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 Ves practically hurled himself past the airlock and into the familiar confines of the Barracuda. Behind him, the transit shuttle that took him out of one of Centerpoint V's space stations separated from the ship now that it had completed its task.

"It's about time I've returned!"

"Meow!"

"Oh, shut it. You've hardly met Clixie, and now you're already missing her? Newsflash Lucky, she's organic!"

"Meow meow!"

"What do you mean true love transcends all barriers? The two of you are completely different lifeforms!"

Ves ignored his nonsensical cat and ran all the way up to the bridge.

"Captain, get us out of this star system as fast as possible!"

"As you will, sir, but I have to ask, why the hurry? Are you in trouble with the authorities? It is highly inadvisable to run from the MTA if they have a reason to compel you to stay."

"Nothing like that is going on." Ves vigorously shook his head. "I've just met someone scary and I need to get out of her reach. The longer we stay in Centerpoint, the greater the risk of meeting her again!"

Though Captain Silvestra and the rest of the crew looked confused, they nonetheless moved to coordinate with the Greenfeather to leave the Centerpoint System.

The only snag was that traffic control did not allow them to depart with all haste. They needed to follow their assigned route that brought them to the back of a long line of ships waiting to jump out of the system. It took far too long for the Barracuda and Greenfeather to trundle their way to the closest Lagrange point.

Gavin entered the stateroom where Ves had holed himself. "What's got you in such a tizzy, Ves?"

A part of Ves wanted to hide what he experienced earlier. Yet he also felt the need to confide in someone at least.

A sigh escaped from his lips. "A date gone wrong, I guess."

That caused Gavin to become twice as interested. "Did you fall flat on your face or something? Was the woman you met not to your liking?"

"It's complicated, Benny."

"Come on, boss. Tell me what's wrong."

Ves briefly recounted his date with Gloriana, though he left out a lot of sensitive details.

This caused Gavin to develop an incomplete picture. "I don't see what's wrong about this Gloriana. Other than the fact that she's clingy and that she's a Hexer, it sounded as if the two of you got along well."

"You don't understand! Gloriana is.. she's a Hexer! Not only that, but she's also a follower of hexism! Don't you see what that means? She's as fanatical in her beliefs as the Poxcos of the Ylvaine Protectorate!"

"I do admit that the Hexadric Hegemony is weird, but hexism doesn't have that bad of a reputation. Everything I've learned about it is that it's more of a philosophy with some superstition sprinkled on it than a full blown absolute belief system like the Ylvainan Faith. They're much more tolerant to nonbelievers and individual interpretations."

"It's much worse than that! Gloriana is a nutcase!"

How could Ves explain how Gloriana bought into his nonsense story about creating gods? Any mech designer who not only took him at his word, but also supported it entirely should be avoided at all cost!

There was no way Ves could imagine spending the rest of his life with someone so delusional!

Gavin shook his head. In his opinion, Ves was being a scaredy cat. "Alright, whatever you say, boss. It's your life. The reason I came here is to inform you that we are hosting an irate guest aboard the Barracuda. The man has been throwing a temper tantrum ever since some MTA goons forced us to take him in! You wouldn't have anything to do with that, do you?"

Ah. Ves remembered the task the Rim Guardians pushed onto his lap before they booted him out of the Pit.

"Is the guest a danger to himself, the crew or the ship?"

"No. He's mostly whiny, that's all."

"Then leave the guest in his cabin or wherever else you put him in. I'll meet with him later. Right now, I need a moment to myself."

"Okay then. I'll leave you alone. The Barracuda is scheduled to transition into FTL in twelve hours, barring any delays."

Once Gavin left his stateroom, Ves sighed and plopped down on his bed. Lucky sidled up to his head and pressed a paw against his head.

"Come on, Lucky. Didn't you see how suddenly Gloriana went off the deep end when she raved about my supposed design principles? Even if she's lovely and fun to be with, she's too dangerous!"

"Meow."

"What do you mean I'm the same as her? We're nothing alike! I'm a sane, normal mech designer who just wants to make mechs alive! How does that sound crazy?"

"Meow!"

"I don't agree with you!" Ves huffed and turned around.

As he thought back on Gloriana, he had to admit that he still felt a lingering attraction towards her. No other woman excited him as much as her. She'd be perfect for him if she didn't come from the Hegemony!

Yet Ves did not believe that anything perfect could exist. He had always lived his life in the assumption that aiming for perfection only set himself up for disappointment.

"Life and the galaxy are both messy. They're also more exciting because of that. Who wants to live a perfect life?"

Though Ves hadn't interacted with Gloriana too deeply, he could immediately tell that she adopted a very different perspective on the matter.

A part of him admired her for that. He was attracted to her boldness and her courage. She must be a great mech designer as well.

"Did I run away too quickly?"

He really found it regretful to abandon his date with Gloriana so soon. Other than her weird Hexer beliefs, Ves truly felt comfortable in her presence.

