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TIME: Present Day - Late Morning/Early Afternoon | LOCATION: The New Continent - En Route to the God Tree | INTERACTION: @Savato @J8cob @Rabidporcupine @Odin

Yuhi listened to the doctor's explanation and nodded along, beginning to understand what had happened from his account of the events. He believed he was correct in that thinking a factor had been omitted from the explanation that they'd been given - not knowingly, as the doctor's recollection had seemed quite forthcoming (and there was little reason to lie to the individuals supposed to ensure your safety) - but there was something that was not quite right. Nagi's interrogation of him seemed to have earned her nothing but his scorn (and rightfully so, in his mind) and as she factored him into the equation, he gave her a look of equal parts desire to educate her and disdain for her lack of understanding. She was singularly focused, it seemed--she had been given her mission, and like her division's moniker she was determined to sniff it out to the exclusion of anything else. That was an immensely useful trait for a detective, and even knowing as little about her as he did he was quite certain that she was a stellar detective - but this mission did not require a detective. It required a cohesive unit of individuals who acted with proper information and planning, and apparently Nagi and Izuku preferred to act before those stages were complete. Yuhi got a very different vibe from Soryu, though - he was quite certain that the blue haired ninja was processing the available information in his own way and preparing to act in kind... Though the haste with which half of their team acted prevented him from really being able to do so.

"Thank you, Doctor. We will report back once we have made progress on the mission." He offered, a tinge of disdain and a tinge of apology in his voice, as he stepped away.

Though there had been no time for it earlier, Yuhi made sure to answer Nagi at least briefly before she brazenly stepped foot into the swamp.

"God Trees are the progenitors of chakra. I'm sure you know the history in some form, perhaps allegorically--Kaguya ate of the tree's fruit and became the first to wield the power of chakra. A tree similar to this one is the reason that history's course was altered from the normal to the extraordinary, and why we all exist in the fashion that we do." He spoke hurriedly, attempting to give his teammates at least a fragment of the knowledge required to appreciate the sheer importance of what was unfolding before them. He immediately got a sense of who was taking him seriously and listening to him--that was, Nagi and Soryu--and made a note to have a frank discussion with Izuku about the importance of cohesion once they had survived this ordeal. Indeed, most of the group seemed to follow Nagi's lead into the swamp without so much of a second thought (again, with the exception of Soryu who hesitated slightly), and Yuhi took the opportunity to observe precisely what was happening with them as they progressed into the swamp.

He noted first that they seemed to be walking in circles - peculiar enough, given that the God Tree was straight ahead of them, but it did make plenty of sense given the story they'd heard about the deceased scientist. There was clearly something perverting the sense of perception of those who attempted to approach the tree - and, thinking about it, that did not seem too out of place. Though his knowledge on the God Trees was quite limited, he had read that they possessed some form of sapience (not perhaps an intelligence, but a will that could be expressed by any means it had available to it). Given the pulsating tangle of chakra he could feel within the tree from even here it occurred to him that perhaps the God Tree was defending itself by using genjutsu, or something akin to it. How it was applied did not immediately come to mind, though he wagered that at this point he had almost spent as much time as he was going to be able to without actually stepping in to the swamp. Just before his foot crossed the threshold, Yuhi barked out a quick question to test whether or not his companions could hear him:

"Are you aware that you're walking in circles?"

There was no response. Indeed, it seemed that his working theory of genjutsu rendered them unable to hear him - though he was quite curious about whether or not it would be a shared illusion or an individual experience. It seemed likely to be shared, he figured, if it was some protective instinct of the God Tree. Given that the scenario was very likely about to involve the mysterious local fauna attacking him, Yuhi removed the Yata no Kesan from his backpack and allowed it to hover gently over his open right palm, and continued to walk towards his squad. As the illusion took control of his senses, he found his way to the group rather quickly and attempted to explain to them his perception of the situation amidst the sound of the apparent local fauna beginning to close its way in.

"I believe that the God Tree is somehow influencing this genjutsu--a protective measure, perhaps, to halt our approach? Given how suspect this seems, I'm inclined to believe that we should investigate the tree at the earliest possible opportunity. It will likely offer us a way to end all of this and establish the safe zone - though I am certain that of all of us, I am the only one with enough knowledge about the God Tree to end things in such a manner." Yuhi spoke quickly, having also heard the tell-tale sounds of the local fauna coming towards the group. He found it particularly odd that there was a whistling sound, and as they came into view he took in their measure as best as he could while preparing himself for combat. At their most basic level they had the forms of wolves, but there were subtle changes from most of the specimens he had ever encountered. Their gait was longer (though he wasn't sure if he could attribute that to the wolves or to the genjutsu), their snouts were oddly shaped for carnivorous predators, and there was a flower on the very tip of their tails which seemed to emit the whistling noise that he'd been hearing. The flower in particular struck a chord with Yuhi, who began thinking about it as he kneaded chakra internally in preparation to fight the wolves.

It looked remarkably similar to the bud atop the God Tree, which further lent itself to his theory that the tree was the ultimate cause behind the unique fauna and the genjutsu that they found themselves in. It would explain why the genjutsu was a shared experience, as they did not seem to each be having similar but completely distinct instances of the genjutsu due to their ability to communicate with one another (and Yuhi's lack of being able to communicate them when he was not within the genjutsu). He didn't have much time to ponder the implications further, however, as his perception was fighting against him. Where once the wolves had been plainly visible, they were now simply gone. His periphery told him that something was moving, and as he swivelled his head to take a look there was clearly the form of a wolf where before there had only been a tree. Genjutsu were not something he had a great deal of experience in, though he had picked up as many tips as possible from Kyoko whenever she elected to talk about her abilities. Much of the trouble with dealing with a malleable genjutsu that could adapt itself was the intelligence behind it--only particularly intelligent beings could alter one's perception on such a fundamental level that it becomes impossible to distinguish from reality. It was a relatively safe risk to assume that the God Tree did not have such a level of intelligence, or its defence would likely be far more intricate than ambushing those who came close to it with its minions and genjutsu.

