”Oh yeah, I also forgot to add the Plasma Spark to my list of combat awards. ” Ves faked an awkward laugh.
”Sorry about that.
I earned that particular medal shortly before the end of the war.
Please forgive my spotty memory. ”

The people sitting in the rows of seats took the cue and erupted into laughter, forcing Professor Pendleton to stifle his rebuttal.

The crowd loved a winner, and right now Ves radiated absolute confidence!

The effect would have been even better if he wore his medals today! While he left his actual medals and ribbons back at home in Cloudy Curtain, Ves still had a solution for that.
He wasn ’t the first person who left his military awards behind.

He leisurely put Lucky down next to his feet and activated his comm.
He inputted a few commands that caused his medals to appear on the chest of his formal clothing in the form of projections!

Even though they weren ’t really physical present, their splendor still managed to look impressive on his body!

Ever since Ves heard that Professor Pendleton of the Ansel University of Mech Design intended to spoil his product reveal, he read up the older man ’s public record.

The notation regarding his wartime service in his younger years only mentioned some brief platitudes about ’doing his duty ’ and ’contributing to the war effort ’.

Nothing else.

What little recognition Norman Pendleton received from the Mech Corps amounted to little more than participation awards.

This was not that big of a deal to mech designers in the Bright Republic.
The Mech Corps did not expect too much from their conscripted young mech designers.

Certain individuals with connections to major influences such as the AUMD even got a free pass from the Mech Corps.
These mech designers would receive cushy positions in the interior of the Bright Republic so that they would never be exposed to actual danger.

Ves hadn ’t forgotten his half-year posting at Flashlight ’s Frozen Point Research Base.
The young Ansel mech designers there were like flowers in a greenhouse.
Their school had already arranged everything for them! Every single one of those brats would survive the war without facing a Vesian even a single time and would be able to boast about ’doing their duty ’ with a straight face!

No one called them out about their farcical deployment compared to the poorer and less well-connected mech designers exposed to regular danger.

This was because the average mech designers deployed to the frontlines didn ’t have much to boast about their service either.
Their performance was average at best and cowardly at worst.
It was too difficult to find a single courageous mech designer among their ranks!

However, exceptions always existed.

Ves happened to be one of the few mech designers to fall outside mold.

Some of the awards that Ves received were mere participation medals, such as the War Saint which every serviceman received.
However, the top awards were very different.
The Darkness Eater and the Torchbearer were both prestigious awards that could only be bestowed for performing supreme merit during a combat situation!

As for the Golden Mech, its standing among mech designers could not be overstated! Only Seniors earned this award from the Mech Corps for designing exceptional, war-winning designs!

For an Apprentice like Ves to receive one may be a bit undeserved if he was being honest.
However, since he already got it, why not take advantage that he received the Golden Mech while the professor only got some lame participation awards?

Right now, Ves wanted to club Professor Pendleton ’s head with the weight of all of his medals! Even though it was a thuggish act for Ves to abuse his medals to belittle a Senior for his lack of valor during his wartime service, so what?!

The aggressive force of will that Ves had emulated from Venerable Foster seemed to take a life on its own, egging Ves on! The best way to fend off a Senior from haranguing him on the Aurora Titan ’s factual shortcomings was to keep shifting the conversation away from his design!

In the meantime, both the crowd and the journalists all became enraptured by the fierce words spat out by Ves! They loved the drama!

The ordinary respect that should have been afforded to a Senior was nowhere to be seen! Most of the crowd already unconsciously took Ves ’ side.
Nobody rose up to lend their support to the much more superior mech designer because they could not bring themselves to side against a genuine war hero!

”I am Ves Larkinson of the Larkinson Family! ” Ves declared exultantly, not even hesitating to involve the reputation of his family! ”We Larkinsons have always served in the war! Countless Larkinsons have lost their lives over the years, but many more have distinguished themselves in battle! Benjamin Larkinson is my grandfather! Ark Larkinson is my uncle! Ghanso Larkinson is my cousin! When it comes to the war against the Vesians, there is no family in the Republic who has contributed more to the war than my own flesh and blood! ”

”Larkinson! Larkinson! Larkinson! ” The audience spontaneously echoed!

The professor was just about to speak up, but Ves ’ shameless method of hugging his family ’s illustrious wartime reputation forced him to a halt again!

How could Professor Pendleton put down this personal attack on his honor? By dismissing the worth of the medals? That was political suicide! The Mech Corps was one of the most respected institutions in the Bright Republic, and their awards were not to be questioned!

At the same time, while the the Larkinson Family had its detractors, it was mostly the other military families who opposed them.
For a mech designer like Professor Pendleton who never risked his life during the past wars to dismiss the Larkinson Family would definitely piss off former and active servicemen!

Every Senior Mech Designer in the Bright Republic maintained strong relations with the military.
They cooperated with the Mech Corps by providing their mech regiments with mechs or helping them with designing new military mechs.
They also played a vital role in the development of expert mechs!

