RP Where the Wolf Waits


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When Catian Valor had told Imir that he could help him the boy had been over the moon in his joy and excitement, practically jumping into the stranger’s arms and that empty blackness without any thought as to the danger the man might have posed. It had become clear with a little bit of time and a whole lot of thought that he had been rather foolish to do so, especially seeing a taste of what the Traveler was capable of when they were suddenly in another city, more bustling and busy than the one they had met in and even more foreign to Imir than he would like.

Though Imir had expected to be taken directly to the foundation that Catian spoke of, instead he found himself at the doorstep of a small restaurant in the heart of Beijing. After an introduction in Madarin in which the only word he caught was his own name, Catian left him to “sort everything out” and instructed Imir to help out Ms. Cheng (who apparently owned the restaurant) until someone came for him.

After nearly a week Imir had gone from boundless hope and optimism to a seething cynicism toward the Traveler. Unable to communicate beyond the most basic of things Imir had been tun through a gauntlet of dirty dishes and food prep for days, and as the hours ticked by he kicked himself more and more for trusting some random stranger off the street, even if he did have hair like his and apparent powers beyond this world.

One would think that a child raised on stories around the fickleness and betrayal of deities would be more cautious around someone like Catian, and in truth, in that moment, Imir was glad to be apparently rid of his biggest mistake in the wide world he was so new to. After leaving his village he had initially thought that the greatest threat he would face would be the occasional attempted mugging, but after being faced with something of a storybook character given flesh he realized that the world he walked now, the world that his Awakening had brought him into, held far more dangers than man or beast.

These thoughts swirled around his mind as he washed plate after plate, the circling of his hands reflecting the pensiveness of his expression with every soapy stroke. His thoughts and emotions were like the bubbles, quick to rise to the surface only to pop and disappear as if they were never there. Unlike the menial task he pursued, however, it seemed that the circling in his mind did nothing to clean its stains, instead driving them deeper as he became more paranoid, more suspicious that perhaps he might have been the victim of some mystical prank, or worse that the Traveler might be keeping him for some nefarious plot later.

A heavy sigh passed his lips as he stopped scrubbing, the short, wrinkled from of Ms. Cheng popping up coincidentally at his shoulder and turning the sight to startled yelp. She was always so serious, so severe in her countenance that Imir felt as though she could see into his very soul and wasn’t quite pleased with what she found there.

”Time to break.” Her English was fragmented and broken, edges in her tone as sharp as the gazes she flicked across the kitchen toward Imir throughout the day. It was a small acquiescence that she even attempted the words at all, the first few days filled with nothing but silence and pointing with an occasional grunt thrown in to express her insistence that he clean this, scrub that, or prep this. She was a relentless taskmaster, but even while her countenance spoke of stone and steel her actions were often at odds with that hard packed exterior. The clothes he wore had been left by her, he had no doubt, and while she worked him hard she was as firm about him taking his rest as she was about anything.

He dried his hands with a silent nod, not quite trusting that his tone wouldn’t reflect the melancholy he felt if he spoke his acceptance to her command. There were only a few plates left in the water, and it was the slowest part of their day to boot. It was as good of a time to step away as any, though he only went so far as to scoop up a plate of some noodle dish he couldn’t pronounce the name of. Another of the spun sugar actions that Ms Cheng had employed; it seemed that she thought him too thin, or perhaps she simply enjoyed feeding people that much. Either way he always seemed to have a plate in front of him, whether it was to be cleaned with soap or to be cleared of a meal those plates had become a focal point in his world.

He ate quickly, and took the plate to the sink himself. At first he had been surprised to find the owner of the establishment taking his place and washing the dishes that came in while he rested, but as he stepped up to the sink next to Ms. Cheng he found that he had grown accustomed to it rather quickly. A slight wave of his hand as he slipped his plate into the water caught her attention, and she turned to face him with a hard expression betrayed only by her kind eyes.

”Any word yet?” Imir asked the same question, day in and day out. Each time he asked Ms Cheng would shake her head solemnly, perhaps unequipped to respond verbally or perhaps leaving the motion as a truer communication of her denial. It was a devastating answer sometimes, but the routine helped, somehow.

