The Gift

Rowan, quite amazingly dirty, is wandering towards the diner, whistling. Evidently, he's been planting. Or harvesting. Or, perhaps, wallowing in mud.

Rahne exits the Library with a smile on her face and a book in her eager hands. Whistling to herself, she cracks open the text and flips through it, turning her feet on a path towards the diner.

A lone figure trudges up the road from the south, just coming over the hill toward town.

Rowan, perhaps drawn by a movement, shields his eyes from a ray of sunlight and peers towards the oncoming figure.

A slender boy in a worn and muddy flannel shirt, jeans with holes in the knees, and mud-covered boots, slogs wearily closer to town.

Rahne ambles forward, footsteps slowing as a bit of the book engrosses her attention for a moment. Smiling down at the pages, she reluctantly closes the book and looks upwards to the path ahead of her, blinking a bit at seeing Rowan.

Rowan raises his hand in a tentative wave, and then lowers it, murmuring a quiet greeting to his tribemate.

Higami's slender hand pushes the screen door of the library open just wide enough to let a gust of air in. Leaning against the door frame, he looks out at the lake, sipping out of a cup of stained green clay. He does not see the approaching figure on the road, or does not seem to.

Rahne shifts the book gingerly to her left hand, raising the right to wiggle fingers in a quiet greeting. Her whistling shifts in tune to a variation of 'Pop Goes The Weasel'.

The boy, who appears to be in his mid-teens, pauses and squints through the sunlight at the figures on Main Street. His shaggy dark hair blows into his eyes. He shoves the hair back in irritation, and starts walking a bit faster into town.

Rowan's attention drifts from Rahne to Higami, and he starts smiling, slowly. Taking a step or two towards the library, he murmurs, in a voice that somehow carries, "And a hello to you."

Higami nods deeply to Rowan and raises his teacup in a subtle toast.

Brett steps from the Ursa diner, a backpack hefted onto his shoulders. He closes the door with care, not wanting to let it slam behind him, then looks out across Main.

The boy stops in the street, watching the people moving. He looks more than a little hunted, or persecuted, or something. There is definite fear in his motions and a hunch to his shoulders.

Rowan narrows his eyes slightly at Higami, and then snorts quietly. "Yeah, yeah," he mutters, and starts slightly at the noise of the door. It having taken his attention off Higami, though, he's able to study the boy, faint worry in his eyes. "Hullo?" he calls.

Brett tilts his head, latching on to a familar voice and homing in. As the boy walks into view, fear heavy in his shoulders, he furrows his brow and takes a step closer.

The eye tends to roam towards this Asian youth in his mid-teens... there's something about the form of the young Japanese man that appeals to the senses. Everything about him, from his pale, fair skin to his midnight hair to his clothing, speaks in monochrome: black and white, with an occasional flash of silver. His black eyes seem to reflect the outside world more than receive light, the obsidian irises and the onyx pupils differing in texture rather than shade. His clothing, businesslike and sensible, is a study in balance of color: his white button-up shirt seems freshly pressed, the thin black tie and jet-colored trousers well-kept. A silver watch-chain snakes from one beltloop into his left pocket.

He fits in the background, this young man. He's fairly tall (about 6 feet 2 inches worth), and rather stocky, but he can and does observe events without intruding on them. His hair is rusty-red, darkly so, and relatively long. It is, however, tied back in a ponytail, to at least attempt to keep it out of his eyes. Most of the time, he succeeds in this endeavor. Occasionally, he fails, somewhat to his irritation. His face, in keeping with his frame, is a bit broad. His eyes are blue, and there are already laugh lines around them.
He wears dark blue pants, with a considerable number of pockets, a slightly lighter blue shirt, a vest, and a jacket.

