Description: "What is more valuable in a soldier? Blind obedience to the regulations? Or the ability to improvise and interpret them to suit the situation? I would put the question to dear General Horicho... but I'm afraid he has lost his tongue."
Kagura's made a terrible mistake. Hibiki went out to locate Ragna the Bloodedge, and things went south. Oh, at first he managed well enough. A moderate amount of girls, an excess of alcohol. His meeting with Potemkin went quite well despite some unpleasant first impressions, with the filed report indicating a high likelihood the technologically adept nation of Zepp will accept an NOL branch and full affiliation. Then things started to get worse. Paperwork mounted. Knocking on the door was only met with groggy demands to go away. And right now, Kagura's got his head on his oversized desk, a number of empty bottles surrounding him.
The world is swimming. Ah. Where's Hibiki...? He should have been back by now. His attempt to cram as much poor decision making as possible in what he anticipated to be a brief spam of time has horribly backfired when it stretched to a day and a half. He should do something productive. He's not an utter fool who thinks he can run a branch this size through countless partying. Things just somehow work out, with a dream and a prayer, a healthy dose of optimism, and incredible subordinates who know when to step in and keep the gears running.
He starts going through some orders, and finds an announcement from the Imperator. The Imperator... he doesn't know much about them. He's always had this strange, disorienting sense about the Novus Orbis Librarium's ruler. Near deja vue. It's as if he has two dots, but can't quite make the connection. He remembers secretly training with Tenjo... he remembers the civil war... but it all feels surreal at times like this. Wrong. Like he's constantly forgetting something on the very brink of recollection.
That sets him to doing something new. He begins looking into the Imperator. She's incredibly difficult to find papertrails of, but given his high station and access to Central Headquarters, if anyone's capable of managing such, it's him. As the head of the Mutsuki family, chief of the Duodecim, Kagura's one of the most useful people in terms of political legitimacy from his affiliation with noble houses and strong bloodlines, and he bears that power now.
Yes. The Imperator is a woman.
Damnit. So why can't he find any other info? Where's she from? Is she from the Twelve Originators? What's her full name? Aggravating. More alcohol is imbibed, before in a sea of dizziness he puts out a communication to Central Headquarters. His tone is iron-clad, resolution strong, the powerful charisma of a leader evident as he makes his demand.
"This is Kagura Mutsuki. Connect me to the Imperator."
Of course, there's a token resistance. But with the situation in Japan, Kagura's position as Colonel and Chief, Head of the Praetorian Guard, and his irrevocable demand, the call would finally ring towards the girl.
Of course, the moment she answers, she'd see a very drunk human in a dim office, one hand still on a bottle. "Heeeeeey. You're the Imperator, right? I'm Kagura Mutsuki... but you can call me Kagura."
...Did he just drunk-dial the head of the entire NOL?
The Imperator Librarius, as her full title is known. Of course, there were leaders before her in the decades long history of the NOL, but back then, they went by the title of Supreme Leader. It isn't even entirely clear when the new rank of Imperator came to exist and the old leader vanished from the hierarchy of NOL. Truth be told, the organization has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade, so it's not surprising some files got lost, records misplaced, or information lost in the shuffle. What was once a clandestine organization has started coming into the light and thus far, the reception among the world governments has been good.
But while the world leaders have seen the mysterious woman and spoken with her in meetings and in private, she has never granted a public interview nor, as far as anyone knows, even appeared in the open. It is as if, for all intents and purposes, she lives within the walls of the NOL Central Command and never takes leave of her work except to travel in secrecy to visit the rare dignitary that isn't brought to her instead. Even Kagura's resourceful searches would turn up nothing on the background of his organization's enigmatic leader. Perhaps going to the source really is the only option available, insane as one would have to be in order to attempt it.