She didn’t stop with a shake of her head today, however. ”Mr. Valor come when Mr. Valor want. Not before. Always for when he want, for twenty year now. Patient, Imir-láng.” Patience was always easier to preach for the elderly and those who weren’t waiting, and though he knew Ms. Cheng was trying to console him Imir felt the scowl crawl over his expression.

” I’ve been patient! I don’t know what he told you but I don’t have the time to sit around waiting for someone to come rescue me!” Realizing the volume he had reached Imir ran a hand over his face, pruned from its time in the dishwater, and lowered his voice. ”I’m sorry Ms. Cheng. I didn’t mean to yell.”

The older woman pated a calloused hand on Imir’s shoulder and stepped down from the stool she used while washing the dishes. With a small grunt she pointed to the dishwater, soapy bubbles playing tag in the wake of his plate’s entry. Sighing again Imir’s shoulders fell slightly as he positioned himself in front his station. It had been a week since he had come to this place, and longer since he had let the wolf free from its mortal prison. The outbursts were getting harder to control, and already he could feel the strength draining from his bones.

”Please, please let him come soon. In a city like this there is no telling how bad it will be when the wolf breaks free.” The soapy water Imir pleaded to only popped softly as a reply, and he dove his hands into it once more to fish around for his own dirty dishes. If only all messes were so easy to clean.
Mrs. Vail had been asked four times, in increasingly broken English, if she was lost.

Three of them she had let Castor answer in Mandarin while playing the bodyguard. The fourth time, asked with much worse manners than the first three, she had answered herself. A small bloodstain on her knuckles had been wiped away the moment the perpetrator was out of sight, and she was grateful that none of it had gotten onto the sleeve of her business suit or under the million-dollar ring Ethan had given her. The outfit quite frankly cost more than the average security budget for a Level-3 location. And she had personally made sure that they had the best security available for their requirements.

The painstakingly tailored, sapphire-blue suit, designer sunglasses, and 3-inch heels did not help the image of a lost American businesswoman, even with her golden hair pulled up in a ponytail. Valentia simply didn’t care. Or, perhaps she cared and simply didn’t let it show. She didn’t have to, with Castor hovering at her shoulder like a dutiful bodyguard rather than the pair of eyes and slight anomalous influence he’d really been brought for.

This was a task the Welcoming Committee could certainly have handled. STLH-I-A was as apt as they’d been when she’d retired from their ranks to play trophy wife in the real world. But Dr. Hobbes had determined it might be best to call in the former best-of-the-best for this one, if only because Mr. C. Valor had made it clear that a little drama might be in order. She was no goddess, but in the modern world, the wife of a multibillionaire was the next best thing, a veritable Queen of Sheba – no Boudica, of course, but a Cleopatra of the modern world.

So with Castor, a thousand-dollar outfit, and the best looks that money couldn’t buy as props, Valentia Heather Vail took front and center stage as she stepped through the front doors of a tiny restaurant in the backstreets of Beijing. Removing the sunglasses only revealed her striking blue eyes, made almost pale when contrasted with the darker blue of her suit and framed by dark lashes, and a face perfectly crafted for the camera. She didn’t used to flaunt her casual beauty, except when it was best for the Foundation. Now she wore it all the time, as the world expected of a mysterious heiress, to be recognized as what she was. In public it made her an obvious target to gentlemen of ill repute and manner, but such was the cost of her lifestyle. The intent was, after all, to draw the eye, as she did with the few people in the restaurant.

None of whom were the mysterious Mr. Catian Valor or the unknown Mr. Imir Ragnulf. She gave them her glowing camera smile anyway while she stood with Castor as if waiting to be seated.
Ms. Cheng had meandered off well before Imir had washed his own plate, and it was but a moment before a new batch arrived to occupy his attention and his time. He didn’t have any experience with restaurants to speak of, but he thought it was probably uncommon for the owners of such places to participate in the day to day workings the way Ms. Cheng did. She would bus tables and cook the food as quickly as she would sit with the regulars and carry on conversation. Despite her rough demeanor, at least toward Imir since he had no way of understanding her conversations with locals, Ms. Cheng was apparently well respected and well loved. It had barely taken days for him to see that. Even from the back the American woman drew his attention, so it was only fitting that Ms. Cheng had gone to greet them personally. Imir minded his place and went back to washing plates, though not without a lingering glance toward the shining beauty and her imposing guard.

