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Multiple Settings [Archived] VOIB 1.0

BETA EPISODE 01

Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
If it hadn't been for his ludicrously compact schedule, he would've found a way to sneak outside into the heart of Aucteraden, where only the beauty and aesthetic of the sky would be enough to sooth one's stressful mind. Unlike the capital, Seraphiel and its technologically-advanced sibling cities Somnum and Teros, the air and atmosphere of the innocent town of Aericross remained pure from the imperfection of mechanization. Even once in a while would be enough to clear one's mind from their daily difficulties.

The hidden beauty of Aucteraden, while it could not be compared to the elegance of Iliosie and Elesrith, could at least compete fairly when it comes to individual preferences. Upon retirement he dreamed of building a home in the land to live for the rest of his life, carefree of responsibilities and connections, and only breath to see the sunrise that Agartha had blessed its inhabitants. He had already planned his ultimate agenda to retire the moment he reached the appropriate age, but he still had a long journey ahead of him until such arrangements could be executed.

Draigh Kaiser, the Collbrande of Aucteraden sighed, merely daydreaming on his decorated seat provided to him by the organizers of the grand celebration. The main event of the show hadn't even begun and he had been asked to appear for the crowd to stimulate the participants that would be contesting in a series of sports for the people. Although his appearance alone did not fulfill the task, as besides him were two other seats, empty from their designated masters.

The Collbrande of Sanguinum had been issued a royal decree by the throne to be summoned for extraterrestrial duties, and so his involvement was voided long before the organizers had the chance to bargain with their ruler. And the other seat was provided for the Collbrande of Anterås, Luria Cineris, who had accepted the invitations—but was somewhat late.

Though it would've been more appropriate to assume that Draigh was earlier than needed, as his advisors had recommended that their master be the first to announce their presence to both the participants and observers.

Fortunately, however, Draigh remained not alone until the arrival of his provincial rival. Accompanying him as his symbolic guard was an individual of Astral Darkblades origins and the Champion of Revelation, Euthalia Samon—a dear childhood friend of the Collbrande, and his former classmate from the days of his scholastic training under the Symbol of Revelation. She stood behind her client ever so proudly with her posture fixed, occasionally exchanging words.

"When I heard you were attending the provincial ceremony to act as my personal bodyguard, I assumed that she would visit as well." Draigh scoffed, "Even anonymously would've been fine, knowing her disdain for public attention. It's not exactly everyday that I get to speak and brag to my own mentor, after all."

Draigh pointed at the empty chair that was formerly meant for Kyburn's attendance, "That'll be an empty seat if you don't take it, Euthy. You should enjoy the front-row seats when you can, standing all day under the heat is tiring, no?" Draigh chuckled, quickly gesturing her to claim the property for herself.

"Though, I'm pleasantly surprised that you recognized the western region's traditions and decided to take the chance to visit here. What made you want to come, anyway?"

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

I thinkn't, therefore I ain't
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Luria Cineris
Not too long after, Draigh and Euthalia would receive word of a motorcade of multiple armored cars, at least 10 of them, bearing the colors of the Anteråsan Imperial Garrison stopping around the stadium where the events would take place. As quickly as they arrived, the troops within the vehicles disembarked and fanned out with some of the more courteous ones, officers included, greeting their Aucteraden counterparts in the process. One of them, presumably the motorcade’s commander, walked to the viewing stand where the two Collbrandes would be situated and upon arriving saluted to both Draigh and Euthalia to give his report before leaving. The belated guest that they were waiting for was finally here.

Another motorcade of 2 heavier armored cars escorting a singular black limousine bearing the same colors with the addition of the regalia of House Cineris arrived less than a minute after the previous one. The simple yet pristine natural grandeur of Aericross was about to be graced by the rare public presence of none other than the obscure Collbrande of Anterås herself, Luria Augustine Cineris. This is her second public appearance to date, her first being a livestreamed inauguration address on her first day as Collbrande that caught most Empyrians by surprise.

The ashen beauty opens the limousine door on her side, quickly disembarking and taking a deep breath, studiously scanning the environment while her personal House guards in the aforementioned armored cars that disembarked first are peaceably fending off any and all media outlet teams that are attempting to hound her for press coverage after being given such an opportunity to see her and point a camera in her direction for a picture or video of her at the very least. The bystanders just opted to stay back and look at the Collbrande from afar as she began walking her way into the stadium with an escort of 4 soldiers. It would seem that she has come alone, aside from her sizeable escort, given the lack of any retainers or Anteråsan officials or overly special security at her side.

Underneath Luria’s composed façade, she was somewhat nervous with many a thought swirling in her mind given this is her second public appearance but her first outside of her home and province and her first time meeting a fellow Collbrande of Ophelia. Had the Collbrande that was summoned elsewhere be available for the festivities, it would’ve been hitting two birds with one stone for her reputation. That would only be speculation however as she is only really meeting with one.

