Description: Acting Colonel Hazama enlists promising up and comer Corporal Kaneko on a very grave mission -- participating in the King of Fighters to investigate what is obviously going to be a complete and utter mess. This will surely go well for promising up and comer Corporal Kaneko.
The Novus Orbis Librarium is an organization paradoxically as secretive as it is proud. Having been in operation for decades with a reach that spans the globe, their mission statement is practically dogma to many of their ranks; one can find no finer zealots than in the austere ranks of the N.O.L..
"Aahh, what a pain."
And then, you have the others. Enter: Acting Colonel Hazama of the Intelligence Division.
A man who has made a reputation on paradoxes all his own; perennially lazy, and yet perennially a source of unassailably keen information within the Library, the Hazama is, even at the best of times, hard to pin down. Ineffably polite but prone towards avoiding anything that might seem to necessitate actual work, the man is nothing if not a conundrum in a three-piece suit.
And right now, that conundrum is currently languishing in his office, over the very worst of things:
"I guess I can't keep putting it off forever, huh?"
Light streams in through (Acting) Colonel Hazama's office in between the gaps of blinds that would otherwise see fit to gut out the light of the outside world, creating a dim, ephemeral lumination in the spacious locale. It is here Renka Kaneko has been called to by request of the colonel himself -- something about a new mission to be undertaken, and soon.
The message indicated -- stressed, even -- that she arrive at his office, today, at this very specific time.
The message also does not manage to reach her until a little less than ten minutes before that very specific time.
Sometimes wires just get crossed, of course. It's all very unfortunate.
And here, seated on the edge of his desk, is Hazama; a row of hardboiled eggs carefully arranged on a series of egg cups his only companions as he laments his sorry fate.
"Mm. I hope she isn't late. That would be just -terrible-."
Laments it with a smile.
Until her recent promotion, Corporal Kaneko was a Private First Class. A foot soldier, errand runner for a particularly demanding (spoiled) Lieutenant, and generally an individual of no particularly great notoriety. Then she went and, in an act bravery and potential self-sacrifice, somehow managed to halt the murderous base assault of the Librarium enemy, Hakumen, and suddenly Renka's name started to get around.
Even with her promotion, however, she very rarely interacted with any officer higher than a Captain, and certainly was no where nearly important enough for Colonels, acting or otherwise, to ever speak to directly. It isn't too hard to imagine, then, the panicked reaction that Corporal experienced the moment the summons reached her with precious little time to make the scheduled summons with Colonel Hazama of the Intelligence Branch.
Racing back from her assignment on border patrol around the outer fences of the NOL Southtown Base, she blitzed to her bunk, changing from her normal workday combat uniform to her very rarely worn, dressier service uniform.
The sound of commotion in the hallway outside of Hazama's office suggests the summoned trooper is going to narrowly make it. There is a brief moment of quiet out the door, then a knock, seconds before she would have been officially late. Another pause, and then cracking the door slowly enough to be easily warned off if somehow her summons was all a big misunderstanding and she wasn't ACTUALLY supposed to even be here....
Before finally Corporal Kaneko slips inside, moving to stand at attention and delivering a sharp salute in the direction of the Colonel's desk.
"Corporal Kaneko, reporting, sir!"
The summoned figure is hardly an imposing presence. The jacket of her uniform is buttoned up slightly askew, off by one button all the way up, giving her a somewhat slanted appearance. The tie at her neck is off center in the other direction, no doubt tied on the run.
Then there's her blue beret... dangling at a haphazard angle off a peaked, honey gold furry ear. The small statured creature standing at attention across from Hazama is close enough to pass as human but for the dead give away her vulpine ears and the pair of matching golden fox tails swaying at her back.
The story more than tells itself. The Librarium, an enemy to supernatural threats in all the nations it has been given charter to operate in, has also marshalled to its ranks darkstalkers looking for the chance to be gainfully employed while being open about their nature. Whether they're seeking legitimacy as members of society, amnesty from being openly hunted by humans dedicated to the cause of eliminating their kind, or forcefully enlisted to earn early release from NOL's secret prisons, each darkstalker in the the Librarium ranks has his or her own story.
