[[Just starting a thread here. Replies may be sporadic, but I promise to get back to it eventually.]]
Jian made it down to the harbor in record time. She picked herself a seat near enough to the water that she'd be able to see, far enough away that she'd avoid the traffic, and high enough up on a stack of crates that hopefully this time, no-one would bother her. Lately ship-watching had become an occupation more than a hobby, and she'd learned a thing or two. The first was that she never, ever really carried money or wore jewelry, the second was that she wore the plainest clothes she owned, and the third was that she stayed away from anything that looked even remotely like trouble.
Mostly, people didn't bother her. Everyone on the docks during the day was hard at work trying to get cargo hustled around before it got too hot to work, and the only time she'd really run into trouble in Harbor City was that one time, with Touda. Mostly, that had been his fault.
Today, she settled her sketchbook across her lap and started to copy down the lines of the ship docked in front of her, its deck teeming with stevedores and sailors. The plan was to sit and draw until just before noon, then make it back up to her house in time to laze around during the hottest part of the day, and maybe jump-start her studying for next semester. If she could get the heaviest reading out of the way, she'd have more time during the school year for other things.
Post by dabluemushu on Feb 20, 2011 2:14:59 GMT -5
Ground, sky, ground, sky in a dizzying mix till the blue and brown blended together. And then Niko came out of the flip series and stood up straight as a school girl, hands above her head and smile on her face. Around her the crown cheered. The knives she had dodged lay snuggly in their targets-not that Wei had been trying to hit her of course. “Thank you, thank you ladies and gentlemen!” The younger kids that worked with the Red Rats ran around with the collection basket . Coin jingled and fell in. Niko’s smile widened into the ‘creepy grin’ that Cho had always told her not to wear in front of a crowd. After the audience dispersed, Wei distributed the coin, giving small copper bits to the urchins who’d collected it and splitting the larger gold pieces between himself and the other performers. Niko gave him a quick kiss when he slipped her an extra coin. Turns out he had a thing for her after all. “I’m really sorry about that last knife.” Niko had begun to pack up the juggling balls into her small bag when Wei had approached her again. “Oh?” She knew why he was apologizing of course. Instead of just pretending to, she’d actually had to dodge the last dagger- he’d messed up the throw. But it was so fun to watch him squirm uncomfortably. The ladies of the bordello had taught her that. “Oh, um… about the last throw…” He scratched his head awkwardly. Oh this was great. He was going to feel like he owed her one. At the very least he’d be thankful to her saving him from being so uncomfortable. “It’s no big deal Wei. After all, I got out of it without a scratch, right?” Wei smiled shyly at her and Niko knew free dinner was coming one day soon. She wasn’t pretty- oh she was kind of cute in a scrappy way, Niko knew that, but she wasn’t pretty. Cho was gorgeous, so gorgeous men paid in good gold for her time, and the time of the other women at the Bordello. So when on the rare occasion boy looked at her like that, she was always going to take advantage of it. And whose to say she wouldn't treat him too? She gave him another charming smile and waved goodbye, determined to get herself something to eat. Food had been hard to come by lately and she was going to buy something nice today. Niko hummed to herself, pleased at listening to the unusual sound of coins jingling in her pocket. And then she saw something that just made her day. With a wicked grin (again, the same one Cho said was absolutely appalling) Niko crept up as close as she could without alerting the other girl. “Well hello cutie. Still looking for a thrill amongst us gutter rats? I don't think your boyfriend would approve.”
Last Edit: Feb 20, 2011 5:04:04 GMT -5 by dabluemushu
Jian had just got the curve of the hull precisely right when suddenly, she wasn't the only girl on the crates. Startled, she glared and tried to hide her surprise. Boyfriend? I don't have a boyfr-- Recognition hit.
Jian preened her bangs and straightened her neck, using the extra length to glare all the way down her nose at the pickpocket. "I appreciate the compliment," she said, voice sweet and hard-edged. "Didn't your mother ever tell you that if you made faces, you'd freeze that way?" Whatever the other girl was doing with her lips and teeth was not appetizing. Of course, Jian was a little more concerned with what the girl was doing sitting on Jian's stack of crates.
