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 He began to consider what he should do next. He couldn't avoid fabricating a prototype and send it off to testing. Even though he had absolute faith in his design, as a responsible mech designer he should always verify the performance of his designs.

"It's a matter of principle. Mech designers should not deliver untested mechs to their clients."

However, while the prototype went off for testing, that didn't mean he should stay idle. He could immediately proceed with fabricating the set of six copies of the design, each exhibiting small variations in their visual and spiritual design.

It was easy for him to make cosmetic adjustments to his mechs. "I don't need to touch the contours of the mech. I can just add some variety to the tabards instead."

The white tabard added a splash of brightness over the plain gunmetal gray armor plating of his design. It didn't take much effort for him to add some color and a symbol that represented one of his six chosen virtues.

"Why does it have to be a symbol?" He scratched his chin. "Maybe it's best to be a little more straightforward and use words instead."

Symbols might convey more depth, but not everyone interpreted them the same way. The Transcendent Messenger was already suffused with so much depth that adding some clarity would help the Ylvainans make sense of his mechs.

Ever since he came up with a plan to vary the X-Factor of his copies, he thought long and hard on how to achieve this change.

He eventually decided to go through with augmenting the X-Factor of his mechs with his images.

While the images didn't have to be strong, he nonetheless wanted to empower them a little bit. For this reason, he intended to empower them with a tiny portion of his spiritual energy, just enough to make them a little more substantial.

Over the next couple of days, Ves and Ketis proceeded to fabricate the prototype first and send it off for testing. The prototype differed substantially from the last two prototypes because it fully conveyed the majesty of its X-Factor!

While nothing special happened when he completed its design, Ves nonetheless felt that the magnitude of its aura came very close to that of the Aurora Titan!

"You weren't kidding when you said the Transcendent Messenger will be as good as your previous design!" Ketis uttered in admiration as she beheld the finished mech. "It's a shame it's such a prototype. It's too precious to be wrecked!"

"Precious or not, I still need the test data to verify that it's safe and performs according to our expectations. Even if I'm assured that everything will be right, others won't necessarily take us at our word. We need hard proof that the mech is capable of delivering what we've promised."

Ves handed the prototype to the staff dispatched by the Curins. They loaded the prototype in a transport and sent it off to the same testing ground as the last time under heavy guard.

For some reason, the Protectors of the Faith dispatched three landbound mech companies and two aerial mech companies to escort the transport! That was an extremely extravagant treatment for just a single mech prototype!

Ves watched with puzzlement as the Kronons seemed to treat the prototype with twice as much care as before!

When he approached a Protector guard officer and asked what had changed, the man offered a surprising reply.

"It's simple, Mr. Larkinson. Our higher-ups have decided to raise the priority of your work. Many of us have reported back to headquarters that your mech is really something special. They must have listened and dispatched more reinforcements to make sure nothing will go wrong this time. You have to be aware that designing a better mech will alarm the extremists even more. We've already observed some irregularities in the vicinity of this mech workshop."

The Protectors of the Faith suffered several losses on Kesseling VIII. This came on top of the setbacks they suffered when they skirmishes against the border forces of the Star Faith Collective.

These high-profile failures not only shamed the Kronon Dynasty, but also called their competence into question. Failing against foreign enemies was one thing, but failing against domestic terrorists implied that they weren't good at anything!

Ves occasionally heard that the Kronon Dynasty instituted some changes behind the scenes. At the very least, they didn't take anything for granted and transferred several mech regiments to the Kesseling System.

The trouble looming over Kesseling VIII wasn't necessarily a threat to the Kronons. It was an opportunity to redeem themselves.

They wanted to fight and win. As long as they secured a single victory, they could put an end to their losing streak and reverse their declining momentum!

Naturally, the Protector officer didn't say all of this, but Ves had already heard enough analyses from Leland to know that the Protectors of the Faith were spoiling for a fight!

Ves didn't want to get caught up in any of that!

He shrugged off the conspiracy theories that crept up in his mind in favor of focusing upon the task at hand.

He was about to perform another experiment. He wanted to see if he could customize the X-Factor of his design by coloring it with a specific focus that deviated from its original vision.

Right now, the X-Factor of the Transcendent Messenger mainly conveyed Ylvaine's absolute faith. It possessed such a high degree of purity towards this sensation that Ves could hardly anything else in its X-Factor.

"It's very pure in this regard."

His previous mech designs conveyed more complex and dynamic X-Factors, so the Transcendent Messenger seemed very one-dimensional in this regard. While it looked very inspiring, it didn't fit with the aggressive mech concept of the design.

A high-impact mech should carry an aggressive X-Factor!

The Transcendent Messenger wasn't supposed to be a priest who knelt on its knees and pressed its palms together to pray in front of its opponent!

Instead, Ves wanted to portray them as holy paladins who fought for their beliefs!

