Logs:That Darned Cat(erpillar)!

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That Darned Cat(erpillar)!

Characters: Ashton, Mingzhu, Essie, and Jacob as himself and mini golf course designer
Date: 2020-06-27
Summary: A trip to the city park leads to funnel cakes, a round of mini golf, and a wager.
Disclaimers: Language

"Right, and somewhere out there is probably a scientist trying to frakenstein something up," Essie at least will give the man a break and slip her sunglasses back up as she goes back to scanning the crowd for... something. "I don't know about books. Wasn't ever really a big reader. My mom was. Is. But most of her books are in Spanish." Tack that up to another reason Essie might be a bit of a familiar black sheep, limited language skills. "What is it that you do anyways? You know what I do after all." Kind of sort of.

Ashton hefts his duffel bag over one shoulder and hums deep in his throat. His brows furrow in thought. "Uhhh... I kind of browse antique shops, buy things and resell them at a better price? And I also track down interesting items for my regulars, trawl abandoned houses for similar reasons and... well, you get the idea." He rubs at the back of his neck again. "It doesn't sound like something that'll produce a steady income, but I have some long term clients who are pretty easy to please. Plus, my brother's husband's one of my clients and he can't exactly cut me off. Not if he wants to wake up with his goods still attached." Ashton snickers loudly. "Err... aside from that, I kind of also have a freelance security related gig on the side."

Jacob is taking a moment to do some thinking about recent events. Pondering. And, well, since he's not a man who's very good at staying still while doing so, he's wandered down to the city park and is currently strolling through the sculptures, admiring them as his mind processes other thoughts. He's dressed in his usual charcoal suit, a pale blue shirt beneath, and the thin fabric clings somewhat to him, as does his dark, curly hair, due to the muggy afternoon air.

He holds in his hand a bottle of lemonade, sipping it occassionally as he peruses the sculptures. His thoughts are interupted, however, as he hears a familiar voice approaching. He turns, spotting Ashton and his companion, and smirks, heading in their direction. "Ashton. What a pleasant surprise." And he seems to mean it, more or less. He looks at Essie, "And a friend with excellent hair."

"Does that side gig have anything to do with the duffle?" Essie raises an eyebrow as her sunglassed stare flicks over towards the bag he's carrying again. "Might want to get a bit better at hiding it. anything else suspcious happens around here and you'll be the first the cops are questioning." Even as she's talking to Ashton she hasn't fully given up on her observation mission. The approach of a man in a suit catches her attention and she half moves to position herself behind Ashton, but stops when she gets a better sight of Jacob and him not being 'the guy' she was looking for. At the greeting, she just gives a head nod, tucking one of the runaway pink strands behind her ear. "What's up?"

"Mmm, maybe. Don't worry. I'm much harder to catch than you'd think," Ashton states confidently, accompanying his words with a wink. Upon hearing Jacob's voice, he immediately perks up and turns to locate the source. His free hand lifts to wave energetically. "Hey, Jake! She of the excellent hair is Essie!" The waving hand sweeps quick circles in the air over the woman's general vicinity. Then, that same have performs similar gestures towards Jacob. "He of the immaculate suits is Jacob. And before you ask me, I don't know how he doesn't overheat in the darn thing either. At least it's a dashing statement."

Jacob doesn't catch the entire conversation, but he catches Essie telling Ashton he needs to be better at hiding 'it'. He smirks, not even needing to hear the rest of the conversation to be somewhat amused. He nods to Essie, and then chuckles at Ashton's more enthusiastic greeting. To Essie, he says, "Jake, please." There's a pointed look at Ashton for calling him Jacob, then he's smiling, "Silk. Much cooler than many other fabrics. Still, there are times when the weather hear makes me a bit homesick." His accent says he's from England.

His gaze shifts to the duffle bag, "Mmm. So, where are we going?" We, because he had no real plans and so obviously he's coming along now.

"And some people might be a lot quicker than you think," Essie's own leisurely speed probably seems more than quick enough although the conversation is less walking and more standing in a certain spot at the moment. She'll just give a nod as Ashton handles the introductions. There's a shrug for the dashingness of the suits. "Seems a bit excessive for a stroll in the park?" She's definitely got the whole 'summer running' look down, black tank top, nike shorts, tennis shoes and a baseball cap.

"I'm prepared," Ashton replies with a grin. He glances at Jacob's suited form and notes, "Yeah, it's a bit much, but I guess fashion is all about being yourself. You'll be hard pressed to catch me wearing multiple layers with this weather, just because I won't be able to handle the heat." He reaches out to tap Jacob on the arm. "Isn't England like miserably cold and rainy for most of the year? It sounds exactly like the type of place I want me to be right now. Cool weather most of the time, punctuated by brief bouts of sunshine that I can bask in without it getting to be too much. Oh, and I have no idea where we're going. Essie here is leading."

Jacob smirks at Essie's words about some people being faster. He glances at Ashton with a grin, "She's not wrong, you know." At her words about his suit being excessive, he laughs. "Ashton's carrying a giant duffel bag but my suit is excessive? Well... perhaps it stems from the same reason. We did not set out to make a day of the park. There were places before, and there are places after, that must be visisted, where this attire is much more suited. If only I could change in an instant in a phone booth."

He winks, then looks at Ashton with a chuckle. "Mmm. Cooler than here, for sure, but one can never categorize the weather too broadly, because the weather likes to surprise you." He glances over at Essie when Ashton says she's leading. "So, where /are/ we going, then? Or are we just going for a stroll? I do enjoy the sculptures here." He seems to mean it, too, giving a fond look towards some of the art.

