Description: Katarina's contempt for the Sacred Order is already well known. After her dismissive treatment of Ky Kiske, her reputation amongst the acolytes is one of an ogress. Unfortunately for them, the engineer has found herself in charge of constructing the main camp. Unfortunately, she's been saddled with a bunch of useless kids in effort to promote better relations between the NOL and Sacred Order. Assisting the the Sacred Order, Kum Haehyun arrives to survey the work being done, only to find himself caught up in a sudden bit of political manuevering as one of the NOL's newer recruits draws the noble woman's ire.
The day had started early for those assigned to the crucial task of establishing the NOL's temporary base. Though they had no real jurisdictional rights to deploy within the Mediterranean country, intelligence had led them to believe that the country had been compromised by non-human entities and as such emergency measures had been taken in the interest of protecting humanity against this threat. Creatures of legend known as fairies were supposedly in control of the nation's government which made a lot of people uncomfortable even without the supposed prophecy and warnings brought forth by the Sacred Order.
That is the official line, anyways. While it not untrue per se, it's only half of the whole picture. The real drive behind this sudden campaign is to make sure that their meddling knightly 'allies' don't get their hands on something particularly powerful or troublesome. Considering they've already been caught red-handed sheltering one weapon of mass destruction it isn't a difficult scenario to envision where they might attempt to form an alliance with these mythical creatures under the guise of diplomacy and empathy, and that simply would not do.
Katarina frowns slightly as these thoughts dance through her mind for nearly the dozenth time this morning. Normally, she would be keeping a tight reign on her mental state, ever watchful against the corrupted influence of her own blighted soul. However, today she allowed the Music Box a bit more freedom of action, giving it the chance to draw out the twisted chords of emotional resonance from the dozens of figures toiling away at the camp's walls.
Nearly half of the work force that had been allotted to her command is composed of members of the engineering corp, NOLs finest students in the art of constructing fortifications and defensive wards. She had assigned the task of erecting the pallisade that would serve as the camp's outer wall to her personal subordinates and already she can see the mixture of chain-link and barbed wire that would serve as their first line of defense being pulled neatly into place. As always, her workers are efficient and diligent, knowing full well the penalties for failing to meet her expectations. That they are forced to work with substandard materials is little excuse; a soldier must always be adaptable to the conditions of the battlefield.
The other half of the bodies under her control, for she refused to even think of them as soldiers, belong to the dregs of the Sacred Order; acolytes, she believes they were called. Not even full-fledged members of that already sorry excuse for an organization. She'd made no efforts to hide her displeasure at being saddled with their miserable existences but the higher-ups had insisted that she make use of them to facilitate better relations between the two groups to which she had begrudgingly complied.
That doesn't mean she has to like it though. She'd assigned every back-breaking miserable chore to these sniveling worms, starting with the clearing of the camp's perimeter. The small hill upon which the NOL had chosen to establish its camp was littered with a particularly unpleasant species of weed that grew clusters of barbed burrs and nasty thorns all along their exterior. That had amused her for a while but once the task had been completed, with a great deal of 'encouragement' she'd graciously offered, she'd simply found more work for them to do.
At present the acolytes have been set to the task of digging a ditch around the entire outside of the camp. While a rather primitive form of defense, it is atleast something that the untrained monkies are capable of doing and considering what she has to work with it's not like she has a lot of other options available. Maybe once they're done she can have them fill it with water from one of the nearby lakes or rivers.
Ofcourse, there is an ulterior motive beyond her mere contempt for the Sacred Order's trainees that drives her to treat them such. Floating a few dozen feet above the ground on invisible winds of magic, Katarina closes her eyes and shuts out the mundane sounds of the world around her, focusing entirely on the music. Every tired swing of a pickaxe or shovel brings forth from the weary and dismayed souls below her a fresh burst of melodic harmony. The elegant notes of misery weave together into a score of unparalleled wonder, suffering and sorrow becoming melancholic chords of a composition crafted from the very fabric of emotions. She lets out an appreciative sigh at the haunting tune, enjoying a pleasure that no one else in the world would ever get to experience so long as she remained alive.
"Nnngh... it has... been far too long since I've had the opportunity to indulge like this..." Her soft voice floats like a wisp of cloud on the wind, a hint of lustful pleasure coloring its tone. "I must... remember to thank the Sacred Order for this gift... hahahaha!"
Kum Jonryoku, towering emissary of the esteemed Kum family, has volunteered for the cause in Illyria. Though loosely affiliated with the NOL due to the Kum's family noble standing, he is not an official agent of them by any means. In truth, Haehyun, the house head, is more of a armchair leader by most definitions since she's a young woman. Kum Jonryoku acts as their agent in the field, since he is a towering old man who demands much greater respect by sheer presence.
In truth, Haehyun and Jonryoku are on in the same, but this is mostly a well-kept family secret. Haehyun operates through the robot, Jonryoku, and uses his persona as she sees fit to do business on behalf of the household.
Part of this business is volunteering for the Sacred Order. Since it is currently allied to the NOL, there seems to be no conflicts there (yet), and the position of "pilgrim" seems much more suitable for the wise old man than "soldier." Either way he can help out as needed and keep an eye on how the strangeness here develops. Illyria is a cluster of strange tunes and unusual frequencies, and that alone is enough to lead the Kum family to delve into matters here.
This has mostly went on without a hitch. Jonryoku has used his unusual talents sparingly to optimize the work efforts of both the NOL and the SO as needed, but he has mostly lent his knowledge of geomancy and feng shui to assist them in more mundane and less vulgar ways. That is, until today. Today, there is strange music in the air--and Haehyun's awareness of the music of the world has drawn her to it. Inside of her robot guise, she closes her eyes and concentrates.
"Yes," she says to herself from the cockpit. "Something is amiss here. There's a malevolent song in the air..."
Jonryoku, by contrast, stands like a silent mountain, his arms crossed, until Haehyun directs him toward the song's source.
He is fortunately hard to miss as an eight foot tall giant of a man.
Despite her desire to indulge in the warm pleasure of the untained World Song, a rare thing these days thanks to the corruption of the Music Box, Katarina's well-trained mind remains cognizant of her surroundings. Though she is as limited visually by her eyesight as any other human being, an ever-present aura of other senses remains spread out around her like an invisible web, countless tiny tendrils probing the entire camp for anything out of the ordinary.
Several of those threads begin to hum with silent warning as the presence of a new figure invades their territory, tugging at the edge of the officer's mind and pulling her out of her reverie. She sighs heavily, annoyed but not unprepared for some sort of interruption, and turns to glance in the direction of the lumbering giant of a man. To Kum's eyes it would likely seem that the floating girl had simply turned to look her way without any particular reason as if she possessed eyes in the back of her head, unaware of the dozens of slender strings of consciousness drifting out to entangle her robotic body.
Katarina peers at the old man for several long seconds as she tries to recall any relevant information about the odd figure that she can, only getting vague tidbits about names and relationships. He must not be particularly important then, if she can't place his face, but nevertheless it is her duty to ensure that everyone within the base is supposed to be there.
Drifting down towards the grassy clearing as if she were riding an elevator to the ground floor, Katarina alights upon the earth with a soft crunch as the metallic frames of her heavy boots adjust to the sudden effort of holding her upright, the cavalry spurs mounted on the back jangling noisly. Tucking her hands behind her back, she starts towards the old man, but pauses after only taking a single step. Slowly, her head swivels sideways towards a small white robed figure, one of the young acolytes of the Sacred Order.
