Ves vaguely imagined sitting in front of his terminal trying to browse the galactic net by pressing fifteen random keys.
The difference between browsing the galactic net and trying his luck with the crystal city was that the former at least returned something.
As for Ves, it took more than half a standard day to persist in his gambling. It had been incredibly mind-numbing for him to repeat the same routine for more than eight-hundred times.
At the very least, Ves got to practice his marksmanship. He began to get used to wielding the large but elegant Amastendira. Despite being a little larger than a regular laser pistol, it weighed remarkably little.
He had the sense the gunsmith made it for a woman. As a designer himself, he easily picked up the clues. The weapon carried a feminine touch that would put any woman at ease once they wielded the Amastendira.
Still, it had also been designed for an expert. The complete lack of targeting systems and aim assistance made the weapon difficult to hack, but the wielder had to rely on their own skills to make the best of the weapon.
His marksmanship hadn't improved all that much even with all of the practice. He possessed no talent in this area at all, though part of it could be blamed on his below-average dexterity. He did managed to get comfortable with wielding the Amastendira. The muscle memory he built up would allow him to wield the weapon with much less hesitation during battle.
"There's got to be a purpose in these runes. So long as the light beams can't hurt me, I should keep going."
Evidently, the crystal city's 'galactic net' was a lot smaller than that of humanity. It took more than eight-hundred random lottery draws for Ves to draw a prize.
Ves had not expected the crystal city to open another portal. He walked closer to the city with Lucky in tow and peered through the gap.
This time, the portal led to a lifeless moon-like area. The area beyond the portal was obviously in some sort of vacuum environment, but the portal somehow prevented the air from this side to leak to the other side.
"These aren't simple portals. There's a lot more going on behind the scenes."
Ves quickly whipped up the Vulcaneye and began to scan the active rune monuments and crystal spires as well as the small portal. His fancy new multiscanner hadn't failed him so far and spat out a bunch of raw data that he saved into logs for later study.
Just a simple glance at the data from the Vulcaneye's observation of the portal made him dizzy. This was far beyond his range of expertise.
"There's no point for me to understand this stuff."
He closed the projection of the readouts and let the Vulcaneye work on its own. Instead, he turned his attention to what lay at the other side of the portal.
To the small-statured aliens, the moonscape appeared to host some kind of palace. The majestic structure adopted a very different aesthetic standard than the crystal city. The crystal possessed a blue-ish tint and the palace incorporated a lot of hexagonal shapes.
It looked like a honeycomb gone mad.
"Did it belong to a different ethnic group or class? Or a separate state?"
He lacked the context to figure out the relations between the crystal city and the crystal palace, but obviously the two shared some relations. Why else would the crystal city possess a rune sequence that led to this moon?
In any case, Ves figured the crystal palace might be hiding something good. He wasn't about to let the tiny portal stop him from attempting to loot what looked to be another alien ruin.
"Even if the crystal city is empty, I don't believe the aliens cleaned up every ruin."
This time, the portal on the side of the moon hovered fairly close above the crystal palace. While he could still stretch out his arm through the portal, he didn't want to take the risk of cutting off his limb when the portal abruptly closed.
"It's safer for me to find out first how long the portal lasts."
Ves waited for another two minutes before the glowing crystal spirals dimmed and the portal fizzled.
The portal lasted a little bit less than three minutes.
He suspected that this might not be the end of it. Ves shot the same sequence of runes again, but this time he used a higher power setting on the Amastendira. Fortunately, his comm had recorded every sequence and even pointed out the location and order of the runes.
Once the portal emerged yet again, Ves patiently waited at the sides with a timer keeping track of how long it stayed open.
This time, the portal lasted over five minutes.
"So my guess is correct. The portals last longer as long as I pump more power into the crystal city."
While he expected this result, he actually hoped for a different outcome. At this time, the portal was only wide enough to squeeze his head through the gap, and only if he took off his hazard suit's helmet.
The diameter of this portal was more than ample enough for the crystal builders to convey an army or a convoy of transports. It was wholly inadequate for Ves to slip to the other side without cutting himself into a sausage.
He did not want to find out what would happen to him if he brushed the edges of the portal.
"Alright Lucky. Go on and dig out that palace. If you see anything interesting, bring it back to me."
Lucky resentfully meowed at him, but obeyed his instructions anyway. Ves re-opened the portal again with fifteen powerful laser beams. That should provide Lucky with an ample amount of time to root out the crystal palace.
Once the portal stabilized, Lucky curiously flew to the other side. He momentarily lost control due to the lack of air resistance and the differences in gravity, but he quickly regained control of his floating body.
His cat looked around a bit and didn't spot anything on this moonscape besides the palace. Lucky floated to the top of the palace and curiously landed his paw at it. The limb went straight through the hexagonal roof as if it didn't exist, but Lucky didn't let that stop him. A faint glow appeared on the limb and this time the cat managed to pat the roof.
Nothing happened. Ves figured if the crystal palace possessed any defenses, it had long been drained of any power. Unless Ves shot his Amastendira at the palace, it shouldn't be able to rouse any defenses.
"Wait a moment." Ves abruptly realized an important fact. "Why is Lucky able to touch the crystal palace all of a sudden?"
He realized that Lucky had already done something similar by cutting off the rune key monument in his previous portal jaunt. Ves hadn't thought about it back then, but now it was more than obvious that Lucky possessed a way to interact with the material world if he chose to. How did he do it?
