Description: With concerns over corruption and fears for her future and the future of the NOL, Lt. Clio St. Jeanne leaves her opinions in a report for Lord Kagura Mutsuki. He responds quickly in the way Kagura Mutsuki does, by inviting Clio on a romantic dinner. Of course, Romantic private dinners are a great place to discuss revolution and ideals.
The response is rather quick for Clio; she'd find an envelope of her own under her door the following night. This one is quite fancy and spritzed with a genuinely appealing cologne, inviting her to dinner in that evening. It's oddly formal and printed out, making it seem like something that might be mass produced. Masculine handwriting on the bottom is written in cursive: Dress nice.
The location in question is one of the most expensive restaurants in Southtown. Even amidst the chaos of the potential assault and gridlocked city, reservations remained and were filled without any issue. Valet parking is mandatory unless one parks an uncomfortable distance away to walk, the exterior building breathtaking in architecture. Within is little different, classical music ringing gently from a live stage as many tables are settled in a central area. Stairs lead up to more intimately private areas, settled near the ornate railings overlooking the stage. It's up here that Clio would be ushered, and at the endmost table, a cozy one intended for two, Kagura Mutsuki sits.
He's wearing a much more casual affair, a dark black dress shirt with golden embroidery alongside slacks, loose cloak on his back bearing the mark of the Mutsuki House crest instead of Novus Orbis Librarium. He'd immediately perk and move to pull out the opposite chair for the arrival.
"Ms. St. Jeanne. Thanks for obliging my selfish request on such short notice." A solemn and respectful dip of the head follows.
Speed was not expected. Clio had planned on the letter being the last communication before the worst happened. She was, in fact, in the middle of packing a bug-out bag when the communique came under her door. "Damn," she mutters, impressed at the invite. And then the realization that she really wasn't packing a lot of clothing for formal dinners.
What followed was a no doubt comic and hijink filled stressed out afternoon of getting money and finding something fitting to wear. Thankfully it left enough time for her to work on her look in ways she can manage more thoroughly.
At the location, and without a ride to take advantage of valet parket, Clio St. Jeanne approaches the restaurant in a pair of lightly clicking heels. A black wrap dress with a hip hugging asymmetrical skirt is what she wears. A silver chain around her neck serves as jewelry. She feels a bit naked without her chain, but it's just not something that'll work in this setting. And her make up is on point, darkly shadowed eyes with a hit of blue for the NOL, solid lines and a dusting of color to her lips. She took her time on that part.
"Thank you," she says to the ushers, walking with a steady, purposeful stride, long and graceful steps. Her acrobatic and swift style of fighting translated into her balance and poise in this situation. She sets her hand on the chair as it's pulled out and nods a slight bow back to Lord Mutsuki.
Seated, she crosses her legs and lightly tents her fingers in a vaguely defensive way at Kagura's solemn words. "Thank you for seeing me in a place like this," she says, looking up at the crest. "Lord Mutsuki," she opts for the familial title. After all, he didn't use her military one. That tells her a lot of the notion of this meeting.
Gently pushing Clio into a more comfortable position, Kagura walks back around the table and settles down into it opposite. He operates with meticulous manners, obviously intimately familiar with the high etiquette that befits this class of society. The waiter slithers by and he orders a wine that would be shockingly expensive if the woman had any idea of such matters. Only after a bow and retreat does Kagura's attention fully return to Clio. "You look beautiful. But I couldn't picture you as anything but. Still, it's always a pleasure when my expectations are surpassed."
A few moments later, he shifts to actual business. "Your information confirms much of what I feared. I'm going to work with one of Hazama's direct subordinates to try and confirm this information on my own. But... don't get flighty, Ms. St. Jeanne." He plucks up a glass of water and takes a small drink in the midst. "Leaving the Librarium without going through the proper channels involves being branded with a bounty. The international community will similarly villify you. Vigilantes will hunt you down. There's not many places you can go to shelter you... and there's alternatives that are not nearly so risky."
