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supernal

Not just area, but distance [closed]

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Ampelos Spiderwalker was a progeny of a union between the Spydervalley bloodline and the Wyrmwalker bloodline. As much as could be explained by Nature, by the gifts of his inheritance and the hybrid vigor which came of blending genetic disparities, Ampelos comfortably claimed an unflappable demeanor, as well as an unquenchable appetite for the outer edges of experience.

This suited him to many lines of professional work.

What Ampelos could be said to lack most in were focus and ambition. Again, the argument could be successfully made that though he 'lacked' in comparison to the more driven or determined, or obsessive as he would call them, there was enough of both written into the marrow of his bone and the color of his blood to lead him to a life of relative success.

And so it had. Although it had been a full season since his family bonded research grant had gone dry, he had a food to eat and a place to sleep by way of his alumni ties to the Transmutation guild; by Ampelos's account, that put him ahead of the bottom line by several long strides. When he rolled out of the simple straw mat on the floor, in a room with about a half dozen others, it was without fear of having been robbed or waking up to an ambush. Life was pretty sweet all right.

And life was about to get sweeter, because it came to him in a dream – "it" being the notion which would have the main branch of the Dali family quivering to drop sacks and bundles of money all over him. Ampelos rubbed his hands in anticipation as he walked an automatic path which led him to the bursar's office.

"I'd like to take out a small loan."

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Amp was nervous about laying his plan out all on the line like that in the bursar's office. He was concerned someone might try and take the idea from him – so he before he spoke a word of it aloud, Ampelos wrote it down in broad strokes, tied it to the leg of a hawk, and sent the hawk back home. By the time it got home he would have already been approved for the loan, and he could now tell them with candor:

"I've already sent correspondence home about it." Amp dabbed at his brow with a handkerchief and regulated his breath, having just run back from the mail room. "So don't think you can knock me over the head, take my idea, and go and get the grant money yourselves. I'm serious!"

Baffled, the administrator assured Ampelos that nothing of the sort would happen, and internally cursed the man to the infernal depths of hell for thinking so far ahead.

Nonetheless, once Ampelos's plan was laid out in sufficient detail, the bursar admitted the man had something going for him, approved the loan, and filed away the contract. It should have been him! The idea was right there for the taking this whole time!

The loan was used to charter an amphibious vehicle to take him from the main Ursa Madeum island, north east to where a mainland river emptied out into the eastern end of Barnstable Coast. The ship would then convert from deep ocean faring vessel to one which could tread the shallower waters of the river, following its natural curve still further north, beyond Palgard, and towards Tia. There the vehicle would trample land and take him into the city proper.

Already aware of Tia's disturbed state by the time the ships near Palgard warned him, Ampelos had brought with him a small entourage of Moontraveler cousins. He couldn't afford at-rate bodyguards and the Moontraveler's liked to get rowdy. So much so in fact that Ampelos had to squirm his way out of noogles and shoulder checks until they crossed the border into Tia, and the disrepair and violence, hearkening to the most violent times of Tyrant Damien's reign, instilled them all with an air of solemn sobriety.

"It's dirty." Genneth Moontraveler announced to the world. "It smells."
"Yup." Ampelos kept checking the instructions he'd written down, as if he could will them closer to their objective the more often he stared at the address. Genneth liked to talk the most, and had a tendency for obvious observations which grated on Amp. "Dirty and smells. Got it."
"We went a really long way to get here."
"Yup yup. I was there with you."
"It sure is far!"
"Yes . . ."
"And you're fittin' to change that?"

Huh.

Ampelos glanced at Genneth sidelong. He didn't recall detailing his plans . . . not to Genneth anyway. There was maybe a little slyness in his cousin that Ampelos had to be wary of.

"More or less. Not to get to Tia, but yes."
"That sounds like it'll be really useful."
"Yup. Useful. That's what I'm aiming for."

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"I could maybe let a dozen faux-ton posts go for . . . this much."

A piece of paper, slid across a table's surface.

Goddard Kharp was a newly undead. He found that being so came with a good deal of both benefits and detriments. For one, he no longer had any paint in his joints, which was incredible to him because he had blown out his joints in middle-age by falling from too great a height in the Cave of Andeloth, trying to escape a goblin horde. He succeeded in doing so but that was the end of his adventuring days – healing spells were too gristly and visceral in his time, prompting him to seek work that required a little less cardio out of him, and too comfortable to go back to adventuring when the medical field had caught up.

