Stormblood Text 2: Kugane

[Arrival in Kugane. Lyse narrates: “I remember the sea. The smell of the salt and the crash of the waves as we drew closer to Kugane….The only port open to outsiders in Hingashi, across the Ruby Sea from Othard. From Doma. All the colors of the rainbow, all the peoples of the world, all in one palce. I wish you could have seen it….”]

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Carvallain: Congratulations. You now stand in Kugane, the western port of Hingashi. Regrettably, the only port in this nation open to foreign trade.

Carvallain: Oh, and I do apologize for the unforeseen difficulties which befell us during our journey. Needless to say, your assistance in overcoming them was much appreciated.

Alphinaud: Glad though I am to have arrived, I would remind you all that we are far from home, with limited resources at our disposal…

 Alisaie: Duly noted, Brother. I shall take care not to enjoy myself. In any event, Doma is our final destination, and our first order of business should be to secure passage there.

 Alphinaud: Captain Carvallain, I realize you pledged only to take us as far as Kugane, and I have no desire to change the terms of our agreement. I should, however, be interested to know how you would go about reaching Othard, were you in our position.

 Carvallain: At the risk of stating the obvious…you are in a port. Surely there is a kind and generous soul here who will aid you for the right price? You cannot be the first travelers seeking passage to Doma.

 Alphinaud: …The captain makes a good point. ‘Tis like that Yugiri and Gosetsu were forced to come here for the selfsame reasons we were. They must have found a way to Othard─assuming they are not still in the city.

Alphinaud: Hmm… Ere we seek passage, mayhap we should first seek our friends.

Tataru: Leave it to me, Alphinaud! Making friendly inquiries is my specialty. Lest you forget, I got plenty of practice in Ishgard!

 Tataru: Captain Carvallain, could you direct us to the nearest tavern?

Carvallain: Desperate for a drink, are we? You may find one in that large building just beyond the pier.

 Carvallain: Whether your journeys have come to an end or are about to begin, the Shiokaze Hostelry is an ideal place to rest, relax, and reflect. Or so they say.

Carvallain: And with that, my dear Scions, I bid you farewell. As soon as we have replenished our supplies, we must away. Ours was ever a fast-moving business.

Alisaie: The “spice trade,” you mean?

Carvallain: But of course. Surely you did not think I traveled halfway around the world and delivered you to your destination solely out of the kindness of my heart?

Alphinaud: Perish the thought. Thank you, Captain, and may the Navigator watch over and keep you.

Alphinaud: Right, then. To the hostelry?

Tataru: After you!

 

 [In the hostelry lobby]

Alphinaud: By the Twelve… I thought Ishgard remarkable, but this… We are certainly not in Eorzea anymore.

Tataru: Hee hee hee! A tavern is a tavern, Alphinaud, here or anywhere else! Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to do what I do best!

 

[Tataru starts to run off to find someone to cheat at cards, but bumps into a spectacles-wearing Hyur man.]

 

???: Oh! A thousand pardons, my lady.

???: The Scions of the Seventh Dawn, I presume? I hope your voyage was not too trying.

Alisaie: …And you are?

Hancock: Ah, yes, of course! Forgive me. Hancock, of the East Aldenard Trading Company, at your service. On behalf of Chairman Lolorito, I bid you welcome to Kugane, and invite you to take refreshments at our local offices.

 Alphinaud: Lolorito? I was aware his interests extended beyond the borders of Eorzea, but not so far as Kugane.

Alphinaud: Regardless, I am disinclined to accept the hospitality of grinning merchants─especially those who serve a master with whom we have such a difficult relationship.

Hancock: My, such naked suspicion!

 Hancock: I do hope that business with the Crystal Braves did not rob you of all faith in your fellow man. Or do you really think the chairman is plotting to drag you into another one of his grand schemes?

Alphinaud: I beg your pardon!? If you are trying to win my trust, you are failing quite spectacularly.

Hancock: Oh dear, have I offended you?

Hancock: Once again, I must apologize. Too much time in the Far East, you see. One is compelled to talk in circles around everything here, and one finds oneself longing for the invigoratingly candid speech of the Ul’dahn markets…though I see now that this was neither the time nor the place to indulge said longing.

Hancock: …Might I suggest that we continue this conversation at the company offices? Too many eyes and ears here, you understand. ‘Twould be decidedly reckless to say any more.

Alphinaud: If I may favor you with the invigorating candor you apparently crave─it would be decidedly reckless to follow a man I neither know nor trust. Give me one good reason why we should accept Lord Lolorito’s invitation.

Hancock: Now, there’s the young diplomat I was told to expect! Very well, then, I shall explain. You understand that you are come to a most reclusive and secretive nation, yes? One whose borders are closed to foreign trade save at this single port?

