[Ivory Tower - Aside] Foxes and Lions

The Kowlani Territories, or the Solarity of Kowloon, is a small suzerain to the galactic south of the Tai Pan empire. Home to dozens of species, it is ruled as a monarchy, and underneath the Lord Empress, Bhelith tu Andes Arleigh, it nevertheless prospers in opposition to its democratic neighbors. Fortunes are made or broken in the wild edges of the Solarity, and the names of those who made or lost them rise and fall with equal severity.
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[Ivory Tower - Aside] Foxes and Lions

Post by Kim » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:33 pm

ON: THE ASTERIA , 3017 GSC

Wherein Honno and Kelda meet, and exchange faces.​

When Kelda entered the room, she observed a wolf-masked woman kneeling, in what appeared to be relative ceremonial comfort, upon a cushion. A pair of blades, Japanese daisho, had been settled neatly in front of her. Twelve other positions, apparently meant for them, were arrayed in front of this first position. Each bore a pair of daisho in similar style, each unique. And each bore a mask similar to the woman’s; they were white, or black, or red in styling, and though they were relatively flat each was styled in a manner that bore some resemblance to a wolf, a fox, or some manner of animal.

Of the woman in front, it could easily be said that, aside from the trappings of the room, she was the most notable. She had stripped to the waist, to her black, pleated hakama trousers, and displayed a full-body tattoo that depicted a range of fell old demons consorting with young and apparently willing women. The ink tableau was no illusion. The ink had faded, blued a little in places, and the woman appeared to be a human anyway, which meant that somewhere along the line she had submitted to the painful annoyance of having something permanently branded upon her. Considering the taboo, and how prominent the tattoos were, and how she displayed them, this hadn’t been accidental.

“Take a seat,” she said to Kelda. Kelda had been first. She would be first, she found, for the next several minutes of awkward sitting. This didn’t seem accidental either.

"Don't mind if I do," the Tigress said as she sat down, mimicking the other woman's sitting position. The set of Daisho nearby her chosen position had a silver tsuba guard, a black handle, and seemed straighter than the traditional Japanese blades. The mask was that of a white fox, with red stylings.

“My name,” the yakuza introduced, “Is Murasaki Honno, former retainer of the Wangdaio Colonies, and recently, shateigashira of the Chou family, a chivalrous organization.” In translation, and briefly from what Kelda knew of Japanese custom, this translated simply to; ‘I was a samurai once, and now, I am a criminal.’ A high ranking criminal. “I understand you were made a slave during the black out. I wanted to meet you before the others.”

"What?" Kelda asked, smiling at Honno's remarks as she looked the ex-samurai over, "Are the other people not as impressive or are you getting the hard one done first?" The real question is what I'm doing in a room with a weird yakuza, she thought.

The black-colored wolf mask seemed inscrutable; that was one of the purposes of masks. However, the woman's voice was soft, polite, and while not methodical to the point of monotonous, she had a certain tone that seemed borderline disinterested. "Both. It is also that, apparently, you have been guarding the Mikado for a little while now already, and I do not wish for there to be any conflict between us. I am informed, she wished for someone with experience as a Samurai and a bodyguard, and that is why I am Captain.

"Given your history I trust this will not be a problem, for you?"

"Oh, I'm sure you'll do a much better job," the former slave replied, waving away the other woman's concerns. "Though, if that's it, then I got a few months of whoring to catch up on, now that you're in charge of keeping the Boss Lady safe."

The yakuza cleared her throat, faintly. "Actually, no."

Kelda sighed dramatically at the denial of her freedom. "Alright then, Ms. Fancy Mask. What'cha got for me to do? Take a shift for you so you can get some fun time in yourself?"

"No," Ms. Fancy Mask said, her hands having not twitched a muscle from where she sat with the two of them upon her thighs. She might have curled them a little bit. "You will be helping me train the others. Apparently you are not the dumb slut you appear to be."

"Ehh," the whore replied, adding a shrug in for good measure, "I know a few things." Sobering a little, she asked, "We're just training them to be more bodyguards?" Sounds kind of boring.

"You are actually sitting in what will soon be the headquarters of the Empress's secret police." Honno turned her head slightly, the black hair bound back away from the edges of the mask seeming a little more severe for the black-on-white contrast.

The room itself was unremarkable; it appeared just like any other room in the Battlecarrier that the Empress had temporarily assumed residence upon. The only remarkable things about it were the things sitting in it, and the two individuals watching them.

"Oooh," Kelda said, her smile returning to the fore, "I call teaching torture techniques. It'll be fun to be on the other end of those lessons." But if the wolf-woman felt bothered by the smile, she seemed outwardly nonplussed.

