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The Weight of Soul

Kazetani London Office

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a part of The Weight of Soul, by bethelit.

In character debriefing.

bethelit holds sovereignty over Kazetani London Office, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

361 readers have been here.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/the_empire_of_corpses

Setting

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SEPTEMBER 1, 1941 | 9:15PM

Yuuki Kazetani's humble, London office is located near Victoria Station. The office itself is as frugally decorated as its Japanese counterpart, yet the feel of it is very different. The room itself is not spacious, and cramps easily when occupied by more than six people.
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Kazetani London Office

In character debriefing.

Minimap

Kazetani London Office is a part of The Weight of Soul.

2 Characters Here

Mayumi Miyamoto [9] East Wind | Unseen Espionage (Research)
Zhanqing Yang [0] East Wind | Spirituality

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani
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PROLOGUE
The Investigation Team

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Viscount Yuuki Kazetani’s London office is quiet and empty, save for two figures. Miyoshi Kazetani stands amidst an open window, his thoughts gathered within bounds of smoke. He looks uninterested and pensive as he watches the road for motor lights. The sounds of fountain pen scratching against paper spill from behind him. Sitting at the desk, his father, Yuuki Kazetani, completes the day’s affairs. The latter works in silence, garbed in a black suit that makes his shoulders appear more tense.

Miyoshi moves to lean against a wall, cigarette in hand. He sees the tightness around his father’s mouth, the barely suppressed restlessness in his otherwise stoic gaze. Something is different tonight about his father, Miyoshi recognizes; the elder Kazetani’s cool has been replaced. There’s an unusual steadiness in the way his father pens remaining correspondences. He can taste it: his father’s excitement.

Amused, Miyoshi blows a ring of smoke in their shared silence.

He’s quick to notice most things, especially things that have much to do with his father. An (Unseen) Espionage agent had to quickly glean details. Of the six Saniwa joining him tonight, one is an ex-maiko from his mother’s okiya. The others are complete strangers, save for his childhood friend, Rosalind Christie, and Claire Stanfield, an American with a wide smile and an even wider appetite for banter.

He has missed Claire. These days, Miyoshi’s closest companion was Kimura Asagi, the queer Artifact that stands waiting outside, his ethereal presence masked by a grove of lining trees. Miyoshi averts his gaze to his father, who begins to stir, if only slightly.

Without looking up, his father finally speaks.

“Miyoshi,” he says. “Signal Kimura Asagi. I sense Rosalind’s presence.”

Nodding, Miyoshi lights a second cigarette, and almost immediately, the air outside becomes filled with an overpowering, cherry blossom aroma. At Miyoshi’s command, Kimura Asagi’s ethereal form takes the physical guise of a well-to-do English footman.

With preparations complete, Yuuki rises to move.

“Hello Rosalind,” says Yuuki. He sets his papers aside.

. . . .


Rosalind Christie’s footsteps are not quite in a hurry, but losing no time. She arrives flushed and slightly breathless, her Artifact, Ada Whitfield, trailing wordlessly behind her. Blonde, fair-skinned, and petite, Rosalind almost meets Miyoshi’s shoulder. She wears the same lopsided smile that she carried as a girl, a quality which the latter has always found pleasing. With an elegant smile and a bounce in her curls, she looks to greet the two Kazetani men.

“Good evening, Viscount Kazetani, Miyoshi,” she says.

Miyoshi responds second, immaculate in his burgundy suit.

“Rosalind. You grow prettier every day.” Miyoshi says, sweeping his cigarette in a small semi-circle. Like his father, his voice carries a soothing and old-fashioned feeling.

Rosalind blushes appreciatively. “Oh, I do take it personally, Miyoshi. You know how fond I am of you. It’s good to see you again.”

Miyoshi handsomely grins. “As am I. It’s not quite the same without 30 chaperones hiding behind every fern, but you are lovely even without the extra attention.”

At this, she laughs.

They had not seen each other in four years, and Rosalind’s glad that the world, perhaps, hasn’t changed him. If only he could forever be his nice, cool, calm, sympathetic self, she might confide in him again. She knows less of his father, but identifies the physical similarities between the two.

Tonight, she observes all looks and courtesies, but there is tightness in both Yuuki and Miyoshi that Rosalind had seldom seen before. Though she attempts to remain optimistic, she has her own reservations.

“Well, what then? The others have yet to arrive,” Rosalind says, her voice taking a sudden change in tone.

Miyoshi considers Rosalind’s apprehension for a moment or two, before offering consolation.

“Rosalind, I am not worried the others will not want join us,” he says slowly.

“Whyever not? It’s a quarter past nine. I came late, I think.” says Rosalind, concerned, cheeks tinting.

There is dead silence for at least two minutes. The shared pause between Yuuki and Miyoshi makes her realize that perhaps it was all in the knowing. Jonathan Watson’s murder had changed everything. Every soul thesis was heavier, and every House transgression more sinister. Whatever the Kazetani’s unspoken understanding was, Watson’s death had stepped in and made this whole affair meaningful.

“What is it, Viscount?” Rosalind prompts.

“The situation is much too interesting. Eight murders in a month.” Yuuki says grimly. “Not an opportunity most Saniwa would pass up. At the least, one would be curious. At most, fascinated.”

“Fascinated?” Rosalind shivers.

“Of course,“ Miyoshi softly says, smoke trailing from his lips. “I can assure you, Rosalind, that it is with the utmost willingness that all will gather today.”

There’s something wicked in the way he speaks, and Rosalind does not reply.

Beside her, Ada slips her small hand into Rosalind’s own, and the woman feels grateful towards the comforting gesture.

“Do not worry, Ms. Christie,” Yuuki says, drawing his breath sharply. “They are excellent, our investigation members. Excellent. Nothing shall escape them.”

She looks at him for a minute or two with green eyes that say so much. Miyoshi’s silence indicates that she should keep her own.

The elder man falls quiet for some time. Miyoshi and Rosalind do not interrupt his meditation.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield
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"Are you scared?"

"No."

"Excited?"

"Maybe."

From the distance Claire saw a line of trees which, upon closer inspection smelled of cherry blossoms. They disappeared as they walked closer and in their place was a footman who he presumed to be an Artifact.

"I see Mouse's already here," he said, giving a nod to the male before the two entered the building.

Mouse--rather Miyoshi had a pesky habit of hiding himself using Kimura Asagi, which to his credit was useful, but annoying for anyone who worked with him. Though they'd been partnered once or twice, the Kazetani changed his appearance each time. It left him without so much as an inkling of a mental image and this time was no different. During Operation Chilled Meat he disguised himself as a Chinaman, but now he sported a pale face and a burgundy suit. Still, he carried the same countenance that made him certifiably Mouse.

"Smoking to mask the flower smell?" he asked.

"You say that, but you were lightin’ a ciggy in the car,” Graham chided.

Claire rolled his eyes before glancing toward the meditating East Wind leader and then the blonde and her Artifact. Subconsciously, he adjusted his tie, feeling under dressed compared to his counterparts (sans the similarly dressed Graham). He’d settled on a Half-Windsor knot after failing to tie a full Windsor in the car despite Graham’s best efforts and his blazer too, seemed speckled with lint he failed to notice prior to entering the room. Normally it wasn't too much of an issue since missions rarely required formal wear, but now that he was in the presence of a deb he started wondering if he should have gone to the cleaner’s.

