Chapter 4:

The Bureau - Part 2

Gloudhaus


That whatever bureau thing Anna seemed to be a member of now should be the reason for all this situation. It would be lovely if she had been warned such, but there was a decent chance she was an unplanned guest, so it was fine.

Either way, the blonde woman that had just arrived took the head off the table and continued her speech after the small introduction. She was as tall as Annabeth and even bigger in some places. Her hair was blonde like the smaller girl by her side but her skin color was much brighter. In fact, the two had some weird similarities now that Anna saw them side by side.

Both of their outfits didn't cover much too, even if the woman's was a tight dress with less cloth than it should have and the girl's was more akin to some ceremonial garb.

While the inquisitor was observing such and the group's leader was getting ready to talk though, the other three newcomers also took their seats, splitting themselves into two groups. By now, it was fair to assume that the small girl and her boss both were from the same branch while the other two should be members of the military.

When everyone was properly settled, the woman finally began speaking again.

“I would go directly to the subject, but our guest over there seems to have no idea of what’s happening... Can you deal with a fast explanation or should we bring some teachers, Ms. Solomon?”

There wasn’t anything wrong with the woman’s words or her tone, but Anna could feel something very infuriating in her way of speaking. She could see that this person was a little above the level of her current equipment though, so the red-haired girl put on a strained smile and went along.

“You don’t need to lose much time. I’m sure I can deal with whatever ya wanna talk without much...” Anna answered while trying to keep some cordiality, but failed to hold herself at the end. “It may not seem so, but I’m way above average. For humans even.”

Her words caused some twitching around the room, but the two members Annabeth had marked as big shots didn’t react at all.

“You seem to have a better head than the last inquisitor we received, so that’s something at least...” The woman said with a hint of amusement in her words. “Either way, to the explanations.”

She got up again and tapped a certain spot in the wall, making it fall and giving way to a whiteboard with several paper sheets pinned on one of its halves. The other half only had a single low-quality photo and a bunch of unused pins and strings.

“Here we have data on every member of our little bureau and this nice photo of our current target. If you can be bothered to lose time reading it, then be my guest later.” She pointed to the papers with dangerously small letters before continuing. “If you have better things to do like everyone else though, all you need to know is that I’m now your overseer. My name is Louise Sayd, but you can call me Loulou…”

“That's not happenin', lady boss.”

“Well… No one does anymore, but I had to try…” Louise gave shoulders and kept going as if nothing had happened. “Anyway, I’ll assume you already got the names of our seaman and of the southern princess, right? And you met Karim earlier, so I’ll skip her too.”

Her eyes went through the lizardman and the fox girl who were here earlier and then passed through the small blonde girl too.

“Yeah, we had a little talk earlier…” Annabeth nodded in acknowledgment.

“Good. All that’s left is the soldier and his lieutenant then. Could you both?”

The overseer lady pointed to the buff man and the stone one by his side, and they both, in turn, got up from their chair.

“Phat. Captain. Nice to meet.” The stone man said with a raspy voice and then got back to his seat.

“Nice to meetcha, I guess? The other one is…?”

Her eyes went to the soldier most would consider a big but normal human, that was if they couldn’t see like she could, of course. For her, she a very infuriating but not that threatening thing.

“Colonel Aaron Dragomir of the self-defense forces. I’m the person that has to deal with you when you start looking for trouble, so it would be best if you kept quiet while you’re here.”

“Very heartwarmin', big boy. Has more weight when ya ain’t some B-class race, but I'm losin' the point here...” Anna quipped back at the glaring soldier while forgetting about the holding back part from earlier.

“You little…!”

“Sorry, sorry. I wasn’t meant to say that loud… I’ll apologize now and we can go back to the meeting, 'kay?” She half-heartedly tried to defuse the situation while turning her dual-colored eyes back to Louise.

The scantly-dressed woman gave an eye sign to the man and he scoffed loudly before returning to his chair, just as expected. Maybe expecting this development, Louise cleaned her throat and returned the conversation to its tracks.

“Aham! Now that everyone is properly acquainted with everyone else, we can go to the real subject here.” She changed position to block the personal data instead of the photo and pointed to whatever thing should be there. “All of you were requested as representatives, and we even called a foreign specialist, because of this one person here…”

“That's a person?!” Cut in Anna with an exaggerated reaction.

“I will have to agree with the inquisitor, lady Louise. Calling this image a person is a little…” Admiral Moem agreed with the foreign girl.

Some other members weakly nodded or tried to squirm their eyes to see the picture better too. Even the overseer’s aide seemed to be unable to understand the picture, so only Louise herself wasn’t affected by the revelation.

“If tracking this person was easy, then we wouldn’t need a whole bureau, right? This much was the best we could manage to get and even this ended with a dead agent.”

The room went silent with the announcement of the photo’s origin and even Anna was quiet now. It wasn’t that hard to know that this place was Louise’s turf and the people she gathered seemed to be all very influential and, maybe, powerful too.

Under these conditions, hearing her saying that the best she could manage by losing the life of one of her subordinates was a useless outline photo didn't fit very well.

“Let me give some background to help you all, ok?” Louise went on while the room was still silent. “Not sure if any of you noticed, but the number of corruption cases around the islands rose by ten times since last year... Monsters and possessions also are on an all-time high and we had to quench six undead outbreaks around the Archipelago during this period.”

Her words got reactions from each of the local officers in turns as each one of them seemed to know about a piece of this information at least. Annabeth noted that each of the three last points got the attention of a different group too.

“At first, we thought that all of these were unrelated or, at worst, caused by the recovery of the Demonic Realms after the last war with the Astellian Federation... But that was a long shot from the start.” Louise talked while looking directly at the inquisitor, but the girl was keeping her reactions to a minimum right now. “We only found out how wrong we were after several temples were ransacked though.”

“The Massacre of Aurora’s Day…” Minako said softly.

“News called it like this for sure. We’re pretty sure the massacre part was only to hide what they were stealing, but I digress.” Answered Louise with a small nod. “We only know this because we luckily found a single witness of the whole thing. We lost him later, but it was enough to get the location for the culprit’s safehouse, even if the investigation there was a total failure…”

For the first time since the moment she entered the room, Louise broke her smile and showed an expression that could give some chills. It was very hard for anyone to break the silence at this point, so the person who brought up this situation was forced to solve it.

“Anyway! We got this picture and found out that some kind of organization was working in the shadows. Signs connecting the abandoned safehouse with other cases and all.” She continued while trying to get her expression back to the earlier one. "And finally, we raided the place and were forced back."

“And what we supposed to do knowin' that, overseer lady? I get why I’m here, but you brought people from all military branches for a crime-busting operation. ain’t that overkill?” Anna asked just to be sure even if she felt that that was all information she would get.

“You’re not wrong, Ms. Solomon, but you’re not right too... Each person here has a specialty and their positions work with these. We’re dealing with something big enough to deal with all of them... That's what I feel, at least.” Louise spoke while tiptoeing around the question and then decided that it was time to be done with it. “Since you’re still to settle around here though, let’s dismiss the Bureau for today and continue this two days from now. By then we can have a better strategy meeting.”

And, as if ending the meeting right now made all sense, everyone else nodded to the overseer’s decision and gave their goodbyes soon after. In the end, just Annabeth, Louise, and Karim stayed in the room, and this made Anna feel that it was finally time to talk.