While Ves mainly worked on the Deliverer project, he did not entirely ignore the Adonis project.

The same went for Gloriana.

Both of them had to be involved in both projects in order to make sure they managed to achieve synergy when they moved on to the next design phases.

Gloriana ’s specialization required her to gain a thorough understanding of Vincent Ricklin ’s mind and body.

For this reason, Vincent became a regular guest of the design lab in the first couple of days.

Ves was deeply uncomfortable with letting Vincent inside the design lab.
He could do a lot of damage if he wanted to.
It didn ’t help that Vincent didn ’t shut up and frequently talked as he impatiently endured all of the tests and examinations.

”I ’m bored here! ” He shouted as his body was being subjected to a whole-body scan.
”Is this what you mech designers are doing all day? ”

”Please bear with it, Mr.
Vincent! ” Gloriana admonished from behind a control panel.

Different from the time they worked on the Resentful Soldier project, Gloriana had an assistant by her side.

Considering that it was important to gain an excellent understanding of Vincent ’s physical state, Ves suggested that Dr.
Lupo should be involved.

Though Gloriana initially doubted Dr.
Lupo, she fully became convinced in him after he showed off his expertise!

As Ves walked up to the control panel, he studied the readouts.
He failed to interpret the data.

”What ’s going on? ” Ves asked the exobiologist.

”We are almost done with measuring Mr.
Ricklin ’s physical state. ” Lupo replied, making sure not to disturb Gloriana as she focused on manipulating the scanner machine.
”It ’s quite surprising how healthy he is.
It ’s rare to encounter a baseline human body that has grown admiringly fit through natural means. ”

”What ’s that supposed to mean? ”

”Vincent Ricklin spends a lot of time on working out.
While he has made use of supplements to enhance his muscle growth, it is not to the extent that he has become dependent on them.
He hasn ’t augmented his body with any genetic treatments either. ”

”Of course not! ” Their current client yelled.
”I ’m proud to be human! I hate it when people are trying to get ahead by turning themselves into half-aliens! Don ’t they realize that they ’re losing their humanity?! ”

Lupo smiled.
”Ah, a human purist. ”

The practice of augmenting someone by applying alien genes to their genetic makeup was not accepted by every human.
Though Ves discovered that the practice turned out to be widespread among the upper echelons of society, most lower-class citizens detested the practice after it had almost led humanity to extinction during the twilight of the Age of Conquest!

In truth, Ves was not entirely unsympathetic of this ideology.
If Dr.
Jutland hadn ’t forcibly stuffed his body with enough alien-derived organs to turn him into a literal half-alien, he would have agreed with Vincent ’s viewpoint.

Unfortunately, the reality of modern society was that those who failed to keep up would always be left in the dust.
By far, most mech designers who managed to become a Journeyman did so because they augmented their intelligence in some way.

Every other successful human relied on some form of implants or genetic treatments to become better at their jobs.

Fortunately for Vincent, mech pilots were less dependent on augmentations than other professions.

Skill, discipline and genetic aptitude determined the performance of a mech pilot in a mech.

The former two could only be developed through training and hard work while the latter completely depended on birth and early nurturing.

So whether Vincent Ricklin wanted to remain a baseline human or not did not matter that much in his career.

Of course, those who were willing to augment aspects of themselves still gained some advantages.

”How skilled is he in piloting mechs? ”

Gloriana answered this time.

”To be honest, he ’s all over the place. ”

”HEY! I object to that, babe! ”

”Quiet! ” She hissed to Vincent before turning back to Ves.
”According to his own words, he piloted a variety of mechs when he fought for the Bentheim Liberation Movement.
He started off with your custom Marc Antony, then switched over to a spaceborn skirmisher before dumping it for a spaceborn rifleman mech.
He then went back to piloting some landbound mechs such as a knight mech and a striker mech. ”

”That… is certainly a very colorful resume. ” Ves haltingly responded.

”I didn ’t always get the luxury to choose the mech I wanted to pilot! It ’s not like the BLM can enter a mech outlet in Dorum and order a batch of mechs to be delivered to our secret base! ”

”Why did you pilot both landbound and spaceborn mechs, then? ”

”I didn ’t have any choice! Whenever I spend too long on a hidey hole on the surface, the Planetary Guard eventually caught up to us and forced us to flee! Whenever I ’m starting to get comfortable in space, the Mech Corps narrowed down our coordinates and forced us to lay low at one of our hidden bases! ”

”It sounds like the authorities should have done a better job. ”

”Haha! I don ’t go down that easily, buddy! I ’m stronger than you think! ”

Gloriana shook her head.
”I ’ve already tested his piloting performance in simulations.
He is passable in piloting most standard mech types, but his irregular training and experiences hasn ’t led to anything else. ”

”So he ’s basically a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. ”

”Unfortunately, yes.
The good news is that his ability to adapt will serve him well in piloting hybrid mechs.
The bad news is that his lack of specialization won ’t produce excellent results in battle. ”

”That ’s what the Adonis is for, babe! What does skill even matter when I get a top-notch custom mech for free? I ’ll crush the sandman with my super-duper expensive Adonis! The sandmen are already getting beat by starfighters and budget mechs! Once a mech like my Adonis takes the field, the sandmen will get their comeuppance! ”

Ves chuckled under his breath.

