Kagero - Alleyways

Description: [Personnel] It's a cold night, a chill night, laced with the patter of rain. But the woman named Shihong knows she isn't alone on the street. Someone's been watching her...

Afternoon has long since given way to the beginnings of night, a sprawl of darkness blanketing Southtown on this particularly cloudy evening. Despite an otherwise clear and sunny day, precipitation threatens the bustling metropolis, heralded by the distant growl of thunder as thick inky clouds roll in from the horizon. And with the encroaching storm comes a notable breeze, bringing with it the scent of rain and the lightest touch of humidity.

But a little rain never hurt anyone.

When night falls, the denizens of Southtown's underbelly come out to play. Despite the ritz and glamour of Southtown's prestigious business district, it--like the city as a whole--isn't spared an ounce from the various shady deals and doings that go on just beneath the surface of the city's skin. There are thugs, punks, wretches...

...and then you have those like Shihong Mao.

She knows she's no better than a step up over some generic thug in the lower echelons of Southtown's Syndicate, but it's sure a step up from the generic 'freelance' work she'd been occupying herself before with. It gives her a purpose and reason now, all while dragging in a better income than previously. She can't really complain. But it's a start.

Tonight, Shihong Mao walks the street, clad in her usual black attire, trenchcoat billowing out behind as she strides along. For once there is no phone pressed to her ear; instead she walks with hands stuffed in the depths of her coat pockets, black eyes hooded as she strides along. Pale features are stern, her jaw set. Something is clearly bugging her. But what is it?

Rounding a corner, the woman finds herself face to face with an alley, closed on the opposite end. There's no escape, if cornered. But that doesn't upset her in the least. It could prove beneficial, a ghost of a smile crossing her thin rouge lips.

Entering the alley, the woman makes broad strides...before she stops. Without so much as looking over her shoulder, she simply lifts her chin and calls out to potential nothingness.

"You can stop stalking me like some predator now."

For a long moment, there is no response. Then there's laughter. A soft sound, a quiet sound, barely audible above the noise of traffic from the streets. Above, overhead, a shadow melts from the side of a building, emerging from the brick and mortar. Metal rattles, the steel of the fire escape rattling as the figure leaps over the side. Billowing fabric outlines a lithe human form, framing it against the light cast from the mouth of the alley. And then the watcher lands, touching down, coat settling down around her crouched shape.

She rises, head bowed at first, before she brings her own eyes up to stare at Shihong's turned back.

An unlikely stalker, this. A girl, no more than fourteen. Now that she's out of the darkness, standing in the light filtering in from the street, it's clear that her coat is coloured a bright yellow, with a glossy reflective texture. The rest of her seems equally unlikely - the stereo headphones hanging prominently round her neck, the t-shirt with a Heavy Metal band logo, the shorts...and the feet clad in chunky in-line skates.

Her eyes, though...

Thin eyebrows shift, subtly. Lids flutter half-closed, narrowing in appraisal.

"Saaa," Riko Koganei murmurs, "you're very sharp, Mao-san."

A flutter, a rattle and a bustling of activity, coupled with a too curious laugh. It's all nearly devoured by the sounds and cacophony of early evening traffic. But for Shihong, it's easy enough to catch wind of. She's aurally aware as ever, alert and ready. For anything - it comes with the territory. And naturally, it's part of the job description.

A form flies against dimly lit skies, soaring impressively, like some canary from its steel cage. And just as soon as it takes to the skies, it lands, crouched just behind the woman's turned back. For a moment, even as the hunched figure slowly ascends, the woman does not regard the tiny, lithe-figured girl in reflective yellow.

Only when the young girl regards her verbally does the Chinese woman respond. Eyes drift, hooding slowly before she simply draws them to a shut. Over pale, ghost-like features, rouge-red lips ease into an easy, playful smirk.

"Oh, don't flatter me," she replies quietly. "I might start to like you."

With a soft exhale, the woman in the black coat turns, regarding her would-be stalker. Offering that same, muted smile, those black depths survey just what has stepped into her life this evening. She's tiny. She's unobtrusive, save for the curious garments she's chosen to wear. And...that coat.

Her smile broadens a touch, as nostrils softly flare with a sharp exhale through her nose.

"So you know me?" the Asian woman asks, head tilting as she maintains that smile. "I'm flattered still. And who might you be, young lady? I don't think we've had the pleasure of meeting. ...ever." She pauses, however, eyes narrowed lightly. She squints.

