By passing on valuable and relevant intelligence, Calabast showcased her value to him.
Even if she blackmailed him into becoming his partner back at the Starlight Megalodon, a one-sided relationship never ended well.

If she exploited him without giving anything in return, Ves would only grow more resentful at her.
This meant that she would have to continue to find more ways to coerce Ves while watching her back for any betrayals.

Instead of pursuing this short-sighted course of action, Calabast made a decision that reflected the best of her Hexer heritage.

She decided to take advantage of the situation to become an equal partner to Ves.

Though Ves didn ’t want to admit it, her approach was working.

To ride the transit shuttle, you needed to pay the fare.

Providing intelligence and working to protect Ves in the dark was Calabast ’s way of paying the fare.
By keeping Ves content, she could continue to ride him all the way up to top.

This way, both of them benefited from each other.
As long as nothing altered this balance, neither of them had any reason to break their mutually-beneficial relationship.

After warning Ves about the MTA ’s coming announcements and the possible arrival of some of Gloriana ’s relatives, Calabast turned to more local matters.

”Your Desolate Soldier mechs have continued to make a lot of waves.
In fact, they ’re even starting to be fielded in states such as the Reinald Republic and the Hertog Dominion. ” She spoke.

”I know that.
Many states are just as in danger as the Bright Republic.
Since my product is useful in my home state, it should also be useful in foreign states. ”

”A lot of people have taken note of the explosive popularity of your Desolate Soldier model. ” Calabast said gravely.
”Disrupting the market to this degree and attracting this much attention is not always desirable, kid.
You ’re just a newly-risen Journeyman and already you ’re starting to sell as many mechs as an experienced Journeyman or a relatively fresh Senior. ”

”What do you think I ’m supposed to do, then? My Desolate Soldier is just that good.
Now that it has gained some market traction, it ’s impossible to ignore the value proposition of my design. ”

Its attractive price point, its ease of maintenance, its adequate performance against the sandmen, its lack of wasteful gimmicks, and most of all its ability to inspire duty all combined into an immensely attractive package!

Against ordinary sandman fleets, it really didn ’t matter too much if a rifleman mech performed ten or twenty percent better than the Desolate Soldier.

More expensive mechs fell just as easily as cheaper mechs when struck by a devastating sandman laser beam!

Only when a mech became as tough as an Aurora Titan or a heavy mech would a machine stand a chance of blocking such a powerful attack

Any mech that failed to reach this degree of defense might as well strip its armor down to the bare minimum and rely on dodging and evasion to confound sandman targeting systems!

Therefore, even without its aura, the Desolate Soldier already won some praises from the market!

”Do you think the competition is sitting still? ” Calabast pointed her finger at him.
”I ’ve already managed to ascertain that a group of Ansel Senior Mech Designers have come together to design a direct competitor to your Desolate Soldier design! They are aware of the threat your mech poses to their dominance in the mech market! ”

Ves grinned and crossed his arms.
”As long as it ’s fair competition, I ’m not afraid of challengers.
The market is always fair.
They can decide for themselves which product is more attractive. ”

”Your competitors aren ’t limiting themselves to fair competition.
They ’ve also been pulling strings in the dark, you know.
I still don ’t have a complete picture of what they are doing. ”

”Can you tell the schemes you did manage to discover? ”

She nodded.
”Let ’s see.
So far, I ’ve detected a number of attempts to hinder you.
They range from demanding the Ministry of Economic Development to limit you from contracting third-party manufacturers, getting various authorities to forbid you from exporting your mechs abroad and attempting to drag you over to trial in front of the Bentheim Mech Court! ”

That last one should have made Ves jump in fright.
Instead, he just raised a single eyebrow.

”On what charge? ”

”Brainwashing and influencing people ’s minds without their consent. ”

That sounded very grave, though Ves retained his calm.
”Why haven ’t I heard anything from the Mech Court then? ”

”The Ministry of Defense and the Mech Corps immediately put a halt towards any attempts to accuse you of any crimes. ” Calabast nodded to Ves with a measure of respect.
”You have powerful allies in the government.
Even without any backers, the central government would have intervened on your behalf.
They value your Desolate Soldier design too much to allow a bunch of jealous Seniors to ruin its proliferation. ”

”Sounds like the government knows what is best for the Republic. ” Ves smiled in satisfaction.

”I wouldn ’t be so smug if I were you.
Seeing that any solicitations to the government have fallen on deaf ears, your enemies, which doesn ’t just include Ansel, have taken to employing detestable means.
Haven ’t you heard about certain irregularities in supply? ”

”You mean the raided shipments and the bombing of production facilities? ” Ves frowned.

Lately, bewildering incidents like this took place everywhere.
With how every state had fallen into crisis, a lot of people became discontent and started to lash out.

Strangely enough, the Bentheim Liberation Movement wasn ’t among the troublemakers this time.
The rebel group kept oddly quiet during this time, though Ves did not find that too surprising.

As a group that advocated for Bentheim ’s independence, any attacks on the Bright Republic were self-defeating.
Once the Bright Republic fell, Bentheim would fall as well, because the sandman completely disregarded political affiliations!

