Shikoku

The New Kid in Town, Altair

Cianwood City! A jewel of glass and rock, perched against the edge of Shikoku. Your ship’s just come in, and the city beckons. Here, at the edge of the dock, you can look up from your ship’s berth, to the warehouses by the docks, the houses and businesses beyond it, and the gleaming skyscrapers up the hill, situated with the best possible view.
All around you, you can hear the sounds of city life: people moving, Pokémon making their cries, and even the occasional motorized vehicle. The sun is out and it’s a beautiful day, if perhaps a little warm – a breeze would do everyone some good.
There are many people around the docks – sailors, other passengers from the ship you just arrived on, dockworkers. Of course, they aren’t the only things worth talking to, really…
Altair was taking all of the view in with his eyes, just drinking it all in like a thirsty man intakes water…or beer, whatever the case may be. He’d seen Fuchsia’s port very briefly before the schooner cast off into the shining blue sea, though that seemed to pale a bit looking right at Cianwood.

It’s so lively, he mumbled quietly to himself. “He told me the place had grown to be huge, and my, he wasn’t kidding.”

-Wow, this is all so cool!- a voice said to him. -Hold me up so I can have a look-see!-

Hey, take care. I was going to do that anyway.

His lantern was continually perched on his shoulder, an ever-present companion who had been with him from even a young age. Affectionally dubbed “Blue-blaze” due to the color of the glowstone that allowed it to emit such light, Altair held it in his hands and rotated it slightly, panning around the area.

Satisfied that his erstwhile companion enjoyed the view, he disembarked from his vessel and looked around. But where to begin? there was so much to do! Perhaps a tourist agency? Or one of the sailors? Hell, even a policeman might be able to tell him which way to go.

He said something about a stamp card being acquired at the first temple site. I should probably get some clues on that first. Altair panned around to see who looked the most knowledgable.

The sailors look gruff, the kind of person who wouldn’t give a tourist the time of day, unless they were being paid directly. But your ship is not the only one there – there are many small passenger ships at this part of the docks, and that means… ah, there!

A white booth, staffed by a professional-looking woman in blue, with exceptionally long, poofy hair, stands at a natural confluence of the paths from the docks. She has pamphlets on the desk in front of her, and the sign above her is emblazoned with a blue circle, with a lower-case white “i” in the middle of it.
(( Something like this: http://retromedia.ign.com/retro/image/article/897/897274/mario-is-missing-20080807011907377_640w.jpg ))
-Altair! There!-
I see it, I see it… An information booth. Come on.

Altair walked very casually, but purposefully, across the docks towards the information booth, trying very carefully not to get in anyone’s way, letting his path stay very clear of those of other people. Waiting for an opportunity, he walked up to the booth and prepared to ask his question.

Pardon me miss, but I’m looking for some information on the Shikoku 88-Temple Challenge, he began, calmly, with his usual smile. “I’m wondering what information you have on it…?”
<info> “Then, welcome to Shikoku! We’re glad to see you.” She bows, in a formal and practiced manner. “We have information on its history, or on the route itself. Normally, we would provide directions to the first temple, as well, but we’ve been advised that it’s closed for maintenance today.”
The Info Lady gives a different, apologetic bow. “In the meantime, we also offer information on the city of Cianwood, local events, or even information about the Shikoku Region’s new Pokémon League.”
“Closed for maintenance, hm? I suppose I could always go find it tomorrow, so there’s that. …Local events, you say? What kind of local events do you have?”
<info> “We have a few small events happening today, according to the community calendar: A garage sale, an outdoor potluck, and a public display by the Trianers of the Cianwood Gym. We also have a… Hm. Allow me a moment to find it.” She kneels down, and searches under the kiosk’s countertop.

