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10:04AM, Asgeirrian Time.

Regis Celestia, Asgeirr City, Asgeirria

 

Morning sunshine beaming through half-open curtains highlighted the silt drifting through the air, glimmering into visual harmony with the gloomy, rich environment John Valentino's room set. The burgundy curtains contrasted the golden rays of sunlight almost as perfectly as the Emperor's pale, delicate hands contrasted the rich, red-velvety-brown of the sherry and espresso in the wine glass they clasped. The old vintage books and aged wood that rose to the ceiling out only served to bring the room's aesthetic together even more, though it was doubtful the aged tomes served any other purpose. Strewn about were books of Asgeirrian Imperial law, whose contents were almost as dry as the pages upon which they were printed. The Emperor found the tastefully archaic drawing room quite pleasing, however musty some might find it, and spent most of his waking hours hidden away from the prying eyes of the public. On this particular morning, however, he was feeling restless, was much on his mind. As he finished penning a letter, his mind was elsewhere. Riots in the west, bombings in the east, wine before eleven o' clock; he was very troubled. 

He neatly folded the letter into an envelope, stood, and made his way out into the hallway, sherry et espresso in one hand, letter in the other. As he stepped out into the hall, an overly-familiar servant bumped into him, nearly spilling the Emperor's drink as he whisked by, barely taking notice of the slight as he hurried off, a tray of dirty dishes in his hands. John scowled, heaving his wine glass at the hapless servant, along with some equally harsh words, though there was a hint of mirth in his voice as he howled hair-curling insults at the lad. The two White Harts that guarded his door looked on in silence, too stoic to titter at the antics they witnessed. 

John made haste towards his secretaries office, where, upon arrival, he thrust upon the secretary the letter he had written. The secretary glanced at the address, and slipped it into a folder marked "Priority", before looking back up at the Emperor.

"Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?"

John frowned. "Yes, actually." He paused for the briefest of moments. "Take down a dispatch to Lysia for me."

The secretary heaved a sigh, getting ready to type, as the Emperor dictated.


To: François Autun

From: John Valentino

Regards,

Having recently come out of isolation, it is difficult to set one's standing without a background upon which to paint a reputation. I request a diplomatic meeting here in the capitol, that we might offer the basis upon which a lasting friendship can be built. Our lovely islands have much to offer; delicacies, luxuries, festivals, feasts, and the peach and cherry blossom forests are to die for! Should you accept my personal invitation, we look forward to offering you our warmest hospitality.

Sincerely,

Emperor John Valentino

Keeper of Man


@Fleur de Lys

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As always the tranquil sun, in this Winter, slowly arise in the sky, piercing the clouds with its wonderful brightness, ending the night, but this made well a few hours ago that the Lysians were active, the first daylights being only a pretext for the Président Autun to set a table on the cold terrasse in this period, taking a book and being served coffee.

The Présidence is more of a symbolic office then a real power-house, effectively only serving as advisors during the meetings of the Cabinet, helping to appoint the Cabinet, calling for Referendums and eventually represent the Republic abroad, this was it, much different from the Président du Conseil, which certainly had larger powers but was appointed by the Assemblée Nationale and limited by it. Such heavily Parliamentary system was the key to healthy democracy, at least in Lysian way.

As the Président Autun would enjoy his second cup of coffee, which he would serve himself, having asked to remain alone and be disturbed in only State’s matters, which were more and rarer when coming to the Présidence, a Maître d’Hôtel would move out of the Résidence, transporting as usual a plateau, most likely having on it a few papers, following him closely was a military officer, which wouldn’t go out, and instead just look through the windows in order to see what this would be. “Monsieur le Président, sorry to disturb you” started the Maître d’Hôtel as he arrived close to the Président Autun. “Please, do so” confirmed Autun, meaning he was ready to put aside for the moment his reading and cup of coffee. “A letter from the Republic of @Asgeirria” admitted the Maître d’Hôtel, putting to Autun’s size the little plateau the Maître d’Hôtel have been carrying, allowing Autun to discover an envelope, which he took. He would be the one to finally open it, as naturally, the Maître d’Hôtel had planned a paper knife in order to open this one at Autun’s wish. Autun would delicately put his book aside, as he was still seating on his garden-chair, take the paper knife, but before using it, observed a bit the status of the envelope, and finally opening it. He took knowledge of the message, making him think about the stance he would take. “Please take my coffee back in my office” asked the President Autun as he would stand up, taking with him the letter, putting back the paper knife on the plateau and instead of taking the book he had back.

After having made a visio-conférence in his office with the President du Conseil Mécra, which, the poor was too preoccupied with the recent reports and crisis ongoing in the Republic , particularly the one concerning the Deputée de la 44ème Circonscription, Monsieur Saint-Étienne, creating a scandal and an affair around it under the name “Affaire Saint-Étienne” or nicknamed by the press “Affaire Triste Sire”. Fortunately for him, as the President de la République, along being from the Parti Républicain, Autun would gladly take this opportunity to be oversea in order to not be splashed by this affair, which was truly questioning the honour of a Deputy and the 1st Political Party in the country. After digesting a bit the letter and his talk with Mécra, he would just take his fountain pen, a white paper, and start a response.