Essie snickers a little. "I've already given him plenty of shit about the duffle bag. Especially since he doesn't just carry it to bars. Impressed he didn't lose it drinking in the Quarter. And good luck even finding a phone booth any more." As for the weather conversation, this Southern native mostly tunes it out, her glance going to scanning through the sculptures again as she gives a shrug for their destination. "Probably just a loop. That's what folks do in parks, right?"

Ashton shrugs nonchalantly. "I leave it in my car most of the time, but I walked today." His eyes brighten noticeably. "Hey, speaking of cars... I got my rental replaced, Jake. This one actually works fine. I did have to give the place a lot of shit before they set me up with a decent one. Next time, I'm not going for the company with the lowest prices. This one's kind of scammy." He fans himself with his free hand and blows out a long breath. "Ok, really starting to overheat here a little. Bringing a cap would have been a good idea." He gives Essie's cap an envious glance.

Jacob chuckles at Essie's words, both about Ashton and his duffel bag and about finding a phone booth. "In that case, it seems I'm stuck with the suit." At her last words, he smirks. "Oh, people do a lot of things in parks. A loop sounds just fine, though." He doesn't elaborate on what all people do in parks - they'll likely see some of it as they walk.

He looks over at Ashton as the man speaks and shakes his head. "You should get rid of the rental. Get a car. It'll save a lot of money and, more importantly, you won't have to deal with a middle-man. And, it'll save you money in the long run." Jacob has no cap, either, but he doesn't seem too concerned. That mop of dark hair gives him some protection. "So, Essie, have you known Ashton here for long?"

Essie is mute on the subject of car rentals, focusing on a very particular sculpture that seems to have a pair talking pretty intently in front of it. The path she's taking them seems to loop them a little bit closer to that meeting, nearly eavsdropping distance. She gives a distracted nod towards the question about knowing Ashton. "A couple weeks I guess? Will say, he does seem disappointingly unwilling to get into bar fights."

Jacob follows Essie's gaze towards the pair, although he doesn't look too long or too obviously. There's a slight smirk, but he doesn't comment, instead following along as they move closer. He does not have super ears, himself, but he listens curiously. Absently, he chuckles, replying, "Did he now? Well, we'll have to work on that. Perhaps next time, the fight will find him." He grins a bit, almost playful, perhaps ever so slightly challenging as he glances over at Ashton. Otherwise, he doesn't add much, watching Essie and the couple as he takes a sip of his lemonade and walks along.

Essie isn't the one with the duffle bag or the guy in the suit, although she does her best to work her way so both men are blocking most the sight-lines between her and the pair she was looking for earlier. Listening will do just fine now that she has spotted them, but she doesn't take them into that normal listening range, just the outskirts of it. "Yeah, I kind of had to ditch him to go find one. Pity." She gives a little shrug.

Jacob lifts an eyebrow as he watches Essie use him and Ashton to block her view of the couple. He smirks slightly to himself, then replies to her words, "Mmm. And why is it you seek fights? For fun? Fame and fortune? A vendetta?" His tone indicates that he doesn't judge, whatever the answer. More quietly, he says, "You didn't, perhaps, come to the park for a reason other than an afternoon stroll, did you?"

"Can't it be all of the above?" Essie arches an eyebrow above those dark frames of her glasses. As for the pressing into her real reason, her shoulders lift in yet another shrug. "You got me. I'm an addict to the funnel cakes too."

Jacob chuckles at her question. "It's more likely it is than it is just one of them. People are very rarely that black and white." Jacob walks with Essie and Ashton in the sculpture garden. He's wearing his usual suit, which even though lightweight is probably hot, and carrying a bottle of lemonade. Ashton's carrying a duffel bag. Essie looks as if she actually belongs in a park. The three are nearby a pair who are standing next to a statue and talking.

At Essie's latter words, Jacob laughs. "I don't think I've tried them yet. Perhaps today is the day I change that." His tone is amused, but there's a faint smirk as Essie dodges the real question. "Perhaps that should be our next stop."

Ashton eyes Essie suspiciously. "Guess you're partially here for that job you don't really want, huh?" he asks in a tone that indicates he doesn't really expect to be answered. Putting that mostly on the backburner for now, Ashton gives Jacob a nudge with his elbow. "How about you get all of us funnel cakes, you lug? Then, you can try them out for the first time. Bet you'll like the stuff. It's almost culturally -required- to get some funnel cakes if you visit fair grounds." Wink, wink, another nudge.

"It might not be all play," Essie practically confirms as she keeps an ear turned to the pair at the statue who seem to be making a handshake and then parting ways. Once they're safely away from where they might see, the woman seems to relax just a hair. She gives a bit of a dubious stare at Jacob's suggestion of trying funnel cakes. "Hope you got another suit and a phoneboot waiting then. I haven't met a good funnelcake yet that won't get you completely covered in powdered sugar."

It's a big park. What are the chances that somebody who has just entered, and is on the phone having a lively conversation in some foreign tongue, is going to run into people she knows? Well.. the Lost tend to stand out, and one in particular catches Mingzhu's eye as she wanders along one of the paths. She angles her approach towards Jacob and the people he is with, still talking on the phone but lifting a hand to greet the Helldiver silently, her expression one of mild affection. Those he is with get a brief glance, though no greeting just yet.

