The intentions of Senator Tovar on Ves couldn't be more clear. He needed to learn to get along with Vesian nobles and officials.
That didn't necessarily mean that Ves needed to take on a Vesian coat and buy into their values and beliefs. He had to maintain hold of his Brighter identity even as he somehow made nice with the Vesian envoys and attaché.
"Easier said than done." Ves said when Secretary Lowe left his cabin after passing on his message.
Ves benefited a lot from the diplomatic aide's insight. He learned how to cope with Vesian manipulation and distortion.
Simply said, Ves was no diplomat or politician. So why should he get into a substantive debate with those who were? It would be like a farmer talking about mechs to a mech designer. No matter how much the farmer read up by himself, he could never match the sheer amount of knowledge, insight and experience of a formally trained mech designer!
So the first truth that Ves had to keep in mind was that he'd been invited to the delegation to connect with the Vesians as a mech designer!
"The key is not to focus on the differences, but on what we share in common."
Brighters and Vesians may be highly opposed to each other, but as life-long rivals they shared many similarities as well. At the very least, both sides made use of mechs to fight. Ves should be able to connect to anyone with a connection to mechs, not just fellow mech designers.
Connecting with Lord Javier served as a useful practice run. Although the captive Vesian noble on parole admitted that he had an incentive to befriend his captors, Ves figured that he needed the handicap in order to make nice with a Vesian.
He shook his head. "It's so strange to play nice with a Vesian."
Before the war, the Vesia Kingdom had always been a faceless and dormant threat. The ravages of the previous generation's war still scarred the Bright Republic during the period he grew up. Everyone treated it as a particularly deadly war, with many more people dying than the historical trend.
Everyone made mistakes. Everyone underestimated the full scope of the war. Many people paid the price.
Growing up under such an ever-present well of depression among the adults colored Ves against the Vesians. Even if he never met a Vesian before, he already inherited the burning hatred and swelling animosity towards the citizens and combatants of their neighboring state.
It was only until the war began and Ves experienced what it was like to fight against the Vesians that he learned that all of their fears were true. The Vesian Mech Legion might be too fractured to coordinate effectively with each other on a strategic scale, their ferocious mech pilots fought just as well as the professional and highly-trained mech pilots of the Mech Corps!
As the disguised fleet under the protection of the elite 8th Spiral Shockers of the 3rd New Foundation Division made it halfway to the Reinald Republic, Ves began to meet with Lord Javier on a regular basis.
The bored and lonely noble welcomed the company, especially since the security officers aboard the Felicitous Remembrance disallowed him from accessing the galactic net.
These kinds of restrictions broke the illusion of freedom and emphasized his status as a hostage. Even if he could roam around the ship and visit almost every public facility open to passengers, Lord Javier would always be reminded that he was a stranger among enemies.
Sometimes, his arrogance and his confident facade cracked at the strain. The arrival of Ves gave him some very much-needed relief from the absence of peers.
They gathered at one of the luxurious lounge and bar rooms of the Remembrance. Ves looked at the noble scion in confusion. "I'm not a peer. You're the son of a count and the heir to House Eneqqin. You've ruled star systems populated by billions of commoners, each of which are affected by your actions and decisions. I'm just a mech designer."
"You're kind of like the Brighter version of nobility in my eyes." Javier responded with a smile before he took a gulp of his glass of imported beer. "The Larkinson Family could be called House Larkinson and there won't be too much of a difference. The only shortcomings of your house would be that it has way too little wealth and territory for their military contributions."
"The Bright Republic doesn't work that way."
Javier grinned. "Is that so? As I've stated earlier, the Republic and the Kingdom aren't so different. Everything is just a lot less obvious in your state. It's crazy to me that you Larkinsons are content to remain as a middling family! If you Larkinsons threw your lot with the Kingdom instead of the Republic, you would have been at least as powerful as House Eneqqin!"
The Larkinson ancestor used to be a mercenary who worked for the highest bidder. He might as well have gone on to fight for the Vesians instead of the Brighters if the latter hadn't offered the most pay!
Of course, that was just idle speculation from Ves. The historical records from the time of the founding of the Bright Republic were spotty and fragmented.
Although the historians in the family did a great job at reconstructing the missing parts through the use of corroborating sources, it hadn't been entirely clear why the Larkinson Ancestor threw his lot with the Bright Republic.
A lot of employers opened up their coffers in the newly-opened Komodo Star Sector. All of them spent their savings on hiring mercenaries in order to pad their numbers and win the opportunity of a lifetime to capture more valuable territory before the borders became fixed!
Lord Javier turned out to be quite the aficionado when it came to historical battles. "Studying the past is an important aspect for a noble as well as a mech pilot. Through studying our history, we get to understand how you Brighters think, act and fight."
