Chapter 1846 Accelerated Expansion

His tense and vague meeting with Calabast was just a brief interruption of his current routine.

With nothing requiring his attention for the foreseeable time, Ves freely immersed himself on working on his mechs.

He felt a lot of relief at being able to finalize to the refit of the Shield of Samar.
The mech started off as a airly eccentric third-class super-medium space knight.
Now, its vastly-improved armor system paired with upgrades to a couple of key systems turned it into a veritable bastion in space!

The moment Merrill and the rest put the final pieces into place, they subjected the mech to an extensive amount of examinations.
Nothing seemed amiss, which wasn ’t surprising considering how closely Ves and Gloriana paid attention to every detail.

Technically, the mech still needed to undergo a raft of testing.
This wasn ’t strictly necessary, but highly recommended.
A mech that experienced so many changes almost certainly experienced a lot of shifts in many areas.

While the Shield of Samar was still an Aurora Titan mech, its specs and configuration differed so much that Jannzi basically had to relearn how to pilot her personal mech!

As she was about to board the transport that had already been loaded with the upgraded Shield of Samar, Ves stopped by the Avatar base to see her off.

”You ’ve certainly changed. ” He said after he patted her shoulder.
”You ’re a far cry from the young woman who bewilderingly managed to become an expert candidate all those years ago.
You ’ve grown into a fine expert pilot in the making.
The way you carry yourself and the air you radiate is already affecting the people around you like a real expert pilot! ”

She smiled briefly at him.
”I ’m a far cry from an actual expert pilot like Venerable Brutus Wodin.
He is a true example to look up to.
I ’m satisfied with my mech, but not myself. ”

”What ’s the problem? ”

”I don ’t know.
I feel as if there is something missing in me. ” She closed her eyes for a moment.
”I ’m luckier than most of my fellow mech pilots for becoming an expert candidate, but..
I never felt as if I deserve this honor.
Being chosen is not the same as being worthy. ”

”Is that the reason for your lack of progress lately? ”

”I ’m not in a hurry to advance. ” She said.
”In my current state, I would never allow myself to become an expert pilot.
I have to be absolutely certain of who I am and what I am fighting for.
Being a Larkinson is not enough. ”

”Are you confused? ”

”Don ’t worry, Ves.
Everything is fine.
I ’ve received lots of advice and words of wisdom from the other Larkinsons. ”

There was nothing Ves could do to ease her promotion.
She needed to find her own way to break past this crucial point.

He didn ’t really understand what was necessary for expert candidates to advance to expert pilots.
There was a world of difference between their respective force of wills.
Whereas it was largely formless and powerless to expert candidates, they gained real power once they became expert pilots!

The differences between the two were both subtle and profound.
Both of them possessed the same abilities but at vastly different strengths.
There was something about expert pilots that made them special!

Journeymen like Ves relied on design seeds.
Expert pilots like Ghanso and Brutus put most of their spiritual strength in their force of wills.

The evolution of force of will was therefore key to the advancement of mech pilots!

If Ves followed this line of reasoning, then willpower was likely the key to Jannzi ’s promotion.
As long as she developed enough will, she would certainly prove herself worthy one day! He just hoped this day wouldn ’t come too far in the future.

Once Jannzi and the Shield of Samar flew off into orbit, Ves considered this side project to be done.

With how much care and effort he put into the upgrade project, Ves did not anticipate any major deviations.
It was always easier to anticipate the performance of a variation of an existing mech.

Since he was already at the Avatar base, Ves decided that he might as well look around.

With Lucky exploring him and Nitaa and a handful of bodyguards trailing behind him, his arrival immediately caught the attention of the Avatars.

Ves had to wave them down several times in order to force them to resume their duties.

Overall, he was very happy with what he saw.
The Avatars hadn ’t grown any weaker since their forced departure from Cloudy Curtain.
If anything, his Avatars grew stronger!

There were several reasons why he thought so.
For one, the cohesion between the Avatars increased.
The circumstances that led to their departure did not cause them to lose heart.
Instead, they became more emboldened! Siding with Ves meant agreeing to abandon the Bright Republic.

Though this was a harsh choice for many of his subordinates, the Avatars largely committed to their boss! They were willing to leave everything behind in order to take part in a risky but promising venture!

Second, the formation of the Larkinson Clan invigorated everyone related to the Larkinsons! This not only included the members of the clan, but also the people around them! Since the Avatars were completely dedicated to Ves, they also became affected by the significant shift in purpose!

He was gratified to see that every Avatar, particularly the mech pilots, became more and more invested in their new identities.
Being an Avatar meant something now.
It wasn ’t just a job anymore!

Part of the growth in the Avatars was reflected by the addition of new members.
Ever since they settled down on Kesseling VIII, Commander Melkor cautiously started to recruit a select number of Ylvainans.

Due to their fanaticism and worship towards the Bright Martyr, thousands of mech pilots constantly applied to join the Avatars!

Only a few dozen Ylvainan mech pilots got their wish.
Not only did Melkor and Ves want to make sure the Ylvainans were more committed to Ves rather than their faith or the Protectorate, they also wanted to maintain the high standards of the Avatars by hiring the best!