Not only did he find her lovely and attractive, but her design philosophy also complimented well with his own.

"How great would it be to design a mech together?" He idly sighed. "Even if she's only limited to designing custom mechs, there are plenty of mech pilots I care about who can use a better machine than what I can provide alone."

For example, he could elevate Melkor and the other Larkinsons in the Avatars of Myth to an untold height if he gifted them with mechs that contained the combined strengths of Ves and Gloriana.

Such machines wouldn't only be great on a spiritual and a technical level, but also lead to synergistic effects that Ves could hardly fathom.

These benefits, while unpredictable, would definitely elevate the quality of their custom mechs to an unseen height!

"What would it be like if I can supply Melinda, Raella and Jannzi with such custom mechs? The achievements they can make with these wonder mechs will definitely surpass anything they could have ever hoped!"

Ves saw a great opportunity in front of him, but he turned away after seeing all the thorns in his path. Did he really make the right decision?

He recalled the Mech Designer's Oath that he had sworn just days ago.

"I did swear to do my best to serve the needs of mech pilots."

Although Ves did not take the Mech Designer's Oath very seriously, he did agree with some of its principles to some degree. Due to his design philosophy, he always tried to accommodate mech pilots whenever he could.

Therefore, the thought of abandoning such a great opportunity to design better mechs pained him a lot.

Ves even had the illusion that his design philosophy was crying in his mind!

"Goddammit, not you to? You're supposed to be a part of me! Since when can you think for yourself?!"

He slapped his head, only to wince in pain.

"Stupid!"

The more he wanted to forget about Gloriana, the more her face emerged from his memories. He couldn't just put his mind off her. He enjoyed such a good time with her that he already started to miss her company!

His comm suddenly beeped. Ves raised his comm to see that he received an official MTA hail.

"What does the MTA want from me?" He frowned, but accepted the call nonetheless. "Maybe it's the Rim Guardians or something."

No MTA officer appeared from the projection in front of him. Instead, a familiar angular face came into view.

"Gloriana!"

"Ves! I've missed you so much!"

Ves immediately tried to activate the command that would end the call, but his comm didn't accept it! It forcibly kept the call going!

Gloriana apparently saw what he was doing and tutted at him. "Don't bother. I've borrowed official MTA channels to make this call. Every comm comes with overrides for the Big Two. You'll have to jam or destroy your comm in order to halt this call."

He was just about to do so, but Gloriana sent him a sharp glare that made him feel that he would regret the action!

"Ves! Are you so cowardly that you can't even face a girl? What are you afraid of? Tell me. I don't bite."

How could he tell her that he was scared of her due to her fanatical beliefs? How could he say that he lied to the MTA about his design philosophy over a communication channel that was directly controlled by that very same organization?

The silence stretched as Gloriana awaited an answer that would never come. Ves simply couldn't think of an acceptable excuse.

Eventually, she sighed. "You're such a boy, Ves. I thought you were supposed to be a daring and fearless mech designer. It's so disappointing to see you cower from a date with me. You think I'm pretty, right?"

Seeing her face over the projection made it unbearable for Ves to say no.

"You are. You're really beautiful. I love it when you smile."

Gloriana did just that. The dimples that emerged instantly made her twice as lovely!

"Irene told me that you were having an anxiety attack or something. Though I'm disappointed, I won't hold it against you. We can still make our relationship work!"

"I'm not so sure." He said. For some reason, all of his courage fled him at this moment. He found it way too hard to say no! "We are very different people. You're a Hexer. I'm a Brighter."

"Didn't we already move on from this? Where we come from doesn't matter to me! Even if you're from the frontier, I would still love you for who you are! Love has no boundaries!"

How could Gloriana say the same thing as Lucky?!

"I really don't think it's a good idea for you to hook up with me. I'm strongly aligned to the Friday Coalition. We're practically enemies in a way! There's no way the Hegemony and the Coalition will approve of our relationship!"

She frowned. "Do you think these are ancient times? Plenty of happy couples between Hexers and Fridaymen have emerged over the years. While the Hegemony doesn't particularly like them, they're willing to let them pass so long as they don't get involved in any strategically-important activities. I could just move in with you in the Bright Republic!"

"I doubt Master Olson would approve!"

"You're just a nominal disciple." Gloriana smirked. "You could renounce your apprenticeship. As a Journeyman, you have many more options available if you are in need of something special. Becoming a Master Mech Designer's lapdog is unbecoming for a mech designer of your ambition."

Ves shook his head. "I'm not going to renounce Master Olson."

"We'll see how long you stick to that stance." Gloriana teased. "My perfect lover shouldn't be so crass to continue to associate with the Coalition. The Hegemony can provide you with much more assistance as long as I use some of my connections! I could even pull some strings and turn you into a full-fledged citizen of the Hegemony! That way, your old citizenship will no longer pose a hindrance to our union! We'll both become a happy pair of Hexers!"

This woman was completely delusional!

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