As his mind raced with the possibilities, he didn't notice that a wolf had leaped right at him and attempted to sink its teeth into his midriff. As the bite happened, Yuhi curiously felt no sense of pressure. He wondered for a second what had happened, thinking the seals on his body should have activated, before realising that the attack itself was illusory and snapping his thoughts back to reality. With enough chakra prepared, he activated his Shikigami no Mai and dispersed a loose cloud of paper within a few feet of him. He could not rely on his senses to accurately track the beasts, so he would ensure that they would not reach him without navigating through his weapons of choice. Sure enough, between the illusory attacks that simply phased through the paper and were clearly not real, one of the wolves made its move and lunged at him with a vicious bite. A piece of paper stuck to the top of its elongated snout, and with a quick burst of his chakra the kanji for "Cut" would appear on the piece of paper, and in an instant the wolf's jaw and the beginning of its head were severed vertically, not quite splitting open due to the length of their snouts. The wolf crumpled to the floor immediately, blood oozing from the clean cut and slicking the paper so that it slid off into the marshy mess below. He wasn't expecting it to have done that much damage, truth be told, as the effects from his bloodline were quite weak without an enormous amount of chakra to back them up - but the wolves seemed to be similar enough to common animals that the effects were quite pronounced.

The next wolf came for him from behind, opting not to leap towards him but to go for his legs in order to prevent his escape true to their harrier style of combat. It managed to avoid several of the loosely floating sheets of paper, and got within two feet of Yuhi before he channelled fūton chakra into a single sheet along its edge and brought it straight down, slicing through the wolf's spine and into its body before emerging cleanly from its belly underneath. The strike served to paralyse the creature's body immediately, but its momentum carried it forward enough to land a weak bite against his calf before it actually died. The teeth barely managed to touch his flesh, but it was a solemn reminder of the dangers of combat - Yuhi had been sloppy, and had this been a stronger enemy he could have suffered an actual injury instead of the mild tinge of pain he currently felt. When he'd finished, he noted that his teammates had similarly beaten their own attackers - and that Nagi had been beset by considerably more wolves than they had. He afforded himself a brief moment to wonder why before deactivating the Shikigami no Mai and gathering up the errant sheets of paper, about 20, and arranging them into a neat stack in his hands while his mysterious cube idly floated beside him.

"The flowers on these wolves are too similar to the bud atop the God Tree for it to be a coincidence. Keep that in mind." he stated, nodding towards Soryu. Nagi seemed too headstrong and cocksure to consider the implications of the statement, and Izuku was... well, Izuku. Not much of a strategist, to put it lightly. Soryu was certainly the man he trusted the most with any sort of strategic advice from his brief time observing his team. Then, all around them, the illusion changed. He noticed nothing but an entrance to the God Tree revealing itself, and his heart raced at the possibility of getting to discover what was within the tree and study it in further detail. The violent roar reached his ears, but he barely even considered what it meant as he started to walk towards the God-Tree, then stopped and looked at the monstrosity that encroached upon the group. He hesitated for a second, before impressing his chakra into the stack of paper, emblazoning each of the twenty pieces with a more grandiose version of the commonly recognised symbol for an explosive tag, and foisted them upon Soryu.

"I see an opening for the tree - I'm going to go and see if I can stop this before it really begins! Use those explosive tags in the fight, and good luck!" he called out, simply unable to both pass up the opportunity to research the God Tree and put his theory to the test. Everything was far too connected for it to be a coincidence. Nobody else would be able to do what he could within the tree, and though it meant abandoning his team to fight the monster without him he truly believed that the best outcome would result from him examining what he believed was the source of all of these troubles. If his team hated him for a hundred years for his decision, he was certain he could live with that. He'd have forgotten them by then, anyway.

He made a mad dash for the opening, and climbed inside.

TIME: Present Day - Approx. 9:00AM | LOCATION: Amegakure - The Great Hall | INTERACTION: @Savato @J8cob @Rabidporcupine @Odin

Yuhi paid as little actual attention to Nagi as she did to him, and did the same with Soryu. If pleasantries were to be exchanged, there would be plenty of time to exchange them later--for now, the most important thing to Yuhi was ensuring that he understood everything in the briefing. Unknown territory came with unknown risks. Unknown risks were exceptionally difficult to mitigate, relying primarily on guesswork and conjecture. Yuhi did not like relying on guesswork and conjecture for anything but writing and theorising, and when his life was on the line it was even more important to him that he take as few actual risks as possible. If he could improve his - and by extension, he supposed, his teammates' - odds in the upcoming mission he would absolutely do so. As the briefing began, he readied the pen in his left hand and the book laid squarely on his lap and begun the process of taking notes. Ordinarily, if simply writing quickly for himself, he would not bother to encode his work - but given the amount of documentation pertaining to secrecy that had crossed his metaphorical writing desk he elected to take no chances and write his notes in a simple cipher.

