Chapter 1902 Grounded
In the Friday Coalition, there existed many prosperous star systems.
One of the more notable ones was the Warsaw Giant System. It hosted what many Fridayman arguably considered the best mech design institution in Coalition space!
The Clarion University of Mech Design was a sprawling behemoth that established extensive symbiotic relationships with the Gauge Dynasty.
While there were several rival institutions that possessed the capital to compete against Clarion's prestige and influence, it was nonetheless the foremost school in every aspiring mech design student's mind!
Those who managed to receive an invitation to study at Clarion were some of the most fortunate individuals.
Those who managed to rise up from obscurity and pass the notoriously difficult and grueling entry examinations were valued even higher!
This was how an ordinary young woman managed to do so well and catch the attention of one of the great Master Mech Designers residing at Warsaw Giant!
Years of frantic study, extensive augmentation, assisting her Master in various projects ensued. Soon enough, she became qualified to design her own mechs, even managing to publish a few modestly-successful mech designs in the Friday Coalition's notoriously oversaturated and ultra-competitive mech market!
In recognition of her talent, ability and contributions, the Gauge Dynasty invited her to become one of its retainers.
If she worked hard enough and continued to increase her value, then a day might come where she might receive an offer to be adopted into the great dynasty!
This was always one of her greatest goals in life! To become a member of the Gauge Dynasty meant that she would be granted the greatest amount of support in her future climb towards Master!
To any mech designer, the promotion from Apprentice to Journeyman was like a natural moat that blocked all but a random number of lucky mech designers.
Even the smartest, talented and most promising Apprentices never managed to find an opportunity to advance. Meanwhile, many of their lesser-deserving rivals breezed past this threshold as if it was nothing more than a curtain!
On the other hand, no amount of luck and random chance could ever allow a Senior to reach Master. Only hard work, a solid foundation, a huge amount of funding and a willingness to plunge into the unknown could give Seniors a sliver of a chance to advance to Master!
While Lady Aisling Curver was confident in her ability to become a Master through her own efforts, if she enjoyed the full support of the Gauge Dynasty, then her ascension was much more assured!
Just like the famed Master Carmin Olson, reaching Master at 100 years old was her ultimate goal! Advancing quickly would not only provide her with more time to perform true cutting-edge research, but also do wonders in raising her profile!
Of course, achieving this feat was not the only way for an ambitious mech designer to stand out from the mech industry and attract attention.
In a private estate situated in a pristine forested landscape, Aisling sat on her sofa while tuning in to a public broadcast.
[The rumors are true.] The voice of the man she obsessed over rang clear through the advanced speakers of her room. [The mech you see before you is a certified masterwork mech! The Quint is an exceptional copy of our Bright Warrior design, which is based around a modular mech platform with four different configurations. Through the assistance of an anonymous benefactor, my partner and I not only managed to design the best mech our collaboration has produced, but also managed to turn our inaugural copy into a masterwork!]
She pinched her fingers and spread them out in a diagonal fashion, causing the projection of the broadcast to grow larger until it dominated half of the elegantly-decorated leisure room!
The brilliant-looking woman in a dress spoke up next. [Not only has a Master of the Mech Trade Association conveyed her appreciation towards the Quint, she has also confirmed in person that Ves and I have substantially contributed to the making of this masterwork mech! After the honorable Master Moira Willix inspected our work in person, the MTA has officially bestowed us both with masterwork certificates. Starting from today, Ves and I have officially become the youngest masterwork mech designers from the Yeina Star Cluster!]
That could have been me. She growled from her gritted teeth as she glared at the grinning woman standing next to the man that could have been hers! That cow doesn't deserve Ves! She's ruining him! She already ruined him in fact! If she hadn't brainwashed him into becoming a Hexer slave, he wouldn't have hijacked our ship!
A more demure-looking woman wearing a plain suit shook her head. Let it be, Aisling. What's done is done. You have had your chance. Your Master has rejected your proposal to chase after Ves again. He's a problem for the Coalition Reserve Corps now. You should instead focus on redeeming yourself and get back in your Master's good graces.
The aftermath of the Scarlet Rose's hijacking hadn't gone well. Ves Larkinson not only managed to kill off the entire crew of the Scarlet Rose, but subsequently managed to take over the ship and her complement of mechs long enough to return to safety!
What was worse was that Hexer reinforcements also defeated the Terrinac and her mechs, taking the ship as an extra prize!
While Lady Curver wasn't responsible for these losses, her decisions to kidnap Ves and bring him back to Warsaw Giant directly led to these unfortunate turn of events.
Suffice to say, the CRC was quite displeased with Lady Curver! Her Master had to bail her out and keep her in place to minimize the repercussions of her missteps.
She hated it! Aisling was not only stuck on Warsaw Giant, but also had to go back to assisting her Master's design projects. This meant that she was unable to devote any time to her own projects, thereby slowing down her own progress!
