Once again, I am disappointed in how this chapter came out. Kept wringing my hair through this thing for a long, long time. Trying to figure out how things play out and how characters act at their ages. I ended up giving up; handing out freebies and played by ear.
I especially was struggling on the last section starting at Julius's Monologue and wanted to add more things to show off it's impact...
My own opinions aside from this chapter. Please enjoy!
RLV Chapter: 9
A loud crash of a tray hit the serving table railing echoed in the chaotic Ashford Institute canteen, giving pause to the gossip between students. Kallen's eyes darted from side to side, checking to see if anyone decided to look up from what they were doing. A relieved sigh came over her as she turned to glare holes at the fool in question.
Tamaki, the idiot goofball of the Kozuki Resistance was here all this time! She frowned as the man stayed upright with a spatula up in the air in front of a cutting board with a set of meat lined up in a neat little array.
"Woah, Kallen. You scared me for a second." He even responded to her like it was just another day! She caught her fist right before she punched the metal railings, hoping it would help keep her cover.
"What the hell are you doing?!" She hissed. Taking a step back, her mind swirled into a storm of thoughts. "Did Naoto send you here to keep an eye on me?!"
Tamaki handed her a sad look which only deepened her fierce scowl. She watched the guy fidget under her gaze, twiddling a spatula in his right while the left hand fought the urge to scratch his cheek.
Hold on a minute.
"Do they… do they not know?" His silence was all that she needed to get the picture. Her mouth open up and down but not a sound came out.
Tamaki handed off a wavering grin. "I uhh, I wasn't thinking about telling them."
Kallen watched her comrade, her companion in arms, move to another part of his station to check on a pot all the while taking out vegetables to be diced up. She couldn't take it, why was he so laid back about this? This was, this was a betrayal!
Gritting her teeth, Kallen banged the wooden part of the counter to get his attention. "What do you mean, Tamaki?! I thought you were the one that was against the Britannians the most, and here you are. Let me guess, you're an Honorary. You have to be one to work around here."
"Look, Kallen. Let me explain-" Tamaki tried protesting.
"Explain what? We all thought you just went out drinking instead of coming to the meetings like usual." He visibly winced at her words. "But instead here you are. You abandoned the group, you abandoned the other Japanese that are suffering in Japan, you abandoned Naoto. And for what?"
Only the presence of other students kept her from screaming. "Some nice cushy job here. I bet the paycheck really lifts up your spirits, living in a slum block at the edge of the settlement."
"Damn it Kallen!" Tamaki snapped. An oven door slamming shook the counter above for a split second, causing her to jump back. Her glare didn't falter as the man growled under his breath. "Have you tried, and I mean try to sit in your classes?"
"Why should I? I've got better things to than listen to old half-assed fogies talking about the history of Britannia and explaining the 'good' they hand out to their conquests. Meanwhile I found a working Glasgow for the next operations with Sugiyama; Raiding supply lines so we can hand them off to the families in the ghettos." Kallen's voice ended with a hint of pride, furthering the sense of divide between her and the man in front of her.
"You don't get it, Kallen. Look around you. They're all kids. You're a kid." He waved at her for emphasis, making her grit her teeth. He continued, shaking his head. "They don't know the things that you know."
"And whose fault is that?!" several heads turned towards her, and she inwardly winced at drawing attention to herself.
Tamaki sighed as he rubbed his brow. "Kallen, this is Ashford. If you're doing the same thing as you've been doing for your other schools, it's not going to end pretty. And you're not going to open up yourself."
"You think I need help from some pampered Britannians brats? The brats that ignore and laugh at other people's suffering?" Kallen curled her fists.
"Kallen, you're not listening!" Tamaki pleaded, earning a short huffed which he answered with a tsk. "Have you looked at your handbook, student and faculty list, the damn classroom for a whole session?!"
"I don't have time for that, just like listening to your traitorous prattle." She narrowed her gaze dangerously. While calling Ohgi from here was risky, she needed to inform the others as soon as possible.
Tamaki deflated. "Maybe seeing is believing. Turn around."
"What?" she raised a brow.
"I said, Turn around!" He gestured furiously.
Maybe giving him whatever bit of trust she had left would be enough, she thought. She rolled her eyes to let him know what she thought of him, and took a long time to turn herself fully. What greeted her eyes made her scratch her head.
One of the tables to her right had a boy in his mid teens, a Japanese teen, holding a book next to a Britannian and another person with dark skin but not as dark as some of the Afro-Britannians on the news. The Britannian wasn't talking down or threatening either one, they seemed… way too engrossed in the book.
Tamaki sensed her confusion and explained. "That's Yoshitake Tanaka, and beside him is Arnold Logan and Felipe Garcia. You getting the picture?"
Sure Tamaki wasn't the brightest light bulb of the bunch but the way he was going off right now made her think he really was more of an idiot than she thought; since it was painfully obvious the headmaster was just using them for tax breaks and additional publicity. She was more disappointed in his naivete, and a seed of disgust grew in her stomach. A bunch of sellouts, taking the lip service of integration at face value. They had no idea they were being used just to give people the feeling of 'progress' or whatever drivel the news wanted to push.
