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Talking to Gloriana wasn't so bad as long as they didn't stray into crazy territory. As long neither of them discussed their design philosophies in depth, Ves did not have any reason to freak out.

It helped that Gloriana made a serious effort to present a calm facade to Ves. She radiated so much happiness that Ves could not bear to displease such an adoring woman.

Over the course of their 'virtual date', they admired several more virtual sceneries. From untamed planets to bustling cityscapes of highly-advanced planets, Ves enjoyed the backdrop as they mostly talked about professional matters.

Talking about general mech design subjects was safe territory to him. Due to his rapid advancement and quick exit from Centerpoint, he neglected to learn the essential advice that all Journeymen should hear. Gloriana did him a great favor by patiently explaining what he missed.

"So it matters a lot whether a design philosophy has been realized or not?" Ves confirmed.

"Yup! Before a mech designer reaches Master, their design philosophy is largely a property of themselves. They won't share it because it will adversely affect their chances of realizing it. I mentioned earlier that if someone is trying to develop their design philosophy in a direction that has already been taken, that it won't bring as many gains."

"Won't that leave mech designers open to sabotage by newcomers who wish to pursue the same design philosophies as theirs?"

"Not as such." Gloriana refuted. "The design philosophy is mainly a possession of the foremost pioneer. Unless they slack off and some other mech designer puts in a huge amount of effort to catch up, the pioneers don't have much to fear"

So it was basically the mech designers who followed afterwards who suffered most of the disadvantages.

A disturbing possibility came to mind, though.

"However, to Journeymen and Seniors, their design philosophies only last while they are alive, right? Doesn't that mean that someone who is pursuing the same direction can just kill off the mech designers in front?"

"It doesn't work that way, Ves. While it's true that if a Journeyman or Senior dies, their design philosophies will go up in smoke, but there are still consequences, though I'm not too sure about them. From what I've heard, the vacated design philosophy still carries a lingering element of the deceased pioneering mech designer. There are some odd theories out there that claims that those who thwarted the dead designer will encounter many hindrances when they pursue the same design philosophy. I'm not sure whether this is true, but plenty of instances like this have occurred over the years."

Though Gloriana looked a bit skeptical at these claims, Ves could very well see how this could be so. A design philosophy was deeply personal to a mech designer. His own design philosophy was intermingled with his spiritual energy, which meant it also bore his spiritual imprint.

Even if he died, his spiritual imprint would still live on for a time.

It probably exerted a lot of influence if someone he considered his enemy tried to take over his design philosophy.

In contrast, proteges and mech designers who the deceased cared about would probably find it easier to take over the mantle.

"Is this why only Masters get to take on true apprentices and disciples while lesser mech designers are only allowed to mentor proteges?"

"Correct. The differences go beyond commitment and a change of terminology. Mentors are only limited to guiding their proteges. Although they are allowed to guide a protege down a specific path, it cannot be their own unless they are getting old and have given up on realizing their design philosophies. As for Masters, they have two options available. They can mentor their nominal disciples but also impart their design philosophies to their direct disciples."

All of this information broadened his perspective. Ves understood that these patterns of behavior emerged due to the peculiarities of what it meant to 'own' a design philosophy.

What Gloriana described just now only scratched the surface of the murky interactions between mech designers and their design philosophies. Clearly, the distinctive properties of spirituality or psionics was the principle reason why these odd rules were in place.

By the time their date had ended and Gloriana had to go, Ves sincerely thanked her for her assistance.

That caused her to erupt with jubilation. "Anything for you, Ves! I'll call you again!"

The compartment-wide projection faded out, returning his surroundings to his regular old stateroom.

Ves sighed. "Maybe she isn't so bad to hang out with after all."

After a few minutes of adjustment, Ves returned to work. He busied himself with finalizing his variant for the Jinven, and managed to complete it shortly before the Barracuda's arrival at Leemar.

Upon arrival, Ves took a moment to check the local plot as his crew interacted with the system's traffic control.

"This is the third time I've visited Leemar."

While it wasn't as advanced or prosperous as the Centerpoint System, the Leemar System possessed its own charm. As a system which held many universities and educational institutions, a lot of students and researchers frequented Leemar.

What made Leemar a little more special was that it hosted a lot more foreigners than similar star systems in the Coalition. Not every Coalition partner was as open to outsiders as the Carnegie Group.

Even the Vermeer Group, which Master Olson belonged to, did not accept as many foreigners.

As the Barracuda approached Leemar II, she received direct permission from traffic control to land on the surface.

Ves already took this treatment for granted. As an apprentice to a Master who was present on the planet and a Journeyman in his own right, he was far from a typical Leemar student or graduate.

The ship smoothly descended from orbit and landed inside a massive underground hangar meant to accommodate such vessels.

"Sir, the Barracuda originated from the Leemar Institute of Technology. Now that we're here, I'd like to request permission to approach the LIT to service the corvette. While she's only five years old and still works great, a bit of preventative maintenance wouldn't hurt."

