Date: May 3, 2011
Jon's investigation leads him to interview the glamorous Lady Ryoko. Will he be able to find any useful information where others have already tried?
"Broken Memories Pt. 3: Digging Deeper"
The village of Kusagakure was a tense place. It wasn't forboding, the people weren't huddled in their homes quaking in fear. But every pub, every shop, every workspace was filled with people gabbing about the rumors, the war, the political figures, what this could mean. The wealthiest merchants had sold what they could, then taken their wares to less unstable climes where safety was more certain. There were no long trains of refugees or those made destitute. It just seemed as if everyone were waiting, the entire country holding a tense breath, the uneasy calm before the storm, as it were.
While the guards on duty had nearly tripled, especially with the Kirigakure presence, the village was cautious when a Kumogakure shinobi arrived. The village leaders had been cordial, if a bit suspicious, but overall the reception was a bit more welcoming than what was received at the palace. Jon was given the same level of access, unescorted, to the Village Hidden in the Grass that any visitor was, though was cautioned against aggressive posturing, as tensions were high and that the guards were in a foul mood from the long shifts. Of course, the village leaders didn't just let anyone off the street have access to the only witness they had that their might be hope to ending this fued without bloodshed.
To get to the Lady Ryoko, Saito Jon did have to be escorted into the wing of the apartments she was in, by another Jounin, no less. This might be seen as an honor, but was equally a precaution against assassination. The performer, Lady Ryoko, or rather Namei Ryoko as her real name turned out to be, was currently housed in an otherwise nondescript section of an apartment building, virtually indistinguishable from any other part of the village, anonymity helping to ensure her safety. She had a pair of Chuunin who slept in rooms next to her own, to further guard against foul play form those wishing to see the civil war erupt.
The man escorting the Kumogakure visitor was a male shinobi who looked to be just on the right side of fifty, a scar running down his cheek and disappearing down his throat into the high collar of his trenchcoat. His hair probably used to be dark, but was now a mix of salt-and-pepper gray. He was a bit gruff around the edges, as veterans tended to be, but pleasant enough, if a bit bland for a 'tour guide'. He kept his hands in his pockets, and, when he withdraws one to knock upon the door labeled 'Room E-5', it becomes apparent they are covered in thick, dark gloves, despite the overabundance of warm and pleasant weather.
After a moment of no answer, Inimitsu (as he had introduced himself, with no surname) glances towards Jon, then reaches forward to slide the door open slightly, leaning forward as he calls in his gravelly voice. "Namei-san, are you home? I have a visitor for you."
There is a long pause, during which Inimitsu glances at the other male again, before a feminine voice comes back. "…Yes. Out here. On the balcony, Inimitsu-kun."
Jon's accustomed to doing things through the appropriate channels, somewhat unlike the stereotype of ninja in general. Back at home he's a police officer, and doing things by-the-book works for him. The book was written to give cops access to what they needed to get into to do their jobs, after all. Here in the Land of Grass, of course, things are a little different. Jon has no authority here, only what reputation may have reached these individuals of him as a trustworthy and effective detective. He can't flash his badge and a search warrant and breeze past a guard to catch people in the act. He has to appear with no surprises and humbly request permission to go anyplace unusual. Haste and ego (and Scruvo) would suggest that Jon would be a lot more likely to succeed in his goals by using a little covertness. After all, isn't averting civil war an end which would justify some slightly shady means? But Jon's not one to imagine such weighty matters rest on his actions alone, and he's resolved to see this through in an open and diplomatic fashion. Luckily, thus far it seems to be working. He'll have to note in his report that these Grass Ninja are very reasonable types.
At the room of Lady Ryoko, Jon waits patiently for his guide/watchperson to initiate the meeting. Given the suspicions he has about the personage, he's tempted to boost his mind into overdrive and observe everything in highest detail from the start of the interview, but that would require a level of chakra activity which might disturb his hosts. Instead, he just turns his head to glance at Scruvo. "Behave yourself, now." "When do I evah do othahwise, Jonny-boy?" ;) Jon rolls his eyes, then faces toward the room and bows. "If I may intrude. I am Saito Jon of Kumogakure."
Inimitsu pushes the door open further and holds it for Jon to enter, coming in after him and shutting it behind them without turning his back, yet another old habit that was hard to break. Once inside, they would get a much better look at the apartment itself.
