Even with the government's efforts of integrating reploids into human life, it wasn't hard to see a reploid sticking out in a shop... More specifically, a reploid fitted for combat.
"Excuse me? By any chance... I was wondering if" The brunet scratched the back of his neck, asking the tall and serious reploid sitting promptly beside the window with cakes and drinks filling the table by the rim. "...You were the one who asked me to come here?"
"Colonel of the Repliforce. Pleased to meet you, Rockman X." The reploid raised his hand towards him which the male accepted.
"I apologize for the delay. I had some matters to attend to this morning." Reading the reploid's mail first thing in the morning, X willed himself to come here especially when the topic involved his best friend. He can still recall the sound of complaints from his recruits as he shoved a simulation test on them. Fortunately, Zero wasn't there or X would have to cancel the meeting. Besides, X always wanted to know who Iris' older brother was. 'If the reploid is as overprotective as Zero and Iris describes him to be.'
"No need for apologies. I am grateful a busy reploid like you have accepted my invitation in the first place." Letting go, Colonel waited for maverick hunter to have a seat opposite to his direction before offering the food on the table. "While I was waiting for your arrival, I've ordered several desserts recommended by the waitress."
'It's everything in the menu though...' X thought, scanning the sugary treats. Not a single one touched. It seems the officer isn't fond of sweet items. Picking up his utensils, X found himself needing to finish twenty-four cake slices, ten different milkshakes, four large milk teas and three cups of rich coffee.
"Is this not to your liking?" Colonel asked and X, being the polite reploid he is, smiled. "Ah. Nothing is wrong. I simply find the arrangement flattering to the eyes. I may not be able to finish it though..."
"I will request the waitress to pack the remains afterwards so you may eat it during your break." Colonel answered and X couldn't let anyone find out about this since Colonel just had to choose a shop well known for being called a Couple's Hang out. X found himself sipping the strawberry milkshake, requesting. "How about you pack some for your sibling? I'm sure she would love to eat some of the food here."
"She did talk about this shop during supper..." Colonel closed his eyes, cupping his chin in thought.
'Yes!' Before X thought he was out of the hook, the reploid said. "Very well, but I insist you take the Salted Caramel Chocolate torte with you. It will be coming shortly."
"If you insist..." X chooses his breakfast, opting a cake slice of chocolate Oreo.
[All the while listing potential recipients of the cake with reasonable excuses.]
Ten minutes passed and X found Colonel's silence to be familiar. [At least the reploid drank one of the coffee cups on the table... Does that mean Colonel is worried the food items are unsafe for reploid consumption?] It reminds him of Zero when they decided to eat together, having his best friend struggle to find the correct time to bring up a topic. 'Maybe Colonel's the same?'
"Speaking of which, how is the Repliforce nowadays?" To break the silence, X inquired as he took a sip of his mango milkshake. "I've heard the Repliforce have been experiencing scrutiny over the past couple of months due to the alarming rate of irregular activities. I hope this has not been affecting your operations."
"Not to worry. The Repliforce will not cow down over such preposterous controversies." Colonel shook his head, dismayed at such false accusations towards his home organization. "As much as I find this matter relevant, this is not what I've called you here for. You've read the e-mail I believe?"
"I have." Great. X found yet another military-based reploid as an ally. X cut through the cake slice of caramel chocolate, chewing it delicately. X continued, "You wanted to talk about Zero and his relationship with Iris."
"Yes. My twin unit." Colonel's voice softened as if he reminisced his time with her.
'Ok... He's having flashbacks. Hmmm.... I have to start with something but what?' X said whatever comes to his mind which would be: work behavior. "Aside from her tendency to show bias in assisting a certain hunter (Zero), Iris has shown inclination in utilizing the saber."
"Though this information is in-built in her memory, Iris is meant as an arbitrator with a pacifist nature." Colonel frowned and X can see some hint of protectiveness there. X corrects the image he set up to avoid the male calling Zero
again, "maybe Iris wanted to brush up her saber skills in times of emergency?"
"We are reploids. Information is integrated in our memories such as how the scientists installed Iris the knowledge of utilizing advance ride-armor technology." Colonel watched X widen his eyes at the news and nearly dropped his third slice of cake to its origins. Colonel furrowed his eyebrows, "She did not tell you about this?"
"No... Maybe it was listed in her profile and I have yet to review it..." X began wondering where the scientists based their 'ultimate' fighting reploid image from since if X was one of the scientists, he wouldn't include ride-armor expertise but hacking, heat senso- Colonel interrupted his train of thought, "Is Iris happy?"
"Yes-" X wasn't even able to finish his word when Colonel pushed further. "What has she been fixated on for the last couple of weeks? Have you heard her talking about me or the activities of the Repliforce? Why does she not answer my calls during the evenings? Has she shown disdain over certain actions I've committed in the past?"
"Calm down!" X had to increase his volume for Colonel to stop momentarily. "If you wish to know about Iris' fixations and activities, you have to talk to either Zero or Signas. Zero because he's almost always with her. I suppose the reason why she isn't answering most of your calls nowadays is due to the fact it is rude to divide your attention while in the middle of spending time with someone. You must have called on the wrong times."
"Are you telling me Iris is always dating Zero in the evening?" Colonel did not expect X to start coughing like crazy, beating his chest as he held onto the mango milkshake in his hands.
"Zero and Iris are what now?!" X nearly shouted in surprise, staring in disbelief towards the reploid. X didn't care if he's attracting attention. He's more surprised by the fact this was happening behind his back and he's even the guy's best friend!