The teenage boy freezes up like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi-truck as their gazes meet, a look of obvious fear on his face as she catches him halfway through the process of rising back to his feet from the place where he had been resting. Katarina stares at him in utter silence for a few seconds before her eyes start to narrow, her gaze growing sharper by only the slightest of degrees. It is enough to finally break the spell she seemed to cast upon him. Spouting profuse apologies as he goes, the boy takes off in a panicked run, practically hurling himself into the nearest section of ditch he can find. Dirt starts to fly comically into the air as he throws himself back into task of clearing the moat, prompting a bit of nervous laughter from his more bold peers while the majority of them simply keep their heads down and pick up the pace.
Katarina lets out a soft snort of derision, smirking to herself behind the protection of the high collar of her fancy greatcoat. Idiots. But that bit of panic had been particularly wonderful to listen to which only reminds her that she has something other to do than stand around listening to it. Giving the bedraggled and sweaty lot one final glare, she turns and heads over to Kum's hulking form without any further delays.
It takes only a few moments for her to navigate through the messy clutter of materials scattered about near the construction site as she simply floats into the air once again hovering over the bulk of them. Katarina comes to a halt a few feet away from the visitor, peering up at him with a surprisingly charismatic smile, her voice soft and melodic as she welcomes the towering figure by way of a noble's bow.
"Greetings. You are..."
The girl, who appears surprisingly young for an officer now that she is close enough to get a good look at, hesitates, trying to recall the proper name once again. She doesn't actually care if she offends him or anything like that but having shoddy memory doesn't reflect well on her own mental fortitude. Besides, she's trying to play nice at the moment, otherwise she'd just horribly butcher the name on purpose to piss him off.
"Jonryuku, am I correct?"
"Kum Jonryuko," the towering old man says, giving Katarina a formal Korean bow in return. "Lady Shimotsuki, I believe? You are an accomplished young commander of the engineering corps if my memory serves me well?" Kum says this with a meditative stroke his well-groomed beard. He looks down at Katarina--not in a metaphorical sense, but because the height difference is significant.
"I understand that you are," He looks over toward the line of workers in the trenches, "overseeing the construction of fortifications?"
The small snow-haired officer puffs up a little as she is called by name despite getting his slightly wrong. What's a syllable here or there? Her disposition towards this old man increases dramatically after the formal greeting and the smile she offers him becomes somewhat more genuine. It's so rare to be addressed in a respectable manner by those not directly under the employ of the NOL she'd almost forgotten what it feels like.
"You are correct, sir, on both accounts. Allow me to introduce myself properly. Second lieutenant Katarina Shimotsuki of the Duodecim and commander of the First Division of the Novus Orbis Librarium's Engineering Corp."
She turns to look back the way she came, peering at the two groups of workers as they go about their tasks. Their progress has been adequate, mostly drug down by the lack of proper manpower. While it is amusing to watch those children slave away at a menial task, a moat could have easily been carved out within minutes by a skilled magician. Unfortunately, all of the efforts of her own squad were focused on building proper walls at the moment so she had to make due. In reality, their efforts would make little difference. Once the walls are completed it will be a simple matter to tend to the trenches, but the lack of obvious progress still rankles her because it makes her look bad.
"Construction is proceeding as well as can be expected," she offers, her tone still friendly. "I imagine we will be adequate defenses in place by nightfall. Is that why you are here, to assess our progress?"
Private First Class Renka Kaneko navigates the grounds carved out for the temporary Joint Operations base with nimble ease. The skirted uniform featuring blues, whites, and blacks readily identifies her as a rank and file member of the Novus Orbis Librarium. There is no matching beret on her head, and one glance at the tall, vulpine ears sticking up out of a mane of slightly reddish blond hair makes it obvious as to why.
Green eyes glance up from the glass screen of a black-case tablet held in her left hand, her right hand's pointing finger tracing along the surface of the device as she quickly scans the people hard at work on construction efforts as well as ongoing ancillary activities all vital to get the forward outpost operational.
Each new face is studied briefly before she double checks whatever is on the screen of the tablet in her hand. Occasionally, she stops to interrupt one of the workers to request their name, badge ID, and the password of the day that helps verify that they're actually supposed to be here.
While Katarina would not be in the darkstalker's chain of command, she would recognize the what the soldier is up to easily enough - ongoing security checks of all on-site personnel against established records. Normally such routines aren't necessary - when NOL deploys, the men and women working alongside each other know each other. It would be nigh impossible for an unfamiliar face to slip in and feign belonging, any such deception would be found out immediately. But out here, with the blend of NOL, SO, and no small amount of hired mercenary muscle, things are far less orderly.
An entire platoon is likely performing similar tasks to Private Kaneko's throughout the area. Background checks are continuously being ran those who have been brought out as 'hired help', and now and then something comes up in the checks alarming enough to require tracking down and arresting the person in question... But for the most part, everyone tends to be on the up and up.
Who would want to risk infiltrating something like this unprecedented joint operation in the first place?
Finishing a quick question and answer session with one of the Sacred Order acolytes who was probably grateful for the brief reprieve from hard labor, Renka turns with a swish of two tails, glancing up to start finding the next individual in need of security verification.
The task is not exactly what she dreamed of while attending the NOL sponsored coursework she's currently on leave from, but telling herself that it's important and is making a difference is one way to make it palatable. Her ears flick as she passes not too far from the Lieutenant and Kum Jonryuko, Renka keeping her distance but pausing as she glances back and forth between Katarina and her tablet as if just making extra sure the noblewoman belongs here?
"Hmmmmm," the old man rumbles with a deep, thoughtful note. "It seems like arduous task." He looks out over the workers struggling to dig the trenches. "Strange that there was not some of magic to do it, or at least heavy equipment..."
He glances over to Katarina, looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "But I am hardly the engineer that you. I assume there is a reason for this difficult labor." When the foxgirl arrives, his attention shifts that way.
"Perhaps it's a test of commitment before the real battle begins, to see who lacks the drive to continue?"
"Not particularly. These mongrels were foisted upon me in the name of cooperation, yet not a one of them possesses any useful skills. I merely put them to the only task they were capable of. Hmph. They claim to have come to assist yet all they've done is snivel and complain when my back is turned. Ingrates."
Katarina responds casually, brushing a hand through her long silver lockes with a dismissive flick of the wrist. She ignores the obvious hint of suspicion and accusation in the old man's observations, caring little for what he thinks of her method of dealing with the burdensome acolytes. If they don't want to be here they are certainly free to leave. She doubts the loud-mouthed brute or the self-important sissy would actually do anything to them if they ran home crying about their 'terrible treatment'. Undisciplined, arrogant, swaggering little... grrr...!
She catches herself before her thoughts get too far down that particular path in public, smoothing out the hateful glare that had started to take over her expression. No matter. It will only be a matter of time before the Sacred Order slips up again and once they do the full might of the NOL will be ready to fall upon them like a hungry lion. Perhaps if she manages to capture one of the leaders herself the Imperator will reward her.
A hint of unusual aura suddenly triggers her web of augury spells. Turning her attention away from the acolytes, the officer glances over at the source of the odd noise only to find the fox-earred soldier giving her a once over. Katarina almost literally bristles with indignation as she quickly realizes what the private is up to and despite her discipline the pressure of her magical aura swells up great enough that the air in the camp takes on an ominous chill for several seconds as if a particularly cold breeze had just blown through without warning.
How dare she?!
Naturally, she understands what is going on. The administration of security, while not directly under her purview, is quite closely related. She realizes the need for such identity checks to keep things in order while out in this chaotic environment.
That most certainly does /not/ apply to someone of her status and prestiege! How on earth could this fuzz-brained mongrel be a member of the military and not know the faces of all the Duodecim? It's like she doesn't have any respect for authority or decorum at all! The girl might as well have slapped her right in the face! Would Commander Mutsuki have been insulted in such a manner? Captain Relius? She thinks not!
