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  1. #1
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    1,770

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
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    Male
    Location
    Salvar

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    Old dogs, new tricks. [closed]

    Closed to Storm Veritas
    Shinsou had been watching the players perched around the table carefully for a good while now. Each facial expression told of the men’s experience in the game. Some grimaced with mock incredulity, trying to throw the others off of the scent. Some of them simply stared down, not wanting to give anything away. Storm Veritas, to the Telgradian’s left, smiled before calmly gazing down at the cards in his hand, sipping his honey malt whiskey in the deliberately confident way he always did. Shinsou contemplated his next move, placing his hand face down on the table and tapping two fingers on the reverse of his cards. He knew, underneath his palm, there were three separate cards, completely unrelated in both suit and order, with the potential to lose him his thus far respectable pot.

    But he wasn’t at all worried.

    Experience told him that he could have had the worst hand in the game, but it wouldn’t matter one bit if he could bounce the other players into thinking he had a cock like a caber. Judging by the intelligence of some of the knuckle draggers at the table, it wouldn’t be a particularly difficult task.

    "Well, well! Would you look at that!", A thick set, heavily bearded wall of a man to Shinsou’s right exclaimed, throwing his hand face down proudly but being very careful to not reveal his cards. Slamming his fist triumphantly on the table, sending tremors through the room, he grinned like an Alsatian. “I’m taking this pot all night long, chumps!”

    It is easy to smile at an insult and pretend it's funny when the person insulting you is about to hose you with money.

    Shinsou glanced casually at the mound of copper and silver in the center of the table, and then to Storm on his left. The electromancer shrugged nonchalantly, folded, and took another sip of his drink from behind his own sizeable portion of the coins.

    It should have been difficult to focus. Within the steady hum of idle chatter came the regular thump of boots pounding onto the creaking timber floorboards; interrupted only by the crescendo of clinking glasses and the cheers of the revelling crowd. Indeed, some of those seated around the table started to lean in, cupping their ears to catch the bets as they rose. One folded accidentally, not realizing the bet was lower than he thought. However, Shinsou sat, his cards flat against the wood, with a cool expression.

    “I raise you fifty.”

    The calm expression never left the former Telgradian emperor’s face as he threw in his lot, pushing his silver towards the pile. Fold after fold followed in a clockwise motion around the table, until it came back to the bear-man.

    “Are you joking?! If you don’t have at least a flush, boy, you are done here! I raise a hundred!”

    Shinsou, not dissuaded by his failure to sway the lumberjack, tapped his cards.

    “You better think before you match me. The timber trade’s a little slower than usual these days, and you look like you need the money. Two-hundred."

    Tossing his own cards face down amidst the taunts and laughter around him, the Telgradian glared at his peer. The lumberjack looked flustered, and hesitated. A lot of money was on the table, a month’s wages for him, and he knew his own hand was a slight bluff. A king high pair would do okay in the early betting, but not here. His opponent had to have at least a flush to throw in two hundred.

    It took a moment before he decided to cut his losses and abandon his bluff.

    “You got fuckin’ lucky that time. What did you have?”

    Shinsou smiled. “It’s not what I had that matters, it’s what I have now that’s important. Which, by my count, is two hundred pieces heavier. Thanks for playing.”

    The lumberjack slammed his fist into the table, and exited to raucous, mocking laughter.

    You can all laugh, but he’s human, same as you, Shinsou thought quietly to himself, By the time tonight’s done I’ll have had you all paying for my board here.

    Taking the deck in his palm, after sweeping his coin mountain into a leather bag next to the table, Shinsou tossed cards back and forth until the next game was set and ready. Three card brag had never really been his forte, but Storm had taught him well from their time travelling together when there was nothing to do between marches. Of course, his wily friend had been careful not to teach him everything, but that was to be expected. That was the way things worked between them; a relationship of trust and independence, guidance without handholding, and progress without intrusion. It was something Shinsou had given a lot of thought to, and he had hoped that his latest idea would sit well with the skilled electromancer and follow the same template. As everyone slid their cards into their hands and began their methods of misdirection, the Telgradian shot a glance left to Storm, who was trying to get the attention of a particularly top-heavy waitress for a top-up.

