While the Flagrant Vandals split their fleet in two, the ripple effects of the Detemen Operation still reverberated in the Vesia Kingdom and the Bright Republic.

The two third-rate states had been locked in a perpetual cycle of war and peace, and even the peace was a lie.
Through centuries of war, they experienced a lot of events.
The Vesians always put the Bright Republic on their back foot, and if not for the upswing in desperation among the Brighters to stem the tide, the Republic might not be standing anymore.

The entire Komodo Star Sector already became engulfed in war.
Besides certain exception such as the isolationist Ylvain Protectorate that bordered the Republic on the side, most states entered into a conflict of some sort.

The conflict between the Vesians and the Brighters might as well be a scuffle between toddlers compared to the clash of the two giants of the Komodo Star Sector.
The multifaceted Friday Coalition threw tens of thousands of ships and millions of mechs against the unitary might of the Hexadric Hegemony.

Whenever the rest of the Komodo Star Sector watched these behemoths wage war, they felt envious and afraid.
None of them could withstand the destruction being wrought after a single day of combat.

”The Coalition and the Hegemony are the only states in the Komodo Star Sector worth a damn. ”

The Glowing Planet Campaign brought their conflict to the fore, and messed up their well-laid plans.
The rogue planet ’s value couldn ’t be underestimated, and both sides ruthlessly carved out city-sized chunks from the floating rock in space until they stripped its crust, demolished its mantle and crushed its core.

An enormous amount of low-value exotics came into their possession, more than enough to enhance the performance of millions of mechs.
More than that, they also obtained a generous stock of high-value exotics, most notably Rorach ’s Bone with suffused the core of the planet for some reason.

Mech manufacturers and military design teams already started incorporating the wondrous substance into their mechs.
Blending trace amounts of Rorach ’s Bone into their mechs enhanced the durability of alloys and opened them up to resonance.

When mech designers made use of Rorach ’s Bone as a core material, then the designs they put out achieved a myriad of wondrous effects.
The mechs became capable of self-repair over time if fed with energy.
The machines also became highly conductive to resonance, though it was generally thought to be wasteful to utilize the material to facilitate fake resonance.

In short, the battle between elites took on a new dimension with the introduction of Rorach ’s Bone and other exotics.
The mechs piloted by expert and ace pilots became tougher.
The extra materials also amplified their resonance effects, which led to devastating massacres if these elite mechs ever deployed against standard mechs.

”Normal mech pilots have become ants in the battlefield! This is an era of gods and heroes! ”

The Titanium Garden.
A massive artificial planet composed out of a massive amount of titanium, which was one of the more valuable mundane materials in the galaxy.
A huge expense had been made to fashion such a planet out of nothing, and the worst thing about it was that it served little practical use.

Who was crazy enough to build their own artificial planet when the galaxy possessed trillions of them? Anyone wealthy enough could lay a claim on a lifeless rock that orbited a random star and build them into their own domain.

Only those with sick minds or something to prove bothered with the extravagance of building their own planet.

Many citizens of the Coalition spoke of the former.
Master Carmin Olson threw an enormous amount of money in the drain just to satisfy her vanity.
That and other extravagant purchases shortly after her elevation to Master Mech Designer branded her with the reputation of a profligate diva.

Olson cared little for the opinions of the masses.
Her thoughts and calculations took place on a higher level than normal human beings.
In fact, it was doubtful that she could even be considered a member of the human race.
Though outwardly she looked like a woman in her prime with a different color of hair each day, inwardly her genes and flesh had underwent a huge transformation.

Despite their enormous progress in this area, mankind still dabbled in the art of modifying their frail bodies.
Mech designers mainly focused on enhancing their longevity and intellect, but both of them were still fairly poorly understood.
These modifications often introduced strange and incidental side effects, which most often expressed itself as a physical mutation or a mental disorder.

Nobody to call Master Olson insane, though the thought sometimes flitted in their minds.
In any case, she comported herself as a human when she met with others, and that was sufficient to allay people ’s worst fears.

Much of the upper portion of the Titanium Garden consisted of spatially confusing latticeworks.

Beams of titanium crossed or meshed into each other in an intricate geometric pattern that hinted at a profound mathematical truth of the multiverse.

These beams supported a small number of great islands covered by all manner of greenery.
In one of the larger islands, a highly secure vault surrounded by many layers of titanium and compressed alloys, Master Olson led her youngest disciple inside.

”Carminnnn, I ’m bored! Why I can ’t I go off to the frontlines or visit my good friend Ves? ”

A fair feminine hand gently smacked the adolescent man in the face.
”Address my properly, Oleg. ”

”Oowww! Sorry Master! ”

Master Olson tediously went through the process of unlocking the mech-sized vault doors.
”You have just advanced into the ranks of Journeyman Mech Designer.
This marks your transformation from a learner of the arts into a full-fledged creator of wonders.
From the perspective of the mech industry, you ’ve grown from a teenager and reached adulthood. ”

”Does that mean you ’re a granny? ”

”Ooww! ”

Olson gave her direct disciple another slap, though her motions possessed a touch of playful indulgence.

