Ves smiled with pride as Calabast looked gobsmacked when he presented his design to her in her office.

The unsettling jamming field disrupted the functioning of the projector systems in her office.
Yet the noise and haziness surrounding the three-dimensional depiction of the Transcendent Messenger only enhanced its divine air!

The first iteration of the design resembled a giant holy paladin with an anachronistic weapon loadout.
Its powerful one-handed ballistic carbine packed a significant punch while its heavy saber was robust enough to chop through any chest armor without breaking!

The weapon loadout was the least remarkable aspect about the hero mech.
Its symbolic and inspirational aspects hogged the entire limelight.

From its matte white tabard to its aura-like particle emissions, the mech imparted a strong impression of a holy warrior who would fight to the ends of the galaxy to uphold the faith!

After a minute of silence, Calabast finally regained her wits.
”I have to admit, when you claimed you could design a mech that can impress the Ylvainans, I didn ’t expect you would come up with something like this.
It ’s amazing what you ’ve been able to accomplish in only three months. ”

”This is just the first iteration.
It will only grow more perfect in the coming weeks as I ’ll test and perfect the design.
If you think it already looks impressive so far, wait until you see the final product.
It will definitely be remarkable as my famous Aurora Titan design by the time I ’ve added the final touch! ” Ves confidently grinned.

While Ves invested much of his attention to his current design project, Gavin made sure to keep him up to speed with what was happening back at home.

The LMC and NORA Consolidated were selling Aurora Titans like hotcakes.
Just when the analysts expected that demand had reached its peak, more and more customers came along and placed orders for the notoriously expensive mechs.

The high price tag for its editions had turned from a discouragement into a mark of exclusivity! Although sales continued to be hampered by critical reviews that magnify the many shortcomings of the Aurora Titan design, the super-medium space knight still managed to sustain its trend several months after its introduction!

Even the Ylvainans heard a lot of buzz about the Aurora Titan.
If not for their aversion to foreign mechs and strong skepticism towards the feasibility of super-medium mechs, the Protectorate might have imported more than a dozen copies during this time!

Calabast performed a lot of internal deliberations.
”Initially, I wasn ’t too hopeful about our chances of overturning the stagnant Ylvainan mech industry.
I ’ve changed my mind now that I see your mech design.
Even though it ’s still an unfinished design, I can already say that its already remarkable enough to jolt the entire Ylvainan mech community! ”

All of the praise only made Ves more smug.
”I told you I can do it.
When it comes to mech design, there ’s hardly any challenge that I can ’t overcome! ”

”Whoa there kid, hold your horses.
Don ’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Failure is still very much on the table. ”

”Why do you keep calling me that? I ’m almost thirty! ” Ves whined.

”Ever since you pulled off that stupid stunt, you ’ll always be a kid to me, I ’ll stop calling you that when you actually grow up. ”

”You ’re not that much older than me, Calabast. ”

”Even if I ’m not old enough to be your mother, I might as well be.
I can ’t count the number of times I ’ve been forced to wipe your butt. ”

”I don ’t mind if you keep doing that. ”

”Get your head out of the gutter, kid! This is no time for jokes! Just because you ’re on track to design a great mech doesn ’t mean we ’re in the clear! ”

That caused Ves to frown.
”What do you mean by that? ”

”Just think about it.
Who doesn ’t want you to succeed? ”

”The traditionalists.
The hardliners.
The conservatives.
The Poxcos. ”

Calabast nodded.
”There is a lot of overlap between those groups you ’ve mentioned.
However, they are all united by their xenophobia and their dislike of foreign elements entering their sphere of influence.
Now think of what we are doing.
We are planning on opening up the Ylvainan mech market by showing that a foreigner like you can design a great Ylvainan mech.
With how good your Transcendent Messenger design appears, our chances of success has risen considerably.
Do you think the groups you ’ve mentioned will let us go about our business? ”

”Ah. ” Ves realized.
”Can they do anything, though? You ’re the Director of Strategic Mech Management.
You ’ve got the backing of the highest elders of the Curin Dynasty.
There ’s nothing they can do to stop me from completing the commission. ”

Calabast chuckled.
”You ’re too naive, kid.
With how much is at stake, do you truly believe the traditionalists can refrain themselves from playing dirty? This isn ’t the Bright Republic, Ves.
While the mech designers of your state are accustomed to fair competition, the Ylvaine Protectorate is not as stellar in that regard. ”

”This… ”

While Ves always took this possibility into account, the months of inaction lulled him into complacency.
Now that Ves came close to completing his design, the traditionalists probably wouldn ’t dismiss the threat of a foreigner who might very well be capable of out-Ylvaining the Ylvainan mech designers!

”It depends on whether the traditionalists and extremists are informed of how remarkable your design has become. ” Calabast stated with a frown.
”With how many Protectors of the Faith are surrounding you every day, you can bet the traditionalists have definitely been warned.
I ’ve been working hard to keep the security systems of your mech workshop secure, but it ’s hard to hide the quality of your design once you fabricate your prototypes. ”

To Calabast, it was easier for her to hide the design when it merely existed as virtual collection of files and documents.

It was a different story when it came to physical mechs.
They were so large and imposing that it was nearly impossible to keep them out of sight from any snooping eyes.

