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Fair Trade

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Oct 01, 2018 9:42 am

Winter came early for Haegan. For the second time in as many days, a cold front swept through, but unlike the previous one, this one was far more widely felt. The winds picked up, the waves began to buck and the temperature plummeted. All the while, the girl stood in that doorway, glowing like a demon of ice and fury while her fabrics and hair kicked wildly about. In seconds, the temperature across the whole of the docks was akin to the depth of winter, brine frozen on the docks and snow gathering atop it. Then, in a sudden snap and a gust of northern wind like an explosion, the waves, themselves, froze.

And the summoned gale blew right across the boardwalk and barreled through the opening of the tavern like a cannonball. The interior flashed white with the invisible knives of the cold, dispersing the smoke of Thellen's bomb like so much of a mere breath in a hailstorm. Though Thellen, himself, was spared immediate encapsulation by virtue of the solid oak bar, all of the other elven bandits were immediately frozen solid, ice statues glimmering in the sunlight that bounced merrily off the waves and into the room, devoid of all candlelight it had held previously.

The wind faded as quickly as it had come, and Yuki stepped across the surface of the snowy floor intending to retrieve Aileen, who would still have been protected by her earlier warming spell and would still be sound asleep. "Demon," she addressed Jill without even looking at her, "the next time that you intend to act as if you have a plan, clarify that it does not involve an innocent being killed and my friend subdued, so that I know I would not be interfering by preventing it."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:44 am

Jill chuckled behind the bar. "Oh my, yes. I'll admit, this encounter was a just a little on the messy side." With her back to Yuki, the merchant slowly rose to her feet and into view. She turned.

Thellen's dagger jutted out of Jill's left eye, sunk to the hilt. Fiery orange blood trickled from the steaming wound. It flowed along the curve of her twitching smile and dripped from her chin to the floor with a caustic hiss. If not for the layer of frost covering the room, the floorboards might have caught fire.

"All's well that ends well," she said. A distinct and inhuman echo had crept into her voice. She jerked out the dagger and did not flinch. The wet sucking noise it made would have made Aileen gag, had she been awake. At the moment, she was hung between the arms of her frozen captors. Thellen, meanwhile, lay on his back at Jill's feet. Small puffs of chilled breath gave proof he was still alive. Judging by his expression, though, he was paralyzed from shock. If not more.

Jill mimicked him by tossing his blade aloft to spin it's self clean of blood before catching it again. She turned it over in her hands, admiring and appraising it. "Easy money," she said, and pocketed the weapon as loot. "But you..." She gazed down at Thellen with an otherworldly twinkle in her remaining eye. "You are the prize of the day." As Jill chuckled at him, a new, demonic red eye emerged to replace the one she had lost, betraying the hole Thellen had cut into her mortal disguise.

Porter groaned.

"Oh my!" Jill cried, losing her sinister air in an instant as she spun on her heel. "Sweet, sweet, Porter! You're still alive?" She knelt over the fallen barkeep, touched him, and smiled up at Yuki. "That coldsnap of yours has saved him from bleeding out. Well done, Your Highness!"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:21 am

"A happy coincidence," the frost spirit replied as she pulled Aileen free. "Finish your food and fix your eye before Aileen wakes up, then if it is so important that the barkeep live, she can see to his injuries."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:19 am

Jill blinked. Her eerie glee gave way to a perplexed pout. She looked into the mirror above the bar and was startled to see her reflection. Sure enough, her new eye was quite plainly demonic - all black with a glowing red iris. "Oh dear," she sighed. The merchant leaned closer to the mirror, gingerly touching the wound in her disguise with one hand. She growled and fussed over it like a girl whose makeup had been ruined.

"Come on, come on," she urged, her face hardened by concentration. A human hue finally returned to her eye, though much slower than it should have. Jill huffed. "I love it when prey fights back, but what a bother." She brought out Thellen's dagger for a closer look. "Such a nasty enchantment... All the better to pierce personal wards and dispel healing magics." Jill gave it thoughtful flick with one fingernail and the blade chimed like a wine glass.

"Mm, yes. Very expensive..." The merchant tucked her prize away with greater care than before. "These were no ordinary bullies..."

She paused and thought a moment before picking up Thellen by his collar. She smoothed away a stray lock of his hair and regarded the elf's stunned expression with a pitying smile.

"Such a pretty boy. I wish we could have shared more time together... But you did a very, very silly thing."

