It turned out that the waiting mecha operator Shikamaru had finally thought of a way to attack Ling Lan without harming his squad leader. He had decisively set aside the powerful beam cannon, hanging it back on his back, drawing out the miniature beam gun strapped to his waist instead.
The beam gun's power was noticeably weaker than the cannon's, and its range was extremely short. But its advantage was that he did not have to worry about hurting his teammate. Even if he shot his teammate by accident, based on the mecha's innate defensive ability, as long as he did not strike the same place twice, the mecha would not take any significant damage.
He chose to use this beam handgun to snipe, primarily just to harass the Federation mecha operator. Though the shots were weak, they would distract the opponent and prevent him from attacking fiercely. This way, his squad leader would have a chance to counterattack. However, if the opponent decided to just ignore his attacks due to the limited damage of the handgun, he believed that, if given a chance, he would be able to hit the same spot multiple times to deal heavy damage.
Without a doubt, his choice trashed Ling Lan's hopeful plans, allowing him to rejoin the battle without worry.
"Looks like I'll need to come up with something to finish off this mecha in front of me." Ling Lan knew that the scales of victory were slowly tipping in favour of the opponents — she could afford to wait no longer. N-number of options flashed through her mind ...
Operator Shikamaru pressed on his trigger once more, and a beam shot out from the muzzle of the beam handgun.
The beam scored a direct hit on the right side of the Federation mecha's waist. The sound of an explosion rent the air — a thick plume of smoke started pouring from the back of the mecha's waist.
"YES!" Shikamaru couldn't help but mentally give himself a pat on the back. This shot, his luck had actually been so lucky that it had cleanly taken out one of the opponent's side engines. This would create problems for the opponent's mobility system.
Sure enough, because of this incident, the Federation mecha's engines suddenly sputtered and died, causing the entire mecha to plummet.
The squad leader, who had been having a frustrating time fighting the opponent, was startled, but he soon recovered and was overcome with joy. "Chance!"
Who knew his subordinate Shikamaru-kun would be so reliable, directly blowing up the opponent's engine? This was the moment for him to counterattack.
His exhilaration let him forget all about the aches of his body; he controlled his mecha to pounce like a ferocious tiger dashing down a mountain at the Federation mecha. Earlier, he had constantly been on the defensive — now it was finally his turn to beat on the other. Of course he would not miss this great opportunity for revenge.
In the distance, the operator Shikamaru was just about to continue sniping when he saw his squad leader leaping at the opponent. His finger on the trigger paused ... Hn, let squad leader vent some of his anger first!
In his mind, the Federation mecha which had already lost one of its main side engines was definitely no threat to his squad leader. Moreover, he also believed that his squad leader would relish the chance to torment the other a little to release the pent up frustration from being suppressed previously. As a dutiful subordinate, he could not get in the way of his squad leader's fun in bullying the opponent.
"The opponent fell for it!" Seeing the squad leader leaping at her, Ling Lan was overjoyed. This had all been a bet — she was betting on this mecha's thirst for revenge, and betting on the other mecha's non-interference — and she had won.
Although Ling Lan was unbelievably hyped, her hands remained steady. She controlled the head of her mecha perfectly, turning it to look up at a very specific angle.
"Calculating attack trajectory, perfect!" Little Four's voice had barely faded when the anti-aircraft missiles in the mecha's head area were launched by Ling Lan.
These two missiles came so suddenly — the opponent would never have expected the supposedly panicking Federation mecha operator to have the mind to launch anti-aircraft missiles.
The squad leader knew that he would not be able to dodge, but still, he wasn't too worried. This was because this type of anti-aircraft missile was not very effective against mecha, due to the resilient outer shell of the mecha that was capable of resisting the explosive power of the missiles.
The squad leader just assumed that this was the desperate final attack of the Federation mecha operator in the throes of death — that even though the opponent knew this attack was useless, he had still fired the missiles.
Before the missiles would hit the squad leader's mecha, they suddenly turned upwards. Abruptly, he found that his main screen was shaking and then thick smoke smothered the entire image. He could only see black smoke on his main screen; the opponent's mecha was concealed.
He reacted quickly, immediately replacing the image of the main screen with the images sourced from other cameras.
"Squad leader, watch out!" The panicked voice of his subordinate Shikamaru came through the communications channel. Reflexively, he controlled the mecha to cross its arms and defend.
He had just completed this move when he felt his mecha being struck by a tremendous force, and then his whole mecha was thrown up into the air.
What was happening? The squad leader was alarmed, finding that things were already out of his control.
From a distance, Shikamaru had the clearest view. The two anti-aircraft missiles fired by the Federation mecha had initially been heading for the squad leader's mecha's shoulder area, only to suddenly shift directions near the end to strike the head. In other words, the opponent had been aiming for the mecha's main camera from the start — the two anti-aircraft missiles were no ordinary missiles, but had been installed with a guidance system.
This proved that the opponent's attack was not a hastily cobbled final struggle, but a pre-planned strike.
