A carrier that belonged to former BLM rebels made landfall on Cloudy Curtain.

Its arrival attracted a lot of attention!

If the government hadn ’t granted amnesty to the members of the BLM, the ship would have never been allowed to approach!

The detachment of the Mech Corps that had been dispatched to garrison the Cloudy Curtain System could only sit still while their former enemies paraded in public.

Before Ves met with Vincent Ricklin and his companions, he called Leland to his office to discuss the coming meeting.

”Vincent Ricklin has already attracted a lot of public attention. ” Leland told Ves.
”You will have to watch your conduct whenever the two of you are in public.
In fact, don ’t assume that you are free to do what you want when you are behind closed doors.
Apparently, Vincent has hired his own media crew to manage his own media presence. ”

”You guys are just letting him do that? ”

”As long as Vincent supports the deal the government has made with the BLM, it ’s not a bad idea to give him a greater voice.
He ’s quite shrewd in that regard.
He is willing to be used as long as he benefits in the process.
It ’s a win-win situation to both the Bright Republic and himself. ”

Ves sardonically smiled.
He wasn ’t the only one who learned how to cooperate with the government.

”It sounds like he ’s quite a shrewd guy. ”

”According to our investigation, Vincent hasn ’t been entirely onboard with the BLM ’s ideals.
In fact, some of our analysts doubt that he even believed in its original cause. ” The Flashlight agent remarked.

”You mean he ’s just a scumbag who used the BLM for his own ends? ”

”I wouldn ’t phrase it quite that way.
He ’s an opportunist who has already abandoned ship once when his sister threatened his position in the Ricklin Family.
We believe that Vincent has grown disillusioned with the life of a fugitive rebel.
Living from day to day in a drab, underground bunker while worrying about the authorities catching up to him is not very pleasant. ”

That matched with what Ves thought of Vincent Ricklin.
His initial reason to defect to the BLM must have been an act of desperation.
He just wanted to get out of the clutches of the Ricklin Family, and the BLM was the only organization on Bentheim who dared to shelter him and offer new opportunities.

”Do I need to watch out for anything when I meet with Vincent? ”

”I think it ’s best if I accompany you whenever you interact with him. ” Leland said.
”The BLM is an old enemy of ours.
I can help manage your interactions with their former members. ”

Ves ruffled Lucky ’s head as his cat dozed on his desk.
”I suppose you also want to be present in order to keep me under control.
You can ’t have me saying anything inconvenient. ”

The spy did not deny his accusation.
”A lot of things can go wrong.
Just consider me as insurance.
So long as neither of you make any missteps, I won ’t have to intervene. ”

Do you believe him, Lucky? ”

His cat glanced up at Leland.
”Meow. ”

I think so too. ”

”Please don ’t plot any violence against Vincent.
He ’s already in control over a considerable number of mech pilots.
By all signs, he is planning to form his own mercenary corps to maintain his grip on his subordinates.
The mech he wants you to design is an important component in his plot.
The more impressive his mech, the greater his ability to attract former members of the BLM under his banner! ”

”That sounds dangerous. ”

Leland smiled.
”He ’s a double-edged sword, but that is what makes him so valuable.
Many of the former leaders and cadre of the Bentheim Liberation Movement are bitter fighters.
They ’ve treated the government as an enemy for decades, perhaps even their entire life! Even if they made peace with the Bright Republic, their long-held beliefs haven ’t changed. ”

”And Vincent is different? ”

”He is.
He ’s younger and he has only been with the BLM for less than a decade.
Since he mainly looks out for himself, he isn ’t very attached to the old ideology of the BLM.
Neither does he see the authorities as his enemies despite clashing with them several times. ”

Ves understood a bit better why Senator Tovar and the government placed so much importance in Vincent Ricklin.

This fellow was a sellout!

”How am I supposed to treat him, then? ”

”Just act politely.
Don ’t try to pull off any stunts or provoke any incidents.
We don ’t need you to promote the amnesty deal either.
Our main objective is to gain Vincent Ricklin ’s cooperation.
We want to show everyone that Vincent and the former members of the BLM can successfully reintegrate into society. ”

That didn ’t sound very complicated.
Once he finished his discussion with Leland, he moved down to the ground floor of the LMC ’s headquarters.

Due to the importance of the meeting, Ves decided to dress up in his full Pride of Dusk ensemble.

He briefly contemplated wearing his decorative cat ears, but he decided to keep them in his pockets.
He did not wish to make himself appear silly in front of Vincent Ricklin.

Gloriana kept her own pair out of sight as well.
She wore a professional business outfit that did not attract too much attention.
She knew that it wouldn ’t be appropriate for her to involve herself in matters concerning the Bright Republic.

Their cats were present as well.
Clixie sat next to Gloriana as if she was on guard.

Lucky meanwhile hissed at the giant mounted body of Zeigra had been placed in the center of the foyer of the HQ.

Ves looked up at the body of the former Crown Cat and had to admit it looked impressive.

In his first reunion with Vincent, he did not wish to appear weak.
He wasn ’t the harmless mech designer he used to be back when he was a Novice all those years ago.

Just as Vincent changed, Ves had changed even more!

Some trepidation welled up within him as he spotted movement up front.
The transparent front entrance slid open to allow a procession of wildly-dressed people to enter.

The thugs looked anything but professional.
Wearing wild clothes that showed off their tattoos and piercings, the former separatists clearly used to be part of the lower ranks of the BLM ’s hierarchy.

