There’s a lot of work happening on the Taniguchi lands. There has been for a while. First the Factory, then the road upgrades and now the rolling set of work across a number of their holdings, orgainsed by the Baronet to try and stem the flow of failures that were being experienced.
The Winters Holding was the first hold to be done and the work there is moving apace. This might be why Jericho has decided to visit. See what his father has been up to.
Natsuki Taniguchi is visiting today and is currently speaking with Evan Winters, the Holder. In her arms is a girl of about eight years old, a poppet of a thing, who’s playing with Natsu’s hair as the part-elf listens to what the Holder is saying.
The guise of inspecting the work done by the baronet’s teams also includes making sure any extras hadn’t been snuck in there. So far his people haven’t found anything. If he looks a little bit… stern that’s because he’s got a lot on his mind. When he sees Natsuki he waves in greeting. He knows she went to see his father… he’s not sure what she’s doing here today, but he is curious how that last meeting went.
Natsuki has certainly seen Connor Trent again, the rumours and whispers are running thick at the moment – the pair had certainly created a small stir at the Art Exhibition. It’s likely Jericho is well aware of this – Gabrielle is good at her job after all and if he’s been in Dogwood since then, people might be looking at him sideways.
Seeing Jericho, Natsu smiles in his direction, inclining her head as she finishes the discussion she’s having with the Holder. “Alright, Holder Winters. Let me know how the improvements pan out for you.” Jericho can hear her saying.
“I will, Miss Taniguchi but it really is looking very good. I don’t know how you did it, but I’m grateful.” He goes to take the child and she shakes her head.
“Leave her for a moment while you do what you need to. I can keep her entertained. Mister Trent may help me…” She turns to Jericho, a small frown drawing her brow down “Jericho. I hadn’t expected to see you out here. Inspecting your peoples work?” To his enhanced perceptions, there’s something … off … about Natsu. She did have a good night the other night, he can be sure.
“Just so. Ensuring that everything was done to standard.” The Holders may well think that’s it’s part of the maintenance regime. In truth it’s redundant. Very redundant. But Jericho doesn’t feel like taking chances with this and if his father is trying to gather information or pull something else underhanded he wants to know about it. The annoying thing is he can’t find anything. It’d almost be better if his father were playing games.
But so far it seems to all be on the up and up. For someone who is expecting something to happen, it’s maddening.
“What brings you by, Miss Taniguchi?”
“Natsuki.” the part-elf corrects gently. “You agreed you would call me by my name, Jericho.” She smiles again and the girl on her hip finishes twining a ribbon into a plait of Natsu’s hair. The poppet seems quite happy there and the Estate Manager is complaining about the mussing of her hair style. “I take it the work is? I really wouldn’t expect you to find anything else, not unless you know something I don’t.”
They’re standing in a sheltered yard of the holding, the harvesters are being prepared to bring the crops in. “I often visit the Holdings, you know that. But it seemed timely, given the work your Guild House is doing for us. Well, your Father, at any rate.” She’s quiet for a moment, giving him chance to respond before she lets out a low sigh “I take it you heard I had dinner with Father the other night?”
She had promised him she’d spare him some of the details. Will she?
“I did yes. How did that go?” Down to business is the factor. He’s quite happy to be spared the details though he realizes she might not either because she forgets or because she thinks he needs to hear them. And given the situation that’s just something she will have to deal with.
“The work is statisfactory yes, not that I would expect less from our technicians. I was curious to see if the standards had been altered…” That’s… a subtle way of saying in mixed company he wated to see if anything funny was up.
“I heard that you two had quite a night actually. The news was all over town.” As well it might be.
“It was a lovely evening. He took me to the latest Neo-Impressionist Art Exhibition. I didn’t realise your father had such love of art, he’s very knowledgeable. But I suppose you know that.” Maybe it is news to Jericho, which will be telling in itself. “I’m not surprised the news is all over town. He was … very attentive. And sweet.”