"How's your station Mr. Tamaki?" she quickly turned towards the pompous voice, revealing a Britannian man with short blond hair and blue eyes. A cooking uniform and an apron was draped on him as he stared at Tamaki.
She watched with the expectation of what she saw every day. Tamaki was going to get a mouthful of insults, followed by a look of condescension and an upturned nose. Oddly a grin started to form, the sense of being right all along should have made her angry. She thought it was called for after his display of ignorance.
But instead she sneered when Tamaki responded, "Just fine, Chef. I had a bit of trouble with the oven."
"I can tell, I expected a mess when I got here. But instead everything looks right proper." The man said with narrowed eyes after taking a scan of the station and nodding. It left her speechless.
"Thank you, Chef." Tamaki answered with a grin, and Kallen thought she was about to gag at how nice the guy(both of them) was acting. She remembered in the past of how aggressive Tamaki was; even with the warnings from Ohgi and her brother, the older teen would actively make a mess, and cause a ruckus in front of the Britannians near the ghetto borders.
As the Britannian chef's gaze landed on her, Kallen quickly forced herself to look like the sickly girl she wanted everyone to assume she was. She fought the urge to scowl as the man asked with a pointed look, "Who's this? Did you get the girl's order?"
"She hadn't decided yet. This is Kallen Statdfeld." Tamaki introduced.
"The truant." He frowned, making her grit her teeth once more. He was pushing it as he ignored her, like she was unimportant. Instead, the Britannian took a whiff from the pan on the stove before having a taste. She watched as the man swished the liquid before giving out a hum. "Orange, Ginger, Miso and butter. This reduction is good. "
Unbelievable! He actually praised Tamaki for something. Kallen couldn't close her mouth as the man nodded with a smile.
"Thank you, Chef."
The Chef nodded curtly before walking away. "Keep it up."
As the man left, Tamaki had a biggest shiteating grin on his face when he flippantly twisted to her.
"That doesn't mean anything. He's just handing out pats on the back for a good pet. It's patronizing." she snapped.
"You're being fooled! It's all a trick. They won't stop until we all bow our heads to them." she didn't let the Honorary respond as she stormed off. They were wrong, there's nothing good about the Britannians. All they did was leave the scraps to be picked up by deluded idiots.
Kallen's mood continued to sour as time went on. She gave Tamaki a chance and all she got was a ploy, a cheap trick somebody as dumb as him would fall for. But she couldn't stop the nagging feeling in her head. It kept telling her to stop and look around, to listen instead of sitting in a corner desk.
Knowing the feeling wouldn't stop if she didn't do anything about it. She surrendered and took a scan of her classrooms when she had the time.
What she saw made her more confused than before. Her first class was split evenly by ethnicity; A large portion was filled with Honoraries, and they weren't being treated the way she expected them to. They had conversations with the students, some looked like they were friendlier than others. Case and point, a whole group of rugby players had a Japanese in their arms, talking about how he'd kill it if he joined for a back position.
It wasn't possible, this must've been a joke. Britannia had a dozen areas that proved how completely despicable they were. But here, Regardless of where they came from; The Honoraries were being greeted with smiles. While everyone gave her the stink eye.
"What's wrong with this school?!" She nearly shouted in front of Tamaki again one day. Her comrade had the smuggest expression plastered all over his face. "Shut up! There has to be a reason."
"Not every Britannian is the same." He smirked.
Kallen needed all of her willpower to stop from tearing him limb from limb. "Fine, Let's say I believe that. Why does everyone give me that look?"
"The look I'd expect Numbers to be given." She answered tightly.
"Like I said, That's because you're doing the same thing you've been doing for your old schools." He explained easily. "The sickly attitude, not picking a club to attend, the 'random' leaves in the middle of class, or just vanishing for days on end."
"But I can play that off. You're telling me kids with Noble descent couldn't play around with their influence?" She rhetorically questioned, crossing her arms.
"Nobles don't have influence here, Kallen. The last one that tried got kicked out." her narrowed gaze made him stand up straighter. "They have a school culture here. That means expressing themselves if they feel it, They're allowed to pick and choose between classes, skipping a few for clubs or other important things. But the point is, you need to show that you're genuine."
Kallen scoffed. "Fine, Let's say I believe that. Why are you actually here then?"
"You know about Kanegawa?" he started, taking a moment to check on his pot.
"That hole of traitors and sellouts? Letting King's field walk all over them?" Kallen rolled her eyes. Everybody in the ghetto heard about that pit, how it was just a front to get people to work for dirt wages. During a couple meetings the group considered attacking their office, but Ohgi and Naoto vetoed the idea.
"I thought the same thing. They talked a good game, blah blah blah ya know? But listen. I'm here because I gave my dad a chance, he works for them somewhere in middle management, and I wanna see if they were gonna walk the walk." Tamaki's tone softened, displaying a grimace at her obstinacy.
"Investigating Kings Field huh?" She asked dubiously.
"What better way than through the stomach? That and I really wanted to see if it was true and all." He finished with a shrug.
She had to find a seat to process it all. They had to be joking, a ploy, the rules were being enforced, anything! There was no way those monsters had good intentions, not after all she'd seen. She backed out of the canteen's surreal atmosphere in a mad run, passing through multitudes of other students to find some space. She got herself close enough to the hall leading to the courtyard before smashing herself on a small blur.
