The Mech Touch Chapter 586
585 Gabriel Creta
The terms proposed by Avid Serpent revealed that she only possessed a shallow understanding of the Flagrant Vandals. Someone who knew the Vandals intimately wouldn't put so many limitations on how much strength they could utilize to prepare for the upcoming mech duel.
An ordinary mech regiment employed up to a hundred high-ranked mech designers. Though most of them might only consist of talented Apprentices, perhaps a dozen Journeyman and a couple of Seniors sat at the top.
This was a terrifying concentration of mech design strength.
An average medium state-wide mech manufacturer only employed a couple of talented Apprentices or a single average Journeyman.
A large sector-wide mech manufacturer on the other hand may only employ up to fifty mech designers spread into various teams. Only the larger mech manufacturers employed Seniors. The smaller ones usually made do with Journeymen as their lead designers.
So from an outside perspective, employing several Seniors and more than a dozen Journeymen as well as a hundred Apprentices was massive overkill.
"That's exactly the point." Ves had learned after witnessing several different mech regiments in battle.
The two that stood out the most were the two premier mech regiments of the Mech Legion. Both the Calico Dancer Bats and the Frosty Meteors showed indomitable strength. In their battles against the Flagrant Vandals, despite showing up with a fraction of the numbers of the Flagrant Vandals, both Vesian units proved that they could punch above their weight.
Part of it was their centuries-long martial tradition. These famous names had been founded centuries ago, and they evolved from nothing into the elite step-by-step in their own unique style of fighting. This elevated their mech pilots into true soldiers that clearly surpassed the standard of an average mercenary.
Another part of their strength came from a straightforward expression of wealth and capability. Their mechs utilized many expensive materials that only the government could provide. The duchies weren't parsimonious with regard to their elite regiments. This wealth also allowed them to employ all of those high-ranking mech designers.
The Flagrant Vandals lacked that kind of accumulation. Their status within the Mech Corps was awkward, but this was only known from within and by a small circle of outsiders. To the public, the Flagrant Vandals appeared to be a genuine if eccentric extension of the Bright Republic's military.
This was why Ves felt a little bit more reassured about this challenge. At the moment Avid Serpent issued her challenge, she didn't appear to act as an agent of the Vesians. If the Vesian mech pilot had been an insider, then she wouldn't have been so hasty in ruling out assistance from Journeymen and Senior Mech Designers. She also wouldn't have prohibited external material assistance, though in this area the disparity was smaller.
In short, the terms of the mech duel sought to minimize the influence of outside factors and turn the occasion into a contest of individual strength. If the Reinaldan arena operators hadn't brought out a damaged spearman mech, the mech duel might have commenced right away!
"Avid Serpent has made a big mistake."
Ves knew his strength and considered himself to be highly placed among Apprentices. With his great foundation and his advantages from his Masteries, even after being separated from the System he still possessed capabilities beyond the average Apprentice.
"I don't know who Avid Serpent will turn to for help." He reminded himself.
Each side could employ any single mech designer they wished to enhance their dueling mechs. Both Avid Serpent and Captain Orfan had the right to pick out any Apprentice Mech Designer and a number of mech technicians to assist. They could draw on the underground arena's mech workshops to perform their work and draw upon a limited number of resources from their stockpiles or junkyard.
It was already set in stone that Ves and a number of mech technicians from the Vandals would work on Orfan's spearman mech. Regarding their own side, Ves had no question about their own strength.
As for the kind of help that Avid Serpent could expect, the Flagrant Vandals hadn't been able to find out as of yet. Several agents affiliated with the Bright Republic kept an eye on where Avid Serpent currently resided. They spotted many prominent Vesians entering her room.
Because the mech duel involved the honor of the Vesia Kingdom, there was no question that Avid Serpent could have her pick of Vesian talents. While the Kingdom had a tenuous relationship with the Reinald Republic, officially they were at peace with each other. The Reinaldans didn't prohibit any Vesian visitors, and many did in fact paid a visit to the Harkensen System.
Right now, Ves, Chief Haine, Captain Orfan and a gaggle of mech technicians traveled to the underground arena. Even in the morning, the fighting venue already opened its doors, though only a fourth of the seats were occupied at this time.
"Captain Orfan! Please come this way!" An arena manager called from the side.
The entourage followed the manager to an elevator that brought the Vandals to the lower levels. Once the elevator reached the right floor, they stepped out and walked through a wide mech-sized corridor.
The manager briefly introduced this floor. "This is our workshop area. It consists of thirty halls, each of which has enough space and equipment to service any third-class mech."
"What about second-class mechs?" Ves asked.
"Our apologies, but the variety of mechs that duelists bring to our venue mostly consist of lower-end mechs. There has never been a case where a mech pilot from the Coalition entered the dueling ground with an expensive second-class mech. Mech pilots from second-rate states generally disdain our class of establishments."
The manager spoke those words without any resentment or animosity because it was the bare truth. Having a second-class mech compete in this local underground arena was like putting a warhorse into a pigsty. The disparity was too big, and the consequences of damaging a second-class mech and its mech pilot was dreadful.
