As the LMC and LMYC began to produce the first batches of Desolate Soldiers and Holy Soldier, the MTA approved the designs only days after receiving the first copies.
The LMC did not expect the MTA to approve the mech designs so fast. With the mental influencing effects of the mechs designed by Ves becoming more and more evident, how could the MTA not investigate?
Yet they barely took any notice of the complaints submitted by the critics. The Mech Trade Association existed for several hundred years and spanned the breadth of the galaxy. What weird mech hadn't they seen before?
Knowing more than most, Ves never doubted that his mech would get approved. The MTA wanted an endless variety of design philosophies to bloom. The more interesting, the better. Unusual design philosophies that achieved unprecedented results earned far more appreciation than the stale ones that overlapped with known and highly-studied specialties.
"As long as I don't cross the bottom line of the MTA, they are more inclined to see how far I can go." Ves grinned.
Nobody except Ves knew that the MTA asked him some questions before they issued their judgement.
They were curious about how his design philosophy made his Desolate Soldier and Holy Soldier so remarkable. The testers of his mechs very clearly noticed the influence they exerted over people.
Even though they were just silver label mechs, the mechs radiated such a pure sense of duty that it couldn't be explained with common sense! Even if the LMC somehow tampered with the neural interface, it couldn't explain how the people around the mechs became affected as well!
Ves merely shrugged when he read the message sent to his comm. A bright idea came to him. Since both Ves and Gloriana designed the mechs, why not let his girlfriend compose the answer?
"That's a brilliant idea!"
Compared to Ves, Gloriana possessed a much better relationship with the MTA! Not only that, but her weird belief in hexism would probably cause the evaluators to go crazy!
"Gloriana, can you do me a favor? Can you reply to the MTA in my stead?"
"Sure!" She chirped.
She eagerly accepted his request and rapidly wrote a deluge of answers to the questions posed by the MTA. Words and phrases such as divinity, proto-gods, six phases of existence and other nonsense suffused her written replies.
To Ves, all of it sounded like crazy talk. She interpreted his design philosophy through the lens of her own beliefs, causing her to couch all of her explanations in a way that only Hexers understood.
Even if the MTA employed Hexer mech designers, they would probably scratch their heads at the outlandish claims that Gloriana made.
"Hahaha!" Ves laughed as he read his girlfriend's reply over her shoulder. "Excellent! I should let you write up all the submissions to the MTA from now on! You make so much sense!"
"Thank you, Ves! I've made sure to be as thorough as possible! The MTA will surely recognize your brilliance after this! You deserve so much better!" Gloriana turned her head to Ves with a loving smile.
The cat ears atop her head made her ten times cuter right now! In fact, they both started wearing them permanently. Ves wanted to cultivate a certain image of themselves, while Gloriana just wanted to tie Ves closer to herself.
In any case, once they sent Gloriana's exhaustive reply, the MTA did not inquire again. Ves had the impression that the mech designers on the other side merely threw up their hands and hastily put their stamp of approval on the Desolate Soldier and Holy Soldier designs in order to move on to evaluating saner designs.
What could they do? Question Gloriana's beliefs? Insult hexism as a whole? It wasn't worth it for such a small issue!
The only complication that occurred was that the MTA issued a minor warning and advisory on the Desolate Soldier and Holy Soldier.
[These mechs exert a noticeable mental influence on people through unknown and potentially hazardous means. Caution is advised when fielding these mechs.]
The MTA tested the mental influence much more thoroughly than Ves expected.
They even verified that the effects were selective depending on the perspective of the mech pilot! Anyone deemed friendly and neutral received a positive influence while anyone deemed hostile received a negative influence.
Of course, the MTA also cautioned that positive and negative influences did not necessarily equate to beneficial and detrimental effects.
For example, if one of his mech designs caused mech pilots to fight harder to the point of disregarding their own lives, then was it truly a boon? Many people would probably argue that it was a bane instead.
The market had to make its own judgement.
One point in the LMC's favor was that the MTA put a surprisingly high valuation on the standard 10-year licenses of the two designs.
"10 billion bright credits for the Desolate Soldier! 7 billion bright credits for the Holy Soldier!"
That was far more than his Aurora Titan design, which possessed some insane if uneven performance parameters!
"Is that a lot?" Gloriana asked.
"It probably falls in line with other comparable mech designs published in the Bright Republic." Ves admitted. "It's still a considerable achievement for me! The standard license for my Aurora Titan design is worth only 6 billion bright credits!"
License valuations did not necessarily correlate to the performance or quality of a mech design. Instead, the MTA made their determinations according to the commercial value of a product.
If they believed a particular mech model sold well, then they should be worth more. The MTA basically expressed their confidence in the success of the Desolate Soldier when they priced its license at 10 billion credits!
As for the lower valuation of the Holy Soldier, Ves accepted it without a blink. Its tacky exterior and the plethora of religious iconography limited its market appeal to just a specific group of people.
Due to the minute influence of Prophet Ylvaine's spiritual fragment, the Holy Soldier's X-Factor gained a fraction of its character. Those who didn't believe in the Ylvainan Faith would always feel a vague sense of rejection when they piloted a Holy Soldier.
"Let's see if the MTA is right to value them so highly."
