193 – Platinum Rank vs. Platinum Rank
Editor: Thor’s Stone
The resupplying and maintenance as well as the start of the final match will take a good while, so we all decided to do a bit of research on our opponent while having a light meal in Krishna’s dining room.
“A Platinum ranker huh. Hey, weren’t you saying there’s no way there’d be skilled guys hanging around at this time?”
“The Platinum rankers active in the Empire number three in all. Since you’ve gotten promoted too, Hiro, that number is now up to four. I guess it just so happened that one of them was staying somewhere near the Capital or a gateway somehow.”
“I think it’s Hiro-sama who actually draws over these kinds of events, right?”
“It’s not just me, okay!? It’s all of us together!”
I would like to firmly deny the claim that I’m the only trouble magnet in the group. They were both looking at me with strange warm gazes, but I very much think the both of them are trouble magnets as well, okay?
“Well, let’s put that aside for now. Here. Let’s watch the video of the semi-final match first.”
After saying so, Elma began showing the video of the semi-final match of our opponent on the holo-display.
“This ship’s been heavily modified huh…… I think the original model is a Wolf-type.”
“It’s a combat ship designed and manufactured by Steppen Ship Industries. This one’s probably a modified Beta Wolf that had its command modules stripped off. It’s lightweight and highly mobile for a medium-class ship. The weapon hardpoints are on the lower side as far as medium-class ships go, but its loading capacity is quite good, so it can actually equip pretty powerful heavy-caliber weapons. It’s a medium-class ship, so both its generator output and shield output are beyond small-class ships.”
“……Doesn’t it sound strong?”
“It is. I’m not entirely sold regarding its speed and mobility, but it has more than enough, so it’s quite nimble and can be armed with quite a bit of firepower. It’s a very popular ship with plenty of fans.”
The problem’s with its armaments huh.
I saw the green light projectile fired by the modified Beta Wolf shoot down its opponent in one shot and couldn’t help but groan.
“This would be troublesome…… if we get hit, that is.”
“W-What was that weapon earlier?”
“It’s a plasma cannon…… Uwaah, he just had to equip the weapon type I hate the most.”
The plasma cannon is a very powerful weapon. Its range is quite long but the projectile speed is slow. In exchange for being able to land a hit only in close range, its destructive power is almost unrivaled. It’s also one of the weapons designed to penetrate the energy shield and armor in one go to damage the inner hull.
In other words, it’s a lot like my shot-cannons. But it’s more powerful and has a longer range in exchange for its projectiles being slower. Since Krishna’s defense relies on its shields and armor, it’s vulnerable to penetration type weapons like these. Krishna’s still a small-class ship after all. By the way, penetration-type weapons include shot-cannons that are more commonly known as shard cannons, rail-cannons like the one equipped on the Black Lotus, plasma cannons like the one equipped by our opponent, anti-ship torpedoes, and close combat weapons like battering rams and anti-ship blades. These five compose this particular weapon type.
That’s what Mimi’s explanation says anyway.
“I see…… But you’ll be able to avoid it easily, right, Hiro-sama?”
“I don’t think I’d have any trouble if he just shoots normally. Listen here, Mimi. The people who make use of weird-ass weapons like those have devised methods in order to ensure they are able to land a clean hit, so you can’t count on them missing the timing when pulling the trigger. You can’t count on the guy who has used those weapons to climb up to Platinum-rank and won his way to the finals in this tournament to merely rely on lucky hits for wins.”
“Well, you do sound persuasive, Hiro. You’re also a guy who uses weird weapons like shard-cannons after all.”
“You’d be able to land a hit as long as you close the distance, so the shot-cannons aren’t weird, okay.”
What’s with that face, huh? Aren’t the two of you being a little too harsh on me lately?
“Fine. Whatever you say. Anyway, we need to be careful of those plasma cannons.”
“You don’t sound convinced, but fine. Chaff and ECM don’t work on direct-firing weapons like those, so we can’t let our guards down.”