Without waiting to see if Thellen could answer, Jill smirked and closed her mouth around his. She held him tight, swaying and swooning with pleasure as she consumed his soul. Yuki could hear her swallowing. Thankfully, it did not last long. The succubus gasped and shuddered. Thellene's lifeless body slipped from her arms and stuck the floor, turning to ash on impact. Fine grey powder spilled from his armor as if it were a shattered urn.

Jill's heart-shaped pendant glowed bright pink as the demonic merchant twitched with pleasure. Once the light faded, she was able to fully compose herself. "My, my... A little more than I expected." The succubus giggled and enjoyed a long stretch before getting back to business. She scooped her cremated lover's remains into a leather pouch with the speed and ease of long practice. The crystal key Porter had dropped found a new home in her pocket and she also collected Thellen's carapace armor in a large sack, which she slung over one shoulder.

"It has been such a lovely day, hasn't it? Well, maybe a bit rough for our little one, but still..."

She stepped to where Yuki had gathered up their still sleeping companion. "Wakey, wakey," the succubus said, and touched a finger to the center of Aileen's forehead. The little mage opened her eyes in an instant. Startled, she struggled for a brief moment before she realized her friends were with her. "W-what happened? Are we safe?"

"Quite," Jill assured her. "But our honorable host is at death's door. Would you mind seeing to him?" She motioned to where Porter lay face down in a frosty red puddle. Aileen had just been beginning to wonder why the room was covered in ice when she saw him. "Gods and spirits!" she swore, and hurried to his side. As ripples of healing magic radiated from her palms, Jill dispelled and unlocked the storeroom door with Porter's key. "I'll be just a moment," she said, and stepped into the darkened hallway beyond.

Porter coughed and rolled onto his side. "Please," Aileen urged him. "Try to stay still."

"Bastard," he groaned. "Never should have let him in. He... still here?"

Suddenly anxious, Aileen glanced up from her healing spell. She didn't see Thellen among any of the frozen assassins in the room.

"Your Highness," she asked. "Did you...?"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Oct 08, 2018 5:39 am

"The members of the gang are all dead," Yuki coolly informed them. "However, the noncombatants evacuated and should be fine, if unseasonably dressed."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Oct 08, 2018 1:49 pm

"Well I'll be damned," Porter said, impressed. "Good work, Missy."

"Your Highness," Aileen quickly amended, "I couldn't help but notice, um..." Her worried gaze pointed out the ruined door and to the frozen harbor beyond. She didn't have the nerve to criticize Yuki for such gross overkill. "Well... I suppose everyone will be fetching out their winter coats for today."

She refocused on channeling over the fallen barman. "There," she said, her face coming alight. "Can you stand?" Porters back popped audibly as he got back to his feet. With newfound humility, he gave Yuki a bow. Looking down made him realize how bloody his clothes were. "Damned if I don't look like I dipped in a butcher's box," he said. Straightening, he glanced between Yuki and Aileen "You ladies, I uh... I thank you." He said, struggling and just a bit embarrassed. He glanced at a few of the assassins, still frozen dead where he last saw them. "I won't complain about the door," he told them. "Small price to pay to be rid of Thellen and his wick-licking bastards." He huffed and remembered he ought not swear in front of ladies. Flustered, he made a few anxious steps in place, as if kneading the floor with his feet.

"Sorry," he said, and shivered. His blood-soaked clothes were cold and sticky. "You mind if I go change out of this mess?"

"No shirt, no shoes, no service!" Zuzu declared.

Jill strode back into the dining room with Aileen's lost parrot perched on her head, completely unharmed. Her succubus pendant was glowing hot pink again. Whoever had remained of Thellen's cronies in the storeroom, they hand't stood a chance.

"Zuzu!" Aileen cried. She ran toward him, tears turning to ice in a sparking trail behind her, and her beloved pet flew into her open arms, squawking like mad. "Accept not substitute!"

Jill smiled at the pair as Aileen fell to her knees, weeping with joy and cuddling Zuzu as close as she could without crushing him.

Porter, who was charmed but bewildered, jerked a thumb at them and asked Jill, "Is that what this was all about?"

"A lost little birdie, home again safe," she said, seeming lost in her admiration for their heartfelt reunion.