In order to accomplish this effect, he came up with a simple approach. He would design his mechs with two images in mind.

The first one would be the design spirit of the mech. This was easy, as the design practically radiated its influence.

He imagined it as a clear glass of water.

At the same time, he would also hold another image in his mind that represented one of the six virtues.

The addition of this weaker image was akin to infusing the glass of water with one of six different tea flavors.

The water would still be water and retain all of its properties, but the slight tea flavor resulted in a very different taste!

While he hadn't tested out his theories, he felt confident enough about them that he didn't hesitate to put them into action.

"Courage, Justice, Perseverance, Zeal, Sacrifice, Devotion. Six virtues. Six mechs."

Ves began to start with the fabrication of Courage, the Transcendent Messenger mech that embodied this virtue.

It wasn't difficult to construct an image based on this virtue. Ves knew what courage meant and he could draw on several experiences in his life.

However, he wanted Courage to exemplify the courage within the hearts of the Ylvainans. Using his own brand of courage wouldn't be appropriate.

For this reason, he spent an hour browsing the galactic net. He references the stories, parables and myths of the Ylvainan Faith. The First Calamity and the Great Flight that happened hundreds of years ago offered many examples of Ylvainans stepping up to the plate while driven by courage.

"The Ylvainan refugees wouldn't have survived the flight to the Komodo Star Sector without courage. They never gave up or cowered against adversity."

This was the kind of inspirational courage that Ves wanted to convey in his first copy. Immersed in stories showcasing exceptional courage, Ves began to construct an abstract image that carried the essence of Ylvainan courage.

He infused it with a tiny portion of his spiritual energy, which strengthened the image by a very noticeable degree. Although Ves could have made it even stronger, he didn't believe it was necessary.

"It is only a catalyst to effect a transformation."

Only after he formed the image of courage did he proceed with fabricating the first production model of the Transcendent Messenger.

Ves was unusually solemn during the fabrication process. Ketis, who assisted his work, quickly noticed the difference as well.

"Your mood has changed." She said. "You've always been intense when you handcraft a mech, but it's different this time."

"This mech we're making right now is called Courage."

"So?"

"Don't you think a mech designer's feelings matter when they handcraft a mech?"

"We're just following the blueprint of its design." Ketis said in an uncertain tone. "Whether we're sad or happy shouldn't matter as long as our mech matches the design, right?"

"On the surface, that's true. However, I believe that the intentions and feelings of the craftsman matter. You might not be able to sense the love and passion they pour into their work, but I think that they definitely make a difference. The emphasis they put into their work can also make a difference as well, hence why I am thinking about courage while I'm designing this mech."

Ketis eventually shrugged. She had witnessed several inexplicable wonders from Ves and became used to his vague and esoteric explanations. Even if she didn't understand everything, she got the gist of it at least.

"Maybe I should try it out as well." She muttered.

Once they resumed their work, Ves indeed noticed that Ketis tried to concentrate on courage. As a former Swordmaiden, Ketis didn't need any help to come up with examples of courage.

Her efforts were very minimal, however. Not only did she lack the spiritual strength to imprint her thoughts on the mech, she also didn't clear her mind of distractions.

Although her concentration improved enormously ever since he fed her with candy, old habits died hard. Ketis was still Ketis and even when she was working, her mind still drifted off every now and then.

It took three days for Courage to take shape. When Ves finally stepped back and beheld the finished product, he was satisfied with the result. The tall hero mech with its ballistic carbine and its heavy saber felt just as strong and pure in its faith as the last prototype!

The white tabard that he synthesized from a specialized machine had been draped over the mech. Hanging from its shoulders, the cloth covered both the front and the back of the mech.

Ves placed the word COURAGE just underneath the sigils on its chest area. The bold words instantly conveyed the meaning of the mech.

There was a snag, though. He couldn't sense the aspect of Courage in its X-Factor. Whatever courage it possessed was drowned out by the Transcendent Messenger's absolute faith!

"It needs more flavor."

He began to enact his experiment and sent out the abstract image of courage from his mind. He attempted to infuse it into Courage.

Surprisingly, the image was attracted to the mech. The tiny portion of courage that Ves had already imprinted on the mech acted like a beacon that called the image home.

The empowered image blended into the X-Factor of the mech with remarkably little fanfare or complications. It complimented the absolute faith that dominated the X-Factor and began to influence it slightly.

Only now did Ves feel that Courage was worthy of its name.

During the entire process, Ketis watched Ves staring silently at the mech for several minutes while holding Lucky. She somehow sensed that Courage had changed during this time and grew suspicious.

"Is Ves a wizard or something, Lucky?"

"Meow."

"What does he even specialize in? I used to believe his design philosophy is a bunch of esoteric mumbo jumbo, but now I think he's definitely on to something. Does magic exist, you think?"

"Meow!"

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