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Old January 10, 2015, 02:41 PM   #1 (permalink)
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[Wits' End] Living in a rainbow of chaos (Li Bai)

Winter / Spring Era XXI

Li Bai was greeted by a number of things happening all at once. The path up to the house was not a solo journey, though. As soon, in fact, as he had stepped onto the path, bounding up to him came a dog the size of a small pony. He did not look unfriendly, but he accompanied Li Bai and seemed unwilling to be argued with about that fact.

As Li Bai opened the door and called, he was met by possibly a somewhat bizarre sight. For whatever reason, he seemed to have made his way to what was, in fact, the back door, which opened into the kitchen. In there, the central island had been cleared away and there were children standing on it. Five children in all, if he counted, all girls and all in beautiful matching dresses. They ranged in age from a red haired young woman in probably her early teens, a red haired cether girl of slightly younger and a blonde haired beauty slightly younger again. Then there were twin girls, maybe three or four eras obviously identical and with their mother's dark hair and dark eyes.

There were two adult women in the room; the one looking after the two youngest was an older woman in her sixties if Li Bai was any judge. She had a good natured expression and was pinning the dresses of the identical pair. The other three were standing in a line and Hay'aan was one end of said line, just stepping back and looking at the hem of the dress of the cether girl.

At his call, they all turned and looked and Hay'aan beamed a smile at him. "Li Bai!! It is a pleasure to see you! Come in come in!" she said, motioning him in. "Welcome, welcome to my home. We are just finishing up a dress fitting for my beautiful daughters" she said, motioning to all five of the girls. "Girls, this is my friend, Li Bai." A chorus of greetings came from them, each one in fairness and all politely said. "This is Lily" she said, motioning to the older woman who smiled, revealing her missing tooth and good nature. She did not speak, though, for she was holding three pins in her teeth.

"These are Kateryna" starting at the red head "Praesis" the cether "Camio, or Birdie as we call her" the blonde-haired beauty beamed at him "And this is Addy and Pilar" she said, of the twins, pointing to one each time. Evidently, she knew who they were, but they were completely identical. "I am so glad you came, I was just thinking that I need another pair of hands. Could you please take that chalk and just mark the bottom of each hem please?" she asked, motioning to the chalk with her head. Lily seemed to approve of that idea and it would indeed make quick work.
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Old January 11, 2015, 10:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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As soon as his eyes saw the gypsy woman, Li Bai smiled. "My dear, I think you should know that there is a rather large- something outside. It looks like a hound, and was quite insistent in its following me. I'm not sure what to do with it. Should I let it in? Should I saddle it?" Then he saw the all of the other faces.

He entered and smiled at the girls, and then the women. He committed each name to memory as Hay'aan introduced them, repeating the name, nodding, and offering each of the children his hand to shake. He then smiled at the one Hay'aan had introduced as Lilly.

"Lily? A wonderful flower," he said, flirtatiously winking at the woman. "Rather fitting name, if you don't mind me saying so. Let me tell you of the time I found a golden lily in Arakmat, miles from the nearest..."

It was then that Hay'aan asked him to grab the chalk. He looked at Lily and winked again, "Well, another time, and I can tell you that story and many others..." He then leaned towards her and whispered, "...maybe over dinner." He then tenderly placed his rucksack on the floor. He grabbed the chalk and neared the girls once again.

"I'd love to help! Where is this hem you speak of?"
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Old January 11, 2015, 11:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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The small cether girl giggled at Li Bai's description of the dog. Before her mother could answer the young girl spoke "That's Dishmop. He's my dog" she said and Hay'aan nodded with a smile, "That is indeed Dishmop. He is our friend and protector, and he is Praesis' dog. He follows everyone." she said with a grin. The blonde beauty who Hay'aan would shortly introduce as Birdie said, most earnestly "An' you don't need a saddle, just hold on to his hair real tight. He don't mind" she said, with an expression which said that she was merely imparting wisdom and known fact.

