”I ’m in trouble! ”

”Did they all take stimulants or something? They ’re fighting to the death! ”

”AAhhhhh! Save me! ”

They suffered their first casualty soon after the sudden change.
A knight mech got surrounded by two sword-wielding pirates.
The defensive knight lacked the speed to fend off both mechs.

One of the pirates deliberately chipped away at the energy cells stored underneath its thinner rear armor.
Once the pirate struck the energy cells, they both turned into conflagrations that further disarrayed the mechs around them and even crippled the other pirate mech.

”They ’re suicidal! ”

”Calm down! ” Kanaan roared over the channel.
”Ranged mechs, suppress the pirate rifleman mechs.
Don ’t let them set off any more mechs.
Everyone else, don ’t hesitate to eject! If the pirates are eager to blow themselves up, then let ’s oblige them! ”

Kanaan ’s words stabilized the Blood Claws pilot who had been wavering in their resolve.
While it was dishonorable to eject too soon, the changes the Glowing Planet imposed on their mechs left them with little choice.
They ’d rather lose a mech and save a pilot than lose both of them for a needless cause.

Mechs continued to explode left and right, but the Blood Claws always ejected from their mechs in a timely manner.
Once the threat of mutual destruction had been taken away, the pirates fell behind, as their reckless offensive turned them into mindless savages that only knew how to attack in a straightforward way.

Raella felt like she had the time of her life.
Her nimble Sliverath easily coursed through the pirate formation and harassed them from the rear.
Often times, she aborted her attacks and spun away, which distracted her targets and even prompted a couple of them to hit their self-destruct buttons prematurely.

”Hahahaha! ” She laughed as she just finished toying with another mech who blew himself up for no reason.
”Is this all you ’ve got!? ”

”No. ”

A swordsman mech almost struck the Sliverath.
Only Raella ’s keen reflexes allowed her to juke her mech away at the last moment.
She turned her sensors and gazed at the mech that almost cut off her mech and cursed.

She faced one of the elites this time.
The command squad joined their suicidal subordinates and shored up their dwindling numbers.
Raella happened to have the bad luck to draw the personal attention of one of those mechs.

”What ’s your name? ”

”You can call me Takeru.
And who might you be, milady? ”

”Raella Larkinson. ”

The two mechs stood opposite of each other for a couple of seconds.
Eventually, Raella made the first move.
Her instincts as a mech athlete screamed at her to make the first move since she piloted the lighter mech.

The Sliverath slithered forth in an undulating trajectory that had been this model ’s hallmark.
It didn ’t offer as much speed as the Vectrix, but it made up for it in flexibility.

Raella cautiously jabbed forward with a knife, only to get deflected by a powerful counter-strike that continued to chop at the Sliverath ’s head.

Fortunately, the skirmisher mech easily contorted its frame out of the path of the sword.
Raella struck with her other knife, leaving behind a shallow nick on the arm.

”Damnit, what is your mech made of? ”

The Slitherath didn ’t feature any compressed armor, but the mech piloted by her opponent evidently did.
This placed a significant burden on her as the Slitherath had to target the same areas over and over to penetrate the tough compressed armor plating.

The dragon mech ’s pilot was no slouch either.
Takeru showed an unprecedented level of mastery in swordsmanship as the dragon mech wielded its sword in both hands with powerful, sweeping strokes.

The speed and power behind each strike left little openings for Raella to exploit despite piloting the faster mech.
Takeru ruthlessly took over her momentum and pressed the Sliverath back again and again.

”What the hell are you?! You ’re not a regular pirate! ”

”You are way too green to know how real pirates fight.
Let me show you the might of the dragons! ”

The swordsman mech unleashed a flurry of continuous blows that left the Sliverath flustered.
Both her knives kept being knocked back by the power of the rapid swirling sword strikes.
As the Sliverath braced itself for another chop, the dragon mech suddenly lashed out with a kick which ruined its balance.

The sword chopped forth and struck an ugly rent in the Sliverath ’s chest.
Only Raella ’s quick decision to go with the fall had saved her mech from being chopped apart by the shoulder.

A couple of long-ranged lasers struck the swordsman mech, but they did little but annoy it.
Dietrich sporadically fired his rifle at Takeru ’s mech, but the angle and all of the other mechs in the way made it difficult for him to suppress the elite mech.

