It’s early evening and the sun has just set. There is a ‘party’ or more accurately a ‘formal ball’ going on at the Taniguchi manor and the place is light up like… well a Christmas Tree if anyone still remembered what that was. A pair of Puma bots sit on either side of the grand courtyard like oversized guard lions. Everything about the area and the people in it screams ‘dress to impress’.
And there are all kinds of people here. The important ones are mostly human of course but only mostly. There are a few notables from Vesper for example, inhuman but not gauche since they’re foreigners. A number of dogwood born D-Bees are about too, some as guests, many as staff. And of course there are guards. So very many guards that have been hired to make sure that nothing goes wrong. Trusted people – human or not – that the Trents and the Taniguchis have worked with before.
There’s music playing and hors d’ourvres being served as a crowd of about a hundred and forty or so circulates. Rumor has it that Crown Prince Kai is somewhere in the crowd and that’s virtually unheard of for a little house out on the border to be so honored.
Jericho himself is… circulating in the open air. He looks martial as ever he does, boots, vest, pistol at his side and sword at the other. He’s rather imposing but that’s the point. He’s being chatted up by a dragon hatchling from Vesper at the moment. One of the more exotic guests. Invited for business connections and… kind of a bit for being exotic. Dogwoodites may not love magical beings but they ARE endlessly fascinated by them. From a distance. In safe environments.
The invitation came as a surprise to Elpida, but then, she’s not exactly a completely unnotable person and she’s had some dealings with Dogwood nobility as of late. She’s dressed up nicely enough, for once. It’s a formal occasion and, veiled and dressed as she is, it’s proof that Varos can do a good job even with one as reluctant as she to wear flattering clothes.
All the same, she’s not comfortable here.
Not even a little.
Baldur can’t remember when the last time was that he’d ever been invited to a party. Then again he’s also technically on the job so it’s not really being invited, but it’s quite the gathering nevertheless.
Due to the occasion he’s dressed up in his best attire, and thanks to being employed under the Taniguchi house he’s actually been able to have nice things that he can wear for events like this. He’s even got a nice hat to go with his slightly more formal uniform. He also feels darn silly in this get-up but he supposes he’ll deal.
The fully converted cyborg roams about the party goers, lingering along the sidelines for the most part, just in case he accidentally bumped into people or stepped on anyone’s feet.
Natsuki is dressed immaculately, of course. It’s a lovely dress that suits her and mixes the Taniguchi colours along with the Trent ones nicely. She’s wearing the bracelets she always wears – with chains that cover the backs of her hands and glint in the light as she moves.
She’s currently speaking with a young lady with light brown hair, not far from where Jericho is circulating. Lady Elisa Saltzpyre, the young lady that Natsu has been said to be mentoring. The ball is a ‘practice run’ for when the young lady is presented and a good way for the Trents and the Taniguchi to foster … relations … with other Guilds and Houses and other places.
There’s been no sign of Prince Kai yet but Natsu had said he likes to make an entrance, so there’s that.
Turning to the veiled woman, who looks so uncomfortable, Natsu gestures to a servant with a tray “Would you like a drink? It’s one of Dogwoods finest wines…”
Elpida should know the wine very well. She arranged for a whole shipment of it to a certain Satyr and it was quite a bit of trouble to get too. It smells nice though. If one likes wine.
Jericho disengages from the dragon, notices Baldur and motions to him to come over as he starts walking over toward Natsuki. The big cyborg is literally head and shoulders above most other people here. Shouldn’t be a big surprise that he’s the one who gets called on for… whatever this is. The Guild Leader is tapping at a communication device as he moves. Clearly he’s just received some kind of message.
Catching the motion from Jericho, Baldur tilts his head but starts over to meet him. Sidestepping a few oblivious chatterboxes, he reaches up to tip his hat as the guild leader nears.
“What’s up Chief?” he greets.
Natsu waves to Baldur as she sees him approach. She’s already complimented the way he has dressed.
“Ah there she is, the Fair Natsuki…” Jericho will recognise that voice. Prince Kai has decided to make his appearance and the blonde headed man, dressed just as martially as the Baronet, is weaving his way through the crowd.
Stopping just in front Natsu, he takes her hand and bows over it before casting Jericho a teasing look “I would kiss your hand, fair lady, but I’m rather attached to my limbs. I think your intended might take offence if I did and then where would be?”
