The two newly arrived challengers had chosen their timing well. Lan Jue was still recovering from his strike. He had no chance to retreat, especially with Tan Lingyun hot on his heels.
“Not bad!” The chilly praise crackled from Nooblet’s suit.
Tang Mi and Geng Yang sat in their respective suits. Since combat had started, the two carefully watched the drillmaster for an opening. They’d been patiently waiting for just this moment.
Nooblet planted its metallic foot and, with incredible speed, spun entirely around. Both Tang Mi and Geng Yang felt their weapons connect with their target, however they suddenly felt themselves being yanked off balance. Before they knew it, they were both stumbling in to Tang Lingyun’s path.
Tang Lingyun saw what was coming and pulled back the assault. She recognized his game, and would not serve as his inadvertent helper any longer.
However, the Savage Goddess was surprised to find that she was still tearing forward. A thrusting force was keeping her mobile. She could only watch as her deadly spikes rammed right in to Geng Yang and Tang Mi.
Her attacks were especially dangerous due to the fact that they were specialized Sovereign-class weapons, that bypassed most defensive shields. The ear-splitting sound of fracturing metal followed Tan Lingyun’s spikes ending her two students.
Naturally her sudden forward momentum wasn’t out of the blue. Somehow, Nooblet had distance himself from Tang Mi and Geng Yang, with enough time to get around Tan Lingyun and seal their fate.
The spikes at her back spat beams of powerful green light, attempting to give herself some room. By then, however, Nooblet was already gone.
This brought the friendly-fire count up to three, with Tan Lingyun laying waste to her own team from Nooblet’s manipulations. Worse, they were three Emperor-class pilots. Tang Xiao, Tang Mi and Geng Yang had been her strongest pilots.
Tan Lingyun’s heart was cold and anxious. She certainly had a temper, as everyone was aware, but she was usually able to keep her head on straight in a fight. She was able to keep it together enough to understand her folly, and the defeat of her three best students shook something loose in her head.
I’ve got to be the one dictating the pace here, she thought. He doesn’t have the attack power to defeat us by himself. Twice he’s redirected my attacks against my own soldiers. The fact both enraged and surprised her. It was just a damn sabermech! And yet it was not only rendering her Sovereign-class suit ineffectual, but actually turning her strengths against her. It was as astounding as it was maddening.
“Spread out. The rest of you focus on the flea!” Once again she shouted her orders, her voice hard and commanding. Thirty-one of their number had already been defeated, the rest did as instructed.
Was it really so easy to defeat all of these students? Tang Lingyun had recognized the problem, but she was sure Nooblet wasn’t going to give her another chance.
The carnage continued, with ten more students defeated in as much time as it took to look at them. The rest were terrified. But where they couldn’t even fathom the destruction they suffered, Tan Lingyun saw it all clear. To them, he really was a demon. As a result of their fear and confusion, Tan Lingyun’s orders were followed, but instead of an organized diffusion the students ran headlong in every direction. No formation was maintained. The students were routed.
Nooblet was gone before Tan Lingyun could pin him down. He raced towards the closest group of students. However, he made no move to attack them when he arrived. Instead, he ran with them at their side to avoid Tan Lingyun.
Now that the Savage Goddess knew his limitations, and how he’d planned to overcome them, she was significantly more careful. And yet, despite her best efforts many of the students fell under Tan Lingyun’s onslaught, caught between her and Nooblet as they attempted to flee.
Once they’d fully employed their shields, none of the mechas were capable of outrunning the sabermech or the Savage Goddess. Their squealing retreat was punctuated now and again with thunderous explosions.
If there was anything Tan Lingyun could take solace in, it was that Nooblet wasn’t just using her to defeat the others. Likewise, he positioned his enemy in the line of fire of their long-distance comrades. Several of them achieved locks on Nooblet’s position, but firing invariably meant assassinating one of their own. The drillmaster would shed their lock, timed perfectly so that their attacks would hit other students he was passing.
With so many enemies, Nooblet’s situation awareness and battlefield control was nothing short of spectacular. More importantly, however, was the fact that his tactics hardly drained any of his energy reserves.
Little Flea only added to the nightmare, wreaking havoc along the outer edges of the arena. Though he wasn’t as adept as Lan Jue, Wang Hongyuan was more than a match for the many riflemen around him. Their focus was on speed and power, not so much defense. So it was that the two drillmaster danced among the enemies, Nooblet within and Little Flea without, knowing precisely what the other needed to come out victorious.
