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 Ves felt a bit guilty for enjoying the shopping process. He knew that it would be detrimental to his future development if he became too dependent on the System.

Despite his conviction to save up his DP to lessen his dependence and to reserve his fortune for big expenditures, in the end he gave in to his urges.

He felt a bit bad at himself for choosing the easy option. Other mech designers had to spend years of study and practice in order to master these new Skills, while Ves merely spent the System's fantasy currency to acquire it all in a day!

He sighed. "It's really not fair to other mech designers."

Normally, he didn't care about that, but ever since he got a girlfriend, he began to think a little bit more on what this difference might do to his relationship. As much as he wanted to one-up Gloriana and stay ahead of her, it would be very sad if he kept growing at a rapid pace while leaving his girlfriend far behind.

Was it truly a good idea if he deprived the love of his life benefits of the System?

He frequently grappled with this problem in his thoughts. If he truly loved a woman and that woman loved him back, then Ves felt obligated to extend his trust to her. After all, if he truly loved someone, he wanted to provide for her and make her happy!

While Ves wasn't sure if he would ever be able to reach this point with Gloriana, he had to take the possibility into account. Whatever the future might bring, he eventually foresaw that he would no longer keep the System completely to himself.

"System... can you have multiple users at the same time?"

[Affirmative. Permission to utilize the Mech Designer System will only be granted to worthy mech designers.]

For once, the System answered his question! Not only that, it confirmed one of the suspicions that he always held!

Just like the Metal Scroll of the past, the System was capable of enlightening multiple people at a time! The only reason why Ves hadn't realized this sooner was because he was far too selfish and paranoid to even think about sharing the System with others!

"How will multiple people be able to access you?"

[The Mech Designer System can only be accessed through this comm.]

He let out a sigh in relief upon hearing this answer. By limiting access to the System through the comm it inhabited, Ves retained full control over it. Just because he was potentially willing to share the System didn't mean he wanted others to hijack it! The System was far too valuable to leave in other people's hands!

"Thanks for answering my questions, System."

Once he satisfied his curiosity, Ves turned his attention back to the Skill Tree. He started his shopping spree by attempting to upgrade his Structural Pathway Configuration Sub-Skill.

The System immediately denied his request.

[Your Structural Pathway Configuration IV cannot be improved until your Electrical Engineering has reached Senior-level.]

Ves cursed a bit. "Make that a little bit more clear, then!"

He wanted to improve his ability to design the internal architecture of his mech by upgrading this Sub-Skill, but it turned out that he missed a prerequisite. While he could instantly spend 100,000 to upgrade his Electrical Engineering Skill to Senior-level, Ves wouldn't gain anything until he completed an Upgrade Mission.

"I don't have the time to divert my attention to Upgrade Missions." He grumbled. "If I can't obtain the benefits immediately, then my DP is best spent somewhere else."

Even if he rushed the Upgrade Mission and completed it quickly, it still took around two weeks to integrate and digest his newly-upgraded Skill!

All the while, he needed to divert at least a portion of his attention elsewhere, which would reduce his productivity while he worked on his design project!

Ves shook his head. "I should stick to what I can use immediately."

He limited his selection a little and decided to upgrade something basic but very relevant in the current circumstances.

[Ballistic Weapon Optimization I]: 500 DP

[Ballistic Weapon Optimization II]: 1,000 DP

[Ballistic Weapon Optimization III]: 2,000 DP

[Ballistic Weapon Optimization IV]: 4,000 DP

[Ballistic Weapon Optimization V]: 50,000 DP

"Since I'm about to design a ballistic rifleman mech, it's a good idea for me to obtain in-depth knowledge on ballistic weapon systems!"

This was just one of many Sub-Skills relating to ballistic rifles and cannons. While other Sub-Skills  allowed him to work with better and more specialized ballistic weapon systems, Ves valued its emphasis on optimization.

Ves didn't plan to equip his Desolate Soldier design with a complex weapon! Just like every other aspect of the mech, he wanted its rifle to be as simple and cheap as possible!

"Optimization is key!"

Since he worked with a generous budget, he immediately acquired Ballistic Weapon Optimization V. The moment he confirmed the exchange, a spike drove into his mind!

"Ah!"

A flood of knowledge poured into his mind and integrated with his knowledge. Different from last time, Ves managed to bear the transfer. Compared to receiving Senior-level Mechanics and Metallurgy at the same time, this little burden was nothing!

He laughed. "Hahaha! You can't defeat me anymore, System! You almost broke my mind once, but what doesn't kill me makes me stronger!"

Just like exercising muscles, Ves believed that his mind became more resilient once he pushed it to its limits and beyond. As long as his mind healed back the damage, it became a little bit more capable of withstanding the same stresses.

Soon enough, Ves digested the bulk of the knowledge transfer. He absorbed all kinds of details about ballistic weapons, from the most fundamental theories to the more advanced ones ordinarily learned by Seniors!

There was a huge jump in price for many Sub-Skills upgraded to the fifth tier. Though Ballistic Weapon Optimization V required him to cough up 50,000 DP, which was more than most Masteries, Ves quickly confirmed that he hadn't spent his DP in vain.

The amount of tricks he gained with regards to ballistic weapon systems gave him a lot of confidence in pairing his Desolate Soldier with a good rifle!

"This is good stuff!"

Unfortunately, it cost an even more ludicrous amount of DP to upgrade this Sub-Skill again!

"Let's look at something else."