Curiously about the one standing before the Colonel now is that in spite the clear rush she had to make it almost impossibly on time, and the desultory state of her uniform, she doesn't seem to be even slightly out of breath. Any shaking on her part is clearly a matter of nervousness than exertion as she maintains her salute, breath seemingly held in quiet anticipation.
Past the discordance of chaos and confusion in the halls of the NOL's Southtown branch, the sound crisp, ever-so-pleasant whistling can be heard from within the depths of Colonel Hazama's office like a direct and deliberate contrast to the frenetic rush going on just outside his door.
Inside, the black clad Intelligence officer is smiling an empty smile that comes to him more by rote than anything of substance in between those calm, melodic notes. He plucks up a single egg from its cup, eyes the white shelled sustenance studiously, and muses, with great gravity,
"Aah. Seconds too--"
Green brows furrow. Lips purse in thought. Squint-shut eyes peer at the door as it cracks open.
And in that moment, Hazama certainly does not muse about the potential of turning Corporal Kaneko away over some potentially made up technicality just to see what she'd do.
Which is, of course, why she gets no response at all until she makes her way inside, letting her linger in utter uncertainty that is surely coincidental and most likely meant to assure her that she is free to enter, of course. A sharp salute. A crisp greeting. Perfect punctuality.
"Ah. You made it."
Colonel Hazama's smile is nothing short of s u b l i m e.
"Great! I was worried there, for a little bit!"
Casual is the colonel's tone, as he sets aside his meal for the moment and hops off of his desk. One fingerless gloved hand finding a happy home inside of his coat pocket, the other affixes to the top of his modestly rimmed hat, tugging it s brim down over the top of his shut eyes as he considers Renka's presentation with a decidedly more lax air than she is affording herself.
"Wow, you are all business, aren't you?"
He says. Without once mentioning the words 'at ease.'
"Though you know, Corporal, it doesn't matter how punctual we are if we aren't ready to confront the world with our best face."
And here, he taps his hat once, pointedly; tugs the unbuttoned lapels of his coat twice, even more pointedly. As if to silently inform Renka --
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to make a note of your sloppy presentation in your file."
Of that. A second passes. And then he flashes a friendly smile.
And with that, Hazama makes his way back around towards the other side of his desk with a practically chiding, "at ease, at ease!" provided for the Library Corporal as he goes. Sliding comfortably into his seat, he settles hands into his lap and leans back. Eyes shut as they are, it's hard to tell where his gaze is save by the pressure of his attention as it falls squarely on the disheveled Kaneko. Nervous. Uniform askew. But not even remotely breathless. The Colonel clucks his tongue.
"You've been making quite the impressive name for yourself, Corporal Kaneko," he begins crisply. "Facing off against that monster all by yourself? Do you know how easily he could have just--" And here, Hazama makes a very pointed swinging motion of his right hand, fingers extended outward, complete with a little 'slish-slash!!' sound effect. For affect.
"... well, you don't want to know. The point is, if there had been any other outcome, it would have been viewed as just a little bit suicidally foolish, but look at you! Still alive! So now it's all very impressive, instead." He leans back in his seat, just slightly, indicating towards one of the chairs on the opposite side of his desk. "We expect great things from you, you know. Which is why you were specifically chosen for this new, very important, very -high priority- mission."
His tone remains light even despite their contents as he leans forward, almost conspiratorially.
"Are you willing to hear it out, Corporal Kaneko...?"
The majority of the time the fox-eared soldier stands at attention, she avoids looking directly toward the suit-clad Colonel, staring instead at some point beyond him and a touch to the right, or shifting her attention to something innocuous, like the front of his desk. In the world this seemingly domesticated darkstalker hails from, one never made direct eye contact with a superior predator. And while she knows nothing of the acting Colonel beyond the rumors the troops tell among each other, his rank alone is cause enough to give the same deference to.
