Verdsang': "A Song About Kent State" Revised

April 28th 2018, 5:43 PM
La Grismarmorejo in Combre, Zunto—Demescia.

“I, Dimitro Vinogradov Ilioraza…with the republic as my vindicator…but also my sovereign…with justice as my strength…but also my weakness…hereby testify…to assume the position…of Chief Premier of the Commonwealth…with rectitude and dignity. May my tilled fields be fertile…and may my seeds be fruitful. May the long days be beautiful…and may democracy reign.” He firmly shook Grand Judicator Becket’s hand.

The audience raved over Ilioraza, even in the evening drizzle that poured over the park of marble—La Marmorkort’. The brass instrumental of “Mondo Blua” resounded as Ilio ascended to his mahogany podium, his dyed–snow hair glowing in the seeping sunlight.

He waved to his crowd, beaming. Yet, his heart pounded as he looked upon it—upon them. He could even feel Okeke’s warm, condescending grin behind, as well as the deadpan expressions of the vice premiers. The ovation and ruckus quieted, and Ilio took a deep breath, the smile of his fading away.

“Before I…ramble for an hour, I just want to acknowledge how great it is to be here—how great it is for us a society to be here today.” The audience, once again, roared with confidence. “There are no words to express my amazement—my awe,” he clasped his hands, “at the…this congregation of citizens—this compromise not only of ideology but of culture…of tradition. It's so easy to say that we're united without analysing the context of our supposed “union” of societies…but you don't measure union in the quantity of ramen shops, or comparative metrics. You measure union in compromise—the quantity of those who seek change rather than beat a dead horse. If that compromise can't exist, then I can't possibly be standing here today. You've chosen me be your fantastic…outstanding leader, and I—with this burden—shall deliver.

“Now, to recite facts,” in a few seconds he tilted the sleeve of this blazer and glanced at the notecard that poked out, “La Civitano, the admirable journal that my lover works for, published an article in 2016. It asserts…not a claim but an assertion…that around thirty percent of Demeskanos believe that multiculturalism could be an impediment on our national progress. Ethno–nationalist movements like the Verdanima and the New North—what's new about it—” the comment acquired a short ovation, “have garnered support scattered across Demescia. Sifrites are threatening to fall out, and so are the Deccans…and so are colonial ethno–nationalists...and so are the fringers.

“It is plenty obvious that our Commonwealth is under pressure of its own foundation. How long will we sit on weakened wooden stilts? Until they crack and we're plunged into the Bajngana River?” He planted both hands on the edges of the podium, panning the audience. “Gesinjoroj, I hate to be bleak on the day of my inauguration, but the great burden of our society does not rest on me alone. It rests on every politician in Combre and Giga, and every political and cultural reporter, that refuses to take the hint. It also rests on the oblivious Demeskanos that go about their day as usual without attempting to be even a bit aware of house of cards under their feet. My election is only the first step toward a less fractured Demescia. It takes a delegation of responsibility. Those oblivious Demeskanos I just mentioned? They're voting for polis elections. They're voting for domain elections. They’re voting for La Vulgato. They're voting for La Marmora.

“Inform your fellow man—or woman. I know there's this weird taboo over discussing politics at the dinner table, but have the courage and integrity to do it anyway. Thirty percent needs to rise to sixty percent, or at least forty percent. Realization is our greatest weapon against the crumbling of what we've lived for since 1906—our greatest tool to rebuild the foundation that our nation stands on.”

Ilioraza grinned once again. “If this marvelous event is an indication of anything, and if progression means anything…anything at all, then surely we can do it. I look upon this grand audience, and I see intelligence. I see…the future generation; I see those who aren’t afraid to applaud when they see something or someone they admire. Poor wording, in retrospect, but my point still stands…well and tall. The difference between you and other Demeskanos is that you are not afraid of or turned away by the qualms that come with political turbulence. Of you who voted for me, you weren’t too afraid or too lazy come to La Marmorkort’ and show who you align with. Of you who haven’t, you weren’t afraid to show respect towards an opinion you didn’t agree with, and thus you too deserve respect.” The mass applauded, and Ilioraza cleared his throat to make another point.


10:06 PM
The Ilioraza Residence in the backwoods of Port William, Vilanto—Demescia.

Ilio slouched in his cushioned Adirondack chair on the patio illumined by white lamps.. Crickets chirped and fireflies sauntered as he gazed at the backwoods behind his house. A dampness still filled the air. Still in his moistened blazer, he set his champagne glass on the accent table beside him where the 2017 Winter Issue of Da! Magazine laid, still staring into the eternal darkness beyond him. “We live in a society,” he whispered to himself.

The sliding glass door behind him opened; “heya,” a male voice spoke, “I got some food…from Qyyzygyys.”

“Is this a joke?” said Ilio, turning his head. Ĉinata was wearing a gray dress shirt with suspenders, holding a box that stunk of greasy fast food. He had an awkward blonde comb over fade, though it complimented his circular glasses—ones of a librarian.

“Nah. Traffic turned to shit—couldn’t be bothered to make a U-Turn to De Dolĉamar’.”

“Epic.” Ilio turned his head back to the wilderness. “Guess who’s not eating tonight.” Ĉinata came around and sat in the Adirondack chair beside him. Ilio peeked at Ĉinata’s other arm…how it drooped beyond the arm of the chair. “Are you hiding something?”

Ĉinata grabbed the small sack sitting on the ground. “Sautéed shrimp.” He tossed it to him. “See? I’m not entirely useless.”

“I’m not really in the mood for your games.”

“The inauguration went to shit, I take it.”

Ilio exhaled: “no, it went surprisingly well. It’s what comes after the inauguration that worries me, to be frank.”

“...I don’t understand.”

“Didn’t expect you to.” He took a sip of his champagne.

“Oh. Bim.”

“Heh,” Ilio opened the sack. The aroma of a spiced seafood hit him like a gust. “Ĉinĉjo…do you ever ask yourself why people listen to you?”


“No, I don’t mean it as banter. I’m actually curious.”

“...Listen to me as a journalist, or as a person?”

“Eh…either one.” He wolfed down a few prawns.

“Well—to be honest—the thought’s never really occurred to me. I just sorta figured whoever listens to what I have to say, as a journalist, has their own reasons. It’s not particularly my job to figure out why they do; I just acknowledge that they do. The same can go for me as a person, really.”

“Well yeah, but what if you need to know…as part of your job.”

“—Why would I need to know?”

“Oh, I don’t know…to fulfill expectations?”

He turned to Ilio, looking into his gray eyes: “if I couldn’t fulfill people’s expectations, they wouldn’t be listening to me in the first place. If they have trust in me, I just accept it. Mind-reading is kurba.”

