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Spymaster's Game

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#1Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 3:54 pm

Akira Shimada

If you take a life
Do you know what you'll give
Odds are you won't like
What it is  

Akira was not objectively stealthy, not anymore. Not in form and not in practice. She had a golden orb, a golden wand and could sprout heavenly feathers from her back. She could probably fool an onlooker into believing she was some descended deity. However, therein lay her skill, one she had carefully practiced for over a year now - the ability to deceive.

Akira had trained herself to assume an identity that was no longer a reflection of her. She did so with such zealotry that her friends became strangers, strangers became enemies and enemies became friends. She was not someone to seek power, but was glad she had accumulated enough to hold her own now, this was a dangerous game and a lonely one.

Whenever Akira visited a new town, she'd explore its nooks and crannies for places she could isolate herself. The cliff's of Astera made provisions for such a haven. She peeked over the edge of the rocky mountain and looked at the foamy water crashing against the dark daggers of the cliff's rock. The Shimada had ensured no one followed her, but today she had more than just her own privacy at stake.


#2Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 4:38 pm

Adragna

It was a dangerous game that she was playing, but it was necessary. In order to ensure that the Crown, no, King Reign remained safe, she would risk it all. From the shadows, Adragna operated as the Spymaster. She did not even dare to trust the rest of the Council with the details of some her operations. Unfortunately, this meant that she could not play the game by herself without raising suspicion among her colleagues. But, what is a Spymaster without their spies? Currently, one of her operatives was lingering around the Holy Knights to find out more about Nerva. It required her to sever her ties with the Rune Knights and abandon her friends, but sacrifices had to be made. Adragna waited briefly before she would reveal herself to ensure that no one had followed her operative. After a few minutes had passed, she stepped out of the shadows of one the cliffs and manifested herself. "Ibis, formalities," she said.


#3Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 5:09 pm

Akira Shimada

When the storm arrives,
would you be seen with me
By the merciless eyes
I've deceived

Given the measures the Shimada had thought she'd taken, to ensure she was alone, she didn't quite expect words to shatter the silence that way. But the young girl had long since learned to curb her instinctual and organic reactions. Besides, the greeting itself amounted to her safety and that assurance was enough to suppress her shudder. 'X three-twelve, September, summer dragon.' Akira stated, remaining equally to the point.

She didn't turn or betray any physical gestures to acknowledge Adragna's presence. It was unlikely that they were being watched, but the Shimada remained extra cautious until the council woman permitted otherwise. She sighed softly and remained still, perhaps unnaturally so. 'It has been a while since our last correspondence. I'd say I've made progress.' the young Joyan said, impassively. There was a distinct emptiness to her words, she wasn't the sort to fish for compliments, but progress was a very subjective measure.

#4Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:00 pm

Adragna

In reality, the formalities were irrelevant to Adragna due to her extraordinary abilities. She could see through illusions, and sense anyone around her. Though, she wouldn't forgive herself if someone managed slip through simply because she disregarded the formalities. "Indeed, Ibis. I can't be here for too long, but I wanted to get an update."


#5Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:17 pm

Akira Shimada
I've seen angels fall
from blinding heights
But you yourself
are nothing so divine
Just next in line

'The threat no longer lay where I was, so I moved.' Akira responded. A chilling wind blew from the sea and upon being funneled through the cliffs, it howled softly. She wondered if that was too vague to get her point across. Probably not for someone like Adragna, but she decided to use the moment to seek some clarity of her own.

The urge to keep the conversation going was probably derived from childish emotions, the sort she could rarely afford to surrender to, except in the presence of her contact. To be able to take off the figurative mask, even briefly, provided some respite and she found herself clinging to it. 'The one I follow and serve now, is it fair to assume he truly is a threat?' she asked, softly, letting the breeze carry the whispers to the council woman.

She waited, another moment, before supplementing her question with what she'd seen. 'He possesses power and offers it to those who follow him. He seeks to protect the larger number. How does one stand against the simplicity of that logic?' The young spy wasn't sure how long the fleeting presence of Adragna would grace her, but some insight into the intentions of her superiors could really aid her moving forward. She was gambling with her life, surely she could be afforded at least fractions of the truth.

