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Two Dragons Unfurl Their Coils [Earth II]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Two Dragons Unfurl Their Coils [Earth II]

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Thu Jun 20, 2019 1:25 pm

22 June 2019 - 18:40hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

In the weeks and months following the Singapura Conference, relations between the attending nations had undergone a steady thawing. The Nanfang Republic was steadily increasing its influence in Africa, utilising avenues opened by the Margrave Oil Company (MOC) to establish closer trading ties with the Republic of Nigeria, the Shoshanga Kingdom, the Republic of Ndongo, and the Kingdom of Orungu. MOC operations continued to extract oil and natural gas in Nigeria, Ndongo, and Orungu, while MOC geological teams were working with the Shoshanga Kingdom to pinpoint potential natural gas reserves off the small nation's coast. All four nations were experiencing increased investment from Nanfang corporations of all stripes while their oftentimes-corrupt leadership were also enjoying the benefits of Eastern largesse. The Grande Império do Zaire was also enjoying an influx of investment from both the Nanfang Republic and Freistaat Ostafrika, a fact that was not particularly enriching for the general population but it was proving enriching for the ruling Imperial House of Dourado. As for Freistaat Ostafrika, the dip in revenues experienced after losing control over the Unified Arab Sultanate and the Kingdom of Travancore was beginning to turn around courtesy of improving trade with the Nanfang Republic. There had been a much-ballyhooed trade delegation visit to Dar es Salaam from Nanjing, followed by the signing of several billion dollars worth of trade and investment deals as the Nanfang Republic very publicly kept their word with regard to improving relations between the two. This naturally meant that the shares handed out by the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft (OAG) to the attendees of the Singapura Conference were now starting to reappreciate in value.

The Unified Arab Sultanate was in the process of redrawing their political system after the palace coup against Sultan Ibrahim, with Nanfang military personnel deployed to the Sultanate to assist them in 'maintaining order'. Sultan Ibrahim was planning to abdicate and go into exile in Ostafrika as a result of the palace coup, while the Royal Advisory Council were finalising a new federal constitution that would replace the Sultan with a President and a Prime Minister elected from within their number, allowing the Emirs of of the Sultanate to exercise true legislative and executive power. There would also be a National Assembly created with various rules and regulations regarding potential members, all in all amounting to the Emirs making their position unassailable and secure. There were even rumours that the Unified Arab Sultanate would be renamed as the 'United Arab Emirates' once the internal reorganisation was complete. In addition to redrawing their nation's political system, the Royal Advisory Council were also enjoying being courted by the Margrave Oil Company which was seeking to establish the foothold that they had been on the cusp of achieving before the UAS had made their brief turn into the arms of the OAG. Relations between the UAS and Freistaat Ostafrika were rather clinical at the present time due to the bumpy relationship of recent months but there were signs of improvement as the Nanfang Republic did their best to identify potential areas of cooperation for the two. The Kingdom of Travancore was prospering quite nicely, finding it simple to obtain trade deals for their agricultural produce. Travancore continued their amiable relationship with the Unified Arab Sultanate, with remittances flowing into Travancore from Malayali workers in the UAS, and the small nation's tourism sector was undergoing a boom period as wealthy and middle class individuals from the Nanfang Republic and Singapura Raya began visiting out of curiosity. The kingdom had also established a good relationship with Singapura Raya due to the latter's actions as adjudicator for the 'divorce' between Travancore and Ostafrika. Ostafrika had received what they deemed 'sufficient compensation' for any facilities that had come under the jurisdiction of the Travancore government and so relations between the two were more amicable than those between Ostafrika and the UAS, although they certainly had room for improvement. All in all, there was a strong foundation forming for the various nations to build upon.

The formation of this strong foundation was also inadvertently creating opportunities for less savoury forces within the nations involved. While the Howling Devil-Tigers triad of Guangzhou, Oumún, and Hēunggóng were content to make their money within the confines of the Nanfang Republic due to their links with the influential Liao family and the sheer size of that nation, the Thrashing Dragons triad of Singapura were proving to be far more adventurous than their northern counterparts. They had started expanding their legitimate business interests by acquiring the Hotel Lake Palace in the Travancore capital of Trivandum and then stretched out from there, purchasing several hotels and resorts across the UAS and Africa. While the Dragons played it safe within the UAS for the most part, they were now exploring the corruptibility of the bureaucracy in Nigeria and Ndongo while attempting to form links with Nigeria's organised crime groups. They had also established a working relationship with Príncipe Florêncio of the Grande Império do Zaire. In return for regular payments and occasional 'off-the-books' favours, the Zairian prince was allowing the Dragons to oversee the cultivation of marijuana in the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu; situated in the heart of the continent on the border between Zaire and Freistaat Ostafrika, the two provinces were subject to particularly sketchy record keeping and were ideal for production of the narcotic plant.

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It was a warm Saturday evening in Singapura with the temperature hovering around 28°C, although the air conditioning in the Marina Bay Trinity created a much more comfortable temperature within the integrated resort's three towers. The resort was starting to benefit in a similar way to the Kingdom of Travancore, albeit in this case it was the wealthy of Africa and the UAS booking more visits than before. The resort's atrium casino was closer to Africa and the UAE than the numerous casinos of Oumún, and there was also the effect of the 'in crowd' as the Trinity was still regarded as quite new and unique even after being open for nine years. The Trinity was also profiting from the fact that the Singapura Conference had been held there, as it could boast to be good enough for world leaders. If you came to the Trinity then you had access to an eight hundred thousand square foot mall, a museum, two large theatres, several 'celebrity chef' restaurants, and even an indoor skating rink which used artificial ice, to name only a few of the available amenities. It was little wonder that the Xuanlong of the Thrashing Dragons preferred to reside at the Trinity out of all of the residences on offer to him as leader of the organisation, it was simply too prestigious and comfortable to say no to it.

The Chairman Suite was indeed a worthy residence for the head of Singapura Raya's premier criminal organisation. Six hundred square metres contained four bedrooms, including a master bedroom with His and Hers bathrooms. There were also two living rooms with one containing a baby grand piano, as well as three furnished balconies, four bathrooms with shower and Jacuzzi, a kitchenette, a media room with karaoke, a billiards room with pool table, a fully equipped private gym, a massage room, steam and sauna facilities, and a study. It was just as well that the suite was so spacious as the Xuanlong did not reside alone. His younger brother, known as Beibeilong, 'Baby Dragon', or simply BeBe, absolutely adored the Trinity and the luxury that it afforded him. At a mere twenty years old BeBe was undoubtedly completely spoiled by his older brother, with no real check on his behaviour unless they were meeting business associates, and even then he was usually allowed to wear whatever he felt like. On this particular evening, the Xuanlong emerged from the master bedroom dressed in a tailored black business suit, his hair slicked back in its usual style and his goatee trimmed to perfection as he was to meet with a representative of a diamond smuggling organisation based in the Republic of Ndongo. As he strolled into a living room while adjusting his shirt cuffs, he was unsurprised to see that BeBe had decided to dress like, well, BeBe.

The younger 'dragon' was stretched out on a couch on his stomach, kicking his feet in the air as he tapped away on his smartphone. He was wearing a black mesh shirt with tight black jeans which slightly restricted his ability to kick his feet freely, accessorised with a pair of black heeled boots. His black hair was pulled back into a ponytail while he sported deep scarlet eye shadow with black eyeliner, complete with a very subtle shade of lip gloss. The Xuanlong took a seat in the armchair nearby and cleared his throat.

"Baby brother."

BeBe responded without looking up from his smartphone. "That's me."

"We need to talk about your birthday."

The word 'birthday' instantly caused BeBe to look up and beam gleefully at his older brother. "Forty-nine days to go."

"I need to know what you want as a main present. I've already bought your extra presents so come on, something that you've always wanted. If I can get it then it's yours."

BeBe made a show of thinking about it, deliberately 'hmming' loudly while turning his head from side to side. He finally stopped and narrowed his eyes intently as he announced his decision.

"I want a private concert. Performed by Darui Liao-Margrave." As the Xuanlong went to reply, BeBe held up a finger to stop him so he could continue. "No-one else present. Just me and Darui." The Xuanlong attempted to respond again but was cut off for a second time by a raised finger. "Seriously, I mean it. No-one else. Just me and him."

The Xuanlong attempted to respond for a third time and finally went without interruption. "Why do I get the feeling that you've already priced this out in your head?"

BeBe grinned mischievously. "One million for him to perform, he'll also require accommodation and travel. There was an article online about how much it would cost to book various stars for a private function and he was on the list."

"Not overly expensive then, all things considered. Accommodation we can manage, travel's no real issue. Might make it two million just to ensure that he attends." The Xuanlong paused and smirked. "I'll make sure that your identity is nowhere near the booking, after your encounter with him during the Singapura Conference I'd imagine that he may be too scared to meet you again. That's just based on what you told me about it, it could have been worse for all I know."

There was a derisive snort as BeBe held his hands up in protest. "All I did was get a selfie, tell him my favourite songs, and tell him that I'd make him forget his honeymoon if he wanted. Admittedly it was in front of his husband but the fact is that Lysander Margrave deserved it." A particularly cocky grin formed as BeBe continued his train of thought. "I just wanted to show Darui that life outside the Margraves is a lot more fun, maybe if I can get him on his own then I can show him a good time."

"I'm going to be opening the door for you to potentially play havoc with one of the Nanfang Republic's power couples, aren't I?"

"Only if something happens, and it'll be as much his fault as mine if it does." BeBe nodded sagely at his older brother. "Takes two consenting adults, after all. Anyway, if he turns me down then there's no harm done, right?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Jun 22, 2019 8:30 am

25 June 2019 - 15:00hrs [UTC+8]
House of the Tree Penthouse
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

"Okay, thanks very much Lin. That's right, it's a yes. It could be fun. Okay, bye now."

Darui Liao-Margrave ended the call with his agent and set his smartphone down on the glass coffee table in front of him, then looked over at Lysander who was sat on the couch opposite. "Want to hear something interesting?"

Lysander lowered his magazine and raised an eyebrow. "Who was it?"

"Lin. Apparently he received an enquiry about whether I'd perform at a private function."

Lysander set his magazine down next to him and regarded Darui with a quizzical expression. "Since when have you done private functions?"

"Never, but apparently there was an article on some website last month about how much it might cost to book certain artists to perform at a private party and that sort of thing. I was one of the artists named, they estimated a ballpark of figure of about one million yuan. Plus accommodation and travel expenses. Lin received an offer of two million yuan, private jet and limousine for travel, and accommodation at the Marina Bay Trinity."

The mention of the Marina Bay Trinity brought about a clear tone of displeasure in Lysander's voice. "It's in Singapura? Who are you going to be performing for?"

Darui was slightly taken aback at the change in Lysander's tone. "Some rich businessman called Mister Long, apparently it's for a twenty-first birthday party. I don't have any performances or appearances booked around that time and we haven't got any plans for then either, so I thought it might be fun. Make someone's birthday extra special, and the money certainly doesn't hurt."

Lysander picked up his magazine once again and began leafing through it, his tone still rather sharp. "When is it?"

"Tenth of August, still a few weeks away." Darui furrowed his brow and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together. "Sandy, what's wrong? I haven't forgotten a vacation or something, have I?"

"Just wondering if you're going to run into that slut again."

Darui closed his eyes and let out a slight groan. "Not this again. I've already said I'm sorry for not instantly rejecting his proposition but it's not like I had much time to do so. You were there, you saw how quickly he ducked into the elevator. Besides, I still say that from the way he was laughing, it's quite possible that he was just messing around. That's not an excuse for what he said about you, that was unnecessary."

Lysander flicked a magazine page with obvious irritation. "Your first reaction was that you found it flattering."

"As I've already explained to you, I don't get that from my Nanfang fans. They're respectful, the worst I get is female fans telling me that I'm cute and that we make a cute couple together. I mean okay, they can get a bit racy when they're posting in online forums but it's harmless. Having someone approach me and tell me to my face, and in front of you, that they'll make me forget my honeymoon was a first for me. I got a bit flustered because I didn't expect that to happen. I'm sorry that I said it was flattering but it caught me offguard." Darui sat back and sighed heavily, pinching the bridge of his nose before he continued. "Look, I know things haven't been perfect recently. I had the album promotion stuff in March and April so I was all over the Republic, and you've been neck-deep in your grandfather's plans to expand the family businesses. We haven't had as much time together as we usually would, and you're jetting off to the UAS next week with your grandfather to meet with the Emirs. Can we please not argue about something that happened back in January?"

"Cancel the booking. Call Lin back and tell him that you've changed your mind."

Darui looked defeatedly up at the ceiling before turning his gaze back to Lysander. "I've already said yes. I can't call him after five minutes to say no because my husband told me not to go. You're being difficult over nothing."

Lysander said nothing in response, instead he simply got up and headed upstairs to the smaller lounge on the penthouse's second floor. Darui sat dejectedly for a few moments before picking up his phone and selecting the number of his older sister Xiulan. Thankfully it only took a few seconds for her to answer.

"Hey Darui! What's up?"

"Hey, is it okay if I come over? I don't want to impose if you and Jian are busy-"

"Nonsense, we're not doing anything tonight. Everything okay? You sound a bit down."

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25 June 2019 - 16:20hrs [UTC+8]
One Shenzhen Bay
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

One of the more recent property developments in the ever-growing city of Shenzhen, One Shenzhen Bay was a group of skyscrapers situated right on the bayfront of the city and only finished in 2018. Unsurprisingly a great number of wealthy Nanfang citizens had tried to acquire apartments in the newly-constructed buildings and one of the penthouses had been acquired by Kuang Jian, a forty-five year old entrepreneur and his thirty-six year old wife Xiulan, who was a member of the Liao family and Darui's older sister. As ever traffic in the city centre had been rather busy and it had taken a while for Darui to drive the twenty-one kilometres from his own residence. However, he was now finally sat on the comfortable five-seater couch that dominated the lounge of his sister's penthouse, an impressive view of Shenzhen Bay visible through the ceiling-high windows behind him. Xiulan soon joined him, handing him a glass of white wine as she tucked the bottom of her sleeveless white dress under her knees and sat next to him.

"You look like you could do with this. What's wrong?"

"Singapura came up again."

Xiulan rolled her eyes and shouted towards the kitchen. "Jian, can you get me a glass of wine please?" She rested her hand consolingly on Darui's shoulder. "What brought it about this time?"

"A Singapuran businessman wanted to book me for a birthday party, willing to pay two million yuan plus all travel and accommodation costs. It sounded like fun so I accepted. As soon as Lysander heard that I'd be staying in the Marina Bay Trinity, the attitude started. Asking if I was going to encounter that 'slut' again, then telling me to cancel the booking."

Jian walked in with a glass of wine for Xiulan and handed to her, then patted Darui on the other shoulder. "Staying for dinner?"

Xiulan nodded to her husband, who nodded back and then made his way back to the kitchen to continue preparing dinner. She took a sip of wine and sighed slightly. "Darui, you know I usually have a lot of time for Lysander."

Darui turned his head to look at her. "But..."

"But...well, he's a Margrave. Our families may always marry each other at least once per generation to maintain the old alliance between us, but we Liao are very much the juniors in the partnership. We run Oumún, Hēunggóng, and Guangzhou politically, we've got the casinos in Oumún and our other businesses, we've even got that part of the family that we don't talk about-", she paused and tapped her nose conspiratorially, "-but the Margraves have the massive companies. They've got the Margrave Oil Company, through that they pretty much own at least three national governments. We're regional, they're global. They've got endless ambition, we like to enjoy what we've got and hold onto it. Now you've managed to be more of a Margrave than anyone expected and you deserve credit for holding your own with the sharks, but sometimes I worry that you're losing your room for independence."

Darui took a large mouthful of wine and gulped it down. "How so?"

"Your spokesperson deals are all with Margrave-owned companies. The label you're with is part of a Margrave-controlled conglomerate. You're married to a Margrave. They practically own you, you took the name 'Liao-Margrave' but Lysander didn't, he kept 'Margrave'. You even adopted the western naming convention so that the surname would work better, you were Liao Darui and now you're Darui Liao-Margrave. You've been married to him for just over two years now, and in those two years your career's really gone places because the Margraves pulled strings. You'd have gotten there yourself eventually, but the Margraves did what Margraves do and they pushed you to the sky. Now I'm guessing that what happened back in January hit a serious nerve with Lysander because someone challenged him, because realistically how often does that happen to a Margrave? I think he's probably insecure about it but because the Margraves excel at being Margraves, he's being a jealous bitch for no good reason."

Xiulan sipped some more wine and winked at Darui. "Stay with your big sister and your brother-in-law for a couple of days, I think you need a mental detox. Oh, and keep the booking for Singapura. It does sound fun, and right now you sound like you need something fun to look forward to."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Jun 22, 2019 8:31 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Wed Jun 26, 2019 7:55 am

28 June 2019 - 11:30hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

"So Freistaat Ostafrika is asking about a free trade agreement already? They certainly don't waste time in trying to get what they want."

Finance Minister Ma Zhen and Commerce Minister Lin Jian both nodded agreeably at President Yang Mingshu's observation, while a murmur travelled through the rest of the Nanfang cabinet. It was only just over six months since the end of the sanctions dispute involving the Nanfang Republic and a host of other nations on one side and Freistaat Ostafrika on the other, so President Yang found the Ostafrikan enquiry to be a little hasty and also a little amusing. She turned her attention to Huang Li, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"One almost has to admire their single-mindedness. Minister Huang, please politely explain to the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft that we shall take the idea of a free trade agreement under advisement and we shall discuss it with them further once we have evaluated all of the necessary factors involved."

"Of course, Madam President."

President Yang cast her gaze around the other cabinet ministers as she continued. "While it would undoubtedly prove to be beneficial to the Republic, we must be mindful of the message that it would send. We should consult with the Unified Arab Sultanate and the Kingdom of Travancore before committing to a free trade agreement with Dar es Salaam, as our newest friends and former clients of the Ostafrikans they may have insights that would prove of interest. Speaking of the UAS, is it true that they are venturing down the route of a republic themselves?"

Minister Huang shook his head. "Not entirely, Madam President. It would appear that they intend to create a federation of emirates with a federal President and Prime Minister. So although it would appear to be a federal republic at first glance, it is actually a federation of absolute monarchies with a very slight flavour of democracy at the federal level. Nine monarchies to be exact, as two historical emirates can be formed from the territories of the former Sultan, and one 'federal territory'. Muscat will remain as the capital but it is to be separated from the emirates to act as its own entity within the federal framework. The Royal Advisory Council will be rebranding themselves as the Federal Supreme Council and hold the reins of power, with the President and Prime Minister elected from within their number. They are still thrashing out the proposed Council of Ministers and a potential legislature named the National Assembly. Special Envoy Mai Shihuan is providing advice and consultations on the best way for them to proceed."

"If it works for them then that is the most important thing. Have all Ostafrikan forces completed their withdrawal from Sultanate territory?"

Defense Minister Tang Dongwei nodded affirmatively. "Indeed they have, Madam President. To their credit they adhered completely to the agreed timetable, so now the only military forces stationed within the Sultanate are their own state forces and our own deployments. It is interesting to note that while they are dealing with the internal reorganisation, the Royal Advisory Council found time to commission a poll regarding public opinion towards Nanfang deployments to their nation. Ninety-two percent of respondents answered that our presence makes them feel 'extremely secure'."

President Yang smirked slightly. "How nice of the Council to provide us with proof of their people's appreciation of our presence. I want you to continue discussing potential arms deals with Muscat, and I would also appreciate it if the Defense Ministry could eventually broach an idea with the Ostafrikans. They have a great many Indian Ocean islands under their jurisdiction and it would be advantageous if we could gain access to their naval facilities for patrol purposes. They will undoubtedly try to make it a quid pro quo where they grant us access in return for a free trade agreement, so hold off on actually speaking to them until we've decided whether to go ahead with the agreement. For now, identify which facilities would be the most useful and how many patrols we could feasibly deploy to the region. If we are able to begin such patrols then it would not only bring some reassurance to our friends in the region, it would also be an excellent method of demonstrating our reach."

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28 June 2019 - 19:40hrs [UTC+8]
Margravia Estate, Zhuhai
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

"This visit to the Unified Arab Sultanate is going to be a busy one. Meetings with their business community, meetings with the Royal Advisory Council, social functions with members of the Royal Advisory Council. There is also talk of us attending camel racing so make sure you bring a wide range of smart clothing. As a result of all these planned meetings and social events I doubt that there will be much time to ourselves, so I am afraid that it might be best for Darui to remain home. The UAS isn't exactly as favourable towards same-sex relationships as the Nanfang Republic and Darui isn't much of a celebrity over there, so it would be best to avoid any potential awkwardness for him and the Arabs."

Alexander Margrave turned to face Lysander as his statement went without a response, regarding his grandson with curiosity as he sat quietly on one of the couches in the family reception room of the Margravia estate's main residential palace. "Lysander?"

"Hmm?"