"If you're going to rob me, here you go," she said, tearing a blank sheet from her sketchbook and handing it to the other girl, then going back to her sketch and pointedly ignoring the company. Jian wasn't even wearing jewelry--not even a hairpin--and the paper hopefully got the message across. Prim, she went back to sketching. The perfect curve grew a rudder, tailfins, a deck; she paid less attention to the real ship now and started marking out where the balloon of her pretend airship would be tethered to the gondola. "What?" she said finally, putting as much annoyance in that one word as she could. Wasn't this girl going to leave her alone?
Post by dabluemushu on Feb 24, 2011 23:15:29 GMT -5
Niko examined the paper- no markings were on it. Clearly it wasn’t a note of some kind. Deciding the other girl had meant it as a joke, she folded over several times till it was a flower. Pleased with her handiwork, Niko slipped it behind her ear. If Shy was here, he would have pointed and laughed in that strange, silent way of his. “My mom never told me much o’ nothing. And if I make this expression long enough, will my face stick that way too?” Niko demonstrated by sticking her tongue up her nose, then giggling.
“Actually, believe me or not, I’m honestly concerned about your safety, miss nobility. You did good with the clothes- too good actually. Anyone trying to rob you down here is going to think you’re a servant with some money, instead of a noble in disguise now. And that means that they’ll be liberal with the stabitty stabbing bit of the robbing too, whether you got money or not. Can’t have that, can we?”
She was trying not to leer. It’s just… teasing came so naturally to her sometimes, and Niko couldn’t help prodding at the uptight girl just a bit. It was all in good fun, right?
“Face it, if you want to hang down here you need someone schooled in the way of miscreants. So, what d’you say to a trade, miss your highness o’ nobility?”
Last Edit: Feb 24, 2011 23:16:30 GMT -5 by dabluemushu
This was infuriating. It was like trying to tell her baby cousins to be quiet and leave her alone. No, wait--she took that back. Even obnoxious Jozan was better behaved than this. Jian spared a glance for the other girl's paper flower, not smiling at it. "That's sweet of you," she said to the profusion of slimy I'm-concerned statements. The harbor certainly wasn't the safest place on the island, but Jian wasn't too concerned. The people on this dock were mostly too busy to bother her, and if she got in real trouble, she was fast.
"It's so good to know the gutter rats are looking out for me," Jian continued, rolling her eyes. "And I'm glad you liked the outfit--it took me hours." If the other girl was going for sarcasm, well, Jian had Touda to deal with. Sarcasm, she could do. It wasn't that she was normally sweet, it was just that, at the moment, she wasn't in a setting that demanded her usual politesse.
"I think you're making too much of me, Ratty," she said dryly, closing her sketchbook in case she needed to leave in a hurry. "I'm not any kind of highness." If she could, she would keep the other girl from learning her name--it was probably a safe idea. "If you want etiquette lessons, you're asking for them way too late," she added, looking Ratty Girl's scruffy clothes and casual posture up and down. "It takes years of training to achieve the rich servant look, trust me."
Post by dabluemushu on Feb 25, 2011 10:42:11 GMT -5
Niko rolled her eyes. Spirits above, who’d have thought her highness would be so uppity?
“What is Koh’s name would I do with etiquette lessons, your royal pain in the but-ness?” It was really the thing that had stuck with her from the diatribe. Honestly. If she wanted to learn her ‘please and thank yous’, Cho could always teach her.
Niko took a deep breath. This wasn’t getting her anywhere. This girl-whatever her name was- had something she wanted. Mainly, the ability to read. And reading was something very useful. Besides, letting this noble wander around the docks on her own… she’d invariably end up hurt, maybe even dead. And a nobleman’s daughter in harbor city meant the whole town would be upturned. Guards would look everywhere for the killer- whether they found the actual murderer or not did matter so long as they carted away enough people to jail and executed however many they felt they needed for a good example. With guards running up and down her home, business would be brought to a standstill. No business meant no food and she did not feel like starving this winter. So, sincerity it was.