Natsu curtsies and casts the Crown Prince a ‘look’. “Prince Kai, it is indeed an honour to have your presence here. May I present the Lady Elisa, Elpida from Vesper and one of my personal guard, Baldur?” Elisa blushes and dips in a curtsey, allowing the Prince to take her hand and press a light kiss to the back of it.
“Charmed, Lady Elisa.” he says before looking at others “It seems your intended has received some news.”
“Jericho? What it is?”
The snakes and inhuman features are of course visible when one gives her a closer inspection. Some of her snakes have little red and green bows on them.
It’s someone who shall remain utterly nameless’ Christmas-spirit fault. She lost a bet okay.
In any case, Elpida accepts the drink. She has learned a fair bit more about wine in all of this than she ever knew before. “Thank you,” she manages to offer, hesitantly. Yes, she knows that wine.
And then there’s a Prince. A PRINCE. She stops dead in her tracks and sloooowly turns in that direction. Slowly. She tries not to stare.
“Prince Kai.” Jericho takes a bow. It’s not just a prince. It’s THE prince. Which makes Baldur’s presence all the more important.
“Bauldr we just had a perimeter breach. An uninvited guest. One that I think followed the prince in.” The Baronet shows a picture. It is the prince’s… younger brother. Much younger. Kai is the crown prince. Cullen is only sixteen. Old enough to want to go everywhere… and to drive the hover bike he no doubt swiped from the armory.
“He’s about to make a grand entrance I think. Try to make sure no one gets hurt…”
Just then Elpida and Bauldur and Nat all hear the rev of an engine. And a high pitched whine that indicates great speed. Of the type that only, well, good drivers can control.
Everyone looks up as a hover bike ramps over the courtyard wall with a young prince at the helm… the prince then seems to wobble and yep. Off goes the prince on one side. Down comes the bike on the other. The guests scatter and Jericho… just sighs.
Nodding at Natsuki, Baldur then turns as everyone directs their attention to the Prince. His orange optics shuttering in a blink as this information sinks in. “Oh, um. Your highness.” Is that how you greet royalty? He takes a cue from Jericho and bows before taking in what it was that the guild leader had wished to bring up with him.
“…..” The sound of someone going full throttle has him turning with the others at the sound. The cyborg heaves a sigh and then with a nod at the others dashes off to go wrangle a bike.
“Ah, fair Elpida of Vesper. A lady of mystery! Just the sort of thing I enjoy…” Kai takes Elpida’s gloved hand, bends gallantly over it and presses a light kiss to the back of it. If he’s discomfitted by the fact she’s from Vesper, he’s very good at hiding at. “Tell me fair lady, is there a tale to the veil?”
Elisa titters a little but she soon schools herself. She’s been training with Natsu for long enough to know how to do that.
“And Baldur, one of the fair Natsuki’s personal guard. Tell me, sir, is she still handful?” he winks. He does enjoy teasing the part-elf.
Jericho’s news that gets Elisa’s attention “Prince Cullen?” she perks up and turns in the direction of the whine. When the prince goes flying she lets a soft cry of dismay and starts towards the downed prince.
“My … brother.” Kai’s grin couldn’t be wider as the news is delivered. Well, yes it could be. It gets wider when the lad goes flying.
Oh dear god. Elpida’s horror is rising. Not only did a prince of Dogwood address her, she just called her a lady of mystery, kissed her hand, and is definitely asking questions she’s totally not wanting to answer. “It’s.. just… part of the attire,” she manages to mutter. And then there’s a brother and a flying and NOT LADYLIKE swear words because that was totally not expected. She’s hurrying over, not that there’s a whole lot she can do.
The figure that flies off the bike is wearing some kind of light ceramic armor underneath what is definitely a very nice creme colored cape and shoulder boards and… well yeah. He looks like a prince. He’s got a helmet on and he does manage to land the fountain rather than in the drinks table which would have been worse. A collective gasp goes up from the crowd as Elisa runs over. Along with Elpida. Slowly the man takes off his helmet. Or well. Boy. Ish. Sixteen, after all.
“Ow. That… did not go quite as planned.”
Baldur manages to make it in front of the bike and catch it. More or less. It’s riderless so that’s all well and good but it IS still under thrust and it drags the cyborg off toward the leg of one of the Pumas. He can get it under control surely but if he doesn’t do it soon he’s going to crash through a small knot of dumbfounded but very fashionable (and eligiable) young ladies.
Jericho sighs. He’s going to have to give Baldur a bonus for that and the man has well earned it. “He takes after you, your highness.” He observes to Prince Kai wryly.
