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Fancy Free

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Sunlight stabbed Jngibiargh "Jingi" Fletch in the eyes as she bent one more time to the expenses ledger and accompanying receipts spread out over her expansive desk. She winced. The chair creaked as she straightened. The sun was setting; she'd miss dinner again at her boarding house. The chair creaked again as she leaned back with a sigh. It took effort to get up and light the lamps set about the room, close the curtains, and resume her seat at her desk. The room was a comfortable cage. Tastefully decorated without exhibiting a single sign of wealth, it was supposed to be Oda's office, tucked in alongside Tabart's in the house they'd leased. The house that had formerly housed their prostitution business before their writ had been taken away.


Jaded was a sinking ship.


Jingi sat back down. She took up her pen, pulled one of the lamps closer, and resumed her task. Expenses were mounting, and income was dwindling. She'd had to resort to fancy juggling to keep the accounts balanced and them out of debt. It was unlikely either Tabart or Oda could appreciate the twisting schemes she'd undergone with their account books in order to keep them floating, the places she'd visited, deals she'd made. Oh, it was nothing illegal or unscrupulous, but it had required her to bend her head and speak softly and piteously.


Tabart had always hated it when any of them did that. He didn't understand business or necessity. He had his pride, and they all had a home to belong to. One that was sinking. She caught her tongue between her teeth as she worked, and the next time she became conscious of time and space she found her nose nearly pressed to the paper. She blinked, leaned back (damnable creak), and realized that her lamp had nearly burned out. Exasperated, she got up to fetch the oil (really, it was a simple job and one she should not have to do herself, considering they had a boy they kept on specifically for such small tasks -- one she had protested about taking on, but one Oda had insisted they keep, considering he "had no other place to go" as Oda had said, no matter that they did not have the funds necessary to keep the boy properly fed and clothed, much less provided with a small stipend for his work) and realized that full night had fallen.


"Oh, blast and list -- " the office was small, and cluttered. She stubbed her foot twice getting to the supply cabinet, and once there found that the oil reservoir was empty. She stared at it in disbelief, took a nice, long deep breath -- it is not worth getting irate over, it is not worth having a fit of temper, it is not worth fuss -- and blew it out. She was tired, and cranky, and building up resentment on the boy would not help the matter a whit. He hated asking for help when he didn't know what to do, and when faced with an empty reservoir he would likely ignore the problem. She could correct it on the morrow. Which would come all too soon.


With one last mournful glance cast at the ledger (she was almost done, too), Jingi blew out the lamps save one, and navigated her way out of the office. She locked it behind her, and walked the hallways back to the front.


The doxies still plied their trade in the house. They had to. However, with their lack of writ they'd had to start operating as a massage parlor, of all things. The doxies still did what they did best, but under the front of massages. As if that wasn't the oldest crock in the book, but they had managed. Somehow. The thought of Heaven's Gate crossed her mind, but she banished it to the back; it did no good to blame their rivals for something that had happened long ago, but she as all of them did fervently wish to take back the writ no matter the cost. No matter the method. . .


Jingi was uneasy as she bid the night's receiving girl farewell and stepped out into the evening air. Her body's needs -- so long repressed throughout the day -- asserted themselves so fiercely that she could not help but slump. What a day, what a day.

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Pyralis saw the target and slipped on his stylish hat. The outfit was clearly of one who was out of town with its flair and look. A look that said, ‘Yeah I have a bit of coin to spend’.  The girl was probably book smart from the way she looked. Didn't have the look of a typical lady of pleasure and it intrigued him. The place had staff of course so more than likely she served some purpose in the back area. Perhaps stacking boxes? No, she didn't have the muscular built like that. He watched her closely studying her mannerisms and decided that maybe she was one of the smarter girls. Best to play the dumb tourist who gets smitten with the girl. Pyralis lowered his hat and pulled out a map of somewhere completely far away to make it seem like he was truly lost.


He would walk with his head buried in a map and attempt to roughly bump into the woman. If successful, he would look up from his now torn in half map and gasp, “Oh by the twelve! I am so sorry miss! Oh dear! Here! Let me help!” He would offer her a hand and a very small, pleading for forgiveness, smile.

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Jingi was jolted back several steps. If she'd been wearing anything other than her flat, worn shoes (the ones she wore on days when she was simply too tired to consider the necessities of fashion or a businesslike appearance), it was likely she would have ended up flat on her rear. But she caught her balance, and looked over at the person who'd run into her. She was surprised, and a little embarrassed at how little she was paying attention to her surroundings. Noki would have scolded her for it. Especially at night.


"I'm sorry!" She blurted over the top of his own apology, and cracked a self-conscious smile. "I'm okay, I'm okay! Are you -- oh no, your map!" Self-consciousness turned to horror, and she bypassed his hand to reach out and lightly touch one of the halves. "I am such a bumbling idiot sometimes, I am so sorry -- may I buy you a replacement?"