She barely seems to be breathing as the officer begins to address her, salute maintained stiffly even if she doesn't look particularly at ease in her service uniform. The only obvious reaction is the way she blinks at his statements. When he declares her to be all business, her eyes flick toward him once, before she blinks and goes back to her unfocused stare just past his shoulder.
It's only when he shifts gears into a rebuke at her less than impeccable presentation that he provokes a more noticeable reaction, the color flushing from Renka's cheeks. When the threat of making note of her appearance is made, her saluting arm starts to tremble. The terror radiating off the Corporal is palpable. Her first summons to a Colonel and she's given him cause to rebuke her!
There is a hard swallow just before he declares that he's just kidding and beneath her lopsided coat her shoulders imperceptibly sag slightly, exponential degrees of tension melting out of them, a soft exhale of relief her only sound.
Given the okay to be at ease, her saluting arm snaps down, moving to join her other arm in clasping her hands behind her back. The motion is enough to shake loose the beret she never tends to wear for this exact reason, however, and instead she snaps the falling headwear out of the air, quickly tucking it under her arm as she presses both arms against her sides, trying to pass the hurried recovery off as intentional.
"Sir, I will never present myself to an officer this way again!" she barks out.
As the Colonel settles in behind his desk, her eyes flick toward him again, taking a brief opportunity to study the acting head of the Intelligence Division. The regular foot soldiers she normally works alongside have always been suspicious of the branch. They probably won't even believe she had an audience with the Colonel in charge if she tells them!
He touches on her track record and a smile flickers across her features, color finding its way back into her cheeks. "I just felt it was my duty to protect my fellow soldiers, sir." Renka states. Her eyes jump to the chair indicated and then she hurriedly moves forward as if expecting to get chewed out if she delayed one iota. Sitting on the edge of the seat to leave room for her two tails behind her, Renka moves her beret to her lap, her hands folding it into a tiny ball of their own volition.
Now that she's seated directly across from the Colonel, her focus is more on him, green eyes coming to rest on his face. At the mention of a special mission, the Corporal's eyes widen, mouth opening slightly in open surprise, and finds herself leaning forward eagerly.
She sounds almost out of breath when answering his question, head nodding quickly, the words whispered as if in a state of awe.
"Y-yes sir. Anything you- anything the Librarium needs sir!"
Down falls the Corporal's beret. And Hazama, with timing impeccable, waits just long enough to make it -almost- seem like she got away with it seeming like just part of the motion --
"Whoops~. Almost took quite a tumble there!"
-- before offhandedly dashing that hope against the rocks.
For a quiet second after, the colonel considers. Eager to please. Full of anticipation. The signs of a true believer.
Hazama's ambivalence over such things never really manages to make it to his genial expression, of course. More interesting, though, is that way she looks ill at ease in her uniform. Like she doesn't fit it -quite- right.
He keeps it in the back of his mind, even as she barks out her enthusiastic responses fit for a true hero. Heroes.
Heroes are useful, aren't they?
The way the corners of his lips spread upward is truly magnanimous as Renka's final assent spills past her lips in the barest whispers. The subsequent clap of Hazama's palms is a sharp contrast to her hushed tones, as is the chipper "Great!" that he issues forth not seconds later. A second later, he's pushing to his feet in a stand, one fingerless gloved hand waving carelessly through the air.
"You really shouldn't be so modest though. You're setting a proud example for your people! Good for you. If only -other- darkstalkers could be so virtuous." He heaves a sad, lamentable sigh here, a hand rising to press regrettably to his cap. He keeps the context for that commentary vague -- but the rumors swirling around a certain squirrely member of the Intelligence division might be enough for Renka to put two and two together there.
Hazama's found it's often so much more effective -- and fun -- to let other's imaginations do the work for him.
"Well, regardless! On to your very important mission!" And with this declaration, Hazama's palms spread demonstratively, smile truly exuberant.
