At the end of the interview sessions, Ves managed to secure three more commitments.

This did not mean that Ves could expect to expand his design teams with four new mech designers in the coming years as the Rawlings students finished their studies.

As much as Ves saw promise in the students, if they happened to meet an accident, earn considerably lower grades or quit studying mech design altogether, then the preliminary employment contracts became moot.

In addition to these possibilities, Ves also had to take poaching into account.
Though it was considerably pricey to do so, occasionally mech companies did succeed in luring mech designers they considered desirable into breaking one contract in order to enter into another contract.

This was mostly the case when a student achieved better grades since the signing of the preliminary employment contract.
Mech companies also had reasons to poach a committed mech design student if their developing specialties synergized or complimented the specialties of the lead designers!

”It would be like Gloriana doing everything she can to buy out the commitment of someone with a specialty like me at a mech university. ”

This didn ’t happen very often, and none of the mech design students Ves had spoken with merited this kind of attention.
Even Mayer Torto didn ’t attract too much attention so long as no one believed he had a realistic shot at advancing to Journeyman.

He frowned a bit as he considered the other three prospects.
None of the students he signed up afterwards possessed any spiritual potential.
While there was a minute chance they would develop some over the course of their lives, Ves silently discounted this possibility.

The more painful fact was that Ves interviewed a couple of other students who also possessed spiritual potential.

”It ’s a shame they don ’t meet my standards! ”

Just because a student possessed spiritual potential didn ’t mean it was a good idea for Ves to take them in! If their work ethic was not up to standard or if their personalities fit poorly with the design teams that he envisioned, then he would only be inviting trouble if he secured their commitments anyway.

The fact of the matter was that there were plenty of people out there with spiritual potential, but never realized them due to their own choices.

In any case, Ves wasn ’t in a hurry to fill up his design teams with subordinates who each had the opportunity to advance to Journeyman someday.

”I do have to admit that their caliber is greater than that of ordinary people. ”

Ever since the System confirmed the existence of mech affinity, Ves began to develop an understanding of what it did to mech designers.

When Novices and Apprentices with spiritual potential developed an affinity for mechs, their ability to work with mechs increased.
They spent less effort into developing new skills and designing mechs came more naturally to them.
It was as if they enjoyed a preview of what it was like to carry a design seed in their minds!

Of course, due to their low spiritual strengths, the boost they received was fairly marginal.
Their so-called ’talent ’ was not as decisive as a good attitude, a diligent work ethic and a genuine passion for mechs!

In truth, mech affinity only really came into force when someone became a high-ranking mech designer! At his strength, a modest increase in mech affinity led to a much more noticeable swing in improvement!

Although Ves had not yet embarked on another project after he completed the Devil Tiger design project, he already felt a bit closer to mechs than before.
He suspected that the next time he designed a mech, he would be considerably more productive than before!

In any case, the relative lack of importance of mech affinity for low-ranking mech designers meant that Ves put a lot more weight on the other criteria on his list.

If he wanted to establish a well-run design team, then he had to make sure that he selected the right kind of people!

For now, Ves intended to establish two design teams.

The first design team consisted of loyalists.
He intended to staff it with mech designers who didn ’t mind participating in his upcoming grand expedition.

The second design team was made up of people like Ketis and Carlos before he left.
This was where he dumped his less committed mech designers who pursued other objectives or were comfortable with staying in the same place.

”Maybe I ’ll start a third or a fourth design team one day. ” He murmured.

He already entertained the idea of setting up a shadow design team that would assist him in his illicit design projects such as the one he recently concluded.
However, without an ironclad way of securing the absolute loyalty and discretion of his subordinates, Ves would have to be crazy to involve other mech designers with his illegal dealings!

He shook his head.
”Two teams are enough to start with.
I should focus on filling them up before thinking about setting up a third team! ”

There was still a chance he would welcome less than four Rawlings graduates in the coming years.
While the future employees normally didn ’t tear up their preliminary employment contracts very often, this wasn ’t exactly a normal circumstance.

Working abroad could be very frightening.
Even if Ves possessed enough influence to smooth over the bureaucratic obstacles, the Rawlings students had to be comfortable with the idea of working in a completely different state.

To some, the culture shock was too big!

”The Bright Republic is a very different place from the Sentinel Kingdom. ” He muttered.

The class disparity was a lot less pronounced in his state compared to the Sentinel Kingdom.
Nobles enjoyed prerogatives that commoners did not.
It was so baked into their culture that the commoners he interacted with didn ’t express any jealousy or discontent at the favored treatment of their betters!

Nothing exemplified the differences more clearly than the fact that not a single noble born mech designer knocked on his door!

”Those snobs already have their lives set for them! There is absolutely no reason for them to move away from a state that is expressly set up to benefit their class! ”

Even so, Ves had harbored hope that an exiled noble or an inconvenient spare wanted to shelter under his wing.

Sadly, it was not to be.

”Perhaps it ’s for the best. ” He muttered.
”Adding a noble mech designer to my team will probably introduce a lot of friction. ”

Once Ves was done at Rawlings, he met with Professor Nxi one last time and bid farewell.
Both sides got what they wanted and parted amicably.