"And...is that a rain coat?"

"Maaaa," Riko breathes, exhaling. She dips her head, her hair falling over her eyes in a cascade of gleaming raven locks. Her shoulders move, as she shrugs, her hands turning palms outward in a deliberately casual fashion.

"It is," the girl points out, "an overcast night. One must always be..."

Her soprano voice is hushed, whispering against the walls of the alleyway. It's simple truth, for the weather is damp and chill, clouds heavy in the sky. But there's emphasis in Riko's words, the weight of carefully chosen significance.


With that thought, she lowers her hands, the slick fabric of her sleeves only making the slightest of sounds as they brush against the main body of her coat.

Her eyes still hidden by her bangs, Riko cocks her head ever-so-slightly. Her lips move, with the glimmer of a smile.

"We have not met," Riko murmurs, "but do you recognize me...?"

She lets the question hang in the air.

Every nuance noted, every slight gesture observed carefully, Shihong does not let her eyes once leave or slip from the girl as she stands there in the mouth of the alleyway. As Riko's hand motion, gesturing casually, those black eyes briefly watch, before lips slowly but surely crawl further along her pale face. Almost--almost--is there anticipation there, just beneath the humored visage of Shihong, as the waif girl speaks. Prepared, she says. A pause follows. Then...

Shihong softly chuckles.

"Well, true enough," the woman ultimately replies with a certain ease. In her coat's pockets, pale hands relax, digits gently unfurling out of sight. But the elder woman does not elaborate, nor does she choose to interrupt or carry conversation. Not immediately, at least.

She prefers that the sneaky little girl explain everything. And if she won't..? Well.

Black eyes narrow softly, noting the grin on the girl's lips. Does she recognize her?

"I can't say I do," she explains. "And with an appearance such as that I'd be almost certain yours is a face impossible to forget." Letting her arms lift and her hands break free of her coat, the Chinese woman folds them casually over her chest. The corners of Shihong's lips curl, an impish smile haunting her face.

"The question that remains now is...will you enlighten me? Or will you choose to inspire more questions than answers..?" Inquiring minds want to know, after all.

"Mmm," Riko pouts, tapping her left cheek with a slender finger. She looks up, now, but her eyes do not meet Shihong's. Rather, they roll skyward, as she gives the semblance of thinking hard.

Finally, she releases a breath.

"That," she states, decisively, "would be impolite."

She speaks the word as if it is a terrible sin, a horrible transgression against the natural order. Unthinkable. Abhorrent. She even underscores this with a theatrical shudder, her hands fluttering, a spasm running through her thin frame.

"No, no, no," Riko repeats, "no."

The lighting in the alley is dim. It's an overcast night, as she was so careful to point out. The only illumination provided by the city streetlights behind Riko's back - which means her face is largely in shadow. Her eyes, nonetheless, seem to glimmer.

"Koganei," she says, quietly, bringing her hands together in an oddly formal fashion, "Riko."

She bows, then.

"Apprentice to the Ryouhara..."

She lifts her head, meeting Shihong's gaze.


"Well," the black-eyed woman begins, the corners of her lips twitching once more. Barely, just barely, can a flash of teeth be seen between red lips, as thin brows softly knit in response. Still is the woman amused by her newfound and particularly unlikely predicament. "It's good to see you've got some manners." It's by no means rude. If anything, it's a compliment.

The reactions which follow earn her another soft chuckle, black eyes narrowing gently once more. Even if she can barely see the kid's face, or make out every detail of this mysterious young woman, she doesn't THINK she has much to worry about. Then again, she's been wrong before...

But that's just a risk she'll have to take, should she come to that particular avenue. Uncertainty and danger are few of the many spices of life, after all.

However, as the girl offers a formal gesture and bow, Shihong exhales lightly, nostrils flaring softly again in response. "Koganei, hmm?" the woman muses, lifting a hand from her bosom and gently tapping a long digit against her chin as black eyes lift skyward. A moment is spared, the Chinese woman pondering silently...before she lowers her gaze on the shadowy figure.

A friendly smile blossoms. "Pleasure to meet--"

But like her words, the smile freezes, as something else follows her introduction. A name distantly familiar, but for entirely different reasons and means. Ryouhara. Seishirou-sama. In passing, she has heard of a few of his exploits, through various circles--particularly Jinchuu. What's more, if her memory serves her, he's a wanted man--by many.