A shrill whistle sounded outside, which made Aileen's head snap up. "Oh no." She had just run behind Yuki like a frightened child when a group of ten men armed with short-pikes stormed into the room. Each was identically dressed in chain mail and full plate helms that hid their faces. But the mermaid tabards they wore made their identity abundantly clear. Especially as the ten of them formed ranks to block the exit. "Halt and stay where you are!" One of them shouted. "This premises is now held by the Haegan City Guard!"

Porter looked ready to keel over a second time. Jill, smiling as always, was not concerned in the least. The light in her pendant dimmed and her eyes met Yuki's. The look told her she was still hungry, and the icy glare Jill got in return only widened her smile.

Aileen peeked out from behind Yuki. A tall figure appeared in the broken doorway, head and shoulders above the guardsmen. Without taking their eyes off of Yuki and the others, their ranks sidestepped in unison and their leader came into the center of the formation. This captain of the guard wore the same city tabard as the others, but with plate armor and a full helm sculpted to resemble the face of a woman. Aileen found it's mute expression and hollow eye sockets disturbing as they slowly pivoted from one side to another, surveying the room. Finally, that vacant stare came to rest on Yuki.

In a firm but surprisingly feminine voice, the great guardsman said, "I am Knight-Captain Biana." She pointed at Yuki. "I compel you to give true witness! Explain yourself and I may or may not choose to arrest you. If I choose to arrest you, you will not resist, under penalty of death. Do you understand?"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Oct 08, 2018 2:11 pm

Yuki was undisturbed by the whistle, merely turning to face them, and it was certainly odd to see a girl so clad and yet unbothered by the cold severe enough to freeze the salty waves. Though she directed her gaze to Biana when she arrived, her expression changed not an iota.

"My understanding is irrelevant, Captain," she spoke coolly, probably in words Aileen wished she could take back for her. "You should be asking whether or not I care." She took several steps toward the captain, uncaring for the claims of the guard. "I am Yuki Musume, Warrior Princess of the Frozen Lands, and you have arrived far too late to be relevant. Remove your men from my path, you do not concern me and I have elsewhere to be."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:20 pm

The ice princess approached. Biania stiffened, but the command for her to halt to halt died on the tip of her tongue. By instinct, she had reached for the mace on her belt. Sober second thought stopped her just in time to save her life, and very likely the lives of her men. They were shivering. The cold that this eerie girl carried with her pierced their chain mail and turned their unsteady breath to fog. Committed to their duty, the guards held their ranks. They braced together with their weapons. Their eyes, all wincing from painful chills, were on the Captain.

She did not move until Yuki had finished speaking.

"Impossible. How can... No," Biana murmured. The echoing quality of her helmet made her voice louder than it should have been. Yet her men still hesitated when she finally said, "Let her pass."

None of them moved. Captain Biana spun on them. Shouting, she ordered them to attention. They obeyed. Commands for facing movements arranged them into two short columns, each of which faced the other from opposite sides of the tavern's doorway.

"Present! Arms!"

In unison, the guards picketed Yuki's open path with their spears held straight, half an arm's length away. Likewise, Biana raised her mace in a salute befitting a royal exit., and permitting Yuki to pass without further harassment. As part of her entourage, Aileen hurried behind her with Zuzu in her arms, still very nervous of the guards. "S-sorry," she offered.

Jill followed, waving goodbye to Porter. "Just put it on my tab," she said. "You know I'm good for it..." Chuckling, she dropped the Captain a wink as she left.

Porter let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. The lines in his face seemed to deepen as he mulled his weary eyes over his diningroom. He supposed it could have been worse. His front door was still in the street, but at least half the hinges still clung to the door frame. The tables and chairs would thaw soon enough, as would the still standing bodies of Thellen's knife-eared goons. Porter knew who to call about them. Still, the old barkeep felt sorely tempted to sip from his own stock. Not for the first time.

Somehow, the rag hanging out of Porter's pocket wasn't bloody. With a resigned huff, he tugged it loose and began to buff frost from the counter top. "Well," he said, "I suppose, that's that."

The Captain shouted, startling him. "Order! Arms!"

With clockwork movements, the guards put themselves back where they were, barring the exit once more. Biana turned on her heel, locked eyes with Porter, and took slow, heavy steps to meet him.

"I have questions," she told him, stomping closer until only the bar separated them. She leaned over it. "It would behoove you to answer. Truthfully."

Porter swallowed the lump in his throat and told her what he could.

