After this, nearly every other time that Mu Kongdong participated in combat operations, he would mark up an unexpected achievement of some kind.

And with those achievements came promotions to commander, then captain, and by the age of twenty-one, Rear Admiral.

His old classmate Li Sheng was also a rear admiral, but that was because as a captain he had stuck to orthodox strategy, taken a surprise attack head-on, and thus received a special double promotion posthumously.

And now Mu Kongdong was in the Arch Primeval Starfield.

Suddenly, a commotion broke out on the bridge. Not a pleasant one. It had been caused by an urgent message received from the surveillance starship.

”The imperial fleet is not in the area we predicted. They are accelerating rapidly and will intercept the Fourth Fleet. ”

”What?! Thats insane … They wouldn ! ”

Lieutenant Commander Lu Piao cried. His voice was shrill and tinged with hysteria.

”So, do you feel satisfied now? ”

At that moment Mu Kongdong got the news as well and returned from his private room. He had a cold expression on his face.

”Forgive this one for his unruly attitude before, Your Excellency! ”

Lieutenant Commander Lu Piao was ashamed of his actions from before and instantly apologized.

”Well then lets have a look at this…. ”

Mu Kongdong didn spare Lieutenant Commander Lu Piao even a glance, treating him as air, and simply turned to look at the display screen and started thinking of a way to deal with it….

Meanwhile, In the Fourth Fleet.

Rear Admiral Chen Liang, commander of the Alliances Esdeath Fleet, was flummoxed when he heard the report of Imperial warships closing rapidly.

The entire display screen of the Starship Enterprise was being covered in points of light as they swarmed into being, their luminosity climbing by the moment as they swelled ever larger.

It was a sight filled with menace —the hearts of all who saw it were set racing, and their mouths went dry.

”Whats going on here? What do the imperials think they
e doing? Why would they—? ”

The rear admiral sat up straight in his command chair. He growled in a low voice.

Some of those present thought it was a ridiculous question, though they numbered just a few.

The imperial force intended to bring its full power to bear on the Fourth Fleet —that much should have been obvious.

But the alliance leadership had never imagined such a daring assault being launched by an enemy being hemmed in on three sides.

Caught in an enclosure formation, facing a more numerous enemy, the imperial fleet would yield to its defensive instincts, theyd reasoned, contracting their battle lines and concentrating their force into a tight formation.

Against this, the alliance forces could then pour in from three sides at uniform velocity, surround them like a finely woven net, and concentrate their firepower to slowly —but most assuredly— shear away their capacity for resistance.

That was how the Cerberus Formation had been used 156 years ago, and praises were sung to this day of the two great Martials who had emerged victorious then. This enemy, however, had not acted at all in accordance with the alliance militarys calculations.

”What in blazes is this? Has their commander even studied tactics? Who would fight a battle like this? ”

Foolish words came streaming from the rear admirals mouth. He stood up from his command seat and wiped sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.

A steady temperature of 16.5 degrees was maintained throughout the ship; he shouldn have been breaking out in a sweat but the situation just didn allow to stay still.

”Sir, what do we do? ”

The voice of the staff officer calling him was shrill and lacking proper reserve. The tone grated on the rear admirals nerves.

”What do you mean by that!? Wasn it you lads who had been insisting on using the Cerberus Formation? ” Rear Admiral Thought.

It only followed that contingency planning was their responsibility as well. Still, this was neither the time nor place to be losing his temper.

The fleet of imperial starships numbered twenty thousand, and the alliances Fourth Fleet only Fifteen thousand. The alliances plans had been utterly derailed.

They were supposed to surround and attack an enemy force of twenty thousand ships with four fleets totaling sixty thousand —but now the Fourth Fleet was going to have to fight alone against an overwhelmingly larger force.

”Emergency messages to Second and Third Fleet: We are engaging enemies in the sector. Requesting immediate support. ”

The rear admiral gave the order, but Lieutenant Commander Nann, communications chief of the starship Enterprise, responded with desperate actions and an expression to match.

Jamming signals from the imperial fleet were eating into the alliance fleets comm network voraciously.