While Ves ordinarily disdained elitism, he couldn ’t help but react the same as Gloriana.
Both of them expressed some disgust at the sloppy appearances of Vincent ’s companions.

Of course, they quickly schooled their faces once they noticed all of the recorder bots floating around.
Following behind them was a procession of journalists and media crew.

This first meeting appeared to be a very significant event.
Ves understood a bit better why Leland insisted on being present.

He could really do a lot of damage if he said something wrong!

Emerging from the middle of the crowd of thugs was the star of the show.
Vincent Ricklin, appearing much more buff and confident than Ves remembered!

As Vincent stepped ahead of his followers with a delightful grin on his face, Ves momentarily became overwhelmed by the manliness the former rebel exuded.

His greasy, dirty blond hair trailed messily over his shoulders.
His tight black pants accentuated his powerful legs.

What was worse was that Vincent hadn ’t even bothered to wear a proper shirt! Instead, he wore nothing else on his upper body except for an unbuttoned vest!

His sculpted abs and chest were plain to see to everyone! Several recorder bots floated in a circle around Vincent, capturing all of his muscle definition in the highest fidelity they could manage!

”Hello there, babe. ” Vincent completely ignored Ves and walked up to Gloriana.
”You smell as lovely as you look.
How about I bring you back to Bentheim and show you around? ”

Gloriana scrunched her face and deliberately leaned against Ves.
”I have many obligations here.
We must each do our part in the fight against the sandmen. ”

That was a very good deflection.
Ves inwardly clapped his hands at her response.

Seeing that he encountered a tough nut, Vincent reluctantly left her be.
Instead, he turned to Ves.

For a moment, they stared at each other.
While Ves did not appear as outrageously handsome as Vincent, he did not consider himself any less of a man!

Ves quietly lowered the barrier to his Pride of Dusk, causing him to emanate a prideful and intimidating aura!

Vincent suddenly lightened up and whistled impressively.
You make me feel like I ’m facing one of your Prideful Soldier mechs! ”

Ves recalled that he inserted a mote of Zeigra ’s spirituality in his Prideful Soldier design.
Due to the Prideful Soldier ’s popularity among the former members of the BLM, Vincent should already be familiar with its glow!

Ves gradually toned down the aura emanating from his Pride of Dusk.
He kept it at a low level in order to infuse him with some confidence.

”Welcome to the Mech Nursery, Mr.
Ricklin. ”

”Heh! You ’ve grown a lot! I remember that you used to do business at a tiny workshop when we first met.
Now, look at you! According to the news, you ’re selling hundreds of thousands of mechs per month now! ”

”My Soldier product line has been very successful. ”

”That ’s exactly why I want you to design my Adonis! Only you and your babe can design the mech that I ’ve dreamt of piloting for so many years! I still remember the times when I piloted the Marc Antony you ’ve built for me.
I still regret losing it.
Every other mech designer I ’ve approached doesn ’t understand my needs as well as you, Ves! ”

Calling his dream mech the Adonis already suggested something awful to Ves.
He did his best to keep his expression under control.

”Let us proceed to my office and discuss the commission in detail. ” Ves suggested and glanced at the thugs he brought and the journalists following on his heels.
”We can leave these guests behind. ”

Vincent shook his head, making his hair move exceptionally dazzling for some reason.
”My buddies accompany me everywhere, and so do my personal crew. ”

”Are you really willing to discuss your demands for your mech in the presence of a recorder bot? ”

”It ’s okay! My Adonis doesn ’t have any weaknesses! ”

Ves wanted to palm his face.

Instead, he rigidly turned around and stepped to the elevator.

”Follow me, then. ”

Some time later, they moved into his office.

Fortunately, the presence of Nitaa and the guards of the Glory Battalion restrained Vincent ’s thugs.
They silently slumped on the sofas after Vincent waved them aside.

However, Vincent ’s personal attendant as well as a recorder bot continued to accompany him as he sat down on another couch.

Ves sat down on the opposite side with Gloriana and Leland sitting by his side.

For some reason, Vincent kept sniffing the air as if he was enjoying the smell of Gloriana ’s perfume.

Ves decided it was best if they moved on to business right away.

”Tell me about the mech you want us to design. ”

”Ah, my Adonis! ” Vincent excitingly exclaimed.
”The idea is simple.
I want you to design a hybrid mech that is similar to your old Marc Antony designs.
I don ’t want the exact same thing, but something similar.
Since I ’ve promised to fight the good fight, my Adonis should be a spaceborn mech that is armed with several ranged options! I want my mech to come with shoulder-mounted missile launchers, wrist-mounted nail drivers and a badass rifle that can smash the sandmen with each shot I unleash! ”

”That sounds..
doable, especially if the budget is still as generous. ” Ves cautiously judged.

”That ’s not all! The weapons of my Adonis are only one side of the coin! I also want it to be beefy and solid! It has to be able to take a lot of hits! Not only that, but it has to look good in battle! I want my mech to look masculine.
I want its chest plating to resemble a muscle cuirass.
Make sure its contours match my own muscle definition! It has to be a mech that perfectly echoes my own body! ”

okay… ”

”Oh yeah, you can ’t forget about the most important component of all. ”

A very bad feeling overcame Ves.
”Which is…? ”

”Guess. ” Vincent teased as he leaned back and spread his legs.

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