Description: Lee Chaolan is currently hiding out at Honoka's mansion. While she is out as Dahlia on the public stage, the executive is content to clean the floors, scrub the toilets, and generally manage the grounds as he keeps out of the way of the gang war from the shadows. After all, the Syndicate wasn't going to make any power plays to claim land in Hokkaido. Unfortunately for Lee Chaolan, he was a different matter altogether, as Nagase and her team demonstrate as they descend on the manor, tracking him down as he is settling some groceries at the mansion gates.
In Southtown, where homes are practically built on top of one another, it might seem terribly wasteful to designate several acres of land to any one property holder. Indeed, the house would likely be too expensive for any one person to maintain claim on it -- twenty rooms? Fully furnished, with enough beds for fifty or more in a pinch? A top-notch security system, a large pool, a great spot for parties? It's way, way too much for any one person... these days. Back in the days where the shoguns held power, though, this was a daimyo's home-away-from-home, providing room and board for his family and his retainers.
Several years ago, a private holding firm attached to the Yamaguchi-gumi crime family acquired it for a song. The house has changed house exactly twice: once to a shell company of the rival Akatsuki-gumi family. And a second time, just one month ago, to a completely separate holding company.
Now, only a half-dozen people claim residence here. Most of the residents are employees of the holding firm -- itself a shell company formed just a few years ago. No paper trail connects the holding firm to Akatsuki. The only connection between this mansion and the Akatsuki is the fact that it and some other thirty properties were sold within a three-day span directly following the brutal throwdown between Duke Burkoff and Scarlet Dahlia, hundreds of miles away in Hokkaido.
And even then, one must be -particularly- suspicious to draw the link.
Nagase has reason to be that suspicious. She'd spent weeks rebuilding the entire information technology infrastructure of the Southtown Syndicate, itself the target of a debilitating computer virus even she was powerless to stop. And the tech-ninja isn't even done yet -- her Battle Disc System's AI will be doing the heavy lifting on the reformatting of the information network for another two days yet. That's why she's stuck here, in the belly of an air-conditioned Yamato Transport truck, which has pulled to a stop across the street from the mansion. She's staring at a battery of monitors, attached to a thermal imaging unit aimed out the side of the truck. Cursing under her breath, she shakes her head.
"Dammit, why the heck are they renting this place out so soon? This neighborhood is garbage!"
The driver, a man with a striped uniform shirt, looks back at Nagase incredulously. "Are you kidding me? I could spend a year's salary and I'd only be able to live here a month...!"
"No, no, dummy, look at how old that house is, you'd have to drill holes all over the place to get Cat-7 placed in that place. None of these houses are wired for shit, except..."
Nagase swivels her chair sideways, stabbing her finger at a tablet. And crossing her eyes, she presses the tablet one more time.
"... seriously? These jagoffs named their wi-fi 'Piss Off, Hackers' ? That can't be a coincidence..."
The driver's already had plenty of time to get used to Nagase's irritating blathering. He just rolls his eyes, slumping against the wheel. "... Well, if you're gonna do something, do it soon. We can't just sit here like this or we're gonna attract suspicion."
In the blathering, it might be easy to miss the man that was opening the gate.
At first, the thermal imaging doesn't track anybody. And then, faintly, something slips out of the front door. IT was a long walk from the mansion all the way to the edge of the property. And yet, it comes so fast; if Nagase wasn't focusing, she might not even -see- the heat signature suddenly spike so close. After all, it was easy enough to stride across the front door, carrying yourself with the air of the most noble of caretakers. The silver-haired man was dressed in a black suit, his shirt poofy and puffed up with dapper black bow tie. White gloves slide the gate closed, as it brings a rattling sound. That would almost certain give himself away.
And yet, he does not cease.
%His striding upon fine black shoes comes with an almost tap-dance like clicking on the asphalt. His presence was with the utmost confidence; every step comes with the refinement and class of a well-trained, well-experienced butler. His head held high, a faint smile on his lips, his movements were brisk and precise. He was coming to the truck. He was beelining right to the truck. And yet, the missing Lee Chaolan, the elusive criminal genius that dismantled the very Syndicate network through his wiles, who was on the run from the Syndicate on whole.
Was now out in the open.
There is a very, very light rap on the front door of the van. If a rap could sing-song, it would sing-song, with the delicate tapping of the back of the knuckles. He was peering through the window, a smile on his lips. He was patient to explain to the courier the gravity of his situation. What the gravity was, unfortunately, was both as direct and elusive as the man himself. If Lee Chaolan was a wanted man, he wasn't acting it. But that, and the sudden.... distortion of radio signals comes a dire warning.
And that, precisely, was why this situation was so dangerous for everyone involved.
Suspicion, consider yourself attracted.
"Heads up," mutters the van driver.
"Wait, what?" stammers Nagase, looking toward the far side monitor. The van just would be aimed to perfectly miss the front door, wouldn't it! "Dammit..."
Nagase flips the camera from infrared back to electro-optical. And staring at the monitor for a good long while, she notices two things in particular. One -- the silver hair of Lee Chaolan. The very man she's looking for -- heading straight towards the van. And the second -- the tech-ninja's own reflection.
She's already in the perfect disguise: the striped, short-sleeved uniform that marks her as a delivery person for Yamato Transport. Even her trademark bangs are tucked away under the brim of a smart-looking baseball cap, complete with the silhouette logo of a mama cat carrying a kitten.
She tamps down on the fight-or-flight reflex, and slowly rolls back the shutter closing off the back of the van from the front.
"Na... dammit, you can't just--"
The driver slams his fist on the front side of the shutter, to no avail. Nagase has already hidden herself from view.
Leaving the driver as the one to face Lee Chaolan as soon as the sing-song rapping comes knocking at his transport door. Gulping, the driver folds back the door, and gives his best customer-servicey grin. Which might not be all that convincing, considering he's a C-rate Syndicate goon, more accustomed with punching people in the face than smiling convincingly.
"G-good afternoon, sir! Is.. there something I can help you with?"
From the back, Nagase hurriedly begins stuffing objects into an empty packing box. That, too, bears the Yamato Transport logo...
Lee Chaolan doesn't even seem to notice the faint sound of the shutter.