"The mask and the swords are yours. The mask is your new identity in public, and the sword is how you will identify to other members of our society. In the handle, here," she indicated, by lifting her own middle-length, straight-edged sword, "Is some manner of technology that can recognize your sakki - if someone like you has a soul, anyway."

"If that's what being able to use a soul backup machine means," the Tigress replied, lifting her own blade off the table and testing its edge with a finger. "It's cool and all, but how are we supposed to know each other by our swords? Couldn't someone just kill one of us or something and take it?"

"Only you can carry that one. If someone else draws it, everyone else will know immediately, and we will kill that person." The Okami-Captain said it plainly, without embellishment or further explanation. Apparently, Kelda was meant to just believe it.

"Uhuh," the whore said, putting the sword back down before looking at Honno. "So, a secret police, huh? How many agents we starting with? From what I hear, Boss Lady has big plans and I can see how this could be useful."

"Thirteen. Some of your fellows will be joining us, though they're considerably less useful than you. Others come from the chivalrous organizations, or defectors from our sister nations."

"Thirteen?" Kelda asked, raising an eyebrow. "Okay, I guess that's a start. We going to turn some of the others around and help train the next group?"

"Essentially. I find it's better to start with a small, core group, train them properly, and then have them train others. This is how yakuza have trained to avoid Tai Pan's prolific police forces; in cells, with few connections. This is something the Mikado has been particularly impressed with, I am told. In public, we will be her ceremonial guards; in private, we will be anyone we choose to be."

"Makes sense," the woman said, looking off to the side as she digested what the samurai had said. So serious. Wonder how I'm supposed to crack that facade? "So," she said after a moment, her smile returning, "we going to do some kind of initiation or something? Sign something in blood, have a massive orgy, what?"

If anything, the wolf masked woman seemed disappointed. Maybe she sighed out of disgust. Even yakuza had some sort of honor, didn't they?

"You and I will drink. Doing so will give you the key to drawing the sword, and afterwards, the real work will begin."

"Ahh, a working initiation," the honor-less whore said, nodding sagely as she mentally laughed. This'll be fun, she thought, before picking her own mask up. "Guess I can save the fun stuff for later."

The Okami watched her in silence, apparently waiting for her to try the mask on. The bottle of drink, presumably sake, was sitting beside the wolf-faced woman, but she hadn't moved to touch it yet. All of this seemed very formal. The small table, to the side. The cups. The rest of it. Particularly the woman's silent demeanor.

I'd sneeze if I was allergic to formality, Kelda thought, before shrugging and putting the mask on, pulling the included strap over her head until it sat snugly on her face. "Not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be," she said, looking over at the ex-samurai through the transparent material. She couldn't determine what it was by touch, but it seemed to be some sort of wood. The inside had been treated like a holographic HUD, and she found that she could intuitively control it with her digital telepathy. Shiny. She watched the yakuza woman pour from the cup at her side into a shallow bowl, no bigger than the palm of her slender hand.

When she had finished, she slid the mask up to lift it to her lips and drink, one-handed.

She left enough of it in the bowl for Kelda; that's when she realized that Honno was pretty in a girl-next-door sort of way. Deep brown eyes, a round chin, small lips, and a nose that was just a little long. Not a perfect Taianese beauty, but it seemed that she had a touch of reality to her that struck as odd compared to the casual radiance that elves like Bhelith or Taianese 1st Class Citizens exuded.

Their eyes locked for a moment as Honno silently offered the bowl over.

"It will become more uncomfortable before it is over, I assure you."

"Are you trying to make me crack jokes?" the woman asked, snorting as she took the bowl in both hands. After taking a breath, she said, "To your health," lifting her own mask before drinking the bowl's contents.

The liqueur tasted sweet, and was surprisingly viscous considering the alcohol content. When she sat the bowl down again to look at the fox-masked woman sitting across from her, a bit down on the dais, something felt strange about it. It was like seeing something through a pane of lesser-made glass, wavy in places until it solidified. Everything felt differently. Her ankles ached a little, which was strange, because she hadn't been sitting on them until just now.

Then she realized that the woman setting the bowl down in front of her wasn't her.

The room was different because the perspective had changed. She was looking at the place that she had previously been. She was looking at herself.

Okami removed the fox mask from her new face and offered it over, explaining in Kelda's voice, "Here. And, if you could pass me mine, please."

What the fuck? she thought, as she took the new mask and handed the other over. "Well, this is new," she said, sounding like Honno. No, she was Honno. The back of her bare arm bore a motif of a young geisha. The person she had been took the wolf's mask, and wore it, and then stood up.

Honno was shorter. Kelda was taller. The woman paced around, and after a moment, the 'real' Kelda realized that her wolf-faced partner intended to trade places, which she acceded to, still disoriented as she dealt with longer limbs than usual.

