Ves still hadn't recovered from the explosive news. Both Cordwraith and Xelven found his shock to be amusing.
"This is.. incredibly ambitious, sir!" He uttered.
He didn't say this without a reason! Both sides accumulated an incredible amount of grievances, and while both sides started to tire from the fighting, they hadn't bottomed out their reserves yet!
As long as either side could still fight on, they would definitely continue to press on! Only until attrition sapped the strength and fighting will of both Mech Corps and the Mech Legion did the war finally end.
In every previous war, it usually took at least four years to reach that point. While both sides could still fight a while longer with what reserves they still managed to muster, it wouldn't be good for either of them to exhaust all of their fighting forces. That only left them vulnerable to the preying of the neighboring states.
While many people yearned for the war to be cut short, nobody actually thought that it could be accomplished. Too many people wanted to fight. Powerful interest groups in both states eagerly wished to gain accomplishments in the war to fuel their domestic ambitions. This was especially egregious among the Vesian nobles!
Therefore, Ves could not figure out how the Vesians would ever agree to an early peace.
Mr. Cordwraith laid out some of the calculus behind the seemingly impossibly early peace talks pioneered by Senator Tovar.
"The highest authorities of the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom recently came in the possession of alarming information that makes it detrimental for us to continue to fight against each other. To our surprise, the royal family of the Kingdom has responded positively to our overtures and are willing to come to the negotiating table to explore the possibility to end the war within the year."
The royal family? Wasn't that a joke in the Kingdom? "Will the royal family be able to represent the entire state?"
"Good question." Cordwraith smirked. "I understand your skepticism, but we all have to start somewhere. Despite what the common people believe, the Vesian royals aren't toothless. We believe that they are capable enough to sway some of the powerful duchies on their side."
This sounded like a contentious matter. If the royals wanted to negotiate an early end to the war, they needed to offer something attractive enough to the nobles to get them to agree with the early peace.
If the Vesians didn't receive enough concessions, then an early peace would be too hard to swallow for them. They'd rather continue the fight if that was the case! Vesian nobles were so disunited that the only way to get them on the same page was to offer them rich rewards!
On the other hand, if the Bright Republic bled too much to obtain this peace, Senator Tovar and all the other advocates of peace would lose all of their support and credibility! The Bright Republic did not spend countless lives over the centuries to defend against Vesian aggression only to succumb and concede a large amount of territory to the scum!
All in all, Ves currently saw no hope that these talks would ever be able to succeed, yet what did he know? Mr. Cordwraith and Senator Tovar probably knew a lot of secrets and other information that might have led them to believe this deal had a chance to actually go through.
Someone as small as Ves wouldn't be privileged to know that sort of information. No, his job was merely to look impressive and pretty at the sides while the real adults held their discussions.
Still, this might be an interesting and unique experience for him. Unfortunately, it also came with some risks according to Colonel Xelven.
"Make no mistake, Mr. Larkinson. Part of the reason for the confidentiality is because various influences and factions in both states deeply wish to keep fighting. They are not above playing tricks if that is what it takes to end Senator Tovar's initiative. While I'm not able to estimate the danger level, this will not be a problem-free assignment, do you understand?"
Ves nodded. "I understand, sir."
It seemed like he wouldn't be getting the cushy rear assignment he hoped for. Still, to be part of a bold initiative to end the war sooner than everyone else expected was a noble cause. Even if Senator Tovar of all people tried to accomplish it, that did not set aside his own desire to end the senseless bloodshed.
"While we do not expect too much from you, we do not intend for you to remain idle while we are holding the talks." Mr. Cordwraith said. "An important aspect about any negotiation of this nature is to charm our counterparts and attempt to reach a common understanding. Someone with a colorful background as yours will attract quite some attention."
This made Ves feel a little nervous. "I'm supposed to woo the Vesian delegation?"
"Not so strongly, but we do hope you can hit it off with a Vesian or two. By befriending some the Vesians, we might be able to employ you as a backchannel to conduct some secret talks, or we might be able to add some clauses to the peace treaty that contains some cooperative aspects."
Ves didn't quite understand how that worked. "Is that really possible?"
"The best deals are made when both sides hit it off. It's easier to agree to terms with friends rather than enemies. By doing your part in befriending the Vesians, the odds of success grow slightly more optimistic. Even then, the probability that our talks end well enough to agree to the terms of a peace treaty is only fifty percent at most."
In other words, nobody knew if what they attempted would ever bear fruit.
"Is that all my role extends to?" Ves frowned. He hardly knew how to approach such a strange demand.