His flirtation with Lily earned him an amused smile from Hay'aan and the older woman looked at him with some pleasure as he called her a wonderful flower. But when he suggested that he might share the story with her over a meal she nodded her head, her eyes twinkling as she answered. "Well, that's kind of you. Maybe you could cook for me and my husband, sir? He and I have been wed for more than thirty eras, so he'll be glad of the change from my cooking I'm sure!" Hay'aan smiled gently and shook her head, slightly. "That's just not true, Lily, Edgar loves your cooking, you know that. We all do" The enthusiasm of the nods suggested that the older woman was, in fact, a very good cook indeed.

And then, it was on to business. "Like this, here" she said, showing him how to do it on Birdie's dress. "See, just here where it folds. Thank you, Li Bai" she added and then Hay'aan moved behind him, he marked with chalk, she removed pins and lifted, one by one, the children from the kitchen island. She counted the pins as she removed them and made sure that there were the correct number and, when she was content that there were no stray pins anywhere, the girls left. But each one of the girls said "Good brightening" or "Nice to meet you" or, in the case of the smaller ones "Bye bye" with a small wave. Lily went with them with a nod of her head to Li Bai and a smile at Hay'aan and left him alone with the gypsy. Hay'aan looked at him and grinned.

"Would you like a cup of coffee or tea?" she asked, with a smile. She did not ask why he was here, for that was simply rude, but instead she waited for him to tell her and in the meantime offered him a drink and some home made small sweet honey cakes.
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Old January 11, 2015, 01:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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"A dog, you say?" He grinned at Praesis. "Why, how do you know underneath all that hair?" He playfully scratched his chin, looking up as if lost in thought, "Could he be a goat, perchance? Or maybe a very large spider, or a very small elephant?" He looked at the young girl again, his smile betraying the jest. "Well, regardless of what type of creature he is, I might ride him later. Thank you for the advice."

And if he was taken aback by Lily's pronouncement that she was, most assuredly, taken, he didn't show it. "Lucky lad, I think. I'd wager he is a very fine man." He steadied his eyes on the woman, and his stomach grumbled at the mention of her cooking. For whatever reason, he pictured the dinner table covered with delicacies and roasted meats and wine. Perhaps the idea of sitting down to eat with her and her husband wasn't such a bad idea. "Does he like stories?"

And before the tiny man knew it, the work was completed. He waved at the group of girls as they exited, and promised he would come back and they would play, very soon. He repeated their farewells as they offered them.

Once Lily was out of the room, he looked thoughtfully at Hay'aan. "She seems extraordinary," he said with a smile. "Though truth be told, better that she is married. Felt like I was robbing the cradle, I did!" He laughed. "Tea would be most welcome. Thank you," he said as he retrieved his rucksack.

He fondled the contents for a moment before he pulled his hands back out. "I have brought something that I wanted to show you." She would see, in his arms, was a large clay pot. It was rather plain and unimpressive, but what was planted in it was vibrant and colorful. There were a number of different plants that Hay'aan would well know. They were simple, but the way in which they were presented made the pot look somewhat like a miniature forest.

"Tell me, my dear. What do you see when you look at this?"
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Old January 11, 2015, 05:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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"Mama got stuck on the cliff by a goat" piped up Birdie "Cos Fin and Gursin had followed the trail and Mama had to go rescue them. Because boys are stupid" Hay'aan looked at her daughter and gently, oh so gently and quietly spoke. "We do not use that word, Birdie. Not about anyone and most especially about people who we love. It is not a good word and I would be very sad if anyone ever called you it, so I do not expect to hear it come from your mouth, is that clear?" Birdie looked at her and frowned but nodded. Evidently she had thought that perhaps her mother wouldn't tell her off in front of someone else.

Lily blushed pink when Li Bai called her husband a lucky lad and looked at him with a twinkle of mirth in her eyes. "Watch this one, Hay'aan, he's a charmer, isn't he?" she said and Hay'aan smiled. "Yes, he does like stories, in fact. I'll introduce you" the older woman said.

As the room emptied, Hay'aan got about the process of making him a cup of tea and she made herself a cup of mint tea. She put a plate of small sweet cakes in front of him and she perched next to him. "Oh yes?" she said, when he said he had brought something to show her and she looked in interest as he brought out the pot. She examined it with a look of delight and intrigue on her face and when he asked her what she saw, she looked up at him with an enthusiastic expression on her face.

