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Prologue: Adventure Game

“Everything ready?”

“Yes, Boss Wu, Boss Wei. I’m now Level 20. Now to create the guild o(* ̄▽ ̄*)ブ”

“Mmm. Keep going,” a voice made rough with years of chain-smoking This is the first time our Guild Happy is colonising a new server. We’d have asked Shameless Ye for it but he’s got other stuff to do. HQ and National Team stuff...”

“Boss Wei, do you have what I asked for?”

“...”

“Boss Wei~”

“...I have to hand it to you. Who else would demand a scaled-down version of that extra-as-fuck umbrella in their contract? You’re not even on the team!”

“Well, I’m God Ye’s fan, of course I want an Umbrella! I’m a core member of Guild Happy!”

“You...” the rough male voice sighed through their Skype conference. “Whatever. Just make sure you terrify the other idiots in the twelfth server. Open your equipment editor. When you specified your account we got it ready. So... go nuts there, girl.”


After what the collective guild leaders of the Club Guilds called the appearance of Glory’s final BOSS, it was almost a relief to flee into the twelfth server. The selection of guild leaders was far more cautious this time – everyone knew that Guild Happy was up to something, which was why, on midnight of December 4 20XX, when the twelfth server’s guild listing came up (and was filled in seconds), most guild leaders looked up the member list.

“Endless Song,1 Level 21 Battle Mage.” Blue Brook Guild’s twelfth server leader read out Guild Happy’s twelfth server leader’s name. “Must be a fangirl of God Ye or Goddess Tang... Battle Mage, Launcher... Qi Master? Ah, God Fang is also in Happy, and he made the National Team...”

A QQ window popped up on his desktop, from a friendly enemy in Herb Garden.

 

Ginkgo: !!!!

Ginkgo: Oh, sorry, I’m from Herb Garden. You’re Brushstroke, right? On the 13th server? Main account Flying Brushstroke?

Ginkgo: Not Blue Bridge?

With that name, which other guild could you be from? Flying Brushstroke kept these thoughts to himself. As for Blue Bridge...

Tears fell down his eyes. You think I want to be here too, brother? After that mess in the tenth server, we’re lucky that he didn’t just quit his job outright! I don’t want to be the next victim of Lord Grim!

 

Brushstroke: Hi hi! Yes brother?

Ginkgo: I just saw Guild Happy’s new guild leader. That can’t be Dawn Rifle.

Brushstroke: Dawn Rifle is a Launcher. You forgot that behind Guild Leader Wu is also Boss Wei.

Ginkgo: En... that sister is holding an umbrella.

?????

Dread pooled in Flying Brushstroke’s stomach before the game window had a pop-up flash:

System Announcement: Your friend {Herb Garden} [Ginkgo] has just been killed by [Endless Song], Level 21 Battle Mage

The QQ window shook.

Ginkgo: Eh... the umbrella is real. It transformed into a spear before she killed me with it.

“Boss!” Flying Brushstroke got up to run to the guild leader’s office. “Bad news! The umbrella... Lord Grim... Guild Happy’s creating another Myriad Manifestations Umbrella! It’s in the twelfth server right now!”


1 沈吟至今 – this comes from a line in ‘Short Song Style’ by Cao Cao 但為君故,沈吟至今 “You are the cause, of this song without pause”.

Chapter Text

1. Alpha Release

The Skeleton Graveyard was a Level 15 to 20 dungeon. At this stage, guild leaders were now shuffling between Skeleton Graveyard and the nearby higher-level Frost Forest. This was why the twelfth server leaders were now amassed around a group to spy.

 

Brushstroke: Oi, Long Night! You’re Cold Night over from the 10th, right?

The Knight hiding behind the tombstone turned around with a scowl, the guild tag of Tyrannical Ambition hanging over his head. “What?” he spoke.

 

Brushstroke: Use the chat! This sister has good hearing!

Long Night glared in the direction of Blue Brook Guild’s expert Brushstroke, main account Flying Brushstroke. The Spitfire was taking care to maintain a significant distance from everyone.

His eyes then fell on Ginkgo, whose huddled form behind a tombstone was only noticeable by the Broom nearby. Looking around, more characters from the other sixteen guilds were around – even Excellent Dynasty was propping itself back on its feet!

Happy’s current party was levelling up by killing skeletons. It consisted of a standard dungeoning team: a Knight as MT, a Cleric healer, a Warlock and a Ghostblade for field control, a Launcher and a Brawler for DPS, and the Battle Mage which was currently the focus of everyone’s attention standing under a tree. It almost seemed like a woman with her hair in a braid and pink armour was holding a pink umbrella on a night stroll – at least, until a skeleton spawned nearby, and then the umbrella transformed into a spear and destroyed the skeleton before the lady continued her stroll.

“... you sure it’s not one of the pro-players?” Long Night moaned in despair. “That was Soft Mist right?!”

“Sorry, but I’m more a fan of God Ye.”

Long Night jumped, not fast enough to evade the Sky Strike-Falling Flower Palm combo that blew him away. Endless Song had jumped into his place to regard the crouching players around her. The pink umbrella had turned into a spear – also pink, but now sinister in the pink sheen which seemed like a permanent bloodstain.

“Tyrannical Ambition is now here. Good, all three of the Three Great Guilds...” The soft contralto made it clear that its current controller was not a transvestite player like Happy’s Little Cold Hands, but a real female gamer. “Hi everyone~ I’m Endless Song, the new twelfth server guild leader of Guild Happy. Pleased to meet you all! You’re not here to ambush, are you~?”

“...”

No mater Brushstroke’s actual feelings, he swallowed his words. He returned the greetings with every other guild leader present, and they exchanged friend invites before he spoke: “So... Sister. Is that... a Silver weapon?”

“Hmm? Well, you could say that.” Endless Song used a speech bubble to display a smiley above her head. “This is the Moonlight Umbrella, my weapon.”

“That’s dangerous to carry around, you know.” In real life, Flying Brushstroke could feel his guild leader glaring over his shoulder.

“En! But, this is the symbol of Guild Happy’s leader.” The umbrella expanded, and its wielder did a twirl around. “After all, our God plays an Unspecialised.”

That’s not even a class!

Flying Brushstroke wanted to rebut, but swallowed his words. What else could he do? After all, an Unspecialised had taken the tenth server, the Challenger League and the Season 10 Championships by storm! Umbrellas might as well be the defining weapon of this non-existent 25th class right now. If any party had the right to claim a specific weapon as their symbol, of course Happy – both team and guild – would claim the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella.

However, this exchange had definitely revealed Endless Song as a fangirl of Lord Grim. This was... slightly complicated, but not as bad as the genuine article bringing a bloody storm into the twelfth server.

Do we steal the umbrella?

Brushstroke frowned, looking towards Changing Spring nearby. Changing Spring’s real name was Liang Yichun, but he went by his ID for so long that sometimes it felt like he lived as Changing Spring more often than Liang Yichun.

“Wait.”

Changing Spring’s order came at the same time that Long Night had come charging back. “Oi! What did you hit me for?”

“Oh, sorry, I thought you were an ambusher.” Endless Song made a careless wave. “We at Happy are poor, you know.”

“Huh?!” Ginkgo exclaimed. “Sister, were you going to kill us?”

“Anyway, why aren’t you guys going away?” Endless Song sent a shocked emoticon.

“Go away? What for?”

The character tilted her head, making her large eyes seem rather cute. “...nothing. didn’t say anything.”

“...”

Brushstroke, Ginkgo, and Long Night sent ellipses at her, while in the guild chat each of them were frantically enquiring about until their questions were answered by a system announcement:

 

System Announcement: Guild Conquering Clouds has killed Goblin Merchant Lorraine for the first time.

“!!!”

The three guild leaders bemoaned their fate. They had been so distracted by the potential appearance of Lord Grim in their server that they had missed the wild BOSS... and Guild Conquering Clouds? A small guild like Conquering Clouds could not have done so on their own, so Happy’s guild leader acted as bait while the rest killed the Goblin Merchant! The Five-Guild Alliance had spread out of the Heavenly Domain!

“But, if you guys have designs on my Umbrella, I advise you all to give up,” Endless Song continued chatting.

“Oh? Why?” Long Night challenged.

“This is a nuclear bomb.”

Nuclear... bomb... Brushstroke stared at the screen until a dreadful thought occurred to him. “Sister... does that mean what I think it means?”

“If Brother means that, by losing this a big BOSS will be summoned...” Another smiley. “I didn’t say anything~”

Flying Brushstroke turned around. “Guild leader?”

“...it might be a bluff, but we can’t risk it yet,” Changing Spring immediately concluded. “This sister knows it too, which is why she can wield it around so openly. For any other guild it would be a bluff, but...”

Brushstroke nodded in understanding.

Happy’s actions had had the effect of suppressing the tenth server too much, until the trauma had effected even the 11th server last year. Poplar Beach had actually asked for a posting in the 11th and received it – the shame and trauma of having been killed in seconds without any way to fight back lingers to this day. Dealing with the former pro Wu Chen was much easier than facing Happy’s rampages in the Heavenly Domain with their alliance of guilds.

In the game, Long Night had already spoken: “Sister, you’re tempting fate like this, you know.”

“Right, right!” Ginkgo agreed. “Sister, why are you at this map then?”

“I’m supervising them,” was the blunt reply.

“Sister...” Long Night’s face was probably black. “Are these... open accounts?”

“I don’t know. Our guild association president and vice-president wants them.”

Wu Chen wanting new accounts was understanding, but nothing good could come from Wei Chen wanting anything. Long Night took a closer look at the party composition, and immediately messaged his own boss.