“Hm. Fair.” He kept on staring while Ĉinata rummaged through his deep cardboard tray. It was a still night, yet gears still turned in Ilio’s head. The masses could’ve chosen Patel, or fucking Jugen—but no; he, Dimitro Vinogradov Ilioraza, was chosen to lead the country out of mayhem. It was a pact that he could never ever betray as long as he sat in La Grismarmorejo. He snapped back to reality. “Remind me again,” he said as he turned to Ĉinata’s pristine green eyes, “why you couldn’t be there behind me while I gave my speech.”

“Yeah, the editor was a real bitch about me reporting on synthetic meats.”

Ilio raised a brow: “synthetic meat? It better have something to do with ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓.”

“Nah, basically they grow steak in a lab like some lusus naturae.”

He chuckled: “What are the consumerists doing? That’s literally the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my life.”

“I know right?!” Ĉinata exclaimed. “Was really pissed when I had to report on living tofu instead of seeing some real action. Oraj Naŭ was blabbing about it all the time I was getting home.”

“Oh. What did they say?”

“The hosts and hostesses are Egalaĉulos, so of course they were gonna talk shit. Though I could hear the legit dog-whistles of one chick. Sounded like she was stoked about actual union but was too cautious to say it outright. I’d be too; people are way too politically correct.”

“Yeah, but it’s not likely it’ll cease anytime soon. If you hesitate to speak your mind, do you even have one to begin with?” Ilio ate another prawn.

“Mm! Remind me to write that down.” Ĉinata got up.

“Retiring?” he asked.

“Nah, I’m just getting a Monto Ses. No Demescian meal is complete without ale.”

Ilio snickered. Right before Ĉinata went inside, he said “Ĉinata. You’re not useless—at all. Whoever says it is lying.”

“Uh…thanks, that’s really…something. Do you want some ale too? Maybe a sake?”

“This wine is all I need, love.”

“Hah, alright.”
May 7th 2018, 7:59 AM
La Grismarmorejo in Combre, Zunto—Demescia.
“Who cares? Jugen lost,” Samir Singh said as he entered the room. Latte swished in his styrofoam cup.

Several dozens of suited men and women trickled through the large walnut doors of La Marmoro, a hypostyle auditorium with grandiose marble columns. Blue–cushioned seats and wide curved desks surrounded the elevated podium at the back of the room.

Moderigisto Aroldo Merlo stood at the podium like a hawk. Singh could see his features from afar: his rotund figure, his long and wispy brown beard, his regal black poncho. Men and women sat in desks below Merlo, equipped with pens and paper.

“Yes, but it's not like his alternative is any better,” said Sanjit Gupta, a fellow Liberano. “Both are delusional.”

“Again, who cares…and either one is better than the clusterfuck prior. Admit that.” Singh and Gupta sat down in seats labelled “Hetacio,” their home domain. Orange cards laid on the table.

“I'm not even sure about that.” Gupta retrieved his Azulscape from its case.

“Psh.” Singh took a swig of his coffee.

“I’m serious. At least in the midst of the crisis we could pass bills, unlike under—Sinjor Redirekto.”

“Yeah, at the expense of recess and my fucking mind.”

“Will Sinjor Unueco even be willing to play ball?”

“He seems at least somewhat reasonable.”

“He’s a newbie. All–bark–no–bite too it seems.”

“You can’t say that when there’s nothing on the agenda yet,” Singh joked.

“I can say it after that miserable excuse of an inauguration speech,” Gupta deadpanned. Singh snickered at the comment.

The walnut doors closed and the room went silent except for some shuffling in the visitors’ gallery; the Moderigisto spoke: “since everyone has settled, we shall commence our first session of the Ilioraza Premiership. La Democrazia Regnas.”

“La Democrazia Regnas,” the Marmoranos repeated in unison.

“As the Ilioraza Premiership has only recently been received, the Premier’s agenda is empty…thus, the moderation entertains motions for topics.” An orange card was raised near the side of the legislative floor. “I acknowledge Bosren’s representation.”

“Dankon,” said a feminine voice. A pale slender woman stood up, her auburn hair in a messy bun. She adjusted her glasses: “I move, on the behalf of my Bosrena colleagues, to discuss the growing levels of Sifric nationalism in Bosren and Sifris.”

“Are you serious?” Singh whisper–yelled in an informal tongue. Gupta shushed him, swatting his shoulder with his forearm.

The lady continued: “though opinion on Ilioraza is controversial, we mustn't disregard the growing dissatisfaction of our natives in the mountains. If the status quo of legislation persists, I believe we could have an insurgency on our hands due to domains’ recurring failure to faithfully cooperate with the legitimacy of ethnic reservations. I yield to the floor for comments.”

“Comments from the floor?” Several orange cards were raised, including those of Singh and Gupta. “I acknowledge Hetacia’s representation—Singh.”

“Plej dankon, Moderigist Merlo.” Singh stood and looked towards the woman: “Fraŭlin Aarens-”

“Please, don’t call me a ‘fraŭlin,’” Aarens said. Gupta, sitting, facepalmed.

“Ah fek, I apologize. Sinjorin Aarens then…you seem to disregard the turmoil that had just taken place—not just in the past few months but in the past few years. In the past four years, only thirteen bills have been passed. Thirteen. Why? Because La Komunumetalono does not limit the amount of redirections a Premier can enact. And how about the haboob that blew us away this year, hmm? No indicator of what to do when the vice premiers die. Four people die and then suddenly we’re spiralling into Craviterean politics.”

“He mere kamabakht prajapati, just get to the point,” Gupta murmured.

“My point: you only focus on the symptoms of the issue, rather than the issue itself. Prevention is better than the cure, and if you really wanted to prevent the advent of another legal catastrophe, you would agree that amending the constitution has higher priority than unhappy Sifrites. I yield the floor to you for discourse.”

Aarens spoke: “...Fraŭl Singh, ignoring the arrogance of your tone, I hear your concerns about La Komunumetalono and I believe everyone in this room can relate. However, I also believe that there are other problems of the La Komunumetalono that have not yet been exposed or exploited. La Marmoro has the authority to amend La Komunumetalono only once every decade. If we hastily make changes, we will have wasted an opportunity on the wrong things. The issue of an incomplete lineage is non-relevant as of t-”


“Yes. I believe it to be non–relevant to the issues a-.”

“What if Ilioraza turns into Sedo?”

“...He hasn’t shown an interest in blockading the Ĉiutagejo, as per his interviews with Los Vulps and Ruĝd-”

“What if this Ilioraza dies?”

“What if the country fractures? We can remedy impromptu death, but how do you remedy the permanent fracturing of a society?”

“You are dodging my question.”

