Earn Your Ink - 08/23/20


In the shade beneath the trees sat Langston at his table, eager to share his good tidings with Vinalo and Pipino. Sitting in his lap was a baby, quickly closing in on his second year of life. The child, better known as Lorry, was fidgeting, trying to snatch an envelope from his father's hand. “Yes, yes, your uncle sent this.” he said to the baby. “We'll see him again next time, okay? Next time!”

Langston smiled apologetically before regarding the hard working duo. With their book finally complete, his older brother had an opportunity waiting for them to hopefully get this thing into print beyond this one tome. “Here's the letter of invitation.” said Langston, flashing the envelope and handing it to Vinalo. It was sealed with wax that was roughly stamped with a signet ring. The letter “T” was visible, as well as what appeared to be two crude quills on either side of the letter.

“Present it to Totoyito's man at his manor. You can't miss him. He's a Highlander and he's… far scarier looking than he actually is. A very sensitive sort of man. Once he confirms who you are, he'll guide you to Totoyito's office. The rest is up to you two.” Langston shut his eyes. His expression looked almost pained, remembering how his last interaction with his dear older brother went. Though Totoyito was quite pleasant, he was aware of how his behavior tends to tumble into terrible territory when women are involved, doubly so if he already knows them. “Pressure the poor patrician into playing professionally. If he acts foolish, bring him back down from the sky back to the office. Expect no nepotism, either. He specifically asked that I not be present for the proceedings.”

“You still have three bells before having to meet with him. That's enough time to eat, perhaps make any changes in clothing. I think you'll both be alright in that department.” His eyes shifted between Pipino and Vinalo; a nervous smile crossed his lips. “S-so, do either of you have any questions about my 'lord' brother?”

Langston seems to be brimming with hope! He remains open to any inquiries the two may have about their upcoming encounter!


Langston's Favor:

*Pipino: Very Favorable*

*Vinalo: Favorable*

*The Book: 100% Support!*


Pipino leaned to the side a bit, full of nervous excitement for a myriad of reasons, wanting to get a little glance at the letter despite knowing the type of document it truly was. She had seen countless letters of invitation before and had even penned quite a few in her own ornate calligraphy, yet there was something exciting and electrifying in the air about having it be her own business that was the subject. It felt strange, not being the one offering services for once, to be on the customer side of the interaction needing to make a successful pitch as opposed to being the one who controlled the interaction.

But a customer had plenty of control, and she knew it, in her dealings with her clients. The customer was king only when they insisted on being a tyrant, and while she hoped she would not have to reveal that side of herself, she knew she could do it at great peril to future business. It would be a last resort.

“Well, I suppose I would like to know how exclusive the projects he takes on are, and perhaps if they lean to a certain type of writing. For example, does he find fiction favorable over non-fiction, or perhaps appreciates works that are consumed by higher-brow clientele. It would be nice to have a feel of how much of a push we might need to make to boost our project into his scope.” She spoke a bit hurriedly, her posture stiff and tense, really, really wanting this to succeed.


Vinalo look the letter from Langston, taking a moment to look at the seal. Unlike Pipino, they’d never dealt much with business. This was the first time they’d ever had to deal with someone like Langston’s brother so directly, let alone make an actual sales pitch. They were nervous, but between Pipino’s business knowhow and their own confidence in the book itself, Vinalo remained optimistic.

They listened to Pipino’s question to Langston and gave an affirmative nod when she’d finished.

“Right. Though our book is what it is, we surely could push certain parts of it more if we know what he’s into,” Vinalo followed up with. They shifted a little in their seat, glad that Pipino knew more on how to start things off than they did.


Langston nodded, acknowledging the question as a good one. “Totoyito is one to chase trends.” he said. “Though it's true that he tends to favor fiction, seeing as he's been enjoying the arts thoroughly after ignoring them for his youth, he also tries to follow what is popular. Botany is just knowledge. There's a demand for it, but it's often very niche. If you can convince him, however, that you would be able to cast a wide net with your work, he may take to it better.”

His knee began to shake, rocking Lorry with a gentle tremor that caused the baby to giggle on and off absentmindedly. “I also took a peek at his shelves, and he definitely owns a botany book out of necessity. Certain inks are made using plant parts. However, I'm certain he's not the one printing it, because it lacked his seal. If you could prove that yours is better, he might be happy to have it, in order to challenge his competition.”

Langston's Favor:

Pipino: *Very Favorable

Vinalo: *Favorable

The Book: 100%

Lorry's Favor:

Pipino: Pipipipipipiii…

Vinalo: Who?

The Book: He'd have to chew on it to be certain it wasn't a threat to him


Pipino hummed and sat in thought digesting the information, a gloved hand at the end of an arm that was inserted into an impeccably tailored dress resting lightly upon her chin as she hummed. Her concentration distracted only by the cuteness of Lorry, whom she happened to rest her eyes upon, unable to help but smile at his antics.*

“Well, since the book largely requires the images as context, I daresay my illustrations should be detailed enough to knock that dusty old reference tome off his shelf. And we did include information that is not just for adventuring on the road, you know. Several of those plants have novel uses that could be used in an every day home. While designed for an adventurer, I think it might be able to attract a bit of attention from those who might not hit the trail.”


Vinalo simply tapped their chin in thought as Langston responded to the question. Nothing seemed out of scope. Maybe this won’t be so bad? Again, Pipino took the lead, but their pride in the book’s content demanded expanding on her response.

“Mhm. I reckon our book is also more accessible to any given person than a big reference book that sits on a shelf, only being touched when you remember to. I know well enough how niche botany seems, but a lean book full of great illustrations, a focus on usable knowledge, and a bit of personal commentary should make it appeal to much more than just enthusiasts. A tome that reads like a dictionary’d be right intimidating even to someone who might need it.”


“Right, I would say so. Now… I do wonder though, and this is not meant to be a slight on your brother, but… does he actually read the things he prints? Does he read them cover-to-cover, or should we have need of presenting the unique perspectives a little more directly? I suppose it might also be quite possible that he has others do it for him, and accept projects by their recommendations alone…” she muses, looking to Langston for confirmation.


“You'd be right about that.” he said. “If it isn't a work of fiction, he's not going to read the whole thing. In fact, he does usually leave those books to others, so I don't know how he'd react to actually inspecting your book himself. He can be a little eccentric, and he's expecting you. He could challenge the content in some way or another.”

“I wish I could clarify further, but I'm never around him when he's working.” His eyes turned to Vinalo now, offering them a smile. “Since you wrote it, you'll have a better grasp of the contents. It's up to you to dazzle him with knowledge. Pino, at least, is a little familiar with him already. Did you want to ask something about him? Be brutal; you won't offend me!”


Vinalo kind of raises an eyebrow at the idea of Totoyito challenging the content, but keeps listening.

“Well… you said he might challenge or want to change what he sees in the book. Suppose it’d be a good idea to know how he’d react to being challenged back. How does he take that sort of thing? Get offended, angry? Or just… accept it?“


Langston tapped his chin. “A very good question.” he said. “He enjoys a good argument, but you should play it to your strengths. You don't want to challenge him on something weakly and waste his time. Be strong when you need to be, and know when to just let something go. I doubt he would want to make too many changes as he does respect the vision of the author.”


Pipino nodded as she listened, absorbing it all. Her brow furrowed slightly as she ran quick simulations in her mind, picturing the scenes, the possible endings, the true talent of an anxious mind.

“Does he respect that vision enough to be willing to take a gamble though? I know in the past he was a bit.. more wild, perhaps accepting of some risk, but I wonder if he might be someone who is a little more averse these days, what with a family and all.”


