Honoka - Dahlia's Trip to Venus

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Description: While there are still some hotspots of activity, the level of inter-factional warfare in Southtown is dropping down to a more tolerable level. Dahlia feels comfortable enough to show her scarred face in Southtown again -- and this time that just includes a welfare check on her favorite Aizawa-gumi pal Tairyu.

One of the things that has remained a constant in Tairyu's life even after taking back the reins of Aizawa-gumi is his frustrations with the organizers behind Satuday Night Fight, and the bizarre dance he has ended up in with them. But, for once, something good actually came out of one of their fights he was roped into. In spite of his own doubts, the showdown with a certain famous bartender in the Host Club taking up the first floor of his business was, in the end, an effective promotional tool -- both for the Host Club where the televised fight took place and the Hostess club one floor above. Clubs Mars and Venus both see the effects of it tonight as well; manifested in the number of tables filled out, the number of reservations waiting to fill out the coming vacancies and the sheer amount of liquid capital moved around.

Of course, the announcement that a significant cut of the profits made by the two clubs would be donated towards the reconstruction and recovery efforts within Southtown helps matters. Nothing quite takes away the last pretenses of the fat cats' guilt over letting loose in nightlife debauchery than the knowledge that their own pleasure is indirectly feeding into charity.

"The new girls keeping up with the demand?"

The owner of the club himself presents the question while he walks through the Hostess club's floor to take count of the going-ons. To make sure everything is going smoothly. Which mostly involves sweeping his eyes over the tables occupied by customers, both singles and parties alike. Get a feel for the type of clientele coming in, feel for how well the hostesses are accomodating them. In contrast to the tuxedo of the slightly chubby floor manager walking besides him, he still insists on wearing the looser dress of his black suit and partially-unbuttoned maroon dress shirt. Normally one might expect the owner of such an establishment to dress up much mroe formally, but for better or worse, his outfit of choice has become part of his 'image', too, through the various televised fights

"Yes, yes," the floor manager in question answers the owner with an eager nod of his head just as they pass a booth taken up by two men in very expensive suits and their chosen hostesses clapping over an impressive (though impractical) champagne getting poured down for them. "Even with the... unexpected influx, we're able to keep up with demand. The girls say they're getting tipped very well, too."

"Good, good... No incidents with customers getting too friendly?"

"Only one from two nights ago, but security took care of it quickly. Oh, there was one thing I wanted to bring to your attention, though."


Tairyu pauses in his step just enough that the floor manager can catch up to him -- and promptly hoild out a reservation book to him. "We had a noteworthy customer making a reservation for one of our VIP booths for two days from now."

A dark brow quirks along the club owner's forehead, before silently taking the leather-covered book into his own hands to open and flip through the pages. A quick scan over the page marked for the mentioned day prompts the man's otherwise stoic expression to be broken by the subtle tug of a smirk.

"Interesting. Make sure Yuki, Carla and Rin are on shift that day. Switch girls around if you have to. The three of them know to handle extracurriculars too."

"'Special course', sir?"

"Mmmhm. Have maintenance make sure the... lighting, is all functional the night before."


Legitimate business as the club might be, it *is* still run by a man who calls himself Yakuza -- and incriminating information and the use of it is an important part of that particular trade.

There is another reservation which the floor manager might have seen fit to bring to Tairyu's attention -- if it weren't placed under an alias. To the person filling out the reservation form, "Tenjiku Botan" probably wouldn't stand out.

But when a woman, slight of frame and sporting a tied-back shock of brilliant red hair shows up at the maitre'd podium, it'd become quite obvious that 'Tenjiku Botan' is not a name, but a noun: Dahlia. The leader of a rival yakuza faction, the Akatsuki. Despite the abrupt change in hair color, the woman's fire-ravaged face is a dead tipoff of who the club would be welcoming. Dahlia has made no attempts to hide the wound from her ill-timed play against Burkoff, preferring instead to wear it as a medal of honor. Especially now that the situation in Southtown has... changed.

She and the two goons behind her are all wearing similar pinstriped vests over charcoal-grey shirts and shale ties. It's a bit of a shift from the previous Akatsuki standard, but times have changed. But while the two men have sports coats, Dahlia's jacket is acoutred with more distinctive piping and trim, draping down to knee level. Oolong-cha tinted irises glance over a set of red eyeglass frames at the maitre'd. "I have a reservation under 'Botan,'" she declares. "Table of one. I was told Rin was working tonight." Dahlia offers a perfunctory smile, fingers lacing together as she looks back at the maitre'd. Her eyes do not wander -- but as discomfiting as direct eye contact could be, the man should be grateful she hasn't dialed the intensity up to 'piercing.'

She mentioned a table of one. Her two escorts will wait patiently outside, wherever convenient.

It likely isn't the first time a client has come with a protective entourage, so the staff isn't exactly unsettled by it. Though the maitre'd greeting the burned woman might be... mildly unsettled by the intensity of her gaze. At least the poor young man manages to still do his job in spite of it all.

Requesting a specific girl does incur an additional fee, but customers who make such requests rarely seem to have issues with that. Perhaps it will be of little consequence to Dahlia, as well.

Meanwhile, the owner of the club lifts his eyes up from the reservation book. And as he holds it out back to the floor manager, his own intensely green gaze ends up drifting towards the entrance there. The less-familiar hair color delays the registration of the woman's face for half a second or so, but ultimately.. Theres no mistaking it.

"Oh, shit."

Whatever thoughts might be taking up Tairyu's head with the realization of who has just stepped into his club has no bearing on the service that is immediately provided for her, at least. She's lead to a free table -- a booth a bit closer towards the corner. All of the seating options have been designed with a modicum of privacy in mind to begin with, but this one gives that additional ensurance. Perhaps she requested as much, perhaps it's purely coincidental.

It's barely seconds after she's been settled at the comfortably cushioned couch lining the booth when a japanese girl walks primly to view. The girl's a rather slender one, save for the... considerable 'cushioning' stretching the tasteful cut of the single-strap black dress that constrasts with her long, blonde hair.

"Good evening~," she greets her customer now cheerfully, apparently not put off by the woman's presence or the burns on her face by the least while she dips into a proper bow, holding out a business card for Dahlia with both hands. "I'm Rin, it's my pleasure to meet you!"

