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RP [1XF-SAoY] Resolutions of The Ghost - Episode 1: I Stand, Again

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
RP Date
YE 41
RP Location
Personal Yacht Heion
Resolutions of The Ghost - Episode 1: I Stand, Again

Index:

Part 1: Gemini Bound
Part 2: The Only Exception
Part 3: Long After The Storm
Part 4: Grandmother
Part 5: Jiyuu no Yamatai, Session 1
Part 5: Jiyuu no Yamatai, Session 2
Part 5: Return to Jiyuu

Next Episode - [1XF-SAoY] Resolutions of The Ghost - Episode 2: The Evening Orchid's War

Companion Stories:

Hidden In The Sunflowers


Part 1: Gemini Bound

Personal Yacht Heion
Type 30 Personal Yacht
En-route to Gemini Star Fortress

七転び八起き
("Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”)

Katsuko closed her eyes briefly, her fingers traced over the gold painted letters on the card. It was old, a gift from Motoyoshi Misato several years before, the words were given to her at a time when she needed it the most. She had kept it cradled between the pages of one of the books of poetry she had purchased from one of her favorite shops in Kyoto. It had been with her ever since, it was something that held sentimental value to her, and now with the uncertainty in front of her once again, there was some comfort in those words.

This new assignment, the task that had been set before her was not so much strange to her, rather the opposite. With orders to rebuild a fleet that had been devastated by the Empire's enemies from scratch, it was all too familiar. She had built the 5th Expeditionary Fleet and the 7th Standard Fleet from what seemed to be the scraps of broken dreams and made them work. The difference this time though, was the absent entourage of Motoyoshi Clan members. She had requested none, and none had left their current posts to join her. The fact was, not even Misato accompanied her; the absences were not from a lack of offers, rather her own hesitation, her need to accomplish this task on her own merit, to regain the dignity of her independence that provided strength behind her past victories. They were family, they were loved, but for now, they had to hold that bond across light-years. It was likely her critics back on Yamatai were reeling at her decision.

Katsuko slipped the card back between the pages of the book. She laid her head back against her pillow and sighed softly. Akira, her black Otar nudged against her right hand and purred lowly seeking her attention. "Oh, Akira, why does it always have to be about you?" she joked as she scratched around the cat-like creature's horns, which made it purr louder. "We will be at Gemini in the morning, I'm sure we will like it there..." She spoke to the creature almost like she would another person. The Otar was asleep a few seconds later, it trilled rhythmically against her side.

"Sleepy-head," she said with a sigh, then reached for the datapad on her nightstand, she began to sift through her messages and various reports from command she had already followed. She had already started to research the needs and technologies that she had considered implementing for the new First Expeditionary Fleet, including a few designs of her own that had begun to take form in early drafts.
 
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Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
The chime of the AI woke Katsuko up, tangled in the silk sheets she moved to stretch her limbs out, starfishing herself over the bed. "Murrr..." she mumbled and silenced the alarm. "ETA for arrival at Gemini?" she inquired, a whimper left her lips as she pulled herself up to a sitting position on the side of the bed.

"Two hours, forty-seven minutes until planned arrival at Gemini Star Fortress. Good Morning, Taisho. You have one pending message from Motoyoshi-cho, to your personal attention from Motoyoshi Misato." the AI responded, the cheerful voice was just a little bit much for first thing in the morning.

"Yeah, go ahead. Playback the message on my pad." the Taisho responded, and picked up the datapad she had left on her night table.

The image of Motoyoshi Misato filled the screen, "Good Morning, Kat. I hope you're getting this before you reach Gemini," the black-haired Neko said, "I just wanted you to know that I am thinking about you. I got your letter..." Misato paused, her tone grew affectionate and emotional, " I will miss you too. Just go out there and do the best you can. I understand your need to do this, and I support you...Even if you decide..." she said as tears welled in her honey eyes as they stared into the screen. "...Nevermind, Kat, just remember, I love..." The screen went black. Katsuko stopped the playback of the message. She closed her eyes and let out a deep sigh, then set the datapad down. "I miss you too, but now isn't the time," Katsuko whispered to herself.

Katsuko looked towards Akira, the Otar was staring at her, staring at the mess of tears that wet her cheeks. "What? ...don't look at me like that," she starred back, and spoke quietly, reached over and gave her a quick petting before she stood up and wiped the tears from her face."You answer her if you're that concerned about it," she said, to the creature before she got up and headed to the table where she had laid out her uniform the night before.

A few minutes later, the Taisho was in front of the mirror, she straightened the jacket of her Duty Uniform and smoothed out the white panel before she put on her belt. She watched herself in the mirror a minute, then reached up and tightened her ponytail, before she placed the officer's cap on. She couldn't help, but to think of the past, she remembered that first day she became a Taisho, and took command of the 5th Expeditionary Fleet. You still got it. She grinned slightly, grabbed her datapad and headed out of her quarters to the Ward Room.

Heion, Dining/Ward Room

The chef had already left, her breakfast sat on a tray beneath a metal lid as you would find at a fancy Kyoto restaurant. Katsuko sat down at the table and raised the lid, she reached for the mug of tea and took a sip as she looked over the various things the chef had prepared. She set the datapad down on the table and began to flick between other messages, including the reply from Yaichiro she would soon answer as she enjoyed her meal.
 

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 2: The Only Exception

Gemini Star Fortress |1XF Headquarters
Hanako's Star


Katsuko had already put a stop to the formal welcome, she had scheduled a working welcome dinner for the evening she arrived on Gemini in lieu of it. It gave her some time to get settled, and it would provide a better atmosphere for her to get to know her new staff and crew. The Taisho's pace quickened as she departed the Heion and headed towards Gemini's busy concourse. They had arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule, but the first meeting she had planned was something of importance. She had made one exception, a single member of her clan had been transferred and she had kept it quiet from all of the rest. Katsuko slowed her pace as she passed a group of officers that had just disembarked another transport, she walked behind them purposely until they headed into one of the shops on the lower concourse.

There she is. Katsuko stopped in front of the large fountain that marked the center of the lower concourse, her gaze was focused on a young officer a short distance away. The young woman had electric blue hair with metallic pink frosted tips, she was talking to another lower ranked officer, who saluted her at the end of the conversation and walked away. Steel eyes met from across the floor, and Katsuko smiled widely as the young female officer dropped her duffle bag and ran towards her.

