Description: Sometimes, it is best to outsource your work. Duke has a project; it's name is revenge. But Duke is a hammer, not a toolkit, and he has run fresh out of nails. He needs a professional to get his revenge. And nothing is more professional than a Ninja.... in theory.
Duke had a lot of patience.
The Enforcer of Southtown could tolerate a long series of small frustrations. Even a few severe issues and concerns, could be dealt with. When the... incident in Metro City took the Il Paradiso Opera House; his opera house, he could deal with that. When it returned, and he found it filled with blood, he could tolerate it. Even with the months that passed, his opera house being shut down as a biohazard site, he would keep that stiff upper lip, enduring the long painful frustration that someone, somewhere, had ruined one of his precious things.
It would take a lot, then, for him to take a personal touch.
Duke sits in his 'new' office, underneath the opera house. It was the old office. But with the... incident, it had to be renovated. It had to be cleaned. It had to be repaired. All that was in it was a simple, old mahogony desk, with a velvet plush chair for him to sit upon. The dark skinned enforcer casually inspects his folders, smoking a cigar. These were the files he had to bring into Metro City. There is only two chairs before his desk; the rest of the room is... empty. It was hideous.
And Duke hated it.
He had a lot to be angry about now. But he had dealt with his anger already. He had taken a personal matter into it. And now, his anger satiated, he had to be... reasonable. Responsible. Professional. He had already sent his man, Mr. Brown, to Montreal. He now needed an expert. Someone who was professional in both technology and personal inflitration. Someone who could find a man or woman. And someone to take them alive. The enforcer had set an appointment, deep under the Il Paradiso Opera House. There were rules. There were expectations. The boss looks at his watch, giving a single puff of the cigar.
He was about to see if she could meet both of them.
Patience is a virtue, and at first, it wouldn't appear that the diminutive figure that shuffles into the underground abode has much of it. She can be heard well before she can be seen, the sound of large-soled shoes can be heard scuffing across the marble with each shuffling footstep. She's heavily distracted, from the sound of it. As the garish yellow fabric surrounding her ankles comes into view, it's pretty clear that the act of ambulation ranks a distant second to whatever's in her hands.
It becomes clear as she descends that the "whatever" is a large, top-of-the-line cellphone, and her thumbs are rapidly enthralled with what appears to be a flurry of text messages. Her outfit is loud and brash, the kind an over-the-hill variety-show star might wear if they'd wanted to look like a teenager again. Even weirder: two odd little sticks fastened to her hips bob about with each movement, topped with what appears to be panda heads. The mishmashed look is only furthered by the frosted tips on her flame-orange hair. At first glance, she looks like she could be an emigre from Roppongi, or the high-fashion districts of Paris or Milan.
More worrisome: against all odds, it seems as if this out-of-place cell-phone zombie has managed to stumble her way through the dangerous streets of Metro City, into an opera house currently at the tail end of a months-long renovation, and practically stumbled all the way down the treacherous stairs into a secret underground lair. The girl's nose wrinkles at the lingering odor of cleaning compounds, and begins to wrench her view away from the phone. The expression on the girl's face, as she stops her ambling gait to peer over the beveled edge of her all-consuming cellphone to find a somewhat angry-looking man staring back at her? Horror -- sheer horror. A shudder runs down the girl's spine as she curls her shoulders forward. The phone lowers, and the young Japanese teenager clasps her hands together -- sandwiching the cellphone between them in the process -- and begins to bow as if in apology for the disturbance.
And then, with a flash of darkness and a wispy cloud of smoke left behind, the teenager vanishes from sight.
Two whispered words float their way to Duke's right ear: "Nin-nin." For the aloof teenager has instantly transported from the foot of the stairs to a space roughly six feet to Duke's right, the fading smoke of the kanji for 'forward' hanging in the air around her hands. It soon becomes clear that the two-fingered hand gesture was not a mere apology, but rather, a ninjutsu seal allowing her to traverse the long distance instantaneously.
