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Old 09-06-2018, 05:41 PM   #1
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Default [Keisei] Hellhound & Orchid: Tax Season

Black heels clicked against the wooden floor of the study with a steady, measured percussion that stirred up the dust in the evening sunlight. Keisei Ranko was dressed formally, in layers of blacks and purples, gothic lolita mixed with the traditional styling of her horrible heritage. She ran her hands down her backside as she sat on the leather chair that was much too large for her, and carefully placed a small wooden object on the heavy desk in front of her. At a glance, with the cute mascot character attached via a keychain, it could be mistaken for a glasses case - - but the students of the Omoikane Dai-Gakuin were well aware that this was Ranko’s killing knife, used to silence troublemakers.

The young man sitting across from the desk, in a chair suited for a kindergardener causing his legs to fold up close to his shallow chest, immediately started to talk.

“Listen, you don’t understand, I wasn’t stealing anything, and your boss girls are on the cut, anyway – it ain’t real drugs, they’re just caffeine pills. To help with studying, please – “

“We’re not here for that.” She said pointedly, as if she was annoyed he’d bring up anything else. She glanced over at one of her boss girls who closed the door of the study and turned to face the wall. The great virtue of obedience was a quick way to earn favors with the Prince of the Keisei. “This is about Guo Tong.”

Relief washed over the boy, an exhausted relaxation hung over him as his limbs all seemed to go noodley at once, before he immediately snapped back up to attention. “Y—yeah! He’s my dad’s friend. Uncle Tong.”

“He pays your tuition, too.”

“Ye—yes, ma’am. My family isn’t very well off, but uncle takes care of us.”

“Mayuko, this one is one of yours?” She turned to one of the other girls lining the edge of the room, her eyes heavy with a tiredness beyond her years. Mayuko, one of her most trusted lieutenants, gave a nod and gestured over at the boy.

“He’s paid up. Sells placebos to some underclassmen while they use the library. I’m not sure what’s going on.”

“Family business, Mayuko.” Ranko sighed and drummed her fingers on the desk, dangerously close to her killing blade. “I need to know more about this Guo Tong.”

“Wait, I don’t know anything about Uncle’s business. He’s a mayor or a duke or something. I’m just a kid.”

“Shall I handle the investigation, then?” Mayuko preemptively pulled a cigarette from the pocket of her ill-fitting school uniform.

“Keep it clean,” The Prince said, as she grabbed her blade and stood up again. “And make sure to punish him for smoking on campus.”

Mayuko lit her cigarette, a soft amber glow against her pale face. “Yes, ma’am. I take it you’ll be leaving campus?”

“Meeting one of my uncles for a little job. Make sure you get whatever you can squeeze out of this little pimple before my carriage arrives.”

“I really don’t know anything!” The boy pleaded, but the little black heels clicking against the floor was the only response the Prince gave him. “Miss! Please, I’m not cut out for all this gangster stuff--”

One of the boss girls opened the door for the prince, as an other drove her fist into the boy’s chest. Mayuko propped herself up on the desk – and the heavy wooden door closed before Ranko’s delicate sensibilities had to see anything violent.

- - -

“Uncle Ken!” Her face, plastered expertly with the best cosmetics a girl could buy in River, hid any bags or signs of exhaustion, locking her in a perpetual state of vibrant exuberance. Her black parasol blocked the sun out from her face, but she was beaming like a little light all the same. “How nice of you to ride out to meet me!”

She was flanked by a series of other ill-dressed girls, but the rest of the school’s morning parade was all at careful attention, eyes averted from the older man. “I hope the morning is treating you well.”

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Old 09-07-2018, 11:53 PM   #2
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Making the trip through Fire country was easy enough. His papers were intact, and it was only when he got to River country's borders that anyone even thought to question the name Keisei. They didn't question him too hard. He feigned ignorance about the Family, noted that he was coming in for a hunting trip, and let the border guards pet Katashi. The hound played nice, and with a little time convincing them of his innocence, he was back on the road.

Where to, was a problem bouncing around in the back of his mind. He was summoned by The Prince. One of the members of the Table. It was a kind of honor, but it also had him on edge. He was occasionally asking around about the General, and the idea of one of the other members of the Table suddenly bringing him to River was a little alarming. Then again, this was Ranko. Despite her power, she was still a little girl. She took her role seriously, he couldn't drop his guard, but she always seemed kind.

