Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

For in-universe game play. Journey through both familiar and foreign settings, explore lost ruins and forgotten cities, and try to bring light to the darkness of the world... or, you know, blow stuff up. Either way.

Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 19th, 2013, 11:43 pm

"Then where are these nefarious exchanges occurring?"

"I thought you'd never ask..."


"And more to the point," said Choubei wearily, acutely aware of his advancing age, "how are these three losers getting the information out on our airships without us detecting it?"
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 20th, 2013, 8:02 am

"Oh, that's easy," Anna-Lisa replied, almost casually. "Dwarven artifacts."

Khoo had already started framing his own response and had to do a mid-course correction. "Anna-Lisa, listen to the man. He doesn't want us sleuthing around, he wants our professional opinion on airship dwarven artihuh?"

"It's simple," she said triumphantly. "Nobody knows what the artifacts do, so nobody can be sure that they're not doing something else, like hiding sensitive information. And you know that all those places where the Oshimas have influence at the airship terminals have those crazy Temples of the Divine Dwarf too. You know that. It's almost a no-brainer."

The hell of it is: she might even be right, thought Khoo as he grabbed at a floor lamp-lightglobe for support; this wasn't the first time that the workings of Anna-Lisa's mind had left him a bit -- dizzy. That Temple of the Divine Dwarf in Webbish, and the thing they called a coffee maker... He shivered theatrically, but entirely genuinely. "So how do we crack this little smuggling ring?" he asked, trying to get that thought out of his mind, then instantly regretted the question when he saw the look on Anna-Lisa's face...

"With a dwarven artifact, of course," she said, in the voice of one talking to a small child.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 20th, 2013, 10:18 am

Every second in this girl's company was for Choubei one second closer to his death...with enough such seconds, he was beginning to think he wouldn't mind much.

Choosing his words carefully, he asked, "And have you got such an artifact? Because I can tell you my section doesn't have the budget for them."
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 20th, 2013, 10:26 am

Anna-Lisa waved her hands airily. "Oh, no problem," she said. "We'll just make one."

Khoo whimpered and tried to crawl under the table, unsuccessfully.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 20th, 2013, 4:05 pm

The look on Mr. Masaki's face might've said, Would I rather listen to you some more or stick forks in my thighs? We're going with the forks. But....but....it was true that dwarven artifacts didn't detect as magical, they could accomplish some amazing things the mages didn't understand, and, damn it all, exploring off-the-wall thaumic angles was what these kids were for.

"I take it you don't need a budget for that?" he asked. "As you know, you've already got clearances and access for the airships for the work you've been doing. It'll be pretty easy to arrange a test once you whip up this artifact of yours."

Khoo's reaction was not lost on Choubei, not by a long shot, but the security man had a couple of reasons for following along with this. First because the wretched girl might actually be on to something. Second because, if her insanity was such an irritation to Khoo, it might inspire him to come up with a sane idea that might get them somewhere. Sometimes you could use rivalries and other dissensions that way.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 20th, 2013, 5:48 pm

"Anna-Lisa, you can't be serious," Khoo complained. "Remember when --"

"Oh, yes, I remember!" Anna-Lisa enthused. "It was in Professor Goto's class, when you built what you called a dwarven still and --"

"Just about got myself kicked out of Sashi Mu," Khoo interrupted. "I told you not to talk about that, never again. I've tried to forget that little error for years -- little error? who am I kidding? major screwup -- and here, you bring it out in a place where --"

Choubei interrupted in his turn, his face showing the first hint of a smile he'd had since these two arrived -- just a hint, but still. "A place where we know all about your efforts to bring a new teaching experience to the good professor's class," he said. "It is in your security folder, you know."

Khoo simply groaned. What was there to say?
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 20th, 2013, 10:11 pm

"So," said Choubei, moving along, "how long d'you think it would take to devise this test of yours? We keep good tabs on when our boys are travelling and can set you up when you're ready. Unless you've got any other ideas?" He cocked an eyebrow at Khoo. This is your chance to stop the mayhem. So put that schoolboy brain to work!
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 21st, 2013, 2:06 pm

"Er, ah, let me think," Khoo hemmed and hawed, looking for a way out. "I'd say at least two months." If he understood Choubei correctly, that should be long enough to scuttle the idea. "One week to design the thing, one week to build it, which might be ambitious, and then aging it for at least six weeks in an environmental chamber to make it look old. In fact, three months might be --"

"Silly boy," Anna-Lisa interrupted again, her face cheerful. "We can get all that aging done very quickly with your air magic and my fire magic. I bet we could even get Tommy to help; he's as good with earth magic as anybody. Just think of it, superheated sand driven at near-supersonic velocities for a week! That should make anything look old. Three weeks at the most."

