The Vesian mech force unexpectedly paused in their approach.
Neither Ves nor Melkor knew why, but they could make a guess.

”Haven ’t the Vesians gathered intelligence about the Mech Nursery? ” Ves asked with a puzzle tone.
”Surely they must have known what they were about to face? ”

”They might not have done their due diligence.
In their eyes, the LMC is just a regular up-and-coming mech manufacturer with only two years of history at most.
Can you say that every mech manufacturer is able to erect such a massive defensive installation as the Mech Nursery in such a brief amount of time? ”

Definitely not.
Anyone who casually read his background would know that Ves only possesses a distant backer.
Being a nominal disciple to a Master Mech Designer did not afford him a lot of protection regarding these situations.
Some Masters even apprenticed thousands of mech designers at once and only instructed them casually if they spared the time for them in the first place.

In any case, the amount of growth he experienced in recent times was very much out of the norm for an Apprentice Mech Designer of his age and background.
Now that the Vesians became aware that they faced something other than a pushover, they must have paused to reassess their plans.

”It ’s too bad their commander is prudent enough to interrupt their approach. ” Melkor shook his head.
”I would have preferred if whoever is leading them is overconfident.
That way, it ’s easier to spring them into our traps. ”

”We can ’t have everything.
At least we ’ve increased their apprehension to us. ”

”Not really.
The Vesians still won ’t think much of us once they find out how many mechs are defending this place.
They still outnumbered us by a comfortable margin. ”

It only took about ten minutes for the Vesians to make their move.
This time, the main formation of mechs remained in place while over twenty mechs started to sweep forward in different directions.

”Damn! They ’re being especially careful now. ”

The maneuver revealed that the commander of the Imodris raiding force wanted to scout out their target before they made their next moves.
It was the safest and most considerate action to take, and it did not take that much time to gather intel as the Mech Nursery was only so large.

Just as they stared at the plot which kept track of the approaching enemy scouts, Melkor suddenly received a comm request.
He accepted it, causing a projection of Husaan ’s face to appear next to the central projector.

”The Vesians have sent out their scouts.
Let us out of the walls, and we ’ll hunt them down! We ’re fast enough to catch at least a third of them off-guard! ”

”No. ” Melkor immediately replied.
”Remain in place.
The Vesians may be dangling some bait in order to draw us out.
Let them come to us. ”

”…Understood. ”

Ves scratched his head.
”Isn ’t it better to deal with the scouts now that they ’ve separated from the main body? This is a good opportunity to whittle down their numbers. ”

”Do you think the Vesians are that easy to fool? Don ’t trust what the sensors are telling you.
I bet this stationary group of mechs here have already started moving elsewhere.
And those dots that depict solitary mechs might be accompanied by four or five more mechs each. ”

”Ah. ” Ves realized Melkor ’s point.
The Vesians might have already been aware of the sensors placed in their surroundings.
If they knew that others spied on their mechs, they would have deployed their own countermeasures.
”But how will we know where they are if we can ’t trust this plot? ”

”We wait until they arrive.
As long as we don ’t take the bait, they ’ll eventually give up on their tricks and resort to the direct approach. ”

A tense hour passed as the Imodris Legion scouts came into visual view of the Mech Nursery.
The high walls blocked most of their direct vision, but that hardly halted their attempts to observe the defensive measures of the base as most of their sensors did not need line of sight to work.
Merely getting close enough was sufficient.

Melkor tasked a couple of marksmen to shoot at the scouts whenever they thought they could pull off a shot.
While most of them missed, they successfully curbed the brazenness of the scouts.

Not once did Melkor command anyone to go out and hunt down the scouts.
Sanyal-Ablin ’s mechs consisted of mediumweight models that specialised in defense.
They could never catch up to the light mechs.

Only the Oodis Mudriders might have been able to do so, considering that a fair chunk of their forces consisted of light mechs.
In truth, these light mechs did not make for good defenders, but Melkor was deeply unwilling to pull them away from their walls.
Their light firepower might mean the difference between victory or defeat.

After the scouting phase ended and the light mechs pulled back, the Vesians arrived just beyond the maximum engagement range without any attempt to obfuscate their approach.

They stopped short of coming into rifle range.
Instead, they spread out and guarded every approached.
Moments later, it became apparent why they did so.

A dozen or so artillery mechs began to shell the walls.
The explosions ruptured the surface of the walls made out of a blend of junk exotics and various bulk materials.
Although they looked extremely firm and thick, they couldn ’t withstand a concentrated artillery barrage.

Melkor gritted his teeth.
”The Vesians usually don ’t bother to shell an industrial target.
Their commander appears to be an exception.
He ’s treating us like a serious target. ”

None of the mechs or turrets possessed the capability to retaliate against the distant artillery mechs.
The most they could do was shoot at the incoming shells as they arced into the walls.
More than two-thirds of the incoming shells never reached the Mech Nursery, but the remainder that got through slowly broke down the targeted section of walls.

Minutes passed by as the cracks turned into a hole, before widening up into a breach.
After the last shells landed, the breach had become so wide that it could fit two mechs walking side by side.

”That ’s not good. ” Ves noted.

The artillery mechs then shifted their aim towards the turrets spread throughout the surface of the Mech Nursery.

The weaknesses of the turrets hammered home with each shell that got through the intercepting fire.
Their complete lack of mobility turned them into stationary targets that would get destroyed sooner or later.

