"Hey Princess," the brawny, business suited man greeted the young woman, her title spoken more like an affectionate nickname than an honorific. "I'm guessing things didn't go according to plan huh?" the human sympathetically smiled towards her. The two had never met, but the ever friendly Johnathan had a reputation that she instantly knew of. A scoundrel, a womanizer, the Premier of Piyapon, and father of Bhelith's child. "I know you're probably feeling down right now, but I got an offer, and I guess it's now or never, you know?" Johnathan casually sat down on a chair's armrest. It didn't threaten to topple over or creek under his weight however, and it wasn't due to superior engineering either. No, the man was talking to her in a way that only other Taianese could, and it wasn't often that someone other than a fellow Taianese was able speak fluently on the VR channel. However, in those rare instances, they were usually someone that stuck up and out from the crowd.
Her mother would tell her it was someone to be hammered down or be used a useful step up of course. Meanwhile, her father would have told her such a person could be a useful ally and a bridge to another people. But what did she think?
The invitation to a virtual chatroom had struck her as odd, but given it had come from the Solarity's chancellor, it was not one she could dismiss out of hand. But now that they faced each other, she realized how awkward this would be. Restraint was not something she was used to having in that realm; she'd been thoroughly schooled at doing so in the real, but here, it felt too much like stiffling herself. Stiffling her passion, her light, her fire. On equal grounds, time was simply not on her side.
She pondered his words, and made her decision. The Taianese princess would be herself, without any gentler veneer. Kowloon's Duchess had erred, and many at court would have had been comfortable with the term 'transgressed' if Xiulan related her interview with them. She wasn't in trouble, they were. So, she would be a dragon - burning, fierce and proud.
"Yes, let us talk," Within this space, her avatar was not entirely fleshed out beyond and abstract silhouette of herself, her head being where she was the most defined. As she moved to a self-conjured chair that was the mirror to Johnathan's, she rendered herself more sharply, donned a simple cheongsam in surreal gradient shades flowing from white to fuschia. "Let us discuss why the meeting I scheduled through you happened to intrude on Her Grace. Let us discuss this strange ambivalent attempt to have me join a cult-like following that would somehow turn me against my family. Let us discuss Her Grace's utter lack of apparent deference to Her Liege, the Immortal Emperor, whom I have come to represent."
Her voice crackled with domineering authority she had not chosen to wield before. "Understand that my purpose here was to serve as liaison, in order to allow the Empire of Tai Pan to better support what had been considered a successful administration of this Suzerainty." She barked out a humorless laugh. "My disappointment at this first interview is outweighted by the responsability I now feel weighting on me: to notify the Taianese imperial court as to how inadequate your leadership appears to be. As a royal princess, trust that my standing - even landless - has the clout sufficient to have the court arrange for a replacement. Drawing such a conclusion so soon during my tenure will not earn me any favors, and may even saddle me with the unenviable task of taking over in the Duchess' stead as well as cope with any subsequent upheaval..." she narrowed her slitted eyes. "but you may trust that I will perform as my duty demands."
Xiulan crossed one bare leg over the other, reclining comfortably in her virtual chair. "But before that, I will allow you to do yours: the unglamorous task of cleaning after your Duchess, giving me a reasonable explanation for my reception and the attitudes I was witness to, and then change my mind in regards to how successful my tenure here can be."
"Interested? You might even get to make her apologize in that roundabout way of hers later," Johnathan playfully offered to the Taianese Princess.
What struck her was how the chancellor had inspired urgency twice. It brought her back to her previous musing; if the vagaries of her interview with the Duchess had been a result of flawed whims, or calculated design. How someone supposedly as competent would have bungled such an encounter to lead Xiulan to suspect disloyalty. How, either way, the leaders of the Solarity would probably deduce she had suspicions.
The Taianese princess then considered the Tsunami's current location in the star system, well within the gravity well of Piyapon. The suzerainty's capital had its defending vessels; if it came to hostilities, Tsunami would be far outmatched and her odds of escape slim. She'd made the possibility of ousting Bhelith obvious, but then, wouldn't that naturally make her loyalists want to solve that problem by nipping it in the bud? Her death wouldn't be inconspicuous, but it would likely be far less trouble than Xiulan returning news that she considered the elven sovereign potentially disloyal. Especially if the Duchess was actually bankrupt of dutiful reverence towards the Immortal Emperor.
Johnathan Izgimmer is here for damage control, she decided. Virtual reality suits him, because if negociations fail, he can easily escalate.
The Taianese princess wondered if she should confront him on the threat she'd perceived, but then decided not to. The Chancellor had likely intervened in the hopes of diffusing a situation before it got out of hand. Killing her was not desired, but it would be done if it was necessary. Appearances would matter... and in case she was overthinking the matter, it was preferable not to give him ideas!
"Chancellor, if my presence here had been for the sole exercise of having the Duchess kiss my feet, I would have brought more warships and more soldiers." Xiulan's gestured offhand to dismiss that possibility and move on with a more patient-sounding: "I will hear out your proposal."
The man clearly had something in mind, but what?
"I believe you misunderstand," the Taianese Dragon said. "I am weaned since birth to perform in a diplomatic liaison role. Originally, it was for the Wangdaio colonies; I was repurposed for their spiritual successor, the Solarity of Kowloon. My function here is not trivial, and it should not be judged by the actions of a father seeking boons for his youngest daughter. It should be judged by the imperial sentiment that first and second-class Taianese do not want third-class citizen underfoot; therefore we promote havens such as your province to look after their needs. It is important to the court that this suzerainty succeeds; if you end up like the Wangdaio colonies it will largely be to the detriment of our third-class."
"I am here to walk the line between helping you succeed and also to be the voice of the Empire you are part of," the purple-haired princess stressed. "If you look at me and see inexperience, I say look at me and see the dragon caste at your doorstep offering you her cooperation. After all, inexperience is temporary and the Emperor does not have so many heirs that it would be a small matter that one stand in your presence."
"Besides, the way you frame it, your entourage does not seem to have the whole picture: sending a seasoned liaison could very likely have been framed as insulting... is your territory rife with such unrest and incompetent leadership that it requires a master in the craft?" She arched an eyebrow, letting him chew on that rhetorical challenge a beat before continuing. "No, you do not. You send your best diplomats to deal with precarious international matters; and you cut the teeth of your greener official within the territory because everyone has to start somewhere, as you once have. Eventually, the favor must be passed forward."