Ah! She stands back up, holding a small sheet of paper. “We also have a… survey, I believe.” She begins reading from the paper. “Cianwood Dye would like to speak to travelers who wish to traverse Shikoku. If desired, please send applicants to Cianwood Dye Headquarters. Depending on answers, further surveys and compensation may be available; refreshments will be provided.” She looks up. “It’s… an unusual request for us to receive, but it may be an opportunity to you. Would you like more information about Cianwood Dyes?”
“Cianwood Dyes? That certainly doesn’t sound like anything that is commonplace anywhere else. Sounds interesting for sure; mind if I ask for more details?”
<info> “Certainly! And you are correct, the Cianwood dye industry is unique in Shikoku, and perhaps the world.”
<info> “Cianwood is named for its origins as a dye manufacturing capital, its rich and vibrant blues used in royal and noble garments during the era of warlords. First, the so-called ‘cianwood’ plant must be harvested – a small tree, not unlike a Berry tree, that loves silty ground and will quickly drain it of nutrients. Nowadays, machines do much of this work, but long ago it required teams of men to pick the plants in the sweltering summer sun.”
<info> “The tree’s leaves are plucked, and chopped up finely, before being placed in large vats to boil. This separates the dye itself from the leaves. That liquid then ferments for many days, letting the dye come together and become even deeper in color.”
<info> “Once that’s done, the dye is ready to be shipped out. Traditionally, this was done in very large clay pots, the size of a small one-room house! They required Pokémon of immense strength to lift onto barges, where they could be taken anywhere in the known world. Following the Pashmiri period, though, this process was also largely mechanized. Now, the dye can be concentrated and sold in plastic kegs, which are much lighter and less fragile. Still, traditional farmers have their own small dye plots, and will use the old ways of hand-made dye delivered in clay pots when they can.”
“That’s all extremely intriguing, honestly!” Altair exclaimed, his eyes, lighting up. “It’s really a fascinating process. But if that’s true, and it’s all mass-produced, why are they looking for help?”
<info> “Well…” She checks the paper again. “…It… doesn’t say.” She clears her throat. “I… suspect they want to do market research. Perhaps they’re looking to expand their business to other Regions? Or maybe they’d like to ask for help in advertising their products around Shikoku itself – though, they aren’t exactly unknown here…” She seems genuinely at a loss.
“Hm, they didn’t tell you, it sounds like. So it seems my best course of action would be to ask the dye company directly, right? If that’s the case, where do I find them?”
The Info Lady unfolds one of the pamphlets – a little plastic map of the city, in bright colors with large symbols. “As one of our largest businesses, it’s fortunately marked on our standard map!” She points to it, a tall blue building in the southwestern portion of the city, downhill from city center. “If you follow the road from the docks west, and hang a left here,” she says, tracing her finger from the docks to the building, “you should find it in no time.” She then nudges the map towards you.
With a nod and a smile, Altair accepted the map from the guide woman, and placed it with his belongings. “Thank you very much, miss! I’ll head over there quickly so I don’t miss out on my chance.”

Following the map, he made his way towards the place, enthusiastic, but also a bit worried.
-I know what you’re thinking, right Altair? If we don’t get this chance, we might not have much money to live off of.-
Yeah. I wasn’t aware how much journeying like this would cost. So this might have to be a lucky break, or I may be in a tricky situation.
As you walk, you find your surroundings feeling… Not old, necessarily, but… traditional. The road is brick in some places, cobblestone in others. The houses are brick, stone, or wood – none of the modern sidings or materials you might see elsewhere. At a wide intersection where the Info Lady’s directions told you to turn, you find a large stone Meowth statue in front of a general store, beckoning to customers and blessing passerby with good luck in its still, stoic, stony way.

Altair’s smirk became a little larger momentarily. Just to make sure he was in the right place and at the right time, he walked up to the statue, took Blue-blaze in one hand (now clenched into a fist), and rested his fist on a side of the statue base.

Hello there, he asked the statue. “How are you doing? I’m looking for a Cianwood Dyes shop; do you know which way it is?”
The statue metaphorically grinds to life, a sleepy, cat-like yawn reverberating through its stone work. -It’s a good day for a sun-nap,- says the statue. -Dyes, dyes… Oh, the blue-blankets!- An image appears in your mind: the Meowth statue, covered in dripping blue handkerchiefs, towels, shirts, and cloths.
-Rrr. Gets me soaked. They come from the right.- (which does, in fact, translate to ‘south’, assuming it means its own right-hand side.) -Every year since I was carved.-
“…You seem irked. Do you not like them very much?”
-They get me wet!- Its theoretical hackles rise up. -That’s how things erode, you know!-
-…But they do buy things from the shop, so… Whatever.- You get the feeling of a head being turned, false apathy projected.
“…I see. In any case, thank you very much for your help. It was very nice talking to you.”

Altair nodded and went on his way, headed towards the south, in the direction indicated. How long would this take to get there? Hopueflly not long. He quickened his pace enough, hoping to find the building quickly.
Indeed, it’s not actually that far. Just around the bend, and – ah, there it is!

A tall building – several storeys tall, in fact – with clean glass windows all around it, and brilliantly blue bricks. A shaded entranceway leads inside. Atop the building, you can even see an enormous clay pot.
The building’s interior isn’t any less blue than the exterior. A small waiting area greets you, with a blue couch, blue chairs, and… well, the table is actually a rich mahogany. But the receptionist lady’s hair is blue!
-Wow, that place looks even more blue than us!-
Ahaha, seems that way. They’re really driving the idea home about the blue color theme. Everything is blue. EVERYTHING!

