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Chapter 1969 Merit Hall

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1969 Merit Hall

    Contrary to his hopes, none of the missions offered by the merit hall offered him a great bargain. He wouldn't be able to cheat his way into earning lots of merits by taking advantage of one of his unique strengths to complete the missions with much less effort than the mission issuers expected.

    The easier missions offered low rewards. The most lucrative missions imposed huge requirements.

    The only missions that seemed somewhat interesting to him were the risky missions. Yet Ves did not feel like risking his life for months or years just to earn 500,000 merits or so. If the Rim Guardians wanted him to risk his life for riches, then they better offer him a bigger pot of gold!

    His Apollo Radiant avatar grimaced even further as he rapidly scanned through hundreds of missions.

    Since Ves had entered the Granada Prime instance, most of the missions took place in the vicinity of the Komodo, Vicious Mountain or Majestic Teal Star Sectors.

    Some of the missions even took place in other locations such as the deep frontier or the Winged Serenade Star Sector.

    Ves studied the missions that took place in the Komodo Star Sector and began to get a better grasp on what the Rim Guardians wanted to accomplish.

    Hardly any of the missions involved the second-rate states or the ongoing wars. There weren't any missions that tasked associates with assisting the Fridaymen in the Komodo War or offering a new mech to aid the defending side of the Sand War.

    Instead, the missions ranged from helping obscure individuals, instructing random talents and most of all designing mechs for all kinds of weird and anomalous environments.

    Looks like the MTA is especially interested in the deep frontier and the Nyxian Gap.

    Both of them were explainable to Ves. Officially, the MTA's mandate ended at the borders of human space. While the MTA was still permitted to dispatch its warfleets to the frontier, that would inevitably raise the hairs of the CFA.

    The frontier belonged to the CFA! The MTA officially had no business in the frontier, but the situation was anything but simple.

    Even though the MTA couldn't enter the frontier itself, there was no rule prohibiting third parties from exploring the regions of space unclaimed by human civilization.

    While associates like Ves were very much related to the Rim Guardians and the MTA, they weren't formally members. This freed them from the rules constraining mechers.

    Still, as lucrative as these missions appeared, the risks were highly unpredictable.

    On a good day, no alien space horror ambushed their fleet. On a bad day, the planet they landed on turned out to hide a horrible alien superorganism that instantly engulfed every human at night!

    In addition, expeditions to the frontier also made the associates dependent on the protection of others unless they brought their own fleet!

    Ves happened to possess his own fleet, but he was a bit more hesitant than before about exposing his Larkinson clansmen to the dangers of the frontier.

    On one hand, he wanted to push his clansmen and harden them for the challenges to come.

    On the other hand, he wanted to protect his fellow Larkinsons and prevent any further harm from befalling them. He couldn't afford to let any other Larkinson die under his watch!

    This is too difficult!

    His robotic avatar sighed and turned away from the mission board. There wasn't anything that stood out to him at the moment. Perhaps once he reached the Sentinel Kingdom he might revisit the merit hall in order to accept a mission that took place in the Nyxian Gap.

    For some reason, the MTA was very interested in this anomalous space. The MTA and the Rim Guardians dispatched a lot of scouting expeditions to the frontier in order to delve its secrets or chart a new route to some of the more interesting asteroids in the Nyxian Gap.

    Some missions even offered rewards ranging from 5 million MTA merits or an increase in associate level!

    Ves noted that a handful of young and daring associates were eying these incredibly rewarding missions.

    However, they never accepted them alone.

    Many of the more difficult and complicated missions allowed for associates to complete them as a group as opposed to individually.

    The merit hall therefore offered a lot of space for associates to team up and complete a mission together.

    The only downside to teaming up was that the associates had to split up the rewards among themselves.

    Looking for Journeyman specialized in aerial mechs or flight systems to design a mech that can fly on a corrosive atmospheric planet! Seeking Majestic Teal mech designers only!

    Looking for mech athletes that have won at least one sector-wide competition to test our prototypes of our upcoming competition mechs! You must be proficient in piloting both knight mechs, spearman mechs and swordsman mechs!

    We are accepting a Journeyman to accompany us to the Faris Star Region in order to complete a mission based in the territory of the former sandman race! The CFA have already wiped out the sandman in the frontier, so there is absolutely no risk! Come join us now and earn some easy merits!

    By far, most of the Rim Avatars shouting in the hall consisted of lower-leveled associates. Most of them appeared to be Journeymen, though there were a handful that seemed to be Apprentices.

    Ves assumed that Seniors and upwards had other means to pool their strengths together. The lively atmosphere at the merit hall was much more appealing to younger people.

    None of these calls sounded appealing to him. Right now was not a good time to accept a mission anyway.

    His avatar turned away from the crowd of Rim Avatars looking for team members and walked towards the exit of the hall.

    Apollo! Apollo Radiant! Wait a moment!

    An associate jogged over and halted in front of Ves. His form resembled a spaceborn light skirmisher, but was replete with excessive decorations.

    The whole theme of the Rim Avatar revolved around a silver angel. The flight system shaped in the form of wings looked particularly striking.

    It was too bad that the rest of the mech was covered with too many icons scrollwork that didn't mesh together very well.

    Ves studied the popup box. It didn't reveal anything more than the associate's level, rank and pseudonym.

