Really, what is it with these nobles and their habit of placing insanely high expectations on themselves?

Hardly any mech pilot was cut out to hunt a Crown Cat!

Even elite mech pilots might falter and lose their lives when they hunted these dreaded huge cats!

Nonetheless, Ves knew that the Sentinel Kingdom exhibited a high degree of militarism.
Their emphasis on military prowess matched that of the Vesia Kingdom despite never being embroiled in as many wars.

It was all due to Sentinel ’s proximity to the Nyxian Gap! By necessity, the nobles who wielded a considerable amount of power in the Kingdom had to prove they were strong enough to protect the common folk from the depravity of Nyxian pirates.

House Laterna, despite its emphasis on tourism, research and specialty trade, had to demonstrate their chops as well!

In these circumstances, being born a noble to one of Sentinel ’s noble houses was not a fortunate birth.
As soon as the doctors identified her as a potentate when she reached ten years old, her house looked upon Lady Miralix as a vehicle to uphold the reputation of her house!

When it came to touchy matters like this, noble houses could be quite ruthless.
Even if she was the third daughter of Countess Katherina Laterna, Lady Miralix still had to prove her chops as an eminent noble and mech pilot of her house!

Having dealt with several nobles from different states, Ves no longer found someone like Lady Miralix exceptional.
When he thought about it, nobles were essentially privileged people who were born in their position.

They were no different from the average commoners they looked down upon.
Nobles faced many of the same concerns as regular people, but on a higher level.

Ves held no sympathy for Lady Miralix ’s circumstances.

If her words were correct, then if she balked at the challenge, she could still live out the rest of her life while remaining comfortably stuck on Felixia.

He hardly doubted that House Laterna would mistreat her too much or make her life miserable.
She would merely have to live with the label of a coward plastered to her forehead.

if there was one thing mech pilots hated, it was being branded as a coward!

Indeed, Lady Miralix took no notice of his hints of rejection and continued to press on with her persuasion attempt.

I need your assistance.
If you put your abilities as a mech designer at my disposal, I will stand a much better chance of succeeding in my hunt for Zeigra. ”

”My lady, I ’ve already said that I ’m not interested. ”

”I am willing to remunerate you very generously for your services. ”

Ves shook his head.
”I am not interested in what you have to offer.
Besides, I ’m sure you and your hunting team are already piloting the best mechs that are allowed to step into the hunting zones.
I hardly see how your machines can accommodate any more augmentations without exceeding the upper bounds of what is allowed. ”

The authorities treated hunting as an honorable profession in Asco.
If rich, young scions such as Lady Miralix could field mechs that cost as much as a light carrier each, then what was the worth of such a hunt?

Anyone bringing a cannon to swat a mosquito wouldn ’t be able to earn any prestige out of a successful hunt!

As expected, she confirmed his guess.
”That is true.
I have acquired and outfitted my hunting team with the best mechs and other accessories that are allowable.
Unfortunately, Felixia does not house any mech manufacturing operations.
The mechs I ’ve procured are all standard products sold by well-regarded mech companies, but haven ’t undergone any modifications. ”

”A good mech designed by a knowledgeable mech designer and sold by a reputable mech company is mostly great as it is. ” Ves spoke.
”Altering a mech from its original parameters can do more harm than good.
They are complete packages put into a way that optimizes the synergy between all of their parts.
It is far from true that modification will always ensure better performance.
The base model would have already reflected these changes from the start if that is the case. ”

His argument didn ’t take hold.
Lady Miralix continued to smirk at him.
”My advisers have said the same.
Modification can always go wrong.
But that isn ’t the complete story.
You ’ve withheld a crucial detail, Mr.
A skilled mech designer, say a Journeyman, can tailor a mech much better to a mech pilot while avoiding many of the pitfalls that cause many lesser mech designers to stumble. ”

”You hold a very high opinion of my design abilities, my lady.
I ’m just a Journeyman, and barely one at that.
Do you see how young I am? I can hardly match the efforts of more seasoned Journeymen with dozens of mech designs under their belt! ”

”That ’s not what I think. ” Miralix retorted.
”When I studied your mech designs, I became wholly impressed with the great quality of your work! Many mech pilots swear by the products of your LMC! What impresses me in particular is your specialty.
They say you are able to impart all of your mechs with an indescribable quality that doesn ’t entail any hardware improvements! ”

Ves grimaced.
”I excel in improving the ergonomics of my mechs.
The impact that it brings to the performance of the mech pilot is vastly overstated.
Essentially, I aim to increase the comfort of mech pilots and reduce the irritations they face when they pilot their mechs.
It is not the panacea that you think it is.
Your mech will not magically perform twenty percent better just because I tinkered with it for a while. ”

The two stared at each other as a brief moment of silence fell in the empty room.
Neither Miralax or Ves brought their bodyguards into the room, but they were certainly close at hand.

Meanwhile, Lucky failed to gain Genevieve ’s acknowledgement.
The arrogant purple feline continued to sit by Lady Miralix ’s side as a watchful guardian cat!

”Lucky, stop bothering Lady Miralix ’s cat! ”

”Meow! ”

The noblewoman took a closer look at Lucky.
Ves recognized that she was starting to grow more intrigued at his pet.
His lively behavior and exceptional quality probably provoked a lot of questions in the mind of someone who lived with cats for all of her life!

It wouldn ’t be good for him if she started to ask difficult questions about the origins of his cat!

