The Mech Touch Chapter 1193
1191 Xefin Lin Poxco
Upon his acceptance, the high inquisitor led Ves to a small office room in the compound. The assistants that accompanied the old man swept the office up for bugs and set up small devices that Ves recognized as body scanners and lie detectors.
That meant trouble!
Ves instantly knew that he needed to watch his words. He couldn't employ his usual bold lies to get away from a tough situation. Someone who made his living by interrogating all sorts of characters wouldn't be fooled by his usual word plays either.
He nonetheless grew nervous despite his assurances of innocence. He was more than aware that out of all the major factions in the Protectorate, the Attendants of Ylvaine opposed his presence the most!
Their devoutness was just as great as their narrow-mindedness!
Once his assistants finished setting up their devices, they left the office, leaving Ves and the high inquisitor alone.
Ves awkwardly stared at the old man sitting on the opposite side of the desk.
"Mr. Larkinson." He began with a firm voice that belied his skinny, senile form. "In the name of the prophet, I hope we can uncover the truth. Let us begin with some basic questions. First, are you a citizen of the Bright Republic?"
"I am. Born and raised."
"You come from a prominent military family that is known for its mech pilots and expert pilots, is that correct?"
"Yes. The Larkinsons are very well-known in the Bright Republic for those reasons."
"You are different, however." The high inquisitor noted. "You are the first and only Larkinson to study mech design and achieve success in your career."
"Are you truly a Larkinson?"
Ves frowned at that question. "I fail to see how this question is relevant to the investigation of the terrorist attack."
The high inquisitor became more intense. His eyes burned at Ves with increasing fervor. "Answer. The. Question."
Somehow, the man was able to apply a lot of pressure to Ves without resorting to any fancy spiritual strength!
He decided to answer the question despite his own misgivings. "I consider myself a Larkinson, yes."
"Ah, but do you, really?" High Inquisitor Poxco smiled. "Why the reluctance, then?"
"Because it's personal. Whatever I might think about my last name, I will always stick up for my family."
Ves was being a bit disingenuous here. The family he valued only consisted of a dozen Larkinsons or so. As for his more distant relatives, they could fend for themselves!
He faintly suspected that the high inquisitor managed to capture this detail. That put him even further on guard. They hadn't even talked about anything important yet but the old man was already reading him like a book!
"Let us move on to your work. You are a mech designer, right? Please succinctly describe your job."
This was a very open-ended question. Ves wasn't sure why the high inquisitor asked something as basic as his job description.
"Mech designers are a highly-educated individuals who make their living by designing large war machines commonly classified as mechs."
"Is that all to your profession?"
Ves shrugged. "Mech designers combine both art and science to design their mechs. We possess a strong grasp in many different fields of science and engineering. Different from academics, we apply our knowledge in creative ways that make up our own distinct design styles."
"What is your design style?"
"It's difficult to describe to laymen."
"Try it anyway." The high inquisitor gestured with his hand.
"The most simple explanation that I can offer is that I design my mechs with an eye towards how they affect people. My foremost priority is to design a mech that meshes well with their mech pilots. I've become quite good at this if I say so myself. My second priority is to make the appearances of my mechs stand out. While not every customer appreciates the latter aspect, I think I have enough customers who appreciates my mechs."
The high inquisitor leaned forward. "Interesting. I have read some publications concerning your mech designs. Many of them describe that your mechs exhibit a most unusual quality. According to the descriptions, anyone observing your mechs will feel very odd about them. Your mechs are known to possess a very compelling quality that never fails to attract attention. Can you explain the reason why your mechs are able to induce such reactions?"
This question came very close to one of his secrets!
"High inquisitor, the answer to this question is very delicate."
"Please address me as 'Your Excellency'."
"Ahem." Ves awkwardly coughed. "Your Excellency, as I was saying, the matter that you've described is tied to my mech designer specialization. Every aspect that is related to our specialty is classified as valuable trade secrets by the MTA. According to their regulations, a mech designer is not obliged to answer any questions concerning their specialty and other trade secrets. Only MTA itself reserves that right."
"Ah." The high inquisitor smiled. "You are correct, Mr. Larkinson. Thank you for reminding me of my oversight. As a lawful servant of the Ylvainan state, it is not my intention to encroach upon the strictures set by the MTA."
The Mech Trade Association both restricted and protected the rights of mech designers. While Ves frequently ran afoul of their rules and regulations, he knew he wouldn't have it nearly as easy if the powerful organization didn't exist.
The MTA explicitly protect a mech designer's right to protect their trade secrets for some very good reasons.
If they allowed agents of the state to coerce mech designers into giving up their trade secrets, then a lot of abuse would ensue.
Politically-connected mech designers could encourage corrupt authorities to drum up false charges to arrest a promising mech designer.
Once placed in their custody, the interrogators could do anything they wanted to get a mech designer to spill all of their trade secrets and feed them back to the mastermind!
