A far off field, having ruined buildings here and there. Some speculate that some of the ruined parts came when paradise fell, landing far and away from the lake that was covered in the end. Construction has begun in these parts due to the efforts of the NIA, investigating further as the ruin seems to expand outward more than the predictions would have given them credit for. With things as they are, the area appears more spacious than normal with the decrease in activity.
It hadn't taken long for Vanguard to get here after Rosso, the man himself standing away from the buildings and ruins and just out on the open plain that surrounded it. He sent back a communication back to HQ, mostly to let them know his actions after he was done here. He had more work to do than he was expecting these days, but he was glad that he got to do his job away from the border.
It would just allow for further proof on the mistakes of others and reinforce to the rest why his way was still the only way. Everyone all had their purposes for him, one way or another.
Vanguard struck down in his pillar of purple flames just a moment behind Rosso, standing up to look around the area of pure desolation. What could have caused this mayhem? The deserted area all around them was barren and ruined, and, yet, it seemed that the destruction was ever branching outward, as though some unseen force were destroying the Netspace, never resting.
He shook his head; he had no time to worry on such things. Vanguard looked back at Rosso, annoyed with his bravado. He'd asked for a private place to talk, and the Navi drags him to an investigation scene? If he thought the task at hand would quell Vanguard's tongue, he was wrong.
"Like I said before - we need to talk. For the sake of both of us, I'll do so blatantly." He had no way of reading the Navi - even his response time seemed impossible to gauge, much less what he was feeling or thinking from underneath his desert robes. "I do not trust the NIA. The feeling, thus far, appears mutual from the NIA. You have crucial information of the situation that you're hiding from me; at the very least, if not the whole NIA, you, Rosso, are witholding information."
"I imagine they feel they can't trust someone who doesn't trust them or have their best interests at heart. Even if the only difference in those interests are a few minor things. But it's not like we were told to share all of our information with each other as well. It's to be expected that all parties are withholding information from each other."
He hadn't turned to face Vanguard yet either. Almost as though he were peering at something else. But his voice still held an air of confidence, even condescenion this time. He turned to face him then, the same glare from his eyes that always was there. Almost like he knew that Vanguard had left some things unsaid himself recently, but spoke nothing of it even still.
"But what even gives you the idea that I could be withholding any information? What merit is there in that, I wonder?"
He was toying with him. Testing the waters. Returning his quip without any signs of worry on his part, as though, should Vanguard say the wrong thing, he would be struck down. He did not shy away from his glare, and returned its intensity with his own pure white stare.
"I'll start with something simple. When you were asked to go and retrieve "the bird," the very first day I joined the NIA . . . you were sent to retrieve the Cybeast, depicted in that blob's statue, weren't you? The ONB's concerns seemed like a farfetched children's tale to anyone who wasn't paying attention. You took a personal mission to hunt down and retrieve the Cybeast Falzar, though; which, given some other thought on the situation, wouldn't be too difficult for you to accomplish without harm."
Rosso nodded. In a sense, Vanguard had taken the right approach to this. Had he tried another method of trying to verify this information, he would have had a pleasant surprise. However he chose the only method that could have worked out for him: direct confirmation. It was simple after that to keep it out of sight, out of mind. Easy for someone like, say, Mistair to answer a question with a truth that was also false. Because she was asked "had there been any sightings" of the Cybeasts, she was able to skirt past the question with ease. Because there had been no sightings of the Cybeasts, not in Netopia anyway.
"That's correct. There was already solid evidence that we could do so without any harm, so we proceeded accordingly. And as you surmised, I came back without any harm. No one would be any wiser that I had done so with my swift return. So while it was farfetched and easily something that they believed was a setup... why would the ONB of all people lie to their own? They're fairly nice compared to most. It was laughable how easily they felt otherwise."
They immediately distrusted the ONB and while it couldn't be said that they entirely trusted the NIA, especially given their first encounter, Mistair warmed them over to them easily enough. Because all she had to do was speak with them and also meet them halfway. It wasn't the approach he would have taken, but it was the one that she did because he was otherwise preoccupied and not allowed to do his own approach to the situation.
"But thanks to their inability to trust the ONB due to past grievances and one's own inability to function on his own, we got valuable information. Both that the ONB knows knowing about the NIA and that they're harboring their own... let's go with 'pet', shall we? If anything we don't even need to keep it for long and will dispose of the bird shortly."
Truth be told, he wasn't exactly relieved by the verification of his thoughts. Regardless, he'd made good ground, and, at the very least, Rosso made no attempt at striking him down for asking the wrong questions. As much as he'd like to try and put some ounce of faith into the NIA, the fact that he had to worry about asking the wrong questions at all put him at pause.
He could either press on with the issue of the Cybeasts, or try to pry more information. With the present situation within Netopia, he doubted either of them had much more free time to themselves. He had to get what he could, in what time that he had.