She wasn't shuffling her feet without reason or purpose. The assassin would have been early for her appointment if she -hadn't- been dragging her feet; this fact is underscored when her smartphone erupts in a polyphonic mockery of "Ode To Joy", coupled with the current time flashing in brilliant cyan in the darkness. The alarm klaxon lasts only a moment before being silenced by a swipe of the girl's leather-clad thumb, as she then moves to stow the phone within a holster upon her upper arm.
The hired assassin's lips curl in barely-repressed mirth, her crimson irises flicking across the stone-chiseled features of her prospective employer. She scuffs her feet across the marble floor, the grit of the sanding compound causing an unpleasant friction along the soles of her shoes. "Need an interior decorator? ... Scratch that, you -need- an interior decorator." The teenager's eyes twinkle as she offers a curtsy. "But first things first, you got a job for -me-, as I understand. As you know, the name's Nagase. It's..." She begins to launch into a traditional introduction, but she lingers a moment on Duke's features. Correcting herself, she resumes: "It is most -assuredly- a pleasure to meet you."
It might be a trick of the acoustics in the room, but it kinda sounded like the teenager just growled at the older man, too.
Duke's expectations were steadily lowering.
He was looking for a skillset for this mission. Syndicate had... several individuals on retainer for more specialized services. Yamazaki was one of the most infamous ones; he was usually used if the Syndicate needed a hammer in search of nails to Sadomazo. Psychos were cheap; but professional psychopaths were worth every penny. Duke had... briefly considered Yamazaki in his anger. But he was calm now. Calmer. So based on the skillset, he had requested another professional, with the right skillset.
What he saw was far below his standards of professionalism.
The dark-skinned man silently smokes his cigar, the haze hovering over him as the young girl enters. His expression was furrowed, looking down with yellow eyes, face a grimace. A girl who wandered in? Duke briefly hoped. As the girl disappears, the smoke drifts suddenly, responding to the hidden movements. Duke doesn't even turn his head; only the yellow eyes drift to the side, fixed on the girl. As she moves back around, the man's expression seems to curl into disgust. Glowering even more fiercely, he pulls the cigar from his mouth as the 'growl' comes. And finally, the enforcer speaks.
The words come in exasperated discontent. "Don't think for a moment I'm impressed by your games You are here because I need a job done, not to watch you play magic tricks." The brute taps his cigar into a mother of pearl ashtray. "You are the first representative of the Iga clan I have met, and I am already unimpressed. Too -noisy- compared to the Kisaragi, too flashy. I was half expecting you show up in a Shiranui outfit, just from the noise." Duke curls a cruel smirk in the corner of his mouth for a second, drawing back his cigar.
"The Kisaragi don't have anybody who uses computers, though."
The enforcer pushes the documents across the desk. Only the important details were provided. "This is the summary. Some idiots calling themselves the 'Green Goblins' robbed a bank holding assets. Explicitly, my assets. The heist was masterminded by someone by the name of the 'The Dungeon Master', that communicated electronically or through satellite phones, with a computerized voice for all directions. The recruits themselves were an outfit from the Montreal Mafia, all of them experts, and each one was paid two hundred thousand dollars a piece, before returning to Quebec with the money deposited in their accounts from the Caymans." Duke rises from his chair, staring in the distance as he takes a puff from the cigar. He pulls it away, blowing out a puff of smoke. "The planning was brilliant. Each recruit was selected with a certain skill they were known for, suggesting that the Dungeon Master has an ear in the criminal world. The only lead on the Dungeon Master is that someone's been recruiting crews for a heist on a local yacht party, with the same modus operandi. The name of the Yacht?" He gestures the cigar towards Nagase.
"'The Falcon', owned by a businessman from Germany named 'Geoff Steintz'."
