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For Whose Fortune【Semi Closed】


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When you want to keep yourself unnoticed, often the best place to do so is among the largest crowd.


The Drowning Wench was bustling with raiders, Maelstrom officers, adventurers, and workmen alike, packed almost to the walls, as if the establishment were trying and failing to contain some kind of people-comprised landslide. The din was immeasurably loud; pirates guffawed, adventurers argued, furniture clattered as they slid to and fro in rearrangement, slight clinks resonated with the clashing of tankards. Tenfingers had a positively cheery look on his face, even as he and his staff struggled to serve all of the patrons adequately.


All in all, it was a completely average evening for the Wench.


The fiery afternoon glow of the sun had begun to sink beneath the horizon, giving way to an apricot-coloured sunset. Rather than settle the atmosphere, the approach of night only seemed to intensify the activity in the Wench. Apprentices from Naldiq and Vymelli's began to file in like ducks in a line, done with their work for the day. Fishermen clamoured for tables, and the noise mutated into a chaotic cacophony, a hundred different lives all intersecting with one another at a singular point.


Amidst the chaos of the pub was a single quiet table on the edge of the establishment, occupied by a male Midlander Hyur and a large Sea Wolf Roegadyn. The two quietly sipped on their drinks, their heads swivelling like lighthouse beacons, scanning the Wench's crowd.


The Midlander was dressed quite fancifully. A red silk shirt, embroidered with gold, adorned his frame. Polished silver earrings jingled whenever he made a slight movement with his head, the gleam of which contrasted with the Hyur's dusky black hair streaked with fiery orange. Whenever the Midlander brushed back his long bangs, fanciful black tattoos could occasionally be seen on the sides of his face. His grey-blue eyes glittered, and the corner of his lip seemed perpetually curved upwards in the subtlest hint of a grin.


The Sea Wolf, on the other hand, was dressed much more functionally. Simple leather armor, formed and fitted for battle, and a black tricorne cap were the most complex aspects of the Roegadyn's attire. The giant occasionally stroked his neatly trimmed sand-colored beard in contemplation, before leaning over the table to speak with the Hyur.


"Ye be thinkin' this character'll show, lad?" The Roegadyn rumbled with all of the smooth clarity of a gravel landslide.


"No," the Midlander responded casually, taking another languid sip from his tankard, "but that doesn't eliminate the possibility." His casual demeanor belied a serious attitude and a sharp attentiveness as he scanned the crowd once more, holding back a growl as he apparently failed to find whatever it was he was seeking.


"Kink" was the name--no, not a name, an alias--of the one Nero was looking for. A Miqo'te who, supposedly, had her hands in the pockets of every crime organisation in Limsa Lominsa, and who had apparently crossed the wrong ones. Such a powerful resource would be invaluable of the his operations were to expand. And if Nero wanted to expand beyond Limsa Lominsa, he would need a sizable portion of the city under his control, and to obtain that, he needed information.


Escaping from Nero's lips was an exasperated sigh, the latest of many. In some ways, the fact that Limsa Lominsa was not Ul'dah made things more complex. At least in Ul'dah, authority was undisputed: he who had gil was king. The hierarchy of power there was savage, one-dimensional, and merciless, but it was simple. Limsa Lominsa, however, had the culture of pirates, and the pecking order was as chaotic as the pirates themselves. The city's structure seemed, to the untrained eye, forever in flux. Sometimes it was money that bought authority. Othertimes a display of skill or strength. And on more than one occasion, authority was bought with the blood of a body that turned up by floating on to the shores of La Noscea.


The Wench was the third pub Nero had visited today. What information he had managed to gather told him that this Kink character was likely to frequent bars and taverns. Nero dare not risk revealing his intentions by digging any further into Kink: someone with that much information would likely be very valuable in this city, and if someone knew he was looking for her, he might be beaten to the punch.


After another minute of scanning the crowds, Nero waved his hand at the Roegadyn. "Satz, go back to the ship. Get that shipment over to Vesper Bay. I've kept you here long enough." Wordlessly and without argument, the Sea Wolf stood up, nodded solemnly, and made for the exit of the Wench, the crowds parting unconsciously as they usually did for Roegadyn. With the intimidating Satz having left it, some of the more belligerent patrons attempted to appropriate Nero's table, and they were met with a boot slamming on its surface and a sharp glare. Muttering, they wandered off.


The only identifying features Nero had garnered on Kink was that she was a Miqo'te--what clan had not been made clear to him--and a distinct "kink" on her tail, hence the name. Such a detail would be hard to spot in the busy crowds, but that wasn't about to stop him from trying, as he held up the tankard again and peered over the brim to glance into the crowds. If I'm lucky, she'll be looking for a table and run into mine, a sardonic thought wafted through the Hyur's head. 


