All of the gambits he employed so far culminated to this moment.
Though Ves had taken some enormous risks, he believed that Senator Tovar was farsighted enough to take the bigger picture into account.

A short moment passed in silence as Senator Tovar steadily worked out the implications of what Ves had just said.

Though Ves boldly inflated his own worth in front of Tovar, he had cause to do so.
Not a single Journeyman in his generation could match his prowess in mech design.
His design philosophy alone was so remarkable that anyone with a brain could tell that Ves could make greater achievements in the future.

The only complication was that the future was never set in stone.
There was always an element of uncertainty involved in making assumptions of the future.

Who could tell if Senator Tovar was optimistic about his trajectory? If the old man believed that Ves was unlikely to make it very far, then the response wouldn ’t be very good.

As time stretched on, Ves tried his best not to show any hesitation.
Maintaining a confident demeanor was essential in negotiations.
If he showed any weakness, someone as formidable as Senator Tovar would instantly pounce.

Fortunately, Gloriana was by his side.
The presence of his girlfriend not only restrained the old man, but also boosted his confidence.

Eventually, the senator finished his deliberations.

”Our Tovar Family already maintains strong ties with several famed Seniors.
For example, Professor Ventag happens to mentor a number of promising descendants. ”

While Ves hadn ’t spent any specific research on how many Tovars went on to become mech designers, they were sure to be involved.

From what he knew of the Tovar Family, they mainly engaged in politics, administration and commerce.

Since this was the Age of Mechs, any influence involved in the latter would never neglect the mech industry.
Mech designers occupy such an important position in the economy of a state that the Tovars would definitely try to occupy a piece of the pie.

Ves happened to memorize the identities of each Senior Mech Designer in the Bright Republic.
As far as he knew, none of them were Tovars.
Even if allies such as Professor Ventag happened to be on their side, that was not as good as raising a high-ranking mech designer in the family itself!

The amount of money and effort the Wodins put into turning Gloriana into a promising Journeyman already signified how difficult it was to nurture a good mech designer.

It wasn ’t difficult to nurture a random relative into an Apprentice or something.
It was an entirely different matter to raise a Journeyman or Senior.

In truth, Constance Wodin lucked out in the case of her daughter.
Ves never asked how many attempts the Wodins had made to nurture a mech designer like her.
There must be many Apprentices in her dynasty who would never be able to surpass the extraordinary threshold because of the absence of spiritual potential.

Considering how rare it was for someone to develop spiritual potential, Ves was not surprised to know that the Tovars failed to nurture their own high-ranking mech designer.

”I have great respect for every Senior in our state. ” Ves responded politely.
”However, in my eyes mech designers such as Professor Ventag have already approached the limits of their potential.
Even if they are able to prolong their lives for a couple of hundred years, it ’s doubtful if they will ever be able to surpass their current ranks. ”

”I do not think these eminent mech designers will appreciate you for saying that. ” Tovar retorted with a frown.
”There are over a hundred Seniors in the Republic.
Any one of them can achieve a breakthrough at any moment. ”

”How likely will that happen, do you think? Even if a Senior from our state manages to buck the trend and go further, what are the odds that he or she will be a mech designer that is friendly to the Tovars? ”

”And you think you stand a better chance? ”

”Oh, I know I do. ” Ves grinned and boldly stretched his arm over his girlfriend ’s shoulder.
”The Desolate Soldier is a product of collaboration, right Gloriana? ”

Gloriana smiled and gazed at him in infatuation.
Both of us have applied our respective specialties on the Desolate Soldier design.
Our mechs wouldn ’t be nearly as exceptional if I wasn ’t involved. ”

Normally, she wouldn ’t take pride over a relatively modest contribution to the design of a mass market mech.

Yet this was different.
The Desolate Soldier design was the first product of her collaboration with the man she loved.

Not only that, she also knew that Ves needed her support in order to strengthen his position in these talks.

Ves appreciated that and kissed her on the cheek, which elicited a happy giggle from his girlfriend.

Of course, Senator Tovar was not amused at their display of affection.
”What is your point, Mr.
Larkinson? ”

This was the second time the old man referred to Ves in that manner.
Whether deliberately or not, the senator signalled that Ves had gained the right to negotiate with him on more even grounds.

”If you aren ’t confident in me, then why not place your confidence in Gloriana? ” Ves proposed.
”Second-class mech designers always enjoy brighter prospects.
The advantages they ’ve received from birth and during their upbringing is very difficult to surmount.
At the very least, I don ’t think any current Seniors in the Bright Republic can equal Gloriana when she matures. ”

The old man shook his head.
”Miss Wodin is not a Brighter. ”

”I know.
She ’s with me.
As long as we are together, we ’re a package deal.
My students are her students.
If I promise to do my best to mentor a student, my girlfriend will readily do the same. ”

Gloriana vigorously nodded.
”If Ves can ’t meet his promises for some reason, I will certainly pick up where he left. ”

Bringing in Gloriana must have taken Senator Tovar aback.
The old man paused yet again as he stared at them with a powerful gaze.