"You have been assigned by the powers that be to enter the King of Fighters tournament!"
One can just imagine the 'ta-da~~~~!' that would otherwise go here. It's okay. Imagine it. Hazama can wait.
And so he does, just long enough, before his shoulders lift in an ultimately ambivalent shrug.
"Well, it certainly doesn't -sound- important," he says, as if preemptively reading her mind, regardless of what she may actually think. "But the King of Fighters tournament is a breeding ground for dangerous events, sometimes on a metaphysical scale; I'm sure I hardly need to tell -you- about that. It's a pain, but it -also- tends to be a breeding ground for notorious criminals and darkstalkers to congregate." A second passes. Behind his hat, green brows raise as his lips purse.
"Ah. Sorry, sorry! I meant the -other-, -dangerous- darkstalkers, of course."
Slowly, Hazama settles back in his seat. His smile is, of course, apologetic. To a fault. And as he reaches out towards one of those eggs, he continues.
"There's also some strange incidents circling around this particular King of Fighters, so we've decided to investigate officially. Colonel Relius has assembled his own team; you, however, will be working directly under me. Your orders are to observe and investigate the circumstances around this tournament. While I'll be overseeing you, you'll be the lead of our team. It certainly wouldn't do for an Intelligence officer to be making himself into an obvious target, after all, would it?" The reasoning is certainly sound, and not at all that Hazama is just carelessly tossing work and responsibility onto Renka--
"Oh, and as a side note," he continues, as he plucks that egg up, lifting it up to inspect it thoughtfully. "You're to keep an eye on all the participants. If you see any on our bounty lists, or any with abilities or artifacts that seem particularly powerful or otherwise dangerous -- you are too report the specifics directly to me."
A smile. And then Hazama plops that entire egg into his mouth. And swallows it whole.
Was the shell still on that egg--??
After her answer, Renka leans forward in her seat, her ears pitched toward Hazama, her breath held, her focused on Hazama with boldness beyond what she would normally exhibit in front of such a high ranking officer. Given her nature, one almost has to wonder just what CAN she hear when she focuses, anyway? The clap seems to startle the fox-eared soldier as Corporal Kaneko sits up straight, ears upright, eyes a bit wider with alarm.
When he compares her to other Darkstalkers, her eyes dart to the side, mouth pursed into a bit of a frown, seeds of suspicion planted. But when the Colonel returns to the matter of her mission, she observes him with rapt, unwavering attention, hands still crushing her beret into a ball in her lap.
At the mention of the King of Fighters tournament, the trooper's head cants to the head ever so slightly - enough to betray her moment of confusion, but not so much as to suggest she is consciously trying to look uncertain. But as he continues describing the mission, touching upon the tournament's shady past, Renka begins to nod quickly in ready agreement. Not even the 'faux pas' about 'dangerous darkstalkers' seems to get a rise from her as she just nods again as if she understands exactly what he is talking about. Of course, it would be hard to miss the way her cheeks flush slightly at that as well.
He settles into his seat and her eyes trace across the assortment of eggs, mentally noting that at least /that/ rumor concerning the mysterious Colonel seemed to be true.
"I understand, sir," Renka declares, her voice steady as she seems to fight to keep her enthusiasm for the mission under control.
He mentions reporting directly to him and her eyes get wide again. And then adds that she'll be the one in charge of the team itself and she starts to lean back in the chair a little, looking almost a bit dazed at how much all of this news is to take in. "Yes sir," she replies about how he can't make himself an obvious target, then blinks, brow furrowing as she shakes her head, "I mean- no sir." The quizzical look on her features at the correction suggests she's not even entirely sure at the accuracy of her question. Her cheeks tint red again.
She breaths in at the mention of keeping an eye out for bounty targets, magical artifacts, or other suspicious abilities that the NOL is always on the look out for and Renka nods quickly again, regaining her confidence.
"Yes sir. Understood sir. I won't let you down, sir."
