Having signed with Silver Wing, the eight of them could not update their statuses on social platforms as and when they liked. However, for the eight simultaneous statuses, they had obtained approval.
Silver Wing's side did not reveal who AliveAfter500Years was right away. According to suggestions from the publicity department, by keeping the media in suspense, they would continue to pay attention. Thus, Silver Wing had decided to only release news of the signing of the eight players, hiding the biggest boss's ID for the time being. Yet they did not intend to completely hide it. The statuses of the eight actually laid the truth in plain sight, but no one would think in that direction.
For the SilverWing50PolarLight project, although it was a collaboration between the virtual projects department and gaming department, the virtual projects department held all the authority to decide. The gaming department only assisted them. After all, Fang Zhao was leading the SilverWing50PolarLight team as he did with the Polar Light project team, both of which were under the virtual projects department.
The "boss" mentioned by the eight actually pointed to the boss of the virtual projects department, who held all the authority and was also AliveAfter500Years.
Therefore, in the future, even if anyone asked why Silver Wing had kept hiding the fact, Silver Wing could reply: "We did not conceal it. In fact, it was revealed way earlier, but you people did not understand it."
According to common sense, there was really nobody that thought in that direction. When it came to managing a e-sports club, the manger was a manager, an e-sports manager was still a manager, and the captain of the main team was still an e-sport athlete. Never was a captain the manager of a company project. Thus, the general public only had one thought on the eight statuses: AliveAfter500Years was their boss, the captain.
Even if anyone made a guess in that direction, it was with the intention of a joke and not for real.
The press conference was held at the convention hall in Silver Wing Tower. Fang Zhao would be attending and wearing company attire that showed his rank as a manager-level staff. He did not have the sinister scars he had in-game, and since he had long released his suppressed emotions, he looked a lot more mild and refined.
Backstage, the eight of them twitched their lips simultaneously when they saw Fang Zhao.
The heavyset Milo grunted. "A beast in human attire!"
"Don't talk nonsense. That's not how you use it," Jinro said. However, he understood what Milo meant. What Milo wanted to say was that Fang Zhao was like a violent beast beneath that human skin. Jinro agreed with Milo's thoughts; Fang Zhao in person was totally different from his in-game persona. They could not be blamed for doubting him. Even they had not considered the age factor. With such a large contrast, anyone would have doubted, let alone believed it.
"There are so many people in the hall!" Schwarzer nervously said. He had stuck his head out to take a peek previously.
Among the eight, other than Schwarzer, the others had already gotten used to these sorts of setting and were more calm than him.
Jinro's feelings were more complicated. He had left the professional scene eight years ago and had since kept a low profile. He had not used his normal ID during these eight years, using only other temporary or smurf accounts. During this duration, he had not appeared in such a situation where he had been the focus of the public eye, and returning to what he had experienced in the past, he could not help but recall things that had happened a long time ago.
"Prepare yourselves. You are up soon," a staffer reminded them
Many media groups from all over had gathered in the convention hall to observe the words and actions of everyone on stage, thinking how to go about grabbing the news.
Beside Prairie Fire's chief editor, Qian Cheng, sat a middle-aged man. He had thick eyebrows and big eyes. He looked rather prim and proper, but many entertainment reporters looked even more proper than him. There was nothing really unusual about him and he would not give anyone a lasting first impression.
After the press conference started, Qian Chen would speak to him in a low voice from time to time. When it was not convenient to talk, they would use messages to communicate.
This man was not from Prairie Fire, but today, Qian Cheng had brought him along under the identity of a Prairie Fire employee. This was not how the man looked like normally—he was wearing a disguise.
This was the man many reputable people in the industry termed "Yanzhou's best paparazzi," Wang Tie. Nobody knew what he looked liked, but people in the industry knew one thing: there was no news he could not unearth, only a price you could not afford to pay. It was rumored that his keen sense of "smell" would not lose to the guards at the Cemetery of Martyrs.
This time, Qian Cheng had spent a rather large sum to engage Wang Tie's services to help him find the real AliveAfter500Years.
Qian Cheng moved closer and asked in a low voice, "Found anything?"