The only ones who eventually managed to pass through the gauntlet were those who successfully proved themselves.

To no one ’s surprise, the overwhelming majority of new recruits consisted of elite Kronon mech pilots!

Their strength and competences as well as their prior battle experience easily earned them the respect of the original members of the Avatars.
Though cultural and religious differences still plagued their interactions to an extent, both groups didn ’t hesitate to find common ground!

Though the professionalism and discipline exuded by the elite Kronon mech pilots made them rather stiff to be around, they also fit in well for that reason.
Their military bearing masked some of the intense religious beliefs they held.
This reminded many veterans in the Avatars of the elite mech pilots of the Mech Corps!

Ves observed something else that brought him a lot of hope.

The days where the Avatars were forced to restrain their expansion was largely gone now.
After several years of investment, training and indoctrination, a large and solid cadre had formed.

These vital and loyal Avatars served as the skeleton of a larger, greater mech force! According to Commander Melkor ’s plans, he would continue to recruit more Ylvainans until their numbers were bolstered by 200 new recruits!

Combined with the Larkinsons and other Brighters that had also signed up with the Avatars, Ves hoped to grow the Avatars into a mixed mech force comprising up to 500 mechs!

Seventy percent of them would consist of spaceborn mechs and mech pilots.
The remainder revolved fully around landbound mechs.

Of course, this seventy-to-thirty split was not set in stone.
In the future, when his mech pilots became more skilled and his mechs became more versatile, he hoped his mechs and mech pilots could operate in multiple environments.

In fact, many second-class spaceborn mechs in use in the Friday Coalition and the Hexadric Hegemony also functioned as aerial mechs in a pinch.
This was something that Ves definitely wanted the Avatars to work towards.

Though expanding the Avatars to five hundred mechs sounded a lot, it was even more exaggerated for the Living Sentinels!

His lesser mech force was slated to field double the amount of Avatars! At 1,000 mechs and mech pilots on its roster, the Living Sentinels would soon possess the strength to contend against military units!

In fact, both Ves and Commander Magdalena wanted to expand the Sentinels even further and turn it into the equivalent of a mech regiment.
They cut those plans short when they came across several problems.

First, their funding would become rather strained.
Procuring so many mechs and hiring so many mech pilots and support personnel wasn ’t cheap!

Second, procuring all of the carriers necessary to transport so many mechs simply couldn ’t be done during this awful climate! Ever since the Sand War broke out, the demand for starships had gone through the roof!

The Sentinels had long tried to order starships in the Bright Republic without any luck.

Fortunately, the Ylvaine Protectorate wasn ’t as impassive towards Ves and his organizations.
Due to his popularity among the Ylvainans and the support provided by the Curins, a number of Ylvainan shipyards were willing to take his orders.

Of course, there were limits.
He could only order light carriers which could be built quickly and cheaply as the Protectorate ’s economy was still in shambles.
He also had to pay full market price for his ships, which basically meant they were inflated by at least three times compared to pre-war price levels!

All of this meant that in the short term, the strained supply of starships was the primary bottleneck that limited the expansion of his forces.
They could only get away with expanding the Avatars to 500 mechs and the Sentinels to 1000 mechs because of the various accommodations made by the Ylvainans.

Ves tried not to impose too much on their generosity.
Not only did he wish to avoid owing any favors to them, his forces also had a lot of difficulty in finding spacers to crew all of those ships!

”We ’re already leaning heavily on our host state as it is. ” He muttered.
”Over half of our ships will primarily be crewed by Ylvainans! ”

That made him feel rather uncomfortable.
He had no problem when his organizations mainly consisted of Brighters.
Yet the introduction of so many Ylvainans would inevitably make their faith take root in his expeditionary fleet!

He snorted.
”Well, if I had a choice between hexism and the Ylvainan Faith, I would definitely choose the latter! ”

As Ves continued to spot more signs of Ylvainan influence due to the influx of so many local mech pilots and support personnel, he began to feel more restless for change.

Staying in the Protectorate was supposed to be temporary.
He just wanted to take refuge in the friendly state until he and his organizations were ready to move on.
The moment they received all of their starships and put them in working order, Ves contemplated leaving for greener pastures.

He contemplated several possible destinations as he finished his casual tour.
He waved at the mech pilots gathered around the four second-class practice mechs and nodded briefly at Venerable Brutus before he left the base.

”What do you think of the Avatars, Nitaa? ” He asked his bodyguard as he settled into the shuttle with Lucky using his head as a nest.

”They ’re impressive. ” She said.
”They are formidable, much more so than most Kinner mercenary corps.
I believe they will do a fine job in protecting you against hostile mechs and other larger threats. ”

”I hear a ’but ’ coming. ”

She smiled grimly at him.
”But the enemies you attract these days are often vastly more formidable.
It doesn ’t matter if you invest in your own mech division.
The Friday Coalition can easily smash your Avatars and Sentinels if it gets serious about defeating you.
As we have learned at Cloudy Curtain, the power and authority of a state transcend personal strength! ”

She was right.
Being able to field 1,500 mechs might make Ves invincible against most pirate and mercenary outfits, but it was still incapable of deterring the actions of states or incredibly powerful organizations!

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