There are always rumours about Natsuki, mostly around her prolictivities – like whose bed she’s warming, or who’s warming hers. In the past few months there’s been whispers about her and the Guild House Trent Factor – whispers because Jericho is ruthless about quashing them. More recently though, those rumours have included Baronet Trent and people are … confused, if not scandalised. The Father and the Son.
The speculation has been circumspect, given how Jericho likes to deal with the gossip mongers, but the rumours have probably reached the ears of a certain Vesper clothier. Natsuki has been seen often in the company of the Baronet, and in the last week or so, things have been … escalating.
Which might be why he’s not too surprised to receive a message that she’d like to see him to discuss a new wardrobe. A very special one, one that she only really trusts him to do for her. If he’d do her the courtesy of calling at the Taniguichi Townhouse in Dogwood, she’d be very much obliged.
Varos tends to get his information in a variety of ways, and truthfully his focus has been on other things entirely when such rumors had been dropped into his lap. Some would think that under such circumstances, it would be wiser to stay at home. He very much disagrees to that, especially when the threat has followed him to Vesper and intends to try preying upon his friends and acquaintances, but he’s had little room to maneuver and even less success in figuring out how to deal with things.
Perhaps it’s a reckless thing to go to Dogwood of all places, but such events have driven him to recklessness already. Now he just wants space, and if the things follow him, then so be it. He’ll deal with things on his own terms.
Having reached Dogwood without incident, Varos isn’t sure whether he’s relieved or disappointed, but at least he won’t be bringing Natsuki additional trouble. He’s dressed neatly in a fine balance of travel and business, and the goggles he wears are close-fitted but styled more like sunglasses. Over his shoulder he has black leather travel pack. Natsuki had called for business, and so he’s prepared to conduct such. Lifting his hand, he knocks at the door.
When the door opens, Natsuki is standing there, wearing a light midlength sleeved tunic-like top and a pair of soft leggings. On her right arm is a ‘sleeve’ and the skin that can be seen under the cuff is still greying. Her hair falls down around her shoulders. Clearly, this is an ‘at home’ day for her. “Mister Jenek…” she smiles, taking a step forward to press a quick kiss to the tailors cheek. “You came … I’m pleased. Do come in, I’ve just made tea and have some delicious apple cakes, I do hope you’re a little bit hungry.”
She steps back, letting the tailor enter before closing the door and leading him to the lounge room. He’s been here before and it hasn’t changed. Everything … appears to be normal. “I hope you are well?” she asks, gesturing for him to take a seat as she takes her place at the end of the couch.
It’s probably no surprise that Varos is dressed in the neutral grays he’s so fond of. His smile is genuine as Natsuki greets him, even if there’s still a flutter of concern when he catches a glimpse of her wrist. “Well of course I came. You requested it,” he replies easily, stepping inside at her invitation. “Tea sounds wonderful, and I have to date never turned down the offer of cake.”
Through her eyes he takes in the surroundings as he allows her to lead him inside. Still the same, although he supposes he hadn’t expected there to be any change. He still finds it curious that she might still be staying here, or perhaps she just found it easier to entertain a business guest this way.
“Hm?” Lifting his head a little, he steps towards the couch, slipping his bag from his shoulder to set on the floor beside it before sitting. “Oh. Well, I’m still here. Still breathing. I count that as a positive thing,” he replies, his smile crooked.
“And yourself? How have things been?”
Whilst there aren’t any changes in the physical environment, Varos might just detect a level of … giddiness … about Natsuki. That’s different, whilst she’s a dreadful flirt, she’s normally … very grounded but now, there’s something more to it.
Not withstanding that, the part-elf watches Varos, listening to his answer and frowning slightly “It sounds like being here is an achievement. Is everything alright, Mister Jenek? I feel responsible for the trouble I bought to your doorstep.” Whether that’s what the issue is, she doesn’t know.