"Oh, I see potential! It is a thing of beauty for a small place, it is a forest in a tiny pot and it is a garden for those who have none. It is a place of imagining for a child or a tool for focusing meditation. It would be beautiful on a window sill or as the center piece of a table. It is colour and life all contained and held in miniature." She looked at him honestly then. "But the pot could use some colour. I have no skill with glazes and such, but I could paint it. I would paint it and then see what I could do to seal it. But maybe the simplicity of the pot is part of what makes the vibrancy of the plants even more wonderful" Looking at him she raised an eyebrow quizzically.

"Why, Li Bai? What is it that you see, Kak?" she asked, earnestly.
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Old January 11, 2015, 07:05 PM   #6 (permalink)
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He listened as she stared and spoke about the miniature forest, munching quietly on a sweet cake.

He smiled in nodded at her as she called it color and life held in miniature. He looked at it, as if for the first time, however, when she stated that the simple nature of the pot possibly brought out the liveliness of what was planted in it. In truth, he hadn't the funds nor the time to invest in finding a better pot. Or, pots, as it were. In truth, the old man had done similar work with at least a dozen others before he had completed the one that Hay'aan now looked at. It was the best of all of the prototypes, and each previous trial had help him to hone an understanding of what plants to use and how to place them.

"What do I see, my dear? Let me tell you."

He pointed to a spot in between two dark green tall grasses, that closely resembled little bushes. Balanced between them but several inches away was a taller flowery bush. It very much resembled a weeping willow.

"Here I see a little wooden bench. And back here," he said pointing to another place in the pot altogether. "A little cottage, wooden as well, of course." He leaned back up and looked at the young woman. "You see, it is a place from my memories while living in Natura, and though it has very little significance, I always was fond of how quiet it was. Peaceful. I remember it in my mind as if I was standing there this very brightening."

"You see, I've been planting and planting and practicing all the things you have taught me, and I realized how very peaceful the brightenings are when I am tending to my plants. So maybe I could tend them and feed myself in doing so."

He nodded proudly. "You paint pictures of people, yes? Would they also not wish to have one of these, if it was a miniature version of their home or other important place? At least, I think it is a good idea. Except for one, itsy-bitsy, teensy-weensy little thing."

He sat back down beside Hay'aan. "I can plant and I can arrange the pots, but woodworking... I can't do that." He looked over at her, hoping for a specific answer.
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Old January 11, 2015, 07:22 PM   #7 (permalink)
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She looked at him and listened in rapt attention as he spoke. He wove a tale which was more beautiful than any other he had woven in the time she had known him, in a way. Because it was heartfelt and a little sad. She looked at him as he pointed out to her the things that he saw and she smiled with interest. "You planted this?" she asked with surprise and delight "Oh, Li Bai, you have improved enormously. You have stopped killing your plants with kindness and you have discovered that you have a green thumb! Oh, that is wonderful" she said, genuinely delighted. "I would love one of these" she said, softly "It would be mostly sand, with an oasis and groups of vardos, our caravans" she explained "In a circle around the central pool. Oh that would remind me of my childhood and.. oh, this is wonderful."

She looked up at him in surprise as he said that woodworking he could not do and Hay'aan nodded her head. "Would you like me to teach you? It would be my pleasure to do so" she said, most genuinely. "But... let me show you something, if I might?" she said, and if he allowed it she would lead him into the living room. The light and airy rooms were all decorated tastefully and with light bright colours, but in the living room, next to the mosaic tile fire place, there was a cabinet. It was as tall as Hay'aan and maybe three times as wide.

It was crafted out of solid walnut with simple embellishments, and carefully distressed to make it appear older than it was. On one side was a collection of hand prints, child sized and adult sized, in mixed gilded colors and those, distressed too. The piece itself was divided into top and bottom sections, and the front panels of each were thick beveled glass. The bottom half exposed an over-sized music box mechanism, of sorts, unusually crafted from elements forged from steel, copper and brass all three to produce a layered, tri-color effect. The largest piece of the mechanism was a large metal disc with what must be hundreds of raised bumps, and a bar and comb mechanism that stretched one side to the other.

