Brandon - Errant Knight of Swords and Wands

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Description: Brandon Malone is hired by Yumiko Fujiwa to find a monkey idol stolen from her place of residence. The private investigator soon finds himself in over his head as he draws the attention of enemies he'd probably rather not have.

It began with a missing trinket.

The tiny monkey icon had been carved from jade countless hundreds of years ago. It had been part of the Fujiwa Family Kamidana for as long as there had been a Fujiwa family. As far as they were aware, it had no real value - and yet. After a late-night breakin, it had gone missing. And nothing else. Just the tiny part of the shrine, something that they had only even noticed by chance. If the person who had taken it hadn't left the back door ajar, they would likely never have even thought that robbery was a possibility - so some kind of amateur, most likely, or someone who just slipped up.

Which led to Brandon being contacted by a hopeful Yumiko Fujiwa to help her recover the lost item. The police really aren't interested, but the sentimental value is off the charts, and, well, Brandon is a detective who specialises in the strange and unusual, right? He's just going to need to hit up some contacts and get to the bottom of what is actually happening here. And hey. The Fujiwa family might be modest, but they do have money, and they're willing to pay a generous retainer...

Oddly enough the fact that the police wanted nothing to do with this case worked in Brandon's favor. Less people to account for when performing divination rituals. He just had to account for residents and possibly any staff like a baby sitter. Of course, before even doing the ritual he still needed to gather information with mundane sight since that might inform his decisions when scrying as well as be evidence he can present when it goes to trial since magic isn't admissible in most courts of law.

From what he could determine at first look, it was someone who knew the family or at the very least connected to someone who knew the family. The theft was specific. Nothing else was taken which meant it was only that item they wanted. It wasn't like they stole other items to make look like they grabbed everything they could to mask that they wanted that item specifically.

Most troubling was that open door. By itself, it was evidence of an amateur, or a mistake. That combined with the fact that only that item was taken made the arcane investigator wonder if it wasn't a regular burglary and if it was to send a message.

After scouring the scene of the crime visually, he went to work with a divination ritual on the room to figure out if the thief left some type of energy signature from staying long enough to steal the trinket or if the trinket itself had some type of energy signature.

After that Brandon hits the streets hitting up contacts that might want to fence the item as well going down the list of suspects Yumiko would offer seeing as only people who go for the monkey icon specifically had to know it was there in the first place.

The divination rituals certainly give some interesting readings. The thief didn't waste any time; they got in, they went directly to the shrine, they got out. In and of themselves they have no notable connection to the family, nor do they have any magical or spiritual protections. They are, in a word, mundane. But the shrine? That's a slightly different story. Whilst the power has been greatly diminished, there is definite power in there; the kind of very old and very solemn strength that comes from the steady accumulation of ritual and faith. From one generation to the next, this shrine has been tended with love and care. Offerings have been made. Stories have been told. Its place of importance in the heart of this family has been solidified until... well. Part of it is now missing.

For a man of Brandon's talents, tracing the thief and the trinket itself directly might well be possible under ordinary circumstances. But Yumiko has no idea who might want to steal such an unimportant item, and when he steps out onto the streets, there is a chill air which follows the trail.

Southtown is a city that thrums with power of all sorts. It has been at the heart of the fighting world for decades, and there is perhaps nowhere in the world which has such a concentration of talent and passion. And all of that makes it, difficult, to hold a single thread of fate relevant to one family steady in one's mind.

But, following his instincts, Brandon soon winds up in a cramped, ancient antique store where Xiao Long, a wizened figure in a straw hat, perpetually smoking from a long pipe, squints at the young man when he enters.

"Eeeeh. The Errant Knight, eh? I liked it better when you'd bring a sword instead of a deck of cards. A sword does better against snakes." A brief pause, and then he adds, thoughtfully. "Or fire. Fire is also good."

The fact that Yumiko couldn't provide any names of if not suspects, benefactors of the actual thief was concerning. In fact, the trail would likely go cold if not for Brandon's ability to use divination as a fall back for times when the mundane can't get the job done.

