Online, the comments sections of many live broadcasting platforms were exploding.
"My image of 500Years-god!"
"Why is it Fang Zhao, AHH—"
The number of "AHH"s in the comments section showed the audience's current frame of mind.
Others shrieked excitedly when they saw the real image of their idols, but here, when faced with the truth, there was only confusion and rage.
Nobody could blame them. Why had everyone kept guessing that AliveAfter500Years was from the special forces or some extraordinary division?
Although the real world and virtual world were different, nobody could say for certain how a person would fare in-game. In the real world, one might not be able to even catch a chick, yet they might turn into a crazy killing machine in the virtual world. There were also people in the real world built like freight trains, yet in-game, they were wimps.
When industry professionals analyzed AliveAfter500Years's in-game actions, they found his actions simply breathtaking and unexpected. If he was not an experienced gamer, then he had outstanding ability. As this individual had never been heard of in the gaming circle, it had to be the latter.
If it had been Zuo Yu standing there instead, everyone's reactions would not have been so acute, but it just had to be Fang Zhao, a composition graduate. Having never shown up in gaming circles previously, he looked refined and did not look at all tough. One look and anyone could tell he was a man of art and literature and had no resemblance at all to the crazy point-sweeping demon AliveAfter500Years! Moreover, according to common sense, it was rare for a management-level executive to lead his troops into battle from the frontlines.
How could anyone even f*cking guess that?!
Especially those people who had been flaming Fang Zhao in the past two days. At this moment, their brains had turned to mush. The person they had flamed and the one they had used all their efforts to support were one and the same—what the hell?!
"I flamed Fang Zhao before. Do you think he will sign something if I ask for his autograph in future?"
"I scolded him too..."
"This is just so d*mn awkward."
"That b*stard was just leading us on! The innocent and pure me fell for it!"
They did not approve of Fang Zhao, as they viewed him as an outsider in the gaming industry, an amateur of a different industry brought in to manage the team and instruct experts. Whatever was going on internally within the SilverLight team, in any case, all these spectators could not stomach it. In the past, there were many promising e-sports clubs that had been ruined by having outsiders meddle with them, hence why many online audiences found these actions to be revolting.
Secondly, there used to be rumors of Fang Zhao oppressing the team members, so audiences online did not have favorable impressions of him. Furthermore, when there had been news that Fang Zhao's bodyguard might be AliveAfter500Years and everyone had thought that their idol was actually being the bodyguard of an outsider, they hadn't been able to help but feel disgusted, and the tirades against Fang Zhao had become even more furious.
But now, the more one had furiously blasted, the more they were at a loss.
"Why didn't Silver Wing announce it earlier? What was the point in hiding it?!"
"Business-minded companies are all like this, taking the path with the most benefits. By not announcing, they could keep everyone focused on them. Fang Zhao can't be blamed."
"Maddening! I feel so bothered right now!
"That... Actually, Silver Wing announced it before, right?"
"My ass! When? How could I not know of this?!"
"Back when Jinro and the other seven were signed by Silver Wing."
Now that one person mentioned it, Yanzhou's gaming fans all suddenly recalled. Back then, it seemed like that had really happened.
Someone went to browse Jinro and the other's social platform statuses, took screenshots, and compiled them together before posting.
On the day Jinro and the other seven had signed with Silver Wing, they had indeed all updated with the same status:
"Our boss is AliveAfter500Years."
Back then, everyone had thought that Jinro and the others were saying that their team captain was AliveAfter500Years. In many e-sports clubs, captains were called boss, so everyone had gone along with this line of thinking. AliveAfter500Years had indeed been leading the team, and only after that had he slowly handed the leadership over to Jinro and Dorrian.
Now that the truth was displayed in front of their eyes, the audiences now knew. Jinro and the others had actually been telling everyone that SilverWing50PolarLight's boss—the most authoritative figure on the team, Fang Zhao—was AliveAfter500Years."
"I feel like my IQ has taken a beating."
"Who could have even thought about it then!"
A series of frantic "ahhh"s once more filled up the comments section.
However, no amount of yelling could placate the swelling outroar in everyone's hearts. All they could do was find an outlet to vent. If not, this would drive them crazy.
They didn't want to blame themselves, and they were unable to condemn Silver Wing, as there was no use putting the blame on a business-minded entertainment company! How about holding Fang Zhao accountable? Oh, that was too shameless.
At this moment, someone suddenly posted, "Wang Tie, you piece of trash!"
The comments section went quiet for a moment.
All of Yanzhou's gamers' eyes collectively twinkled. They had suddenly found their venting outlet.
Thus, the audiences' gun barrels turned to Wang Tie and began firing away once again in the comments section.
"Such big news and he didn't catch one bit! So much useful information and he is nowhere to be seen! Wang Tie, are you in hibernation?!"