Papers scattered all over the area, as a metal object crash landed behind her. Kallen reached the floor with an outreached hand, and with a twist righted herself back on her feet. She quickly collected herself, and twisted around to discover a girl with brown hair with her eyes closed. Whatever words she had caught on her throat upon recognizing a wheelchair. She watched the kid grunt a few times before moving her flimsy arms, trying to push herself back to her feet. The girl never opened her eyes.
Kallen gulped. "You-"
"Yes, I'm blind. Thank you very much for noticing." The girl's first response was a stab to her gut. She wasn't just blind; the girl didn't seem like could even move anything below her waist. That didn't stop her from waving her hand in a deliberate shooing motion. "You don't have to worry about anything, I can handle it."
"I, um, I'm sorry." Kallen stammered, put off by the girl.
She caught a mumble from the girl, feeling the carpet with her fingertips. "I'll have to turn my chair over."
Although hesitant at first, Kallen nodded to herself, deciding it'd be best to help the girl out. She felt bad as the girl barely looked as if she knew where things were, let alone have the strength to get back up.
She hurriedly picked up the nearest pile of papers before speaking "Your documents flew everywhere. At least let me help you."
The girl gave off an exasperated sigh. "Fine."
"No wait. I'll get your chair." Kallen suddenly darted over, still holding onto the papers.
She just about stopped when the girl answered quickly. "That's not necessary."
"I insist." Kallen pushed without missing a beat, raising a brow at the girl while a hard tug made the chair land back on it's wheels. The whole time her expression was filled with concern. "Do you need help getting up?"
"I can handle that on my own." Kallen landed a hand on the girl's shoulder just as she snapped, forcing her to back off. "I said I'm fine!"
The redhead took a deep breath as she watched the girl slowly crawl, landing her forehead to the backrest of the wheelchair. A faint mumble reached Kallen's ears. "I don't need your pity."
Pity? No, it wasn't pity. Kallen thought. She was willing to help the poor girl get back on her chair, since she obviously couldn't get up without titanic levels of effort. She doubted the girl would also be able to pick up her things without crawling all over the floor, and even if she could it would take hours to get everything squared away.
The girl was basically usel-
Kallen shook her head at that train of thought. Instead she pulled out a nervous smile. "I think we've gotten on the wrong foot…" The girl scoffed, but still she introduced herself. "I'm Kallen, and you are?"
"Elaine, I was on my way to Professor Fermi's office to hand off some of my brother's paperwork." The blind girl replied brusquely.
Kallen raised a brow, not caring at the paper's ordering. "Your brother's?"
"Warned me about going too fast." Elaine mumbled, shaking her head. "Anyways, yes. Juju usually doesn't have enough time in the day to show up everywhere, but he hoped he'd be able to speak to his teachers before getting to work. New ideas for him to get feedback."
Juju? The name sounded odd to her. It didn't come off as a normal name, so it was probably a pet name. Thinking nothing about it, Kallen continued to pick up as much fallen debris as possible with Elaine snatching some of her own along the way. While Kallen was interested in Elaine's practiced movements, one glimpse at a paper grabbed her undivided attention.
"Quantum Computing, Artificial Carbon Crystal Lattice Structure, Ion Storage, Microflow Cellular Batteries." Kallen rifled through the papers, each skimmed line confusing more and more as she read them to herself. Atomic Synthesis, Hydrothermal generators, Solar Energy Storage, Electric railing, Guided Automobiles… The papers went on and on. She had to shut her eyes in fear of bleeding from result of looking at the complicated formulas. A wash of dizziness came over her at just trying to make sense of anything.
The redhead cringed as she turned a page. On this paper was a scarily accurate sketch of a spine being surgically opened, revealing bones grafted with metal pieces and lines leading to some other unknown object. She just winced looking at the thing, only for her gaze to on a little post-it note held on by a staple.
Elaine cleared her throat. "Yes, if you don't mind."
"Sure." Kallen said, willing to hand off whatever mad science that this Juju character was planning. The stuff wasn't just too advanced for some students; she expected the material would go over a lot of professional's heads if they ever got the chance to look. She jostled the pile to straighten them until a little flash drive tumbled in her hand. She Tilted her head, eyes narrowing. She recognized the symbol emblazoned on the side.
Kallen held a breath, handing the papers to the young brunette. "Here. I have to go."
"Of course, Kallen. Try not to get kicked out in the first week!" her voice picked up, evidently catching on to her flight.
Kallen's legs moved fast and it didn't take long to reach the school's main entrance. Looking around, the redhead checked to see if her surroundings were clear. With a ruffle of her pockets, she stared at the flash drive with the symbol of a stylized KF.
Juju, Julius. Julius Kingsley! She needed to find out what was on the drive, as soon as humanly possible.
Tappings of multiple keyboards sounded off poignantly in the silence of the observation room. Julius took in the scene laid outside the front panel of glass, and spoke with a shallow breath. "How are they?"
"Stable." A man with short blonde hair in a bowl cut and goatee answered without hesitation. The doctor recovered in Area Six was quite the upstanding man he reflected.
Julius nodded without taking eyes off the glass. "Any complications?"
