The Desired Outcome
After the Blind Goddess statue is created, Haru and Elly take an aside on matters of how this war could come to an end. Pulling on events of the Old World and New, there is a lot of policy to discuss now that a treatise is not a distant possibility but a closer one.
"The end finally looks to be within view," the Artificer says, not mincing words as he is woefully out of snacks and drinks in this forward camp. "And all I can think about is 'We have much more ground to cover to be prepared for it'."
Elly considers Haru for a moment, but does not comment on his current state. He does not need anyone to inform him that he is tired. What she will do is take out a few last things that Tae sent with her. She has been saving them for a rainy day. Emergency rations, but very tasty ones.
"May I sit?" She will do so, once he assents. And then she will share some treats Tae gave her. They are sweet beans with rice, wrapped neatly in nori. It is no match for melonpan, perhaps, but it is far more filling.
"I think we finally have a way forward. A hope for that end. I will not pretend to be a great military leader, but I was a student of wars and what worked and did not. I am a qualified armchair general, I suppose. Sadly, that likely makes me the most qualified in my alliance. I believe we are seeking an unconditional surrender from the enemy as our starting point. What are your thoughts?"
A hand motions out, "First term is that of free will. Clause of, the Crowns will need to be disposed of." His blue eye opens, "This is similar to when a small startup is purchased just for its intellectual property. It wasn't the people, the buildings, or even the money. It was material. When we consider terms of where negotiations 'end', it is as many terms as possible." He looks squarely at Elly, a young man who doesn't flinch in the face of decisions of the masses, "We may very well have to open 'Unconditional Surrender' and then use those to establish said policies. Failing that, if we lose ground in negotiations it still applies to the favorable terms."
A hand runs against his head, "Appologies, Elly. The less sleep I have, the more I sound like I am talking 'at' people instead of 'with' them. Im sure this method of statecraft is clear to you. What I mean to say is we should lay out what is equitable. I'd hate terms here to cause friction back in Yamato. Such is the burden of dealing with foreign policy."
"It is true to say that all surrenders are conditional. And also that they are an acknowledgement of the unconditional nature of extended fighting." She listens quietly for the rest. The baroness it focused, but her mind is sorting through quite a lot as she imagines for the first time how this might end.
"There is no need to apologize. It occurred to me that until now, I had not really given thought to what conclusion of this war would look like. I will set that aside for now, though."
She settles herself by eating Tae's cooking. It takes her away from this place, back into the arms of the woman she loves. A relaxed smile curves her lips and her eyes betray a bit of dreaminess. She does get back to the moment shortly, and when she does, she feels ready.
"The foundation of all crowns being destroyed is a must. I think that may seem obvious. As for what Olympus wants? I am not sure. We did not endure what your alliance did. As for Eas, I would like to see open trade. I also would like help clearing territory back home and then offering it as a place for Palace Landers to move to, should they so desire. On the side of the Goddesses, I would like to expand my orphanage ideas to the cities here, if it can be done safely. It would do much to bring adventurers and landers together."
She sighs softly. "You are much better at this, Haru. What does your alliance hope to gain?"
"In categories," Haru begins, "there is personal, myself Haru Nox, gain. There is Silver Sword, my guild. New World Alliance, the alliance. Yamato Adventurers, which is all three. And Adventurers, Yamato and Palace Land alike. Then there are places of governing, notably Eas, as you just said, Shibuya, Uruk, Ninetails, Westelande, Fourland, and Eastal." He omits the Tower and Scale locales, such as Alne and Karluin at this time. All because, "I feel comfortable speaking for myself, Silver Sword, New World Alliance, and Shibuya as someone who has claim to or in those domains."
The Artificer closes his blue eye as he thinks about this, "Working backwards, I would see Shibuya open trade and shipping lanes into the Palace Lands without tarrif or tax. That ground caravans would be handled by Palace Land forces without having to commit additional physical security against banditry or monsters." He thinks onwards, "Also naval resources commited from Palace Lands to secure the sea lanes." The blue eye opens up, "The Alliance itself concerns itself with dogma of those of the Land. What the New World Alliance would want foremost is access. To libraries. Restricted areas. Unfettered freedom to go where they please. Effectively this war has prohibited those motivated by exploration and discovery to not be able to explore or discover. This would have to be a right, not a privilege." A tap on his knee as he goes one level lower, "Silver Sword would benefit from this blanket agreement the most. Though it dawns on me sanctions against Player versus Player combat would be required to satisfy Moon Tree. Cross server Adventurer policies. Tough to enforce, that, as the treatise is with the kingdoms, not the Adventurers." He offers a light laugh, wondering if he is in the right guild, "Grandeur? They would want to be where we are right now. Talking politics an statecraft." Haru HalfShiroe! Fifty percent less glasses.
What about Haru himself? He isn't aiming to hide his motivations, it just comes last in his list. "I want this to wipe away pain and suffering, as a means of balancing the moral account of the past," he hums at the notion, "I'm not completely sold on how to approach that, on a personal level, yet. It is one of my three best opportunities to do so. Im not satisfied that the Crowns itself is enough for me. There is something /behind/ the Crowns. Thats what I want to see ended and guarded against future grievances."
"You divide things well. Hm. I have missed the guild. Though as you no doubt realize, Sleeping Knights are not a normal guild. We are not a collective, save by chance and when things are dire. If five of us are in one place, it is safest to be very, very far away."
She laughs softly and turns her attention back to Haru's organized thoughts. She nods as he goes. It makes sense, of course. Nothing to her seems in the least bit unreasonable. She has a thought on one point.
"Treaties are between the nations, but you have laws for the adventurers. I would like to add a thought. That above the agreements we might make to close this conflict, we create absolute laws. Banning things like slavery. These laws would not be made to forbid every bad thing against which a law should be made, just the most egregious. The things which would justify war and limit the wy in which war may be carried out."
