Ves felt incredibly relieved after he confirmed that the MTA frigate departed from the Kesseling System shortly after reaching orbit .
When he traveled to the LMC's headquarters, he reunited with Lucky and the Larkinson Mandate .
"Meow . "
"Oh, you cuties . I missed you so much!"
While the Golden Cat enjoyed his ministrations, Lucky dodged his attempts and floated beyond his reach!
"Damnit, Lucky! Did you miss me at all during the last week?"
"Meow meow . "
"This is not a vacation! You better work hard to pump out another gem! As a gem cat, don't you find it shameful that you produced so few gems? I could easily order a replacement mechanical cat from Centerpoint and not see any difference!"
This raised Lucky's hackles! After throwing Ves a dirty look, he disappeared by phasing through the roof .
Ves hoped that Lucky was attempting to work hard to produce another greater gem, because he was seriously short on them right now after utilizing five of them at the same time!
When Ves settled into his chair, Gavin soon arrived with a data pad in his hand .
"Welcome back, boss . "
"Cut the crap and tell me how our situation has changed . "
"Well, it's pretty clear that you've managed to create a masterwork mech . That much has become public . "
That was to be expected when the MTA delegation insisted on piloting the Quint in open space . There was no way to hide its masterwork state from someone who knew their mechs! Practically any competent mech designer should be able to tell that the Quint was a masterwork after studying a few seconds of footage!
"Great . How have the Ylvainans responded?"
"While you were preoccupied with hosting a Master Mech Designer, Calsie made sure to liaise with the Curin Dynasty in order to keep the locals at bay . The Ylvainans have expressed a lot of interest in your latest work . "
"My Bright Warrior design has nothing to do with the Ylvainans . "
Gavin shrugged . "They don't seem to understand that fact . In their view, any mech design you came up with is always tied to the Ylvainan Faith! You're the Bright Martyr after all . Some Ylvainans have even begun to spread a rumor that claims that the main reason why you managed to become the youngest masterwork mech designer in the star cluster is because your Quint has been blessed by Prophet Ylvaine!"
"THAT'S NONSENSE!" Ves banged his table, scaring the Golden Cat in huddling inside the Larkinson Mandate! "Ylvaine had nothing to do with my work! The Quint stands for the Larkinson Clan, not the Ylvainan people! Attributing my masterwork mech to someone else devalues my contribution!"
Of course, Ves conveniently left out that he himself relied heavily on both 'Mr . S' and 'Mr . L' to elevate his Quint to masterwork quality!
"We knew you would respond like that, boss . Calsie made sure to keep the Ylvainans from disturbing us while doing her best to encourage them to squash this rumor . "
Ves expected this measure to be of limited effectiveness . Perhaps the Curin Dynasty as a whole was glad to see this rumor spread! The more he became tied to the Ylvainans, the better!
"Do I need to speak with the Ylvainans in person?"
Gavin shook his head . "Unless you really want to play the diplomat, you can leave everything to us . Your clan's Executive Council has done pretty in managing most major issues . Your relatives addressed a lot of important matters such as security, starship delivery, materials supply and many other concerns in accordance with the directions you've set . You don't have to lead every major initiative anymore, boss . "
That was true . Ves expressly delegated many of those responsibilities to others . As far as everyone was concerned, the governance system he established was working as intended .
I was just . . he somewhat missed exercising greater control . He felt somewhat ill at ease with all of the delegation that went on these days .
In his worst moments, he even felt trapped within the structure he created for himself!
It was as if he had no choice but to squeeze himself into a certain mold because everyone else around him expected him to behave in a certain manner!
He shook his head . His situation hadn't come to this point yet . He still possessed an enormous amount of power, wealth, prestige and standing to be able to take charge if necessary .
He decided to change the topic .
"Tell me about the publicity we've planned . "
"Well, since the MTA delegation departed on schedule, we can hold a press conference tomorrow at the soonest . Everything is ready . We've reserved an appropriate venue on a space station and invited a decent amount of reputable industry reporters on short notice . We even managed to score an interview opportunity immediately afterwards with your favorite news publication, the Rimward Star Herald . "
Ves looked very pleased at that . In truth, he didn't really have the time to scour the news every day, so it wasn't as if he was a loyal subscriber to the Herald . It was simply one of the prestigious news portals in this region of space . That at least counted for something .
"How should I approach this interview, Benny?"
"I've consulted with a couple of public relations managers and other media specialists . We came up with a likely list of questions the reporter from the Herald will ask . We also took the liberty of coming up with suggestions on how to best answer these questions to ensure we gain as much advantage from this publicity opportunity as possible . Unlike last time, your accomplishment will truly capture the attention of the star cluster's mech community!"
Masterwork mechs were mainly a big deal to industry insiders . They weren't as notable to the mech market because of their extreme scarcity and lack of clear performance enhancements .
As for laymen who weren't involved with mechs, they couldn't even tell the difference between a standard mech and a masterwork mech!
