It's dark by the time Tao
finally makes it back downtown to Mnemosyne's residence. The district Nem lives in is super posh, Tao — the streets are immaculate, and the residents are leaving their well-guarded homes in designer clothes, and chauffeured cars. Mnemosyne's building has a doorman who bows with reverence as he opens the door for you. Inside, you're directed to the glass elevators that take you a hundred stories above ground, and follow the well-lit hall down to Mnemosyne's apartment. Before you can ring the bell, the door opens, revealing a seamless view of the city on every wall of the apartment, and Mnemosyne waiting for you.
Mnemosyne, you hear the door open, and Kage giggles. "The slave is here. I let her in." What does Tao catch you in the middle of?
Kage catches me in the midst of refreshing my makeup by hand, because it is status to still do such things by hand. Though she simply claims to have let Tao in, in order to play her little prank she has adjusted my monitoring of Tao's approach for some distance. Making me think I had enough time to review and package a minor job. Even just a warning at the elevator would have given me time to be completely presentable instead of standing in little but a short black slik robe.
In other words I look particularly brazen in looking like this for my professional companion. Kage is calling me a slut, not so subtly.
"Do not call her that. You are now on my list." I shoot back, irritated.
There is nothing for it. I put down the brush and emerge from the open door bathroom, attempting to compose myself as regally as I can, and look as if this is precisely how I intended to appear befor her. As if this were a formal kimono and not just a very short robe. Perhaps my reputation as an eccentric genius will shield me somewhat. Perhaps.
Somehow even the veil does not quite capture the distinct experience of meeting in physcial space. It's very very close, mind you, but here is a sine qua non that never quite survives translation.
"Tao-san." I bow "It is an honor to be in your presence."
As I stride into the building, I let my station carry me. A curt nod returned to the doorman as he bows. I give him his due and no more. I don't wish to leave any lingering memories of how Tao acted in this place, a sure fingerprint that something here is worth investigating after I leave.
As I stand in the elevator, my hand rests lightly on the cool metal of my katana's end, an act that comforts me while also looking imposing. Not that I need to look imposing in an elevator myself, but it's a stance I use often.
Each step down the hallway to her door is a step closer into temptation and dread. I know she wants me to give myself to her. I want that pleasure, to dive into the secrets she holds, the intimacy she offers. But now, I wear the daisho. I cannot succumb. I must remain vigilant to my lord, and seek out Jasper. I am here for curiosity, but also to control this situation.
Another step, this time into Mnemosyne's flat. It is breathtaking. My eyes scan the horizon, the feeling that we are atop a lofty tower is only broken by the lack of wind, it's so beautiful. But then Mnemosyne steps out and I see her, and the horizon suddenly dims.
Her alabaster skin is flawless. Her robe is scandalous. Her poise is immaculate. Her bow is perfect. I feel a flutter in my stomach and my face flushes. A tiny smile pierces my On for a moment, but I mask it by returning the bow, this one formal, a bit deeper than her station would demand. She is greater than her station, Mnemosyne.
Even her toes are adorable. I am in trouble.
“Please be welcome and take your ease, Tao-san.” I motion her into the living area. “May I offer you Tea?”
I follow Mnemosyne's graceful gesture with my eyes. I turn towards the elevator to step out of my shoes and leave them there, then come into her living area. I find it difficult to simply sit without her joining me, not to mention the daisho makes sitting an interesting challenge, so I stand by a couch.
I watch her begin to move strong and sure to the seating area. It is an… extraordinary gesture to volunteer setting aside her badges of office in my home when she is pursuing duty. It does interesting things to me. Even as she asks I have sent commands to the home system.
“Of course you do not, Tao-san”
I walk to the nanofactory and withdraw a black stand for her swords to rest upon, while I mentally reconfigure the record of its making into something more innocuous. I would not have an intruder digging up such a curious fact to use against her with her lord. Only yesterday I would have declared such a thing impossible but now I am already more paranoid.
I carry the stand across the room and set it carefully on the end of the long low table.
“I regret that its crafting does your daisho no justice, but I hope this will serve. In the future I will be… better prepared.”
I watch the 3D printer work quietly as Mnemosyne casually walks over to it. In moments, a beautiful black sword stand is assembled, looking as if it were hand crafted from wood and lacquered with patient care. She is very considerate.
