Chapter 307: Frightening Rapport
Tan Lingyun took to the front, rushing headlong in to the fray. She didn’t have the dual knives she usually preferred, but had chosen a sabermech instead. Two daggers were replaced with two enormous titanium alloy broadswords.
A pale green light surrounded her suit like a cloud of vibrant energy. As beams of laser fire surrounded her, some found their mark but most were deflected by the shield. Being more advanced than the students, and certainly faster, she pierced the line and tore in to the enemy camp first.
The An Lun soldiers were able to mitigate some of Lan Jue’s damage due to the distance between them during the opening salvo. With Tan Lingyun, things would be more difficult to deal with.
The center of the soldier’s single-line battle array retreated, stretching them in to a thin arc shape. The entire contingent focused their fire on the Savage Goddess.
Fortunately, the three student squads arrived in time to give her backup. They approached from three directions, trying to box in the soldiers.
Tan Lingyun’s unit swept passed her and in to the fight with guns blazing. Like her, manifestations of their Discipline surrounded their suits.
It had been almost unbearable this last month. Not because of the difficulty of the training – though there certainly was that. For the entire course of the training they had been expressly forbidden from using their Disciplines. The power inside them felt bottled up and ready to burst. Now, at last, their Drillmaster had given them permission to pull all the stops, and they couldn’t be happier. This only deepened when they finally got to sense how much their Talent had improved.
The area around them was a deadly forest of laser fire. However, even with their advantage in numbers the soldiers couldn’t mount a counter-attack. They tried to mount a rush, to shatter the student surprise attack, but couldn’t.
Their commanding officer was Gao Lei. His mecha was a ball of a fire, with bright flames scorching the dark paint. He faced his suit toward Tan Lingyun and charged forward, while a group of soldiers nearby formed up and followed. Teams of five broke rank to face the Savage Goddess.
Were this a real fight, the mechas certainly wouldn’t have been so uniform. There would be specialists, scouts, defenders and strikers. Scores of different roles to round out a fighting unit. Uniformity failed to cover all aspects of a fight, leaving them weaker overall. In the end this was a training exercise, and the suits were identical to preserve fairness. The soldiers would have to depend on superior tactics and formation to win.
The rest of the soldiers formed up in to groups of five, with twenty suits becoming four strike teams. They retreating while maintaining cover fire.
They didn’t separate, instead working well as cohesive, five-man teams. This give them both an element of defense as the soldiers were able to tackle threats from all directions, but also the ability to rapidly switch targets and focus-fire a single enemy.
The tactic was proved successful when one of the student fighters’ suits began to smoke, as their Discipline was exhausted the concentrated fire took its toll.
The soldiers were all blazing fast in their reactions and deployment. They were separated in to groups of five, but worked like a single organism. They would advance and retreat as one, moving without flaw or hesitation to engage enemies as needed. Even when they focused an enemy, their rifle fire was all in one spot.
The NEU students also worked together, but not at the same level as the soldiers. They mostly relied on their Discipline and individual piloting ability. Amidst the mess of fire and the ever-changing terrain of the battle, they would dodge and re-engage. But these soldiers acting as though they were of one mind, to the point where all four groups would pick one target and assail them relentless until they feel, giving them no chance.
Alpha squad had yet to join in, but already two of their number were eliminated. It viscerally underlined their deficiency in the face of experience.
Among the Alpha squad was one mecha, resplendent in a pure white light. There was a flash and then, with the speed and force of a cannonball, the mecha barreled in to one of the An Lun units. When the mecha made landfall the ensuing blast shook the ground, and left a crater in its wake.
But the soldiers did not flee. They held, and refused to be routed, much to the surprised disbelief of onlookers. They watched the scene play out with wide eyes.
As the kamikaze mecha made its attack, all four groups leapt in to the air simultaneously. Were one to look from on high, they would appear like heavenly figures spreading light throughout the barren wasteland. On the ground, it was a much more terrifying experience. As the soldiers flung themselves in to the air, they began to fire – all twenty – in to the hole where that brash student had fallen.
Puff! A plume of black smoke arose from the crater. Whoever that was had used the full force of their Discipline behind the attack, but was left exhausted. Ho, then, could they survive against the focused fore of twenty soldiers? Alpha squad lost another one.
But Gao Lei and Tan Lingyun’s engagement was just beginning. Tan Lingyun tore her sword through the air, and where it passed a tail of green light followed. Under the assault, Gao Lei was steadily being pushed back.
As far as Lan Jue could tell from where he was watching, Tan Lingyun certainly understood the idea of overwhelming attack.
Gao Lei’s fire-based Talent was seventh ranked. Lingyun, meanwhile, was approaching the peak of eighth rank. However, in regards to mecha control, she lacked polish. Her style was to rush in guns blazing, and wreak as much havoc as possible.
Gao Lei sat in his cockpit, gritting his teeth and glaring daggers. Whoever this person was, they hit like a battleship. They wielded their two alloy blades like a dervish of deadly steel. Gao Lei was confident in his combat abilities, but his opponent was practically a force of nature. Whatever that green light was, it seemed to gather the atmosphere around their sword. He couldn’t find any opening for a counter-strike.
As the fifth member of Alpha squad met their end, the An Lun units moved in to engage close-quarters.
The students’ mechas were replete with the manifestations of Discipline. It penetrated their suits and hung around them like a halo of light. The soldiers, on the other hand, fought back with expert coordination and tactics. What’s more, clearly the soldiers were using the minimum effort needed to keep their energy reserves high. This allowed them to keep up sustained, concentrated fire without ceasing. That was how they finished Alpha squad’s fifth casualty.
Just as Lan Qing had posited, these students, with only a month of training under their belts, couldn’t stand up against the frightful cooperative power of the Iron Army.
In the end, an Adepts advantage isn’t very significant without the mecha to back it up. After all, mecha suits were sheets of steel and machinery. Trying to destroy one without the aid power gems would be pretty difficult. It couldn’t overcome the soldiers’ strength in numbers, and superior tactical understanding.
Fortunately, as the sixth Alpha squad member was felled, Tan Lingyun managed to knock Gao Lei flying. It gave her some breathing room, and that was all she needed.
She puffed heaving breaths in the darkness of the cockpit. As her fury and determination consumed her, Lingyun’s discipline imploded. Her body took on a crystalline composition, flooding the mecha’s interior with refracted light. She coaxed her mecha higher and brandished her two enormous swords. With a terrible warcry, she launched herself toward two enemy groups. Her swords shone brilliantly, leaving resplendent arcs of light in the wake as she brought them down upon her foes.
B-boom–! Her enemies her scattered by the tremendous blow, flying in every direction. The unfortunate targets of her strike were both billowing black smoke.
In a flash, she was off in another direction. Hunting for prey.