She was aware of the Champion of Revelation being in the premises and has put some thought into it, wondering what this champion was like. Meeting the Champion of Revelation herself with the aforementioned Collbrande, to her, is an entirely different beast of its own as it will have a bearing on how she would look to the Cardinal Caliburn Order in one way or the other. The time for thought about these matters may as well have passed as she neared her destination.

Luria arrives at the viewing stand where she would be seated alongside the two aforementioned individuals, putting her thoughts aside to compose herself one more time before gesturing her guards to wait outside. She then formally enters the viewing stand with all eyes on her, giving a light respectful bow to Draigh and Euthalia where she finally speaks, “Lord Kaiser, Lady Samon, it is with great honor and pleasure to finally meet you. My sincerest apologies if I have kept you waiting.”

Her voice was soft and soothing, befitting of her beautiful appearance. It did not seem like her to be the strict and professional work-oriented career stateswoman that the rumors describe. However, one could sense an aura of gloom about her due to the impression that she gives away. This was aided by her clothing and appearance that consist of many neutral colors, natural or otherwise.
 

K417

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Euthalia Samon
The Champion of Revelation did indeed find it rather disappointing that her master willingly chose not to come to tonight’s event, yet after living with her in her sanctuary for so many years, Euthalia had expected nothing less of her absence from the occasion. It was not meant to be held for a reunion, after all.

“Ah, well, you know her. Even the idea of being seen by the public repulses her. There’s not much we can do about that,” she responded as she broke out into a slight sweat, trying to sound complaisant, but instead coming off as discouraging. In realization of this, she piped up, saying, “I’ll be sure to send her your regards though, if you wish!” It would have been the least she could do, especially seeing as how they had not met since each had taken on their own responsibilities for the sake of improving Empyria.

The Collbrande of Aucteraden patted the seat beside him, gently encouraging the woman of Tirenzin origin to stake its claim. By his rationale, Euthalia felt she had no other choice but to sit next to him—not that she would mind, of course. "Hmm, I think you're right, Draigh," she giggled, “it is rather tiring to stay on my feet under the sweltering heat of the sun. It is a bit of a shame though, that Collbrande Kyburn was unable to make it, but I suppose duty calls.” With that simple remark, she walked over from behind the Collbrande of Aucteraden’s seat to the front of the seat that would have belonged to the Collbrande of Sanguinum, and carefully brushed down the fabric by her thighs before she sat down.

She hummed happily, looking around at the seats around her, filled and yet to be filled by the esteemed guests, as Draigh questioned the reason for her appearance. “I’m surprised that it comes to you as a surprise!” Euthalia laughed. “Of course I would make it in my best interest to study on Western traditions, especially after Lady Zephyrus took me under her wing. I find it easier to connect with people when I know more about their culture, and Western culture is pretty interesting, if I do say so myself! Ah, and when I found out that you, the Collbrande of Aucteraden, were attending as well, I couldn’t possibly have turned down the opportunity to come and be your bodyguard, haha~” She winked.

A few minutes had passed since the start of their conversation before they would hear the smooth roll of car tires come to a stop, followed by the clicking of the car doors to reveal a man in formal attire announcing the much anticipated arrival of the Collbrande of Anterås, otherwise known as the Lady Luria Cineris.

To say Collbrande Cineris was beautiful was an understatement, perhaps even an insult, to her immaculate visage. It was no wonder to the Astral Darkblade that she had hidden her face from society, out of understanding that anyone would easily be in awe at her beauty. Even parents would grow jealous of her, wondering how any two people could have produced such a genetically attractive woman such as herself. If there was a word to describe such outstanding allure, Euthalia best believed she would be the epitome of such a description.

The Hyzurian champion stood still in her seat, completely awestruck by the Collbrande of Anterås’ arrival, until the Lady stood merely inches away from her supposed equal and herself. Euthalia was taken by surprise, to say the least, to see the Lady bowing before her, even if slightly so and out of common courtesy. She grew flustered, even, although she would hide it to the best of her ability and instead express her gratitude for the Collbrande’s appearance.

“Lady?” Euthalia asked bewilderedly while placing a hand on her chest, “It is I who should be calling you Lady, Collbrande Cineris. Please do not grace me with such formalities,” said she, vigorously shaking her head and waving her hand, “for I have been given the utmost honor to be in your presence today, milady. In fact, I am beyond overjoyed to discover that you know my name,” she would say. “Of course, it is my pleasure to finally meet you as well, and in person, at that.”

Euthalia felt slightly awkward at the fact that her initial outburst sounded perhaps a bit rude, but she had attempted to maintain a sense of formality from then on, especially in the eyes of an honored guest. She cleared her throat, slightly intimidated by the Collbrande Cineris’ monotonous voice, much less her sheer presence and glazed appearance, before she began to speak again.