"Okaa-saan!" Motoyoshi Kaoru squeaked as her mother's arms wrapped around her and hugged her tightly. "Did you just get in? I was on my way down but had to deal with something," she asked and explained why she had not made it to the Heion's airlock in time.

Katsuko released Kaoru after a moment, "It is alright, we got to dock a few minutes ago. We had to wait for an airlock to open up because we got in early and there are so many transports on the move." She walked with her daughter, and let her retrieve the bag she had dropped. "I hope you didn't mind me pulling strings to get you sent here. I thought it was time we spent some time together, work together, for a change," she explained.

Kaoru shook her head and replied, "Mom...I mean Taisho, seriously, I am glad you did. I am excited to be here, honored and ready to get to work." Kaoru looked around, adjusted the strap of her duffle bag. "This place is busy, we should check out some of these shops tomorrow," she suggested. Gemini being a Zodiac Star Fortress, it had a lot more amenities than the older Iori facilities.

Katsuko smiled, she couldn't believe how much Kaoru was like her. It was something, she had no regrets about, even if things were emotional between her and her daughter's co-parent right now. "We can do that, I've arranged a working dinner and briefing to start us off with the team tonight," she said as she lead the way into the ZLRS car that would take them to the deck devoted to command residences. "Have you been to the suite yet?" she asked, she had sent ahead of the requests she had for the Taisho's Suite onboard the Star Fortress.

"Not yet, I only got in this morning. I had some breakfast and caught up with an old shipmate, then you arrived," Karou answered, the ZLRS car zipped into motion. "I hear the accommodations are pretty spectacular; they are nothing like Motoyoshi-cho, but spectacular for military accommodations.." She stood, one hand grasped on the handrail next to where her mother sat. "Speaking of Motoyoshi-cho, Mom says you didn't stop at Yamatai. She is pretty upset you know, she misses you. She respects your decision to accept reassignment, but ...It isn't my place, just talk to her," she said in hopes to resolve some of the tension between her mothers.

Katsuko closed her eyes for a moment, she took a deep breath and then said, "Kaoru, don't worry. I will talk to her. Let's just get things moving here. Misato and I will work things out between us, I promise. Just try to keep focused on the job we have to do...the rest will take care of itself." The ZLRS car came to a stop and the doors opened. Katsuko got up from her seat and exited the lift car. She walked down the corridor and followed the AI's instruction to the door that leads to their suite. "Oh, I thought you'd be happy to know, I have been in communication with your former CO. I'm sure Kage-Taisa would be happy if you wrote him, after all you served on his ship," she mentioned, in hope of a change in the subject. The door to their new home opened in front of them.
 

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 3 : JP - Long After The Storm
Authors: Andrew & Toshiro


Gemini Star Fortress

1XF Headquarters

Katsuko had been plagued with the details of the Hanabusa Clan's betrayal since the day she had considered them dead to her. Dead is what she assumed Miho had remained, that was until she contacted her with the details of the sighting of her son, and so-called 'Prince' of the United Outer Colonies on Jiyuu. There had been a lot of theories about the divisions in the Motoyoshi, a lot of questions about where loyalties were placed and exactly what had happened to those remained missing even after the UOC had returned to Yamatai's control. Katsuko had her own theories and for the most part, they had been kept to quiet discussions with Yui or other people she had put her faith in. In recent months she had begun to uncover a new theory, one that leads her to suspect she had now spent years in bed with her true enemy, that the Tange manipulated the other tributaries into the acts that lead to their betrayal.

The Hanabusa was the first to leave, but Miho had been accused of trying to assassinate Misato before their departure and Miho had somehow ended up falling during their violent departure from the fleet. Perhaps Miho had not agreed to whatever the plan was, which is what lead to her “death” and this unexpected reunion. Katsuko had stood by the details of the pardon she had granted as Empress, but that sentiment so far had only extended as far as the length of her patients. SAINT had done their job, informed her of whatever they could dig up, and the time had finally come to bring Tio and his sister Kiyoko to justice. This reunion was the beginning of the end for the division that had stricken the Motoyoshi and brought shame to her name.

Both Hanabusa Miho and Blues had been scheduled to arrive. Although clearance for her request to return Miho's commission was still pending, the meeting needed to happen. The airlock opened and passengers on the transport from Jiyuu began to depart, a flooding line that had to move around the Taisho who stood in the middle of the corridor with her arms folded beneath the ample rise of her chest. Hopefully, Blues had noticed her other guest on the transport, she couldn't help but wonder though how much he looked like Yaichiro in person.


The answer would come with Blues walking behind the woman as they emerged from the airlock, never letting her out of his sight. He had forgone the Catharsis Black disguise for this meeting and maintained a grip on a black sword on his hip. It was clear that trust was not something he held for the traitor by any measure. Katsuko would note that the man had the same stature, face, and eyes as Yaichiro, but different hair and a preference for a darker shade of blue in his attire. His eyes were also a bit harsher than she might recall of her former Flag Aide; indicating either more strong expressions, a harder life, or both.

And right now, his interest was in striking down this woman if she so much as breathed wrong.


Katsuko watched as the red-headed Jiyuuian female disembarked the transport, it may have been a different body but Katsuko could definitely tell it was Miho. The Taisho's arms dropped to her sides as Miho approached, she said, "Welcome to Gemini Star Fortress, old friend." Miho bowed respectfully, "Thank you, Taisho-sama, I appreciate this opportunity you've extended to me, it is an honor to return to your side," Miho replied, she turned her head, as she could see that Katsuko's gaze was focused behind her.

"Mr. Arnoul, I am glad you could make it. I don't think you've introduced each other, Hanabusa Miho, this is Mister Blues Arnoul, a friend and a consultant who will be working in some capacity to resolve the situation I've invited you both to discuss," she introduced them to each other and then motioned towards the concourse. "We have plenty to talk about, please follow me," she said as she began to walk the path of shops and restaurants.


"Thank you for your invitation." Blues said in a voice similar to Yaichiro's, though just different enough not to match a voice print authentication. "I have not met Hanabusa-san, though I hope neither of you is too offended if I maintain my guard until I've learned more about the situation."

