3497/Inventory Complete

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Inventory Complete
Date of Scene: 09 December 2015
Location: Tokyo-52605 <NXC>
Synopsis: Reiji, Xiaomu, and Konoe make a follow-up visit to the Tokyo National Museum, and find out exactly what was stolen during the Confederate attack. Some other secrets come to light as well.
Cast of Characters: Reiji Arisu, 707, 847
Tinyplot: Restoration of the Killing Stone

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
In the weeks since the Confederacy showed up to raid the Hokusai exhibition, repairs to the damaged building have gotten under way; where the hole was initially just covered by a tarp, the tarps are now draped around a set of scaffolding, and a bunch of building supplies and equipment are being put to use - at least during working hours. The construction crew's gone home for the day, a solid fence extending around most of the front half of the Tokyo National Museum, and security remains fairly tight at the entrances. The museum might be open to the public again before the reconstruction work is done, but the business offices have remained open throughout.

The tight security means that even government agents have to check their weapons on the way in, and while Xiaomu is somewhat grumpy about letting Suiren out of her grip, she surrenders it to the guards without complaint. Her handguns as well, of course. "Konoe, do you have anything they'd consider a weapon?" she inquires of their catgirl ally while waiting for Reiji to hand off his arsenal.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    There is indeed a pile of weapons sitting on one of the security counters. A somewhat distressed black-tie agent stares daggers at the fact that this 'professional exorcist' is apparently carrying around actual swords. Clearly, this gentleman is new to the position. "No matter how much they'd like to, they can't actually take away your sorcery," the exorcist says as he places his rather oversized handgun alongside the rest of his equipment. "That's strictly our own jurisdiction."

    He seems to have recovered well enough since Vega manhandled him and tried to shatter his skull like a ripe watermelon. At least, he's not wearing the bandages anymore. "Once we're inside, we'll go meet with the curator. See what exactly the damage is like."

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     It's been a while since that art exhibit gone wrong. Konoe didn't do much of anything other than get caught by a net, and help free the mind controlled guests. In the weeks following, she occasionally visited on her own terms just to make sure that everything was alright, and there were no negative side effects. At this moment, she's here with senior agents, Xiaomu and Reiji.

     The tight security is rather lost on Konoe because, well... "Um..." The miko looked towards Xiaomu and blinked. "I don't think I do. All of my 'weapons' are created on the spot. I can't just 'drop' them." ...Right. That. And so she shook her head, watching as Reiji handed off all of his fancy toys. r
     "Putting that aside...They haven't come back, have they?"

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
"The archery chick showed up while I was checking back about a week later," Xiaomu answers Konoe, "but she wasn't making any more trouble. She really didn't like what that jerk Vega did." She signs a couple of sheets of paper (a claim-check for her weapons, and the sign-in/sign-out form), then - once Reiji and Konoe are set - leads the way into the offices.

She DOES seem to know her way around ... and a minute or so of navigating through corridors and cubicles leads to the office of Professor Michi Hanayama, the curator in charge of the ill-fated Hokusai exhibit. The door's actually standing open, and Prof. Hanayama is standing in front of her desk, looking at something, when Xiaomu raps lightly on the doorframe. "Sorry about the delay, Professor; we had a small crisis Saturday night."

Prof. Hanayama turns and smiles; she's in her late 50s or so, with her hair starting to go silver. "No apologies necessary; I had budgets to review. Mr. Arisu," she bows politely to Reiji. "And ... Ms. Kanno?" She gives Konoe a similar bow.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    It's no real surprise that Xiaomu knows her way around a museum. In many ways, one could say that she almost belongs in one herself! Reiji would never say that aloud, though- or think it, for that matter. He just follows along in his usual manner, quietly and cooly, though he does pause for a moment to regard th ruins of the Hokusai exhibit.

It's a shame that it had to happen on premier night.

    But that's what they're here to speak about, so he doesn't dally. "Professor," Reiji says as they enter the woman's office. He dips his head and shoulders in a bow of his own. "I hope everything has been going well since the incident. We've been concerned about possible follow-up attacks."

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     "I see...well, she seemed really bothered on the night it happened too." Since she's been learning how to read and write, Konoe was at least able to messily scrawl out her name on the sign in sheet. A mild improvement. After doing so, she followed along with Xiaomu and Reiji, continuing to speak. "I guess not everyone in that Confederacy group is like that Vega person." In fact, he might be on the extreme end of the spectrum. But her direct contact with feds has been surprisingly small, so she can't really say one way or the other.