"Were you listening?"

"Yes, sorry Grandfather. You don't need to worry about Darui, I don't think he has any interest in going anyway."

Alexander discerned some degree of trouble from Lysander's tone and folded his arms. "Alright, talk."

After Lysander went into detail about Darui staying at his sister's home for the past three days and the reasons behind it, Alexander shook his head and snorted.

"I must admit, I thought that he was a smarter boy than that. If there is one thing that we Margraves pride ourselves on, it is the unity of our family. Family unity kept us alive when we first came to this region over two hundred years ago. Family unity gave us the strength to prosper, and family unity is the reason why we now stand as one of the major economic powers within the Nanfang Republic. Yes, I know that the Liao are related to us thanks to the regular marriages between us but they aren't true Margraves. Now Darui was given a choice between family unity and making two million yuan, and he actually chose the two million yuan. There's only one thing to do. I shall offer him five million yuan to cancel this booking and instead perform at a private Margrave function, which shall consist of you and him in your own home. If he turns that down then he genuinely has disappointed me, he seems to be such an intelligent young man." He gave Lysander a slight smile. "For what it's worth, I don't think that he would go to Singapura to cheat on you. I do however think that this situation may need to be addressed more clearly if he refuses to accept my offer."

Lysander frowned at his grandfather. "What do you mean?"

"We made him, Lysander. You think he would have enjoyed the same success as simply Liao Darui? He'd be a regional star at best, instead he's a national star with a growing following outside of the Nanfang Republic. We gave him the opportunities and the support to become what he is. I allowed him to marry the future head of the Margrave family, no other Liao has ever been so honoured. He should be honouring you and worshipping the ground you walk on, not disobeying your wishes so that he can earn a measly two million by performing at a birthday party. He needs to get his priorities back in order or we shall have to remind him where his priorities should lie." He paused for a moment. "Now, considering that you've been dealing with a disobedient husband I think that this visit to the Unified Arab Sultanate may be what you need to get your mind off it. They'll be courting us for our business and eager to make us welcome, so it will be time to enjoy being a Margrave as the nobility fawn over mere merchants."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Jul 02, 2019 11:20 am

30 June 2019 - 19:10hrs [UTC+8]
Liao Family Mansion
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

While Alexander Margrave and Lysander were now in the air, flying to the Unified Arab Sultanate for an extended business trip, Darui had journeyed to the home territory of the Liao family to seek out advice. The previous day had seen Darui receive a visit from Alexander regarding the issues which had developed between Darui and Lysander, and the Margrave patriarch had made his offer to pay Darui five million yuan in return for cancelling the Singapura booking and staying at home with Lysander instead. Darui had politely asked for time to consider the offer and promised to give his answer upon Alexander's return from the Middle East. In truth he had no intention of accepting outright bribery from his grandfather-in-law, but he chose to delay giving that response so that Lysander could go to the UAS with his grandfather and not end up planning some other way to try to twist Darui's arm. Although Xiulan and Jian were being incredibly supportive of his situation, Darui felt that he needed further vindication of his stance and had therefore decided to seek out the opinion of Liao Baozhai, his grandmother and Liao family matriarch. So he had travelled from Shenzhen to Oumún, the autonomous port city which was part of the Liao family's sphere of influence as well as their ancestral home. The Liao owned the vast majority of the casinos and other gambling venues in Oumún, and their political clout in the city allowed them to effectively block any foreign gaming companies who did not provide the customary kickbacks or share percentages. As gambling was illegal throughout the rest of the Republic, Oumún was popular with the wealthy as they could indulge in 'seedy activities' in the territory; the continued seedy reputation of Oumún actually played to the advantage of the Liao as it was almost expected that the territory might be corrupt to some degree. Oumún was also the home base for the Howling Devil-Tigers triad, which was under the leadership of the 'less-talked about' part of the Liao family. Darui had no dealings with that side of the family thanks partly to his own wishes and also because of Baozhai's wishes to see her youngest and most famous grandchild kept away from activities which might see him in trouble with the law.

Darui was now walking with his ninety year old grandmother in the garden of her Penha Hill mansion, which had been in the family for over a hundred years after being constructed as a new home for the then-Liao matriarch. Penha Hill was arguably the most exclusive area of Oumún and the Liao family owned several of the expensive residences there. Baozhai's mansion was a two-storey residence in traditional Chinese-style architecture with a large garden, a true luxury in the otherwise-clustered city. The five-foot-six Baozhai wore her white hair cut short and was dressed in a simple white blouse and tan trousers, with a yellow shawl draped over her shoulders. She listened intently as Darui told her all about the current situation as well as Alexander Margrave's offer, then finally tutted loudly as he finished speaking.

"This is why I said you shouldn't marry a Margrave, but you were so determined that I relented. Every marriage between a Liao and a Margrave involves a Liao woman and a Margrave man because it's the simple way to handle that family's ego. We raise our girls to respect tradition and look forward to raising a family, then if one of them marries a Margrave they can look forward to raising their children and making a good home while their Margrave husband charges around trying to fulfil their ambitions. We had already had our once-per-generation marriage to the Margraves when you asked to marry him. With the two of you, it is two men with dreams and ambition attempting to build a life together and you've wound up butting heads over who is in control. Even worse, you're trying to fight a Margrave for control. They'll do anything to be in charge, even in relationships. Even more worse than that, your Margrave sounds like an insecure and jealous one. There's nothing worse than an insecure Margrave, they feel it twice as necessary to be in control."

"Lysander hasn't been like this all the time, Ah-Ma. He-"

Baozhai raised her finger to cut Darui off. "Of course he has, you just haven't seen it because you've been a good boy and done nothing to bring it to the surface. You've done everything you can to fit in with them but one minor hiccup has revealed their true way to you. It is sad to say that Alexander Margrave attempting to bribe you is no surprise to me. When the Great Yue Kingdom fought the Republic of Layarteb, the royals tried to portray all foreigners as enemies of the kingdom. The Margraves were simple tea merchants back then and they had come here from the Republic of Layarteb, so they were ideal targets. They survived thanks to our help, without our support they could have lost everything. Do they thank us for that? Their idea of thanking us for that is allowing us to marry into their family. They believe themselves to be the superiors, and at the present moment they are, but there was a time when they relied on us for their survival. Of course to hear them tell it, they managed to win the respect of the local people upon their arrival and they were the ones who befriended us." She chuckled at that. "Pure fantasy, without us they would be nothing. They just proved to have more ambition and killer instinct than us, always greedy and seeking out new conquests. They're never happy with what they have."

"That's all fascinating Ah-Ma, but please. Am I doing the right thing?"

She smiled warmly and reached up to affectionately pat Darui on the cheek. "Absolutely. You gave your word to your agent that you would perform at that party, and you're keeping your word despite being offered more than twice the amount that you'd earn for it. You should be proud of that. It's not your fault that Lysander over-reacted. It's also not your fault that some younger man showed an interest in you, if that had ever happened to me while your grandfather was still alive then I would have said it was flattering and he would have agreed with me. Lysander should trust you but his behaviour and this bribe attempt from his grandfather would suggest that he and other Margraves don't trust you, despite everything you've done to contribute and fit in. It's a shame because you were so happy, I thought you were going to prove me wrong about my doubts. For once I'm not happy to be right. I am right though, you should have found some nice young man to marry who wasn't from a family that wants to conquer the world."

Darui frowned. "You don't like them much, do you?"

"No, I don't. I respect them a great deal for their accomplishments but as individual people, most of them are horrible. Focused too much on money and power."

"So what do I do after I tell Mister Margrave that I won't accept his offer?"

Baozhai 'hmmed' loudly. "Leave the matter with them. If Lysander wants to live happily ever after with you then he can make the conciliatory moves. If he expects you to make amends for no real reason then he's unreasonable and you're better off seeing it now after two years rather than after twenty. If the Margraves try to coerce you into being a 'good boy' then we shall handle it. You can't keep living with Xiulan though, she needs her own time with her husband. We'll make a phonecall to your cousin Singchi at the Venetian Oumún, get you booked into a nice suite and you can do some performances there to earn your keep. No-one on the outside of the families has to hear about any issues between you and Lysander, it's simply a case of you performing surprise appearances for a family business while he's in the Middle East."

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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:11 pm

1 July 2019 - 20:00hrs [UTC+4]
Zabeel Palace
Dubai, Unified Arab Sultanate

The internal political reorganisation of the Unified Arab Sultanate had led to the designation of several 'transitional' sites for the working of the Royal Advisory Council, and one of these sites was Zabeel Palace in the city of Dubai. Al Alam Palace in Muscat was still occupied by Sultan Ibrahim while he worked with the Council to finalise his intended abdication and exile, so instead the Council were operating out of the residence of Emir Rashid Al Maktoum due to the fact that he had been one of the major players in the palace coup which had given the Council their current authority. Al Alam Palace was intended to become the residence of a future President for the nation but for now it was obviously unavailable. Alexander and Lysander Margrave had touched down in Dubai at the start of their week-long visit to the nation because of the Council's presence in the city as well as Emir Rashid's previous dealings with their family, and the pair were being feted as honoured guests. They had received opulent accommodations at Zabeel Palace and Emir Rashid's staff were to be at their beck and call, day and night. After being given time to settle in and after receiving a tour of the palace, Alexander and Lysander were now the guests of honour at a social function being held by Rashid. Everyone who was anyone in the UAS had been invited, including all members of the Royal Advisory Council as well as the heads of every major corporation in the Sultanate. The reason for all of the attention was quite simple. The UAS had been drawing closer to a major deal with the Margrave Oil Company until Sultan Ibrahim had risen to the throne and taken the Sultanate into a closer alignment with Freistaat Ostafrika, something that the Royal Advisory Council had supported primarily because of Ostafrikan promises of support for the UAS claims over Bahrain and Qatar. Various events had resulted in those claims being forever unattainable and the Council had started to view the alignment as being completely one-sided in favour of Ostafrika, and this had ultimately led to the palace coup. It was now the Council's objective to finalise a deal with the Margraves as it would not only provide a boost to the Sultanate's economic prospects but it would also help to legitimise their authority if they could deliver such a deal. Of course, no-one elected to discuss the fact that the emirs of the Council would become even wealthier as a result of a deal due to various 'consultancy fees' and the like.

Lysander was proving to be quite popular at the event with several individuals hanging on his every word, although in truth this was not because they found him to be a particular engaging individual. The Sultanate's legal code applied a maximum jail sentence of three years to same-sex sexual activity, although cases usually only made it to trial if they involved 'public scandal' as most people within the Sultanate preferred to simply not discuss the subject and pretend that gay people didn't exist in the Sultanate. As an openly gay individual Lysander would have normally been permitted nowhere near such high-profile Sultanate individuals, but his status as Alexander Margrave's grandson and the future head of the family meant that there were certain 'accommodations' being made for him. People were laughing at his jokes and being complimentary but this was because they wanted to deal with his family, and there was no doubt that these same friendly faces would be spitting venom about him as soon as he left. Both he and Alexander were well aware of this fact, and Alexander had brought him along to see how far the Council and others were willing to go in order to court the Margrave family. For his part, Lysander was quite enjoying the fact that all of these people were swallowing their own beliefs for a time in order to do business as it helped to reinforce the Margrave attitude that the family was somehow better than most. While Lysander was chatting away with a small group of businessmen, Alexander was approached by Emir Rashid who handed him another glass of orange juice; as the Sultanate was a dry country, there was no alcohol available.

"So Mister Margrave, this all seems to be going well."

Alexander appeared to ignore the pleasantry and instead pursued what he saw as a more meaningful use of words. "So what do the rest of the Royal Advisory Council think about the deal on offer?"

"You're every bit as businesslike in person as they say. The Margrave Oil Company acquiring forty-nine percent of the National Oil and Gas Corporation, that's not an issue. We are to be handsomely compensated for it and we also get to remain in charge of our national energy monopoly. Future corporate ventures within our nation will obviously have to adhere to existing traditions, partnership with a local corporation and the appointment of an Arab as nominal head of the created subsidiary. We will be very interested in partnering with Huawei to create 'Huawei Emirates' in order to upgrade and expand our telecoms infrastructure as well."

"So you're set on the Sultanate becoming the 'United Arab Emirates', then?"

Emir Rashid nodded. "We are. While we haven't made any official announcement regarding that intention, I think it's quite widely known at this point in time. Just between you and me, you're currently talking to the Prime Minister-elect. Emir Murad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi will be elected President so that we have a venerable elder statesman in that position. We intend to make official announcements in due time after your visit, as we will have the extra legitimacy of having hosted you and having concluded a significant business deal."

"I see. In that case, why don't you tell me about your intentions regarding Africa? Why do you want us to facilitate between you and our African friends?"

"Very simple, Mister Margrave. We don't have a great abundance of agricultural land in our nation and therefore food security is an issue that needs to be addressed. Your African friends have a great deal of agricultural land and we would like to acquire some of it in order to secure a consistent supply of crops. Thanks to the mutual alignment of interests brought about through our increased affiliation with the Nanfang Republic, we will also be talking to Zaire about their agricultural sector. That will put us on a secure footing which will allow us to then begin a thaw with Freistaat Ostafrika. They are a large potential market after all, and we will feel far more assured in our dealings with them once we finalise the Emirates plan and begin dealing with other nations as equals once more. Of course it helps considerably to have Nanfang forces deployed in our nation, their professionalism is second to none."

"Indeed." Alexander sipped at his orange juice for a moment. "A word of advice. Whatever you do, make sure that you get any deals with the Imperial House of Dourado signed on paper so that you have evidence of their agreement. They have no problem forgetting their agreements when it suits them. Now satisfy my curiosity further, how does the Sultanate of Oman fit into your 'United Arab Emirates'?"

Rashid smiled slightly. "We are going back to historical divisions within Oman in order to create two new Emirates from it. The Emirate of Dhofar will border Yemen and consist of the southern areas of Oman, Dhofar Province and al-Wusta Province. The rest of Oman will become the Emirate of Nizwa, with the exception of Muscat. Muscat will become a separate federal entity as the UAE's capital, so in total we are looking at ten federal states within the proposed United Arab Emirates. The federal system opens the possibility for additional territories to be incorporated more easily, should the opportunity ever arise."

Alexander snorted. "Don't tell me that you still have your eyes on Bahrain and Qatar."

"We have no such designs or intentions, Mister Margrave. Although if the opportunity arose and there was no opposition, it would rather foolish to refuse."

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Postby -The United Federation of Nations- » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:18 pm

Charles J. Lockett
Hamad International Airport, Doha
The Emirate of Qatar, United Federation of Nations
Monday 1st July 2019, 0900hrs Local Time


Charles J. Lockett settled back into his luxurious seat on the Boeing 747-8 operated by Golden Airways, the second-largest airline operated in the United Federation of Nations and, by far, the more prestigious. Although it could never hope to compete directly with Federal Airlines, the flag-carrier, on a volume or gross revenue perspective, Golden Airways had always placed a premium on its service and amenities and, as such, if you had a choice (and the money to not simply pick the cheapest, as Golden Airways often wasn’t the cheapest, even for economy) you flew on a GA flight. As a result, Golden had an extremely popular business class offering, and its (very expensive) first-class cabins were on a standard similar to those found on airlines in the Far East; which is to say, extravagant to say the least. It had not been a short flight, for although it was a direct flight from San Francisco International Airport to the new Hamad International Airport in the Emirate of Qatar it still took over seventeen hours of flight time. Fortunately, Lockett had been fortunate to spend the flight in one of those first-class cabins and had thoroughly enjoyed himself, accustomed as he was to long-haul flights.

The fact that the cabin crew had gone out of their way to ensure that he had everything that he could have desires had certainly helped make the flight easier, but then given who he was that was perhaps hardly surprising. Charles Lockett was the Chief Executive Officer of Golden Gate International (GGI), on of the largest and most successful corporations in the entire Federation, and one that if all went well over the next few days was going to claim its rightful position as the top largest, finally beating out its competitors. It just so happened that Golden Airways was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Golden Gate International, being one of the many pies that GGI had its fingers in, either entirely or partially.

What would become Golden Gate International had been incorporated on 22 February 1861, pursuant to the Transcontinental Railroad Act passed by the Federation Council in 1860, with the specific purpose to build the first transcontinental railroad between San Francisco and New Orleans, linking the Pacific Coast of the Federation with its newest member-state for the first time. Under the TRA, the Federation Department of Transport had sought six major investors to help finance the project, and as a show of unity recruited one from each of the then-six member-states. Each of these men had been given the status of principal investor, holding a 10% stake in the business and the Federation itself holding the remaining 40%. Over the next ten years, the Golden Gate Railroad was constructed, overcoming countless difficulties and challenges, with construction being completed in 1872, when the two ends of the track met in El Paso, Texas, amidst much celebration.

With the railroad itself constructed, the company changed its name to the Golden Gate Railroad Company and took upon itself the task of actually running the railroad. In 1874, the Federation Government sold its 40% stake back to the GGRC however the shares were not distributed to the principal shareholders but instead retained to facilitate future investment without compromising the stakes of the existing shareholders. However, to maintain their preeminent position within the company, the principal shareholders resolved that no single secondary investor would be permitted to purchase more than a 5% stake. Over the following decades, the GGRC would diversify into a number of other sectors, including mining and construction, and was heavily involved in major infrastructure, not the least of which was the Golden Gate Bridge, over the strait which had been its name-sake and the location of its corporate headquarters. Throughout the 20th Century the company, which changed its name in 1934 to Golden Gate International, had steadily gained itself a number of subsidiaries to complement the construction and mining ventures as the core of the business.

The modern company was, in many respects, a holding company for its various subsidiaries, however, GGI itself still operated its own construction division and, perhaps most notably, a shipping and transportation company, the latter still including the original Golden Gate Railroad, the biggest such railroad company in the Federation. In effect, the core company traded and transported the goods produced by the various subsidiaries under its control, thereby reducing costs for the corporate group as a whole. It was a tidy little arrangement that had allowed GGI to achieve significant success and financial success and kept as much of the revenue as in house as was possible.

Now, Golden Gate International was taking the final step from being first-amongst-equals of Federation corporations to being the undisputed leader of them, a direct competitor to the likes of Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft, Margrave Holdings and Manchurian Global. Lockett was on his way to Doha, in the Emirate of Qatar, to complete GGI’s acquisition of the Gulf Oil and Gas Corporation (GOGC); a major conglomerate with major interests in oil and gas development in the Persian Gulf, as well as owning controlling stakes (or outright owning) a number of other smaller corporations in the region. If there waste area that GGI had never been able to diversify into it was Oil and Gas, as the industry was dominated, in the Federation, by the Texas Oil Company, which despite numerous overtures had rejected every attempt by GGI to gain control, although GGI had owned a small stake in the company, until recently selling them amidst intense media speculation. To those in the know within GGI, however, the move made sense; as when news of the acquisition of GOGC by GGI was announced it would likely hit the Texas Oil Company’s share price quite hard, and GGI had no intention of losing money on its investments by its own actions.

Lockett smiled slightly to himself as the 747 touched down with only the slightest bump and, after slowing rapidly, began to taxi towards the largest terminal.

“Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking; welcome to Doha,” The Pilot announced over the intercom with a satisfied tone. “Local time is just past nine in the morning, the temperature is a sweltering 41.9 degrees celsius, 107.4 degrees Fahrenheit, I hope you enjoyed your flight, thank you for flying Golden.”

As a First Class passenger, Lockett would, normally, have been one of the first individuals off the plane, however, he made a point of making his way towards the cockpit to thank the pilots personally, as well as shaking hands with each of the cabin crew. Part of his success in his career with GGI was his gregarious nature and, particularly as he had climbed through the ‘ranks’ of the company, his willingness to personally interact with his employees, and those of his subsidiaries. Moreover, Lockett also had to wait for the small entourage that had accompanied him, who had spent the flight in business class, and once they were all together the group left the aircraft as one.

“How was your flight, Jack?” Lockett queried, glancing across at Jack Duquesne, GGI’s Chief Financial Officer, who was the only other member of the entourage that had flown in the first-class cabin. “Didn’t hear hide nor hair of you for most of the fight.”

“Slept all the way through,” Duquesne grinned. “Must have fallen asleep within half an hour of leaving San Francisco.”

“Almost a waste of money having you in first-class then!” Lockett commented dryly.

“As Chief Financial Officer, I must respectfully disagree, Sir,” Duquesne replied, still smiling. “Consider it an investment.”

“If you say so,” Lockett shook his head. “God knows we’re spending plenty of money this week.”