Altair’s a bit stunned, truly. Blue has always been his color, and to see so much of it in one place was nearly overwhelming. Trying to keep his excitement under control, he approached the front counter.

Pardon me, miss. I’m here regarding a campaign for help that Cianwood Dyes needs some assistance with?

<receptionist> blink . o O (You mean, someone actually… Hunh.) “Uh, yeah. Just… Hold on a moment? I’ll contact the, uhm… surveyor.”

  • The receptionist’s blue hair fluffs around as she picks up the phone at her desk. “Miss Mayte, there’s a… uh, survey respondent. To see you.” She listens close, and nods. “’kay.” She hangs up. “She’ll be down in just a moment. She just got back from a business trip, I think she’s still unpacking or whatever.”
    “Ah! That’s fine by me. I’ll just wait here, until she shows up. Or is there a specific room you want me to go to?”
    <receptionist> “Nah, she’ll be here in ju-”
    <???> “Just now.” A woman appears, short but lithe, with dark hair and jewelry on her wrists, ears, and ne- wait, that’s a spiked collar. She smiles, and offers a hand. “I’m glad you responded to our request. Would you care to step into my office?”

(No info yet, because… I haven’t gotten around to filling it out.)
(How short is she? Altair’s only 5’4" or so, I think)
…Then she might actually match you in height, or thereabouts.
“Oh, wow, that was fast!” Altair nearly jumped in shock, but took this woman’s handshake. “Um, yes please. Lead the way.”
<???> “Please, call me Vona.” She leads the way to the elevator, and once inside, presses a button – the 9th floor, of ten. “I try to be quick to deal with things for our company’s president. And this survey is a request of his.”
The doors open, and she then leads you down a short hallway. Opening a door, she walks into a spacious office – room enough for a desk, table, chairs, and a bookshelf. It has a lovely view out of the wide windows, with the sea sparkling in the distance.
“Ah, okay…Vona. I’m Altair. Altair Azure. …I found out about the task at the info center, but they didn’t have all the information, so I came here directly. ….Your office is quite picturesque, I’m noticing.”

He put his lantern next to one of the bookshelves. Perhaps Blue-Blaze could hit up a conversation with a bookcase. It would speak a bit about their owner, maybe?
It could! I think that’s fair.
<vona> “That was intentional, but I do apologize for the subterfuge. I’ve been asked to keep this particular project quiet – not lying, I assure you, but just… not very loud.” She sits in the office chair, and turns to face you. “Now, I believe the request was for…” she searches for the exact words. “People who were seeking to traverse the Shikoku region. Do you feel that that’s an accurate description of yourself?”
<bookcase> -…Hello? Are you a new book?-
<altair> “I suppose that is an accurate description, yeah. I’m going to try out the temple trek, so I hope to hit the majority of Shikoku. That would be ‘traversing’, right?”

<blue-blaze> -Nope, just a visitor. How are you today? Does your owner take good care of you?-
<vona> “It would. In fact, the temple pilgrimage may be Shikoku’s greatest treasure.” Without waiting a moment, she continues. “Would you describe yourself as an introvert, or an extrovert? Particularly while traveling.”
<bookshelf> -Care? …I am dusted. Heavy things are rarely placed on me. Yes, I am cared for. You are not heavy. Do heavy things get placed on you?-
<altair> “I’m a bit more extroverted, though not to an extreme measure. I guess I’m off-center in that regard? When traveling, though, the more extroverted side comes out.”

<blue-blaze> -I’m a lantern, so I don’t really have stuff placed on me. I’m used to light up dark places. That is my purpose. Being cared for is a wonderful thing too!-
Vona nods. “One more question… How do you feel about Pokémon?” She leans forward, as if this question were pivotal.
<bookshelf> “Light! I know light. You need light to read books and magazines. The books and magazines tell me that. And yes, being dusted is nice…”

aw shit I still had this up
<altair> “How I feel about Pokémon? That’s a tricky question. Before coming here I lived with a guy who was absolutely avid about them, and he and they were like peers and the best of buddies. I’m not sure how much that’s rubbed off on me as I myself have not been in such close proximity to them, but…right now, they are definitely creatures worthy of respect.”
<vona> “Wonderful! Then… I have a proposal for you. How would you like… To become a Pokémon Trainer?” She has a glint in her eye, as if things have nicely slotted into place.

((Wow, this seems like the opportunity of a lifetime!!)) Altair thought, his smile growing noticeably larger. ((Mr Azure is one of the most phenomenal men I’ve ever met, and to have even a chance to walk in his shadow is…!))

Clearly pleased with the proposition, he turned to Vona and looked her right in the eye. “That sounds like an awesome idea. Tell me…where do I begin?”
Vona smiles, and stands up. “Right this way. I think you’ll be perfect~…”

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