'Oh, it's nothing. It's just, after a long time...'
I clenched my teeth as I recalled the images of the demi-humans who tortured me.
'I'm just trying to get a little serious.'
I didn't care about the aftermath or whatever because there was a fire burning within me; I was furious.
Taine! You are alive huh!
Just then, a familiar voice rang inside my head. I was wondering whose voice it was for a moment, but soon, a machine came near me, and I realized that it was Alex, the pilot of Thunder Dragon.
'Ares, is communication possible with this?'
Ahhh, it's possible, but because of the circumstances, I can't project your voice. You can't even record a video or voice message in astral state.
'Well, that's true. Then you tell him.'
At my request, Ares delivered my words through R-13's communication system.
'I'm sorry, but I borrowed it for a while because the Gigas was broken. It's already too late for that Taine guy.'
Specter? Are you Specter-nim?
One of the greatest features of Specter, a war hero as well as a genius pilot whose identity was shrouded in mystery, was that he could control a Gigas from a distance, which built up recognition and fame that wouldn't fall short to that of Batman or Superman, at least within Albatross. Of course it was possible because of Ares' Ability, but people thought it was my ability, as information about me was extremely limited anyways. But in this situation, I didn't have the time for friendly chats such as 'Ohh that's right. I'm Specter!'. Even at this moment, the enemy's artillery fire was raining down on us.
'I don't need the right to command in this situation, but please report to the bridge deck and request for support.'
It was meaningless for me to command anything more when I was already doing my best preventing the enemy Gigas and fighter jets in a defensive battle anyways. It was better to move by myself in this situation.
I imbued the photon cannon with my <Sniper> Ability. The Sniper Ability increased the range of my attacks and also the ability to penetrate barriers. It was a very practical and strong ability that was widely used by pilots, but of course, there were limitations to it.
If it was an attack that held average power, a Gigas could fire many of such shots at random without even having to put much thought into it. However, if I wanted to invoke the Sniper Ability, I would have to fully concentrate on one particular shot to activate the Ability; that was the limitation. In other words, in exchange to snipe a singular target, the overall DPS (damage per second) would face a sharp decline in that particular instant. Hence, this Ability would only prove to be useful for a Tool-rank.
The reason for that was, if I were to focus all my power in one shot and missed my target, wouldn't it be meaningless and also a waste of time on a battlefield where life and death were determined in a single moment? Therefore, it was safe to say that once the battle began and I had to face the enemy head on, the Sniper Ability was no longer useful.
That just means that you just have to not miss the shot, right?
I grinned and fired a shot while laughing. A ray of light shot across the battlefield, where countless photon rays, bullets and missiles were flying around.
A stream of light flashed past again.
One shot one kill. R-13 had very limited energy output, but the attacks from this Tool-rank Gigas rendered three Gigas incapable of combat in an instant. The three enemy Gigas were reduced to debris and left wandering around space. In fact, looking at the current battle results, this was an achievement that couldn't be ignored, considering that it was attained by just one Tool-rank Gigas.
Contrary to what we usually imagined when at the mention of space warfare, there was never a single battle where tens of millions of Gigas and hundreds of thousands of fighter jets crowded the Universe. To be precise, there were indeed such battles in the past. But ever since Iron Hearts were introduced, there had been changes to how wars were fought.
Fighter jets and Gigas powered by the high-quality energy stemming from Iron Hearts, allowed for the usage of soul energy barriers and artillery fires. These weapons were monsters that the conventional combat weapons could never hold a candle against.
How could anyone deal with an enemy that had an impenetrable shield and fired indefensible attacks? Furthermore, Iron Hearts weren't the kind of weapon that stopped working when their fuel was exhausted. Like the suggested name 'Soul Energy Generator', it was possible to fight forever while the energy replenished bit by bit as long as one didn't simply waste the energy.
