Miranda Hamilton took a slow sip of the pale green tea as she surveyed the surrounding four individuals seated around her in the waiting room. Even now, her mind wanted to pull her forward toward the careful arrangement of politics that was coming. But the delicate touch of mint on her tongue was poignant enough to pull her attention away from her constant calculations and just regard the tea in the small burnt orange cup with obvious relish. Despite Zone 1’s rather uninspired lodging accommodations, at least they provided high-quality refreshment.
She took another sip and savored the flavor. Then she breathed deeply, flooding her sinuses with the refreshing scent of mint. It sent tingles through her sinuses in a way that meant that this tea wasn’t something originally grown on Earth. It was something far more powerful. Powerful enough to be memorable despite the high Endurance of individuals under the influence of the System.
It was a welcome break to feel almost human.
Only after allowing herself a brief respite from her true situation did Miranda open her eyes and raise her chin. And in that moment, she was Mrs. Hamilton once more.
“Why are they making us wait?” Ed grumbled, idly rubbing his elaborately oiled mustache as he scowled at the door. “Why don’t we just start with who all is already here? Maybe that way this fucked up ‘World Summit’ won’t just be a pile of bullshit.”
A small portion of the world powers meeting early is exactly what the hosts are trying to avoid,
Mrs. Hamilton thought with amusement. But she didn’t disagree with the sentiment.
Mrs. Hamilton and Ed were seated in an elaborate tea room with the two representatives from Zone Eleven while they waited for the rest of the representatives to gather. They had been shepherded here very quickly, and likely the only reason that they had been put in the same room was the fact they arrived together.
On her way here, however, she hadn’t been idle. Mrs. Hamilton’s subtly spread mental threads covered almost the entirety of the garishly opulent hotel that housed this first-ever World Summit. So she could sense that the disparate government representatives were slowly converging on their location. Their wait would not be a long one.
Warlord, the leader of the strongest Village in his Zone and representative of Zone Eleven, rubbed his own beard. He glanced sideways at Mrs. Hamilton. “Certainly, waiting so long doesn’t reflect well on the organizer. But I think we can all admit that this can’t be an easy endeavor; gathering this group of divas has taken over a month.”
“I’m simply quite busy,” Mrs. Hamilton said with a wry smile. Warlord snorted.
Ed, seeing Warlord rubbing his own rugged beard, snorted dismissively to mock the man and fluffed his own mustache so it appeared almost double its original size. Meanwhile, Warlord’s swordswoman companion Melanie sighed mournfully and stared blankly at the wall.
Mrs. Hamilton and Warlord shared a short smile; it seemed that both had chosen the second representative from their respective Zones for the same reason rather blunt reason. Sometimes, it was safer to let short-tempered people draw the ire so the two of them could make more deft preparations in the background.
“It won’t be long now,” Mrs. Hamilton said shortly. Then her expression turned more serious as she received a message from the Donnyton expedition that had been sent to help with the monsters that were streaming out of the Epic Dungeon. After reading the message several times, she quickly sent a reply.
Are you sure?
Sam’s reply was so quick that Mrs. Hamilton knew that he must have begun sending it before she even sent her own reply.
Alana still isn’t replying, but all air raids from the Dragons around Mount Olympus have ceased. We’ve sent a party to the summit and they found Dragon’s blood and several corpses. Not so many as there should be if there was a flat out fight… but it seems like at least one of the Three Disasters has been dealt with.
Mrs. Hamilton looked up. Based upon Warlord’s face, he had received a similar message.
“This frees up our hand a lot,” Warlord couldn’t prevent a wide grin from spreading across his face. “As long as we show the capability to take out one of the problems, we don’t come as beggars to the table.”
Melanie yawned and sat up. “Did something happen…?”
“Heh, some people possess leonine countenances whose facial hair requires more than a single hand, sir. Jealousy is quite unbecoming.” Ed continued to furiously stroke his mustache.
Blinking, Melanie’s focus shifted to Ed. Her lip curled up in disgust. “What…? Is there something wrong with you?”
“But ‘dealing with’ doesn’t necessarily mean dead,” Mrs. Hamilton said lightly. Yet she couldn’t forget the image that Mrs. Hamilton had briefly glimpsed while she had been looking at Alana’s back. Despite the horrible violence radiating out of the arena, that woman had moved to face Randidly in the challenge. Wings releasing blinding golden light spread wide and protected all of Donnyton from the monster that descended to teach them a lesson. Even if Alana had ultimately failed to rival Randidly in combat, that didn’t diminish the trust Mrs. Hamilton had in her.
That would was the surest of all of Donnyton’s elites that stepped forward to fight against the System. If Alana moved, Mrs. Hamilton didn’t doubt that the Dragon Broodmother would no longer be a problem.
