The first step in his plan would be to make use of his long-neglected Special Upgrade Voucher.

[Special Upgrade Voucher (Machine)]

This voucher can be applied to any object that fits the definition ’machine ’ and will comprehensively upgrade them to a higher rank.
The smaller the machine, the more extensive the upgrade.
This voucher is less effective on advanced and complex machines.

His intuition faintly approved of this course of action.
Ves felt that something very good might result from the use of his voucher on Jannzi ’s mech.

The only regret was that he would be wasting his voucher on a mech that likely wouldn ’t be useful forever.
The Avatars of Myth could not keep making use of outdated mechs as time went by.
There would come a time when the Shield of Samar lost its relevance in the changing battlefields.

Yet Ves was still determined to use up his voucher.
The Shield of Samar was such an impressive mech that elevating it even marginally could lead to substantial improvements in its performance.

”The Shield of Samar will probably be in use for at least ten years under normal conditions.
That ’s not a lot of time in the overall scheme of things, but I am still in a very vulnerable position right now. ”

Yet who said a mech needed to adhere to its original design throughout its lifetime? Ves knew that a mech could always change and morph into a different form over time.

The field of customizing existing mechs was a deep and extremely extensive field.
Some mech designers wholly abandoned designing new mechs in favor of customizing and tuning existing ones.

These mechanics earned a prominent place in the crews of mech athletes.
They took existing commercial mechs and transformed them into mechs that were exquisitely tuned to suit a single mech pilot.

Every competent mech designer could work as mechanics, particularly when it came to their own mechs.

”Mechs don ’t have to have a finite lifespan. ” Ves realized.

The parts and frame that made up a mech could each be updated over time.
As long as Ves wanted to, he could keep the Shield of Samar relevant on a continual basis by replacing older tech with newer tech.

In addition, if he ever updated the Aurora Titan into a Mark II version, then as long as he preserved the essence of its vision, then it would retain the same X-Factor and the spiritual qualities!

This was vitally important to Ves because it would be a waste to discard the qualities that a mech and mech design built up over the course of their use.
Could he extend the lifespan of the Shield of Samar to a century?

Very much so.
Perhaps almost none of its original parts would be retained, but as long as the change happened gradually, the Shield of Samar would be able to continue to serve as Jannzi ’s partner!

”Living Mechs.
Partners for Life. ”

The company motto never sounded more relevant up until now!

Hardly any mech designer put any special emphasis on preserving the continuity of a mech design.
However, it was customary for mech designers to update their old mech designs to incorporate the new technology of the times, particularly if the mech designs in question were bestsellers or staple products in their mech catalog.

Some mech designers even went to great extremes and devote their entire mech design careers into perfecting a single mech design! They were almost always obsessive about their precious mech design, and some even managed to advance to Star Designers with this ideology!

”These single-design fanatics may be onto something. ”

Ves contemplated whether he should update the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord.
Their X-Factor wasn ’t the strongest, but their mech concepts should still remain relevant in the future.

Perhaps Ves could even bolster their X-Factor by blending in some spiritual fragments!

”Well, I ’ll consider that for later.
For now, the Aurora Titan should definitely deserve this treatment! ”

The Aurora Titan design held special meaning to Ves.
It was his first mech which reached an A-grade X-Factor and incorporated the spiritual fragment of a very special exobeast friend.
These valuable qualities made the design extremely valuable to Ves.
It was worth keeping this design up to date with periodic updates!

”If the design deserves to be updated, then the Shield of Samar deserves to keep up as well! ”

Afraid that the voucher might arouse a visual spectacle, Ves ordered the Shield of Samar to be moved into a small workshop in the Grand Skyward.

As an overall rule, exhibition halls generally afforded mech designers some privacy in their workshops, but Ves knew better than that.

He activated his Privacy Shield, though that was only enough to cover a two-meter radius around him.
The System did offer some upgrades to it, but to increase its radius by twenty-five meters already cost Ves a whopping 1,000,000 DP!

Instead, Ves made use of a simpler solution.
He turned to Lucky who he held in his arms.
”You ate all of the communications systems of my CFA shuttle and CFA officer-grade comm right? Go work your magic.
Block out any electronic surveillance in the workshop.
While you ’re at it, see if there are any invisible sneaky bastards like Leland around and hunt for any loose spy bugs. ”

Although Ves believed his Privacy Shield worked far more effectively than CFA jamming tech, they worked equally well against the prevailing sensor technology of the Bright Republic.

”Meow! ”

Lucky eagerly showed off its capabilities.
A jarring wave emanated from the mechanical cat and easily encompassed the entire workshop.
Ves rated CFA tech very highly, and if it didn ’t work on the monitoring system in the workshop then Lucky would have informed him.
The cat meowed a few times to indicate that no one was currently present in the workshop.

”Okay then.
Here goes nothing. ”

He mentally navigated towards his Inventory and activated the voucher, applying it on the Shield of Samar before his sight.

As Ves envisioned the voucher tearing itself in half from his Inventory, the Shield of Samar started to glow in green.
It did not change form, nor did its materials upgrade into anything better.
From all outward appearances, the voucher hadn ’t seemed to change the mech very much!

”Is that all? ” Ves disappointedly asked.