Jacob lifts an eyebrow at Ashton's words, looking back over at Essie. "An unwanted job, hmm? And what job was this?" As Ashton nudges and elbows, Jacob rolls his eyes. "Not if you keep elbowing me in the side." His tone indicates he probably will, once they're near a funnel cake stand. At Essie's words, he smirks, "Mmm. You don't say." He glances at the pair as they walk off, then back to Essie with a quiet little smile. "Oh, I'm not too worried."

As he catches sight of Mingzhu, his smile widens and he looks genuinely pleased to see her. He waves her over, but doesn't call out and interupt her phone call. To the others, he says, "Have you met Mingzhu yet, Ashton?" Jacob's mentioned her to him in passing, no doubt.

"Oh, don't be like that..." Ashton tells Jacob while giving the taller guy one of his bright grins. "It's also not as bad as Essie says. The powdered sugar does get everywhere, but uhh... not -everywhere- if you're careful. Mostly just your face and your hands. So if you eat neatly and don't touch your clothing afterwards, you'll be totally fine..." His voice trails off as he catches the sound of a familiar language at the edge of his hearing and he turns his gaze towards Mingzhu. There's a touch of confusion that flashes across his face, followed by squinting and a blink in surprise. All of this occurs in the split second before Jacob tries to introduce him to the woman. "Whoa... Hey, don't I know you from somewhere? Wait! I've definitely seen you before, and not here either! Uhhh... New York! You were from the society back there, right?"

"The sort where if I told you I might have to kill you?" Essie gives a bit of a grin towards Jacob at his questioning. But she does clarify, "It's a special forces type deal." Vague enough but also probably true enough. The arrival of yet another to the party gets a bit of a nod of greeting, but she does tilt her head in surprise as Ashton's mentioning society type thing. "You talking about Old Money, Skull and Crossbone type societies?" Given Jacob's suit and Mingzhu's probably impeccable clothing, it seems like a solid guess. "Or more like... secret accords type thing?"

Finishing her phone conversation and tucking the device away, Mingzhu comes to stand beside Jacob. After a moment of hesitation, she leans up to brush a light kiss against his cheek, before turning towards those he's speaking with. Ashton's greeting gets a small smile from her and she nods, confirming his observation about New York and whatever society they might have been in together, though to Essie she says, "Chess, actually."

"Which means, the danger is not my own eating a funnel cake, but risking having you eat one near me, hmmm?" He teases Ashton. After all, if he eats like he shoots, they're all in danger. When the man seems to recognize Mingzhu, he actually looks somewhat surprised. And then there's a quick glance at Essie before Ashton gets a warning look. Essie's words, however, have him smirking. "Those are the most interesting sort of jobs." When she asks about societies, and secret accords, he lifts an eyebrow slightly.

Thankfully, Mingzhu's answering that one. He smiles at the cheek kiss, touching her arm briefly, affectionately, and then laughs, looking back at Ashton, "Chess, hmmm? We'll have to play a game sometime. Mingzhu, this is my friend Ashton, and his friend Essie. We were just about to get some funnel cakes and we're definitely not following anybody or listening in on conversations. Casual strolling, that's our thing."

"Whoa... small world..." Ashton shakes his head in wonder. He glances between Jacob and Mingzhu and back again. "Huh..." He eyes them one more time before turning to Essie. "I'm actually pretty good at chess, believe it or not, but not competitively and definitely not at the level of a grandmaster. It's a useful game to learning how to hone and organize one's mind." The young man leans closer and lowers his voice. "Don't believe what Jake says either. I'm not that messy, so it's totally fine to have me eating near everyone." Anything for free funnel cakes.

Essie glances between Mingzhu and Ashton as if trying to judge the accuracy of that admission. "I hear there might even be one of those human sized chess boards around here somewhere." It is a mighty big park after all. There's a silent nod of agreement about the not following and not listening. Just a normal every day walk, right?

"Ah. Wizard's chess." Mingzhu smiles briefly as Essie mentions the human-sized board, her comment betraying her knowledge of a certain franchise. "It's good to see you again, Ashton," she then tells her fellow New York transplant, before turning her attention to Jacob. "Funnel cakes. Is there a fair somewhere?" she wonders, since that's the only place she's ever seen them. She too can get in on the casual walking, though she has no idea who it is the other three aren't listening to.

"Small world, indeed," murmurs Jacob. One of many, many worlds, although he doesn't add that part. Instead, he's smirking at Ashton's words, amused. "A man of many skills." As Essie and Mingzhu speak of the life-sized chess board, his expression grows curious. "Oh? That would be something to see. Perhaps we could wander there after our snack." As Mingzhu asks about the funnel cakes, he looks towards Essie and Ashton, who seem to be the experts when it comes to that.

"That's a good question. Where are these delightfully messy cakes to be found? On the way to a giant chess board, perhaps?" He grins at Mingzhu, offering her a wink.

Ashton hums softly. "I never saw any human-sized chess pieces, but I've also never explored this place from end to end. I'll let Essie answer the question to where those are. But the funnel cakes...!" His voice lifts with obvious greater excitement and he points with his free hand. "Those are that way, where Carousel Gardens is. You know, where they have some basic amusement park rides and attractions? There's at least one funnel cake stall there, along with buttered popcorn, cotton candy, chili dogs..." Ashton's voice trails off happily. Then, he blinks and glances sheepishly at the other three people strolling with him. "I might be a little hungry."

"If it's not a fair, it's a parade. There's the little amusement park over that aways," Essie points in the direction they're now headed. "But the giant chessboard I think is tucked away near the mini golf."

