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Chapter 1970 Opposite Sides

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1970 Opposite Sides

    Even though Ves hadn't integrated any taste and digestion functions in his avatar, the virtual setting conveniently ignored that detail and allowed him to taste the wine as close to reality as the simulation allowed.

    An indeterminate silence followed as both avatars sipped the wine.

    Interesting avatar design. Ves spoke up. What is the idea behind its appearance?

    My avatar represents my specialty. After listening to your advice in one of our previous talks, I did some soul-searching. After incorporating the lessons I learned at the trials held by the Rim Guardians, I eventually found a calling that I can call my own. I shifted my design philosophy in a direction that I'm truly interested in. While my current situation doesn't allow me to develop my new area of interest, I am still a lot more confident about my career than before.

    That sounds great. So what is your design philosophy all about?

    As you know, Master Katzenberg specializes in material substitution. As her direct disciple, I've inherited much of her discipline, but unlike her I work better with some materials than others. After we played around with lithic mechs during our trials, I discovered that I possess a good affinity for non-metallic materials. After a lot of study and experimentation, I've settled on specializing in gems.

    What? Ves sat up a little straighter in his chair!

    I'm not talking about ordinary gemstones, of course. The Green Golem avatar calmly continued as if Tristan anticipated Ves' surprise. Humanity has come across countless exotic materials. The most interesting exotics to mech designers are metallic exotics and exotics that are useful in enhancing the properties of alloys. That still leaves out a lot of exotics that fall outside these categories. While not as ubiquitous as metallic exotics, gemstone exotics have their own strengths and isn't nearly as researched.

    You won't have as much competition than if you decided to specialize in metallic exotics. Ves noted. That's pretty smart. I haven't worked with a lot of gems before. How do they actually work?

    Ves was very interested in Tristan's answer.

    The Green Golem avatar smiled. The gems that I am interested in aren't very common in third-class mech designs. In second-class mechs and above, installing precious gems on specific components can result in noticeable performance gains! The advantages of this approach is obvious. Gemstone exotics don't take up a lot of capacity, but their effects are very noticeable!

    What!? Ves was a lot more shocked than his Apollo Radiant showed.

    What Tristan just described sounded very similar to how Lucky's gems worked!

    How do these gems amplify the performance of mechs?

    You can't slap a gem in a random section of the mech. Gems have special catalyzing or amplifying properties that need to be leveraged by modifying the components of a mech in order to make good use of them. While the power they bestow to a mech is noticeable, there are many limitations regarding their usage.

    Such as?

    Some gems last indefinitely, but most slowly wear out in time. They can last as short as a single battle or decades of constant use! One of the ambitions I've developed is to find a way to slow down the degradation rate of gemstone exotics. The other important limitation of gemstone exotics are their limited effects. Due to their size, most gemstones are only able to amplify specific performance parameters by a couple percent. There are gemstones that can do more, but their rarity and value makes them difficult to obtain!

    Ves tried to keep his shock in check by comparing Tristan's description of gemstone exotics to Lucky's gems.

    As far as he knew, the gems produced by Lucky never degraded over time or with use. Some of his older mechs such as the Shield of Samar still performed at close to optimal levels.

    Other mechs which Ves embedded with Lucky's gems also showed very little problems regarding their usage!

    He wondered whether Lucky's gems were related to Tristan's gemstone exotic specialization at all. Despite their commonalities, they might be two completely different categories of materials!

    Tristan glanced at Ves with interest. You seem very intrigued by my new specialty. Others haven't shown as much attention as you. They usually dismiss gemstones as marginal exotics that are too overpriced and scarce to be of any use in mass market mechs.

    Ves' avatar awkwardly smiled. I think it is still a very helpful way of amplifying the performance of custom mechs. That's where they are used the most, right?

    They show up frequently in our expert mechs. In fact, one of the reasons why the Friday Coalition is interested in securing the lesser states is to secure a greater supply of gemstone exotics. Their distribution pattern doesn't completely conform to the distribution pattern of other exotics. The frontier is also an excellent source of rare gemstone exotics. Controlling a trade route from the border of human space to the Friday Coalition has always been a priority to us. Sometimes, that obsession can lead to awful outcomes.

    The conversation suddenly turned towards a touchy subject. Ves' avatar looked emphatically at Green Golem. The green, crystalline construct calmly resumed sipping the glass of wine.

    You told me that you are involved in some sort of secret research group. How much do you know about what has occurred to me in the last few months?

    I've heard quite a bit. While I don't have access to the galactic net during ordinary times, I've worked hard to receive some dispensations. I'm only allowed to connect to the MTA's virtual portals. Once I entered the Rim Exchange, I was able to obtain some public news. You showed up frequently in many industry publications recently.

    I see. Those articles also mentioned my problems with your government, right?

    Right. Tristan answered.

