Chapter 1945 It's Personal
I'm baaaaack, honey! Did you miss me? I sure did, hihihi!
After yet another long day of meetings and technical problem solving, Gloriana entered her stateroom on the Stellar Chaser with giddiness that belied her exhaustion!
No matter how many difficulties she encountered throughout her day, returning to Ves always cheered her up! Like a sleeping prince, Ves was just begging for a kiss!
Gloriana cheerfully approached the bed and bent down to place a chaste kiss on his lips. She sniffed his face and took in his fresh and slightly-moist smell.
The caretaker bots must have freshened his body up, causing his skin to glow in the light as far as she was concerned!
Sometimes, she liked to cuddle with Ves when he hadn't undergone his period cleaning cycle for a while.
However, she liked variety as well. It kept each cuddling session from growing stale.
In the meantime, Clixie hopped on top of Gloriana's desk and bumped her nose against Lucky's flank.
Lucky yawned and nuzzled his nose into Clixie's furry neck.
While the cats started playing, Gloriana left for the bathroom and emerged some time later looking just as fresh as her boyfriend.
Her elegant, recently-dried hair trailed straight down her head and embraced her smiling face like an elegant curtain.
She hopped onto the bed and started to press herself up against her sleeping boyfriend. She kissed his cheek and started to trail her finger on his chest.
I miss you, Ves. How long will you remain comatose? I really hope that implant of yours finishes its integration process soon. I only have our old memories to remind me of what it's like to be your lover. I miss our collaboration projects!
As Gloriana began to blabber, she faced Ves' delectable cheek with an adoring gaze.
She couldn't resist her urges any longer!
She just had to lick Ves' cheek!
She stretched out her tongue and stretched her head forward.
Just as the tip of her tongue was about to touch her boyfriend's jaw, a pair of fingers suddenly snapped it, preventing Gloriana from starting her lick!
A pair of eyes opened and turned towards Gloriana. How long have you been licking my face?
What is it with my cheek?! It's not enough for you to kiss it or caress it with your fingers. Why do you have to lick it?! Do you think you're Clixie or something?!
Miaow? The Rubarthan Sentinel Cat looked up from the desk as Ves mentioned her name.
Uu 'aste ood!
What kind of an excuse is that?!
Bonk! Bonk! Bonk!
Ves bonked her three times on the head before letting go of her tongue.
Gloriana drew back her head with mocked aggrievedness.
Don't bump my head!
He smiled and rubbed her head instead. Is that better?
After sharing a proper kiss, Gloriana no longer hid her happiness.
You're awake! I've waited so long for you to recover. It's strange you woke up ahead of schedule, though. Ranya was sure it would take at least four more days for you to regain consciousness!
He shrugged. I'm weird like that.
How are you feeling, Ves? Do you feel the implant expanding your mind?
Uh, no? I do feel a lot more sluggish in my thinking, but I haven't noticed any of the effects you've described. Has the integration process finished?
Ah, I remember. Ranya told me that your implant is probably on standby mode. This is the final step of the integration process. You'll need to head to the infirmary and undergo one more checkup. Ranya has to make absolutely sure your implant has settled in properly in your head before we turn it on. The first activation of a cranial implant is always a doozy. The transition in the way you think and the way you process your memory will change completely. Adapting to the changes requires even more time.
Ves nodded. A part of me is afraid. Another part of me looks forward to what I can do. This will be the last time I think in this fashion.
He would probably diverge even further from humanity after this change.
They soon turned to more serious topics. How much time has passed?
Almost a month.
What happened while I was out?
Though Ves already knew most of what had occurred due to his eavesdropping, he pretended to be ignorant and earnestly listened as Gloriana described all of the developments since his surgery.
Gloriana did not waste any time and immediately informed him of the most critical developments!
The CRC's surprise attack on the Larkinson Clan, the mass arrests of the members of the Larkinson Family, the escaped Larkinsons making their way to the Sentinel Kingdom and the possible rescue attempt by DIVA all came as a 'shock' to Ves!
These Fridaymen have gone too far!
Ves did not need to pretend very much to express his indignation against the Fridaymen's actions.
He had been repressing his anger for days. Now that he managed to wake up, he could finally vent his frustrations to someone other than Goldie!
I know. Gloriana nodded her head like a chick. Those Fridaymen always pretend to be better than us, but deep down they are hypocritical, sanctimonious fools who will do anything to advance their interests.
Didn't that apply to everyone?
Regardless, it's one thing if the Friday Coalition targeted my clan. That is something that I hadn't done enough to protect against. It's another matter when the Fridaymen targeted the old family! We're clearly not affiliated with the Larkinsons in the Bright Republic, yet the CRC decided to paint us all with a single brush anyway!
Ves truly felt a bit helpless. No matter what he did, the old family would always be vulnerable to retaliation.
Enemies who weren't able to get at him directly could easily direct their ire against the Larkinson Family!