    “I know this is a bit out of the blue,” Shinsou started, folding his cards inside his palm, “but can you meet me at the Citadel tomorrow morning? There’s something I want to show you.”

    As he was about to deal the next game, a tap on his shoulder distracted him. He turned his head and shot a glare at the man stood over his shoulder.

    ”What’s up, Arius? I’m playing here.”

    A pair of hazel eyes appeared from beneath a pair of gold rimmed spectacles, unfazed. From beneath his brown leather robes, he handed over a beige, folded note.

    “It’s ready. Well, sort of. You need to give it the finishing touches.”

    Shinsou looked around the table, and sighed, placing the deck in front of Storm.

    “Excuse me. See you tomorrow, and try not to be too hungover, yeah?”

    He got up from the table, slinging his weighty coin sack over his shoulder, and unfolded the note between his finger and thumb. The handwriting was his father’s; the paper looked as if a spider had fallen in a vial of ink and scurried across the page. He held it up to a nearby lamp, and read it quietly in his mind.
    Last edited by Shinsou Vaan Osiris; 06-04-2019 at 05:16 PM.
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  2. #2
    Ride The Lightning

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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

    GP
    21,050

    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
    Race
    Human
    Gender
    Male
    Location
    Corone
    Tonight was intended to be a “bait night” for Storm. With Shinsou joining him at the table, the cards would be secondary to the conversation, and an opportunity for the wizard to set the table with these doughy, hairy-knuckled fools that clung to their crowns with fervent desperation. Tonight, he wasn’t here to win money. Tonight, he’d happily drop a few coins, setting up small tells after his third whiskey – scratching his nose when he held a little doubt; or fixing his seat just so slightly when his hand was strong. He’d make these moves tonight, and tomorrow, letting these fools bleed him slightly while he slowly raised the stakes. In three or four nights, when their jaws dripped with enough saliva, he’d tighten up and string them. He’d already caught most of their tendencies just watching.

    Fat boy twists his ring when he’s unsure of what he’s doing. Crater-face fans his cards more taut when they’re stronger, to keep people from seeing strength. Cue ball isn’t too bad, but he drinks with his left hand when his hand is strong.

    Fucking rubes. This is a five hundred crown crew if I can convince them they’re smart enough.


    The thinnest blanket of tobacco smoke had finally fully coated the ceiling of the room when Shinsou was pulled away abruptly. The Telgradian made a snide remark about sobriety (as if he were some sort of fucking sponsor) and was out before Storm Veritas could talk him out of a good decision.

    “Well, shit. Looks like the young fella’s all tuckered out. Who’s ready for a round?” The diplomatic electromancer rose and smiled brightly, fixing his pedestrian suit. The cotton-wool blended stuff was beneath him, but it was soft, warm, and allowed him to fit in with these filthy peasants. They thought him fancy in anything that lacked holes or mustard stains, so he’d been drinking his way into their good graces.

    With a few extra rounds of a weak lager and strong whiskey, the men started loosening up and chatting amongst themselves. Storm had convinced the group he was a traveler who traded currencies, which left his pockets a little heavy and his company welcome. The gamblers were largely losers, but had some fun stories and tried to regale the Secret Serenti Champion with tales of their own regalia.

    “I was a warrior as a boy!” Cue-Ball had started the conversation. In fairness, with meaty hands and a thick chest, crazier claims had been made. “I fought in the Alerian Revolution. Those Dark Elves won’t come near me now.”

    They’d cut you in slices like they were divvying up Sunday dinner. You could just as well tell me you walked there, across the water.

    “Amazing!” Storm smiled with seemingly genuine curiosity. “Did you retire? A hero’s pension is supposed to be fantastic in Radasanth…” He teased the point, knowing it false, pushing his luck just a touch.

