Meng Tian was stumped. In the instant that Zhuo Mu drew back, she moved reflexively to attack. When she realised it was a feint, it was too late. Against the Demon Wolf's agility, the only way for the Hunter Type III to maintain its distance was to predict the opponent's movements and move pre-emptively to respond.
Even more crucially, when the Demon Wolf had closed in for the kill, she tried to stave it off with her guns instead of switching to her titanium blades.
Zhuo Mu smiled. "Meng Tian did well. If only she had been more decisive, she might not have lost. No matter how good one's long range capabilities are, enemies will always target the weak points in battle. One should never depend too heavily on one's forte."
The onlookers nodded. To be all-rounded was a necessity. A forte was useful for the offense, but being a balanced fighter might save your life.
Zhang Shan realised it as well. Although Meng Tian had seemingly spotted her chance, it was actually Zhuo Mu's trap. He had lulled Meng Tian into relying on her long-range weapons, and his sudden advance had surprised her into forgetting about switching to her titanium blades for the defence.
Meng Tian's close combat skills were actually satisfactory. If she had fought, she could've dealt excessive damage to mech.
"That's too stingy!"
Luomu smacked her head. "What do you know? This kind of lesson leaves the deepest memories. Anyway, it's not stingy. In the end, we can't keep the mecha undamaged, but this is not the time to wreck them."
Since everybody was just beginning to test out mech fighting, the key was to practice combinations, to gain as much experience as possible. To do their four mecha justice, they should only risk further irreparable damage when they were fully trained.
Zhang Runan burrowed into her mech with a rumble. Her balanced Bata Type V looked formidable.
Zhuo Mu coughed. "Zhang Runan, today you will continue to practice control over your concentration."
Zhuo Mu could take no more. He knew his students' standards were paltry, but his hands had already started to become sore. The last two matches had been showy. Zhang Shan's ability had brought the Beast Type III to its full potential. Although he had gone easy, the stress of using the Demon Wolf Type V was unbelievably huge. Furthermore, to unnerve Meng Tian's calm demeanour required every trick he knew in his prime…
In short, this bunch of kids were good seeds. Although they seemed lackluster at first, Zhuo Mu desired to train them. Those highly born lauded what they had. Even if he had to sacrifice everything, he swore to unhorse them. It was just… he needed to rest and conserve his energy for tomorrow.
Zhang Runan nodded. Although she was itching to go, she stood at one side and commenced her control training.
Zhang Shan opened his newly added shield and walked his newly-repaired Beast Type III into the training arena. He watched Zhang Runan's control training.
To use a mech to hold a chicken egg…
"Formidable Sister Nan, I've tried it too. It is impossible," Zhang Shan said.
Meng Tian smiled. "After you become experienced, you must do this training as well."
"Even without Ability X?" Zhang Shan was wide-eyed with surprise.
Paff! Luomu, who had just finished maintenance on the Hunter mech, had come over to slap Zhang Shan heartily on the back. "Haven't you heard the proverb that 'stupid birds had better fly first'? What are you doing, still mucking about here. Have you accomplished today's goals? Meng Tian, your mech is ready."
Meng Tian nodded. She also wanted to begin Ability X control training and attain comparable power to Zhang Runan. The power of frost, the ability to use G materials… Yet there were upsides and downsides. Transmitting power through a mech led to a great expenditure of energy. A normal human body could emit 10 minutes worth of Ability X. On a mech, this became 30 seconds. Conversely, 10 minutes of forceful control outside of the mech translated to a much longer time inside.
Zhang Shan expressed indifference, but he felt envious. Unfortunately, one's Ability X was innate. If you had it, you had it. If you did not, no amount of prayer would get you any. All Zhang Shan could do was think of his idol, Dide, the strongest mech pilot without Ability X.
Actually, Wang Zheng had no Ability X either. He immediately felt better.
At this time, Zhang Shan actually missed Wang Zheng a little. He missed his sharp insights which had always bettered his performance substantially.
Zhang Shan was always hard on himself. When a person achieved singular focus on something, they should charge for the summit and stop only when they were done. Hunger? Hungry people were motivated people.
If one's actions were too obvious, then finer control should be trained. The Beast advanced swiftly in small stutter-steps. One easily got lost in one's footwork during battle. Lighter mecha used a butterfly step, but in the hands of a novice it looked like an elephant learning ballet. Nevertheless, Zhang Shan was slowly beginning to find his rhythm.
Once Zhuo Mu left, Zhang Shan could sit still no longer. He would challenge… Sister Zhang Runan.
Real men were strongest when they battled!
"Come at me then, Mountain Maiden," Zhang Runan beckoned.
"'Brother Nan', will you call me 'Brother Shan' if I win?" Zhang Runan was undoubtedly stronger than himself, but Zhang Shan was looking for a little extra motivation.
"We'll talk about it if you ever win."
"Alright! Here I come!"
With a deafening rumble, Zhang Shan went in guns blazing. Five minutes later, he was on his back.
Zhang Shan struggled for clarity amidst the chaos. "Damn it, you can't play like that, it's against the rules!"