As for her entourage, they are allowed to wait just outside the entrance to the club floor proper. Though they would find an additional man moving to man the front door shortly after. No doubt the club owner wants additional eyes there. And out on the street, too, for that matter. No moves too overt or aggressive, but just enough to intentionally make presences known. It's not every day you see the leader of another clan making an appearance this deep into another's territory, but to Aizawa-gumi's credit, they mobilize quickly.

Her guards appear perfectly content to wait outside, without the luxury of smartphones to check up on sports scores or fighttubes or anything of the sort. No -- for these two have been ordered to keep their eyes open. Though, from time to time, one guard might lean closer to another to share a conspiratorial whisper. Nothing more in that department.

Dahlia hardly seems to notice as she's led to her table. With the maitre'd escorting her, she allows her gaze to turn glassy and her consciousness to wander about the club.

It takes only a moment for her to find the man she's looking for.
He's here, she confirms silently.

Clarity returns to her vision. And if Tairyu happens to be tracking her, it might seem odd for her to turn from the maitre'd, to turn directly at him without any signs of stopping to look at the rest of the crowd. And for her to offer him -- and him alone -- a pointed, predatory smile. The exchange would last only a moment, presuming Tairyu doesn't write it off as a panicked fit of imagination -- for she's back to following the maitre'd almost immediately afterwards.

Dahlia slips her way into the booth, primly tucking the long folds of her jacket beneath her. Her eyes glisten with traces of golden radiance as she nods her appreciation to the maitre'd. Just as she's starting to bask in the energy of the room, Rin appears. And instantly, the pointed focus snaps right to the beautiful hostess.

"Good evening to you. The silky-smooth response is matched with a warm smile. "Dahlia." The lack of hesitation towards her scarred visage is noted -- and appreciated, judging from the barest tint of pink across Dahlia's cheeks. "And the pleasure's all mine." Amber-flecked eyes stay locked upon Rin's throughout the bow, as black-gloved hands reach out to accept the offered card.

The Akatsuki boss does not break eye contact as she sits up straight in her booth -- but of course, it's hard to miss the luxuriant blonde hair framing those eyes. "I've heard much about you, Rin -- but this is, alas, my first time actually coming here. Do you have any recommendations?" For the moment, Dahlia's gaze stays locked on Rin's -- though she's not, well, -relaxing-. She's still seated stock upright in her seat -- well cognizant of the hustle and bustle surrounding her in the heart of Aizawa territory.

Not only does Tairyu track Dahlia enough to see her making that turn -- but for that brief instant, even from the distance, his sharp, emerald eyes settle right on her amber gaze. The stoic cut of the current family head of Aizawa doesn't break away in the face of that predatory smile she's directing at him, no, but there's plenty enough meaning in that alone. In the distant locking of eyes, and the intent in his own gaze. A fated encounter, perhaps.

But not one that can't be put off long enough for her to get settled there. And Rin's there to help her with that. After the blonde's card ahs been taken, she's quick to slide herself into the cushioned seating, right besides her. Just inches away from thighs brushing together.

"That is a beautiful name, Dahlia. Here, here..." A hand slips just underneath the table to draw out a menu, opened and held out for Dahlia to peruse. "I know we have something you will like. A lot of the other girls like to open up with champagne, but I actually like cognac, personally. We also have food if you're hungry, and you're a smoker we have various brands of cigarettes and cigars..." She's eager to serve, certainly. And not at all shy about emphasizing her own beauty in proximity with Dahlia.

The blonde does notice her client's firm posture, too, and she still has that winning smile to offer for her. "First time to a place like this? It's alright, I will try to make your visit as comfortable as possible~."

Some hostesses tend more towards listening to customers and making themselves seem interested in every word given to them. Rin seems to lean more on the talkative side. She does ask questions about Dahlia herself, but she doesn't press matters. In the end, the hostesses are there to tempt the customers into buying further into the menu -- but still the blonde's friendliness isn't entirely a front. And when she leans towards borderline flirty, there may well even be genuine interest there. Apparently the scarring's not counted as a negative there.

Dahlia is, perhaps deliberately, given plenty time to get acquintanced with the hostess and to indulge in stock on offer on the menu, before someone who is decidedly not a waiter comes intruding on the privacy.

Tairyu's stature is likely hard to miss on his approach to the booth occupied by Dahlia and Rin, too. And as he does, Rin is quick to offer a respectful dip of his head to her employer, though she remains relaxed otherwise.

"Good evening," the man offers then, with a lean into a respectful bow towards Dahlia herself. "I hope everything is to your liking, ma'am?" Putting on the image of a respectable club-owner attending to customer service for now, rather than that of the local crime boss.

"Cognac sounds wonderful, I'd love to." Dahlia knows the game and how it's played. The psychic tusukur would know if she were being deceived in a heartbeat -- and yet, here, now, she chooses to lose herself in cacophony of conversation. Compared to the quiet of her normal workstation, the prattle of a beautiful young woman is refreshing. Blissful, even.

Dahlia is happy to indulge in the occasional sip of cognac, confident that the long frequency between sips wouldn't compromise her intellectual integrity. She allows herself to become bewitched by Rin's enticing appeals for a dinner selction, opting for one of the pricier entrees -- always a sucker for salmon. And here and there, in the midst of conversation, she lets her gaze drift across Rin's sinuous form. For the con artist knows full well that catching her in 'accidental' motions like that can be their own reward; there's nothing more frustrating than for a flirtatious advance to be rejected wholesale.

There is, after all, no harm in living a little. And Dahlia feels that she's earned it.

The faux redhead's smile -- an ever-present fixture since Rin's arrival -- fades to a small degree at the advent of her employer. Though to be fair -- Dahlia makes a point of looking him up and down, head-to-toe as he approaches. Not as if she hasn't -met- the man before, of course.

"Rin has been a charmer -- an absolute delight, my man. It's easy to see why this club has become an overnight success."

With a broad smile, she raises the glass of cognac to her lips, for only a small, dainty sip. She regards Rin with a sideways glance. "How did you two meet, anyway? I'm -sure- there's a story behind it. I can't imagine you're here -solely- for his good looks."