He looked down, observing the group of women in the standard negative pressure isolation zone they had available. The military facility they raided held five still living test subjects, courtesy of Clovis's Code R project. His foppish brother thought the entire affair was a write off, and Julius ensured it looked the part.
"Unbelievable!" Ian Vashti exclaimed, pouring over the data streaming in the consoles. The bespectacled man was usually expressive about his feelings, but today there was an extra powerful gleam to his eyes.
Julius had to agree. When he and his troops first met the women, they were each isolated from each other inside glass cages, clad in nothing but featureless gowns. IV needles and pads stuck to their forms as they kept the air of defeated souls, surrendering their future to an unknown madman. He doubted they would resist his men should they have decided to silence them.
That was why he decided to at least make their situation more communal, under his supervision at least. One large isolation chamber with five separate beds, with only empty gaps instead of a wall. It allowed him to take a detailed look into their quirks and habits.
A girl called Mao was the most obvious of the bunch, freely showing her distrust of him and his team. It wasn't surprising, but there was a reason he allowed transparency through his observation deck and the room across from him. Every movement of Dr. Moreno's typing or his head swerving were tracked by the girl's hazel eyes. The bluenette paced back and forth the chamber far from the beds, but not close enough to touch the glass windows, like a lion prowling it's fence. His skin prickled every time he was in view of the chamber, knowing she was usually the culprit.
Jeremiah made his objections to the layout crystal clear, but Julius kept the arrangement. Logically speaking, it was pointless to over secure the room; truly isolating the girls would prove more a setback if the records of their 'abilities' weren't the ramblings of madmen.
The blonde of the group nodded, malice layering his tone. "It's unethical, cold, sociopathic."
Julius nodded to show his opinion on the matter. While the caution and procedures of the black zone research was understandable considering their acclaimed 'powers,' the Britannian scientists had themselves to blame for creating it. Case in point, the blue haired girl. He restrained a shiver upon remembering what the records indicated.
The power was so similar to the drug infesting ghettos across Japan, thus it was given the name, 'The Refrain.' He knew of the defenses against it as noted by the files, but he realized she most certainly hid other uses the power had. To look at one's past, read one's mind, and control a person based on those abilities, quite likely allowing the user to experience the victim's history as well.
"Does Clovis know?"
The women on the other side locked their sights on him the moment he spoke. None of them moved with a natural grace, being stiff as a board with the proverbial cat with their tongues. They were still on the mutual observation stage in their relationship, thus he made no effort to cloak his actions.
Julius had to liken it to the beginnings of a chemical reaction.
"From the data, I don't think so. These were 'created' without his knowledge." Doctor Moreno said, shaking his head.
Julius scoffed. "Then one less crime aside from the sin of envy."
The girl known as Dalque kept her hands on any small object she found, as if it were a toy or a weapon to be used in case things went awry. All the while she kept herself splayed onto her bed, a clear sign of boredom, or laziness. The laid back appearance shadowed her distaste for the cage, yet slight movements and jerks show the inner energy she possessed. It wasn't hard to see her thought process, considering the nature of her ability being the only one that was physical in nature: the power to augment her physical strength. No doubt her rebellious nature was created from resisting tranq darts and the like, as well as any guard who got rough with them.
It was night and day compared to her sister Lucretia. That one was meek; she sat still with her knees hugged up to her chest, while pale hair was draped over her shoulders. Overtly quiet, didn't make a sound when Moreno took her blood for testing, not to mention how stiff she was in the MRI. Looking at her was like gazing upon a storefront mannequin, or a corpse.
"Greed as well, what was he hoping to do? Earn or fight for the throne?" Ian asked, confused as he scratched the back of his neck.
"He shouldn't have that much ambition." Julius dismissed.
"Only the oldest and closest in the line of succession would even think about it." Moreno agreed, checking his display.
He nodded, expression grim. "Not to mention killing for a new position is implied to be forbidden. A hint of suspicion, and it's goodbye."
Interaction-wise; the oldest of the group, Sancia, was the de facto leader. The dark haired girl was the one who initially commanded the others to follow them when his troops started to clean themselves of any involvement. She was also the one that reined in the others for his own testing, albeit less invasive. Calm and collected, the girl subsequently spent most of her time taking turns monitoring the others and watching them in the observation room. It was essentially because of her abilities and Lucretia's that they did not tint the window, or made it a one way mirror.
"One of the few that Emperor Charles ever taken seriously with his personal iron fist." Julius said quietly.
The screen in front of him appeared on top of the glass panel, a small invention he decided to improve on for the sake of convenience. It was a far cry from true holographic technology, but he was close. His fingers hovered just a centimeter away and with a swipe he began; In a few seconds the speakers pinged his confirmation to allow one of the doors to disengage. The status of negative pressure rescinded, and the door slid open into a blanket of soft light.
"Julius!" His assistant bolted upwards in alarm.
He raised his hand, acknowledging the concern, "It's alright, Ian."
"I have to disagree. They're dangerous, not to mention they'll be volatile based on their previous experiences. I recommend easing them in." His brow twitched at the concern from Dr. Moreno. He had to smirk at their concern; did they forget, or did they push it down in favor of experience?
Julius smirked. "One must take the first step if the other party does not. I prefer Symbiosis over Parasitic. Or if we must get philosophical-"
"I get it." the scruffy man surrendered, raising his hands up.