“No I am not, Sinjor Singh. I simply believe that the unity of the peoples of Demescia is more imp-”

“More important than…” Singh spoke over her as she talked. “More important THAN-”

The Moderigisto’s mallet struck the podium with a thundering clap. “That is enough, Sinjor Singh. This is not the Hetacia parliament, this is certainly not La Vulgato, and this is definitely not behavior I will tolerate. Admittedly I’ve neglected prior opportunities to chastise you for this conduct, but you will either discard your pettiness or you will be dismissed. Do you understand?” The Moderigisto asked the question in the same informal tongue that Singh whispered, which added insult to injury.

“Understood, Moderigisto Merlo. My apologies.” He looked up at the gallery; newsmen and Miko addicts were probably taking photos and footage.

“Bone. Sinjorin Aarens, you may proceed with discourse.”

“Dankon, Moderigisto. As I was saying—ignoring your incivility, Sinjor Singh—the unity of the peoples of Demescia is being threatened by…” she was choosing her words carefully, Singh noticed “...disturbances in Sifric ethnic reserves. The natives are growing more and more bitter toward interferences with their way of life. For example, the annexation of their mineral rich land by the Meyers–Aakster Corporation.”

“Right, and I agree with you,” Singh lied, “but wouldn’t you agree that these issues could be resolved by amendment of La Komunumetalono?”

“No I don’t. Wouldn’t you agree that these issues are more in–depth and realistic than simply changing the protocol of La Komunumetalono?”

“No, I don’t. In fact, I argue that the depth of the issue of ethnic discontentment is the reason that La Komunumetalono needs amendment.”

“...And yet you stated that our constitution’s amending is more important than, as you call them, ‘unhappy Sifrites.’”

“You’re misinterpreting what I said. I simply meant that we should categorize the issue of ethnic dissatisfaction as an issue with the constitution.”

“That would be a grotesque simplification of the problem, Sinjor Singh.”

Merlo spoke: “uh, dankon Sinjorin Aarens and Sinjor Singh, however we must move on to other topic suggestions.” A few Marmoranos sighed audibly, but Aarens was smirking.

“With all due respect,” Singh said, “I move to extend the discourse.” The parliamentarian, at a desk next to and slightly lower than the Moderigisto’s podium, whispered in Merlo’s ear for a few seconds.

“I—choose not to entertain that motion. Elongated topical discussion should be restrained to designated time.”

Gupta nudged Singh. “Let it be. We can counter during the main event.” Singh sighed as he reclined in his chair.
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May 7th 2018, 5:02 PM
Five kilometers south of Ramazan, Sifris—Demescia.

What was once a grove or meadow is now a sandbox. Where solemn deciduous trees once stood now stand plastic total stations and automatic levels. Instead of deer or boar grazing on grass, there are bulldozers treading on dirt. Instead of tribesmen hunting with spears, there are surveyors writing on clipboards.

Sunlight, once again, trickles through a heavy gray layer of clouds. The visage of tall snowy mountains overlooks the eyesore of a field where haul trucks and earthmovers rumble and roam. A lanky man kneels on the dirt, an XRF tool in his hand pressed against the ground and an ATV idle at his side. There’s a moderate amount of silicon in the area, the tool says. He sets down an orange flag. “Silicon this way!” he shouts, waving; diggers head his way.

Checking his watch, he drives the ATV to the brown yurt near the edge of the clearing. He goes for the white mini-fridge as soon as he enters, a sitcom airing on the miniature television.

“Heading straight for the Monto–Ses, Johan?” says someone. Johan looks to the stockier man sits near the television.

“It's the end of my shift,” says Johan, giving a lukewarm smile.

“Doesn't give you an excuse to give into your habits,” the stocky man chuckles.

“Hah—I know, I know,” Johan says, cracking open a ginger ale, “but it’s been a long day.”

“Yes, yes, a long day of setting flags down and fiddling with a gadget. What a chore.”

“Shut up. It’s harder than it looks. Akademio was a decade ago and I still forget what-”

“Wait,” the stocky man says, looking out the window.


“Some big thing went by.”

“...Like a vehicle?” Johan starts looking out the window too.

“Didn’t look like no vehicle. There’s more coming out of the forest, see?” He points to the distant edge of the wilderness, where figures like horses gallop into the clearing.

“Try radioing the others.”

The stocky man fiddles with his transceiver. “Job, what’s happening?” He can hear only stifled voices. “Job, answer me dude.” Heavy steps lead to the door. The stocky man looks, but Johan backs up to the other side of the yurt.

The door swings with a gust of wind, and large pale man stands before them with a honed spear. Tattooed scales decorate his bare arms, a pale tunic covering his torso. His yellow eyes are piercingly, and black stripes cover his torso. He is a Sifrite, Johan recognizes. A few more gather behind him.

The stocky man kneels on the ground and puts up his hands as if to be arrested. He turns his head to Johan, who is frozen in the corner except for an arm that reaches for the gun drawer. His eyes widen; “stop,” his lips read, but Johan yanks the drawer handle. The drawer doesn’t budge. As a spear-armed Sifrite moves towards him, he tries a second time with the same result. “It’s locked,” the stocky man whisper-yells.

Johan darts from his corner, only to trip over a plastic chair. He stumbles to the ground. The large Sifrite comes to bind his wrists with rope as he squirms. Another Sifrite binds the stocky man’s wrists; he hangs his head in shame. Both are led out of the yurt.

What was once a prospect is now reclaimed. Where earthmovers ambled now amble spearmen of a distant civilization. Instead of diggers removing overburden, there are horsemen corralling workers. Instead of surveyors kneeling with tools, there are employees kneeling in bonds.

A tall Sifrite, the Saarxi it seems, crouches on an idle haul truck, dawning robes and a boar-skull headdress. All is silent, except the birds that chirp in the trees. Warriors surround the workers, whom are muffled by rope. The Saarxi climbs down from the truck; the warriors genuflect. He points to Johan; two warriors hold up Johan by the armpits. The Saarxi approaches him.

“Who do you serve?” the Saarxi asks in broken Ĉjusono. Johan only stares blankly. “I asked you a question. Who do you serve?” He makes a meek, muffled response. “You make this hard for me.” The Saarxi unsheathes his small shiv, pointing it towards Johan’s face. Johan recoils when the Saarxi holds his cheek with a wrinkled hand. The shiv gets only millimeters away from his face, but suddenly the rope restraining his mouth falls. “Now. Let us try again.”

“Meyer-Aakster,” he blurts. “The Meyer-Aakster Corporation.”

“Do you know that this is Sifric turf.”

“N-no I-”

“After many minings on our turf, you do not know this is Sifric turf.”

“I didn’t think t-”

“Does this ‘Meyer-Aasker’ know that this Sifric turf.”