In the top half, was a scene created from small, smiling figures forged and formed out of metal, then dressed in bright colored paint and pieces of cloth. There was plenty to look at, all arranged in front of a painted background scene of a colorful vardo beneath a sliver of a moon and a starlit sky, a pair of horses and a wise little owl perched up in a tree.

The figures depicted a variety of figures young and old, along with what could only be Dishmop giving chase to a disgruntled ginger cat. "My husband crafted this for me for our wedding anniversary" she explained, as she wound up a brass and cherry wood crank on the side of the cabinet, then flipped an unseen lever on the very back. And the whole thing sprang to life, playing a traditional gypsy tune. And while it played, the many figures came to life. They turned on their own, and also all around a dancing couple in the very center of the scene, the woman of whom at least shared a relatively short stature and hair colour with the woman standing next to him. And Dishmop chased the cat around the scene, behind the vardo and moonlight and back again. The figures dipped and bobbed some of them, some even disappeared along the edges until they reappeared again in the middle of it all.

When he had examined it and the music had played, Hay'aan smiled gently. "My husband is a genius of his trade, truly he is. But that is what that is, it is a depiction of him and I, dancing in the center and around us are our people. All those children you just met are there, and their brothers except for Jonah who was not yet born. But " she said, leading him back to the kitchen where their teas were still waiting. "That's what these are. They are a glimpse of what you love and who you love. Moments in time, captured for eternity. I think that these are beautiful and I would commission one without hesitation." she said, earnestly.

"What can I do to help you with this?" she asked, without any hesitation at all.
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Old January 11, 2015, 07:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Oh my, he did have a green thumb, didn't he. He hadn't realized it.

"And it is all thanks to you, of course! You set me along a path, I only traveled down it, my dear!" He smiled and followed her further into the house. What she showed him, however, he was sorely unprepared for.

He went to his knees and leaned in to inspect the mechanic music box. And when it moved, he squealed with delight and clapped his hands together furiously. "Ah! There are the girls! And... and... the little elephant! This is wonderful! And is this your husband, the genius?" He looked over and smiled at Hay'aan. "Quite a striking lad. Reminds me of, well, a young me!"

He sighed, the glee in his eyes staying strong as he stared at the moving parts. "Such artists that live within these walls. Oh yes, quite intimidating as well. And some brightening, perhaps I will hone a craft this far as well." He nodded and stood up decisively, as if a decision had been made.

"I do need help, in fact. But I wouldn't press you to teach me woodworking. No, instead, I would like to commission your work instead. Sculptures, and little ones. If I gave you a sketch or ground plan, do you think you could recreate miniature versions of the buildings and objects depicted in them?"
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Old January 11, 2015, 08:04 PM   #9 (permalink)
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She shook her head "Nonsense." she said, primly "If that is the case then every piece of art that I paint is down to the fact that my father taught me to draw when I was a child. Or perhaps it is mine to own." she said and she grinned at him. "Your talent is your own and for all that I shared a few steps with you, you travel in your own time and by your own direction" she said with a grin at him.

She nodded her head at the figure of the man, who by all accounts according to this cabinet was a good amount taller than her and wore a hat and a suit. "That is my Klue, yes." she said, pride etched in every fibre of her being as she spoke of him. "He is an artist and a genius." she agreed. She grinned at the notion that he reminded Li Bai of a younger him and she said, most sincerely "I believe that he will always be a good man, no matter how old he is and, as such, you and he share a lot in common already" she said.

But when he said that he needed help, he had her full attention. She listened and she beamed with absolute delight. "We could work in partnership, Li Bai! I could make the furniture.. yes, absolutely. Small wooden objects would be a wonderful challenge and I would be delighted to undertake that. Will you sell them?" she asked and she looked at him with pure delight at the thought of being able to help him in his venture.
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Old January 12, 2015, 04:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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"Lucky for him!" Li Bai said, speaking about Klue and how much he and the old man had in common. "If that be true..." the kemite pointed at his own face and smiled, "you have this to look forward to! Or, should I say, lucky for you!"

And as she went on, he became giddy with excitement again. "Yes! A partnership! We would have a tall hill to climb, of course, but the idea? Yes, we absolutely sell them. The product will be meager at first, but perhaps, in brightenings to come, people will come and commission art, just as they visit your studio now!"

