His consciousness descended back to his body with jarring force.
Ves felt as if he rode a shuttle that made a forceful landing on the ground.
His head spun like wheels and the entire world felt alien to his own senses.

Ves took a few minutes to recover from his ordeal.
His breath shuddered with the aftershock of having his consciousness being pulled back and forth.
The human mind wasn ’t supposed to endure such rigors, and if he hadn ’t upgraded his mental Attributes, he might have turned into an idiot.

”Heavens, System! Warn me before you pull another stunt like that! ”

[The Mech Designer System is not meant to warn the user of any negligience on his part.]

In other words, Ves had only himself to blame.

”Fair enough, but I thought you ’d do your usual schtick and dump a library of knowledge in my head. ”

[Mastery extends beyond pure theory.
A mech designer cannot ever claim a Mastery without delving into the perspective of a mech pilot.]

Ves had to admit he benefited hugely from the experience.
Even though Barley was nothing special in comparison to other knight pilots, his experience and earnestness in piloting his Jimenez taught Ves a lot.

He underestimated the value of a defensive knight.
Lacking in mobility it might be, the Jimenez excelled in its narrow role.

”It almost makes up for the fact that I ’m designing an offensive knight rather than a defensive one. ”

He understood the System ’s motive in selecting a defensive knight pilot to bond.
The name of the Sub-Skill was called Knight Mastery I, and as an introduction to the archetype, Ves first had to master the basic model.

After he checkex the logs, he found out he passed out for over half a day.
That matched the amount of time he hitch-hiked Barley ’s head.

Thinking about him compelled Ves to look him up.
He went to the galactic net and searched for the Chittering Cicada Star Sector.

”It actually exists! ”

A further searched turned up the existence of the Exilis Domain, which eked out a diminished existence after it lost the war against the Alliance over forty-five years ago.

His hands started to shake as he tried to search up the existence of a Domain pilot called Ivan Barley.



A mix of shock, excitement and dissappointment ran through his mind.
A couple of searches confirmed the battle that Ves experienced alongside Barley happened exactly as he remembered.

The implications were frightening.
The seemingly omnipotent System proved its might once again by accomplishing actual time travel!

”It ’s too bad he ’s gone missing.
It ’s also incredible he advanced to ace pilot! ”

Nothing in his personality or talent suggested he could reach this exalted rank.
Ves dug into his history and found out that his momentary presence had been a turning point in Barley ’s life.

Just as Ves gained a lot of insight into the mind of a mech pilot, so did Barley gain a lot from the perspective of a mech designer.
He leveraged his gains by cross-training as a mech technician and then as a mech designer, all for the purpose of improving his ability to discover weak points in the mechs of his opponents!

Barley ’s skills and kill record rose up like a rocket at the latter stages of the war.
By the time he advanced to expert pilot, the Domain finally threw in the towel and signed a humiliating peace treaty.

The heroic feats of a few exceptional pilots like Barley hardly affected the Domain ’s dire resource shortages.
The downside of being surrounded by enemy states was that they could easily intercept their foreign shipments.

After being discharged from the Domain ’s armed forces, Barley started making his mark in the mercenary circles.
That he managed to rise to the point of becoming a certified ace pilot while he worked in the private sector showcased his determination to exceed his failings.

”Barley must have felt guilty for the way the last battle ended up. ”

The Alliance reached the battle site first.
Predictably, they rescues all their friendlies while executing their opponents.

Ves understood how Barley took his knight oath seriously.
Not everyone who specialized in piloting knight mechs bought into this culture, but those that did often made for excellent partners.

His lessons from his first experience with Mastery led him to reconsider his phoenix knight ’s overall premise.
Did its draft possess the right concepts to serve its duty as a knight?

”I still believe in an offensive knight. ” He reaffirmed to himself.
”I just need to make some practical adjustments. ”

With his newly mastered ability to adopt the perpective of a knight pilot, Ves smoothed out many potential wrinkles in his design.
Even though they seemed innocuous, a real knight pilot would feel a little bit hobbled by these bumps.

”It ’s the equivalent of wearing a pair of mismatched shoes.
It won ’t affect your ability to walk, but it constantly nags at you. ”

He also adjusted his images, particularly the base role of a knight.
The infusion of a genuine knight ’s conviction breathed new life in the stale image ’s existence.
The noble vibes it gave off caused the phoenix and Jackknife Jake ’s images to raise their guards.

The modified draft of his original design hardly looked any different, but it gave off a completely different vibe.

”Those people raving about Masteries are right.
Mech designers think they know more than the pilots they served.
What they learn from books and hearsay won ’t ever match a single first-hand experience. ”

Ves already enjoyed a lead over many of his competitors due to his Mastery.
While it mainly applied to knight mechs, his ability to design the other archetypes improved as well.

When Ves finally left his office, his impatient COO came up to him with a mirthless smile.
”Did you make a lot of progress? ”

”I ’ve achieved a breakthrough in my development process.
The end product should be much more appealing now. ”

That ’s great, Ves.
Now, before you take the day off, you really need to read through these authorizations and sign them off.