Duquesne nodded sagely and the group walked on in silence. It was true that GGI was putting a lot of money into this acquisition, as it wanted to take GOGC on as a wholly-owned subsidiary, rather than messing around; indeed it was critical towards the expected financial return of the entire affair. A substantial amount of money had been poured into buying up the shares of the GOGC from the individual shareholders, many of which were investment funds or other corporate investments, thereby commanding a relatively high price per share. The biggest hurdle had been the Emir of Qatar himself, who had held a controlling stake in the GOGC; who in addition to a significant monetary payment, had also demanded a stake in Golden Gate International himself, and he had refused to accept the normal maximum 5% stake that GGI normally insisted upon, instead demanding principle investor status and a 10% stake. This had caused a significant stir amongst the board of directors, particularly the six principle shareholders, or their representatives, given that, ever since the company had been incorporated only those initial six principle investors, and their descendants, had held such a large stake in the company. As such, introducing a seventh principle shareholder was a massive deal, especially as it would effectively use up the last of the corporation's unissued shares.

Ultimately, however, the sheer scale of the additional revenue that incorporating the GOGC would bring into the company, and the new sectors it would allow the company to expand into, the decision had been made to make an exception. Of course, once the decision had been made and the proposed acquisition reported to the regulators, the Federation Department of Justice had waded into the situation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the DoJ had concerns around a head of state from one of the Federation’s member-states holding a stake in a multi-member, multinational corporation, especially a conglomerate of the size that GGI was slated to become. It was one thing for the Emir to have held a controlling stake in the GOGC, as it had only really concerned Qatar, and to a lesser extent Bahrain, but given that GGI existed across multi member-states there were very real concerns about improper influence. In the end, a compromise had been agreed upon; rather than the Emir holding the stake, it would instead be held by the Emir’s son and heir, currently Sheikh Ahmed el Kabir, which would have the added bonus of giving the younger man something meaningful to do and to provide him with valuable life experience. When the Emir died, and the Sheikh succeeded to the throne, the stake would pass to his own heir and so forth, indeed this arrangement was promptly written into the agreement.

Indeed, it was the Sheikh and his entourage that Lockett and his team encountered in the airport’s main concourse, waiting for them.

Lockett and Sheikh Ahmed shook hands firmly and posed for pictures with the gaggle of press photographers that had descended upon them. Although the entire affair had been kept under wraps until Lockett and his group were in the air and on their way to the Gulf, the news had broken shortly after and it had quickly assumed a position as the top news story. Once completed, the merger would make Golden Gate International the biggest corporation in the Federation by a fairly sizeable margin and would place it in direct competition, in terms of size and revenue, with the largest mega-corporations of the world. Moreover, it was seen as the first big step towards fully integrating Qatar and Bahrain with the rest of the Federation, and whilst the political considerations had not been a matter for GGI to truly concern itself with, Lockett knew they had not exactly our their standing with the Federation Government as a result, which only boded well for future federal contracts.

“Sheikh Ahmed, it is good to see you again,” Lockett said warmly as they made their way outside to waiting vehicles.

“And you, Mister Lockett,” The Sheikh replied with a smile. “Welcome back to Qatar… how was your flight?”

“Luxurious,” Lockett smiled. “Have you flown Golden?”

“I’ve not had the pleasure,” The Sheikh shook his head. “Although Qatar Airways is no slouch in the luxury department.”

“Indeed not, but we must get you on one of our flights,” Lockett commented. “Especially as a soon to be principal shareholder.”

“Well, I’m sure my position will entail more than a little travel,” The Sheikh agreed. “And I’ll have to support my interests of course.”

“Of course,” Lockett nodded. “Do you or your father have any remaining reservations?”

“Well, my father is still less than pleased about having to give up his stake, and his direct involvement in the company, but he knew that we would have to make certain sacrifices when we joined the Federation, and by and large it has been good for us,” The Sheikh replied. “And he sees the benefits of me taking up the reign, so whilst I would say that he still has reservations that he has overcome them, and that he has made his decision that this is the best way forward… so to answer your unspoken question, there is nothing to stop the deal from going through.”

Lockett smiled broadly as they settled into the back for a luxurious limousine; Sheikh Ahmed was clearly an intelligent, astute, young man and he was going to be a pleasure to work with over the coming weeks and month. It was fortunate as well, for local custom demanded that an Arab be in charge in local operations, which meant that in addition to being a principal shareholder, the Sheikh would be in day-to-day charge of operations once the GOGC formally became a subsidiary of Golden Gate International, and despite his youth Lockett could see that the young Sheikh would be up for the task. GGI knew that it was getting itself involved in both a very profitable area, but also a very risky one; especially with the sociopolitical changes taking place as Ostafrika flexed its muscles and quarrelled with Nanfang. Moreover, GGI’s involvement and investment in the Gulf Oil and Gas Company would put it in direct competition with Margrave Holdings, especially if the rumours of their involvement in the Unified Arab Sultanate held water. There was a great deal of opportunity for GGI in the Persian Gulf, but also a significant chance for failure. But then, the company had taken big risks before, some of which had been successful, others which had failed miserably, but the company was still here, over a century and a half later.

“Very well then,” Lockett said simply. “Let’s go get this thing finished, shall we?”

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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Jul 14, 2019 2:44 pm

3 July 2019 - 13:00hrs [UTC+4]
Zabeel Palace
Dubai, Unified Arab Sultanate

Although it was only halfway through the week-long visit by Alexander and Lysander Margrave to the Unified Arab Sultanate, it had been decided that the official announcement of the business deal between the UAS and Margrave Holdings needed to be conducted sooner rather than later. This was because of the media circus taking place to the north of the UAS in Doha, where Golden Gate International were in town to make an announcement of their own. Although publicly there had been no reaction to GGI's arrival and the fact that they were rather stealing the thunder of the Margraves, privately Alexander Margrave was quite furious and had decided to try to steal some of that thunder back. After all of the issues that had transpired between the Margraves and the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft towards the end of 2018 and the compromise agreement which had brought those issues to an end, the family's collective ego was taking another bruising as a corporate rival from the United Federation of Nations demonstrated that they were equally capable of conducting a major business deal in the Middle East, and were announcing their business success in the same week as the Margrave visit to the UAS. To make it even more vexing, their announcement would be taking place less than six hundred and sixty kilometres from where the Margraves were to make their announcement. While the Margraves were a major corporate power within the Nanfang Republic and therefore had business ties to a majority of Nanfang corporations, there were a few other major Nanfang families who had a quiet chuckle over the situation.

The official announcement would be conducted in Zabeel Palace's reception hall, a large cream-and-gilt decorated room where the floor was completely covered by a massive plush embroidered rug. Two podiums had been set up with seats placed facing them, the seats arranged in rows of four and columns of three as the invited media were primarily from the UAS and Nanfang-affiliated nations. Once the media representatives had taken their seats with Lysander Margrave occupying one of the front row chairs, Alexander Margrave and Emir Rashid Al Maktoum strode into the hall and took up position at the podiums before Emir Rashid began.

"Welcome to this official announcement, everyone. As you are all aware, the Unified Arab Sultanate is currently undergoing a process of internal reorganisation in order to provide a more stable and secure government as we take our place as a truly independent nation once more. Further details will be announced regarding the reorganisation in the course of time, and at this time we would like to officially announce something which will not only be of great benefit to our nation but it also demonstrates the fact that our reorganisation plans have resulted in our nation becoming incredibly attractive to major corporate enterprises. We currently have the honour of playing host to Alexander Margrave and his grandson Lysander Margrave, the current and future heads of the illustrious Margrave family who possess a global corporate empire. The Margrave family is well-known for recognising a profitable opportunity when they see one, and they view our nation as being one worthy of considerable investment.

"Due to the stability and security that Margrave Holdings can see resulting from our internal reorganisation, they have concluded a substantial commercial deal with our nation that will ensure profit for themselves while ensuring prosperity and enhanced status for us. The Margrave Oil Company has an excellent track record with operations in the Nanfang Republic and several African nations, and we can now announce that the Margrave Oil Company will acquire forty-nine percent of our National Oil and Gas Corporation. This allows us to retain operational control of the National Oil and Gas Corporation while enjoying the benefits of substantial investment and renowned expertise from the Margrave Oil Company. This is not the only aspect of the deal between us and Margrave Holdings, however. The telecommunications company Huawei holds contracts to provide tabelts and smartphones to all government ministries in the Nanfang Republic, they are a world-renowned manufacturer and retailer of telecommunications products, and they also have considerable expertise with telecommunications networks. Huawei shall be establishing a new subsidiary corporation based in our nation, combining local knowledge and expertise with their own best practise and engineering. This new subsidiary shall be creating jobs here in our nation but it will also provide Huawei with a secure foothold here in the Middle East. The new subsidiary will also be ideally placed to upgrade and maintain our nation's telecommunications infrastructure in partnership with existing companies, giving us a telecommunications network that will place us firmly in position for future commercial opportunities."

Emir Rashid paused to take a sip of water from the glass on his podium. "In addition, Tencent Holdings will be pursuing a wide variety of opportunities within our nation. The constituent subsidiaries of Tencent Holdings specialise in Internet-related services and products, entertainment, artificial intelligence, and technology. Tencent view our nation as an ideal opportunity for development and investment, and they intend to work alongside us to forge a new hub for scientific and technological development here in the Middle East. Further details of these ventures will be released in due time but they will include joint partnerships with our existing technology sector. These wide-ranging investments by Margrave Holdings serve to demonstrate the confidence that global corporate powers have in our nation's future, and they are to be the first of many international investments. Mister Margrave, would you like to say a few words?"

Alexander Margrave nodded. "Thank you, Your Highness. The Margrave family are greatly honoured by the respect and friendship shown to us by your nation, and we are indeed greatly assured by your plans for the future political organisation within your state. We believe that the future is incredibly bright for your nation and your people, and this is why we have chosen to begin this wide-ranging investment, as we believe that your nation is best placed to act as both a gateway to the Middle East and a leader for the Middle East. We are confident that our investment will lead the way for other corporations from the Nanfang Republic and beyond to begin investing in your nation, and combined with your own homegrown corporate expertise this will create a true hub for global enterprise right here. We look forward to working with you and sharing in your future prosperity, as both the Margrave family and your nation begin a friendship based on mutual respect and aspirations for a better future."

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Postby -The United Federation of Nations- » Wed Jul 17, 2019 5:51 am

Charles J. Lockett
West Bay, Doha
The Emirate of Qatar, United Federation of Nations
Wednesday 3rd July 2019, 2100hrs Local Time


“You ready, Mr Lockett?”

Lockett glanced over at Sheikh Ahmed and smiled wryly. He, the Sheikh and a small entourage were waiting in an ad hoc green room, really little more than a marque that had been erected for them to prepare themselves in. Outside a large crowd had gathered, attracted by both the large number of news cameras and other journalists, as well as the presence of the Sheikh, waiting to hear the announcement from Lockett, the Sheikh and Golden Gate International. The corporation had, unintentionally, found itself in a PR war with Margrave Holdings, the great mega-corporation of the Nanfang Republic. It appeared that Lockett’s arrival in Doha, and the announcement of the acquisition of the Gulf Oil and Gas Company by GGI, had stolen the thunder of the Margrave’s announcement of its partnership with the National Oil and Gas Corporation of the Unified Arab Sultanate. Of course, now that they were in that exchange with the Margraves, Lockett and the GGI Board had decided that they might as well win and had decided to pull out all the stops to do just that, which had meant several long nights for both Lockett’s team and Sheikh Ahmed and his people.

They had decided to hold their own little announcement, which they had moved to take place several hours after the Margrave’s own announcement, on the site of the Golden Gate Tower in Doha’s West Bay where, once construction was complete, it would take its place as the tallest building in the skyline. After nearly a year’s construction the shell of the building provided a remarkable backdrop to the announcement, and a sufficiently safe environment for a public gathering. It was also evidence that Golden Gate International had every intention of being a key fixture of Qatari business going forwards, even before this acquisition GGI had fully intended to have a sizeable presence in Qatar and Bahrain, something it had signalled very soon after the two member-states had joined the Federation by commissioning construction of this very building. Now, with the acquisition, the tower would also be the new headquarters of the GOGC, which had desperately needed a new head office in any event, and would likely also be the nerve centre for any other acquisitions that GGI made in the future.

“Let’s go do this thing,” Lockett said simply.

Lockett and the Sheikh made their way out onto the stage where the host was gratefully handing off to them as Lockett stepped up to the podium to make his speech. Although the Sheikh was the far more locally recognised of the two, and was not exactly unknown to the world media in attendance, the majority of the attention was on Lockett; as the CEO of Golden Gate International his presence here was far more likely to be interesting to say the least. Interest, even excitement, around the announcement had grown steadily over the past forty-eight hours, by design of course, and all eyes in Qatar, Bahrain and anyone in wider Federation, and indeed the world, interested in business and the economy, were on Doha’s prestigious West Bay. Lockett took his place behind the podium, emblazoned with the distinctive logo of GGI; a stylised image of the Golden Gate Bridge over the Golden Gate Strait in San Francisco, with the knowledge that, by making this speech, he would become the CEO of the largest corporation in the entire Federation, and one of the largest in the world.

“Good Evening, my name is Charles Lockett and I am the CEO of Golden Gate International. I know that my presence here in Qatar, often in the company of the Sheikh here, has caused a great deal of interest and speculation around what tonight’s announcement would be about, but I ask you to wait a few moments,” Lockett said with a broad smile. “Golden Gate International has been around for over two hundred years, in existence for more than two thirds of the entire history of the Federation, and had its foundation in a venture to connect one side of the Federation, as it was, with the other; it is in that spirit that I am very happy to be following today.”

Lockett smiled as he paused for effect.

“It is my very great pleasure to announce that, as of this moment, Golden Gate International and the Gulf Oil and Gas Company have agreed to a deal that will bring the GOGC into the Golden Gate Group as a wholly-owned subsidiary, with the Sheikh holding principle shareholder status within GGI, and serving as our director for the operation of the GOGC, and our further expansion in the region,” Lockett continued. “This acquisition, marks the first major joint venture involving two of the Federation’s newer member-states, and the economic and social benefits it will bring place Golden Gate, as it always has been, at the forefront of connecting this great Federation of ours together; and will be an embodiment of our shared values of co-operation, prosperity and community, as we bring Sheikh Ahmed and every one of his employees into our corporate family.”

Lockett paused again.

“More than simply expanding Golden Gate’s oil and gas ventures, by bringing the GOGC into the fold we can also explore numerous opportunities, for both of us; giving access to other divisions and subsidiaries within the group, we can significantly decrease the costs required for GOGC to operate and transport its goods, and on a wider scale we can bring countless benefits to Qatar and Bahrain,” Lockett added. “Indeed, the Golden Gate Railroad Company will commence work on state-wide rail network, both passenger and cargo, here in Qatar, and on Bahrain, which will be combined with the construction of the long considered Qatari-Bahrain Causeway, both of which will bring these two peoples together like never before, contribute billions to the economy and secure thousands of jobs.”

Excited chatter broke out in the crowd at Lockett’s most recent revelation. Not only had he announced the acquisition of the GOGC by Golden Gate International, but he had also announced probably the largest single infrastructure programme that Qatar or Bahrain would ever see; it would be expensive but the advantages were enormous, especially for Bahrain. Doubtless there would be sufficient funding available from both member-states, and from the Federation Government, but it was still an enormous investment by GGI in its newest subsidiary, and in this part of the Federation. Of course, it would also be incredibly profitable for Golden Gate; as it would be Golden Construction that built the causeway, and the Golden Gate Railroad Company that built, maintained and, if they had any say in the matter (which of course they would), operated the network, but the benefits far outstripped any appearances of self-dealing, although doubtless the Federation Council would order the plans to be thoroughly scrutinised. Never the less, in the space of a few minutes Lockett had, effectively, turned the economic state of both Qatar and Bahrain on its head, and would soon have them racing towards a new, more prosperous future.

“That is just a taste of what Golden Gate International will do for our new friends here in Qatar, and across the strait in Bahrain,” Lockett smiled wryly “But it is, I think, enough for tonight, enjoy the display and keep an eye out for future announcements.”

Lockett smiled, waved to the crowd before stepping back from the podium, shaking hands with the Sheikh, and together making their way from the stage. As they did so the first fireworks screeched into the skies and detonated high above Doha; golden (of course) light bathed the city and bands echoed across the bay. The display, which had been put together in less than forty-eight hours (based on a pre-existing plan, thankfully), would go on for some time and predominately featured gold, to represent GGI, maroon, to represent Qatar, and red to represent Bahrain, but integrated other colours in where possible. The attention of the crowd, and large portions of the rest of the city, would remain captivated on the display, by design, and images of the display would underscore the coverage on the evening news (literally an announcement with a bang). All things considered Lockett was satisfied with the way the evening had gone, and was looking forward to getting everything that he had said started; it was an exciting time for Golden Gate International.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:17 pm

8 July 2019 - 16:00hrs [UTC+8]
Margravia Estate, Zhuhai
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

Although the visit to the Unified Arab Sultanate by Alexander and Lysander Margrave could have easily been hailed as successful, Alexander's viewpoint was quite different. He had been annoyed at having to move up the announcement of the deal between Margrave Holdings and the UAS due to the media circus surrounding the arrival of Golden Gate International's delegation to Qatar, and had then been incandescent with rage at the fact that GGI moved up their own announcement to completely overshadow that of Margrave Holdings by holding an impressive fireworks display to celebrate their own dealings. The Royal Advisory Council of the UAS had been similarly irritated that their flagship business deal had been overshadowed by the antics of their smaller northern counterparts, and while Lysander was not as outraged as his grandfather, he was still rather irked by the whole scenario. Of course there was absolutely nothing that they could do about it and that only served to make it worse in their eyes. It seemed as though the Margraves were experiencing somewhat mixed fortunes at present. In day-to-day matters, their corporate empire was thriving as always. When it came to more grandiose endeavours however, things had not been working out quite as well as they intended. Alexander's ambitions to take over the OAG had been thwarted thanks to the scheming of the Imperial House of Dourado from Zaire, and there was no meaningful way for the Margraves to strike back at them over it. Even though the OAG had lost their client states and the Margraves had obtained the deal with the UAS that they had long sought after, Alexander still wanted to get back at the Zairian ruling family somehow. Now that their big announcement had been spoiled by GGI, Alexander was talking about somehow retaliating against them although once again, there was no obvious way for the Margraves to do so. While returning to the Nanfang Republic on July 7, Alexander received a phone call from Darui which brightened his mood slightly. His grandson-in-law had been fully aware of the trip's itinerary and had called to arrange a meeting with Alexander in order to discuss the offer of five million yuan that had been made; Alexander confidently arranged the meeting for the following afternoon. Upon hearing about the meeting, Lysander requested to be present as well since it involved his husband and could potentially see the healing of the rift that seemed to have developed between them of late.

Upon arriving at the family estate the following afternoon, Darui was escorted to the family reception room where Alexander and Lysander awaited him. Alexander's butler Hostewick began pouring tea for the three of them until Darui politely declined, so tea was handed to Alexander and Lysander before Hostewick excused himself and left, closing the door behind him as he did so. Alexander settled into his usual armchair while Lysander sat on the couch that he and Darui always occupied when they were present in the room, but Darui elected to perch himself on the opposite arm of the couch and locked eyes with Alexander. The Margrave patriarch returned the gaze as he could recognise a potential challenging of his authority, and began to speak clearly and deliberately.

"So you've had time to consider the offer. What is your answer?"

"My answer is no."

"No? I offer you five million yuan to stay at home with your husband and you refuse it?" Alexander's eyes narrowed. "I thought you to be far smarter than that. Unless of course you're hoping that I'll increase the offer, so you can use the money to buy Lysander something truly special as an apology for all the trouble you've been causing. How much did you have in mind?"

Darui slowly rose to his feet and shook his head, appearing to smile out of amusement when it was actually out of suppressing his wish to loudly curse at his grandfather-in-law. "All the trouble I've been causing? This may surprise you but it's not about the money. This isn't just about a booking in Singapura any longer. This is about respect, it's about trust, and it's about independence. My independence, and if I'm actually free to do anything without obtaining permission."

Alexander snorted derisively. "Don't be absurd! You don't need anyone's permission to do anything!"

"Are you sure about that?" Darui took a couple of steps before continuing. "I've been thinking a lot about this recently. When I married Lysander, I took the name 'Liao-Margrave' because I'm a Liao male that married a Margrave. Traditionally it's always been Liao women marrying Margrave men and they've always fully taken the Margrave name. I'd initially thought that Lysander could also become 'Liao-Margrave' but that was shot down rather quickly because a future head of the Margrave family couldn't possibly bear the name of a different family. I accepted that and I even westernised my name to better fit in with your family. At every turn, I've done my best to fit in. I've attended family meetings, I even attended the Singapura Conference and did my best to contribute. I've done everything I can to be a good Margrave."

