk aside with murmured apologies, was no mariner, though he did make a habit of taking a couple of his family's hired captains out for drinks when they made port in Alliria. The men tended to be loud, brash, excitable and quick with a tall tale, making evenings with them highly entertaining, and once in a while Griffyn even learned something.

One of these lessons sprang to mind now. Captain Mytros of the Basking Shark had leaned forward across the table, finger drawing patterns in the condensation on the table, and explained to Griffyn that, though currents on the surface of the water were visible, there often existed deeper below what was known as an 'undercurrent', a contrary flow that could at least cause some unwanted listing, at worst push the vessel longways into a cluster of sharp rocks.

As Griffyn caught up with Narumi, walking just behind her, he was reminded of undercurrents. The younger Tsuri sister had deftly defied his every attempt to read her - lashing out at him when he tried to play off a gaff as a joke, stepping close with surprising sensitivity when he stood his ground. And had that been a blush when she had mentioned her home cooking?

For now, at least, he felt like the two of them were resonating, their enthusiasm for fresh food a shared light to guide their conversation. Still...

"I'm pretty sure half of the stuff these folk are frying up is still alive when it enters the mouth," Griffyn remarked, eyeing a tentacle wrapped around a wooden skewer that seemed to mimic the beckoning of the stall owner with its writhing. "These fish can't be an hour out of the harbour waters!"

He spied a more promising stall off to the left of the row, the chef slicing a potato as big as his head into an elaborate spiral shape. Beside the stall, a robed figure suddenly turned and darted into a narrow space between two buildings. Griffyn frowned. Had they been watching him?
 
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Narumi Tsuri

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"Your acting like that is a bad thing, though I suppose given that Allria imports their food I should not be surprised that fresh food seems to unnerve you". Firing back a comment of her own as the Captain was not going to allow the slight against her home go unchallenged.

Though while Narumi was far more interested in true takoyaki, the ever watching eyes of the houses tried their best to sour any attempt for the two to enjoy themselves. Grabbing a hold of Griffyn's hand in an attempt to turn his attention away from his shadows while also assisting him in flowing through the crowd better. However, her third and far higher priority was to guide Griffyn towards the takoyaki stand. "Come on you only live once, plus it won't be so lively once it's fried, and you can tell me more about Allrian food while you make good on that debt”.
 
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