As a result, the paradigm of the conventional war, where numbers and supplies were important, shifted towards the direction where it was more important to have a small number of elites. Because while it was possible to mass-produce conventional weapons as long as there were sufficient resources and goods, it was impossible to mass-produce Iron Hearts and pilots who could synchronize with Iron Hearts.
Therefore, the scale of modern space warfare was smaller as compared to the past. At most, there would only be hundreds of Gigas and fighter jets in a battle. Now, the forces moving in the current battle were even lesser than that. In other words, the seven Gigas and fighter jets that had been instantly destroyed weren't a blow that the demi-humans could ignore.
Ahh, those fools. They're getting hit by all the shots you fired. They're literally just putting their head on a plate for you to snipe.
'That's not it, it's just that all my shots are spot on, you idiot. Don't you know what's a prediction shot? I'm predicting where to shoot. This astonishing… Uuushaaa.'
While I was talking, R-13 ducked down swiftly to avoid the incoming photon shots. The enemy had noticed my existence and shifted their artillery fires onto me. The enemy was probably flustered by the fact that most of their forces made up of Tool-rank and Beast-rank Gigas were suddenly eliminated. However, they weren't idiots, so they decided to prioritise dealing with the enemy that appeared to be a threat to their troops.
Piiingg! Bang bang!
Missiles, photons blasts, and bullets flew towards me like a rain shower.
I moved R-13 with complex movements and avoided the attacks, but in the end, I realized that there were some attacks that came at unavoidable angles.
One pair of hands couldn't go against ten; and the enemy had great teamwork. The enemies prowling around formed a fire net  all over my defenses and my dashboard turned red in an instant, indicating the multiple approaching dangers. No matter what, R-13 was still just a Tool-rank Gigas, and there was a limitation to its flight speed, so it was impossible to escape the encirclement before the formation of the fire net.
Dae-ha, be careful!
'Ah, no need to worry.'
…That would've been the case if I didn't have <Flash>.
I bursted forward through space. I executed all the evasive maneuvers I had in mind, and so, the incoming fire net was futile and of no use. Though the distance I travelled with the skill was only a few hundred meters, even that alone was enough for R-13 to easily escape into a safe zone.
And I sniped.
And sniped again.
…I always feel this way, but what kind of war looks this easy? It's not like you're using a strong Gigas either.
'Well, at the end of the day, if you can strike at the enemy without receiving any damage, then the type of Gigas doesn't matter. No, wait, it might actually be a problem eh?'
Up till this moment, the damage suffered by the enemy had been enormous. Every time I fired using the Sniper Ability, the enemy machines would be destroyed one after another. Even I, the person confidently executing the Sniper Ability, felt that it was too OP. What's more so for the enemy? They could literally see the snipe shots, but they couldn't dodge a single one and all of them hit its mark.
And then, finally, the shots imbued with the Sniper Ability stopped working.
'They've finally ditched their pride after so long. How late.'
But it's a logical consequence.
Just like how I was channeling all the soul energy used for my barrier towards attacking, it was also possible to focus all the soul energy for attacking towards the barrier. Of course, if the enemy centered all their soul energy to their barrier, their offensive capabilities would drop sharply, and their artillery fire would have almost no soul energy imbued in it. On the other hand, I would be in danger if I was even hit by an ordinary bullet or missile because I channeled all my soul energy towards attacking.
I landed a direct hit again, but it didn't work. This was because the enemies were directing all their soul energy towards their barrier and they were approaching me while taking my snipe shots head on.
In actual fact, the Sniper Ability may seem like a cheat-like skill, but it was not invincible. It would be difficult to pierce through a Tool-rank Gigas of the same rank as long if the Gigas' pilot focused the soul energy towards their barrier. To be exact, it was possible to pierce through the barrier, but it wouldn't be powerful enough to penetrate through the armor of the Gigas. At best, the Gigas would stagger and there would be a dent on the armor, but they wouldn't receive any lethal blow.