"So uh,” Claire paused, "what’s the name Jane?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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“So where you boys from?”

Lee's attention lingered on the view outside of the backseat window of the cab for a few more moments. Though there had been clear efforts to clear the streets of rubble from the Luftwaffe bombings, there still remained errant brick and stone. He had also noticed the way the driver avoided certain streets, probably closed from the amount of damage sustained. However, despite it all, he could still find a glimmer of cheer and hope in the driver's voice as he spoke. Shifting his attentions away from the streets outside the window, Lee's gaze turned instead onto the back of the cab driver's head. He was an older gentleman, a once dark brown head edged with grey and salt beginning to pepper his bushy mustache.

“Australia,” Lee answered simply.

The man in the seat beside him turned and gave him a hard look before he chuckled to himself and shrugged. “I think he knew that, mate.” Turing away from Lee, the man then began to speak to the driver. “Actually, we're from the Northern Territory, a port town called Darwin.” Lee watched for a moment as his Artifact, a man named Peter, explained the details before he reached into his coat pocket to retrieve a pack of cigarettes. The backseat already smelled of stale leather and smoke, he doubted another cigarette would hurt anything. and He pulled one from the pack and fished out his lighter from somewhere else and began to light it before the driver spoke again.

“Australia, huh? You fellows are a long way from home. What brings you to London?”

Lee took a moment to light the cigarette before answering. “Business.” Before Peter could shoot him another hard glance, Lee continued, “Private business. Sorry mate, would tell ya if I could.” It was the best he could do without going into the details of the House of Four Winds and the Saniwa, much less the specific reason of his presence there and their destination of the Viscount Kazetani's office. The driver seemed to accept the answer with a quiet nod. “Jerry's been hittin' youse fellas hard, hasn't he?” Lee asked, puffing smoke out the open window. He could still see the odd brick of stone on the side of the road.

The driver shook his head. “Not as hard as he has been, but still pretty hard. Had to go the shelter just last month.” Lee turned back toward the driver and shook his head. “Still, it'll take more than a few bombs to break London,”

Lee smiled and nodded, “Must be that British stiff upper-lip I've been hearin' about,” he said with a chuckle, causing the driver to laugh along.

“God save the King,” Peter added.

“God save the King,” The driver agreed.

A few more minutes of idle conversation, and the cab pulled up to the office. Lee took one more puff from the cigarette before he exited the cab. Stepping outside, he was struck with a strong smell of something sickly sweet which caused him to recoil out of surprise. A glance at Peter revealed the man looking back him, a raised brow. They both knew what the most likely source was. Shaking his head, Lee moved toward the driver side window and withdrew his wallet from his back pocket as Peter went to the boot to retrieve their duffles. Lee opened his wallet and paid the man in pounds. “Here ya go,” Lee said, handing the driver the money, “Thanks heaps, mate. Be safe,”

“You too, and good luck on your private business, the driver replied with a laugh. Lee watched as the man threw the car into reverse and left, and soon melted into the night.

“Here, your shit's heavy,” Peter said as he pulled along side Lee, passing along his duffle bag. Lee took it and slung it over his shoulder with one hand, while holding the cigarette with his other. “We're late,” Peter added, looking at his watch.

Lee only laughed and shook his head. “'Course we are, ya didn't think we'd be on time, did ya?” Lee could feel the side-eye Peter was giving him, but he could also feel the smile tugging at the corner of the artifact's lips. “Come on, why keep 'em waitin' when we're already here?” Lee said, making his way toward the office. As they walked, Lee fiddled with the bowtie around his collar, making sure that it was straight as he could get it. Satisfied, Lee then straightened out his dark brown vest and the tan coat over it. He wasn't exactly used to formal wear, but he had to admit. He looked damn good in a bowtie. Then he began to wave his cigarette at Peter's string tie, “'Straighten your tie doovalacky, we don't want 'em to think we're a couple o' bogans.”

Peter simply stared at him before straightening his tie with a deadpan look, before straightening his glasses. “Better?” he asked. Lee nodded, and led them toward the door to the office. As they entered, Peter inclined his head to the fellow at the door, offering a “G'evenin',” before following Lee into the office proper.

The office was... small, even without others. With them, it was cramped, but still. Lee gave the room a quick once over before tilting his head. It seemed like they weren't the last ones to arrive, surprisingly. He inclined his head in greeting to the room, but his attention was grabbed by an the intensely redheaded Claire. Lee's heard of his fellow West Wind Saniwa from Gandor, but he wasn't prepared for how red the man's hair truly was. “Shit mate,” Lee said before he could stop himself, “You havin' a barbie or is that your hair?” Peter only rolled his eyes.

“Dammit Lee.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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#, as written by Jedly
Cyril breathed through his teeth at the depressing result of his seventh attempt to tie a necktie. He wasn't too adamant about wearing formal attire, but has gradually become more comfortable in such apparel. His only qualm with the set was the piece of entropy-abiding set of apparel striking out in rebellion. It was constricting and frankly a liability. At any given moment somebody could grab him by the silk shell and have an instantaneous leverage if an altercation were to develop from there.

The clothing was forced upon him by his higher-ups as a means of making him operate in a more professional manner. Since Cyril believed it would expend too much effort to raise a voice of opposition, he went with their wishes and has sported the suit and tie ever since, in spite of his personal stance. After giving the fabric one last tug, he paced his way through the flat and rounded the corner into the main room. There, standing in rays of light that all focused on the room's center was a girl with her hands tightly clasped together and her eyes shut. She remained there quietly while she offered praise to the deity she held in such high regard. Anybody would naturally be captivated by the sight. The way the sun gracefully fell onto the girl's skin, how shallow her breaths were due to being preoccupied with praying, the whole spectacle would leave one speechless regardless of religious affiliation. Or maybe because of the two cat ears that kept up a presentable form too.

But Cyril wasn't one for common courtesies and even with his taciturn demeanor still intruded upon the her prayer, ”So, did He pick up or were you put on hold again?” He asked in a spiteful tone to evoke some chagrin, ”You know, maybe you should try sending Him a letter. Kind of like how kids always write to Saint Nicholas?” The girl tried her best to maintain her composure, but unseeable from Cyril's perspective, her brow had become visually furrowed. ”Actually, Sinterklaas has become more prevalent recently. After the Nazis enacted Gleichschaltung in the Netherlands a few months ago, the R.A.F has recently started rewriting his rhymes. They dropped candy over occupied land to one of them. How'd it go again...? Ah, right. The Saniwa took a deep breathe and delved into a recitation, taking a portion of the sunlight to bask in himself. ”R.A.F. Kapoentje, Gooi wat in mijn schoentje, Bij de Moffen gooein, Maar in Hol-”

And just like that, the last straw turned to cinders. The girl unwillingly placed her morning prayers on a halt as she whirled around to face Cyril, flames burning wildly in her eyes. In response to this agitated display, the young adult blankly looked at her. ”Hey, weren't you just in the middle of something important?”

