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 28th, 2013, 1:18 pm

A magical empath with the skill of Rose Nuria-Lucas might detect the kindred embarrassment Choubei was feeling...which Khoo was misinterpreting entirely. While the minor spymaster thought of himself as a pretty decent people-reader, he hadn't anything like Captain Kitaura's subtle skills, and he had no interest in the chemistry between these two kids. Except as he might use the boy's fear of the girl as a spur to get work out of him. No, his concerns lay elsewhere, but at least he could put them off a little while longer. He didn't lose his composure over the clattering "dwarfparts" on the office floor; he was coming to expect that kind of thing from these two, and he'd seen pocket dimensions before.

"Okay," he said, "I've got three questions for you.

"First question is, can you explain to me what this thing's supposed to do? And I don't mean the thaumo-tech talk. I mean the part where you tell me how it helps us find out whether those three losers are smuggling out sensitive information using dwarf artifacts, the way you said." And if they didn't answer on point, they would soon find that he could ask probing and intelligent but very direct questions that would eventually ferret out the answers he wanted. Had he been born into Ajiro Sufu's lawyer clan he would've made a tenacious cross-examiner.

"Second question is, can you demonstrate it here without any disasters? And" -- he realized he'd better clarify -- "I'm defining 'disaster' as 'anything that makes me angry.'" If their answer was "yes" he would ask for such a demonstration right away. And would probably get angry anyway.

"Third question is, does it need both of you to work it? Because one of you has some travelling to do tonight. And I'll talk about that after you answer my questions."
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 29th, 2013, 9:58 pm

[OOC: A somewhat trimmed-down version of the thing that got munched by the computer earlier today.]

"Oh, it doesn't 'do' anything," Anna-Lisa said cheerfully. "It just looks like it should do something. That's the point."

Khoo had to admit: in her own ... colorful ... way, Anna-Lisa had thought this through. He'd had a similar question last night, before ... no, don't think about that ... before she explained it to him, and the light went on. He took over the explanation. "The Temple of the Divine Dwarf collects all these dwarven artifacts that look impressive but don't do anything, because they think that some day the dwarves are going to come back and show us all what the things do, lead us to an age of peace and prosperity, blah blah blah. If they actually 'did' anything, it'd take the mystery out of it. In fact, they'd probably be in use somewhere in the North or in Farrel, somewhere that doesn't have magic to do things." He was actually starting to get excited about this idea ... which was a bad sign.

"So what we want to do," Anna-Lisa continued, "is put out the word that an exciting new artifact has been discovered, and start feeding these pieces into the market. First, though, we'll document them all super-carefully, so we know where every last nick, scratch, weird inscription on each piece is. Then, when they start getting snapped up and sent off to the temples, we can intercept them and do before/after comparisons. That'll tell us what we want to know."
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 30th, 2013, 9:52 am

[OOC: I know what you mean - I hate it when that happens.]

Choubei Masaki had silently prayed that the explanation would be simple and comprehensible. This certainly was that. This is what I get for my foolish prayers. His head was already shaking before the last words were off Anna-Lisa’s lips.

“What you’re proposing,” he says, “is we get in the business of selling off bogus dwarf artifacts on the off chance these losers and these contacts will buy them. That is not going to happen. I think you don’t get the misson here. It’s to find out who’s delivering secrets for Sufu and how. It’s not to create the next security scandal and get me fired. No.

All we need is a bunch of damn museums and explorers raising hell because they got sold a fake artifact – plus an IG ass probe to show we made it. To target somebody else. Who never even saw it. No. Then every time they sue each other, we get hauled into court to explain how good a fake it was. No. Or maybe we get into a public dispute with the Divine Dwarf boys…no. No. Have I made myself clear? No!

Any remarks about the ambiguity in that last statement…would be unappreciated just now. Choubei wasn’t loud but he was definite. Any efforts to argue with his assessment would be cut off with another “no.”

