The outbreak of the war between the two major powers of the star sector sent Ves into a tizzy. Discovering Calabast's true allegiance had finally pushed him over the edge!
Ves lay on a couch set by the grand windows of his home office. Both Clixie and Lucky cuddled up next to his chest to comfort him. The two playful cats succeeded in pulling him back to his senses.
"The two of you are too cute." Ves smiled and stroked both cats by their heads.
As much as he wanted to play with the two pets, he couldn't ignore the women staring at him. They both sat on a couch placed on the opposite side of a coffee table with plenty of room in between.
The way they sat suggested that even if both of them were Hexers, they didn't belong to the same dynasty or faction. That reassured Ves a little.
He looked around and noticed that the guards that usually guarded Gloriana had strangely left. A powerful interference field emanated from Calabast, ensuring that they enjoyed total privacy.
"Gloriana.. who is Calabast?" He asked his girlfriend first.
"I don't know her personally, but I'm aware of her background."
"Tell me who she is, then! No more secrets!"
"Calabast isn't my real name." The former spy spoke up, taking over from Gloriana. "I once told you that you're better off not knowing my background. However, now that Operation K has taken place, I suppose the cat is out of the bag."
Ves stared icily at the older woman. "For the sake of our long-term cooperation, I think you owe me an explanation."
"Fair enough." Calabast smiled and crossed her arms in a confident manner. "Calabast isn't my real name. I used to go by another name when I was born in a branch house of the Vraken Matriarchal Dynasty."
Ves grew shocked!
The six matriarchal dynasties reigned at the top of the Hexadric Hegemony! The Vraken Matriarchal Dynasty held as much sway as the Evern Matriarchal Dynasty, to whom the Wodin Dynasty answered to! The power they wielded was immense!
Throughout her explanation, her accent shifted from what was common in the region to a more clipped one that resembled that of Gloriana!
Though the shift was subtle, the difference it made was huge!
"Why did you change your name?" He asked.
"Do you think that it is good to be born as a Vraken? Our matriarchal dynasty is so large that there are millions of Vrakens who share the same blood. I didn't enjoy a pampered upbringing like that of your girlfriend. I needed to fight my way upwards. I did that by working really hard to get into DIVA."
"DIVA is one of the Hegemony's intelligence agencies." Gloriana explained. "Don't ask me what the acronym stands for. I don't have a clue."
Calabast chuckled. "I don't know either. I won't tell you about what I did while I was in DIVA other than that I managed to become an elite intelligence operative. After completing my mission on Aeon Corona VII, I managed to meet with my boss and buy my freedom."
"Buy your freedom? I think you told me once that you quit your old job."
"I wasn't a slave, Ves, but my debt to the Hegemony was considerable. The Vraken Matriarchal Dynasty has provided me with many resources to enhance my growth. Even if I was an average family member back then, a Vraken is still entitled to treatment that would make you jealous. In addition, DIVA's training regime is one of the best in the star sector. Working for DIVA has forged me into the woman I am today."
"So that means that means the Vrakens and DIVA expect you to work for them. They invested so much into turning you into this elite intelligence operative that you're never able to get rid of your shackles under ordinary circumstances."
Her situation sounded similar to that of Gloriana. The only difference was that Gloriana was more than glad to continue to stay under the Wodin Dynasty's umbrella.
"I see you understand, Ves. In the society that Gloriana and I live in, obligations are vastly more restrictive than physical bonds. As much as I've benefited from being a Vraken and a DIVA intelligence operative, I was destined to act as their pawn for my entire life."
"Yet you quit, right?"
She grinned at him. "Thanks to you, I managed to return with valuable CFA research data and other gains from the Starlight Megalodon. The treasure trove of data I've submitted to DIVA earned me so many merits that I didn't hesitate to buy my freedom. Not only that, but I also used my remaining merits to buy a higher standing within the Hegemony. This puts me on par with a member of a dynasty without belonging to one."
"Why is that important? Isn't it better to upgrade your standing within the Vrakens?"
"You aren't thinking enough ahead. Certainly, I could have used the merits I earned to upgrade myself to the same level of prominence that Gloriana enjoys in the Wodin Dynasty. Yet what use would that be to me? The higher my position in the Vrakens, the greater the expectations and obligations placed on my shoulders! That is not conducive to my plans for the future."
"You mean your plan to force a partnership on me so that you can leech off my accomplishments." Ves grimaced and briefly flitted his eyes over to Gloriana. "Does she know?"
Calabast shook her head. "Not yet, but I suggest you do something about that. Gloriana may not be entirely to my liking, but she's clean."
"What's that supposed to mean!" His girlfriend burst out. "And what's this about coming clean? Are the two of you hiding a secret or something?!"
Inwardly, Ves sighed in relief. Calabast hadn't spilled the beans about the Metal Scroll.
"All in due time, Gloriana." Calabast pressed the female mech designer down before turning to Ves. "Do you understand my circumstances now, kid? I could have gone far if I continued to stay in DIVA or the Vraken Matriarchal Dynasty. Instead, I decisively paid back my debts and amicably cut off my ties with them because there is a much greater tree I can shelter under."
"Me." Ves spoke.
"Yep." She grinned. "Even though you're merely a sapling at your stage, your growth potential is limitless! DIVA, the Vrakens and even the entire Hegemony are trivial compared to where you will be in a few hundred years from now! You can't blame a woman for not letting this opportunity pass me by. The potential you hold is far in excess to anything this stinking star sector can produce!"