The dispatch he reaches when he reaches out certainly receives nervous pushback. Is he POSITIVE that's what he meant to ask? Is he SURE he doesn't want to leave a message with one of the generals? Is he ABSOLUTELY ON HIS LIFE CERTAIN whatever he is calling about is pressing enough to go all the way to the very top, past three ranks of commanding Generals boards, and the all important trio of Admirals, the second highest authority in the NOL?
Perhaps wondering if they are kissing their career goodbye either way - defying the very famous Colonel Mutsuki, or acquiescing and pushing a call up to the top that they absolutely should not have... they finally comply.
"F-fine. Hold please, Colonel." the nervous board operator requests.
It is a ten minute wait from there before a voice returns to the line, "Putting you through, sir. Please... don't hold whatever happens against me, sir. I'm. I'm very sorry!" *click*
The video feed flicks to active, Kagura's connection finally put through. Staring back at him from the other side, in glorious HD, is The Imperator Librarius herself.
Her age is difficult to pin point, but without a doubt she looks younger than one would expect to be leading the powerful Novus Orbis Librarium. Behind her is a blue chamber of indeterminate size and since there isn't really anything else to compare her against in the foreground, figuring out her height is not going to be easy. Her figure is also a mystery, as the woman stands layered in clearly more than one layer of thick, full body robes, with black outer robe worn on top, a purple headdress covering her front and shoulders before wrapping around her head. A golden crown rests over her forehead, wrapping around with long dangling spikes out of the four corners, a curiously designed circlet.
She stands with her face lowered slightly, eyes raised just enough to gaze toward the camera with a neutral expression. Her irises are an unnatural shade of deep red. Not... unheard of in this strange, modern world, but certainly not a common sight either. Her hair is an interesting shade of violet, darker than the headdress she wears, and at a glance, long and flowing down her back from a top-knot styled ponytail.
"Colonel Mutsuki," she murmurs, her voice soft, ignoring the request that he address him by his given name. "Am I to understand you have information to convey that is vital to the health of the entire NOL?" What exactly did the board operator say to get this call through for him??
Eyes narrow slightly. On her end, the Colonel's image is being broadcast on a wall-sized monitor that she stands imperiously before. Also in HD. Every pixel accounted for, all the way down to the lettering on the bottle's label that his hand rests incriminatingly upon.
"Is that alcohol, Colonel? Do you care to explain yourself?"
Oh, Kagura is very sure. And there's likely little proper procedure on what to do when a man of authority demands this sort of craziness. That probably put the hapless operator on the side of not angering the Black Knight. He's well respected, and his men do a good job of keeping some rumors out of NOL's ready circulation. He did excellent diplomatic and support work in Ikaruga, and although Jin Kisaragi's blade ended the civil war, it would not have been possible without his support network and preparation.
Also, ten minutes is a long time. He's gotten through a fair amount more tequila by the time that he's connected. "Huh?" Mild confusion. Who'd he call, again? Ah, right, he's trying to figure out a bit more on the Imperator. That's not what they called the position when he was young, that's for sure.
"Huh? Vital information...? I never claimed that. I demanded to talk to you." Kagura's nose wrinkles up a little, as if offended that someone might have buttered her up with such vile lies. When she asks about the bottle, the Colonel turns it towards himself and squints. Yes, he seems to be drunk. Izanami likely knows about such things from a technical perspective, but this might be the first case she's seen it firsthand.
"Yes, Lord Imperator, it's tequila. GOOD tequila." he agrees, readily. "Not fitting someone like you. That's why I've always got good wine..." This still isn't remotely answering why on earth he's calling her. Relius and Hazama likely go through incredible pains to prevent anything unexpected or unwanted to bother her. But given the importance of Asia, she'd be hard pressed not to know him. He's supposed to be incredibly respected, capable, powerful, a good leader, a long laundry list of commendations, titles, and more...
So this might be a tad surprising.
"I was just calling to say hi. I've been a dutiful servant for my whole life, and I've never seen the Imperator's beautiful face. Besides, I'm off the clock..." His camera shows him peering at something off-screen. "...in five minutes."
