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 Ves had the illusion that he became a Shadow Courier once he sneaked out of the hotel with Nitaa and donned his shadow attire. The robe he wore resembled those worn by the messengers of dark economy.

In contrast to his modest bulk, Nitaa resembled a hulking giant. Her powered hardsuit clanked with considerable weight with each step she took. The robes covering up its precise contours hardly succeeded in obscuring its considerable size!

Unlike his own attire, Nitaa's shadow attire offered actual protection against enemy fire. Ves would have felt more nervous about this if he didn't wear his shield generator underneath the layers.

The two sneaked out of the hotel under the cover of his Stealth Augment and boarded a number of anonymous shuttles and shuffled back and forth across the surface of Cinach VIII.

The trips were lengthy and boring, but necessary. They had to wipe away the trail back to the hotel as much as possible.

Ves decided to make use of this time to increase his absorption of Senior-level Mechanics and Metallurgy.

He took in bits and pieces of both Skills at the same time. He found it more interesting if he shifted from topic and topic.

All in all, just like Senior-level Physics, the theories he acquired at breakneck speed tended to be very complicated, very abstract and of limited applicability.

The best way to describe these Main Skills was that they provided an increasingly more formidable foundation in their respective fields.

At the level of a Senior, the knowledge imparted by the System basically gave him an introduction in countless different Sub-Skills. Each different introduction was enough to deepen his understanding and application of the finer points of Mechanics and Metallurgy.

He could already imagine the results once he fully internalized the ocean of knowledge. His pivotal new Senior-level Skills not only boosted his ability to design mechs in a holistic manner, but also opened up an incredible amount of new solutions to various rare problems.

With regards to Mechanics, Ves gained a much finer appreciation of the internal structure of a mech. Regardless of whether he designed a humanoid mech, an aquatic mech or a bestial mech, as long as it moved, Ves had many more ways to minimize the flaws and accentuate the strengths of the mechanical components of his designs.

"If I knew this much back when I was still working on the Devil Tiger project, I would have been able to make it a little bit more fluid." He muttered in his hardsuit.

Despite the gouts of new knowledge pouring into his mind, the difference it made to his mech designs was not that significant.

Novice and Apprentice-level knowledge formed the true foundation of his profession. Mech designers had to learn the most critical and the most fundamental theories upfront. What they learned afterwards were theories that weren't as universal and widely applied.

Therefore, even if Ves learned far more knowledge than he ever held about Mechanics, the true effect on the performance of his mech designs only amounted to an overall gain of five to ten percent.

Due to diminishing returns, it was difficult to squeeze out additional performance from a mech design! The further he progressed, the harder it became to achieve the same degree of improvement!

While Senior-level Mechanics improved his ability to design the interior mechanisms of a mech, the benefit he gained from Senior-level Metallurgy dealt with both the interior and exterior of a machine.

Different alloys possessed different properties. With so many diverse materials in existence, metallurgists and materials scientists invented new formulas and new applications all the time.

What Senior-level Metallurgy Skill granted him was more than instilling him with a list of known formulas and their properties. It granted him with the underlying foundation that allowed him to perform his own research on new metals and metallic exotics, with a focus on developing proprietary formulas useful to mechs!

With the influx of knowledge on Metallurgy, Ves realized that some Seniors felt inclined to shy away from third-party alloy formulas.

Apart from ensuring that their mechs performed at their best when paired with matching alloys, the main reason for doing so was to save on cost.

Certain materials and exotics were more prevalent in some areas than others. Relying on imported exotics to form the key components of a mech did not do its cost efficiency any favors!

Developing the skills to form his own alloy formulas also mattered for reasons other than reducing costs.

At the Senior-level, mech designers started to get really involved with designing mechs for high-ranking mech pilots.

The true power behind these incredibly sophisticated machines lay in their ability to resonate with expert pilots. The strategic inclusion of resonating exotics empowered the mechs with special abilities that warped reality by varying degrees.

Ves received an thorough introduction to resonating exotics during the entire knowledge transfer. An entirely new sphere of mech design opened up to him! He was no longer left in the dark when it came to designing expert mechs!

Not only that, but Ves also gained much when it came to designing standard mechs.

Certain materials resonated by themselves without the presence of a high-ranking pilot. Ves already encountered a number of custom mechs which incorporated a judicious amount of self-resonatic exotics to enable fake resonance.

The only downside to Ves was that resonating exotics and self-resonating exotics tended to be very rare. They were also in high demand as high-ranking mech designers heavily depended upon them to spice up their best mech designs.

The combination of low supply and high demand meant that the price for these materials was extremely inflated!

"This is the main reason why second-class mechs are so expensive!"

One factor that distinguished second-class mechs from third-class mechs was the former's use of self-resonating materials. Though used in only modest amounts due to economic concerns, the subtle boosts they provided distinguished these expensive mech designs even further!

If Ves was a second-class mech designer like Gloriana, then he would have learned some of this knowledge sooner. Not enough to allow him to develop his own formulas, but just enough for him to apply existing formulas in a skilled manner.

