Chapter 305: Terrifying Enemy
The opposition had an entire battalion, and the green masked man. One hundred and one enemies, almost twice the number of students from the NEU. Lan Jue didn’t know how good these soldiers were in the realm of mecha combat, but thy were undoubtedly better than his own students. He figured they had practically no chance at victory in this one.
If they wanted to have any chance, the first step would be breaking through their formation. If they can spread them out and sow a little chaos through the ranks, it could do something but help.
For the NEU contingent, their greatest advantages lay in their Discipline. Now that Qianlin’s Discipline had advanced, there was no one among them with a Talent below the fifth rank. In fact, over the last two months every one of his students have had their Disciplines improved, though some more than others. Those who were originally fifth rank saw their Talent improve a whole grade and then some. Between the copious amounts of medicine and Lan Jue’s bio-electricity, how could they not improve? Then of course, there was no improvement without suffering.
Lan Jue led Mike and Xiuxiu toward the center of the zone. He knew, of course, this would reveal them to enemy radar.
Sure enough, five enemy mechas detached and formed a strike force, headed their way.
To preserve equanimity, everyone had exactly the same mecha suit. This was true for the lowest soldier to Lan Jue and the green masked man as well. This silution presented a problem, however, in that Lan Qing couldn’t tell where Lan Jue was in the mess of identical suits. This was the same for Lan Jue.
For those two, the beginning of the drill was a battle of wits and courage. If the enemy general was among those five encroaching mechas, they had a hard fight under retreat to look forward to. On the other hand, if he wasn’t among them then the enemy side was short five men. It was a gamble, but this was how the game was played at their level.
Lan Jue wasn’t playing foolhardy risks. He knew his brother, and though he was a calm man, he had no hesitation to go for the throat in matters of military strategy. Of course he also wasn’t a fool. Lan Jue’s brother was a keen military mind, with a far reaching strategic vision. If he was among them, bringing soldiers along not only concealed his identity, but increased his combat effectiveness at least thirty percent.
With these truths concerning his enemy in mind, Lan Jue’s own principle during this fight was to be steadfast, and calm. Be patient, and wait for opportunities to present themselves.
He led Xiuxiu and Mika away, maintaining low altitude as they cruised toward sector A and the others. When the five mechas arrived at the location they were just at, they didn’t give chase.
Suddenly, a blast of electromagnetic energy tore through the area. The Iron Army was buffeting them with radar blocking. Lan Jue and the others were blind were blind.
“Enable signal interference!” Lan Jue commanded. His voice crackled through the coms as he rapidly positioned the teams.
The earlier exploratory excursion was to entice the enemy, a tactic both Lan Jue and Lan Qing used often. Now their contest was truly under way.
Lan Jue picked up speed, leading his two amazons toward his small army’s left flank. If one were to look from on high, they’d see all of the students using the hilly land to conceal their numbers and location, just as Lan Jue was.
When fighting against superior numbers, consolidating was the best defense. It was a basic tenant of military strategy. The students began to congregate under the cover of an undulating landscape.
Lan Jue was certain Lan Qing was counting on this. He didn’t know how his brother would approach this situation, nor did he want to guess, but he did know very well how strong Lan Qing was. If he led the vanguard, they might as well not even bother fighting. No, they would have to just wait, and hope for an opportunity to take them by surprise.
The students were almost completely assembled. Clearly, their two-month training had not been a waste. They reacted swiftly, and their situational awareness was on point. They knew to conceal themselves as they arrived, and to remain so to foil the enemy. They re-positioned with great care.
Then, suddenly, an ear-splitting alarm rattled through Lan Jue’s suit.
“This is Geng Yang. We’ve encounter the enemy. They’re approaching in arrow formation.” Geng Yang’s urgent voice filled the small cockpit.
Lan Jue’s heart sank. From the radar he could see the whole flank charging forward. It was a perfect arrow, tearing forward like a scythe before weeds. Delta team was right in its path.
At this point Alpha, Bravo and Charlie were very close. Echo had already formed up beside Delta. The way the enemy’s charge was positioned, it threatened to cut the two sets of teams off from one another.
“Echo, break off and hide. Delta, retreat!”
But just then, Geng Yang’s voice returned to report that the arrow had dispersed. Then, the sky was blotted out by a hail of laser fire. The sizzling red lights engulfed Geng Yang. Like that, it was likely his Delta squad was cut down.
