"...our search of the Hokkaido region failed to uncover any sign of Lumen, leaving just Japan's remaining three unsearched regions, Kanto, Kinki and Chugoku."
Nova let out a small sigh and placed the folder containing his report on the table in front of him, before leaning back in his chair and smirking nonchalantly at the seven men he was shared the table with. "Is that all?" One of the chairmen asked. "Yes. But don't worry. I'll likely have all three regions searched by next month, and thus be able to find the Muse's location," Nova reassured. The chairman nodded in satisfaction.
"Well, with that out of the way, do you mind if I ask a question?" Nova said. "You may," a different chairman replied. Nova closed his eyes briefly, and as he opened them again, his grin disappeared, and a hard, serious look came into his eyes.
"Why have my officers been summoned here as well?"
Standing behind Nova, to the side of the large door, were Jota, Viper, Stratos, Carrera, Elise, Merak, and Zonda. All seven were standing with their backs rigid in an awkward, nervous silence, sweating profoundly. Even the usually dismissive Merak seemed slightly on edge.
Nova on the other hand, was completely calm, as always. He kept a serious, yet relaxed facial expression, confidence radiating from him as always. There was only one thing that was picking at him. One thing that unnerved him just a little.
Issei Kurai hadn't stopped smiling since Nova and his adepts walked in. The young man who was usually the first to scream at him, instead leaned back in his chair without saying a word, a sly grin on his face. For some reason, that smile gave Nova an odd feeling. Like Issei knew something he didn't know. When Nova asked his question, Issei leaned forward and spoke for the first time since Nova's arrival.
"Ahhh yes... I'm sure you've been wondering about that, Tsukuyomi..." the chairman said, taking ripe pleasure in every word he spoke. "Well, we have received some... troubling... information about you and these officers in particular..." Issei reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a small, silver remote. The man pressed a button, and a tiny circle in the middle of the table flipped over, revealing a equally tiny speaker.
Nova raised his eyebrows. "What is this..." he asked, though he had a feeling he already knew the answer. Issei's grin narrowed. "Just you see..." he said as he pressed another button. With that, the speaker began emitting a recording.
"Show up at two am tomorrow sharp... You can take turns..."
"...two ways to access your septima. One of those is through intense emotional..."
"...power is linked to your rage..."
"...using all the power my will allows..."
Nova's officers watch on in horror as the recording continued to play, revealing everything that had happened the last five days. For seemingly an eternity, the recording played on and on, until Issei finally pressed a button on his remote, turning it off. "Now, Tsukuyomi..." the man said, grinning wildly. "Care to explain this?"
Surprisingly, Nova's face hadn't changed one bit. His expression still showed on of nonchalant confidence, and, amazingly, a smirk was stretched across his lips. "What is there to explain?" He asked. "Isn't it obvious? I trained my officers to use their septima without the use of their glaives." Issei raised an eyebrow. "And what do you have to say in your defence?" He asked curiously.
"I was training them for the good of the Sumeragi Group," Nova answered. Issei tilted his head in amusement. "You see, these adepts of mine are unflinching in their loyalty, as am I. They would do anything to see our noble goal is carried out. Which is why I request they join the Adept Hunter Unit." The adepts in question did their best to hid their surprise at the statement, figuring Nova knew what he was doing.
"If they join that unit, we will be able to increase the amount of adepts in our custody, and will allow them to take a more active role in the field, not to mention increase their personal safety," Nova said. "So you see, that is why I did what I did. For the end goal of a stronger, better Sumeragi."
For a few seconds, nobody talked or moved. Then, Issei started clapping, slow and sarcastic as a smirk grew on his face. "Very well thought out, Tsukuyomi..." he said, bringing his hands together. "But the fact is... you broke our rules... knowingly at that... and such an action must be punished..." Nova nodded. "I expected that," he admitted, still radiating confidence as his adepts grew more calm, convinced their lieutenant would talk his way out of something too big. "Well, then? What's my punishment?" Nova asked.
Issei smiled darkly, before glancing over at Kai Hayashi. As always, the unofficial head was sitting silently, staring straight at Nova, hands folded in front of him. Then, he turned his head towards Issei, and gave him a small nod. Issei's grin grew to an impossible size as he turned back towards Nova, and passed his verdict.