Turning completely around to face Renka, the full brunt of the lieutenant's attention falls upon the unsuspecting darkstalker like a hammer. People that she had questioned in the past had described the feeling as something like being smothered by a heavy blanket made entirely out of anxiety and dread, their breath stolen away as if crushed from their lungs by an invisible and omnipresent force.
"Excuse me one moment, if you would...", she says dismissively to the towering old man, moving steadily towards her prey with laser-like focus. Though her voice retains its wispy softness, the whisper-like calm in her tone takes on an altogether different feeling as if something dark and sinister is lurking just beneath the surface. "I have something to take care of."
Bright green eyes flick between Katarina and the figure at her side so huge as to make even the reasonably tall Lieutenant look somewhat like a kid by comparison. It doesn't help that everything about the officer's luxurious snow white hair to her perfect complexion make her seem even younger than her surprisingly youthful age considering her place within the Librarium.
Of course, as she matches Katarina's image against the directory of officers expected to be on duty in this sector of the encampment, it immediately makes sense. Duodecim. No one in the NOL is unfamiliar with the twelve originating families nor can possibly fail to understand their utmost importance in the organization's prestigious history.
Looks like she checks out! Immediately, the fox-eared solider shifts her focus to the powerfully built elder looking man that the officer was speaking with. His shadow stretches far along the ground... his lack of uniform suggests he might be a mercenary, but something about his demeanor feels far too... dignified to be just a random pickup in the recent very liberal recruitment drive. Maybe he's Sacred Order? The allied group do seem very lax about what their people wear.
Immediately, Renka begins flicking through her tablet's directory of 'Who's Who', glancing up occasionally as if to make sure that the towering man hasn't somehow stealthily snuck off before she's double checked what he's doing here. If he glances her way, she'll offer a quick and ready smile and nod of acknowledgment, trying to make sure that he doesn't feel uneasy being scrutinized by the Darkstalker. Never know what will set humans off, after all. They're so unpredictable.
There is a twitch of her right ear as her focus lingers on Kum Jonryuko, her brow furrowing slightly. His picture checks out, but something seems... off about him. She sniffs in once, then a second time, looking contemplative.
Whatever mystery of the universe that seems to have caught her attention gets utterly forgotten the instant she feels an oppressive, crushing weight, ears perking up, tails swishing a second time as every danger instinct she has just lit up. Emerald eyes flick to Katarina, the daughter of incomprehensible wealth turning her attention toward the Private and advancing on her.
Being approached by an officer wouldn't normally be a concern to the studios recruit. She had high marks in the training and coursework, and she was eager to tackle any task directed her way. But one glance toward Katarina suggested that nothing about the young woman's approach was going to be a standard encounter.
Standing up straight, tablet tucked under her left arm, her right arm lifting to salute as she shifts her focus to something past the imperious officer rather than be so bold as to look her in the eyes.
"Sir!" she exclaims, sucking in her breath. No attempt to explain herself is made but already her heart is racing. Her sensitive ears had picked up the last thing murmured by the Lieutenant. What did she think she had to take care of?!
Kum raises an eyebrow and makes another long and thoughtful "Hrmm" when Katarina assesses the situation. Before further comment can be made, however, Katarina's attention has shifted. Apparently the newcomer has drawn her ire.
"Of course," Kum says in response to Katarina's departure.
And now Katarina is addressing the--fox-eared girl? Haehyun was aware that there were Darkstalkers in the NOL's ranks, but she did not know they were this prominent. The giant of a sage seems to be lost in contemplation for the moment as he waits.
But inwardly, Kum Haehyun begins to read the atmosphere, quietly assessing the Tuning of both the second lieutenant and the newcomer. What was that strange energy here...?
It doesn't take long for the foolish fox to take note of her ire though from the look on her face it would seem that the beast remains unaware of her mistake. Katarina's teeth grind softly as her jaws clench in barely restrained indignation. That's twice today she had been slighted, first by the Sacred Order and their acolytes diverting time and efficiency away from her job to play babysitter for a bunch of snot-nosed idiots and now by this ignorant mutt pretending to be a person.
Visions of terrible things run through the officer's mind as she slowly closes the gap between them, contemplations of precisely how she would make the little bitch pay for her ignorance taking shape from the chaos of her emotions. She could just beat the woman. Corporal punishment was hardly unknown within the NOL, though scarcely wielded. While she could probably get away with it thanks to her political status it would certainly make her look bad if she simply assaulted some random soldier for seemingly no reason. Besides, that is too easy. She can get more creative than that.
Perhaps she would simply strip the woman of her uniform. After all, stupid beasts have no business sullying the prestigious mantle of a servant of the Imperator with their filthy hides. She could put a collar on the foolish creature and lead her around the base like the mongrel she is. Yes, that would certainly remind her of her proper place!
Unfortunately, while they are little better than circus animals performing tricks on command, dark stalkers under the protection of the NOL are afforded certain allowances and rights. If she'd just been some random monster on the street no one would have batted an eye but as a private in the military such a humilation would certainly draw heat down on her regardless of her station.
A sudden spark of inspiration hits Katarina as she draws near. Her eyes widen slighty then narrow with amusement, her steel-melting stare becoming a devilish smirk. Yes... yes that will do /nicely/.
When she finally comes to a stop before Renka, the pale officer's expression has smoothed out into a faint smile, her crimson eyes sparkling with something that might easily be mistaken for good-natured charm. The stifling pressure of raw animosity withdraws from the dark stalker, vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. Katarina lifts her mailed fist in a salute of her own, returning the gesture quickly to give the soldier leave to stand in a more relaxed position.
"At ease, private. You seem rather tense. I promise I don't bite."
The young woman's mouth ticks upwards slightly at this, enjoying the private joke. Without asking permission, she reaches out and grabs the data slate from the crook of Renka's arm, flipping it around to scroll through the contents of the screen for a few moments. She doesn't actually bother reading anything there save to briefly confirm her suspicions about what the private was up to. It would be quite embarrassing to chew her out only to find she was up to something entirely different.
"Hmm. It seems you have been quite thorough, soldier. It's always good to find fresh recruits diligently doing their jobs, no matter how trivial they may seem."
She says this part far louder than the others, making sure her soft voice carries over to the acolytes with a bit of magical assistance. That much is true, she has a deep appreciation for those who understand that even minor chores can be quite important. Her smile widens. Now comes the lies.
"I have been watching you for some time now, private. Your work ethic has been quite inspiring. So inspiring, infact, that I have decided to make you... my personal assistant."
She pauses for a few moments, allowing those words to hang in the air. Her pretty smile grows yet more pronounced as her lips part slightly, a soft haughty chuckle slipping free to break the silence.
Renka's train of thoughts are entirely the opposite of what the approaching Lieutenant is contemplating. Her uniform is tidy, befitting NOL's image in the field. Her hair is practically a wild mane, but if NOL has any standard regulations for hair styles, those line items got forgotten about years ago. She's been thorough in her screening of people moving about the fledgling outpost. A combination of keen insight, honed instincts, and adept skill with the issued device all serve to leave her feeling confident in her inspection thus far. The chances that Katarina is coming to point out that she's somehow missed checking some ninja lurking in the shadows are slim.
Is this a random dress down? The life of the solider can be punitive and randomly unfair at times. Perhaps it's hazing, to bully out weakness, or maybe it's just some kind of initiation rite to be deemed worthy to be in a superior officer's presence... whatever it might be, she can endure it, she tells herself. If she really did screw up, then she deserves to be reprimanded for it so that she can improve in the future!
Bracing herself for the worst, her breath is held as the Lieutenant draws up near now. Her ears are sticking straight up now, covered with a layer of fur that matches her long hair with tufts of white covering the ear canals.
