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Enduring Muse

It hadn't been very difficult for Phaedra to divine Jin Huang's location - a few well-oiled palms here and there assured a steady stream of information coming to the goddess' ears. Everything and anything relating to the other deities, whatever information she might find useful now or in the future, paid for richly from Greed's own hands. It might be only a beginner's play, but setting up stock for the future could never hurt. Anyway, such things were harmless... until they suddenly weren't, and by that point Phaedra was probably within striking distance anyway.

While finding him hadn't been her sole intention, knowledge of the Dragon's residence had been an irresistible temptation to Phaedra. The goddess rode out, leaving Avita behind; such sport was not for servants, but for her and her alone. Vekhal carried her along the roads, the qilin moving swift and sure, soft ebony skin rippling over her wiry muscles.

She left the qilin behind before the final approach, trusting in her own speed and agility rather than that of her mount. The creature would return to her at her call, she knew. The Dragon King's home was simple to find, lit up and guarded as it was.

Of course there are guards; of course they are demons. Ah, Jin. Phaedra grinned from her position behind a partially-broken wall. It felt like old times again, even if this wasn't their Lord's property. Truly, she had no particular target in mind today - whatever he had, she supposed.

Provided she could get in.

The goddess was glad in tight-fitting clothing, befitting a thief; her usual finery was unsuited, and all her jewels had been removed save her own, still winking golden in her eye socket. Her tail twitched lightly back and forth as she watched, trying to get a feel for guards, patrols, security. Thievery was not her domain, but it was a tool she could use as well as any mortal.

Or had been able to use.

Picking her moment, the goddess darted towards the house, aiming for a likely window.
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There were few enough guards on patrol these days; to the demons, the major threat to Jin Huang had been dealt with some weeks before, and so the few who remained on duty were largely ineffectual. Besides - to get at anything of true value, a thief would have to sneak through the house, which was filled with demons. This was enough for them at the moment. Likely their Lord would have much to say on the subject, but he appeared to be content with their security measures so far.

Phaedra would have an easy time gaining access to a window.

Once inside, however...

A ring of startled demons stared at her for a long moment before one reacted, drawing a sword on the Goddess. "There'd better be a good explanation," he remarked easily, as if confident that he would not be receiving one. His sword never wavered as he held it out, waiting for Phaedra's response.
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Enduring Muse

The external patrols and the window had proved no obstacle at all - however, the internal patrols were another matter altogether. Phaedra frowned inwardly at how rapidly she'd been surrounded; it was true this was her first attempt in really stealing anything since her rebirth, at least unaided. She'd had a great deal of help with logistics in Achai, after all.

But being caught didn't have to be a permanent state of affairs. "Ah, is this not the entrance?" she said, affecting a look of wide-eyed concern and tilting her ears back artistically. "I heard a god lived here, I... I wanted to offer tribute... a gift..." She unfolded her fingers to reveal a truly remarkable gem, a great ruby with a living flame blazing within it, an infernal treasure. As she did so, she extended her power, curling lightly around those gathered there.

"I only seek the god," she said, plaintively, and exerted her will. Go, all of you - there are things you want very much, very badly indeed. Go and find them. Go and do them - and leave this little one alone!
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The other demons milled about and looked confused before they dispersed; the one holding the sword lowered for a moment before shaking his head and snapping it back up and glaring a bit at his departing associates. "There's a door. That was a window," he said in reply, narrowing his eyes at the intruder. "And if you really want to find the god," he continued, smiling somewhat nastily while ignoring the rather impressive gem she presented, "Come on then." He jerked his sword towards a dimly made out staircase behind him. Apparently, what this demon really really wanted was to take Phaedra to Jin Huang.
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Enduring Muse

Phaedra grinned inwardly as the other demons drifted away - yet this one was stubborn, fighting her. What a remarkably boring desire. There would have been a time when she could have told him what she wanted him to desire... but as of yet, her power could not reach that far.