*****

Aileen hadn't noticed before, but the carved and painted sign above her door had survived the blast: Aileen's Cures and Curios. The iron merit that showed her Merchant's Guild endorsement was intact as well. Replacing it would have coast a small fortune in tributes, fees, and bald-faced bribes. One more thing to be thankful for, she thought, and cuddled Zuzu a little closer. She had held him all the way back up from the docks, guarding him closely. Zuzu had flapped and fussed to reach Aileen's shoulder, his usual perch when they went on outings together, which wasn't often. Aileen wasn't having it this time.

Once inside, Aileen set Zuzu upon his stand by the door. He fluffed, paced, and piped a happy whistle. The parlor parrot seemed to forget his kidnapping altogether, and looked ready to greet the next customer like all was business as usual. It was not.

Aileen's store was still in ruins. Staring at all the charred wood and shattered glass, the bewildered mage didn't know how to begin, and felt very near to crying. "This is all just... just..."

Jill laid a hand on her shoulder. She leaned in close to speak into her ear, and Aileen blushed. "Fret not, little one. You have powerful friends. And the men who did this, oh... They got better than they deserved."

"You break it, you buy it," Zuzu agreed.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Oct 15, 2018 3:37 pm

"I doubt my alchemical knowledge is at your level," Yuki agreed, standing coolly in the room, though they had long since left the chill at the docks rather than it accompanying her. And certainly, Aileen knew that Yuki possessed some degree of knowledge of alchemy, given her treatment of Rock-Splitter's limb, and probably suspected that the princess was attempting to boost her morale by underselling whatever unfathomable knowledge such a spirit might possess. "However, I am at your disposal. Furthermore, tell me what you require to purchase a replenishment of stock, and my treasury is at your disposal, as well."

She moved over as a chair righted itself for her and she sat, folding one leg over the other. "Mostly," she added, probably out of awareness of Jill's presence and possible temptation to use Aileen to take advantage of the offer. "There are items within that shall not be permitted to leave my domain. Is your tea pot in one piece?"
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Wed Oct 24, 2018 12:07 pm

"Truly? You... You are too kind, Your Highness," Aileen sniffled, near to tears again, but perked up at the thought of hot tea. "Oh! Yes, certainly. Those burglars didn't touch a thing in my bedroom. I think..." Anxious to find out for certain, the mage hurried upstairs. Zuzu chimed to mimic the sound of the brass contraption that made her tea. "Yes, Zuzu" She called down to him. "You'll get something too."

"No purchase necessary," the parrot replied, and chimed again. He watched Yuki and Jill with beady-eyed curiosity. The two women sat across from each other, the princess upon her chair, and Jill upon a charred display table. She stared and smiled at Yuki, who preferred to pretend the demon wasn't there. Aileen returned in short order to break the tension, carrying a pewter tray of three steamy cups with the utmost care.

"Here we are," she said, careful not to spill a drop as she eased the tray down on to the only intact portion of her front counter. Relieved, she wiped away a thin slick of sweat from her brow before offering the first cup to Yuki. Each of the three servings was set upon a delicate saucer with a cinnamon crisp, and the cups themselves were the finest porcelain that Aileen could afford. With Yuki's help, she could banish the thought of selling them.

"I hope it's to your liking," Aileen said and bowed. She turned to serve Jill with the same respect. The merchant thanked her and inhaled the tea's vapor deeply, savoring the smell as much as her first sip. Aileen was stopped from sipping her own by a harsh squawk from Zuzu.

"Oh dear, yes, yes." Aileen set down her cup and hurried over to give Zuzu a nice big rum nut, which he took and chewed happily. "You did so good," she told him, giving him a few pets as well. "No one will ever take you away again. Never, ever..."

Yuki and Jill saw the tendons in Aileen's tiny neck stick out. Every muscle in her body tightened and bulged. She growled.

Zuzu flapped and shrieked. "Contents under pressure!"

Aileen gasped as she came to her senses, and her body snapped back to being as plain and smooth as always. Shaken, she turned to her guests with a deep blush. "S-sorry. My nerves are just a little... I mean after all... I..." She withdrew a tiny paper pyramid from her pocket - a minor serving of her special medicine. It trembled in the palm of her hand. "I should just drink my tea," she said. "I'll be fine."

"Offer valid while supplies last," Zuzu pointed out, and continued to pry at the layers of his nut.