The guild leader of Tyrannical Ambition, still in a fight, glared as his QQ popped up. His glare faded when he saw the news:

Long Night: Happy is probably preparing a dungeoning team for their pros in the 13th. Launcher, Brawler, Ghostblade, Warlock, MT Knight, Cleric healer. Umbrella is no-go – stealing it will summon the big BOSS.

Chapter Text

2. Any%

“Guild Leader! Shift change!”

“OK~!” The pink-armoured Battle Mage folded up her umbrella and slung it across her back before jumping from the perch that she had held throughout the Skeleton Graveyard. “Good luck, Mr Mo!”

The substitute leveller’s Thief with the Xiaoqiang Productions guild label over his head sent a smiley back in a speech bubble: (╯‵□′)╯炸弹!•••*~●

“Mr Mo is so nice! He didn’t even flinch when Tyrannical Ambition sent an assault team along!” Endless Song kept chattering to the other guard.

“En...” The player who had come to take over the guard shift was a Blade Master, ID Bright Moon. “Guild Leader, half of us have finished our Frost Forest runs already. Leader is as busy as always...”

The pink-dressed Battle Mage sent up a smiley face, her ID coated red with the blood of slaughtered players. “En. I need to repair the Moonlight Umbrella. Hmm... has any guild started on Boneyard, elder?”

“Not yet...”

Regarding the First Clear of a dungeon, players had to always keep their levels at the top of the standings. To make up for a relative lack of skill, most Club guilds thus hired substitute levellers.

This... was slightly complicated for Happy.

Throughout Season 10, Guild Happy and Guild Everlasting’s statuses had been ignored until Happy became the dark horse champion, at which a world war broke out and it was all hands to fend for themselves until Wei Chen retired into the guild department to help out.

Thankfully, the Heavenly Domain took the brunt of the fight, but there had been a time where Windward Formation had descended into the 11th server over a BOSS fight. The situation was thankfully defused, but it set a stunning example of the pros of hiring retired pros into the guilds.

Either way, hiring levellers who were unable to handle the aggro generated in the Club guilds for Happy’s existence made their levelling a secret of the highest order. The fact that the 13th server’s branch leader Endless Song was openly supervising the project, only heightened the tension. The only reason why Xiaoqiang Productions had agreed to take on this project was due to God Ye Xiu pulling strings with the studio’s owner.

“I’ll have to trouble Senior to keep a lookout then~” Endless Song sang. “After all, we need these accounts for Thursday night.”


“You sure that was what she said?” Jiang You was communicating with one of Happy’s spies, one who had been on the team to escort the change of guards from Congee City to the levelling area. “Thursday? What’s on Thursday? And this Bright Moon?”

“Bright Moon was called Sleeping Moon in the 10th server, he’s an elder of Guild Happy...”

“I know, one of the normal players who ended up forming a pick-up group with Lord Grim, and then became part of the fan club,” Jiang You cut him off. “Thursday?”

“Broadcast,” came the prompt reply via voice chat. “Happy’s 13th server branch is hosting a live broadcast in Happy Internet Café, and the recordings become videos-on-demand to sell and raise funds for the team.”

“...Ah,” Jiang You sighed in understanding once a picture was sent. It was a photograph of a poster, one presumably taken by a fan to put up on the Glory forums. ‘Glory Live Broadcast Every Thursday – Dungeoning with Team Happy!’ Most of it would be standard fare except for one phrase: ‘Host: Ye Xiu’.

The outlined timetable below the flyer marked Thursday’s date to correspond with ‘A Walk-through of Frost Forest’.

“...did you send it to Long Night?” Jiang You asked.

“Yes.”

Jiang You sighed. “Good... we don’t need to worry about a dungeoning team for now, not when it’s for teaching lessons. So, what did you find out about Endless Song? Wait, hold on.”

Long Night was dragged into the group, where he paid his greetings. “You found info on Endless Song?! That bitch nearly killed me!”

“Where the teams are involved, especially with Happy’s team, caution is always needed,” Jiang You severely curtailed the imminent venting. “Endless Song.”

“Er...” the rustling of paper could be heard. “Endless Song is definitely residing in Guild Happy’s main headquarters, and in personal contact with their association president Wu Chen and vice-president Wei Chen. She’s definitely trusted enough if Happy would give her a transforming silver weapon. From what we pieced together, her main account was Only For Lord,1 part of Happy’s third elite group in the Heavenly Domain.”

“...The trainee group.” Jiang You echoed. “One of Happy’s?”

Jiang You was talking about Happy’s internal arrangements, referring to the third elite group of Guild Happy’s Heavenly Domain troops. The third elite group, or ‘trainee group’ was named, not because the players ranked 201 to 300 of Guild Happy’s standings were noobs – rather, it denoted where most of Team Happy’s training camp players were placed by rank. Players ranked 1 to 10, and onwards down to 100, were Team Happy itself – team, boss, guild association staff, technical department, etc, whereas players ranked 101 to 200 were mainly loyal followers from the tenth server – those who had followed Lord Grim since Happy’s founding and through the ups and downs of the Challenger League and Season 10’s miraculous turnabout.

“Couldn’t make the cut to be pro despite her talent, but was offered a post in the guild department?” Long Night guessed. This was the common fate for the talented players who washed out of the harsh training programs of the 20 teams at the top of the Glory Pro Alliance. After all, in this e-Sport where only two hundred people out of an estimated 130 million players in the entire country could call themselves pro-players, the competition was incredibly harsh, and God Ye Xiu’s standards could only be harsher.

“Hmm...” Jiang You steepled his fingers, the gears in his brain turning. “Long Night, set up a meeting with Endless Song, would you? I have a feeling that we’ll finally get a way past Happy’s defences...”


1 但為君故, the first half of the same line that contains Endless Song’s current handle.

Chapter Text

3. Avatar

“The team going to Boneyard. What type of party composition is that?! You don’t need two tanks for a ten-player dungeon! Get two Mages there – that Witch, Plum Blossom, you’re alone, yes? Want to try a dungeon?

G uild Happy was one of the rare guilds where, despite the experts rapidly joining their ranks, still boasted a large population of new players. For one, their restrictions were hardly strict; hence, the guild leaders of Happy sometimes wavered between the babysitters like non-professional guilds and army commanders of Club groups which numbered by the hundreds.

The only exception was the Heavenly Domain – nobody could really be called a noob in the Heavenly Domain. C ould anyone under God Ye Xiu’s direct command really be considered a babysitter...?

Nonetheless, someone under Guild Happy which may or may not be under that God was serving as a babysitter – Endless Song was chattering to teach beginners, arrange groups, and the various miscellaneous tasks for a guild leader in a new server.

“Put everything into Intelligence? This isn’t Super Mario!” Endless Song was chattering now. “Most Ghostblade skills are magic-based, so adding Intelligence isn’t wrong. Whether you’re a Phantom Demon or a Sword Demon, though, putting points into Intelligence can’t be the only choice. Sword Demons use physical attacks a lot, and most of the current meta-game involves Swordsman skills to chain together combos, so adding a few points into Strength is a must. As for Phantom Demons, they have several crowd-control skills, of which Spirit increases the effectiveness.”

The pink-dressed Battle Mage looked like how she was acting – incredibly girlish – but the pink umbrella slung over her back made her seem intimidating to the worshippers of Team Happy. Most of them acted like, if they prayed hard enough, God Ye Xiu would take over the account and descend before mere mortals like them to impart divine knowledge.

Happy’s 13th server branch was currently level 5 with a level 1 Stat Guardian – after the Level 75 update it became easier to beat the level 1 Guardian with twenty Level 27 experts. In Happy’s case, they used ten pro-players and ten experts in wild BOSS hunts using Level 25 accounts, and clinched the Guardian far earlier than the other Club guilds again. This was the kind of record which created more fans of Happy and increased their waiting list, because Team Happy at this point still did not have the resources or manpower to manage branch guilds other than the first through ninth servers’ Guild Everlasting.

“The Ghostblade as a topic will come up in January 18’s broadcast!” Endless Song then announced, which created much cheer.

“Will our little angel be coming along?!” A group nearby screamed. A large holographic featuring a generic Ghostblade fanning a ghost stretched out on a sailing raft glittered on the wall of the guild building behind them.

“Of course, our Little Qiao is a very good Ghostblade!” Endless Song yelled back in the game. “Ghost Lantern, I know you’re a big fan!”

“When can we meet him?!”

“Soon... I hope~ (*^_^*).”

The Guild Happy 13th server branch currently had 500 members, amongst which the number of known spies were 25. The remaining were staff under her command, and diehard fans. Fans still had their own preferred players; some of these fan preferences influenced guild class composition, like in Club guilds, and some of these fans tended to group together outside of BOSS hunts. While it had yet to impact guild operations, such loose factionalism had been known to tear apart guilds and allow spies, so Endless Song had to keep a lookout as these fan-club branches developed.

By virtue of subclass, Endless Song was the de facto leader of the Umbrella Troops,1 which consisted mainly of Battle Mages; by far the biggest proportion by subclass in Guild Happy. The Orange-Washers2 was led by a subordinate Launcher, ID Green Bamboo – this was where the Su Mucheng fans somehow concentrated themselves.

Ghost Lantern was a male Ghostblade – a hybrid build to be exact – and the de facto head of the Propitious Sails, the Qiao Yifan fan-club. Their idol did not seem to be aware that he even had fans, so these Ghostblades and supports tended to be slightly more low-key. Their main activities were cooing over ‘their angel’ and providing massive Ghost Boundary support in BOSS hunts.