"He's heavily invested in the Caribbean pearl market, and has a great deal of high class merchandise on his boat. I decided to pay him a visit on his yacht. He ended up being attacked by pirates... all wearing the same masks as the men who stole my assets. Goblin Pirates. As it so happened for Geoff, I saved his life, and killed as many goblins I needed. There was a survivor." He cracks a knuckle. "We have... more details now. Enough to require the enlistment of you." He pauses, turning his gaze down at the young japanese woman. He looked almost bored now, arrogant as he stared down on the small woman.
"If you still feel up to the task, that is."
The truth is, Nagase has a thing for older guys; the grumpier the better. Her antics were, in fact, specially crafted to irritate her potential employer, to better remind him that the times are changing and that he'd need to keep his finger on the pulse of society if he hoped to succeed. She was explicitly singled out for her skills, which led to the utmost of confidence that she could sell herself in the manner she has. If she were coming in blind, she would have tailored her entrance differently.
Yet, even after all that -- the engineered impression of slothfulness, the quick translocation, and even the suggestion of physical attraction -- the statuesque man barely batted an eyelid. Her right eyelid quivers for a moment at the mention of ninjas.
And then it flutters again at the blanket dismissal of her talent show.
Her chest swells with pride, bare shoulders swiveling backward at the mention of her pedigree -- only for those same shoulders to sag when the Kisaragi are brought up.
But it's nothing so dramatic as when her left hand snaps to the panda-head hovering behind her left hip, or the light playing across the cold iron surface revealed as she begins sliding said panda-head -- in truth, the ninjato blade's pommel -- away from her. Being likened to her clan's most significant rival is tantamount to spitting in the kunoichi's own face, even if the man -is- paying her. And she responds accordingly, the girl's smug expression replaced with a rictus of anger.
But, speaking of faces, Duke's expression gives her second thoughts. That cruel smirk tipped her off to the notion that she wasn't the only one who'd set out to engineer a first impression. Her nostrils flare as she exhales the breath she'd been holding back. The barely-withdrawn blade seats itself once again with an audible clack. The assassin nods her head, recognizing and even appreciating, the attempt to get under her skin. Her capricious expression transitions to a more neutral state to exhibit proper deference and respect. "/Nice./ So you've done your homework on me, too, heh?"
Once the conversation shifts back to how awesome her computer skills are, the mollified kunoichi seems much more agreeable. She walks around the desk to peruse the documents, raising a finger to her eyeglass frame. As she taps out a short rhythm upon the temple, iridescent green rectangles project onto the lenses, suggesting that she is beginning to record the documents as she flips through them in real-time. The details don't seem to faze her much -- it's a standard job, right up until the part where Duke mentions that he'd had to fight the 'Green Goblins' all by his lonesome. She wrinkles her nose -- though it's not clear if that's due to the cigar smoke or the distastefulness of the situation Duke had found himself in. Or maybe because he looks bored now.
"I'm up for a challenge, sure. Anyone with a set of aliases -that- crummy has to leave a trace -somewhere-." She glances away for a moment, pressing her lips together as she considers her words a bit more carefully. "I... take it this 'survivor' isn't available for further questioning...?"
The truth was, Duke didn't have a thing for teenage ninjas.
Of course, he was putting on a show to keep testing Nagase. He did not like Nagase, that was a truthful first impression. Of course, she was impressed with the ganglord. That was not a surprise. Duke was one of the strongest members of the Southtown Syndicate. As she praise him a more neutral fashion, he dismisses it. "Homework is for children, ninja."
"I do business."
As the ninja blusters, the gang lord taps out his cigar in the ashtray again, leaning over slightly to do it. "The survivor's still alive, Nagase. Geoff Steintz has in his mind that I am just a do-gooder. And right, so does the public authorities. He is currently being held by the Metro City police, until his companions or superiors eliminate him first. I am sure you can procure more... answers from him." Duke moves around the desk, getting close to Nagase. Looming over her, he looks down with those fierce yellow eyes.
"Consider it as the first of your challenges."