"There really is something especially soothing about tea," Jill said. "Yours is particularly flavorful. Well done, little one. What's your secret?"

Aileen stopped short of medicating her tea. She blushed and fidgeted. "Oh, well, nothing special. There's nothing big... No big difference between my way and others."

The merchant's eyebrows jumped. "Oh? But I detect a hint of black root in your tea. Very strong, and very bitter if not properly annulled... What do you use to subdue it?"

She locked eyes with Aileen, who was stammering badly. "B-b-b-b... Bone meal," she confessed.

Jill grinned. "Human bone meal,"

Aileen waved frantically. "Only a little! Only the tiniest, tiniest portion! Just enough, I swear. In fact, I-I-I used the last of what I had, and it was all legitimate! I only buy from the Bone Man. I'll be completely out until he comes to town again."

The mage's buxom benefactor chuckled. "Not at all." She tossed Aileen the pouch of Thellen's ashes. "That should last you a while. The Bone Man doesn't show himself often, or for long, after all."

Surprised into sudden gratitude and uncertainty, Aileen peered into the pouch. Frowning a little, she rubbed a pinch of the dust between her fingers. "Is this really bone meal? It's... different. So fine. Where did you get it?"

Jill smiled and glanced at Yuki. "Oh, just something I picked up on the way here."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Oct 24, 2018 1:24 pm

Yuki opted to change the topic after sipping at her tea. If she was bothered by the revelation, it didn't show at all. "Could you not simply visit the butcher and purchase animal bone meal from him? There is no difference that I know of between the nature of human bones and, say, porcine bones."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Wed Nov 07, 2018 12:53 pm

The mage hesitated to speak. She set her tea aside, freeing her hands to fidget with one another. "W-well, it's just that... Um..."

"A swine is a swine," Jill said, and enjoyed a sip of her tea before explaining. "But sapiens have so much more, hmm... flexibility. So much variety, yes, because they so easily take on new influences and essences. Such as the plagued blood of a vampire, or... Something as simple as our lovingly brewed tea." She tapped a long nail against her cup, and grinned as it went ting, ting, ting. Aileen blushed and demurred in silence. Her fingers were tying themselves in knots.

[/i]"Do not exceed recommended dosage,"[/i] Zuzu warned.

Jill chuckled and leaned back. "Our little Aileen was just trying to politely remind Your Highness that her discriminating taste demands nothing less than the very best. Especially for her friends." She eyed Aileen with a wicked grin. "Isn't that right?"

Aileen froze for a moment, then nodded.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:11 pm

"I see, so the reason is alchemical, not biological," the princess observed, taking another sip from her tea. If it was something that bothered her, it again went without notice. "I did say that I did not believe myself your equal in pure alchemical knowledge, after all. Though I did once see a boar afflicted with vampirism, and it was smarter than some men I have met."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Nov 12, 2018 10:07 am

Aileen stammered, trying to apologize yet again. Jill spoke over her. "Really? A true shadow hog?" The merchant raised an eyebrow along with her cup. "You're very lucky, Your Highness. I've been looking for one for ages. They've been almost impossible to find, though. Ever since, well..." Jill sipped at her tea and left any explanation unspoken.

Jill's grin widened at the sound of footsteps, approaching with the thump and clank of heavy armor. "Oh, Aileen," Jill called, singing her name. "You have a customer, dear."

"Huh?!" Startled, the little mage's head popped up from behind the counter, where she had quietly distracted herself with salvaging what items she could. She was anxious to get her business back to normal, but this was too soon. Everything was still such a shameful mess! From outside, the unseen customer's shadow slid across the splinter-strewn floor.

"I'm sorry, but we're closed," Aileen said. "The sale's been cut sort, I'm afraid."

"Offer valid at participating locations," Zuzu concurred. He began a sentry's march across his perch. The short claws on his X-shaped feet clicked like solder's boots, and as a huge figure loomed in the doorway, he chimed to mimic the destroyed entry bell. "Welcome, welcome!" he said, copying Aileen's cheery greeting. Which the mage was too stunned to say herself, or even think it.

Knight Captain Biania stood in Aileen's shattered doorway. Still in her elite regalia and a full head taller than a man, with her fists clenched at her sides, she looked like a silver golem. A grim visage made all the more imposing by the impassive yet feminine expression sculpted into her face plate. It made her voice echo when she spoke.

