Ves experienced too many crises since the Flagrant Vandals arrived in the Detemen System.

Taking part in a monumental operation, escaping from a disintegrating ship and dropping onto Detemen IV with nothing but a crash pad wracked his nerves.

Roaming the streets of Neron City by himself, threatening a pathetic Novice Mech Designer to use his equipment, getting picked up by Captain Orfan only to flee again under Lieutenant Burke really set him off.

What was he doing here?

He wanted nothing more than to go back to orbit, but the Vandals and the rebels had other ideas in store.
Ves looked at Commander Breskin with a weary gaze.
Even though his body could keep him awake for days at a time, his mental exhaustion almost pushed him to the breaking point.

He needed time to think and decompress.
He needed to reflect on his mistakes and figure out a better approach to problems.

Yet the rebel commander stayed firm.
”Nine hours.
No more.
We have until then to track down our elusive goal. ”

His words made it clear that he brooked no compromise on this matter.
Breskin didn ’t even stick around.
After exchanging some words with Addy, he left the conference room, leaving Ves alone with the young rebel woman.

”This sounds crazy. ” Ves wearily said as clapped his hand on his beaten combat armor.
The fall dented it really badly, causing him to feel a bit uncomfortable as the plates pressed into him.
”How am I supposed to pinpoint the location of a single mech out of potentially thousands in the city? I ’m not a bloodhound, for heaven ’s sake! ”

Addy retrieved a data pad from her rebel uniform jacket and pressed it onto the table before sliding it up to Ves.
”Please read the brief before concluding it can ’t be done. ”

Ves picked up the pad and turned it on.
He read the brief inside and started to become engrossed.

”What? ”

House Eneqqin was a very significant force in the Imodris Duchy.
It enjoyed a storied history as well, and the House encompassed many branch families.
Lord Javier may be the only son of Count Loqer, who was the head of the House, but in the background countless nephews schemed against him.
Once Loqer died or retired, it wasn ’t a given that Javier would come into power.

”Count Loqer is an exceptional noble within the court of the Duchess of Imodris, and has even served as her chief of staff for one time. ” Addy explained.
”He has single-handedly elevated House Eneqqin to its current heights.
Many argue that he might be the most powerful count in the Duchy at this time. ”

”How come his son is such a craven bastard? ”

Addy sighed and bent her head.
”I don ’t know.
The high nobility is not something commoners like us can understand.
For some reason, Count Loqer doesn ’t have any natural offspring besides Lord Javier, and he dotes upon his only child to an excessive degree. ”

”Is the count infertile? Even if that ’s so, there are many ways to get another heir. ”

”You obviously don ’t understand Vesian succession laws. ” She said with a rueful smile.
”Think about it.
If a noble resorts to cloning or other artificial means of generating offspring, what stops their rivals from doing the same? An old trick is to steal a DNA sample from someone, splice an offspring and secretly raise the child to be loyal to your cause.
When the time was right, the secret offspring would contend with the legitimate heirs to inherit the title of their parents. ”

That did make some sense.
These days, many people didn ’t bother with pregnancy and bringing a child to term inside the belly of a mother.
As long as someone paid a sufficient amount of money, they could effortlessly offload the gestation and birthing process to an artificial womb.

Though many humans took this technology for granted, many others feared the use of artificial wombs would harm their children.
The topic was very divisive, but it had nothing to do with Ves so he never looked into it until now.

”Even if Count Loqer is… less than fertile, how come he hasn ’t fixed that yet? ”

”The matter isn ’t so simple. ” Addy said while shaking her head.
”There are ways to remedy his infertility, but they are all rather extreme to the point where they run up to the limits of the succession laws.
Will a child birthed from the ’new ’ him still be his own child, or someone else ’s? ”

All of this started to make his head spin so Ves just accepted the argument and moved on.
”Alright, let ’s say that Lord Javier won ’t be getting little brothers and sisters anytime soon.
What does that have to do with tracking down his mech? ”

”Well, as I said earlier, Count Loqer spoils his son rotten.
Javier can pretty much do what he wants.
No matter how much of a mess he makes, his father will always come and wipe his butt.
However, there is one area in Javier ’s upbringing where the count is extremely strict in.
Can you make a guess? ”

Ves only needed a second to come up with an answer.
”His mech pilot training.
Every noble in the Vesia Kingdom is either a mech pilot or a descendant of a mech pilot who performed meritorious services.
Strength is power in this state, and there ’s nothing worse than an heir that doesn ’t know how to pilot mechs. ”

”Exactly! You can say what you will about Lord Javier, but he is a fairly impressive mech pilot, if only because of his strict tutoring and exacting physical training regime.
We believe the pressure he ’s enduring from his constant training has led to much of the excesses that he has become known.
It ’s his way of venting his frustration. ”

To Count Loqer and Lord Javier, acting like a complete bastard to their own people was worth it if the heir continued to make a lot of progress in his training.

The people of Detemen IV saw it very differently, however.
With the rising amount of abuses and the deteriorating economy, Lord has long taken the place of the planet ’s bogeyman.
No one wanted to live under a frivolous tyrant.

