Chapter 180: Let the Combat Begin

    Chapter 180: Let the Combat Begin

    Just as they finished speaking, combatants were drawing lots to decide which arena they'd be competing in.

    The result: The arena! Simple, direct, and most suited for precisely this sort of thing. It was the best arena for determining who had the greatest aggregate strength.

    The scene upon the giant screens changed, revealing the massive arena that would be their battlefield. Two mecha appeared on either side.

    Two names appeared on the screen in each corner, followed by a sanguine colored bar. It revealed the condition of the machines. A third bar was also present, this one detailing the energy levels of the suit.

    Geng Yang's name was displayed on the left. On the right, one Hua Qianhu

    Gengyang was piloting a black suit. By the looks of it, it was a close-combat mecha - jet black, with thick legs and a spear in its hands. A pair of triangular metallic wings were at its back. Presumably, speed and maneuverability would not be a problem for Geng Yang.

    His opponent was the opposite. The mecha was quite slender, nimble, with a massive laser rifle slung across it's back. Judging by the look, it was a powerful electron canon.

    Once a weapon reached a certain level of power, rifle was no longer an applicable term. This was more akin to a canon, and one direct blast from it was likely to obliterate most suits.

    It was a weapon best employed by snipers. He laser electron canon was incredibly powerful, yes, but like anything it had a drawback, and it's was a very poor rate of fire. Fire one shot, and you needed to wait for it to sufficiently cool before the second could be released. The enemy's advantage lay in those few seconds in between.

    For a sniper, this arena was likely the worst pick.

    Competitions in DreamNet needed no arbitrator. It's systems automatically kept things fair and even.

    Three. Two. One. Begin The countdown rang through the speakers, and the fight commenced.

    Thirty minutes was set. After that, the match would be considered a draw. In more complicated terrain this was a possibility, but in the main arena it was unlikely to happen.

    As the match begun, Geng Yan wasted no time. In a flash he was airborne, all thrusters fiery like a nightmarish hurricane. Judging by the model and loadout of his opponent, getting in close was the best decision.

    The arena was a thousand meters in diameter. It was enough that any long distance combatant could work with it - and alternatively, was a chore for any close range fighter due to the distances they had to traverse. They couldn't safely approach without a hail of laser fire.

    But Geng Yang was worthy of is Emperor-grade training. He took advantage of his opponent's need to ready his weapon to launch himself forward without molestation. He rocketing forward dangerously.

    As expected Hua Qianhu's first move was to pull the weapon from behind his back, and carefully take aim.

    A nearly inaudible buzz arose from Geng Yang's mecha, whereupon a dim grey aura began to emanate from it. This was an integral part of any high-level mecha confrontation involving close-combat fights: magnetic disruption. Its purpose was simple - to prevent weapon locks. If a sniper wanted him down, he'd have to do with his own eyes and no computerized assistance.

    The black mecha shuddered in that moment. Its speed increased, zooming forward - and changed direction midair without warning.

    "Mm. Disordered Leap." Wang Hongyuan muttered mostly to himself as he watched the fight unfold from the safety of the bleachers.

    The basics of Disordered Leaping wasn't difficult. However, mastery and using it properly in a battle required quite a lot of practice, and no small level of talent. A necessary requisite for Emperor-class pilots, disordered stepping was considered when determining a pilot's ranks and fighting ability.

    Hua Qianhu's mechanical arms were still as they trained the electron canon, like he'd been immobilized in the same spot. Only it's upper body moved, in the smallest increments. He was calm, deliberate. By all indications the sniper had no intention to evade the encroaching spearman.

    The one thousand meter separation quickly became five hundred.

    Beads of sweat had already begun to appear on Geng Yang's forehead, as he fought the controls in the simulator pod. To those on the outside, he looked as though he already had the advantage. What they did not realize, however, was that the closer he got the more lethal his opponent became.

    Perhaps only Geng Yang realized the danger. His enemy had yet to fire off a single shot, but every time Geng Yang made landfall to jump again, Hua Qianhu's weapon was half a second behind. It only took one shot to end it. If Geng Yang slowed even the slightest bit, it would spell the end.

    His adversary's calm could only be described as terrifying. It meant he was smart, waiting for that moment when he let his guard slip, slowed down just enough to land a shot. Just waiting, and watching, in almost perfect stillness. 1

    Snipers were about specifics; just the right shot, and just right the distance, in just the right moment. He knew as well as Geng Yang, that a sniper's hit average increased exponentially the closer he was to his target. Up to a certain distance, anyway.