"Hmn. Mini golf." Mingzhu glances to Jacob, a brief smile on her lips before she looks back to Ashton and Essie. "Food or entertainment first?" she asks, polling the group. She's somewhat assuming the answer will be food, and so is already looking in the direction of the Carousel Gardens that Ashton is pointing towards, seeming content to go with the flow of things rather than make any kind of pitch one way or the other.

"People, I believe, /are/ the pieces." Jacob's amusement grows as the man grows more excited, talking about all the different varieties of food to be found. He smirks, then nods to Essie, acknowledging her general directions. He turns towards Mingzhu and smiles, "Mini golf... we must play sometime." A glance at Ashton, then back, "After food is located."

He drains the last of his lemonade and tosses the bottle into a waste receptacle, looking at the others, "How about it? We'll grab some food and check out the Farousel Gardens. Perhaps they will have games, as well. I do enjoy a good game."

"Do you even need to ask? My vote is going to be for food, unless entertainment involves..." Ashton covers up a cough with his fist. "Well, nevermind." He switches his duffel bag to the other hand and hooks his slightly aching arm behind his head. He gives Jacob a grateful smile when the man falls on his side, ensuring that there'll at least be a tie in the worst case scenario. "Mini golf would be cool to try out afterwards. I've never really done it before, since my family wasn't really into that type of entertainment. My dad thought that calligraphy was a fun family activity at one point. I guess we did end up with some pretty nice pieces, but none of them were through my efforts. I sucked."

"Nah, it would have to have some inanimate pieces or you'd need like... sixteen people per side and that's ridiculous." Essie just gives a shake of her head at the thought of it. "Sounds like the voting is all for food." She didn't put her own vote in, but everybody else seems pretty set so she'll go along. Free food is free food! "It's this way," She'll wave and lead through the shortest path towards the food stalls. Funnel cakes can definitely be smelled.

As they start to walk with more purpose rather than not-following-not-listening sort of meandering, Mingzhu falls into step beside Jacob once more, and reaches out to lace her fingers with his as they walk. "I hear you there," she murmurs to Ashton, presumably having been subjected to the calligraphy thing herself as a child. "My mom tried her best, but the nicest description she could give my brushwork was 'like a blustery wind'." She smiles briefly to herself at the memory. "I haven't had a funnel cake in.. must be over a decade now. This should be fun."

Jacob lifts an eyebrow at Ashton. "Unless it involves what? Do tell. You can't leave us hanging in suspense. That's just rude." He smiles playfully. There's a nod to the talk of mini golf, and then he glances as Essie. "Hmmm. I suppose you have a point. Although, personally, I would love to see thirty two people try and coordinate a game. My... yes, we will have to do that at some point." Who 'we' is isn't clear.

He listens to Ashton and Mingzhu talk of caligraphy, chuckling. "Ah, but there's beauty in a blustery wind, too." He winks and then heads with the group off towards Carousel Gardens. He's never had a funnel cake and has no real idea what it is, but he seems eager to learn. "And then, perhaps, mini golf. We could do teams." He smirks a bit, amused. "We could even do a wager."

Something catches Essie's attention and the woman tenses up. "It was uhhh... nice meeting you all. And seeing you again, Ashton. But I uh, gotta go." Just that. No more excuses and she's not even sticking around for the free funnel cakes but darting out of the crowd and out of eyesight.

Ashton snorted loudly and gives Mingzhu an amused look. "At least you have that going for you. I used to add too much water and my ink grinding skills were atrocious, so instead of beautifully sharp strokes, I ended up with lopsided blobs. It's even worse when I tried practicing on rice paper or cloth. My parents didn't allow me to work my calligraphy on silk, because that'll just be an enormous waste of good fabric."

Ashton makes a face at Jacob. "You know what I'm talking about. I was just complaining about it to you a few days ago... Aww, man." He snaps his fingers when Essie just darts off. "Did we scare her off? No, it's probably me." The young man visibly deflates, shoulders slumping slightly and even the duffel bag in his left hand hangs more limply towards the ground. "Sorry, Jake and Miss Mingzhu. Guess that means we won't have even teams."

"Pretty sure it wasn't you," Mingzhu murmurs to Ashton, having noted Essie's sudden tenseness just before she darted away. "I was never allowed to try making the ink. I know you're supposed to do that first, but.. I figure my parents knew I'd mess it up," she remarks, her small smile returning. She gives Jacob's fingers a little squeeze, then takes a breath as they reach the edge of the stalls, inhaling the aroma of a dozen delicious-and-terible-for-you foods. "Mm. Looks like the funnel cakes are over there," she notes, pointing.

Jacob lifts an eyebrow as Essie suddenly runs off, smirking a bit. When Ashton blames himself and deflates a bit, Jacob reaches out with his free hand, giving Ashton a friendly slap to your shoulder. "I think she had to return to definitely not following or eavesdropping on people." He chuckles, amused. "We'll just have to play each other. I don't think you're limited to two players, are you? I've never actually played."

He gives Mingzhu's hand a little squeeze as they continue on, listening to the talk of caligraphy. He doesn't know much about it, himself, but he listens with interest, even as he watches the crowd coming and going around them. When the stand is pointed out, he heads with them in that direction. "Mmmm. I'll cover the food. Mingzhu, you got the golf." He smirks, glancing at Ashton while speaking to Mingzhu. "You probably have the better deal, really. He looks hungry."

Ashton trains his eyes in the direction that Essie rushed off in. "Yeah, I guess she might be doing the not-listening thing. But maybe I just talked too much... again." He sighs, releasing a large plume of mist from his lips for those who can see it. At least the scent and mention of food perks him up to closer to normal levels, if not -quite- to it. "Yeah, I'm pretty hungry, Jake. Prepare to open your wallet, because I'm going to eat you out of... Ok, that saying probably doesn't work because it's -your- wallet."

