"You are worth more than the Swordmaidens!" Mayra shouted, trying to convince her recalcitrant protege that her sacrifice meant nothing. "I would not be able to live with myself if my survival comes at the expense of your life! I might as well commit suicide in that case!"
Ketis couldn't accept that argument. "But what about the Swordmaidens?! Our sisters still need your help to rebuild the sisterhood!"
"We have sacrificed enough for the Swordmaidens." Mayra sneered, revealing her disillusion for the organization she served for several decades. "Commander Lydia abandoned all she has built in order to be at the beck and call of a figure in the shadows. Our entire sisterhood is built upon a lie! We aren't giving women in the frontier a better chance. All this time, we've been training them to become a hidden tool to some rich and powerful magnate from civilized space! Open your ears and listen to my words! Do you believe that I am talking nonsense?!"
Ketis wanted to refute with a fiery retort, yet she couldn't form a reply. Mayra told her much about the inner dealings of the Swordmaidens, including the existence of a secret backer who assisted Commander Lydia from the very start.
"This.. even if we answer to another boss, that still doesn't invalidate what the Swordmaidens have done!" She feebly responded. "We've upheld our ideals and become a force to be reckoned with in the frontier. Our dreams will die if you aren't there to help the sisters that we left behind in our fleet."
Mayra snorted. "Our other sisters will do just fine without out. They are my sisters as well, so I know they can take care of themselves. Besides, that hidden backer of ours won't discard their investment so easily. They'll be just fine even without a Journeyman Mech Designer presiding over their mechs."
"I can't believe you! How could you say that about the Swordmaidens!"
The shock exhibited by Ketis showed that she always put the Swordmaidens up to a high pedestal. To see Mayra throwing shade over the organization shattered all of her preconceptions. She respected Mayra immensely, but she loved the Swordmaidens with pure devotion.
To choose between the two tore her apart from the inside. Ketis couldn't handle the confrontation any longer and ran away as if her life depended on it! Rather than continuing to confront her dilemma, she'd rather flee from it entirely!
"She'll get around." Mayra sounded unapologetic for forcing her protege into this position. "She's not capable of abandoning the Swordmaidens yet, but I'll make sure she preserves her life."Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
"What about you?" Ves asked. "You should know the fate of any pirates that fall into the hands of someone like the Vesians."
Pirates rightfully received the penalty of death for their misdeeds. Even if people tended to throw around the label of pirates a bit too liberally, it didn't change that it was an absolute death sentence for any pirate to land in the hands of others.
It didn't matter if the pirate served as a non-combatant such as a cook. They contributed to the depravities of other pirates and thus were accomplices to the crime of piracy.
Civilized space detested space piracy to the core. Human civilization spread themselves out among the stars, to the point of engulfing half the galaxy. This was an immense amount of territory population by trillions of people. Such a vast and mostly empty space could only be sustained if trade continued to flow between the stars.
Space pirates preying the trade channels formed the greatest threat against intersystem, interstate and intersector trade. States did everything possible to curb the tide of piracy that weakened their prosperity, and their mech militaries almost always abided by zero tolerance policies when it came to pirates.
"I'll try my luck with the Vesians." Mayra nonchalantly shrugged. She was already resigned to do so even without Ves offering a lifeline. "Even though pirate designers are worthy of death, I don't believe I've ever accrued a bounty. I'm different from the fugitive mech designers who committed heinous crimes and has been forced to flee to the frontier. I'm a complete unknown, and as a Journeyman Mech Designer, I am more valuable alive than dead."
Ves realized what kind of hope that represented. "You hope the Vesians will take a shine on your ability and use you for their own ends? The chance of that happening is not high. If the Vesians back home know they employ a pirate designer, they'll catch a lot of flack."
"They'll have to keep me hidden and locked up in a secret base, then." She shrugged. "It's better than nothing. As long as I cooperate and lend my expertise to my captors, I'll be treated with respect. That's far better than being captured by pirates."
It still left a lot of question marks behind. Back when he studied mech design, Ves heard whispers about unscrupulous entities kidnapping mech designers and forcing them to work on shady projects at gunpoint.
Some mech designer students dismissed such stories as conspiracy theories. Ves initially took such rumors with a grain of salt, but with his experiences so far he knew better than to dismiss such stories.
Journeyman Mech Designers may not be as rare as expert pilots, but it took a considerable amount of effort to secure the services of one.
Novice Mech Designers were as numerous as the stars in the galaxy, while Apprentice Mech Designers flooded the labor market. It didn't take much effort to hire some average mech designers, though it was unlikely someone would be able to procure the services of talented Apprentices.
Those with actual ability already succeeded in running their own mech companies.
While good and bad Journeyman Mech Designers existed, even the worst of them could easily surpass some of the best Apprentices. Only extremely powerful organizations and mech militaries had the power, wealth and influence to employ them as large numbers. Some of them also continued to serve under Seniors and Masters in the hopes of advancing their learning.
