The invisible cultists stayed when the Priest finally finished his show.
The Church-owned shuttle departed from the Shield of Hispania ’s hangar bay with a lot less passengers than they initially brought inside.

Every important Vandal was being haunted by their personal stalker.
Ves was no different, as Acolyte Villis continued to follow him even after he left the hangar bay and returned to his office.

Having witnessed the negotiation between Major Verle, Commander Lydia and the Coinlord, he knew for certain that the Vandals and the Swordmaidens never agreed to host invisible ghosts from the Church of Haatumak!

For a moment, Ves began to doubt himself.
Did his spiritual vision lie to him? Did it conjure up an illusion that only existed in his imagination, or had the cultists truly planted hidden agents amongst their fleet?

If his vision hadn ’t lied to him, then the presence of these uninvited guests might invite ruin to their fleet!

They could do a lot of damage to the Flagrant Vandals and Lydia ’s Swordmaidens if they kept up their spying act.
Not only would they be able to read anything they read and hear anything they heard, but Ves suspected that these invisible presences could easily turn into assassins if necessary.

Hardly any Vandal with a follower kept up their guards against potential assassins! Why should they? This was their ship, and as far as they were aware of, no unauthorized guests had boarded the Shield.

The only person among them who didn ’t belong to the Vandals was Ketis, but the girl was practically the worst assassin imaginable.
The little vixen couldn ’t stalk her way anywhere without making a racket due to the various tribal accessories adorning her regular outfit.

In essence, their invisible stalkers had the potential to cause an enormous amount of harm to their operations.
They could either pass on the information they obtained by eavesdropping on their targets, or they could get their hands dirty and perform some sabotage while everyone else was blind to their presence.

The possibilities were limitless as long as they kept up their strange form of stealth!

”Damnit. ” He muttered softly to himself.
He had to watch what he said aloud because Acolyte Villis was practically breathing behind his neck right now!

Right now, he hated his position.
Being the head designer of the task force sounded great on his resume, but it also warranted a personal spy from the worshippers of Haatumak!

While Ves couldn ’t pin down why these crazies assigned their invisible acolytes to the Vandals, he suspected they were up to no good.

Soon enough, they would find out about the Starlight Megalodon.
The cultists might even be following behind the heels of the Flagrant Swordmaidens.
Once they inadvertently led the Temple of Haatumak to the Starlight Megalodon, the cultists could easily cripple the Flagrant Swordmaidens and take the prizes inside the Starlight Megalodon for themselves!

And the worst thing about it was that Ves couldn ’t warn Major Verle or anyone important about the potential threat that lingered behind their backs! Who knew what might happen if Ves tipped them off about the presence of their stalkers.

Before he composed a plan to deal with their uninvited guests, Ves tried to remain calm and show as little apprehension as possible.
He wasn ’t supposed to feel frightened in the familiar confines of the Shield of Hispania.
This was his home for several months, so he tried hard not to act too jumpy, lest Acolyte Villis suspected that he knew more.

Unfortunately, he hadn ’t quite succeeded at suppressing his nervous impulses.
It got so bad that Ketis frowned at him from her desk.

”What ’s wrong, teacher? Ever since you got back from the Temple of Haatumak, you ’ve been..
strange. ”

”It ’s nothing for you to concern yourself about. ” Ves quickly replied while leisurely waving his hand.
”By the way, why are you here? Aren ’t you supposed to work on finishing your miniature? ”

”Hah! I just finished it yesterday! ” She boasted, and rummaged through a drawer in order to retrieve a fairly impressive-looking scale model of his Marc Antony Mark I design.
”You can check the logs if you want, but I ’m telling you I made this without blowing through my budget! ”

”I ’ll take your word for it for now, but I ’ll be sure to check the logs as well as the security recordings. ”

As Ves received the hefty miniature that Ketis produced, he could tell it had come from her hand.
The work looked fairly exquisite in some places, but he also spotted a lot of minute imperfections as Ketis assembled the tiny parts by hand.
She obviously hadn ’t mastered the use of precision tools.

He didn ’t spare her from her mistakes.
”The way you put these parts together is too forced.
I can tell you made some mistakes that cascaded in a slew of misalignments.
If you fabricated a full-scale mech, the entire end product will be skewed because you ’re not respecting its tolerances! ”

The tolerances of a full-scale mech were relatively generous.
Mech designers took into account that they often endured a lot of damage during the course of their life cycle.
Battle damage along with routine wear and tear eventually knocked some parts out out of place.
A mech had to be robust enough to keep functioning even if some parts moved by a couple of millimeters from their place.

However, the tolerances of a mech mostly scaled according to their size.
A mech that shrunk by a hundred times featured tolerances that were also a hundred times tighter.
This massively increased the difficulty of assembling the parts, and hence served as a useful to Ketis who probably never had to worry too much about the tolerances of her own designs.

Once he finished lecturing Ketis about her oversight, he soothed her bruised ego by handing out the praise she deserved.
”At the very least, practicing with the 3D printer has improved your fabrication skills.
I ’m impressed by how fast you ’ve become proficient in handling the machine, and I ’m further impressed by how you tweaked the design of the Marc Antony Mark I to retain some of its functionality even if it ’s shrunk to this size. ”

Ves placed the miniature on his desk and pulled up his comm.
He executed a remote control program that allowed him to connect to the control module built in place of the cockpit.
Within a minute, he remotely piloted the miniature and had it walk back and forth over his desk.