He rode up to Omoikane Dai-Gakuin, the prep school that Ranko worked out of. She had the students in lock step, which was eerie to say the least. Still, her face was cheery, and it was hard to see her as anything but a little angel.

Ken got off his horse, and gave a deep bow as was appropriate. But by the time he was standing he had an uncharacteristic smirk on his face. He pulled a little blue pouch from the back of his belt, then flattened out his all black suit, and the fur-rimmed coat above it, then held the pouch in front of him as he approached.

"Little Ranko, great to see you."

Katashi gave a soft bark, and ran forward to greet the gothic lolita and her gang.

"I brought some candy from Wave," He brought his voice low enough for just Ranko's closest to hear, "I hope The Prince likes them."

He put his free hand to his throat and coughed, his eyes bouncing between all the enforcers Ranko had around.

"You want me in Coal?" He didn't know where she wanted to have a chat about the details. But she had some plan, and he wanted to know it before he caused some screw up. He wasn't exactly the best manipulator.
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Old 09-25-2018, 07:36 PM   #3
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Dog!

Ranko closed her eyes with a smile as Juri strained against an imagined leash of her own, half-trained discipline keeping her at step with the rest of the Prince’s lieutenants. “Go ahead, dear ronin.”

The samurai’s keytool clattered to the ground as she slid to her knees to embrace Katashi on her approach, as the other girls turned to the school’s welcoming ceremony, immediately taking to dismissing the students and getting them back to their scheduled classes. With Juri distracted by the hunting dog, Ranko took her uncle’s gifts and twirled her umbrella as she beamed up at him.

“Hunting out a little rat might be an insult to your skills, Uncle, but a man in Coal is making logistics a bit of a headache.” She furrowed her brows and looked up almost pleadingly to the man. “As you know, there’s few who would hesitate to take their aggressions out on innocent girls like us, so I thought inviting you along would be a good chance for you to stretch your legs a bit.”

She offered a word of thanks as she pocketed the candy, hidden away in one of the ruffles and frills of her dress, and rested both her hands against the pole of her parasol, leaning her head to the side, towards Uncle, as she watched the young samurai girl rub the dog behind his ears.

“I’ll be cutting you in at ten percent.”

It wasn’t an insubstantial amount.

“Impress the Table, and I’ll see if we can’t make that twelve.”

She suddenly sounded very sharp, very formal. The sweetness of her voice melted back just a bit – a bored and rote attempt at dispassion. All business.

“It’s troublesome to have to crack the whip, so to speak. I hope we can resolve the problems in Coal with just a bit of...applied leverage. I’ll be taking my lieutenants and three motivated students on this little field trip. I’ll get you introduced to everyone. You’re a proper uncle, so they should know to listen to your orders. They wouldn’t embarrass me with any insurrection, even if the commands didn’t come directly from my mouth.”

She closed the parasol and called out to Juri, beckoning her over. “I look forward to see how well you impress.”

Juri, a bit flushed, came up to a quick bow as she reached the pair of Keisei. “Yes, ma’am? Shall I gather the others?”

“Yes. And pick out a trio from my special class to escort you girls.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

“Juri – “

“Ma’am?”

“None of the boys. I know how you girls get when we get off campus.”

“Aw – al’right.” Juri kicked up her katana from the ground and caught it before offering a quick half-handed salute to Ken before trotting her way up to the school building.

Ranko hooked her parasol over her thin arm before extending it up to Ken so that he might escort her properly. “Oh, you know, we have quite the hunting grounds! No horses, unfortunately, but plenty of fox and deer. You’d show me a great honor if you made a trip or two before you head back to your own affairs.”
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Old 10-04-2018, 10:12 PM   #4
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Ken couldn't help but be a little cautious when the young girl ran over to Katashi. He trusted the hound with his life, it was the 'lieutenant' that he didn't know. Just from asking around, it was obvious that the girls at this school weren't exactly, average. The girl, that Ranko decided to refer to as 'Ronin', was carrying a katana after all. But it seemed she was just excited to see a dog, and Katashi was always glad to oblige someone who would scratch behind her ears.

Ranko took her gift, and shifted into business. It made him cock an eyebrow how fast she went from the cute girl to the woman from The Table. He needed to keep step.

Ten percent, "Fair."

All that just to be a bodyguard, while she applies 'leverage' to people that didn't realize how good they had it. In Ken's experience, the rich and powerful didn't seem to realize that the family was there to protect even them. They wanted everything their way, and they thought their positions in ivory towers made them immune. With sharp enough weapons and the right attitude, no one was immune.