"In which case, I will grant you the honor of accepting your offer." She didn't smile, but something like delighted glee flared in her slitted pupils. "You may rejoice, Chancellor! You will now have the priviledge of sharing your wisdom as to how to run your territory. As I rise within the Imperial court, what you will have imparted will positively reflect the pedigree of your own province." She purposely made it hard for him to tell if she claimed that in jest, or if she was actually serious.
Xiulan was actually being sincere, though she derived some amusement from thinking he might not see the boon quite in the same way.
"Well Princess, if you being here is supposed to be something serious, then we've got work to do," he clasped his hands together, rubbing them in anticipation. When Xiulan had mentioned potential rewards, she saw a faint glimmer in his eyes. But, was it greed, amusement, or something else altogether? "Though, honestly? Don't hold all this against Bhelith. The relationship between your pops and her is, well...complicated," Johnathan briefly looked away in thought before smiling again. "After all, she didn't get offed along with the rest of the rebels!" the man pointed out to her with an award winning grin. "Anyways, here's the landing pad," he said, handing over a slip of paper. It wasn't necessary, considering the fact that they were in her virtual reality, but the act had a certain appeal to it with the way the data transferred once she took it from his hand. "I'll meet you there!"
The man didn't bother exiting out the door though, but he didn't just log off and vanish either. Opening a window, he sat on the window sill, shooting the Taianese princess a thumbs up and a smile before leaning back like a diver, his feet the last thing she saw as the man fell from view.
Not too far off, several Shield vessels patrolled space. It was difficult to tell if they were doing so as they always did, or were there specifically because of the ploy the young princess suspected, but one thing was certain. If she attempted to flee now in the Tsunami, there was a reasonable chance of getting away. At these ranges, they'd have to resort to using torpedoes, and those could be fooled. On the other hand, they could have just been patrolling as they were supposed to.
Still. Would the Princess turn and flee, or stay and fight?
Her perceptions returned to the real, where she had lounged, absentmindedly looking out at the stars. Xiulan's slitted pupils narrowed within bruised purple irises, focusing on her reflection as she considered Johnathan Izgimmer and mentally ticking off what she'd made of him: uncomfortably familiar, disarmingly affable, a tad crude and quite definitely shrewd. The dragon princess' notion of being imperilled did not lessen - she still couldn't excuse a lot of what Bhelith had done on incompetency so it seemed therefore by design - but he'd made it hard for her to not doubt in her own alarmism.
Not that it couldn't still be done, but the scenarios she could envision seemed unlikely if on simple account of their lack of efficiency. While her situation had certainly become convoluted, going downplanet seemed more likely to further her agenda rather than hinder it.
She straightened on the couch. "Mina, arrange for a shuttle to ferry me back to shore," she commanded, transfering the landing coordinates to her handmaiden. "I have business with Kowloon's chancellor."
Her rat-form servant inconspicuously approached. "Will you be donning the same garments?"
Xiulan considered the black formal dress she'd worn to meet Bhelith and shook her head in the negative. "This feels business casual. Let's go with something that matches my hair along with some sharper contrasts."
"At once, Your Highness," Mina bowed.
She was the Emperor's youngest daughter, and one lesson her mother taught her early was that the Taianese Court did not lack for intrigue. The Taianese left their pacifism behind, the outcome was keenly reflected in the ruling class once the nation's existencial struggles was behind it. When it came to knowing better how the Taianese people ought to prosper, the imperial court at large had little shortage of cutthroat powerplays - some fatal between those that competed the most adamantly. Xiulan was hardly one of those major players, but her mother had played favorites with her, making sure that her youngest baby would have a better chance than most to be the last one standing. Training to survive assassination was suspiciously alike to training to be an assassin. Chief amongst the skills Xiulan learned was an expertise with poisons.
She came unarmed to Piyapon, but only in the way that she did not carry a weapon. Meaning that she needed to be the weapon if it came to that. To bolster that, her fingernail varnish and the wax she'd applied to the sharper edges of her tail's frill was a concoction made from the venom of an Iwoyan hookfish: it was benign enough on skin contact, when ingested or smelled, but if the poison reached the victim's bloodstream it would quickly induce numbing paralysis. A rake of her fingernail, of a rending tailslap would prove more than sufficient to make a proper delivery if matters came to it within the next couple of hours. As for the possibility of misshap, Xiulan had already imbibed the antidote and carried some on her; it wouldn't do to inadvertantly overdose someone by accident and being unable to avert a potential heart attack.
The shuttle made landfall, and once the pilot announced they were secure, she stepped out the open hatch and down the ramp.
Descending from high above, the sprawling city below looked like a blight upon the land, a cancer that slowly spread out into the pristine world, and this wouldn't have been entirely incorrect. The hastily fabricated buildings' drab and utilitarian contours were lit with neon ads who's light seemed to bloom within the rising steam that rose from below. Ground level traffic was congested, while sky-car lanes were relatively clear, a sign of the nation's state in and of itself. Of course, every city had its origins, its reason for being. While many were made to be close to water or the like, Soran Nast was simply the landing point for the battleship that had been gifted to Kowloon. As it originated from the pilot program for battleships, Tai Pan would have scrapped this experimental test bed, but it was deemed more appropriate to gift this to the fledgling nation. And now, here it sat near the mines, foundries and factories that had cropped up to assist with its maintenance as well as the military's, the Shield of Kowloon.
From time to time, ash slowly drifted down on the city like snow, but not on the landing pad nearby the massive ship's side. The field it emanated saw to that.
"Princess! Good to see you!" the tall, brawny man beamed, proudly marching out to meet the princess. A gust of wind briefly buffeted them both though, as the light protective field wasn't perfect, prompting Johnathan to run a hand through his brown hair to brush aside a few strands that had strayed. "There's a lot on the table, but just humor me real quick while we walk!" the man began, holding up both his index fingers for emphasis. "Politically, what do you see here?" he asked, gesturing to the kilometer long battleship. Though they were far enough so that there was ample room for the shuttle to land comfortably, their proximity to the huge vessel made it look more like an armored wall that rose high into the sky than anything else. "Oh, and for maybe a bit more challenge, from Kowloon's and Tai Pan's perspective when it was first gifted," he smiled, waving for her to follow him in.
Her reptilian eyes studied the large expanse of armored hull and she reflected on the question. What struck her the most about the scenery was the contrast between the squalor of Soran Nast next to the large warship the city had grown around. Even as a hands-me-down, having a singular Taianese battleship was a huge priviledge... one that was not usually granted outside the Imperial Military, which was only first-class citizens. Kowloon was mostly third-class citizen, lead by an elf that had formerly been an enemy general. Even if the large warship had design flaws, they could be compensated for, enough so to make the vessel a cornerstone of any defensive effort. At its starting point, as long as its upkeep was maintained, it assured the Solarity of Kowloon would not fall prey to banditry.
