Despite all of the work that Ves put into promotion his new design, the effect was hardly noticeable, but every little bit helped. He had no doubt that once they finished setting things up with the third-party manufacturers, people would have much more to talk about as more of them got exposed to his mechs.
Throughout the next week, Ves participated in several promotional events in a row. The reason why he filled up his schedule with these activities was because this might be his last opportunity to put in a good word on his newly released design.
After returning back to his hotel room, he felt tired to the bone. Even though his mind and body reached reached a transhuman state, the amount of activities he took part in almost crushed him into a worm. His spiritual exhaustion had reached a peak.
"I can't do this any longer. I'm not cut out for this line of work."
As the lead designer of the LMC, it was extremely important for Ves to get his face out and shape his audience's impressions of his new mech. Still, the company relied too much on him to do everything. While he worked to shift some responsibility to others so that it wouldn't collapse in his absence, Ves realized he overlooked one key player.
The LMC needed a spokesperson.
"Who will take over as the face of the company when I'm gone?"
Unlike Ves who did all the work, Gavin only stayed on the sidelines and arranged his schedule. He still looked relatively fresh and look eager to freshen up his boss so that he could drag them to another promotional event.
The moment Ves asked the question, his assistant looked pained. "Calsie isn't suitable for this role, and neither am I. We're too young and we don't understand mechs the way you do. The best we can put forth is Jake Altern."
Jake was an old man and single-handedly expanded the LMC from a small-scale mech workshop into a proper medium mech manufacturer. The COO knew more about the business side of the company than anyone else, including Ves.
Still, did the LMC benefit from putting forth an old geezer who couldn't get into the nitty gritty details when it came to discussing the intricacies of mechs?
"Jake is too old and doesn't have the expertise to answer industry-specific questions." Ves concluded.
"True. A young company such as ours needs to present a dynamic image. Most of our customers are mech pilots or mech commanders who looking for alternatives to the most conventional options on the market. Presenting a stiff and old-fashioned image goes against our positioning."
"Well said, Gavin."
The only problem was that this left no one qualified to represent the LMC in public.
"Boss. If we can't use an insider, why not adopt an outsider?"
"Hm. I was thinking about that as well."
Not all mech designers wanted to show up in front of a recorder and have his face projected throughout the entire state. They put up different kinds of as their surrogates, and over time this experimentation have led to a number of best practices.
The most popular solution was to put forth a mech pilot as their public voice.
Though not too well-versed in the technical design and construction of a mech, they knew all about the stuff that customers really wanted to know. Mech pilots understood other mech pilots the most. This common level of understanding helped a lot in roping people into becoming their customers.
The only problem was picking the right person. Ves did not want to put up Melkor or anyone else from the Avatars of Myth. Being a spokesperson was a full-time job these days and mech pilots who chose to take on this role needed a lot of grooming to present a knowledgeable but authentic image in public.
"If you don't have any other suggestions, why not let the LMC sort this problem out on its own?"
Ves would have liked to select his own spokesperson, but he had a feeling he would be gone very soon. "Very well. Put it on their agenda and make sure they select someone by the end of this month. Once the bronze label Crystal Lords are beginning to appear on the market, we need to be more active in our promotion."
They didn't discuss anything else that evening. Ves was too tired and hit the sack soon after. The next day, a fateful message arrived at his comm.
It was the message that portended his next step in life, for good or ill.
"The Mech Corps is calling."
Ves briefly checked the galactic net and saw that a lot of other mech designers received the same message as well. The Mech Corps formally called up the second wave of mech designers to fight for their state.
Despite knowing that this day was long in coming, Ves still felt uneasy about it. He heard so many second-hand stories about mech designers in the Mech Corps that he didn't know if he should believe them all. He also didn't know if the Mech Corps valued him enough to assign him to a meaningful role.
"There's no use dragging this moment out."
Although the message granted its recipients a generous amount of time before they needed to report to the Mech Corps, Ves wanted to get in early. He learned that tip from a classmate in school.
"Arriving early demonstrates your dutifulness and shows you care."
The Mech Corps constantly kept watch over its mech designers. Those who showed signs of disgruntlement and dragged their feet in their work tended to be transferred away from a research base and be sent straight to the frontlines.
However, before he submitted himself to the Mech Corps, Ves planned to make one final visit. He raised his comm and called up Melinda.
"Hiya Vessie." Melinda greeted him, though not with a smile this time. "I heard about what just happened. You're joining the war, aren't you?"
"Yeah." Ves nodded. "Don't worry about me, I'm not going to be picking up a weapon anytime soon."
Melinda still looked worried. "You should still watch out for yourself. The Mech Corps looks strong on the outside, but it's made out of countless cliques that fight over every scrap of resources they can get. That's one of the reasons why I opted to join the Planetary Guard. It's much simpler here, since we're only responsible for defending a single planet."
