15 Collisions were sent off as a scouting team to check out if the Steelbats were approaching in reality. And there were actually 10 similar teams taking shifts to scout the surrounding daily.
"Team Four, follow up. Now!"
"Team Eight, carry out according to plans!"
The crowd disintegrated into countless afterimages of silhouettes. The Sangs sure had some rapid feet. It almost felt like a crowd of Jie experts piloting their mechs over one peak and another. It was epic, truly epic.
This would be the most major operation the Sangs had ever launched. The first batch of Collisions took flight in a number of 5000 and the sky right above the Sang village was fully enveloped by them. Other than elderly or children who could hardly harm a fly, all villagers including the women armed themselves with weapons and started moving.
Right at the heart of the valley there parked countless Collisions. The valley where the village located was not that spacious to begin with, but it would be too risky to park them at the plain as the Steelbats might have raided the place before the battle happened. So after a moment of discussion, they gave up their former setting and cramped themselves. Sang De, the chief said that the Steelbats would arrive with darkness engulfing the world, with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. The sky would only have one color by then, the color of Steelbats - dark, darker than black.
So, united we stand, stronger we grow. Thought Ye Chong.
Apart from a safe house for the elderly and children, the remaining housing area had been transformed into the parking ground for the mechs. One could see every single shelter had at least one mech landed on it, while some were even installed with a strange kind of hook to hang those mechs. Now, while it would sound a little insane to have a mech parked on a foundation made out of twigs and leaves, it would be a different story if the mech was made out of pure skeletons, which were much, much lighter. Of course, as far as logic would apply, nobody would park their moving alloys on their wooden home, that would devastate the shelter immediately. To ensure safety though, reinforcement had been carried out on every pillar of the houses, especially the safe house for the weak, that was much, much sturdier.
There were also mechs parked on the slope. The villagers had never exited the cabin ever since, for they would spend the following days eating, battling, sleeping in the mech itself. It was those times which one would call the "emergency period" or "evacuation time".
The only entrance to the village had been completely swamped by the debris from the explosion Sang Pu caused at both sides of the mountain using compression explosives. As planned, their remaining concern would only be the above, nothing on the ground. The mountain had become their walls of defense from technically everything on the ground.
The Steelbats were extremely bloodthirsty during their migration, they would not halt their flight for food however. They would peck, but would not ground themselves and hunt, they would instead keep advancing, in other words, the Sang villagers would be declared as succeeded the operation if they could last till the Steelbats flew away completely.
Everyone was pumped in their position, anticipating the arrival of the flying devil. Sang Tie was one of the thrilled warriors. It was one major role he got being at the frontmost line, which every villager was acting envy upon. No one would go and argue for the placement though, as they all recognized the strength of Sang Tie, who stood easily the top 100 fighters in the village. Moreover, the most highly respected man, the teacher was giving recognition towards his piloting skill as well. That would be a solid evidence since the teacher hardly demonstrated his recognition towards things. So his popularity among the ladies was well-justified.
Sang Tie could reminisced the very scene when the teacher complimented his performance that day. It was, he strongly believed, the happiest few seconds of his life. The teacher, sir, was the idol highly regarded by all younger folks in the village, including he himself. Never once he would dream of gliding into the air, and there sir was, zooming into the air as if a rock he tossed. The most respectable figure in the village was no longer the chief, but the teacher, the young yet resourceful teacher.
Okay, no time for that. He bucked up and looked upon the sky, the war was just around the corner. He did not panic however, since he, like every other man and woman in their position did, believed that they would succeed as long as the teacher stood by their side. He was the leader of a rescue team of the frontline. The team was mainly consisted of the experts of the tribe, in which most of them was the students specially chosen by the teacher himself for the first flying course he conducted, including Sang Tie.
A "course" it was called yet the teacher had only taught the piloting procedure once. Only the first batch of students to the course was the actual students of the great teacher. And of course these students, a vast 500 of them were calling it an achievement and were proud of it.
