can this mutual lack of trust even work? The more you explain it to me, the more I think of the Kingdom as an unwilling collection of selfish Houses. ”

”Ah, but that ’s exactly why the Kingdom still stands! Relations, connections, favors and rules all prop up its stability, but only at the surface.
Underneath it all, friends can turn into enemies on a dime, favors can easily be forgotten and only the victors make the rules.
The fundamental basis that allows a House to stand on their own is whether they possess the power to defend what is theirs.
Newly enfeoffed nobles are often met with a rude awakening when they are first introduced in the ways the powerful play the game. ”

The sordid way the Kingdom ran its power plays made perverse sense to Ves, but he still couldn ’t quite adjust his mentality around this reality.
”If every Vesian yields in front of the Vandals when they are coming to raid them, what stops us from taking advantage of it? ”

”Oh, this is only because the Vandals are currently in the inner reaches of the Kingdom.
Normally, these well-off territories are protected by the peripheral and border territories, so they never had to deal with any foreign raids.
It ’s different at the border system.
At first, these poor and struggling border systems yielded without a fight when the Vandals came to steal their riches.
After doing it once, don ’t you think the Vandals will do it again? ”

”So the Vandals actually took advantage of this? ”

”Yup, up until the border systems wised up.
Letting the Vandals treat them as their personal bank account was just encouraging them to suck all of their wealth away.
Once they wised up and banded together, the Vandals could no longer roll over an under-defended star system.
No matter how badly they were outnumbered, the garrison forces always fought as if their lives depended on it.
This deterred the Vandals from raiding their systems with regularity. ”

It was much like how a bully pushed around someone weak for the first time.
If the victim acquiesced to the bully and let them do whatever they wanted, the bully would just keep coming back and push even harder.
Only by standing up would the bully have to contemplate whether it was worth it to push the victim again.

Evidently, the border systems had all become jaded enough to learn that they should never let anything go for free.
Compared to the tough border systems, the star systems in the core territories of the Kingdom hadn ’t learned this lesson yet.
They continued to obsess over their closest rivals and dismissed the threat of the Vandals!

Even though Ves had a lot of misgivings about this situation, he sobered up enough to take advantage of the lack of opposition.
He helped guide the Vandals in picking out the best locations to raid.
He felt like a kid entering the biggest toy store in the galaxy with an unlimited credit balance.
The only limitation that restricted him from robbing the whole place blind was time.

They didn ’t have enough time.
Even with the lack of fighting, they still couldn ’t afford to stick around for long before reinforcements arrived.
Fortunately, the Hachew System wasn ’t close to any military strongholds.

After some time, Major Verle came to ask him a question.
”Since we aren ’t facing any opposition in this raid, we are gathering much more goods than we projected.
Will it be sufficient to meet all of our needs? ”

Ves shook his head.
”Far from it, sir.
The stockpiles we are obtaining are very much needed, but they don ’t come in enough volume.
I ’d say we can only meet eighty percent of our current needs, and that is only with regards to these specific materials.
We need other metals and compounds to round out our other needs.
All in all, our supply situation looks a lot better now, but it ’s far from perfect. ”

”Hm.
Once we are out of this star system, we ’ll be conducting a trade with the Venidse Liberators.
I hope we can obtain some of what we need from them.
It ’s going to be our only trade until we cross into Klein or Hafner. ”

They wouldn ’t trade much but the bare essentials, Ves knew.
After a bit more talk, the major turned his attention to other matters, leaving Ves free to direct the raiding Vandals into pillaging more goods.

It felt rather strange for him to wield such power.
Though the Vandals only treated his directions as suggestions, they placed so much faith in his judgement that he might as well be commanding them directly.
His every decision decided whether a business survived or fell in this ordeal.

Sometimes, Ves had the illusion that he was playing god.

He didn ’t feel particularly guilty in ruining the Vesian businesses.
Their states were at war, after all, and stripping and destroying each other ’s industries was as common as drinking water.

Perhaps this was what a proper raid looked like.
Ves only had the botched Imodris Raid on the Mech Nursery and the Detemen Operation to go on.
In both cases, the attackers and defenders fought with conviction.
Here, Hachew III didn ’t even wait for the first blow to arrive before it collapsed.

Ves found the experience to be oddly hollow.
There was a break in tradition.
An imperfection in an otherwise perfect image.
There should have been more fighting before they obtained their prize.

Was the Vesia Kingdom really so weak? The way the nobles distrusted each other practically weakened their state by half.

He would never want to live in this confusing and contradictory state.
The Bright Republic might not be perfect, but Ves gained a new appreciation of how sane it was being run.

After an entire day of peaceful ransacking, their landbound mechs packed everything up and entered their combat carriers, which slowly ascended into space.
Laden with much-needed resources and supplies, the invigorated Vandals leisurely disappeared from the hairs of House Sabanet after transitioning into FTL at a Lagrange point.

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