After some thought, Ves understood Marcella ’s position.

She was a Brighter, a veteran and a Bentheimer.
Her loyalty towards the Bright Republic was unquestionable.
She also cared a lot about Bentheim and supported any solution that made it safer.

Even if she was a shareholder of the LMC, she saw no conflict between supporting the company and supporting her home.

”While it may seem to you that the politicians at Rittersberg have made huge concessions to get the BLM on their side, think about what will happen after the sandmen are defeated. ”

A short moment passed before Ves came to a realization.

”A lot of real estate has freed up. ” He murmured.
”With the fall of the Coman Federation and the border states, the Bright Republic stands to gain a huge amount of territory as long as we manage to dislodge the sandmen! ”

Marcella grinned.
”Exactly! Just imagine it! Our state can easily double or even triple our claims! ”

”While you ’re right, I don ’t think that it will be as easy as it sounds to defeat the sandmen that have taken over the planets and rebuild all of those settlements from scratch.
Won ’t the Bright Republic need even more money to fund this expansion? ”

”The bright senate has already thought of that. ” She retorted.
”There ’s already word of a bill being drafted that will give private individuals and organizations the right to run the newly-resettled planets as long as they cover all of the expenses! It won ’t strain the government ’s budget any further while providing everyone who has remained loyal a way to profit from the war! ”

The cost of doing so was that the central government surrendered a lot of authority to the people and organizations who were wealthy enough to fund the reconstruction efforts.

If Ves actually cared about becoming a landowner, he might feel tempted to join this race as well.

”It will take a long time for those settlements to generate revenue.
Decades, at the very least. ” Ves guessed.

”The government is patient, and so are the investors.
Once these new settlements get up and running, the tax revenue they bring in will compensate for the loss of tax revenue from Bentheim.
This is the key argument that Senator Tovar and the other supporters of this plan have put forward. ”

As far-fetched as it sounded, the plan still had a basis in reality.
Though it depended on numerous assumptions, it was evidently enough to placate every faction.

”Even if the government has made nice with the BLM in this fashion, I still can ’t get over the fact that you ’re putting me up with Vincent again! ”

In her eyes, she probably thought that Ves was making too much of a fuss about his animosity against Vincent Ricklin.
Even though the latter was a scumbag, he happened to be a famous scumbag.

Of course, getting Ves to accept the commission was harder than she anticipated.

He had many objections to working for Vincent and the BLM.
Aside from getting caught in the aftermath of Vincent ’s crimes, Ves also had another reason to turn up his nose at this commission.

”This guy had the temerity to demand a ridiculous mech from me. ” Ves growled with gritted teeth.
”Just remembering that shameful mech is enough to ruin my day! ”

He regarded the second mech that he had ever built in his career as a black mark on his record.
Not only did Vincent abuse it to slaughter a lot of innocents, he also forced Ves to implement a ridiculous cosmetic addition to his custom mech!

A codpiece!

After the disastrous events that took place during that time, Ves did his best to forget the customized Marc Antony Mark I he built and delivered.
Who knew that the government and the BLM would one day come together and shake hands!

Now that Vincent Ricklin was on track to receive full amnesty for his deplorable actions, Ves could not use Vincent ’s fugitive status as an excuse to refuse this commission!

However, as a respectable professional with a reputation for excellence in mech design, Ves simply couldn ’t stomach the idea of designing another mech that matched Vincent ’s aesthetic standards.

Ves was 100 percent sure that Vincent hadn ’t changed in that regard!

”Look, Ves, it ’s just a simple commission.
One mech and you ’re done.
You don ’t have to do anything else to help the integration of the BLM into society.
Don ’t forget that your allies in the government have given you a lot of cover since your return.
Do you think everyone is okay with your Hexer girlfriend and your affiliations with the Hegemony? Do you think the Ministry of Defense would be so lenient to support your Desolate Soldier model to the point of requesting a couple of variants? ”

Ves looked at Marcella in the eyes with a measured expression.
He was beginning to think that this minority shareholder of his company wasn ’t purely advocating for herself.

She was still a friend, though.
Ves respected her and didn ’t particularly see anything wrong with her stance.
It was just that the details rubbed him in the wrong way.

In the end, Ves thought it was unwise to appear ungrateful for all of the support he enjoyed so far.
This was the nature of how connections worked.
If someone scratched his back, he needed to return the favor.

Even if the other monkey ’s back had turned into a stinking, festering cesspool filled with lice, Ves found it difficult to refuse his obligations.

He sighed.
I ’ll do this if it keeps everyone happy.
Don ’t expect me to be enthusiastic, though.
If Vincent turns out to be a prick who wants to make things difficult, this venture is over, am I clear? ”

”I ’ll pass that on. ” Marcella smiled in relief.
”Thank you, Ves.
As long as you do a good job, the Bright Republic will continue to support the LMC.
In fact, do you know why the Ministry of Defense requested you to design the Prideful Soldier? ”

Ves widened his eyes.
”Don ’t tell me… ”

”You guessed it! As you know, the BLM has a lot of mechs, but most of them are landbound machines.
If the BLM is to meet their obligations, they will need to acquire tens of thousands of spaceborn mechs! Our Prideful Soldier is one of the models that is in contention for this massive procurement spree! ”

Ves could barely contain his emotions when he imagined the BLM fighting the good fight with his products.