As if he would be so fortunate.

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Loud suited Zhavi. So did Azeyma's daily retreat back to whatever hell had spawned her.


She was making her rounds. Checking up on rumors, jobs, clients, employers. . .enemies: this was what occupied the majority of her time when she wasn't actively running on someone's business. Every day she did her rounds differently, or not at all; stagnation was the key to death. Pattern was the fastest way to earn a tail. Disguise, subtlety, change: these were the hallmarks upon which Zhi plied her trade.


It was why she'd returned to genderless, shapeless clothing. A loose vest made of something that looked like canvas -- and dyed a muddy green -- fell from shoulders to hips in a nearly straight line, caught only by a sagging belt. Every so often Zhi would tug at it while she walked, inching it back up her slim hips. Her pants were undyed, worn, and also baggy. Numerous faded stains and patches covered them. Her shoes had been repaired so often it was dubious as to just how much of the material was original, but they held together.


All in all, she was just this side of looking too poor to be in the Wench at all; she could have been a fisherman's brat or some other poor merchant's get looking for distraction in the adult's world. She did appear young in those clothes, but someone really looking at her would see the canny way she scoped out the crowd, would note the way she navigated the room. She was older than she looked, years of malnutrition aside.


Having not seen anyone she was trying to avoid (that the list had become long enough for it to become a regular thing was commentary enough on the way things had been sliding for her, lately) she picked her way through to the bar and to the harried barman behind it. It took creative application of elbows, and nimble dodging, but eventually she managed to create enough of a space to actually see the bar, rather than a collection of backs and asses.


Tenfingers, having seen her, gave her a nod before she could open her mouth to order. She always ordered the same thing: whatever was alcoholic and cheapest on the menu. Unless someone else was buying, of course.


The mob at the bar moved and closed, and she found herself back on the outside. There was an old, crippled sailor on one of the stools: he gave her a knowing smile with more slyness in it than teeth. She shook her head before he could pull anything tempting out of his pockets, and edged away.


Tenfingers was nothing if not efficient, and it wasn't long before one of the serving girls came from around the bar with a cry of "Kink! Oy, Kink!"


Zhavi found her and plucked the drink out of her hand. She pulled the girl close. "I know ye've longed t'scream out me name, lass, but t'night I was thinkin' somethin' more private."


The girl wrenched away, shaking her head. Before a rejoinder could be applied, Zhi said, "jes call me Resin fer awhile, a'right? Tell th'other servers fer me?"


Zhi pressed a few gil more than the drink was worth into the girl's hand.


With a roll of her eyes and a flounce, the girl disappeared back into the crowd. Touchy. Zhi sipped at her drink, eying the crowd for any signs that someone had noticed the name, and her, by extension. Lately, it was just a smidge healthier for her to do the approaching rather than vice-versa. Knives in guts just weren't her thing. Unless she was the one holding the knife, of course.

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"Kink! Oy, Kink!"


Among the boisterous bedlam of the Wench was a cry that would have been almost completely drowned out amongst the rowdy patrons, but one that had, beyond all odds, managed to carry itself to Nero's ears.


His reaction to the exclamation was less than graceful. A cough into the tankard he had been drinking out of almost spilled some of alcohol onto his shirt. Swallowing air to get his bearings, the Hyur's head rapidly swivelled around, searching for the source of the cry for several seconds before regaining his composure.


Assuming that this "Kink" was as knowledgeable as the murmurings claimed, it was likely this person would not want to be found. Standing up now or actively searching through the crowd might simply frighten her away, and after nine hours of no activity more stimulating than languishing in pubs and people watching, Nero had no intention of losing his mark now.


His focus intensified, trying to pick out the presence of the trademark Miqo'te ears and tails among the crowd, both male and female. Assuming Kink didn't want to be found, it was reasonable she--or perhaps he, for Nero began to doubt his information--was also in a disguise. A disguise that wouldn't draw attention. A pirate? No, there were no Miqo'te pirates from what Nero knew. A member of the Maelstrom? There were a few of the cat folk among the ranks of the Storm, but the uniform would be too impractical to obtain for a street rat. That left the commoners, the fishermen, craftsmen, or merchants. The exact category of people Nero was hoping he wouldn't have to sift through.


As it stood, the crowd was simply too thick. Nero had originally chosen a table at the edge of the establishment to have a vantage point with which to watch the rest of the Wench, but it seems his choice in strategic positioning had backfired with the massive crowd, as the only thing he could see was a swarm of people.