    “It’s fine.” Cue Ball hedged, spinning his ring and sipping slowly. “It was a long time ago – the army wore out my knees and ended my career before full pension.”

    Maybe he’s only partially full of shit…

    “Oh, fuck off, you shiny-skulled shit! We’ve all heard it a million times!” Crater Face had come in over the top with an aggressive barb. “And besides, some of us aren’t so naturally strong but can still find ways to work for a livin’!”

    “Bullshit.” Fat Boy was simple in his critique. “Your idea of work is getting up at the crack of noon and asking Uncle Stu for a couple of coins.” Storm had no idea who Stu was, but took a mental note of someone in town with no doubt deep pockets. These were, after all, his favorite type of friends.

    “No shit.” Crater Face smiled, finishing a short, heavy glass of whiskey and slamming it with a thud. “I’ve been making a king’s ransom as a trader – you know where to look and my money man here can tell you there’s piles to pull.” He gestured to Veritas, who took his cue fairly.

    “Sure, yes, absolutely. Hell, exchange rates float from place to place, and I just need to find a couple of people that need Alerian, Coronian, Dheathian coins or whatever. It’s free money for me to travel, if you can find the right place.” This was a gamble; his story had more holes than a sea sponge.

    Shit, that was stupid. Needed a better story. Shit.

    “Better when you find the same spot, my friend!” Crater Face smiled, his brown-flecked teeth taunting him as he spoke. “I’ve been trading wheat at Tylermande for triple rates! And you should see the whores down there!”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Somehow, the wizard had managed to keep his comportment, allowing his rage to bubble just beneath the surface. He was banging on the door of Vaan Osiris, oblivious to the fact that it was late, Shinsou was quite possibly not alone, and Storm smelled like a distillery fire.

    With a few creaks and mumbled swears, a light shined beneath the door to the tavern hallway. Storm backed slightly upon the stones, giving space to Shinsou to slowly open the door. When their eyes met, Shinsou was a blend of annoyance and disgust.

    “Gods! You’re drunk as shit! Get back to your room; I’m not holding your hair while you puke. We have an early morning, in case you forgot.” Even sober, the fatigued warrior looked punch-drunk himself with bags under his eyes.
    “No! Well, yes, but no. Sure, I drank plenty, but that’s not this.”

    Wrap it up.

    Storm steeled his eyes, showing his intent and purpose. “The Citadel is going to have to wait.”
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 06-07-2019 at 07:42 PM.

  3. #3
    Administrator

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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

    GP
    1,770

    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
    Age
    31
    Race
    Telgradian
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    Male
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    Salvar

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    "I don't believe it. I don't fucking believe it!"

    It was the seventh time in as many minutes he had said it, but Shinsou's fury was still no closer to abating. His face was a stone cold snapshot of silent rage, his lips were almost white from the pursing and his fingernails left purple crescents in his palms as he clawed his fingers tight around the reins of his horse Slepnir. Beside him, in tandem, was an equally furious electromancer, spurring Attila on with a quiet but almost venomous demeanour.

    "We need to check everything," Storm finally uttered through gritted teeth, "and I mean everything. Ledgers, profit and loss accounts, shipping manifests and the cash on site...lock, stock, the fucking lot."

    Last night, Shinsou had been listening intently with a mixture of grave concern and, eventually, boiling anger, to his partner's retelling of "Crater Face's" boasts. At first, the Telgradian wasn't sure how much of it was true. A lot of people tried to big themselves up at the card table to impress both the clientele and the women, but a cursory check of the latest Brotherhood treasury ledger (something neither he nor Storm ever really audited) confirmed a sizeable deficit that seemed to fit the facts. There should have been a very healthy income; Storm in particular had gone to great lengths to ensure that the trading tariffs at ports and markets were always profitable ventures, and that any supply lines were negotiated very thoroughly to ensure a favourable outcome for the Brotherhood. It was what he was good at, and he had bust his not inconsiderable balls to achieve it.

