Chapter 284: Fully Simulated Battle

    Chapter 284: Fully Simulated Battle

    "So what do you think, boss? Do we trust 'em?" Chu Cheng asked.

    The four young men were clearly struggling with discomfort over the sudden change in circumstance.

    Lan Qing's deep voice replied. "Soldiers are bound by duty, and follow commands. Headquarters has commanded I proceed. For the rest of you, the decisions are your own."

    "We go on," Lan Jue said resolutely. "I have faith in the Wine Master, Keeper and Bookworm."

    Hua Li nodded his head. "Let's do it. Gives us a chance to see what these things can really do. If what Deimos said is true, these things will be a huge benefit to our training. It's a true, fully simulated battle!"

    "You leave Thunderclap to me this time," Lan Qing growled dangerously. "With my discipline, he's in for a nasty surprise."

    A digitized voice asked the Monarchs if they were prepared to continue.

    Lan Qinq answered in the negative, claiming he needed to debug. It was a new pod, and they needed to get used to it.

    In the meantime, the third map was announced:

    "The Dark Forest!"

    Like the map before it, this was an old classic. It was comparatively complicated, with bogs, hills, rivers lakes and more dotting its surface. The Dark Forest was about the size of the previous two maps combined. There were only two spawn points, one on either side of the map. Teams spawned together, so the Dark Forest was an excellent map for any number of cooperative tactics. Of course the rugged nature of the map also meant there was considerable risk of damaging one's suit inadvertently.

    It was a very good choice as the first map to test the fully-functional sim pods.

    Ten minutes later, Prometheus indicated that his team was ready to proceed.

    Mo Xiao's voice called to the audience, calm once more.

    "Even with all my years as a host, I could never have anticipated an event this dramatic, this exciting. We've seen incredible upsets, which cut right to the heart of me. And yet, what a display of power from our beloved Poseidon!

    She was practically an advertisement!

    She was certainly earning her keep as Hua Li's manager, Lan Jue though wryly. Through all of this she never once missed an opportunity to talk him up.

    Her blatant plugs were the focus of quite a bit of discussion in the comments section. The fact that Poseidon was a god-ranked pilot on top of his other talents was a very widely utilized fact for both Poseidon Entertainment and the Gobi Group. It did wonders for his popularity.

    Of course, it was common that a powerful pilot in DreamNet ended up being less than stellar in reality. After all, a real master pilot used their Discipline together with their suit.

    Critics and analysts have argued the fact, but many insist that DreamNet god-ranked pilots would likely be at least Sovereigns in the real world - likely on the higher end as well. They couldn't, however, claim that every one of them would be god-ranked.

    Aside from their masterful control of a mecha suit, pilots were also required to be at least ninth-ranked Talents. This was why Su He was so unwilling to state he was a god-ranked pilot.

    Of course the addition of this new feature was a massive reshuffle for DreamNet. In the near future, only truly God-ranked pilots could claim the title in the simulated world! Could Poseidon really possess a ninth-level Talent? Didn't the other Monarchs - Prometheus, Zeus, and Hades - also have to be at that level to be so successful already? And what about the Star Alliance?

    A host of new and exciting questions filed the hearts of the audience. Their zeal, their enthusiasm for the coming fight was at a fever pitch.

    Mo Xiao went on. "Sadly the situation is what it is, and there's nothing I can do to change it. I am but a host, and these matters are above my capabilities. All I can do is offer my support to Poseidon, and his Divine Monarchs. I pray they come back from their two-loss deficit, and I believe they have the power to do it!"

    "Both sides are ready to continue. Fight number three - the Dark Forest. Begin!"

    "Three. Two. One. Commence combat."

    The screens flashed, and the audience squinted against the gloom to see the Dark Forest appear.

    The Star Alliance appeared at the map's Northern border. The Divine Monarchs were in the South.

    So far, neither side revealed anything new or different after the change. As with the first two battles, so far this was all maneuverability. Both teams set out in search of the other.

    As the Star Alliance pressed forward, the other members created a circle of protection around Starlord. Bahamut served as vanguard, scouting the path.

    This sort of terrain - large and difficult to see - was Bahamut's home turf. Long range probing attacks and high-grade scanners were always big helps in any team composition.

    On the other side of the forest, the Divine Monarchs had chosen a different approach. Instead of remaining together, they set out through the trees in four different directions.