Ves waited patiently for the senator to make up his mind.
He believed in his argument.

It was very difficult to catch the attention of a future Senior or Master from a very advanced state.

Even if Ves once managed to become apprenticed to Master Olson, his background heavily limited his future accomplishments.
Without the expensive genetic treatments and augmentations that many second-class mech designers enjoyed, those who emerged from poorer states would always be a step behind.

What Ves promised was different.
Though he hadn ’t been explicit in his offer, he intimated that Gloriana and him would do more to nurture any potential Tovar mech designers under their care.

Not even a man as powerful as Senator Tovar could get a Master from the Coalition or Hegemony to accept one of his descendants as a disciple.

Ves was different.
One of his greatest shortcomings was his lack of subordinate mech designers.
He welcomed any competent mech designers that wanted to work under him at the LMC.

”You think very highly of yourself. ”

”I think we have the capital to do so if the Desolate Soldier is a sign. ” Ves easily responded.

He would never dare to act so confidently in front of Senator Tovar if he hadn ’t already proven himself.

To a mech designer, designing a successful mech was the most direct way of demonstrating their value.

The senator slowly tapped the surface of his wooden armrest.
The man had to make a lot of considerations.
No matter what decision he made, the repercussions would be great.

Ves had steered Senator Tovar into making his own gamble.
Was the old man confident enough in Ves and Gloriana ’s future prospects to entrust some of his Tovar descendants in their care?

At this time, his finger stopped tapping.
”Very well.
You ’ve convinced me to give you a chance.
I will allocate five mech designers of my family to your company.
Treat them well, and I shall do the same to you.
Is that understood? ”

”I ’ll do my best to mentor them, but I ’m no miracle worker. ” Ves cautiously raised his palm.
”We can ’t provide much guidance to mech designers that are too old and set in their ways.
We also can ’t do much if your mech designers turn out to be spoiled brats. ”

”Beggars can ’t be choosers, young man.
It is very problematic to gather these mech designers from their existing positions. ”

Ves frowned.
It sounded as if Senator Tovar expected trouble.

”I ’ll smack anyone around if they cause any problems in my company.
Regardless of status or background, only competence matters to me.
Will that be a problem? ”

Tovar shook his head in dismissal.
”Do what you will.
As long as you act within your limits, I will only pay attention to the result. ”

That was such a Flashlight thing to say.
Ves shouldn ’t be surprised that Tovar expressed such a sentiment.
He knew that the old man possessed a great amount of influence in the military intelligence agency.

For that reason, Ves actually felt that the gap between him and Senator Tovar had shrunk a little.

Though they were still very different people, Ves succeeded in transforming his relationship with the Tovars, and by extension the government.

Before, the Tovars only looked out for Ves because he was a useful asset in their eyes.

Now that Ves convinced the Tovars to place some of their mech designers under his wing, it was not proper anymore for them to treat him as a disposable pawn!

No further words needed to be shared.
A basic verbal contract with many implied terms had formed between them.
Both of them nodded to each other, as if confirming their agreement.

”My assistant will be in touch. ” Senator Tovar spoke with a noticeably lighter tone than before.
”Due to the current circumstances, the mech designers I intend to place under your care might take a few weeks to arrive.
Be sure to receive them properly once they arrive at your planet. ”

”I will do my best to welcome your men. ” Ves smiled.

After sharing a few more platitudes, the call finally came to an end.

As soon as the projection disappeared, Ves sunk back in his couch as if he lost all strength.

”That was nerve-wracking! ”

Gloriana instantly dropped her formal posture and went back to acting like an adoring lover.
She turned towards him and caressed his smooth cheek.
”You did really well, Ves.
From what I can tell, you managed to convince the senator in betting on our ascension.
Now that he has agreed to place some of his descendants under our care, he ’ll do everything he can to cover for you in the Bright Republic. ”

This was what Ves wanted to accomplish!

Though he initially wanted to get Senator Tovar to treat him differently, he realized that he wouldn ’t be able to gain respect if he didn ’t give the old man any concrete benefits.

By making this promise, Ves automatically tied their interests together.

If Ves encountered any setbacks, the Tovars would also suffer.

If Ves achieved success, then the Tovars would also make some gains!

This was the best way to achieve a stable relationship!

From now on, his relationship with the Tovars no longer centered around his past services and associations with Flashlight and the senator.

”Our new deal is a much stronger basis for an alliance! ” Ves happily spoke.

He didn ’t necessarily make this deal for himself.
If the Bright Republic became hospitable to him, then he did not object to moving to another state.

What he truly wanted was to avoid any repercussions to the Larkinson Family.
If Ves fell out of favor for whatever reason, he did not wish his family to suffer in his stead.

To put it bluntly, the Larkinson Family was the strongest shackle that tied him to the Bright Republic.

The Tovars would definitely watch out for the Larkinsons from now on! Even if his family hadn ’t been explicitly included in the deal, there was no way they would neglected!

So long as the Larkinson Family was able to shelter under the umbrella of the Tovar Family, Ves would have no more worries when it was time for him to embark on his grand expedition!

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