     Once they finally arrived at their destination, Konoe bowed in return to the professor. "H-Hello." She nodded after Reiji and added. "And have any of the past staff or attendees exhibited any strange behavior in the past few weeks? That Vega person may have left something behind when he was controlling their minds." She didn't find anything on casual observation, but it never hurt to ask directly.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
"We've been watchful," Prof. Hanayama replies, "but of the guards on duty that night, none are showing any aftereffects. We haven't been able to follow up with everyone who was at the exhibit that evening, but - well, you'd know better than I would if there were additional troubles among the civilians."

To the extent that Shinra has a public face in its own world, it *is* basically Public Safety (when it has to be more than an unassuming import-export firm, or whatever business covers for its headquarters). Prof. Hanayama seems content not to dwell on it, though, pouring tea for her three visitors and offering some sweets to go with it. Not formal tea ceremony, just basic obligations of hospitality. Once tea has been poured, she picks up a clipboard - an actual physical, paper-and-pen clipboard, not a tablet computer. "As I told Ms. Xiaomu previously, we've been reviewing the inventory from the Hokusai exhibition, and re-checking a few things. Are all three of you *certain* that those ... 'Shadowlaw' forces didn't actually have the chance to seize any of the items on display that night?"

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    "I'm glad that your pesonnel seem to have recovered. That... Dictator of theirs, Vega, he is a dangerous man." Especially after a little bit of research into this Shadowlaw's activities. "We haven't seen any relapses among the populace yet, though we'll be monitoring those who've been affected for a little while longer. If your men consent, the research division would like to test for residual energies, just to be sure."

    "Their assault was relatively sudden, and was terminated before their agents could spread too much chaos," Reiji answers, taking his steaming cup in both hands and letting the warmth seep into his palms. "I do not believe that they would have had the time to steal one of the exhibits on display without us noticing. However..."

    His eyes dart to the tray of sweets. An uncharacteristic sweet tooth is a distinct property of this particular exorcist. He takes one of the offerings and chews on it for a little while before continuing. "That does not mean that they couldn't have been using the attack as a diversion to take something that was stored elsewhere. What seems to have gone missing, Professor?"

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     Cup held in her hands, Konoe ponders the Professor's question while Reiji speaks. Occasionally, she took sips while turning over the events of that night in her mind. "Mmn...Like Reiji-san said. The attack happened very suddenly. And they were kept too busy fighting to steal anything. When I swept the perimeter, I didn't see a single Shadowlaw agent make any attempts at theft."

     She shifted her hold on her cup into one hand, her other hand coming to her chin. "It's mildly possible we may have been tricked, but I can honestly say that I saw no theft. It was way too busy for anyone to steal anything." That said, she took a moment to have another sip of her tea, creating a pause.

     "But if you're asking this...is something missing after all?"

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
"We're not talking jewelry, we're talking prints and paintings," Xiaomu points out. "The goons all had their hands full of guns and stuff, and their armor was buckled on pretty tightly. Folding anything down to pocket size would've made creases that would lower the resale value of anything they could've walked off with."

She pauses, taking a deep sip of tea, letting the warmth and flavor soothe her from the inside out.

"And if nothing were missing, Konoe," she adds, "we wouldn't have been asked to come back here." Xiaomu lets out a breath, her hair-tails flicking a bit as she rolls her shoulders. "Professor?"

Prof. Hanayama bows her head briefly, almost more of a deep nod than anything else. "There are eight items missing, all part of a larger set. Specifically, they're from Hokusai's Otogizoshi .."

This is the point where Xiaomu *really* tenses up - the Otogizoshi is a famous compilation of Japanese myths, legends, and folklore.

"... the tale of Tamamo-no-Mae," Prof. Hanayama finishes.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    "Tamamo-no-Mae," Reiji repeats, sounding vaguely like some manner of snake. He breathes a long sigh and sets his saucer and the cup upon it on the table with just the slightest clatter of porcelein. "I see. It was on display, then, wasn't it? And the whole collection has gone missing?"

That's... Troublesome. While the artwork itself is inordinately expensive, the subject matter is what is significantly more worrisome. Reiji reaches a hand over to squeeze gently at his partner's shoulder. "The paintings are missing. So the question is, then, whether Shadowlaw took them."

    He takes a moment to lean back and draws his hands back together to steeple over his lap. "I'm almost certain that I didn't see anyone take anything during the raid. But that doesn't mean that someone couldn't have taken advantage of the chaos, nor does it mean that Shadowlaw doesn't have the capability to steal those pieces from right out from under our noses. My concern is that it seems a bit... too specific of a target."

