Besides Commander Lydia's personal mech, the Swordmaidens lost all of their Silver Valencias. Their combined suicide attacks subjected the Belisarius to an enormous amount of damage, yet the expert mech hadn't suffered any harm!
From the force of the explosions that the sensors observed, Ves estimated that it should have stood a decent chance at crippling the Pale Dancer. Yet this enormous sacrifice was in vain as the Belisarius only lost its laser carbine.
This time, even the Swordmaidens quaked. This Belisarius was too perverse of a mech!
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Venerable Foster outright ignored Commander Lydia and turned around to storm at the Vandal and Swordmaiden mechs fighting in the center. Like a wolf among sheep, her Belisarius reaped the lives of those she considered pirates without holding much back!
The Belisarius moved with power and gusto, showcasing the power behind its frame. It was not only an unkillable bulwark of a mech, it also possessed enough strength to cut through medium mech armor with a single sweep of its sword!
Venerable Foster felled mechs by the second, paying little attention to what came in the way of her mech. She utilized the most fundamental sword moves instead of any transcendent techniques empowered by resonance.
Nonetheless, her killing efficiency was extremely dreadful as her simple-looking but extremely sharp and sturdy sword cut through every mech even if she slashed through the thickest chest armor portion of a mech!
"Spread out! Don't fight against the Belisarius! Storm the Vesians and take them down with you! For the Republic!"
"For the Republic!"
The Vandals collected themselves and adopted the most appropriate tactic in the face of this indomitable expert mech. Since they couldn't kill the Belisarius even if they threw more than a thousand mechs at it, then they might as well focus on her comrades instead!
The Hostland Warriors faced a renewed offensive as the Vandal mechs suddenly fought as ferociously as the Swordmaidens. While the Warriors became extraordinarily valiant when battling alongside Venerable Foster, the Flagrant Swordmaidens took extreme risks in order to take down their opponents.
Many times, they traded wounds, attempting to down the Warrior mechs at the cost of their own!
More sinisterly, the Vandals and Swordmaidens aimed most of their attacks at the cockpit area! The Hostland Warriors could forget about ejecting from their downed mechs so that they could live to fight another day. The Flagrant Swordmaidens wanted them to bleed!
In ordinary circumstances, mech pilots didn't specifically aim at the cockpits of their opponents due to several reasons. First, depending on their enmity, they didn't wish to escalate the killing. Replacing a mech was just a matter of spending more money, but replacing a trained mech pilot could be inordinately difficult at some times.
Second, mech regiments that gained a reputation for bloodthirstiness easily attracted retaliation. Those who dish it out should always accept that someone else might dish the same in return. Some conflicts never inflicted much casualties on both sides because they formed a gentleman's agreement not to go too far with regards to killing mech pilots.
Third, the cockpit was one of the most protected portions of a mech. The higher the quality of a mech, the higher the degree of protection. In order to win a battle in the most efficient manner possible, a mech pilot only had to disable a mech, and that could be done in easier ways than targeting the cockpit.
However, the war between the Bright Republic and the Vesia Kingdom long surpassed those limits. The unending hatred between the two states led both of them to target the opposite's mech pilots whenever possible.
This was because the manpower for mech pilots only ran so far! The Vandals aiming at the cockpits of their Vesian counterparts knew that they would never be able to survive this battle or its aftermath, so they wanted to make their sacrifices meaningful and contribute to the war effort.
The faster one side began to run short on mech pilots, the closer it came to defeat!
As for the Swordmaidens, they didn't think that much. They merely wanted to prey on the lives of the Warrior mechs because of spite. They never slacked off their killing intent even against rival pirate gangs. The crazier they fought, the more their reputation glowed!
"The battle is going downhill for us." A staff officer announced.
"The Belisarius should have expended a lot of energy, right? How much longer can it fight like this?"
"I estimate that the Belisarius can fight at least an hour or two." Ves analyzed. "The expert mech looks like it is fighting intensely, but in truth it isn't performing at its peak performance right now. In fact, Venerable Foster even halved the strength of her mech's energy field to save energy."
With this decision alone, she basically expressed that she didn't need to be on guard when fighting against the riffraff in her way!
Those in the command center witnessed the frigid battle with fading eyes. They could read the progress of the battle as well as anyone.
They were losing on all fronts. The center rapidly fell apart under the loss of the Silver Valencias and the unrestrained butchering by the Belisarius.
The flanks fared a little better at first, but once the Meandering Monkeys shifted their focus to attacking the Vandal and Swordmaiden rifleman mechs, it all went downhill there as well. The natural opponent of rifleman mechs were exactly these fast and mobile light mechs!
The Akkara heavy mechs tried to relieve the pressure, but even their prodigious firepower couldn't match a tenth of the killing potential displayed by the Belisarius.
In fact, the Akkara mech pilots placed their fingers on the self-destruct button. One of the most depressing jobs that the mech technicians had done over the last few days was to add this option to the heavy cannoneers.
No matter what, the Vesians could forget about salvaging these strategic mechs!
Captain Byrd's projection appeared in the middle of the commander center. Her voice patched in shortly after. She sounded extraordinarily weary even as her rifleman mech contributed to the fighting in earnest.
