Ves spent one more day in Kemila before he planned to depart. Having returned to his hotel, he took the time to study the reports written by his subordinates and get up to speed with various other developments.
One notable point of interest to him was the deteriorating security situation at the Tomaris Federation. Sandmen fleets continued to cross the fairly porous border into human space and wreak havoc in human-occupied star systems for reasons that escaped every human.
No one knew why the sandmen had suddenly gone mad and attacked in such an unbridled way!
However, Ves had a feeling that he might know more about what was driving these insane attacks. The sentient AI he inadvertently released from the Starlight Megalodon may be the chief culprit behind these developments!
There must be a reason why Sigrund drove his fellow sandmen to pick a fight with humanity!
However, even though Ves suspected Sigrund's involvements a long time ago, trying to guess the motives of this bizarre artificial lifeform was an exercise in futility!
Sigrund thought nothing like a human! It didn't seem as if Sigrund cared a lot about the race it used to belong to, because the relentless incursions were really stretching the CFA's patience thin!
Ves even felt tempted to reaffirm his decision to visit the Tomaris Federation in person. He wanted to snoop around in order to figure out what in the hell Sigrund was up to these days!
\"Really. Some entities are too dangerous to be left alone!\"
He dearly wished to tip off the Big Two to the sentient AI's existence, but the unholy pact he made with the sentient AI prevented him from doing so. Ves knew that Calabast, the only other person alive who knew of Sigrund's existence, kept her mouth shut as well.
In fact, Calabast had previously warned him numerous times not to leak any hints!
Whatever damage he could do to Sigrund, the AI would certainly hit back twice as hard!
These constraints left him feeling helpless as he browsed the various alarmist news articles that spoke of the devastation the more successful sandman raids had wrought to the border states!
In particular, hundreds of thousands of citizens had died so far. The economic damage the sandmen inflicted affected the livelihoods of billions of Tomarans more!
Knowing that he could put a swift end to the incursions gnawed at his conscience. Too many people suffered from his inaction for him to dismiss the difference he could make.
So much for being an altruist.
\"Well, I can't contribute to human civilization if everyone wants me dead or in captivity, right?\" He joked.
Since he couldn't do anything about what kind of mischief Sigrund was up to, Ves completely pushed the issue from his mind. It wasn't his problem anymore.
Instead, he shifted his attention to more immediate concerns, such as studying the two P-stones he possessed while he awaited the completion of a couple of special orders.
Ves holed himself up in his hotel room together with Lucky. Once his cat activated his ECM field, Ves finally couldn't hold himself in and eagerly brought out both of his P-stones from their containers.
\"Fascinating.\" He whispered as he compared them side-by-side.
Lucky curiously floated down and rested himself atop the grey P-stone.
While to normal eyes the rock appeared completely inactive and inert, Ves picked up a lot of activity from his spiritual senses!
The rock that imprisoned Zeigra's damaged spirituality seemed to leak out an angry aura as the spiritual entity inside detested Lucky's show of disrespect!
No mere tiny cat was allowed to step onto Zeigra's head!
Of course, Lucky arrogantly taunted Zeigra by settling down by patting the surface of the rock with his paws. The gem cat even bent down his neck as if to take a bite out of the P-stone!
\"Stop that!\" Ves admonished his cat. \"You're not allowed to eat my P-stones! They're too rare to be treated as your food!\"
\"I said no!\"
\"Okay, okay! If I find a few more P-stones, I'll promise you can eat one!\"
Only then did Lucky stop making a move on his P-stones. The cat thumped his tail against the surface of the grey rock one more time before he jumped onto Ves' shoulder.
Even though Ves felt a bit annoyed at Lucky, he did learn something useful out of the interaction.
While the P-stone did lock Zeigra in place, it did not prevent its prisoner from sensing other spiritual entities nearby.
\"Can it see outside?\"
Ves didn't know the answer to this question, but he guessed the spiritual entity probably couldn't see far outside its immediate vicinity.
\"Well, let's see how similar these rocks are.\"
Both of them reacted to spiritual energy, but their interactions might differ. Perhaps they responded completely differently or possessed different capacities. Ves wanted to compare their respective responses in order to determine if he was dealing with just a single type of P-stone.
He first injected numerous quantities of spiritual energy into his second P-stone.
As far as he knew, the second rock behaved identically to the first rock. Ves was hard-pressed to find any differences!
\"Aside from their different physical makeup, their reactions are the same!\"
Next, he curiously pulled out Zeigra's rebellious and violent spirituality from the first P-stone and quickly dumped it into the second P-stone.
Though the huge cat's spirituality did not enjoy the experience, Ves noted with some satisfaction that the second P-stone apparently functioned the exact same way! It exerted a strong suction force that kept Zeigra's spirituality locked within its center!
\"They're the same!\"
Ves found it very odd that the two rocks could differ so much in terms of density and physical makeup but shared the same remarkable traits!
A part of him felt disappointed at this finding. If he found a P-stone that possessed a different effect, then he would have been able to expand his options.
