The city was really too crowded, so there were many people of all sorts of affiliations spying on each other.
He didn ’t trust the hotel, the wireless net signals or even the open air to be clear of spying eyes.

Meanwhile, the gauntlet reached the endgame as the finish line was in sight.
Hans valiantly squeezed the Drake through many tight spots, though his enemies accumulated at his heels.
The light mechs posed a great problem to him as they were impossible to shake off for long.
Only through taking creative routes such as crashing through thin structures could Hans stay ahead of the baying wolves.

Its shield blocked so many shots and sword attacks that it collapsed at a critical moment when the Drake defended against a pair of knights.
While Hans crippled the left knight, the right mech was able to hack off the undefended shield arm.
The Drake explosively retreated in order to buy time for Hans to adjust his mech ’s posture.
He was barely able to escape getting enveloped by hopping inside a large parking complex.

Ves ’ heart dropped at the crippling blow.
While the Drake already made it far into the gauntlet, he wasn ’t certain it would be enough to pass the qualifier.
Besides prodigies like Patricia and Edwin, there were at least 5 other geniuses who graduated from renowned institutions of second-rate states competing.

”Come on, Hans.
You can do it. ” He gripped his fist, hoping that his efforts in incorporating the X-Factor in the Drake could make a difference, even if he hadn ’t noticed anything so far.

The Drake remained immobile as Hans tried to vent as much heat as possible during the pause.
The mech stopped glowing in the dark, and the reduced heat slightly increased all of the mech ’s parameters.
As Hans mentally prepared for the end sprint, a group of light mechs abruptly sniffed him out of the parking lot.

The powerful raptor legs exploded into action.
The Drake took the light mechs by surprise by hopping into range, letting the mech ruthlessly cut them down with a couple of quick sword strikes.
The Drake bashed aside the falling mechs and ran out into the streets.

Dozens of mechs converged around the Drake.
No matter where Hans turned, he always confronted at least four or five mechs.
As his maneuvering space got smaller, the enemies achieved more hits.
His armor flaked off and his power reactor started to sputter.
However, the engines were well protected so they kept running at full tilt while the Drake ’s powerful raptor legs maintained a steady gait even with half of its armor in tatters.

Hans hacked and slashed at his opposition with unprecedented ferocity.
He even started kicking and shoulder bashing the mechs in his way, all to create openings to escape.
The amount of mechs that crowded around him grew so large that they started to block each other ’s efforts.

The Drake, desperate to break through the mob of mechs, sprinted forwards and used its powerful legs to jump.
The sudden action practically broke the remainder of the mech ’s leg armor.
The Drake landed awkwardly atop a puzzled mech, crunching it with the weight of a mech ’s fall.
It opened up sufficient space for Hans to slip past and reach the last 100 meters of the gauntlet.

A sniper round cut the unarmored ankle of the Drake, finally felling the mech at the last moment.
Everyone let out gasps of appreciation and disappointment.
The Drake managed to come so far, outshining almost every other contestant.
However, its scores took a big hit if it failed to reach the end of the gauntlet, which was a giant pity.

”Not yet.
It ’s not done yet! ” Ves thought as he gripped his fists so tight he squeezed all of the blood out.
He kept mentally praying for Hans to pull a miracle.
”There ’s still more you can do with a single leg. ”

It turned out that the Drake wasn ’t out of the picture yet.
Amazingly, the mech threw away its sword and bent forward.
It used its single remaining arm to support the mech ’s upper body.
Hans awkwardly piloted the two-limbed mech forward.
Its intact leg hopped forward with powerful force, while the arm kept the mech ’s forward portion from crashing on the ground.
With each misaligned hop, the mech awkwardly neared the finish line even though the arm took more damage from the stresses of carrying so much weight.

The sniper shot again, this time taking off half the Drake ’s arm.
Hans couldn ’t avoid falling forward, yet he kept fighting defeat by practically crawling his mech forward.
Only several meters separated victory from defeat, and even as other mechs fired potshots at the Drake, the crippled mech wriggled its remaining leg in a way that allowed the Drake to slide past the line.

The entire crowd was speechless.
Even the presenter looked dumbfounded at the Drake ’s incredible integrity and Hans ’ brilliant performance.

contestant Ves Larkinson has designed a magnificent piece of work.
The Drake has officially conquered the gauntlet! Congratulations! ”

The applause Ves received reached the level of Patricia ’s.
Many contestants and spectators looked at him with a renewed eye.
This gratified Ves, though he didn ’t let the praising contestants coming up to congratulate him get to his head.
He participated in this contest in order to make himself known to potential customers.
Already Ves started to eye the couple of servicemen and mercenaries in the crowd.

”Hmm, it ’s not time yet.
Let ’s wait until I officially passed the qualifiers. ”

Most of the other mechs that went through the gauntlet after that failed to excite the crowd.
It trudged on, and besides the contestants whose mechs were on display, Ves was growing bored.
He had seen most of the varieties of mechs by now, and many designers failed to think out of the box, resulting in many similar mechs coming out one after another.
Well, if Ves hadn ’t benefited from the System, he ’d probably design a similarly crappy mech as well with his once-horrible 0.3 Creativity score.

After a couple of excitements involving the mechs designed by the geniuses, the end results were clear.
The presenter enthusiastically announced the 8 lucky designers that could go on to the main stage of the YTE this afternoon.

”-and the sixth place goes to Ves Larkinson! ”

”Congrats pal! I already knew you ’d win! ” Carlos hugged Ves tightly.

Ves kept a small smile on his face as he basked in his first victory.
If he couldn ’t make it this far with the help of the System, he had no reason to be here in the first place.
It was a sure thing to pass the qualifiers.

As for the main event, he was not so sure.
Both Edwin and Patricia were strong, while the rest of the contestants who studied abroad couldn ’t be underestimated either.
Still, two of them slipped up during the qualifications, causing Hans to fail before he reached the end of the gauntlet with their mechs.

The next phase of the design contest happened in the afternoon while the mech pilot competition ended its semifinals.
The start of the design competition would be put on the front stage in front of a live audience of thousands.
His face and image would also be projected to the rest of the Bright Republic, which was an unprecedented glory for him as he never really excelled in anything before.

He sighed at the happenings.
”No wonder so many of my colleagues chase after fame and fortune.
It not only feels great, it ’s also good for business. ”

While the crowd started to disperse, Ves already turned on his meager business charm as he walked over a group of idle mercenaries.
Hopefully he could generate some interest for his product to these battle-hardened men and women.

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