    Of course everyone one of the competitors knew the nuances of this map, due to its perennial status. They didn't need to be timid, or feel out their way forward. They moved inexorably forward, toward a fated meeting in the map's center.

    The first to arrive at the center was Bahamut, who able to capably and speedily negotiate the terrain. The dragon-like suit was ever surrounded in an orb of light that alternated between blue and red, which at this time was darker than average. If one didn't look carefully, it really could be confused for a black hydra. Were it not for the occasional flicker of the aura, no one would be able to tell its true color.

    The machine cunningly swept through the area, its two heads peering in different directions.

    The most emotionally effected competitor from the last match was Yu Honghu. He had been so easily fooled in a god-ranked match, in front of a full audience. Under the magnificent and terrible force of Thor's Starfall, he'd lost. He never even had a chance to really show some force. He was determined to remedy that mistake this time.

    Just then, a flash. Blue and purple intertwined as a figure appeared from the shadows.

    And speak of the devil, here to open old wounds! It was none other than Thor!

    Bahamut refrained from rushing in for an all-out attack. Yu Honghu's first reaction was to report Thor's location to the others. With the information shared, both heads released jets of energy from the maws toward the sapphire mecha.

    Just as Zeus didn't know their abilities, they didn't know just how powerful he was. The first encounter would be seeing what each other was capable of. There was still a significant distance between the two of them - enough for a talented pilot to flee if needed.

    Two roiling balls of energy tore through the air, leaving sizzling contrails in their wake. It took no time at all for them to reach Thor, aimed just right.

    Thor's figure launched forward, sped up, and changed direction to get out of the way of Bahamut's attack. The maneuvers were needed, for the dragon's breath were tracer blasts. Two orbs of power stuck right to Thor's heels, and were gaining.

    Thor froze, then turned and slapped at the projectiles.

    Poof! With a whimper, Bahamut's attack was dispersed. No collision, no explosion. Thor swatted it away like one would cigarette smoke.

    Discipline? What Discipline was this?

    The audience stared in wide-eyed bewilderment.

    Thor's metallic eyes flashed as they looked Bahamut's way.

    But he did not charge. The sapphire mecha executed a practiced bow and then, without explanation, disengaged and fled in to the woods.


    Doubt flooded Yu Honghu's mind. Thor withstood his breath attack as though it were halitosis. He absolutely must have employed his Discipline. It was enough for Yu Honghu to estimate Zeus' Talent at ninth-ranked, at least. Only a ninth-ranked Talent could be that strong.

    However, Bahamut was not anxious at the revelation. The two massive metal wings at its back spread wide, then the dragon was off like a rocket in the direction Thor disappeared to.

    Blast after blast of its breath weapon rocked the forest, as Yu Honghu blindly sent them coursing through the trees.

    There were two goals in employing this tactic. The first was to flush Thor out of hiding, so as to give chase. Secondly, the noise alerted his other team members to his location, as well as the direction and speed they were moving.

    The small comprehensive map revealed the location of all the challengers. It showed the audience that Bahamut's teammates had gotten the message, and were rapidly in route to his location. The three other Divine Monarchs also gave chase, though they were swinging around to attack from the flank.

    In terms of speed, there wasn't much difference between the two teams. Thor and Bahamut maintained distance, with the former artfully dodging the dragon's attacks they sped between the trees.

    Yu Honghu, alone in his pod, growled angrily. His skin had begun to crack, forming in to scales. A closer look showed that they, like his suit, were also blue and red and were separated on either side of his body. His hand speed sped up, in the same instant that his mecha began to emanate a powerful aura. Once more the two massive dragon heads opened, and within the depths of their mouth two points of energy began to congeal.

    Radar exactly pinpointed his foe's location.

    Last time, Yu Honghu lost at Zeus' hand. Now, he clearly had the advantage - this map, and distant engagements, where his forte. And so Bahamut gave chase, but not because he had any illusions of defeating Zeus on his own. Soon the rest of his team would arrival, all he had to do till then was keep up the pressure. He had faith in his team, and in the idea that they had to be ninth-ranked pilots. Other than the Knave, who was comparatively weak, his companions were strong enough to clench victory.

    The two congealed orbs of power gathering before the dragon faces became larger with every passing second. Waves of staggering power warped the air around Bahamut.

    Then Thor reacted.
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