”Right now, my boyfriend is engaged in a groundbreaking experiment. ” Gloriana softly whispered as if there was a recorder hovering in front of her.
”Both of us are currently pioneering a special treatment for mech pilots who are afflicted with certain disorders that prevent them from unleashing their potential in battle. ”

Her comm lit up while it recorded a narrow shot of her face.
In the background, Ves continued to put his total concentration on William Urbesh, thereby remaining ignorant of what his girlfriend was doing at the moment.

”GHRUERHGGH! ” A garbled voice burst out from the speakers.
”GhullZizne KWanHansha TOrInOZ ONONMENAIAKKA! ”

Gloriana stifled her giggle.
”Please don ’t mind the strange noises you hear in the background.
Our volunteer ⁠— who the Mech Trade Association has entrusted to us for his treatment, by the way ⁠— is currently undergoing a painful but necessary procedure that will definitely fix his


”Wow! Our volunteer is already showing improvement! Previously, he was too afraid to make any threats.
Just listen at him now.
Isn ’t he better? Our special treatment is working, hihi! ”

She manipulated her recorder so that it zoomed in on Ves, detailing his focused expression and his Pride of Dusk ensemble.

”Just look at how handsome he is when he ’s so serious! ” Gloriana swooned.
”Ves is the best lover I can ask for, and he ’s all mine! Together, we ’re capable of achieving so many new things.
We have some ambitious mech designs in the planning and we can ’t wait to astound you all with our revolutionary new products! What we are doing right now is merely a taste of what is to come! ”

Some of the instruments started beeping alarms.
However, Ves paid no attention to them at all despite how urgent they sounded.

Seeing that Ves did not respond to the alarms, Gloriana showed no concern either.
She trusted in her boyfriend ’s judgement!

”To all of the mech pilots out there, have you ever wanted to become gods? ” She excitingly whispered.
”Well, soon we ’ll be offering everyone a chance! Whether you ’re a man or a woman, as long as you commission a custom mech from us, we ’ll do everything possible to design a mech that is literally touched by the gods! With our respective specialties, our mechs are guaranteed to be the most perfect machines that match your qualities, thereby maximizing the odds that you ’ll transcend your current place in the six phases of existence! ”

As Gloriana kept recording an impromptu promotion for her Commbook page, Ves truly couldn ’t spare any attention to anything else.

He needed to invest his full concentration in manipulating the transformation that was taking place in William ’s spirituality!

Ves underestimated Nyxie.
Even when he only cut off a tiny mote from a greater whole, its versatility greatly surpassed his estimates.

The mote employed tricks that were so profound that Qilanxo looked like an amateur by comparison!

This fellow was trickier than he thought!

Was this the difference between a sentient alien from an advanced civilization and an exobeast who solely relied on her natural abilities?

He even guessed that Nyxie might have been far stronger when he was in the prime of his life.
Only until he was killed and locked up in the Ancient Sarcophagus had his lingering spirituality begun to fade.

Ves probably stood no chance at all if he faced Nyxie in his prime!

Fortunately, spending eons locked up inside a crystal coffin probably wore away a lot of the alien ’s strength.
The only problem was that even if Nyxie lost a lot of strength, his refined abilities still gave Ves a lot of headaches!

The spiritual barrier surrounding the mote started cracking and leaking out all kinds of attacks.
Nyxie fully committed to contaminating and outright taking over William ’s spirituality!

Even though Nyxie only took over a portion of his target, the newly-converted element immediately began to spread out into other parts of William ’s mind, including his core consciousness!

Just like with Ves a while ago, Nyxie only needed a small beachhead to use as a springboard for a greater invasion! As long as he managed to exploit a vulnerability, it was incredibly hard to overcome his dizzying attacks!

In fact, Ves found it puzzling how much more sophisticated Nyxie had become.
The imprisoned alien tyrant hadn ’t shown nearly as much sophistication in his previous attacks!

Ves remembered back when he first probed Nyxie that the alien only utilized the simplest brute-force attacks that his B-stone lockbox perfectly blocked.

Now, Ves had the feeling that using such a crude method to defend against Nyxie wouldn ’t work anymore.
The alien appeared to have revived some of his cunning and his brilliance from the long eons of isolation and decay!

Where did Nyxie obtain all of this strength?!

A sudden realization came to Ves.
Didn ’t he recently sell tens of thousands of Desolate Soldiers and Holy Soldiers?

Both of those mech models utilized the Solemn Guardian as their design spirit.

The Solemn Guardian was his second spiritual product.
Ves made it by combining the broken fragments of an expert pilot and Nyxie with his own spiritual energy as the glue and the spark of life!

Even though the wondrous life creation process resulted in an entirely new living spiritual entity, the Solemn Guardian still possessed some lingering ties to its ’parents ’.

This meant that both Venerable Plinter and Nyxie certainly received a substantial spiritual supplement!

Ves regarded these transfers as spiritual dividends.
In exchange for investing some of their spiritual energy into the formation of a spiritual product, they became eligible to receive a return on investment.

The more mech pilots used the mechs watched over by design spirits they invested in, the more spiritual energy fed back to them! When the numbers reached tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of mech pilots, the dividends probably reached a very substantial quantity!