The rescue team was formerly led by Sang Pu, who was then raised to the position of the highest commander. So in return, Sang Tie took over.
Another chosen one by the teacher himself! Why must it be him that always get different treatment! The men seemed to be mutating into a real green-eyed monster soon. The chosen one himself was very proud of his placement though, that he even made up his mind to not shame his teacher by accomplishing this mission flawlessly.
5000 mechs ascended into the sky, spiraling speedily to their respective position. Sang Tie began flicking his signals, the two beams flickered : S-T-A-Y. R-E-A-D-Y. And 500 mechs silently hovered in position behind him. They were body and soul ready. Sang Tie knew his duty well. The team he led was called a rescue team for a reason. He was there to rescue, the support to the war. If the situation was crumbling, his teammates were losing, they would have to launch themselves into the war field, to buy time for the other mechs standby on the ground.
Sang Tie lifted his eyes, seeing teacher piloting that strong and outstanding mech in the midst of the warring troop. It was unique, it was different. A sense of respect rose as the morning sun in him. He swore, feeling pumped, it would be an honor to fight alongside sir, that he would die, with glory and no regret.
Sang Tie was technically wrong of what he presumed. His great teacher, Ye Chong did not really intend to join the first wave. The reason he flew into the sky was merely for spectating purpose. He wanted to see what that horrifying beast of the myth actually looked. Sang Pu, the commander was right next to his teacher, with similar reason that he wanted to have a direct observation on this migration phenomena that only would occur once every 200 years.
And there they saw, a lump of darkness approaching.
It was brutally horrifying! If the namely Darkness formed by the beast was a whirlpool, then these Steelbats would be a real abyssal darkness that would engulf the sun completely. People were shocked. Some villagers zoned out for the first few seconds. The formation was disrupted for a quick while. D-O-W-N. O-N-E-O-O. Sang Pu gave a quick order to descend all units by a hundred meters. This move was to cover the team within the height of the mountains.
Sang Pu and Han Jia remained at the upper. Since Ye Chong was equipped with real technology, the hologramic detection system, he was the first among all men who discerned the actual appearance of Steelbats.
Steelbats had no feathers, the wings were two thin layer of membranes which spread as wide as 10 meters. Those pairs of legs looked so brawny that it could probably shatter a rock piece with a kick. The claws were sharper than the swords, the beak would pierce an iron wall. Ye Chong who had been hunting mutated lifeforms ever since birth could imagine the potential threats these nasty avifaunas would impose on humanity. Those claws and beak alone could murder even the most fearsome beast on ground.
Steelbats were dark, dark as the coals; their eyes were red, scarlet as the blood diamonds. A petrifying fear they were as they soared through the darkening sky at an alarming velocity. It almost felt as if they had teleported over few hundreds meters after they had just spread their wings.
The lump of darkness came like a prelude to the storm, they were approaching, with constant cries of eagerly hunger as their membrane-wings flapped in threatening waves. The air had already started to smell intense as they approached, while those sounds they made as they travelled were as if one punch on one’s torso after another.
The Sang villagers were not ordinary folks, they had been trained, and they had been trained enough to face the arrival of their nemesis. They might be argued to be inexperienced fighting against humanity, but they were truly the rival against the wildest nature. They adjusted themselves to the menacing debut of the Steelbats as they got into their battle stance on their mechs again.
Sang Pu, with Ye Chong, landed quickly. They did not leave their mechs however. No other thing could withstand the raid of the homicidal birds on migration than the mechs made out of alloys, not even those houses with their structures remastered. Likewise to the villagers, they also hid within the mechs, for they had spent the last few days living with the mechs, as if a connection had been built soul to soul. The mechs which seemed to be the most novice in Ye Chong’s eyes turned out to be the most formidable stronghold to the villagers. The mechs could be novice, still Ye Chong had that little confidence in them since they were at least made out of the finest skeletons he could find around the place. They could be the toughest tortoise at the very least. Furthermore, Collision was named Collision as it used collision as the main form of attack, so maxing out defense would equal to maxing out the offense as well. Ye Chong even added a few more layers to the surface, technically any physical strike would do no harm to the surface.
