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 "Don't get me wrong." Ves defended himself. "You're obviously a good mech pilot, even if you have your tutors and your rich background to thank for that. Paired with a mech that fits you like a glove, you're able to outfight an entire mech squad by yourself. However, you enjoy a great privilege that most mech pilots or even mech champions get to enjoy."

Lord Javier understood that Ves did not mean to insult him and loosened up a bit. "Some people are born of a higher station than others. But don't you think that I fought hard to get where I am? Mech pilots don't become as good as me if you don't put enough effort! I damn well deserved my custom mech! Thanks for destroying it, by the way. When the peace talks finally concludes, I'll go back and commission another custom mech, not that I think there's much hopes of it happening."

"Why do you say so?"

The Vesian noble gestured with his arm. "Because the Bright-Vesia Wars have repeated the same pattern for so many times it's practically a tradition for our two states! You don't casually interrupt a long-standing tradition. You'll piss off a lot of people for doing so! I'll bet there are plenty of people out there who want to stop Senator Tovar by any means possible."

"Are they really so short-sighted?" Ves frowned. "From what I hear, Senator Tovar has a very good reason for suggesting an interruption of the current war."

"A greater threat, yeah I heard. Senator Tovar informed me in person so that when I get in touch with my fellow nobles, I'll be able to convince them of the necessity of halting the war. Well, good luck with that. With how widely our state encourages our subjects to support the war, halting it at this point will be taken as a major betrayal! It would be like putting ourselves between a crashing starship and a planet! There is too much momentum behind the war and suggesting an abrupt end to it will mark us as cowards and traitors to our respective states!"

Both the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom treated the accusations mentioned by Lord Javier very seriously. With the wars lasting four or five years on average, it was deeply taboo for anyone to advocate for peace.

Peace at this stage meant giving in to the enemy. Peace meant begging the enemy to stop the fight. Peace meant admitting that you couldn't take it anymore and wanted to throw in the towel!

In summary, supporting peace meant harming the interests of the state at the time where it needed the support of its citizens the most!

From that perspective, Lord Javier raised a very good point. Supporters of the upcoming peace talks began with an inherent disadvantage. The inertia that took hold in both states both pushed them into continuing the same old war without any deviations!

"There will be people who question Senator Tovar's claims?"

"You underestimate how obstinate we can be when it comes to supporting the war!" Lord Javier chuckled. "Even if the senator whipped out direct footage of an impending threat headed in the direction of our states, the warmongers will still blindly stick to their beliefs that we need to fight the good fight to the fullest! Proof can be fabricated and claims can be spun from modest facts. There is no way that those predisposed to war are ever going to seriously contemplate the possibility of peace?"

"Not even if all of the Seven Apex Races invade the Komodo Star Sector in unison?"

"They'll keep shouting about fighting the Brighters or Vesians as the aliens come and shoot disintegration rays at them! If you know these people as well as I do, you'll realize that the diehards among us won't ever give in! The war is their life and their greatest obsession!"

"Is this what the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom has morphed into over the centuries?" Ves lamented. "Two conflict-driven states that are too afraid of their withdrawal symptoms as soon as their regularly-scheduled war is cut short?"

All of this sounded quite depressing to Ves. He would have thought the people in power would be wise and rational enough to set aside their interests in the war if they heard word a greater that was coming in their way. Yet according to Lord Javier, the inertia for war was so strong that it was nearly unstoppable!

"Anyway, let's not talk about the war, Ves. That's a headache for Senator Tovar. Anyway, you never did tell me something useful about mechs. Come now. Spill something."

Ves wracked his mind for something to say. "Well, there's rumors in the mech industry that the next generation will see an advancement in offense over defense. Laser weapons will particularly enjoy a significant bump in effectiveness. If you want to go with the times, you should pilot a laser rifleman mech."

"No thanks." Javier lazily grinned and leaned back on his dining seat. "I like to have my cake and eat it too. I know hero mechs get a bad rap sometimes, but it's really convenient for me to pilot a mech that's deadly both at range and up close. I don't like the way that mechs from third-rate states in the galactic rim are so overspecialized."

"That's easy for you to say, scion of House Eneqqin. Most mech pilots only enjoy so much training. They also have to make do with mechs purchased from a limited budget."

"Still, it's ridiculous that we've accepted that mechs are supposed to be good at one narrow role but godawful at everything else! Don't you think it's stupid that a big and powerful rifleman mech is deadly at range but collapses as soon as a light skirmisher runs up and stabs it with the mech equivalent of a toothpick? Isn't it ridiculous that a heavy knight can withstand and entire mech squad's worth of firepower but isn't even expected to whip out a pistol to hit them back? Why can't a mech have it both ways?!"

Ves shook his head at such talk. "It's not that simple. Do you think we mech designers intentionally specialize mechs?"

"Why not? If you sell someone a swordsman mech, they still need to cover their ranged options. That gives you the opportunity to sell them a rifleman mech."

"Despite what you think, Lord Javier, we are not perpetrating a scam. When we design a mech, we have to make many compromises. A mech can either be good at one aspect or passable in many aspects. The only way to step out of this dichotomy is to spend an awful lot of money to design a singular mech that can do it all, but is just one machine. Would you rather have one fantastic hero mech like the Loquacious Raphael, or two full mech companies with a balanced mix of ranged and melee mechs?"