Now he had no pain, still had his cushy job, and he didn't have to pay those high premiums. On the other hand the constant thirst for humanoid blood was a bit of a distraction, and it was notoriously difficult to find out in the Wilds, where adventurers were hyper-vigilant, armed to the tooth, and a little too eager to start chopping off heads when all Goddard wanted was a pint or two.

"Drop that about 13% for me, I'll pick up two dozen, and you send a couple of guys northwest to setup the pylon for me."
"Whoa hey whoa. You know I'm running a business here right? I gotta eat over here."

Ampelos cocked a brow.

"Eat, drink, don't bust my balls, you get what I'm tryna say over here."
"I get what you're saying. Here's a few more things I get. I know there's already an outpost on Biazo Isle that can accept faux-ton deliveries. That cuts your transportation costs to virtually nothing, don't jerk me around. I also know that Hell's Gate has some new kind of automation engine – not in the works, but has it now, right now, shaking shit up over there."

Ampelos scribbled on the paper and slid it back.

"10%, two dozen pylons, transportation and construction to and on Biazo Isle, and I'll float you two crates of tobacco and make you exclusive Dali supplier for faux-ton posts for the next year. We want to be the only House you deal with. I know exactly what fair looks like, so let's stop passing this thing back and forth, it's getting beat up."

Edited by supernal

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Ampelos was on a stage, behind a podium, hands resting on either side of a prepared speech. A distance ahead and above him beaconed an incandescent arc-lamp, its brilliance focused and narrowed through a shaped and polished lens, filtered through the colored membrane of packaged slides. The mundane version of a magic lamp[1]. Ahead and below him were no more than a dozen or so fellows; half of them on the school board and the other half more distant Dali relatives made large and imposing by the heft of their bank accounts. These two halves made up one council.

"As I said I've already dispatched agents to Biazo to verify the existence and condition of the vineyard, and will have word of both tomorrow. Needless to say, but say it I must, if not for my tireless and inexhaustible work combing through letters of intent, memorandums of understanding, genealogies and beneficiary designations, this property might have remained buried and forgotten. Now it will serve the dual purpose of funding the Dali estate and catapulting it into the future.

Next slide."

Rather than expose the deed, estimations on land size and earnings, or an artist's depiction of the vineyard alleged to reside some seven-odd-thousand kilometers northwest in Biazo Isle, Ampelos showed them a choppy, flickering, grainy motion picture which showed one end of a Faux-ton move in action.

"This technology is already in use, connecting Tia to the same island in question. On the island is the town of Aspyn, which has grown considerably in the last year due to a massive influx of refugees from their defunct Ashville, and will continue to see foot traffic increase and . . . those sort of people the nation over target Aspyn for its open arms and tropical clime.

"I've acquired sufficient of these posts through a trusted vendor in Tia to supply Dali with three outposts. One in our Lady's manor, of course. One on the Isle, with a secondary connection to Tia. The third to be used at the council's discretion to whatever means they see fit."

That was a little something for them, to make sure they gave his proposal serious consideration.

The council nodded in approval and rose to adjourn.

"Wait please. There's more."

1 – Magic lantern image projector.

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"Next slide, please."

This was an overview of Corinth, the largest of their three dear islands.

"The motherland. Next slide."

This showed Corinth with a meshwork of lines superimposed over its surface.

"The motherland in its," ahem. "Idealized state, as envisioned by the . . ." Ahem. "Bohemians – the Singlance 'house'."

Ampelos shuddered his way through the sentence, smiled uneasily, and the council laughed at the Singlance's expense while taking their seats. If he was going to make them laugh as well, they could afford a measure more of patience.

"I've heard the laugh of our god of Comedy; I have seen the fool with his oversized shoes and his floppy hat and his iron knees[1]. And when he told me the joke I laughed, anyone would have. Only after I was done did I see the truth in the joke, as is his way. Even fools have wisdom to share. Perhaps the glittering bauble to have caught the ass's eye was indeed gold, if only this once.

"But a wise man sees more, and Dali is nothing if not wise."

That was for both them and for him; it was cajolery but Ampelos was Dali too, and even if he laughed on the surface, the deeper waters running through him warmed at the thought that they, that he, was better. Better by birthright.

"My faux-ton vendor has agreed to supply Dali exclusively with posts for the next year. In that time the Transmutation corp will be able to reverse-engineer the posts and make our own, deploy our own, but before that we will have realized the true vision of Ursa Madeum's future. Not one island made whole. Next slide."