”Hold on, Raella! Help is on the way! My buddy Fadah will buy some time for you to retreat. ”

She didn ’t want to turn her back on this opponent.
Even though Takeru outclassed her in both skill and mech, Raella wanted to prove herself as a warrior.
Picking off those weak pirates didn ’t cut it for her.

Before the dragon mech unleashed another attack, a second mech struck it from behind, forcing Takeru to abort his attack.
A slim moon-shaped phoenix shield slammed into the dragon mech ’s sword.
The impact pushed the pirate mech away and allowed the Blackbeak to position itself in front of the damaged Sliverath.

”Raella, right? Your mech is in bad shape.
You ’re in no shape to fight any further.
I ’ll hold this bastard off for you! ”

”No! ” Raella growled, and tested the responsiveness of her mech.
”I can still fight! Let ’s take him down together! ”

Her left arm had lost most of its motive power.
The damage to the shoulder had been too severe.
Raella gave up on the limb and focused solely on using the Sliverath ’s right arm to deliver her attacks.

If her mech was in better shape, she would have insisted on taking on the elite mech alone, even though the odds of victory was low.
Teaming up with Fadah had already pressed against her limits.

The Blackbeak mech shrugged and turned around to face the swordsman mech with its sword and shield.
As a slimmed down offensive knight, the Blackbeak wouldn ’t fare well if it engaged in a straightforward slugging match against the pirate mech.
Much like the Sliverath, the modified Blackbeak began to approach the dragon mech in a zig-zag and at an angle.

Fadah unleashed a couple of probing strikes, but Takeru aggressively deflected the attacks.
He proved to be well-versed in dealing with faster mechs.

Once Takeru got the measure of the Blackbeak, his dragon mech surged forward and went on the offensive.
Fadah had to rely on his shield to block most of the blows.

Before the dragon mech could press the Blackbeak further, the Slitherath quietly appeared from behind and tried to stab the dragon mech ’s vulnerable rear.

”Did you think I was blind? Your intentions are too transparent! ”

The dragon mech spun his sword in a spin that deflected the Blackbeak away and left another dangerous rent in the Sliverath ’s chest.
Raella ’s reflexes saved her mech again, if barely.

”Go away! ”

”Screw you, doghead! I ’m taking this bastard down! ”

Both Raella and Fadah found themselves in a tentative uncoordinated dance against the indomitable Takeru.
His dragon mech ’s specs exceeded the Blackbeak by a fair margin, though it still ran on energy cells so it was vulnerable to the same risks as the other machines that ran on the same source of energy.

This enabled the pair to exploit this weakness by constantly threatening to attack the rear of the dragon mech.
Even if Takeru didn ’t think much of Raella, he still had to shift his attention to deflect her latest probe.

Dietrich tried to lend a hand but he never got a clear line of sight.
The pirates had finally gotten their act together and sent out additional mechs to shore up the first wave of melee mechs.

Despite the precautions taken by the Blood Claws, mechs continued to explode in a disturbingly regular interval.
Kanaan had largely lost control over his men as everyone fought for themselves.

Only the ranged mechs maintained some sense of order as they coordinated their attacks on isolated enemies.
They didn ’t dare fire their weapons into the middle of the grand melee for fear of setting off a chain reaction.

Unfortunately, the pirates didn ’t hold as much scruples and constantly tried to aggravate the situation.
This in turn forced the Blood Claws to allocate all of their ranged mechs to suppression duty.
The pirate marksmen shouldn ’t be allowed to set off any energy cells with impunity.

Takeru ’s dragon mech suffered a few more nicks and scratches after a minute of back and forth.
Despite being outnumbered, the pirate elite possessed enough skill to fend off both of its opponents at once.

”Hahahaha! Amateurs! Both your blades are dull! Without tempering your skill through life-and-death battles, how can you call yourself a mech pilot! ”

”Shut up you criminal! ” Raella roared as she pushed her anger into her damaged mech, willing it to slide the knife in the waist of the dragon mech.
She completely forgot about the precarious risk of setting off an energy cell.

The pirate mech spun away in the nick of time.
Takeru even left another sword mark on the Blackbeak ’s chest armor.