As Ves returned to his hotel suite at Cinach VIII, he took stock with what he gained.
He considered his guest lecture to be a success.
He could already imagine the boost to his credibility now that he established a tie with the prestigious Rawlings University.

”I shouldn ’t overestimate the benefits, though.
Giving a single guest lecture isn ’t enough to swing my reputation around. ”

As the evening rolled in, Ves sought some time for himself.
It was time for him to check up on an issue that had long weighed on his mind.

Just like before, he grabbed Lucky and entered the bathroom before locking it.
Next, materialized his System comm, activated his Privacy Shield before activating the System itself.

[Mech Designer System Menu]




Skill Tree




”Missions. ”

The interface listed out seven pending missions.
He ignored the five Supply Missions and directed his attention to his two Upgrade Missions.

[Upgrade Mission – Mechanics]

Study the use and application of bestial mechs without aid and design a classical bestial mech that meets the Mech Designer System ’s standards.
Then fabricate it and sell it to a worthy customer.


[Mechanics – Senior]

[Upgrade Mission – Mechanics]

Study the use and application of bestial mechs without aid and design a classical bestial mech that meets the Mech Designer System ’s standards.
Then fabricate it and sell it to a worthy customer.


[Mechanics – Senior]

”Come on, System! ” He shouted at his System comm.
”I completed my Devil Tiger design, did I not?! I fabricated a copy of the mech, which turned into a masterwork I might add! ”


”Don ’t give the silent treatment to me, you synthetic bastard! Gimme my rewards already! ”


Ves let out a storm of curses.
The nerve of the System!

To be honest, Ves did slip up at the last step of his Upgrade Missions.
Now that he lost possession of the Devil Tiger, he couldn ’t very well ’sell it to a worthy customer ’.

His mother unilaterally deprived him of this opportunity!

”Can ’t you cut me some slack, System?! Now that my mom took the Devil Tiger, I ’m sure it ’ll land in the hands of a worthy mech pilot! ”


Ves slipped the System comm from his finger and banged it against the surface of the toilet bowl! For a moment, he thought about flushing it through the toilet! Let ’s see how much it enjoyed swimming in a pool of refuse!

”Get your act together! I refuse to let you hold these stupid Upgrade Missions hostage! ”


”Look, I ’sold ’ the Devil Tiger, didn ’t I? Even though my mother initiated the transaction without my say-so, she paid for it at least! She left me that toy mech figurine behind! That ’s her payment! That ’s a sale in my book! ”


This stupid stubborn System! Ves banged his System comm against the toilet bowl some more, though his actions only damaged the toilet bowl instead of the incredibly resilient and malleable device!

What could he do if the System refused to complete his Upgrade Missions? Would Ves continue to wander around with Journeyman-level Mechanics and Metallurgy Skills?

That would be a disaster of epic proportions! Other than convincing the System to pass the Upgrade Missions somehow, the only other alternative was to raise his proficiency in these two fields the old-fashioned way!

When Ves thought about the sheer amount of knowledge the System stuffed into his mind when he obtained Senior-level Physics, he shivered at the thought of how much time he would waste.

Ves was in a hurry! He couldn ’t afford to spend years or decades behind a desk just to study the thousands of textbooks and research papers required to raise his understanding of Mechanics and Metallurgy to the level of a Senior!

Time was a valuable resource!

The main reason why Ves still put up with the System despite his increasing misgivings over its origin and its motives was because it offered him the rare opportunity to buy more time!

Exchanging DP for the instant acquisition of Skills and Sub-Skills was the biggest bargain of his life.
While his learning speed had improved enormously over the years, he still felt loath to hit the books again in order to study something as broad and all-encompassing as his main Skills.

He palmed his face.
”Of course, another alternative is to design another smart metal mech and bestial mech. ”

That sounded a lot better as he would just waste a lot of months instead of years of his life.
It still wasn ’t very ideal, though.
Despite familiarizing himself with smart metal tech and bestial mech forms, he hardly explored the full potential of standard humanoid mechs yet.
He felt no appetite to tackle another smart metal mech design or tiger mech design anytime soon!

Ves eyed his System comm with a dour expression.

”I ’ll tell mommy if you continue to remain stubborn.
What would she do if she found out you deliberately sabotaged my progression. ”

[Congratulations! You have completed Upgrade Mission – Mechanics!]

[Congratulations! You have completed Upgrade Mission – Metallurgy!]

[Please stand by to receive the following reward: Mechanics – Senior.]

[Please stand by to receive the following reward: Metallurgy – Senior.]

The sudden turn of events befuddled Ves.
After so much stubbornness from the System, it finally chose to give ground?

”How come you surrendered so easily? ”

That was when a cargo hauler filled with knowledge abruptly smashed into his mind!

”AAAAHH! YOU STUPID SYSTEM! ” He screamed, holding his head with his hands as two concurrent streams of knowledge tried to press their way into his brains! ”TOO MUCH! IT ’S TOO MUCH! DON ’T GIVE ME BOTH OF MY REWARDS AT THE SAME TIME! ”

The System was screwing him! Ves was sure of it! As he collapsed to the floor of the bathroom, Lucky grew alarmed and hovered closer.

”Meow?! ”

”UGh! Watch over me, Lucky! AAHH! I have to deal with the bombardment against my mind! Only Nitaa can enter! You got that?! ”

”Meow! ”

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