For better or worse, Ves opened up his eyes to the dominant theory, or should he say ideology, that many human rulers and policymakers worshipped.

It sounded compelling.
It looked as if it made sense.
It had an enormous body of historical cases to back up its claims.

Yet… Ves felt very uneasy how it casually brushed aside the very destructive cost of adhering to the theory ’s recommendations.
Any leader who wanted their states to retain their strength and war readiness and avoid sliding into peaceful indolence and hedonism would likely wanted to manufacture a war of some sorts!

At this moment, Ves could not offer any strong arguments against the Societal Vitality Theory.
As much as the wars, deaths and destruction enormously consumed the human race, he also had to admit that it did a decent job keeping them strong and alert.
This placed the human civilization in a much better state against external enemies such as the alien races.

However, the most pernicious cost was that much of humanity began to see themselves as enemies.

Ever since humanity turned their animosity and their weapons against themselves, the killing of humans became normalized.
Although the Age of Conquest saw this norm being pushed too far, even during the Age of Mechs it became completely acceptable to kill fellow humans in the pursuit of power and wealth.

The rulers didn ’t care.
Mainly the lower classes suffered the brunt of following this ideology.
Those who ruled from the top sat in their ivory towers directing more pigs to the slaughter.

In their drive to invigorate their state and raise its vitality, they needed to keep birth rates high and give their citizens a sense of urgency in their lives.
Yet to do so would also lead to overpopulation, which was an extremely expensive problem.

The galaxy was huge.
It contained an uncountable amount of star systems and even more terrestrial planets in various shapes and sizes.
Yet to make them suitable for human habitation took both time and investment.

All the most profitable and easiest planets already got terraformed.
If states wanted to accommodate an ever-growing population, they needed to start converting less attractive planets for human habitation.
As ever-poorer colonies came into being, the state bore a greater burden as it cost a lot of money to raise a colony and to grow it into a proper settlement.
Sometimes, these colonies never paid back the investment put into its development as it offered very little exports to the rest of the state!

Therefore, to solve the dilemma of high birth rates but a finite limit on population, leaders needed some way to relieve the pressure.

Therefore, war served as the most convenient pressure relief valve.
Lots of people got killed.
Lots of property and assets got destroyed.

Yet those who survived felt a greater need to recover what they lost and rebuild what was broken.
The people became more industrious.
The people worked harder.
The people never took their luxuries for granted.

As long as the cost of wars remained within the boundaries of what was acceptable to the rulers, such a cycle was actually productive and beneficial to the society in question.

Adopted at a wider scale among the level of the entire human civilization, it kept the human race from suffering the same flaws that made the other alien races so weak against unexpected aggression.

At least if you believed in the Societal Vitality Theory.

While Ves did not have the qualifications to question sociologists and other stuffy academics about the validity of this theory, he nonetheless felt it possessed an innate flaw.
He just couldn ’t quite pin it down at the moment.

Aside from that, the Societal Vitality Theory also suffered from the plutocratic consequence of high-minded policy ignoring the very human cost of their actions.

The Bright-Vesia Wars for example killed billions of people over a span of four centuries.
Even more of them lost their homes, their relatives, their livelihoods and more.
The Bright Republic could have allocated all of that prosperity into bettering the lives of their citizens rather than fuel a perpetually-hungry war machine.

Yet that was also what the Societal Vitality Theory aimed to fight against.
It encouraged leaders to guide their state towards investing their resources into the military.
Civil infrastructure and the welfare of the people played second fiddle to maintaining strength.

Ves thought of all of this as he sat silent in the dining room, his half-eaten meal forgotten.
Lord Javier meanwhile took the silence as an opportunity to gobble up his own sumptuous steak.

”Hmmm! This is good! ” Javier praised.
”Much better than the nutrient packs you Vandals stuffed in my mouth! You should really try some! ”

To someone like Lord Javier, he inherited his stance on the Societal Vitality Theory from Count Loqer, his father.
In turn, Count Loqer inherited his beliefs from his own father, and so on.
Even if a parent didn ’t pass on those beliefs, their peers would make sure their fellow leaders were on the same page.

Ves narrowed his eyes at Lord Javier.
”Why did you take the time to explain the Societal Vitality Theory to me? You ’re awfully charitable for a Vesian noble. ”

”I ’m a hostage.
There ’s no two ways about it. ” The noble shrugged.
”Even I know that I have to set aside my old behavior and suck up to my captors.
The worst Vesian nobles are those who are good at one thing but bad at adapting to changing circumstances.
If there is anything my father has taught me, it is to be as adaptable as a chameleon and as slippery as an eel when you fall into trouble. ”

”That still doesn ’t answer my question. ”

Lord Javier smirked.
”Oh, alright.
You looked so confused and out of place on this ship.
It ’s like seeing a fish flopping about on the ground next to a lake.
As a generous noble, I felt it was my duty to pick up the fish and throw it back into the lake.
Even if I don ’t obtain any gratitude from my captors, I ’ll at least be able to make a good impression on the poor fish. ”

”What a peculiar analogy to compare me to a fish flopping about for water. ” Ves replied dryly.
He didn ’t know whether he should be thankful or indignant at being treated as a charity case.
”That said, although I somewhat regret learning about it, thank you for filling me in on this supposed theory.
If you haven ’t been pulling my leg, then you ’ve given me a lot to think about for the rest of my life. ”

Certainly, Ves did not believe that Lord Javier invented this theory out of the blue.
It fit too much with what he saw and how humans worked these days.
The theory offered a logical underpinning to the continued phenomenon of the incredibly costly Bright-Vesia Wars and the persistent infighting among other human states that many believed held human civilization back from advancing.

