Gray, Yurika, Geoff, and Caleb were eliminated from the 4 versus 4 matches at the final match before the last 3 rounds where they could select their own weapons. Overall the team itself wasn't disappointed because they could say they made it to the top 16 out of the 503 registered teams.
As for the team as a whole, they were eliminated after the 5th round in the 8 versus 8 matches. The team wasn't satisfied with this result, but Gray felt it was a good eye opener for them.
"Our teamwork and coordination have been excellent, but I'm starting to realize we're not exactly up to par on the individual level. If it wasn't for Yurika being such a dominating force, we probably wouldn't have made it nearly as far as we did." Gray thought to himself while comparing the different stats from the matches.
Fortunately, they were still in the running for the 16 vs 16 big team battle and made it to the last 3 matches where they can finally choose their own loadouts and mechs. While Gray and the rest of the Steel Wolves were slightly depressed that they didn't go further, they realized that the 16 versus 16 was still the most promising for them.
After the last big team battle for Gray and Kelly's combined team, they reached the quarter finals and had a longer break time especially now that they didn't have to worry about the other matches. As for what to do, both Gray's team and Kelly's team had grown comfortable around each other through their time spent together so they all just decided to hang out together in the virtual pregame lobby.
Gray was looking through some of the other matches in an attempt to familiarize himself with some of the other teams. He shook his head after looking at the 4th replay and thought to himself, "I'm not a Military General, a sports coach, or even a professional gamer. I can't really pull anything from these replays yet… I'll need more time."
Gray turned off the replays and looked over at Jono and was surprised to see that he was actually getting the attention from Heather and Rita, the sisters on Kelly's team.
Jono appeared to be playing it cool, but Gray could tell he was holding himself back and trying not to say something stupid to ruin the setting. Gray could also tell from the way that Jono was looking from one sister to the other that he was debating which one he would go for.
"I should commend him on not being dumb enough to go after both." Gray said to himself.
"I know, in the past Jono would've put his arms around both of them and started talking a much bigger game than he was actually capable of." a voice suddenly spoke up next to Gray.
Gray jumped up suddenly and turned to see that Kelly was sitting next to him and he forgot that he was sitting next to her since she too was watching replays.
"Forget I was here? I'm hurt…" Kelly said to Gray with a wry smile.
"Sorry, it's nothing personal, I was just lost in my own thoughts."
"Penny for your thoughts?" Kelly said with a smile.
"A penny is a paltry sum in comparison to the value of my deep and profound machinations developing in my mind." Gray said proudly.
Kelly rolled her eyes at Gray and said, "Glad to see you still avoid meaningful conversations."
Gray could only smile back at her weakly, he really was terrible at opening up to people, even those he trusted. He turned to look at everyone else that was just mingling and found Yurika was arguing with a tiny figure on Caleb's shoulder. Gray stopped being amazed at Caleb's tricks, bringing Celes into the pregame lobby was probably something he could've done earlier but for some reason he only brought her out now.
Gray realized he was letting himself get distracted again and asked Kelly something that started to bother him once he realized his own deficiencies with himself. "Hey, what makes a commander great?"
"Aren't you thinking a little too much about it?"
"Maybe… but I want all of us to be able to keep having moments like this" Gray said, then motioned to the men and women around him that were chatting casually as if a war wasn't just 2 weeks away.
Kelly sighed and said, "If you are thinking like that, your heart is in the right place, but softness will not win you any battles. Sun-Tzu said that the Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. I think you got the sincerity and benevolence part down but lack wisdom and strictness. Have you ever chewed out a teammate for making a mistake? Have you ever been able to educate them on that mistake?"
Gray looked a little surprised, he actually had never really yelled at anyone for their mistakes and usually wouldn't even point them out. "Well, no, they're all my friends and I consider them equals."
Kelly sighed again leaving Gray annoyed. "Hey, why do you keep sighing like that!"
"Gray, you're still the same after so many years, I suppose that isn't a bad thing in some ways but you need to realize that other people change and if you keep playing soft with everyone, you're not going to accomplish anything in the war."
"I'm not trying to accomplish anything, I just want to keep everyone alive."
Kelly smacked Gray on the backside of the head, but since it was a virtual lobby, Gray didn't feel it but he still knew she did it.
"What was that for?" Gray said with a slightly hurt tone in his voice.
"That type of wishful thinking will get more people killed. You may save your friend's lives, but what about everyone else?" Kelly started to raise her voice slightly with Gray, drawing the attention of everyone else.
"I'm not so naïve to think I can save everyone, but I will put my friends ahead of strangers, I'm not a soldier that can be heartless and put the mission above all else!"
At this point everyone was watching Gray and Kelly. Even Kelly was surprised because the Gray she used to know never yelled once and rarely was confrontational.
Kelly decided to take the opportunity to push Gray a little. "Soldiers are not heartless! It is because of their heart that they are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their home! If you can't even do that then why are you here?"
Gray couldn't respond to that one right away. Thinking about it, he was only here because he didn't have a choice. He remembered Major Valen giving him information about setting up a Mercenary Group that wouldn't be dependent upon the military, but now he realized that even with that he was doing it just because it was suggested to him.
"Am I really such a pushover?" Gray thought to himself. "What do I WANT to do with this life that was given to me?"
Kelly watched Gray lose himself in thought and knew she finally got through to him. Kelly reached out and put her hand on Gray's shoulder and said, "Gray… you are my friend. As a friend, I'm just trying to help you see the bigger picture, make your own choices, and not just be comfortable with the status quo because it is easier. You have plenty to think about but know that I am on your side always."
Gray nodded and smiled at Kelly and he put his hand on hers and gave it a squeeze.
What Gray and Kelly didn't see was Xyra and Stacia holding Yurika back due to some instinct warning Yurika that she needed to attack Kelly.
Gray removed his hand and Kelly removed hers, then Kelly said to Gray, "Remember, you're our commander today! Also, check out who we're facing in the quarter finals."
Gray started to look through the lineup now that the results were finally out for the preliminaries. His vision suddenly went dark and he stopped focusing on his screen to see that Yurika had came over and was now squeezing him. Gray was thankful you couldn't feel anything, nor did you need to breathe in the pregame lobby.
Yurika glared daggers at Kelly and mouthed, "My Wife!"
Kelly smiled at Yurika and mouthed back, "I know, sorry."
Yurika released Gray from a hug that would've probably suffocated him had she smooshed his face in her chest like she just did in the real world.
Gray pretended like he was suffocating though and let out a deep breath and inhaled sharply like he was running out of air. "I almost died!"
Yurika laughed and flicked his forehead, "If I wanted you dead, you'd be dead."
Kelly felt a little uncomfortable with hearing that because she felt like Yurika wasn't joking, but she chose to ignore it as Gray always had a weird sense of humor so it would be no surprise that those around him would also have the same.
"Ahem" Kelly coughed to interrupt the happy pink environment that Gray and Yurika somehow were creating that made everyone feel uncomfortable. "Our next opponent is one of the 6 remaining teams in the military. 'The Foolhardies', and despite the strange name they're still part of our elites in the military."
"Any information on them that might be useful?" Gray asked, the looked around and saw everyone else suddenly turn away as if they weren't watching them earlier. "Ok guys, bring it in, might as well learn what we can."
Kelly looked at Gray then the others from Gray's team and said "To begin with… this will be your hardest battle yet…"