Ves turned to face the one thing he never wanted to meet again.
His mother\'s ghost.
Hello, my son. His mother smiled at him as she held the high-grade ore.
You have been a naughty boy.
This does not belong to you.
Damn ghost! Ves cursed and turned to Lucky.
C\'mon buddy, the ghost is here! Attack!
He expected his pet to pounce on the ghost and scratch out her face just like he scratched the devourer king\'s maw.
He did not expect Lucky to ignore him outright and keep on munching at his latest dish.
His mother\'s smile took on a knowing edge.
Have you forgotten where you obtained him in the first place
The System gifted Lucky to Ves shortly after he received it.
The System came from his father, which meant…
His mother snapped her fingers.
Lucky suddenly ceased his munching and slinked over to his mother, bypassing Ves as if he didn\'t exist.
As soon as he reached her legs, he brushed his body against them as if his mother was his owner.
Ves felt betrayed.
So my son has named you Lucky, has he That is a fine name for a creature such as you. His mother remarked as she bent down to pet his back.
I see he has been treating you well.
He already felt a tug from his recently recovered internal energy cycle.
His mother didn\'t hold back from harming her own son.
You\'re not my mother! He hissed.
Stop pretending you\'re her!
His words fell on deaf ears.
Lucky kept acting cute in his mother\'s presence while the witch herself looked at Ves like he turned into a three-year old kid who was having a tantrum.
Ves, I am not your enemy.
I am your mother.
I can never hurt my own flesh and blood.
Then what about your presence and your life-sucking aura! You\'re draining me even as we speak! He replied and backed away.
He even tried to retrieve his laser pistol, only to remember he handed over the weapon to the guards just outside the vault.
The extra distance helped, but Ves quickly bumped into a wall of safes.
He had nowhere else to go as his mother drifted forward as if she didn\'t have a care in the world.
The drain quickly picked up, and Ves started to lose a significant amount of internal energy.
Even though he had no clue of its use, he didn\'t wish to give it all away to an indigenous monster from the Glowing Planet.
Sadly, his only means of fending her off had just rolled over to show his belly to her.
His mother reached down to scratch Lucky\'s chin.
Who was his real owner here!
Oh Ves, poor Ves, you understand so little. His mother tutted as she hovered closer.
You keep lying to yourself, but you can\'t deny what your heart is telling you.
It is time for you to grow up.
Even as she spoke those words, the drain accelerated to the point where Ves lost control over his body.
This encounter happened in the exact same manner as the last two times.
He really grew sick of facing energy beings!
His mother must have been aware of how Ves started to grow feeble.
My time grows short.
Just know that I am glad to see you healthy, and wish you don\'t risk your life anymore.
I have lost many friends and family in the last war.
Not even mech designers are safe.
I will see you again, Ves. She whispered, and her body started to fade out of existence.
The only problem was that she took the high-grade ore with her.
Somehow, the Rorach\'s Bone broke apart under her grip and swirled around his mother\'s increasingly translucent body.
Her ghost-like form radiated like liquid silver and for a moment, Ves though she had turned fully corporeal.
Then, she faded away, leaving nothing of her trace behind.
Ves collapsed onto the deck.
He breathed deeply as he tried to cope with the increasingly familiar sense of weakness.
The ghost had leached from him again, and this time she stole his mission reward as well!
Damn her! Ves vented and banged his fist against the deck.
Lucky obliviously climbed up to his feet and padded over to Ves.
He curiously bumped his forepaw against Ves.
What a great help you\'ve been.
Meow. Lucky made a gesture that indicated he wanted to feed again.
Do you think I\'m in the mood to feed you when you\'ve just turned your back on me
Ves tried to ignore his pet, but couldn\'t.
Lucky had a way of worming into his heart.
Despite his sudden betrayal, he didn\'t fault his cat.
He must have been programmed to recognize his mother.
His friend-and-foe identification must have grown confused, and like the simple-minded machine that he was, Lucky prioritized his mother over her son.
The entire encounter revealed a lot about Lucky.
As much as Ves had grown to love his feline companion, he had no clue how he worked and what kind of programming dictated his behavior.
He supposed he should be growing paranoid about Lucky.
After all, his cat did betray him just then.
Yet Ves had truly become attached to Lucky and considered him a part of his family.
He really didn\'t want to part with his pet.
You can stay with me, but you better not defect again next time!
Ves still had a lot of safes to go through before his pass expired.
He wanted to make the most out of the opportunities he obtained and didn\'t let his mother\'s impromptu visit ruin his plans.
Most eagerly, Ves wanted to go through the remaining safes quickly and find another high-grade Rorach\'s Bone.
His mother already snatched the only specimen he found so far.
He dearly hoped the Mech Corps stored another similarly-sized sample in this vault.
Heavens, nothing again!
Even as he rapidly opened up the safes, he found nothing that could match the splendor of the high-grade Rorach\'s Bone.