Still, an overwhelming amount of Journeyman set up independent businesses. This was why procuring the services of even one Journeyman took quite a bit of effort. Each one could easily worth billions of credits in the amount of value they offered through their services.
Simply put, someone like Mayra was pretty much a walking bag of money. Of course, it wouldn't be easy to squeeze this much value out of a mech designer, and it took a lot of time for the payoff to be worth the effort. However, a considerable amount of value could be gained over time. The more Ves thought about it, the more it sounded plausible to his ears.
Still, once Mayra fell into the hands of the Vesians, they would never let go.
"Are you prepared for what might be in store for you, Mayra? Your life may end in that secret base."
She smiled ruefully at Ves. "It is not the worst retirement I've heard. Pirates generally don't get to live old age. I think some peace and quiet while I get to pursue my craft without any outside concerns is rather attractive compared to roaming the frontier."
"I hope they'll treat you right when the time comes. I'll look for you after the war for Ketis' sake."
"Don't. Only trouble will come your way. Wait until either of you advance to Senior. Only then will you have the leverage to seek me out."
Ves respected her decision and her willingness to sacrifice everything for Ketis. As for advancing to Senior? Even if he felt confident about his chances of advancing quickly due to his advantages, it would still take a couple of decades for him to reach that height.
After he left Mayra's workshop, he returned to the Vandal side of the camp and joined the final preparations of the fight. Much of the camp had been boobytrapped or rigged to blow. The only reason why the Vandals and Swordmaidens hadn't ruined anything yet besides the Pale Dancer and some other sensitive goods was because they still hoped they might prevail in the coming battle.
A couple of tense hours went by as the drums of war rang louder and louder. The Vesian scout mechs changed their patterns. Seismic sensors faintly detected large amount of heavy objects approaching the Flagrant Swordmaidens.
In order to prevent the camp from suffering any collateral damage, Commander Lydia and Captain Byrd decided to force the engagement a dozen kilometers from the camp. They brought most of their combat capable mechs to their chosen site, which granted them a small elevation and terrain advantage, and dare the Vesians into attacking their lines straight away.
A dozen kilometers was far enough that the camp and the supply train wouldn't be affected by collateral damage. The distance was also close enough for the main combat force to cover the camp in the event the Vesians wanted to circumvent them and hit their weakest point.
For a battle of this magnitude, the commanding officers didn't stay back this time to lead the troops from the rear.
Commander Lydia and Captain Byrd both decided to enter the fray in their mechs. Commander Lydia piloted a custom Silver Valencia, while Captain Byrd piloted a spare rifleman mech.
Ves took up his usual post inside the temporary command center. He could still contribute a lot to the battle by analysing the enemy mechs and pinpointing their weak points.
He had no intention of fleeing early like Eric Kichiro once did. As the head designer of the Vandals, Ves enjoyed a high position among the Vandals. Subsequently, he became subject to a lot of scrutiny. There would be hell to pay for him if he fled without good cause.
"Vandals, I won't lie to you. This will be a hard fight." Captain Byrd began her speech. Every Vandal listened to her projection no matter if they resided in a cockpit or stood by back in camp. "This will be the battle of our lives. The hatred between us and the Vesians is irreconcilable. They'll never let us go if we end up in their hands. Since we're already marked for death, we might as well take as much of their lives in the process! Because you know what? Because we are the Flagrant Vandals! We take what is ours!"
"We take what is ours!" Everyone echoed in unison. Even Ves joined in. "We take what is ours! We take what is ours!"
Captain Byrd's projection grinned. For the first time since he saw her, the mech captain actually looked inspiring. Ves figured that she specifically practiced for this speech beforehand. Someone else may have even written this speech for her as well.
"Since the founding of the Flagrant Vandals, we've been called pirates, we've been called scoundrels, we've been called scum who don't belong in the Mech Corps. Hah! We've fought and bled as much as any other mech regiment. We've seen our fair share of combat and do the dirty work that others aren't willing to do. The way I see it, our naysayers are right! We're thieves! We are stealers of lives, and right now hundreds of trained Vesian mech pilots are delivering their lives to our doorsteps!"
"Steal their lives!"
The Vandal mech pilots entered a state of utmost preparedness. All of their mechs had been checked by overworked mech technicians, and Ves spent as much time as he could to personally tune them up.
All of them waited for the Vesians to arrive. The seismic sensors continued to track the slow approach of an enormous mass of heavy footsteps.
The decisive battle loomed.
According to the seismic sensors, the number of mechs approaching the main lines likely numbered around five-hundred.
They already outnumbered the Flagrant Swordmaidens by a small margin. While it still left the defenders with some hope for victory, Ves knew that quantity didn't count for everything.
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