Chapter 182: Trainwreck
Hua Qianhu stared in silence at the third and final challenger. It looked like an average mecha.
It was coated in a bright silver plating, with a stocky composition. It was a good deal sturdier than Geng Yang’s, but of course the greater volume meant it’s speed suffered.
A close combat mecha? Hua Qianhu sat comfortably in his simulator, a smug grin on his face.
Hua Qianhu was the second strongest of the three mecha students that had been chosen for this competition, inferior only to Xiao Han. In fact, he’d already attempted the Sovereign-grade test once already. He’d only failed because he was lacking a little experience.
Though a part of the competition from the beginning, his interests were never in the opposition or even his own team mates. His primary desire was to do well, so that the school could earn more prestige and thus more resources for development.
After all he was very nearly set for life. A student who reached Sovereign status before even graduating was going to have a bright future, be it with an important family, a business collective or the military.
Hua Qianhu was no fool. He knew precisely the strengths and limitations of his abilities. He was well aware that the power he craved wasn’t going to come solely by his hard work alone. There was talent and effort, sure, but contacts and resources were just as integral.
Case in point were the power gems a mecha suit employed to run. Expensive was an understatement, more than your average pilot would be able to afford. Luckily Hua Qianhu was a talented student, but he came from an average family. Where he got to now was largely a result of his own efforts, in a place where the university was giving him accolades. But even then, he still couldn’t match up to those who came from a wealthy family.
He was graduating in a year. Now he was fighting tooth and nail with himself, pushing as hard as he could. He was dead-set on a single goal, all he wanted – to be a Sovereign-grade pilot.
The conflict between Lir and the NEU was as old as the hills. It was a good opportunity for him to ingratiate himself to the dean. Xiao Han was strong, true, but that wouldn’t matter if he never got in the ring. That would mean it was him and him alone that represented Lir University’s strength and superiority. He’d no longer be overshadowed.
It was for these reasons that Hua Qianhu was taking this competition so seriously, painstakingly studying his tactics. The arena wasn’t the most suitable to his strengths, but he had faith in his abilities. As far as he’d seen, there was no danger of running in to a pilot that was his match.
“Would you like to draw lots for a new map?” The digitized voice rang through Tang Xiao’s cockpit.
Tang Xiao’s face was cold, and hard. He growled his response.
“Three. Two. One. Begin!”
The third student battle began without delay. Were Tang Xiao to lose here, it would mean a crushing, humiliating defeat for the NEU. Losing three to zero would be a humiliation that would be seared in to the school’s historic memory forever.
Han Ruchao sat languidly within the VIP box, content in the results laid out before him. He found the first two victories very agreeable, and Hua Qianhu to be performing exceptionally. He found the young man’s demeaning actions particularly fun to watch. Altogether the sniper mecha’s power stores had barely been touched. It looked more than likely this was going to be a complete shut-out.
Xu Renjian’s own mood was, naturally, entirely contrary to his Lir counterpart. The moment he’d seen Geng Yang enter the field first he’d guessed Tan Lingyun’s strategy. What he did not anticipate was that their best student would be eliminated so quickly. There was more than skill discrepancy there – Geng Yang also had to learn to better recognize opportunity, and the lack thereof.
He’d anticipated Tang Mi’s defeat, truth be told. But to lose in such a fashion, in front of the entire school, was a strike at the very heart of the university as a whole. If they lost again this time, the effect on their future recruitment would be catastrophic. Not to mention the strangled death of the entire school’s moral, students and teachers both.
But this was the reality he found himself in. What could he do? Who but he was at fault for their inferior learning in regards to Lir?
Within the arena, the fight had already begun.
As this was the final bout, Hua Qianhu decided to switch up his strategy. Immediately his cannon was aimed directly at the silver mecha’s head. A strong energy disturbance sizzled through the air as his weapon spooled.
According to Hua Qianhu’s estimation, the one-thousand meter distance between he and his opponent was enough for two good shots. All he needed, was one solid hit.
By now he was supremely confident in his marksmanship, and for good reason. Within his kill zone, even Xiao Han wouldn’t dare get on his bad side.
Tang Xiao began precisely how Geng Yang and Tang Mi before him had, with a direct rush. The instant the digital voice called for the fight to begin, he was off in a flash of light.