She looked up at him, and saw his face for the first time.


She flushed.

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Pyralis locked eyes with her and forced him to flush a deep red. He stammered, "I...it's. ..I mean...no big deal miss....by the Twelve....You are stunning and beautiful."


Realizing what he had just said he lowered his gaze and flushed more. "it would be an honor...to take you for coffee. So I can apologize for running into you."


He would keep his gaze down as if he was just too smitten by her looks.


Pyralis thought in his mind, poor girl...hope I don't break her heart too badly.

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Jingi was, at heart, a down-to-earth highlander woman. She tended to her books. She kept her head out of the clouds. She was feminine, but also sturdy; some might call her chubby. She dressed with an eye to practicality, and lived for her work. She was not used to random strangers coming up to her and asking her out for coffee. Being that she was around the worst excesses men had to offer day in and day out, this didn't bother her. Perhaps she was in danger of becoming an old maid, being single at the age of twenty-eight, but she had never stopped to consider whether or not she should focus on attracting a mate. By all means, she might have turned him down flat had it been another day.


But she was tired. Hungry. Disheartened. The tiny, eternally optimistic part of her brain that was wholly feminine and delighted by things like flowers and compliments was chuffed at the thought of this man, this beautiful man, blushing at her, of all things. She was taken for granted on nearly a daily basis. Why should she not relax and enjoy herself in the company of a handsome stranger? Even if it turned into nothing more than a brief dalliance that started and ended with coffee, so what? It made her feel good. Not a lot made her feel good thanks to the recent events that had slowly sucked Jaded into the mire.


Jingi smiled at him, shy and pleased. "I would quite like that. I was thinking of taking myself somewhere to eat. Pray tell, have you been in the city long?"

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Pyralis would immediately return his gaze to her and smile widely, seemingly to look happy and excited at the thought of having a bite to eat with her.

“I-It would be an honor and a privilege to be in your company my lady. I am afraid I have not been in the city very long. I took a wrong turn in Gridania and somehow…ended up here. How is that even possible I wonder? Oh I’m rambling again! I usually do that when I’m nervous, especially around beauti-gah! Again! So sorry ma’am!”


He would flush again but keep his gaze on her.


He would bow deeply, “My name is Luca my lady. I look forward to our bite to eat and to listen to –everything- you have to say.”


Pyralis studied her reaction and her clothing, if he could get close enough, perhaps he could pickpocket anything useful. Best to play it safe and string her along.

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The other, larger part of Jingi's brain, the one that dealt with debts and the occasional debtor, was suspicious of this stranger who had bumped into her in the middle of the night on a street empty of most but the salacious and was now attempting to take her somewhere. Was that Noki's voice in the back of her head telling her to turn around and go inside and get herself an escort back to her home?


Oh, bollocks, she could be careful and still have fun. It wasn't as if the biggest restaurants in the city were closed, or that most people had gone to bed.


"Pleasure to meet you, Luca! I am Jingi." Take that, Noki, and your anti-fun crusade!


Rebelliousness felt good every once in awhile.


When it wasn't immediately chased with guilt. Why did she always feel guilt?


Or the doubts.


Shut up, self.


"I'm not sure what you expect me to say, though," she giggled; the sound was nervous and made her sound like a fat bleating sheep. "But I'll show you to the Bismarck -- it's our finest restaurant. Do you take a wrong turn and wind up in a new city often?"


Noki's voice continued to blather on about risks and the value of suspicion in the back of her mind.


She ignored it.

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Pyralis sneered in his mind at her laugh. Gah...sounds like a sheep...that is going to bother me. Outwardly he smiled widely and clapped his hands together, "Bismarck? I have heard so many tales about that place! I often do take wrong turns...I am a wandering musician and often just let the wind call my name and take me. Thus why I am out at night, in a city I have never been in, and traveling with a harp!" 


He would swing over his back a mini harp etched with lions, chocobos, dragons, and moogles. The smile widened as he eyed the harp, "Meet my first love, music."


His violet eyes would gaze back at her, "Perhaps I can play you a melody while you tell me about yourself Jingi! My best songs come from random people."

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There was tension in the line of her shoulders, uncertainty and a vague, hopeful look on her face. Here was a woman who was not overmuch used to dealing with handsome strangers who went out of their way to flirt with her. Here was a woman who did not often go out for a good time. One who paid attention to details would see the old inkstains on her fingers, the rigid posture, the deposits of fat that formed on one who spent long hours seated. Her clothing suggested back-room office away from clientele, but her smile was warm and welcoming -- she was not kept out of sight for lack of social skills, though they could be considered a little rusty.


