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Chapter 1971 The Life-Prolonging Race

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1971 The Life-Prolonging Race

    The two mech designers weren't in the mood to talk any further. Shortly after they exchanged their views on the war, Ves stood up and bid Tristan goodbye.

    I wish you good luck on developing your design philosophy. Gemstone exotics sound really powerful, and I haven't really heard a lot about their use in mech design.

    One of my goals with my specialty is to try and increase their practicality and decrease the costs involving their use. Their scarcity is one of the biggest impediments to widespread adoption. Not even Master Katzenberg developed more than a handful substitutes to the most common gemstone exotics. It's a completely different game to her and she can't devote too much research in this specific direction. I'm confident that I can fulfill this role!

    Ves was sure that if Master Katzenberg really wanted to, she could make incredible gains in gemstone exotics.

    However, every Master had to contend with opportunity costs. Wasting valuable time on gemstone exotics would delay or hamper her efforts in pursuing her other goals.

    This was also where direct disciples like Tristan came in. As long as they were raised correctly, direct disciples were able to provide more research gains to their Masters!

    While it sounded exploitative, Ves considered it a fair contract. Direct disciples received some of the best resources and attention from one of the best mech designers in a star sector!

    Almost every direct disciple was guaranteed success. Part of this was because Masters always selected their disciples carefully, but most of it was because of the insanely high quality of teaching they provided!

    Therefore, direct disciples were generally expected to maintain close, cooperative relationships with their Masters throughout their lifetimes!

    Besides, due to their excellent foundation and fantastic circumstances, direct disciples all possessed a good chance of advancing to Master themselves!

    What this essentially meant was that a young Journeyman like Tristan might become a very formidable Master in a century or two! Ves would be a fool to burn his bridges with someone who possessed a small but very realistic shot at becoming an authority in his own field one day!

    The fact that Tristan decided to specialize in gemstone exotics of all choices made Ves even more invested in maintaining his relations with him. Fridayman or not, Tristan Wesseling might be key to unlocking the secrets and potential of Lucky gems!

    Ves even contemplated shipping one of Lucky's gems to Tristan, but he quickly discarded that idea. There was too much chance that Tristan might discover some details that Ves would rather remain hidden.

    Besides, right now Tristan was still an enemy. It was not wise to get too entangled with him while they still maintained a hostile relationship on paper.

    Before he left the winehouse, Ves asked one more question.

    You seem to have arrived here before me. Do you have any tips on how to make a lot of MTA merits quickly?

    The Green Golem avatar looked at the Apollo Radiant avatar in amusement. You're a smart person, Ves. I think you should already know by now that the MTA never gives out its merits easily. The Rim Guardians are just as frugal. The difference between the two is that the Rim Guardians are a bit more keen on developing relationships with promising and powerful individuals. This is why they differentiate associates by level, and offer an increasingly more attractive discount rate for the more valuable talents.

    Do the Rim Guardians truly offer a 45 percent discount for level 10 associates?

    Level 10 associates are almost universally Master Mech Designers, Ves. You can forget about reaching this height within a century. Even if you work day and night in fulfilling the missions from the merit hall, you'll still be around level 7 or so! To be honest, I don't exactly know how higher-leveled associates can progress any further, but it's certainly not just through fulfilling missions. Still, to many mech designers, the investment pays off. It might take a very long time for them to reach a high level, but at their ages, this discount can literally save their lives!

    Because it's easier to afford life-prolonging treatment, is that right?

    Tristan's avatar nodded. The first round of life-prolonging treatment is easy enough to obtain. Any decent Journeyman in the Friday Coalition is able to earn it over time. The second round.. is not that easy. Plenty of decent mech designers in our state have fallen short. They were able to earn a decent amount of merits in their two centuries of life, but..

    It costs too many MTA merits.

    A lot of mech designers are forced to splurge their merits on improving the lives of their descendants and leave behind an enduring legacy. They failed to stay in the race. It's quite tragic, if you think about it. Every mech designer is able to live for five centuries or longer. However, only a fraction of the mech industry manages to make it to the end.

    Ves nodded gravely. Mech designers can't stagnate in their progression. Not if they want to live longer.

    The first round of life-prolonging treatment is doable for Journeyman, but out of reach for Apprentices. Tristan noted. The second round of life-prolonging treatment is doable for talented Seniors, but too prohibitive for Journeymen. The third round of life-prolonging treatment is still within reach to Masters, but Seniors will drop before they reach the finish line. The fourth round of life-prolonging treatment… well, I heard that you can't even exchange it with MTA merits anymore.

    The life-prolonging race became increasingly more punishing. Not only mech designers, but also other people had to work their entire lifetimes in order to prolong their stay in the material realm!

    Ves heard a lot of stories about mech designers becoming so obsessed with obtaining the latest round of life-prolonging treatments that they were even willing to outlive their children and grandchildren!

    Of course, there were also a lot of other mech designers who decided to quit the brutal race and instead spend their merits on prolonging the lives of their favored children.