The young man quickens his steps. "Either way, come on! It's right around the tween time when the lines aren't going to be too long. We should be able to scrounge up a good meal for ourselves before we head to the golf course. Hey, have either of you tried putting hot sauce on your funnel cakes? Actually scratch that. The question's only for Miss Mingzhu since you've never had it before, Jake. The spicy and tart on sugary fried goods thing is actually a pretty good combo."

"Hmn, no. I've tried sugar, cinnamon and chocolate, but never hot sauce," Mingzhu muses on the topic of toppings for funnel cakes, leading the three of them into the queue. Or at least, Jacob into the queue and the two of them nearby, since he's generously offered to cover the snack. "I guess that depends on how many times we go around the course," she then adds on the topic of who has the better deal, though she doesn't sound in the least bit put out by him volunteering her for that tab.

Jacob smirks at Ashton's words. "Stop that. Self-pity is not your best look. Besides, have you heard how much I talk?" He winks at the man, then chuckles at the almost-but-not-a threat to his wallet. Moment's later, they're at the stand and Jacob steps aside to order up three funnel cakes, along with three large cups of lemonade. Because there is never enough lemonade.

He returns a few moments later, passing out the treats and drinks. "I'm afraid they didn't have hot sauce, but we can stop at a hot dog stand for that if you need it." He smirks a bit, then takes a bite of the cake, testing it. He chews and swallows, eating rather neatly. Trust a Fairest to eat a funnel cake without making a mess. "Delightful. Now, as to the mini golf, it seems we have no teams. So we'll have to play each other. How about a little wager with it? The winner is the winner. Second place answers a truth. Third place performs a dare. What do you say?"

"Thanks, Jake," Ashton says, beaming when he reaches for his funnel cake. He takes a large bite out of the oily fried dough, getting a smear of powdered sugar across his upper lip right from the start. The obvious solution to this is to lick the sugar off. "Mmmm... this is great on its own already, but let's stop by to get the hot sauce so that you two can try some on the funnel cakes too." The young man doesn't seem to question that his fellow Lost would like the combination, even though it's strange and not for the average person.

'I'm fine with a wager. It'll add a bit more excitement to the game," Ashton responds breezily. Having something to eat has restored him fully to his most cheerful state. "I promise that I won't gloat too much when I win." This coming from the guy who confessed to never have played mini golf.

As demonstrated so handily by Jacob, there is a certain elegance in the way Fairest do this sort of thing, and likewise Mingzhu seems to have no difficulty eating the delicious fried dough without getting sugar over herself. She's happy to follow the way to the hot dog stand, to get a smudge of hot sauce to try on one mouthful, enjoying the experimentation. "_When_ you win, mmn?" she enquires, a brief smile touching her lips.

Jacob smirks at Ashton's words. "Sure, hot sauce it is." He follows along to the hot dog stand and dabs on a little hot sauce. Like Mingzhu, he seems eager to experiment. Although judging from his expression, he's not a real fan of it. When Ashton agrees to the wager, Jacob grins, "Indeed. And I'm fairly certain that you /won't/ be gloating when the game ends." His expression is playful, a bit challenging.

He looks over at Mingzhu and winks, then says, "Shall we, then?" Assuming they shall, they begin the trek back across the park towards the mini golf course. As they walk, he looks at the others. "So, you two knew each other back in New York?"

This leaves Ashton as the only who that commandeers and entire dipping cup full of hot sauce to eat his funnel cake with. He hums happily to himself as he walks along with the other two, often having to pause his chewing to lick more sugar or sauce off his lips. There's no Fairest grace with this Darkling when it comes to eating. "I'm confident that I'll put on the best showing you two have ever seen," he states without a hint of irony in his words.

The young man glances at Mingzhu hesitantly before answering Jacob's question. "I won't say we -knew- each other, but we've seen each other around. It kind of happens when you're sworn to the same organization. Plus, similar acquaintances and all that. I told you about my 'brother', didn't I? Most of his friends in the group are Autumn and that means those are who I hung out with too. I remember Miss Mingzhu here at some gatherings."

"Confidence is good," Mingzhu murmurs, falling into step with Jacob once more, though since she's still eating her funnel cake she doesn't take his hand. Eating it one-handed might strain her ability to do so tidily after all. "Mmn, yes. The people in charge tended to forget that people like me existed, so I spent some time with those folks instead, working on omens for them," she explains, her voice soft, carrying no further than the two of them.

Jacob smiles at Ashton's words, "Mmm. The best showing and winning are not necessarily the same thing. I am confident you will put on a delightful show, however." He winks at the Darkling, then continues to eat his treat while listening to Mingzhu and Ashton talk about their mutual past. He looks thoughtful for a moment, his voice also lowered for just their group, "Interesting. And your 'brother', that situation was known by others?"

Soon enough, though, they're approaching the mini golf course. Jacob slows so they can finish their treats, and their discussion before heading into that land of theatrics and color and noise that is called mini golf. As he looks it over, her murmurs, "Ah, so this is mini golf. It reminds me of... another place I once visisted."

Ashton tosses greasy papers into a nearby trashcan and licks sugar off his finger tips. "To various degrees," the young man confirms, nodding his head. "I'm pretty sure that most people know not to mess with him, since he has connections both upon our people and some others through his husband. But I probably know a bit more just because he's my brother... barring that most important detail of exactly what he helped with." He lifts a questioning brow at Mingzhu. "I know you weren't of the Court, but you probably had access to information I didn't have just because of your work. Was that something that you were made aware of?"