He then turned his gaze to Lysander. "Then I discovered just how little that all meant to you. A fan propositioned me in front of you and said something disrespectful about you. I understand that you wouldn't like that, I've told you that I didn't like what he said about you. Unfortunately I was a bit flustered by the whole thing and I didn't respond exactly how you would've wanted me to respond. After that I began to learn just how little you respect me." Darui looked back at Alexander. "He started checking my phone when he thought I wouldn't notice. He never used to come to the organised fanmeets in Shenzhen, now he started coming to all of them. Not appearing at them, but present backstage. Before what happened, I'd phone home every night if I was away. The times would vary but I would always phone home. When I was doing the promotional tour for the new album in March and April, if I didn't call at my 'usual time' I would get nothing but attitude. Asking why I was late calling, and if I was with anyone. I did my best to accommodate it all, I thought it was just a rough patch and we'd get through it. Then my agent called me about a private party booking in Singapura, appearing at the birthday of a rich businessman's relative. I said yes because it would be something different and it might be fun. Lysander responded by wondering aloud if I was going to 'run into that slut again' and wanted me to cancel the booking. When I refused, he walked out of the room."

Darui sighed loudly. "After talking to members of my own family, I've come to realise that Lysander's behaviour isn't all that different from that of his grandfather."

Alexander scowled. "Take care with your words, boy."

"It's true though. The OAG trumped you with regard to the UAS, your response was to fast-track a deal with their neighbour to spite them. They responded by sanctioning the companies of Margrave Holdings. You didn't just want to see the sanctions lifted, you wanted to tear up their free trade zone, cleave off their client states and ultimately take them over. If something happens that threatens your control somehow, you respond by trying to retaliate. After what happened with GGI my sister called me and wondered if you were now going to try to destroy them, and I bet you are. Your grandson experienced something that was out of his control and because I didn't respond exactly how he would've wanted me to, he has tried to control me. When that didn't work, his grandfather tried to bribe me into stepping back into line. Now that I've refused the bribe, what happens? My artist contract is with a Margrave-controlled company and all of my spokesperson deals are with Margrave companies. Will all of that now dry up? Will my artist contract be terminated on some technicality, followed quickly by my spokesperson deals? Or will you simply have the label sit on my contract and put me on the shelf, ensuring that I don't release anything new ever again? You've got me exactly where you want me, I wonder if that's come about by accident or by design. The husband of the future head of the Margrave family trapped in a gilded cage because his career has been skyrocketed thanks to Margrave companies. I'm guessing that I should be on my knees apologising for all the trouble I've caused and begging for forgiveness?"

"You never had a problem with it before."

Darui turned to respond to Lysander, who had finally joined the conversation. "I never had a reason before. You know, my grandmother warned me not to marry a Margrave. She was dead against it. She wanted me to find 'some nice young man like us'. I pressed and pressed until she gave in because I wanted to marry you. I loved you that much. I thought that you loved me, but now I'm wondering if you went along with it because you wanted a celebrity husband. Not that I was massively well-known at that time but you knew that your family had all the tools to make me into a truly national star for your ego."

A loud smack sounded out as Lysander rose from the couch, approached Darui and slapped him hard across the face. "After everything we've done for you!"

Darui shook his head and rubbed his freshly-red cheek. "'Everything that you've done for me'. So I should be grateful?"

"Yes, I dare say that you should be!" Lysander and Darui both turned their attention to Alexander who had risen from his seat. "We made you. You'd be an also-ran regional star called Liao Darui if it wasn't for us, instead you're a national star with a burgeoning following outside the Nanfang Republic. We gave you opportunities and support that you would have never had otherwise. I allowed you to marry the future head of the Margrave family, the first Liao to ever receive that honour! This juvenile disobedience shows me that I may have been wrong to see you as intelligent and a capable consort for Lysander. There are plenty of other individuals in this nation and indeed across this planet who would make a far more worthy husband for the future head of the Margrave family. However, in light of your past contributions I am inclined to be charitable. I am giving you the opportunity to apologise to Lysander for your attitude and disloyalty, and to apologise to me for your disrespect. Apologise and we shall put this ugliness behind us, and you can start honouring and respecting your husband as you're supposed to."

"If I refuse to apologise?"

Alexander's nostrils flared in response to the challenge he was receiving from Darui. "If you refuse then your artist contract will be terminated. Your spokesperson deals will be terminated. The Margrave family lawyers will ensure that you receive no compensation for any of that. They will also ensure a quick and quiet divorce so that Lysander can be rid of you without dragging his name through the mud. A press release will confirm your divorce due to irreconcilable differences and you will be placed under an injunction to prevent you from slandering him or maligning this family. There will be no equal division of assets between you, you will not gain anything from Lysander's family holdings. You will have your precious freedom and you can go back to the Liao with your tail between your legs while Lysander moves on and finds someone far more worthy of him."

Darui looked at Lysander, whose lack of reaction to Alexander's proposal appeared to speak volumes. "Not even a blink from you. You have no problem with the fact that it's been less than two weeks since I accepted that booking and I'm now being threatened with the destruction of my career and a divorce because I wouldn't do what you told me to do. We had some really good times together but this controlling and insecurity from you and your family is just too much." He smiled sadly. "Fine. Since I'm too disobedient for you and you obviously side with your grandfather against your impertinent husband, I'll take my leave. No public fuss, no tell-all interviews, nothing. Quick and quiet. I'll head to Shenzhen and get my sister to help me move my things out of the penthouse. The Liao lawyers can talk to the Margrave lawyers and get it all ironed out. Still no reaction, is there? I suppose it's best for this to happen after two and a bit years rather than twenty."

He glared at Alexander. "I'll see myself out, Mister Margrave. You'll never have to deal with my disobedience again."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Jul 22, 2019 3:46 pm

11 July 2019 - 13:30hrs [UTC+8]
Margravia Estate, Zhuhai
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

Alexander Margrave found himself hosting another Liao visitor in the family reception room of the Margravia estate only three days after his proclamation that Darui would have his career brought to a screeching halt in retaliation for his 'disrespect' of Lysander, but this particular member of the Liao family was not one that Alexander would find to be an easy opponent. The ninety year old Liao Baozhai had been informed of the latest developments by Darui and had understandably been furious, albeit quietly furious, with the idea that the Margraves intended to punish her youngest grandchild for a situation that she viewed as being entirely the fault of Lysander, and she had therefore demanded a meeting with the Margrave patriarch to 'discuss family matters'. The two leaders of their respective families could not have been more different in their appearance. While the seventy-two year old Alexander was six-foot-three, wearing his preferred black business suit with a black mandarin-collar shirt and with his short still-blond hair neatly styled, Baozhai was all of five-foot-six with short white hair, wearing a white blouse and black trousers with a crimson shawl draped over her shoulders. The pair sat in an awkward silence in the reception room while Hostewick poured tea for them, Baozhai keeping her glare fixed squarely on Alexander the entire time to the point where she only acknowledged Hostewick's approach by gesturing to where he should place her tea, maintaining her fixation on the Margrave patriarch. Once Hostewick excused himself and left, Alexander sipped at his tea and raised an eyebrow.

"So what can I do for you, Madam Liao?"

Baozhai retained her glare as she answered with an even voice. "I am here to discuss the situation involving my youngest grandson."

Alexander's mouth twitched. "Ah yes, the grandson who disrespected his husband. There is very little to talk about."

"The grandson who endured the jealousy and insecurity of a spoiled child for over six months. There is a great deal to talk about. You intend to quietly end their marriage, I agree that it is the best course of action. I disagree on your intention to sever Darui's professional contracts in the manner that he described to me. You will not simply cut him loose. What you will do is give him time to approach other music labels to discuss and secure a new contract. Once that contract has been agreed, he will be released from his current contract with the public reason being that he has bought himself out of his current contract in order to move to a new label. His spokesperson deals with your companies will be ended at that time and only at that time, with him receiving the equivalent of a month's income from each deal. Then, and only then, will the quiet and private divorce be implemented. We respect the idea of no public recriminations or revelations, it shall be a simple press release announcing their divorce. No need to state 'irreconcilable differences'. If either of them is pressed to give a reason in public, they can simply state that circumstances resulted in them drifting apart. That way, both families save face and so do both Darui and Lysander."

"You honestly expect me to allow him to seek out a new contract while we pay him? Madam Liao, I think you may require a lesson in reality. The Margraves-"

Baozhai waved her hand dismissively. "I have no interest in your lessons, but if you insist on a lesson then allow me to provide one for you. The Margrave family are certainly wealthy and certainly influential, but you are not the only wealthy and influential family in the Nanfang Republic. The Yin family of Shanghai. The Deng family of Sichuan. The Zong family of Hangzhou. The Gou family of Taiwan. That is to name but a handful. Of course we must not forget the Liao of Oumún, Hēunggóng, and Guangdong. We Liao have our economic interests of course, the gambling industry of Oumún and shipping in Hēunggóng as primary examples. We also have politics running through our veins. The Governors of Oumún, Hēunggóng, and Guangdong are all Liao family members. The Mayor of Guangzhou is married to a Liao. You appear to believe that you can simply impose conditions upon one of our own and we will simply accept them, as in your opinion we are the junior partner in the long-standing affiliation between our families. You appear to have forgotten what we Liao did for your family."

She leaned forward slightly. "During the Tea War with the Republic of Layarteb, the Great Yue Kingdom tried to stoke anti-foreigner sentiments among the people. Your family were merchants who had arrived from the Republic of Layarteb a mere sixty years before, and the Liao helped the Margraves weather the fervour that was whipped up. Before that, we had been your first allies in the Kingdom."

Alexander snorted and smirked. "Oh, I am aware of that. The Liao were friends to slave traders, smugglers, thieves, and murderers at that time if I remember my family history lessons. If I am not mistaken, very little has changed on that front."

Baozhai smiled at that statement, although it was by no means a pleasant smile. "If that is indeed true, then you might do well to respect my wishes with regard to Darui's future. The matriarch of such a family would not be a wise person to cross, even for a great individual such as yourself. You see, Mister Margrave, we Liao have family history lessons as well. We are more discreet with certain facts as they are not the sort of thing that should become public knowledge, but suffice to say that we remember things. Important things. About your family. Such as the reason why you came here in the first place."

She gained a certain sense of satisfaction as she noted that her words had obviously given Alexander pause. "You know what I'm talking about. Your family's involvement in the assassination of President Vincent Hardy of the Republic of Layarteb. Your ancestors shared that information with my ancestors, and my ancestors took note of it. The assassination was in 1774 if I remember correctly, is that right?"

Alexander clenched his jaw and slightly ground his teeth before responding. "I will not give air to that particular claim."

"Oh it's no claim, Mister Margrave. It's a fact. Along with the fact that your family made a clandestine deal with that same Republic, where you would be granted clemency if you helped to bring down the Great Yue Kingdom. You received your clemency but you neglected to mention to the Layartebians that the Liao played our part in your schemes. Without us, you would have been unable to claim involvement in the revolution and therefore claim your clemency. Now imagine what the response would be if that information became public knowledge in this day and age. With social media being what it is, it would spread across the globe in a matter of hours. How do you think the people of the Nanfang Republic would react if they found out that your family helped to murder a national leader? Why, if it were framed correctly the revelation might cause some to think that the Tea War was partly started due to the Republic of Layarteb tracking you down."

"You wouldn't dare."

Baozhai nodded. "Yes I would. You seek to punish my youngest grandson for finally refusing to tolerate the whims and capriciousness of your spoiled brat, the vaunted future head of your family. I will defend my family if I can, and I will not hesitate to tarnish your family's reputation permanently if you attempt to mistreat Darui in this current matter. The Empire of Layarteb could easily refute the claim, you could refute the claim. Sometimes in life, all you need is for a claim to be made and rumour will do the rest. You can avoid all of that potential unpleasantness by simply agreeing to my proposal. Everyone saves face, the matter will be resolved, and everyone can move on with a minimum of inconvenience."

Alexander had known that Baozhai could be difficult but he had not expected her to threaten him, especially with such a potential public relations nightmare. While the Margraves could certainly deny their involvement in Hardy's assassination, the revelation would be like candy to the other wealthy families of the Nanfang Republic. It would likely be thrown back in their faces at every opportunity, and then there were the possible responses from outside the Republic. As much as he wanted to punish Darui for his impertinence, Alexander finally reasoned that it might be best to compromise in this particular instance.

"I agree to your proposal and that particular fact remains private?"

"Of course."

"Done. Your grandson will be given the opportunity to save face, as will Lysander. Our families will remain friends in public with no fallout from the divorce. You will then never presume to threaten me again, I take it that I am understood?"

Baozhai rose from her seat and smiled. "I appreciate your decision, Mister Margrave. I will offer one piece of advice to you before I take my leave, however. The Liao family have been allies of the Margraves for over a century. We know everything that there is to know about you, but you do not know everything that there is to know about us. Remember that in your dealings with us, show us our due respect, and our harmonious relationship will continue to bring prosperity to both of our families. Good day, Mister Margrave."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Jul 23, 2019 3:23 pm

20 July 2019 - 18:50hrs [UTC+8]
Liao Family Mansion
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

In true matriarchal fashion, Liao Baozhai's intervention in support of Darui continued long after her effective blackmailing of Alexander Margrave. She insisted that her youngest grandson move into her home until he found a more secure place of his own, telling him that he could stay as long as he needed to. Darui's parents attempted to step in by inviting him to stay with them but Baozhai waved them off, as she intended to take personal charge of the situation and Darui's parents would just get in the way of her interventions. So Darui relocated to her two-storey mansion in the Penha Hill area of Oumún, still surprised at the fact that his grandmother had managed to achieve such a softening in Alexander Margrave's intentions. Just as Liao Baozhai had always striven to keep Darui separate from the part of the Liao family that dealt in organised crime, she had also ensured that he was unaware of the Margrave family secret. She had been tempted to tell him when he had first raised the possibility of marrying Lysander as it could've dissuaded him from it, but her affection for him led her to ultimately relent. While she was certainly sorry to see her grandson's marriage ending, Baozhai did quietly enjoy the fact that her initial misgivings about the marriage had proven correct. Now that Darui was back in Oumún, Baozhai was intent on keeping him there if possible, so she set her staff the task of finding potential homes for Darui in the city. In the meantime she took every opportunity to dote on him. Every meal consisted of a favourite food of his, while he was allowed to stay up as late as he wanted and sleep in as late as he wanted.

On this particular evening Darui was being visited by his agent, Yuen Lin. An Oumún native, the forty year old was slightly overweight with slicked black hair and had been Darui's agent for the past five years. Lin was a voracious networker and had built up a variety of contacts throughout the Nanfang music industry during his time, and to his credit he was good at keeping secrets for his clients. As soon as Darui had confided in him about the current situation, Lin had discreetly set to work; an update from Darui after Baozhai's intervention had taken some pressure from Lin's shoulders and convinced him that this was potentially an excellent opportunity despite the circumstances surrounding it. The pair were now sat in the lounge of Baozhai's mansion on opposite sides of an antique coffee table, which was covered in various finger foods and beverages as Baozhai had ensured that Lin was well-received and well-taken care of. He was a vital part of Darui's future, after all. Lin finished gulping down some coffee and grinned at Darui.

"Okay, so, I've made some careful enquiries. Called in some favours, had a couple of late dinners with friends. I think we might be able to land with EE-Media."

Darui's eyebrows raised in surprise. EE-Media was known as a significant player in the 'C-pop' genre, headquartered in Shanghai with a secondary office in Hēunggóng. EE-Media had almost forty single artists and five groups on their roster, and were part of the Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) media network. HBS owned eleven television channels as well as various digital subscription channels, radio channels, and production companies in addition to EE-Media, and were known as the second-largest television network in the Nanfang Republic after the state-controlled Nanfang Central Television.

"You really think I could land them?"

Lin nodded enthusiastically. "National star, remember? You've got an established name and an established fanbase, and you'll be approaching them from a position of strength. If Margrave had his way, you'd be going to them with a recently cancelled contract and you'd have also been dumped from all of your spokesperson deals. Thanks to your frankly awesome grandmother, you're going to them and saying that you're thinking of changing labels and you're interested in them. They won't know the real reason why or what's going on behind the scenes, and they don't need to know until after your divorce."

Darui looked thoughtful. "Won't they get pissed if I lose all of my spokesperson deals after signing with them?"

"No no no. It'll look like the Margrave companies are getting uppity over you switching music labels. Think of the positive possibilities, not the doom and gloom. HBS run 'Super Voice Girls' and 'Super Voice Boys' every year, you might land a job as a judge or a coach on one of them next year if you get in with EE-Media. Not only that but HBS channels and shows get broadcast overseas. You get in with EE-Media, you're in with HBS, which means the potential for an even wider audience. Plus the potential for a wider variety of spokesperson deals because you'll be out of the Margrave umbrella."

"What if they aren't interested though?"

Lin pulled a face. "Yeesh, have some optimism! EE-Media would be crazy not to sign you! If they did, for some insane reason, say no, there are other options. Rock Records, HIM International Music, Believe In Music International, Emperor Entertainment Group, if push comes to shove there's even Hype Records in Singapura. That's just to name a few, mind you. I think you've been trapped in the Margrave bubble for too long, they're not the be all and end all of the corporate world, y'know."

Darui chuckled slightly. "Yeah, you might be right there. EE-Media, huh? That would be amazing."

"Exactly! I'll keep at it, and in the meantime you do what you can to keep busy because it'll look even better to them if you're active. Maybe see if a couple more of your family's casinos will get you in for a surprise performance or two, and let's not forget your trip to Singapura in a couple of weeks. Mister Long was in contact yesterday with some extra details, it sounds more like a vacation than a job. Considering the crap you've put up with recently, it might be what you need right now."

Lin reached into his briefcase and produced a small collection of pages. "Okay, so the performance is scheduled for the tenth of August. You have the option of flying out to Singapura on the ninth or even the eighth if you want, they'll send a private jet to pick you up. You'll be put up in the Marina Bay Trinity as already mentioned, but now it's confirmed that you'll be in a Merlion Suite. I looked it up on their website, it's really fancy. You'll also have a limousine available for you to travel wherever you want in Singapura. When it comes to the duration of your stay, apparently they can extend it as far as the eighteenth if you want to have a few days in Singapura to unwind."

Darui furrowed his brow. "All that plus two million yuan to perform at a birthday party? Any more about the performance itself?"

Lin checked through the pages. "Yeah, here we go. It's a twenty-first birthday party for Mister Long's younger brother. Apparently he's a fan of yours and Mister Long obviously has a lot of money to play with, since the party is going to be held at the Trinity." He paused for a moment. "I wonder if it's going to be on that platform on top of the three towers, they've got a pool and a garden up there as well as other stuff."

"What's the brother's name?"

"Doesn't say, but they'll tell you before the party I'd imagine. Kinda awkward otherwise, how can you sing 'Happy Birthday' for someone when you don't know their name? Anyway, I had a thought about all this on the way over. If this guy has all of this money then he's got to have a great business, right? This performance could line you up for a spokesperson deal with his company if it goes well, and if his company is the sort that would have that kind of deal, obviously."

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Jul 27, 2019 8:13 am

9 August 2019 - 12:00hrs [UTC+8]
Singapura Changi Airport
Singapura, Singapura Raya

Just over two weeks passed with very little in the way of excitement or incident, both in the political arena of the Nanfang Republic and in the more personal arena of relations between the Margraves and the Liao. Alexander Margrave was staying true to his word and giving Darui the necessary breathing room to arrange a new contract with a new music label before terminating his current Margrave-affiliated artist contract, although admittedly this was primarily due to a desire to keep the Margrave family secret out of general public knowledge. Yuen Lin had continued to probe the possibilities for Darui to sign with the Shanghai-based EE-Media thanks to his contacts in the label's Hēunggóng office; through a tangled network of favours, business meals, phonecalls, emails, and on one occasion attending the same party as the head of the Hēunggóng office 'completely by coincidence', Lin was getting close to nailing down a meeting. Proceedings would have been far quicker if he had been able to reveal the true reasons for Darui's interest in EE-Media, but Darui did not want to start mentioning such matters until he felt the time was right. Darui had conducted four 'surprise performances' at Liao-owned casinos in Oumún over the past two weeks and received a great deal of audience approval at each one, while Lysander had thrown himself into Margrave business and the rest of the Margraves refrained from even mentioning Darui's name around him. The time had now arrived for Darui to attend the private party booking in Singapura, an event that Darui was starting to view more as a potential vacation away from current matters although Lin had once again been stressing that it was a potential opportunity to make a wealthy contact in a nation that 'Darui could take by storm', according to the agent. Even though Darui obviously had some fans in Singapura Raya already, otherwise he wouldn't have been booked to go there in the first place.

