Despite her age, Professor Velten showed keen interest in his descriptions of the many problems he faced and what kind of solutions he came up with.
She also dug in quite deeply about all of the research projects he came in touch with at the Starlight Megalodon ’s Research Department.

”To think the CFA already set their sights so far three-hundred years ago. ” She sighed.
”We are but children playing in the mud compared to the Big Two. ”

Overall, she seemed pleasantly surprised by his competence in taking over the position of head designer.

”Alloc should have held this position.
He was ready for it.
Unfortunately… ”

The Journeyman Mech Designer was still missing in action even after all of this time.
Professor Velten showed genuine regret about the continued disappearance of her final protege.
It took some time for her to shake off her memories and return to business.

”We have talked enough for today.
Right now, you must be wondering what your next duties will be.
Colonel Lowenfield has informed me that you are due for a transfer upon our return to the Bright Republic.
While she hasn ’t told me where you are being transferred to, she raised a few points to my attention that might be relevant to your next posting. ”

Ves raised his back a little bit.
It sounded like he wouldn ’t be sent back to the design department to do grunt work.

”From today, I ’ll instruct you and have you study proper project management.
Mech designers often collaborate on major projects and since you have mostly worked alone so far, you will need to be brought up to speed on how to contribute to design projects both as a participant and as a project leader. ”

”Professor, while I haven ’t participated in too many collaborative projects, I ’m not unfamiliar with them.
I think I know my around them already. ”

”You may think so when you think about small design projects involving four or five mech designers.
However, it is a different case entirely when you talk about major design projects that involve a hundred mech designers or more.
The more mech designers are involved, the higher the challenge of managing them all to make sure their talents and abilities are put to use. ”

Professor Velten ’s explanation insinuated that Ves would definitely be joining a large design team in the future.
Perhaps he was even being groomed for a leadership position, though he highly doubted it because Apprentice Mech Designers generally didn ’t fill such big shoes.

”Leading a large number of mech designers is worse than leading mech pilots.
Do you know why? ” She abruptly asked.

”Uhm, the latter are soldiers who are trained to obey orders, while the former are scientists and engineers with strong beliefs, ma ’am. ”

”Your answer is a bit simplistic, but true, in a sense.
The smarter the mech designer, the more stubborn they become.
This becomes a significant problem when you gather a large number of them together.
There are theories, frameworks, methods and paradigms that specifically pertain to design teams involving many mech designers and component designers working together on the same projects.
You will need to be up to speed with them as much as possible.
We ’ll begin your lesson as soon as you have your rest.
I ’m sure you are exhausted by now. ”

He did talk a lot with various people.
Ever since he departed from the Shield of Hispania, he answers the questions asked by professional interrogators whose job was to construct a detailed picture of how the mission progressed.
He subsequently entertained Colonel Lowenfield and Professor Velten ’s many questions specific to their own interests.

The recombined Vandal fleet had long exited the Mancroft System and transitioned into FTL during that time!

All of this talking and trying to keep his nose clean throughout all of his answers exhausted him quite a bit on a mental level.
Even if his fit and genetically optimized body could go on for longer, his mind dearly needed a reprieve.

When Ves exited the office, two familiar mech designers waited outside.
Laida and a couple of other Apprentices welcomed him back to the fold.

”We heard you went on a grand adventure, Ves. ” Laida said.

Ves shrugged.
”I ’m sorry I can ’t tell you much about it.
You know how it is with classified missions and all. ”

”Some of the tales about where you ’ve been have leaked out.
Is it true that you found a genuine crashed CFA battleship?! ”

”I can neither confirm or deny that assertion. ” Ves answered robotically.
”Just believe me when I tell you that it ’s been hell on us all. ”

”That ’s obvious. ” The female mech designer remarked.
”Dozens of Vandal ships set off to the Reinald Republic and to the frontier by all accounts, but almost a year later the only ships that returned are two battered-looking combat carriers. ”

Ves really couldn ’t tell them much.
His tiredness along with their inability to imagine living through those harrowing circumstances put some distance between him and his fellow mech designers.

He quickly separated from his curious two peers with the excuse that he had a long day and found his way towards his bunk on the Wolf Mother.

Starting from the next day, he began to study under Professor Velten.
She handed over a lot of reading material that didn ’t really pertain to the sciences.
Instead, she assigned a laundry list of textbooks pertaining to project management and leadership and the like.

As Ves started to hit the books, he already felt as if he already understood much of their contents from his previous stint as head designer.
However, there was a difference between learning on the job and learning the theory behind it all.

Ves didn ’t find his homework to be redundant.
Theory and practice complemented and reinforced each other.
Even if Ves already had his experience to draw upon, it was always good to know if his methods were the best and if he could have opted for alternatives instead.

One of the reasons why Ves enthusiastically devoured the books was because all of this management theory would also be of use in his business career.
He always intended to take a firmer hand in the running of the LMC once he returned.
Getting to know how to boss around his subordinates better would doubtlessly help him rein in the beast that grew in his absence.

