Hence, Ye Chong chose another route. They would fly parallel to the Calamitous Asteroid Belt. It was equivalent to making a big roundabout along the asteroid belt. While the distance was longer, they would be inside the asteroid belt throughout the journey, which made it less likely for the Three Aristocratic Families to find them.
According to Hai Lian, there were no large outposts in the Calamitous Asteroid Belt. Most of the people there were freelance pilots, and the occasional small mech pilot squad there to hunt for wild beasts. Besides, Ye Chong’s route would take them deep into the Calamitous Asteroid Belt, where people visited. Even Hai Lian, a long resident of the area, would never have travelled to such a deep part of the asteroid belt.
Ye Chong’s plan was accepted without disputes. Before the battalion took off, Ye Chong ordered for all the mechs to be painted. The skeleton material was too unique to be overlooked. If they flew the full-skeleton mechs without concealing the skeleton texture, it would only be too easy to get into trouble.
He Yue galaxy’s paint material was of a more high quality than the ones Chong had used in the Five Galaxies. It adhered well to the surface, did not peel easily, and the colours were bright and shiny. Ye Chong did not care what colour they used. That day, the Sang tribe members seemed to have been inspired overnight to become artists. Everyone painted their mechs with vigorous enthusiasm, laughing as they went about producing their very own 3D art. Sang Ling’s mech, for example, looked beautiful. It had a bright sun, shining over many of the Archipelago’s wild beasts. Her painting was lifelike and exotic. Compared to Sang Ling, however, the rest of them were not as successful. Most of their mechs were covered with patches of random colours. Together, the 5,000 mechs were an eyesore. They looked a random motley crew of inferior mechs. They looked so miserable that Hai Lian could die of shame.
Ye Chong painted his mech in a brownish dark gray. The advantage was that his mech might be mistaken for an asteroid from afar. He was far too fond of ambushing strategies to give it up.
Ye Chong even sent a few men back to the Sang Family Village to inform them of the current situation, and asked that they do not send anyone out in the short term. To the Sang Family Village, now was the time to rest and heal, and not go out wandering. The people he sent to the village also took with them a schematics diagram by Ye Chong. This was a goods transport flying vessel that he designed recently. It was modified from Collision. It had a large body, and flew slowly. However, it was suitable for transporting goods, something that the Sang tribe needed at the moment.
More importantly, the goods transport vessel was made completely of skeletons, and can travel safely through the Red Sea.
After everything was settled, the battalion set off for Gray Valley. It was a pity that they did not have a starship, or they would be able to do a warp jump and save travelling time.
Ye Chong was now deeply troubled. For the moment, they had no money at all. Nothing. Ye Chong suddenly found that this money problem that he had never worried about was now his main concern.
He needed money for a starship, or a dimension keystone, or a comms device …
Ye Chong was poor as
a pauper. If he was not together with this large battalion, he would have just robbed some rich household. However, now that they needed to lay low, with the Three Aristocratic Families onto them like mad, robbing was out of the question.
In fact, it was not only Ye Chong who was poor. The rest of the Sang tribe members had no money too. They looked at the eight people who followed Ye Chong into the city, using their dimension keystones to magically withdraw their mechs, and were so very jealous. Once they found out that this magical device could be bought with money, all of them became obsessed with this thing called "money".
They even suggested robbing that mech parts store. They even formed a detailed and complete action plan, but were disappointed when the good sir rejected it. Hai Lian was frustrated, since the plan had actually won the approval of everyone else before it was presented to Ye Chong.
Were these people pirates? Hai Lian felt that he himself, not entirely angelic in his behaviour, looked pure and innocent compared to them.
However, once he saw Ye Chong rejecting their plan decisively, he was slightly relieved. It seemed that the leader still had a good heart. However, Ye Chong’s next comment was like a blow to his head, "The time isn’t right. Plan’s too crude. Rejected."
After that, Hai Lian watched stupidly at Sang Pu and the rest as they discussed on ways to improve their robbing operation.
On the other hand, Hai Lian was also annoyed that the holographic scanning system and comms device on his Moonlight were removed and reinstalled onto Sang Pu’s Collision. Moonlight’s photon processor was also moved to Sang Fan’s mech. Looking at the almost bare Moonlight, Hai Lian could feel his heart bleeding in pain. Besides, he could not fly Moonlight himself, but had to sit in with Sang Tie, that savage man. Sang Tie had a strong body odour that threatened to kill off his sense of smell. Just when did the guy last shower? Hai Lian wanted to cry.
"What a bunch of savages!" Again and again, he cursed the Sang tribe members in his heart.
Soon, however, Ye Chong gave the order to move out. 5,000 Collision mechs began to advance based on the designated trajectory.
Hai Lian found it odd that the savages seemed to know the Calamitous Asteroid Belt well. They easily evaded the asteroids time and again. The difficult journey that he expected was surprisingly going on smoothly.