Now that explains a lot, why the villagers were relying on their mechs than houses.
And this time, they would be fighting against the lord, the topmost animal in the entire food web of Archipelago, the ruler of the ecosystem, Steelbats. The fight would be for their home, for their other halves, for the next generation, for they themselves! They held no other choice than joining the fierce competition itself. Unlike the residents of the 5 major galaxies, these villagers were strong, probably stronger than anyone else.
Kiak! Kiak kiak kiak!
The leading Steelbat seemed to have gotten a sniff of blood - a sign of living things around.
Kiak! Kiak kiak kiak! Kiak Kiak! Kiak kiak kiak! Kiak!
A piercing cry that Ye Chong had never heard before roared throughout the sky.
The leading Steelbat brought one large batch of its compatriots and raided the valley!
The sky darkened.
The people looked upon the clouded sky. The first collision happened seconds later.
G-O. All commanding mechs flashed the same signals simultaneously.
3000 mechs quickly disengaged from the 5000 army as they formed a long slinking chain. S-P-E-E-D! O-O-O! They then accelerated in circle and performed a rather perfect turn, like a slithering serpent rose upon its prey.
The army actually initiated the attack!
Spear up! Piercing spike!
Splash… Splash! Splash! Splash! Splash!
Fleshes fell off to gravity, there was a rain of blood, as the insides of Steelbats tumbled. The skeleton spears of Collision even penetrated the entire body of Steelbat directly upon contact. Their body size easily turned out to be a giant bullseye to be impaled, as some of their compatriots were instantly bisected. Their abdomens ruptured, like the explosion of a water balloon, dark red fluid splashed all over Collisions.
The conservation of momentum was the game winner this time, as the Collision retained its acceleration and smashed upon its enemies. A perfect strike! Or maybe not… Thought the spectators who were hardly smiling on the ground, as their eyes reflected the deflated, deformed mechs which some of them fell miserably.
The Steelbats were carnivores for a reason as a number of them would raid upon one single Collision. They raised their claws, they charged with their beaks, and in the matter of split seconds, the Collision splintered. The specks were grounded by gravity, as well as the pilots, the sacrificed who went flattened on the ground.
The 3000 armed forces did not hold their attack, as they zoomed all the way up with their spikes. They no longer were able to distinguish directions as they had been swarmed upon by the aggressed Steelbats. The pilots tried their best to make a turnabout but they failed, for they could be smashed into pieces by the Steelbats from the back and the front if they blanked out for once. They sped up, they sped up more, to the front, striving to break through the darkness formed by the Steelbats, hoping for that silver lining of the sky to come.
It was a brief simple collision but the danger was more than what one could get in one’s entire life.
Sang Huo, one of the villagers whose mind no longer contained a thing than brutality, remained one order constantly rung in his head, "Charge. Charge! Charge!!! Hit everything!"
He kept charging, he pulled the lever all the way up as he felt the momentum dragging bit and bit of his sanity away, seeing his allies being crushed into specks, hearing the sound of crumbles and clashes on top of his mech. Within blinking of eyes, he was the last one standing, as engulfed by the whirlpool of Steelbats.
Blood boiled even in his veins, as he was cornered; his eyes reddened, his breathe deepened, a storm of fire raided his soul, burning that last bit of his sanity. "Ah!!!" He rampaged.
His hands were pulling the handles madly, the speed had been maximized! The Steelbats lost sight of their target out of sudden, as the skeleton spear pierced the iron skin of the membranes. The Steelbat blocking the way was smashed into a splat of blood right after. The 4 skeleton wings at the body of Collision sliced through the air in sharp whistles. Momentum had broken through the conservation, the energy packed in that blow built up by the speed could easily cut into the bones, would be possible to slice things into half effortlessly.