What was more worrying about this group, though, was only known to Endless Song; Ghost Lantern was a spy.


In the real world, a young girl leant back in her chair to chatter. A cup of water rested in her right hand, where her left hand hurriedly typed the tab shortcuts to flash through the various pop-ups of the Glory interface. She then took off her earphones and took a sip.

“Ghost Lantern is pressing again, Leader Wu,” she said without preamble once the cup was taken away.

“We got it down to either Void Walk or Herb Garden,” Wu Chen barely looked away from his own monitor. Light from the outside world streamed in through the shuttered windows on his right, painting orange stripes on one half of his face. “What I don’t get is why do they think the pro-players would be affected by fan opinion. The pro-players themselves don’t play for the fans, at least not directly. Duan Gexing, concentrate.”

Duan Gexing, 13th server ID Endless Song, scowled, her face pale blue in the light from the monitor. A man and a woman alone in a room seemed like the start of something, but they were concentrating on their work in the game of Glory far too much to care. “When can we kick Ghost Lantern out? He’s obviously up to nothing good.”

“He does his work, and there’s no BOSS sabotage yet.” Unlike his junior, Wu Chen’s attitude was far more professional. “He plays his part as a devoted fan too well. Wait, and then cut him loose.”

“I can’t wait to kill him,” Duan Gexing breathed, a blush crossing her cheeks before she hurriedly rubbed her eyes. “Now, time to get back to work~ Accounts, accounts, Thursday on TV~!”

Wu Chen resisted taking a side-eye at this rookie guild leader. This sister was indeed a capable manager and too familiar with the dark side of Glory to be comfortable, yet there was one reason why God Ye had taken one look at her assessment and offered her a role in the guild department, no contest.

You love chaotic battles too much, Miss Duan,” Ye Xiu had said with absolute certainty then. “A five-on-five is too boring for you. What you want is to fight hundreds and hundreds of people.

I want an umbrella,” she’d said then. “Then I will be your paratrooper to leap into danger for Happy’s sake.

I look forward to it, Miss Duan.

Battle Mage, Only for Lord, was then moved from the third group to the first group at rank 17 sub-guild leader. This ended Duan Gexing’s path towards professional Glory on the dazzling stage, as she moved out of the training camp into the guild department. Yet, at the same time another entity was born, a parasol in hand and bathed in reds like the blood of hundreds in-game; the leader of the Umbrella Troops.


1 伞兵 – this also means ‘paratrooper’ in Chinese.

2 橙沐 – a reversal of the characters in Su Mucheng’s name.

Chapter Text

4. Bullet Hell

It was the Thursday before Christmas and the upcoming All-Star weekend. Season 11 was halfway done, and Happy was still within the top 8 and projected to reach the play-offs. It was in such a positive mindset that 8 PM rolled around, and the Happy Internet Café’s employees began to set up the projector – not for a match, but for the Thursday live broadcast.

The screen flashed. On Bilibili, thousands and thousands of viewers popped up online. Upon the viewing screen was projected the logo of Team Happy, and then followed by a shut-out to a Glory interface.

“Fellow comrades! Hello everyone, this is your commentator Endless Song in: ‘Dungeoning with Team Happy’! Today is a special case and not because our athletes need to fulfil their broadcast requirements, but we’re going to clear Frost Forest! Here we are at the 13th server, where I, your host, am the local guild leader! Now, let’s have a look at the standard party that we’ve amassed – a Knight to serve as main tank, a Cleric as Healer, a Warlock for crowd-control, a Launcher and Brawler for DPS. Let’s make a guess – who’s using which character?!”

A pause, presumably as the host was taking a look at the comments scrolling across the Bilibili screen. “Ah, Goddess Su is the Launcher, ID Unceasing Work?”

“That’s right!” Su Mucheng’s voice invited a wave of viewer comments. “Hi everyone! Today I’m using a Launcher, definitely not switching up.”

“Good evening to you too, Captain!” Endless Song chirped. “This broadcast is meant for our contestants to let off some steam, yes?”

“At this stage, our teamwork practices takes priority,” Su Mucheng primly replied. “Dungeoning requires teamwork, adaptation to some degree, even more involvement than some team competitions. At higher levels of dungeons, being able to work together is even more important no matter how good every member is individually.”

“Sis Mu!” The Brawler cried out. “I’m a Xiaolongbao today!”

He was speaking literally,

“Ah, Steamed Bun!” Su Mucheng turned around, and then let off a laugh. “Guild Leader Song, I just have to ask... are all our Brawler accounts named after buns?”

“Captain, I’m not the one naming them!” Endless Song gave a protest which seemed extremely fake to everyone, if the series of sixes flowing across the screen was any indication. “I think our guild president Wu was creating them before dinner, and the name list got switched out with our dinner order...”

Another comment flashed across the screen.

 

“Explain last week’s Sesame Bun, last last week’s Charsiew Bun, and the first broadcast’s Braised Pork Bun!”

“...” Endless Song took a deep breath. “Anyway, our Steamed Bun is a Goubuli anyway, so he’s delicious!”

“Go Believe!”1 Steamed Bun shouted in the broadcast channel. “Sister, what’s your star sign?”

“Me? I’m a Libra.”

“Wow! But you’re a Battle Mage?”

“Steamed Bun, does our subclass have to be related to our star sign? Then why didn’t you pick a Witch?”

“Huh? Why do I have to pick a Witch?”

“Lava Flask.”

“Oh... I never thought about that!” Steamed Bun laughed. “I even thought you’d answer with ‘touching porcelain’.2

“Our Guild Happy might play with the wretched style but we obey the law!” Endless Song exclaimed. “We’re in a Glory broadcast!”

“Steamed Bun, be good or this senior will eat you!” The Warlock Leeward Formation gruffly said, and then the character turned towards the point of view in the broadcast. “Eh-heh-heh, hi everyone...”

Boos filtered over the screen.

“Wow, Boss Wei, you’re as popular as ever!” Endless Song exclaimed.

“Eh-heh-heh... Little Song, you’d better get my good side!” Wei Chen completely glossed over the boos crossing the screen. “My year-end bonus is on the line here!”

“Eh-heh-heh... Doesn’t Eh-heh-heh pay you enough, Boss...”

“What do you kids know?!”

“So, we have our goddess and captain Su Mucheng, retired player Boss Wei, and current second-year Bao Rongxing, also called Steamed Bun. That leaves us two more players! Pull your guesses! So... we have lots of people guessing that God Ye is currently controlling the Cleric Autumn Moon. Autumn Moon?”

“Sorry, everyone, I’m An Wenyi.”

The comments barely changed – some were flat-out banned. An Wenyi was not reading them anyway.

“So that means...”

“Hi everyone. I’m World Ruler, Ye Xiu.”

“God Ye~ I’m your fangirl!” Endless Song then started. “Ah... one comment turned into a wall of text...”

 

Flowing Tree: Old Ye do you have any shame at all what’s with that ridiculous ID the Glory world isn’t ruled by you it’s ruled by GMs and the game company if you have any self-consciousness or professional respect you’d stop torturing the players trying to race for the records do you have any pride at all let’s PK PK PK PK!!!!

“....Ignore him.”

“OK~” The enormous wall of text disappeared with the censor’s delete.

“God Ye, thanks a lot for taking some time out of your busy schedule to run Frost Forest again. If I recall, in the tenth server you’ve done this before under Lord Grim, yes? You were with Blue Brook Guild, and then Tyrannical Ambition.”

“Yes. It’s still a recent memory, so I don’t need to look at a guide again like previously.”

“Pioneering is exciting, but does a low-level dungeon like Frost Forest pose a learning experience?”

“Technically, as long as a player’s equipment keeps up, they can manage to run a dungeon just fine,” Ye Xiu elaborated. “Pro-players are a different standard, but this is a back-to-basics broadcast. In terms of dungeoning the standard party is a main tank plus healer core, and damage-dealers. Today our pick-up group has one more addition in crowd-control, to make things easier for our healer. We’re not actually running for a dungeon record today, even if we might accidentally break the 13th server record... oops.”

“Our Guild Happy can’t hope for pro-players to be distracted!” Endless Song laughed. “The current cross-server record for Frost Forest is 12 minutes 55 seconds 42 milliseconds under Guild Excellent Dynasty, yes? Today we’re not ready! The record is... 13 minutes!”


In Club Blue Rain’s building, Flying Brushstroke happened to see this part. The drink he was taking went down the wrong pipe, causing a splutter as he nearly drowned.

“That’s our 13 minutes!” Flying Brushstroke, who went by the ID Brushstroke in the 13th server, yelled. He was ready to cry; where it was an open secret that Excellent Dynasty had used their pro-players to set the 10th server’s Frost Forest, now Guild Happy was just openly broadcasting their pro-players clearing Frost Forest.

“So, let’s recap on our team composition!” Endless Song chirped. “Knight, World Ruler. Cleric, Autumn Moon. Launcher, Unceasing Work. Warlock, Leeward Formation. Brawler, Xiaolongbao. Frost Forest is a Level 20 to 25 five-player dungeon, and all the characters here are outfitted with Blue equipment. During the actual run itself, God Ye will be taking us through the broadcast while I wait outside the dungeon!”

As she had read out, a character profile like in matches had flashed across the broadcast screen. Happy definitely had a professional behind the live broadcast, and that professional was also a partner – Xiaoqiang Productions.

Brushstroke, as well as the other 13th server guild leaders watching the broadcast, sighed in relief. Happy was definitely not ready to break a record; this time around, at least. Blue equipment was definitely the most mainstream equips; it was almost believable that this was just a standard back-to-basics.