It seemed now that the only way he would ever have a chance at finding Kink would be to wade through the crowd. Careful and slow would have to do...but what happened if Kink spotted him and fled? If Nero gave chase, Kink would doubtless interpret him as a threat. If Nero didn't give chase, however, Kink would nonetheless be alerted to the presence of someone, possibly an enemy, pursuing them, and he or she would likely sink into hiding.


An ambush, the thought made itself known. The only way to do this was to identify Kink and approach them before they spotted him. It was the one time of few that Nero cursed his flashy, attention-seeking appearance; this was one situation where subterfuge was the key. If he was lucky, even with his distinct highlights, shirt, and jewelry, he'd appear to just be another ship captain having a drink.


If he was unlucky...failure wasn't something Nero liked to think about.


The Midlander stood up casually with his tankard, carefully keeping his stance relaxed and casual, and stepped away from the table. Sensing the departure, several patrons immediately swarmed over to the table like sharks competing for a school of minnows, the few seats being claimed in seconds. Nero began to wade through the crowd, his face marked with a slight smirk so as to keep a non-threatening appearance, as he continued to discretely scan the crowd. Cursing under his breath, Nero began to approach the bar, gingerly sidling and pressing his way through the crowd. Tenfingers was trustworthy and reliable; as much as the smuggler hated having to reveal his intentions, perhaps the proprietor of the Wench would have an idea as to the whereabouts of Kink.

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Zhi had watched the girl's retreat, stepping back out of the space she'd occupied, and back to the bar. She almost jumped out of her skin when a bony hand shot out and grabbed her by the upper arm. Her squeal was, thank the gods, drowned out by the general din -- at least for everyone but those closest to her.


It was the old sailor. Again. This time, however, he had pulled out the temptation. It was in a perfectly folded piece of linen wrapping, secured with knotted twine. Desire to take it surged up in her. She wanted to reach out and snatch it, but she curbed the urge by taking hold of his hand instead. He was strong for such a frail looking old man -- strong, and with a wicked reputation. That was how he managed to keep his stool when it was such prime real estate.


"Gunner," she said, teeth gritted, "I ain't buyin'. Leggo."


"No?" He held the morsel up closer to her face.


She could smell it. Scales, but she could. . .she shook her head, rearing back. Her nostrils flared, and her fingers dug into his hand. "Go bother someone else, ye ol' bugger."


He showed her his missing teeth again. "Why? Ye been me best customer, Kink."


She narrowed her eyes. "That ain't true."


"True enough, lass. C'mon, it's been days since ye last bought."


The reminder was so not welcome. Maybe just. . .just one. She shook her head again. Finally, she managed to peel his hand off her arm. She backed away without looking behind her, bumped into someone and then someone else again. "Later, Gunner. Not now."


She turned to push through the crowd before her cravings got the better of her, sucking at the contents of her mug as if it was the salvation to all of her problems.

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It wasn't so much a struggle to the bar as much as it was pitched combat. Shoving wasn't an option, as the last thing Nero needed was to start a brawl. It took some careful pushing and squeezing through the crowd to even break into what had essentially become a living barricade around the bar of the Wench, filled with clamouring voices and drunken revelry.


Gods save me if they're is stuck in this crowd, Nero swore to himself silently. With how dense the Wench was, his mark could have easily slipped out of entirely without the Hyur even noticing. The nine hours of pub crawling


Nero felt his shoulder collide rather suddenly with someone's head. "Apologies," he muttered indifferently, before noticing that said head possessed some fur-covered ears. It was all the smuggler could do to keep himself from inhaling sharply; one side of him was screaming that this Miqo'te could be his mark, while the other was trying to keep some semblance of composure just in case it wasn't, lest he make a fool of himself in the middle of the tavern.


Swiftly he looked at the person he had bumped into up and down. "Scruffy" was an apt single-word description. Nothing marked her--or him, Nero couldn't tell with the baggy clothing--as anything unusual. A slight bend was noticeable in the tail. Their ragged linen attire marked them as probably some poor fisherman, one of the city's destitute. The fur on the ears was matted and caked in some manner of dirt or other foreign substance. All in all, someone completely and utterly unremarkable.


A slight bend in the tail.


The words escaped from Nero's lips before he could stop them, and to his ears, sounded as loud as a gong.



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One ear swiveled towards this new direction her name had come from. If she hadn't been right at his shoulder, chances were she wouldn't have even heard the word.