It wasn't lavish by any means, but most people would consider it perfectly adequate for one person. It consisted of three rooms, a bathroom, a livingroom-kitchen-dining combo, and a small bedroom. As far as guest accomodations went, especially FREE accomodations, it was quite nice. Most every piece of furniture, wall, carpet, and other fixture was some shade of earthen color, light browns, tans, beiges, and such. A few greens here and there. The only other colors that seemed to be prevalent were what was likely the performer's own objects. A small vase here on the dresser, a painting on a wall over there depicting a theatrical battle between the gods of the people of the Southern Lands, an expensive white silken kimono laid out as if it were to be worn.
A shadow darkens the doorway, bright light from the late afternoon sun framing the young woman standing there. She may have been in her early twenties at the most, dressed in a sky blue, short-sleeved kimono that came down to her ankles and hugged her form, a pair of house slippers upon her feet. She holds in her hand a rather ornate fan, a striking red background on which several black-feathered shrikes fly, her long dark hair left to fall free, toussled a bit from the light wind outside. She wears a small, wane smile, looking first towards the Kusagakure native, then towards the stranger.
"You are well, Inimitsu?"
The Kusagakurian clears his throat, shoving his hand back into his pocket. "I am well enough, ma'am." He gruffly tilts his head towards the shinobi detective. "This is Saito Jon of Kumogakure. He's investigating the death of our late Lord."
The smile vanishes, and the prima donna's brows come down as she developes a small frown, her eyes shifting between the two men once again. Her voice was low, a bit shaky, yet strong enough for a diva. "Were not the culprits already caught and punished? How many more questions of that terrible morning must I endure?"
Jon inhales slowly through his nose. Looks like she's already on the offensive, if in passive-aggressive manner. A lot of this could hinge on just how friendly the local ninja, particularly the one in the room right now, have become with her. If they feel protective toward her, practically any line of questioning could be shut down simply by a show of distress on her part. Jon will have to feel this out carefully.
"I'm afraid there are those who aren't fully convinced of that," Jon explains in an apologetic tone. "As long as any doubt remains, people will use it to spread distrust amongst the people. But if an unbiased party can confirm the facts, well…wouldn't the departed Daimyou be pleased if it could quell the unrest in his land, even a little?" Jon gives an expressive glance to Inimitsu, inviting him to comment on the thought. If he can be convinced to support Jon, all well and good, but Jon's really more interested in what can be gleaned from his response about his attitude toward Ryoko.
"Just who?" The young woman's eyes narrow as she tilts her head forward, looking at the Kumogakure male from under her thin dark brows. "The only one fomenting unrest is the usurper. If your country truly wished for help, you bring the remaining murderer to justice swiftly." Her light blue eyes immediately set upon the older male, her voice becoming higher. "Why must we waste time going over ground already covered? Can you not just show him the statements I made!?"
"Namei-san, please." By the time Jon has glanced towards him, Inimitsu is already stepping towards Ryoko, removing his hands from their pockets to place them on her shoulders. "You will make yourself ill again. The political situation is unstable, you know that. Just tell him what you told us, and I promise it will all be over as soon as we are able to make it so. Our enemies grow, and hesitance will only strengthen them. Be strong for our late Lord."
Throughout his impassioned speech, carefully disguising the plea within, the dark-haired woman was glaring up at the much taller, gray-haired man. Finally, after a moment, she turns her petulant, wet-eyed glare towards the detective, then finally releases a breath she had apparently been holding, her shoulders deflating a little as she looks down at her feet, sniffs, and nods her head lightly. Inimitsu removes his hands and backs up a step, glancing towards Jon and nodding once.
Ryoko doesn't look at either of the men, her expression having fallen into a poorly-crafted look of neutrality, mixed emotions of anger and loss dwelling just beneath the thin facade. She turns her back and begins to walk back towards the balcony, her fan fluttering, breezing her hair outwards and back a bit. Her voice carries back over her shoulder.
"Join me out on the balcony? I need the air, I think. …You may ask your questions, Jon-san."
This is going to be a tightrope walk. Inimitsu evidently has some degree of familiarity with Ryoko, and his suggestion of 'just telling what you told us' implies that unorthodox or anything near accusatory questioning could be dimly viewed by him. If Jon's suspicions are valid, this Lady Ryoko is adept at some very sly games, and has already set the board up in her own favor.
Jon follows Ryoko out onto the balcony. "Before we get into the incident itself," Jon remarks, "I'd like to establish your place in the royal court. Could you tell me a bit about how you came to be in the position you were in, and what it entailed?"
