Ves and his entourage finally departed from Kesseling VIII after boarding the Barracuda.
Melkor and the Avatars of Myth had already boarded the Greenfeather in orbit ahead of time.
This time, the Ylvainans pulled out all the stops to escort the Bright Martyr out of Protectorate space.
An entire Kronon spaceborn mech regiment served as their honor guard as the two ships directly charted a course back to the Bright Republic.
Such a luxurious lineup of combat carriers hosting over two-thousand mechs was unheard of in the Ylvaine Protectorate!
The fleet encountered no threats at all along the way.
It wasn\'t easy for an enemy to muster up the forces to overcome all of the escorts protecting the Barracuda.
The Brighter vessels eventually crossed the border without incident.
The mech regiment stopped there, as it was wildly inappropriate for the Protectors of the Faith to operate in a foreign state.
Some Ylvainans suggested that the Bright Martyr deserved a permanent guard of Ylvainans, but Ves himself rejected any such solutions.
He didn\'t want to be surrounded by superstitious Ylvainans who worshipped him as a vessel of the prophet! Although he felt a bit flattered to be the subject of their worship, in the end Ves was not an Ylvainan!
His new status as their Bright Martyr gave him mixed feelings.
On one hand, the high regard it afforded him would practically open up the Ylvainan mech market wide open for the LMC.
On the other hand, the crazy Ylvainans would definitely attempt to pull him deeper into their faith and force him to participate in all kinds of stupid rituals!
Ves did not feel he deserved such exalted treatment.
His identity of Bright Martyr was not as important as his identity as a mech designer.
The former threatened to displace the latter, which was something he really didn\'t want to see.
Therefore, Ves was fine with going along with the intentions of the powers that be.
As long as he left the Protectorate, his prominence there would slowly fade, allowing the three leading dynasties to reassert their leadership.
Naturally, the Bright Martyr would still be present in the hearts of many Ylvainans.
A cult had already been formed around him, but Ves did not wish to have anything to do with those fanatics!
You made a lot of gains from this business trip. Gavin reported to Ves in his stateroom.
You established a business relationship with an important member of the Curins, you delivered a set of fantastic mechs that the Ylvainans adopted as their national treasures, you turned into an object of religious hero worship and you completed your initial objective of designing your fifth original mech in order to qualify for recognition as a Journeyman Mech Designer.
Ves calmly nodded.
As far as I\'m concerned, that last one is the most important gain.
Let\'s not get too excited about all of those other gains.
If there\'s anything we\'ve learned about the Ylvainans, it\'s that they\'re volatile and erratic.
Yeah, the Ylvainans are really something else.
You would never see Brighters acting this extreme.
Have you already submitted my application of recognition to the MTA
The MTA has acknowledged your application and are in the process of inspecting your records and your mechs.
It will probably take a couple more days for them to complete your background check and issue an invitation for you to visit their sector headquarters at Centerpoint.
They\'re being really thorough because you claim to have advanced to Journeyman before you turned thirty.
A Journeyman who advanced before he turned thirty years old was very rare, even in the galactic center.
The earlier they crossed this threshold, the more promise they held.
Although a Journeyman was already quite valuable, they were not irreplaceable.
What the MTA truly valued was the potential for even greater advancement.
What kind of benefits this status afforded Ves still remained to be seen.
That was the entire point of visiting the MTA\'s sector headquarters.
In the perspective of the Big Two, Ves was no longer a space peasant! Once the MTA officially recognized his Journeyman credentials, he could call himself a proper galactic citizen!
What that actually meant, Ves didn\'t know, but it sounded a lot better than being called a space peasant!
My thirtieth birthday is coming up. Ves noted.
Maybe I should throw a birthday party for once.
It\'s been a while.
Gavin suddenly perked up.
We can turn it into a company-wide event! It\'s a great opportunity to celebrate our recent successes and paint a bright picture for the future.
With a Journeyman like you at the helm, the LMC will definitely climb to greater heights!
I don\'t know, Benny.
I don\'t want to turn my birthday into a spectacle.
I\'m already tired of all the attention that I\'ve received in the Ylvaine Protectorate.
I don\'t want to turn my workforce into my personal cult as well!
I think you\'re overestimating their reactions, boss.
Most of the company\'s employees are Brighters, not Ylvainans.
Their admiration towards you won\'t exceed into obsession.
That\'s not who we are.
We know better!
Don\'t turn my birthday into a public spectacle. Ves firmly ordered, no longer willing to entertain a public spectacle.
Turn my birthday into a private family event.
Send an invitation to my friends and the Larkinsons.
I doubt many of them will travel all the way to Cloudy Curtain to attend, but it\'s good to spend some time with family.
If only he could invite his father to his birthday.
Sadly, Ves didn\'t even know where to send his invitation card.
Once he finished celebrating his birthday, Ves planned to depart to Centerpoint in order to be initiated into the ranks of Journeyman.
No longer would Ves hold the awkward title of de facto Journeyman.
With official recognition, he could truly take his steps into the ranks of high society!
As Ves and Gavin planned his itenary for the next couple of months, the Barracuda and the Greenfeather finally arrived at their destination after an uneventful journey.