“I don’t know! I-I’m just a surveyor! Please…we’ll leave.”
“No. Not yet.” The Saarxi calls out an unintelligible set of commands, then Johan lets out a yell as the warriors tear up his clothes. And as rain soon falls, the workers walk in a single-file line along a gravel road through the forest, denuded not only of their clothes and tools but of their pride. Johan feels the metal part of a spear prodding his bare back as he straddles a street going seemingly nowhere.
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May 7th 2018, 7:28 PM
Primnaci Apartment Building in Frome, Sifris—Demescia.

Johan hesitates to see himself in the grimey mirrors of the elevator. He’s drenched—a combination of rain and sweat—with only an oversized t-shirt and sandals to clothe him. They were the only things the residents of Ramazan could offer.

The silver doors of the elevator open; he steps out with a frail, sluggish pace. He saunters down a palely lit hallway to the last door: his apartment. Before he can ring the bell, his wife opens the door. “Oh my god,” she said as clutches him in embrace. Johan reciprocated, blankly staring into the somber apartment with tears rolling down his face. The baby is in her crib, sound asleep. The bulky cathode ray tube television projects the BluN news channel, which still reports frantically on the incident at the prospect. “You should’ve called me…I was starting to think you’d never make it home.”

“I was starting to think it too…and thank god I did.”

His wife steps back. “I didn’t cook anything, but there’s probably some stuff in the pantry if you–”

“I’m not gonna eat just yet,” Johan says, going to the couch.

“Oh. Well alright.”

BluN broadcasts an aerial view of the corporation–forsaken prospect, gray figures dotting the landscape. “Insurgency,” the headline tells, “in Ramazan: Sifrites Storm a Mining Operation.”

“You know, it’s an odd thing karulin’,” Johan bellows, looking back to his wife who stands behind the couch.

“I know; what business do natives have harassing my husband?”

“No, it’s not that,” Johan says. “It’s just that…I’ve been in the surveying field for about a decade, but not once had I bothered to look at a map of Demescia.”

She raised her voice: “yeah well, maybe the executives should’ve looked at a damned map.”

“Karulin’, calm down.”

“No I will not calm down!” she stomps. “They shouldn’t have mined near a reserve and endangered the lives of the men with families at home. It was only a matter of time before those…kotulos marched onto the field with spears and daggers—and you let it happened!”

“Me? I let it happen?”

“You could’ve changed the circumstance; time was of the essence. But no, this had to happen and once again you sit here like a victim!”

“The gun drawer was locked, okay?!”

His wife quietly gasped as a conversational silence comes between them. The baby starts to bawl; the wife quickly attends to her. “Karul’ I didn’t mean that you–”

The doorbell rings. “I’ll get it, and sorry about that,” Johan says. He looks through the peephole; it’s a crew of people with cameras and microphones. He sighs and opens the door.

“Hello, are you Johan Peura, surveyor of the mine near Ramazan?” she asked.

“...You want an interview?”

“If you don’t mind.”

“Alright, let me get some clothes. We’re gonna have to do it downstairs though.”
“I just said this to my wife: I’ve been in the field for about nine years…I’ve visited and worked on over sixty mining sites…but not once did I bother to look at the Demescian map—and it’s cost me my job…the respect of my wife…” Johan tears up. He sits in a green armchair, beige walls surrounding him. An arm reaches out, offering tissue paper. “Thank you,” he says.

Ilio watches the interview; his eyes fixate on his Azul, his brows furrowed and his mouth slightly opened as he witnesses the man’s gradual breakdown.

“No one knew the site was on a Sifric reserve?” the reporter asks.

“No I don’t think,” Johan says, wiping his eyes with the tissue paper. “If the general manager knew he would’ve told us, I’m sure.”

“You’re absolutely sure about that?”

“Yeah, I trust him. I’ve known for a couple of years. A really punctual and attentive person. If something was odd or risky he would know.” He seems to murmur something before sobbing silently. Ilio pauses the livestream; he can’t stand to hear the poor man’s grief for another moment.

May 7th 2018, 8:01 PM
Bullet Train Headed to Port William, Vilanto—Demescia.
He sighs, his eyes wandering towards the scenery outside the window of the train. An orange sun casts an evening light on the green rolling hills and rururbs (rural suburbs) that pass by. “Was this part of the job description?”

“Yep,” Ĉinata says with a smirk, looking up from his FoBa graphic novel.

“I guess I shouldn’t really be complaining; I made my bed.”

“And now you must lie in it,” Ĉinata completes the proverb. He drinks from his water bottle, then says “I’m surprised you haven’t broken down yet.”

“Hm, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“No banter: If I was in your shoes I would’ve quit already.” Ilio chortles. “No, I’m serious. Premiers have to deal with the weirdest shit, and considering this is your first time in government you seem pretty calm…well are you calm?”

“Eh, I don’t know.” Ilio slouches in his seat. “I’m just trying not to judge the situation too quickly. I mean, I’m pretty sure this will be a tsunami headed toward Meyer–Aaskter—the executor will feel the waves too when he has to answer some questions—but I’m wondering how all this will ripple toward the national government.”

“...So you’re unsure of what to do.”

“Pfft.” He swipes at his phone. “I’d been reporting on the scene of politics for more than a decade. I know our politics inside and out.”


“I mean, so is every opinion. I’m just trying to make predictions and act accordingly. I’ll know what to do when the time comes.”

“You know,” Ĉinata says, looking back to his comic, “if you handle this well, the people will praise you and the media will finally get off your tail. It’s not Padinjo or the Sixties Recession or anything, but dealing with an insurgency? That takes ĉurovegs.”

“Don’t use headliner words. It’s not really an insurgency as much as it is a…I don’t even know what to call it.”

“Whatever, doesn’t defeat my point.”

“Sure, but the fish that will be eaten is still in the river.”

“But what is a bird without a sky?”

“Yet what is a tree without a ground?”

“…You got me,” Ĉinata groans, burrowing his head into the book.

“Aha!” Ilio roars.

“I’m just saying…wars are won before they are fought.”

“That’s a good one. Qepal of Omoxoje?”

“Yeah,” Ĉinata looks around the private train car. Besides Ilioraza’s undercover escort, it’s silent and empty. “You’d expect at least Merlo or Okeke to be here.”

“Not really, I’d expect the liberals to be at a steak dinner celebrating their victory.”

“I mean, didn’t we do that too?”

“Uuuh that’s not how I remember it.”

“…What was it then?”

“It was…” Ilio scratches his head, “the celebration of a change in Demescia’s future…or something.”

“You hypocrite!” Ĉinata guffaws.

“Oh shut up,” Ilioraza snorts. He looks out the window again, and the forested sprawl looks familiar; they’re nearing their stop. “I’m the one having to react to ethnic unrest, not you or anyone else.”

“Well, you know what else is a good proverb?”


“A friend shows in misfortune.”

