Ves made a lot of progress on refining his vision for his super-medium space knight the last few days. Ever since he received Professor Ventag's feedback and assistance, he tinkered with his vision in order to assure himself that his concept would perform well enough to attract actual market demand.
"Dare to design."
This motto stuck with Ves. It resonated with him. It sounded like the words of a true mech designer, one that was bold enough to design mechs.
"Even so, innovation comes with a price." He said to himself in a depreciating manner. "If it was so easy to buckle the predominant trends in the market, then a lot more mech designers would have already published a large bunch of super-medium mechs and other whacky designs."
Perhaps intentionally or unintentionally, Professor Ventag severely downplayed the negative consequences of pursuing innovation. The Senior painted a rosy picture of the benefits of pushing through with their innovative design, yet would the future really play out as the man described?
"It's impossible to predict the future!" Ves believed. He was not so arrogant to the point of claiming to predict how the market and everyone else with a stake in him and his company would respond to this design. "The backlash might be even greater and more enduring to someone like me than someone with a rock-solid reputation like Ventag."
Corus Ventag designed so many great mechs that he wouldn't be suffering that much of a hit to his reputation when he acquired a single blemish. As for Ves, while it was true that the market would forgive him for his missteps since he was so young, it would be hard to regain his old height after proving to the market that he was fallible like many other average mech designers.
In addition, mech designers defied the market at their own risk. What is his super-medium space knight design acquired such a negative reputation that even those willing to give it a try would be turned off?
Ves feared that all of the criticism would depress the sales of his design and thereby limit its proliferation in the Bright Republic and the Komodo Star Sector.
A mech designer derived a large part of their satisfaction and motivation on how widespread their designs proliferated. A struggling Novice who worked months or years on a single design, only to sell ten or so copies in its lifetime would feel as if their work hardly mattered.
He already learned that the impact of a mech designer's work affected a mech designer's chances of progressing and advancing.
Someone who designed a dozen virtual mechs a year likely wouldn't be able to match the progress of someone who designed only a single mech a year. That was because their concrete impact on society differed hugely, with the designer of the real mech directly affecting the state of the galaxy in a small but very real fashion.
"An artist does not produce art for their own enjoyment. Art is made to be shared and appreciated. The same applies to mech design."
Someone could train for hundreds of years to be the best painter in the galaxy, but what was the point if they hoarded their art and stuffed them in the closet? Besides, who knew if he was really the best if he didn't showcase his work to the public and listen to feedback?
Without going through the rigors of public exposure, art held little meaning!
"Mech designers design mechs because they are meant to be used. If the mechs we design don't fulfill this essential purpose, what is the meaning of their existence? There isn't any. It's no surprise that mech designers who can't even find the meaning of their own designs stall in their growth."
Naturally, the presence and absence of spirituality played a role as well, but even so, if the joint design project sold less than a hundred copies in its lifetime, it wasn't a worthwhile mech design to Ves and Professor Ventag.
He was aware that many mech designers would be happy at selling more than a dozen copies of their mechs. Not Ves. Not anymore. "The sales figures of my Blackbeak and Crystal Lord designs are much higher than that. There should be no good reason for me to regress to the level of a struggling Novice."
No. Ves wanted to move forward and close the chapter of his life as an Apprentice.
However, in order to advance to Journeyman, his mech design needed to possess sufficient appeal that it attracted a sufficient amount of sales even under a storm of criticism!
The stakes of the joint design project was already high. By deciding on designing a super-medium space knight, Ves made the risky gamble even riskier by making a leveraged bet!
If he won this bet and achieved success despite the inevitable backlash he incurred, then all of the pain would have been worth it as he rode the high tide of innovation to Journeyman and beyond!
On the other hand, if he lost this bet, he not only wasted a priceless opportunity to collaborate with a Senior Mech Designer, he also risked tanking his company and set back his business aspirations!
Ves did not forget about his intention to participate in the upcoming rat race to design mechs for the upcoming generation as soon as it began!
"If I avoid excessive risks, I'm sure I can scrounge up a decent amount of money in time."
Yet Ves found this course of action to be distinctly appealing. Playing it safe may offer greater security, but where was the excitement in that? The Larkinson in him favored making bold moves, and venturing into the unknown conformed with the values of higher-ranking mech designers.
"A conventional mech designers merely follows the market trend. A great mech designer sets the market trend."
Naturally, the latter also needed to possess the right judgement to know when it was a good idea to go off the beaten path. Someone who recklessly designed weird mechs with little consequence on how the market would react to them would inevitably go broke and bankrupt.
Also, sometimes a mech designer might go too far in their pursuit of the unconventional. The Skull Architect's example came to mind. That man possessed a brilliant mind and an admirable attitude towards research, but he also had a few screws loose in his head.