Sang Huo’s success undoubtedly had caused the will of all other men to burn to the highest height, as their mechs accelerated along, pushing the blade further into the dark clouds.
There were mechs being crashed into pieces as they pushed along. The claws and beaks of the Steelbats were threatening to the flesh but not against the skeleton Collision, which would only fracture at constant attacks. Steelbats were heavy as the steel, they felt coming like a wrecking ball when they smacked themselves onto Collision. If it did not work once, they would do it twice. There were even two to four Steelbats aiming the same mech together, which explained why there were casualties constantly. The villagers were seriously outnumbered, it was as if they had been tossed into a pool of dark toxic, slowly corroding their senses away.
How many Steelbats had he exactly killed? Sang Huo had already lost count, he was no longer in the mind for triviality like that. The same order echoed in his mind, CHARGE! FASTER! Fearlessly he advanced forward, he had hunted enough Steelbats for his entire life, he was more than happy to die if he had to now. He thought back those days being put under the threat of Steelbats, where one of them was more than enough to take his entire tribe out and now there he was, slicing through Steelbats like his daily skew by the bonfire.
The lump of darkness lingered and Sang Huo had his mind all focus at the shining gap between the Steelbats, which would be his key to victory. The lack of sense of direction was not his concern, the fact that he might have been caged by the Steelbats was not his concern, what stayed as his concern was merely that lining that would lead him to success. Sang Huo adjusted his position gradually by making minuscule turns.
The turns were a savior to his life though, since they caused the Steelbats to miss him while being actually wounded by the skeleton blades on Sang Huo’s Collision.
If there were cameras connected to the Virtual World, the forum should be exploding now. Anyone from the 5 major galaxies would have been stupefied upon seeing this. Not even the intensive virtual Neurotraining stimulation could be as frightening as this. A minimum scope of turns, those were what the expert of the experts would be doing as those would wear a man out completely within a brief moment, and those could murder the pilot by bursting the capillaries.
Whatever the Collisions had performed during the war were considered the most hideous, tedious, challenging, fatal movements any pilot of the 5 major galaxies would shun themselves away from, which some of them would even address as the "impossible to do". The Sangs were the only exception to the limitation of human anatomy due to their familiarized exposure to gravity regions as well as continuous systematic military training.
And with those, they actually had transformed the Collision, which Ye Chong assumed to be too primitive and obsolete by today's technological standard, into a monstrous devastation. It was shocking when Ye Chong saw how passionate the villagers were, still remaining in gravity region for training even the last night before daybreak.
For the Collision, the vitality lies within the flight itself. The way it would deal damage, the way it could cause destruction, were both about airborne movement. To master flying it would require both maturity in skills and physique, which were never issues to the Sangs, as they wielded the strength of Jie expert, the speed like Jie expert, the sensibility of space of Jie expert, the rich experience of war like Jie expert. The simplistic control of the colliding technological stone age was perfect for them and in no time they piloted the machinery their own way. They would sting, like the Lavagold to your skin, if you would dare compete their bulkiness.
Sang Huo sought that very weak point to make the next breakthrough. Within the limited space, it was solely depended on his instinct. Experience would not do the trick, only the sense would.
Sang Huo's world brightened up, as he suddenly got back into the fine blue sky he grew up seeing. Overjoyed he was, I did it? I did it! I really did it!
He would not be satisfied by this little triumph however, as he maintained his course, carried on ascending, he believed his brothers and sisters at the queue behind would also love to see the same sky as his.
A glance downwards, the lump of darkness rumbled and grumbled, engulfing his entire home. He could neither tell the whereabouts of his leader, nor the safety of the villagers. Steelbats, they were everywhere.
Kiiiaaaaaaaak! Kiak! Kiak! Kiak!
The Steelbats cried outrageously, their flappy wings hissed excitingly. The cloud of darkness moved on to the east with the wind, a long column it was, with a portion still lingering on top of the village.