Taking a moment to pour the tea, it’s almost a ritual the way the part-elf does it – turning the pot three times and lining the cups up just so. Taking one of the cups, she hands it over to the Tailor, along with a small cake on a plate “Busy, I’m afraid. I’m still undergoing treatment at the hospital and it’s easier to be here when I do.” The fingers of her left hand touch the sleeve tentatively before she sighs. “I suppose you’re curious as to why I need a new wardrobe…”
“Oh, no, not at all! You’re hardly at fault for any of my current…difficulties. This is a breath of fresh air, I assure you!” The unusual feeling he detects from her is momentarily forgotten as he shakes his head with his response.
Varos waves a hand as though to usher that line of conversation away as he watches Natsuki pour the tea. “I’m here and always pleased to be in your lovely company,” he says with a coy smile, reaching over to take the offered cup and the plate of cake. He frowns just a little as she touches upon the subject of treatment, but it answers his earlier unspoken questions. Sipping his tea carefully, he lowers the cup and his head in a sigh.
“I’m sorry, Miss Taniguchi. I’d meant to make inquiries back in Vesper as to possible treatments but recent occurrences have waylaid me in making any progress on that.” She may have said that it’s not his fault, that he shouldn’t take responsibility for it, but he still wants to do what he can if they can find a worthwhile treatment for her.
But there’s business to be discussed, as was the main reason he’d been called. Varos nods. “…ah, yes- new wardrobe…” he says, trailing off as he waits for her to continue.
“Natsuki, or Natsu if you prefer, Mister Jenek” the part-elf murmurs, taking a dainty bite from the cake on her own plate. She regards him steadily, though that sense of giddiness doesn’t abate. “As long as you’re sure, I’m pleased to provide such a distraction. And don’t be sorry about my arm, the doctors here are still hopeful. It sounds to me, that you have much more on your plate than I do on mine…”
After taking a sip from her cup, the part-elf offers the Tailor a beatific smile. “I find myself in need of a trousseau, actually. I’m … to be married…”
“Then please, call me Varos,” he insists, having generally never really been fond of being called ‘mister.’ Sampling a bit of cake, his brows lift, pleased at the flavor. “This is quite good.” He helps himself to another bite, nodding as he had meant what he’d said about being grateful to be here and not dealing with other things. Chuckling dryly, he picks his tea up again. “Mm, well, that just may be, but I’m not about to challenge you to compare problems,” he smirks, bringing the cup to his lips to drink.
-and nearly chokes at Natsuki’s news, coughing as he hastily sets his tea down to prevent a mess.
“Varos, then. And I’ll pass your compliments on to the baker, there’s a delightful place not far from here…” Natsu smiles, sipping her tea and watching the tailor as she delivers her news.
As the tailor nearly chokes, the part-elf hands over a cloth serviette – it’s a fine thing indeed with the Taniguchi crest embroidered on it. “Varos?” she questions with worry “Are you alright? I didn’t mean for the news to shock you … ” It’s there, still, that dizzy sense about all of this. “… you’re the first to know, officially… The Baronet asked me yesterday.”
Yes, he heard her correctly, Baronet Trent has asked her to marry him and the part-elf … appears to have agreed. That seems to be a turn around from previously.
Accepting the napkin with less grace than he would have under different circumstances, Varos pats a hand at the air as he tries to catch his breath. If that hadn’t made him choke, then the news to follow is like a sucker punch. He’s just glad he wasn’t trying to drink anything then or he might have spit it right across the room.
“What?” is about all he manages to wheeze, if barely. Coughing, he finally manages to clear his throat enough as he lifts his head to ‘look’ back at her. This makes absolutely no sense to him, not the news, the previous things he’d known, not Natsuki’s apparent giddiness.
“But I thought-” he starts, pausing to clear his throat again. “-rather sudden, isn’t it? I thought you were only tolerating him for information?”
“Varos!?” Natsu moves to pat him on the back but stops as the tailor begins to talk again. “I … was. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and I find him rather charming. So different from the men who normally seek out my company. He … is interested me, Natsuki, not the mongrel halfbreed granddaughter of disgraced Dogwood Knight.”