"Oh! Hello!" Lee Chaolan says with a flair of the dramatic, that faint smirk on his lips, the regular charm on his presence. Even now, the executive's calm, restrained demeanor could reverberate. His eyes were soft, as he leans in a bit, interest building as Nagase scrambles to make the false front. "Is there something you can help me with." He repeats back, almost shocked as he shakes his head. "How very polite of you, but as a matter of fact, that is my line!" His lowers his voice, avoiding attention from neighbors who might be listening.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
Lee Chaolan leans back, looking outside the van, up and down, before gazing back up to the goon, a deeply invested look of worry for the man across his face. "Are you doing all right? You've been parked out here for quite a while now. Is there something wrong? Are you trying to look up directions? It's simply terrible to find addresses here, believe me. But I know the neighborhood well." He taps the side of the van softly.
"If you need any assistance, I would be happy to help!"
Simple, innocent questions, with the full force of personality that Lee chaolan was renowned for. Lee Chaolan -did- want to help, he was just a concerned member of the neighborhood. At this point, all the Syndicate agents had found him, they just needed to pin him down, before he moved again. And yet, the radio distortions were continuing to be strong as Lee Chaolan stays close to the car. Enough to block out cell phone transmissions, and yet, if Lee Chaolan was trying to pin them down...
How was he supposed to even do it now?
Nagase hadn't even noticed the shift in the radio signals. In fact, she was so busy stuffing things into the box -- an old laptop, the guts of an old hard drive, spent propane tanks -- that she hadn't noticed the radio distortion. It isn't till she finishes pulling the tape over top of the box that she even happens to look around -- and -then- she squints at her oscilloscope.
One more glance is spared towards the radio jammer slung to her belt, to confirm that it's off.
And then Nagase makes a -most- unladylike expression.
In the front of the van, the Syndicate driver shakes his head -- "N...noo... We were just... er..." The driver picks up his cellphone, waves it around. "I had to take a phone call. Dangerous to do that while driving. Actually, I hear it's even legal! ... Illegal. Like, not allowed. You can get in trouble for that, and Yamazuki Transit doesn't have any patience for legal things."
The driver quails under Lee's concerned expression, which even he can realize is -way- more convincing than the schpiel he just belted out.
By this point, though, Nagase's opened the back door of the van. Not the side door, the back door. And she is lugging a box large enough to house a medium-height computer in her arms, her hat pulled low, and just about covering her eyes. It won't hide the bags under her eyes, mind, but that's why she's keeping her hat pulled down.
"Quit jerkin' the nice guy along, Yasu! We got a little lost, but we were lookin' to deliver a package to 5-Chome 1-23 and wanted to be sure this was the place. You the owner here? A... er... " She squints at the box as if trying to read it, and then continues, "Are you Kichida-san?"
Sure, Lee's staying at 5-Chome 1-23. And the house is in Kichida's name... But the diminutive delivery girl seems to be practically shoving the box into Lee's awaiting hands. And the contents are tumbling around in the package more than well-packed articles ought to...
Idly, smoothly, Lee Chaolan adjusts his own belt.
The butler is very patient as he listens to the man, nodding his head with every word, every statement. He was peeling it apart, delicately tugging and pulling at it with only the faintest gestures. As the back opens, he just eases away the door. Turning a bit, he spreads his hands apart to greet the newest person, or persons, and he is immediately greeted by the lovely Nagase in disguise... and a box shoved in his arms. LEe Chaolan almost gasps as the address is given out.
"Oh! Excelle- Good! That is good!" Lee Chaolan bows his head slightly. Lee Chaolan nearly blew his cover there. Adjusting his bowtie with one hand, he leans hard at the box. Dipping so low, in fact, that he tries to peer up under the hat, at the bags. Not a suspicious look, on no, but a plying gaze into Nagase's own eyes, he has an all too soft gaze upon looking at her. "I am not Kichida-san; however, I handle the domestic affairs of the Kichida household; the cooking, the cleaning, and of course, any other duties that I am required to perform for the master. I am a bit surprised there is a package... and yet..." There is a twinkle in his eyes, as he lifts it up high with both hands. "I am sure the master will be so pleased-"
And suddenly, he groans.
"Ah! My back!
Lee Chaolan doubles over, placing the package... back in Nagase's hands? How did he do that. Lee Chaolan doubles over, hand on his hip, as he groans. "Oh, I have gotten so frail in my age. A gentleman like myself should not do such strenuous labor." If it was possible, that faint smile becomes even more of a smile, as he looks at the hat of Nagase, almost trying to fish up Nagase's own gaze. "Maybe a strong young lady like yourself could help carry my package. It is a long walk back to the master's domicile; if you could satisfy my request, I would be certain to reward you for your extra service!~" He gives a wink. Looking over at the driver, he continues that smirk. "That will give you plenty of time for your call; though I recommend driving around the block, personally." He gives a hearty chuckle, before wincing again in a small hiss of pain.
"You will find the cellphone service to be just -awful- around here!~"
The 'delivery girl' has had her suspicions about the butler ever since spotting him. Without her advanced AI -- that being indirectly Lee's fault, of course -- she can't just cross-reference his appearance to her database of fighting personalities. But the Syndicate has also attracted a slew of negative press by harassing the public at random. She needs to be absolutely sure that this is, in fact, Lee Chaola--
"Oof?!" Nagase's train of thought is interrupted, as she finds the box's weight dumped right back into her arms. Wincing at the sudden return of weight, she nonetheless manages to weather it without too much trouble -- after all, she didn't pack the box so heavy she couldn't even carry it. "Oh no, I'm... I'm sorry, mister!"
She winces, from beneath her cap, nodding back at the crafty butler. "I... " ... But if this guy's a -gentleman- shouldn't he be the one -doing- the labor, instead of the lady? She's still turning those words over in her mind as Lee directs his attention to the driver.
The driver looks back to Nagase with a helpless half-smile.
It's returned by a wide-eyed glare from the disguised ninja. Just do -something!-
When she turns back to Lee, though, she's all smiles like a clown in a children's festival. "Certainly, sir! I'd be more than happy to!"
The driver, defeated, slumps back in his chair, no doubt thinking about how the ninja girl will be helping the silver fox with his package. As far as he's concerned though, it's just time to catch up on his email... as soon as he gets away from this damn distortion.