In regards to speed, his direct assault wasn’t much different from Geng Yang’s, though perhaps slightly poorer. His blazing thrusters were clearly already at maximum power as well.
Hua Qianhu was certain two shots was more than enough. With his extensive combat knowledge, he could read the result before it even happened. He grinned with satisfaction as his cannon beeped, indicating weapons lock
Hm? Weapon lock already, like he doesn’t care? I guess he’s mad and making mistakes.
Hua Qianhu was surprised to discover there was nothing Tang Xiao was doing to try and prevent a lock from his cannon. This meant no matter where he shot, the shell would find it’s mark. It was a critical, catastrophic error on the part of his enemy.
Boom! The sniper took its first shot. Now that it was locked there was no need to wait.
A smile was already spreading across Hua Qianhu’s face as he waited for the Hat Trick.
If this whole thing really was the result of his opponent’s mistake, then all the better. He was already thinking of how to disgrace this guy in front of his friends. If, on the other hand, he managed to find some way to evade the strike, he still had time for his second shot. He had the dominant position no matter what.
“Aaaahhh!” A howling cry tore through the bleachers as the NEU onlookers collectively cried out. Not every student in the NEU was a mecha pilot, but all of them knew the process inside and out. A close-combat mecha taking on a sniper with no protective jamming was painting a giant target on your own chest. Defeat was inevitable.
The electron cannon’s fiery red beam found its target. A virtual flash as the mecha exploded filled the screen.
Tang Mi’s dull, defeated face was turned up to watch the screen. Her pretty face was heavy with melancholy. Was this the result of her brother being too emotional, she thought. It didn’t matter, it was over!
Suddenly the cries stopped, as though someone simply turned off the volume. Everyone held their breath.
They’d seen it true, Tang Xiao’s mecha really had been struck by Hua Qianhu’s cannon. However, as the fires of the explosion raged an enormous figure broke through the wall of fire to rush forth.
A mecha, silver, but now with a dim silver shield of light encompassing it. Were it not for the laser’s blast, it would have been entirely invisible and gone without notice.
He actually faced down the electron cannon’s shell!
Within the VIP box, both deans watched the screens very carefully. Han Ruchao looked incredulous. Xu Renjian was absolutely shocked.
Both university leaders were calculating the precise stopping power of an electron shell. Next was how much power the suit must have consumed to deflect the blow.
And yet as they watched, the small line on the screen detailing Tang Xiao’s energy reserves trembled only just slightly. Hua Qianhu’s energy reserves were at twenty percent.
The giant silver mecha barreled through the smoldering cloud where impact had been made, rushing headlong towards his opponent.
But Hua Qianhu’s training and experienced kicked in. His stunned surprise lasted only have a second before he began to react. He was an ace pilot, he knew what had happened – he just hadn’t been expecting it.
This time he didn’t remain locked in place as he had the previous two fights. He made a hasty retreat to the side. While his mecha twisted and raced diagonally away, it’s upper body remained stationary, locked still to face his opponent. His cannon locked on Tang Xiao for the second time.
It was unfortunately Hua Qianhu was unable to see the harsh light of hatred in Tang Xiao’s eyes, or the hard lines of his face as he scowled. His fat hands were a blur over the controls.
The silver mecha jerked to a stop without warning. The thrusters at its back sputtered, and changed colors.
The formerly incandescent light of the thrusters became a dazzling purple 1. There was a flash, and the air was sliced by a shimmering violet contrail.
Hua Qianhu blinked, confused by the illuminating display. Then, everything went black.
Countless pieces of slag and debris tumbled from the simulated skies. The audience had seen it the clearest from the various screens overhead. The silver mecha had essentially turned itself in to a cannon shell – a freight train that had obliterated Hua Qianhu while he’d been caught off guard. The deadly sniper was now no more than a pile of shrapnel. Like he had been struck down by the hand of god himself.
The silver mecha landed with a thunderous boom, skidding to a halt. It stood tall and unscathed, imposing as a demon. It’s giant metal hand raised, and waggled its pointer finger in denial towards the Lir University bleachers. 2
“Hua Qianhu’s mecha has suffered one hundred percent damage. Combat complete. Victory, Tang Xiao!”