Inimitsu sees fit to occupy the open balcony doorway as the other two step out. Namei Ryoko steps to the far side, her back to the large windows peeking into the apartments, which were nearly acting as mirrors with how bright it was outside, and relatively dark it was inside. She stands looking out over their view of the village, which wasn't expansive, but you could see enough of the markets and lower rooftops and streets to keep a bit of interest. Her eyes roam lazily over the people milling about. Kusagakure wasn't a crowded village by any means, nor exceptionally large, but the view was at least enough for her to apparently commence ignoring the Kumogakure Jounin sharing the twelve-by-four balcony with her.
She lets the silence settle for so long that it seems as if she isn't going to answer at all before speaking. Finally, her voice breaks the copious quiet, having lost the shaky quality it had earlier. She only deigns to glance at Jon before looking away again. "What kind of things do you expect a consort to do?"
"…I was not his servant, if that is what you are asking. We were in love. He always got anything he wanted, such a driven man. That included me. He told me I had drawn him in like a moth to the flame… Now I believe I may have been the moth." Finally, she turns away from the open air and sunlight, to face her questioner directly, the fan fluttering lightly to keep her face cool even as a gentle breeze stirs the stiff air. "We were in love, Jon. Had we been a more common couple, I guess I would have been his girlfriend. He forsook all other consorts for me." She looks away again, the non-fan hand resting over her breast. "…We had been talking of marriage."
Scruvo, despite his roguish nature, has been doing his best to remain unobtrustive during this interview. His favorite technique for doing so is to turn his incessant desire to chatter inwards, creating an internal monologue to an imaginary audience who gives his tales the attention they deserve. ;) It can't satisfy him forever, but it's enough to keep him contented during the occasional pressing need for silence. As a result, he hasn't been paying full attention to the conversation around him. A key word, however, grabs him. "Wot? Who's a moth? Where?" Jon shakes his head. "Just a figure of speech, Scruvo. Why don't you go stretch your wings, as long as we're out here." Scruvo spreads his feathers. "Crikey, gettin' a chap's 'opes up like that. Now I'm 'ungry. Be back in a tick." Scruvo flutters off to explore the nooks of the building's outside structure.
Jon turns his attention back to Ryoko. He ponders asking her if the Daimyou ever spoke to her about his enemies and any fears he might have, but decides against it. That would just give her an excuse to cast stronger suspicion on whomever she wanted to take the blame. Instead… "I see…well, as heartwarming as that sounds, it unfortunately closes off a possible avenue of investigation." Jon sighs and leans against the railing. "You see, it's been determined that the poison must have been administered by somebody the Daimyou trusted…if there were other consorts that might've been with him, we could possibly find that they were involved. But if there was only you…" Jon shrugs.
The cool gaze of the singing diva turns towards the male at his last leading statement. She doesn't seem phased, or even a little surprised, when the crow begins to speak. Instead, her sky-blue eyes remain on the male for several long, quiet moments, her face mostly devoid of emotion, other than a small tightening of the lips. Finally, she looks away, reaching up to hook several strands of her long, dark hair behind her ear.
"None of the consorts would have done this. If you had talked to them, you would know that." Her voice is calm, peaceful, if carrying a bit of a melancholical note to it. "Shuichi-sama was kind, caring. He was good to them, to me. He never mistreated anyone. Without him…" She licks her lips, turning her eyes downward, to the street just below them as her fan stills and she rests a hand on the rail. "They are nothing. They are now Nagaro's playthings. I would be as well, were it not for the shionbi of this village. When we lost Shuichi-sama, we lost everything. I would have lived my entire life at his feet and never complained."
Finally, she looks back up, directing her cool gaze back towards the Kumogakure male. Inimitsu seems more than content to remain quietly watchful in the background. "The only ones who had anything to gain by his loss are those currently in power. Two men stand ready to wage war over the pieces that beautiful man left behind. Look there for your murderer."
Meanwhile, Scruvo would find no shortage of webs around the building, built by multitudes of spiders. Almost every crack, cranny, or overhang has several of them nesting within it, and workers travel about the base of the apartment complex with brooms, knocking down any web in easy reach.
Jon folds his arms and bows his head. "Could be…very well could. But I'm avoiding that line of investigation, for a number of very good reasons. First off, I'm sure other competent investigators have been over that ground already. Apparently they weren't able to prove anything. And even if I could find undeniable proof that one of those two was behind the murder, how much good would it do? Would it really avert civil war? Wouldn't the supporters of the guilty party be forced to defend themselves or die as traitors by association?" Jon looks up. "Being a detective isn't just about finding the truth, it's about using the truth to protect people. That's why I'd rather search for a truth that can end this conflict than a truth that's more likely to exist. A truth that would remove the enmity between the two sides. And that would have to involve somebody else behind all this. Somebody who profits from the conflict itself."
