The Vesians ramped up the pressure against the Flagrant Swordmaidens. The Meandering Monkey mechs not only risked greater injury in an attempt to seriously harm the scouts of the Flagrant Swordmaidens, the light mechs of the Hostland Warriors also started showing up again.
"The Vesians are gearing up for battle!"
"The Meandering Monkeys stopped pussy-footing around. They're trying to fell our mechs!"
The exhausted light mechs of the Flagrant Swordmaidens suffered quite a lot in the preceding days. Not only did Ves have to send the light mechs back into the field with hasty patch-up repairs, the mech pilots themselves underwent a huge amount of pressure.
Casualties started to mount. Mechs not only sustained serious damage, but also got wrecked!
Fortunately, the mech pilots ejected in time, causing no lives to be lost, but the Vesian light mechs always pounded the downed wrecks into scrap before they left.
This meant that even if Vandal or Swordmaiden reinforcements arrived to save the beleaguered squads, the wrecks became completely unrecoverable. Every time they dumped their wrecks in front of Ves, he could only shake his head in helplessness and relegate the remains for recycling.
The visible decline of the Vandal and Swordmaiden light mechs ratcheted up the tension inside the camp. As the prelude of the decisive battle, the frequent skirmishes between the scout mechs sort of served the same purpose as a duel between champions before a major set piece battle.
Even though the victory or loss of a single champion didn't substantially affect the combat effectiveness of either side, in fact it carried huge implications in terms of morale!
Right now, the 'duel' between the Vesian and Flagrant Swordmaiden light mechs stretched out over days, prolonging the hurt for the losing side. Bad news constantly poured in while good news made itself scarce.
Since the camp wasn't very large and everyone could see the damaged light mechs returning from their patrols, the outcome of the skirmishes became obvious to everyone with a pair of eyes.
Ves figured that the opposite must be taking place at the Vesian camp. Each time the Meandering Monkeys and the Hostland Warriors returned from their harassment missions, they'd probably show off their exploits with the full blessing of their superiors.
Such actions actions built up morale and pumped the other Vesian mech pilots up for battle.
Therefore, the change in morale from one side may not be alarming, but when the differences compounded on each other, the total effect was alarming!
"The Vesians are systematically dismantling us, starting with our confidence. Trashing our light mechs is only a means to an end to them! Devious bastards!"
The worst part about all of this was that even if the Vandals and Swordmaidens knew what the Vesians intended, what could they do? If they pulled back their light mech patrols and turtled close to the camp, wouldn't that let the Vesians obtain a detailed view of their combat assets?
Not only that, the Vesians could easily pepper the camp with long-ranged laser fire, damaging the workshops and other critical facilities.
Therefore, even if the Flagrant Swordmaidens knew they were getting screwed, they were forced to play along, because every alternative at their disposal led to even worse outcomes!
"The Vesians are prepping us for the chopping block."
"Damnit, why don't they attack already?! Put an end to our suffering!"
"I don't know why we're turtling up. Why don't we go on the attack?"
"Idiot! Who would go on the attack while we're completely blind? We'll only fall into their trap if we rush out with haste!"
Even if Captain Byrd made the rational and most cautious decision by maintaining the status quo, she unintentionally gave the impression that she lack a spine.
The Vandals never let their enemies treat them as a punching bag! It was usually the opposite way around!
The instinct to attack was engraved into their martial tradition. Maintaining a static position and going on the defensive directly contradicted their usual conduct on the battlefield.
Usually, the Flagrant Vandals possessed the initiative to attack or retreat at will. This time, the mission forced them on a Super Earth where everyone's mobility faced extreme constraints. The entire environment fought them from the start, causing them to fall into this helpless position where their strengths never came into play while their weaknesses became exposed to their enemies.
Lydia's Swordmaidens shared the same characteristics as the Vandals. While they were a bit more used to trekking across untamed planets, even they underestimated the amount of rigors they needed to endure on Seven.
All of these deprivations severely impacted their morale and sapped their confidence in themselves. The Swordmaidens at least endured many crises before, and their training increased their willpower to insane heights, so they still held faith in themselves.
The Vandals on the other hand tumbled down as if they lost control of their legs. Ves really couldn't stand it. They were so confident and conceited when they faced a weak opponent, but once they faced a serious Vesian threat they immediately turned into scaredy cats.
This was a typical mindset of bullying the weak and fearing the strong!Find authorized novels in Webnovel，faster updates, better experience，Please click www.webnovel.com for visiting.
Captain Byrd belatedly became aware of the problem impacting the men, but what could she do? Raising morale had never been much of a concern to her, and her stilted, awkward speeches increased their doubt rather than assuaging it.
More critically, the Vandals lacked the only competent mech officer who could prop up everyone's morale. The absence of Captain Orfan as a mental cornerstone to their confidence couldn't come at a worse time.
They shouldn't have been so eager to send away the exploration and follow-up parties without securing the main camp!
Now, due to the mishaps that Captain Orfan, Qilanxo, the fast transports, the Enduring Protectors and the Asterias suffered when they came too close to Starlight Megalodon, the Flagrant Swordmaidens faced the prospect of entering into battle without their help!