"I believe, though I'm not certain just yet," he murmurs, eyes sharpening ever so slightly, "That there might be more at work here than a simple multiversal raid."

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     Konoe vaguely pouted, ears flattening against her head at Xiaomu's comment, but she said nothing in response. Maybe that was a stupid question. She kept quiet from then on, letting the three talk. At the mention of Otogizoshi, one could almost see the question marks pop up over her head. "......?"

     However, the mention of Tamamo-no-Mae roused a look of understanding out of the miko. She knew who that was. Though not personally, of course. Tamamo-no-Mae. The fox that infiltrated multiple royal courts, inciting chaos wherever she went...

     But she was going off on a mental tangent now. She shook her head to clear her thoughts and listened further. "Mmn..." After Reiji was done, Konoe reluctantly spoke up again, adding her opinion to the mix. "I really...don't think Shadowlaw has anything to do with this. But I didn't sense anything during the raid either." She came to a pause, having a sip of her tea.

     "...We can try scanning the grounds for any errant energy signatures, maybe? But I'm completely at a loss as to who would do this, and why..." Then again, this wasn't her world. So the best she could do was offer support in the end. She couldn't come up with any conclusive answers. That was a job for the two senior agents with her.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Xiaomu lets out a breath. Reiji might notice more readily than Konoe, but the sage fox is REALLY twitchy. Her tails usually hang about as still as actual hair would, but right now, Xiaomu's tails are twitching like a bead curtain made of nervous tics. Nothing too flagrant, but ... if you know what to look for, it's there.

"If Shadowlaw were out for profit," Xiaomu states as if she doesn't know her 'hair' is acting up, "they would've gone for big and valuable stuff. The Great Wave off Kanagawa, ukiyo-e, stuff Hokusai is known for around the world. The Otogizoshi ... you had to be doing your research to even know the museum would have it. I don't think Shadowlaw were the ones with sticky fingers ... but .."

She turns to look straight at Reiji. "'Why' answers 'who,'" she states, nodding to Konoe. "I know some people who'd *love* to have the story of the fair-faced nine-tailed fox, and they wouldn't be above grabbing it while everyone else was distracted by a big flashy Multiversal invasion. They might even have helped set up for it, for all we know."

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    Reiji has known Xiaomu for a long time. As long as he's been in this business, in fact. The Huli Jing's discomfort is as obvious to him as the sun in clear skies at high noon. He frowns slightly, but, for now, he can't do much to settle her nerves. Not while there's business to be done.

    "So then, our culprit is somebody who both knew that the Otogizoshi was on display, and who took the opportunity to seize it while the museum was under attack," Reiji says, his mind quietly putting together an image of the incident. "We haven't been integrated for very long into the Multiverse, so I'm guessing it was a local. But even then, the list of possible suspects is a long one."

"However, there is another possibility."

    "The story of the Tamamo-no-Mae is a powerful one, and the Otogizoshi itself serves as a powerful record of the entities that dwelled in this part of the world. But beyond that," Reiji taps his finger on the porcelein dish. "Consider this. A great artist's birthday coincides with the display of his greatest work for public appreciation. Simultaneously, an attack takes place by an entity who was capable of wielding enough power to control the hearts and minds of hundreds of people at once. And, after the dust settles, a certain set of prints by this artist, detailing a creature said to hold sway over the Heian courts, simply disappears with no indication of where it has gone to."

    "Are we sure," Reiji says, then, "That they were JUST prints of the Tamamo-no-Mae? Or, at the time of their disappearence, were they something... more?" After letting the idea settle for a moment, he leans back and sighs, "Of course, it could just be that whoever took them knows something about those paintings that we don't. Or maybe they just like foxes. Still, I think it's worth checking."

"Curator," he looks to the professor again, "Were there any strange incidents involving those paintings in the days leading up to the premier?"

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     "Hmm..." Konoe tapped her chin, nodding to Xiaomu, and then looking to Reiji. "There's too many possibilities to be sure. Someone could have just made off with them after the dust settled...But then again, there's also a possibility that these paintings may not have been stolen at all." There's a pause as she tries to gather her thoughts.

     "At least, not in the traditional sense. Well, I mean...it sounds ridiculous, but you know how people say 'Well it didn't just get up and walk off on it's own, did it?'" The Bakeneko smiled a small, sheepish smile. "...It could have." Wow that sounded dumb. Really dumb. But considering what they dealt with on a near constant basis... Well, she figured there was at least a small margin of error left for that possibility.