    Life was precious. Life was scarce. While healthy humans could look forward to enjoying 130 years free of charge, this was just a trial period! In order to gain more years, the 'customers' of life had to pay up an increasingly more expensive subscription fee!

    Prolonging someone's life was very hard. If that was not so, then an oligopoly on life-prolonging treatments wouldn't have remained in place for so long.

    Right now, the only parties who were capable of offering these treatments were the first-rate superstates and the Big Two. The Five Scrolls Compact definitely mastered these treatments as well, since the secretive cult had probably invented them in the first place!

    Yet instead of competing against each other to capture the immensely lucrative market for life-prolonging treatments, they instead colluded with each other to keep prices high and keep the best treatments for themselves!

    Ves' avatar frowned deeper and deeper. What would it be like if the technology behind life-prolonging treatments no longer remained exclusive to these powerful actors? What if Dr. Ranya became capable of synthesizing the crucial serum in her labs?

    Prices would probably drop and a lot more people would be able to remain in the material realm by droves!

    Depending on the scarcity of ingredients required to synthesize the serum, the entire fabric of human society might undergo an enormous shift! With many more grandparents and ancestors able to cling to life, the younger generation would feel increasingly more stifled by all of the geezers who refused to let their descendants inherit their accumulated wealth and endowments!

    Maybe it was for the best that the oligopoly reserved its life-prolonging treatments to those who truly deserved an extension of their lives.

    You haven't answered my question. Ves returned his attention to Tristan. I know that merits aren't easy to get, but do you have any suggestions?

    Hmm.. aside from completing certain missions offered by the merit hall, you could look to attract the attention of an internal mech designer of the MTA. Some of the associates of the Rim Guardians managed to attract their attention and earn their approval. As long as they earn the trust of their patron, they can contribute to design projects and earn merits in exchange.

    That sounded like a decent idea, but Ves was far too busy with his own priorities. Besides, Tristan's suggestion immediately evoked his memory of Master Moira Willix.

    He would rather let Gloriana lick his face than become Master Willix's servant!

    Tristan mentioned another option.

    The Rim Exchange offers many other possibilities where you can earn more merits if you know where to look. Most of them are only accessible to Seniors, Masters and higher-leveled associates, though. Perhaps one of the few activities that you can participate in are design competitions.

    Design competitions? They hold those here?

    Of course! The Green Golem's crystalline lips curled into a grin. Whenever a lot of mech designers gather in a single place, a lot of egos always clash against each other. To give them a way to prove who is the better mech designer, the Rim Guardians and a number of very powerful societies often hold various design contests where they can showcase their design prowess. These contests come in various formats and forms. The most important criteria is who will pilot your work if a practical demonstration is called for. In some contests, you have to bring your own mech pilot, while in other contests the Rim Guardians will provide their own mech pilots. Other contests are concluded quickly by testing the mechs with AI pilots.

    That sounded very lively to Ves. He missed the times when he took part in design competitions and put his skills to the test against other mech designers.

    At his level of fame, there was no need for him to burnish his credentials by taking part in a public competition.

    However, if the competitions organized by the Rim Guardians also rewarded its participants with a considerable sum of merits, then he would eagerly take part!

    How much merits can you win if you take part?

    The prize pools are all over the place. Tristan shrugged. Most Journeyman-level competitions don't reward very much, though. They're mostly treated as opportunities to advertise your strength and attract follow-up opportunities. If you want to want a chance at winning the jackpot, then you have to take part in the competitions that are open to Seniors as well as Journeymen! While the competition is a lot harsher, as long as you score high enough, you can still earn hundreds of thousands of merits in a week as long as you get tenth place or something.

    While that sounded like a great deal, Ves would still have to defeat scores of Seniors who possessed a much deeper foundation in mech design than himself!

    Though Ves accumulated a decent amount of Senior-level skills, he had no illusion that he could realistically outperform a genuine Senior!

    However.. If the competition format allowed for collaborations, and if the format also depended on human mech pilots to test the competition mechs in combat, then Ves might be able to gain an advantage!

    He nodded gratefully at Tristan. Thank you. Your tip is very helpful to me. Is there anything you'd like to ask in return?

    Yes. The Fridayman's avatar bent its crystalline head in thought. I've always been wondering about something. Do you still respect your former Master?

    Ves frowned. That's an unexpected question.

    Just answer, please. I am truly curious what you think.

    Master Olson has always treated me earnestly and with respect. Even though she didn't pay that much attention to me, I still owe a considerable debt to her. I'm genuinely grateful at the assistance and protection she provided to me in my formative years as an Apprentice Mech Designer.

    Thank you, Ves. That's all I wanted to hear. I'm very satisfied with your answer. I think Master Olson would be very pleased to hear that you still hold her in high regard. Remember, even if we are on opposite sides, we aren't enemies.

    I'll be sure to turn my pistol aside if I have you in my sights.

    Tristan chuckled. We're mech designers. We leave the shooting to the actual soldiers.

    I wish that were so.