#6Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 01, 2019 6:55 pm

Adragna

"Excellent," Adragna said as she approached Ibis and stood next to her. She stared at the sea while she waited for further briefing. Ibis had more on her mind. It was not uncommon for spies to question their original objectives at some point. Sometimes they would get too involved. "Ibis, you are not wrong. I don't have enough information on Nerva at this point. It is for that reason that I need you to get that information for me to make a decision," she paused. Adragna didn't want to get careless and share too much, but Ibis deserved to know the current state of affairs. She felt like she could not trust anyone, and it felt like a burden to not be able to share it at some point.

"When the Council and Order reached an agreement with each other, they realized that besides the Demons crawling through the rifts of the Abyss, Nerva had to be stopped as well. Luckily, the resistance against the Demons was a sentiment shared among almost everyone, regardless whether they were allies or not."

It didn't take much for a civil war to ensue after what had happened. Illumin's Church received the freedom to operate as an autonomous organization within the country long ago. In return, they would have to deal with all matters somewhat demonic. It seemed liked a good deal, though, in time, their power began to rival that of the nations in which they resided. Should martial law have passed, they would've surely used that opportunity to turn the country into a theocracy. Fortunately, the country possessed enough power to pressure them into a new treaty. But, the Church had another problem at hand. Nerva. He wanted to rid the whole world of religion. It was clear that Nerva would come after the Church to disband it if he managed to survive the ordeal.

"The fact that he is considered a threat is because of the treaty signed with the Church to set aside our differences. Since he does not follow protocol, he is also considered a threat to the established governance. But, as a person, I can't say much about him. I need you to gather that information for me."


#7Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sun Jun 02, 2019 7:25 am

Akira Shimada
Arm yourself because
No one else here will save you
The odds will betray you
And I will replace you

Only from the corner of her eyes, did she regard the presence of her mentor and heard the woman out patiently. It was quickly apparent that Adragna was not at liberty to share too many details. Akira wasn't giving up that easily, surely they could reach a compromise together. 'Vittorio's appraisal deems Nerva to be more than just a radical. I can't fault him. Nerva destroyed a town and then almost destroyed another.'

In her eyes, Nerva refusing to collaborate for the greater good and simply optimizing the numbers he could save, was already reason enough for the Knights to intervene more aggressively. However, she recognized that her own opinions had to remain separate from the investigation she had agreed to conduct. Trying to remain detached, Ibis went onto share the inquiries that she hoped to address. 'I intend to find out what caused Nerva to dissent and harbor hate towards entities he once worshiped. It should provide insight into his motivations, though it probably won't be enough to curtail the man should the situation get any worse.'

The potential key to taking him down lay in her second venture. 'He promised a power that rivals both the demons and the seraphs, which is likely to be related to his experimentation, I'll find out what I can on that front too.' While she didn't want to be meddlesome, she also knew the Council couldn't be as oblivious as Adragna made it seem, they already had suspicions about the experiments Nerva was conducting after all, Vittorio's statements made that clear.

She wanted to run a few more things by the Spymaster. A nervous shuffling of her feet betrayed that she was concerned about their limited time together. She wrung her hands, before admitting that the political friction was going to make this an uphill struggle. 'The two Knight organizations have joined hands against the Demons and against the Inquisition, I assume the rest of the Council doesn't know about your bird... or birds.'

#8Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:32 pm

Adragna

"Vittorio and Nerva are both rational individuals, but Vittorio believes that it is not about numbers. Of course, saving lives is our priority, but it should not come at the cost of others. Both sides should be saved. But, in my unbiased opinion, if that was a possibility, Nerva would have already attempted that. We do not have the resources currently to rescue everyone. While we are discussing the ethical dilemmas that arise with such issues, Nerva does not hesitate and acts," Adragna said.

