Before Ves called his grandfather, he first sent him a message to see if he was available to talk.
He also wanted to give his grandfather some time to prepare for their conversation.

Fortunately, his grandfather wasn ’t asleep or restricted from talking to him.
After setting a quick appointment, Ves soon moved on to call his other helpers.

”Benny! ” Ves smiled.
”How ’s my favorite assistant? ”

Gavin ’s projection awkwardly smiled.
”Do you have any other assistants? ”

”Well, I ’ve met several of them, but all of them seem more capable than you.
How come you ’re the only Benny I know that can ’t fight? ”

”That ’s not my job description. ”

”That ’s the main reason you ’re my favorite assistant.
I don ’t have to be on guard against you.
You ’re the most incompetent Benny out of all of the ones I know.
You deserve a prize for that! ”

”Excuse me? ”

”On second thought, it ’s kind of embarrassing that my Benny isn ’t up to standard.
I should drop you off at an elite commando training camp or something.
You should really pick up some of the necessary skills that is expected of someone in your position.
If you can hijack a second-class starship with minimal assistance like me, you ’re qualified to call yourself a Benny! ”

”My name is Gavin, boss. ” The perplexed assistant reminded his employer with gritted teeth.

”I know, Benny.
Your name is one of the most important parts about your identity.
Cherish it well! ”

For the next ten minutes, Ves let go of everything and continued to ramble to Gavin like a demented teenager.
He hardly asked any questions about the LMC other than to gain his assistant ’s perspective on the LMC ’s market position.

Of course, what Gavin told him did not differ much from what Calsie already mentioned.

Ves truly felt he was back in the saddle now that he got in touch with Gavin again.
It was too bad that Gloriana hadn ’t taken him aboard her ship when she mounted her rescue.

After he finished getting back in touch with Gavin, he regained his composure and called Raymond Billingsley-Larkinson.

As the most senior executive of the LMC who actually ran the company, Raymond possessed a much more comprehensive understanding of its current condition.

Ves first quizzed the COO about the areas which Calsie already explained.
He received both a confirmation and some elaboration on what he already learned.

”The LMC is running on autopilot pretty much. ” The business-minded Larkinson elder remarked.
”Even if you are absent for half a decade, our company will still be able to turn a profit.
While our mech catalog is still small, the Soldier product line is such an enduring success that it will continue to function as our cash cow for many years to come. ”

”So there is not a lot of financial pressure on the LMC, is that right? ”

Raymond nodded.
”Part of that is also because we don ’t have that many expenses.
While we are investing a significant amount of money in building our second base at Kesseling VIII, our warchest is still replenishing.
It ’s enough to expand our reach in every third-rate state that is open to using our products! ”

”Ves pressed his lips with his finger.
”That sounds nice, but I take it we don ’t have enough money to compete in a second-rate state, right? ”

”Is that what you plan to do? Expand the LMC to a second-rate state? ”

”It ’s..
in consideration. ” Ves vaguely said.
”I already told you that I intend to become proficient in second-class mech design.
I ’m still committed to this.
In fact, if there is one benefit to my impromptu vacation, it ’s that I ’ve made a lot of progress on this front! ”

”Who will you sell your mechs to, Ves? The Fridaymen? Ordinarily, they should be quite receptive to your products once they discover the benefits of your glows, but… ”

Ves chuckled.
”Slaughtering an entire crew of Fridaymen is a good way to block my access to their mech market. ”

As for entering the Hegemony mech market, will the Hexers even approve of your designs? From what I ’ve learned, a panel of matriarchs must approve every design, and I doubt they will take you seriously! ”

”That ’s only in the cases where men are the lead designers. ” Ves added, showing little concern.
”Even if my involvement is problematic, one of my..
partners is already working on this issue.
I ’ll let you know if we have made a breakthrough on this matter. ”

If Calabast and Gloriana ’s arrangements somehow fell through, then Ves would just have to find another market to push his products.

Vicious Mountain had always been known as a hotbed for low-level conflicts.
Its odd culture of putting mech pilots in charge often led to spats between rivaling states and groups.

While the warmongering states of Vicious Mountain generally didn ’t fight each other to the death like what was happening in his home star sector, the wars occasionally escalated into major conflicts that only ended when one side gained a significant advantage!

This pattern persisted for centuries, which meant that its sector-wide mech market had grown very vigorous!

Aside from mech pilots, mech designers also enjoyed a lot of respect there.
Ves would probably be able to find a very willing audience if he decided to enter this market!

Of course, Ves hadn ’t made his choice yet.
He still had to find a way to get into the good graces of Madame Constance Wodin and the other Wodins in order to advance his relationship with Gloriana.

This was why he still wanted to enter the Hegemony ’s mech market despite all of the difficulties he faced.

Ves continued to discuss some other matters about the LMC with Raymond until he became satisfied with what he learned.

