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 Over the past several months, Bentheim experienced a major transformation. As the economic center of the Bright Republic, the planet always focused most of its efforts on expanding its industry and trade.

Even with the Vesia Kingdom casting greedy eyes at Bentheim, the economic engine kept running at full tilt. The vast amount of money flowing through this trade nexus was vital in keeping the rest of the Republic aloft.

The sandman invasion changed everything.

Unlike the Vesians, the sandmen race mobilized so many sandmen vessels that they could easily overwhelm a fifth of the Komodo Star Sector at the same time!

The might of the Bright Republic alone was not able to withstand such might, especially not after consuming a considerable amount of strength during the recently-concluded war against the Vesia Kingdom.

Even if the sandmen race attacked without any coordination, a state that already exhausted half of its strength could not withstand the deluge of sandmen ships alone.

For this reason, under the leadership of the bright president and the bright senate, the entire Bright Republic mobilized to a degree unprecedented in its history!

Not even in the worst days of the Bright-Vesia Wars did the Bright Republic mobilize such a high proportion of manpower and resources to war!

The drums of war beat throughout the entire state, calling everyone to war. Peaceful pursuits and idle pleasures no longer became available. The mech games circuit, which had run continuously even during wartime, finally shuttered for the first time since its formation!

Different from the wars the Bright Republic waged before, the state conscripted a vast amount of norms.

The sandman relied on brute force and persistent attacks to overrun their opposition. Against such a simple foe that did not employ any sophisticated battle tactics, sheer firepower could play a key role.

For this reason, an incredible proportion of industry on Bentheim had switched over to mass-producing turrets and defensive platforms. All of these fixed defenses needed to be manned, hence why so many citizens became soldiers.

Of course, even if turrets and defensive platforms could play a major role in repelling the sandmen, the Bright Republic did not neglect its mech forces.

Mech athletes, mech champions and mech duelists of every stripe no longer performed in front of a crowd. Instead, they either enlisted in the Mech Corps or joined one of the many mercenary corps and other outfits contracted by the state to deploy against the sandmen!

Though many outfits thought about leaving, the rewards issued by the Bright Republic were too attractive to ignore. The state no longer hoarded its vast wealth and promised rich payment to any mercenary brave enough to resist the sandmen!

Of course, to some mercenaries, no amount of money was enough to compensate for their lives. They only had to keep track of the news of the states in the first and second line of defense to know how horrible it was to resist the sandmen onslaught.

An unavoidable amount of outfits and individual mech pilots left the Bright Republic. Though the state imposed a fair amount of restrictions on travel, the outflow couldn't be stopped.

When those who remained behind watched the cowards leave for better pastures, their sense of urgency increased. The Bright Republic's total combat strength decreased with each mech pilot leaving.

Of course, an incredible amount of normal people started leaving as well. They saw what their fates might be if they stayed around. Once the sandmen completely took over a planet, they had no use for their human population. Each and every settlement would be washed away by a tide of sand that was powerful enough to crush the lives of those who were cowering in their homes and bunkers!

For this reason, every state under threat suffered from an outflow of people, capital and mechs. Compared to less cohesive states like the Reinald Republic, the Bright Republic fared much better in this regard. It bled much slower than others on account of the confidence of most of its citizens.

Whether this state of confidence could be maintained was another question. The most senior leaders of the Bright Republic observed the fall of the border states extensively and knew that everything they built was like a house of cards.

As long as a state suffered one major setback, the confidence of the people might falter, thereby sparking an unstoppable tide of fear!

To bolster the confidence of its citizens, the Bright Republic pulled out all the stops. The government blanketed the media space with patriotic and uplifting propaganda and sent forth a vast amount of people into society to bolster their confidence!

Under this broad and overarching initiative, the Bentheim Planetary Guard employed a completely novel method.

As the first major client to order a batch of Desolate Soldiers, the Planetary Guard did not deploy them to space as Ves expected.

Instead, the Planetary Guard immediately deployed the first hundred Desolate Soldiers on the streets of Bentheim.

The cities of Dorum, Haston, Ansel, Meirling and more became host to a brand new model of mechs.

Among the mechs already patrolling the streets, the new mechs did not look impressive at first. Hastily coated in the colors of the Bentheim Planetary Guard, the size and quality of the mechs left much to be desired.

In addition, its peculiar flight system made it obvious that the mech had been designed to operate in space. On land, its weak legs only allowed the rifleman mechs to walk at a steady pace.

"Has the Planetary Guard gone crazy? Even if the Guard desperately needs to replace its peacekeeping mechs with ballistic rifleman mechs, why are they opting for something so bad?"

Yet as soon as the observers entered into a certain range, their faces drastically shifted.

As long as anyone came close enough, they immediately became subject to the auras of the new mechs. Not a single person could remain impassive!

What was more, the auras carried a strong and relatively pure sense of duty! Anyone who became impacted by this aura could not help but become affected.

Each Brighter carried a sense of duty ingrained in their minds. The Bright Republic paid a lot of attention to instilling loyalty and patriotism to the state in their early upbringing.

Under the stimulation of the auras of the Desolate Soldier, these buried values grew stronger, causing everyone's sense of duty to amplify!