If that was the case when facing a Tool-rank Gigas, then what more a Beast-rank Gigas? It would be meaningless and would only amount to draining a bit of the enemy's soul power and chipping off some of the enemy's barrier.
I activated Flash and leaped past the enemy Gigas that was charging at me. The enemy's Gigas, which had the head of a beast, slowed down in a haste. But perhaps because of the flying inertia, the distance between us widened instantly.
Accompanied by the sound of an explosion, R-13 staggered. It didn't take a hit from the enemy. In R-13's current condition, he would just drop dead immediately from a single attack by the enemy. Rather, it was affected by the explosions of the randomly fired missiles around it, which sent shock waves through the ground.
They've noticed that you're not deploying your barrier.
Actually, it was obvious. It wasn't as if they were NPCs in a game, so it would be weird if they didn't feel suspicious that something like a Tool-rank Gigas could pierce through their defences. Needless to say, other than me, almost no one would focus a hundred percent of their energy on their weapons. Because a Gigas without a barrier was, in other words, the same as a Gigas without an Iron Heart.
Simply put, if they shot a barrage of physical bullets at me, it would put my life in danger. If I was unlucky, a single stray bullet from a Gigas that wasn't even paying attention could put me out of combat.
'Ugh, this is why I dislike Tool-rank Gigas. There's a clear limit if I don't receive support from our army.'
I had led the war to victory before with a Tool-rank Gigas in the battle simulation The Great War that the Leonhardt Imperial Army sent to Earth for the purpose of recruiting pilots. But that was possible because my allies were NPCs. No matter how good I was at warfare, it was impossible for me to sweep the battlefield alone on a Tool-rank Gigas. In the first place, the power output itself was weak.
'Ares, what's the remaining soul energy?'
'Ugh, as expected... I pushed it too far, right?'
If I had been on R-13 with my real body, I would never have fought like this. It was good to defeat many enemies in a short period of time, but it was impossible to even retreat when there was only this much power remaining. Furthermore, I was in a situation where I attracted too much enemy's attention.
Of course, since R-13 had an Iron Heart, which was essentially a Soul Energy Generator, the soul energy would slowly replenish over time. But considering the current situation, there was no way I could afford to have the time to slowly recover.
And just then, Ares said,
Dae-ha. They're here.
'Oh, is that so? Then please bring up the emergency escape device.'
As soon as Ares replied, the entire cockpit of R-13 split apart and fell. With the last bit of remaining energy, I sniped at the nearest enemy. The enemies rushed towards R-13 because they thought the pilot was escaping, but they stopped in their tracks at the unexpected attack. Just like that, the self-destruct code was activated.
My vision changed along with the sound of the explosion.
Partner! Are you okay? I heard you were held captive!
As soon as my vision changed, a panicked voice full of worries resonated in my ear. Napoleon, the only Human-rank Gigas that existed on the Albatross, was launched into space without a pilot.
Needless to say, I wasn't flustered because I expected him to come from the very beginning. In the first place, when I first plunged into the battlefield, I specifically asked Alex to report about my existence because I was purposely aiming for this situation to happen.
'Shall we get through the battle first? The situation is not looking so good.'
Ahh, roger that. By the way, how did you control remotely… I see. It's Ares, isn't it?
That's right, it's me. Nice to meet you, lil' kid.
Ha! A halfwit with nothing but a head, calling me a lil' kid?
'Ahhh, both of you, shut up.'
I silenced the two control personas that started bickering as soon as they met, and proceeded to concentrate my consciousness.
There was a great distance between me and Napoleon, but I could still feel Napoleon's enormous soul energy nonetheless. Even though I frequently used R-13 previously, but sorry to say, Napoleon was a force that R-13 wouldn't possibly measure up to.
'Ahhh, as expected. It has to be something of this level for me to single handedly wipe the floor with those plebs.'
With a smile on my face, I warped through space. It was the beginning of round two.