In the Eye of the Hingan
Just how long was I frozen in time, a statuesque vision of gentlemanly grace...? Bah, no matter! For I, Hildibrand, agent of enquiry, inspector extraordinaire, am back in the game! And what a game it is, my friends, for in a Far Eastern town replete with intrigue, a dastardly Wolf Burglar preys upon the wealthy and powerful! Just deserts, some might say, but crime is crime, no matter the victim! Yea, injustice is a cancer, and I am the barber's blade! * * * The notorious Wolf Burglar of Kugane has struck again, and Shigure is eager to proceed to the scene of the crime. Inspector Hildibrand and his faithful assistant have likely already arrived ahead of you, but if you hurry, you may make it in time to prevent them from further complicating the situation.
Have you heard, Forename? The Wolf Burglar, for whom we have been searching day and night, has struck again!
Word reached me but moments ago! The inspector and his assistant are a step ahead of us, but if we hurry, we may arrive before they begin questioning any witnesses.
You will come, will you not? Yes? Then let us brook no further delay and make haste for the Rakuza District!
The Wolf Burglar's struck again!
It was a near thing, I say, a near thing!
I, Hildibrand, agent of enquiry, inspector extraordinaire, stand ready to assist any and all who seek redress for crimes dastardly and daring!
My keen inspector's sense has led me hither. Speak, my good man─what injustice befell you here?
Inspectors...? Ah, yes, the Westerners. I remember you, girl. If you are so eager to hear the tale, then I should be glad to tell it.
It was him! The Wolf Burglar! Bold as ever, he attempted to steal the finest sword in my collection─the Soboro Sukehiro─in broad daylight!
By the kami! But...you say he “attempted?”
And failed, aye! Bwahaha! Little did the fool know I had recently employed a new bodyguard─a peerless samurai worth every koban!
So the fiend was unable to abscond with your precious blade. Truly, you are fortunate indeed, Master Akebono!
Yet surely this is not the end of it? The Wolf Burglar has his pride─he is not wont to forsake a prize.
Master Akebono, I have no doubt that the thief will come for the blade again and again. I pray you permit me to aid your men in protecting this treasure, that we may finally bring this villain to justice!
You have spirit, I'll grant you that, but I have no need of additional guards. Yojimbo alone is worth a hundred men, if not more!
Master Akebono, I think you underestimate this foe─
You try my patience, boy. I have made my decision, and I will not suffer it to be questioned further. Find another way to earn the Sekiseigumi's approval.
Now then! I have a pressing engagement in Sanjo Hanamachi to which I have been looking forward all week, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let this business with the Wolf Burglar delay me further. Good night!
I fear he has let this turn of luck lull him into a false sense of complacency. He should be doubling the guard─or tripling it! If only he would reconsider.
If he will not listen to reason, then he must be made to listen to reason!
When in doubt, try again? It's not the most well-thought-out plan, but for lack of anything better... All right! Let us follow Master Akebono to Sanjo Hanamachi and once more impress upon him the gravity of the situation!
...Which is precisely why it is so important for us to speak with him!
You can do it, Shigure!
Perhaps he would fare better if I taught him the Manderville art of parley?
Ask all you like, but the answer's still no. There's a very short list of people who get to pass, and none of you lot are on it!
I applaud your diligence, I do, but we are here to help! If you would admit us to speak with Master Akebono that we might convince him to let us stand guard over the Soboro Sukehiro─
Ah, so that's your game! Trick the daft doorman into letting you in so you can steal Master Akebono's priceless sword!? How stupid do you think I am?
As if he'd consort with the likes of you lot! Not a looker among you...
Really? My mother has told me I'm quite handsome─
I'm sure she has. Maybe if he was in the mood for a taikomochi...
Not today, though. Master Akebono made it quite clear that he would only welcome additional entertainers if they were geiko of surpassing beauty. Which you're not. So piss off!
That went rather poorly. <sigh> I suppose we have no choice but to resign ourselves to this outcome.
Nay, Shigure, I think not, for I have a plan─a plan of surpassing beauty, if I do say so myself. Are you acquainted with any geiko, perchance?
Well, uh... There is an okiya nearby whose proprietress may have given me a few odd jobs, but─ Wait. What exactly is your plan?
All shall become clear in time, my good man. Lead the way to this okiya!
I thought I told you and your friends to piss off!
Inspector extraordinaire? Is that really a profession? A legitimate one? I've certainly never heard of it.
Most humble greetings to you, fairest maiden. I, Hildibrand, agent of enquiry, inspector extraordinaire, am given to understand that you are an acquaintance of Shigure here?
Aye, I've given the hapless fool a handout or two. And now he shows up on my doorstep in the company of ijin “inspectors.” I can only assume this means he's yet to find honest work.
Indeed, much to all our chagrin, Shigure is not gainfully employed at present, but that regrettable circumstance is not what brings us to you!
Nay, it is a matter of far greater import─a grave injustice which must be averted at all costs. To that end, my lady, I would have you clothe my steadfast assistant in your finest kimono! For but a brief time only, you may be assured─it shall be returned to you posthaste!
Loan you a kimono? Just like that? I'm not sure what mischief you inspectors get up to in your line of work, but in ours, a kimono is priceless. No geiko worth her salt would simply let a stranger parade about town in hers.
...Not for nothing, at least. Aye, if you are truly in desperate need of my assistance, then you should be willing to pay for it.
Say...seventy thousand Eorzean gil?
|Seventy? Only seventy thousand? Hells, my subligar's worth more than that!||I, uh...have a gambling problem. Love the horsebirds. Lost my last gil on Kweh Rhapsody.|
Nashu, pay the woman.
With what, Inspector? Your coinpurse is empty.
What? As of when!?
Oh dear...this is certainly a fly in the ointment.