The characters aligned themselves neatly across the blank page of the book, evenly spaced and perfectly legible, spilling forth from his pen as he took down the information that was relayed. He paid especial attention to the mentions of the afflictions, his brow furrowing more and more as he listened. He had heard very little of the attacks and getting definite information like this was equal parts concerning and exciting - he could have spent hours cross referencing his extensive collection of research to match the infection to something that he had encountered before but every connection that he offhandedly made felt incorrect. After the slides passed on the screen showing the progression of the victims' symptoms, he was quite certain that he'd never encountered anything like it before and that it was likely to be synthetic or to have evolved in isolation over a significant period of time in order to display such abnormality. His knowledge on such things was not quite as profound as it perhaps should have been offhandedly, but he had devoted a considerable portion of his extended life to the research of such things at Kinjiro's command and could comfortably theorise on such a disease's origins if little else about it. He wrote every detail down in cipher, making sure to describe the pictures as quickly as he could given the time that he had, and when he was satisfied that he'd written everything he felt necessary he turned the page in time for the next slide to begin.

As the image of Nori Kinsei showed up, Yuhi regretted that his artistic capabilities were sorely lacking. He would have liked to have at least gotten a good sketch, but instead settled for writing down every detail provided about him. As many details as Yuhi could objectively glean from the photos provided, Nori's involvement in the spreading of the unknown contagion and sketches of the blueprints. He made these in as much detail as the time allowed, mentally noting that they would likely be of great importance in the future--if not to him, then to someone on the expedition. He did not write down much regarding the tracker bugs--a small paragraph of ciphered text simply to remember exactly what the assignment entailed. With that finished, he closed the book and placed the pen into the left pocket of his jacket.

As the presentation finished, he wasted no time standing up and immediately setting off towards the VTOLs on the roof. He would have plenty of time to get properly acquainted with his new teammates on the journey to the New Continent.

TIME: Present Day - Late Morning/Early Afternoon | LOCATION: The New Continent - God Tree Base Camp

Getting aboard the craft was quite simple. Another confirmation of identity, another set of directions to follow. Yuhi entered the vehicle and took the nearest seat without much fuss, settling in quickly and taking stock of his surroundings. He made sure to take the PDA intended for him and gave it a quick gloss over. It would be useful for its picture-taking capabilities, he thought to himself, but little else. He preferred to take notes down by hand by a significant margin--offering him a guarantee that he would be able to use the information and being able to cipher them to comply with the NDA. He idly wondered if he should send a copy of his notes to Kyoko, but thought better of it until he was firmly out of Amegakure. If he'd had time to wander around he could easily have made a dead drop that one of her various informants could have picked up and delivered to her, but the situation was far more pressing than that--and the thought of having his lungs endure even a second more of the vile smog within the borderline diluvial city was absolutely unbearable. He would ensure that she got her pound of flesh when it was less inconvenient for him to do so.

As his new squadmates would board the ship, he'd give them a nod of greeting and a smile - both fairly genuine, though any attempt at seeming genuine could just as easily seem disingenous.

"I apologise for my earlier terseness. I wanted to be sure that the brief got my full attention, as we'll have each other's attentions for the foreseeable future! I am Yuhi of the Jikangai clan, and I presume that I am here to serve in a strategic and informational capacity--I'm more of a librarian than a shinobi, to tell you the truth, but I shan't be found lacking in martial prowess should I be required to do so. If there's anything you'd like to know of me, please ask. Otherwise, I will be acquainting myself with the PDA and making preparations for the trip." Yuhi explained once everyone was assembled, and would reply to any questions asked of him. Otherwise, he busied himself with preparations for the expedition.

As the craft veered off from the others, Yuhi grew more curious than ever. Adding another squad to explore the three locations mentioned would have ultimately been pointless, but what could have required the level of secrecy that they had been subjected to? As the distinctive blossom came into view over the distant horizon, Yuhi very audibly gasped. It was quite unmistakeable, and exceedingly rare - he thought that he might not have seen a God Tree for an exceedingly long time. Very little was known about them, and what little was known was sequestered away by powerful and influential collections of people. Fortunately, when the shinobi world had been young, the Jikangai clan had been one such collection of people - and accordingly, there was still literature in their library regarding God Trees. He had a copy of every book in their collection with him, but it would likely provide little other than a solid foundation to base assumptions on - after all, very little was actually known about them even now--never mind when the material in question was written.

"Amazing... I wasn't sure I'd ever get to see a God Tree..." he mumbled, largely under his breath, taking a closer look out of the window to admire the scope of the thing from afar. Though a little overtaken by awe, he made sure to survey the land around the God Tree also--and he was unsurprised by what he saw. This would not have been handled with the delicate care and secrecy that it had been if it would have been easy to just stroll up to what was essentially one of the wonders of the world. As he began to process the fact that the VTOL would not have anywhere to land over this sort of terrain, the pilot's voice came through the headset advising them that they'd need to jump. Yuhi made sure to gather everything that he needed (though he had largely bundled everything together already) and prepared himself to exit the craft. The green light blinked, and he was the first to jump off of the craft. The drop was quite short, around 20 to 30 meters, so it only took a quick concentration of chakra in the legs to hit solid ground comfortably--or at least, hit the wooden planks as instructed. Solid ground, it appeared, was not a phrase that should be used lightly in the area they had landed in.

