Cosa Nostra Manor

The invitation had been a work of art. Opening the message's attachment had deposited a beautifully-rendered envelope into Aisling's hand. Nearly as tall as she was and folded out of parchment so realistic the texture ran in veins under her fingers, it was sealed with a Navi emblem of a skull amidst flower petals in deep purple wax. At Aisling's touch, breaking the seal would automatically whisk her away to the party's destination.

She was deposited in an ornate room. Immediately there was an impression that this was a relatively small room in a much, much larger building. The ceilings were cavernous even for a human-sized Navi, easily two stories high of gorgeous, distinctly old-fashioned wood finishing; to Aisling, the scale would be magnified several-fold. There were few furnishings, only a couple of decorative bookshelves, a large stone mantle above a hearth, and a table. Several Navis were sitting around it, all of them women, most of them wearing the absolute height of red carpet fashion. Outside the high windows, the cityscape of Netopia Net bloomed like a garden of lights.

There was a single chair empty at the foot of the table, over which Aisling would be linked into the room. Directly across sat a swarthy young woman who seemed to have constructed a runway dress entirely of flowers. The bodice was woven of iris and nightshade, climbing organically up her neck and collarbones. Her legs, currently dangling a pair of amethyst heels over the table, were similarly wrapped in a clinging carpet of black-eyed susans, with little ruffles of golden hydrangea around her hips. The upper half of a skull masked most of her face above her lips, which were pulled into something between a grin and a smirk.

"So, what, we're all just waiting here 'til she shows? We could be getting the game started already!" A woman dressed in what looked like a cloth mirror snarked up the table, breaking the silence.

The flower-girl, presumably their host, held up an elegant finger. "It's all about the image," she tapped the air for emphasis with each word, as though she had reiterated this several times already. "Patience, Riflessa. Everything's all set up for the word go." Her eyes glinted yellow-gold through the shade of her mask, somewhere between mischief and malevolence.
Aisling admired the invitation. The paper was smooth and ornate parchment, soft to the touch and surprisingly textured. She reveled in the subtle marbling, the long veins, and surprising warmth. It was easily the most expensive paper she had ever seen, and her heart fluttered as she gazed at the fat wax seal, shiny and hard with an emblem squished in the middle.

Simply examining the envelope, Aisling felt more than happy. Liquid warmth radiated from her heart out to her toes and fingertips, making them curl and uncurl. The thought of finding a monumental, magnificent reward for Vera made her so excited! She tugged at the seal without further hesitation.

She was transported immediately. Aisling found herself in a luxurious room, sparsely furnished yet expensive looking. She saw bookshelves filled with old books, their titles dreadfully long and dull. The air felt cold and empty, giving off the impression that Aisling was in a much larger building than just this room. Some navis might feel intimidated, but not Aisling. She was ready for any challenge.

She saw an empty chair, and across from it, three navis stood, seemingly waiting for something. Aisling's heart tugged a little as she looked them over. She had always been proud of her dress, carefully stitched from natural materials, but their finery was on another level. It wasn't often she saw such lavishly dressed navis, and only then at a distance. She quietly reassured herself that their finery didn't automatically make them better than her, but still, Aisling couldn't help the waves of envy as she admired the (seemily leader) navi's boots.

"It's all about the image," she heard the flower-girl say, and an idea sparked in Aisling's mind. She had been styling a dress, pouring days and weeks into a beautiful, elaborate gown she was saving for something special. Well... Perhaps this is something special?

She opened her menu and loaded it. Her butterfly styled dress transformed pixel by pixel into a gown crafted with layers and layers of blue dendrobium orchids Aisling had paid a pretty zenny for, but she just couldn't resist the bold and daring colours. The gown was styled in a high-low fashion, cut high in the front to reveal her long legs and pretty white shoes, and long in the back, trailing just a little on the floor. Aisling had also traded for a simple blue beaded bracelet to match, but truth to be told, the gown seemed to demand heavy jewels to match.

Aisling took a slow, shallow breath, and sat in the chair. She looked up at the three women with her most serious, determined face.