For this reason, only industry reporters attended tomorrow's press conference . The interview conducted by the Rimward Star Herald might expose Ves to a wider audience, but his accomplishment would only be remembered by those who worked with mechs on a daily basis .
"Okay then . Let's talk about the bad news . How much trouble have we attracted?"
"I'm not the right person to answer this question . " Gavin replied . "I believe one of your own men, Michael Crindon, is ready to fill you in . From what I have gathered, there are signs pointing to potential trouble . It's not very clear if anything is happening, though, so that means there are no acute threats . "
Ves still didn't feel reassured .
"You know, if you don't feel secure enough, you can remedy that by hiring mercenaries . "
"Mercenaries?" Ves adopted an ugly look . "My experiences with hiring mercenaries has been less than stellar . "
The Battle Criers turned out to be alright, but that was because they consisted of Kinners .
He still recalled his disappointment in the Oodis Mudriders when he hired them to protect the Mech Nursery during his Apprentice days .
"Are you thinking about the Mudriders?" Gavin asked .
He nodded .
"We don't have to repeat that experience, boss . At that time, there weren't many mercenary corps available for hire . It's different now . Our budget is vastly higher and our reputation ensures that we can approach the largest and most reputable mercenary outfits without getting turned away!"
His assistant had a point . Ves seriously mulled over this option after he bought into those reasons .
While his mech forces grew in strength every day, Ves wasn't confident that they could fend off all of the threats that might be targeting him right now!
A thousand mechs was not enough! The protection of the Glory Battalion was also not enough!
With all the attention he attracted, he wouldn't feel safe until he enjoyed the protection of at least another thousand mechs!
"Explore this option . " Ves commanded . "Reach out to any reputable mercenary organizations in the vicinity and see if they're willing to accept a contract from us . I hope we don't have to scrape the bottom of the barrel this time . "
"Don't worry . The LMC is not the company of the past, and your personal reputation has vastly exceeded that of any Journeyman in the local region . We won't be forced to pick an outfit with a black mark on its record again . "
"Good . " Ves paused for a moment before a serious issue popped up in the mind . "If we successfully managed to contract some mercenary corps, suppose we encounter an ambush prepared by the Friday Coalition . Will the mercenaries even fight against the Fridaymen mechs?"
Gavin briefly consulted his data pad again . "I'm afraid not, boss . There is a standard clause in each mercenary contract that states that mercenaries aren't compelled to fight against mechs that are a class higher than what they are capable of fielding . Third-class mercenary corps will only fight against third-class mechs . "
This meant that the mercenaries wouldn't hesitate to give way to the Fridaymen!
While Ves already anticipated something like this, he still looked troubled . The only other way to defend against the Friday Coalition was to hire a second-class mercenary corps, but these kinds of outfits were hard to find in lesser states!
It was still useful to hire regular mercenaries . They might not be able to resist the Friday Coalition, but they would always be able to lighten the burden against regular opponents .
"Okay, then proceed exploring this option, but make sure that they have a good reputation . The last thing I want to see is my own mercenaries turning their mechs around to attack my forces!"
"Will do, boss . "
After that, they discussed some miscellaneous issues before Gavin left to enact his latest instructions .
Ves sat in his office and fiddled with the Larkinson Mandate for a moment . The Golden Cat purred comfortably as Ves massaged her intangible body with his spiritual projection .
He began to consider his upcoming agenda .
First, he planned to hold a press conference and conduct an interview . Shortly afterwards, he wanted to proceed with the long-delayed implantation surgery .
While he was out, he wanted his organizations to prepare for the long migration to the Sentinel Kingdom .
Along the way, he wanted his large and sprawling fleet to stop by the Bentheim System . He wanted to meet with the members of the old family in person for what might possibly be the last time .
Aside from that, he also wanted to witness the possible end of the Sand War . Perhaps he could grant one of Davia Stark's favors during this time so that she could move on from her trauma .
Ves knew that it wasn't really safe to travel back to the Bright Republic . If necessary, he was willing to split up his fleet so that only a small and expendable portion entered the Bentheim System while the rest continued on its way to the Sentinel Kingdom .
All in all, depending on how long his surgery incapacitated him, he needed to depend on his subordinates to hold the fort and keep his enterprises together .
"I really hope they are up to the task of running my organizations in my absence . " He muttered .
Fortunately, if everything went well, he'd be out for a week at most before he could manage to regain confidence .
Even if he was stuck on a hospital bed for another week, he could still keep tabs on any developments and issue instructions from the infirmary .
"It's almost time . " He whispered with anticipation .
The Archimedes Rubal that he was about to integrate would be a game changer for him . By expanding his cognitive functions and digitizing a portion of them, Ves would gain some considerable advantages that would skyrocket his productivity!
He expected to become a much better mech designer once his implant came online . This was extremely handy to him because he was just about ready to design his first proper second-class mech!
"No matter how much more complex these mechs can be, with the help of my implant, I'll never get lost!"
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