"I see." Ves nodded. "Will we have access to a complete suite of mech manufacturing equipment, or do we have to make due with the bare essentials?"
"It's the latter, unfortunately. Compressed armor is too expensive for both our organization and our mech athletes to maintain on a regular basis. It also unnecessarily prolongs the duels, turning them into hitting matches where the side that hits a little harder will win the match."
The underground arena didn't prohibit the use of compressed armor, but the owner of the mechs needed to bear the full cost of repairs by themselves without any assistance from the operators. This could turn out to be very expensive if the mech incurred a lot of damage.
"So neither our captain or Avid Serpent will be able to bring a mech clad in compressed armor to the duel?"
"That's correct. Please be assured that we will endeavor to provide the exact same amount of accommodation to each of you. Let it not be said that we are partial to one side over the other.
Mech arenas relied on a reputation for impartiality to attract a ceaseless amount of audience members and mech athletes. This applied double to underground arenas, as they weren't shackled to any laws. Fudging the outcome of the duels was trivially easy if the arena operators possessed no morals.
Once news of such manipulation leaked out, the mech arena in question lost all of their credibility. In this business, credibility was extremely precious. Once it was lost, it could never be regained.
Thus, the manager went out of his way to explain how fair they set up their preparations. Neither side should have any complaints about favor one side over another.
This suited Ves fine. "If our circumstances are truly as you have described, then I have nothing to say."
After reaching the end of the corridor, they arrived at their assigned workshop. Before everyone entered, they stared at the entrance of the workshop on the opposite side. They weren't the first to reach this location.
"Vandals." A masked and robed woman spat as she beheld the recent arrivals. "Come to prepare for your doom?"
"Hah!" Captain Orfan laughed and stepped forward. "Look who's barking up our legs! What's the matter? Why don't you show us your face? Are you too ugly or something?"
"Hmph!" Avid Serpent huffed and turned her back on the captain. "Engaging in a conversation with a boastful pig like you is a waste of time."
Avid Serpent masked her identity quite well, but her mannerisms revealed peculiar aspects about her personality. When Ves carefully probed her with his spiritual sense, he faintly encountered a strong force of will.
It lacked the sense of realness that Ves had experienced before from an unconscious Venerable Foster, so Ves was pretty sure that Avid Serpent was not an expert. This was good news for all of them. The Vandals dreaded many possibilities, of which one of them was that Avid Serpent played the pig to eat the tiger. His probing ruled out this possibility.
Ves turned his gaze to the people that Avid Serpent had admitted into her circle. The mech technicians looked like a mixed bunch. None of them appeared to be cut from the same cloth, which meant their teamwork should be low, though their individual ability may certainly be better than the average Vandal mech technician.
"Ah, the famous Mr. Larkinson!" A middle-aged man stepped out. "As one mech designer to another one, I hope we can
"You've heard of me." Ves said with a befuddled face.
"How can we not. Word has spread how pivotal you have proven to be in several Vandal battles. Head Designer Larkinson. The only Apprentice Mech Designer to assume a position that only Journeymen should take. How odd for the Vandals to favor you so? Is it because of your family?"
"I have my ways." Ves said cryptically while narrowing his eyes.
Information like that shouldn't have spread to the public. He highly preferred to stay in the background. The less the other side knew about him, the better. Obviously, this hope was shot to hell right now.
"I hope you can showcase your splendor three days from now. I'm eager to see if my work can measure up to the efforts of a head designer."
"You have me at a disadvantage. Would you be so kind to introduce yourself?"
"Ah, where are my manners. My name is Gabriel Creta. I am apprenticed to Master Renona Klaisewist of the Mech University of Loge Imodris."
Ves had never heard of Gabriel Creta, but his eyes widened when the man dropped the names of Renona Klaisewist and the Mech University of Loge Imodris.
Renona Klaisewist was a seasoned Master Mech Designer and lived over two-hundred years according to the public record. She specialized in force application, which meant she designed exquisite mechs that made the most out of their mechanical strength.
Any melee mechs designed from her hand demonstrated extreme destructiveness with every attack!
Ves regarded Mr. Creta without any of his former contempt. Though Ves was unsure of Creta's exact relationship with Master Klaisewist, any apprentice of hers should have inherited some of her best design principles.
In addition, Creta may very well be an alumni of Loge Imodris. The famed Mech University was one of the best in the Kingdom. It enjoyed just as much prestige in the Vesia Kingdom as the Ansel University of Mech Design in the Bright Republic. Both were regularly mentioned in the same sentence.
The status Gabriel Creta enjoyed from both would surely be considerate. Along with his age advantage over Ves, and he may very well prove to be a hard bone to gnaw.
Nevertheless, Ves did not shy away from the challenge.
"I am eager to see what an apprentice of Master Klaisewist can teach me." Ves smiled in a facetious manner.
"Likewise." Mr. Creta nodded back with an unruffled expression. "Master Carmin Olson's sudden rise has disrupted the high end mech landscape in the region. I am eager to see what scraps of knowledge that she has thrown to you."