Ves carefully paid attention to the initial sales of the LMC's newly-released mech models. Would the official warning issued by the MTA deter too many buyers?
Three days after releasing the mechs, Gavin called Ves from the Barracuda.
"How is the market reaction, Benny?"
"Good! Initial demand largely fell within our expectations. Due to recents events, the Ylvainans all snapped up our Holy Soldiers in an instant! In fact, they just can't get enough! Demand for our Holy Soldiers is so great that the LMYC is forced to partner up with dozens of more mech manufacturers to even begin to meet the insane demand for our Holy Soldiers!"
Though Ves expected such a wild reaction, he still became delighted now that it actually happened.
"How many mechs?"
Gavin brought up a data pad and studied the numbers.
"With our current pace of ramping up production, our most modest estimate is that we'll be able to sell over five thousand Holy Soldiers in the first month!"
"Five thousand!" Ves gasped. "Are you kidding me?!"
"Many Ylvainans blindly believe in your products. They don't need to see the Holy Soldiers in action. They're willing to buy them straight away, especially when your new mech directly addresses the sandmen threat. Every other mech model competing against yours in the Protectorate mech market has become much less popular as soon as the LMYC started selling the Holy Soldiers! We don't even need to conduct a marketing campaign because the Ylvainans are already talking about them all day!"
Selling five thousand copies of the Holy Soldier in the first month was just the start. Gavin proceeded to reveal the sales projections for the subsequent months. Ten thousand sales. Twenty thousand sales. Thirty thousand sales. The figures kept growing so much that Ves began to doubt whether the Ylvainans could even scrounge enough mech pilots to put all of the Holy Soldiers to use!
"This is insane!"
"Hahaha! I know, boss! The Ylvainans are crazy, but it just so happens that they are crazy for the Bright Martyr! As long as you don't disappoint them, our sales in this market will always be crazy! That has already been the case with the Blackbeak, Crystal Lord and Aurora Titan to a lesser degree. It was just that their high prices impeded wider adoption."
The Holy Soldier was completely different from his older commercial mechs! As a mech designed from the ground up to be affordable and very applicable, Ves precisely aimed to achieve high sales volumes!
Still, as much as it pleased Ves immensely to spread his influence so dramatically through the widespread adoption of his latest mech model, there was one major caveat to the good news.
"Even if our Holy Soldier model will sell incredibly well, our profits won't be as high as we'd like, right?" Ves asked with a grimace.
Some of the enthusiasm dropped from Gavin's face. "You're sight, boss. It costs about 16 to 17 million bright credits to produce a Holy Soldier or Desolate Soldier. The bronze label editions sell at a list price of 20 million bright credits while the silver label editions sell for 22 million bright credits. While the profits of the latter are much more healthy, practically all of the Holy Soldiers sold in the Protectorate are bronze label versions."
The LMC adopted a strict standard when it came to labelling their products. The LMC was unable to guarantee the quality of mechs produced by third-party manufacturers. Ves did not allow any external partner to produce silver label mechs no matter how many guarantees they made.
"How much profit are we actually making?"
"Not much. The profit for the bronze label Holy Soldier is around 3 million bright credits. The third-party manufacturer takes a hefty cut out of this profit, say, 1 million bright credits."
That still sounded decent considering how much Holy Soldiers they expected to sell, but there was more. The LMYC had to pay various fees and taxes per fiscal year. The LMC owned a fifty-percent stake in the LMYC, so they only received half of the profits in the end.
Calabast's holding company received the other half of the profits. Ves became a little sour when he thought how easily she stood to profit from his success, though he had to admit that she contributed considerably to the smooth expansion of the LMC in the Protectorate mech market.
After every party involved received their cut, the LMC only received around 700,000 bright credits per sale.
"That doesn't sound so bad." Ves rubbed his chin.
"That is only the case when the cost of raw materials stays the same. Don't forget that the supply of raw materials will become more strained as more and more states begin to fall. The longer this invasion goes on, the more damage the sandmen will do. Many states are no longer exporting the materials they extract and are instead reserving them for domestic suppliers."
Ves did not worry too much about this trend. He already took it into account when he made sure to incorporate the most common materials available in the region in his latest mech designs.
Still, even a modest increase in the cost of raw materials would have a drastic effect on the profitability of his Holy Soldiers. The profit the LMC made per sale could easily dwindle to 300,000 bright credits or even worse!
"You know, we could remedy this situation if we increase the list price of our Holy Soldiers." Gavin suggested all of a sudden. "We know demand for them is insane, to the point that we're simply unable to meet most of the demand. In this situation, it makes a lot of sense to raise our prices. Those who are more conscious of their spending will wait for it to drop, while your more devoted fans will easily swallow the added costs."
Ves immediately shook his head. "No. Let's not play that game. The Ylvainans trust me, and I don't want to exploit that. Our primary goal should be to assist our customers in fighting the sandmen and spread our reputation in the process by selling as many mechs as possible. Making a profit is secondary. We'll earn much more money once the customers we've gained during this crisis begins to recognize the value of my products."
This fell in line with his plan to earn broad acceptance from the mech community. He especially kept his products cheap in order for them to become an attractive choice to the movers and shakers of every state under threat!