"The real person was right in front of our eyes! Why wasn't he able to sniff out the truth? To think that Wang Tie is praised as Yanzhou's best paparazzi!"
"Did Wang Tie lose his balls after getting locked up?"
"Wang Tie is no longer strong. We have to change his title of Yanzhou's best paparazzi!"
Wang Tie, who had recently infiltrated Huangzhou and was tracking certain celebrities there: "..." Why am I getting scolded?!
Normally, these people criticized him from meddling in other's businesses, finding fault with him for peeking into the private lives of superstars. Now, they were criticizing him for not providing fast and efficient news.
Wang Tie felt miserable reading through the scoldings online.
He wanted to explain his side of the story to the lively audiences on the internet: You might not believe me if I tell you this. Actually, I found out the truth early on, but I was too afraid to speak out. You were right about me losing my balls, but it was not because of jail. Rather, I was scared sh*tless by Fang Zhao.
Taking a deep breath and wiping the sweat from his face, Wang Tie decided he would make two big moves tonight to redeem his title of "best paparazzi." He did not dare to reveal news about Fang Zhao, but he had caught news of other stars, and not just a little. He would prove that his skills had not deteriorated and his nickname was as strong as ever.
At the same time, watching the live broadcast and holding his electric guitar, Natiwuzi nearly threw it away in shock.
Recalling how he had used "world's No. 1" to try and persuade Fang Zhao, Natiwuzi felt his face hurting.
No wonder Fang Zhao had seemed so unperturbed when Natiwuzi had been painting the glorious picture of what being a "world's No. 1" felt like. It turned out that Fang Zhao had already experienced the treatment of being a "world's No. 1"! The gaming circles had even more attention from the public than the ancient-musical-instrument circles! They were way more popular too!
"Heh, that young fella!"
Natiwuzi felt that he needed to strum his guitar for the entire night to calm himself down.
Intense reactions were not just limited to the online audiences in Yanzhou and the rest of the world. At the conference hall, when Fang Zhao stood up, there was a roar from the crowd.
Although everyone would not make a huge ruckus, they would discuss it with their teammates or anyone beside them. If only a handful were whispering softly, nothing much could be heard, but if 99% of the audience starting discussing?
At this moment, all 2S e-Sport Club members had the same complicated feeling. They were all from Yanzhou, and their placing had been higher than Silver Wings, but this time around, Silver Wing had simply received much more attention, even more than any of the Big Five e-sports clubs. But this was expected, after all. Silver Wing had produced the world's No. 1 in the global leaderboards, and they could understand why everyone would pay attention. They themselves had also been curious.
However, when the truth was placed in front of their faces, they found it even harder to accept it.
"Do you still remember? At the press conference before the release of 'Battle of the Century' at Fiery Bird's Yanzhou branch, that fellow said 'Bring it on'?"
"I previously thought he'd said that as the team's person-in-charge and that he was being arrogant because of the special treatment Silver Wing gave him and the experts in his team. Looking at it now, it turns out he was not relying on others but only on himself!" exclaimed 2S's team captain, Xie He.
Ke Zimo's face was convoluted. "That means that the one who overtook us in the heavy-duty motorcycle practice match was him?"
Fang Zhao stood together with Bruce and Ma Xier to receive their awards.
The host and distinguished guests conferring the awards did not appear to be very surprised. Perhaps they had gotten the news beforehand from old friends in Fiery Bird. As they were going to confer awards, they had the right to know the recipient's information before deciding whether to be the one conferring awards.
Thus, if their expressions had been ones of excessive shock, it would have been fake. Audiences online were not so easy to fool.
The one conferring the award was once a gaming god but no longer actively took part in online games anymore due to age. After he had stopped participating in e-sports competitions, he had started investing in gaming peripherals and nurturing talents, contributing lots to the e-sports industry.
"You are pretty good!" said the man who was once a gaming god as he handed the award over to Fang Zhao. He could not say much else. If Fang Zhao was really AliveAfter500Years, even if these people were in their prime, there was no way they could beat him, so there was no point in adopting the stance of an elder giving out pointers.
Fang Zhao accepted the trophy. "Thank you."
After the prize presentation, just like in past years, as the world's No. 1 player, Fang Zhao could not leave the stage immediately after collecting the trophy. He had to speak for a bit.
Formerly, those award recipients would share some of their thoughts, thank the heavens and the Earth, thank their family and their company, and express how excited and honored they were. Alternatively, they could give an account of how difficult the journey had been. Fang Zhao was not like them; he could not bring himself to pretend and speak such things, but he had other things to say.
Standing on stage, Fang Zhao appeared to calmly use his eyes to sweep the crowd. All the video cameras captured the entire situation and transmitted to the screens in front of gamers across the world.