”Look who the hell is tal- eep!” Wulf realized her mistake and sent a barrage of apologies into the sun. This was how the days of the socially declined Cyril Noel and his faithful Artifact Wulfetrud went. The comical exchange of words through scorched air was only but the tip of the iceberg. After preparing for the day before them, the duo would head to a diner that sat on the edge of Donkmeer Lake. Cyril and Wulfetrud unanimously agreed the view was the best thing to start the day with, that and a cup of coffee and tea respectively. And if his morning had been especially shitty, a glass of wine.

They would then continue on with their jobs at that very diner, where Cyril managed its resources while Wulfetrud served as a waitress. She marketed off her extra ears under the guise that they were rather than legitimate parts of her body. With her ingenuity, the girl entrenched herselff deeper in the role and altered her speech. She got into the act of ending off her sentences with “mew” or “meow”, or her fans' favorite, straining out any word containing the syllable “per”:

”Thank you, devoted patron! Don't worry, your meal will be just puuuuurfect~!”

Bleugh

Cyril was thankful for the fact that he rarely bared witness to this performance. It was impossible for him to make the connection between the voice filled with amity and its deprecating counterpart. Although Cyril tended to be the only recipient of the latter.

After work was done for the day, they would report in to the local Saniwa who presided over the district and distributed missions like they were coupons to gentlemen's clubs. In the case that the two were graced with a day off, which was nearly impossible since the area appeared to always be a cesspool for activity. But if this instance ever rose, they made sure to savor every morsel. Their free time was usually spent aimlessly strolling around Ghent, stopping by shops that especially caught Wulf's eye, and reclining at a pub Cyril frequented. Though the girl may have looked incongruous in an establishment chock full of burly men, albeit her partner wasn't all that much to look at, the two resonated with the drunken community. It was even more entertaining for the girl to watch as Cyril contested alcoholic veterans and wiped the floor with them, and since it was a pretty undemanding task to get him home, she let the young adult drink to his threshold. Although he never admitted it, he always called it quits just before he's crossed over from sobriety. The blond cared for his artifact's frame of mind, despite the fact that any valid evidence has yet to leave his mouth.

Cyril backpedaled from the girl and made his way to the entrance where a coat rack resided. ”You're not continuing to pester me. Something's up, right?” Wulf abruptly called out, lids still closed shut and palms pressed tightly together. Yep, that’s what caught her attention. The Saniwa peaked his head from around the corner to offer the girl an ambiguous answer, his own definition of the word courteous, ”...Maybe.” He picked up the faint sound of the girl clicking her tongue and blindly plucked a flat cap from a limb. The young adult then backtracked his steps once again and stopped at the girl's side. A pair of friendly yet mildly agitated eyes looked up at Cyril as he gently placed the article of apparel over his partner's ears. ”Comfortable enough?” He queried in an affable voice which Wulf was unable to determine to be false or genuine. The girl responded with a composed nod before she adjusted the hat with her hands. ”Good.” Cyril curtly spoke as he began to make his way out of the open room. The artifact finally remembered her original question and opened her mouth in preparation, but even before a syllable could be vocalized the young adult had already answered, ”The city of rain and tea.”




”Leave me... Go on, save yourself.” Cyril managed to croak out as he lied there on the cobblestone, his face ashen to the point that blood no longer seemed to flow through. ”C-Cyril, please.” She begged with a gaze drowning in distress. The Saniwa rolled over to his side, gravel and dust ground against his body through every muscle movement, while his back faced Wulfetrud. ”You have to finish the mission. Do it for me... Don't worry, I'll be okay.” He was a lost cause, his life force comprised of a mere twenty-one grams was but a fleeting memory. ”Cyril... Come on. We're in public. J-Just get up from the sidewalk already. People are staring.”

That was indeed true,with the ambiance of car engines and horns that filled the streets. Passersby simply did just that, only daring to steal a glance before racing off, since they obviously didn't want to be involved with a doubled over Belgian and a girl who actually fitted into the setting. ”We have to get to the me- ARE YOU SERIOUSLY THINKING OF READING RIGHT NOW?!” She hissed as Cyril produced a book with the subtly of an otter afloat. Wulf believed that the bookworm had sewn pockets into his jackets just for the written word.

”Alright, there has to be a specific reason why you don't want to go. At least Maria and Basilio are there, so it's not like the whole entire team consists of strangers.” Her words were charged with static on the brim of electrocuting the supposedly esteemed Combat Saniwa lying on the dampened sidewalk.

”Because there are people there.” He suddenly blurted out to justify his defiant nature. A look of disbelief overcame her complexion as she dared to even process the words that just left the Saniwa's mouth. She managed to contain herself once a palm was applied to her face. "And...?” She ventured to implore him to expand on the vague answer.

”And they’re alive.”

”And?”

”And they're people.”

”Why does this argument sound painfully tenable?!”

”Because we're socially inept.”

”...I hate you.”

”That makes the two of us.”




Just as the two arrived at the office Wulfetrud suddenly grabbed the fine fabric of his suit, ”Wait a second.” She forced Cyril around to face her and began to fix his tie in meticulous adjustments, to which the Saniwa only rolled his eyes, ”What? You have to at least look somewhat presentable. There are some big-time figures in there, right?” She gave the silk one last tug and stepped back to observe her masterpiece. She took a few scant seconds to determine whether it symmetrically sufficed, during which Cyril decided to slip in a retort, ”Right, I'm sure they're keeping a keen eye out for lackluster dressers. Oi, no hats indoors. It's improper etiquette.” He spoke in a cold voice as he yanked the cap right off from her her head. Flustered couldn’t even dream to describe the shade of rosy red that filled her cheeks at such a swift rate. The girl flailed her arms as she hoped to bridge the gap of their height difference yet to no avail was unable to reach it. Besides, the cat ears would help her leave more of an impression. Given how unapproachable her partner was, at least somebody needed to be remembered as an actual existence. Then again, she wasn’t exactly much of a social butterfly herself. She felt unnerved by these new horizons, and the fact that Cyril was acting his usual indifferent self wasn’t helping either. Perhaps underneath that blasé mug was a tinge of worry. ”Well, shall we? Might as well get it over with?” His irritated temperament that she was all too familiar with was the thing that brought her out of her muse. The pair of apathetic eyes staring back at hers urged her to answer, ”Leave me… Go on, save yourself.”

The girl almost broke out in laughter at the ravine that formed between his brows.

The slam of the door behind them denoted the point of no return. Once they had digested the room and its current denizens in its fullest, the two thought together in perfect unison, ”Well fuck.”

The office itself was actually quite anticlimactic, mundane really. Cyril was expecting a room embellished with a wallet that had to compensate for something else. The duo’s noses picked up the trace of cigarette smoke, which the younger of the two met abrasively with a scrunched up face. The girl wondered if everybody in this team besides Maria and her artifact were smokers. It was probably not far from the truth, much to her dismay. The Saniwa didn’t even make an effort to alert the others of his presence. A few of them were already engrossed in conversation, so rather than intruding on that oh so picturesque moment, Cyril shot the head honchos a nod. His gaze specifically rested on Yuuki before he turned himself around to set two cases next to the door. The proper thing to do in this scenario was to introduce himself and report in. Unfortunately, any driving force to do this had long since been expired, as made clear when the blond popped open Friedrich Nietzche’s Human, All Too Human and picked up from where he left off. The floor seemed to have met his standard for seating. As if this scene had played out many times, his artifact sat down next to him and read along, occasionally holding the page by the end for a few sparse moments to catch up.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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#, as written by Alligot
A M E L I A

S A M A E L






The imposing stench of oil and spent gunpowder lingered through the street, so thick that it might just be visible. A half dozen men with whitened hair and creased faces pried and struggled against piles of rubble and splintered wood, their hands thickly gloved. Children clad in oversized coats clambered and ran across the street - scurrying to make room for the occasional automobile or taxi.