“Now, that’s all about that. You,” he pointed at Anna-Lisa, “pick up your mousetrap, take it away from here, and I don’t want to see it again. If you get some evidence there’s a link to dwarf artifact smuggling, where we might have a use for it, we’ll talk. For now, take it, move out.” As Khoo started to move, he pointed again. “You are staying here. New assignment for you.”

When Anna-Lisa was out the door, he sat without inviting Khoo to do the same at first. “Okay, there’s another part of our little operation that needs some support. This one’s perfect for a seasoned traveler like you.” For the Department had read his (tastefully redacted) C-net posts about his adventures on the Southern Continent and in Port Lorrel. “You’re the only man for the job. You. Are. The. Only. Man. For. The. Job. So pay attention.

“Part of our operation is getting some close eyes on these three losers. They’re all at kind of a low point in their personal finances, and none of them has been much of a ladies’ man. So I’ve got an operative out to find them some girlfriends. Professional girlfriends. Girlfriends who report back to us on their movements.” Unlike Anna-Lisa’s plan, this one couldn’t possibly end in scandal. Nope, nope, just not possible.

“I was going to have to tell you about this anyway. If you’re doing surveillance later on, and they’re travelling with these young ladies, the young ladies need to be left alone. Most of the time. Anyway, point is, right now we’re in the process of recruiting them. And that’s going smoothly. We’re pretty sure we can find the right girls for our Confederacy boy, that’s Ator, and our Tsuirakuan, that’s Henseijin, but there’s a kink in the rope with the Farrelian, that’s Colin Norfall. He’s got some weird ass tastes.” And now he invited Khoo to sit.

“This guy Norfall, apparently his guilty little secret in looking for a woman is that he wants to…” – here Choubei referred to his notes, the better to avoid eye contact – “‘fall at the feet of an imperious mistress, obey her commands, and ask her forgiveness.’” He left out the more colorful descriptions of Norfall’s fantasies, rendered in enthusiastic detail by Nika Azaka. He continued. “Apparently it’s not just a hobby with this guy, but it’s the way he wants to live, when he has any money he blows it hiring girls to treat him like trash, and when he can’t afford to pay for it, he bea—ah, he daydreams about it all the time.

“So anyway, I checked with my, ah, sources, and there’s not very many professionals around Tsuirakushiti who do this fantasy. And it’s no good recruiting one of them because he’s hired them all before and knows they’re pros. No, we’ve got to set it up. I’ve got an expert to set up the meeting and take the reports. From you, all I need is the girl.

“So your mission is to take a trip down to Farrel, and find a lady who’s willing to take some pay to kick this guy around, and report on his movements to us. Our information is that you can find the most specialists like that in Rinkaiel. But the tricky part is you have to find someone he hasn’t hired himself. Since he travels a lot and whip welts are his favorite color that could make it hard. But it’s what you have to do.

“You’ll need his picture.” And here Choubei handed over a charcoal sketch of a thin, blonde-haired, sad-looking man who bore a passing resemblance to Eli Haverum, a half-elf Khoo had never met. (They were cousins but unacquainted, so the coincidence was not complete.)

“Our man in Rinkaiel, Captain Kitaura, has been instructed to give cooperation in this. But he can’t front you any money. You’ll have an expense account.” And here he pulled out a purse, a notebook, and a sheet covered in figures.

“This sheet explains the rules for how much you can pay – try to start with our standard stipend rates, but if you have to go up to a daily pro’s fee, plus lodging and travel expenses. You can take it that far, but don’t promise her more than a week’s employment. The other details are on this sheet. Log your expenditures in that” – he gestured at the notebook – “if you’ve got to hire her time just to negotiate, put it under ‘foreign intercourse,’ but the less you spend the better your eval’s gonna look, and your next job too.”

Khoo well understood that Homeland Security had a wide range of assignments, and could only imagine what a bad one would look like. Maybe catching rats with his bare hands and checking to see if they had secret messages stuffed down their alimentary tracts. Or up their little rat rectums.

“When you’ve got her, just post a C-net message in your usual place using the word ‘honey.’ Also let Kitaura know if you can. When you get back, have her go to the Adventurers’ Bar and walk off with the first person who gives the right code.”