The overcoat seems terribly out of place. Not quite a trench coat, it is thick, woolen and charcoal gray. The coat speaks of cold winters and icy winds that battered the cloth like hammers. Its shoulders stretch out like small planks, as if designed to hold decorations while the collar juts upward, tugged forward by wind and gravity. The coat is old and majestic, like an ancient sailing vessel setting into port.
A pity the person inside the coat is not as interesting.
Not that the gentlemen in the coat, Brett, is an unattractive creature. On the tall side, his slim and muscular is enveloped by the coat. The clothes he wears beneath it are dulled and stretched at points, as if too well loved. A pair of worn boots cover his feet, decorated with spatters of mud and salt. Black trousers made from some kind of denim hang loosely around his long legs, and a black shirt decorated with ancient Nipponise characters cover his wide chest.
Short, wavy, obsidian-colored hair crowns his head, tumbling down to the nape of his neck. His features are aquiline; in the past, they would have been called Byronic. But in comparison to the ancient atmosphere created by the coat, they seem too young and child-like, almost eager to experience the world anew.
The only features competing with his coat are his eyes. They beat the coat hands down. Brett's eyes, each the bright blue-gray a full moon hidden by mist, seem centuries old. Like an old book with an ornate lock across its pages, Brett's eyes seem to hold lifetimes worth of experience locked away, just waiting to be opened.

Higami props the library door open just wide enough with his foot and squeezes outside, already casting his gaze in the direction that everybody else seems to be looking. When his eyes find the stranger's form there, he slowly takes another sip of steaming tea from the clay vessel.

The boy looks from one to the other of the men who are watching him, visibly screws up his courage, and steps forward. "I seek the one called Joshua." His voice is thick with something like a Russian accent, and the words come out in a rush.

Brett posture changes upon hearing the name, Joshua. He steps forward, boots crunching as bits of gravel grind into the brickwork street. "May I ask who seeks Joshua?" he says.

Rowan lets Brett take this, as he leans on one leg and smiles at the young man, attempting not to look threatening.

Rowan pages: Corrupter, anyone?
You paged Rowan with 'Nopers.'.
From afar, Brett will be casually pinging him for the Corruptor's scent, if he may.
You paged Brett with 'No Corruptor, no. :)'.
From afar, Brett says, "Arigato."

Higami watches Rowan thoughtfully, but says nothing.

The boy winces, very slightly, at the approach of the man. He swallows hard and straightens his shoulders. "I am Jan," he quavers. "And I bring him a gift." He pulls a slightly grubby cardboard box out of his pants' pocket.

Rowan takes a step forward now. "He's actually workin' just now. But I'm his partner -- Business partner, I mean. Rowan Congreve, I am. Could give it to him for you?"

Brett tilts his head. His blue-grey eyes focus on the box for a moment, as if trying to peer through the ratty cardboard.

Higami takes one last drink from his cup, and the miniature semicolumn of steam rising from it begins to slowly die. His posture and eyes seem alert and interested.

The boy's mouth twitches and he eyes both men furtively. He has not, apparently, noticed Higami, as all his attention is focused on Rowan and Brett. "I... I have heard your name," he says to Rowan. His dirty fingers clutch a little more closely at the box.

Probably only Higami would notice that Rowan's curiousity is laced with wariness. "Yeah? Who from?"

Higami offers, "Probably from Argent."

The boy startles sharply and turns dead white at Higami's words.

Brett purses his lips, obviously not recognizing the Nipponise gentleman sipping tea by the library or the name 'Argent.' But his discomfort shifts to sharp curiosity as the boy becomes as pale as marble.

Rowan stiffens, just slightly. Carefully, he says, "You know, you don't have to go back there, if you don't want."

Higami takes two steps forward. "Leave the box, and report back to Argent successfully, or stay, and you will be protected." His voice is even and calm as he speaks to the boy. "We will not stop you."

The boy's hands tremble violently. "I... My lord... would kill me." He looks down at the box, then back up. "Protected? This man was a prisoner, and escaped by my lord's grace!" he explodes, pointing at Rowan. "I would be dead within a week. And even if I were not, my sister does not deserve to die."

Rowan inhales, and exhales. "I escaped due to the grace of my Kumi, not because of any /gift/ of Argent's." He sounds remarkably calm. "But hostages..." He trails off. "We could help you get your sister back, if you wanted."

Higami slowly walks around the slave until he stands between the boy and the diner.

The boy narrows his eyes at Rowan. "Your Kumi would die, and so would my sister," he snarls hopelessly. "And all who share my blood. My lord Argent is kinder than the other lord who truly rules the Hive. If I lost my lord's good grace, it would be the end for all my kin." He wheels around suddenly to face Higami, eyes wide. "You..." he says, and stares. Then, hands still trembling, he extends the box toward him. "You were... you were kind to me. I thank you."

