The leader of Bravo squad was Wang Hongyuan, and they appeared to be faring better. This was to expected, however, as his enemies didn’t include Gao Lei.
Speed was the dance instructor’s specialty, and the other students in his group were similarly endowed. So it was that when the charge was called, they were like the tip of the spear.
Their answer to Wang Hongyuan was the same as it had been for Tan Lingyun: Groups of five, focus-firing weak targets. His leadership skills were better than the Savage Goddess’, which was shown when he had his small company form in to a line with him at the head. Like an arrow they pierced through the battlefield, with Wang Hongyuan at the fore. His massive sword flashed as he knocked away anyone in his path.
The soldiers’ reaction was quick. The four groups scattered, then turned to attack one point from their new locations. This prevented Wang Hongyuan from protecting the rest of his formation. By the time they drew close again, two of their number were out of commission.
Thankfully this wasn’t a real fight, but even so the frightening capabilities of the Iron Army were evident to all. To them, this whole process was routine – but one they threw their whole self in to. There was no second round, there was no next time. The enemy would be crushed right now.
Wang Hongyuan grit his teeth. His voice called over the comes to his unit, telling them to separate and fire at will. If they remained in formation, his whole squad would be lost. If they focused their attacks on a single strike unit, the other three would tear them to ribbons. He feared his students wouldn’t have an answer for that, so it would fall to him. He knew he couldn’t allow the opposition to continue its concentrated assault for too long. Their hit rate was too high, and there would be no opportunities for him and his to dodge and counter.
They were down to nine men. Wang Hongyuan launched himself at the most distant enemy team, while the remaining eight students also charged their targets.
Once they got close enough, it was time for the students to show what they could do. Although they all had different Disciplines, they were all possessed of potent energy they could employ during battle. Pouring this energy in to their suits, they fanned out like a deadly lotus.
A strange sanguine aura hung around Wang Hongyuan’s suit. An undulating cloak of blood hung at its shoulders. In no time at all, he caught up with the enemy team, and as he arrived a strange choking fog of red surrounded them.
The five soldiers quickly determined this one was a powerful adept, but it only made them a more cohesive unit. They holstered their rifles, and pulled out their close-quarters weaponry. The small group bristled with titanium prepared for the encounter.
They, too, poured energy in to their suits. Wang Hongyuan could feel it, a strange and uncomfortable sensation that filled him as their swords came slashing through the air.
The dance instructor’s suit seemed somewhat off-kilter, but the veil of vitae surrounding him and his enemies reacted. It seemed to throb, filling the soldiers with a profound sense of unease. Their strikes all missed. Wang Hongyuan took the opportunity to charge in to the center, bull rushing the whole team.
They simply didn’t have what it took to hold against the Sovereign-ranked pilot. Four enemy soldiers were put to rest.
Similar scenes were appearing with the other enemy strike forces. So long as the students could ward off destruction for their enemy’s volley, they could close in and finish them off.
Their five-front surprise attack ultimately was a success. At the very least, they’d inflicted significant casualties on the enemy’s side.
Tang Xiao Charlie squad against one end of the enemy formation. As they engaged he was first to clash with the enemy. A silvery metal plate hung before him, defending him both above and below like a tower shield. The enemy’s concentrated laser fire bounced harmlessly away while Tang Xiao plowed through them like a tank.
Tang Xiao’s Discipline was even stronger than the dance instructor’s, and in fact was second to none among all the trainees. He was also the most cunning.
He’d chosen to make his approach under cover. He’d employed his Discipline to pick up a boulder, and push it on front of him to conceal himself as he drew nearer. He was right on top of them by the time he was discovered, and that’s when the metal shield appeared and he rushed in. The shield was important, for not only was it an excellent means of defense, reinforcing it with his Discipline gave it the ability to self-repair.
Still, the soldiers were a highly disciplined group, with superior tactics and strategy. Twenty enemy soldiers split into groups and spread out to attack. Tang Xiao couldn’t move very quickly with his shield, so while he could defend his fellow students the counter-attack was simply too intense. He couldn’t push further, and his Discipline was quickly becoming exhausted.
Just then, ten beams of steady light fired from behind Tang Xiao’s massive shield. They found their target, a group of An Lun soldiers.
Not all students had chosen melee fighters, of course. In fact, other than Tang Xiao the others in Charlie squad were all long-distance attackers. The reason for this was simple: Tang Xiao was confident in his defensive capabilities. Within a reasonable scope, he and his squad wouldn’t need to fear the enemy’s attacks. In the face of the Iron Army’s chosen tactics, long-range engagement was likely the most effective strategy.