The “right code” was written down, and Khoo was expected to memorize it. “‘Can I get you a pint of the Old Peculiar?’ ‘Better make it two.’ ‘What’s your preference?’ ‘Negotiable.’”

Choubei continued. “We’ll take it from there. Then you report back to me here the next day. Don’t know whether you want to take your young lady along” – this was ironic; he assumed Khoo wanted no such thing – “if not, just tell her she’s back on security protocols here at the terminal.” The office where she’d worked on those was not far from this one anyway, and Choubei could reach out to her if he had a need. “You’re booked on the 1800 to Rinkaeil. Here’s your pass. Any questions? I’m so glad there aren’t.” In fact, he would answer any to-the-point questions, but if Khoo hesitated, the finger would point at the door and the meeting would be over.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » September 30th, 2013, 10:25 am

"Wonder what got into him?" Khoo asked Anna-Lisa, who was patiently (for her) waiting outside when he emerged, a definite dumped-on look on his face.

She waved her hand with that same airy expression as usual. "Oh, he's just jealous," she said. "No big deal, I can always decorate our place with the pieces." She batted her eyes. "I made some of them so they're esthetic, after all."

Our place. Khoo suppressed a shudder. "Maybe, but I still wonder what his problem is. The stuff about museums doesn't hold water. All the reputable museums and galleries are licensed by the government, and their directors are political enough that a word in the right ear, at the right party, would make sure they don't pick up anything bogus. And the disreputable museums and dealers ... well, if your theory is right, they're where the problem is anyway, and they won't have anything to bitch about if they're caught helping the bad guys."

"Just jealousy, like I say," Anna-Lisa insisted. "Plus a bug up his ass about something else. I stuck around and heard what your new orders are."

"Yeah, looks like I'm going to be away from here for a while," Khoo ventured, wondering if the ability for Choubei's conversations to be heard beyond his office didn't constitute a security risk, but then deciding it wasn't his problem. "Sorry I won't be around to ..." To what? "To help you pick up the pieces of your invention." But he knew how Anna-Lisa was going to finish the sentence, and there wasn't much he could do about it.

"Oh, it's okay, enjoy your trip," she said, and she patted his hand.

"And just leave it to me. I'll be all moved in by the time you get back."
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » September 30th, 2013, 5:17 pm

Later that afternoon, close to the time Khoo's airship was to take off, Nika was leaving Drake Ator's hopelessly messy little lodgings with a look of enigmatic primness. She already knew a little something about his movements, which were those of a lazy man of no fixed habits who had only a little interest in the work of his family's firm. The Yurkashev would send a man like that out to look after goats and fight off bandits in their most desolate outpost 'til he came back with a smaller belly and a better sense of purpose. His family seemed to prefer to give him light work and too much leisure, but keep him far away.

The "lesson" in Farmer's Cards had gone easily enough. She had no intention of staking money on this game, ever, or even playing it once she was through with Drake, but it was obvious he was terribly smug about his own expertise, and the simplest way was to act impressed.

It was obvious he also wanted to impress her with his commanding nature, giving little orders and trying little gropes to see how she'd respond. She'd kept it down the middle, hinting that he was going the right way but not melting too fast for him. His next trip back home was in a week, so she figured another day or two before they started doing it, and one or two beyond that before he started sponging.

Mr. Masaki had agreed to give her the support she needed in finding a cruel mistress for Colin Norfall. A boy like that in Goriel...wouldn't survive to adulthood, and if he did, the women wouldn't know what to make of him. But here you had to deal with all kinds of "men" and take their money smiling. So she would get some foreign help from someone who was used to it.

Henseijin was out of town on trading business. She still had to learn more about him and find his girl. But there was time.

