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 Ves was new to spiritual engineering and only possessed a superficial understanding of this field. The spiritual techniques he developed beforehand mostly consisted of straightforward applications.

"Child's play." He scoffed.

He merely dipped his toes into spiritual engineering so far. Even creating his first spiritual product known as Vescas had been more of an accident than something created with conscious intent.

This time, he intended to rectify some of the flaws in his crude spiritual restoration technique.

"Just like regular engineering, the raw materials play a large part in determining what is possible." He whispered to himself.

He looked thoughtfully at the containers placed in front of him. All three of them stored P-stones.

One P-stone acted as his current spiritual energy battery. After several weeks of accumulation, it stored more excess spiritual energy than what was currently contained within his mind!

Another P-stone held the spiritual fragment he accidentally retrieved from Nyxie. Due to the alien spiritual entity's intense hostility and strength, Ves always kept it inside the B-stone lockbox.

The last P-stone held his newly-obtained spiritual fragment from Venerable Plinter. Though it tried its best to escape, the fragment lacked the strength to overcome the P-stone's attraction force.

All three P-stones held the raw materials that Ves intended to combine together to form his second spiritual product. His goal was to create an artificial living spiritual entity that contained all of the properties he desired!

The closer his spiritual product aligned with his vision for his Desolate Soldier mech, the greater its impact on the market. Ves banked on its aura of his mech to be both strong and pure enough to inspire a sense of duty among the people in its area of effect.

In order to accomplish this, Ves had to treat his raw materials.

"There is too much garbage in my raw materials. I have to filter them out as much as possible before I combine them together."

If he did not do so, he would end up with a product like Vescas who retained far too many traits from the Dragoncat and himself. While that wasn't necessarily a bad thing for a mech like the Kinslayer, Ves wanted to produce something purer and more focused for his Desolate Soldiers.

"The Desolate Soldier is a mass-production mech intended to be sold in great numbers. I have a duty to make sure that my work is as efficient as possible in performing its functions!"

Ves did not wish to impart his next mech design with a mixed and unfocused X-Factor. The only method he could think up to avoid this outcome was to subtract the undesirable elements from his raw materials before he merged them together.

"It's not the best solution, but it's the only option available to me." He grimaced. "The waste will be incredible."

He walked over to the container holding the P-stone that contained Venerable Plinter's spiritual fragment. He already checked the local news, but the Hertogers didn't report anything about the expert pilot's condition.

He didn't need any confirmation to know that Venerable Plinter's condition should be quite severe. Ves cut off a large chunk of her spirituality, after all. There was no way she could recover in a short amount of time!

In fact, the incident was so severe that the Caraban Fusiliers already postponed their deployment to the frontlines!

Ves felt a little guilty about that. He deprived the Hertog Dominion of one of its strongest defenders. It would take several months or years for Venerable Plinter to recover from the damage.

By that time, the Hertog Dominion might have already fallen from the onslaught of sandmen!

Though Ves didn't believe that his intervention had inadvertently caused the downfall of this state, he hadn't done the Hertogers any favors.

"It's for a good cause." He muttered. "Your sacrifice will not be in vain. Even if you failed your duty to your state, you should at least be content with doing your duty to the other beleaguered states in our star sector!"

The excuse he came up with was sufficient to wash away his guilt. He turned back to his work and focused his efforts on the spiritual fragment.

He studied Venerable Plinter's spiritual fragment carefully. He relied heavily on his judgement and feelings to guess at its spiritual attributes. He tentatively identified those he wanted to make use of and those he failed to identify and wanted to discard.

Ves formed a spiritual projection and began to operate on the spiritual fragment, for lack of a better word. Through various ways, he tried to concentrate and gather unwanted spiritual energy with undesirable attributes.

It was difficult. Normally, the attributes possessed a natural tendency to disperse evenly.

How could he possibly draw out the junk while leaving the more valuable spiritual attributes in place?

After a bit of experimentation, Ves developed a costly new technique called selective spiritual attraction. Knowing that he could afford to use up his spiritual energy, he began to form a spiritual mask that overwhelmingly concentrated certain traits. He spent a considerable amount of spiritual energy to empower this new mark.

Instead of donning the mask over his mind, he instead wrapped it around a strong spiritual projection. The two spiritual entities fused with each other, forming a detached, intangible spiritual substance that radiated an intense hostility towards the Hertog Dominion!

If Ves donned this mask over his mind, he would probably turn into a rabid hater of the state!

"I'd fit right in with its rebels!"

Of course, he did not do anything of the sort. Instead, he hovered his altered spiritual projection close to Venerable Plinter's spiritual fragment.

As expected, the spiritual projection drew out a strong response!

Ves observed the spiritual fragment carefully. Some of the spiritual energy embedded with spiritual attributes that he couldn't identify started to get hopping mad! They tried to push towards his offending spiritual projection as if they wanted to beat it to death!

"So it works!"

In some cases, spiritual energy acted on their own in response to other entities. Ves took advantage of this by creating a specialized spiritual 'magnet' and dangling it close to Plinter's spiritual fragment.

His magnet's proximity to the fragment was enough to draw out elements that responded strongly to his new invention.

Ves keenly observed the reaction. Once he no longer perceived any movements, he formed a spiritual knife and began to cut into the fragment.

This time, he did not have to resort to drawing upon the power of his F-stone. The isolated spiritual fragment wasn't strong enough to resist his cutting strength.