But if Izgimmer asked, it was because there was a catch. She just couldn't put her finger on why. Bhelith's disdain for her mother cropped in her mind.
"I see a powerful symbol of Taianese might," she answered glibly. One that is a little too good for you. "It is an amazing gift, perhaps even too generous. It would be a priviledge for a first-class citizen to even serve on one; and yet here, a third-class can captain it. It is a lot of power to put in the hands of a former enemy general; a great demonstration of trust."
"Your question implies there is a contrasting view between Tai Pan's and Kowloon's points of view." the return look she gave him under her bangs was cunning. "Of course, I have my first impression with your Duchess to guide me. Have your citizens somehow twisted the symbolism of this gift into a way to demonize Tai Pan at large? What priviledge would they have appreciated instead?"
"The relationship between the Emperor and Bhelith is complicated, and I'd say this ship is actually a kinda decent representation of it," he began, leading the way into the vessel. As the armored doors opened, the two entered, and passing the airlock, the scenery changed quickly. The nearby cargo areas had been stripped of munitions, weapons, reactor fuel and rations, instead housing a vast forest of cubicles between which numerous office workers buzzed. "You see, this ship is a good ship. Very high performance. Lots of energy output, very powerful weapons, even more powerful shields. All the bells and whistles," the Premier praised the ship. Walking deeper in, the civilian support personnel diminished as the numbers of Shield members rose. "Naturally, that comes as a cost - high maintenance. Operational costs per hour are pretty high, since it's tricked out with all sorts of prototype systems that never quiiiiite panned out." Stepping into the lift, he admitted, "Plus, they won't tell us what precisely is in this ship, so we're still finding something new every day. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns into a giant mecha or something at this point," Johnathan then laughed.
Stepping into what looked like his office room, he suddenly stopped and turned around to look Xiulan in the eye.
"It doesn't turn into a giant mecha, does it?" the man asked with complete seriousness.
"Many of our smallcraft have transformative properties that help them adapt to multitude of environments," Xiulan soberly informed the Chancellor. "Our Monkey-caste have indeed contemplated the idea of applying the same versatility on a grander scale. Your vessel could possibly be the discontinued Sakamoto-class, a totem battleship exclusively for the use of our Rooster-caste. One of its intended properties was rumored to be a landing mode that transformed the warship's posture into something akin to the rooster bird; its proud skyscraper-tall gilded silhouette meant to inspire imperial pride and prosperity from miles away. From your suspicions, perhaps you have heard of the heated debacle that went on over its head? As I understand it, it was about wether it should remain a sensor tower, or ought to integrate laser cannons for eyes."
She looked up at him indulgently, and brought the narrative she was spinning to a conclusion: "Naturally, the Imperial Court ruled that glaring things to death was an affectation unique to the Dragon-caste. Alas, the design was discontinued before it reached mass production. The Roosters must have been very disappointed."
"That....that would explain a lot actually," he admitted. As he strode over to his office desk, the man pulled out a seat for the Dragoness before reaching up to his neck, loosening his collar and tie before sitting down himself. "A certain Rooster by the same name occasionally sets up shop here periodically. I thought she was an intermediate rank in Taianese society at best, but this suggests something else entirely." Running a hand through his brown hair, Johnathan let out a sigh. "Well, thank you for informing us. I've went ahead and made sure to tell the appropriate individuals involved and - "
"The ship does what?" The doorway had suddenly slid open again to reveal the unmistakable, towering form of an Angel. Halo glowing as her chest heaved, it was obvious that she had sprinted over as quickly as possible, beating her fully sized wings to boost her speed. Stepping into the room, she dispelled her wings in a burst of black feathers which promptly scattered and vanished as they shrunk to a small, vestigial pair on her back. Xiulan knew this woman despite only having met in passing of course. Fate of House Exousia had once served her mother and father as Shaojiàng - or Vice Admiral - of the Auxiliary forces, and due to that, she bowed to the young Dragoness before turning her stoic fire back to Johnathan. "Is this true? It transforms?" Fate asked.
Even if you weren't entirely familiar with a ship, Xiulan's statement was an evident falsehood to anyone whom had bothered to even map out the ship; something mechanics would have likely already done, considering how the city first grew around the idea of supporting that ship. Maybe her tease had the chancellor going until the transformation bit, but after a mental double-take he definitely hadn't believed it, only opting to humor her. The Angel could have been the butt of some joke, if Xiulan truly believed someone of her pedigee was that gullible. She didn't.
Therefore, a form of levity and an excuse to introduce someone, Xiulan concluded, returning Fate's bow with an acknowledging nod before she sunk into the chair offered to her. A passing thought had her wonder if Izgimmer was calling her bluff and testing her over it, perhaps to see how she would handle a tease that threatened to go too far. She decided she would not bite, figuring it was better to remain silent and have him figure that one out.
So, instead, she devoted more attention to the burst of feathers as not-so-compact wings shrunk into a more indoor-friendly formfactor. Now that was an interesting trick, especially the part where the props - the drifting feathers - faded away as they sunk to the floor. Replaying the event several times in VR didn't really reveal any particular trick or artifice to it, which means it was likely purely magical.
"Apparently, it might, according to Her Highness here," Johnathan smiled, gesturing to her with a hand. "Would you like to take a seat?" he offered the towering woman. Looking at the man though, he gave off the faint sense that already knew the answer, but asked anyways. It was polite, and he liked talking with her.
"No thank you, I will stand," came the silver haired Angel's stoic answer. Coming to stand at ease, the rise and fall of her chest quickly fell in line. 'Greetings your majesty. You honor us with your presence,' came Fate's stony words to the young Dragoness, her greeting given in this more Taianese style, lack of emotion included. Though they initially planned to oppose the Taianese during the War of Liang, Angels were ultimately keepers of the peace, and quickly supported them once it became clear that this was the era of the Taianese. Because of this, her father once said that Fate could be trusted.
"No problem. Anyways, on to business," Johnathan adjusted his tie, adopting a much more serious demeanor. Relating the details given to him by the princess in solemn, humorless terms, the Angel stood silent as she listened, occasionally indicating that she was following along in all seriousness as well. It seemed that she hung on to every word that he said, and it soon became clear that this was a matter of utmost importance to a woman who knew nothing but her duty.