"I wonder why that is, " comments the disguised Nagase, as she begins walking to the mansion. "Cellphone coverage being awful, and all. Like, I thought the towers were s'posed to be all over the city!"
She continues walking in a straight line -- though it looks like she might be about to step onto a large rock...?! But just before she does, she suddenly twists about to face Lee, with an expression of panic on her face, and the telltale scrape of stone against asphalt.
In other words, her turn just -happened- to occur simultaneously with a stone flying towards Lee's shins. Complete accident, of course -- considering the box-toting Nagase doesn't even seem to have lost her balance or her stride in the process.
"Oh," she continues blurting out, "you'll tell me if I'm going the wrong way... right?"
Sometimes, when things happen so fast, you just go along with it.
Everyone part of the Syndicate Team didn't want to be a part of it. Lee Chaolan had that air of presence; he -clearly- knew what was going on, so why pretend? Was he hoping to bait them out to blow their cover, into a public street fight? Was it a trap? Where was the trap. They were picking through a minefield where Lee Chaolan was dancing and prancing and singing through. It must be safe, and yet, it's so clearly not. And the only response is clear.
And yet, as she is stumbling along with the heavy package, Lee Chaolan spies the rock. "Oh! Look out!" And yet, his warning seemed to have worked out well. As the rock is kicked up to his shins, there is a slight moan of pain. "Oh, how clumsy of me! Do not worry, I am all right, it is fortunate you avoided that rock in time!" He sighs, as he limps along even more pathetically. "Come along, come along..." He coos, staying close to NAgase to make sure she goes the right way.
"I will guide you right where I need you."
As he guides Nagase past the gate, his pace is slow, judging by the limp. But he is eager to talk with the young lady that he has separate from her allies. "As for the cell phone service, I have quite a story on that. It's because of the locals, you see. There are so many electronics here, so many gizmos, and so many wi-fi networks and the like, that several of the locals have paid extra fees to access frequencies outside of the approved scope. But naturally, if cell phone networks operate in the area, then they will randomly lose support for their wireless gate networks, or their Alexas.
"You would be surprised how much people enjoy their privacy here."
"But isn't it absurd?! So they get uninterrupted service by outlining the perimeters with jammers; it also keeps people from loitering near the properties. But then in order to keep out your neighbor, you need your own jammer, and so on, and so forth. Fortunately, cell phones work well inside the house; well at the center." With the one sided conversation continuing, Lee Chaolan holds the door open for her, as he waves at the driver all the way across the lawn. "Just drop it off in the dining room, I think." He says idly. His gaze dances over her. "My goodness, you look hot."
"Are you feeling a little thirsty?"
"Huh?" stammers Nagase -- looking down to see Lee graning with pain. "There was -- a rock? -- Oh, are you -- Yeah! -- I -- " Her own interjections interleave perfectly with his apologies and casual reframings of fact. It's like a kindred to storied Japanese sport of compliment fencing, where one must constantly attempt to out-humble onself to one's conversational partner. "-- Okay, thanks~"
But now the guy who she's absolutely certain is Lee Chaolan and yet is fervently pretending to not recognize is limping, and that means he's moving even more slowly. She spares a look back at the delivery truck -- which hasn't moved yet, and she's not sure if that makes her more mad or less -- and just refrains from showing the sighs, eyerolls, and actual resistance to whatever he's rambling on about.
Because, sure, she finds objections to his rambling. There's so many things that she's suppressing the urge to correct him on -- to such degree that her white-knuckled fingers press firmly into the repurposed box. She carefully stacks up her refutations against these things, attempting to tetris them into some form of retaliation that still manages to be somewhat polite, when...
All of a sudden, she's staring right at the open doorway. Her mouth is already poised to just hurl out the phrase 'bullshit.' And yet, the syllable hangs in our mouth -- frozen, as soon as Lee looks down at her.
And she looks back at him -- as if encountering the silver-haired man for the first time.
Her cheeks stain a deep crimson.
Because that was totally a compliment, right?
Nagase gulps for breath, the brim of her hat blocking her eyes from Lee Chaolan's view. This is... this is -not- the plan she had in mind. And yet, as she jostles the box, and the contents she'd haphazardly threw into it... it could work for the plan.
She lifts her gaze, her cheeks still burning red as she locks eyes with the so-called butler.
She swings the box sideways, drawing attention to her feminine curves with the subtlety of an artfully designed sledgehammer.
"I... I kinda am, yeah, now that you mention it... do... do you mind if I step in from the heat for a bit?"
Lee Chaolan smiles warmly as her eyes meets his.
Certainly, the executive was a charmer. Manipulative to a fault. And as Nagase figures out, a complete and easy-going bullshitter. And of all the opponents in this gang war, Lee Chaolan was both the most dangerous and least dangerous. Though Lee Chaolan only glances over her for a moment, a moment is all he needed to say what needed to be said. He didn't even need the words, it was almost like a suggestion, a compliment. And what more, it was less a compliment only to Nagase, but to her mother and father, for their hard work in raising their daughter into a beautiful young woman.
Nagase is greeted further by a rush of cool air. The interior of the mansion was conservative; it was certainly well furnished with fine furniture imports from around the world, or carefully crafted by local carpenters. Chandilers hang high over the foyer, where a double stairwell greets them over the hallway to the back. Lee Chaolan shuts the door behind Nagase, with a click. And with a deft movement, he gives a soft limp down the hall. There was, however, a lack of supplementing decorations. The side tables were clear; out side of light and furniture, there was nothing, no awards, no trophies, no plants. Like it was cleared out.
A sign of what this was used for.
"This way, this way, to the left!" Lee commands, as he leads Nagase along, this time leading from slightly behind her, rather than ahead. To make sure to keep an eye on her, perhaps? As she turns the corner, she would see the full interior of the dining room.
The dining table, however, might give Nagase pause.
It's not the size or the quality; it is a very long table, made out of real mahogany. Finely crafted and bearing clawed feet, it is a bit garish if well-crafted, with a long red tablecloth running down the center. No, it would be the laptop, the papers, the... external packet analyzer. The laptop seemed to have left on a spreadsheet, unsecured. The chairs were all lined up; Lee Chaolan gestures for Nagase at the table. "You can put the boxes beside those papers, and take a seat. And please, relax! You seem so tense. I will fetch you a drink." He turns on his heel, towards where the swinging doors of the kitchen are. "What would you so desire?" He says lightly. "Water? Lemonade? A refreshing cola?"