Wang Tie stared and pointed his finger at the person currently speaking. "What is his background? Virtual projects department manager Fang Zhao? How much do you know about him?"
"You are talking about Fong Zhao? That young fellow is really capable. Silver Wing's virtual projects department rose from the ashes under him. Recently, what astonished people most was that, as a composer, he had some reputation and was good at symphonic styles. He collaborated with great master Xue Jing on a textbook that has had great sales volume and they did a global lecture tour. Why, is there a problem?" Qian Cheng asked suspiciously.
Wang Tie shook his head. "A composer? An artist? Then it's no wonder."
Fang Zhao give him a strange feeling, but he had been overthinking. The other party was a composer, so Wang Tie felt relieved. People who dabbled in arts were different from normal people. Having a weird feeling about him was nothing too surprising.
Seeing Wang Tie shake his head, Qian Cheng sighed. He had said it before, how could Fang Zhao be AliveAfter500Years?
After Fang Zhao had spoken and returned backstage, Jinro and the others went up to stage to take a seat.
"Until now, of all those that have gone on stage, does not a single one seem suspicious?" Qian Cheng was unresigned, watching the going-ons on stage.
Wang Tie frowned, focusing his eyes at the people being grilled by reporters. Including the eight in the limelight, Silver Wing members and other staff, none were spared. Every time he looked toward the stage, he had a strange feeling, as if he when he stretched out his hand, he could touch the truth, but a thick fog clouded his eyes, distorting the truth. He rarely encountered this sort of contradictory feeling.
So odd! There was surely something weird!
But what had he overlooked?
Seeing Wang Tie creasing his brows, Qian Cheng knew that Wang Tie had encountered some difficult problem. He did not chase for a reply, but he paid close attention to Wang Tie's reaction, observing the minute changes in his expression.
On stage, the normally lively Schwarzer was feeling uneasy with the hundreds of eyes on him. Luckily, they had arranged for him to speak less, and there were not as many questions thrown at him. With Jinro and Dorrian around, the others could relax more. Today, among the eight people, the reporters were mostly focused on Jinro and Dorrian, who were were from the Big Five. Schwarzer had the least to do among the eight and only had to be responsible for smiling.
The reporters posed a number of penetrating questions, but they were all deflected by the experienced Jinro. But when a reporter asked who AliveAfter500Years was and whether he was present, this time Jinro did not immediately reply. Together with the seven others, he faced the reporter who'd asked, showing off a profound smile.
The reaction of Jinro and the others made the reporter feel as if he had asked a really stupid question. When he sat back down, he replayed the question in his heart a few times but found nothing strange. Had he been too direct?
"Did I say something wrong?" he asked a colleague.
The colleague was not sure either, as the reaction of Jinro and the others was puzzling. "I don't think... so?"
Wayne stepped out to answer. His reply was simple. "The identity of AliveAfter500Years will remain a secret for the time being."
Do you wish to know? If you do, find out for yourselves. In any case, I'm not telling you! Curse me? Even if you curse, there is no way I'm telling you!
Wayne just loved watching reporters being helpless and getting pissed.
The reporters present asked Jinro about his experiences over the past eight years, Dorrian about his reason for choosing Silver Wing, and posed all sorts of questions to the others. There were lots of questions answered, but Qian Cheng couldn't bring himself to be delighted. He simply had no interest toward these questions. As he watched time slowly ticking by, the answer he was dying to know most had not yet been found by Wang Tie.
"Still no progress?" Qian Cheng asked again.
Wang Tie paused for a bit and shook his head. Even though he felt that he was one step away from the truth, he just could not catch the bluff. Therefore, he had no choice but to give Qian Cheng a definite answer.
Qian Cheng was disappointed. "Maybe AliveAfter500Years did not come."
"No, I feel that there is a high probability that AliveAfter500Years is present. Did you notice that, when they answered a few questions concerning AliveAfter500Years, they seemed a little nervous? Especially 'BlackWizard' Milo, compared to Schwarzer who is purely fanboying. He does not have the same composure as Jinro either, so his reactions are the most honest to observe and think over."