"I was made aware he was accepted to a degree," Mingzhu acknowledges, though she doesn't elaborate on anything else she might have learned. "What sort of connections does his husband have?" she then wonders curiously, heading up to the counter to get three tickets, then waving her companions over to the equipment area. She takes a moment to pick out a club and ball for herself. Having no idea what makes a good club, she simply stares at them for a few beats before picking one seemingly at random.

Jacob discards his waste as well as he finishes up the funnel cake. He focuses then on his lemonade, washing it all down. He managed to stay perfectly powder-free during the process, by some amazing feet. Perhaps powder doesn't like to stick to his semi-there flesh (which is actually quite there, as Mingzhu could attest to from having held his hand). He listens curiously to the conversation between Ashton and Mingzhu.

When Mingzhu gets the tickets and waves them over, he finishes off his lemonade, discarding the cup in a trash can, and takes the ticket. He also has no idea about clubs, so he chooses a nice blue one that matches his suit nicely. "So, we hit the ball into the hole. Sounds simple enough." Meanwhile, there are all sorts of moving parts and mini-buildings and other obstacles creating a realm of madness around them.

"He's part of at least one association of occult practitioners, and have his fingers in a couple of other pies to," Ashton answers readily, without going into the exact details. "I actually send back a lot of the more interesting items I find in my line of work to my brother-in-law. Nothing too dangerous. I either get rid of those or render them less likely to kill people first. Don't want crap like that floating around."

The young man steps up to pick his own club, copying Mingzhu in that he chooses randomly. Surprise, surprise, he picks a gray ball. He tosses it up and down a few times. "Get ready to be astonished ladies and gentlemen! This might be my first time playing, but you'll soon see that I'm a quick study!" Except with guns.

Of course it sounds simple enough. Mini-golf never /sounds/ difficult. And the principle really isn't. But the water, the sand, the slopes, the windmill and so on, well.. we'll see. Mingzhu collects a white ball for herself and then once everyone has their stuff, heads for the first hole. "I'm sure you are," she murmurs to Ashton, her faint smile returning. She glances to Jacob, one brow raised in silent enquiry, though she doesn't say anything aloud.

Jacob considers Ashton's words thoughtfully for a moment, "One of these days, we'll have to talk about these items you find. I've found quite a few in my time as well. Perhaps there was a time we were both searching for the same one. Wouldn't that be amusing?" His tone indicates he'd be tickled by the thought, at least.

As Ashton contines to project confidence, Jacob grins. "Just remember. Winner is the winner. Second place has to tell a truth. Third, perform a dare. Chosen of course by the winner, or by the winner and the other." He glances over at Mingzhu, catching her look, and shakes his head, smirking faintly. Then, it's off to the first hole. A giant cat in a stretching pose sits in the center of the green, the goal to get the ball into its yawning (and opening and closing) mouth, while avoiding the tail on the other side that swings about, blocking and unblocking the exit. The ball, should it make it through that, theoretically slides down a tube towards a pond area and on to the next hole.

Approaching the inconcievably large cat, Mingzhu sets her golf ball down on the tee area and watches the yawning mouth and swishing tail. She settles into the pattern, drawing back her golf club and tapping the ball - it rolls on through without incident thanks to the timing. She smiles slightly, seeming pleased, and looks to the two she's with. "Time to put up or shut up, gentlemen," she voices, her amusement clear.

Ashton drops his duffel bag nearby where he can keep an eye on it, or at least glance back once in a while to make sure that it's not gone. He plants his fists on his hips while admiring the course that they're using first. "It's so cute and whimsical! It reminds me of one of Ian's kittens back at the center. Ok, not his kitten, since that one's been adopted already. But the whole crouching down and yawn and tail swishing..."

The young man watches Mingzhu step up to the fore and take her shoot. "OK, that doesn't look so far." He rubs his hands together, laces fingers and cracks his knuckles. "My turn!" Ashton saunters forward to take her place upon completion. His gray ball is set down, he copies the Fairest's pose and... thwack. The ball rolls into the cat's mouth... keeps rolling... and gets knocked aside by the tail. "Hey! It wasn't supposed to do that," he exclaims, all offended.

It's Jacob's turn to give it a go. He steps up into place and tries to mimic Mingzhu and Ashton's poses. He swings the club around a little bit, simply for dramatic flair. He poses a bit. He relishes the moment of being the center of attention like a good Fairest. He flashes Ashton a grin, "Now prepare to see how it's /really/ done." Which Mingzhu already showed them.

He takes his swing and the ball goes through the mouth, then rolls back out. Another whack sends it back in, and this time it makes it through, avoiding the tail, and rolling down like it's supposed to. Not as good as Mingzhu's shot, but somewhat better than Ashton's. Once they're finished, it's on to the next hole.

This one is centered around a pond with a pirate ship in the middle. The ball needs to be hit across a narrow bridge and across the pirate ship, avoiding the moving 'crew' members, and then off a plank on the opposite side, dropping down a short ways to the next hole start. Theoretically. Piratey music plays softly.

Mingzhu steps up to the second hole, considering the placement of the 'crew' and the narrowness of the bridge. She purses her lips for a moment, sinking into the pattern and motion once more, then lightly tapping her ball with her golf club. It rolls along the narrow bridge without incident, gets caught up between a few crew but eventually drops out the bottom, rolling down to the next hole.

