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Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri)

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1 Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:12 pm

Ka'Ri returns from the afternoon da- connection with Thimb with a head buzzing full of excitement and recommendations for Gnome-Voice works to check out the next time she's at the booksellers.

But with the sun falling, it was time to check in with Qiao and see what his read on the situation is and whether or not she was completely off base with her suspicions and planned actions.

Making her way, she ducks along the alleys, tipping up her cloak so as to disguise herself in case of any magical tracking, winding her way until she was outside Qiao's pawn shop. Normally, they would schedule a time to meet in the park, but a situation this time-sensitive needed a faster check-in and so this was a solid Plan B.

With casual effort, she slips into the Pawn Shop, turning its sign from Open to Closed and drawing the blinds before calling to the back.

"I'm back from my trip," she says loudly, using the codephrase they had decided upon before hand for when she checked in and waited for Qiao to welcome her to the backroom.
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2 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Mon Jul 09, 2018 9:32 pm

Qiao ducks his head out into the main shop, noting the closed blinds and that she's alone. He looks haggard today; his hair is a sloppy mess the way it does when he runs his hands through it. "Hey, kiddo. I'm alone. Business has been slow as honey today. Come on back. How'd things go at the ivory tower?"
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3 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:01 pm

"I dunno. I nearly messed things up, but I think I managed to salvage things."

Ka'Ri continues on, relaying the facts of the case as she knows them to Qiao, taking especially strong note of what she and Thimb managed to confirm at the bookseller's.

"The jackboots messed things up pretty fierce, but as far as I know, Korogur doesn't know a rogue is on the duty and I'm happy to exploit that as best I can. My ideas on where to go from here is to investigate this Treygis Redfang's place given that he seems to have a strong connection to the mark, which means I need to get a hold of any info you might have on his abode as well as any info heard on the downlow about Treygis, Korogur, or this Immeral."

Ka'Ri nods along, in the groove of her scheming mode.

"Oh, yeah," she says pulling out a work from her bag. "I was wondering if you knew any forgers we can trust who can take a look at this ransom note and see if it resembles any nobles they've worked for another lead."

"So yeah, what do you think?"
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4 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:42 pm

Qiao takes the note, his expression a mask of quiet overwhelmed horror at this out-pouring. "Uh. Okay. Wow." Running a hand through his hair, he shakes his head. "Well, now I know why my contact at the tower hedged as much as they did when I asked after the details. Ka'Ri, going after the Redfangs is suicide. You don't 'investigate their place', kiddo. You might as well 'investigate' the king's palace in Jewelness. Worse, because the king might just throw you in jail rather than kill you."

Taking a collection of deep breaths, he tries to steady himself. "I can get you a location, sure. Easy enough to know where everyone stays away. But it's not a house, Ka. It's practically a whole street they've bought up. Big family, lots of mommies and kiddos and someone's always up nursing a brat or making breakfast for the clan or whatever else big families do. It's not a job where you can sneak in while everyone sleeps to rustle around in the dresser drawers. Maybe, maybe, you could get inside with a disguise and a cover story, but it would have to be a damn good one. And then they'd know your face."

Setting the note aside, he leans back in his chair to study the ceiling in fresh despair. "As for Korogur, that's a whole other barrel of rotten fish. He can't possibly be in port--or, if by some miracle he is, he won't be for long. He's either at sea or docked in the southern caves where the pirates who are too recognizable to stay in town go to dock for repairs. But even if you could get at him, he'd sooner run you through than let you mess with whatever plan he's cooked up."

Looking up at her with worried eyes, he shakes his head again. "Ka'Ri, please tell me you'll turn this job down. You die, what's gonna happen to your family? Hell, what's gonna happen to them if a Redfang sees your face and asks around about the elf that came poking around their place?"
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5 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:59 pm

Ka'Ri bit her lip. Damn, there goes the easy plan, and if all the Redfangs are clustered together that means our alternative options for snooping are limited as well.

She looked at the concerned and desperate face of her long-time friend. She knew inherently that she should trust him, give up the gig for easier work. It'd keep her crew safe. It'd keep her safe.

But...

She felt herself getting invested in this mystery. Some trumped up band of assholes fucked with the best chance of her family seeing daylight again by exploiting the romanticism of an elf girl who just wanted the promise of freedom the open sea promised.

"This... this feels personal," she says quietly. "This Gwynn... she just wanted the open sea and a bit of freedom from a nob's birdcage. And they took that, exploited that, and fucked up the best mind for solving the plague for... money or power or... something stupid and pointless."