As a mech designer, Ves understood the wisdom of preventative maintenance. It was much cheaper and more convenient to service a mech when it was in sound condition then if he waited until the mech wore out and malfunctioned.

However, in some cases, excessive preventative maintenance would end up costing more than a single large overhaul.

It all depended on many factors and it was up to the owner to decide which option was the best.

"Five years is a little short, I think." Ves finally decided. As someone who was in charge of servicing hundreds of mechs at a time, he was familiar with many of the pitfalls when it came to maintenance. "I'll set a budget. Just focus on servicing the thorniest ship components that can't be fixed at home if they break."

"Understood. We've already developed a priority list for that."

The Barracuda was a very nice ship that Ves received for free. That did not mean that using the ship was free. Making a second-class ship meant that Ves needed to pay second-class maintenance costs.

"Another billion bright credits down the drain." Ves muttered as he transferred the required funds to pay the LIT to service the corvette.

Though the LMC and to some extent Ves earned a lot of money these days, it wasn't to the point where he could keep throwing billions of bright credits around.

Nonetheless, paying for proper maintenance on his most often used ship was not a waste of money in his eyes. Once something broke, it probably cost a multitude more money to fix the problem.

Once he disembarked from his ship, he entered a waiting shuttle that brought him straight towards Master Olson's estate on the campus of the LIT.

Along the short journey, Ves looked out of the window and stared at the familiar wreck of the giant Rubarthan juggernaut.

The mega-sized mech still inspired a lot of awe from Ves. In fact, as the shuttle brushed close to the wreck, he even sensed a decent amount of spiritual accumulation had formed inside the wreck!

Ves widened his eyes, though he shouldn't have been surprised. Such an amazing monument should have definitely attracted a huge amount of worship and admiration from all the mech designers who attended the LIT.

"It's too bad it's probably not usable." He sighed.

Once the shuttle passed the juggernaut entirely and landed at the landing zone belonging to the estate, Ves stepped out to greet someone new.

"Welcome to Master Olson's estate." A young woman not much older than him greeted. "I'm Zona Fonseca, a fellow apprentice of our master!"

Ves instantly became intrigued and no longer dismissed the woman as a servant. "You are?"

"Yup! Our Master apprenticed me three years ago! I've been under her care ever since."

"Are you a…"

"Oh, I'm just a nominal disciple like you, so you don't have to bow to me. In fact, I should be looking up to you since you already reached Journeyman! You're an example to all of us ever since we learned the news!"

The two began to walk towards the entrance of the main building while they began to chat.

While Ves had become Master Olson's apprentice for a number of years, he hadn't really interacted with her and her organization. He was too preoccupied with matters at home to interact with Master Olson's other apprentices.

"Master Olson is quite proud of you, in fact!" Zona noted. "Ever since you advanced, she's been exhorting me and the others to take a page out of your book and go out into the galaxy. Studying on Leemar all the time is very comfortable, so many of us don't want to go. What do you think?"

Ves didn't mind giving his own honest insight to a fellow apprentice. "I think mech designers who have everything handed to them on their laps don't have what it takes to become a Journeyman. It requires effort to reach that height, and no one can take you there but yourself."

"So does that mean we all have to go out and fend for ourselves?"

"If you are content with living a normal life, then it's fine if you want to stay in close proximity to our Master. If you want to achieve something great, then you need to depend on yourself, at least when it comes to developing your own design philosophy."

Both of them heard a clapping sound from up ahead.

"Well said, Ves!"

For the first time in years, Ves met with Master Olson in the flesh. Now that he saw her, Ves realized that his increased Spirituality allowed him to sense a hint of the hidden depths in her body.

Her design seed or whatever it turned to after reaching Master was extremely formidable! It was far stronger than the pitiful crystallization that hid in his own mindscape!

Master Olson maintained a tight grip on her spiritual strength, allowing none of it to spill out. Nonetheless, her stature made her appear very extraordinary, particularly to a spiritually sensitive person such as Ves!

Not a single Senior he met came close to reaching this degree of spiritual strength! The gulf between Senior and Master was as wide as the gap between Apprentice and Journeyman.

There was both a quantitative and qualitative difference between the strength of a Senior and the strength of a Master!

"Come inside, Ves." Master Olson calmly said. "Let us catch up and evaluate your progress. We have much to talk about."

Zona separated from Ves as he followed after the Master up the stairs and into a very stately-looking office.

Once they took their seats at the desk, Master Olson eyed him with a piercing glance.

"Congratulations for reaching Journeyman." She started. "To be frank, I expected you to take at least another decade, if longer."

"I experienced a lot of events that gave me a lot of inspiration and insight." Ves offered his pre-prepared excuse.

"You don't have to understate your accomplishments. Your rapid rise can't be done by any mech designer. As far as I know, you haven't enjoyed any intensive tutoring, mentoring or instruction by other mech designers. Your design philosophy is all you. Tell me the truth. How did you advance so quickly?"

Uh oh. It seemed that Master Olson didn't buy his previous answer. Masters weren't easy to fool! At the very least, Ves didn't believe he could deceive her as easily as Professor Oodiv from the MTA!

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