"I see," Fate finally replied to the man. "If that will be all Premier?" she asked, her voice stoic yet icy cold with resentment at being toyed with by Johnathan.
"No, not at all," the scoundrel replied in all seriousness. Surprisingly enough, Fate tilted her head back, raising her chin ever so slightly in surprise. By now, the man would have given up the game and burst out laughing or some sort. But for him to continue? "What are your thoughts on briefing Her Highness here in regards to the Eastern Provinces?" he asked her, interlinking his fingers together in thoughtful curiosity. Fate's small, vestigial wings twitched. She wasn't happy.
"I would advise against it. It would be a challenging endeavor," Fate replied, turning her stony gaze to The Princess in turn.
"Your Holiness," Xiulan respectfully began, indulging the angel in a very complimentary form of address. "You are but the latest person involved in what is becoming a rather prolongued game of hot potato. The potato being myself."
"In my first day as the Imperial Court's liaison to this province, your Duchess has failed to impress me with her accountability. Your Chancellor has given me-- well, you seem well acquainted with his methods. That leaves you, whom I know - on account of the Immortal Emperor - is a person of great prowess and integrity. I presume that if you had ever shirked challenge, you would never have made Shaojiàng."
"We ask you: is it is truly an honor to meet us?" The Taianese princess questioned. "If it is, we would enjoy being blessed with more than only lip service. Can you show us that our faith House Exousia will not treat us like some hot vegetable is well deserved?"
"Well, can you really blame anyone?" Johnathan defensively raised his hands, pretending to wilt under the Angel's glare before turning his own attention over to Xiulan. "With multiple competing interests kept under check by threat of violence, bribery or so forth, anything can happen, just as your mom wanted, I'm sure!" he exclaimed. Hearing that though, Fate's fury quickly lessened as she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, tense shoulders slumping, if only for a moment.
"It is indeed an honor to properly meet you your highness, however, I do not wish yourself to be sullied by the rather mortal affairs here," she explained, her stony presence quickly reasserting itself. "However, I understand that you must be acquainted with the world at large sooner or later, and your will cannot be stopped," Fate bowed again as a small smile traced across Johnathan's features. "I will assist you in what ways I can, however limited they may be," the fair Angel pledged herself to the princess. He had a partner to pass the potato with now, after all.
"Well, I suppose she's quite right," the Premier relaxed in his seat, gesturing to one for Fate again. This time however, the Angel did sit, quickly pulled into committing to this cause. "The situation itself is pretty straightforward, but how you'll deal with it is entirely up to you," the man began. "Long story short, Impulse Industries is a new, upstart military corporation dedicated to supplying arms, armor and even some smaller ships to Kowloon, yet has done spectacularly well and gotten a good share of the market. If we're at war, it's happy since it gets to sell us all it's wares," he began to explain. With a wave of a hand, a holographic chart of several hostile powers came into being. The Atraxians were a given of course, and though the Black Army was shattered, its remnants still required care. Meanwhile, the Sutākame were a constant pressure that threatened to abscond with lives. More importantly however, was the looming threat of the Gartagen Union, an old power growing restless. There was one odd one there however. A relatively sharp toothed, yet minor power. "Of course, all of these are rather passive right now and don't look quite as threatening as most military industries would like save for the small nation of Vice. Since Lord Creature Du Rochon raided them for finances, we've been at a state of...well, 'elevated tension', I'd like to say," Johnathan smiled, "Of course - " The man waved his other hand, and another hologram appeared, this time, one charting plummeting sales. " - the agriculture industry lead by Potato Corp has a word of their own though, and doesn't like that they arne't getting to export as much as they used to. This is very problematic since our currency is literally backed by food."
"Could you sort these two out?" he asked the princess politely.
"As I explained before, I am your liaison to the Imperial Court; the eyes and ears of the Emperor and Empress. I also speak on their behalf," the Taianese princess calmly stated. "So, when you ask me to directly intercede for you in regard to these two corporations, you essentially prop the matter up to the scrutinery of the Imperial Court. I do not believe it is to your advantage to promote the perception that your self-governance struggles to keep its corporations in check to the point that the court need become involved."
She wasn't sure Izgimmer's scenario was genuine, especially when he mentioned that Potato Corp barely a minute after she'd alluded to being tossed around using similar nomenclature just minutes ago, but the Taianese princess saw that as a good opportunity to clarify her position given his apparent plans - if that wasn't just a test - to use her as a proxy. However, I am no one's errand girl. Youth or not, she had the power of her office backing her, and if his roleplaying backed him into a corner that allowed her to make a point that allowed him few avenues for clever evasions, she would take it.
"So, no, they are yours to sort out," she said, clearly turning him down. "In my counseling capacity, I recommend that you run wargames with your military around the contested areas. It allows you a display of force to keep your rivals in check, create demand in your navy that Impulse Industries may find profitable. In the meantime your exercises will secure your trade routes, allowing your 'Potato Corp' room to more safely run their exports." Of course, that would cut in finances, but she wasn't going to educate him on how to generate revenue with how little she actually knew of their economy beyond what he'd just told her.
"What alternatives are available to Her Highness then?" Fate questioned him, rigidly sitting in her chair. Though she privately hoped there was something for Xiulan, Johnathan however, didn't seem to happy at the thought.
"The standard fare would be something like a state ball. You know. Dress up all fancy, go do some meet and greets, shmoozing about and all that," he practically harrumphed. Jabbing a thumb at Fate, Johnathan added, "Fate'd likely go along to make sure you're fine, but she won't be putting on a sexy dress or anything like that," the man began to explain his disdain, much to Fate's own judging by her icy cold stare. "Lots of other pretty faces around, but my job is to talk to the sleaze-balls that brought them there." Though he was a politician, it didn't mean he had to like it. "Anyways, it'd be starting at level one, but you game?"
There actually wasn't much question that she would agree. But she wanted to give enough pause to seem discerning in Izgimmer's eyes, enough to hold him in suspense of gaining her approval... but not to the point of appearing picky to the winged woman. Xiulan could not tell for sure how forthcoming the Lady Exousia's help was - goodwill or obligation? - but either way the angel seemed like the best supporter she had on Kowloon thus far. It wouldn't do to discourage that.
"Why Chancellor, this does seem like a more actionable course of action," the Taianese finally said. "Liaisons should liaise, and this looks more like a promising beginning towards that." Actually, it wasn't that much the case, but the Dragon Princess was throwing him a bone. A reprieve. A way for him to have her kill time while he marshalled a better idea. He knew her reason for being here and her expectations now, so given time, he should be able to better deal with her.
