Chapter 206: Discordant
Ves brought him images into reality by visualizing their life cycle. The more details he added, the more vivid they behaved.
At some point, they started thinking on their own. His creativity ran out of control and filled in some of the gaps that Ves had unconsciously left behind.
For example, the knight mech yearned to increase its defense. Even as an offensive-oriented mech, it expressed its dissatisfaction with the current design’s inadequate armor cover. Ves skimmed off a bit more off its armor plating than usual in order to keep the weight down.
The totem animal on the other hand didn’t care so much about the armor. Instead, it yearned for a much more effective offensive kit. Hexapod kings proved their strength not by acting like a turtle, but by threatening its rivals with overwhelming might.
The human myth component of the Triple Division also grew more discordant. The Leading Edge’s objection to the design mainly revolved around the staying power of the design. Ves chose to go for a high-impact operation mode in order to make the piloting experience as exhilarating as possible. However, choosing this road obviously used up more energy.
Compounding the problem was that the totem animal showed signs of overpowering the other two images. Ves had unconsciously inflated the hexapod king’s tyrannical greed and cruelty to the point where the image almost became capable of contending against the other two images.
While making his images come to life had always been a goal to Ves, their unexpected conflict left him with a dilemma.
Should he stay detached and let them battle it out? Should he forcibly stop the struggle by separating the images? Or would it be best to maintain a tentative equilibrium by manipulating the images behind the scenes?
Ves began his design process with a vision. To allow his images to evolve in an unknown direction meant that he’d be abandoning his initial goals in favor of an uncertain outcome. The X-Factor would transform in a direction that might have a beneficial or detrimental effect to the design.
As much as he wanted to experiment with this new development, Ves decided to stifle it as best he could. His current circumstances didn’t allow for too many unexpected surprises.
“It’s fine if this happens when I design a virtual mech, but right now I can’t risk ruining this design.”
Ves proceeded to turn his substantial amount of mental power to bear on his images. Since he lacked the time to figure out a way to solve the problem with finesse, he utilized brute force instead.
He forcibly separated the images until clear barriers came into being between the three. This forced the integration of the images in the design to take a step back, but at least they didn’t argue with each other anymore.
Next, he adjusted the traits of his totem animal in order to rein in its exaggerated behavior. He lessened the ferocity of the beast and granted it a small amount of cunning.
When Ves finished his adjustments, he took a mental step backwards and regarded his images again. He succeeded in stabilizing the images, though he failed to preserve their strengths.
In essence, his crude intervention solved nothing but prevented the situation from devolving into an unstable mess. Ves had in fact robbed his images of some of their life. This was especially the case with his totem animal.
He learned some very important lessons after this ordeal. Images that had been granted with life developed in an unpredictable direction, sometimes going against his intended vision.
“This is life.”
True life embraced the limitless potential of chaos. Life was never comfortable if it behaved according to a predetermined plan. A life shackled down by too many rules and restrictions lost much of the vivid traits that made it precious.
Even though Ves applied the wrong solution, the overall X-Factor shouldn’t have suffered too much from his previous norm. He simply missed a small opportunity to evolve his current application of the X-Factor.
“Now that this is done with, let’s go back to designing.”
While Ves spent precious minutes suppressing the unrest in his mind, Oleg started assembling his mech from the pieces he fabricated in record time. He easily slotted the components in their places, which proved that all of his components had come into existence without any noticeable deviations.
The amount of precision he was able to maintain when he swiftly printed out the parts would have astounded a crowd of mech designers. Hardly anyone could insure their components were without flaws if they adopted the same speed. While much of the miracle could be attributed to the excellent machines in the Apprentice Workshop, Oleg’s comprehensive mastery over the fabrication process also played a decisive role.
Ves felt the pinch as Oleg comfortably moved to the last phase of his design process. He required a lot more time to refine his design due to his desire to adhere to his vision. Many times, his tweaks lowered the performance of his design, or introduced new flaws that only became apparent when Ves made further changes.
Normally, this happened all the time. Ves could easily draw back his changes and puzzle out a better solution over many iterations. However, Ves had already spent a day on this repetitive process. His snail-like progress could never match the efficiency of Oleg’s own approach.
In the end, Ves stuck to his method and accepted that he’d never be able to optimize his design as well as Oleg. He focused mainly on eliminating the flaws that already existed in his design while leaving aside the many tricks he could use to enhance its performance.
At the end of his thirty-two hour design phase, Ves smiled in satisfaction. Regardless of the many optimizations that he had yet to perform, his design had come together in a way that all of his images found acceptable, if barely.
“It’s time to move on to fabrication.”
Most of his knight’s components required little effort to produce. Ves left much of the heavy lifting to the incredibly capable 3D printer fabricating his parts.
Unlike Oleg, Ves took his time with the process, as he didn’t possess much familiarity with these specific machines.