He only came across medium-grade bones or unknown curiosities that held little significance to his mission.
He chucked some of them out to Lucky and continued to check the other safes.
By the end of the eight-hour period, his pass dissolved into air.
Ves raced to open every safe within the time limit, but his efforts failed to yield what he desired most.
The vault only held one high-grade Rorach\'s Bone and his mother had taken it away!
After cursing out the thieving ghost for a minute, Ves finally gave up.
In low spirits, he began to finish his cursory inspection of the vault before he knocked the armored door.
It slowly retracted, allowing Ves and Lucky to depart the vault.
Did you have a good haul, sir A security officer asked as he searched through his pockets.
A good haul.
Your pet looks a lot healthier now.
Lucky acted like he never did anything wrong.
His newly invigorated state even brought back his playfulness.
He chased around and pestered the security guards like any other regular cat.
Once the inspection ended, Ves headed straight back towards his bunk, though he also made a stop at the mess haul to retrieve a nutrient bar.
He needed to regain some energy fast, so he didn\'t care for the nutrient bar\'s awful taste.
As he laid down on his bunk, Ves considered his next option.
He couldn\'t return empty-handed.
The System\'s penalty was too severe for him to bear.
The crew of the Gregarious Wrath will think I\'ve already fed the high-grade ore to Lucky.
I won\'t be able to ask for another one, not when it holds so much value.
He couldn\'t just walk up to Chief Petrisc and say he slipped up and let a ghost that pretended to be his long-dead mother snatch the high-grade ore from the vault.
It would be like saying his dog ate his data chips that held his homework.
What can I do
The time to depart the Glowing Planet had almost come.
Ves only had days left to figure something out.
It\'s unlikely Lucky and I can earn more merits.
The Wrath is stuck in place, and none of the tunneling machines have the guts to burrow deeper where the likelihood of finding high-grade ores is higher.
Ves found it extraordinarily frustrating to fail at the cusp of completing his mission.
He let down his guard and forgot that his mother had always appeared out of nowhere.
Though, why take the ore Why hasn\'t she dug it up herself
It might had something to do with the devourers.
A small human-sized ghost probably couldn\'t match the prowess of the devourers which monopolized the core of the Glowing Planet.
Only after the deep mining expedition killed off one of their alphas did his mother finally appear.
It\'s good to know that even she can be afraid of something.
Ves didn\'t even realize he referred to the ghost as his mother without challenge.
It was as if it was the most natural thing in the universe to say.
He guessed that the devourer king must have claimed this territory as its own.
Now that it had died, the entire area became ownerless.
For a short period of time, there shouldn\'t be any risks of encountering another devourer.
A bold idea popped into his mind.
Why not go out on my own
The Mech Corps had become incredibly timid, but that didn\'t mean that Ves had to hide on the Wrath.
If he couldn\'t beg them for another high-grade ore, he might as well venture out into the tunnels and conduct his own search.
He turned his gaze back to Lucky, who started to slumber atop his chest.
He ate an enormous amount of minerals recently.
Even though he didn\'t gain any weight, his cat still had to digest all of his gains.
Rest well, Lucky.
I\'ll be relying on your senses tomorrow to find some juicy pieces of Rorach\'s Bone.
The next day, Ves fleshed out his plan and approached Chief Petrisc with his intentions.
The Chief Engineer frowned at Ves.
Now why would you want to go out by yourself Don\'t you know how dangerous it is!
But can you lend me a shuttle
Oh, that\'s not a problem.
We have plenty of those to spare.
The bigger issue is that there\'s no way you can stay in range of a dimensional smoother.
All the other machines are carrying smaller versions of the devices, but it still won\'t fit inside a shuttle.
Furthermore, there\'s no chance I can get permission to borrow one for you to use.
In short, you\'ll have to go out naked and exposed!
Ves hadn\'t thought of that.
The space around the Glowing Planet was fairly unstable.
Random wrinkles in spacetime had claimed the lives of thousands of oblivious visitors, including the entire trading convoy that initially stumbled upon the Glowing Planet.
Going out without a dimensional smoother was highly dangerous!
After some deep consideration, Ves weighed the risks.
If he stayed in proximity to the Gregarious Wrath, he should still fall somewhat in her protective envelope.
Even if the stabilization field emitted by the dimensional smoothers weakened quite a bit the further he drifted away from the Wrath, he should still receive some benefits.
He made a calculated risk by pressing on with his choice.
Just lend me a shuttle, chief.
I know what I\'m dealing with but I don\'t have any choice.
It took a lot of begging to convince Petrisc to release a shuttle for his use.
Despite the chief\'s reluctance, Ves had annoying him so much that he relented, if only to chase away an annoying fly.
Thanks, chief! I\'ll only be out for a couple of hours at a time.
Don\'t come crawling back to me if you suffer a mishap!