The Mech Touch Chapter 1378
"You know, there are an endless variety of cats for sale at Felixia." Ves teasingly remarked to Lucky.
"Some of them are pretty good. There are even geneticists for hire who can customize a brand new kitty to my tastes. Doesn't that sound great?"
"Hahaha, why are you so jealous? You won't be alone anymore!"
His cat hissed at him. Lucky really didn't like the competition! He was all the cat that Ves could ask for! No cat could ever surpass a gem cat!
Ves paid Lucky's irritation no mind. Felixia offered a lot of attractions to both cat lovers and cats alike. He was sure that his pet would quickly change his tune once they arrived on the surface.
"There are twenty exceptional Crown Cats and numerous other cats that are almost as great. Surely one of them ought to have what I need!"
To be honest, Ves did not expect exobeasts to possess a great amount of spirituality. From his current level of understanding, only sentient species generated significant amounts of spiritual energy.
"Are the Crown Cats sentient?"
He looked up their descriptions. The mech hunting community collected a lot of intelligence on the beasts, and a number of them certainly acted smart enough to make people suspicious that they were self-aware.
Other Crown Cats exhibited much more primal and instinctive behavior patterns. Instead of outwitting mech hunting teams through clever positioning and devious ambushes, they wrecked the hunting mechs through overwhelming force and ferocious assaults!
Ves couldn't tell from the footage whether any of the sentient or non-sentient Crown Cats possessed a usable degree of spirituality.
He risked wasting lots of time he futilely tried to hunt a spiritually-active cat when none actually existed!
None of the cases alluded to anything that came close to matching the god species of Aeon Corona VII. Both the Sacred Gods and the Wild Gods of that heavy gravity planet mainly acquired their powers from exceptional conditions.
Both types of spiritually-powerful exobeasts benefited from extremely radical genetic modifications from researchers secretly aligned to the Compact.
The higher-dimensional particles leaking from the Starlight Megalodon's FTL drives also provided the essential building blocks that made the god species so exceptional on the spiritual front.
Felixia lacked these conditions! At the very least, Ves could definitely rule out the latter!
As for the former...
A sudden realization came to mind!
"Now that I think about it, Felixia sure engages in a lot of genetic modification."
One of the main areas of interest to the Five Scrolls Compact was their penchant for anything related to biology and living entities. Their understanding of selective breeding, genetic modification, exobeast studies, human augmentation and more was at the forefront in the entire galaxy!
Not even the MTA and CFA could surpass the Compact in these fields!
Knowing that the Compact heavily emphasized genetic modification and knowing that the cultists set up various puppet organizations throughout the star sector did not bode well to Ves.
If Ves applied basic logic to the situation, then chances were high that the Five Scrolls Compact maintained a secret presence on Felixia!
An even worse possibility came to mind. Agents of the Compact may have been involved in the founding of Felixia from the start!
If Felixia really turned out to be a secret playground for the Five Scrolls Compact, then Ves would be jumping straight into the belly of the beast!
However… even if the Five Scrolls Compact maintained a presence on the tourist planet, what were the odds that they discovered something fishy about him? As long as he blended in with the tourists, there shouldn't be much risk of discovery!
"I'll have to watch my conduct." He murmured while he tickled Lucky's ears. "I better get used to eating lots of spicy Nyx dogs!"
If the Five Scrolls Compact really meddled with the biological research taking place on the planet, then Felixia became an even more attractive destination to Ves! The odds that some of the remarkable exobeasts on the planets exhibited a potent degree of spirituality jumped significantly higher if that was the case!
"Risk is often accompanied by reward."
Naturally, the degree of risk and the height of the potential reward varied enormously from instance to instance. Ves did not have the necessary information to make an accurate judgement whether it was worthwhile for him to proceed with visiting Felixia.
He made a decision based on his feelings, which strongly urged him to go through with his plans to visit the Cat Utopia.
"The planet still has a lot to offer." He concluded. "Who knows where I can find what I need from some other place."
His intuition hinted to him that he probably wouldn't be able to obtain a better spiritual fragment for his Devil Tiger elsewhere. The Planet of Cats was by far the best destination in this region of space for him to secure one of the crucial elements of his upcoming tiger mech design!
Having decided on his course of action, Ves decided to confer with Nitaa about the precautions they needed to take.
When his tall bodyguard entered his stateroom and listened to his speculations, she agreed with some of his concerns.
"Your reasoning may be right, but the CFA and MTA are just as aware, sir. The Big Two normally subject every organization engaging in bioresearch activities to additional monitoring. Genuine Compact researchers will never set foot in such a dangerous place for them. It's much more likely that the Compact quietly set up a splinter organization on the planet."
This realization eased some of their worries. A splinter organization like the Order of Fl'xix in the Kinner Tribe knew much less and were not as dangerous as core Compact cultists.
"There may be people among them who possess the same sensory powers as yours." Ves gestured at her remarkable nose.