One of the laboring men lifted a hand to a couple passing by, their attire undamaged and vibrant in color, their step determined and backs straight. The shorter of the two carried a trio of satchels, all varying in size, and wore a simple shirt and slacks - a strange thing in the chilling fall weather. His fair hair was combed back, yet his face was unkempt, with visible stubble on his jaw and neck. Upon his right arm he wore a simply-designed silver watch backwards, having to tilt his palm up if he were to read the time.

Ahead of him walked a woman with similarly-colored hair, although hers was fell past her shoulders, with her head covered by a shapeless cap. Her hands were hidden within the pockets of an olive coat, with a similar, thinner watch resting upon her right wrist. A draft of wind blew past, ruffling her skirt and hair and bringing with it a thick floral aroma, washing away the previous odors.

Hey, Amelia? I think we're getting close.

A couple simple words that nobody save one could hear - a faint, almost intimate whisper slid into her thoughts, a deep, ringing voice she knew belonged to Samael, an angelic name that was given to a man who had seemed a godsend upon his creation. He's since failed to keep such high esteem, with a primary reason being his ceaseless chiding.

Do you think I'm lost? I already know we're close.

Her tone was defensive - perhaps a bit tired. The taxi had dropped them off at the wrong office, forcing them to walk several blocks, a setback made more difficult even with flat shoes due to the damaged, messy terrain. Well, that, and she knew that Samael had been preoccupied with watching their surroundings. It was with no small amount of irritation that she learned that her Artifact just now figured out where they were.

Not paying attention, though. Come on, isn't the smell a bit strong for a few withering flowerbeds? This is an Artifact's work.

Her irritation lapsed - for she herself hadn't given the ability any other notice than relief, due to it removing the previous stench.

Is it doing anything to us?

To this, he shrugged. The scent grew stronger as they turned the corner of the street, facing the Kazetani office at the intersection. Though, neither of them felt tired or otherwise affected by the ability as their proximity increased.

No idea, but I'm guessing it's not.

Could be the American Saniwa, then. The West Wind has a liking for these kinds of displays, swaggering bunch of cowboys that they are.

The source quickly came into view - a uniformed Artifact standing at his post near the door. Samael gave him a nod as the pair walked inside. Another moment spent with a receptionist - and they were walking into the meeting room a minute later. She had removed her hat and coat, tucking both under her arm, while Samael had actually tucked his shirt in.

As she observed the room, it was reassuring to see that she wasn't the last to arrive. A quick count indicated that two still had yet to arrive - the two women from the East and South wind, probably. She took note of Kazetani's stifling presence - with both father and child carrying a similar air, with the younger talking to who Amelia supposed to be Christie. A duo of tall, older man accompanied by what Samael confirmed to be their two Artifacts. She tagged them as the West Wind Saniwa, if only due to their volume and dialect. And sitting on the floor was a young-looking man (wait, why was he sitting?) she swore she'd seen before -

Have you ever seen an Artifact that looks like that? Samael interrupted, his curiosity piqued.

Amelia instead followed Samael's gaze, and immediately saw what had piqued his curiosity. The young man's artifact was also sitting nearby, and she might have commented on that were she not also looking at a pair of animalistic ears, thrust out from the top of the girl's head.

Ah. Those two.

You know them?

No, but I saw them at the Graduation. Strange sort - if you can't tell.

Everyone's strange in a way, though.

They're acting like an actual teenaged couple. At a meeting about - really, the most important assignment any of us will ever do?

Oh - her ear's doing a twitching thing. Really, it's kind of endearing.

Though Amelia had already walked off, her gaze set upon a pair of particular Saniwa - perhaps one of the few professionals within the group.

Thinking with elitism doesn't qualify you for it, you know.

"Madame Christie, Mr. Kazetani? It's wonderful to finally meet you." Amelia said, adopting a smile and lilt to her tone. "Precious few other Saniwa hardly seem as composed."

She glanced at the elder Kazetani out of the corner of her eye - his head seemed bent, his eyes closed, so she didn't wish to disturb his thoughts. So, with a hand to her chest, she continued, "I'm Amelia - Amelia Renard, one of the Research Saniwa."

You're off your game today.

I'm not even playing the game.

Then you need to improve on your flattery.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Dark brown eyes study the quiet streets, observing the townspeople close up shop or head home. Her lips move, her voice barely above a whisper. Chavacano rolls off her tongue, the language of home comforting in a place so vastly different. "Are we running late?" She cringes hearing herself, knowing full well she'd uttered several variations of that same question the past hour. But patience was never her strong suit, and travelling only made her fuse shorter.

To her left, Basilio stirs. A hand reaches into his coat pocket, pulling out a well-worn pocket watch and a flashlight. Their driver gives them a curious glance, interested in the two foreigners in his coach, but says nothing. His gut tells him that he shouldn't, and he's inclined to trust it. They would speak to him in English if they wished for his input. Plus, the male customer had a larger build he'd be better off not experiencing firsthand. With war at their doorstep, one had to look out for anything.

A few seconds later and the Artifact sighs, hiding the watch once again. "Yes. But it's not inexcusable." With all factors considered, the two made good time. If the weather had faired any worse, the pair might've been three days late.

With a heavy sigh, she rubs her neck where an itch developed. She loathes formal appearance, but understands their need. Still, she wonders just how presentable she'd still be with the scent of smoke and leather clinging to her like perfume. A small stain on the seat's material catches her eye, and she discreetly moves away from the spot. It could've been something as innocuous as tea, but she'd rather not think of the other possibilities. It would be best if she focused on other things.

"Who else are we meeting? Anyone we know?" Other than the most important details (namely, the place, host, time and date of the meeting), Maria largely ignored the contents of the summon. As she often does, she left the specifics to her Artifact.

"Cyril Noël." Her face remains unsurprisingly blank, and Basilio supplies her with additional information to jog her memory. "We met in India. His artifact's -."

"Oh, Mr. Congeniality and Wulf!" She abruptly switches to English, a hint of excitement entering her voice. If one met Cyril Noël firsthand, they would quickly understand why the nickname ill-suited the Belgian. Her sudden outburst surprises the driver, who quietly attempts to make sense of the conversation. Unfortunately for him, she returns to her native tongue. "What winds are the others from?"

"Two others from the North, two from the East, and another two from the West.."

"Well let's hope the West Winds fair better as Saniwa than they do governing another country." He's reluctant to admit it, but there was truth in her bitter words. Basilio remains silent for the rest of the trip, unwilling to fan the flames higher. Prejudice should not be on the forefront of their minds upon meeting the rest.