Khoo gulped. To be sure, Tsutomu Seki was pretty good with earth magic. However, he was incredibly good at being annoying. If Sashi Mu gave a D.Thm. in mind magic with a specialization in "driving other people nuts," Seki would have earned it while he was still pre-pubescent. How do I get out of this? "Er, I, um, don't think Tommy has a security clearance for this kind of work," he finally got out. "We couldn't ever let him see what we were trying to --" And the look on Anna-Lisa's face made it clear that he'd fallen into her trap.

"Well, then, we'll just have to do it ourselves," she announced. Her perky grin became a leer. "Of course, we could do it so much faster if we worked on it round the clock, you know, if I moved in with you..."

Get me out of this, Khoo's silent face pleaded to Choubei as Anna-Lisa winked.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 21st, 2013, 9:16 pm

Although his face betrayed no mirth, Choubei felt his first lift of happiness since this talk had begun. Now he had a lever! In truth he doubted whether either of these meddling kids would be the slightest help, but this way he could either (1) get Khoo motivated to do something useful, or (2) keep the pair of them busy for a while while Nika the Rent-a-Bird saved the day...

...or, of course, the day didn't get saved at all, and he got a new assignment to watch for enemy activity in a penguin rookery somewhere...

"Well, now," he said, "it's great that we have a backup plan here for the next few weeks, but some of these boys may be travelling soon, and it'd be even greater if there're any other theories we can test sooner. So I'll tell you what. You" - he gestured at Anna-Lisa - "you get started on this artifact of yours. Start by writing up a description so I can explain it to my bosses if I have to. And you" - he gestured at Khoo - "you take a look around the terminal, and give it some more thought, and meet up with me in the security room around 2200. If you've come up with something else we can look for, well, then, I'll give you your assignment, and if not - then I can let you work night and day on the artifact with this bright young lady here. And of course once you're through exploring other angles you can get back to helping her anyway. Sound like a plan? Good!" He pointed at the door in a way that said "dismissed."

* * *

Many hours later, right around Khoo's rendezvous time at the terminal...

* * *

Nika was in a little bar not far from the Azaka house, clad in a pastel-patterned working kimono and made up to look as delicate as possible. She sat at a table with Mr. Masaki’s Clovian suspect. This was Drake Ator, the ne’er-do-well son of Samiel Ator, a major player in the trading firm of Ator and Sisera. Drake was a chunky, bearded fellow in his early thirties, fond of beer and cards and, it seemed, the sound of his own voice:

“Your acorns are the key to the game. If you can build a run of bamboos, that’s great, good on you, but you’ll go broke in the meantime. If you don’t get the tickets early, forget it, concentrate on your acorns, and try to close out early. Asparagus is better but there’s too few in the deck…”

He was holding forth on the gambler’s game of “Farmers’ Cards” with the self-assurance of a master. Nika was playing the girl’s game of “hanging on his every word” with the true skill of a mistress. From his dossier she knew this man had been cleaned out at least twice playing the game he was discussing, but her face was demurely enraptured as if he were pouring forth the true key to wealth, and only maiden modesty held her back from frenzied applause.

Reflecting on the dossiers and whispered tales from a friend at Azaka’s Exotics, it’d seemed to her that this man must be her quarry. He would want the passive, submissive type, and that was a role a Gorielian getera could play very well indeed. Catching his eye hadn’t been too hard, and when he’d waved, she’d come his way. Talk and drinks had been easy, and she’d quietly paid for her own – which naturally she was nursing with care – because while buying for her might’ve fit his self-image better, she knew something of his current finances, and expected he’d be cheap.

“It sounds very hard to learn the game, I mean, to play it right and all.” An obvious choice of opening…

“Nawww, it’s easy. I could show you in a few hours.” Got you!

“Do you have some cards with you?”

“Naw, but my lodging’s just a few minutes away.” Of course it is, hero. You don’t seem like a man with pretty etchings to show me there…

Her voice hinted that she was longing to say “yes”, but…“I don’t have time tonight, I’m afraid. I was only stopping in here on my way to a shift at work.”

“Yeah? Where do you work?”