It's clear Dahlia's enjoying her time here. And she leans into the question-and-answer game fully. And yet -- Tairyu's time is valuable. So, at an opportune moment, she notes softly, with a raise of her cognac glass: "If I had a hat on, I'd tip it to you. A celebration -- for if I'm not mistaken, you certainly seem to have... moved on from your prior contract, hmm...?"

"Oh Dahlia-san, you flatter me," Rin coos from beside the redhead. Her employer, meanwhile, draws himself to standing upright again, hands clasped together just before his waist.

"Took quite a bit of prepwork to manage it, I assure you," Tairyu assures over the part of the compliment that was directed at him. "And I suppose the free publicity we scored did help matters quite a bit."

The question's met with some good-natured laughter... at least on Rin's part. Tairyu isn't quite as easily moved. "Well, it certainly *helped*, you know?" The blonde claims, with a wink sent to the club owner's way. "But Tairyu-san and his father - bless his soul - actually knew me through my prior workplace. They've been looking after me and some of the other girls here since before he started setting things up here." There's a brief wince at some distant memory there, in the Hostess' eyes. And a grateful look sent to her current employer. Perhaps the girl's previous workplace wasn't as... pleasant.

"Just doing our part for the people living here." Tairyu's comment comes in an even tone, accompanied with a slow shrug.

But the mention of a prior contract? Oh, that gets his deadpan expression turning briefly, with a lidding of his eyes. Rin seems to catch on to that little bit of something in between her client and employer, too, giving quick looks back and forth between them. "Oh, gosh... You know each other?"

"Mmm. From here and there... I suppose I can sit down for a while."

A quick dipping of the head towards Dahlia, before the man in the black suit moves to slide himself into the booth -- though giving some space to Rin and Dahlia, for now, scooching into the opposite end of the couch-seat.

"See, now *there's* someone who never seems to relax..." Rin whispers conspirationally to the redhead while he's settling there -- just loud enough for the subject of the gossip to actually hear it, and sends a bit of a narrow-eyed look back at her.

"Oh, scary~. Soooo..." After quickly flagging down a member of the staff to bring another glass for the party, she quickly turns to face Dahlia, likely expecting she's much more likely to get a proper (and more interesting) answer to her question from her. "How did *you* meet?"

Dahlia seems to be quite moved by Rin's story, nodding in appreciation. Tairyu's words had shown him to be a man of conviction, in their first meeting, and to hear Rin speak so highly of him and his father shows that it wasn't a one-time deal. "That's sweet, I'm glad to hear it."

Though, of course, she does start to wonder what sorts of places Rin may have worked before. Dahlia is positive she's never had Rin under -direct- employ. But remembering the sheer magnitude of Japan's population puts her mind at ease. "Tairyu-san may be one of the nicest people I've come across. I'm glad to see he wasn't just trying to impress me." This time, it's she who offers a wink.

The redhead seems pleased at Rin's gentle ribbing of the stoic employer. Challenging a higher-up is not a -typically- Japanese trait; perhaps that's why her smile grows.

Fingers curl lightly around the base of her cognac glass, as the ice cubes clink together. "He saved me from two pursuers who were clearly up to no good." She draws in her breath, eyes scintillating with radiance. "We had a nice little chat -- about fate. And about how we might never meet again."

She quaffs another sip of cognac -- more for effect than the minuscule volume imbibed. "I, for one, am glad he left the statement open at the time."

She sets the cognac down -- and then moves to liberate a piece of salmon from its surrounding environs. Thinking for a moment, she grows more solemn, more thoughtful. She asks, "Do you feel... /safe/ here, now?" She directs the question largely to Tairyu, but of course, it'd be rude to ignore the lovely lady at her side. She looks askance at her, and adds with a faint smile: "I've been thinking of moving back to town."

"Oh, that sounds *just* like him," Rin declares, bouncing ever-so-subtly (in more ways than one) on her seating while her eyes glitter from the story imparted upon her.

"She's exaggerating," Tairyu himself insists, with a nod given to the waitstaff that imparts the third glass onto the table before moving on to attend to some other table elsewhere. "I hardly did a thing."

The blonde hostess rolls her eyes over-dramatically and lets out a huff. "At least he's not only like that with us here," she says, even while leaning to take the bottle of cognac to pour some of the alcohol into the glass brought out for Tairyu. And topping off Dahlia's, while she's at it. Likely putting on much more of a lean into it than should be strictly necessary for the sake of emphasizing the neckline of her dress to the customer sitting next to her. "He's *annoyingly* modest, right?" She adds in, flashing a grin over to the redhead. "All compliments just bounce off of him. No wonder he's still single."

"You know I can hear you from here, right?"

"That's the point!"

In spite of the continued ribbing, it's Dahlia that Tairyu's attention is strictly on. Emerald eyes holding amber-flecked ones. And for just a brief moment, his brows knit closer towards each other, both at her following question and the statement.

"Oh, certainly much safer than before I met Tairyu-san and Aizawa-san," Rin offers for her own part to that question. Her expression grows even more interested, and she's about to say something, before...


The single, firmly-spoken syllable draws the blonde's attention over to the dark-haired man. "Why don't you take a break while me and Dahlia talk about... some very boring business."

The hostess straightens up at that, blinking slowly. There's a distinct understanding there. She's not exactly in the dark about the 'profession' Tairyu holds behind the front stage of business ownership.

"Oh, sure... Just let me know when you're done, okay?"

Smoothly, Rin draws herself up with a little wiggle to her hips, hands smoothing out the skirts of her dress along her legs. She rounds the table from the side Tairyu's settled on -- and rather boldly draws her hand over her employer's shoulder. "Leave some for me, okay~?"

This is finally enough to bring the male Yakuza to breaking his eye contact with Dahlia, and look up, in bemusement at the hostess. "I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Sure, sure."

She slips further away with that, but not without a bright smile and a finger-wiggling wave offered to the redhead left behind. "See you again soon~."

There's a small moment, after Rin has left the table and earshot, where Tairyu merely holds his gaze on Dahlia. The underlying intensity remains, still. Not quite sizing the woman up, no. It may seem, to an outside observer, like it's something challenging. Daring her to make the first move. An air similiar to two gunslingers ready to draw on each other.