I watch her remove the weapons and my eyes glide along the edge of the slightly open kimono before returning to her eyes and registering the request.
“It is no trouble at all. Tao-san. Do you prefer tea or something more… potent?”
Tao will truly be a test of my self-control. I imagined, however briefly, her taking my inquiry as invitation and…er… pouncing.
I move across the open space to the kitchen, biting my lip for a moment when my face is not visible, and retrieve a lovely tea service, the water and the best tea I have. “A stage, Tao-san.” I reply. “The actor can play their part anywhere and convince, but how much easier it is when costume, environment and prop are suited to the role. This place speaks for me.”
I return to her setting the tea on the low table between us, that initial bend surely giving her a enticing view of my neckline. I sit and start to prepare her cup.
“It makes my prowess tangible to others, much as your daisho does for you.” I look up at her. Then I glance around us. “For all that, I confess I enjoy the aesthetics. Still…” I meet her eyes again and offer the cup. “If I should be so fortunate as to show you the veil from my perspective, such a wonder would be replaced with understanding. It is the fertile ground in which my true nature grows.”
I do not miss the delicious moment of revealed skin, and I savor it in my mind for the first few moments of her impromptu tea ceremony. Her observance of the ceremony is precise, but somehow she subtly adds her own particular flair to each movement. It is artful rather than merely presentation.
When she meets my eyes, offers me the cup, I imagine myself in a magnificent web, and drinking from the spider herself.
“An honor, and a pleasure that I shall look forward to, Tao-san.” I say, and then drink my own tea. She knows why we are here. I wait for her readiness to discuss our business.
The silence draws out as we drink tea. I have spent hours awaiting my daimyo, so this should be comfortable for me. Mnemosyne is not my daimyo, and the air between us seems charged.
"Jasper has been building a body for his pet AI for quite a while now, and he shared with me that it has a top-of-the-line cyberbrain from Osprey. Also, the AI itself helped him acquire the brainbox through less than honorable means, and the AI did quite a bit of the work for Jasper." I inhale a single breath and hold it, then let it out, signalling that my tale is told.
I raise an eyebrow and set down my own empty cup. Sharing such a thing with an honorbound like Tao seems a dubious course.
“I know Jasper, or rather, we have met. He is exellent at hardware and cybernetics. Sarah referred me to him for some tasks that required such skills.”
I saw him for some non-trivial work to my own cyberbrain, actually. This is the first I have heard of the AI being something so sophisticated. It also provides a likely culprit for the intrusion. Additionally I find an AI seeking physical embodiment… curious.
“But I see that this troubles you.” I say gently.
I see Kage but do not shift my gaze. I am sure she is not fully present in the veil and that Tao will not see her even if she were to stand in front of Tao. But there is no need to draw attention.
I am silent a moment. "It sounds, Tao-san, as if these are questions which must be thoroughly understood before any honorable decision about rebalancing giri can be reached. That Jasper is in possession of the technology, for example, does not mean that he is the one who took it or asked for it to be taken."
I nod curtly, "Hai. Jasper's character speaks for him more than the actions it appears he's taken. He was so proud of his creation... but perhaps the AI is the maker, and he is their patsy."
I lean forward to put my empty cup delicately on the table. It is a gentle suggestion that I should leave. Before I make unwise decisions when I am serving my lord. I cannot dally. Not yet.
I let the moment stretch out while I contemplate her. She is as beautiful as the folded lily, folded by fate and the Damiyo into a shape not altogether natural. Is she proud to be honorbound? It seems so. It is an office of great respect. But there is the solitude. There is separation necessitated by her office. The pain of potentially enforcing giri on behalf of her lord against any who she might be close to. For a moment I have such a desire for violence upon her Damiyo that I avert my eyes and push my ceramic cup into a more pleasing balance with the other objects on the table.
“I do not wish to delay you, Tao-san.” I look up at her from under my lashes with a sly smile. “Or rather, if you will forgive the indelicacy, I wish to hasten the completion of your duties.” I raise my chin again, meeting her eyes directly. “How then may I best assist you with this matter? I can accompany you physically or virtually, or not at all. If virtually it needn’t be at the proximity of earlier today. That is a lot to ask, even of people accustomed to such intimacy. Whatever resource or skill I might have that would be useful to you is at your command.”
She probably doesn’t quite realize the extent of that offer.