Just then, Scruvo swoops around and perches on the balcony rail. "Oi, Jonny-boy, it's a blinkin' bug buffet around 'eah! 'Course, I'd appreciate a liddle more variety, but I guess wi' that many spidahs any othah bugs would get chomped up before they could—" "Spiders?" Jon glances sharply at Inimitsu. "Inimitsu-san, doesn't Kirigakure have a clan known for using spiders?" Jon summons up his chakra. Could be a false alarm, but it doesn't pay to take chances in this business. And anyway, any excuse to activate his Mentality of the Sleuth is welcome. ;)
"Ah." The songstress turns her eyes back to the detective, her eyes lidded, guarded. "So you would rather invent a culprit of convenience than see justice done. Nagaro's uncle was the clear and decisive murderer and was put to death for it by the very samurai who guarded him. There is no reason to think that Nagaro himself did not have a hand in it, with how quickly he ordered the deaths and imprisonment of most of his immediate family. The man is a brutal tyrant whose own people hate him, and you would see his rule solidified rather than dethroned!?"
But as they're interrupted by the arrival of the crow and his announcement, Inimitsu narrows his eyes speculatively, whilst Ryoko simply looks wide-eyed and alarmed. The Kirigakure presence was a volatile and constant threat even an air-headed diva could understand. After several long moments, the Kusagakure Jounin nods. "The Okumo. But these old buildings are rife with bugs, they are drawn to the sweet nectar of our flowers. A large presence of spiders and bats is to be expected. We have detected no chakra intrusions into the village, nor have any Kirigakure shinobi been allowed in. …All the same, I will have a sensor shinobi here to check within the hour."
As the Kusagakure male begins to tap into an earpiece, presumably a two-way radio, likely short-ranged given the lack of towers or other high structures in the area, he keeps a close watch on the Kumogakure visitor and his growing chakra. The former Precious Consort seems completely oblivious to any such thing, though she too is beginning to regard the Jounin with the crow with suspicion. She wets her lips briefly. "Kirigakure would not attack us here, surely. They… They wouldn't dare! It would start another war!"
Jon frowns. "Scruvo, are you sure there weren't any other bugs in the vicinity?" Scruvo nods. "None livin', anyway. Just blinkin' wall-to-wall webs an' crazy cobs in every cornah. I'll tell ya, aftah a couple beakfuls I started worryin' they might just gang up on me an' bite back." Jon nods. "Spiders aren't drawn to nectar themselves, just large populations of prey. Having lots of spiders and no other bugs in one place isn't natural." Jon glances around, his perception heightened by the chakra running through his brain. It's not that he can see or hear more, per se…it's that the information taken in by his eyes and ears is processed more thoroughly than normal. Where before he perceived only a wall, now he is aware of an arrangement of bricks, many of which bear strands of silk or have spindly legs poking out from the crevices. On top of that, associations flash through his mind. Spiders. Fangs. Venom. Poison. The method of the Daimyou's murder. Hmmmm.
"I know I'm just a visitor here, but I'm very familiar with witness protection, and this has all the earmarks of an attempt at silencing," Jon announces. "Especially when you factor in that forming a web around a target is exactly how a ninja with spider affiliation would work. I strongly suggest that Ryoko-san be moved somewhere, almost anywhere but here. If I'm wrong, the worst that happens is a couple hours spent somewhere else while this area is checked. If I'm right, though, there could be dire consequences."
A spider has slowly been crawling along during this entire encounter. It didn't know what this giant, hard, vertical, painfully sub-baked surface it was running across was, it just knew it had to get to the end of it. It was drawn to something that was at the end of this long, perilous road. Something much larger, much greater than itself. Something of such majesty that it sang in its ancestral memories. It was coming over the lip of the railing now. It could sense more than see that its goal was close, its tiny, pin-point brain unable to fathom what it might be, just knowing that it needed to be close to it as a babe knows it needs to be close to its mother.
Four of its eight legs are broken as it is hurled roughly off of the balcony by Datura's flicking finger. It had come so close to touching its goal, only to be devastatingly assaulted by the very being it sought to be near. It does not survive the landing, three stories below on the unforgiving concrete.
