Inside one of the rooms at Club Riddle, an intense staring standoff ensued between Adam and Chris. The tension between them was palpable, an indication of a prolonged argument that had transpired. Eva, who stood nearby, wore something different from her usual army uniform, opting for a short dress that added a touch of both elegance and informality to her appearance. The choice of attire seemed to reflect the unique circumstances and the need for a more relaxed environment for their discussion. Her presence, however, carried an air of exasperation, evident in the furrowed brow and clenched jaw that accompanied her stern gaze.
Frustration mounting, Eva's patience wore thin. "Are you two ever going to put an end to this? I have important tasks to attend to. Did you bastards just bring me here to witness your pointless standoff?" Her voice grew louder, but the two men remained unswayed by her outburst. Fed up with their unresponsive behavior, Eva seized a nearby glass and flung it towards Adam, making him the unwilling intermediary in their impasse.
The glass whizzed through the air, catching Adam off guard. Instinctively, he raised his arm to shield his face, and the glass shattered against his forearm, sending shards scattering across the room. Chris burst into laughter at the unexpected turn of events, while Eva's frustration seemed to escalate even further.
"Oh, now you decide to react!" Eva exclaimed, her voice tinged with both annoyance and amusement. "If you're quite done with your little staring contest, maybe we can all get back to more important matters?"
Adam let out a chuckle as he inspected his arm, relieved that the glass hadn't caused any serious harm. "You know, Eva, you could have just asked us to stop," he quipped his playful tone a stark contrast to the tension that had filled the room moments ago.
ραndαsΝοvεl ƈοmEva crossed her arms and shot an exasperated look at both of them. "You both are impossible. Fine, whatever. Just don't drag me into your nonsense again." She turned on her heel and headed towards the door, but before she could leave, Chris finally spoke up.
"Wait, Eva. There's something we wanted to discuss with you," he said, a more serious tone in his voice now.
Eva paused and turned back; her eyebrows raised in curiosity. "What is it?"
"We brought you here to decide the" Chris declared, drawing out the tension before revealing the trivial nature of their standoff. Eva, clearly expecting something significant, was seated expectantly in her chair. "Ultimate staring champion," Chris concluded.
Upon hearing his revelation, eva pounced on chris, unleashing her purse as a weapon. "You idiots! Can't you ever take anything seriously?" She turned her attention to adam after delivering a thorough punishment to chris. "And you, are you also curious about the champion?"
"No, no," Adam hastily replied, retreating in his seat as eva continued her retribution on chris. "I certainly wouldn't want to challenge someone who can beat her superior and the future leader of her planet."
"You better be," Eva retorted, her demeanor transforming completely from her usual army uniform-clad persona.
"Setting that aside, I called you here for a more significant matter than a staring champion," Adam resumed with a serious tone. "You're aware of Ravenbard's impending arrival, right?"
Eva, now ceasing her assault on Chris, returned to her seat. "Yes, I was going to ask you about the verdict, but you were engrossed in your 'very important' standoff," she retorted.
Adam cleared his throat with a feigned cough and proceeded, "Well, the verdict is in our favor. However, there have been some notable changes from our previous prediction."
"Firstly, Chris has the choice to join the army of any officer he prefers, and he can bring one person as his +1. Secondly, Eva, your 6th army has been disbanded," Adam delivered the verdict.
Upon hearing the verdict, Chris adopted a more serious expression, while Eva maintained a knowing look on her face. "Not much of a surprise, but it falls within my expectations," she commented.
"Third, Eva, you and your entire army will be integrated into the council's official army," Adam delivered the final piece of news with a solemn tone.
Eva's eyes showed a mixture of dread and understanding. She was well aware of the implications â those who became part of the council's army often faced dangerous missions, enduring a relentless cycle of high-risk assignments without respite or holidays.
The gravity of the situation weighed heavily on their minds, especially given the dire state of the alliance. The sense of dread that Eva felt held an additional layer of meaning â unlike other circumstances where those who joined the council's army could typically opt to leave after a decade of service, this was different. In this case, joining the council's army was deemed a form of punishment by Ravenbard. As a result, escape from this challenging and demanding service was only possible through death or by progressing to the next level.
"Do we have any other options?" Eva inquired, even though she was well aware of the inevitable answer.
"No," Adam responded. "However, I can offer some assistance to make things more bearable for you."
"How?" Eva's surprise was evident in her voice. Chris, too, found himself taken aback, knowing the challenge of altering a Ravenbard verdict once it had been issued.
"It's quite simple, we will be there for you" Adam explained, gesturing between himself and Chris.
Chris initially failed to grasp Adam's point, but it didn't take long for the realization to dawn on him. "Hold on a second. When did I agree to join the council's army? And who gave you the authority to be my +1? The last time I checked, I have the freedom to choose my path. I've heard Officer Vish's army has some pretty attractive recruits, and Officer Leo's team is known for its laid-back approach. Either of those would suit me better."
Adam chuckled at Chris's reaction, seemingly unfazed by his protests. "Come on, Chris. You know you wouldn't last a day in Officer Vish's army or Officer Leo's laid-back brigade. And besides, who else is crazy enough to be your +1 in those situations?"
Eva couldn't help but smile at the banter between the two. Despite the seriousness of the situation, their friendship was a welcome relief. "All right, fine. Having you two around might make things a little more bearable," she admitted.
Adam nodded, pleased with the outcome. "See, it's settled then. We'll face whatever challenges come our way together, just like old times."
Chris rolled his eyes but couldn't hide a smirk. "Yeah, yeah, fine. But if I have to wear that ridiculous council uniform, I'm blaming both of you." They all shared a laugh.
Their drinks arrived promptly, carried by a small robotic server. Chris and Adam had chosen Delle, a milder option, with Chris avoiding stronger drinks due to his preference and Adam because of his impending work responsibilities. On the other hand, Eva had boldly selected Braumbleque Doux, the most potent concoction the club offered.
As they began to sip their drinks, Chris and Adam paced themselves with a sip every minute or so, while Eva wasted no time and had already polished off more than two bottles. The ambiance was lighthearted, yet a tinge of melancholy was palpable.
Eva's voice carried a hint of sorrow as she spoke, "How long has it been since we've sat together like this, without a care in the world? And even now, it's only because we're about to leave this planet behind."
Adam's response held a touch of sadness, "It's been 35 years, 9 months, and 4 days since we graduated and last shared a drink."
Observing the emotional weight in their expressions, Chris felt unsure about how to uplift the mood. Adam's sadness was understandable, given his deep attachment to his father. Witnessing Eva, his usually fierce and unshakable captain, display emotions was a new experience altogether.
However, the momentary somberness was soon broken as Eva and Adam snapped out of their reverie. Yet, Adam's embarrassment and Eva's annoyance took the forefront as chris exclaimed, "I had no idea you two were so sentimental! I would've gladly given you some privacy if I had known." This was followed by eva taking out her frustration on Chris, launching yet another round of good-hard beating which natured teasing and laughter.