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Zhi knew where he liked to go. She knew what he liked to do. She knew who he'd been hanging around with, the rumors that surrounded him, and who he'd taken to his bed. She knew he was dangerous.


She waited for him.


The name of the tavern didn't matter. Most of them were the same in Limsa Lominsa, their differences categorized by who frequented them, and who controlled them. This one still sheltered under the law, for the most part, and it was for that reason that Zhi tended to avoid it. But here she'd been for a couple bells, leaning against a wall with full view of those who came and went, drink in hand and casual conversation with anyone who stepped her way. There'd been one drunken proposition from a woman who was too cross-eyed to notice the smell, or the mangy fur on her tail, or the fact that Zhi did not qualify as attractive by most conventional standards (and as ugly by most of those same conventional standards) -- but most weren't drunk enough to take that sort of interest in her. That suited her just fine.


She waited.


Two bells came and went. She paced herself with her drink, squatted and played a game of dice with a lad who most responsible people would consider too young to be drinking. She cheated him out of his gil. She bought him a drink with his own money, and set him off on an errand with the promise of earning back that same gil. It was always easier to corral kids into doing dirty work for you once you'd rid them of their own sense of self-worth, assuming they didn't cuss you for your troubles. It wasn't a matter of manners. It was a matter of survival.


Pyralis Targaryen's arrival was noticed. Handsome, flirtatious men always were, same with beautiful, flirtatious women. The beautiful were always admired. People were always drawn to them. It had its benefits, sure, but right then Zhi didn't want those benefits. Especially not there. There were already two women and one man who looked interested; whether or not they knew him on a personal level, well, that didn't matter. What mattered was that she would become notable if she approached him directly.


So she didn't.


One of the wenches came at her discreet signalling, and she tucked a few gil into the girl's cleavage (which that same girl did not appreciate; Zhi narrowly avoided getting slapped for her troubles) with a murmured request to pass along a message to the new arrival. She had a warning for him, and she'd be waiting for him outside whenever he was done: a miqo'te lass with a kinked tail in the shadow of an alley. She would wait to see that the wench delivered her message, then she would slip outside.


She was sure he wouldn't be too leery to meet her.


Pyralis Targaryen could handle himself.


Zhi was counting on it.

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What was it about the smell of shame and ale that always seemed to attract Pyralis to these places? As he walked in and took in the atmosphere he realized why he was attracted to it. It represented chaos and fun in a small portion of Eorzea. It was great since not only the wicked came to taverns but the good wanting to be wicked did as well. Those goodie goodies who always claimed to be so self-righteous and holier than thou would come here, get sloshed, and make terrible mistakes. Sometimes Pyralis would be there to rob them blind or bed a decent enough girl. He grinned as he saw he had caught the eyes of two women and interestingly enough a man. The looks were a common occurrence as he was a bard, a handsome one at that. As he approached his usual table a girl with a quite admirable bust approached him. The bard suppressed a grin and put on his usual soft, gentle, and inviting smile.



Someone wanted to meet him outside, this he did not like. He nodded thanks to the girl before putting a hand under her chin and whispering sweet words into her ear. As she turned around and swooned away from the bard’s words he put on a serious expression. The bard began to casually dust himself off but he was really checking to make sure he had his daggers, poisons, and powders in place in case the person outside did not want just a friendly word. These days he was a wanted man by many; not in the good way either. Pyralis snatched a mug from a table he was walking by as the man drinking it was not paying attention and headed outside. He faked a staggered drunken walk as he got outside and said in a slurred speech, “Oye who’s there?”

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It was dusk outside, and the shadows were long and thick. Zhi was standing half-swallowed in them; her upper body covered while her knees and below were lit up by the fading sun. The kink in her tail was visible as she watched a drunkard stagger from -- strike that, it was Targaryen. She flicked the edge of her tail back and forth to make sure she had his attention.


Should she be direct or indirect? Which would hold his attention? Bards were notorious for having short attention spans, but him, well, it wasn't so simple.


"Yer someone what knows th'doxy rings in th'city. Ye've used 'em. There's one what don't like who ye've taken t'yer bed."


She took a step back. Only her feet remained in the light. Her shoes were worn, a faint patina of dark green visible under the dirt. They were the shoes of someone who wasn't used to handling a whole lot of coin.

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The bard looked to the swinging tail before it disappeared into the shadow. So was this an ally, foe, or potential scorned lover. The bard tossed the mug aside and straightened himself out showing he was clearly nowhere near drunk. He placed both hands behind his back and put on a devilish smile in an attempt to ease whoever was behind the shadows.