Which left the matter of Fate. Xiulan turned to her. "I am only passably familliar with the dresscode of Kowlown's military, but I do remember how dashing you looked in formals. Would you be willing to accompany me to said ball?"
"I will be honored your highness," the angelic soldier replied to the young Dragoness, her words as professional as they always were. However, her stoic gaze soon shifted off the Taianese princess, and back onto the former man of Reservoir. "If I recall correctly, the ball that is currently planned will be featuring several heads of industry from both the agricultural and military-industral sectors?" she asked, quickly shining a little light onto Johnathan's intentions.
"Unfortunately," he shrugged. "But, I think you only need to make a good impression, Princess." Sitting up in his chair again, he explained, "They're major players, so you'll just end up seeing them quite often. Just like you said though, they're not really your worry. Instead, it's acting as a proper Liaison," Johnathan began. "Kowloon's a new country, and right now, that strong feeling of independence from the Wangdaio Colonies is still pretty strong here considering where a lot of folks come from." Memories of the distant worlds making for self-rule, only to soon collapse under forces unknown flicked past their minds. Proud ones. Sad ones. Angry ones. Embarrassed ones and so forth. "Right now, feelings are very mixed and on the fence. But, presenting yourself well and making them want to liaison with Tai Pan will also mean that Kowloon will eventually want to too." He couldn't help but grin. "Who knows? If you do a good job enough, and enough people like you, Bhelith might too. What do you think?"
He didn't say it outright, but Kowloon was a young nation, and she was going to battle for its soul.
Quiet tolereance was more her actual state of mind: she'd already answered his question, but the Chancellor seemed determined to rub in the idea that being in Bhelith's good graces was desirable. Part of Xiulan still railed at the idea of sucking up to the Duchess - something about her irreverence struck her as dangerous - but she couldn't discount the merit in Izgimmer's words. Going with the flow of his narrative was bound to at least make performing her job easier.
The Taianese princess was essentially allowing herself to be tricked. It was better than being tricked blind, but it didn't strike her as a smart decision. Let's allow the Chancellor think that, and see where this leads.
"We will need the time and location of the upcoming venue, as well as names of those that will attend, with access to what files you can provide on these people so that We may come properly prepared," Xiulan then said, moving the topic forward. "Normally, We would also ask for the dresscode, but We intend to shirk it and to come appearing as We are - a Taianese court princess. We trust there will be no objections."
"Well, I'll be looking forward to seeing you turn some heads Princess," Johnathan replied, already quite amused at the possibilities this young royal would visit. "As for the deets - there!" The spoken wording from the man aside, the manner which she received the information was something all too familiar. As it would at home, the message appeared in her mind as he said it would, and looking at the information on hand, she had some time to prepare as well. "I know I said I hate this kinda stuff, but maybe you'll turn things around," the former Vice-man remarked with a grin.
Cerulean Crown Resort
"Hold still," Fate's stern voice commanded the young dragoness. In just a few quick, deft movements, the Angel's hands reached out, picking away the tiniest bits of dust, adjusting her hair one final time, and otherwise making sure Xiulan looked her absolute best. Of course, Xiulan always looked her absolute best, be it in the finest gowns or waking up in bed with a head of messy hair. Fate had to have known this, and yet, here she was doing what could only be described as fussing despite her stone cold expression. "This will be a trying night for the both of us, but we will persevere," she spoke, the reassurance unneeded yet uttered anyways. Leading up to this very moment, the signs from the towering, buxom woman were very subtle, but for a true Taianese like Xiulan, easily read. Others would have thought her carved of cold stone, but she knew the truth.
Fate was nervous.
"Introducing Her Royal Highness, Princess Cixi Xiulan of the Empire of Tai Pan, and Admiral Miranda "Fate" Exousia of The Shield of Kowloon!" As the doors swung open, the two were greeted with sights and sounds that most would only ever see in movies and shows. As gentle music played live, people dressed in the most haute of fashion gracefully sipped the most expensive of champagnes or snacked on rare delicacies. Others gossiped or even talked business, their tempo and tones casual and relaxed. But of course, on her entry, all eyes turned to Xiulan and Fate. Out of the crowd, the young princess could already see a few of the names. The local Lord of the Province, an angel like Fate herself. The various heads of powerful corporations, both agricultural and military. And perhaps just as importantly, the people who came with them, their wives. Their sons, their daughters.
"Welcome ladies!" Johnathan pushed through the crowd to greet the two. "I'm glad you to made it. It's not much compared to the Imperial Court, but I hope you'll enjoy yourselves and maybe even make a few friends while you're here," he smiled. Already, Xiulan's presence was creating a stir, nevermind that the tunes and gossip picked up again. Her sharp ears could already tell some of it was all about her.
She'd come dressed in layers of sheer silks that flowed down her figure. The marine-themed gown bordered scandalousness, its near transparence leaving little of her feminine figure to the imagination, while adhering to propriety in other places with seafoam green and blue dyes. Everything about tonight's garb put bare the physical differences a Taianese dragon boasted; her open-back garment and the updo Mina had coifed for her placed extra emphasis on her slender neck, the mottling of scales going down her back as well as the line of ridge-like fins that descended down her back and ran the length of her tail. Since her hair was swept back into a high ponytail, her horns stood out a little more. Almost claw-like nails similarily stood out with contrasting nail polish.
If given a choice to fit in, or stand out, Xiulan preferred the latter. Rather than follow trends, she would endeavor to make trends. Glorifying what she was seemed like a good first step for that.
One arm encircled Fate's in proprietary fashion. She had claimed Fate as escort with nearly the same kind of fervor a same-sex couple could display. It was a symbiosis; Fate would lend her standing she'd need, while in return she would give much-needed momentum to the other's evening.
"Would you kindly introduce us to tonight's host, Chancellor?" Xiulan asked him with aplomb.
"I would, but I think he'll take care of that himself," Johnathan replied to Xiulan, the corner of his mouth upturned with mischief. As though on cue, the tapping of a glass cut through all the gossip and chatter as Lords and Ladies fell silent, a boyishly handsome man standing atop the stage. Looking over them all, he seemed to already radiate a genuine warmth, but whether or not that was real, or part of being an Angel himself, was hard to say.
