Despite the strange beliefs of the Ylvainan Faith, Ves and the others did their best to show respect.
Clearly, Leon and the other Ylvainans knew that it was difficult to convert outsiders to their faith. While it would be nice if they could convert the Brighters to their beliefs, it wasn't the end of everything if they failed.
While Prophet Ylvaine expanded his cult aggressively during his lifetime, he never expressed any insistence of converting every human or alien to the Ylvainan Faith. If it was the opposite, then the Ylvainans wouldn't have isolated themselves in their own state for so long!
In the perspective of the locals, everyone was an Ylvainan! They just didn't know it yet! This was because when the Time of Ascension finally came, everyone would be elevated to gods without exception, even those who never came in touch with the Ylvainan Faith!
Therefore, Leon never insisted on pushing his own beliefs to the Brighters he guided around Krent. The Ylvainans believed that their devotion to the teachings and predictions of their prophet gave them a leg up from the others.
While the Ylvainans believed that everyone would transcend, the height of their new lives differed according to their devotion to the one true faith! The Ylvainans all expected to become the most preeminent leaders and shepherds among the new gods!
A lot of Brighters became googly-eyed when they first heard about this stance of the Ylvainans.
It was safe to say that a vast majority of outsiders didn't appreciate being dragged into the faith without their consent!
Ves reminded himself that he came to the Protectorate to conduct business. Both parties had an incentive to leave contentious matters of faith aside in favor of transacting with each other.
After touring the Grand Church and some other historical sights, Ves gained a much more intimate perspective of Ylvainan life.
While the Ylvainan Faith was present in everyone's lives, the average Ylvainans were remarkably mundane. Ves had to admit that he had bought into the stereotype that each Ylvainan was a radical, outspoken believer who constantly spouted Ylvaine's sayings.
The truth was very much more nuanced. Aside from the characteristically green-robed figures of the Attendants of Ylvaine, every other citizen of Krent were much more engaged in their work or their families.
While Bentheim was far more prosperous and developed than Kesseling VIII, Ves found the local citizens to be happier and more relaxed.
Whenever Ves visited Bentheim, he became used to the sight of busy Bentheimers under pressure from their jobs and the expenses they needed to pay to continue to live on the planet.
Both places exhibited very different paces. Life in Krent and Kesseling VIII was clearly more sedate.
The only downside that Ves could see was that the low pressure environment likely didn't lead to high productivity. Bentheim may be a hectic, faced-paced planet, but this was also the key to maintaining a high degree of productivity!
Only in the late afternoon did Leon take them to a site where they could view some of the locally-produced mechs up close. He took them to a depot which stored some old Ylvainan mechs owned by a defunct security company.
When Ves saw the mechs with his own eyes, he found the visual experience to be a lot more delightful than viewing them through a projection.
"The Ylvainan mech style is truly a sight to see!" He praised.
While the landbound mechs stored in the depot suffered from mild neglect, that did not detract from their artful appearances.
Many of the mechs looked grand as they adopted some of the baroque elements of Ylvainan architecture. Through centuries of using the same visual elements, the local mech designers developed a unique style of visual mech design that turned every mech into bastions of faith.
Ves was particularly impressed by the effortless way the local mech designers weaved depictions of Ylvaine and his Martyred Followers onto the surface of the mechs. In many instances, the figures were set in a backdrop of historical and fantastical events.
"Each Ylvainan mech is an extension of our faith." Leon spoke in a soft and respectful manner. "Whoever comes across one of our mechs will know that they are standing against our entire faith if they choose to engage in hostilities!"
"Do the local mech designers develop the outward appearances of their mechs themselves or do they leave the task to professional artists?"
"While borrowing the services of professional artists is common among Novices and Apprentices, we expect more from our Journeymen and Seniors. Each Ylvainan mech designer must prove their devotion to our faith if they expect to receive our appreciation and support."
"I see." Ves said with an impassive expression. "It must take a lot of time for mech designers to master this art style."
Leon shrugged. "I am not a mech designer, so I am not very sure about the difficulty. Some mech designers have a talent for art, and some are only capable of drawing mathematical diagrams. The Attendants of Ylvaine do not look kindly to those who are lax in their expression of devotion. For a long time, the laggards are driven out of business because we do not have a desire to pilot mechs that only pay lip service to our beliefs."
Ves silently locked eyes with Gavin. Both of them held the same opinion about this matter: crazy!
While mech design was both an art and a science, those who excelled in only the science aspect of their profession still possessed a lot of value! For the Ylvainans to drive them out of business because they were awful artists only weakened the foundation of their local mech industry!
It seemed that the reformers among the Ylvainans recognized this problem, hence their insistence on opening up the mech market.
As one of Madame Cecily's subordinates, Leon also believed in the need for change.
"For a long time, the Protectors of the Faith and our other Ylvainan mech forces piloted mechs that look just as impressive as these mechs." Leon gestured his arm at the devout-looking but abandoned machines. "However, when we first began to employ our mechs in skirmishes against the Star Worshippers, we found out that the signs of our outward devotion hasn't affected them at all. Their heretical belief in their so-called stellar gods has made them resistant against the true faith!"