Thankfully, the awkward silence does not last long. The cab rolls to a stop, and the two pay their fare. Maria takes care not to slip on the damp cobblestone as they alight from the car. A footman assists her, the scent of cherry blossom assailing her sense of smell as he nears. It doesn't take long for her to deduce that he's an Artifact, although she did have to wonder about the strength of his cologne. "Looks like we're in the right place. Get our bags, Basilio, I'll go ahead."

She quickly confirms her identity with the receptionist, and checks her reflection in the hallway mirror before entering the room. Her usually long hair was tied in a loose braid, and her collar remained stiff from the starch. Nothing could be done about the faint scent of the taxi, lest she use the perfume Rani gave her. Maria doubts that's a good idea. At the very least, she doesn't feel like the farm girl she grew up as. That would suffice as her basis of confidence.

Maria enters, her gaze perusing the room before settling on a familiar figure seated on the floor. Without so much as a greeting to the Belgian, she swiftly moves to his side. Wulf gives her a smile as hello, to which she replies in kind. The two formed an unlikely friendship thanks to the socially-inept Saniwa sitting between them.

Though shorter than everyone else in the room, Maria stands with her back straight. "Maria Calag, Spiritualist." The Spiritualist hates how she has to look up to meet their gazes, but continues to project confidence as she introduces herself. Basilio enters soon after and the room immediately feels even more cramped than it already did. Why did she have such a large Artifact? More importantly, what was Cyril doing occupying precious standing room with his butt?

She gives Cyril a warning kick, urging him to join her. "Stand up, Cyril. And I mean right now."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Do you think this is the right place?

Mamoru grimaces. That’s what the information says. Shouldn’t we be going in already? We’re already late.

Mayumi’s mouth twitches slightly, and suddenly she’s fading around the edges.

Her artifact, a very ordinary looking Japanese man - looking supremely out of place on the London street, incredulously side-eyes her. Are you really using this now? Here?

We’re going to wait. I want to see someone else go first.

And you really need to waste spirit for that? Aren’t you a little bit excessive?

Now that she isn’t visible to humans, Mayumi turns towards her Artifact and pouts. My social training included hosting people, and entertaining them. I’m not even in the right formal clothes - neither us could even properly put together a formal western outfit. I know you’re fluent in English, but mine is awful. I just want to feel a little bit better about this. Can’t you cover for me?

Mamoru heaves a resigned sigh and turns back to watch the entrance of the building, and Mayumi gives a small smile. At least we made sure to get here early and explore the area first, if we hadn’t you’d be a wreck right now.

She gives him a dirty look, more expressive now that she’s invisible. Seeing a taxi pull up in front of the building, she and Mamoru turn in tandem to look towards the entrance. Attentively watching a small young woman and a much larger young man exit the car and enter the building, Mayumi takes a deep breath rolls her shoulders back, straightening up into a more graceful posture and her edges fading back into existence. Flattening down imaginary wrinkles in her kimono, she carefully crosses street to the entrance of the building, with Mamoru following just as gracefully behind. Quickly and quietly entering the building, she hurries to the office, just losing sight of the larger young man walking into the door of the office as she turns the corner at the opposite end of the hall. She schools her face into a placid, friendly expression and walks down the hall and waits next to the door, gesturing for her Artifact to go first.

He gives her a long suffering look, but opens the door and enters just in time to see the from earlier young woman kick another young man and berate him. Trying to suppress a slightly bewildered expression, Mamoru turns to the Kazetani Head and greets him, switching from Japanese to English. “It’s an honor to meet everyone. I’m Mamoru Shimizu, and this is Mayumi Shimizu. We’re researchers previously assigned to the GodTree project in Japan.” He turns to include everyone, “I hope everyone will treat us well.”

Mayumi steps forward from behind Mamoru and adding, “I - It’s good to meet you all.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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MIYOSHI
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MIYOSHI
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“All is in order now,” Yuuki gravely affirms. “It seems none of you understand the pressing matter.”

“Miyoshi,” he tersely says.

Returning to his seat, Yuuki gestures for his son to continue in his stead.

Amidst smoke and darkness, Miyoshi wordlessly moves through the room. Any barriers there might have between the room’s inhabitants are, to Miyoshi, less of an issue than the crisis he must explain.

After some preparation, he begins to speak.

“Jonathan Watson has been dead for many months and yet only more deaths follow.” Miyoshi says. “I cannot tell you the extraordinary sense of duty that has united us all, but as it currently stands, one researcher remains. His name is Albert Gammond. We know that the killer practices soul extraction. Therefore, we have been gathered to supervise Mr. Gammond’s death. He will be on the Joffre alongside us, and we are to let him die.

He pauses--and a sort of strangled gasp comes from Rosalind Christie.

Let the man die? she cries.

“Of course.” Miyoshi replies simply, after a pause. “Soul extraction is a unique practice in that both a victim and an extractor leave soul trace in the process. It’s tricky business though, as it is time-sensitive. Still, we’re a capable bunch I should hope. Even if our killer escapes us, their soul residue will not.”

Miyoshi smiles pleasantly. “So, letting Gammond die is to our benefit, really.”

“Good God.” Rosalind shivers.

“Well.” Miyoshi continues. “I should say, logic, reason, pure science: these are the proper ways to pursue a mystery. Gammond’s death should not be any different. He’s resigned himself to his fate, honestly. Father asked him where he’d like to die, and the Joffre was his answer. We are all spectators; Gammond has invited us to watch.”

His voice trails off to swirl past the open window of the small office. He settles in the uncomfortable silence he’s created, and relishes in the horror he’s established. He feels almost sad when his father disrupts his mood.

The elder Kazetani lights a cigarette, a brief flash of light in obscurity.

“That will be all, Miyoshi.” Yuuki says. “Now for introductions."

“Mr.Noel, Belgium’s best, is to protect Ms.Calag, our good tracker. Ms.Calag should be glad to have Mr.Noel’s service, as he is the best of Belgium, having graduated the top of his class. Likewise, Mr. Noel should be thankful of Ms. Calag’s social conscientiousness, lest his manners badly guide him. Any misstep of Mr.Noel’s part may lead to Ms.Calag’s end. We are lucky to have Ms. Calag among us. Rani does not often lend her favorite Spiritualists. Be vigilant, Mr.Noel.

“And Gandor’s own Mr. Stanfield. I’ve heard many honorable things about you from my colleague. My son is very fond of you. He specially requested you as a chaperone, and I daresay you will live up to expectations. You are to guard him, and Ms. Hélène Köhler, whom you shall meet later. If you fail, they will die, I suppose. Ms. Köhler and Miyoshi are irreplaceable House assets.

“Finally, Mr. Walker shall be Ms. Renard’s aide. She is the taskforce’s Researcher and Artifact specialist by extension. Often, the two of you will need to join forces, combine your equipments, and act as the team’s strongholds. Without either of you, Saniwa cannot work independently long-distance from their Artifacts. Fortunately, the two of you are experts at surviving. Mr. Walker in particular is an expert survivalist. Continue not dying.”

“Of course, Miyoshi shall be the team leader. Report to him, and he shall report to me.”

“I swear our triumph,” Miyoshi says, earning him a frown from his father.