The girls looked confused at the idea of him being willing to open their cage. He knew they were obviously suspicious, thanks to his brother's less than humane methods. He nodded to the door. "I'll be at the end of the hallway. Take your time."
"We'll be watching" Ian nodded. Julius thanked them for the information, taking a leisurely stroll to his intended meeting spot.
The walls of his facility rested in a peculiar spot; he purchased the three acre land for a modest price from the previous owner, with the special attribute of being a straight five minute shot to Ashford. A quick jaunt once he created the railway system between the two locations. He planned to purchase more land to expand it further to the base of Kanegawa and Akihabara, both of which he likewise owned.
His thoughts were halted as an automatic door slid open, revealing fresh yet warm air wafting against his face. Sunlight peeked through the glassy walls of his geodesic biome greenhouse, all around him plants of various species growing at optimum temperatures, glistening from their recent watering. He walked across the defined roads under the shade of fruit trees to reach the small pavilion; Julius raised his brow at an occupant waiting for him.
Yes, the one woman that was separated from the others at the research facility. The one with no name; only a set of initials, DS.
This one was not like the others, given a special cell of her own without contact with the rest of the experiments, granted only a deck of cards as her companion. A nudge in his mind told him to remember the destroyed cell opposed to the woman, how it's contents were reduced to only a set of leather wraps as a clue. He shook his head at the thought, turning to look at the girl with no true name.
"I see that you aren't as suspicious as the others." He said aloud, standing by the main table which held a pot of hot water and a package of tea. Steam wafted off the pot in a slow hypnotic rhythm, along with an alluring odor. Julius watched the girl rest the back of her head on her chair, slowly turning to meet his gaze.
The girl replied, tone even and unfaltering. "The root of suspicion is a lack of knowledge. An emotion that is rationally a useless pain, impending human action."
That made him smile. "An interesting notion. But I believe you would have ample reason to be suspicious, doubting my honesty if you used the ones that held you captive before as a standard."
"Is there no notion of faith?" She inquired back.
Julius pushed himself to the enclosure's side as he listened with his face turned away from her. It was without a doubt a sign of ease if anyone was watching. His lack of concern poignant for all to see, and he waited to see what she might do next.
The sounds of metal groaning and ruffled cloth had him note the girl likely pulled herself up to get comfortable. Turning back, he was proven right as the girl grasped her legs, the chair's spine dangling her two toned hair of black and pink, like a cat. He made it to her personal space before the girl could think about pushing away.
Julius propped a palm on the table right in front of her to make his point known. "Faith is an imitation of the idea known as trust."
"Or is it confidence?"
He steeled his features into a mask of inquiry, but inside Julius was smiling. That was a provoking thought; What hint or information lead her to that conclusion? It was without a doubt if his people carried different badges and insignias, they'd look just like another faction from within the Britannian military, Royal family even. His facilities shared the same standards, the same weapons, the same professional demeanor. So how?
With a smooth walk to sit in front of the woman, Julius trailed his fingers on the rim of the table, "What makes you confident that I'm not like those of Colonel Madd's retinue?"
The strange woman kept her mouth shut at that.
"How about introductions? I am Julius Kingsly, and you are?" he gestured to himself and back to her.
"I have no name. But I guess that goes for both of us." she went simply.
A flash of worry claimed his inner mind all but for a second. He frowned just slightly to make him look offended. "Why do you say that?"
"Life in a glass room doesn't do much. As my captors watched me." The woman started with her hand in a swaying motion, her head tilted to the glass walls. Her eyes landed right back on him. "I watched them."
"I have a tell?" Julius raised a brow, eager to see more, but relieved that he hadn't been found.
"I'm an observer. I'm not interested in your name. But… you are interesting" the woman nodded to him, a knowing smile cusping her lips.
"I see." Julius responded half heartedly; he was communicating to what was essentially an analyst. It seemed all the effort for his reveal was going to waste. "I take it you know what I am about to propose."
"I have a prediction."
"Spoken like a seer." He exclaimed, leaning back against his chair. His hand moved to his breast pocket to pull out a slip, revealing it to be a tarot card. An old superstitious, if not faddy way for divination. "What am I? The fool of your future sight?"
"So speaks the futurist." the woman replied, all without changing her expression.
"Do I make it out to be one?" he posed, flipping the card onto the table.
Another smile was his response. "War is engaged for two reasons. Preservation, and change. You chose to not walk into the world. You ran."
"Sometimes you have run before you can walk."
"Or there's something you want to change."
He shot back at the girls mental exercise. "Why isn't it preservation?"
The woman leaned close, her body pushing against the table in front of him, face to face, and smiled. "I don't think you're that type of man."
His smirk must have been apparent, as he noticed a glimmer of amusement in the woman's eyes. There was something odd about her, maybe it was her pose or demeanor; his thoughts went back to the tarot card that he took from her deck... or maybe it was simply the idea that she knew everything was going just the right way she thought it would.
And that… was dangerous.
A set of coughs garnered both of their attentions. The same ones that he observed earlier finally showed up, although some kept at attention, while others were reluctant.
At last, he made himself comfortable, finally able to suggest ideas that would benefit both of them. He gestured with a wave. "Please, take a seat. Tea anyone?"
