Queen Elizabeth stood in front of three maids. Two white-haired sisters, and one brown-haired woman - and only one of the trio wasn't fidgeting at all. All three had been called to drop their duties, and report to Queen Elizabeth for orders. Thus they were here, awaiting the battleship's orders. (The Queen's orders.)
"Belfast. Edinburgh. Glasgow. You will escort Drake to the Pacific base of the Azur Lane, and provide support to the fleet there until such time as we recall you. Monarch will also be accompanying you. These are your orders!" Queen Elizabeth's voice was loud and clear, such that Belfast was certain even if anyone else had been speaking over the Queen - she'd have drowned them out. (And if not, Elizabeth would've scolded the person in question.)
The head maid curtsied. "Of course, Your Majesty."
"Aye, Your Majesty," Glasgow said. She took a quick little bow, before straightening up exaggeratedly.
Edinburgh practically squawked out "Yes, Your Majesty!"
"Prepare to travel," Queen Elizabeth ordered. All three maids nodded their acknowledgement.
Glasgow and Edinburgh left quickly. As Edinburgh passed, Belfast noticed her elder sister looked… relieved. Was it, perhaps, having a chance to do something? After… after Edinburgh had been brought back. As the other two scurried away, Queen Elizabeth approached Belfast. She motioned towards the path, before clearing her throat. "Bel, walk with us." Bel. Elizabeth's pet name for her head maid, when they weren't in an official capacity.
Belfast looked up. Swiftly - but not too fast; she couldn't betray any sort of shock. Queen Elizabeth was practically demanding her company, but why now? They didn't usually talk outside of Belfast serving the Queen. Besides, Elizabeth was using her nickname, implying this was off the record. Curious.
Queen Elizabeth was already starting down the path. Belfast sighed, and carefully kept her face neutral, before following with long strides. She easily caught up - Queen Elizabeth was small and thus had shorter strides.
"My Queen?" the maid asked.
Queen Elizabeth's brows were furrowed, and her lips tight. Her expression almost looked like a pout. Knowing Elizabeth, it would have been edging on one in most other situations.
"Bel, we… require something."
The maid carefully arched an eyebrow. As Elizabeth came to a stop, Belfast approached slightly. She leaned in towards the battleship. The light cruiser gave Elizabeth a questioning glance, which the other kansen noticed. Quickly. Very quickly. Had Queen Elizabeth anticipated her reaction?
"We think that we must start somewhere. You know of the Priority research."
It was a statement, not a question. Elizabeth's tone brooked no argument; but of course, Belfast already knew. She'd been told long ago. The queen was staring at her - expecting a response.
"I do, Y… Elizabeth." It took Belfast a bit of effort to not habitually address the small battleship by her title. Then, again - it took effort for Belfast to not automatically slip into her role as a maid over all else. She was the head maid. The head maid had to set an example of proper behaviour…
Queen Elizabeth cut her thoughts short. "And each Priority ship summoned so far has her own… quirk. Monarch refuses to listen to our authority, clinging to her own perceived excellence." Belfast swore she heard Elizabeth mutter something about how surprisingly easy it had been to get Monarch to go to the Pacific base. Something about it only taking a well-placed comment or two about how the Royal Navy didn't have much of a presence on the Pacific base. (Monarch chafed at almost all of the other Royal Navy girls' presences.) "Gascogne can't understand others' emotions. Drake… she is far from a full kansen." Elizabeth scowled, even more than she'd been while talking about Monarch.
Belfast couldn't help but flinch a bit at the reminder of the gold-eyed cruiser's nature, and she hurried to hide it. Drake was… unearthly. The world felt wrong around her - but in spite of that, Drake didn't speak in riddles or act like she knew things she shouldn't. No, she was oddly normal while also being so very wrong to stand near.
"Bel. Listen to me!" Queen Elizabeth's rather undignified cry brought the light cruiser's attention back to her. She calmed down a bit upon noticing Belfast was looking back at her. "...so where were - of course. So, these Priority ships all have quirks." Belfast nodded.
Queen Elizabeth kept going. Her voice was beginning to pick up steam now. Excitement? No, agitation - but from what? Belfast pursed her lips as the petite battleship kept talking. "And then there's Champagne. The 'mad' dreamer of the Iris."
"Elizabeth, your tone…" Belfast let the statement hang. She knew Queen Elizabeth was going somewhere with this. (How could the head maid not know that?)
"We… suspect she sees more than you or we can."
Belfast raised an eyebrow. Elizabeth was dead serious, her face having lost any trace of impetuousness or anger. Instead, the battleship had sagged a bit. Her young-looking face was suddenly decades older - decades like all the time they had spent alive…. Whatever this was about, Queen Elizabeth found it important. Important enough her face had become somber and shadowed.
"We and you are creatures of dreams, Bel. We were shaped by mankind's perceptions of us. We are Queen from those perceptions, just as you are ever-reliable. These dreams are shaped by hopes, ideals, and even truths. These dreams drive change in the world, even if they do not manifest noble souls like us. They have wills, Bel - that's where the Priority girls come from. Drifting, lost dream-wills. And dreams… in a way, they're another reality and they're glimpses into other realities. Not perfect - but…" Elizabeth paused to catch her breath.
When Belfast gave her a near-imperceptible nod, the battleship continued. "Champagne dreams. The darkness of dreams - those dreams that created us and shape the world - that's what she… sees. And… We fear she sees things that could be. Might have been, could be, potentially will be."
Belfast narrowed her eyes. "And this is all a hunch?"
"It's more than that!" Queen Elizabeth snapped, before breathing heavily. Belfast recognised this as Elizabeth reeling herself in; a scene reserved for the Queen's few casual conversations. "It's… she said something to us. There was something in those words we can't describe. Something we fear others either do not notice or brush off." Queen Elizabeth's gaze was intense.
"Bel… we would like to ask you this as our most trusted ally amongst the Royal Navy. When you go to the Pacific base… keep an eye out. Ensure things do not go to hell."
...Queen Elizabeth was deeply unsettled, then, Belfast decided. Whatever had been said - if Elizabeth was asking her this… no, she ought to dispel those thoughts. "Understood, Elizabeth."
"Good." The Queen clapped. "Now, Belfast, we must return. We are certain the others miss our presence." Just as suddenly, Queen Elizabeth had dropped the slightly more relaxed manner. Back to business, then.
Some things never changed, Belfast decided. Like how easily Elizabeth projected only parts of her feelings around others. How easily Belfast herself returned to simply being the dutiful maid. She followed on her Queen's heels, though the small battleship was clearly moving more energetically.
Soon, they had returned to the start of the path. Queen Elizabeth turned, and gestured in the direction of the dorms. Yes - Belfast needed to pack her things now. Before they went to the Pacific base.
(Still, the conversation with Queen Elizabeth weighed on her mind. This felt deadly serious. What had Queen Elizabeth even heard Champagne - the dreamer - say?)