When the Doctor greeted them, Yuhi offered him the same greeting and confirmation of his identity that he had everyone else in Amegakure. He also took a deep lungful of the air in around them - and though it was not necessarily pleasant, it didn't feel like inhaling acid and smoke. That alone made it smell decidedly sweet. As the group were led them into the camp, Yuhi looked around and began surveying his surroundings as analytically as possible. The terrain was an inconvenient mixture of swampy and forested, so movement would need to be precise and careful. It would be useful to attempt some amateur cartography of the region, though that could be addressed after the immediate issue of the God-Tree and the quandary they were undoubtedly stuck in. The air was thick with humidity, but felt quite like how he had imagined it feeling after reading about this sort of climate - he decided then that gleaning little details such as these was less helpful now than it would be later, but mentally catalogued his observations regardless.

Upon hearing about the scientist's demise, Yuhi was immediately confused. To be restrained by the local fauna and swallowed by the swampy marsh in what was essentially plain sight of the camp seemed wildly implausible - no matter how one envisioned the situation, there was something not right. A detail omitted, or an external force at play.

"You said local fauna? I presume that your missing scientist was supervised from afar during his foray - can you describe the animal for me?" Yuhi asked the doctor, simultaneously pulling out his pen and book and getting ready to write down whatever the scientist said - this time, without a cipher. His companions might find it useful to have the information available to them, and this was not something that he would need to keep later. When the time came, he would be sure to write an encoded summary of the events that transpired.

After his question was answered, he would progress up to the boundary with everyone else. There, he would wait for the others to speak and collect their thoughts. They could create a plan of action for themselves after everyone had had time to get to grips with the situation.

TIME: Yesterday - Morning | LOCATION: Amegakure - Hotel | INTERACTION: None

The journey on the VTOL craft had been quite smooth - not as luxurious as Yuhi had hoped, but smooth nonetheless. He'd largely turned his attention inward, reclining lazily and reading a thick book bound in rich and supple leather, as the sights below and the noise within escaped his attention entirely. Even entering the atmosphere of Amegakure he had only noticed a slight cough and a wheeze every now and again due to the quality of the air with how intense his focus had been. When they landed, his focus was unshaken. When the door was opened and the smog got in, he retched violently for a second and was brought back to the world, his lungs filling with shaky and hesitant inhalations of the noxious air and his eyes watering from the acrid sting that had assaulted his senses. He'd never really experienced this sort of thing before--and though a part of him delighted in any new experience, it was made quite small by how positively awful it was to breathe in the pollution in Amegakure.

Still, he took in stride as he gingerly walked his way off of the aircraft and into the city proper. Unlike many of the other individuals getting themselves together and departing the vehicle, he had not visibly brought any actual luggage with him--the only thing he had was a small backpack, stuffed to the brim with various scrolls and books. Everything he needed for a comfortable stay was secured within, and the lack of weight made his life far easier--a sentiment shared by the young man walking up to him with the name "Jikangai, Yuhi" spilling from his lips. He confirmed that the name did indeed belong to him with a simple nod.

"Mistress Kyoko sends her regards, Yuhi. Follow me, please."

Before he started to walk, Yuhi moulded and kneaded his chakra internally for a brief moment. Once he had finished, he was adorned with a simple (but relatively effective, considering its material) paper umbrella that kept him and his precious cargo from the downpour. As he followed his guide, he considered Amegakure. He'd read that it never stopped raining in Amegakure, but had never really given thought to what that would mean in the context of him specifically: he'd never planned to visit Amegakure. From everything he'd read about the place (which was, unsurprisingly, not an inconsiderable amount) he'd thought it positively dreadful. Necessary, and good for the health of the world, but utterly dreadful. Luxury had been all he had known for a very long time, and though he had not expected the trip to be anything short of harrowing he hadn't been quite prepared for how inhospitable it seemed in this rainy, smoggy city. Living in a palatial complex on a private island in the Isles of Mist had rather changed his opinion of what acceptable living conditions meant - though he supposed he'd thrown that out of the window as soon as he'd accepted Kyoko's offer to send him on this expedition.

Before he knew it, he had arrived at a hotel and his paper umbrella was quite a bit worse for wear (though the worst had been abated by his chakra). He discarded it in a nearby garbage can and entered the lobby of the hotel before being checked in and ascending to his room. He took the time he had to relax as much as he could in the room he'd been given. He didn't want to call it plain, but that was exactly what it was. Still, there were facilities to brew tea and facilities to give himself the last peaceful hot shower he'd likely experience in quite a while - he made liberal use of them, and in the evening he recorded his thoughts and observations about the city in a diary. All things considered, he was quite excited to find out precisely what he'd learn on this very hush-hush trip. He'd been given cryptic instructions about what to expect from Kyoko (even by her standards), and rather than waste his time attempting to decipher her words he would happily wait to simply be told what was going on in the morning.

TIME: Present Day - 8:55AM | LOCATION: Amegakure - The Great Hall | INTERACTION: Squad One

The trip to the Grand Hall was, as expected of Amegakure, unpleasant. Between the rancid air and the constant rain, it would be easy to believe that one was beginning their first steps into an eternal punishment--but Yuhi knew better than that, and figured that acclimatising to being uncomfortable was useful for whatever it was that was coming. He entered the room relatively leisurely (and surprisingly dry, all things considered) and confirmed his identity and such with the assistant at the door. He was given a number, presumably for a seat, and walked down the aisle until he found where he was supposed to be and sidled along until he found his seat.