It's fine for Duke to dislike Nagase. She's abrasive on purpose, even moreso than the abrasiveness granted as part of her ninja starter kit. Employers who gain too much attachment prove to be liabilities in the assassin-for-hire world. But, the line between 'irritating' and 'enraging' can be a thin one for some criminal leaders, so she's also careful to not push the abrasiveness gauge all the way to the wall.
Which is why, though she'd like to bare the ninjato blade again at the 'children' comment, she opts to just choke it down with a wry smirk, noting to herself that a man as handsome as Duke probably deserves a few free passes.
"Right, then." The flame-haired teenager's irises shift focus between the readouts on her digital eyewear and the documents on the table, before she sets some pages aside. "I'm kinda curious if those fine folks at Interpol or the CIA have gotten their noses dirty with this one. You know, I hear -their- methods can be a little rough, at times..." Tucking beneath her arm the documents which seemed to interest her most, she looks up at Duke with the eagerness of a small puppy about to pounce -- and yet, she manages to keep from actually doing so.
"Now, then, I'm eager to get started! Sooner the better, I hope you'll agree, so... shall we... discuss an advance?"
"You think I'm afraid of Interpol or CIA?"
He doesn't add anything to that. Just the deep, booming question, a growl of barely restrained contempt. The point was made. The way that she looked at him... he just couldn't stand looking at it. He steps away from her, moving with a slow, sinister gait. He moves back behind his desk, and falls back into his seat. He takes a draw from his cigar, still not a word from the brute of a man. He takes his time, looking at Nagase. Finally, a response.
The crime boss takes another moment, letting it sink in. He takes another draw, and blows another plume of smoke. With that, he places the cigar in the ashtray. The smoke continues to stream out as Duke lowers down, reaching to the drawer of the desk. Drawing back up, he pulls out a fat stack of bills. He places it on the desk, across to the other side. And then, he pulls out another. Another. Another. And then, a fifth and final one. Five stacks of bills, neatly beside each other. He looms over the three stacks, staring his yellow eyes straight into the ninja. "$50,000 is my starting offer, Nagase."
"You think you are worth more than that?"
Afraid of the Interpol or the CIA? Oh... Oh, -no-. She frowns as Duke steps away, clearly irritated at how her supposed glee at formulating a plan seemed to have been misinterpreted as an attack on his luminous credibility. No! "Ahhh, I believe I misspoke, forgive me!" she offers with hurried Japanese formality, bending into a bow. She -knew- she should have researched these crazy US governmental organizations before she'd gotten here... As Duke walks away from her, she makes two quick gestures to the access keypad on her wrist. In a stilted, mechanical whisper, she dictates, "System access: Witness Protection Program." A second later, her eyewear flashes, a series of words resolving into her vision... but by twith a dismissive gesture of her hand, she moves the words aside for now.
But, by this point, money has been placed on the table. And her eyes light up -- though, it might be a question of whether that's due to the sight of all that money, or because of the new information that presents itself to her perusal.
"... Well, if it were simple disposal, then that -would- be an enticing offer, but we're talking about retrieval from a secured facility, not to mention interrogation, and -then- the possibility of disposal... not to mention, I'll probably need to 'borrow' some government assets to ensure this goes off without a hitch." The idea of pushing the man higher is... dangerous, but he did say 'starting offer,' and as he said, this is just business! Confidently, the kunoichi rests her armored palms on her hips. Her expression is neutral: no sass this time. She's all business in respect for Duke's fearsome presence. "An extra $20,000 on top ought to do the trick." It's a negotiation, and she's willing to back down -- but her poker face shows it's a serious offer, all the same.
Duke stares holes into Nagase. The man's expression was contempt. His eyes were wide. It was like Nagase made the greatest faux pas in her entire life. The man continues his glare, as flares of chi begin to flicker on his body. His wrists begin to flush with small waves of energy, as if he could only just barely contain the volcano about to erupt. He cracks his neck to the left, and then, to the right.
