Author Topic: The Deal  (Read 447 times)

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Offline Satyr

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The Deal
« on: July 08, 2019, 09:39:43 AM »
Before further moves could be made, before it could be decided whether the city central district would be the only one to vote or not, Ben thought it would be in his interest to secure a partnership with someone who had been generally overlooked. He'd not known about the Kuei Jin before now - it was Digital who'd whispered in Kerr's ear that the dragon-mama in Chinatown was a stronghold in the city central and that Jake was likely to make an alliance with her. As soon as Kerr passed on that information, Ben immediately sent for an Uber to take him there.

It took him some asking around before he was directed to the temple. Chinatown was only four blocks but they were big blocks. He wasn't surprised that his instinct to go into the heart of Chinatown was a good one - it made sense for a leader to pick the most central location.

When he entered the temple grounds he was charmed by the gardens. He followed paths at random, not really sure what he was looking for and hoping that someone would direct him to the right person. Kerr had supplied him with a name; Lan Bao. It was much better asking for her than it was for 'the dragon-mama' or 'the leader of Chinatown'.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2019, 09:53:34 AM »
An oriental woman wearing a traditional gold brocade Chinese wind coat found Ben in the middle of the water garden and introduced herself as Qui Min before she requested that he follow her. She led him over a small bridge to the same open pavilion temple where Lan Bao had met Chtahzus'aak for the first time. There was nobody there right now.

"Wait here, please," Qui Min stated, then disappeared down a different path. After a few minutes she returned with another Chinese woman in tow, both of them laden with items. Together, as Ben watched, they assembled a meeting point, placing cushions onto the floor to kneel on, a rectangular mat in between, an incense burner in the corner of it which Qui Min lit, and a tray with two empty bowl cups. Then they bowed at Ben and hurried back down the path.

Some twenty minutes later, Lan Bao herself arrived, dressed in a modern blue dress that still looked traditionally Chinese due to the mandarin collar and looped fastenings down the side. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail with a pretty silver hairpiece that looked like an open fan. Her expression was schooled into watchfulness, though she was irritated by the sudden appearance of the young vampire, that he wouldn't send someone ahead of himself to make an appointment. She was also curious as to what he might say to her, which was why she was even seeing him in the first place.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2019, 10:07:05 AM »
Ben had flashbacks to following a different oriental woman, much older than the one in the pretty coat ahead of him right now. He pushed it out of his mind as much as he was able but it clung to the edges, as if waiting to return and slap him with another memory from his indentured enslavement in New York.

The open temple was just as lovely as the garden itself and he wondered at what Lan Bao might make of the steel monolith that was the Luminary building. Would she be impressed or disdainful that there was no greenery? It was supposed to be a spectacle, especially the red statue in the middle, paying homage to vampirism. He remembered Digital's warning not to call her or consider her a vampire. The Kuei Jin were their own species, he was told.

Ben felt out of his element when Qui Min returned with a bunch of things then left again. He made sure to return the bow but then he waited a long time. He checked his phone every three or four minutes but was encouraged that he would be met because of the laid out Chinese tea party in front of him. He'd read a few things about formal Chinese greetings and had memorised a line to say to Lan Bao to impress her, but now he felt like he hadn't done enough. He didn't know if he should kneel on the cushion or wait until she arrived. He didn't know who was supposed to drink first or if they were to drink at the same time. He didn't know anything about her culture, really, and it struck him just how ignorant he really was. He'd have to apologise for himself, profusely.

When he saw her, he stared in spite of himself. She was a gorgeous creature and exuded a sense of dignity that he'd only ever noted in Vincent, though she far surpassed the elder vampire. Once she stepped into the temple, he felt like he'd already fucked up by not bowing, so he lowered himself to his knees (not on the cushion) and bowed his head to make up for it. He hoped she would see his subservience and approve.

"Ni hao. Wo de míngzì shì Ben Samson," he said, hoping he wasn't butchering her language.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2019, 10:17:29 AM »
His display of respect was over the top but appreciated and went a long way towards her forgiveness. She knew he was young but so far he was proving himself worthy of her attention. Young vampires were rarely so respectful of her and her kind and she'd thought him much the same by his sudden appearance, thinking that he'd felt entitled to just show up without warning. His words, amateurish and obviously learnt and recited for her benefit, proved that he at least put some effort into meeting her.

"Ben Samson, I know who you are. Since you are here, you know who I am." She waited for him to lift his eyes and look at her. When he did so, she gestured for him to move to the cushions. "Please, let us sit and talk."