    Geng Yang didn't attack yet, though he was drawing closer. This was primarily due to the fear that his attack would telegraph his intentions. If the sniper knew where he would be, it was just as bad as standing still.

    Geng Yang clenched his teeth, and his hands sped faster over the control panel. The mecha raced forward in response, to the point where an illusory shadow of itself trailed in its wake. It was an indication of true Disordered movement - ghost images. Of course, the faster the mecha went the harder controlling it properly was. Only truly skilled pilots were capable of pulling it off.

    The directors of the competing schools were sat quietly in the VIP box, watching the exchange. Lir's Han Ruchao nodded sagely, then leaned towards Xu Renjian to speak a few words. "Not bad at all, this student of yours, eh my friend. Employing Disordered Leaping to this level is an impressive feat. I'm guessing Emperor-grade."

    Xu Renjian smiled ever so slightly. "Compared to your own students, he hardly registers! The result of this bout is difficult to guess. Your sniper is as calm as I've ever seen."

    Han Ruchao chuckled, but did not continue the conversation.

    Five hundred meters. Four hundred. Three hundred.

    Only a few seconds had passed since the fight had begun, but already the distance between the fighters had dwindled to no more than three hundred meters. For close-combat mechas, this was enough for them to employ their entire attack arsenal. But, before Geng Yang could have a chance, the sniper was on the move.

    He dropped in to a squat.

    Geng Yang's undivided attention was ever on his opponent, and his sudden movement made him assume he was preparing to fire. His figure shimmered, shuddered, until it was three identical figures jumping erratically forward. Three sets of enormous metallic wings unfurled.

    However, what he didn't notice was the sniper's stance. It had squat, but not for cover. Instead dual sets of canon barrels stretched out from compartments in the legs. With a flash, ten deadly bursts of laser fire launched his way.

    They were accurate, and as feared they raced towards the only path Geng Yang had to advance.

    Not a pure sniper? The float sent shivers down Geng Yang's spine.

    He heard a blast from the direction of his enemy, then everything was enveloped by a blinding red light.



    The situation was clear to everyone watching from the stands. Geng Yang had dashed headfirst in to a shell from the electron canon. It was a perfect shot, right in the cockpit, that sent him flying to the other end of the arena.

    The familiar digitized voice of DreamNet followed. "Direct hit, cockpit. At best, the pilot survives in a coma. Mecha damage exceeds fifty percent. Winner: Hua Qianhu 2."

    And thus did the first contest end.

    The entire match, from beginning to end, didn't last longer than two minutes. This included all the dancing around and delays Geng Yang employed. It was safe to say this was an embarrassingly short match.

    Hua Qianhu holstered his rifle, never glancing towards the smoldering wreck that was Geng Yang as it crashed to earth a few hundred meters away.

    Geng Yang sat in his simulator, viciously pounding his fists against the control panel. He knew immediately the fatal mistake that lead to his 'demise'.

    As he passed the three hundred meter mark, he'd begun to grow nervous. What's more, after five hundred meters he'd already stretched himself to the limits of his speed. It wasn't a situation he could sustain for long.

    When he spied Hua Qianhu move, he'd assumed it was an attack and put his all in to the onslaught. But it was more than he could take, and for a split second his hands paused. As a result, his mecha lurched. That was all Hua Qianhu needed.

    Through the course of the fight, the enemy hadn't even employed their greatest advantage. Geng Yang hadn't lost from technological inferiority, but psychologically. His opponent was simply better and more experienced than he was.

    Geng Yang despondently pulled himself from the simulator. Tan Lingyun, the reputed Savage Goddess, said nothing to him. She simply patted him on his shoulder. Inwardly, though, she was just as depressed.

    Geng Yang's defeat completely ruined her strategy 3. Not only had they lost their best combatant, they hadn't even weakened the first challenger. How to proceed from here? Tang Mi and Tang Xiao both weren't up to the level of Geng Yang. This Hua qianhu had barely used any of his energy stores - mechanical or physical. It looked like Lir's one student was going to eliminate all three of the NEU's.

    In the VIP viewer's box, Han Ruchao sat with a smug grin on his face. "Hua Qianhu is a lucky one. There wasn't any cover in there for him. If it hadn't been for that direct hit, things definitely would have gone differently.

    Typical! Such a victory and still he complains of the circumstances. This old bastard is as rancid as he ever was. Xu Renjian fought to keep his expression even.

    He continued to gripe. "You agree right? I guess luck, in the end, counts as a strength!"

    1. Snipers were always my favorite.

    2. Well, so much for Tan's strategy, eh?

    3. Told you.
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