"Sir, the crowd is congregating at this moment. Seats will fill in the next few hours." Julius nodded without looking back. Diethard didn't take offense.
"Good. I'll send a message to Mr. Crank to double check the perimeter. I don't want anything to ruin this." For once Julius had a smile with no implication behind it, as a glass screen slid open for him to sit at the center of his 'workshop'. His attention was solely on a piece of equipment in his grip; in front of him was an oblong tube like shape that had poles sectioned to the four corners of the metal casing, making it gyroscopic. A representation of a seat was screwed into the base, set in a reclining position. His version of a cockpit for his Knightmare.
"A big day Julius."
"Yes, I suppose so." he said, deciding to sit down as a jazz tune filed the room's speakers. He gave the man a pointed look when he noticed the thing on the tripod. "That camera"
"It's nice to have an interview before or after the fact. A common practice." Diethard responded quickly enough. He nodded, that was indeed the norm with the media.
"You have questions for me then?" he inquired, already going over his newest tidbit.
"A few that will help shed some light for the masses." The man said with a grin. Julius filled in the blanks only to agree with the unspoken thought.
"Lot of headlines and softballs I wager." he smirked.
A click and press at the camera had it up and running faster than he could stop an oil spill from staining his shirt. Julius shook his head, not bothering to clean up. Such was the perils of working with equipment.
"Alright." he agreed.
Diethard looked confused, gazing blankly at the room before speaking. "Here?"
"Yes." he nodded. "You did say something about shedding light for the masses. What other way…"
"Than to hand them a sight of you at their level." A snap of his fingers had Diethard snatching a chair to plop in front of him, eager to start with the interview.
Julius chuckled. "No man begins clean at the top."
3… 2… 1…
The camera was on, the red live feed blinking for both men to see. Now the game was on.
"Mr. Kingsley, many viewers around the world are already wondering, what do you hope to gain from doing this? I mean the Knightmare business." Diethard began without an introduction.
Julius nodded, pulling out a set of pliers to work on his cockpit. Might as well hand the rest of the world a glimpse of how far along he was with his Gloucester-killer, he decided. "That does come off as a surprise. I hadn't expected to join in."
"The market contains many contractors and subcontractors. Material distribution, piece by piece manufacturing. Bowie, G&K, Britannian Electric to name a few, already have the infrastructure to create Knightmares and then the maintenance, testing, refinement, and distribution of those Knightmares."
In response Julius gave him a puzzled look. "In whatever world did you think I'd be selling my creation?"
"Isn't that the most logical conclusion?" Diethard raised a brow, leaning in to get a better position.
"Yes. I'd have to agree with you on that." he started, reaching for a drawer next. "However, I have no intention of selling my Knightmares as of this moment."
"It is true that you're, shall we say, lacking. You've started much further behind the race. Are you thinking about contacting any of the already existing companies? They do have some previous experience."
"And that experience is what I'm wary of." Julius responded, dropping a screwdriver in favor of a USB wire connected to a panel of keys and glass. "Tell me. When was the last time there was an explosive breakthrough with those companies, nay any company?"
"Vaccines, Immunotherapy, Synthetic Blood." he continued when he noticed the other man was silent. "Computers, Automobiles, Interconnectivity, Programming… Jets."
In the corner of his vision, Diethard smirked at his plan. "I see where you're going. But doesn't that mean you're hogging everything, in their eyes?"
Julius waved his hand away like he was shooing away a pack of dogs. "If they needed help, they should come to me. Not the other way around. Besides, word around the grapevine has me at a twenty three to one hundred and fifty eight coming out on top."
"Many experts have considered that you won't be able to produce a Glouchester Killer in time. It's even worse that there's been no word of a representative of your interests at the Lake Kawaguchi Convention Center for the Sakuradite talks. You're effectively giving up; The most central aspects of Knightmare creation relies on Sakuradite."
Julius couldn't help but laugh at the thought. The cause might have been his muddled desire to shove it to the rest of the world, especially Britannia, but he fully understood that the moment he stood up, things were about to change.
"Leonardo Da Vinci, Henry Ford, Alexander Bell, Henry Talbot, Nikola Tesla." he shot back, moving away from his chair to give the camera a long look at what he was working on. "What man flourished with some obscure rock that was unmanageable to maintain, and doubly so for it's limited supply?"
He knocked on a transparent table, letting the man and camera lens to turn to his direction. Julius leaned down for a clear piece of glass from a table, made of the same material.
"What true worker of the arts blames the ingredients he uses? What they make, or can't make isn't based on their access of expensive resources."
A chime left the music when he put a finger on his glass, and there was an abrupt silence. Light shined on his tablet until a rudimentary but highly functional GUI appeared.
Julius flicked his hand just after wrapping an unassuming metal band around his wrist, causing a metal case beside him to promptly opened to reveal a robotic arm. Easily seen lasers pointed at his wrist before scanning the rest of his arm, from the tips of his fingers to his shoulder. He then gestured wildly, earning a gasp from the journalist, for the robotic arm and his organic one moved in sync. Absolutely perfect with no margin of error. When his arm fell into his lap, the metal limb copied him exactly.
