Mo Xiao took a deep breath, her expression solemn and serious. When she spoke again, her voice was grave. “Any true fan of mecha combat will know the Knave, at the very least by name. Often imitated, but never surpassed, his reputation is hard to beat. But lest we forget, he isn’t just the owner of the universes’ fastest hands. He is also tenth in total power level out of all Dreamburg’s illustrious god-ranked pilots, and the only known pilot to successfully use THREE dopplegangers in combat simultaneously. One hundred and three commands per second, ladies and gentlemen! If it were me, my hands would break before I could ever get close. This is not something the Knave need fear.”
“I can still recall when I first heard about him. He was so fast, he damaged DreamNet’s hardware – something that cost them dearly, I can assure you. It’s that much more surprising, then, that he came forward to represent DreamNet in this battle. Perhaps he paid them back. Now here he is, the fastest known pilot in the universe, a man whose reputation was built on skill.”
Little by little, the figure bathed in golden light became clearer. The same man who’d approached Lan Jue and Hua Li earlier reappeared.
Mo Xiao slowly turned, and made her way to the Knave’s side. “Greetings, Knave. Unless I’m mistaken, you once said your greatest wish is to become a legend. Is that why you decided to participate in today’s event?”
The Knave answered with a chuckle. “I had no choice! I have a family to support! But truly, I have returned because I am unwilling to admit defeat.”
Mo Xiao’s expression changed to one of surprise. “You’re saying there’s someone out there you feel is better than you? Someone with a better speed of hand?”
He shrugged. “Of course not, isn’t that just what you were saying? There were many who attempted, but none have come close. My legend is solidified. But the reason I’ve been absent from Sanctuary wasn’t due to any of that. No, it was because I lost a competition. None of the audience would have seen it, but a glance at the rankings would probably help you guess who bested me.”
“But to spare you the suspense, Zeus was my better. That loss dropped me to tenth on the list of most powerful pilots. He rose to ninth. His hand speed was no threat, and his victory was only won by inches. I’m still not pleased with the result, and I don’t believe it was a true indication of my power. For these last few years, I’ve trained hard. There’s been progress. Now I have this opportunity to meet our King of Gods on the field of battle. I hope we get a chance to face each other directly out there.”
“It sounds like you’re holding on to a lot of resentment.”
The Knave grinned back at Mo Xiao. “I’m far from resentful. I just want to recapture my old position, so that people know my real strength. Even you vastly underestimate what we’re capable of. I’m going to give my own guess, that the Four Divine Monarchs have less than a ten percent chance to walk out of here the victors.”
Mo Xiao’s voice raised in wonder. “Isn’t this a little over-confident?”
“Arrogance comes from power,” the Knave haughtily replied.
Mo Xiao regarded him with helpless expression. “I’ll have to admit you have a point. After seeing the line-up power is definitely something the Star Alliance has. Next, we have our second competitor, the Knave’s compatriot.”
Another column of light burst to life, illuminating the space beside the clown pilot.
“Among the god-ranked pilots,” Mo Xiao quietly began, “there is a story. There are tales of one called the Paragon of the Sky, Singer of the Song of Ice and Fire 1, the Tyrant Shifter… you tell me, dear viewers, who is he?”
The communication platform, wherein the words and thoughts of distant viewers were streamed, was instantly flooded with a single name.
“That’s right, you speak true: the Demon Dragon of Ice and Flame. Fourteenth on the list of aggregate combat prowess. The Beastly UAV, Hong Hu. Interestingly, that’s his real name, Yu Honghu. Honghu is a man of high aspirations – to dominate the heavens. So obsessed that it’s become his catchphrase, Yu Honghu may not be in the top ten of powerful pilots but is unbeatable in competition of piloting ability. If there were a list of anthropomorphic pilots, he would dominate the listings. With his critical thinking and battlefield domination, he is any challenger’s nightmare.”
“I may also be able to reveal a small secret to my beloved audience. I once asked Poseidon; you four Monarchs are down a man, which means you’re immediately the underdogs! If you had to pick a fifth member for your crew… a fifth Divine Monarch, who would you choose? He answered without hesitation – the Demon Dragon of Ice and Fire.”
“I asked him why Yu Honghu? If you adhered to the rankings of the Sanctuary Lists, isn’t he a less optimum choice than other, more powerful god-ranked pilots?”
“’Hunghu is like a chain of souls’ Poseidon said. He explained that he linked everyone together, making them all stronger as a result like an architect. Unfortunately for Poseidon, his pick faces him now in combat.”
Yu Honghu was an incredibly popular name among DreamNet fans. Mo Xiao’s introduction was short, but highlighted just why that was.
Flight-heavy pilots were exceptionally commanding when it came to adaptability and air support. He was also a master tactician, and knew how to control the battlefield to his advantage.
