Chapter 281: Doppelgangers

    Chapter 281: Doppelgangers

    Windbreaker was struck dumb with surprise. He was ready, waiting to strike the killing blow on Thor. But when he arrived it wasn't Thor in front of him, nor any explosion from the collision of their two powers. Instead it was the deflected breath weapon of his own companion heading straight for him. Before he had time to react, the strike rammed against his own shield of compressed air. Thor, now separated in to two identical images, simply went around.

    In short, both Thor and Bahamut were assaulting the beleaguered Windbreaker.

    But that palm strike...

    How was it that Bahamut's breath weapon could be so easily deflected? Controlled? It was the primary question running through Yu Honghu's mind as he helplessly watched the interaction.

    Thor would not be answering his question. As for his strike, it already reached a target, just not the one he wanted.

    However, Windbreaker was not your average pilot. Twentieth on the aggregate power lists, he was among some of the most talented pilots there were. That's why, in the face of such sudden and dangerous changes to the field of battle, he kept his cool. Suddenly, a white light erupted from the mecha and surrounded it, as the brunt of Bahamut's attack struck it head on. Wave upon wave of compressed air rushed out to meet it, and the resulting shockwave succeeded in deflecting the dangerous energy away.

    Windbreaker's entire metal frame had, by this time, become a brilliant titanium white, blazing with the power of a small sun. The atmosphere around it warped and distorted uncomfortably.

    This was a powerful skill unique to Windbreaker: Airburst. It was a maneuver that was simultaneously offensive and defensive in nature, with the capability of creating a powerful single-front shield and obliterating anyone too close to the blast radius. It was an effective martial tactic. He'd used it once in another god-ranked battle after grabbing his opponent. The resulting, violent explosion left nothing remaining of his competitor. Considering the situation he faced now, Windbreaker undoubtedly made the right decision.

    The most upsetting revelation was how quickly Thor turned the two of them against each other. It was two on one, but even a trade of Thor for one of theirs wasn't something they could afford.

    But while he released the Airburst, Windbreaker's face changed sitting there in the darkness of his sim pod. Thor still hadn't attacked directly, coaxing the two mirror images around him like a stone in a river. He fused back in to one once he'd passed windbreaker's sphere of influence, and rushed directly toward Bahamut.

    "Beautiful! A flawless deception against Windbreaker by Thor, giving him a chance to take on Bahamut one on one. Now he's got the path open for a charge." Mo Xiao cried her expert analysis rapidly over the scene.

    Yu Honghu, upon seeing Thor revert back to one suit and charge his way, was understandably alarmed. It was all he could do before Thor arrived within melee range.

    In no time at all, Thor had turned a two on one encounter around so he had the upper hand. No one had expected it to happen, especially so fast. Zeus; display wasn't just of power, but of experience, intent and control as well.

    After the last fight, watching his brother's remarkable sacrifice, Zeus was ready to give it all he had. The experience coaxed him to reveal every bit of ability he possessed.

    His hand speed soared to over ninety CPS. Creating doppelgangers as Thor just had looked easy, but it was impossible for anyone with a hand speed under eighty-five. On the lists of fasted hand speed, Zeus sat at number four. But that list didn't take in to account his most recent improvements.

    Thor's lightning spear, appearing now in its hands, lashed out. The strike spawned countless shadow images, creating a forest of deadly strikes aimed right at Bahamut.

    The dragon mecha's specialties lay in battlefield control and local support. Relying on his mobility and powerful standard attacks, Bahamut was an integral addition to support his allies.

    However, one on one he wasn't so powerful. Of the four other members of his Star Alliance team, he was certainly weakest in this regard. Thor was right on top of him, so even with his speed advantage he didn't have the time to employ it. All he could do was face what was coming.

    The two dragon's heads began to spurt plumes of energy. The red emulsion swept around the suit and congealed to form a light shield, in the hopes of deflecting Thor's melee onslaught. Bahamut's powerful strikes were long-ranged, and not calibrated for close-combat. Windbreaker's first priority had to be making sure Thor didn't get too close.

    Thor appeared to rgow denser as Windbreaker watched, and the myriad spear strikes all melted in to one. Zeus' massive mecha suddenly erupted with color of its own, disappearing in a golden orb and stretched cone-shaped as Thor launched itself forward. Like a golden comet, the towering mecha collided viciously with Bahamut's shield.

    "Boltcutter!" Mo Xiao exclaimed.

    Much like Thor's Hammer, Boltcutter was one of Zeus' unique abilities. Its purpose was to break through, like a hardened ballistic missile.

    Bahamut's shield parted, offering little more protection that a shell of warm butter, like it was hardly there at all. The dragon mech wrenched itself to the side, and brought its long tail over like a hammer.

    But Thor was ready, once again displaying his mastery of the craft. He anticipated Bahamut's defense, and his response dropped the jaws of every onlooker.