The implication, of course, was that bowing was something he would do...but felt was a bad idea lest he needs to strike at the person who he considered suspect until proven otherwise. He would follow the two, maintaining his position behind Miho...just out of arm
s reach but within the reach of his blade.



"Ah, no we have not met. It is good to meet you." Miho said, her first thought was the Katsuko had someone watching her on the flight from Jiyuu, the scenario was likely not far from the truth. She smiled and followed Katsuko. She could hardly wait to get her commission back, to get out of this limited body and back into the life she had left so many years before.

Katsuko said to Blues, "I understand, we all need to be guarded with the things we've been through, just understand Blues, I've invited you here because you of all people will understand the situation at hand, probably more than even Yaichiro." After a few minutes of weaving through crowds in the concourse, she led them to a lift that took them to one of the inner decks where the Ward Room was located.

"Blues, I have to be honest, Taisho Yui has not yet fully approved the capacity that I wanted you to participate with us in, so we will have to work out some details still. I appreciate you coming through, and your participation, like all things approvals, take time." she leads the way into the wardroom and sat down at the head of the table, and motioned for the other two to take their seats.


Blues complied once Miho had seated herself. She seemed to be behaving herself at the very least. "I can't say it's surprising. I didn't exactly report myself immediately after my escape from Kiyoko's custody. I figured I'd be more useful dead for something somewhere down the line. I'm not too broken up about the hang up anyway. My and my brother's trust in that particular branch has certain limits. A few repeat instances of betrayal like the Black Spiral and the Tachibana Incident will do that."

Katsuko motioned forwards, a captured visual of Motoyoshi Tio appeared in the projection in front of them, "My son, Prince Tio was seen in Old Tokyo a few days ago, SAINT has been keeping me updated as to his movements, and thanks to Miho here, has given us a bit to go on. I've gotten clearance from Command to try and apprehend both Tio and Kiyoko," she said, to bring them up to speed. "Blues, I want to assure you, Kiyoko will be brought to justice for their crimes against you, the Star Army and the rest of the Motoyoshi."

Miho let out a soft sigh, "Kiyoko wants to sell the Ascendancy-Class to the Kauvies, we need to try and prevent that. The ship may be a bit aged, but at the time it was built it was the pinnacle of many technologies." the former Chujo said as she adjusted her posture, "I am grateful for the chance to redeem myself to you, Taisho."


The subtle sound of Blues' thin gloves creaking on the hilt of his sword could be heard at the mention of Kiyoko's name. It took him a moment to respond, but his eyes narrowed and his voice dropped to just above a growl. "Nothing within the bounds of law could ever make me and that woman square...let alone everyone else she's hurt and killed. We can at least make sure she doesn't get away with this. Have you gotten my brother on the horn? If they're in old Tokyo, he could probably give you permission to bug whatever you want for this."

"I have been in and out of contact with Yaichiro, I have yet to get the chance to make him fully aware of what is going on, but I will," Katsuko replied to Blues. "It appears though, we're going to have our chance to catch more than one of them in action." She changed the projection, to the copy of the receipt for Motoyoshi Misato's booking of civilian transport from Yamatai to Jiyuu, "It appears Misato means to meet up with Tio, in a few weeks time in Tokyo. I think that is when we're best to make our move."

It was then that the young man's eyes widened again. "You mean she's been in league with them all this time? I...my condolences. Some sensitive things may have been removed from my memory for security's sake, but I do recall how close you two were."

Katsuko fell silent for a moment, she took a deep breath and said quietly, as she responded to Blues, yet her eyes were on Miho, "A long time ago, a friend tried to warn me about how manipulative the Tange was..." she then looked back to Blues, "Once a Tange, always a Tange..." she said, with newfound strength, "We will bring them to justice and end this senseless division of the Motoyoshi Clan."

"...When you say bring them to justice, which sort do you mean? The courtroom kind or the swift and final kind? You've only issued specific instructions for two of them." Blues was a bit unsure which way she would elect to go.

Katsuko said, in careful reply to Blues, "I think we know what Kiyoko will decide." With that, she stood up, "I've arranged quarters for you both, Miho your transfer will be scheduled for tomorrow morning, and I will reactivate your commission. I have another meeting about the rebuilding of the fleet to attend to, I will summon for you later Blues."

Blues gave a nod of understanding. "Understood, Taisho. This chapter will be closed soon." Inwardly, he wondered if the Ascendancy still had prisoners on it...and if he would find a revived version of himself there, still living that hell...
 
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Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
JP - Part 3 continued: of Long After The Storm
Authors: Andrew & Toshiro

The Next Evening


Katsuko's days were filled with meetings, think tanks and coordination conferences with Star Army Command as she navigated the first phases of re-establishing the 1XF. Her duty came first, everything else came in second. Miho had returned and had converted to a Tennyo body, a process that Katsuko had overseen personally for her. There was one part of the plan to apprehend Tio and Kiyoko that she still had to figure out, and that was the role that Blues would play. The SAINT requirements would interfere with the mission's timeline, and that left only two options; to restore Blues' commission as a Chui in the Star Army or hire him as a civilian contractor. The second option, she didn't really consider an option, for the entire point of restoring the Motoyoshi was to unify them under Yamatai, and to regain their shine in the Star Army's ranks.

Katsuko arranged a private table for herself and Blues at Ajishou House, one of the sushi places she had discovered in one of the concourses during her short time on Gemini. She wanted him to feel comfortable, but at the same time, she wished to help him make up his mind if he seemed uncertain about renewing his commission. It was a decision that would have a lasting effect, even after this mission was over.

Katsuko sat cross-legged in front of the table before a massive projection of the nebula that had been named in her honor, an unnecessary but welcomed gesture by the restaurant's owner and operator when she reserved the table. The Taisho had worn her uniform, despite it being after hours because this was indeed still the business of the Star Army even if it had personal ramifications.


The black-haired man was led to the table on his arrival and sat down cross-legged as well after giving a bow to the woman. It was a gesture that was a bit rusty for him after all these years.

"It's been a while since I've been to a sushi house. I'm a bit more used to Nepleslian-themed dives as of late. The kind where you're as likely to break a bottle over some fool's head as drink from it. A nice change of pace, really." His speech patterns have deteriorated a bit from the formality which Yaichiro might have employed, but it couldn't be helped. Six years of imprisonment and two years out in the wild had an impact on people. That and he was slightly modified to be a bit more 'rough' to begin with.


