Description: Noel Vermillion gets a surprise request from Colonel Relius Clover, to meet him alone for a very important meeting. It sems thatRelius has a need for an experiment, and a want from Noel to carry it out. The subject? THe King of Fighters
Between early afternoon and evening, there's an exodus of people at any place of business. So it is within NOL Southtown, though here, the nature is rather different. Enlisted finally ditching paper-pushing jobs for "PT" (though why PT would require a volleyball net, speculation abounds), young officers headed for chow call, and virtually last out the door, Noel Vermillion. She's peering quizzically at a sheet of printed orders, scratching the back of her pretty little blonde head underneath her beret, and squinting up the stairs leading to the more luxurious offices overhead. Why would she get an order to report to the corner office -now-, of all times? Dinner won't cook itself!
But her orders were specific and 'earliest possible convenience' definitely does NOT mean 'after dinner'. So she fights a losing battle trying to struggle up the stairs while a flood of young lieutenants streamed down. Adjusting her askew beret, she strides down the corridor to one of the most well-appointed office doors in the building. She hesitates, suddenly nervous, then diffidently knocks.
There was a sort of structure that Relius Clover opted to follow.
Upon the knocking, the door opens immediately. Noel is greeted by the flourish of purple, white and gold, the Colonel's uniform having a sort of theatrical flourish. His white mask spread over the upper portion of his face. The eyes of the mask burn, as the softest, most subtle smile spreads across his face. "Lieutenant Vermillion." He says with an almost caressing air, staring directly at her. Not in her eyes, but somewhere... deeper. "So you were neither early, nor late, but nearly on time... how fascinating." He almost chortles as he draws away, clearing the opening. He sweeps his arm aside to a... very plain office. There was empty bookshelves. A desk, that only has a single picture on it. Nothing on the walls. No folders, no files, no computer. Of course, there was an operating table on the side. And a single chair in the front of the desk. There was no chair on the other side, for Relius to sit. Relius extends a gloved hand into the room, beckoning Noel to enter. "If you would, please..."
"Have a seat, won't you?"
Well, Noel was already a little apprehensive, given the odd timing and exalted location, but this...this was on another level. Noel blinks like a startled bunny, frozen like she's caught in headlights, until until a murmur of unrelated conversation down the hall reminds her that, hey, she should be doing something here.
She finally snaps to attention and salutes, a gesture somewhat marred by her slightly mussed hair and less than soldierly apprehension. "Er...Noel Vermillion, r-reporting as ordered!"
Her voice is almost firm enough, but it cracks a bit in the middle as she takes in the room's rather...unusual decor. As Relius gestures for Noel to come inside, she hesitates for a long moment, but what else can she do? She steps inside, looking with a mixture of awe, curiosity, and sheer nervousness at Colonel Relius Clover. Should she have told someone where she was going? Who would have been around to listen to her?
What she sees in his eyes...is bizarre. Puzzling. Oh, there's the usual, shall we say, frank assessment that every man gives her. She barely notices that kind of thing when she's at her best, which is not now. There's covetousness, and sheer -interest-, though, that she's done nothing to earn in her life. Where was the looks she usually got from being a klutz, or a terrible cook, or a mediocre lieutenant? The intensity of Colonel Clover's gaze makes Noel wilt a bit as she shuffles around the one chair in the room, looking at the rather creepy decor and grasping at straws for something to say.
S-sir, I shouldn't take your chair, should I?" She intended to not sit, really she did, but she decided just a bit too late and almost collapses into it. There she sits, on the very edge, hands on knees and knees pressed together.
"Oh no, Lieutenant."
Relius responds curtly. He closes the door behind her, you could barely here the click. A lock? Or merely the door coming shut? That radiant lukewarm presence pours from him, waxy as his skin. Some would say that he was ruthlessly cold, but how could that be when he kept holding that soft smile. He approaches behind her, twirling his fingers.
"That chair is for you."
Very carefully, almost as if it was a ballet, Relius walks around the chair. Despite the room's emptiness, or maybe because of it, everything was clean. Totally spotless, not even a speck of dust. "Please, make yourself comfortable. I am perfectly fine as I am, Lieutenant. I am pleased that you did not make me stand too long! I would have been very cross if you had been late." But he didn't even give a time.
How long was he in this room?