If the Vesian artillery mechs hadn ’t managed to destroy their target in their current salvo, they just sent out another one until the turret finally stopped working.

This went on for over two hours until the artillery mechs expended all of their shells.
By then, over seventy percent of the turrets that Sanyal-Ablin had previously erected turned into hollowed-out ruins.

Fortunately, no one lost their lives, as nobody manned the turrets.
Their operators worked at a SASS-controlled command center deep underground.

By now, the Mech Nursery hardly hosted any people.
The only people who remained consisted of those who played a role in the defense of the facility.
As for the civilian employees, Ves all sent them back to Freslin where they lived.

Even if the Vesians managed to breach through their lines and massacre everyone within, at least Ves wouldn ’t have too much guilt on his conscience.

”What will they do next, now that they ’ve destroyed most of our turrets? ”

”They ’ve spent several hours on the surface already. ” Melkor replied.
”The Vesians should be looking to wrap this up.
The longer they stay on the surface, the higher the chance they ’ll encounter the reinforcements from Bentheim.
No matter how careful the enemy commander wants to be, he can ’t fall behind schedule. ”

Every defender tersely waited for the Vesians to make their next move.
Evidently, they had enough of paying around, because they shifted their formation in favor breaching through a defensive line.

Surprisingly enough, the Vesians suddenly put forth two heavy knights.

”Damn! They brought out heavy knights! They ’ll be leading the charge! ”

Ves did not need to hear an explation to realize how bad the situation turned against them.
If the Vesians only brought their medium mechs, then they stood a decent chance at fending off the incoming Vesians.

Now though, the appearance of the heavy knights changed everything.
Even the most basic models of heavy knights withstood at least four times as much damage as a medium knight.
In effect, the two heavy knights possessed as much as an impact on the battle as eight extra medium knights!

In general, only military forces employed heavy mechs.
Not even Sanyal-Ablin fielded a single heavy mech despite having the resources and capacity to do so if they borrowed their backer ’s help.

The appearance of the heavy mechs alone caused everyone ’s morale to drop.
Every mech pilot from SASS and the Mudriders knew how tough these mechs could be.
The odds of killing them fast enough was minute.

”Ves! Conventional forces will take too much time to bring down those heavies! By the time they can be repelled, every other Vesian mech will have free reign inside the perimeter.
We have to take those heavy mechs out early! ”

”Why are you looking at me like that? ”

”Because you frequently pull a miracle out of their butt! If you ’re hiding a secret weapon, then this is the time to employ it! ”

”Well, I ’ve got the Amastendira.
Will that be enough? ”

Melkor shook his head.
”I ’ve already considered it.
While it ’s a devastating weapon against people, it won ’t do too much damage against mechs.
A beam at maximum power is probably capable of piercing through the the armor of light mechs while dealing heavy damage to medium mechs, but it will just bounce off if pointed at a heavy mech. ”

That was really bad news, but Ves already expected something along those lines.
The Amastendira granted its wielder near-absolute superiority against any kind of human-scale battles.
Sadly, it did not change the paradigm that humans would be able to defeat a mech in an even fight.

A group of two heavy knights accompanied by thirty mechs started to form into an assault formation.
The melee mechs stood in front while the ranged mechs stood at the rear.

”It ’s going to be too late to do anything soon! Ves! Tell me you ’ve got something! ”

Ves panicked a little.
He did not possess any other deadly weapons like the Amastendira.
Neither would he be able to purchase any other solutions from the System as he recently drained most of his DP on his second Mastery.

Only until Lucky lazily flew past his vision did he remind himself that he might have one last resort.

”Lucky! ”

The cat halted in its flight and turned its head at Ves.
”Meow? ”

He pointed at the projection of the heavy knights readying themselves for a charge.
”Can you take care of these two heavy mechs? You have to assassinate the pilots and destroy some controls or essential components.
Can you do that? ”

”…Meow. ”

Lucky did not meow in a reassuring way.
The cat looked at the two heavy mechs with their thick plating of armor with very visible dread.
It would be tough for his intangible form to burrow through all of that compressed armor.

The cat tapped the air a couple of times.
Ves communicated frequently enough with his pet to understand Lucky ’s vague meaning.

”So you say you can definitely take out one mech, but you ’re not sure if you have the energy to take out the other? ”

”Meow! ”

”One heavy mech taken out is better than none! ” Melkor told them from the side.

”He ’s right, Lucky.
If you can do it, then go for it! ”

Lucky hastily floated out of the command center in a zip.
None of the sensors showed his position, which worried Ves a little, but at least the Vesians wouldn ’t have any warning either.

He hated sending out Lucky so early in this battle.
Ves wanted to save up Lucky as a trump card or employ him as an assassin that would quietly take out a couple of enemy mechs stationed furthest from the main battle.
Instead, the appearance of the heavy mechs forced Ves to play this card ahead of time.

The battle hadn ’t even entered its most crucial phase and Ves already started running out of cards to play.

As Ves waited for Lucky to make his move, Melkor turned to leave the command center as well.
”There ’s nothing more I can do here.
I ’ll be boarding my mech before I join up with the rest of the Avatars.
Stay here and keep me informed, Ves. ”

”Will do. ”

At least Melkor could fight the the Vesians personally.
As a mech designer, Ves enjoyed no such privilege.

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