The comment Blues made caught Katsuko off guard for a moment, a quiet chuckle was followed by a sip of sake. "I can't relate, I don't think I have ever been to a Nepleslian bar. I'm a bit stubborn if you haven't heard the rumors," she said as she adjusted her posture slightly. He looked a lot like Yaichiro, or maybe it was just Yaichiro's absence that made her think that way.

"I've been thinking, and after my communication with Taisho Yui, I have come to the decision that enlisting you in SAINT just doesn't fit our timetable, but I have come up with a second option which I think would put you in a better position Blues, not just for this mission but going forward," she spoke in a quiet soothing tone, she knew full well what this man had been through and she did not want to push this on him harshly.


"Honestly, not going into SAINT is a relief. Not much trust there, as I said before. And yeah, I remember some of what my brother can of you. None of the classified stuff or any intimacy, but your attitude and the trust in you are still in my head. I'm not him though. I need to clarify that up-front." He was a bit blunt about it, informing Katsuko that he wouldn't be a suitable replacement for Yaichiro in any sort of romantic department, but it seemed like the best thing he could do.

"But I do remember the 5th XF. Jiyuu. What went down back then. And I'm willing to listen to what you have to say. Especially if it helps fix that and end what that...woman, did to me and the other prisoners. She's probably STed another me just to keep doing it. Wouldn't put it past her." There was more than a little venom in his voice when Kiyoko came up in his thoughts.


Katsuko listened to what Blues had to say, she couldn't help but feel relief when he mentioned that he couldn't remember any of the intimate moments she had with Yaichiro. It saved her some awkward moments, but at the same time, it made her mind drift again for just a second. Another sip of sake and Katsuko looked towards Blues, and said in a whisper almost, "What you went through is inexcusable, and while you know I am limited in what I can condone on an official level, I am sure you will handle any situation with Kiyoko in the future in the most sufficient way possible." The waiter brought their food to the table and while the plates of different rolls of sushi and sashimi were placed down on the table, she remained quiet, this conversation still required a level of secrecy.

Once the waiter was gone, Katsuko spoke again, "I want to reinstate your commission, have you return as a Chui here in the First Expeditionary Fleet and be a part of my new staff. It gives me the ability to ensure a place on this mission. It gives us both a chance to ensure that the price for these crimes against Yamatai is paid by Kiyoko. It also gives you a future." Katsuko picked up her chopsticks and grasped a piece of salmon roll and brought up to her mouth and popped it in, she chewed slowly and waited for Blues to respond to her suggestion.


"...She will not even be able to pay for her sins against me alone. Not in one life. Sparing you the more gory details given the venue...I can tell you I am not the first Blues Arnoul. I am the sixty-third. And given that she employed ST technology in her...monthly punishments, I can remember it all. Every single time. Some others were already upwards of a hundred when I escaped. And we aren't allowed to retreat into madness." The man didn't dare take a bite at this point. It was important for Katsuko to understand what her daughter was doing. So that there would be no pardon for Kiyoko this time.

He thought in silence for a time, in reflection. "...But I'd still blow up a chunk of Leo all over again just to spite her, even before the benefit to our people, and a future is more than I was ever meant to have. I'm in."


Katsuko swallowed hard, she placed her chopsticks back down. The desire to eat had left, and the testimony of Blues was replayed a few times over in her head before she actually decided to respond. The anger that boiled inside Katsuko, these atrocities committed by her daughter was inexcusable and would be a constant reminder of why she had to keep Kaoru close. She had questioned if pulling Kaoru back, pulling strings with Command to have her daughter moved to Gemini and under her direct supervision was good, this confirmed it was that and more. "I will draft your orders and reinstatement in the morning." While she said nothing directly about the horrors he had just shared, it was evident in her expression and body language how she felt about it.

"I was going to...I'm sorry, your story is something that disturbs me. What I want to say Blues is that like I've offered your brother in the past, any service next to me includes a seat at my Clan's table and a place in my family," she didn't know if those words offered comfort, but she said them anyway. Blues was hard not to give attention to, the fact she missed Yaichiro had been on her mind, and there he was...almost.


"...I'm honored, but I'd rather wait a time to make sure I would be of sufficient service. Dying for the Empire is easy. Living for it and a clan is something I've yet to accomplish. I ask that you let me prove myself first before we consider that. And while I'd be lying if I said what she did would ever be atoned for, I find a strange irony in the fact that Kiyoko decided to remove my pre-programmed early expiration from my genome. Having an aneurysm early in her punishments wasn't something she tolerated. If she hadn't acted as she had, I wouldn't be around now to rain on her parade. The karma in this makes it feel like it wasn't all in vain. That there was the purpose in it all. I thank you for that." He wasn't okay, but he was salvageable. And he was determined to succeed in the task given to him. Mercy was not something he would afford Kiyoko unless Katsuko herself demanded he stay his hand, and only because Katsuko had even more right to decide the bitch's fate.

Katsuko felt pity for Blues, an emotion she rarely felt for anyone or anything. She had spent her career, her life behind an ethos that was now dated, almost taboo among this new generation that came wide-eyed and hungry for the universe to the fleets she had been given to command. Dinner was successful, in the plan anyway, the food sat uneaten and it was doubtful that she would want another bite. "You are welcome. I suggest you take some time to get to know Miho, you and she will be working closely together," she offered in suggestion.

Blues' acceptance was the next thing on the list that she could check off, and she could do so in relief that he chose to go along with what she considered to be the best of the options. the next trial ahead was yet to be addressed, a chilling revelation disclosed by Miho before her transfer, Kiyoko had help, help she knew all too well. Katsuko stood from the table, "I don't feel hungry anymore if you feel like you can eat, be my guest. I will see you in the morning after my meetings."


"Alright. Thanks for the opportunity, and sorry for ruining your meal, but it was necessary for you to know what we'll likely find and just how messed up those people will be. But there's one more thing you should know. Angelica thought I was my brother at first. Tried to make a kid to lord over and tease you with out of spite before she realized she goofed. I don't know what happened to them. I was never even allowed to meet them that I know of. But they're probably out there somewhere." Blues warned her carefully.

