Everything was negotiable.
While the amplified remnant of Prophet Ylvaine ’s spirituality strongly disliked residing in the mind of a non-believer, it nonetheless possessed its own wants and needs.

Taking advantage of its limited wisdom, Ves showed the spiritual fragment an image of the mech he planned to design and intimated that it would reside in the mechs he planned to make.

The negotiation proceeded largely along the lines he expected.
He felt like a parent urging a child to wait before a cake finished baking.

As long as the spiritual fragment waited for a time, he ’d be able to reside in a much better home than his mind or Ylvaine ’s old nutrient pack wrapper.

Although Ves hadn ’t beautified its external appearance yet, his draft design already looked a thousand times more impressive than anything the spiritual fragment had ever seen!

It took little effort to coax the spiritual fragment to stay put and remain patient.

The successful negotiation lifted a weight off his shoulder.
If the spiritual fragment really wanted to, it could have resisted its stay in his mind.
With the sheer amount of spiritual accumulation it assimilated, Ves didn ’t know if he could win such a confrontation.

Nonetheless, for all of its power, the spiritual fragment was as smart as a bot.
It didn ’t possess the complex mind of a complete human.
Ves also managed to read the fragment ’s emotions and impulses like an open book.

He was glad that he managed to convince Ylvaine ’s spiritual fragment to wait for it to reside in his upcoming mech design.
He could tell that the spiritual fragment underwent a huge transformation ever since he compressed it.
While the quantity of spiritual energy remained the same, the quality of it constantly increased due to some unknown interactions.

There was a marked difference between a loose cloud and a solid fragment of spiritual energy.
Ves never researched the differences in depth before, so he took note of what happened.

He already cataloged one change.
The spiritual fragment ’s aura became significantly stronger but also more controllable.
If the fragment didn ’t chose to restrain its aura, Ves would have turned into a beacon of holiness!

This was really bad because the Ylvainan authorities were still crazily searching for their missing holy relic!

It was a shame it no longer existed.
Once it entered Lucky ’s tummy, there was no way the relic could be restored.
Even if the Ylvainans could have fabricated an exact copy of the nutrient pack wrapper, it simply wouldn ’t hold the same significance as the old one.

He made a conscious decision to destroy the holy relic rather than to return it to the Ylvainans.

Returning it might placate the Ylvainans, but not all of them.
The Attendants of Ylvaine, the hardliners and the traditionalists would probably scratch their heads for a second before continuing their vigorous hunt for the culprits.

Giving back the nutrient pack wrapper might also give the authorities some clues on who was responsible.
While he trusted Lucky not to leave any traces on the wrapper, who knew what kind of advanced technology the Ylvainans deployed to figure out who touched the wrapper.

Both Ves and Lucky physically touched the holy relic! Even if Ves left a tiny skin flake on the nutrient pack wrapper, the Ylvainans would certainly be able to dig it out and record its attributes.

After that, it was a very simple procedure to subject everyone in the Kesseling System to a matching test!

Ves simply couldn ’t take the risk of returning the relic.
Perhaps Calabast would have disagreed and come up with some solutions, but he couldn ’t afford to wait that long to coordinate with her.
Getting rid of the evidence was the simplest, fastest way to cut off the trail!

As far as he knew, none of the Ylvainans suspected that Ves and his companions did anything.

Ketis was working on her contribution to the draft design and cuddling Lucky.

Gavin mostly spent his time on managing their business affairs in the Protectorate and at home.

Leland stopped going out for obvious reasons and simply watched the news broadcasts or read the local news publications.

Perhaps the most suspicious of them all was Ves, who spent much of his time in his room with his Privacy Shield turned on.
Since Calabast reminded him that the Ylvainans tracked his usage of sensor-blocking measures, Ves purposely maintained the same pattern despite not doing anything special aside from fleshing out his draft design.

He merely wanted to fool the Ylvainan monitors that he was very touchy and private about his design work.

Perhaps the Protectors of the Faith responsible for guarding the compound suspected that Ves might be up to something.

Still, whatever they thought he was doing, the monitors probably didn ’t think that Ves had anything to do with the theft of the nutrient pack wrapper.
He hadn ’t met with anyone aside from Calabast and there was nowhere he could hide the nutrient pack wrapper.

Due to the high value of the holy relic, no one would think that he would take the trouble to steal it only to destroy it afterwards!

Ves therefore relaxed and let down his guard a bit.
As long as he didn ’t act suspiciously, the Ylvainans should have no reason to turn their attention to him.
Although martial law was still very much in effect, the guest compound turned into an oasis of calm in Krent.

Together with Ketis, he smoothly added more detail to his draft design.

After he obtained Ylvaine ’s spiritual fragment and merged it with the image he constructed of the same man, he took advantage of its presence.
Whenever he sketched out the visual design of his hero mech, he took note of the fragment ’s reaction.

Even if it largely kept to itself, Ves knew that it was constantly observing his actions.