He would gaze down at her boots and notice their poor condition. Perhaps the girl was a lady of the night? Curiosity had gotten the best of him and he spoke in a polite and inquisitive tone, “Oh really? I’ve taken many lovely women to bed dear voice in the shadows. Play your cards right, have a drink with me, and you might possibly be in for the time of your life. Come out from the shadows and I promise to reward you with a kiss and a song. Or stay in the shadows and I’ll patiently wait here and hear what you have to say.”



The bard would place two hands on shivs he kept behind his back, although to the eye it merely looked like he was folding his hands.

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Zhi giggled. Her voice was raspy. "There's ears about, an' I ain't gettin' paid t'tickle 'em wi'gossip. I've a treat fer ye if ye'll follow." A teasing note had entered her voice.


Surely no one would begrudge her a spot of fun. It was a gamble, what he would do: would he allow himself to be drawn into the alley? How paranoid was he? How confident in his skills? She backed up further into the alley, becoming just another dark shape amidst the shadows.


He'd already caused her some trouble.


She wanted his measure.

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Pyralis grinned at the raspy female voice and tightened his grip on the shivs. A million positive and negative thoughts were flying through his head as he considered the possibilities. It would be a big gamble to enter a dark alley with a stranger who had paid a busty barmaid to chase him out of the tavern. But unfair fights were his favorite, a little blood and pain never killed anyone, or did it?



Hells why not take a gamble? It was a good day to die if any. The bard called back as he stepped forward into the shadows, “Oh my lady, do not stir up passions if you are unprepared to deliver.”

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"Oh aye, I always deliver."


Whether or not it was what was expected. . .


Zhi kept backing up, not willing to put her back to the bard for the time being. She didn't like him there, fun and games aside. He was not one to play at predictability, and while he also wasn't the sort to slay without cause (that she'd been able to find out, at least), there was a first time for everything. Sure, he didn't look ready to kill, but that meant shit to those who tread the darker paths.


She got a good eyeful of him. She didn't know how good his night-sight was, knew that he was reckoning half-chance she was a keeper (higher than half, since only a fool of the gods miqo'te would seek out a dangerous man in the dark if she wasn't keeper enough to see). He chose to follow her into the dark anyways. How fun.


She turned away to slide through a narrow pass, in time to put her back to him as a sliver of light cut down into the alley, revealing the whole of her back for an instant before she passed into darker shadows. She was dressed plainly in roughspun pants and a simple shirt that belled around her body and pooled at her hips where it was collected with a rope belt. It kept her form androgynous, though she'd made no pains to make her voice boyish.


Behind the building was a small passway cut into the rock. The shadows were not so dark there, as she paused, though the interior of the passage was pitch black.


She felt like teasing him.


"Follow?" She extended a hand into the darkness, coy challenge in her voice.

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Pyralis entered the shadows and tried to follow the woman. She was navigating so well she must be a keeper. Now the odds were truly against him and a single bead of sweat formed on his brow. But he kept his heart and breathing normal while following not too close to the woman. Pyralis didn't know what her end game was but he was playing an awfully dangerous game. Cat and mouse is never fun when you're the mouse. 


Pyralis quieted his foot steps so it was near impossible to hear and picked up the pace. He kept one hand forward as to not bump into anything and the other at his back with the shiv ready. He called out in a playful tone,  "Oh sweet lady, all this anticipation has me ready to burst. How much longer till we get to enjoy each others company? "

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Zhavi Streetrunner did not take Targaryen for a fool. She couldn't help but wonder why he went along with her so easily, and didn't like the various conclusions she came up with. Besides, it wasn't as if she needed to know his limits for the job.


It was time. She took them through the passageway, out onto a roughly hewn overlook. Back before the Calamity, the area had been slated for construction for a new high-end residential area. After the Calamity, it had gotten lost amidst the shuffle of damage reports, and the merchants providing the funding had backed off -- probably due to losses elsewhere. As a result, the area remained empty but for the occasional junkies, parties, and executions by various criminal types.


What she needed to tell Targaryen wasn't really worth the extra care in taking him to such a secluded place, but her mood was capricious.


Dusk had fallen, sheathing them both in half-light. Zhi turned to face him. "Ne'er ye fear," she said, giving him her ugliest smile. "I'll not be havin' ye burstin' afore we've had a chance t' . . .talk."


