The Mech Touch Chapter 1213
1211 Quiet Tension
With the help of his design seed, Ves managed to complete the first iteration of the Transcendent Messenger design in less than three months.
Ordinarily, Ves considered three months of design work to be a rush job. The Aurora Titan design required twice as much time.
Yet now that he advanced to Journeyman, he worked roughly twice as fast as before without any negative impact. While the Transcendent Messenger still needed to go through a couple of rounds of prototyping before Ves was ready to finalize the design, he at least had something to show after all of these months.
Both Ves and Ketis took a step back and admire the full-scale projection of their work. Although it only existed in a virtual form for now, the Transcendent Messenger already carried an air of power, aggression and faith!
"I really didn't think we'd get this far so fast." Ketis said while she idly petted Lucky who draped himself on her shoulders.
While Lucky's hard feelings towards Ves subsided a bit over the last couple of months, the cat still preferred to cuddle with Ketis!
The only times when Lucky drifted over to Ves was when he fed his pet exotics as snacks. Outside of that, the cat taunted Ves with a swish of his tail and drifted elsewhere!
Ves shook his head and ignored his traitorous pet. "It still lacks a lot of optimization though. Getting the internal architecture to work the way I wanted to took a lot more effort than I thought."
Designing a hero mech was never a simple task. Ves spent a lot of thought on how to balance the design. It needed to engage in both melee and ranged combat at the same time without unduly compromising them both.
He admittedly drew some inspiration from Lord Javier's Loquacious Raphael. As a custom high-quality hero mech, it bore the most resemblance to his Transcendent Messenger.
Although Ves looked down on blindly copying from someone else's design, he couldn't avoid getting inspired every now and then. Ves made sure to fully understand and put his own spin on anything he adopted from other influences.
Ketis continued to admire the form of their design. "You really have a thing for appearances, Ves. You're the only mech designer I know who invests so much in making your mechs look pretty."
"It's warranted this time." Ves retorted. "As a ceremonial bodyguard mech, appearances matter. The Ylvainans already have a fetish for turning their mechs into expressions of faith. Their customs are actually a lot more amenable to me than the functional style that is prevalent in other states."
To most mech designers, all of the extra cosmetic additions added to the maintenance burden of the mech without providing any concrete performance improvements.
Many mech designers didn't possess that much artistic ability anyway. Rather than invest so much time only to make their mechs look kitschy and the work of an amateur, they would rather stick to clean and functional forms.
It was different in states like the Ylvaine Protectorate. Every competent mech designer needed to invest in the visual design of their mechs in order to sell more mechs. Driven by profit and cultural norms, the Ylvainan mech industry became very developed in this area.
Ordinarily, this meant that Ves needed to meet very high standards to gain the approval of the local Ylvainans.
This stumbling block may have tripped many other foreign mech designers before, but Ves was a clear exception. He was not only accustomed to spending a lot of effort on the visual design of his mechs, but he also had the benefit of hosting an amplified remnant of Ylvaine's spirituality in his mind!
The spiritual fragment heavily influenced the artistic direction of the Transcendent Messenger. Ves still possessed a shallow understanding of the Ylvainan Faith. Much of the symbols and motifs the Ylvainans incorporated into their mech designs flew right over his head.
Having a piece of the founder of the Ylvainan Faith in his head neatly compensated for this shortcoming. In fact, Ylvaine's spiritual fragment was probably the most authoritative source on the faith in the Protectorate, and it happened to be fully at his disposal!
Of course, hosting a remnant of the prophet wasn't all that great. Its nagging expressions of approval and disapproval steered Ves into adjusting his behavior to conform to Ylvainan sensibilities.
"Before we fabricate the prototype, I should report back to the client." Ves stated. "I haven't met with Madame Cecily for a while."
"That woman…" Ketis began. "There's something about her that's.. odd. I get the feeling she's always hiding something from us. Aren't you supposed to be her business partner or something?"
Both of them had interacted with each other before. Only Ves was aware of Madame Cecily's true identity. For Ketis to sniff out something odd about Madame Cecily signified that her intuition was very sensitive in this area.
Ves ruefully smiled at her. "People like Madame Cecily are always more than they seem. We'd be fools to trust them at their word. The reason why I partnered up with her is that we can both further our goals by banding together. She can gain a lot more from me by joining hands rather than stabbing me in the back."
"That doesn't sound like a very stable partnership."
"I disagree. A transactional relationship that is purely based on mutual benefits is probably more reliable than a relationship that is largely based on sentiment and trust. The latter will always be at risk whenever one side suffers from a mood swing or doesn't like the other side anymore."
Ketis frowned. "Is this what business relationships are supposed to look like?"
"Personal relationships are different from business relationships. A marriage involves very different dynamics from a business alliance. Don't confuse the two, Ketis. I'm not married to Madame Cecily. I'm a business partner of hers. Know the difference."