Ryoko hadn't even looked at the spider as she had flicked it away from her, she's too busy nodding her agreement that it was time to move, a worried, yet determined, cast to her features. After speaking quietly, brusquely, into his radio, Inimitsu is nodded. "Namei-san is here by her own choice, accepting our offer of protection. It is up to her if she acqueices to be moved to other accomodations. We can try another building, but… our village is not so large that we have many places to choose from. We can move her into the duty-Chuunin quarters. The accomodations are sparse, but you will be well-gau-"
"No. Thank you, Inimitsu." The dark-haired singer interrupts, smiling wanely as she shakes her head. "Another apartment will more than suffice. I trust in the men and women of this village to let no harm come to any within its walls, and I will not inconvenience your on-duty personal or your hospitality by having my things and myself in their way. You already have all of the information I can possibly give you, so such a concerted effort to simply silence me seems so far-fetched."
"Nonetheless, as Saito-san says… Your things will be moved within a few hours. I will try to find you something at least as accomodating as these quarters."
"Please do not trouble yourself too greatly." Both the woman and man's eyes turn towards the Kumogakure male. "Do you require anything else of me, Jon? I am afraid I actually know precious little about the murder other than what can be found by questioning anyone who was at the castle that day."
Jon smiles wanly. "Whether you truly have more information to give may not matter. For some, just the suspicion that silencing you would be advantageous would be reason enough to do it, or they may even want to make it look like you were hiding something. Anything to put suspicion on somebody other than the current Daimyou, right?"
Jon glances to Inimitsu. "That said, I doubt if actually relocating Ryoko-san's place of residence is truly necessary. A simple afternoon outing would do. If my suspicions are correct, though I rather hope they're not, the enemy would be somebody who is staking great time and effort into making this place an advantageous environment for themselves. The open market would be safer than here, as long as it's a part of your village and full of your people. And in the meantime, it shouldn't take long to determine whether there's really anything funny going on here."
Jon looks toward Ryoko. "Perhaps I could treat you to dinner someplace. It would be the least I could do to thank you for your cooperation. We needn't discuss the murder any further, it would be purely a social outing."
The Kusagakure Jounin squints at his Kumogakure counterpart, as if trying to divine some sort of hidden message in his words that he couldn't quite fathom yet. But eventually, he looks towards the woman for an answer to the matter. She was their guest, not their prisoner, after all. For a few moments, Ryoko says nothing, finally, she affects a small smile and bows her head.
"Then please allow me to change into something more suitable for leaving the house."
"I will have someone here to investigate this phenomenon, and then we will-" Initmitsu begins, only to be silenced by the dark-haired woman's hand on his arm as she moves past him, lightly shaking her head as she enters the relatively cooler atmosphere of her borrowed apartment.
"I am doubting that Jon wishes to throw his life away by attempting to assassinate me in the middle of your village, Inimitsu. You are a very loyal friend, but I believe your talents are put to better use investigating a possible intrusion than in making sure our visitor is polite to me." She looks over her shoulder as she moves towards the sleeping room. "I have gone down to the market many times alone, this time need be no different." And then she's gone, the bedroom door sliding shut behind her.
There's a long moment of silence as Inimitsu considers his options. He was chosen to escort Jon because he was a skilled shinobi, not becuase he was a shrewd diplomat. But Kumogakure was friendly with Konohagakure, and Konohagakure was starting to look as if they would aid Kusagakure against Kirigakure if it came to that… Finally, the gruff, gray-haired male nods. "Very well. I will place our guest in your hands for the afternoon, Saito-san."
Well, that's an interesting move. Actively shedding the social pawn who protects her from any uncomfortable questioning? That's quite a gambit, and for what advantage? To seem less suspicious? To have Inimitsu see for himself that there are no enemy ninja and thus make Jon seem less credible? Maybe she's even confident that she can dispose of Jon if she gets him alone. Or, of course, maybe she really is just a singer caught up in international intrigues, although Jon isn't willing to give that possibility serious credence yet. In addition to what he said earlier about searching for a useful truth, the pieces of the case don't quite fit together in his mind yet, and he'd much rather search for missing pieces than try to jam the ones he has in where they don't belong. Jon bows to Inimitsu. "I appreciate your trust."
A little while later, Jon is accompanying Namei through the marketplace. He can't keep his special mental acceleration going indefinitely — not only does it take a fair bit of chakra, it gives him a headache after a while — but he does manage to maintain a slightly heightened awareness. Hopefully it won't be too disturbing to the resident shinobi. "It sounds as though you're relatively familiar with this place already, Namei-san," Jon remarks. "Is there anyplace in particular you'd like to go?"