"I believe that if Nerva acted along with the Holy Knights, their numbers could ensure that more citizens could be rescued. He is not willing to do that though. Upon renouncing Illumin, he severed all ties with those preaching Illumin's word. Adragna perhaps shared a bit too much, but Ibis deserved to know this information. It was a dangerous mission, and chances were that she would not return alive. Should Nerva find out that Ibis was a spy among the Inquisition, she would not be able to protect herself. Despite his age, Nerva was on a whole different level compared to most of them.  

"A power you say? I wonder what it could be? Ibis had managed to obtain valuable information already. Adragna was now aware that Nerva had access to something along those lines. Sure, there were rumors that Nerva was researching something while being a member of the Order, but those details were not clear to the Holy Knights either. It could've been something meaningless, or it could be this power that Ibis was talking about.

"Do not misunderstand me, Ibis. It is a treaty signed between two powers in which both sides bring something to the table. In reality, it only means that the Church will battle alongside the Crown to vanquish a common foe, the Demons, as long as the Crown assists the Church to bring an end to Nerva. I will not disclose the names of my operatives to either side. It would be foolish to assume that I am the only Spymaster. Perhaps Nerva has his own operatives as well."


#9Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Mon Jun 03, 2019 4:10 pm

Akira Shimada
You can't deny the prize
It may never fulfill you
It longs to kill you
Are you willing to die?

So Adragna did seem to have her personal take on Nerva. The Shimada was not surprised that on some level her mentor saw eye to eye with the old man. From what she had noticed, they both were survivors and did whatever it took. In fact, wasn't she living proof of that? For the greater good, she too was just a tool, the only difference she saw, was that she had consented to her role. Despite her usual practicality, Akira's well shrouded idealism left her a little on Vittorio's side. She wanted to believe there was always a better way.    

The spymaster was confident in the fact that Nerva had severed ties with the Church entirely. 'It's as though the demonic rifts aren't enough. All of us want to create rifts amidst each other too. Till our goals are aligned is this divide of power really necessary?' she asked, with rhetoric bitterness. Her hand rested on the black rock of the cliff, she clawed and picked at it in her frustration. If it wasn't merely pride and if Nerva's actions are truly fueled by rationality, why would he choose to abandon the church now, rather than use its resources at least until a more opportune time arrived?

From what Adragna shared next, it seemed like the church had abandoned him too. 'That's how much the Church hates him? You think he's got people loyal to him who stayed behind? And do you think he's got people among the Rune Knights?' Akira asked, quietly. Too many pieces of the puzzle were missing, perhaps it was in they best interest of her duty, to stop letting the imminent future and risks cloud her judgement and stop her from seeing the bigger picture.

Maybe there was more at stake. 'I'm sure you know I'm a Nephilim. I had Grace forced upon me. I want to believe its because the Seraph want to empower us against the demons, but...' She forced herself to think from other perspectives, channeling her feelings through the curtain of her own experiences, which is what she relied on to play her role convincingly. '...In some ways, I feel Nerva isn't wrong about the supernatural beings taking what they want. We just pray to some and fear the others.'

The Shimada paused for the moment, analyzing everything that they had shared and exchanged, while waiting for Adragna to offer her insights on the changes in her bird. Then she asked the question that was most imperative for her duty. 'How far should I let Nerva go, to stay on his good side?'

#10Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:46 pm

Adragna

"It must be something personal. I am not sure what it is, but Nerva seems rational enough to understand that working alongside the Church would result into less casualties," Adragna said. Ibis was asking the right questions.

"Nerva might have followers among the Rune Knights as well. He used to be the vanguard of Illumin's Order in his early days. Some citizens have fond memories of him. Nerva rescued them all when they were young. As they grew up, they all embarked on their own adventures. But, since Nerva was the one who ensured that they survived those ordeals, they still praise him. Those children are now older than us and they are all across the country in various guilds and factions. They revere him."

Ibis continued questioning the operation, but Adragna did not mind. "Ibis, in this wretched world, many of us need to believe in something. You must believe in something," Adragna paused before she continued, "Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths." It was not clear what was correct or false when it came to religion. The tales told were stronger. They served as cohesion between those with different backgrounds. Perhaps the Seraphim were indeed the messengers of Illumin, or not.