She leered at him, snorted, and cut to business before the empty flirtation could continue. "Ye've been one o' Lady Grace's patrons. Fer Heaven's Gate. I'm t'offer ye three things: a warnin', an offer fer protection', an' a chance at. . .mischief."


The challenge was still there in her voice, and it had brought with it friends. The dare was in the way she rested a fist on her hip, in her tilted head, in the smugness of her smirk and the knowledge in her eyes.


She was looking to catch herself a bard, she was.

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Pyralis studied the female in the half-life and took in her image. She was not pretty by any means but had a strange attraction to her. This woman had led him through a passage of darkness and they had emerged into a cesspool of the undesirables of Limsa. It felt like home! After her odd smile and the three things she had to share the bard chuckled for a solid minute before crossing both arms behind his back and tensing his body to show his firm frame.


So the woman knew more things about him than he did about her. Things were about to get interesting. The thrill of the hunt and gamble had left the bard desiring to continue this charade and game with the miqo'te. 


Finally after ending his chuckling he spoke up in an amused voice, "My lady...clearly I am a man of desires. Aye I use to have lovely times with the ladies at that fine establishment. As for the three things...a warning is always nice before the dagger is placed firmly in ones back. Protection? Oh my lady, I counted at least 42 times where I could have killed you...I think I'm fine without -your- protection. As for the mischief, I am -always- interested in mischief. My offer to show you the best hours of your life stands of course if you would kindly share your name and intentions."


Pyralis would give the miqo'te a devilish smirk and a wink. Yes...things were about to get interesting indeed.

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Zhi rolled her eyes frequently. But here, now, she didn't think it would be a good idea. Bards were masters at performance, and even in the twilight she didn't trust him to be blind enough to hide the various little tells that would inevitably show. She held in the desire to give him exasperation, and instead showed him her intrigue.


There were still tics that a bard or someone trained in body language could pick up. The tip of her tail flicked once before she could hold it back. The skin around her eyes tightened. Her ears stood stiff, relaxing by degrees only when she remembered. Her mouth was firmer than her teasing tone warranted, though not by much. Little things. Subtle things. But they were there, and they showed her annoyance and just a breath of fear to those trained to pick up on them.


She couldn't help that. She wasn't a professional. Most of the time, she wasn't even aware of her micro-expressions. Few were.


"I'm a runner," Zhi allowed. She held up a hand, fingers fluttering to emphasize her point. "I bring messages. I ain't in th'business o'protectin'."


Forty-two times? Ass. No more than twenty.


Zhi might not be a trained fighter or even have the know-how or power to be a thug, but she wasn't slow, and she wasn't stupid.


One eye narrowed by a hair's breadth. He'd gotten to her, but would he be able to see it?


She was smiling. "Heaven's Gate is under . . . hmm. Their rivals are gettin' meaner. Tabart o' Jaded is lookin' t'put th'hurt on those what've had business wi' Grace's doxies. Ye can. . .take care o' yerself, aye, but ye ain't th'only man in town what knows that. What's more, Tabart's got some friends what could be used t'takin' care o' those what know their way 'round weapons. Ye agree t'help Thatcher, we'll be watchin' yer back. An' then ye'll get yer chance at," she looked him up and down, "mischief."


She leaned forward just enough to imply her next words carried some extra need for secrecy. "An' mebbe ye didn't notice, but I ain't one o' Thatcher's doxies." She straightened, and there was that challenge again, that dare.

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Pyralis studied her body. The breathing, the eye movement, the tail flick, the way her lips moved. He did all this with a smirk on his face and his two hands wrapped tightly around the shivs he kept behind him. He would carefully take two steps forward to close the distance between them. So his old favorite establishment was under threat of rivals. He thought about helping them but was it really his battle? Trying to change his old habits were proving hard enough as it was. A slight hesitation could be seen in one of his steps.


"Let's say I agree to help this Thatcher, love...what do I get out of the deal hm? After all, I do not visit that fine establishment anymore. What care do I have if some lovely ladies go unemployed?"


The bard would grin playfully at the miqo'te and continue to eye her every movement. Slowing his steps significantly to keep at least some space between them.


"Hmmm, you of course do not look like a lovely lady of the finer pleasures. You look like a virgin girl who might never know the throes of passion from a man or woman."

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Her smile was real, accompanied by a predatory edge. "O'course ye don't care," she said. The rasp was back in her voice. She matched his two steps, clasped her hands behind her back. She had no cleverly sheathed weapons to hold. Her movements had gone sinuous, though her baggy clothing hid much of it from sight.


