Ves stepped out of the shuttle in a massive underground parking hall. He looked around and saw a considerable amount of mechs from Protectors of the Faith moving to secure the entire site.
A specialized mech transport had already arrived at the parking hall. The cargo hatch opened up, allowing a very distinctive mech to be lifted out of the vessel.
Almost every staff member or Protector paused for a bit.
This was the first time they saw the prototype of the Transcendent Messenger!
Although the mech hadn't donned its tabard or activate Rescue Particle Generator modules integrated in its frame, the mech already looked unusual.
Even when Ves hadn't infused his design with a design spirit yet, just the fact that he poured months of work into it already imparted it with a primitive spiritual quality.
This phenomenon signified that even if mech designers didn't employ the same methods as Ves, they could still infuse their designs with their spiritual energy.
He found out that he didn't even need to focus too much on his work for this process to happen, because the design seed was already single-mindedly focused on mech design!
He made a very important conclusion after he observed this phenomenon. Journeymen were able to alter the performance of their designs unconsciously with their design seeds!
It was an automatic process that did not require a mech designer's awareness or control to take place!
When Ves recalled all the mech designs he witnessed and all the lessons he learned so far, he made another guess.
The improvements the design seed made to his mech design didn't necessarily have to do anything with the X-Factor. While his own design seed seemed to channel all of its efforts into improving the X-Factor of his mechs, that was only because of his design philosophy.
If Ketis ever advanced to Journeyman, it was likely that her design seed would expend all of its effort on improving the sharpness of the weapons carried by her mechs.
Ves already observed that the Aurora Titan's internal architecture contained a lot of abstruse parts that didn't entirely conform to reality. As a Senior, Professor Ventag's design seed was definitely stronger than that of a Journeyman, so its effects were significantly stronger.
This meant that as a mech designer advanced, the phenomenon became stronger!
Ves suspected that this was one of the key functions of design seeds.
He already theorized that high-ranking mech designers imparted their mechs with extraordinary qualities. Now, he personally experienced this phenomenon in his own work, proving that mechs designed by high-ranking mech designers were simply better if everything else was equal.
No wonder mechs designed by high-ranking mech designers captured the bulk of market share in every mech market. The only advantage that mechs designed by Apprentices and lower brought was that they were more affordable.
What this meant right now was that even if Ves hadn't done anything special to the prototype, the mech already possessed a weak X-Factor by itself.
What made the mech more remarkable was that while Ves provided the bulk of its spiritual quality, a small portion happened to carry the spiritual imprint of Ylvaine's spiritual fragment!
Ves designed the Transcendent Messenger in full view of the fragment. On its part, the fragment learned that the design would be its first home.
How could it not be emotionally invested in the design?
For this reason, the design already carried a hint of what Ves had in store. This was reflected in the prototype which already possessed a faint shadow of absolute faith!
This effect fell flat on Ves. He didn't believe in the Ylvainan Faith. He also hosted a spiritual fragment of the prophet in his mind all the time, so he was already numb to its sacred aura.
Yet to the Ylvainans around him, the prototype seemingly touched their hearts in an indescribable manner. The early iteration of the Transcendent Messenger was like a beacon that glowed in the dark. No other mech aside from the prototype ever came close to the perfect mech in their thoughts!
Ves grimaced a bit as the Ylvainans kept staring at the mech as heavy-duty lifters slowly brought it deeper into the underground facility.
"Why so glum, Ves?" Ketis said as she stood next to him while idly petting Lucky's back. "You wanted the Ylvainans to gawk at our mech, right? Looks like we did a good job!"
"I'm not sad about that." Ves replied. "I'm just concerned of what might happen by revealing our prototype to so many Ylvainans. I really don't want the details of our mech to be leaked ahead of time. Even if Calabast promised that the Protectors of the Faith are all loyal and that this subterranean testing ground is one of the most secure places on the planet, I'm still afraid that some traditionalist sympathiser will spill the beans."
He wanted the Transcendent Messenger to debut on his terms. The longer its design remained confidential, the lower the chance that some nefarious organization decided that it was time to do something drastic.
As the prototype left the parking hall, Ves, Ketis, Lucky and their bodyguards moved into the facility as well.
The subterranean testing ground offered expansive obstacle courses and damage-resistant dummies to test the capabilities of a mech. Because it all took place deep below the surface of the planet, it was difficult for spies and spy bugs to infiltrate the facility.
This was a testing ground that excelled in maintaining secrecy. Its security suite was constantly being updated by a dedicated team of virtual security experts. Its staff were all Curin loyalists who had been vetted since the moment they were born.
For Calabast to recommend that Ves test his prototype in this facility said much about its ability to keep a secret.
Ves met with the director of the testing ground and had a perfunctory chat with the fellow. He expected a cold response due to his foreign roots, but the director was very enthusiastic about the prototype.