“Milady, it seems your reputation precedes you; you do not appear to be harsh or brittle like others portray you to be. Worry not about the timing of your arrival, either. The Collbrande Kaiser and I had decided to arrive early, actually, so please rest assured. What matters most is that you are here now.”
Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) Serobliss Serobliss ( Draigh Kaiser )
 
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Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
It had been long since he was able to rest comfortably and exchange words with one of his childhood friends. In truth, while he had looked forward for the triennial ceremony and to see the western region gather arms to cheer for another year of brotherhood, the moment the message about Euthalia's attendance had made presence on Draigh's desk, he couldn't have found himself in a more cheerful mood. Though he had hoped that her presence would mean Zephyrus' involvement, such news was unfortunately proven false as she was most likely avoiding large public gatherings—the obvious move by the Symbol of Revelation.

He had missed her greatly, as much as he had missed Evelyn's proud smile and his mentor's fiery attitude. How time had passed so quick since the four of them had sat down and shared a meal, he did not know. It was through iron and blood that Draigh had to fight to make these moments possible. From the War on Raignork to the Saygien Conflict, the Collbrande embraced these moments as he held no clairvoyance when it came to their future. He could only hope, that peace would forever consecrate their lives.

As expected from an individual of such fashion and style, Draigh smiled as he observed the deluxe introduction from his fellow Collbrande, accompanied by imperial soldiers bearing the crest of their lady's familia. Certainly it was unnecessary to boast such defense and security for an event which had already been installed with supervision rivaling that of the royal palace, but much to his amusement, he enjoyed her method of arrival regardless.

Draigh extended his hand forward, temporarily removing himself from his seat to return her bow with an equal handshake. "The pleasure is all mine, Collbrande Cineris. This wasn't how I expected our first meeting to be like, considering the festivals are meant for the people to gather and share harmony with one another. I hope that our encounter here brings us together with similar motives." He boldly stated with a firm smile.

The two Collbrandes found themselves seated on their respective seats after their formal recognition with one another, along with Euthalia's presence that had made this so much more amusing for the Kaiser. "The rumors surrounding your mysterious inauguration had made head news for my province's media, and even now they remain furious for intelligence regarding your perplex history. As a fellow Collbrande whose curiosity rivals the press, I must say that I was left pleasantly surprised after learning of your overture. Though, we'll save that conversation for when privacy is absolute."

Draigh gestured for the butlers to fetch them their refreshments, in which he had demanded for three glasses of their finest wine to celebrate this occasion. "I would be moderately disappointed if a lady like yourself stays free from alcohol, but if such is the case - I'd ask that you at least taste it for celebration sake. My family had kept the wine felicitously aged since the Aucteraden restoration during my grandfather's ascension, and I'd like you to accept one as an apology for being absent during your inauguration ceremony in Caliburn Vitos. Having to take care of a child during their rebellious phase can be quite difficult, as my father used to say."

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 
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Panther

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Luria Cineris
Luria paid not too much mind to Euthalia’s reply to her greeting, a bit more relieved than she was earlier before giving the Champion of Revelation a calm and reassuring gaze to try to indicate concession for the latter had a point and didn’t see her coming off as rude if anything of the sort at all, reducing some of the little awkwardness that had filled the air following her reply. She gave Euthalia a light smile, “I will keep that in mind.”

Onto the next point of order that is Luria’s reputation, she gives a mental sigh during a brief silence that indicates her awareness of how others see her, but that was expected given the memories of her lambasting an unlucky few officials as politely as humanely possible so as to not break professionalism, be it in speech or in writing, were still fresh within the labyrinthine confines of her mind. Those were some trying times indeed, especially when she understood that keeping good working relations is a key factor to her rule’s success. While past is past, it definitely gives an idea of the present, perhaps even the future.

Regardless, it got her head’s gears turning as she was still coming to terms with her new responsibilities and the weight that comes with. However, she couldn’t shake the thought of those rumors being right about her, giving a short rhetorical reply as if taken aback in spite of taking no offense, “’Harsh’?” A hint of slight guilt from her as she shifted her eyes downward momentarily before looking back at Euthalia, “Mmmm… I would like to think that that is what I am when confronted with less than optimal results carried out by less than optimal people, validating some of the rumors about myself. Given my line of work and that of my House’s, I can’t afford to mess around. I’ll have much to answer for should I do so. But I do thank you for your words.”

Luria then shifts her attention to Draigh who stepped forward after a short moment of silence that signaled she and Euthalia were done exchanging words for now. She would graciously accept the Kaiser’s handshake, taking her right glove off before grasping the man’s hand to shake briefly and firmly with a similar smile to the one she gave Euthalia, “Likewise, Lord Kaiser. Likewise.” After they broke hand contact, she put her right glove back on before taking her seat while Draigh took his, taking a deep breath to intermittently relax as she made herself comfortable on the chair while listening to his follow-up statements about her reputation and his curiosity.