There is nothing calming about the other girl's smile, her green eyes flicking to Katarina on occasion for only an instant before looking past her again, as if to just re-verify the impending doom that approaches her.
When the salute is given, she blinks, then responds to the call to ease with a snappy drop of her arm to her side. Standing face to face with the Duodecim princess now, the Darkstalker is the smaller of the two, though the extra height afforded by her ears is just enough to break even if one were to count them as well. Her build is slender and athletic, and at her side affixed her belt is a sheathed katana.
"Sir!" she answers, her voice full of energy as she projects maybe a little bit too loud. The comment is made about biting and the fox-eared soldier presses her lips tighter together. Here it comes - what passes for wit among humans. She wisely keeps from answering with the first retort that snaps to her mind. And then the second. And is just in the process of choking back a 'Are you sure, sir?' when the pretty officer snatches the NOL issue tablet from her side.
Lips part, Renka recoiling slightly at the device being taken. If anything happens to it, the Quartermaster who assigned it to her will tear her a new one when she reports back. Long canine teeth revealed by the startled expression are just another reminder that for all the dressing up that's been done to help her fit in, she isn't human.
But what can she do? She waits, eyes focused on the young human's hands as she navigates the device, even if it's just for show.
"Sir, thank you sir." Private Kaneko states. Compliments? Was the initial approach just for show then? Maybe some of that hazing people are so fond of?
But the Lieutenant continues. Inspiring? Well, she was pretty determined to do her job well, but even Renka would be reluctant to describe her security detail as particularly inspiring. Something isn't adding up here.
And then Lieutenant Shimotsuki declares that she's got a new exciting career advancement in mind for the fox-tailed NOL trooper. There is plenty of silence between the declaration and the eventual 'Congratulations' wherein Renka's green eyes blink quickly, her head starting to lean to the right a little, her right ear mirroring the shift by also leaning sideways somewhat.
"Uh- A- S-sir?"
It takes an intense amount of willpower to not ask the noble woman if she's insane. Is this normal? She's been working security for months while focusing on her coursework to become eligible for promotion at night. And now this girl is going to derail her just like that?
Her jaw set, her lips twisting just a little as she fights back against the grimace that demands to break through. "Sir, Sergeant Kaplan is expecting me to check in for my next sector assignment." Maybe the woman is bluffing and she just needs to hurry this unamusing distraction along...
"Oh, you need not worry about that, private. I'm sure the sergeant will be very understanding when I inform them that I've personally approved your transfer to the Shimotsuki retinue. As a member of the Duodecim, I have a great many privileges when it comes to having my needs met and I have been in dire need of a secretary for quite some time."
Katarina's elegant cloud-like whisper of a voice somehow manages to produce a veritable deluge of cheerfulness as she quickly demolishes the idea that this might be some sort of poor joke at the fresh recruit's expense. She seems genuinely pleased by the idea of taking the fox-girl under her command, giddy even; though for completely different reasons than the nonsense she'd offered up for public consumption. After all, what better way to humilate the beast and teach her the proper place of her kind than to make her a servant?
Ofcourse, technically she would be a subordinate, not a slave, but outside of other members of the Duodecim the list of people who could tell her how to treat those under her command could be counted on one hand and they all had far better things to do than police a bit of bullying from the nobles. Too much effort and not worth the risk of political blowback from the other families just to protect some no-name darkstalker that had been swept up in the recruitment drive and managed to rouse the ire of someone important.
Turning towards the gaggle of uniformed engineers fiddling with various bits of high-tech gear, Katarina says in a voice no louder than before, "Sergeant Telos, would you please come here a moment?" The head of a young man pops up from the rest, staring directly at the lieutenant as if he'd heard her clearly despite the distance. He makes his way over to join them at a brisk jog, popping a quick salute that the officer doesn't return.
"Sergeant, I've just decided to give this hard-working private a promotion to my personal aide. Please go and inform a Sergeant Kaplan of the good news and let them know that this one will not be returning to them. Oh and take this with you."
She thrusts the data slate at the young man and he accepts it with dirty hands sporting what looks like oil stains. He glances at Renka for a moment, then grins, clapping her heartily on the shoulder which leaves behind a few dark smudges on her pristine uniform.
"Lucky you," he says sardonically, then turns and jogs off into the sea of tents to complete his new mission.
Katarina maintains a good-natured smile despite the commentary, only the faint crinkling at the corners of her mouth giving away the annoyance she experiences at the tone of voice used. Turning back to her new pet, the officer clasps her hands behind her back and converts that expression of happiness into a haughty smirk, her eyes sparkling with untold mischief.
"Now that the formalities are out of the way, I think now is an excellent time to put you right to work. Normally, I would send you to assist the engineers as we are a fair bit under-staffed at the moment. However, as I'm sure you lack the proper training, I must unfortunately divert your efforts to where they can best be utilized."
A hand is held up as she says this, thin wisps of invisible magic sliding from her fingertips to one of the nearby tents. The ribbons of condensed air wrap tightly about the target she'd sent them out to acquire and with a quick retraction the object floats swiftly over to land neatly in her open palm. Katarina holds up the shovel, inspecting it for a moment before she offers it to the dark stalker.
"I expect the same level of dilligence you showed earlier. I'll accept nothing but the best from my personal assistant!"
The girl grins openly now, flashing a set of perfectly white teeth at Renka and dispelling any faint traces of lingering hope that this 'promotion' might be something good.
"After all, I'm sure this sort of thing comes naturally to you."
Katarina is able to talk without fear of being interrupted as the object of her current fixation seems to have been drilled enough on proper behavior in front of officers. But the surprised look on her face when the Lieutenant continues speaking as if it's an altogether done deal says it all effectively enough.
Lips part to voice a protest that never comes, mouth closing after a moment as her cheeks redden slightly.
Six months ago, the idea of holding down any kind of job at all had seemed an entirely foreign concept. She could find ways to meet her needs of survival without trying to adopt the human way of life. Though the very organization she now worked for threatened to make the wild darkstalker ways more dangerous with each new outpost they break ground for. Yet here she stands, employed, with certain rights and protections, even if they entirely hinge on her being a part of the globe spanning para-military organization. Resign, go AWOL, or get fired, and all those protections would be gone.
But if she had been offered such menial work up front, like hell she'd still be here! Teeth grind, lips drawn back slightly as she stares at the daughter of privilege while the summoned Sergeant comes jogging over. She doesn't even seem to notice Telos as he draws near, unable to pry her focus from Katarina.
The trance breaks the moment she hands the tablet over with instructions to return it - Private Kaneko won't be needing it anymore. Again her mouth opens, another protest dying at her lips, her right hand raised slightly as Telos claps her on the shoulder and turns to head off with the tablet with the decidedly insincere congratulations.
Looking more dazed than anything now, she pivots her head back toward Katarina, her arm frozen in the partially raised position it reached before Telos absconded with her issued device.
The Lieutenant is right about one thing, however, nothing in the fox-eared demi-human's training has prepared her in any way to help with the more skilled labor the engineers are engaged in. While she might tackle their tasks with zeal, the end result would be inevitable disaster. Instead, it seems a different task is to be given her, the NOL elite weaving arcane formula with seemingly little more than a gesture as she summons Renka's replacement for the tablet.
A shovel. A red-blond eyebrow twitches as she lifts her hands to clamp down on the shaft of the shovel, the wood beneath her grip creaking slightly. There's fire to her eyes, a glimpse of a more fierce creature just waiting to leap at Katarina with feral rage.