“We’ll be using all three runs this time around,” Ye Xiu took over. “The first time will be using the standard clearing strategy for Frost Forest. The second time will show another strategy that a standard five-player party can consider, as well as other surprises in Frost Forest. The last time, we’ll be using Happy’s speciality of an all-DPS strategy to one-wave rush them all.”

“I’m looking forward to it!” Endless Song chirped. “All-DPS! Only God Ye can be this reckless and survive!”

“We’ll have to stay until the third round.”

Behind Brushstroke, Changing Spring was also keeping an eye on the broadcast as they entered the dungeon. “One-Wave Rush,” he said. “Old Blue said that it was the strategy used in Frost Forest. This part is the noob’s introduction to- whoa!”

“Aerial Curve!” Brushstroke exclaimed.

“To do this, jump when activating Charge,” Ye Xiu’s voice came over the screen. “Arc Charge is a slightly harder mechanical combination for tanks, but curves to hit scattered monsters. In the case where all your mobs are scattered, you can get your party members to put the mobs in a straight line and use Charge to aggro.”

“...should we...”

“...” Changing Spring coughed. “Save this bit for our guild tanks...”

The first run took 25 minutes, which was slow but informative with solid basic play for Glory. The second round was even more informative – Brushstroke was taking notes by the end, especially where Leeward Formation executed a Cut Throat where the final BOSS Frost Thain would have teleported to, and then the BOSS was trapped in an endless juggling.

“Boss! Great work!” Steamed Bun yelled.

“So, keeping a BOSS in the air is more difficult,” Ye Xiu was explaining. “Start small, practice with regular monsters. If you want a challenge, mini-BOSSES are also good. This is a goal that you can work towards... well, you can try to work towards.”

Finally, the dreaded third round came about.

“This is the last promised all-DPS round!” Endless Song finally came back to commentate. “The last two rounds will be treasured by tanks all over Glory, I’m sure! This is technique imparted from the Glory Textbook himself!”

“We’ve swapped out the MT and Healer,” Ye Xiu’s voice came from off-screen. “Launcher, Warlock, Summoner, Ghostblade, and Battle Mage. Endless Song, you’re Level 24, right?”

“Ah? Uh, yes...”

“We’ll need to borrow your character. Weapon too.”

“YYYYYAAAAAASSSSS!!!! o(* ̄▽ ̄*)ブ”

“...”

The Ghostblade character walked around. Its ID shone prominent next to the Happy guild tag: Seen a Ghost, Level 21. A comment disappeared halfway across the screen – it had been deleted.

“Alright, before I hand over the controls, let’s cover the class composition. Launcher, Unceasing Work. Warlock, Leeward Formation. Ghostblade, Seen a Ghost. Brawler, Xiaolongbao. Battle Mage, Endless Song. God Ye, I notice that you’ve packed some control classes into this party?”

“Eh-heh-heh (*^_^*). It’s a surprise for our viewers. After all, yesterday someone tried to massacre Seen A Ghost. I never need to worry about Little Qiao’s basics.”

“I’ll do my best, Senior!”

“Little Qiao!” Wei Chen cackled. “You can do it!”

The Moonlight Umbrella unfurled, and Endless Song’s stance took on a more martial nuance.

“Now, brothers,” and every guild member watching jumped as Ye Xiu’s voice issued from Endless Song. “The bomb has been deployed.”

 


1 This is a Chinese brand of steamed bun, also called Goubuli.

2 ZH: 碰瓷 – a staged accident; a type of extortion where someone fakes an accident to demand compensation.

Chapter Text

5. Button Mashing

Everyone in the 13th server finally realised what the ‘nuclear bomb’ was.

The Moonlight Umbrella was currently the most prominent Silver weapon on the 13th server. Although it was more a marker of status than anything else, it did not change two facts; firstly, the guild leader of Guild Happy’s 13th server branch held it; and, secondly, targeting it would implode Happy’s nuclear bomb. At this point, weapons were now breakable, and no matter how much simpler the Moonlight Umbrella was compared to its predecessor the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella, upgrading and maintaining this weapon would be much slower.

The umbrella transformed into a Battle Lance, and then opened out into its umbrella form. In Glory mechanics this would be a Shield, right? Nobody knew. Everyone was too afraid of the potential threat of another Lord Grim in the 13th server to try yet.

“I think the earlier prototype can compare.”

Everyone in the broadcast nearly jumped at that. An earlier prototype? Was Happy truly insane enough to try and build another Silver weapon in a new server? There was a limit to how insane they could be!

“Thanks, God Ye!”

“Obviously, we hired you for this.”

Guild leaders paid more attention here.

“God Ye, you’re such a sweet-talker~ We’re on the Internet, you know, will Goddess Su be alright?” Endless Song laughed back.

“I’m alright~! b( ̄▽ ̄)d” Su Mucheng’s character even sent up a speech bubble with an emoticon.

“Ngh. Now let’s go break a record.”

Watching it was almost like a train wreck – Changing Spring and Flying Brushstroke could finally understand what Blue Bridge Spring Snow had meant when he mentioned ‘one wave rush’.

Faced with a mob, the character Endless Song leapt into the air in a superhuman jump – now, it was obvious that she had stacked jump power on her equipment. The umbrella flew open...

“...” Brushstroke rubbed his eyes. “Er...”

“...the weapon has a property of slowing fall rate?” Changing Spring guessed. “How would it be useful-”

Endless Song floated over the mob, and then the umbrella closed back into a battle lance onto a mob of ranged Goblins, dropping her avatar straight into them. The mob flew apart in a Circle Swing, and a flurry of normal attacks cleaved apart the monsters as Endless Song slaughtered out back towards the party, leading the Goblin mobs towards the others.

Watching a nearly full roster of Team Happy’s pros and two retired gods go at Frost Forest was almost a delight. It made for an incredible performance, and they did break the record, even if it was only 16 minutes, 3 minutes short of Excellent Dynasty’s 10th server hold on the Frost Forest record.

“To slow fall... and...” Changing Spring’s lips thinned as the broadcast closed. “Did we record?”

“Er... there’s a VOD,” Brushstroke swallowed.

“We’re buying a regular subscription. For now,” Changing Spring sighed, “let’s show the video to Captain Yu.”


“You know, we just flashed a potentially new battle style onto the Internet.” Wei Chen said as the broadcast was closed off with the logos of Xiaoqiang Productions and Team Happy side-by-side. “Are you sure it’s alright?”

It was the dark of night, and the two men were sitting by a roadside stall within walking distance of Forest Park – by extension, within distance of the Happy Internet Café whose building contained the Café and their technical and guild departments. A dish of Beggar’s Chicken was between them – only half the chicken, though. The other half was kept in a plastic bag for takeaway back to the night-shift guild department.

“The battle style is only viable if we have a special mechanic like the one built into the Moonlight Umbrella,” Ye Xiu replied, pulling another cigarette. “That’s what Duan Gexing is for. We need to figure out the mechanics and viability of this strategy before we see how to fit the mechanic into Dancing Fire Flowing Flame.”

The situation had been exactly as every guild leader had expected it initially; that Happy was using the 13th server to test a new weapon. It was partly true, and yet not at all true; what they had been testing was a play-style where, under a reduction of falling speed, the Battle Mage could freely change his or her aerial position to better insert into the battlefield. The temporary equilibrium had been broken when Ye Xiu displayed the Moonlight Umbrella’s capabilities on the recent broadcast – this had the effect of making Endless Song the new target of the 13th server’s aggro.

“So succeed, and we get a potential ace player sub seventh person to replace Soft Mist,” Wei Chen detailed. “Fail, and we get a mid-pro guild staff next to Wu Chen and Lin Yi. ‘Course, then she’ll have to brush up on her leading for large groups. So here’s the question that you haven’t been answering since the season’s opening – the reason why you tossed the madwoman to the guild department? Let’s face it, Little Duan is a lunatic.”

Duan Gexing’s first appearance in the Internet Café had made a deeper impression that Steamed Bun. That was the only thing that Happy’s boss Chen Guo, Wei Chen, and Wu Chen would ever say.

“Not just Soft Mist,” Ye Xiu corrected. “In about... three years, when Little Tang retires, our boss agreed to sell Soft Mist back to Little Tang and both of them, character and controller, would probably stay with the guild department. The Silver equipment is still up in the air, but either way Happy would need a replacement Battle Mage account to match Soft Mist.”

“...you’re intending to field Endless Song? A guild leader account?!”

Ye Xiu snorted. “Pro-level accounts aren’t that easy to get. Depending on the result, though... we might field dual Battle Mages.”


In the early morning of December 22, just hours after broadcast, the attendant on duty at the Happy Internet Café looked up from her screen as two men entered the café.

“Is there anything else that I can help you two with?”

One of them smiled. “Is there an expert in this Internet Cafe?”

“Glory expert?” This received a slow blink.

“Yeah!”

“...You guys aren’t local, are you?” Her eyes narrowed.

“We came from C City, does that help?” The man nodded and smiled. “The owner of Grand Internet Café invited us over to help.”

Understanding dawned on the attendant’s face. “Understood. Sweeping the Field, yes?”

Faces from the half-asleep customers had already turned at her proclamation. Most of the expressions on their faces were that of disbelief. Whispers began to fill the air as customers exchanged hisses and chuckles.

Here?”

“They’re not serious, right?!”

“The gods, are they up yet?”

“No...”

“The guild people are still...”

Both the experts attempting to Sweep the Field at Happy Internet Café distinctly quailed under the pitying looks directed at them. Sure, this Internet Café was right next to the place where Club Excellent Era used to be, but now Excellent Era had moved but the café remained. What kind of experts were here?

