Chapter 185: Miraculous Victory
Chapter 185: Miraculous Victory
Both mechas were seeing their energy stores in decline. However, as expected, the ranged mecha’s energy was being spent faster than the melee’s. The battle was shaping up to be a violent one, with a lot of back and forth. Not five minutes in to the match and Tang Xiao’s energy reserves were down thirty percent. Xiao Han was only missing ten percent.
Xiao Han raced towards his enemy, cool and calm. All the while he was carefully watching the wretched pilot darting in front of him, waiting for his next trick. He wasn’t scared or intimidated; as far as he could see, it didn’t matter what trick the guy tried to pull, his efforts would be futile 1. All he had to do was wait his enemy out. When his energy stores were too low for high speed or other attacks, that’s when he’d make his move.
Tang Xiao began to circle around. His suit’s power drained faster.
Lan Jue watched from the audience, his face a glowering mask. He inwardly cursed his student. This wasn’t anything he’d taught him! This was the kid’s own design.
He was fairly certain Tang Xiao’s enemy now was the guy who’d been sniffing after Qianlin. A sovereign-ranked pilot with decent abilities and a decent punch. The tools he’d provided to shut down the kid’s advantages still went unused by Tang Xiao. Instead he was falling back on his ultimately useless trickery.
Still, there was a ghost of expectation as Lan Jue watched. He still bore a dissatisfied frown, but memories of the fatty’s near-victory from so long ago danced in his head.
Fifteen minutes passed quickly. Already, the silver mecha was down to forty percent energy. In terms of mecha combat, this was already in dangerous territory.
Tang Xiao recognized this as well, hence his decision to stop using the empowered thrusters. Now, he only relied on evasive techniques and defensive strikes. Xiao Han was in no rush to close the gap, instead remaining just behind him as they raced over the waves. He was waiting until the silver mecha was drained. That way his prey had no opportunity for escape.
Su He watched from nearby the simulation pod. His features were once more the familiar calm he’d arrived with. His lips curled in to a frown, suddenly, as though he’d just thought of something.
“Hm, no. He’s been tricked.”
Both Hua Qianhu and Bi Minghan looked inquisitively towards their instructor. “What do you mean, Professor?”
His brows furrowed as he spoke, his eyes never leaving the screen. “His opponent’s energy levels shouldn’t be dropping this quickly. By what we saw in his fight against the two of you, his central power gem is likely a-ranked. His power stores would thusly be… colossal. As would his energy regeneration. But in this fight it’s obvious his reserves are draining faster than they should be. There’s definitely something going on here, I just hope your compatriot recognizes this as well.”
His teacher didn’t need to worry. Xiao Han was well aware of the discrepancy.
In the beginning he hadn’t noticed, but once Tang Xiao’s reserves had dropped to fifty percent, it dawned on him. His own mecha used an a-ranked gem as its core, and his reserves were only down thirty percent.
You wanna play games? We’ll play games. When your energy drops to twenty percent, and you don’t have enough for your shields, that’s when I’ll move in. The energy he poured through his weapon extended the blade a hundred meters. He wouldn’t even need to get that close. The only person this silver mecha was going to mess with was himself.
But Xiao Han was making a mistake that he could never have realized: He was trying to judge Tang Xiao’s behavior against a normal person. He wasn’t anticipating it was a total bastard that was piloting the thing.
Twenty percent remained.
Tang Xiao’s energy surplus was already in the red. His speed was visibly slower. There was a flash of red light, and a sonic boon of energy swept mere inches from the back of the silver suit.
What was the ace of Tang Xiao’s sleeve? Xiao Han chased his enemy, his heart filled with a nerve-wracking uncertainty.
If you won’t show me, I’ll make you show your cards.
Xiao Han’s fingers danced along the controls like lightning. The red light surrounding his mecha dimmed somewhat, but not for lack of power – more like it was drawing in to itself. Moments later, the red light burst out from thrusters behind it. However, despite expectations, the light didn’t do anything to modulate his mecha’s speed. Instead it transferred to the weapon in his hand.
In the space of an instant, the fiery red sword in his grip flashed and became a dazzling gold. It flashed with a mass of congealed power.
Xiao Han roared as he lifted the weapon overhead. The air around him sizzled with errant jolts of energy as he brought the great blade down onto his opponent.
In the same instant, the silver mecha reacted. All of the thrusters and engines keeping it aloft sputtered and went dark. Once more he tumbled towards the briny seas in freefall.
“You think you can run away from me?!” Xiao Han screamed at him from within the simulator. He pointed his sword downward towards the spinning silver mecha, and a beam of red light shot down towards it with frightening speed. But that wasn’t the end, for the second the beam of light issued forth, Xiao Han coaxed his mecha to pursue. Soon the strike and the mecha were barreling right towards the exposed silver suit.
This was the end!
By now the match had already stretched on for twenty minutes. Han Ruchao, Xu Renjian, and all the onlookers could see no way in which the intrepid silver mecha could get out of this unscathed.
What none could see was the smile creeping up Tang Xiao’s pudgy face.
The red beam cast from the empowered sword connected. Surprisingly, Tang Xiao had lifted his left arm to block the brunt of the blast. In this way he protected the most integral parts of his machine.