He wasn't... surprised, exactly, to find Tsubaki had been placed next to him but his initial reaction was one of confusion. He could largely tell from the man's bearing that he was exceptionally nervous about something--he was positively filled with consternation. He wondered what there was to be so nervous about when the moment of revelation was close at hand, other than the knowledge that they were about to obtain. That would certainly be a nervous excitement, though, surely? It certainly wouldn't be whatever he was feeling. Yuhi made it a point to introduce himself as formally and briefly as possible, giving his name and a curt nod to the fellow he was now sitting next to, before he reached into his backpack and pulled out a book and a pen. He opened the cover carefully and meticulously, removed the cap of the pen, and prepared himself to write down any pertinent information that was about to be discussed. He was sure they'd receive some official notation from the briefing, but he always wanted to record information himself. He found no small amount of comfort in having his own notes to review, for one thing, and he had promised his benefactor that he would provide her with every piece of relevant information that he came across. He was quite convinced that she would, somehow, already know anything that he was about to write down - but he was always thorough when it came to information. He presumed that selfsame thoroughness was what had earned him his position on the squad he was one - but seeing Tsubaki fretting, he wasn't quite sure.

He elected to not give much more thought to it, instead waiting patiently for the head jonin to begin the presentation. There would be plenty of time for camaraderie and bonding with his fellows later. Now, there was information to be had and work to be done.

This is currently a WIP as I need to add history to integrate things into the new setting, but everything else is essentially finished.

Katya - NJC

~”Da, eto ya - Katya.”~

Ohohoho, I get to be the first to accept Nao!

Arc 2; Day 1 - One Night in Hell - 12:00/17:00

The preparations for the club's grand reopening had been going on for some time, and each step along the way had been laboriously pored over by Nabriales at some point or another. Minor adjustments for taste and style, proper organization, and outsourcing the majority of the contractors had been something he'd been happy to take on and delegate amongst his vast commercial network of contacts. While money was not an object for him, the plans to fund One Night in Hell had only very recently begun and it was not quite as simple as giving away free money - though he'd filed the paperwork for Victorious Inc. earlier in the day and the company would be formally recognised by around 15:00, the work did not end there. He had enlisted a veritable brigade of legal, commercial, and financial staff to create for him the sprawling network of shell corporations that was required to effectively begin the movement of funds (as well as start what could very well become a multinational conglomerate the likes of which had never been seen before) to One Night in Hell, and by virtue of that, to the Resistance.

As such, he'd been extremely busy. By the time he'd finished up with Sarah and Sophia, and closed Victorious Secret for the day at 12 on the dot, he had immediately teleported himself to the entrance of One Night in Hell, creating a far larger poof and explosion of colour than he normally would. Without a grand entrance, he reasoned, there was no occasion - and the occasion of the grand reopening was spectacular indeed! The second he materialised outside the doors, he waved a friendly hello to the doorman and strode into the club. He'd picked his outfit especially for the opening - nothing but a rainbow-coloured jockstrap, covering the bare essentials but leaving almost literally nothing else to the imagination. It was an occasion to impress, after all, and he felt that it would really best represent his own personal stakes in the club.

He gave the room a moment to admire him before teleporting himself directly into Masha's office. He knew that at this time she'd be probably be down someone's throat, chastising them for unnecessary delays and interruptions to the schedule, or perhaps because the services delivered weren't quite up to her particularly exacting standards. It was a quality about her he admired - many people simply weren't... cutthroat enough for business, and if the last few months of work together had taught him anything about her it was that she was certainly capable of that level of ruthlessness and attention to detail. He'd also long since worked out that she was Darius' beau, and had been developing an appreciation for his taste in partners as well as teasing the fox relentlessly about it. In his mind, it was the perfect arrangement.

"How are things going, love?" He started, before realising he was interrupting a phone call and promptly shutting up. In the time it would take for Masha to finish up her call, he summoned a bottle of the good champagne - one of his favourites, the Moët & Chandon Dom Perignon White Gold (he figured she would like the collectability of the bottle) - and two equally opulent flutes. Bringing her the most expensive and decadent of alcoholic beverages had become part of his job description at this point, he thought to himself, and was amazed by how happy he was at the fact. Many people simply didn't have the taste for luxury that he had, and having someone to share the experience with was what made it so valuable.

Masha hung up the phone with a finality to it that said she might never speak to them again. It probably wouldn't be the case, but she felt the threat had been conveyed enough that they'd get their shit together and she wouldn't have to deal with that again with them. She sighed heavily, flopping herself down in her chair again, grabbing at her cigarette case first before murmuring a thank you to Nabri in her native tongue for his offered drink.

She hasn't been certain at first that she would like him. She honestly still wasn't sure that she did like him and not just his money and that he gave her nice expensive booze for free when she needed it. He was...alright. And he did do a good job bartending. And sometimes that made it feel like he was paying her to work. And she liked that.

Taking a long drag of her smoke, she ran her free hand through her black hair, looking down at her dress. Which was fine and lovely, even if not up to her standards for opening night. She'd have to change still, which was something she tacked on to her ever growing list of things she needed to do.

When she looked up at him she blinked golden eyes in confusion. “Please tell me you have shorts on or something,” she murmured in a tone that said she knew if he did that it would be a lie.

"You're right, I think it's a bit much... There'll be plenty of time for a grand reveal later, no?" Nabriales winked back, letting out a slight chuckle as he took Masha's joke in stride and turned around, showing his bare buttocks to her and twisting his head around to look at her, before giving her a wink and teleporting a chair directly beneath him for him to sit on.

