Chapter 283: Evolution and Retirement

    Chapter 283: Evolution and Retirement

    In the eyes of the audience, there was no satisfaction to be had in this fight. The comment section was a plethora of curses and unmitigated irritation. Deimos had lead his Star Alliance to victory, but in the hearts of the onlookers the Divine Monarchs were the real winners. Thor's valiant showing was proof, defeating both Bahamut and Windbreaker with nothing but his own abilities. It left quite a profound impression.

    Since when was Deimos reduced to relying on self-destruction to win a straight fight? All he had to do was hide in the concealing moonlight. Any other map, he'd likely have lost terribly.

    Mo Xiao was silent, her heart filled with sadness, sadness for Deimos. She was witnessing the sunset of an era. The Starlord was too old now, and had to use cheap tactics to obtain the upper hand.

    Just then, a smooth and sultry voice filled everyone's sim pods.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, salutations. This is Deimos."

    Eight words were enough to command absolute silence from everyone.

    Why was the Deimos speaking after these two fights? According to DreamNet's policies, he shouldn't be interrupting a competition.

    Did it have something to do with his actions?

    He continued. "Of your five matches, two have been completed. I have two announcements to make. The first concerns myself, and the second all of DreamNet."

    With this news, many of the audience members began to panic. What did the best mecha pilot the universe had ever known want to say? Even before his disappearance, Deimos was famously tight-lipped.

    "We will begin with the first. After today's competition, regardless of the outcome, I will be retiring from DreamNet. These will be my last fights."

    Last fights? This hero of a bygone era was retiring, which meant his name would be stricken from all the lists. He would fade in to history.

    Several in the comments section grumbled about the hypocrisy of this announcement after winning two fights. Deimos went on.

    "For the second matter, I represent DreamNet in making the announcement. After today, DreamNet will be down for three months. With the exception of some universities and private simulators, all public pods will be collected and recycled. But don't worry, everything be back. DreamNet will be taking this time to upgrade its services to all of the Alliances, ushering in a new era for this generation's pilots."

    The shock of Deimos' retirement was already a news-worthy item. The addition of DreamNet's shutdown and subsequent upgrade caused an uproar.

    Roughly a hundred years had passed since DreamNet's founding. Throughout its run, the system had constantly undergone upgrades, but they were largely procedural adjustments. Never once had the entire network needed to be shut down like this. For three months, DreamNet would be unavailable.

    In truth there were several gaming networks that were analogous to DreamNet. Were they not afraid of being surpassed by the competition? Then there were the true fans, who took DreamNet for granted. For many this was a second home. How could they close their home for three months? How could they get used to it?

    Deimos was not finished. "I imagine many of you find this strange, maybe upsetting. Why would this upgrade need such a large-scale operation, even recycling all of its sim pods? I'll tell you. This upgrade will bring DreamNet in to the future, an upgrade that will change everything. After the new pods have been installed, they will allow users to employ their Discipline in the simulations themselves. However strong your Talent, DreamNet will render it in real time. Finally, Adepts can compete in a safe place, holding nothing back so that they may learn and improve with one another. Of course, this includes mecha piloting, and all suits will thus be able to sustain and utilize its pilot's powers. To punctuate this another way, DreamNet and the real world will end up with an eighty-five percent compatibility after these upgrades are complete. Afterwards, pilots can rely on DreamNet for all of their training needs."

    Discipline Simulation? Deimos hardly had time to finish before the comments section exploded.

    In truth, an upgrade like this had been rumored for a long time, though it was largely conjecture. No one could have anticipated that the announcement for such a revolutionary upgrade would be made during this god-ranked battle.

    And it wasn't just the audience, even the Divine Monarchs were stunned by the revelations.

    Lan Jue's first reaction was that of admiration. DreamNet had chosen a spectacular moment to reveal their future plans. It was likely DreamNet had never enjoyed an audience like the one they had today, and then choosing the famous Deimos as their mouthpiece made the announcement that much more hard-hitting. It made everyone excited for the three-month hiatus.

    However, intermingled with that admiration was indignation. The DreamNet guardians never revealed any of this to them. Instead they had claimed this exchange was to raise the fighting power for all of humanity, in preparation for invading foreign foes.

    The other three Monarchs had similar thoughts. They had been fooled. None of this was something they wanted or agreed to.

    Deimos' voice was still speaking through their communicators. "Presumably you are all wondering how this will affect combat in DreamNet going forward. You needn't wonder: our next fight will be using the new system. Call it a diagnostic test."

    "A-Jue, what the hell is going on?" Hua Li's voice interrupted the broadcast. He had been told earlier about the new pods.