Yet Professor Pendleton might put this cozy business relationship into jeopardy if he spoke out carelessly against either the Larkinson Family or the many medals that Ves had been awarded with! With the Mech Corps playing such a huge role in the Bright Republic, it was very taboo to publicly denounce the military!

The situation for the Ansel Senior grew more and more awkward.
If the man had built up some support from the crowd, then he might have been able to weasel himself away from the attack, but the lack of any friendly sentiment around him gave him very little openings to extricate him from this difficult situation.

He shouldn ’t have come to confront an aberrant mech designer like Ves who showed no scruples at all in putting a Senior on the spot like this! His conduct was a major breach in etiquette among their profession!

To be frank, Ves already knew that he was definitely burning some bridges in the mech industry, but so what? It felt good to smack a hostile mech designer whose solely attended the product to tear down the Aurora Titan!

The domineering force of will that affected his conduct grew in strength as more and more of the audience sided with him.
Ves suddenly realized that a force of will never acted in isolation!

An expert mech pilot might have sparked the initial fire in their minds, but the adulation of the masses truly set it ablaze!

Tens of thousands of people had entered the Grand Skyward ’s main hall.
Through various tricks and theatrics as well as the auras exerted by the show models, Ves managed to get the crowd fully over to his side with his fiery words! No matter if they were Brighters or foreign visitors, all of them couldn ’t help but voice out their support to the scrappy young mech designer!

The strange interaction between the audience ’s adulation and the imitated force of will affecting his mind made Ves understand expert pilots a little better.

Perhaps the custom of calling high-ranking mech pilots gods was not entirely baseless after all!

Even though the spirituality of average people was weak and formless, somehow they resonated with his force of will, especially if they had become swept up by his mood!

Ves felt that if he was a real expert pilot, he might be able to strengthen his force of will and even transform it into an entirely new form!

He mentally shook his head.
This was not the time to contemplate the myriad wonders of spirituality! He had a Senior to put down first!

His small distraction gave Professor Pendleton enough time to muster up a decent-sounding response.

”Your service and your family ’s service to the Bright Republic is very much appreciated.
I have never questioned the courage of the Larkinsons. ” He said mildly.
”Yet no matter how you distinguished yourself in the war, the lives of the mech pilots who use your mechs are at stake.
Being a soldier is very different from being a mech designer! We do not exist to fight enemies directly! We instead design the tools needed for our soldiers to fight our enemies to the best of their abilities! It is this core responsibility that I believe your Aurora Titan design is failing in! Your improperly-designed mech poses a threat to its own mech pilots! ”

Ves had to hand it to Professor Pendleton.
He chose a great way to pivot the conversation back to the Aurora Titan.
Pendleton saw that there was no way forward by questioning Ves ’ competence directly.
Instead, the Senior framed his argument against the Aurora Titan in the context of the duty that all mech designers held towards mech pilots!

No matter how great Ves puffed himself up, if his mech designs were so bad that they actually killed their users, then none of his medals could save the Aurora Titan from ruin!

Still, the professor lacked momentum on his side.
Ves was on a roll and he had plenty more ways to fend off this latest thrust!

”You ’ve never seen the Aurora Titan in action yet and you are already ready to denounce my design? ” Ves mockingly asked.
”How can you make such a blanket statement about my mech just from its introduction alone? Just look at my show models! ”

Ves gestured his arm towards the Shield of Samar and the four other gold label mechs.
Their splendor and their aura were so impressive that hardly anyone could bring themselves to dislike them even if they watched the event through a projection from the comfort of their homes!

At the same time, Ves subtly transmitted a command to Jannzi Larkinson and the other mech pilots.
In unison, they clanged that swords against their shields!

The shock of the simultaneous impacts caused the entire audience to jolt! The show models drew back their swords before clanging them against their shields yet again.
They repeated the action in a slow but measured rhythm, causing them to resonate with the low thrum that emulated Qilanxo ’s heartbeat.

The show models somehow appeared more glorious and ready for battle than ever before!

The thunderous clanging echoed throughout the chamber.
Its rhythmic pattern seemed to hypnotize the crowd into a fanatic fervor for the mechs that went well beyond mere admiration for their design!

Ves pulled out the pistol from his toolbelt.
His aggressive mood took on a bit more solemness as he wielded the Peaceful Repose.

The artful gun drew a lot of attention back to Ves.
He resolutely tried to pivot the discussion away from his mech.
What better than to employ more theatrics?

The biggest mistake that Professor Pendleton could make was to enter a venue that was completely under Ves ’ control!

Ves not only had the crowd on his side, but could also manipulate the surroundings in a way that strengthened his connection to the people!

”How many lives have you saved? How many Vesians and other enemies have you killed? ”

The professor looked as if he was choking a cough.
What did this have to do with mech design?!

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