There is a growl deep in her throat as the ramifications of acting out race through her mind. She had never encountered any human as vexing as this one. Sure, there had been comments from others as she came up through training. She had expected as much - she was the odd one out, after all. Though the Librarium employed non-humans in their ranks, they were still only a small percentile of the organization's numbers. And sure, there had been laughs at her expense - human doors are horribly unaccommodating for tails until you get used to how to navigate them!!
But they had never cut as deep as this devil girl's abuse of authority. She could lash out. Throw all her progress away, her hope of eventual acceptance - not just for her, but others like her. Anyone who was tired of the long hunt, the war without end between sentient species of life stuck on this big ball of rock together, like it or not.
For a moment of blinding, bloody rage, it would all seem worth it. But as she lowers the head shovel, now holding the tool up straight, hands clenched around the handle, she continues, the growl only slightly fading from her voice.
"...need me... to dig... where, sir?"
Katarina watches the drama of emotions play out across her newly acquired minion's face with quiet smugness, enjoying every twist and contortion that stretches the dark stalker's annoyingly human-like features into contortions of barely controlled rage. Oh how she would love for this beast to lash out at her, hurling itself at her like the feral animal she knows it to be. It would provide all the excuse she needs to give the creature a good thrashing while simultaneously proving to everyone that, no matter what she might look like on the outside, the private is little more than a mangy dog just waiting for a chance to bite the hand that feeds it.
Sadly, it would seem that the prospect of attacking one of the most prestigious officers in the entire NOL in the middle of a military encampment proves too much for the mutt. Even if she did somehow prove triumphant it likely wouldn't end with a round of applause. Okay, it might, but she'd still be in deep shit and she clearly recognizes that.
The harmony of rage and helplessness that pours out of the creature's pitiful soul almost makes up for the loss of an opportunity to pummel it into the ground. Katarina's eyes flutter slightly as fresh waves of pleasure wash through the depths of her being, soaking up every note and chord like an addict getting their fix. Her teeth clench as a sudden runs through her body but she quickly suppresses the sensations, taking what enjoyment she can from the muted aftershocks and the knowledge that she's got this bitch squarely under her thumb.
"Hmm? Don't tell me you haven't seen those miserable acolytes that the Sacred Order sent over to "help" working on the defensive trench for the past few hours?"
She turns and gestures towards a thick clump of teenagers, all of them dressed in sweat-soaked robes. Though they were probably white at some point, the garments are streaked with dirt and grime from gruelling manual labour. The noble woman's nose wrinkles up in disgust as if the very sight of their haggard faces offends her sensibilities. Perhaps she's allergic to getting her hands dirty.
"Like you, they have little in the way of useful skills and I'm tired of keeping watch over them constantly, as if I don't have better things to do than nurse-maid a bunch of children. Go and oversee them. And make sure they don't slack off! Every time I turn my back I see another one of the lazy louts lying about in the grass."
The shovel handle provides a convenient thing to squeeze in her grip, her previously alert ears now laying nearly flat against the top of her head as Renka studies the young woman standing in front of her.
How strong could she be?
The white haired she-devil had magic mastery at her fingertips - the little demonstration with the shovel made that clearly known. And it was well known that NOL officers were no joke when it came to the capacity to fight... Given her station in life, she would have had the best training humankind can muster at her disposal...
But ultimately, none of that mattered.
The real power here was one of rank. The once feral creature had long since learned the value humans place on such things. Shogun and emperors were capable of controlling entire provinces or nations because of their title. A thoroughly confusing way of maintaining order, but it's impossible for the outsider to ignore the success such ingrained cultural hierarchies have had on the proliferations of human power.
And now she's seeing it work in action herself. This control over her isn't about proven strength, respect, or even whatever magical capacity this domineering officer possesses, but title, station, position in the world. Scowling, her eyes finally peel away from Katarina, taking in the laboring acolytes slaving away at digging trenches once they're gestured toward. Of course she had noticed them before, and even questioned some briefly in her patrol, but now she considers them in a new light - as one about to join them in their back breaking labor.
Renka breathes in, eyes closing briefly. This is what she signed up for then. This is the price of being treated even vaguely like a member of their society, even if at the bottom rungs of its complex structure. She can't consider herself better than those she's about to work alongside, right? Her right hand pulls away from the shovel handle, fingers tense and curled as she lifts her arm, looking like she's on the verge of lashing out at the Duodecim Elite after all.
Her fingers flatten out, her hand lifting the rest of the way to her brow, "Sir!" she replies, before taking a step backward, then another, right hand snapping back to the shovel handle. The shovel is then hefted to her shoulder as if she was bearing a long rifle rather than ditch digging equipment. She isn't ready to give up just because she had the misfortune of encountering this woman.
She exhales an audible grunt of annoyance through her nose, then sucks in her breath, turning toward the hard working acolytes. If they can do this, so can she. Her ears, still focused forward, pivot up a little from their previously flattened state of submission, and then she marches forward over to where the moat is being painstakingly carved out of the land.
"All right!" she calls out as she draws near to the overworked SO-issued help. "The Lieutenant wants us to dig her a personal island so she can feel like she's back home. And from what I can see, none of us have struck water yet. And unless one of you is hiding a backhoe on you somewhere, it looks like we're going to have to keep doing this the hard way!"
She hops down into the long indentation, landing adjacent to one of the working young men, spearing her shovel into the ground and, with a grunt, tears a hefty chunk of earth out and flings it over her shoulder. The smell of dirt, sweat, and exertion fills the air around her. Familiar scents. By human standards, her days of running wild on four legs through the forests of Japan are ancient history. To her, the memories are fresh if scattered, like the fleeting flashes of recollection of one's youth.
"So let's get it done!"
She's capable of working tirelessly. Though her appearance seems strikingly similar to the people she hopes to assimilate among, the creature's physiology beneath the surface is wildly different. She don't thrive off a cycle of eating, burning calories, and sleeping, but rather is fueled by something else entirely. Considering the hard labor the people are being subjected to under Katarina's command, it will hardly be suspicious when one, then two of the young workers finally collapses, no longer physically capable of moving in the slightest....
The noble officer's eyebrow quirks upwards slightly as Renka's hand starts to raise up as if to strike. The corner of her delicate lips tick upwards slightly as the smirk takes on a predatory aspect, mailed fingers flexing behind her back in anticipation for the precise moment in which she will strike.
Alas, it never comes. The fingers flatten out and press against the dark stalker's brow in a salute. While somewhat disappointed, Katarina had fully expected the woman to submit in some fashion or another. Dark stalkers tended to be cowards, driven by beastial instincts that urged them to hide and strike from ambush like wild animals. Here in the open the creature was exposed and at a distinct disadvantage.
Maintaining her smug smile, Katarina returns the salute, effectively dismissing the soldier to tend to her duties. The fox's stiff antics in mimicry of actual soldiers brings forth a grin and she watches her newly appointed 'aide' march off to begin a day's worth of grubbing in the dirt. A fitting task for the uppity mongrel. Already more ideas are dancing through her mind, creative ways of humiliating the creature formulating into dastardly plans.
Armed with those pleasant thoughts, Katarina finally turns away and moves back over towards the towering old man who had been waiting patiently for her to conclude her business. She wipes the devilish smirk off her face, replacing it with the saint-like diplomatic smile she'd shown him before, and offers another quick bow in apology.
"Forgive the delay, mister Jonryuko. Military business. Now then, I don't believe we ever discussed the matter of your purpose here?"
"We did not," Kum Jonryoku says, gripping the strands of his moustache between his thumb and forefinger. He strokes it thoughtfully, his other hand tucked in folds of his robe. His eyes stay focused on the foxgirl as she joins the crowd of sweat-soaked acolytes.