Eventually instinct, magic, and maybe a little bit of luck brings Brandon to an antique store where an elder man stands before. Brandon doesn't even have a chance to ask his questions before he is addressed specifically as an errant knight, and references a deck of cards. Was that a reference to his detective agency name? Either way, it seemed like he was expected.

"I suppose that is true but light if focused enough in the right location can ignite flames. So given that you were expecting me, you probably already know I am going to ask about the Fujiwa's monkey icon."

The old man laughs at those words, and nods his head in agreement. "Perhaps, perhaps. But be careful. There is darkness in this world which enjoys nothing more than swallowing light." The smoke from his pipe curls up towards the ceiling, and now that the door has closed behind his guest, the space takes on an almost relaxing air. The light filters in from outside, dispersed through the scratched and old glass, and lends a soft, safe quality to this store.

"You have the truths you know, and I have mine." Xiao Long says, agreeably, "But I suspected. So I must ask, even though I know the answer, if I set you on the path, what will you do when you reach its end?"

The private investgator rubs his chin as he considers the old man's warning about darkness is curious. It doesn't seem like it is coming from a place of threat but more of a gentle warning preparing him for the next part of the case or quest if one wished to continue with the theme of Brandon being an errant knight.

"What I was hired to do and return the icon to the Fujiwa family. I get the feeling you're about to tell me it's not as simple as that. Of course, while I know the what, where, when, and how, I still don't know the who and why. Those last two are going to be the things that complicate setting me on that path, am I correct?"

"Eeeeeeeeeh." One gets the impression that the old man makes that noise a lot. He draws in another long sucking breath, before blowing the stream up to the ceiling, where it joins the mass and swirls. His twinkling eyes seem to settle on those eddies for a few, long moments, as though he were plumbing the depths of the caged clouds themselves for his answers.

"You are not wrong." He concludes. "The idol should sit where it has always sat. It is not the time for monkey's magic." His fingertips drum against the countertop, a quick, erratic rhythm rather at odds with his quiet demeanor. "If the path leads to the sea, you should turn back." He says, "Leave the Kraken to swallow its own tail. You do not want to be taken with it. But if you are quick, there is a tendril still on land. The docks. You will not have difficulty finding it, I think. You will only need to follow the scent of death."

The private investigator, has been given a lead to chase. There's something nagging at the back of the investigator's mind. The idol isn't here but following the thread led him to this antique shop instead of the docks where they're presumably located.

"I'm curious about something. If the Kraken's tendril holds the idol at the docks, why was I drawn here?"

The arcane private rubs his chin while resting the same arm's elbow on his hand. The scent of death is a huge concern.

"Ah, you are a smart man. That's good. If you were like the Knights of old, you would have charged out of here, sword in hand, and ... well. They do not write about the Knights who did not slay their dragons."

He pauses for a moment, and then he shrugs his shoulders, apparently having decided that it is worth telling the truth. "I am an old man." Xiao Long says, at last. "The young man they sent to do the taking needed something to help him keep the monkey... sleeping. I gave it to him. But I also made sure that his path would remain open." He gives a faint shrug, "If I were to deny them, they would have ended me and found someone else. This way, I am tied to it... but now, so are you."

Brandon quietly nods his head as the man speaks. The difference between himself and the knights of old are that this particular knight is a private investigator and private investigators who aren't smart either starve or end up finding another line of work. That and this particular knight is a wizard which originates from a middle English word for wise. It makes sense that he's not going to charge in without getting as much information as possible.

The more the old man speaks, the more information he gains and the more he's forced to adjust his preconceptions based on that first look at the case.

"So while they used contractor, they weren't using them as a patsy to draw me in. That's comforting, in a way. On the other hand that probably also eliminates the using the theft as a message for a potential motive."

All that information but there's possibly one last piece of information he should probably have before he chases down the idol.

"And what would happen should the monkey be roused from its slumber?"

Xiao Long shrugs his bony shoulders at that question. "I know many things, young man." He says, "Eeeeeeeeh. But I was not here when Monkey was awake. But I do not think that is why they stole him away."