"Or perhaps something harder...?~"
Nagase has plenty of reason to be angry at Lee Chaolan. She could rage at him, she could scream. She could drive knives under his fingernails. But it wouldn't be half as entertaining as this is -- watching him play the role of a helpful, doting butler. Squirming under the role not of a hotshot executive, but as a mewling servant.
And as she steps into the air-conditioned mansion, she realizes one thing.
She really missed central air.
Of course, that's just the most obvious detail. Anyone with a brain and working sweat glands can appreciate the creature comforts. It takes a real brain to look at a nearly vacated entrance hall, and piece together that Mr. Kishida is not in a huge hurry to throw a lavish fifty-guest party. He's not even prepared for a housewarming party -- so why would he need a butler? No -- if he's intending to impress, it clearly wasn't an impulse purchase. This was -- like every other house she's infiltrated -- merely just a way for the Akatsuki to offload property onto a patsy. Which furthers the notion -- particularly with the sound of a door latching shut -- that this is a trap.
Ninjas tend to be good at slipping out of traps, though.
Nagase bristles as the voice comes from behind her, rather than beside. And she walks deliberately with the box, perfectly mindful of the view she's presenting Lee. Every single step, placed with absolute certainty.
The dining table, though? Lee might not be able to see the way she narrows her eyes at the setup. It's almost -too- obvious, really -- a large table, obviously used to impress people. And likely too big to bother moving out in a hurry.
One questioning look is spared to Lee -- and answered with the gesture. She dutifully sets the box down on the table, and pulls out a chair and turns it sideways.
She makes a show of biting her lower lip as she gives Lee a good once-over, one hand 'idly' rising sensuously to the nape of her neck as she takes a seat. One leg crosses demurely over the other as she sits, turning sideways to face Lee.
"Mm, that's... that's an interesting offer."
One button on her uniform polo is undone.
Then the second, leaving only the third secured.
"Let's try something... harder." She smiles, coquettishly folding both hands together in her lap.. "Surprise me."
It was almost too convenient.
Was Lee Chaolan in the middle of work, and was interrupted? Was he merely treated Nagase as he would any woman? Any poor courier working the shift? This was almost like the start of a bad romance novel, or in Jezebel terms, 'romance' novel. ANd yet, Lee Chaolan doesn't stop the suave, as Nagase gives her response. Not by mere words, but by actions, as the poor girl must be just a little too hot, as she puts down the box.
Almost too smoothly, Lee Chaolan is at Nagase's side.
The limp seemed to have mysteriously disappeared; as he slips around the courier, it's like ballet. Watching her carefully, his eyes dancing over her form only briefly. But her eyes, they never escape her eyes. Lee Chaolan just stops from touching Nagase on her hair, not without her permissions, or maybe, not just yet. A butler had to serve. Instead, he tsk tsks, gripping the back of the chair delicately. "You do look a mite flush." He repeats, tracing his fingers on his own top three buttons. "But I live to serve. One moment, I will get you a little surprise~" And Lee Chaolan slips out of the room, leaving Nagase alone...
With the papers and computer around her.
After a brief second, however, Lee Chaolan's voice rises up from within the kitchen. "So how long have you been working with Yamato Transit?" He calls out, as the light sound of glassware is heard within. "I've worked in courier services myself, it is very good work, if a little exhausting." He falls silent.
Well, say something!
Nagase doesn't figure the placement of the items to be a coincidence. With Lee right there, it'd be sheer folly for her to even attempt to read over the papers. What's more -- if they're plants, then they're definitely not worth having.
Besides. She has more interesting things to look at -- like Lee himself. She laughs nervously, like a schoolgirl, for a moment. And then, self-consciously, she looks down to the hands clasped in her lap. "... I-I'm sorry, sir, I didn't mean to overstep my bounds, but... you said I looked hot, and... well, -you- look hot, and..." The tips of her index fingers tap together in a display of anxiety.
That apparent anxiety is dispelled, as soon as Lee places his hand on her seatback. The thump is enough to raise her blood pressure, to get her to look up at him. First at his chest -- and then to lock her gaze upon his eyes. Pictures and video don't do him justice; to Nagase, seeing Lee like this is just a whole 'nother world.
With her eyes fixed so, it falls upon her other senses to register his fingers pressing against the buttons on his own shirt. And as he excuses himself, the red-faced kunoichi finds her voice speaking before she even wills it so:
"... O-okay. I'll wait here...?"
As soon as he's out of sight, she glances at the papers. But most importantly, the laptop, and the contents of the screen.
One hand reaches out.
And shuts the lid to the laptop, just far enough to avoid triggering sleep mode.
Most importantly, to turn the stock webcam to the point of unusability.
The question startles her -- sending her heart aflutter again. "Just a few weeks! It's... it's um..."
Before she answers, she retrieves a small capsule from a belt loop. And as she raises her arm, she feints as if reaching for the nape of her neck again. En route, she releases the brittle plastic capsule. With a nigh-silent tinkle as it hits the floor, the capsule looses a pool of odorless, colorless fluid onto the floor, forming an eight-foot puddle around both chairs. A slippery hazard made from a synthetic fluid that would also be a royal pain for the butler to clean up.
"It's been fun! We drive around to different parts of the city that I'd never seen before... And meet all sorts of... interesting people...!"
She rises from her seat. And untucks her shirt, flapping air about for circulation.
She hops up onto the edge of the mahogany table, so that she can watch the kitchen with pregnant silence. So that she'd be facing him head-on, eye-to-eye, as he exits the kitchen with her 'surprise.' Biting her lip, she folds her hands in her lap once again, crossing one leg over the other.
"Most of them are... immature punks though. And none of have been quite as... handsome as you..." The best-woven lies are not far from the truth.
The trap is set -- and as far as she knows, she's stepped in no traps of her own. One ought to be able to trust mahogany, yes?
The glances shouldn't be too surprising, especially for such an obvious plant.