"If he or she is around, then the NMX or Kiyoko probably raised them. So if push comes to shove and they try to eke some concession out of you with that? Don't give them an inch. Don't hesitate to do what has to be done."


Katsuko had expected the name of Angelica to come up, just as it had in years past. Katsuko looked at Blues with a sympathetic look in her eyes and said, "Be it the Kuvexians, the Mishhuvurthyar, be it any other one of our Empire's enemies...I won't give them an inch, for they have already taken too much from all of us. It is time this ends, time justice is had and this wound is sealed forever in a way that brings victory to the Empire...and to us."

The Taisho believed in what she had decided to do when she had moved on from that burning need to chase Angelica through the endless expanses of space, she had finally settled that if that showdown was ever going to be, it would come to her and not her to it. "If what Miho says is true, and likely is, Kiyoko plans to sell the Akuro III to the Kuvexians ...Kiyoko is drawn to evil, whatever evil suits her desperation to destroy Yamatai, and me," she said as she took a step towards the door. Katsuko finally found a place with herself, where she could function again and return herself anew to the greatness she once held.
 
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Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 4: Grandmother

Katsuko had spent the better part of the day in conferences with KFY and her teams devoted to production. She had requested the YSS Mazu from Nataria with the intention of giving the aging Takumi-Class ECC a much-needed overhaul and refit that would hopefully return it to full production in the Star Army, she could only hope they would take her suggestions seriously. By the time she had finished her official work, the pending message from SAINT had already sat in her inbox for hours. She poured herself another cup of tea and had the AI start to play back the audio recording that the agents had caught in the Fuji Hotel.

After the second time through the audio recording, she filtered through the rest of the report from the deployed agents. She lifted the steaming cup to her lips and took a careful sip as what she had just listened to played back in her mind.

(From Hidden in The Sunflowers - Part 4: Bad Tourists)

Oh Fumiko, don't be so worried. We just need Prince Charming to lead us to the brat so we can take them both out.

....

"I don't understand Tio, you'd think after being cooped up in a box like that he'd go for something a little fancier than some cafe.

....

"We're supposed to end him, and you're thinking about landing him in bed. Ceiko, you never cease to amaze me."
Katsuko's steel eyes narrowed as she sucked her cheeks in slightly, she could feel as the musculature in her jaw tightened. She placed her cup down on her desk and had the AI open up a comm with the command deck, "See if you can get that last PAINT transport to increase their speed, I want us packed up and ready for FTL as soon as possible." The move of Gemini to Jiyuu couldn't come at a better time, she needed to step in. The information recorded by SAINT suggested that Kiyoko and Tio had come to some kind of disagreement, one that had led to his imprisonment and now this plan to lead the Tange to his son, Motoyoshi Eidan.

"Aye, Taisho." the bridge officer confirmed.

Leave it to Kiyoko to do something so twisted just to kill a child.

Katsuko stood from her desk and walked over to the transparent viewport, she gazed out into the twilight expanse of space, her mind heavy with the details that had just been revealed. She had Gemini summon Miho and Blues, it was time to set her plan into motion now that they had both been reinstated.
 

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 5: Jiyuu no Yamatai, Session 1
Authors: Andrew & Toshiro

Gemini Star Fortress, 1XF Headquarters
Enroute to Jiyuu



It was a majestic process, the Zodiacs were rarely moved in the recent history of the Star Army. It was quite the feeling, the low range vibrations that traveled through the decks as Gemini moved through hyperspace towards Jiyuu. The view of the trailing spectrum of colors that blurred the vision through transparent panes that usually looked towards the fixated points of twilight around them was brilliant. Katsuko sat at her desk, fixated on the projected screens of reports and updates as she waited for Miho and Blues to arrive. In the past twenty-four hours, she had spent time invested in research, deep in the files of Star Army Command and the UOCPF that had been turned over to Yamatai when they reassumed control of the colonies. Between the accounts of Blues, Miho and now the recordings sent by SAINT, she had a new understanding of the two children that had risked everything to claim their independence from both her and the Empire.

Katsuko had summoned for both Blues and Miho again, now that they were en route for Jiyuu, it was time to put a plan in motion.



Blues arrived as ordered, wearing a Star Army uniform once more. The Chui was in grey panels, NSP on one hip and his katana on the other. His hair was even a tad less unruly compared to his identity as Catharsis Black. He stood near Katsuko, his hair ever so slightly shorter than before and better maintained.

"Reporting as ordered, Taisho." He said, not with coldness as much as professionality.



The projected screens around Katsuko's desk disappeared, "In close quarters you don't need to be so professional Blues, but I appreciate it. Please come in," she said and motioned to one of the chairs in front of her desk. Katsuko had used the transit time to Jiyuu to her advantage, two days to overhaul Gemini's staffing and protocols to her way of doing things. Katsuko had always been a woman of efficiency and frequently deployed unorthodox techniques to accomplished what she wanted to get done. She acknowledged an update from Gemini, Miho was still consumed with assigned duties on the command deck and would not arrive as soon as she had originally planned.

"Your brother has made leaps and bounds in his project to restore Tokyo, truly something to be proud of," she commented, "I hope that the presence of the Motoyoshi will bring about a time of reunification for the colonies, my clan, and the Empire." She walked around to the side of the desk where she had invited him to sit, then sat on the edge of the desk in front of his intended seat. "I didn't bring you here to talk about your brother's accomplishments though, I was hoping to show you a few pictures and you could tell me if you saw these people when you were imprisoned on the Akuro III. That is if you're okay with doing that, Chui?" she asked him, a gentle smile on her face as her blue fuzzy ears twitched slowly back and forth.


"Of course. I'll do my best to recall with clarity. As for formality, I was still feeling that out with you." In compliance, Blues had a seat.

Katsuko reached back and picked up one of the datapads from her desk, after a moment she turned it in the direction of Blues. "Alright, be sure, don't guess. We need to be precise and I will explain when you're done," she explained and then put the first picture up on the screen. It was a picture of her son, Motoyoshi Tio that had been taken before his disappearance when the colonies fell.

"That's the guy five cells down the hall and across from me." Blues said without hesitation. "One of the guys upwards of a hundred deaths that I mentioned. Rumor is that Kiyoko has something personal with him, but no one knows what it is. He wears a shock collar that goes off if he tries to speak."

