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Keno thrust his hands deep into his pockets as he walked in the night, the streetlamps dimly illuminating the sidewalk he walked on. The suburbs he walked through were unfamiliar to him, Keno himself growing up in the urban slums of Alvernia's north. His family still lived in the same one-room house that they had lived in for 16 years, but here Keno was in suburbia, a 45-minute bus ride away. His baggy shorts and t-shirt failed to cover him from the chilly winds, which accompanied the rapid drop in temperature that came with the sunset, while the bag that carried his clothes made his back sweat. Despite feeling chilly, Keno enjoyed the walk. He was alone with his thoughts, a small field to his right and the road to his left. The 2 lanes were separated by a median that made them one-way roads, and the grassy median held a row of trees that extended across the entire road. The leaves whistled gently as the breeze blew while the night air was filled with the noise of the local fauna- the chirp of the local bugs in early fall was especially loud in the night time. A soft mist began to fall as Keno checked the time on his battered wrist watch: 11:30. Despite the late time, the house he was heading to was expecting him. The Piannas were family friends of Keno’s family and Keno and their son, Leo, knew each other since they were 3. After they were both accepted into the same private secondary school, the Piannas had offered to house Keno, aware of their economic situation. With undying gratitude, Keno’s family accepted the proposition. Saving up his money, Keno was able to buy the cheapest bus ticket he could find, packed his bags, and headed towards the suburbs. The blaring of a car horn from behind Keno interrupted his thoughts as he whipped his head around. A 4-door sedan had slowed down to a roll next to Keno but he kept looking straight, ignoring the car. The light that poured out of the headlights made him squint and Keno heard the car come to a stop and doors open and close. Even though he was sure he would not be mugged before he had left, Keno had taken a small switchblade with him just in case, the one he had carried with him for years now as protection in the urban slums. The sound of footsteps came closer and one of them shouted out, “Where you going, asinavulo*? We just wanna be friends.” Keno’s throat closed as his heart raced. What was he to do? The bag on his back made it difficult to run quickly. But the Piannas was what, two blocks away? He might be able to make it. He turned his head around for the first time. One person was sitting on the hood with a cigarette in his hand. While three others were walking shadily behind Keno. Running wouldn’t be an option. Upon making eye contact with one of the three, the man smiled. Keno realized all three were reaching into their waistbands; his heart began to thump harder than ever before. Adrenaline pumping, Keno, as quickly as he could, slumped the bag off his shoulders and bolted while screaming as loud as he could. “HELP! HELP ME!” He heard the footsteps of the men behind him inch slowly closer as the car revved and drove towards him. Keno heard one of the set of footsteps disappear for an instant before feeling a hand slap his foot into the other one, tripping him. One of the men and Keno slammed onto the pavement while the other two reached him. Keno fumbled for his blade but didn’t reach it in time- one of them had grabbed the back of his head and was repeatedly slamming it into the ground, cursing him with each blow. Keno’s face numb and bloody, the man finally stopped. He sat there dazed for a moment before one of them rolled him over, back on the pavement. He couldn’t make out much, but Keno saw four figures around him. He dimly heard a switchblade flick open and one of them saying, “This is for running, you dirty asino.” More blades flicked open as they bent down towards Keno, who laid there, still. They drew their arms back, then Keno felt several sharp stabs of pain in his stomach before blacking out for good. * * * Alvernia had not seen so much violence in one week. Not since the People’s War, anyway. Just five days ago, the death of a native Marenesian by Salvian nationalists ignited anger amongst the native community. In the north, where most of the native population was present, peaceful demonstrations garnered hundreds of thousands while newspapers and local news stations reported on the murder 24/7. The boy was honored as a hero, a martyr, a rallying call for any and all native Marenai who still inhabited the Salvian lands. The story ran quite differently in the south, especially in the overwhelmingly Salvian capital, Soncinia. The men were labelled as “drunken vagrants,” having nothing to do with the Salvian identity. Other, more extreme tabloids went on to discuss the identity of this Marenai boy, saying the event never happened, or that it was in fact the boy that had started the violence. The story spilled over into national politics: several members of the Body of Representatives took sides, while most refused to even acknowledge the rising tensions and conflict between native Marenai and Salvians. States of emergencies were declared across the country as the National Guard and Alvernian military were deployed to quell the revolts. Keno’s family was caught up in it all. Interviewer after interviewer requested for a conversation with the grieving family, while the mailbox spilled over with letters of compassion and support as well as death threats. How their address was leaked in the first place, none of them knew. Keno, according to the Catholic Marenai tradition that was frequently observed in northern Alvernia, was placed in an open casket during his funeral despite the gruesome outcome of the crime. The family was not allowed to speak, sleep, or eat- only pray- for 24 hours, while anyone invited mingled around and remembered the teen’s life. At the end of the 24 hours, at sunset, the priest sprinkled the casket and the congregation with holy water before burning the casket and after that the family could talk. But they didn’t. Only wept. * * * “Lunex,” The minister addressed the president while bowing. While the word might seem appropriate for a democracy to an outsider- the word translated most literally meant “leader” or something of the sort- in the Salvian context, it was closer to “king” or “grand leader” than a humble title. Just another of the many “reforms” Lunexus Marzeni had instituted since his first election in 2005. Of course, even if his second victory was legitimate, Alvernia’s two term limit would’ve guaranteed Marzeni leave in 2015, but he was able to convince the entire Body of Representatives to amend the Constitution to grant him four more terms. Yet it didn’t matter- every Salvian loved him anyways. His promises of creating a new and strong Alvernia that would dominate Marenesia and reuniting all Salvian people was pleasing to the ear of many