"The battle is lost. We have lost too many mechs. Even if the Belisarius falls back right now, the rest of the Hostland Warriors and Meandering Monkeys outnumber us three to two, and it is only getting worse. I'm ordering a full evacuation. You know what to do. Don't leave anything left to the Vesians. Split up and run to the Starlight Megalodon. I hope that some of you live to tell the tale of our fall. Don't let the Vesians publicize a one-sided narrative."
When the Vandals looked at Captain Byrd's crestfallen expression, they saw the defeat in her eyes. Hope had faded and the sun had set on the Flagrant Swordmaiden ground forces.
"Captain..." Another staff officer hesitated. "It has been an honor."
Everyone stood up and saluted Captain Byrd's projection. None of them had any complaints about her leadership. The Vandals could only blame their bad luck at encountering the Vesians at this juncture. None of them foresaw they'd meet an indomitable existence like Venerable Foster.
A tragedy always occurred when a force accompanied by an expert pilot clashed against a force without one!
Mech pilots died at extraordinary speed. The Hostland Warriors became profoundly enraged at the Vandal and Swordmaiden mechs for deliberately targeting their cockpits. They didn't show any mercy and crunched any cockpit they encountered! The hatred between the two sides had reached such a heated stage that they cared more about snuffing out lives than downing mechs!
Hundreds of mech pilots from both sides lost their lives, and this was only the start. The Vesians were indeed paying a grievous price even with Venerable Foster's intervention, but the Vandals and Swordmaidens could only look forward to total annihilation!
As soon as Captain Byrd gave the final authorization, the entire camp and supply train began to buzz. While Ves and many other Vandals downloaded the records of the battle to his comm, others started scuttling valuable equipment and supplies.
Numerous detonations wracked the camp as databanks, 3D printers and other highly valuable machinery got blown to bits! The Flagrant Swordmaidens also prime more powerful explosives and set them up as nasty surprises for any Vesians that came close.
Hundreds of Vandals and Swordmaidens boarded fast transports prepped for evacuation. Fast transports with empty cargo holds all spread out and entered the red zone while marching at full tilt. While these vehicles would likely break down very soon due to being subjected by the red zone's strong breakdown effect, the head-start they provided the passengers might allow them to reach the Starlight Megalodon before the Vesians got around to catching up.
As for the heavy transports, they were way too slow to escape any pursuit. Each of them blew up in quick succession as pre-planted explosives did their work in scrapping them entirely.
Throughout all of these explosions, Ves quickly ran out of the temporary headquarters with a pack slung behind his Earth Ant. He ran over all the way to the Swordmaiden side of the camp and pushed his way through the dazed crowd of evacuating slaves.
The Swordmaidens idly sent the slaves packing and ordered them to run in each direction. With thousands of slaves spreading out, the Vesians would have to expend a considerable amount of manpower in chasing them all down. This increased the chances of the Vandals and Swordmaidens of reaching the safe zone.
"Ketis, where are you! It's time to go!" Ves yelled as soon as he entered a familiar workshop.
Mayra and Ketis faced off against each other. Both of them appeared in their fully armed and armored. The only difference was that Ketis prepared a pack of supplies while Mayra seemed resigned to the situation.
"Why are you so obstinate?! Please go with us! You still have a chance of making it out!" Ketis pleaded.
"I'm old, Ketis. You're young and still full of life, but I'm already past the prime of my age."
"That's a crap argument! You can easily live sixty more years!"
Mayra shook her head. She gazed at Ketis with sadness and love. "I have already lived a life of adventure alongside Commander Lydia. I'm tired. I don't want to run anymore. I'll take my chances with the Vesians. They won't easily ignore the value of a Journeyman Mech Designer who isn't registered with the MTA. Even if the Vesians sentence me to death, I have no regrets."
As Ketis puffed up and prepared a response, Ves placed his gauntlet on her shoulder armor. "Stop it. Mayra made her choice. Please respect her wishes and go along her arrangements. She only wishes the best for you."
Tears streaked from her eyes. "I don't want what's best for me! I want what's best for us!"
"I want that as well, but we can't have everything. We're simply not powerful enough to change this circumstance."
Ketis gritted her teeth and squeezed the tears out of her eyes. "What will it take to save everyone's lives?"
"Become more powerful. Advance your mech designer rank. Once you become a Master, you only need to utter a single sentence to save someone's life or condemn them to death."
Ves exaggerated, of course. Even Master Mech Designers possessed foes, and each of their actions came with considerable weight.
Yet his words succeeded in stoking the fire of ambition in Ketis. He specifically threw out those words to motivate her to greater heights. She would forever recall this disaster and use it as a reminder to grow stronger!
Mayra threw a sharp glance at Ves, but she tacitly consented to his trick. "Listen to Ves. Follow him. I know not what kind of escape route he arranged, but it is better than running around blindly."
Even though they never became close, both Mayra and Ves respected each other due to their shared profession. They never exhibited any rivalry and neither did they take their rank differences into account.
Nonetheless, Ves felt extraordinarily honored to have received her recognition.
"I promise to take good care of your protege. She will surely live on!"