They resettled, Kelda-now-Honno taking her previous place, and Honno-become-Kelda in the place of Captaincy, as she had been before.

"Disorienting, isn't it?" Okami asked.

"Just a bit," the Kitsune responded, looking over at her old body. "Raises questions about sex and which person's really getting the pleasure, but that's probably best left for later, isn't it?"

Okami laughed Kelda's rich, bemused, sultry laugh. She lifted a hand, observed it, glanced down to her new and considerably more svelte and attractive body, and then tested out a less formal seating posture more akin to what Kelda had used upon first entering the place. She hiked a knee, casually.

"I should not be surprised that was your initial thought. What we have just done is profane in Tai Pan, but it is our greatest weapon for reasons I am sure you will realize soon. Take a moment and try to remember why we are here."

"About to become the most elusive of secret agents," the 'new' Jiyuuian replied, kneeling as Honno had been, "Cause what better way to sneak past security than have a different face on?"

Okami waited, quietly. It was like looking at a mirror, except that the mirror didn't move with her, didn't breathe with her. Gradually, the memories started coming. Honno had been sitting on the cushion for a half an hour, meditating on Kelda and planning this exact moment. Kelda could remember it as though she had been there herself; this would repeat. Each person would come in individually. But, not today. Honno had something else in mind, like something on the edge of her own memories; yes, they would drink with all of them, all eleven. This would happen several times, and...

The memories were like a flood. She could remember two bifurcated timelines, and it felt like residing upon a cloud, watching a livestream, more than it felt like living.

"Yes. But, it will take practice, and I wanted you to get used to it first. That shinobigatana is yours, and will check for a memory of this room, of seeing your own face - so draw it, now. Think hard and fix this moment in your mind. When you leave the Mikado's side, this sword will stay in our armory. When you return, you will take it up again, along with the mask.

Kelda-Okami unfolded, rising up on her lithe and shapely legs, and stretched. She dropped a hand to her hip, looked down at Honno-Kitsune through the wolf mask, her own straight-edged sword held loosely in her other hand.

"Take some time. Delve my memories. Kelda is meant to protect the imperial consort on his visit to Leo Star Fortress, and so you will have ample time to understand me as I understand you."

"Just make sure to share the memories if you get the chance to jump on him," Honno-Kitsune replied, chuckling an unfamiliar laugh before taking the sword off the table.

Kelda-Okami gave a quiet chortle, and replied, "Let Honno teach you patience."

"And learn how to have fun with Kelda," the sitting spy-to-be replied, balancing the single edged shinobigatana's blade on her free hand as she gripped the hilt in the other.

Okami stopped at the portal, the unremarkable metal door sliding open for her. She didn't look back, but Kitsune got a good view of her - well, her own ass - when the yojimbo turned slightly.

"It will change you. It is hard to tell the difference, where one stops and another begins. I strongly recommend you practice. From what I am learning of you now, I can already sense you might not, but you should, anyway."

Okami faced forward again, and left Kitsune alone with herself.

Both selves.
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[Ivory Tower - Aside] the voice of a Lioness

Post by Kim » Thu Apr 11, 2019 4:33 pm

ON> Shizi Station, Piyapon System, 3017 GSC

Ember Connelly Arleigh sat behind the desk in her office, the stacks of data pads and papers were large but neatly distributed across the desk's polished black surface. Her dark green eyes were focused on a polished black and gold volumeric projection frame that hung prominently on the wall across from the desk at eye level.

The frame rotated the images and names of all that lost their lives during the Wangdaio blackout every 15 seconds. Her office held mementos of the people that touched her life. She had continued this practice of remembrance and mourning for almost 2 years now. She wore an immaculate uniform of a Taianese Yījí Shàngjiàng now. Her curly auburn locks were loose past her shoulders and cascaded down her back.

The Crown Princess of Arleigh waited.

And her newly appointed Representative didn't leave her waiting for long, walking into the office a few seconds before the allotted time. The woman was a contrast from her boss in a few ways. Her own black hair was put up in a tight bun, kept in place with an old fashioned pencil, while she wore a dark green button-up blouse and tan skirt that emphasized her figure. Her civilian status was made clearer by the non-standard, extra-wide datapad that she held by her right side. Walking until she stood before Ember's desk, she gave the Admiral a deep bow.

"Thank you for setting up this meeting, ma'a, er," Astridr started, looking embarrassed by her faux pas, though that might have been more blood running to her face. "Your Majesty? What am I supposed to use again? Still not used to this royalty business."

Ember rose from her chair when Astridr entered and returned the bow. She tried not to roll her eyes at the "your majesty" comment. "Whatever you prefer, just not profanity, please," she replied with a smile. "Please, have a seat, Astridr." She motioned to the empty chair in front of her desk. The office was still sparse in decoration, the only real change were there were more drawings from the children framed on the walls.