As Varos ‘looks’ he can see her perception of Connor has changed. Whereas before, there was a veil of suspicion and distrust, now she seems enraptured by the man. It’s hard to say, but Varos might suspect that her perceptions are … maybe not clouded but something similar. Maybe he’s just imagining it and the part-elf has shifted camps, so to speak.
Which does raise the question of Jericho.
Dying by tea would have been pretty embarrassing. Varos takes a moment to suck in more air than he’s been releasing, feeling a little better for that, however not much so in regards to the news that he’s still wishing he’d misheard.
“Even so, this is still…” Do people do things like this? Decide to get married out of the blue, after a few months of getting to know someone who was initially pegged as suspicious and someone to be careful of? He’s not quite convinced.
He falls silent as he tries to wrap his head about it, his unintentional focus upon Natsuki giving him a glimpse of something that he can’t quite put his finger on. It’s hard for him to believe that this is the same woman he’d spoken to some time ago. True, Natsuki had been admitting to being charmed by the Baronet, but it was never like this. But was it so far from it? Something just doesn’t fall into place.
“…so you haven’t told Factor Trent yet?” he asks. Natsuki had been more in acquaintance with the younger than the older, given how often they’d be in each other’s company. That’s going to be…awkward.
It’s possible that things are done this way. This is Dogwood and the society is feudal in nature. The nobles rarely marry for love but for the betterment of their relative houses. Natsuki has always known that was to be her lot in life – when she married. Still, she’s never evinced the desire to marry and it should seem strange that her stance has changed so completely.
“No, I have not. Not yet. I will need to speak to Connor.” There’s a softness to the way that she says that, “and work out when he wants to tell both his children.” For all that Natsuki was in Jericho’s company, and the familiarity and comfort they exhibited – that’s gone. The ‘vision’ that the Tailor gets from the part-elf doesn’t show Jericho in the business or family picture … at all.
“Are you not happy for me, Varos?”
It’s baffling. His instinct tells him something’s wrong, but he’s frustrated in that he can’t really pinpoint what it is. Well no, he knows what it is, he just has no idea where it’s come from. This doesn’t seem like the Natsuki he’s come to know at all, and even from the start, she had never struck him as someone who would so easily marry someone because of some sudden understanding. Things were done by her terms, always. She liked her games, but she also had her sights clear. Now everything seems so muddled.
That Jericho doesn’t even hold a speck on her figurative radar is alarming in a way Varos isn’t sure how to describe. There shouldn’t be so clean a disconnect. Something should register, even if it’s negative, regret, fondness, pain- something.
Varos stares at her, his brow furrowing, the silence stretching out even after she’d responded to his question, almost completely unregistered, and she may as well have been speaking in another language for how much sense the answer had made to him. He wets his lips, suddenly dry as she prompts him with her question in turn.
“…I….” He forces a laugh, shaking his head. “I’m not sure. I. I don’t know what to say.” Someone who lies professionally, unwilling to lie now? This isn’t business. This is…an unknown. It’s strange, and to be fair, perhaps it’s really not his business at all, tailoring aside, but he can’t sit here and hear this and not react in some way. Natsuki is not simply a patron. She’s become a good friend.
The more Varos ‘looks’ at Natsuki, the more he can see something … colouring … her view. It’s new, since the last time he saw her.
“In times like this, it’s customary to say ‘congratulations’.” the part-elf murmurs, cocking her head at the tailor. “I know it seems strange, that I was so suspicious of him to start with, but he’s quite won me over. It’s so unusual to have a man who … current company aside, of course … wants to know me before … ” she waves her hand.
He’ll remember a discussion not so long ago, in his store, where she spoke about how the people of Dogwood treated her. It’s clear from what she’s staying, that Connor hadn’t treated her that way.
“Be happy for me, Varos. Please.” the dark skinned woman implores the visored man. “And help me choose a trousseau. I couldn’t do it without you…”
What’s the Tailor going to do? It seems she’s fixed on this course and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
Perhaps it’s Natsuki’s prompting that has him remember himself, and so Varos just manages to keep his unsettledness from surfacing on his face. He does remember such things, and he hasn’t forgotten just where he even is, at the moment. The smile he offers her is a soft one in understanding, and perhaps a little apologetic. It’s also completely false, but he’s learned to pull from the true emotions and repurpose them to be believable.