The booking was not a widely-known event and so Darui had taken a few extra measures to avoid potential media interest when it came time to depart. He had decided to leave relatively early on the ninth of August, as the flight would only take about four hours. That way he could arrive in Singapura and have plenty of time to settle in before the following day's events, and he would also hopefully avoid any freelance photographers who might be hanging around the airport looking for opportunities. His arrival thankfully proved to be a quiet affair as he made his way to the awaiting private aircraft with a minimum of fuss, his luggage being ferried in a cart by a crew member from the aircraft while his passport was checked at the aircraft by a discreet member of the airport staff. The aircraft was a Nanfang-built CBJ business jet from the Shanghai-based Commercial Aircraft Corporation (COMAC), based on the company's popular ARJ21 twin-engine regional jet which flew in considerable numbers through the skies of the Nanfang Republic as well as between the Republic and Singapura Raya. This particular CBJ had been configured to feature twelve seats as well as a separate VIP bedroom, lounge, meeting room, sitting room, and dining section. Upon seeing this Darui figured that Mister Long must have sent his own personal jet to fetch him as there was no reason why Darui would require such a variety of amenities for such a relatively short flight. Once his luggage was aboard and the rest of the small crew had politely welcomed him, Darui settled down in a comfortable chair and the CBJ began on its journey, the soundproofing meaning that the engine noise was quieter than a typical busy street. The flight was a relaxing one and it felt like no time at all had passed when the aircraft touched down at Singapura Changi Airport at noon; the fact that Oumún and Singapura sat in the same timezone meant that Darui wouldn't have to adjust to any time differences.

His arrival at Singapura Changi Airport was greeted with similar discretion to his departure from Oumún. A member of the airport staff was waiting to take his passport inside so it could be checked properly, while a black stretch limousine pulled onto the tarmac to take collection of his luggage. The smartly-uniformed driver gave Darui a quiet nod of respect as he then held one of the rear doors open for him, while the airport staff member soon returned and handed the passport back with her best wishes for an enjoyable stay. The limousine then ferried Darui and his luggage from the airport to the Marina Bay Trinity via the East Coast Parkway, a journey that took a mere twelve minutes due to fortunate traffic conditions. The route took them past the two country clubs situated near the southern end of the airport, as well as the Singapura Sailing Centre, various greenery developments and parks, and across two bridges until they finally reached the expansive resort and its own attendant developments. Upon arriving at Hotel Lobby Tower 1, the limousine door was opened for Darui by a uniformed greeter who welcomed him to the resort while three porters gathered up his luggage and brought it inside. The receptionist also welcomed him warmly and efficiently produced his keycards as well as details of all of the amenities available to him during his stay, and Darui found it rather amusing that he was being given a far nicer suite than the one that he had stayed in with Lysander during the Singapura Conference back in January. As he headed towards the elevators Darui found himself approached by yet another staff member, this time offering to guide him to his suite. Upon finally arriving at his fifty-fifth floor Merlion Suite, Darui let out a low whistle of appreciation as he entered.

After tipping the porters and the helpful guide, Darui was left alone to explore his accommodation. Even after reading about the suite online, he was still surprised by it. Two bedrooms, a master with a kingsize bed and walk-in wardrobe, the other with two queensize beds. A stylish living room, bathroom with Jacuzzi, massage room, and a fully-equipped private gym finished off the suite, leaving Darui to wonder if he could actually make use of everything before he departed. He took a few moments to admire the view of the Singapura Strait and the verdant Gardens by the Bay, then set to work unpacking. It was roughly half an hour before a call came through to his suite to let Darui know that Mister Long was on his way to see him, so Darui had time to put the suitcases away before there was a knock at the suite door. Darui answered it and was met by an individual who appeared to be in his mid-forties, dressed in a black suit with styled black hair and a neatly-trimmed goatee.

"Mister Long, I presume?"

The Xuanlong smiled and offered his hand for Darui to shake. "That's correct. I must thank you a great deal for accepting this booking, you're going to make a certain young man very happy on his birthday."

After they shook hands, Darui invited 'Mister Long' into the suite, completely unaware that he was in fact talking with the head of the Thrashing Dragons organisation. "Speaking of the 'certain young man', I still don't actually know his name."

The Xuanlong nodded understandingly and proceeded with the fabricated story surrounding the event. "Yes, that's right. Well he doesn't actually like being called by his birth name, he greatly prefers his nickname. As he's the baby of the family, we call him 'Beibeilong'."

Darui chuckled at that. "Does he live up to the nickname of 'Baby Dragon'?"

"Definitely. Of course we have a shortened version of it in case we need to shout to him for some reason."

Realisation suddenly dawned on Darui. "BeBe."

"Yes, that's correct."

Darui smiled somewhat awkwardly before continuing. "I've met him before. We encountered each other when i was here back in January."

"I must confess that I already knew that. I must apologise for not identifying him earlier but I was concerned that you might not accept the booking if you knew it was for him, and I wanted to make this birthday as special as possible for him. I'm aware of what he said during your encounter and I hope you'll forgive him for his rather unfiltered exuberance. BeBe genuinely is quite a fan of yours and he can let himself get carried away, I'm certain that he meant no actual disrespect. Knowing my baby brother as I do, if you were offended by anything he said or did then he would unreservedly apologise for it." The Xuanlong found lying to Darui to be exceptionally easy. While it was true that BeBe would apologise if Darui mentioned the previous encounter, it would be one of the least sincere apologies ever uttered. Thankfully in that regard, BeBe was just as good at lying as his older brother.

Meanwhile Darui was somewhat torn by the revelation. If Lysander found out that he had performed at this particular individual's birthday then things could get even uglier between them, but at the same time it sounded as though Darui's own assessment of the January encounter had been accurate. He had figured that BeBe had just been messing around, and this appeared to be confirmed by his brother's words that BeBe would apologise if Darui mentioned the incident. After weighing up the situation while 'Mister Long' was speaking, Darui decided to go ahead with the performance as he saw no reason to punish BeBe for Lysander's behaviour of late, although at some point he would have a quiet word regarding what had previously transpired.

"I think everyone has done things without considering the consequences, Mister Long. With your permission I would like to have a moment to talk to him about what happened but I bear him no ill will over it."

"That will be simple to arrange. Now regarding tomorrow, I'd like you to be at the party to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him in front of the guests and possibly one or two songs of your choice. We've booked the Skypark on top of the towers so it'll be open-air. It'll start around seven in the evening."

Darui nodded. "That's absolutely fine."

The Xuanlong seemed pleased with that. "Then if you're willing, and I realise that this might sound somewhat odd, we have a media room in the Chairman Suite with a karaoke machine. At some point during the evening, would you be willing to sing a couple of requests for him in there? I think it would mean a great deal to him."

Darui paused for a moment. "Well that's not much different from the fanmeets I do, at some point an attendee is picked at random and brought on stage, then they pick a song for me to sing and they stay on stage with me while I perform it. Considering how much you've spent arranging for me to be here and all of the amenities you've paid for me to access, I don't see it as being any trouble."

"Excellent." The Xuanlong checked his gold Rolex watch before returning his attention to Darui. "If you'll excuse me, I have a meeting to attend shortly so I'd better get going. If you're willing to take a bit of dining advice for this evening, there's a superb Italian restaurant two floors up where I have a permanent reserved table. It's smart casual and the dinner menu is fantastic. I'll let the staff know that you've got access to the table, the evening view from there is quite something."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Jul 27, 2019 3:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Jul 29, 2019 3:26 pm

9 August 2019 - 19:00hrs [UTC+8]
Salute, Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

Named for the Italian term used when toasting with glasses, Salute was one of several dining establishments housed within the three towers of the Marina Bay Trinity. Situated on the fifty-seventh floor of Hotel Tower 1 as part of the Skypark, Salute opened their doors at 10:30 and closed at either 02:00 or 04:00 depending on which day of the week it was. The reason for this late opening was that the restaurant became a nightclub at 22:00, switching focus from dining to drinks and live music with a sprawling outdoor bar and terrace. Darui had decided to take the advice of his host and headed to Salute for 19:00, being seated at the Xuanlong's permanently reserved table with very little fuss and taking his time to peruse the menu. In the end he ordered one of the house specialities, roasted black cod with fresh heirloom tomatoes, butter, and crispy portobello mushrooms. A bottle of Chardonnay was brought over for him while he waited for his food, and he took a few sips from his newly poured glass as he gazed out of the window at the spectacular view of Singapura. After a few minutes had passed he sensed someone approaching the table and at first thought that it was one of the waiting staff, but when he turned to look he was instead presented with the sight of BeBe casually sauntering over and occupying the seat on the other side of the table. Clad in a red and black-patterned jacket, black chinos, and a white shirt, BeBe had his hair tied back and featured a slight dark shade of eye shadow which was revealed when he removed his stylish red-tinted shades. He beamed gleefully at Darui as he folded the temples of his shades and tucked them into his left breast pocket.

"We meet again, Mister Liao-Margrave. Do you mind if I join you? My big brother is chatting with some Nigerian business people and they're not very entertaining." He paused as a member of the waiting staff approached and turned his smile towards them. "I'll have the spaghetti and meatballs with the Shiraz, please." As the staff member noted the order and headed off, BeBe returned his attention to Darui. "So what are you having?"

It took a moment or two for Darui to catch up with the sudden flurry of activity. "I'm having the roasted black cod. Now why don't you seem very surprised to see me here?"

BeBe giggled and leaned slightly over the table. "I asked my big brother if I could have you perform at my birthday, he would've told me if you'd said no so I figured you'd be around here somewhere. Plus one of the restaurant staff called the Chairman Suite just to confirm your use of the table and I was the one who answered."

"Ah, of course." Darui shook his head slightly and chuckled as he took another sip of wine, finding the continuing series of revelations about the booking to be somewhat amusing. "So you just decided to join me for dinner?"

"Well it seemed like a lot more fun than listening to business talk, investment this and collaboration that. I'm guessing you've been in that sort of situation yourself, considering the family you married into. I mean yeah, your actual family probably have similar talk but you guys own casinos! That's fun to talk about, not commodity things and 'stock portfolios'."

"Speaking of the family I married into-"

BeBe held up his hands in an apologetic gesture. "If this is about what I said about your husband to his face then okay, I was out of line." He switched focus to the waiter who brought over his Shiraz and thanked him before turning back to Darui. "I got a little excited because I got to meet you. Sorry if it caused any trouble." BeBe gave an apologetic smile before pouring himself a glass and taking a drink. In truth the Xuanlong had already told BeBe that Darui wished to discuss their previous encounter and so BeBe had taken the opportunity to try to head off that particular conversation. Darui's response seemed to indicate that it was a wise move, as he shrugged slightly and smiled.

"It's okay, I figured that it was something like that. You did go a bit far with what you said to Lysander though, he was rather annoyed by it."

"I'll apologise to him if you want me to. You could facetime him, or-"

Darui downed some more of his wine. "That might not be a great idea. He...well, let's just leave it at that." He was rather thankful that his food arrived at that moment as it broke up the conversation and meant that he could completely change the subject. "So what sort of business is your family in, BeBe?"

"Oh, all sorts of stuff. Real estate, import and export, pharmaceuticals, leisure, there are other things as well. We've got interests all around Singapura Raya and we're expanding outwards." BeBe smirked slightly before turning to accept the arrival of his food, as he was quite pleased with the way that he had described smuggling, narcotics, and prostitution. He took time to top up his own glass before picking up the bottle of Chardonnay and topping up Darui's almost-empty glass, then grinned as he set down the bottle and lifted his glass. "Cheers, Darui."

"Cheers, BeBe." Darui smiled warmly and clinked his glass against BeBe's, taking a drink before starting to eat the expertly prepared meal before him.

----------------------------------------------

9 August 2019 - 21:10hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

"Man, it's been a long time since I've had such a nice evening. Maybe I should thank those Nigerians for boring you so much that you came to have dinner with me."

BeBe playfully patted Darui on the upper arm as they made their way out of Salute and headed towards the nearest elevator. "I'm sure you have all sorts of nice evenings back home."

The pair entered the elevator and Darui pushed the button for the floor of his suite, then let out a slight sigh. "Not as many as I'd like, BeBe."

BeBe moved slightly closer to him and casually slipped his arm around Darui's arm before offering a sympathetic smile. "Anything you want to talk about?"

"I appreciate the offer but I don't want to bore you the night before your birthday."

The elevator doors opened and the pair began to walk to Darui's suite, their arms still linked as BeBe shook his head at Darui. "I wouldn't be bored. If you've got something on your mind, sometimes it helps to talk about it."

As they reached the door of Darui's suite, Darui stopped and smiled at him. "Tomorrow is all about you and your birthday, and you don't need to be listening to me and my troubles the night before." He swiped the keycard but paused before heading inside. "Maybe the day after, if you're really that interested?"

BeBe's face lit up. "Sure thing!" He then planted a gentle peck on Darui's cheek and grinned. "Goodnight then."

Darui smiled and nodded. "Goodnight BeBe." As the younger man waved and sauntered back towards the elevator, Darui entered his suite and closed the door before smiling to himself. He took off his black jacket and strolled into the walk-in wardrobe to get changed, mulling over the current situation as he looked into the mirror. Considering what he had been recently dealing with back in the Nanfang Republic, he figured that staying for a few days after the birthday party performance could give him a welcome change of scenery. He also felt somewhat vindicated after talking to BeBe as it appeared that he had been right all along regarding what had happened back in January, not that it did him any good in regard to Lysander but it felt nice to know that he had been right. BeBe had of course been lying through his teeth during that part of their conversation in an attempt to diffuse any potential difficulty between the two of them, unbeknownst to Darui, and it had certainly worked.
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Thu Aug 01, 2019 9:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Aug 04, 2019 8:41 am

10 August 2019 - 09:00hrs [UTC+8]
Chairman Suite, Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

BeBe emerged from his bedroom with a loud yawn, still wearing his sleepwear which consisted of a short-sleeved red silk v-necked pyjama top and a pair of matching pyjama shorts. His shoulder-length hair hung loose and his face was completely cosmetic-free, and he blinked a few times as he casually strode into the living room area where the Xuanlong sat on a couch, already dressed in a white shirt with black trousers and a black necktie.

"Happy birthday, baby brother."

BeBe yawned once more and smiled lazily before pointing at a pile of gifts which had been arranged on a nearby table. "Those for me?"

"Of course."

It took very little time for BeBe to cross to the table and begin opening the arranged gifts. Most of them consisted of jewelry and other items that he had personally picked out for his brother to purchase, but there were a couple that were a mystery until he opened them. He picked up a large rectangular gift to shake it and was surprised by the weight of it. "What the hell is this one?"

The Xuanlong was pouring himself some coffee as he answered. "The Nigerians dropped it off last night when they came to see me. A 'token of their esteem', they called it. Apparently our main guy in Nigeria mentioned that your birthday was coming up and the Nigerians figured that a gift was in order, since they'd be visiting at the right time."

BeBe frowned and unwrapped the large box, then his eyes widened as he lifted the lid to reveal a gold-plated Type 56 assault rifle. He laughed with a degree of both glee and nervousness as he carefully grasped the grip and brandished the weapon in the air. "Holy shit, this is insane! Okay, I officially love Nigerians!" The Xuanlong watched with amusement as his younger brother gently set the weapon down and started to work on the larger square box next to the rifle.

"That one was delivered from the Zairian embassy. A gift from Príncipe Florêncio in honour of our business relationship."

"Whoa, now we're hanging this on the wall." BeBe beamed as he lifted out the large antique wood-carved tribal mask which was decorated with reds and greens, complete with exquisitely woven wicker crafted as a mane. He turned it around and found a small card tucked inside. "A royal mask from the now-extinct Kzandu tribe, circa 1890. Big brother, I think we'll need more African friends before next year."

"We'll see what we can do about that. So how was dinner last night?"

"It was lovely, and from what Darui said, he had a really good time too. I did pick up on something though, I'm not sure if everything's okay for him back home. I asked him if he wanted to talk about it and he said that he might talk about it tomorrow with me, but I should be thinking about enjoying my birthday rather than listening to him and his troubles."

"Interesting." The Xuanlong appeared to be deep in thought for a few moments. "I take it that you're still intent on using your wiles and charms on him tonight?"

There was an obvious pause before BeBe answered. "I'm actually not sure. He doesn't seem like the type who would cheat, he's a nicer guy than I expected. If he's going through some issues back home then I don't want to make him feel too awkward. I think I'd prefer it if he confided in me if I'm honest." He directed an annoyed glare towards his older brother. "What's wrong with me? I've spent the last couple of weeks thinking about how to seduce him and now I'd be happy just to talk to him."

The Xuanlong smiled slightly. "Baby brother, I do believe that you've either matured overnight or you're genuinely sweet on him. Knowing you as I do, it's obviously the latter. I'm sure it'll work out in the end, no-one could refuse our dear BeBe." He walked over and vigorously tousled BeBe's hair, eliciting a disapproving whimper from his younger brother.

----------------------------------------------

10 August 2019 - 19:30hrs [UTC+8]
Skypark, Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

Comprising the entire fifty-seventh floor of all three hotel towers, the Skypark featured a variety of amenities. In addition to Salute, the fifty-seventh floor also featured a 'Californian-style' restaurant with bar and lounge, as well as a 'Modern Asian' restaurant and SkyBar. Other facilities available included gardens, a sun deck, an infinity pool, and an observation deck. It was a testament to the control of the Thrashing Dragons that it was not merely the observation deck that had been booked for the private function of BeBe's birthday party, but rather the entire SkyPark. The guest list was comprised of the entire leadership of the Thrashing Dragons organisation, various Singapuran celebrities who owed their careers to the criminal syndicate, several young Singapuran politicians, and representatives of several other criminal organisations who had come to pay their respects to the younger brother of the Xuanlong. This meant that there was an attendance of over two hundred people although BeBe knew less than half of them on a personal basis. Not that he really cared however, as the evening was all about him. The sun had set about fifteen minutes before the party got underway, live music being performed by one of BeBe's favourite Singapuran bands as the Xuanlong had spared no expense to make the event memorable for his younger brother. BeBe strode out of an elevator with a beaming smile, wearing a tight black sleeveless top, tight black jeans, black heeled boots, and a pair of blue-tinted shades; his hair had been mostly pulled back into a ponytail, with several strands either side of his face which had been styled into thin braids. He gave a playful bow as the attendees cheered his presence loudly and then began greeting everyone as the music started to play. While the Nigerian syndicate representatives didn't quite take him seriously as the brother of the head of an influential criminal organisation, they did enjoy his evident love of the gift that they had given him as he had all manner of questions to ask them about it.

As the time reached eight o'clock, the music ended and a new voice resonated from the stage where the band were positioned.

"Could the birthday boy please come up here?"

Everyone turned to see Darui grinning and dressed in a classic tuxedo while holding the microphone, and a ripple of surprise filtered through those attendees who knew of him and his music. He looked around expectantly until BeBe had waded through the partygoers and clambered up on stage with him, at which point he turned and smiled. "I've got one thing to say to you tonight, BeBe."

Darui then proceeded to sing a very mellow and tuneful rendition of 'Happy Birthday', stepping closer to BeBe at the end of every line. As he finished singing, Darui leaned forward to give BeBe a very gentle peck on the cheek and winked at him. "Happy Birthday BeBe."

BeBe made a show of supposedly swooning after receiving the peck from Darui, who smirked and turned his attention to the other attendees before beginning to sing one of the singles from his newest album, encouraging BeBe to join in during the chorus. As the song finished, a large fireworks display began to erupt from launchers positioned around the resort, shooting explosions of gold, red, blue, and purple into the Singapuran night sky. As the display came to an end, BeBe hopped down off the stage and Darui performed another two songs before bowing and receiving a loud ovation from the attending partygoers. Darui then handed the stage back to the band and stepped into a waiting group of celebrities who requested all manner of selfies with him before he finally managed to locate BeBe, who was leaning nonchalantly against the railing which ran alongside the outer edge of the SkyPark.

"Are all of your birthdays like this?"

BeBe giggled and shook his head. "I wish! My brother really went all out on this one." He peered over the rim of his shades at some dancing partygoers and then raised an eyebrow at Darui. "You do realise that you've set some tongues wagging with that peck on the cheek, don't you? I count at least four people who are watching us while trying not to look like they are."

"Do you want me to take it back then?"

"No, no. Just be aware that some of them are on social media as we speak. I don't want you to get in trouble because of me."

"Well I suppose he'd find out who I was performing for sooner or later, I was kinda hoping for later."

BeBe cocked his head inquisitively at Darui's statement. "Are you sure you want to wait until tomorrow to decide if you want to talk? I'm all ears right now, if this lot need me then they can call me over."

Darui stepped up to the railing next to BeBe and leaned forward, resting his forearms on the railing itself. He paused for a few moments until BeBe's expectant gaze convinced him to go ahead. "This doesn't go any further, okay?" He sighed slightly after BeBe's earnest nodding. "Lysander and I are getting divorced."

BeBe's eyes widened and he quickly pushed his shades up into place in case Darui noticed a gleam in his eye at that news. "Why, what happened?"

"After you said what you said to us back in January, I was caught a little offguard by it and I went and said that it was kinda flattering, rather than saying anything about you being rude to Lysander. He really didn't appreciate it and it kicked off something. He started checking my phone when he thought I wasn't looking, he would make comments about me getting too close to my fans, he started coming to the fanmeets to basically keep an eye on me, it's as if all the trust and respect I thought we shared had evaporated. Then I accepted this booking, he wanted me to cancel it, I refused, so his grandfather tried bribing me to cancel it. I refused that, and so it was decided that because I was being so disrespectful to Lysander, a divorce is necessary to give him a chance to find someone better. I always tried to contribute to the Margraves but in the end I apparently wasn't obedient enough."