Ves frowned.
”I can ’t finish my design without gathering lots of data on how the prototypes perform in realspace tests.
I need an extensive testing ground that can showcase both the ranged and melee capabilities of my prototypes. ”

”Is it possible for you to skip this step? ” She requested.
”Testing grounds are often large spaces that are very difficult to secure entirely.
Even the huge, enclosed facilities can ’t block every observation method. ”

Absolutely not.
As a mech designer, I ’ll bear the blame for any major problems emerges as a result of insufficient realspace testing.
I ’ve already performed quite a bit of simulations but they will never be able to model the Transcendent Messenger accurately. ”

She sighed.
Calabast knew that Ves was very stubborn when it came to mech design.
I ’ll look for a suitable testing ground that ’s private and remote enough to minimize the chance of leaks.
However, you ’ll have to take into account that any testing ground that meets my criteria will likely be far away from Krent. ”

”No problem.
I don ’t mind a longer excursion. ”

They moved on to some matters.
While their partnership hadn ’t gotten off to a good start, enough time had passed for them to become accustomed to each other.

At the very least, Ves made peace with the fact that Calabast would butt her head into his business every now and then.
At the same time, Calabast became familiar with his traits and his priorities.

”Can I ask you something? ”

”What is it, kid? ”

”I ’ve been thinking about what you said during our initial meeting.
When I asked you what you want out of our partnership, you said you wanted to achieve greatness. ”

”That ’s right. ” She nodded.
”That hasn ’t changed. ”

”There are many ways for someone to achieve greatness.
They can become the ultimate authority of a state.
They can promote to an admiral in the CFA.
They can advance until they become a god pilot of Star Designer.
What I ’m wondering is what kind of greatness you ’re pursuing.
Where do your ambitions end? ”

Calabast chuckled.
”It ’s still too soon to set my ambitions.
However, I don ’t mind sharing one of my dreams.
If you think what the fabled Metal Scroll represents, it ’s a ticket to climb to the very apex of human civilization.
To you, your ultimate ambition is to become a Star Designer, right? I don ’t have an affinity in mech design nor do I have the aptitude to pilot mechs. ”

”Most people in the galaxy aren ’t involved in the mech community.
Just because you don ’t work with mechs doesn ’t mean you ’re invisible. ”

My dream is therefore a lot more fanciful than you think.
With how large and all-encompassing human civilization has grown, I don ’t dare set this dream as my ambition.
It ’s simply too difficult to fulfill even if I ’m riding a Holy Son to the top. ”

”Don ’t tease me, Calabast.
Can you tell me your dream? ”

The spy crossed her arms and smirked.
”Do you really want to hear it? Very well.
My dream is to become the galactic empress. ”

”…What? ”

”You heard that right.
I want to become the ultimate ruler of the galaxy! I want to be the head of a sweeping empire that encompasses the entire known galaxy.
Hundreds of thousands of light-years all fall within in my rule! Even the first-rate superstates and the Big Two have to bow their heads to me! The aliens that have surrendered to me will also submit to my rule! ”

What a wild dream! Forget about uniting human space into a single galactic nation, Calabast wasn ’t content with that and wanted to subjugate every alien civilization as well!

”And I thought my ambition is hard to fulfill. ” Ves muttered with wide eyes.

”Don ’t take it seriously.
It ’s just a fantasy to keep me entertained in my dreams.
I know that even Holy Sons aren ’t capable of uniting humanity and subjugating the entire galaxy.
I don ’t even know if I really want to be the head of such a humongous galactic empire in the first place.
It ’s much more practical for me to be the power behind the throne. ”

”That fits much better with who you are. ”

”You have no idea who I really am. ” Calabast shook her head.
”You only know me as an intelligence operative.
While this is a large part of who I am, there is more to life than my job. ”

Ves always had the notion that she possessed a sophisticated identity.
If she was a Vesian, then she would certainly be a noble!

”When will I get to hear your background? ”

”Not now.
My actual identity is very complicated.
It doesn ’t really matter, anyway.
For now, my cover identity as Madame Cecily Curin is my new life.
Unless the entire Protectorate is upended one day, I won ’t return to my old life. ”

”So you ’ve completely cut yourself from your past? ”

”I wouldn ’t go that far. ” Calabast sardonically.
”I still make use of my connections.
It ’s impossible for me to completely divorce myself from my past.
Take it from me, Ves.
No matter how far you run, you ’ll never be able to escape your roots. ”

That sounded rather ominous.
Ylvaine ’s spiritual fragment even pulsed in his mind.
It seemed to think that Calabast was making a prediction.

Ves gently suppressed the nosy spiritual fragment.
”Well, whatever is going on, I hope it doesn ’t affect me and my business. ”

”That ’s difficult to say.
My association with you is highly unusual.
For what reason would I want to enter into a close business relationship with a random Brighter mech designer? I ’ve already been deflecting a lot of investigations from my personal rivals. ”

”Do I have to pay attention to my surroundings? ” Ves asked.

”I ’m already handling it.
You should probably pay more attention to threats closer to home and on this planet.
The Ylvainan traditionalists will definitely make a move at some point. ”

That was rue.
Ves began to frown as he thought of what the traditionalists might do in response to the threat he posed to their political agenda.

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