Through this interaction, his previous design spirits such as the Black Phoenix, the crystal builder leader, Qilanxo and Prophet Ylvaine all grew in strength, becoming just a little bit more powerful!

It was as if Gloriana was right.
They were all akin to gods who grew from the power of worship.
With mech pilots as their supplicants, the spiritual investors only had to sit back and absorb the energies flowing to them through the man-machine connection!

The only consolation to Ves was that while Nyxie had revived some of his wits after eons of dormancy, he hadn ’t actually grown much stronger.

Ves guessed that the quality of Nyxie ’s spirituality was so high that the alien hardly gained a benefit from low-quality sources.

Even Qilanxo was being hampered by this growth, hence her attempts to elevate her chosen to expert pilots and higher.

In other words, Ves did not have much to fear from Nyxie in the short term.
No matter how many mech pilots utilized the Soldier product line, most of them were irrelevant due to their paltry, low-quality donations.

The story would be different if an expert pilot began to pilot a Desolate Soldier, but what were the chances of that happening?

A rickety budget mech would never be able to keep up with the performance of an expert pilot! His Desolate Soldiers also didn ’t incorporate any expensive resonating materials, thereby giving very little room for expert pilots to express their might!

Still, how long would it take for Nyxie to gain enough supplements to regain his full strength? Years? Decades?

Ves didn ’t know.
All he knew so far was that the Ancient Sarcophagus had probably been designed to trap a much more powerful spiritual entity.
The complete inability for Nyxie to escape the bonds of his prison already said much.

The issue was that every cage had its limits.

As long as Ves kept farming spiritual fragments from Nyxie, he would continually weaken the spiritual entity.
However, once Ves utilized the spiritual fragments in the creation of spiritual products, the dividends flowing back to Nyxie would increase.

This was the frightening part about investments.
As long as they were successful, they returned far more than the investor initially paid.

Ves became more and more grave as he thought of the implications.

He predicted that at some point, Nyxie would earn so many dividends that his growth could no longer be contained!

By then, not only would Nyxie find a way to break out of the Ancient Sarcophagus, but also take revenge on Ves for mutilating him and exploiting him for his spiritual fragments!

He should have figured out this danger before!

”At least it ’s not too late. ”

So far, Ves had only used a single spiritual fragment from Nyxie in his mech designs.
He could still come up with various means to limit Nyxie ’s growth.

His best hope was to find a way to manipulate the Solemn Guardian into denying Nyxie his rightful share.
By embezzling the dividends he was supposed to receive, Nyxie would not be able to profit from his investments!

”I ’ll have to look into this later. ” Ves shook his head.

Right now, Ves was rapidly learning how to deal with Nyxie ’s tricks.
No matter how sophisticated the alien tried to take advantage of the situation, the mote only possessed a miniscule fraction of his total strength.

While it was more than enough to overpower William ’s spiritual potential, Ves was different.

By employing his full strength, Ves simply resorted to brute force methods to cut off any attempts by Nyxie to take over William ’s mind and body!

Nyxie utilized thousands of finely-controlled strands of silk to envelop William ’s mind and consciousness.

Ves formed a giant cleaver with his spiritual energy and hacked at the strands with abandon!

In fact, Ves could have ended the attacks immediately if he destroyed Nyxie ’s mote of spirituality.

However, he didn ’t want to end this tug-of-war immediately.

Even through all of the new developments, he always kept his ultimate goal in mind.

William Urbesh needed to become a different man.
One that was capable of advancing to expert candidate.

A very serious question came to Ves.
Should he allow Nyxie to take over William ’s mind?

No matter how dangerous and hostile the alien acted, Ves could not deny that it was an exceptional spiritual entity.

If such a strong entity turned William into a puppet, as long as Ves taught it how to act like a human, the ’William ’ that emerged would likely become one of the most promising mech pilots in the star sector!

Ves was very confident that this version ’William ’ would easily be able to advance to expert pilot, especially if he fully retained the original William ’s memories and skills!

In this way, Ves stood a very high chance of completing the mission issued by the Rim Guardians.

”What am I thinking? This is stupid! ”

Perhaps he would gain enormously in the short term, but Ves didn ’t have to think a lot to figure out that ’William ’ might eventually grow into a monster! Once ’William ’ advanced to ace pilot or something, he could single-handedly return to Ves and destroy everything he built in order to retrieve the Ancient Sarcophagus and free its prisoner!

There was no way that Ves would allow Nyxie to grow out of control in this fashion!

”What should I do instead? ”

When he began to get a handle on Nyxie ’s varied attack methods, he rapidly contained the alien ’s attempts to take over William ’s mind and body.

However, Nyxie ’s imprint had still taken over a large chunk of William ’s spiritual potential, replacing the mech pilot ’s imprint with an alien spiritual imprint.

Ves couldn ’t allow even a shred of alien imprint to remain in William ’s mind!

”It seems I ’ll have to get rid of it all! ”

Before he started to manipulate the imprints, Ves first pulled back Nyxie ’s spiritual mote from William ’s head.
It had already served its purpose and its continued presence was not doing William any favors.

Once Ves returned the mote in his own mind, he began to focus on his test subject ’s spiritual potential and tried to manipulate it with utmost care.

He had never messed with someone ’s spirituality in this fashion before.
That excited him to no end!

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