That erratic beat has only grown moreso over the course of the conversation, fingernails drumming out strange rhythms atop the counter. "The Kraken is a hungry monster." He says, "And not picky about its food. If Monkey is stolen away, I think he will be eaten. But that... is probably better than something awakening before its time." He closes his eyes, then, and sighs, shaking his head sadly, "There are already too many things which have done that just, wandering around. Better for the world if at least a few of them stay sleeping, no?"

"Ain't that the truth. Thank you for your assistance. Take care."

Brandon bows to the elderly man before he reaches out for the knob of the door to the shop.The private eye leaves the antique shop, making his way to the docks as continues to follow the trail. Feeling the energy of the object as well as searching for the scent of death that the shop owner told him about.

As Xiao Long had said, it isn't difficult to find the place. The Southtown Docks are always busy, but they are also mostly Syndicate territory, and it's easy enough to avoid those goons. Nothing mystical in those places; at least not today. Instead, there is a warehouse where there's a faint sense of foreboding, and when Brandon gets closer to investigate... there's a dead body.

The guy had been young. Not a kid, but hardly a MAN, either. A youth in his eighteenth or nineteenth year. And whoever did this to him hadn't even bothered to hide the body. It's hot, and this close to the sea, there's plenty of insects, but he can't possibly have been dead long. The back of his head has been smashed in against the side of the warehouse wall and now he lays there in his own blood.

Yen notes have been stuffed in his mouth. Whoever this guy was, he's now a message. But even the literal corpse isn't the full sense of death and danger; one as attuned to the forces of the cosmos as Brandon is can certainly feel that emanating from within the warehouse proper. A malevolence far beyond any merely human hatred, laying coiled in the heart of it, waiting to be disturbed.

The shop owner was not kidding about the scent of death though the arcane investigator sincerely wished he was. As he looks down at the corpse, he gets the sense that the young adult who was snuffed out was thief. His mind inferred it with the available information he had, the gut instinct agreed due to a feeling he got the moment he saw the notes jammed in his mouth like a roasted pig, which is then confirmed by the lingering energy signature on the corpse.

He circles the warehouse building looking at it for alternate entrances. Unfortunately the conclusion he comes to is that he can't quite sneak in. He'd rather be subtle but it doesn't look it's an option.

"Fuck subtle."

It's at this point that the front door flies off the hinges into the warehouse with a bright, almost blinding flash of light. When the light fades away, the doorway has an appearance of emptiness, like no one was at the door.

There's not many people in the warehouse. In fact, the space is almost entirely empty. The door clatters heavily to the ground, echoing loudly, and Vice looks up from where she had been leaning against the wall, a package tucked behind her, browsing lazily through a comic book. After the mess she'd made on the highway the other day, she'd been assigned to fetch-and-carry duty. This space isn't JUST "R" of course; it's a general warehouse filled with crates and... well. The boss had wisely decided that maybe today was a good day to slow down for the kind of cash that Vice had slapped down on his desk to get them out of the way.

She was supposed to wait here until they could be bothered to send a boat to pick her up. It was a punishment. She resented it. And she'd taken her frustrations out on whatever idiot contact it was who had tried to shake her down - HER - for extra cash.

And a few hours later, the door is blown inwards.

Vice's eyebrow is raised as she detaches from the wall. Perhaps the Syndicate are going to attack, now? That would be interesting at least. It has been hours since she killed someone. "Someone is either very brave." She muses, "Or very stupid. Was Humpty Dumpty out there too subtle for you?"

No response.

The arcane investigator isn't going to give himself away immediately, instead, he chooses to wait for a few moments hoping that the person inside gets impatient and attempt to figure out who was responsible. Meanwhile, Brandon is relying on his cloaking ritual to bend light around himself to keep him hidden at least for a little bit. He's holding still so there's no footsteps to give away the sound of his movement. Someone keen of sight might notice a slight distortion like looking at a cloaked predator. More energy inclined individuals might sense either his energy being used to maintain the illusion or his thoughts being concentrated on the spell.

Brandon is hoping that an opportunity to slip past the lone guard presents itself but his gut is saying that delivering an arcane sucker punch might be the best case scenario and considering all the malevolence he's sensing right now, he might go straight to releasing the bonds on his power rather than using his cards.

