Ling Lan did not choose to go to that air raid shelter; instead, she secretly hid at a random blind spot within the outpost. With Little Four's help, she contacted Qi Long. "Qi Long, where are you guys now?"
"Boss Lan, finally got hold of you. We can't go back anymore," said Qi Long, chuckling drily.
"What happened?" asked Ling Lan in surprise.
"The road we need to go back is now a battlefield!" The sound of violent hacking and slashing could be heard from Qi Long's end — the sound was so loud that it almost covered Qi Long's voice.
"Mecha combat!" Ling Lan could immediately tell what the sound signified.
"Yes, and not just ... BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!" Loud explosions rang out on Qi Long's end, "Boss, we need to retreat quickly, otherwise we'll be chopped into pieces by the winds of their swords."
Heavy panting could be heard via the communicator — it looked like Qi Long and the others were running for their lives trying to escape that frightening battlefield. Ling Lan was extremely anxious, hating the fact that she wasn't there with them.
"We can't go any further. Any further and it's the F-class savage beast area." Han Jijyun's voice rang out on the other side of the communicator.
"You all already entered the G-class savage beast area?" A bad feeling rose in Ling Lan's heart.
"Yup, the battlefield spread too quickly, so we could only keep dodging backwards. But luckily, those G-class savage beasts have also been frightened away by the battlefield." Qi Long's voice held a trace of relief, because if that had not been the case, they would not have been able to run so deep into the forest.
"Stop running. Those savage beasts have already become even more dangerous," said Ling Lan frantically.
The sound of running footsteps slowed and finally came to a stop. Then, Qi Long's voice came through once again, a note of puzzlement in it, "Boss Lan, what did you say?"
"They're about to go berserk from this sudden battle." Ling Lan had already received Little Four's warning. He had found that within the range of his monitoring, the savage beasts' eyes had already turned red, as if they were about to go berserk at any moment.
"Can you all go around the battlefield?" Ling Lan followed up with this question.
"No, the battlefield has already spread to cover the entire G-class savage beast district. No matter which way we go, we'll have to pass through F-class territory," responded Han Jijyun. He had been keeping a close eye on the situation, so he knew very well that right now, the battlefield had engulfed almost all of H-class and G-class areas. Therefore, if they wanted to avoid the battlefield and get back to the temporary outpost, they could only go through F-class savage beast territory.
Han Jijyun felt very helpless. With their capabilities, their chances of passing through F-class territory safely was exceedingly low — they would only have one chance in ten of surviving. It wasn't that much different from just cutting through the mecha battlefield directly.
"Boss, please don't worry. We'll act according to the situation. Right now, we'll first go look for a good place to hide. Boss, you should also go to an air raid shelter as soon as possible and hide." Qi Long told Ling Lan their decision. He knew that in this type of situation, even if Ling Lan was strong, he would not be able to help them.
In this kind of large-scale, destructive mecha battle, scout academy students like them who only knew low-level combat arts were just ants. Qi Long and the others did not want Ling Lan to be in any danger, even somewhat glad that he had not come with them to hunt and gotten stuck here as well.
"Alright, find a place as soon as possible to hide then. Oh, and keep your communicators turned on. I'll contact you guys periodically." After giving her orders, Ling Lan cut the call.
Ling Lan's brows were deeply furrowed. She knew very well that on that battlefield, the Federation mecha operators were fully engaged in battle and had no mind to care about the students anymore. In other words, whether Qi Long and the others lived or died was entirely up to their luck now.
"Goddammit! I need to find them!" Ling Lan made her decision in an instant. She was not someone who would abandon her comrades.
Ling Lan knew that if the battle continued to spread outwards, Qi Long and the others would be forced to enter the territory of even higher level savage beasts. Little Four had already cautioned more than once that the savage beasts there were already in a state of violent frenzy — their combat abilities were definitely not at their normal baseline. Undoubtedly, the longer Qi Long and the others lingered there, the more precarious their situation would be.
With a decision in her heart, Ling Lan quietly zipped out of the outpost. The soldier on guard at the entrance, who was waiting for straggling students, only felt his eyes blur for a moment, as if a shadow had flown by at the edge of his vision. But when he looked around, he saw nothing.
"Am I seeing things? Looks like the surrounding smoke still managed to affect my vision ..." The soldier could only explain it this way. He threw all thoughts of that passing shadow to the back of his mind and stopped worrying about it.
Ling Lan rapidly dashed through the hunting grounds of the H-class savage beasts. In the dim lighting of the dense forest, she moved through the trees as nimbly as a monkey. With several quick dashes, she zipped from one tree branch to another. Her speed made her seem just like a shadow, leaving afterimages between the tree trunks, and her landings were so soft that they made no sound.
After travelling for about 2 kilometres, Ling Lan abruptly came to a stop. Her brows lifted slightly, but very quickly, she leapt up nimbly, and dashed into one of the shrubs to hide without making any noise.
Ling Lan had just hidden herself when, not far from Ling Lan's position, two large mecha collided heavily in the air and simultaneously lost control and fell.