"So, you were telling the truth," she said, turning to take in the half-ruined state of Aileen's humble business, and noting her guests. She bowed to Yuki, but paused at Jill, who smiled and waved. The knight stared at her for a hard moment before returning her attention to Aileen. "Your bird?"

"R-right as rain," Aileen answered, and felt her body tingling. A rush of goosebumps passed over her. She had forgotten to take her medicine! Which by now had turned inert and useless in her cold cup of tea across the room. In the presence of this larger woman, and exacerbated by her anxiety, Neelia was beginning to stir within her. No! Aileen urged herself. Stay calm!

Seeing that Zuzu was happily whistling upon his perch, Captain Biana returned to studying the damage. "What else did they steal?"

Aileen took a deep breath before answering. "Nothing that I've found missing or out of place. Although... It is a bit difficult to tell."

"All this for a bird?" The Captain asked, more to herself as she nudged a broken bottle with her foot. She looked up at Jill.

"And a strange time to have a tea party."

"Not at all," the merchant said with a giggle. "There's never a strange time for tea! The setting could be better, though. A little dim. Can you see well enough in thing? You're indoors, you know."

Aileen was inwardly horrified by Jill's lack of tact. It was charming most of the time, but not in front of a Haegan city knight! To her surprise, though, Captain Biana made no reply. Instead, she calmly reached up to unlatch her helmet and lifted it away. Aileen didn't know how she had expected of the knight's face, but she was still shocked.

Biana didn't look a day over 30. Her hair was a tawny blonde, but cut frightfully short and crisscrossed in messy bristles. Her eyes were like nails - Sharp, narrow, and hard - but also a mesmerizing hue of blue or green. Aileen couldn't tell which. Biana's skin, though, was as fair as her own, if not more so. Unlike Aileen, Biana had scars. A pair of small notches had been cut between her left eye and ear. Another had been gouged into the same cheek. The longest was a pale, slanted line that ran across her mouth, marring an otherwise plump and plush pair of sneering pink lips.

"What did I tell you?"

"Hm?" Jill pantomimed deep thought. "Hmm... You know, I'm sure I don't recall. When was it? It was so long ago..."

"Not nearly long enough," Biana said, stopping herself short of scoffing. "You've made my investigation much more complicated by being here. This little visit is not convenient, Jill. Not in the least."

Jill giggled and winked at her. "Lovely to see you too, darling." The Knight-Captain's face reddened. She turned on her heel and bowed to Yuki before speaking. "Forgive me, Your Highness. This merchant is-"

"A good friend!" Aileen said, too brash without her medication and blushing badly. "S-she helped me. She did. We're friends."

Jill smiled and spread her arms. "Aren't we all?"
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Nov 12, 2018 11:41 am

Yuki didn't comment. Instead, she was simply no longer in her seat, the glass catching the tea that was a little too slow for the speed at which its bearer set it down. Faster than the rest of the room could follow, she had gotten up, snatched the medicine from Aileen's hands, inserted it into the tea and brought it to the girl's mouth, pulling back on her head and pouring it into her mouth, depositing the medicine into the mage with it. The mage gagged, but reflexively swallowed, and Yuki pulled away, setting Aileen's cup down before walking back to her own seat.

Only now did she finally answer Jill's question. "We are not."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Mon Nov 12, 2018 1:56 pm

Aileen coughed but also blinked in pleasant confusion at how much better she suddenly felt.

Jill pouted at Yuki. "Aw, but that's only because we haven't had enough time to get to know one another, Princess."

"You presume too much," Biana chided her. "To think yourself a friend of royalty is high-tier arrogance, even for you."

The sharp-toothed merchant grinned again. She rose from her seat and slowly strode towards Biana, close enough to press her breasts against the captain's well-polished chest plate. "Get back!" she commanded, hand on the hilt of her mace, but blushing as Jill smiled up at her.

"Oh Biana," Jill cooed. "It really has been too long. Much too long. We need to make up for lost time..."

"I'm warning you," Biana growled, but Jill still kept smiling and pressing. The mage and the knight turned the same shade of red.

Jill's eyes narrowed. "I know what we need..." Suddenly she spun and faced the others with a beaming smile. "A trip to the bath house!"

Aileen and Biana were dumbstruck. Yuki sipped her tea.