"But no, no," He continues, circling the room as he continues to twirl his fingers. "You arrived, and that is what is important." He moves over by the operating table, casting a single gloved finger across the smooth, plush surface. "You must be very curious what I wanted you here for. Alas, I couldn't spare too many details." He doesn't turn around, only focusing on the table. "I didn't want anybody else to be more jealous of you for such a unique offer." A fine place to make an offer; with his attention on the table, and nothing else in the room but the desk, the bookshelf, the chair, and that picture. At least up close, it's clear what the picture is, at least. Relius Clover himself, holding what is clearly his son, Carl. It seems that two woman, a younger one and an older one, are barely in the picture as well, well cropped to focus on the two men. "I'm surprised you haven't asked me yet what it is." Relius suddenly states, turning around.
"Am I to assume you aren't even interested?"
To be sure, Noel has no chance of hearing a lock slide closed at this point. Not over the hammering in her heart. She swallows uselessly, unsure how to react to any of this. He's not even touched her. He hasn't DONE anything! He's been the soul of politeness. And yet, there's this insistent tugging at her hindbrain, like the deepest animal instinct, telling her he's a predator and she, his prey. Not even ordinary prey, either. He wanted -her- here. Not any person, not even any woman. Maybe not even anyone who looked kind of like her. Her alone. The thoughts swirl in her mind, questions without answers...at least, answers she knows. She's nothing special. High compatibility with magic, fine. Maybe he wants Bolverk. But surely he knows that Bolverk itself wouldn't allow that; the NOL tried to commandeer it before.
Noel can't help but look genuinely confused when Relius is happy she's on time, for indeed, the orders only said as soon as possible, and a Colonel surely wouldn't have that good a grasp on a fresh lieutenant's daily schedule.
Would he? How much does he know about her?
Noel's frozen in that seat like a tense little statue, barely turning her head far enough to see what Relius is doing to that operating table. She's well aware he expects an answer, but the lump in her throat is in the way of her giving a reply.
Finally, she swallows again, hard, and her voice quavers as she utters a reply. "I...but..." Paradoxically, her voice straightens out, just a bit, at Relius' question. "...But sir, I...well, I guess I don't know. I mean, um...not yet. I don't know what you want from me..." She shrinks down in her chair a bit, hoping she didn't push the apex predator too far.
If anything, it's often more merciful when you are prey for Relius than the alternative.
"Oh, is it not obvious what I want you for?" Relius states idly, sounding somewhat frustrated at Noel's answer. "I would assume it would be obvious, from this room. There is only the things you need to pay attention to." Relius's smile was gone; in it's place was a rather loose grimace. "I'm actually quite disappointed that you haven't figured it out already. Heaven knows that I could count at least ten other officers of your standing that would have figured it out by now." Relius strides to Noel, moving far quicker than before. And then, hestitates. Slows down. That soft smirk spreads across the corners of his lips. His fingertips dance, as he looks over the shape of Noel.
"But perhaps I am being unfair."
Relius strides behind Noel, and stops. "Certainly I must have forgotten to tell you something. Perhaps... if I give you a hint, it would all become so much... ~clear~ what I need you for. This is not a game." He states firmly, with the utmost seriousness. "But a test of your intellect. After all, a mind is the most powerful part of a person's body. Well, outside of their soul of course." Relius gives a chuckle at his little joke. "Tell me, Noel." He says firmly, gripping the back of Noel's chair with both gloved hands. He leans over her, slightly, not too close, never too close physically.
"Are you familiar with Lightning Spangles?"
Noel comes very close to jumping out of her chair when Relius' tone changes so abruptly. Oh, god, what did she do now? How did she screw up? She looks as confused as she does upset, trying to fathom just what in the hell she's supposed to know...but...this room was supposed to be a hint? He's disappointed...that this room hasn't told her what she needs to know?
Noel couldn't name it if she had a century to think on it, but a chill crept down her spine at the thought. Perhaps Colonel Clover's cold reputation wasn't all that far off.
Still...he...was giving her a chance. Maybe. Noel's brow furrows deeply as Colonel Clover stalks behind her, and half turns around, frowning as she tries to put his actions out of her mind and focus on what he was saying.
"Lightning...Spangles?" Her voice is timid, of course, but her head tilts as she actually considers the question. "I...well...hrm." She scratches the back of her head, almost knocking her hat off. "Not NOL. But...I know I heard...hrm." She picks at the hem of her skirt absently as she works it out in her mind. "I know I heard it before. But I thought it had nothing to do with me, so I didn't..." She frowns deeply and half turns to try to look at Relius again. "There was a brief on this, wasn't there? Some kind of...I don't know. Martial arts thing." She blurts out what she's thinking. "But what does that have to do with me?"
Relius waits for her to ask the question.