When he says he demanded to talk to her and that is all the justification there is for the call, The Imperator frowns just slightly, though the expression doesn't seem to carry all the way to her eyes - she seems a little too interested in seeing how the man explains such inappropriate behavior to be truly annoyed. Someone having the gall to be connected directly to her... and then not seem to have an Earth-changing reason for doing so is certainly unprecedented. Is that... curiosity she feels blooming?
"Just Imperator will suffice," she corrects when he calls her Lord Imperator. Get the title right! She does indeed know of the man on the other end. His track record of successes is extensive, and wherever he is deployed, the NOL seems to flourish... Though the expenses for those regions tend to skyrocket around the same time he takes command. But such petty details get ironed out in the invoices sent to the governments pleading for NOL support.
The violet-haired woman never blinks a single time the entire time she stares at the monitor, the recording technology actually part of the screen itself, making it seem as if she is looking at the man directly rather than toward something just slightly off-camera. In fact, she stands rather still all around, no sign of fidgeting, or appearing restless. Maybe she is royalty? Surely they must train to endure long periods of tedium in whatever passes for the schools for nobility.
"Colonel-" she begins to retort when he mentions his life long service to the cause, but then cuts herself off as he calls her beautiful, her expression shifting ever so slightly, as she looks like she is slightly amused but also trying to appear upset at the same time.
"Colonel Mutsuki," she finally speaks up, "No one is questioning your impressive record." Unseen to him would be a feed on the side of her massive monitor, spooling non-stop about all the commendations, medals, accolades... even his NOL Academy GPA and performance in specific subjects is listed. But The Imperator doesn't ever seem to glance to the side to skim the rapidly scrolling data, her unblinking eyes ever focused at looking right into the camera in a way that might be unsettling to some.
"But perhaps you could demonstrate your acumen by reciting the handbook regulations concerning the consumption of alcohol while on duty?"
"Apologies. I didn't mean to offend..." Kagura dips his head forward in a solemn manner, eyes closed when he feels a swift rush of alcohol boil around in his head unexpected. This is genuine, Izanami would keenly assess. It doesn't seem his call, unexpected and strange though it may be, had any intention of being unpleasant. Kagura is using a basic portable unit, manifesting the single-plane holographic display before his desk, a small little window of unpleasant brightness trying to ruin his comfortably dark nook.
"Absolutely." Kagura then recites every single line perfectly, including the proper references and subsets. Hibiki's made him repeat it so much that it's basically become verbatim. "But you'll note that commanding officers during personal leisure time, in the absence of vital duties, are afforded certain liberties in personal judgement. As long as they..." He then tips back the remainder of his glass of tequila, letting out a satisfied sigh and clinking it off to the side. "...remain fit for duty. And I assure you, I'm perfectly fit."
All rational signs imply this might not be the case, but once again there's little sign of deception. No, quite the opposite. Kagura is an open, earnest soul. One rather overflowing with passion and zeal, ambitions, dreams, love, losses. Compared to Hazama, a forgery of a vessel, and Relius, so rigidly in control, it's almost another species. And unlike many dignitaries or heads of state, it lacks the ego, the arrogance, the petty flaws and self-absorbed grandeur of someone who believes they have some measure of power.
"But we're getting off-track... there's rules, Imperator, and there's unwritten rules. I found nothing that said I cannot contact you, 'if i see fit'. I can see a lot of people presumed that meant something catastrophic, but... things are settling down. Justice fired a nuke, but it didn't hit the city. Seems the Gear advance failed. I personally repelled a vanguard that breached the border... skies and seas remain uncomfortably stormy, but if a bit of divine lightning wipes out what remains, Japan's good at surviving a bit of unpleasant seas. And now I've wasted five minutes reporting to you, so I'm OFFICIALLY off the clock."