For this reason, he quickly spoke up again.

”Lady Miralix, I ’m sorry to say you won ’t find what you are looking for in me.
Not every Journeyman is the same, and my specialty lies mostly in improving comfort rather than battle performance.
While the two are interconnected, I hardly think it will matter when you are facing a life-and-death battle against a Crown Cat. ”

”You haven ’t even heard what I am willing to offer yet, Mr.
Larkinson. ” Lady Miralix dropped her smile and adopted a serious expression.
”While my standing within House Laterna is nothing remarkable, my mother is still a countess of the Sentinel Kingdom.
There is much I can offer if you so desire. ”

”Not interested. ” Ves shook his head.

The woman proceeded onwards as if they were still negotiating!

”Hear me out, Mr.
First, whatever you want from a huge cat, I will give it to you.
The only spoils I require is Zeigra ’s head so that I ’ll be able to return in triumph with a trophy in my hands.
All the other parts of the carcass is yours to do as you wish. ”

He shrugged.
”Do I look like a Rocit Butcher? I have no use for the meat, bones and fur of a huge cat. ”

”That is just the start that I can offer. ” She leaned in.
”I can arrange for you to undergo genetic enhancements.
You can permanently walk around with sharpened cat ears if you ’d like.
Whatever bio modifications you need, our researchers will do their best to fulfill them all. ”

After Dr.
Jutland messed with his body long ago, Ves swore he would never let anyone he didn ’t trust mess with his body again!

”No thanks.
I ’m already at my capacity in terms of genetic and biological enhancements. ”

”I can trade numerous high-quality designer cats.
A cat like Genevieve her is one of our prized organic products.
You have family, do you not? How about you gift your relatives with a wonderful companion that has been genetically modified to be intelligent, to provide comfort and to guard their lives in case they fall into danger. ”

Ves felt tempted, but only for a moment.
While he rated House Laterna ’s designer cats very highly, they were not worth the trouble of political entanglement!

Even if he merely souped up her mech but declined to participate in her hunt, he would still be taking sides! Her enemies might possibly wish to deal with him before he could aid Lady Miralix any further!

She could see that Ves still withheld interest, so she began to pile on more offers.
”I can provide you with access to services provided by the Sentinel Kingdom that are closed to outsiders.
Closed markets, society clubs, black markets and other areas that offer exclusive goods and services to nobles will open their doors to you.
In fact, if you urgently require something, you don ’t have to go through the middlemen.
Just ask me directly and I ’ll see if I can satisfy your request. ”

The value of insider access that she offered sounded quite considerable.
From his own experiences with the Clifford Society, he knew that these exclusive clubs and circles sold some really great goodies.

Yet right now, Ves couldn ’t think of anything he wanted to obtain he couldn ’t get from the open market.
He already reserved a lot of parts to upgrade the Barracuda and he also ordered a shipment for the key materials to build an ultracompact battery through a black market contact.

With most of his critical demands met, Ves truly did not have any pressing need to ask for expanded access in a state he would be leaving fairly soon.

Certainly, while Ves did require a spiritual fragment from a powerful huge cat, he already made plans to acquire one himself.
There was no way he would ask Lady Miralix to hand-deliver him something she shouldn ’t even be familiar with, let alone procure on his behalf!

However… Ves did think of one particular object he wanted more of.
The problem had been hanging back in his mind for a while now.

He sent a command from his comm.
Nitaa entered the room soon after while carrying a box.

”There ’s one area in which you can help me. ” He began.
”Stored inside the box my bodyguard is carrying is an unidentified exotic which I call the P-stone. ”

Lady Miralix curiously accepted the box from Nitaa and opened it up.
”Is this truly an exotic? ”

”While it looks like an ordinary space rock, I can assure you it is very much an exotic. ” Ves smiled.
”Let ’s make a deal.
I ’ll provide you with what little documentation I have.
I ’ll let you borrow my P-stone for..
let ’s say three days.
I would like you to analyze the P-stone at the most advanced materials study lab you can access.
At the end of this period, I want you to return as much data as possible from your lab equipment. ”

”This rock has a lot of meaning to you. ” She concluded.

Ves placed a lot of trust in Miralix.
If he lost the P-stone, he would suffer a pretty major setback.

However, it wasn ’t in her interest to screw him over this issue.
What the noble scion sought from Ves could only be obtained voluntarily.
If she made any attempts to coerce him into cooperation, who knew what kind of hidden danger he would leave behind in her mech?

Ves could literally think up of at least ten-thousand different ways to sabotage a mech without making it too obvious! As long as a Senior didn ’t inspect the modifications he made to a mech, there was no way Lady Miralix could be sure her mech was fine!

From the start, Ves recognized that he essentially had Lady Miralix over a barrel.
Having the upper hand in a negotiation meant he could issue almost any request, trusting that the woman would do her best to fulfill his needs!

As expected, Lady Miralix grasped this crucial opening that opened the door to deeper cooperation.
”I will do what you ask, Mr.
Will you agree to working on my mech if I do what you ask? ”

”It ’s a start. ” Ves replied and casually leaned back as if everything was under his control.
”If you can obtain additional samples of P-stone, let ’s just say that I am open to your demand.
If not… well, regardless of how the subsequent negotiations proceed, I want your promise that you will return my P-stone as well as the full lab data. ”

Lady Miralix instantly agreed.

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