She laughs softly at the mention of Grandeur, but grows far more serious with the last. "The past is a heavy thing to confront, Haru. Honstly, you have done so much already. That you wish to do more is admirable, but I am concerned if you carry a weight of guilt. Setting that aside-for the moment-you are right. Helba, who made these crowns, and the prophecy which drove their usage must be investigated."
"Not nearly enough, Elly," Haru says with a weary tone to his voice he doesnt let people hear. Not even Fuka got to see this side of him. Elly is the small group of the exceptions that he trusts to see it. "I spoke with Helba recently. I should say, I spoke with 'a' Helba recently. The Adventurer who appeared in the Tenth Floor Tower Raid. She was kind enough to clear up the differences between her and the Queen of Darkness, Helba. That Helba is the one that made the Crowns and the Sonograph. The Queen of Darkness is long gone." He considers for a moment as he notes, "We haven't had the proper time to talk with everything going on, but I truly have not done enough yet. Lives were ruined on the scale of millions because of my family. Death. Disability. Disgrace." Yet Haru isn't speaking from a tone of self-loathing or guilt. He speaks about it like it is a ledger. An account in the red. Its how he copes with the otherwise overwhelming reality of that situation. "Trust me, Elly, when I say I would like nothing more than to shed myself of that responsibility. My first year since the Apoc I gave it a chance to be 'the path' for me. But it wasn't. If you could sit face to face with the person that brought us here, to Elder Tales, would a simple 'Well, you mean well, forgive yourself' do it? It wouldnt for me. Words are cheap. I'd want to see it made whole with actions." A smile, "Thats more for me, mind you. I have to remind myself why I am working so hard. Because I envy your life, Elly. A significant other that loves you. A home you built and secured. People that adore you for who you are. I'm working hard to be worth that." He shakes his head, "Not there yet. But making this treatise work? Its a big leap to making it a reality."
"You touch on a very interesting and difficult point from the very first. When this matter is settled, and the kingdoms here are on their knees, what can rise in their place? I hope and pray for adventurers and landers to be reconciled, but even I am not optimistic enough to think that will simply happen. The Landers have been scared and fed lies. The adventurers enslaved and treated brutally. This is.. oh god, it's like the Middle East. The adventurers deserve a choice, and the Landers who had nothing to do with this ought to be shown mercy. A being that has only a few lines of dialogue cannot be considered culpable for the actions of their superiors. I am not sure if they have any agency at all, though between you and me, I do seek to give them just that. I wonder, if the uncrowned will wish they might not have to align to any kingdom at all."
Hearing more about Helba captures her attention. Or rather, hearing about multiple Helbas. What a confusing bit of lore that is! But as important as that is, what follows dwarfs it in Elly's concerns.
She does not refute everything Haru says. Refuting his feelings is a matter of arrogance that she has finally learned to be careful of. The last time she over-stepped with him remains a painful memory of failure and shame.
"Your family did something that hurt a lot of people and making up for it is exactly what you should do."
She will reach out to set a hand on Haru's shoulder. She does not cry, but she lowers her guard, allowing a complex wave of emotions to play over her features. Sadness, empathy, and kindness. "Haru, you are my friend and I love you for the man you are. You are going to get there."
There is silence for the prayer. "Thank you, Elly," as Haru would cry if he was not so damn exhausted. The circle of people who have reached that level of trust and understanding is small. When Uta offered to shoulder the burden together it was the first time in a long time he felt someone was in his corner. Slowly, steadily, that has grown. And Elly is there too. "It is difficult to talk about. The way I have lived and the way I live has more in common with the nobles here in Yamato than it does the world we came from," he says with an exhale, "and by that I mean bloodline and lineage binds tighter and deeper than individualism. A king passes on the weight of the lineage to his descendants. And so on, and so on, as part of the agreement to govern in that system." He is going somewhere with this, but with Elly being a Baroness, he feels she is uniquely capable of connecting his values and his feelings to their origins. "You shine as an example of how to live that truth and also radiant happiness," says the man of Night speaking the Priest of Light. "We all have strengths, mine is to Hope. It is what is still there when the night is darkest. It does not yield. But you, Elly, you remind me of 'why' to Hope. That there /will/ be a Dawn. It serves as a guiding star in an otherwise Starless Sky." Alas, Polaris is already taken, else it would fit well.
He offers a light laugh then, "I have my own way of saying 'I am grateful to have you in my life', and thats what it looks like," with a small smile. Its not fake. Its genuine. The genuine article is barely noticible if it was not for the softness it puts to his face. "Its funny that you get more tired when a burden is lifted from your shoulders than when you struggle with it on you. I won't be long on the treatise talks before needing a brief rest. Fortunately, this is the start of a lengthy policy talk. We don't need to rush it."
The compliments do more than make Elly smile. She blushes. The mask has no place in this conversation. She had been listening carefully, but that comment deserves more of a response.
"It means everything coming from you, Haru. You know that my past is, like yours, complicated. Eventually, by luck and mercy, I found my way to Tae. I wound up here, and got to be your friend. Which, I might add, I rather screwed-up a few times. But I do see your hope and the strength of your resolve."
She needs a moment, rather losing more of her composure, to the point of shedding some tears. She is not sad, though. Elly is smiling.
The comment about getting tired has her laughing as she wipes at her cheeks. "I suspect it may be that your power of focus is so great that it is always capable of carrying you well past the limits of your endurance. You certainly can rest. I will be turning in soon, as well. After I say goodnight to Tae and check-in on the others. I suspect Uta has been skipping her rest times, and she is not the only one. Goodnight, Haru."