"... I rather like what you've done with your hair."

And yet, when that silence breaks such, it's not so much as an explosion of gunfire, but rather with something... much amicable.

"But..." He lets out a heavy sigh, and allows himself to lean his weight into the back support of the booth's lavisciously cushioned seating. "I doubt you came here to hear about my tastes. Or to just indulge in one of my best girls."

Dahlia won't admit it here, or now, but she actually does not like to drink. And it has everything to do with the calming relaxation which Rin had been exhorting her employer to take part within. For a calm mind is slow to react to threats.

As to whether Rin's employer is too modest, she grins -- an acknowledgment of the well-put phrasing -- but lets the repartee continue until there's a moment of silence for her to jump in. "I'm sure Tairyu-san is just waiting for the right opportunity to strike," she offers charitably. It suits Dahlia's needs to allow Rin to hug the center spotlight for now.

Though, yes. While she wouldn't mind the blonde staying for -some- of the discussion, she shares a brief, knowing glance with Tairyu for the polite -- if abrupt -- dismissal. And the brief back-and-forth that follows -- it even brings a pale pink tint back to Dahlia's face as she lowers her gaze. "Clearly she's talking about the cognac," she comments helpfully. Compliments go a long way with the Ainu woman. And it becomes clear that Rin has won her way to a particular level of influence with her.

And compliments from Tairyu, while honest, are considerably more rare. Dahlia flashes a refreshed smile at him, nodding in appreciation. "You noticed that, hm? Thanks. I figured if the -scarlet- was a bit more over, people would stop calling me 'Black Dahlia' by mistake." That last notion causes one eyelid to twitch -- the famous victim is one reason she half-handedly wished she'd picked a different nom de plume.

"Well, those weren't the -only- reasons," she admits. "Though if you're asking, definitely more of column B than column A." With a lick of her lips, she adds, "No offense, of course. I'd offer a threesome, but you really shouldn't get involved with your help."

Dahlia brings the glass of cognac closer, though she contents herself with merely wrapping her fingertips around the chilled glass. "More to the point," she states with a light cough. "I -am- seeking to re-establish a foothold here, with a -bit- more subtlety than the blinking neon arrows blaring out 'dumbass stronghold' in 10-meter-tall letters."

With cognac in hand, she finally leans back into the comfortable cushioning of her booth seat. "But first, I want to hear about Duke getting his ass handed to him. Were you party to that?"

"None taken," Tairyu assures in that same amicable tone, with a shake of his head. "But I suppose I will just have to try to corner you when Rin doesn't have first dibs, hmm?" Eyes lid slightly with the statement most who know the man would consider incredibly uncharacteristic. Just as uncharacteristic as the momentary playfulness flickering in his gaze. Anyone's guess if he's serious about it or just trying to throw the woman off.

Still, to the point. Tairyu doesn't even make an effort to put on a show of drinking -- electing instead to keeping his arms loosely folded along his chest, while his eyes keep constant watch of the redhead. The rival crime boss.

"Not directly, I am sad to say," he confesses without any hesitation, for her question. No sense in dancing around the subject. The answer would be easy to find even if he had any personal reasons to keep his involvement hidden. "Strictly speaking, my focus during the chaos was ensuring the wellbeing of my people and the continued survival of my Family. Though I suppose that in itself is party to the current landscape of the powers that be in Southtown."

Eyes narrow again, and lips purse subtly. There's a certain uncertainty that flickers in the man's expression now, while he considers the redhead, gaze drawing up and down along her.

"And what will come of that, exactly?" The question is a blunt one, as may well be expected of the honest nature Dahlia likely already marked down on Tairyu.

"Duke was a major part of the Syndicate activities within this city, but that doesn't mean The Syndicate is gone. Don't think whatever attraction I might hold to mean I don't know and understand the history there, Dahlia-san. There are open wounds there still. Gaping, bleeding wounds. And you would hold a packet of salt right above them."

The subtle, resting scowl of Tairyu's typical stoic expression deepens some. An idle thing turning into a purposeful one.

"This city can't handle another war right now."

Dahlia concedes with a sly smile, "With 'Try' being the operative word, sure." The tusukur has been in the city long enough to know all the blind alleys and turns, believing herself far more of an expert than he. She leaves him the benefit of the doubt on both his ability to maneuver the streets of Southtown as well as the unstated implications of what might come next. For she, too, is keeping his motions in her watchful gaze. Pleasure or pain notwithstanding, Tairyu is -still- a potential enemy in this game of multidimensional chess.

She listens carefully as the humble Tairyu divests himself of the credit for the raid on Duke Burkoff. A small frown, as she realizes Tairyu didn't get to enjoy the denouement. "A shame. I'd heard it was quite the get-together," she comments, swirling the ice around in her glass. "Couldn't have happened to a better man, tch." A wry, lopsided smile follows.

Dahlia, though, sees that Tairyu is also not afraid to assert his own organization's interests. To remind Dahlia of the city's pain. One hand peels from the glass, presses against the vest over her heart. "Perish the thought! Oh, no, Tairyu-san... it's a mistake to add salt before one tastes the meat." The hand flattens, and spreads to her side. Chastened -- at least in a surface sense -- she explains, "And that's all I'm doing here today. Seeing what's changed -- and how to ensure that the seismic shifts that happened under Burkoff and Volkov don't shake the foundation this whole city is -founded- upon."

A quick sip of cognac -- and then she leans forward again, cutting a thin slice of salmon away from her meal. "Tell me, Tairyu -- what do you think Duke's fatal flaw was? What makes you -better- than he? Why is it you and I can have this nice little chat without... emotions running rampant, hmm?"

"We will just have to see," Tairyu's voice rumbles up, while he still regards the faux-redhead with the lidded gaze. "...Well. I say that, but I am not the kind of man who would take pleasure from forcing such a thing. It takes two to tango, and it certainly doesn't make for a good dance if the other dancer is unwilling."

Even Tairyu can't help but allow a snort to make it's way up his throat, on the subject of Duke's ousting. "I'm sure it would have been a fun excursion. But as things stood, I had... priorities."