The Spreadsheet? 'List of Addresses that we hold' with the first addressing being, of course, the mansion's own. It's almost comically obvious. But the briefest glance might even be on 'financial transfers' with a few familiar bank accounts, over across the top papers. It's almost insulting, of course. You could almost see the hooks sticking out, waiting for Nagase to snap on so he could reel her in. 'oh no, you were actually a ninja' and then he would fight her, with his crack team of elite soldiers pinning her down. He probably even had a device that would jam her Battle Disc System.
When Lee Chaolan emerges again, he has two glasses, he seems almost surprised at Nagase's shift.
Every step is with careful, catlike grace, as he seems unstoppably locked on to Nagase's sheer femininity. "Well if you have ways of enjoying people, it can make the work almost seem like.... play..." It seems that the charms of Lee Chaolan was a weakness, a curse. He almost seemed blinded to the room. In each hand, an orange juice like substance in each glass. And yet, he steps upon the polymer. There is a shift, a sharp shift; Lee Chaolan's eyes go wide as it seems just about ready to fall right on his ass. And then, a coy glimmer flashes over his face, as he smirks, narrowing his eyes at Nagase.
And he slips forward, slipping as smooth as a slide across ice, not even spilling a drop.
His thigh connects with Nagase's shin as he falls in; an accidental pin? Hardly a useful one; at best it would only delay Nagase for a split second. Everything was moving so fast, adrenaline was taut. Lee Chaolan was moving, taking her hand, what was he doing? He comes in so close, eyes locked in hers. "And few are as beautiful as you... and none are as intelligent. Alas, we must keep this as professional as we can let it, shouldn't we Nagase?" Lee Chaolan wraps Nagase's fingers around the glass, and leans back. "I think you'll find a different sort of class here..."
"That you wouldn't find working under that brute, Duke."
There might be a moment of shock, of shift. Was this the ambush? The fight? Lee Chaolan knew who she was, he was -very- aware of what she had done. This was the man who deface and corrupted her battle disc system. Already he was moving, a strike to her face- no. A finger would come to Nagase's lips, with a faint shush from Lee Chaolan himself. "Don't worry."
"You are not in any danger."
He says this softly, not quite pulling away as he gives an impish little wink. "We are, in fact, alone here; and I have no intention of hurting you. It's quite a miracle you've come here, Nagase; I had not expected to be found, least of all by you here. But I had plans, dreams, fantasies; when you came too close to my Violet Systems, when you approached me yourself. But what were the odds of it? And then I see someone trying to connect to my wireless network..." He casts his gaze at the packet sniffer. "... And I had a feeling. I staged the little workspace, just in case, and I came out to see what it was. An ambush? Could be, it might have just been a trap. And it looked like just some moronic goons; a terrible mistake for them, but easy enough to dispatch."
"But then I saw you, Nagase."
Lee Chaolan looks away a moment. "Oh, I could only guess it was you. After all, the Syndicate doesn't typically have many beautiful women in it's ranks; only those hideous tattoo'd ones, or ugly plain ones. Also, for the cyber warfare front, the Syndicate has been... limited to one mysterious person. The same mysterious person who decimated my business empire, whose endless efforts has torn down my HitBit, my Combots, even my V-Gage. Who has left me in financial ruin, forced to be a mere butler." Anger? Vengeance?
Or was he teasing her?
"And, as a final detail, is a master of disguise. I made a gamble. And the payoff is very woman who had given me so much trouble... is finally right here before me, working with the Syndicate as a shinobi. Specifically, if I understand correctly, as Duke's right hand girl even." He gives a sip of his drink.
And his eyes goes wide.
"Oh, don't worry about the drink, it's a simple screwdriver; orange juice and vodka, with just a hint of lime juice. Nothing more, nothing less. Besides." Lee Chaolan muses mildly, placing a hand on one of the papers, glancing down at it as he spreads it aside. "I hear sleeping gas is what's in fashion right now." He shifts a bit, and quickly releases away from Nagase, as she suddenly slides -hard-. He grips A chair, barely keeping himself balanced, the grace and ease suddenly disappearing. Balancing out, he looks down at the sheen. "What is this marvelous substance?" Lee Chaolan openly questions, a glint in his eyes.
"One of your inventions?"
It was difficult to keep her gaze from lingering on those words, but having seen how Lee was deliberately pacing her into the house, well, nothing the man says can be trusted -- so why bother? Especially now that she doesn't have her Battle Disc System to give her helpful biometric feedback...
Nagase seems quite amused that he has brought out not only one drink, but -two-. Her lips curl into a beckoning smile as she nods encouragingly. From the orange juice, she certainly expects a fuzzy navel, or a screwdriver -- but that's part of the surprise she'd requested. Though she's still playing the part of a submissive and suggestible delivery girl, the kunoichi is still considerably wary at heart -- and hoping that her wiles seem to work.
And for a moment, it seems they do.
She keeps her hands clasped together, waiting for the perfect moment.
And with that smirk, she realizes instantly that said moment will never arrive.
One eye shuts, as she splits her hands apart, one palm snapping up to Lee's shoulder -- a defensive measure alone, meant to keep him from colliding with her in any -worse- fashion. She wasn't, however, planning to remain this still -- and hadn't planned on his thigh connecting with her shin. Which draws a yelp of pain, which comes out as a muffled hiss as she starts to draw herself back. Her hands push back against Lee, in an attempt to assert a more proper client-contractor relationship, only to find that her hand now has a glass placed into it.
He used her name.
Guess the gig's up!
The exchange happened in but an instant, but the quick-witted Nagase shakes her head quickly. "Class? Y-you definitely can't afford me -now-, Chao--"
And yet, she finds herself put off balance again -- figuratively, as she's still seated firmly on the table -- by the silencing finger upon her lips. Her cheeks redden, puffing out as the mastermind lays out every clue, every supporting structure for his well-laid trap. If she weren't a ninja, perhaps she might have fallen squarely into it...
As Lee looks away, she draws back, relieving some of the pressure on her pressed-against lips. She'd try to worm her way free, but of course Lee would continue talking in the midst of it all. She even seems like she'd be about to cut him off -- right until he mentions that 'one mysterious person' has led to so much of his business empire collapsing...
Nagase uses her free hand to pull her hat up and away, fanning herself with it. A smug grin flashes upon her face for a moment. She knows when she's being complimented.
And her grin grows even more as Lee's shift in posture forces him into a more compromising position, clutched helplessly along the back of the chair.
