The original sentiment of the holy relic hungered to take over the spiritual accumulation surrounding it.

Now that Ves wiped out the latter ’s spiritual imprints, it became free for the taking, but only if the original sentiment possessed the fuel to sustain the conquest!

After donning the mask of Prophet Ylvaine, Ves continued to generate new thoughts and emotions that centered around the Ylvainan Faith.
Although a genuine Ylvainan worshipper would spot the many flaws and shortcomings of his understanding of faith, the dormant original sentiment wasn ’t as discerning!

A moderate resemblance was enough for the original sentiment to strengthen and expand its spiritual imprint!

While Ves was happy that he succeeded with this step, he quickly regretted it as the drain exceeded his expectations!

He may not be giving away his spiritual energy, but he was giving up the resources that generated it! The loss was so huge that Ves forcibly ended the channeling before he turned into a human-shaped bot!

”Damnit! This relic is hungry! ”

He immediately shed his mask and breathed deeply.
The short contact heavily drained his mind! It might have dried up completely if the process continued for a dozen seconds!

After Ves regained some of his composure, he carefully inspected the results.
The prophet ’s spiritual imprint encompassed around ten percent of the relic ’s spiritual accumulation.
Right now, the spiritual imprint was in the process of filtering out the spiritual energy with incompatible attributes.

”Just ten percent? ” He whined.

He was both happy and disappointed at this level of progress.

The fact that Ves accomplished so little meant that the resulting end product would certainly be formidable.

The downside was that Ves would have to spend days to complete the refining process.
He felt so drained right now that the only way for him to recover quickly was to take a couple of hours of sleep.

Once he woke, he ’ll have to don his mask and divert a lot of thoughts and emotions to the hungry original sentiment again until he reached his limit.

After that, he would have to take another nap.

”I ’ll have to repeat this cycle over and over until all of the spiritual accumulation is claimed or rejected. ”

This would definitely take a while.
Ves grew concerned that something awful might happen during this time.

The longer he held the relic, the greater the risk of exposure!

Fortunately, Ves wasn ’t the primary suspect of its theft.
The Ylvainans should be focusing most of their attention elsewhere for the time being.

In order to decrease the chances of getting caught, he paused the process and made some arrangements.

He issued assignments to everyone to make it seem that they were all preoccupied.
He also sent a message to Calabast informing her that he reached a stage in the design process where he was beginning to exert his specialty.

Someone as astute as her would be able to read between the lines that Ves was definitely doing something sensitive!

She sent a short reply in return.

”Understood. ”

No more needed to be said.
Since she knew what was at stake, she would do her best to prevent or stall the authorities from disturbing Ves at the guest compound.

”A good ally is hard to come by. ” He sighed.

Although their partnership had gone off on a rocky start, Ves began to see the benefits of their mutual association.

As for Calabast, she must be regretting her decision as she was forced to clean up after the messes he left behind!

Ves chuckled a bit at the thought.
Although it wasn ’t wise to provoke such a formidable individual, he couldn ’t help but enjoy seeing her miserable.

With all of these matters taken care of, Ves met with one more person before he resumed his refining.

”Melkor. ”

”Ves. ” His cousin greeted him.
”What brings you here? ”

”I want to check up on some matters.
How are the Avatars doing? ”

”The Avatars I ’ve brought on this mission are uneasy. ” Melkor frowned.
”They didn ’t expect Kesseling VIII to be a hotbed of trouble. ”

”Will it affect their performance? ”

They know their duty and they know that most of our security is being provided by the Protectors of the Faith.
It ’s making us feel kind of useless. ”

Their life and death was in the hands of the Kronon Dynasty.
While they trusted in the integrity of the Protectors of the Faith, who knew whether all of them agreed with protecting the foreigners.

The attack on the grand church already proved that traitors managed to infiltrate the ranks of the Protectors!

Fortunately, the Kronons should definitely be aware of this problem.
They wouldn ’t allow a rogue Protector to turn their weapons against the foreigners.

It seemed that even when Ves finally ended his military service and gained control over his own life, he still had to entrust his safety to others.
At this point in time, there was no way for the Avatars of Myth to meet all of his security needs.

Melkor shared the same frustrations.
”It will take years before we can field three mech companies. ”

”I ’m not blaming you for taking your time. ” Ves reassured him.
”I ’m sure the Avatars will become a force to be reckoned with in time, but that doesn ’t address our immediate concerns. ”

”Do you want to hire mercenaries? ”

Ves shook his head.
”No need.
I think we can count on the Protectors of the Faith.
Their integrity has always been the highest among the three leading dynasties.
Besides, there ’s a large chance that any mercenaries we hire will turn out to be less reliable than the Protectorate ’s military. ”

They could only hire locals as the Protectorate barred most foreign mercenaries from entering the state.
Hiring Ylvainan mercenaries did not sit well with either of them at this moment.
Who knew if they were traditionalists who hated foreigners.