Ilioraza gives a cheeky smile.
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May 7th 2018, 8: 37 PM
The Jansen Residence, Frome—Sifris.
Artem Jansen lays on the couch in front of the flickering flatscreen, his wrinkly body attired in a white t–shirt and boxer–shorts. He doesn't gasp or shed a tear. He doesn't laugh or cheer, either. He just lays there, moaning to himself.

“You okay, Arĉjo?” his wife, Shura, asks from the kitchen.

“Yeah karulin’, I’m just stressed.”

“Well, I don't know what to think either,” she says as she turns on the oven. “Whose bright idea was to mine on a reserve?”

“The brightest and most inflated mind of all,” he grumbles. His flip phone rings beside him with the artificial sound of chimes. “I’ll be back. I gotta take this.”

“What is it? Some Sifric Okulo intel?”

“Sure sure. I’ll be back.” Artem steps outside on the balcony, his feet cold from the wet planks of wood under him. With a deep breath, and after closing, he answers; he’s instantly hit with

“You saw the news right?” Artem can hear the calm franticness in her voice.

“Yeah. Quite the mess you’re in,” he whispers.

“Actually, quite the mess WE’RE in, Sinjor’ Jansen,” she retorts. “Pretty sure the press will find it odd how the executor turned a blind eye to a mining operation on ethnic soil, so don’t take this lightly.”

“I’m the one who told you to wait before you go drilling again. You went drilling again.”

“The biggest corporations don’t succeed by waiting. My father didn’t succeed by waiting.”

“Ugh, don’t ramble again about your father. What do you expect me to do?”

“The rabble rousers near Ramazan have endangered the safety of Demescian citizens according to both domanial and federal law, if I remember correctly.”

Artem’s eyes widen a bit. “...I see where this is going.”

“So you know what you have to do.”

“This isn’t going to be too glamorous to the press.” Artem scratches his head.

“We won’t look glamorous either way, but discouraging the montfeos will be better for our future operations.”


“No, you’re right. You’re probably not fit for such a task. Perhaps your friend in the Sifric General Assembly would say otherwise. What was his name…Baptiste?”

Artem nearly utters a curse, but as a Courantist, he refrains. “…Fine, but if I have to choose between my career and yours, I’m choosing mine.”

“Fair enough. Oh, and do remember to divert questions.”

“Of course. As always.” She hangs up without even saying a goodbye…not that Artem wanted one from her.
May 7th 2018, 8:47 PM
Premier Dimitro Ilioraza

The faults of the previous administration seem quite apparent right now. #Ramazan

10K ~ 21K

9:01 PM
Premier Dimitro Ilioraza

Before some underpaid columnist puts words in my mouth, I'm referring to Sed's repeated dismissal of unauthorized mining on Sifric turf. I bet everyone wishes that they had paid attention then. #Ramazan

2.4K ~ 9.5K

May 8th 2018, 9:20 AM
La Grismarmorejo in Combre, Zunto—Demescia.

A clip of the rebellion—the aerial footage of Sifrites bringing horses onto the field under downpour—replays on a large projection screen…and replays…and replays. The audio reverberates within the auditorium, the lights dim and Marmorano Aarens, an Egalecano from Bosren, standing near the front of the room with an even dimmer glower.

“Every time this clip repeats symbolizes every time we've ignored a crucial issue of Sifric politics,” Aarens says in a microphone. The Aŭdvidestro, the person that manages and controls audiovisual media of the hall, fiddles with his computer and a few switches. The video turns off, the projection screen rolls up, and the lighting brightens; Aarens’ expression, however, does not. “I want that image of Sifric horsemen burned into your minds, so that you remember yesterday whenever you decide to be so careless about the politics of this country.” She glances up at the spectators’ gallery, where not only suited journalists but concerned middle-class citizens filled the seats. This would be good publicity, she thinks.

“A nation of about a million wants change, and when we don't deliver change, they deliver change to themselves. The situation will only escalate even more if we don't deal with this now and quickly. It’s in the best interest of not only Sifris but the whole Federal Commonwealth that we investigate this issue. We need to not only alert the public that we are taking notice, but propose that the Chief Premier take action. That is the purpose of the joint resolution I propose, which the pages will now distribute.”

Pages, looking no older than seventeen or eighteen, walk down aisles and deliver copies of the resolution to marmoranos. The house makes quiet babble as they peruse the document. Someone from Hetacia’s section of the floor puts up an orange card, but Aarens ignores it. She motions to the Aŭdvidestro, who lowers the projection screen again and slightly dims the light. A slideshow appears on the screen, the words “Ramazan Investigation Resolution of 2018” titling across. “This resolution,” she says, “will attempt to remedy the decades of neglect of an ever-inflating issue in the political scene.” She looks back at Hetacia’s section; the orange card is still in the air. She still hesitates to acknowledge it.

She extracts notecards from the pocket of her houndstooth blazer and looks to her overall audience. The babble of the floor quells. “And this issue is nothing new. With Sifrites representing only about one percent of the population, it was easy for previous Ĉiutagejos and Premiers to ignore their concerns about the use of their land. Protests started near the beginning of the seventies in the plaza in Frome, but little action was taken. All that took place was a domanial investigation that went nowhere.

“Protesters tried again in the eighties but to no avail. Finally, a class-action lawsuit was filed in 1996, but both the domanial court and the Grandekorteo struck it down. Let me just say this while I have your ears: some people consider the Sifrites’ actions a ‘terrorist’ move,” she uses air quotations, “but when one’s rights have been repeatedly disregarded and disdained, what else can one do?

“The power to shape the future of these people,” she takes a long glance at the spectators’ gallery, then looks around at the faces of the marmoranos, “is a power we possess. If we don’t utilize it now, then when? When the Sifrites get tired of being humiliated and threaten to secede again? When the vast forests of their reserves have been stripped away by a mining corporation? Fellow marmoranos, not just from my own domain, not just from my own party, but from every domain and every party and every lawmaker that has a home and comfort like the Sifrites we fight for, I say it again: this cannot wait. Not anymore.” She motions to the Aŭdvidestro, who transitions to a next slide.

The orange cards still waves in the air, Aarens observes. She sighs and says, “I acknowledge representation from Hetacia.”

Singh, a LiberDem besides Gupta, stands up and says “are you going ask Selena Meyer over for tea and crumpets when you investigate her? That’s really the rhetoric you’re presenting.”

“Sinjor Singh, if you’re going to joke about a dire issue the Sifrites face, should you be in the Marmoro and not in bazlernejo?” The floor silently woahs in awe.

“Cut the pathos. You expect the public to swoon over your position when really your resolution will probably only scratch the surface of the issue from what I’ve heard. I mean, rights disgarded and disdained? Threats to secede? Come on!” He bangs his fist on the table. “Do these sound like regular issues to be patched by some resolution? And what, are you going to just wag your finger at the CEO?”

