The introduction of the Maiden of Adversity model invigorated the Hex Army!
Though the skill and proficiency requirements to effectively pilot this brand-new living hero mech were much higher than that of the Valkyrie Redeemer, there were still plenty of elite Hexer mech pilots who happened to qualify, if only barely.
It was extremely rare for mech pilots to be equally skilled in ranged and melee combat. Most pilots possessed a clear preference or strength in one area and somewhat tried to maintain at least some degree of competency in other areas.
It didn't matter too much. While the best possible mech pilot for the Maiden of Adversity was one that could fully utilize it in every viable battle scenario, it didn't make that much of a difference if pilots were more slanted towards using its rifle or its sword.
This was because the essence of employing a hero mech was to rely on its strengths to exploit an enemy mech's weaknesses.
For example, an enemy melee mech could do little to nothing against the Maiden of Adversity if the latter maintained its distance while sticking to its rifle!
An enemy ranged mech on the other hand barely had any ability to defend itself if the Maiden of Adversity managed to get close enough to use its deadly sword!
As the Hexer mech pilots began to get introduced to all of the wonderful possibilities opened up by the Maiden of Adversity, the proportion of mech pilots that began to cross-train into different skills had shot up at a prodigious rate!
"Only the best and most elite of us are worthy to pilot this powerful hero mech!"
"The Larkinsons have outdone themselves. I have no doubt that this is the best hero mech in the Red Ocean."
"I am not going to miss the quota that determines whether I can get assigned to the Maiden of Adversity!"
The powerful performance and versatile options of the latest living Hexer mech model already formed a powerful attraction to the Hexers.
However, what truly sold them to this mech to the point where its popularity quickly exceeded that of the Valkyrie Redeemer Mark II was its visual design!
That was not to say that the latest iterations of the popular Valkyrie line were bad on this front.
Ves had applied all of the advancements of his design style into the external appearance of the Valkyrie Redeemer Mark II. His design language had become a lot more pronounced over the years and that not only enabled him to make his Hexer marauder mech more exquisite, but also match it to the character of Helena, who took over from her mother as the design spirit of this widely-used mech line.
While the Valkyrie Redeemer Mark II came across as an enthusiastic young maiden that was ready to harvest the souls of the unwilling, the Maiden of Adversity exuded the vibe of a elder sister war veteran that fiercely protected its younger and weaker siblings.
Regardless of their differences, they were both undeniably feminine in appearance and character, and that was what female Hexer mech pilots cared about the most!
Another notable trait about the Maiden of Adversity was that it was the first 'Hexer' mech that did not possess a design spirit that was directly related to the Hexer people.
Most Larkinson-designed Hexer mechs such as the Blessed Squire and the Eternal Redemption were watched over by different aspects of the Superior Mother.
The Valkyrie Redeemer was different after its latest revision, but surprisingly enough the Hexers did not resist the introduction of Helena to their pantheon despite never having heard of her before.
The seemingly gullible Hexers completely embraced the existence and identity of Helena as the Daughter of Death and the 'older' sister of Ves Larkinson!
Regardless, Helena's association with the Valkyrie line had caused many people to label her as a Hexer goddess, though one that was a bit more accessible to outsiders.
The Larkinson Clan had taken a gamble when it introduced an entirely different Hexer mech design that was watched over by not one, but two different design spirits!
Qilanxo was a familiar entity to the Larkinson Clan but not so much to outsiders. Though she was not that prominent, Larkinson mechs such as the solid and dependable Rigid Wall and the famous Shield of Samar propagated her presence among the clansmen.
Titania was a lot less familiar to both the Larkinsons and everyone else. Ves hadn't done much with the design spirit aside from tying it to the Minerva and a few other mech designs.
This was strange because Titania was absolutely a powerful spiritual entity. Derived from an astral beast that had lived over 6 millenia, the ancient creature might have lost much of her formidable memories after her death, but the fragments that she retained still gave her a huge amount of capital in the latest chapter of her extraordinary life!
The problem with Titania was that it was difficult for Ves to pair her up with the right mech designs.
Every pairing had to make sense. Ves would be doing a disservice to his mech designs if he casually tied them to design spirits that did not align with their design concepts in the slightest.
Considering Titania's extremely lengthy preoccupation with producing offspring and controlling them in battle, the only mechs that truly matched her temperament was the Minerva.
Designing mechs with command or control functions was not that simple. Ves was not in a hurry to design a mass market version of the Minerva or anything else that could benefit from Titania's help.
The Maiden of Adversity was the first proper mass production model that truly benefited from Titania's glow.
This was because it took a lot of thought and control to derive the greatest possible value out of the Battle Skirt System.
Though Hexer mech pilots could already make good use of it by choosing the right pre-programmed configurations, the real way to use it was to dynamically rearrange the modular armor plating to fit specific situations in battle.