 


 

From : Monsieur le Président de la République François Autun
To : Emperor John Valentino of Asgeirria

Your Excellency,

On the behalf of the Republic, first allow me to support and confirm your decision of moving out of isolation after all this time, certainly there are many negative effects of the modern World and the modern geopolitics, with threats emerging from many places, new dangers which a nation cannot stand alone, and this certainly give credits to those willing to apply strict isolationism, but that would be missing the great opportunities of a connected World, putting our efforts together in greater things such as the ISTC which our Republic is delighted to be part of, or again like your Excellency quoted, allows us to know more about one another along exchanging our various ways, this is why, your Excellency, I fully wish to show you my sympathy for such decisive decision which is true, in the end, a hope for a brighter future.

The Asgeirrian have certainly a reputation, which I shall be delighted to confirm by accepting your generous invitation.

Looking forward to meeting your Excellency,

- Président du Conseil de la République

 


 

Our dear Monsieur Autun, as the Président had the pleasure to be granted one of the two Governmental Concorde for his function and office, something which he used more rarely then Monsieur Mécra, which in fact sometimes abused it, but who wouldn’t give his position? The flight towards Asgeirria would most likely be one of the latest given the age of this plane, which is to be replaced by the Concorde NGAM, the production of which, just started with the first delivery to the Sunset Sea Islands Government, making more economies then even the Concorde AR along an interior to be fully revisited. Autun certainly had souvenirs aboard this plane, not necessarily as the Président, but the just as simple diplomat or Deputy, having followed somebody in one of those machines, which never have lost their splendours. Autun would remember preparing his meetings and be reading files on their future hosts, this time, little information was collected because of Asgeirrian isolationism, in fact this meeting came more as a surprise than anything else, and in order to apply the proper forms, the Ministre des Affaires Extérieures et Commerciales François Richard would join the party, being the one managing the operations when coming to diplomatic affairs. After a meeting in Volga Nizhny  he was ready to see whatever was foolish or mad enough, he wouldn’t be surprised by anything, making him perfect to discover a nation which has been for long, isolationist. The two men would enjoy the flight to prepare the little they knew about Asgeirria, and modulate their stances.

As the majestic Concorde landed, the welcoming committee may be sawed by our passengers out of the porthole. Few dozen of seconds later, the Concorde would be perpendicular to the carpet waiting for them, and after opening the door and having the stairs deployed, would allow the Président Autun to move out first, closely followed by Monsieur Richard. “Thank you for welcoming us, and your graceful invitation” started Autun.

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The springtime sunsets in Asgeirria were phenomenally beautiful due to the unique weather patterns experienced by the island, and this evening was no exception; the clouds were fluffy and pinned by the sun, which shimmered enormously over the horizon, slowly slipping into the ruby-tinted ocean like a red hot iron simmering into a blacksmith's trough. The elevated runway was framed by azure skies, a stark contrast to the black tar runway.

The complex that housed Regis Celestia was built on the bones of a mountain, elevated far above the noise and bustle of the city, the tips of its tallest spires and flagpoles scraped the lowest-hanging clouds. Those unaccustomed to such a high elevation might have some difficulty breathing, but to the generally hardy and thick-skinned Asgeirrians, the thin, cold air was easily bearable. The height, however, did have the advantage of a view of the bright lights of the metropolis below, in all its neon glory. This, combined with the gilded buildings and uncharacteristically lavish Asgeirrian architecture on exhibit, made for an almost holy spectacle. There were pale cherry blossom trees lining the white marble walkways and stairs; the stones themselves gleamed the rosy reflection of the sunset, multiplying the already overwhelming aura of a forbidden treasure. 

The Emperor himself greeted them on the runway, escorted by four guards and a train of servants. He wore a simple blue suit with a black tie, and walked with an easy stride, uncompelled to hurry his pace for any sort of excitement.

"Thank you for coming on such short notice, my good friend." In his voice there was a hint of genuine delight, though he kept his composure quite well. "I apologize for my informal manner: there are no customs in Asgeirria for greeting a foreign President."

As he spoke, he fluidly stepped in, placing his hand on the side of the President's shoulder, and kissed both of his cheeks in a manner startlingly natural.

"You must educate me on the customs of your people over dinner, Seigneur." He said to Autun, before turning to Richard. "And who is your dashing compatriot?"