After a few moments of determining that the lone guard isn't going to come out, the arcane detective slips in under the cloak of his illusion ritual. He angles off to the side and from a distance, lobs a ball of light into the air. With his concentration shifting from maintaining the ritual to combat, the invisibility spell is ripped off of his body revealing him to Vice. As for the ball of light, it starts shooting off sparks of light down upon her with tiny bursts that by themselves are neglible but together might be harder to shake off.

COMBATSYS: Brandon has started a fight here.

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Brandon          0/-------/-------|

COMBATSYS: Vice has joined the fight here.

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Vice             0/-------/-------|-------\-------\0          Brandon

COMBATSYS: Brandon successfully hits Vice with Blazing Starfall.

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Vice             0/-------/-----==|==-----\-------\0          Brandon

When nobody reveals themselves, Vice's eyes narrow. For a long moment, the woman does nothing at all. She isn't even breathing. Her tongue slides out over her lips, as though she could taste the presence of the intruder on the air. She knows she isn't alone, but she can't see who it is she's dealing with. That alone is enough to have her hackles raising. A very loud and dramatic entrance followed by absolute silence? She's no guard dog, but every instinct she has tells her that something is very wrong here. When Brandon reveals himself, it is almost a relief. She's not seen that kind of trick before, but he does at least look like a man. Men she could deal with.

She's still slow off the mark, and the scattered blasts of chi bite into her as Brandon makes his opening gambit. A low hiss escapes her as she is peppered with chi, but though it burns her, it doesn't keep her back for long. Quite the opposite really. Now she has her target, the woman surges forwards, long legs eating up the ground as she seeks to swing those deceptive long arms of hers forwards, and grab Brandon by the shoulders. At which point she'd reel herself in, and those long, sharp nails of hers slash downwards to tear into his chest in a series of ugly, if shallow, cuts.

"Don't think I'll be letting you off as lightly as the last idiot." She growls, "You, have actually managed to PISS ME OFF!"

COMBATSYS: Vice successfully hits Brandon with Death Blow.

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Vice             0/-------/----===|====---\-------\0          Brandon

Brandon's first instinct was to step into the attack to set himself up for a brutal counter but he hesitates due to not expecting her to cover the distance so quickly and so that turns into an attempt to shell up behind a peek-a-boo guard. Vice's hands manage to thread the needle and rend through the white vest and black dress shirt leaving a nasty gash in his chest.

The private investigator steps backwards in an attempt to reposition himself before whipping his arm upwards as a pale golden beam of boundary laced light rises from the ground in the hopes of catching the R enforcer in it.

Her being pissed off, is mildly concerning but if he can take advantage of it, her rage might be a boon. Probably not.

COMBATSYS: Vice blocks Brandon's Radiant Pillar.

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Vice             0/-------/---====|=======\-------\1          Brandon

Anger is Vice's natural state. She's perpetually furious. But Brandon has found himself as the target for her rage, and that's... not a pleasant place to be. The viciously sharp nails she'd raked across his chest have opened wounds that will keep bleeding for some time. Just as she'd shown with the gruesome warning left outside the warehouse, the woman's murderous intent is completely clear. And it is made even more clear when the pillar of light bursts up from the ground at her feet.

She smashes her foot down against the ground, and he can feel it as the Orochi power inside her surges against the manifestation of magic. This woman IS the coiled, hateful presence that he had felt. Oozing red energy bleeds down into the pillar, and the wrathful energy tears aparts and dissipates the magic he had summoned. Her lip curls at the effort of it, and then she's stepping forwards one more time, and her leg sweeps around to try and tear his legs out from underneath him.

If successful, though, he'll find himself being whipped out of the air by his head and SMASHED against the very wall she had been propped up against before, to roll down heavily next to the package she had been leaned against. Enough force in that blow to crack the brickwork as she shakes the numbness out of her leg, and that malevolent force seems to almost ripple on the air around her.

"Who are you with?" She demands, "Ultratech? No, that didn't feel like a toy, that felt like you know what you're doing..."

COMBATSYS: Brandon blocks Vice's Improvised Throw.

