After embarking on several metaphysical experiments that led to a lot of new discoveries, Ves found comfort in returning to familiar ground.
While the new techniques he developed possessed a strong connection to his design philosophy, Ves sometimes felt he was engaging in magic rather than mech design. It felt good for him to resume his identity as an engineer rather than wizard.
"I can only handle so much weird stuff at a time."
Ves was afraid of pushing the envelope even further. So far, most of his theories panned out, but it could all come down like a house of cards if he pushed against the limits of what was possible. He still wanted to confirm whether the changes he made would actually improve the X-Factor of his upcoming design.
"More is not always better. My experiment can still backfire on me if I handle it improperly."
Designing mechs centered him in a way that nothing else could. He embraced his old routine as he slowly developed his draft design.
The only difference was that he felt as if he hosted a second consciousness in his mind that mentally looked over his shoulder. Extending a connection to the augmented spiritual fragment and having it ride on his shoulder as he designed his mech felt as if he was emulating his previous Mastery experiences.
He found himself narrating every design decision, which slowed down his progress but also insured he was very thorough with his work. He had to be in order to justify his design choices to the spiritual fragment.
On its part, the augmented spiritual fragment provided quite a lot of suggestions. The image of the base model that it assimilated beforehand granted the image a good understanding of space knights. In fact, the fragment's knowledge was derived from Ves' own understanding of space knights!
This realization gave Ves a brilliant idea.
"If the knowledge imparted to the images are acquired from the source, why not borrow it from another mech designer?"
The Triple Division technique started with three sources and combined them into one.
Ves started with the notion of basing the image of the totem animal to an actual existing animal or exobeast. While Qilanxo was one of the most powerful exobeasts that Ves had ever encountered, the galaxy offered many wondrous forms of life. As long as he looked hard enough, he would probably be able to find another majestic exobeast to serve as his totem animal, though it likely wouldn't be as strong as Qilanxo on a spiritual level.
As for the human myth, Ves already decided upon borrowing spiritual fragments from living expert pilots. Although the ethics of his actions were rather questionable, he was willing to go through great lengths as long as he managed to empower his mech designs!
Still, the implications of his latest idea took him aback. It wasn't enough for him to steal spiritual energy from a mech pilot. Now he was already plotting to do the same to his fellow mech designers!
"They'll have to be at least Journeymen if I want to obtain anything substantial."
While Ves did not have a complete picture on how mech designers made use of their design philosophies, he knew that if he wanted to empower the images of his base models, he needed to obtain a chunk of it somehow.
Design philosophies represented the core of a mech designer's values, beliefs, biases, design style and aspirations. It served as the nucleus of their specialty and played a key role in distinguishing their mech designs from the works of others!
Ves instinctively knew that they would suffer a substantial amount of harm if he attempted to chip away a chunk of their design philosophies. He also knew that mech designers guarded their design philosophies jealously and only imparted them to their direct disciples.
Yet the possible gains attracted him immensely. If his speculation was right, he would finally be able to complete the trifecta of making use of three empowered images, thereby upgrading the Triple Division technique to an entirely new height!
He strongly believed that empowering all of his weak and insubstantial images with distinct spiritual fragments was a viable way forward! While it was likely not the only method he could use to achieve higher grades of X-Factor, it was the only one he could come up with right now that was within his reach!
Yet... a sliver of doubt crept up in his mind. Compared to borrowing or stealing spiritual fragments to dumb exobeast and technically ilitterate expert pilots, stealing another mech designer's design philosophy sounded exceptionally risky!
"Mech designers are intimately familiar with their own design philosophies. How could they not recognize an echo of their own work when I borrow a portion of their own design philosophies?"
Ves was also afraid that making use of another mech designer's design philosophy would contaminate his mech design and muddle up the influence of his own design philosophy. He needed to be exceedingly careful and deliberate on his approach lest he screw up in the process.
While the idea sounded incredibly compelling right now, Ves resisted the urge to embark on yet another detour. The abnormal strength of Qilanxo's spiritual fragment already insured it overpowered every other fragment.
Even if Ves recklessly enacted his plans and stole some chunks of a colleague's design philosophy, the vast majority of it would likely become crushed by Qilanxo's awesome spiritual might.
"My current design project is very much centered around Qilanxo, and that's fine."
Ves wanted to design an extreme mech design unconstrained by the prevailing trends in the mech industry.
Imparting his design with a strong bias from Qilanxo might result in unexpected surprises when a mech pilot interfaced with his mech. He looked forward to seeing what would happen when a mech pilot came under the influence of an X-Factor boosted by an abnormally powerful spiritual fragment.
Of course, Ves did not wish that all of his mech designs became so extreme. Pursuing balance was a necessity if he wanted to appeal to the broadest audience possible. This was also why he valued this latest insight so much. The thought of being able to balance out the three elements of his Triple Division technique was incredibly tempting.