After a few moments, purple eyes peer intently at Clio. "The Librarium is poised to grow massively in power after this conflict resolves. That means the chance of corruption also grows significantly. Not everyone of power within NOL are bought... such as me." Fingers run through his black hair, letting out a sigh of preparation. "I have suspected people with ulterior motives to operate in here for years. But I'm the chief of the Twelve Originators, the founders of NOL. The head of the Mutsuki family, strongest of those noble houses. I'm expected to join, although I limited my promotions to Colonel. And I plan to fight for NOL to do what it should, protect the people and the world. ...I can't do that if strong-willed people who share my belief flee when they see the ugliness I'm trying to combat..."
"Thank you, Lord Kagura," Clio says to the compliments, though her more or less tense posture doesn't leave. Not while the wine is ordered or even until the waiter has more or less left them to their own devices. "You don't mind if I pass on the alcohol," Clio says with a slight smile. She has to test the waters here, and she has to keep her mind clear. How trustworthy Kagura is rides a lot on allowing some small degree of autonomy.
She runs her fingertip along the rim of the waterglass, stopping, drinking, and repeating the direction with the dampened rim to listen to the tone that comes from the crystal. "I appreciate the warning, Lord Mutsuki," she says, and looks back at the man, "I understand the threats, the notions of what might be on my life, but as it is the NOL is not in the standing you seem to think. And if Captain Hazama is doing as I think he is, the NOL is poised to look quite poorly to much of the world after this."
She sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Kagura," she says, dropping the honorifics. "I'm sorry, but I'm not going to play the game tonight." She takes a breath and leans a little more on the table. "If I'm looking at having a world putting a target on my back, then I'd honestly be more comfortable knowing I can't trust anyone than having to second guess my every move." She shakes her table and takes up her glass to look into.
"I believe in the creed of the NOL. The Azure Flame, a light in the dark for humanity. I'm not like you, Kagura. I'm not one of you. I don't have noble titles. I don't have background. I am the bastard daughter of a woman with connections and a changed name." She takes a sip of the water, just enough to test it. "I believe in the NOL, and that's the only reason I'm here right now. But right now, by your order, I'm working for a man that may be the source of this rot and I'm not the kind of person that can swallow my ideals and watch."
"You can do whatever you'd like." Kagura says with a dazzling smile. He settles opposite to listen, crossing his arms before his chest. He seems to be examining Clio's outfit as much as he is acknowledging what she says, although hardly in a manner that wouldn't feel flattering. Of course when she finally stops with the 'date' act, that doesn't mean the Black Knight will follow suit entirely. He leans forward, resting his arms on the table, and his expression turns serious. "I don't give a damn who you are. I've never cared about my bloodline or my house. I got where I am due to the exceptional work of my subordinates. And if I have any true strength as a leader, it's in knowing when I've found a potent ally. You can do a lot of good if you stay in NOL. You're not in any danger on the inside. You've confirmed what I wanted you to confirm. I'll call you back from Intelligence, and we can move on to new operations. It's not your job to deal with... that kind of rot. That's mine."
He then seems to exude a far more genuinely charismatic resolve, a determined optimism that makes it clear how so many people within his branch seem to almost adore and worship the man, male and female alike. "I'm not asking you to trust anyone else. I'm asking you to trust me. I have gathered many like-minded people, and if you are willing, I'll bring you into my inner circle. I'll prove to you my allegiance. With what I show you, you could turn me over to Hazama or the Imperator at any moment, and I'd be lucky to keep my head. For each and every person willing to risk themselves for me, I'll do the same. If ever you'd end up in a position where your life is on the line, then I would expect you to turn me in and claim it was my orders without hesitation."
There it is, the vulgarity speaks in much louder volumes to Clio St. Jeanne than does any of the ostentatious surroundings. Though, she's not exactly against enjoying the finery that's around her. She enjoys her outfit and she enjoys the comforts. But she has a great deal of more serious considerations to have at the moment. "I will appreciate the order. There's a great deal of old friendship," she says, speaking as though she didn't graduate the academy a short time ago, "in Southtown, in the NOL. People that I would trust with my life, but it's been two years and I wonder how much that trust is still earned. Despite knowing I'd die for any of them."