"Everyone, thank you for coming," their host began. "Though we have all suffered a great loss with the passing of Lady, we all know that she wouldn't have wanted us to have a formal, stuffy affair or go overboard with the mourning. Or, even mourn for that matter," he smiled. "So instead, let's have a ball - to our dear friend, and the bright future she's left behind for us all. To Lady," the Angelic man beamed at them all. On cue, the crowd excitedly their toast, their celebration neither loud and brassy nor dishonest as far as Xiulan could tell. Despite the slightly somber mood, the Lords and Ladies and business men and women alike all meant it. Looking down from his podium, the host's blue eyes eventually settled on the princess herself before he stepped down and made his way over, brushing his almost messy golden hair back. "I hope I haven't kept you waiting. My name is Raphael Kyriarchía, Lord of this Province," he introduced himself. "I hope you'll excuse me though." Shifting his attention off of Xiulan, the man's gaze abruptly left her, only to fall solely onto Xiulan's partner, Fate, with an unexpected intensity. "Will you join me for a dance tonight?"
"Are you sure?" the man continued to smile, unabated by the other Angel's stern refusal. "It'd be impolite not to." The moment he said that however, they could faintly hear the buxom Admiral swallow. Fate's stoic gaze turned to Xiulan for direction, while Johnathan himself had taken a seat and was helping himself to an hors d'oeuvre with a broad, smug grin.
After she'd been given a compulsory greeting and with the merest obligatory apology, the winged man had turned his attention - as unerring as an homing missile - toward Fate. By comparison, the Taianese princess felt compared to window dressing.
The Chancellor looked smug to Fate's predicament, but Xiulan felt like reminding him that he had just loosed a piranha in a fishtank. Sweet, vicious vengeance would be hers; If Johnathan wanted a spectacle, she would deliver.
Preparing her best impression of a guileless young noble, she studiously kept the volume of her voice down so that she would only be heard by those within immediate earshot and said: "Forgive me, I thought I came to a ball, not a wake," she paused and then innocently asked: "Who was this 'Lady'? The family dog?"
"Ruth 'Lady' Exousia, my fifth cousin, once removed," Fate's calm, stony-cool voice explained to the young princess, her eyes firmly set on the Lord of Azura. "Not a word," the Admiral began to address her suitor, a knife-hand raised in warning. "Leave us." Watching the man retreat like a shell-shocked soldier fresh from the front lines, gaze distant and numb to everything around him, Fate only let out a small sigh once he was well out of earshot. "Her entire family was killed by terrorists during a reunion, and she was finally killed herself some months ago," the Angelic Admiral explained, looking elsewhere. Motioning with a hand, she soon picked up a martini glass and swiftly downed the contents before having it whisked away just as quickly. When her gaze finally returned to Xiulan, she returned her attention back to Xiulan, not once having any resentment or indignation towards the princess. "You are angry."
Johnathan had turned away, his face having gone a bit red as he forced himself to not laugh, or choke on the cucumber snack.
Someone else whom have been horrified at the result of her verbal barb, but the Taianese princess wasn't. She'd delighted in seeing the man whom had so easily overlooked her being so torn by just a few words on her part. There was power in that. But it was a step back from her actual objectives, and what really smarted was acknowledging the flaw in her discipline. It was no hardship to start conflicts, but that wasn't what she was here for.
I should have had gathered more information, before daring to attack, Xiulan reflected. And it would have been more skillful to deflect the man without using barbs.
The Taianese princess was raised with the understanding that she would make mistakes. No one was so perfect to not ever make mistakes, not even her parents. In such an instance, accountability was more important. The acknowledgment of the mistake made, and the taking responsability for it. And so...
"No. Petty, eager to prove my wit, and dreadfully underinformed." The Dragon princess corrected Fate. She wasn't going to apologize, but it was the closest she'd come to admitting she'd been wrong ...and she didn't have enough self-culpability to hang herself if Fate gave her no rope. Xiulan turned her bruised purple eyes to her escort, and - feeling she at least owed some transparency - said: "Representing a body that is to be reckoned with in a province with unexpected irreverence is proving... challenging."
"Don't mind him, he's just a total-horn dog for her, though could you blame him?" the Premier quickly earned a scowl from Fate. "Maybe just a quick breather? Something to refresh yourself with princess?" Johnathan's voice smoothly thrust itself into their conversation, a fruity martini held out for Xiulan. 'Well, I'd say Irreverence is a pretty important word,' the Chancellor added, his initiated conversation automatically slowing reality and giving the young princess time to think as he set the pace. 'If you haven't realized it yet, whoever sent you here wasn't sending you to a walk in the park and knew it. So. What now?'
But only that, since this wasn't a bridge she could afford to burn. Using an augmented reality marker, she outlined the elven man in the second group and answered: "Tell me what there is to know of this man and his entourage."
She would keep tabs on the other Taianese dragon, but now wasn't the time to approach her. For one, the other had not initiated a virtual encounter of her own despite Xiulan being announced. The second was that, at this point in the ball, Xiulan represented a liability to her fellow Taianese. Xiulan determined she would need a few wins to balance the scale before she would approach her kinswoman; and see if she could determine ahead of time if they had conflicting interests (the Imperial Court made a good show of looking united to outsiders, but it did not lack in intrigues).
'That'd be Tarathiel of Ioengard, the Provincial Governor of Ioengard, naturally,' Johnathan replied, casually munching away at a bit of beef carpaccio in slow motion, the appetizer heretically rolled up and skewered with a toothpick for easy serving. 'He's loyal to Bhelith, and devoted to the people, public order, advancing national industry and all that,' the man added mid-chew. Moving at a snail's pace, the dancers seemed almost surreal as they moved about, skirts flying high, toes getting stepped on, and so forth, while conversations felt like they were captured in a lens. Laughter might as well have been freshly bottled, while the sour looks of those displeased were like images catching people red handed. For the briefest of moments, Xiulan could see the jovial attitude of Tarathiel turn into a faint scowl as the elvish man glanced at her from the corner of his eye.
'He also firmly belongs in the Anti-Empire camp, and strongly believes in racial purity, making him a natural enemy of both yourself and Johnathan given his lineage mixing proclivities,' Fate added, having taken a breath and sighed by this time.
'I was getting to that!' Johnathan's words quickly scurried in. 'I was just trying to figure out how to say it diplomatically.' Whether or not he was referring to his proclivities or the Elvish Lord's disposition however, remained unanswered.
But the prospect of meeting the elven lord made her feel like grinning. The poor angelic man she'd chased off had been cruel sport, but the elvish governor felt like someone worth sharpening her claws on.
