As the match entered a heated phase, the strengths of the Rogue Breaker became more evident. Ves constantly had to adjust his estimation of Gabriel Creta's competence.
Although the apprentice of Master Klaisewist had not yet advanced to Journeyman, his technical competence alone revealed that he was extremely close to the threshold. This was by far the toughest match that Ves had ever faced!
Ves realized he made a mistake in underestimating his counterpart. "I can't dismiss Apprentice Mech Designer out of hand."
He used to believe his System-upgraded Skills gave him an edge over other Apprentices. Now, he realized he didn't factor in everything when comparing himself to other mech designers of the same level.
"There's a difference between knowing how to do something and applying them correctly."
Though Mr. Creta's work exhibited some specialties that Ves couldn't replicate, most of the fundamental modifications on the Rogue Breaker wasn't beyond his understanding. Basically, what Creta did, Ves could do as well.
"Yet even I wonder if I can accomplish the same in three days."
The two mech designers adopted different strategies to strengthening their mechs. Ves discarded the old and created something new. Mr. Creta on the other hand retained the quintessence of the Rogue Breaker but upgraded almost every aspect to a higher level.
The difficulty of the latter was lower, but it would be hard to achieve a major boost without a lot of work and clever planning. Mr. Creta somehow managed to compress a week's work of modification work in three days, which was the same as Ves had done.
This basically meant his adversary's design ability wasn't any inferior to his!
"Mr. Crete doesn't know as much as I do, but his management ability and his application of what limited knowledge he accumulated is better than mine."
Ves felt as if the fog that obscured the path to Journeyman receded a bit. Accumulating an enormous amount of theoretical knowledge did not necessarily make him a better mech designer. That only turned him into a huge bookworm with a lot more tools at hand.
A true mech designer only needed a couple of tools to create an amazing result. That represented true ability. "A mech is a product of science and art."
People could easily quantify the former. Science existed to define reality. Its language was expressed in math and rules.
As for art, this was something much more abstruse. It came from the wellspring of creativity and achieved results that was more than the sum of its parts.
With the design and construction of the New Sentinel, Ves had conceitedly patted himself on the back for turning low-grade goods into a higher grade mech. Yet his opponent not only matched his stride, but even exceeded it through different means!
Throughout the duel between Captain Orfan and Avid Serpent, the latter always managed to regain the initiative.
The parlor trick that Captain Orfan used to confuse Avid Serpent's judgement was quickly seen through by the latter. Spinning around the spear like a ferris wheel subconsciously attracted her attention and messed up her rhythm. Once Avid Serpent learned to disregard the spin but focus instead on the footing of Captain Orfan's mech, she managed parry her opponent's attacks again and again.
This was because if the New Sentinel wished to launch an attack, it inevitably had to step forward!
"Looks like the jig is up." Captain Orfan said and stopped spinning her spear. Though it didn't consume as much energy as the Dervish of the Axe God, it wasn't very efficient either. "Then let's see if you can handle the storm!"
Captain Orfan did not give up on her offensive. Giving Avid Serpent an opportunity to attack even a single time might prove fatal to her. The enhanced Rogue Breaker had almost broken right through the New Sentinel's chest armor with a single blow! This was the thickest part of the spearman mech's armor!
If Avid Serpent managed to land another hit, the New Sentinel would certainly suffer crippling damage. This wasn't something Captain Orfan wanted to see, so she maintained her offensive despite expending large amounts of energy.
The New Sentinel moved forward and pushed the Rogue Breaker backwards with repeated spear stabs. This time, the spear didn't surge forward in a repetitive motion, but contained a random rhythm that made it hard for Avid Serpent to judge when the attack would land.
The Rogue Breaker barely deflected another stab, but the spear had surged forward like an unstoppable tide that had only slightly been bent. The speartip managed to scrape the Rogue Breaker's arm and sheer through several layers of armor.
The hit created a weak point in the Rogue Breaker's arm! If the New Sentinel managed to land another hit at the same spot, the axeman mech was liable to lose a limb!
Both mechs weren't built like knights. Besides their chest and some strategic points on their frame, their overall armor coverage was lackluster. Both mechs relied on speed and technique to mitigate damage. While this prevented the two mechs from inflicting reliable damage to each other, once they managed to score a hit, the damage would always be severe.
Having gained an advantage, Captain Orfan smelled blood. She yelled out a guttural warcry and intensified her offensive. The Rogue Breaker continually receded as it tried to dodge or deflect the surge of spears.
"You can't hold out forever, Avid Serpent!"
It was not that the Rogue Breaker wouldn't be able to solve this attack, but Avid Serpent hoped to keep her cards close to her chest. Throughout the match so far, she predominantly played the long game. Now, it seemed she needed to expose one of her cards.
Avid Serpent carefully watched the incoming spear stabs and prepared her timing. When the spear shot forth yet again, the Rogue Breaker not only succeeded in deflecting it, the axeman mech also hooked the spear shaft with its weapon and drew it away.