"Wow, Calabast! I thought I was the first one to recognize Ves' potential, but it seems your eye for mech designers is even better!" Gloriana cheerfully clapped before releasing a low hiss. "He's still mine, though!"
"I already told you, Gloriana. I am not interested in little boys."
Calabast briefly interrupted the functioning of her jammer so that she could transmit a message from her comm.
Seconds later, a woman wearing an unmarked mech officer uniform appeared into view, alarming both Ves and Gloriana!
"Don't worry, she's friendly."
The athletic mech pilot strode forward while Ves tried to piece together her identity. The newcomer looked vaguely familiar to him, and her dark skin reminded Ves of some of the women he met in his life. As the figure came closer, his spiritual senses started to sense something remarkable.
"She's an expert candidate!" He called!
Not only that, but the expert candidate was in a very advanced state! Her willpower-infused spiritual energy had almost reached the threshold of apotheosis, which meant that becoming an expert pilot was just around the corner!
As the newcomer came close, Calabast stood up and immediately embraced the expert candidate in an intimate manner.
Locked in passion, their lips hungrily ravished each other! Sensuous moans escaped from their throats as the lovers enjoyed their reunion!
Ves and Gloriana wordlessly stared at the spectacle with their mouths gaped open. Even their intimate kisses hadn't reached this level of passion yet!
Once the two women separated, Calabast smiled with a bit of rosiness on her cheeks. "Ves, remember Commander Dise of the Swordmaidens?"
"Uh, hi commander."
So that was why the expert candidate felt so familiar! Even though advanced surgery changed her appearance to the point where Ves no longer recognized her, Ves couldn't mistake her spiritual fingerprint!
Ves remembered that Commander Dise and Captain Orfan both developed a strong mental connection with Qilanxo!
So long as Qilanxo still existed, Commander Dise was still her beast rider!
As Ves tuned his spiritual senses carefully, he managed to identify plenty of spiritual attributes that closely aligned with Qilanxo.
Strangely, they only made up a part of Commander Dise's spiritual makeup. Her spiritual attributes possessed a much more offensive mix. The defensive and protective influence from Qilanxo didn't entirely align with the pirate commander's fighting style, which probably hampered her growth somewhat.
Ves suspected that as long as Commander Dise managed to resolve the contradiction between Qilanxo's spiritual attributes and her own, she would finally be able to enter the ranks of demigods!
"Thank you for taking care of Ketis for us, Ves." Commander Dise smiled in approval. "She's grown up to become a good kid under your care. I hope you can continue to take care of her. Right now, she's not suitable to accompany us. My lover here has big plans for the Swordmaidens."
Though Gloriana maintained some wariness towards Calabast, her attitude changed now that the latter revealed her lover.
As long as Calabast made no moves towards Ves, she was fine with her presence!
The former intelligence operative coughed. "Gloriana, I summoned Commander Dise in order to prove that I'm not a threat to you. I'm going to have to ask you to leave now. I need to discuss some private business matters with Ves."
A few moments of silence passed as Gloriana directed a suspicious glance towards the other Hexer.
"..Okay. Just don't get into any funny business, all right?"
"Bring your cat out as well. I know she's smart enough to understand what we're saying."
"Fine." Gloriana grumbled. She had been seen through! "You Vrakens are always too sharp."
Commander Lydia led Gloriana and Clixie out of the home office, leaving Calabast alone with Ves.
"So." He began as he calmly held Lucky in his grasp. Now that his girlfriend had departed the room, Ves no longer felt as constrained. "You're a Hexer."
"Yes." Calabast grinned in amusement. "As someone who spent a lot of time outside the Hegemony, I can understand your apprehensiveness. I'm not like Gloriana, though. The Vrakens are largely secular. We don't buy into hexism."
Her words reassured him a bit. At least he wouldn't have to deal with two Hexers who wanted to impose their crazy religious beliefs on him. He already had a hard time maintaining his principles in front of Gloriana!
"What do you really think about my relationship with Gloriana?"
"I preferred you went for a more wholesome girl like Ketis. Gloriana.. while I have no comment on the love you share with her, in terms of entanglements I don't think you know what you're getting into. The closer you pursue a relationship with Gloriana, the more you'll enter the orbit of the Wodin Dynasty."
"I'm not marrying into her family!"
"That still doesn't exempt you from getting involved, kid! A promising mech designer like Gloriana is a treasure to the Wodins. Anyone who is worthy to capture her heart won't escape their attention!"
"Why is that so bad?"
Calabast let out an exasperated breath. "Forget about it. What is done is done. The situation is not entirely unsalvageable. As a foreigner, you only need to show off your capabilities in order to be treated as an ally rather than a servant."
"Gloriana and I are already planning to earn their acknowledgement."
"Good. It seems Gloriana is not blind to your situation."
"I think she just wants to keep me for herself." Ves scoffed before changing the topic. "Let's get to the point. Why are you here?"
"That requires some explanation." She sighed before adopting a serious expression. "The war that has broken out between the Coalition and the Hegemony has turned our star sector into a dangerous place. The Bright Republic won't remain unaffected."
"What is driving you Hexers to wage this war at this time? Please help me understand. With the sandmen bearing down on us all, I truly can't figure out why your state picked this time to resolve its grudges with its rival!"
As someone pivotal to Operation K, Calabast surely understood the Hegemony's decision to declare war.
Ves still remained awfully. He desperately needed more answers!