But Zhi knew men and women, had watched her mam earn gil through body language and speech when Zhi was a tot. Sometimes it was not the showing of skin that was alluring, but the hiding of it.


Not that Zhavi Streetrunner had ever been called alluring in her life (outside of doxy patter, anyways), but she'd played the game.


It was her job.


It was fun.


Renewed interest showed in the way she looked at him, though the slight hitch to her hips, the set of her shoulders was more aggressive than their exchange of words warranted. She was mischievous. She was, in her own way, attempting to toy with him. Faint, but there.


A fulm remained between them, so long as he did not step back.


"But if ye don't help Thatcher, y'don't get yer. . .treat."


To his last words, she had nothing for him but a small smirk. It held all the confidence in the world.

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The girl was so close...close enough that with a quick movement he could put two shivs in her before she could gasp. But tonight was no night for blood shed. Pyralis genuinely liked this miqo'te. She had a pull to her that was undeniable and intriguing. The bard locked his violet eyes to her own eyes and soften his expression to a smile. He released his tight grip on the shivs and brought both hands in front of him and gave a slight stretch. 


He would extend a hand out for her to shake and say softly in an almost flirtatious way, "My lady to spend even a moment longer with you I'd help Bahamut himself. I will give this Thatcher my help, just because you asked so nicely."


The girl was good, too good. He'd have to keep an eye on her after all this was done.

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That close, even the most dead-nosed hyur would have been able to smell her. While she'd taken to bathing recently in order to not piss off the Captain, in-between their jobs together she didn't bother. And Zhi? She wasn't the type to sit pretty in a tavern or an inn. She dug into the city, tread the nastiest paths it had to offer. Offal, rotten things, fish -- it was all there, not as strong as it might normally be, but an unmistakeably bad odor.


Zhi did not think for a moment that the man in front of her wanted to bed her out of some misplaced desire. It wasn't about sensuality. It was about control. Zhi knew about control. She knew about expectations.


Galine had seen to that.


And that sort, that which overcame the senses and the mind, that was the kind that no one would ever hold over Zhavi Streetrunner again.




As those thoughts flickered lightning quick through her mind, some of that rebelliousness leaked through. Her lips tightened, one ear flicked back, her nostrils flared. Maybe those signals could be confused with desire, but the heat in her eyes wasn't sensual. It was angry.


Adrenaline had started leaking into her system, and her pulse quickened. It fluttered at her throat.


She looked down at his hand, and back up to his face. "O'course ye will," she said, and her voice was soft, lilting with invitation. "An' t'help Thatcher an' get yer treat, are ye willin' t'do what it takes?"


She clasped his forearm, gave it a little squeeze.

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Pyralis kept his soft smile and kept his eyes locked on the girl. The smell was...interesting. But the bard had been through the worse. Lived in a cage for years, cramped quarters on top of other people who all ate and went to the bathroom in the same place. The girl was unkempt, messy, gave away signs when she shouldn't but still...she had potential. 


Pyralis was no fan to being controlled or told what to do. He would not be a slave to anyone again. This was a dangerous game and whoever was involved was sure to be deadly. As the girl squeezed his forearm, she could possibly see for a brief moment not desire or lust behind his eyes, but compassion.


He steeled himself and went back to his smirk, "But of course girl." 


He would sigh and say playfully to her, "The things I do for love."

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Zhi released his forearm and stepped back. Her grin was lopsided. "I'll take ye t'see Thatcher so she knows what's what. After that, I'd have ye make real nice wi' one o'Jaded's clerks. I need more information on a man what's workin' wi' Tabart, Luther. Doxies an' those what work wi' 'em are used t'charm, but I'm thinkin' mebbe ye'll find a way."


She looked him up and down, offered up another leer. The anger was still there.


"First though, yer too . . ." she gestured at him, her expression going positively lascivious. "We'll need t'see ye better dressed, first."


Impatience. Curiosity.

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Pyralis kept his eyes on the girl examining her and chuckled. He examined himself up and down before looking back to the girl, "Here I thought I was dressed for success girl."


He would tilt his head at her in curiosity and sigh, "I am in your hands my lady...do what you must. Just try not to fall in love with what you see."


Somehow though, he couldn't help but hear a voice screaming in the back of his head that this was all a very bad idea.

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"Wrong part o' town," Zhi said. "Can't have one o' Tabart's boys seein' ye meet up wi' Thatcher, nohow."