"It's... jackboot shit. It's nob shit. And if we don't do something here, I may lose my entire crew anyways to the plague. I... I know you care about me."

Her voice was small and weak. "But I don't know if I can live with the Ka'Ri that walks away from this and lets go of the best chance of saving her family, who lets that scared little girl die for her own safety."

"So, if I'm doing this. What should I keep in mind? What do you have in disguise supplies so I can look like a human? What can I do to limit the danger I bring to my family in following this course to safe harbor?"
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6 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 7:35 am

Qiao swallows hard and looks to be fighting back several intense emotions; he has to turn back to his worktable and concentrate on the detritus there before he can answer. "Um. Besides a miracle? Hon, it's not just those long ears of yours, it's the cheekbones, it's the chin, it's the whole high elf package. I... might have one of those minor enchantment rings that the courtesans use to disguise small physical features. You'd still look like you, but you could swing a more human face. From there... makeup?" He sighs. "But if anyone pats down your hair for a weapon, Ka, they'll feel those ears and know you were disguised. Which seems like a bad thing for an orc to know about you."
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7 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 11:40 am

Ka'Ri nods. "I'd appreciate it. Every little bit can only help."

Ka'Ri's mind drifts back to the too-lit halls of the estate she raided when the jackboots had their little soiree.

"Remember the Devorish Debacle? Jackboots all over the place, bright lights in the corridors? I know you said that the Redfang complex can't easily be snuck through, but if there was a way to pick a time when the majority were at bed, do you think it possible I could slip past the rest if I find a good infiltration spot?"

Her voice is nearly pleading. She doesn't know what leads they have if not the Redfang Complex itself.
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8 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 11:46 am

Qiao's voice turns softer, recognizing the pleading crack in hers. "Sweetheart, they aren't nobs with fancy bedtimes. They're working class with brats. You know what that means: mommies up nursing at all hours, girls walking the halls to coax the babies back to sleep, men coming and going off night-shift work. Now why don't you slow down, grab your ears before they run off without you, and tell me what you're hoping to find on their property? A signed confession what says 'I did it'? And then you're gonna hand that over to the city guard?"
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9 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:14 pm

Ka'Ri laughs. "Pfft, as if the jackboots could even handle that properly even if I were to find that. That's rich."

The levity lightens her heart a bit as she deeply examines why she believed the Redfang Estate was her best chance at answers. "Hmm, I suppose my thinking is that the Redfang Clan seems to be the closed cluster folks who only trust family so sneaking on Korogur's crew or pressing someone for info is a jackboot dead end. And given the nature of the Estate, most information of importance is likely to be held there where the typical jackboot is afraid to tread."

"Additionally, we know that Captain Korogur staked out the victim and was likely in close contact with Treygis on the mechanics of wooing her away given what the bookseller said about his behavior. As such our best information on figuring out where Korogur is stashing the girl lies in Treygis's desk."

"Like, not a confession, but a bit of communication and coordination in making sure everything goes according to plan. After all, the more people involved and the more secrecy, the more... less secure means of coordination are used in places they assume a jackboot could never reach."

"Nothing incriminating, but enough info for someone to put together some key pieces. Especially as they would assume no one would be suicidal enough to enter in without being part of the family."

Ka'Ri bites her lip. "I'm a bit worried that it seems to be our major lead at the moment or at least a big shining rock of it. Like, just bouncing between caves in the hopes of running into Korogur is a dead end, so unless we can narrow down what part of the sea he's in, there's not much we can do. Plus..."

Ka'Ri feels an itch. "Everyone seems so sure that Korogur and the girl are in the same place and yeah, maybe there is truth to that. But if I was some jacked up on my superiority believing myself to be superior to everyone else crime boss, that's the last place I'd keep something that important. After all, everyone would be scouring for the pirate, assuming they were together, to the point that no one would be questioning if she was being held in some shack in the woods with a cousin who knows not to run their mouth. Especially if the girl had a falling out with Korogur before the whisking away."

"Which circles back to coordination and innocent pieces of paper that reveal more than they let on in a place they assume is completely safe. Especially as they'd need some way of letting him or whoever is holding her know whether or not their mark fell for their ludicrous woods plan and thus needs another 'reminder' of their intent with her blood."

Ka'Ri completes her mental walkabout when another thought strikes her.

"I'm... I'm not alone on this mission and I'm not intending to rush in half-cocked on little more than a hope. There's a team of us. A genius magical tinkerer who is even brighter than Captain Caroline, Sunrise, the tiefling performer who always has more to her than meets the eye, a half-orc priest who has tangled with the Redfangs before and lived... mostly, a wandering religious type with connections throughout the city, a noble who knows more than most of the other nobs on their comings and goings, a stealthy ranger who has already agreed to come with me on this mission if I choose to try it, and a half-orc slab of muscle who could probably restrain two humanoids without breaking a sweat."