"That sounds surprisingly insightful, coming from you." Ves looked at Javier in mild astonishment. He took a sip of his delightfully warm coffee. As this conversation began to stray into political territory, he quickly steered the topic towards mechs. "How would you characterize the Vesian way of fighting?"
"That's a big question. Too big, in fact." Javier shrugged. "Every duchy has adopted their overall mech doctrines. I'm sure you know some of that considering you served with the Vandals as you gallivated through our space. As a subject of the Duchy of Imodris, I'm most familiar with our own mech doctrine, which heavily focuses on combined arms. We don't believe in putting ourselves into corners. Instead, we try to have a bit of everything and rely on synergy to achieve more than the sum of its parts."
"That kind of sounds like the Imodris mech doctrine spreads itself a little too thin. Won't the lack of focus prevent you from developing a strong specialty?"
"That only matters at the top level. Every mech regiment or private outfit gets to pick and choose what they like, and they know better than to grab a bit of everything. That said, it's really annoying for me to adjust to different mech rosters each time I lead a new unit."
"There's one thing you Vesians have in common, though. You employ missile weapons a lot more frequently than the Bright Republic. Doesn't that get expensive?"
"Pah." Lord Javier sneered. "Missiles are pretty much fire-and-forget at their most basic level of use. The main reason why we employ them so frequently is because it's not as demanding to train a missileer mech pilot as opposed to a rifleman mech pilot. The latter demands actual skill in marksmanship while the former only forces you to tweak the targeting systems before you unleash the missiles."
"You guys don't train your mech pilots that well?"
Lord Javier shrugged. "It depends on which House and which noble is in charge of the mech regiment and mech legion. I know some of my peers aren't as diligent in running their units as others. I don't know. I've never been assigned to a military unit yet. I should have been in contention to lead a mech regiment, but you Vandals came and ruined my Detemen System before I could go through with my commissioning. Thanks for that, by the way."
"Sheesh. You could have at least pretended to be contrite."
Ves laughed. "Why bother when you could see through my act?"
"It's the thought that counts. Let me teach you a lesson, Ves. When you go talk to people like me, the way you act and behave in public is more important than your underlying intentions. Just now, I gave you an opportunity to make amends to me so that we would appear closer to each other, at least from a bystander's point of view. That you didn't do so means you slighted me. The public would think that we aren't on the same page."
All of this sounded fairly different from the normal way that Brighters treated each other. The social differences between the classes weren't as wide, so they didn't have to think so much about their public conduct. It was more than sufficient enough to act as yourself, though you would also have to make sure to be polite.
As Ves interacted more and more with Lord Javier, he became more exposed to the cultural differences between their states and social classes.
Ves particularly took note of the bearing he needed to adopt as a member of a higher social class. He still clung too much to his former identity as an average citizen of the Republic. Even back when he studied mech design at Rittersberg, he didn't pay too much attention to the elitist clubs and social circles at the capital planet.
He never considered himself to be capable of reaching a high station in his life! He thought it would be a pipe dream to become the head of a multi-billion mech manufacturing company within a couple of years!
Propelled with the help of his unique advantages, his rapid ascension came so suddenly that Ves still hadn't fully adjusted his attitude in a way that befitted his new station in life.
"You already possess the confidence and the arrogance of a successful mech designer and magnate." Lord Javier eyes Ves in a critical manner. "I think the problem is that you're still too stuck in your past as an average Joe to shed your modesty."
"What's so wrong about being modest?"
"There's a difference in being modest and being understated. Just look at Senator Tovar for example. That man doesn't dress extravagantly or demand or your obedience outright. However, the way he naturally acts already commands obedience without saying so. Sure, his status helps out a lot, but that man is a born leader no matter where he goes or who he talks to. That's classy. As for you..."
"As for me?" Ves wondered.
"You're kind of a mix between a dork and a boss. Sometimes, I get the sense that you are capable of being in charge, but you're restraining yourself for some reason. Is it because you don't see the need to keep your head high in the presence of someone like Senator Tovar or I?"
What Lord Javier said about Ves seemed very apt to him! Ves himself knew that he acted much more domineering during the times he held authority over a bunch of subordinates. From his time of taking charge of the LMC, to being the temporary head designer of the Vandals, to supervising the bunch of Ansel brats at Frozen Point Research Base, Ves had plenty of practice in exercising leadership.
Yet as soon as he met a bigshot or someone of a higher rank, he instantly adopted a servile demeanor.
"Is there anything wrong with that?"
"Ves, Ves, Ves." Lord Javier shook his head. "If you continue to act like that, people like Senator Tovar will keep rolling over you. If you want to get anywhere in high society, you need to learn how to stand up for yourself even if you're being approached by a CFA admiral. Don't worry. Let Uncle Javier here teach you the ropes."