The two fallen noble scions turned out to be twins. They came from one of the oddest-named states in the local star sector, the Kingdom of the Three Flowers.
The reason for this name dated back to the 'Flowers' who founded the kingdom. The three were natural triplets. Each of the women who went on to become the Flowers all shared the same genes.
Yet from their youngest years, they had been separated from each other and grew up in isolation from each other. Although they knew they had sisters, the lack of interaction with them led to very little sisterly love.
For what reason their parents chose to raise their children in this fashion, Ves had no clue. They deserved to be whacked in the heads for bringing up their children without coming in touch with each other.
In any case, once the three Flowers grew up and reached adulthood, they each possessed a claim to the territory that would eventually become the Kingdom of the Three Flowers.
Therein laid the complication question. Which Flower should inherit the kingdom?
A lot of proposals had been bandied back-and-forth. All of the Flowers were so different from each other that every faction in the kingdom favored a different one.
To cut the long story short, the factions never came to an agreement. The political fights became so ugly that a civil war to determine the succession seemed inevitable!
Yet at the brink of war, the factions oddly managed to calm down long enough to hash out a compromise.
Rather than deciding upon one of the Flowers, why not elevate all three of them to the throne?
It was an extremely flawed compromise that pleased none of the factions, yet what else could they do to stave off the fighting? A civil war would tear apart the kingdom and make it vulnerable to outside invasion! Everyone would lose out in the end if that happened!
Ever since then, the Kingdom of the Three Flowers formally came into being. They imitated the shared rulership structure of the Hexadric Hegemony, but Flowers weren't nearly as good as the matriarchs in sharing power.
A lot of inner conflict still ensued to this day. While the royal houses no longer fought directly against each other, their vassals were often pushed to fight in their stead, either openly or covertly.
The Royal Houses of the Grey Rose, Black Poppy and White Dandelion each struggled to power while simultaneously keeping each other in check. As a result, the balance of power had never experienced a shift since the founding of the houses.
Even so, that did not stop the Flowers from continuing their toxic competition for power.
The two fallen nobles that Ves had met used to be the scions of House Ingvar, which was subordinate to Black Poppy.
While they were not born into the main branch of their house, they turned out to be potentates. This caused House Ingvar to invest in their training in the hopes of assisting the head of the house in the future.
All seemed well to the two nobles. Their privileged upbringing and decent skills allowed them to become fairly notable mech pilots. Once they graduated from the mech academies and returned to their house, they were placed in charge of a household mech company.
"We thought we'd be able to serve with distinction during this period." Imon Ingvar explained to Ves.
The female, Casella Ingvar, continued the story. "But then Black Poppy turned to our house for an important mission. Even now, we still don't know what the Black Poppy wanted from our house. We merely received some vague orders to mobilize our company and head to a lifeless star system to await our next orders."
They arrived at their destination and waited for their next instructions.
They never came. As the communication channels remained silent, the Ingvar pair finally decided to loosen the restrictions to their quantum entanglement nodes to check up on the latest on the galactic net.
That was when they learned that House Ingvar had fallen!
"How did your house fall all of a sudden?" Ves frowned in puzzlement. "Shouldn't you have protocols in place to warn the two of you of disaster?"
Imon shook his head. "We were engaging in very covert movements. We took a lot of precautions to hide our presence. Too much, it turns out. A sudden assault struck House Ingvar with such might that none of our relatives and retainers who knew about our deployment could spare any attention to us! We were left in the dark!"
What followed afterwards was a lot of doubt and confusion. This was because the main culprit behind the destruction of House Ingvar turned out to be Black Poppy!
For whatever reason, the royal house turned on its own vassals and employed the full might of its mech divisions to crush every Ingvar they could find!
After the two Ingvars truly realized their house was gone, they led their household mech company out of the Kingdom of Three Flowers and meandered their way over to the Kinner Tribe.
"When we arrived, we were short on money and supplies." Imon despondently noted. "Casella and I left our ship to access the backup accounts that House Ingvar maintained on Bloodstone. That was a mistake!"
"Our household troops betrayed us! The mech pilots appropriated the mechs provided by our house while the spacers crewing our carrier hacked our authorizations and took over complete control! What's worse was that they had the audacity to register themselves as a new mercenary corps called the Horseless Riders!"
The Mercenary Association approved of the establishment of the Horseless Riders. Though Imon and Casella Ingvar strongly objected to this move and cried foul, the fallen nobles made very little progress through arbitration.
"Did the arbitration from the MA achieve anything substantial at all so far?" Ves curiously asked.
"Hahaha!" Imon resentfully laughed. "They refused to force the Horseless Riders to return the stolen assets! All of the mechs along with our carrier still remain in the hands of our treacherous servants to this day! The only concession the MA deigned to give us was to return our personal mechs! Two mechs! That's all!"