She downed the rest of her drink. Turned. Looked up. Her grin was facile, her posture as easy and relaxed as it could be in a crowded tavern. Sweat had formed along forehead and temples; her shirt clung to chest and back. Soon enough there would be pit stains. Without a breeze to move through the doorways, it was getting stuffy. Besides, the air was muggy. There'd be rain in another day or two.


Those thoughts were distant. Distracting. Zhi would not show weakness, not in such a crowded place. Not one where she was known to frequent. Running, fleeing -- it would be marked. There would be some who would see her for who she was, and more rumors would start chasing her. Who wanted to hire a runner who couldn't keep her problems private?


Someone jostled her, and she bumped into the stranger again. Stranger, not someone she knew. That could mean a good thing. She still tensed, the ghostly sensation of an imagined blade sinking into her gut teasing her belly. Nothing happened, and she pushed back against the press, taking a half step back from him so she could get a better look.


If someone intended to kill her, they wouldn't send someone so. . . flamboyant. Zhi didn't rate flamboyant. She relaxed by increments. "Buy me a drink?" She shoved the empty mug into his ribcage.

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That wasn't the line of inquiry Nero was expecting, but he was glad that, whether this Miqo'te was Kink or not, they weren't screaming and running away.


The Wench was starting to get uncomfortably stuffy. Even so, Nero flashed a slight grin at her--a feeble attempt to dissuade any suspicions she might have--and took the tankard that had made forceful contact with his chest. As it were, he was wedged uncomfortably in the melee that was the crowd in front of the bar. As best as he could, Nero jerked a thumb at his formerly unoccupied corner table and also cocked his head in its direction. 


"I'll buy your drink. Let's talk," he said rather loudly, his sentence almost naught but a whisper in proportion to the incredible noise being generated by the business of the establishment.


The most he could do is hope the Miqo'te saw his gesture and realise that as far as assassins go, Nero would be a very poor one. Struggling his way to the bar took what seemed like an hour, and upon reaching it, the Midlander thrust the empty mug towards the beleaguered Tenfingers.


"Fill this," Nero nearly shouted.


Tenfingers glanced at his empty mug with a sour expression.


Barely containing an impatient growl, Nero slammed a stack of gil on the bar, not even bothering to check if he had overpaid.


"Fill this, please," was the followup, the smuggler's tone being a cross between conciliatory and irritated.


And thus was the mug filled. In his imagination, a standing ovation came from the crowd.


His grand mission of epic proportions achieved, Nero proceeded to struggle his way back to the other side of the bar, hoping beyond hope that the liquid would still be inside the mug by the time he managed to escape the mob...and that the Miqo'te would still be around for him to talk to.

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She didn't know what he wanted. Given the fact that he knew her and she didn't know him, she suspected it had to do with business. Did she want that business? Should she leave?


She hesitated as she looked in the direction he'd pointed in, the destination currently blocked by bodies and body odor. She could always turn him down if she didn't like what he had to say. She was a streetrunner, by the gods. Only a craven coward would run away.


Xydane's words echoed in her head. She grimaced, ears going flat, and started pushing through the crowd. When she squeezed out into a small pocket of space surrounding a table, she found all of the seats had been taken. Figured; when the room was this crowded, any vacancy in seating would be taken in the time it took to blink. Given a late enough hour and enough drinking, it was probable there'd be a few scuffles over table space.


She sighed and lingered just off the shoulder of a woman presently occupying one of the seats, looking for the bearer of her free drink. The table conversation was about currents and seasonal wind direction -- sailors of some kind, this lot -- so she tuned it out. Nothing she needed to know.

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Finally struggling out of the mob at the bar, Nero was incredibly relieved to see the Miqo'te huddling near the table he had gestured at. Said table was also occupied by uncouth looking people, the exact kind of people Nero didn't have the patience to deal with right now.


Incredibly, the mug had survived the battle intact and with most of its contents still present within the vessel. As Nero sidled over to it, he took out a sizable sack of gil and dumped it on the table. The sack's unexpected arrival hushed the sailors briefly.


"Hello, ladies and gents. Here's some gil. Go buy some drinks. Get off my table," Nero grinned cheerfully, his earrings jingling as if to express his amusement. He brushed his hair back, and his icy blue eyes gleamed with positive intent. The eyes of one of the sailors, a bearded Highlander, narrowed dangerously.


"Ye left it, so it be ours," the sailor growled. Not even before the gruff statement was finished, another respectable sack was plopped onto the table. Nero's grin remained quite wide.


The sailors crowded to each other to murmur for a bit before muttering in annoyance, but they seemed to acquiesce to the Hyur's demands, as they snatched both sacks promptly and stood up to leave.