The draw back was that his left arm was now a lump of slag. Half his suit was burned black and badly damaged. The swords power was so great that, had Tang Xiao not blocked when he did, his suit would likely have been sliced right in half.
Success! Xiao Han wasted no further time in hesitation – this was his opportunity. He was on his enemy in no time. His blade was moving again, another strike that set the air around it to undulating. The red beams of energy cast forth tore through the air in a ‘Z’ shape. If it landed, Tang Xiao would be reduced to half a dozen mangled pieces.
The silver mecha hit the water with a splash. His thrusters remained cold. He simply let himself sink in to the water.
Xiao Han’s attack was ever so slightly off, however it was close enough that it struck.
A silver, mechanical skull hung in the air where Xiao Han’s strike had separated it from the rest of the suit.
No one celebrated, not yet. In mecha combat this didn’t spell the end of a match. The pilots weren’t located in the head, after all, but safely nestled in the depths of their suit’s chest.
The fiery red mecha wasted no time, and was on his enemy once again. He hit the water and began to sink. The high temperatures of his suit elicited a massive cloud of steam to rise from around him.
The only thing anyone could see was the steam, turning the simulated world in to a blank white canvas.
Before their vision could clear, first came a noise. It was an explosion; one so intense, so frightening that it was difficult to compare. It was like a strike from a starship, birthed from the arms of the ocean.
The sudden and violent eruption was compounded by the steam, making vision difficult, fuzzy. Great, towering tsunami waves arose a thousand meters high from ‘ground zero.’ The water directly above where the mechas fell churned and boiled.
Bolts of bluish-purple danced along the water’s surface. The audience only watched, silent, struck dumb by the power of the strike they’d hadn’t actually witnessed.
What was going on? What was the result?
“Xiao Han’s mecha has sustained one hundred percent damage. Tang Xiao’s mecha has sustained forty-eight percent damage. Victory – Tang Xiao!”
Tang Xiao victorious! It was both a blessed relief and a vicious gut-punch. The Students of Lir University stared in utter horror and disbelief at the words plastered across the screen.
They were all, to a man, utterly speechless.
The water calmed, and from its depths slowly arose a busted up, silver middle finger.
The rest of Tang Xiao’s mangled mecha followed, proudly brandishing its remaining arm and the risen finger as though raising a flag.
“You CHEATED!” Han Ruchao shot to his feet, shouting impotently at Xu Renjian at his elbow.
Xu Renjian sat, unmoving. Slowly he turned his head, and when he spoke his voice was hard as iron, and calm as the simulated ocean on screen now was.
“Come now, Ruchao. You’re a dean – let’s control ourselves, hm? You know as well as I that matches held in DreamNet are impossible to fix. If you have a problem with the way this fight was conducted, yelling at me won’t solve a thing. Bring your grievances to the Guardians.”
Han Ruchao literally shook with rage. He fell resentfully in to his chair. After a moment he leaned towards Shi Jiujiu at his other side and whispered something.
Shi Jiujiu nodded, and quickly left the VIP box.
The shock and surprise was fading. Suddenly, as though subconsciously communicated, the entire NEU presence in the audience burst in to howls of praise and cheers of joy. The waves of emotion were so powerful it was almost as though the whole West Hill resonated with it.
Victory. A real and honest victory. A miraculous victory!
None could have expected that the thoroughly trounced NEU would turn the battle around with their last fighter. By virtue of a single fighter’s power, they took out all three Lir challengers. It was unthinkable.
The jubilant cries were raucous, but there were few if any in the crowd who actually understood what was happened in the last three fights – especially at the very end.
Lan Jue, of course, was the exception. He sat calmly amid the cheering crowds, with a small smile on his handsome face.
Wang Hongyuan just looked at him. He leaned in and spoke softly, just enough for Lan Jue to hear over the din. “How in the hell did he pull that out in the end? Did you see it?”
“Nope,” Lan Jue replied.
“No? So what the hell are you smirking about? You look so sinister.” Wang Hongyuan glowered, afraid he was being kept in the dark.
Lan Jue rubbed his face with a sigh. Agitation was clear in his voice as he spoke. “What are you on about. This is a knowing smile, alright. Tang Xiao didn’t win this fight from one strike – he won the mental war.”
Wang Hongyuan was still unclear. “Mental war… what do you mean?”
“Keep watching,” was all Lan Jue would say.
A voice cut them off, calling towards the audience from the main platform. “Lir University has request an analysis of the final battle. We will be reviewing the footage.”
Battle review was one of the best advantages of fighting in DreamNet. It allowed anyone to view a fight from all angles. They could sharpen or slow the footage as much as they liked to pick out every tiny detail. But like anything, it cost money.
No one cared about the price at this point. Everyone was dying to know what the hell happened.
In the expansive simulator warehouse, two pods opened. Tang Xiao and Xiao Han stepped out as if in tandem.
Tang Xiao’s face bore a proud expression, which only grew more arrogant as he stuck his index finger high in the air.
He looked for all the world like a returning, victorious general.
- Hua Qianhe said the same thing ↩