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The Best of Enemies (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 6 – The Best of Enemies[]

“First lay plans which will ensure victory, and then lead your army to battle; if you will not begin with stratagem but rely on brute strength alone, victory will no longer be assured” -- Sun Tzu, 孫子兵法 (The Art of War)​​​


Part 1[]

Winter Palace, Forbidden City, Liao, Tikonov Commonality, Capellan Confederation
1st January, 2798 (Seventeen Months Since the Kentares Massacre Began)


“You don’t have to do this, Ilsa.” Ying stared her cousin in the eyes while Ilsa zipped up her plain jade-green jumpsuit with the rank markings of a junior Technician as they stood in a secured room.

Ilsa shook her head. “In order to get the use of the Teng family’s personal troops, I had to promise to spend two weeks with Shonso Elias Teng.” She grinned like a huli jing fox spirit. “I never said that I would spend time at the vacation resort on Sian that his father rented for my return with him from Liao, and he is a regimental commander. The Confederation needs soldiers more than perfumed and pampered nobility now, so I am giving him a fair test.”

“I know that, Ilsa!” Ying gave her cousin a dirty look. “But the risk you’re taking! You know the plan relies on the Maskirovka succeeding where they failed on Calloway VI. You know how the Teng will attack the Liao if you lead their forces into disaster again; they have always thought they would make better Chancellors than us. Especially if his son dies at your orders!”

Ilsa rubbed her temples. “The war is at a tipping point for us and we must act now to tip the balance in our favor. While we have slowed down Marik’s advances to a crawl and are locking him into a stalemate, he has more industry and more men than we do. If we throw the troops from the Davion border in, we can perhaps push them back, but at the price of shattering those regiments too. Now that the Steiners have nearly devoured the Bolan Thumb and the remnants of the Rim Worlds, the Dragon is starting to turn their way. Their pressure on the League will be lessened.”

Ying’s concern was writ large on her frowning face. “I know that, but if this plan fails you and everyone you lead will die! You saw the data on the planetary defenses alongside me!”

“I know, but they have weaknesses like a house of cards. If we hit them in the right place, it will knock them off balance for a decade.” Ilsa’s uncompromising voice was resolute now that the decision had been made and plans had been put into motion. “They think us weak, encircled, and distracted.”

“Paul has seen the wisdom of keeping our cease-fire secret so he can fool the ISF as well.” Ilsa got a small blush and dreamy look in her eyes as she mentioned the Davion First Prince who had just led his men to reclaim Arcadia, the final formerly Combine-held planet one jump from New Avalon.“He has agreed to leak reports of ‘increased fighting’ between the Syrtis Fusiliers and the St. Ives Lancers to ears that will pass them to Atreus, just as we have ‘informed’ SAFE and the barbarians that we are hard pressed on that front too.”

Ying sighed at the familiar signs of Ilsa thinking about the Davion hero who the people of the Federated Suns were beginning to call ‘Pendragon’ as he led attack after attack to push the axe hanging over their heads back. Then her eyes widened as insight hit her.

Ying gave her cousin a dirty look. “This would have nothing to do with the fact that now that New Avalon is safe for the moment, Paul plans to take the time to meet you to formally sign and announce the cease-fire that has been secretly negotiated. Now that the Kurita barbarian dogs are tied down with insurrections on the Feddie planets that they still hold after butchering Kentares IV and reeling from his counterattacks, he has the time to finally meet his ‘Fair Lady Liao’. Who might just impress ‘Her Knight’ if her bold stroke to shift the balance of the war against the League carries off.”

Ilsa’s blush deepened. “I find his attempts at courtly romance in his letters... charming.” She muttered.

“He’s a terrible poet. You were a better jintishi poet at eight when we learned the basics. Also, I’m better than you still.” Ying observed with an amused grin as she renewed one of their childhood squabbles growing up together.

“Are not!”

“Are too! And he’s worse than you are!”