The slope of her shoulders suggested weariness, while the stiff way she walked returned, again, to length of time spent sitting. There were half-circles under her eyes and an earnestness about her that spoke to long hours spent working. The physical signs were there, though whether or not that work was done honestly remained to be seen.


"Its reputation is very well deserved," Jingi agreed, brushing a stray strand of hair back. Her hair was pulled into a severe bun, but flyaways had inevitably happened; the number of them suggested she had touched her hair often throughout the day, as her hair was otherwise orderly. Perhaps it had been done unintentionally or in frustration, as she attempted to subtly put them into order now that someone was talking to her.


"I never quite had a talent for music myself, so I am always delighted to hear the talented play." There was an odd hesitation there -- the mark of the tactful when realizing they do not know just how talented their conversational partner is. Her cheeks reddened. She forced a laugh, winced at the sound. She was aware she sounded like a bleating sheep, abhorred herself for it. "I dare say there isn't much of interest to tell of myself; I am not glamorous or interesting, I'm afraid."

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Pyralis made his body seem like it was nervous, as it should look for someone new to a city meeting a beautiful woman for the first time. He kept an innocent and shy smile on his face occasionally looking away with hints of red appearing in his cheeks every so often. Gods…it made him sick. Why couldn’t he go the simple route and black mail the client as he always did? He still hadn’t decided if he should sleep with the girl or not…he only prayed she was a woman of virtue and waited till marriage for that sort of thing. But she did work in a whore house…I suppose women of virtue wouldn’t work in a whorehouse…right?


He blushed ever so slightly as she moved a strand of hair behind her. He cleared his throat and shook his head, “My lady…that is where you are wrong. Even the tiniest of details can be of interest. For example, the way you move that strand of hair behind your ear is almost intoxicating…the way your cheeks turn ever so red makes my heart a flutter. We all have our ways of been interesting my lady…perhaps it is the way we tell a story or the work we do.”



Pyralis smiled at her and would run a hand through his silver hair.

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Suspicion scoured her. There was some pleasure there, of course, but it had its edges -- and going by her posture, she was feeling them. "How long have you been playing your harp?" Her voice was overbright.


She turned them down another street, started up a ramp that would take them to the upper decks.

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Pyralis tapped his chin with a finger as he followed her, "Oh they say I came out of the womb and my fingers were moving around as if I was playing music. Here let us stop and I'll play you a tune! Something light and comedic no?"


Pyralis would halt and take out his harp and pluck a couple of strings. He genuinely had a smile on his face that was real. Gods he loved to play music, to perform for others. It brought him out of his dark, brooding moods at times and also had a special charm on people. It was as if the music could reach inside the hardest of individuals and get them to smile.


If she agreed to hear him play right then and there he would bust into the song, "A Bear and the Maiden Fair". His voice would be in a soothing baritone and occasionally sing in a higher pitch for the 'Maiden' part.  If there were many people nearby, he would still play.


((couldn't resist :D http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6VMSYIXCCY))

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Jingi was surprised, despite herself. She'd not expected the man to be, well, good. She'd been prepared to offer tactful compliments, or at the least an awkward smile should he truly lack even the pretense of skill, but she found there was no need.


She was captivated by his music.


Where his compliments had put her slightly on edge and teetering towards uncomfortable, his music enticed her. She couldn't help the smile that curved her lips when she thought how easier it was to be entranced with him while he was playing, rather than paying her far too close attention. Easier still when a few passersby drifted closer to watch him play. There was spontaneous, scattered applause when he'd finished. Jingi participated, blushing all the while; she was not used to being companion to someone who attracted such attention. It was. . .different.


She took a step back, unsure of herself as some of those gathered called for another song.

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Pyralis almost lost himself in playing that music and singing. That was dangerous. The persona he built would be exposed if he wasn't too careful. Luckily the crowd has given him the advantage he needed.


He smiled softly and blushed when looking at Jingi. He spoke loudly so they could all hear, "I thank you for the praise and kind words! But my lady and I here have a date. So more songs will have to wait till she has had enough of my singing and company which I assure you may take a long time!"


Pyralis smiled softly at her again and held a hand out for her to take. He would follow her to the Bismarck if allowed.


This was turning out to be more work than he expected. Hopefully the girl would start melting in his hands.

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Every utterance of direct praise was pleasing, but it also made Jingi uncomfortable. The duality of her reaction showed, especially when she took his hand. Her touch was light, hesitant: she was ready to withdraw at the slightest provocation. She was charmed, but wary. Very wary. Hard not to be, really, what with the lateness of the evening, the place she'd met him, and far too many stories from the girls (and, sometimes, boys) of Jaded bouncing around between her ears. Not all men were half so earnest as they appeared, and this one was very, very forward for having just met her.