Langston laughed, giving Pino a slight shrug of the shoulders. “You don't have to be so polite about it. He was something of a wild beast in our youth. But, I won't bog you down with the details. You must know at least some of it.”

“My father is no publisher. This is my brother's own venture which he established to be able to work independently of that man. In a sense, he's on his own. Should his business fail, that'll be rather devastating for him, so he does protect it as one protects their own self-worth. That being said, this is an Ul'dahn we're talking about. He doesn't want to live comfortably, he wants to live lavishly. And the only way one can rise to greater heights is to take calculated risks!”

A string of babbling followed by weakened whimpers that threatened tears came from below him. Lorry looked up to Langston, reaching towards his father with glossy lavender eyes. “Oh, you're tired already? Okay, okay… We'll go back inside…” Langston lifted the baby up and stood up himself, making his way towards the door. “I think that should do it! Give it your all, you two!” His attention turned to his son again. “And say bye-bye!”

In the midst of his fussing, Lorry waved to the both of them, while also waving to Langston afterward. He was just in a rush to his nap.

Lorry's favor for Vinalo rises from “Who?” to “Person!”


“Thanks much for all the help, Langston. Should have good news for you later!”

Vinalo gives a little wave to Langston and his son as they headed inside. They took a deep breath and settled more in their seat before turning to Pipino.

“I think we’ve got a real chance here with all this now,” they say, glancing down at the letter for a moment. “Not that I didn’t think we did before, but… now we’ve got more of an idea what we’re walking into.”

The Lalafell leaned back a bit before looking down at themself. Vinalo was wearing their trademark green robe, as usual.

“You think I should head home and change into something… more formal, or somesuch?”


Pipino offered her own special little wave to Lorry and blew him a little kiss, a soft giggle of fondness that wasn't part of her usual, every day mannerisms sounding from her.

She at last turned her attention to Vinalo as they spoke.

“It really is a good chance. Honestly, I think going as we are might hammer home somemod the points we are trying to make about our book. You know, the bit about scope and how broad our audience might be. I think it shows that the art will appeal to those who consume art, and the writing will appeal to a more colloquial reader, perhaps… But.. maybe the other one, that red and white one, with the chains? I think it might tell the same story just a bit… More in his line of expectations. It I think it is also important we are not too inauthentic. If you will feel I comfortable going on something else, that discomfort could hurt the chances more than the clothing ever would.”


Vinalo tapped their chin, looking upward at the sky. Comfort versus expectations. They were certainly more comfortable in this outfit. Not as if it was rags by any measure. But… Pipino and them only had one real shot at this.

“Was thinking about that outfit, too. It’s comfortable enough ever since I had it altered moons ago, but… it doesn’t quite feel right for this. If we’re going to present our work on its own strengths, then I think it’ll be best to go how we feel the most confident.” Vinalo gives a little tug on one of the tassels, grinning. “Besides, I’ve heard from enough people by now that this is actually fancier than I ever felt it was. And it’s… ‘fitting’ for a botanist, color and style and all. Might as well look the part. Maybe he’ll see it that way and it’ll work in our favor.”


*Meanwhile, in Ul'dah, Totoyito's Manor's Office*

A man extinguishes the dead end of a cigar into an ashtray. He looked to Totoyito with a smirk.

“You *really* need to stop smoking in here.” said Totoyito after an annoyed huff. “The trash you exhale sticks on your walls, you know. That may be cute in your shady little office, but my space is delicate and pristine clean.”

“Yet you manage to keep an ashtray here.” retorted the man.

“For you, and you only.” Totoyito looks up to the chronometer. “The clients should be here soon. Is there anything else you wished to discuss before you left?”

“I do not recall saying I was leaving. In fact, I would very much like to meet these clients of yours. Who are they?” asked the man, narrowing his eyes toward Totoyito.

“Ah, just a pair of nature loving Shroud-types out to enlighten me on the wonders of fruits and trees and sap and flowers, that sort of thing. They were highly recommended by an associate.”

“Sounds riveting.” said the man. It was a clear lie, but he made no effort to rise from his seat.

“Yes. Now, please excuse yourself.”

“Excuse *your*self.” snapped the man. “I find no harm in my staying.”

“You are being a child.” answered Totoyito, his patience running a little thin. “I cannot ever recall intruding on your deals, except once, where I was invited for educational purposes. This, of course, wouldn't be that. For what does the student have to teach the master? Also, you reek of botany. The bad kind.” Totoyito rose from his seat, waving his hand at the man. “We'll talk tomorrow. See your way safely to the door. Or do I need Uighur to escort you?”

The moment the name 'Uighur' escaped Totoyito's lips, a large Highlander man appeared from the door. He stood with his hands behind his back, head tilted upward with a sense of pride and duty.

The demanding man let out a gravelly hum of laughter and rose from his seat, taking his walking cane with him. “You're doing well for yourself.” was all he said before moving past Uighur.

You have access to Totoyito's Manor!


Pipino, pushed herself to her feet, taking a deep breath and letting out a little sigh. “Well then you ought to go in that, and I shall go in this, and we shall seal the deal at last!” she said, brimming with optimism, looking off into the middle distance as if she were trying to prove something to someone who wasn't here, or staring at herself in an invisible mirror. She punctuated the statement with balled fists in front of her at chest level, giving a little rallying gesture before smoothing her dress.

Pipino was dressed in her familiar finery, a dress influenced by Ishgardian make that her mother had knocked up for her before she had left. She tried not to wear these things all that much in recent days, but, well, she was hoping to avoid a long discussion about her fall from nobility with Totoyito if she could help it. She tugged her white gloves so that her fingers slid all the way to the tips and took a moment to smooth her hair which remained long except for a little bun at the back that the upper layers of her hair was swept into. She very much looked like her old self in the moment as she bent down to pick up the thin, flat brief-case like folio that contained all of her illustrations, tucking it underneath her arm and holding onto it with both hands. She guard the drawings with her life.

“Well then, shall we?” Pipino asked Vinalo with a smile that covered her own nervousness well, that small detail only notable in the way she clutched at the portfolio.


Vinalo likewise sat up from their seat, arching their back in a bit of a stretch before turning to Pipino and giving her a confident nod. They were nervous about the meeting but speaking with Langston, and the brief exchange about dress kept them optimistic. Seeing Pipino’s enthusiastic gesture just improved their mood and they couldn’t help but grin their usual wide grin in response. The hours spent drawing and writing, searching the Shroud for just the right samples; it was all going to pay off and they’d have a real symbol of their teamwork.

Vinalo was wearing their usual green-robed ensemble. Nothing seemed different than usual, except perhaps a some more care put into making sure their hair feathered right. And maybe their precious earrings shone just a bit more than usual. More than anything, they were carrying themself with a feeling of pride and confidence in their collective work. The various ideas of a final title flashed through their mind as they collected their things, but that’d be a discussion for later.

Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, Vinalo felt as ready as they’d ever be.

“We shall!” Vinalo responded enthusiastically. “Let’s show Totoyito the book he didn’t know Eorzea needed.”


Once Pipino and Vinalo stood at the door to the manor, as fine and lavish as any she had ever encountered in her early days, she reached out a hand to knock on the door, but paused, looking at Vinalo. “Are you ready then?”


“Can't imagine being any more ready,” they said with a smile. “Let's go.”


She finished the motion and rapped on the door with her gloved knuckle after taking a deep, calming breath and smoothing her hair one last time, her posture immediately straightening.


The double doors opened slowly, revealing the opening hall of the manor. It was a humble abode; the walls were white and stone while the floors were patterned with finished wood that reflected the bright chandelier lights above. There were two paintings on opposite walls. One pictured a Dunesfolk man with strong, deep blue eyes. He had a neatly kept beard and short, chestnut colored hair. Beside him was a short-haired Dunesfolk woman, shorter than him, with dark green hair and emerald eyes. She was pale in complexion and was resting her head on the man's chest. They were smiling.