The effect of the auras couldn't be underestimated. In terms of X-Factor, the Desolate Soldier design was a little bit weaker than the Aurora Titan design and roughly matched that of the initial Transcendent Messenger design.

However, unlike the expensive Aurora Titan and the highly exclusive Transcendent Messenger, the Desolate Soldier possessed one great advantage.

It was cheap!

The Desolate Soldier was so cheap and easy to produce, that many third-party manufacturers immediately started producing batches of them without any adjustment period.

The technical design of the Desolate Soldier was so simple and elegant that its learning curve was nothing to speak of! Most of the sophistication of the Desolate Soldier lay in its X-Factor and its profound but hidden design principles, both of which did not negatively affect the production process.

Of course, one major caveat about the Desolate Soldiers was that they were virtually all bronze label mechs. The mixed and unfocused production processes employed by third-party manufacturers weakened the X-Factor of the mechs rolling off their production lines, but even then they still retained considerable auras.

"If one of these mechs aren't enough, what about two? If two aren't enough, what about four?"

After a bit of experimentation and a lot of mathematical modeling, the Bentheim Planetary Guard finally came to the conclusion that it was best to group them up in fours.

Four Desolate Soldiers patrolling side by side strengthened their auras to such an extent that even the most selfish individuals started questioning themselves.

While grouping up more Desolate Soldiers strengthened their auras even further, the law of diminishing returns had already come into effect. The difference in impact became so marginal that the Planetary Guard was better off focusing on spreading out the groups of four to as many places as possible.

As more and more days passed by, the Planetary Guard received more and more Desolate Soldiers. The mechs became more ubiquitous on the streets. The confidence of the previously fearful citizens had stabilized. In fact, many Bentheimers even became more optimistic about their future!

Captain Melinda Larkinson could hardly believe how profound the Desolate Soldiers affected the moods of the locals by their mere presence on the streets.

As a Larkinson and a cousin of the mech designer of the Desolate Soldier, she received the privilege of piloting one of the few silver label Desolate Soldiers delivered to the Planetary Guard.

"This mech.. How can Ves possibly design such a fearsome mech?"

Melinda patrolled the streets in her brand-new Desolate Soldier long enough to recognize how strong it affected the moods of the surrounding people.

If the MTA hadn't issued their verdict on it, she would have thought that her mech was outright brainwashing the people that fell into its range!

In truth, Melinda and the rest of the Planetary Guard concluded that the effects were a little bit more mild. The Desolate Soldier roused certain thoughts and emotions, causing them to become more pronounced.

As soon as someone walked out of range, those thoughts and emotions quickly went back to normal. The person affected by the Desolate Soldier would only be left with the memories and impressions of their moment of inspiration.

However, this was enough to change their original trajectories! The sense of duty that they felt was so sublime and fulfilling that many people no longer viewed their lives the same way.

Not everyone discovered their sense of duty.

Some, like Melinda, already performed their duties. The Desolate Soldiers only strengthened what they already possessed.

Others were too unrepentant to reform. Their blackened minds completely rejected any notions of duty.

Most people came away with something extra to think about. While they didn't change their lives to a drastic degree, they became a little bit more inclined to answer the call of duty.

This was sufficient! Compared to the government's propaganda efforts, the impact of the Desolate Soldiers on the moods of the citizens was much more immediate.

The short-term stability produced by the disgustingly-cheap mechs was incredibly valuable! So much so that the Planetary Guards of other planets in the Republic started to take note! The LMC received more and more orders!

Driven by the actions of the Planetary Guard forces, other outfits began to take note of the Desolate Soldier.

Aside from their ability to inspire duty, the Desolate Soldier was still a functional combat mech. Its primary purpose was to offer the market an affordable means to field lots of mechs in battle against the sandmen.

"This mech is not half-bad."

Did mercenaries care about duty? Not necessarily. Yet even mercenary corps saw value in the mechs.

If nothing else, their mech pilots wouldn't cut and run so easily if they piloted the mechs. It had already become known that the Desolate Soldiers affected their mech pilots most of all!

For this reason, the private sector began to order Desolate Soldiers as well, though only single copies or small batches at a time.

Under the backdrop of this major movement, a single young man stood on the sidewalk as a patrol of Desolate Soldiers walked past. The man admired the mechs with a heated glance, and his entire mind and body vibrated with excitement as he basked in the auras of the mechs.

"Mr. King."

A man in uniform walked up to the young man. The visor on the newcomer's face looked incredibly distinctive.

The younger of the two immediately stood at attention. "Avatar Commander! It's an honor to meet you in person!"

Melkor Larkinson smiled. "There is no need for that. The Avatars of Myth is not a military mech force."

"Ah, sorry."

"No need. It is a pleasure to witness your enthusiasm. While I can guess that you received some attractive offers from the Mech Corps, we will not treat you wrong."

Normally, Melkor never bothered to travel to Bentheim to greet a new recruit of the Avatars of Myth.

Only a few circumstances compelled him to move out in person. The recruitment of a top graduate of the Meirling Advanced Mech Academy definitely qualified!

"I'm ready to go, Commander Larkinson."

"Good. Our shuttle awaits, Joshua."

Joshua obediently followed after the Avatar Commander, knowing that he was close to fulfilling one of his most cherished dreams!

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