Of Heroes and Royals
Having entered the home of the resistance as complete outsiders, Alice had expected the group to stick out like a sore thumb. She had braced herself for suspicious glances, intimidating men questioning who they were, or perhaps even physical examinations. An organisation as secretive as the resistance surely had to be somewhat careful about who they let in and out, she thought. However, this didn't turn out to be the case at all.
For a few minutes, the group stood around waiting for someone to greet them - or even acknowledge them in any capacity - to no avail. It seemed like they were invisible.
It also seemed like the base was in some kind of panic - people seemed to be walking around in a hurry, and countless people crossed back and forth through the hallway in just the few minutes that they had been stood there.
It was only when a short girl with light brown hair passed by, holding several books in her arms, that their existence was finally acknowledged.
"Hmm, I've never seen you people before." she spoke curiously, placing the books at her side and turning to face the group. "Are you new here?"
Alice turned to Apollo, expecting him to answer, but got no response. Instead, he simply stared at the woman who stood before them. "Uhm... yes! I guess you could say we're... new recruits?" Alice responded, trying to guess what Apollo would have answered with.
"Oh, lovely! I'm sure the Captain will be happy to have you on board. However..." she began, before pausing for a moment to twirl her hair nervously. "As you might've been able to guess, you haven't exactly caught us at the best time. We're kind of having a crisis right now."
"The mountain, right?" Ciela chimed in.
The woman gave her an affirmative nod. "Yes. It might sound hard to believe, but it sort of just... rose out of the ground last night."
Again, Alice expected Apollo to answer, given that he had stumbled upon the mystery first, but he remained silent and continued to stare. "Uhm... Apollo? Are you okay?" she asked in a concerned tone, standing on her toes and poking his cheek.
"I... I'm absolutely fine!" he exclaimed, seemingly returning to reality. "Excuse me, Miss, but could I ask your name? And what does a fine lady like you do around here?"
Alice was shocked. "He completely changed the subject! Did he even hear us at all?!" She thought.
Naois let out a sigh. "Not this again..." he muttered quietly.
The woman paused for a moment before responding, looking Apollo up and down. "My name is Mirri! It's a pleasure to meet you." she beamed, giving Apollo a bright smile. "And you could say I'm... the resistance's librarian."
Ciela became confused upon hearing this. "Why does the resistance need a librarian?"
However, before Mirri had the chance to answer, Naois interrupted, walking over to the woman and placing his hands upon her shoulders. "Yeah, yeah, you can talk about that later! Hey lady, if you're a librarian, that means you're smart, right? You read a lot? So tell me, who would you say is the strongest around here?"
Upon seeing the way Naois acted toward Mirri, it took Apollo less than a second to begin scolding him. "Don't be so rude, you idiot! Just this once, would you play nice?! Ma'am, I humbly apologise for my companion's actions."
If being yelled at didn't do it, seeing Apollo take a bow of apology certainly weirded out Naois enough to take his hands off the woman. "Take it down a notch, man..." he muttered.
Mirri simply chuckled. "It's okay, don't worry. We have a... variety of different characters around here, so I'm used to stuff like this. Now then, as for the strongest around here, that's easy! I'll just show you. Follow me." and with that, the woman picked up her books and took off down the hallway, with Naois and Ciela following quickly behind her.
However, Alice hung back for a moment, and gestured to Apollo to do the same.
"Hey, Apollo? What was that just now? Why'd you freeze up all of a sudden?" she asked, blissfully unaware of what would follow.
"Listen, Alice..." Apollo began to answer, bringing his face so close to Alice's that his nose touched hers. He did this in one swift movement, taking the girl off-guard, and she couldn't stop her cheeks from burning a little red. "If there is one thing you should absolutely know about me, one unchangeable, undeniable fact... it's that I really, really like brunettes."
And without another word, Apollo took off down the hallway after Mirri.