”Now that I ’ve given you the lowdown on what people like Senator Tovar and myself really think when they look at subjects, you should give me something in return. ” Lord Javier suddenly demanded as he finished his main course.

”Pardon? ”

”C ’mon.
You ’re a hotshot mech designer right? Camden Tovar isn ’t the kind of man to invite a loser to his peace delegation.
I ’ve met most of them already and each and everyone of them is either wealthy, influential or an authority in their fields of expertise.
You don ’t look like you fit in any of the three categories, but your youth makes you promising. ”

”I ’m almost thirty standard years, you know. ”

”Same. ” Javier shrugged.
”Yet compared to those other bastards who are fifty to eighty years old, we ’re as young as babes.
To an old fossil like Senator Tovar, we might as well be fetuses who barely started crawling out of our mothers ’ wombs.
Ah, no offense to you if you were born from an artificial womb. ”

”It ’s okay.
I ’m natural born. ”

Anyway, regardless of what Senator Tovar sees in you, he must at least see something in your mech design ability.
You ’re good at designing mechs, right? ”

”I founded the Living Mech Corporation which grew into a multibillion bright credit company in just a couple of years. ” Ves bragged, feeling the need to puff himself up for some reason.
”I ’ve only dabbled with variants for a year or so before immediately transitioning to selling original mech models that I ’ve designed all by myself! Even with just two premium product lines, my company is selling hundreds of mechs per month, a large proportion of which are exported the the entire star sector! ”

Lord Javier subtly shifted his attitude towards Ves in a more respectful manner.
”That does sound impressive. ”

”On top of that, I ’ve also become apprenticed to Master Carmin Olson of the Vermeer Group! I ’m also a member of the Leemar Institute of Technology ’s Clifford Society. ”

The awe in Lord Javier ’s eyes increased even further, though the noble also smirked again.
”I know that apprenticeships to Masters is a big deal in the mech industry.
However, you don ’t look like a direct disciple.
You wouldn ’t be tagging along with Senator Tovar and you would have already heard about the Societal Vitality Theory if that ’s the case.
You ’re one of those nominal disciples, right? Hah! A Master can accumulate hundreds of those without a care! Apprentices like that are just cheap labor that are loyal to them because their Master threw them a bone when they needed something to gnaw upon.
Master Mech Designers aren ’t as generous as you think. ”

While Lord Javier ’s words resonated with him, Ves still wanted to defend Master Olson ’s conduct.
Regardless of her lack of attention to Ves, he never really needed a lot of handholding in the first place.
Allowing him to enjoy the status of being apprenticed to a Master from the Friday Coalition and being able to enter the Clifford Society as a privileged Knight instead of a servile Squire benefited him immensely.

”My connection to Master is a mutually beneficial relationship.
It is not uncommon for me to pay back her generosity. ” Ves settled on a neutral-sounding reply.
He couldn ’t very well badmouth his own Master.
”I ’d appreciate it if you didn ’t insinuate any insults towards a Master Mech Designer in my presence. ”

Every mech designer became ingrained to the hierarchy of mech designers.
Those who advanced to Journeymen, Senior, Master all worked hard to reach their heights.
Every fellow mech designer recognized the amount of struggle and sacrifice they paid to fulfill their dreams.

”Alright, alright, for a mech designer you sure are sensitive. ”

That was an odd remark to Ves.
”You ’re poking around into matters I don ’t want poking. ”

My point still stands.
You should open your big brains of yours and spill something good.
What do you think of my old mech, the Loquacious Raphael? It ’s a good work, right? ”

Ves recalled that insanely capable custom mech.
”It ’s… expensive.
Very capable in the right hands, as it did when you piloted it.
I ’m very impressed by its ability to facilitate fake resonance.
It ’s a quality work designed by a quality mech designer. ”

”It sounds like there ’s a ’but ’ there. ”

”It ’s a custom mech.
It ’s expensive.
A very good mech designer spent a lot of time and effort tailoring it to your piloting style and your individual demands.
How many mech pilots are able to enjoy such an extravagant privilege? ”

”Do you have something against custom mechs? ” Javier asked with a puzzled frown.

”Not as such.
I ’m actually interested in entering the market for custom mechs as well in the future.
However, the majority of my customers won ’t be noble scions such as you who possess a budget the size of a star system ’s entire yearly earnings.
How much of your performance back then during the Detemen Operation can be attributed to your skill as opposed to the quality of your Loquacious Raphael? ”

Lord Javier narrowed his eyes at Ves in an ominous fashion.
”Did you just question my skill? ”

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