“Ey?” upon hearing Hua Li’s voice, Chu Cheng couldn’t help but sound surprised. “Well you got there quick.”
Hua Li’s voice took on that distinctly feminine quality as he effected a sweet reply. “Of course! My affection for A-Jue is unquestioned!”
“Ugh, by the… cut it out, will ya? Your integrity’s already rolling around in the dirt,” Chu Cheng replied, his voice pained.
“Cut the garbage,” Hua Li said, his voice back to normal. “If you got nothing better to do get your ass down here. We’re not heading to the Castle just yet, A-Jue’s gotten himself messed up pretty bad. Not to mention in about a month the Pontiff’s people will be making their way here to Skyfire.”
“Got it. I’ll be there before then. A-Jue, get a bottle of brandy ready.” Chu Cheng’s voice was veritably bursting with dramatic aplomb.
“Chengcheng, come quicklyyy!” That pretty voice cooed at Lan Jue’s wrist.
“Ugh, erg… I-I’ve got stuff to do. Gotta go.” The connection broke.
Lan Jue patted his forehead. “This guy… guess a dog can’t help eating shit 1. Guess a punk’ll do as they do.”
Hua Li’s voice was full of indignation. “And the nerve, saying I have no integrity! Like he’s got room to talk. I’mma beat his ass!”
“Well he’ll be here soon,” Lan Jue said, patting his friend on the shoulder comfortingly.
Hua Li shot him a glance. “Good. First I’ll deal with you, then I’ll show him what’s up. Show him what his insides look like.”
An uncanny smile flitted across Lan Jue’s face as he nodded. “Alright!”
There were only five simulators here, but each were top of the line models. After all, the Jewelry Store was among the best earners on the Avenue. In reality Lan Jue himself didn’t even know his current net worth, not after giving up management of the store. He left that up to his ladies.
The two young men picked their respective simulators and climbed inside.
“Qianlin, want me to send you home? Are you feeling better?” Richard spoke politely to her as he walked by the young woman’s side. They walked slowly from the campus grounds.
“I’m fine,” Qianlin tepidly replied.
Richard looked at her, surprised. “But when I went to your house last night for dinner, you said you were too ill to come down and join us?”
Zhou Qianlin stopped, turned, and fixed Richard with her pretty blue eyes. “Richard, do you really not understand or are you pretending? I don’t want to see you. We. Are. Over. Although it’s better to say we never began.”
Richard looked like he’d been struck with a hammer. “But you’re my fiancé,” he said bitterly.
Zhou Qianlin hesitated, but after a moment she had made her decision. Determination filled her as she stepped forward to Richard’s side.
Richard’s face lit up. Until he heard her speak.
“That day… the man who took me from the wedding he… he had his way with me.”
If Richard had been hit with a hammer before, this time it was a bomb. His whole body shook, but he felt locked in place.
“I’m sorry. I want nothing to do with you anymore.” Zhou Qianlin backed away a few steps, before turning and walking away.
Tang Mi had been beside her the entire time. Though her voice had been quiet, she’d still heard clearly every word she said.
“Qianlin… that can’t be true, is it? You and Zeus really…”
She didn’t utter a sound, only sped up her gait. Tang Mi got the point, and fell quiet as she raced to catch up.
After several long moments, watching the two girls leave, Richard’s hands curled in to white-knuckled fists. That day was still clear in his mind, like it had just happened. It was the most shameful day of his life, brought about by that golden-masked man. His lofty voice still rang in his ears. “I am ZEUS!”
Tang Mi didn’t speak again until they were at the school’s main gates. “Qianlin, what you just told Richard. Was that just to get him to stop, or was it real?”
Qianlin dropped her head, and when she spoke her voice was quiet. “Little Mi, you know I feel very sorry for Richard actually. Before when I accepted his advances, I thought he was a playboy. Later when we actually met I found him to be a good man. Unfortunately he and I would never work out. It’s better a sharp pain for a short time, than a dull pain for ever.”
Tang Mi blinked her big eyes. “But that’s not my concern! What I want to know is if you and Zeus REALLY did it, what’s he like?! Is he as good a lover as he is a mercenary? Introduce me to him. I know we’re sisters, but we’ll keep the competition fair.” 2
Zhou Qianlin spun around so quickly her hair fanned out. Her blue eyes were deadly.