With that, he pours another glass of tequila. "I consider myself a servant to the Imperator's will. And I imagined her, divine and regal, sitting alone. So high she has only the clouds and specks of her lessers far below. But all women need attention! All women need love! I wouldn't be doing my duty if I didn't check on you, and make sure you weren't entertained!!" What disturbing passion and zeal...
As he recites the regulations to the letter, the crimson eyed woman on the other hand shifts her eyes to the side. There is no doubt that her monitor is helpfully displaying the exact statutes Kagura is stating from memory... such minutia are clearly beneath her normal concern. As he finishes without missing so much as a single conjunction, her eyes shift back to staring right back at him, the rest of her body not moving in the slightest. "Impressive." The regulations are in no way short. To recite the entire page worth of text so flawlessly while inebriated is worthy of the acknowledgement the Imperator gives it.
Such open honesty is a rare sight in those she deals with. Hazama's forked tongue, Relius's true yet often vague declarations, and the duplicities lies fed to her by those she treats with in the pursuit of NOL's expansion are entirely unlike the candor she is getting from the Black Knight.
He then goes on to point out the fine points leniency in the regulations and his audience of one seems satisfied. Is that even the slightest hint of a smile at her lips? Kagura's own device would indicate that there was no one else monitoring the traffic - his words are between him and the Imperator alone... the board operator DID say he had vital information, after all. Perhaps they did indeed do him a small favor, the encrypted call just between the two as secure as any transition on the planet can possibly be.
"Are you going to enlighten me as to the spirit of intent in the handbook's regulations?" she asks back, though there is no hint of annoyance in her voice, merely a curious bemusement as Kagura points out that the rules certainly never said anything about not contacting the regal Imperator. In fact, beyond emphasizing how absolute her will is, they don't really explain much about the position at all!
She listens to the update, vital information about the state of affairs in the tumultuous corner of the world. "Good." she assesses calmly. He declares himself off the clock and she answers, finally unfolding her arms for the first time since the call started, right arm lifting in almost a partial shrugging gesture, though still concealed beneath the voluminous sleeves that drape nearly down the floor, "Then we need not speak any further of the regulations."
Her arms fold in front of her once again as Kagura's cup is filled again. He is off to a good, safe start. Servant to her will, imagining her as properly divine and regal, above all others in the world that are beneath her. But then he declares that she, like any other woman, is in need of attention... and love!, and her eyes widen ever so slightly before returning to their previous size.
"And you, Colonel Mutsuki, consider yourself qualified to know what it is I am in need of?" Again, her tone is questioning, regal, but not offended, as if she is trying to understand the audacious claims made by the only soul ever bold enough to say anything like this to her directly.
"Tell me, is your bravado a byproduct of your intoxication? Surely, you are not always this... forward, yes?"
"Absolutely not, Imperator. I am merely saying how I interpret it. Command me otherwise, and I will make it done. As I always have." Kagura nods his head a few times in satisfaction. "Lofty and alone is the seat of power. I know this well, growing up of the Mutsuki family, knowing since I could talk my place in life as future Chief. Forgive me if I exercise a small amount of that for recreation." His own expression grows more than a little playful at that.
"I'm qualified to know what every lady in this world is in need of." Kagura says this with a shocking amount of confidence, eyes seeming to even clear of the intoxication for those few moments as his arms cross. "And one of those things is companionship! Someone to talk to. Revel with. Drink with! So I wanted to make it clear. If I can serve the Imperator in that manner, then it would be my pleasure!"
After a few more slightly unsteady moments, his expression grows more serious. "And I also wanted to see the face of the person I will die for. I'd lay my life down for almost any woman, but you lacked so much as a photo. I see, I see... it makes sense, now. No portrait could ever fully encapulate your beauty..." Somehow, shockingly, his soul still rings true. Izanami should have no problem assessing the essence and aura of Kagura after all, knowing both his location and with direct sight. Did he really say something so absolutely corny without a shred of empty air?