     "Of course, we have no clues and no facts, so...please, tell us if you remember anything, Professor."

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Xiaomu smiles wryly. "Trust me, Reiji. They were 'just prints'. Hokusai was an awesome artist, and he had eyes open enough to perceive the spirits who walked among mortals in his time ... but he was no sorceror himself."

Prof. Hanayama raises her eyebrows slightly at Xiaomu. She's not 'in the know,' officially, about youkai and the like; she only knows what might be expected in her line of work - a familiarity with many stories, but little practical belief and no application thereof, beyond the customs that have taken root in modern society. But she also doesn't ignore what's right in front of her.

Xiaomu continues, "Katsushika Hokusai knew a lot of stories, and he was perceptive enough to figure out how much truth lay behind the folklore. That was why he helped compile a new edition of the Otogizoshi - gathering up what he knew, and what some of his contemporaries knew, and putting it all together. He took fragments that others had never associated with the fair nine-tailed fox and pieced them all together - he might be one of the few mortals who realized just how far back her bloodstained trail through history actually *reached*. And you're telling us, Professor Hanayama, that his chronicle of her life is what went missing?"

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Prof. Hanayama takes a deep breath. "I had wondered ... at any rate, to answer your questions."

She takes a deep sip of her own tea before speaking.

"There were no peculiar happenings during our preparations for the exhibit, nothing to suggest that any of the works to be displayed were haunted or possessed or cursed. We did have an onmyoji advise us on arranging the exhibit spaces, but that was considered more 'for good fortune' than as any kind of 'preventative measure'. One of our security personnel has been on leave since the incident, but that was chalked up to stress related to the invasion." She looks wry, "He actually *called* it an invasion, too. I didn't think much of it at the time. The police have followed up with him, there was no trace of any of the missing items."

The professor shakes her head slowly. "As for the prints 'walking away' on their own, they would have had to do so immediately after the incident, while everyone was preoccupied with first aid and emergency procedures. Our security footage doesn't show anything out of the ordinary, and the image quality is pristine. Wouldn't supernatural activity cause some kind of interference on the video footage?"

Reiji Arisu has posed:
Xiaomu's concern is entirely too reasonable. The disappearance of objects of such historical significance is... extremely worrisome. Moreso considering what exactly the content of that history happens to be. Reiji takes another long draw from his tea as the professor speaks, setting the cup down after a moment. "We'll look into your guard as well. It's a good a lead as any. As for the security cameras..."

Reiji shrugs.

    "There are too many unknowns to say for sure. However, what I do know is that Tamamo-no-Mae was famous for her illusions. If these prints- or whatever spirit has animated them- shares any of her talents, then it may be the case that even the most flawless security footage might be... innaccurate." His brow furrows, then, eyes tightening ever so slightly. "After such a massive attack... How were so many of you cameras undamaged, exactly? I'd expect some distortion in the images after so much dust and debris."

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     Konoe set her cup aside, finished with it, and rest her hands into her lap. "I'm not that good with technology, but something strikes me as odd..." She paused to let Reiji speak, looking towards him. Once he had said his piece, she nodded. "...That's what bothers me." And she looked back towards the professor.

     "If this disappearance is supernatural in nature, it would be child's play for someone with the right motivations and skills to fool a camera or two, I believe." Konoe took a small breath, and added one last thing. "Considering that this is a record of a rather famous mythological figure...I would say the right motivations were there."

     Of course, there were still no leads. The miko tilted her head a tad in thought. "...Was there anything else?" She glanced upwards then. "I think we should have a second, more thorough look around. We might have missed something, don't you think?"

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
"Unfortunately," Prof. Hanayama admits, "there probably isn't any evidence left to investigate. We had to take everything out of the exhibit halls that had been laid open to the outside, for their own sakes as well as to clear the way for reconstruction. And the security cameras were covered or outright hidden, none of them had open mechanisms or lenses."

The professor sets her tea cup down, rising from her seat. "There was one other thing I wanted to share while you're here, though ... and the way you spoke of Hokusai, Ms. Xiaomu, seems to have confirmed it." She picks up a rolled piece of paper, carefully removing the retaining clips at either end, then unrolls it, just as carefully, to show the three of you the print.

It's clearly the work of Hokusai or a similar master; an expert could analyze the details and be more certain than an amateur as to who produced it. But of more interest than that -

It's Xiaomu.

