Mar 24, 2019 2:47 AM
making it big time in the big city
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The city of Sistu spills down along the bay, much of it low-lying. Its towers, mostly built of stone and a bronze-colored substance, soar over the old city and the surrounding basin, lavishly decorated and set apart from the more humble brick that occupies a small core near the docks. The sidewalks downtown are crowded with people most hours, the sky-bridges not much better, and numerous cafes, parlors, nightclubs, bars, and tiny little shops serving tea or coffee serve as some of the only places to breathe.

Each skyscraper holds a little garden at the top, though around here the fee to access them is outside of most new immigrants' reach. There's a park a streetcar ride - or a small hike - away, which is free to the public.

The sun's set a while ago, but there's still a faint hum of light - from artificial lights and the portals that connect Sistu to the multiverse alike. 

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When Ruwien and Federation negotiations opened up enough that they started allowing emigration- carefully, ever so carefully- they weren’t particularly expecting noble mages to emigrate, given how they were nearly at the top of the totem pole.

One of them does. One of them did. One of them, even, is here right now, watching the city sparkle. 

He was expecting it to be a compromise, being in a place more dense and less pretty than Ruwien cities ever were. He wasn’t expecting to find it ever so instantly moving- to feel a sudden, unshakable sense that this was reality, that this was what happened when you couldn’t just conjure up whatever you’d like, that this was the way the world really worked- to feel like he’d walked on carefully managed pavement, all of his life, and only now discovered the roots that lurked beneath it.

He’d considered selling his services as a spellcaster, to acquire spending cash, but the idea had felt- ugly and horrible and inauthentic. Like slipping into old, ratty, shit-encrusted shoes that you’d long discarded, instead of the boots you’d spent so much to buy. Just because they were more comfortable. Just because it would be easy.

He’ll start selling a trickle of shen pearls, maybe, once he’s already become established as a dancer.

And so he’s in a little hostel, dedicated to recent immigrants, browsing this culture’s equivalent of a classified section, looking for anyone advertising a need for entertainment.

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There's a bar that does live bands, a coffee shop that hosts events every ten days (poetry readings are next, then a show of some kind), a theater group looking for extras, a dinner-and-a-show place looking for waitstaff who can maybe eventually be upgraded to performers, a painter who wants exotic models, an artsy cafe that offers live dance shows as a visual alternative to music (which dancers will be asked to perform without; the cafe proper remains silent). There's more he's less likely to be interested in - orchestra understudies, chorus members, voices for animations, graphic artists, a fashion designer looking for an assistant...

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He is tentatively okay with dancing in silence, and mildly interested in working temporarily as waitstaff, and vaguely interested in the experience of being painted. Do any of those three things have listed times for when he ought to show up, or do they seem to be operating on an ‘I guess you can come by whenever, at such and such address’ model, or is it a mix?

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The painter has a set time - roughly evening-ish, in the third hour of the fourth mark (the twenty hour Veshiri day being split into five marks of four hours each, measuring from midnight as the first hour of the first mark) - and address, apparently her studio, but appointments can be made outside that time, using the following mailing address.

The dinner and a show place has a range of hours (the entirety of the third and fourth marks), a location, and directions for which door to enter through.

The cafe is similar, though it also notes that anyone who needs accommodations other than translation magic can contact them ahead of time. The hours for them are only the third mark. 

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He has no idea how to use their mailing system. He supposes that he’ll eventually figure it out.

He quietly turns into a soft, brightly colored little bird, and nestles into his suddenly much more expansive set of blankets, and goes to sleep.

 

At the beginning of the third mark, on the following day, he appears at the artsy cafe.

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The cafe is located around the middle of one of the slimmer towers, in a corner off the main pathway. The storefront is decorated with colored glass tiles arranged in abstract, flowing patterns, primarily green with flickers of other colors. A sign in the window proclaims "Welcome to the Hidden Garden!" The words are fairly plain, though inked images of flowers surround them. A sign on the door reads "No noise permitted" in several common languages, and has what's probably the symbol for noise (which appears elsewhere) crossed out.

The instructions had said to enter through the employee entrance, which is smaller and off to the side, and to press a button beside the doorknob to be let in, instead of knocking.

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They’re certainly dedicated to the bit. 

He presses the button. 

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A small light goes on inside, and someone bustles to the door. They're of indeterminate gender, and one of the many non-natives that throng the city - seven feet tall and willowy, with golden eyes too large for their face, papery skin, no hair, a too-wide mouth, and disproportionately long hands with six fingers each. They step outside of the door, look him up and down, and say, voice soft and scratchy and magically understandable, "Are you lost, or looking for work?"

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Shaitiren declines to be insulted by the alien’s choice of phrasing.

“Looking for work. I saw the advertisement, figured I might fit the bill, decided to come on by and see,” he says.

