413’s questions met only silence, and then a wave of fire and artillery attacks was headed straight for him and his squad.
"Damn! Activate Beam Shield," bellowed 413. The opponent was clearly trying to kill them all to silence them — it looked like there was no more room for diplomacy.
On the other hand, when the enemy squad saw the mecha of their opponents using advanced beam shields, their leader raged, "Why do the rebel troops have this type of weaponry? Looks like the information was correct — someone in the upper ranks of the military has betrayed the Federation. Focus your fire, and break through those shields! Kill them all — the commander has ordered to take no prisoners."
"Yes, Sir!" Following that, an even more ferocious barrage of long-range fire rained down upon 413’s squad, rendering them immobile.
"Sir, what should we do?" asked 413’s squad members as they fended off the opponent’s attacks with their beam shields. Although they were veterans, butchers who had returned from the battlefield, capable of mercilessly slaughtering enemy troops, they were still reluctant to fight troops from their own country.
"Number 3, contact headquarters. Number 5, cover. The rest of you, attack with me!" 413 ordered without hesitation. Pulling out a beam sword from behind him, he charged towards the enemy.
413 knew very well that the opponent might just be a squad of mecha troopers who had been deceived by their superior, completely ignorant that their mission was a mistake. Still, he could not afford to be merciful. He was responsible for the lives of five subordinates and could not allow them to die because of his hesitation. Furthermore, the opponent intended to kill an innocent child — this was something he would not allow …
Their captain’s decisiveness was channelled through to the squad members. The battlefield was no place for hesitation or compassion — only the more ruthless person would survive.
The mecha trooper squad saw four of the opponent mechas rushing towards them with their beam shields up. Their captain harrumphed and said coldly, "Launch the detonation cables."
Following this order, a fiery dragon shot out from each of the six mechas, converging on the four approaching opponents.
Suddenly, there was the crisp sound of several gun shots and the six dragons exploded instantly. A series of explosions followed soon after as the numerous bombs on the detonating cable were set off. There was a tremendous blast, sending tremors through the earth, as well as cloaking the entire scene in smoke.
Apparently, Number 5, who had been charged with providing cover fire, had deftly used the particle-beam gun on his functional right arm to shoot six clean shots, striking those detonation cables and setting them off, protecting 413 and the others in the process.
His view clouded by smoke, the captain of the opponent mecha squad hesitated. Should he continue to overwhelm the enemy with sheer firepower? However, this short pause was enough for the enemy; a blaring warning went through his mecha’s systems, "Danger. Enemy lock-on detected. Evade, evade …"
His first response was to retreat quickly, because he could already see the lead opponent mecha charging out from the smoke, heading fiercely in his direction.
Panicked, he raised the particle-beam gun in his hands, pressing down on the trigger desperately. In this moment, he had completely forgotten how to dodge in his machine, only thinking about how to make the opponent retreat or stop with his attacks.
And then, he saw the opponent suddenly deviate from his straight path, moving instead in a strange radian, skilfully avoiding the dense rain of his particle-beam attacks. His pupils contracting, he shouted in shock, "Freeform evasion! How does he know the most advanced evasion manoeuvre of our military? What the hell is this?" Even as one of the top students at military school, he had yet to learn this skill — why was such a formidable person in the rebel forces?
Heavens, what in the world was happening? It was at this moment that he began to feel that something wasn’t right with the situation. But then it was too late.
From his communication systems came the sound of his teammates’ terrified screams, but before he could ask them what was happening, his own mecha’s display had turned black. No matter how hard he tried to get it to work, pressing the initiate button over and over again, his mecha did not react.
Abruptly he realised, his mecha’s movement driver must have been destroyed by the opponent, making him a fish trapped within a jar.
Why did it have to end this way? How could he, an upstanding graduate who excelled in his military studies, lose to these wild mecha operators of the rebel forces? Had the world order been turned upside down? The mecha trooper squad captain slumped in his now useless control seat, face pale with an expression of deep disbelief.
When 413 attacked, he had still shown mercy in the end. He had only destroyed the movement drivers of the mecha, avoiding the pilot carriage and sparing the operator’s life. Of course, this was also because the gap in their abilities was distinct, allowing 413 the freedom to choose.
Looking at the six immobile mechas, 413 couldn’t help but click his teeth. Hells, thank god these mecha troops were greenhorns who had never seen blood before — otherwise, with their full arsenal against their own simple collection of particle-beam guns and beam swords, the outcome of the battle would have been hard to determine.
At this moment, Number 3, who had successfully contacted headquarters, reported to 413, "Sir, the commander has said to smuggle these people into the Headquarters of the Bladed Forces, and to destroy their mechas completely. Best to let the opponent think that the pilots died along with the machines."
413 nodded, and passed down the order. "Number 3 and Number 5, stay here and carry out the commander’s orders. The others, follow me on rescue detail."
Just like that, 413’s squad split into two groups and the four intact mechas sped towards Ling Lan’s last known position.
Together with his three team members, 413 flew for a distance with their eyes peeled, but saw no strange disturbances within their range of sight. They couldn't determine Ling Lan’s actual position this way.
Helpless, 413 could only order his troops, "Fan out and search. Notify me ASAP if you notice anything odd."
"Yes!" Acknowledging the order, the three mechas behind 413 chose a direction at random and flew off.
413 controlled his own mecha and continued flying forward. He was undoubtedly anxious — because of the scuffle with the troops, they had been delayed for up to 5 minutes. Within those 5 minutes, anything could have happened. He fervently hoped that Ling Lan and whoever he was with could hold on and wait for their rescue.
They really had to find Ling Lan’s whereabouts soon, or else everything would be for naught.
Leaving aside 413’s frantic search, on Ling Lan’s end, they were going through a high-speed chase and were currently in a precarious situation.
While evading, the hover car had been hit once more by the opponent’s long-range missiles and had then given out a warning, telling them that the hover car would disassemble in 56 seconds.
Due to the strain of going over its speed limits, the hover car’s defensive abilities were already on the brink of collapse, and adding in the damage it received from the attacks, it could hold on no longer.
"Scared?" asked Ling Qin with a smile as he stroked Ling Lan’s head. In his other hand, he was already holding a type II particle-beam submachine gun.
"Nope!" replied Ling Lan coolly, as if she were totally unconcerned whether she lived or died. This surprised Ling Qin yet heartened him at the same time — Ling Lan was truly a chip off the old block. Naturally, he had no clue that Ling Lan’s apathy towards death was due to her experiences within the illusory primordial forest within the learning space. There, Ling Lan had already learned that fear and terror would not help save her life — only keeping calm would allow her to capitalise on any chance of survival.
"Protect yourself!" Ling Qin patted Ling Lan several more times on the head before lifting his head to look out the window. In a flash, the muscles of his entire body stretched taut as he prepared to go on the attack. Ling Lan did the same, except her actions were much subtler.
Meanwhile, there was now only less than 10 seconds left on Ling-Zero-Seven’s countdown …