Description: Makoto's investigations into Hazama's origin and actions during the Illyria campaign and earlier suspicions finally bear fruit... and garner some unwanted attention from a certain spectral figure, adding as many questions as there are answers.
Some time ago, Makoto uncovered... well, it wasn't *proof* of the wrongdoing of some members of the NOL, but it was a suspicion. Enough that she'd been a little worried about some of her coworkers, but not for the organization itself.
But then Clio had vanished during the whole Illyria event. Makoto had not believed she was dead, and did her best to find her. She'd found her all right - found her, and found some more information. Information that made her mad, and then serious - information that certain members of the NOL had *hurt her friends*, which was about the cardinal sin in Makoto's book, as well as done some other things that anyone good would consider vile. Nothing she could prove, of course.
Or could she?
Makoto is not the most academic of squirrels. She is not, to mix a metaphor, the brightest nut in the bowl. But she isn't *stupid*, and she understands people - and more than both of those, she's stubborn. Once she gets started on something, it's hard to get her to stop. And she's been trained well; she's in Intelligence, after all, even if some people are a little less than sure as to why. Well, this is why.
Which means she has, as quietly as she could, been investigating Hazama.
It's been a slow process. Makoto took her time to do it right, and to try to keep out of Hazama's attention while she was doing it. Subtle investigations, quietly talking to people, even taking up her gravest foe (bureaucracy and paperwork) and trying to figuratively wrestle it into submission. It's not unusual to have Intelligence nosing around even inside the NOL, and she's been pretty good at covering her tracks, but there are some limits to what she can do without being caught.
Which, given she is currently in a restricted area of a NOL facility in search of one bit of proof of Hazama's actions during the Illyria fiasco, she may be about to find out.
Oh, if Makoto were truly useless at gathering information, she wouldn't be a member of Hazama's intelligence operatives. But how effective a field agent tends to be is determined by the orders, and she was never bothered with needing to decide where or how to use her mighty squirrel powers. At first, Makoto was likely quite upset to find nothing that seems to indicate Hazama a man of any wickedness. But the further she probes, the more it becomes apparent... Hazama himself is *strange.* Although records and official documents reference him for a time that fits his age, Makoto is finding actual information on where he was born and who he was prior to NOL to simply... not exist. It was the latter that was so difficult to confirm; was it incredibly well-hidden to prevent someone from finding a secret, or did the paperwork simply never be in the system? Given how thorough NOL is with adding and promoting individuals, no matter the end result it should be useful...
Nothing is officially found regarding Hazama's actions in Illyria. Simple boilerplate generic humdrum, and a list of operations he approved and oversaw. But that's not the only thing supposedly present here. All of the bureaucracy and red tape indicated this facility, this room, where the physical copies existed. And, Makoto would have noted, the only way to request them officially would go through Hazama personally. They wanted to hide it quite intently...! The metal filing cabinet has sensitive info on many people, although some are under much more significant safeguards -- Izanami and Kagura require bypassing magical locks, but Hazama was merely a captain and thus had simple physical countermeasures that a proper squirrel can burst through.
And then... within the manilla file folders... Makoto pulls out information forms that are...
Blank. Literally blank. His name is filled out, and they have all the proper numbers and serials for documentation in NOL's expansive systems. But there is literally nothing. Birthdate, place of birth, parents, race, gender, all of it is lacking. And all inter-NOL actions seem to have begun only four years ago, with Hazama having always been a captain. No record of initial joining, promotions, or anything. Just him suddenly doing important work that would normally justify many, many pages of trust and work.
And most damning of all is all these records have the mark of the Imperator, Hades Izanami. And within NOL, it means her word is the law and above reproach, condemnation, or questioning. Hazama is no strange agent planted by rogues, but an existence the very head of NOL is not only aware of, but endorsed.
What does that mean? It's for a squirrel girl to figure out, or others. Which might be made difficult, as the twin locks on the door leading out of the information room suddenly rotate locked. And a green thrum etches around it, sigils of Ars Magus -- the ancient art primarily used by mages who follow Novus Orbis Librarium...!
Makoto is not incompetent, no. She has the best cover for an intelligence officer of all: not that many people think she'd be capable of the job even if she wanted it.