Clio sits up a little straighter, and then she leans just a bit forward, fingers interlaced and placed at the level of her mouth as she considers Kagura. One slice of dark hair neatly cutting one of her eyes half from view. "Have two questions for you Kagura. And I want you to answer them if you could. The first: What do you desire more -- A world without mosters, or one where monsters exist, but cannot hide from justice?"
The fingers unlock from each other and Clio holds up two fingers. "The second; what exactly did the "One-Eyed Twin Lotus" do to deserve their bounty?"
"If anyone on your list of names from your graduating year is who I think, then they will also be on your side in this. I would greatly prefer they work beneath me than going rogue. The Librarium is too large to fight externally. I decided this long ago after much consideration. It's possible the entire Duodecim together could turncoat and fight back, but that endeavor is... very massive, and the Mutsuki house alone not nearly sufficient." The undertones are clear there; Kagura might be in the process of doing just such a thing, despite how nearly suicidal it seems. The level of nuanced politics that requires might be staggering.
"People are people. The term exists outside of race. I'm against evil. I don't judge someone based on the skin they wear. I think an angel could do great evil, and a devil could do great good. So I'd say the second. I'm not ignorant; many monsters are just that, and erasing them is the proper course. Each must be judged individually, is all." Kagura then blinks his eyes, sounding a little surprised at the name which comes next. "The One-Eyed... you mean Mitsuyoshi? He has one of the Nox Nyctores. They are incredibly powerful and corrupting weapons still little understood. He refused to turn them over to NOL, and he has been a fugitive ever since. It's a fairly meaningless bounty. Even were he SS, no vigilante would be stupid enough to try and claim it. That'd be as suicidal as going after the Mad Dog."
Clio hums and nods. "They are. And I don't doubt they would be," she agrees, eyes closing and taking a breath. "I understand the Librarium is large, but see what we've witnessed in this war. Titans fall, Kagura, and things move on." She looks up at the crest after she speaks those words. "Consider the weight that that family has, but, does it mean much to the people that have to put up with Mad Gear's lowest thugs in Metro City?" She shakes her head. "Nothing is too large. Maybe it's the American in me, or maybe it's my namesake, but nothing is too large. But I don't think seeing the light of the azure flame snuffed is a good thing. I'd prefer to take it where it deserves to burn."
She actually smiles at Kagura's answers to her questions. "You are a politician, even if you can't figure out that I'd rather kiss your nurse than you," she jokes, and then catches herself. "But yes, I mean him. The cat. How long has he had this corrupting weapon? And moreover, does this corrupting weapon twist his mind into eating ramen and talking like a dad to random young women he's eating with?"
The wine is finally brought over, causing Kagura to hold up a finger. A tray filled with ice has a lone bottle within it, and Kagura is given a small glass to sip. After a few moments he nods in his approval, and the waiter leaves once more as the Black Knight pours himself a glass. "We had nothing to do with Mad Gear. That was the desperation of the United Nations. We're not affiliated with them in any meaningful way; we've kept our distance, which is going to be rather important in the aftermath. But the issue isn't being too large. It's a lack of oversight. Infections like Hazama have a way of propigating, and the more his influence can be contained, the easier it will be to remove the tumor when opportunity presents." A knife is hefted up and sank into the tablecloth for emphasis, as he tips back a glass of the wine. "And the heart wants what the heart wants. My love is pure, dear St. Jeanne. All women I consider works of art, although how much I am allowed to appreciate them differs person to person." He sets down the glass of wine after. "Why are you so interested in that particular legend? Some decades, at least. As far back as our bounty system goes. From what I understand, his mind is unaffected, but that doesn't make his weapon any less dangerous. There are some within NOL who use Nox Nyctores themselves, Jin Kisaragi amongst them, and we constantly monitor the effect to better understand the risks..." He trails off there, gaze somewhat solemn for a few moments.
Clio remains quiet when the wine is out and the waiter is gone again. "I'm not saying that's the case. I just want to remind you that something very large can look very small when you're far away," she explains. "Things can seem too big when you're within the belly of the beast." Clio St. Jeanne may enjoy a good throwdown under a bridge, but she is an educated woman.