”Progressing up the ranks isn ’t an advancement of age.
It is a transformation of the mind.
Do you think you are the same young boy as before? Your knowledge and skills surpass almost everyone in the Komodo Star Sector, and that disparity will only grow in the future.
You must become more aware of your place in the galaxy. ”

”And what is my place? Competing at the Rimward Games? Oh please, I ’ll breeze through that show in a jiffy. ”

”There are more freaks and talents than you, Oleg.
Do not think you are unique among every mech designer in the galactic rim.
Even within the Coalition, you still need to defeat your rivals in order to obtain the nomination to represent our state. ”

”Don ’t remind me. ” Oleg grumbled.
A human with an abnormal level of intelligence like his was rare, but not unique.

Many more mutations and deviations from the norm existed as well.
Most abnormal humans suffered from detrimental mutations due to exposure to dangerous exotic substances or exceedingly rare stellar radiation.
Only a tiny portion lucked out and benefited from a beneficial mutation.

No one could explain Oleg ’s anomalous level of cognition.
His parents were normal citizens of the Coalition, and they lived on a quiet planet under the Vermeer Group for decades.

The most plausible idea any researcher came up with was that Oleg ’s mother became exposed to a bizarre ray of energy that transformed the fetus inside her womb a short time after conception.
It was as good of an explanation as any, because no one succeeded in replicating the phenomenon.

The pair remained quiet until Master Olson finished unlocking the vault doors.
The huge mechanisms behind the doors moved the enormous obstacles around until the way forward became unbarred.

”Let us enter. ”

The two strode forward with measured steps.
The metallic compressed armor that formed the floor of this vault clanked with sharp noises as the two mech designers entered the dark and hollow vault chamber.

They passed through another set of gates before they entered the inner vault, which held the only prize in this enormous structure.

Arrayed before them stood a transparent case made out of extremely durable composites.
Oleg didn ’t recognize their exact formula, but he recognized the expensive of this glass-like material.
It could even give compressed armor a run for their money!

Yet what the mech-sized construction encased blew away his mind.
Oleg guessed plenty of possibilities of what lay inside the vault that Master Olson wanted him to see.
He guessed that it might be some sort of historic mech, or maybe an exclusive new machine made entirely out of Rorach ’s Bone.

Never would he have expected to witness a giant, mech-sized skeleton.
The sheer size of it sent existential tremors through Oleg ’s mind.
His mentality received a substantial amount of strengthening upon elevation to Journeyman, but in the face of this once-living humanoid giant, all of his confidence bled away like nothing.

”W-W-What is this, Master?! ”

”It is a skeleton.
The Coalition fleets retrieved it from the crumbling remains of the Glowing Planet.
It was buried deep within the core, and was almost discarded as waste as it was buried beneath trash materials. ”

”It ’s remarkably intact.
If not for the hole at the top of its skull, it would have been an excellent display at a galactic museum. ” Oleg commented as his fascination never ceased.
The skeleton of this massive being possessed some sort of compulsive charm that spoke of absolute dominance.
”Do you know anything about its race? ”

Master Olson stayed impassive as she stared at the giant.
Unlike Oleg, Olson viewed the giant as her equal rather than a superior biological being.

”There are secrets surrounding this race, and much of them are out of my reach.
The MTA has expressed an enormous interest in the remains.
The Coalition has come to an agreement to let every Master Mech Designer study the remains for month before selling it to the Association. ”

Oleg looked really impressed now.
”It ’s that valuable? ”

”It may even be the only prize we ’ve obtained that is worth mentioning from the Glowing Planet.
Rorach ’s Bone may be rare in the galactic rim, but it is still a commodity in the end. ”

A few seconds passed in silence before Oleg spoke up again.

”This thing looks like an upscaled human skeleton.
Are we..
related somehow? ”

”We don ’t know.
Perhaps the MTA might know more, but have decided to withhold the answer for some reason.
Yet… my intuition says that it is not a coincidence.
I ’ve spoken about it often with my colleagues and the possibility that frighten them the most is that it is the forefather to all humanoid life in the galaxy! ”

”That ’s huge! ” Oleg exclaimed.
He couldn ’t fathom the connection between this race of giants and modern humanity, but if a link between the two existed, then everyone ’s conception of what it meant to be human needed to be dumped in the trash! ”Err but wait, what are you doing with this skeleton then? Shouldn ’t it be studied by exobiologists or something? ”

”We ’ve already set some exobiologists loose, but their results are inconclusive.
The mysterious surrounding this skeleton is far beyond the means of the Coalition.
Let the MTA puzzle about its origins.
The true value of this skeleton is that it is a remnant of a being the size of a mech.
Do you understand the importance of that to us? ”

They were mech designers, not exobiologists.
They poured over mech designs for a living, so Oleg didn ’t need to think very hard to come up with a guess.
”You mean, we can study this skeleton to improve our ability to design mechs? ”

”There is more to it than that, but that is essentially correct. ” Master Olson nodded.
”There are layers of mysteries behind this skeleton.
For the time being, you and your fellow disciples will remain here to peel back as many layers as you can.
What you can learn from this ancient remains will depend on your luck and your thinking.
No matter what you get out of this inspection, your mechs will never be the same. ”

Oleg nodded in a rare moment of solemnity.
”I understand.
I will do my best to understand this giant! ”

He immediately dove into his own mental world as his eyes raked over the ancient bones.
He may not know what intricacies they held, but hopefully he would obtain some clues that would help him clinch the upcoming nomination for the Rimward Games.

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