After surviving a suspected mental attack, Ves grew incredibly grave.
Since he woke up a few hours before his usual waking time, he didn't hurry to get out of his bed. Instead, he scratched Lucky's chin while he contemplated ways to guard himself against this insidious attack.
The most frightening part about this attack was that it could sneak up to him without alerting him! Before he knew it, the illusion warped his cognition until he completely took its absurdities for granted!
"I need to find a way to guard my mind!"
Before, Ves always thought that his mind was a fortress. As a mech designer, his design seed guarded the core of his mind. Anything that encroached on its territory would invite a terrible counterattack!
Not even Ves' attempt to investigate Gloriana's mind yielded much result after her design seed detected the intrusion!
Even though his spiritual projection turned into a dormant spiritual fragment in her mind, it only maintained its existence because Gloriana adored his presence.
Ves thought that his design seed would be just as alert and guarded. Yet when Cassandra Breyer tampered with his mind, his design seed completely dropped the ball!
Was there a difference between their functions? Was Gloriana's design seed much more sensitive to abnormalities due to her specialization? Was his design seed defective?
"No. It's because my adversary is too strong!"
Even if he suspected that most of her strength was locked away, she still possessed all of the knowledge and advanced techniques she accumulated over her shrouded lifetime!
How old was she? One century? Two centuries? Seven centuries?
Whatever the case, Cassandra was definitely strong enough to outmatch him on these fronts!
Ves could only take consolation in his defensive advantage and his edge in the amount of spiritual strength he could leverage.
"This is problematic."
If Ves had to make a choice, he would always prefer finesse over power. This applied both to mechs and spirituality.
What was the use of maximizing power if it couldn't be controlled?
Right now, Ves felt as if he was a child in front of Cassandra Breyer. He only received a minor lesson on how to employ his Spirituality. He learnt the rest of his spiritual repertoire on his own!
"Without a teacher, without a textbook, how can I possibly match against a master in this art?"
Ves believed that Cassandra was definitely connected to the Five Scrolls Compact.
The Compact appeared to be the highest or even only organization in human space that developed a systematic understanding of this phenomenon.
Even though the MTA seemed to be aware of spirituality or 'psionic power' as they called it, Ves suspected that they weren't even close to matching the cultists!
He was quite jealous of those who had been taught their arts. Instead of groping in the dark like Ves, these Compact members all received teachings accumulated over centuries or even millenia!
Comparing Ves against Cassandra was like comparing a caveman to Nitaa in full battle gear.
There was no contest!
"Is it even possible to block every attack?"
Ves couldn't assume that his defenses were infallible. As long as he slipped up even once, he would definitely be vulnerable to hallucinations!
"I have to resolve this problem as fast as possible." He whispered.
Fortunately, it only took half a week for the fleet to arrive at Kesseling VIII. Once they reached the LMC's new headquarters, Ves would probably be able to gain possession of the Scarlet Rose.
He wasn't sure yet. What if the Hexers tried to make a claim at the ship? That would be a disaster to Ves! Not only would he lose a valuable second-class vessel, he would also lose the mysterious escape pod or provide it with opportunities to plague him with spiritual attacks!
"I need to get some clarification from Gloriana." He muttered.
Until he regained control over the Scarlet Rose, Ves needed to employ a stopgap solution. He needed to find at least some way to repel or mitigate follow-up attacks.
He didn't have a lot of good ideas except for the obvious. After a lot of thought, Ves simply shrugged and formed an empowered spiritual shield over his mind. He invested just enough spiritual energy in it that it would take an entire day to replenish.
His mental space instantly felt more secure now that he invested in its defense. He estimated that he was a lot more resilient against external pressure now!
Whether it was a spiritual attack from a suspected Compact associate or an aggressive force of will from a hostile expert pilot, as long as he maintained a shield of this strength, he would definitely be better off than if he relied on his natural defenses!
Ves made an important realization. "I should have done this before."
Anytime he didn't need to accumulate his excess spiritual energy into a P-stone, he should use up his spiritual energy instead of letting it go to waste!
Even if the chance of suffering a spiritual attack was almost zero, it was better to be safe than sorry.
Just like a shield generator, Ves didn't need the protection most of the time, but when he came under attack, he would be infinitely grateful for his decision!
As the shield settled down and wrapped around his mind, Ves tried to judge its defensive capabilities.
It would definitely work against most attacks of a spiritual nature, but would it work against a master in the arts like Cassandra Breyer?
"She's way too fearsome." He shuddered.
It could be that Cassandra could easily pierce or bypass his attempt at shielding his mind.
Compared to other other products of spiritual engineering such as the Grand Dynamo and Cassandra's insidious illusion attack, his shield was completely devoid of sophistication.
It wasn't as if Ves wanted to strengthen his spiritual shield, but he didn't know how.
When Ves inspected his spiritual toolbox, he discovered to his dismay that most of them pertained to mechs and design spirits.