They crashed forcefully into the forest undergrowth about 200 metres away from Ling Lan. The great tremors caused by the crashes stirred up a tornado, which whipped out to decimate the surrounding trees. The tornado only died off when it was about less than 10 metres from where Ling Lan was hiding.
Ling Lan seemed to have expected this, for she was not affected at all. All throughout, she kept a lid on her presence, crouched within the shrubs, motionless. The instant she went into hiding, Ling Lan had entered hunting mode — her mind was as still as ice, perfectly melding her presence with her surroundings. Even if Instructor Number One from the learning space came here now, before Ling Lan made a move, it would still be very difficult for him to find Ling Lan's hiding spot.
Perhaps the two mecha had been rendered useless by the crash, for the operators could not get them to stand up again. Almost simultaneously, the hatch of the cockpit on both mecha opened. Two mecha operators leapt out from their respective cockpits at the same time.
"Clang!" The clear ring of cold weapons clashing, proving that the two mecha operators had crossed blades again in an instant.
The two of them were pushed back by the other's attack, each stumbling backwards several steps before regaining their footing. They gripped the short swords in their hands and faced each other from a distance, waiting for the next chance to attack.
The distance between the two of them was about 10 metres. The mecha operator dressed in a blue and white combat uniform on one side was from the Federation. Ling Lan could tell due to the Federation logo on his chest — a big golden five-pointed star. On the other side was the mecha operator of the Twilight Empire, dressed in a combat uniform the same black as the Empire's mecha. The entire uniform was a dark inky black, the only spot of colour being the blood-red sun on his chest.
The mecha operators' combat uniforms were a type of one-piece outfit, even coming outfitted with a fully sealed helmet. This set of combat uniforms were definitely the best defensive equipment in this world. Ordinary blades would not be able to pierce through it; of course, the short swords equipped on the bodies of these mecha operators were made of a special type of metal — although the swords could not pierce through the combat uniforms, three stabs at the same spot would weaken the uniform enough to penetrate it and deal damage.
The two of them faced off for a few seconds, unmoving, and then, their figures flashed as they moved almost simultaneously.
Clang! Clang! Clang! ... Over 10 times the weapons clashed. The two men were fighting evenly, but the consecutive attacks were wearing down the stamina of both of them rapidly. Soon, the two men were starting to breathe unsteadily.
They had originally been fighting in their mecha for half a day up in the air, using up a lot of their energy already. And now, on the ground, they were engaged in a life-or-death close-range battle. Whether it was in terms of mental or physical strength, they were at the end of their ropes — it was all down to who could hold out for a breath longer.
The patiently waiting Ling Lan had already quietly picked up a twig about a finger-length and slipped it between her fingers, poised as she waited calmly for the two men to launch into their next attacks.
Finally, the two men lifted up their swords again, and charged towards the other at the same time ...
With barely a thought, Ling Lan's wrist twitched, and the twig in between her fingers flew like an arrow towards the Twilight Empire mecha operator.
Ling Lan naturally knew that the twig would not be able to penetrate the other's combat uniform on its own. Thus, her target was the only weakness of the combat uniform — the neck!
Even though, on the surface, it seemed like the mecha operator's entire body was shielded by the combat uniform, in truth, at times, from a particular angle, a tiny unshielded gap would be revealed. For example, when a mecha operator lifted his head a certain way, an almost imperceptible gap would appear at the join between the helmet and the combat uniform.
Ling Lan, who was lying flat within the shrubs, was viewing the scene from a downward angle, and so managed to catch sight of this tiny, tiny gap. All this time, Ling Lan's cool observation was so she could find this opportunity for a one-hit kill. And Ling Lan's patience finally brought her this opportunity.
The small and thin twig struck silently and abruptly — also, the Twilight Empire mecha operator never would have imagined that there would be another ruthless hunter here, so his full attention was on the Federation mecha operator opposite him. He wasn't guarding against other sources of killing intent.
He suddenly felt a stab of pain at his neck, and the hand which he had planned to use to parry the opponent's short sword stilled for a moment.
But this short pause was enough to make him miss the correct timing to parry, and he could only watch as his chest was pierced forcefully by the other's short sword. Panicked, he tried to back away, but then he discovered something even more frightening — he could not control his body at all.
Within the blink of an eye, the opponent had stabbed his chest three times repeatedly, breaking through his uniform to pierce into his chest. He could only watch as his own blood started to spurt from his chest ...
What in the world had happened? They had clearly been evenly matched, both unable to overwhelm the other ... why would he lose control over his body in these final moments?
The mecha operator of the Twilight Empire fell over with a face filled with disbelief. Till the end, he still could not figure out how he had died, causing him to be a muddled ghost even in death.
Of course, the reason for all this was Ling Lan's undetectable attack; it had just been too strange and unexpected. Because the twig had been so small and thin, it had only caused a small droplet of blood to well up at the area on the neck which it had shot into. Thus, the Twilight Empire mecha operator had never even noticed that he had suffered a sneak attack.