”Hihi! ” Gloriana giggled as she hugged Clixie to her chest as she jumped onto her bed.
”Working with Ves is so fun! I don ’t ever want these days to end! ”

”Miaow. ”

”You approve of Ves, right? ”

”Miaow! ”

”I mean, he can be a silly boy sometimes, but he ’s also the cutest at those times! ”

”Miaow? ”

”Our custom mech is shaping to become something fantastic! Though it ’s difficult to adjust my methods to become more in line with his, I can feel the difference it makes.
There is no way I ’ll ever go back to collaborating with other mech designers! Only Ves can enable me to touch the divine! ”

The Hexadric Hegemony possessed a rather flexible attitude towards religion.
Hexism was neither mandated nor universal in the powerful second-rate state.

Nonetheless, many Hexers still ascribed to the philosophy, either half-heartedly or wholeheartedly.
Many of its tenets fell in line with Hexer culture, so it was not that big of a burden for most Hexers to follow hexism.

When Ves heard how the Hegemony treated religion, he judged that the Hexers were trying to have their cake and eat it too.
By propagating a philosophy that closely matched the predominant culture, the state essentially ensured that secularists and believers could live side-by-side in harmony without any of the usual clashes in beliefs!

In essence, the Hegemony tried to be both a secular and a religious state at the same time! By offering room for both, the state avoided most of the problems associated with leaning too closely to a specific inclination.
Its policies especially opened room for future expansion and assimilation of terrority.

No matter if a Hexer was a secularist or believer, they both united together in the common belief that women were superior!

Of course, Gloriana did not think her state was doing anything special.
To her, hexism described the truth.
Working with Ves so closely had granted her access to a whole new facet of mech design.

Though Ves did not know it, Gloriana believed that the six phases of existence formed the true foundation of his specialty.
He just didn ’t acknowledge yet, but she was confident she could change that one day!

As Gloriana continued to cuddle with her Rubarthan Sentinel Cat while fantasizing about turning Ves into a Hexer, Melody walked up to her bed with a hexagonal data pad in her hand.

”Madame Constance has just been in contact with me. ” She spoke.
”Some dynasties have approached her with offers for strategic alliances. ”

Gloriana ’s good mood instantly sunk.
”I already told my mother that I ’m not considering any other boys! I ’ve already set my sights on Ves! Haven ’t you seen how well we pair together? ”

Larkinson is indeed more remarkable than I thought, but his qualifications still leave much to be desired. ” Melody scoffed.

”His qualifications are far greater than you can ever imagine! You just can ’t see it because you ’re not a mech designer! ”

”Even so, your mother still worries about your future.
Please look at your list of suitors before you continue objecting.
Your mother insists. ”

As much as Gloriana wanted to throw away the data pad that her assistant passed into her hands, she knew she would just get in trouble.
She grumpily skimmed through the profiles as fast as possible.

”All of these boys are trash! ”

”Gloriana… ”

”Do you want me to dissect their faults like I did last time? ” She hissed.
”I ’ll even post them on my Commbook if that ’s what it takes! ”

Melody instantly shut up.
If there was anything Gloriana was good at, it was identifying faults.
The amount of boys she repulsed by acidly pointing out their many flaws had reached the double digits!

”Three years. ” Gloriana spoke and stretched out five of her fingers.
”Tell my mother that Ves will prove himself worthy of me in five years.
If he hasn ’t excelled in that time, I ’ll return home and obediently settle with a boy my mother approves of.
Is that okay? ”

Her assistant looked a little more mollified at that.
”Three years is..
a reasonable compromise, if not for Operation K.
Don ’t think I am blind to what you are doing.
If it is too dangerous for you to return home, Mr.
Larkinson effectively gains more time to prove himself. ”

”It won ’t get to that! We ’ll succeed, I ’m sure of it! Besides, I ’m confident Ves will astound my mother.
Even if he takes more time than I expected, won ’t it be a good thing that he outperforms every other boy? ”

Melody shook her head.
”It ’s different.
Those boys you are so dismissive about all come from respectable dynasties.
Larkinson is on his own.
Marrying him won ’t open up any valuable ties for the Wodins.
For this reason, your mother has set a much higher bar for Mr.
Larkinson. ”

”Hmph! As if my mother has never set high expectations on me! Tell her that she shouldn ’t worry about me.
Three years is enough! ”

Of course, if three years wasn ’t enough for her boyfriend to gain her mother ’s approval, then she would still stay with Ves.
She would rather abscond with Ves into the frontier than to return to the Hegemony alone!

”The situation will become very hectic soon, Miss Gloriana.
We can ’t guarantee that you will be able to stay by Mr.
Larkinson ’s side for three years. ”

”I ’ll bring Ves with me wherever I go.
No matter if it ’s the sandmen or any other threat, we ’re inseparable now.
This is one thing I won ’t let my mother interfere. ”

Time continued to pass.
The combined fleet continued its rapid journey after crossing over into Vesian space.

Though unintentional, the navigator of the Stellar Chaser charted a route that passed through the Hafner, Klein, Venidse and Imodris Duchies.

Ves had mixed feelings as he passed through the territories of the duchies that he once treated as hostile.
The war between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom had long faded from everyone ’s mind.
With the sandmen threatening everyone, no one had the time to revisit past grudges.