    Yet, despite these efforts, the number in red on the statement of account told an uncomfortable truth; there was an alarming shortage of money. Money was the very lifeblood of the Brotherhood; it was used to feed the families of the soldiers, buy food and weapons, and pay "maintenance" costs (as Storm called them) to any relevant authorities. Without it, quite simply, they were fucked. As the steeds trotted side by side, the miserable weather of the rainy season hit. Through the driving rain, the pair of allies rode down a muddy hill towards a junction. A left turn here would put them on the road to Tylmerande, and as the pair cantered over the potholed clay, Shinsou shot a sideways glance at Veritas.

    "Arius delegates responsibility for the finances between three people in Tylmerande, as far as he told me," The Telgradian held three fingers up for a visual reference, "There's a treasurer, a freight forwarder and the exchange. The treasurer deals with accounting, the freight forwarder deals with goods in and out of port and the exchange deals with buying and selling currencies. As your boy Crater Face confirmed, we need to get a grip of the freight and goods trading- accounting is all well and good, but it is subjective on the information provided. There is nothing fucking subjective about that cash balance...someone is taking the piss out of us."

    The area they were in, about five kilometres now from the port of Tylmerande, was a fairly rugged track next to woodland. Even with the enormous steed beneath him, the tall Telgradian felt every step beneath jolting him as the hooves churned up mud and clay. It just served to irritate him further.

    "Could it be a mole?" Storm asked, producing his pipe from within his finery, "I wouldn't put it past the assembly to get creative, especially when it comes to us. They know we're a tough nut to crack out there, but maybe they think if the boys aren't getting paid, they'll down tools and leave us exposed."

    "If there is a mole, I'd like to play that game where it pops up and we smash it with a fucking hammer." Shinsou emphasised the point with a downward stroke of his fist.

    He watched as Storm took a moment to fill his cherry-wood pipe with a bit of tobacco, lighting it with a snap of his fingers.

    "So, who is doing the vetting for recruitment, then?" The electromancer asked, screening out the rain using the back of his hand as he inhaled.

    "Arius deals with all of that, as far as I know. I've not known him to be wrong, yet."

    As they continued to ride, Tylmerande appeared on the horizon. The coastal town was such an unassuming place, yet enjoyed key status amongst its previous incumbents, the Assembly, and current occupiers, the Brotherhood. It had once served as a shipyard for the Imperial navy and a port that was economy-critical for the government, and now found use as a fully functioning harbour and trading post for Shinsou and Storm's organisation. Taking it had been easy enough, and the rebuilding and operation of it seemed to be going smoothly up to now, but they both knew that in order to maintain a healthy Brotherhood, Tylmerande had to be self-sufficient and not pissing money up the wall.

    A few minutes later, the allies had gotten close enough to travel by foot. Smoothly dismounting their great black mounts, leaving them at a Brotherhood checkpoint with reserves of water and hay, Shinsou and Storm strolled to within a kilometre of the town gate.

    "The shit we went through to get this place was worth it," Shinsou reminisced to Storm as they approached, and passed, the final perimeter picket, "...so long as we leave here safe in the knowledge that the leaks are plugged. My first thought is a town wide blockade - no freight taken off or put on the ships here, no goods changing hands and no coins being bought or sold until every manifest, every currency option and every contract is checked. What do you think?"
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

  4. #4
    Ride The Lightning

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    Storm Veritas's Avatar

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    Name
    Storm Veritas
    Age
    39
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    Human
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    Male
    Location
    Corone
    “It’s a hell of a start.” Storm glowered as he stared holes through the greywood and white stone, sun-bleached buildings of the port town. After the fiasco of losing Whitevale, Storm and Shin had made sure to do Tylermande right. They kept themselves largely out of operations, allowed the citizens to feel empowered, and enacted firm, fair rules that the townfolk ostensibly seemed content with.

    Of course, your average schlub isn’t exactly going to give one of us lip back, after we cut this town a new asshole four feet wide on our way in.