Fortunately, the Veltrex armor system held up decently well against the power of the dragon mech ’s sword strikes.
For all of its speed and elegance, it relied mostly on technique and momentum for its bite.
By pressuring Takeru from two directions, they prevented him from building up sufficient momentum for a heavy blow.

Fadah gained more confidence and started to regain some of the initiative.
He didn ’t allow his opponent to wind up for one of his endless flurry of blows by making frequent but shallow attacks.
He even struck with the edge of his phoenix shield to knock the dragon mech out of balance.

Takeru ’s mech started to suffer.
Even Raella managed to sneak some superficial stabs in between the pirate ’s occupation with the Blackbeak.
Takeru had to devote more and more attention to fending off Fadah ’s frequent attacks.

At some point, Fadah felt something deep within him echo with the Blackbeak he piloted.
Their connection somehow crystallized in a deeper form of synchronization.
The line between man and machine started to blur, but only for an instant.

Fadah made his move in that brief window of opportunity.

The Blackbeak surged forth at the swordsman mech ’s left flank.
Takeru released a windmill chop that would have forced the Blackbeak to block with its shield.
Instead of taking the chop head-on, Fadah angled the shield in a way that put the brunt of the force on the rim of the shield.

This gave his Blackbeak enough of a push to swivel around and put more strength into its stab.
Fadah ’s sword sunk into the dragon mech ’s joints.
The thin, flexible plates of compressed armor only blunted half of the force in the stab.
The remaining power proved to be sufficient to disable the joint between the arm and the shoulder.

”NO! ”

Takeru ’s mech lost a significant amount of threat after Fadah succeeded in disabling one of its arm.
Even though the dragon mech continued to put up a good fight with one arm, the mech obviously lacked a lot of power compared to before.

This allowed Fadah to be more unscrupulous with his attacks.
The Blackbeak ’s sword and shield started to hammer the tough exterior of the dragon mech.
In contrast, Takeru could barely bite into the Blackbeak ’s Veltrex armor with his feeble sword strikes.

It didn ’t help that Fadah decided to stick his mech close to his opponent ’s machine.
The shortened distance proved ideal for the Blackbeak to attack with its one-handed sword.

The dragon mech meanwhile couldn ’t leverage enough distance to enable its longer sword to exert its full power.


The swordsman mech shuddered as Fadah shaved off an important armor plate from the dragon ’s mech chest.
Its internals became exposed.


At the same time, Raella took advantage of Takeru ’s shock by stabbing the Sliverath ’s sole knife into the shoulder blade of the dragon ’s mechs sole functioning arm.
While her knife didn ’t manage to cripple the arm, the damage it inflicted had severed a couple of minor systems, which reduced the pirate mech ’s responsiveness.

”I will not fall on this cursed planet! ”

”Oh shut up you pirate! ”

Both Raella and Fadah went for the killing blow.
The Blackbeak locked the dragon mech ’s sword with its shield while ramming the tip of its sword into the exposed chest of its opponent.
Raella meanwhile positioned the Sliverath low to the ground and sunk the knife into the dragon mech ’s knee.

Takeru ’s mech lost its footing and much of its power.
It fell down onto face.

”Get away! ” Dietrich yelled.
He ’d always been keeping an eye on their duel as he fired his laser rifle in support of other Blood Claws.
”He ’s going to blow! ”

Both mechs retreated in an instant, already bracing themselves for the inevitable blow.

Yet instead of an explosion, the dragon mech ’s cockpit ejected from the rear.
Its powerful short-ranged boosters took away Takeru away from the battle and back to the besieged pirate encampment.

”Damnit! He got away! ”

Even though the escape spoiled some of the glory, Raella still felt good about winning against her first formidable opponent.
She didn ’t mind too much that she needed help.

”Thanks for the help, dude.
Let ’s go clean up the rest. ”

The fall of an influential pirate elite rippled throughout the rest of the pirate faction.
Despite their fanaticism, the rest of the pirates couldn ’t withstand the determined Blood Claws.

Even the command squad from the Dragons of the Void suffered casualties and Raella and Fadah teamed up to dismantle them one by one.
This time, they didn ’t let their pilots eject.
They both aimed to take out the cockpit from the start.

After half an hour of intensive battle, the Blood Claws won the melee, though it cost them half of their melee mechs.

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