She regains her faint smile, catlike in its own way, when Kagura presses her on the matters of Mitsuyoshi. "I've spoken with him," she says. "The other night. We ran into each other at a ramen shop in Chinatown. One of the ones bragging about being open despite everything." She sips her water again. "I'm simply saying, what good is making the cat a fugitive? What beside petty control, or worse, wanting the weapon for NOL purposes, when we know there is corruption, is the reason for the bounty to be there and so high? Especially if he's clearly not effected after, what, longer than both of us have been alive?" she wonders. A shake of her head. "I want to protect people. His weapon is dangerous, but so are all weapons. He, however, doesn't seem prone to threats. And if our house isn't in order, than is our whole bounty system designed around potentially putting those dangerous weapons into worse hands?"
"...The One-Eyed Twin Lotus is in the city? Hmm. He has gone by Jubei for a long time... I only know his true name from NOL reports." Kagura remarks, glancing sidelong with his fingers slowly stroking at his lips. This seems to interest him a fair amount, but if Clio expected any admonition or pressuring regarding speaking with a high bounty and not reporting it, nothing is forthcoming. "Are you saying it's fine for a country to have a nuclear weapon if they are responsible for it? We have no way of confirming Jubei's mental state, or the potency of his weapon. Nothing. He has refused all cooperation to the point of threats. You might think it's fine to leave well enough alone, but I genuinely think that such a weapon should never be wielded by any hands, even paws as capable as his. At the very least, I find his independence suspicious. What's he trying to hide? Or... what does he know?"
Clio sips her water. "I think that's more or less how nuclear bombs and arms races work, Lord Kagura," she says, putting the glass back down and looking just back at the noble with her head tilted just a touch. "And I can see that with just a name your ideals waver." She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "Unless you have means of destroying the Nox Nyctores, I can't agree that you think that. Like you said, already we have members that wield these kinds of weapons. The NOL is willing to use them, but we are willing to police their use by others."
She laughs quietly and bitterly. "Would you consider that maybe your fears about Jubei are the same fears that Jubei and Heidern's Ikari Mercenaries have toward us? Moreover, we both agree that there is a rot around us, and could part of you think that maybe their fears are more justified than ours?"
"My ideals have never wavered. I would prefer Jin Kisaragi to not use the Nox Nyctores, either. But those decisions are made well above me, and I do not attempt to fight pointless battles. I spend my time on the ones that can make an impact. Humanity existed just fine before mass destruction existed. The only difference now is that innocent civilians are drawn into the equation. I cannot condone that, and if being locked in the vaults of the Librarium are the best method of keeping such tools under control, then I will do what I must." He sounds more then a little solemn in that belief. "I know that the Librarium is rotting. I am trying to find out two things. One, how high the rot goes. And two, what measures must be taken to fix it. Publicly and outwardly, I am a distinguished and devoted follower of NOL. That is a mask I must wear, if I'm to get anywhere with my ambitions. Even if that means being enemies with those who, were we to sit at a table like this, might instead be my allies."
Clio nods and listens. She runs her finger along the rim of her glass. She's still not comfortable without her chain at hand, and she's still thinking on the matters at hand. The morality and the loyalty duel inside of her heart. She doesn't answer much to Kagura's opinions for a long while. A pregnant pause of drinking, looking and then she answers with a quiet crack in her voice. "I cannot compromise what it means to be a knight," she says.
She stops to take a long drink. "But there is something that does come to mind," she says, voice more stable after the water. "I am a knight of the blue flame. I have earned that. I don't give a damn about rank or position. I'm here because you have allowed me to do good. If my morals are compromised, I will not hesitate to do what I must." She leans on the table again, and she has a sharp edged little smile. "Have you considered that enemies may at times be allies?"
"Well, my offer's on the table. If you leave NOL and gain a bounty, your life will be hard. I still won't be your enemy, but my ability to protect you will be severely compromised. I just wanted to offer you an alternative." Kagura takes another long draw of his wine at that, genuinely enjoying the taste. Some perks of higher class life are not lost to the noble. "Rank and position should always be discarded if they hinder your goals. But they are tools, and should never be abandoned. That's my advice to you, Second Lieutenant. If you leave NOL, you lose your ability to fight back. If you want to become a rebel under my banner, I'll turn a blind eye..."