Clearly, Zhang Runan had used her Ability X in that instant. No matter how formidable the Bata Type V was, it could not possibly have withstood the brunt of a full-speed charge from the Hunter Type III.
Zhang Runan's voice drifted down from the mech above. "Why can't I use power that I have? IG is not a place that cares about 'fairness'. I'm just teaching you this earlier for your own good."
This pompous reasoning was so outrageous that it left Zhang Shan speechless. Yet in the second phase of IG, those who had Ability X clearly would not hold back.
The corner of Meng Tian's mouth twitched in a rare smile.
"Wait a moment. It can't be just me that gains such a good experience. Meng Tian should try it as well. I can also observe what a battle between Ability X users looks like."
A cool observer's gaze saw clearer than one engaged in the heat of battle. Zhang Shan understood this. To defeat an enemy, one had to understand them better than themselves."
"It's doable. But you had best clear the arena and observe from the viewing platform," Zhang Runan said. The two had planned to clash anyway.
"Alright." Zhang Shan moved his mech into the depot and handed it back over to Luomu for repairs and recharging, then he ascended the adjacent viewing platform.
Meng Tian smiled slightly. In truth, she too wanted to test her own ability. The Hunter charged onto the arena.
Zhang Runan took on a more ready stance, unlike the relaxed posture she had against Zhang Shan.
Meng Tian's Hunter was abnormally calm. Her gun barrels drooped ever so slightly. Suddenly, they rose and fired!
A quick succession of three aimed shots in the shape of a triangle.
Zhang Runan dodged from side to side. She bent at the waist to reduce her stature, predicting Meng Tian's firing volume and aim. Only one burst grazed her energy shield, depleting three percent of its energy.
Zhang Runan no longer hid her high frequency butterfly step. She had dedicated the last few days to practicing this surprising footwork and had brought it to bear now. Bang! The Bata Type V danced like a butterfly in the hail of bullets. Although the energy shields were depleted, only grazes were sustained, and the damage taken was minimal.
When her energy had fallen by close to 20 percent, the Bata Type V suddenly leaped up, closing in on Meng Tian with titanium blades glinting.
Forcing her into close combat, Meng Tian's weakness…
But with a flash of lightning and sparks, Meng Tian calmly threw down her railgun and drew her own titanium blades. Although she was more used to long range weapons, she could hold her own with a blade.
Her Frost ability was equally good in close combat.
Zhang Ruan's power was the genuine thing. Neither party was looking to show off, but were simply curious as to the outcome when Ability X users clashed.
The titanium blades clashed deafeningly. Zhang Runan felt a wave of chill sweep over her and numb her body slightly. She could not hold back a shiver. Meng Tian, on the other hand, had to deal with a huge surge of energy coming her way.
Both titanium blades lost control simultaneously, flying away…
But Zhang Runan's strength was prodigious. After being hit with a blast of Frost ability, she lost her aim.
One titanium blade flew towards the entrance. At this very moment, Zhang Shan ran out from the viewing room.
Zhang Shan felt that he would get a better view and feel for the battle.
Eyes widening, he saw a huge blade flying towards him. Damn! This could instantly turn him into paste.
He tried to respond, but the huge titanium blade flew with a vicious wind that paralysed him with fear.
Zhang Runan and Meng Tian screamed in unison. They would never have even dreamed that such a situation would occur, and it was too late to intervene.
Kablam! The huge titanium knife gouged a huge streak and was embedded in the wall.
Crash! Rubble rained onto the floor.
Zhang Runan and Meng Tian jumped out of their mecha. "Zhang Shan!"
Luomu came running from behind as well, face ashen. How could such a thing have happened?
Meng Tian and Zhang Runan were white as a sheets as well. Their eyes were red, and they were on the verge of rushing over.
From the side, a voice came. "Fuck! Almost peed my pants there."
Was standing five meters to the right of the door with a sour expression on his face. His legs were quivering uncontrollably, and he had to hold the wall to support himself upright.
This... How could this be possible!?!?!
What on earth had just happened?
Meng Tian and Zhang Runan exchanged glances. Ability X!
How was this possible?
Zhang Shan pinched his face, then slapped himself vehemently to calm himself.
He had never thought about death seriously before. But in that moment of life and death, with death in front of his eyes, his feet were rooted to the ground..
"Could we have been mistaken?" Zhang Runan frowned.
"Zhang Shan, you... how did you do it?" Meng Tian's look was filled with shock.
"Do? Do what?" Zhang Shan's entire body felt weak as cotton. So much for laughing at death. Damn it, he wanted to become a mecha pilot, but he wanted to be a hero, not a martyr.
"I remember you were clearly just standing at the entrance, how could you have reached the side in a flash?"
"Did I? Beats me. I thought I was dead... Could it have been a hallucination?"
Luomu was shocked speechless as well. "Let's view the recording."
In the control room, all four were anxious and impatient. Could they have seen wrongly? What had happened?
In the video, it was clear. After the clash, the titanium blade had flown towards Zhang Shan. In its trajectory, Zhang Shan was dead without doubt.
The titanium blade reached right in front of Zhang Shan. It had just begun to slice his forehead when Zhang Shan actually disappeared.