@Fleur de Lys

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My pleasure” just addressed Autun to the Emperor thanks for coming. Autun had to admit having limited abilities and power where he was in the Lysian organigram, because of his positions, but when he was to meet representatives, he felt himself freed from all the constrains and doubts about what he may do or not, he would just do it and see the consequences, he may have been elected for 7 years, and was looking forward for at least a second mandate, but his true heart remained for diplomacy, when he was Minister back then, or just Head of the Diplomatic Commission in the Assemblée Nationale, he had a certain ease and leisure in what he was doing, this is at least from then that his best souvenirs are from. “No one ever really knows” he appreciated with a smile, at the Emperor’s comment about how one shall greet a foreign President.

In Fleur de Lys, kissing both cheeks (la bise) between men was meaning you were close or from the same family, making this little gesture, owning deeply a certain singularity. “This is our Ministre des Affaires Extérieures et Commerciales, Foreign affairs to make it short” resumed Autun, knowing well that the numbers of abilities and work that were devolved to Monsieur Richard were on a larger scope, but as a way to introduce somebody, the shorter, the best it is surely. “Your Excellency” may finally address Richard as he was to bow and offer a handshake to the Emperor. Some fresh air was needed for the two men as those were moving out of Fleur de Lys with all this heavy atmosphere which ruled the Republic since a few days now, particularly after latest declarations in the Assembly by Richard right before leaving with Autun for @Asgeirria .

He shall be the operational hand” commented Autun in order to seal Richard’s introduction, “As for the customs” re-took Autun in order to conclude the introduction and talk about more important things, at least when coming to Lysian point of view, which in a word was resumed to “tablée”, “I would have hoped to learn yours before” he addressed, as he was to enjoy the marvelous azure skies with the sun contrasting it perfectly as it was falling in the meanders of the night. “However, I am certain we may find a middle ground” would add Autun, giving a little and discreet sign of the hand to one of the assistants which were making the liaison to the Concorde, still standing there, with the perfect white painting of the plane turning dark as the night was rising and the contrast created by the sun growing. The assistant would turn back in the plane, and unload a mysterious package out of the look of the hosts, as this package was to be illuminated by our story later on.

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The Emperor smiled and shook Richard's hand firmly, "I am humbled to meet a man of such authority! Perhaps you can share your knowledge with me over dinner."

The Emperor made a slight motion of his hand, prompting the train of servants to move to the gleaming aeroplane to assist in the unloading of baggage and directing the assistant to the suites prepared for the esteemed guests. The gesture was barely visible, blended into his movement to join Autun, chuckling politely at the President's bon mot.

"Of course. The first thing we should agree upon are the names. You may refer to me as John or Monsieur Valentino, whichever you prefer." His words were honeyed, with a barely tangible discomfort using fancy titles in reference to anyone, including himself. Years of being treated with the reverence of a sculpture on a pedestal had left a sour taste in his mouth for the fancy monickers attached to people of import, and the dry insincerity that came with them.

"And how should I refer to you, sir?"

As he talked, he subtly guided the President along a wide, well-decorated path towards Regis Celestia proper. The serpentine path made its way through lush gardens lined with lilacs and peach trees. There were a few winding paths leading to picnic pagodas, small unmarked buildings, and ponds, but the main attraction seemed to be a path leading to a cliff overlooking the city and the palace itself. 

@Fleur de Lys

Edited by Asgeirria
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Such warm and friendly welcome along talks, this was enough to make Richard suspicious towards the Emperor of @Asgeirria even if remaining, at least with his face, adapt to the context and have a normal behaviour.

Hahaha” laughed Autun as he was walking side by side with John, enjoying the irony of calling him Sir when coming to that matter. To be fair, Lysian Étiquette was rather strict, you have to address to the President as THE President, placing the article forward, as even if commonly used in French, the article was accentuated when you would address the President, just in the way of speaking, or otherwise you have would to address His Excellency. There is a bit of irony in every situation yes… “Well” for taking himself back on the way wondered François, “I suppose, François may be enough, John” Autun commented. In French you’d have the last barrier, with the difference between you and you, meaning if you translate it, tu and vous, a great singular barrier which kept professionalism safe, but in English this wasn’t a barrier at all, calling more easily for confusion or qui pro quo, something Autun knew well about and would have to navigate through. François Richard on the other hand, the Minister, was way more conservative than the other François, plus as both had the same name, was a step away from more confusion with his distinguish conservatism when coming to meetings.

The landscape, what, the spectacle was the opposite of a septentrional scenery, giving full blow to heavy air which kept all this vegetation alive, different from the fresh air you generally can breathe in Fleur de Lys, which, even if remained continental climate, always had this lighter weight on your shoulders as you would walk throughout the dark green gardens made of small flowers well kept. This, however, was a fully different context, it was certainly winter but you may well neglect to wear your vest and untie your tie, the day has been full of warm colours, making the peaceful evening enjoying a fresh air coming down but keeping the temperature of the day for a while at least.

