Chapter 188: Tang Xiao’s Home Turf
“He’s my Disciple.” Lan Jue’s response was simple and straightforward.
Upon hearing this, the surprise in Wang Hongyuan’s face slipped away, and he nodded. “Yeah, that makes sense. You’re both a couple of bastards.”
Lan Jue frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Wang Hongyuan smiled ruefully. “You’re a God-ranked mecha pilot. Teaching etiquette. In a mecha research school. What do you think?”
The two combatants entered the arena.
They were two identical saber mechas, composed of titanium-alloy plating. Beyond their standard loadout, there was nothing else for these suits to rely on. They were the suits used by instructors for teaching mecha control systems.
As DreamNet was no longer employed as the judge, two new figures were enlisted for the job; Wu Junyi, and Shi Jiujiu.
The combat arena was a good distance from the audience bleachers, so again the large screens were turned on for a closer look.
Wu Junyi’s stern voice cut through the chatter as he delineated the competition rules.
“Remember that this contest is an educational exchange, for the purposes for mutual study. The moment your opponent surrenders, or their mecha is no longer able to fight, the battle’s done.”
The NEU’s resident arena and the one they’d seen in DreamNet were very similar. Both were roughly the same size and composition.
Now, as the battle was starting, silence once again fell over the audience. They were even more excited than before to witness the class of these two remarkable students.
Xiao Han settled back in his mecha, looking over the cockpit. He was well familiar with this sort of saber mech, but underwent a basic check regardless.
“Practice Mecha J1 is attempting to open a connection.”
Hm? Xiao Han stared in confusion at the controls as the mecha’s digitized voice hailed the call. He’d noticed his own unit number when he’d clambered in: J2. Almost unconsciously, he accepted the signal.
“Hey bro, how ya doin’?” The voice on the other end was jovial and sincere.
Xiao Han wasn’t familiar with the voice on the other end, but he knew immediately who and what this call was about. “What do you think,” he said impatiently.
Tang Xiao went on, ignoring his tone. “I actually wanted to apologize. I’m sorry! I actually didn’t want to fight like that, but our instructors told us that’s the way we should compete. You know how it’s like between our two schools.”
Xiao Han spoke back, his voice hard and chilly. “Whatever you say, it’s too late. I will not show you any mercy.”
When Tang Xiao replied, his voice had changed considerably. “Mercy? You got a brain tumor or something? I just called to ask if the rumors are true, that you have a room temperature IQ.” 1
Xiao Han had no opportunity to reply. Their communication cut and Wu Junyi’s voice interjected.
Tang Xiao’s saber mech was instantly off like a bullet. Xiao Han’s reaction speeds were markedly slower, with Tang Xiao’s taunts echoing in his head. He wasn’t an amateur, though, and he put the thoughts away to focus on the fight ahead.
Both suits were exceedingly simple, with no bells or whistles. Since their mechas were identical, the only discrepancies in speed would be from their personal ability. This meant Tang Xiao, having reacted first, had the upper hand.
The two drew closer. A flash sizzled behind Xiao Han’s eyes, and immediately the cockpit filled with a stifling power. The titanium alloy sword gripped in his mechanical hand pulsed with a deep red aura.
The two mecha met, though it was not apparent at first glance whether Tang Xiao was employing his Discipline.
Su He had returned to the Lir side of the stadium. His eyes were glued to the screen, calmly judging every movement the two young men made. He was familiar with his student Xiao Han, of course. He knew his pride, the pride that came from being universally favored, had been hurt by the loss – it was sending his heart in to chaos. Still he was confident in his student’s ability. He had the advantage in a real fight. And so, when Xiao Han had been preparing, Su He had said nothing. This was an excellent learning experience for the young pilot.
Tan Lingyun had also left the warehouse, and watched the screen with the others of the NEU. Like Su He, she calmly watched as the battle began, though her eyes shone with something else. She was not afraid of a loss – the last two victories she considered a happy accident. No, she was worried the Lir combatant wouldn’t hold back if he saw an opportunity. There was a significant threat of harm, maybe even death, if they weren’t careful.
Sparks flew as the two giant titanium blades met for the first time.
The first clash was a straight measure of strength. The mechas were the same, true, but that wasn’t the final word. Tang Xiao had the advantage, and was on the offensive. However, Xiao Han’s Discipline was flowing through his weapon, covering it in a fiery corona of energy.
Then, Xiao Han took his shot.
At first it looked like a miss-step. Xiao Han’s mecha stumbled, but only just enough to stagger around Tang Xiao. As he did, the offending foot stamped solid against the floor, and a powerful fiery light was cast up from the ground. It raced towards Tang Xiao, crashing in to him with a staggering impact.
Xiao Han’s thrusters burst, sending him careening forward with the point of his blade leveled towards Tang Xiao’s torso.
Dodge, blast, thrust. It was perfectly executed, masterfully planned.
But Tang Xiao knew crafty when he saw it. His mecha rocked to the side as the blast came, deflecting it off the side of his suit. As he staggered backward, he rotated away from Xiao Han’s deadly thrust. His own blade whirled around for an upper-cut slash to Xiao Han’s back.