"He seems to have nicely recovered from that flaming sword through the torso," she commented wryly, referencing a similarily named character from some very old fantasy books. "I want to visit him. But tell me more about his entourage. Who amongst them is actually worth his attention?"
'That little lady there is Maki Shizue, the head of the local Jongwu Workers Union' Johnathan elaborated, but only a little. He didn't linger on her long. 'Now, if you look to the left of her, you'll see someone walking away from Tarathiel and towards the other Taianese Dragon. The one with black hair and some white highlights?' Like a game of 'Where's Wally', Xiulan found herself following his directions until her eyes settled on someone who could only be described as a young man with a chip on his shoulder. Though he held himself high with pride, the dour and moody feelings he had inside seemed to just seeped out of him, and it was clear that something was driving him on. 'That's Jeffry Fitzroy. Normally, he's quite a womanizer and in a much better mood, but the head of Proper Potato Corp's been rather...unhinged as of late? You might wanna be careful around him.' Of course, the cut of his suit already gave her the feel of an aggressive shark.
'Now, look right back at our friend Tarathiel of Ioengard. Right next to him on his left side? That there's Sara'lana Yolhan, but everybody likes to call her 'Knife Ear' for good reason. She doesn't mind either, if you're on good terms with her,' Johnathan began to finish. Looking at the snowy white haired woman, the first thing that immediately stood out was her nickname's sake. Though a dark skinned elf like Bhelith, her ears were much larger and pointy. However, it quickly became apparent why her nickname was singular and not plural. One of them had been very clearly burned off by laser fire years ago, with that side of her face having also been charred by the intense beam glare. A small, black eye patch was perfectly tailored to that eye socket, and looking down, Xiulan saw her left hand. It was missing a few fingers. Despite her disfigurements, she stayed close to Tarathiel. Not too close, but perhaps close enough that she wanted to be closer, but wouldn't. Not quite yet. 'She's the founder and CEO of 'Light of Lothiriel' - basically, elvish made laser rifles. Interesting stuff.'
'You're probably eager to cut your teeth, and earn respect for the Empire and yourself, so once you're ready, I suggest trying to swing one or two of them away from Tarathiel,' Johnathan suggested, very obviously try to rope the young princess into things. 'It'd be good practice, and at the very least, I'm sure the other Dragon-type would appreciate it.'
She set aside Maki Shizue for future reference, but planned nothing for her. Approaching the Dongyu seemed like a low-risk, low-reward endeavor and she had no evidence that the effort would grant her much traction.
Confronting Sara'lana Yolhan also seemed to hold little reward, with the risk of the encounter being too adversarial against two of the Second Children. If her encounter with Bhelith was any indication, the likelyhood was that she would be on the backfoot in such a conversation from the beginning. Until she had a better reason to approach them, it felt unwise to profer herself up for target practice.
Her plan in approaching the Provincial Governor to draw the attention away from him and plant it on one of his entourage died there. She'd wanted to beat him socially, but she didn't see much merit in it anymore. Good thing that this time, I looked before I leaped.
Jeffry Fitzroy, despite his foul mood, seemed like her best prospect. It struck her that this - in a way - brought up the matter of Potato Corps troubles again; the matter Johnathan had presented to her to which she had declined to help. Seeing the distress in the man, it was clear the Chancellor had intended to maneuver her in that direction. The fact that the Head of Potato Corp had just moved away from the gathering Xiulan felt less inclined to approach was fortuitous timing, but she could see - even admire - how well Izgimmer had played her.
But at the moment, resentment seemed like a waste of energy. There were better things to do.
"Feel free to come along, Your Holiness," Xiulan bade Fate and she slipped away from her escorts to walk towards Fitzroy. Fate's presence wasn't unwanted, but the Taianese princess wanted to catch Jeffry Fitzroy before he engaged in another gaggle of revelers. Perhaps Fate would enjoy the reprieve?
Xiulan was tall and her stride - long, carefully elegant, and yet swift while being unhurried - ate up the meters between her and her intended quarry. However, she would not make it in time before the man reached her fellow kinswoman, so, instead, she called to him. "Mister Fitzroy!" Once she gained his notice and stalled him, she slowed her stride to a leisurely stop. She lowered her voice once she was in his immediate vicinity and told him: "I understand exports have proven challenging. Have you been able to muster any support from your fellow guests?"
"Your highness, it's a pleasure," Fitzroy quickly replied, giving the young dragon the typical boilerplate text. "Admiral, quite surprised I admit, but glad to see you here as well," the Angel nodding to his greeting. There was something subtle, yet all too important however, and the lay person wouldn't have caught most of it. However, Xiulan was far from the average person. Even as he said that, his expression betrayed the tiniest hints of confusion before shifting to specks of suspicion, and then, something that the young princess was seeing a lot of. The resignation that came with having to deal with something less than pleasant or wanted. "Well, business has been less than ideal, and I can see that you're quiet well informed," Fitzroy admitted, less than pleased at having done so. However, she could feel him pause for a hair, carefully considering something, sizing her up for whether or not he should or shouldn't say something. "That is a surprise, I admit. I was thinking you weren't, since you made fun of my late mother in law and thought she was a dog."
A cold chill descended between the two, but with Fitzroy snickering, stifling a laugh, it was gone just as quickly.
"Sorry, you're so cute, I couldn't stop myself from pulling your tail, but I couldn't hold it together long enough," the young man grinned at her, the smile as mischievous as it was warm. "I'm not too good at that sort of game." As Fate's statuesque scowl somehow deepened, he asked, "Anyways, you wanna get something to drink? Maybe grab a seat and chat a bit?" the young man confidently offered, perhaps quite sure of what she was looking for.
At the mention of her tail, she allowed it a restless little toss to betray insecurity. Not that she was overly ruffled, but if he wanted to reach for that, that was a game she could indulge. She could quip back in turn, but resisted the temptation, rather deciding to demure in response to him sparing her any outrage at her comments on his late mother-in-law. Allow him someone in this soirée where he could rebuild his confidence. If her earlier read on him was right, then he was in bad need of it.
"If it is no trouble," she answered in a conciliatory fashion and clearly joined his side, letting him lead her to seating of his choosing. She returned her initial topic, lowering her tone to an almost intimate level of amicableness. "Your plight seemed to be getting a lukewarm reception, which I did not understand. After all, your company is instrumental in helping manage a staple that directly backs the Solarity's currency. Is no one offering anything better than lip service?"