"For now, we do not expect anything else from you, Mr. Larkinson." Colonel Xelven shrugged apologetically. "The upcoming talks are highly controversial and if anyone gets wind of it, the chance they might attack is very real. We cannot afford to bring along too many critical individuals to the peace talks, but neither can we bring along a hollow delegation. The Vesians might suspect our sincerity. It is already enough of a risk for us to invite a crucially important Senior Mech Designer. Sending you in place of a second Senior will not do our delegation too much of a disservice."
Because Ves earned a lot of prestigious awards. This was what Ves amounted to. A poor replacement for a second Senior Mech Designer.
If the peace talks ever went awry, the Bright Republic would incur a lot of losses if Senator Tovar died. If a Senior Mech Designer died as well, the pain would be almost unbearable. If they lost another Senior on top of that, then the criticism that resulted from this botched attempt to end the war would result in a huge backlash!
Therefore, those who supported the initiative wanted to hedge their bets and send out as few core people as possible without presenting a weak front to the Vesians.
Even though Ves became famous recently, his fall would not impact the Republic substantially. Compared to the pain of losing a Senior, the loss of a single Apprentice hardly mattered.
Both Cordwraith and Xelven made it clear to Ves that he should leverage his fame and his accomplishments to go on some sort of charm offensive. All of this would take place in an informal setting outside of the formal peace talks.
While Ves still held a lot of questions, this wasn't the time to ask them. According to what he heard, this delegation had been set up on short notice, but everyone needed to move quickly. The longer they lingered here, the higher the chance the hostile factions might find out about the initiative!
Colonel Xelven motioned his hand in dismissal. "A fleet has already been prepared for departure. You'll be brought to another star system and be transferred to a disguised civilian trade convoy where you will get to meet the other members of the delegation."
Eventually, Ves walked out of the office in a daze. Preston Lowe got called up next and he enthusiastically entered the office for his own meeting with Mr. Cordwraith and Colonel Xelven.
"This is a bit abrupt."
The guards that previously accompanied him already disappeared. They wouldn't be a part of this mission.
After fiddling with his comm, he followed the route to his next berth. Eventually, he entered a nondescript convoy vessel which carried supplies to a far-flung star system near the borders of the state.
As the ship joined a convoy that went on its way, Ves enjoyed an uneventful time. Two weeks passed by as Ves remained in isolation in order to reveal as little of his presence as possible.
At the end of the route, they emerged at a sparsely populated star system where a handful of ships and mechs awaited their arrival.
Ves transferred to a modestly-sized passenger ship called the Felicitous Remembrance. While outwardly the Remembrance resembled a run-of-the-mill vessel for long transits across states, he recognized many expensive alloys that invisibly strengthened her structural integrity.
While the Remembrance would never be able to match the resilience of a combat carrier, she came respectably close! It would be no problem for this supposed civilian vessel to survive a few direct hits!
Signs of understated luxury also suggested that a lot of money had been invested in the Remembrance. From handmade sculptures to fresh exotic flowers, the luxury aboard this vessel seemed designed to cater to a sophisticated taste.
After undergoing a brief introduction, he met up with Mr. Cordwraith right outside the biggest stateroom of the Remembrance.
"Senator Tovar wishes to see you in person." The executive assistant told him as he eyed Ves' current service dress uniform. "I see you are already wearing your new ribbons. Good. You can go in now."
Ves entered a luxuriously furnished stateroom that took up way too much space than necessary to accommodate a single passenger. He ignored the astonishing sights and instead walked up to the statesman, who appeared to be engrossed in studying a star map of the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom.
Dozens of star systems at the border blinked red, signifying their takeover by the Vesians. The Bright Republic still held their ground somewhat, but the red thrust aiming straight towards Bentheim appeared incredibly alarming!
Ves realized that it was highly inappropriate for him to study this map. This was because it conveyed the current state of the war as well as high-level status updates of each ongoing battle taking pace at this very moment!
"Ahem." He awkwardly coughed, trying to get the vigorous old man's attention. "You called, senator?"
The senator still studied the map without acknowledging his presence.
Ves considered whether he should come closer, but the security guards standing unobtrusively at the sides began to twitch when he took a step.
He halted. "Senator?"
Nothing. Apparently, Ves needed to wait until Camden Tovar finished whatever he was doing right now. It reminded Ves of his intensive design moods where he put his full concentration on designing the best mech that could match his vision.
Was Senator Tovar doing something similar right now? Did he construct a vision of the future, and was he attempting to design a framework for the peace talks that could make his vision come true?
It sounded ridiculous, but right now Ves thought the analogy to be remarkably apt.
The stakes were incredibly high for the upcoming peace talks. The person responsible for bringing this initiative into motion shouldered a huge burden.
Yet just like a motivated mech designer, Senator Tovar believed he could engineer a solution even if no one else believed it was possible!
Ves admired that courage! Seeing how the senator put his full mind and effort to this upcoming task gave him hope that the peace talks might actually stand a decent chance of success!