"We're takin' th' seats," the Highlander growled, his companions lifting the furniture over their shoulders as if they were sacks of potatoes.


"Leave one. I did just pay you a month's earnings in advance," Nero proposed amiably. The Highlander stopped to consider, then slammed the chair down on the table as he and his rabble left to find somewhere else to drink. Having successfully gotten rid of the peanut gallery, Nero shoved the chair towards the Miqo'te with his foot, indicating with his hand that she should sit. He placed the mug on the table and leaned his left shoulder against the wall, placing his right foot behind his left and his wrists crossed in front of his waist in a relaxed pose.


"I will assume that my identification was correct then, Kink," Nero remarked jovially, his earrings generating a gentle chime as he tilted his head. His wide grin from before had shrunk, but the corner of his lip still remained upward turned.

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The exchange, and the gil, was scrutinized, though Zhi kept her expression amused and flippant. The sailors paid no mind to her; she was Nero's chattel and not even worth the time it took to properly insult. She didn't mind. Most of her attention was also taken up by that selfsame man. He was putting on a show for her, whether or not he meant to do so.


She took her drink from him, but rather than sit on the chair she spun it around and hopped up onto the table. She propped her feet up on the chair's back, and showed him the widest grin she could manage without looking like a complete loony. It bared her fangs.


"Th'one an' only." She took a sip, not taking her eyes from him. "Somethin' I can do fer yerself, dovey?" The second grin, once she'd pulled free from her drink, was a sight uglier than the last.

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Nero's grin grew into a smirk. He could recognise what she was trying to do--how could he not, when he himself employed the tactic so many times? Hold your composure, flash a smile to make them feel relaxed, make your conversation partner feel as it were a privilege for them to be speaking to you; all the better to set the terms in your favour. He did notice some particularly sharp teeth when her wide smile crested her face. Is that supposed to be intimidating? Really? he thought, bemused at the idea. 


Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but even through Kink's baggy clothes that did well to hide any semblance of figure she might have, Nero could see that she was quite thin and probably didn't eat very regular meals. When they first bumped into one another, "scruffy" was the word he'd use to describe her, and looking at her now, it seemed wholly inadequate as a descriptor.


He tugged on the arm of a passing barmaid, harried and stressed as she looked. "A meal, please. Bread, cheese, fish," Nero quipped. The barmaid looked insulted. "This not be the Bismarck, sir," she said testily, clearly annoyed at the interruption. Nero responded by slipping a sizable handful of gil into her skirt pocket and winking at her. The barmaid huffed in indignation and ran off.


Hopefully he wouldn't need to hand out any more gil, as Nero was out of pouches to give besides his own.


"You can start," Nero began, turning his attention back to the ragged Miqo'te languishing on the table, "by telling me why some powerful people in this city want you dead. Because I believe I might be able to...dissuade them from that course." He responded to her wide grin with his own smirk. He didn't actually know if the people she crossed were particularly powerful in Limsa Lominsa, but her reaction would likely tell him whether or not he had hit the mark.

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The Drowning Wench, tonight filled to the brim with pirate's, brigand's and criminals alike. It made Inessa sick to her stomach just thinking of having to wade throw the crowd as soon as she entered the tavern. Ultimately, she was here for one person who went by the codename of kink. Whoever this person was, Inessa knew that this 'kink', would lead her straight to the people she needed to kill, that she had to kill. That she was sworn by an oath to kill.


Inessa entered into the crowd. She forced her way through, making it clear to people that met her gaze behind the mask that she wore that she had no time nor the patience to indulge them. This along with her emitting a clear killing aura for those who turned to her, made it clear that she was a foe who would be a reckoning to deal with. Thus most who turned to her decided that she wasnt worth the hassle and let her be.


Inessa made her way to the bar counter of the Tavern and motioned to one of the bartender's. "A bottle of wine please." Inessa said as she put a bag of gil into the hands of the waitress that stood before her. The waitress took the bag and after a few moments, retrieved a large bottle of wine from the shelves behind the bar and gave it to Inessa, who took the bottle away with her as she wandered away from the counter.


Inessa's source confirmed that kink would be here tonight and this may be her only chance to find this person and learn where these crime lords are.


Inessa began to wade through the crowd of people, slowly though. Listening in on the conversation's of the people she passed by. If she was going to find the person, she would need to be able to single him or her out from the general conversation's that were taking place.

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There was a flicker of something in her gaze; a jitter of stillness that passed through her in an eyeblink and was gone. It was in response to his little jab; the request for food had received little more than the dimming of her grin. Faint amusement was all that remained.