For a moment, the New Sentinel left an opening.
This allowed the Rogue Breaker stepped into knife-fighting range and grab the New Sentinel's shoulder! Just as it attempted to exert some force, the New Sentinel immediately retaliated by letting one limb off the spear before grabbing the opposite in a similar grip.
Both mechs started to push against each other!
With both the spear and axe stuck in a temporary deadlock, both mechs started to push and shove each other with their humanoid mech limbs. The amount of force an arm could exert in this manner was limited. Too much pressure risked damaging the limbs, but neither side could tend to this matter.
That was until the Rogue Breaker suddenly kicked out with a force booster-enhanced leg!
Captain Orfan widened her eyes as she only had a split second of time to fend off this sudden attack. Even though the Rogue Breaker momentarily weakened its footing with this attack, its leg whipped forward with destructive force!
Almost every countermeasure she could think of took too long to defend against the kick!
Then her eyes became savage. "If I can't defend, then I might as well attack!"
The New Sentinel quickly jumped forward and off the ground while simultaneously letting go of its spear! Though the Rogue Breaker kicked landed against one of its leg, dealing serious damage, the fact that the New Sentinel had jumped meant the damage was less serious than expected.
This was because the New Sentinel basically pounced on the Rogue Breaker!
Due to its awkward kicking stance, the axeman mech couldn't withstand the force, and started falling backwards!
The mech landed with its back against the sandy soil. Though the New Sentinel had let go of its spear, that left both of its arms free to take advantage of the situation. The New Sentinel knelt on the waist the Rogue Breaker and started wrestling and punching against the helpless axeman mech.
When the Rogue Breaker attempted to slam its axe into the New Sentinel, the latter mech quickly held on to the arm of the axeman mech and restrained it from completing its attack!
With an enormous amount of weight pressed against the frame of the Rogue Breaker, Avid Serpent thoroughly fell into the leeway at the moment. The New Sentinel attacked and attacked with its other arm and only stopped when the Rogue Breaker grabbed it with its other arm.
The two mechs resembled wrestlers of sorts as both mechs tried to push each other around with their arms taking hold of each other.
All of these moves put a lot of stress on their internals! They were dealing just as much damage to their own mechs as each other!
However, Avid Serpent was thoroughly on the losing end right now. The waist of the Rogue Breaker began to become deformed as Captain Orfan's mech kept pressing it from above.
She finally couldn't take it any longer!
Over half of the Rogue Breaker's force boosters activated at full strength. An enormous surge of power suffused the axeman mech, allowing it to overpower the spearman mech and push it off its frame!
Sand sprayed all over as the axeman mech quickly climbed up to its feet!
As for the spearman mech, Captain Orfan hadn't fought against the powerful surge of strength, but instead borrowed its force to roll her mech in the direction of its fallen spear. It quickly picked up its fallen weapon before rising up to its feet in a ready stance.
The Rogue Breaker hadn't gone for the attack. Instead, the mech retrieved another axe from a hidden compartment in its rear. The hand axe looked smaller than the original one, but its lethality was without question.
Ves remembered that Avid Serpent's mech used to hide a laser pistol in the same compartment. Now it seemed that Mr. Crete had fashioned a small axe that fit the same area.
With a second weapon in hand, Avid Serpent's mech had shifted into duel wielding a pair of axes. Before Captain Orfan could process the change, the Rogue Breaker dashed forward. Its axes rose high before plummeting over the head of the spearman mech.
The New Sentinel barely held up its spear shaft to block the heavy attacks, but with force boosters strengthening the duel attacks, the defending mech almost buckled!
"Again!" Avid Serpent screamed and her mech unleashed another attack!
This time, she went all-out, saving none of her energy reserves. The Rogue Breaker turned into a chaotic storm as both of its axe-wielding limbs attacked in an independent fashion. Each axe chop came at a different angle and timing, causing Captain Orfan a lot of grief.
The New Sentinel's spear shaft started chipping from the force of the axe blows. Even though Captain Orfan tried to dodge as best as she could, her mech simply couldn't move fast enough to evade the blocks. Only by blocking would her mech be able to hang on. If not for those force boosters, the Rogue Breaker would never be able to chip away at Captain Orfan's spear shaft!
Clang! Clang! Clang!
The New Sentinel continually stepped back as it found itself unable to breathe through the current crisis. The duel-wielding axeman mech practically attempted to suffocate its opponent through unleashing constant attacks.
Like a weight pressed against her body, Captain Orfan felt as if she couldn't endure for long. She cursed at herself for giving her opponent the opportunity to unleash her own attacks. The fearsome momentum of an axeman mech on the offensive was no joke, especially when it wielded two axes at the same time!
This time, their roles were reversed! With the New Sentinel on the defensive, it could hardly find the opportunity to strike back at its opponent. Meanwhile, the Rogue Breaker's offensive seemed unstoppable, but in actual fact it drained a lot of energy!
What this did signify? It basically told Ves that Avid Serpent figured out everything she needed to know!
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