"If I choose to do anything with this lead. I won't be alone and I intend to confer heavily with all of them before jumping into anything. I... I know you worry about me."

Ka'Ri's voice cracks.

"I know... things have been tough and you don't believe I take the... best care of my safety. And there's truth to that. There's a lot of truth to that. But I want to do this right, whatever this is. If there's another lead, by all means, I'm on it, but right now, too many roads are circling back to this fortress and that bothers me. Because something believed to be that secure makes a prime location for all sorts of slips in protocol because 'no one will ever see'."
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10 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:27 pm

Qiao sighs and seems to lose a battle with himself. Before addressing all this, he opens his arms to offer a hug. "Hey. C'mere?"
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11 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 12:38 pm

Ka'Ri is stunned for a second. Usually she is the one who has to initiate hugs and only ever after asking. For him to offer freely... it's huge.

In silence, she curls into Qiao's arms. She doesn't dare speak. It feels too immense a moment to ruin with words. Nonetheless, it is not long before she can no longer resist saying the most important words on her lips.

"Thank you..."
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12 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:58 pm

His hug is gentle and kind, somewhere between a father or a brother. Comforting and warm without stifling or restraining her. "Hey. I know," he whispers at her thanks, his voice thick with emotion of his own.

When she eventually pulls back, he brushes surreptitiously at his eyes; if there were tears there, they're gone in a flash. "Okay. So I'm hearing that your ultimate goal isn't to rifle through an orc's underwear drawer. You're trying to find out where the girl is. Let's see if we can think of a Plan A that doesn't involve Betreygis' desk and notes which may or may not exist. We'll call the home invasion Plan B."

Switching to 'business' mode, he frowns into the middle distance. "Okay. What do we know about this girl? You said she's a frail little half-elf girl with magic like her mother? I mean, she's lived at the Feytower all her life, she's probably decent at throwing a fireball? So either they have her cooperating with them voluntarily, or she's restrained? And they could have her cooperating," he points out. "Even after a falling out with her boyfriend, he's older and more experienced and knows what to say. Or they could've assigned another boy to romance her. Or they could be making threats about her mother. Or she could just have that thing kidnap victims get where they start sympathizing with their captors. There's a lot of unknowns here."

Templing his fingers, he picks at the tangle in his methodical way. "Either way, they have a half-elf girl who needs to be kept quiet and not throwing fireballs. You can do a lot to a mage to prevent spellcasting--cut out their tongue, cut off their hands--but if they're keeping her in one piece for her mother, there's only so long they can keep her tied up and gagged. If I was running this op and she was absolutely non-cooperative, I'd drug her. But even that's dangerous long-term. The ideal situation is for her to think she's on my side. That means gifts and pampering. Her favorite foods. What are they? I very much doubt she has a taste for orcish cuisine. Spellcasting materials. Not for fireballs and teleports, but spells she can play around with to make her feel like she's not being stifled. Books. Toys. Games. Clothes. Something."

Pulling out a sheet of parchment, he begins scribbling a list. "How about hitting the markets? Spell components tend to go to the Feytower and the Sun District; the shopkeepers will remember what few Northside clients they have, especially if there's been new orders from the Redfang compound. Maybe trace back around to Laerdya or this Luther guy and see if there's anything the kid likes to eat--or, hells, any medicines she takes--which would be in short supply. If we're lucky, she has a thing for imported Jewelness quail eggs. And you can visit the Nightdock suppliers--the ones who won't talk to the city guard--and see if anyone's buying enough dream-dust or euphoria powder to knock out a girl for however many weeks she's been gone. Keeping her under all-day, every-day would be a lot of drugs. Someone would remember the sale."

He looks up at her. "Even the absence of evidence is useful, right? If no one's been hit up for forty pounds of euphoria, that means she's not being drugged. If nothing new is being delivered to the Redfangs, then she's at least not at their house. From there..." He shrugs. "Maybe Plan B is worth pursuing. But I'm not real confident that they'll have written down much, Ka. Not all of them are even literate, I'm guessing, and I doubt the head guy needs a note to remind him where he told his soldiers to stash her, right? Hells, I don't keep written records, and I'm just a fence. The head of an honest-to-gods crime family is going to be at least as careful as me, yeah?"
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13 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:56 am

"Damn," Ka'Ri curses under her breath. "I hadn't thought of that, but you're right.

