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 After his mother disappeared, Ves fell silent for a time.

Eventually, he directed his attention to Lucky, who appeared completely relaxed as he snoozed without a care in the world.

\"You're so unreliable. Who do you really look up to, me or my mother?\"

He knew there was no use putting some sense in his cat, so he instead climbed out of his bed and moved over to the collapsed form of his bodyguard.

Though it unnerved him a bit to sleep while she remained on guard within his room, he felt better if there was someone in the room to react against unauthorized intrusions.

His mother's casual intrusion into his hotel room vindicated his decision. Yet her very appearance also proved that two of his most trusted guards, namely Nitaa and Lucky, weren't capable of fending off against every intruder!

Ves kicked Nitaa's body. She remained out cold. \"How did mother manage to do this?\"

The more he met his mother, the more it became clear that she possessed a much greater mastery of spiritual techniques. He would have loved to learn how to prod someone unconscious by leveraging his Spirituality in a certain way.

\"That's another thing my mother didn't teach me.\" He grimaced.

Rather than gift him a pair of incomplete wedding rings, he would rather receive a manual on spiritual power! Why didn't she give him that instead?! Was she afraid of the Five Scrolls Compact's copyright police or something?!

Above all else, his was anything but forthcoming about her past, her difficulties and her secrets. Her silence on the questions simmering in his mind frustrated him to no end!

Ves also realized that he and his mother had more things in common than he thought. It wasn't as if he'd been generous with his secrets towards his closest companions either, and he didn't plan to change that anytime soon.

Nitaa and Calabast may know a bit more about him than he was comfortable with, but that was because they found out his secrets outside of his control.

\"Secrets... they're great if you can keep them, but awful if someone else withholds them from you.\" He depressingly mused. \"I hate being on the other end.\"

If his mother was anything like himself, then he shouldn't be surprised that she would want to keep him out of her orbit. At his current state, he could hardly be of assistance to her besides from acting as her spiritual energy battery.

\"What is up with that?\" He frowned.

He tried observing her with his spiritual senses and spiritual vision. He encountered nothing but walls that hindered him assessing her true spiritual state.

Yet normally, mothers didn't drain the vigor of their sons. So what compelled her to steal his spiritual energy as if he was a smoothie?

\"Is there a problem with her spiritual state?\"

If Ves assumed that his mother truly died but managed to retain a sliver of life as a ghost or something, then she may not have come back to life unscathed.

The evidence strongly pointed towards a deficiency of some sorts. Perhaps she lost her capability to replenish her spiritual energy, thereby making her dependent on external sources to maintain a healthy level of spiritual strength.

\"There's always a price.\" He whispered. \"The greater the benefit, the greater the price. I'd imagine clawing yourself out of the maws of death must be a very expensive price indeed.\"

He became a bit concerned about her dependence on the crystal builder leader's body. Though she made his body her own, he doubted that the crystalline body provided her with the right conditions to bring her back to life.

Ves wondered if he could give her a better body by designing one on his own. Human size, of course.

\"I doubt my mother wants to become a mech in her second life.\" He muttered.

All of this was largely moot since his mother did not wish to impose on him. She abundantly made it clear that she wished him to live his own life away from the entanglements that continued to tie down his father and his mother.

For now, he had no choice but to go along with their arrangements. Hopefully, that would be different one day, but that was very far away.

\"She really has a point.\" He closed his eyes. \"The best way for me to go forward is to keep my head down and progress in the background. I'll only endanger myself if I try to get involved.\"

Ves had the sense that his parents were even willing to die in some forgotten place in the Nyxian Gap if that was what it took to cut off further pursuit! This was their true love towards him. They unhesitatingly placed his own wellbeing above their own!

Once dawn began to break, Nitaa slowly awoke from her forced sleep. She immediately realized that she'd been taken out!

If not for Ves leisurely enjoying his breakfast in his room, she would have gone crazy!

\"My apologies, sir! I was derelict with my duties!\"

\"It's not a big deal, Nitaa. The person who came into my room was.. not easy to deal with. She's friendly though, so nothing happened to me. I still have Lucky to protect me, so I was never completely left alone.\"

Nothing serious happened to him except for losing half of his spiritual energy reserves. Ves had already retrieved the excess spiritual energy he previously dumped into his P-stone, but he still felt a bit lethargic and in no mood to design a mech anytime soon!

Fortunately, with his Grand Dynamo working at full tilt, the temporary shortfall no longer weighed on him as much as it used to. Where he previously needed months or years to recover his losses, now he'd be as good as new in less than two weeks.

\"Sir.. it was still unforgivable of me to fail you in such an abject way.\"

\"As I've said, it's not your fault. You can't defend against the method of attack the guest employed. We are but humans, and humans have failings.\"

\"It's unacceptable!\"

It took some time for him to stop Nitaa from apologizing to him. She really took her failings seriously, and even if she no longer expressed her regret, her eyes still looked troubled.