BeBe turned on the spot to adopt the same pose as Darui. "All that happened because of me?"

Darui shook his head and looked at BeBe with a deeply serious expression. "No, not because of you." His expression softened as he turned to look out at the night once again. "The more I think about it, the more I'm wondering if maybe the issues were there all the time but nothing ever brought them to the surface before. I've seen the way that the Margraves can be control freaks, I didn't expect Lysander to be one but unfortunately he turned out to be on a par with his grandfather."

"I'm guessing it's the inbreeding."

BeBe grinned as Darui started laughing. "Think about it, there aren't that many Westerner families in the Nanfang Republic, are there? For the Margraves to remain that white they must be keeping it in the family. In every way possible. For all you know, Lysander's parents are first cousins or even siblings. It might explain the stupidity."

"Stupidity?"

"I've only started getting to know you properly since yesterday evening but you're clearly a decent guy, Darui. I bet you're the most monogamous guy on the planet. If Lysander thought you'd cheat on him then he's a moron, and if he thought he could use that as an excuse to keep tabs on you then he's a moron. If he's lost you because of Margrave attitude, then he's a moron. His grandfather sounds like a right dick too. An entire family of dicks."

"I'm a fourth cousin to that moron, you know."

BeBe shook his head. "You're a Liao, not a Margrave. What's the degree of separation for fourth cousins, anyway?"

"We share at least one set of great-great-great grandparents."

BeBe stood up slightly and began counting with his fingers. "So that means one set of great-great-great grandparents out of...hang on a sec...sixteen sets. Maybe two sets, three at most in common? They might as well be strangers off the street." He smiled warmly at Darui and moved slightly closer. "I've never been married and so I can't say much about divorce, but I've had relationships end. It's not nice, it hurts, but in time you put it behind you. I'm guessing you already know all that though." BeBe tapped his fingers on the railing for a moment before he continued. "Why don't you stick around for a few days after tonight? You've got the suite, the limo, forget about the Margraves for a bit. I could even show you some of the sights."

"I will admit that I've been thinking about extending my stay. The potential problem is what happens if Lysander sees on social media that I've performed at your party and I'm still in Singapura. Everyone's agreed to keep the whole thing quiet and only make a brief announcement once it's all final, but he might make a post where he hints that I've done something wrong."

BeBe shrugged. "Who cares what Lysander Margrave thinks? He's not the boss of you and he's definitely not the boss of me. It's not like you've done anything wrong anyway." He stood completely upright and held his head high with jovial bravado. "If he tries making your life miserable, my brother can always sort him out."

Darui laughed once again and held up his hands in a mock show of defeat. "Okay, you've convinced me. I'll stay a few days longer. Now, bringing the focus back to your ongoing birthday, which songs would you like to hear in the media room later on?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:02 am

18 August 2019 - 10:00hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

The past few days had truly served to get Darui into a fresh new mindset, thanks in considerable part to the infectious enthusiasm of BeBe. He had accompanied Darui around Singapura in order to show him various sights and attractions, in an attempt to turn Darui's time in the city into a genuine vacation. Over the past week they had visited sites such as the Night Safari zoo and the River Safari zoo, gone shopping in the bustling Orchard Road district which featured several multistorey shopping centres, and spent a great deal of time utilising the various amenities of the Marina Bay Trinity. Darui had successfully embarrassed himself by proving less than graceful on the resort's synthetic ice rink, much to BeBe's amusement, but redeemed himself by winning almost fifteen thousand yuan playing blackjack in the resort's casino. The pair had enjoyed dinner together every evening and there had been inklings of a spark between them; as they had become more comfortable around each other, BeBe had become more flirtatious while Darui had done nothing to dissuade him from doing so, instead finding it quite endearing. Unfortunately the time had now arrived for Darui to head back to the Nanfang Republic, meaning that he now had to once again focus on finding a new record label as well as preparing for the inevitable end of his spokesperson deals and, of course, his impending divorce. During his free moments he had been checking Lysander's social media and was relieved to see that there were no posts mentioning him or making subtle reference to any problems between them; instead there were posts and photos focusing on excitement over new business opportunities for the Margrave family. There had also been a glimmer of light on the horizon regarding a potential new label, as Lin had been in contact with the news that EE-Media were interested in a meeting on August 20th.

Darui checked around the Merlion Suite to make sure that he hadn't left anything out of his packing, then closed his final suitcase in anticipation of the resort sending some staff up to his suite to collect his luggage. He heard a knock at the door so he crossed the suite and answered it, smiling as he was met by BeBe's beaming grin.

"Need any help packing?"

Darui shook his head and invited him in. "It's all done. I'm surprisingly organised when it comes to things like packing." There was a brief silence between them before Darui spoke again. "I'm glad you came by actually, there's something I wanted to talk to you about and I would've felt a bit awkward coming to the Chairman Suite for it."

He sat on the side of the bed and BeBe quickly plonked himself down next to him. "What's up?"

"I've had a lot of fun here in Singapura, BeBe. Mainly down to you. You're funny, you've got seemingly endless energy, and-"

BeBe cautiously moved his hand until it slid over Darui's, at which point he gently gripped Darui's hand while looking away as to not make eye contact. "I like you too."

Darui smiled to himself before giving BeBe's hand a slight squeeze in response. "I figured as much. That's what I want to talk about. When you said that I was probably the most monogamous guy on the planet, you weren't too far off. I've never cheated on anyone. I always end a relationship before starting a new one, because it's not fair for someone to think that everything's fine while their partner is sleeping with someone else behind their back. That attitude's never been more of a pain in the ass for me than it is right now. Even with all the issues and even though we're getting divorced, I won't cheat on Lysander. No matter how much I might be tempted to."

Even though BeBe continued not to look at him and instead looked at the floor, Darui could tell that the younger man's mood had changed as he felt BeBe's grip tighten ever so slightly. His voice softened as he continued to talk.

"If I cheat on Lysander with you then there's a possibility that it could come to light. If that happens then the Margraves might try coming after your family businesses. Believe me, it's something that they've tried before against people who they've perceived to have crossed them. It would also give Lysander justification for being the way he's been, and I refuse to give him that." Darui paused for a moment. "I also wouldn't want anything potential to be tainted because it started while I was still married. So I have something incredibly selfish to ask you, BeBe. Feel free to say no, feel free to curse me out, feel free to hurl something heavy at me.

"Once I'm divorced, I'll be a single man. At that point, if you haven't found someone else, I'd like to come back to Singapura to visit or you could come to Oumún to visit. That way we can see what happens when we're both free, single, and interested, without a Margrave-sized shadow hovering over everything."

BeBe blinked a few times and turned to face him with a confused expression. "You want me to wait for you?"

"I know it's selfish of me to ask."

"No, it's just...I thought you were rejecting me."

Darui inadvertently chuckled. "No, no I'm not doing that. I'll prove it, hand me your phone."

BeBe handed over his smartphone and Darui tapped a number into the 'Contacts' list before returning it. "Okay, phone that number."

BeBe tapped to call the number and Darui's phone began to chime, at which point BeBe's eyes widened with happiness. "You actually gave me your number."

"I did, and now I've got yours. We can call each other to chat, we can facetime, I can keep you up to date with everything." A thought popped into Darui's head. "Just don't send me anything inappropriate before the divorce goes through, just in case."

BeBe grinned mischievously as his mood continued to brighten. "So that's my plan for tonight out the window."

Darui laughed loudly and winked at him. "Why am I not surprised?"

A knock on the door jolted them both, and Darui answered to find two hotel porters with a trolley for his luggage. He helped them load the trolley and was about to follow them out when BeBe interjected and told them to go ahead, stating that Darui wouldn't be too far behind them. Once the porters began heading towards the elevator, BeBe pushed the suite door closed once again and then threw his arms around Darui in a tight hug.

"I'm going to miss you."

Darui smiled softly and hugged him back. "I'm going to miss you too, but at least we can stay in touch. Hopefully it won't be too long before we can meet up properly."

"Yeah." BeBe smirked coyly. "You know, if I can't send you something inappropriate-" He moved his arms and quickly grabbed Darui's ass with both hands, giving it a firm squeeze and causing Darui to yelp in surprise. "-I'll just have to give you something to remember. Man, you must work out a lot. I wonder..."

Darui reached down to stop BeBe's hand from wandering round to his crotch. "Now now."

"Worth a try." Once the hug ended, BeBe opened the suite door and grinned back at Darui as he began to head out. "Don't let me wait too long to see you again, Darui. I still need to make you forget your honeymoon, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember." Darui smiled as he picked up his hand luggage and walked out of the suite, at which point BeBe pulled the door closed for him. "Call you soon."

"Oh, you'd better." The pair exchanged one final hug before BeBe gave Darui a gentle peck on the cheek and stepped back, his eyes gleaming. "Farewell Mister Liao-Margrave. I look forward to meeting just plain Mister Liao in the near future and getting to know him a lot better."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Aug 11, 2019 6:50 am

21 August 2019 - 13:00hrs [UTC+4]
Al Alam Palace
Muscat, Unified Arab Sultanate

After a great deal of discussion, planning, and implementation with regard to a new political system, the Royal Advisory Council of the Unified Arab Sultanate were finally ready to make the official declaration regarding their nation's future. Much of the declaration's content was something of an open secret but this would still be a moment of significance for the UAS as it would officially mark a substantial change in the nation's political structure. Held in the gleaming white, blue, and gold Grand Hall of Al Alam Palace, the declaration was being broadcast live on every media channel in the nation. The members of the Royal Advisory Council were all sat in a row behind two ornate podiums and observers would undoubtedly notice that the Council featured two new members in addition to the usual Emirs. Representatives of the world's media had been invited to attend and the provided press seating was full of journalists, most of whom already had an idea of what was going to be announced but it still deserved coverage. Emir Rashid Al Maktoum stood and took his place at the left podium while Emir Murad bin Zayed Al Nahyan took up position at the right podium, both men pausing while the press quietened down before the seventy year old Emir Murad began to speak.

"People of the Unified Arab Sultanate, gathered media representatives, people of the world. It has been nine months since the Unified Arab Sultanate was brought under the provisional administration of the Royal Advisory Council. This action was conducted in response to concerns regarding our nation's path and position in the world. We deemed it necessary for our nation to take stock of our current situation and to re-evaluate our priorities. After a great deal of constructive discussion and subsequent implementation of new ideas, we are now ready to formally announce our nation's new status and direction. We are no longer the Unified Arab Sultanate. We are now the United Arab Emirates. A federation of monarchies where no single ruler holds all of the power and no single constituent monarchy holds dominion over the others. In short, it is a federation of equals.

"Sultan Ibrahim Al Said has signed a declaration of abdication and will be relocating his residence to the state of Freistaat Ostafrika with the agreement of the Ostafrikanische Gesellschaft. This marks an end to the reign of the Al Said dynasty and the beginning of a less autocratic system of governance for our people. In place of a Sultan, we shall have a President and a Prime Minister. The President of the United Arab Emirates shall act as Head of State while the Prime Minister shall be the Head of Government, providing a separation of the powers previously concentrated in the hands of the Sultan. The Royal Advisory Council will become the Federal Supreme Council and shall be comprised of the rulers of the nation's constituent emirates. Observers may have noticed that we have two additional members of the Council here today. That is because with the abdication of the Al Said dynasty, the Omani territories are being divided into three separate entities. The Emirate of Dhofar shall be ruled by the Al Busaidi dynasty as represented by Emir Hassan Al Busaidi, and the Emirate of Nizwa shall be ruled by the Al Riyami dynasty as represented by Emir Faisal Al Riyami. This will result in nine constituent emirates of the United Arab Emirates. The city of Muscat shall remain as the capital of our nation but it shall not be an emirate, instead it shall become a separate federal entity with an elected Governor."

Emir Murad paused to sip some water. "The Federal Supreme Council shall be responsible for the election of the President and Prime Minster of the United Arab Emirates, and the initial holders of these two offices have indeed been elected. It is my great honour to become the first President of the United Arab Emirates, and it is also my honour to announce that Emir Rashid Al Maktoum shall become the first Prime Minister of the UAE. I would now like to hand over to the Prime Minister."

Emir Rashid nodded appreciatively. "Thank you, Your Royal Highness. I would now like to expand somewhat on the internal mechanics of the United Arab Emirates. Our new constitution shall separate powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches. In addition to this, executive and legislative powers are to be divided into federal and emirati jurisdictions. The constituent emirates of the UAE shall have the power to set their own laws on many day-to-day local issues while the federal government shall retain control over more broad-ranging matters such as foreign affairs, defense and security, immigration and nationality laws, and other matters which shall be covered in more detail within the released documentation we have provided to the media representatives here today. We will of course also be broadcasting a comprehensive series explaining the new constitution to our own people.

"Returning to wider federal matters, the Federal Supreme Council shall appoint a Council of Ministers to manage the day-to-day administration of federal matters. The Council of Ministers shall be comprised of experts and academics from relevant fields, ensuring that individual portfolios are being managed by competent and knowledgeable individuals. We shall also be creating a legislature, the Federal National Council. It shall be comprised of forty members, twenty appointed by the rulers of their respective emirates and twenty elected by a soon-to-be created electoral college. The FNC shall have the power to examine and amend proposed legislation as well as questioning ministers on their performance. This will provide accountability in government while also ensuring a stable basis for government. The FNC shall also be involved in approving candidates for the Federal Judiciary. We intend for the Federal Judiciary to be an independent body of five judges, with candidates put forward by the Federal Supreme Council. The Judiciary will rule on the legitimacy of federal laws as well as mediating in any disputes which may arise between emirates, and they will also receive the authority to prosecute cabinet ministers and senior federal officials in cases of misconduct. This will also strengthen the level of accountability in our new governmental system, ensuring that incompetence is rooted out."

The thirty-seven year old smiled at the press. "I would now like to express my thanks to the Nanfang Republic and President Yang Mingshu. They have provided a strong security presence for us during our reorganisation planning, and I am grateful to them for stating that they shall continue to provide that security presence as we finalise all of our reforms. Their friendship is a tremendous boon for the United Arab Emirates and we intend to strengthen our bonds with them as we move forward. I would also like to thank the government of Freistaat Ostafrika at this time. We have had our differences to be certain, but they withdrew their own security presence from our nation with efficiency and have respected our sovereignty. The United Arab Emirates would like to continue engaging with Ostafrika in order to achieve a form of reconciliation between us, as we believe that both nations would benefit from such a move. As the United Arab Emirates, we are well-placed and well-equipped to once again step out onto the world stage as an independent nation, a nation which keeps faith with our friends, seeks peaceful coexistence, and is very much open for business. We recently had the pleasure of announcing a comprehensive business agreement with Margrave Holdings, and I can today announce that the UAE is in talks with both SAIC Motor and COMAC regarding investment and expansion opportunities in both our automotive and aerospace sectors. The reformation of our nation into the United Arab Emirates is an exciting time, full of opportunity for both ourselves and our friends, and our political reforms shall ensure that our nation and our people are best placed to enjoy the benefits of the bright future ahead of us."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Wed Aug 14, 2019 10:56 am

23 August 2019 - 11:45hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The weekly Friday meeting of the Nanfang Republic's ministerial cabinet had progressed as smoothly as it usually did, covering various aspects of the governance of the Asian behemoth. There had been in-depth discussion on the reforms within the now-United Arab Emirates including the potential opportunities raised by them, although admittedly these discussions had taken place in the past because Nanjing had been well aware of the details of Muscat's intended reformation. Tabled business was coming to a close when President Yang raised her hand and addressed her ministers.

"I have an item of special significance that I wish to discuss. I would have put it on the agenda but I've been taking some time to consider the matter more carefully." She looked around the table and leaned forward in her chair. "It is now approaching nine months since the Singapura Conference, when we resolved the unfortunate situation which had developed as a result of the dispute between the OAG and the Margrave family. Those nine months have seen excellent relations built up once again with Freistaat Ostafrika, while both the Kingdom of Travancore and the now-United Arab Emirates have taken considerable strides now that they are no longer client states of Dar es Salaam. There is a clear grouping developing in global diplomatic terms, one which centres upon the Nanfang Republic. The Republic of Nigeria, the Kingdom of Orungu, the Republic of Ndongo, and the Shoshanga Kingdom have come into our orbit thanks to the actions of the Margrave Oil Company. Their governments are most keen to tie themselves to us as closely as possible, seeking arms deals, greater investment, and our assistance in improving their infrastructure. Nanfang corporations are conducting considerable business in these four nations and all four governments are on the verge of signing arms contracts with our military. The Grande Império do Zaire has continued to develop their trade links with us, they are an important supplier of raw materials and they too are negotiating arms contracts with us. The United Arab Emirates have made it abundantly clear that they are aligning themselves with our particular outlook and our corporations foresee considerable advantages to doing business within the UAE. The Kingdom of Travancore has granted us access to all of the military facilities that were built within their territory by the Ostafrikans and we have started upgrading them as and when necessary. Travancore is also of strategic importance due to their position in the Indian Ocean region, and they are very keen to find shelter under our umbrella."

She smiled slightly. "That then leaves Singapura Raya and Freistaat Ostafrika. Singapura Raya has long been our beloved cousin with our ties reaching far back into history. Freistaat Ostafrika, now they are interesting. They do not seek arms deals with us as they manufacture their own hardware. Instead they seek closer and more free trade with us. I believe that we can all agree that Ostafrika would make for a considerable partner in Africa, they are more developed than our other African friends and they also control most of the islands in the Indian Ocean. I have previously discussed with all of you the possibility of gaining access to Ostafrika's naval facilities as it would provide us with a method of greatly increasing our own reach and ability to project power. When you count them all up, that makes for nine nations which are in some way orbiting the Nanfang Republic politically. I believe that we should look to formalise that orbit."

Minister of Foreign Affairs Huang Li raised his hand. "Madam President, are you speaking of some form of alliance?"

"Yes, Minister Huang. That is precisely what I am speaking of. We would begin by approaching the national leaders of each of our nine friendly nations in order to gauge their response to such an idea. We would ask for their input, any concerns that they might have. In particular we would wish to sound out the UAE and Travancore on their feelings about joining an alliance organisation which included Freistaat Ostafrika, and vice versa of course. If all nine nations can find some common ground for agreement then we can press ahead with the creation of the alliance. It is my belief that they would all see the benefits of a formal alliance with the Nanfang Republic as it would either be a formalisation of existing friendship or the natural next step of friendship, depending on which nation we are discussing. A formal defensive alliance would provide stability and security for our friends while providing us with the sort of foreign policy triumph that we have never truly achieved. It would also make us a benevolent patron to more nations than the Great Yue Kingdom ever held as tributaries. A formal defensive alliance would also provide us with a firm foundation to build upon. Once we have all agreed to come to each other's aid if attacked, it will be easier to discuss increased cooperation in other matters.

"Ultimately we could build an alliance involving not just military cooperation but also economic cooperation, scientific cooperation, and cultural cooperation. First we must create the defensive alliance though, so I would request that we have our ambassadors visit the national leaders of our friendly states to broach the subject and evaluate initial reactions. Once those evaluations have been obtained and analysed, we would be able to formulate responses to any concerns expressed by friendly governments. Are there any objections to the idea?"

President Yang looked expectantly at the ministers sat around the conference table, nodding with satisfaction as no-one disagreed with her idea. "Excellent. Minister Huang, please contact the relevant ambassadors and have them arrange a meeting with the appropriate leaders."

---------------------------------------------------------

23 August 2019 - 21:30hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

The Xuanlong raised an eyebrow and smirked with amusement as BeBe came bounding out of his bedroom into the main living area of the Chairman Suite, beaming with happiness and his smartphone clutched in one hand.

"I think I know who you've been talking with. Again."

"He's been looking at a penthouse at some place called L'Arc, apparently it's the tallest residential building in Oumún. Fifty-sixth floor so he'll be right at the top. The building's got its own shopping centre, casino, and a twenty-two storey luxury hotel occupying the lower floors. I'm guessing that the Liao family own at least part of it if there's a casino in it. He reckons that the penthouse is perfect for him so he's going to go for it."

"So his meeting with EE-Media was promising and he's found a prospective new residence in Oumún. Darui's fortunes appear to be looking up even with an impending divorce from the Margraves and their empire. Evidently an individual worthy of my baby brother."

BeBe grinned at his brother's words. "I know you're also thinking 'it's about time'."

"Given the option of seeing you dating someone from within our business or someone from outside it, I'd greatly prefer someone from outside since your past choices from within the business haven't exactly been inspiring. I know that there are members of the Liao family in the upper echelons of the Howling Devil-Tigers but Darui may not be very knowledgeable about such matters, from what you've told me. If things go well between the two of you, I'll probably have to meet with the Sagacious Devil to discuss it."

"Do you think that he'd try to block it?"