The singer emerges from the bedroom after making the men wait just long enough to get uncomfortable and for the conversation to strain. Was she making them wait on purpose? Quite possibly. Many men seemed to think women did that. When she comes out, she's wearing a sky blue kimono that covered her from throat to ankles, with long sleeves that accentuated the paleness of her skin, yet clashed with the darkness of her hair. Her fan had also changed to match, bearing a sunset on a cloudy day overlooking the sea design.
The young woman was now strolling slowly by the Kumogakure male's side, even linking her hand to his arm, unless he verbally or physically objects. She smiles briefly and gives a nod of recognition to each villager who greets her, and many do at least wave in her direction. She was a noted celebrity in several countries, especially here in the Land of Grass.
"I have been here for several weeks." She cocks an eyebrow with the tiniest hint of a smirk. "Did you think I stayed in the room provided the entire time? I am their guest, for my own safety, but I no longer have servants or employees to buy things for me. If I didn't get out, why, I'd starve to death! Can I recommend that we do not enjoy seafood? I find most of it here to be objectionable. Beef ramen would be particularly delightful."
Was it a food she really liked, or had she simply seen the sign as they were passing it? Either way, the diva is motioning towards a rather small eatery which seemed to have a small selection of curry and noodle-oriented dishes available. It was small, only six or seven tables within, but was neat, tidy, rather than dingy as one would usually expect from a small establishment on a busy street.
Wow. Who'da thought, cheap date. "Crikey. Woddaya know, ch—" Jon pinches Scruvo's beak shut with a well-practiced grab. "Cheery little place," Jon remarks. "The owner must love their work." Jon pulls out a seat for Ryoko. "Order anything you please. I have a travel expenses tab for things like this." ;) Jon sits down across from Ryoko. "I'm certain you must be asked things like this all the time, Namei-san, but…how did you get started as an entertainer? Is it something you've been working towards for a long time?"
The diva's eyebrows raise slightly as the crow beginst o speak, but it seems Jon is a little too adept at anticipating when the bird planned to stick his talons in his mouth. The brunette accepts the offer of a chair with a gracious smile as she seats herself delicately, folding her fan and placing it in her lap. She doesn't put her hands, or any part of her arm on the table, and seems to sit so primly that it's debateable if she's even using the back of the chair.
"The owner is a dirty, foul-mouthed little man with as exceptional talent for being crass as he has for making delicious food. I can put up with one, if it gets me the other." Further commentary on the proprieter is derailed when his daughter, a short, porky thing with chipmunk cheeks and tiny eyes, shows up and inquires as to what she may serve them with. Ryoko asks for a small bowl of beef ramen and tea, with sugar in it. After the lady has taken both orders and departed, the two are alone once more, with only three other patrons scattered about the room.
"You are kind to offer. I do hear such a question quite often, but I think I will elect to answer it anyway. I've always been a pretty face, a good voice… and you should do what you're good at, shouldn't you? I've only been doing this for a few years, and have only recently discovered true fame in the past one. I have a manager, several of them, actually. They manage my career and make most of the decisions. The only real effort I must put forth is on the stage. I assume it is much different being a shinobi. I have the pressure of fans, not of fighting in great, cataclysmic wars."
Jon smirks. So, she can speak ill of others with a glib tongue, despite her prim etiquette. "Heh, I can top that. Down at the Kumogakure Police Department, the running joke is that if the station chief weren't so good at catching crooks, he'd be in the slammer himself for abusive treatment of employees and disturbing the peace." ;) Jon leans lightly on the table, giving an air of being casual but not rude. "How long do you plan to remain in the entertainment business? It's pretty hard to make a life-long career out of it, I understand."
"It does take all kinds to make a world, doesn't it?" The young woman looks away with a small smile, barely noticing the return of the waitress with their drinks and her large, chipmunk smile as she lingers just long enough to ensure there isn't anything else they require from her before scurrying her round frame back off towards the kitchen, where a loud clanging of pots and then a vile swear word can be heard. If Ryoko noticed it, she doesn't give any sign, staring mildly out of one of the windows.
"Until the proverbial well runs dry, I suppose. I have acquired fame and fortune that most only dream of. What would I do if I were not to sing and dance? I have no other skills or talents worth noting. I have not yet learned to play an instrument, though my promotional manager is eager for me to try. I am afraid I would be unfit for menial labor even if I cared to do such things."