That should start sounding alarm bells for Jericho. ‘Sweet’ is not a word that Natsu would use for her liaisons and is she sounding like she’s thawing to the Baronet a little more?
“He’s going to show me around the Factory as soon as I can get some time to do so. From what he was saying, I could drop by anytime and he’d be delighted.” There’s a distinct lack of suspicion in Natsu’s words. It does sound like she might be quite be smitten by the man. “But there was nothing really of substance discussed during our date.” Yes, Jericho, she just said ‘date’.
Jericho sighs and folds his arms. This is not the Natsuki he really… knows. She was flirtatious but also in a way deeply cynical. Sure that people only wanted one of a few things from her. This is not that. She’s almost… well he might like seeing it if he weren’t starting to become deeply suspicious himself.
“Well at least he agreed to show you the factory.” Jericho could in theory tour it himself… but he’d be risking letting his father know that something is up and in any case, people might hide things from him.
“So. Sweet?” Yes, he knows that’s not a word she uses. “I was aware of his interest in art. Not that particular art though.”
It’s the first time they’ve discussed his father that Natsu hasn’t begun by voicing her concerns and her disbelief that anyone would want to be with her for any other reason than the obvious. She does have reputation after all. One she’s almost carefully cultivated.
Jericho could tour the Factory but he’s after some very specific information – like where the money his father has borrowed has gone. He’s not likely to get that himself, which is where Natsu is supposed to come in. “He was almost hurt that I hadn’t asked sooner.” The poppet in her arms squirms a little and hooks the braid that she’s made over Natsu’s ear. “Mama!!” she squirms a little more and Natsu looks over.
“So it is. Looks like she’s looking for you …” Letting the girl down to the ground, the part-elf tousles her hair. “Go along now. Tell Mama I’ll be by before I go …” Juliet Winters won’t interrupt this meeting. As the child skips off, the part-elf watches for a moment before turning back to Jericho.
“He doesn’t seem … worried … about my heritage and he’s interested in me, not in … ” she shakes her head. She knows it makes him uncomfortable when speaks of such things. “I find myself wondering if this is how my Grandfather felt about my Grandmother.” beat “And she him.”
He might notice that she hasn’t mentioned finding out what’s going on in the Factory. What to look for. What type of questions she should be asking.
Starry eyed or … something else?
“And how exactly is that?” Not that she might be thinking of it at the moment, but at the moment Jericho is evaluating whether or not he can really trust her to go through with this or if she’s going to be lost in the game. He wonders, since she told him, if her Agents of the Crown handler ever had this issue with her.
He might, for one brief moment, sympathize with the man.
“When are you going?” To the factory that is. He’s trying to bring her back to the main point.
Jericho might recall that Natsu asked him to be there for her, to ground her, as their mission progressed. But if he were to ask Greg if Natsu ever got ‘lost’, the answer would be ‘no’. She always kept the end game in mind and knew what she had to do.
Which might then make him wonder just what the hell his father had done to get this response. It’s certainly unusual for the part-elf to be like this. He also wouldn’t sympathise with Greg – the Agents relationship with the part-elf is, was maybe, quite physical – maybe that helped keep her … on point.
Natsu shrugs and looks out over the field filled with crops, the breeze teasing at the loose ends of her hair. “Grandfather left his noble wife for my Grandmother, gave up everything. Grandmother came to live in Dogwood to be with him. They … cared for each other quite a bit.” she shakes herself and smiles slightly “In the next day or so, I think. I have a jacket to deliver to him. I was going to use that as my excuse for dropping in. I don’t need that now.” A pensive look crosses her face though “Do you really think your father is up to something?”
“If I didn’t suspect he might be, we wouldn’t be doing this.” Jericho says simply, which may help remind where exactly what the stakes are.
“Do you still want to do this?” He’s asked that before. And he’s asking it again because he needs to know that she’s okay with this. He needs to know that he can still count on her.
