Chapter 196: Diffusing Blade
Both suits ground and clanged with the sounds of metal on metal as Wu Junyi’s voice rang out.
Su He’s rifle was in his hands and firing before the director even finished. The air sizzled as the angry flash rapidly closed the distance between Su He and Lei Feng. And yet, if he was aiming for the suit, he missed his mark.
The more astute in the audience, however, knew his plan. He had aimed for where Lei Feng would be, instead of for the suit itself. This would force the encroaching saber mech to stop, pinning it in place, at least for a time.
But Lei Feng was not foiled. He recognized the point of Su He’s early engagement, too. In response his metallic leg shot up, and the momentum had him reeling to the side.
It was well executed. Not only was the laser strike avoided, but the juke had him charging directly towards where the rifleman was sidestepping.
After the gun had fired, Su He coaxed his suit diagonally backwards. The saber mech was close behind.
Su He grit his teeth, fighting the discomfort that had begun to fill him up. His opponent was simply too good. He was dodging, but wherever he went his enemy was hot on his heels. Each passing moment made the pressure in his chest worse.
The rifleman planted its metal foot, suddenly changing directions. In the same moment he fired off several blasts from his laser rifle. The shots spread wide but despite their random appearance, were in fact aimed specifically towards the routes Lei Feng would have to use to advance. His shots were still defensive, attempting to create some distance between him and his enemy.
And once again Lei Feng saw it coming. The hulking saber suit stopped… and refused to move closer.
This was one advantage of the Arena, at least for long-distance fighters. While there were no obstacles in the way, forward mobility was difficult without any cover. Still, Lei Feng seemed disinterested in closing the rapidly spreading gap.
Tang Lingyun saw within the tight confines of the cockpit, staring raptly at the hands tapping away in front of her. The slim fingers tapped away at the keyboard, moving along as though it were the most natural thing for them to do, like they were a part of the machine itself. She couldn’t make out what keys he was pressing, exactly, but she could sense the rhythm in his keystrokes.
Indeed, they did have a special sort of tempo. His hand speed didn’t even appear too fast – really sort of relaxed. And yet the suit moved and stopped as though it had a life of its own. Everything was smooth like running water in a stream.
It looked like his hand speed was hovering around ten maneuvers a second, according to Tan Lingyun’s calculations. But despite the low number the moves were executed with frightening precision.
She couldn’t see what he was doing exactly, but she could tell – along with everyone else – that there wasn’t any wasted motion in anything this ‘Lei Feng’ did.
This was an indication of true ability, of a master pilot! She couldn’t pull her eyes away, silently praising her benefactor’s skill.
“Guess. What do you think our opponent’s Discipline is?” Lei Feng’s voice called to her.
Tan Lingyun thought for a moment. “I’m not sure. But I can guess since he has a long-ranged suit, his powers revolve around energy promotion and precision. It could also be tracking or concealment. It must be within one of those categories.”
Lei Feng nodded. “You’re right,” he said softly. “But he’s a pilot of higher class, who’s still deciding to stick with a sniper. We can’t discount his close-combat capabilities. This means it’s even more likely his Discipline involves energy manipulation, which we know is a very explosive and powerful ability. If that’s the case, one well-placed strike from him can end the match. Whether in practices matches or real fights, make sure you keep a close eye on these sorts of pilots. They’re capable of sudden and frightening strength.”
By now Su He could also feel something wasn’t right. A faint red aura sprang up around him.
With the addition of the strange light, Su He’s suit adopted a more nimble gait. Its retreat was faster and more fluid. What’s more, as it fired again the laser blasts had turned an angry red, distinctly more empowered than the white flashes from moments before. The rate of fire had increased, too.
“Pure energy control?” Tan Lingyun muttered thoughtfully.
“No. Not that simple. Energy injection. It’s time for us to reveal our hand, too, and finish this quickly.”
The suit dodged the rifle blast with little effort. An undulating green light began to emerge around the saber mech suit.
Xu Renjian’s brows furrowed as he saw the green light appear. Natural energy manipulation… that was certainly Tan Lingyun’s Discipline! Could that mean she really was a God pilot?
The saber mech adopted its own nimble stance, like a cheetah waiting to strike. It raced to the side, whereupon the audience gasped at what they saw.
The suit was going so fast it dissolved in to a flash of green light. The beam shot through the arena faster than the eye could follow. It would appear for half a second as the light changed direction three times, but would vanish again just as quickly as it appeared. Somewhere in the interim, Lei Feng had drawn his alloy sword.