But she didn't want him to prove Noki right. She wanted this gentleman to be genuine.


She was studiously quiet as they walked the remainder of the way to the Bismark. Any comments or questions he might have asked would have been deflected away with smiles and short replies. She was not rude, but she was evasive. She was hoping a meal might settle him -- and herself -- down. The last thing she needed was to have made her day worse for herself. Or to embarrass herself. Gods, she hadn't already done that, had she?


She sighed as she sat down at the table they'd been shown to. She looked over the menu, glad to be near so many other people, and then looked back up to him. "So, what are your plans now that you are in Limsa Lominsa? Do you need help finding your way back home?"

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Pyralis removed his hat and harp and set it aside. He ran a hand through his silver hair and looked to her with a smile. Perhaps he had gone too far with the song? He should of known that a reserved girl like this wouldn't like the dramatic flair but he truthfully believed opposites would attract. It wasn't too late still though as she was willing to sit and have a meal with him. 


As she spoke he began to glance at the menu he was familiar with. He smiled softly and spoke gently, "I suppose I can see what opportunities are available here to me. It's nice to get away from a place that is full of sand or a place that is just full of forest. This city...is beautiful. I always dreamed of living in a beautiful place surrounded by water."


He forced himself to blush as he put the menu down. He face palmed and shook his head, "My lady...I am so sorry to have performed like that in public. Here I am desperate to make the best impression I can for you when I should just be myself." He sighed and slumped slightly looking a bit ashamed.

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Jingi's upper body relaxed. Her smile became less strained, and more natural -- though it yet harbored a hint of shyness. "Limsa Lominsa is one place best visited; it loses some of its charm once you've lived here for a spell, though I suppose it would be better should you have a surfeit of money."


Her confidence made a second bid, and she leaned forward over her menu. "Do you always try your best to impress women you've just met in new cities?"


One thing about restaurants: whenever things got awkward the menu (or food, once it arrived) was there to hide behind.

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Pyralis looked to her with a smile, still a touch of redness to his cheeks, “Twelve no. It’s just, well, do you believe in fate at all? I mean what are the chances I’m walking in the middle of the night, staring stupidly at my map, and run into a beautiful woman? If that isn’t a sign of something with great potential, may the twelve continue to bless me with ignorance.”


He pulled up the menu to cover the lower part of his face so only his violet eyes were exposed to her.


I wonder if I should order the lobster or clams? Wait are clams the aphrodisiac? Lobster it is.



He glanced at her with his violet eyes to gaze her reaction.

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Somewhere, deep down, Jingi had a soft spot for romance. She blushed at his words, trying to maintain the officious aura that she'd kept up for the past . . . several years. It was hard not to. That was how she'd kept herself separate from the often clumsy approaches of men who were, occasionally, too drunk to realize she was not on that side of the floor in Jaded.


She glanced up, saw his eyes, quickly looked away.


"I um. . .well, you know. . ." She was flustered. Twelve save her, she was worse than a thirteen year old girl the first time a boy paid attention to her. "Your music really was quite lovely! Have you ever performed in plays?" Her voice was bright, natural.


Only an idiot wouldn't catch that topic switch, Jingi. You're sooooo smooth.


She forced a small giggle.


That probably wasn't a good idea either.


She busied herself with the menu. "The seafood is always so fresh," she added, words coming too quickly for casual.


She hoped the floor opened up and swallowed her.

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Pyralis blinked a few times and let out a soft laugh, “I’m glad to see I’m not the only one nervous. Yes, let us talk of lighter things! I grew up a musician, my parents; Twelve bless them, were performers as well. I guess you can say that I learnt from them. They put me in plays as a child and I guess it kind of just grew on me. What about you? What do you do? Do you enjoy it?”


He glanced at the menu and tilted his head, “I’m thinking of getting the seafood actually…”




I swear if she laughs or giggles one more time…

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"You absolutely can't go wrong with the seafood," Jingi said, leaning forward. She looked back down at the menu, thinking about his prior statements. "That sounds like an exciting thing, for a child. I cannot say mine was terribly exciting. My father was a scribe, and my mother an eccentric -- officially, she was a recordskeeper, but she was always given to her fancies. Oh, how I hated her ideas of excursions. I swore I would be nothing like her, but here I am, keeping records and managing numbers." She chuckled. The sound was slightly more bearable than her giggling had been. "I suppose I enjoy it, though it feels more as if it calls to me more than something I would do for fun in my free time." She considered. "Contrarily, it eats my time. I suppose there isn't much I do for fun, after all -- just managing books."


She gestured to the table, including Pyralis in her sweep. "This is the first time I've eaten with someone who isn't a colleague in years."


She looked up at him, smiled. It was a sweet sort of smile.

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