The painting on the opposite wall was smaller, and decidedly older; the features on the subject matter were worn and faded. It showed a Dunesfolk as well, though decidedly younger. He shared the same features as the man in the first painting, though his hair was far longer, kept in a ponytail that was draped over his shoulder. Next to him was a shorter lad, though this one was a Plainsfolk. The features made it clear exactly who it was: Langston Clevers. He was missing the whitened bangs, the small braids, and his eyes were both icy blue, but it was definitely him. They were both dressed like prim and proper lads.. Ruffled ascots, nice coats, silver buckled shoes. However, their expressions were plain, neutral. Like most children forced to stand around and pose.

Right beyond the door stood a Dunesfolk man who was not in either of these displays. He walked with a cane, though it seemed he only needed its aid on occasion. The man wore a stubbly beard and had dark hair, slicked backward neatly. His eyes were dark pools of mud, though they betrayed a level of swelled hubris that had been compounded by many, many years of success. A dark coat was draped over his shoulders that ran down to his thighs, and beneath that was a brown button-up shirt.

His eyes look left and right between Pipino and Vinalo, though he seemed quite focused on the blue eyed woman, instead. He tried to hide his emotion, but it was clear something was off.

“Ladies.” he said shortly, before moving towards them to leave. His stroll slowed, however. It was almost as if he was waiting to be addressed.

???'s Favor

Pipino: Contempt

Vinalo: Apathy

The Book: He's aware of it, vaguely… but, 0%


Pipino inclined her head politely as the older man approached, deferring to her elders just as she had always been taught. Being in such a place activated those deep-seeded instincts in her, those of deference and quietness, a demeanor of speak only when spoken to. She found herself disappointed in herself, how automatic these things came to her, yet she knew that he would likely expect the behavior, so she did not feel too ashamed of it.

“Good day,” she greeted politely, meaning to keep the interaction short as she kept a tight hold on her illustrations. “And just one lady,” she says with a kind smile, torn as to whether she should simply avoid the correction, but deciding to take the lead for Vinalo simply because this was a world she was a little more familiar with.


The botanical healer gazed around the hall as they walked in. Far fancier than any other private home they'd walked into. The two pictures on the opposite walls caught their eye quickly. The man in both portraits must be Totoyito. At least Vinalo knew what he looked like now. This made obvious that the older man approaching them was someone else entirely.

The man’s greeting triggered the now-common thought to correct him, but the circumstances made them hesitate. The man had an odd air about him, and Vinalo really did not want to get on his bad side, whoever he was. Luckily, Pipino took the initiative and responded first, even correcting the man!

“Greetings,” they said to the older man, trying to mimic the polite nod that Pipino just performed, though with a bit less grace.


The man tilted his head upward, specifically to point his eyes down upon Pipino. “Perhaps I should count my blessings.” he said. “Fortune like yours may elude me, but it seems one loses their sense of sight once the gil piles up past their eyes.” He lets out a grumble, looking upon Vinalo once more to confirm what he saw, and not much else. To emphasize his insult, he tapped the cane on the floor loudly with his next few steps, as if to make sure Pipino heard where he was walking.

???'s favor for Pipino drops from Contempt to Disgust.

From behind the door appeared a Highlander man, tall and strong looking. He was well-dressed in a dark suit with a tie. His manner of dress, however, heavily contrasted his appearance. Though his pale hair was combed back with the sides cut short, his eyes were gold and piercing, with a chiseled and clean shaven jaw that hid none of his scars, including a cut down his eyes and one from the left side of his mouth that curled up into an artificial, intimidating grin. “Good evening.” he says. “Please pardon Lord Nanavele. He is merely a tad flustered from his meeting.”

What a soothing voice he has!

“Have you any business with my Lord Totoyito?”

Uighur's Favor

Pipino: It is not his business to judge his Lord's guests.

Vinalo: It is not his business to judge his Lord's guests.

The Book: It is not his business to judge the works of others.


Pipino looked to Vinalo and rolled her eyes as the man passed her by, taking the insult in stride, feeling quite proud to not take such pitiful attempts to heart. But it was clear the man held distaste for her. She took a moment to look at the man's retreating back, memorizing the details she could before shaking off the unpleasant interaction and turning back forward, only to find another man in their path.

She paused and might have curled into herself just a little bit as the towering man stood before her, but she managed to keep the surprise of a man like him being there a secret to herself. It simply wasn't polite to judge based on such appearances. And yet, he looked rougher than Gair did….

“Yes, actually,” she says, looking to Vinalo. “We have a letter of invitation to discuss a book we were aiming to have published by… Lord Totoyito,” she said simply, feeling weird attaching a title to the childhood name she once uttered without consequence. But the niceties must be observed.


Vinalo gave Pipino a tiny shrug once the older man had gotten out of view, trying not to let his comments weigh on them. The sound of another voice snapped their attention back to the open hall. Despite the size and ruggedness of the man standing before them, his pleasant voice and tone seemed to put Vinalo at ease. A calm smile grew on their face.

At Pipino’s mention of the letter, Vinalo dug into the satchel they’d brought along and pulled out the very letter they’d been given by Langston just bells earlier.

“Here it is,” they said, holding it up in clear view of the Highlander, nodding.


The man took the letter, immediately recognizing the marked wax. He didn't even bother opening it; it was clear who these two were. “Very good.” he said. “I shall gladly take your coats and set them to hang, if need be. When you are ready, my Lord awaits you both past the door to your right.” He smiled, though he looked a touch nervous. It looked like something was on the tip of his tongue, but was afraid that he might lose it if he spoke.


“Quite fine as I am, but thank you very much!” they said to the man. Vinalo kept their eyes on him for just a moment, noting the odd look on his face. They quickly then turned to Pipino, still smiling.

“Well, I suppose this is it.”


Pipino raises a hand in a dismissive gesture. “I am afraid I have no coat to trouble you with, sir, but I thank you nonetheless for the hospitality extended toward us.”

Seeing the tentative way in which the man ended his interaction, Pipino couldn't help but let just a little.

“…Is aught amiss? If now is not a good time then…,” she started, trailing off intentionally, not wanting to be the one to have cancelled the meeting if it needed to happen, but offering to meet in the middle of it was required.


“Ah…” they cut themself off as Pipino voiced concern for the man's tone. Vinalo hadn't wanted to pry, but if there was something wrong it'd be better to know now. They turned back up to face the large man.


“O-Oh, well… I wish not to delay your meeting with my Lord. A one word answer will suffice. If you would deign to entertain me later, I would be happy to discuss it further.” He turned to the painting of Langston. “Since you are associates of the young Master, I wished to know if he was doing well. That is all.”


Pipino smiles warmly, her reception of him growing even kinder as he showed his care.

“Well, for now I shall tell you that he is doing very well, and I would be happy to catch you up in more detail later, of course.”

Pipino regards the painting with a fond smile, seeing the more familiar youthful visage of Totoyito with the strangely foreign, yet still familiar one of Langston. She lets out a little nostalgic sigh before looking to Vinalo.

“All set? Need any last minute encouragement?”


The large man’s worry for Langston returned the smile to Vinalo’s face. Nothing wrong, just concern for the young man he hadn’t seen in a presumably long time. And they couldn’t imagine Pipino’s response doing anything but giving him assurance that the young ‘master’ was doing fine. Vinalo didn’t care much for titles (it took them a while to get used to being called ‘Ser’ by Luna), but they had stepped into a different world for the moment.

Vinalo had already turned back to Pipino when she asked her question. They smiled and shook their head a little.