"I know someone who's good at merchants, another who is good at drug peddlers, and someone who's good at watching and waiting, so I can pass all that along tonight."

Not really much left for me though, she thinks bitterly. She doesn't like the feeling of uselessness. It reminds her too much of caring for her crew during this damn plague.

She stews for a second in the feeling, before she takes a deep breath. There were a few more no-promise leads she could knock out just to get the full picture.

"All right, so that's all off the table for now. There was a few leads that the others were more excited about than me, but maybe there's something there. Do we know a forger we can trust who can help us identify the nob writer of a ransom note? If you're right about her being wooed, I doubt she was the one to pen it."

"And what do you know of this Immeral guy and his estate. He keeps popping up in this, but I'm not sure how he fits and nobs are a lot more in love of their paper trails than the likes of us."
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14 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:35 pm

Qiao gives her a funny look, frowning a bit. "If you want to delegate, I guess you know best, but I can't imagine why you can't talk to the local merchants and set up a watch, kiddo. You used to watch just fine from the crow's nest when it was your shift, yeah?" He gives her a lopsided grin. "You haven't started thinking that breaking and entering is your only skill, have you, Ka? Things that don't grow, die."

Turning back to the note, he looks at it carefully without touching it further. "I'll talk to my contacts, but I hope you're not thinking someone's got writing samples of all the nobles in town. A couple councilmembers, yeah, but that's a fraction of a fraction."

The reference to Immeral causes him to frown and he pushes his chair over to dig out a record book from one of his shelves. "Xiloscient, you said? Yeah, he's on the council list. I never heard of him, though, which means he's not one of the noisy politicians, nor particularly scandalous or dirty in the usual slumming ways. I'll ask around, see if I can get you an address. If we're lucky, he'll be one of those complacent Sunners who pinches coppers when it comes to their estate guards."
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15 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:27 pm

"There's a fair bit of difference between being lookout and doing a jackboot-style stakeout, dear friend, and the person in question is a ranger for the army," Ka'Ri says, a little brighter than before. "But thank you for your confidence in my abilities."

"And yeah, I think the letter is a dead end as well, but as you said, eliminate the variables to get the shape of it, right?"

She dithers a second, wondering whether to ask for a second hug, but decides against it. "Qiao... I know you think this is a suicide run, but... I'm going to do everything I can to complete this gig and come home safe. I promise you that."

She shifts and glances downward, scuffing the stone with her boot. "And thank you, for everything."
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16 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:29 pm

(OOC, I'm out of things to ask, so unless Qiao has something else, this scene might be heading to wrap up.)
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17 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 1:45 pm

Qiao looks dubious at the mention of a 'ranger'. "Ka, if'n he's used to being out in the wilds, he'll be terrible on city watch. How's he gonna know what's normal and what's off about a city dwelling? What's he gonna see and smell and hear when he hasn't learned how to tune out the market noises and the food stalls. You're gonna want to go with him, I should think."

At her thanks, he softens. "Hey. I know it. Anyway. You're a good customer and a good resource," he says, his voice thickening with emotion again. "A smart fence doesn't throw that away. But. Yeah. Be safe out there, Ka."

[OOC: I'm good with calling this closed, yep!]
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18 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:30 pm

She only gets as far as the empty front half of the store before Qiao swears and she hears him slap his forehead. "Wait, wait, dammit, I forgot. Ka, you haven't left yet, have you?"
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19 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:36 pm

Ka'Ri stops. She hadn't made it far from the room. She had been dwelling before the door struggling to put on her best face. Qiao had a number of mission ideas for her, but a lot of them involved the soft skills... the exact ones she had already bungled twice today.

Sure, she might be able to handle them, but if someone more trustworthy could... they probably should.

Mustering back up herself, she calls back in a broken voice. "Yeah, I'm still here..."

"And there might be something else I need to tell you anyways."
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20 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:48 pm

Qiao has moved his chair to a corner of his back room and is digging through a box of shiny things, apparently looking for one precise shiny thing among the lot. "Ah! I knew I had one more of these."

He hands her a ring which isn't anything much to look at: a beat-up alloy that isn't silver but is trying and failing to pretend it is. Little scratches mar the top and sides and it looks far too small for her, but somehow it fits on whatever finger she tries to place it on. "The working girls wear those so they can provide a little variety," he explains, nodding at the ring. "Twist it in a circle three times while wearing it. It only lasts a candlemark and then you have to reactivate it, and there's only ten charges in it before it has to recharge overnight."