Ground her? How does he do that? Greg has his methods… possibly ones that were a bit more… well, he tied Nat to him somehow. Is she still? Or is she drifting away? And if so, how is Jericho supposed to keep her on task?
Natsu too had thought Connor was up to something. There was something in the way he behaved with her on that first meeting that triggered that feeling. Then there was the visit from one of the Trent older actuaries. She’d been adamant that something was wrong.
“I just …” she sighs and shakes her head “… I //like// him, Jericho. I didn’t think I would. I thought I would remain indifferent and not find someone that wanted to know me rather than sleep with me. He’s done nothing but be charming and witty, enjoying playing my game as much as I do, in all the time we’ve been together.”
It’s unspoken but there’s a contrast there. Connor flirts without expectation, Jericho just … shuts her down. Of course Connor is going to look attractive to the woman. Unless he’s using some other techique on the part-elf.
“I don’t know if I do. I don’t want to break your trust, not again, but I … don’t know if I can break Connors, either.”
“If we don’t find anything then there’s no trust to break. But if we do…” Or worse if Connor tries to flip Natsuki on Jericho. She may not be thinking of that, he certainly isn’t. He’s more thinking that she’s going to want to break off, or worse… want to keep going with Connor. That would definitely be worse in his mind because he can’t tell what his father is up to and he can’t rule out him simply looking for another match.
Which would be //awkward//.
“So what is it that you want to do, then?” He knows she likes him. That’s abundantly clear. That she hasn’t slept with him yet is… puzzling to Jericho.
“It still feels like I am …” Natsu says quietly, looking at the Factor through hooded lashes “How would you feel if you found I had been working with someone to gather intelligence on you, even if I couldn’t find anything?” She blows out a breath. Jericho is right and she knows it. This is her problem to deal with.
If Connor is looking simply looking for another match, it might be awkward. But for different reasons for the pair of them.
“We’ll keep going. You need the information.” she draws herself up, raising her chin as her resolve strengthens. She’s going to lose sleep over thi, she knows. “Is there anything I should be looking for in particular? Questions I might ask?” She can work this out herself, but Jericho has a unique perspective on all this.
“I do need the information.” But he needs to trust the person getting it for him. He doesn’t say that. He’s not sure he can’t trust Natsuki. He’s just wondering where her head is at right now. He’s not sure. And he’s not sure that she’s sure.
“More than questions just look at the equipment. Make note of it. Figure out who he bought it from. If I know where he sourced things I’ll know the short list of where he had to get them from and that will go a long way toward helping me figure out where the money went and how he was able to hide it.”
Back to finances. Is that all there is with Jericho?
“You were. I did.” Gathering intelligence on him, at least in the sense that she helped free a spy. “Just be careful. And tell me if you can’t keep going. I’d rather know that sooner rather than later if it happens.”
It seems that’s all there is to Jericho. Despite Natsuki’s best attempts to draw anything else from the man, this is where they’re at. “Very well then, I’ll take an inventory and get you what I can.” However he thought she looked earlier, she doesn’t now. Maybe it’s telling, not once has she tried to flirt with the Factor.
As to the counterspying “Then you know how this will go down if he finds out.” It’s there, in her voice, in the minute actions that she transmits – losing the Baronets good opinion will likely hurt her a lot.
The father and the son. Again.
“If you find anything here, let me know.” It’s not that Natsu is cold, exactly. More likely resigned. This is the best it will be between them. “I need to see Missus Winters and the children before I head back to the manor today.”
“Then I will see you next time.” Jericho nods, and turns to go back to his own people. They’re probably pretty close to done with here and sadly the exercise hasn’t yielded any more clues about what his father is up to. Another man might just admit that there’s nothing to his suspicions. Certainly the Factor can’t particularly think of any logical reason why there needs to be something wrong. It’s just a dozen small things are niggling at him. Things that aren’t adding up in the back of his head, telling him something’s off.
And now something’s off with Natsuki. Which has him even more wary, if even less able to explain why.