I do hope your Republic is doing well, on this down path which democracy represents” noticed Autun as the two were to move throughout the gardens towards what seems to be a cliff. Autun knew too well the limitations of democracy, and how hard it was to follow everything, this asked a self-discipline, which if you ever broke, would turn against you naturally thanks to Laws, it remained, however, a tumultuous life, which would often have to lead to mourning of its political projects or necessary compromise.

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The guards that had accompanied them this far dispersed along various paths, allowing the trio much more privacy. They could be heard intermittently, their cloaks rustling the leaves along the much narrower paths that branched throughout the garden. The gardens were a place of safety, where even the bugs that entered the sophisticated sensor grid were monitored.

"As any good thing, it rots from within over time." His words were almost coldly dismissive of their gravity. "The corruption and decay tends to sprout quickly if the offenders are not weeded out." As they walked, the trees on either side of the path parted to reveal the sheer rock shelf that had been converted to an overlook. The palace's conservative crimson lighting was muted by the brilliant myriad of lights flooding up from the Downtown, with the neon lights being highlighted by the smoothly flowing traffic of the city's superb road design. There were hardly any corners or sharp edges in the city; all smooth lines and curves, complemented by the gently curving black seaside, dotted here and there with luminescent party boats and cruise ships. The scene painted was vivacious, youthful, giving the cliff the feeling of being an adult looking down at children playing.

"It is a different sort of freedom we have here on this peaceful island," He said, sitting on a large bench overlooking the view, "It's freedom for the people. Freedom from worrying about what their leaders are doing. Freedom from the cares and worries of lesser nations."

A two guard approached, one with a very large tray, the second holding the first's weapon slung over his shoulder. The tray had two small pots, presumably coffee and tea, a small dish with black cubes, a cream, sugar, and honey dish, as well as three small cups, an assortment of cookies, crackers, biscuits, and spreads.

"May I offer you some refreshment, gentlemen?" John said, "Dinner might be a while."

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This looked like one of those romantic paintings, from those artists which were unforgettable and would forever fascinate their environment. Much care was put in the place Autun and Richard were advancing in, forgetting all their issues back home, where a war was currently going on, as Autun would largely focus over his question to know his host’s position and the context of the nation he was in. He would have to admit that John’s answer was poor and totally free to interpretation, but Autun was used enough of those contexts to pull a lesson from that, which would make grow a though in Autun’s mind about how particularly do they deal with corruption, honour, respect for laws, he would look forward to getting more answers but knew he would need to be patient and let the journey driving him where he was needed.

Richard was shocked by the term of “lesser nations” used by Monsieur Valentino, as he was following closely the two, and Autun would see such thing as he would take a discreet look backwards in order to see if Richard was catching up. Autun would make, following this, a discreet regard at Richard, along with a sign with his hand of slowing down his speed, letting some privacy install itself between John and François in order to pursue their walk while talking further about John’s means. Richard would focus his attention to the horizon, giving a view from above of a sea, with the numerous boats and cruise ships leaving or arriving at the harbour, as there were many accosted, trying to have his hears listen as little as possible of the talks, or at least, listening to it, but making himself small in the talks.

John’s definition of Asgeirrian freedom was to intrigue Autun, “You mean that you have referendums defining the evolutions of laws instead of leaders?” he wondered, lack of intelligence of @Asgeirria not helping in this situation certainly. Or was the meaning quite the opposite in fact? That citizens of Asgeirria didn’t really have their word to say in the political context and future of their nation, in all cases, Autun would have to remain impartial and certainly not a partisan of at-all-cost freedom of expression and political movements.

As the three arrived in front of two guards, coming with a tray, this would make Richard remember himself his experience with Volga Nizhny which have been quite disturbing when coming to weapons, but with that, he was cured for life. And when coming to Autun, he had the experience, having served as every proper Lysian in the military, and having been deployed in hot spot as a diplomat. “With pleasure” addressed Autun to the refreshment offer, “Coffee for the Presidency” commented Autun with a touch of humour, “And it shall be coffee for the Ministry of External and Commercial Affairs, merci” added Richard with a smile as he would jump back with the two men, “I know, Lysians have long names. Which is why we prefer the use of initials” ironised Richard with a smile as he would take a cookie, bite a little part in order to taste and pursue his degustation. Autun was more than delighted to see what would the coffee taste here in Asgeirria, being himself a great amateur, and naturally, a consumer.

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The coffee was poured rich, rushing in a deep brown stream. The soft, warm aroma of hazel wafted from the small cup, an Asgeirrian delicacy. There were many delicacies here, especially with the normalization of most drugs. Of course, some were still frowned upon, such as tobacco, opioids, and to a lesser extent, alcohol. Psychoactives were commonplace, even in the military. There had even been developed a certain cocktail for pilots and infantrymen alike, using methamphetamines and ritalin to improve reflexes and concentration. Long before that, certain warrior sects had used naturally-occurring psychoactive drugs to achieve a berserk state, though this practice had largely died out by the 21st century.