Red lips pull into a tight, pensive line across her face. This girl..?

"Apprentice, huh?" Shihong inquires. "No offense, but isn't that a dangerous title to be waving around? There are a lot of people who would probably delight in capturing you--or worse, if I am not mistaken?" Pausing briefly, the woman's hands drop to her sides, arms akimbo on her bony hips...before she chuckles.

"Or AM I mistaken? There are so many infamous names and faces for me to keep track of. But I digress." The woman smiles easily. "What does 'Seishirou-sama' have to do with me, if anything?"


Riko returns the smile, her own grin relaxed. She seems entirely at ease...facing the Chinese woman in a shadowed alley, the narrow space between two buildings deep in the heart of Southtown's urban sprawl. There is no tension in her stance. No concern. She merely stands there, coming out of her formal bow, her hands falling loosely by her sides.

"No," Riko shakes her head, gently, "everything."

Her voice is a calm soprano, her spoken words just barely enough to reach Shihong's ears, drifting across the chill air of the winter night.

"No doubt," she remarks, "you've heard something of my master."

Riko arches one eyebrow, letting Shihong know that her reaction did not go unnoticed.

A pause, before Riko speaks again, sketching a small sign in the air with her fingers.

"I assure you, the darkest rumours are...entirely..."

A heartbeat.


Riko's grin widens, her lips pulling back, her expression going beyond mere amusement to appear nearly feral.

"I have no fear, Mao-san."

"But then," Riko adds, almost as an afterthought, "do you?"

And the very fact that Riko offers no threat or tension in her being and demeanor is precisely WHY the woman regards her in a far less uncertain light. It gives Shihong every reason to relax a bit, muscles once tense now eased as she stands before the girl with her hands on her hips. She's tiny and as far as the Chinese woman can tell, the kid is probably light as a feather.

She's relaxed a bit, however. There's still a shadow of doubt there, just beyond humored eyes.

"Everything, you say?" Shihong replies, tilting her head curiously to the side. Color her confused; what could the 'notorious' Seishirou Ryouhara possibly have in common with a woman such as herself? Mulling idly over the girl's words, Shihong stands still, unmoving as she...stares at Riko.

Hm. Curiouser and curiouser this rabbit hole gets, the further in she attempts to peek.

Of her master, Shihong nods in response, to verify that yes, despite her obvious reaction to the girl, she's aware of his notoriety and doings over the past year. But still the woman grins lightly, even as the young ninja traces her fingers through the air, her words almost as ominous as the inky black clouds above.

Does Shihong fear?

The woman very nearly scoffs in response. "Of course not," the Chinese woman in black replies. "We only live once. I'd rather make the most of my time, enjoying it...rather than live away, sheltered and scared. That's certainly no fun." Lifting her eyes, black depths focus on the shadowy visage of Riko.

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, as they say. I've come this far relatively intact, so..."

Shrugging lightly and tossing her head gently to one side, the woman scoffs again, defensively, a tiny grin haunting her lips.

"Fearful...ha. How insulting."

A black eye drifts aside, toward the young ninja once more. Will she take offense, or..?

"My apologies," Riko answers, that smile still on her face. It's hard to tell whether she actually means anything of the sort. Her words do bear the requisite emotion, but her face is an unchanging mask, betraying little beyond the sunny grin.

"I did not mean to insult you."

Riko spreads her hands, her palms pointing towards the stormy sky.

"Unless, of course, you mean to insult..."

She trails off, before finishing with the plural:


The smile shifts, ever so subtly, her lips revealing a flash of white teeth beneath startlingly clear eyes.

"We do not trust you, Mao-san. This is fine. You do not trust us. But there is no profit in dissembling. You do not fear. Nor do we."

Overhead, clouds gather in the night sky, the moon and stars hidden completely by the swirling darkness.

"A rare thing, in this world. A rare thing."

The apology noted, Shihong shakes her head softly in response. A dismissive gesture, she means to simply disarm any notion of insult on her behalf. "Don't worry," she ultimately replies, lifting her chin softly. "None taken at all, miss Koganei." Lips twitch, a grin crawling across her face in full bloom once more. But, like before, it seizes, as the girl's hands reach for the skies.

Was she insulting her? Them?

Her look is one of muted disbelief. Briefly does the woman seem perplexed at this, her head absently drifting to one side, tilted as she considers the remark carefully. But she won't dwell long--particularly when Riko's toothy smile cracks through the shadows. If anything, the Chinese woman sighs quietly once more, brows softly knit as she just observes.