Upon his finishing, she replies in an apologetic yet sarcastic manner with a slight change in tone in a brazen, brazen to her, attempt to establish sociability, “I’m going to have to apologize as early as now because I will be standing by my decision to repeatedly disappoint the media when it comes to gaining information about myself for now. But I am pleased to hear that my appearance into the playing field has surprised even you and it takes a lot to surprise a Collbrande of Ophelia I would wager. As for that conversation...,” She put a hand on her chin to think before coming to a decision, putting her hand back down, “hmmm… I’ll take up your offer.” A part of her would be having a mental debate as to whether this would be a mistake or not, but that would ultimately be for later to decide.

Luria then gave the servants a brief look before examining the wine, taking her glass and slowly swirling the liquid within, “I don’t shy away from light liquor, any heavier than wine and I would have to respectfully decline.” She then takes note of Draigh’s absence, recalling it vividly during her relatively quiet designation as Collbrande, not many others were there if at all, just her and the relevant authorities, “As for your absence, Lord Kaiser, it’s nothing to be worked up about. Taking care of your daughter and your family is much more important than attending a ceremony that designates a new Collbrande, it is symbolic and important yes, but not as much as family if I may opine.” Luria manages to hide an involuntary cringe as she felt her stomach churn at the thought of family but was unable to explain to herself why that is.

Silence once more dominated her as she deemed the topic done, she was not exactly a good conversationalist herself to sustain or start them in her own opinion. She didn’t want to ask the obvious about the ceremonies either, taking a sip of the wine given to her instead while waiting to which she gives a somewhat pleasant reaction to followed by a few more sips as she took in the atmosphere, her eyes darting around the stadium from left to right.

 

Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
Draigh lightly chuckled, "I have no interest invading your personal life, Collbrande Cineris. I was more referring to the idea of future joint effort between our provinces." He sipped his wine mid-sentence and allowed the taste to calm his senses. Even for a man who kept his status for nearly a decade, he was still somewhat nervous about exchanging words with the newly instated Collbrande of Anterås, carefully treading his words to not accidentally offend the young lady.

"But it's not every day that either of us is allowed to rest and leave provincial matters to the others. Using this event as an excuse, I would like for us to get to know each other a bit better. The other regions show excellent partnership with their neighbors, except for the troubling past of... Dosidicus and Novarion, but I believe this could be a great opportunity for us. But of course, I'd prefer it if you would enjoy the scenery and the entertainment. That is why we have gathered here this afternoon, after all."

How Draigh conceived the other party was difficult to explain. He felt sincerity and kindness in her words, but perceived a mild sense of hostility from her tone. Her beauty was nothing to be scoffed at either as he would never dare to compare her to anyone he knew, not even the Collbrande of Iliosie, or Evelyn. But for someone whose anonymity seemed off, Draigh felt slightly perturbed by Luria, though deep within his heart he disliked to create such claims for himself.

The man shook his head and tapped on his thigh in a rhythm. "Anyhow, Collbrande Cineris. I normally do not like to deal in formalities when we're not observed by cameras. If it wouldn't pain you, would it be alright if I addressed you as Luria? I'd like for you to call me Draigh as well, if such is possible."



Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

I thinkn't, therefore I ain't
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Luria Cineris
Luria gave her silent agreement to Draigh’s words before taking one more sip from her wine glass, finally putting it down afterwards. Upon her hearing of Draigh’s offer to cut formalities, she was flummoxed with a brow curling for but a moment but it definitely isn’t as bewildering as she would expect following what she heard from the Champion of Revelation herself about formality. Still, hearing it from a Collbrande himself was something else first-hand, another thing that she would need to get used to as common courtesy was ingrained into her way of operating regardless of her social stature.

She nodded at Draigh, “Yes, that would be fine.” She too was equally wary of her Aucteraden counterpart, but if better relationships with the provinces are to be made, compromises or well, ‘compromises,’ have to be reached. Of course her feeling that he wants to probe her for more information, whatever that may be, is a given. She’ll have to start drawing more lines sooner or later.

And what better time would it be to start practicing calling each other by their first names to lessen the tension than the events at the stadium that are about to unfold. A loud fanfare left the loudspeakers of the stadium followed by an announcement that the games were about to begin. The crowds cheering and jeering as the participants stepped out into the main area for the opening ceremony and to perhaps be given the graces of their Collbrandes with the exception of one. A short break followed the ceremony for the organizers to give the equipment and areas of performance a final check before the all clear was given. The games began shortly after.

Luria wouldn’t give the games too much attention as some small talk would’ve been in the air between her, Draigh, and Euthalia concurrently throughout the course of the event up until the closing ceremonies. The few sporting events that did get her attention for more than a brief amount of time were the shooting and fencing competitions, but more of the former. She silently critiqued their technique and their aim and with some degree of confidence, concluded that she is a better shot though it is safe to say she was thinking of military marksmanship training that is inherently more difficult than it sounds and not civilian shooting competitions despite their commonality.

