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Chapter 2560: Trueblood Primacy
After interviewing Casella and Imon Ingvar, Ves proceeded to meet with the other expert candidates.
While he had met them before, he never really paid too much attention to them. This was rather negligent on his part because if any of them underwent apotheosis, their prior experiences would probably play a significant role in determining their final convictions.
Though Ves knew it was impossible to exert 100 percent control over how these pilots transformed, he could still manipulate the odds. It was already a win in his book if his attempt to steer their evolution succeeded 50 percent of the time.
He met all kinds of interesting personalities in the next couple of hours. Anyone who managed to make the first jump was already special in some way. Expert candidates possessed remarkably strong wills compared to ordinary people. This meant they were less inclined to conform to normality.
Of course, compared to expert pilots, these lesser individuals were not demiG.o.ds yet. Ves was confident he could hold his ground in their presence.
“Mr. Tamarin Larkinson.” Ves briefly studied the man’s profile. “I’m glad to see a fellow trueblood here. We’ve gone through a lot of changes since we left the old family.”
The forty-ish year old mech pilot offered Ves a weary nod. “That it is. It has only been a couple of years since we’ve left the Bright Republic, but to many of us, those days feel like ancient history. It’s surreal to see so many of our fellow clansmen treating it as a lost era that is only available in the form of archival footage and historical records.”
Ves chuckled. He immediately felt more connected to Tamarin. Talking about the ‘good old days’ even though they weren’t very good always seem to bind the truebloods together. There were too few of them in the clan. Their shared origin was one of the few elements left that belonged to them and no one else.
“The reason why we treat the pre-clan days as if we lived during the Age of Conquest is due to how much we have grown. Just like how the Age of Mechs is unrecognizable to the prior age, our clan has climbed incredibly from the modest roots of the family. If you chose to follow my uncle Ark and stuck with the current iteration of the Larkinson Family, you would find that nothing much has changed. As far as I know, the other Larkinsons are still stuck with their shabby third-cla.s.s mechs and light carriers.”
It was impossible for the Larkinson Family to be as prosperous as the Larkinson Clan. Ark may be an excellent expert pilot and an inspirational leader, but he was not an industrialist!
Without Ves, there was no one in the Larkinson Family who was capable of generating a lot of revenue.
“It’s not that bad.” Tamarin responded. “The Larkinson Family still has those shares in the LMC. The dividends they’ve received lately is enough for them to start acquiring some second-cla.s.s a.s.sets, though not as much as us. The family has some other plans in mind as well.”
As Ves continued to chat with Tamarin, he noticed that the middle-aged mech pilot was very interested in the safety and the development of the Larkinsons.
The Avatar mech pilot took a lot of pride in his trueblood heritage. He paid special attention to the standing of the truebloods in the clan. He also tracked the progress of the Larkinson Family in order to make sure they were doing well for themselves.
If the Larkinson Family ever encountered trouble, then Tamarin would definitely feel distressed.
Ves didn’t know what to make of that. Whenever he tried to talk about other topics such as his time with the Avatars of Myth, Tamarin exhibited much less pa.s.sion.
To him, serving in the Avatars was merely an obligation that he had to meet. He fought in order to prove to everyone that truebloods like him were not freeloaders. His main motivation in growing stronger was to give more weight to the truebloods in the Larkinson Clan.
“The more outsiders we recruit, the less we matter.” Tamarin explained. “We can’t let the clan slip out of our control. So far, we only have two expert pilots out of five. This is a dangerously low proportion. We need to prove to the adopted clansmen that our superior Larkinson blood and genes makes us better! For this cause, I will do my best to follow the example of Venerable Jannzi and strive to break through as fast as possible.”
“I.. see. Take your time, then. There’s no hurry.”
After Tamarin Larkinson left the stateroom, Ves rubbed his face and updated his notes.
Suffice to say, Ves didn’t think Tamarin was engaging in productive behavior. Since the clan opened up its doors to outsiders, the integration of foreigners who initially had no connections to the Larkinson proceeded exceptionally smoothly with the help of the Larkinson Network.
These days, hardly any clansman paid attention whether someone was a trueblood Larkinson or not. Position, friends.h.i.+p, familiarity and other factors mattered more.
So far, most trueblood Larkinsons accepted this new reality because they were strong and capable enough to maintain their high standing within the clan. It would have been a different story if they visibly lost a lot of power and influence, but that was not the case at the moment.
Unfortunately, that did not stop truebloods like Tamarin Larkinson from becoming ‘concerned’ about their standing in their clan.
Though their intentions were good, Ves would prefer it if they didn’t obsess too much over the purity of their bloodline.
Ves had long let go of the old definition of a Larkinson. To the clan, anyone who was a part of it was a Larkinson. That was it. There were no internal divisions and no ranking that stated that one Larkinson was better than the other one. Perhaps that was a very strange custom to other family organizations, but then again they didn’t have anything like the Larkinson Network!
To be honest, aside from sentimentality, Ves didn’t really care about his trueblood ident.i.ty anymore. The clan operated by different rules and Ves wanted it to stay that way.
Ves had little patience for truebloods like Tamarin who wanted to turn back the clock!