    His teeth gritted around the pipe as he tasted the heat, the sour-sweet flavor of his tobacco. The wash of placidity that tobacco brought him settled his lungs and heart into a certain smoothness that aided his decisions, and settled some of his budding mania.

    “I’d like to force the truth from these ungrateful bastards with some combination of lightning, rope, and chrome coated pliers. Bribe our ways to the first name, and disembowel him in town square to send an unmistakable message.”

    As furious as Shin had grown, he knew this path was lunacy, and had learned enough of Storm to understand the wizard had something else in mind. He continued walking as he waited, sipping from the leather cask that Veritas believed held water. Storm continued.

    “But we can’t, not if we’re going to rally the town back into good graces. More flies with honey, and all that. Besides, I don’t know if we’re dealing with one rogue fool I can string up by the balls, or if we’re dealing with a more sophisticated grift. Maybe we start by looking at the books in a routine spot check, see what we’re dealing with.”

    “Sure, I bet there’s a line item loophole someone honestly missed. And Phi is probably waiting in the tavern with open arms and tits out to throw us a surprise party.” Shin smirked at himself as he mocked the initial plan.

    The wide eyes of the handsome warrior showed a certain vitriol that caught the attention of his friend. It was rare that Storm would serve as the voice of reason between the two, but perhaps this calm only came because he was spelling out his own plan, and had already navigated the processing of his own wrath.

    Be honest, roles reversed, Shinsou could present the best plan in the history of modern politics and you’d second guess it if it didn’t involve you filleting the mole like pork before the Harvest celebration

    The electromancer caught himself, careful not to show some unwarranted temper. Shin was right, in that there was virtually no chance that the pock-marked gambler was piping off at the mouth over some legitimate issue.

    The wind picked up a bit, sending the sea air over them in a salty staleness, stinging the squinting eyes of the magician. He had stopped, picking at his fingernails as he retorted.

    “Relax. It’s about process. Let’s peel this onion one layer at a time, find the rot systematically, and allow the people to see that we’re respecting the democracy established here. Then, when we discover the source of the corruption, you can remind the people here that governance is taken seriously. Hell, you can even break out your Emperor Cutesy-roogi bullshit if you want to.”

    A knowing smirk. Nothing got under Vaan Osiris’ skin like the playful mocking of his incredible power. Storm had the luxury of being the only man upon Althanas who could comfortably offer the barb without any fear of retribution.
    Last edited by Storm Veritas; 06-11-2019 at 09:42 AM.

  5. #5
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    Shinsou Vaan Osiris's Avatar

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    Name
    Shinsou Vaan Osiris
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    31
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    Telgradian
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    Salvar

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    Though the weather was bleak, the day had begun brightly for Tenedos Torr. In the month since he and his comrade Damascus escaped the chaos of the Brotherhood’s assault on Radasanth, they had returned to Tylmerande, to the site of where the madness had all began and where the Brotherhood had sent a message to the nation of Corone they would not soon forget or forgive. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee and placed the half empty cup down on the oak table. Back in the day they’d called Tenedos “the needle”, and soon the people who had trusted him with this dangerous task would etch the name into the annals of Althanian history.

    Perhaps.

    The man picked his teeth with a bone toothpick, chiseling out the remains of breakfast from the gaps, and examined his reflection in the wall mounted mirror.

    His cheeks had color from the cold, and his face had gained a little weight. His narrow blue eyes still had a handsome sheen to them. Looking down, he pulled his left sleeve up to reveal puckered, rough skin covering the length of his forearm. Tenedos ran his other hand over it slowly; the texture felt like that of a cheese grater, the result of his skin melting and bubbling from being struck by a scolding hot missle from a Brotherhood trebuchet. Although he had recovered well from the injuries of the siege, the constant discomfort reminded him everyday that there was a score to settle. He had lost so much more than the feeling in his arm that day, and the time was drawing near for the Brotherhood to settle the debt.