"I knew you were crazed. I wasn't aware you were daft. Seeing how little time we have before something else goes amiss, I'll go to the next issue: Your connection to the one designated," he intones carefully, purposefully using the very same term that both of them used upon greeting him, "Magnolia. When I first met you, you at least had some readings - you appeared to be some pathetically weak Navi; far too weak to even properly stand. Then, I met her, and she was more difficult to read than even you - she hadn't any data to discern in the slightest.
"You return from your mission with the bird, right after my close encounter with the swordswoman, and what do I find? Somehow, your abilities came to fruition, or otherwise developed into a more potent state. Your readings aren't weak anymore, Rosso; they're nonexistent. If I were to test, I'd bet you'd have a few other things in common, too. Both of you, with this incredibly annoying ability to remain undetectable . . . you're standing right in front of me, and the only confirmation I have of that fact is that I can see you with my own two eyes."
He scoffed when Vanguard called him daft. If only he knew the extent of where this was going. But crazed? That was just wrong. He wasn't crazed in the least. No, he was one of the only enlightened people in this world now. A few among many that had failed themselves so long ago. Though the look in his eyes hadn't changed beneath his hood, the rest of his face wasn't visible. There were no hints as to how he felt about Vanguard's next question that he just posed. All that could be discovered there would be the answer that he would offer up to him instead.
"I don't have a clue who Magnolia is, nor do I have any idea how she has the same trait as myself. Nor do I know if she shares any other traits with me. All I know about her is the reports that she started the change in Netopia."
No doubt Vanguard wouldn't believe any of that for a minute. Not even for a second at that. But it was the reply that was offered to him for something that Vanguard likely wanted to know most of all. And from the look of it whether this was the truth or not, Rosso had no intentions of granting him the answers he desired about them.
Vanguard's eyes went into something of a mental tap dance as he considered Rosso's next words, meeting his gaze fiercly. They shifted through emotions and slights quickly, before he mastered himself and returned to his own stoic, unyielding stare.
He had no reason to believe his words, and, of course, he didn't. What was far more important than that, though, was the information that followed - that his report on Magnolia's presence included that she was the source of the changes that pervaded the Network. Vanguard didn't recall making this connection, nor did he include any indications that he thought she were the perpatrator - he hunted her down as an intruder, and for that reason alone. How could have the NIA, who hadn't heard anything of Magnolia aside from the information he'd provided, especially considering what Rosso had just told him, come to the conclusion that it was her fault? Her being in the place as it happened was a happy coincidence; they blatantly ignore the fact that a second Navi was present with her when it all happened. Did they also ignore the location he provided from the human world? He wondered, what else had the NIA supposedly assumed from his humble returns?
With Rosso presumably on the defensive, and at the very least wary of his next few questions, Vanguard decided to stifle his concerns. At least, for the time being. If he were right, it would all come to fruition in due time, and, when it did, he'd be prepared for it.
"I fear we don't have much time left on our hands," he broke into the silence after a long while. "We'll need to be returning to our respective outposts." At that moment, he turned back on his NIA Isolator; he had turned it off to prevent any interruptions attracting his attention. Despite how little information he'd garnered that he'd intended, this meeting had been at least insightful.
Rosso trusted him about as much as he trusted Rosso.
"HQ, is there anywhere the requires my immediate attention?"
"Don't return to your post yet. There's a problem at three points right now. One point forgot to provide information on the location so that isn't as relevant. Rammount is being taken care of. But a little fool screwed up, so head back to HQ and stay there for a while."
It looked like he either had his communications on or at this point had a way to just be psychic. HQ hadn't responded immediately to his request as well, so that must have been the reason why Rosso directed him in that general direction. In the meantime he walked off, vanishing in a swirling blaze. As he did so, Vanguard would notice it ever so briefly again. There was the same weak reading he had from Rosso when he first met him. It had returned and then disappeared once again.
So what was at the bottom of this whole situation he now found himself in? And who could he trust with his own information other than himself?
Vanguard's eyes widened as he walked off in the swirling prominence. There it was, once again; just a flicker, but, the power spike was noticeable. From no power whatsoever to even the small amount of ability he now perceived was a massive spike in Rosso's readings - and, as quickly as the readings appeared, they vanished alongside him.
He'd slipped up. Vanguard was the one on the scene; he knew the situation better than anyone. But, he'd done it in such a safe way - if that was what everyone else was saying, he couldn't do anything to Rosso for simply being ignorant. It wasn't enough to go off of. He had been rather straightforward with his confirmation of the bird, an issue of the NIA, but, when Vanguard got a bit more personal, he became defensive.
There were still questions he had intended to ask, but, he had no way of knowing how Rosso would've responded to them. He'd also left before he could ask about the situations at the Head Quarters and Rammount - probably as some countermeasure to his inqusitive nature.
He could only hope he didn't make himself a target from all of his questions.