She moved to the cushion facing north and knelt upon it, waiting for Ben to begin the conversation.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2019, 10:34:47 AM »
She knew who he was and he wondered if her first impression of him had been the trial or the Academy... or if it was even before that, because he'd been the Luminary's boyfriend when Kerr held that seat. She'd kept to herself through all of it; the rise and fall of the Oligarchy, the tussle for District Leadership. She could've claimed the city central for herself, she certainly had a seat of power in it, but she'd stayed quiet while everyone else scrabbled for territory. It made him respect her but also made him wary. He had nothing to offer her, except for a promise and a request.

He knelt on the cushion after letting her decide where she wanted to sit and waited for a bit before he realised she wasn't going to say or ask anything of him.

"Thanks for meeting with me, I know I just showed up," he said, his gaze cast downward momentarily at his embarrassment. He looked at the bowls and thought they were too pretty to drink blood out from. Making eye contact again, he finished the rest of his apology. "I wanted to talk to you about the City Central district. About my bid for leadership."

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2019, 10:39:19 AM »
Lan Bao listened, appreciating that he recognised his mistake in not announcing himself first with a messenger. When he made his statement and then didn't continue with it she sought out her patience and took a firm grip on it. He was exactly like the youngest of her kin, seeking approval after every sentence to make sure he was on the right track. It was a sign of immaturity, to make her prompt for the information instead of putting it all out there and letting her judge it for herself.

"Consider me up to date on everyone's movements and challenges," she told him. "I might not be blowing the wind myself but I do know the different directions it travels."
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2019, 10:45:27 AM »
Ben blinked at the metaphor, thinking about it for a moment to make sure he understood what she was saying. He was certain that she was telling him that while she didn't have control over what others did, she knew what they were up to. He liked the poetry of her phrasing and it was easier to decipher than Digital's riddles, but it also worried him that in the future he might misinterpret something she said. He didn't want to be the idiot that had to constantly ask for clarification.

"Um, okay," he agreed. "So there's going to be a meeting of all the District Leaders and they're going to decide if the democratic challenge will go ahead. I forced their hand with that one, because of my public announcement and ads in the papers and an online poll on the social media sites." He wondered how much of that she knew, but because she didn't blink or look confused, he pushed on. "After that, they're going to decide if the whole city gets a vote or if only the City Central District will vote." He paused, giving her a chance to interrupt him.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2019, 10:46:38 AM »
Lan Bao could see where he was going with this meeting and remained impassive, allowing him the respect of continuing.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2019, 11:16:43 AM »
Her frozen expression and still body language was unnerving, but he pressed on, wishing he'd rehearsed a few more times. He'd expected more of a back and forth but she was giving him nothing.

"So, um, if they decide on the whole city, I'm pretty sure the demons won't vote for Jake after what he did in the West, even though he's making reparations to them with announcements and stuff. I'm hoping to get in on their vote alone, there's so many of them... um... demons, that is." He frowned momentarily, knowing that the Kuei Jin were a type of demon and Lan Bao might not like demons referred to as 'them'. "But if they decide only the city central votes, I would like to put forward a proposal for an alliance."

He realised, suddenly, that he'd buried the lead. He should've started with that. 'I propose an alliance between me and you and your people for our mutual benefit.' Fuck, that would've been an awesome start. Well, he was here now, even though he'd made a shambles of it.

"For our mutual benefit," he tagged on the end after a pause. He closed his eyes momentarily to collect himself and then awaited her reply, to see if she was at all interested. He doubted it now, after his roughly-designed presentation.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2019, 11:31:38 AM »
She watched him, as he stumbled and hesitated over his explanation. At least he was clear and direct, even though he was telling her what she already knew about McCloud's attempts at smoothing things over with the demons of the West. His actions were tainted by the upcoming vote now, and that was Ben's doing. Perhaps Jake McCloud would have regretted and been remorseful over his decision anyway... they would never know. Ben wasn't wrong in thinking McCloud wouldn't be immediately forgiven, and the young vampire was obviously using that to his advantage.

She respected him a little more, for that.

Of course he sought her and her people. She had a potential block of votes in her hand, a ninety-four strong block of votes because of the Kuei-Jin that lived in Chinatown and under her rule. Not long ago they'd been scattered over the city in various districts but McCloud's move into the West had concerned her enough to call them all to her. They now all lived in Chinatown, the lot of them. She wondered if Ben somehow knew this, or if he simply got lucky.

