Later that day, Ves was about to leave his office in order to resume the fabrication of his gold label Aurora Titans. He still had a number of outstanding orders to fulfill before he departed to the Centerpoint System.
He took one more look at the other sentimental gifts he received before he left.
A small display had been added near his desk which showcased the gifts he valued. He picked up Lanie's handknit shawl from one of the shelves and contemplated wearing it for his upcoming trip.
"Hm, it's too fragile, but then again, it's meant to be used."
Whenever he designed and produced his mechs, he wanted them to be used for their intended purpose. It was fine for his more impressive mechs to be put on display in a museum or exhibition hall, but that should be the exception, not the rule.
Ves did not want to be regarded as someone who was limited to designing pretty-looking but useless machines.
In the end, he loosely draped the shawl over his neck. Its fabric was dyed in dark blue which was one of the distinctive colors of the Larkinson Family.
"It's kind of comfy."
Ves liked it so much that he planned to see if he could apply some treatments to increase its durability and protect it from degrading when exposed to rough environments.
After that, he picked up the nutrient pack that James claimed to be a replica of the one which the great prophet once consumed.
"This nutrient pack..."
As Ves held the simple packaging, he felt a little odd about its texture. It didn't feel like a brand new nutrient pack to him. It was as if it was just as old as the holy relic.
He frowned. A nutrient pack aficionado like him should have been able to estimate the real age of the nutrient packs he held.
The packaging of a nutrient pack was virtually the same for thousands of years. Humanity spent thousands of years perfecting the most efficient formula for the wrappers.
It needed to be resilient enough to protect its contents from background radiation. However, it also needed to be biodegradable upon tearing it open. Otherwise, the galaxy would have already turned into a giant trash heap of nutrient packs!
The result that humanity came up with was a formula for packaging that promised to protect the integrity of its contents for tens of thousands of years, but no longer.
"Nutrient packs don't need to be stored that long in the first place."
In truth, the packaging already started degrading by the time they rolled off the production lines. The process just took an extremely long time. Only upon tearing open the wrapper would the process truly kick in and decay the leftovers at a rapid pace.
After recalling all of this, Ves viewed the Ylvainan nutrient pack with more suspicion. "If this wrapping is the exact same as the others, then it's several centuries old!"
It could be that the manufacturers of this nutrient pack had tweaked the formula of its packaging in order to give it that holy relic feel.
However, it was not so simple to age the packaging of a nutrient pack. Having owned a lot of vintage nutrient packs before, he learned what it was like to hold a nutrient pack that was aged for thousands of years.
"This pack feels too authentic. It doesn't feel fake."
Ves studied the nutrient pack with his full attention. After brushing his hands all over the rectangular brown-green packaging, his fingers finally identified an irregularity.
"There's a small square of material here that doesn't feel as aged as the rest of the packaging."
After brushing at it with his nail, he managed to peel off a thin layer camouflaged as the same material as the nutrient pack.
A folded piece of synthetic paper hid underneath. When Ves picked it up and unfolded it, he began to read the message handwritten onto its surface.
[Mr, Larkinson, I apologise for the misdirection. I doubted I would have received a normal welcome if I revealed my true identity. Hence why I resorted to this means in order to reveal the truth.
This is something you should really consider doing more yourself. The lies you peddle will continue to corrode your heart. The only way you can cleanse your consciousness is to come clean.
Ah, what am I writing? You are set in your ways. I doubt my advice will ever find purchase in your mind. Your stubbornness is both your greatest strength and your fatal flaw.
I must say that it has been an enlightening experience for me to meet with the designer of the Transcendent Messenger. The Komodo Star Sector is lucky to host a unique mech designer like you who wishes to transform the galactic mech industry.
I am thankful for the changes you've sparked within the Ylvaine Protectorate. While many Ylvainans are comfortable by remaining insular, the rest of the galaxy will not be content to leave them alone. If we are to survive the coming perils, we need to stop digging our heads into the ground.
We will meet again someday. The Bright Republic is about to experience great changes and so will the Ylvaine Protectorate. No matter what difficult circumstances you find yourself in, I hope that you will not refuse my offer to repay the favor that you've bestowed to us. The Ylvaine Dynasty is always willing to assist the Bright Martyr when needed.]
Ves felt like puking blood when he read and reread the message. He'd been fooled!
"Businessman, my butt! James Immel is the next living prophet!"
He didn't realize the Ylvainan's true identity yesterday! Although the man did his best to hide his inherent charisma underneath his robe, Ves already felt as if he was in the company of someone remarkable!
"If the original Prophet Ylvaine was like this guy, then it's no wonder he managed to found a new religion!"