"But you look... familiar..." He squints at Izanami then for long moments, scratching the side of his cheek. "Can't quite put my finger on it, but I'd never forget a ladies' face... hmm." A sort of dismissive shrug follows that. Dangerously intuitive, that Kagura Mutsuki. A glance at Noel, a drunken glance at the Imperator, and the potential chain of links between the pair rang a couple chords. "Still, I apologize for wasting your time... As always, I wait ready at your service. I expect things will get very chaotic in the aftermath of the United Nations releasing, then losing control, of incredibly dangerous magical beings. ...Just like we warned."
"And are you lonely, Colonel?" the woman asks back. Still, her gaze is focused directly on his image on the screen, making it seem as if she is looking directly at him with very little deviation in the focus of her unblinking eyes until her focus flicks to the side, no doubt reading more of the information spilling across the large display before shifting back to the Black Knight himself. "You have a good number of people under your command. Is that not sufficient? Surely, you must rarely find a spare moment to... indulge in those allowances in the regulations with so many in need of your direction and commands." This time there is almost no challenge at all to her voice. Is she... making small talk now?
She dips her head slightly as he emphasizes his willingness to serve at her discretion, taking the offer in well composed stride. But when he continues, somberly and... soberly? expressing that he desired to see the face of the woman his job description suggests he would die for, followed by an overt compliment to her beauty, a brief expression of surprise crosses her features. There is no blush to her cheeks - such would be easy enough to see through the quality data stream, offset against the violet of her or the black of her regalia. And though her eyes barely seem to change at all, there is an almost imperceptible softening in the face of such open, authentic praise.
"Your loyalty is appreciated, Colonel Mutsuki. Coupled with your impressive success wherever you are deployed, there is no reason to doubt your conviction to my cause."
He mentions something about her looking familiar and she doesn't bat an eye. And why should she? She knows little of Relius Clover's work with the cloned lives. His pursuit of the God Slaying Sword of Kusanagi is of little concern of hers. It would have no hope of harming her, and if the deranged man wanted to kill a few gods while the world burned to ash, well... even gods are deserving of the gift of death.
He apologizes for wasting her time and she shakes her head ever so slightly, as if movement in general was something to be avoided. "My time is never wasted... I spend it precisely how I wish."
He mentions the chaos going on around the world and she dips her head slightly. "Yes... already, petitions for help are pouring into Central Command. The world is eager for the aid only I can provide through the obedience of good soldiers such as yourself. And I will help them... you and those reporting to you are an extension of my hand in Southtown. New branches I will establish will extend my benevolent reach to new nations as well."
She pauses then, her eyes flicking to the left to read, as she has from time to time throughout the conversation. Slowly, her gaze returns to Kagura himself. "I see you have yet to file any promotion paperwork even though your superior officers have recommended you at times."
The corner of the elegant woman's mouth curls up a little, "You should do the paperwork, Colonel Mutsuki." Her head turns far to the right for the first time since the call began. Limited by the camera's perspective, he would have no way of seeing the desiccated husk of a man mounted to the wall nearby, dressed in a NOL uniform, bearing the emblems and ribbons of a decorated general. Were one to see him, they would rightly assume the mummy was dead, held in place by the two golden spikes piercing through his shoulders just below the collar bone.
The lovely Imperator's focus returns to Kagura then, "Regrettably, General Horicho has been forced into retirement due to matters concerning his health." There is a dangerous spark to her eyes, something more alive than anything Kagura had seen the entire time. "It would please me for you to be considered as a replacement for his position..."
Off to the side, well outside the view of the camera, the erstwhile General moves his mouth, opening and closing it in silent protest. Where his eyes should be, only two empty, burned out sockets. His left arm, a stump just below the elbow, raises in protest as he tries to reach out toward the murderess in useless futility, but the nails hold him fast to the wall.
"Do give it some thought, Colonel Mutsuki." Izanami smiles.