Slowly, one finger taps along his arm while he listens to her. As amusing as the verbal dance between the two may have been, it's an undeniable fact that a certain suspicion persists within him, too. Perhaps it would be less understandable if he *wasn't* wary of her and her motivations.

"I never knew Duke personally," he points out. "And I'm sure I can't make as good of an estimation on that as you can. But I can certainly make an effort, based on the effects his activities had on me and mine. ... His leadership spoke to me of short-sightedness. Greed, and holding people in line through fear. That brewed suffering, and that in turn brewed grudges and resentment. Bridges burnt rather than built."

Finally, his arms unfold, and he scoots himself forward on his side of the couch, to reach over for the salmon spread upon the platter left on the table. "... The kind of Yakuza the man who rasied me strove to be understands the value in keeping both civilians and the people working under you content. The value of community. Feel free to call him and myself idealistic fools, because I know what that sounds like... But truly, my motivations do not lie purely in the affluency of myself and Aizawa-gumi alone."

The Ainu tusukur laughs at Tairyu's backpedaling. "I'm pickin' up what you're puttin' down, Tairyu-san -- but you're makin' it weird now." With a round of gentle laughter, she adds, "If the moment happens, it happens."

As Tairyu speaks on the topic of Duke, Dahlia takes the opportunity to dig into her salmon. She draws in her breath, savors the flavor and aroma with half-lidded eyes. It has been far too long since she's had a sit-down meal like this -- and perhaps it shows.

But despite her nonverbal gestures, she is, nonetheless, listening intently to Tairyu's reply. The mention of short-sightedness gets an immediate nod from Dahlia. Greed, fear, suffering... resentment.

"Yes. Western heavy-handedness and a relentless drive towards profit." She plucks up a piece of salmon, gesturing it in emphasis as one might a hammer or screwdriver. "I would say you've hit the nail on the head, Tairyu-san. Honor is a complicated, nuanced weapon -- and he wielded it as a simple cudgel."

Chewing thoughtfully on her next piece of salmon, she considers the role of the Aizawa in the larger context of Yakuza affairs. "Similarly, though -- the Yamaguchi-gumi were increasingly focused on petty affairs. Division, class warfare, profit. Whereas the Akatsuki were born from those same flames, motivated to move beyond them... Burkoff was able to seize on those desires, to weaponize those fears. The hearts of Men were stoked into flames. And it's important to not only bear ideals -- but to be aware that others need... "

Dahlia glances away, flashing a smile at someone just out of view momentarily, before turning back to Tairyu.

"Some need more base motivation, from time to time. Keep your people happy, Tairyu-san -- and your ideals will be their ideals."

Dahlia eyes the cognac for a moment, wrinkling her nose. She realizes that perhaps she should have asked for a water as well. The minor interruption notwithstanding, she turns back to Tairyu. And adds, "How about you? Are you happy? Are there any... points of pain that you could use some assistance with?"

"That's not surprising." Tairyu's broad shoulders roll in a slow shrug underneath the cover of his jacket, with that statement. "Even for all my own talk of honor and principle... I have to acknowledge that our lifestyle is one of flames. Tempering our hearts and burning the ground underneath our feet."

A heavy sigh, vaguely rueful sigh leaves the man's lips before he allows himself to indulge on a biteful of the salmon. But still, leaned over to the table, eyes kept firmly on Dahlia's own. Never truly wandering away, not even when her own gaze seperates to glance someplace else.

"In the end, though there are exceptions found in those who choose the life for the profits... most of us are but men and women lost and abandoned from the rest of the society. Those who have been forced to forge a path in between the cracks of it all, those who can't fit in, those who are only good at one thing... Those who wish for a place to belong in spite of it all. That's who we are, as outlaws."

Only now, do those emerald orbs drift downwards. Sliding down to aim their focus to the open palm of his hand, momentarily, watching while his fingers slowly stretch out, and then curl closed again.

"And to give those lost and abandoned that place to belong... a way to move forward... be they those filling the ranks of the Family or those forced to work illicit jobs on the streets of this forsaken city... That was what my father was..."

And back up that intense green gaze lifts, seeking out Dahlia's amber flecks all over again.

"And what I intend to be. As Gokudo."

For all the solemn words he had just given, for all the dedication practically flooding over the table with every single syllable... the question he is presented with after? That takes him visibly by surprise.

"Am I... happy?" He repeats it with a few slow blinks, as if though the woman had just spoken in some utterly alien language. "That's... strange. I don't think I have heard that question in a long time. Not even from myself. I've..." For a brief instant, his eyes close, while thoughts are recollected, steadied. Some form of clarity sought out. "For my organization, things are... going smoothly enough, at least. But I don't think I have had the time to consider that on a personal level."

As Tairyu's mood takes a downward turn, Dahlia allows the intensity of her smile to diminish. She listens intently, setting her utensils down so that she can receive the true depth of the words from her conversational partner. As with Rin, Dahlia is content to listen. Each inflection, each rising or falling tone, has its reflection in the tusukur's eyes.

Exceptions. That word causes her to purse her lips. The ones who fell between the cracks. Though her eyebrows lower, her gaze remains laser-affixed upon the yakuza's. For the eyes are a window into the soul -- a depth which, at the moment, she intends to seek out.

And when he falls silent?

A simple statement.
"A kindred soul."
And a simple smile, hiding a story of pain and suffering, of loss and abandonment, that for the moment shall remain untold.

Is he -happy-, though?
Dahlia remains solemn, for the moment.
"You own not one, but -two- clubs. You are an entertainer -- if not always, then at least -now-, Tairyu-san -- and you cannot answer the question of whether you are happy?"

Dahlia slices off a hunk of salmon. "It seems like such a simple question, doesn't it? And yet, as you've proven... it's nuanced, mm?" She lifts the piece into her field of view, parading it about before her. "I enjoy this salmon -- one of the most delectable treats of my youth, and a gift I succumb to at least twice each week as an adult."

She pops the succulent meat into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. She ponders, pointedly looking up at the ceiling in consideration. And then she matches Tairyu's gaze once more. "It makes me happy. Because I know I deserve it. I'm not worried about the future when I chew -- I'm only worried about the here and now. Knowing that I can afford this salmon -- and that I enjoy it. And that tomorrow, I can have it again."