    As the front door slid open, Tenedos quickly rolled his sleeve down and turned to see Damascus pace in, followed by the scent of sea salt. His heavy boots thumped across the clean tile floor. The scarred enforcer looked nonchalant as usual, with his white-seamed face drawn in complete indifference. Tenedos gestured for him to to sit at the small table, so the larger, muscular man pulled back a chair and dumped his heavy frame down in it. He spared a quick glance at the flintlock rifle in the corner and then cleared his throat, reaching inside his leather jacket. A marked hand produced a folded piece of paper and placed it on the table. Damascus slid the paper slowly across, navigating the coffee cup.

    "The Brotherhood just arrived, with those two in tow," Damascus said, his deep voice echoing through the hall. He raked a hand through disheveled dark hair, hazel eyes blazing like coals. "They’ve shut down the port, as we expected, so we’re stuck here until the job’s done." he muttered darkly.

    Tenedos picked up the paper and unfolded it, and after a brief glance at the tidy scrawl on the page tucked it into his pocket.

    “By the time they have figured out what’s going on, we’ll be whoring it up in the best brothels in Radasanth,” Tenedos cleared his throat and wiped his lips before shooting a suspicious glare at Damascus, “You did make sure to set the trail for them?”

    The enforcer nodded curtly.

    “The paperwork will lead exactly where we need it to, Tenedos. Don’t worry.”

    ***

    As the effective trading hub for Tylmerande, the Headquarters for Revenue and Commerce on the outskirts of town often played host to a variety of people, ranging from passing traders looking to apply for merchant permits to high-level officials. Thanks to the blanket lockdown now in effect, people quite literally packed the building from wall to wall, prevented from leaving until all appropriate checks were done by security. The main hall opened up to a roofed balcony walkway that was intended for observation of the port, but so unprecedented was the occupancy of the building that men and women were crammed into it with only thin cushions for comfort and small portions of basic food and water for sustenance.

    In the main administrative offices, Shinsou and Storm sat opposite each other at desks on the far side of the room. Their features were creased with concentration as each man carefully checked manifests, reconciled ledgers and cross checked sums, attempting to narrow down the leak from the huge pile of papers that sat on the wood.

    “Storm, check this out,” Shinsou eventually said after a prolonged silence, thumbing through a three page report, “Your man was saying that wheat was being traded at triple rates? Look at this entry. The standard tariff stands at fifty a kilo. Here, we have two kilos being paid at a hundred. So, that stacks up to our normal tariffs, right? But then, ten lines down, we have some sort of adjustment to the cash account for an extra two hundred.”

    Storm took the opportunity to glance at the account from Shinsou’s side.

    Shit, there’s our triple rate,” The powerful electromancer grimaced, “Better look at the other duties and see what else is mouldy in the cupboard.”

    The hours meandered on. The sun rose higher into the cloudless blue sky and drowned the pair in uncomfortable heat, magnified through a glass pane window. The pair ate only sparingly and drunk none. Once, twice, the tension threatened to explode. Further discoveries of costly anomalies had been made and one or both of the partnership were actively considering a policy shift from to full-on genocide of the entire town, before reasoning that it was better to keep their emotions in check. There was no catalyst quite like losing money for triggering rage.

    By the time the last of the paperwork had been checked and the trays of half eaten food cleared away, the sun had almost reached the horizon. Pools of soft orange light cast uneven shadows amongst the office interior as Shinsou finally tucked the last report away.

    Three-hundred thousand,” His boots rasped on the floorboards as he walked; hackles on the back of his neck rose as they fielded the anger inherent in his tone, “All from commodity trading. Gone, just like that.”

    “Whoever was recording all of this was too fucking stupid to keep the cash adjustments off the ledgers,” Storm spoke now, bowing low, ignoring the snorts that echoed on the edge of his hearing, “So that makes me think the problem lies on the front lines. No true money-man would be so careless. Time to pay a visit to the port, I think.”
    Old does not mean dead – New does not mean best – No hard feelings, I’m tired of being right about everything I’ve said – Yours does not mean mine – Kill does not mean die – We are not your kind

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