Jul 23, 2019 1:55 PM
making it big time in the big city
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He’s perfectly attentive, and has each hand signal down in fairly short order.

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Then he can be shown the way to the stage, between rushes, and Bina can return to her usual waitress job.

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And he can dance!

 

He continues to be astonishingly good at dancing. He’s focusing a bit less on showing off, now, as compared to the audition- can’t quite maintain the same pace over a drawn-out shift- but he remains nigh-excessively perfect. Like a painting in motion, or a strangely substantial spirit of grace, spun out of starlight and silent laughter.

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Bina signals he's doing well during a break.

The diners seem to agree - he's there over a two hour rush, and gathers around fifty vigs total, in addition to his pay. (Bina communicates later this is really good for a first performance - though people tend to tip better when they know someone.)

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He’s still sort of unclear on the value of a vig, and puzzled by the concept of tipping- it’d been part of the cultural brochure, but it remained kinda bizarre- but he declines to make either of these facts obvious. His tippers each get a radiant smile for their trouble.

And then, once he’s counted his money-

He strides down the street, extensively consults his little tucked-away map, and heads towards the nearest library. 

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The largest libraries are the ones connected to the universities, which generally require a school ID to enter. There's smaller libraries, though, scattered among the towers - the nearest one is a little community library, dark and close and cozy with little islands of light, with the sort of random assortment of books that makes it seem like it's been built from successive generations of small donations, wills, and flea markets.

(There's a small plaque out front explaining the initial formation was due to the efforts of a local teacher and campaigner for increased access to education, who donate the entirety of her personal collection. Most of the books are geared towards people learning to read, either as children or as immigrants.)

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Well, he isn’t exactly learning to read, but reading through children’s books seems like a decent method of acquiring generic cultural familiarity... 

He sits down on a conveniently located chair, acquires a stack of books with particularly well-worn covers, and sets to skimming.

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This girl rabbit is upset that these adult rabbits think girls should be a certain way, so she goes on a great adventure and becomes a famous builder, and her family learns they were wrong. 

This mouse is scared of the snakes and the cats and the birds, but learns how to stand up to bullies with his friends' help.

Sometimes your friends are going to be very different! These kids are immigrants! These kids have one parent, or three parents, or parents of different species or cultures, or other different ways. This kid doesn't have legs, and this one has legs, but they don't work. This one can't hear, and talks with her hands. This one can't see, and this one sees different things than elves. 

There is a crayon. The crayon is yellow, but everyone thinks he should be green, and they keep getting mad he's drawing things wrong. He keeps trying to draw green things like leaves and the ground, until a friend convinces him to draw yellow things like trains and flowers, which makes him happy.

In a book of folktales, the mysterious and probably extra magical princess is courted by a bunch of princes. She gives them tasks they must fulfill that are all impossible. All but one of the princes try to cheat at the tasks. One sends her a letter apologizing to her, for courting her when she seemed annoyed and for his brothers' poor behavior. She is interested and sends him a letter back, but then must return to her home in Faerie. The polite prince sends her little gifts from the world she had to leave, and when she returns she marries him and they live happily ever after.

There is a bad plague. A lot of people die and are very sad. The gods don't do anything. The Serpents start telling people not to depend on the gods. A woman wearing heavy armor with a rose on the front gives a speech about how the gods aren't just unreliable - they're bad (the book's narrator presents this more neutrally, and seems to agree with the Serpents more). She makes the Roses. Her name is Sabi Jobai. The god Imgah gets mad at her, and his followers attack hers. Sabi takes up her sword against Imgah himself. The fight lasts three days, and Sabi strikes down Imgah, her sword becoming magical. The Black Roses figure out how to make sure elves don't have to go to a godly afterlife, and it's because of them any elf at all can be resurrected.

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They sure do have an ‘idealization and encouragement of nonconformity’ motif going strong. And an obviously different tradition of illustration- less exaggerated perspective, less color saturation, different regions of stylization. 

He leaves. He acquires lunch as an iguana, from a reptile-oriented vendor. He comes back.

 

Is there anything in the fluent-speaker section which seems relatively striking?