The eyes, the vulpine ears and hair-tails, the playful curve to her lips, all are just like the sage fox herself sitting next to you in the office. In the print, she's dressed in a yukata or a kimono, and seems to have been captured in the midst of a dance, the back of her kimono drawn back far enough to show the back of her neck and just a hint of her bare shoulders.

The actual Xiaomu goes quiet and still, blushing a little as she sips at her tea. There's a look of nostalgia in her eyes, though.

Reiji Arisu has posed:
    "We may still be able to turn something up," the exorcist says with a shrug. "Konoe, once we're done here, I'd like you to take some personnel and sweep the area around the missing exhibit for... anything that might even smell slightly mystical. It may lead us to who we're looking for."

And then... A very special painting.

    Reiji... Stares for a very, very long time at the woman in the scroll. You can tell that the gears are turning in his head as he mentally catalogues all of this mysteriously enscrolled figure's features and quietly makes the connections necessary to determine that, yes, this is indeed his partner in this distinctly period pin-up scroll.

He takes another sip of his tea, savoring the rich flavors for a moment longer.

    And then he says: "Well, not to raise a scandal or anything, but I think they captured the curve of your neck quite nicely. I appreciate that they were able to portray the delicate lines of your shoulders so well, too. I don't suppose that this piece is for sale, curator?"


This is Reiji's duty as Xiaomu's loyal partner.

He doesn't get to fulfill it very often, but whenever the opportunity presents itself, he's on it like stink on a skunk.

Konoe Kanno (847) has posed:
     "Oh. Well, that's out then." Konoe sighed and shrugged her shoulders. Looks like they were back to square one! Oh well, they tried. But nevertheless, Konoe was vaguely certain they hadn't heard the last of this. "I think we've about done all we can for now. But I think we'll be revisiting this soon..." She glanced at Reiji and nodded. "I'll do my best."

     That aside, the miko blinked once the professor brought up one other matter. "....?" A scroll was set out, and on it, a woman who looked kind of...no, exactly like Xiaomu was printed. This thing looked pretty old, so... "......" Silence. More silence. Even more silence.


     Cue lightbulb. "So that's why you were so familiar with his work! I thought you were just a big fan..." And like a derp, she kept talking when she should have kept her mouth shut. "...But it makes sense. I mean, you are like, ten times older than me..." Konoe stop talking.

     But she didn't. Curiously, she brought a finger to her cheek, tapping thoughtfully.

     "...Xiaomu-san, do you have kids?"

     Okay, time to go.

Xiaomu (707) has posed:
Professor Michi Hanayama smiles, carefully rolling the print back up. "The normal asking price for an original Hokusai print is probably beyond your normal means, Mr. Arisu ... but this is hardly a normal situation." She places the retaining clips again, then slides the roll into a carrying case designed for the purpose of protecting and transporting prints such as this one.

"Given the circumstances, I'm afraid it isn't for sale ... but I should be happy to give it to the mysteriously young woman who was his subject." She offers the case to Xiaomu.

Of *course* Xiaomu accepts it, handling the case as cautiously as if it were a holy artifact. "Thank you very much, Professor," she says quietly, standing up and bowing deeply to the curator. "If we can bring the Otogizoshi prints back as well, we'll certainly do so."

She doesn't answer Konoe's question until after we're out of the offices - the museum is basically deserted EXCEPT for the administrative sections and some guards; the construction crews have gone home for the night. So it's nice and quiet and relatively private.

"Like I said," Xiaomu says to the two of you, "Hokusai was perceptive. He saw the world around him as it was, and portrayed it as faithfully as he could ... and he was one of a *very* few people who saw me for what I was, and wasn't afraid. And," she admits with a sheepish grin, "yeah, I was a fan of his work, a huge fan. I came into Edo more often just to see what he'd produced, tried to scrape money together to collect what I could."

The grin gives way to a more wistful expression as Xiaomu looks away, staring into space, one hand holding the carrying strap firmly. "Reiji ... you've never had to hide what you are. You're a human in a world full of humans, you might keep what you *do* under wraps, but not what you *are*. Hokusai ... I think he was the first mortal I'd met in centuries that I could be *me* around, and he wouldn't go screaming off for the police or an exorcist. I wasn't close enough to have had children with him," she adds, giving Konoe a rueful grin. "He had his own family, I met them a few times but always with my guard up ... but I didn't need him to be my lover. Being my friend was the second-greatest gift he could ever give me."

She lets out a sigh, then takes a deep breath and stands up straigher. "C'mon, let's see if those burglars were sloppy after all. We've got missing art to track down if the trail hasn't gone totally cold."