"Oh come now," Jill huffed. "We could all use a good soak. I've still got road dust in all sorts of places. Biana, you've been in that armor all day. So cramped and heavy... And when's the last time you had a bath anyway? The massage girls know how to pamper royalty, so long as her highness doesn't give them the cold shoulder." The merchant chuckled to herself before sauntering over to Aileen. She bent over to put them eye to eye, and to remind Biana of what a rump she had.

"And our little genius," she said pityingly, and tucking away a stray lock of Aileen's hair with a beguiling touch. "You've been through so much today. You really must give yourself some time to relax... Allow all that stress to wash away."

"Employees must wash hands before returning to work," Zuzu said, and punctuated his agreement with a verbal fart.

Jill laughed. "See? Zuzu knows what's good for you. And your guild merit allows you to bring up to four guests, so why not?"

Calmer than she had been, Aileen took a moment to consider, "Well... I suppose I wouldn't mind."

"Nor I," Biana admitted, looking away as she did so.

Aileen peeked over at their least likely companion. "Um... Princess Yuki? It does sound kind of nice, doesn't it? We would all be honored if you would join us."

Jill stepped behind Aileen and rested her chin on her shoulder, grinning and eager for Yuki's decision.
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Ninmast » Mon Nov 12, 2018 3:19 pm

Yuki made them wait a little longer, taking a quiet, unhurried sip from her tea. "Provided you allow us to supplement your defenses," she said to Aileen, "it would be rude of me to turn down an invitation. Furthermore, whoever hired those assassins may target you or your business again, and even if they do not, I understand the captain had questions for us. Provided the merchant does not get herself arrested for attempting to bribe an officer of the city guard."
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Re: Fair Trade

Post by Rock Splitter » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:34 pm

Aileen smiled, surprised and relieved to have Yuki's approval. Jill feigned shock at the royal jibe. "You wound me, Your Highness! Bribery? Me?" Her wicked grin grew back as quick as demon weed. "Oh my, no. Everyone has their price, but our beloved Biana is far too faithful to be wooed. Not by gold, at least..."

The Knight-Captain stepped forward with her scarred expression set as stern as Yuki's. "Her Highness is correct," she told Aileen. "My investigation is still ongoing. Considering your distress, I've chosen to escourt you to a more secure location."

Jill giggled. "Oh? And who are you trying to convince?"

Biana clenched her jaw and made no reply. She turned to Yuki, bowed, then did an about-face and marched out the door to wait outside.

"Well, I can't help but agree," Aileen said. "And, if it's not to bold to say... I think the Captain may need to unwind as well."

"Don't we all?" Jill enthused. "Let's be about it!"

*****

It paid to be in the Merchants Guild, but especially well in Haegan. The guild's gold-domed headquarters and prime counting houses were all found in the Midriff, at the exact center of Haegan's middle tier. Adjoining these were the five bath houses. Each was outwardly akin to a columned shrine and abutted the main thoroughfares that spread out from the Midriff's central plaza. The largest was open to all as a public service, paid for by the guild. The four others were exclusive to guild members in good standing. The smallest bath house was, by law, reserved for women only.

Even the guards were women. They nodded and allowed Aileen and her party to enter when the mage presented her merit. The receptionist was a black-tailed lamia in a white robe, and did not look up from writing in her ledger as the party entered.

"Welcome back, young mistress. Would you like your usual chamber?"

Aileen blushed with a nervous smile. "Well, you see..."

The lamia looked up, though her serpentine eyes were so narrow it was impossible to judge what color they were. Were they even open?

"I see indeed," she intoned, and smiled ever so slightly. "Deluxe accommodation, then. Enjoy."

On cue, a pair of handmaidens in white tunics appeared to guide Yuki and her entourage to a pair of changing rooms. Jill shoved Biana into one, above her protests. "We'll just be a minute," the merchant said, smiling over her shoulder. "Or two. Shame I didn't bring my can opener!" With that, she slipped behind the curtain.

Aileen called after her, "D-don't cut yourself!" She laughed weakly, already pained by her pitiably poor humor. She shoved it from her mind and turned to Yuki. There was an awkward pause. She looked to the bowing handmaiden holding the curtain open for them, then looked to Yuki and back. It was only then that Aileen realized she would being undressing before royalty. Her cheeks flushed red.

"Um... Would you like to go first, Your Highness? I can wait out here until you finish."
-.-. .-.. . ...- . .-. / --. .. .-. .-..

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