As more and more tourists began visiting the liberated culture of Asgeirria, the more this sort of information got out to the rest of the world. Some countries might have in place travel bans based on the frequency of drug use, the propensity for violent sports, and crowd participation of the same. However, Asgeirrians were generally hospitable and well-meaning people, with very few exceptions.

"Cream and sugar?" The guard said, slightly lifting the porcelain top of one of the small saucers, revealing sparkling sugar.

The Emperor daintily poured some red wine into a glass, followed by coffee, and what looked to be large, bluish sugar granules, mixing it with a simple bronze spoon, chuckling quietly at the Lysian humor.

"No, François. There are no referendums here in Asgeirria." He began on what sounded like it was going to be a long-winded rant, sipping his drink. "There are decisions by competent authorities based on facts and situations. The decision has two outcomes: resolving the issue, or routing it up to a more competent authority. Those in power have a much greater responsibility than private citizens, and those who violate the trust of the people and their superiors are executed, as it should be. For thousands of years, this tradition has kept the people free from worry whether or not their interests are in the hearts of the leaders."

As John sipped his beverage, his pupils dilated noticeably. He took a cookie from the tray and munched on it pensively, before turning to François expectantly, awaiting some comment.

 

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Autun would comment “Is milk possible? Thanks” he would demand. As the two Lysians would be served coffee, they would see Monsieur Valentino… Experiment? No? Is such thing even possible? As the two Lysians would have in their moved their intention from the tray back to Monsieur Valentino, they would fix him with their eyes as he was making his mixture, being paralysed for a few seconds by looking him putting wine, coffee and what seems to be sugar, and mixing it in a glass. This lets the Lysians without a word, being pulled out of the context as they would see such infamy just done right in front of their eyes, Richard would quickly come back on Earth, but Autun was now away with his thoughts and love to believe that this wine was just vinegar… It surely must be. But we would also become sick just of imaging the taste this may have, making him nauseate and putting aside his cup of coffee from his mouth, but smelling it before in hope they haven’t put anything particularly like Valentino just did. But the smell of the coffee sounded right, which would permit Autun to sip a bite, as it would put him back on track after this passing nauseate. “Oh” let escape from his mouth Richard as he was hearing Valentino comment on executing people… A certainly uncivilised practice which was only pursued in retarded nations, without any judgement naturally. Autun might well see that this coffee-wine mixture had something else in it, as Valentino’s pupils dilated massively, something which, Autun would have to admit, made him question the reliability of such man when coming to drugs, a healthy lifestyle is preferable, at least from Lysian perspective, then a stressed under drug usage lifestyle. “And John, how are those authorities defined? And appointed by whom?” question with perfect curiosity Autun, without any judgement or acclamation, he was curious where the Republic word would appear in this, or if it was only a technocracy in the end.

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Noticing the apparent nausea of his guests, he quickly finished his sip and explained. "It is a traditional Asgeirrian drink. The smooth and rich with complex layers of earth, bittersweet chocolate and hints of dark fruit flavor contrast well with a very deep wine, such as this Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of rich black fruit and cranberry." He gestured to the small bottle.  "We take it with some crystallized Tupelo honey granulated with trace amounts of mescaline to open up our palates to fully enjoy this unique combination of flavors and aromas."

He lightly stirred his drink, taking a sip before answering the question, with a much more gentle manner than before.

"Our system is very unique. Before I die or succumb to dementia, the Legates confer among themselves about who the best possible candidate is. Typically Emperors don't step down or die until they are quite old, some well into their 90s, so there is plenty of time to groom the next possible candidates. Typically, they are given the proper education and upbringing to make educated, compassionate decisions for the people. Obviously I have some say on who I think is promising, but when it comes down to when the decision is to be made, I will either be dead or crazy."

John turned to admire the sights of the city below, gently sipping his mixture.

"I understand that outsiders might be put off by our harsh customs regarding corruption. I do not understand this, as in my studies I have seen that many nations imprison people! Imagine, not rehabilitating someone, but putting them into conditions of slavery for things as trivial as drinking substance before you are a certain age! Just the other day, I was reading about Serbia's treatment of people with the wrong color of skin. My people are a gentle folk, they do not understand such unthinking prejudice based on something outside the realm of reason. Equally, they are not used to the idea of those with more power than them not using that power responsibly, and for the good of those folk, we must treat such evil harshly, without remorse. From this comes a taboo against the mistreatment of those under you, which serves to breed a culture of even-handedness."

The Emperor looked back, his pupils already returning to their normal dilation.

"I apologize, my pride for my people has me rambling." He smiled, catching himself monologuing. "As far Legates, myself and the other Legates confer together and choose who will be selected as well. And for those below, the process goes down. Of course, I have the authority to appoint anyone to any position I see fit, but it is very rarely done. It is much better to have more perspectives on a person's worth than your own."

"How are things done in Lysia, François?" John said, sipping his drink.

