Lily stood at the very edge of the enemy’s attack range, the warning message flashing right before her eyes.

With a deep breath and a wavering smile, Lily stepped forward… then immediately felt the hair on the back of her neck prickling, overcome by an immense premonition of danger. Falling back on instinct, she pushed off the ground, sidestepping to the left, avoiding… something… that cut through the air where she had just been. The speeding thing could not be seen, but in the air where it had passed, the air shimmered, distorted, as though it had been rent apart. The next instant, a loud booming sound echoed from the rent path, assaulting Lily’s ears, causing her to grimace in discomfort. As she regained her bearings, she felt the same sense of danger, and again dashed, this time to the right. Again, the air was rent. Again, a loud sound resounded throughout the area. By this point, Lily had enough data to conclude that it was probably a projectile of some sort. Far too fast to be an arrow, but some kind of projectile with immense destructive power. She barely had time to form this thought when she had to dodge again.

Though she was unaware of it, her uncanny ability to detect the direction of the shots was a direct result of her unconscious <<Probing>>; by sensing the disturbances and subtle shifts coming from the direction of the attack, she was able to predict when an attack would place her in danger.

As she dodged for a while, her powerful legs pushing her a great distance with each dash, she quickly realised that constantly dodging would be of no use if she was unable to get into attack range. With that thought, she started dashing diagonally instead, zigzagging her way to the machine, trusting in her intuition to keep her safe. With each dash, she closed the distance, until she was able to see the machine.

The machine was certainly humanoid, as its silhouette suggested. It looked vaguely like a human female armored in heavy plate, except it was perhaps three to four times the height of a human. Its helmet was oval-shaped, with an opaque, black, glossy faceplate and wing-like silver attachments adorning its sides. With the exception of the faceplate, the rest of the helmet was the same pristine chrome as the rest of the machine’s body. The machine’s body, while bearing a humanoid shape, lacked the natural curvature of a human. It had a multitude of edges, its shoulders graced with asymmetrical pauldrons: the left shoulder had a triangular pauldron which angled upwards, suggesting the appearance of a mantle, while the right shoulder was covered in a rounded shoulderguard, with chains draping down from it, covering its right elbow joint, creating the image of a short cape that covered only one shoulder. While the machine looked wholly unnatural, what suggested a female appearance were firstly, the thinness of its waist, almost half the circumference of its chest area, and secondly, the fact that its lower torso seemed to be encased in a metal skirt of some sort. It looked to be made of a malleable material, moving and shifting in accordance to the movement of the robot like fabric, but it had the appearance of metal, coloured that same chrome. The machine’s arms had even more sharp edges, made of what seemed to be several components joined together. Along the length of the arm, she could see clear, thin lines which spidered across the glossy chrome. At the end of each arm was a long-fingered, clawed hand. In the palm of each hand was a circle that irised open whenever the machine was about to fire another of those projectiles, and closed immediately after.

Even as she got in close, Lily was still unable to identify exactly what the machine was firing at her. Even if she closely scrutinised the firing port, she could see no projectile.

As she dodged and closed in, avoiding the projectile attacks of the machine, the machine started to vary its attack pattern. It used both hands, alternating shots, resulting in a constant barrage of fire. When Lily evaded this tactic by decreasing the distance by which she dodged – allowing for faster reaction – the machine pulled back one hand, which started to glow red, the other continuing to keep pressure on Lily.

With only one weapon to keep track of, Lily was able to steadily advance, pressing in as the machine’s unused right hand opened up and increased the intensity of its glow. The machinist in Lily wondered at how this machine operated, but she was too preoccupied with the fight to indulge her curiosity. As she was about to enter striking distance, the machine brought forth its right hand, revealing that the hole in the centre was now glowing a bright crimson, directly facing Lily.

Feeling a strong sense of danger, Lily immediately ceased her assault and kicked the ground, throwing herself to the side, adjusting her legs to face the area where she had just occupied, shielding her body.

As she did so, a bright burst of light erupted from the machine’s right palm. A single beam of brilliant red luminence, which carved a half-tunnel in the ground directly in its line of fire, as far as the eye could see. Even having avoided the attack, the ambient heat of the attack charred the outer side of Lily’s metal legs, leaving them blackened yet intact.

She landed on the ground in a crouched position, dashing to the side as the machine followed up with another shot from its left hand. Meanwhile, Lily noted that the right arm had not closed back up. Under the chrome plating, plain for her to see, were gears and other metal components. As she watched, it started to glow red again.

Lily drew several hypotheses from her observations. When the machine fired that weapon, its anti-MANA plating opened up; as long as it continued to prepare and fire the weapon, its plating was imperfect; it exposed the inner components of the machine.

Lily smiled. She had her path to victory.