Hancock: Then it should come as no surprise that a great many parties have vested interests here. Merchants like myself are a given, of course, but for every one of us, you may be certain there is also an agent of a foreign government.

 Hancock: Many notable nations and empires have embassies here, you know─including, of course, the Garlean Empire, with whom you have such a…difficult relationship.

Alisaie: To paraphrase, Kugane is teeming with imperial spies, one or several of whom could now be listening to our every word.

Hancock: Something to that effect, yes. Beneath this veneer of bustling trade, a war for supremacy is being waged between world powers. One might say we were standing on the front lines…just not in public.

Alisaie: I still have my doubts, but he may have a point. I say we accept his invitation─for now.

Hancock: And you must be Auric Seagard! Slayer of Gods… Rider of Dragons… Savior of Ishgard… Stealer of Pants─if some of the more puzzling rumors are to be believed.

Hancock: I knew it! May I say what an honor and a pleasure it is to make your acquaintance, good sir. I just know you and I are going to get along famously!

Hancock: Now then, without further ado, allow me to escort you to the company offices.

Hancock: This being your first visit to our fair city, I shall make an effort to point out various landmarks along the way. If you would be so good as to follow me!

[The Grand Tour]:

Hancock: Everyone! If I could have your attention, please. You are now standing in Tenkonto.

Hancock: Loosely translated, the name means “spire of drifting souls,” which─as some of you may have deduced─makes reference to the aetheryte which stands over yonder.

Alphinaud: Hmm… The design is markedly different from those of Sharlayan, yet I trust its function is identical?

Hancock: A diplomat and a scholar! Will wonders never cease.

Hancock: Far Eastern aetheryte technologies have a long and storied tradition, I assure you. This particular example was constructed by the Onishishu, a collective of skilled craftsmen, who guard their ancestral techniques with the utmost secrecy.

Hancock: In short, you will find it no less reliable than its western counterparts. Attune, if you like.

Hancock: Beautiful though it may be, we cannot spend all day staring at the aetheryte.

Hancock: Come, come, let us move along. The markets are next!

Hancock: We have arrived at the largest shopping district in Kugane:  Kogane Dori!

Hancock: “Kugane,“ as you are doubtless unaware, is an ancient Hingan word for gold. So, in this prosperous port where golden fortunes are made, lesser fortunes, or ”kogane,“ are earned by the local merchants. It’s all quite logical once you learn the language.

Tataru: Heh heh heh… Now you’re beginning to speak my language…

Hancock: Oho! A kindred spirit! What a pleasure it is to meet a young lady who appreciates the value of hard-won coin!

???: Hancock of the East Aldenard Trading Company. You are with clients today?

Hancock: Why, if it isn’t Master Keiten! Pray allow me to introduce to you my esteemed guests, but recently come from distant Eorzea.

Hancock: This kind and generous soul supervises all transactions here in Kogane Dori.

Keiten: Your sincerity is ever appreciated. As he says, I am Keiten of the Hakuuchi clan, and it is my honor to serve as overseer of these markets.

Keiten: As we receive many foreign visitors in Kugane, we accept all manner of currencies. Rest assured, your Eorzean gil are welcome here. I invite you to peruse our wares at your leisure.

Hancock: Arms, armor, foodstuffs, potables─here you will find all of them and more.

Hancock: If we may pause here for a moment…

Hancock: This road leads to the Ijin-gai

Alphinaud: Would this also be where the foreign embassies are found─including that of a certain empire?

Hancock: Precisely. So you see, it would not be at all unusual to cross paths with one of our Garlean cousins here. With this in mind, I would encourage you to choose your words carefully. We would not want any physical altercations, after all, such spats being strictly forbidden!

Hancock: The Sekiseigumi punish breaches of the peace quite severely. I have seen foreigners permanently exiled for a single violation─though, to be fair, this is not common. More often than not, they are executed on the spot.

Lyse: What, cut down then and there!? You’re joking, right?

Hancock: Would that I were, but alas, these samurai are a humorless lot.

Hancock: Why, I recall one instance when a foreign merchant in his cups dared lay hands upon a Hingan aristocrat in front of a Sekiseigumi. The samurai cut him in half with a single stroke.

Lyse: Ugh, I don’t even want to think about that…

Hancock: So, as you see, it would behoove you to behave. Failing that, we may be forced to “part ways” with one another─or you with yourselves, in the manner of the late Teledji Adeledji!

[Hancock laughs uproariously. The group stares at him.]

Hancock: …Oh, how I amuse myself. But we must carry on! I have yet to show you the Garlean Consulate!

Hancock: This, as you may have surmised, is the consulate of you-know-who. Mark the guards at the gate─are their uniforms not different from those you have seen in the West?

Hancock: Were you to travel far and wide, you would find that many such variations exist, often inspired by local designs. All of which goes to show that even a massive empire seeking to rule all of creation is not without its artisans!

Hancock: There is oh so much more I could speak of─the soothing waters of the onsen, the ephemeral delights of the pleasure district─but you are doubtless still weary from your long sea voyage.

Hancock: Let us retire to the company offices.

East Aldenard Trading Company Aide: Greetings, sirs and ladies, and welcome to the Kugane branch offices of the East Aldenard Trading Company.

Hancock: At long last, we arrive at our destination. May I present to you our humble offices.

Hancock: We have much to discuss, so I will refrain from further prattle. Come, come, right this way!

Hancock: Our thaumaturges took great pains to ward these walls against all manner of surveillance. Where business dealings are concerned, we do not compromise on confidentiality.

Hancock: You may avail yourselves of these offices for the duration of your visit. Come and go as you like, and know that you may speak freely here.

Alphinaud: Your offer is most generous, but I will not enter into any agreement which would leave us beholden to you or your master.

Hancock: A legitimate concern. Allow me to clarify, then:  the chairman bids you consider this as an expression of his heartfelt contrition for the bloody banquet and the unpleasantness which followed.

Hancock: Never having been one to put stock in words alone, the chairman deems the provision of material aid to be a more appropriate demonstration of his sincerity.

Hancock: By sheer coincidence, your purpose here also happens to coincide with our own interests. That is, assuming you are come to aid the Doman Liberation Front?

Alphinaud: How could─ …Hm. I will not bother to offer a denial. Aye, you have the right of it. To be specific, we are come in search of our Far Eastern allies, Yugiri and Gosetsu, whom we hope to assist in their fight.

Hancock: The Auri shinobi and the Roegadyn samurai? Then you will be pleased to know that they have both come to Kugane.

Lyse: Are you sure?

Hancock: Quite. They came here aboard a company vessel, you see. However, they encountered difficulties securing passage across the Ruby Sea.

Lyse: The Ruby Sea? Sorry, I’ve never been any good at geography.

Hancock: Forgive me. This calls for a map.

Hancock: We are here, in Kugane. The sole open port of Hingashi, situated on her western coast.

Hancock: Doma, meanwhile, is here, on the eastern coast of Othard, in Yanxia.

Hancock: Therefore, if your friends are to reach Doma, they must first cross the Ruby Sea.

Hancock: Alas, this is easier said than done as the Ruby Sea does not fall within the dominion of either Hingashi or Doma, being controlled since antiquity by a third party:  namely, the Confederacy.

Hancock: Said maritime collective is known for the consummate skill of its sailors…and for demanding that any vessel entering its waters pay a toll referred to as the “Ruby Tithe.” In exchange, the Confederacy’s vast fleet “guarantees the safety” of those who travel within its territory.

Hancock: Now, as I am sure you are aware, Garlemald conquered Doma some twenty-five years past, at which time the Empire saw no value in controlling the Ruby Sea. And thus did they turn a blind eye to the activities of the Confederacy.

Hancock: The recently appointed acting imperial viceroy of Doma had other ideas, however. She has formally condemned the Confederacy and declared that any who recognize their authority shall be branded enemies of the Empire.

Hancock: Bowing to this pressure, Hingashi severed ties with these toll-takers and forbade the payment of the Ruby Tithe, prompting the Confederacy to make it known that any merchants choosing to sail the Ruby Sea would do so at their peril…

Alisaie: No wonder they struggled to secure passage to Doma. What captain would risk such a journey given the circumstances?

Hancock: I am told your friends were not so easily deterred from their course, but I know not whether their persistence bore fruit.

Alphinaud: I say we follow in Yugiri and Gosetsu’s footsteps and attempt to secure passage to Doma for ourselves. We will need to cross the sea in any case, and we may learn something of their whereabouts in the process.

Alphinaud: And should we find that they are still in Kugane, we can make the journey together.

Hancock: In that case, I have some information which may be of use to you. No quid pro quo, I assure you─the chairman was most insistent that I aid you to the best of my ability…

Alphinaud: Though I am reluctant to take any action whatsoever that could be construed as placing ourselves in Lord Lolorito’s debt…we must avail ourselves of what means are available.

Alphinaud: Our Ala Mhigan allies placed their faith in us, and I do not intend to disappoint them…

Alphinaud: It would seem inefficient for us all to venture out together in search of information on Yugiri and Gosetsu’s whereabouts. Agreed?

Alisaie: Agreed. We need to cast our net wider─split up and pursue all available avenues of inquiry. But if we’re to coordinate our efforts effectively, we’ll need to establish a working base of operations here.