@Fleur de Lys

Edited by Asgeirria
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There were far too many ingredients which are natural opponents in a cuisine, to interest our dear Lysians, in addition to the mixed smelling, this was a hard task to not have his nose being confused and distancing himself from such putrid liquid. But well, as diplomacy demand, the two would have to pretend having no troubles, something easy for Richard which was the most far away from the situation, as he wasn’t the one currently engaging the talk, but harder for our dear Autun which had to fight each second, as he hoped Monsieur Valentino to finish his cup quickly, and open his mouth as little as possible. An unstoppable strategy to such offense was to be developed, and the counter-weapon might certainly be that cup of coffee Autun was waving around, and which he proved well to his tongue to be healthy -if we may say that coffee is healthy- coffee, putting it right under his nose, ready to sip it at any time, but enjoying more its elegant and subtile smell which emanated from it, as Autun would put both his hands on the cup, trying to preserve its temperature for as long as he could, even if this harmed a bit his hands, he would still enjoy it very much while the temperature around was more than satisfying, but what Autun would do in order to no longer smell the drink was far beyond imagination.

@Asgeirria had effectively some strange manners, being in a way an Empire with an Elected Monarch, “Death penalty and physical acts of violence are effectively sawed as fully harsh” ironies Autun as he listened to his host, “Indeed” he would add, even if maybe not agreeing on the mean John was talking about.

When Valentino asked about Lysian System, Autun would try to make as brief as possible, “A Symbolic authority with few powers, elected each 8 years by the people, the Président, me” he would start, having a satiric way to say “me” as it seems to amuse him. “Then 50 Députés, elected directly by the people, it’s the Assemblée Nationale, 5 years mandates, appoint and dismiss then the Président du Conseil, which himself appoints with the Président the Conseil, basically the Ministers. All motions go through the Assemblée Nationale, except very important ones which are subject to a referendum then. And finally we have the Directoire, which serves as archives basically, and is the one defining the line in case of disputes in the Assemblée National between the Président and the Président du Conseil” tried to make as simple as possible Autun, resuming rather well how it worked, “And humble servants playing in this castle” would add on Richard, in order to conclude the explanation, meaning that basically anybody willing, may arrive to any position, if elected naturally.

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Asgeirrians were a hardy bunch, due to millennia of allopatric speciation, protein-rich diets, and several near-genocidal population bottlenecks. However, they were still a sensitive and perceptive people, largely in part to a state of unparalleled honesty. Faces, eyes, expressions, and body language didn't lie, and the Emperor could tell when someone was uncomfortable, nausea being readily identifiable. He looked down at his cup, and quickly put his drink back on the platter, taking a small, cylindrical glass of Crème de Menthe to suppress the odor of his breath which he presumed, from the wrinkled noses and deep whiffs of coffee, to be the problem. His face soured at the stark contrast of flavors, but he was not one to put out his guests.

"I apologize, friend. Don't be reticent if something bothers you," he spoke reassuringly, "you will find ours is a culture of the audacious."

"But, we speak of your government. With such numbers and complexity, how are things handled in a timely manner? Has there ever been a system of more authority? At what level are issues handled? I have such questions!"

Valentino was intrigued by the concepts of such an unusual system, though he was put off by the pusillanimous behavior of the Lysians. He thoughts, perhaps, the Presidente suffered from some disease that caused him to react in such a way to something as trivial as coffee and wine. If all Lysians had such a weak stomach for dainty drinks, he mused, how would they react to the carnage of war? He also noted Autun's insistence that he had no power, and wondered if such self-depreciation was a façade for great power. Or perhaps Richard was the true power, as he had a presence that could only be described as reserved, yet powerful and masculine. Maybe there was a relationship? He had many questions, which he felt would be answered by the end of the visit. For now, he was content at nibbling, due to the niceties that seemed to be common courtesy for his guests.

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It’s nothing” would say Autun, as he was trying to ignore the smell and looking like perfectly fine. Richard on the other hand, would easily adapt and get to slightly turn his body to the fresh air coming from the vast expanse, which was placed right in front of him, as they were up compared to the city, lower down them. The garden, along the flowers more extraordinarily, but strangely or shall we, magically, the trees would counter to Richard’s nose the heavy smell of this weird Asgeirrian product, making him advance a bit more towards the garden, as he was to observe bit more the way this has been though, certainly not preventing to letting an ear listening to the talk Autun would run with Monsieur Valentino. “The audacious certainly” would comment Richard, as he was turning his back on the two men, pursuing his observation of the garden. He would slightly turn, in order to give a view of the profile, “And opportunist?” he questioned, adding on Monsieur Valentino’s comment. “Not to be ashamed” he added, as he started moving back towards the table and the two Presidents. “Nations surviving throughout the ages are, or godly placed on an island, or know how to effectively exploit each opportunity” he commented with a smile, putting Autun a bit on the side, and in a little embarrassment.