Neither Ves nor Gloriana thought highly of Vincent ’s statement.
While it was true that relying on the superior capabilities of an expensive mech could compensate for lack of skill, in practice it was very reckless for someone to allocate an unskilled mech pilot to an expensive mech.

An unskilled mech pilot would never be able to leverage the full strength of a powerful mech! Not only that, their lack of skill and judgement sometimes produced openings in their piloting style which any skilled or clever opponent could exploit!

The usual outcome was that the expensive mech suffered a premature death! Easy successes that followed after crushing victories against inferior opponents always inflated the confidence of the unskilled mech pilot.

It only took one instance of underestimating a skilled opponent for the expensive mech to become scrap before it paid off its cost!

It was even worse if the expensive mech lost against a cheaper mech!

While the sandmen weren ’t comparable to mechs, they shouldn ’t be underestimated.

A blowhard like Vincent whose bark was bigger than his bite would probably get a rude awakening on the battlefield.

Whatever battles he fought while he was with the BLM didn ’t compare to the brutal battles against the sandmen.

Quantity mattered more than quality.
While more expensive and resilient mechs survived longer, the sandmen sometimes employed exceptionally powerful laser attacks that devastated entire mech companies at once!

Against such firepower, not even an expert mech could guarantee its survival!

After Ves gained an understanding of Vincent ’s piloting ability, he left Gloriana and Dr.
He returned to his own corner at his design lab and sat next to Ketis.

”Hey, Ves. ” Ketis greeted him with a bored tone as she pressed her head against her hand.

”Are you still down about not being able to design a swordsman mech? ”

She breathed deeply.
”You don ’t have to be worried about me.
I can take care of myself.
Since there ’s little point for me to pursue my passion at the moment, I ’ve been spending my free time on my studies. ”

”How far are you in your studies? ”

”According to the virtual tests I ’ve taken, I ’ve reached the standard of a Journeyman for math, mechanics and metallurgy.
Right now, I ’m working on reaching the same level for physics and materials science. ”

Ves looked impressed.
”That ’s really fast! ”

She snorted.
”Compared to your girlfriend, that ’s nothing. ”

”That ’s not a fair comparison, and you know it.
You ’re a daughter of a frontier who grew up under difficult conditions.
Gloriana was born with a silver spoon and received a lot of genetic treatments as she grew up.
She even has an implant in her head that has boosted her cognitive abilities to a level that I don ’t even think I can catch up to unless I install my own implant! ”

”You boosted my intelligence, right? When I found out that my learning speed has improved, I thought I caught up with the likes of you and Gloriana.
It turns out that I ’ve been really naive. ”

”Hey, you don ’t have to talk like that. ” Ves softly spoke and placed his hand on her solid back.
”Don ’t forget that you ’re younger than Gloriana.
Even if she was more impressive than you at your age, you ’re right at the point where Apprentices grow the fastest! As long as you work hard in the next ten years, I might congratulate you for becoming a Journeyman! ”

”I don ’t know, Ves.
You ’ve directed a lot more attention to the new Tovar mech designers lately. ”

Ves frowned.
”Stop that.
I never meant to neglect you.
It ’s just that I ’ve already imparted most of the lessons I wanted to convey to you.
For me to leave you on your own is a statement of confidence on my part.
I trust you to handle yourself and complete your assignments without any hand holding.
It ’s different for the Tovars.
Even though they benefited from the orthodox education that you lack, their mindsets aren ’t as good and they don ’t really know what to do.
I have to explain what I expect from them step by step, and that just requires a bit more time. ”

”I ’m sorry, Ves.
It ’s unfair for me to complain to you.
I just miss the early days when we were together.
With Gloriana and all of the new people in your life, I can hardly get a hold of you these days. ”

”Are you lonely? ” Ves looked at her in concern.
”Ah, you must be missing your fellow Swordmaidens, right? ”

”I guess I am. ” She admitted.
”I haven ’t spent this long away from the Swordmaidens since they first picked me up.
Now that they ’re working for Calabast, they ’ve gone to dark, making it impossible for me to contact them.
I don ’t even know where they are or what they are doing right now. ”

”You should make some more friends here.
There are more people besides me and the Swordmaidens in your life. ”

”I know.
I tried my best.
I don ’t really get along with anyone else except Calsie.
I tried getting along with the Larkinsons, but they ’re so rigid and proper that I ’ve always felt awkward in their presence.
The kids are cute, though. ”

”You don ’t have any other friends? ”

”..I guess not. ”

This sounded like a serious problem.
Ves figured he should really do something before Ketis snapped or something.

An idea suddenly came to mind.

”Maybe you need to spend some time elsewhere. ” Ves suggested.
”Just like how I traveled to Centerpoint and went on a tour through the star sector, you should do something different in order to invigorate your passion and gain new inspiration.
You can also make some new friends while you ’re spending your time away from Cloudy Curtain. ”

This time, Ketis looked intrigued.
A bit of excitement suffused her mood.
”Is that a good idea? Right now, there are two major wars going on in the star sector.
It ’s not really safe for me to travel. ”

”You don ’t have to go on a tour like I did, Ketis.
I think it ’s enough if you spend some time on an entirely different planet in order to enjoy some fresh new experiences. ”

”Where do you think I should go, then? ”

Ves smiled.
”Bentheim. ”

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