Indeed Cullen does. He stands and bows to both the veiled gorgon and Elisa and then claps loudly at Baldur’s athletics. “Bravo man! I say, Bravo!”
This… causes everyone else to start applauding Baldur as well even as he wrangles the bike.
The baronet gives Natsuki a slightly longsuffering look.
Baldur…did not quite think this through. Admittedly tactics are never his strong point as he tends to jump headlong into things and figure them out as he goes. In this case, he’s dealing with a runaway hoverbike.
He snags a hold of the handlebars as it comes towards him, swinging up into the seat. Surely it can’t be -that- difficult to maneuver! …except that Natsuki’s only been teaching him how to drive a car…
“Where are the brakes on this thing?!”
He veers narrowly past the bystanders, somewhat confused by the sudden applause, but between the noise from the bike and the blur at which things pass him by, he’s just not registering the entertainment value of his current predicament.
Hopefully no one will be terribly upset if he decides that, failing that he can’t find the brakes, he will just have to get the thing to stop by running it into something sturdy enough.
…and hope that the puma doesn’t get mad at him.
…and Baldur’s just impressive, really. Elpida is now staring over at that since the Prince seems to be okay. And that’s just…
“…yikes,” she manages to say, after a moment. Her snakes are on alert, crawling out of her veiled and hooded self and down her shoulders and making an otherwise ominous appearance in reaction to her discomfort.
“Annnyway,” she says, trying to stuff them back in futily.
“He rather does, doesn’t he?” Kai’s grin couldn’t be less repentant as he applauds his brother and Baldur’s act.
“Prince Cullen!” Elisa remembers to spare a glance to Natsu as she rushes to the youths side. They’re about the same age and it’s the clear the girl is quite … taken with the lad. “Are you alright. That was so … daring…” she sounds almost breathless.
If Jericho’s sighing, so is Natsuki as she casts a look at Kai. “Your Highness, you aren’t helping anything….” she says quietly as she watches the response of those around them. “Bravo, Prince Cullen. Thank you for starting this evenings entertainment.” She calls out loudly, seizing control of the situation before it can get further out of hand. She’s only vaguely noticed where the bike is heading with Baldur attached. “Jericho, Sparkles and Bubbles may need some reinforcing….”
“What do you mean I’m not helping, fair Natsuki?” Kai puts his hand on his heart like he’s wounded. “You’ve wounded me …” Natsu sighs again as she watches the events unfold.
Brakes. Where are the- there they are! It might still be a bit much to avoid a collision…
It’s like a gong being struck only the gong is a combat robot and the hammer is Baldur and that bike. It does stop though. And at the suggestion that this was indeed part of the show from Natsuki some normalcy starts to come over the crowd. Surely, just part of the entertainment. The dragon hatchling looks highly amused.
Cullen steps out of the fountain and bends over Elpida’s hand like his brother did. “You head piece appears to be acting out, oh lady of the veils.” Oh great. More attention called to her. Fortunately Cullen then takes a moment to bow over Elise’s hand. “A pleasure as always Lady Elise. Shall we join my brother and our esteemed hosts?”
Jericho sighs and watches to make sure Baldur doesn’t need any tending to. “I am not calling them that.” He mutters to Natsuki. “Prince Kai perhaps you should do some introductions before your brother gets ahead of himself again? We can retire somewhere that Prince Cullain can congratulate Baldur for his feat of strength and assure the ladies that he’s okay.”
Which is to say they can retire somewhere that the young prince can get as close as princes ever get to apologising for being such a bonehead.
Not that Jericho says that. Because you know. He’s not an idiot. And also it WAS kind of funny.
Owww his auditory sensors. Baldur’s still not quite sure when things stopped moving considering that the room still seems to be spinning as his equilibrium restabilizes.
Blearily he sits up, giving his head a shake before reaching up to check his hat. Still in place! It’s a snug fit on that metal noggin of his at least.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay!” he calls out, waving reassuringly at… someone. At least he’s generally facing the right direction of people. Now he just needs to get up on his feet, using a Puma paw to help lever himself up.
Natsu winces at the ‘bong’. For her Puma or for Baldur? Definitely …. Baldur. Of course. Letting out a breath, her voice rises again “Please take a moment to refresh yourselves and we’ll continue with the evenings festivities in a moment …” she gestures, the light catching her bracelets as she does.
“If we’re not calling them that, you have to name them …” she asides to her intended as she slips her hand through his arm. “Baldur, are you ok? I think I need to buy a new hat …”
Elisa blushes as Cullen acknowledges, accepting the arm he offers her and follows along. “Oh yes, your Highness, we should do that…” she breathes. Slightly giddy it seems.