“Look, I’m honestly not terribly concerned about your welfare, my lady. Or, at least not concerned ‘bout your welfare for your own sake-more for mine. See, if you wander about round here and take a wrong turn -which you will, this place is like a maze- and you get killed everything gets turned topsy turvy while they search for your killer. Guards everywhere, clapping on the irons." Niko paused and reigned in her own mouth. Appeal to the other girl's sense of compassion. Give her a reason to play nice.
"And while I know you’ve certainly got no love for the likes of dirty little me, just think of all the children that will end up in the cages for picking pockets. Little kids. Seven, eight years old. Twits that got little brothers and sisters back home who need them to bring home some food.”
Niko paused and made a show of wiping her hand off on her pants before offering it to the other girl.
“So, what’ya say? Peace and maybe a trade? We could be best buddies. Niko and… what is your name, anyways?”
Last Edit: Feb 25, 2011 10:49:55 GMT -5 by dabluemushu
Jian couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Do it for the children"--one of the oldest rhetorical techniques in the book. She could easily have written essays on its genesis and use, from the works of Xiu to the wording of modern inheritance law. To hear it coming from the mouth of Rat-girl, well...apparently some things really were so archetypal anyone got them. "That was practically poetry," she said, letting the statement hang in the air. She was too quick and cautious and clever to fall into stupid situations.
"I'm not agreeing to any trade until you say what you want," Jian said, reclining a little. She watched suspiciously as the other girl wiped her hand on her pants, probably getting it even dirtier than it had been in the first place. "Nice to meet you," she replied, the words out of her mouth almost politely, and before she could really think about it. Introductions were a force of habit. She wasn't touching that hand, though.
"I'm Ji," she said, looking pointedly at the proffered hand and then nodding her head without breaking eye contact. While normally her baby name grated on her, her cautious side whispered that it wouldn't be prudent to share her real name around. There weren't that many female Jians in the Fire Nation nobility.
Post by dabluemushu on Mar 3, 2011 19:19:26 GMT -5
OOC: I cracked up at this because we actually went over ways to identify lying as part of a sociopath discussion in my psych class. It’s interesting, because even in rp you lie like an honest person. (I guess you’re just that moral!)
There are ways to picks up on a lie and then there are ways. Niko was a manipulator. She knew lies. And the interesting thing about them-people lie straight to your face. None of that crap about how difficult it is to look someone in the eye when you’re double-dealing. On average in a conversation, people glance about, gesture with their hands. They look up trying to imagine something. Down, to remember. Straight in your face when trying to convey sincerity. When trying to convince you of something. Like a lie. Whoever this girl was, ‘Ji’ wasn’t her name, at least not the one she thought of herself by. But bygones, que sera and all that. Her royal lineage, noble heritage, great ancestral line, whatever it was, was not Niko’s interest today.
“Poetry? Well what can I say? I’m like the young butterfly who floats on elegant breezes of higher thought and drinks from the flowers of philosophy.” Niko snorted at the ridiculous analogy and then removed the proffered hand in order to fetch three of the juggling balls from her small pack to practice with. After two false starts she built up a steady rhythm, trying not to follow the trajectory of one ball more than any of the others- it’s how she always ended up dropping them. Tunnel vision. Only focusing on one aspect of the puzzle.
It was good to have something to do with her hands. Because, though she didn’t want to admit it, she was a bit nervous. Honesty didn’t come naturally to her. Admitting that someone else had something she wanted and then asking for it? That was as foreign as a full stomach. The way the game had always been played was a back and forth of bargaining, deceit and back stabbing. You never admitted to the other person that they had something valuable, only pretended that you had something better.
But this…Ji, didn’t play the game. She was straightforward. Candid. And why shouldn’t she be? As a noble kid she would obviously have to learn courtly stuff and keeping what you thought of someone under wraps was probably a big part of it, but why would she need to learn this brand of back stabbing? Honestly, Ji was rather refreshing if also a bit unsettling. Niko just didn’t know how to deal with someone who was so… honest. Even when they were lying.
Well, a shot in the dark. Maybe try this ‘honesty’ thing too.
“Alright. You caught me. I don’t usually show my hand in a card game, but then I usually deal from the bottom of the deck too.” Niko smiled- a thoughtful one this time, not the self-satisfied smirk. The girl actually was kind of impressive. In a completely obnoxious way of course, but still. Pretty darn impressive.