“Miyoshi. Do not be so certain of your success.” Yuuki says coolly, to which Miyoshi thinly smiles.

It is a queer thing to hear. He looks at his father as though he has never seen him before. For a moment, Miyoshi is so emotionless that he does not trust himself to speak.

Miyoshi feels nothing; absolutely nothing. He has no sorrow, no desire for action, and no inclination to seek truth for its own sake. He understands enough about the world and the hearts of men. He does not need the honors he would gain from his duty, nor the satisfaction of learning Watson’s demise. He sees little personal profit in the entire ordeal, but chooses his words thoughtfully. There is some humor, he thinks, in only partially masking his detachment.

“Of course. If we are to die on the Joffre, we’ve at least had a pleasant journey.” Miyoshi laughs.

“Yes, I suppose that is true.” Yuuki replies, and it is Miyoshi’s turn to be surprised. “There are many paths to take in life, and death is simply just another.”

The elder Kazetani gives a slow half-smile that Miyoshi gracefully returns.

Grinning wryly, the younger Kazetani turns to face his subordinates.

“To death, the weight of soul, and a journey to end all ends. What say all of you?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Even with his nose deep in Friedrich’s work for free spirits Cyril was still able to sense a figure materialize at his side. Before the foot coming down like a striking hammer met its target, the young adult turned to face his artifact. No words were spoken, nor were anything thoughts transmitted through a mental connection. Only the exchange of gazes occurred.

”Wulf, tell my wife I love her.”

”As if somebody would marry you.” The girl followed up ruthlessly deadpan.

”True, but still painful.

Cyril angled his vision up at the source of the kick from his seated position. Almost instantaneously, the extremely faint signs of a smile tugged at the corners of his mouth, and despite common belief, it was genuine. ”Glad to see you’re doing well after our escapade, Maria.” He spoke in a voiced laced in neither amiability nor derision. Only professional esteem, which in itself was peculiar considering that Cyril was the polar opposite of professional. The Philippine was one of the very, very, very few people awarded with the privilege of being on the exiguous mental list labeled COMPETENT. Her mentality was comprised of the right amounts acumen and cynicism to gaze unobstructedly through the looking glass. On top of that, she was a living and breathing example of the reason to never look down upon people of short stature. In a deriding sense, of course. As the idiom went: The smaller they are, the easier it is to stab the living shit out of you.

”Sure you’ve been fine with that guy who’s at the apex of masculinity- Speaking of which, greetings Basilio.” Both Cyril and Wulf waved in unison at the Saniwa’s escort, who would most like have been in the midst of panic if he had claustrophobia. The blond unconsciously referred to artifacts as human beings. And why should he do anything beside that? They eat, sleep, and shit. To his understanding, those were the core fundamentals of what it meant to be “human”. Although in his mind he knew they were products of the soul, discerning between specific origins required far too much effort for the Belgian to squander. ”Hey, since you’re here, I want you to tell me what you think of this little excerpt?” Cyril abruptly switched gears without noticed, his slack stature now brimmed with energy once his gaze had been cast back to the literature in his hands. After a low breath, words filled with enthrallment flew forth. ”Even the distinction between soul and body is wholly due to the primitive conception of the dream, as also the hypothesis of the embodied soul, whence the development of all superstition, and also, probably the belief in god. “The dead still live: for they appear to the living in dreams.” Very befitting of our current arrangements, right? The last few words lost their vibrance as Cyril looked away from the book to witness Maria’s reaction. Seamlessly, the young adult was once again his lethargic self. Though hopefully the cutout would refresh the surely tired Maria and Basilio, he didn’t really make it a priority to transmit his words in a warm manner.

As much as he hated to admit it, Maria had done Cyril a solid. Back when Wulf’s personality was still in the midst of being cultivated, and at the time had bared a close resemblance to a blank canvas, the Spiritualist had “fleshed out” the girl’s colors almost effortlessly. Cyril was, one would say, in total awe. Surely being members of the same sex was a crucial factor, but perhaps it was all of the facets entailed with another human being that. It’s not that Wulf ever shirked from telling Cyril about something that was on her mind, in fact he was her go-to for such issues, in spite of the lack of lucid empathy he exhibited. He had never explicitly thanked Maria, and chances are, he never would. There was no meaning in such a petty matter.

For karma had already caught up with him.

Cyril was able to digest the words that cut through the air as well as those on the pages before him. Though, he did find his interest piqued when Myoshi nonchalantly dropped the bomb filled with quite the payload. So the people whose job was to prevent deaths would now ensure one would take place. Talk about a plot twist. It wasn’t cheesy, in all actuality, it had taken the combat Saniwa by surprise. The only sign of a response were his widened eyes, which only remained in that form for a short-lived second before mellowing out once again.

"Wait, seriously?!” Wulfetrud internally exclaimed while she shared the same expression as Ms. Christine. An anxious glance to her side confirmed that her partner was completely impassive to this revelation. She yet again envied that aloof side of him, but then again, one of them had to maintain a cool head. Her furred ears twitched uneasily as Miyoshi led the team on, not letting a single consonant fall short of any ears. Even though the Saniwa coolly made an attempt to rationalize what had slithered out of his mouth, a shiver still ran up the girl’s spine despite the amount of carbon dioxide in the room.

Of course. In the name of science. Any second now, Cyril expected Miyoshi to slip into a labcoat produced from a hatch in the ceiling and go forth as an envoy of science. Every generic mad scientist believes that his cause is just no matter the horrors that may lead up to the culmination of his efforts, for it’s all in the name of science. Though mad scientists never seemed to be chained by budget cuts and external benefactors. The guy continued to droll on until the older, veteran Kazetani took the spotlight. Cyril forced himself to hold back the urge to click his tongue after another death stick was ignited, his eyes follow its grey essence as it weakened in density. His eyes were brought back to the Head Saniwa when his ears picked up his own unwelcomed name. He could feel minutes shaved off his life as the words sank in and registered. Although, after he took the other eccentric characters within the room into account, he had gotten off somewhat easy. After the other members had received their assignments, father and son exchanged volleys that probably comprised the familial bonds between them. It would’ve been a heart-warming sight, only if the two individuals weren’t batshit and if Cyril had he actually listened to.

The young adult was now at a crossroads. A pivotal juncture. A fight with temptation. Cyril glanced up to Miyoshi and back down to the book multiple times, until Wulf nudged him in the arm with her elbow. A sigh of defeat escaped his lips as he brought the two uneven halves of the book together in one hand and inelegantly got to his feet, with his artifact in briskly in tow. ”Well, guess I have to make this official? Where do I sign in blood?” He brusquely fixed his stature and opened his mouth again, ”I, Cyril Noel, and Wulfetrud, hereby swear to protect Maria Calag and Basilio to the best of our abilities and then some, lest the former perish and return to this plane to haunt my kitchen’s sink drawer.” He felt another nudge, this time a bit harder than the first. Wulf didn’t seem to enjoy the verbal jab and pouted. ”Glad to be onboard.”

As long as there's sleep and fine wine.

Hopefully the train ride would stop Wulf's caterwauling on taking a scenic trip.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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As much as Claire would have liked the conversation to stay between the three of them, another man came to the party.