"I suppose that we should now that you have tended to that -- hrm." The old man turns toward Katarina, "error in assign, was it? I suppose I should not pry, but we old men are meddlers at times."
"And we are also prone to wander. I came to see how the fortifications were progressing, and if the acolytes were working well." The giant of a man walks closer to the trench, looking out at them once more--his back to Katarina for a moment unless she follows him.
"That, and I have heard the tale that Duodecim's engineering corps is world-class when it comes to constructing fortifications."
Katarina says nothing for a time, allowing the old man to speak his purpose, though her brow does wrinkle slightly at the comment about old men being meddlers. On that point they firmly agree. She's had more than a few experiences with the interference of the elderly heads of the various noble houses and every last one of them seemed to have unanimously decided to do their utmost to make the lives of their successors as infuriating as possible. The only comfort she can take from that is the knowledge that the other scions such as herself must contend with the same.
The officer follows along beside Kum as he moves towards the acolytes, allowing him to see for himself the fruits of their labours. The ditch that will eventually serve as an outer layer of defense around the walls winds perhaps a third of the way around the edges of the perimeter, a V-shaped groove carved some five or six feet into the earth. The actual moat would need to be a fair bit deeper than that but the soft soil had turned to near solid rock at around that depth and she has no illusions that these scrawny weaklings are up to the task of mining their way another ten feet down by nightfall. That part would have to be done by magic.
"You have heard correctly," Katarina says, a hint of regal pride in her soft voice. "These are but the preliminary stages of construction, largely marking out the dimensions of our perimeter so that the proper fortifications can be erected more easily once preparations are completed. I expect we shall have respectable walls to protect our sleeping comrades by midnight but it will be atleast tomorrow morning before the full wards are in place and the electronic security measures can be installed. Security cameras, coded door locks, identification card readers, and the like."
The young woman smiles again, flicking a hand through her long silken hair, something she seems to do often when attempting to cast aside doubt or dismiss a concern as trivial. There is confidence in the gesture and in her voice, a certainy borne of experience and conviction.
"Within a week I could have a small castle built here, should it be asked of me. But this temporary fort will do for now."
Something catches her attention and Katarina turns to regard the lone uniformed soldier down in the trench, watching as Renka takes out her frustration upon the thick soil. However, it is not the fox-earred woman that draws her focus this time but rather the handful of acolytes around her that have fallen over on their faces and lie unmoving. She frowns at this, but does not immediately yell at them. Perhaps they have begun to reach their limit. Exhausted workers are basically no different than no workers and she's not particularly keen on dealing with the bitching that would come her way if some of these weak-willed children died of exposure in the heat.
Clearing her throat, a noise that carries to the ears of every acolyte on thin wisps of magical wind, Katarina holds a hand up to indicate that she wishes to speak. Grateful for the chance to rest, if even for a moment or two, they turn towards the officer to listen.
"While your progress has been noticably lacking by NOL standards," she starts, earning a few looks of dread, "you have done well enough for a bunch of untrained volunteers." Several sighs of relief fill the air. "You have one hour to eat and rest. Report to the Mess tent just over there and you will be fed. Just make sure you don't get in the way of any of the other personnel or cause any trouble. Remember - One. Hour. I expect you to be back to work promptly by then."
Her eyes narrow pointedly, sweeping across each of the acolytes in turn.
"Don't make me come find you. Now go."
The bedraggled youths start to climb their way out of the pit, some of them helping those too weak to even manage that on their own. Three of them, however, remain unmoved, those nearest to the dark stalker. Katarina grabs one of the first youths to shuffle past her by the robe, pulling the girl close to her.
"Go and find the medic and tell them to come and see to your comrades. I suspect dehydration or heat stroke to be the cause."
The acolyte nods and quickly moves in the direction that she is shoved, heading for the obvious symbol of a bright red cross on one of the nearby tents. Katarina returns her attention down to the trench, pointing a finger at Renka in an almost accusatory manner.
"You, however, seem rather well rested, private. And I can see from your progress already that you take as naturally to this task as I'd expected. I'm sure the acolytes will benefit from the example of your commendable work ethic."
Pausing along with the rest of the ditch digging crew, Renka turns to see near proximity of Katarina and the tall elder-looking individual next to her. She never did get around to matching his appearance to a name in the database of known personnel on site, leaving his identity and purpose in being here something of a mystery to her. A mystery far from her priority to explain at this point.
The rise and fall of her shoulders is indicative of one who has been hard at work on a physically demanding task.
But the fox-eared darkstalker certainly doesn't look exhausted in light of the sheer amount of turf she's dislodged and there's not even a hint of perspiration at her brow. She has done an excellent job at getting dirty, however, having made little effort to avoid getting earth on herself as she shoveled it over her shoulder, a state that seems to bother her not at all. As her ears perk straight up, bits of dislodged dirt fall down the sides of her head.
Standing alongside the other diggers, her expression is flat as she regards the Lieutenant neutrally at first. When the collapsed individuals are pointed out, she glances to the side, eyes blinking once, a deep breath taken then released through her mouth. She appears nonplussed about their unconscious state, attention shifting back to the NOL officer and her company after only a fleeting consideration.
They'll be fine, she knows. She had sustained herself this way for over a century in the past, taking that which she needs in volumes certain to not be harmful beyond the wave of exhaustion they'll suffer. The contact had been subtle, but brief. A hand extended to support them when they looked like they might stumble, a brush that lingered for a moment longer than necessary as she slipped around them to start on a new location... In the end, it's nothing much needed rest won't cure.
Of course, if she got her hands on the NOL officer, she might not be so circumspect in just how hungrily she pulled at the young woman's soul.
Addressed directly, she jabs the head of her shovel into the dirt, bracing it with her left hand, her right hand lifting to a snappy, professionally executed salute. The pale skin of her palm, though red, is free of any signs of blistering or tearing in spite the hard labor, flesh mending as quickly as it was damaged by friction as long as her reservoirs of energy remain filled.
"Sir," she states, "Thanks to the Lieutenant's clear instructions and strong leadership skills, I was able to figure out how to work this advanced human technology instead of clawing at the ground with my bare hands." She projects the declaration without anything less than absolute professional conviction - not even a hint of sarcasm in her tone.
"Hmmmm," Kum rumbles again as he looks out at the exhausted men. He glances at Renka out of the corner of her eye, and even manages a brief smirk--mostly hidden by his fabulous beard and moustache--before addressing the commanding officer.
"With your blessing, Lieutenant, I can tend to these men's spiritual needs," Kum strokes his beard. "But they will still need food, water, and that hour's reprieve."
Katarina's mask of haughty amusement crinkles at the edges, her eyebrow twitching slightly as she grinds her teeth to keep from spitting out some very undignified words at the impudent little she-fox. The high neck of her greatcoat and the broad bill of her hat manage to make her face difficult enough to see from most angles that the fake smile laced with poisonous fury she gives Renka is viewed only by the private in that brief moment before the noblewoman composes herself once more.
Still has the spirit to mouth off, she does? Good. It would be no fun if her new-found plaything gave up too easily. Still, she can't let the mongrel get away with that. It would set a bad precedent.
"Your quick grasp of the handling of simple tools is impressive, private. I half expected you to bury it. I'll have one of the acolytes fetch you a biscuit from the Mess hall. Good word requires proper rewards."
Turning away from Renka with a smirk, Katarina pivots on her heels and starts to walk towards the group of NOL engineers. All this talk of food has reminded her that it is about time she took some lunch herself. The company of the commoners in her squad wasn't particularly appealing but it would allow her to squeeze in a bit of administrative work while she nibbled on some rations and tea.
"As you wish," she says to the old man, waving her hand in the air in a dismissive gesture. "Consider yourself a guest in the camp, sir Jonryuko. Perhaps you can convince them to put a little bit more spirit into their work."