Once he finished internalizing his new Sub-Skill, he began to turn his attention towards the Metallurgy branch. He needed to gain a good amount of proficiency in working with metals and alloys in order to minimize excess use of materials.

[Fixed Armor Specialization II]: 20,000 DP

[Fixed Armor Specialization III]: 40,000 DP

Fixed Armor Specialization was a more expensive optimization Sub-Skill, so Ves only dared to upgrade it twice.

Of course, Ves gained a lot of knowledge. Virtually every mech that Ves worked with featured fixed armor systems, so the applicability of what he just acquired was a lot better than his first purchase, which only played a role with mechs armed with ballistic weapon systems!

"This isn't enough. I need something more to achieve greater savings in my next mech design!"

He first contemplated acquiring Sub-Skills related to tweaking existing alloy formulas or developing new ones. However, it took a lot of time to develop a formula that improved upon the original.

Ves didn't specialize in armor systems. He couldn't care less about developing custom alloy formulas for his mech designs. He was already fine with licensing existing ones to skip all of that hard work.

After a bit of browsing, he decided to acquire something that sounded very useful.

[Internal Structure Specialization I]: 75,000 DP

Ves unlocked the option to obtain Internal Structure Specialization I after his Metallurgy reached Senior. As soon as he exchanged this Sub-Skill, he immediately began to immerse himself.

The Sub-Skill delved very deep in the materials used to prop up the internal structure of a mech. He rapidly learned the fine art of how to design an efficient structure and how to tweak the composition of materials to achieve their maximum effect!

What he just learned complemented his Structural Pathway Configuration IV Sub-Skill very well! The possibilities opened up by what he just learned allowed him to develop a finer internal structure that used up less materials without reducing the integrity of his designs!

Once he finished his new knowledge, he briefly checked his DP.

"I've spent almost 200,000 DP!"

That was too much considering how much time had passed! It felt a bit surreal to him how easily he spent months worth of accumulation. He already ate through two-thirds of his budget!

Ves needed to be a bit more careful in spending the remainder of his budget.

For a moment, he contemplated on upgrading some of his smaller and more neglected Sub-Skills. He even thought about upgrading one of his Apprentice or Journeyman-level Skills.

"I should get something cheap."

[Computer Science - Journeyman]: 4,000 DP

The amount of programming knowledge he gained was considerable compared to how little DP he just spent. Though learning how to program a mech felt a bit uncomfortable to Ves, it was a bit better than before.

Ever since he clarified his design philosophy and identified the different paths available to him, he no longer objected as much to the thought of controlling his creations. The path of determination was particularly receptive to programming-related Skills and Sub-Skills.

"I see! My inclinations can change depending on where my design philosophy stands!"

Upgrading his Computer Science Skill did not matter too much for him right now. He planned to use a standardized, off-the-shelf operating system for his Desolate Soldier design because he didn't have the time to program something more fitting.

"It really doesn't add any value to simple mechs. Custom software only really makes a difference when I design a complex mech." He muttered.

He turned to the Mechanics branch, which he hadn't touched until now. He possessed remarkably few Sub-Skills, which he found to be a considerable mismatch due to its central role in mechs.

[Fine Motion Control I]: 75,000 DP

The Sub-Skill he chose was another one that became available when his Mechanics Skill reached the Senior-level. While Fine Motion Control I did not sound very exciting, it was exceptionally useful for his current project.

This was because it increases his knowledge on how to make his ranged mechs more accurate! As long as the mech pilots possessed enough skill, they could apply their marksmanship to a greater degree to his mechs!

As for the less-skilled mech pilots, Ves gained more expertise on how to tweak his mechs to make it easier for them to hit their targets.

The knowledge he absorbed was quite extensive and encompassed many different kinds of mechs, not just ranged ones.

Though melee mechs mostly emphasized forceful movements, there was still a role for finer control, particularly with mechs that relied on finesse such as light skirmishers.

Now that he spent the bulk of his budget, he contemplated whether he should spend his DP on a Mastery.

"Nah." Ves shook his head. "It's nice, but I don't think I need it. My other Mastery Skills already provide me with a sufficient amount of overlap."

He knew he'd be able to gain some benefits if he acquired another Mastery, but Ves couldn't afford to waste his time on another lengthy Mastery experience.

Though he could afford to spend the DP, his time was much more scarce!

Ves decided to leave the Masteries available to him for another day and proceeded to search for something that provided immediate benefits.

[Simulations I]: 1,000 DP

[Simulations II]: 2,000 DP

[Simulations III]: 5,000 DP

[Simulations IV]: 10,000 DP

He turned to a Sub-Skill under Mathematics this time. Though the Simulations Sub-Skill sounded very basic, it brought an incredible amount of value for a very little price.

Simulations IV enabled him to become a lot more proficient in running simulations! Though his other Sub-Skills already granted him knowledge of many different mathematical models, acquiring this last Sub-Skill allowed him to tie them all together with as few contradictions as possible!

"Basically, I can achieve a lot more results in my simulation work!"

The proficiency he gained in running simulations allowed him to skip weeks or months worth of monotonous virtual tests. This was vitally important for him as he wanted to waste as little time as possible in optimizing his mech design!

This was it! He spent almost 300,000 DP, exhausting most of his reserves. It would take a long time for him to earn back so many Design Points. Ves continually winced at how much he spent despite knowing that the knowledge he gained was worth every point.

"If I can't design a good ballistic rifleman mech after learning so much new stuff, then I'm a disgrace of a Journeyman!"

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