She glances to the side then, mouth pressed closed as a look of uncertainty crosses her features, before she looks back toward the Colonel to give voice to the question on her mind, "Ah, this is a team competition." There is a splits second of hesitation before she continues, "Am I right in that you will be participating in the matches too then?" A heartbeat before she quickly adds, "Sir?"
Yes sir. Understood sir.
I won't let you down, sir.
"Phew," exhales Acting Colonel Hazama, like a weight had lifted off his shoulders.
"What a relief."
His ever-smiling features, of course, betray very little beyond utmost faith in the newly-minted Corporal. At least, until that question comes; the green-haired Intelligence officer's expression twists in momentary, open-mouthed dismay at Renka's apt musings, hands lifting palms-upward in a helpless shrug.
"You're sadly right," he confirms not seconds later. "I'm to take part in the tournament as well. It's unfortunate, but there's no way around it. Orders are orders, after all. Right?" Hapless is the colonel's expression, a truly sad thing as his slumped shoulders lift and he pushes back up onto his feet. "I'm afraid fighting is not my forte. But I'll try to keep up with the hero who thwarted the notorious terrorist Hakumen."
And as he speaks, the Librarium colonel circles around his desk. A cool palm presses against Renka's shoulders once, twice, in a bolstering pat.
"I'll be relying on you, Corporal."
And with that, the thin man moves, coat tails whipping mildly about him with the lazy pivot of his heel towards the door. "Further instruction will be delivered to you soon. We'll take stock of the situation when we arrive, but outside of the matches, it'll be best if we operate independently. To cover more ground, of course. Keep a weather eye out for anything or anyone suspicious."
A gloved hand rests on the knob of Hazama's office door. The mildest creak of hinges prefaces its opening for Renka as he shifts to turn his smiling, shut-eyed stare towards Renka. His words, so full of promise.
"We're expecting great things from you, Corporal Kaneko. All the way to the top."
Because imagination, once more, is such a wonderful tool.
"You're dismissed. Get yourself ready. And try to fix that uniform!"
The confession that she will have to carry the bulk of the combat responsibilities for their team is answered with a slow, thoughtful nod. It makes sense, she thinks to herself. While Colonel Kagura was a renown swordsman and quite open about that fact to anyone of the female persuasion within range, not much was really known about the combat prowess of the other colonels within the Novus Orbis Librarium. Most of them, like Hazama and Relius, were shrouded in mystery, the troops often left speculating as to what they actually did in service of the Imperator.
She sits up straight again, snapped out of her seeming daze, all question or uncertainty erased from her expression when his hand moves to pat against her jacketed shoulder twice. Sucking in her breath, she barks out dependably, "You can count on me, sir."
After all, not everyone has to be dedicated to combat to pursue the Librarium's needs. No doubt, Colonel Hazama's skills lie elsewhere, she considers.
He moves toward the door and she turns her neck to watch as far as she can without getting up, before giving up and returning her focus across the surface of the Colonel's desk, staring toward the barely visible window beyond. All her hard work is paying off, it seems. She's getting noticed, proving her point that darkstalkers willing to collaborate can be trusted in achieving the Librarium's vision for a better, safer future for all!
Hazama mentions something about 'the top' but by then the fox-eared Corporal's mind is such a haze that idea that he did seem to be operating under orders from even higher up the chain only barely registers. D-does... does the Imperator Librarius herself know of her work in thwarting the terrorist's attack?
He declares she's dismissed and Renka bolts up to her feet far too quickly, whirling around to face him, hands holding her wrinkled beret in front of her lap as she nods her head. "Yes sir. I will sir. Thank you for trusting me with this mission!"
She snaps a salute to the Colonel then, "Sir!", then hurries forward toward the open door, clearly not wanting to take one more iota of this important man's time than she has been afforded, Attempting to pull her ill fitting beret down over her ears as she briskly vanishes out into the hall, the last trace of her is her trailing twin tails before she's out of sight.
Log created on 10:47:46 05/30/2019 by Hazama, and last modified on 11:26:42 06/01/2019.