He sat back in satisfaction, as if a great weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. It would be apparent that he had been sitting on this idea, one that excited him greatly, for some time. How nice it was to finally reveal the idea to the one person who he wished to share the venture with. "Your art and mine- though, I admittedly have a long way to go. Perhaps you can further your craft, and I can do the same. And as our abilities grow, so will the business! The sky's the limit, my dear, the sky's the limit!!"

"And it will be a true partnership. You simply make the ornaments for the scenes, and I will do all of the rest of the work. I will run the shop, and I will deal with the customers. I know you are busy, my dear. Just keep an eye on my decisions, as you have done spectacularly well with your paintings, and I think we will do splendidly! What do you say?"
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Old January 12, 2015, 04:45 PM   #11 (permalink)
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She laughed a deep and genuine laugh when he vassilated between how lucky Klue was for sharing traits with him and how lucky she was for the same fact. "You are much shorter than Klue" she said, looking him up and down quite seriously, it seemed. "And I believe that he will not grow a beard. Also his eyes are a very specific shade of blue." she said and then she grinned at Li Bai. "But I believe that I am a very lucky woman indeed, yes. He would argue that he is a lucky man, too" she added and smiled slightly. "Sometimes, I even believe he's right" she added but then shook her head.

"Alright, well if we are going to do this there are questions that we must ask" she said and she looked at him earnestly. "I will craft the wooden furniture, but why would these be the only thing that you sell? I could make water features. for example. You could have those small trees that they have in traditional Zinn'Sunnese places. Bonsai, I believe?" When they lived in Sancta Nova she had enjoyed visiting Little Zinn'Sunn and had been intrigued by the small trees.

"We can look to grow and expand and make unusual, living ornaments. Oh! Oh! We could...." she stopped then and bit her lip. "Li Bai, I am sorry. But what you describe where I do one small thing and you do everything else is not partnership. We need to define the nature of our business relationship before we continue. I can be.. or I can try to be a silent partner, or I can work with you. I think that leaving the shop to you on a brightening by brightening basis works fine, but I can keep the accounts and so on. I used to do that when I owned Kateryna's studio here. I also kept the accounts for the orphanage and hostel I owned here, and that was much more tricky. If that is acceptable, we need to ensure that we decide in advance who will make which decisions, so that we can work together most effectively."

Looking at him she smiled, gently "When I opened my shop for the first time, here on this wonderful sleepy island, I was terrified. What if no one came, what if I was not talented but just very loved and therefore being told that I was good when I was not? But when it was succesful, it was mine. That was a wonderful feeling and I would not wish to decry you of it. So, let us sit down together and decide what we will do together, what you will do and what I will, shall we?" she asked, with a smile. But then she waited to see if he was happy with that.
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Old January 12, 2015, 08:17 PM   #12 (permalink)
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"Well, I would say that he would need to be shorter," he said with a playful grin, "And he, most certainly, should work on his beard. But regardless, if he makes you happy, then..." he winked at the young woman, nodding, "I think he is doing a fine job. Good for him." He then listened as she went on, saying that he might be lucky as well.

"Never say that. No perhaps. No believe. If you are to offer him the whole of yourself, you must know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what that whole truly is." He nodded happily.

He stood and walked a few paces away before turning back around. "Do you take care of him and love him? Do you follow his lead, and in turn, lead him when needed? Then, my dear, I would say, that he is a very lucky man. Let not your worries and confusions cloud your understanding of what you are to this man," he looked at her in the eye, "or how truly lucky he is."

And then, the conversation moved to business.

"Oh! That is great to hear you say it! I didn't want to admit such a thing, but I need to you to help more than you can imagine. The books? Oh, please! Very little can I do with the numbers and ensuring that we are getting a good deal. Can I say we? Oh my, I am getting ahead of myself, aren't I?" He realized that he was rambling in excitement.

"I would be happy to tend the shop. I am a people person, after all, and though you are too, my dear, I fear that I will be sleeping in the shop as well as tending it, so it only makes sense that I will handle all of the customers."

Before she could respond, he gleefully moved on. "Of course, you will help me beautify the area and the grounds in order to bring in customers with a discerning eye. I will certainly need you for that. After all, you have given me a green thumb, but you thumb is, well, certainly greener than mine. And we will need decks and water-features and any number of other things that are necessary to bring in new customers...."

