Lan Jue’s voice was serious. “If this were real combat, would you talk this way to your enemy? You’d actually have no chance, because you’d be dead.”
“Wh-…” Hua Li trailed off.
Within Thor, Lan Jue was fighting valiantly with himself to stop his laughter from bubbling out. It was a difficult task!
It appeared Tang Xiao’s tricks were useful after all. Even he was almost beaten the first time he’d encountered that nasty deception.
“Unacceptable! Again!” Hua Li was audibly grinding his teeth.
Lan Jue’s voice was lofty and dismissive. “The discrepancy in power is too great. Train harder, and challenge me again when you’re ready!” Thor disappeared in a flash of light, without giving Hu Li a chance to answer 1
It wasn’t long before Zeus and Poseidon where once more walking the streets of Dreamburg.
“A-Jue! Since when did you become such a little punk!” Poseidon rushed at Zeus, grabbing him by the neck! 2
“Execute systems protection,” Zeus answered quietly.
Boom! An arc of lightning crashed down from the heavens. It threw Poseidon away a dozen meters, burning him black.
Zeus waggled a finger at his companion’s smoldering body. “Bad touch.”
“Zeus!” In this moment a digitized female voice called his name.
He turned to find the source of the sound, spying the red-clad woman who’d watched their battle. “Piao Hong. Thanks for the gem.”
Piao Hong’s voice was curt. “Unfortunately I didn’t see what I came for. I’ll likely apply to DreamNet for reimbursement.”
“As you like. That’s right, I actually was looking for you.”
“For me?” Her voice was surprised.
Zeus nodded in response. “I wanted to know if you were interested in a business proposal. I wanted to buy some fantascia genetica decoction.”
She blinked. “It’s still useful to you?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Zeus said. “I have my uses for it. Name a price.”
Piao Hong was quiet for a moment. Eventually she spoke up. “You should know, this sort of thing is priceless. For those that need it, no price is too high. It’s also secret, and I can’t verify your identity. I can’t sell it.”
Zeus smirked behind the mask. “In this place, there’s no such thing as priceless.”
This brought a smile to Paio Hong’s face. “You sure live up to your name. You speak true – here there’s nothing truly beyond the scope of purchase. In fact I’m also here because there’s something I wish to discuss with the two of you. If you agree, the decoction is yours as advanced payment.”
“Oh?” Poseidon had heard the exchange. “What’s so important you’re willing to give up the decoction in advance?”
Piao Hong smiled secretively. Her red clothes seemed to wax and wane like a pulse. “A God-Team battle!”
Surprise and suspicion both flickered through the two Monarch’s eyes.
“The Four Divine Monarchs have occupied the top of the Altar’s rankings for too long. In three years there is sure to have been some changes. We present a challenge against your team.” Piao Hong’s metallic voice grew sharper.
Zeus’ response was tepid. “According to the rules, you must first be in the top ten. Only then can you issue a challenge. Through DreamNet’s audits, we have three months to prepare. We’d have to accept, or risk losing our ranking. What are you playing at?”
Piao Hong’s aura become appreciably gentler. “Clever. What we want, is simple: Make it public! A spectacle for everyone in the three alliances to come and witness. Let’s give them all a show, so they know a true god battle is. Boil the blood of all the young pilots with dreams of being where we are. Stir up the whole universe!” Her voice rose to a moving crescendo, fiery and emotional. Even Zeus and Poseidon were swept up in it.
“Public? This is nonsense right?” Poseidon said. “You have to know all top pilots have their own tricks and secrets. Having a competition like that, open to the public, would reveal all their secrets to everyone. Modern recording equipment can catch every tiny detail. It’d be giving our entire playbook to our enemies, to look over at their convenience. It would be the first public god-team bout in the history of DreamNet, much less open to all three alliances. Fantascia Genetica is important, but compared to what you’re asking it’s nothing.”
“That’s just so,” Piao Hong replied softly, “and that’s why we’re discussing. This is not our attempt at pleasing the peanut gallery. It’s something… reserved for a rainy day.”
“Go on then,” Zeus said. “But you should know that only a very good carrot’s going to get us to agree to your stick.”
“You should know DreamNet’s origins, I assume?” Piao Hong suddenly switched topics.