This was one of the downsides to hosting a spiritual fragment in his mind.
It was just like his Mastery experiences, except in reverse.
Ves would never feel at ease if he hosted an unfriendly or very sophisticated and intelligent fragment in his mind!

”Why do I feel like it ’s getting smarter everyday? ”

He never worried too much about Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment as it originated from an exobeast.
It didn ’t share any of humanity ’s complexity, duplicity and greed.
As powerful as it was, Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment had always been friendly.

Ves couldn ’t say the same for Ylvaine ’s spiritual fragment.
It originated from a very controversial figure in history and inherited at least some traits.
He constantly felt as if the spiritual fragment was learning from his observations.

Was this what his hosts felt like when they became aware of his presence in their minds?

What he could do to his hosts during his Mastery experiences, the spiritual fragments could do as well! While his mind and spirit were far more robust, if Ves wasn ’t careful, his consciousness might be displaced one day due to a moment of carelessness!

It came down to strength.
As long as the strength of the spiritual fragment didn ’t exceed his defenses, Ves possessed some reassurance that he would be able to block any incursions.

He still felt inordinately vulnerable for hosting a foreign entity in his mind.
It was like hosting a potential enemy inside his castle!

This looming threat made him consider what he could do to defend himself against a spiritual fragment that had gone rogue.

He came up with two possible solutions.

First, he could build a castle inside his castle.
As long as he could wall off his design seed, consciousness and other important parts of his mind, he ’d be able to stall a hostile presence long enough to mount a counterattack.

”That still doesn ’t address the fundamental shortcoming of hosting an enemy inside my castle.
My interior defenses will never be as strong as my exterior defenses. ”

Second, he could create a temporary home for the spiritual fragment.
As long as the spiritual fragment no longer sided in his mind, it needed to break through the walls of his castle before it could go inside.

Yet how would he go about constructing a temporary home in the first place? And how could he prevent the spiritual fragment from opening the door and leaving for better pastures?

”As long as it resides within my castle, it won ’t be able to leave without breaking through the walls. ”

His mind also served as a secure container for his spiritual fragments.
Any other home was an empty shell that it could depart anytime it wanted to, including his own designs!

This made him wonder what would happen once his mech designs aged.
Ves had already retired his Marc Anthony models.
Both the Blackbeak and Crystal Lord models were up for retirement as well.

While their design spirits would live on in the physical copies that existed in the wild, how long would it take before the last Blackbeaks and Crystal Lords were put in a museum or mech depot?

”Maybe they ’ll stay.
Maybe they ’ll leave. ”

The design spirits he helped create were all strongly attached to their mech designs.
Perhaps many of them never contemplated leaving.
Yet Ves couldn ’t be sure if all of them wanted to remain loyal until they were dead or forgotten.

Ves wasn ’t sure if it would be good or bad for design spirits to hop out of a retired mech design.
Where would they go? Would they fade away in the imaginary realm or would they seek out other mech designs to become their new design spirits?

The possibility made him grimace.
He knew far too little about spirituality and spirits to know for sure.

As a mech designer and an entrepreneur, Ves should have thought about the product life cycle of his mechs.
End-of-life management formed an integral part of today ’s society.
While it was easy to recycle an old mech and reuse most of its materials in newer products, the same might not be true for their design spirits.

Was Ves polluting the mech industry with rogue design spirits every time he retired one of his mech designs? Who knew.

He called up the designs of his Marc Anthony Mark I and Mark II and noted that they still possessed the same degree of X-Factor.

”They ’re still there. ”

That reassured him a bit.
At the very least, his retired designs still provided a comfortable home for his design spirits.

”Yet what happened with the Marc Anthony models aren ’t indicative of what will happen in the future. ”

The images he created for his oldest designs all carried his spiritual imprint and were absolutely loyal to him.
Starting from the Crystal Lord, Ves began to make use of foreign spiritual fragment to empower the images used in forming the design spirits of his mech designs.

Ves continually had to keep track of the wants and needs of his design spirits.

”The best way to maintain the status quo is to refresh the designs. ” He determined.

He didn ’t want to lose track of a design spirit as strong and remarkable as that of the Aurora Titan.
Considering its strong bond with Jannzi Larkinson, the best course of action would be to design an Aurora Titan Mark II and so on in order to keep it in his sphere of influence.

That brought to mind another question.
Could a single design spirit occupy multiple designs?

For example, could Qilanxo ’s spiritual fragment become the patron of both the Aurora Titan Mark I and Mark II?

It might be possible, especially if the designs were part of a single product line.

A related question popped up.
Could he extend the same design spirit across an entire product family?

Could a single mech design host multiple design spirits?

These questions were very important for Ves because the answers determined his strategy for the Protectorate market going forward.
If possible, he wanted every mech sold by the LMC to the Protectorate to carry the influence of devout Ylvainan design spirit.

Ves fell into very deep thought.
”I ’ll have to see if any of this is possible.
It will save me a lot of trouble if I can reuse the same thing over and over again. ”

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