Is that how they teach roofuckers to talk down under? is what he thought and would have liked to say, but in the presence of more formal company he much preferred staying on the side of politeness.

"Don't give me that hooey, I'm just-"

As if by magic another voice, presumably the North Wind woman butted in to introduce herself to Rosalind.

Then a foreigner kicked a boy.

Then she scolded him.

Then he, Claire, the person that was there first, opened his mouth to continue. All presumptions of formality had flown out the window so he had no problem giving the Australian a talking to.

"What he means to say is that it's very nice to meet all of you," Graham finished, putting a hand on Claire's shoulder.

Claire turned to Graham, a grimace evident on his face. The two of them exchanged a hard look, seemingly unaware of the background noise until Claire relented and slouched further.

"Kangaroos included," he muttered, turning his gaze to the elder Kazetani.

The Asian silenced the room with his voice which emanated death, destruction, and the need to get canned. Similarly, his son spoke sardonically, surrounded by the characteristic mystique that plagued his character. Despite his transparency with the mission details, Claire knew that nothing would ever be as it seemed with the Kazetani family and even less so with the House. To let a man die was a terrible mission in it of itself even if it was for the greater good. Here, they were at a crossroads. They had to sacrifice the last scientist on Watson's project which meant that all the information would truly be laid to rest.

It wouldn't bother him more than the usual suicide mission, or he liked to think so, but Graham gave him a quick glance to make sure that the redhead was fine with it. The Irishman had a particular way of expressing discontent, which, in this case, meant cringing at Gammond's resignation to death. Still, they nodded off to each introduction. Claire didn't really know any of them, but smirked at the mention of his name and the sprinkle of praise that came with it. He wasn't conceited by any means, but given that he had to guard three people (two of which were irreplaceable) there was a certain honor that came with the job.

Then again, I'm sure there's tons of rats in Japan, he thought with a shrug.

Only ten minutes in and you're already making jabs at him?

A short pause dictated their thoughts before Claire replied with a cheeky grin, not only because of the thought of having Mouse replaced with a literal rat, but also because of Yuuki's blase approach to death. He couldn't tell if they hated each other or just everyone else, but neither of them would dissuade his attitude.

"Death ain't a path I plan on taking for a while Mister Kazetani," Claire replied, standing tall.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker
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#, as written by Alligot
A M E L I A

S A M A E L






Amelia and Samael both mulled over Yuuki's words, and their respective roles in what would be an inevitable, grim conclusion. Their minds might melt together, but their thoughts were divisive.

This seems wasteful. Surely there's a better way than providing the man as bait - bait we intend to lose. Can we not put the reading couple with him - or perhaps the Americans? They could catch the killer in the attempt.

They'd be obvious, no? They are to be caught, not scared off.

One of us, then. We're not bodyguards. You might not be.

A brief silence slid between them - unnoticed by the rest of the room's inhabitants. After all, they had not spoken out loud to one another since they entered. To them, nothing had changed.

Typically, you're the one to lecture; but it seems strange for you to worry about his life.

And it's unfortunate that you view life so lightly when you know nothing of taking it.

The comment would have stung another. Later, when the watch was removed, maybe Amelia might admit the sharp tone had caused her pause - that is, if she would be honest with herself. He knew she believed herself desensitized to it - but it was never her hand that swung the sword, nor her finger that squeezed the trigger. It was never her gaze that captured the loss, for she avoided lifeless eyes, lest they cast their curse upon her. Eventually, she would learn. But, god willing, not the same way he had. Not with the same conclusion.

It isn't our place to decide. It's a simple order, and the chances of killing or even failing to capture the killer altogether are high. The residue will give us a fingerprint that they can never remove or sever away. Their capture would be inevitable, and there would be no place they could hide.

Samael knew this. Perhaps for taking the killer alive, this was the best solution. Not a right solution by any means, akin to leading a lamb to sacrificial slaughter. It was not like playing his old games, hidden in the snow. His victims had been armed, they would have killed him if they could. This man seemed unlikely to kill much - especially Amelia or himself.

We've got assistants?

It had been a long gap in their conversation as the elder Kazetani had announced their roles. Amelia had been surprised initially, and her thoughts were resting somewhere between mild irritation and strangely enough, enthusiasm. Although the Australians might get in the way, with their loud banter and manner counteractive to both Amelia and Samael's subtler demeanor.

It's nice to not be an assistant for a change... but - They seem rather loud. They do.

Still, you've been placed in a position of importance.

Amelia crossed her arms, having been listening to the Japanese boy's quick monologue. Were all Kazetani so fatalistic? With the elder man's jab about their possible failure, and the son's quip of their deaths, Amelia couldn't help but wonder if they're intended to die along with the researcher.

"Every precaution will be taken to make sure this goes right."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Mayumi’s former calm didn’t last long, and having watched all the other Saniwa in the room interact so easily with each other, her anxiety reignited and her stomach began to churn yet again. The elder Kazetani’s scolding only made it worse, and her Artifact finally addressed her building apprehension.

He slid his eyes back to take in her profile from his place slightly in front of her, and carefully made sure nothing showed on his face while he addressed her over their connection.

Take a slow, deep breath. Losing your calm will gain you nothing, and you need to pay attention to what everyone is saying since I will not be the one everyone will need to talk to, and nor am I going to translate this to you. Focus, and make sure to be shrewd in your analysis. We will need it.

Mayumi’s eyelids fluttered for a second as she centered herself, and she took a surreptitious breath while the Kazetani heir slowly began his circuit around the room. It was a useless endeavour however, as her anxiety immediately returned when she heard that they were allowing this Albert Gammond to die, her blood running cold and the bile rising to the back of her throat as she had to suppress memories of a similar slaughter of an entire research project for information. Her fear and horror passed quickly, but her and Mamoru shared a wordless sense of uneasiness over their connection to the mirrored circumstances. While the others in the room exclaimed, the Artifact’s lips pressed together for just a split second and Mayumi’s hands clenched in a vice grip in her sleeves. They only allowed themselves their slips for a moment before they forced themselves back into their placid facades.

Mayumi, grateful for both her large sleeves and her more... demonstrative teammates, quietly revelled in the sense of forced calm her Artifact had pushed at her as they regained themselves. She watched as the Kazetani continued, she was entirely impressed despite herself.

In a way, Kazetani’s pragmatism is quite impressive. This “scientific” outlook sounds more like desperate platitudes of a dead man to himself, but it also sounds just creepy enough to be the sentiment of a researcher who worked on the project that pioneered soul extraction. I’m not quite sure who that was supposed to comfort however, us or himself; We’re still going to use him as bait and watch him die, it's an empty platitude.

Not everyone has watched the wholesale slaughter of a research team before, and not everyone has the guts to feel fine watching someone purposefully die as bait. It’s not like you aren’t feeling sick just thinking of it. Let them have this if it makes them easier to work with.

Mayumi made the mental equivalent of a face at him through their connection, and listened attentively as Ambassador Kazetani began on the introductions. While the rest of the team’s long and impressive resumes made for impactful introductions, it surprised neither of them that Mayumi was so replaceable. She felt Mamoru’s slight frustration and displeasure at being relegated to a disposable poison dispenser. The contrast to the strength and prestige of his former incarnation compared to his current form was frustrating, and had begun to grate.