The message was sent, and soon the gentle-looking lady boss of Happy Internet Café came down with a smile. “Oh, so you’re from Grand Internet Café? All the way from across the country, yes? I’m the boss, Chen Guo.”

“Hello,” both men nodded with grins on their faces.

“So, what did Boss Ma tell the two of you?” Chen Guo began without preamble.

“Well... we were first sent to Sweep Grand Internet Café, but Boss Ma outbid our employer then,” the first one said.

“So Boss Ma tells us that we’ll find a challenge here.” The second one snickered. “I mean, what with all the Excellent Era fans.”

“Oh?”

“Yep! As soon as someone beats us, we’ll leave!”

The sleepy customers were immediately reinvigorated with an uproar. These two dared to challenge the entire Café! Did they even know where they were standing now?!

“Lady Boss, I’ll go!”

“Our Sis Tang doesn’t need to come out against these two who have eyes but fail to recognise Mount Tai!”

“Lady Boss, I’ll finish this quickly.”

Chen Guo jumped, turning around.

The girl behind her wore slacks under a knitted sweater which could have been ordered en masse on Taobao under a Team Happy jacket. Her black hair was plaited into a scorpion braid, the roots pulled tight around her thin face to emphasise the depths of her panda eyes. She had a haunting beauty about her – the type associated with B-movie horror female leads before potentially grisly deaths.

A mug in her hand depicted a cartoon pig, its snout pointed at the first expert trying to Sweep the Field while not knowing that he had been set up by the boss of Grand Internet Café. “Who first?”

“Gexing, you don’t have to-”

“Don’t worry, Lady Boss, I just finished breakfast. This will be a good warm-up.”

When the two picked computers and logged in, Chen Guo leant in to look. They were a Witch and a Sharpshooter – two extremely popular classes in Glory.

The girl tutted, taking another computer to log into her own account.

“These two were set up and they didn’t even know it...” Someone commented on the sidelines as Happy’s employees rolled out the projector to use.

A room in the Arena was quickly set up. Spectators, most of them being Happy’s customers, came in to watch. Chen Guo even logged into Chasing Haze to broadcast her bird-eye view of the match on the projector screen.

The Witch came up first, and on the Internet Café’s side a Battle Mage wielding a bulbous-ended lance waited for him. The character was female, which was rare, and the ID was unique: Only For Lord. Both accounts were max-level accounts in the Heavenly Domain, so neither of them could be noobs unless they had bought their accounts.

From this arrogant guy’s manner, he was clearly not a noob. As for Happy’s end, Chen Guo had even less worry.

From the start, Only For Lord had stuck to the Witch like a human burr and unleashed attack after attack, first throwing the Witch into the air in a Falling Flower Palm before unleashing a normal stab, Dragon Tooth, Double Stab, another normal stab... Chasers glittered all around Only For Lord’s body, the Witch having turned into a rag-doll. She took some damage, but the difference in their skill was clear.

Glory!!

Everyone stared, jaws agape. Sure, the customers knew that Happy was a place where the greats and the plebs mixed, but to see a live player being suppressed to the point of almost not being able to fight back was terrifying.

“Next,” the female Battle Mage player yawned lightly into her hand.

“The fuck?!”

This gesture invited boos from the small crowd. This expert had challenged and lost, and still insulted their side! How was this proper behaviour?

“Next. Person.” The girl blinked.

His partner pulled him down with an apologetic nod and then sat down as his Sharpshooter entered the Arena room to face Only For Lord. Once the match started, he attempted to kite the Battle Mage, who attempted to close the distance until she got hit by a Floating Bullet. The knock-up got her into the air, and from there the Sharpshooter attempted to use a Thunder Snipe until the opponent’s lance twitched.

The bulbous head unfurled, the canopy of an umbrella yanking Only For Lord in a floating position to miss the Thunder Snipe. The canopy folded itself back into a spear as Only For Lord dived down at the Sharpshooter and laid a Circle Swing while still in mid-air.

“First a Mid-Air Four Hit Combo, and now another mid-air skill?” The Witch player from earlier had scowled. “If you like mid-air tactics then use a Witch!”

Only For Lord managed to land, right in front of the Sharpshooter. Revolver met lance, Dragon Breaks the Ranks!

The strongest physical attack of the Battle Mage’s arsenal was unleashed on the Sharpshooter, dragging him the length of the Arena ring. Midway through Dragon Breaks the Ranks was cancelled, but then a Dragon Rises from the Sea was unleashed, followed by a Cloud Whirlwind Windstorm. In the face of three powerful skills, the Sharpshooter could only watch his health plummet to zero.

Glory!

“With just that skill, how could they be opponents for Lord Grim?” The girl said at last.

“W- What?!” The Witch swallowed. “L- Lord Grim?! God Ye Xiu?!”

“...looks like Boss Ma set the two of you up,” Chen Guo took pity on the shell-shocked pair to explain. “It looks like the two of you did not notice, you’re standing in the Happy Internet Café, which is also the origin of our Team Happy, and the headquarters of our Club. That is, you were set up to sweep the current champions of professional Glory.”

As soon as she spoke, the entire crowd broke out in pitying titters at their faces.

“So... you’re a pro?” The Sharpshooter looked at the girl he had just fought, like he’d seen a ghost.

“I’m in the guild,” she peaceably explained. “You two came in at an awkward time when most people would be in bed or preparing to sleep in Glory, you thought you were smart, but there were experts here. Now you’ve lost, so leave before the actual pros get here.”

Chen Guo watched the pair scurry away with a roll of her eyes. “Pests... we need to go over to Grand Internet Café next time as revenge. Gexing, you can log out and sleep now.”

“Yes, boss. Good morning... and good night...”

Duan Gexing logged out of the game, pulled her account card, and went upstairs to find the camp-bed in the guild office where she had been sleeping when too exhausted to walk to Forest Park. Exhausted, she wrote a note on a sticky pad and stuck it on a nearby monitor before she laid on the camp-bed, falling asleep immediately after curling up in the thin blankets.

“Umbrella...”

Chapter Text

6. Beta Release

Duan Gexing sneezed awake.

“You’re up!” Wei Chen set aside the feather duster he had been holding in front of her nose. “So, you wrote: ‘Someone tried to Sweep the Field, used account, forgot to change weapon’. What d’you mean?”

“Boss Wei... I wrote exactly what I meant.”

“So you blew your cover!”

“...eh.” A slow blink. “Can I go back to sleep?”

“What sleep? It’s already 3 PM!” Wei Chen harrumphed. “Four PM. Get washed up and eat quickly; we got an All-Star Weekend to plan for.”

Duan Gexing sat up in the bed, nearly head-butting Wei Chen. “Oh... en...”

“On the bright side, the game company responded to us,” Wei Chen added. “No hope about them replicating Lord Grim’s Myriad Manifestations Umbrella, but your Sunset and Moonlight are good for Orange event items.”

“...they want to buy the template for Moonlight?” Duan Gexing perked up. “They’re negotiating a lot of things with this contract...”

“Close, not quite. The design for Sunset, they’re prepared to offer 500,000 RMB.” Wei Chen spread all five fingers on his left hand. “They tried to dig at our walls, but you already said that the umbrella design was a one-time thing, so hiring you at the design department is a bust. Sad – We could have sent you as a mole.”

Duan Gexing shook her head. “It’s easier for Happy to propose an offline event with Glory’s China branch in joint partnership. We can get the company itself to supply some rare materials.”

“You see, you’re perfect to manage a guild. You’ve got the thirst for materials right down!”


In an environment where most employees were scattered across the land, was a physical meeting possible? Obviously not. Setting up employee residences for the guild was also hardly practical at the moment – the payments for Happy’s sponsors would only come in the next year, after the All-Star Weekend. Hence, Wu Chen opened a video conference.

“This is the December 22 meeting of Guild Happy’s upper echelon. I am Endless Song, Guild Happy 13th server leader, and today’s agenda planner – pleased to meet you all.”

A chorus of greetings popped up on the chat along with vocal acknowledgements.

“Members present: Guild association president Wu Chen, vice-president Wei Chen, first server... second server... third server...”

And so it went on, until all ten of Happy’s guild staff were present: those physically present included Duan Gexing, Wu Chen, Wei Chen, guild staff Lin Yi, who was formerly of Team Jade Dynasty. Ten more people responded with their presences online.

“Today our boss is not gracing us with her presence, because the café is running an event,” Duan Gexing explained.

“Not that our boss can contribute much at this point,” Wei Chen commented.

Duan Gexing overlooked the insult with long practice. “Guild Leader Wu, will you lead today’s meeting?

“I’m too lazy to act as secretary,” Wu Chen waved, still writing in his notebook. “Carry on. Even if you’re still a temp, gotta do your job.”

“...” Duan Gexing nodded at last. “Today’s agenda: the group following the pro team to Club Blue Rain.”

“Pass,” Wei Chen bit out.

“Boss Wei...”

Wei Chen took a deep breath. “Little Duan, I’m already retired, but there is something... complicated about going back there. You understand?”

“...you can tell the boss yourself, Boss Wei.” Duan Gexing put her head back to her notes. “Guild Leader, you have to go along.”

“OK. Boss Wei can hold down the fort while I’m not here.”

Very quickly, a plan and contact list of Happy fan-club members across the country was planned out within proximity of G City. The All-Star events were revealed only upon arrival, so it was like an entertainment program in a sense, except that this time, Guild Happy had a secret operation which may or may not have set up Club Blue Rain for failure.

“Next item: our spy network. Boss Wei, you say that you’re already compromised in Samsara?”

