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 During his frequent study sessions, Ves noted something remarkable when he intermittently activated his spiritual vision.

Whenever he perused the headache-inducing research papers, his invisible eavesdropper always flinched and stepped away from Ves. Acolyte Villis proved to be incapable of tolerating the mental contamination that came with reading the highly abstruse texts!

The behavior his spy exhibited confirmed his guess that Acolyte Villis indeed possessed a technical background, and not at a low level at all. She needed to be at least a proper engineer or mech designer to be able to understand some of the profoundness in his reading material.

However, even if she possessed as much knowledge as an experienced Novice or an average Apprentice, she had no way of matching his unique set of advantages!

His high mental Attributes accelerated his learning speed to inhuman levels. His Intelligence score of 2.1 alone improved his memorization and mental calculation abilities to the point where the functioning of some of his brains resembled a computer!

Some old lady from a freaky cult in the frontier shouldn't be able to match his learning prowess! If she somehow possessed the capabilities to do so, then she wouldn't be sent out as a spy, but would instead work directly alongside the Soulless Priest!

Finding out this weakness of her gave Ves a lot more confidence in his plan to deal with her. Any designs, devices and notes that incorporated high-level knowledge became practically inaccessible to the uninvited guest. He felt at ease when he worked on the designs of his new gadgets and the battery that powered it all.

He even began to work out a third gadget that could make use of the abundance of power! The plans for his third gadget only remained sketches so far, and Ves doubted whether he had enough time to finish it before the critical moment arrived.

Still, this observation gave him hope of stopping whatever intentions the saboteurs from the Church of Haatumak had in mind.

Their presence among the fleet could have been benign, but if there was one lesson that Ves learned from the frontier, it was to expect the worst from strangers.

He looked up from his designs. "Ketis?"

"Yes, teacher?" She asked in an exasperated tone while looking up from her latest homework assignment.

The woman came far in shoring up her fabrication skills. After Ves became satisfied that she picked up enough habits to avoid becoming a disaster in a mech workshop, he switched her learning focus to passing on the proper principles of a mech designer.

It was fine if she wanted to stick her thumb at the MTA, but she at least needed to know what she opposed and why it would be a good idea in her case to stick to them or discard them. This was why he foisted her with a bunch of textbooks about the MTA, its history, its basic principles and what they offered to society.

Unfortunately, she hated reading through her assigned reading list. Ves only managed to force her to read through the literature after resorting to mild coercion.

In any case, Ves still had a question that needed answering. "Tell me about the friend structure of Lydia's Swordmaidens. How does it work, exactly? I take it that your gang's relationship with the Omen of Misfortune is close enough to come to each other's aid when one of you needs help, but what about other forces like the Churk of Haatumak?"

"Why do you ask?" She asked while looking at him with a confused expression. The question came out of the blue.

"Just answer it. I'd like to know who we can trust and who we can't if our combined fleet ever gets separated."

"Oh, we have lots of friends, but some of them will only help out reluctantly while others won't hesitate to bring their entire fleet to come to our aid. Mind you, most of the times help comes too late if you are already caught in a battle, but most of the time you call upon as many friends as you can while you're being chased by a hostile force. Once you rendez-vous at a particular star system, you can usually scare away your pursuers when you gather up an entire bunch of friends."

"So it rarely comes down to an actual fight?"

"Yup! That's what our friend network is actually for. It would have been too costly if every demand for help is followed by a costly battle. It's much less risky to just put up a scary front by outnumbering your enemies by at least three to one. And if they're stupid enough to pick a fight while outnumbered? Well, all of us will get away with a lot of slaves and salvage."

"So how do you determine which friends will answer your call or not? I've already mentioned the Omen of Misfortune and the Church of Haatumak as examples. How would they respond?"

"Hmm.." Ketis pushed her finger against her lips. "I'm not sure about the Omen of Misfortune, but they owe us big from last time. They're bound by honor to come to our help when we ask."

"Does honor even exist in the frontier?"

"Sure!" Ketis firmly asserted, though she noticed his skepticism. Pirates weren't known to possess integrity. "It's complicated. Pirate's honor exists, but they apply to very special cases. If we didn't have a code among ourselves, then independent pirates wouldn't be able to exist in the first place! Still, we only make friends with the one we can trust. Those Haatumak worshippers for example. I don't know anyone who trusts them. They're wealthy though, and they offer a valuable service to anyone that pays, so they trade a lot but mostly stay out of fights."

Ves nodded in understanding. "So the main way they interact with other pirates is through transactions. Do they have any allies at all?"

"They don't as far as we know. If they suddenly went broke and their anti-sandmen blessing stops working, their escorts would abandon them in a heartbeat. They're far too creepy to make any real friends."