Tentatively through the connection Mayumi offered her thoughts.

I’m sorry.

It’s fine. It’s nothing that won’t change in time. This is good for us however, underestimation is our best weapon.

Mayumi finally felt as though the ground had solidified under her feet again.

Underestimation is key.

She clung to the thought and used it to propel her into a greater sense of calm and purpose. Anchored in pragmatism once more, she continued to listen to the Kazetani heir as he closed his father’s introductions. She reflected on the proceedings, and mused to herself.

If nothing else, the Kazetani has outdone himself with his cynicism. It’s very impressive in it’s own way. I think he may in fact have become the most cynical person we’ve ever met.

Mamoru snorted in response, but tellingly didn’t protest as he shared in his Saniwa’s gallows humor. He chipped in for the both of them, and carefully articulated their willingness to join what was shaping up to be a possible suicide mission for all the belief the Kazetanis' had.

“We will do our utmost to ensure the success of the mission. Thank you for allowing us the privilege to support you; we will work hard to live up to it.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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Maria could only roll her eyes at the exchange between Cyril and his Artifact. The two shared a lively dynamic, at odds with the relationship she shared with Basilio. She simply nods in response to the quote as the older Kazetani begins to speak. His words carry a weight far heavier than they sounded, and it was with Miyoshi's briefing that she came to understand why.

A hand clings to the fabric of her skirt, her protest lost in the grip of her fingers. The smoke that first looked so mysterious now felt like a smog that would choke her. Her face grows pale and she feels sick to stomach, but keeps her lips sealed. Instead, she breathes, counts to ten. Basilio's face betrays nothing, and instead gives his Saniwa a cursory glance. Her thoughts could be seen on her face, but the Spiritualist did well to hold her tongue. A rare instance, but Maria knew it would not do her well to disagree with their plan. Basilio simply braces himself for the mental explosion that was sure to come in a few seconds. His Saniwa did not dwell in her negative mindsets long.

Sure enough, he was blasted with a cacophony of swears ill-suited to a child of God.

How could they do that? Fire stirs within her, putting color back in her cheeks and a spark in her eyes. Life is a gift. Each soul is special - there should be another way. There must be; this is simply the easier way. Fear keeps her words from leaving the safety of her and Basilio's shared mind. The man simply indulges her internal rant, though Maria suspects he tuned her out after a certain point.

Basilio feels a sliver of unease as Miyoshi's final statements hang over the air like a knife. Does anyone ever really resign themselves to death? Maria does not reply, and instead busies her hands with her braid. It was a question she could answer for anyone but herself. Would she go against mission orders if Albert Gammond asked for her to save his life? Her throat dries. It scares her that she could not instantly answer yes. She tries not to dwell on it, but the quiet provided a perfect moment for introspection. She knew that as Saniwa, she made decisions that went against her moral compass. She expected it even. But never anything to this extent.

The heavy silence finally comes to a close as Yuuki Kazetani speaks once again. The pair look in the East Wind head's direction at the mention of Maria's name. Genuine relief pervaded her conscious as she learnt that Cyril and Wulf would be their partners. She did not doubt their abilities - she'd witnessed them firsthand. But more than that, they would be a welcome distraction from what she conceived to be a moral atrocity.

Through his introductions, Maria learnt more of the others in the room. Her Artifact comments on it before she can, a true testament to how peculiar they all were. Their appearances don't match their résumés. A small smile forms on her thin lips, a modicum of good humor returning. The two exchange small quips to alleviate the tension she felt.

Clearly. The West Wind are loud folks, aren't they? The Kazetani are too fatalistic; they could definitely use a dose of sunshine.

On the same level as us? Isn't that a bit much?

Of course. At this rate they need it. Her spirits lifted, she affirmed her decision, even if reluctance colored it. She waits for a pause, then speaks, her voice carrying a forced enthusiasm and confidence. "I'd disagree about haunting your sink; it's probably filthy. " Turning to Miyoshi, she agrees with a nod, then turns to Cyril. "We'll be in your care."

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Miyoshi Kazetani Character Portrait: Claire Stanfield Character Portrait: Mayumi Miyamoto Character Portrait: Amelia Renard Character Portrait: Cyril Noël Character Portrait: Geoffrey Lee Walker Character Portrait: Maria Calag
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“Nice one mate,” Lee replied dryly to Claire's quiet jab. He could feel Peter mentally poking him, but Lee simply shrugged him off, and began to take in the other arrivals. He noted the antics of the other Combat pair, acting more like a couple than artifact and Saniwa. He also noted the familiarity the shorter Saniwa-- South Wind if he had his guess, showed them. Her artifact was a large man himself, giving Lee a run for his money in heft and height. His eyes lingered on the man for a moment before he continued to scan. The other pair were a woman and a man, though they mostly kept to themselves, and did not display the... oddities the rest did.

Including ourselves, He felt Peter interject. Lee could only nod in agreement. It was true, their-- his Peter reminded him, introduction wasn't the most professional. The last arrival, a man and a young girl was finally made their entrance, and Lee raised an eyebrow at their garb. A kimono, they must be the other East Winds.

Lee nodded at their greetings before he turned toward Peter. I know what a kimono is, mate. I just never seen one. Peter smiled in response, but said nothing else.

It was about then the elder Kazetani began to speak. At his words, Lee snapped to attention and took on a more professional demeanor, with Peter following suit. Their spines straightened, their shoulders squared, and they held their wrists behind themselves looking almost disciplined in the process. Their shoulders never shifted at the Kazetani's spoke, but Lee did mutter “Poor bastard,” under his breath once he heard that they were going to be using a man named Albert Gammond as bait. It was grim business, but Lee said nothing else. It sounded as if the man made his choice, and if their mission was to supervise his death, then that were their mission. There wasn't anything they could do about it but follow orders. Though, the way the younger Kazetani delivered the news as if it was something completely ordinary didn't sit too well with Lee.

Next came the proper introductions, where the elder Kazetani to names to faces. While he had already heard of Claire from Gandor, the rest were strangers, and it was nice to know what to call who. Both Lee and Peter committed names to memory. Near the end, the Kazetani revealed that they were to be Ms. Renard's aides. He turned toward the woman, and offered a dry smile before dipping his head in a greeting. “That's the plan,” Lee replied to the request of continuing not to die. He rather liked living, actually.

With that, the Kazetani's finished speaking, leaving Lee to mutter, “A bloody morbid bunch,” under his breath. He felt another mental poke from Peter, but then an agreement. A lot more fatalistic than we're used to, that's for true. Let's hope the rest of 'em aren't like that. A quick scan of the room, and the varying expressions on their faces, and Lee decided that, no, they probably weren't. The woman called Maria particularly had her emotions plainly written on her face.

Turning back to Yuuki and Miyoshi, Lee and Peter nodded in unison. “Death's only another beginnin', mate. Though--”

”We aren't plannin' on dyin' any time soon.” Peter finished the thought for them. With that, Peter turned toward Amelia with a smile. “You're in good hands Ms. Renard.”

“Hope we can say the same,” Lee added with a curl to the corner of his mouth.