Relius holds up the picture on the desk. Except, he never walked around to get it. He just has it in his hand, as the dim sound of whirring is heard. How did it come here. Holding it up closely, for Noel to see it, he speaks so softly. "It begins not with you. But my son... my precious son..." Relius squints at the picture. And then, he vocalizes, as if he is reading very small print. "Relius? Oh no, I am Relius. My precious son -Carl!-" He snaps his fingers. "Carl is my darling, wonderful son, as sharp as a tack, a genius! But he is currently abusing himself. And as you can assume, I adore all my creations like children, and no creation do I care for more than my darling boy. And what has corrupted him away from his doting, loving father?"
Relius drops a folder into Noel's lap with his other hand. How did he get it. Everything was happening with sleight of hand, in flashes of movement and creaking sounds, like machines whipping just out of sight. "She is a relatively low priority target, but no less wicked. On top of known Shadaloo affiliations, she consorts with demons!" Relius pulls away from the chair, holding the picture up as he talks, as if he was talking to Carl himself. "She is dedicated to corrupting the youth. I even have strong reason to believe that she could have done terrible things to my son, in the guise of a fighting event! She is a vile, filthy creature, that wears the skin of an aging middle aged woman."
"And now she is hosting a tournament."
Papers spread on the desk, as the room seems to fill with more and more paper. Relius opens a file cabinet- where did that come from-, and draws out more papers. He then shuts it. There is no file cabinet in the room now. And yet, he places it on Noel's lap, more and more weight brought by the countless papers. "There is something clearly nefarious going on; every King of Fighters before this has been highly suspicious. ANd with the last one unleashing the most fascinating weapons of magical destruction since, well, since nothing you know." Relius's face becomes even more harsh. "It's our suspicioun that something sinister is behind this tournament. Something sinister that we must uncover the truth on!" He strides to the empty bookshelf.
"And that comes back to you, Lieutenant."
You will join me in this tournament, and we will win, and we will investigate." He inspects the empty shelf? No, it wasn't empty. Another folder? No, the bookshelf is filled with folders now. Filled? Filling? Relius draws out a three-ringed binder from the shelf, and another, and another. Three of them, each in one hand- but how could that be? "If we sent our best fighters, why, it would frighten the dickens out of the poor fighters. Everyone suspects that the NOL will investigate. You, however, have a track record of defective behavior that far exceeds your peers. Your superiors have well documented every mistake and flaw you have." He places another binder on her lap. "Your peers, your superiors, even those who take your orders. So unassuming and broken, and beneath suspicion. I can't help but feel compelled to study it. And perhaps, you want to be studied as well." Relius narrows his eyes, as he stares deeper into Noel. "After all, how can you get any better if we don't dissect every single mistake you make with the whole world to see?" A crook of a smile breaks his stern gaze.
"Don't you believe that it is right?"
There's been a look of nervousness and apprehension, even a touch of horror, in Noel's expression since she's come into this room. But always, there's been that bit of confusion as well, as Relius was explaining...well, none of what was going on in the creepiest way imaginable. Now, though, he's finally getting to the crux of the matter, and as he talks about his son Carl, Noel's green eyes light up in at least partial understanding. Her face gets even more pale than usual as she frowns a bit, looking away in thought.
When Relius switches to Lightning Spangles, though, Noel actually looks slightly relieved. Here's someone she doesn't mind hearing about, clearly, and while she doesn't have time to read much of anything Relius dumps in her lap, she does at least catch the D rank and the first name, Jezebel.
More of Noel's attention, though, is caught at the bizarre nature of the office. Or is that just Relius? What is this man capable of? What is going -on-? She looks around rapidly, very nearly spilling a foot and a half of binders and papers on the floor as she tries to keep track of the action.
"I...well, I've heard of these tournaments," Noel haltingly replies, when Relius mentions how nefarious they are. "I wasn't there for the last one but even I remember there's always -something- going on with them. I think Tsu...er, Lieutenant Yayoi told me once the fighting was...er, I forget what she said. But it was on the side. Not the most important thing. I'm not sure why anyone would enter at this point." She blinks. "But...I guess I just heard why."
Noel wilts like a dandelion in an oven as Relius lays into all of her faults. She looks about as pitiful as possible, way past Puppy Dog Eyes and into Sad Newborn Kitten territory. "I...but..." Her eyes are pretty well glistening at this point, though the waterworks haven't quite started yet. "But...sir. I don't understand. If everyone knows the NOL will be there, and I'm in uniform, and you're with me...and some people might know who you are. Would they really think I'm...so...weak?" Her voice grows smaller and smaller, almost a squeak, as Relius' eyes bore into hers. Talking about studying her. "Uh...I don't know about studying me...but. Um...maybe I -should- practice against better opponents." She looks very sheepish all of a sudden, like she just said something foolish.