Aiming disruption devices are powerless against weapons that only fire straight at you and use manual aiming instead of mechanical. Just like Krishna’s shot-cannons for example. By the way, the heavy-caliber laser cannons are affected by them.
“By the way, what kind of guy are we facing anyway?”
“Um, it seems he’s called Captain Banks.”
“Silent Banks huh. He’s a very famous merc.”
“What the heck? He sounds strong.”
He sounds like a guy who’d board a pirate ship on his own and go at it with guns blazing – while calling himself Cook, no less.
“Well, each Platinum-rank mercenary have their quirks after all……”
Elma gave me a suggestive glance. Me, quirky……? It’s frustrating that I can’t completely deny that dammit! No, my quirk is probably having a relationship with two beauties like Mimi and Elma or something. That’s gotta be it. It’s not like I’m quirky myself. Probably.
“He’s called both Silent Banks and Masked Banks. Anyway, he’s a very quiet person, and he doesn’t take off his mask even when meeting others. He also has this quirk of only using data terminals to communicate. Well, he’s certainly quite the weirdo.”
“But he’s good huh.”
“Yes, that seems to be the case. I’m looking at Captain Banks’ combat files, and the total number of his combat ship kills is amazing.”
“So he has plenty of combat experience huh. This is gonna be troublesome after all.”
It looks like I can’t win easily this time.
“Now then folks, we’ve finally reached the final match of this tournament! Captain Hiro has handily won all his matches in this tournament so far! But his last opponent is a Platinum-ranked mercenary just like him! And it’s the famous Silent Banks!”
“This will be a battle between Platinum rankers. This is something you’d rarely get to witness. It will surely be an invaluable experience for everyone present. The expectations are high for this clash between mercenaries who spend their days fighting pirates and monsters out in the cold reaches of space.”
It was finally nearly time for the match, and we were sharpening our concentration for the upcoming battle as we listened to the announcer and female guest commentator chatter on through the public channel.
“But regardless of winning and losing, I’m relieved we’re finally gonna be done with this whole mess after this.”
“I can’t get myself to settle down while staying at the Imperial Castle after all…… It’s a pity that I won’t be able to join Princess Luciada for tea anymore though.”
“Mimi’s really managed to get along with the Princess after all. You’re also disappointed that you won’t be able to spend time with Isolde-san anymore, right, Hiro?”
“There’s nothing going on between Isolde and me, okay.”
Elma giggled teasingly. I’m fine with getting made fun of, but at least make the topic a bit more proper, please.
“It looks like both contestants have finished their preparations! Well then, final match countdown, start!”
The countdown for the final round began ticking. Win or lose, this will be the last match. Let’s go with a bang, shall we? Since I’m already here, I might as well try to win everything.
At the start of the match, I immediately opened the lower weapon bay and fired off an anti-ship reactive torpedo. The launched torpedo flew forward for a while and stopped in place just as I programmed it.
“Concentrate. Mimi, mark all the positions of the anti-ship torpedoes I’ll be launching out and display them on the radar.”
Elma, who was sitting on the sub-pilot seat, turned a surprised gaze toward me in response to my actions, but I ignored her and gave Mimi some orders as I continued to move the ship. Banks’ modified Beta Wolf – the Shadow Wolf – fired up its main thrusters and was starting to close in on us. It looks like he really wants to bring the fight to medium or close range in order to hit us with the plasma cannons.
“I don’t plan on playing along though.”
I fired Krishna’s reverse thrusters and retreated in order to prevent the Shadow Wolf from closing the gap. The enemy ship’s loadout consists of two plasma cannons, two seeker missile pods, and three high-output laser cannons. Like I said, its weapon hardpoints are quite low for its size class, but all of them were pretty powerful. However, the only weapons it has that can hit Krishna from long range are the seeker missiles and the three laser cannons. I can only use the four heavy-caliber laser cannons in a long-range shootout as well, but as long as I manage the seeker missiles well, I can probably win if the match turns into a damage race. The question is whether or not my endurance can outlast the opponent though……
“How is it?”
“We’re losing out slightly.”
“I see. Let’s buy some time then.”
