Ves stood up when everyone had taken their seats. Although the plushy doll of Lucky in front of his table made for an unusual sight, the birthday boy himself looked unusually solemn at this moment.
"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for attending my birthday party. It gladdens my heart to receive the appreciation of so many people. Even though I wanted to keep this occasion modest, it's still a welcome surprise to me that so many of you insisted on coming."
All these people hadn't necessarily come because they were friends with Ves. Aside from Raella, Charlotte and a few others, the overwhelming majority chose to come because they wanted to forge a closer relationship with a young and promising Journeyman.
That was okay. Ves knew that aside from celebrating a turning point in his life, his birthday party had also turned into a networking opportunity of sorts. The peace offering from Madame Catelyn Ricklin showcased how much his value rose due to his advancement.
Ves always suspected that the Ricklin Family sent assassins after him. Now that they deliberately sent a representative to his birthday party, his suspicion grew stronger.
For what reason would the Ricklins want to convey the intention to make peace after so many years of no contact?
While he didn't like the Ricklins at all, there was no point for Ves to pursue them any further. He lived in a different world now, and he knew that intensifying hostilities against one of the largest producers of affordable processors and chips in the Bright Republic was a bad idea.
"Five years ago when I started on this career, I never thought I would come this far. As many of you are no doubt aware of, I have not excelled very much at all when I studied at Rittersberg."
He couldn't help but glance towards Patricia, who nodded faintly at his words. His unremarkable performance back then contrasted sharply against her exceptional grades. No matter what kind of challenges they encountered in their studies, Patricia always seemed at least three steps ahead.
"However, nothing in life is set in stone. Through chance, hard work and a lot of risk taking, I've managed to seize several opportunities to climb ahead. Reaching Journeyman so soon is a gratifying result, but that had never been my end goal! From the very start, I have always set my sights higher! Journeyman is not the end of the road!"
Everyone clapped as they agreed with his words. Ves already demonstrated his potential, causing everyone to treat him as a future Senior rather than just a Journeyman.
As for reaching Master? No one except for maybe Ketis seriously believed he could reach that height. Almost no Master emerged from the Bright Republic since the founding of the state.
"Today, we are not only celebrating my birthday, but also celebrating the founding of the LMC. I am gratified to see my mech company ascend to the height it has achieved today. I believe it has been successful in helping me spread my principles concerning mechs. With its promising growth prospects, I am confident that my mechs will spread in every corner of the star sector and beyond!"
That aroused another round of clapping. Compared to the mechs designed by other mech designers, the products sold by the LMC were very distinctive. Not only did Ves exhibit a flair for designing a visually distinctive mech design, but all of his mechs also contained a remarkable quality that inspired courage and passion!
His designs slowly became known for this seemingly unique ability! Although it didn't enhance the battle performance of his mechs in a material fashion, the effect it had on morale was very outsized!
The mech pilots and their allies all gained more confidence and assurance in his products. Those on the opposite side often dreaded facing the mechs!
Due to these abnormal reactions from both sides, the side which fielded the LMC's mechs sometimes managed to pull off a victory they ordinarily wouldn't have won! Stories like this began to circulate through the galactic net in an increasing frequency, showcasing how much the LMC's customers appreciated their mechs!
All of this led to a lot of gratification to Ves. To see thousands of mech pilots begin to change their mentality towards mechs so that they fell more in line with his overarching principles meant his mission to change the mech landscape was slowly making progress.
"When I initially embarked on this career, I felt that mechs were not being appreciated enough. They are too ubiquitous and though we call this era the Age of Mechs, I saw that mechs could use a lot more appreciation from their mech pilots. For this reason, I founded the Living Mech Corporation. Since the very start, I aimed to design and sell mechs that came alive in the hands of my customers. Considering my company's explosive rise and glowing testimonials of its products, I think I'm well on my way to providing fantastic machines to everyone who agrees with my principles!"
This aroused a loud round of cheers! Most people present saw a lot of promise in the LMC. They were jealous of the people and entities who owned shares in the company, because the value of the company was set to balloon in the coming years!
Ves wrapped up his speech to allow everyone to dig in. The tables had been filled with exotic dishes featuring various specialties of different states. Some of them were so rare that the guests couldn't help but grab at them first!
While others like Ketis immediately began to pig out, Ves leaned back on his chair and took it easy. To an unsophisticated eater like him, he was already content with eating nutrient packs.
As the man of the hour, he instead spent most of his time engaged in conversation.
"So what exactly is your position within the MTA, Charlotte?" Ves curiously asked.