    Alone in his pod, Lan Jue shook his head. "I have no idea. I was never told any of this."

    "Where do they get off making this sort of decision for us?" This time it was Chu Cheng, his voice thick with irritation.

    Before he could answer, a voice from outside the pod caught Lan Jue's attention.

    "Come on out a second," the voice implored. It was strangely familiar. Shocked at who he knew to be outside, Lan Jue disconnected from DreamNet and opened the pod.

    Outside stood a man in formal attire, with a wig and a glimmering scepter. It was the Wine Master.

    "Wine Master? What are you doing here," Lan Jue asked in surprise.

    In lieu of response, the Paragon waved his scepter. There was a flash of silver light, and suddenly two new sim pods appeared where there had been nothing.

    Compared to the original pods, these were about twice as large. The quality of the materials used looked amazing. By now Hua Li had also exited his pod, and looked quizzically at the Wine Master.

    The Wine Master looked at the two of them for a moment, then began to speak in his traditionally quiet voice. "Deimos' announcement was a spur-of-the-moment decision. This wasn't part of the plan when you two were being recruited for the task. It was supposed to be a simple competition. There was no time to bring you all in to the loop. We hope you forgive the circumstances. We ask that you use these pods for the next fight."

    Lan Jue couldn't help but scowl as the Wine Master explained the situation. "What's the meaning of this? Is there some sort of relationship between DreamNet and Skyfire Avenue," he asked, his voice clearly revealing displeasure.

    The Wine Master answered with a nod. "Not just the Avenue. The Three Alliance, the Conclave, even the two Citadels. All of us are in constant contact with DreamNet. Since the beginning the network has been run by those in power. Considering the circumstances, this upgrade is absolutely imperative. We just didn't expect things to be ready so quickly. Once the Bookworm broke through to Paragon, the problems that had blocked him were overcome as well. He had a series of revelations and, with the help of the Keeper, was able to push the project through to completion. So, the DreamNet administrators had a meeting and decided now was the time. They would... borrow this event to make the announcement."

    "Everything the DreamNet Guardian told you before was true. Humanity will face an unprecedented foreign threat. The Northern Alliance has already dispatched another exploratory mission, this time with a mothership-class battle frigate fully equipped for combat. According to the situation as it stands now, the enemy can appear at any moment. This is why DreamNet is in such a hurry to get this upgrade finished. It is paramount that we do everything we can to prepare humanity for this confrontation. We hope you can understand and cooperate with the changes."

    Hua Li's brows furrowed. "Is it correct o assume then, that you yourself are a DreamNet Guardian, your majesty?"

    Once again, the Wine Master nodded. "You could say that, though it's very rare that I show up anywhere in DreamNet. I'm not a pilot, just an Adept. After the upgrade, though, I'll likely start making appearances."

    Lan Jue was next to speak. "This time I'll give you face and participate. However, I do not agree that the DreamNet administration never approached us for permission before making this decision."

    The Wine Master's normally stoic expression darkened. "You don't agree? You have the nerve to disagree? Before you had no scruples agreeing to help the Gourmet or the Pauper with their little task. You were going to steal in to cellar and abscond with one of my treasured possessions. You don't agree?"

    Lan Jue, surprise written clear on his face, blinked at the new master of Skyfire Avenue. "The Pauper actually succeeded?"

    "Those two bastards have just vanished," the Wine Master spat confrontationally. The Pauper even had the gall to leave a message. He said if there was a problem to call you. He probably knew I'd see you during the competition, and can settle accounts then."

    Lan Jue gave the Paragon a bitter chuckle. "But I never directly participated! I'm a victim here too you know, I didn't even get to drink any of your precious treasure. The Gourmet, that guy, he never even told me. And he calls himself a friend."

    The Wine Master snorted furiously. "Fine, enough nonsense. Hurry up and get ready for your next fight. When All's said and done we're sit down."

    "What about Hades and Prometheus," Hua Li asked.

    "They're already prepared and waiting."

    The two Monarchs climbed in to the new pods and reconnected to DreamNet. Lan Jue was prepared somewhat for the differences - after all, he'd done this before. He did note that the pod was more comfortable than the experimental design he'd used earlier. Overall it had seen some significant improvements.

    Hua Li was pleasantly excited by the novelty of it. Being able to use your Discipline in DreamNet... this was no normal upgrade!

    Lan Jue immediately got back in contact with Chu Cheng and Lan Qing.

    "My dad brought the new pod to me. What's all this? I've got no choice but to continue with this farce," he said angrily.

    Lan Qing's words were likewise surprising to Lan Jue the most. "A few commissioned officers brought the new one to me here at Headquarters."

    Zeus went on to relate their own experience with the Wine Master.
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