Ranko started back toward the building, and Ken was quick to grab his pack off the horse and tie it over his shoulder. When he caught up, it took him a second to realize what Ranko was offering. Not because he had never held a girl's arm, but because the age difference made him feel a little silly. Still, no one said no to a member of The Table... without good reason. So he took her arm and walked beside her.

"I bet Katashi would love it if you took her on a hunt."

There was business to do first though. He didn't like waiting around. Ranko had to organize her 'gang' of girls, but Ken would have been fine jumping back on his horse and riding then and there.

"If we're worried about your ladies, is it a good idea to drag them all the way to Coal?" He said, "I'll do the work, of course. No need to put you in harm's way."

Of course as he watched the girls move around at Ranko's command, the caution seemed ridiculous. But when Ken thought of 'able-bodied brothers', he didn't think of school girls from an academy.

Ken let out a sharp whistle, and Katashi stopped being entranced by every little thing in the school yard, and ran up to be beside them.

"Plus, we could get on the road quicker. Can't be simple keeping all this so... organized."

He wasn't doing a good job at hiding his amazement as they entered the school, as he looked around at the world that Ranko ran.
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Old 11-05-2018, 05:59 PM   #5
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“It’s not that I don’t trust your work,” Ranko said, hanging loosely on the man’s arm, “It’s that it’s a wonderful opportunity to test out some of my prospects. New blood for the grunt work, new minds for the table. That sort of thing.”

There was a soft sigh between her lips as she furrowed her brow and looked up at Ken with the slightest hint of worry. “The logistics of keeping teenage girls orderly for a road trip isn’t entirely a welcome task, but their muscle might come in handy if this Guo Tong proves to be a problem. My trio of lieutenants all offer a variety of skill-sets that consistently prove useful. You won’t be disappointed.”

As they approached the dojo of the internal campus, the traditional paper doors slid open, two students bowing quickly and making themselves scarce as the two gangsters strolled through the entry way – on the other side, stood in the middle of the dojo, were Mayuko, Nagisa, and Juri – each standing before a much more timid girl selected from their respective classes.

“Girls! This is my uncle Ken!”

They all made a show of bowing, however disinterested they seemed in the politics of polite society, and then started chattering all at once, before settling on introducing themselves in turn – Kanbayashi Mayuko, priestess-in-training from the Fire Country; Nakano Nagisa, who had been introduced to Ken once before at a Family event; and the samurai dropout Kiku-ichimonji Juri, who was quivering with anticipation of petting Katashi again – obviously a bit less trained than the hunting hound.

Ranko smiled at Ken as she broke away from his arm and gestured at the girls. “A crude miko, the best street brawler this side of River, and a holy-sword swinging samurai punk. These are my best of the best, and they’re completely at your command for this operation. Including the ane there in the back.”

There was a murmur of discontent. “If you guys want names, you need to make one for yourself. This is a good opportunity!”

She patted down her dress as she flustered, then turned to the man. “If I could train my girls as well as you train your dog, I think I’d be a shoe-in for the head of the table, you know. I should watch out for you, once you start accumulating your own gang. If these girls are to your pleasure we can order a carriage.”
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Old 12-09-2018, 01:45 AM   #6
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"I'm just here to do what I can," Ken said as he motioned for Katashi to come closer. The dog came up next to him, and then he motioned for her to sit, and Ken gave a nod to Juri. It didn't take much beyond that for the girl to run over and enjoy another round of petting the hound.

He looked over at Ranko, "I don't have much need for folks following me around, but I hear that is the best way to move up in the world. The ototo I have running around back home in Wave are mostly good for nothing but screwing up."

But if Ranko wanted him to take charge, he wasn't there to say no. In fact, it could be dangerous to say no. She didn't have a reputation for it, but Ken's interaction with the General had been far more tense, and he was worried that she could take a turn for the violent any second. She was a good girl though.

Ken looked through the girls there, and his eyes landed on Nakano Nagisa. He had only just seen her before, 'meet' was saying a lot. When he went to gatherings it was like having a hundred names thrown at you and hoping a few would stick. Still, the girl was a more known quantity.

"This group seems good, and Katashi will support us as well," He said, then nodded at Nagisa, "Ms. Nakano, can you grab us that carriage? We better be on our way as fast as possible."

The girl shrugged and made her way out of the room. Leaving him a little less outnumbered, socially.