Going over the documents painted an unpleasant picture to Ves.
”Expanding the board? Establishing all these committees? That will weaken my grip on my own company! ”

”It ’s true these changes will dilute the concentration of power in your hands, but that ’s exactly why the Republic mandates these demands.
Your company is not just your personal property, not anymore.
The livelihoods of hundreds and perhaps more will depend on its performance.
The company has the responsibility to provide every stakeholder a voice, not just the shareholders. ”

”Ah. ” Ves said flatly.
”Good old corporate social responsibility rearing its ugly head again.
I thought CSR went out of vogue in the mech industry.
It ’s hard to pretend you care about the poor and the environment when you are literally selling machines of death. ”

”Well, the Bright Republic is behind the times.
Besides, the MTA encourages mech manufacturers to establish a healthy corporate governance structure in their internal hierarchy.
There ’s an inherent risk in letting the founder and lead designer of a company to hold all the decision-making power in his hands. ”

The theory surrounding this subject could fill entire galactic libraries, but the short answer was that even brilliant founders got it wrong from time to time.

That said, ruling a company through committees also had its downsides.
They usually prioritized their own interest groups over the overall needs of the company.

For example, a committee staffed by workshop employees never chose to cut back a plant ’s production lines, even though it had grown outdated and inefficient.
Leaving aging equipment running all that time diminished the competitiveness of the company and could even run it into the ground.

Ves feared exactly such an occurrence, so he continuously objected to the measures, though he signed them all in the end.

”The law is the law.
Brighten up, Ves.
Many other mech manufacturers have adopted these kinds of measures and they haven ’t gone extinct.
Mostly. ”

”Yeah, but their growth has also turned stagnant as they prioritize stability over risk-taking. ”

”Is that a bad thing? ”

Good question.
Ves didn ’t wish to rehash the same arguments over and over so, so he waved his hand and called it a day.

The next day, his new employees seethed with excitement at the news that the LMC would formally enact committees in its decision-making structure.

Much of it would turn out to be window dressing, but the idea that the lowest workers could have a say succeeded in igniting their passion.
They truly felt they took part in something great.

Meanwhile, Ves chewed on the more substantial decision to choose the makeup board of directors.

As the absolute majority shareholder, Ves had the right to appoint whoever he wanted as a board member.
He ’d elevate Lucky to the chair if he xould get away with it.
Sadly, the LMC had to be seen as respectable and show some proof to the Republic that some reliable old geezers kept his youthful enthusiasm in line.

His grandfather sent him a list of suggestions.
Each of these grey-haired men and women already sat on the boards of a couple of other companies at once.
Naturally, none of the companies in their portfolios competed with each other, that would go too far.

”How do these fat cats even keep track of all of the industry-specific data? ”

The board of only came together a handful times per year, but they somehow earned a salary that an average worker had to toil for decades to earn the same.

”Haha, I see now.
It ’s a scam! ”

These serial board members made a career out of their ability to ’advise ’ and ’supervise ’ a corporation.
It didn ’t matter if the company produced dog food or mechs, it was all a business to them.
As long as they applied their considerable business acumen to the data at hand, they ’d be able to give out sage advice for the low price of several millions of credits a year.

His grandfather gave him an earful over the comm when he expressed his opinion.

”Stupid! Do you really think you can make waves without consequence! The Larkinsons have enemies within the Republic that doesn ’t mind if your career is cut short! ”

”Then why should my company take on these board members? ”

”Because they ’re connected! Each nominee is intrinsically related to a powerful influence on Rittersberg.
It ’s not in the rules and you can ’t find any of this in a book, but the board members act as the glue that will bind your company tighter to a power faction within the Republic. ”

So it all came down to politics in the end.
Ves thought he could shove those worries to his relations department.

”Okay. ” Ves replied in resignation.
”I ’ll go over the nominees and take a serious look at their profiles. ”

”Make sure you do.
You ’re making a major decision here which will profoundly affect the LMC ’s future course.
The quality of the board and the amount of help they provide is directly related to its makeup.
If you approach them with your numbskull attitude that they don ’t have any use except for leeching your company ’s profits, then you will end up with an unproductive board. ”

”Okay, okay, I got it already.
Cooperation is a two-way street. ”

What actually ended up happening was that Ves projected the busts of all twenty nominees.
He then called over his trusty feline sidekick Lucky.

”C ’mon buddy, who do you think has the ugliest face? Go bite his or her head off! ”

Ves appointed five respectable men and women who got chewed over last by his pet.
All of them turned out to be bastards, but Ves selected the least awful ones through this scientifically proven method.

With that chore done, Ves turned to the real meat in the game.
Resuming his original design project.

”I ’ve revised the draft design so its concepts are more compatible with its pilots.
Now is the time to substantiate this draft into a functional design. ”

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