The Mech Touch (Web Novel)
Chapter 3322: Grand Regent Habidas Aaden

A crisis raged in the Vulcan Empire. After the Ferril Provincial Army tried and failed to defeat a visiting human fleet that had obtained official sanction from the MTA, many dwarves were appalled at the consequences!

The unprovoked attack would have led to an upheaval in Vulcanite space regardless of victory or loss, but the way it turned out failed to build up momentum for the Dwarven God Cult!

This left the two major religious factions of the Vulcan people in an awkward position. The Dwarven God Cult had slowly achieved consistent gains over the last decade and was about to overtake the traditional Vulcan Faith sooner or later.

A victory against a notable human fleet should have proved to every Vulcanite that dwarvenkind was superior to the tall folk and that it was their destiny to overtake the galaxy!

"Today, we take over the Fermi Star Cluster. Tomorrow, we'll sweep across the entire galactic rim!"

Those expectations were way overblown in hindsight. It turned out that dwarven technology wasn't superior to human technology and that dwarven skill could not single handedly accomplish victory. A lot of radical and influential Dwarven God cultists had egg on their face.

What was worse for the Vulcanites was that they had already released the arrow from their bow. They could not take back their egregious attack that affected the lives of not just the radicals, but also the traditionalists who never asked to restart their struggle against the tall folk in the first place!

"Do you know what you have just done? The humans will crush us all for what we have done!"

"You fools! War isn't a game! For every glorious battle, there are ten awful tragedies. The dwarven bodies that will stack up as a result of your mistakes will form a monument of your folly!"

Tensions between different groups of Vulcanites intensified. Radicals against traditionalists. The younger generation against the older generation. Militarists against pacifists. Second-raters against third-raters. Every division became more polarized and consensus was nowhere to be seen.

The adherents of the traditional Vulcan Faith who still clung to the stuffy belief of a human Vulcan had gained enough wind in their sails to form a proper resistance against the radical Dwarven God cultists!

In the weeks that passed since the battle, this had led to numerous reversals. Far from providing greater momentum to the Dwarven God Cult, the disastrous engagement stopped their progress entirely, forcing them to clash more openly against the old fogeys who they long accused of holding back dwarvenkind.

What was even worse was that the Vulcan Empire stood to lose their hidden guarantee of independence from the MTA.

The proof that the Vulcan Empire ignored the MTA's own rules was indisputable. This was not a minor slip-up such as implementing unsafe neural interfaces into mechs but a direct attack against third parties that had been offered safe passage!

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It did not matter if the attack was launched by a rogue faction or a fringe group within the Vulcan Empire. The consequences of this action affected the entire dwarven state, which was exactly what the attackers set out to accomplish!

Grand Regent Habidas Aaden, the leader of the Vulcan Empire, was beset with the gravest crisis of his life.

A part of him already acknowledged that the Dwarven God Cult would become the new truth to the citizens of the Vulcan Empire. Even if he didn't like the shift, there was little he could do to prevent this popular strain from attracting more believers.

Yet the self-destructive attack its adherents had launched against a human fleet showed that the Dwarven God cultists weren't qualified to rule the Vulcan Empire!

"What do they know of responsibility? They will burn our dwarven state if they keep provoking the tall folks!"

Many other Vulcanites of the old guard formed the same conclusion as well. Before, they just thought that the extreme statements of the Dwarven God Cult was mere hyperbole. As long as their jingoistic behavior was confined to boasting, there was little harm in letting them talk.

Yet now that they had actually taken action, a lot of traditionalists and those on the fence became abhorred at the direction the Dwarven God cultists wanted to take the Vulcan Empire.

It was fine if the crazies in their state wanted to board a starship and commit suicide by flying straight into a star.

The problem was that the starship accommodated other passengers as well! Many Vulcanites who remembered the rebellion or grew up hearing stories about it from their parents and teachers did not want to get implicated by the actions of their fellow dwarves!

The Grand Regent had to confront two major challenges.

The first was to help the Vulcan Faith push back against the Dwarven God Cult and inject some much-needed sanity in their great state!

The second was to convince the Mech Trade Association not to revoke its guarantee of protection.

Grand Regent Aaden personally presided over the official meetings with the representatives of the MTA. Though the powerful human organization had yet to make a final decision, the unofficial tribunal that happened behind closed doors was not going well for the dwarves.

The Association did not let the Vulcanites rely on the excuse that the unprovoked attack had been launched by a single rogue group that did not represent the greater will of the Vulcan Empire.

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"These are not terrorists, Mr. Aaden." An imperious and officious-looking woman declared as she sat on the other side of the long table. "The Ferril Provincial Army is an official military institution of your state. Your lack of control of your attack dogs does not absolve your state from responsibility. The severity of your crime is even greater once I bring up the fact that Patriarch Ves Larkinson is a 10th tier galactic citizen and a contributor of restricted technology. From our own investigations, these factors did not deter your men from attacking his fleet. On the contrary, your soldiers sounded eager to defeat an affiliate of our Association. What do you have to say for yourself, grand regent?"

