As inspection corvettes from the Honored Ones arrived to search the new arrivals for threats, Ves met up with Lord Javier again in the lounge.
Lord Javier grinned at Ves. "This is it, buddy. Soon, you'll get to meet other Vesians besides me. I hope there are lots of Imodrissians among the Vesian delegation."
"Will there be?" Ves wondered. "I heard that a prince of the royal family will head the Vesian delegation. Won't they all come from the Royal Territory in the center of the Kingdom?"
"Sure, but the Royal Territory isn't as rich and powerful as the individual duchies." Javier explained. "There's only so much resources and manpower the Royal House of Vesia can draw upon within the only territory they control directly. It's a capital territory in isolation."
His remark emphasized the weak position of the Royal House of Vesia. The ducal houses who carved out the majority of the Vesia Kingdom's territories for themselves did their best to suppress the royals and their ambitions to rein in the largely unchecked nobility.
"If the Royal House is so weak, why is Senator Tovar negotiating with them in the first place?"
"If not the royals, who else?" Javier shrugged with a smile. "If they negotiate with one of the duchies, the other duchies would never accept that they upheld the interests of the entire state. Negotiating with all of the duchies at once is unfeasible. Not only would the peace talks become mired with infighting and irreconcilable differences of opinion, it also risks exposing the peace talks before they're ready to go public."
All of those arguments made sense to Ves. "So even though the royals are weak, that's also an asset to them because the duchies aren't afraid of them. At the very least, they are useful tools whenever the Kingdom needs to forge a consensus."
Diplomacy was one of the few areas where the various Vesian noble influences left to the royals. It would be far too chaotic and downright catastrophic if every single duchy of the Vesia Kingdom pursued their own diplomacy. By allowing the weak Royal House of Vesia to take charge of this domain while simultaneously supervising every deal they negotiated, the duchies would not be forced to reject any proposed treaty just because their rivals presented it first.
"Have you heard which royal prince has agreed to represent the Vesia Kingdom in the upcoming peace talks?"
Lord Javier nodded. "Senator Tovar filled me in. The leader of the Vesian delegation is Prince Colchester. He's nearly as old as the senator at around 230 years old if I recall."
Ves hadn't heard of Prince Colchestor before. Then again, he never needed to learn about the members of the Vesian royal family when he studied mech design.
"What is Prince Colchester known for in your circles?"
"Prince Colly is a bit of a boring member of the royal house." Lord Javier snorted with contempt. "He's not a mech pilot and never even bothered to serve in the Mech Legion. Instead, I heard he's highly respected in the field of economics. He used to an economic planner who took part in huge decisions that affected the economy of the entire kingdom. I also heard that he's a bit conservative and restrained in many political matters."
"For example, Prince Colly is a big proponent of solidifying the class system. He thinks too many commoners are elevated into the nobility and he thinks it's ridiculous that its too easy for the aristocracy to lose their status after going through a tough time."
Ves smirked. "I think his own interests and the interests of the royal house plays a large part in his standpoint on this issue."
"The old prince also thinks we should scale back the intensity of our wars against the Bright Republic because the losses we've suffered are very heavy. He isn't making a lot of friends with that extreme opinion."
Only in a warmongering state like the Vesia Kingdom would moderation and restraint be considered extreme, Ves thought.
"So a prince like that is leading the Vesian delegation?"
"He's the most peace-loving idiot among the princes of the royal house. He doesn't have much credibility with the supporters of the war within the Kingdom, but as long as his entire house backs him up, he might stand a decent chance of smacking the duchies back into sanity."
While Ves doubted that the weak royal house could convince the duchies of stopping the war, Prince Colchester might surprise him, even if Lord Javier didn't think much of the old royal.
The fact that Lord Javier didn't bother to address the prince as 'his highness' or the like reflected the Vesian lack of respect for the royal family. Granted, they often skipped such styles of addressing each other except in formal circumstances.
Also, Ves doubted that Prince Colchester would like it if someone called him Prince Colly in his face!
"Is there any other advice you can give me before we land and attend the opening banquet?" Ves asked.
As a hostage, Lord Javier wouldn't be present at the first formal introduction between the two delegations. In fact, he wouldn't be showing up much at all in order to control how much he gave away to his fellow Vesians.
"You're a bigger deal than you realize, Ves." Lord Javier said seriously. "Try and flaunt the fact that you're Senator Tovar and Professor Ventag's pet."
Ves immediately frowned at such a ridiculous response. "Pardon?!"
Lord Javier just grinned in response. "I purposefully call you a pet, because that's what you are to them. A useful puppy that barks whenever they praise you and fetches the sticks they throw out. Don't feel insulted, Ves. In this setting, it's an advantage. The Vesians you'll meet during the peace talks are all nobles and elites that Prince Colly finds worthy enough to be a part of his delegation. They're mostly going to be older men and women just like the ones who are part of your own delegation. It's impossible for you to earn their respect on your own. However, as long as you're shameless enough, I think you'll be able to get in their good books by using the name of a renowned senator and Senior Mech Designer."