When the printer spat out all of the easier parts, Ves paid more attention to the next part. The fabrication process of the armor plating required his personal supervision and intervention if he wanted to finish it within his time limit.
By nature, exotic materials all possessed unstable structures. Given time, they broke apart and turned into mundane elements or disappeared into nothing.
This made them hard to work with. While automated production processes made a lot of strides in reducing the error rate, sometimes they spasmed when they faced an unanticipated situation.
The armor system selected by Ves incorporated a lot of different exotics. Some of them didn’t react to well when put together, so the difficulty of fabricating the armor plating without any flaws was extremely high.
Fortunately, Ves possessed enough skill to keep the problem in check. The extra time allotted to him for this duel proved to be a life saver for him as the lack of haste allowed him to maintain just enough control to prevent most flaws.
Even his relative unfamiliarity with the chemical treatment machine and the alloy compressor didn’t stop him from making good time. The System demanded a lot of DP before Ves could master the alloy compressor, but the price had obviously been worth it as he never fumbled more than once when he came across something new.
With a couple more hours to go, Ves assembled his parts in rapid time. Ves considered this phase to be the easiest one as long as he fabricated his parts within tolerance. The facts proved his case, as Ves hardly encountered a hitch.
His knight design came into being as his time began to ran out. Oleg had long completed his own design and observed Ves from a distance with a yawn. To him, the knight designed by Ves didn’t seem all that special. He completely understood its components and their approximate performance in a single glance.
“What’s the use of comfort in a mech?” He sneered. “A mech is not a cruise ship! Compared to absolute strength, no amount of luxury can compete.”
Mech designers competed mainly on performance. The design with the better numbers always commanded a higher appreciation by the mech pilots who entrusted their lives to them. Oleg possessed absolute confidence that his hasty creation could beat the one being assembled by his fellow apprentice.
Once Ves finished checking over his mech, he breathed deeply and fell onto the floor. Even with his enhanced physical endurance, his mental strength couldn’t quite keep up. Ves had strained focus these last few hours in order to keep his images as vivid and lifelike as possible.
All of that hard work paid off. In his formative sixth sense, Ves clearly sensed a powerful aura emanating from the frame. He largely succeeded in shaping his new creation’s X-Factor into a powerful force that had become inextricably attached to the mech’s existence.
While he hadn’t pulled off something new this time, the newly-formed knight seemed to come alive in his eyes. The X-Factor gained more substance this time due to the sheer amount of mental energy Ves directed to its design and fabrication.
To put it in another way, while the quality of the X-Factor stayed the same, its quantity increased by at least three or four times. With this abundant strength, the X-Factor permeated even deeper into the frame. This in turn enhanced the connection between the mech and its pilot.
A clapping sound approached Ves from behind. “Splendid work, Ves! Your performance improved a lot since you took park in the Leemar Open Competition. You didn’t let Carmin down. What’s the name of your design?”
“The Tyrant.” Ves replied simply. It fit with his overall vision for the design. He was too tired to think of anything better. “I could use some rest first. Where can I get some food?”
“Hah, we’ve got some of the best cooks on this planet! Let me bring you up to the dining room. I’ve already taken the liberty of preparing some dinner.”
While some authorized workers shipped the Tyrant to the surface through a cargo elevator, Ves and Oleg took some time to relax. Neither of them mentioned their work or the highly anticipated test. Instead, they chatted about Oleg’s career.
“To be honest, I’m not sure whether I want to follow Carmin back to the Vermeer Group.” Oleg revealed as he munched on the barbecued ribs of a native animal. “I’m still a citizen of the Carnegie Group. The bigwigs at Leemar promised they’d keep their doors open if I decide to stay.”
Master Olson had only recently ascended to her exalted rank. As a relatively junior Master Mech Designer, she still had a long way to go before she mastered every other major field of knowledge. Her exchange with the local masters would only last another couple of years before she felt she had nothing more to gain.
“Do you have a lot of family back home?”
“Oh yeah, but I hardly ever visit them these days. I’m grown-up now so it’s a little awkward to face my parents. They’re just average working folk, you know. Even if I send them a lot of cols, they don’t know what to do with it. I won’t be missing out on much if I go to the Vermeer Group.”
“You should follow your heart. It’s not like your parents and your friends are stuck in the Carnegie Group. You’ve got more than enough money to bring them with you.”
Ves didn’t dare urge Oleg more. To be frank, if Ves received the same offer, he’d still stick with the Bright Republic. His love for his home outweighed the possible benefits he’d enjoy if he relocated somewhere wealthier.
They finished their meals and agreed to take some time to rest. Oleg was still dealing with the repercussions of the stimulants he took at the start of the duel while Ves wanted to rest his wrung-out mind.
Maintaining the Triple Division technique for forty-eight hours while taking only minor breaks proved very stressful to him. Fortunately, the previous phenomenon where he’d suffer from increasingly crippling headaches hadn’t occurred this time.
“Tomorrow, we’ll see who’s mech will win.”