Floating in the void of outer space, tens of thousands of electromagnetic jamming buoys, deployed on Luo Xiaoyis orders, were hard at work.

”In that case, send out courier launches! Two of them to each fleet! ”

As he shouted those words, a flash of light from the display screen turned the rear admirals face white for an instant.

The enemy attack had begun, their Prisma beam cannons firing synchronized volleys.

Their vast outputs of energy and the accompanying bursts of light were such that it seemed that the soldiers eyes might be scorched.

Flashes of sparkling, rainbow colored brilliance —the sparks that flew in those instants when enemy beams struck energy-neutralization fields— erupted throughout the alliances fleet.

Low-energy particles collided at terrific speeds, annihilating one another in a cannibalistic phenomenon.

”Vanguard formation, return fire! All ships, get ready for all-out war! ”

Arms waving wildly, the rear admiral shouted, Rear Admiral Chen Liangs order had not been intercepted, but on the bridge of the imperial fleets starship Artemis, ripples of cold contempt danced in Luo Xiaoyis blood-red eyes as he said to no one, ”Your responses are slow, you incompetent fool! ”

”Launch fighters! We
e switching to close-quarters combat! ” ordered Rear Admiral Yang.

A keen vitality shone in his face and resonated in his voice, born of the exultation of battle, coupled with a confidence that came of seizing the initiative.

”Even if the arrogant brat ends up taking the credit, the important thing is still to win! ” Rear Admiral Yang thought.

The single-seater, cross-winged fighter ships known as Valkyrie launched from their giant carriers one after another.

In the instant when they cut loose from their carriers, they had —due to momentum— already reached speeds exceeding those of the carriers; neither catapult nor runway was needed.

The Valkyrie were small craft, and so their firepower was not as great, but they excelled in maneuverability and were extremely effective in a dogfight.

The alliance also had single-seat fighters corresponding to Valkyrie, these were known as Archangels.

Flashes of exploding fusion furnaces ripped across every quarter, and maelstroms of unleashed energies shook the ships of both sides in chaotic swells.

New clusters of energy beams lashed across the area, and dodging between them the Valkyrie soared, four-winged angels of death clad in glistening silver.

The alliances Archangels did not trail the Valkyrie in fighting ability, but a terrible disadvantage dominated all beyond their nose cones, and they found beams awaiting them the moment they separated from their carriers, aiming to destroy both the Archangel and its pilot together.

The Valkyrie and Archangel Units were mostly handled by those who were in the Foundation Establishment and Spirit Core Realm.

The Cultivators of the Celestial Realm were capable of resisting the harsh environment of the starry skies and did not require Valkyrie or Archangel Units to traverse through it.

As such every Fleet had a faction of Celestial Realm Cultivators who were capable of easily taking over tens of Valkyrie Units on their own.

If this team of Celestial Realm Cultivators were to be sent to the battlefield, they could even turn the tide of the battlefield.

But that was as long as they survived the distortion in the space created when the Starships Fusion Furnace exploded.

There were even situations in which some of the Celestial Realm Cultivators had somehow managed to survive the explosion but didn dared to resist the enemy forces.

As by the time they recovered from the explosion, the battles results were most likely already settled.

One hour after the start of the battle, the Fourth Fleets vanguard had been almost entirely destroyed by the withering onslaught of the Imperial Navy squadron under Rear Admiral Yangs command.

Of the 2,600 vessels composing the vanguard, not even 20 percent were still participating in combat.

Many ships had been vaporized by fusion furnace explosions, others had avoided exploding but had been too severely damaged to continue fighting, and others still had light structural damage but now drifted uselessly through space, having lost most of their crew.

In this dreadful condition, the front lines collapse seemed not a half step away.

”What are you people doing?! ”

That cry was Rear Admiral Chen Liangs.

But the one who disdainfully murmured, ”What are you people doing? ” was Rear Admiral Yang.

Both had been looking on at that scene through the screens of their respective starships.

In the words of one was a cry of hopelessness and panic; the words of the other mocked, with all the confidence that comes from a comfortable margin.

The difference in those two voices was at the same time the difference between the circumstances of their respective forces.

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