It was purely horrid, even for a man like Sang Huo with an iron will. Nightmarish scenery it scorched as, in the mind of Sang Huo, probably would tail him for the rest of his life. But he bucked up, as fully aware of his demise in this war, those haunting dreams would be buried together. He was one of those 3000 men who feared no death and desired the once again glory of their tribe, they were ready to sacrifice. So, Sang Huo would only concern what the war would achieve in the end.
The sky of Sang Family Village had become an absolute slaughterhouse. 3000 mechs fired themselves into the air and smashed the first wave of Steelbats. After an analysis, both Ye Chong and Sang Pu concluded that the first wave of Steelbats was the worst they would face. So as long as the villagers survived Wave One, assuming what the chief stated about a total darkness for the village being true, the Steelbats, as losing the necessary space to accelerate in aggression, would actually be too crowded to return resistance, they would be a flying target.
The good news was, the 3000 mechs successfully shattered the first wave. The cost, on the other hand, was miserable, as the men were completely engulfed by the flocks of aggressive carnivores in no time, whose mechs were mostly crushed before breakthrough even happened, while the surviving mechs would be very unlikely to come back in one piece.
The 3000 souls and machineries did not go to a waste however. The frontline commanders got their intention fairly quick, as the frontline seized this golden opportunity, sending their 2000 mechs to the top atmosphere next to squash these Steelbats in the cage they created themselves. The Steelbats outside carried on joining the cramped party, and they could barely lift their claw to give a scratch.
The 2000 mechs occupied the space quickly, they then broke into little flocks, few hundreds of them began soaring around, like a combat order. The speeding Collisions soon caused invisible slice attacks, like the blade of a blending machine, which the Steelbats would be completely dissected upon contact. The aids were also waiting for further command at the lower atmosphere.
Steelbats were harmless without their speed. There were a few managed to squeeze themselves out of the web, their fate was cruel however, as a handful of compression explosives tossed by experts shall await. Boom! Splash! The flying beast would become falling rain.
The villagers on the ground were feeling underwhelmed though, as there were hardly time where the Steelbats actually escaped their grip. So most of the villagers armed themselves with weapons made out of Lavagold, eagerly waiting for the falling Steelbats from the sky to give those nasty animals the final cut.
The spawn rate of Steelbats was too great. It felt like an endless war.
Hush... Hush.... Zoom! A queue of mechs forced out of the lump! And the escaped had spotted Sang Huo's mech at the topmost atmosphere as they sped towards him. The lump of darkness continued tumbling below them. There were also a tiny few of lone bats but those showed ignorance towards Sang Huo and his escaped brothers.
Sang Huo estimated... out of 3000 mechs, only 200 mates or so had survived. It was heart wrenching. He could feel the grief choking his breath. And they were actually armed and seated in a mech, imagine without the teacher's help, the tribe would have been a goner.
Well, at least we have survivors.
The lump of darkness was covering almost everything that could sign him direction. Sang Huo seriously was no longer able to find the location of his village.
They could still survive even if they had to live in the mech for the following days, as long as the Steelbats would continue ignoring them. They were supplied with food, made out of Twinkleblue extraction by Dr. Sang Ru Bei which Ye Chong once complimented to be as powerful as the nutrition capsules outside.
Sang Huo first flew forward, the remaining followed him on the runaway at a loss of idea, as they flew on in their own formation.
The Steelbats in their giant flock retained their aggression, as if on steroids, and every following wave was the most impulsive from them, that Sang Tie and his mates of the Explosives Team would have to tame those flies with compression explosives.
The Sang's territory was guarded, no doubt, but the mortality rate carried on rolling, so as the visiting Steelbats. It was a long fight, that it would take more than 10,000 words to write even as summary.
It had been more than 20 days, the migration still continued, and Ye Chong felt his iron nerves would snap at any second, while Sang Pu was also dispirited. The Steelbats were ever-aggressive, they seemed to have tossed their biological clock away the moment they left their nest. The Sangs were on shift, and every shift was a consuming trip, as they flew up and down, getting so worn out that they could sleep the moment the fresh breeze of the outside hit their eyelids.