 

Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
Draigh was surprised to hear that his guest had extensive knowledge regarding the sports presented in the ceremonial event. Not directly how the sport was meant to be played and the rules surrounding it, but instead the art and mechanics of the core foundation in which it derived from. But what had made his curiosity pique was her criticism of the participants' performance, by directly comparing their technique with what only a trained imperial soldier would know. Draigh was no stranger to warfare and combat, and as he listened to his guest's rambling, he further grew suspicious but ultimately came to the conclusion that she has had training from her father and predecessor.

As the final developments of the main event came to its conclusion, the Collbrandes and the Champion found themselves in the rare cities of Aericross, specifically within a private building owned by the Collbrande of Aucteraden. In the first floors were occupied by unrelated businesses and cafés, while the floors above were ran by other entertainment industries. On the highest story was Draigh's very own condo, in which he only used the space as a temporary home during his travels.

With no servant in sight to supply the Collbrandes with a beverage and snacks, Euthalia volunteered herself to serve the two, who was also invited to chitchat along. Alone in the living room with only a sizable window showing the working city below under the dark skies, Draigh made himself at home as he stretched his legs across the extendable couch, gesturing his guest to be comfortable if she so wished.

"I imagine the cities in Anterås being more calm during these hours. As you can see, this province hasn't slept since its very establishment in the Foundation Era. Always bumbling with activity, no matter the hour or day. I suppose that is the effect of being the melting pot of extraterrestrial foreigners, although I haven't had the pleasure of welcoming them as much due to the Queen's new regulations."



Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

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Luria Cineris
Luria gave the condo a studious look around like she did with the sceneries before it on their way to the building and the condo. She sat on a single-seater sofa, crossing her right leg with her left and interlocking her fingers together as she rested her hands slightly above her right thigh. She thought of Anterås as the current situation with regards to foreign policy was mentioned, she couldn’t blame the Queen if she wanted less people on Agartha but the planet itself was quite large and it would be impossible for Exhelians alone to fully inhabit it in several generations.

She ultimately shrugged, trying to wrap her head around the situation as House Cineris, a House that prides itself in espionage, also required a fair bit of foreigners to better understand Empyrian foreign relations and the background things that affected the thought processes of outsiders in order to better understand what it is they’re dealing with for Empyria’s security. The younger they were, the better. The more updated, the better. Information was more than just a commodity to House Cineris, it’s their lifeline.

A deep exhale escapes her nose, “Anterås has its fair share of daily bustle, but I concede to Aucteraden in terms of how busy everything and everyone is. I can’t say I wholly blame Her Majesty if it’s for things such as the security of our Empire. But if we’re to be able to better secure it against what she deems as outsiders, we’re going to need some of these outsiders working in our rank and file as well. Just watching them as we keep their influx limited would be quite a dent to my House’s operational capacity among other consequences in the long-term. Alas, it’s a double-edged sword. Some agree with the new policies, some do not.”

She helps herself to a glass of water that Euthalia would’ve given them along the way to which she would give thanks for. Now all that was left was to wait for the next point of order: why Lord Kaiser really brought her here with her agreement.

 

Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
He scoffed, listening to the devil's advocate that was Luria Cineris. The Kaiser agreed, but ultimately his opinion on the matter was far too complicated for him to explain in one sitting, especially to an individual whom he didn't know to trust or rely on, as respectful as he wished to be for the fellow Collbrande.

"It's a complicated subject, I concur. However, I must digress. Your gaze is telling me that you're the type of character that prefers to speak with someone who goes straight to the point. Whether I'm right or wrong, I would also like for me to start talking politics and business." Draigh converted the subject with a strong tone. He accepted the warm tea with a playful wink to Euthalia, and had her sit comfortably on the available couch next to the duo.

"I'm certain that even with your status as a novice in the Collbrande circle, you're no fool that disregards rumors that us provincial rulers watch for cautiously. Most turn out to be infinitesimal matters compared to the other, but recently—we've been skeptical about the truth behind the existence of 'The Cartel'. I am sure that you've read through the imperial documents claiming that such entity exists globally in the mainland. And, well, it's official. The NRA of the Aucteraden branch had recently found evidence supporting their decade claim."

Besides him was a folder he had brought from the NRA headquarters, containing confidential documents written and signed by NRA officials. Draigh lifted his legs from the couch and returned to his formal posture, and took out the series of papers all containing information regarding the 'Knightmare' Cartel.

After a quick glance to Luria, he handed his guest the papers, except for one that remained hidden with its back facing the ceiling. "Mechanized Assault Walkers, equipped with armaments manufactured by the Volterra Industries. They've already confirmed that the machine's parts were bought by private retailers providing for Volcrest and Dosidicus. These MAWs shouldn't be possible to obtain for normal civilians, but the NRA found a collection of them going through installations in the abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of Somnum, the largest city in Aucteraden."