“I definitely have to intervene in this stupid fellow’s development before he turns into an even greater disaster than Venerable Jannzi!”
He thanked himself for investigating expert candidates like Tamarin more thoroughly. He couldn’t afford to let this delusional idiot ruin the harmony of the Larkinson Clan.
“So what should I do?”
Well, first off, he had to pull Tamarin off his a.s.signed Bright Warrior mech. The Bright Warrior was the quintessential Larkinson mech. Since the Golden Cat was its design spirit, Ves had a feeling that piloting the mech would only exacerbate Tamarin’s biases over time!
“This is one of the blind spots of the network.” Ves observed. “It instills greater loyalty in the clan but doesn’t dictate in what way our clansmen should strive towards.”
While Ves could have designed a stricter network, that would have been too obvious. He knew that the MTA was definitely keeping an eye on how his clan instilled loyalty in its members. For now, the effect was mild enough that it could easily be chalked up by constant exposure to glows, but if people completely changed their personalities, then that would definitely ring a lot more alarm bells!
He quickly wrapped up Tamarin’s case by pa.s.sing on a secret order to Commander Melkor. He wanted his cousin to rea.s.sign Tamarin to one of the new commercial second-cla.s.s mech models.
He took special notice of the fact that Tamarin specialized in piloting knight mechs. That was even more concerning.
“In the future, I have to make sure he stays away from Bright Warriors and Aurora t.i.tans.”
Right now, Ves suffered from a lack of mech models that he could use as tools to shape the development of his expert candidates. He could only resort to changing other environmental aspects until he expanded the mech roster of his mech forces.
He met with a couple of other expert candidates next.
Isobel Kotin-Larkinson was another Avatar expert candidate. As an adopted Larkinson, she was very grateful to be a part of an ascending clan. Though she cared about her new ident.i.ty a lot, she still possessed the humility of someone who used to be an average third-rater.
She turned out to be a marksman mech pilot who was very precise with a laser rifle. She not only excelled in marksmans.h.i.+p when piloting a mech, but also won tournaments when wielding laser weapons in person.
Aside from her calm and a.n.a.lytical mindset, she didn’t stand out in any way aside from her age. She wasn’t that much older than Venerable Joshua, which meant she possessed a brighter future than Tamarin.
It was too bad that she wasn’t an Ylvainan. If she was an adherent of the Ylvainan Faith, then Ves would have arranged her to pilot his new Transcendent Punisher mech model.
“Thank you for answering my questions.” Ves nodded towards her. “You may go now. I will discuss your situation with Commander Melkor and see if we can give you some more opportunities to improve your marksmans.h.i.+p.”
Ves met with some Living Sentinel expert candidates next.
Percival Larkinson was a stoic and mature trueblood Larkinson who did not show as much respect to the clan patriarch as the ones that came before.
“I see that you’ve lived through some tough battles during the Nyxian Gap Campaign.”
“I survived that h.e.l.lhole of an abyss, yes. I can’t say the same for the four-hundred Sentinel mech pilots who failed to make it out. They were my comrades, sir.”
Oh boy. Ves expected to face some pressure when he met with a Living Sentinel, but Percival seemed to have quite a chip on his shoulder.
Predictably, the rest of the meeting did not proceed well. Percival kept his back straight and stared judgmentally at Ves. Obviously, the surviving Sentinel still reserved a lot of blame to Ves for dragging so many clansmen to their deaths.
Ves noted that Percival was a striker mech specialist. Though the skilled Larkinson mech pilot was capable of piloting other mech types, he preferred to pilot striker mechs. In fact, he previously piloted the Doom Guard when he was a part of Task Force Predator.
Due to the Doom Guard’s double-edged nature, its mech pilot had to endure a lot of mental pressure. Someone like Percival must have subjected himself to a lot of torture in order to pilot this h.e.l.lish machine.
Ves briefly grew concerned. What happened when someone with a lot of resentment piloted a torture machine every day?
He didn’t think anything good would arise! If Percival Larkinson ever advanced to expert pilot, then it was very likely that he would turn into another political opponent!
“Okay, I’ve learned enough from you. You can return to your unit now.”
Percival rigidly sat up, saluted Ves, and turned around.
As Ves watched the expert candidate go, he added some warning messages to Percival’s private record.
To be honest, he didn’t want Percival to become an expert pilot at all. However, he couldn’t be too blatant in stifling the progress of an expert candidate. The Larkinson Clan was supposed to be an organization that prized fairness and equality. Ves couldn’t arbitrarily suppress random Larkinsons just because he didn’t agree with their views.
“Fortunately, I can still enact some measures.”
As the most important mech designer of the Larkinson Clan, Ves was essentially able to dictate the mechs that his Larkinson mech pilots were supposed to pilot. This was a considerable power and one that he would always strive to keep.
Ves quickly composed another secret order that instructed Commander Casella to address Percival Larkinson’s problematic views.
He did not add any additional instructions. Instead, he gave the new Sentinel Commander a lot of leeway in order to see how she addressed this issue.
“Consider this a test.”
Ves couldn’t babysit all of the expert candidates. It was up to their individual commanders to sort out the problem cases.
“I’m a mech designer, not a pilot designer.”
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