"Of course," the civilian said, returning the smile as she sat down in the offered chair, putting her datapad in her lap. "And I'd never use profanity for something as serious as that, ma'am. Wouldn't have taken the job if I thought of you that way."

"I'm sure after a few court appearances your feelings on that will change," the Shàngjiàng replied taking her seat again. She folded her hands together and leaned forward on her desk.

"I think any profanity that would cause would be more directed at those at court, not you," Astridr said, waving off any of the other woman's concerns as she crossed her legs. "Whoever your, umm, Lady Blackspear decides to cavort with is not something you could control, unless you're holding out on some kind of superpower."

"No, the Lady will do as the Lady damn well pleases," Ember replied. "This is all too formal and stuffy for me. But I would not be offended if you got mad and called me something awful one of these days."

"Ehh, that's what Katashi will be good for," the civilian said with a shrug. "Take all my complaining while he tries to force me out of his office with that glare of his. In any case," she continued, tapping her double-sized datapad to life, "I was wondering if you could give me some details on what goals I should push for as your Representative. Wouldn't be much use if I have to keep bugging you with every little detail that pops up after all."

"I am horribly biased as a Yījí Shàngjiàng and I am beholden to the Empire of Tai pan, I would never encourage another rebellion... this ended horribly as you remember. I don't think this region can take another massacre, we need to stand united with our host nation so they will leave us to our own governance." Ember paused for a moment, "I just want our people to be properly taken care of. We have orphans everywhere that will need families, homes, and eventually jobs but for now education. Aside from that, I have no agenda." She pursed her lips together. "I'm not sure what else to really encourage, self defense is always good and expansion will eventually come with some stability but we need to colonize this system better."

"Uh huh," Astridr murmured, tapping away at her datapad for a few moments before looking at Ember. "So, essentially make a stable nation that can provide for the citizens and build slowly, while making sure we're taking special care of all the war orphans?"

"Something like that. I don't think I can handle adopting all of them. I guess, in a sense, you'll be babysitting the court for me. Talk them down if they start getting crazy. Arleigh told me at the beginning that the Wangdaio Colonies were dead and it would have to stay dead for us to move forward. I get concerned that we might end up on that road if we're not careful." Ember sighed. "I'm not sure this helps?"

"No, no, this is fine, ma'am," the Representative replied, leaning forward as she patted the Admiral's hands a few times before going back to her datapad. "You've given me your priorities and a goal to shoot for. And from what I've seen of Lady Blackspear, she'll probably need some reining in." She paused for a moment, then looked up at the other woman with a small smile. "Promise to bail me out if she throws me in the dungeon?"

"Of course. Oh, please avoid marrying me off without talking to me first," the Crown princess added with a wink. "I don't need the Lady micromanaging my love life."

"Don't play matchmaker without your permission, got it," Astridr said, chuckling as she finished her notes. "But I'll let you know if anyone promising shows up."

"Did you need anything else? I pretty much never leave the station these days so my door is always open."

"Nope, I think that's it for now," the assistant said, turning off her datapad's screen. "I'll let you know if anything serious comes up in the weekly report I'll send you. It'll have other minutiae as well, but I'll make sure to highlight anything that needs your attention. If not, then I guess it'll be good bedtime reading."

"I'm certain... just watch your back. I would recommend wearing body armor under your clothing in court in case someone gets a notion and with that," Ember unhooked the front of her uniform, letting the flap hang down to reveal her undershirt underneath, "Have a drink with me before you go, if you aren't tied up with anything now." She pulled a large decanter of Alliance Whiskey from a locked desk drawer and produced two large tumblers.

"Not at all," Astridr replied, chuckling as she put her datapad underneath her chair. "I was more worried about taking up your time."

"That pile of paperwork there, has not gotten any smaller in 3 years, I can spare a few minutes for you, especially since you are doing me a solid favor by volunteering to be my Hands in the court with the Lady," Ember chuckled. She removed the stopper on the decanter and poured a decent amount of whiskey into both glasses before replacing it again. She pushed one glass to Astridr. "I know it's not sake, but I can't help but regress to being a brash human every so often."

"It's nice to get a change every once in a while," the Representative said, smiling as she picked up her tumbler. "To your health, Yiji Shangjiang Arleigh," she continued, lifting her glass in a toast.

"My life is nothing but change, and to yours, Ms. Connelly," Ember returned Astridr's toast with one of her own before taking a long drink from her glass. "May the Gods and Chiharu protect you from what might come."

"And let's hope I don't need Them," Astridr thought as she drank from her own glass.
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