Ves and the other mech designers had tried to make this as easy and accessible as possible by simplifying the control interface to lowering the barrier of entry as much as possible, but the difficulty of assuming manual control over the Battle Skirt System was still too great!
He even had the bright idea of letting Maikel Larkinson contribute to the automation processes of the Battle Skirt System. Though the young AI specialist managed to introduce a decent amount of clever shortcuts, there was only so much the mech pilot could offload to the mech.
The role that Titania played in this process was not essential, but she helped a lot in the utilization of the new modular auxiliary armor system.
What Titania essentially did for the Maiden of Adversity was to put the Hexer mech pilots into the right mindset and subtly teach them how to efficiently control many different elements.
To put it in simpler terms, Titania taught mech pilots how to multitask so that they could effectively manage many different elements at the same time!
The results were gratifying. Though every mech pilot initially looked a little rough when they piloted the Maiden of Adversity for the first dozen times, they gradually began to master and excel at using the Battle Skirt System.
During the ongoing battle in Pima Prime, many of the pilots assigned to the mech units based around the Maiden of Adversity showed excellent usage of the Battle Skirt System!
For example, the Maiden of Adversity moved the rear and side parts of its skirts to the front and formed makeshift sniper shields during the opening stages of the battle.
By turning the hero mechs so that they essentially laid prone in space, the Maiden of Adversities minimized their silhouettes to the enemy while enjoying the maximum possible protection from frontal attacks!
Now that the battle had reached a more frantic and chaotic stage, the Maidens of Adversity no longer fired energy beams because their killing efficiency was too low under the circumstances.
Instead, many of them fearlessly charged forward and caught up to the slower elements of the Sundered Phalanx that had opted to remain behind to cover the evacuation of the Shellshock.
Most Maidens of Adversities had put away their rifles and transformed their battle skirts to reinforce their torsos and carry tower shields made out of interlocking plates.
What was interesting about them was that many individual mechs adopted their own variation of this popular configuration!
Some of them carried larger and taller tower shields in order to better intercept incoming blows.
Others carried smaller shields in order to make it easier for them to launch attacks.
A few even eschewed shields entirely and added as much plating to the torso and arms as possible in order to go all-out and hack their swords in a powerful two-handed grip!
Ves was incredibly proud to see the Maiden of Adversity being used as he envisioned it. Just like the Bright Warrior Mark II, he had made a decisive shift towards personalization and adaptation with the design project that produced this fantastic hero mech.
"Maybe this might be my future trajectory."
As the Maidens of Adversity continued to show their strength and adaptability in combat, Ves began to feel he might have found out another viable path to progress his design philosophy to Senior.
If he took the approach of the Bright Warrior Mark II and the Maiden of Adversity models as examples, then he could design a lot more mechs that prominently featured modularity and customization options.
There was nothing wrong with standardized mechs as long as they were well-designed, but Ves had been so influenced by Gloriana's design philosophy that he was starting to find it more important that mechs should more comprehensively adapt to their individual pilots.
"Adaptation is a form of growth." Ves eventually realized. "Evolution can take place in many different forms. Previously, I've been focusing too much on the metaphysical side of it, but what if I turn my attention back on the more material side of mech design?"
This design direction was not incompatible with his current design philosophy. In fact, it complimented it in several different ways. If not for the fact that Ves was already pursuing too many research directions already, he would have been tempted to explore this idea to the fullest!
In the end, Ves slowly shook his head. "I shouldn't bite more than I can chew. I have already decided to focus on mutual growth as my principal research direction. I haven't made that much progress in this area as of late, so why should I split my attention any further?"
Advancing to Senior had become more and more important to him. Part of the reason why he wanted to take a few risks and embark on the Trailblazer Expedition was because he thought that he might be able to gain the extraordinary inspiration he needed to achieve a breakthrough in his design philosophy!
As for the interesting notion of pursuing dynamic modification and evolution through the modularization of mechs, Ves felt that it was better to leave it up for other mech designers.
"Marvaine might find it fun to adopt this approach as the premise of the design philosophy." Ves smiled.
Of course, there was no certainty that Marvaine would choose to become a mech designer, but a father could always hope.
Ves continued to study the performance of the Maidens of Adversity. Though the mech model exhibited its fair share of flaws and shortcomings, it was only a first generation product that was based on a more radical design concept. Mistakes were inevitable and Ves already resolved to address as many of them as possible when he revised the design in the future.
"Look! Venerable Joshua is tearing through enemy lines!"
"The meat suit is too powerful! How can this be called a mech!?"
"It's unstoppable! The enemy expert mechs don't have the firepower to take it down!"
Ves' eyes lit up as he immediately switched his focus to Venerable Joshua's enhanced machine.
This was the first time that the Everchanger put its mounted wargear to the test in an actual battle.
After years of research and development, the Larkinson Clan finally debuted the infamous meat suit!