Salvians, even those of the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum. The native Marenai be damned if they stood in the way of the great Lunex’s dream. The president let the minister stay in a bow for several seconds before gesturing with his hand. Marzeni began talking as soon as the minister stood while fixing himself a drink, “Good morning, piccliocho**. You wish to discuss with me about the Northern situation, do you not?” The minister, Bergio de Wohine, was Secretary of the Poka’i- Marzeni’s new police force he had established a few years back. They essentially replaced all local police departments with a national force that had pledged loyalty to Marzeni. “Yes, Lunex. The Poka’i have been combating the crisis for over two weeks now. I wanted to come to you personally with a request for extra aid. Perhaps calling in the military?” The pouring of whiskey and clinking of liquor stones stopped abruptly. De Wohine swallowed, Marzeni kept staring at his drink, half poured. A moment of tense silence seized the air before ending as soon as it had started with the Lunex chuckling and continuing fixing his drink. Taken aback, de Wohine began chuckling awkwardly. Marzeni’s glass completely filled, he kept chuckling before violently snapping at the man, “I did not ask for you to laugh!” De Wohine flinched then put his hand over his chest as Marzeni stood and walked towards the window that sat behind the Lunex’s “throne”. Marzeni breathed deeply before sipping his whiskey then walked over to a small table to his right and picked up a knick-knack, closely observing it. De Wohine was frozen the whole time. “Mi piccliocho. You are very, very unintelligent. You know very little about a true Salvian’s goal in life. Do you even know what it is?” He said this last sentence sharply, looking back at de Wohine while setting the object down. The minister just sat there, wishing he could be absorbed by the upholstered chair he sat in. Thankfully, Marzeni answered the question for him. “It is to unite Salvia, is it not? The asinos are nothing but specks of insignificant, unworthy dust in our path.” He took another sip. “To suggest our great military needs to be deployed in order to combat a couple million rebellious asinos is pure folly.” Beginning to smile and chuckle while speaking, Marzeni continued, “You see now, how funny your joke was?” Marzeni took another sip, shook his head slightly and continued to chuckle. Sighing, he walked behind the minister and put his hand on the man’s shoulder, gripping tightly. “Now, you’ll see that those asinos are dealt with, will you? That’d be excellent.” He patted the minister’s shoulders; the minister just nodded. “Good. Now get the F*CK out of my office!” De Wohine practically jumped out of his seat and quickly exited, rushing to his office. He was in his own office chair before he even began to think. His heart pounded against his chest as he poured himself some hard liquor, then drank it like a cup of water and poured another. He had to do something. The crisis was only worsening as the Marenai revolted, boycotting work and Salvian businesses. Marzeni would surely fire him-- or worse-- if he failed. But maybe this something would instead be against the “Lunex”. With that thought in mind, de Wohine picked up a pad and pen and began drafting a letter. _____________________________________________________________________________________ *Incredibly derogatory term for native Marenai used by (some) Salvians **Salvian word meaning “little friend,” as if talking to a child. In this context, used in a demeaning and patronizing way
To: Trade Minister Leo J. Conway of the @Sancti Imperii Catholico From: the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion of the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion To his Eminence Archbishop Salius, through Leo J. Conway, Trade Minister of the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum Your Eminence, Salvia and Ahromaneia come from the same stock, although we have drifted apart over the intervening years. Perhaps too far apart, as both the Salvian and Arhomaiki people still share much with each other. Both of our great nations hold Christ's teachings above all and, although perhaps it could be considered that there may be some variations in how these are espoused by our nations, it is the love of God that shines through. Not only do we share faith in Christ, but our two nations also have a common heritage – it was, after all, Arhomaneia where Liosous set sail from in order to spread the word of God to foreign shores. And truly he did, as Salvia has stood strong ever since. In an ideal world, these ties alone would be strong enough in the face of adversity. However, the current mood of Eurth appears to be a darkening one. Nations that tread the path of righteousness such as ours need to cooperate, in order to strengthen the ties between Christian nations, as well as to make sure that our ancient civilisation can weather any storm that does wash against us. A first step would be to consider our nations' economic ties. Easing trade between our nations will undoubtedly work towards strengthening both of our nations, as well as helping our citizens understand each other better. Even at the moment, our nations do undertake a considerable amount of trade with each other, but this could undoubtedly be improved, to the benefit of both of our people. For example, passion fruit from Salvia are regularly found on the shelves in supermarkets in the Megas Agios Basileia, and mobile phones manufactured in your nation are commonly used by Arhomaioi. Wine is often bought and drunk by the people in Deopolis or Minotia and textiles from Arhomaneia are sold in Salvia. The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion feels that our nations ought to consider easing the tariffs that are regularly levelled against the imports from foreign countries, as well as viewing any trade restrictions that might be put against the produce of our respective nations. It may also be considered by the Logothesion ton Kommerkiarionikou, the Ministry for Trade, that to show that the Megas Agios Basileia is willing to open our arms to our friends in Salvia that the fees charged on Salvian-flagged ships passing through the canal between the Raga Sea and the Krankes Thalassa, the Ranke Seas, will be reduced, in order to facilitate trade between our nations. This, however, be subject to the agreements that we are able to make, and what might be reciprocated by the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum. We will have much to discuss in any talks between myself, my government and representatives from your nation. Similarly, at a future date, it may be for the worth of our nations to look at visa restrictions between our nations. May God's light shine upon your nation and your people, Takitos Khalkeos, Megas Logothetes of the Logothesion ton Kommerkiarionikou of the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomaion