Investigating and processing his sole B-stone took far less time than he thought.
With the fleet still more than a month away from reaching the Hertog Dominion, Ves had a lot of time on his hands.

To be honest, Ves was afraid of tackling the most valuable object he gained from his visit to the Cinach System.
The more his thoughts strayed towards the Ancient Sarcophagus, the more he became apprehensive about what he might encounter in his investigations.

The strange, red crystalline coffin loomed heavily in his heart.
Strangely enough, his intuition didn ’t issue anything more than a vague and ambiguous hint, but his instincts and some of his other impulses exhibited an increasing amount of fear!

”What the hell is going on?! ” Ves shook his head.

He suddenly realized that his creeping sense of fear towards Item #1255 might not be a natural phenomenon.

Instead, he began to suspect that some kind of external influence artificially increased his apprehension towards the Ancient Sarcophagus!

”Is it indoctrinating me? Is there something..
alive inside? ”

Ves occasionally entertained the idea that the alien body that rested inside might not be dead.

Even after eons had passed, the red crystal surrounding the body might have been able to preserve or even nurture the lingering spirituality that remained after the death of the alien individual inside.

”This coffin was found in some kind of temple in an alien ruin. ” Ves recalled.
”Whoever is buried inside must be an esteemed individual in their civilization! ”

It was akin to the crystal builder leader corpse he retrieved a long time ago.
The most formidable individuals of their races always possessed something special that helped them stay in charge.

What kind of powers did the alien individual locked inside the Ancient Sarcophagus possess? How much of that remained after the alien ’s death? Had it mutated somehow after the passage of eons of times?

The most frustrating part about this situation was that Ves didn ’t have any proof to substantiate his guesses! He could work his overactive imagination all he wanted, but all he got in return was pure speculation!

”The only way I can resolve my doubts is to tackle the bull by the horns! I can ’t delay this investigation any further! Otherwise, I ’ll grow too afraid to even begin my investigation! ”

Despite his urgency, Ves did not immediately pull out the Ancient Sarcophagus from his vault.
He wanted to enter into his most optimal state before he started his examination.

He looked at the spiritual lockbox he just fashioned.
The P-stone inside only contained a few day ’s worth of excess spiritual energy.

”That ’s not enough.
I need to build up a larger reserve. ”

To Ves, spiritual energy was akin to the supplies of a mech regiment.
When mechs deployed in battle, they used up a varying amount of fuel, energy and ammunition.
They also sustained damage to their structure.

If the mech regiment brought an abundant supply train, then they could easily replenish what the mechs had expended, allowing it to return into battle after a round of servicing.

However, a mech regiment that brought an insufficient quantity of supplies quickly lost battle effectiveness.
With continuing attrition, mechs returned from battle with low energy levels, serious battle damage and no ammunition.
If these deficiencies couldn ’t be remedied, then that was the end!

Ves believed that this analogy might be relevant to this situation.
If the Ancient Sarcophagus held some kind of hostile spiritual entity, then Ves may be forced into a spiritual battle of some sorts!

His experiences in confrontations against spiritual entities taught him that attrition still applied in this type of conflict.
His attempts to disturb Zeigra ’s presence in the imaginary realm from suppressing Vescas to its breaking point could have gone a lot better if he wasn ’t so hesitant about expending his scarce spiritual energy!

”It ’s really hard to fight with limited supplies. ” He muttered.
”I ’ll stand a better chance if I accumulate a deeper reserve. ”

He planned to wait a few days to store more excess spiritual energy into his P-stones.

Not too much, though.
If he delayed for too long, the fear he held towards the Ancient Sarcophagus would become rooted in his mind.

”I ’ll see how far I can go before I have to make a move. ”

Until then, Ves had plenty of tasks to occupy his time with.
This seemed like a good time to investigate the supposed gift his parents left behind for his recent birthday.

Ves retrieved a tiny box from the vault and opened it up.
A pair of carbon-black rings rested inside.
Both of them were small enough to wrap around a finger with plenty of room to spare.

Neither of them fit him in their current state, but that wasn ’t a big deal.
His mother already suggested to him that he should use it as the base of a more sophisticated pair of rings.
Wedding rings.

He frowned at the rings.
Despite their plain appearance, there must be a reason why his father and mother chose these rings in particular.

”My parents didn ’t wear any strange rings if I recall. ”

When Ves inspected the rings with his spiritual senses, he didn ’t pick up anything peculiar at first.

However, the more he probed it with his Spirituality, the more he started to feel something strange about the rings.

”There ’s something inside one of the rings. ”

As Ves probed deeper, he finally discovered that it held a miniscule mote of spiritual energy.
As soon as his spiritual projection touched it, a stream of data suddenly occupied his attention!

Seconds later, his attention cleared up.
His eyes widened due to what he experienced.

His mother implanted another spiritual message into an object! As soon as his Spirituality came in touch with it, the message transmitted straight to his mind!

