Chapter 222: Triple Threat
“Yeah, it’s me. Are you busy?” Lan Jue couldn’t hear the chill that had crept in to his voice.
“No, what is it,” Lan Qing responded.
“I’m with A-Cheng and A-Li,” Lan Jue explained. “We’re in Dreamburg, and where wondering if you’d like to join us in training for a little while. There’s only half a month left before this god-team battle we’ve committed to.”
Lan Qing was silent for a moment. Eventually his quiet, constrained voice replied. “Alright. Wait for me at the entrance to the arena.”
As he hung up, Lan Jue lifted his eyes to see both Hades and Poseidon looking at him in horror.
“What…” DreamNet’s version of Zeus looked at the two of them in confusion.
Chu Cheng heaved a long sigh. “We really do live in an unfair universe,” he lamented. “Why the hell is the big guy always so nice and gentle to you. To me he’s cold as death!”
Lan Jue chuckled. “That’s enough. You have no idea what kind of temper my brother has. He’s just this sort of person, he demands precision. Oh, and you do know that they record everything here, right? Bro is a rather vindictive guy…”
Chu Cheng, gritting his teeth, glared daggers at his young companion. “You’re just desperate for an ass-whoopin’ aren’t ya.”
The three of them squabbled good-naturedly as they made their way to the arena. As they walked, they encountered several other god-ranked pilots making their way to various places. They all made way for the three storied Monarchs. Even in DreamNet they were respected and honored.
Who wouldn’t recognize Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, in their masks and robes? Even though the god-team battles were not far away, the Divine Monarchs were still top of the lists for now.
They arrived at the arena before long. The three of them silently awaited the final member of their team. 1
Before long, they spied a figure approaching.
He was clad in black robes, and a black mask. Over it all hung a dark set of armor. It seemed like his very presence turned the beautiful and vibrant colors of Dreamburg in to pale shadows of themselves.
“You’re all here.” The black-clad man approached the three monarchs, and stopped.
Chu Cheng chortled. “It’s been a while, boss. How’ve you been?”
Lan Qing, appearing as the others in his godly form Prometheus, nodded in response. His masked face turned to Lan Jue. “I’d like to speak with you about Tai Hua, later.”
“Alright,” his younger brother said with a nod.
Prometheus looked at the time scrawled across the face of his communicator. “I’ve got a meeting in an hour. Let’s get this started.” He didn’t wait for a response, making for the entrance without hesitation.
The three others followed close behind, and the group vanished in to the arena. Several groups of pilots watched from a distance, murmuring quietly to one another.
“That’s Prometheus! You never see him around!”
“Yeah, that’s got to be him. Who else would be leading three of the Divine Monarchs around? What are they doing here?”
“The god-team battle they’ve been advertising is soon. They must be here to train.”
“Probably. Shame they don’t make their training public. It wouldn’t matter the asking price, there’d be scores of people coming to see them fight for themselves.”
“Well you probably won’t have to go without your wish for long. Once their exhibition fight comes, you’ll be able to see them with your own eyes.”
With Prometheus in the lead, the Four Divine Monarchs entered the arena together, for the first time in ages. In the blink of an eye an arena was chosen, and they appeared within it. Such was Lan Qing’s way; quick, efficient, direct.
They appeared in disparate flashes of light, but not as themselves. Instead they arrived prepared, in four giant and magnificent mecha suits.
The Four Divine Monarchs, four horsemen of the apocalypse, astride their mighty ‘steeds.’ Prometheus within Coeus 2, Hades in his machine Cerberus, Zeus athwart Thor, and Poseidon commanding Triton.
Cerberus was a dark, blood red. Thor, a shimmering cobalt blue. Triton was a fresh sky blue. Coeus was a deep, penetrating black.
Seeing the four legendary mechas side by side, there was very little visually to tell them apart, aside from the color. Of course, in reality they each had their different styles and load-outs. Powerful swells of energy radiated from each of them.
“So how do we go about this,” Lan Jue asked.
Chu Cheng rushed to answer. “I’ll be on the boss’ team, you can be with A-Li. Two on two, perfectly fair!”
Hua Li didn’t say anything. Lan Jue, however, gave an irritated response. “Really, fair. We’re brothers, we should be on one team and you and Hua Li should be on the other.”
“Alright,” Lan Qing’s voice quietly interjected. “We’re wasting time. The three of you against me.”
Cerberus turned its metal head to look towards Coeus. “You sure, boss?”
Coeus didn’t answer. It’s two ‘eyes’ began to glow with a sinister power as it returned Cerberus’ stare.
Hades coaxed his mecha back a few steps, until he stood beside Triton. This left Thor alone between them and the leader of the Divine Monarchs. “It’s all you A-Jue! You start her off, me and A-Li’ll back you up.”
Zeus’ eyes narrowed in the great mecha’s cockpit. He could almost feel his blood boiling.
“You certainly don’t have a very high opinion of us. Boss.” Lan Jue fixed his brother with a glare.
“If you hadn’t wasted the last three years, maybe you’d have the right to complain,” Lan Qing replied in his infuriatingly calm voice.