Even though Ves felt somewhat affronted at the thought of purposefully taking advantage of someone else's names and reputation, it did describe his current status somewhat accurately.
Ves reminded himself of Flashlight's tenets. It didn't matter what method he used as long as he fulfilled the mission. Right now, Senator Tovar expected him to make a favorable impression on the Vesians with his medals and war exploits and befriend at least some of them in the process.
"I hope you're not completely right and that they brought younger Vesians along as well." He said.
As Ves received some last-minute advice from Lord Javier, the fleet slowly made its way to Harkensen II. It took some days for the fleet to reach the administrative planet's orbit as the Honored Ones increased their scrutiny to any ships or fleets crossing into the restricted zone around the second planet from the local star.
If anything, Ves felt much more reassured that the Honored Ones prevented never-do-wells from smuggling dangerous weapons and mechs to the surface of Harkensen II. The fiasco that Ves endured on Harkensen I a few years ago should not be making a repeat on this strictly-governed planet.
After a long period of inspections, identity verification and signing documents, a series of shuttles dispatched by the Reinaldans all brought them down to the surface of Harkensen II.
Only Senator Tovar and his aides were spared from riding Reinaldan shuttles. The senator received a waiver from the authorities to make use of his personal shuttle to make landfall.
Rank hath its privileges.
The general atmosphere at the spaceport at the outskirts of Ernos, the capital city, reminded Ves of Rittersberg. Lots of precisely-shaped greenery blended in harmoniously with predominantly white structures. This classic look granted Harkensen II the impression of an idyllic paradise.
In order to maintain the secrecy of the peace talks, the members of the Tovar Peace Delegation remained separate from the public. Their Reinaldan escorts from restricted area to restricted area before leading them to armored shuttles that brought them away from Ernos.
The capital city was too important and too highly-populated to conduct the peace talks. The Reinaldans along with the two parties instead decided to hold the peace talks at Kester Hills, a small settlement known for its bountiful nature and relaxing sites.
The fact that it was small and lightly-populated meant that it was easy to control its population. In fact, the Reinaldans temporarily relocated its citizens and stationed a robust amount of Honored Ones to ensure the security of the peace talks.
Ves still wondered why the Reinaldans played along in the first place. Shouldn't they be glad that the Brighters and Vesians continued to slug it out against each other?
He was not naive enough to believe the Reinaldans became convinced by Senator Tovar's claims that a greater threat might be coming.
Well, such concerns weren't very relevant to him. Senator Tovar had a good reason to agree with holding peace talks in the Reinald Republic.
As the armored shuttle landed in the landing zone of an expansive and luxurious-looking estate, the Reinaldans retreated their people and let the Brighters sort themselves out at their new abode. The Tovar Peace Delegation's staff immediately went to work. They inspected the main compound and inspected them for bugs and listening devices.
It was probably a guarantee that the Reinaldans snuck in loads of spying devices in the compound.
After a short moment, Secretary Lowe came up to Ves. "Mr. Larkinson, your quarters have been prepared. Please follow after me. We'll need to prepare you for the upcoming banquet tonight."
The diplomatic aide led Ves into the compound before reaching a residential section that offered hotel-like room to the guests.
As they entered one of them, Ves saw that his luggage had already been delivered. Secretary Lowe immediately walked up to the main closet and drew out a cross between a service dress uniform and a formal black tie dining outfit.
"What in the galaxy is this abomination?" Ves asked with irritation.
"It's your mess dress uniform." Lowe smiled. "It's also what you will be wearing for tonight."
A row of resplendent-looking medals had already been pinned to the front of the uniform. Obviously, ribbons wouldn't cut it for such a formal occasion.
The main reason why Ves felt repelled by the uniform was that it included an excessive amount of golden frills and lacing. It was as if the designer of the uniform was afraid that the person who wore it wouldn't be able to draw attention!
Secretary Lowe noticed Ves' discomfort. "It's not an embarrassment to wear this uniform. Mind you, many of your peers will wear much more impressive-looking outfits. The only distinguishing feature that stands out in your case are your medals. Many Vesians are quite well-versed in recognizing awards issued by the Mech Corps. With any luck, they will quickly come to learn that you are a war hero."
"It sounds like it's really important to hit that home."
"First impressions are critical. Considering the high stakes of these peace talks, we need every advantage that we can get. Therefore, the senator hopes that you will exert your best efforts in representing the Bright Republic in front of our Vesian counterparts. Your actions tonight will not only reflect on yourself, but also your patrons as well as your state. Do you understand?"
Ves nodded seriously. If the basic message was that if he screwed up somehow, he would be dragging down the reputation of Senator Tovar and the Bright Republic. Such a disaster would weaken their bargaining position.
"Don't worry Ves." Secretary Lowe patted his shoulder in reassurance. "You're a junior member of the delegation so you'll be sitting far away from the center where most of the attention will be drawn. Even if you poke your nose, the Vesians won't care."
Somehow, that didn't sound very reassuring at all to Ves. "I'll be sure to avoid poking my nose during the upcoming occasion."