Mingzhu's successful ball in the hole doesn't deter Ashton's enthusiasm at all. "I was still calibrating last time, so this is where I show you what I'm -really- made of! Those tacky pirates are going down!" Ashton exclaims, still completely hyped for victory. He shakes his club at the crew, but carefully, so that he doesn't accidental smack the other two Lost in the faces. That would be awkward beyond his first showing at the cat course. "Ok! Prepare yourselves!" He postures himself over his gray ball, wiggles his hips and carefully sets his feet. The moment he swings, anyone who's watching could immediately tell that he's doing it too hard. The ball completely leaves the ground and soars through the air until it hits one of the 'crew' in the head and bounce off into the water. Ashton's club dips as he stares.

Jacob watches as Mingzhu intently as she takes her shot. It's good, but not perfect. Perhaps he has a chance against her after all. He smiles to himself, then watches as Ashton takes his shot. If you can call it a shot. He watches the ball arc through the sky, conk the pirate, and fall into the water. He can't help it, he laughs. He step sup to Ashton and slaps him on the shoulder, "We're still waiting for you to show us how it's done, my friend."

He winks at the man, then swirls his club, stepping up into place and whistling a jaunty little pirate ditty. Or what he imagines one might sound like. "Captain Jake, terror of the high seas, is in command now. I sentence this mutinous ball to... roll the plank!" He's getting into it now. He wields the club like a sword. He slices, he dices he whacks the ball. The ball rolls along the bridge perfectly, right between the pirate crew, and drops off the plank like it's supposed to. He ends with a flourish. "Arrrr!"

The next whole is down a few steps where the 'shore' is a sandy area depicting a desert. In the center is a pyramid. The goal seems to get the ball /up/ the pyramid into a slot there, where it spirals back down to the next hole. Of course getting a ball up a smooth, inclined surface and into a little slot without rolling back or off to one side is harder than it looks.

Seeming to settle into the swing of things, Mingzhu studies the pyramid, her smile returning as she gathers what is needed. No moving things this time, but there's the complication of sand, not to mention the incline of the pyramid itself. Looking down at where her ball is, then back to the pyramid, she tilts her head and then chips the ball. It flies true towards the pyramid, landing just above the slot and then rolling down into it. Watching, she nods, glancing back to Jacob and Ashton with a slight flourish of one hand, clearly challenging them to do better.

Ashton jogs up to replace Mingzhu. This time, he shakes out his limbs and rolls his shoulders first to loosen up. He also tries to psyche himself by pumping his fist into the air three times and hitting himself so hard on the chest that the blow makes him stagger. "Grrr! Third time's the charm! Go, Ashton, go! Show everyone how it's done!" The young man glares at the new ball he picked up to replace its drowned compatriot as if to dare it do otherwise. He blows out a mist filled breath and gives the ball a sharp tap of his club. A plume of sound puffs up from the ground. This time, things finally goes his way as he manages to use the exact amount of force needed to get the ball to travel smoothly up the ramp, into the slot and spiraling into the goal. "Yes!"

Jacob watches the two of them sink their balls with seeming easy. This will be the easiest hole yet! He smirks as he swaggers up into place and puts down his ball. He flashes the other two a grin, "I'm already thinking about that truth and that dare. I hope you're prepared." He stretches out his arms, heft the club, gives it a couple of test swings, then whacks the ball. It rolls up, then back down. He whacks it again. Up, then back down. And again. Up, then back down.

"You MUTINOUS ball, do you want to roll the plank again?" He steps forward, grabbing the ball, and then he clambers across the sand and up the pyramid and shoves it into the hole. He returns, dusting off his suit, and says, "Next hole."

Once through the pyramid, the course leads down to a little grassy area. There are giant mushrooms and a caterpillar, Alice and Wonderland style. The Caterpilla rolls back and forth, and the goal seems to be to hit the ball through the mushrooms while avoiding the caterpillar. There is an occassional poof of theatrical smoke that comes from the catepillar's pipe now and then.

Wandering down to the strangest hole yet, Mingzhu frowns a little bit. She's trying to get into the zone again, but something about the caterpillar is really putting her off. She covers one eye so she doesn't need to look at it while she makes her mental calculations, but of course the caterpillar is one of the hazards. She lifts her club, swings, and perhaps predictably the ball gets knocked sideways by the unnerving insect.

"I don't think that stuffing a ball into the hole by hand counts," Ashton sniggers at Jacob, confidence completely restored by his success. He watches Mingzhu miss the hole, but doesn't tease her in the same way. Instead, the Darkling gives her a sympathetic smile before stepping up. "Ok, guys. I might be behind, but I still intend to win this. Ashton is getting serious now!" As if he wasn't earlier? The young man twirls his club in his hand and shuffles around until he's at the angle that he wants. His first attempt taps onto the top of the ball, causing it to barely move. He quickly course correct, and hits it again with his tongue caught between his teeth in concentration. He manages to time it juuuust right to avoid getting knocked off course by the caterpillar. A second later and it'd be his third failure of the evening.

Jacob watches Mingzhu curiously. Not so much her swing or positioning, but her reaction to the caterpillar. He takes mental note of it, then lifts an eyebrow as she actually misses. He grins, "And the Queen is knocked from her throne, tsk, tsk." His voice is teasing, affectionate. He touches her shoulder lightly, giving it a squeeze, then winks at her as he watches Ashton makes his shot.

He hefts his club, "It looks like this competition is getting steamy." He steps up to take his own swing. Better than his last, and better than Mingzhu's. Like Ashton, his ball barely spins through the mushrooms while avoiding the caterpillar, rolling around to the start of the next hole.