Clio nods. "A rebel doesn't just gain enemies," she says. "And I think you might find there are a lot of people out there who share the sentiments." she moves her glass toward Kagura. "I think First might help me more," she says, "And I'll drink to your banner. If you don't mind a terrible rebellion that might gain information from a major bounty. I think, if you allow me time to trust, you may find Jubei is could prove a useful ally."
"Mmm." Kagura offers matter of factly. "Well, you can find your own way. I'll keep Hazama off your back. He generally doesn't sniff around too close to me. He knows I'm on to him. The issue is getting proof. All I have are feeble accusations. Without actual tangible evidence of him being a criminal, then there's not much that can be done. Hiding his battle prowess isn't a crime, just a sensible Intelligence practice. For all I know, he might be working for the Imperator, and not nearly as much a criminal as we think." Another slow, steady drink of wine follows. "I'll eat my sword if that's the case, but I try not to discount every possibility. Besides, the Imperator's visiting me soon. Hopefully I can get a bead on her then..." He has a 'soon to be executed' kind of expression at that.
Clio nods. She leans back into her seat, hand resting at her chin while she regards Kagura. Pensive, dark eyes that stay on the Colonel. She keeps quiet and nods. "May your visit go well," she says after a moment, voice quiet. She has doubts, deep ones, even of Kagura. She sees danger all around her. Loyalty to names and ranks and positions, not to ideals or the spirit of the things everything else is derived for.
"If there is anyone I trust within Hazama's command, it's Makoto Nanaya," she speaks after a pause. "Look to her if you need eyes and ears." She closes her eyes. "I will work on understanding Jubei. There is something there that can be reached."
For all the suspicion, the one thing Clio would have never felt from Kagura was deception. Everything he said seemed earnest and true. Perhaps recklessly so; who could manage such forthright optimism when it requires such nuanced political weaving? Perhaps such is as good a foundation as any. Whether he is true to how he feels or not can be told in time. "Well. We've a reservation at a fine dining establishment. And I've got wonderful company. If you'd like to leave early. usually it ends in a loud scene... you're welcome to though, if you want to keep up appearances..." His eyes slit shut, sampling the remainder of his wine.
Clio doesn't think Kagura is deceptive. Just the opposite, that he may be too loyal to the wrong sorts of things. It's an admirable quality she wishes she could have. She has more than her share of deceptions going on, and ulterior motives for serving Kagura's hand.
At Kagura's talk of leaving early Clio gets another sharp grin. "Not so easy as that, Lord Mutsuki," she tells him. "Do you realize the energy it takes to maintain my fighting style? I am going to eat like a queen on your dime, sir."
There's a laugh from Kagura at that, pouring himself another glass of wine and setting the bottle down within reach of Clio if she dares. "Don't eat me out of house and home..." he asks, as the waiter approaches to finally take the order. Business is settled for now; Kagura is very renowned for these types of lavish dates, especially amongst his coworkers, and the true meaning behind it is liable to never arouse any suspicion. Of course, she has to endure his playful charms, but he's quite good for conversation when such matters are sidestepped. A modest eater himself, the dessert course is finally finished before he sets down his spoon and carefully wipes his mouth with a cloth. "If you ever want to spar, too, let me know. I've always a vested interest in improving my subordinates."
The wine is taken now, her glass is filled. "I take that as a challenge, and I understand you have a noble house," Clio says with a daring grin. She can enjoy his charm, she can enjoy the back and forth. She needs a moment to enjoy life for the time being because she sees nothing but a far, far more difficult life ahead of her. "I will take you up on that some time. I do love a good fight," she says, emphasis on 'good'. Soon enough, she knows the limits of her loyalty will be tested, and she cannot be certain that they won't break. For now, though, she hopes that an ally in Kagura Mutsuki will allow her to keep her life in a certain order, so that she can help the order she belongs to be better than it might be.
Log created on 15:00:08 12/26/2017 by Clio, and last modified on 17:58:16 12/26/2017.