"Lukewarm, hmm?" Fitzroy briefly pondered, the playfulness in his eyes fading as he momentarily looked off into the distance. It was perhaps a second at most, but Xiulan felt it. The way his eyes settled back on her, he was bothered. "I suppose that's fairly accurate, given the situation," the young man almost sighed, shifting between formal airs and something more familiar. Almost as though he weren't sure of what to take, or was perhaps even just plain tired. "It's a hell of a time." Tilting his head ever so slightly, he considered Xiulan for another moment. "I know you just got here, but what are you up to, really?" Fitzroy asked, dropping their pretenses.
'The Premier did not joke when he cautioned us. This man is a minefield. He is coping poorly with his family's death, and is paranoid,' Xiulan heard Fate's thoughts.
Fitzroy's change of stance required an adjustment of her own. She'd tried to don the velvet glove, but it seemed her was looking for the iron fist beneath. Fine. He would get it.
"Why, Mister Fitzroy, a member of the Imperial Court is here taking interest in your corporation's problems. I would have thought that was plain enough," she smoothly answered him, her purple eyes narrowing to slits. "Not that you are of any real consequence to me; you are but a piece of a larger puzzle I was challenged to solve. As I have the means to dole out your salvation, I thought it might be a game worth playing, so I approached you."
"But it has come to my notice that you and I play very different games," the Taianese dragon added, her half-lidded eyes so focused into his that the play of color in her irises was almost hypnotic. "You wage it between nobles and corporations, quaintly provincial; I wage it between rulers and nations. Maybe you are not worth my time or my generosity; after all, it was just a whim. What need have I of an unworthy playmate - especially with this confused display of base pettiness you have given me - when I can seek better sport elsewhere? We're I you, I would be bored with myself."
"But, in sympathy for your loss, I will be magnanimous and afford you another chance. I will make this simple:" She blinked, breaking the spell, and then extended her hand out in silent demand for a hand-kiss. "You will be pragmatic and serve my needs tonight, at the conclusion of which I will see that you have prospered. Or you will feed your ego by denying me, and thereafter I will see that you are made irrelevant to my solution." She offered him a beatific smile, at once beautiful and powerfully confident. "Do choose wisely."
However, Fitzroy was still quite human, and as a result, the young Dragoness got to stand by and watch as the man's eyes slowly went wide as what the princess had said sunk in. Though, perhaps not just Fitzroy. Fate's continuance was was as stern as ever, however, the towering angel blinked in rapid succession. Meanwhile, Johnathan himself seemed to grow impassive as he quietly watched from the distance, but the fact that he had ceased to be the mirror image of gluttony and place one of the toothpick skewered hors d'oeuvrs back on its server's plate said plenty. As Fitzroy's mouth opened ever so slightly in a frown, one of his eyes twitched as the silence just began to near the edge of uncomfortable.
"Of course," the former man of Vice replied, his composure returning in an instant as the party seemed to go back into its rhythm. Despite this sensation, a mere second or two had passed in this moment before he spoke, eyes now briefly glancing to the side before returning to Xiulan's own. "I can easily begin to offer discounts to certain provinces that have had difficulty procuring enough food," Fitzroy began, however, the princess already knew that there would be a catch. "Unfortunately, that would mean that I would most likely be selling at a loss. After all, we're no longer making shipments to my homeworld of Vice and making profits from that," he explained to the young Dragon, tossing a baited hook towards her as he managed the line and sinker. "This means that next harvest, we'll be short on money, and won't be able to plant as much. It all just goes downhill from there you know," Fitzroy's polite voice added, gently tugging on the line to provoke a bite. "I think solving our disagreements with Vice would be ideal, but that's a long shot, so our remaining options aren't looking as good," he briefly paused to string her along. "But, they would still do the trick I think."
Xiulan knew what he said about the economics of the situation was true - to a degree - and now, the young woman needed to decide.
The thing her mother taught her was that power was not a constant. While accidents of birth, excess in currency, or manpower could all help project power, the one strongest thing that could help project power was belief. The belief that someone was powerful. Nations would not face other nations because they thought their rival too powerful, or victory too costly. A populace would not overthrow a monarchy because they did not believe they had a chance. A traveller would be left unmolested if he had a reputation for unparalleled prowess. That a master at a game of strategy could only be outwitted with great difficulty.
She had Faith's and Johnathan's attention. Stunned, wary attention, but it was attention. And she could build from there; so long as she maintained momentum.
"Our plan goes as follows," Xiulan gently corrected, and then slowly began dictating: "Firstly, you will graciously handkiss me over the second knuckles in all due deference and look very much like we had just had a very good deal. It will be an open show of our commitment to each other, with witnesses. It will protect us both and make us accountable to each other."
"Secondly," she emphasized the word so she could have his undivided attention - she knew he made a show of glancing away as way to buy him a few seconds to think, and she wanted him to stay on the defensive. "You will follow in my wake as I mill about and engage in other conversation, having obviously made yourself my tagalong. Not all conversations will seem relevant to your situation, but you will make a show that whatever I had to say appears particularily insightful. You will prevent yourself from being opinionated except if it is to agree with me. On occasion, you will salaciously steal a glance at my figure, my bare back, my sinuous tail, or whatever else you fancy - as long as it seems like I would not notice. Not once will you do the same to my Archangel escort."
"By the end of this evening, my goal is to have maneuvered things well enough that your company will be able to subsist on its own merits, so that it can continue to efficiently function under your stewardship," she then outlined for him. "If you keep your end of the bargain, but that I somehow fall short of my objective, I will throw enough money at your problem that your company should subsist until the next financial quarter - buying you precious time if nothing else. Fail to commit, and..." she leaned her head speculatively to the side. "You have worked hard to convince your board of directors that your investors should not sell away their dwindling shares. Bjornen, McTavish and Ling were on the fence and you just barely managed to convince them - will that hold if I offer to purchase all their shares?" She gave him a moment of speculative pause before answering. "Not if they know what is good for them, which will mean I will not only have control of most of the seats in your board of directors, but I will also possess the majority of your company's shares - outdoing your own 39% with 61%. I will employ your board's non-confidence clause - where I will have the majority votes - to oust you with a very bare severance package. Then I will take control of your company, work on my solution, and throw enough money at the problem until I see it succeed, leaving me solely in control of one of Kowloon's major and very successful food staple providers."
After this well-informed ennunciation of how she could utterly destroy him, she re-extended her hand in demand of an handkiss. Either way, he was going to be her plaything for tonight; if he was smart, he would try and make the most of it.