"I am aware of that, Ibis. I also know that such powers come at a cost. Nothing is free." Adragna was worried that Ibis would lose her conscience to her newfound powers. Many instances in the past showed that perfectly reasonable individuals became zealots at some point upon accepting powers. Quid pro quo.

Ibis was worried about the extent of this espionage, but she was not wrong. Should she have the possibility to assassinate Nerva before it would become worse, it would possibly be enough. Nerva, however, could not be assassinated. It was necessary to observe him and learn his methods. Since Adragna was not there to do it, it was something that Ibis had to determine by herself alone. "I'll leave that decision to you, Ibis," Adragna said.


#11Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:00 pm

Akira Shimada
The coldest blood
Runs through my veins
You know my name

There seemed to be a general consensus, that Nerva was rational, but had some compelling reasons that forced him to make seemingly irrational choices. The more Akira allowed her mind to linger on the subject, the more she believed that it was imperative to understand his reasoning better. It could be the key to fathoming not just him, but the circumstances the realm was facing and could potentially face in the future. Maybe Nerva knew something that none of the others did. The bird and the mentor were in agreement.

Adragna shared some details about Nerva's past. It was knowledge that was probably available, but in old buried records at the headquarters. But records wouldn't have provided insight on the kind of relationship he maintained with the recruits and subordinates. He was almost a leader worthy of following. Almost... And Akira couldn't allow herself to forget that. 'Interesting. I'm assuming his Inquisition runs deeper than just they few who joined his side with me.' The Shimada stated, thoughtfully. It was another inquiry she could pursuit, to try and figure out who all would remain loyal to him, if a confrontation ever became an imminent possibility.

A frown etched itself between her brows and for the first time since they started conversing, Akira turned to search for truth in the eyes of her mentor. 'I suppose you're right. While I am curious and wish to learn the truth, I find faith pointless. Worship doesn't solve problems, it just steals away from the burden of action and often serves as a ladder to power.' The scar on her back prickled as she finished making her statement. She bit her lip and tapped the rock with her fingers, her nails made a soft, rhythmic clicking sound. She averted her gaze again. Discussing philosophy would be pleasant if and when they earned the luxury of time.

The Joyan assumed that Adragna had weighed the risk of Akira's unspoken contract with the Seraphim and was still comfortable with letting her remain in the role she'd chosen. 'I'll try to make it work in my favor, it was not a choice I made, perhaps that will earn Nerva's sympathy' she wasn't too confident in her own line of thinking. But silver-linings was all one could rely on.

Akira stilled for a moment, when Adragna left the most important decision to the young bird. Time to fly out of the nest, I guess.. When to intervene, would prove to be a precarious choice. She knew the Spymaster only accepted responsibility based on information, till she didn't know more, perhaps it was unfair to expect a directive, her candor was appealing. The freedom of such an option was a blessing and a curse but it made working under Adragna lucrative for someone like Akira. 'I see, I hope your faith in me isn't misplaced.' There was a dark foreshadowing to those words. Akira alone would suffer the consequences of a misstep. The Shimada preferred it that way.

As the silence lilted again, she expected Adragna to dissolve into the shadows, disappear just as stealthily as she had appeared.

#12Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Fri Jun 07, 2019 4:05 pm

Adragna

"Indeed, Ibis," Adragna replied. "Religion without humanity is dangerous, but even the most sincere words will at some point become twisted in our hands. It is our greed that will twist it. A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side."

It was unfair to state that religion had no purpose, but Adragna believed that many twisted religion into something else. Greed for power created unnecessary hierarchies within many religions, therefore she wasn't too fond of Illumin's Church. The roles held in the Church were nowhere described in their scriptures. It was a religion for the people, but it got institutionalized.

"Ibis, I have faith in you to fulfill your duty, but it is no longer entirely within your control anymore. The moment you received that power, you became bound to a Seraphim. While I am unaware of their intention, should your sword point at King Reign at some point because of it, I will have no other option than to end you myself. I hope that you do understand this." While Adragna trusted Ibis, she was also aware that the Seraphim might order her to act differently.