Ves did not relish becoming as unhinged as the Skull Architect in his desire to push the boundaries of existing conventions.
Even so, such potentially extreme outcomes did not deter his adventurous spirit. Ves deeply wanted to fulfill his vision of designing a mech that paid homage to Qilanxo! The high stakes involved with this course of action only piled up the pressure on him, making him more serious yet more passionate than ever before!
"This is my most significant mech design to date! As long as everything goes right, even the Blackbeak and the critical Crystal Lord pales in comparison to the impact of this joint design project!"
As he continued to work over his vision in his mind during the following days, his good mood stood in stark contrast to the depression that enveloped Kester Hills.
The negotiations hadn't gone well at all. No progress had been made at all. In fact, the relations between the Tovar Peace Delegation and the Colchester Peace Delegation even regressed into an even greater degree of mutual dislike!
"I've been a bit distracted lately so I haven't been following the negotiations." Ves said to Secretary Lowe when the diplomatic assistant made his regular visits. "Why is everyone staring daggers at each other?"
Lowe sighed. "It's a complicated issue. Since you've recently been stationed on Bentheim, surely you must be aware of how the Vesians pushed into the Bright Republic with the express aim of taking the fight directly into our port system. This is a risky strategy that they've pursued in this edition of the war. The Vesians already paid a heavy price to push in so deep and the invasion forces are constantly at risk of getting cut off. However, the threat of attacking the Bentheim System is in itself a potent tool in the negotiations. Like brandishing a Sword of Damocles over our heads, the Vesians aren't shy about alluding to severe devastation and ruin on the Bright Republic's most important economic center should they fail to get what they want out of the negotiations."
Now he could see why relations dipped below freezing point. Ves knew that the fear of such a direct invasion was real among Brighters. "How did our side respond?"
"They downplayed the threat of the invasion and maintain a belief that the Vesians wouldn't actually dare to go through. Invading the Bentheim System comes with severe repercussions. It might not be the Mech Corps that will lose out in a direct against the Mech Legion. However, the Vesians have a potent retort to any attempts at downplaying the threat."
"The Bentheim Liberation Movement." Ves guessed. "They're a threat as well, and in implicit coordination with the Vesians. If they are preparing for a major attack from within, Bentheim might not be able to repel the Vesian invasion so easily!"
An attack from within and without would definitely devastate Bentheim like nothing else! Even if the Mech Corps managed to repel the Mech Legion with great difficulty, they would only encounter ruins if they turned around.
If Bentheim became ruined, the trade and industry that took place there would take a huge hit! Money would stop flowing and the entire star system along with the rest of the Bright Republic would suffer severe shortages that would ripple into the daily lives of many average Brighters!
In short, the entire Bright Republic would bleed if the Tovar Peace Delegation recklessly called the Colchester Peace Delegation's bluff!
Secretary Lowe illuminated their current difficulties. "The main problem our negotiators are facing right now is our inability to ascertain whether the intention to invade the Bentheim System is a bluff or an actual plan. The lack of information on the Vesian bottom line is casting uncertainty on the stance we should take. Should we stay confident and implacable and risk devastation, or should we concede and give up ground?"
"What do the Vesians demand in return for calling off their supposed invasion of the Bentheim System?"
"A lot. More than double of the territory they gained when they gained the upper hand in the previous wars. Perhaps two-dozen star systems in the border region will change hands. That is on top of the monetary compensation that we have to provide. They're asking for a quarter of Bentheim's tax revenue for the next decade. Absurd! That is enough money to drown their noble throats a million times over! The Bright Republic would definitely suffer under a long-term depression if they relinquish that much income!"
Ves did not have a clue how many bright credits all of this was worth, but he doubted the LMC came close to matching those figures in their annual earnings. His little company was only a drop in a bucket compared to the sheer amount of money the state raked in every year!
"With such a heavy price, I think we'd rather call their bluff and fight it out."
"That is the response of most of our delegation and I suspect the rest of the Republic." Secretary Lowe shook his head. "Yet that is exactly what Senator Tovar wishes to avoid. He isn't keen on weakening the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom only to allow third parties to pick up a bargain. I believe Prince Colchester knows this as well, but he won't be able to placate the warmongers from his own state by proposing a white peace. If he can manage to secure significantly more gains through negotiations than the Mech Legion can secure an advantage in the war if they fight it out, then most of the Vesians will be able to stomach an early end of the war."
That in turn would piss the Brighters off so much that they would rather continue the war, thereby making the peace treaty enforceable!
The current conundrum between the two delegations remained an implacable obstacle in the peace talks. Without resolving this difficult hurdle in a way that was acceptable to both sides, perhaps the peace talks might meet a premature end before they even came close to achieving success!