Ves decided to throw her a bone in order to drag her out of her cycle of self-blame.

\"Look, if you want to do better, then focus on training your mind. I know you spend a lot of effort on keeping your body fit, but you shouldn't neglect the growth of your mind. If you develop a strong will and unswervingly follow a set of principles, then I doubt you'd be as susceptible to the attack that knocked you out.\"

She looked doubtful at him. \"Will that really help?\"

\"Expert pilots are regularly known for these qualities. They are exceptional mainly because of their strong mental conviction and resilience.\"

That put her to thought, as Ves intended to. Unlike most people, Nitaa possessed spiritual potential.

Even if she wasn't a mech pilot or mech designer, Ves still believed that she would acquire something useful if she somehow managed to develop her spiritual potential to the point where she broke through the extraordinary threshold.

He even believed that this might be the key to unlocking the full potential of her experimental nose. The Five Scrolls Compact must have their reasons to pour their research into such an odd augmentation.

With all the excitement that went on, Ves welcomed a return to normality when Gavin made his daily report on his business operations.

\"How are the Avatars of Myth faring these days?\"

\"Quite well, boss. Nothing serious of note has happened. Commander Melkor sounds increasingly more confident about the readiness of the Avatars under his command. The cadre that he focused on nurturing first are completely integrated by now. They're loyal, skilled and committed to the Avatars. This opens up your mech troop for faster expansion, because as long as there is a sufficient amount of cadre in place in the new units, we don't have to fear any disloyalty.\"

\"How many mechs can we currently field?\"

\"Commander Melkor assured me that he can immediately field two landbound and two spaceborn mech companies. There are an abundant number of spare mech pilots on hand to ensure that all 160 mechs are ready to deploy at any moment. Though the budget of the Avatars has ballooned as well, for now the LMC can easily bear the burden.\"

That was good news. The growth of the Avatars had been far too slow for his liking. Hearing that they possessed more leeway now that they formed a strong core of loyalists eased his worries for his private mech force.

\"This only counts for our mech companies, right? What about our guard infantry and virtual security contingents?\"

\"They've shapen up as well under the lead of Captain Coyin Larkinson. In order to accelerate the growth of the guard infantry companies and the virtual security department, Coyin has reached out to other Larkinsons as well as their extensive list of contacts. A considerable number of military veterans have bolstered their ranks.\"

This did not sound as good to Ves. When he embarked on his grand expedition, he wanted to bring an adequate number of Avatars with him in for protection.

If most Avatars consisted of veterans with a strong attachment to the Bright Republic, then Ves doubted that more than twenty percent of them would agree to leaving their home state!

In fact, the same problem applied to the mech contingent as well. So long as they remained attached to the Bright Republic and their families who resided there, there was no way for Ves to employ them as freely as he wished!

Ves began to develop some ideas to address this problem, but he would wait until he finished his current tour before discussing them with Melkor.

\"How is the LMC?\" He asked, changing the topic.

\"The same. The LMC's considerable growth over the last few months has slowed down by now. While we are still selling more and more mechs, this is mostly due to expanding our reach into more distant markets. In the Bright Republic, our sales have completely plateaued. All of the side projects you've spent your time on lately hasn't done the LMC's mech catalog any favors. In addition, the controversy that has developed around your mech models has really started to pick up steam.\"

\"Ah, yes. The controversy.\" Ves grimaced. \"Have the LMC's attempts to deflect the criticism been effective.\"

\"No.\" He said. \"We don't really have a dependable spokesperson who can speak to the public on the company's behalf. While Professor Ventag has spoken up in your favor, the Ansel guys are doing everything they can to foster the rumors about the potentially dangerous effects of your mechs.\"

BANG!

\"My mechs aren't brainwashing anyone!\" Ves slammed his fist against the table. \"These rumors are ridiculous! My customers just love my products when they begin to use them, that's all!\"

\"We all believe you. The conspiracy theories completely neglect the fact that the MTA always certifies our mechs! If the LMC's products truly pose a threat to the minds of our customers, then we would have never been allowed to bring them to market! There's no way we can argue against those who aren't open to facts and logic!\"

Ves understood that his business rivals finally found a way to impair his business success. It got to the point where their chosen attack strategy seriously posed a threat to his reputation and the reputation of his company.

\"What can we do to halt the rumors?\"

\"For a start, you could return home and address the concerns of the public. There's not much you can do besides that. Haters are always going to hate. Don't forget that the LMC has developed a small but dedicated fanbase. Word of mouth has always been favorable for us. Our growth may be hampered, but we aren't in any risk of dropping off from the face of the galaxy.\"

That sounded far from ideal, but Ves understood that barring some exceptional circumstances, this might become the new normal.

The only way he could break this deadlock was if he came up with something explosive that forcibly rearranged the current landscape of his company.

Publishing a number of fantastic new mech designs ought to do the job.

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