The Komodo Star Sector sat adjacent to the Majestic Teal and Vicious Mountain Star Sectors.
Of the three, the Komodo Star Sector was the youngest among them. Not only that, but it was also designated as a frontier star sector by the Big Two.
A frontier star sector only possessed some of the attributes of a proper star sector. Its borders were fairly porous because the Big Two hadn't come around to plug most of the gaps in higher-dimensional space yet. Its developmental level and investment were fairly low as well.
In turn, frontier star sectors also enjoyed some special rights. The Big Two would not allow Majestic Teal and Vicious Mountain to bully their weaker neighbor. Though conflicts between them still occurred, they did not match the scale of conflicts between older and more developed star sectors.
According to several clues and estimates, it would take a century or two for the Komodo Star Sector to be upgraded to the next tier by the Big Two. Not only would it be designated as a developing star sector, but it would also acquire a proper two-word name.
One of the most favorite pastimes of the people who lived in the star sector was to come up with the most fitting name to describe their home.
Snarling Komodo, Deadly Komodo, Gratuitous Komodo, Naked Komodo, Screaming Komodo, the list went on and on. Ves didn't know who got to decide how the star sector would be called in the future, but he hoped the fellow would at least have some sense and pick a name that exuded class.
In this regard, Majestic Teal and Vicious Mountain were polar opposites in this regard. Whereas the former emphasized civilization, the latter revelled in its barbarism!
Vicious Mountain particularly aroused a bit of dread from the Komodo Star Sector. Their constant warring sometimes spilled over into the neighboring star sectors.
Yet for all of their senseless fighting and killing, the natives of Vicious Mountain attracted admiration from all around! In the Age of Mechs, nothing excited the people more than hearing tales of heroic mech pilots, many of whom originated from the mighty Garlen Empire.
In such a strong and cruel environment where mech pilots constantly forced each other to prove themselves or be eliminated or relegated to a lesser position, how could the Urbesh Clan raise someone as brittle as William?
This was the great mystery which Ves wanted an answer for. How come William spent his time in a boring place like the Komodo Star Sector?
"It turns out that William's parents were exiled to our star sector." Gavin revealed to Ves. "I can't find the reason why, but whatever they did was bad enough that the Urbesh Clan wanted the two to leave Vicious Mountain entirely."
"It could be that the Urbesh Clan exiled the parents for their own protection." Ves noted.
"That is a possibility. Sadly, dirty laundry like that can't be found on the galactic net. All I know is that William was actually born and raised in the Reinald Republic. He never once stepped foot in the Vicious Mountain Star Sector."
"Ah. That explains why he's so spineless."
Sure enough. Only a degenerate, materialistic state like the Reinald Republic could raise such a weak mech pilot.
Gavin noted another important detail. "Despite the fact that his parents were severely punished, they used to enjoy a high status within the clan. They're descended from expert pilots and patriarchs. Since William isn't guilty of the crimes of his parents and the Urbeshes aren't in the habit of forcing the younger generation to bear the sins of the older generation, technically he should be one of their premier scions."
"How impressive." Ves flatly remarked. "He isn't even accompanied by a single retainer or bodyguard. The Urbesh Clan must value him very highly."
"The Urbesh Clan is kind of falling apart." Gavin shrugged.
"Have you found out why the Rim Guardians have taken William under their wing for a time?"
"I really don't know. That's not the sort of information I can find from public sources. You'll have to ask him yourself, boss. It could be that the Urbesh Clan or his parents paid a very high price and promised even more to shape William up. It could be that the MTA doesn't like the clans that are on the rise in the Slicer Tribe. Maybe the Urbeshes used to be solid allies of the Rim Guardians."
Those were reasonable guesses. Ves did not consider the Rim Guardians to be a charitable organization, but neither did they have a strong reason to invest a lot in William.
There must be more behind the Garlaner. Ves was sure of it. "As far as I know, the Rim Guardians entrusted us with William for three years. During that time, we not only have to keep him alive, but we also have to do our best to turn him into an expert candidate."
That caused Gavin to look very critical. "If you ask me, the Rim Guardians are setting you up for an impossible mission. Expert pilots are already rare as it is. Even if the blood of expert pilots run in William's veins, that doesn't mean he has what it takes. If all the training programs the Rim Guardians put him through haven't shaped him up yet, then how can we do any better?"
"I'm not sure whether the Rim Guardians did their utmost to push William to his limits. He looks far too soft to suffer any real hardship." Ves noted. "The way they eagerly passed him on to me suggests that they consider him to be a useless burden, but were somehow forced to put up with him for other reasons."
"So what does that mean for us, boss?"
Ves shrugged. "I think the real focus of the Rim Guardians is not on William, but rather us, or me specifically. The Larkinsons have a very distinguished track record when it comes to raising expert pilots. At least we're better than the current Urbesh Clan in this regard. My design philosophy has also attracted some suspicion, I bet. Perhaps some within the MTA believe that my pilot-focused design philosophy is able to turn a turd into gold."