“Not quite, but the 13th server made some noise when an elite squad targeted Seen a Ghost,” Wei Chen rolled his eyes. “From what our investigation gathered, Guild Samsara’s 13th server leader Drifting Laughter wasn’t involved, which implies that the saboteurs were actually from another guild, spies sacrificed to frame Samsara and Happy.”

“We’re technically enemies with Samsara,” Wu Chen sighed. “What can we do?”

“The motive for sabotaging Seen A Ghost...” Wei Chen shook his head. “See, if the tank or the healer was a target we could conclude that the saboteurs were aiming to disrupt our broadcast schedule. However, they chose the Ghostblade. The Ghostblade in Happy is a class which may or may not appear – it’s an extra option, but not such a core to the team like our Battle Mage, Launcher, or Qi Master. We didn’t even deploy Drunken Fist!”

Drunken Fist was the Qi Master empty account the guild had prepared for the times when Fang Rui was due to broadcast.

“We can only deduce from there that this is a pitiful attempt to disrupt our player Qiao Yifan’s presence online,” Duan Gexing concluded. “As 13th server leader, I will dispose of the saboteurs.”

A silence descended.

“..last night’s broadcast did reveal that we already guessed the other side’s intention,” Wu Chen decided at last. “We’ll need to take revenge, but there’s no need to go further. It’s not practical to pursue a griefer.”

“Yes, Guild Leader.” Duan Gexing sighed. Perhaps her image of the online game was far too rosy to survive in the guilds’ mutual deceptions and struggles of power in the shadow of the professional eSports scene.

“Boss Wei... is there any way to fix your cover?”

“Er... depends on the situation. The first and second elite groups extending their détente is beneficial to all guilds...”

No, her view was not too rosy. She could listen to Wei Chen plotting to disrupt a guild from within and still admire his ability to discard his pride and everything else for victory. This was their Boss Wei!

“Last agenda item. The Glory company has decided to work with Club Happy regarding Operation Parasol,” Wu Chen cut in here. “Endless Song, your design templates are central to Operation Parasol. After I explain the significance of this operation to everyone present you’ll take over.”

“Yes, boss.”

Wu Chen cut to the chase: “Guild Happy’s most problematic issue is our reputation.”

Everyone physically present, and some thousands of kilometres away, tried to take this statement seriously. It was a task of Herculean proportions.

“A guild in Glory, generally speaking, can maintain itself assuming a healthy circulation of items in the guild storage,” Wu Chen concluded. “A Club guild, however, is a different proposition. It is regarded as an in-game representative of the team, and an extension of the team’s reputation and power. Besides the fact that the team leader of the current world champion team is one of our founders... let’s face it, we have a terrible reputation in-game.”

Nobody could look at Wei Chen directly. This was the man who had made his byline ‘extremely unscrupulous, extremely shameless, and extremely underhanded’.

“This... fits in with our team motto of ‘aiming for the championships while maintaining our position’,” Wu Chen decided at last. “However, this does not change the fact that our in-game reputation is weak. As a champion team, we definitely fall short in terms of in-game presence... because no matter how many players God Ye sweeps through in wild BOSS hunts, he’s too far from the average player sometimes. Furthermore, God Ye has... hinted... that the team should begin building a presence which can stand independently from him, since it’s likely that the Pro Alliance will take him off our hands.”

“Operation Parasol is a joint initiative between the Glory company, Chinese branch, and Club Happy,” Duan Gexing explained. “On our side, Club Happy’s side, we aim to increase our reputation in the game as a knowledge leader in the Glory current meta-game. On Glory’s side, they want to promote use of the equipment editor.”

“...that bottomless money pit?” someone online asked. “That’s pro level stuff, isn’t it?”

“Well...”

“The gaps between professionals and players widen with every year and every season,” Wu Chen took over. “However, Glory is an MMORPG – it is not a single-player game. The reason for Glory’s talents and survival in this country is due to the 160 million players across 13 servers, most of them with a recent interest in Glory in the wake of the World Glory Competition’s victory.”

More murmurs and nods of agreement. Precisely, these few seasons when Glory was reaching its zenith was the time to promote and expand on topics outside or marginally related to the Glory eSports scene – the technique, science, and development of Glory. If everything went well, perhaps Glory could grow to match WoW.

“What the Glory company itself aims for is the development of the user-generated content scene,” Wu Chen rolled his eyes. “This means imparting knowledge, sharing designs, and we at Guild Happy aim to put ourselves into that scene, if only to get some ideas. We already have one talented kid – how else do you guys think Endless Song was hired?”

“Little sister, what did you do?” A guy online spoke through the conference.

“I copied the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella, only two forms~” Duan Gexing replied. “God Ye said that I was good!”

“As everyone else has commented, very few players understand the equipment editor and its workings. This leads to the equipment editor becoming a money sink,” Wu Chen brutally continued. “The knowledge to use the equipment editor is also not easily spread around, and thus the development of new mechanics becomes stalled outside of the pro circuit.”

He paused. “We at Team Happy are fortunate to have player Luo Ji, and our technical department’s Guan Rongfei and Wang Sen. However, all three of them cannot handle Happy’s Silver equipment alone.”

“So... what’s Operation Parasol?”

“Endless Song has decided to display the template for free, in the name of improving Glory’s user-generated content scene,” Wu Chen spoke, an edge in his voice.

Gasps and clapping could be heard, and Duan Gexing blushed. “It’s a small thing... to give as a fan...”

No other Club guild would have accepted such a ridiculous proposition – to them, a trademark Silver weapon was a tool, a trade secret meant only for the Club and team. Sometimes the players who used the Silver equipment the most did not even know what materials went into their own weapons and equipment.

“The umbrella template is simple, easy to execute, definitely in line with the demands of fans, and most importantly, definitely player-compatible with a fun new play-style,” Wu Chen explained. “Soft Mist will be debuting both in All-Stars, at which point someone will draw the dots between Sunset and Moonlight in the 13th server. This is the point at which Glory offers to buy the template to manufacture Orange-grade umbrellas from us, and we directly promote self-made equipment.”

“Just to say,” Lin Yi spoke at last. “We’re not all using Umbrellas for free, yeah?”

“Of course money is involved,” Wu Chen scowled, “and materials form part of the payment which we begin to receive once All-Stars has ended with everyone talking about Soft Mist’s umbrella lance. So... let’s get to umbrellas, people.”

He then coughed. “Oh, and, Endless Song? You’re going to G City too.”

“Nooooooooo~”

Chapter Text

7. Bonus Stage

This year’s Christmas event was themed Pines vs Players – the monsters in questions were living pine trees guarding the Christmas presents under them from Santa Claus, and players were supposed to kill the monsters to receive presents. Again, the rewards were good, the experience gain totally worth spending 36 hours straight online, and all the big guilds and some other singles without any plans for Christmas were now online to kill trees.

“Are you insane?!” Brushstroke exclaimed in the heart of Sin City. “Endless Song!”

A Level 35 Battle Mage was tearing apart pine trees amidst the hostile NPC monsters of Sin City. The Scarlet Moon set she had on was a complete set – a Blue set, the red a dark shadow of the pink umbrella-lance.

“I should say the same for you!” Endless Song teased back using the voice system as she slapped aside a horde of monsters with Circle Swing. A Shadow Chaser glittered as it formed, and then hit a pine tree to kill it. The Shadow Chaser took effect as a purple glow along the shaft of the Moonlight Umbrella lance, giving the otherwise crimson outline a mysterious air. “Brushstroke, right? I haven’t seen you since Desolate Land!”

“Obviously not!” Brushstroke unleashed an Ice Bullet from a nearby roof – as a Level 37 Spitfire he just barely cleared the level cap. “You stole the Fire Witch First Kill while we were all at Desolate Land!”

“Ah, yes... interrupt practice.”

“Practice?” Brushstroke pondered. “Endless Song... Sister, got time to chat?”

“I’m not going anywhere until midnight.” A pine tree fell down, and Endless Song’s avatar picked up the present to open.

System Announcement: Congratulations to player Endless Song for receiving Flame Stone × 3

“...that’s some luck.”

“True.” Endless Song sighed. “I’ll have to go back to the main city soon... so, what does Blue Brook Guild need from Happy? I’ll need some time to consider your proposal.”

“Sister, I’m not here as the guild leader,” Brushstroke surreptitiously checked the leader-boards – out of the top ten places for most number of trees killed, only two places were occupied by Happy. This was fairly good, considering that Happy had proven themselves capable of killing high-level monsters under extreme Level Suppression. “That’s... an interesting Silver weapon-”

The umbrella unfurled itself as Endless Song jumped – some of her accessories must definitely be stacking jump power, and the Moonlight Umbrella seemed to lift her further up. A mid-air Circle Swing changed her orientation, before the umbrella changed back into a lance and she dropped with one attack to end the Sin City resident after her:

Sky Strike!

The inverted Sky Strike killed the resident, giving her a Light Chaser which flew to hit another Christmas tree monster in range behind of Brushstroke. Endless Song’s hands glowed yellow against the purple of the spear shaft, and then her attack speed began to increase – though not much could be expected from a level one Light Chaser.

“I’m going to the All-Stars! Will I see you there, Brushstroke?”

“O- Of course.” Brushstroke’s automatic pistol turned around to kill the pine tree quickly – as a long-range fighter this distance was not exactly comfortable for him. “I’m working in G City!”

Endless Song gave a silver laugh. “Is this asking for a date?”

“!!!!” Brushstroke nearly slipped if not for the timely intervention of a Dragon Tooth.

“Pick-up group. If you’re killed here, how would I survive?” Endless Song’s tone was scolding though gentle.