"Has there been a lot of talk, you know, at the Table?" Not the safest subject, but it was better than any other small talk he could think of, "What with you-know-who now behind bars."

It was starting to be 'old' news, but it was still rather fresh, and a shake up for the whole organization. It seemed orders were still coming out, and the family was still running. It just worried him a little.
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Old 12-09-2018, 02:33 AM   #7
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A sick familiar feeling, a chilling anxiety, wrapped around her delicate throat like the Hellhound himself had reached out and strangled her with just that smattering of words. They danced out of his mouth as easily as anything else he had said, but they were like daggers to her. Her spine went a bit rigid as she composed herself, patting down her dress yet again, before folding her hands neatly in front of her and offered a polite smile.

Face was everything in this business. She couldn’t show this weakness to anyone, not to her trusted lieutenants, not to her “uncle” Ken here, not to anyone. She hardened her eyes as she looked at him like she might any one of her students. It was awkward, trying to browbeat or bully an older man, but it was her station. She had to stay in control. If not over him, over herself.

“You will find gossip and hushed comments in the girls’ lavatory, all the way up to the Table.”

She closed her eyes and took in a deep breath before shaking her head slightly at the man. It wasn’t a particular fair situation he was in, his stake in this Family was every bit as valid as hers. Her gang, this school, provided her enough suitable protection and profit that she could ever want, but without the delicate machinations of the family, the blunt force of it all, she’d have nothing. It would all crumble away. But the Father, the Ienaga, wasn’t a man to be silenced.

Well, other than literally.

“I wasn’t seated at the Table until recently, after Kazuo-sama’s incarceration. It is a delicate situation.” She glanced away from him and seemed to silently give an order to one of the students lingering around them, who snapped off to open doors as they walked through the hallways back to the entryway of the campus. “There are those who would consider me...unfit...for my position here. If you’ve made an alliance with someone in that camp, I would urge you to reconsider. I come with the Ienaga’s personal recommendation.”

As they approached the grand gates to the school campus, there was a clattering of hooves against cobblestone as the horses brought forward a large, luxurious enclosed carriage. The door was opened for the pair. Seated inside, she politely crossed her legs and rested her parasol against the closed door.

“Kazuo-sama is more than capable of operating from anywhere in the world. A cell isn’t going to stop that great man from leading our Family. He has a Surrogate, after all.” She smiled, baring her perfect teeth like a mantis about to strike. “And this little Prince is more than capable of cutting the balls off of any ambitious politician looking to hedge their bets against any assumed weakness. Thus, this little escapade to visit our friend Guo Tong.”

“Miss, shall we depart?” The voice of the driver behind her head.

She raised a gloved hand and the horses started to pull them away. “The girls will be behind us. Of course you’re too precious to ride with those stinky little schoolgirls, right?”

She had directed her attention to Katashi. “I don’t make a habit of losing my girls on these adventures, but violence does tend to happen. If something happens to you, sweet girl, I’ll feed Guo Tong’s children to the hogs.”

Her cruel voice was pitched in her baby talk. “Yes I will! I’ll cut away everything he’s ever loved, yes I will. That’s a good dog.”
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Old 12-10-2018, 05:24 AM   #8
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Would he call it a snap? Yes, Ranko definitely snapped at him. He stood up tall as she made her comments about gossip, but he could still feel her looking down at him. He kept his jaw tight, and accepted the comments, no matter what the contents. At the end of the day, he was hearing what he wanted to hear.

She was new to her position. That much he kind of had a grasp on. So she wasn't clued in on every moving piece of the Keisei just yet. She was the Prince, in the end her work dealt with outsiders a fair bit, controlling those who would press in on the Family.

He nodded as they headed out to the carriage. There was nothing for him to add at the moment, at least until he had a feeling his foot wasn't going to snap into his mouth the moment he opened it. As he thought, never underestimate a member of the Table.

Ken made sure his bag was tight against him, and waited for Ranko to get settled before he stepped into the carriage and sat across from her. He let Katashi absorb the last of the tension until the carriage was closed up and they started on their way. It was going to be a long trip with not a lot to talk about.

So he spent a lot of the time resting, trying not to think about how complicated everything was about to get. After all, he was just going to be there as muscle, and the rest was a little over his head.

Well, that wasn't a good way to think of it. If he was going to do what needed to be done, that meant getting more access to the Table. Eventually, he had questions to ask of some of those at the top, and he couldn't do it if he was just their little yojimbo. He needed to think smart, and think big.