”Getting this little toy to walk is quite an accomplishment.
As long as you are capable of getting this far with a miniature, then fabricating a full-sized mech by hand is just a step away. ”

”Hey! I can already do that, you know! You just haven ’t given me a chance! ”

He disagreed, but he didn ’t feel like arguing the point right now.
The issue of their uninvited guests weighed heavily on his mind even now.
With that old crone proverbially eyeing him like a hawk, 

Acolyte Villis wouldn ’t follow him to the shower, would she?

What about the toilet?

The answer he came up with made him glower.
He had somewhat accepted that he would never enjoy any privacy in the presence of the Flagrant Vandals, but at least they possessed some integrity.

It was impossible for the Vandal security officers to peep on each and every person in the fleet.
They likely left much of the actual watching to AIs that were programmed to watch out for suspicious activities.

Ves couldn ’t come up with such a reassuring excuse when it came to his personal stalker.

As Ves handed out a new assignment to Ketis to keep her busy and resumed handling his regular mech-related affairs, he mulled over Villis ’ identity.

She was far from a simple worshipper.
That he knew after several days of interacting with her and seeing her interact with others.
Every other Acolyte flinched away from the old woman, though the Priests still treated her like air.
What was her true status? Why was she still an Acolyte at her age?

Most of all, why was she assigned to Ves?

He couldn ’t come with solid answers to his questions, but he could make a guess.
Back at the Temple, when Ves worked on the Evaporating Spear, he always had the sense that Acolyte Villis never became confounded at what he did.
No matter how technical and complicated his work turned out to be, Villis kept staring intently at him.

It was as if she understood mechs as deeply as any other mech designer.

He couldn ’t help but frown even deeper.
If Villis possessed a technical background, which was rare but not impossible in the frontier, then Ves wouldn ’t be able to hide anything from her sight.

The only reason why he hadn ’t erupted into a full-blown panic was because there was a minute chance that this was all a figment of his imagination.
And even if they were not, he still managed to come up with a couple of plans to guard against any tricks the uninvited guests might pull off.

”I ’ll have to accelerate my side projects.
I need to complete both of them to increase my odds of survival. ”

Mercifully, once the Priests of Haatumak finished ’blessing ’ all of their ships, the Flagrant Swordmaidens didn ’t stick around for long.
They instantly moved towards the nearest Lagrange point and muscled every other independent pirate vessel aside in their haste to jump out of the Mortose System.

During this time, Ves struggled to pretend he was oblivious to the presence of outsiders aboard the ship.
The best way for him to cope with the burden was to immerse himself into his research projects.

He spent the majority of his time combing over the study materials provided by the Skull Architect.
The materials on stealth tech remained as threadbare as always while the research papers on ultracompact batteries always left him with a headache after an hour ’s worth of study.Find authorized novels in Webnovel,faster updates, better experience,Please click for visiting.

”This isn ’t going to work.
My progress is too slow.
I ’ll never be able to digest this much knowledge within a single year, let alone a month or two! ”

Ves needed to come up with a better way to internalize the knowledge locked within the extracts and research papers.

He already figured out that he processed the papers faster if he let his mentality become contaminated by the research philosophies locked within the pages.

This was basically akin to cracking open a vacuum-sealed hazard suit in order to let in more toxic air.
Sampling a bit of unfiltered toxic air wouldn ’t damage his body by much, but if he went too far then he might have irreparably damaged his hazard suit to the point where he couldn ’t seal it up again!

Obviously, such an approach came with an exceeding amount of risks.
The only reason why he got away with it with nothing but a couple of vague impulses was because he never dove very deeply into this research field before.

He might not be so lucky next time.

At some point, he paused his study session and leaned back against his chair while nursing his forehead.
”What are the mechanics behind mental contamination? ”

He decided to dive in deeper into this particular topic.
The local database stored on the Shield might not be as extensive as the central database of the Mech Corps, but it stored a lot of basic documentation on the dangers surrounding this phenomenon.

”To teach is to impart knowledge or provide instruction to someone. ”

The definition sounded simple, but when it came to knowledge taught from the heart of a strong-willed instructor, that knowledge became tinged with that person ’s personal feelings and biases.

This possibility strayed into the definition of a related but more nefarious word.

”To indoctrinate is to teach a person or a group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically. ”

High-level researchers and mech designers always exhibited an extreme amount of passion and belief in their own work.
Some of them disseminated their knowledge a little too enthusiastically, to the point where the line between fact and opinion started to blur.
The more advanced and abstract the research topic, the more their own beliefs gained prominence.

Since researchers always felt biased in favor of their own research, almost every time they disseminated their research, they couldn ’t help but push their own points of view.
It didn ’t matter that their audience might not be mature enough to reflect critically on the knowledge they absorbed!

Like sponges, the students absorbed the knowledge being force-fed to them by their teachers no matter if it was water or blood!

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