“Y- Yes...” Brushstroke slapped himself with one hand, while controlling his avatar to quickly kill the horde.

“So, in payment for your prospective mistake, how about Blue Brook Guild and Guild Happy work together?”

“Sure...”

This daze continued until the end of the 36-hour death march, where all the guild leaders logged off and Brushstroke sat back in his chair, too exhausted to move.

“Did I just... get a date?”

In the guild department, Changing Spring jumped as a sudden yell broke out: “I got a date!”

Changing Spring: “...”


Season 11’s All-Star line-up was filled with many members of the Chinese Glory Team –Han Wenqing’s lack of presence in the World Glory Competition in July to August had only dropped his rank to 15 – three places lower than his previous placing in Season 10. The Alliance had, in a rare show of mercy, decided to expand the All-Stars to 30 places, and invited as ‘special guests’ Happy’s retired Ye Xiu and Zhang Jiale, who had retired after helping China win the World Glory Competition.

This was hardly Duan Gexing’s concern in the midst of using Happy’s multiple smurf accounts to put in votes. She still had a smirk on her face as she prepared two umbrella templates in the equipment editor and handed it over to Guan Rongfei next door.

On 31 December, Guild Happy’s efforts were revealed:

The list of All-Stars had been expanded to 30, possibly to account for the Chinese Glory team and a good number of promising new players touted as the ‘New Generation’. Number one was the perennial Zhou Zekai, of course, but the rest of the line-up had a good distribution too. Furthermore, Happy was proving itself to be a popular champion team: Fang Rui had re-entered the line-up alongside Su Mucheng, and its rookies Tang Rou, Qiao Yifan, and Luo Ji, had made it in to show five All-Stars, beating out Samsara’s four. The perennial rank 25 Liu Xiaobie finally made it in this time, in front of Team Tyranny’s Song Qiying and Team Void’s Gai Caijie, who had been in the ranks 25 to 30.

In order, it was something like:

  1. Zhou Zekai – Sharpshooter
  2. Yu Wenzhou – Warlock
  3. Xiao Shiqin – Mechanic
  4. Wang Jiexi – Witch
  5. Zhang Xinjie – Cleric
  6. Su Mucheng – Launcher
  7. Fang Rui – Qi Master
  8. Huang Shaotian – Blade Master
  9. Sun Xiang – Battle Mage
  10. Chu Yunxiu – Elementalist
  11. Li Xuan – Ghostblade
  12. Tang Hao – Brawler
  13. Jiang Botao – Spellblade
  14. Li Hua – Ninja
  15. Han Wenqing – Striker
  16. Xu Bin – Knight
  17. Gao Yingjie – Witch
  18. Yu Fēng – Berserker
  19. Tang Rou – Battle Mage
  20. Lu Hanwen – Blade Master
  21. Qiao Yifan – Ghostblade
  22. Wu Yuce – Ghostblade
  23. Zou Yuan – Spitfire
  24. Liu Xiaobie – Blade Master
  25. Yang Cong – Assassin
  26. Tian Sen – Exorcist
  27. Lu Boyuan – Grappler
  28. Gai Caijie – Exorcist
  29. Yuan Baiqing – Cleric/Paladin
  30. Luo Ji – Summoner

“How on earth did Luo Ji win against Steamed Bun?” Wu Chen had shaken his head. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Demolition Style,” Duan Gexing replied, checking the comments on the Glory forums. “Our Luo Ji is building up that reputation where he can analyse how to destroy a map just by standing in it. Remember this season’s first match against Thunderclap? The Ice Wall turned platform?”

“Got it,” Wu Chen shook his head. “And the Rookie Challenge... dear heavens, the Rookie Challenge.”

Since last year Happy’s rookies had somehow not made it for the Rookie Challenge, this year Su Mucheng and boss Chen Guo had unanimously signed every rookie up. Qiao Yifan’s debut in Season 8 disqualified him, and he had some issues on his plate regarding the All-Stars anyway. As for the rest of the rookies... An Wenyi had wanted to join, but had gone back to school and now had an exam to prepare for, so it left the rest of Happy’s strange rookies to pick their opponents.

Steamed Bun had been on the verge of picking ‘the Leo’. Su Mucheng had tried everything to make him switch to terrorise Tang Hao instead. “Not even Huang Shaotian,” in her words, “deserve to face Steamed Bun in a public match. Tang Hao will do just fine.”

Does Goddess Su have a grudge against Wind Howl’s captain, Duan Gexing had wanted to ask but swallowed her words.

“Hmm...” Wu Chen contemplated at his terminal across from her as they looked over the list. “Class composition is fairly balanced. This year would be very interesting.”

“They have three Ghostblades and three Blade Masters, how is this balanced?” Duan Gexing asked.

“At least one representative of all 24 classes.” Wei Chen tutted. “The Alliance must be desperate if they’re dragging our Luo Ji into this... but why didn’t they invite me as a special guest?!"

Chapter Text

8. Closed Beta

G City, Club Blue Rain, Tianhe Sports Centre. That day, the Glory Professional Alliance 9th All-Stars Weekend opened with a familiar refrain as Blue Rain fans roared in approval.

“Is this a Wuxia film?!” Duan Gexing exclaimed as the holographic characters began to make their – admittedly awesome – entrances onto the stage. Even at the quiet part, at which Duan Gexing had to stifle her laughter. “Why are they casting One Inch Ash opposite Kind Tree?!”

At least Concealed Light had come out first, was their comfort. At least it established that Blue Rain’s characters were not being saved as the grand finale of the opening. Since as guild staff they were technically here for work, they led the Happy fan-club to cheer when their players and characters made the stage.

“Welcome, everyone, to the ninth All-Star Weekend!” The host started. “Today we’ve a slightly different programme; as everyone might have noticed, this year we’ve expanded the All-Stars to thirty! This is because the final day will have a brand-new event in mind for the All-Star Competition.”

Cheers.

“Thank you, thank you,” the emcee continued as the clapping died down. “We here at Blue Rain have chosen, for this year’s team, ‘Heroes’! By choosing this team, Blue Rain hopes to showcase that each and every character on stage is the hero of their story, and sometimes those stories intersect into a great collection! After all, our Blue Rain has a long and storied history!”

More clapping, primarily from the Blue Brook Guild side.

“For this weekend, we’ve invited two special guests to act as our commentators!” The emcee yelled, although he was lacking some strength. “Introducing the retired members of the National Team who won glory for our country – the Gods, Zhang Jiale and Ye Xiu!”

“Yo, looks like this time I’m partnering up with Second Le,” Ye Xiu began.

“Who’s in second place, huh?! Your old man is the world champion, world champion!!!”

“Only because I was leading.”

“God Ye!!!!” Duan Gexing screamed with the rest of the Happy fans. “Huh... Boss, why’d you cover your ears?”

“Too loud...”

“Oh, emcee, aren’t you Little Blue?” Ye Xiu’s comment came from the guest stage.

“E- Eh?” The emcee froze. “G- God Ye, please don’t joke, we’ve never met in real life...”

“Ah, I remember you! Blue Brook Guild’s expert, right?”

“...God Ye, please ignore me...”

“Oi, hang up before every rookie decides to sweep you out by PK,” Zhang Jiale interrupted, a bristly glare of hostility directed in Ye Xiu’s direction.

As usual, Ye Xiu’s smirk looked like he was still pulling the aggro from every player about – even as he changed the subject. “Today’s rookies have a lot of people from our great Team Happy.”

“Now, before we waste any more time, today is the Rookie Challenge!” The emcee quickly yelled. “It looks like there’s a lot of people from Happy here, but first up – from Team Miracle, Guo Shao! He will be challenging the current number one Launcher, Happy’s captain, Su Mucheng!!”

“Senior! Total respect!”

“...”

Duan Gexing moved her head. “That rookie...”

“Yes, he’s exactly like that,” Wei Chen agreed. “If you ever make it, you’ll face him in competition.”

“I faced him last summer, in the game,” Duan Gexing sighed as the ‘friendly match’ started.

It was definitely a friendly match – Miracle’s young Launcher was the only pro in Miracle who had no grudge against Happy’s dark streak throwing them onto the sidelines last season. This was one of the ‘New Generation’, huh...

Since last year only the rookies challenging Ye Xiu were accepted, this year all of Happy’s numerous rookies were actually coming right out. Steamed Bun challenged Tang Hao and Tang Rou challenged Sun Xiang – both as expected. Steamed Bun’s choice of the Arena ring had been elected after long deliberation – because this was the pro-player who still got lost in maps sometimes, Ye Xiu had very quickly chosen the simplest map for him. He still lost, but Tang Hao’s exhaustion after five minutes of dealing with Steamed Bun was one of no longer having any love for life.

As for Tang Rou, her challenge had specified actual characters, hence it was One Autumn Leaf vs Soft Mist. Right there and then was a fast, blood-boiling battle of lances, even if Soft Mist’s lance resembled a clove of garlic now. Soft Mist held the lance parallel to the ground before the ‘clove’ unfurled out to reveal an umbrella.

“The umbrella transformed!!!!” The emcee yelled, the commentator yelled, even the audience was in an uproar.

The action of unfurling had dragged Soft Mist forward, at this point where the character moved in a skill’s execution.

Dragon Breaks the Ranks!

“He didn’t see that!!” Huang Shaotian bellowed. “Dammit Old Ye, this is cheating, giving your apprentice a transforming umbrella! Is that another Myriad Manifestations Umbrella, is it is it is it?!?!?!?!”