    This fellow was just a level 1 Journeyman.

    What do you want, Holy Clarkson?

    Your avatar is very impressive! I don't know how you are able to affect my emotions, but your artistry and ability to manipulate emotions is exactly what we need!

    Ves crossed his arms. What mission are you trying to complete?

    It's a Design Mission set in Majestic Teal. The mission calls for entering a prestigious design competition. We have to design a mech that is scored in two aspects, performance and beauty. The winning entries must be both strong and beautiful!

    I'm not interested.�� He said.

    He had no plans of entering the Majestic Teal Star Sector anytime soon. He still had to reach to Hegemony-aligned space before he could think about traveling somewhere else, and that would certainly take a couple of months!

    You don't have to physically present at the competition site! At least one of us is already on site to represent our team!

    How many merits does the mission reward?

    250,000 MTA merits.

    Ves raised his eyebrows. That's a very lucrative mission for participating and winning a design competition.

    The competition involves a lot of interests, some of which are based in different star clusters. Keep in mind that the full amount will only be rewarded for winning the competition. If we take second place or lower, we will only earn a fifth of the merits.

    I see. How many people are in your team? Ves asked the most important question.

    We already number three associates. With you, we'll be four. Originally, I planned to solicit another associate, but with your specialty, I don't think we need any further help!

    Ves instantly frowned. Splitting the reward four ways meant that he wouldn't be earning as many merits as he liked!

    Even though the competition wouldn't take a lot of time, Ves didn't feel very comfortable if he wasn't in charge.

    How will the reward be split up?

    One part each and two parts to our team leader. She's not on the Rim Exchange at the moment but I can always call her up right away.

    That meant that in the event of winning the competition, Ves and Holy Clarkson would only earn 50,000 MTA merits. Meanwhile, the team leader earned a whopping 100,000 MTA merits.

    While he understood this split, he didn't agree with it. He wasn't really interested in this mission to begin with. If it was up to him, he would rather take part in it by himself and collaborate with Gloriana to design his competition mech.

    I'm sorry, but I'm too preoccupied to participate in any competitions. I bid you good luck in finding an associate who can contribute to your competition entry.

    Wait! Don't go! I think you'll do great in the competition! Let me call my team leader to negotiate with you! We can chip in some extra rewards if the merits aren't enough!

    Ves straightforwardly pushed the angelic avatar aside. Holy Clarkson attempted to approach him, but he already activated an ignore function that left his entreaties unanswered.

    Once he stepped outside the merit hall, Ves looked up in the simulated air and floating palaces and sighed.

    He witnessed enough for one day. Browsing the missions at the merit hall revealed that earning millions of MTA merits at a time was unrealistic.

    As a Journeyman and a low-level associate, most of the missions available to him weren't very attractive.

    Certainly, it was very much viable to accumulate millions of MTA merits by performing low-risk mission after low-risk mission.

    From what he saw, many associates favored this steady approach.

    If Ves didn't have any great ambitions, then he would have followed this trajectory as well.

    Unfortunately, he couldn't afford to take it slow. The Red Ocean Dwarf Galaxy continued to beckon to him, but its call only lasted for a couple of decades!

    As Ves was about to log out of the virtual immersion, Gamma-Gamma-Hogan suddenly appeared by his side.

    [Apollo Radiant, you have received a priority meeting request. An associate called Green Golem wishes to meet with you in a private venue. Do you wish to accept this request?]

    Who the hell was Green Golem?

    Uh, no. I'm just about to leave.

    [Please consider attending this meeting. Green Golem requested a meeting with Ves Larkinson, not Apollo Radiant.]

    Ves paused just before he pressed the logout command. He turned to his concierge.

    Lead the way.

    Hogan led him to a lively district that hosted a lot of restaurants and drinking establishments. The android guided Ves to a winehouse.

    One interesting detail about this virtual immersion experience was that its fidelity was a lot higher!

    Unlike the sense of falseness and incongruity that bothered him throughout his stay in the MTA's virtual library, his senses were much more comfortable at the Rim Exchange.

    This not only translated to a better sense of sight and smell, but also taste and touch.

    It was perfectly possible to order food and drink in this virtual illusion and still experience the wonderful blend of smells and flavors they had to offer!

    After ascending a few floors, Hogan finally stopped in front of a private room.

    Please enter.

    When Ves entered the drinking room, he briefly glanced at the tall windows that offered a magnificent view of Granada Prime before turning to the only occupant.

    Green Golem did not look as Ves expected.

    Rather than a green mech or some kind of stone monster covered in grass, Green Golem avatar instead consisted of lots of brilliant green crystals!

    While Ves was unable to determine if there was some metallic components inside the crystal avatar, he nonetheless found the avatar very impressive.

    Ves. I wish we could meet on better terms. I always wanted to call you again, but with the current circumstances, I'm unable to reach out to you.

    Tristan. It's been a long time. Are you aware that it's not very wise to meet with me? I'm not exactly on good terms with the Friday Coalition anymore.

    I know. I hope it doesn't affect our friendship, though. Let's talk it out.

    Ves decided to accept Tristan's proposal and sat down on the other side of the table. Tristan's avatar carefully gripped a glass of wine and poured a glass for his guest.