And very slowly, he moves back to the drawer.
Two more stacks come out, and are placed amongst the other stacks, haphazardly. "$20,000. I don't care if you have to rob the Pope. The bottom line is simple. You find my assets. You find the man who took them. And you make every single associated loser regret every single mistake that brought them to their miserable state in their life. You succeed. You get paid. If you fail..." Duke reaches back for his cigar, picking it up as he falls back into his chair.
"Well, then I won't need to worry about hiring Iga ninjas anymore, would I?"
"Starting offer." Don't say things you don't mean! In all fairness, Nagase did not expect the crimelord to actually go for the full amount she'd requested. Duke's acquiescence just shows how committed he is to getting the work done.
That said, it's -really- hard to look at Duke when he's literally bursting with flavor. Her eyelids narrow to mere slits, though that's more from the sheer intensity of the energy she's being confronted with than anything else. Her stony expression is unchanged -- but Duke may notice that the hands at her hips have stiffened into knives, in preparation for a ninjutsu teleport if needed.
She won't move even so much as an inch as Duke moves back to the drawer. Movement: halted. Breathing: stopped. Even her electronic display is frozen in time, save for the gentle pulsing of one solitary icon in the upper left of her left lens. Duke might think her a statue -- and that's the point. She knows this is, like anything else, a test of her mental fortitude. And the kunoichi listens.
$70k for all -that?- Now Nagase feels like she didn't ask for -enough-. After hearing the fairly unequivocal threat on her life -- and taking it with the subtle grace of a true ninja, which is to say by not expressing any emotion at all -- she nods quietly.
"I'll accept those terms." It's enough to live comfortably for an entire year -- and that's just part of the agreed-to amount. It's a lot to swallow.
It takes her five seconds to mull it over. "I accept your terms." No pluck, no aplomb -- he's shown he means business, and Nagase demonstrates that she's up to the challenge -- if for nothing more than to prove him wrong on that Shiranui comment.
Nagase quietly begins stacking the bills into more carryable piles. The most the diminutive kunoichi could have on her person is a sack, after all -- and she's not about to ask for a briefcase after -that- negotiation.
The truth of the matter, she was more valuable than $70,000
Of course, Nagase didn't know that. She wouldn't know how much Duke was willing to pay for her services until much later. Someone like Yamazaki could demand up to a million for his services. Nagase was enjoying the lifestyle of a new hire:
As she accepts the terms, Duke seems to be inspect her carefully, leaving over the desk to give her a once over as she sorts the stacks. It is only when she is done when the crime boss says anything. "Good." He states bluntly. He frisks up his cigar, and pops it in his mouth. Leaning back in his chair, he seems to relax. But through gritted teeth, he gives an order.
"Now get out."
Nagase looks at the stacks of money. Resorts the stacks one more time -- now they're all in one stack.
The kunoichi looks back at Duke, tilting her head to the side. He's kicking her out of the office after all that. And she... she feels like she -needs- to have some smart-aleck remark about that to finish it all off.
The hesitation is obvious -- though it could easily be mistaken for her confusion on what she's going to do with a single stack of seven hundred bills.
"... Right." The words die on her lips -- Duke's stony reaction pretty much knocking the sass right out of her. And with one motion, she slides the stack of money back into her hands.
And so, with the stack of money in her hand, she bows her head, and leaps backwards.
Two hundred-dollar bills flutter to the floor afterwards.
And upstairs? An anguished scream can be heard echoing throughout the stairwell, as well as the sound of a ton of a lot of rustling movement.
The bills she leaves behind do not have a chance to land on the marble floor, however -- for just as they are about to land, the kunoichi appears once again in a kneeling stance, plucking the bills right out of midair.
And in another breath, she disappears again.
Duke will later find that the opera house is now missing one of its paintings.
Log created on 23:18:41 01/14/2016 by Duke, and last modified on 18:31:37 01/17/2016.