He had her full attention, now.


"Hmmm," she scratched the edge of her jaw, pulled her fingers away and looked at what had gotten lodged under the nails. "An' who're ye t'dissuade anyone?"


She flicked the gunk away, and looked back up up at him. She was smiling at him as if she was indulging him in some juvenile prank.

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The smirk remained on Nero's face. "Who I am matters less than what I have, and what I have is gil to keep you fed and sheltered, men for security, and a ship as an escape plan." He shrugged, and ceased his leaning against the wall, bringing his face uncomfortably close to hers, his earrings jingling all the way. A very faint cologne could be detected from his proximity as he raised an eyebrow.


"That's not to say who I am isn't important, because it is. And who I am is your only possible friend in this godsforsaken city." Nero's statement exuded utter confidence, the sort that a merchant might have when he thinks that there is no way you will not refuse his offer. Whether this Kink knew it or not, she was engaged in a battle of verbiage with Nero, a silent wrestle for the upper hand and control of the conversation--and control of the conversation meant control of the terms.

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A very faint stink could be detected from Zhi's proximity. It was mostly composed of fish. Fish with a hint of rot. She giggled. "Ye want a pet, dovey?" Her voice had gone soft. She matched him stare for stare. "I'd make a real bad pet." She lifted her free hand and would attempt to drive her pointer finger into his chest. The pressure she exerted would be light, but definitely present. "Now, I ain't real sure what ye think I'd be able t'do fer ye wi'all that confidence ye got puffin' up yer chest, but I'm sure it ain't worth all that."


She lowered her voice even more. "Cuz that sounds like grounds fer indenturin', dove, an' that ain't what I do."

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The Miqo'te was shrewd. "I have no intention of making you work for me without incentive. That's not how I operate," Nero said, pulling his face back and shrugging nonchalantly. A harassed barmaid popped into view with a roughly hewn wooden plate, on top of which lay a hunk of wheat bread and a roasted cod. The smuggler had completely forgotten about the request for food, but took the plate obligingly and placed it on the table. He gestured towards Kink.


"Have some. Or all of it. Or don't. It matters not to me." The grin evaporated from his face, and Nero's expression had shifted from joviality to one that looked quite serious. The astute observer would note that the Hyur seemed more natural in this state than when he was constantly smiling.


He folded his arms again, standing up straight. "I am looking for information, something that to my understanding you have quite a great deal of. And failing that, I am looking for connection. Informants, traders, agents, the like. Connections that would...give me some room to grow, as it were." Gone was the pompous confidence, the bemused sense of enthusiasm. The laughing glimmer in his eyes had given way to the dull sheen of calculation. It was Nero's intent to make Kink understand how serious he was behind the facade of camaraderie and jokes.


"I'm not asking you to become an employee of mine. Perform some independent work for me, however, and I will promise you payment and protection. Should you require it, I own a frigate on the docks: I can grant you safe passage to wherever you choose." Nero shifted his arms, resting his left on his hip and his right to his side. "What I propose is...symbiosis. A mutually beneficial partnership. You have something I need, and I have something you need."


It was risky, allowing Kink to have control of the terms like this, but the amused quips and fake hospitality could only carry Nero so far. He wanted results, and he wanted them half an hour ago.

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Inessa's ear's twitched, picking up the noise from a specific nearby conversation. "Connections, traders, agents?" She thought to herself. She must have found her mark. Sitting at a table not far from her location were a Hyur male with black hair and a Miqo'te. Inessa couldn't tell what gender the Miqo'te was. Inessa decided to gamble time on this conversation, and with that positioned herself rather close to not garner attention, but that was hardly possible considering Inessa couldn't help but eye down the Miqo'te before her.


As for the man next to her, Inessa's blood began to boil over at him. Nero Lasarov, a crime syndicate leader from Ul'dalh. Inessa had tangled with more than one member of his organization before, all butchered and their heads carved with the word scum and sent back to him though. A confrontation now would be deadly to say the least, but it appears if he is on buisness with the Miqo'te next to him.


"An complace of his? No, he shouldnt have contacts in Limsa... " Inessa thought to herself. She had half a mind to confront him and his accomplice, of course she would fake not knowing him, lest his and her cover was both blown. They were both wanted people who wouldn't risk exposing the other. Nevertheless, she positioned herself several feet away, closely listening in to the conversation, ready to jump in the moment she could gamble on the Miqo'te before her was her mark.