She sets the utensils down, folding one gloved hand over the other.

"So let's focus on the moment. Are you happy to be here with me now? Rather than indulging your other required duties?"

A kindred soul, she's said.

Just hearing that, Tairyu shouldn't take it at immediate face value. There should be some measure of suspicion, healthy skepticism -- at the very least, some questions. But no. The only thing vaguely in that direction is a brief, confused burrowing of brows. And after that?

Understanding. Truly, in that moment, when he stares into the woman's eyes, he sees not a window, but a mirror. It may not be the full truth. But right then, right there? FOr just those few seconds? That's enough. That alone, is something uniqe.

And for now, nothing else needs to be said about it.

Not that the concept of happiness seems to be any easier for Tairyu to speak up on now. Though Dahlia is doing a phenomenal job of keeping his attention on it. Listening to every word she gives him, even closely watching her indulge in the treat of salmon.

"...Perhaps I'm not entirely certain of what I deserve, either," he confesses, then. "All the things I've done ever since I had the first stroke of ink on my back has been less to do with 'do I want this' or 'do I deserve this' and more with 'should I do this'. I'm sure that sounds like a curse to some, but... It's not like I regret it."

The question of the here and now is much easier, at least. It might still warrant a moment of thought on the part of the Aizawa-gumi's head, but it is much more easily solidifiable thing.

"...Funny you should ask that. By all accounts, I should be considering you a threat, you know? Between the potential of what you and your organization could push onto this city, and the sheer danger of backlash from the other elements in this city who hold such a grudge that even knowing I spent such a moment with you would be enough to draw their ire. And yet..."

A slight upward tug twitches at the corner of his mouth.

"...Yes. I think I am. Certainly I am enjoying the talk much more than I expected I would."

What makes one -deserving- of happiness? Surely, if you were to ask the average person this question, they might impulsively answer that anyone should be happy. Or that everyone who is not a murderer, rapist, or child trafficker should be happy. The line may change, but the vast truth of the matter is that 'most' people should be happy.

Dahlia weighs these possibilities in her head, even as she listens to Tairyu speak. His humility -- is a -throttle- on his ambitions. Dahlia has heard so many great people, with great visions, constrained by their own foolish notions on what they -deserve- to partake in.

A fire kindles in her eyes, those amber flecks brightening -- a possible trick of the light, perhaps.
But then, her question. And his answer.

Dahlia, too, flashes a broad smile. "Then there. I've asked the question, and you've answered. You -are- happy now, it is done." She claps her hands together -- not a final note, but a pale imitation.

"Now, had it had been too long since you've asked?" Her hand splays to the side, to the center of the room. To the customers, happy to splurge their cares away. To the dancers, happy to be paid to help others have a good time. "You work in entertainment. In -customer service-. People come here to feel good, and you deliver that. From that -alone- you deserve to be happy. It's -essential- to grasp onto those moments of happiness, Tairyu-san, to hold them -tightly-... because there will be days where every good moment will be balanced out by six bad moments."

She lowers her hands -- and consumes another morsel of her salmon platter. And then she gestures to her mouth. Happiness.

Dahlia smiles once again. "Happiness is ephemeral, fleeting. Easy to miss, if you don't seek it out. But it's essential to keep it in your view. To cherish the moments you do have -- to remind yourself of what we fight for, of these lofty ideals of ours, to forge a better society for those who have fallen between the cracks."

She laughs, leaning back and steepling her fingers. "Do you really consider me so large a threat, now that you know what makes my mouth water? Tairyu-san, you have the perfect insight here into what makes people tick. Into what makes -Southtown- live and breathe. The perfect weapon -- and one that Burkoff and Volkov completely fail to recognize it."

She laughs, again, crossing her legs.

"So the Syndicate finds out I'm here, with you?" She opens her coat, slowly -- acknowledging that it could be a threat, and revealing the inner lining of her jacket accordingly. Therein, she simply pulls out a wallet. And withdraws several large bills.

"It's a simple financial transaction. And you -- and Rin, of course -- will profit handsomely. We all have our vices, and you cater to them... Right?"

She leans forward, placing first the money, and then her elbows, onto the table. "Answer me this, then. Forget about Duke, or Volkov -- what are you -scared- of?"

"The ends that this club is a means to isn't largely about my happiness, either," Tairyu is to quick to point out with an upward quirk of his brow.

Still, there is truth to Dahlia's words. And there is an acknowledgement in Tairyu's expression for it, even just through witnessing her indulging in the succulent salmon.

"... It is not as if though I don't understand the importance of it," he adds in, thus, with a more rueful tone edging into his voice. "It has just... been a difficult thing for me, as of late."

It can, truly, be a dangerous sight to see another gangster opening up their coat, even in the middle of a place like this. But, while the acknowledgement of such a potential threat does show in the momentary stiffness in Tairyu, he doesn't allow himself to overtly react to it. Perhaps that speaks of his faith in his own reflexes in the event that a firearm had come out instead of a stack of bills.

"Unfortunately, I'm sure you know just as well as I do. In this business, a friendly dinner and such a morself of personal knowledge - however interesting it may be - is not enough to assure the lack of a threat from a potential rival."

The money is briefly eyed over when it's set on the table -- but what comes after from the woman's mouth brings his eyes quickly snapping right back to her.

"Now *that* is a dangerous question for me to answer. You must realize as much. Especially when you haven't answered my original question."

Leaning up forward now, he reaches one hand over, slowly, towards the stack of bills, while holding his eyes on Dahlia's.

"How will you make your return to Southtown? And what will come of it? That will determine if I am to be your enemy..."

Fingers press down on the bills, enough that he can tug them into sliding towards his side of the table. But he doesn't lean the rest of his body back with that. If anything, he even leans further in, bringing himself much closer to the redhead than they have ever been before, over that midway point of the table between them.

"...Or something else."

He holds himself there, along with that question. A different kind of challenge flickering in his emerald eyes while they firmly hold contact with Dahlia's own gaze.

Of course, his question could easily be answered with a lie. He must know as much. But perhaps in this moment, the exact lie told and *how* it is told could be of significance to him, too.