Colonel stared at X like the brunet grew another head and stated: "Zero is Iris' boyfriend."
Over and over, the words echoed in X's mind. X didn't know what to think of it, of himself? Naive for not putting the pieces together (how Zero sometimes vanished, only to come back with food) or in-denial for actually having that suicidal German model have a lover before him? There's also the fact no one told him, not even... the blonde himself!
"Are you all right?" Colonel watched X bow his face. Covering his face with his hands, X muttered under his breath. "Zero... never told me."
"Everyone knows this. How can you not know this?" Colonel couldn't find any reason for the blue bomber's carelessness towards internal affairs.
"I..." X raised his head, mouth still covered with his hands. "Am not sure either. They might have imagined me to be the type to... disapprove their relationship.... especially when having a relationship may obstruct proper decision in our line of work."
"And has it?" Colonel took a sip. X dropped his hands, "No. Not yet."
"Well..." Colonel rested his back onto the seat, "Let's move on to the next issue."
"I..." X knows what's the next topic, reading research articles and observation notes of scientists regarding twin units. Apparently, if Colonel and Iris' creators indeed halved the reploid design equally, one cannot function properly without the other. But then, surely, those scientists who are also colleagues of Dr. Cain must have thought about that and solved to fix the error correct? But if they did solve the problem, X wouldn't be facing Colonel right now and having to solve the male's random states of loss and isolation. "I had a solution but learning Iris' relationship with Zero would make the solution ineffective."
"Explain." Colonel stared at the Lightbot. X opened his mouth and then closed it. Organizing his thoughts, X starts with a simple: "At first, I thought this was supposed to be a production error but it may also be a personal 'human' problem."
"I don't understand what you're implying." Colonel watched X take a deep breath.
"When your creators made you two, they never imagined that their creations would ever think of distancing themselves for certain reasons. The ideal solution would be to create a schedule for Iris to spend time with you and another time for Zero. It was supposed to allow your system to adapt the unknown threat such as Zero into your life slowly until everything goes well." Then X stopped there. "However, I've come to realize that your bouts of alienation and irritation can also emerge from envy as your sibling redirects her attention towards Zero. If that is the case, seeing your sibling experiencing joy with Zero might increase your resentment towards my best friend if given negative feedback."
"I... am not equipped to handling love affairs." X confessed, remembering crimes and actions done for the sake of 'love.' X also remembered watching TV series and movies illustrating how complex romance can be. X also can't call Cain to handle the situation or they'll turn to guinea pigs....No one wants to be Dr. Cain's guinea pigs. "Since you and I wish to further our loved ones' happiness, I propose we will need to accept their relationship and learn to adapt to it."
"..." Colonel simply stared at X. X understood why. True. His solution would greatly help Iris and Zero, but it would not solve Colonel's problem. For reploids, emotions were foreign concepts. Heck. Even X has trouble understanding it. To solve this problem, X turns to common human practices to cope from loss
or addiction. "How about you try taking up recreational activities or hanging out with friends?"
"It is not easy obtaining allies when you are at the top of one of the most prominent organizations combating irregulars." Colonel watched X placed the cup down, now empty.
"Hmmm..." X pondered how to help the righteous individual. That's when an idea struck him. X asked, feeling the words' impact as it came out from his mouth. "How about I help you?"
"Excuse me?" Colonel wants the male to repeat himself. X smiled, noting the number of vacant time periods (originally created in case Zero wants to hang out) which can be used to guide the charismatic reploid. "I know I will never be able to offer the same company Iris can give you, but I want to be your friend, someone you can rely on."
"You will try the substitution method?" Colonel's question caught X off guard. X blinked, answering. "You can call it that way, but I prefer seeing this as an opportunity for you to obtain broader perspectives in life."
"So we will be temporary allies." Colonel stated, finding it too sudden. X insisted on the other term, "No. We will use the term friends since we hope to achieve certain commonalities and ideas from one another. Imagine friendship as a state where one can obtain and promote trust, support and development from the other."
"I agree on your terms, friend." Colonel responded, already reading the benefits of friendship online. "When are you available?"
"I've sent you my schedule for the month. You can send an e-mail later so we can sync our meet-ups. If we find this arrangement ineffective halfway of the duration, we will stop and try another method. As Zero's friend, I find myself responsible over his actions. As your new and profound friend, I will not give up on you Colonel." X placed his fork down, too full to continue. "And I thank you for the information. If it wasn't for you, I would still be in the dark.... Unaware my best friend has a lover."
"The pleasure is mine. I only hope to decrease my resentment over an ally." Colonel found Zero a worthy sparring partner and friend so for the reploid, it was inconceivable how he found himself growing annoyed whenever he heard the name Zero uttered to him.
His anger and protectiveness unjustifiable, Colonel knew he had to take the matter in his own hands before Iris opted to shut herself away from him. It was just like what X said, he only want what's good for his sister...
And Colonel will be damned if he was the reason Iris hates him.
"Here is your order sir." The waitress said, placing a thirty by thirty inched box in front of them. X stared at the box, mouth gaping at the size. Colonel waved his hand, "Can you be so kind as to pack all the spares into separate containers? Thank you for your assistance."
"Do you always treat Iris to these areas?" X asked aloud, watching the human prepare the containers. Colonel replied. "Not anymore... She was always fond of sweets."
"Remember. I am not a substitute, I'm your friend." X reconfirmed, crossing his arms as he failed to notice in time that Colonel might have already seen the blue bomber as a likely substitute given his characteristics. "Do expect arguments in the future considering we have different views in tackling problem sets."
"As long as it is logical." Colonel finalized, "You have my word."