Chapter 179: Mecha Skirmishes
Tang Xiao chuckled through his pudgy face. “Such little confidence in your big brother huh, little Mi? I’m doing my best to be a man and make the best of the situation! Professor Tan Must know this, that’s why she put me at the end.”
Tang Mi gave a tepid response. “Bro, don’t be a punk this time. Anything shady and the Savage Goddess is sure to make you pay for it.”
“Alright, alright,” Tang Xiao surrendered. “How about focusing on yourself. I’ll handle the rest.”
By now the sun had begun it’s slow, inexorable trek westward. Beneath it many had begun to fill the sparring platform. It was becoming an ordeal, for not only were the big-wigs from Lir and NEU in attendance, but also leaders from other schools and Skyfire government officials. All came to watch the schools battle.
This sort of exchange was always sure to garner the interest of the varying schools. As peers they were ever curious as to the state of their competition. It also made for the perfect schmoozing opportunity, with so many important names gathered together.
This was not even considering the mecha pilots. Even the Northern Alliance – the strongest nation in the galaxy – was seeing an alarming shortage in capable pilots. A single mecha pilot was very rarely the determining factor in a battle’s success or failure, but a good pilot often is one of the most important factors.
The three alliances were always in a state of undercover, simmering contention. Even considering this, however, there was an unwritten rule: any conflicts were restricted to mecha pilots. Whatever the issues it was never to extend to warships, simply because their cost was too great. This was something every alliance understood.
Even though humanity had been scouring the galaxy for a couple of hundred years, in the grand scheme everything was still new. There was still a good chance that a frightening and powerful alien race could make itself known. It was for this reason that the alliances kept their main strength at bay.
Mechas are especially crucial now, as planetary exploration and development has progressed. A skilled pilot was highly prized anywhere they went. They were considered strategic resources to advance the strength of a nation.
Lan Jue sat amidst the crowd. Jin Yan and Wang Hongyuan appeared after a short while.
Before Jin Yan could even react, Wang Hongyuan swept passed her and took the seat at Lan Jue’s side.
She stood there looking at the two of them curiously. She had no choice but to take the seat next to Wang Hongyuan.
“Professor Wang. Professor Jin.” Lan Jue nodded politely to the two instructors.
Jin Yan smiled prettily. “Hello Professor Lan. You’re also interested in mecha combat?”
Lan Jue laughed. “Part of being a man. I’d wager it’s just part of our DNA.”
Jin Yan grinned. “I’m sure! Men are always interested in things that hit and kill.”
Wang Hongyuan’s imperious voice interjected. “No! I actually am far more interested in art. Clearly, otherwise I’d never have chosen dance.”
Jin Yan sniffed at him. “Well I like it for the manliness of it all.” 1
Wang Hongyuan nearly choked, pupils contracting. He was entirely flabbergasted.
Jin Yan scooted forward a little to separate herself from Hongyuan, and directed her attention to Lan Jue. “What do you think of all that yesterday at the Poseidon concert? How can he sing under water? And that mermaid, definitely a suit. Or something swimming back and forth with her. But she really was like a fish. How can they sing under water?”
“No idea,” Lan Jue said. “Perhaps they have some sort of special contraption. Maybe a secret of the Poseidon Group. You know, if we knew the method it would ruin the effect.”
Jin Yan looked impressed. “Looks like our scientific progress really is going too fast. It was my first time going to any sort of concert like this, Poseidon was quite handsome. I used to think you were pretty cute Professor Lan. Little did I know there existed guys like Poseidon.” 2
Both gentlemen sat stone still, their faces gloomy and sour.
Eventually Wang Hongyuan coughed to break the silence. “So, ehm, Professor Lan. What do you think of our chances in this competition?”
“I have no idea,” he replied with a shrug. “I’m no mecha pilot, I don’t know what’s going on.”
Wang Hongyuan suffered a slight tick, but quickly recovered. And least until he blurted out, “What crap.”
Lan Jue feigned shock at the accusation, the very picture of innocence. Hongyuan immediately muttered, “Nevermind.”
Lan Jue leaned back in his seat and stared at the looming screen before him. “Anyway it’s fun simply to come and watch. Days like this I really love the college life. Peaceful and relaxing, watching the youth of tomorrow grow in to leaders. It’s a fine feeling.”
Wang Hongyuan paused. He knew Lan Jue meant him. These peaceful days were hard earned. He didn’t want them bothered.
He himself was a smart man. It didn’t take him long to figure it out. He simply nodded. “Well let’s watch the game eh. Should be starting soon.”
Then, as if on cue, the National Eastern University’s Director of Teaching Affairs Wu Junyi appeared upon the stage.
“Teachers. Students. Please quiet down. The Official Educational Exchange Competition between the National Eastern University, and Lir University will begin shortly.”
His powerful and imperatorial voice boomed across the auditorium. Instantly, the place went still. Not a soul wanted the Director’s attention to fall on them.