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

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Luria Cineris
Luria took hold of what Draigh handed her, painstakingly going over each document one at a time as he spoke. She gives a lengthy exhale, a sigh. It was at this moment that Draigh knew that she had also been looking into this matter extensively but she had not brought files of her own primarily because she wasn’t expecting this conversation to be brought up from a sporting event of all things. She uncrossed her legs and rested the documents on her thighs and looked at Draigh. She knew something.

She then opens up, “We’ve been on a trail about this matter for years and my House has already aggregated a cornucopia of information about this ‘Arcalion Syndicate.’ The Imperial Security Directorate has just confirmed the intelligence we’ve been accruing. You see Lord Kai-,” She realizes she was about to be formal so she cuts herself off immediately, clearing her throat before resuming, “Draigh. As I was saying, my corporate and economic espionage divisions have been reporting some strange anomalies across all of the business fine print that we regularly attain and examine. Little details that didn’t make sense before but eventually started to add up over time.”

She took another sip of her water before continuing, “A flux of transactions involving military hardware made by the mentioned private entities alongside logistics firms that handle the transportation of such hardware. Subsidiaries are also involved. The transactions are not limited to just military hardware of the kind you mentioned and the parties involved sometimes include shell companies for smaller transactions like procuring small arms and some legitimate businesses that have no actual branch in an area, just something akin to an apartment building or small commercial space that’s just leased or ‘leased’ but never actually used. We haven’t received much confirmation either that the legitimate businesses involved have even made such transactions at all, it’s on their record, but it doesn’t add up to them once we got them to actually take a look.”

“The commonality that a lot of the transactions shared is that they all point to Aucteraden, and that makes sense following an examination of your ports and storage facilities. They’ve been reporting consistently over the past few years to months that there have been more receipts than usual of such materiel including some consumer goods flowing through, some of them are even suspected to have been mixed in with the aforementioned consumer goods to pass through without a hitch. We’ve even gone through employee logs, especially those of stevedores as they are the ones that physically interact with the cargo. Some of them have reported that information on some cargo that they deal with is only need-to-know and that port personnel are actually not allowed to open them, now there’s no law that mandates the opening of all containers and packages for a check, whatever the type. You wouldn’t normally send a truck container through an X-ray machine now, would you? You only usually do it when you actually get information of suspicious cargo but here’s the thing, not many question marks were raised to the point that legal action had to be taken. Especially since only parts were being transported. To them, it was mostly normal.”

“The Syndicate made the right move of just building up little by little in a province where many things of many kinds are known to go in and out of to evade our eyes and ears until it was basically too late. “Too late” being we’ve already found them to be real, but they’re already prepared and presumably well-armed. They’re planning something big, and I think that we will be hard-pressed to stop them. Suffice it to say but…,” She frowned, “, they’re ahead of us. We can only both wait for them to make their next move and gather information on those next moves. Stopping them from carrying out whatever it is they’re planning will only just be a big bonus at this point.” She then stops, taking a deep breath.

This would’ve been a lot to take in for the both of them, although less for Luria given she’s already been looking into this since she took the chair of Collbrande, “I’m sorry if we couldn’t tell you earlier. My father, in his infinite wisdom, must’ve deemed it to be a stupid and brash move since all we have are numbers and data but not the meaning and the hard evidence to back it up.” She sighs.

 
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K417

沉默的观察者
Euthalia Samon
The Champion of Revelation hummed pensively to herself at the Collbrande of Anterås' self-conscious reply, for she knew all too well how it felt to succumb to the judgement of outside forces. While Euthalia tried to form a proper and sincere response to her statement, she stared at the Lady, gazing straight into her eyes to find the words that could reassure her best of her personality.

'Through second-hand sources, people can very easily make assumptions about others they haven't yet met. Only after getting to know them personally can someone truly accept or refute those claims, and who would know about them the most if not themselves? In other words, the way that the people and the media portray you should not be definitive as to how you portray yourself. Let them speak, let the rumors fly about, but do not allow for meaningless words to hold value in your heart and the meaning of true self,' was what she would have said, until she realized that perhaps it would have seemed condescending to give a few words of advice to a superior, especially in such a lax manner. Instead, she continued to stare at Collbrande Cineris silently, hoping that although it was impossible, she would be able to hear her thoughts that were left unspoken.

Euthalia's gaze was then cut off by the wall that was the cape that had draped Draigh's back. She peered out from it silently to see the two Collbrandes exchanging handshakes, which indicated that her conversation with Collbrande Cineris had come to an end. For the rest of the evening, Euthalia would remain quiet as the Collbrandes engaged in idle conversation, with the exception of a few snorts and giggles. She was unsure if she was allowed to eavesdrop in the conversation, but Lady Cineris' successful attempt at sarcasm prompted a chuckle from the pink-haired Hyzurian, followed by a silent apology for interrupting them.

Not long after Collbrande Kaiser had requested the three servings of wine, the butlers had arrived with their drinks, to which Euthalia would graciously thank the butlers before taking a long sip from the wine glass. A bright spotlight followed by the blaring of trumpets had brought her attention over to the center of the stage where the announcer stood, who had finally announced the start of the matches. The Champion of Revelation could not remember when she had last been able to take a moment to relax with her friends, so she would take the time to fully enjoy herself as she immersed herself in each match, observing carefully the Western practices of combat and sport, while making sure to listen in and involve herself in the conversation, even if with a nod of her head or a simple affirmation to confirm that she was paying attention.

As the Lady Cineris gave her critique on the form and technique of the contestants in the shooting competition, Euthalia raised her eyebrows in astonishment, impressed that the newly instated Collbrande had such knowledge of guns, especially in a military sense. Her intensive feedback caused the Champion to realize how people may have seen her to be harsh, although she herself would have seen Lady Cineris to be rather critical instead, and rightfully so. It caused her to gain even more respect for the Collbrande, as well as a slight curiosity to know more about her history, but Euthalia knew better than to pry in others' business if they were not willing for others to listen.

After the event had concluded, Euthalia had followed Draigh and Lady Cineris to the Collbrande Kaiser's condo, to find themselves alone in the comfort of his temporary home, for his servants had likely headed home for the night.

"Ah, let me be your server for tonight. We wouldn't want to trouble the servants to come back after a night of hard work now, would we?" Euthalia asked, not waiting for the two to respond to her rhetorical question as she asked next their preference of beverage. After heeding their requests, the Hyzurian comfortably helped herself to the kitchen to prepare the refreshments as the Collbrandes would discuss business.

Euthalia was well aware of the active ambience that she heard Draigh mention about Aucteraden as she prepared the tea. To her, the city had felt quite comfortable with the noise of busy workers, even at night, yet the same liveliness of the working community provided an unsettling and hostile undertone to the city that she could not quite put her finger on.

She poured a few droplets of the freshly brewed tea into a sample cup, blowing on the hot beverage before sipping down its contents to make sure it had been brewed to their liking. The taste that it had produced was quite pleasant to her: earthy, for the most part, with a slightly bitter aftertaste that lingered in her throat. Hopefully Draigh would like the tea as well.

Euthalia poured the tea into two cups that she would place onto the wooden tray, along with the teapot, a bottle of water, a tall glass cup, and a pitcher of ice if the Lady would prefer her drink cold, and made her way back into the main room to serve the drinks, placing the tray in the middle of the table between the Collbrandes.

As the guests are always first, Euthalia made her way over to Lady Cineris' right hand side with the bottle of water rested upon her right wrist, the empty glass on her left hand before she would place it in front of the lady. As she would remember to, she showed her the brand of water before precisely pouring it into the glass, one inch before it hit the rim, and sealed the bottle shut before placing it back onto the table, within her reach. After satisfying her request, Euthalia moved in a clockwise motion over to the host, Draigh, with a cup of tea in hand. As she presented him the tea, she was met with a wink, to which she giggled lightly in response, momentarily placing her right fingers over her lips. She then walked back over to the center of the table to grab her own cup of tea before sitting in the couch that Draigh gestured to, which was conveniently placed between himself and the Collbrande Cineris.

The Champion of Revelation continued to listen to the two Collbrandes talk over the topic of the Night Raider Agency, not having anything to say about the subject itself as she usually had not been involved in such a private matter. While they spoke, Euthalia looked back and forth between the two as they went over facts and speculations, although in a civil manner, leaving her amused by their interaction with each other.

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) Serobliss Serobliss ( Draigh Kaiser )
 
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Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
Draigh remained seated and listened to Luria's information carefully. It was to be expected for her house to be involved in Aucteraden affairs, but he was relieved to hear that they had simply collected data and had not stepped foot in his province's business, as that would signify a breach between the agreement between Collbrandes and their rightful lands. But of course, there could be more information that she wasn't willing to reveal—but for now, he decided to stay curious.

"I've heard similar reports from the chief. The NRA and my personal force of operatives have already prepared countermeasures against the Cartel, but even they are aware that the situation at hand as of now is a difficult one to handle. The other provinces have been notified before our meeting, and so we're currently waiting for them to report their side of the situation." Draigh said with a tired tone, audibly exhaling as he sipped from his warm tea. Delicious and brewed with obvious care, he couldn't help but to thank Euthalia with a quick glance.

But that had given Draigh a unique idea. "Luria, if I recall your father had agents that exclusively worked under his command—I'm guessing those operatives switched allegiance to his heiress when you took control of your house? The NRA of the Aucteraden branch managed to gather our best detectives on the case, so I was wondering if we could use this opportunity to exchange information from both sides. Your agents and mine in a joint effort to share our intel. If need be, I could provide documents listing the agents affiliated with the group."

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

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Luria Cineris
Luria took note of how Euthalia acted towards Draigh and vice versa during the length of the meeting up to the current point, to her, they were definitely good friends as if that was not obvious already to her earlier back at the stadium. Albeit at this level, it was surely different. She thanked Euthalia for the tea before she refocused on the matter at hand, she does however keep quiet about what her House has been fully doing for the past months and years, choosing to neither confirm nor deny should such questions be raised. She makes a guess with her knowledge of Aucteraden waiting on the other provinces’ correspondence on the matter at hand, “I assume this conversation makes me the first province to report? I’m assuming otherwise.” A reasonable guess from her.

She then thought about the few agents under her House’s direct employ, “And yes, I do have such people working at my service. But a joint task force, hm.” A moment of deep thought from her as she thought of the implications of having her elite work with the Kaiser’s elite, the Kaiser Knight Order, and the Imperial Security Directorate. This wasn’t a breach in the ‘to each his own’ agreement between the Collbrandes but there is a substantial amount of things in play should she authorize her agents collaborating with the Knights and the ISD. This wasn’t new to House Cineris, collaborating with their non-provincial counterparts, but they’re usually careful with the people they work with. Although she does seem to think a collaboration would be for the best despite its tactical or strategic downsides, the Syndicate already has an edge and it would be unwise to let them get more of an edge and the opportunity to capitalize on it.

She accepts Draigh’s offer, “I’ll be having a few of my people work with yours. Of course I’d like the documents of your agents that will be working with mine, directly or indirectly. I should warn you however, that my agents don’t necessarily respect the laws of the land at all times. It’s the kind of game that we at House Cineris have to play as eyes and ears. I hope you’ll understand.” She then finally takes a sip of the tea that Euthalia gave her.

 
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Serobliss

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Draigh Kaiser
To hear that his fellow Collbrande was willing to cooperate in the investigation was a huge relief for the head of House Kaiser. He had worried that Luria was no different than her father, who saw cooperation as nothing more than a nuisance, which would later prove to be ineffective on the long-term. "That would be correct. The others have yet to find traces of the Cartel outside of Zhenra. Though, that's to be expected from that province. The organization known as Astral Darkblades have already confirmed prior that the problematic Sishén Faction may have a hand in the Cartel's uprising. You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?" Draigh asked.

Draigh was already aware of House Cineris' tactics that often involved shunning the laws of the empire. It was to be expected from a house specializing in espionage, and so he had no complaints from her having to resort to trickery to bring forth a viable solution once and for all. He supported it, even, considering the NRA was too strict with their rules to go that far.

"One more thing." Draigh leaned forward, clearing his throat before he began. "Lord Vamperius and I have already discussed this matter prior, but I believe this is something us western provincial governors should take note of before a disaster occurs. This is about the Order of Eden and the Iscariots of Solarian, who were sent to the commonwealth Valeria to.. 'rid' of a criminal mastermind. The contract was signed 4 days ago according to Vritra Solarian, and already they've reported that their target may have something that resembles a Cataract... Already, that's too suspicious, wouldn't you say?"

The Collbrande of Aucteraden scoffed, "The Symbol of Valor isn't the type to let her mistakes run free. Am I safe to assume that you know nothing regarding the Order of Eden's recent movements?"

Panther Panther ( Luria Cineris ) K417 K417 ( Euthalia Samon )
 

Panther

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Luria Cineris
Luria clasped her hands together after setting the teacup down, answering the latest question, “Not quite ‘nothing.’ Aside from their more recent deployment to Valeria? I don’t know much in spite of House Cineris’s irregular but detailed correspondence with the Order of Eden due to… common interests. House Cineris’s spies across the Commonwealths are very few in number due to standing restrictions that we’re admittedly in the process of circumventing. Her Highness, the Symbol of Valor, is usually known to be very careful but if anything, I do not know or think of her to be perfect. Their deployment to Valeria most likely has a hidden agenda, what that is, House Cineris doesn’t know and will likely never know until the deed has been done or if the Iscariots of Solarian disclose more but I doubt it as they’re plausibly pinned by a non-disclosure agreement and the threat of Order of Eden action. But a criminal with a capability similar to an Exousiarch, especially in its third phase, definitely rouses suspicions. How would they acquire something like that? If that is the question even, then what they have isn’t really an Exousiarch and there's only really few parties that can give something along those lines.”

Now onto Zhenra, Luria sighed, “I don’t have many eyes and ears, if at all, in Zhenra due to my father’s movements but those assigned to keep an eye on that province have given him some substantial pieces of information that are similar to the ones I have disclosed to you earlier, if you so wish, I can hand them over to you. You’re also free to relay them to the Astral Darkblades but I think I can handle that unless my father pulled something off under my nose. I’ve yet to receive actual constant real-time updates on much else aside from the turf war going on there between House Xuefeng and the former House Sishén. Do you wish to ask anything else?”

Luria was not all too concerned about the answers she gave, but she does have this lingering feeling that she is just immersing herself into more trouble nonetheless. Regardless, House Cineris was still just keeping an eye, ear, and nose out everywhere due to its responsibilities and nature much to the dismay of its contemporaries but to the House, their hands being dirty so that the hands of others could stay clean was more than fine to them.

 
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