Many people caught up to Harkensen III in the past few days.
All of the hype surrounding the honor duel between Captain Orfan and Avid Serpent attracted lots of mech fanatics.

The underground arena made a killing by selling tickets at inflated prices.
The demand for a seat was so huge that the arena decided to add floating stands to the arena in order to stuff as much people in their venue as possible.
They intended to make the best use of the open space above the arena!

Part of the reason why tickets became hot was that underground arenas prohibited any broadcasts and recordings.
Even though the authorities didn ’t care about shutting them down, the underground still needed to remain out of sight from the public.
The underground arena utilized loads of jamming and interference technology to uphold this custom.

This basically meant that the honor duel was an event that someone might only experience once in their lives! Ves could imagine how many people wanted to catch up to the duel.

”When something hot becomes rare, its value spikes. ”

Ticket prices shot into space, crowding out the regular folk who could only spare a thousand marks at most.
Last Ves had heard, the cheapest tickets sold for 20,000 marks!

Though it seemed that the entire Harkensen System went crazy, in actual fact only a small proportion of visitors and locals were caught up in the hype.
Many tourists never heard about the Flagrant Vandals and didn ’t particularly care about the honor the Vesia Kingdom.

Still, many Vesians and Brighters attached a lot of importance to the outcome of this duel.
Citizens of the Republic and the Kingdom practically felt duty-bound to attend, though the extreme ticket prices scared many of them away.

The underground arena already made a killing by selling inflated ticket prices, but their appetite hungered for more.
They opened up betting stations in many places in the Harkensen System.

In this, they failed to grab the lion ’s share of the market.
This was because the more established betting companies moved first.
With their existing infrastructure, they held a definite advantage over the underground arena that had to keep most of its operations in the shadows.

No matter how Ves looked at it, the Reinaldans brazenly profited from the honor duel.
”It ’s like they can ’t let off any attempts at earning money. ”

All of the betting elevated a sober duel between two mech pilots from different states into a match with billions of marks at stake.
Ves was worried that some might seek to pressure one of the duelists to throw the match.
He wasn ’t naive to think such cheating never happened, particularly in the underground circles where enforcement was lax.

”Well, it probably won ’t work this time. ”

The Flagrant Vandals backed Captain Orfan, so anyone wishing to coerce her into throwing the match would have to face the fury of an entire mech regiment.

As for Avid Serpent, she wouldn ’t initiate an honor duel if she didn ’t value her principles.
To some people, honor was everything.
To others, honor was something that they couldn ’t touch or sell.
How could they value something that didn ’t really exist?

”Well, even if Avid Serpent is only for show, the worst she can do is tarnish the Vesia Kingdom ’s honor.
Any sabotage from her side won ’t affect the honor of the Vandals. ”

While Ves didn ’t concern himself too much about foul play, he still made some precautions of his own.
Ever since the New Sentinel came into being, he never let it out of his sight.
Anyone who wanted to tamper with the mech had to overcome his vigilance first.

Fortunately, as the time of the duel arrived, nothing went wrong.
By the time Captain Orfan returned and entered the cockpit for the upcoming show, Ves felt reassured that nothing would go wrong from now on.
He followed an arena attendant out of the workshop and sat down at a seat reserved for him at the very front.

He looked around and saw only strangers.
It was too bad that Chief Haine and the mech technicians declined to attend.
Sleep haunted them for days.
They deserved their rest.

Right now, the final pre-show ritual came to an end.
Due to the honor duel, the regular duelling schedule had been ditched.
Nothing was allowed to upstage the honor duel.

”Ladies and gentlemen, Vesians and Brighters, Reinaldans and Roppongans, wherever you hail from, welcome to the main event! ”

Anticipatory music pumped through the entire arena, affecting the moods of two-million attendees.
Ves looked up as a massive floating stand of seats hovered over his head.
Above those floating stands was another set of floating stands, and so on.
If their antigrav modules ever suffered a malfunction, hundreds of thousands of people would crash into the people sitting below.

”Damn, is this even safe? ”

It wasn ’t as if the underground arena was required to adhere to any safety rules.

He forced himself out of his worries and turned his attention back to the stage.

”There is no greater rivalry in this corner the battle for supremacy between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom! Two different states with two very different ideals have clashed for several hundred years without a winner in sight! Has anyone heard of a conflict that lasted so long?! Only the rivalry between the Terrans and the Rubarthans comes close! ”

Many audience members laughed and jeered at the Vesians and the Brighters.
Their constant warring had become something of a joke in the Komodo Star Sector.

The Vesians were portrayed as mule-headed dunces for their repetitive wars of aggression that never seemed to win them anything at the end.

The Bright Republic on the other hand gained a reputation for being punching bags for the Vesians.

They were like a dysfunctional couple where an abusive husband kept hitting his wife.

Ves glowered a little as the Reinaldans amused themselves into thinking they were better.
”Without the Frozen Leaf Alliance, would you still be able to make fun of the Vesians? ”

After a few minutes of blathering, the announcer finally moved on to the duelists.