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Negotiations, or at least the sort Zhavi was used to, tended to have one goal: show as little of your hand as was possible while trying to get the other party to show more of theirs. This laying everything on the table was not a tactic she was used to from someone expecting to come on equal terms. This was something someone like Galine would do. Though, she was mildly surprised that someone with a small reputation like hers -- especially given her proclivity for independent work -- would attract such a predator.


There were three potential alleys down which this interaction could go: he was bluffing out of desperation or ego, he had way more than the things he offered, or he planned on taking her in and then extorting her for work long after the contract should have ended.


Thing was about negotiations, you could say whatever you wanted to say. Her need for good word of mouth kept her honest (enough), kept her glued to whatever deals she worked out with her employers. What kept him honest she hadn't the slightest clue.


That was a problem.


While she thought it through, she took up the hunk of bread and split it in two. She chewed, staring at him, and made a decision. "Who else have ye hired in town? I need names."


If he had and she knew him, she'd know exactly what sort of honest he was.

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Nero shook his head. "No one. Up until now, I have operated only as myself, with my crew, or my employees, who are naught but beggars or fishermen looking for some extra coin as dockhands or errand runners. That is to say," the Hyur swept back his bangs with a gloved hand as he tilted his head slightly, "that you're the first person I am contacting regarding my expansion. You may consider yourself honoured." That wasn't entirely true, as by necessity a smuggler needs to have built a sizeable client base in order to do business, but Nero had already taken a risk by granting Kink a favourable position in the negotiations; if he didn't have her trust (or the closest thing resembling it), she'd likely vanish.


He folded his arms across his chest. Nero didn't like it, this dependence. His "company" had been operating out of Limsa Lominsa for just over two years now, and he had amassed a respectable amount of coin from both legal and illegal trade; a second ship was already under construction, one that would aid in his bid to expand. How much he could make on his own, however, and how far his influence might extend depended more on independent efforts. Finding a good contact was not as simple as providing a sizeable paycheck. While Merlwyb might hold the reigns on the city, Limsa Lominsa's underbelly was borderline anarchy. 


"Make no mistake, however, I've no interest in friendship or intimacy in this regard," Nero said rather coldly. If his intuition right, then the Miqo'te would be the suspicious sort--and with good reason. The kind of person for whom independence and self-reliance were virtues. Attempting to cozy up to her with his usual joviality and forwardness would most likely backfire, not to mention that Nero wasn't interested in discovering whether or not Miqo'te and Hyur could share the same fleas. "I will fulfill my professional obligations to you, just as I'd expect you to do the same for me."

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Professional obligation. Yeah.


Most of the people Zhi dealt with weren't so far above her that they could offer blanket statements of protection. Or would, generally speaking, offer to take her in. It sounded like an exclusive contract; he'd be taking care of her for all of her secrets and probably most of her time.


It was close enough to Galine to make her skin crawl.


Problem was, she did need that protection. Especially considering that things with Jager were getting. . .dangerous. She couldn't trust him to watch her back so easily anymore. She'd have to deal with that -- but in the meantime, she needed alternate options. Even if those were probably more risky.


"One week," she said, after finishing the hunk of bread. She pulled off a piece of the fish and sucked it down. "Five hunnerd an' fifty gil. Ye put a tail on me fer yer protection. In return, I'll find ye whatever need y'have in that time. After th'week, I don't like yer terms, I'm gone an' ye don't bother me."


With that much gil, she could afford to disappear for awhile in order to lose him if he got. . .persistent.


"If we're both solid, we'll re-deal th'hand."

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The conversation was about to end and Inessa was running out of time. She needed to discover if this was her mark or not and she had little to go on but for now, she decided to go aggressive and bluff for her answer.


Inessa pretends to trip, knocking a drunk sailor out of his chair from one of the nearby tables then snatched the seat as she recovered from the fall, then taking the small stool, carried it over to the table to where she thought her mark was and sat down.


"Good evening to you m'lord and lady. I am going to tell you a story." Inessa said as she uncorked the bottle of wine in her hand's.


"As I wandered La Noscea, I came upon a rat at the inn, who told me where I could find a certain cat, and this said cat was supposed to be here today and the cat could tell me where the big criminal bosses of La Noscea were. After he told me though, I cut him down lest the information about a cat like me asking around got out. So... are you the cat talked about?" Inessa said, lifting her mask barely enough for her to take a swig from the bottle of wine, barely even drinking a bit of it, then putting her mask back on completely. "Make no mistake, I am no enemy to you. Consider me a friend with my own proposal if you're willing to listen."