Ves shifted from his seat in the shuttle. His unpowered hardsuit did not exactly provide him with a lot of comfort.

"The amount of theories behind resonating exotics is so immense that I doubt Gloriana can match my prowess in this area. I'm probably ahead of her now in terms of pure knowledge!"

That was good news! The greater the disparity, the more assured he became!

He smirked underneath his helmet. If they ever collaborated to design a custom mech, then he would surely be able to surprise her with the added options he brought to the table!

Still, his ability to design a self-resonating custom mech or an expert mech was still limited. The introduction he received was at the level of a juvenile in the mech industry. He needed to supplement his foundation with more specialized Sub-Skills that delved a lot deeper into resonating and self-resonating metallic exotics.

"Outside of custom mechs and expert mechs, I'm not about to put this new knowledge to use anytime soon."

Self-resonating exotics promised to grant some of the prowess of expert mechs to standard mechs, but the prices for them were way too high.

While mech designers might be able to justify using the cheaper and more abundant self-resonating exotics in second-class standard mechs, there was no viable way to incorporate them in third-class standard mechs without incurring huge losses!

"I'll be pricing myself out of the market if I do so!"

For example, if he developed a variant of his successful Aurora Titan design that incorporated some basic self-resonating materials, its price would balloon by five times while only strengthening its performance by a fifth!

No sane third-class mech designer would ever accept such an inefficient tradeoff!

Instead of buying a grossly overpriced mech that only performed modestly better than a regular mech, mech buyers could instead opt to buy five normally-priced mechs with the same amount of money!

"These tradeoffs only make sense in wealthier states with more abundant supply of self-resonating exotics."

Not every second-class mech incorporated self-resonating exotics, but most of the mechs positioned in the upper end of the market tended to include them to varying degrees.

Second-class mechs designed in the Komodo Star Sector tended to be a lot more sparse compared to second-class mech designed closer to the center of the galaxy.

If Ves ever wanted to break into the second-class mech market, then deepening his knowledge on self-resonating exotics was a necessity. Otherwise, he'd be limited to designing the second-class equivalent of budget and bargain bin mechs!

While all of this sounded expensive, when utilized on a greater scale in states that were prosperous enough to afford this level of spending, the differences in might and versatility became evident!

This was why no one in the Komodo Star Sector believed that every third-rate state combined could overwhelm a single second-rate!

The gap in quality was too vast!

He sighed. "Sadly, these options aren't relevant for me right now. I'm still a long distance away from designing a second-class mech, and no expert pilot will entrust the design of a vital expert mech to an inexperienced Journeyman."

Perhaps his only opportunity to design an expert mech in the near future was to upgrade Jannzi's Shield of Samar if she broke through.

Ves believed that it wouldn't be long before she advanced to expert pilot. He knew that the design spirit of her mech already helped her once. Qilanxo's spiritual fragment could easily give Jannzi another push if it thought she needed the help.

He had to be ready to transform the Shield of Samar into an expert mech by the time she became an expert pilot. He already began to form a list of what he needed to learn in order to become more rounded in his ability to design an expert mech. Resonating materials only formed one facet of an expert mech's remarkable makeup.

"Expert mechs form their own separate genre of mechs. They require vastly different approaches to their design."

Now that he took his first step into this field, he became aware of how little he truly knew about expert mechs.

A vast stretch of darkness still limited his options.

If he wanted to shine some light on the landscape, then he needed to become smarter and acquire more knowledge related to this field.

As Ves continued to muse about expert pilots, the anonymous shuttle finally arrived at its destination.

"We've arrived at the rendez-vous point, sir."

"Ah." Ves pulled his attention away from his considerations. "We're about to meet the middleman, right?"

"Correct. Please watch your words and actions when you step out. The less clues you give away, the less likely your identity is exposed. Don't mention any names and try not to mention anything specific to a particular state."

"I understand."

Their voices came out of their helmets with a considerable degree of distortion to further prevent anyone from figuring out their identities via voiceprint.

What Ves lamented the most actually was that he had to leave Lucky behind at the hotel again. The cat was simply way too tied to his identity for him to risk bringing into the Circle of Mota.

As Ves stepped out, he began to employ one of the extra measures he prepared to obscure his identity more thoroughly.

He began to don a prepared spiritual image as his mask. He infused it with a considerable amount of spirituality already, which strengthened his mask considerably.

His entire demeanor changed as soon as he stepped foot in the underground tunnel. Their  surroundings were wide enough to run entire transports through the tunnels!

Wearing his shadow attire, Ves moved across the clearing with a measured, almost bot-like march.

His entire body language differed substantially from before. Almost every quirk and tell had disappeared since he donned his new mask!

The sudden change startled even Nitaa. If not for her huge hardsuit, her astonishment would have been obvious.

As it was, she managed to keep up a steady pace alongside Ves. It was as if the two were a pair of equals instead of master and subordinate.

They approached a single man awaiting their arrival at the other end of the tunnel.

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