What would it mean if Ves returned to Centerpoint a few years later with a completely different William? How would the Rim Guardians react when the William they used to know turned from a craven poser into a valiant expert candidate?
It would definitely attract an uncomfortable degree of attention to Ves! Even if he made himself out like a lunatic to the MTA, the organization was clearly able to look past his supposed irrationality! After all, they even extended some favors to Gloriana!
Now that he thought about it, it would be rather counterproductive if Ves somehow succeeded in turning William into an extraordinary. Even if William only got a single foot in the door by becoming an expert candidate, the Rim Guardians and the rest of the MTA would definitely put him under greater scrutiny!
That was not what Ves wished to see!
While Ves saw a lot of advantages in growing closer to the Rim Guardians, it wasn't as if he needed it right now. With how unexceptional William was like, the fraternity shouldn't begrudge Ves too much if he failed to complete this impossible assignment.
That didn't mean he could neglect William entirely. If the Rim Guardian found out that Ves did nothing at all, then Ves would probably not enjoy their reaction!
To that end, he decided to make a half-hearted effort. It would be fine if he messed around a bit by handing William over to the Larkinsons or subject him to some dubious experiments.
As long as Ves appeared to be making an earnest effort, the Rim Guardians shouldn't have any objections.
After dismissing Gavin, Ves called Melkor and passed on what he learned.
"So our guest hasn't grown up in Vicious Mountain?" Melkor questioned. "That changes things."
"For all intents and purposes, he's no different from a Reinaldan. He may talk big, but so do all Reinaldans."
"Understood. How do you wish us to treat him, Ves? From what you just told me, he's been through several training programs but achieved little result."
"Well, the most important aspect that needs to change is his lack of spine. As long as we can stiffen him up, he at least has a minute chance of becoming an expert pilot. Right now, I don't see he has any way to achieve a breakthrough. His mentality is too weak."
Melkor rubbed his chin. "First, we'll have to know what he's capable of. We'll have to test his genetic aptitude, his specialization, his skills, his combat experience and more in order to draw up a training program. I'll probably have to ask some of our uncles and aunts for advice, is that okay?"
"Sure." Ves waved dismissively. "They'll surely have a lot to teach us. Try out their methods and see if William can catch on. If none of them work as well as we hoped, we can always resort to other solutions later on. Just make sure you are working on firming up his courage. We'll definitely have to address that problem first."
This was probably the hardest problem to solve. Ves hoped that Melkor could somehow manage to transform William into someone who was actually useful. If not, Ves did not mind tossing William to Ketis or stepping in himself.
Ves addressed another topic that had come up in his mind recently. "One other thing, Melkor. I'll likely be spending some time in the Friday Coalition for the foreseeable time. So long as I'm in Coalition space, the protection of the Avatars of Myth isn't very useful to me. It might even be detrimental."
"I.. agree. As great as our mechs perform in a place like the Bright Republic, they're not on par to the mechs that are commonly used in the Coalition. We'd be laughed at best by the locals. Our presence will not be able to bestow you with any prestige."
The admission did not come lightly. Melkor obviously incurred a blow to his pride by speaking out the painful truth.
"Don't take it too seriously, Melkor. It should be me who is to blame. The Avatars of Myth is a mech force that is only meant to operate in the Bright Republic and similar states. We don't have the money or foundation to incorporate second-class mechs to its roster."
"At least you have an existing arrangement with SASS. If you are in need of bodyguards in Coalition space, you might be able to solicit their services."
"I'll keep that suggestion in mind." Ves said, though he didn't plan to do so unless absolutely necessary.
It cost way too much money to hire them! He'd have to beg Master Olsen to pay in his stead!
"How long will you be gone from home?"
"I don't know. It depends on what Master Olson wants from me and what I'm allowed to choose. I'll try my best not to stay away for more than a year."
Melkor nodded. "Inform us once you know."
After a brief chat where Ves made some other arrangements, he ended the call. For now, both the Barracuda and the Greenfeather would jump to a border system of the Friday Coalition.
Once there, they would split ways. The Barracuda would move on to Leemar while the Greenfeather made her way back to the Bright Republic, carrying Melkor, the Avatars he brought with them, and William Urbesh.
This basically left him with only Lucky and Gavin as his companions.
"Well, it's best not to bring too many people when I'm in the Friday Coalition." He muttered. "The locals aren't too fond of seeing too many rats at a time."
Novices and Apprentices from lesser states were treated like dirt in the Friday Coalition, but Ves no longer counted among them.
Ever since he became a Journeyman and a galactic citizen, Ves ought to receive better treatment from the Coalition.
"Let's see what opportunities I can find."