”Without further ado, let us welcome the mech pilots who will stake their lives over this duel! Two may enter, but only one will leave! ”

Two separate gates opened up, allowing two separate mechs to enter the field.

Ves held his breath as he beheld the Rogue Breaker.
While Ves had transformed the Pointed Sentinel into something new, he never believed his competitor would stay still.

”Look at Avid Serpent! What are those add-ons attached to the frame of her mech!? ”

Some people recognized the strange external components that surrounded the joints and other parts of the mech.

”Those are force boosters! ”

Force boosters basically enhanced the movements of the mech at critical moments.
They weren ’t seen very often because of their complexity and high energy demands.
Still, in a short duel, these force boosters could easily amplify the power exerted by the Rogue Booster by a significant amount!

”And that ’s only the external changes. ”

Ves couldn ’t see anything different about the Rogue Breaker from within.
Someone as good as Creta would never neglect the internal structure of the mech.
Only when the fighting started would Ves be able to see what his rival had changed.

”Certainly, Captain Orfan won ’t have it easy. ”

There was one aspect in which the New Sentinel surpassed the Rogue Breaker.
Though Avid Serpent had attracted a lot of attention, her mech didn ’t appear to be too special despite the external additions.

Though the New Sentinel looked a little duller, the mech somehow possessed a faint charm that compelled most of the audience members into admiring its form.
Its cheap armor inherited from the old Pointed Sentinel did little to cover up its allure.

”Does this spearman mech look a little different from last time? ”

”Why do I feel like I ’m looking at a whole other mech from three days ago? ”

”I thought the Pointed Sentinel was a trash model! How come I ’m itching to buy one right now! ”

Though Ves wasn ’t able to access the System, he estimated the strength of the New Sentinel ’s X-Factor to be in the low C-grade or high D-grade.
Though this paled in comparison to the B-grade of the Crystal Lord, this was still sufficient enough to stoke people ’s desires.

It was too bad that no one equated the special nature of the New Sentinel to Ves.
As always when it came to mechs, the mech pilots attracted all of the attention while the contributions of the mech designer faded into the background.
Ves smiled ruefully as the announcers never even credited Mr.
Creta and him for elevating the mechs to new heights.

”Before we start this duel, do any of you two ladies have second thoughts? This is your final chance to withdraw! After the signal is given, the gates will remain locked and the energy screens will remain up until blood has been drawn! Cockpit ejections are blocked and leaving your mechs won ’t do you any good! This will be a true fight to the death with no exceptions! ”

The consequences of failure was serious.
Even if one side wished to be merciful, the arena organizers wouldn ’t brook any diversions from the script.
As the guarantor of the honor duel, they had taken up the responsibility of enforcing the terms of the duel to the letter.
Their reputation would be ruined if they failed to uphold the terms.

”I have never feared death! All of those who slandered me are wrong! ” Avid Serpent yelled from her mech.
As always, her identity remained a secret and the voice scrambler did a very good job in obscuring how she truly sounded.
”As the challenger of this duel, I will not disgrace myself by going back on my vow! Come what may, I will bear the consequences of my actions! ”

Her valiant statement won over a significant part of the public.
Her story had an air of mystery and tragedy around her.
Despite being labeled as a deserter, Avid Serpent had done a good job in presenting herself as a tragic figure who had left the Mech Legion for reasons other than cowardice.

Every person ’s imagination harbored a different story of Avid Serpent ’s fall.
Some imagined her to be a noble lady whose entire House fell overnight.
Hunted down by the forces of a rival House, the lady had no other choice but to flee the Kingdom and throw a cloak over her identity to escape pursuit.

Others figured her to be a talented commoner who had slowly risen up the ranks of the Mech Legion.
One day, a noble ponce took a fancy upon her and wished to bed her.
Avid Serpent violently resisted his advances and a major accident happened which claimed the playboy ’s life.
Enraged, his House sent assassins and bounty hunters after the woman, who had no choice but to find refuge in a neighboring state.

Many such stories circulated from people ’s mouths and on the galactic net.
Even Ves became intrigued by her origins.
Who was she, really? Even Ves couldn ’t tell.

”Hah! You Vesians are all the same! ” Captain Orfan broadcasted from the New Sentinel.
”You ’re all bark and no bite! You better ready yourself for a beatdown, because by the time I ’m done with you, you wish you were dead! ”

Ves almost wanted to palm his face.
The way she spoke made it seem as if the Flagrant Vandals was made up of nothing but boors.
Even though that statement was somewhat accurate, Orfan could at least put their best foot forward.

Many thousands of Brighter visitors stood up and cheered for Captain Orfan and the Vandals.

”Go beat down that venomous snake! ”

”I love you, Rosa! Please marry me! ”

”Show these Reinaldans that us Brighters aren ’t pansies! ”

Once both sides had their say, the duel couldn ’t be postponed anymore.
”What courage! Neither duelists have flinched! Let us witness their ferocity and see whose convictions will stand at the end! BEGIN! ”

An explosion erupted in the air above the dueling ground which served as the signal for the start of the duel.
Both mechs instantly exploded into action.
One wielded a spear, the other held an axe.
The opening moves of the mechs revealed their true strength for the very first time!

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