“Anything more’ll just make me more nervous, I reckon. Let’s go in there and do our best, Pipino!”


In the background, an orchestrion clicks on. Totoyito's office hummed with an ensemble of brass and subtle strings. Uighur only offered the smallest of smiles, still trying to play the role of stoic butler while hiding his relief as well as he could. He extends an arm that directs the duo to the door. “My Lord believes music beckons people towards him. I believe he has waited long enough.”

Uighur's favor for both Pipino and Vinalo secretly rise to Acquainted.

As the two enter the door, their eyes are greeted by a clean white room. On the left was a wooden shelf lined with various tomes of all sorts. One tome, however, was missing, and instead rested on a desk, adorned with a dust jacket that was dark blue and featureless. Along with that were some neatly stacked papers and a black ceramic ashtray that was spotless. The faint smell of a cigar, however, still lingered in the air. Behind the desk and the man was a more unique image: the wall had an indented section with three large tubes that stood at least six fulms high. Within the tubes were stygian liquids at varying levels. The bottom of each tube was adorned with a spigot. Behind the tubes was a source of light that illuminated the tubes. Though the liquid was still dark, they still refracted a touch of color from the light. A faint red, a faint green, a faint blue.

Totoyito stood in front of these tubes. He extended his arm outward to his guests and smiled. “Please sit.” he said, while taking his own seat behind the desk. His smile grew as he focused on Pipino, first. His dark blue eyes traced along her face carefully and he brought a hand to his bearded chin. “How *did* he do it?” he asked, after a long pause. “I can't even recall how many years it's been, but little Ilyigu managed to stroll up and change the laws of nature…”

He seems far more interested in making idle banter for the time being…

Totoyito's Favor:

Pipino: Hello again…

Vinalo: And hello to you, too…

The Book: 10%


Pipino's cheeks pinkened a shade and she found herself letting out an easy giggle. She moved to the chairs provided and studied his own features.

“And it is nice to see you again too,” she said in a very subtle teasing sort of voice, a light-hearted way of pointing out that he hadn't really greeted her properly. “I did not expect us to pick up so suddenly where time seemingly stopped! But it is wonderful to see a familiar face again after all this time. That artist's heart of mine is being pulled into quite a wave of pleasant nostalgia simply seeing you again.”

She took a seat across from the desk and laid her portfolio on her lap now, relieved it had arrived without incident or accident.

“This is my good friend, botanist, and author, Vinalo Mabunalo. They and I have been working rather tirelessly on all this, so I think it is safe to say we are quite glad to have received an invitation to meet with you,” she said, finding a way to weave Vinalo's preferred pronoun into the conversation, hoping to avoid the need for halting talks to address corrections and keep discussion focused on the project just in case.


The colored tubes caught Vinalo’s eye as they came around to the chairs provided for them and Pipino. What were they? Liquor? Alchemical solutions? …Odd decoration? Regardless, Vinalo smiled when they were addressed and took a seat right as Pipino did.

They gave Pipino a tiny nod as she introduced them, picking up on her word choice. They then turned to Totoyito.

“Thank you for inviting us here for all this. It’s good to meet you at last,” they said, trying to sound like their normal friendly self. “Like Pipino said, we’ve put a good deal of work into this project and we’re right happy to show you how it’s turned out.”


Totoyito's gaze turned to Vinalo. He didn't recognize this person from… well, anywhere. He had assumed that a business partner of Pipino's would've at least been from some mutual social circle of theirs. Instead, he was left drawing a blank. “A pleasure to meet you.” he said, turning behind him. “I see you glaring at these giant hunks of glass. I keep these here as experimental inks for my more… personalized works.” From his desk, he procured an empty inkwell and poured some of the vaguely green ink from the spigot into it. Afterward, he took a clean white quill and dripped it into the inkwell before drawing some patterns on his bare hand. “Aetherial conductivity, strength, these sort of things… mass produced grimoires of quality would be far too expensive and impractical. Thus, a custom-made weapon requires an artisan's touch.” He waved his freshly painted hand and the ink began to glow before a brief display of green luminescent petals surrounded his hand, coming together to form a lotus. “My touch.” He blew the lotus towards Vinalo, though it was merely a gesture; the construct floated on its own towards the red-haired Lalafell before fading away, stopping short of their face.

“But, you're not interested in that. Today, you bring to me knowledge.” he said before smirking once more and returning his gaze to Pipino. “The hands of time kept ticking, Pipino. Oh, how I wish we could simply return to our youth and pick up from there. Ilyigu told me about how you remembered me. I *assure* you I am a far more charming figure than I was before.” He laughed a hearty laugh. “I know, I know! I didn't think it possible, either!!”

It was almost possible to see the man's ego inflate in real time. Hard to say if this was a good or bad thing…


Vinalo watched the unexpected display of aethereal manipulation, only flinching slightly as the green bloom poofed in front of their face. They weren’t entirely sure what he meant by it but had an idea. They were about to speak again when Totoyito turned his attention back to Pipino and started inflating his own ego. Probably best not to interrupt right away.


Pipino actually did find the beauty of the aetherial display quite moving, elegant in a way she did not typically associated with him. It made her wonder if he had grown a bit sentimental after all this time.

“I have no doubt you are, judging from the hospitality we have received so far!” she said, generously glossing over the interaction with the older man in the hallway. “We were all so young back then after all. I think it is safe to say we all had rather… How shall I say it? Narrowly focused goals, perhaps,” she said with a dainty laugh, directly contrasted against his hearty one. “I was rather impressed to hear how well you and your business were doing. My father did always say the mark of a man is in the things he creates, being an artisan and all. I daresay it should apply to business as well. But you know, I never took you for the bookish sort though, so it did surprise me, but it seems things have come full circle in the end in that regard. Glad I am to be acquainted with someone who can perhaps help two aspiring artists bring a dream to fruition.”


Totoyito sighed, though his face deflated into a smile, regardless. “Yes, your goals seemed narrowly focused *inward*.” he answered. “Thus, the legend of 'Pipino the Prude' was born. A million apologies, by the by. Given the opportunity, I would visit myself from then and give him a smack in the mouth. I'm sure Mother would have, if she were there to hear it.” He cleared his throat, indicating a shift of his energies elsewhere. “Anyway, you're too kind. I switched to the books after making enough from estates and loans to start up my own little thing. My lord Father, who you had the fortune of running into, was a little miffed at the idea, but has since calmed down. He believes I've been taking too much inspiration from little Ilyigu.”

He leaned on his desk towards Vinalo's side. “Good to see you're both here for business.” he said. “Vinalo seems to be quiet, however. I was led to believe you are a veritable fountain of information. But you must not like socializing. Am I right?” His fingers drew a thin neon heart in the air, again using a motion to pretend as if he flicked it to spin around. He kept his gaze on Vinalo through the glowing construct with a cheap frown and fake puppy dog eyes.

Gods, it never ends with this man!

Totoyito's Favor

Pipino: Friendly ⬆️

Vinalo: Neutral ⏺️

The Book: 15% ⬆️


Vinalo raised an eyebrow seeing Totoyito’s faux display of sadness through the spinny heart. He was laying it on rather thick now. This was going places they hadn’t quite envisioned, even after everything they’d heard from Langston and Pipino. Trying to ignore the weird display, Vinalo chuckled a bit and responded.

“Usually I’m right social, happy to chat the bells away. But I didn’t want to interrupt you and Pipino reminiscing about the past, since it seems like it’s been a good while since you’ve spoken to each other at all,” they explained. “And before we *do* get down to business, I’d like to say that aetheric manipulation there is right impressive. Pipino introduced me as a botanist, but I’m also an aetheric healer, so I can tell when something like that’s done with skill.”

They weren’t used to outright laying on praise like this, but at least they weren’t lying about anything.