Katsuko nodded slowly and then switched to the next picture, it was a female with short blue hair and green eyes, Motoyoshi Kahori. It was taken before the Fifth Expeditionary Fleet had been disbanded, but her NH-29 body had never been returned with the others to Yamatai. "What about this one?" she asked and tapped her finger on the picture which enlarged to show more of the woman's face.

"Kahori-Shosho. She is seven cells down the hall and I know more about her. Turns out she wanted to leave for Yamatai and stay with the Empire rather than join the UOC. Since she may well have taken a good-sized force with her out of loyalty though, Kiyoko decided to make her disappear instead. She never betrayed her uniform, and I don't know her to have ever acted in a manner unbefitting one of our own." Blues was clear on this point, and well aware of who this was.

"I see, you are doing well. Just a few more pictures..." Katsuko said as she adjusted her position on the edge of her desk. She swiped the screen again, the next picture was of a pink-haired Jiyuuian female with light blue eyes. It was a picture of Hayami Kurosawa, the daughter of one of Katsuko's closest cohorts, Hiroshi, that had also never returned from the Fifth Expeditionary Fleet or had been accounted for after the fall of the colonies.

"...Permanently executed and ST data deleted in March of YE 34. The method of execution was one of the more severe punishments. I've undergone it a number of times. They lay you on a platform, they usually make you connect to an ST device but didn't do so in her case, and they inject you with a paralysis agent. They restrain your head, open your eyes, and make you look at a mirror over your stomach....and then they begin the autopsy without painkillers. The last thing she saw was her own still-beating heart being removed from her chest. We were made to watch." Blues clenched his teeth a bit at the memory...

"She was an 'example' made for us of how things worked on the Akuro III when we arrived."


The Taisho turned off the screen of the datapad, she sat exactly where she had been during their whole conversation and didn't say a word for several minutes. Hiroshi was a dear friend and an important member of her clan, she was going to be devastated by the news of her daughter's death under such terrible circumstances. "I think we can stop, for now. It is best to take these things slowly," she said, the break was more for her than it was for him. "Thank you for your help, Chui. I could never express just how sorry I am that you had to go through all of that." Nothing that Katsuko could say would make it better either, it didn't for her. There were just some things that had happened that no one would ever be able to justify.

She stood up and then walked back around to her chair, she set the datapad down on her desk, "SAINT has found a group of Tange in Tokyo, that are working under the misguided orders of my daughter," she said. "This is one of many recordings they were able to get during their surveillance." Katsuko had Gemini play back the recording from the Fuji Hotel room for Blues, she played the entire thing, and then said, "Before I tell you what I think, I'd like you to tell me what you think about what you just heard."


Blues' eyes widened slightly, then narrowed. "Kiyoko's enforcers. They're some of the sadists responsible for enacting the torture. Ceiko's wanted to add a sexual flair to it for a while but hasn't been allowed. It...the first one you showed me. It was Tio, wasn't it? And they mentioned Eisuke. There was never a child in the prisoner group though..." Blues started to piece together things but didn't want to guess without confirmation.

"...Are they after your grandson?"


Katsuko could not quell her emotions, although she had listened to the recording many times it did not soften what it contained. She closed her eyes and leaned into the back of her padded chair, then reopened them. "Yes, the first picture was of Tio. Obviously what we believed about the UOC and its fall was not accurate. It appears Tio didn't agree with Kiyoko's methods after all," she said in a reluctant tone. "We figure Kiyoko released him, with hopes that he will lead her to Eidan, who is my grandson. My son had a child with the former UOC Prime Minister, we knew that much, I just had always believed that they escaped with Tio and Kiyoko," she explained the inaccuracies of her previous beliefs.

The former Empress sighed, "It makes me regret not dealing with this for as long as I have. If Tio has become a victim of Kiyoko's cruelty then perhaps he is salvageable and worth saving after all...The child though, I doubt has had a role in any of this and is likely innocent and undeserving of our wrath or Kiyoko's." The entire situation seemed to agonize her, almost as if it caused physical pain in its manifestation. "We are en route to Jiyuu, so once Gemini is in position in its a new home, we should take action. We cannot allow the Tange or Kiyoko to kill either Tio or Eidan."


"I recall that my brother always held back on his judgment on Tio. Where Kiyoko allied herself with the Mishhu, Tio actively antagonized them at the Conference of YE 30. Their actions seemed contradictory if they were allied. Yaichiro never said it to you, since there was nothing that could be done and it was purely speculation, but he considered Tio to either be either of limited competence or ignorant of the plot around him. It seems that the latter has been proven true..." The young man looked to Katsuko, his expression focused.

"The child can be removed from all of this and placed in Tsubomi if you desire, a school city with tight security that is rather close to Kyoto and explicitly intended for children with deployed parents or complex circumstances. That is if you don't want him here with you. In the present though, tell me what you want to be done, how you want it done...and how slowly."


The frustrated expression held on Katsuko's face, she tapped her fingers idly on the armrest of her chair for a moment as she considered Blues' suggestion. "I agree, the child would be safer in Tsubomi, at least until this is over and we can bring Kiyoko and the elements sympathetic to her cause can be brought to justice," she paused briefly, "But, we have to do it with Tio's cooperation. If he thinks Eidan is being captured or headed for some kind of prison run by Yamatai, he will go sour on us quickly. We have to remember, he's going to a great deal of trouble to protect this child." She looked directly at Blues as she spoke.

"When we arrive at Jiyuu, I will be busy dealing with the Fleet. I will be sending you and Miho and a small security team to the surface. Miho can see if she can help our SAINT agents track down more of Kiyoko's people and you can go find Tio. You will need to convince him that I am here to help and that we want to protect Eidan. That we can guarantee both of their security, and that In exchange for his cooperation, I can convince Himiko to grant him mercy with some reasonable conditions," she explained her plan to him and his role in it. "Of course there is also another consideration we have to take into account, Tio has reached out to Misato likely expecting help because she remained behind with me. It is highly probable she's closely connected to her former Clan and Kiyoko. In recent months, I have discovered that much of her...is beyond what we merely see."


"Sleeper traitor?" Blues inquired, a bit bluntly. "My presence may help with Tio. He knows that I was a prisoner that never...assisted in any of the torture going around. It means I can tell him that you know he was a prisoner as well. I can also explain to him exactly what Tsubomi is, and that universal rights have been expanded a bit."