Such developments went against the spirit of fair competition that the MTA prized. Therefore, the organization found it necessary to reserve the right to interrogate mech designers on matters concerning their specialty and other trade secrets.
This was how it was supposed to work. In practice, Ves heard stories where not all states abided by this regulation. The MTA wasn't omnipotent and plenty of abuses happened behind closed doors.
Ves didn't rule out the possibility that the Attendants of Ylvaine might be tempted to play dirty.
Only two factors reassured him a bit.
First, he possessed the backing of the Curin Dynasty and Calabast specifically. Considering her personal interest in his well-being, she should do everything possible to restrain the Poxco Dynasty from doing anything too egregious.
Second, he was way too high profile. Even if the MTA still registered him as an Apprentice Mech Designer in their files, there was no way they closed all of their eyes towards a de facto Journeyman.
In truth, any mech designer who managed to become a de facto Journeyman possessed a lot of potential! They were able to take an enormous leap forward in their careers despite having designed a lot less mechs than other Journeymen! This meant they held much more promise in their future advancement than anyone else!
The higher the rank, the more protection they received from the MTA. While a Journeyman didn't receive the amount of coddling they bestowed on expert pilots, they still played a role in restraining the excesses of state authorities.
Both Ves and Xefin Lin Poxco were aware of these conditions.
Perhaps the high inquisitor had more leeway with Novices and Apprentices. There were so many of them that the MTA hardly cared if the inquisitors roughed them up.
Ves was glad he successfully advanced prior to his trip to the Ylvaine Protectorate.
It was after contemplating all of this that Ves had an inkling of what was happening here. He hadn't done anything in the Ylvaine Protectorate.
Well, to be fair, he did order his pet to steal some priceless historical relics, but that didn't count!
The main point was that the high inquisitor shouldn't have the legal basis to accuse him of any crimes.
While he and his Avatars of Myth did kill a bunch of people, they acted reasonably in self-defense. As far as he knew, they hadn't killed any innocent bystanders that the high inquisitor could use as an excuse.
This led Ves to believe that Xefin Lin Poxco was trying to fish for information.
Once he realized this, Ves relaxed a bit as the high inquisitor was ready to move on to another line of questioning.
"You have initially come to the Ylvaine Protectorate in order to fulfill a commission to design a special mech for Director Cecily Curin." The inquisitor said. "Please describe the mech she commissioned from you."
Ves coughed again. "Your Excellency, the contracts that I've signed with the director prevents me from divulging the contents of our agreements. It is highly inappropriate for me to reveal this information without her permission. You will have to approach the client and gain her approval if you wish you hear the answer to this question."
"She requested you to design a ceremonial bodyguard mech, is that correct?"
"I am not at liberty to say so."
"It is not difficult to find out that the commission calls for you to design a so-called hero mech. The six wayward mech pilots she bought from the Kronon Dynasty all have one strength in common. They are proficient in both melee and ranged mech combat."
Ves tried to smile back. "Please understand. I cannot speak on behalf of Director Cecily."
The high inquisitor frowned for a bit. "I see. I will be sure to do so. She's a fascinating woman, don't you think?"
"As far as I'm concerned, she's just a client."
"From what I've gathered, the relationship between the two of you is far from superficial. The two of you are quite friendly with each other. How long have you known her? A couple of weeks?"
Ves tentatively nodded.
"And you have never known her before she presented her commission to your company?" The inquisitor asked with raised attention.
"I am not familiar with Director Cecily Curin prior to the commission. Only when I arrived on this planet did I meet with the director in person for the very first time."
"Interesting. Then why did you not only accept the commission, but also made plans to setup a joint venture between your mech company and a holding company under the name?" The high inquisitor pressed. "The speed of this agreement astounds me. You barely know each other and you've already decided to become business partners!"
"We, I saw an opportunity to gain a privileged position in the Protectorate's mech market. As a business owner, I am always keen to jump on opportunities to make a profit. Director Curin made a very attractive offer to me, one that isn't open for long. I decided to jump on it fast before she takes her offer elsewhere!"
The high inquisitor raised a skeptical eyebrow at Ves. "Even if your interests aligned, I would expect that both of you would exhibit a bit more caution to each other. Instead, both of you acted inordinately quickly. What is it about Director Curin that makes you trust her so much?"
"I don't necessarily trust her, Your Excellency." Ves honestly admitted. "I put my faith in our mutual interests."
"Faith." The high inquisitor sneered. "Typical of you secular foreigners. While we put our faith in Prophet Ylvaine, you secularists would rather put your faith in money and contracts. What if I say your faith is misplaced in this case?"
"What if Director Curin is not who she claims to be?"
Uh oh. Ves began to get an inkling of the true reason for this questioning session.
High inquisitor Poxco hadn't come here to dig out his secrets. He was here to probe about Calabast!
Had she blown her cover somehow?