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Ever since then, Ye Chong began to explore in earnest the mysterious and enchanting outside world. Out there, one can find almost anything, limited only by one’s imagination. Ye Chong quickly warmed up to this illusory but undeniably real world. It took him no time to grow out of his initial shyness and be in his element.
And Mu Shang was up to something every day, coming and going as he pleased, disappearing almost immediately after accessing the virtual net every time.
Ye Chong’s favourite place was a large township called Gutista. Various mechs were sold here, along with their weird parts and accessories. But most importantly, here was the meeting spot for many mech enthusiasts, where they frequently gather to exchange their thoughts on the machines. They were mostly mech engineers or professionals. The township’s manager even installed a medium scaled mech information archive here, which Ye Chong was always appreciative of.
Ye Chong enjoyed the area’s deep scholarly atmosphere, while the locals also happily embraced this eager and forthright young man, taking him under their wings. Through their guidance, Ye Chong began to understand how outdated his knowledge was, but it made sense.
Since all he knew were taught by his foster father, and the man had been isolated from the outside world for decades, it would only be weird if something from decades ago remained relevant today. Fortunately, Ye Chong had a solid foundation, and now he fully understood why his foster father was so strict with his foundation studies.
His solid foundation also made learning easier, as he took in new knowledge with great speed, and earned the favours of the older men.
Today, as soon as he reached home, Ye Chong slipped into Mu Shang’s cabin and put on the combat helmet. Although Ye Chong adored the virtual world, he did not lose himself in it. He understood that the trash planet was his real world, and if he became too immersed with the other world, he would face real danger on this treacherous trash planet! Ye Chong kept his defenses up every time he went outside, with his full attention, free of distractions.
Once on the virtual net, Ye Chong went straight to Gutista. But before he could catch his breath, Mu Shang’s voice came up in his head, “Ye, let me take you somewhere.”
Ye Chong felt intrigued. Mu was usually up to something these few days, absent from his own explorations.
Ye Chong followed Mu Shang’s instructions as he turned left and right, finally arriving in front of a huge building. Many people bustled in and out of the structure, and the place teemed with life.
Ye Chong asked, curiously, “Mu, what is this place?”
Mu Shang explained, “This is the mech pilot’s NR training centre, offering basic modules for pilots’ NR training and a platform for pilots to compare notes. Your skills were self-taught, and many of them were illogical. I came about this place by accident and did an analysis of the training content, and while I believe there is a 7.63% imperfection in content, training here would be immensely helpful to improve your strength.”
Ye Chong felt uncertain. “NR training? What’s NR training?”
Mu Shang replied, “The full term is Neurosensory Reflexivity Training, it allows your neural system to remember specific manoeuvres. To execute manoeuvres that are up to standard in reality would require large amount of training for your body to achieve the required memory standard. However, a reasonable NR training would greatly reduce this training time.”
Ye Chong began to have a grasp of things. “Oh, so it’s like that!” Regardless, if Mu Shang said it is beneficial, then it must be so, Ye Chong’s inner voice concurred.
The pilot’s NR training centre was built by the Fal Association for Mech Pilots, and formed part of the available basic facilities in the virtual world.
Ye Chong advanced into the main hall, neatly lined with many pillars. Some people could be seen passing by the pillars and vanished into thin air after a burst of light, and others seemed to flash into existence.
The current Ye Chong was no longer an amateur - he casually walked to a nearby pillar, lightly tapped on the pillar with his finger, and a semi-transparent screen appeared before his eyes.
Mu Shang introduced, “There are three areas above where we stand - the basic training area, the mixed training area, and the battle area. Since this is your first time, let’s try out the battle area.”
Right after Mu Shang finished, the screen display altered, showcasing the opponents for each room, and the number of audiences. Ye Chong picked one of the occupied rooms at random.
*Swish* and he was in the room, standing before a black mech. Ye Chong immediately recognized this as a beginner’s common choice of the Blackbird model, due to its ease of control, gentle learning curve and affordable price.
However, its functionality was at par with its status as an entry-level mech, armed with only a magnetic sword, platinum shield and two alloy daggers, not to mention the two redundant heat ray guns on its shoulders, with such low effectiveness that Ye Chong could not possibly count on them (but in reality, it’s because Ye Chong did not really know how to shoot).
The Blackbird looked like a huge, black bird, with two horizontal wings that could extend out like a pair of real wings, allowing beginners steadier flight in the atmosphere. Below the wings were two rows of secondary engines, although their functions were limited. Beneath the Blackbird’s abdomen were two mechanical arms that could use the magnetic sword and alloy daggers. The heat ray guns were on the Blackbird’s rear, the elongated neck allowing a wider range of shooting from different angles, although with the gun’s power and Ye Chong’s skill, or the lack of both, this advantaged was wasted.
But even if this was just an ordinary low-level mech, Ye Chong was already very excited - compared to Winnie, this mech’s functionalities were much better.
Ye Chong entered the mech’s cabin eagerly.
When Ye Chong had a good look at his opponent’s mech, he could not help but felt greatly discouraged.
If his own mech was like an inconspicuous little bird, then the opponent’s would be a glorious king of the birds - a phoenix! Its long elegant lines were like an artistic masterpiece, its dazzling and colourful wings and tailfins were like the phoenix’s feathers, emanating an aura of great beauty. The flaming redness of the mech’s body was a suffocating zeal. Even standing still, the mech exhibited an indescribable calmness and pride.
Its name mirrored its appearance - Shadow Phoenix, as fast as the shadow, as magnificent as the phoenix.
The Shadow Phoenix II model, the considerable amount of time spent at Gutista had made Ye Chong very familiar with it. Compared with the Blackbird, the two mechs were not even at the same level. The Shadow Phoenix II was a classic long-range attack mech, with great speed and advanced shooting systems as its signature features. Besides that, its beautiful exterior made it a popular choice for members of the female community. However, to Ye Chong, those nearly useless wings were a burden, and what use was an attractive appearance if it became the constant attention of the enemy?
Without time for further pondering, Ye Chong received the signal to begin.
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