Ves and Gloriana paid a visit to the LMC ’s spaceborn testing ground.
Set in an asteroid belt to guarantee some privacy, they witnessed the performance of the Resentful Soldier piloted by William Urbesh in person.

In response to a request, the testers pitted the Resentful Soldier against a Desolate Soldier in a practice duel.
Both of the mechs had been issued with purpose-built practice rifles instead of their normal armament.

Right now, both mechs fought furiously against each other.
The mechs trailed in space in dazzling circles and corkscrews as they maneuvered wildly in an attempt to spoil the aim of their opponents.

The range between the two mechs was rather close due to the limitations of their weapon type.

Right now, William was making a very good account for himself.
His Resentful Soldier only sustained seven hits while his opponents suffered twice as much!

”Wow! ” Gloriana watched the projection tracking the practice duel with admiration.
”William is finally showcasing his real skill! ”

”He ’s no longer a coward. ” Ves smiled in satisfaction.

This was exactly what he set out to achieve! Even if William never emerged out of his treatment quite the same, at the very least the mech pilot no longer jumped at shadows whenever he faced an actual opponent.

Even if William only engaged in a practice duel, he clearly demonstrated his ability to fight!

He was cured!

As Ves studied some of the telemetry, he noted that William ’s life signs did not fluctuate too much.
This meant that William wasn ’t forcing himself.

Instead, he embraced the fight!

”William is quite a good mech pilot now that he isn ’t gripped by fear. ” Gloriana commented.

”That ’s a given considering his background. ”

William wasn ’t quite as good as a typical second-class mech pilot due to his lack of combat experience.
However, his time with the Rim Guardians had given him a very solid foundation.

It was just that William ’s combat effectiveness always sunk to the bottom whenever he was actually put inside a mech.

Now that Ves washed away the dirt and polished William to a shine, he was finally able to unleash his formerly-hidden strength!

”He ’s actually better than most Larkinsons at his age! ” Ves judged.

As a Larkinson, Ves knew exactly how skilled his family was in piloting mechs.
While there was a huge variance in skill level, on average a Larkinson mech pilot easily outperformed an average mech pilot.

For William to display a level of skill that was significantly beyond the level of a typical Larkinson mech pilot showed that he had a bright future ahead of him.
The only caveat was that he needed to show off the same level of performance against real opponents.

A simple practice duel still fell short of actual battle.
It remained to be seen if William kept his nerves during his first sortie against the sandmen.

Once the Resentful Soldier finished its tests, it flew back to the small space station that served as the testing ground ’s main facility.

Ves and Gloriana headed down to the mech bay to greet William in person.
The mech pilot calmly exited the Resentful Soldier and faced the two Journeymen with a stoic expression.

Good job today.
You performed well with the Resentful Soldier. ”

The mech pilot stared back at Ves without saying anything.

Ves began to get somewhat unnerved.
Even if Ves had mentally and spiritually tortured the poor fellow with an ill-conceived experiment, couldn ’t William show some appreciation to his benefactor?

A mech technician awkwardly walked up to them.
”Sorry, sir.
Urbesh here hasn ’t spoken any word since we first received him.
As far as we know, he ’s a mute. ”

”Mute? ” Ves grumbled.

Was this one of the side effects of his treatment? That was pretty bad.
If Ves managed to cure one affliction only to cause William to suffer another, then that meant his treatment method still needed a lot more refinement.

Oh well.
Ves still achieved his primary goal.
Test subjects like William existed to tease out unanticipated consequences such as turning mute.

”Can he still communicate? ” Gloriana curiously asked.

”Sure, ma ’am.
Urbesh, please lift your left arm. ”

William lifted his left arm without any hesitation.
His face remained impassive while he moved his limb.

”Please lower your left arm and raise your right foot. ”

William did as the mech technician instruction.

”Okay, that ’s enough. ” The mech technician said to William before turning to Ves.
”As you see, sir, there is nothing wrong with William ’s hearing or judgement.
If he wants to communicate, he mostly gestures with his arms.
If he wants to say something more complex, he ’ll take the time to write his words. ”

That ’s okay then. ”

If William was capable enough to write, then that meant that Ves hadn ’t completely scrambled the mech pilot ’s mind.

However, no matter how many questions he asked, William refused to communicate to Ves.
Considering what he ’d been through, Ves did not blame him too much.

It was enough that William could still be brought to fight.

”Good luck on the remaining tests. ” Ves awkwardly said and patted William on the shoulder.
”You ’ll be deploying to the front very soon as part of the next rotation.
The Avatars of Myth will make sure your Resentful Soldier will be able to showcase its strength. ”

William didn ’t respond.
Ves had no idea what the Urbesh clansman thought about being sent into a thankless battle to defend a state he didn ’t care about.

Oh well, it was pointless of him to refuse.
Ves made sure to surround William with enough people to keep him in line.
If he ever rebelled, there was no way he could get away!

As soon as they were done with their visit, Ves and Gloriana returned to Cloudy Curtain aboard the Stellar Chaser.

Having been warned by Calabast, Ves made sure the Glory Battalion escorted them all the way back.
The sheer amount of protection gave no opening for sneak attackers to take out Gloriana ’s personal ship.