The burden of defending more than a thousand star systems at once fell heavily onto the shoulders of the Mech Corps. It was a difficult job to juggle at the best of times, but once you factoring in the limited amount of funds and resources it had at its disposal, then internal fights often broke out.
Mech pilots being what they were, it wasn't unheard of for hem to punch each other in their faces. Even upper echelon would sometimes be guilty of this, as they all used to be mech pilots themselves. They learned their entire life how to develop their aggression and channel it against their opponents.
Learning how to compromise came much later in their careers.
"Since I'm going to be cut off from everyone very soon, I'd like to pay a visit to you. Are you free for today?"
"Hm, it's all hands on deck at the Planetary Guard right now, but we recently stepped down from the highest state of readiness. As long as ask around for some favors, I can probably clear up a couple of hours in my schedule. Is that alright?"
"That sounds great!"
A couple of hours later, Ves arrived at a stately-looking condominium in the middle of Dorum. Melinda's current apartment was actually one of the rewards he dangled out for her in exchange for piloting the Blackbeak in the duel against Captain Vicar's Havalax.
As far as condominiums went, the place Melinda lived portrayed a lot of quiet elegance. It was probably a huge hit to women, but others might like it as well for all the peace and quiet it radiated. The inner spaces contained a lot of gardens and minimalistic artwork. Together, they provided residents with a rare moment of serenity in an otherwise busy planet.
Once he reached the top of the condo, Ves stepped inside the penthouse, which commanded a sweeping view over Dorum.
"Welcome to my place!" Melinda waved from a sofa.
"Looks like you are doing well for yourself."
"Heh, ever since the duel, I can't even show my face in public anymore. Even though a lot of time has passed, hardly anyone forgot about that fight. I beat down a captain of the Mech Corps! Hardly anyone else can claim they can do the same!"
As Ves took a seat on the opposite sofa, Melinda blabbered on about how everyone treated her with more importance. The Planetary Guard started grooming her into an officer while her fellow mech pilots constantly slapped her back for showing that they could measure up against their military counterparts.
Ves smiled at her stories. If not for her current career, she would have made a perfect spokesperson for the LMC.
"What do you think about my new design?"
"I followed your press thingie while I was out on patrol. Don't tell my captain I did so." She winked at him. "All in all, if you weren't my cousin, I would have smacked your mouth. Really now, do you really have to charge so much for a rifleman mech? It's insane!"
"It's not meant to be a mass-production model. The Crystal Lord offers several enhancements over the mainstream models."
"Hah! Sure, but who would want to buy a single overengineered mech when they can get two normal ones instead?"
"My product doesn't cater to the average consumer."
"I'm telling you, each time I see you, your mouth is getting bigger and bigger. You're greedy, Ves. It's gotten to the point where its blowing over to the rest of the Larkinson Family. Last time I visited Rittersberg, all they talk about is stocks and dividends and how much money you're going to shovel in their pig-like throats."
Ves laughed awkwardly at that accusation. "Everything's easier with money. Do you think a fancy place like this can be bought for a couple of credits?"
"That's not the point I'm trying to make. You used to be small and cute, you know? Just like any other munchkin at the Larkinson Estate."
"I'm a grown person now. My innocence is long gone."
"I get the feeling you lost a lot of other things as well along the way." Melinda spoke with a low voice. "Meeting you again has made me realize you're turning into something else. The Ves I used to know is slowly making way for a different kind of person."
"What kind of person are you talking about?"
"You're turning into one of those stereotypical mech designers you see in the dramas. Not the losers who are barely keeping their workshops afloat, but those successful ones who let their achievements grow their egos blow through the roof."
Ves knew what she was referring to. The mech designers portrayed in those stories tended to be the ruthless sort who fought and cheated their way to success. They didn't hesitate to order a hit on their competitors if they could get away with it. They treated their own subordinates like furniture and their customers like sheep.
In the dramas, mech designers like that often showed up as conceited villains who thought they could get anything they wanted as long as they threw enough money at it. They treated their existence as if they had been descended from gods, and they openly behaved as if the galaxy revolved around their whims.
As Ves momentarily reflected on himself, he had to admit he changed from two years ago. "Even if I'm a different person now, I hardly walk and talk like one of those stupid caricature. I only changed because this is the way that business is done. The true mech industry is hardly cutthroat to the extent where I dress up in stealth clothing and sneak into the bedroom of my rivals to assassinate them in person."
The convoluted stories the entertainment industry came up with regards to mech designers boggled the mind. Though they also broadcasted other stories where mech designers played the hero, it was far too common to see them in the role of ruthless mech magnate.
Melinda didn't appear to be convinced. She stared hard at Ves as she stood up and walked close to him. Once she reached his position, she extended her hands and grabbed his cheeks, only to pull them apart.
"I know the old Ves is still there! Come on out!"