She doesn't trust them. They don't trust her. The girl speaks truthfully. She can admire that.

Another faint chuckle breaks the silence around Shihong, as her head softly shakes, black locks tumbling past her thin shoulders. The skies churn overhead, a growl of thunder echoing off the brick and mortar canyons surrounding them. But she is far from concerned.

"To be honest," the woman states, eyes fixed on Riko's shadowy face. "I'm glad to know you don't trust me. It must mean I've done something right, yes? And the fact that I do not immediately or easily trust you..." Her shoulders gently roll, her features shifting into an easy expression as she grins. "Must mean you and your master have done something right as well, yes?

"But thank you."

Bowing politely, the Chinese woman offers some measure of respect to a girl likely half her age.

"I am...pleased to see that my...efforts have gained the attention of others." First Southtown Syndicate's Howard, now a mysterious ninja girl and her master?

Curious indeed.

"Your master," the woman asks, still bowed forward. "Seishirou...'sama.'"

Eyes drift up, peering quizzically at the girl.

"Do you come to me of your own accord, or is this your 'master's' bidding?"

Riko laughs, a clear bell-like sound that echoes through the confines of the alley. She lifts a hand to her face, fingers splayed. Her shoulders shake with what appears to be genuine amusement. Finally, she brushes stray strands of hair out of her eyes, and draws in a few breaths, regaining her previous composure. Traces of laughter still dance at the edges of her mouth, though - her cheeks dimple, and the look she gives Shihong is positively impish.

"You know," she remarks, "you're the first to ask that?"

Riko snorts. "Everyone assumes I'm just Seishirou-sama's pawn."

The thought seems to tickle her, and she giggles again.

"No, no," Riko corrects, "I'm a bishop or rook, at least, if not quite the queen."

She joins her hands together, this time behind her head and neck, her arms bent with elbows sticking out to either side. Riko regards Shihong in this manner, tilting her head to and fro.

"Your name was on /his/ list. And so I am here, and I represent him. But this doesn't mean I don't have my own interest, Mao-san."

Her gaze sharpens.

"I wonder," Riko says, "what of -you-...and the ones whose bidding you do?"

It would be a lie to say the laughter was not startling. Save for the faintest flicker of bemusement in Shihong's black gaze, the woman remains calm and composed, her features unmoving. An interesting reaction, to say the least. But the laughter is somewhat contagious; a moment later, the woman's red lips ease into another faint grin, black eyes hooding softly and slowly.

But then, revelation. "Am I?" the woman wonders aloud. "That's rather interesting, I confess."

For once, the woman moves from her place, but not much. Half-turning on her heels, she shifts her weight, black eyes scaling the brick wall before her thoughtfully, as the woman chooses her words carefully.

"Keep in mind I say this not to flatter you or get in your good graces, miss Koganei. I am simply observing here, but..." Glancing over a shoulder, the woman's gaze fixes on the girl, the faintest flicker of red beneath those black, inky depths. "You don't seem DUMB or mindless enough to be a pawn."

Shihong exhales, drawing her eyes up as she offers a tiny grin to no one in particular. "How insulting, that people presume the worst because you're a kid." Opening her eyes a moment later, she returns them to Riko as she adds, "At least you're sharp enough to take it in stride."

But soon enough, more revelation comes. "A list, you say," the Chinese woman muses aloud, a hand once more lifting to absently tap at her chin. "My, my. How on Earth did I become so popular? Maybe my constant participation in SNF has finally paid off..? No, no." Her head shakes. Is she talking to herself?


The woman's thoughts cease as Riko regards her directly. Just what OF the ones whose bidding she does? Initially, these words are met with a blank expression, her pale features devoid of any emotion...until she laughs lightly, almost pleasantly.

"If you are concerned about the Syndicate, which I doubt you are... I would almost wager you've nothing to fear. Like many, I'm but a low-level enforcer. Sure, I do things for the 'man upstairs,' but he has other, far more capable men at his disposal. I'm...as some may say...a pawn."

She pauses, her lips pulling back over pearly whites as she offers a devil's grin.

"But really, I don't mind. It just means those people underestimate me. ...and it lets me slip through the cracks, relatively unnoticed. But at least I get paid for it."

Riko nods, acknowledging the point - and everything else that Shihong said. She keeps her head inclined, though her eyes are fixed firmly on the Chinese woman. They do not leave her, not even for an instant.