"I'm a probationary recruit of sorts." She answered. "The MTA is different from the CFA in that the former is much more open to diversity within their ranks. Whereas the CFA wants to transform everyone into what they consider to be ideal spacers, the MTA embraces the differences between star sectors and galactic regions. This is also why they are more open about recruiting mech pilots from the Bright Republic. The CFA would never do something like that. They strongly believe that your starting point already determines your upper ceiling."
In other words, the CFA rigidly adhered to class differences while the MTA were more proactive to offering opportunities towards the disadvantaged. This was just one aspect in which they clashed.
Ves himself already encountered the strong bias against space peasants when he initially tried to get inside the Starlight Megalodon. He learned first-hand that the CFA mainly recruited from the families of existing CFA personnel or from the elite spaceborn clans who eschewed living on planets entirely.
Those who didn't enjoy such a heritage had to pass an inhumanly high bar of tests to even be considered by the CFA!
If the MTA adopted the same recruitment standards as the CFA, then they would have never recruited Charlotte.
"Are there many mech pilots like you in the MTA?"
She nodded. "A lot. They're probationary recruits like me who are being intensely trained. In order for us to qualify for first-class mechs, we need to undergo rigorous training, several augmentation procedures and other stuff that I can't mention. Suffice to say, most probationary recruits can't keep up and wash out. Those who persevere will eventually become a proper member of the MTA. Once that happens, they'll be able to stand equal to mech pilots born from the galactic center!"
"You seem pretty relaxed for a probationary recruit." Ves noted her confident and relaxed demeanor. That was not the attitude of a struggling mech pilot. "You even have the time to catch up to my birthday party."
Charlotte smirked. "I've already gotten over most of the hurdles. I'll probably be promoted from my probationary status soon. The MTA doesn't recruit mech pilots at random, you know. They keep tabs on every mech cadet and mech pilot and employ a sophisticated analysis to find out which ones can adjust well to their training program."
It sounded as if the MTA deliberately recruited from a wider pool of people because they were aiming for something specific.
"To be honest, the MTA suggested that I catch up with you today." She continued. "I originally didn't hear about your celebration at all before my instructor approached me during training. The Bright Republic's branch of the MTA is quite interested in you. From what I can guess, your design philosophy is something really radical."
Ves looked up sharply at that. He had always been rather secretive about his design philosophy.
Yet as he began to grow stronger in his abilities, the special nature of his specialty became increasingly more prominent. Perhaps many people would still have doubts about the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord, but there was no ambiguity at all when he designed his last two mechs!
In hindsight, Ves had definitely overdone the X-Factor of his Aurora Titan and Transcendent Messenger designs!
Yet even if he exposed more than he initially intended, Ves really didn't like to restrain himself. In order for him to develop his design philosophy, he constantly needed to explore and expand his limits. He couldn't do so if he deliberately crippled the X-Factor of his mechs all the time!
"What does the MTA specifically think about my design philosophy?" He asked.
Charlotte shrugged. "The MTA has a way of categorizing the huge variety of design philosophies that mech designers come up with. For example, a Class II design philosophy is offense-oriented while a Class III design philosophy is defense-oriented. Yours is rather unusual because the Association's mech designers tentatively judged that your design philosophy falls into Class IX."
"What does it mean for my design philosophy to be categorized into Class IX?"
"Class IX is pretty much the leftover category. That's where design philosophies end up if they don't fit into the more conventional classes. The common theme of every Class IX design philosophy is that they are embarking on something so unusual that they are much tougher to realize. That means that mech designers like you are much less likely to advance to Master!"
It was quite a shock to Ves to hear these theories!
Yet after he thought about it, this perspective made a lot of sense. Mech designers who developed plainer design philosophies such as Master Olsen and Professor Ventag could depend on a vast body of research on related subjects to advance their own understanding.
As for Ves, he was pursuing something so strange and unique that he was completely dependent on performing his own research and experiments to progress! This was the disadvantage of pioneering a completely new field!
He quickly calmed down, though. "Even if my path is harder than the alternatives, I don't believe I'll fail. I will do my very best to push my design philosophy to a greater height!"
"The MTA is hoping for that as well. Although Class IX design philosophies are the least likely to reach Master-level, the few that do often lead to pivotal changes. The fact that your mechs are already very strong in expressing the unique qualities of your design philosophy is a very encouraging sign. That's all I know. I'm sure you'll get to hear more when you visit the sector headquarters."
Ves nodded in thanks to Charlotte for informing him about the MTA's interest in him. Although he felt slightly concerned that the MTA might want to ask some uncomfortable questions about his design philosophy, he was confident he could deflect them. He wasn't called the Devil Tongue for nothing!
The banquet proceeded with a lot of mingling. Aside from talking to Charlotte, Ves also made sure to spare some attention to his other guests such as the Ylvainan businessman and even Yoni Ricklin.