“You're acting childish, not even letting me finish the introduction before you object.”

“Well, you're so very predictable to be frank. All Egalecanos like you are nowadays. Too quick to act but too meek to offend.”

Aarens looks her eyes, then turns to the Moderigisto. “Is this appropriate etiquette?” she asks.

“No, no it isn’t,” Merlo deadpans. “Singh, correct yourself or you will be dismissed.”

“Alright, alright. Let me just say one last thing,” Singh says, leaning over the desk. “Don’t act like I don’t know what you’re up to.”

“And don’t act like I don’t know what you’re up to, Sinjor’ Singh,” Aarens responds. He quietly sits down. “As I was saying,” she continues, “the proposal, if passed, will request that the Premiership creates a committee to investigate and prepare a report on the incident, the Sifric government, and the previous operations of the Meyer–Aakster Corporation. We need a full and detailed picture of what has happened.” Audible whispering goes on in Sifris’s section of the floor. “It will also make a formal recommend that the Sifric government faithfully investigates the claims pertaining to these kinds of unauthorized mining operations.”

“Hold on, hold on, hold on,” a marmorano, LiberDem Aleks Kool, says aloud as he stands up and raises his orange card. “Forgive me, Moderigisto.”

“Holding on,” Aarens replies. “I recognize representation from Sifris.”

“My colleagues and I don’t find an investigation into Sifris’s governmental affairs necessary. Let it be a point of information that almost nobody else paid attention to the Sifrites’ situation. Why must our government be singled out? It would be a waste of money and effort.”

She deadpans: “your government was in control of the reservation. Your government was in receipt of the complaints about unauthorized mining. Yet it didn’t act. I find that to be the basis of suspicion and thus investigation, and if your government virtuous then it should not have to worry about who’s peeking at their affairs.” He sits down defeatedly, and she turns to the rest of the legislators. “Shall we start a vote?”
May 9th 2018, 4:59 PM
Premier's Conference Room in the Grismarmorejo in Combre, Zunto—Demescia.
Camera flashes flutter—in the room of a thousand reporters.

Truth be told, Ilioraza’s heart is shaking; his pale hands tremble as they lay on the mahogany podium. No doubt these reporters will twist his words. It’s the oldest trick in the book.

As he stands on the wooden stage, dressed in traditional black–and–white, he surveys the crowd. About a fourth of these people look like they're from Egaleca publications—BluN, Sudstel, La Fajro de Katulinoj, the like. There’s some Liberanos in the front, especially from Wanzopa and UĜDAK , sporting green ties (typical for Liberanos) and posing their cameras inquisitively. A small group of Epokspirito correspondents are squashed on the side against the paneled walls. No doubt some of From’s dailies are lurking in the midst, as invisible as god’s will yet still present.

Ilioraza checks his watch. Soon it’ll be 17:00 and he’ll begin rambling about how justice will be served, how Meyer–Aakster was irresponsible to let this happen, yada yada sound–bite sound–bite. He is, at the very least, thankful that Ĉinata advised him in his preparation. For the past two nights they went back and forth on the tweed loveseat with questions and answers, things and points that would likely be addressed. Albeit, now he’s not at home on the tweed loveseat, drinking spicy peach cider and chatting with his boyfriend. Now, he’s in a monochrome suit—on a wooden platform—in a room with devil’s advocates—on national television—in every major news headline—about to make a fool or a hero out of himself.

“Alright, I think it's about time to begin.” His voice, booming from the microphones, quiets the babble of the room. “Ĝesinjoroj, I would like to thank all of you, no matter your disposition, for coming here to discuss a grave, grave,” he shakes his head, “affair unparalleled in our country’s history. In a thick web of culpability and greyness, one thing is certain—now more than ever: Sifris needs a critical turn–around if it is going to remain a refugium for the Sifrites. I have commented on this plague on Sifrisian politics multiple times during my tours throughout the domain, as well as my speech in From. Meyer–Aakster has so far failed to verify their permissions to Ramazan. The executor has so far failed to initiate an immediate investigation into the incident. The waters look murky as more and more information is being kept from those who need it: the public and its defenders.

“I love Ruf Aarens’ speech in the Marmor’, because she highlights an important issue that has long been under the radar, yet has worsened for every passing year. As she put it beautifully in her address, ‘this cannot wait. Not anymore.’ Be sure that I will affirm the federal investigation of this incident, should it pass through the Vulgato. I will now be taking questions.”

And so it begins.

A stout man wearing cashmere—and a green tie—raises his hand. “From your comments on Meyer–Aakster, you seem to insinuate that the executor is to blame even though there is, so far, no evidence that they had a role in the invasion of the Ramazan reserve. Could you clarify and elaborate more on your position in regards to this ‘thick web’ that you describe?”

“Sure!” Ilioraza responds, briefly raising his brows. “Unue, I am not insinuating anything. I will continue to keep an open mind about the minutiae of this incident, but that does not mean I will not acknowledge the past flaws of the federal and domanial government. When I described the situation to be a ‘thick web of culpability,’ what I meant was that there is no single actor to blame. The federal government emerges as an agent in the development of what transpired at Ramazan. So does Meyer–Aakster and so does the Sifrisian government. While the minutiae of this incident is indeterminate, we can refer to and extrapolate from past incidents involving these same agents and conclude that there is indeed an issue. Now, if you want me to go through the entire storyline of modern Sifric disappointment, just ask—but as history stands, the Sifric people have been dealt a terrible hand time and time again by the powers that be. Edicts have been repealed, dodged, and outright ignored by the mining companies operating near the Kohekuzleno. The powers that were, pre-2000, were majority Liberana, especially in the Dikastiri’ and the Ĉiutagej’. Many, though not all, of the judicators happened to be corrupt, which—as you would expect—led to the annulling a class-action lawsuit in 1996. I recall, after the Dikastiri’ reached its decision, the Liberana Grand Judicator Agapios Iordanou famously said ‘What in shit is wrong with you people?’ I echo the same sentiment. It’s about time we sought a change in the daily dynamics in Sifrisian politics, and it’s an objective I will continue to pursue and voice in my administration. I don’t care what you think I’m insinuating. Next question.”

The reporters erupt in flurry. “Sinjor! Sinjor!” shouts an Egalecano in a seersucker blazer. “Are you saying the Liberanos are to blame for the riot at Ramazan?”

“No. I have no idea where that surmise came from. As I have said before, this is an emergent affair that is in dire need of a holistic, perennial remedy. While I was a journalist, I’ve met many Liberanos who have detested the treatment of the Sifrites. It’s not the Liberana affiliations that are the issue, but the Liberana powers that be, which are more often than not biased towards the industries that lobby. I wouldn’t be surprised if Executor Jansen had a mining executive as a concubine. What we need, most importantly, are politicians that won’t throw their constituents under the bus when it comes to policy and authority. Jansen has thrown the diminishing Sifrites under the bus repeatedly, and as the chief premier I will not stand idly by and permit this to go on any further.”

