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 Ves shook his head. "No."

"Why not?" Gloriana glared at him. "Our first attempt was hardly a stellar example in perfect teamwork. You messed up so much at the start that you weren't working at your best throughout the first run!"

"You know that the first copy of a new design is always the most significant, right? A second attempt will have less meaning. It will be difficult for me to produce something that surpasses our first copy."

Both Gloriana and Ves looked a bit regretful.

What he said was true. Masterwork products were exceptionally hard to make and almost always arose through special circumstances.

The very first attempt was a process of discovery, fulfillment and completion. The meaning and emotions it provoked simply couldn't be replicated a second time.

Ves was aware enough to realize that he probably wouldn't be able to enter into an inspiring mood.

Only in rare cases did someone manage to fabricate a masterwork mech after making many attempts.

These special situations mostly occurred with professional fabricators who knew a mech design from inside out. As long as they entered into a transcendent state, they gained a chance to merge all of their insights of a particular mech design into a brilliant reproduction!

Such an exceptional event required a large dose of luck as well as years of accumulation. Ves had no patience to spend such an excessive amount of time for a single custom mech.

"There is a second reason why I think it's better to settle with this attempt. Time itself is a valuable resource. Fabricating additional copies of our custom mech is not a good use of our time. The sandman tide has already reached the Bright Republic. The fighting has only just begun. In these circumstances, we should prioritize mechs that can equip the most people as opposed to mechs that only helps a single mech pilot."

Though Gloriana was unwilling to give up, she could not ignore his logic. His arguments were sound and she knew that he was right.

"..Fine." She clenched her fist. "I don't like this at all. There are still too many imperfections in our mech."

"Then how did you manage to fabricate your own custom mechs?"

"I all considered them disappointments. Not a single mech I've designed and fabricated in my career has ever come close enough to reaching my standards!"

That was certainly an extreme position. Ves tried to console her as best as possible.

"Now that we have worked out some of the kinks, we can do better next time. I'm sure of it. We just have to complete our next two projects to give us two more attempts."

"You're right. I'm tired, today. Let's wrap this up and go home."

The two of them cleaned up the workshop and made sure to deliver the Resentful Soldier to the testing ground.

Though they didn't intend to submit the design to the MTA, it still needed to be checked.

"Since the machine is designed for William, he will need to come to the testing ground and pilot our mech under our auspices." Ves spoke.

"I agree." His girlfriend nodded. "We should witness the initial tests in person to see how well our specialties played out. I think the Resentful Soldier will make quite an impression tomorrow."

Now that they finished all of the hard work, they took some time out and retired to the Cloud Estate to relax.

As Gloriana began to chat with some aunties, some of the younger Larkinsons approached him with curious expressions.

"I have a question, Ves." A teenage female Larkinson asked.

"Go ahead and ask."

"Are we turning into Hexers?"

Ves almost puked out blood. "No! Absolutely not! Don't let Gloriana stuff any strange ideas in your head! You're a Brighter, not a Hexer! Remember your roots!"

"Ah, yes sir! Sorry, sir!"

The teenager actually appeared disappointed by his answer.

Fortunately, the boys looked just as scandalized as Ves.

"What are you saying?! Do you want us to turn into babies under your care?! We'll never embrace the Hegemony!"

Once Ves entertained the squabbling teenagers for a while, he waved them off. Since they had been taught to always respect Ves, they didn't object to his dismissal.

As Ves watched them go, he continued to frown and scratch his head.

The Larkinsons had no reason to pick a side in the Komodo War. While the Friday Coalition shared many ties with the Bright Republic, the Larkinson Family wasn't among the groups with ties.

However, the Larkinsons would not get along with the Hexadric Hegemony. Ves always had the impression that the family always leaned towards masculinity due to its military orientation. Both men and women earned the same regard as long as they proved themselves.

To fall under the sway of the Hegemony and adopt their contempt for male gender would not sit well with half of the family. In fact, Ves believed that even the women among the Larkinsons would object!

What was good for them wasn't necessarily good for the family, and vice versa.

"It is best if they can just come with me on my grand expedition." He whispered.

That way, regardless of who won or lost the Komodo War, the Larkinsons maintained most of their identities and traditions.

Ves yawned and stretched his arms. "I should sound out more Larkinsons to see if they're interested in coming along. My expedition can use a lot of reliable manpower."

"Meow." Lucky crawled over his lap and began to purr.

"Oh, you want some company as well, do you?"

"Meow!"

As Ves spent the rest of the day playing with Lucky, chatting with the Larkinsons and hanging out with Gloriana, he received a surprise visitor.

"Calabast! You scared me!" Ves dramatically clutched his heart as the spy popped out from behind.

His strategic partner smirked at Ves. "We should talk. Let's go inside your home office in your mansion. It's secure there."

Ves followed after Calabast, bringing Lucky with him but no one else.