She cast her eyes downward as if embarrassed to admit her shameful trade to such an exalted and generous man. “Azaka’s Exotic Experiences. It’s a, a, a….”

“I know what it is! That’s okay” – he laid a benevolent hand on hers, showing his great magnanimity – “how about tomorrow then?” – thus he was not only forgiving her for the nature of her work, but extending his offer of aid even to such a lowly creature as herself. That had been what she’d figured. A Gorielian man would not be caught dead making friends with a prostitute, let alone becoming lovers with one – but Drake, here, wasn’t Gorielian, and he was perpetually short of money, so that a girlfriend with her own income was the best option for him. No, there’d be no offers to Save Her From All This, not from Drake there wouldn’t.

“But I’ll have a shift…” Couldn’t rush straight to his arms – he’d like to think he’d been the one to persuade her.

“So meet me earlier. Let’s say three o’clock.”

“Well…I don’t know. I have to sleep and get ready for work…”

“Tomorrow. Here. Three o’clock!” He stabbed a finger down at the table. His tone was just a little more commanding as he fixed her with a look that brooked no argument.

She met his gaze briefly and whispered, “Okay.”

As simple as that!
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 22nd, 2013, 4:16 pm

Khoo fought back a shudder as the door to Choubei's office closed behind him and Anna-Lisa.

"Oooohh, this is going to be so much fun!" Anna-Lisa enthused, throwing her arms around him again, and again giving him that fly-in-a-spiderweb sensation. He simply stood his ground for a few seconds (she was as tall as he was, and probably as fleet of foot; running really wasn't an option) letting her excitement pass, and hoping that she would notice that he wasn't particularly returning the hug. Of course, she didn't.

"So, uh, what are you thinking of for this 'artifact' you're going to design?" he finally asked, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

"Oh, I've got it half done in my mind already," Anna-Lisa bubbled. "Let me give you a hint: what do you think the dwarves would have used for mashing potatoes and making wakamoru and all that?"

"Um, a food processor?" Khoo ventured cautiously. "But anybody in Tsuiraku that wants to do that has a magical gadget for it. They're so cheap and simple that there's no need for dwarven technology to do it."

"Ah, but for the dwarves, there was," Anna-Lisa said triumphantly. "They didn't have magic, after all. And I have this idea for the most amazing way they'd have accomplished the same things..."

Fifteen minutes later, having heard an Anna-Lisa design soliloquy that made his head spin, Khoo finally extricated himself from the conversation and headed for the terminal. Maybe I'll see something there that actually gives me an idea as an alternative to this scheme ... and maybe I'll grow wings and fly to the moon, he thought dejectedly as he boarded the moving sidewalk.

------------

Meanwhile, in Rinkaiel:


"Want to go for a ride?" Ace asked Layla. "It's been too long since I had a mission in the airship, and I like to fly at least every couple of weeks to keep my proficiency up."

It had been a very strange few months for the people at Bad Ass Wines. Ever since they'd had that weird late-night session with the Veracian nun and her team, things had going completely, 100% silent from Peter, the Gewehr capo who owned the airship and was their main Gewehr contact. To be sure, he'd always given Layla a long leash, and the Gewehr people in Rinkaiel weren't supposed to be undertaking missions yet; they were still there to get entrenched and establish some cover, just as had happened in Kiyoka. But to go this long without hearing from the man was unprecedented. Layla had finally taken the unusual, and even risky, step of having her mother get in contact with some others in the Gewehr council of elders, to see if they knew anything (at least anything they could tell her) about what had become of him. Faye's report back was that they were as mystified as she was, and there was even talk of sending a team out to look for him, or just to decide he'd been killed somewhere.

Or, more ominously, that he'd absconded ... which wouldn't bode well for Bad Ass Wines.

Whatever the reason, Ace hadn't flown in a long time, and Layla could see that her boyfriend was anxious to get back in the air. "Well, I don't know," she said. "We're in the middle of harvest season right now, and even if this first year's crop of grapes isn't going to be good for anything more than paint thinner, I feel like I should supervise the pickers."

"Sweetheart, you know your mother can do that." He smiled. "At least for an overnight trip. We haven't had any couple time for a while now."

That did sound tempting ... and then Zachary spoke up. "Ma-ma! Da-da!" he gurgled happily, wearing his best baby smile.

That did it. "Okay, I'm game." The trio made arrangements with Faye and headed for the airship terminal.
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