“But, yes. We do have a lot to show you,” Vinalo said, putting on their best face of confidence. “Between Pipino’s art and my writing, the book’s qualities will stand right out!”


Pipino gave him a little look of teasing mock-frustration as he mentioned her old title before breaking the snooty look and returning to her usual pleasant self, laughing it off with a dismissive hand before letting the conversation drift more toward Vinalo. Pipino listened attentively, gloved hands clasped atop her portfolio.

“Yes, it was quite the melding of talents between the two of us. I am not sure how much you have heard from Ilyigu,” she said, switching to his birth name with ease, “but we have created an illustrated botany guide of sorts. I, of course, provided the illustrations, and Vinalo provided the knowledge and the language. While it was primarily conceived as a guide for adventurers about the uses of various plant life within the Shroud, I think you will find the book has rather broad appeal when examined deeper than its trappings.”


“It's just a parlor trick.” said Totoyito, dismissing his little tricks as no big deal. The heart faded away slowly, spinning away into nothingness. “But, I'm glad you're impressed. I *was* trying to impress you.” His eyes shifted to Pipino for a split second before turning back to Vinalo once more. “Our past is not the torrid love affair I am painting it to be. I made at pass at her… oh, once or twice? She turned me down. We were more acquaintances of a sort, being the same age and thus being at the same parties and such on occasion.” He gave them a nod. “But, we've grown up to be on good terms. All of us! So, don't spare me your words. Interrupt me if I am being rude.”

He looked to the door with a flash of nervousness, expecting an interruption. But, the door was silent. Also, wooden and inanimate.

“Okay, I know the basics concerning the contents of this book. Plants, accompanied with highly detailed paintings of plants. Let us test the contents of this book as it pertains to a curious adventurer who wants to stick their foot in… Gods, pretty much everything. That's what they do. Please present to me a variety of mistletoe, both pictures and supporting notes.”

Totoyito's Favor:

Pipino: Friendly ⏺️

Vinalo: Favorable ⬆️

The Book: 15% ⏺️


“Mistletoe? Well, as you probably know, the Shroud has a few species of mistletoe, the most common being Tinqla and Matron’s mistletoe,” Vinalo starts explaining as they open their satchel to pull out some pages. “Tinqla and some subspecies are used during Starlight, hung all around and such. Matron’s mistletoe, not as much, mainly since it grips trees so tightly that it’s right hard to harvest without ruining it.”

They pulled out the appropriate pages, all laid out with gaps that were to be filled in by artwork in the final book.

“Of course, the big thing for any mistletoe for a traveler, adventurer, or just someone looking to make some good decoration, is that it’s very toxic. Before they’re dried out for mounting over a doorway or such, the berries look like a good deal of other berries that’re safe to eat. Some’ll even grow right above berry bushes at the base of a tree. The notes here and the paired art’ll make sure *anyone* passing through won’t make a, erm… unfortunate mistake.”


Pipino smiled to herself as Vinalo became the veritable font of knowledge that they can be about this sort of the thing, rifling through her alphabetically organized artwork to pull out the two larger ink drawings of the plants.

“In order to keep the book affordable for those who might find it life saving, I opted to to do monochromatic ink drawings, expressing dimension, coloration and shading through the texture of the work rather than the times or shades of it. If it is not my misunderstanding, this would.make the print process much more efficient as well in that the drawing could be duplicated with a single pressing rather than having to create multiple dies and processing the images several times.”

She stood up and approached his desk, gently and delicately laying the art upon its surface and let it do the rest of the talking.


“The Shroud only, huh…” he said drumming his fingers on the notes. “I'll take that into consideration…” Suddenly, his voice boomed. “Uighur! The berries and clothespin!”

From the door came in the Highlander, holding a tray with assorted berries neatly placed in different cups. Uighur placed them gently onto Totoyito's desk and bowed. “As requested, my lord.” said Uighur. The large man stepped backward beyond the door and bowed before shutting it again.

Upon the tray was a clothespin which Totoyito pinched between his tough looking fingers. He brought the wooden object to his face and eased his grip; it pinched his nostrils shut. Frankly, he looked ridiculous.

“The Black Shroud!” he said loudly in a nasally voice. “Home to the Tinoqla Mistletoe, Matron's Mistletoe, and the delicious Blood Currant.” Totoyito reached for the book on his desk and opened it after sliding the dust jacket off. It was a botany book. “According to this, both mistletoe are indeed toxic, especially in the leaves, but hardly make a distinction with these tiny diagrams. Now, if I review your more detailed notes, along with your lovely illustrations, here, I should be able to distinguish between a delicious treat and what is hopefully just a bad stomachache.” He looked to Vinalo with a bright grin that shone from behind his beard. “We're in the presence of a healer, nonetheless! I imagine I'll be okay. But if this is meant for a know-nothing adventurer to use, I should be chewing on a tasty treat… right?”

The eccentricity shows its face! He is testing the fruits of your labor with a fruit of life or death! Somewhat.


The botanist watched the whole process of the berries and the clothespin with somewhat widened eyes. Once Totoyito finished the explanation of his ‘test,’ Vinalo’s smile faded a bit. Again, this was not something they expected to be facing. They looked between Totoyito’s grin, the berries, and the paired notes/art that Pipino and they had just given him. Sitting up straight in their chair, Vinalo looked right at the man and took a calm tone.

“You’re right that if somehow something went wrong, I’ve medicine on hand to dull the symptoms and the effects of poisoning,” Vinalo said. A confident smile started to slide back onto their face. “But… it won’t be needed. I have total confidence in both the notes and artwork that you or anyone else would be able to correctly identify the toxic berries and not eat them.”


Pipino was glad Vinalo spoke first. While she had full confidence in Vinalo's knowledge, she herself was not much of a risk taker in this regard. She simply smiled and took a step back from the desk.

“Yes, I *do* think Ilyigu might disapprove if we were to harm his dear brother,” she says with a little laugh. “I have full faith that my illustrations have aptly captured the distinguishing details of each variety.”


Totoyito flashed a display of concern at Pipino's words. There was something almost unnatural about how quick it was. A raise of the eyebrows, having his lips hide his teeth once more. But, it was for only a fleeting moment. He, instead, focused back on Vinalo. “Ah, there's the fire!” he said, tapping his desk twice. “That passion, that belief in one's work… I love it!”

Then, silence. He studied the words carefully and matched the plant to its accompanying image. His eyes would shift from the pictures, to the notes, to the berries before him. It was very methodical, and yet, he was enjoying himself. The attention to detail on these monochromatic paintings, the text that took liberties with formalities and had its own flavor. His hand then hovered over a single cup and scooped up a berry that went straight to his mouth. He removed the clothespin and took in the flavor completely. “Ahhh… Fantastic!” he said, enjoying the tart Blood Currant. “The edges of the leaves gave it away, along with clever notes on the more subtle differences. Something that *this* dusty tome would never had shown me. Good show, good show!”

“Now, we know that the content is worth it. You've addressed what knowledge it offers. Pipino also brought attention to the cheaper costs of production, that's nice to have, as well. Now, I wish to know if you've already garnered any interest. Who else have you shown this to? Or did you speak about it with anyone?”“

Totoyito's Favor:

Pipino: Friendly ⏺️

Vinalo: I like them! ⬆️

The Book: 30% ⬆️


Vinalo made a quick glance to Pipino, flashing a confident smile. They turned back to Totoyito, glad (but not surprised) that he was able to pick the Blood Currants. They gave an affirming nod, still smiling.

“We’ve both talked about the book to a good deal of people, right from when the idea first came up. And on my part, I’ve had more than a few people say they’d want to buy a copy as soon as it was done!” Vinalo happily explained. “Most’ve them said it was just the kind of guide they’d want to have around. Really, that’s how I approached this book once we settled on the idea: the guide I wish I had around when I was younger and wandering about.”