This was of Ursa Madeum in its triptych glory, but with a small network of thick lines connecting every island to every other island.

"Three islands, made one. The Singlances want to build roads of stone on the islands. I want – Dali wants – to build paths of light between them. Imagine the Hildrebands in Thraece, how they would thrive in the agriculture there, what they could do. Imagine the Tankreds in Misral, immersed in the scientific community, with access to the geothermal energy of the volcano . . . what they could do. And imagine Dali, the spokes which hold the wheel together.

"Imagine. Imagine what we could do."

1 - Irony . . .

Edited by supernal

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His presentation won over the small council. They not only approved his grant, two of the banks approached him privately afterwards and offered an additional stipend if any pending contractual obligations could be drafted with them in mind.

Not until Ampelos exited the building, not until he was couched safely within the shuttered horse-drawn carriage now conveying him to the dormitory to collect his things so that he could rent more spacious accommodations, did the man allow himself physical signs of anxiety. He spent most of the time in the cab slumped in the seat, hand over his face, shuddering as the adrenaline cleared his system and shaking his head at the prospect of the work yet to come.

Ampelos asked the driver to wait while he walked the path to his guild dorm room and gathered his belongings, fitting them all inside of a single box, and carrying it back to the cab without strain. It drove into the night with Ampelos drifting in and out of a fitful sleep, until they got to a connecting station which allowed him to board a steam omnibus with a heading of Andelusia.

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Ampelos found himself increasingly frustrated in dealing with the bank; not the institution, but those among the small council who offered him more money for favorable lines in the various contracts that this sort of work was sure to follow. The most recent exchange concerned their attempt to use fewer faux-ton pylons so that they could connect more nodes without having to pay for the additional posts or wait for the shipment.

"Yes, you only need one post to establish a transportation channel. But the second and third posts increase throughput, so we can have more people and material pass through at once. The fourth is a hot spare; if there's a mechanical failure in one of the posts, that one will swing in to take its place right away, and we can keep the transportation flowing meanwhile we repair the broken post or source a replacement."

The person on the other end of the copper wired mechanism, which transmitted their voices bilaterally at the speed of sound, rambled on about the cost-savings. Ampelos shrugged, struck out a few choices lines from the contract, and had only this to say: "Expect a refund in the mail."

He spent the next ten or so minutes crying from the pressure, from the prospect of running out of funds before the entire network was up and running, namely of going bankrupt before he could hope to have the project turn a profit. The ten minutes after that Ampelos spent convincing himself that this was all for the best, that the sacrifice of his health by way of anxiety ulcers, sleepless nights, and these hot tears on his cheeks, would all be worth the end result.

Ampelos checked in with the construction workers.

"How are we coming along?"
"We've just finished connecting the node to Tia and confirming that we're able to send/receive. We're going to be working on the vineyard connection tomorrow."
"I'll pay overtime if you work on it tonight. Establish a channel with Tia. I have some more business to attend to on the mainland."

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Location – The Ornate Blossom; a somewhat opulent room which overlooked the western wall of the Dragon Iris museum.

Dear Ms. Marie,

From the desk of – Ampelos Spiderwalker Dali; son of Aiden and Elowyn Spiderwalker Dali; grandson of Stonedance Spidervalley Dali and Atys Wyrmwalker Dali, who are uncle and aunt to Tansy Wyrmwalker Dali, head of intelligence for noble House Dali of Ursa Madeum.

To begin with allow me to apologize for the long-winded introduction. Genealogy is of utter importance to Dali, and it is with iron persistence that we are instructed to include the familial relationships which signal why our letters might be worth a second glance.

Introduction and clarifying apology thus concluded allow me to, as your Terran people might call it, 'get to uru tacks'.

I had visited Floracle during one of my many fanciful excursions into greater Terrenus and there bought a most winsome bouquet hand-selected for its scent profile in addition to its color aesthetic by a brilliant and gentle man I remember well.

This memory stuck with me, not just the sentiment mind you but the pragmatics of your father's expertise, and so when I ventured into Terrenus for something other than distraction for the first time in, I must say, something very near a decade, I sought him out. Found he had passed. It does not escape my attention that you share his name, and if the obsession of my family over blood is to be even marginally believed, then I must assume some of his gentleness and brilliance has passed onto his children. My condolences and my blessings to the spirit of your father.