But academic focus is not always a requirement when you aren't the tool of choice to investigate scientists or scholars, and sheer stubbornness is a boon. Little setbacks don't dissuade her, and big roadblocks only make her set her feet and push harder.
Which is *exactly* what happened with Hazama. At first, she found nothing unusual, which only made her search harder - and when she found an inconsistency, she wanted to pick at it. She hadn't been looking into Izanami or Kagura, and stayed well away from their papers; she was here for one purpose, and to follow the thread as far as it would take her. She didn't smash the filing cabinet, though her approach *was* physical: she picked the lock.
It isn't what she expected. She thought she would find something buried, a secret hidden but known to the NOL. Instead she found ...nothing. A whole lot of nothing, as if Hazama wasn't really a person... or that Izanami had carefully hidden it away, judging by the seals. Which means ...
Well, it means this is even more serious than she thought. And she thought it was serious enough to begin with. Nobody hurts her friends and gets away with it, and if even half of the other things she'd heard that that was covering for were true, that only made this whole thing worse.
Makoto thinks a bad word as she slips the papers back, closing the filing cabinet with a click. Well, almost all the papers - she kept one, slipped into the hidden pocket of her cloak, a blank biography of Hazama with the seal of Hades Izanami. It's unlikely to be noticed (who'd check a blank page, especially when the folder itself looks present?) but it's proof... of something, anyway. What? She's not entirely sure, yet.
But there's the faint click of a lock shifting. Makoto's ears perk up, then flatten against her hair as she steps to one side of the room, getting out of line of fire of the door. She knows what that green sigil is, or at least represents. Is she going to have to punch her way out? She slowly slips her tonfa on as she watches that door for signs of anything else.
Most likely none. These folders were never intended to be seen by legitimate eyes. Someone integrated Hazama flawlessly into the system, someone who at least had access to Izanami's highest seal of authority. If it's not her in specific, it's someone important enough to be no less devastating. Apparently sufficient that she had been watched. But Makoto is no nascently trained; she had been utterly sure nobody tailed her into the building, or had followed her through the halls, and certainly that none were aware she picked her way into this room. Not just through her own thorough training as a field agent, but instinct and extra-sensitive nose too. Even now, she doesn't really *feel* a presence... even though someone most certainly closed and locked the door. Remote viewing should cause her hairs to stand on end...!
Which probably makes it surprising as a form seems to literally ripple into being behind, the spot most vulnerable and guarded in a completely sealed and warded room without so much as an air vent. About a meter off the ground in the middle of the room, a dense and powerful individual is suddenly 'here'. Stance spread, and both hands stuffed into pockets. At first glance, through sight and smell Makoto will think 'Hazama'. That does not last long. That smug grin, those narrowed eyes, an unkempt appearance... beyond the yellow jacket and strap-concealed limbs, Terumi is the utter opposite of Hazama's quiet, subtle personality.
"Hello, little squirrel!" he coos. Not a word in her investigations spoke of this individual; only Clio and other reports about a 'man in yellow' who looked like her boss. Something that Hazama claimed; that there was someone capable of being a doppelganger. It seems that might actually be true...! "Makoto, isn't it? Makoto Nanaya?!"
If it wasn't for the part where the door locked and a seal formed in front of it, Makoto would have counted this as a pretty successful trip.
Unfortunately, one issue can ruin your entire trip.
Makoto whirls when someone switches from 'not there' to 'there' behind her, her tail frizzing up visibly with agitation. Where the hell did he come from? she thinks to herself, before she actually looks at who it is. Hazama -
No. That's not Hazama. Makoto's eyes narrow slightly. It's someone *like* Hazama, in some ways; it looks like him, it sounds like him if you ignore the tone of voice and pay attention to only the pure sound of it, but it doesn't *feel* like him. He doesn't stand (well, float) like that, or move like that.
Makoto settles her tonfa on her arms under her cloak, locking them into place on her gloves with a nearly inaudible 'click'. She starts to draw power into them, keeping it quiet and as suble as she can, though anyone capable of skipping casually into a warded room like this one presumably has the mojo to make out what she's doing.