Finally, she seems to snap out of her thousand-yard stare and come back to the here-and-the-now. "If you're refering to the fact that I will not be young and desireable forever, well, isn't that all the more reason to make as much use of it as I can for now? If I am careful and not negligent in my health, it is not so unreasonable to assume that I may continue to entertain for a further ten or fifteen years before a younger girl comes along to steal my place. And by then I should have enough to afford a small house and a modest staff for the rest of my days."
"The hardest part is thinking that I may grow old… alone." Though she looks away and adopts a melancholical air about her… that was certainly her foot nudging it's way up and down the Kumogakure male's calf under the table!
Jon nods. "That does seem to be the general strategy, from what I understand. Funny though, you don't generally get to hear about how well it works. Once a celebrity isn't a celebrity anymore, nobody talks about how they're doing." Waitaminnit…is that…is she seriously trying that angle? Well, it's not that risky a strategy, come to think of it. Knowing as little as she does about Jon, it would be reasonable for her to assume a fair chance of effectiveness, and if Jon were to play along, she could turn it to look like he started it and have him thrown out of the village. The worst that could happen for her is that Jon tells people about it, and they probably either wouldn't believe it or wouldn't particularly care.
While this is running through Jon's mind, Scruvo can't resist the opening to one of his favorite topics. "Wot, pretty liddle filly like y'self? Not a chance. I'll give ya a few pointahs, you'll 'ave chaps linin' up an' takin' numbers fer a date wi' ya. Now, th'first trick is eye contact, y'gotta look just long enough t'make 'im wondah if y'wos really lookin' at 'im. Then y'gotta — " "I don't think Namei-san is worried about that particular aspect of it, Scruvo," Jon interrupts. Scruvo ruffles his feathers. "Huh, can't let a chap do 'is thing even when somebody blinkin' asks for it," he mutters. :P
Jon clears his throat. "I think I understand, Namei-san. As long as you're famous, you'd have to worry that any potential suitors are drawn to you because of that, and then once that's gone, presumably it would be hard to find someone at that point. That aside, what would you be looking for?"
The young woman's eyebrows raise mildly as the crow begins talking again, and she allows her posture to slip just a little, settling in against the back of her seat as she reaches for her drink, the first time her hands have been seen above the table. "That's cute. Are you the one who taught him to talk? It's almost as if he knows what we're saying. I had heard that crows could count up to seven, and that parrots could mimic certain sounds, but nothing like this."
Meanwhile, her foot travels higher, up around Jon's knee. If it manages to make too much more progress, it will officially be in Dangerous Territory! The dark-haired brunette reaches up to flip her hair to one side as she takes a sip of her beverage, lowering the large cup back to the table once she's finished. "Yes, that is the quandry. I have no shortage of men who desire to take what they can from me, but so few will see beyond the glamor and money. I want what everyone wants: not to be used. To find someone meant for me. Comfort. Security."
"Do you know what it's like to have found it, only to then have it ripped away from you?" A tilt of her head as she changes topics. "I'm a woman, like any other. I want someone I can talk to, someone who makes me feel special, needed, but not needy. I think everyone wants to find love eventually."
Jon chuckles lightly. "No, if I've managed to teach him anything, it's how to be quiet. On occasion." Incredible. She comes off as Worldly-Wise Diva for the most part, but slips in a little Dumb Blonde. And this while trying to seduce Jon. It sort of feels as though their respective facades are becoming less important. Jon brings some noodles up to his mouth, slurps them in, and chews thoughtfully. "I wonder how things are going back at the apartment building now," he remarks. "I'm actually pretty curious about those spiders. Is their behavior changing any? Will their numbers diminish while the ninja investigate?" Jon smiles. "Maybe they'll even form some sort of trail. Wouldn't that be interesting?"
"Pets can be so noisy, can't they? I've never had the desire for one. They require too much attention and care than I can give." Thankfully, for now the foot doesn't travel any higher, just moves up and down just below the Jounin's knee, not yet going into reaches only the man's wife should ever go. As he begins to eat, the brunette deftly picks up her chopsticks and breaks them apart, getting ready to delve them into her noodle dish, with its occasional chunk of well-cooked beef meat.