Other methods would be required. The goddess' gaze hadn't missed the staircase leading down from this room; with the guard so heavy (and trying to lead her away!) it was currently her top target. Even if she got nothing, she at least wanted to lay a finger on the door...

"I'm sorry, I meant no harm, sir, I - oh..." Phaedra's 'panicked' babbling cut short as she dropped the gem, sending it bouncing towards the staircase and down, its light brilliantly reflecting against every bright surface. "My tribute...!" she cried, taking a single step forward and holding out one hand, fingers spread. Not following it, but...

As she did so, she continued to exert her power, focusing it all on the single demon. Surely there must be something. Something you want. Something you want more than petty service. No creature is without vice. Yet was it in her power to find that weakness...?
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As the gem dropped, the demon's eyes flickered away from the goddess, watching it's hypnotic sparkle send shafts of light everywhere. He was distracted by it, and all his determination to take this interloper before Jin Huang poured away like water. The sword dropped with a clatter to the floor, and the demon dropped as well, to hands and knees, scrabbling after the still falling gem, his red har carelessly umbling over hs shoulders --

Jin Huang had been on his way downstairs when he heard the noise of a sword falling. He did not hurry to the sound, finishing his descent from the upper floor idly, trusting to his guards to take care of whatever was going on. The silhouette of the dragon was visible where once there had been stairs, though he could not yet see who was in the den.
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Enduring Muse

Ah, yesssss. Better luck next time, my dear Dragon.

The goddess' ears flicked up slightly as she heard the sound of footsteps above, on the stairs. Of course, her plan of investigating what was on the floor below was rather undercut by her having sent the demon in that direction, too... oh well. This would do well enough as a suitable entrance.

Grinning, Phaedra swept out into the hallway; her grin widened as she confirmed it was in fact the Dragon King coming down the stairs. "Oh, good afternoon, Jin Huang," she said, pertly, tilting her head to one side as if she'd run into him in a busy street, rather than sneaking into his house. "Would you care to direct me to your treasure-vaults? I seem to have gotten past your guard, you see. It wasn't very exciting," she added, raising one eyebrow at him.
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"Phaedra," Jin Huang replied, arching an eyebrow at the goddess in return. "If I'd known you were coming, I'd have arranged for a more suitable welcome," he continued, sweeping a shallow bow to her that managed to be both mocking and respectful.

As he straightened, he made a small hand gesture, indicating that one of the demons hovering behind him should go check on things, just in case. The demon in question moved past both deities, nodding politely at Phaedra as he passed. "You will, I hope, forgive me for the lack?" the dragon asked, looking mostly serious and only faintly amused. Similar situations had been played out innumerable times in the past, though no specific one came to his mind, only a sense of having moved through the paces of this dance before.
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Enduring Muse

"Oh, I suppose I must. It got me to your treas- your presence faster, did it not?" she said, slyly. In truth, she was grateful he'd been relatively unprepared; it would have been so embarrassing had she been properly caught the first time, and she was out of practice.

Not that she'd ever admit that.

"I expect more next time, of course, and the time after that," she added, waving one hand almost dismissively, then grinning at the Dragon King. "I am glad to see you remember, my dear Dragon. So much else has been lost, you see. I ought not have been so concerned."
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"Indeed," he returned dryly. "Perhaps next time will be even quicker." And there would be a next time; it was entirely fitting for Greed to try and steal from the Treasurer, after all. There was challenge there, or had been in days of old, and the dragon found his mind wandering briefly into plans for security measures before he recalled himself and his guest. Any lapse in his attentiveness would be exploited, and the best he could hope for was playful menace in the act.

"Forgetting you would have been a tragedy." He smiled then, genuine for all of the occasionaly sharper edged comments they exchanged. "And placed me at a rather sharp disadvantage." Echoing her dismissive hand wave, Jin Huang looked at her for a moment before making a decision. "Lest you find my behavior as a host as lacking as my defenses, would you perhaps care for a small tour of the house? Barring, of course, the vault." There wouldn't be much to give away to Phaedra; already the plans for the out-buildings were moving apace, and there would only be the one, rather small, vault within the main house.
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Enduring Muse

The goddess pouted at that last, her face taking on an expression of feigned innocence. "Do you not trust me, Jin Huang?"

