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Chapter 1985 Little Fellows

The Mech Touch
     Chapter 1985 Little Fellows

    Before he exited the podium, Ves made one more announcement. This happened to be the best time to break the news and make sure to give his fellow clansmen something positive to occupy their minds as they returned to their ships and resumed their work!

    My fellow clansmen. The Bright Republic may have been a source of continuous bad news to us, but at the same time the Battle of Bentheim took place, we achieved at least one victory!

    The Larkinsons all paid very close attention to Ves. In the backdrop of such an enormous disaster, what could ever constitute as good news?

    Ves ignored their doubts and grinned. I am finally able to announce that the Larkinsons that the government of the Bright Republic has rounded up have been freed! Certain.. allies of mine have broken into Spotlight's secret prison and rescued every Larkinson willing to leave! As we speak, they are being safely ferried to the Sentinel Kingdom, where they can meet up with our clan and the old family!

    The moment the clansmen realized the significance of his words, they jumped to their feet and cheered!

    His unexpected but very welcome announcement decisively cleared away the dark cloud that settled over their heads. Though everyone still mourned for the loss of Bentheim, the Larkinsons cared much more about their relatives!

    After he successfully turned a solemn mourning event into a jubilant rally, Ves considered his work to be done. He exited the podium with a smile.

    He lingered a bit in order to talk and mingle with some of the Larkinsons in person. He spoke to Clinton, Raymond, Magdalena, Melkor and other influential Larkinsons in order to sound out their stances and figure out their priorities.

    Overall, the leaders in his clan were very happy about the successful rescue attempt. Ves had a feeling that he won a lot of kudos from them and redeemed a part of his image in their eyes.

    Once everyone started to return to their assigned ships, Ves, Gloriana, Gavin and a couple of others boarded a shuttle that brought them back to the Scarlet Rose.

    Along the way, Gavin turned to Ves and asked a presumptuous question.

    About Bentheim.. were you being honest?

    Ves looked up from the Rimward Herald article he was reading.

    The established news organization had written a very insightful analysis on the repercussions of the Battle of Bentheim. They were much greater than he realized, mostly because the prestige of the MTA took a substantial hit! The Rimward Herald predicted that the MTA would become a lot more proactive in the coming years in an attempt to undo the damage!

    Why ask this question?

    You never articulated a clear goal for your upcoming Grand Expedition. Sure, everyone knows you want to make your clan prosper and grow more powerful. However, no one is actually sure what you intend to do in the Red Ocean. Are we turning into an intergalactic caravan? Are you trying to found a new state? Will our activities center around the interests of the clan, or will we all be solely working to facilitate your career as a mech designer?

    Those were some very impactful questions. They were also pretty sensitive as well, so much so that Ves shut off the projector of his comm.

    I don't have to answer you, Benny.

    I know my questions aren't entirely appropriate, but.. I'm not the only one who holds these questions and doubts. It would do you a lot of good if you can present a clearer vision to what we are all working towards.

    He was right. Gavin interacted with lots of people every day in order to serve as a gatekeeper and conduit of information. Compared to Ves who mostly spent his time in the design labs in order to tinker up a new design, Gavin possessed a much deeper comprehension of the overall sentiment of his people.

    If Gavin was starting to worry about the goals that his people were supposed to pursue, then Ves might have a real problem on his hands. Maybe not immediately, but the lack of direction would surely lead to a lot of division in the next couple of months and years!

    Ves took a moment to gather his thoughts and figure out the best way to phrase his answer.

    Let me begin by saying that for the foreseeable time, the interests of the clan and myself are both aligned. This is by design. I founded the Larkinson Clan to further my interests. I never kept this secret. However, the Larkinson Clan is also a means of spreading my success to my fellow relatives and employees like you. I don't demand anyone to become my slave and I am not reluctant to share my earnings.

    Gavin slowly nodded. If you put it that way, then your workers will feel much more reassured in their continued loyalty to the LMC and other organizations.

    Everyone who joins my enterprise is one of my own. While our Larkinson Clan has not become a sovereign state in its own right, I intend to lead it in a responsible direction. I want to shape the governance of my expeditionary fleet in a way that is as beneficial and equitable as possible to everyone. While I can't promise to be fair in everything, I hope to make everyone, even the lowest worker, feel pleased in their decision to stay loyal to me. That is what you all deserve. Do you understand, Benny?

    His assistant made a very bad lapse in judgement some time ago, so this implicit warning also served to keep him on his toes!

    Gavin coughed. I understand, boss. I'm glad you are still thinking about the faces in the background who don't share your surname. We might not be a part of your clan, but we are still willing to go through many lengths to support you and the clan. All we ask is that you continue to show some consideration to us little fellows.

    I never considered you to be a little fellow or a face that is indistinguishable from the background. Ves lied. I treat all of my employees as valued assets. I am very grateful for their loyalty. In a reality like ours, that is very hard to come by. I learned first-hand how duplicitous even your closest friends and allies can be. Even family isn't exempt from this rule as one of my cousins didn't hesitate to sell me out!