”How is she doing this?! More importantly, can I do this as well? ”

This was the second time he encountered a spiritual method of communication.
This time, he didn ’t hear his mother ’s voice.
Instead, the information his mother left behind implanted directly into his mind.

In fact, the method shared several similarities with how the System imparted knowledge to him after he exchanged his DP for a Skill!

His impression of his mother as some kind of spiritual sorceress only increased.
The more she revealed her abilities, the more Ves felt as if his own progress in this field was trivial in comparison!

”There ’s no point comparing myself to her. ” He whispered to himself.
”I should focus on my own advancement instead of looking enviously at the accomplishments of others. ”

Mech designers were already taught to avoid comparing themselves to others.
The existence of Seniors, Masters and Star Designers meant there were lots of people who clearly surpassed the vast majority in their profession.

”Besides, I ’m still young. ”

That caused him to wonder about his mother ’s age.
Was her record even accurate? What if her spirit was younger than her body?

The suggestion that his mother might be a centuries-old hag who hopped from body to body as if she donned new clothes sent a chill through his spine.
The beginnings of an existential crisis threatened to take over his mind!

”Some secrets are best left in the dark! ”

He shoved his mind of all superfluous thoughts and focused his attention back to the plain, black pair of wedding rings.

The message his mother imparted him only revealed a few scarce details.

First, the material used to make the wedding ring was actually a high-grade exotic that his parents came across in the Nyxian Gap.
They obtained it at great cost and somehow managed to process the material into a pair of ring bases.

The reason why the ring bases didn ’t elicit any reactions to his probes at first was because they were somewhat similar to P-stones.

”They aren ’t special by themselves.
They ’re akin to containers! ”

Different from P-stones, they possessed an extra property.
One that justified forming them into wedding rings.

Frankly, the implications of the message disturbed Ves a bit.
He could choose not to make use of the rings, but that would be discarding a powerful tool.

”There ’s a lot of potential in their use, but the price I need to pay is not something I can ignore. ”

Ves was very surprised that his mother unearthed something so powerful.
The Nyxian Gap was a treasure trove of spiritually-reactive exotics.
Whatever material the wedding rings were made of turned out to be the fourth spiritually-reactive exotic he came across!

It was also the one with the most powerful effects that he discovered up to now!

He closed the box and placed it back in the vault.
For now, it was way too early for Ves to commit to their use.
Once he followed the instruction of his mother ’s message, he would pass a point of no return.

”Wearing the rings is literally a life-long commitment.
I have to be absolutely sure I chose the right person to spend the rest of my life with.
If I screw this up, I ’ll regret it for the rest of my life! ”

Both he and his partner would have to pay a big price to activate the rings.

When Ves thought about proposing to someone like Gloriana, the spike of fear he felt exceeded his apprehension towards the Ancient Sarcophagus!

He could handle the latter, but he wasn ’t necessarily sure that he could handle his current girlfriend!

”I better keep these rings buried as deeply as possible.
I don ’t want Gloriana to get in touch with them before I am ready to make a choice! ”

For now, thoughts of tying the knot with Gloriana was way too premature.
Despite her overpowering enthusiasm for him, they barely knew each other.
Ves needed much more time to see if he could form a healthy relationship with the Hexer.

”Even if I can ’t..
I might not have a choice. ”

Any relationship they might form would be dysfunctional to say the least.
Both of them were simply too weird to act normal.

”From this perspective, we fit together pretty well. ”

The point was that if their relationship turned out to be less than ideal, Ves may still consider tying himself together to Gloriana.

This was because he might decide to take advantage of the practical benefits she brought into the relationship.
Her talent as a mech designer and her identity as a scion from a prominent Hexer dynasty extended a lot of protection.

Leeching off his girlfriend ’s wealth also assisted him in obtaining stuff he couldn ’t obtain on his own.
The pure ASMAS that Gloriana arranged for him without an excessive price was one good example.

”At most, I ’ll treat her as my sugar mommy. ”

Ves wasn ’t satisfied with that, though.
Though he loved his work more than anything, he still wanted to share his passion with a like minded partner.

A purely transactional relationship where both mech designers only came together in order to borrow from each other ’s design philosophies was not unheard of.
Yet Ves scrunched his face at the thought of entering into a loveless union.

”I ’m still human. ”

If his relationship with Gloriana turned out to be too dysfunctional or one-sided, then Ves should seek to disentangle himself from her.
No matter how obsessed she was with him, he didn ’t want to waste his chances to experience genuine love!

Of course, rejecting someone like Gloriana was easier said than done.
He ’d have to make her detest him in order to get rid of her entanglement, but Ves had no idea how he could do that.

With her intelligence and determination, she ’d easily see through his attempts to lower her opinion of him.
Even if he was the ugliest man in the galaxy, her obsession with him would still be strong because of the potential benefits she stood to gain if they started working together!

For this reason, it would be better if he found some way to make his relationship with Gloriana work.

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