“He’s trying to learn it in a language not his own.” Ilsa pointed out in defense of Paul Davion after sticking out her tongue and giggling. She grew a goofy smile when she remembered Paul’s valiant but doomed attempt at Tang Dynasty ‘modern form poetry’ in the last letter that she had received from him. “And he’s honest. He’s not hiring a poet to write professional verse for him, unlike many I could name such as Elias Teng. No actual poet could be that horrible no matter the yuan paid.”

“Or the ‘poet’ is a thief with larger stones than the Great Sage Equal To Heaven to rob the ruler’s treasury so brazenly!” Ying interjected with her own laughter. “Remember that other poem two months ago? Aiiiiieeee!

Ilsa started to giggle again uncontrollably as the smile widened and the blush spread. “Comparing him and me to foxes tricking dragons, indeed!”

“At least he got the trickster aspect of our folklore of fox spirits right. Unlike everything else. But it’s still bad poetry worthy of being enshrined as how not to write a poem!” Ying laughed at how the (rain and life giving noble rulers of the waters in Chinese folklore) evil, stupid, and cowardly dragon had been subdued by a pair of (in folklore treacherous, cruel, and seductive) heroic and cunning huli jing.

“I can’t argue that point either.” Ilsa conceded after the laughter ran its course and both sobered up.

Ying looked Ilsa in the eyes. “I do hope that Paul is not the only reason that you came up with the plan for Operation Léitíng, Ilsa.”

Ilsa shook her head. “Not the only reason, no. There are weaknesses in FWLM defenses, the Maskirovka has infiltrated the system I mean to strike to get agents into the correct positions to act, I have shifted forces in secret from Saint Ives to here in Tikonov Commonality, and if we even manage to merely damage the primary target, the political, military and economic consequences on the League will be… substantial. And I even shall have our Mechs painted in LCAF colors en-route to lay initial blame upon the Steiners rather than us until I return home in triumph and let them know that we have plucked the pretentious chicken’s feathers. You sat in on the planning as we worked it out, Ying.”

“I know, and the morale boost to the Confederation once we show how the Mariks were hit would be significant. Just… be careful, Ilsa. I won’t be there to cover your back on the battlefield and the Teng Lancers are not the Red Lancers.” Ying said with a sigh while she hugged her cousin.

Ilsa glanced at the clock and sobered up. “Time for you to dance visible attendance on my body double as the ‘Celestial Wisdom’ returns to Sian and her duties after the traditional winter visit to her family’s homeworld to honor her ancestors and heritage. As for the Red Lancers, I have assigned a Lance to me, the rest will be striking Andurien to draw Kenyon’s eyes and forces south rather than north.”

“I know and I’ll play my part in this gambit, Ilsa. Just take care of yourself, my little cousin.” Ying said quietly, then hugged Ilsa again. “I better not be the one to tell your poet that you went and got yourself killed heroically trying to impress him!” She finished with a wagging finger at Ilsa. “And don’t even get me started on what I’d have to say to the Duke of Saint Ives!”


Part 2[]

Royal Court, Davion Palace, New Avalon, Crucis March, Federated Suns
9th January, 2798 (Eleven Months Since the Kentares Massacre Ended)


Paul Davion nodded slightly to the president while he and the rest of the thousand-strong High Council of the Federated Suns took their seats.

Count DuVall nodded back as the political allies shared a look while the rest of the nobility and elected representatives from every planet in the Federated Suns took their seats.

DuVall banged his gavel on the speaker’s platform. “My Lords and Ladies, I declare the first meeting of the High Council of the Federated Suns in 2798 to be open! The President recognizes the First Lord of the Star League, Duke of New Avalon, and First Prince, Paul Davion II!”

A stir of surprise and anticipation ran through the crowd at his words.

Paul stood from his assigned seat and marched to the platform like he was marching in review at NAMA in front of the Commandant and other staff. He sharply right faced as he arrived, and nodded to the speaker, the High Council, and the holocameras regally.

Remember, never let them see you sweat, and fake it till you make it!

He adjusted the microphone while his dark blue eyes swept the assembled nobility as if they were his soldiers on the battlefield.