#13Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:14 pm

Akira Shimada
If you come inside
things will not be the same
When you return
to the night

'I doubt the Gods have the time to pick sides, I doubt they care who is pious and who isn't.' the Shimada stated boldly. According to the scrolls she had read in the libraries of the Church, there was overwhelming evidence that Illumin existed, among other Gods in other regions. However, tales of his involvement in human matters were subject to question and were largely considered to be mythical legends.

She nodded serenely, in agreement with Adragna. The woman's perception and the logical reasoning that followed, was something Akira admired, that admiration inspired trust. There was bitterness in the words the followed, as Akira further emphasised her agreement and her take on the matter. 'Like you said, religion and faith serve as crutches when people feel helpless, but the ruthlessly ambitious do not hesitate to use it as stilts.'

Akira had an aversion to religion, for it created divides and more often than not. Additionally, those that had used religion to gain power, sought to shroud any truths that would threaten it. Then there were the Seraphs. Worshiped and feared in equal measure, they blessed those the deemed worthy for their selfish interests. Convincing the ones with Grace that they were special somehow, while using them as pawns. The Shimada was not happy being forced to play a pawn, especially given that she had not been able to crystallise the exact intention of the Seraph who had intervened.

What she did know was that the Seraph had the access to influence her choices and actions. In fact, both the women recognized. Adragna's threat caused a chill to rush down her spine as being faced with ones mortality often did. Akira grew still, like they'd succeeded in freezing her.

The young girl recovered swiftly though, she turned entirely to the councilwoman this time, bowing her head gently. 'I would expect nothing less and would urge you to do the same should I ever be swindled to work against the people, because indirectly, that'd still be working against the crown and the council... But mostly, against my own beliefs.' the Shimada responded. Their exchange paid homage to a threat that they didn't speak of, but recognised nonetheless -the Seraph could be a problem.

'What do you think this Seraph wants?' Shimada asked. Rarely did she have anyone to echo her questions to, it was refreshing to have someone to share her concerns and thoughts with.

#14Adragna 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:43 pm

Adragna

"In reality, it is not even clear which gods exist and do not. We simply rely on the tales that we have been told to give us some comfort," Adragna replied. "I guess some would say that religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand." Adragna did not wish to upset Ibis, but she felt that she had to be honest with her regarding that matter. "I am not sure what they want, the existence of the Nephilim confirms their existence, but I have never seen them. In that regard, I also do not know how much the stories are true about them to be able to reason their moves."


#15Akira Shimada 

Spymaster's Game Empty on Fri Jun 14, 2019 1:22 pm

Akira Shimada

And if you think you've won
You never saw me change
The game that we've
All been playing

Akira agreed with her mentor's deductions wholeheartedly. Even before their interactions, she had largely held the same beliefs with regards to blind faith and cult mentality that is borne out of it. She nodded serenely, idly watching the waves lick the rocks below again. 'Curiosity and intrigue become collateral damage in the war religion sometimes ends up wagering against truth and knowledge. I find that to be most unfortunate.'

However, she was quite surprised when Adragna mentioned never having witnessed a Seraph. 'I suppose its used to be unorthodox for people to be Graced outside of the church and so no one was privy to the rituals performed within.' she relied on deductions rather than simply asking Adragna for answers. The Shimada had long since assumed that she was on her own in her ventures and that she couldn't rely on her mentor for substantial information and answers, given the nature of her role. But sometimes, if she arrived to the right conclusions, she was at least offered a confirmation.

'You've taught me so much. For one, I can now hide in plain sight, I can use own circumstances as a disguise to create opportunities. May I ask you, if you've ever been in a situation similar to the one I'm in now?' The Shimada had learned much, in a practical sense, but today while she teetered on venturing on a potentially dangerous mission, she sought some advice. She hoped for this to be in the garb of old stories of Adragna's adventures, if possible, so she may learn from her mentor's personal experiences.

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