"I am sure things are going well," She comments offhandedly as she brings a stretch of noodles to her mouth. She waits until she's properly done chewing before she continues in the same nonchalant tone of voice. "You seem to be placing a lot of importance on the location of some insects. I am not an entomologist, so I can't speak of their behaviour. I have heard, though, that some shinobi have the ability to change their shape. Yet I'm sure if an army of ninja were hiding in my apartment complex as tiny spiders, it will be discovered shortly."
She pauses for a moment. "You mean like ants? Following one after the other to a source of food? I wasn't aware that spiders left their webs. …Can we talk of something else? I am uncomfortable with bugs."
Jon shrugs. "They typically don't, but then, they typically don't establish colonies big enough to hunt the local prey population to extinction. Sorry for going on about it, but being a detective, I have to know a little bit about practically everything. I have to be able to recognize when something is…off. When the natural order is disturbed." Jon slurps some more noodles. "Well, in answer to your earlier question, no, I don't quite know how that is, though I've come close. There've been times, particularly once shortly before my marriage, when I haven't been certain my wife is still alive. Speaking of which, you're not going to get anywhere much with that. No offense, but I find my wife a lot more attractive than you, and if I did do anything unfaithful, she'd Hit Me With Her Fist. I've seen that happen to guys, and I'd rather not join the ranks of those who've experienced it." ;)
The foot stops, then retracts as the young woman's posture stiffens. She glances away, going back to looking out the window, clearing her throat minutely. "Oh. I see. I wasn't aware you were… Ahem, but at least you have managed to insult my appearance in the same breath you graciously compliment your wife's. She must truly be quite a woman to have landed such a trophy."
Her tone suddenly having lost the conversational air it had a moment ago, the lithe teenager mildly pushes away her nearly-untouched bowl with the tips of her finger. "I'm suddenly feeling under the weather. May we return now? I am sure Inimitsu is done with the extermination job you wished done and I would like to rest. I am sure you are eager to get back to your investigation, as well. I shouldn't take up any more of your time."
With her fingertips resting on the edge of the table, Ryoko begins looking around for the portly waitress, finding her busily bussing a table recently vacated. Once the daugher of the proprietor has glanced their way, she makes a come-hither motion with her hand. "I am assuming your offer to pay still stands."
Jon nods, taking another good mouthful before plunking down money on the table. Waste not want not. "It certainly does. And yes, we may return. I'm looking forward to seeing what we run into along the way." A diva who expresses heartbreak over her would've-been fiancee's murder and then tries to seduce the man interviewing her…an unnatural presence of spiders…the strange vagueness of memory of the guards…none of these prove much on their own, and even together they're only loosely connected, but it definitely bears further looking into. If Jon doesn't get kicked out now that the cards have been tipped a bit. e.e;
The dark-haired teenager rises the moment the money is placed down, and begins to walk briskly back towards her current place of temporary residence. She keeps her posture rigid, her shoulders firm, her steps still demure, if a bit determined. Unlike the conversational manner on the way there, the way back is rather distant and cold, though she still makes the effort to smile and greet each person who acknowledges her presence along the way, politely and adeptly sidestepping any attempts at conversation.
A single spider is encountered on the return trip, skittering across the dry, dusty road directly into their path, unusual for such a creature who would usually seek a cool, dimly-lit area. It is crushed when Ryoko steps on it, apparently not even having noticed its presence. And when they return, they find the situation much unchanged.
Inimitsu confirms that there is nothing unusual about the spiders, they neither possess nor are controlled by chakra. An exterminator is running about the building, putting down pesticides, but other than a few that have been captured or crushed… they haven't really gone anywhere.
Alarming to Namei Ryoko herself, however, is the discovery by Inimitsu and her two Chuunin guardsmen that there is also a large presence of arachnids in her very apartment! Some in the cupboards, the walls, the cracks between the ceiling and the wall, even under her bed. She immediately flies into a horrified fit, proclaiming that she will not return to that room until they are all removed, becoming so paniced that Inimitsu almost has to call for a doctor.
Once she is calmed down, she asks for and receives a brush and a piece of paper. On this, she writes down a description of a location somewhere in the Land of Grass, giving it to Jon and telling him that she had once overheard Nagamu, Shuichi's deceased uncle and Nagaro's father, mention it to Nagaro. Nobody paid much attention to the Daimyo's whores, after all.
"You may find clues there, or at least something of note. I do not know what. Regardless of your notions of some consort-conspiracy from those who had the most to lose and nothing to gain, the evidence points to Shuichi-sama's late uncle. It may be worth checking out, at the least."
With that, the diva retires to her room and refuses to come out again for the rest of the eve.