"Nothing in this building was made with a single gram of Sakuradite." he grinned mockingly. "I can do it with all of this. I'll do it with Knightmares."
Diethard ignored the boast in favor of asking a highly anticipated question. "Are you going to license these to other companies?"
"I apologize for showing them this early. They aren't ready." Julius smirked at both man and camera.
"What do you mean?!" Diethard demanded, having the gall to appear completely floored. "They look perfectly shippable. Companies would pay, no, kill even for just these."
"I have no doubt they would." he replied, an unsubtle jab at a few existing companies that were already trying to market their own devices. Theirs were cheap in comparison; Three inch thick computers and rudimentary arms were showcased by a company, that without a doubt had the resources to make something better. The very thought made him a sneer at the camera. "The tablet computer isn't where I'm stopping. These will become holographic screens for a start. The arm however isn't at the distribution state in its development phase."
He continued as he noticed the man didn't ask another question. "You could consider this is the reason why I'm in this race in the first place."
"So that statement of a bet with the Earl of Pudding and the Lady Professor of India are true? You're practically wagering everything." in spite of his awed tone, Diethard was grinning from ear to ear.
"Indeed." A cold fire blazed in his eyes, "You played with fire. Not handing me your notes on cybernetics, Professors. I will show you and the rest of the world that my terms were quite agreeable to you."
Before he dismissed the man, Julius gazed right into the camera lens.
"Just don't expect mercy when we meet again in New Delhi. I'll blow your pride to smithereens."
"Thank you everyone for coming."
If anyone expected an ostentatious event for his planned speech, Julius was glad to have disappointed. Kanegawa airfield was his choice of venue, featuring a picturesque view by the seashore, plenty of foliage, and squat grey buildings surrounding several runways.
He was extremely glad everything was going to be torn down for replacement after the event. His testing grounds and development labs needed the best. It was his land, thus he could do whatever he wished to the place.
All he set up tor this day was a small stage and camera crew, as well as a podium. Plus enough seats for the several dozen handpicked visitors, many of whom looked uncomfortable in the bright sunlight of this warm day. But that didn't stop the hundreds of others that got themselves in by relation as employee, observer, or just plain bystander. Julius himself was clad in his black ensemble, and looked completely unflappable; a small cooling rig under his clothes helped admittedly, but the guests didn't need to know that.
"I should say, first of all, how much I've been impressed and encouraged by the breadth of view of the proportion which I have found in the Areas of Britannia. Our watchers do not understand the size and solidarity of everyone in this little space of ours might easily have expected to find an excited, uneasily obsessed, and queer atmosphere, with all minds fixed upon the startling, and painful differences of our creations. After all, whom here expect-"
Julius unexpectedly frowned. The crowd went silent, confused at his abrupt stop. The camera zoomed in to reveal the teen quickly ripping up the notes in his hands. "Actually, let's forgo the notes."
Murmurs spread throughout the body of people; he allowed the noise to subside before he spoke again. Smirking, he raised an outstretched hand towards the crowd.
"I'd like to start off with an observation."
"In the world at large, despite the cutthroat politics of Pendragon, Lady Marrybell is making strides to clean up the corruption infused mess the previous Viceroy of Area Six so generously left for her. That isn't to say the other Areas are any better, but they do have a stable form of leadership. Needless to say, Lady Merrybell is going to be knee deep in paperwork for the next year or so. Perhaps longer."
His tone was level and easy, one hand on the podium next to his microphone while the other gestured to his surroundings.
"That's very similar to the state of Europia United. Last anyone heard, multiple council members have been arrested. Arrested! Can you believe the dishonor? Members of their own citizens council have started their own witch hunt, mirroring the actions of Lady Merrybell to the T. Of course, Europia United has taken strides to remove the sullied hands of the corrupt as people cheer on."
A satisfied murmur swept through the Britannians, although he noted a few Chinese functionaries looked cross at his chosen direction.
"That's not much coming to their Numbers. What? You expect me to call them… refugees? Let's use our skills of observations shall we? If the EU truly condemned the Number system, why would they keep these people locked up in ghettos? Oh excuse me, designated refuge centers."
Snickers left segments of the crowd, quite unlike the now openly glaring Euro delegation. He swiped his hand for silence, and the crowd obliged.
"The living conditions in Europe for the numbers are nearly, if not exactly identical to the untouched ghettos of both Britannia and China. The people sleep in tents, others not so lucky in their poorly maintained buildings that certainly wouldn't be given safety approvals by officials. They're recruited for the most menial labor with the compensation that barely eked out a life for them. That wasn't to mention the lackluster, and under-supplied ration cards."
That got a reaction, but this time it wasn't childish glee; only a couple Britannians looked pleased by his words, the rest appeared distinctly uneasy by his flat condemnation.
"Some Europia United member states have put forward proposals to classify Elevens in their territories as legal Britannian subjects, thus are liable to be deported. What do you say to this measure?"
A convenient breeze removed the traces of sweat on his brow, a nice punctuation to his bold statement. Even the most hardline officials weren't keen on such a proposal, even before the obvious ethical issues. Julius gave a moment of silence before he proceeded.
"That isn't to say Britannia isn't much better. Since the induction of Kanagawa of Area Eleven and Valencia of Area Six; Britannia is of course striving to improve the overall condition of the ghettos, piece by piece. Despite setbacks."