    Once again, Thor split in to two Instead of splitting left to right, however, this time it was above and below.

    "Staggered doppelgangers! Wow!"

    Creating the doppelganger illusion one on top of the other was particularly difficult, even when compared with the traditional left-right formation. This was due to the powerful weightlessness the pilot felt while performing it. The physical cost and hand speed required were on a different level.

    The masterfully performed maneuver allowed Thor to completely avoid Bahamut's tail. His lightning spear crackled as it swung through the air, and caught Bahamut's tail in its center.

    As the spear connected, it immediately infused Bahamut with countless coiling bolts of golden lightning. Windbreaker, meanwhile, had just finished deflecting his friend's breath weapon with an Airburst. It turned to come to Bahamut's rescue.

    Thor didn't look back. It thrust its left hand backward, and from the mechanical palm shot out an orb of roiling electric power. It tore through the air toward Windbreaker, and if one looked closely they could see an electric hammer simmering in the orb's heart.

    "Empowered Thor's Hammer!"

    Windbreaker froze. Before these fights had started, he and his companions had broken down the Four Monarch's abilities. He was particularly familiar with Thor's Hammer. Up until today, any opponent of Thor's who encountered the Hammer, never once pulled away to victory.

    When the Hammer came, all you could do was run. It was a well-known fact in Dreamburg.

    Windbreaker's form shimmered, and then it also fractured in to two doppelgangers in the hopes of avoiding Thor's Hammer. His hope was to do as Thor had - split, avoid, merge while keeping his speed up. But his hand speed simply wasn't fast enough...

    He only had one choice. Dodge, and make a mad rush to save his friend.

    The golden orb expanded, and eventually detonated in mid-air. Hundreds upon thousands of lightning bolts lashed out like furious snakes, while thunder rolled all around them. Windbreaker had no way to approach without getting struck.

    Thor never turned to watch his rear flank, he didn't need to. The spear strikes had set Bahamut off balance, who tried to rise above the kill zone. Golden light enveloped the mecha.

    As he did, the skies darkened. From on high, suddenly and with frightening power, a lightning bolt easily five times the size of an average mecha came crashing down. Seven times this occurred, all of them in the same spot.

    Eventually, the chaotic burst that was Thor's Hammer subsided. From the ground below, another light flared to life, this one a deep violet. It took off for the skies.

    Thor's Starfall! Bahamut was no more!

    Only a few seconds had passed since the fight started, no longer than the time it took to settle in to one's seat. It had started two on one, but Thor already dispatched one of his enemies.

    Although Thor had shown quite a powerful display in the first battle, he'd held back due to Prometheus' presence, and his battlefield control. Now, he was making a statement: It was I who climbed these Sanctuary Lists! See my power! His place on the power lists was no longer indicative of his real abilities.

    Windbreaker stopped his headlong rush. Alone in his sim pod, the pilot scowled as an unprecedented sense of repression hung over him. Thor was a terrifying force to reckon with.

    The remains of Bahamut fell to the ground in smoldering pieces, while Thor rose to the heavens. Sunlight glinted off of the polished sapphire frame, highlighting the lack of damage.

    Thor didn't even stop to pause as its trajectory began to swing it back down. It's next target - Windbreaker.

    The Calming Wind took a deep, long breath as though coaxing more air from his legs. He fought to adopt the emotional state of his moniker. The mecha's thick arms splayed out, and once again that white light shone outward as the atmosphere around it condensed.

    The other three spawn points were also hot-spots of action, replete with explosions and waves of power as the god pilots clashed. For the first time, many of the audience members were beginning to understand the power a god-ranked pilot commanded. As they looked on, strikes powerful enough to obliterate space stations were exchanged with inhuman speed. Only fifteen seconds had passed since the start, but in that time three pilots had fallen.

    The first had been Bahamut, but Poseidon and the Knave quickly followed.

    Starlord had handled Poseidon masterfully, escaping the confrontation unscathed. Prometheus had dealt with Windshade, but it cost him one of his moonblades.

    Only Thunderclap and Cerberus remained in stalemate.

    The main screen remained trained on Thor and Windbreaker. By the time the audience had reacted to what was happening, the other two fights were already finished.

    CAT sales continued to rise. After all, the audience barely had time to register what was happening with Thor. How could they see the others?

    The victorious combatants, Prometheus and Starlord, both raced toward the map's center where Chang'E's statue awaited.

    In the previous fight, teamwork had been integral. However, as most pilots knew, Chang'E's domain forced combatants to focus more on individual encounters. In this competition it was impractical for everyone to try and meet in the center for a team fight. It was in part due to this that Chang'E's Domain fell out of favor for competitive matches.

    Starlord looked to have the advantage here, due to faster flight speeds. Prometheus was a fraction of a second behind. Both of them could have chosen to aid their respective allies, but they didn't. Taking charge of the map's center, to them, was the most important thing.
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