The Xuanlong shook his head. "I doubt it. We have no intention of immersing Darui in our own organisation or challenging the Devil-Tigers, and the Sagacious Devil is a very level-headed individual. Who knows, it might lead to a renewed sense of friendship between our organisations."

"If things go well between me and Darui."

"Well yes of course, but there's no harm in speaking optimistically."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Aug 18, 2019 9:46 am

26 August 2019 - 14:30hrs [UTC+5:30]
Kuthiramalika Palace
Thiruvananthapuram, Kingdom of Travancore

"A formal alliance? I must admit that I'm interested."

Maharajah Rama Varma VII had received the visit from Ambassador Cai Jiang with curiosity and some degree of eagerness due to the Kingdom of Travancore's recent fortunes. The kingdom had taken the opportunity to 'renegotiate' their relationship with Freistaat Ostafrika following the Singapura Conference and had become a genuinely independent nation with the assistance of Singapura Raya, which had acted as the adjudicator in the negotiations. Travancore was now enjoying a tourism boom as the upper and middle classes of the Nanfang Republic and Singapura Raya explored the small nation, and outside investment was pouring in at a previously unseen rate. The kingdom's agricultural produce was continuing to flow out to companies and consumers although it was now increasingly flowing to the Nanfang Republic. The annexed territories of Lakshadweep and Mahé had now been properly integrated into the kingdom's administrative structures and the Maharajah was therefore able to declare Travancore to be the 'unified homeland of the Malayali people'. As a result of this, the monarch felt confident about re-engaging in global politics in a more meaningful way, and the Nanfang ambassador's mention of a potential military alliance had certainly piqued his curiosity. The pair were strolling in the well-tended grounds of Kuthiramalika Palace as they discussed the alliance proposal, enjoying the warm sunshine.

"That is good to hear, Your Majesty. President Yang believes that we should build upon the foundations which were laid by the Singapura Conference and subsequently strengthened by the relationships constructed since that day. Her proposal would see a defensive alliance established between the attendees of the Singapura Conference to reflect the deepening ties between their respective governments, but she recognises that there may be concerns raised by the idea of allying with Freistaat Ostafrika, given the former state of affairs between Dar es Salaam and yourselves."

Rama Varma VII nodded. "I appreciate President Yang's thoughtfulness in this matter. I do however feel that Travancore has little reason to be concerned about the idea of entering into a formal alliance which includes Freistaat Ostafrika. They were compensated for all of their military facilities which are now under our administration, at the compensation level that they themselves requested. Not only that but it's not as if they would be leading the alliance. I would feel confident that being in an alliance with Ostafrika is no threat to Travancore's sovereignty, not just because they would find it difficult to reassert their former influence over us but also because Nanjing would be unlikely to allow them to try."

Ambassador Cai smiled politely. "The Nanfang Republic would certainly dissuade such an attempt if it were ever made. While such a move is certainly unlikely as it would clearly run counter to the agreements that Ostafrika made at the Singapura Conference, if it were attempted then Nanjing would step in to counter it immediately. President Yang's proposal is for an alliance which will give all members stability, security, and safety. She would never allow the alliance to be used as a method for one member to usurp the sovereignty of another."

"That's very reassuring to know."

"As this is just a proposal at the present time, we would be interested to hear any ideas that you may have regarding such an alliance. Any safeguards or procedures that you think could be helpful, things like that."

Rama Varma VII pondered the idea for a few moments as they continued to stroll. "Perhaps some form of training program? The Nanfang Republic has one of the most professional and efficient militaries on the planet, other alliance members could benefit from Nanfang officers providing training for their own military officers. That could potentially be teamed with alliance members receiving easier access to Nanfang military hardware and the like. For the Kingdom of Travancore specifically, we already allow the Nanfang Republic access to the former Ostafrikan military facilities and your military are working hard to upgrade them. Our people have found your personnel to be exceptionally polite and respectful, so I believe that I can say that we would have no objections if you wished to station some form of permanent presence within our borders. A Rapid Reaction Force, perhaps?"

"Now that would certainly be of interest to the Republic, Your Majesty. Having a Rapid Reaction Force operating out of Travancore would greatly enhance our ability to deploy further afield in order to combat unwelcome developments. We would of course ensure that your nation is compensated for allowing us to station forces here."

"Well then, Mister Ambassador, you can inform President Yang that the Kingdom of Travancore is greatly in favour of her alliance proposal. If there is anything that we can do to help sell the proposal to other nations then all she has to do is ask."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Aug 25, 2019 11:34 am

27 August 2019 - 10:00hrs [UTC+8]
EE-Media Headquarters
Shanghai, Nanfang Republic

With a population of over twenty million people, Shanghai was the most populous urban area of the Nanfang Republic as well as one of the economic powerhouses of the nation. A hub for international trade and finance, Shanghai was home to the Republic's largest steelmaker as well as its largest shipbuilding base, and it also hosted one of the Republic's 'Big Three' automotive manufacturers. The metropolis was also well-known for its glittering skyline which featured the 632-metre Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in the Nanfang Republic, and its higher cost of living compared to other cities in the nation. Unsurprisingly one of the nation's largest music labels had established their headquarters in the city, and that was the reason for Darui and Lin's visit to Shanghai on this particular Tuesday morning. The preliminary meeting with EE-Media at their Hēunggóng office had been a week ago and had ended with promising words which were now being followed up. The pair were in Shanghai to meet with EE-Media's Chief Operating Officer Loh Jingseng regarding Darui's interest in moving from Margravia Entertainment to EE-Media, a development that Lin was ecstatic about because he believed that the label's CEO would not want a meeting unless they were genuinely interested. Upon arriving at the gleaming office building which housed the label, Darui and Lin were greeted by an exceptionally polite receptionist who showed them to the elevators and explained that Loh's office was on the seventeenth floor. After a smooth elevator ride the pair checked in with Loh's personal secretary and took their seats in a comfortable waiting room which was decorated with posters featuring several of the label's current top stars. At precisely ten o'clock, Loh Jingseng emerged from his office with a broad smile and first shook hands with Darui, then Lin.

"Darui Liao-Margrave, good to meet you! Yuen Lin, I've heard good things about you. Please come into my office."

Darui and Lin followed the fifty-seven year old bespectacled Loh into his modern-styled office and took the two seats in front of his desk at his behest. Loh then settled into his own comfortable office chair before his secretary entered and took beverage orders, then headed off to prepare the drinks. Loh watched her leave and shut the doors before beginning.

"So I've read the report from Shang at our Hēunggóng office about your meeting with him last week and I admit that I have a few questions of my own. Don't misunderstand me Darui, you've got an excellent national profile but we usually develop our own stars in-house, so you'd be one of the very few already-established stars that we've ever signed. It strikes me as unusual that you released a new album just under five months ago but you now want to defect to a different label, especially since the label you want to defect from is owned by your husband's family."

Loh paused as his secretary returned to deliver three fresh cups of steaming coffee and then continued as she left once again.

"So the major question is why do you want to defect?"

Darui shifted slightly in his seat. "Well Mister Loh, I've come to realise that being signed to a Margrave company is actually limiting my scope rather than expanding it. My endorsement deals are all with Margrave companies, my career is pretty much reliant on the Margraves at the moment. I have a suspicion that non-Margrave corporations would have offered endorsement deals but-"

"The Margrave Holdings corporate family might have dissuaded them? I'd believe it. So you want to leave Margravia Entertainment in order to broaden your horizons?"

"Precisely. I believe that I've reached the limit of what I can achieve with Margravia Entertainment and EE-Media would be a far better label for me to work with as I move my career forward."

"Huh." Loh leaned forward. "So what does Lysander Margrave think of all this?"

"Well..."

Loh grinned at Darui's awkwardness. "In all honesty I think I know the answer. As I understand it, you're living in Oumún with your grandmother at the moment and you've been performing at your family's casinos for the past couple of months." He shrugged at Darui's quizzical expression. "Gossip gets around. So you're not living in Shenzhen with Lysander and you're looking for a new label. I reckon that either you two are on the outs and so you're looking for a label that can't suffer from potential bias, or you want to move labels and it's caused you two to fall out. Either way it makes me question those Margrave endorsement deals. If you jump ship to EE-Media, do you lose your existing deals?"

Darui looked at Lin, then sighed before replying. "I'll level with you, if you keep this quiet." Loh's nodding assured him that he could continue. "Things haven't been great between me and Lysander for a while now and there's an impending divorce which will be announced quietly with no-one getting blamed for anything."

Loh raised his hands. "No need to say anything else. You two are getting divorced and you're concerned that his family will screw you over, so you're searching for a new label. I completely understand where you're coming from, I've heard stories about that family. Lots of stories. So if you joined EE-Media then you'd be Liao Darui rather than Darui Liao-Margrave?"

"Yes, I'll be going back to my birth name."

"Huh. So if we sign you, we'd have to work out a royalties deal with Margravia Entertainment in order to use your previous work and you'd be without any endorsement deals pretty quickly. I'll admit that it doesn't sound fantastic. However, you've got nationwide recognition, good social media presence, and an established fanbase. That makes it sound a lot better. I suspect you'll also get the lion's share of public sympathy after the divorce because you're so much more likeable than Lysander Margrave, you're not a super-rich white boy from a super-rich white family. It won't matter how you announce it or how you try to phrase it, people looking in will assume that one of you is to blame for the divorce and they'll decide who they think it was. It's also quite likely that the public would approve of you returning to your original name. Now that makes me wonder..."

Darui and Lin exchanged glances as Loh continued to verbalise his thought process. "Once you return to being Liao Darui, you could do a small tour as your 'homecoming' of sorts. Do some talk show appearances where you're respectful about Lysander if asked about the divorce, that easy-going charm of yours will do wonders in that sort of scenario. That would play well with the general public and companies thinking about potential new endorsements. Yes, I can see some serious potential here. Not just endorsement deals but special appearances on our parent company's programming, maybe even a reality show or a spot as a judge on one of the idol shows. If we sign you then you get a fresh start and we get an established star with name recognition. We can then work together to develop what I guess you could see as something of a relaunch of yourself. Okay, I'm onboard. Margravia Entertainment will know to expect enquiries about a royalties deal, won't they?"

"Yeah, they'll know it's coming."

"Good. Leave it with us then Darui, we'll talk to them about your previous work and if we can get it sorted out then we'll get a contract drawn up for you. Oh, and of course I never heard anything about you divorcing Lysander Margrave."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:51 pm

30 August 2019 - 11:30hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

"Minister Huang, I understand that you have assembled the reports from those ambassadors who were asked to enquire about the possibility of an alliance. Please share the details with us."

Huang Li nodded in response to President Yang's request and opened the dossier on the conference table in front of him. "Madam President, fellow ministers. In accordance with the proposal of a defensive alliance between the Nanfang Republic and our increasingly affiliated nations, I tasked our ambassadors in those nations to meet with the national leaders and sound them out on the idea. While sounding out the national leaders, our ambassadors also asked them for their own thoughts regarding the proposal. I can begin by stating that all nine national leaders are in favour of such an alliance, for their own various reasons. Maharajah Rama Varma VII of Travancore and Prime Minister Emir Rashid Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates made it clear that the presence of the Nanfang Republic within the alliance is sufficient to allay any potential concerns which may arise from being in the same alliance as Freistaat Ostafrika. Both believe that the OAG will stand by the assurances made at the Singapura Conference in January that they will not seek to undermine the sovereignty of their former client states, not just because of the OAG shares held by Travancore and the UAE but also because they believe that Ostafrika is not foolish enough to incur our displeasure. In short, our mere presence in the alliance is seen as a sufficient deterrent for any Ostafrikan designs on their former client states, although it is not genuinely believed that they have any such designs."

He turned a page and continued. "The Kingdom of Travancore, the Kingdom of Orungu, and Singapura Raya all made it explicitly clear that they would be willing to see Nanfang forces stationed within their borders. Maharajah Rama Varma VII even made it clear that he was referring to a Rapid Reaction Force, as well as the possibility of us training Travancore's military personnel. Even if we were only to station forces within those three nations, that could potentially give us one Rapid Reaction Force in South Asia, one in Southeast Asia, and one in Central Africa. Prime Minister Al Maktoum also stated that the UAE government would support a continuation of our deployment within their borders as it provides an extra layer of security for them, in their opinion. All nations except for Freistaat Ostafrika stated that they would seek to equip, or continue to equip, their militaries exclusively with Nanfang armaments. That would present us with an extremely healthy arms export market as well as provide standardisation across most of the alliance. President Zakari Akinrinade of the Republic of Nigeria brought up the idea of the Nanfang Republic investing in Nigerian industry in order to create arms manufacturing facilities in Africa, a development which could allow us to construct our equipment for African customers while reducing the costs and times of transportation."

President Yang looked thoughtful. "Having three Rapid Reaction Forces positioned in that manner would be of considerable strategic value to us. So what did Präsident Luxenberg have to say exactly? Freistaat Ostafrika has the potential to be a strong ally and I'd imagine that they know that."

"Präsident Luxenberg welcomed the idea of such an alliance as he recognises several areas of joint interest for Ostafrika and the Nanfang Republic. He also believes that a defensive alliance would make for a firm foundation upon which we could build other agreements, such as one on trade. It was abundantly clear that he wants a free trade agreement. While he did not mention anything specific regarding our potential usage of Ostafrikan island facilities to enhance our naval reach, Ambassador Min did detect a hinting that Ostafrika would be willing to allow such a thing if there was a free trade agreement on the cards."

"Well in due time I would see a free trade agreement as a natural development stemming from the defensive alliance. In the meantime I would have no real issue with the Ostafrikan Staatsmarine being the alliance's primary naval presence in the Indian Ocean, it is what they were designed for after all." President Yang turned to address the rest of the Nanfang cabinet. "This is a promising start and it gives us a great deal to consider. Minister Tang, I want you and the Defense Ministry to evaluate the feasibility of forming three Rapid Reaction Forces with the intent of stationing them as Minister Huang has already described. Examine the idea of establishing arms manufacturing operations in the Republic of Nigeria, determine if it would indeed be cost-effective. Also evaluate the potential effectiveness of establishing training programs for allied nations that might request them."

Defense Minister Tang Dongwei acknowledged the request. "Yes, Madam President."

She then turned her attention back to Foreign Minister Huang. "Minister Huang, please contact our ambassadors and express my gratitude to them for working so diligently to carry out my request."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:25 pm

9 September 2019 - 14:30hrs [UTC+8]
Margravia Estate, Zhuhai
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

After their previous visits to the sprawling Margravia estate had ended so tensely, it was perhaps unsurprising that Darui and his grandmother were not entirely overjoyed to be returning. This was however a necessary visit, as Alexander Margrave had been informed of EE-Media's interest in a royalties deal with Margravia Entertainment regarding Darui's previously released work and he had therefore called for a meeting to begin the divorce proceedings between Lysander and Darui. This meant that it was now time for the lawyers to officially step in. The venue for the meeting was the family conference room within the primary palace of the estate. The walls were decorated in colourful paintings and reliefs depicting regional landscapes while intricate designs were carved into the solid wood of the ceiling. The most dominant feature was the large black conference table with accompanying red and gold high-back armchairs, all carved from local woods in the style of regional royalty. On one side of the conference table sat Alexander Margrave, with Lysander positioned next to him and then next to Lysander sat the bespectacled forty-seven year old Crispin Margrave, one of Lysander's uncles and the family's chief legal expert. Across from them sat Liao Baozhai, with Darui sitting next to her and then next to Darui sat Liao Kei. Kei had served in the State Prosecutors Office of Guangdong Province before retiring, but he was still as sharp as ever at the age of sixty-six.

"We are here to begin proper discussions regarding the divorce between Lysander Margrave and Darui Liao-Margrave. The proceedings should be rather simple as both sides have agreed that this is to be declared as a 'no-fault' divorce. Nanfang Republic marriage law provides that divorce will always be granted if agreed upon by both partners. We can make things even more simple if we have already agreed upon division of assets, doing so will allow us to go to the courts for a simple legal award of divorce without any unnecessary wrangling. So we start with major assets, namely the House of the Tree Penthouse in Shenzhen."

Darui chimed in as soon as Crispin mentioned the penthouse. "That goes to Lysander. It's part of a Margrave-owned building, besides I've already moved out and I've recently purchased a new home in Oumún."

"Understood." Crispin noted that down before continuing. "Finances now. I understand that you did not have shared accounts so you both kept your own incomes separate. Mister Liao-Margrave, do you make any claim on the incomes of Lysander Margrave?"

"None whatsoever. Lysander's incomes are his own, and equally my incomes are my own. I make no claim on his incomes if he refrains from claiming mine."

Lysander nodded. "Agreed."

"So no claims made on each other's accounts or future incomes. That makes things much easier." Crispin checked the list that Lysander and Alexander had provided him with. "Vehicles. The gold Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce, any claim to that?"

Darui shook his head. "No, Lysander can keep it. He was the one who wanted it in the first place, even though he can't drive. It's in his possession anyway. I intend to keep the black Qiantu K50 as it's in my possession."

"Any objections, Lysander?"

Lysander shook his head at Crispin, who made a note on the document in front of him. "I understand that the issue of smaller assets has basically been settled as you both kept various items when Mister Liao-Margrave moved out. That's all very simple then, we can have a consent order drawn up for you both to sign. The consent order will confirm that you have both already agreed upon asset division and it will explain how the assets are to be divided. When the divorce comes before court, we provide the consent order and the judge can get on with the finalities without having to wade into a dispute over who owns what." He paused and looked over at Liao Kei. "Do we have agreement on that?"

"Certainly. We can achieve a quick and painless divorce for Darui and Lysander once Darui has moved to a new music label, as per the agreement between Alexander Margrave and Liao Baozhai. Then they can go on with their respective lives with no public recriminations, and I do hope that there will be no private recriminations either."

"I share that particular sentiment." Alexander spoke up while keeping his gaze firmly locked on Baozhai, her threat to expose the Margrave involvement in the assassination of Layartebian President Hardy still fresh in his mind. "I have instructed the management of Margravia Entertainment to reach a royalties deal with EE-Media as quickly as possible in order to expedite Darui's move. The sooner we can put this unfortunate episode behind us all, the better."

"Well said, Mister Margrave." Liao Baozhai smiled at Alexander. "No need for any ugliness. Darui can go his way, Lysander can go his own way, and they can both find happiness in the fullness of time."

-----------------------------

Once the meeting came to an end, both groups stood and the Liao contingent began to head towards the intricately-carved wooden double doors of the conference room. They were just about to exit the room when Lysander called Darui's name and made his way over. Darui did his best to hide his irritation and adopted a rather neutral smile.

"What is it, Lysander?"

"Just wondering if you had fun in Singapura. I saw some pictures on social media, why am I not surprised that it was him? If you wanted to throw away your marriage for someone younger and sluttier than your husband, mission accomplished."

Darui rolled his eyes in response to Lysander's smugness. "Sorry to disappoint you but nothing happened between me and BeBe. He actually apologised for what he said to us, he acknowledged that he got carried away. I don't cheat in relationships, even ones that are obviously coming to an end." He paused for a moment. "I hear that you wasted little time though."

Lysander's smugness quickly vanished. "W-what do you mean by that?"

"My sister and her husband went out to dinner at Xingli a couple of weeks ago, you know the place. The restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Shenzhen. They thought it was a little weird to see a gold Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce in the parking garage, especially since you can't drive. Imagine their surprise when they saw you getting very cosy at a table with Jiang Haoyang, your executive assistant. He must have driven you there in the Lamborghini and it wouldn't make much sense for him to drive to the penthouse and then switch cars, so he was probably already at the penthouse." Darui leaned closer. "I'm glad you found someone who knows his place. Of course it means that you no longer have any right to pass judgement on what I do or what you think I'm doing, so maybe next time you should think before you start firing off accusations. Otherwise you might find him leaving too."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Sep 22, 2019 8:29 am

20 September 2019 - 19:30hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

Adewale Makinde smoothed down the lapels of his black suit jacket as he approached the door of the Chairman Suite, flanked by two bodyguards who wore suits of slightly less quality than their boss. The fifty-one year old Makinde was the head of the 'Makinde Clan', one of the most powerful criminal organisations in Nigeria, and he had travelled to Singapura in order to personally meet with the Xuanlong of the Thrashing Dragons. Negotiations had been conducted for over a month with discussions back and forth between Singapura and Lagos (the stronghold of the Makinde Clan), and the time had now come for the two criminal leaders to meet face-to-face. Standing six-foot-one and clearly muscular under his tailored suit, Makinde stopped at the door to the Chairman Suite and loudly knocked three times, only having to wait a few seconds before the door opened as his arrival had been observed by the security cameras that covered the approaches to the suite. He was greeted by an eminently cheerful BeBe, who was dressed in a white mandarin collar jacket with white trousers, white boots, and a black turtleneck t-shirt. With his hair tied back in a high ponytail and a minimum of makeup, the 'Baby Dragon' looked almost respectable.

"Mister Makinde, welcome! I'm Beibeilong, the younger brother of the Xuanlong. Please come in."