"It's easier to pick the right targets when it comes to mech designers."
Most successful mech designers ran their own companies and published their work openly. Ves could easily study their public record and most of their mech designs from the public databases of the MTA.
"If I want to design a knight mech, I should target a mech designer who specializes in designing knight mechs. If I want to design a rifleman mech, I should target a mech designer who excels in designing rifleman mechs."
Most mech designers didn't dedicate themselves to designing a single type of mechs. While Ves would still be able to obtain something useful out of stealing a portion of their design philosophies, most of it would be irrelevant junk that wouldn't impart the traits he sought for in his images of the base model of his intended mech designs.
"Purity matters more than quality or quantity. The fragments that I want to obtain will need to be relevant to the design at hand. Where better to find them than from mech designers dedicated to a single type?"
He envisioned the process as a way to get a fellow mech designer to co-design his own mech! Naturally, the secretive, dubious and harmful nature of this action didn't give the co-designer any choice.
Ves was basically attempting to force another mech designer to contribute to his mech design without their consent!
He couldn't help but smirk at the outrageous thought. "It's fine as long as I don't get caught. I'll have to figure out a way to hide my traces while I do it, and that will take a while."
He returned to drafting his upcoming mech design. Due to his latest insights, he was in a good mood. His work easily took shape and Ves didn't get stuck very often during the drafting phase.
Still, his vision for his upcoming mech design was so complicated that it would take weeks for him to finish drawing up his draft design. He merely managed to complete half of his draft before the escort fleet finally crossed back into the Bright Republic and returned to the New Foundation System.
Throughout the entire journey, the Spiral Shockers kept up their guard and continued to search their ships for anything connected to the attack on Venerable Fontain. They failed to uncover anything amiss.
Even so, Ves still felt the tension among the elite servicemen as he emerged from his quarters with a floating luggage trunk trailing behind him. He tipped his head at the guards who escorted him out of the Lormant Carnival.
"I heard that Venerable Fontain suffered an injury of sorts." He asked as casually as possible while they strode towards the main hatch of the light carrier. "Is he okay?"
"Venerable Fontain's condition is classified."
Figures. Ves gave up on his attempts to squeeze any information out of the guards. They were too well-disciplined to gossip away vital information.
As Ves exited the ship, he emerged in an enclosed section of a military space station. Most of the attachés split up and went their separate ways, taking transits that brought them back to different parts of the Bright Republic.
Ves was in a strange situation where he didn't have any posts he could return to after he completed his current assignment. Alistair Cordwraith found him shortly afterwards and took him to a transit shuttle that brought them down to the surface of New Foundation V.
"The war is about to end, so the Mech Corps won't bother with giving you a new assignment." Senator Tovar's executive assistant explained while the shuttle breached the atmosphere. "Senator Tovar has arranged a number of ceremonies to celebrate the peace talks. We are holding them in order to build up political support for the ratification of the peace treaty in the Bright Senate, so you will have to dress impeccably for these gatherings."
"I think I have had my fill of formal gatherings." Ves said mildly while trying to hold back his groan. "Please, I don't think you will need my presence and my shiny medals. I'm not used to mingling with high officials and they won't see me as anything other than a curiosity at this point. Can I please skip attending these ceremonies?"
Mr. Cordwraith turned his head at looked as Ves in an askance expression. "We are offering you an opportunity here. Many important politicians, businessmen, military officers and academics will attend the upcoming ceremonies. Many mech designers would kill to be able to get in touch with some of the leading individuals of our state. As long as you impress them or manage to gain their favor, they can help you in many ways."
"No thanks." Ves instantly declared. "I think my current relations with the Tovar Family are sufficient for the moment. All of you see a lot of promise in me, but to be honest I don't feel I am able to meet all of your expectations right now. I want to go back to my work and endeavor to advance to Journeyman as soon as possible."
"Hmmm... you do have a point." Cordwraith murmured as he rubbed his chin. The shuttle leveled off a bit during its descent to the surface. "I will strike you from the attendance lists, then. Perhaps it is for the best, because you are a very polarizing individual at the moment."
"What do you mean?"
Mr. Cordwraith didn't say anything, but instead activated his comm and entered the galactic net. He browsed to a very popular news portal in the Bright Republic.
The projection depicted a very striking recording of Ves and Venerable Foster standing side-by-side next to the formal data pad of the peace treaty!
MAKE LOVE NOT WAR: HOW A DREAM COUPLE SINGLE-HANDEDLY ENDED THE WAR!
Ves wanted to puke out blood. What kind of nonsense headline did the news portal slander him with! How could they possibly think that he and Venerable Foster were a couple?!