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Nero's grin returned, an amiable expression that sharply contrasted with his previous business-like demeanour. At this point, the situation had become a simple thing for him to play, and while it presented more risks and would cost more money, if it worked, the return could potentially be enormous. He glanced around briefly; while a subtle exchange of money in a crowded tavern was reasonably common in Limsa Lominsa, there was still the potential that someone may had been eavesdropping. A rapid scan of his surroundings didn't lead Nero to any suspicious persons...though that didn't mean it was necessarily safe.


By tilting the scales considerably in Kink's favour, Nero was taking a gamble on the Miqo'te's trustworthiness. Risky as it was, there was also some measure of security in it; Kink was evidently poor, scraggly, and on the run from people she lacked the ability to fight. Nero's assessment of the situation was that to Kink, she needed him more than he needed her.


And such a position was quite advantageous.


Nonetheless, he'd gone too far to call it off now. Casually, the smuggler took out his last pouch and quickly did some counting. It was just barely enough for what he had intended, but it would do.


As he was about to drop the entirety of the pouch onto the table, their conversation was suddenly interrupted by a stranger who had, beyond the odds, managed to shove herself in the vicinity of their table. Was this another one of Kink's pursuers? The smile evaporated from Nero's face. This was a very unamusing interjection, and he hadn't expected to run into trouble so soon. "Make your proposal elsewhere. It's rude to interrupt a conversation," the smuggler said, raising an eyebrow. His fists flexed themselves at his sides as his arms crossed.

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Oh, but it was amusing. Very, very amusing.


Zhi looked from the newcomer to the man who had pulled out the requested amount of gil.


She simpered. "Oh aye, there's plenty o'cats in th'city what have hold o'that sort o'information. Ain't much o' a secret as t'the who."


The information that went for a premium was the what (how they'd gotten and how they were staying in that position of power, all of the intricate means that they killed to keep from going public) and the where (since a good few number of them were pirates and scallywags, and needed to keep hidden from Limsa's protectors).


Could be the newcomer was going to try to start with something easily told and try to sneak more information out of her without her realizing it.


But what was interesting was the bit about supposed to be somewhere. Zhi kept her rounds random to prevent people from easily getting hold of her. They wanted to find her, they had to search.


That meant someone was keeping very close tabs on her.


"Now, now, sounds like ye two have some common interests. Mebbe ye can bond."


His irritation was her balm. She always got that way when someone had something on her. Call it a quirk.

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"Shut it. I wasn't talking to you." Inessa snaps back at the Hyur male. "You're bravado does you no good in you're pitiful attempt at intimidation."


Inessa was not keen on playing nice with a crime lord put she compromised and played nice for the sake of the information she needed, as causing a scene here would sacrifice her only chance at finding Limsa's criminal overlords.


Inessa turns  back to the Miqo'te lady. "I am sorry if I seem intrusive m'lady, but I seek information and at no expense to you. If you would here me out im sure we could understand each other. I know who you are, kink. Not very difficult to know who said person is or where he or she is if you cross-reference the information between multiple bartenders and criminal informants, who the criminals and a few bartenders are dead. But enough, allow me to introduce myself."


Inessa take's off her mask, revealing her identity in good trust to the people before her. The crowd of people and the noise would easily cover her while she showed herself. "I am Inessa Hara. I am sure you know who I am, correct?"

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It was safe to say that there weren't many things that could provoke the fraying of Nero's nerves. It was also safe to say that being brushed off was one of those things that could. He slammed a clenched fist on the table, using his other to shove the pouch back into his pocket.


"Who you are doesn't matter," Nero interjected. "But I do know what you are. And what you are is unwelcome."  Silently, he cursed his decision to send away the ship; if Daegsatz were still here, Nero would have had the muscle to turn the situation in his favour. As it stood, his ship wouldn't return for at least a day, and it was too late to request the Roegadyn to return by now. No, he was on his own for this one. The new Miqo'te introduced herself, but at the moment the smuggler couldn't care less about her name.


Nero cocked his head at Kink's direction. "This stray cat isn't a friend of mine, which leads me to the conclusion that she must be a friend of yours," Nero said, audibly restraining himself from turning the comment into a sneer. "I can't say that that's good business." The way the Hyur nearly spat the word "business" implied a clear disgust for the current situation.


It wasn't that Nero was an impatient man or incapable of self control, but to be so close to having such a valuable asset under his thumb, only for the control to seemingly be wrested away from him at the last minute spurred a great deal of irritability in him. Plans going wrong weren't unusual, but nearly-successful plans with sudden spanners thrown into the works were never pleasant. Nero gave the new Miqo'te his coldest glare, not so much with intent to intimidate her as much as it was to try to intimidate Kink into ignoring their unwelcome guest.

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