He did not know, of course, that their demonstrated ease was because they had gone through for worse territories.
The only thing that made the Sang tribe members uncomfortable was the fact that there were more wild animals here than in Archipelago. While the animals here were weaker than their Archipelago counterparts, they were still quite a handful. Many dead animals were left in their wake as they continued the designated trajectory.
The entire battalion’s combat power was shocking to Hai Lian. If all those wild animals were sold to the right traders, the market price for those animals would plummet to a historical low.
"These are all money …" Hai Lian was pained at the missed opportunity. However, looking at the indifferent expressions of the Sang tribe members, he hesitated. What would happen if they know that the animals could be sold for money? In the end, he kept his mouth shut. Getting to Gray Valley was their top priority right now. If the battalion lost control at this point, it would be disastrous.
The way he saw it, the entire battalion was made of up uninitiated savages, with the exception of that half-civilized leader. Fortunately, these savages demonstrated commendable discipline, and obeyed their leader without question.
Still, after so many days of flight, he began to realise some interesting and surprising details about the members that formed this battalion, people that he called savages.
The Calamitous Asteroid Belt was an irregular territory, but the entire battalion had advanced without slowing down. As he sat beside Sang Tie throughout, he could see Sang Tie’s every move as the man maneuvered his mech. The truth was, this was his first time seeing such a primitive control lever. However, this primitive control lever, controlled by these savages, could fly the mechs with incredible precision and flexibility.
On the surface, the flying machine was as simple and primitive as anything could possibly be. However, after sitting in one for so many days, Hai Lian felt like he would probably punch anyone who dared to say that.
This flying machine was anything but primitive! It could fly up to Mach 20. What mech model could do that? Besides, it could fly on for a few weeks without the need to replenish its energy supply. Where can anyone find a mech like that in the market? With a holographic scanning system, a comms device and some long range weapons, the flying machine would be formidable. Besides, these mech parts would all be found in the market readily and in all kinds. With money, they could be installed instantly.
As for these people, Hai Lian was embarrassed that he had thought of them as savages.
Without comms devices in their flying machines, they could not communicate with each other. Even so, they had maintained formation for weeks. The flight was long and boring, a test of one’s mental fortitude, much less when they could not speak with each other. If it was Hai Lian, he would probably go crazy. However, none of these people had complained.
These people obeyed their orders without question. They were determined warriors, with excellent combat intuition and coordination. They were undeniably the best soldiers one could find.
Often Hai Lian compared them with himself, and felt all the more self-conscious.
These people had demonstrated admirable flying skills. The space around them was scattered with floating rocks, but they had never slowed down. None of them were injured so far. Besides, despite the long journey, they did not look tired at all.
Hai Lian discovered new things about these so-called savages every day, and his attitude towards them changed in response.
Since Sang Pu’s mech now had a holographic scanning system, he was in charge of scouting their trajectory ahead.
The journey was uneventful so far. The place was deserted, and they had not met a single mech up till now.
"Oh, you see mechs?" Ye Chong asked, curious. With a comms device, Sang Pu could now communicate with him easily.
Sang Pu replied steadily, "Yes, 62 of them. But they’re surrounded by wild beasts. It doesn’t look good."
"62 mechs …" Ye Chong wondered, but quickly replied, "Have they seen you?"
"No. We were careful, they did not notice us," Sang Pu said.
Ye Chong thought about it, and asked, "How long can they last?"
"About 20 minutes." Sang Pu’s reply was concise.
"Alright, let’s surround them first. Wait for further orders." Ye Chong gave the orders. He had to see the mechs for himself.
"Yes sir," Sang Pu replied. Immediately, the signal lights on both sides of Sang Pu’s mech blinked rhythmically, passing down Ye Chong’s orders.
Silently, the entire battalion split up into hundreds of smaller squads, like a river branching out into countless smaller streams, flowing between the floating rocks. Everyone was excited. These days, they were only flying and flying. The squad ahead of the main battalion, responsible for clearing the wild animals fared better, but they did their work too efficiently. The rest of the battalion did not see so much as an animal hair throughout the flight. Now that there were orders coming, how could they not be excited? Even their movements turned sharper.
"Hah, action, finally." Hai Lian nearly jumped at Sang Tie’s loud voice.
"Action?" Hai Lian asked, still blurry from his sleep.
"Hehe, after all these days of d*mn waiting, there’s finally some action." Sang Tie rubbed his hands together, his eyes positively shining with enthusiasm. However, Hai Lian could not see past the ferocity that was also present in him. He shuddered, no longer in the mood for sleep.
The signal lights continued blinking, and the mech squads flew to their positions in an orderly manner. In just a short moment, they had the 62 mechs surrounded, including the beasts around them.
The situation was now in his control, so Ye Chong began to study the mechs and the wild beasts.