“What I want is to learn my letters. You know, reading. Can’t do it. No money or time for schooling, no one to teach me ‘cept Shy. And Shy can’t tell me how the letters sound real well ‘cuase, he can’t make any sounds real well.” She paused and caught the juggling balls safely before tucking them away in her bag. That was enough scrupulousness and juggling for today. Time to make it worth her while.
“And as addle brained as it sounds, yeah, I got your safety on my mind too. Bad for business if someone important gets stabbed down here and bad for you because you’d be bleeding everywhere.”
Last Edit: Mar 3, 2011 19:23:19 GMT -5 by dabluemushu
[[Oh, that's really funny! I intended it as her response to the handshake--a polite-but-don't-trust-you sort of not-bow, but it does sound like liar fail. Jian is just a nice girl. xD]]
Something about the change in Niko's attitude went straight to Jian's ego. Get a street brat to cut with her annoying quips? All in a day's work. Jian watched the juggling with one eye, following the other girl's quick hands more than the actual rise and fall of the balls. Yeah, it was a good thing she didn't have anything worth stealing on her. "Who's Shy?" she asked automatically, one hand itching at the cover of her notebook. How hard could it be to teach someone to read?
"You're not exactly presenting a trade," she added, thinking suddenly about her older cousins and the way they handled business. She cocked her head back and put on a straight face, no emotions jumping through. "What are you going to give me in return? I've got a lot of things to do and my schedule isn't exactly easily rearrangeable." So many ships to draw, so little time. The comment about her safety would've drawn a snort out of her if she weren't wearing her blank face; Jian was acutely aware of her limitations, but she wasn't too afraid of being stabbed in the harbor. It was difficult to stab someone when your arm was on fire.
Post by dabluemushu on Mar 5, 2011 19:14:52 GMT -5
Niko giggled. That's what she loved about Shy- he was practically set up for pranks.
"Shy? I don't know. Are you shy? I'm not." It was awful, a terrible pun, she knew. But it was just too fun, not to. Well. Time for the sale's pitch.
"Wouldn't you like to move about here unseen? Get reasonable prices from the shops, not have to deal with pickpockets every other second? No more beggars annoying you, no more dirty looks- think of it as a free pass. Moving around here with no one every hassling you again. I think that's more than a fair trade."
Niko smiled and glanced down at her paper. The drawing of the boat was lovely- the details very fine and the prow was perfectly captured.
"If it's drawing spots you're after I know some of the best view points in the city. And as tough as you might be, five or six people mugging you isn't easy to stop."
Niko picked at the dirty from under her finger nails, trying to get the lodged mud out. "I'll get you dressed in the right clothes to move around down here and I won't even steal the money you make off those rich-people rags you got on. And I suppose I made enough today to treat us both to lunch, but don't expect anything fancy and sit down- type. I'll show you how to know what people are saying- what to look for in order to keep you nose clean, or at least out of trouble. And it'll keep you safe. And in return, I get some o' an education. You'll be doing the Fire Nation a favor- with me reading, I might be able to get a job rather than nicking coins from people's purses." Niko stretched and waited for a reply. In the end, she couldn't make the other girl do anything. But she could at least try.
Last Edit: Mar 5, 2011 20:39:56 GMT -5 by dabluemushu
Jian didn't like to be teased. She pressed her fingers against her sketchbook, keeping her face flat. Good traders were unaffected by teasing. She tried to imagine herself as an airship, floating far above the other girl. "Street smarts aren't exactly top currency," she said dryly, "and I've got enough sympathy cards to paper the palace with." She shrugged and looked out across the harbor, trying to be casual. "I'll take you up on the offer, but you're gonna be in my debt."
Even if she didn't get anything out of that last remark, just saying it made her feel a little less ruffled. Jian turned to face Niko, looking at the other girl's grimier face and hair. Did no-one south of the crater bathe? Oh well. She got down from the stack of crates, motioning for the other girl to follow. There were signs all down one of the streets leading into the market district; she could sound out her new pupil's abilities along the way to whatever cheap food they were getting. Jian, the teacher. This was something she could live with. "Can you read at all?" she asked, pointing out a peeling orange sign with bold black lettering. Mending and Cobbling, it read.