The ninja girl stands still, almost silhouetted at the mouth of the alleyway. The moonlight is completely gone, by now, leaving only the artificial illumination of the city streets - leaving her a dark shadow against the brightness.

It is now the rain comes, falling in intermittent drops, pattering against the steel fire escape running up one side of the alley, beating a stacatto against the lid of a closed dumpster. Forming pools and rivulets over the grime-encrusted alley floor.

And running off Riko's still form, as she regards Shihong.

"But," the girl asks, "what is it you -really- want?"

Though it remains rather difficult for the woman in black to perceive the girl's features, those eyes can be felt. They stare, unmoving even as the woman herself moves, however slight. Is she watching her, then? Good. It means she's as serious as Shihong. It likely means she still doesn't trust her, and she wouldn't want it any other way. At least for now.

But when the skies above open, and from them fall the faintest drops of rain, it draws a frown over red lips. Softly pouting, a pale hand reaches up and turns her palm to the heavens, as droplets pitter-patter against her skin. "Oh, damn," the woman mulls quietly aloud. "I should have come more prepared."

Grinning lightly, amicably even, Shihong's eyes slide back onto the ninja, as she holds her ground and speaks to the woman once more. What does she really want, the girl asks of the Chinese woman.

"It's funny," Shihong replies. "No one has ever asked me that before." Except, perhaps, one person.

There's no time for being sentimental, however. Clearly Riko comes with business in mind.

"Hmm." Folding her arms, the woman in black ignores the rain as it spills on her hair and waterproofed coat. "I suppose...if I had to answer, I would want what anyone else would want. Money." She pauses, however, black eyes narrowed as she peers at the shadowy Riko.

"But that only goes so far. What I'd REALLY want...is to be known. Maybe even feared. To someday make MY mark in the world. If I'm going to die, I want people to know my name--and respect it. And I have to start somewhere, right? Be it in the Syndicate, or elsewhere. Everything big once started out small."

For a long moment, there is no reply.

Finally, Riko moves. She lifts her hands to her collar, raising the hood of her raincoat. She brings it over her head, pausing only to sweep rain-slicked hair from her brow. Bright yellow fabric nestles round her face, as she meets Shihong's eyes. The ninja girl slips her hands into the outer pockets of her coat, bringing it closer together, wrapping it around her. Water sluices off the slick surface of the coat, running down Riko's body to pool at her feet.

Then she speaks.

"For the clan's ideals," Riko recites, with the voice of someone recalling wisdom from an ancient time, "a tool of such strength must be forged that its power exists well beyond the lifespan of its master..."

She fixes Shihong with a look.

"...to force the world to move is the true calling of the fighter's mind."

As the last syllable of the quotation leaves Riko's tongue, she closes her eyes.

"So it is written, in the oldest scrolls of the Ryouhara. This is what Seishirou-sama believes. This is why I call him sensei."

Her voice rises, carrying over the sound of the rain.

For most, the long moment of silence may very well be awkward and alarming.

For Shihong Mao, however...it does not bother her. No, she holds her ground, heels firmly planted against wet concrete. The only movement from the woman is the slightest motion of her cold, pale hands, as they seek out the pockets of her now-wet trenchcoat. Even the dampened locks of pitch black hair drifting dangerously close to her eyes go ignored.

Her interests are currently the tiny young woman in front of her. The ally of a man wanted in numerous countries. A girl, likely hated by people who feel they've been wronged. But all of that...means little to the Chinese woman for now. If anything, she's impressed.

"To force the world to move..?"

The words are said aloud, to no one in particular--save for her own good, as if testing the words on her own lips. Eyes hood slightly, black depths flickering with the faintest spark of intrigue, savoring the ideal on her mental pallet.

"Your master," the woman says finally, nodding her head once before she merely bows it. Black depths draw shut, her features devoid of expression as she stands there in the rain.

"His actions--Mister Ryouhara's--have gotten him in trouble. He is a wanted man, obviously, who has garnered plenty of unwanted attention. I do not hesitate to say that there are likely countless people who hate and despise him. I've caught wind in my 'travels' of some who believed the events of his doing, the 'Jinchuu,' was some horrible crime. Maybe it was? Maybe it was not? I cannot judge." Pause.

"However." The woman's lips pause again. Black eyes fix on the tiny girl in yellow.