The opponent used the low-powered anti-aircraft missiles to disrupt the squad leader's main screen; the thick smoke caused by the explosions were probably also part of the opponent's plan. Then, once the squad leader's vision had been obstructed, the opponent had launched the extremely powerful inlaid rockets from its chest, sending the squad leader's mecha straight into the air.
Angrily, Shikamaru raised the beam handgun in his hands, prepared to blast the opponent's mecha to smithereens ...
But then a shocking thing happened — the engine that should have been damaged by him suddenly roared loudly once more, and the powerful force of its thrust sent the Federation mecha up towards the squad leader's mecha in the air.
On top of that, the Federation mecha's following action made him yell out in shock. He saw the opponent swiftly sheathe the high-frequency blade in its right hand back to the mecha's outer thigh, and then, grabbing its beam saber with both hands, it stabbed straight at the squad leader's cockpit.
"Quick! Activate your beam shield and defend!" Shikamaru screamed.
The squad leader was a leadership figure after all; he managed to activate his beam shield in that instant.
The beam saber and the beam shield collided violently. Ling Lan could only feel a large rebound force feeding back into her hand.
"Little Four, hold steady, don't get repelled!" Ling Lan pushed the mobile force of her mecha to the max, pushing against the rebound, while Little Four desperately worked to make sure that the mecha's systems would not break down under the combined pressure.
In the sky above, a white and blue mecha with a beam saber gripped in both hands could be seen flying past rapidly with its beam saber pushed up against the cockpit of a black mecha, drawing a straight line through the air.
"Baka! Baka!" At this moment, the squad leader, who had finally regained the view of his main screen, started hacking desperately at the Federation mecha with the high-frequency blade in his left hand. Once, twice, thrice — leaving mark after mark on the opponent's mecha.
Within the cockpit, Ling Lan could not endure it any longer, throwing up a mouthful of blood. The hacking of the other mecha caused the mecha to shudder to a certain extent; the consecutive tremors worsened the injuries already borne by Ling Lan. Under the roiling of her Qi and blood, she actually ended up spewing blood.
"Boss, are you alright?" Little Four was panicking.
"It's fine. I can take it. How much longer can the beam saber hold out?" In this contest between beam saber and beam shield, both sides were expending energy. Whoever ran out of energy first would be the one to disappear. Right now, Ling Lan was betting on the opponent's beam shield expending more energy than her beam saber.
"There's less than 10 seconds left!" Little Four was extremely anxious.
"I'll risk it!" A feral glint flashed through Ling Lan's eyes; in crucial moments, she could even be ruthless to her own self.
"Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two ... Sh*t! There's no more energy ..." Little Four's voice had barely faded when Ling Lan felt the force blocking the beam saber in her hand melt away, and the beam saber pierced through something.
And then, all that was left of the beam saber was its hilt. Was this a success or a failure? Ling Lan's doubt lasted for a mere instant; her fingers never stopped, still dancing rapidly, creating those layered afterimages.
The Federation mecha discarded the depleted beam saber from its hands and grabbed the Twilight mecha with its right hand. With it as a fulcrum, the Federation mecha spun in a circle to hide behind the body of the Twilight mecha, successfully dodging the sneaky snipe attack by operator Shikamaru.
"Shikamaru-kun, the Empire's mission is in your hands now," said the squad leader to his distant subordinate, as he looked at the blood gushing out from the hole in his chest.
"Squad leader, what are you saying?" The distant operator Shikamaru had not managed to see what had happened in the end. The beam saber and beam shield had run out of energy at almost the same time.
"Use your beam cannon! That's an order!" The squad leader felt that his life was slowly fading. With his last breath, he gave this command, and then triggered the mecha's self-destruct mechanism.
"Even if I die, I will pull you down into hell with me!" bellowed the squad leader with the final bit of his energy.
"Squad leader!" Shikamaru now understood what had happened. In those final moments, the beam saber had likely lasted a second longer than the beam shield. In that one second, the saber had pierced through a vital point of the squad leader. This was why the squad leader wanted him to switch to the beam cannon — he did not have long to live.
"Squad leader, the Empire shall not forget your sacrifice!" Mecha operator Shikamaru's eyes were ice cold. He threw away the beam handgun in his hand, and once again lifted up the beam cannon from his back. Getting into position, he aimed right at his squad leader's mecha ... as well as the Federation mecha hiding behind it!
"Not good. The other mecha has switched over to its beam cannon." This whole time, Little Four had been monitoring the Twilight mecha sniping them from a distance.
"Does he not care that his comrade will die?" Ling Lan's first thought was that the other had gone mad.
"No ..." Ling Lan abruptly felt a deep apprehension crawl into her heart, the warning bells in her mind were ringing.
Without even having to think about it, her fingers flew — in this kind of life-or-death juncture, she did not think about the so-called limit of her finger speed. In her mind, there was only one thought — she needed to be fast, faster, even faster than faster ... because she was fighting with the god of death for the time to survive.
This time, the control panel no longer had those layered afterimages — instead, Ling Lan's fingers disappeared into thin air ...