“Eh… well, I… I’ll go on ahead.” Tang Mi turned tail and fled.
“Stop right there!”
The skies above were a rainbow of colors. Everything was like a fairyland, like a dream. The towering buildings glowed with a faint titanium white, spotlessly clear and without blemish. It was a world of peace and quiet, comfortable. Gentle gusts of wind brought clouds lazily floating in the rainbow sea overhead. A sweet fragrance danced in the eddies, but more than that was a cooling moisture that cleansed the mind and body.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here. Every visit it’s like I’m stuck somewhere between reality and a dream.”
It was a tall, slender man who’d spoken. Gold robes, golden hair, golden mask. A single word floated above him, nearly translucent: Zeus.
“Yeah! It has been ages. It was more than three years ago you last visited the Sanctuary. If you waited much longer I’m afraid they’d kick you out.”
Zeus’ companion was like him, tall and thin. His robes were a deep blue, and was embroidered like ripples in water. His long blue hair splayed out behind him as though they had a life of their own. His mask was silver. The name above: Poseidon.
Dreamburgh was a special area of DreamNet. Nearly all of DreamNet had a corresponding area in the real world, and were normally as lively. Only a very small handful of people were qualified to enter this large, isolated part of the web.
Here, the peak services of DreamNet were available. Most of which were compatible with the real world outside. Here, they were auctions for s-ranked gems, masterful blueprints for top level mechas, things almost unimaginable outside. But here they could be found.
Indeed it was a very selective place, for only a very special few. The gods themselves.
God-ranked mecha pilots stood at the peak of the piloting world. This status carried over to DreamNet. To every pilot it was considered a great honor to enter here. The ability to be a part meant any further simulated battle for them was meaningless. Most important was the exchange between pilots of the same caliber.
Every pilot here was known only by their callsign. No one could know the identity behind the mask. This, too, was anything but insignificant. This, was the territory of the gods. Here is where one honed themselves, becoming qualified to stand at the top of the power pyramid.
There was a time when the Four Divine Monarchs were kings among kings here, known far and wide. At one point they’d had a one hundred day winning streak in five-man battles – just the four of them. Even today, the record had not been bested.
Of course there were some discrepancies. Real-world god-ranked pilots and those of DreamNet weren’t always the same. Here, members were pilots alone – no disciplines were employed. The world’s pilots were a combination of power gems, Talent and personal ability.
Still to this day it was the wish of all younger pilots to one day enter Dreamburg. To them, this was Valhalla.
It really had been ages since Lan Jue’s last visit. So long, in fact, that were he an average citizen he’d no longer be permitted here. But Zeus was not average citizen. There wasn’t a soul here that didn’t know his reputation. Here in the sanctuary three separate ranking lists bore his name, and he was in the top sections of each.
The Sanctuary was a place for pilots of the highest grade to meet and compare notes. There was a list of all the participants. The contents of the list were widely known through DreamNet, passed by word of mouth.
To say there was one list though was inaccurate. There were in fact several; one for men, for women, arrangement by fighting capability, win ratios, and on and on. But among them there was one list that was the most telling – and likewise was the one most people adhered to. That was the Comprehensive Power Analysis. It was the final word when it came to the abilities of the sanctuary’s pilots. Especially speed of hand.
As was well known proper manipulation of a mecha suit was a combination of mental commands and physical kinetic motion. The higher your acknowledged rank, the more masterful your control. And so one’s speed of hand was an important factor to know.
For most, when they spied the lists, they had the same reaction; inhuman!
There was also the God-Team rankings. A common mecha unit consisted of five members, but this was a difficult thing for pilots of their caliber. In fact the total number of effective teams was very small. Only a few hundred in the entirety of DreamNet. Being part of such a team meant you were among the best of the best.
Zeus’ name was on all of these.
God-Team rankings: The Four Monarchs. This is where they became known, and where they earned their nickname.
Hand speed rankings; Zeus was fourth. It was determined by the number of executed commands in a short period. Next to his name was written 87.
What this meant was that he could execute eighty seven commands in a second. It was a number he had to maintain for a full minute before it could be counted.
I just had to leave this as is in the translation, too funny. The meaning is clear, but for clarification it’s akin to the western phrase ‘a tiger can’t change it’s stripes’ – you can’t help who you are. But I know I’m going to be using this one from now on. ↩