Weeks went by as the main fleet of the Flagrant Vandals passed through unclaimed territory and the territories of small, neutral states.

During this time, Ves found it hard to reconnect to Laida and the other Apprentices.
While Ves took part in a mission that saw him assisting the Flagrant Swordmaidens in fighting for their lives against hundreds of pirate and Vesian mechs, the other Apprentices mostly spent their time assisting the development of the Inheritor, Hellcat and Akkara designs.

After the Detemen Operation, the Verle Task Force abruptly set off for the mission while the main fleet calmly snuck back to the Bright Republic and held a position in the rear of the war theater.

None of the mech designers and Vandals of the main fleet saw any action during this time.
Even when the war heated up at the frontlines, Colonel Lowenfield kept all of her available forces on standby.

”What happened to Pierce, Ves? ” Laida asked him quietly.
”As far as I knew, he was assigned to the Beggar ’s Bounty.
Yet the Bounty isn ’t among the ships that returned… ”

Ves closed his eyes in sadness.
He hadn ’t spent nearly as much time with Pierce as he would have liked.
”Pierce Yuvalis is missing in action.
The Beggar ’s Bounty is one of the many ships that we have been forced to leave behind.
While many Vandals who abandoned ship managed to find other berths, Pierce isn ’t among the people who found their way to the Shield of Hispania or the Gorgon ’s Gaze.
I ’m sorry. ”

Both of them grieved for their fallen friend and peer.
Ves found Pierce ’s fate to be a truly depressing tale.
The young mech designer fled the Friday Coalition for the Bright Republic due to his lack of talent in mech design, but he always harbored an urge to improve himself to the point of being able to return to his home state with his head raised high.

Such a dream would never come to pass now that the sandman presumably sucked Pierce into a dry husk before crushing his remains entirely.

”Too many Vandals never made it back. ” Laida echoed in sadness.

Ves found interacting with his fellow Apprentice Mech Designers to be a bit of a chore.
In matters of mech design, they still struggled with the basic questions that Ves already mastered long ago.

In his heart, only the Journeymen were his peers, but since he himself hadn ’t ascended to their heights yet, he couldn ’t just approach the other two Journeymen for a chat.

Therefore, he began to avoid spending his time with the other mech designers and instead poured his complete concentration into his studies.

Besides reading book after book from the internal database ’s library, Ves also listened to Professor Velten ’s rambling lectures as she conveyed some of her personal experiences to him.
While Ves found her stories to be rather meandering and incoherent on her bad days, the leadership perspective she provided gave him a lot of insights on how to lead a team of mech designers.

”It used to be different, you know.
Our profession has changed throughout the years. ” The Professor remarked.
”I ’m more than a hundred-and-fifty years old, which is half as long as the Starlight Megalodon went missing.
You ’ve already experienced how bold and innovative mech designers used to be at the early days of the Age of Mechs.
When I came into my prime, the mech industry no longer played so fast and loose with the rules, but there isn ’t as much structure as there is now. ”

”Is that a good thing or a bad thing, professor? ” He asked.

”I can only say that the mech industry has grown more sophisticated.
Structure is needed to cope with the increased amount of variables that affect our work.
However, sometimes I reminisce about the good old days, where all you need to design a good mech is to gather a bunch of fellow mech designers together and lock them into a single room for a time. ”

Besides these interesting remarks, Ves also got to hear about her burdens as a Senior Mech Designer.

”A Senior Mech Designer is lifted up to a pedestal in the Bright Republic.
You might think that we are at the top of our game and the envy of the younger generation of our state, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The more capabilities you possess, the more responsibilities that you are expected to fulfill.
Personally, I ’ve made the mistake of taking these responsibilities too seriously.
I spent too much time on pointless endeavors. ”

”What kind of endeavors? ”

”Too many of them! ” The professor cackled.
”Where do I begin? How about collaborating with the Bright Republic ’s state-sponsored design teams in designing unicorn mechs that eat up billions of credits but are only fielded once or twice.
Or how about becoming a tenured professor only to end up eating away precious years of my lifespan teaching stupid little brats who have no business entering this profession how to hold the right end of wrench? ”

Obviously, Professor Velten held too much regrets in her life.
Her fatalistic behavior implied that she knew the end of her life was near.

Right now, this dying woman who lost her final protege to the war against the Vesians treated Ves as a vehicle to leave behind some of her legacy.

It made Ves fear old age even more.
He would hate to end up growing old and senile with all hopes of extending his lifespan cut off!

”Mark my words, Mr.
If you ever advance to Journeyman or Senior and propel yourself to success, don ’t let yourself be distracted by the fawning of others! Nothing is more important to a mech designer than their own pursuits and initiatives! ”

This was probably the most important lesson that Professor Velten tried to convey to Ves.
A mech designer ’s time was limited, and time should be spent on improving themselves instead of fulfilling the petty desires of others.

While Ves didn ’t think he would ever fall into such a pit, he nodded seriously at her warning.
”I will be sure to remember your advice, professor. ”

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