So...your plan is to disguise Nashu as a geiko that she may enter into the company of Master Akebono and thereby keep watch for the Wolf Burglar? I hesitate to call it one of “surpassing beauty,” but if it is our best option─
Do not even think to say it, my good man! I would never take the money of a down-on-his-luck youth with no job or skills to speak of!
...But of course! It is, as ever, so simple! A means by which we may achieve our end without spending a single coin!
In my brief time here, I have come to understand the myriad complexities of Hingan culture. There is a custom by which one may express the fervor of his conviction by shaving every hair from his head, is there not?
Well, uh, yes, I suppose you have the right of it, but are you willing to go to such lengths to secure a kimono?
I'll do the honors!
...A beauty reborn!
My...my hair! My beautiful, flowing locks! What have you done to me...
Ahahahahahahaha! That is brilliant! Utterly brilliant! I don't think I've laughed so hard in ages!
Chin up, Shigure. I daresay she did you a favor. The Sekiseigumi might be inclined to take you more seriously now.
You can have your kimono, with my thanks. Never mind the gil. The entertainment you've given me is payment enough.
My lady, you are a saint!
Are you ready, Nashu?
Always, Inspector! Wait here, everyone─I'm sure it won't take long to put one of these things on, right?
Verily, there is no greater truth than that if we trust in ourselves and the gods, fate shall conspire to see us succeed!
Is this the will of the kami...?
I believe I hear them coming!
My dear Nashu, you look incredible!
Wow... Actually, yes, you do. You do!
She looks every bit the geiko. I cannot fathom that doorman turning her away!
Come, my friends! Let us put Nashu's disguise to the proof!
So inspectors are mummers, are they? That show they put on was better than some of the dross I've seen in the Mujikoza theater!
Say what you will about the rest of us, but you would have to be blind to disparage my stalwart ass─ That is, the lovely geiko, Nashu!
A geiko, eh? All right. Let's have a look at you...
Oh ho ho, and where has this lovely lass been hiding? Master Akebono's sure to take a shine to you...
All right. The girl may enter─and no one else!
Huzzah! It worked!
Wish me luck!
Though...is it wise to let her go alone? Ideally at least Forename or myself should have accompanied her, no?
Oh, Shigure. I did tell you it was a plan of “surpassing beauty,” did I not?
The sword without peer, the Soboro Sukehiro; the geiko without peer, Chiyoume! What fortune that I may enjoy the company of the finest treasures the world has to offer. Their very presence makes the wine taste that much sweeter.
I could not agree more, my lord! Alas, whereas you may lay hands upon your magnificent blade at whim, in vain I struggle to navigate the endless labyrinth that is a woman's fickle heart...
That which I desire, I take. As will you─when my little project is complete.
Chiyoume! Come and have a drink with us! Come, come!
If my lords insist, I should be glad to partake...
Such a beautiful girl you are, and so skilled a dancer as well! You deserve only the best─and the very best you shall have...if you but give yourself body and soul to me.
I fear my lord's rather admirable perseverance encroaches upon the obsessive. As I am sure I have told you a thousand times before, I should be glad to entertain one and all with the traditional arts...
Stubborn as ever, I see. No matter. In due time you will be mine... One way or another.
Begging your pardons, m'lords!
Oho, this is a welcome surprise! My lord, did you call for another geiko? Never mind─ Come, my dear! Have a seat!
Salutations and greetings, my good sirs!
What...what is the meaning of this! I explicitly said I would be receiving no taikomochi this day!
Far be it from me to judge a man for his pleasures, my lord, but I fear this is a bridge too far for me!
Such beauty... Such grace...
B-Be that as it may, now is not the time! The day after tomorrow, perhaps, after I have had time to recover─but not today!
Will my lord not reconsider? Pray allow me one dance to convince you!
Enough! Yojimbo─remove this fetching yet belligerent taikomochi from my sight!
Lay hands upon a fair maiden? I will do no such thing.
Are you defying your master's order? The master who has already paid you an unconscionable sum of money for your services!?
A contemptible master who consorts with lecherous dogs! I agreed to serve only as the sword's protector, not as the executor of your whims!
There he is! The Wolf Burglar!
At last, the villain reveals himself! We have you now, most wolfish of burglars!
Yes! It was I all along! Hildibrand, master of disguise! Inspector of a thousand faces! Defender of justice!
So...you're not a taikomochi? Pity, that.
I feel so...so conflicted!
Bugger me, if it isn't the talking statue! Fancy meeting you here! Come to watch me steal the Soboro Sukehiro?
Well, you know how this goes!
Don't let him get away!
Ugh... Ah, there you are, my dear. You are unharmed? I would be heartbroken if there were even a single scratch upon my concubine to be...
My lord would do well to take greater care where he places his hands, should he wish to keep them!
Confound it. How does he manage to escape every time?
But rejoice, my friends, for he has failed in his thievery once more! The Soboro Sukehiro remains safe and sound!
You bald imbecile! Look at what you're holding! Does that look even remotely like the Soboro Sukehiro to you? Does it? Does it!?
For the record, I'm not actually bald...
Begone from my sight! And do not return until you have found my sword!
That may well have been my best disguise yet!
It's not easy being a geiko!
You heard him. We must recover the Soboro Sukehiro.
Hmm? Have we met somewhere before? Of course not. Don't be silly.
After we went to all that trouble, he still managed to steal the Soboro Sukehiro. I sacrificed my flowing locks for nothing...
Though I care increasingly less for Akebono, he is nevertheless a man to be reckoned with. What meager reputation I have will be forfeit if we fail to bring the Wolf Burglar to justice.
But we need not pursue him alone. Yojimbo has volunteered his services. Together, we may yet redeem ourselves.
I think I may know where the thief is headed, too...