Kai casts a glance at Elpida’s veil and quirks a brow in Natsu’s direction. Not that she deigns to respond to it. “I think, Baronet Trent, that’s a smashing idea.” He booms, giving Cullen a look that promises retribution if he misbehaves more. “Let us retire for a few moments and then we can get on with the evening.” beat “Bravo Baldur! Now I can see why you get the pleasure of guarding our Fair Natsuki.”
“Your Highness.” Natsu hisses, casting both Kai and Jericho a look as she leads their merry little group away.
“Mmhm,” is what Elpida says. Yep. Snakes are under control and NOT hissing at all the commotion. There is nothing strange here at all!
She smiles. See? A big old smile. Everything’s okay. Everyone’s okay! “Yes, what a lovely plan,” she mutters.
Jericho opens one of the side doors. Some of the entertainment is about to start and it’s not strictly speaking necessary that the host be here. Natsuki’s majordomo, Richard, will handle things for a bit. Prince Cullen accompanies Elpida and Elisa grinning ear to ear as the Baronet ushers them into a ‘viewing room’ just outside the courtyard. One with all the curtains pulled at the moment.
“I’m so pleased you could make it, your Highness.” Jericho says smoothly, pouring a drink from a decanter for everyone but Baldur. “I’m sorry we neglected to extended you an invitation. Had I but known of your interest I would have surely ensured one reached you.”
See? He can be diplomatic.
“Do you require any… immediate attention, Mister Baldur?” They’re gonna have to replace his hat, he’s fairly sure.
“Oh no trouble at all. In fact I know I caused a bit of a scene but I simply had to show Prince Kai how my skills were progressing.” Beat. “Also, it gives me a chance to be absent from court tonight.”
Ooooh lovely. He’s absent from court…
His previously pristine hat now has a horrible dent and more than a few scuffs. Baldur’s popped it off to try and poke it back into shape but no amount of dusting seems to relieve it of the scars marring its surface. One could almost swear the cyborg’s managed to frown despite his decidedly set features.
“‘m good, I think. Nothing’s blurry and I’m not walking sideways am I?” he replies, setting the hat back upon his head with a bit of a sigh. His clothes might be a bit wrinkled too but he doesn’t seem nearly as bothered by that.
Kai chuckles as he ruffles his brothers hair. “You scamp, your skills on the bike might be progressing but in courtly demenaour you need a few more lessons. Maybe I could impose on our fair Natsuki to offer you some tuition.” The grin he casts the part elf and her intended is … telling.
“Your Highness, please…” Natsuki beseeches the man. Fair Natsuki indeed.
“Alright then, how about you Baronet Trent? Would you take the lad on?” he winks at Jericho as he speaks “Or perhaps Baldur here would take the task on.” He does frown though “Absent from Court? What are you missing?”
That gets Natsu frowning as well. “I didn’t think the Court was in session tonight…?” A statement and a question that she directs towards Kai, more than anything. “No, Baldur, you’re not walking sideways and what you did was nothing short of amazing. In the next few days, why don’t we go shopping and I’ll replace the hat and maybe have that one framed.”
Elisa peers at Elpida now that she realises the headdress was moving and shifts slightly closer to Cullen.
Elpida tightenns said headdress and manages to still the movement., She is smiling behind her veil. It reaches her eyes! She’s TRYING, you see.
And then there’s a delicate cough from her. She’s waiting. Quietly.
After all, she’d rather not be the fool who says or does something that makes it plain they have no idea what they’re supposed to do here.
“Lady Sonders.” Cullen says to Kai with a shudder. “That’s what I’m missing.”
This means nothing to Jericho and it shows on his face but he moves it along anyway. “Oh I think that Elpida or Baldur would be happy to… mentor the young prince.”
Elpida is by this point ‘out’ as a D-Bee. Jericho of course knows what she is and it’s not like Cullen didn’t see the snakes either. In fact as Elise sort of shelters against his side he smiles. He can see Elpida is trying, and she’s doing well.
“I didn’t catch the mystery lady’s name. Is it Elpida, then?”
“Baldur. Baldur. Why does that name sound familiar?” The prince wonders aloud.
“Say what?” Baldur blinks, glancing over from dusting himself off as their royal companions mention his name. He’s momentarily distracted by Natsuki, his sour expression seeming to brighten- literally as his eyes glow with the suggestion of a shopping trip. He’s come to enjoy those. The compliments don’t hurt any either.