Unlike many of the other nobles who were dressed in ornate court finery, Paul’s attire was that of an AFFS Field Marshal’s dress uniform. The only concessions that he had made to this not being a military operation were the cloak of fox fur behind him, a polished leather sword belt and sword, and a jeweled chain of office with the rampant fox arms of New Avalon in ruby on the golden shield. The gold of the chain of office that he had commissioned for this moment, and the polished metal of the half-breastplate starburst of his AFFS dress uniform sparkled in the sunlight from the round sword and sunburst window overhead illuminating him in red, orange, and gold.

He smiled confidently at the audience for his address and nodded his head to the President.

“Thank you, President DuVall.”

He turned to survey the High Council and his voice swelled in a command voice suited to the drill field -- or the battlefield.

“My Lords. My Ladies. I come before you to inform you that with the tragic death of the last of the Camerons, the titles of First Lord and Duke of New Avalon held by the late Richard Cameron passed to my grandfather both by right of inheritance, but also by the last will of the prior First Lord given to us when he ordered Grandfather to be the regent for his infant daughter Amanda, who sadly perished in the Coup as well. With Grandfather’s murder at the hands of an assassin sent by the ISF, it has fallen upon my shoulders. Before your august company, and the peoples of my world, both those present here today and those watching and listening elsewhere who stand witness to my oath, I, Paul George Davion, First Lord of the Star League, Duke of New Avalon, do solemnly pledge my life, my energies, and my sacred honour to becoming the best suzerain that I possibly can for the planet of New Avalon upon which I stand and the people whom I shall govern as their planetary ruler.”

Paul bowed his head and crossed himself as he whispered a prayer. “So mote it be, amen.”

His head rose.

Fire filled his eyes and steel filled his voice.

“As you know full well, our realm finds itself at war. The martyred dead of Kentares IV cry out in their millions for vengeance upon the bloody-handed tyrant who butchered them! Young and old, man, woman, and child, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist alike cry out from martyred Kentares for divine justice! Before my people, I swear that I shall never rest nor flag, nor falter until every planet that the Dragon has trod upon is liberated once more! I shall ensure that our borders are secured from another sneak attack such as has wounded us grievously! My Lords, My Ladies, My People, we shall never rest, we shall never flag, we shall never falter, we shall pay whatever the cost must be! We shall give those crying voices of the martyred dead of Kentares what they require of us as God wills it! Defeat to the Dragon! Justice for our dead paid by the Kuritas thrice over!

All Paul’s worries, all his fears, all his feelings of inadequacy in a position too big for him vanished in an instant when man met moment.

Never let them see you sweat and fake it till you make it!

The energy filling the chamber from his receptive audience flowed through him.

Paul discarded the planned and carefully rehearsed and memorized speech to speak from the heart to his people.

The crowd rose as one to their feet while Paul drew his arming sword from his side.

He held it aloft like his ancestors had done in England and France on the battlefield to rally their men.

Sunlight from the round stained glass window illuminating him with the Sword and Sunburst shone from the steel as his voice became a clarion call to arms.

“Our soldiers have begun the liberation of our people and the avenging of Kentares, but it is only the beginning! My Lords, My Ladies, My People, look into your hearts! What heroes among you shall follow me to slay the Dragon and avenge our dead? What heroes shall follow me to our final ultimate victory as my brothers and sisters in arms?”

"REMEMBER KENTARES!!!”

The answering roar of the crowd shook the Royal Court to the rafters.


Author's Note[]

Author’s Note
This update brought to you by Sabaton’s Shiroyama.

To clarify a subtle in-universe point here, the First Prince title is a FedSuns’ governmental position ,but NOT an actual feudal title (similar to Ned Stark’s titles of Warden of the North and King’s Hand in Game of Thrones). The feudal title of Duke of New Avalon was linked to the First Lordship thanks to a political deal Alexander Davion did with Ian Cameron about planetary development when the Suns joined the Star League. Paul Davion was the first to reclaim it from the now-dead Camerons so he could use it to further his reformation of the Suns to respond to the crisis.

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