Chu Cheng sucked in a breath. “Damn guy, absolutely no respect! A-Jue, you know I’m not one to hold a grudge, but I simply can’t suffer this insult. I’m glad I’m on your side! Beating the crap out of the big guy is one of my major goals in life. Imagine how awesome it’d feel beating him in to submission!”
Lan Jue took a deep breath. Outside, Thor crouched, preparing to spring in to action.
“Let’s go, then.”
Coeus looked up, just as a stabbing green light shot from its eyes. Without any further wasted time, the great leader of the Monarchs was on the move.
There was a flash of green light, then suddenly an indistinct figure was assailing Thor.
The deep blue mecha was also in motion. Instantly coiling arcs of electricity began to race along its surface. This was no Discipline – DreamNet couldn’t handle that yet, but instead the result of equipment installed in the simulated mecha itself. Zeus made no effort to dodge, welcoming his opponent’s approach.
Lan Jue had complete confidence in his fighting ability within Thor! Both Thor and Cerberus were prepped for fighting on the front lines. Triton was a master of battlefield control, whereas Coeus was set to be effective in all areas. However, the drawback was as the old saying went; jack of all trades, and a master of none. Prometheus was wise enough to start with where he bore the greatest advantage – frontal assault.
Both were too fast. Be it Coeus or Thor, their approach and subsequent clash was too fast for either to employ weaponry.
Keen eyes could see that as they collided, the electrical light around Thor flared to life. The blue mecha’s towering figure blurred, like it was a dream or illusion. Just before impact, Thor had become a chaotic orb of electrical fire! Afterwards, Thor appeared five meters beside his target.
This was a special battlefield advantage for ghosting; concealing your attack.
Upon seeing their team captain rush to the fore, Cerberus and Triton were in the fight. They spread out to either side as Thor raced ahead, seeking to flank Coeus.
Despite Chu Cheng’s earlier claims of fear, his charge was instant and merciless. Dark red light enveloped him, sizzling with heat as he brandished an enormous alloy sword. Both weapon and suit acted as one, sweeping around to catch Coeus in the side.
Triton was coming around from the opposite direction, its body a shimmering bloom of gentle blue light. As it approached a crystalline blue orb of power shot forth and enveloped Coeus.
It had been a very long time since the three had fought together. However, it was carried in their muscle memory – they fought in almost perfect harmony, playing off each others’ strengths.
It looked like they had Lan Qing locked down. But just then, Coeus’ metal figured flashed.
Waves of cyan light pulsed outward, and when it receded there were three shadowy figures where a moment before there’d been but one. Each picked a target – Thor, Cerberus and Triton – and went in for the strike.
All three of Lan Qing’s challengers looked on, stunned as though struck by lightning. They spoke the words in unison, wide-eyed and shivering in their respective cockpits.
In the eyes of the common pilot, ghosting was a magnificent display of ability. For god-pilots, three doppelgangers was legendary. 3
It was the peak of mastery for that ability, and it was one very rarely seen in the whole history of mecha piloting. It was practically impossible to describe its combat value.
The very basic requirements necessary to achieve such an astounding feat was a hand speed surpassing one-hundred CPS 4. One-hundred maneuvers, every single second! Of course the mecha suit needed to be able to handle such inhuman speed. It required an s-ranked speed amplifying power gem to make it happen.
Lan Jue, Chu Cheng and Hua Li were themselves God-ranked pilots. They were each well aware of how difficult something like this was to do. They knew that even hovering around a hundred CPS wasn’t enough to use three doppelgangers effectively in a fight. To use it as perfectly as their leader was, needed at least a hundred and twenty. There was no one in all the Three Alliances who could match this kind of speed.
It was no surprise, then, that Lan Qing’s three challengers were stunned at the revelation.
How could this be?
A pilot’s emotional state certainly had an effect on the suit they commanded. Zeus stood still as he processed the information, but his attack had landed on the center image.
To Thor’s astonishment, the cyan-hued figure dissolved in to a halo of light and vanished. That one wasn’t his brother.
No, Lan Jue thought as understanding washed over him. Not truly three of them!
If his brother’s three doppelgangers were truly the result of Ghost mastery, they’d each possess damaging capabilities. That is the most terrifying aspect of it. One god-ranked pilot suddenly becomes three to contend with.
But what Lan Jue faced wasn’t that. It was an illusion. It was not, as they feared, true cloning.
The strange bubble Triton cast forth naturally enveloped nothing but air. He had retreated and conjured a reflective shield to protect himself from the cyan shadow’s onslaught.
Once the figure collided with Triton’s shield it, too, vanished.
Fake? That only left one!
- Super excited to see Lan Qing’s godly incarnation! And yes, I know Prometheus isn’t a god. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeus ↩
- Just to make it clear, he’s moving so fast at all THREE of them, at the same time, that there are three afterimages of his mecha performing different combat maneuvers. I can’t even drive and change the radio station at the same time without a button on my steering wheel. ↩
- Remember, commands per second ↩