Even from a distance away Lan Jue could see plumes of dark black smoke rising from of Delta’s position. The sign of a ruined suit.
Echo squad, under Tang Mi’s command, quickly found hiding places. Luckily she hadn’t rushed full out to Delta’s aid, or her team would likely be among them.
Lan Jue’s expression was dark and grim. He knew his brother would be a trial to deal with, but he certainly hadn’t anticipated tactics like this. Attack with everything you got – a full swam. Simple, direct, effective.
“Come with me!” Lan Jue raced forward in a counter-charge, bringing three squads with him. Thankfully Geng Yang’s defeat was not in vain. They knew where the enemy had been, and could track them from there if needed. Follow, nip at their heels, pick them off, retreat and repeat. Circle around them and peck away until there was nothing left. That was their chance!
He sped to the peak of a mountain, and looked out over the terrain. Once more, his face changed.
He saw all one hundred and one An Lun soldiers, their dark suits like a cloud of angry bees from this distance. They were concentrated in a valley, organized so that squadrons faced out in all directions. They were unapproachable.
In their brief hand to hand exchanges, Lan Jue and his students had come to learn the ferocity of the An Lun warriors. Speed, formation, leadership – they were much higher trained in all aspects. Lan Qing could command as he pleases without fear of reprisal!
The remains of Delta squad limped from the carnage, reduced by a fifth. This final exercise was only getting more difficult.
Had it not been for Lan Jue’s reconnaissance, they’d have run headlong in to the entire battalion. It goes without saying that would have ended poorly.
A direct assault was suicide in situations like this. Lan Jue immediately gave the order to halt. The three squads moved as a unit, finding cover. Only Lan Jue and the amazons ventured out to survey the enemy’s formation.
They’d likely been there five minutes, and clearly not expecting a sneak attack. As they watched the group switched formation, and drew in to a single battle array. It started heading for Lan Jue and the others.
Lan Jue understood. This was the contingent Geng Yang had seen coming their way, before they’d disappeared, revealing the enemy’s advance. Lan Qing wasn’t giving him any chance at all!
In this sort of situation, he had four choices it seemed; retreat, veer left, swing right… or if they were adventurous, straight ahead.
Breaking through was ridiculous, of course. His main force would be discovered immediately. They would meet their end surrounded by Lan Qing’s terrifying Iron Army. Left, right or retreat… but Lan Qing likely had a reply and response for each. He was stuck in a progressively shrinking box.
What can I do?
“Retreat.” Lan Jue’s voice was calm and dispassionate. The command trickled down from leader to leader. The three squads broke off in separate directions. Echo, so far untested was also given specific orders to fall back.
Lan Jue tapped a few commands through the mech, and in response his viewing screen filled with data.
His eyes brightened. His face, lit by the streams f data flashing passed his screen, revealed the faintest hint of a smile.
Lan Qing had been calmly commanding his soldiers from the front, in the center of the independent battalion. He’d seen what Lan Jue’s students could due this last month, and didn’t look down on his brother’s training regimen. They were talented, and dangerous, pilots.
Adepts were a relatively rare thing among the vast spread of humanity. Finding those above the fifth rank was even less common. Among these soldiers it wasn’t even certain all of them even had Disciplines. Though Adepts were prioritized over ordinary humans due to their superior physical fitness, the talented ones were also sought after.
The Iron Army did have the highest concentration of Adepts in all of the East’s armed forces, but even then they composed perhaps a tenth of the total forces. The remaining non-gifted were selected through an exhaustive, layered process that included mecha combat. It was imposing and difficult, but it would be true to say there weren’t any non-adepts among the ranks of God-ranked pilots, rare though they were.
Every single one of Lan Jue’s students were Adepts, and decent ones. To the Iron Army they were equivalent to their upper echelons of Talents. Throughout the training, none of them had been permitted to use their Disciplines outright. Lan Qing couldn’t know what they would be bringing to the fight. He’d be needed at the front to command them directly. He suspected each student individually would require about twenty soldiers to overwhelm and defeat. Under his command they could do it easily. After all, what was one month of training compared to over ten years of experience?
His plan was revealed, at least in part. He would command in battle groups, whose concentrated firepower would deny them the chance to use their individual advantage.