She held the look for a few seconds before laughing, letting the mask of innocence dissolve into her usual sly demeanor. "I will find it soon enough, whether you will or no. You know that. Strange, though..." Phaedra took a step back and glanced at their surroundings. "I would not have placed you in so... plain... a dwelling. Do your cleaning-demons wear maids' clothing, your kitchen-demons don aprons?"
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He laughed as well, shaking his head briefly in amusement. "Trust you? I would hope I'd never be so foolish as to trust you to be anything other than yourself," Jin Huang replied, fairly certain that the goddess would take no offense at the remark.

"Ah, well, all I can do is delay that as much as possible," he continued, turning his back on Phaedra (what was that about trust, again?), though the other demon who stood attendance kept his attention on her as the Dragon King made his way back down the hall to the stairs. "Plain?" he echoed back, resting one hand on the banister. "Compared to anything I had before the Fading, I suppose it must seem so. On the other hand, even this much is the height of luxury when contrasted with Gehenna." He shrugged one shoulder, only slightly stung by her remarks. There was a measure of truth within them, however extenuating the circumstances. "Luxuries are hard to come by, even for me," he added, ascending the spiral stairs to the upper floor.
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Enduring Muse

"Oh, of course not," the goddess agreed merrily, following the Dragon King as he began to ascend the stairs. "You know better, don't you? Yet here I am, and you're turning your back to me..." Phaedra grinned, though she made no move to take advantage of the fact. "Trust or no, the game's still played."

"I suppose it is better than ruins," she added, with a sigh, picking at the banister with one claw. "But it is ever so... domestic. Shall I fetch you your slippers and newspaper?"
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He made no reply to the comment, reaching the top of the stairs and opening the first door on the right. Jin Huang waved a hand, indicating that Phaedra should precede him. Perhaps the remark about trust had struck home?

The room was mostly empty, but as the lights came up, the richness of the decor was evident. The room fairly glowed golden, wooden walls and floor polished to a high sheen. Two bookcases and a desk sat against the far wall; the desk showed signs of use, papers stacked neatly on it's surface. The bookcases were mostly filled, spines on the book smooth and well worn. To the left was an arched doorway, with a curtain half drawn back to reveal a darker toned room beyond. "It may seem domestic," he said quietly, coming in behind her, "But this place is not intended as a temple, or indeed a Treasury like those I had in my care in the past."

He shook his head, looking faintly amused. "No, this is mostly for the benefit of my retainers. They lost their home when the Planes collapsed, though it is also how they came to find me. So the demons have built themselves a new home; this is merely the start of it." A hand waved out towards the empty land beyond this house. "They have plans for a grand estate. I go along because it costs me little and gains me much." Another grin cracked the stoic facade.

"I would not ask such of you, but how are you at baking? A pie, perhaps?" He laughed and shook his head again. "No? Would you care for something to drink, at least? Truth be told, there is not much to show off. There is my set of rooms, and across the hall are accommodations for those demons who wish to live here, as well as my Aoide. You saw most of the lower floor, a private area and public for visitors. There are kitchens and a dining hall as well." Jin Huang shrugged. "Very plain indeed."
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Enduring Muse

"I might bake the souls of men in the fires of hell, when they die in thrall; is that a pretty enough dish for you, Jin Huang?" Phaedra tilted her head to one side, all innocence. "I am told by my demon friends that their screams make heady fare."

Still, despite her cheerful nonchalance, the goddess had to admit she was a trifle jealous of the Dragon King's enclave. For all that she had her chambers at the Pantheon, that small Labyrinth was beginning to feel restrictive, like a child's bedroom when the child has nearly grown. "It is well-appointed," she said, after a moment spent surveying her surroundings. "I always knew you had excellent taste. Do you offer consultations?"

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