Pipino nods enthusiastically. “I can vouch for Vinalo's words on our approach. I decided to branch out a bit with my artistic adventures, hoping to venture out to more far-flung places in our realm, yet the prospect of what to do should something go awry vexed me quite a bit. Having something like this… it is beyond helpful as I did not know the first thing about any of it before we ventured to each location. And that seems to be the reception we are getting from others as well, having had quite a wide scope of interest among all of those we have spoken to. Scholars, adventurers, your every day laborer - It has appealed to quite the range.”


“Yes, so we have buyers among individuals. What I'd like to know is if we would be able to sell multiple copies to a single person.” said Totoyito. “For example… have you shown this book to any sort of grocers or florists? What about Lady Fufucha, of the Botanists' Guild?”


“Well, you know it’s right hard to just walk up and talk with Fufucha, of course. She’s usually very busy with everything there. But…” Vinalo thinks for a moment, tapping their chin. “I go to the Growery for supplies often, and last time I happened to chat a bit with… Leonceault, who manages most of the day-to-day happenings with the Guild. I'd mentioned working on the book, and he *did* seem to like the idea of a guide like this. Can’t be sure Fufucha’s heard about it, but I’m sure he’ll be easy enough to follow up on.”


“Yes, and I did make sure to mention it to some of the merchants in Ul'dah while I was buying ink and the like. I had to keep stopping buy for specialty nibs and eventually people grew curious as to what it was I was working on. Normally I paint and do calligraphy, after all, so transferring to this medium was an interesting challenge. Nevertheless, I did create quite a bit of interest in the final product, likely more from an artistic perspective, but it would be good business to sell a product that shows off the professional quality of the product they deal in.”


“Okay… so, we have a lot of faceless interest, but no big names to lift us up.” Totoyito drummed his fingers rapidly upon his desk, looking off to the wall. “Let us try to tackle this from more angles. We have a book that is big on Shroud knowledge. Therefore, importers may also be interested in this information. I know a few, so I could at least help you there, even if I have to go out of my way to do so.” He let out a huff through his nostrils as he began to muse aloud “Or get Ilyigu to do it. His pretty face may let their guards down.”

“Last but not least, let's consider reaching out to others who may not be initially inclined to purchase the book. We've established the book has knowledge and very pretty pictures, yes. But I hardly know too many people who are inclined to stare at herbs and fruit unless they're arranged in a bowl. Would you see any reason for, say, my father to buy this book? Or what about my wife, who doesn't need to know about the practical uses of plant life?”

Though his favor remains the same, his interest in the book has only marginally grown to 40%


Vinalo shifted in their chair upon hearing Totoyito’s concerns. Several individual buyers, some broad interest, but now uninterested people? And the very rude man they ran into just outside, specifically? They knew the book wasn’t for everyone, but…

“Well, of course we’d like to get the book into as many people’s hands as we can. It’s been written to help and guide people as much as possible, while still being a good read. And, well, if others buy it without ever actually making use of the knowledge, that’s fine, too. Nothing wrong with just reading things to know things, after all.”

They thought for just a moment, trying to think of another angle. Something… something…from before? A quick glance at Pipino before they continue speaking with Totoyito.

“There’s some sort of limit to that, right? Someone who never travels on foot, has almost no interest in plants, and doesn’t think they need the knowledge’ll be right hard to convince to just take a *look* at the book. But… you surely know more about your father or your wife’s interests than either of us. You think either of them would take much notice of a new guide that’s trending with adventurers and travelers?”


Pipino considers the question, aware of his father's reputation. “Well, try as me might, we cannot change the interests of a reader. However, I will say there is value in a person collecting books the express purpose of appearing to have interests they do not possess, especially if there is business to be done. There is something to be said for having a well-rounded bookshelf, or to perhaps leave an attractive looking guide with appealing artwork out on a tea table. While they might not have interests in the plants themselves, the information within is presented in an accessible way, in plain language that is easy to understand and remember. Surely the opportunity might come about at a dinner or other gathering to impress someone with a bit of quickly learned trivia, yes? What better way to command a room than to be the one who can be conversationally agile?”

She smiles and shuffles in her folio again and pulls out two pictures, laying them carefully on the desk for Totoyito's consideration..

“Many of these plants, when you delve into them, have uses that are not what are commonly included in reference books. For example, these, the Rootslake Yellow Bloom and this Glowing Longstalk, they glow for long after they are cut from its source. Surely an impressive bouquet, an ornate centerpiece at a dinner with clients, a most interesting fashionable corsage - this plant could be included to help one seem interesting. The freshness required for them to retain their brilliance would speak to the impressiveness of their ability to gather resources quickly and efficiently, and speak to wealth, should one wish to impress others with such a thing. We could easily title the book in such a way to appeal to these more niche usages.”


Totoyito took the illustrations and looked upon them. They were a beautiful pair of flowers and he wasn't even familiar with them at all; the drawings and their description was good enough for him to imagine how they would look if they were before him in the flesh. “Yes… Though I sneer at the idea of someone buying this and letting it sit idly on their shelf, there is something to be said about the presentation of knowledge that if offers, allowing even the most dreadfully dull lords and ladies attempt to color their brains with bits and pieces of knowledge…” he said, feeling his lips curl into a smile. “It seems the heavens have guided you two together on this project. A fiery spirit with the gift of dedication and knowledge, paired with the talent and cool business acumen of Ul'dah's finest.” He laughed softly. “It's but a small wonder why my father has a distaste for you. He *seethes* with more envy than distaste.”

He rose from his seat and nodded. “You're doing well at the hard sell. But, I need a moment to think about this. Would you two mind leaving one or two of these illustrations with me and their appropriate notes while I do so? I'll be sure to call you back in when you're ready.”

Totoyito's voice was loud enough to summon Uighur again from behind them as the doors swung open. The tall man directed them towards the table outside the office which held a tray of tea and a small mound of freshly baked, bite-sized dark pretzels. Typical Dunesfolk fare, sure, but hardly the fanciest snack.

Totoyito's Favor

Pipino: Respected ⬆️

Vinalo: I like them! ⏺️

The Book: 60% ⬆️


Vinalo lets out a brief sigh of relief at their companion’s quick thinking. Totoyito’s praise at their pairing did have a strain of truth: Pipino was much better at navigating business deals than they ever would be. And them, a fiery spirit? Well, maybe. Regardless, this meeting was reminding them of how great of a team they were. They shot Pipino a little smile and nod.

Responding to Totoyito’s request for more examples, Vinalo flipped through the pages they brought along for just a moment. ‘This one? No, too common. Maybe this?’ they thought to themself. Vinalo stopped on a pair of pages depicting certain large mushrooms around the Gelmorra ruins. They pulled them out and showed them to Pipino so she could retrieve the matching artwork.

“I think these’ll be good examples of the detail put into the guide, both in the notes and artwork!” they said to Totoyito, handing over the pages. “And thank you for the compliments.”

Vinalo smiled and rose from their seat, ready to be ushered to the snack table awaiting them.


“Well then, I suppose we ought to leave you to it!” Pipino smiles at the praise given, finding herself unexpectedly proud to be a target of such a wretched man's envy even in her very simple way of living these days. She coordinates with Vinalo and produces the proper artwork, adding them to the ones that already lay in his desk. The more her art could shine, the better the chances, she thought. No point hiding it all away.

She turned a moment to walk out but found herself looking over her shoulder and facing him yet again.