This only underscored their possible threat to the Flagrant Swordmaidens. The problem was that Ves couldn't figure out a way to eliminate them completely from their entire fleet.

Part of what made them so threatening was that their unique means of stealth left them completely hidden from everyone's perception. Ves didn't have any other means of exposing them except for resorting to his spiritual vision.

At most, he'd be able to eliminate the parasites aboard the Shield of Hispania, but where did that leave them with the rest of the combined fleet? He knew for certain that there was a bunch of hidden Acolytes aboard the Jaded Sword, the flagship of the Swordmaidens, and possibly many other ships as well.

If worse came to worst, Ves would only have the opportunity to save himself and possibly the Shield of Hispania if he acted quickly enough. If the other hidden Acolytes had orders to be ruthless, then they could possibly massacre the entire crew of the ship they were hiding aboard!

The fear of this possibility constantly weighed on his mind, especially once the Acolytes found out what kind of treasures they could delve from the wreck of the Starlight Megalodon.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.

Instead of fretting over the issue, Ves channeled his fear into accelerating his work and studies. Fear was a powerful motivator in the right circumstances, but it took a formidable will and an intense amount of discipline in order to harness it without getting overwhelmed.

The last thing Ves could afford was to lose control!

Therefore, he diligently studied and performed his duties until he rushed through the design of his future gadgets.

At this stage, his design had reached the point where further improvements required diving into far more complicated theories that simply wasn't worth his time at this time.

He faced the perennial problem of diminishing returns where achieving his next goal was more trouble than it was worth.

If he wanted to increase the maximum capacity of his batteries by a single percent, he'd have to pour in thousands of hours in studying extremely dizzying research papers that only genuine experts in the field

"These designs are as good as they can get."

That meant he was ready to fabricate them and piece them together. A thrill of excitement ran through his spine at the thought of realizing these ambitious designs. The amount of tech poured into the ultracompact batteries and the accompanying signal jammer and stealth detector as well as the use of expensive exotics made them worth at least several billions of credits!

"I can earn a fortune in money just by selling them on the black market! It's even better if I can find a reliable supplier of sulomnium, beta-otricine and Flesha's Tears!"

Despite the awesome money-making potential in selling his batteries, Ves did not even think of setting up a clandestine production operation. Not only would it distract him from his main occupation of designing mechs, it also put him at an incredibly amount of risk!

"All of those powerful suppliers of single-use ultracompact batteries won't be happy if I crash into their exclusive market. With the amount of money they're earning from their current trade activities, they can easily stomp me out regardless of how careful I act."

Ves already learned a bit on how the black market operated. The suppliers mostly consisted of cartels and other powerful organizations that didn't hesitate to kill in order to preserve their market share. It was best for him to avoid rocking the boat.

Besides, he should already be glad of his gains. He became completely independent from those suppliers. And because he mastered the underlying theories and some of the well-supported beliefs instead of a single ready-made blueprint, Ves possessed the capability to design many different kinds of batteries that excelled in different applications.

As long as Ves gained enough exotics, he could even fabricate a monstrous energy cell that could power a mech for weeks or months by itself!

"Such mechs are probably prevalent in the galactic heartland, but extremely rare in the galactic rim."

That also made it troublesome for him to actually produce such an energy cell. Not only would he have to spend hundreds of billions of credits to pay for all of the raw materials, the finished product simply attracted too much attention to be used on the field.

Alll of these burdens and caveats restricted him from employing his unique and extremely valuable gains for commercial ends. It also explained why Senior and Master Mech Designers such as the Skull Architect might have access to this knowledge but didn't actually do anything public with them. They faced too much pressure and too many restrictions to commercialize this kind of knowledge!

"Still, just because they can't apply their knowledge to their sellable products doesn't mean they can't use it for themselves. I bet the Skull Architect is armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons and gadgets he crafted for his own ends."

Bursting with enthusiasm, Ves invited Ketis to go accompany him down to the workshop deck. The Swordmaiden mech designer followed him with a confused expression. What kind of torturous assignment did Ves cook up for her this time?

Once they reached a private workshop enclosure that Ves had cleared in the schedule before, he explained his intentions to Ketis.

"Today I'm not expecting you to do anything. You've seen me puzzling over a couple of extremely advanced gadget designs, right?"

"Yeah. What are you trying to make, teacher? I took a long look at them and don't understand anything at all no matter how much I stare."

Ves found that to be interesting. As a Novice Mech Designer who barely reached the threshold to call herself that, her knowledge base was far too shallow to touch upon the tech he worked on. She was no different from a cavewoman staring at a blueprint of a trebuchet. The technological gap was so wide that she wasn't at risk of suffering from mental contamination!

"Sometimes stupidity is a blessing."

"What did you say?!" Her eyes grew heated and her nostrils fumed. "Say that to my face if you dare!"

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