If anything, Relius's reaction would give her that feeling.
As she looks so pitiful, it seems to stick something within Relius. The smirk fades, as he stares deeper and deeper into Noel. A frown spreads slowly, as she continues on, as if every answer she gives is not only the wrong one, but the worst one. Eventually, he doesn't seem to be able to even look at her anymore, tearing his gaze away before it becomes too deep. With a twist of his fingers, the picture of Carl is gone. He strides away with light steps.
Relius comes to the table.
He strokes it gently, as Noel continues to speak. Even from this angle, it's clear he's shaking his head, like Noel is using every wrong answer she could come with. Tracing the back of his fingers upon the hospital gurney, he seems ready, as if he was thinking something. Planning it out, acting out in pantomime what he would need to do oh so soon, away from the prying eyes of the others.
But then she says she should practice.
The smirk returns. Relius spins around, his cape swishing as he does so. And he comes towards Noel, gloves hands open. "Yes, of course Lieutenant. You -should- practice against better opponents. What a good idea. That settles it. We will form our team. WIth you as the captain of the team, of course. I will let you pick the name. My assistant, Litchi Faye Ling, will serve as our third. That means we won't need this anymore."
Relius gestures where there was now no surgical table.
It was all gone now, with a swish of the cape. "You see, this will be about you then. You will practice against stronger opponents. Don't worry about them being too strong though." Relius finally very, very gently grazes the edge of Noel's hair with the back of his glove. "I will take good care of you, of course. As if you were my own daughter!" Relius gives a pause, staring off at the empty bookshelf.
And he suddenly begins to chuckle mirthlessly.
It's clear in Noel's eyes that she's starting to look more and more worried, watching Relius' behavior. Particularly when he comes to that out of place, unnecessary, and frankly terrifying operating table. Like he couldn't have pulled it from a wall or something, the way he did his filing cabinets! Noel clearly doesn't put two and two together yet, but even she can't help but know something is very, very wrong.
Then again, that was Relius' reputation, wasn't it? Cold, calculating, and just...someone to avoid?
There's a part of Noel that's pure innocence, the kind that not only can't, but doesn't -want- to think about the evils of the world. A piece of her soul missing, maybe. Some girls might have -opened fire- by now, seeing the kind of charade Relius was indulging in here. Noel meekly accepts Relius' judgment, though, watching him shake his head more and more with every word she speaks, until she talks about practice and he flips like a lightswitch. She almost squeaks, startled, as he comes right back to her with an actual word of praise. What on earth?
She almost misses the whole 'captain' thing. Almost. She blinks once, peering at him curiously, shrugging off the name of his assistant--she clearly doesn't recognize the name Litchi--and gives him an odd look as the table vanishes. What...was he going to do with that if she refused? She wasn't going to refuse a direct order, after all.
Wait. Was she?
Noel refocuses on what Relius is saying as his hand brushes too close, and she flinches away from him, trying to pull her hair away from his hand.
Something changes, though, the moment Relius starts talking about her as his daughter. There's an unfamiliar, barely present change in Noel's demeanor. The barest hint of resentment. Maybe even the slightest touch of steel. Her voice is almost inaudible, the tiniest whisper.
"My father...is Edgar Vermillion."
Relius pretends not to here the muttering of Noel. Oh, the countless sensors, the piercing gaze, and even his mere ears could pick up how the meek young lady was finally resisting Relius. If he was a simple sadist like some of his companions, he might lash out at the insult, or twist the knife to draw even more hatred out. But Relius was a professional.
About how wrong she was.
"How delightful. I cannot wait to see just how much you improve. Why, I think if you prove yourself enough, you might even catch Captain Kisaragi's eye! And to say the least in proving your rank. Delightful, really delightful. Well then." Relius pulls away from Noel, and strides to the doorway. "I am satisfied, Lieutenant." He sighs blandly as the door swings open. No more papers short of the Jezebel files. No folders. No picture. No desk. No bookshelf. Only a chair, and Noel. Even Relius has strides off, leaving as if he had more important things to wander into, with his voice trailing back into the blank room.
"You are dismissed~"
Log created on 17:52:28 05/29/2019 by Relius, and last modified on 23:15:32 05/30/2019.