Concerning our Government” retook Autun, giving a severe and playful look to Richard, “All are decided by each Ministre, concerning the operations. If those are concerning laws or simply the code shall we say, it is the Assemblée Nationale. And in case of crisis, we may appoint for a mandate of 5 months, a Dictateur. Not in the regular sense, but more in the optic of the Eternal Empire of Hémus if you know central Europan History and it appeals to you” he addressed, further clarifying the way of working of the Republic. “And naturally me, as symbolic, advisory and ceremonial head” he enjoyed, letting appear a smile on his face, as this was the nail of his career, a long-standing political career, ensuring him now the honours and the remembrance in History. “In other words, you’re making figurations on pictures” spoofed Richard, knowing now over the years well Autun, and allowing between themselves such exchanges. “But I hold sword case” replied Autun, having not taken too well Richard's little joke, starting to be exasperated by the situation.

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"Five months only?" The emperor questioned, leaning forward in interest. "And is it renewed as the crisis continues?"

Emperor Valentino was keen on learning all about Lysian culture and government, he made it a point to know firsthand who and what he was dealing with, especially when it cames to nations with prodigious arms manufacturing businesses. Some in Asgeirria, certainly in ValenCorp, saw the Lysian aerospace industry as a rival in terms of quality, though it was widely accepted by Asgeirrian industrialists that the lack of domestic labor would limit them from competing on the international marketplace.

"And how ready are your military and emergency forces for a crisis?"

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This amused Richard, as Valentino seems surprised about the 5 months mandate. “Well, or the crisis is ended, or another election is brought on the table” commented simply Richard, “Last time a Dictateur been appointed was in 1945” he added, “This remains very exceptional. Even if some are questioning following the great crisis we’re knowing home, about the necessity of such position, to be held” he pursued, as he saw this created most likely more confusion for their host, “And many Dictateur resigned before their terms ended, just following the necessity”. “With time, the vocabulary and its mean have changed, which is why our association with that title is much different then the rest of the World have” commented Autun, hoping to give more clarity on the matter, as for example the Dictateur couldn’t still surpass the Assemblée Nationale in terms of power, just exceptional operational powers and laws enforced during the mandate but none which may amend or modify the Lysian Constitution.

Military forces?” exclaimed Richard, surprised about the question, “I think our host is asking about our defense protocols” clarified Autun. “It’s classified” laughed Richard, “Tarente would know much more details then you actually, as MAMS” commented Autun, basically quoting the Minister of Defense. “Indeed, however what I may say to you, remaining of public knowledge” would finally start Richard after Autun’s addentum, “You know our very dear geographical position, making us easily weak, as most of our country is based on the plains along a few rivers. Most of our security resides in our Force de l’Air, having in permanence 10% of its effectives in the air, and 25% ready to fly at any moment. Pourcentages being much higher in case of crisis, and as for our overall military, it is holding much of its defense in our mountains, which represent a tiny pourcentage of our population and land, but is however well defended. And finally, to add the strawberry on the top of our dear defensive cake, all male and female make 1 month of military service each 5 years, and can be called at any time, in addition of their 1 year of military service from the age of 19 to 20” he clarified, giving the 7 millions population of the Republic a higher pourcentage of active combat personal in need, something which have been installed since 1945 because of the lack of Lysian natural defense possibilities. “What about yours? I suppose your superiority resides in the possibility of controlling the seas and oceans?” turned to Valentino Autun, after Richard’s speech.

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"Our position is quite the opposite of yours. Our philosophy is that as long as we have control of the population and industrial centers, we cannot be defeated." The Emperor responded frankly, "Our navy is designed to destroy or sufficiently weaken the enemy's high seas capability to prevent a landing. From there, we have hardened coastal defenses surrounding the island; preparations for an invasion that never came. There are layers of anti-aircraft defenses ranging from anti-aircraft guns to silo-based missiles. If you have visited an Asgeirrian city, you will see the sturdy construction of the tallest buildings. We buy the top few floors and fill it with air defenses. Once all of our planes are shot down, the enemy must wade through an entire island full of defenses from 2000 years of war. 2000 years of wasted lives and resources, imagine!"

He paused, chewing on a chewy chocolate chip cookie.

"But, I am curious. With your air force constantly sucking fuel and costing you money, how do you stay out of debt? Where do you get such fuel? And what is your plan once your forces retreat into the mountains, abandoning the population centers? Surely you do not rely on the intervention of foreign powers?"

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« As your Excellency said, we have different approaches, slightly opposites » commented Richard, as he couldn’t and certainly wouldn’t prevent himself from taking a cookie which was on the table, a similar to the one which Valentino just took. « We do not have the permanent fear of war, and decide to redirect most of our resources towards more important matters » he added, as he bit the cookie. « Preventing civilian casualties » added Autun, as he came out of his silence, even if all citizens had to make regular military service and to be called to defend the Republic in difficult times, they may not reach the Army in case of a thunder attack, plus children were to be fully protected. « Plus it might not be very peaceful to see permanent guns on the roof of your building » he added, seeing those described defenses as useless by modern standards, even more, if they rely on fortifications which have more then 50 years old. This was seen as an overreaction on Richard’s part, giving no real advantages but other to ensure that civilians were to be killed in a potential operation.