It would have been great if Ves could absorb the members of the old family into his clan. Once the Larkinsons got back together, he no longer had to worry about protecting a group of far-flung Larkinsons that would continue to grow more distant as Ves moved away.
Yet Ves already knew that the members of the old family were too stubborn and set in their ways to join his clan.
I recall leaving behind a contingency plan that calls for abandoning the captured Larkinsons. He spoke to Gloriana while he embraced her with an arm. It was a bad solution to a difficult problem. I don't blame you for ditching it for something better. If there is a good chance of rescuing my relatives without risking the lives of other Larkinsons, then I'm fully behind this alternative. It's just.. I'm worried about DIVA. If Calabast is representative of this organization, then I'm very concerned about what they demand from us in exchange for your services!
Nothing came for free! There was always a price, and people like Calabast embodied this principle!
You should ask Calabast for the details. She replied. It's not light, though. Calabast and I had to offer a lot of concessions on your behalf in order to satisfy DIVA's appetite.
What do they want from me? I hope you didn't promise anything ludicrous.
Don't worry, Ves. It's just a lot of favors. Once you've finished scratching DIVA's back, we'll be even with them. That's a good deal considering you'll be freeing a lot of Larkinsons.
Well, there's one Larkinson who bucked the trend…
Once she told him about Ghanso, Ves gritted his teeth.
This fool of an expert pilot just won't go away! What is he even doing?!
From what our intelligence has gleaned, the Friday Coalition is already looking to absorb some of the expert pilots of the lesser states. Venerable Ghanso isn't the only expert pilot to defect to the Friday Coalition. It's part of a broad initiative to break the stalemate by strengthening their top-level mech forces.
This was new. Ves looked genuinely surprised. That doesn't sound very common. A lot of expert pilots are very dedicated to their home states.
There are some expert pilots like Ghanso who aren't as inflexible. As long as the Friday Coalition can recruit twenty percent of the expert pilots of its client states, then the frontlines will not remain stagnant for too long!
It didn't take much effort to see that his girlfriend was genuinely concerned for her home state.
The Hegemony is attempting to do the same, but we are one step behind. We didn't anticipate the Coalition would move to take advantage of the lesser states so soon!
Ves believed that the Hexers were about to get schooled by the Fridaymen in this regard.
The Fridaymen might be divided to the point where they didn't possess a unified culture, this also happened to be their strength!
Their culture was friendly and open to diversity. While the Fridaymen didn't respond too well to religion, they were quite lax towards every other culture.
In contrast, the Hexers were openly known as man-haters. The female supremacists didn't endear themselves to the Komodo Star Sector at all!
With their discriminatory practices, the Hexers would probably encounter a much less enthusiastic reception among the mech pilots of their client states!
Even if states like the Sentinel Kingdom gave up some of their expert pilots, the only reason they acquiesced was because they were too far away from the Friday Coalition to beg for help!
Though Gloriana probably knew this outcome as well, she didn't look too concerned.
The Hegemony will find a way. If necessary, we'll resort to quality instead of quantity. She grinned. Maybe we can help in this regard. One of the favors you need to fulfill is to work together with DIVA to design a mech that encapsulates the advantages of your design philosophy, but is made suitable for Hexer mech pilots!
Ves immediately frowned. I thought you Hexers hated the thought of piloting a mech designed by a boy.
That is still true, but there are many ways to go around it. Now that we've become masterwork mech designers, some of the rules that restrict from participating in the Hegemony mech market don't apply anymore.
It sounded like this mission was a lot more significant than designing a punishment mech for the Penitent Sisters!
In truth, Ves did not reject this development. In fact, he embraced it because it was the best way to take revenge on the Friday Coalition!
Since they killed his relatives, Ves had become truly angry at this enemy state. He no longer wanted to leave the Komodo Star Sector while leaving behind loose ends.
The Coalition Reserve Corps made it personal!
Gloriana didn't know much more about the details, or if they did, she foisted the job of explaining the situation to Calabast.
Ves knew that his girlfriend could be rather shrewd. He suspected that Ves wouldn't like what Calabast would have to say!
Before I talk to Calabast, could you tell me what DIVA is like?
DIVA is arguably the Hegemony's most flamboyant intelligence agency. She answered. In fact, to call it an intelligence agency is something of a misnomer. While they definitely do spy work, they're mostly known for their daring operations. A lot of women from the Hegemony admire the agents of DIVA for their strength and their exciting lives.
That sounds as if they're the protagonists of an action drama.
Gloriana chuckled. It's all true, though, at least I think so. You know Calabast pretty decently, right? Does she look like a woman who can take care of herself?
Ah. Well, if you put it that way, then DIVA does sound formidable. What is their involvement in the Komodo War?
It's mostly secret, so I don't know. If I had to make a guess, then I think that DIVA is definitely responsible for monitoring and sabotaging the Fridaymen as they move to take greater control over the lesser states. The agents of DIVA do much more than that, though.
Perhaps Ves might have an opportunity to take revenge against the CRC...