Like seriously, which pilot would have a battle more than 2 hours? Which author would write a war scene on a single chapter that seems to last forever? It would drive people mad! Under such tension, such density, such aggression of enemies!
The mortality rate was rolling faster when shift happened. Sang Pu felt his heart aching at first, but fortunately as people got used to the constantly irritating process of going ups and downs, no-tension to tension, back and fro, the mortality rate slowed down.
Throughout the 20 days of high density training, the Sang villagers had transformed as they had grasped the Collision utterly. They knew the machinery so well like the back of their hands, and Ye Chong was fascinated by their self-learned capabilities.
Speaking of Ye Chong, being the dark knight, of course he would not be the spectator the whole time!
Han Jia's blades were slicing through the approaching Steelbats silently. It had always been a sudden fall of a few Steelbats to the ground, and the villagers who were planning to charge upon the birds - to their horror - realized one giant cut right on the neck.
"Ming my child, look. Sir is a slaughter-man. One painless slice and it's done. Sir is the real expert, sighs, when would we get to this standard?" Sighed one villager.
"Don't worry, you will. IN, YOUR, DREAM. I mean... we call him 'Sir' for a reason. He's a superlative figure, whom little folks like you and me could ever imitate. But well, I guess Pu and Tie those big boys could have some hope." The other villager was such a bitter tongue.
"Right... Pu and Tie were indeed the best in our village. But I personally think Fan would be the greatest of them all, since you know, he's the student of Sir himself. He learned how to make mechs with Sir, you could see his achievement very much sooner. Sighs, why am I not the chosen one back then?" The villager was feeling upset.
"I have to agree. This boney mech was sure something, even the lord of all beasts, those disgusting Steelbats could not stand against it. If it wasn't Sir, I guess the Sang would no longer exist. The Steelbats... man, they are the demon..."
"I know right...," sympathetically the villager approved the bitter-tongued.
Ye Chong was certainly more experienced than the villagers, also on a different style too. Unlike the Collisions which sped to roll, Ye Chong would only need consecutive quick blinks to assassinate his targets.
But the war had slowly changed him. A hand-on-hand battle was still the best strategy to improvise. He had enough with fancy, flashy moves against these primitives, his movements had grown simplified, his sensibility of space and strength, like to Sangs, had also improved. He also gained one precious ability - the sense of timing, which was often neglected by the people outside, including himself in the past.
He would be facing countless strikes every minute, he always was fighting a one against millions, and those were the reason he got to pick the timing. Ever since that realization, his output efficiency doubled. Sensibility of timing was a tricky thing to master, as not only difficult to word, but also difficult to comprehend, but Ye Chong did it, coincidentally on this occasion.
A technique truly exclusive to Ye Chong.
And he had also learned the power of group cooperation. He had been the lone ranger, the Solo-man, he thought he would suffice but then he witnessed what the Sangs were capable of once they got into group. So an urge to learn about that kindled inside him.
He wished to learn that and without much time longer he actually did it... at minimum output though. He still lacked that essential rapport with the villagers, which was a headache to begin with. Moreover, the villagers had been treasuring so much that he would be enveloped at the very inside. He did voice his thoughts but the words never got through. And he even got his kill stolen, at one time, finally one escaped Steelbat, he zapped towards it, going to raise his blades. And... hundreds of Collision shredded the beast.
It was as if a shout from the villagers - We Shall Protect You Sir! Touching but also... well...
On the 23rd day, yes, finally the density of the darkness decreased, everything was pumped again. The day before this, the villagers had actually started losing patience, wondering when the hell the epilogue would happen for once. It was so discouraging that if it was not their discipline, they might have tossed their spears and gone underground for the following generations perhaps.
Ye Chong was calling it a miracle, that they could last this long.
It was ending at least.
Ironically, the following wave was so intense that as if the Steelbats, after their diminishing appearance, were shouting out to the villagers, "Just Kidding!"