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 How could Ves design a mech that advanced his design principles without tying it back to his identity?

\"The Devil Tiger is way too controversial. I can't allow it to taint my reputation.\" He grumbled.

He already switched up his distinctive design style in many ways to obscure his fingerprints on the Devil Tiger's design. Ves never designed a bestial mech before, which made it easy for him to disassociate himself from the Devil Tiger design.

While Ves could employ all manner of technical tricks to erase the similarities between his public designs and his Devil Tiger design, the one area which he couldn't erase was his specialty.

The X-Factor of his mech was certainly going to be very strong. Ves knew that for certain. If the effect only applied to the mech pilot, then that was okay, because the chances of exposure were miniscule in that case.

However, one of the distinctive features about his mechs was that as their X-Factor increased, their auras became more noticeable as well! They became especially perceivable on any mech that Ves crafted by hand, as in the case of his gold label mechs and custom mechs!

\"Should I deliberately weaken the X-Factor of my Devil Tiger?\" He wondered.

He quickly shook his head. His pride as a mech designer would never allow him to sabotage his efforts for such an inane reason! Though he was afraid of exposing himself, he detested crippling a mech that had the potential to be something great!

\"There is no way I'll allow my Devil Tiger to be born in a stunted state! I just can't!\"

Ves had become way too invested in this project to dial his efforts back. Nothing compelled him to go this far for what he considered to be an experiment. He did not expect to gain any recognition or material rewards either.

He simply wanted to design a mech that surpassed his previous efforts.

\"In many of my mech designs, I have to restrain myself. I have to abide by the rules. The demands of my customers rank first. Yet that can get tiresome at times.\"

Working on the Devil Tiger design challenged him enormously, he also felt liberated. The design project reinvigorated his love for mech design. Creation was boundless and limitless. A mech designer like Ves would only stagnate if he kept to just a narrow slice of possible mech designs.

Due to this, Ves initially resisted attempts to restrain the strengths of his mech design.

However, as he thought about it more, he considered it to be an interesting exercise. This might not be the only time he wanted to restrain the outward expression of the X-Factor of his mechs.

When Ves thought about the problem, he recalled a distinct phenomenon concerning the mechanics behind auras.

\"When multiple identical mechs are standing side by side, their auras overlap with each other.\"

In fact, they didn't just overlap, but they also synced with each other! This caused them to merge their strengths and amplify their effects to observers!

If auras could be layered on top of each other to amplify their effects, what if they could dampen each other instead?

\"Interesting.\" Ves rubbed his chin in an intrigued manner. \"However, this can only be done if I have at least two mechs. If there's only one source of aura, I don't have anything to dampen it with, unless...\"

What if he split Zeigra's spirituality in two? Then put them both into the Devil Tiger? Could a mech design accommodate two identical but separated design spirits?

The idea tempted him a lot, yet it sounded way too crazy even for Ves! The risks involved with splitting a spiritual entity into two was way too reckless! He could hardly predict what might result if he attempted such a radical act!

\"The entire point of the Devil Tiger is to see how it will function with a complete spiritual entity! If I split them up into two super-sized spiritual fragments, the entire nature of my experiment is different!\"

Besides, Ves doubted he could arrange the two spiritual fragments together in a way that caused them to completely negate each other's auras.

He had to find a different approach. As he mulled over the issue, he came up with another simple idea.

\"What if the X-Factor of my mech is expressed inward rather outward? Is it possible to tweak this aspect?\"

He had never consciously tweaked the parameters of the X-Factor, mostly because he never imagined he could manipulate it directly.

In all of his previous works, the X-Factor always came about indirectly. One source was the focused emotional and spiritual investment he put into his designs. Another source was the design spirit he placed into his designs.

The latter had stolen the show the last few years. As an external source of strength,  the use of design spirits vastly strengthened the X-Factor of his mech designs.

\"Yet underneath my shiny design spirits rests a bedrock of subliminal spirituality that serves as the spiritual foundations of my mech designs!\"

This was something that he could influence directly. While it was ordinarily too weak to affect the strength of a design spirit, what if he strengthened it to a degree that it could?

\"It's worth a try!\"

Of course, his enthusiasm quickly subsided when he thought about how much spiritual energy he had to invest to negate Zeigra's aura. If he tried to dampen it directly, then the amount of energy he had to expand would likely suck him dry!

\"I have to resort to a different approach!\"

Dozens of theories flitted past his mind as he tried to come up with a novel approach that produced his desired result with as little sacrifice as possible.

Ves eventually palmed his head. \"Why am I thinking of dampening when I can just block it instead? What if I can shape the spiritual aspects I'm in control of into a container that blocks any aura from radiating outwards?\"

It was kind of like treating his mech as a source of radiation. If he wanted to contain the radiation and protect the outside environment from becoming exposed, then he could simply build some kind of barrier that expressly disallowed its passage!