Ms. Cheng met Valentia Vail with an outstretched hand, the difference in their height forcing the elder woman to her toes as she held her palm up flat toward the American woman’s face. She didn’t offer to seat them, or ask for their order. She held no menu, but obviously wanted something from the blonde.

”Mr. Valor say you give me money for taking care of boy. I give him clothes, roof. You pay before you take him. He is a good dishwasher.” Despite her stature she stood in front of the entrance to the back of the restaurant like a miniature guardian, a toll keeper to the prize she knew she held. Imir would have protested, would have called her out on her lie even against the compliment she had inadvertently given him. Luckily for her she had caught the woman from the Foundation before her ward, or she would be left without a dishwasher and have nothing to show for her charity. Nothing save the favor she had asked of Mr. Valor. Ever the businesswoman, however, she could hardly call that a profit when the American woman had come so eager to display wealth.
Valentia had half expected to be seated like a normal customer, to be treated in the casual way that most of her people would use to cover up an operation. It seemed that Catian Valor had not told the shop’s owner to practice discretion.

Nǐ hǎo to you as well, she thought, but she just smiled in response to the show of authority, and nodded a little, as if she understood. Might as well get this done, then, get the werewolf – potentially anomalous – out of the woman’s hair. While she dug in her purse for her checkbook, she spoke in rapid, fluid Chinese.

“Dāngrán. Wǒ de kèhù méiyǒu gěi nǐ tài duō máfan ba?”
Certainly. My client didn’t give you too much trouble, right?

She titled the language to be casual, like old friends. She didn’t specify which client she might be talking about – Mr. Valor hardly qualified, but the wolf had been held at his request, and he was the one who had volunteered the Benefactress to pay for the young man’s room and board. On the other hand, she was here on behalf of the wolf himself, as someone who could at least help him.

“Hái yǒu wǒ qiàn nǐ duōshǎo qián?” she asked. “Rúguǒ nǐ tài xiǎngniàn tā dehuà, wǒ kěyǐ tígōng lìng yī tái xǐ wǎn jī.”
And how much do I owe you? I can provide another dishwasher for you, if he will be missed too much.

And it was a genuine offer. She had people all over the world, and if not one of her people, one of her people’s people, or her vast network of connections. Or, well, Ethan’s connections, since their wealth was in his name. But it likely wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on this woman, either. She was a loose end, not in the sense that Valentia did not trust her – even if she didn’t, given the approach of a demand for money rather than confirmation of any other sort – but in the sense that having a werewolf here, however strange, for any amount of time, was bound to attract bad characters. It was as much for the proprietor’s safety as that of her own people.
Ms. Cheng might have been made of stone for all of the reaction she afforded the American. She did take a moment to consider, however, and glance around the room to stifle a few whispers. Several of the regulars had been present when the boy was brought to her, and they knew full well that The Traveler had exchanged favors with the owner of the Black Dragon with no further promises on anyone’s behalf.

Though the whispers were ended before the information was fully spoken Ms. Cheng knew it was likely enough for this gweilo to become suspicious of her motivations. Fortunately she had already planned the number for this. ”Fourteen thousand dollars.” Her response was short, and in her heavily accented English despite the revelation that Mrs. Vail spoke her native tongue. Ms. Cheng wasn’t known as an overtly friendly person.

It was the silence that convinced Imir that something was definitely wrong. Even when the restaurant was peaceful, which was less often than one might expect from a place of its scale, there was always a base level of chatter. No matter how muted it might be Imir could always hear something going on, but the stillness, the bated breath just beyond the kitchen doors was alarming as soon as it fell.

The plate he had been rinsing had barely touched the bottom of the sink before Imir tore through the doors, nearly ripping them from their hinges in his haste. Had he not been weakening he might have sent them across the room. He took a deep, calming breath to level himself. It was clear that no one was in danger; he needed to stay calm.

”Wait.” It was clear he was only just beginning to process what he was seeing. ”What is going on here?” Perhaps a bit more slowly than one would hope.