angerous for young mech designers like you.
Unless you have gained a lot of experience and tempered your design philosophy to a strong degree, you better not sneak a peek. ”

Ves nodded in agreement, though he reserved some skepticism.
How could something as innocent as books break a mech designer ’s mind?

They descended down the mountain range and entered one of the cities.
Unlike the eclectic mix on the mountain tops, the city looked like a proper medieval castle settlement.
Simulated people added a lot of livelihood to the scene, though all of them ignored the Society members as if they didn ’t exist.

”This is where the Squires can rent a virtual home or storefront.
It is not the most harmonic environment, but it is sufficient for most of them if they wish to advertise their services. ”

Many squires had set up stores or stalls offering wares for merits.
They also showed off their capabilities in the hopes of getting hired by someone who has merits to spare.

Looking at these talented mech designers debasing themselves for a couple of merits showed Ves how brutal the world can be.
Squires who joined the Clifford Society started at the bottom and had to claw their way upwards.
It reminded him of the harsh circumstances that students of the LIT had to go through in order to survive.

”These squires make excellent lackeys if you ’re short on manpower.
The Society binds us all together.
The rules are very strict against those who violate any contracts made within its bounds. ”

They reached the final destination of their tour.
Horatio had led Ves onto an upscale bazaar where Knights and those of even higher ranks had set up their own storefronts.

Almost anything could be exchanged with merits.
From completed mech designs to wreckage of highly advanced mechs, as long as you had merits, it was yours.
Ves widened his eyes when he stopped in front of a store selling fabrication equipment.

”That ’s a decent 3D printer. ” Horatio remarked as he eyed the machine.
It was a bog-standard printer common in the Coalition.
”It ’s nothing to me, but it should be adequate for your needs. ”

The hefty price tag of five hundred merits discouraged Ves.
There were not many ways in which he could earn so many merits quickly.
He reluctantly let go of the shiny toys and followed Horatio as he pointed out the most notable stores.

The tour came at an end when they reached a fountain.
Horatio reached inside his pocket and retrieved a merit ticket.
He threw it into the fountain without hesitation.

”People say that you can gain some luck if you throw some merits in to the fountain. ” Horatio smirked at Ves when he looked bewildered at the waste.
”You might think that I ’m throwing away a virtual object into a virtual fountain for nothing.
If you believe the multiverse is fixed and follows a defined set of physical laws, then you might be right. ”

Ves could guess the point he was making.
This might even be a hidden test of sorts.

”I believe we have only skimmed the workings of our reality.
There is much we have to learn. ” He said as he remorselessly tossed a valuable merit ticket into the waters of the fountain.
Inwardly, he groaned at the loss.
He only had nine merits left.

His guide said nothing and merely watched on.
Once the ticket fully submerged, he started to float.
”That ’s it for this little tour.
Take care of yourself and work hard to become a Journeyman Mech Designer.
Once you have reached this level, you will gain access to the Titanium Garden, which is Carmin ’s exclusive portal.
It ’s not as lively as the Clifford Society, but it offers exclusive resources that will help you advance. ”

The Titanium Garden existed both as a virtual portal and as a physical location on Master Olson ’s home planet.
Master Olson owed her rapid rise to the Vermeer Group, but her true allegiance was more complex.
She proactively partnered with masters from other groups within the Coalition and maintained a neutral stance in all intra-Coalition turf wars.
In essence, she was welcome everywhere.

While Ves could climb the Clifford Society ’s hierarchy, it remained a way for the Carnegie Group to exert influence on him.
It would become messy if he got involved in the complex politics between the two groups.

If he had to make a choice, then he was better off favoring the Vermeer Group.
Still, as a foreigner, Ves hoped to stay out of this cesspool and develop his mechs quietly in the Bright Republic.

”For now, try to take advantage of what the Clifford Society has to offer. ” Horatio advised Ves in a sincere manner.
”The resources they offer to lower-ranked mech designers is quite comprehensive.
Make sure to develop a solid foundation and develop your specialties one step at a time.
While you shouldn ’t be in a hurry, I expect you to reach journeyman in a decade at most. ”

Ves didn ’t have to ask what would happen if he failed to meet that request.
As a disgrace to his master, he ’d be stripped of his apprenticeship and kicked away like a piece of trash.

I ’ll be sure to work as hard as possible. ”

”One more thing.
If you are stuck in your studies, feel free to contact me if you need some guidance.
Do note that my time is also scarce, so you better have some merits on hand. ”

That left him with a way out if he absolutely got stuck.
Ves did not expect to consult Horatio often due to his reliance on the System to advance his skills.
Cramming books like a human lost its charm when he could simply spend some DP and gain complete mastery over a new skill.

”Well, I ’ll probably give this book learning a thing since I ’m short on DP. ”

Once Horatio left, Ves exited the simulated environment as well.
He could borrow some books later.
First he had to finish the ones he purchased previously.

After going through so many battles at Leemar, Ves felt the need to consolidate his new gains by revisiting some theories he didn ’t completely understand.
It was a good way to pass the time while the Barracuda made her way to the Bright Republic.

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