The key was that this barrier did not have to be too strong or fancy! It just had to be strong enough to contain the aura of the X-Factor of his mech!

\"Aura is a byproduct of the strength of the X-Factor. It's not really all that strong on its own!\" Ves realized. \"I can use this property to develop an efficient barrier!\"

He invested all of his mental processing power to this solution. He called up a projection of his largely-complete mech design and injected it with some of his spiritual energy in a specific fashion. He formed an intangible, conceptual barrier along the outer contours of his design.

Ves used his imagination to instill his spiritual barrier with a specific instruction. It's only goal was to prevent the Devil Tiger's aura from escaping from the mech!

He contemplated adding more instructions, but he was afraid of screwing up his original intentions.

As soon as the barrier took effect, Ves immediately perceived the difference. The Devil Tiger design no longer appeared to radiate anything remarkable! Ves found his design to be a lot duller now that he could no longer perceive its residual aura!

\"I'm on the right track!\"

Of course, his thin and weak spiritual barrier only blocked the Devil Tiger's inherent aura. Ves still hadn't instilled it with a design spirit.

\"It's about time, though.\"

Solving this final problem meant that Ves overcame the final hurdle that prevented him from finalizing his design.

While he felt rather cross that he couldn't test his design with a prototype, he thought he did a pretty good job regardless. In any case, since his design philosophy mainly affected people rather than technology, Ves never suffered from a huge divergence in simulated tests and realspace tests.

Ves took a mental step back and evaluated his work up to now. After several weeks of intensive design work, his mech looked as formidable as he envisioned.

The mech's overall appearance bore a vague resemblance to Zeigra, though he opted to dye the mech in a deeper, darker and more striking shade of red. Black stripes interspersed across its exterior added a menacing tiger-like quality to the mech.

In order to make its name even clearer, Ves also stamped a small but noticeable label of its name onto its flank. This way, no one would mistake its actual name!

While its cost was way way higher than its actual performance, the Devil Tiger was no slouch. Among third-class mechs, its performance equaled that of an expensive custom mech like Lord Javier's Loquacious Raphael.

\"It's more accurate to describe the Devil Tiger as a mech that straddles the zone between second-class and third-class mechs!\"

With ASMAS at its core, his mech had the potential to complete its step into second-class mechs. The only issue was that his mech would have to consume a lot of expensive materials and upgrade all of the third-class components that the mech wasn't able to upgrade on its own.

\"Human intervention is still required for some of the upgrade and repair processes.\" Ves grumbled.

Smart metal in the form of pure ASMAS and substitute ASMAS comprised about seventy-five percent of his mech design. While this was a very high proportion, the twenty percent that consisted of regular mech parts still required human attention in order to repair them or upgrade them with better parts.

The configuration that this proportion resulted was a mech that excelled in landbound skirmishes. Its endurance was quite decent, though its pure ASMAS expended a considerable amount of energy and spare materials each time it produced a new batch of substitute ASMAS to repair its losses.

Still, it was better for the mech to perform its own repairs than to let enslaved or ill-educated pirates tool around the guts of his mech! Ves had already programmed his mech with various nasty responses if anyone incompetent tried to screw around with his machine!

As Ves evaluated his mech for one last time, he picked up Lucky who was lounging next to his P-stone and showed off his design.

\"Look at this design. Isn't it a beauty?\"

\"Meow.\"

\"Don't you wish you'd be as huge, dangerous and menacing as my Devil Tiger?\"

\"Meow!\"

\"Size matters, Lucky!\"

\"Meow meow!\"

Lucky angrily phased out of Ves' arms and floated out of reach. Who claimed bigger cats were better?! A gem cat like him was perfect for cuddling and sneaking!

Once he finished chuckling, Ves grew solemn. It was time for him to finalize his design by adding its final, special touch. He picked up his P-stone and inspected its intangible prisoner.

Zeigra's spirituality still hadn't let up on its animosity towards Ves. The deceased Crown Cat wanted nothing more than to hit back at Ves in retribution for the hunt!

\"Your struggles are pointless, you loser cat! Behave for a moment and accept your new home! It will be the only safe harbor you'll enjoy!\"

Ves mustered up his Spirituality and dragged Zeigra's spirituality out of the P-stone long enough to immediately shove it into the conceptual space of the Devil Tiger.

A transformation occurred!

While the aura barrier that Ves formed around the Devil Tiger successfully blocked his design from radiating a distinctive aura, it wasn't perfect. The mech still took on a very subtle quality that hinted at something more beneath the surface!

Ves immediately had the feeling that he created something special.

All of the risks he had taken and all of the time and resources he invested into its design resulted in a mech design with limitless growth opportunities.

As long as his Devil Tiger evaded total destruction, then it possessed the potential to grow into a truly formidable mech!

His design seed seethed with excitement. Even it acknowledged that Ves had created something exceptional!

\"My Devil Tiger design is complete!\"

Now, all he had to do was to produce its only copy!

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