Past the mushrooms is a little grove of actual trees, although they appear to be dead. In the center, a haunted house. There's a ramp leading up to it and it appears the ball needs to go through the front door, missing the 'ghosts' which pass by. And with enough force to send it up a small ramp so that it comes out the upstairs window and rolls along off to the next hole.

"No my kind of steamy, but I'm taking it!" Ashton laughs. "I'm getting better at this. These next two will blow you guys away! Plus haunted houses are -totally- my territory." Once again, Mingzhu's giving a sympathetic smile when she fails to control her ball. "Don't worry, Miss Mingzhu. I'm sure that you'll be at least number two!" The Darkling gives her a thumbs up. When his turn comes, Ashton gives his competitors a big wink. Then, he hits his ball after watching the obstacles movement patterns only for a few seconds. This careless mistakes costs him, since his ball bounces off the side of the front door and just spins away at an angle. "Damn it!"

Jacob watches as Mingzhu takes her shot, lifting an eyebrow. He doesn't make a comment, though. Ashton, on the other hand, gets a laugh at his shot. "/Totally/ your territory, hmmm? I can tell from the way you could even get the ball /inside/ the house." He grins, then steps up to take his shot. He's getting the hang of this now. He loosens his arm, then whacks the ball. Up and into the house. It barely misses the ghosts, and /almost/ doesn't make it up that ramp, he it does. It rolls down the little slide and onto the next hole. Jacob casts them both a wink. "Steamy."

And then, it's on to the final hole. This time the green is a landing pad with a miniature rocket on it. The goal is easy. Hit the ball so it goes up a ramp around the rocket to the top, where it should hit the 'lift off' button. This one is less obstacles and more just having the right force to make it all the way up without sending it flying off the ramp.

Taking a breath, Mingzhu shakes off the spectre of the caterpillar that is hanging over her, and focuses properly on this reverse helter-skelter sort of thing. She takes her time, measuring how much force she'll need to put behind the ball, then takes her swing. And it goes off with a bang! Up the ramp, around and around, hitting the button and causing little lights to flash on the rocket. Success!

Ashton finally seem to realize that he's in trouble. The young man's expression is one of bewilderment. "I don't understand. How am I in last place right now?" he asks rhetorically. The flustered Darkling watches his competition breeze pass him with growing unease. Even shaking his head and mumbling softly to psyche himself up again doesn't work this time. He utterly misses hitting the ball with his first swing, not even coming close to clipping the top. His second swing knocks it high into the air and bypasses the ramp altogether. That might have been a disaster, except the ball manages to land in the exact spot needed to bounce off into the button. It's purely luck. Jacob and Mingzhu gets to witness Ashton deflate for the second time on the same day. "How? Hoooow?"

Jacob watches as Mingzhu steals herself and focuses, smiling to himself. She's a determined woman! And he likes that. When the lights start flashing, he claps his hands together, "Excellent!" Even if it poses a real threat to his winning. And then there's Ashton. There's a look of sympathy as Ashton... well, does whatever it is he does. Jacob can't even explain that one. He steps up, patting the man on the back. "At least you hit the button."

And then it's Jacob's turn. The last shot. And it's close. He loosens up his arms, he adjusts his suit, he does a couple of test swings. He whacks the ball. It goes up, and up. It teeters a bit. It slows down to a crawl. But in the end it bumps that button and the lights go off. Jacob beams proudly.

He turns towards the others, grinning. "Well, well, well. It looks like we have a winner." His grin widens, "And I already have your prizes." He looks towards Ashton. "Yours is a dare. We have a scary movie night coming up. I dare you to wear whatever I choose for you." He turns to Mingzhu, then, motioning her closer. "And a truth for you, but just between us." He leans in and whispers something.

"Well done, Jacob," Mingzhu murmurs to the Helldiver, then turns a slightly apologetic smile on Ashton. "Hopefully you had fun? It's a fun game, and that dare doesn't sound too bad." She turns to head back to the start of the course to return her club, when Jacob leans in to whisper his question. She almost stumbles, and it is but strength of will alone that keeps her expression both neutral and unblushing. He gets a /look/. "I'll discuss that with you later," she murmurs, clearing her throat and heading off to the equipment desk at a brisk pace.

Ashton folds his arms across his chest. "This has to be rigged somehow!" he protests, but it doesn't sound like he even believes his own words. Jacob's choice of a dare for him nets the other man a suspicious glare that's more tired than heated, along with a little nod of acknowledgement. "Fine, fine. You won fair and square, Jake. But I bet Miss Mingzhu here would have been the champion if we played longer." Ashton watches Mingzhu walk off with curious eyes, but he knows better than to ask what was said. Instead, he turns to Jake. "So, dinner?" Much, much lower under his breath, intended for his own ears only, he murmurs, "I need a pick me up."

Jacob attempts to return Mingzhu's look with his most innocent one. He's not very good at looking innocent. "I'm looking forward to it. You should come over tomorrow." He watches as she walks away quickly, to check in the equipment, and he turns back to Ashton with a smile, "Rigged? I didn't use one trick, although it was very tempmting. No, I'm just naturally talented." With a bit of an ego. "Now, about your outfit. We'll have to make a quick stop, but I think I know where to find just the thing." The same place you can find albumns by bands like Twenty Five Whales and a Llama. They should have /just/ the thing. "In the meantime, sure. Let's go find Mingzhu and get some of those chili dogs before we go."