"Is he afraid?" Qian Cheng asked.
"To be precise, he is afraid of the consequences. He is worried about saying the wrong things. Not because of the nervous atmosphere here, but rather, the consequences from someone present! Therefore, my guess is that the person you are look for is right here!" Suddenly Wang Tie paused for a bit and looked upward.
"What's wrong?" Qian Cheng asked upon seeing his reaction.
"I'm getting the feeling someone is watching me through the surveillance cameras."
"Did they recognize you?"
"I don't know."
At the lounge backstage, Fang Zhao's eye were fixed on Wang Tie through the surveillance monitors.
"How sharp," Fang Zhao said.
"Boss, this person seems like a problem. Shall I go check it out?" Zuo Yu asked.
Toward the end of the press conference, Fang Zhao once more took to the stage to take a photo with the eight signings, Wayne, and a few other Silver Wing leaders and staff. Once the conference ended and the reporters had left, Jinro and the others could finally relax back at the 50th floor. Recalling the reporter who'd asked whether AliveAfter500Years was present, all eight of them found it funny.
The distance between virtual and reality could be very far yet very close. Some people might be separated by a very large distance, but through the use of the internet for face to face communication, one could feel as if the other party was right beside. However, there were times when the actual person was standing right in front of them, yet people would rack their brains to try and find the truth elsewhere.
SilverWing50PolarLight was placed under the virtual projects departments. In the future, their "work area" would also be on the 50th floor. Wayne also had no other option. Fang Zhao was the one who had roped the recruits in. Besides, the area was large and good for planning, and there was enough space to open another gaming studio.
The company provided the eight of them with Fiery Bird's 9th generation console, which they could use if they wanted to log in at the company. Although this sort of entertainment company was not as professional as a e-sports club, entertainment company's had lots of funding, so equipment was not an issue.
The eight players' contracts were different from other celebrities in the company. Every single one had differences in their own contracts, but generally speaking, they had considerably more freedom compared to the contracts of e-sports club players. This was what they had discussed before signing. Everyone had their own custom-made contracts.
As the game had already started, there was not a lot of time left. Fang Zhao gave them three days to prepare. Schwarzer, who was still a student, had to bring along his Silver Wing contract and return to school to sort out some administrative issues and apply for a long-distance curriculum. The others also needed to settle some personal matters, but three days was more than enough.
Three days later, in the gaming studio on Silver Wing's 50th floor, Jinro and the others, plus the five previously from the gaming department, logged in. The team had been expanded by Fang Zhao and the maximum capacity had increased from 20 to 25. However, Zu Wen and the others had to work and generally would not be able to participate in some activities. Zu Wen and the rest had actually wanted to withdraw and form their own team, but that had been rejected by Fang Zhao. Instead, Fang Zhao drew up the "Virtual projects and e-sports staff combined" daily training regime.
Jinro was using his own old account. Logging in for the first time, he was bound to a team and appeared at the spot where Fang Zhao was, the building that Fang Zhao had first met them at.
As Milo's account was in another district too far away from District 79, he had applied for a brand new account. Milo's old ID was BlackWizard, so his new ID was BlackWizardMilo. Dorrian had also applied for a new account.
The previous five members of the gaming department had not stayed idle during this period. Fang Zhao had assigned a task as well, to head from the city and arrive at the coordinates Fang Zhao had given to them. They did not have Fang Zhao's skill and ability to ride a bike and travel across the city, so the time they spent was much greater, but they still managed to accomplish the task, albeit with great difficulty.
Adding the eight with Jinro, the five from the gaming department, Fang Zhao and Zuo Yu, a total of 15 people gathered at the coordinates.
After logging into his new account and seeing the points value of 0, Schwarzer asked Fang Zhao, "Boss, what is our mission for today?"
Fang Zhao looked at the highway right in front of the building and said, "First let's clear out this road."
"Oh yeah!" Schwarzer used the system's screenshot function to capture a video of him speaking a few words. After he logged off, he went to his social platforms and posted: "The glorious path of an e-sports career starts from cleaning the roads! For today, everyone please call me Mr. Road Sweeper!"an alternate or fake account