Katsuko nodded in reply to Blues' question, and for the first time, she openly said it, "Yes, my wife Motoyoshi Misato is a traitor. A true Tange if I ever saw one." It had taken years for Katusko to finally admit this and see the truth. Miho had yet to tell her everything but it was enough to know that Misato was as involved in all of this as anyone was.


"You are very brave Blues, just like your brother. We are all a little better off because we have people like you on our side. If anyone can convince Tio, it is you," she said in affirmation to what he said. She glanced down for a moment, "I think Miho is a bit tied up, if you could go and get us a pot of tea, I would appreciate it." Her suggestion was nothing to do with her desire for tea, she just needed him to step out, just for a minute.

"Thanks, Katsuko. I'll do my best to see this mission through and help end this. Also, I understand. I'll be back shortly with your tea. I'll knock first, of course..." Blues rose and gave a bow to his superior, before going to comply. He suspected that she needed to cry after confessing openly the crime of her wife. He shut the door behind himself, wondering if making her admit it openly was for the best...but like with admitting that Kiyoko was unsalvagable, it was important to ensure that her heart knew what her head did. Sometimes being blunt and up-front was the best option.

No feelings of mercy could be concealed, no quarter could be given.


Katsuko sat in silence as Blues left when the door clicked shut the invincible emotionless face of the Taisho faded into sadness, her lip quivered and the tears began to flow down the curvature of her cheeks. She clutched her trembling hands into fists which just seemed to send the tremble of quake through her entire form. She closed her eyes tightly to try and stop the tears but they just poured from the corners of her eyes instead. "I...I can't hold this back anymore..." she whispered in a sobbed gasp. "It has to end...It has to stop...has to stop," she whimpered. She had carried it all for so long, carried this burden alone and had no idea where to even begin fixing it. All she knew is that she had to do this, had to finally bring the traitors of her own clan to justice...
 

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 5: Jiyuu no Yamatai, Session 2
Authors: Andrew & Toshiro


There she was, the always strong, always in control Ketsurui-Motoyoshi Katsuko reduced to tears. Many other women would have already given up, but she refused to. Katsuko squeezed her fists together as she quelled the emotion within. She stood up from her desk and took a deep breath, and collected herself. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and grabbed the datapad she had put down prior. "We're going to do this," she said to herself. The quest to reunite her clan and to put Kiyoko to justice was something she refused to leave unresolved.

Meanwhile, in the small kitchen attached to the Offices of the Taisho, Miho arrived, as Blues was tending to the Taisho's tea request. Miho had changed her appearance with the NH-33 upgrade, she had pink hair and crystal blue eyes now, a great deal different than the Jiyuuian body she had arrived in. She wondered if Blues would even recognize her. She approached him from the left, as she grabbed a sachel of tea from the dispenser for her own cup and looked to see the pot he was making, "Make sure you use boiling water, she gets cranky if it is not piping hot," she offered, the Chujo dunked the tea bag she had picked in her own cup, "Generally, if she's asking for tea, it means something intense is at hand. We will be in there until the pot is gone, so don't forget something for yourself, Chui," she smiled and looked towards him, a slow smile rose from stoic features.

He regarded the woman with care, only recognizing her face once getting a good look at the structure of it. "...I had her voice a truth her heart didn't necessarily want to accept, though her head has. A painful thing, but essential for the maintenance of resolve. There can't be any mercy allowed to certain people this time. The situation doesn't allow for it."


Following Miho's advice, he got something for himself as well. "I hope you prove worthy of her trust, Chujo. Eleven years is a long time not to step forward unless you're a POW, but I don't know the nuances of your situation."

Miho frowned slightly and then said, "You just answered your own question. Eleven years is a long time to come forward, it is also a long time coming that she accepted all of this." She placed the lid on her steaming mug and turned to face Blues. "I have been sending her information for years, and each time she chose to listen to Misato. Each time she was convinced I was the enemy and I was lying to her," she said quietly, she didn't want any of the other officers in the outer offices to hear them. There was plenty that Miho could say, plenty she could accuse, but she found no pleasure in it. "I could have come back, I could have escaped my undercover position serving Kiyoko, but if I had, we wouldn't know what we know now. You may have suffered in a cell, but the actual errand of serving that woman was torture in its own execution."

"...Fair enough. It must have been infuriating and taxing on your very being. If true, thank you for going above and beyond. Doesn't mean I won't take the first crack at her if the situation warrants it, though." Blues' response was telling. It meant that trust had to be earned, but that she'd have the chance to earn it at the very least.

Miho nodded, this man had some sense or so she believed she had observed. She thought about his last statement for a second thought, then said, "Just make sure you let the one who needs a hit the most get one too." Her reference was towards Katsuko and she trusted that Blues understood what she meant. Miho paused briefly as if lost in thought after she spoke. She looked at him and then the pot of tea, "Something has changed.." she hesitated again and then turned around to see Katsuko, the Taisho stepped behind her just inside the door of the kitchen.

"A lot has changed, Miho," she said, she had obviously pulled herself together. "We have a lot to talk about. I just would rather it be in my office and not in the service kitchen." Although she spoke to Miho her eyes were locked on Blues. "Thank you for getting the tea, Chui," she said, although the words that came out were nothing to do with what she had in her thoughts. She turned and headed back towards her office with expectations they would follow. The low vibrations of Gemini's hull as it surged through hyperspace caused some of the cups in the cupboard to rattle.


"You're welcome, Taisho." Blues said as he followed, bringing the tea along with him as they went back to Katsuko's office. He wondered just what Miho was about to say as he followed the pair of ladies. It was unusual for the vessel to be moved. He worried that Misato might step up her timetable once she was aware of this action.

Katsuko sat back down at her desk and poured herself a cup of the tea, she then proceeded to take a few minutes to catch Miho up on the details of what they had discovered about Tio and Kiyoko and what the Tange was planning on Jiyuu.

"So, I have tasked Blues here with contacting Tio," she concluded, as she looked at Blues. "We don't know how many people Kiyoko has on Jiyuu, nor we know how many people are sympathetic to her cause. This trip will be dangerous for both of you, but we cannot allow Kiyoko to destabilize the Yugumo Cluster all over again. I am trusting you, the Star Army is trusting you, both of you, do you understand? That child, my grandson is not baiting and is not a pawn in this game." she asked as her gaze shifted between them. "I am also going to assign someone special to go with you both..."