Even though the Vesian mechs abandoned their previous efforts to conserve their energy in order to pressure the Flagrant Swordmaidens, they couldn't keep up their wasteful actions forever.
At some point, the Vesians needed to pull the trigger. And that time almost dawned upon the Flagrant Swordmaidens.
Some of the more perceptive mech officers smelled the critical moment arriving, and they all summed up what courage they had left in preparation for the most critical battle in their careers.
Ves worked hard to prep the mechs for an imminent battle. He didn't even have to whip the mech technicians into shape anymore, because they knew as well as anyone how their work might tip the balance of the upcoming clash!
During one of his rare breaks, Ves suddenly received an unexpected visitor. He immediately decided to meet him in a closed office with his signal jammer encompassing the entire space.
"From the looks of your face, Jimmy, it looks as if you have something urgent to say."
Ves didn't have the time to concern himself with other matters lately, so he stopped meeting with Talkative Jimmy. Nonetheless, the urgency in which Jimmy sought a meeting alarmed Ves a bit.
"My boys and I kept tabs on a couple of shifty fellows. While we haven't caught them doing anything that crosses the line, some of them are making suspicious movements."
"Does that include our resident expert pilot?"
"Venerable Xie is preoccupied with the repair efforts on his mech. He hasn't been doing anything lately, but his sycophants are keeping close."
That didn't mean the foreign expert pilot sat still. Ves narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "What does your intuition tell you?"
While Talkative Jimmy may be a good-for-nothing when it came to performing his regular duties, Ves couldn't fault his people skills. Everyone excelled at something, and a person like Jimmy was a good judge of character.
Ves even believed that Talkative Jimmy may be an agent of Flashlight, though the man was far too incompetent in other areas. Either he played up his role extremely well or he was simply who he appeared to be. Ves couldn't judge either way.
"My gut tells me his abrupt change in pattern is due to something new." Talkative Jimmy said with a grave voice. If not for the signal jammer, he wouldn't have dared to voice any doubt about the expert pilot. "You know what I reckon? I bet some Vesian spy managed to infiltrate our camp and somehow turned our own expert pilot! He was never fully into the Vandals anyway, and his behavior during our march across the planet has always been rather shifty. There's something wrong about him, I'm absolutely certain!"
"That's a grave accusation to make. Do you have any proof?" Ves asked.
"No. It's just my gut feeling, but I'm not the only one who feels that way. Every buddy of mine who kept an eye on Venerable feels the same way. The man just keeps to himself all this time and isn't taking any action so far. Don't you feel that's weird?"
Ves paused for a bit. Now that he thought about it, even Venerable O'Callahan wouldn't have ignored the perilous drop in morale. While expert pilots generally tended to be aloof and difficult to reach in order to prevent being swamped by rabid fans,
"In situations like this, a hero like Venerable Xie should have propped us up. Instead of holing up in his Pale Dancer, he should have been out and among the men." Ves surmised. "His inaction runs counter against the interests of the Vandals."
That didn't mean Venerable Xie intended to stab the Vandals in the back, but it showed a disconcerting lack of effort on his part to reverse the declining trend. Expert pilots served as the trump cards of a powerful mech regiments. Besides their roles as supreme battle operators, they also served as symbols.
Perhaps the Vandals merely chalked up his inaction to his foreignness or his lack of adaptation to working with a mech regiment, but Jimmy thought otherwise.
Ves trusted his intuition a lot, and right now it indicated that Jimmy believed in his words. Yet could Ves rely on Jimmy's intuition to be accurate as well?
The entire crux of the situation rested on whether Jimmy's guesses and hearsay possessed any merit. Could Ves really take Jimmy's word that Venerable Xie may be plotting something detrimental?
"Do you have a man on the inside?" Ves asked.
"No way." Jimmy shook his head. "I tried sending some of my buddies, but that foreigner is really strict about accepting people in his circle. We tried for months but none of us managed to earn his trust."
That limited their options enormously. At this point, Ves wanted to access the neural interfaces of the Pale Dancer and the customized simulator pod in order to wipe away the evidence of his misdeeds. No matter what happened in the upcoming battle, Ves truly couldn't leave behind any trace of the work he did at Major Verle's request.
"I need access to his mech." Ves said simply. "Can you get me there?"
Jimmy frowned. "Aren't you the head designer? Why don't you just walk up there?"
Ves couldn't explain how Venerable Xie likely regarded Ves with distrust. Perhaps his actions directly led to Venerable Xie deciding to turn his coat!
After a few more minutes of hushed discussion, Jimmy left the office without any resolution. Neither Ves nor Jimmy came up with any response against the possibility of betrayal by their own expert pilot.
While Jimmy already told Ves that he and his 'buddies' already had something in store for the other shifty fellows, there was no way they could touch an expert pilot.
It also didn't help that Venerable Xie practically ate and slept inside the cockpit of the Pale Dancer. The man acted with the utmost caution and never left his mech with the excuse that he would be able to jump into battle at any time.
To Ves, the expert pilot may be on guard against any attempts at further perverting the Pale Dancer's neural interface. As long as Veneraable Xie practically slept on top of it, there was no way Ves could sneak in and adulterate the neural interface any further!
The visit from Jimmy warned Ves that the time for indecision was over.
He needed to pull the trigger before the matter blew up in his face.