She decided he must know. This young vampire appeared to be gathering all manner of powerful people around him; he already had the ex-Luminary in his pocket, upon Kerr's not-death he'd ingratiated himself with a family of Ancient vampires - who appeared to still favour him - and now she'd heard that the Firebug Prophet was living with him. He'd been the darling of Chinatown for some months before a crazy sprint through the markets and then disappearing a while ago. She'd been surprised to learn he'd popped up at the Sacrament's party and was now on Ben's payroll.

"I can see the benefit of an alliance for you," she said, thinking of her voting power, "but I would like to hear what you consider mutual."

She wondered at what these powerful beings saw in this boy, this not-very-powerful youngling with pretty eyes and not much else. So far she could only see his nervousness, his youth, and an ambition that was far too grand for his current status.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2019, 11:52:54 AM »
Here it was, a display of her interest. If she didn't care to align herself with him she would send him away without hearing more, but she was entertaining the notion. He had a chance.

Encouraged, his communication smoothed out.

"I understand that I'm young, that I haven't seen the world grow and change and so I haven't learnt from its patterns. I can't ignore this facet about me and I can't change it. What I can do is surround myself with my mentors. I need people to advise me, to help me make the best decision possible."

He didn't know what she was thinking at this point but he needed her to know he understood his limitations. He had to lay everything out for her; his humility, his abilities and his plans.

"I don't want to micromanage but I do want everyone in this city to feel safe. Humans included. When I organised to build the Academy, I didn't lay the foundation myself or design the interiors, I don't even run the classes. I get people who know better than me to do all that. But I still made mistakes when I took on that project; I'd overlooked things. Even though I assigned tasks to others, it wasn't enough to get it right. What I actually needed were people around me to give me advice at the top level, so the tasks I assigned were the right ones to begin with. I have Charon's network to help me keep an eye on my district. I have the Ward to help me police it. I have Kerr, who's led before, to advise me, but he's one person and he's emotionally invested in me. I need someone who has a different outlook, who can give me different options, and who has a personal stake in the city central being run well."

He looked at her frankly, hoping she didn't mind his huge speech. He felt like he'd been talking forever.

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2019, 12:45:50 PM »
She watched how he eased into his role of negotiator, showing her that his nervousness from before wasn't his usual state. Perhaps his other mentors liked the way he fumbled about. Perhaps they found that endearing, along with his pretty face and serious manner. She wasn't as impressed though as he spoke, he earnt back the respect he'd lost from his circular explanation. She didn't want her time wasted and he'd presented himself as a time-waster until he'd finally arrived at a point that she found useful to her.

When she'd spoken to Chtahzus'aak about Ben Samson, she'd not yet met him. She'd imagined him to be more together, more charismatic and a natural leader. What she had in front of her was an ignorant boy with one saving grace; he was wise enough to not only know his ignorance but to acknowledge it. She could work with him because he was willing to defer to her. The problem she faced was his potential for duplicity. This boy had revolved around power but never tasted any real power of his own, and while he intended to lead fairly, it could corrupt him enough that he could - once leader - betray her.

She had to consider what the potential of a betrayal would cost her.

So far Jake McCloud had not made moves on Chinatown, he'd gone after the West instead. Initially that had frightened her but his inability to hold the second district had wounded him in a way that he might allow her the status quo. As yet he had not come to her so she had no idea what his feelings about her and her people were. She was loathe to meet him and to turn his eye onto her sanctuary. There was no benefit in her attracting his attention. The problem with McCloud was his militant reputation and a penchant for spontaneity. He'd gone into the West overnight, quickly and cleanly taking it for himself. His forces had not battled a few street-thugs but organised demonic gangs. No small feat and one she recognised as a powerful swipe from a worthy adversary. She could never trust McCloud.

But Ben Samson, in his ignorance, had brought down the Oligarchy. He'd repented that move as surely as McCloud had regretted taking the West. Samson had paid penance in the form of an Academy as well as throwing money at the Ward to give them the resources they needed to properly take over from the Mimics. Both actions had been benevolent, with no obvious ulterior motive. She heard Samson had saved the library from the eyesore that Vomas built before he'd revealed his true selfish nature, and that some of the books were in the Academy but not all. He must've learnt his lesson from the Oligarchy's downfall that not all information and knowledge should be shared.

Learnt lessons spoke well of him.

"May I ask when you decided to challenge McCloud for City Central?"