Leaning back, he rattles off the rules. "You can change your height about a foot in either direction, but that's it. You can make yourself look fatter or thinner, but if anyone tries to touch you their hands will either pass through the illusion if fat, or hit the real you 'too soon' if thin, so I wouldn't recommend it. Same with your ears: you can hide them, but if anyone pats you down, they'll be able to feel 'em. Not what I'd recommend for walking into a mark's house! But perfect for hitting the market pavement. You wanna look like a human, there you go."

"And here." He pulls out a makeup kit--only lightly used--and thrusts it in her direction. "Nothing magical about that one, but there's some pigments that can change your eye color for a few hours. Some dye that will change your hair until you wash it out. Useful to use in addition to the ring, in case it wears off or gets stolen or whatever."

A thought seems to occur to him and he turns back to his desk. "If you give me a moment, I can give you a couple names to toss around while you pretend to be a merchant's clerk. That way you don't have to make up your own boss."
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21 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:03 pm

Ka'Ri holds the disguise kit and ring like it's a sacred totem. She swallows in nervousness as Qiao digs around in his desk.

"T-thank you... Qiao... I know you have all this faith in me to handle this sort of soft skill right now... but... I should let you know that I've been off my game. Badly. When I said I messed up... it was all social encounters where I said the wrong thing. I know you believe in me, but it's hard to share that when I don't really believe in myself that way right now."
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22 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:05 pm

He frowns, surprised by this, and sets his writing implements down and to the side. Patting a nearby chair in offer for her to sit down, he says, "Tell me?"
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23 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:17 pm

Ka'Ri winces and pulls herself into the chair. She takes a deep breath, preparing for him to be deeply disappointed in her.

"I... tried so hard to be perfect and on and it just all fell apart immediately. The first," she blushes involuntarily,"... important person I met spotted I had started crying when I put all my mental energy towards hiding it. Then I could barely do more than stay quiet with Laerdys. And then Luther..."

She sighs deeply. "He was... exactly like... my father." The words are spat out rather than spoken. "Smug, arrogant, needing everyone to know how much more clever and on the ball he was than everyone. He was torturing a poor innocent genius, ignoring her mind and treating her like a misbehaving child, and before I knew it I was in his face. It went... badly. Like unbelievably badly. It ended with me blowing up at him and having to beg his forgiveness."

She doesn't even look at Qiao at this point. "And this afternoon, I tried to scrub my mind of that. The uh... important person," she goes bright red again, "went with me to investigate a bookseller Gwyn frequented and I nearly fucked everything up trying to adopt a fake naive greenhorn fresh to shore. Luckily she was able to rescue it, because she's a genius, but it didn't leave me with the best of confidence on my ability to handle much of anything that isn't shadows at the moment."

"I'm just... what if I'm no longer good at the soft skills anymore? What if shadows and breaking in is all I'm good for after all?"
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24 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:29 pm

"Oh, kiddo." Qiao gives her a gentle smile before turning to dig through one of his shelves for a flask which he tosses to her.

"So let me get this straight," he says, his voice soft and sympathetic. "After weeks of working yourself to the bone, taking every job you can find to keep your people alive, barely sleeping more than a couple hours a night, and just generally running yourself ragged, you met a pretty face with a bright mind and a kind heart--a potent combination!--and got yourself flustered? And the more angry you got with yourself for being flustered, the more flustered you got because it turns out anger isn't conducive to non-flustering?"

He smiles, rueful amusement in his eyes as one who has been there before. "And after a long bad day of flusterment, you're wondering if all you're good for is working in the shadows? Which is a wonderment which is in no way motivated by an embarrassed desire to disappear forever so's the pretty face can't see your every imperfection? Did I get that about right, Ka?"
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25 Re: Pawnshop Shero (Ka'Ri) on Wed Jul 11, 2018 11:43 pm

"No," she says automatically, her mouth working beyond her brain. "Yes! Maybe. I dunno. It's... okay it's very possible..."

Ka'Ri cheeks and neck glow like a glittering ruby. "It's..." She stammers for a bit as Qiao continues to grin knowingly. Ka'Ri shakes her head and looks away. "She's... she's really really pretty and smart and nice and good at like everything... And all the others hired are super good at their jobs too. Like, fucking Sunrise is part of the crew. Rising slum hero, Sunrise! And I'm just..."

She shrugs and curls into herself. "I just want to be worthy of it all. The mission and... and her."

Her voice is tiny on the last bit due to her knees fully pressed against her head, but it still carries enough in the empty room.

Her voice adopts a deeper tone as she drifts from the topics of the moment. "I'm just so... tired of feeling worthless to help anyone. Not in a way that actually helps. Not in a way that actually matters in anything other than marking time."
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