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Some histories, some books about government and politics, a few travel guides, plenty of works of fiction and poetry ("classics," "foreign," "serial," and "modern" are grouped separately), written puzzles, a series of books geared towards the aspiring student of arcane magic, assorted encyclopedias, a collection of old shopping catalogs for furniture and clothing and the like, and an entire collection of what's labeled "manners guides" - on things like courtship, flower language, the proper writing of a formal letter, proper dress (with little cards inside giving clarification on what's out of date and what isn't).

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He plucks out a history, a classic poetry compilation, and a manners guide on courtship, and strides on over to the place that looks reasonably front-desk-esque, books in hand.

”Hi. I’m new. What sort of process do you have, here?”

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There's a bored girl who seems in late adolescence, and is reading through books between conversations. She glances up at him. "We need some guarantee you'll return the books, or pay up a replacement fee if you don't, for taking them out. Being known's fine, but since you're new, we usually accept 'leave the potential replacement fee with us', and we'll return it when you bring the books back."

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“How much, then, would the replacement fee on these be?”

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"Poetry one's a bit harder to replace, so, like, a vig. The history's everywhere and a bit out of date, so a kint for that. Three kints for the manner's guide, it's newer and that's a decently good edition, but it's also easier to find."

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He is still so confused by their economy- maybe housing and food and books are all government subsidized, or something. He hands over two vigs, tells her to keep the extra kint as a donation, and tucks the books into nowhere-in-particular. 

Does his map have any convenient apartment buildings marked down, or conspicuous ‘this is a long-term rentable residence more glamorous than a hostel’ signs?

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Not really. It's mostly focused on shorter term businesses, or things open to the public. There are hotels and assorted other residences with signs out front, advertising usually either weekly or daily rates, ranging from what averages out to four vigs a night for not much better than his hostel, to a minimum of twenty vigs a night if he wants his own bathroom and a probable minimum of mysterious stains and roaches. (No mysterious stains nor roaches, at a bland but not fancy place seems closer to fifty vigs a night at a minimum. Nicer places aren't advertising anywhere he can see.)

(The books are printed, on cheap paper, and have indications inside of many large runs, which might explain some of the affordability).

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He can magic away mysterious stains and roaches pretty trivially, and anyone who decides to be conspicuously shady in his direction can spend the next while turned into a turtle. He picks one of the twenty-vig-a-night places, optimizing for space and ability-to-customize and not so much quality per-se, and lugs his luggage on over. He uses up most of the day, casting miscellaneous home-improvement spells and settling in.

He arrives at the cafe, the next day. 

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Binamir seems worried and distracted, but does get him set up for his assigned shift. He hasn't managed to get a rush two days in a row - those are extremely prized for performers and servers alike - but she signs that if he's vigilant he can probably manage more in future weeks.

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He continues to be obscenely good at dancing, and he’s getting more in tune with local conventions, with the art of being friendly and approachable whilst incapable of speech, and with general customer service; he still manages a substantial haul. 

He picks up on Binamir’s anxiety. He finds that he cares.

 

“- it seems like something’s bothering you,” he observes, quietly, when he’s finished counting his cash. “Would it help, at all, if I donated my ears and my sympathetic nodding, or would you prefer it if I kept my busybody tendencies to myself?”

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She bites her lip, then breathes out heavily. "Yeah. Yeah. Probably. Don't know who to talk to, or if I even should..." She runs a hand through her hair. "This guy disappeared. Older guy. Runs the dinky old laundromat I take my clothes to."

"He's not here legally, I don't think, or he's harboring someone not here legally - I don't want to go to the officials, but I think 'deported' is better than 'dead' and something weird's going on, but... I don't want to drag an official eye over to the neighborhood, either. Or start a headhunt. So I don't know what to do."

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“I have more power in my pocket than is implied by my choice of profession. I can help. Do you want to meet up, at the end of your shift, talk this over in more depth?”

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"Yeah. Thanks. I'm off shift in four hours."

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“Great,” he says, softly. 

And then he leaves, and acquires lunch, and kills time in the nearby-ish park, turning into assorted squirrels and birds and cats and exotic insects, enjoying the weather.

 

He’s back at the cafe, four hours later.

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Bina's sitting on the stoop, and stands, seeming nervous, when he approaches. "Come on," she says, "There's a park people don't go to much, we can talk there. Or a cafe that tends to be crowded, and really hard to hear people, your choice."

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“The park works. Anything you feel comfortable outlining on the way?”

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