« We don’t » would start replying Autun, as Valentino asked many questions at a time. « A deficit planned at 1,60% for the 2017 Gregorian Year I do believe? » asked Autun, waiting to get confirmed by Richard as Member of the Government, even if he perfectly knew his statement was right. « Indeed » would add Richard to make what Autun awaited from him. « As for fuel, it comes mainly from southern countries, such as Sahara » he would clarify, not wishing to mention potential oil they may have found in Mauvin, which was a neighbouring country, or potential one in the sea, South of Cristina, but those weren’t confirmed.

« We wish to prevent any civilian casualties, plus any healthy mind would tell you that you cannot stand those days a fortification in such flat terrain, knowing that most of our territory is actually plains. Defenses are built to keep rivers and mountains totally protected, and ensure as you have seen, a total independence of the Lysian Government, having nobody to count on, at least for now » clarified Richard, as effectively Fleur de Lys was member of the EOS, but only as an observer, far from being a Member, and the ISTC was only an Initiative, built to promote environment and overall Scientific Research. « But so your Excellency, what is the future of your defense, which you estimate to fully care of? » asked Richard, curious about the supplier of the Asgeirrian military.

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"Civilian casualties are a fact of war, one of the terrible consistencies. Should a war reach our shores, it means that our aerial forces have been destroyed." The emperor said matter-of-factly. "When an enemy has shot down our last fighter, they will find no peace in our skies. The objective is to make the enemy feel like it's better to negotiate peace than to fight for every city block with little to no air support."

He paused to finish his cookie, and take a sip of milk, before a segwey into answering the President's next question.

"We are a fully self-sufficient nation, in the military aspect, though many of our aircraft are reaching the age where they need to be supplemented by new aircraft." The Emperor stated simply, "Though they excel in dogfighting, there are certain capabilities that are too expensive to implement to justify putting in older aircraft."

John Valentino could be shrewd, almost calculated, but at his core he was an honest person, something some considered a failing. However, his reputation had not yet left Asgeirria, though he was one of the few people who had travelled outside the nation in the decades before the borders opened.

"We had hoped to find a suitable aircraft outside our own borders to alleviate our already overworked production lines, but without finding a 3rd party whose interests might conflict with ours, we have few options."

 

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« Before being a war of weapons, I believe today’s war are more about intelligence, informations, and resources » commented Richard as he lift his cup, as he just got himself re-served that most excellent coffee or whatever it was, which Autun seems to have hard time digesting, at Richard’s discreet smile as he just observed that. « You seems pretty sure and ready about a potential invasion » just added Autun, which had the idea of a war, thousands of kilometres away from his priorities. It is true after all, that Mantella had a certain aggressiveness towards Cristina, but after all, it is just History, but now, in the region, no war was to be ever expected, the economy of all sides would suffer far too much from it.

Immediately, as Valentino advanced idea of another party to second Asgeirrian weapon supply, when coming to fighters, Richard basic sense of business, which he had a hard time to actualise compared to the Anglo-Saxons, because of the deep Lysian culture he had, would still awake him. « Well, this clearly can be arranged. I would add, that the production aren’t much of the issue, if you have the trained personnel for such, but more the provision of the diverse resources and equipments such as missiles it needs » stated Richard, as he knew well too much how resources were becoming key in this World, particularly with Rare Materials. « After, it depends naturally what your nation needs… I know Breguet Aviation have developed both the Mirage and the Rafale to be perfect multiroles, with various compositions and variants of the aircraft, but all of this in order to maintain low maintenances costs, the same as spare parts. With the exception naturally being the Éclair, which remains greater in terms of size and power, and is more oriented towards air superiority », as he would give a quick overview of the 3 currently active fighters in the Lysian military, even if a 5th generation fighter was on its way… However, even if rumours were started, the publication of the project would come in time.

Lysians were rather direct on that kind of issue, not being good at trying to manipulate or play with the potential buyer, but it had the merit of having a short and rapid answer generally. However if sales there was, Richard may surely unsheathe one of the Champagne bottle that remained in their plane, and if there wasn’t, well, it was always the occasion to establish cordial relations with Asgeirria. « Or one of the other possibility, is to create artificial islands around the main ones, and dispose of strong anti-air batteries and fire-power. I saw it be done somewhere » added Richard as he took a cookie, just putting aside his idea of a sale, but more being interested to know the concrete needs of the Asgeirrian, as after all, wouldn’t be worst it to sell planes to a nation that wouldn’t have this as their main priority, without making interference naturally.

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