Despite his untimely and unfortunate passing, the need for which I sought Hector out has not changed, and it comes to my mind perhaps that you would be interested in a venture which might secure for both of our houses an obscene amount of both wealth and favor. I would rather not yet pen the exact nature of my thoughts down for the very real fear that there are those even among my family who would see the prize seized by their own hands, but I will lay it out to you in full, if such a partnership is of interest.

Please take as much time as needed to check the family's seal and verify my identity. I will be taking up residence in the Ornate Blossom; you can reach me at the following frequency

<OB-CCD-SW7765-R201>

@roboblu

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When the call came in, Ampelos could be found in his room, just as he had been for the last 12 hours. The blinds were drawn, the sunshine too cheerful and painful to his eyes, made sensitive by the racking the drink put his body through. He was now nursing a squat glass of filmy coconut water, the Biazo kind with the little chunks in them, muttering silent prayers to the god of comedy and irony for the electrolytes to flush that damnably seductive poison out of his body at breakneck speed.

The ringing on the holo-array nearly split his head open, but years of deliberate practice had reaped for Ampelos hard-won spoils. He tapped the crystal display and picked up the call.

"This is Ampelos Spiderwalker Dali; son of Aiden and Elo – oh, hello."

The words rolled off his tongue with prim articulation, and he cut himself short as if the caller could be anyone other than the single person to whom he had fed the frequency. He kept their exchange deliberately short, echoing his written concerns regarding the possibility of friendly espionage, and told the other line that they could meet wherever she wanted.

His one hope now was that the meeting place would be within walking distance – public transit was a headache with the nearby quarantine zone, and the last thing Ampelos wanted in this condition, prior to a potentially critical meeting, was a headache.

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The tap-tap-tap-tap of a nervously jiggling foot was the only sound in the empty courtyard, save the occasional whisper of leaves rustling in the wind.  Even after spending eighteen hours per day tending to the gentle beast that was the Floracle Flower Shop and Apothecary, Valentine found herself unable to suggest a different meeting place. With the plague running rampant through quarantined sections of the city, business had been terrible, as evidenced by the lack of patrons in the perfectly quaint courtyard adjacent to the main shop. Whether because of her own social anxiety, the responsibility she felt as a shop owner, or the stress of the past few weeks, the redhead had been unable to leave the Floracle in days. Faerin, her newest employee, had been running most of her errands in town, even if he often returned with a few new scrapes and bruises for her to mend. He was a decent lad, with a good head on his shoulders, and she appreciated the extra set of hands in what was becoming a serious recession. 

When Valentine had read the first line of the mysterious letter -and she sure was receiving a number of mysterious letters as of late- her lips had pursed in attempt to seal in the anxiety. Her mind had immediately leaped to legal troubles, perhaps brought on by Faerin's penchance for mischief, though her grim expression had melted into a smile only a few words later. Though this 'Ampelos' offered little information on his proposition, his letter had brought some warmth to her heart, and, without consulting her twin brother, she called him a few short minutes later. The time and place were set without Val fully realizing what she had done. 

The full weight of her decision bore heavily on her nerves as she sat in the courtyard, a cup of hot tea cradled between her trembling hands. Val did not have her brother's talent for negotiation, and was worried that she had invited a new host of problems onto her limping business. Still, Ampelos had been polite enough over the radio, and she knew Caspian was sneaking peeks from the window every few seconds. Faerin wasn't nearly as concerned, but, if she needed him, she knew he'd be around- and his scrappy nature might come in handy. Valentine looked over the white picket fence covered in ivy, and vaguely hoped her directions had been sound. She took a sip of tea. 

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Ampelos crawled out of the automatic coach and spilled out on the street opposite Floracle's storefront.

When the coach chugged away, revealing Floracle's beautifully arranged displays by degrees, finally permitting him a full and unobstructed view, Ampelos took two steps back and put one hand over his head to keep his hat from flying away. They were breathtaking – lurid explosions of color which could not fail to draw the eye, tantalizing the imagination in so doing, reeling the passerby in with a shouted invitation o come and explore this magical forest in the heart of industry.

"Gorgeous."

Not until Amp noticed a splash of red intrude on an otherwise unbroken fresco of interleaving green and white, that is to say until he caught sight of Valentine's hair floating over the ivy strangled picket fence, that he finally found the strength to break free from his slack jawed reverie. The hand holding the hand narrowed its grasp to just the brim, so he could remove it and wave it about in greeting.

"Lo!"