Wu Junyi paused for a moment. He let his eyes wander over the crowd, and then he continued. “Next, please join me in welcoming our Dean, Xu Renjian onstage to speak a few words.”
It was the first time Lan Jue had heard this name. He was further surprised to see the man was in fact nearly as chubby as Tang Xiao.
Xu Renjian beamed towards the audience. “Respected teachers, and honored students. Welcome, one and all. First, I would like you all to raise your voice with me in welcoming the Dean, teachers and students of Lir University to our home.”
Xu Renjian was the first to clap his hands together. Only a few scattered applause was all the crowd could muster.
Sitting on the stage nearby, Han Ruchao’s expression never changed. He was already accustomed to this kind of reception. He was well aware of the animosity between the two schools.
Xu Renjian’s smile grew a little brighter. “Today, the chosen contest in which we shall be competing with Lir University is mecha combat. As I’m sure you all know…”
Xu Renjian’s propensity towards pomp and circumstance was quite apparent. He went on for ten minutes before he reached the closing words.
“Director Han, perhaps you would like to share a few words?” At long last he finished, turning the focus on to the opposing Dean.
Han Ruchao rose to his feet, and approached the podium. By his bearing it was clear he was out to top Xu Renjian.
“To every deeply treasured teacher, and dazzlingly brilliant student of our dearest friends from the National Eastern University, hello. I, am the Dean of your grateful guests, Lir University. Han Ruchao. Every year, our two great institutions come to together in a display of integrity, comradery, and mutual desire for improvement. It is the foremost link our chain, which we have forged in friendly cooperation. Forged, in our resolute search for progress and perfection…”
Lan Jue had thought that Xu Ruchao was quite the talker. But this oddball windbag Han Ruchao was clearly determined to beat Xu Renjian’s word count. He was unmindful of the jeers and disdainful glances as his speech closed after the fifteen minute mark.
Finally, he relinquished the microphone to Wu Junyi. “Alright, thank you for that. Ehm, now it’s time for the contest to commence. First, we’ll begin with the students simulated King of the Hill event. This will take place in a DreamNet arena, whose terrain will be determined by random drawing. The mechas which the students employ are their own. Will the first pair of students please enter the ring.
The actual competition was taking place in a site to the left of the auditorium, where more than five hundred simulators were arrayed. The competitors were there, busy testing and calibrating their mechas for combat. However, what happened there would appear on their screens, and as instructed two students appeared before them.
The massive screens flashed as the students were formally selected, and their terrain randomly chosen.
“That’s Geng Yang.” Lan Jue heard a snippet of conversation from someone in the row in front of him. Lan Jue wasn’t familiar with the line-up for today’s event, but he did dimply recall Tang Xiao saying that – besides his sister – one Geng Yang was on their team. He’d also said Geng Yan was the single best pilot the NEU had to offer.
Wang Hongyuan’s brows shot up in surprise. “Well, it looks like the Savage Goddess is going for the Tianjin approach.” 3
Lan Jue shot him a glance. “Looks like a subject close to your heart. You sure seem to know a lot.”
Wang Hongyuan just continued. “For this sort of competition, the Tianjin style simply isn’t effective. At best you’ll redeem a little face. It’s perfectly obvious the Savage Goddess doesn’t think highly of our students at all, and plans to shoulder the whole thing herself. No, it’s the teacher’s competition that’s the main event.”
Lan Jue gave A nonplused response. “Is Lir really that strong?”
“Lir’s university is an uncommon powerhouse of a school,” Wang Hongyuan instructed. “They consistently pump out excellent pilots. Of their present student body, they have more than twenty registered in Emperor-class training. For this competition they chose three from their number. So tell me, how do we compete against that? We’ve got six, maybe seven ready for Emperor class, but only barely second grade.”
Lan Jue grunted. “Oh. And what about the teachers who are here to compete? You think the Savage Goddess has a chance?”
Wang Hongyuan nodded. “She should. After all she’s our school’s poster child. She might have the attitude of a spoiled child, but she’s pretty strong. Be it the simulations or the real bouts, she’s going to hold a dominant position. No surprise since she’s a Sovereign-Level pilot. And an eighth-level Talent to boot. Any school could win a few victories with the likes of her in your corner. Overall, Lir’s faculty are stronger than ours. However, if you’re talking one on one I don’t think they have anyone strong enough to beat her. We had a King of the Hill bout last year, and it took two teachers taking turns to take put her down. So we got one. But she also got another victory in the real combat arenas. They say she’s the one bright spot in our school. I heard she’s been busting hump this year to prepare. No small amount of preparation, or so I’m told.”
“I guess we’ll see,” Lan Jue said. “Perhaps Professor Tan will put on a good show.”
- Oh shnap that burn is rough! I cringe for Hongyuan. ↩
- To a crisp. The burn – it’s horrible! ↩
- This involves the story of Tianji and the Horse race. In short, during this horse race Tianji decided to pit his worst horse against his opponent’s best, his average horse to race the inferior one, and his best horse against the challenger’s average horse. In that he way won two of the three bouts, and the competition: You can read about it here. ↩