What was worse for Aisling was that while she returned to doing marginal grunt work for Master Huron, Gloriana Wodin proceeded to reunite with Ves and design the most impressive mech up to his point in this career!
[Let me be honest.] Ves spoke. [We did not achieve this remarkable accomplishment alone. If you access the MTA's public record on the Quint, you will notice that Master Willix reserved a considerable amount of credit to a mech designer known as 'Mr. S'. Due to his own wishes, I cannot speak any further about his identity. All I can say is that Mr. S is one of my greatest benefactors and one of the most important reasons why I managed to reach this point. Master Willix herself expressed great respect for Mr. S's abilities. Not only did he assist us in perfecting the Bright Warrior design, he also facilitated our entry into the ranks of masterwork mech designers!]
Gloriana took over in addressing the crowd of reporters. [Let me be clear. We are true masterwork mech designers. Without the months we've spent on designing the Bright Warrior and the value we've provided to the Quint, our first mech built exclusively for the Larkinson Clan would have never become so remarkable! If you have any cause to doubt our masterwork certificates, then you can always take it up with Master Willix of the MTA!]
Naturally, no reporter at the press conference dared to issue a challenge. Nobody was crazy enough to call a Master Mech Designer a liar, let alone one who was part of the hierarchy of one of the most powerful organizations in the galaxy!
Gloriana smiled at the crowd and the recorders with supreme satisfaction. She even leaned into Ves in order to show off her affection for her lover!
THAT COULD HAVE BEEN ME! Aisling repeated with a heated face!
The impressive and sublime appearance Quint looming over the heads of the loving pair practically taunted her. The masterwork mech's existence was like a dagger stabbed into her heart. It physically hurt her to continue staring at the mech that bore the touch of both her greatest crush and her most hated rival!
While Aisling stewed over what could have happened if her scheme went according to plan, Patricia calmly observed the words and mannerisms of the two mech designers.
She picked up plenty of clues and made several important observations.
My guess is true. She softly noted. Ves Larkinson used to be an average mech design student at Rittersberg. He should have never been able to rise so quickly. Even before he managed to become Master Olson's apprentice, his trajectory had already started to jump upwards. There was no way he could have risen so remarkably without a benefactor. The question is what makes Ves so special in those early days?
His design philosophy, I bet! Aisling shouted. Ves has developed a great design philosophy! It would have matched so well with mine, but instead he hooked up with a Hexer who possessed a much more boring design philosophy! How could he possibly be so stupid to favor her as opposed to me? We could have designed the most powerful teamwork-oriented mechs in the star sector! With his glows and my neural networks, we could have empowered entire mech armies and give our side a decisive advantage against the Hexers!
There was no way to turn back time for Aisling. Even if the rumors were true that the Big Two developed or adapted alien technology that enables them to travel through time, someone like Aisling would never be able to access such restricted technology!
For all intents and purposes, Aisling forever lost her moment to convert Ves to her side!
Patricia directed a veiled look at her colleague and superior. She suffered her own share of problems after the hijacking of the Scarlet Rose.
Though she managed to escape greater punishment as well, she sometimes regretted her decision.
Spending time with a jealous and lovesick fool like Aisling was wearing on her patience! It became increasingly harder to maintain a calm and rational mood when she was in the presence of a petulant child!
Even though Patricia respected Aisling's talent and accomplishments in mech design, the latter's rapid success also came paired with strong mood swings and an extreme personality!
It is odd how the pair frequently refer to Mr. S and Master Willix. She observed while ignoring Aisling's outbursts. I believe they are trying to protect themselves by implicitly sending the message that they enjoy the support of a genuine Master and a suspected Master.
The other mech designer in the room paused her tantrum. That.. doesn't sound very clever. If they're working too hard, then that suggests that their supposed protection might very well be an illusion. It is well-known that the mech designers from the MTA aren't allowed to meddle in private affairs and state affairs.
That is true. Patricia nodded. And I think Ves and Gloriana are aware of this fact as well. Even so, Master Willix likely favors them in private. This counts for at least something, as it is never a good idea to earn the ire of one of the Masters presiding over our entire star sector.
This meant that the pair would still be able to achieve their goals of deterring potential troublemakers from going after their lives!
What Patricia could see, others could see as well.
Therefore, even if a lot of powerful people throughout the star sector began to notice the pair for the first time, they didn't do more than seeking ways to reach out to them with attractive offers.
When Gloriana proceeded to mention that the Wodin Dynasty of the Hexadric Hegemony officially supported the pair, most of those plans evaporated into dust.
Almost no one who was already on the side of the Hexers wished to become associated with those rabid women!
Ves is rooting for the wrong side. Aisling said glumly.
As the Quint began to demonstrate its performance by deploying into space, she no longer wanted to watch the broadcast any longer. She flicked her finger, causing the projection to fade.
You're right, Patricia. Mulling over my regrets won't get me anywhere. If I want to keep up with that Hexer witch and remain worthy to Ves, I have to work earnestly to get back in my Master's good graces!
She wasn't willing to give up!