Low-end suits of this caliber weren’t suitable for maneuvers like ghosting. The construction of the suit wasn’t suitably strong enough to handle it. Not only would the suit fail to execute the ghost properly, the pilot could actually shake their suit apart in the process.
However, under the protection of the strange green light, the saber mech had achieved speeds nearing that necessary for ghosting. It advanced with frightening speed, and before they knew it the audience could see Tan Lingyun’s mecha closing in to striking distance on Su He. Fifty meters remained between them.
Lei Feng brought his sword-bearing right arm up, slashing viciously towards his opponent. A sonic boom of green light tore through the area between them.
Su He dove to the side. His suit wouldn’t be able to sustain a direct assault from the close-combat suit. But the moment he did it, Su He knew he’d made a mistake.
It wasn’t a sword slash that Lei Feng had lashed out with. It was a burst of energy not ten meters long.
The fighter mech took advantage, lurching forward to intercept the marksman. Ten meters remained between them.
Bang, bang, bang, bang! It’s common practice for a pilot to use the forward momentum of their roll to swing them back onto their feet, but Su He didn’t do this. Instead, half on his knees, Su He fired off another volley of lasers. With only ten meters of separation between them, the shots didn’t have to go far.
His enemy was using a close-combat fighter, but a basic model. Without the ability to use ghosting or other such dodging maneuvers, how could he manage to avoid being shot when he was only ten meters away?
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. That’s what it looked like.
Premature advance! This was the first thought that raced through Tan Lingyun’s mind. She may have still had a long way to go before she reached God-ranked, but she was still an eighth-level Talent. By her estimation, their opponent was of similar strength in that regard. Maybe even stronger.
And now here she was, facing the full power of the marksman’s blast. All she saw was the massive disadvantage.
There was, of course, the fact that the dense lasers could overheat her enemy’s weapon. But if they were going to take advantage of that fact, they’d first have to survive the volley.
The saber mech’s forward advance was brought to a screeching halt, and stood straight and tall like a nail hammered in place. The green aura surrounding it pulsed outward, emitting waves of gentle light.
Red versus green. Their collision was brilliant and colorful. Red light filled Tan Lingyun’s vision, as the laser strikes spread out all around her. Had Su He missed on purpose?
But as she watched those fingers dancing along the control panel before her, her eyes went blurry.
The whole suit began to tremble tremendously. Countless slight but violent shakes set her teeth to rattling. She felt like she was being shaken apart.
Thankfully the attractive power pinning her to Lei Feng strengthened in that moment. She felt herself go numb.
The shaking was so intense that she saw six hands tapping the controls in front of her. They looked like little more than six trembling shadows.
Schwing! 1 The long sword stretched outward, the green light flashed.
Su He’s marksman suit was pinned to the arena floor, a shimmering green alloy blade running it through. The main control systems had been severed.
What? How did…!
It was the sim match all over again. Everyone had seen it, but no one understood what had happened 2. How could the rifleman mech miss at ten meters?
Lei Feng pulled his sword free, extracting it with a flourish. Each motion was trailed by a streak of green. He walked back to where he’d started the match, casting a large shadow behind him.
Su He’s breathing was rapid, as he sat in the dark cockpit. He remained in the darkness, unmoving. The last few seconds played over and over again in his mind.
Diffusing Blade? She… she used the diffusing blade?
In that instant he had seen dozens of swords approaching, flashing and leaving an afterimage as they tore through the air. Green flashes of power followed wherever they moved. Each swipe of its sword was so precise, they’d deflected every single laser round. It’d taken his enemy a fraction of a second. Just like that, like it was the easiest thing in the world. Then it was over.
This was how you crushed someone’s spirit. From beginning to end, Su He hadn’t the slightest opportunity available to him. Though he didn’t know it, the saber mech’s ability to use diffusing blade meant no shot from his laser rifle would find it’s mark. He would have been more effective fighting bare-handed!
A bitter smile slowly spread across Su He’s face. ‘There will always be those stronger than you.’ It was a phrase he knew well before leaving university himself. But to really encounter that person… his excitement couldn’t be quantified. However, his ultimate, impotent failure tore at his pride viciously. He was little more than a roach in the face of this master.
In this moment, faced with someone stronger than he, Su He came to a crushing realization: he still had a lot to learn.