"You, and your officers, are stripped of your rank, and ejected from the Sumeragi Group."
The seven adept officers slowly processed what they'd heard, looks of complete and utter distraught on their faces. Even Stratos, who could only understand half of what was being said, and Merak, who never seemed to care about anything in particular, had looks of identical shock. The seven looked at the back of Nova's chair, waiting for his reaction, hoping he was calm and had some back up plan.
They were to be disappointed.
For a fraction of a second, Nova's arrogant and collected demeanour slipped. For the briefest of moments, Nova's expression bore nothing but pure, naked horror. His eyes widened dramatically, his smirk instantly died. It seemed as if the lieutenant had just been shot. That expression of utter despair only lasted for a split second though. Almost instantly, Nova covered up his shock with the same casual, smirk he always had. Or tried to. His eyes were wide, his face was pale, and his grin was strained, forced. Issei let his grin widen. He'd seen Nova's moment of weakness.
"I-I'm sorry..." Nova said. "But I appear to have misheard you." Issei barked out a laugh. "You heard what I said Tsukuyomi," he said. The man seemed like a different person to the fiery, angry chairman Nova was used to. This man was dark, sadistic and cruel, taking extreme pleasure as he watch Nova fall apart.
"But... But... That's impossible!" Nova protested, his fake facade finally breaking, perhaps the first time in his life he showed his true emotions on his face. "I... we... we have essential roles in Sumeragi! You can't just kick us out like a common solider!" He said, gesturing to his officers behind him.
"Oh we can," Issei replied, clearly enjoying this. "In fact, it's already been done. All you duties have been given to other high ranking personnel." Nova gulped. Someone had replaced them. Replaced him. "Who's replaced me?!" Nova demanded. Issei's grin grew to the largest size it had ever been as he gave his answer.
Never before had Nova felt so much fury, so much raw hatred towards on person. QUILL, Gunvolt... forget them. All of Nova's disgust and anger was directed at this one man. He stared down at his lap, in fear that he might attack Issei if he kept looking at him.
"This... this cannot happen!" He insisted, still staring at his hands in his lap, clenched tightly. "I'll take the punishment myself! Let the others stay!" He yelled. "Lord Nova!" Jota shouted as he tore himself away from the others and ran up to Nova's side. "Don't say such things!" Nova just shook his head, ignoring his right hand's words. "Let one of the others replace me! As Jota is my second in command, it is only natural that he should-!"
Nova immediately froze. It had been so long since he'd heard that voice... even longer since he'd heard that name...
But he'd recognise both anywhere.
Nova slowly lifted his head. At the other end of the table, Kai Hayashi sat there, his arms folded in front of him, his cold, grey eyes boring into Nova's soul.
"It's over..." the man said. His voice was dead, emotionless, and rough. It was the voice of a man who could take a life as easily as taking a breath. "You're over..." Kai said. "You've served us well..."
Nova barley knew what he was doing as he stood up, his long bangs covering his eyes, and walked away, towards the door. He barely heard his officers voices, telling him to stop, nor the mad laughter of the new Project Muse executive. He just opened the door, and walked away.
Nova had made it halfway down the hall towards the door that led to the exit before his underlings caught up to him, Jota in lead. "Sir! Nova!" He yelled. Finally Nova seemed to snap out of his daze, and turned towards Jota, who stood in front of him panting, the other six behind him. "What are you doing?" Nova asked, his gaze and voice cold and harsh. "Going with you of course!" Jota replied, as if it was obvious. The former lieutenant scoffed. "Why would that be?" He asked. Jota remained silent for a few seconds, trying to think of a reason good enough that would calm Nova down, before someone else spoke up.
"Because you're our leader!" Nova lined to the side and looked at the speaker, Elise, who just seemed to realize what she said, and blushed intensely. "Some leader I am..." Nova muttered as he turned and continued walking towards the exit.
"You're more than a leader to us... to me sir!" Jota insisted, keeping behind his former commander. "Oh? What am I to you then, Jota?" Nova asked. He didn't really expect an answer, so he was even more surprised by Jota's answer then he would have been.