Nagase takes the opportunity to draw her feet up onto the table, allowing her to sit cross-legged atop it. The glass is propped against her thigh -- a nice respite from the heat -- as her fingers splay out in an explanatory fashion.
"It's my own, yeah. Great stuff. Bitch to clean up even with some acetone, so, uh, sorry about that!"
Her eyes narrow, as she braces her elbow upon the inside of her knee, resting her chin upon her palm with a bored expression. "Why'd you have to go off usin' real names, man? Would've been a fun thirty seconds for you, tch! Now we gotta be all professional an' stuff." She sniffs tentatively at the rim of her glass, wrinkling her nose somewhat. Vodka. He wasn't kidding about going hard.
"Look, Lee, professional courtesy here. You're dealin' with Dahlia? You're as slippery as they... " She coughs a moment, rolling her eyes with a mildly embarassed look. "... Yeah. And it won't do for me to just leave you be and call in the big boys, 'cause you'll find a way to weasel yourself outta here."
Her drink is lifted aside, and her knees draw up. With smooth, practiced ease, she rolls backwards on the table -- inverting the glass with such speed and grace that the contents stay fully inside. No, she doesn't trust it -- not for an instant. Nor is she willing to let it go to waste.
Now in a ready crouch, with the sole of her boot rested firmly atop the red tablecloth, she tilts her head to the side, a confident smirk on her lightly painted lips. "Lock up, come on out quietly. It's muggy out, and the last thing I need is to hear Yasu bitching about his arm bein' broke or somethin'."
Alas, the game had to end.
Keeping his balance on delicately, he doesn't seem ready to move one way, or another. The limp and injuries seemed to be completely gone, as he takes his drink hand, and brings it over his heart. "My conscience wouldn't allow it, Nagase; to break your heart under false pretenses." Lee Chaolan declares melodramatically, clearly teasing the ninja. "There are time for games, and times for business, and while it is amusing to mix pleasure with profits... Yoshiaki clearly was demonstration on being delicate when dealing with a talented ninja like yourself on the matter."
"Don't you honestly feel your talents are being wasted, Nagase?"
Lee Chaolan's teasing tone was all but gone now, as the full advisory tone comes to bear. "You are clearly a brilliant, multi-talented engineer, a trained prodigy. Chemistry, Computers, Engineering, even your acting could support a feature length film. Every time I deal with the aftermath of your work, I find myself racking my brain at what a fool I was, passing over you without notice! If I had found you earlier, and hired you as part of Violet Systems, you would be enjoying a mansion like this, with a trained stable of butlers at your every beck and call. And instead, you are dressing up as the innocent but curious delivery girl, ready to handle a big package from the butler while the master's away." Lee Chaolan sighs.
"It was quite fun though!"
"I could almost believe, being the victim of a brilliant hacker, that you are merely a free spirit, ready to tear down the corporate megastate as a principled anarchist. But you're almost a fully fledged Syndicate agent now, hardly the kind of freelancing cracker I'd have expected you to be. You are being little more than a mercenary, and for Duke?" Lee Chaolan scoffs. "The Scarlet Dahlia has her own charms, I will admit, but my sides in this war is simple: Dahlia has good intentions for Japan, she is looking the shatter the patriarchy of Japanese culture, I do not appreciate Duke shattering her leg, and betraying the Shadow Council. This war is worthless, and barely even supported by the Syndicate itself. Which is why I am allowing this... play time, away from the noise of both of our allies."
"I want to help you, Nagase~"
Lee Chaolan walks along the edge of the table, gripping the chairs carefully. At the very least, they were not slipping... as long as they didn't move off their 'spots.' "I do not ask much, really. Only that you switch sides in this war; and work for the Akatsuki, betraying Duke Burkoff before he betrays you!" Lee Chaolan spreads out some of the papers on the table. And he starts.... starts picking out some stapled papers together, emails printed out. "A fantastic talent like you does not deserve being a victim in this war."
"And it would be criminal to let you keep working for the Syndicate, knowing what I know~."
Nagase takes a moment to swirl the screwdriver around in her glass. She makes a point of looking down into the glass -- not that she could see if there were roofies in the chemical, but to show her obvious skepticism of the drink. 'Won't be hurt' is just the sort of thing he'd say if he wanted her to drink it, of course! If only she had her Battle Disc System's analysis suite...
"... Yeah, how -is- that perv, anyway? He got a -real- good lesson in how to not mix business with pleasure..."
But the breathless recounting of Nagase's long and storied history isn't all that the silver-haired executive has to regale her with. She actually breaks into a snicker as she hears the first job pitch. And she -keeps- smiling as Lee rains compliments down upon her, promising rewards way beyond the ones she's currently enjoying as a preferred contractor of the Syndicate. Her mouth opens, as if she might have a sassy comment to throw in there, but... she draws an open hand over her mouth as Lee continues, trying to neg her into signing on for a supposedly more lucrative deal.
She's unsuccessful in holding back another snicker, as she flicks her right wrist to the side. A shuriken slides out of her sleeve and into her palm -- but even then, she doesn't interrupt Lee, moving instead to carve an upside-down U shape into the box she'd brought along as a delivery.
"Oh, that's... that's how she sold it to you? 'Breaking the patriarchy?' The thought of being a manslave to her feminist hippie agenda don't bother you even in the slightest? What kinda -improvement- is it to have someone who out and out murders you for thinkin' the other way?" She hides her face with a hand for another snorting laugh.
"You think Duke's gonna -betray- me? Maybe if he's on his -deathbed-. Nah, see... we -would- still be rich, and I'd have butlers not unlike yourself serving my every need... if you didn't -already- screw us over!"
She punches the flap out of the box, her tongue snaking out between parted lips as she extracts a laptop from the shipping box. "Forget about the rest of the tournaments, we won King of Fighters fair and square. And you can buy me dinner and drop me compliments all night long, but you're some strange kinda dense if you think I'm just gonna forget how you shredded my bank account because some idealist Ainu bitch toldja to!"
She opens the laptop, pieced together with electrical and Scotch tape, with several keys on the keyboard missing and others damaged. "But hey, I'm a fair woman, lemme ask my friend for help." She sets her drink down, plucking up the laptop with both hands. She points the laptop towards herself, parting the screen just a little -- "Hey, CombziBuddy -- does this guy look like someone I can trust for anything but eye candy?"