No incidents took place during the way back.
Once they reached the surface, Ves and Gloriana proceeded to work on their next projects in earnest.

Now that they already collaborated on the Desolate Soldier and Resentful Soldier project, their cooperation already reached an acceptable state.

Ves first decided to focus on the Militant Soldier project.

”To satisfy the Mech Corps, we ’ll have to incorporate military standards and military components in our design. ” He began.
”Fortunately, I have a decent amount of experience in working with them both.
Not much time has passed since I came back from the war so many of the components I ’m familiar with should still be current. ”

He took the initiative to select the component designs needed to make the Militant Soldier.
The important part about the mech design was that it had to be good enough to satisfy the mech pilots serving in the Mech Corps while also making it compatible with all of the prevailing standards and hardware.

Though the Mech Corps employed thousands of different mech designs, the mech regiments easily supported this diversity by adopting one single set of standards and protocols.
From slots to energy cells, as long as the mechs shared enough in common, the logistical burden would still remain in an acceptable range.

For various reasons, the standards of the Mech Corps differed from the standards prevalent in the open mech market.
In fact, many different mech designers propagated their own individual standards in order to encourage customers to make use of their entire mech catalogs at once.

Picking components was easier than Ves expected.
It turned out that the Mech Corps had already filtered out a narrow list for him.
This was mainly to prevent him from leaking the complete list of component designs adopted by the Mech Corps.

With only a limited selection available, it didn ’t take too long for Ves to make his choice.
Whoever composed the list must have been a knowledgeable Senior who already had a good idea what the Militant Soldier ought to look like.

”I like working with professionals. ” Ves smiled.

Once he selected the parts, he began to sketch out a draft design together with Gloriana.

Both of them thought hard to develop a suitable vision for the Militant Soldier.

”Maybe we don ’t need to alter that much besides its components and internal architecture. ” Gloriana suggested.
”The Desolate Soldier ’s divine nature is already very suitable to the military.
I don ’t think your Mech Corps will object if they get the same thing.
They must have already studied our Desolate Soldier design extensively and found it acceptable. ”

”You ’re right. ” Ves nodded in agreement.
”Let ’s just envision our Militant Soldier as a straight military conversion of the Desolate Soldier. ”

Neither of them felt eager to expand the scope of this project.
Changing out so many parts already posed a significant burden to them.
Ves himself couldn ’t think of any way to make his Militant Soldier ’s aura become more suitable to the Mech Corps without borrowing a new spiritual fragment somewhere.

Should he borrow a spiritual fragment from a Larkinson expert pilot or something?

Though it sounded abominable, Ves seriously considered the idea before shaking his head.

”It ’s not necessary, and I ’m not sure this is the good time to injure one of our own expert pilots. ”

Though a part of Ves felt as if he made a lazy decision, he forced himself to accept this decision.

To be honest, both Ves and Gloriana would rather work on something else.
Designing variants of an existing mech design was not as great as designing an entirely new mech.

Still, Ves couldn ’t ignore the request from the government.
It didn ’t cost him much except time to design the variants, so he might as well spend some months to complete them before moving on to his next project.

During this time, Ketis also finished testing the Prideful Soldier.
Once Ves inspected the design for the final time, he decided to leave the matter of publishing and marketing it to his subordinates.

”Take care of it, Benny. ”

Gavin studied the schematics.
Of course, as a layman, he could only judge the Prideful Soldier on its surface.

”I will, boss.
The LMC has already formed a marketing plan to promote the Prideful Soldier. ”

”How well do you think it will sell? ”

”Quite well, especially considering the feeling it gives off.
There ’s nothing like it, Ves.
I like how you managed to stain the Desolate Soldier ’s effects.
It ’s much more aggressive and feral.
Just watching the design is pumping me up! ”

Ves smirked at Gavin ’s reaction.
The addition of Zeigra ’s mote of spirituality had given the normally-pure X-Factor of the base model an entirely new character!

”Can you be more exact? ”

”Not as much as the Desolate Soldier, if that ’s what you ’re hoping. ” Gavin tempered his expectations.
”It will still be a success, though.
Plenty of gangs and underground organizations already appreciate the Desolate Soldier.
Now that the Prideful Soldier can go on sale, they ’ll highly favor this variant. ”

”Will the production capacity at our disposal be able to produce enough Prideful Soldiers? ”

is going to be difficult. ” Gavin reluctantly admitted.
”While keeping up with the production side of things isn ’t my ballpark, I ’ve heard plenty of warnings that it ’s getting harder and harder to contract third-party manufacturers. ”

”There are no more mech companies available who are willing to lend their production capacity to us? ”

Gavin nodded.
We ’ve exhausted the available supply.
We ’re not the only ones who are looking to depend on external manufacturers to produce mechs.
Not only are we facing competition from other mech companies, we also have to jostle for production capacity against the government.
All of those turrets and defensive platforms don ’t come from nothing! ”

”Even if that ’s so, I ’m surprised that production capacity has already run out.
I thought we still had plenty to spare. ”

”That ’s because the military has recently started a new initiative. ”

”And what is that? ”

”Producing spacefighters. ”

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