Alphinaud: Indeed. Tataru would seem best suited to the task of organizing our supplies and procuring new ones.

Alphinaud: While she attends to that, we four can begin our search by questioning the individuals Hancock identified. Alisaie and I will take those in the southern districts of the city, and the two of you can take those in the north.

Alphinaud: In, uh…anticipation of just such an eventuality, I took the liberty of preparing some few sketches of Yugiri and Gosetsu during our voyage.

Lyse: Wow… Y’shtola warned me that you were a bit of an artist, but these are great! They’ll definitely come in handy.

Lyse: Looks like it’s you and me, Auric. Let’s step outside and talk about where to start!

Lyse: Wow, Alphinaud’s sketches are so… I don’t know how to put it, but they’re very…

Lyse: Well, see for yourself!

 Lyse: It looks more like them than they do! Honestly, he could make a living doing this…

Lyse: Ah, sorry, sorry! No time for distractions! Why don’t we start by visiting…Karaku at the…on-something? Onsun? Onsan? Onsen! That was it!

 [At the spa]

Karaku: Come one, come all! Burns, cuts, embarrassing rashes─there is naught that the mystical waters of the Bokaisen Hot Springs cannot heal!

Karaku: Ho, what is that in your hand?

Karaku: Hmm…you seek this Au Ra and this Roegadyn, do you?

Karaku: A thousand apologies, but I cannot help you. It is against our policy to divulge information regarding patrons past or present.

Lyse: Please! We came all the way from Eorzea to find our friends!

Karaku: We have our reputation to consider, miss. Men and women from all walks of life come here in search of rejuvenation─body and soul.

Karaku: They seek privacy and discretion, and we have ever honored their wishes. Only the Sekiseigumi may demand otherwise. I am sorry, but there is naught I can do.

Lyse: I suppose we’ll just have to ask someone else, then. What about that woman who runs the hostelry? Kotokaze, was it?

Kotokaze: Welcome, traveler. Can I interest you in some rice wine? Exceptional quality, delivered but the other day…

 Kotokaze: …Ah. An Auri shinobi and a Roegadyn samurai. If I may, I would answer your question with some few of mine own.

Kotokaze: If I speak of that which you know, ijin, be not offended. You are familiar with the situation in the lands across the Ruby Sea? The doomed rebellion, after two and a half decades of quiet?

Kotokaze: I see. And you are familiar with the ways of Hingashi? How we elect to stand apart and support no cause but our own? Indifferent and callous, some may call us, but pragmatism is essential if a humble island nation such as ours is to survive.

Kotokaze: But we are not fools. Complete isolation is impractical. And so Kugane is open to ijin, and we are equally hospitable to all. Or, if I must speak more plainly: Yes, I can help you. But if I do, I must also oblige the ones who ask after you.

Kotokaze: Are you willing to accept this fair and equitable treatment?

Lyse: If anyone comes looking for us, tell them whatever you like.

Kotokaze: As you wish. The two individuals of whom you speak did indeed come here. They sought passage across the Ruby Sea.

Kotokaze: Few ships are willing to make the trip at the moment. Nevertheless, I made several introductions on their behalf. That was the extent of our interaction.

Kotokaze: I will provide you with the names of the captains, if you like.

Lyse: You’ve been a great help, Mistress Kotokaze. I’ll be sure to come back for that wine sometime.

Kotokaze: We would welcome your custom, miss.

Lyse: We should question these captains as soon as we can. You take the first three, I’ll take the rest, and we’ll meet here when we’ve finished. All right? Good luck!

 

Curt Captain: …Yes, a Roegadyn gentleman did approach me. He wanted to charter a ship to take him across the Ruby Sea, the mad devil.

Curt Captain: I sent him away, like all the others before him. The woman? Nay, I know her not.

 

Hannish Spice Trader: You ask me if I have seen this Auri woman and this Roegadyn samurai? Hmm… The woman is unknown to me, but the man is not.

Hannish Spice Trader: He was for Doma, but I could not help him. We travel solely between here and Radz-at-Han. It would be an unreasonable detour.

 

Meticulous Merchant: Passengers? No. We no longer offer that service. Too much trouble. Now, we only transport goods. I told this to the samurai and sent him on his way.

Meticulous Merchant: The woman? Pah. If it is women you seek, the pleasure houses have plenty.

 

Lyse: How did it─ Oh. Never mind. Judging from the look on your face, you didn’t have much better luck than I did…

Lyse: Well, I suppose we might as well head back to─ Wait! I’ve just remembered!

Lyse: There was someone on my list I forgot to visit: Gyodo.

Lyse: He’s a “Namazu” fisherman─whatever that means─and a regular here. Maybe we’ll find him if we look around?

