Several tense and suspenseful days passed by since the Grand Cathedral of Ylvaine's Mercy lost its holy relic.
Some people from the Bright Republic and other foreign states heard what transpired. They laughed at how the Ylvainans grew distressed about the theft of a mere nutrient pack wrapper!
To them, the nutrient pack wrapper was just a piece of trash. The only reason it was valuable was because Prophet Ylvaine once tore it open and ate its contents. Aside from that, it was just an empty, mass-produced container!
Only the Ylvainans took the loss of the nutrient pack wrapper seriously. Regardless of its unimpressive appearance, anything that had been touched by Prophet Ylvaine was sacred in their eyes!
The authorities intensified their search for the missing relic. Even as Kesseling VIII went under lockdown, the capital city of Krent became host to numerous mech and auxiliary regiments!
There was hardly any street in Krent that was devoid of an armed presence! The extreme measures taken by the Protectors of the Faith suppressed the entire city, turning it into a lifeless and empty ghost city where all of its residents huddled in their homes.
Not a single civilian exited their homes! If anyone was short on food or medicine, the Curins sent out a bot that carried the needed supplies to their homes. No one was allowed to go out unless they received permission!
Even so, none of the Ylvainans objected to the draconian measures. In fact, many of them wholeheartedly supported the authorities in retrieving what they considered to be their most important cultural heritage!
Ves spent his time tweaking his draft design with Ketis while constructing an image of his hero mech.
Considering that he planned to make use of a spiritual fragment that possessed an undeniable relation to Prophet Ylvaine, he adopted the same great figure as the principal image for his mech.
It was easy to obtain information about the prophet. The Ylvainans were more than willing to pass on an entire library's worth of reading materials related to the man.
The only issue was that most of the biographies and other books about the prophet had been authored by the Attendants of Ylvaine. What they wrote about the prophet conformed to their own agenda, and uncomfortable facts often took a backseat.
As a Brighter, Ves developed his own understanding of the prophet before he visited the Ylvaine Protectorate. The Bright Republic always painted Ylvaine as a charlatan and a fraud.
The only reason why he was able to build up a massive following was because he was very charismatic and persuasive when needed. He possessed a strong talent in coming off as sincere whenever he preached to an audience!
In his private life, the prophet wasn't shy about enjoying his life. Not only did he start a harem of more than a hundred wives, he also spent huge amounts of money on luxuries. He wanted to enjoy the most exclusive foods, the priciest jewelry, the biggest starships and so on.
The prophet preached many virtues, but humility and moderation weren't among them. Although the Attendants of Ylvaine scrubbed this aspect about the prophet from their biographies, there was undeniable proof that Ylvaine openly lived a very extravagant life!
Ves favored this interpretation of Prophet Ylvaine over the more flattering portrayal that the revisionists had doctored.
Yet when it came to constructing his image, he realized it would be completely inappropriate to confront the Ylvainans with such a negative opinion of their holy founder.
"My mech is designed to impress the Ylvainans and prove that foreigners are just as good in designing Ylvainan mechs as domestic mech designers."
He would definitely fail in these goals if he wanted to impose his own interpretation of Prophet Ylvaine to the local masses.
"It's not my job to force the Ylvainans to doubt their beliefs." Ves shook his head. "As much as it goes against my Brighter sensibilities, I should do my best to present something that affirms their faith!"
It was very hard for a non-believer like him to design a mech that supported a faith he didn't believe in! How could he possibly work on designing something that he didn't fully agree with? It would be as if he was working with a gun pointed at his head!
Ves began to think of a way to resolve this contradiction.
"Maybe I should don a mask."
If he constructed an image of himself as a devout Ylvainan believer, he could hypnotize himself into designing his mech like a faithful Ylvainan. This solution strongly tempted him because it was the most convenient solution to this problem.
"However, will I want to design a mech while I'm not myself?"
His pride as a mech designer rejected this option. While mech designers needed to be adaptable to an extent, they also needed to stick to their core principles!
If Ves resorted to donning a mask each time he wanted to design an eccentric mech, then he was basically relying on crutches to get what he wanted.
It was better for him to avoid this bad habit and learn how to cope with this problem with his true self.
"I can't lie to myself. I can't fool my design philosophy."
He began to approach the problem from a different perspective. He took a step back and considered the situation as a contract between a mech designer and a client.
"As long as the mech designer accepted the demands of a client, they have the duty to fulfill them to the best of their ability."
Even if Ves didn't believe in the Ylvainan Faith, he should respect the wishes of his client.
In this case, that meant that Ves had to design his mech in accordance to the mainstream interpretation of the Ylvainan Faith.
"I'll have to pretend that Prophet Ylvaine is the real deal and not as self-indulgent as I think."
Could he design his mech with such a contradictory belief in mind?
"Maybe I can. Who knows what the real truth looks like."