"It seems to me...he and I share a similar belief, his clan's 'traditions,' and my own beliefs. Once," Pausing, the woman nearly hesitates, black depths widening softly before she hoods them sharply, peering at the girl. Should she dare?

Oh, why not?

"Someone asked me to do something ...very similar, I suppose. And, in a sense, I became his tool. He forged me, and I ultimately surpassed him. But I'm not content. No; I want to keep going, to keep growing powerful, to become stronger."

Leveling her eyes on Riko, the woman's features are hardened and serious.

"Pardon my boldness here, but... Would it be possible to meet this 'Seishirou-sama?'"

Riko smiles.

"It is not boldness...or if it is, then this one..."

She lowers her head, indicating herself.

"...must also be accused of such."

She steps forward, then, the wheels of her in-line skates gliding over the ground of the alley. They roll over the grime-encrusted concrete, moving smooth as over the finest polished floor. Her forward motion splashes rainwater, disturbing the puddles forming upon the ground. But it does not detract from the grace of Riko's movement.

The ninja girl's right hand emerges from her pocket. As she lifts her arm, extending it to Shihong, a slim object slips from Riko's sleeve into her palm, her fingers closing round it. A cylinder rests in Riko's grasp - an archaic traditional scroll, paper wrapped around a wooden core and bound with knotted cord. Moisture from the falling rain beads against the outermost layer of the tightly coiled scroll, but does not reach the contents protected beneath.

At Riko's admission, Shihong grins, a lopsided gesture coupled with the softest of exhales. It's a relief, if anything, the woman decides then and there. It's good to know she wasn't being terribly forward with the kid and her master with her request. And soon enough those black eyes draw shut, pinching away drops of rain before she opens them once more.

And when she does, the girl is moving. But there is no alarm from the woman in black; far from it, in fact. She stands calmly, patiently watching as the ninja in yellow glides over dampened concrete, exercising finesse and practice grace without fear of falling or slipping. It brings another tiny grin to her lips.

The kid is damn interesting, she also decides.

When the girl's hand exits her pocket, those black eyes move down. Peering at the scroll and its bindings, the woman seems...perplexed. So much so she does not immediately reach out or accept the proffered scroll from the ninja. In fact, she hesitates, spidery fingers flexing gently at her side.

But then in one, careful motion the woman reaches out and accepts the bound scroll.

"This is the explanation part, right?" the woman quietly asks the girl in yellow with yet another lopsided smile on her pale face. "Do forgive me, as I am unfamiliar with your...customs?" She presumes that's the word she's meant to use.

"Indeed, Mao-san," Riko replies, with a touch of humour.

She makes a little gesture as she withdraws her hand, slipping it back within the outermost pocket on the right side of her long raincoat. Through the rain, she gives one of her own smiles. It's not like the theatrical grins of earlier. This one is smaller, a faint curve of the lips. And perhaps more genuine, for that.

"You will find...what we are offering. If you have questions - then yes, Seishirou-sama will be pleased to meet you."

Riko pauses, as if considering this last point. She bites her lip, frowning.

Her voice changes, suddenly, all formality slipping from her mein, washed away in the rain.

"Well, maybe not 'pleased'," Riko muses, "certainly if he hasn't had enough sweetener in his coffee. He's so -grumpy- when he doesn't get his sugar fix. But, you know, Mao-san..."


"...you know."

The response is noted, the humored lilt acknowledged before the woman simply grins, her hand clutching the tiny bound scroll in her palm. Lifting her eyes to the girl before her, she notes her expression before nodding once, softly acknowledging her instructions.

"What you are offering, you say..?" Verbalizing her thoughts once again, the Chinese woman pensively furrows her brows, despite the rain that slicks her hair and face. "Interesting. If everything is here, I do not think I will have many questions." She pauses, though, grinning wryly before chuckles and notes, carefully:

"I think, that is. But if I do, well."

Another chuckle follows. Thin shoulders then shrug beneath her coat, a helpless gesture that is followed with an impish smile. "I'll be sure to arrange a meeting at a coffee shop, or treat him to a cup of Vietnamese coffee. That should be all the sugar fix he needs."

Her arm lifts, the scroll-bearing hand drifting to her pocket, where she gently tucks it away into its depths, out of sight and clearly hidden away. Regarding Riko, the woman's smile lingers as she ultimately nods in response.

"I do. ...I do."

Log created on 14:10:55 01/27/2008 by Riko, and last modified on 03:18:46 04/06/2008.