Ampelos made to rush across the street and was immediately rebuked by the aggressive melodies and movements of traffic. When the rushing stream of mechanical wagons abated, now no more than a trickle, he mustered up the remainder of his courage and forded the street once more. Amp passed the storefront with a lingering second glance, resolute in making his way to the courtyard.

Without the hat to keep his brown-hair red pinned against his head, it spilled with ambition down to his ears. His bloodshot eyes suggested fatigue but the vigor of his handshake outlined an almost frenetic energy.

"It is my absolute pleasure to make your acquaintance Ms. Marie. Or do you prefer Valentine?" A pause for a response, then a hand motioning to the table, seats, and tea tray waiting for them. At his seat, Ampelos hung his outercoat over the chair back and placed his hat in his lap, legs gently crossed at the knee.

"I have no desire whatever to dispense with niceties, I assure you, but am eager to talk business – it is my hope that one does not have to come at the sacrifice of the other. Are you familiar with the bambusoideae[1] subfamily of poaceae? In particular with the somewhat startling growth rate of a number of its species?"

1 - Bamboo

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"Valentine will suffice, Mr. Spiderwalker." There was kindness in her eyes, but it was not without wariness. The man's bloodshot eyes raised a few red flags in light of the recent plague, and her gazed flicked over to the window in nervous anticipation. Her blue eyes met Caspian's green before they receded from view, a slight raise of the brow her only response. 

The florist pursed her lips at the dismissal of "niceties," as Ampelos called it- she quite enjoyed being nice, and his mannerisms were perhaps a little abrasive to her. 'Is this how business is done in Ursa Madeum?' she wondered, nodding politely as the man finished his thought. "Yes, I am familiar with it," she said, slowly tracing the damp circle her cup had left on the table with the tip of an index finger. "We grew bamboo in our summer collection two years ago. It wasn't very popular, so I'm afraid I don't possess any starts at the moment." She considered the latter half of his question, placing her teacup back into its saucer. "It wasn't difficult to grow. ... I could very feasibly accelerate the process even further." Was she a fool to have forfeited this knowledge so soon? "May I ask why you're interested, Mr. Spiderwalker?"

He hadn't touched his cup of tea at all, which she took note of and filed away beneath her impression of the peculiar man. Ampelos was rather bird-like, she thought, with ruffled, messy russet hair and wide eyes that were constantly shifting to take in the surroundings. Even over the radio, he always seemed to be hurrying his words; was he determined in his cause, or was he a touch manic? Valentine wasn't sure, but for now, he was behaving, and she was slowly growing more comfortable in his presence. 

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" . . . are interested, Mr. Spiderwalker?"
"Please – you do me a courtesy with your name, allow me to do the same. Ampelos, or Amp if you like."

As he spoke Ampelos procured a small squeeze bottle from among the pocket of his vest. When he squeezed some of the ointment out onto his hands and rubbed them together, it smelled of honey and ginger, two of nature's most powerful antiobiotic plants.

Amp shook his hands to speed dry his hands and, only then, pressed the palms of his hands firmly against his eyes.

"I apologize for this, the delay." Ampelos shook his head, disappointed in himself for his intolerance to discomfort. "I had something of a . . . " Lonely. "Busy night last night and . . ." Tried too hard to escape myself. "Gave myself over to drink just a little too much. What I rubbed on my hands was to sanitize before rubbing my eyes.

"Ah. Much better."

When Ampelos removed his hands they were even redder than before, due to the pressure, but lightened over time; as far as Valentine's unvoiced concerns, Ampelos exhibited no other plague symptoms.

"If I'm not too far off from my mark, you'll understand why I've been so cautious. You see, although House Dali has been dealing with plants for generations, creating knockout organisms and hybrids through cisgenic engineering, my interests have historically been far removed from our staple industry. I deal mostly with materials, and it was actually your father," Here Ampelos paused to nod his head twice in condolence. "Who told me a fascinating detail about bamboo. The growth rate of a few specific genii is frankly remarkable.

"My work in the Transmutation guild has sort of primed me for the notion of, well, combination. Mostly metals and elements, but this got me thinking – why not plants? The dark arts of alchemy have long ago proven this out with fauna, with their chimera; why not with flora too? Not cisgenic. Transgenic."

Ampelos paused here to make himself some tea, and continued while he slowly poured hot water against the tea leaves waiting at the bottom of his cup.

"I've discovered some lost Dali property. A vineyard, in Biazo Isle, well placed given the volcanic ash which has enriched the soil. I would like to cross those fruits with the bamboo so that we can grow the vineyard ripe many times a year, and triple the production of wine, if not more.