"Who's asking?" she says, looking straight at 'Hazama'. Makoto takes a step toward the locked, sealed door despite this, moving along the wall to prevent Hazama (or whoever) from appearing directly behind her. There's no room there for anyone. And if this isn't Hazama, well... this just got more complicated. Not harder, because all the things she found out about Hazama are still true. But complicated.
Curious eyes shift towards Makoto's mostly concealed weapons when she begins to channel energy within. "Ah, the 'Impact'-class magical weapon! Certainly a good match for you. As for me? ...Yuuki Terumi." He's watching the squirrel very closely, to see if she betrays even the slightest hint of recognition. Quite abruptly the air beneath him seems to become nothing once more, as he descends heavily to land in the middle of the room. "As for who I am... that depends. Are you still presently a member of Novus Orbis Librarium?"
A hand snaps up from his pocket, but within is a silver necklace. At the end an intricate bauble; but one she'd know, as anyone admitted into NOL is taught the recognizable influences of the Imperator. Beyond the fact her word stands above any written or enforced rule, and her seal, that any who carry this pendent is an 'outsider' acting with the full authority of Hades Izanami.
"It's real." Obviously, any intelligence agent with half a brain would consider that. The necklace tossed over to be inspected. Forgery of such a thing is a very real concern, but it stands up to every conceivable test she has been taught. "And I truly *am* a member of NOL's innermost circle... it seems your insatiable appetite includes things other than hazelnut cream doughnuts! Well, you wouldn't be an intelligence officer without a healthy curiosity, I suppose... So!! I wager you have some QUESTIONS. Why don't you just ask them?!"
A hint of danger hangs in the air, sealed door continuing to thrum with Ars Magus runes of sealing. "...and afterwards, we can decide what to do about this little situation...!!"
Makoto does not recognize the name, but she tries to not let it show; she doesn't want to give away anything, whether it's a positive or a negative. She's already amped up and on edge and the name isn't changing matters.
The pendant does surprise her, though. She was not expecting that. She pulls one of her hands out of her cloak to catch it when it's thrown at her, which reveals the tonfa - but Terumi was already aware of that given he called it out by name, so she's not giving away many secrets there, either.
Plus, it was her left hand. She charged her right hand more than her left. She's still holding the charge too, as if she expects to do something with it very shortly.
Makoto holds up the necklace so she can look at it. She doesn't do every test she knows - some of them take a while, and some of them she has never been good at in the field - but to her eyes it looks real enough; at a bare minimum, it's made by someone who had a real one on hand to work from.
"Hey, I don't eat that many doughnuts." She seems slightly nettled, but it gives her the time she needs to finish the look-over of the pendant. Makoto returns her gaze to Terumi, eyes narrowed. "You're not the one I wanted to ask questions of! But - why are you here?"
It's not what she wants to know, really. But it might help her answer that... because she doesn't think she wants to be a part of dealing with this situation, and that means she has to make a quick escape pretty soon.
"Aren't I...? I'm someone who instructs Hazama-kun, after all! He'd say nothing useful, even if you blocked him into a corner and confronted him with the truth of things. He's got a serpent's tongue, and you'll find nothing will stick..." Terumi is well within attacking distance, but despite proving he can sense magical items -- and doubtlessly the swell of the tonfa being prepared -- is giving no impression that he's concerned.
"I've been watching you. You should feel honored to some degree. Of all the countless people that I could be observing past the veil of this world, I chose you!! ...You hardly look bad, after all! Hahaha! I was curious if you'd ever find out Hazama's little secret or not." He holds out his hand, and a strong thrum of telekinetic-like pull would surround the necklace as he makes to retrieve it. "...He's artificial. Consider him as little more than a beehive, planted in the command structure for my convenience. And I guess that makes me the swarm of bees? Some things should be clear, now. Ragna-kun did indeed attack Hazama, and forced my arrival to drive him away! And as a result, Noellers returned unharmed. I'm not sure what the PROBLEM is...!! I've never done a thing to harm you, after all! I thought you wished to prove to the world that beastkin are not the wild, monstrous beings others fear...? Have YOUR goals changed, Second Lieutenant?"
