It was already late when Fang Zhao left Fiery Bird's R&D department. Fang Zhao headed straight back to his hotel to rest, the online buzz not affecting him one bit. Only, on his way back, the people he encountered gave him inquisitive looks, and some even came up to ask if he had a triad family background.
Rumors online ranged from him being in a gang from the black street to being the illegitimate son of a triad boss to having a triad family background, and now they were guessing whether or not Fang Zhao had ever killed someone. The world would always have people making guesses with evil intentions. Furthermore, the driving forces behind these would love to tarnish Fang Zhao's reputation even more. It would be best if they could drive Fang Zhao out of this circle. Even if getting rid of him was impossible, it would still damage his reputation and popularity. After all, Fang Zhao's name had been trending too much in the gaming circles the past two days.
For this iteration of the annual conference, the limelight had all been stolen by him. Just taking a look at any famous, reputable gaming forum would do. Topics regarding Fang Zhao, regardless of whether they were gossip or posts on his techniques, would occupy at least half the page!
This was the definite result of extreme popularity. Rational fans anxiously awaited more information. Hot-tempered fans took their quarrels online. Fans that supported Fang Zhao and those that tried to defame him argued nonstop. Silver Wing's official announcement was not clear-cut; all it said was to have patience, that Fang Zhao would give an explanation to everyone the next day.
Generally, when it came to the third day of Fiery Bird's annual conference, gaming fans through the world, regardless of time zones, would stay in front of their screens, especially fans that intended to take part in the auction and bid on their own idol's belongings and had long prepared their funds.
And today, the most eyes were naturally on Fang Zhao, the trending topic. Silver Wing had announced that Fang Zhao would be giving an explanation today. Members of the media were rubbing their hands in glee, waiting for Fang Zhao to release his juicy information.
The auction was held in the same conference hall as the prize presentation.
Just like past years, the first item up for bidding was Fiery Bird's own. Fiery Bird fans across the world held their breath. Even if they could not afford it, just seeing it for themselves was an additional topic to talk about.
Many people speculated that, for this year, Fiery Bird would auction off a 10th-generation console. Many gaming fans not in the first batch of 100 users and who had the assets were all waiting to fight for it.
However, the item Fiery Bird brought out was an old machine, Fiery Bird's first-generation console, Venus.
"One hundred years ago, we, Fiery Bird, first set foot in the gaming industry. Ninety years ago, our first-generation Fiery Bird console was born. It was named 'Venus'..."
On stage, Tang Can vivaciously painted the history of Fiery Bird's games and the development of their consoles.
For gamers, the value of collecting a game console depended on the person that used it previously.
A fifth-generation console used by an e-sports god 50 years ago had been auctioned off for a high price two years back, the value more than doubling.
Something else that could attract gaming fans to make high bids were feelings.
Clearly there were no 10th-generation machines, but the original first-generation console was extremely nostalgic. Especially for gamers over 100 years old, the original console brought back many sentiments.
During the auction of the original first-generation console, Fiery Bird's chairman, shareholders, and other senior executives in the company cheered. There were inscriptions engraved on that first-generation console by the previous chairman:
r forget our original aspirations; encourage progress."
Watching the enlarged words on the screen, Fang Zhao asked Jinro beside him, "What were Fiery Bird's 'original aspirations'?"
Despite being a veteran gamer that had been in the gaming circle for quite some time, Jinro was stumped by this question. Mulling it over for a bit, he replied, "Maybe it's to make the company bigger and better? After that, to manufacture the best games and game consoles?"
Finally, the first-generation console was sold to a 130+ year old entrepreneur for a winning bid of 60 million.
Before "Battle of the Century" had been released, the value of a 10th-generation console had already been hyped up to 60 million. Three days after the game's release, the price had been estimated at around 80 million. Now, it was already more than 100 million.
The original game console naturally could not compare with the 10th generation. Given the production costs and technology of the first generation, getting such a high price was not so easy.
Many of the first generation's microchips and various components had since halted production. Gamers that had used this machine had long chucked it aside, and many of these original consoles had long been recycled.
Even if these machines had been preserved, not every first-generation machine would be able to obtain such a high price. Preserving this sort of machine required meticulous maintenance, which was time consuming. The costs were not cheap either, so generally, not many people were willing to make such an effort.
Furthermore, this first-generation console had an engraved inscription from the late Fiery Bird chairman. This was something that no other first-generation console could compete with. Perhaps, after a few decades, as long as this machine was maintained well, reselling it might fetch an even higher price.
After the auction of the first-generation console, the chatter slowly died down. Everyone was waiting for today's other extremely anticipated person to go on stage.
Fang Zhao was not wearing a SilverLight team uniform but a formal suit Silver Wing had prepared for him. Many people had some sort of idea upon seeing the situation. Indeed, Fang Zhao would be auctioning his team jersey.
It was nothing astonishing and was expected.