Higami takes the box from the boy gently, and tucks it under one arm.

Rowan sighs, as if expecting an answer like that. He does not, though, seem to expect the boy's reaction to Higami, and he watches, eyes narrowed just slightly.

Brett seems equally fascinated and mystified with what has transpired. He watches the passing of the gift, hears the conversation between the boy and Rowan, but the subtleties appear lost on him.

The boy bows his head to Higami. "I... I am Jan Ezust."

Higami nods slowly.

The boy bows from the waist to Higami, then straightens and turns his gaze upon Rowan and Brett. "Have a care when you offer protection that you may not be able to give." He glances once more at Higami, and begins to run back down the road to the south.

Rowan starts to respond, but bites it back until the boy is gone.

The boy pelts over the hill and vanishes into the advancing afternoon.

Brett pauses, watching the boy vanish. In a low, soft voice, "I will have to remember that. Should I ever offer anyone my protection." He turns to the Nipponese gentleman. "Afternoon..."

Higami does not take his eyes off the retreating slave until he is completely gone from view. Then he blinks, once, and as he does, a fine veil of sweat breaks on his brow. His breathing is irregular as he turns to Brett and remarks, "Konnichiwa."

Brett bows to the Nipponese gentleman. "Konnichiwa," he says, bowing quite formally. "Pardon the intrusion. I felt quite lost in the exchange of words and gifts..."

Rowan quirks a small, faint smile. "I think I was, as well."

Higami returns the bow as it is given, indicating his own placement below Brett on the social ladder by the depth and length of his bow. "Ezust-san... has a true warrior's heart. The Kagedaimyo, the Urge Lords, ruled much Nippon for many years, both with the Benturu and after the return of the sun. Perhaps the honor of serving an unjust lord may not be apparent to Western eyes..." he turns halfway to Rowan. "But the service of an unjust lord is the paramount virtue within Bushido, the way of the samurai. To continue to serve your lord, even when his evil taints your very /soul/... this is the heart of a true warrior."

Brett says softly, "Duty is a mountain. Even for our enemies." He tilts his head and says, "I think it is relatively safe to open the box. From what I could see, it contains a piece of jewelry made from metallic wire. There is a stone -- possibly a low-grade diamond -- in the center of the wire. And there is a small stone carving with a cameo silhouette on it. But I did not sense any direct taint..."

Rowan starts, "But--" and then just stops, and shrugs. "Ok. So he's living by that code?"

Higami shakes his head to Brett. "I will not open it. It is not for us. It is for Josh. I would, however, like to keep it safe until Josh claims it. I have, after all, claimed it in his name. And no, Rowan, he does not live by Bushido by name, but he understands its nameless essence." Higami shrugs lightly. "I was only mentioning it lest the thought that his self-destructive obedience was completely without merit should go unchallenged. Rowan, if you would like to keep this, you, as Josh's blood relative, may. But I would like to keep it, for now."

Rowan shakes his head. "You were given it. You should keep it." He adds, after a moment, "I understand loyalty. Even self destructive loyalty. It's just... I don't have to /like/ it."

Brett glances at the setting sun. "Well, I must head out for a bit. I need to see if my ship is still intact in its hiding place. Hopefully I'll be back by nightfall."

Higami switches the box from his right hand to his left. "Was it I he gave it to, after all? Perhaps." He turns his head towards Brett. "At de shokai shimashyo ne. Saraba desu."

Brett bows to Higami and says, "I'm terrbly sorry. My Japanese is covered in centuries of rust..."

Higami blinks. "No, /I'm/ the one who should be sorry for making an assumption like that. Your nationality is obviously more complex than it would seem. Perhaps we could discuss it sometime... but for the moment, take my name, Higami Ryumaru, and the promise of a future conversation."

Rowan says, a little ruefully, "Well, he sure didn't give it t'/me/." After a moment, he adds, "Good luck, Brett."

Brett adjusts his coat a little and smiles. "I do hope we can speak in the future, Ryumaru-san." He nods to Rowan. "And you, Rowan. Be seeing you."