“Have you not eyes?” Ed snapped at Melanie. For the first time in a while, his hand dropped from his mustache as he elaborated flourished. “Does it
like there is anything wrong with this, the gentleman’s pride?”
Even as Ed and Melanie were glaring at each other, the door to their tea room opened and a soldier of Zone 1 entered with a bow. “Sirs and Madams, if you would follow me, the Summit is about to begin.”
Mrs. Hamilton thought as she hid a smile behind her hand. Then she stood and graciously accepted Warlord’s extended arm as he moved toward the door. Some part of Mrs. Hamilton thought it was a touch forward of him to offer her an arm, but she didn’t hate that side of Warlord. Besides that, with some of Donnyton’s elites accompanying the Zone Eleven forces to alleviate the problem of the Epic Dungeon, the relationship between the two Zones had become quite close.
There was no harm in implicitly saying that with some human touch.
As they walked into a hallway lined with heavy crimson carpet, Mrs. Hamilton spared Warlord a glance. Arm in arm, their faces were actually quite close to each other. When she spoke, her voice was pitched low. “Have the promised forces from the Orders arrived yet?”
Warlord gave Mrs. Hamilton an amused glance. As he turned to regard her, their faces were even closer to each other as he replied in the same low tone. “You also have forces stationed at the same fireline before the monster horde. Why bother to ask me? I bet you’ve already heard the litany of excuses they’ve fed us about the skirmishes around the Ogre Gorge.”
Mrs. Hamilton chuckled. “I had honestly hoped the Orders were more forthright in private. But I can assure you that while they might be excessively whiny, their concerns aren’t unjustified. The Ogre Gorge is a problem, even considering the fact that a sizable contingent of orcs continue to sneak through the portal and defect to the so-called ‘Ogre Holy Land’ that we have growing to the East of your Zone. Isn’t their presence why you’ve been able to focus all of your forces along the Mount Olympus mountain range and stop the flood of monsters? You should understand how strong they are.”
Sighing, Warlord shrugged. The warm skin of his arm rubbed against Mrs. Hamilton’s relatively cooler skin. “Maybe so, fine, fine. I just don’t get why it suddenly became a problem now that we are finally making progress on the monster flood.”
Suddenly, some of Mrs. Hamilton’s good cheer faded. She could only shake her head and turn her gaze forward. “…it is because the personal Order of Randidly Ghosthound used to be responsible for the suppression of the Ogre Gorge. And nobody took over for the first few weeks after they left, allowing several ogres to discover the portal to Earth. Now that the Order Ducis isn’t there to beat the ogres back…”
Before Warlord could reply, the soldier leading the foursome stopped and pointed to a pair of mahogany double doors. Without waiting for any more invitation, the representative of Zone 32 and Zone 11 stepped through and arrived at the World Summit.
The interior of the room was dominated by a long, round stone table with an empty space in the middle so that all the people who sat at the table could see each other. The diameter of the table was perhaps twenty meters, but with the advent of the System, growing Perception meant that this sort of distance wouldn’t cause any interference with having a normal conversation.
Aside from the heavy stone table, the only two other features of the room were the high stone pillars and the spinning mobius of flowing water that functioned as a chandelier in the room. Mrs. Hamilton’s eyes narrowed as she considered the mobius above them. It appeared to be composed of hundreds of thin bands of transparent water that orbited around a dimly glowing light source in the center.
No matter how Mrs. Hamilton looked at it, she couldn’t figure out what was keeping the thing airborne. While she studied it, it fluidly continued to softly flow in an endless circle, the bands of water floating a certain distance from the light source and creating the illusion of some sort of sphere floating above their heads.
“So cool,” Warlord whispered.
Mrs. Hamilton nodded idly. Not that she hadn’t expected Zone 1’s technological advancement to continue, but even she was baffled by what this object above them was. Without using her mental threads to examine it more closely, they would need to continue with the World Summit talks with this strange thing hanging above them. Which was a bit-
“It’s like King Arthur’s round table,” Warlord continued.
Blinking, Mrs. Hamilton looked at Warlord and found a rather goofy grin on his face as he beamed at the heavy stone table in that dominated the room. Then she could only roll her eyes.
Sometimes, its easy to forget that all of the people from Zone Eleven are a bit…
Several figures were already present as the representatives from Zones 32 and 11 approached. And just as Mrs. Hamilton was going to open her mouth to speak, the door to the room opened once more and a rather short and ugly man walked into the room behind Ed and Melanie.
“If there is nothing else, let’s get to this,” The newly arrived Phirun, ruler of the largest Zone and untouchable King in his floating city Ifrenne, said. He scratched his belly as he walked forward toward the table. “I am a very busy man.”