This newer version of the prophet was a lot more charming than the one that came before. The prophet who immolated himself at the end of the tribunal came across as a delusional madman more than anything else.
"Either the new living prophet's genes have been tweaked or he'll eventually degrade over time." Ves guessed.
Still, he really wanted to smack himself with his palm. He should have noticed the clues, from the odd arrival of an Ylvainan to his birthday party to the strange discrepancy he felt from the nutrient pack wrapper.
Ves realized now that the nutrient pack that the new living prophet gifted him was authentic. If his guess was right, the nutrient pack he held right now belonged to the same production batch as the one that the original Prophet Ylvaine used to consume!
The Ylvainans must have preserved the rest of the crate of nutrient packs once Prophet Ylvaine departed from the ship or something.
"Damn. Is this a hot potato?"
Even though Ves managed to get acquitted for ruining a holy relic, he still felt uneasy about owning a precious nutrient pack like this. There shouldn't be that many intact nutrient packs from the same batch left.
"Well.. what's the harm? Nobody will notice."
He briefly considered storing it in his vault, but a small part of him wanted to flaunt this remarkable possession. He eventually decided to put it back on the shelf of the display. Perhaps he could use it to tell a story the next time he entertained a visitor in his office.
When Ves left his office, he began to return to his previous routine of fabricating the remaining gold label Aurora Titans.
While he felt a bit peeved about having to delay his trip to Centerpoint in order to meet this obligation, he knew that it would do a lot of good down the line. His gold label mechs had always been his most impressive works, and putting more of them in the wild helped expand his presence.
"If only every mech of mine is as strong as one of my gold label mechs."
Talking with Charlotte yesterday made him realize why his design philosophy seemed so abnormal to others.
Ves had witnessed the design philosophies of several Seniors. From the Skull Architect to Professor Ventag, all the mechs designed by Seniors possessed roughly the same degree of influence of their designers.
The mechs that Ves designed differed from this pattern. The special strength they carried did not come from Ves alone.
As soon as Ves began to incorporate external spiritual fragments into his designs, the degree of influence he exerted on them had grown out of proportion!
"By relying on borrowed strength, I'm able to punch above my weight!"
This was a very important realization. None of the other mech designers he met did anything like it. They all relied on their design seeds or whatever they turned into when they advanced to Senior to bestow their designs with their metaphysical strength!
"However, even if their designs aren't as flashy as mine, they are a lot more consistent."
Ves noticed that the qualities they managed to impart to their mechs were very contained.
This was different to Ves, because his design philosophy mainly focused on the X-Factor, which was inherently volatile.
As a result, Ves could only display his full potential when he fabricated a mech in person. The mechs fabricated by the LMC or third party manufacturers would always be a pale shell compared to the most authentic copies.
Ves used to think that this wasn't a big deal. The benefit his lesser mechs provided to its mech pilots was already good enough.
"Yet am I really content with this result?"
If he had a choice, then he would rather have every copy exhibit the same degree of X-Factor as his best works.
"I can't see how this can be done." He muttered to himself.
Yet just because he couldn't figure out the answer right now didn't mean it was impossible. As long as he worked hard and experimented a lot, he might be able to solve this huge shortcoming.
"Maybe this is what keeps most higher-ranking mech designers occupied. They're all trying to find a way to strengthen or widen the application of their design philosophies."
Ves knew that he needed to put a huge amount of time and effort in order to even come close to an answer to this profound problem. The amount of research and experiments he needed to perform might take years or decades.
Yet all of that was worth it if he managed to succeed!
"It makes a huge difference if I can equalize this quality to all of my mechs!"
Perhaps achieving such a drastic improvement was the key to advancing to Senior or Master.
"Mech designers are all people who are constantly trying to turn the impossible into the possible. They are all pioneering their own dreams."
Ves already started innovating from the start. His design philosophy was so out of whack that he had been treading his own path since the System first pushed him into studying the X-Factor phenomenon.
His visit to Centerpoint would definitely illuminate his path. Not only did it host the sector headquarters of the MTA, but it was also home to the largest concentration of mech designers in the star sector!
The star system was host to many services catered to mech designers. Not only that, but Centerpoint offered lots of opportunities to mingle and exchange ideas with fellow mech designers.
"It truly is the holy land of mech designers in the Komodo Star Sector!"
Ves felt a bit regretful that Ketis declined to travel with him this time. He was sure that she would be able to learn a lot when exposed to so many mech designers.
"Then again, she's not like the other orthodox mech designers. Maybe she's afraid she'll expose her unconventional origins."
In any case, Ves did not share the same concerns, so he was definitely looking forward to meeting other mech designers from different backgrounds!
"Who knows, maybe I can find a girlfriend there."