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Just like that, Qi Long and the others went off in high spirits to take the test for the First Men's Military Academy. Meanwhile, Ling Lan went to the application point of the school she had chosen. There was no one there; almost none of the Central Scout Academy students would choose to apply to the colleges here.

Here were the most backward vocational colleges and community colleges, and the application for these institutes were all processed by just one A.I.. Frankly, the Central Scout Academy did not want their students to apply to these schools at all — if not for the Federation's regulations for fairness and equal opportunity, the Central Scout Academy would definitely have driven these schools out of its assessment centre without giving them any chance.

Ling Lan deftly chose the course she wanted to apply for, and very quickly, the Windchase Mecha Service College had approved her application request. Soon after, Ling Lan received the other's reply on her communicator.

Opening it to read, Ling Lan blinked blankly. Two large words — 'TEST EXEMPTED' — came into sight. The other party had actually exempted her from the application tests completely. It was clear to see how shocked and pleased the school was by her application. They were very afraid that this was an impulsive decision on Ling Lan's part, and so did not want to give Ling Lan any time to reconsider.

It was of course a good thing to be exempted from testing; Ling Lan decisively pressed the confirmation button. With her confirmation, her data file was sent straight to the Windchase Mecha Service College ... That done, Ling Lan immediately rushed back to the application point of the First Men's Military Academy, to wait for the final assessment results of Qi Long and the others.

Meanwhile, at this exact moment, at a distant Federation border, on a battlefield between the Twilight Empire and the Federation, another round of conventional warfare officially began.

On the battlefield, the starships of both sides faced off from a distance. Countless intermediate and advanced mecha were being ejected from the starships' ports, almost filling up the entire starry sky. Ten of thousands of mecha engines roared in unison, the sound threatening to rip the starry skies apart.

The mecha of the two nations formed team after team, breaking off to engage their own group of opponents. Ever since technology had advanced enough to make galactic war possible, mecha battles had become the most basic type of combat, sometimes to the point where the final outcome of a war would be determined based on the power of each side's mecha operators. This was also why all nations invested so much in the cultivation of mecha operators — they were the main fighting force, the strongest solo weapons for the purpose of domination and conquest.

Every war was fierce and brutal. Whenever war broke out, great numbers of mecha operators would fall, which was why mecha operators had the highest casualty rate among soldiers. Even so, every soldier of the Federation still wanted to be a mecha operator as their first choice, because only mecha operators could truly control their own lives, as long as they were strong enough.

This was just a conventional battle, but even so, countless mecha operators had already been lost to these starry skies. Those final flares as they fell were like radiant fireworks, lighting up the entire starry skies, leaving behind its owner's final requiem.

On the main command ship in the middle of the Federation fleet, everyone in the command centre was looking at the battlefield before them with serious expressions. They were waiting patiently for the final outcome of the mecha battle — at that time, this clash would be over.

It wasn't that they did not want to arrange any tactics or stratagems to reduce the number of casualties ... it was just that this had become routine. This kind of conventional battle, against a long-standing enemy across many years — they had become familiar with each other's tactics. After all this protracted fighting, what mattered in the end was the overall strength of the two nations, as well as which nation had the stronger mecha.

"There is strange movement on the left side of the opponent's fleet!" Right then, a report rang out in the command centre from a surveillance soldier responsible for monitoring the area.

"Zoom in!" The supreme commander of the Federal Border Protection Fleet, Major General Tang Xu, who had been stationed here for 6 years, gave an immediate command after hearing the report. Tang Xu was 43 years old this year, and was considered one of the few outstanding and authoritative Major Generals in the Federation now. Due to his tenacity, he had ensured the stability of the situation at the Federation's border for several years.

At his command, the large screen in the command centre rapidly zoomed in on the position in question. They then saw black mecha being silently ejected one after another from the opponent starship's launching ports.

The surveillance soldier manipulating the image knew very clearly what was important. He immediately provided a close-up of one of the black mecha, especially focusing in of the arm area and enlarging it. At the sight of the serial number beginning with an 'S', the command centre was instantly in an uproar. There were even several senior officers who couldn't help but burst into foul language.

"Twilight actually sent their special ace mecha squad out!" All the Twilight ace mecha were basically marked with XSYZ serial numbers. Z marked the strongest squads of ace mecha, while X marked the weakest. The strength of the ace mecha of the Twilight Empire was equal to that of the Federation's ace mecha. Of course, the Federation's ace mecha squads were also differentiated by their strength. In any case, the S-series special ace mecha squad deployed by the opponent could be considered an extremely powerful veteran mecha team of the Twilight Empire.

Tang Xu knew the situation gave him no time to hesitate. He immediately ordered, "Order the Soaring Dragon ace mecha squad to attack!"

Each fleet would have one ace mecha squad to hold the fort. They were the top fighting power of the Federation — if it were not absolutely necessary, he really did not want to send them out. Just the very idea of losing one of the operators made his heart ache terribly. However, even more, he just could not allow common mecha operators to lose their lives needlessly in engaging the opponent's ace mecha operators. Ace level enemies required aces to match.

At the right flank of the fleet, an interstellar mothership was hovering, quiet but somewhat forbidding. In its belly, a primed and fully-equipped mecha squad was waiting to be deployed. It was the trump card ace mecha squad of this protection fleet —— the Soaring Dragons!