”So what is it that you want, Ves? ”

”I ’m thinking that the Avatars should hire some infantry to act as my guards.
Seeing our guard detail in action back at the grand church made me realize that we can ’t keep depending on other forces to provide for our security.
Whether it ’s Sanyal-Ablin or the Protectors of the Faith, they are all protecting me solely due to the fact that it ’s an assignment to them.
They don ’t owe us their loyalty. ”

Melkor nodded in understanding.
”I ’ve been thinking about that as well, but no one in the Avatars has any experience with non-mech combat.
We ’ll have to hire an infantry commander.
The good news is that there ’s a lot of them.
The bad news is that getting a good one will take a lot of effort. ”

Unlike mech pilots, humans didn ’t need to meet any strict requirements to become a trained footsoldier.
While they didn ’t enjoy as much status as mech pilots, a lot of people still became guards or joined an auxiliary regiment.

Many mercenary corps fielded infantry as well in order to perform duties unsuited for mechs.
Examples include clearing buildings, guarding indoor facilities and protecting VIPs.

”Do the best you can to hire someone we can trust when we get back to the Bright Republic. ”

Melkor raised his palm.
”We don ’t have to wait that long, Ves.
Although rare, there are some Larkinsons who served in an auxiliary regiment.
Some of those old dogs are retired now, but I ’m sure they ’re willing to get back into the saddle as long as we send a message. ”

The offer intrigued him.
Ves rubbed his chin as he contemplated whether he should take advantage of this easy solution.

Though he was loathe to shift more power to the Larkinson Family, he was getting more and more frustrated at the lackluster growth of the Avatars of Myth.

While Ves wasn ’t willing to let one of the old dogs of the family become the Avatar Commander, it wasn ’t that big of a deal if he appointed one as an infantry captain.

Eventually, he nodded.
”Do it.
As long as whoever you bring onboard won ’t interfere with the other units, I ’m fine with your choice. ”

”I ’ll get right on it, Ves.
If everything goes smoothly, the Avatars should be able to field a fixed bodyguard rotation by the time we return to the Bright Republic. ”

Once he passed on his request, Ves returned back inside and closed himself off in his room.
With Lucky on guard, he had few concerns that he ’d get caught with the holy relic.

If someone wanted to barge into his room, Lucky could quickly take the holy relic and activate his Miniaturized Stealth Generator before phasing out of the room!

”I should get back on the job.
The relic ’s spiritual accumulation won ’t refine by itself! ”

Ves proceeded with encouraging the growth of the spiritual imprint.
With an incredible amount of free spiritual energy nearby, the spiritual imprint continued to leap forward and engulf more territory.

While he felt very uneasy about wearing the mask of Prophet Ylvaine, he didn ’t need to maintain his unusual mental state for long.
Each session only lasted five minutes or less before he cut off the connection and went back to sleep.

A few days passed by as Ves quietly immersed himself in sleep and donning Prophet Ylvaine ’s mask.

In his free time, he read up more on Prophet Ylvaine ’s life, though he slowly realized that it wasn ’t helpful to know more details.

”The X-Factor isn ’t meant to resurrect someone who ’s dead.
It ’s meant to empower the mech and mech pilot! ”

The hero mech he planned to design centered largely around unquestioning faith.
The details didn ’t matter all that much.
As long as the mech inspired strong belief in the Ylvainan Faith, it was okay if Ves left out some unwanted parts.

This was why he hadn ’t tweaked the image of Prophet Ylvaine in his mind any further.
In its current state, it was already highly compatible with the remnant that the prophet had left behind on the relic.

The more Ves refined the spiritual accumulation, the more holy and inspiring it grew.
At some point Ves even feared that some of its holy aura might penetrate past the walls and brush against the minds of the Ylvainans guarding the compound!

However, Ves could hardly go anywhere else to finish the job.

”Even if the Protectors of the Faith feel something unusual, they shouldn ’t suspect anything without hard evidence. ”

Ves still decided to hurry up.
He ran himself ragged as he drained more and more of himself during each cycle.
He wanted to squeeze as much thought and emotion out of him as possible in order to decrease the amount of cycles it took to refine the relic.

After three long days, Ves finally managed to complete the conversion process!

Ves felt as if the air was charged with spiritual energy.
The nutrient pack wrapper had outputted a lot of unwanted spiritual energy these last few days because they possessed the wrong attributes.

However, the original sentiment claimed around half of what remained.
A very strong and holy aura encompassed the nutrient pack wrapper.
It was truly holy now, and Prophet Ylvaine ’s residual spirituality had grown to a formidable extent!

If not for the rejected spiritual energy dampening the aura of the holy relic, the Protectors of the Faith would have forced their way into his room already!

”This won ’t last forever, though.
The loose spiritual energy is slowly dissipating! ”

Ves needed to move quickly before he lost this protective cover.
Now that the original sentiment and spiritual accumulation had merged, he wanted to compress it into a spiritual fragment and coax it into his mind.

He donned the mask of Prophet Ylvaine one more time and began to project his Spirituality around the relic ’s spiritual energy.
He loosely touched it, arousing an intimate response, and began to apply force.

”Compress! ”

Surprisingly, the cloud of spiritual energy didn ’t actively resist his measures.
As far as it was concerned, Ves was Prophet Ylvaine, and his will had to be obeyed without question!

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