 [He’s a short talking catfish standing on his hind legs with a bell around his neck.  Being on land apparently isn’t bothering him.]

Gyodo: …What, what? Why do you stare? You have business with me?

Lyse: By the Twelve, a talking fish!

Gyodo: Yes, yes, a talking fish. How very observant of you, ijin. <sigh> You find me in good spirits, so your rudeness I will ignore this once─but only if you address me again in the proper manner.

Lyse: Sorry, I’ve never met a─ Let’s start again. You’re Gyodo, right? My name is Lyse, and this is Auric. We’re looking for some friends of ours…

Gyodo: I see, I see… Both these ones I know well. I helped them secure passage across the Ruby Sea.

Lyse: Really? That’s wonderful! Could you do the same for us?

Gyodo: Yes, yes, this would not be a problem. For you, I could charter a ship this very day.

Gyodo: But the journey is fraught with much peril! The fare will not be cheap. Are you sure you can afford to pay?

 Lyse: I didn’t think to bring any money…but surely Tataru will let us take whatever we need from the Scions’ coffers, right?

 Lyse: We wouldn’t be the only passengers, though… Could we take a moment to talk it over with our friends?

Gyodo: Yes, yes, but hurry! Your ship must depart under cover of darkness. We shall meet again at sunset on the Tasogare Bridge. Do not forget your fare! Bring many gil, yes!?

Lyse: It’s about time our luck changed! Alphinaud and the others will be thrilled!

 [In the Ruby Bazaar offices]:

Alphinaud: We spoke with a number of merchants and captains at the southern piers.

Alphinaud: Several recognized Gosetsu and confirmed that he had been searching for a vessel to deliver him to Othard. None, however, made any mention of Lady Yugiri…

Lyse: Yes, it was the same story for us─and then you’ll never believe what happened…!

Alphinaud: …So this Gyodo claims to have aided both Gosetsu and Yugiri? How fortuitous.

Hancock: Not the word I would have chosen, Master Alphinaud.

Tataru: Stupid’s what I’d call it! How can you agree to his price without making any attempt to haggle? Or even confirming what it was in the first place!?

Hancock: Yes…that too was a misstep on their part, but it is not what troubles me most. Gyodo and his brethren are not renowned for their generosity of spirit. Rather, they are disdained as scheming moneylenders, ever eager to turn a profit from others’ misfortune.

Alisaie: Everyone else we questioned stated that Gosetsu was alone. Only Gyodo claims to have met both him and Yugiri…

Alisaie: I suppose it’s just possible that Gosetsu made inquiries by himself, and only called upon Yugiri once he had found a willing captain…?

Hancock: …But it is equally possible─if not more likely─that you are being deceived. Do not forget that there are parties present in Kugane with agendas which may run contrary to your own.

Hancock: The viceroy was once a spy herself, as I recall. I should be surprised if she did not have countless agents here in her employ─all eager to prove themselves to their new master. And what better way to do so than by delivering her the heads of foreign insurgents?

Lyse: Fine. You may be right about him. But if Gyodo’s working for the Empire, who’s to say he didn’t try the same trick on Yugiri and Gosetsu? I mean, if he did, he might know where they are. And if he succeeded, they might be in trouble!

Lyse: Anyway, if he holds up his end of the bargain, we’ll have nothing to worry about, will we? But if he tries to betray us, I vote we take him prisoner and punch him till he tells us the truth.

Alisaie: So, if it’s a trap, we’ll spring it and deal with the consequences. Hmm…I like the way you think.

Alphinaud: <sigh> Very well… We should prepare for the worst. Tataru will remain here, and I shall follow the three of you at a discreet distance.

Hancock: Once more, I must caution you to avoid physical altercations at all costs─even should imperial agents attempt to engage you. The Sekiseigumi will not hesitate to clap you in irons…or cut you down.

Hancock: If anything untoward should happen, you are to return here at once. Is that clear?

Alisaie: To review: The viceroy was once a spy herself, as I recall. I should be surprised if she did not have countless agents here in her employ─all eager to prove themselves to their new master. And what better way to do so than by delivering her the heads of foreign insurgents?

Alisaie: Alphinaud will keep watch from a distance, ready to provide support in the likely event that Gyodo attempts to betray us to the imperials or whomever else.

Alisaie: Should that happen, you and Lyse will subdue him, and together we will make our escape.

Alisaie: As our actions will surely draw the attention of the Sekiseigumi, we will evade them with Alphinaud’s assistance and return here with our prisoner. Does that meet with everyone’s approval?

Alisaie: Of course, these precautions will be for naught if Gyodo does not play us for fools…but we shall see. To the bridge!