The voucher did claim that it worked less effectively on larger and more advanced objects.
Without deep scanning the mech, Ves wouldn ’t be able to figure out what exactly changed about the Shield of Samar.

The luminescent green glow eventually subsided as the voucher finished its transformation process.
To all intents and purposes, the Shield of Samar remained roughly the same, so much so that no outside observer would be able to tell the difference.

Ves still didn ’t regret using the voucher.
It wasn ’t as if he had any other device on hand which desperately needed an upgrade.

Investing in the Shield of Samar seemed like a worthwhile effort to him.
In fact, to strengthen its performance in the upcoming demonstrations, Ves did not intend to upgrade mech alone.

He wanted to upgrade the mech pilot as well!

Although Ves knew he could work his Spirituality in some ways to effect such a change, he was far too unpracticed in it.
Instead of trying to fumble around with something extremely dangerous by himself, why not employ an expert instead?

This expert happened to be the Aurora Titan ’s spiritual identity that lay at the heart of its X-Factor!

Ves had never communicated much with his images after he finished designing a mech.
Doing this was a new experience for him, and he wasn ’t entirely sure if it would even work.

”It ought to work. ”

Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment integrated into the design, but did not lose its own distinct identity during the process.
Instead, it simply took on a new job as it settled into its new home in the imaginary realm!

Ves needed a new name for the images and spiritual fragments that integrated into a design.
He decided to call them design spirits, because the words succinctly described their roles.

They were living spirits which animated lifeless designs and mechs! This especially applied to what Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment turned into! As Ves stepped closer and closer to the Shield of Samar, he could feel its radiant spiritual fluctuations.

The mech was very much alive in his senses.
Ves could not help but repeatedly admire the strong effects of A-grade X-Factor.
Most of all, its spirituality still carried the strong imprint of Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment!

”It ’s a bit different since last time. ”

The spiritual flavor took on a little bit more mech and a little bit less exobeast.
Being attached to a mech design would inevitably cause the design spirit to assimilate a bit more from its immediate surroundings.
Perhaps this transformation would gradually continue over time until hardly anything would be left of its roots!

”Is this a good transformation or a bad one? ”

Ves didn ’t know.
While he was glad to see the design spirit develop and evolve based on its circumstances, he did not wish for it to forget its roots.

Right now, there wasn ’t much for him to be concerned about, but that might change in the future.

For the moment, Ves concluded that there should still be enough of Qilanxo left to bargain with the design spirit.

”It ’s just a matter of making contact. ”

Ves concentrated his mind.
He called up his Spirituality and extended an invisible and intangible tentacle of spirituality from his mind.
He gently moved it over to the dormant Shield of Samar and tried to poke it into the cockpit that served as the heart of the mech.

A connection had been formed!

Strong sensations traveled through the tentacle! A confused jumble of thoughts and minutiae flooded his mind, causing Ves to utter a scream!

It had been a bad idea to make a direct connection with such a strong design spirit!

Ves barely lasted a few seconds as he desperately tried to convey his meaning before he forcefully retracted his spiritual tentacle!

”Damn! That hurts! ” Ves winced as he rubbed his head.

Although the contact only lasted for a short time, Ves felt as if his entire mind had been burned by the raw exposure to the Aurora Titan ’s design spirit!

”I can only hope it got the message. ” He muttered wearily.
”Okay, Lucky! My work is done! You can deactivate your ECM now! ”

Sometime later, the mech technicians moved the Shield of Samar back in the hangar bay in order to be prepped for launch.
Jannzi reunited with her mech again and was just about to hop into its cockpit in order to ready herself for the big demonstration.

The success of the Aurora Titan in the market depended upon her upcoming performance!

Ves deemed this event to be so vital that he couldn ’t help but give out some hints.
If he wanted the Shield of Samar to perform at its best, then he shouldn ’t be too stingy with his secrets.

He took Jannzi to the side and activated his Privacy Shield yet again in order to have a private conversation.

”What did you bring me here for, Ves? ”

”I wanted to tell you something that will help you interface deeper with the Shield of Samar.
Have you ever felt as if there was something special about your mental connection with your mech? ”

have. ” She frowned.
”I ’m not sure what ’s going on with that, but your Shield of Samar is unlike any other mech I ’ve piloted before.
I ’ve even sat in the cockpits of the other mechs of the Avatars of Myth, and I ’ve noticed that the Blackbeak and the Crystal Lord are different as well.
We ’ve all known you are doing something different in your mechs. ”

Since the Avatars of Myth worked the most with his products, they would have been fools if they hadn ’t sensed something distinct in the Blackbeak, Crystal Lord and Aurora Titan models.

”Since you already know this, let me fill you in on a secret that will help you form an even more intimate connection with your mech.
You see, while I ’m not allowed to say so, I did some research on neural interfaces and the man-machine connection during my service time. ”

The dwarves who died due to his research had not sacrificed their lives in vain!

Jannzi looked at Ves with a rapt expression.
She believed in him! How could she not? He was a very capable mech designer! He had to be in order to design a mech as amazing as the Aurora Titan!

”What ’s the secret? ” She asked.
She could barely contain her excitement! ”How can I form a better connection with my mech? ”

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