"So, what made a man like Guo Tong think he could say no to the Family?" Ken asked after quite some time on the road. He pulled out a cigarette as he asked. "He getting stupid rich, or so rich he got stupid?"

Knowing about coal country politicians was not up his alley. He did know how to track and kill a fat rich slob, but that probably wouldn't come in handy.

"He owns a whole town up there right? Why throw that away biting master's hand?"
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Old 12-10-2018, 07:11 PM   #9
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Since they had to travel across Fire Country to get to Coal, they had made a stop at the Kanbayashi onsen, where Mayuko had hailed from. Since the time Mayuko rose in the ranks of Ranko’s gang until now, it had swiftly come under the folds of her properties. As such, the troupe were treated to the very best of service available, and had to opportunity to properly rest and clean up before the final day’s travel into and across Coal to Guo Tong’s holdings.

While on the road, Ranko entertained Ken’s questioning with a delight - - sticking her nose where it didn’t belong and digging up all the dirt she could was a part of the job any gossiping girl could take to heart.

“Maybe a little of both, Uncle Ken. Guo Tong isn’t exactly on the take, but he’s well aware his position up there is the result of the Family’s interests. He’s a small time man in a small time town. When our caravan shows up, I imagine it’ll be the most luxury they’ve seen for years. But Keisei families operate in that area, and everyone in Coal needs to have access to Sima. A healthy tax is a reasonable cost of doing business, but he’s been steadily increasing and steadily increasing until it’s started to choke off some of our more intimate interests in the area.” She pulled a delicately handrolled cigarette from a metal carrying case she kept in her bag, and leaned over so he could light her.

“He has a business associate that’s in the mercenary industry. There’s a lot of cutthroat competition going back and forth between the various mining operations in the area. That business associate has a son that’s enrolled in my school, and Guo Tong pays his tuition promptly every semester, with more than a fair donation to the arts programs. Until recently, when I saw his name on a package, it was a happy offering from a loyal patron. After having the boy investigated, we found that his father has been using shinobi from the country of Rice to enforce his martial will. I think the increased taxes might have had something to do with that, originally - - Guo Tong financing his own shinobi to assist in territory disputes. However, the boy also was invited several times to spend an academic break vacationing up there. In Coal! With all that soot! How dreadful. But it makes me wonder if some of these taxes aren’t going to fund his own needs. Taxes that choke out Keisei-friendly businesses and involve shinobi in our territories are already a problem.”

She frowned, ashing her cigarette out the window of the carriage. “But he hasn’t raised his donations to the school, either, so I feel like there may be some personal offense intended. We can’t have that, can we?”
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Old 12-12-2018, 05:13 PM   #10
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Ken tried not to think about the young girl smoking as he smoked his cigarette. Thankfully, the conversation they were having was a lot more interesting than the moral problems right in front of him. The Guo Tong situation was a little more complicated than he thought. Especially one part she mentioned near the end.

"Can't say I've been to Coal," He said before letting out a small puff of smoke, "but I know the feeling of not having much. Living out in Wave wasn't exactly a luxury cruise. Spent a fair amount of my youth in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of no ones. I guess I should have known that someone, somewhere, was probably profiting off us living in dirt."

Now that he thought about it, it was probably Uncle Riki. He controlled much of that area, the way Ken was controlling it now. That madman was the kind that would funnel money into his own luxuries.

"If it comes down to it," Ken said after ashing his own cigarette,"I bet the people of Guo Tong will be more than happy to see him go. Chances are he hasn't taken the best care of them, besides a few elites and inner circle folks."

It was his second time passing through Fire in so many days. There was nice countryside. At least when there was time to relax, Ken was able to think about the relaxing time he could be having hunting. He heard there were some real fierce forests out in Fire, with game that boggled the mind. He didn't know how true that was, and didn't have the time now to investigate. They had already made that stop at the onsen, it already had him feeling like they were stalling.

The main worry bouncing around his mind boiled to the surface as they got closer and closer to Coal in the evening of their second day.

"So are you expecting shinobi in all of this?" He asked. "They tend to complicate things, as you know."

It seemed like her girls were tough, but he didn't know if they were fighting shinobi tough.

"Never a good idea to underestimate them, even if you've caught one off guard. If they are serving AS guards, well..."

The carriage started to slow down. Ken narrowed his eyes, and peeked out the window on the side. Then he relaxed and sat back down. They were coming up on some kind of checkpoint, with some little militia men and everything.

"Looks like we've already hit the checkpoint into Coal."
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