"This should be Naomasa-sama's offices, if the layout is the same as in the first wing," Aika's samurai guard mutters, checking over the heavy wrought-iron door that now stood before the pair. There was a certain foreboding to it that she had not felt anywhere else in the Palace, a sense of great power and energy just beyond the portal that could be either exciting or aberrant, depending on one's perspective. "I, uh, suppose I'll just knock then, shall I?" the other asks, blushing slightly as he looks to Aika for approval.
"About time." After confirming the door itself was not magical and was unlikely pose any threat itself, Aika stepped forward along with her temporary escort. The nekomata, though capable of patience at times, was getting tired of dealing with these simpletons. Whatever lay beyond this door sensed promising, though she still hadn't decided on a precise goal. It wasn't those Hashinara fools' fault that she was embarrassed and exiled from Yamato. That cheating Hyakki Yagyou bitch would pay for that, in time. But, while the lords of Yamato seemed a decent bunch, it wasn't clear if they had much to offer. In contrast, the grandiose ziggurat in which she now trespassed... this was truly a sign of men with wealth and power. The question was, would that power prove greater than that of Yoshiyuki-hime's mysterious "advisor"? That man had piqued her interest like none before. How was he unaffected by her magic? What secrets did he keep? "Hmmmmm, I should see if the book can shed some light on that man. But first, the task at hand..." As usual, a jubilant expression and bubbly demeanor mask her true thoughts and intentions. She turned to the man beside her and, as excruciatingly flirtatiously as one could imagine, replies, "Oh, yes! But can Aika try it, too? Let's do it together! Nyahaha!" Aika holds up a hand alongside the guard's and prepares to knock the mysterious door along with him.
For a moment, there is no reply. The solid sound of knuckles rapping on metal echoes throughout the steel halls. Then, silently, the door swings open, seemingly of its own volition, to reveal the room beyond. Ii Naomasa's office is opulently appointed. Red silks hang from the ceiling, and a great banner displaying the mon of the Tokugawa Clan, albeit in crimson tones rather than its normal black and yellow motif, hangs on the wall opposite. The center of the room is dominated by a wide wooden desk, its wood carved in flowing, flame-like patterns. Sitting with his feet kicked up on this fixture is a man, or what appears to be a man at first glance. Tall and slender, his skin a dusky, burnt color, he wears his flowing, dark hair swept back from his features and a quartet of sinister-looking horns that extend from his head in two symmetrical pairs. Upon his chest is a coat of expensive-looking white fabric, cut in a Western style which clings tightly to his body save for the flared cuffs at the ends of its sleeves. Below this is a pair of nondescript but well-tailored slacks and, of all things, pointy shoes, on full display above the surface of his desk. A small smirk forms above the man's goatee as he looks up and sees Aika, and he slides back into something more approaching a professional pose, his hands clasped before him. "Welcome, welcome," he states. Instead of the flamboyant tones which his appearance might have suggested, his voice is deep and smooth. "I'm sorry for the door trick; a bit of theatrics is expected of me. But then, you would know about that, wouldn't you?"
Aika was prepared for "something", but certainly not this. She cautiously appraises the man as he no doubt appraises her. Well-dressed, handsome features... she could not place his race, but whatever he was, he was a hottie, just like the sleepy-looking mystery man in the previous hall. If not for this one's abundant confidence, Aika might have felt the second doki doki of the day in her own heart--but, so far, only the Second Wing's mysterious guest had her interest in that regard. However, this man was still very interesting. His voice was also unexpected, in a way. But Aika hadn't forgotten where she is, nor that anyone of importance here should be taken seriously, even if they did appear a fool. This one did not appear so. Little time had passed since she found her facade unnecessary while dealing with the "Scholar" in the alley, yet she found herself again facing a man seemingly immune to her "charms". It was good to have to exercise her natural charms sometimes, too. The playfulness in her voice only moments ago was now gone as she addressed the most recently acquired guard escort, "Leave us". Pausing only long enough for the guard to excuse himself, Aika saunters toward the man with whom she shared the room--still keeping a safe gap--to a more comfortable speaking distance. She felt her own magic around her and separated it from the rest of the room to check for anything of note, but predominantly for any coming from... "Ii Naomasa-sama, I presume?", the nekomata grinned with what seemed to be at least a modicum of genuine respect. And a great deal of interest.