Both Imon and Casella gritted their teeth at the thought of this result. They only regained a fraction of what they lost, and the MA seemed unwilling to cede them anything else!
Ves shook his head after hearing this sad tale. "If you ask me, the Mercenary Association protected you and gave you a lifeline."
"What?!" Casella burst out. "That's absurd! The MA totally sided with the thieves! They wanted to shut us up by handing back our mechs in exchange for acknowledging we've lost the right of possession of our remaining mechs and ship!"
Ves chuckled, which seemed to make the Ingvar pair even angrier. "Let me explain how I see it. House Ingvar is no more. Their own superiors, the Royal House of the Black Poppy, crushed your house themselves. All Ingvar assets should have been formally seized by Black Poppy."
"Except for ours!" Imon protested.
"Says you." Ves raised his hand. "Let me continue. Suppose what I said has happened. Now, your household mech company should have been the property of your house. Neither of you own the assets of your former mech company, correct?"
Both Ingvars reluctantly nodded.
"So properly speaking, the assets of your household mech company actually belongs to Black Poppy. Now, if you continue to annoy the Mercenary Association with your useless demands, who says they won't confiscate your mechs and send them back to their rightful owners at the Kingdom of the Three Flowers?"
"They can't! We will never allow the murderous Black Poppy to take what little we possess!"
"Have you ever heard the saying that possession is nine-tenths of the law?" Ves raised. "Well, from what I've learned, the Mercenary Association often defaults to this rule when it handles arbitration in cases like these. House Ingvar is no more, and while Black Poppy probably claimed all of your fallen house's assets, it's customary that a few bits and pieces fall through the cracks. If we count your household mech company among them, then they were technically ownerless."
"It should have still belonged to us then! We are the remaining surviving heirs of House Ingvars!" Imon exclaimed.
Yet Ves shook his head. "House Ingvar is dissolved. It doesn't exist in any legal sense. Its estate and all of its assets has been absorbed by Black Poppy. What this means is that your last name has become worthless!"
This revelation came as a huge shock to the two! Both Imon and Casella possessed a lot of pride in their house! Even if it had fallen, they still harbored ambitions to take revenge and restore their house!
However, such an endeavor was much harder to do if no one recognized their house and in turn their noble status!
"In the perspective of the Mercenary Association, a deckhand aboard your carrier has as much of a claim to your ship than the two of you. It all comes down to who can manage to claim and secure possession of the ownerless assets first!"
Most likely, the former household mech pilots each claimed their own mechs. Meanwhile, the spacers collectively split the ownership of the carrier, with the captain claiming the largest proportion.
The former soldiers and retainers of House Ingvar probably left no room for Imon and Casella Ingvar in registering their 'salvage' claims.
Likely, the only reason Imon and Casella regained their personal mechs was because the Horseless Riders hadn't recruited mech pilots and assigned them to the mechs fast enough!
The brutal truth had been laid bare to the ignorant two fallen noble scions. Both Imon and Casella appeared devastated!
"Apart from your mechs and some backup funds, the two of you have nothing left, right?"
Imon listlessly nodded.
"Well, far be it for a stranger like me to advise you, but I suggest you pick yourself up. You may have fallen to your lowest point, but at least you are still better off than most. What has been lost can be regained, but you won't come close to doing so if you keep moping around. Move forward. Think about what you can do in the future, rather than beat yourself up over past decisions that have already been made."
"What's it to you?" Casella narrowed her eyes in suspicion. "Why are you trying to help us? Are you pitying us?"
"I only paid attention to you two because my cat thinks you're interesting." Ves patted Lucky's back.
Lucky seemed pleased at Ves' recognition. The cat always prided himself for his observation ability!
"I don't see anything worth paying attention to, if I'm being honest. I suggest you rethink your current actions and evaluate whether you are doing something productive. I hope you'll wake up and move forward. At that point, I hope you consider working for me. I'm a great boss and as a mech designer, I can provide you with some great mechs."
Ves had Gavin pass their contact information to the Ingvars before they left.
Kelandra spoke up now that they had walked out of earshot from the fallen nobles. "I don't see why those foreigners are worth your time. Nobles who have lost their houses are some of the worst mercenaries imaginable. They constantly pretend they are still special when they are no different from a mercenary! In fact, even our worst Kinner mercenaries are better than those two crybabies!"
"It is true that the two Ingvars don't make for good mercenary material." Ves conceded, though a grin quickly plastered on his face. "Though it's a different story if I can manage to persuade them to join my Avatars of Myth!"
Only when he came in close proximity and studied the pair up close did he manage to perceive what Lucky had already sensed.
There was something special about the two Ingvars!