As I fired the second anti-ship torpedo, I changed the ship’s heading and circled around the Shadow Wolf’s flank at full speed. Basically, when flying starships, swinging a starship’s bow to the side is comparatively slower than swinging it upward or downward. They’re designed so that you’d be better off having the ship do a roll and adjust the heading by raising and lowering the bow when you want to swing left or right.
Of course, Banks also made his ship roll to match my maneuvers and pointed his ship’s bow directly at us. It’s really pointed straight at us, man.
“Plasma cannon round, incoming!”
I acknowledged Mimi’s warning and performed an evasive maneuver. The green bullet of light tore through the void of space and flew in a trajectory that would have scored a direct hit if I hadn’t evaded on time. That was one mean curve shot. All the while, he’s been firing laser cannon salvos at us despite the interference from the chaff. You really can’t let your guard down against this guy.
“Hey, what have you been up to since earlier?”
Elma finally couldn’t keep her curiosity in check after I fired the third and fourth anti-ship torpedoes and made them stop in place while avoiding the scarily accurate plasma cannon rounds hurtling at us.
“It’s a set-up. A set-up, okay. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the finale. I’m gonna perform some pretty rough maneuvers now, so brace yourselves.”
After saying my piece, I swung Krishna’s bow once more, and this time, I closed the distance between us and the Shadow Wolf. The closer we were, the greater the risk of being hit, but it’s easier to read the opponent’s shots as well. The point is not to fight at a distance where it would be impossible to evade. Of course, we also have our trusty shot-cannons on our side, so we’re also giving the opponent quite a bit of pressure. The opponent would probably not come out unscathed if he ate shot-cannon rounds head-on as well after all.
“Whoaah! It’s turned into an ultra-close range dogfight folks!”
The announcer’s loud voice rang out through the public channel. The Shadow Wolf’s combat maneuvers are truly first-class. The pilot’s controlling the ship’s inertia well and avoiding our line of fire while trying to get us on his. The enemy’s plasma cannon shots flew dangerously close to Krishna’s flanks and grazed them a couple of times. Of course, I’m not making it easy for the guy to get a clean hit in as well. The one with better mobility has the advantage in close range battles like this.
Maybe the opponent noticed that he was at a disadvantage in a close-range dogfight, so the Shadow Wolf started firing seeker missiles at point-blank range, fully prepared to get caught up in the resulting explosions as well. Even if Krishna’s shield was pretty tough, it won’t be able to tank explosions from a whole host of seeker missiles at this range.
I promptly disengaged and escaped away. I fired the afterburners and ran away from the Shadow Wolf at full speed. Shadow Wolf followed closely behind, of course. I’m sure Banks is happily aiming at Krishna’s defenseless behind right now with a smirk on his face. But that’s gonna cost him big.
“And this is checkmate!”
I speedily operated the pilot seat console. And then, before the Shadow Wolf could fire its plasma cannons, multiple explosions went off from four different points, and one engulfed Shadow Wolf in a fiery blaze. The explosions were caused by the anti-ship torpedoes I released earlier. Because the Shadow Wolf ate anti-ship reactive torpedo explosions at close range, it was judged to be shot down and the buzzer for the end of the match rang out.
“Whoooah!? Just what the heck happened!?”
“This…… It was those anti-ship reactive torpedoes Captain Hiro released earlier. Apparently, he methodically guided his opponent close to the position of the first anti-ship reactive torpedo he fired at the start of the match. This might sound quite implausible at first, but it’s a fact that the entire dogfight was a set-up in order to lure Captain Banks right next to an anti-ship torpedo’s location. ……To think he actually pulled off something like this.”
The voice of the lady officer serving as the guest commentator sounded like it was trembling in excitement. Well, the torpedo mine tactic is something you can only use in one on one matches like this though. And when you’ve shown it once, you would probably not be able to pull it off the second time. You’re probably gonna get blitzed immediately after all.
As the female officer continued her commentary, a single message was sent to Krishna via short-range comms.
『You really got me there. But I’m gonna win next time.』
The message came from Banks’s Shadow Wolf.