When Makoto feels the thrum of telekinesis, her first instinct is to hold tighter onto the necklace. That lasts for a few seconds, until Makoto reluctantly releases it, preferring to lose it than get herself pulled off-balance by it - she's strong, but if Terumi really wants it back, he's going to get it anyway.
She doesn't punch him, though, charged weapon or not. Makoto hasn't decided if it's going to be used on him or the door when she tries to get away. She's going to have to discharge it eventually, though.
"You - " Makoto runs through what she knows in her head. Artificial? Assuming this 'Terumi' isn't lying (which Makoto is very definitely not putting past him; he feels untrustworthy, and her instincts are usually pretty good about that) that means he must have been involved in getting him put there. That or someone did it for him. For his convenience...
...but there is something else there. Something that causes a flare of anger from Makoto: two things, really, in quick succession. "Unharmed? I went to see her in the hospital! I know Hazama was the 'chain man'! And you don't get to call her that!" Makoto jabs her finger at Terumi as her ears rise up again; her tail flicks in agitation, puffing up again before she rather intentionally draws it back, trying to settle herself. "And I don't know what you think you've found out about me by watching, but - mind your own business!!"
Makoto has learned a lot, honestly. But there's just one more thing to put together: "You're him, aren't you? You're Terumi but you're also Captain Hazama. What are you trying to do with the NOL?"
It's difficult to properly appraise Terumi's strength, but the safe bet is 'far beyond anything possible to presently overcome'. The nebulous, chaotic stream of the mage's power is still incredibly potent even at the lowest ebbs, after all. Although what might also be strange is that there's no signs of him not telling the truth. Ah, he might not be saying EVERYTHING relevant, and there's every chance that he's also withholding information, but the danger of Terumi and Hazama is that they work their deception by speaking only the truth, if in the shade they desire.
"/I/ was the chain man." Terumi says, matter of factly. "And /I/ never did a single thing to hurt Noel. She was nearly killed by that command gear... Dizzy. Hazama was simply retrieving her after the fact." This is an easy thing to say with confidence, as it's the truth! "Ragna the Bloodedge came across them after the fact, and he tried to take her. And thus I came out to play. ...And that's it!!" Terumi holds his hands up, as if to placate. "Second Lieutenant Noel Vermillion is a very important person to us. We would never allow harm to come to her... or another to steal her away..." His grin seems to widen, eyes flaring with energy, and worst of all... the weight once more of his truth.
"But... mmm. Am I Hazama? Hardly! I said it already. He's just a nest I reside in! A shell! A puppet! We might know the same things. We might not. I don't much CARE what he does if I'm outside the house, so to speak..." Fingers scratch into Terumi's cheek, then. "And as for what the NOL is doing... why do you care? If it benefits you, and your people, and the world..." He lolls forward then, stuffing both hands and the returned medallion into his pockets. "Then who cares about it?! You were taught NOT to!! That orders aren't to be questioned. You've never asked 'why' before, no matter who you spied on... or what became of it! Why start now? If you can be a good little squirrel, and scurry back to your nest, then everyone's happy. If you trust the Imperator, then know that she needs someone like me...! An individual who knows how the world works, in it's darkest, most twisted depths!!"
Makoto's eyes narrow. She *doesn't* trust Terumi, whether he's telling the truth or not; it would be so easy to slip in just one lie or significant half-truth, to lead her exactly the wrong direction. She's suspicious. And yet she hasn't caught him in a single lie.
"Why is she so important to you?" Makoto can tell that Hazama is the sort of person who doesn't care for anyone else except in how they are useful to him - she had had him pegged as the sort to kick people when they're down for no reason but that he could, even if she'd never guessed the full truth before. She feels that Terumi is no different. So if they're interested in Noel, there must be a reason. He wouldn't just call her important because he liked her.
But then Terumi asks a question.
What he says is, again, true. Makoto was taught not to question orders, but to follow them. She thinks for herself, of course - but she is supposed to think for herself on behalf of the NOL, not to move against the grain. She's supposed to be clever and insightful in her job, not to reach outside of it.
And yet here she is, in the depths of a documents storage that she really shouldn't be allowed into, reading things she should never know existed. She has one of them hidden in her cloak, even. She hasn't asked why before. But...