Ves decided they spent enough time gawking at their mech design. He shut down the projection and tidied up their workplace. The two mech designers along with Lucky exited the mech workshop and boarded their regular shuttle to travel back to the guest compound.
Just like before, a large escort of mechs from the Protectors of the Faith and the Avatars of Myth surrounded the armored shuttle. They had become a very common sight on the streets of Krent these past few months. So much so that the Protectors of the Faith feared that troublemakers might lay a trap on their route.
For this reason, the Protectors randomized the route each time, adding a bit more time to the daily commute. All of the detours lengthened their daily commute, but Ves bore with the necessity.
Ketis was less patient, however. "How much longer will martial law last? The Ylvainans still haven't found their stupid nutrient pack wrapper. The thief probably sneaked out of the Kesseling System months ago. There's no point to locking down this place any further!"
"No Ylvainan wants to be the first person to propose a return to normality." Ves sighed. "The holy relic might not look like much, but it represents the great prophet of their faith. Even though it's common sense that martial law isn't doing anything useful at this point, the first person who stands up and suggests that they should lift martial law will be crucified by the rest!"
He didn't come up with this analysis on his own but learned it from Calabast during their period meetings.
Compared to when Ves first arrived on Kesseling VIII, the planet seemed utterly desolate now. Industries and many businesses had shuttered or went dormant due to the permanent imposition of martial law. While some of the restrictions had been relaxed, the very broad curfew times stifled any attempts to revive the planet's economy.
At this point, the Curin Dynasty basically bore the cost of allowing the theft to happen by covering the cost of emergency aid and supplies to the homebound citizens of Kesseling VIII.
While a lot of citizens still made do by working from home, not everyone found gainful employment.
Perhaps these restless, unemployed citizens would have rioted if they lived in a state like the Bright Republic or the Reinald Republic.
The local Ylvainans showed very little signs of discontent. Constant propaganda broadcasts and other measures strongly encouraged the locals to hold strong to their faith and pray for the return of their missing relic.
For these reasons, the city of Krent and the rest of Kesseling VIII remained remarkably calm throughout these tense couple of months.
Yet Ves strongly suspected that this was a false peace. Through Calabast, he learned that many different forces had converged on the planet.
The Kronon Dynasty diverted several mech regiments to the star system. Their spaceborn mech regiments tightly patrolled the inner system in order to stop any clandestine smugglers from conveying illegal cargo in and out of Kesseling VIII.
On the surface, the Protectors of the Faith heavily reinforced the city of Krent and a number of other strongholds on the planet.
The presence of all of these additional forces stifled the overall mood on Kesseling VIII despite being on the same side of the citizens.
While the Poxco Dynasty didn't bring in nearly as much assets and manpower to the Kesseling System, their impact was much more significant. Under the lead of High Inquisitor Xefin Lin Poxco, the Ylvainan Inquisition embarked on a grand mission to dig up all the dirty laundry they could find!
Ostensibly, they were merely following up on leads that might result in the recovery of the lost relic. In truth, the Poxcos simply wanted to mess up the many cozy business arrangements the Curins have made with all of the local companies!
The Curins took exception to the brazenness of the Attendants of Ylvaine. Rooting out corruption and shady business dealings didn't fall within the mandate of their inquisition!
The growing tension between the Curins and the Poxcos impacted Ves as well. Occasionally, an inquisitor subordinate to Xefin Lin Poxco paid a visit to him at the guest compound or at the mech workshop and had a 'friendly' chat with him. While they never had cause to suspect anything about him, he didn't appreciate their probes.
Still, as much as Ves disliked it, all of these concerns only encompassed the official authorities of the Protectorate.
More unscrupulous threats hid in the background. Both Leland and Calabast found signs that both the New Ylvaine Dynasty and intelligence operatives from the Star Faith Collective had smuggled their way onto the planet somehow.
The Ylvainan Inquisition even caught a handful of their agents!
Yet despite definite proof of their presence, the authorities made very little headway in tracking them down.
The bad actors spent a lot of effort to hide their cadre and core assets. For months, they played cat-and-mouse with the authorities as they continued to build up their strength while remaining out of the reach of the Protectors of the Faith and the Ylvainan Inquisition.
They were so effective at remaining out of reach that Ves guessed that traitors among the authorities may have had a hand in helping them hide.
Ves didn't know what was going on anymore. He was the only person who knew that the holy relic that everyone was searching for had long been disintegrated in Lucky's stomach.
To everyone else, they could only guess at the true state of the relic. This lingering ambiguity caused everyone to keep to themselves and refrain from making any drastic moves.
Still, something had to change.
Maybe one of the leading dynasties decided that drastic action was in order and took unilateral action.
Maybe someone would have the courage to stand up and state that the relic couldn't be found anymore.
Maybe the Ylvainans completely turned against foreigners and forced Ves to leave the Protectorate.
Ves didn't know how long it took for something to change, but he hoped to finish the commission and get out as soon as possible! He wanted no part of any trouble that was looming on the horizon!