It requires jaw clenching to keep from drawing her lips back into a snarl again, making every effort to avoid overt signs of hostility, especially with a non-NOL visitor at the Lieutenant's side. The Private would hardly want to establish these interactions as the norm within the globe spanning organization. She had heard of great leaders to be found in the ranks, individuals who inspired those under them and took care of their people.
This young woman who seems to have regrettably taken interest in her does not seem to be one of them. Or maybe, she begrudgingly considers, it's simply because to her, the fox-eared demi-human simply isn't 'one of her people', just like the poor Sacred Order slobs that have been put to hand-blisteringly hard labor for the day until this brief reprieve was afford them.
Instead she remains just barely stoic in the face of the promised reward for her hard work, eyebrow twitching, emerald green eyes doing little conceal an inner fire of temper at being belittled by the haughty young woman. "I will do my best to keep my shovel unburied, sir." she replies after composing herself for a few seconds to keep from rattling off the first thing that came to mind.
Only when Katarina turns does she drop her salute, her right hand clenching the shovel handle, glaring at the officer's back before her focus flicks for one last time toward the powerfully built Jonryuko. Eyes on him, her fixation on how she's going to cope with her new commanding officer takes a back seat for a moment, head canting to the side.
What is it about him? Everything seems right... heat signatures matching what one would expect from a human of that size... movement, stiff at times, but no more than one could excuse in an older warrior who seems that he would have seem much battle in his time. The sound of fluid in his veins, the rustle of air through his lungs...
"Huh," she murmurs softly as she's left alone for now. For all evidence to the contrary, she can't shake the feeling that something is off about him. But she knows almost nothing now that her handy roster was taken from her.
A soft sigh escapes the darkstalker's lips, tails swishing behind her back as she turns to survey the trenches being dug. How long is this campaign going to last, again?
Kum quirks an eyebrow as Katarina makes the joke about her subordinate burying the shovel, but he remains stoic. Perhaps the old man can't hear terribly well, or perhaps he's no friend to darkstalkers either? His expression does not hint at which is true, his white eyes moving back and forth with the flow of conversation.
"Let us hope so," Kum says with a rumble. But then his attention shifts to Renka. He squints slightly, eyes narrowing as he seems to be appraising her.
"How long have you worked for the NOL, miss?" he asks, suddenly stepping past her toward the men. "You will pardon me if I work while we speak, I hope?"
Ears perk up as Jonryuko speaks up, the young looking woman's head turning to study the large man once again. "Private First Class Kaneko, sir," she replies, unable to hide the surprise in her voice that he's taken interest in her now. He isn't an officer as far as she knows, but it seems appropriate to call him sir all the same. Katarina did, after all, and she would know best, one has to regrettably assume.
She blinks twice, neck craned to let her study the bearded face of the visiting dignitary, her attention following him as he moves toward the unconscious acolytes. "N-no, not at all," she answers, glancing around to find that the area is largely cleared of people now that the acolytes were given a reprieve and the Lieutenant has taken her leave.
"About six months now," she answers his first question, leaning a little against the shovel she has stabbed into the ground in front of her, watching the imposing figure move in closer to do whatever work he believes he can do.
"Been in training and course work until a week ago," she explains, right hand lifting from her shovel to rest against the back of her head. She steps around to the side to be able to watch him work, "I'm sure- I hope they'll be okay," she states, some hint of concern in her voice. "Might've been worked a too much, you think?" Her hand drops, propped against her waist now.
"I wonder if the Sacred Order knows this is how their people are being used in this sector... I guess we're a little off the beaten trail here, but isn't there equipment that could do this job faster?"
"Hrm, not long for you to run afoul of some superiors," Kum says in a low rumble, having waited for Katarina to move on to other business. "But I suspect it is not difficult to run into trouble from that woman." Kum smirks at Renka, glancing at her out of the corner of her eye. "It is nonetheless unfortunate. Your lot is hard enough already, I would imagine."
Jonryuko moves onward toward the acolytes, lowering himself to one knee near them. He looks over them carefully, running his fingers long the ground in a mysterious gesture.
"It seems reasonable," Kum says, rising back up. "That is probably why the lieutenant feels emboldened to abuse her power over them. But enough of that, for now, these men are exhausted." Kum's chi seems to rise up, concentrating in his center.
"But there is nothing that cannot be solved with the power of tuning. As these men have spent their energy on the earth, so the earth can give energy back to them!"
And suddenly, the old man slams his palms together loudly. Purple strings of energy some to appear out of nowhere, shaping like those of an instrument. They flow toward the men, connecting to them, as Kum seems lost in meditation. A faint music begins to play, as if someone is strumming a zither.
"Well," Renka replies, her tone subdued as she response to the first comment almost absentmindedly, clearly more interested in watching whatever it is that the giant is about to do to help the beyond exhausted men. "Not everyone in NOL is like that..." She glances from looking at one of the comatose individuals up at him, meeting his eyes briefly in surprise as he contemplates the challenges the non-human likely faces in her attempts to belong. But the eye contact is broken quickly, face turning to the side.
"I'm grateful for what the Librarium affords someone like me. It's not often we're given an opportunity to belong anywhere at all."
He moves closer to drop to one knee and she moves along with him, stabbing her shovel into the ground to leave it behind. Hunching down next to the man who easily dwarfs her, she rests her hands against her cheeks, her elbows against her thighs near her bent knees as she balances on her feet, her two red-blond tails sweeping around from behind her on either side to rest against the ground.
She glances up at Kum as he begins to draw power toward himself, then looks back down at the unconscious patients. "Tuning?" she asks curiously. But she falls quiet in the aftermath of the thundering clap, eyes wide at the energy manifestation under his fluid, flawless control.
She watches the purple lines connect with the men in need if help and then looks back toward Kum, seeing him lost in meditation. As the subtle but unmistakable sounds of a string instrument drift along the quiet trench, Renka closes her eyes as well, remaining in her hunched posture.
There is a peace to the energy being manipulated by one who seems not to be moving in the slightest, a stark contrast to the aura of tread and suffocation she found in the company of her new commanding officer. The technique is certainly alien to the centuries old creature, able to reverse the exact thing she had done to them, providing energy rather than stealing it away, strengthening, bolstering souls weary from work and a supernatural siphoning.
Perhaps she should be worried that he will be able to tell exactly what put them in this state in the first place, but for now she shows no signs of being concerned, a contemplative look on her face as she waits.
Kum Jonryuko maintains his posture as the strings weave their way around the men. The music continues, and for a moment, it seems like it's joined by accompaniment, the men's own "instruments" joining the chorus as Kum tunes them back into shape. They will slowly grumble and get back into shape enough to get up, but the old man's attention has returned to Renka.
"Of course not," he says, "an organization like the NOL will attract all sorts. Those who seek to bring order and justice to the world, but also those who want power and wealth no matter the cost. His tuning finished, Kum slides his arm back into the folds of his robe.
"Tuning is the power of the Kum family. There is a song to everything, but like all instruments, we sometimes fall out of tune. A Tuner seeks to realign these energies, to retune people, animals, even places..."
"But it must be used wisely. I merely bring things into harmony once more. But speaking of," Kum looks toward Renka. "Your own song is a sad one, especially for someone with such a strong soul."
Renka seems content to enjoy her front row seat to a demonstration of what the monk-like figure calls tuning. With Katarina no longer looming over her shoulder, and patrol work no longer, apparently, her problem, she can get away with relaxing for a moment and letting things play out between the curious visitor and his patients. Little by little, the miracle of his work becomes evident, plain as day, as one by one, the three wake up - sore as hell, no doubt, but that isn't Renka's fault. Their souls are once again in tune with themselves, and whatever morsel of strength she robbed them has been more than restored.