Accuracy wasn’t a problem for these crack NEU students. One among Tang Xiao’s number was famed for his sharp-shooting, a student they’d named Deadeye. He could spot and anticipate an enemy’s movements, and what’s more shared the benefits of his Discipline with those around him. At his current level of cultivation, he could share power with people in a thirty-meter diameter around himself.
Tang Xiao was familiar with his abilities and strength. He was a good choice for command, and so far this was as good a result as Charlie squad could hope for.
The soldiers couldn’t defend against the invisible attack. The moment they rose in to the air they were targets. Right away one of them was taken out of the fight.
Their second volley came on the heels of the first. With their Disciplines capable of shoring up their weapon’s abilities, the students had a real advantage in speed.
Three more enemies were defeated. Tang Xiao’s defense remained impregnable.
The An Lun soldiers realized they needed a change in tactics. The remaining pilots broke for the ground below, with some switching out their rifles for swords. They certainly didn’t like being in a retreating position under pressure, but they fought hardest when they were cornered.
Hidden behind his massive shield, Tang Xiao’s pudgy face revealed a wily smirk. This is exactly the result he wanted! Now he could use the whole of his eighth-ranked Talent!
Alpha, Bravo and Charlie had manipulated the battle to their purpose. Their plan was coming together. They’d suffered under assault from the soldiers, but they took out a bigger chunk while tying them up. They couldn’t close the ends of their battle formation to surround and destroy the enemy, as they’d hoped.
However, things weren’t going quite so well for Echo squadron.
Tang Mi headed the trainee’s weakest student squad. All of the female pilots had been placed with her, Zhou Qianlin included.
Tang Mi’s own powers had improved quite remarkably during the course of the training. In the end, she’d broken through to sixth rank. They’d been hidden and isolated when the sneak attack commenced, so they had had to take a different approach. They had no recourse but to charge from a poor position in to concentrated enemy fire. Five of their number were taken out right away.
Six pilots were all that remained of Echo squad. The Iron Army was fighting on their back foot, being pushed back, but even though their comrades were falling around them there were still another twenty or so to contend with. They were closing in, but they didn’t have the numbers to cause any real damage. It looked like this would be their final stand. They would be defeated quickly, and the remaining enemies would be free to support their fellows. Victory would be that much more difficult.
A familiar voice crackled through the cockpit of Tang Mi’s suit. “Keep it up, Little Mi! Spare nothing, charge in with all you got.” Her suit shook as she felt something latch on to her back. A pale, eggshell white light gently exuded from the second suit’s chest plate. It swelled until it surrounded both of them.
Tang Mi felt a warm and pleasant sensation penetrate through her. It catalyzed her Discipline, causing it to burst out of her like a volcano.
Tang Mi’s Discipline was similar in category to her brother’s, though not as strong. Now, though, she felt like she could take on an army – so that’s what she did.
The two titanium alloy swords in her mecha’s hands blazed with radiant silver light. With a heaving grunt she swiped her sword at the enemy soldiers, which sent waves of power tearing through the air. Two of her targets were caught off guard and where struck on the side by her attack. Both were immediately removed from action.
Tang Mi didn’t have the opportunity to ask Zhou Qianlin what was happening. With the help of this strange power, Tang Mi felt like her power had increased a while grade. Instead her suit shot forward with alarming speed toward the next confrontation, slicing through the unit closest to her. The silvery energies coursing through her weapons was more than these simple suits could defend against. One after the other, the soldiers fell before Tang Mi’s rampage.
Tang Mi was blazing fast. Although she couldn’t turn herself in to metal like her brother, her attacks were hard as a train and lethally sharp. Supported by Qianlin’s power, her enemies had no choice but to gather together and attempt to take her down as a group.
The younger Tang felt strange, like she was having difficulty controlling her own body. Her Discipline and natural physical energy both were so full they threatened to burst out of her. While dodging a strike moments, earlier she’d actually left a fuzzy image of her suit behind – the precursor to ghosting! She went fast, hit harder. The soldiers closed in on her position.
The surviving members of her squad rallied, and came to her aid. Whether it was her valiant display or the residual power of Zhou Qianlin, they fought harder as well. Tang Mi stood at the front with the rest of her squad moving in to assist. They stood in battle formation as the Iron Army amassed in front of them.