“Thank you for this,” she said earnestly, her tone a bit more genuine, more heartfelt. “For your honest consideration. It means much and more to have this opportunity.” She gave him a soft, parting smile, and a polite little incline of the head before turning back and finding her way out of the room, finding solace in the old familiar snacks.


Totoyito happily accepted the notes and artwork, looking them over for a split second before addressing his guests. “Yes, of course.” he said. “Please, enjoy yourselves.” The doors shut before his eyes and he looked over the notes and art carefully, letting out a sigh in his newfound privacy. A bunch of flowers, a few mushrooms. “Hm. You were always into this stuff, weren't you…?” he said to himself.

Outside. Uighur offered the two of them a seat, while strangely, taking a seat of his own. The man pinched a pretzel bite between his fingers, observing it carefully from multiple angles before eating it whole. As he continued to chew on it, he poured all three of them a cup of Thanalan tea. “The young master gave me this recipe.” said Uighur after swallowing his piece. “He said that his lord grandfather is not one to part with his culinary knowledge, but he still passed this on to me, to make sure my lord has a taste of his childhood replicated.”


The green-robed Lalafell made their way to the table waiting for them. Taking the cue from Uighur, Vinalo sat down and looked over the tray of pretzels. All that business dealing had worked up a bit of an appetite. They were also never one to turn down some tea. Especially a recipe from the grandfather that Langston mentioned a number of times.

Seeing Uighur chomp one down, Vinalo picked up one of the pretzels and nibbled a bit while taking the opportunity to relax. They opted to wait until the tea cooled a bit, though Vinalo still took in the aroma and smiled contently.

“Thank you! Can’t wait to try it,” they told Uighur with a nod. They then looked over to Pipino.

“Little bit of a rough start, but I think we’re doing well,” Vinalo said happily. They took another bite, making sure to swallow before continuing. “Very good thinking on that last question he had. Playing to novelty and appearance of those blooms was right clever!”


Pipino took a seat and laid the portfolio behind her, her straight posture leaving ample room for the file to lean against the back of her chair without her disturbing it. She observed the spread and grinned in delight as Uighur went into more detail.

“You know, the first thing he tried to teach me to make was a pretzel. It was a bit too challenging for a beginner, but I wonder if his enthusiasm and love for the dish helped him choose it out of all the other things he might have decided to start me on.” She removed a glove and daintily took one, taking a small bite out of the the larger outer loop. “I suppose I never knew he had such a soft spot for his brother… not that I thought they did not get on just fine or anything but… knowing how important his cooking is, to ensure that it remained accessible is very sweet of him.”

She turned to Vinalo and waved a humble hand in a dismissive gesture. “Oh, well, I was just repeating things you told me in the end. Had you not put the idea in my head at the first, it never would have come from my lips! But… well, it did seem to play off well, did it not?” she enthused in an excited sort of voice.


Vinalo couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “It really did. We’ll count that as another team effort, then. Glad one of us can think on their feet!” they said, before taking another bite of their pretzel. They looked down to their side and made sure their satchel full of pages was steady against the leg of the chair. A little nod to their self and they turned back to their snacking companions.

“These really are right tasty. Wouldn’t expect any less considering where the recipe came from.”


“It seems you are both doing well in reaching your goal for the day.” Uighur looked upon the pretzels as he spoke. “My lord loves the young master. He is always brimming with excitement leading up to their meetings. I have only met him a few times… I do not know how the young master feels about my lord, but perhaps these pretzels tell me everything.”

The man hesitated a bit, but these two were polite enough to humor him. Having interactions with his lord's guests had never really happened before, at least not to this extent. ”…My lord is often beside himself with grief whenever the young master departs. He values the time spent together, but in his most vulnerable moments, he often blames himself for the master's departure. What if he were a better brother and role model when they were young… things like that. I cannot say I know much more than this, but… they both have a drop of Lord Nanavele in them. Would they drop their facades, they would be more likely to connect on a direct level, rather than indirectly through food and book deals…“


Pipino turned her attention back to Uighur and nodded thoughtfully, feeling a bit privileged to have this view of the both of them from someone who knew them both well.

“Well, perhaps food and book deals shall be the foundation for more connections between the two of them - you know, the foundation of a bridge to connect them more strongly. While it would be nice for them to get along perfectly, I think time is working as it does, their priorities falling into line. Small gestures spark reflection, which spark a gesture in return. I feel like there might be an inertia between them as they move through life, especially with La-… with Ilyigu looking into his family a bit more lately.” She laughed lightly. “But… well, I cannot pretend to know their inner thoughts. I have not heard that much that would betray feelings of bad blood between them these days. Only that he has sought out advice which… well, I think that speaks as much as the pretzels do,” she said as she popped another bite of pretzel into her mouth with a cheery sort of smile.


Vinalo took another bite of their pretzel while Pipino and Uighur spoke. Having figured it was probably long enough, they took a tiny sip of the tea to help wash down the pretzel. It was still a bit too hot, but that didn’t keep them from letting out a quiet hum of satisfaction. They seemed content at the moment to not interrupt the family discussion.


Before Uighur could add another word, the double doors to Totoyito's office swung open. The Dunesfolk man walked towards them with a faint smile. “Don't let me intrude on your little party.” he said, intruding on their party anyway and snatching a pretzel for himself. “I hope you've been enjoying your stay, meager as though the accommodations may be. I was thinking, 'Hm, perhaps a large banquet would do', but then the rest of my mind said 'No, Totoyito, calm your ego. It's just a book deal'. That one seemed more rational…”

Uighur suddenly stood up from his seat, head already bowed in apology as he spoke to Totoyito. “Please, my lord! Allow me to speak out of turn!”

Totoyito looked up at the man with honest shock. ”…For the first time, ever, in the entire time that I've known you? You're *well* aware of what you're doing, Uighur. Fine, then. Speak your mind.“

“Refugees… they are wont to refuse the aid of those from Ul'dah. They have an inherent distrust of medicine and even food produced here, even from places of high status like the Alchemists' Guild. Surely, the knowledge in this book would be able to change their minds…”

Totoyito let out an annoyed sigh. “Uighur, this book is a product of Ul'dah, with my brand slapped on it. The art is a work of Pipino, a somewhat well-known Ul'dahn. The contents are written by Vinalo, who… well, I don't know where they're from, but just their name alone may be enough to dissuade them completely.”

“But, my lord, I could help clarify and verify the contents as legitimate!”

“You work for me.” answered Totoyito. “They'll just see you as a puppet being used to make me some fat coin.”

This man is floundering to add to the duo's favor! But why!? Should they try to save him!?


Pipino considers the objections, striking her in a way that she had not thought of before.

“Well, it is true. I suppose I do have a bit of a reputation surrounding me… However, do you not think there is something to be said for me suddenly offering my art much more widely and freely than it was before? My name is known, but my work has rarely been seen by the eyes of the more… well, forgive the use of the term as I try not to paint my language with such stratification these days with all of the cirumstances involved, but the more common folk. The fact that someone who could make what I might in a day for what it would take for, say several months in royalties and the like - and this is just a hypothetical of course, as those details have yet to be considered or finalized, so please do not take them as anything but conjecture - would they not wonder why I have decided to climb down from my ivory tower and humble myself some?”

She looks between them, blushing a bit as she gets a little bit more personal in her reasoning.

“And besides, I plan to include a page of my own honest reasons for deciding to work on this project. I cannot change minds I have a desire to fill the lives of more than just those who can afford it with something beautiful to look at. Something that might inspire them to get out in the world and work harder and change their circumstances since those with the power to do so will not assist. I think this book will be an excellent step forward to building a more trusting relationship.”


Between Uighur’s sudden statement, Totoyito’s objection, and Pipino’s retort, Vinalo had time to think of something to add to this new line of discussion. Making sure to swallow their current bite of pretzel (and wash it down with some more tea), they spoke up.