Though Gloriana saw where the two were going, Calabast merely waved her hand at his girlfriend to halt her attempts to follow.

This silent interaction revealed that Calabast and Gloriana had already come to an understanding with each other. Otherwise, his girlfriend would never allow him to sneak off somewhere else in the company of a gorgeous woman!

"Are you surprised?" Calabast teasingly asked as if she knew what he was thinking.

Ves merely shrugged. "You have a girlfriend, right? Evidently, you're one of those Hexers who look down on boys."

"I'm not your typical Hexer, kid. I've long shed my biases and preconceptions when I underwent training. After all, we wouldn't make for good spies if we constantly despise the men around us, would we?"

"That makes sense." Ves nodded in agreement. "How do you actually see the Hegemony, then?"

"Even though I'm not a typical Hexer, I haven't abandoned my roots. The Hegemony is still my home, just as the Bright Republic is your home. These ties will always have meaning for us. To uproot yourself and let go of your home is not a pleasant way to live."

"The spaceborn clans do just fine."

"That's because they made their ships their home. Isn't that what you're planning?"

"Maybe." Ves shrugged. "I haven't really formed any concrete plans for my grand expedition other than getting out of here."

"I suggest you think deeper on what you want. While it's possible to roam the galaxy forever, I don't recommend you do. Everyone needs a place to settle down for a while."

"Do you have any suggestions?"

"Let's enter your office first."

They walked to the top floor of the mansion and entered his opulent office. As soon as Calabast activated the necessary security precautions, they sat down and began to talk.

"Where have you been, Calabast?"

"Around." She said cryptically. "I've mostly been taking care of the Swordmaidens while building up my infrastructure in the state. Since the sandman invasion has turned everything into disarray, this is a golden opportunity for me to put my men into place."

"How many people are working for you? What do they do?"

She smiled at him but didn't answer his question. He knew better than to insist.

"Fine. Keep your secrets then. Can you at least tell me if you've accomplished anything that I should know of? It's hard to appreciate your presence when you keep withholding information."

Calabast reached out and tapped her finger against his forehead. "There's a very good reason for that, kid. Most of the information I've collected is unreliable and unverified. It would do you no good for me to pass on rumors and scattered clues to you. One of the reasons it took so long for me to get back to you is because I needed to verify my intel."

"So what did you want to tell me?" Ves curiously asked.

The woman adopted a serious expression. "I have several pieces of intelligence to pass on. Let me start with the biggest one first. While not reliable, I think this news is important enough for you to hear. There are signs that the MTA will soon be announcing the next mech generation."

The next mech generation!

This was an event that every mech designer in the galaxy had been anticipating!

"How soon?"

"I'm not sure. I don't have an inside source in the MTA. My best estimate is that it shall commence within a year."

Ves frowned. "That's helpful, but not as much as I've hoped. The range is a little large. It already lines up with my own guess."

"There's more, Ves. From what I've gathered, the MTA stalled the commencement because they plan to make another major announcement. One that will affect all of human space."

Now that sounded interesting! Ves immediately sat more upright and paid more attention.

"Do you have any idea what the MTA has in store for us all?"

"It's a major, galaxy-wide announcement. From what I can gather, their second announcement likely has a relation to the MTA's period of dormancy. I think it hasn't escaped you that the Big Two have been staying quiet over the past couple of decades. You don't have to be an intelligence analyst to guess that the biggest human powers are preparing for something. It seems that we will soon have our answers."

Ves quietly processed her words. What she told him certainly matched his own impression of the Big Two. The MTA had especially been quiet lately, to the point of abandoning some of their duties.

If the MTA wasn't so preoccupied with something else, they would have dispatched a powerful force to crush the sandmen!

Their continued inaction made every citizen from the beleaguered state bitter, including Ves.

"The MTA better have a good reason for ignoring the sandmen!"

Calabast smiled at him but shook her head. "The MTA has better things to do than worry about the opinions of some trivial citizens from the galactic rim. I wanted to tell you this to prepare you beforehand. I believe whatever the MTA intends to announce will involve all of humanity. This means that there might be an opportunity for you to mix with them or assist them in whatever they are doing."

That sounded intriguing to Ves. However, he knew that it would be far more complicated that Calabast suggested. The people who were worthy to work alongside the MTA were almost always exceptional. Someone like Ves still needed to distinguish himself in some way to become eligible to any opportunities that arose.

This made his mission from the Rim Guardians all the more important. Ves needed to prioritize turning William into an expert candidate!

"Okay. I think I get it. I'll make sure not to piss the MTA off during this time. Is there anything else?"

"Yes." Calabast nodded. "My second piece of intelligence is related to the Wodins. I believe that it is very possible that some of her relatives will come to visit you soon."

'What?! Aren't the Wodins busy fighting the Komodo War?! Why would they come out all the way here?!"

Ves already had his fill of Hexers with Calabast and Gloriana. He could not handle any more, especially Gloriana's relatives!

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