She went on. “DreamNet is the largest multinational cooperation in all of the alliances. An independent platform created by the three great nations. In order to assure it’s impartiality, it’s central committee broke away from the alliances they came from and became it’s own, special unit. It’s more advanced than all three alliance armies put together. It’s technological support is more powerful than the ten greatest families of the alliances put together.”
“And have you heard of the Justice’s Proclamation?” She paused to regard them.
Zeus and Poseidon shot a glance at one another.
“Of course,” Zeus said. “The Proclamation was aimed at the central committee. They were too powerful, and required restrictions. During it’s establishment, the three alliances and the cooperation itself came together for an agreement, creating the Proclamation and it’s rules to help determine it’s effect on the people. For instance, one rule states that if a virtual personality develops emotions, it must be destroyed. And so on with the rest of the Proclamation, making it fool-proof.”
Piao Hong nodded. “I ask you this, because I want to know if you agree. That all of the central committee’s proclamations are just and equal, and in the best interest of human development.” As she spoke, she lifted a hand. A golden light trickled towards Zeus.
Zeus deftly plucked the golden light from the air. The light itself was no corporeal thing, and as it came in to Zeus’ grip a column of golden light shot down upon them from on high. A stately, ear-splitting voice howled at them from all directions.
“I protect the balance of DreamNet.” As the words raced around them, it was as though the entirety of Dreamburg trembled. Before Zeus and Poseidon’s wide eyes, a majestic figure appeared. They were middle-aged, alive with golden light. A pair of golden eyes looked at them, but it was as though they saw everything, all at once. It was as though they could pierce your very soul.
“A DreamNet Guardian?” Zeus and Poseidon spoke as one.
The trembling earth, the golden light… in an instant it was all gone.
Zeus stared wide-eyes at Piao Hong. “I had no idea you were a Guardian.”
The DreamNet Guardians were a special group, who existed specifically to deal with the expansive reality’s internal affairs. They existed here only, and from the day they accept the mantle of Guardian, their job is to protect DreamNet – and the myriad people who used it – from threat. Like DreamNet, they were also free from alliance restrictions.
Their identities were a closely guarded secret – no one knew who the guardians truly were. The masked protectors only ever showed up when something serious was happening in the virtual world.
Piao Hong nodded. “Indeed. Though I was born in the Western Alliance, I am now a Guardian of this place. Remember that what I have shared with you now, is an absolute secret. If this is a responsibility you two fail to keep, you will become an enemy to DreamNet, and all the guardians in it.
“Promise!” Zeus and Poseidon spoke with one voice. They knew quite clearly what the Guardians were, what they did. In the whole history of mankind they had averted civil strife at least thrice, and four times warded off catastrophe. They were deserving of everyone’s respect.
When Piao Hong spoke again, her voice was low. “Eight months ago, the Northern Alliance had sent out an exploration party. They were mapping a distant galaxy when they got caught in an assault. Only a tenth of the expeditionary force returned. With them, they broke top-secret news; approximately seventy-eight light years from Planet Luo they’d found three new planets. Planets that housed endogenous life. The life forms they found were exceedingly monstrous, and frighteningly strong.”
“Stranger than that, though, were the planets. They were fixed in space, stationary. They had no orbit, no trajectory. But what they could do, is affix themselves to other planets… destroying them, and taking their energy. When the Northern party came across them, the planets were in the final stages of plundering a small planet. They watched the planet disintegrate with their own eyes. The aftermath of the planet’s death hit them like a supernova.”
“Afterwards they came under attack, suffering strange biological attacks. They suffered great losses. Luckily they were scouting ships, fast, otherwise there likely wouldn’t have been any survivors.”
“When the scouts returned and delivered their report, it was determined the power of one of these planets was equivalent to a space bastion in sheer power – and that is merely a preliminary estimate. Also their combat styles are entirely different from our own. Seventy-eight light years… not such a great distance away. We humans have settled dozens of worlds, rich with energy. Perhaps we’ll get lucky, perhaps these alien planets wont choose to come our way. But even if they don’t, we must prepare. And what’s more…”
I’m sorry, but that’s one helluva dick move. If that was my buddy I’d punch him in the neck. ↩
Ah, see? Hua Li gets it. ↩