“As someone who spent many summers without reliable places to sleep or food to eat, I can’t blame others in the same spot for not being too trusting in something from Ul’dah,” Vinalo said calmly, but with perhaps a determined tone. “The Shroud is where I ended up, and something like this book would’ve made that time much easier. Like Pipino, I also plan to have a statement of my own on why I wrote this book; how it was made to help *anyone* who’d ever find themselves in the Twelveswood without outside help. It surely can’t wipe away all the valid grievances with the city by itself, but if building trust means someone else’ll avoid going hungry, then I’d be proud to have the book play a part in that. And I believe it can.”


Totoyito shut his eyes and let out a heavy sigh from his nostrils. His brow furrowed in annoyance, his teeth were grit behind his sealed lips, his index finger tapped on his arm after he folded them! “Niceties do you no favors.” he said. “Not everyone reads the foreword. However… I see your determination. Your willingness to use your talents for the world instead of people sitting up here with me, Pipino, and your desire to ease the experiences of others who were in your shoes, Vinalo.” He looked past the both of them to Uighur. “I don't quite understand *your* sudden involvement, however. Did they shoot you a wink or blow you a kiss when they decided to stroll in?”

Uighur shook his head and looked down to his employer. “Everything I do is in service to my lord.” he said simply.

“Yeah? Is Lord Pipiyena paying you behind my back, or something…?” he joked. “I'm sure you'll be willing to explain yourself later. Until then…” His eyes turned back to Pipino and Vinalo. ”…I'm going to put out a limited release for your book. They will be sold to some specialty stores, as well as some levemetes who would be willing to take it. If I could generate some interest through these venues, I will give you another run, provided you can expand on this work… in particular, I want colored paintings of the flowers. Does that sound fair?“

Totoyito's Favor

Pipino: Respected

Vinalo: I like them!

The Book: 70% ⬆️


Pipino's expression brightened considerably as Totoyito gave the book his blessing. She could have hugged him. She could have hugged Vinalo. In fact, she even could have hugged Uighur! She wanted to jump up and down, to punch the air, to do anything other than restrain herself in polite company, and yet she did. Her hands were clasped in front of her politely, yet they were holding on to each other in a death grip of nervous energy.

Her eyes sparkled with the thrill of the opportunity. “Thank you, Totoyito,” she says inclining her head. “The opportunity is truly one that shall not be squandered!” As she spoke, a little elated laugh colored her speech. “And of course! Where one success is had, the other shall certainly follow, and there is yet much of the world I long to see, and much that Vinalo yet knows about,” she added giving Vinalo an enthusiastic, radiant smile. “And honestly, I would be more than happy to do justice to this beautiful place with color. In fact, if this version does well, I would be happy to do a reprint with colored illustrations, or could re-do them before we release the book if you think there is ample time.”

She paused a moment in her enthusiasm to add the appropriate business-like exchange.* “This is all provided that the terms of the contract we negotiate are appropriately favorable to all parties invested in the project, of course, but thus far, I would think us fools to refuse such an offer.”

She looked to Vinalo for confirmation.


Vinalo could’ve dropped their tea if they were still holding it. They did it? It’s going to be published? They had a feeling! Their eyes widened as an enthusiastic grin overtook their face. They normally would be all too happy to let loose a cheer or such, but it probably wasn’t the time for it. Probably. Later, then. Vinalo held back, but their grin could not be denied. They turned to Pipino with this same grin.

“Absolutely! This sounds completely wonderful!” they confirmed to Pipino before turning to Totoyito. “Thanks so much for giving us this chance! We will make the most of it. And Pipino’s got the proper idea. There’s so much of Eorzea and beyond that need a guide like this, and we’re willing to make sure everyone gets it.”

The enthusiastic botanist looked back to their artistic friend, and gave a very cheerful single nod.

“And I can’t wait to see all that wonderful artwork in color.”


“Right. The gil.” said Totoyito. “I'll determine the initial costs in the coming days and we'll work from there. You'll receive a notice from me, sooner rather than later.” His eyes pointed to Pipino and he scratched the back of his head. “It was good to see you again after all this time. Well, not that we were friends, or anything of the sort. Probably even less than that…” He sucked his teeth in frustration. “I'm no good with this sort of thing. Just pretend I said nothing but 'It was good to see you again'.”

Totoyito's eyes shifted to Vinalo next. “Tell my brother to stop making up bad stories, will you? He told me you were a meek person, but it's clear your strength shows when you're confident. It was a pleasant surprise, and a pleasure to meet you.” Finally, he turned to Uighur. “See our guests to the door. I'm going to retire to my quarters.”

Totoyito bowed before making an about face, walking past his office to another room farther down the hall. From beyond those doors, a faint argument could be heard…

“You have ink on your hand.” “Well, yes, I do work with ink, dear…” “You were blowing hearts at them, weren't you!?” “N-no, I merely made a heart! I only blew a flower!” “What makes you think that's any better!?!”

In the midst of this ruckus, Uighur stepped forward and cleared his throat. “When he says he obeyed his rational mind, he is preparing to reject a deal.” he said solemnly. “I never interrupted his dealings in the past, but, I simply had to.”


Pipino gave Totoyito a gracious smile, a softer, kinder one that seemed a bit more forgiving. She nodded to his request. “It was lovely seeing you again. And I am sure this shall not be our last meeting, given the circumstances of everything,” she said, giving him her pleasant little curtsy as he left them. She laughed as she heard the little fight shaking her head in a knowing way. “Something never do change, I suppose, even after all this time.”

She turned to Uighur as he asserted himself with a distinctive cough, her eyes widening with the horror of the deal possibly having been that close to being nothing. “Well…. I… my, I can hardly…” She places a hand to her chest and sinks back into the back of her chair. “You truly mean it was that close? I…” She stood up and made her way to him and in a strangely bold display of forwardness from her, she reached up for his hand to hold it in both of hers. “You saved it then. I do not know if I can possibly repay that kindness. This book… It is important to me, but… for reasons that are entirely not of the Monetarist kind.”

She looked over her shoulder to Vinalo, then back, blushing a bit as she hid some of her sentiment away, not wanting to bring up their financial state, or how Pipino worried about them finding steady work. Or knowing that they wanted to prove something to their parents especially. “Thank you. You are a Twelvessent.”


Vinalo blinked a few times before returning the smile to Totoyito's compliment. “Yes, well… might have to mention it later to him. But, yes! Was good to meet you, too.”

Uighur's admission caught them off guard. Their thoughts raced. Really? After passing his 'test' and the flowery compliments on the qualities of the pages given? Totoyito was ready to reject it? Vinalo felt the uncommon sting of irritation, but kept it inside for now. Pipino's response showed that she was as shocked as they were, and her quick glance back at them gave them a hint at her concern. Regardless, they turned to address Uighur.

“If… that's all true, then thank you Uighur, truly. I knew it wasn't a guarantee at all, but… after all that…” they said, letting out a long sigh afterword. “We really were lucky you were here.”


Uighur looked down to Pipino as she grasped his hand. His eyes betrayed a bit of nervousness in his heart, but he still managed a weak smile. “My words still ring true. Everything I do is in service to my Lord Totoyito. In his eyes, connections are just as important as the contents. I merely influenced him to take a bigger risk, and that is all. I could barely hear his words through the door, but he seemed very impressed with your work.”

He finally retracted his hand and gave the duo a bow. “There is no need to thank me. Though you have no obligation to answer a servant such as I, you confirmed the young master's well-being for me. Small as it may seem, I am still grateful for it. And for that, I thank you. Take your success as your own, for I am certain you would have fought against him, regardless.”

The man beckoned the duo towards the front door.

*E N D*

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