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Dec 03, 2021 2:59 PM
sugira drops on the handmaiden
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"...To be in one place and then move instantly to another place? Does your language not have a word for it?"

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"There's a new English word, I heard overseas," one of the men in suits chimes in. "Teleportation, for -- anomalies to appear. Or disappear. Like ghosts. I suppose this boy is an anomaly?" He squints at Sugira as though he will reveal himself to be a ghost upon closer inspection.

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"You can do this? This te-le-por-tuh -- moving instantly, you can do this magic? Are you a ghost?"

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He doesn't look like a ghost. Why would a ghost wear clothes that no one has seen before? But she sort of hopes that he's a ghost anyway, and she has no better explanation for him appearing when the lights flickered. Kouzuki deserves for ghosts to exist, to find him.

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"I can't without - items I don't have." Their language definitely does not have even a jargony word for the magic rings. "It needs technology. I'm fairly sure I'm not a ghost."

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"Sir, if I may," says another one of the men, rising to his feet on the bench-steps and bowing politely to the old man. "Clearly this boy has a wealth of stories that we might want to hear, perhaps technological insight that we might find profitable. Or, perhaps he is insane and a thief, but his composure is thus far sturdy enough that -- ahh, we might want to give ourselves more time to thoroughly come to one of these conclusions? And I do think we all wish to continue the auction."

He clears his throat behind a fist. "I propose that we accommodate him here overnight and tomorrow question him more thoroughly. And then send him into town, as he apparently thinks to be the proper protocol, or to an institution."

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He eyes their intruder narrowly. "If we shelter you overnight, you will cause no trouble? Tomorrow we will have more leisure to question one another. When you are not interrupting."

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"First define 'trouble.'"

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"Stealing things. Damaging my property, causing a mess. Interfering with the work of any of the servants. Interfering with my private affairs."

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"Don't see why I'd want to do those."

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"Hmph."

He glares at Sugira, and then glares at the Count, and then glares at Hideko for good measure. Then back at Sugira. "Hmph. If you find yourself changing your mind, about that, I can promise you will regret it." He waves his hand. "Sasaki, escort him to a room."

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An old woman in rust-colored robes steps out from a corner behind Hideko and walks neatly across the floor in small, prim steps. She bows slightly to the old man, and then grimaces a thin smile Sugira's direction.

"Come," she says shortly, lifting a lantern, and she leads the way up the stairs without looking back. The men in suits on either side shift uneasily to watch them pass.

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He glances at the men in suits, considering them, but follows the woman in silence.

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They walk between a long stretch of bookshelves, past a table displaying fine landscape paintings under glass. There are small sculptures on tables at the end of each row between shelves, which will appear unremarkable at the appropriate distance.

At the end of the room, right in the center of the floor is a statue of a cobra, coiled up and snarling at the door.

Sasaki ignores the snake. She walks neatly around it without looking down, and pulls open the sliding metal door. Beyond it is a small, unadorned foyer. Sasaki holds the second door open, and waits for Sugira to step out into the night air.

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He glances around, committing the path to memory.

"Who were those men?"

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"The Master's guests," says Sasaki, still without looking at him. Her voice is flat, and she looks straight ahead at the path before them. "Rich men who are book lovers, like the Master. But he is the richest. They visit to see the fine works he collects, every month or so."

It's not a very well-lit path, with only Sasaki's lamp to reveal it, but they walk through some sort of garden and follow a neatly maintained rock path around a pond. Then there's a longer walk through more garden, past a looming cherry tree. The tree's pale petals are ghostly in the moonlight. 

Ahead of them, finally, rises a large house.

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"And the woman?"

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“Lady Hideko,” says Sasaki after a long pause. “The Master’s niece. She has a gift for reading, and so she assists during his auctions.” Sasaki’s face finally makes an expression, not directed at him, and it’s a faint, unpleasant smile that almost looks cruel.

They enter the house through a long, Japanese-styled hallway of wood and canvas, which leads them to a large wooden hall, richly furnished and lit by elegant candles, incongruously European.

"A Japanese wing and an English wing, these are both parts of the main house," says Sasaki as she leads Sugira up the stairs, seeming to assume that 'Japanese' and 'English' will mean something to him. She says the words more fondly than she did 'Lady Hideko.'

"The Master renovated them this way as a tribute to his admiration for Japan and England." On the wall of this grand room, before them as they ascend the stairs, are two large oil paintings: one of the Lady Hideko in an elegant green dress and the other of a young girl in a red kimono, clutching a doll.

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He nods, slowly. "...Who's she?" he asks, gesturing to the young girl in the painting.

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"Lady Hideko, also," says Sasaki, glancing at the painting. "Though getting this done was a hardship. She was a disagreeable child."

The stairs lead them up to a hallway. At a certain point down the hall, Sasaki stops in front of a sliding door and pulls it open. It's an unremarkable bedroom. The mattress is bare, with the sheets folded neatly on top of it. There are some nice vases with nice plants and some very ugly green wallpaper. The room lacks an abundance of Valuables.

"This is the guest room for you," says Sasaki. "You should sleep here and not leave this room for the rest of the night."

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Uh huh.

He nods, keeping his skepticism to himself.

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Sasaki doesn't look like she likes or trusts him, but possibly this is just the way her face is.

"In the morning, I imagine Master will have you summoned, if or when he decides to meet with you. Otherwise, avoid making yourself a nuisance." She bows, understated enough to be considered rude, and then slides the door closed to leave him to his own devices.

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He explores the room, looking for cameras or other surveillance methods, for entry and exit points, for hidden latches...

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There are no cameras. 

There is a very small concealed hole in the wall, in the shadow of a wardrobe where the light doesn't fall on the uneven patch naturally. The hole is covered by a small circle of wood and matching wallpaper, which can be swiveled out of the way with enough effort. (Possibly something exists that makes this easier to maneuver on the other side of the wall.) Nobody seems to be on the other side.

There's a window, which is painted over so that it won't open, but the glass can presumably be broken if necessary. Otherwise there are no entry or exit points beside the door.

As for hidden latches: one of the drawers in the wardrobe has a false bottom, but nothing is currently hidden there.

The room sadly isn't very exciting.

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