She studied him, the flirtation and leering abruptly cut off. She stepped closer, but this time she was all business. She reached up, measuring his height against hers. She stepped back, looked at his shoulders hard, and then without warning she'd attempt to put her hands at his waist.

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"Said I'd deliver, not woo ye," was her muttered reply. She didn't look up at him, but one of her ears twitched in some dark amusement. Her hands slid down to his hips -- and she'd sneak in a pinch before she released him and crouched, inspecting his feet. She laid her palm flat against the ground next to the left foot, then sideways. She grunted, stood, and rolled her shoulders. "Stay here while I fetch ye better clothes."


She was smiling still, but something ephemeral had left it. The hyper-focus she'd had on him had vanished, her thoughts turned elsewhere. There was a sudden energy to her, coiled tight but present in the way she moved. She took a step sideways, then two. "Won't take me long."

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Pyralis flinched ever so slightly at the pinch but kept his eyes on the miqo'te. More spring to her step, sudden burst of energy. 


Keep focused on this one Pyralis, she may have a dagger already pressed to your artery and you can't even see it. 



The bard smiled at her and put a hand to his forehead as she left. He would speak in playful tone, "Oh ever do so hurry. I do not know if my weak heart can handle you being away for so long."

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She had him.


For now.


Zhi put her hands to the stone and shucked her shoes, then started up the stone wall rather than ducking back through the tunnel. Halfway up, she found the platform she was looking for (another remnant of construction) and disappeared from sight.


Then she was running, using street, wall and rooftop where necessary. She avoided hotspots and jack patrols. By then, the sun was mostly sunk on the horizon. Shadows were multiplying. The moon was out, if faint, waiting to take control of the sky away from Azeyma's grasping claws. Good riddance.


Her breathing was heavy when she dropped down in front of Keto'to of the Gutter. He'd taken to calling himself Guttersnipe for a long while, though Zhi never used it. He was old, older than any other miqo'te man she'd ever seen, and that (along with other things) had earned him her respect. Of all the ragpickers and fences in the city, he was one of the select few who operated solely at night. He was the only person Zhi knew who hated the sun more than she did. They'd formed some sort of bond over insulting Azeyma, though it was as tenuous a connection as any of her other relationships.


"Zhio," he said, not at all surprised at her sudden appearance.


For such an old man, his senses were razor sharp.


"On a job," she said, baring her teeth at him.


He grunted. "Ain't open yet."


"I'll pay double. I'm in a hurry, an' I ain't got th' patience t'deal with th'Swine."


He sighed, long and loud, one hand retreating to his lower back to press against it. He stooped a little, reproach in his eyes. She rolled hers. "Elezen male, taller'n me by 'round a fulm. Shoulders, waist, hips, feet. Aye, an' a hat."


She held her hands approximate distances apart for each measurement. Keto'to watched her, sighed again, and started picking through the clothing.


So they dealt, back and forth, but when she left with a worn satchel at her hip only five or so minutes had passed. He could be stodgy, but he rarely turned away the promise of extra coin. Few of them streetside did.


She returned to Targaryen in a little more than half a bell's time. There was an air of wariness about her, no matter the bright smile she showed to him. It was hard to swallow down the snarky comment she wanted to say to him, but she did. "Still wi' me, hey?"


It was dark by then. She wondered if he could see her. She held out the satchel to him. "Here. Change."


Inside were worn, though serviceable, shirt and pants, sandals with a hole in one, and a rather nice cap. The shirt would be too big, the pants just a hair too short on his legs, but the sandals would fit, as would the cap.


Zhi stared at him expectantly.

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The light was almost gone. It was fine to have some disadvantages but when the odds started becoming too much it was time to start planning ahead. He relied heavily on his sound now. When the girl came back he suppressed the urge to withdraw his dagger. After all the stench was unmistakably her.


He grabbed the satchel and rummaged around in it....clothes. Well, hopefully she couldn't see too well in the dark either. He began undressing without hesitation or shame in front of her. Exposing his body that had whipped, flayed in places, burned, and scarred by his tormented past. He hope she enjoyed the show.

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Zhi's night-sight had always been good. She watched Targaryen without much expression, though there was a small smirk that rounded her lips as soon as she saw his lack of bashfulness. She certainly didn't show the slightest sign of embarrassment when he started to strip; she folded her arms and shifted her weight to first one leg and then the other, and got her money's worth.


"Thatcher's girls and boys'd like ye, I reckon," she said once he was mostly dressed. Her voice was deadpan, but there was some humor around her eyes -- if he could see it. "Ready t'meet th'boss?"

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