Lir’s chosen didn’t slow down one iota. Instead he reversed thrust and sent his suit reeling backward. As he did, hi sword swept back at an impossible angle to deflect Tang Xiao’s strike. The two mechas collided with a screech of metal.
Xiao Han’s sudden increase in speed and change of direction caused the two to slam in to each other unceremoniously. Like Tang Xiao in their earlier fight, Xiao Han’s thrusters were empowered, becoming an angry red with the addition of his Discipline. It sent his enemy flying, and he was right behind with both hands gripping his giant sword.
Tang Xiao’s suit had barely hit the floor before Xiao Han had caught up. But he wasn’t alarmed or taken aback, instead hitting the thrusters on one side to push his prostrate suit out of harm’s way. As he slid away from Xiao Han, his torso twisted, bringing the sword to bear.
Once more Tang Xiao was thrust away, but he’d brought his sword up just in time to block the blow.
From the outset both fighters had been aiming for speed. It was simple, but in straightforward melee fights with these standard mechas, it was an integral part of gaining the upper hand.
It was also the first time Tang Xiao was showing anything other than trickery, and it was real skill. He currently was at a disadvantage, true, but solid basic skills have kept his opponent from landing any strikes.
Xiao Han saw his advantage solidified, then lashed out with a series of blows as furious as a storm. The fiery wall around him burst in to bloom, and with each strike of his sword an explosion of power ensued. Tang Xiao lost ground, retreating under the barrage. His own mecha was beginning to grow hot and blacken. Parts of the armor were beginning to crack.
Tang Xiao was holding on, but only just. Who could say how much more of this he could sustain? Defeat seemed inevitable.
“Now, Tang Xiao, remember – In general, a DreamNet pilot of high rank will pick his mecha so that it compliments his Discipline. So that means, during the sim battles you better be observant. You might be able to tell their Discipline by the mecha they use. Also, try your damnedest to make sure your own Discipline remains a secret. Now with these things I’ve given you, there’s no way in hell you’re losing. Then you’ll have the real fights, and it’s more than likely you’ll run in to that Xiao Han guy again.”
“From what I could read from his energy, he’s just about to break eight-level Talent. But he isn’t there yet, so in that you don’t have a disadvantage. However, he’s probably a Sovereign-ranked pilot. When it comes to combat maneuvers, you’re probably facing an uphill slope. With all this in mind, you only really got one shot at victory. Utilize the fact your enemy won’t know your powers. Then, at just the right moment, explode right in to him. If you can find a way to make it sync with the environment, that’ll help your chances too.”
“Remember, you’re trying to goad him in to a mistake. And every pilot is at their most careless when they think they’ve clinched the win.”
For the third time Tang Xiao flew through the air, engulfed in a ball of flame. Parts of the suit had begun to fuse, glowing gold with intense heat.
Xiao Han launched himself in to the air, blade raised high.
“Let’s finish this!” he shouted. “Meteor Strike!” 2
“Wow guy, you sure did prove it. IQ of a cool autumn night. You’re actually calling out your maneuvers like an anime character? God sure did make you special, huh Adonis. A beautiful unique flower.”
Xiao Han’s rage had slowly been building with each vicious attack he’d lain on Tang Xiao. But upon hearing the taunts from his fat poisonous tongue, his face blanched. Unconsciously, Xiao Han poured every spec of his power in to the burning titanium blade.
The intensity of Xiao Han’s Discipline was so intense it drew every eye. He fell directly towards his foe, indeed like a meteor tearing through the atmosphere.
Tang Xiao’s suit smoldered. It had already sustained quite a lot of damage. Presently, the most serious was a malfunction in the right leg. It looked like there was no way for him to block or avoid the deadly strike.
And then Tang Xiao’s mecha was yanked forcefully to the side. It slid along the metal as though it were being pulled by some invisible hand.
Xiao Han came crashing to the ground in a fiery detonation. The arena’s metal alloy flooring was left with a sizzling metal crater.
There, in the aftermath, Xiao Han sat in his cockpit, eyes wide. He knew immediately he’d committed the most rookie of mistakes. He’d over-extended.
His fingers flew over the controls, coaxing his mecha to flight. But all he heard were teeth-grinding screeches. He didn’t move an inch.
“What the hell?!
Under normal circumstances, he’d never have made this many mistakes. But anger had clouded his judgement, and he’d forgotten a single crucial detail.
The suit he rode was not the Sovereign-rank mecha he was used to. It was a simple thing, and simple things couldn’t be expected to sustain having that much Discipline channeled through them. Already the metal had begun to soften. Or was that the floor? He couldn’t believe it, but before his eyes the alloy arena floor was swallowing the feet of his suit. He was stuck.
Xiao Han viciously kicked and slashed at the floor. He would soon be free.
But most times, it only takes a second to grasp an opportunity.
- The Chinese here is interesting, though I had to make something else up cuz it doesn’t translate. What he wrote was “You are the second in command of both the Number and Letter kingdom.” The second number is 2, the second letter B. 2B in Chinese is internet slang for a ‘stupid c***’. ↩
- Holy shit you guys, it’s Cloud from Final Fantasy VII ! ↩
- So sorry! ↩