The middle-aged dwarf whose majestic blond beard was bedecked with exotic jewelry looked discomfited. There was no way for him to hide his difficulties.

Habidas Aaden did not believe the MTA had been unaware that elements of his own state were plotting to attack the human fleet. With the power the mechers possessed, they could have easily employed a hundred different solutions to prevent the attack from happening in the first place!

Given these circumstances, why did the MTA refuse to step in and prevent the worst from happening?

It was unfortunate that it was not wise for the dwarven leader to voice this question out loud. The motives of the MTA were unfathomable and Aaden was quite aware that the massive trans-galactic organization was divided into many factions. Who knew which one was in charge in this region at the moment.

"We are more than willing to compensate the Golden Skull Alliance for all of the losses they have suffered, financial or otherwise." The grand regent spoke in a modest voice. "We are also prepared to pay a penalty fee to your Association on behalf of the extremists who have attempted to plunge trillions of innocent dwarven civilians into the abyss."

The stern-faced human woman shook her head and tapped her finger against the table. The surface caved in as the fingernail dug straight through the hard wood material as if it was butter!

"The act committed by your state is too severe to be made up with an ordinary fine. Actions have consequences, Mr. Aaden. Our Association has a reputation to uphold."

With the way these talks were going, the grand regent could already foresee the MTA revoking its support for the Vulcan Empire.

The Vulcan Empire and the MTA had long maintained an implicit understanding. The dwarves were allowed to keep an entire star sector to themselves in exchange for serving as proof that the Association was tolerant and supportive towards minorities.

Even if the Vulcanites were not that pleasant in reality, the secret agreement was beneficial to the MTA's goal of maintaining their legitimacy as the guardian and hegemon of human civilization.

However, now that the Vulcan Empire's extremism became more prominent, it became a lot less appealing to provide support for its toxic people!

What the Grand Regent had been trying to do all this time was to convince the MTA's representative that the Vulcanites still possessed redeeming traits. As long as the Vulcan Faith was able to take advantage of the Dwarven God Cult's embarrassment, the traditional and more conservative dwarves might be able to take back much of the gains made by the radicals!

The only job the grand regent and his team of diplomats needed to do was to buy time. As long as the MTA had yet to issue its verdict, there was still a chance the Vulcan Empire could return to normal!

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In fact, the current crisis also caused many officials aligned with the Dwarven God Cult to waver. While their belief in Vulcan as a dwarf was still absolute, that did not necessarily mean they had to support all of the stances of the cult leaders!

Flame Herald Uven Yellowshoe was known as a firebrand, much like his father who had laid the seeds of the cult's meteoric rise.

Yet as one of the most powerful and influential dwarves of the Vulcan Empire, the burden of responsibility weighed heavily on him as well.

"Perhaps… we should not launch a war against the tall folk so soon."

He had never doubted his cause and beliefs more at any point in his life than now! Though he frequently exhorted his flock to rid themselves of their fear against the tall folk, pushing the Vulcan Empire into a very real war against the tall folk at its current level of strength might not be as optimistic as he thought.

As he rewatched the footage of the Battle of Fordilla Zentra over and over again, he realized that the tall folk were not as feeble in battle as he thought.

"Their evil gods are too powerful!" He privately exclaimed. "Vulcan is the most powerful god in the galaxy, but.. is he strong enough to resist all of the human gods at once?"

This was a blasphemous question, yet the footage provided clear proof that Vulcan's blessing could not grant his chosen the victory they deserved.

As the highest authority of the Dwarven God Cult actually began to doubt the strength of the master he served with all of his devotion, one of his assistants urgently requested to enter his office!

"What is the matter, Deacon Ezek?"

"Vulcan has blessed us with his great craft!" The older dwarf in priestly robes shouted as he walked up to the Flame Herald's desk. "Two days ago, one of our local temples received a curious parcel from an unknown sender. When they opened it up, they encountered an artifact that had enlightened them to Vulcan's truth!"

The deacon did not spend much time explaining what happened afterwards. As more and more devout Dwarven God cultists encountered Vulcan's gift, their convictions had all grown stronger. The incident attracted so much attention that Deacon Ezek eventually decided that the head of the cult needed to know about this miracle!

A short time later, a humble but ecstatic-looking dwarf brought forth a small metal statue of their god.

As soon as its glow enveloped Uven Yellowshoe, the leader of the Dwarven God Cult closed his eyes.

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Thirty seconds passed before they opened up again. This time, the Flame Herald exhibited no more doubt!

"I see now. The truth has always been in front of me. Dwarvenkind is truly superior! Though our numbers are less and our territory is paltry, our people will always find a way! A single defeat does not determine that we are weak. As long as our cause is just, victory shall be ours! For Vulcan!"

"For Vulcan!"

The Mech Touch (Web Novel) Chapter 3322: Grand Regent Habidas Aaden
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