"Excuse me, Miss!" a young man's voice called from behind her as she made her way down the city streets. She was used to attracting attention when she was dressed up, but it was always troublesome to be approached in her common clothes. Thankfully it was reasonably crowded, so she tried to continue on as if she had not heard him.
"Miss! Excuse me!" the voice was getting closer, and by the sound of his voice, was pushing his way through the crowd, so she knew he wasn't going to just let it go... whatever it was he wanted. With a deep breath, she stopped, and pulling her hood down, turned to meet the approaching stranger.
"Yes? Are you talking to me?" she feigned ignorance.
"It is you!" she winced at his words, "I thought so!" he responded as he reached her, panting from his efforts in the crowd, before coming to a knee in front of her, in the middle of the dirty cobbled street.
Crystals give me patience, she thought as she said, "I'm sorry, who is it that you think I am?" as she winced at the attention he was now drawing, "And please do get up regardless, it's quite dirty on the cobblestone."
"Yes my queen," he replied, getting to his feet, but not quite meeting her eyes, "I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in this city."
Oh, for the love of, "I'm sorry, but I think you must have me confused for someone else," she tried responding as gently as she could manage.
"Oh!" he looked up sharply in alarm to glance at her face again, before turning his eyes down, "But of course. I shouldn't be... I mean.." he was tripping over his words, "I just meant to say, that if-" she stopped him right there.
"No, I don't mean it like that," she was biting her tongue, but also trying not to laugh at the earnest nervousness of the young man standing in front of her. She didn't know who it was that had started the rumors, but this wasn't the first time she'd been approached by 'Would be Heroes', looking for a dream to cling to. And she didn't enjoy taking that from them... But her life was complicated enough without dragging anyone else into it. "I'm seriously not the exiled princess of a small ruined kingdom, nor am I a contract killer, in case you've heard that one too," she added helpfully.
Again she got the sharp look, and this time she grabbed his chin to keep his eyes from darting away, "What I am though," she smiled in a way that soothed the riled nerves, "is a Dancer of some middling talent," she let his chin go and took a step back, "who is late for her reservation at Mean Wiley HQ. If you have time tonight, I would suggest stopping by for dinner. I hear they make an amazing chirozo soup," she informed him, as she twirled away, throwing her hood back up, and leaving the charmed young man trying to catch his thoughts in the street behind her.
As she continued to her destination, she had to wipe the moisture from her eyes. Had she not known it to be impossible, she would have said that it was Jieara whom had started the rumors. It would have been something she would have done. She quickly trained her mind on other things, as she could not arrive looking haggard to this appointment. Her purses were near empty, and while it was not difficult to get work, she had none of the wisdom her lost love had tried ingraining into her before...
Stopping outside the establishment, she quickly cleaned up, and undoing her cloak to let it flair around her as she entered, Ling gathered the strands of grief, and prepared to weave them alongside her dance.
"Now, now Ji," he chuckled at his friend's nudges, "You know they won't let you in here. This here's an upscale..." he looked at the crooked sign, "well... it's an establishment anyway. And they're not big on feathers inside places like these."
His traveling companion snorted, before walking over to the trough, and nudging one of the other chocobo over a little to get himself a drink. The other bird gave him an indignant look as it scooted, and its companion eyed him and his partner warily, "Aren't yeh..." he gestured toward Ji, "goanna tie it up?"
"Ha!" he couldn't help but to let out a loud gufaw, as he tried to imagine trying to tie Ji to anything he didn't want to be tied to, "No, that's alright. I like my hands just the way they are," he chuckled, "Sides, Ji won't leave without me, ain't that right Ji!"
He was answered with another huff, and he laughed at the incredulous look on the stranger's face as he strolled into the Mean Wiley HQ.
It was crowded in here, which suited him just fine. Where there were crowds, there were stories, and stories led to monsters, and monsters were his business. More, they were his reason for being... But folks had a hard time wrapping their heads around that. Odd as it was, he had an easier time finding monsters when he asked for a bounty. Seemed folks looked sideways at someone who would just take care of a fiend for free. Not that he minded the pocket money, but he'd have been fine without it.
There seemed to be some kind of an act going on, but thankfully they were keeping their music low key. It was nice slow tambourine deal with a dancer. He scanned the crowd, and found a family that looked a little worse for wear to find a space near. Father, Mother, and Son... They looked like folks that had to fight to eat... Literally, and they didn't come by those scratches from rats.
"Hey there friends," he said, taking a standing spot close enough to talk to them without appearing to be looming over their seats, "How's the night treating you folks?"
The boy has wary angry eyes, and the mother stiffened up at his words. He knew he'd made the right choice. The father answered, "What's it to you stranger?" as he put his hand on the woman's arm, earning a wince from the mother.
"Hey there, I don't mean anything by it," he responded with what was supposed to be a comforting smile, but only got him strange looks from the family. There was something off about these folks... and it was clear they'd been hurt by something, but weren't ready to talk about it. He could wait. There were plenty of monsters out there, "Sorry to bother you," he said turning to go, and getting an even stranger look from the kid as he did so.
Finding a place at the back as the act ended, he began scanning the crowd again, and was surprised when the dancer approached him, "You looking for someone?" she asked, with a smile that was oddly comforting. He didn't get along well with most folks, too hard to read beyond the basics, and he couldn't say why... But he felt like he could talk to her.
"Just work," he muttered in reply.
"Oh really?" she stepped closer, setting one of her hands on his arm, sending a small unexpected jolt through him. Sure, she wasn't bad to look at, but there was something... else about her. He could see it in her eyes, beneath the smile, under the mask, she had been hurt. Something bad. And not that long ago that she could just carry it around with her unnoticed, "What kind of work is it you do?" she smiled up at him, taking a small step closer.
"I ahh.." he wasn't usually hard up for words when talking to women, but this dancer, "I'm a hunter for hire," he answered her, catching the family getting up behind her as they spoke. The man had a tight grip on the boy's arm, and the mother was following meekly behind them as the boy was dragged from the bar. He suddenly realized what the expression he'd seen on the family's face was. Fear. Not every monster had claws.
"Are you currently-"
The dancer was saying something, but he wasn't really paying attention and he needed to follow the family out, so he just answered her, "Yeah, sure."
"Okay well, I'll see you tomorrow... Then..." he heard her saying as he rushed to the exit. With a sharp whistle, he called Ji as he approached the door, and his friend was waiting for him outside, "We've got another job," he said as he climbed onto Ji's back.
"What's your name?" the dancer was outside with him? And she had a strange smile on her face as she asked.
"It's Yun," he answered, "and I've got a monster to hunt."