”Hey, I was just talking, babe! I love my Adonis Colossus! It ’s the best mech that I could ever pilot! It has brought me so much fame and success! I ’d be a fool to give it away! ”

The only mech designer at the booth nodded with satisfaction.
”At least you know your priorities. ”

”I feel kind of jealous, actually. ” Realla sighed.
”The Prideful Soldiers and other mechs I ’ve piloted recently are not as good as yours.
I really wished I pressed my relation with Ves a bit harder.
Maybe that masterwork mech of his could have been mine! ”

The light skirmisher that I ’m designing for you won ’t disappoint you, Raella.
I ’m already planning to show it to Ves so that he can make a pass on my design and instill it with one of his glows. ”

”Is that even possible? ” Vincent scratched his head.

”I ’m not sure, but I ’ve tried my best to adhere to his guidelines, so I think it will work. ”

”It won ’t be entirely your design anymore, though. ”

”You ’ll get to pilot a better mech. ”

”Ah, that ’s right. ”

Despite the ongoing Sand War, everyone was already starting to think ahead.
What would they do after human space was no longer being threatened by the sandmen? With so many devastated states and star systems, a huge wave of reclamation and reconstruction would soon take place.

Just like the invasion of the Red Ocean, there was plenty of treasure to find among the wreckage of the former border states!

Where there was treasure, there would doubtlessly be a lot of rivals looking to harvest most of the gains.

Vincent Ricklin saw a great opportunity here!

As long as he and his Ricklin ’s Rollers picked up a lot of valuable salvage, he could grow his mercenary corps further.

Perhaps he might even be able to claim his own planet!

As Vincent grinned and laughed at the prospect of ruling his own planet, both women shared a peculiar look.

”Really, Raella.
Why date this dolt? ”

”He ’s fun and he ’s great in bed! What ’s not to like? ”

”You ’re not growing any younger.
You should start looking for something more permanent than a casual fling. ”

”Hey, babe, don ’t call me a casual fling! ” Vincent pulled himself out of his latest daydream.
He squeezed Raella ’s shoulder.
”I ’m really serious about my girl here! Raella is much more than the girls I ’ve been seeing in the past.
She can be quite the tigress on and off the battlefield, if you know what I mean. ”

Ketis did not look amused at Vincent ’s obvious wink.
I don ’t even know why I bother. ”

”Hey now, Ketis. ” Raella began to look concerned.
”Having someone by your side who you can click with is a great way to spend your time.
I would have gone stir-crazy from all the drilling sessions if not for Vincent here.
Maybe you should take a page from our book and start dating yourself. ”

”I feel like a Hexer.
None of the boys here are great.
They don ’t understand me.
Not like him… ”

”Female Hexers who are disgusted with boys like to hook up with their own kind, right? ”

Ketis offered them a grim smile.
”The women here are not much better.
It ’s..
not what I want.
Back in my old outfit, I always considered my fellow Swordsmaidens to be sisters.
I don ’t want to distort that impression by looking at them in a different way. ”

”Do you have the hots for Ves? ”

Raella immediately slapped her man on the cheek! ”Vincent! Don ’t be rude! We talked about this! This is a sore point for Ketis! Oh, you poor girl! ”

”I ’m not as fragile as you think I am. ” The young mech designer sighed and shook her head.
”Ves has Gloriana now.
They look happy with each other and I ’m happy for them.
I always felt that Ves was too good for me.
It ’s best that things turned out this way. ”

”Oh, Ketis.. ” The exiled Larkinson stretched out her arm in order to hold Ketis ’ hand.
”If I was still with Ves, I would have smacked some sense in him.
If I knew he had a fetish for Hexers like Gloriana, I would have smacked his face until he turned back to normal! He really missed out on a sweet girl like you who looked up to him all the time! ”

”That part of my life is over.
Just let it be.
I have already started to look ahead. ”

”Do you need me to introduce you to some buddies of mine? ” Vincent offered.
”I know all kinds of fellows who would love to— ”

”—I ’m fine, Vincent.
I can manage on my own. ”

”Your buddies are all thugs and lowlives. ” Raella complained.
”I know they have been covering your back during your rebel days, but you should really professionalize your outfit.
At its current state, it ’s far from my Blood Claws and barely better than Dietrich ’s pathetic Whalers! ”

”Didn ’t that loser get kicked out from his own gang? ”

”That ’s not the point.
I ’m telling you, Vincent.
There ’s no future for you if you continue to run Ricklin ’s Rollers like a terrorist cell. ”

”I ’m working on it! This isn ’t something I can change in a day. ”

He said this the last time, and the time before that.
Nothing seemed to have changed.
To Raella, Ricklin ’s Rollers acted more like a bunch of bros with mechs rather than a reliable fighting force.

”I heard Ves and his followers are about to return to the Bright Republic, if only briefly. ” Raella changed the topic.
”My family is quite abuzz about this.
What have you heard, Ketis? Are you looking forward to returning to his side? You ’ve already spent quite a lot of time with me.
While I ’m glad to keep you company, I feel like you are missing out on opportunities. ”

Ketis frowned.
She wasn ’t quite sure how to answer this question.

Would it be better for her to return to Ves, or try to find her own way to success?

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