[At the bridge]

Alisaie: Our would-be ally is nowhere to be seen… Make ready, Auric. Something smells…fishy…

Alisaie: He’s late…

[Gyodo waddles up.]

Gyodo: Endless and most sincere apologies to you and yours, yes, yes. This way, this way. Quickly now!

Alisaie: Enough. Where are you taking us? Where is the ship?

Gyodo: The ship, the ship… So very sorry to inform you, yes, yes. Long before was it pledged to another.

Gyodo: To me, to me! These ones are for Doma!

[Several Imperial soldiers appear]

Lyse: <sigh> I knew it couldn’t be this simple…

Gyodo: Nothing personal, yes, yes? Just business.

Lyse: Then business is about to take a turn for the worse…

[Lyse punches out Gyodo and slings the traitorous fish over her shoulder.]

Lyse: Come on, let’s find a way out of here!

Alphinaud: Disappointing, but not surprising. In retrospect, we probably should have─

Alisaie: Quiet, Brother! Fight now, talk after!

 Lyse: I’ll hold on to Gyodo! You deal with the imperials!

 [FIGHT! Alphinaud, Alisaie, and the Warrior of Light against five Imperial soldiers. No sweat. But alarm whistles sound nearby.]

Alisaie: As expected, the Sekiseigumi have caught our scent. Since fighting them is out of the question, we’ll have to wind our way back to the Ruby Bazaar, evading their patrols as we go.

Alisaie: If they find you, use these smoke bombs to make your escape!

[Alisaie hands over nine smoke bombs. It’s a sneaking mission, Snake of Light!]

Alphinaud: Split up and head for the Ruby Bazaar! And remember: under no circumstances must you engage the Sekiseigumi!

Sekiseigumi Blade: You there! Lay down your arms and surrender at once!

Lyse: Dammit, they’ve found us! Use a smoke bomb so we can escape!

 

[Poof!]

 

Lyse: Nice work! Now, let’s find a way out of here…

Lyse: <huff> <puff> That was close. Now, which way to the Ruby Bazaar…?

Lyse: The streets are crawling with Sekiseigumi…Keep those smoke bombs ready.

Lyse: Oh bugger─they’ve got a whole squadron out front! What do we do now, Auric?

[Suddenly a Ninja Turtle appears. No that is not a typo.]

Curious Kojin: Come with me. I will guide you to your friends.

Lyse: First a talking fish, and now a tortoise? <sigh>What have we got to lose?

[The Ninja Turtle leads the group away from the guards]

Alphinaud: Thank the Twelve you made it! I feared our Kojin friend might not find you in time.

Curious Kojin: Everything is going to be all right. Trust me…

[Three guards approach the hiding spot]

Curious Kojin: Stay hidden and quiet. Understood?

[The Ninja Turtle steps out into the road.]

Sekiseigumi Blade: Clear the road! Clear the road!

Sekiseigumi Blade: You there, Kojin! We seek four foreigners─one a brutish woman carrying an unconscious Namazu. Have you seen them?

Curious Kojin: Four foreigners, you say? Ah, yes! Very rude they were, making no apology as they barged past. They went that way, I think.

Sekiseigumi Blade: Many thanks, good sir!

Sekiseigumi Blade: With me! They cannot have gone far!

[The guards run off in the wrong direction.]

Curious Kojin: All is well. The Sekiseigumi will not return this way for some time, I should think.

Curious Kojin: You are of the East Aldenard Trading Company, yes? Come with me.I know a safer way.

[The Ninja Turtle leads the group to a back entrance of the Ruby Bazaar where Hancock is waiting.]

Hancock: You are returned─and with guests, I see.

[Lyse drops the twitching catfish-man onto the floor.]

Lyse: Our meeting went about as well as expected. We’ve brought the Namazu who thought to betray us. When he wakes up, we’ll see what he knows about Yugiri and Gosetsu.

Hancock: Well done you. When I saw the Sekiseigumi out in force, I did begin to worry, but I see my fears were misplaced.

Lyse: Actually, if it weren’t for Soroban, we might not’ve gotten away…

[She points to the Ninja Turtle, whose name it seems is Soroban.]

Soroban: ‘Twas my pleasure.

Alphinaud: Yet I must ask, Soroban: why would you deceive the Sekiseigumi to help us─foreigners of whom you know naught?

Soroban: Why, out of the kindness of my heart…is what I would like to say, but my motives are not so pure.

Soroban: I chanced to witness your meeting with Hancock at the tavern, and saw an opportunity.

Hancock: An opportunity?

Soroban: Like many, I came to Kugane as a trader to make my fortune.Kojin of the Red may serve the Empire as mercenaries, but Kojin of the Blue walk a different path.