Had he held onto this idea for almost two years, shelving it because of his grief when Kerr Galvin supposedly died? Had he plans to control it from the start with his lover at his side? Was this ambition to the highest degree? Or had his decision come later, when McCloud had taken the West, or perhaps even after that, when he'd been raped by McCloud's lover? Was his desire to remove McCloud from his district a petty revenge? Or was it something else again?
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2019, 02:52:49 PM »
The silence as she thought over his proposal extended and he kept his hands pressed against the tops of his thighs to stop himself from fidgeting. If he was mortal his heart would be thumping and his palms would be sweaty. Thankfully he didn't have to worry about physical cues beyond body language and facial expressions. He tried to mimic her stillness, staring at her while she considered him.

The question she asked of him surprised him enough that his eyebrows lifted and his eyes widened. Ben's lips parted to immediately reply but he licked them instead and took a moment to think about his answer the way she'd thought about her question.

"There's two parts to that," he said slowly. "When Kerr came back and I caught him up to what everyone was doing, including myself, he praised me on looking after the city better than some of the district leaders. He was proud of the Academy, pleased that I'd helped keep the Ward going. Some of the leaders had left the city on their own quests and for their own reasons while I stayed behind to fix it up as best I could." He took a breath to sigh it and explained further. "Some of that was motivated by guilt but the rest was because I thought something should be done. When Kerr said that, it started me thinking about being a District Leader."

Ben paused for a moment but wanted to tell her everything. "I was looking at the West originally because I thought Zeus had left the city, but then it was obviously unavailable and I didn't want to throw my name in there as well. I looked at the North next but then a dark angel put forward his interest in it with a... a hostile declaration while also being polite about it. Saraekiel basically took the north the same way Jake took the west, but he didn't have anyone to challenge him and make it obvious."

Ben wondered whether Lan Bao was bored of hearing him talk yet. "I don't respect Jake McCloud or his decisions. I cringe at the thought of him representing the vampiric species. He's a lot older than me and more powerful but his attentions are divided and he's impulsive. He's insulted, offended or battled with every other District Leader, so he can't even work with his peers to present a united front."

Offline Malkavian Riddler

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2019, 02:59:08 PM »
Qui Min arrived with a steaming teapot on a tray as soon as Ben finished speaking. She took the time to pour a bowl of tea for each of them, serving Ben first because he was their guest. With a bow, she left, taking the teapot with her. The entire exchange happened without a word. Bao left the tea steaming untouched.

"Your attention is also divided, with the Academy and your tech company," Lan Bao pointed out, then withdrew her statement. "But you have handed one to your fledgekin brother and the other remains with your sire."

Ben had no responsibilities beyond potentially being District Leader.

"You are an unknown quantity, Mr Samson," she told him. "I do not know how you will behave if you are voted in, if leadership will corrupt you and make you just as difficult to work with as McCloud. As much as I dislike McCloud's actions, he has not threatened me or my place here."

She reached for her bowl and brought it to her lips, looking at Ben over the rim of the cup as she took a sip.
Digital: I drink from the poison chalice
Lan Bao: I reap the harvest of my people
Cain: I am the instrument that vampires play
Shan: I take what is mine and what is yours

Offline Satyr

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Re: The Deal
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2019, 12:31:09 PM »
He watched the tea come and be poured, both his and Lan Bao's bowls steaming with the stuff. He wondered if it was a special concoction that he would be able to drink. He lifted his eyes when she began speaking.

At first he was bothered by her accusation that he had too many items on his plate but then she acknowledged he'd made an effort to clear them. His beloved Academy had been an overwhelming project from the beginning and many had assumed it was his 'pet project' and that he'd developed an emotional attachment to it.

He had not. He'd done it out of a sense of duty, and even though he'd toiled to make it as perfect and as successful as possible, he'd been glad to hand it over to someone who was fresh and keen to manage it. He didn't think Ichabod was the right person either (they'd both agreed to look for a Dean to properly manage it), but at least Ichabod hadn't lost his passion for it. He'd only just found it.

Ben grew impatient. "He didn't threaten Zeus before he took the west district either. He just swept in, not giving anyone a chance to protest or prepare." He had a sudden spark of realisation. "Has Jake McCloud come here and promised you something? Or has he ignored you, like the Oligarchy did? If you think being a leader will corrupt me, it's all the more reason for you to stand at my side and ensure I don't go off the rails."

After a moment he realised she was likely too busy to be 'standing at his side', so he hastily added: "Or you could assign a proxy."

He picked up the bowl and smelled it, thinking it smelt unusual. Unfamiliar with varying herbal teas and seeing that Lan Bao was drinking it, he brought it to his lips and swallowed a mouthful. It was yummy but he couldn't detect any blood in it.