His tone went cold. The teen actually needed to stop himself from focusing his gaze, peripherally noting quite a few guests squirming in their seats. Even a couple of the cameramen exchanged uneasy looks.
"But what our neighbors, the Chinese to our west? The Federation looks as if their entire country was a ghetto outside of their commercialized districts. The changes in people, technology, and appearance of their cities compared to one another are staggering. Their rich hoard form their poor, not unlike the rest of the world. But I digress."
His gesturing hand fell just like his gaze, giving an almost paternal shake as he refocused his expression.
"One would say the problem of all this is War. That much is true. The military elite of Europia United and the Chinese Federation continuously draft their subjects- sorry, citizens into service with meager resources, improper training, and shove into the meat grinder. Britannia fare much better, however it has its own problems."
"The forces Britannia ranged against the world is breathtaking. As acting commander of the frontline armies, Princess Cornelia leads her troops ruthlessly, unyielding, and with bitter intent. She stops at nothing, with the vast accumulations resources and weapons of war at her disposal; her army's path is unwavering. The Britannian forces are highly trained and disciplined, they have plans and designs highly contrived, yet not an ounce of it failed to show results."
Applying just enough admiration to his voice yielded plenty of approving nods. Just what he wanted prior to yanking the rug out from under them.
"That is to say the world would be theirs, if Britannia had those highly trained and well equipped at the positions that required their expertise. The military is the belly of an old beast that has long since rotted from the inside out. The army moves at a slow crawl, the operations her troops wage are lackluster and uninviting. The commanding officers are more likely to peruse the lounges for entertainment rather than conquest with honor in the name of their homeland." Displeased murmuring roiled like a wave, although fortunately nobody was bold enough to stand up. If they did the guards he brought along would reseat them in short order.
A shadow covered the ground behind him, swiftly rolling over him and then the crowd. The brief shade from a cloud wasn't going to last long, and once it left, the beating sun would claim all those unprepared to handle its might. A part of Julius wondered if the unplanned weather was prophetic.
"War is cruel, and yet none haven't experienced the true cruelty of man. Our war continues, subjected to minor breaks before returning in full force again and again. There is no instance in history of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare. So what is Britannia, or even the rest of the world, benefiting from this?"
Again his hand was held out, seeming to silence the guests and guards alike. As he spoke the fingers curled in on themselves.
"Is there no sight of empathy? No instance of compassion, Is there no vision other than the oldest act in history?"
When his fist slammed onto the podium for emphasis at his displeasure.
"This is where I disagree. There is something more, something so profound and something beyond our understanding that we as a species neglected to take. Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Galilei… Einstein. The great mystery of all, with it's mesmeric allure and unlimited potential calls. She calls for each and every one of us. To strive and reach something that makes all previous achievements becomes child's play. The final frontier."
Now both his hands rose, seeming to show the empty field behind his podium, empty save for many nondescript warehouses. Even the masses of tarp by the shore appeared so bland, hiding the freshly purchased Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier being refitted even now.
"This planet can certainly be our cage, but it is also a nest for the chicks to leave the roost. Let us build the road together; to revel in her majesty and gain the freedom we so rightly are destined."
When Julius gripped the podium's sides, he affixed a dangerous smile upon the crowd.
"I will liberate you from Hell."
"It's seems my lead was not as large as I thought. Although his rhetoric sounds like nonsense." Schneizel mused, watching the events unfold through a monitor. The prince leaned back in the conference room elsewhere in Pendragon, the capital of Britannia. He turned to the man lounging off to the side, beyond him a warehouse window depicting a scene of dozens of technicians working on the internals of a knightmare. "Wouldn't you agree Doctor Asplund?"
"Ahhh~" the Earl chuckled. Lloyd smiled a rare crooked visage. "I wouldn't say that~"
The lavender haired man looked far at the image of befuddled men and women during the speech, staying his gaze at the boy he met a few months ago. A thought ran though his mind, "I like him."
"I do admit, This will be an interesting race." The prince smirked at the implications of the next upcoming years.
A skinny man in ruffled up clothes shakily kneeled. "Your majesty."
"Out with it." The Emperor spoke without preamble. He ignored the sight of his subject in favor of keeping an intense gaze at the screen in front of him, paying no mind to the other's state of being. He huffed.
"Your majesty, this man... he's not just ahead of us, he's so far beyond our own base we don't know where to begin! He could stop right now and it'd take us a decade to catch up."
Charles breathed deep, throat rumbling with his displeasure. The subject of his did little but explain the obvious. Soon after the man was quickly taken away by a pair of guards, and then only he and his Knight of One remained.
It started small. So very light, as if it was a whisper of the drafts from the palace's humming central air. The seeming titter only made the Knight of One stiffen, with his face slowly turning pale. The Emperor murmured, "Really? Is that your end goal?"
Between the lines. It's almost like ours.
The grand throne room soon echoed with the mad laughter of Charles, his visage so open and surreal. Compared the man's resting face, or the constant look of derision seen his eldest children, this was as if a mirror was cracked. The booming snickers turned howl soon returned to silence.
"Let us see who gets there first." Charles grinned, looking upon the recordings, his expression became the definition of anticipation. "Lelouch."