"Aren't you doing something similar? I know you're dressed up to the nines, love, but surely you're going to show some skin at some point during the evening? Tonight is about marketing, and we have to show our assets if we're to attract the kind of clientele and attention that you so desire. Besides, you want to show Darius what he's missing every second he's not here, hmm?" Nabriales continued, simultaneously summoning his phone to his hand and scrolling through his contacts. He had a fairly considerable amount of social influence that he could leverage to ensure that the opening night was a success - but there was far less he could do to ensure that they wanted to keep coming back and bring their friends with them. Masha would have to shine tonight - it was a delicate act to balance the influence she had on the operation of the club. She would have to be seen mingling with the guests, but not be seen micromanaging every aspect - though, of course, that is exactly what she would be required to do.

Though their relationship was somewhat tenuous at best, Nabriales had already fairly thoroughly evaluated all of Masha's skills and traits. Reading people had always been something of a gift of his, and though she was markedly more complex than he had originally imagined he at this point knew enough about her to know that there would be no issues. The corners of his lips turned up into a warm smile as he glanced over at her while continuing to weave his subtle social machinations through his phone, and he took her measure entirely. Masha looked stunning - he expected no less, of course - but the combination of her natural beauty and fierce personality shone through superbly; every facet and every detail was worked out exactly, precisely, to the point that Nabriales questioned if there were mistakes woven in purposely to give an illusion of human error that quite simply did not exist.

Noting the state of her neckline, however, Nabriales' eyes shone with a scintillating spark of magic and mischief. With a delicate gesture, he pulled from the aether quite smoothly a simple black velvet box and handed it to Masha. He cracked the lid open slightly, and even in the ambient light of the room the box emitted an array of twinkling colours, shimmering gently as if to invite the eyes to look. He'd leave the rest for her to open herself, though he did make sure to note that the necklace within was hers to keep, if she so desired.

Contained within were vis crystals, pure and flawless, made to look like precious stones. The craftsmanship was, to put it bluntly, peerless beyond measure - and though he wasn't sure exactly how much they were worth in traditionally financial terms, they had taken him the best part of a month to make. Everything was, of course, tailored to Masha - it evoked a primal sensuality, subtle but domineering, and a sense of elegant refinement that simultaneously drew the eye and challenged one to shelter themselves from the brilliance on display. To call it anything less than a masterpiece would have been shameful - and as he handed it over to Masha he kept his gaze locked on hers, ready to vicariously drink in her enjoyment as she beheld his craft.

Masha watched him with at first slight surprise (though really she should have expected him to show off his ass to her, even if he wouldn’t ever be interested in her) and then frustration. “I don’t need to show off my body on opening night just to get people to come back,” she said with growing frustration. It wasn’t that she had any sort of problem with that, but that was just not something she wanted to default to on the first night. Where did you go from there? “And I don’t need to tease Darius like that any. He already knows what he’s missing well enough.”

She paid no mind to him looking her over, she was sure he was up to something, but she couldn’t spare the brain power at the moment to worry about what he was thinking. So instead she took the few moments of respite and just enjoyed her drink and her smoke as he did whatever it was that he was doing. There was so many things she had to worry about, big and small. And she knew that there was going to be someone working against them from the inside as well. Because Cortes was still being a thorn in her side, even if it had seemed to take a back seat in his priorities.

Since her mind had wandered towards the less pleasant things, it took her a moment to notice that Nabri was talking to her again and offering her a box. A jewelry box. She took it from him, confused, and put her cigarette down in her little ashtray (that could really use to be emptied because she’d been mostly chain smoking a good portion of the day). She looked at him, then to the box, and back at him with a raised eyebrow before looking back down and slowly opening it up to see what was inside. The gasp that came out of her was totally reflexive and outside her control.

Masha didn’t need to know him to know that this thing was more than just a pretty trinket. She could feel the power in it, and knowing him, she knew that he hadn’t just acquired the gems, but made them. The sapphire and emerald stones glittered in the light, drawing your eye into every perfectly cut facet. She murmured in Russian about its beauty, trailing thin fingers with sharp, dark nails along the chain and then the gems, her lips tweaking into a wicked little smile.

“You spoil me almost more than Darius does,” she said with a little laugh at last, looking up at him as she pulled the necklace free from the box and put it round her neck. “Though his spoiling is a little more physically satisfying.”

"I do have potions for that..." Nabri quickly retorted in response to Masha's last comment, also giving her a wry laugh to indicate that while he was definitely serious about the quality of his potion, the context was largely made in jest. As much as he'd have liked to have watched her fawn and swoon over the work of art he'd given her, he appreciated very intimately that they were pressed for time and elected to decide to move on to the actual business at hand. He'd noticed that Masha was very hands on with her work, and while he appreciated that she could only reasonably have confidence in her own abilities it was about time that she let someone else take over and actually get herself ready. Stress was as much of a killer as the metaphorical and literal knives in the back associated with the life Masha had chosen, and though he always worked to provide her a little succour wherever possible it was absolutely not enough.

"Look, love... You're going to kill yourself with all of this stress. You can be the perfect host or you can try to micromanage every aspect of the evening - but you can't be seen to be doing both! Let me make sure that everything is running smoothly while you take a few hours to get yourself ready, hmm? You deserve to relax with how hard you've been working and you know that I can take care of all of the rank and file business. I have looked over all of the plans at least as many times as you have!" Nabri smiled, walking over to her as he began talking and placing his hands on her shoulders to give her a quick massage. He kneaded her muscles as he spoke, working out where the most tension was kept and gradually releasing it with kneading of varying pressure and depth. As a man who worked with his hands practically all day as well as a self-confessed hedonist, Nabriales' massage skills were nothing short of excellent - though he normally put his talents to more carnal uses, Masha would still receive nothing but the very best he could offer her.