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"I'll let you talk to Saleh, then, he does hiring. Talking's allowed in the employee area and office, but just don't scream, okay? Stuff's muffled, but not super much."

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“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, following- huh, he’s tempted to mentally gender the alien as violet, weird- following them inside, presuming that they seem amenable to this plan of action.

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They do. The entrance seems to feed into the cafe proper to the right, the kitchens ahead, and a narrow hallway to the left, that runs further into the building with assorted doors on the left. The office is the first one, bearing a small plaque reading 'Management', with a door of light, hollow metal.

The person leading him presses a little button beside the knob, and after a few moments another light flashes. The person nods, says, "That's the signal to enter," in a quiet tone, and opens the door.

The manager looks up - he's almost certainly a local elf, fairly masculine and lithe in shape, with vaguely tan skin and black hair and narrow eyes. He nods to the person leading Shaitiren, who signs something, and then at another nod bows and turns to leave, saying, "Saleh's able to see you," in that same soft tone.

Saleh gestures towards himself, says, "Be welcome inside. Whether the door stays open is your prerogative. You are welcome to sit, or not, at your preference." The chair across from him is worn and old but probably at least moderately comfortable.

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It’d be a terrible idea to make a flirtatious or joking innuendo, and he’s not too keen on the idea of sex right now, anyways: he’s still tempted, with an opening that wide.

”Thank you,” he says, instead, closing the door and gracefully sitting down. 

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"Lavarie informed me you're responding to one of our classifieds?" Saleh says. His voice is high pitched and smooth, vocals short and crisp.

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“I was and am interested in applying for the advertised dancing position, given that I am very, very good, don’t substantially mind the stated working requirements, and find myself generally in favor of exposure.”

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"We'll want an audition, but we have plenty of openings. Three vigs and two kints an hour, plus tips."

(Vigs, or vigents, are the basic coin apparently - most positions advertise payment in them, and then there's five kints to a vigent. His hostel charges two vigents a night for a dorm room, or six for a private room. The eateries and street food stalls around his hostel tend to cost between one and two kints for a decent meal. The streetcars are ten dys a ride - a dy being a hundredth of a kint.)

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“Grand. When would that audition be?”

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"We can do it now, if you're ready, or schedule one later. There's a backroom stage available."

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“I’d be perfectly happy to do it now,” he says.

 

He is, as it turns out, almost absurdly good at dancing. There are obvious foreign influences- Ruwien dance styles seems to generally empahasize dramatic crescendos and decrescendos of tempo, displays of acrobatics and balance, and just-barely-not-unnerving displays of flexibility more than Veshiran dance styles, unless those are just personal quirks- but they’re less prominent than might be expected. He acquired most of his knowledge of local styles yesterday, watching a few local buskers, and sketched out the choreography overnight; he looks like he’s practiced with a local tutor for years, and practiced this specific routine for months. Some of what he manages. seems like it’d be straightforwardly impossible for someone working with the average humanoid race’s agility; at one point he manages a quintuple axle twirl. The lack of music sets him back, slightly, but not to the point that anyone else is likely to notice.

If this place has high enough standards that they refrain from taking him, he thinks that he’s going to skip straight over being annoyed and move right on to being impressed.

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"We're willing to hire you," he says, voice level. He suspects either the species has self-directed enhancement magic, perfect self control, or some other form of magic. Still, magically enhanced dancing is both allowed and common. "Though I suspect you'll be approached by a talent scout, soon enough, assuming you can maintain that. Even with that display, we can't offer more per hour, but our customers are usually generous tippers."

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“Thank you!” says the fellow who totally has self-directed enhancement magic, not having considered this outcome particularly in doubt and satisfied all the same. “I am willing to be hired and generously tipped. Is there anything I need to do to formalize my state thereof?”

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"There's paperwork, mostly says who you are, who we are, what conditions you're working under, what we're paying, if you're part of a union - those aren't a big thing here at all, but they are some cities. We'll also get you on the schedule."

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And so he fills out mildly tedious paperwork- the section asking his name has a little note saying ‘call me Aiti’, off to the side, circled a few times- and he carefully assures himself that he isn’t accidentally signing away his soul, and he commits his part in the schedule to memory, and he leaves.

The dinner and a show place should still be open; he walks there, leisurely as an unusually satisfied cat, his hands in his pockets. 

It really is a lovely city, hustle and bustle and assorted jostling included.

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The dinner and a show place doesn't pay as well (only two vigs an hour), allows tips for waitstaff but expects very little in the way of that, and apparently is chronically understaffed, but their shows are amazingly well choreographed, taking full advantage of each dancer's abilities, and there does seem to be a real chance of working up to a full performer eventually. They have more restrictive hours, and aren't interested in extra staff outside of rush times.

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How restrictive, exactly?

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