“I’m sorry,” he says, bowing his head. “You’re right. I. Well I’ve already stated how sudden and unusual this news is. But… I’m glad that you’ve found someone who sees you for whom you want to be seen.”
The smile is all right, but the words fall a bit wooden at the end, as though it hurts to say such a thing. No, there’s no doubts about it. He’s lying to someone who wants to be told a lie, isn’t that it? But she’s sincere, and there’s something else that just doesn’t make it seem natural.
He pulls back his focus for a moment, letting it spread outwards before retuning it, so to speak, looking back at Natsuki, seeing himself through her eyes even as his perceptions seek something more. He’d be in trouble if someone came and decided to try stabbing him in the back now, but that’s not a concern he has at this moment.
“…I came here to give my assistance, and my assistance, you shall have, Natsuki.”
As Varos’s senses focus on the part-elf, he can ‘see’ something. It’s not clear what it is, but there’s something there. Perhaps he’s right to be concerned. However, confronting it now, might be dangerous for her and for him. Now that he knows, what is he going to do?
“Don’t be sorry, dear Varos,” Natsuki murmurs, smiling at him. “It is unusual, I’ll allow but the Baronet … just has such a view of the world.” When he offers his assistance, she smiles more brightly. “Excellent! I knew I could rely on you. Where shall we start?”
Had he eyes, he would have squinted. He’s not sure what he’s looking at, but the unsettled feeling he has grows like a knot in his stomach. For now, knowing is all that he has. He never proceeds without at least having a better idea of what might be going on, and he has a feeling this might be out of his league, not to mention that it’s Natsuki who’s affected, not him.
Pulling back his senses from her, letting the world color a bit around him as filled in by Natsuki’s perceptions, Varos smiles back, nodding a little. He might spend a little more time in Dogwood. Perhaps drop by a certain factor to see how he likes his new coat.
“Well, I know you have quite a hand for art and an eye for what you’re looking for, so I’m sure you probably know what you want, just need some direction. We can start with colors, as even white can come in as many shades as grey.”
Natsuki is watching Varos, head cocked, smiling faintly. She can tell he’s not … enamoured … with the turn of events. If only she knew why. “Really, I’m looking for what you would do in this case. You know my style and I think you have a good handle on what Dogwood would accept. But colour is excellent place to start. I don’t white is appropriate, do you? I mean, I’m not young and … well, yes.”
Sipping her tea, the part-elf settles back on the couch, clearly thinking “Lavender maybe, or a dove grey.” Why it’s called ‘dove grey’ is anyone’s guess – doves haven’t been seen in the area for … years.
Seeing the Factor might not be a bad idea. But will the Tailor make it in time or will Connor enact whatever he’s planning before he can?
And will the marriage even take place?
“Well, it is your wedding,” Varos says, as painful as it is to do so. “Something that soft a grey would be lovely, I think.” He taps a finger on his chin before reclaiming his tea, probably cold, but he’ll try a sip anyway.
“Hm. That’s a good point you bring up. I think. Perhaps I shall have a walk around to refresh myself on what’s current in Dogwood by way of style. Then we can play a bit with that.” He grins, and it’s more genuine this time. But he always grins when he’s plotting.
“That’s probably a good idea, Varos.” Natsuki watches as he sips from that tea. It is cold and she gestures to the tea pot, she can refill it if he prefers. “The extra perspective would be certainly welcomed.”
She’s not aware that he’s plotting and the grin gets a smile. If only she knew what he was thinking.
In the meantime, she draws out her sketch book and opens the pages. “Here’s somethings I was thinking of.” They might be here for a while, going over these. Which will allow Varos to perhaps see the Factor a little later.
Will her intended arrive during that time? Does he want to see him?
Natsuki requests some help from her clothier friend for a new wardrobe. Now what could the occasion be?
December 07, 2410
Taniguchi Townhouse, Dogwood