    Well, at least Tristan didn't try to proclaim ignorance. Since he called Ves for a meeting, he should have been prepared to confront this subject.

    Urgh, let me be straight. I don't like your state at the moment. In fact, I hate the Friday Coalition. Going after me is one thing. Going after my subordinates is somewhat understandable. It's my fault if they died in my service. What I can't accept however is your state's decision to persecute my family members in the Bright Republic!

    I agree that the CRC's actions went too far. If I was in charge, I would have never allowed such a travesty to take place.

    Ves chuckled morosely. I'm glad you're a decent person, but it seems the CRC isn't run by the likes of you. Before all of this happened, I always had a good opinion of the Friday Coalition. Even if I drifted to the other side of the Komodo War, my respect for your state remained intact.

    Our leaders are different from the masses. That is true in every state. The key distinction between lesser states and greater states is that there are a lot more rungs on the ladder. The more rungs in the hierarchy, the greater the separation between the leaders and the common citizens. The leaders of the partners of the Coalition are in charge of ruling over a huge amount of people, a sea of star systems and an immense amount of resources. It's impossible for them to remain in their positions if they are willing to sacrifice the needs of the state for the needs of a minority.

    And that excuses going after my family?!

    I don't agree with my leadership, Ves! I just wanted to convey that their decision makes sense from a rational cost-benefit analysis.

    Ves twitched when he heard the word 'rational'. He began to hate this word more and more, especially when it was used to justify betrayal!

    He lowered his head and sighed. What's done is done. The CRC has crossed a line, Tristan. I didn't want to get involved in the Komodo War, but it appears I'll be dragged into its vortex anyway. I'm your enemy now. I won't show any mercy to your fellow Carnegie Group citizens.

    I don't expect you to hold back, Ves. We are both participants in a war that involves interests and hatreds that are greater than us. The soldiers in the trenches of the frontlines fight and die on the whims of politicians and leaders who doubtlessly sleep like babies at night.

    Both of them understood the plight of a combatant caught up in a war that was completely outside of their control. They also understood that the participants in a war had to fulfill their duty even if they didn't like it. That was the nature of duty.

    The tension between them didn't disappear because of those realizations. No matter how cordial and friendly they were to each other, they were enemies now.

    Certainly, they still respected each other and didn't wish the other any harm, but their interests in the war did not sway because of their past friendship.

    Tristan rooted for the Friday Coalition to smash the Hexadric Hegemony and bring the entire star sector in the sway of the saner of the two greater states!

    Meanwhile, Ves wanted the Hexers to crush the Fridaymen and tear apart the Coalition by demolishing partner after partner until all six of them were broken!

    As long as they maintained their hostile stances, their friendship was very hard to sustain!

    Tristan. Once the war is over, no matter which side wins, I hope we can be friends again. Ves softened a bit.

    Sure. Those are my thoughts exactly. Neither of us have a beef with each other, and I doubt we would personally do anything that affronts us personally. That is one of my goals for this meeting, in fact. I'm glad you are still open-minded enough to recognize that not every Fridayman is the same.

    I still want to dance over the grave of your state, though.

    Yet you don't wish our citizens any harm, right?

    Ves nodded. Average citizens have nothing to do with my beef against your state. As you just stated, it's the bigwigs at the top who are responsible. My main goal is to make their lives difficulties in any way I can. If any citizens suffer due to my actions, it's not intentional.

    My agency in this war is not as great as yours, so I won't bother to make such claims.

    They briefly paused their conversation to finish their glasses of wine.

    If Ves was a wine aficionado, then he would have appreciated its vintage even more. While Ves wasn't familiar with the bottle, it looked very classy and expensive.

    Too bad Ves was more into nutrient packs than vintage wines.

    Who do you think will win the war?

    Honestly? I have no idea. The Green Golem avatar shook his crystalline head. I don't have nearly enough information to make a reasonable guess. There is too much going on. The battles at the front are only a part of the greater picture. Even though I always express my confidence in my own state to others, I don't have to pretend in front of you that I truly have no clue.

    Same. I'm not even a citizen of the Coalition or the Hegemony, so I have even less of an idea on how the two sides measure up in this conflict.

    The Hexers are certainly formidable. They are ferocious and united in their hatred of our state. Don't you think it would be a tragic picture if these crazy women are able dominate an entire state? Every single resident in our star sector will fall under the sway of a man-hating regime who treats men like us as reckless children!

    I don't care. Ves flatly replied. I'll be gone soon anyway.

    That's.. convenient. No matter which side wins, you won't be there to suffer the repercussions.

    Look, I don't have any problem admitting that the Hexers are fairly awful compared to the Fridaymen. However, my personal feelings and circumstances are encouraging me to support the Hexers, so I do that without any other considerations.

    That's a selfish mindset.

    I never claimed to be anything else, Tristan.