Makinde nodded at BeBe as he entered the suite, his bodyguards close behind. BeBe then escorted Makinde the short distance to the main living area where the Xuanlong rose from his seat and offered his hand for Makinde to shake, while two besuited members of the Thrashing Dragons watched on from their seats at a nearby table.

"An honour to finally meet you in person, Mister Makinde. I feel that this may be a truly auspicious meeting."

Makinde shook the Xuanlong's hand and nodded. "As you say. Your representatives have conducted themselves well while in Lagos and my representatives have always spoken positively about their meetings with you."

The Xuanlong gestured towards the couch opposite the one that he had been sitting on. "Please take a seat. Would you like anything to drink?"

"If possible, a Chapman please."

Makinde settled into the middle seat of the indicated couch and his bodyguards took up position standing behind it, while the Xuanlong and BeBe settled onto their own couch. One of the Xuanlong's bodyguards then made his way to the Chairman Suite's well-stocked bar to prepare drinks for the important individuals in the meeting. The Xuanlong received a glass of barley water, a drink of boiled pearl barley and rock sugar. BeBe grinned as he was presented with a glass of sirap bandung, a pink sweet beverage consisting of condensed milk flavoured with rose cordial syrup, with ice and complete with a straw. Finally Makinde was presented with a large mug of his selected drink; a favourite beverage in Nigeria, the Chapman was made with a mix of Fanta, Sprite, lemon, grenadine, and Angostura bitters, complete with ice and a few slices of cucumber. The Nigerian crimelord took a sip before nodding approvingly.

"That's good, my compliments." He then turned his attention to BeBe. "I understand that you appreciated our birthday present, I'm glad it met with your approval."

BeBe beamed gleefully. "I have it displayed on my bedroom wall. No-one's ever thought about getting me a weapon before, let alone a gold-plated assault rifle."

The Xuanlong then spoke up as Makinde chuckled at BeBe's response. "So it would appear that we have a great deal of potential business that our organisations can conduct with each other. The Thrashing Dragons and the Makinde Clan have differing areas of expertise and an alliance between us would work to the advantage of both groups."

"Indeed, I'd come to the same conclusion. Without sounding egotistical, Nigerian syndicates are known to be the strongest and most prevalent organisations in Africa, and the Makinde Clan is currently the strongest Nigerian syndicate. I'd say that our primary cooperative venture would be narcotics. We produce our own methamphetamine but I understand that your chemists have a more efficient method of production, we would be interested in paying you some form of consultancy fee in return for you showing us your methods. I'm also aware that you guys produce a lot of MDMA, that's something that we could potentially market back home. Close to two hundred million people in Nigeria, there's considerable room for sales expansion."

"We could certainly come to a consultancy arrangement on methamphetamine, and we'd have no problem selling you MDMA at wholesale. I'm aware that you guys cultivate your own marijuana in Nigeria so the Thrashing Dragons can honour that, we will leave that market to you. Now we're always looking for new ventures which we can use for money laundering, I understand that your organisation uses the Nigeria Premier League for some of your activities in that area."

Makinde smirked slightly. "That's correct. Not only do several Nigerian syndicates use the Premier League for laundering, we can also turn a decent profit through match fixing. I for one would also be interested in new laundering opportunities, so perhaps we could engage in some reciprocal exchange there. The Makinde Clan could help you identify a good Premier League team for you to purchase and the Thrashing Dragons could help us find something suitable outside of Nigeria."

The Xuanlong took a drink as he considered this. "You might want to consider the Kingdom of Travancore. They have a movie industry devoted entirely to Malayalam language films, could be something to invest in because it's unlikely to have worldwide scrutiny. I think that a Nigerian soccer team would be something interesting to add to our portfolio, your assistance in selecting the right one would be most welcome. Perhaps we could then enter into some joint venture, a co-owned vacation resort or something similar."

"A sign of our mutual respect and cooperation? I approve. Depending on its location, such a venture could be used as a safe house or simply somewhere for members of our respective organisations to unwind."

"Maybe Zaire would be best for that." Makinde and the Xuanlong both turned to look at BeBe, who casually sipped through his straw before continuing. "It's massive, well-placed, and we've already got a working relationship with the right people there. You know that there'll be somewhere in Zaire that's perfect for the idea, if not then we could just build it ourselves."

The Xuanlong and Makinde turned their attention back to each other with raised eyebrows, and Makinde nodded approvingly. "I think that's an excellent idea. After all, who would ever bother monitoring Zaire?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Sep 29, 2019 9:30 am

30 September 2019 - 18:00hrs [UTC+8]
Great Hall of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The three hundred and thirty-eight delegates of the Nanfang Republic's National Assembly chatted amongst themselves as they filed into the nation's seat of legislature, with a great deal of speculation taking place regarding the reason for their special session. The National Assembly delegates had gotten used to President Yang's way of doing things long ago, and they recognised that calling them for a session at 18:00hrs meant that she wanted to make an address on a matter of importance. The interior of the Great Hall featured a pleasant decor as cornices, doors and windows, canopies and hallways were all decorated with simplified traditional patterns. The hall was fully air conditioned, featuring three hundred and thirty-eight seats arranged in a a multi-tiered semicircular platform facing a central stage and rostrum in the front of the hall, all equipped with automatic voting systems and translation devices. A further seven hundred seats were part of the overlooking gallery on the second floor, also fitted with translation devices; these seven hundred seats were primarily used by the media and visiting dignitaries. On this particular occasion the second floor gallery was brimming with media representatives not just from the Nanfang Republic but also from several other nations, namely those nine nations who had been approached regarding President Yang's alliance proposal. The more eagle-eyed of the Assembly delegates would also notice the presence of the ambassadors of those same nine nations in the gallery, amiably conversing with ministers and leading civil servants from the Nanfang government. As the time turned to 18:00hrs, President Yang strode across the stage to the rostrum, receiving a standing ovation from the National Assembly delegates and those in the gallery. With her hair pulled back into a sensible ponytail, wearing a smart black and white pantsuit and with a pair of stylish spectacles perched on her nose, President Yang took her place at the rostrum and waited patiently until the applause faded into silence and her audience took their seats.

"Thank you for your warm welcome this evening. Representatives of the National Assembly, government ministers, members of the media, distinguished guests. I am here to address you and the citizens of the Nanfang Republic, as well as those in other nations who may be watching thanks to the presence of their national media, regarding a developing matter which holds considerable potential for the Nanfang Republic and our closest friends in the international community. Just under nine months ago, the Singapura Conference saw the coming together of ten nations in a successful attempt to resolve a dispute through dialogue, compromise, and cooperation. Since that conference, those ten nations have continued to engage in increasing trade and dialogue, identifying mutual areas of interest and cooperating where possible. The ten nations that I am referring to are, of course, as follows: the Nanfang Republic, Singapura Raya, the Kingdom of Travancore, the United Arab Emirates, Freistaat Ostafrika, the Shoshanga Kingdom, the Grande Império do Zaire, the Republic of Ndongo, the Kingdom of Orungu, and the Republic of Nigeria. We have seen a great deal of increased investment between our nations as corporate and national entities have cooperated in a wide variety of opportunities, and I can now announce that the continued dialogue between our ten nations is leading to a very promising outcome.

"Just over a month ago, I asked our ambassadorial staff to approach the leaders of our closest friends with a proposal. We asked for their opinions and their input on the proposal as we sought alternative viewpoints and ideas. I am pleased to say that the proposal was met with great interest and our closest friends have contributed several valuable ideas which deserve further exploration. The proposal that I am discussing is a proposal for a formal defensive alliance."

She paused as loud applause erupted around the hall, smiling politely and waiting until the applause subsided.

"A formal defensive alliance between our ten nations has the potential to bring substantial stability and security, not just for ourselves but for entire regions of the world. After our initial approach, the civil services and bureaucracies of our nations have been holding discussions on the proposals and those discussions have now reached a point where I intend to meet with my counterparts in person, in order to advance these discussions and move closer to the formation of our proposed alliance. To this end I shall be travelling to the Grande Império do Zaire in three weeks in order to attend a summit in Cidade Imperial, the Zairian capital. There I shall meet with my fellow national leaders in the spirit of friendship and cooperation."

There was another wave of applause before she continued.

"I am announcing this summit now because I wish to make it clear to the rest of the world that we have nothing to hide. The proposed alliance is defensive in nature, not offensive. Other nations in the world enjoy defensive alliances with each other and we have never opposed this or feared this. If other nations in the world decide to declare opposition to our proposed closer relationship with our friends then we would question why they oppose other nations potentially entering a defensive alliance with each other. Cooperation between nations reduces the threat of conflict and strengthens those involved in the cooperation, so the only reason I could see for any nation to oppose our proposed alliance is that they seek conflict with one or more of the potential members of the alliance. So I shall take this opportunity to make something abundantly clear. Alliance or not, the Nanfang Republic will always support and stand with our friends if they are attacked."

She nodded firmly as her audience once again applauded loudly.

"We have an opportunity to show the world that dialogue and cooperation can bring far greater rewards than war and conquest. We have an opportunity to build something new in the world, a new consensus and a new unity. We shall take this opportunity and we shall do everything to being this proposed alliance to fruition, not just for ourselves but also for our closest international friends. Together we can prosper, together we can be stable, together we can be secure. Together we have a bright future ahead of us."

President Yang stepped out from behind the rostrum and bowed slightly with a smile as the attendees rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation, the National Assembly obviously ecstatic at the idea of the Nanfang Republic taking an even greater role in global affairs.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Oct 06, 2019 1:46 pm

8 October 2019 - 18:00hrs [UTC+8]
Nanfang News Agency Broadcast
Nanfang Republic

"In other news, a press release this afternoon confirmed the conclusion of a 'no-fault' divorce between Lysander Margrave and Darui Liao-Margrave. There had been some degree of speculation regarding their marriage following the announcement on Friday that Darui Liao-Margrave had reached terms with Margravia Entertainment and bought out his contract in order to move to the Shanghai-based EE-Media music label. The Nanfang News Agency understands that Darui Liao-Margrave has also reached amicable terms regarding a release from his endorsement deals with other companies owned by the Margrave family, and that he will now be returning to his birth name of 'Liao Darui'. A spokesperson for the Margrave family stated that the family wishes Darui all the best with his future career and, when asked, explained that the divorce was a mutual decision by both parties. The press release also requested that the media respect the privacy of both parties in this matter."

The female newsreader then smiled towards the camera.

"Now with the latest weather forecast, let's cross to Kuo at the National Weather Centre."


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


8 October 2019 - 20:30hrs [UTC+8]
Marina Bay Trinity
Singapura, Singapura Raya

"It's official!"

The Xuanlong turned down the volume on the television in the main living area of the Chairman Suite and leaned to one side, just in time to see BeBe throw his bedroom door open with a beaming grin on his face.

"Good news, I take it?"

"Their divorce was officially announced this afternoon! Darui called to let me know and he's invited me to visit Oumún next week."

"I see. How long are you invited for?"

BeBe crossed the room with a gleeful bounding before throwing himself down onto the couch next to his older brother. "One week, but he said that I could always stay longer if it's okay. So would it be okay if I wound up staying there a bit longer?"

The Xuanlong turned off the television and shifted in his seat to face his excitable younger brother. "If things are going well between the two of you then I'd have no objections to you getting to know each other better for a longer period of time. Would you be staying in a hotel or with him at his home?"

"At his penthouse. I was thinking of gifting him some Singapuran cologne, he took a liking to one in particular when I took him shopping back when he came over here."

"As long as he's a gentleman I suppose I can allow you to stay with him. Of course he'll find it difficult to remain a gentleman once you throw decorum out of the window." The Xuanlong smirked at BeBe's mock shocked expression. "I know you too well, baby brother."

"All the same, you don't have to actually say things like that."

The Xuanlong affectionately tousled BeBe's hair. "I assume that you'll want to take the jet to Oumún rather than fly commercial. What day are you planning to head out?"

"Monday, it's the fourteenth."

"Okay then. I'll get your travel sorted out, all you have to do is try not to explode before then."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:15 pm

9 October 2019 - 13:30hrs [UTC+7]
Phitsanulok Mansion
Bangkok, Kingdom of Ayutthaya

A nation of one hundred and ninety-three million people, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya occupied the majority of the Indochinese Peninsula. Ayutthaya had started the 20th Century as an absolute monarchy which was forced to accept a degree of democracy in 1910 after a military coup against a particularly inept monarch. There had been several subsequent military 'interventions' over the following decades when the so-called 'defenders of the state' stepped in to topple what they viewed as ineffective elected governments, until finally in 2014 the military simply overthrew yet another democratically elected government and installed themselves as the ruling administration. The monarchy at the time had welcomed the 'enforcement of stability' for a very strong reason. While the monarch no longer possessed any real political power, their word still carried weight with the general populace and so their public approval would lend further legitimacy to the military administration, and they had received assurances that the military would continue to respect the Royal Household's somewhat autonomous administration over the kingdom's ceremonial capital, also named Ayutthaya. In 2017 the throne was inherited by the twenty-eight year old Narai IV, who looked good in a uniform and spoke eloquently about the virtues of his kingdom's government, much to the appreciation of Marshal Dusit Tangwongsan. Marshal Tangwongsan was forty-two and an excellent example of an 'iron man', brooking no dissent and having no qualms about eliminating potential rivals to his position as Prime Minister. The Marshal was not incorruptible however. The Thrashing Dragons organisation had long had friends within the elites of Ayutthaya and the military coup of 2014 had seen little disruption of the syndicate's operations within the kingdom, if anything their position had improved as Marshal Tangwongsan had been in their pocket since his time as a colonel in Ayutthaya's northwestern territories. Ayutthaya was a considerable producer of opium poppies, particularly in the north and northwest of the nation, and the Thrashing Dragons had all manner of arrangements in place with Ayutthayan military officers to leave their opium operations unmolested. Now with a Prime Minister firmly in their pocket, the Thrashing Dragons had seen their fortunes in the kingdom continue to grow. While Ayutthaya could be described as an 'emerging economy' or a 'newly industrialised country' and was heavily export-dependent, the kingdom was globally known for one particular part of its economy: tourism. The nation possessed beautiful beaches and expansive areas of natural beauty, but it was also known for its medical tourism for purposes of cosmetic surgery as well as its sex industry. The Thrashing Dragons were heavily involved in the latter, controlling much of the red-light district in the administrative capital of Bangkok as well as having substantial interests in the resort cities of Phuket City, Pattaya, Kampong Som, and Ha Long. While the military government brooked no political dissent within the kingdom's borders, in all honesty they had no problem with citizens living their lives however they wished provided that they did not oppose the military administration.

Given the military's position within the kingdom, it was undoubtedly unsurprising to learn that the armed forces had enjoyed substantial benefits from it. The Royal Armed Forces of Ayutthaya (RAFA) numbered some two and a half million active personnel but not just across the traditional army, air force, and navy, as the RAFA also incorporated the national police force and the frontier guards. While their military hardware was not the most advanced, the RAFA operated their own armaments factories and shipyards within the kingdom. The RAFA also enjoyed a surprising amount of public support thanks to positioning themselves as the 'guardians of the kingdom', with only the king himself enjoying more support among the general population. This was particularly relevant as the Thrashing Dragons had learned of President Yang Mingshu's alliance proposal through their friends in the Singapuran government, and they had subsequently suggested that Marshal Tangwongsan might be able to use Ayutthaya's military as a bargaining chip to work Ayutthaya into the Nanfang Republic's alliance proposals. The Marshal could certainly see advantages in the idea. Ayutthaya could potentially gain investment from more wealthy alliance members and become part of an influential international organisation, and it appealed to the Marshal's vanity to think of himself as the man who strengthened the kingdom's international profile and increased its influence. Of course the Thrashing Dragons had not suggested the idea purely for the Marshal's benefit. If the Marshal cemented himself as Ayutthaya's 'iron man' then the Dragons could continue with their activities within the northern rural areas of the kingdom, while Ayutthaya's membership of the proposed alliance would provide the Dragons with yet another 'friend' within its ranks. So as a result of the encouragement received from the Dragons as well as President Yang's official announcement regarding the summit to be held in Cidade Imperial, Marshal Tangwongsan had requested a meeting with the Nanfang Republic's ambassador, Cai Lin, to discuss the matter. The Nanfang ambassador was now meeting Marshal Tangwongsan at Phitsanulok Mansion, the Prime Minister's official residence in Bangkok. Completed in 1922, Phitsanulok Mansion was located a mere four minute drive away from Government House which housed the offices of the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. The pair were sat in the Marshal's well-appointed reception office inside the mansion, on opposite sides of the ornately carved desk which had been installed upon completion of the residence and had now successfully outlasted democratic rule in Ayutthaya.

"Mister Ambassador, I've asked you here to discuss this proposed alliance that President Yang announced a few days ago. As a neighbour of both the Nanfang Republic and Singapura Raya, Ayutthaya is understandably interested to know more. It is to be a strictly defensive alliance, am I correct?"

Ambassador Cai nodded. "That is correct, Marshal. The proposal is basically an attempt to formalise and build upon the good relations which have developed between the attendees of the Singapura Conference which was held back in January. President Yang also sees it as a potential way to bring extra stability to the African continent, she believes that the Nanfang Republic can act as a force for good by working closely with friendly African nations."

The Marshal 'hmmed' loudly. "I imagine that she also hopes to establish the Republic as a major player in the Indian Ocean. Forgive me for sounding cynical but I suspect that assurances of support from Nanjing would be the only reason for the UAE and Travancore to agree to membership of the same alliance as Freistaat Ostafrika. If they are under the Nanfang umbrella then they can engage with Dar es Salaam from a position of safety and security."

"I couldn't possibly comment on such a thing, Marshal."

"Of course not." Tangwongsan chuckled. "No need for you to comment if I've guessed correctly. So will this lovely little club of nations stop at a defensive alliance or are there larger plans in mind?"

The ambassador shrugged. "At the moment, Marshal, we shall have to wait and see what is agreed at the Cidade Imperial summit. My personal opinion is that President Yang would like to build upon any agreed alliance but she would not impose anything on any member nation. If all of the member nations were to agree on additional cooperative ventures then they would go forward. Strictly my personal opinion, obviously."

"Obviously. It would of course be a given that members of this proposed alliance would enjoy greater trade and economic links with each other, considering their close political relationship."

"Absolutely. They already enjoy a good economic and trading relationship but it is indeed a given that any alliance would result in further improvements to the relationship."

Tangwongsan scratched his chin. "So if, as a hypothetical, Ayutthaya were to be a part of this proposed alliance then it would be of considerable benefit to us?"

Ambassador Cai smiled with realisation. "That is certainly correct, Marshal. Would Ayutthaya be interested in being a part of the proposal?"

"Well we do trade with the Nanfang Republic and Singapura Raya quite heavily already, but we could certainly see improvements in our trade with African nations. I'm also fairly certain that the United Arab Emirates would be a good customer if we improve our trade ties with them, and the Kingdom of Travancore could be a valuable partner for us in some areas. It's not as if we wouldn't be pulling our own weight, either. Ayutthayan membership would bring a great deal of agricultural potential to the proposed bloc of nations, we have strongly developing industries, and we do of course have some considerable military might to contribute as well. President Yang's proposed alliance would be able to ensure the security of one of the world's busiest shipping regions with us as a member."

Ambassador Cai nodded agreeably. "Ayutthaya wishes to be part of President Yang's proposal out of national self-interest, there is nothing wrong with that. I dare say that it is one of the more valid reasons for wishing to be involved. I shall inform my government of your interest in the proposal, I suspect that Ayutthaya would be a very welcome addition to our intended organisation." He paused as something jumped to the front of his mind. "I believe that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would feel the need to inform the Layartebians of Ayutthaya's intentions to join our proposal, I take it that you would find that acceptable. They may have concerns for the Canal if Ayutthaya were to ally with us, best to let them know about it and any potential intentions."

"That is acceptable. The canal across the Kra Isthmus is no issue of this government, it is under Layartebian administration as set out by the agreement that they made with the Ayutthaya government at that time. My administration stands by that agreement. We have no designs upon it and the Layartebians have given us no reason to consider any action. If we successfully form an alliance with the Nanfang Republic and your friendly nations then we would encourage and support the continued Layartebian administration of the Canal. No need to start a problem if there isn't one."

"I am certain that Nanjing would adopt that same approach. We have no interest in disrupting trade and free passage of vessels in order to seize the Canal from competent administration. Unlike previous attempts by other nations to form global alliances, we are not seeking to form our organisation for the purposes of conflict and expansionism. We are forming it in order to maintain peace and stability, no specific targets or rivals in mind." The ambassador paused for a moment. "I cannot guarantee that Ayutthaya would have a seat at the Cidade Imperial summit, Marshal, but I would suspect that my government would keep you informed of any developments arising from that summit if that is the case. This is going to be a discussion summit rather than a signing summit, after all. I will however suggest quite strongly that your possible attendance be raised with the other attendees as soon as possible, so we can hopefully get you on the attendance list."

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