”Certain people have hired pirates and dark mercenaries to harass the infrastructure involved with producing your Desolate Soldiers as much as possible. ” She spoke.
”Since the Mech Corps is fully preoccupied with fighting the sandmen along with many other mercenary corps, it ’s difficult to secure the shipment of goods and mechs, even in the rear. ”

Ves shrugged.
”The scale of these attacks are fairly small.
It ’s impossible for my enemies to sabotage every shipment or production facility.
If they become more brazen, then the government will definitely take notice, and that will be very bad for the masterminds behind this scheme.
Besides, the attacks have only struck our external partners so far.
The LMC itself has remained unaffected thanks to the protection of the Living Sentinels. ”

Though Ves and the LMC already dispatched a portion of Living Sentinels to the front, plenty more remained behind to protect the LMC ’s existing assets and shipping routes.

There was no way to attack any property owned by the LMC without employing a huge amount of mechs!

As for the damage suffered by third-party manufacturers? That was none of the LMC ’s business! It was their fault that they skimped on security!

Even if an external partner lost the ability to produce Desolate Soldiers, the LMC could simply dump them and hand over the contract to another company!

”The actions in the dark aren ’t limited to harassing the operations of your third-party manufacturers.
They ’re also targeting you in person. ”

”Hahaha! ” Ves laughed.
”I ’m already used to that! Let alone my Avatars of Myth, any assassins will have to go through the Glory Battalion before they get to me! I ’ve survived so many crises that you can call me a space cockroach! ”

Calabast pursed her lips at him.
”The people who are plotting against you are well aware of that.
Instead of attempting a series of feeble assassination attempts, they ’re preparing for something grander.
They know that they can only make a single attempt at your life before the government becomes alarmed. ”

”Who are these people, exactly? ”

”I ’m not sure.
They ’re being very careful, as can be expected when so many interests are at stake.
I ’m certain that at least a couple of Seniors from the Ansel alumni network are involved, but it ’s difficult to pin down their names. ”

”Doesn ’t the entire network pretty much hate me due to my association with Professor Ventag? ”

”Ansel is not a monolithic entity, kid.
From what I ’ve heard, Professor Pendleton, who you ’ve already met, is fairly persistent in trying to beat you fair and square.
He believes that mech designers should beat other mech designers in the arena of the mech market.
He ’s one of the lead designers of the collaborative design project meant to form a solution against your Desolate Soldiers. ”

That sounded surprisingly fair of his old foe.
While Ves always disliked Professor Pendleton, he admired the Senior ’s principles.

Ves mentally tipped his hat to Professor Pendleton.

”I ’m eager to see how these Ansel folks plan to upstage my Desolate Soldier ’s value proposition. ” He grinned in anticipation.

Calabast shook her head at the sight.
Ves wasn ’t taking her warnings seriously!

Fortunately, she wasn ’t entirely on her own.
In addition to the organization she built up, she also snapped up the Swordmaidens as well as other desperate outfits.

In truth, Ves did appreciate her forewarnings.
Having someone like Calabast passing on crucial information would allow him to prepare for threats in advance!

That was much better than before, where he had to deal with many dangers out of the blue.

The two began to talk about less acute developments.
For example, Calabast shared some of her thoughts on what the government was doing at this time.

”It ’s all hands on deck at the central government. ” She said.
”They can barely afford to divert some of their time towards you and your Desolate Soldier model.
In particular, they ’ve reached out to numerous states and organizations for entreaties. ”

”What does that mean? ”

”The Bright Republic is looking for allies to shoulder the burden. ”

”That sounds hard. ”

”It is, but the government believes it ’s worthwhile to forge greater cooperation.
You ’ll probably hear the results within a couple of months. ”

Aside from this, Calabast didn ’t really offer anything that aroused his interest.
After she finished informing Ves of what he needed to know, she revealed some of her own plans.

”Right now is an especially volatile time.
A lot of elements are moving and a lot of opportunities have arisen.
I ’d be remiss if I don ’t take advantage of this situation as much as possible. ”

”Will you be gone, then? ”

She nodded.
”You can already take care of yourself to an extent.
With my existing arrangements, I ’m confident I can stop or hinder any small actions targeted against you or your company.
I ’ll have an assistant visit you periodically in order to inform you what my organization has achieved. ”

”Does your organization have a name? ”

”You can call us the C-Men. ”

Ves immediately chortled in reaction.
”What kind of name is that?! ”

”I ’m just joking, kid. ” Calabast shook her head at his infantile reaction.
”I haven ’t settled on a name yet.
It ’s very difficult to come up with a name that makes my people proud while giving away as little as possible to our enemies. ”

”You previously worked for a Hexer intelligence agency called DIVA, right? ”

”I see you ’ve fallen into its trap.
DIVA is an acronym meant to make people underestimate the organization.
Its propensity to hire agents from the prominent dynasties of the Hegemony means that men are especially prone to underestimating what it ’s capable of.
If you think that DIVA is filled with vain and air-headed divas, then think again. ”

Ves stopped smiling.
”I see. ”

After they were done laughing, Calabast stood up and turned to the exit.
”This will be my last visit for a while.
We ’ll keep in touch through other means.
Until then, stay out of trouble! ”

”I know! You ’re not my mom, Calabast! ”

”I might as well be! ”

Once she left, Ves sat back down and processed what he learned.
He obtained a decent amount of critical information, though he heard nothing too pertinent that demanded him to take immediate action.

What concerned him the most was the MTA ’s imminent announcement and the development of a direct competitor to his Desolate Soldier.

While Ves believed that his monopoly on spiritual components gave him a huge advantage, he was not the only mech designer who could offer something unique.
A lot of Seniors developed their own advantages which they relied on to gain a solid footing in the market.

”If a single Senior designs a mech, then I shouldn ’t be worried. ” He considered while rubbing his chin.
”If five of them have banded together, then that is something different! ”

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