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Vice             0/-------/--=====|=======\==-----\1          Brandon

Multiple things are made clear in this moment. One, seeing that red energy rip apart his pillar of light as well as feeling that malevolent energy pulsing around him was leaving an impression. It was clear that even while going all out, he was in over his head. Two, stemming from that previous thought, getting to the idol and being able to escape with it might not be an option since if he stuck around to fight, his energy and the wounds would overtake him before he'd be able to escape even if he somehow managed to take her down with him.

As Vice's legs attempt to tear his legs from under him, he performs a hop over them preventing her from taking away his balance. He's still in the air though and so she snatches him out the air but he manages to reach out and pull her into a clinch as she swings him into the wall. With Vice not getting a full range of motion into the slam, Brandon isn't slammed into the wall as hard as could have been.

As for who he's with? "Independent contractor."

Still clinched with Vice, Brandon attempts to wrap his fingers around her throat and at he attempts to deliver a magically enhanced headbutt into her skull.

COMBATSYS: Vice dodges Brandon's Crown of Stars.

[         \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\  < >  ///////                       ]
Vice             0/-------/--=====|=======\===----\1          Brandon

Grappling with Vice is like trying to grapple with an anaconda. The woman simply doesn't move like a normal human being should. She twists and turns in his grip as he tries to turn it on her, and so his fingers never find her throat - and when he lashes his head forwards, the woman disentangles entirely, slipping away from him as she stares him down. She can see how injured he is. She can taste his blood on the air. It is really bad luck for Brandon that he's dealing with Vice; if it was Mature who had wound up facing him down, her curiosity might get the better of her and she might well toy with him, both for her own amusement and because it would be useful to know who is working against them.

But Vice is just made even more angry by the evasive answer. A low snarl pulls on her lips, and the woman shakes her head. "FINE!" She shouts, "I'll figure out who to send your head to AFTER we're done here!"

And then she's swinging around, her leg slashing through the air with an unbelievable amount of force, aiming to simply smash into Brandon and, well, break the Detective in half. There's no subtlety in the blow at all, just an incredible desire to inflict violence on the man who had interrupted her reading.

COMBATSYS: Brandon interrupts Strong Kick from Vice with Sublime Light.
- Power hit! -

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Vice             1/-----==/=======|

COMBATSYS: Brandon can no longer fight.

[                  \\\\\\\\\\\\  <
Vice             1/-----==/=======|

Brandon shudders slightly after Vice slips from his grip. He'd expect that type of movement from a naga or lamia. Not from a person who has the appearance of a human. He can tell that he doesn't have much time left and he will need to make good on his exit strategy.

As the Orochi empowered woman winds up for a kick that threatens to rip him in half, Brandon glows as he's surrounded by a sphere of arcane energy. The energy pushes back against the kick slowing it down until it finally reaches him. The kick still folds him since it still had significant force behind it. Then there's another burst of blinding light and arcane energy.

When the light fades, the detective is gone. As he makes his attempt to find safety long enough to reestablish his cloaking ritual. From there, it's a long walk to the Fujiwa home.

While he didn't like it, he had to report his findings. Things like the thief is dead and the idol is in the hands of someone he doesn't quite have the tools to deal with. He even returns the retainer. He couldn't in good faith keep it while he was unable to get it back.

It hurt knowing that he was so close and yet so far.

Vice, for her part, is blasted backwards by the second detonation of power. When she picks herself up from the ground, all fury and the frenzied desire to make good on her threat to rip off the detective's head, she is even more enraged to find that he has disappeared. There's no sign of him at all, and she is left alone in the warehouse, her comic blasted into so much ash and her ride still hours away.

It'd be a disturbing thing for him if he could see her. The woman spends a good twenty minutes trying to track him down; from the drips of blood from the injuries she'd inflicted, from the taste of his power in the air, even. But Vice is no magician. She doesn't know the details of what she'd been hit with, she only knew that it had HURT, and that the worm responsible had managed to burrow back down into the earth and escape.

But she wouldn't forget his face any time soon. And if she had her way, this would not be the last time their paths crossed...

COMBATSYS: Vice has ended the fight here.

Log created on 13:03:11 05/21/2021 by Brandon, and last modified on 11:04:27 05/22/2021.