Most mech buyers favored the latter. A single mech, no matter how good, could never beat eighty average mechs unless it was an expert mech!

While Lord Javier may be a talented and highly-trained mech pilot on par with the best of the Larkinson mech pilots, he was no expert pilot!

Every mortal mech pilot possessed limits. From an economic and efficiency standpoint, mech buyers got a lot more bang for their credits if they avoided the drawbacks of diminishing returns by procuring a large number of cheaper but more efficient mechs.

However, Lord Javier seemed to have some difficulty understanding the concept of limited budgets and resources. To a noble raised in the lap of luxury, how could he accept Ves' arguments?

"Okay, let's put this into the perspective of a mech pilot instead of a mech buyer. Not every mech pilot is good at everything, right?" Ves pressed. "Wouldn't it be a total waste to allocate a swordsman mech to an excellent marksman? A much more expensive and less effective hybrid mech or hero mech would just be an enormous waste of money because the mech pilot would only make use of its range capabilities."

This seemed to hit home with Lord Javier. The noble began to look more thoughtful. "I guess that's true. Almost no one is as good as me or worked hard to be good at both swordsmanship and marksmanship. Perhaps it does make some sense for my lessers to pilot simplistic mechs."

"Wow, Lord Javier. Maybe you should tone down the arrogance."

"Heh! If you're as good as me, why should I hide my talents?"

"As far as I know, you're not an expert pilot or even an expert candidate. I don't think you have much cause to boast if that's the case."

Ves brutally poked Lord Javier's bubble, causing him to drop his grin.

The worst part was that it was Ves who said it. While he wasn't an expert pilot, he was related to the famed Larkinson Family, who somehow managed to spawn expert pilots in each generation!

"It's really crappy that the Larkinsons aren't as powerful as the Tovars in the Bright Republic." Lord Javier jabbed back in revenge. "What did the Tovars contribute to your state? Sure, they invested money in the original colonization fleet that led to the founding of your state, but what have they done since? They took advantage of their starting point and held their grip on power ever since. The Tovars and most of the other founder families are famous for their influence in the government and in the economy. As for the military? You don't hear about heroic Tovars fighting right in the frontlines of the wars. Not like you Larkinsons. I respect that, you know."

"Thanks... I think. However, I don't think it's a good idea to disparage the Tovars aboard one of their own ships."

Lord Javier huffed. "I'm a Vesian. I'm entitled to roast the Bright Republic! And I sure do have a lot to say about your hypocritical and duplicitous state! You Brighters always oppose the way we run the Kingdom but as far as we're concerned, your rulers are a lot more despotic than ours! Don't you see that your five main founder families are resting on their laurels for centuries, leeching off the hard work and sacrifice of their citizens to live their lives in luxury? For all of their professed adhere to the Societal Vitality Theory, they always impose struggle on their subjects and never on themselves!"

"Your inverting white into black!" Ves accused. "Just because the Bright Republic isn't entire egalitarian doesn't mean the Vesia Kingdom is a ray of sunshine in our corner of the galaxy. You nobles feast like kings while you exploit your commoners. They are just one step above slaves as far as the Bright Republic is concerned!"

"Heh. That's their lot. But don't pretend our underclass is any better than ours. In your society, it's almost impossible to better their station because the founder families and most of your upper class has a stranglehold on the upper echelons of power. At least in my state, we have to fight for our benefits! Our struggle never ends! To soft Brighters like you, it probably seems as if we're obsessed with infighting. We're not fighting each other for the heck of it, but because we have to stay sharp! The Vesia Kingdom is in fact a meritocracy in the true sense of the word! Those who are talented and fight hard get to climb up the ranks of nobility while those who are useless despite their high births are quickly taken out of power!"

Ves couldn't believe the nonsense Lord Javier spewed from his mouth. What the hell? How could he make the Vesia Kingdom sound like a benevolent meritocracy while painting the Bright Republic as a state in the grip of uncrowned kings?

Shouldn't it be the other way around?

"No Brighter will ever believe your nonsense. Your narrative only makes sense to your own people."

Javier grinned even wider. "Just because a noble like me is saying it doesn't make it any less true. Admit it. The Bright Republic is a lot more rotten than the Vesia Kingdom. The sooner you recognize this truth, the sooner you'll stop getting taken advantage of by the likes of the Tovar Family. Say, you look like a decent mech designer. If the peace talks ever end well and I'll be free to go back to the Imodris Duchy, why not come with me? I'll make sure you're treated well in the Kingdom!"

What?!

"Preposterous!" Ves slammed his fist against the sturdy table. "I'll never defect! Let alone the fact that I'm a Brighter, I'm also a Larkinson! It's in our blood to serve the Republic!"

However, his behavior only played into Lord Javier's expectations. "Spoken like a true sheep. No wonder the Larkinson Family never climbed their way up to the top. It seems you are too used to being the Republic's lapdogs to know that you deserve better."

With those damning words, Lord Javier wiped his lips with a napkin and left the dining room.

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