Alice was completely taken aback. Just when she had thought she had seen the full extent of Apollo's eccentric behaviour, he always found some way to surprise her. "Uh... you know, that actually explains a lot."
Realising that she was now alone in a hallway full of busy-looking strangers, Alice quickly took off to reunite with the rest of the group. As she caught up, examined the room around her, realising that Mirri had taken them into what seemed to be the main hub of the base. There were a few tables and chairs scattered around - which were currently all empty - though one of the tables seemed to be particularly important, with a map of the world laid out on it. Additionally, at the furthest end of the room there seemed to be some high tech computers - the likes of which Alice had never seen in Lucciola - which were currently displaying a map of Fiorir.
"Here we are!" Mirri spoke as she pointed to an ornately decorated poster on a wall, her books nearly tumbling as she did so. "This here is the Royal Ranking. It's put together by a bunch of the guys to rank the top ten most likely people to take the throne once we win. It's a little silly, as nothing is set in stone. Some of them don't even want to take the throne. Thinking of a brighter future raises morale, though. A lot of work goes into it, and they take votes from everyone. They consider everything from strength, leadership skills, and their popularity within the resistance. So... these are, without a doubt, the strongest people we have."
The group took a moment to read the poster carefully.
[ ROYAL RANKING: ]
[ FOR CONCERNS OR QUESTIONS, PLEASE CONTACT THE ROYAL RANKING COMMITTEE. ]
"So, this is... everyone I have to become stronger than if I want to fulfil my destiny..." Alice muttered to herself, somewhat in awe and imagining what each of the list's members were like.
"As you can tell," Mirri chuckled, a little embarrassed to be showing the list to newcomers. "They're really into it."
"What the hell kind of names are these?" a puzzled Naois asked, scanning the list.
"Oh, well, some of the Royal Ten are on deep undercover missions. So, to prevent a disaster if this list were to ever leak publicly, we use codenames for them. Some of our newer members haven't even met all of them, or know their real names. It's kinda fun." Mirri explained, cheerful as ever. "The only ones that are here right now are Captain and Hero -- but if you're going to bother either of them, please don't let it be the Captain. He's our leader, and like I said, we're really busy right now."
Alice had noticed that the woman had a very soft, kind voice. It befitted a librarian, she thought - someone who was traditionally shy and found more comfort in books than people. She didn't know if Mirri was like that, of course, but it wouldn't surprise her if she was. Either way, the brunette was a comforting presence in an otherwise scary, unknown place.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, it's not like I don't have any tact. Unlike some people I know..." Naois' words trailed off as he slyly shot a look at Apollo, who responded by giving him the same face that had managed to make Capri flinch.
"Well, do you want me to introduce you to the Captain? He's the only one that can make you official members." Mirri asked, realising how long she'd been with the group and becoming eager to get back to her books. "It'll be brief though, for obvious reasons."
"Sure thing. Oh, sorry, I didn't tell you. That's why we're here, after all. I guess you could say we're... new recruits!" Apollo exclaimed, before becoming a little confused as to why everyone looked either disappointed or concerned after hearing his words.
Stepping away from the Royal Ranking, Mirri headed over to the far end of the room - where Alice had spied the computers when she walked in. A group of people were crowding around the monitors, discussing something of importance, but it was impossible to make out what anyone was saying as each voice seemed to blend together.
"Captain! I have some people I'd like to introduce you to!" Mirri called out.
Alice wondered what kind of person the leader of the resistance was, and waited with great anticipation to see who would turn around. Not only was this person arguably the greatest "criminal" or on the continent (in the eyes of Stratus), but they were also one of the Royal Ten - a candidate to rule Lumière once it was freed.
After excusing himself from the ongoing conversation, it was a man with olive green hair who turned around. He seemed to be around Apollo's height, in his early thirties, and wore a short sleeve black t-shirt that Alice noticed left his very muscular arms in plain view - on top of somehow highlighting his abs at the same time.
"Let me guess, new recruits?"