"Understood, Taisho. Attacking a child, her own nephew just goes to show how far she's fallen. I welcome the opportunity, risks are damned. But...who else is going along with us?" Blues inquired, having not heard anything about this.

The door to the Taisho's office opened, and Motoyoshi Kaoru emerged from the outer offices. Katsuko looked at Blues and then motioned to her daughter, "My daughter will accompany you, now that she has been brought to understand this situation which has left our clan divided. She is well trained, she served under your brother for a short time before she returned to my side in the Seventh Fleet," Katsuko explained as Kaoru looked between Miho and Blues.

Kaoru had ascended through the ranks of the Seventh Fleet, and she had been brought to Gemini to be under her mother's mentorship, the Taisa's small frame came to rest on the arm of the chair where Blues had sat down, she looked at him curiously, "He does look a lot like his brother..." she confirmed, and finished an earlier conversation with her mother at the same time. "It is nice to finally meet you," she said as she extended a hand towards the man her mother had spoken about.


Blues was more than a little surprised. He was even a tad skeptical of how sound the plan was. Still, he shook her hand. "It's nice to meet you too, Chusa. I'm surprised you're coming along." This had a number of meanings, though it was more concerns for her own safety and being dragged into this mess than concerns over her competence.

"Make no mistake, if it was just my mother's wishes. I would be kept here in this Fortress safe for the rest of my life, but I am a Star Army Officer...I am also the named heir of the Motoyoshi and it is important that my role in this is direct, for the future of our clan," Kaoru said as she glanced towards her mother briefly and back to Blues. "As a former prisoner with my brother, you will be able to appeal to his senses for the future of his child. I, on the other hand, will be able to rightfully assure him that our clan will make every effort to ensure our government provides leniency in exchange for his cooperation."

Kaoru folded one leg over the other as she remained perched on the right arm of Blues' chair. "Plus, who knows what kind of surprises the Tange have waiting. If it is true that my brother intends to meet with my other..." she paused for a moment, "...with Misato, then it is likely she has already crafted some kind of a trap for him." She looked down towards Blues, and said with confidence, "I will have your back if things get crazy." The sparkle in her eye told another story, that confidence had a home there and she had a bit of an ego to accompany it.


"Same here. Remember though that I've already died plenty of times, and that was the initial purpose of my existence. If push comes to shove, I am more expendable than you. Besides, I made sure my ST data is nice and up to date. I'll die another 62 times if it means cleaning house..." Blues responded, eyes narrowing slightly at the thought.

"Which reminds me, what are the odds that Misato got tickets for a later day to throw us off or send a double? Is there an earlier hole in her schedule? Moving a Star Fortress alone might be enough to make the lot think something's up if there's a single leak here."


Katsuko smiled, he was clever to think of that, and she already had. "As we speak, a friend of mine is on the PAINT flight from Yamatai along with Misato. The original booking was for weeks from now, but since we were watching her we were able to keep a tail on her. She doesn't suspect we're onto her, I've made sure of that. Their timetable changed, and so did ours." It appeared for the most part anyway their plan would come together. "We arrive at Jiyuu in the morning, I've made sure that our arrival is very public to the citizens of Jiyuu. The promises my clan has made will breathe life into their situation....so it may inspire us to have a few more friends."

Kaoru brushed her fingers across the back of Blues' uniform collar, she then said, "I am sure that every effort to plan for contingencies has been made. We can discuss the plan more in-depth after, Chui. Perhaps we should let my mother and Hanabusa-Chujo get to the business between them?" She looked in her mother's direction just in time to catch the role of the Taisho's eyes, a small grin on her face as she did it.


"If the Taisho wishes to give us leave for that. Not about to walk out of a meeting without her say-so." He reminded the Taisa gently. He was still getting used to rank and such again, but it was coming back to him...

The Taisho nodded, "I think we're done. We all know what we have to do, we just need to get to Jiyuu so we can do it," she said. "You should get some rest and I do have details to go over with Miho. So you both are dismissed." Miho watched, she was silently amazed at Kaoru's demeanor, she then looked back towards Katsuko with a smirk.

"Thank you, Taisho..." Kaoru nodded, then looked to Miho, "Chujo." She then tugged on Blue's uniform sleeve, "Walk with me back to my quarters we can talk about the mission..."


"The mission, hmm? Sounds like you have this all planned out." He teased, prodding the Taisa's demeanor as he was pulled out of his chair and brought along. This was likely to be a pleasant development. At least the period before the mission would be memorable, no matter what happened.
 

Andrew

Submissions Reviewer
FM of Yamatai
Game Master
Retired Staff
Part 5 (continued ): Return to Jiyuu
  • Jiyuu System

The pulsation of vibrations through Gemini's decks ceased as the massive Zodiac-Star Fortress exited hyperspace. The accompanying flock of ships represented the beginnings of the First Expeditionary Fleet. The fist of the Empire, the towering visage of Ketsurui-Motoyoshi Katsuko returned to the screens of local news stations in Tokyo and the former colonies as their “true mother” returned to them. The Taisho wished she could see the fear painted upon the faces of the Tange, upon the radical followers of Kiyoko as any chance of them succeeding in their plans became suffocated beneath the banners of the clan, fleet, and Empire. The fleet livery bearing Plumeria's of the fleet broke off into their respective wings, some of which entered the atmosphere and formed an impromptu show in the skies above Tokyo, the rumble of their engines forced the eyes of onlookers to the sky. Katsuko had the flare of entrances down to a science, she was home; a home that had been ripped away from her and she now took back without hesitation or fear of repercussion.

Shuttles departed Gemini carrying a forward staff headed towards Jiyuu-jo where they would begin to prepare for Katsuko's arrival. The flags of the Yamatai Star Empire, the First Expeditionary Fleet and the Mons of the Motoyoshi Clan traveled up their respective poles and into the wind that rushed off the Motoyoshi Channel before the castle.

The pomp and circumstance didn't take away from the business of the fleet, Katsuko rushed towards her first meeting of the day with KFY to discuss the continued construction of the fleet's new flagship. She sent a brief message to her daughter Kaoru to wish her along with Blues and Miho success on their upcoming missions.
 
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