Dahlia shakes her head slowly. "No, that's... not what I was getting at. You see..." The half-Ainu woman clasps her hands together. "Happiness isn't an end goal, Tairyu-san -- it's a requirement of life. A resource, just like food or water -- and one you monetize here in these clubs. And just like food, you can only go without it for so long before it starts to affect you, hmm?"

Dahlia's hand lazily drifts over to the glass of cognac. Which she then raises to her lips for a small sip.

"Hunger. Thirst. And burnout. Those are the consequences for going without. None of those is pleasant. All I'm doing is offering some free advice. If happiness as a concept is difficult for you, fix that. Make it part of your routine. That's all..."

And then Tairyu begins to make his move, to close upon Dahlia and to squirrel her money away. As if the master of manipulation might not -notice- the two happening in concert.

Her shoulders and stance remain fixed in place. Her smile grows to Cheshire proportions. And yet, her eyes do not twinkle any more than usual -- no signs that she's tapping into even a minutia of her wellspring of powers.

"Something -else-, Tairyu? If you're suggesting anything other than a purely -professional- relationship, all I can say is..."

Dahlia purses her lips, rolling the thought about in her mind for a moment. "That's..." Her eyes widen. And she deadpans, breathlessly. "That's fuckin' adorable, to be honest." She shrugs her shoulders, the fabric of her coat shifting just so.

The glass of cognac is set back down on the table. It makes a noise -- which is, considering Dahlia's previous delicacy, is certainly deliberate.

And yet, Dahlia bears a slight smile. "In short, Tairyu-san, I'll return to Southtown when I'm damn well ready. You took the money without even asking my intent -- without even an *attempt* at negotiation. Which pretty much -answers- my question of what you're scared of. More free advice for you: Work on that."

She slides the plate of half-eaten salmon away from her. "It's a shame, I think I've lost my appetite."

Fingertips lace together in the newly-vacated spot before her. She smiles -- though it's taken on more of a condescending edge, to match her tone and wild-eyed expression. "More to the point, I don't give a fuck about who owns Southtown, so long as Burkoff and Volkov don't get a slice. They couldn't talk their way out of a speeding ticket without lightin' somethin' on fire. Geese Howard, at least, has a good head on his shoulders." The redhead expels an irritable sigh, along with another shrug. Brows lowering, she states in a lower tone. "I think I've done plenty of talking tonight. You know what I want, ne? So show me what you've learned: make me an offer, Tairyu-san."

"My, now that *is* a phenomenal jump to make from 'enemies', isn't it?" A subtle hint of amusement twitches in Tairyu's eyes and lips alike. "And here I thought there was much more in between those two points."

The cash is pinched up between two fingers, and brought up off the table, held between the two of them. "And this? If your intent for this was more than for the bill you have been accruing, you should perhaps dance less in verbal circles. I've no taste for such a thing." Pointedly, the stack is shoved right back down onto the table, right in front of her interlaced fingers, with a quiet *thump*.

"But why don't you tell me what I am scared of, then, Dahlia-san? If you think I am diametrically opposed to Akatsuki-gumi moving into Southtown... No. I am only concerned with the ripples such a move would create under the current climate. How it would affect this city. Frankly, I couldn't give a shit about the personal feelings of the Syndicate people on the matter. I'm sure you can imagine how little love I have for that particular organization. ... In the long-term, a single monolithic entity ruling over everything here would... not be healthy, either."

Eyes narrow, briefly, and brows lower, while he studies the faux-redhead, at her prompting. "Do, I though? We may have known each other for but a short time, but I can already tell. You are not the type to let all your desires in any one matter show. Only the ones that are useful to be known. Like Rin, for example... which. Well. How she has fun on her free time is hardly something I should be dictating."

The subtle tugging of a smile returns to his lips again, but there's something considerably more genuine about it now. "But you'd certainly be her type."

That thought - as amusing as Tairyu might find it - is pushed aside for now. He leans himself back away again, settling into the cushioned backrest and arms to folding along his chest.

"I can make the educated guess still, I suppose. You're thinking of returning operations within Southtown - maybe not not, not tomorrow, but eventually - and that Aizawa-gumi may be able to help facilitiate that in a manner that doesn't paint the streets crimson. Am I on the right track?"

The money ends up back on the table. The rash of impetuousness fades, as Dahlia re-dedicates her full attention to the topic of negotiation.

The redhead -- not sparing the money a glance -- begins to laugh. "You -are- full of surprises, Tairyu-san."

Her thumbs press together. The smile from earlier returns, as she listens carefully to how Tairyu takes her up on that request for an offer -- and perfectly and succinctly addresses the peculiar circumstances of a metropolitan area so diverse as Southtown. Approval registers in her expression.

The smile skews a bit more lopsided as the topic of Rin is mentioned again. "Perhaps," she replies, in partial acknowledgement.

And when he makes his educated guess, her head wobbles from side to side, signaling an approximate 'hit.' "You're getting warm again. Keep going. Knowing what we know about each other, and the other factions at play -- how can you make working -together- more interesting than merely coexisting?"

Dahlia idly rubs her thumbs against one another -- once more watching Tairyu's expression closely.

The laugh is, perhaps, unexpected. Tairyu's expression certainly suggests he's not entirely sure how to take it. "... I suppose it's better than being entirely boring."

A low grunt rumbles in his throat, in a sign of idle frustration when he's urged to keep going. While he's willing to play along, still, he did also already make his thoughts on this kind of verbal dancing clear earlier.

But the particular wording on her follow-up question is of particular curiousity to him.

"*Interesting*?" The repeat of that word comes with a slow upward arch of his brows. "That is certainly a curious thing to desire in these things. But what I do know the two of us to share... is the desire for people like Burkoff and Volkov to not take hold in this city again. And yet... The complete lack of threats or competition would lead to stagnation, wouldn't it?"

The male Yakuza's head tilts slightly over to one side, in a show of curiousity. If Dahlia happened to know of the shape ink multi-colored ink has taken on his back and arms, she might have found the brief moment of canine mannerism amusing.

"Are you the kind of person who enjoys being challenged, Dahlia-san?"

Tairyu may not enjoy the verbal dancing, but Dahlia -does-. And it's refreshing to be able to talk so openly with someone of similar views and values to her own. So she will be more than happy to brook temporary discomfort for a richer result.