Compared to providing a custom mech to Vincent, this was much worse! If the BLM held any ill intentions, the consequences would be ruinous!

Nonetheless, a deal was a deal.
Now that Ves agreed to fulfill the commission brought up by Marcella, he had to make sure to complete it to the best of his ability.

This wasn ’t just about pleasing his allies.
His principles also compelled him to set aside his private grievances and fulfill the demands of his client.

As long as someone became his client, Ves would always put his full effort into completing the job.
Otherwise, he wouldn ’t be able to call himself a professional.

Even so, that didn ’t forbid him from grumbling about the situation.

”I didn ’t imagine I would still be put in the position of following someone else ’s orders. ” He wearily scratched his chin.

Ves was growing rather tired of his smooth-shaven skin.
Maybe he should grow out a stubble or a beard in order to make himself appear more mature.
He ’d look much less like a pushover.

”It ’s war time, Ves.
We can ’t let our biases and old hatreds get in the way of saving the Republic.
Everyone needs to do their part, including you.
At least you ’re spared from being drafted by the Mech Corps.
Instead, you merely have to fulfill a few requests and repay some favors.
Doesn ’t that sound like a good deal? ”

From an objective point of view, Ves agreed with her.
From an emotional point of view, Ves held nothing but resentment.

However, he did his best to suppress his belly of anger.
There was no point acting like a spoiled kid right now.
Marcella was absolutely right that designing a custom mech for Vincent as part of some publicity stunt was incomparable to the risks he took in the past.

Now that Marcella completed the main goal of her visit, she relaxed and began to talk about other topics.

There was no way she wouldn ’t bring up the explosive success of the Soldier product line.

”Right now, all of your Soldier models are doing well. ” She smiled.
”The Desolate Soldier is still on track to sell over 100,000 copies a month.
The Holy Soldier and Prideful Soldier models aren ’t slouches either.
It ’s too bad that the margins aren ’t very generous and that the money the company is earning is rapidly losing its value.
According to various sources, the authorities aren ’t going to loosen their spendthrift ways anytime soon.
The most they will do is keep monthly inflation within 20 percent. ”

This was devastating news to any institutions with large piles of cash.
Within less and a year, the same amount of money would effectively be worth ten times as less!

All kinds of awful consequences followed when money lost value this rapidly.
As someone who studied the mech markets and made deals for a living, Marcella ’s livelihood was also at stake.

”Will there even be a functioning economy left if the Bright Republic survives the Sand War? ”

Marcella nodded confidently.
”Whatever ruin inflation has wrought on our economy, it beats total annihilation.
There is no point in holding back if it reduces our chances of surviving the Sand War.
Everyone needs to make some sacrifices to stave off complete and utter defeat. ”

The Sand War was very different from the Bright-Vesia Wars of before.

As much as the Vesians wanted to conquer Bentheim, their Mech Legion would always start to run out of steam after a few years.

At that point, furthering war would no longer benefit the Vesians.
Instead, they needed to pay an increasingly greater price to make more achievements.
The losses plainly outweighed the gains, so there was ample reason to end the war at that stage.

This was not so against a stupid race like the sandmen.
Even their upper caste appeared to be dimwitted and inflexible compared to human leaders.

When the sandman leaders suddenly went crazy and sent enormous swathes of sandmen into human space, no one believed the war before one side or the other got wiped out in their entirety.

Since humanity occupied half of the galaxy, there was no way the sandmen would be left alive after the Sand War.
Not a single human expected to compromise with the accursed aliens.

While human civilization as a whole could easily swat this bug, the same could not be said for the states that made up part of human space.

Humanity was destined to win, but the Bright Republic and many other struggling states might fall before that happened.

This was the reason why everyone was resorting to all kinds of unthinkable means to mobilize more forces against the sandmen.
The Bright Republic needed to hold the line and defend its star systems until the sandmen finally exhausted their military might!

”You ’re right on one thing, Marcella. ” Ves sighed.
”The Bright Republic will become a very different place after the Sand War is over. ”

”Well, the Sand War isn ’t the only crisis that will determine the fate of our Republic.
The Komodo War is also hanging over our heads! Regardless who wins, the Komodo Star Sector will be their oyster! ”

If the Hegemony ever triumphed over their foes, the rest of the star sector had no choice but to align themselves with the winner.

While it was unlikely that the Hegemony would bother to annex the poor and impoverished third-rate states around them, it hardly even mattered.

Cultural and economic diffusion from the Hegemony to the weaker states would ensure that the entire star sector would soon take on a single, dominant identity.

”At least you ’re a woman. ” Ves remarked.
”If the Coalition wins, you won ’t lose anything.
If the Hegemony wins, you might even gain something! ”

Marcella chuckled.
”Guilty as charged! ”

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