Nova stopped in his track. He turned round and faced Jota, a look of disbelief on his face. "What did you say?" He asked. "A brother," Jota repeated, no hesitation in his voice. "I'd guard you like I would my own flesh and blood." Nova just stared in shock. "Me too!" Zonda said, stepping forward next to Jota. "You're a great guy! I just absolutely love you!" The adept declared as flamboyant as ever, hands clasped together. "Indeed! Thou art a fine commander and comrade," Carrera said, stepping forward as well. "One I would gladly give my life for!" He insisted, bowing slightly. "Y-Yeah..." Elise stuttered, joining the line, a nervous smile on her face. "You're actually kinda nice and... I like being with you!" She finished, her face red. "Master Nova healed the pain... the hunger..." Stratos said as he crept forward. "Stratos is eternally grateful..." he said as he bowed, mouth open in what he likely intended to be a smile. "Yeah. You know, you're a pretty alright guy, for someone who beat the hell outta me twice!" Viper chipped in, a smirk on his lips as he stood alongside the others. Merak sighed. "Ehhhhh... You're a pretty chilled guy I guess, and there was that six month vacation you gave me..." he muttered as he too stood with the other six.
Nova stared dumbfounded as the seven before him, who, despite everything, were willing to stand by him, willing to die for him. Suddenly, he turned away, a sudden wave of emotion hitting him. They couldn't... they couldn't see him like this...
"Sir? Are you... alright?" Jota asked. "I'm... fine..." Nova asked, a shudder running through him as he blinked back any tears. When he'd composed himself, he turned towards his allies, and gave a tired, but soft smile.
"Alright. Let's get our stuff and leave, shall we?"
Moniqa's job was relatively simple. Hack into Sumeragi's database and shift through the data in search of something of interest. It was a rather easy job actually, not a position she considered worthy of being supervised directly by QUILL's commanding officer, but when she found this particular bit of information, she could help but feel relieved that she didn't have to travel far to deliver it.
"Asimov?" She said. The tall, white haired man turned from the monitor he was looking at and walking over to Moniqa. "What is it Moniqa?" He asked, before noticing what was on the screen. "I see..." he muttered, rubbing his chin.
"According to this, Sumeragi has just ejected eight high ranking officers," Moniqa explained. On the monitor in front of her, there were eight profiles showing officers who were all listed as "ejected". Under "reason", the only explanation given was "treason".
"Hmmm... what's this one?" Asimov said, pointing at one profile. Moniqa brought up the profile so it filled the screen. The person shown was one of the youngest, yet the highest ranking of the eight shown, lieutenant Nova Tsukuyomi, also listed as Shiden Tsukuyomi. What caught Asimov's interest was that he was labelled as leader of a division that included the other seven, as well as the executive of Project Muse.
"Why would Sumeragi just kick out such a high ranking person?" Moniqa asked, bringing up the other profiles. "It seems that all of these people had important duties... supervision of the bio-chem plant... guarding the media tower... even commanding Sumeragi's private army..."
"It seems that they're all listed as adepts..." Asimov noted. "Huh? Oh, you're right..." Moniqa said. Asimov remained silent for awhile, before giving a nod, and turning away. "Send a message to all agents in the field informing them of this. If they were ejected due to being adepts, we may be able to draw them to our side," he ordered. "Right on it!" Moniqa said, tapping away at her keyboard as her commander went back to staring at monitors.
Issei never realized just how powerful one could feel staring over the earth until he did it for himself. No wonder Nova was obsessed with the view. The new leader of Project Muse was currently in the orbital station Firmament, gazing out of the window as he looked down at the plant below, arms held behind his back.
Finally. The position he deserved. No more unnecessary tricks. No masks needed to be worn. No annoying little kids running things anymore. Just him.
"Sir!" A solider yelled as he marched through the door before stopping behind Issei and giving a salute. "Nova and his adepts have departed from their base." Issei remained silent, not showing in any way that he'd heard what the solider said. Finally, he let out a chuckle. "It would be interesting to see where they go now..." he muttered, his magenta eyes dark with a sinister amusement. He turned towards the solider. "Send word to our spies to keep an eye on them. For now, I'll let them be. But when the time comes..."
"I will make my move... and crush them all..."