It took less than two weeks to return to Cloudy Curtain.
Although Ves felt tempted to stop by Bentheim, he preferred to return to a familiar environment.
Home sweet home. Ves said as the Barracuda finally descended on the landing zone of the Mech Nursery.
Welcome home, boss. Calsie greeted Ves as he stepped out.
Congratulations for your achievement.
The local MTA branch has just informed me that they completed your background check.
Did I pass He asked.
Of course, boss.
Why would you ever doubt yourself Someone as brilliant as you is guaranteed to pass!
Ves awkwardly chuckled.
Ah, maybe I was a little too concerned.
He had a lot of skeletons in his closet that could disqualify him from receiving official recognition.
Perhaps his most objectionable crime was when he designed a gamma laser rifle from forbidden research notes he salvaged from an abandoned clandestine production facility.
The System practically coerced him into violating one of the MTA\'s taboos.
Back then, he was frightened out of his wits.
He would always carry the worry in his mind that the MTA might someday find out that he ran roughshod over one of their sacred rules.
Nevermind that it was a rather ridiculous and loosely-enforced rule!
The amazingly destructive high technology he witnessed during his latest Mastery experience showed that humanity possessed boundless creativity in weapons development.
A simple positron weapon released a lot of lethal radiation in the air or on impact by its very nature, yet the Terran Confederation was able to get away with using this weapon system!
A meager gamma laser rifle was nothing serious compared to a high-powered positron rifle!
Of course, the setting mattered a lot.
In the galactic rim, most states didn\'t possess the ability to protect a mech, ship or city from penetrating radiation.
While treatments existed that could neutralize the destructive effects of radiation, they weren\'t cheap and couldn\'t be applied to entire crowds of people at once.
It was a different story in a prosperous state like the Terran Confederation.
The weapons there may be more destructive, but shielding and treatments were a lot more ubiquitous and effective.
After Ves made this comparison, he felt very silly for bearing any guilt for his crime.
Ves had taken so much care in developing the gamma laser rifle that the MTA shouldn\'t have been able to find out!
Even if they somehow did, they might not even care all that much! Ves may have designed and fabricated a forbidden weapon, but he quickly destroyed it afterwards, ensuring that his work would not be put to nefarious ends!
He still felt relieved his background check passed without issue.
As Ves and Calsie slowly walked to the headquarters building, the woman addressed another matter.
By the way, the visitor from the frontier has grown rather impatient.
As soon as he heard that you\'ve returned, he insisted on meeting you this instant.
Currently, he\'s waiting outside your office.
Ves nodded in understanding.
I\'ll meet with him right away.
Do you know who sent this person
No. Calsie shook her head.
I\'m guessing that he represents someone shady, because he employed a lot of precautions in order to keep his identity and his origins a secret.
If a messenger is already so cautious, then the people behind him must be very unwelcome in civilized space.
Ah. Ves grimaced.
I think I know who dispatched this messenger.
I hoped he would have forgotten about me after a few years.
Is it someone dangerous
It\'s best if I don\'t say anything else.
Some matters are truly too dangerous to expose.
Do we need to put security on high alert
I\'m just receiving a message, nothing more.
Once they arrived at the headquarters, Ves took the elevator up to his penthouse office by himself.
Once he arrived at the top, a robed and masked figure awaited his arrival at the double doors.
Larkinson. A distorted voice uttered from the black face wrappings that enveloped the stranger\'s head.
A low-intensity interference field surrounded his body, making him appear even shadier than his outfit already suggested.
It is a pleasure to finally meet you.
Let me introduce myself.
I am a Shadow Courier.
An esteemed individual has tasked our organization with delivering an important package to you in person.
A Shadow Courier
We are one of the most premier messengers and couriers in the frontier and in the surrounding star sectors.
We offer complete reliability and confidentiality no matter the identities of the sender and the receiver.
In other words, the Shadow Couriers were pretty much the black market equivalent of a regional packet delivery service.
Whether they were truly trustworthy or not remained to be seen.
The two entered the office.
Ves took his seat behind his imposing desk.
The Shadow Courier remained standing, but retrieved a modestly-sized metallic cube from his voluminous robe.
The handover happened without incident.
The Shadow Courier only performed a perfunctory identity check before placing the package onto the desk.
Is that it Ves raised his eyebrow.
I\'ve also been tasked with passing on a verbal message from my client. The Shadow Courier added.
His exact words are as follows: My expectations are higher now that you have advanced to Journeyman.
Do not disappoint me.
You won\'t like what I have in store for your bones!
Ves shuddered a bit.
Although the flat, distorted voice of the Shadow Courier didn\'t convey any emotion when he recited those words, Ves keenly felt the threat behind the words!
Please tell the sender that I\'ve acknowledged his message.
The Shadow Courier gestured with his arm.
My job here is done.
Before I go, I would like to inform you that whenever you are welcome to make use of our services when you wish to send a package back to the sender.
We offer guaranteed delivery or your money back.
Once he finished his spiel, the Shadow Courier quietly departed from his office after he finished his job and passed on some contact information.
This wouldn\'t be the last time that Ves met with a Shadow Courier.
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