Beyond these walls, war raged across the island of Noviy Cimmeria, but within the air was calm, no sound from beyond allowed to intrude upon the calm within. Too many saw war as the purpose, but commissar Zhou Shiwen knew it for what it was: the bruitsh failing of diplomacy, of conversation. But that failing was neither inevitable, nor insurmountable...
The door of the teahouse slid open and then closed again, and Zhou smiled, rising to offer a bow.
"Hoffbauer-xiansheng, welcome. You honour me with acceptance of my invitation. Please, sit, sit."
"I am, as you doubtless already know, commissar Zhou Shiwen. StateEmpire Ministry of State Defense, General Political Department, et cetera. You are a war correspondent for the PanOceanian Hexahedron... and one whom we recently discovered was receiving information from a mole within the StateEmpire administration here on planet Dawn. That, Hoffbauer-xiansheng, was most impolite of you. I would be quite justified in taking offense.
But I will not do so, for your action directed my attention, and in wondering who you might be and what you intended, I found you to be very interesting indeed, no mere handler from the Inner Hexahedron. By day, propaganda for the PanOceanian course. By night, posting to more personal accounts, a more doubtful perspective. Questions about the ALIVE incident. Musings that the nation claiming to be a 'hyperpower' might be better served though a different course than constant war against Yu Jing and the frothing rage of those who see the 'Crusades in the Holy Land' as an ideal to strive for not a regrettable incident of violence left behind as Humanity advances out of history.
There appear to be a few like minds, and together many minds can make a movement. What was it you called it?"
The PanOceanian journalist replied and expounded, and the commissar smiled... excellent. That the so-called 'Hyperpower' would fall was inevitable, that it do so more expediently was vital... Humanity's interests demanded it. Some might consider that malicious, but there was no hate to it... this Hoffbauer seemed to think PanOceania could be saved, and of course it could, but its leadership within the Sphere must be ended. A truth the warcor was, perhaps, not yet ready to embrace.
As they spoke, food was quietly delivered, the expertise of the staff assuring the conversation did not skip a beat. When interruption came, it was the chiming of a comlog, much to Zhou's irritation.
"What is... ah, I see."
His smile was apologetic as he looked to his guest, whose eyes were also sorting incoming data.
"It seems our compatriots have gotten wind of our rendezvous, Hoffbauer-xiansheng, and are displeased with our conversation. A shame, I had felt it to be most productive.
We shall, I hope, soon speak again. But for the moment, we must take our leave".
Zhou Shiwen and Hoffbauer stood face to face, the air around them tinted by the neon glow of holoads and streetlights. Around them both, the victorious soldiers of Yu Jing stood with weapons trained on the PanOceanian.
"My apologies, Hoffbauer-xiansheng, I had hoped we might speak at length. But this, today, is perhaps the lesson. Conflict serves no one, and PanOceania's thirst for it is self-destructive. It would be best for all our sakes if its course might be changed."
Power-armoured soldiers moved to advance, but the political officer held up a hand to halt them, and the warcor was allowed to make his withdrawal undeterred.
The PanOceanian's withdrawal left commissar Zhou Shiwen and Hsien Aisin-Gioro Yixin standing side by side.
"You really didn't need to have gone to the trouble, honoured Immortal. No need to cross the Yellow River, I had the Hu well in hand..."
"The mole you had me arrest, the one who reported to this Hoffbauer. He was nephew of Minister Deng. The shame of the incident has caused the Minister to resign, replaced by vice-minister Bo."
"Oh, is that so, honoured Immortal? I believe me and vice-minister Bo attended school together, I shall have to pass on my congratulations!"
"Justice is not a thing for POLITICS, commissar, not a thing to be manipulated to serve your intrigues..."
"You have it wrong, honoured immortal.
All of this, war and violence, is the lowest form of politics. But justice? Justice is the highest."