At this moment, they were sitting in their respective mecha with solemn expressions. They were spread out in their respective launch passages, paying close attention to the progress of the battle before them.

Suddenly, the call to combat rang out through the entire mothership. The sharp sound pierced through the initial silence, and all the ace operators instinctively clenched the control sticks in their hands. This sound meant that their turn to battle was about to begin.

They had already been waiting for too long. Every time a battle began, they would always be ready to move out, but in the end, they had never had a chance to see the battlefield. Holding fast to the order from the command centre to wait and be on standby at every battle ... if it were not for the military culture deep within their very marrows, the multiple occurrences of cry wolf 1 would very easily tire them out and cause them to become lax in carrying out their orders.

However, all the ace operators knew well that since they were being deployed now, it meant that the enemy would most certainly be ace operators of the same level. This would be a cruel battle to the death — both sides would use their lives to prove who the true kings were!

"Orders. Ace mecha squad Soaring Dragon to strike. Direction southwest, coordinates 1245, 2340!" Every operator of the Soaring Dragons heard this command from the command centre on their mecha's public channel.

"8001, 8002, 8003, 8004, 8005, all prepped and ready to go. Calling JMC801, requesting deployment!" From each launch port, deployment requests were transmitted from the ace operators to the headset of the JMC responsible for guiding the ace mecha.

"Checking ... All equipment in order, mobility normal. Launch approved. 3, 2, 1 ... launching!" The JMC specially in charge of the ace mecha approved the launch requests after swiftly running through the prerequisite checks.

"Fire!" "Fire!" "Fire!" Consecutive sounds of ejections rang out. From the 5 launch ports on both sides of the mothership, the prepped ace mecha were shot out into the skies.

"8011, 8012, 8013 ... requesting deployment!"

"8021, 8022, 8023 ... requesting deployment!"

Batch after batch of ordered ace mecha were shot into the skies ... at this moment, the exclusive communications channels of each mecha were extremely busy. A mecha battle involving large battalions was not conducted in solo fights; the mecha needed to group together in units to engage the enemy.

"8011 calling 8001. Wingman One requesting to enter formation ..."

"8021 calling 8001. Wingman Two requesting to enter formation ..."

In this manner, every time a formation was fully formed, the mecha would then move swiftly to the coordinates the command centre sends them.

"Baka, how does the opponent move so fast?" The commander on the Twilight's mainship, a general with a thin moustache on his upper lip and grey sideburns, saw team after team of silver-white mecha flying from the opponent's backend, swiftly intercepting their ace mecha which had already gotten into formation, and couldn't help but swear angrily.

"General, believe that our mecha operators will not lose to those chinks," said a young staff officer with a slight bow, but his tone was haughty. It should be known that their S-series special ace mecha squads were called the 'victory mecha which would never fall' 2 — dealing with these small guppies would definitely be no problem.

"Aoki, don't underestimate them. The Chinese Federation has always been our archenemy. For thousands of years, as long as war breaks out, it has always been the end of their lives or ours. Throughout history, we have suffered defeat many times because we underestimated them, bringing great losses to our empire. We must learn from these lessons." The general was a cautious person. He was not blindly confident like some people within the country, self-assured in their belief that the Chinese Federation was just a pretty flower vase 3 .

"General, what you say makes sense. But, the Chinese Federation now is no longer the Federation of before. 16 years ago, even their god-class operator Ling Xiao lost his life at our warriors' hands. Now, they are just in their death struggle. Victory will forever belong to the Great Twilight Empire." Staff Officer Aoki's face was filled with pride. The successful assassination of Ling Xiao was the glory of every Twilight soldier.

As soldiers of the new generation of the Twilight Empire, they had grown up under the propaganda of the empire's successful killing of the Chinese Federation's strongest god-class operator Ling Xiao. In their world view, the Chinese Federation was already on the wane, no longer having the strength to resist them. The Great Twilight Empire would definitely obtain the final victory and eventually take over the entire Chinese Federation.

"Is that really so?" The general's expression was grim as he stared at the large screen. He did not believe that the Chinese Federation really had no backup resources. What's more, they still had other god-class operators. Even though those people had remained reclusive all this time, if the Chinese Federation truly was pushed to the brink of no return, these fearsome beings would probably appear one after another. In contrast, their empire only had nine mecha god-kings 4 — they just could not match up in numbers.

"We need to drag them along for another period of time. The oldest god-class operator of the Federation must be nearing 200 years old by now ..." The general calculated in his heart. As long as one or two of the opponent's god-class operators died, then in any top-level contest of strength, their Empire would not be at a disadvantage. At that time, it would truly be the time for their Great Twilight Empire to push their attack.

i.e. false alarms. Referring to the Aesop fable of a boy who kept lying about wolves coming until the other villagers lost all faith in him. When wolves really came in the end, no one came to help him and his flock of sheep despite his true cries for help then. @[email protected] That is the name, I kid you not. Fancy and grand to look at, but fragile and easily broken. Basically, all appearance with no true strength. Looks like the Twilight Empire call their own god-class operators by a special name. The original term would literally translate to 'big god mecha king', which was kinda awkward, so I tweaked it a bit. For those interested, the term would be pronounced as 'ookami kiou' in Japanese.

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