As a mech designer, Ves devoted most of his research on spirituality to developing his design philosophy and enhancing his ability to empower his mechs.
There was very little reason for him to develop other applications of spirituality.
Perhaps he unconsciously repelled other applications of spirituality because he didn't want to follow the footsteps of the Five Scrolls Compact.
Just thinking about its insane cultists and researchers shook his very soul! There was no way he wanted to descend into madness!
"Mechs are familiar. Mechs are safe. Mechs are normal!"
Ves believed that as long as he anchored his spiritual gift towards his passion for mech design, he'd be able to avoid the madness that seemed to afflict the entire Five Scrolls Compact.
If this assumption held true, wouldn't he be sabotaging himself by letting go of his restraint?
"I have no choice." He sighed. "If I don't do anything, I'll continue to be susceptible to these kinds of attacks."
It was as if he was designing a knight mech that was impervious against physical damage but extraordinarily vulnerable against energy damage.
As long as his knight mech fought against opponents wielding ballistic rifles, it could probably last for hours! Yet as soon as a single laser rifleman mech showed up, his work would quickly fall!
Only under certain conditions was it acceptable to design a mech with such clear vulnerabilities.
For example, his Desolate Soldier and Deliverer designs ordinarily fared poorly against enemy mechs, but that was okay because they were only meant to fight against the sandmen.
Ves had fallen into the trap of assuming that he would only have to fend against 'normal' attacks.
This was why he placed a lot of importance on his shield generators.
Yet now that Cassandra Breyer exploited one of his vulnerabilities, he had no choice but to divert some time into patching it up. Even if he didn't intend to follow the path of his mother, he should at least develop some self-protection capabilities.
When Ves studied his simple shield made out of pure, solid spiritual energy, he became increasingly more dissatisfied.
"I'm a mech designer and an engineer. How can I possibly be satisfied with such a simple product!?"
Could he apply his professional expertise in spiritual sorcery?
His eyes lit up. Though it would be difficult to translate his expertise in mech design towards spiritual applications, at least some principles should be the same!
Could he design and 'fabricate' a spiritual version of a mech in his mind?
It was easy for him to construct an image of a draft design. Yet drawing out a complete and viable mech was incredibly difficult, especially at his current cognitive capabilities!
In order to construct a spiritual mech in his mind, he needed to be extremely accurate about its sizes, dimensions and material composition.
This was practically impossible! Not even Seniors or Masters might be able to keep track of so many technical details!
In fact, not even Ves was capable of tracking more than a hundred components at a time! His mental multitasking simply wasn't that good!
As long as he made even one mistake, the mech was liable to fall apart or become inoperable!
Naturally, Ves did not necessarily have to replicate a spiritual version of one of his full-fledged mech designs from scratch.
Anything involving spirituality was partially based on intent rather than reality.
In other words, it was fine if he was a little fuzzy on the details. As long as he possessed a clear intent about the outcome, his spiritual products would still come online somehow.
Yet.. was he willing to dumb down his mech design and adopt a different approach to construct his spiritual mechs?
It was the easier path, and one that would definitely push him towards developing completely new paradigms in mech design!
Yet Ves did not wish to pursue this path. Relying on intent to make up the shortcomings of his spiritual mechs was a lazy approach. It would also make him dependent on the more mysterious aspects of spirituality, which might push him even stronger towards the Five Scrolls Compact!
Ves much preferred to stick to his roots as a mech designer. He specialized in designing mechs. The core of his spiritual strength, his design seed, solely existed to amplify his primary profession!
If he tried to abide as closely as possible to conventional mech design, he could focus on translating as much of his existing mech design capabilities into the spiritual domain as possible.
While this would prevent him from broadening his spiritual applications, it was the more efficient option.
Ves was a mech designer. He should be pouring all of his time and efforts into making a masterwork mech and finding ways to earn 100 million MTA merits!
The only reason why he was willing to divert some time into creating mechs out of pure spirituality at all was because he needed to address a shortcoming.
As long as he was creating something that did the job, there was little reason for Ves to invest more time in this field!
Now that he made his choice, Ves had to find some way of realizing this method.
"I don't have to design a new mech. I can just reconstruct one of my existing mech designs in my mind." He muttered.
He knew his own designs the best. He could recall a lot of aspects of the Blackbeak, Crystal Lord, Aurora Titan, Desolate Soldier, Deliverer and his custom mechs.
Yet while his Intelligence Attribute was high, Ves did not think it was capable of tracking hundreds of thousands or millions of components that made up a modern mech!
"How can I possibly memorize and keep track of the properties of so many components and subcomponents?" Ves scratched his head.
A solution came to mind. Wasn't his Archimedes Rubal implant dedicated to expanding a human's memory and data storage capacity?
As long as he successfully integrated this CFA implant, he could definitely employ this unprecedented approach to empower his personal spiritual capabilities!