"If you're so inclined, I can teleport you over to Darius' place and back once you've had plenty of time to... Enjoy yourself? You just let me know what you want and I'll make it happen - and I'll worry about all of the details. We've tended this little garden very carefully, and I'm more than capable of making sure that any thorns don't rear their ugly heads..." He spoke, adding a soothing lilt to his voice. It wasn't quite singsong, but gentle and melodic like the wind passing through chimes. He wasn't sure that he'd be able to persuade her to let go of even a shred of control with how she was, but he knew that he had to try for the success of the evening. Much hinged on tonight, and part of his own success relied on the evening going well. As an afterthought, he produced a small bottle containing just a mouthful of a lightly pink-red liquid - something Masha would recognise as his own substitute for morphine. All of the high, but none of the downsides - and something he only offered sparingly. He offered it to her knowingly, making an exception for the severity of the night.

She had started to shift when he’d put his hands on her shoulders, but it only took her moment to decide that she didn’t want to make him stop. Her eyes closed and she did little beside taking a drag from her cigarette. She didn’t want to let go of things, she wanted to make sure that everything was perfect. But he was, as much as she hated to admit it, right. And if she could trust anyone to do it, it was him. Because the success of this night was important to him for slightly different reasons. But it was important nonetheless. Whatever political thing that they had going on, she was still trying to work it out because her brain had been too busy with the club itself, was going to need this place to thrive as well.

Masha looked up at him with a slightly saddened smirk. “As much as I would like that, I don’t think he’ll be as inclined at the moment to have me popped into his office in the middle of the day.” He made plenty of allowances for her as it was. But there was only so much he could do and still make it appear that he wasn’t favoring her any or that they were in fact together like they were. And she understood that, she didn’t like it, but she understood it and wasn’t going to make a fuss about it.

She had already considered taking his offer up, for at least giving her a little bit to go get herself ready, but then, oh then, he offered her something even better than good wine or vodka, better than any shoulder massage he could give her, and sometimes, even better than the offer to go see her favorite lover for the afternoon. She didn’t even give him a chance to detract his offer, to teleport himself out of her reach and stop her from getting it. She reached out with her free hand and snatched the little bottle out of his hands. “I do need to change…” she said with a smile that was wickedly delighted by the idea of what he’d give her. As much as she didn’t mind things like the occasional hallucinations that came with too much morphine, it would be nice to be able to continue to work while also enjoying the high of something better than just alcohol and nicotine. She stood up, looking around her for a moment before shaking her head to clear it. Not succeeding, but trying anyways.

“I'm sure you can…” she trailed off, her brain skipping ahead now that she had be given the choice, though was it really a choice when they both knew how she’d be when given that? She was normally much better at that sort of thing, keeping her priorities straight. But she was so very stressed, and she knew very well how unstressed that would make her feel.

Nabriales laughed to himself under his breath softly as Masha chomped at the bit to get at the vial he had offered her. The immediacy--the primal urgency--that was expressed as she stole away the vial as if it were under threat spoke volumes about the habit that he was enabling - and truthfully, he couldn't bring himself to feel negatively about it even a little. There was a purity in the moment that one surrendered themselves to the singularity of sensation; there was a satisfaction unrivaled by the fulfillment of desire on that intimate chemical level. It was something that nothing else could provide, and if it were ordinarily not so horribly dangerous and slippery he'd have been an advocate for everyone in the world experiencing the peaks that narcotics could provide. Fortunately, his particular skill set removed all element of risk - even addiction was a plaything for him to tinker with, and no risk to himself or any under his wing.

It had always been instilled in him, even from a young age, that mastery was important - vital, even - to the human experience. Without mastery, what did we truly have? Without mastery, what did we aspire to - what was the point of existence without wanting to better it and experience that betterness? When he had been old enough to understand that calling that sung to him from within his marrow, it was the first time he had truly known fulfilment. It was an experience he had sought to relive through the use of powders and potions and physicks, and only through sheer mastery had he accomplished it. There was nothing he could not distil and decant - decadence and denial; dreams and domination. All elements of the human experience were there for the taking, and watching that unfold in another being was deeply satisfying heedless of any potential consequence. Still, he was careful to have a downer for her just in case anything went wrong.

"Tell you what - I'll pop you over to my place and you can check the wardrobe out there! If there's anything else you want, take my card and order it - delivery is so fast these days! I'd give you a spending limit, but short of you spending over a billion pounds I don't really care..." He chuckled, handing her a sleek black card and noting down the PIN for her. His own wardrobe was plentiful, but likely not in the style that Masha went for - so he figured throwing money and the equivalent of drugs at her was the best way to ensure her own peak performance for the evening.

She grabbed her bag from under the desk and started to slide her various things that had been strewn about the desk back into place. Picking up her glasses, her phone, her tablet, and all the other little things like chapstick and cigarettes as well as his little gift. She was too distracted to notice the way he’d reacted to her eagerness, and in that moment, she wouldn’t have cared anyways. She was not afraid to admit that she had a problem, she just had no desire to fix the problem. It wasn’t currently affecting her life, she was still being prosperous, she was working just fine, and her social life was doing just grand. So there was no reason to change what she was doing.
Masha considered his offer for a moment before she shook her head slightly.

“No thanks, I’ve already had something picked out for weeks now, and I don’t want to change my mind now,” she said with a little laugh. She considered for one more moment before taking the card from him anyways. “Accessories though,” she said with a little smirk. Not that she’d probably get much of anything but a new pair of earrings perhaps to go with this lovely necklace he’d given her. Not because she didn’t want to take advantage of his offer, but because she had already picked out her outfit for the most part and didn’t have much plan to deviate from that.