When he speaks to her again, her eyes are on him, still hunched next to him, cheeks in palms. He comments on the diverse range of personalities drawn to the large para-military organization and the young looking solider nods her head slowly.
"Mn," she allows, hesitantly, "I suppose any organization large enough will have all types. I just want to do right by my fellow soldiers and by the people we're dispatched to protect." She inhales then exhales slowly, "If it means having to pay my dues long enough to get the opportunity to do so..." she murmurs, likely thinking of her jarring reassignment, "Then I can endure it."
She's quiet as he speaks of the Kum family's curious talent - a gift for not just being aware of the rhythm that binds all things, but also being able to manipulate it and, more importantly, mend it when the song has become discordant. She looks thoughtful at that. A family line of people with a remarkable gift... and rather than lord over others with power, they're using it to help others?
His focus falls to her and she glances up into his eyes, blinking as the mystical artist comments on another observation made, concerning her own song. Renka's mouth opens and she looks away, ears dropping forward, her hands falling from her cheeks so that she can wrap her arms around her knees instead.
Just what can he hear with that gift of his? The rhythm of longing, the sense of aimless drifting, the hope to belong... But there is power as well, and potential, as if her current beat was but a single note while the full chords have yet to be played and experienced.
"I-" she continues to keep her head turned to the side. "I don't know, I... imagine everyone has their own sad story to tell. Mine's no worse than many others. Only longer," she states, glancing back toward Kum Jonryuko with a lopsided grin.
"A good attitude to take," Kum says with a wry smile. "And perhaps the only clear path at times," he steps forward, offering a hand to one of the rising acolytes to help him to his feet. "But be careful to not let endurance become comfort. One can be lead into a great many terrible things while waiting for the chance to do good."
Kum gives the acolyte a heavy pat on the shoulder and sends him off to to help the others. "Perhaps so," the old man says, stroking his beard again. "But does not every instrument lend itself to the orchestra? Do not sell yourself short."
"Mn," Renka considers at Jonryuko's perspective on her patient suffering. She rises up to her own feet then, still easiy dwarfed by his height. Don't lose herself to her suffering blindly, she considers, his advice settling into her thoughts. She needs to keep her goals in mind, to make sure that what she's going through is getting her closer to them somehow or, rather than simply endure pointlessly, she needs to do something to change her course, perhaps?
Something to consider in light of her current circumstances. He continues, working his way around her deflection of details, the darkstalker still seeming like she's trying to get used to the idea of a human curious about her own lot in life. "Mn," she says again, lost in thought for a moment, eyes half closing. "You're pretty wise." A sparkle comes to her eyes as they open completely again, her lips curling up on one side, her grin growing a bit broader in spite herself.
"For a human."
She rests her right hand at her hip, her two tails swaying behind her as she cants her head to the side slightly, still looking at Kum as she tries to suss out just what it is that is off about the man. He certainly seems sincere. And every detail is there to suggest that he's just like any other human she's met, albeit larger than almost all of them... She finds herself wondering what such a wise man's soul must taste like, how different it might be from the immature samples she normally gets to sustain herself by, and then it clicks.
That's what's off about him... his soul? Her grin fades a little, her mind reeling as she tries to reconcile what her unique 'sense of taste' is telling her as opposed to what every other sense is verifying. They don't seem to agree at all. Clearly, he has a soul, but...
She shakes her head, blinking her eyes. No, it's none of her business. She shouldn't pry. She wouldn't want someone digging to keep at her own secrets, would she? "So, ah, what brings you to Illyria?" she finally asks, as if eager to shift subjects abruptly. "You don't seem like the soldier of fortune type." He's obviously not NOL. Was he Sacred Order? She only caught morsels of the exchange with Katarina, leaving her unsure.
"Is this campaign something your family is interested in?"
The old man seems to grunt. "I am glad you think so, though this tells me you are likely a bit older and wiser than your appearance portrays, then...or you have known those much older and wiser than even a long-lived human." Kum strokes his beard again.
"I was drawn to the tune of the place," Kum says thoughtfully. "The tuning of the place is strange, and I came to investigate. I believe it my responsibility to help those in need. Such is the burden of this power. It is the Kum family's legacy, and I act on their behalf."
As the large man ruminates on just how long lived his current conversation partner is, Renka's smile fades just a little, eyes losing a bit of their focus as if her thoughts are briefly drawn elsewhere by the observation. "Longer than many, not as long as some," she answers back ambiguously, continuing to be elusive with the details though not the general idea surrounding them.
She lifts her hand to brush through her hair, her right ear bent backward briefly before it springs forward back into place once her arm passes. "Sorry," she then continues, "For being cagey," she clarifies a heartbeat later. "I'm not used to having conversations like this. In the past, human interaction tended to skew toward the confrontational or..." her voice trails off, eyes glancing to the side as she tries to find the right word. How did one explain being an object of worship by earlier societies? "Ah, reverence." She shrugs slightly, shaking her head, "You're not just some kind of monster hunter trying to find out everything you can about me, are you?" she asks Kum Jonryoko, one eye narrowed, expression borderline accusatory. For only a moment before her grin returns.
Her hand returns to her hip then, processing his own reason for being in the region - his awareness of a strange, new tune, his family's legacy to help. "Hm." Renka replies, taking it in for a moment, her expression becoming somber as she turns to look out into the distance past the fortifications in progress. "Well... I suspect there will be a lot of people needing help soon. I'm glad you've come then."
"Mmm. Unfortunate." Kum says. "Though I hope it was the result of ignorance, and not merited ire. Not that you seem the type." he says this with another wry smile.
"But no. Hardly a monster hunter. I simply act as an emissary of the Kum household, using my skills in tuning to heal the sick and mend the land. Sometimes threats must be faced with tuning's power, but only as a last resort."
The old man gives Renka a firm nod. "It seems I will have much to do. Do not hesitate to call if you are in need of my help." And with that, he moves toward the camp. "It was a pleasure to meet you, miss--?"
As Kum Jonryoko mentions his hope that whatever ire might have come her way wasn't instigated by the darkstalker's own actions, the fox-eared young looking woman leans her head to the right and then to the left, hands lifting from her sides into a bit of a shrug, "I think there was definitely some misunderstandings involved." After all, people get so touchy about the whole soul energy stealing thing. She's tried to explain that it's MOSTLY harmless before!
The towering figure explains that he isn't secretly a monster hunter which earns him a grin. "Yeah, you didn't seem the type either," she replies, borrowing a bit of his own phrasing. "Well, the Kum family is lucky to have someone like you to represent them then."
He mentions that he does have the ability to use that power of Tuning for what sounds like combative purposes and the girl looks thoughtful for a moment. "I would like to see that sometime - not... not because of the circumstances, but... I have never seen anything quite like what you did earlier." How often is she surprised by the powers humans can bring to bear? To think they still have even more surprises.
She nods as he expresses that he too has so much to do in his work here, her right hand lifting to give him a friendly wave, "Private First Class Renka Kaneko," she replies. "Or, maybe it's Secretary Kaneko now. Who knows." She offers a half shrug, still faintly grinning. "And thank you, for helping those workers out. You may call on me for help as well, should the need arise."
Her hand lowers, arm reaching out to grab the handle of the shovel as the bearded man takes his leave. Well, this trench isn't going to dig itself, and while the acolytes still have some reprieve, she has nothing else to do but continue to make headway in the meantime.
Besides, she won't deny an excuse to play in the dirt isn't without /some/ merit!
Log created on 18:38:10 03/23/2018 by Katarina, and last modified on 18:29:24 03/26/2018.