"I would like a botanist from Floracle to work closely with a Transmutation expert from the Dali guild in order to achieve this. It will be less risky, less involved, to prove this out with a commercial product. If it works, if it's stable, we can conceivably apply this same process to any plant. Medicinal plants come to mind."

Ampelos sipped at his tea, eyes trained on Valentine, as he let the implications unspool in the space between them.

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"Grandfather." Valentine corrected him this time to save herself the trouble of keeping up a facade; Hector's death was difficult to talk about on its own. She wasn't in a place where every wayward mention of a father could simply roll off her shoulders, but, still, the interjection surprised her. Seldom did the florist open her mouth to interrupt, even if her one-word attempt was spoken gently, softly, almost like a suggestion as opposed to an immutable fact. A small seed of pride took root in her chest, and she carried it safe within her as Ampelos continued his proposition. 

If Ameplos didn't carry such a serious weight in his eyes, she might have taken him as a comedian. As it were, she simply sipped her tea and quietly considered his plans, red brows furrowed over her nose in deep concentration. "What you're proposing may take months," she finally sighed, blue eyes wandering between his face and the garden behind him- Valentine had a habit of avoiding eye contact when she was thinking. "Genetic modification is a natural process in plants. It takes generations to select for the simplest of traits, like color, or height, or ..." She trailed off, studying one of her favorite plants in the garden: a pale pink peony whose blooms were still intact despite the changing seasons. Her conservation magic was keeping it preserved; her own two hands were changing the laws of nature on a daily basis. 

"I suppose it could be done if we can isolate the specific gene sequence in bamboo, and devise a way to introduce it to other strains. Yes, it could feasibly work ... It would have to be an extremely delicate spell, and reliable across multiple species ... And I'd have to be able to teach it to other magic-users, potentially those without an aptitude for floral magic ..." At this point, young Valentine was talking to herself, resting her chin in one palm as her mind strove to connect the dots. What she knew about plants had come straight from her grandfather and the many textbooks and field journals he brought back from his travels. She wasn't sure she was the most qualified person for the task, but she'd be lying if she said the prospect didn't excite her. 

Valentine's blue eyes fell to the stranger before her, considering him. "Ampelos, your project will demand most of my attention for the foreseeable future, and I have a business to run." A part of Valentine shriveled up at the use of such strong, direct language. Regardless, she continued. "What will the Floracle take away from this endeavor?"

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"Delegate. Have your brother," Ampelos motioned somewhat behind him, in the direction towards which he'd spied Valentine shift her gaze more than once. He paused his speech only for the brief few seconds required to take a deeper drink of the delicious tea; the flavor profile was both bold and coy, reminiscent of present company.

"Take over the business for a little while. I've just come from Tia, where I've secured a number of faux-ton posts. If you'll allow our builders to erect our final post here, or nearby, it would allow you to come to Ursa Madeum to work in our lab, to Biazo Isle to take as many samples of the vineyard grapes as you may need at a moment's notice, and to return home at your discretion. A mere five years ago this would have been impossible, for us at any rate, this level of expediency. I say we must seize our moment even as others seize theirs."

Ampelos finished his tea, exhaling softly and repeatedly to cool the inside of his mouth, and poured himself another cup, which he intended to imbibe with more patience. By motion alone he offered to refresh Valentine's own cup before leaning back, tea in hand, hydrated and comfortable.

"I should clarify, or rather underline, that my proposition is for a new venture. I have some funds at my disposal, we'll be able to pay you a consulting fee for your work, but as our business is yet to be born let alone mature, suffice it to say that enterprise requires investment and risk. We're a startup. One which my personal meter tells me will be innovative and uncompromisingly lucrative, but not until we're done.

"As a partner in the vineyard and for this process, you can expect a third of the net profit; one third will be towards production and distribution, our own unless you have the means, and a third for the contribution of our Transmutation guildmembers for the length of the project. You'll also have options on the patent for the process. Mind you I think a vast humanitarian effort should follow our earnest attempt at generating revenue, but we would do well to strengthen our hands before extending our reach."

Ampelos put the cup down, its contents untouched. He threaded the fingers of one hand with its siblings on the other, and let his weight come to rest on his elbows.

"Aside from your initial fee I can make no guarantees, however it is my opinion that we will both recoup our initial investment within the year, if not the quarter. Dali stands behind this in full."

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