Even without donning a mask, it wasn't hard to adopt a different mindset about the prophet. While he wouldn't be able to bring himself to believing in the Ylvainan Faith, to design his mech with the assumption that the prophet was sincere shouldn't be too difficult.
It was a compromise position that didn't satisfy him very much. It was a rather awkward way of resolving this difficult dilemma.
"That's okay. I never intended to design a mech that completely imitates the Ylvainan style."
He wanted to put his own spin on Ylvainan-style mechs. It wasn't all that bad to retain some of his Brighter sensibilities. The spiritual fragment he intended to refine should make up for his lack of piety to the Ylvainan Faith.
To that end, Ves continued to build up a strong but not too detailed image of Prophet Ylvaine. Although he could have added a lot of depth to the image, he didn't want to make it too complex and incorporate too many lies and contradictory aspects.
"It's best for me to stick to the broad strokes of his life and emphasize the virtues ascribed to the prophet."
Ves basically constructed an image of the prophet as a human myth. The depiction he painted in his mental canvas slowly turned into a pure and holy figure.
He hadn't added a lot of color to the image, but that was okay. Once he completed the design and fabricated the individualized copies, he intended to introduce images based around the six virtues to the X-Factor to his mechs.
"Each mech will bear a different color. None of them will be the same."
This was also an unintentional but very welcome form of copy protection of his hero mech.
Even if someone managed to obtain the full design schematics of his hero mech, the best they could do was to reproduce a pale copy that didn't possess the definition of his unique and authentic copies.
The six mechs based on six different virtues would forever be unique and irreplaceable!
No matter how much the Ylvainans begged for another copy, Ves wouldn't accept the request!
"Hero mechs are meant to be limited in the first place. I won't dilute the worth of my design by producing it en masse!"
According to the contracts he signed when he accepted the commission, Ves retained ownership of the mech design once he finished it. The commission only called him to deliver six mechs that met Madame Cecily's demands.
Naturally, without Madame Cecily's permission, Ves wasn't allowed to fabricate any copies. Only when they both agreed would more authentic copies be made.
This point was moot because Ves would never agree to do so. Keeping the amount of copies limited conformed to his stance on hero mechs.
Sometime later in the day, Ves perceived a disruptive field around him. He instantly paused his research on Prophet Ylvaine and smiled.
"Lucky! You're back!"
His cat phased through the wall and gently floated into his lap. His teeth latched on to a bag which contained a very significant object.
Ves immediately activated his Privacy Shield.
"Are you okay?"
"Did you succeed?"
He was worried that something awful might have happened to Lucky, but even the best security measures of the grand cathedral never posed a challenge. His cat had practically turned into a master thief once Ves provided the Miniaturized Stealth Generator to him! This object completely blinded the Ylvainan security guards and security systems from beginning to end!
Ves took hold of the bag from a tired-looking Lucky and opened it up. With shaking hands, he retrieved a nutrient pack wrapper.
It looked just like new. Nutrient pack wrappers were made of cheap, composite materials that ordinarily decomposed after someone opened them. The Ylvainans prevented this from happening by treating it with a special compound that kept it fresh!
Touching the wrapper with his naked fingers was a sublime experience to him. Even before he opened the bag, he already sensed the wrapper's spiritual accumulation.
It was strong! Seeing it in his spiritual vision practically blinded him! The nutrient pack wrapper accumulated so much faith that even an expert pilot would take it seriously if they could sense its quantity!
"Not only that, but it's also not as muddy as the spiritual accumulation of the other relics!"
The Ylvainans were much more devout and of one mind when faced with this holy relic. Hardly any Ylvainan would become distracted when faced with something that had been touched by Prophet Ylvaine himself!
Therefore, not only was the spiritual accumulation unimaginably strong, but it was also relatively purer!
The higher the purity, the less waste that resulted from the refining process!
Ves tried to estimate the overall strength of the spiritual fragment that might result. It would definitely be something that was comparable to an expert pilot in quality, but it would fall short of matching that of an ace pilot.
"Ace pilots are incredibly rare. It's not so easy for expert pilots to advance to that height." He sighed.
The nutrient pack wrapper was just a disposable object to Prophet Ylvaine. It didn't carry much original sentiment in the first place.
"Speaking of that, this is the first time I've come in touch with an actual remnant of the prophet!"
He grew curious about the prophet's original sentiment. Touching a remnant of someone's spirituality was like coming into touch with the essence of that individual.
As far as he knew, spiritual fragments didn't lie about the true nature of their owners. Even if they wanted to deceive his senses, it was very hard to do so unless they were as strong as Qilanxo.
"Besides, the original sentiment belongs to someone who's been dead for centuries. After so much time, it must have lost a lot of liveliness. It should hardly be able to summon up the energy to resist my inspections."
Ves believed he would be able to find out the truth behind mythical figure with this probe. Was the prophet a charlatan or a believer?