She angles the laptop downwards for a moment, has it 'look' Lee up and down, and then turns it back to herself and shakes it fervently in a 'no' answer.
"Well, Lee, I know it's hard to understand binary, but I'm pretty sure the answer's no!"
She flips the shuriken around in her hand, letting it glimmer in the light before she catches it between her third and fourth fingers. She jams her thumb towards the door.
"C'mon, now, get walkin'. Wouldn't -you- like a job that lets you use that brain for something more than scarin' up halfassed plots to lure women into their roofied-up doom?"
Lee Chaolan's tone loses every glimmer of light teasing, as she asks about Yoshiaki.
"At best, he is dead. At worst... I believe he has been captured by NESTS, and his efforts are being used for NESTS technology. Another danger for another time; Yoshiaki was a genius, and if it wasn't for his out of work habits..." Lee Chaolan gives a forlorn sigh. "There is a tragedy when people work in these sorts of fields." If Lee Chaolan is faking his remorse, well, he was certainly the kind of person to fake it. And yet, he glides along, going to the next chair as he heads towards his laptop.
"But enough about him, I have no reason to be sad!"
Lee Chaolan wasn't saying it, but it was heavily implied: he wasn't going to be walking. At least, not until he finishes his show. "Yes, well, it is in your best interest to get yourself out of all this. While I'm not surprised you would stick at Duke's side all the way to his death bed, I think you need to be well aware you are on the wrong side of this war, win or lose." As she brings up the laptop, with the Combzibuddy, however, Lee Chaolan can't help but -wince-. There are things that Lee Chaolan -could- talk himself out of smoothly.
But not even Lee Chaolan can defend that.
Instead, as he averts his eyes form his Comzibomination, he comes over to some of the papers. "I will admit, for the damage I likely have done to your system, I deserve nothing more than to be taken over your knee, and spanked for it!" Lee Chaolan is still not subtle in the least. "I can espouse all about justice; you broke my things, so I broke your things, but in the end, we have nothing but broken machines, and a few liasons in an empty mansion. But I still don't believe you realize the weight of what you're in, Nagase. And I am pleading that if you cannot join us, you can at least get out while you still can. Here, perhaps you would like to hear a little email..."
Lee Chaolan pulls up a piece of paper, and clears his throat.
"There is no need to get rid of Nagase; yes, she has a lot of control on our finances, yes she was key in undermining Violet Systems outside of our control. Yes, she is in the position to exploit us. I can say with my credibility on the line, we can trust Nagase for now. But keep tabs on the Iga clan. We may need to eliminate them in order to keep her loyalities secure. In the short run, they can exist, but if we are going to absorb her into the Syndicate, we need to eliminate all outside ties. Her loyalities need to be with the Syndicate, and the Syndicate alone."
Lee Chaolan gives a half-hearted smirk, as he begins to folds the paper into a small plane.
"There are a few more like that, Nagase; you can preuse them at your own time. I know you are young and idealistic, as well as genius, but there is a certain naivety for working with the Southtown Syndicate." Lee Chaolan's eyes aren't in hers now, but on the shuriken. He tosses the paper airplane towards Nagase's legs, letting it glide. "I do hope you haven't blinded yourself over a devotion to some powerful and ambitious man, that you cannot see the danger you are in." There is a flicker in Lee's eyes, as he leans over the table, giving another sip.
"But what were you saying, on a dinner with you?"
So Lee is no longer teasing; the 'game' is over. Nagase, too, seems to be pretty much done with the idea of flirting, whether joking or otherwise. With her identity now out in the open, not a whole lot of point. There's no love lost for Yoshiaki; if anything, this is more of an interesting probe to see what Lee purportedly thinks.
"So you're not exactly broken up about him," she notes with a wry grin, "even though he was a 'genius' as you say." She purses her lips, nodding -- it seemed sufficient to simply leave that thought on the table.
The laptop is shut, and folded up in her lap. She drums her thumbs on the lid of the laptop as Lee mentions how he ought to be 'spanked' for his misdeeds; clearly, the shifting mood has made that a less attractive prospect than it might have a few minutes prior. She can tell Lee's going somewhere with this line of reasoning though, and lazily arches an eyebrow with only a nominal hint of curiosity in her tone. "I'm listening..."
She narrows her eyes, as the right piece of paper just -happens- to find its way to the former Violet Systems chief's hands. Her nose wriggles. She doesn't scratch it yet, but her thumbs -do- stop their drum beat along the laptop.
The contents of the email are read aloud. And when the paper plane is sent gliding her way, she snatches it out of the air with an errant swipe of her hands, curling it towards her as if to read it...
And then she crumples it into a ball, with barely a change in her attitude.
"That's cute, Lee. I mean, that you thought I hadn't read that before. That maybe, just -maybe- my own little Combzi-buddy wouldn't have intercepted it from the email server."
She finally gives in, on that urge to scratch her nose.
"Look, my clan's at risk, sure. And so's my neck." The bored look melts away -- and behind it lies a sober, world-weary expression. "And -you're- living on borrowed time, in a borrowed suit, in a borrowed house. Pardon me for not having the utmost faith in your ability to protect either -one- of us from the rage that would come down if Duke decides to actually, -really- lose his shit on me."
She slides the laptop aside, and makes as if to rise. But before she can manage to do so fully, she claps her hands together, fingertips spilling out black, inky chi in the pattern of a handseal. And as she slides her hands back, the ninja flickers out of view...
When she stands, it's a good twenty feet back, as if she had practically jumped back from the table in one smooth motion.
"Look, Lee. You already wrecked my shit once. And it's not a -bad- proposal, just not one better'n what I got. So I'm gonna leave you two choices. Option one: You come with me, and -maybe- you can use the excuse that you came with me under duress, and... yeah. We'll make a nice dinner of it, yeah?"
She leans forward, her left hand bracing itself upon her thigh. Her right wrist flicks sideways -- and a ball of bright orange flame dances to life upon her fingers.
"Or else... It's obvious from the tax records that Dahlia was sweet on this place. If I don't bring you back for that brief little chat... I'm gonna need somethin' to show for my work here."
She rises to her full height. Which, given the distance, isn't that much. But the draperies behind her begin to glow orange, as she brings her chi-inflamed fingers ever closer.