Soroban: Regretfully, most here would rather not meet our gaze, much less do business.

Soroban: So I seek the custom of those less predisposed to dismiss us outright. Namely, the East Aldenard Trading Company.

Alphinaud: Quid pro quo, is it? Well, there is no denying that we owe you a debt. What say you, Hancock? Will you consider doing business with our entrepreneurial friend here?

Hancock: Rest assured, Master Soroban, that in matters of trade the company does not discriminate. We would be honored to hear your proposal.

Soroban: I promise you will not regret this, good sir!

Soroban: Ah, yes─you sought passage across the Ruby Sea, did you not? I have a ship you can use.

Alphinaud: You do? Well, then! Far be it from us to refuse! You have our deepest thanks.

Soroban: And you mine

Lyse: I’m still annoyed he tried to deceive us, but at least we were prepared for it.

Lyse: Even so, next time we should probably try to avoid running around Kugane in the middle of the night with half the city guard snapping at our heels…

Lyse: Right, then. Gyodo should be coming round soon.

Lyse: I think it’s time we had a little chat, don’t you?

Lyse: Rise and shine, little fishy. I know you can hear me, so stop pretending to be asleep or I’ll give you another ride on my boot.

Gyodo: …No! No, no, no more boots! All my secrets are yours for the asking!

Lyse: Tell us what you know about Yugiri and Gosetsu. Every last detail.

Lyse: And if I find out later that you lied to me─

Gyodo: No, no, no more lies! The clear, unvarnished truth! You have my word!

Gyodo: Only the samurai did I meet. Yes, yes, only him! He asked after a ship, so I provided an introduction to…to the Garleans…

Alisaie: You mean you led him into a trap, as you did us. Because you are an imperial spy.

Gyodo: No, no, I am no spy! It was just business! Fewer ships pass through Kugane these days, and we have struggled to make ends meet…

Gyodo: So when the Garleans offered a bounty for any Domans found in Kugane─

Alisaie: Oh, my mistake! You’re not a spy, but a common cutthroat! Not that I’m surprised─you need half a brain to be a spy. So what happened to the samurai?

Gyodo: Such a cruel, vicious tongue you have…He would not go quietly, no, no. Blades were drawn, men were cut down, and the Sekiseigumi came. They took the samurai away.

Hancock: Hold on a moment! You mean to tell me the ijin they arrested the other day was Gosetsu?

Hancock: Oh, had I but known! If he is in the custody of the Sekiseigumi, I need only see to it that the requisite funds find their way into the right official’s hands, and your friend will walk free.

Alphinaud: As it is in Ul’dah, so it is in Kugane…but given the circumstances, it seems we have no choice but to resort to morally questionable means.

Hancock: We’ll make a pragmatist of you yet, Master Alphinaud!

Hancock: You are free to wait here while I speak with the relevant official, but if you would rather wait for Gosetsu outside the barracks, we can go together.

Alisaie: I wouldn’t put it past the imperials to try something again, so mayhap it would be best if Lyse, Auric, and I joined you.

Lyse: All right, but what about Gyodo?

Alphinaud: I will keep an eye on him for the time being. We can release him after you return with Gosetsu. He will doubtless have some choice words to say to the little fellow. Soroban─mayhap it would be prudent to prepare your ship for our immediate departure.

Soroban: As you wish!

Hancock: Everything is in order? Then let us be off. The Sekiseigumi Barracks are to the north.

 [At the Barracks]

Hancock: I must ask that you wait here. You may be assured that this will not take long.

Lyse: …Is it really going to be as simple as he says, do you think?

[We wait.]

Lyse: …He said it wouldn’t take long, right? Because this feels a bit long to me.

Alisaie: Calm down, Lyse. Everything is going to be all right. Much as I hate to admit it, I share Hancock’s dim view of government officials and their supposed incorruptibility.

Alisaie: From what I’ve gleaned of the Far East, they’re probably exchanging lengthy pleasantries. There seems to be a correct way to do everything here, bribery being no exception. I say we leave them to it. Right, Auric?

Lyse: Right, right. Everything’s fine. Probably. I mean, it couldn’t be as bad as the last time we stood around waiting for something to happen…

[We wait some more.]

[Suddenly a shout from the barracks!]

Gosetsu: Have at you! AAAHHH!

Lyse: Was that…?

Lyse: That was Gosetsu! I’m sure of it! He’s in trouble!

[Lyse runs into the barracks]

Alisaie: Lyse, wai─ <sigh> …I suppose we should follow her, then.

[Inside the barracks, Gosetsu is… ]

[…having a friendly sparring match with some of the guards.]

Sekiseigumi Blade: Victory to the samurai!

Gosetsu: Hah hah hah hah hah! How many is that, now? Ten in a row?