Then he thought back to the time on the Glowing Planet when Lucky repelled the semi-corporeal devourer king with his energy claws. His cat already gained the ability to straddle the divide between the lower and higher dimensions back then.
"Is that because he ate all of those exotics and Rorach's Bone?"
Lucky hadn't eaten any of the higher grades of Rorach's Bone at the time. After that, he ate a whole bunch of medium-grade ores as well as a sumptuous piece of high-grade Rorach's Bone.
"Rorach's Bone is especially valuable because it's one of the few exotic materials that's able to facilitate and amplify the resonance between a mech pilot and his mech."
What did resonance actually mean?
"Does it refer to spirituality?"
Ves recalled that Lucky's status contained a skill called Spirituality I. Was this the secret to resonance, the X-Factor and semi-corporeality?
A bomb exploded in his mind as various clues, suspicions, inferences and conclusions melded together into a single overarching hypothesis.
Ever since the System set him on the path to understanding the X-Factor, he always felt he tread a path that few had ever walked. Even if others suspected that spirituality lay at the root of these amazing phenomena, humanity possessed no means to observe or interact with this nebulous concept.
Only Ves gained the ability to interact with this concept because he possessed a nascent sixth sense. As one of the few people who could see in a crowd of blinded people, he constantly progressed towards a unifying set of assumptions that he could tentatively gather into a convincing theory.
Right now, it was if the last pieces of the puzzle had filled the gaps that annoyed him for ages. If Ves previously parted the veil, now he fully managed to pull back the curtain.
"It's all in the mind!"
As Lucky attempted to chip away at the crystal palace with his energy claws, Ves turned his attention inward as his knowledge on Spirituality finished sublimating in his mind.
An unprecedented feeling of satisfaction ran through his intangible body. He felt as if he solved a problem that trillions of humans had puzzled over ever since the Age of Mechs came into being.
No one understood how Apprentice Mech Designers advanced into Journeyman Mech Designers. Similarly, neither did humanity figure out how to transform an advanced mech pilot into an expert mech pilot.
Ves believed that both of these rare and highly-valued professions required a breakthrough into a person's spirituality. Mech designers had to possess spirituality to design a mech that fostered resonance, while mech pilots used spirituality to activate the resonance lying dormant in their mechs.
"I see now! They're both connected!"
He already uncovered the pieces, but fitting them altogether required a bold step in thinking. Even though Ves hadn't fully tested out his hypotheses, he strongly believed he was on the right track.
The importance of his conclusions couldn't be overstated. The issues that Ves figured out had stumped humanity for over four-hundred years. If humanity had already mastered spirituality, then a lot more higher-tiered mech pilots would exist at this time.
"Right now, even the mightiest human entities in the galaxy can't reliably pump out expert mech pilots."
Sure, compared to a tiny state like the Bright Republic, the big boys like the MTA and the first-rate superstates had a lot more elite pilots on their retainer. But that was simply a function of their influence and the amount of people they could draw on.
The MTA recruited their mech pilots from all of human space, while the first-rate superstates occupied the largest and most densely populated star sectors. If Ves looked at the amount of elite pilots relative to the total population, then the more prosperous states and organisations didn't hold an overwhelming advantage in this area.
In his eyes, their much-vaunted secret training regimes had a lot of things in common with quackery and superstition. They fumbled blindly in the dark and figured out a handful of tricks that increased the odds of allowing an advanced mech pilot to make a breakthrough to the next tier.
Ves had progressed beyond that stage. Had his breakthrough been enough to finally receive the System's acknowledgment? He quickly summoned up his Status.
Name: Ves Larkinson
Profession: Apprentice Mech Designer
Design Points: 8,353
Neural Aptitude: F
[Assembly]: Journeyman - [3D Printer Proficiency III] [Assembler Proficiency III]
[Battle Mechatronics]: Apprentice - [Knight Mech Mastery I]
[Computer Science]: Incompetent
[Electrical Engineering]: Journeyman - [Structural Pathway Configuration III] - [Energy Storage IV] - [Conductors III]
[Materials Science]: Journeyman - [Crystallography II] [Crystal Laser Propagation II]
[Mechanics]: Journeyman - [Jury Rigging III] [Speed Tuning IV]
[Metallurgy]: Journeyman - [Alloy Compression III]
[Metaphysics]: Novice - [X-Factor II]
[Physics]: Journeyman - [Directed Energy Weapon Optimization II] [Gamma Laser Weapons I] [Lightweight Armor Optimization I] [Mediumweight Armor Optimization IV] [Melee Weapon Optimization IV] [Rapid-Fire Laser Weapon Operation II] [Optics III]
[Signals and Communications]: Journeyman
[Superpublish]: Available. Can be activated once a year.
Evaluation: A post-human mech designer pioneering the field of metaphysics.
He did it! His Metaphysics Skill had advanced to Novice! The System also acknowledged his achievements in the X-Factor by turning it into a formal Sub-Skill.
"What's this? Another Attribute?"
His Attribute section received a curious new addition. "Only 0.4 Spirituality? Oh come on!"
Ves understood that all the other Attributes scaled around 1. A score of 1 meant his Attribute was average compared to the rest of humanity.
The abnormally low score of 0.4 in the case of Spirituality obviously didn't fit in with this standard. Unless an entire civilizations of humans existed with a formidable amount of strength in this Attribute, Ves figured that the System didn't wish to inflate his current strength.
Indeed, Ves had a lot more to go before he could imitate Lucky's strengths.
Please go to https://www.novelupdates.cc/The-Mech-Touch/
to read the latest chapters for free