"Tick, tock, Chaolan..."
Is the 'game' afoot once more?
The veneer actually peels away, as Lee Chaolan utters a frown, gripping his heart. "I really want to abhor a cycle of violence, young lady. If you are willing to burn this all down, well, tsk tsk tsk. Maybe I should be taking you over my knee, instead of the other way around. And yet, if you know all these things about your boss, his interesting search history, his most private and personal secrets... and you are still loyal to him, then I am helpless! And if you wish to make a big show, young lady, and burn down what I am butling..." He shakes his head, defeated.
"Alas, I have been entrusted to protect this place."
He gestures at the curtains. "Oh, I think I'm expendable enough. Certainly, I'm less expensive to replace than these mansions." He sighs wistfully. "I'm already in dire trouble for this awful stain; what am I going to tell Dahlia? 'Oh, how was I supposed to know the beautiful young lady I let into the mansion was a ninja!' She would geld me for such a mistake. Of course, I could simply fight you, beat you within an inch of your life; and pick off your allies in the process. It would be a grand mess. Believe me, young lady, if it becomes a matter of life and death, it would be a horrible end for you. And yet..." He scratches the floor with his foot, where the slippery stain sits. "I am tired of grand messes. Just simple ones, from now on. Then it's settled."
"I will come with you, with one condition."
Lee Chaolan shakes a finger at Nagase; she might be done with this game, but Lee Chaolan wasn't. "I want to be held by you, and your clan, at least through this gang war. You well know if Duke has his clutches on me, he would actually kill me. Poor dahlia may never walk again; destroying the entire financial structure of a criminal organization like the Southtown Syndicate, well, is -certainly- going to be an expense extracted from me slowly. " He toys with some of his hair. "If I have a choice to be wrung out by vengeful ninjas, or vengeful Yakuza, I will pick the ninjas. It's certainly harder to be -rescued-, but It's certainly safer. Besides." There is a twinkle in his eye.
"I want to see if they all are just as cute as you are, or if you are just unique in that regard~"
Lee Chaolan takes his seat, placing his wrists on the table, offering them pleadingly to Nagase. "Take me in, Nagase, I am all yours, if you agree to those terms. What are you thinking for dinner? I am always eager for somewhere expensive, but, with both of our budgets, I feel like we might be stuck with Ramen. Oh!" He suddenly gasps. "Or fast food! Did you hear that rumor? I heard that they might be opening a Spangles here!"
"Do you really think that it just tastes better?"
Nagase expels a sigh as Lee offers up a frowny-face lecture on her proposed course of action. Her flaming finger wavers closer, twirling in a tight circle, as she counters, "It's a -threat-, Lee. We're both... we're -both- reasonable people forced into unreasonable situations. But it's a legit threat -- you may be the better martial artist, but I guarantee you I'm fast enough to set this place on fire without leavin' you say in the matter."
Perhaps her threat was enough, though; Nagase raises an eyebrow at the suggestion of a condition. Or, she realizes, perhaps Lee is simply trying to game himself into the best possible footing. For Nagase would -not- be able to hold him anywhere near as well by herself as the combined might of the Syndicate.
Nagase can't help but bite down on the compliment offered her way.
And then, double down upon it.
"Spoiler alert: they're not."
Her finger swings up and down for a moment, with the kunoichi giving the counteroffer some long and hard thought. As much as she'd rather -not- get her own clan involved in this -- a clan she fled from, and only recently found cause to reunite with -- there's reason for them to dislike Lee as well. After all, the destruction of their protective wards around Mt. Fuji was a direct consequence of his meddling with the Gear Project. And -- as Lee duly notes, it's preferable to letting the man perish at Duke's hands.
Her eyes light up, as the flames wink out with a puff of smoke. Not for the idea of ramen, but the idea of resolving this -without- combat or undue property destruction.
And then her face shrivels up into disgust at the suggestion of going to a Lightning Spangles-themed restaurant.
"No." She shivers in disgust. "... nnngh... No! Why would you even -suggest- that for a first date? That's... ugh." She crosses both her arms over one another in an 'X' cross, just in case her opinion weren't made obvious. "Just =no=."
But then she walks over to Lee with a sobered smile, measuring out a coil of rope from her sleeve. Not like she carries around -handcuffs-, after all. "... Eh, you're probably right on that, but I got enough to splurge a bit. I got a yakiniku place in mind on the way to the village. If I'm gonna be stayin' with my clan for a bit, meat is right out, so I need to get my fill... Unless you're -really- jonesin' for some bland ol' noodles."
Nagase holds up the rope, stretching it taut. "So yeah. It's a deal, then. In exchange for your assistance, the clan will keep you safe and sound, per our agreement." She taps the ropes against his extended wrists -- in lieu of a handshake. And if he agrees, she'd bind his wrists with brutal, unyielding efficiency -- unbreakable by anything short of a sharpened pocket knife, yet no more than to prove a minor inconvenience to blood flow.
Lee Chaolan's faint smirk continues to endure. The presence of the silver-haired demon was terrifying, even in his surrender. Nagase was clearly falling into some trap; and Lee Chaolan was calmly explaining the trap, and yet... what was the trap? What manipulation was Nagase falling into? Or Dahlia? Or the Syndicate? Or was it something more? And yet, as she rejects the Spangles, she gives an enticing counter-offer. "I hope they aren't too angry at me, but well, I am sure they can work it out of me." A twinkle comes in his eyes upon the ropes being emerged.
It seemed to be something he was hoping for.
"You're quite good at this." Lee Chaolan states, writhing his hands just a little bit, as she begins to tie him up. "I think I would appreciate yakinuku for our first date. Much more exotic, and a little less... bland. I like a little flavor. "You don't mind taking the backdoor on this, do you?"
"I think it would be amusing to see your Syndicate allies in disarray when both of us disappear; only for the inscrutable ninja to report to her boss where Lee Chaolan is currently captured at~" Another fantasy, another story. "Alas, right now I don't think I have much more say; I am completely at your mercy, your little toy." And he lets those bindings come tight. In the end, she asks on the feeling of the ropes. And all Lee Chaolan can respond, to his capture, his surrender?
A brief thumbs up, and a smile.
Log created on 17:57:13 07/09/2018 by Lee Chaolan, and last modified on 12:13:13 07/18/2018.