"I'm always lonely when I sit in my office like this. Everyone went home, and I just had the company of documents and bottles. Not that the bottles are poor company... rather the opposite..." Kagura doesn't seem to be treating the conversation nearly as unusual as it should be. It's very clear he understands and recognizes the Imperator's will, but is treating her like a person alongside it. There's no sign he believes her word any less infallible, which makes it all the more strange.
Yet for the first time, Kagura's face moves to frown in displeasure at the mention of promotion. "Is that a command from the Imperator?" he finally asks. "I prefer being a Colonel. I like to see the effect my leadership has. I like to look my subordinates in the eyes. Laugh with them, know them, bond with them. In Central Headquarters, they become a list of names. Base statistics. In my humble opinion, a soldier's life is never a statistic. Each and every one of them was born, grew up, and came to join Novus Orbis Librarium. Not a single one of them is expendable. Who was I to head to Central after Ikaruga...? I never would have succeeded without those beneath me. I owe it to them to stay where I am. I'm sure you've no lack of suitable candidates..."
As he asks if the request concerning the promotion paperwork is an order, the Imperator doesn't answer immediately, though her smile fades, replaced with a hint of a frown. She seems to be weighing the question rather than answering quickly, however. The moment of consideration buys him time to continue, to make his case, to explain why, perhaps, the promotion candidacy package bearing his name has never come in at Central Command.
In the process of speaking, he describes experiences foreign to the NOL empress - looking subordinates in the eyes in person, truly getting to know them as individuals, form connections and laugh when the oft stressful work allows.
Normal human experiences.
When he makes an end of speaking, the Imperator closes her eyes then shakes her head slightly, "No... It is not a command, Colonel Mutsuki." Her eyes open again then, focused once more on him. "If an officer believes he or she can best serve my cause in their current rank, it is their solemn duty to remain in that position until such time they believe otherwise."
Her crimson eyes stray to the left again, taking in more of the data at a glance before returning to center. "Hmm... Your direct reports speak highly of your abilities." Is it surprising no one has ratted out the unorthodox Colonel in hopes of making his position available for another? "And, if this data is accurate, in spite of higher cost overheads, your base operates at higher efficiency in every other performance criteria..."
She smiles faintly then, "Maybe I should be sending my Generals to learn from you, instead, Colonel." Her voice drifts off in thought, silence reigning for about five seconds before she continues, less thoughtful and more resolved, "Or maybe I should see for myself just how it is that you maintain such a first-rate track record even in wartime conditions."
Her smile widens a little more, the woman leaning forward ever so slightly. "Do make ready to receive my visit. You have one week to prepare, Colonel Mutsuki."
"Well, I can honestly say, being closer to the Imperator would be the greatest benefit of Central Headquarters. But for now, I believe that the dynamic landscape of the Asian region requires someone with my unique skillset on the front lines, so will have to reject the invitation at this time." Not many people in Novus Orbis Librarium would outright reject an offer of promotion from the very head of the organization. Fewer still would likely ever speak to them. Yet this seems to be true, as is often the case with the unusual human.
Although those cost overheads could be a lot worse. Hibiki always makes the Colonel pay out of his own pocket if it's not defensible. Yet he often promotes, and spends large amounts of money on the welfare and happiness of his men. That has proven to show results, although without a specific leader at the helm, unlikely to be easily imitated.
"...?" Kagura slits open his eye at the last part, before nodding his head a few times. "Absolutely. I'll give you a tour of the facility and surrounding city. I look forward to your visit, Imperator." He presses his fist to his chest and bows in solemn salute. "Your will be done." And then he disconnects the call.
Two seconds later he begins thumping his head on his desk hard, causing a distant bottle to fall off. "Damnitdamnitdamnitdamnit. Hibiki's going to kill me..." One last thump. "...when he finds out..." Slowly relaxing, Kagura then brings the tequila up to fill his glass once more. "Well... it can wait a few days..."
He drinks deep.
And then, blackness.
Log created on 22:15:18 12/17/2017 by Izanami, and last modified on 05:32:15 12/20/2017.