[OOC: To Rinkaiel?]
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » October 1st, 2013, 10:09 am

OOC: On to Rinkaiel is fine, but when I get more energetic than I am now (I'm not a morning person...), I'd like to write something for Layla that tees-up a potential encounter between Khoo and the crowd already in Rinkaiel, including Layla, the vineyard folks, and as applicable, the Silver Hands.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Jack Rothwell » October 1st, 2013, 7:14 pm

OOC Sounds good to me. With Myra in Rinkaiel for convenience purposes I think I've got 5 characters in that town. One being a pc depressed that his girlfriend is off chasing tech and desperate for something to distract him.../OOC
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Graybeard » October 2nd, 2013, 11:34 am

[OOC: OK, then. This is occurring more or less simultaneously with Choubei giving Khoo his marching orders. As yet, this group has nothing to do with what's happening back in Tsuirakushiti, but they might...]

"What's the problem?" Layla asked Joe, puzzled.

He was driving the carriage taking her, Ace and Zachary to the airship terminal so that Ace could get some proficiency work in (and all three could get away from the business of the vineyard for a while). However, when they got there, the carriage didn't stop to let them out. Quite the contrary, Joe urged the horses into a faster gait, and the carriage accelerated away from the terminal building. "Tell you a little later," Joe grunted as he drove.

Only two or three minutes later, some distance from the building, he brought the carriage to a halt. "Okay, we should be out of earshot now," he said. "That guy selling food from the wagon out in front? I'm just sure he's an Oshima. I remember seeing him at one of the places they run in Tsuiraku-town, back before the Torou dust-up."

"Oh," Layla said, getting the implications immediately. The Tsuirakuan underworld outfit had gone to ground after the Torous were killed, not so much because of that episode itself as because Captain Kitaura had used the resulting confusion to come down on them hard and force them into hiding. If they were getting some confidence back, and starting to re-assert themselves in places beyond Tsuiraku-town -- like, notably, the airship terminal -- that could be trouble. They certainly wouldn't have forgotten what happened to the Torous, and they'd hold a grudge against whoever did it. With luck, the connection back to Bad Ass Wines and the Silver Hands hadn't been made yet, and never would be. However, relying on luck was a hell of a bad way to run a business, or a Gewehr outpost, or a guild.

"We'd better let Rufus and the Silver Hands know," Layla continued, getting nods from Ace and Joe. The carriage diverted toward the Silver Hands safe house, the proficiency flying forgotten for the moment.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Jack Rothwell » October 3rd, 2013, 5:50 pm

"...so I wait for you, and I buuuurrrn..."

Rufus Lamenter sighed and put down the quill he'd been using to attack the stack of paper that had buried his desk. Leo was singing again and, as usual, he was murdering a perfectly good song.

"...will I ever see your... sweet retuuurrrn..."

It wasn't that the leader of the mercenary group didn't sympathize. The old man himself was familiar with the heartache of an absent love. Decades of military service had left him well-learned in the concept. It was just that the younger man's pining was crippling his usefulness to the group.

"...oh, will I ever learn..."

"Leo! Knock it off!"

Rufus smiled at the female voice bellowing across the off-key warbling. Eve had stepped up during his right hand man's period of self-pity. The young woman had been drilling the new recruits with all the ferocity of a seasoned officer preparing for war over the last month. As a result, the job offers from merchants had been steadily trickling in and the business was staying afloat. It didn't help however, that with the blacksmith's absence their income had taken a hit which had left the Silver Hands having to tighten their belts.

"Fine! I know when I'm not appreciated! I'm off to wander this heartless city alone and unloved!"

The whipcrack sound of a door slamming closed dislodged sheets of paper and scattered them about the floor of the captain's office. Rufus muttered a curse and bent to retrieve them.
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Re: Tsuiraku - A Contest of Miseries

Postby Alberich » October 5th, 2013, 6:47 pm

Disembarking, Khoo knew what he didn't know -- namely, where to find the purveyors of this highly specialized decadence Choubei wanted for such patriotic purposes. Well, the logical place to ask around was a tavern -- if he was lucky, maybe he'd find an experienced bawd, a guide to the unrespectable pleasures of this town, who could take him where he needed to go.

[OOC: Other words deleted by request.]
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