Though Ves cut a bit more out of the fragment than he wanted, he managed to separate the spiritual energy that responded the strongest to his provocation.

Ves quickly grabbed hold of the separated portion before it could rejoin the fragment and dumped it in the imaginary realm.

The corrosive spiritual winds quickly ate at the separation portion while blowing it far away.

"Good riddance."

Ves employed his selective spiritual attraction technique again, this time choosing to focus on drawing out a different undesirable attribute.

The difficulty in employing this technique was that he had to guess the undesirable attribute in the fragment and form a strong, opposing spiritual mask to elicit a strong reaction.

Thinking all of this up required a lot of trial and error. Half of the time, his spiritual magnets failed to elicit a strong reaction from the fragment. He wasted a lot of time and spiritual energy to come up with the right guesses.

Nonetheless, slowly but surely, the spiritual fragment reduced in size. Ves continually cut undesirable portions from the fragment, all the while aware that his surgery was anything but precise. Each time he cut he also removed some of the more desirable parts of the fragment.

"It's a huge waste, but it's still worth it. I only need this fragment for its purity, not its strength."

At the end of the butchery session, Ves estimated he removed up to forty percent of the spiritual fragment's original makeup. The remainder consisted of spiritual energy that aligned strongly to duty, rifleman mechs and other desirable traits.

"I'm lucky that expert pilots are fairly focused."

Having removed most of the impurities of one spiritual fragment, Ves turned his attention to the other spiritual fragment.

He made his preparations before tentatively opening the B-stone lockbox. A feral spiritual fragment tried its best to escape, but Ves firmly clamped down with his own spirituality.

"C'mon! Stay still while I cut you down to size!"

Ves was much more reluctant to cut into Nyxie's spiritual fragment. It was much stronger and forced him to expend more spiritual energy to keep up his suppression. He continually topped himself up by drawing on the reserves of his spiritual energy battery while he quickly went to work.

He didn't have the luxury to be patient this time. He formed a crude spiritual mask, dumped a dollop of spiritual energy in them, then merged them with his spiritual projections.

Through some inferences, he formed magnets that drew out the worst attributed spiritual energy. Ves only made quick, crude separations, and was careful not to cut out too much.

The biggest problem he faced was that the powerful spiritual fragment was filled with undesirable spiritual attributes! If Ves wanted to get rid of them all, then the alien spiritual fragment would be reduced to the size of a pea by the time he was done!

"I can't be too strict this time. I just have to throw out the worst aspects."

He still cut out seventy percent of the spiritual fragment by the time he was done. Though the spiritual fragment weakened enormously due to his operation, Ves did not necessarily see that as a bad outcome.

"It was already very strong to begin with! Now that I've cut it down to size, it's a lot easier for me to control!"

Nyxie's spiritual fragment no longer possessed the strength to resist the P-stone's suction force. Ves confidently left the P-stone out of the B-stone lockbox as he was sure that its trapped spiritual fragment wouldn't be able to escape anytime soon.

Another benefit to lobotomizing the alien spiritual fragment was that it became a lot milder now. It no longer radiated as much alienness and hostility anymore. The fragment also lost most of its tyrannical and domineering attributes.

What remained was a spiritual fragment that appeared much more... agreeable.

"Inside every monster is a heart of innocence." Ves murmured as he studied his handiwork.

Though the spiritual fragment still retained much of its alienness and hostility, their weakening meant that other spiritual attributes could finally exert some of their influence.

What Ves discovered after his inspections was that Nyxie possessed traits that aligned closely to faith, devotion, responsibility and thoughtfulness.

Ves rubbed his chin in thought as he tried to make sense of what he perceived. "These are the traits of an elite groomed for senior priesthood or something."

He couldn't tell anything more. In any case, these attributes were a lot gentler and more positive than the poison that suffused the alien spiritual entity. While they didn't necessarily align with his vision for his Desolate Soldier design, they weren't entirely opposed.

"They'll form a nice bonus, I think."

Seeing how effectively he managed to purify his spiritual fragments made him wonder if he could employ the same techniques to living expert pilots. What if he wanted to 'reform' them or alter their inclinations?

He did not immediately discount the possibility.

Though Ves believed it was considerably more difficult to spiritually lobotomize living expert pilots, the same theories still applied. He just had to employ more strength to breach their defenses and keep his 'patients' under control.

Ever since he learned what he could do to mech pilots, he began to harbor ambitions to recruit and nurture expert pilots. This was one of the reasons why he hired mech pilots like the Ingvar twins on Bloodstone.

Raising them was not impossible. Keeping them was another matter.

Aside from keeping the Mech Corps and other greedy organizations from poaching them, Ves also had to make sure to keep them loyal to him. Indoctrination could only do so much, especially to already-mature expert pilots.

In such cases, it might be useful for him to operate on their spiritualities to make them more pliable!

"I wonder if it works against someone who is a lot more intense like Venerable Foster."

She'd be a much more agreeable expert pilot if he removed her intense hatred towards pirates and her strong loyalty to the Hafner Duchy and the Vesia Kingdom.

Of course, Ves didn't think he could succeed. Not only was she growing stronger at a rapid pace due to her incredible talent, the aforementioned traits formed a core part of her spirituality!

"I don't think I'll have anything left of the Venerable by the time I'm done cutting into her mind!"

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