"Here I am," She announced, as loud as she dared with her small voice.
The skull-faced girl sitting directly across Aisling was the first to notice her entrance. For a moment she froze, utterly gobsmacked, conversation forgotten. As the rest of the room spotted their visitor and her dramatic costume change, their discussion dissolved into titters and cooing. The girl at the head of the table put an elegant hand to her mouth, masking the childlike jubilance that had dawned upon first sight. When the floral glove lowered, her face was a practiced smirk once again.

The girl in the mirror dress was the first to address the newcomer. She gave Aisling a wide-eyed, overdone look up and down, held the face a beat, and quipped, "I dunno, will she even fit?" The Navi across from her, who had somehow squeezed a typical green NormalNavi body into an outrageously skimpy red-carpet affair (the heaviest part of the whole thing was probably the sequins), proceeded to laugh so hard she snorted.

"Of course she will. My definition of 'one-size-fits-all' allows no exceptions!" The door swung silently open before a stately woman, who had seemingly projected her voice into the room before even entering. In contrast to the Netopian cast and human-standard features worn by the girls at the table, this woman looked like an old Electopian painting, all striking, dramatic line art and jade-green robes that shone like crystal and billowed like liquid. "Feet off the table, Mortalea, we have a guest," she chided gently as she passed the flower-girl, who tsked but nonetheless complied.

The painted lady came to a stop before Aisling and bowed deep, giving the pixie quite an interesting view. "Thank you, Aisling, for taking the time to meet with us. Allow me to introduce your hosts; I am Keikaku, your facilitator for this mission. You'll have received the invitation from our Miss Mortalea," she gestured grandly towards their host, "and we are joined also by her boon companions, Riflessa and Vivirezade."

"It's Vivi," said the NormalNavi, with the air of someone who said this a lot.

"Right!" Mortalea finally spoke up, rocking forward to her feet. "So you read the letter, right? We," she spread her hands to her friends, "have plans for tonight, big, delicate, constant attention plans. Problem being: today happens to be the day I was created, and my father decided that merits a gigantic party for him and all his business partners!" It was hard to say what was more impressive: the sheer derision she managed to squeeze into the word 'father', or the fact that she, a virtual being, made having a father sound completely natural.

"I still say one of us could've done it, we could play you any day," Riflessa snarked.

Mortalea smiled a cheshire-cat smile and reached over to give Riflessa's hand a squeeze. "I need you with me," she said simply. Lacy black gloves reflected against Riflessa's fingers; the eye contact lingered a little overlong before Mortalea broke it and turned her attentions back to Aisling. "We need four people for this job. A team of three to do my business, and one person to go to a party, schmooze with a bunch of Navis with too much Zenny and no processing power. maybe do a little digging for the latest gossip - and, incidentally, be me." Her smile went a bit wistful at the edges, visible even through the harsh skull mask. "I've already made a couple rounds, so they'd be expecting this outfit, but...oh, that dress is just too cute! Keikaku, would you be able to...?"

"Of course, Miss Mortalea. I shall draft a pattern immediately," the facilitator spoke, her voice reverberating like a church bell in the high ceilings. Her painted face eddied and flowed, but never wavered from its expression of regal benevolence.

It seemed to dawn on Mortalea the scope of the assignment she was trying to hand off to a perfect stranger. "I...keep to myself most of the time. The only people who really know me at all are here in this room, so we shouldn't have to drill you on stories," she swept her hand around the room. Riflessa and Keikaku looked like they wanted to reach out to the flower-girl, probably with reasons along the same sort of line. Vivi cut out the middleman, caught the hand in midair, and refused to let go until Mortalea sighed and bumped fists with her. Straightening up, she added, "So, we GMO you up to look like me, you go dance and have fun for a couple hours, meet back here when Keikaku signals you. She'll also be milling around the party, keeping an eye on things. You can even keep your dress if you want. Umm...yeah, that's about the size of it! Any questions? And also do you...wanna?" Towards the end she seemed to run out of charismatic steam, shifting from foot to foot and playing with her hands. Perhaps she'd remembered that Aisling still technically hadn't accepted the job yet.