Lyse: Gosetsu!

Gosetsu: Oho! This is a surprise! What in blue blazes are you three doing here?

Lyse: I could ask you the same thing! We’ve been looking all over for you─and then I suddenly heard you screaming!

Alisaie: …So, in summary: you started a brawl with some off-duty imperial soldiers and were subsequently arrested by the Sekiseigumi, whom you somehow befriended and convinced to set you free if you could defeat a given number of them in single combat?

Gosetsu: Ten bouts for my freedom, aye!’Tis but a pity you came too late to witness the last one.

Gosetsu: And with that, I am free to go, yes?

Sekiseigumi Blade: Our word, once given, may not be broken─but we pray you make every effort to avoid future altercations.

Sekiseigumi Blade: Circumstances notwithstanding, my lord, we are honored and grateful to have witnessed firsthand the skill of a Doman samurai.

[Hancock walks up]

Hancock: Ah. And we had just concluded negotiations.I gather my assistance was not required?

[A collective shrug. The group walks out of the barracks with Gosetsu in tow.]

Gosetsu: I must apologize. That you endured such trials and tribulations in search of me─

Alisaie: There’s no need for that. You had no way of knowing we would come looking for you.

Alisaie: You were after a ship to take you to Doma, yes? It just so happens we have found a willing captain.

Gosetsu: Truly? What fortune!

Alisaie: We will tell you all about it back at the company offices. Alphinaud and Tataru are waiting for us there.

[Back at the Ruby Bazaar office]

Alphinaud: Gosetsu! Thank the Twelve you are unharmed!

Gosetsu: As you can see, Master Alphinaud, I am the very picture of health!

Gosetsu: You! Vile fiend! Malevolent trickster! How kind the kami are to grant me vengeance so soon. But first, I demand you return the coin you so villainously embezzled from me!

Gyodo: Y-You have every right to be angry, good sir! Gladly would I return to you your coin…had I not been forced to repay certain gambling debts beforehand…

Alphinaud: Setting that matter aside for the moment─where is Lady Yugiri? Was she not traveling with you?

Gosetsu: For a time, aye, but we parted ways some while ago, the better to improve our chances of finding Lord Hien.

Lyse: Lord Hien?

Gosetsu: Forgive me, I have yet to explain. Lord Hien is the heir to Doma’s throne, and our master.

Gosetsu: His was a passionate voice for the cause of Doman liberation, and when we learned of the Emperor’s death, it only grew louder…

Alphinaud: So you seized upon the opportunity and rose up to reclaim your freedom…only for your hopes to be dashed when Zenos led his army unto your lands.

Gosetsu: The crown prince was a merciless foe. Against him and the might of the XIIth, we had no chance.

Gosetsu: Once Lord Hien understood this, he bade Yugiri take to the sea with as many of our people as possible. He, however, would stand and fight, that they might have more time to escape…

Gosetsu: I remained by his side as well, and together we carried on our doomed war. And then, one day, in a fierce battle, we were separated. I knew not what became of him─only that he was beyond the Empire’s reach, and that to find him, I would need Yugiri’s aid.

Gosetsu: The situation grows more perilous by the day, for the new viceroy, Yotsuyu, is a black-hearted villainess who delights in the torment of our people. There is naught she would not do to further her pursuit of Lord Hien.

Alphinaud: Thank you. I believe that makes matters a good deal clearer.

Alphinaud: It should please you to learn that we are come to aid the Doman Liberation Front in resuming their efforts to overthrow their imperial oppressors.

Gosetsu: Then allow me to join you! My inquiries here bore no fruit, hence my desire to return to Othard.

Gosetsu: Once there, I can lead you to our headquarters in Yanxia, where we shall all be reunited with Yugiri!

Alisaie: Mayhap not all. Alphinaud’s talents would seem better applied here in Kugane, working closely with Tataru and Hancock to feed us intelligence. There is a Garlean embassy just down the road, after all─

Alphinaud: While I appreciate the vote of confidence, I should be glad to accompany you all─

Alisaie: As a soldier in the field, so to speak? Come now, Brother, a competent commander assigns his soldiers the tasks best suited to them─as you of all people should know. And you are so very good at espionage and intrigue.

Alphinaud: “…For we all must serve, each in our own way.“ Very well. It would seem my place is here.

[Alphinaud is upset that he’s to be left behind.]

Tataru: Soroban is waiting at the pier. Have fun, you lot!

 [At the docks]

Soroban: I have been waiting for you, my friends. All preparations have been completed, and my ship awaits its passengers.

Soroban: Shall we depart without further delay?

[“After you, my shelled friend!”]

 

Go on to Part 3: The Ruby Sea

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