“You claimed that you did not insinuate Jansen’s role in the affair, yet you just condemned him,” retorts a lean reporter in tartan. “Where is the coherence in your perspective?”

Ilioraza wrinkles his nose at the objection. “That’s…a fundamental misunderstanding of what I just said. Again the minutiae of the incident are indeterminate—”

“Yet you’re determining Jansen to be a minutia!” the journalist shouts.

“Aŭskultu, aŭskultu, aŭskultu!” Ilioraza’s brows furrow. “Is Jansen involved or implicated in Ramazan? We do not know for sure, and I will never claim to know until a thorough investigation is concluded. But has he favoured domanial bills and rulings that depress the Sifrites? Yes, and empirical evidence will show that. Throughout his administration, he has initiated the repeal of several landmark edicts concerning the Sifrites' right to the land. It's not difficult to deduce that his actions may have contributed to the lack of protections for Sifrites in the domain.”

“Sinjor,” a Qoi woman shouts, “in your writings prior to even announcing candidacy for the office of Chief Premier, you have made statements praising nonliberal governments such a Haor Chall and Sasten.” There it goes. “You championed the strong restraint of private business and the curtailment of essential freedoms as the undisturbed functions of the press and the markets. Should the citizens of this country, especially the citizens residing in Sifris, expect this sort of ideology to leak into your decisions regarding what should be done in response to this episode?”

“Before I delve into your question,” Ilioraza says, his hand now a clenched fist, “I should say that I have never—not even in my years prior to entering into politics—ever suggested that we should curtail the freedoms of the press. As a former columnist for a reputable magazine that has swayed the emotions of the urban populace more than any single vulgatano or marmorano could, I truly understand the good that a well–ran publication can bring to its followers. If you are referring to my comments on the unreliability of some news organisations—the ones that prioritise profit over politics—no, I do not consider it a freedom to spread misinformation and distort the truth. In fact, I consider it an abuse of freedom. My relevant writings have only protested against the libel that goes on in the press today, not the press itself. It would be ironic that I would protest the press by using the press. These strawmans serve no other purpose than to distance ourselves from the actual discussion.”

“As for the rest of your question, Sinjorin’ Mellas, yes I do plan on restricting how businesses—especially large coporations like STATJA Holdingo—operate. The fact that this…‘episode,’ as you called it, came into fruition is a sign that too little is being done to put people over profit. It’s no argument whether Meyer–Aakster had a right to that land. Even if they did, they shouldn’t have had it in the first place. Corporations must not be allowed to usurp the refuge of a people, especially one that is on the track of going extinct in a century.”

The stout man in cashmere starts again: “Sinjor’ Ilioraza, you had made it very clear that your agenda for the next four years will involve assimilation, which necessitates the demolition of cultural backgrounds and traditions in favour of more prominent ones. I, therefore, find inconsistencies within your rhetoric. What is so special about Demescian native culture that somehow sunders it from the other cultures sustained on the island?”

“I…” Ilioraza is speechless for a few seconds. It’s a curveball that he didn’t expect—one that never even occurred to him or Ĉinata when they were doing their rounds on the loveseat. Ilioraza ahems and responds: “obviously there is a stark difference of importance between that which is rare and that which is common. I don’t think I need to say more in regards to that question, since it should be self–explanatory. Next question.”

“Hold on!” the woman says. “That isn’t the sort of question that should be pooh–poohed. You seem to imply that some cultures are more valuable than others, and as an Egalecanino”—not just a egalecano, but an egalecanino—“I don’t believe that is the correct judgement to hold when running a country as diverse as ours. Tell us what you mean, or be subject to our misinterpretations.”

Again, silence. If this were a chess game, the liberano and egalecanino would be the bishop and queen that put him in check. Ilioraza admits to himself: he hasn’t been paying attention to his arguments as much as he should’ve. Again, an ahem, and again, he speaks. “I misspoke.” There are audible sighs in the conference room. “What I really mean is this: I believe in assimilation but not expropriation, especially not the kind that benefits solely big business. Also, this is not simply a culture we are discussing. This is an entire species, extinct in all places except a few spots in Meterra and Craviter. I believe assimilation is necessary when diversity is troublesome—and the Sifrites, being so removed from urbanity, has caused no trouble to society. Yet, we trouble their way of life so mercilessly. I would not wish the same for even Blubak’ in Nisentro. I do not approach this dire situation with the notion that ‘some cultures are more valuable than others,’ but rather the notion that ‘some cultures should just have the solace of being left alone.’ They have not bother anybody. In fact, they’re so few in number that they can’t. Even if they weren’t so rare as a society, expropriation is still where I draw the line. When you remove families from their homes and threaten the security of their communities, you have crossed the line. With these facts in mind, I hope that you understand the compatibility of my views.”

“With this partiality in mind, Premiersinjor’,” steadily asks a balding Harki reporter as he adjusts his circular spectacles, “is it your intention to excuse and disregard the emotional trauma done to the mineworkers implicated? Those who were forced to walk nude through the forest in violent downpour? Surely you couldn’t possibly suggest that the Sifrites were the only victims of this.” Ilioraza is especially familiar with this one: Amil Mehrotra, the angular–chinned, thin–nosed editor from UĜDAK. “I’m honestly surprised that nobody has asked about this earlier,” he deadpans.

Ilioraza does not want to waste his breath on this smartass. “No, that is not at all what I am suggesting,” he responds, “and I give my heart out to those who were traumatised in a revolt they shouldn’t have even been implicated in. I will encourage any relief to those traumatised, but I also want to remedy the root of the issue at hand rather than its effect. Next quest—”

“And what do you suggest is the root of the problem?” Didamnita. “Is it the fiaj corporations back at its antics again? Or perhaps it’s the fiaj Liberanos in the Marmoro that don’t agree with you? Or maybe it’s—”

“Or maybe it’s an emergent system of fault, as I said earlier, Sinjor’ Mehrotra. I see through your ruse to rile me up; it’s quite transparent, actually. It’s all you eastern newspapers do: rile, rile, rile.”

“That’s quite the overgeneralisation.”

“I don’t care. Next question.”

“My next question: you don’t care about facts, Premiersinjor’?” Malbenite, this ulaĉo keeps talking. “I’m simply seeking the root of your philosophy. The prime motivation. Why you turned to Sunsubir–Respubliko after years of being a moderate social–democrat. Why you never confessed to your father about your…tendencies.”