Ves wanted to say that all the effort put into creating faith-compliant imagery distracted from the actual performance of the mechs. The Ylvainan mech buyers seem to prioritize the religious imagery of their mechs to an unnecessarily high degree!
"What about the use of imported mechs?"
"Admittedly, they performed better." Leon sighed. "They aren't really popular among most of our faithful mech pilots because they lack the iconography they are accustomed to. Yet during our infrequent clashes against the Star Worshippers, they have held out better than we expected. We've had some positive experiences with some of your company's mechs as well. It is no surprise to me that our director regards you highly."
Ves smiled back but didn't say anything. Calabast didn't care about the Ylvaine Protectorate or their weird beliefs. She just wanted to take advantage of the situation to cement their tentative partnership.
Nonetheless, the Ylvainan habit of decorating their mechs with religious imagery fascinated Ves regardless because it closely matched his interests. While Ves wasn't an adherent of the faith, he was confident he could emulate the art style.
He might even elevate it by blending in his specialty with this visual art style!
"Has anyone made any attempts at reducing the stigma of mechs that aren't laden with idols of your faith?" Gavin asked.
Obviously, he wanted to gauge whether the LMC needed to adapt their designs if they wanted to make it big in the Protectorate's mech market.
Leon shook his head. "There have been attempts. All have failed. The Attendants of Ylvaine are very insistent on this matter. The entire Poxco Dynasty have actively resisted any encroachments to this long-standing tradition."
"Does the Poxco Dynasty have a lot of mech designers in their sphere of influence?"
"All three leading dynasties have their own adherents among mech designers. Unfortunately..." Leon hesitated for a bit. "A number of mech designers have defected from the Curin Dynasty to the Poxco Dynasty as of late. The momentum in the Curin Dynasty has shifted towards reform, which has made many traditionalists feel unwelcome in our midst."
These traditionalist mech designers wanted to remain stuck in the past rather than go with the times. For them to feel so threatened by the reforms that they jumped ship said a lot about their confidence in their design skills!
These mech designers should be the ones who objected most vigorously the entry of foreign mech designers! The more foreign competition they faced, the more the shortcomings of their mech designs became more evident!
Ves and the others spent some time to study the abandoned mechs. While they were mostly budget mechs, Ves could vaguely tell that their performance wasn't so hot compared to equivalent mechs sold in the Bright Republic.
He estimated the difference in performance to be small, in the range of five to ten percent.
The real difference manifested in the pricing of the mechs. The locals faced less competition so they didn't feel very pressured in lowering their prices. The Ylvainan mech market was also smaller, so most mech companies needed to earn more with each sale because there were significantly less sales in total.
The market was starting to change, but outside competition was essential to change. The local mech industry would rather continue to rip off their customers than setting fairer prices for their products.
As Ves held onto Lucky and stroked his back, Ketis wandered over to his side.
"The way these Ylvainans design their mechs is just like how you design your gold label mechs." She remarked. "It should be a piece of cake for you to imitate an Ylvainan mech, right?"
"It's not that simple." Ves said. "Regardless of the reason why the Ylvainans value this visual design style so much, their mech designers are very sincere in expressing their faith. Just look at these machines and feel their pulses. Don't you think the Ylvainans might have a point when they refer to their mechs as bastions of faith?"
Ketis blinked and stared at the abandoned mechs without any comprehension. "They're just mechs. They look fancy, but that's all. Putting a nice coat over them doesn't magically make them better, right?"
"I have to disagree with you there, Ketis." Ves shook his head. "When an Ylvainan mech designer develops a mech, he expects them to be used by Ylvainan mech pilots. Both of them share the same beliefs, so it is a given that the mech designer tries to accommodate the mech pilot by adding elements that affirm their common faith. This will make the mech pilot feel more at ease with their mechs, which will help them draw out their potential and the potential of their machines."
"So kind of like what you're already doing, but without the religious stuff." She noted as she realized the similarity between the LMC's principles and the reasoning behind this Ylvainan tradition. "However, it's one thing to design a good-looking mech. It's another thing to design an Ylvainan mech. Aren't you violating a rule if you design an Ylvainan-style mech without believing in the faith?"
"I think I can manage." Ves confidently stated. "I've taken the measure of their design style, and I think I can provide the Ylvainans with something just as good if not better."
What Ves found remarkable about the Ylvainan mechs was that he didn't perceive the usual variety of muddled X-Factor. While their spiritual strength were still faint, their attributes were a bit more coherent than usual.
If the mech designer who designed the mech and mech technicians who fabricated the mech all shared the same beliefs, then it made sense for the X-Factor to be better than normal!
Paired with a mech pilot who shared the exact same faith, then a small improvement in performance ensued!
This tiny interaction must be one of the hidden reasons why much of the local mech community still favored this tradition.