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“The war is over! The war is over!”
A week after Ves returned to New Foundation V, political support for the peace treaty grew past a critical threshold. The Bright Senate ratified the peace treaty and the bright president signed it shortly afterwards!
The Vesians also ratified the peace treaty at the same time, thereby marking the formal end of the war.
A cease-fire had already been agreed upon at the time of the peace treaty’s unveiling, but only now did it appear that true peace had been achieved!
Ves looked out of the window of his guest quarters at New Foundation V and sighed in relief. As much as he learned so much from his wartime experiences, he did not wish to perpetuate this senseless conflict any longer than it had to. Now that both sides agreed to an early peace, his wartime service had come to an end.
His exemplary performance and his powerful backing put him ahead of the pack. He already received a formal discharge notice from the Mech Corps, releasing him from service today.
“I have Mr. Cordwraith to thank for that.” Ves sardonically smiled as he finished his cup of tea.
During his stay on New Foundation V, Ves did not dare to come out of his guest quarters. His face was plastered all over the galactic net because the Bright Republic’s news portals all displayed the recordings of Ves and Venererable Foster standing together!
“They promised they would only be recording us together for archival purposes!”
Instead, the news portals outright fabricated a secret love story that transcended state borders. There were so many untruths in what the sleazy journalists claimed that Ves was tempted to sue them for slander.
Unfortunately, the law never tended to favor the victims of slanders in the Bright Republic.
On the surface, it appeared that the news portals possessed a carte blanche to publish any kind of truth they wanted. Since they were in compet.i.tion against each other, they constantly sought to publish more sensational stories. Was it any kind of surprise that they became accustomed to embellis.h.i.+ng the facts?
“There’s a thin line between embellis.h.i.+ng the facts and distorting the truth. It’s far too easy to cross into the latter.”
Practically no news portal displayed recordings or images of Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester. Compared to showing off these two old geezers, it was much more attractive to present a young and talented couple who not only earned impressive achievements as demonstrated by their medals, but also lent itself to a sensational forbidden love story!
The cynic in Ves did not believe that the news portals ran with such a stupid story just to attract more viewers.
When Ves studied the news articles, he noticed that all mention of Senator Tovar and Prince Colchester had been scrubbed away. The news portals all seemed to follow a hidden directive that attempted to shape public opinion in a certain direction.
What Ves had a problem with was that the Tovar Family made use of his public image to their own advantage without asking for permission!
With all of his recent publicity, Ves had gained a stellar reputation in the Bright Republic lately. Yet now that the stupid rumors of a hidden romance between a Vesian expert pilot and himself emerged, a lot of people started to develop an intensive dislike of him! The damage to his reputation was incalculable!
When Ves took up this topic to Mr. Cordwraith, the man was not very accommodating.
“Mr. Larkinson, we worked hard to turn you into a war hero.” The executive a.s.sistant explained as he crossed his arms. “You would have never gotten as much recognition from the Mech Corps if not for Senator Tovar advocating on your behalf. Without his intervention, you would never never received your new Plasma Spark medal for the merit you’ve earned during your last a.s.signment.”
Ves did indeed gain another medal recently after undergoing a mandatory ceremony conducted by Major General Clesse. Receiving the third-highest medal from the Mech Corps neatly complimented his Darkness Eater, but it did not make up for all of the bad press he received.
“My reputation is rather important to me and my business.” Ves replied mildly. “The LMC will not be able to fare too well in the Bright Republic if all the pro-war nuts hate my guts.”
“Your concerns are noted, but I suggest you adapt to it, Mr. Larkinson. Aren’t you already leveraging your military decorations for your own ends? I’m sure you can make use of the extra publicity somehow.”
In other words, now that the Tovar Family made use of his reputation, it was up to Ves alone to pick up the pieces.
“I’ll deal with it somehow. It isn’t the end if a mech designer acquires a mixed reputation.”
Plenty of controversial mech designers managed to do brisk business. The extra publicity fueled them, as even bad press called more attention to their products.
“This is a new beginning. I’ve emerged from the war with far more gains than I expected. I shouldn’t quibble over such a trivial issue.”
The fast news cycle would soon depress the current stories and replace them with fresh ones to distract the public from their worries. Over time, the public would forget about the false story, though they might still remember his name when they next saw an ad from the LMC.
If there was one enduring benefit that Ves received from all of the publicity, it was that his name recognition was probably the highest among the Apprentice Mech Designers of the Bright Republic! There were probably a lot of Journeymen who were much less known than him at the moment!
A new beginning dawned.
With the war at an end, Ves was about to return to his company. He could make use of his increased public profile to hype up the products of the LMC. In fact, he was already planning to do so once he completed the joint design project with Professor Ventag.
Ves spent his time fruitfully during his week-long hiatus. With the help of the augmented spiritual fragment in his mind, he worked on his draft design and managed to complete it just yesterday.
His draft design depicted an imposing s.p.a.ce knight. Based on the parameters of some of NORA Consolidated’s best component licenses, he drafted the s.p.a.ce knight with an eye towards maximum defensive power. Its super-medium weight cla.s.s made it larger than regular s.p.a.ce knights.