“Just doin’ my duty, ma’am,” he says, seeming to smirk as he tilts his head just so.
And then it’s back to Jericho as he clarifies things that the cyborg had missed a moment ago. “Hooold on, mentoring royalty? Heh, I think I’m hardly qualified for that. Just a soldier, sir.”
The prince’s fixation upon his name does have him turn his focus towards the man then.
“There was a session called tonight, at the last moment … Miss Taniguichi.” Kais eyes dance as he looks at the part elf. Not Fair Natsuki, this time but she can see he’s thinking on it. “Lady Sonders has taken a particular interest in Cullen, perhaps, when Lady Elisa is ‘out’, you’ll permit her to attend and … protect him…”
Kai is so irreverrant.
“Maybe you read the name, brother, in the archives.” Kai prompts Cullen. Baldur might not remember much about his conversion but there has to be records. Records that tie the name Baldur to Galan Gallerhorn. Of course how much of the man’s conversion and the anti-magic assault team was recorded in another thing – The head of the Agents of the Crown might have known but they’re in disarray right now.
“Or perhaps, Prince Cullen, you know him from my personal security detail.” Natsu prompts. “And may I present, Elpida of Vesper, your highness.”
When her name is said, Elpida coughs delicately.
“Yes, that’s me.” And then she’s introduced more formally and she even takes a bow, nodding. Straightening up, Elpida looks anxious. She’s with princes and nobility. Any flub here could be… extremely costly and she knows it. If scales could sweat, she would totally be sweating right now. The snakes are clamped down. Hard. It’s a bit of a strain.
“Ah yes! There was a war hero of that name!” Cullen snaps the fingers on his free hand. “No relation, I suppose?” He asks the cyborg. “Are you sure you’re not suited though? I should think a war hero would be the perfect thing for a prince, if by some chance you ARE related?”
As Elpida is formally introduced Cullen bows again and then ‘presents’ Elise. “You know young Lady Saltzpyre do you not? Come now Elise. She won’t bite.” Beat. “Will you?”
“Hopefully not.” Jericho murmurs mostly for Natsuki’s benefit. They should rejoin their party soon. Cullen apologised… more or less.
Natsuki sighs as Cullen exclaims, slipping her arm through Jericho’s again. “Hopefully not …”
Elisa moves forward at Cullen’s prompting and curtseys again. “Miss Taniguichi has already introduced us.” She says quietly, nodding to the Gorgon again.
“Well, our guests are waiting and we shouldn’t keep them so…” Natsuki announces gesturing out to the party. “Perhaps, Prince Cullen would you honour Lady Saltzpyre with a dance? And perhaps Elpida, as well?” She’ll dance with Jericho and Kai, of course but …
“And Baldur, you must absolutely dance with me tonight …”
“War hero? Oh, hah! I dunno if I was officially considered a war hero,” Baldur laughs, scratching the back of his head. The very title tickles him. “I mean sure, I was in the war, but ain’t no heroes in battles like that…”
He looks back at Natsuki, blinking again. “Dance? With you? Er. Sure, Miss Natsuki, if you want- but I….don’t think I’ve been on a dance floor in decades…”
“Well then. I look forward to this. Shall we?” Jericho gestures to his companions as he opens the door. As he does a woman walks by in a strapless black dress with red trim and glances back. It’s Gabrielle. She looks at Natsuki, smirks slightly and then mingles into the crowd. Nat had promised she’d arrange a dance with Kai.
She might not have to try too hard.
The crowd is just applauding as the musical act wraps up. It’s a perfect time to get back out and mingle.
And so they do.
“Is that Miss Trent?” Kai’s attention is certainly caught and Natsuki just nods. “When we find her, I’ll effect an introduction …”
No, she won’t have to try to hard.
“Well Leannan, shall we get the dancing started?” the part-elf gestures for the others to precede them. This should be a good evening.
It’s like nothing had even happened earlier. Baldur follows after the others, hoping the same as Natsuki even as he tries not to look terribly anxious about her request for a dance.
Hopefully he won’t step on her toes. Or anyone else’s.
Elpida b links her eyes some more. Wait, dance? Oh god. There’s gonna be a dancing.
SOMEONE SAVE HER. But she’s going to spend the rest of the evening trying not to humiliate herself. Desperately.
Faces from all over come to enjoy themselves at the Taniguchi's for a fancy winter ball, along with some royal distractions.
December 17, 2411
Taniguchi Manor, Dogwood