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 Despite his many hopes for using artificial spiritual products as design spirits for his mechs, he did not consider them to be the ultimate solution to every problem.

His previous mech designs which utilized natural spiritual fragments or entities were very powerful. As long as their inclinations matched their mech designs, then the resulting combination was very powerful.

"The main advantage to resorting to products of nature is that they are already mature!"

A Sacred God like Qilanxo who grew up on Aeon Corona VII and went through countless experiences was not something an artificial spiritual product could match.

The difference between the former and the latter was that a spiritual product was completely newborn at the moment of creation. In fact, as a purely spiritual lifeform, it never enjoyed an opportunity to live a long and impactful physical existence.

This decreased their overall value compared to natural products. Having studied Vescas multiple times, Ves concluded that it was rather dimwitted and impressionable at first, so much so that he believed that it was better suited to be utilized in custom mechs rather than commercial mechs.

While he still believed that this was the case, Ves believed this problem wasn't insurmountable.

"It's still better to obtain a natural product that matches the vision of my mech design. There will always be problems if I attempt to twist something incompatible into something that barely matches my intention."

The main advantage of resorting to spiritual products rather than existing spiritual entities was that he could wipe the slate clean. Even if the spiritual entity hated his guts, as long as Ves broke it apart and reconstructed it in something new, the resulting newborn was ripe for indoctrination.

"This is the key."

Rather than immediately insert a new spiritual product into a mech design, he needed to raise and educate it beforehand. The longer he shaped its personality and inclinations, the less susceptible it would be once it took on its role and became exposed to the chaotic thoughts of thousands of mech pilots!

What this basically meant was that Ves had to create a spiritual product in the early phases of a mech design project and needed to divert a lot of effort into educating it. Even then, it would still be rather impressionable because it simply lacked too much life experience to know what was right or wrong.

In essence, that meant that his spiritual products would still be subject to change depending on the feedback it received from the earliest customers of his new mech model.

Ves predicted that only the earliest customers mattered, because exposure to more mech pilots would rapidly mature the design spirit over time.

This gave Ves a measure of control over the evolution of his spiritual products. He just had to selectively release the first copies of his new mech models to exemplary customers.

"The first mech pilots who interface with my new mechs will essentially act as teachers and role models!"

In this way, Ves believed he could successfully address one of the most troubling aspects in his attempts to utilize spiritual products in mass-market mechs.

He left out another method of influencing his spiritual products. The problem was that it was a bit more controversial.

"If my current raw ingredients aren't sufficient, then I can always blend in an additional ingredient that contains the properties I want!"

Ves believed that he could improve the compatibility of his spiritual products if he stole a spiritual fragment from a matching expert pilot!

As long as the expert pilot specialized in the same mech type as his design project, Ves would be able to better match the spiritual attributes of the spiritual product to a particular mech design.

In fact, Ves already blended in his own spiritual energy into his spiritual products to make them more compatible to mechs. The problem though was that his spiritual attributes addressed mechs as a whole rather than specific mech archetypes.

He needed a more targeted way to influence the initial state of his spiritual products!

Ves remembered that he matched his first spiritual product, Vescas, with the Kinslayer.

Vescas happened to be formed as a result of combining the spiritual remnants of a huge cat and a tiny portion of his own spiritual energy.

The result was a spiritual product which already started off with a high degree of fit towards a tiger mech!

"This won't be the case next time!"

If the initial mix of raw ingredients wasn't enough, then Ves had to throw in something extra in order to make up for the lack of fit.

One solution he came up with was to revive his plans to borrow the strength of expert pilots!

Ves knew that stealing a spiritual fragment from an expert pilot was risky and not entirely opportune. To ensure the best result, he needed to be in fairly close proximity to the expert pilot in question or find some way to track down their spiritual presence in the imaginary realm.

However, these challenges weren't insurmountable or even very troubling. It was easy enough for Ves to divert to the known locations of expert pilots in order to accomplish his heists.

"The bigger question is whether it's even a good idea for me to resort to this solution."

Ves knew that carving out a piece of spirituality from another person could be a damaging or traumatic experience. He wasn't really sure of the consequences of his actions, but at the very least he had set back their growth and progression for some time as their damaged spiritualities needed a lot of time to heal from their wounds.

Since expert pilots were weaker than ace pilot-like entities like Qilanxo and Nyxie, it would take a lot more time for them to recover from their losses.

"However, it doesn't have to be a lot. Just a tiny fragment is sufficient."

The spiritual fragments he obtained from Nyxie would serve as the base of his spiritual products. Their level of strength was already sufficient to form a strong design spirit, so Ves did not have to rely on other sources to bolster this aspect.

