It was yet another execution in the coliseum. It was a bloody tradition that Upper and Lower Valuans enjoyed. For the nobles, it was on the pretense of the satisfaction of seeing the Empress's divine justice delivered on those fools who dared to cross them. For the lowborns, it was the mere consolation of seeing someone in a worse situation than themselves and a brief distraction from their daily struggles.
For fifth admiral De Loco it was the base, perverse pleasure of seeing death. He rarely left his lab, preferring to remain in isolation with his machines. The only exception, aside from formal admiral duties, were the nights of show in the coliseum. He unashamedly watched and cheered even as the most brutal deaths had upper Valuan look away in disgust. People backed away from him as he laughed like a madman. It was enough for them to throw glances at the deranged man.
Did they really think themselves better than him?
They shared his morbid fascination for death; they were only deluding themselves if they pretended otherwise.
He scoffed as yet another Upper City lady commented on his "disgusting behavior", thinking he was out of earshot.
That night's show was slightly different as another wave of cheers, deafening enough to make his teeth grit, was heard. The coliseum was not only a place for judgment and slaughter, De Loco remembered. They often held competitions and other sports like corrida, boomerang contests and other things that were of no interest to him. He scowled, preparing to push himself out of his seat when he saw what had caught everyone's (the ladies' in particular) attention.
In the middle of the arena stood a man that De Loco recognized all too well. The giant, Third admiral Vigoro. He walked around carrying the most ridiculously oversized sword De Loco had ever seen.
"Compensating much?" he muttered, resting his glass domed head against his hand.
Vigoro waved at the audience, blew a kiss in some poor Lower City girl's direction. Everything he did grated on De Loco's nerves. Vigoro really knew he was Upper City's plaything, and he acted like it. These people only loved the giant as long as he was entertaining them.
Then again, in a way they were not so different. De Loco remembered sourly how Vigoro had called him "the new freak". The fifth admiral had gained a fleet, finance and authority, yes but unlike Alfonso, these could very well be snatched away from him as soon as he was considered useless. One unprivileged like him had to constantly fight to be deemed worthy in Valua. For Vigoro it was probably through popularity in the coliseum.
De Loco remained seated as this time, air pirates and beasts alike charged at the third admiral. Ladies gasped in shock at how utterly outnumbered Vigoro was, while men cheered. De Loco watched in silence, polar opposite to how he was during previous executions, keeping his attention on the admiral defeating each opponent in one fell swoop, roaring as he did it.
"He looks so feral!" Commented a lady, fanning herself.
"That is Lord Vigoro for you! He is the Armada's one-man army!" said another.
De Loco frowned. Perhaps it was because he was so transfixed by the giant that he noticed it - a flash of pain.
As he had walked around the arena before the battle, Vigoro's smile had been easy and smug. During battle he gritted his teeth as he swung that blade. The sword's length prevented (for the most part) anyone from coming close and yet, De Loco recognized the rictus of pain. One of those air pirates must have seen it as well, using the momentum to stick a well placed dagger in Vigoro's side.
The coliseum gasped in unison, but it was short lived. The traitorous pirate ended up a whole head shorter as Vigoro retaliated. His last enemy defeated, he raised the head like a trophy, grinning despite his injury as everyone cheered his name.
Everyone but De Loco, scowling more than ever.
"You came to congratulate me, little man? You shouldn't have. Usually it's the ladies who come to me with flowers." Vigoro laughed in his irritating cheerful voice.
His wounds had already been dressed and he was standing tall. De Loco, however, could still see that the smile was forced.
"Do you always use weapons like that?" he asked, his brows furrowing.
Vigoro, seeing the inventor's obvious foul mood, dropped his smile.
"Like what? I fight like a man. I use swords, axes, heck, even my fists. What? You have a preference? If you want, next time I'll beat them down to a pulp with my bare hands. Whatever floats your boat."
"I am not like those fools. They only see whatever performance you deliver to them… At least for as long as you'll be able to keep it up."
"Not sure what you're talking about here-"
De Loco cut him off.
"You are in pain. That moment of weakness nearly cost you your life!"
Vigoro frowned, stepping closer to De Loco, forcing the smaller man to crane his neck further to look up at him.
"Friendly advice - you better not say that again or I'll let you see for yourself if I'm weak ." Vigoro threatened.
De Loco remained unfazed.
"I am just stating scientific facts. Your size is as much of an advantage as it is an inconvenience. Your heart will probably have trouble keeping going, if that's not already the case. And the more you fight using heavy, big, weapons, the more toll it will take on your muscles. But go ahead. You probably decided to die a warrior's death, but do you really want it to happen in one of those nobles' silly shows?"
De Loco snickered, joylessly.
"I wonder if they'll still love you, when they see their amusing giant pet toppling over from his own exertion."
Vigoro grabbed De Loco by the front of his uniform and he almost expected him to raise him up or hit him. But Vigoro did nothing, he only seemed to mentally debate with himself.
"Is that your way of showing concern, or are you just trying to make an enemy out of me, admiral? If you're trying to get on the whole armada's bad side, you're succeeding. You're not exactly popular."
"I am not looking for friends. I am trying to make you more efficient, offer you an alternative."
"An alternative, huh?"
"Give me a month and you'll get to keep your facade while giving results. That is all I want, results and efficiency."
Vigoro finally let him go.
"You better prove yourself, little man."
The fifth admiral glared at Vigoro behind his goggles. Now he had to prove his worth to him of all people? He would show him! He would show them all!
He did not waste any time shutting himself in his labs, grabbing up papers and working out the blueprints. He had a rough idea of what he wanted in mind. Vigoro had to have the most ridiculous ship in the whole armada. He always liked things oversized didn't he? This time it wouldn't do, it'd have to be lighter; but De Loco decided it would be flashy. Small and powerful. He already decided it would be blue, to fit with Vigoro's flagship… Of course, that did not mean it was for only him. It was just inspiration, because the fifth admiral was never one to make dull designs. He did not pay particular attention to it. It was only a side-project! He just so happened to have some free time. He only spent those sleepless nights to get it over with faster. Nothing more.
De Loco certainly did, as, right on time, he presented his invention to the third admiral.
"Portable and lighter than your crude swords, it holds about as much power as a small ship's cannon. You'll get to blast through wave after wave of enemies. Of course, it is solid enough to use as a blunt weapon should the need arise." The fifth admiral boasted as Vigoro admired the invention's every angle.
"Talk about the perfect Vigoro cannon! I love it!" he cheered.
De Loco gritted his teeth.
"It's the Draco series portable cannon number 000001, imbécile. Not Vigoro Cannon ! I made it to make you more efficient, and you are merely my beta tester before it is mass produced!"
...At least that's what De Loco said, but whenever Vigoro next asked about the serialization of the weapon, the fifth admiral evaded the subject. He later pretended the project was dropped due to lack of finance.
Even after Vigoro left the Imperial Armada for good to turn to piracy, years later, he still fondly kept the weapon.