“How noisy,” came Ye Xiu’s voice over the commentary. “It’s a modified transforming pole-arm, a new Silver weapon created by the winner of Happy’s silver weapon fan contest, and our newest guild employee. See, she’s right next to Old Wei.”

“Fan contest? Who would [-bleep-] do a fan contest for self-made equipment?!” Someone hit a buzzer as Zhang Jiale cursed in a fit of fury.

Despite the fact that the equipment editor in Glory was free to use, it still saw most use in the Clubs. This was because the need for uncommon materials, high wastage, and restrictions on knowledge made making a Silver weapon nearly inaccessible to the average person.

The common saying amongst Glory players was: Self-made equipment weren’t necessarily powerful, but all powerful equipment were self-made. Any normal player who could craft one would hoard it for occasional use – say, when in PK or when showing off to girls. Failing that, the Silver weapon would have been submitted as part of a job application to the Clubs. Hosting a contest would pull out only hobbyists, not the true talents who would have already had their work sealed under layers and layers of non-disclosure agreements.

Ye Xiu’s lie was obvious, but the fact that Happy had a new weapon design which was brought out here was worth thinking...


This thinking was not meant for Blue Brook Guild to consider. This was because, by the conclusion of the Rookie Challenge, a tragic beauty was making her way through the stands towards the Monastery – err, Blue Rain’s area.

“Is Brushstroke around?”

Whoa, two other experts Ice of Dawn and Chilling Nightfall exclaimed softly.

“I believe his main account is Flying Brushstroke?” The beautiful sister blinked. “I’m supposed to talk to him regarding our activities in the 13th server.”

...oh. It was work. Damn, those two cursed, the idiot Brushstroke is getting a date before them! This wasn’t fair, this was putting girls before friends!!!

Liang Yichun was more sensible, replying instead: “I’m Changing Spring, Blue Brook Guild’s main guild leader. What is it about the 13th?”

“Oh, a pleasure to meet you,” said the beautiful sister. “I’m the 13th server Guild Happy’s leader, Endless Song, main account Only For Lord. I wanted to talk to Brushstroke further about our proposal at Christmas... during the Christmas event, regarding the possibility of an alliance in the 13th.”

“You were next to Boss Wei,” Liang Yichun realised. “You’re Duan Gexing?”

“En, yes, that’s my name in real life.” A slow blink. “Will that be a problem?”

Behind Liang Yichun, Ice of Dawn and Chilling Nightfall were bodily holding down another man, presumably Flying Brushstroke, AKA Brushstroke. If they let him go right now, how long would it be before Blue Brook Guild’s 13th server branch fell for the honey trap?!

Why does Happy have so many beauties, Changing Spring lamented. This is a taunt, right?!

Chapter Text

9. Compulsion Loop

For Brushstroke, the real business with All-Stars was actually conducted in a tea room. Duan Gexing’s petite appearance belied the speed at which basket after bamboo basket was devoured by her before they could get down to brass tacks.

“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice,” Duan Gexing opened the meeting. “Our guild leader has given me all powers to represent Guild Happy’s interest at this table.”

No wonder, Brushstroke spat in his heart but did not say. Were Happy’s Dawn Rifle here perhaps the situation was more tense, but Happy was definitely up to something by sending this newbie up against Changing Spring. A girl! A beauty!

Happy is rubbing in the fact that they have beauties and we don’t, is it?!

“My proposal towards the 13th server was to ally up,” Duan Gexing started without preamble. “As Blue Brook Guild is aware, Guild Happy does not currently have the resources to match the big guilds. Although we are a Club guild, the guild of the current champions, that situation is set to change. Happy has no realistic hopes of keeping the throne.”

Changing Spring mulled it over. What Duan Gexing had said was a simple statement of fact – Happy’s dark horse win could not repeat forever, and had only appeared by a combination of luck, a five-guild alliance to take advantage of the game update, and much more hard work from the pro-players. What Team Happy needed right now was time to build up their resource base, or a way to relieve the pressure on them temporarily. As things stood, Team Happy’s goal was now to enter the play-offs – their current focus was to reorient themselves into a formation without the Glory Textbook which had led them before.

Team Happy would certainly lose their crown this year; to whom the deer falls was not yet settled.

Duan Gexing was a Happy fan – why else would she work for their guild? Yet, she was clearly a logical person, and the fact that she could lay this all out so clearly was because Dawn Rifle was already of this mind, which meant...

“Boss Wei is planning a strategic retreat?” Changing Spring asked first.

At her nod, Changing Spring hummed and took a sip of chrysanthemum tea. “So Boss Wei told you to approach us first due to old links between us, er...”

“My name is Duan Gexing in real life, and I am currently assisting technician in Happy’s joint guild operations,” Duan Gexing clarified.

“Duan Gexing, Endless Song.”

“My parents were a fan of Cao Cao,” Duan Gexing acknowledged. “I made Soft Mist’s new spear.”

“That was you?!” Brushstroke exclaimed. “The umbrella?!”

“En,” came the nod.

Changing Spring’s eyes narrowed. “Technicians,” he said, “do not usually publicise themselves.”

“Technicians, especially those involved in the forging of Silver equipment and weapons, don’t get the chance to publicise themselves,” Duan Gexing clarified with a smile. “Happy combined their technical and guild departments.”

More like Happy still hasn’t hired enough people to make up for the shortfall – Changing Spring and Brushstroke exchanged looks which shared this idea.

Duan Gexing’s phone, laid on the table, vibrated. Nobody paid attention to it.

“Guild Leader Wu – you know him as Dawn Rifle – has allowed to concede two records in the 13th server,” Duan Gexing finally said. “The upcoming Fire Forest is Happy’s for sure – we’re using it in the next broadcast. The next upcoming are Thousand Waves Lake and Gloom Forest. Of course, there is no chance to repeat the siege of Thousand Waves Lake at this juncture.”

Liang Yichun sat up straighter. The tenth server’s siege of Thousand Waves Lake was a nightmare for the great guilds – outnumbering the enemy and still dying, and having to concede reparations in the end...

“Also,” and here Duan Gexing smirked, “as a show of faith, I will tell you one thing; Silver Umbrellas will become part of Guild Happy’s guild storage in the 13th once it is set up.”

“What?!”

Brushstroke was the first to rebut: “That’s insane! The materials to forge the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella alone- Guild Happy can’t afford to make that many umbrellas!”

“Did I say that they were all the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella?” Duan Gexing commented. “Let’s take an example – tonight, Soft Mist displayed Sunset, a prototype of a shield-and-spear combination. In Endless Song’s hands is Moonlight, another combination. There are six workable prototypes, spread across different weapon combinations. Once Happy puts them out, the fact that we offer Silver equipment in our guild storage would get out.”

If Orange equipment were already the highest tier of goodies offered to guild members in exchange for contribution points, Silver equipment would be a different story. Considering also the claim of having six workable prototypes, and those umbrella prototypes must cost the earth in materials.

Even if Blue Brook Guild sent their spies to try and steal it, would that work? With Lord Grim last time, a mandatory distribution and a level priority were all it took to cheat them. Boss Wei could only be more savvy about the tricks that guild staff could get up to – some of Blue Brook Guild’s old tricks had Windward Formation’s presence in them. Someone like Wei Chen could only have more spies in all guilds to entrap the big guilds.

As for positive reputation... when had Guild Happy cared much about that?! The team had not cared, the boss was less likely to care, and thus their guild really had the bare minimum of standards by Club guild rules. Duan Gexing putting Silver equipment to entice contributions from the player base of Guild Happy would be decried as shameless by the Club guilds, an expensive move to entice people, but...

...but the fact that Duan Gexing could say this so confidently, implied that not only were the Silver umbrellas one-of-a-kind, they could also be manufactured cheap enough to make the cost of putting them up into the guild storage for all guild players to fight for worth it.

“And then what?” Brushstroke said. “Why does Guild Happy putting up expensive bait mean anything? Doesn’t that imply that more spies would steal from Happy? Happy’s move would increase its reputation but ruin its player base! All those Silver weapons, we just have to target their wielders and loot them!”

Changing Spring growled. “Brushstroke.”

“Yes, Guild Leader.”

Humming, Changing Spring regarded Duan Gexing. “Once this is publicised, Happy becomes the definite leader in the Silver equipment race. In any other situation, the big guilds would be happy to steal... but this is in the wake of the World Glory Competition.”

He nodded. “All the teams are aiming to make their mark. Samsara’s Sharpshooters copy the Gun King, Herb Garden dress up like Vaccaria, Tyrannical Ambition has more Clerics and Spitfires than ever – even outnumbering their Strikers. Even if Han Wenqing manages to play Season 11 to the grand finals, his national reputation cannot compare.”

Duan Gexing smiled. “Guild Leader is obviously guild leader.”

“...why would the team approve this?” Changing Spring exclaimed in surprise. “Releasing a new weapon... releasing this weapon would start up another arms race, the struggle for materials would deepen. Not even God Ye can win all his BOSS tussles!”

“For Glory. For the next generation.” Duan Gexing shrugged. “What consequences publicising my creations would bring, how does it matter? I’m just their maker.”

If one party had a transforming weapon, other clubs would definitely try to copy it. Happy’s Myriad Manifestations Umbrella was the current target of all other technicians in the Alliance clubs. Happy releasing the same scaled-down version would prompt not only a massive tussle to get them, it would also mark Guild Happy as a technology leader.

Changing Spring’s lip curled.

The fact that Duan Gexing had told him this much at all, meant that... she had been allowed to. Dawn Rifle, Windward Formation...

...Lord Grim.

Lord Grim was behind this, and Liang Yichun had to tell Blue Rain’s captain. Now.