Adding in spiritual energy taken from other sources merely served to add more complexity and targeted focus to his spiritual products.

"It's much like designing a mech." He chuckled. "The different materials that make up its composition are good in different aspects. A mech made of a single material won't perform as well as a mech made of multiple materials."

Equating the development of spiritual products to mech design represented an advancement in spiritual engineering. While Ves was still far away from creating something as fantastic as the Grand Dynamo, he believed his latest methods brought him closer to reaching that height.

"Of course, for now I'm mostly relying on guesswork and unproven assumptions. If I want to prove my new methods, then I'll have to put them to the test!"

His next design project seemed as good as any to conduct this test.

"It's not like I have the time to hunt down a natural product under the circumstances. I have to work with what I have on hand."

Ves was under a lot of time pressure to design his upcoming spaceborn ballistic rifleman mech. The market conditions for this type of mech was very favorable right now, but the longer he took to complete his design, the more his competitors met the market demand.

If it took six months or more for him to complete his design, then at that time his competitors would have already captured most of the market! Trying to rob the turf claimed by others was a lot harder than taking over unclaimed territory!

He estimated that he had less than two months left if he wanted to stay ahead of the curve! Three months was his limit! If he took longer than this, then he'd be too late to attract attention away from existing mech models!

"Unless something literally falls on my lap, there's no way I can divert enough time to hunt down a strong natural fragment."

The only issue that really concerned Ves was that he needed to spend some time to locate and approach a suitable expert pilot.

He shrugged. "There's probably at least someone in the states along the way who matches my requirements."

In fact, he remembered that he stole a spiritual fragment from an expert pilot once before. Back when he designed the Aurora Titan, he still adopted the framework of the Triple Division technique.

These days, Ves considered the Triple Division technique to be overly rigid and outdated. At his current proficiency in spiritual engineering, he no longer needed to adopt its framework in a formulaic fashion.

Nonetheless, he still attempted to follow the formula when he designed the Aurora Titan. While Qilanxo's spiritual fragment played the starring role as the totem animal of his super-medium space knight, Ves relied on blending a spiritual fragment taken from a chivalrous expert pilot in the Mech Corps.

"If I recall, the expert pilot I've targeted is Venerable Rota Fontain of the 8th Spiral Shockers of the New Foundation Mech Army!"

Ves spent some time alongside the elite Spiral Shockers during the time he joined Senator Tovar's peace delegation. His close proximity to the Spiral Shockers allowed him to locate Venerable Fontain's spiritual presence easily and steal his spiritual fragment without much issue.

"I wonder what happened to him afterwards?"

His curiosity prompted him to head to the galactic net and try to search what had happened to Venerable Fontain over the years since he designed the Aurora Titan. Had the expert pilot regressed? Was he still the same? Or did he improve in some way?

"I've been avoiding this topic." He belatedly realized.

He had done his best to suppress the guilt he felt over stealing a portion of Venerable Fontain's strength.

With a heavy heart, he began to browse the articles related to Venerable Fontain and the Spiral Shockers.

"Hmm, there is not a lot of news."

Due to their status as an elite mech regiment, the Spiral Shockers guarded their information tightly. The Mech Corps largely kept their missions, their mech roster and other details under wraps.

If Ves wanted to gain access to classified information, then he needed to approach the Mech Corps. However, even if he was a Journeyman, he had no business in inquiring about the current state of one of their expert pilots!

"I think I have a solution for that, though." Ves smiled.

He activated his comm and browsed his list of contacts. Though he didn't really relish making contact with the person he had on his mind, his curiosity would continue to gnaw at his mind if he ignored the matter.

"Goddammit. What am I hesitating for? I'm making a big deal out of nothing! My relationship with them is different now that I've advanced to Journeyman!"

He decisively pressed the button to call his chosen contact.

A few seconds passed before the call went through. A projection of a very familiar face appeared in front of Ves.

"Mr. Larkinson. What an unexpected surprise!"

"Leland. Cut the crap. I need a favor."

The spy currently working at the headquarters of the LMC raised his eyebrow.

"What kind of favor?"

"I'm performing some research related to.. updating my Aurora Titan design. In order to help me understand space knights, I'd like to study from examples. I don't know if you know this, but Professor Ventag once did a similar favor to me by giving me access to a redacted record of one of the expert pilots serving in the Mech Corps. I... I'd like to obtain those records again."

Leland immediately frowned. "Your request is very brave. It's also inappropriate considering you've contacted me directly on an unsecure channel."

"Oh, I'm sure you've already made some precautions." Ves idly waved his hand, not very concerned about what he said. "Look. I really need you to fulfill my request. C'mon. Aren't we buddies? I don't see any harm in allowing me to get a glimpse!"

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