“So if you’d like to pop me home, that’d be great,” she shrugged, an expectant little smile playing on her lips.

"Have fun, love! If that hit isn't enough for you or you need a top up, let me know!" Nabriales laughed and waved before poofing her home as she'd asked. She had his number and vice-versa - it wasn't like getting into contact with one another would be an issue. With Masha off getting ready, Nabriales could turn his focus to ensuring that her preparations were completed and strictly adhered to. He knew that a lot of people would think of her specifications as simply guidelines - but he certainly knew better than that, and her instructions were to be taken as gospel. The One Night in Hell stuff would mostly know to stick to her plans exactly - but the external contractors were not typically so informed (minus the unfortunate souls that had been on the receiving end of her earlier verbal thrashing) and Nabriales' job was essentially to make sure that everything went exactly how she wanted it. There were bits and pieces that he'd do differently - aesthetic differences, mostly - but the club was hers and it was her vision, so he wanted to remain completely true to that.

They had their differences, but Masha let him be himself and do things his way and he absolutely had an appreciation for that. As two people who were both used to having a domineering presence, it would be very easy for them to clash and never get anything done... But he thought they'd found a nice harmony in which he could get exactly what he wanted out of the deal, and Masha got showered with lavish displays of wealth for the privilege. Ordinarily, one would think it was a deal that favoured Masha quite heavily - but Nabriales was not easy to get along with when it came to work and he was very well aware of that; it was why he had opened his own store and conducted things his own way.

He spent the next few hours directing things towards their proper place, helping out with magic and money where necessary, and as the time neared opening everything looked pristine. He was pleased with himself for ensuring that events had unfolded as per Masha's designs, and he couldn't help but admire her sense of design. Where in pieces he had thought things looked a little disparate, they had come together with her chosen aesthetic wonderfully. For a brief moment he allowed himself to be envious of her good taste before being shaken from his moment of reflection by the buzz of his phone and Masha asking to be brought back to the club. He obliged her immediately, bringing her right next to him behind the bar, and invited her to look upon the fruits of their labour with a theatrical sweeping gesture of his hand.

"I must say it looks better than I thought it would! Aren't you just full of surprises?" Nabriales heartily chuckled, looking her up and down as he did so. In her completed ensemble she looked stunning - radiantly and fiercely resplendent. Everything came together wonderfully, though his eyes were naturally drawn to the necklace that he'd crafted for her - perhaps it was narcissistic, but he couldn't help but admire just how beautifully his handiwork had turned out. On Masha, the jewelry was breathtaking. Combined with everything else about her, it was a beauty the likes of which he'd witnessed only a handful of times in his life, and he was grateful merely to have been a part of it. After noticing he'd looked a little overlong, he laughed and turned to the space before them. He wanted to watch as Masha presided over the night - it was certainly going to be one to remember.

She looked up at him, the languid look in her eyes flicking with annoyance for a second. “I'm much more capable than I seem, yes,” she replied smugly. “I do know what I am doing after all. Even if you might not think the same way.” And with that she flipped a few stray hairs back over her shoulder and headed towards the stage.

It was finally time. After months of working on this. After hours and hours of stressing. After countless all nighters and all that passion she’d poured into it. It was time. The official opening was about to start. They’d been open their normal hours, but the real party hadn’t yet started. The best deals, the best foods, the best booze, the best music. Everything was going to be the best it possibly could be. And if it wasn’t, there would be hell to pay for it.

Everything looked so nice, the floor was already filled with people, the lights were chill for the time being and not the flashing show they’d be later in the night. There had been a steady flow all week leading up to this night, but tonight, she knew they’d be packed. It would better than it had ever been. And certainly better than it could ever hope to be under Cortes.

The band had been on a break just before and was getting back into position when Masha joined them up on stage. Most of her hair was up, pinned with tiny little poppies and braided perfectly, what was down had been put into loose curls held in place with a fair amount of hair spray. The flowers gave the impression of a crown, and as this the start of her kingdom she wore her little crown with pride.

Her dark green peplos style dress clung to just the right places, flowing freely around her feet. She mindlessly fiddled with her new necklace as most of the crowd looked up to her on the stage, mic in her other hand.

“Welcome,” she said, smiling and hardly blinking when the lights focused on her, catching the gems around her throat brilliantly. She chewed at her lip playfully, playing up her sex appeal with a practiced ease, not even smudging her perfectly applied lipstick.

“Welcome to One Night in Hell. Your new home away from home. Starting now, all drinks are half price, as are appetizers. So eat, drink, dance, indulge. Party like you've got nothing to lose.”

She took a step back, letting Lily come take her place back at the center of the stage. She lingered there though, even after the music had started up again and Lily’s sweet voice floated through the air, golden eyes watching as all of her work came to fruition right before her. She was surprised that aside from a few small hiccups, nothing much had happened. Which of course only made her more nervous. Cortes had to be up to something, she'd done what she could already to start weeding out his ties in this place, but there were lots she didn't know and she just knew him and knew he would do something to destroy this.

But she wasn’t just watching for hiccups. She was searching for familiar faces. Hoping, but also know knowing that it was unlikely, her slick foxxy would be there. If he was, she knew he wouldn’t stay long, and he wouldn’t be like he was alone with her. They’d spent much more time together alone than in public and she wasn’t sure if right this moment she’d be all that distant with him. And as much as she didn’t want to admit it, she needed him there just now. Maybe, just maybe, he’d show up but not in his normal form.

For her.
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