Chapter 192: Lei Feng!
A yellow projection and a green doppleganger faced each other in the sky.
The moment had passed in an instant, barely the blink of an eye. But it had lit a fire in the hearts of the entire audience.
Su He sat calmly within the sim pod. His features were peaceful, though there was a cold light in his eyes. And then his eyes went wide – he couldn’t believe what he’d just seen.
Clearly he had the upper hand in mecha control, or so he’d thought. But then…
It was real ghosting. What could this mean? He understood probably more than anyone.
Godly. Only God-ranked pilots could do what she did.
For Su He, his after-image could stretch about three-fourths the length of himself to any direction. It was the height of his abilities, constrained by his hand speed which hovered around forty-six.
As everyone knew, hand speed was very important to a pilot. However, training it wasn’t exactly easy. Specifically, getting it above ten moves a second wasn’t all that hard, but every inch of progress beyond that was a fight.
Second-class Emperor pilots needed a fixed speed of twelve movements per second to be considered as such. First-class pilots needed fourteen. Sovereign second-grade required eighteen, while first-class was twenty.
For pilots, reaching twenty commands was a watershed moment. There was good reason they said the difference between a God and Sovereign pilot was an immeasurable gulf – and the hand speed required for it was a fair indicator as to what that was.
A God-ranked pilot required a hand speed of forty to even be considered for promotion. It was the most basic requirement, and one the vast majority of pilots would never achieve in their lifetimes.
As such, the number of registered Sovereign pilots out-numbered their Godly counterparts by several hundred times. In all the three alliances, the total number of Sovereign pilots hovered around ten thousand, whereas there were only a few hundred God-ranked pilots.
Su He himself wasn’t yet a full-fledged God-ranked pilot. Although his hand speed was sufficiently fast, he was still lacking in several of the other criteria. Still, he was confident he’d have his title in less than three years.
He was proud of his achievements, and confident in his abilities. In fact, as very nearly a God-ranked pilot, he rarely encountered anyone that was a challenge to him.
Xiao Han, it could be said, was his ‘half student,’ he’d trained him some since coming on for the competition. And although on the surface he was calm, inside he was a torrent of rage at the loss his pupil suffered. His presence now the arena was to hurt his enemy’s pride, as they had hurt his.
However, the moment he saw the ghosting image of the green mecha appear before him, he knew he had to swallow his indignation.
His spine was straight, and a cold shudder passed along his spine from head to tailbone. He was determined, no more hesitation.
The nimble green mech had miraculous employed the perfectly cultivated ghosting maneuver to avoid Su He’s attack. But since, neither had made a move to advance.
They were separated by five hundred meters of air and clouds. They hung in the air, regarding one another.
It wasn’t just the crowd that had been startled by the events of their fight. Tan Lingyun, alone in the dark of the sim pod, was just as stunned. Mostly, though, her surprised lay in the fact that she was somehow still in the fight. She had no idea what had just happened, or why her opponent was giving her such a wide berth when he had the upper hand. Why wasn’t he smashing her suit into little bits?
She reached out to urg her mecha forward almost unconsciously. The was not yet finished, and her own pride and willpower wouldn’t allow her to give up. She knew the chances of her losing her great, but she wouldn’t give the Lir bastards the satisfaction of seeing her quit.
Her fingers danced over the controls. And nothing happened.
At first she thought maybe she wasn’t pressing hard enough. She banged on the keyboard, but nothing happened. Her mecha simply wasn’t responding.
What was going on? Was there a problem? Was her suit broken? Systems crash? No, her suit wasn’t some cheap slapped-together thing, but an expensive combat machine. It was an excellent quality suit, one in which she’d never encountered a problem before.
A deep voice rang through the simulator.
“If you want to win this fight, then you’ll sit there and not move. Concentrate, and watch closely.”
“Huh?” Tan Lingyun was absolutely struck dumb by the circumstances. “Who are you,” she blurted out without thinking.
“Serving the people? Lei Feng?” Tan Lingyun could only repeat the words. She was at a loss.
But she had no time to dwell on her confusion. Su He’s yellow mecha was moving, brandishing its massive laser cannon. Almost instantly there was a dazzling red blast.
Snipers were experts at being adroit, nimble. This was paired with skill and speed, so that at the highest ranks a sniper didn’t need any form of radar or even aim once their target got within a certain distance. They could discharge their weapon based on feel. It had a name they’d taken from the old days, gunslinging.
Also in this moment, Tan Lingyun again felt that intense discomfort as dizziness flooded through her. However, this time she was quicker, and her Discipline flared up in defense. Her eyes remained clear, this time, and she was shocked at what she saw.
An image of herself, standing not far away. Ghosting!
The first time the audience saw this move in action, it was exciting. This time, the onlookers nearly exploded in uproar.