It was at that point that he truly realized that he was rambling.

"All of this, of course, with your leave, dear Hay'aan. I get so caught up with the ideas I have for this shop that sometimes I forget that I haven't passed them all through you. What do you think of all of this?"
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Old January 13, 2015, 05:00 PM   #13 (permalink)
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She smiled as he said that Klue needed to be shorter and should work on his beard. She nodded her head slightly when he pointed out that Klue was doing a fine job of making her happy. But when he said that she should know what the whole of herself truly was she looked at him and said nothing as he asked her questions and urged her not to let worries or confusion cloud her understanding. "I believe that we all experience doubt. But like the box I made you" she said, softly "Is it not well always to strive for perfection, even when you know it is unachievable in your own eyes? Although, of course, the truly lucky of us achieve it in the eyes of others." she added and smiled at him.

When the talk moved to their shared business, she watched him and she could not help but chuckle. He was truly enthused and she let him speak, only responding when he had finished. "So, you will tend the shop and I will do the accounts. That is fine" she said, and then continued "Yes, you can indeed say we, for we are venturing into something together. We will beautify the grounds and I will ask Klue to help, perhaps, with the decking. I have never laid decking. But then, maybe white sand would be.. let's design it"

And then she looked at him and smiled, gently "I think it is very exciting and I am delighted to embark on it with you. But we will need to work out the financials, Li Bai, for if we are to run a business the aim is that it is financially profitable. So, how do you want to do that? Are we going to purchase a property?" she asked, thoughtfully. "We need to decide how we pay the bills, what split of the profit we have and so on. What proportion of the profit goes back into the business, all of that. They are not easy decisions and we will need to be clear and keep our communication open at all times" she said, firmly. Then she looked at him and smiled. "I am very excited"
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Old January 16, 2015, 03:11 PM   #14 (permalink)
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He nodded happily. "It is exciting, isn't it?!"

He ran his fingers through his beard. "Well, I hadn't thought of all that." He searched his mind for an answer for a moment, then said, "How about we split all of the excess revenue into thirds? One third will go to me, and another to you, and the last stays in an account and we can use to expand if necessary, or upgrade supplies?"

He then grinned. "As for a property, well, I've already bought one! It is on the edge of town, and therefore has plenty of opportunity for purchasing land later on. I've made a list of all of the supplies needed to get things up and going, except for what materials and tools you might need. I've also taken out a business loan to cover the costs." He smiled in satisfaction, knocking his staff on the ground. "Now, there is still come of that loan not accounted for, in case you're needs, well, need covering. And for whatever costs are accrued while making the shop attractive. I must admit, I thought it best to purchase a wider area of land, but it was at the expense of its current state. It is quite rundown, but I'm sure the two of us, and Klue, if you say he would be willing to help, can get it right as rain in short order!"

He rubbed his hands together. "After all that has been accomplished, the expenses would come out of the revenue, before we take a shares, yes?" He wondered if she had a better idea of how to do things. After all, he had no real experience in business, and Hay'aan certainly had.
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Old January 16, 2015, 06:00 PM   #15 (permalink)
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She looked at him and she raised an eyebrow. He certainly had worked this thing through, she considered. So she listened to him and she took it in. "I think that, in the initial stages, we should ensure that you have enough to live on and the rest goes to paying back the loan. There is no point accruing profit when we have debt" she said, thoughtfully. "As for the excess in the loan, it would be as well to keep it to one side and use it for the inevitable expenses we had not considered, then what is left, pay back. "

On the idea of what he had done about the grounds, she looked at him and smiled. There was no point to discussing whether what he had done was a good idea or not, for it was already done. So, she nodded her head and considered. "Yes, that will be fine. I will ask Klue if he will be willing to help us." And in terms of what happened once they were turning a profit, well the gypsy woman smiled and opened her hands, palms upwards, in an open gesture.

"Why don't we look at that once we have managed to break even?" she asked, with a smile. "That makes sense to me" Because then she would be able to have some idea of the outgoings on a regular basis and so on. "So where is this shop?" she asked, with interest.
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