It showed. His attempts to incorporate the large polarizing module into the design of his s.p.a.ce knight led to an unfortunate aesthetic design decision. In order to maximize his design’s internal volume and keep it relatively balanced and controllable when in flight, Ves opted for the most efficient if not the most visually pleasing option.
His s.p.a.ce knight resembled a sumo wrestler with wings. It looked like an upright flying pig and flew like one as well due to all of its extra ma.s.s. Sluggish and unwieldy, his s.p.a.ce knight design obviously did not excel in mobility.
Still, Ves regarded his draft design with affection. Its girthy frame made for an iconic sight that always stood out from a crowd of mechs. It exhibited a compelling l.u.s.ter that caught the eye no matter how much people wanted to brush aside.
To Ves, the spiritual quality of his draft design already exceeded every other draft design he composed. Not only did he perceive an increase in spiritual strength, but also an increase in complexity.
Two explanations came to mind when he noticed these differences.
First, his Spirituality probably increased his strength, allowing him to imbue more of it into his designs.
Second, the added flavors blended into the spiritual nature of his draft design carried the imprints of Qilanxo and Venerable Fontain. They mingled with his own imprint for a total of three different influences.
They did not exhibit their influence in equal proportion. As the originator of the design, Ves left the deepest mark. However, Qilanxo’s spirituality was so strong that it threatened to overpower Ves’ influence.
Among these two major influences, the remnants of Venerable Fontain’s spirituality only occupied a minute portion within the s.p.a.ce that remained. Its influence was so faint that Ves wouldn’t have been able to sense it if he didn’t know it was present.
The current pattern was a portend of the final shape of the X-Factor of his finished design. It carried a more complex blend of flavors than before, which reminded Ves of some of the mastercrafted mechs fabricated by renowned experts in their craft.
“Perhaps this is the direction I should develop towards with my design specialty.”
He felt he was working towards becoming a magical enchanter who spiritually imbued his mechs with sparks of life derived from astounding existences and living legends.
“Life does not emerge from isolation. A story cannot emerge from nihility.”
Ves already felt his design philosophy churning with excitement at the many insights he came up with recently. He already felt it was worth working on the joint design project for this reason alone.
The more he worked on his s.p.a.ce knight, the more he uncovered new possibilities to advance his core specialty!
“Still, it isn’t all good.”
A specialty granted a mech designer a strong and possibly unique advantage in a single area related to mech design. However, they also locked a mech designer into a fixed direction of designing mechs, making it difficult for them to take another direction.
Ves recognized a major vulnerability with his current direction of advancement. His design philosophy showed its greatest strength when he empowered the X-Factor of his designs with spiritual fragments of other spiritually strong ent.i.ties.
What happened when he couldn’t or didn’t want to do that? The X-Factor of his designs would be stunted and weak. They would be no different from the X-Factor of his earliest designs, thereby giving his mech designs only a minute spiritual advantage.
“If I truly decide to go in this direction, I’ll have to resign myself to becoming dependent on external sources.”
Even so, the benefits outweighed the costs. While his own Spirituality slowly grew in strength, his spiritual imprint did not come with the correct traits to compliment the totem animal and human myth of his Triple Division technique.
Ves could achieve much better results by drawing upon the spiritual fragments of real exobeasts and real human heroes. While obtaining these fragments required him to research his targets and go on a dangerous excursion into the imaginary realm, it was no different from travelling to the frontier in order to hunt for treasures.
From a business perspective, what Ves was doing was to enhance the value of his designs by adding some extra raw materials to his designs. He only needed to do it once to permanently increase the quality of the X-Factor of his designs. This was a lot more generous than designing an expensive mech and having to source the rare exotics each time he wanted to fabricate a copy.
“I’ll just have to make sure to do my research properly.”
The biggest weakness a.s.sociated with his specialty that he wouldn’t be able to do much if he didn’t have access to the right information. Right now, Ves did not lack for resources, as the galactic net contained an almost limitless amount of data for him to trawl through.
If the galactic net didn’t provide any suitable material, then he could draw upon his connections to the Clifford Society or his backers to draw upon more obscure information.
Yet what if Ves found himself stranded on a planet without a connection to the galactic net? It happened once during his deployment to the surface of Aeon Corona VII, and it could easily happen again some day.
“I should make preparations for that.” He murmured.
He already came up with two possible solutions.
First, he could delegate the information gathering to his company. They could gather information on thousands of notable exobeasts and expert pilots.
Ves could then memorize the details in advance, so that if he fell into a situation where he needed to design a mech quickly, he immediately knew where he needed to go to obtain the right spiritual fragments.
The second solution was to develop another technique. One which went into a different direction than making use of spiritual fragments.
Ves believed his current method wasn’t the only way to imbue his mech designs with a strong X-Factor. He already developed some preliminary ideas, but whether they were viable or not remained to be seen.
“It’s hard to be at the forefront of a new and unknown field.” He sighed.
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