Skyfire Avenue, Chapter 184

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Chapter 184: A 1% Victory

 

“Bi Minghan has suffered 1% damage. Tang Xiao 0%. Tang Xiao is victorious.”

The emotionless digitized voice hung in the air.

The fourth student battle finished as the time ticked down to zero. Tang Xiao had won his second in a row, by virtue of a single minor attack.

The entire audience burst in to uproarious laughter.

It rang in the ears of every Lir student and teacher.

A 1% victory was usually a display of luck, just barely winning over the enemy. But when it was intentional, as this battle was, it was more embarrassing than flogging corpses.

Bi Minghan burst from the simulator, his face purple with rage. Even Hua Qianhu, whose mecha was absolutely obliterated, looked on him with sympathy.

This fight wasn’t lost because of any difference in equipment. No, he lost this one because he was outplayed. His enemy had more heart.

Bi Minghan knew it was a lesson, and an image he wouldn’t forget. Behind his eyes he could still see the curtain of red lasers filling the sky.

The laser curtain was a weak strike, but it was an effective long-range tactical tool. It was called a pinning laser, and it was meant to force a target where you want. If you knew where the target would be, all you had to do was pull the trigger. Naturally it’s damage wasn’t much of a concern, and what’s more it’s distance and scale were prohibitively expansive.

What was embarrassing was that this ploy was precisely what won Tang Xiao his victory.

 

ζ

 

Han Ruchao stared at the screens. His face was dark, and great huffs of hair were pushed through flaring nostrils. He snapped his head to his NEU compatriot. “You’re indeed quite the teacher, Renjian! Using tactics one would never actually witness on the field of battle! Easily tolerable.”

Xu Renjian’s response was even and unhurried. “What is a man? A man is to endure, Ruchao. This was a fine showing. He waited until the last possible moment, so as not to give his enemy any chance at a reaction. I think that shows good battlefield tactics, don’t you? He has been well trained.”

“You…” Han Ruchao only stared at him.

Xu Renjian smiled. “Ruchao ,excess anger will bring you health problems. Think of your heart.” Xu Renjian couldn’t be any more pleased with this moment.

These last two victories were a better showing from the NEU than any in recent history. They were unorthodox, true – but who cared?

It was now time for the LU student body to glare spitefully at the victorious Tang Xiao. A few looked on the cusp of an outburst.

Tang Xiao’s little trick wasn’t something entirely unheard of. Kids used these sorts of tricks to tease their friends. Everyone knew about it. It was a cruel joke to use it in an actual battle.

But it wasn’t just a trick now. It had snatched victory from Lir, turning the tables in a fight they should have won easily. It had changed the game.

Su He frowned openly. He turned to regard Lir’s final hope. “Be wary. Do not get careless. This one, the cunning of a fox. Appearances can be deceiving.”

Xiao Han’s face was solemn. He may have fought his way to the top of the school’s power rosters, but he wasn’t arrogant in this. “I’ll be careful, Professor Su.”

The teacher turned back to the screens. “Choose another map.”

“I will.”

Xiao Han wasted no more time. He strode to the simulator and pulled himself inside.

The silver warrior’s energy reserves were back to full. Tang Xiao’s pudgy face bore a small smile. He thought about his sisters, congratulating himself on bringing vengeance to her assailant.

Your brother’s gunna upset the balance. This is a coup! I may be fat, but that’s all strength. Hell, might even I get a girlfriend out of this.

There was a flash, and the opposite side of the ring was host to a shadowy figure.

The mecha was bright red, and the light danced across it like licks of flame racing along the metal. Judging by it’s construction, it looked like a melee mecha: big, and burly, with a massive saber on its back. The blade was easily ten meters long, and two meters wide. Just seeing it brought a shudder to some witnesses.

“Selecting new map.” The digital voice came from everywhere at once.

“New terrain selected: Ocean.”

Once again the world around them flashed, shuttered, warped until it settled on a vast blue expanse of sea. Tang Xiao and Xiao Han hovered above the waves, just close enough to make each other out.

Nearly every modern mecha was equipped with systems for underwater combat, but it was rare to find a mecha that specialized in it. So in a way this map was similar to the arena, and it was going to be a tough fight.

Su He nodded his head ever so slightly, pleased with the result.