She's still leaving the money on the table. Right next to the salmon she's foregoing. For now.

"I am. Because it's as you say, competition is healthy. Challenge is necessary to keep the wits sharp, regardless of who's in charge -- and it reduces the chance that the death of a key person can deal a crippling blow to any one organization. So yes. -Interesting- is what I'm in search of."

The redhead nudges her narrow glasses up along the bridge of her nose.

"Fine, I'll tell you what's on my mind." She draws her platter back over -- and starts cutting the salmon into smaller pieces as she speaks.

"It's my hope that our two organizations can accomplish more united than divided. It'd be remarkably efficient -- and bland -- to divide territory evenly, mm?" She presents her handiwork: all the salmon to the left, all the vegetables to the right, neat 'neutral' areas between them.

"But this leaves gaps. Obvious ones, rife for stagnation, and worse, vulnerable to external manipulation."

The Ainu woman begins mixing the pieces up. She eats one -- and rearranges the others to compensate. Soon, the platter becomes unrecognizable, with salmon pieces interspersed with vegetables, and no borders visible at all. She continues moving the pieces, even as she speaks -- placing vegetables aside, moving salmon in to fill the void, and then replacing vegetables in a different location.

"Front companies. Dynamic exchanges. You sell my orgs property, I sell your orgs property. One month this office park is yours, next year it's mine. Tenants can stay the same, who cares? It's more complicated, but it presents... unique challenges to anyone wanting to make headway. Nothing is so clear-cut that it can be placed on an opponent's map."

She spears a piece of salmon. And eats that, as well.

"And if one of us has cash flow problems, the other buys out that parcel for a time. And it slips past everyone's radar but our own, ne?"

It doesn't take long for Tairyu to realize that the platterful of salmon and vegetable treats is used as a makeshift model for her proposal. This draws the man to scooting himself to the edge of his seat again, and leaning over to keep an eye on the map formed out of the little morsels of snacks.

"Interesting," he concedes on this particular proposal, ultimately. Letting his eyes linger on the platter for a moment longer before re-focusing it on Dahlia herself. "All while leaving some room for healthy competition in between, I would presume?"

He straightens up his posture, but not without stealing away one of the morsels of fish left behind on the platter, popping it into his mouth. Rolling the particular proposal around in his own head much like the salmon chewed within his mouth before it gets swallowed.

"While I'm interested, you must know there are some holdings and turf I am not willing to let go of into such a game of exchanges. Certain operations rely heavily on the relationships cultivated by myself and the late Aizawa-san. That being said..."

Elbows prop on the table and fingers entwine together to create a resting point for his chin.

"That being said... There are districts of the city where the power vacuum has not been filled out yet -- not by myself, the remnants of the Syndicate, or the organization put together by one of the people who directly opposed Burkoff. Ever since the power balance was disrupted, many hopefuls have been trying to rise up to fill the gaps. Local gangs, foreign organizations. They've made these territories... volatile, in their efforts to take advantage of both the upheaval in the power map *and* the destruction waged through the city by Volkov's Darkstalkers. While my desire is to stop the active power struggles there to avoid any further damage to the civilians, the risk for collateral damage has been much too great for my liking. But... While many of them are holding on out of spite for the so-called 'big players', I believe most of them will fold quickly if another major element were to move in, under the threat of being caught in between."

"Some," agrees Dahlia. "And of course -- I wouldn't want to subject your staff to constant changes in management. Realistically -- the point of shuffling territory is less about making our management a headache, and more about spreading our wealth around. No one can afford to fortify -every- property to the same degree as a home base is. So, this way, the best offense is a diversified defense. No -single- property loss should matter much in the long run -- " And at this point Dahlia removes another salmon from the 'map' -- resulting in strength in numbers." Perhaps she's representing the effects of climate change, as the map shrinks with every such action.

"Hmm. Yes, that's an interesting strategy. There are quite a -number- of powers in play here, and -- fortunately for us -- not all of them are warlords. Some can be bought... for the right price."

And speaking of that, she slides the currency back across towards Tairyu. Its purpose -was- enough to provide a healthy profit for both his time and Rin's -- and then some. Though, while Tairyu has his eyes on the money, he may or may not notice that Dahlia is looking past his shoulder -- at Rin. And offering her an insidious smile.

Collecting herself, she once more turns here attention to Tairyu. "Well, it seems like we're both on the same sheet of music now, at any rate. My short-term goal is to obtain a new property, and work on obtaining more from there. At some point in the near future, before we start tripping over each other's toes, we touch base and evaluate the progress." She sections off a few more prizes of salmon and vegetables, and asks with a tilt of her scarred face: "Does this sound workable to you?"

Ultimately, Tairyu's attention does not focus on the money itself for very long. Not long enough for him not to notice the direction of Dahlia's gaze. THough he might not actually peek behind himself to see the exact focus... well, he can make a pretty educated guess on it.

"Mmm. I think it's a working plan, at the very least. Perhaps some details still need to be ironed out, and... well. I would like to touch base on your initial move in for that matter. Like I said, the 'no man's land' currently is rather volatile, and I would like a measure of coordination there to minimize bloodshed. Especially on the civilian side. For now, however..."

The wad of bills is taken up finally, and quickly thumbed over to get an estimation on the value. And of all things, he actaully seperates a part of it to set back on the table and slide back to the 'customer'.

"Perhaps I should allow you to actually enjoy the time you have paid for here. We can return to professional matters at another time."

The club owner draws himself up to standing, stepping away from the booth, with a quick bow offered to Dahlia. A few steps draw him along the length of the booth -- only to pause before proper seperation to reach one hand down over, to settle on her shoulder. Eyes drawing down to lock onto hers one last time.

"Be good to Rin, now."

It could sound like a blessing to an outside observer, but there *is* an underlying threat there. One from a man who is *fiercely* protective of those he considers his people. It reflects in the sharpness of his gaze, one that persists for a few long seconds before it softens with a faint smile and a quick, light pat on that shoulder before he's ready to fully seperate and provide her with the privacy to enjoy her night with the lovely, blonde hostess.

Log created on 09:27:14 02/07/2021 by Honoka, and last modified on 21:30:32 02/08/2021.