The room is conspicuously free of magic, lacking even the lingering traces that might indicate wizardry had been cast in here in the past. By the same token, Ii Naomasa also has no traces of magical energy on him, though he is not without spiritual power. Either he is not a caster of the same type as Aika, or he is just as good at hiding his talents. As the Nekomata observes this, she also catches sight of the man's eyes. They are sharp and focused, with black sclera around a deep red iris and, more than that, Aika gets the sensation that they are piercing her, cutting through all her layers of magic to see the real person below. "You presume correctly," he replies, hands still clasped in front of him, "It has been a long time since I last had a visitor. Not many are skilled enough to reach even the second Wing of this palace. Please, won't you sit down and introduce yourself?" Naomasa gestures toward a plush red chair located directly across from him and the ornate desk. In the same motion, he gracefully slips his fingers around the neck of a bottle of Western wine, pouring a modest measure of deep crimson liquid into two glasses, one of which he slides in front of the proffered seat.
The magical void leaves Aika feeling uncomfortable. Even the slightest vestiges of magic were enough to normally placate her psyche, so she'd prefer not to stay in places like this for long. Noting the apparent oddity, her eyes meet those of the man addressing her. "Those eyes..." His gaze makes Aika feel naked in a way she did not enjoy. Ordinarily, she would be the one holding the advantage in this sort of contest, but seeing as she was the one who had knowingly entered the dragon's den, a situation like this was not entirely unexpected. "Still, a change soon would be nice." Unsettled, yet mustering some courage, she seeks to probe the man before her. "Is that so? I can't imagine there aren't many who would seek an audience with such a fascinating individual. I found reaching this wing to be surprisingly easy." The truth was easy enough. As she speaks, she moves between the desk and seat with feline grace. Offering a bow before sitting, the nekomata places a hand to the opposite side of her chest and properly introduces herself. "I am called Aika, and I've come here in search of men with the power to crush the Hashinara clan". Not quite a lie, though not the whole truth either. "Men such as yourself, if I am not mistaken", she adds with a deliberate, openly devious smile. Aika takes the poured glass into hand as she relaxes herself into the offered seat. "Hm. Maybe this will actually help alleviate some of the anxiety brought on by his peculiar 'aura'". She could guess well enough this was not the sort of person who would go to such lengths simply to fool a bothersome intruder into accepting a risky drink. "But only a fool would dare not check anyway." Relieved for the excuse to break eye contact, Aika swirls and agitates the wine with a gentle flick of the wrist to better discern its color. "As I understand things, this would also be in line with the objectives of the Tokugawa clan, yes?" Aika looks back to Ii Naomasa and, as conveniently appropriate, brings the glass to her nose, searching for any familiar scents--vinaceous or otherwise--as she anticipates what the man will consent to reveal.
The wine smells of grapes and strong liquor, but nothing else, even to Aika's sensitive nose. Over the lip of the glass, Ii Naomasa's features harden. His smile remains, still lending a nice accent to his handsome face, but the amusement it shows is no longer reflected in his eyes. "The Hashinara Clan," he repeats, a note of disgust deep in his voice, "You are not wrong; the destruction of that clan would see our goals greatly advanced. They are, as yet, the only force to defeat the Oda in direct combat." Naomasa brings the glass to his nose, breathing in the wine's bouquet. When he removes it, his eyes are once again focused and sharp, their previous steeliness now vanished. "We cannot move against the Hashinara. Regardless of how much of a threat they may pose, I regret that we cannot act without orders," he shifts his attention once again to Aika, his smile growing wider, "If you also have designs on them, however, perhaps we can work out a deal. An 'independent agent' working toward our own goals would not be subject to the same restrictions." He finally takes a sip of his wine, then frowns, apparently displeased with the taste, but then continues to speak, unabated save for the short pause. "You have shown that you are at least somewhat capable, else you would not be here in front of me now. So, tell me, are you interested in a job?"
Forum adventure discontinued.