"That is true, but unless their ability to distinguish your intangible scent is superior to mine, I'm certain that they won't be able to identify who you really are from all of the geril spice you've been consuming up to now. The spice is really pungent to my empowered nose."
Ves nodded in agreement. "I'll take that chance. Is there anything else to take note of while we're visiting Felixia?"
"Try to act as if you are on a normal holiday. The lackeys of the Compact don't have any reasons to screen the tourists in the first place, but if you stand out too much during the visit they might decide to look into you. Don't let that happen. As long as you maintain a convincing act, then you won't attract any more attention than the hundreds of millions of tourists that visit Felixia every year!"
Even if the Compact and its offshoot organizations were keeping their eyes out on his most valuable possession, the star sector was simply too big! There was no way they could conduct an intensive search in every corner of the star sector!
At the very least, before the reinforcements from the Ruined Temple arrived at the local Compact cell, Ves expected all of the searches taking place so far to be half-hearted efforts.
Their discussion continued a while longer as they planned out several precautions. Ves resolved to develop a persona of a wealthy mech designer looking to engage in his cat fancy while Nitaa prepared some extra assurances in order to minimize discovery.
The Kinner bondswoman directed her eyes to Lucky. "If you are willing to take the risk, perhaps we can do more. If we manage to identify a suspicious individual or organization, we can send out your cat to spy on them or sabotage their efforts!"
Ves tapped his pet on the head. "Don't complain, Lucky! I gave you a very expensive miniaturized stealth generator. If you want to keep making use of this gadget, you better earn your keep!"
"Just because you're a pet doesn't give you license to laze around!"
"Look on the bright side. If you spot anything yummy during your jaunts, you can steal some if you want!"
That got Lucky all fired up.
With that taken care of, Ves directed his attention back to Nitaa. "Do you know what the Compact might be after on Felixia?"
She shrugged. "I can't say. It may be that they don't expect to gain anything substantial out of the research being performed there except to steal some of the novel inventions emerging from the labs from time to time."
"Cats and their many genetically-modified variants are the most popular pet category in human space." Ves observed. "Though some would argue that dogs are still better."
"Haha, don't worry. I'm not thinking about getting a dog anytime soon."
"Cats engineered for intelligence are some of the most prevalent pets that accompany people." Nitaa remarked. "Sir, it has come to my mind that they make for better candidates for empowered noses. Their sense of smell is naturally superior to that of a human. Empowering it even further may lead to a creature who outranges me by an order of magnitude!"
This was a very astute deduction! If the Five Scrolls Compact was serious in pursuing their research into developing a metaphysical sense of smell, then working on highly-modified cats and dogs made a lot more sense!
His face grew grave. "If this is true, then the Compact's presence on Felixia is a lot more important than we thought. I think we should thoroughly look into the research institutions and see if any of them are working specifically on enhancing a cat's sense of smell."
His upcoming visit to Felixia no longer revolved exclusively around obtaining a tiger-based spiritual fragment.
The possibility that the Compact engaged in research related to Nitaa's empowered nose was an opportunity to Ves. If he could obtain their research files on this topic, then he may be able to use the information to develop a better way of blocking his scent than consuming lots of geril spice!
Even though he liked the spicy taste, lots of people began to see him as a weirdo due to his spice-laden breath!
"Alright, we'll put that on the agenda as well. Is there anything more we should take into account when we arrive on Felixia?"
"I'd like to receive some clarification. If you are going through with your intention to investigate a Crown Cat in person, then you'll have to accompany a hunting team. What are your plans?"
"I've been thinking about forming my own hunting team from the Battle Criers, but they will probably fare poorly during the hunt. The Crown Cats have bested or eluded many experienced mech hunters. Expecting the Battle Criers to do better than specialized hunters is foolish."
"That leaves no other choice than to accompany an existing hunting team. Will they even agree to bring you along?"
"Every hunting team is bringing a maintenance crew along. The terrain can be harsh at times and the scuffles between their mechs and their prey produces serious damage. Constant maintenance is crucial in keeping the hunting mechs in optimal shape for the inevitable confrontation!"
Few mech designers accompanied these hunting teams unless they were truly desperate. The risks were simply too big as many Crown Cats deliberately targeted the transports first!
For this reason, Ves would probably be in high demand if he sought for a spot on one of the mech hunting teams. Not only was he a qualified Journeyman, but he also possessed extensive experience in the field.
He could boast about his wartime exploits to hunting teams with a vacancy on their maintenance crews. He could also showcase that he could work under pressure and that he knew his way around with fixing battle damage.
A Journeyman accompanying a mech hunting team was very remarkable due to the risks involved in every hunt. However, Ves took solace in the fact that it still happened from time to time, so he wouldn't attract too much suspicion.
Nitaa did not look happy about this, but Ves already made up his mind. As long as he found a promising Crown Cat, he would definitely accompany a mech hunting team in order to witness the huge cat in person!