Like the Knave before him, Yu Hongyuan slowly revealed himself to be a man of average build when the light receded. The most striking aspect of this man was his hair. Half was red, and half was blue. The rest of his ensemble – the mask and flight suit – were similarly colored to fit the scheme. He was hard to forget.
“How are we doing today, Honghu?” Mo Xiao smiled ever so slightly as she turned to the Demon Dragon.
Yu Honghu snorted derisively. “I was fine, but after your introduction that’s no longer the case. You should have told me earlier the Monarchs were interested. I’m a fan of Poseidon’s!”
Mo Xiao’s eyes lit up like dual crystal gemstones. “So you should show mercy in the coming competition!”
Yu Honghu crossed is arms. “The greatest respect I could show Poseidon, is to beat him on the field.”
Mo Xiao pouted prettily at him. “What kind of fan is this! You better watch yourself when you get out there!”
The Knave couldn’t restrain himself, and burst in to raucous laughter.
Mo Xiao turned back to the cameras, and gave her own dismissive sniff. “I believe it’s clear from the first two members of the Star Alliance, that the team was composed with a single purpose in mind. With Yu Honghu’s strategy and the Knave’s speed, they are a terrifying team! But we’re not finished. Let’s introduce our third opponent, and tell me if you don’t see the careful thought the organizers put in to their decisions.”
“Among the Divine Monarchs there is one; their leader, their strongest. Prometheus, the Wise. Wind is his specialty, and our third competitor is similarly equipped. They call him the Master of Air 2, and his specialty in mecha piloting is aerodynamics. He turns his suit in to a mobile weapon, combining his knowledge with his control over the elemental force of air. I think it’s clear, this man was chosen specifically to counter Prometheus. I’m sure you know who I’m speaking of; the Master of Air, twelfth on the list of most powerful pilots, riding Skyshade, please welcome the Windbreaker! Monarchs, you best be careful!”
The third column of light burst to life. The figure within wore a long, black robe and a mask of pearl white. He was a lithe and tall man, who had a calm poise that permeated the stage. A glance was enough to determine that he was an even-keeled gentleman.
“Salutations, Windbreaker. Or would you prefer I call you the Master of Air, or perhaps Sky Demon?” Mo Xiao engaged him with a small smile.
“Whatever you like,” the man answered placidly.
Mo Xiao went on. “So am I right in assuming that your presence in this team was specifically designed to counteract Prometheus?”
“You are,” he returned.
Mo Xiao chuckled prettily. “A man of few words, aren’t you? Are you confident of your success? After all, Prometheus is ranked number one on the aggregate power list.”
The Windbreaker shook his head. “There are no guarantees.”
“Um, alright.” Mo Xiao helplessly responded. “Very well, no more questions. You’re like a tube of toothpaste; squeeze and squeeze until you get a little something. Let’s move on to our fourth competitor, shall we? Like the Windbreaker, he was chosen as a block for another one of our intrepid heroes. Among the Divine Monarchs there is one whose explosive power is storied. His balanced abilities have catapulted him to the top ten of every one of Sanctuary’s lists. I speak of course, of Zeus and his mighty mecha Thor. I am sure there is no one watching who isn’t familiar with the sapphire nightmare and its pilot. A legend in the mercenary world, his counter will have to be someone special. And they are, for similar to his enemy our fourth competitor’s Discipline, is Thunderbolt! The perfect joining of lightning and thunder.”
“Frankly speaking, I’m not sure of the difference between his Discipline and Zeus’, but I am certain his presence means trouble for our God of Lightning. It is without question that he will fight to contain Zeus, perhaps even suppress him entirely. Number seven on the power lists, the one known as the Voltaic Wraith, Thunderclap! He pilots his mecha of the same name. As I’m sure many of you know, Zeus is actually ninth on the total power list. He and Thunderclap are the only two lightning Adepts to rise so high.”
The fourth column, and the fourth figure come in to view. Thunderclap wasn’t as tall as Windbreaker, who stood next to him, but he was exceedingly burly. His face was hidden behind a blue mask, which glittered with flecks of gold. Of all those revealed for Star Alliance thus far, he was highest on the power list.
“Hello, Thunderclap. A moment ago the Knave expressed his desire to face Zeus on the field, one on one. What about you? With Disciplines so similar, are you going to seek him out for a test of strength and superiority?” Mo Xiao asked.
“There’s no comparison,” Thunderclap growled. “Our Disciplines are not the same. I’ll prove this to you all during the fight. Zeus and I have any interacted, but I’ve seen him fight. In the real world I’d likely be little competition for him. But in the virtual world he’s going to have a hell of a time against me.”
“Why is that?” Mo Xiao asked in curiosity.
Yes, the title of Gorge R. R. Martin’s series. I triple checked so there’s no mistaking, and now I’m curious why he’s called this. ↩
Note that they make the distinction here between wind (风) and air (气). I’m sure this will be more clearly revealed in the future. ↩