”Before you go, I ’d like to hear from you what you think about what is happening within our family. ” He said.
”What is your opinion on the impending split? ”

”The tension between the factions is irreconcilable. ” Raymond stated with absolute certainty.
”While your words managed to wake a lot of Larkinsons up, how they responded to your rant is different from individual to individual.
Some have reaffirmed their old values and commitments.
Others decided that following you is worth giving up outdated vows. ”

”Why have most Larkinsons decided to remain in the Bright Republic? ”

”Taking part in your ventures is considered a risk, Ves.
Not everyone is willing to take a major gamble that will decide how they will live out the rest of their lives.
It ’s mostly the younger and more restless Larkinsons who have decided to follow you to the Ylvaine Protectorate.
The Larkinsons who decided to remain in the Bright Republic are mostly those who are already content with their lives and station.
They ’re not ambitious for anything greater and they ’re not in the mood for an adventure. ”

I take it many of them decided to stay for the sole reason they are already tied down by their families, right? ”

Raymond nodded.
”When you are a husband with numerous young kids to take care of, uprooting your entire life in order to pursue an uncertain future is the last thing you want.
This is actually the main reason why many Larkinsons who are neutral in the dispute within our family have decided to decline our invitation. ”

”How many trueblood Larkinsons have followed us? Those who share our blood, I mean? ”

”I ’d say about ten percent so far.
Almost none have reconsidered, though.
A steady number of Larkinsons in the Bright Republic who haven ’t joined us at the start are still signing up with us.
I think this situation will persist over the next years as more and more younger Larkinsons grow up and want to take part in a more exciting venture. ”

”There ’s also the Larkinsons who are still serving their tours in the Mech Corps. ” Ves recalled.
”I imagine that some of them will likely defect to us once they finished their commitments. ”

”That ’s why I suggest that you keep our doors open to the ’other ’ Larkinsons for the foreseeable time.
None of the Larkinsons who approach us come with bad intentions.
It behooves us to accept their applications as they come. ”

Ves thought about it for a moment before nodding in agreement.
”That sounds fine.
I ’m about to talk to my grandfather Benjamin about the future of the Larkinson Family.
Do I need to know anything before I call him? What we ’ll decide will very likely affect our direction! ”

”Benjamin will tell you all you need to know.
Just keep in mind that Ark and him are in the neutral camp who decided to stay where they are.
Both of them have lived a full life in the Bright Republic, and they both feel they have a responsibility to lead the rest of the family. ”

That was something Ves had already expected.
Though disappointing, he agreed with their stance.

Where Ves was taking his side of the Larkinson Family was anything but stable and conventional!

In this regard, he was more than happy to pick up the Larkinsons who were still young and retained their ambitions.

At least Ves wouldn ’t feel guilty if he led them to disaster!

He cut off his call with Raymond shortly afterwards.
After a brief moment to collect his thoughts, he pulled the trigger and called his grandfather.

Since he had already been notified beforehand, Benjamin Larkinson picked up his call in an instant.

His grandfather looked much more fatigued than before.
His projection practically oozed exhaustion! His grey-white hair and wrinkles had grown even more intense, making him appear as if he was one step closer to the end of his life!

Fortunately, seeing his grandson ’s projection lifted some of his weariness.

I can ’t tell you how happy you ’re free again. ”

”You look..
Are you still hanging on, grandpa? ”

”Don ’t worry about me.
I still have plenty of years in my bones.
I won ’t drop down tomorrow because of what has taken place.
The Larkinsons still need a steady hand at the top to guide them through our current..
difficulties. ”

Ves looked steadily at his grandfather ’s projection.
Despite his age, his customary formal attire still conveyed a lot of strength.

He was still the bedrock of the Larkinson Family!

”What ’s your take on the split? ”

”I have already discussed this issue extensively with Raymond.
We ’re on opposite sides of the negotiating table, after all.
Both of us agree that a split is inevitable.
The problem is that the ’old family ’ and the ’new family ’ both disagree on who gets what. ”

”What are the most important points of contention? ”

”It all boils down to two broad categories. ” Benjamin raised his finger.
”First is the issue of identity and heritage.
Our Larkinson Family is a very successful military family with a very stellar reputation in the Bright Republic.
The old family wants to retain sole possession of the Larkinson name.
They ’re afraid that the new family under your lead will do something that will tarnish the honor of the Larkinson name in the Bright Republic and abroad. ”

Ves wanted to rub his ears.
”What? Those selfish conservatives want to strip us of our very own family names?! Are they serious?! ”

”It ’s a very major sticking point to them, Ves.
Honor is everything to them! You ’ve already proven yourself to be a Larkinson who doesn ’t shy away from upending tradition. ”

”We ’re never going back to the Bright Republic! ” Ves angrily exclaimed.
”We ’ll be going far away from the Bright Republic in the future! Whatever we do won ’t affect the old family at all! ”

”Plans can change. ”

”Let ’s not go into this right now. ” Ves forced himself to calm.
It wouldn ’t do to yell at his grandfather, especially since it wouldn ’t do any good to his health.
”What is the second point of contention? ”

”The distribution of assets.
I think it ’s pretty clear that the old family will retain possession of the Larkinson Compound and most of its existing assets. ”

”I ’m not interested in the real estate portfolio of the Larkinson Estate. ” Ves confirmed.

”The only asset that the old and new family are arguing about is how to split up the shares of the LMC.
Currently, our family owns 25 percent of the LMC.
The old family wants at least 20 percent of it.
They claim that you owe much of your success to your Larkinson heritage, so they are entitled to some of the fruits of your labor. ”


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