\"Still, this outcome isn't so bad. Since the P-stones aren't unique and since they share the same emission footprint, it's a lot easier now for me to obtain additional samples!\"
In a way, the huge differences between his two P-stones helped him pin down some of their distinctive traits. The extensive lab results that Lady Miralix had passed on to him made it clear that both P-stones possessed the same emission footprint.
While it was very weak, it could still be measured with sensitive scanners! As long as Ves scoured the marketplaces for materials with the same pattern of emissions, then he no longer had to scour all of the stalls and shops in person!
\"Still, the only problem is that others might be on the lookout for them as well.\" He furrowed his brows.
His paranoia forced him to consider the possibility that the Five Scrolls Compact might be tracking the P-stones as well! Since the organization definitely appeared to be experimenting with spirituality, the value of exotics that could store both raw spiritual energy as well as spiritual remnants of dead entities might be considerable!
If the Five Scrolls Compact truly sought for P-stones themselves, then it would be a very bad idea for Ves to post an open advert for additional samples onto the galactic net!
\"Does this mean I'm back to square one?\" He frowned.
Not exactly. While he did not dare to announce he sought for exotics that exhibited the same emission footprint, he could still make his search easier in other ways.
\"I no longer have to depend on myself to seek out additional samples!\"
Before he made his deal with Lady Miralix, Only Ves possessed the ability to discern the P-stones. With the lab results in hand, Ves could now pass on the distinctive emission pattern that appeared to be unique to P-stone to trusted subordinates and task them with seeking out other rocks with the same properties.
Unfortunately, Ves did not possess the requisite 'trusted subordinates' who he could assign this tedious but important chore.
If only he had a shadow force in place that he could trust to perform this task discreetly!
Perhaps the only person who came close was Crindon, but Ves did not wish to send his only qualified virtual security expert away.
Another idea came to mind. \"I don't have a shadow force, but Calabast certainly has! She has invested a lot of time and resources in building up a spy network!\"
His eyes lit up. That was a great idea! They were partners anyway, so Calabast ought to be able to help him out on this front!
The only issue was trying to convey his demands to her in a secure fashion. Other than telling her in person, the only other alternative was to resort to the only other secure method of communication he knew.
\"Looks like I'll have to pass on a parcel the next time I meet with a Shadow Courier.\"
Getting in touch with a Shadow Courier was fairly troublesome to him, though he already scheduled an appointment with one of them. Ves could pass on his parcel containing his instructions to Calabast at the same time he received one of his awaited packages.
Once he finished his rudimentary investigation on the P-stones, he put them back into their containers.
\"Stay safe, P-stones.\"
Ves planned to utilize his first P-stone as a container for spiritual entities. His second P-stone inherited the old role as a battery for spiritual energy, though at the moment he still had to replenish a modest deficit.
\"I'll probably recover in a week.\"
In fact, he observed his recovery rate and found to his surprise that he was generating spritual energy at a higher rate than before. He took this change as evidence that his Spirituality had grown even more formidable.
Ves wondered if his Spirituality would continue to grow by itself. The other possibility was that his Spirituality grew in tandem with the advancements he made to his design philosophy.
\"I've been making plenty of new discoveries lately, so that might lead to a lot of growth!\"
The next day, Ves woke up and did his normal business in the morning. In the afternoon, Ves took his subordinates to a certain district in Kemila.
He had an appointment with one of the exclusive shops in the city.
As Ves and his entourage exited their aircar, they stepped onto a shopping street that was nearly empty of guests.
Most Kemilans still celebrated Lady Miralix's success! All the bars and other gathering places had become packed with revelers as they gushed over the expertly-edited battle footage released to the public.
\"Let's go inside.\"
Ves entered a small but luxurious-looking clothing store. The boutique offered a sample of handmade, artisan wares, but Ves paid no mind to the products on display.
\"Ah, Mr. Larkinson! Please proceed to my workshop! Your order is almost ready!\"
The group entered a small clothing workshop in the back of the store. Various fibers, cloth, hides and other materials were strewn about the tables and open storage cabinets. The smell of strange chemical solutions suffused the entire workplace, causing Nitaa to crinkle her nose.
\"Not toxic, but very unpleasant.\" She softly spoke to Ves. \"The sooner we get out of here, the sooner my nose gets some relief.\"
\"Bear with it for a while.\"
Ves approached the elderly man in an impeccably sharp and clean work uniform. A garment that carried a very familiar shade rested on the worktable before the proprietor of the shop.
\"I'm almost done. I'm just putting the finishing touches on your order.\"
\"I understand. Take your time.\"
The person working on the garment was one of the best tailors in Kemila. The man specialized in extracting the finest fibers and other materials from the bodies of huge cats and turning them into stylish clothing!
Though Ves ordinarily didn't care too much about what he wore from day to day, the thought of wearing an outfit made from the remains of a Crown Cat sounded very tempting to him! He eagerly accepted Lady Miralix's recommendation upon their return to Kemila.
Now that he came within sight of his next ensemble, he judged that the wait had been more than worth it! Even the others looked intrigued!