I tilt my head slightly. “I am. And it is possibly the most secure option as I can conceal my own connection to your neurochip within the general connection of the veil overall. This is, of course, if you judge it best that my presence remain concealed. I can also simply follow you in the veil, and listen as I may. There is more of a risk, however slight, that I will be detected by whatever local security is in place. But it is less invasive. The most direct option is for me to accompany you in the veil openly, and not concealed by a neurolink.”
I stand and move around the table to sit beside her.
“You have already expereinced the bleed of thoughts and emotions that can happen in such a link. It is only fair to warn you that the effect will only become more pronounced the longer we are connected so directly. There is some risk of revealing what you may not wish revealed.”
The bleed of emotions. Such a sweet temptation. What could I reveal to her that would endanger me? My depraved and hedonistic nightlife? That is a thing I hope to share with her in time. Are there secrets of my daimyo she could exploit? Perhaps, but I would feel that as well and we would know what is endangered, so she would risk herself in an attempt to act upon it.
Her hand is warm, and larger than mine. What was I hoping for? To dissuade from such an intimacy? To protect her or to protect myself? Present such a thing as a danger and of course the warrior charges it head on. I blink, looking deep into her eyes. I lean in, holding the gaze, and brush my lips gently across hers.
“I am.” I say softly, looking into her eyes again from a much closer distance.
My breath catches as Mnemosyne leans in. Closer. Ever closer. I'm transfixed in this moment. Unwilling to flinch. Hoping that she doesn't shatter my resolve.
Then, I hear my mouth add, "I like having you inside me, Mnemosyne." Shit. That was. Shit. I pull back slightly, breaking the moment. Look to my daisho. "I... we should continue. The work. Once I have completed my task, I would be very happy to resume this conversation, Mnemosyne-san." I need to get up. I need to move.
Why does this couch seem to hold me here?
I cannot help but smile softly at her struggle against her own desire. It is endearing. Increment counter for how much trouble Nem is in.
“Indeed. As will I.”
I relieve her tension by standing. She would not thank me for compromising her in her duty. I pick up the obi from where it rests in front of the stand and unfold it and turn back to her.
I am the only person who has tied my obi since Taigen-sama gave me this strip of silk and nanofibers as a gift for a job well done. That was two years ago. Every day when I tie my daisho and step into the world, it has been with my own hands.
I have dressed in front of others before, but only a select few have dared to touch my daisho, none my obi. The sash looks so interesting against her pale skin.
I fitfully worry that she doesn't tie it in the tateya musubi style. I am not a geisha, the big bow would be weird and uncomfortable if I have to deal in Giri. No, I will trust her in this.
"There are affairs I must see to, Tao-san. But I will join you before you reach Jasper" I turn up my hand, a digital daifukumochi rezzing into place in it. I hold it out to her. "Take this. Choose to incorporate it or not when you are away from here. It will permit me to make a more careful and properly encrypted connection to your chip, than before." A final opportunity to back out, should she wish to.
Her tie is immaculate. Every movement in the traditional eleven step method is perfect. If I ever must fight in a duel, I would choose her as my second.
Before I leave, I look back at her, not only to tell her goodbye, but to get one last glimpse of her in her sanctum. If only I had cybernetic eyes to capture this perfectly and play it back whenever I wished. I bow low, showing deep respect, but never taking my eyes off her. "I will see you soon, Mnemosyne-san." Then I leave.
When the Honorbound shares a moment of intimacy with someone other than a target, be it physical or emotional, Tao later learns what Giri they owe other people and may ask them any one question from Absolution immediately, regardless if they have taken the move already or not.
ABSOLUTION: When you get intimate with a target in order to read them, roll. On a 10+, Hold 3. On a 7–9, Hold 1. While reading them, spend your
Hold to ask them questions, 1 for 1:
* What was your lowest moment?
* For what do you crave forgiveness, and from whom?
* What pain do you hide away from others?
* In what ways is your mind or soul vulnerable?
What Giri does Mnemosyne owe other people?
Mnemosyne, what pain do you hide away from others?
I owe Havana for comforting me with flow after breaking up with Sarah.
I owe the Oni for my cybernetics (they also provided my current sleeve.)
My mother betrayed me to enemies to save herself.
Rolling intimacy move
(Rolled: 2d6. Rolls: 2, 1. Total: 3)