"I can already tell your mech will perform admirably, Mr. Larkinson! This is a mech that will spark a revolution in the Protectorate!"
"Thank you for the compliment, but the Transcendent Messenger design is nowhere near completion. Let us not be too hasty in our judgement." Ves responded with a strained smile.
Even before the prototype showed off its capabilities, it already managed to charm some of the Ylvainans! The design touched their faith in a way that no other Ylvainan mech had accomplished before!
After some technicians performed a cursory inspection of the prototype, it was ready to be activated for the first time.
Ves and Ketis moved down to the prep area where the test pilot readied himself for this pivotal moment.
While the testing ground offered many skilled test pilots, none of them possessed the ability to pilot a hero mech proficiently. For this reason, Ves requested Calabast to put one of her elite bodyguard mech pilots forward as a volunteer.
Test pilots normally required special training in order to bring out the most out of a newly-developed mech.
They had to be trained to recognize many danger signs as they often piloted flawed and unpolished mechs. Major weak points and fatal flaws posed a very realistic risk to mech pilots who piloted early prototypes.
For this reason, many test pilots also studied the fundamentals of mech design. With this knowledge, they gained a basic understanding of the functioning of mechs and the many ways it could fail.
Aside from that, test pilots also needed to be capable of piloting a wide variety of mechs. Even if a test pilot only piloted knight mechs, this type came in so many different shapes and sizes that normal mech pilots wouldn't be able to adapt to them as fast.
Because the live tests needed to be performed quickly, test pilots didn't have the time to familiarize themselves with the prototypes. As a result, they developed the ability to become proficient with any new mech they came in touch with. No matter how steep the learning curve of a new mech, as long as it wasn't completely unreasonable, test pilots always manage to perform decently during the tests.
Yet for all of their adaptability, a hero mech was a very different beast. Only the elites among mech pilots had a chance of piloting this mech type proficiently. All lesser mech pilots could forget about making a hero mech soar!
Ves called as he stepped close to the young, bald mech pilot's side. "Are you prepared to pilot the prototype?"
Taon Melin solemnly nodded. "I did my homework. I've studied the documentation you passed me and memorized the essentials. To be honest, I didn't think you'd be able to design an Ylvainan mech. We've heard great things about your Aurora Titan model, but none of us believe a non-believer like you can understand our faith, but now..."
The Kronon mech pilot fell silent. Standing so close to the prototype allowed him to experience its remarkable nature up close. Although it only carried a weak X-Factor, it nonetheless synced with his faith!
Ves observed the reactions of many Ylvainans to the prototype. In particular, the Kronons were more impacted by the mech than the Curins!
He guessed that those that seem more devout and dedicated to their faith reacted stronger to the Transcendent Messenger than others. Although Taon Melin followed a different interpretation of the Ylvainan Faith, Ves had no doubt that the Kronon elite was very pious about his beliefs!
"I'm glad you like the mech." Ves eventually replied. "If you ask me, the Ylvainans focus too much on the origin of the mech designer and not enough on their capabilities. For example, does a mech designer need to be an excellent marksman to design a good rifleman mech? Not necessarily. The familiarity helps, but it's not the only factor that makes a mech fit for a specific purpose."
Someone like Ketis possessed an advantage in designing sword-wielding mechs, but Ves could still design something better due to his superior skills.
"What is the Transcendent Messenger based upon?" Taon asked while keeping his eyes fixated on the mech.
"The name of the mech already makes it clear that it's inspired by your prophet. My intention is to make every mech pilot feel as if they embody the prophet's faith and virtues if they pilot this mech. If you are devoted to the faith and worship the prophet, you will find that piloting this mech is very rewarding."
That was all Ves could afford to say about the mech's X-Factor. He kept his words vague enough to put Taon on the right path without revealing any of his trade secrets.
Ves left Taon to his mental preparations after issuing some practical advice on how to pilot the mech. The Transcendent Messenger was a mech that needed to fight in a certain way to make the most out of its capabilities.
Fortunately, Taon hadn't lied and read all of the documentation that Ves provided to the mech pilot.
"Alright, Melin!" A chief technician yelled after stepping away from the mech he inspected. "It's time!"
"Understood. I'm on my way."
The mech pilot lifted up to the cockpit and hopped inside. As the cockpit closed and the mech technicians distanced from the machine, they waited with bated breath for its activation.
"It's coming online!"
Ves moved over to a nearby control panel and read the telemetry of the mech.
The readings all fell within his tolerance. The mech he fabricated at the mech workshop booted up flawlessly!
The eyes of the mech glowed like white suns as other lights came online as well. Each of these were indicators that the prototype of the Transcendent Messenger had truly come to life for the very first time!
"What a mech!"
Every Ylvainan in the prep area couldn't help but be impressed by the mech yet again. Even though it only just came online, its aura of absolute faith had already grown sharper!