Something inside Ilioraza is about to combust, and though he’s superficially aware of it, it gradually exudes like a gas leak. He shuts his eyes, takes a deep breath, and says in an almost mumble, “Please do not bring up my personal life in the newsroom.”

“As a politician, you should expect private matters to come to the public eye. Do you imply that, after all these years of being a ‘columnist,’ this is something you have yet to realise? Are you that naïve of the nature of mass media?”

Ilioraza, quivering, grabs both edges of the podium and says “I do think we should give other presspeople a chance to have their voice heard. Thank you, Sinjor’ Mehrotra, but I will be taking questions from the other reporters whom I have invited.”

“You haven’t answered my questions though.”

“I choose not to.”

“Why, Sinjor’ Ilioraza?”

“Next question.”

“Are you afraid of something, Sinjor’ Ilioraza?”

“Next question.”

“Why didn’t you confess to your father, Sinjor’ Ilioraza?”

Ilioraza bangs on the podium with a clenched fist. “NEXT…QUESTION.” He looks around the room, and he receives sullen stares back. It’s over. Another skirmish lost in his crusade.

Be breathes in…and breathes out. “—I do apologise for that outburst. Um. I don’t think I will be able to continue at this time. Thank you all for your concern about this incident foreshadowing our nation’s future. I wish I could continue to take questions, but I can’t…I just can’t.”

Camera flashes still flutter relentlessly—in the room of a thousand reporters. Ilioraza turns off the microphones, steps down from the stage, and leaves.
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10:21 PM
The Ilioraza Residence in the backwoods of Port William, Vilanto—Demescia.

“But I can’t…I just can’t.” The telly repeats his words.

Ilio sits in front of the large flatscreen in the living room, wearing only flannel pyjama trousers and taking shots straight from a Beaujolais.

“If we’re going to deal with such a delicate crisis,” a chestnut–haired commentator on BluN says, “we need a man resolute in his disposition and prudent in his judgement. That right there? Surrendering in the face of an opponent? That is cowardice—and I don’t believe we’re in the position, and especially with our internal situation and our role in Meterran politics, in the position to elect and trust in leaders that show cowardice. Sure, you could say Ilioraza has some good ideas, but does he have the character to go through with them?”

The telly suddenly shuts off. Ilio looks behind him; Ĉinata holds the remote in his left hand. “Why did you even invite him?” He comes and sits down with him, setting down the remote.

“Wasn’t my decision,” Ilio responds. “PR invited him.”

“And you let them invite him.”

“And I thought I could take him.” Ilio looks down into the mouth of his bottle. He’s probably gulped a quarter of the thing. “I guess I overestimated myself. Like usual.”

“Perhaps so,” says Ĉinata, but he then looks in the eye and says, “but you’re not snifled. Don’t twist it. If you can’t show them by words show them by action.”

“Heh. Look at my action now.” He twirls the bottle in his grasp.

“It was mense postrestanta for him to ask those questions about your childhood!” Ĉinata bangs on the coffee table. “What room does your personal life have in political discourse?”

“Let’s see what BluN says.” He turns on the telly again.

“Mehratra does have a point, I must admit: if you don’t want your personal life being exposed,” chestnut–haired dude says, “don’t go into politics. Don’t even publish a book. Because all the things you’ve done, even the small stuff, is going to come back and haunt you for as long as you’re famous.”

Ĉinata turns off the telly again. “Fuck what BluN has to say. Hypocritical idealistic f*t*s!”

“Hey, chill! Don’t say the fucking F word.”

“That’s what they are, and that’s what I will call them! They hurt you. BluN, Mehratra, and probably the Kulen Show in give or take a few months.” Ilio chuckles at the last one. “They have no idea the good you will soon do for the country.”

“Don’t go whiteknighting me,” he fast–talks. “I don’t regret doing the conference, not even inviting Mehratra. Nothing but that final response to him. Now, what I would really appreciate is for you to stop pampering me like a slow child that deserves a participation trophy. Is that simple enough, hm? Or will your felumula immaturity not let you?” Ĉinata responds with nothing but silent gape—and a slight shaking of the head. The kind of speechlessness Ilio felt when he was on stage. “I am—so sorry I said that. I was just tired…and the Beaujolais…and…”

Ĉinata gets up. “I was going to suggest that we lay around and ogle Da! Winter Edition—but I see that you have your own issues to work out. Tell me how that goes in the morning.” He walks up the staircase without saying another word.

Ilio looks back at his bottle; only about half of the wine remains. With a deep sigh, he takes another gulp.
10:21 PM
Frome, Sifris—Demescia.

Jansen walks out into the humid cold, a blazing Zoloche clenched between his jaws. The newshounds gave him a fight. “Why was Meyer–Aakster on the land in the first place?” they asked. “Do you plan on putting sanctions on the corporation?” they asked. Now it’s over and done, and he can stroll by the blinking Dŭando down the street and grab some ĝunos before heading westbound.

—And then a reporter darts in front of him.

“Wait, Sinjor’ Jansen,” the lean and stached reporter says with a thick Kianese tongue. “You didn't answer my questions.”

“Yes I did; I remember calling on you twice.” The cigar in his mouth reduces his speech to mere garbles.

“Well, I wasn't satisfied with them Sinjor’ Jansen.”

Jansen raises his brow and smirks. “What were you expecting, a spy thriller?” he chuckles, shaking his head.

“No, I was expecting the truth, Sinjor’ Jansen. The whole truth, Jansen.”

“The whole truth?” He takes the cigar from his mouth and holds it between his fingers. “Truth is, we ran out of time and couldn't respond to any other questions you had, Sinjor’ Konor. Truth is, I don’t have any more of a clue about the Ramazan mining operation than any of the freedom fighters in Katu—any more than the muckrakers of Katu—any more than the fia Sifrites that stormed the place. If you want an interview, we can set up an appointment, but I got a bus to catch. I don’t have time for your ĵuru.” He keeps walking.

Sinjor’ Konor arches his brows. “Oh, I think the bus can wait. The truth can’t. The truth is a night bus that won’t come again for another hour, and I intend on catching it.”

“Oh, spare me your metaphors, Simbri!” Jansen whines as he brisks the other way, the wrinkles of his forehead creased. “You think I have something to hide? From you, Simbri? I knew you sneaked into the press conference. I could’ve easily got security to whisk you away as if you were a horny teen at an Elmo concert. But I didn’t. You know why?!” He comes inches from Konor’s face and he whispers, “I. Have. Nothing. To. Hide. I. Know. Nothing.” He blows a puff of smoke in Konor’s face that makes him wince and cough.

“Da, is that what cancer smells like?” Konor ripostes. Looking him right in the eyes, he says “People like you give Liber–Demesko a shitty name, as shitty as your fucking breath.”

“Send my secretary your complaints,” Jansen says as he walks away into the mist.