"Maybe I should have," Makoto says. "I thought the NOL was *good*! To protect people from magic! They even let people like me join if I would help. But - if it does it this way - then it's not. I know what Colonel Clover did." Or she thinks she does, anyway. Makoto's tail flattens down again, no longer bristly. It's the clearest (only, really) sign that she's planning something. "I thought maybe he went behind the Imperator's back. But you've got the chain. The proof. I can't ignore it anymore. And that means - "
Makoto raises her fists, Impact gleaming as her sleeves slide back to reveal them, her charged right tonfa visibly shimmering with enemy. "That means I can tell you that YOU'RE A TOTAL JERK! Superior, my ass! I'm never going to help you, or work for you!"
Makoto whirls and punches. Not against Terumi - she's aimed at the door and the seal in front of it, discharging all her built-up kinetic energy in a single empowered blow against the sealed locks, trying to literally hammer through and break an escape route for herself.
Oh, absolutely everything about Terumi isn't trustworthy. He would be much easier to deal with if he had a liar's tongue, and whatever came from it was suspect. Much of his violent, thrumming personality is on the edge of his proverbial sleeve, and he makes no attempt to hide it. Quite the opposite of Hazama, indeed. "Why, indeed..." is all he purrs in regards to Noel. Just since he only speaks truth doesn't mean he has any requirement to divulge information at all.
"But we are all those things..." Terumi almost purrs. "It's not a lie. Just because there are some who might use the NOL in a particular way does not mean those tenets and beliefs are not embraced. Creating an organization of this size would be far harder and less efficient otherwise. It's no NESTS or Shadaloo, stupid girl... but. Relius did something? I had no idea." Terumi seems at best curious. Yet there's clearly no concern there. "He probably did it. Me and the Imperator didn't know, but... what's it matter? He won't be punished for it. And that's probably something you can't turn your lawful, righteous back to..."
The fist rockets towards a whirl of blackness. Terumi manifested in front of Makoto, but her fist literally cleaves through, displacing his shoulder and upper face into shadows. The door is impacted, shattering the hinges and sending it flying into the hallway beyond. "Don't worry. I'll let you free." he hisses out, with a giggle. "I don't hate people like you, who refuse to fall in line... but be careful, Second Lieutenant. Relius will certainly take you if he finds out...! A potent soul like yours... he'd never be able to resist~"
And then Terumi seems to ripple away, all feel of his presence vanishing amidst an echo of a giggle. But... is he gone? Is he still watching? Whether revealing himself was a mistake or not may remain to be seen. The squirrel is marked now as a rogue; speaking brazenly to her friends and drawing them in might no longer be safe, and only lead the wild creature to them. Assuming the anarchist even cares about the ripples at the surface of the lake, when settled far too deep in the dark waters to ever feel them...
Makoto follows up the punch to the door with a kick to ensure that the debris is out of the way.
Makoto doesn't know how much of Terumi's words were total truth and how much weren't. She never caught him lying, but that doesn't mean he wasn't, only that he's a better liar than most. And yet he *seemed* mostly truthful... though she's not sure she believes that he didn't know what Relius was up to. If anything feels off, it's that - because Hazama, she thinks, would keep tabs on everyone, especially a genius sage in Engineering. (But what if they don't know everything the other does? she thinks.)
The part that she does believe, though, is that Terumi works with the Imperator. Which means she's not turning around to chat.
Makoto doesn't know if Terumi is watching anymore as she flees, bounding out through the shattered door and sprinting. There's almost certainly alarms going off as she leaves that she didn't set off on the way in, because she was not subtle, but she knows the back ways into this place, and a way in can be a way out. Her biggest regret is that she can't possibly get ahold of Noel to tell her the truth, at least not easily.
She'll have to go elsewhere for the moment. Or independent. They'll be hunting her - a lone Darkstalker who has exactly one public persona, that of a street fighter. She has no income except what she can earn with her fists, without the NOL - she barely even has a change of clothes. She can't contact Noel or Tsubaki, but she knows some people elsewhere - if she can get to them. And she can't tell if Terumi is watching her...
Once she's gotten away, and she has time to think, Makoto realizes she might be a little over her head.
Log created on 19:17:15 11/02/2018 by Terumi, and last modified on 17:42:14 11/08/2018.