More and more students fell with each passing second. What had begun as a crowded area was slowly but surely growing deserted.
From outside of the simulation, the defeated students could still watch as the combat unfolded. The longer they stared, the greater their amazement grew. Before today, none would have imagined a basic model mecha could be piloted with such mastery.
On the surface, in didn’t appear as though Nooblet was doing anything special. Still, somehow Tan Lingyun was unable to catch up with him. Success explosions continued, as more and more students left the fight. Nooblet was never among them.
Only ten fighters remained against the two instructors. Their despair was thick and palpable. However, Tan Lingyun could see she was getting closer. Several times Nooblet escaped her strikes by just the skin of his teeth.
The Savage Goddess suffered to contain her flood of emotions. From pleasant surprise, to shock, then anger, amazement and finally… calm.
She took a deep breath, allowing a sense of peace to wash over her. She knew from the beginning she’d been forced to follow Nooblet’s lead. By this point, there wasn’t much she could do to reverse the situation but try her best. Her final hope was that the limitations of the sabermechs energy reserves would work in their favor. She didn’t need to worry over her own, so if she could just sustain this pace she could come out on top.
She was keeping an eye on Little Flea as well. The teaching assistant’s own powers were considerable, but certainly not on the level of Nooblet. With Nooblet gone, she would have nothing to fear from him.
Boom! The final close-combat fighter erupted in to a shower of steel and fire, once more at Tan Lingyun’s hand.
Finally, only two remained in the center of the arena; Nooblet, and Tan Lingyun. Four riflemen were still in the fight, racing along the outskirts in a vicious dogfight with Little Flea. For the present they appeared to be in a stalemate.
“Halt!” Nooblet’s voice rang through the simulation. It was cold and hard, but not emotional.
“Halt? Do you yield?” Tan Lingyun responded.
“I do. I’m out of energy. What’s more, you were never my target.” Nooblet said.
Tan Lingyun’s peridot mecha rumbled to a stop. She huffed derisively. “Energy reserves are a part of combat. You lost, that’s that.”
Nooblet stopped as well. His response was tepid, even. “I said fifty against two in the beginning. You weren’t part of the equation.”
“Without me here you’d-!” Tan Lingyun roared, but she stopped upon realized what she’d said. Indeed, her own kill count was significantly higher than his. All friendly fire! After being so blatantly led by the nose, how could she act so indignant?
A profound sense of disappointment washed over her.
Just then, Nooblet once again was on the move. They were close to start, but once the battle finished their suits were even closer.
Upon hearing that he’d given up, Tan Lingyun had retracted the spikes along her mecha. She’s completely dropped her guard.
Who would have anticipated that Nooblet would continue, after having ceded defeat?
Its thrusters launched Nooblet forward. The spear in its hands punctured her shields and, with a groan of metal, the spear lifting her up and tossed her in to the air.
The spear in Nooblet’s hands fractured, becoming a countless barrage of light beams. They crashed against Tan Lingyun’s green mecha like raindrops against a tin roof. Dozens upon dozens of strikes enveloped Tan Lingyun, screeching terribly as they met steel. The students, both in and out of the simulation, watched in bewilderment.
The spectators saw it most clearly. The suit’s spear had broken in to a countless number of mirror images that struck at Professor Tan from all angles. Was this a result of intensely high hand speeds?
Tan Lingyun was similarly shocked. How could a God-ranked pilot have such repugnant moral integrity? What sort of despicable person would wave the white flag, only to continue attacking? It left no one any chance to strike back. The strike against the chest plate of her mecha had caused the entire suit to shake violently, setting her off-balance and unable to control her suit.
The many spears congealed back in to one, with Lan Jue striking the final blows.
Nooblet’s spear was battered and dull. Despite that, it had still ended the Savage Goddess, and remained lodged in the mecha’s chest plate.
Nooblet heaved the spear high, with Tan Lingyun’s ruined suit dangling from the tip. Glinting beneath the harsh rays of the simulated sun, the green mecha exploded in to a shower of twisted metal. The blast filled the sky like a firecracker.
The remaining riflemen were stupefied, which left Little Flea with no resistance. Shocked, and with no will to continue, they were handled with little fuss.
The Prince of Devil’s harsh, taunting voice reverberated within every pod. “This was a classic example of what not to do. Until you’re sure of your enemy’s defeat, never drop your guard. Otherwise, you’ll end up like her. Mecha combat is life and death… survival or extinction. Moral integrity has no place here.”