in unison.
Wild gods lazing underneath the astral winds, only waking once every half month to gorge upon the nearest herds of animals.

The terrain varied wildly as well.
One day, they ’d be travelling through sparse desert-like terrain.
Other days, they forcefully felled the trees as they cut their way straight through an ancient forest.

Due to the human terraforming activities initiated long ago, many local plants and animals bore the unremarkable genetic stamp of Old Earth.
However, their genes incorporated many interesting modifications that improved a lot of aspects, chiefly among them the adaptation to heavy gravity.

Sometimes, original aborigine wildlife popped up here and there that resisted extinction.
For one reason or another, these exotic-looking plants and animals survived the displacement by the aggressive Earth-derived species and stubbornly clung onto life in their new ecological niches.

For the exobiologists, all of this interesting biodiversity practically presented a mystery to them.
This was because they continued to see signs of deliberate intervention and change.

The entire planet ’s ecology was an artificial construct from the start ever since the Starlight Megalodon touched down on this planet.

Sometimes, Ves would sit on top of a heavy transport and look out at the different sights underneath the perpetual golden glow of the astral winds.
As the transports stopped to make a temporary camp for the ’night ’, most Vandals and Swordmaidens went to sleep, though a sufficient amount of mech pilots remained awake to stand on guard.

No threats popped up during this time.
One reason was that the ground expedition deliberately steered clear of any ancient city.
They never strayed within two-hundred kilometers of one of the cities ruled by the sacred gods and blessed people.

This sometimes forced them to make awkward detours that added a couple of extra days to their schedule.
However, Captain Byrd much preferred to avoid interacting with the locals than to risk another incident like what happened with Samar.

As time continued to flow by, more changes happened.
For one, the frequent mental resilience training sessions taking place at the Mind Blender became somewhat of a staple to the mech pilots.
The sessions only happened during the downtime, allowing the mech pilots to enjoy a good rest afterwards so that they could resume piloting their mechs with very little hindrances.

While their overall performance hadn ’t increased, several reports from some of the more observant mech captains already detected some cautiously positive changes to the quality of their subordinates.

”The mech pilots are more attentive and patient.
They used to complain all the time when assigned to lengthy reconnaissance missions, but now they stoically accept every tedious task! ”

”The men last much longer during simulation practice.
They ’re far more willing to endure difficulties than before.
It ’s surprising how much has changed! ”

This transformation occurred most dramatically among the ranks of the Flagrant Vandals.
While the Swordmaidens experienced some improvements as well, the mental quality of their mech pilots had always been stellar, so the added boost was merely a cherry on top.

From all of the data Ves had gathered to quantify and track these changes over time, he managed to come up with two conclusions.

First, the mental resilience training sessions impacted low-quality mech pilots the most.
Those with attitude problems or underwent faulty training that left them with shaky minds and unsteady discipline somehow stiffened up after they underwent a dozen rounds of training sessions.

One change led to another.
A higher tolerance for pain and suffering also increased their tolerance to endure the work they used to shirk.

In some way, this training method could be utilized to iron out a large amount of shoddy mech pilots.
While it didn ’t turn them into elites, at the very least it shaved off some of their bad habits and instilled them with both patience and tolerance.

Second, the training sessions continued to pay dividends even after most of these changes played out.
The doctors paying attention to the changes in their minds noted gradual changes in their brain structure in response to having their mind slightly messed around with by the dwarf captives.

What these changes truly led to, Ves wasn ’t sure.
Many experts taking part of the beast rider project believed these changes may not even be benign.

In the face of all of these uncertainties, Ves reluctantly curtailed the operation of the Mind Blender project.
Instead of letting mech pilots go through a training session once every three days, Ves reduced the rate to once every two weeks, mostly to preserve their existing gains.

This was the shortest interval the doctors came up with that wouldn ’t stimulate the brains of the mech pilots to adapt to the foreign impulses.

Ves felt like he was drawing his mech pilots back from overdosing on the stimulants he initially hooked them up with.
Once he announced reduction in training sessions, many Vandals and Swordmaidens actually protested.

”Why did you stop?! I can ’t go without my fix! Let me in! Didn ’t you want us to train our minds?! ”

”This is unfair! Who let you be in charge?! My performance in the simulations shot up by thirty percent, and this isn ’t my limit! ”

Already used to being jeered at by mech pilots, Ves readily ignored their howls.
He found it funny that a few months ago, they cried about what a torture it was to enter the Mind Blender.

Now, they actively fought against the reduction in training sessions.

Nonetheless, Ves really feared what might happen if the dwarf captives continued to muck about in their minds through the neural interface of their test mechs.
Would they begin to take dwarf-like traits?

Ves shuddered when he considered that possibility.
Once every two weeks should be more than enough to maintain the mental health of the mech pilots.

”Let it not be said that I ’ve brainwashed our own mech pilots into becoming dwarf sympathisers. ”

Speaking of the dwarves, they encountered many different tribes along their way.
The Mind Blender frequently replaced their worn out dwarf captives by kidnapping new ones from these inconsequential dwarves.

One day, however, they encountered something much more formidable than a small tribe of a few hundred dwarfs riding on their godling pack mounts.

They encountered a large nomadic dwarf tribe.
One with several wild gods under their control.
Or was it the other way around?

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