The two green figures merged, without her input, Su He’s deadly laser skimming harmlessly passed.
God ranked! Now, Su He had no doubt. His opponent was actually a Godly pilot!
Having a hand speed of forty moves her second didn’t automatically mean one was a God-ranked mecha pilot. However, if a pilot’s speed reached fifty moves – fifty effective moves – then there was no question of their status.
But that wasn’t the whole story. Tan Lingyun’s shadow was entirely separate from the original mecha, and that meant fifty moves was the absolute minimum. By what he saw the after-image was also stable and persistent, that meant fifty-five moves.
Twice now she’d employed the ghosting method with flawless execution. She’d revealed herself to be a masterful pilot, with a frightening speed of hand.
For the first time, Su He’s mind was blank.
Not far from where the teachers fought and the students observed, a tall white building peeked over the hill.
It was the sim warehouse for the mecha combat department. It was abandoned now, like the rest of the campus, as the competition continued outside.
But there was one pod nestled among the many dark simulators that was powered on.
The room was full of clutter; various books and pieces of electronic equipment were strewn hodge-podge with no particular system. Many of the books looked worn and well-read.
A figure with tousled hair was perched atop a chair, cross-legged. His eyes were wide as he watched the screen before him, the lollipop in his mouth nearly falling free.
Images of the exchange competition flashed across the screen, illuminating the area around the man.
“Heh, alright so DreamNet itself is impossible to hack in to – it’s processors and servers are simply too strong. Those sim pods at the school, though, are nothing. You’re gunna owe me a favor for this one, Jewelry Master. But damn is he fierce! I didn’t see the actual fight last time when we were in the Starfields. I had no idea he was this fast. Is he even a human? He’s even fast than me!”
Bang bang! A knock rattled the door.
“Who is it?” The scruffy looking man shouting towards the visitor begrudgingly.
“Master, the Lord would like to see you.”
“Eh! What’s that old man up to. I’ll be there in a moment.” The man shot to his feet, and ran his fingers through his mess of hair. As he rushed out of the room, it was clear he held this ‘Lord’ in high regard.
Su He’s eyes lit up as something popped in to his head. It was the look of a man who’d discovered something invaluable. There was something else there as well, hard to define – a sort of fervor.
A god-ranked pilot. At last. Excellent… simply excellent.
By now he’d already forgotten his mission here. He’d forgotten about the thousands of eyes that watched. Right now, in this moment, all he wanted was to pit his all against this worthy opponent.
He knew well that the fact he hadn’t broken in to God-rank yet was closely related to the fact that he hadn’t any suitable challengers to spar with. At his level of ability, it was difficult to find things that stretched him. It was pressure that forged a great pilot.
This was a chance he couldn’t afford to waste, no matter the circumstance or consequence.
The yellow mech launched in to motion. However, this time it wasn’t directly towards Tan Lingyun. Instead he went upwards, getting lost in the clouds and mist.
The green mecha was also on the move. The wings at its back constricted, and thrusters sputtered to life. A glimmering contrail remained as Tan Lingyun raced towards Su He.
The green mecha made no attempts at dodging or concealment as it charged ahead. It seemed as though the pilot were entirely unconcerned with potential attacks from the sniper.
However, nestled in her simulator, Tan Lingyun saw this was anything but the brazen calm her mecha displayed. Through her heightened perception, she could feel the simulator rocking, though it’s movements weren’t as fierce as they had been moments before. Still, the frequency of the shudders where about the same. What this meant was that, even though the mecha looked to be flying straight, it was moving around at such speed and frequency that the yellow mecha couldn’t use its instrumentation to get a lock. They were similar to the ghosting maneuvers, but doing so while charging forward was in another class entirely from doing so while standing still. It was undoubtedly the sign of a highly skilled pilot.
Tan Lingyun didn’t even know if there was a name for it.
She was full of curiosity at her predicament. Just as the voice had commanded, she knew the most important thing for her to do in this moment was watch carefully. Memorize every detail. She knew her future improvement depended on it.
- Link to wikipedia article about the man, a PLA soldier and cultural hero. Lei Feng is the premier people’s hero, a man whose exploits (likely largely fictitious) were always entirely for the benefit of the working man and the communist government. He’s the Chinese version of mother Theresa, though I’m convinced he was built up to be an icon of communist propaganda. But that’s a discussion for another time, the important cultural reference is that his life is celebrated every year. During the celebration young people in schools are forced to participate in community beautification projects like planting trees, or told to stand on street corners and help the elderly. The result is that the fine public improvement campaign is marred by constant pro-government rhetoric and disenchanted youngsters who are upset they have to stand in the scorching heat. People will espouse the virtues of a ‘Life like Lei Feng’ almost by rote when national pride is brought in to the equation, but largely disdain the holiday and the thinly veiled government propaganda that’s attached to it. ↩