He breathed a little easier once the combined fleet passed through the Hafner Duchy without incident.
He half expected Venerable Foster to pop up all of a sudden and stir some trouble.
Wasn ’t that what happened in all of the action dramas he used to watch when he was younger?

”What ’s wrong, Ves? ” Gloriana walked over to his side.

”Just thinking about old times. ”

Both of them looked at a projection that showed their current route.
They were only a couple of weeks away from reaching their destination.

”Do you hate the Vesians? ” She asked.

”No. ” Ves shook his head.
”They ’re just aggressive, that ’s all.
I ’ve witnessed a lot of people die during the war, but there ’s no point holding a grudge.
War is war. ”

He could never forget how many Vandals and Swordmaidens died on the surface of Aeon Corona VII.
The Hostland Warriors and the Meandering Monkeys wiped most of their ground forces.
Venerable Foster piloting her nearly-invincible Belisarius expert mech practically ensured their inevitable defeat.

It was a sad thing that taking prisoners was not a universal custom in human space.
If all of those Vandals still lived, the Bright Republic would have been in a better shape to resist the sandmen.

”From what I ’ve read on the news, it appears the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom has entered into a defensive pact of some sorts. ”

Ves idly nodded.
”We make for strange bedfellows, but the sandmen don ’t care about our human disputes.
We ’re all obstacles to them.
No matter if we are Brighters or Vesians, the aliens will engulf us both. ”

”Let ’s return to work.
Our design is almost finished.
Let ’s try and bring it closer to completion. ”

They both left the lounge compartment and returned to the familiar workshop compartment.

After more than a month of work, they had made incredible strides in their custom mech project.

In truth, customizing an existing mech design for a single mech pilot did not require that much time.
Not only did they start with an existing mech platform instead of starting from nothing, the Desolate Soldier design was remarkably simple and easy to manipulate.

The reason why they took so long was that they decided to take their time.
They spent more time trying to find more ways to collaborate together than actually improving their design.

Many methods failed, but the ones that succeeded formed the start of their combined toolbox.

Their main goal was to go beyond complementing each other ’s strengths.
They had already discovered early on that their design philosophies didn ’t overlap too much.

Gloriana excelled in the technical domain.

Ves possessed a competent grasp in the spiritual domain.

Neither domains collided with each other, which meant that they both covered each other ’s shortcomings with their strengths.

That was not enough.

Synergy did not arise from fitting two pieces of a puzzle together.
Synergy arose when one puzzle piece transformed another puzzle piece into something greater.

The whole had to be greater than the sum of its parts.

The simplest way to explain it was that Ves and Gloriana worked hard to achieve a result that was greater than 1 + 1 = 2.

For their collaboration to be truly worthwhile, they needed to reach 1 + 1 = 3!

In other words, Ves and Gloriana sought to generate enough value to match the contributions of three unrelated mech designers!

Gloriana never doubted that they could achieve this seemingly-impossible result.
She held this belief from the very start back at Centerpoint.

The only problem was that achieving synergy was easier said than done.
Both had to put in a lot of effort and ingenuity to discover ways to integrate and combine their design philosophies to achieve something greater than they could ever achieve by themselves.

Both of them knew that two different mech designers could accomplish several synergies at once.
As long as both of their design philosophies were versatile enough, there were many different ways to combine their strengths.

Ves and Gloriana spent much of the last month in trying to discover as many potential synergies as possible.

They hadn ’t spent their time in vain.

After much experimentation and fumbling, they discovered three potential ways to strengthen their mechs further.

They both documented their results in their minds, unwilling to commit their findings on a digital storage medium vulnerable to unauthorized access attempts.

Currently, they discovered and labeled three promising methods to achieve synergy:

Synergy #1: mutual strengthening

Synergy #2: spiritual customization

Synergy #3: conceptual perfection

Of the three, the first one was the most straightforward.

As the name implied, mutual strengthening basically meant that both of them reinforced each other ’s specialties.

Ves strengthened Gloriana ’s specialty by empowering her applications with spiritual force.

Gloriana strengthened Ves by making the technical design more receptive to spirituality.

The latter sounded very vague to Ves, but ever since Gloriana became exposed to the concept of spiritual components, she managed to find a way to amplify a design ’s spiritual foundation using purely technical means.

”The tangible and intangible has to match. ” She explained to a confused-looking Ves.
”A god is only powerful if their physical and divine forms are aligned.
The greater the alignment between the two, the greater the power! All of it makes sense! ”

Though Ves failed to understand her theory, the results were very evident.
Somehow, Gloriana truly managed to strengthen his spiritual applications by manipulating their designs in an abstruse manner!

The ultimate result was the emergence of mutual strengthening.
Ves amplified Gloriana ’s specialty, while Gloriana amplified Ves ’ specialty.

Though it sounded as if they could mutually strengthen each other in an infinite virtuous cycle, that was impossible.
At their current shallow level of synergy, it was already good enough to complete a single cycle.

”That ’s enough. ” Gloriana nodded with satisfaction.
”It ’s good as long as the fundamentals of this synergy are sound. ”

In other words, they should be happy they managed to achieve 1 + 1 = 3 instead of 1 + 1 = 1.5 or worse.
Trying to achieve greater synergy such as 1 + 1 = 4 was something reserved for the future.

Compared to mutual strengthening, the other two synergies were much more complicated.
However, they both possessed the potential to elevate their collaborative mech designs to much greater heights!

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