"I have seen some of the comments online, and I know that everyone finds my identity as AliveAfter500Years really surprising." Fang Zhao had a faint smile on his face as he spoke, and his tone was mild, as if he was about to begin a normal chat with someone.
On the internet, in comments sections.
"Big god! Please don't say it!"
"I'm finished! He has surely seen all my criticism of him!"
"I'm regretting it. I should have used a smurf account when I flamed him!"
"I was originally thinking of heading to Silver Wing Tower to get some autographs a few days after Fiery Bird's annual conference. Feeling apprehensive now. Do you reckon I might get kicked out?"
Those that had previously flamed or cursed Fang Zhao felt as if their faces were burning up.
On stage, Fang Zhao did not speak much about all this, instead continuing. "I also know that a lot of people are unable to accept it. When I received the invitation, Mr. Tang Can contacted me to discuss this matter."
Tang Can, Fiery Bird's deputy director of operations, could always be seen at important Fiery Bird events. People who knew Fiery Bird well would not find him unfamiliar.
When Fang Zhao mentioned Tang Can, journalists with an acute sense sat up straighter. They knew that what Fang Zhao was going to say next was the important part!
Fang Zhao stared straight into the camera lenses ahead of him. What he was going to say next was for all the gaming fans watching this live broadcast.
"I shall give everyone a chance. Fiery Bird will open up a temporary practice area. Starting now, for three hours, there will be an extra 'challenge application' option on the top right of 'Battle of the Century's' login page. The relevant authorities will select ten challengers from the list of applications. Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., I will be waiting there."
Jinro, Dorrian, Milo, and the others: "..." How familiar.
Schwarzer covered his chest—his ribs seemed to hurt. "Sounds like something I have heard before." The memory of getting kicked offline remained etched in his head as clear as day.
All of them remembered memories that weren't too pleasant.
After those words, Fang Zhao gave the audience a polite bow and went off the stage. However, Fang Zhao's words were like a bomb, and they triggered a huge shockwave.
All gaming fans watching the live broadcast rubbed their palms in delight and forgot all about scolding Wang Tie as they rushed to submit their applications. Killing their own idol just once in-game was every gaming enthusiast's dream!
"Bring out the Barrett your father received for completing the mission last time!"
"Don't try and stop me! I want to fight Fang Zhao to the death!"
"The only one able to snipe AliveAfter500Years is me!"
"Out of the way. I will help everyone verify whether it is really him!"
Studios that specialized in selling accounts and equipment also got busy.
"Hurry, hurry, hurry, take down all the accounts that are for sale and use them to apply."
"Boss, are you sure about taking down all our accounts that are for sale?"
"All! Immediately! Right now!"
Every studio operated around 100 accounts. These were all resources! They knew that Fiery Bird would not just pick from those professional e-sports athletes and would probably pick a few players from the amateur circles. They wouldn't pick according to the leaderboards. Therefore, they could use all the accounts to apply for it. What if one of them was selected?
If an account got selected, that account's value would skyrocket! They could sell it for a large sum; they might not have to work for even the next few decades! Rich gamers were plentiful, and there were many willing to pay a premium for that chance!
Many players who were scrambling to apply found that the application window actually... lagged for a second!
One second was not long. This frequently occurred in other applications and procedures, but this lag occurring in a Fiery Bird game was just unimaginable!
Exactly how many people had to apply in that moment for such a situation to occur?
Not only were there gamers watching the live broadcast that signed up, but many people present at the conference hall were tempted as well. The stuff that Fang Zhao had said a while back did not restrict professional e-sports athletes from applying. So they could also give it a try?
Many present at the conference hall thought the same and activated their bracelets. They entered the relevant web page to look for the application option.
Ma Xier and Bruce also wriggled their fingers. Their hands were feeling itchy, but unfortunately, they would not be able to get the chance. Fiery Bird's staff were in charge of the screening process and would not pick them. It seemed like they could only request a duel with Fang Zhao in private.
Schwarzer looked around at the people busily trying to apply. Everyone seemed to no longer care about the prize presentations anymore.
"Everyone seems so energetic."
"You can apply too," Jake said.
"No, no, no." Schwarzer shook his head vigorously. "This chance would be better off with those who really need it!"
As for the members of SilverLight team, not a single one wanted to challenge Fang Zhao again. Having been taught a lesson once was enough. They were also not being oppressed. Until they had achieved the necessary ability, there were not willing to suffer that sort of treatment again!
Dorrian also received private messages from some of his old teammates from HWR e-Sports Club who were sniping masters.
The other party asked, "Dorrian, could you help me gauge? Given my skills, what's the probability of me successfully sniping him?"
Dorrian replied with one word: "Tsk!"