Tan Lingyun, in the other sim room, frowned as she saw the terrain shift. Her eyes narrowed. She had seen Tang Xiao’s explosive power in the first fight, and his trickiness in the second. However, this was going to be a much less hospitable battlefield, against a very difficult enemy.

The silver mecha hung in the air, large and imposing. Slowly, it’s left hand lifted to give the distant challenger a thumbs up. But it’s wrist slowly turned as the arm extended, until the thumb was pointed down.

Xiao Han’s eyes flashed as anger shot through him.

He’s actually taunting me?!

The red mecha burned all the brighter, surrounded in a carona of red light and energy.

“Three. Two. One. Begin!”

Xiao Han raced towards his enemy, the sound of his mecha loud as a jet engine. Bi Minghan’s mecha was considered a step up from Hua Qianhu’s, but neither came anywhere near Xiao Han’s beastly machine.

Tang Xiao’s silver mecha followed in kind, racing swiftly ahead. His thrusters blazed, but were absent the purple light from before. He was holding back.

The two war machines closed, until it looked as though they were right on top of each other.

Xiao Han’s fiery red mecha’s arm flashed, and the giant blade was in it’s hand. As the weapon was drawn, it flashed through the air. A sonic boom of energy raced outwards with the action.

“Energy blasts?” Tan Lingyun’s eyes narrowed. “A Sovereign-ranked pilot!”

Energy blasts were a staple of Sovereign-ranked pilots. It was a different sort of strike, compared to a long-ranged attack – it was congealed energy, manipulated and controlled. It was powerful, and frightening. Usually it required the use of a pilot’s Discipline to employ with ease. It wasn’t something seen often in DreamNet.

But this was Xiao Han’s opening strike. The more astute among the audience noticed the red gem affixed to the massive weapon’s pommel, that shimmered with a life of its own. The power flowing through the gem made it more obvious than it originally was.

It was at least a b-ranked power gem. Very competitive equipment.

In the face of Xiao Han’s strike, the silver mecha collapsed. Not from a hit, but because the thrusters on its back all shut off in tandem. The enormous and hefty machine tumbled in to the drink.

Xiao Han’s energy blast passed harmlessly overhead.

He wants to fight in the ocean? Does he expect to hide under the waves? Xiao Han considered the possibility, but the fact the bout had just started and Tang Xiao was just in front of him meant that If it was an attempt at concealment, it was a very poor one.

The audience looked on, confused. Suddenly, the silver mecha changed even as they stared on. The shoulder panels separated, and from the cavities therein extended two polished gun barrels. They fired without a moment’s pause.

Boom-boom!”

Xiao Han’s reactions were worthy of his status. He swept his buzzing sword and blocked the two shells with little effort. But half a second later, the silver mech burst from beneath the brine and tore in to the distance. This, time, however, it was now literally bristling with protruded weapon barrels.

“Long distance fighter…?” Su He’s face twitched as he fought the expression from his face.

What kind of monster had the NEU created? It was built like a melee fighter to confound the enemy, but it was… off. It had used a shield to protect itself from the impact that obliterated Hua Qianhu, but the most telling was the fact that it carried no weapon.

The barrels lit up as a series of lasers raced back towards Xiao Han.

Xiao Han was also surprised by the revelation, but his mecha manipulation didn’t seem to suffer. To him, the machine was like his right arm. A piece of him. He stopped only long enough to deflect the beams with his sword, and then he was off again towards his prey.

Tang Xiao released wave after wave of attacks as he raced in to the distance. Xiao Han followed on his heels, dodging the attacks as they came. They raced over the water’s surface, spraying up water behind them in a wake.

This wretched bastard! Xiao Han’s face was dark with anger. Lying from the outset… It was a thought echoed by no small number of those in the audience.

It was a classic tactic from the games of old – the ranged fighter was kiting his close-ranged enemy; pulling him along, like a kite, and taking pot-shots as he did. And Xiao Han was happy to go along with it. Still this was a crafty one, changing up tactics on the fly and spurting the purple thrusters on occasion to keep the lead.

But really as they chased each other over the waves, it looked more impressive than it really was. The silver mechas blasts were flashy, but not all that powerful. Xiao Han blocked them handily with his weapon. It was catching up, without a single scratch.


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