    That's a very.. cynical way to see our society. Gavin displayed a strained smile. I'm not sure if it's healthy for you to maintain such a distrustful stance. We need you to be our bridge builder. Rather than making new enemies, you should try and make new friends instead. There are more people who want to cooperate with you as long as you open yourself up for offers.

    Oh? Ves raised his eyebrow as he was petting Lucky's back. What kind of offers are you talking about?

    Ever since you and Gloriana made a name for yourselves, we have been inundated with requests for collaborations and exchanges. There are also other offers that propose more extensive cooperation such as business alliances and research sharing and the like. I took the liberty of filtering out most of these offers since they are mainly opportunistic and lack sincerity. That still leaves a lot of valid requests that might very well be worth your time.

    How many are there?

    At my current count, there are 84 offers. According to our research, it is very likely that they are all made in good faith, so you don't have to worry about getting taken advantage of. With the unstable state of the clan and the LMC, I think it is very helpful if you start to befriend more business partners and forge more relationships. The Larkinson Clan doesn't have many friends to lean on these days.

    You're… right. We don't have another fallback point in the event our relationship with the Sentinel Kingdom or the Hexadric Hegemony sours.

    My state will never turn against you! Gloriana couldn't help but break her silence this time! The Hegemony is not like the Bright Republic or the Ylvaine Protectorate! We stand by our friends! Even if you are a boy, as my lover you are entitled to our protection!

    If it was anyone else saying those words, then Ves wouldn't feel very worried. Yet the notion of protecting males took on a very different connotation in Hexer society!

    If the Hexer idea of protecting a boy like Ves amounted to locking him up in a gilded cage, then he resolutely rejected this offer!

    I'm sure Benny doesn't mean to accuse your state of anything ill, Gloriana. He told her before turning back to his assistant. I don't have the interest to sort through all of those proposals. Just tell me the most promising or interesting ones.

    Gavin activated his comm and projected the first proposal. Well, since we are going to spend some time in the Sentinel Kingdom, I think it's good if we build a better relationship with one of its established factions. Remember Lady Miralix?

    I do. Ves didn't need his implant to recall the young but ambitious noble and the Crown Hunt they participated in. He succeeded in harvesting Zeigra's spirituality at the end! If I recall, she joined the Sentinel Army or something, right?

    That's correct. While she's currently serving as a mech captain of the Sentinel Army, she is still free enough to correspond with her noble house. Ever since she found out that we are on our way to the Sentinel Kingdom, she has suggested a more extensive cooperation between you and her house. With your current prestige and fame, House Laterna has grown quite interested in collaborating you with a major project.

    Oh? I thought that House Laterna is mainly occupied with running their cat paradise and selling their genetically-modified cats.

    You're not wrong, but House Laterna does employ some mech designers to outfit its members and its household troops with their own mechs. The house has developed a liking for your mechs, and wants to commission you to design a line of tiger mechs.

    Ves sat up straighter in his chair. Even Lucky stopped purring in order to pay attention to Gavin's words!

    Did I hear that correctly? They want me to design an entire product line of bestial mechs!?

    At least four at minimum and eight at maximum. Well, I suppose you can hash out the exact details with House Laterna if you decide to explore this commission. Just know that as long as you perform this commission, House Laterna is willing to repay you by offering a lot of assistance to us while we are staying in the Sentinel Kingdom.

    That sounded very valuable, especially since his people experienced a lot of turmoil and disruption in recent times.

    Yet… I'm not so sure, Benny. After putting my trust in the Bright Republic and the Ylvaine Protectorate, I don't want to be stabbed in the back by another state actor yet again. Sure, House Laterna shouldn't have any grudges with me, but who knows whether their opinion takes a complete 180-degree turn the next day?

    Gloriana interjected yet again. That won't happen! Unlike the Bright Republic, the Sentinel Kingdom is firmly within the Hegemony's backyard! With me and my dynasty supporting you from behind, no one in the Sentinel Kingdom should have the courage to betray you! What happened in the Ylvaine Protectorate shouldn't be possible because the Fridaymen are simply too far away to pull off an ambush!

    While I agree with you, the Friday Coalition isn't my only enemy. The Nyxian Gap is right next door to the Sentinel Kingdom and the pirates and other scum who reside there are a threat to everybody in civilized space. In addition, even the Hegemony isn't completely united, right? Can you really tell me that the Wodin Dynasty doesn't have any internal enemies within the Hegemony at all? What if one of your Hexer rivals decided to target me? Can you guarantee that this will never happen?

    Gloriana squirmed in her seat. She looked very awkward at the moment!

    Ves turned back to Gavin. While this commission sounds very interesting, it's a lot of work to design so many tiger mechs. I also don't want to put us in a position where we are too dependent on a noble house or any other faction for that matter. Next offer, please. Try and find something that doesn't take much time and doesn't demand a lot of commitment. It doesn't matter if the rewards are fairly meager. I only want to do enough to turn us into a known and friendly group in Sentinel space.