”What ’s the worst things he has done? ”

His question caused Addy to grow grim.
”We don ’t know.
He hides as much of his activities as he can.
One of the worst cases that we know of is that he once detained every woman from Neron City ’s corps de ballet.
Our city ’s ballet dancers are our pride and joy, and are famed throughout the Imodris Duchy for their sublime performance arts.
After Lord Javier got his hands on them, they were never seen again. ”

Ves didn ’t need to hear more.
Just this story alone was enough to understand Lord Javier ’s complete lack of regard for the territory and people he ruled over.
If he ever inherited the title of Count from his father, he would ruin a lot more planets than Detemen IV.

”Okay, so Lord Javier is a depraved sack of dung.
That ’s great to hear, but what about his mech? What does he pilot? ”

”Count Loqer commissioned a Senior Mech Designer by the name of Constantine Reeve.
Have you ever heard of this designer? ”

”I ’m not familiar with Vesian mech designers.
Their mech market is fairly isolated from ours.
We don ’t sell our mechs to them, and they don ’t sell their mechs to us.
Only a couple of traders try to bypass the trading restrictions by taking an indirect trading route, but by and large it doesn ’t pay off. ”

”Well Constantine Reeve is a big name in the Vesia Kingdom.
He ’s known for his excellent rifleman mechs and swordsman mechs, but he also designs personalised mechs for nobles who can pay for his services.
For Lord Javier, Reeve has designed a fantastic hero mech for the brat. ”

This caused ves to rub his eyes.
”Say again? Did you just mention a hero mech? ”

”I did not misspeak.
Lord Javier ’s main combat mech is a hero mech.
It ’s his most cherished acquisition and there is never a day where he isn ’t practicing with it.
The intelligence we gathered on the mech is on the data pad as well. ”

Ves browsed to the relevant documents while he thought about the fact that Lord Javier piloted one of the most controversial mech types in the industry.

The so-called hero mech was nothing but a fancy marketing term of a specific type of humanoid mech.
They almost always came in a medium weight class, and wielded two main weapons instead of one.
One arm always wielded a light rifle while the other arm held a one-handed melee weapon such as a sword or an axe.

The idea behind the hero mech was to provide talented mech pilots who were skilled in both melee combat and ranged combat with the means to do both at the same time.

Before the emergence of hero mechs, some other hybrid mechs had been developed to employ both a ranged weapon and a melee weapon, but only one at a time.
While the concept sounded simple to a layman, only a mech designer knew how difficult it was to insure a strong performance with both modes of combat.

The hero mech was supposed to reduce that complexity by devoting one arm to melee combat and the other arm for ranged combat.
This inherently introduced an imbalance in the mech, but through several means mech designers were able to compensate for this.
What resulted was a silly looking mech that formed the favorite of many action dramas throughout the galaxy.

”Okay, tell me this.
Did Lord Javier choose to pilot a hero mech because it looks cool, or because he ’s good at it? ”

”With someone like him, it ’s both. ” Addy answered.
”He started off without any training, but under the guidance of his instructors, he has become very deadly with his Loquacious Raphael. ”

”What a mouthful of a name.
Did he try to tribute his father when he named his mech? ”

Addy shrugged.
”The Raphael is a very fearsome mech nonetheless.
Any work of Constantine Reeve is a masterpiece, and that goes double for his custom mechs. ”

Hero mechs were notoriously hard to pilot.
Duel wielding was already an issue, but wielding a full-sized rifle and melee weapon at the same time put a lot of mental strain on any mech pilot.
Ves had to readjust his judgement of Lord Javier.

If he managed to master the Loquacious Raphael, then it would be a given for him to inherit the title of count from his father despite his many faults.
Nobody wanted to mess with a mech pilot who could fight one against ten in the right circumstances.

One of the many reasons why hero mechs starred so often in action dramas was because they became known as mechs that could win against overwhelming odds.
In practice, most mech pilots weren ’t good enough to exhibit the potential of their hero mechs, but Lord Javier might be the real deal here if Ves put stock in the intelligence reports compiled by the rebels.

As Ves read more and more about the Loquacious Raphael, he understood why the rebels believed he could track down this mech.

Journeymen and Senior Mech Designers employed many advanced techniques in their designs that lower-ranked designers couldn ’t hope to emulate.
The effect was similar but different from resonance in that it didn ’t take an expert pilot to draw out the potential of a resonating material.

The former was called fake resonance, while the latter referred to true resonance.

True or fake, both types of resonances generated a lot of energy.
A mech that resonated radiated special signals depending on the strength of the resonance.

For example, Ves once witnessed Venerable Drake in his Fire Worm striker mech charging up a laser rifle or his flamethrowers with resonance.
Such a huge buildup of energy could easily be detected from hundreds of thousands of kilometers away.

That was a case of true resonance at its apex.
The story would be very different in this case.

”It can ’t be done. ” Ves concluded.
”Fake resonance is a hundred times harder to detect than true resonance.
Besides, is Lord Javier stupid enough to pilot his Loquacious Raphael in the first place? ”

”Oh, you ’d be surprised, Mr.
Larkinson. ”

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