Once the set of clothes were taken out, there wouldn't be any surprised looks in the crowd.
Actually, auctioning off the team jersey was something that Silver Wing had contemplated for a long time before deciding on. At the start, Wayne had wanted to advise Fang Zhao to bring out something that would attract more people, such as score sheets, manuscripts, or other such stuff, but later, they had decided it was not appropriate.
Fang Zhao might be really popular right now, but whether it was in the gaming circles or composing circles, he was still a newcomer. The gaming circles might have no qualms, but the main issue was the composing circles. Doing so might give rise to the discontent of many senior composers.
The line of thought was that academics might find these actions disrespectful to his works. Auctioning off score sheets in the gaming circle? Which gamers could understand them?
Nope. Gamers with a professional foundation were too few. A score sheet in the hands of the majority of gamers would be like an ancient scripture. In any case, placing it in front of them was the same: incomprehensible.
If faced with some sensitive composers, they would think, Does auctioning off your score sheet for a high price prove that you are more capable than others? Can artistic works be purely measured by value?
Since it was not just one circle, and as a newcomer without enough qualifications, Wayne advised Fang Zhao to do the same as others and auction off his clothes. That would be the most practical and least offending.
On the chest area of the jacket Fang Zhao had brought out, some people noticed a badge. That was the captain's badge. Furthermore, watching the close-up on the screen, other than the tree-shaped team emblem, Fang Zhao's name was also engraved on it.
Fang Zhao had worn this badge for the first time at yesterday's exchange match; the cameras just had not featured a close-up of it.
"Auctioning off his team jersey with a badge thrown in?" someone commented online.
"This has never happened before, right?"
"In the past, only team jerseys were auctioned, not the badges."
As everyone was busy discussing, Fang Zhao voiced his thoughts. "I received a call from my great-grandfather yesterday. Seeing those rumors circulating online, this old man was very angry."
Hearing Fang Zhao mention his "great-grandfather," everyone pricked their ears up. Where had this great-grandfather originated from? Was he from the rumored black-street gangs?
As if he could tell what everyone was thinking, Fang Zhao displayed a photograph on the screen behind him. It was a box filled with neatly arranged military medals.
The buzzing of discussion in the conference died down.
"The old man would definitely allow me to show this. These were military medals received by my great-grandfather and great-grandmother. Both of them served on the spaceship Sirius during their military service.
Sirius was among the space exploration pioneers of the New Era. Although the spaceship had since been decommissioned, it had never vanished from movies and TV and remained well remembered. It represented the significance of that era.
On the internet forums, gaming fans who saw this were flabbergasted.
"Military service aboard a spaceship? Sounds really cool!"
"Cool my *ss! Military service aboard a spaceship is even more tiring than mining! And the risk and dangers are way higher! Furthermore, among the people that served aboard the pioneer battlespaceships, not many are still alive."
"Looking at these medals, Fang Zhao's great-grandfather is at least of a regimental rank and should be qualified to own guns. Furthermore, the guns he has are probably rare models."
"So envious. Fang Zhao has surely played with those guns before."
"Whatever the case, this at least proves that Fang Zhao's family background is not a triad."
This time, no one associated Fang Zhao or his family with gangs. Regardless of whatever they thought deep down or whether they had any doubts, they would not voice it out. This box of military medals and the military service aboard the Sirius were two important points. They had to at least show some respect for these two old folks. As for whether Fang Zhao was really related to a gang and whether he had killed, these were merely rumors. Without proper evidence, they did not dare to blather. A little carelessness could result in trouble. If Fang Zhao's great-grandparents were no longer living, it would be fine, but both his old folks were living well. If they were to get serious about seeking out these rumormongers, that would be tragic.
Fang Zhao did not take notice of the audience's reactions. He continued, "When I visited my great-grandparents during last year's memorial holiday, I spoke about my military service plans with them. However, due to work commitments, I was unable to apply for enlistment last year. This year, though, I have decided to enlist in the April cycle."
There were two enlistment cycles for military service in a year: April and October.
Did Fang Zhao mean to enlist for military service in April? Then what of the game? Was he quitting? What about the team? Was he finally going to relinquish his throne of the first position?
The quiet conference hall once again buzzed with the noise of discussion. Some people were so delighted they wanted to set off firecrackers. They had racked their heads thinking of a solution to force Fang Zhao out, but never had they expected that Fang Zhao would actually be enlisting for military service! Hahahahaha!
There were others who felt regrettable that they would not have a chance to encounter Fang Zhao in-game and who wanted to spar with him before he enlisted.
Fang Zhao paused momentarily before announcing, "From today onward, I will be temporarily withdrawing from 'Battle of the Century.' I will return after my military service has been completed."
Gaming fans were dumbfounded. That fast?!
Everyone had too many questions, but Fang Zhao did not continue. There was no need for him to speak too much. After all, this was Fiery Bird's auction, not his own personal fan meet. Time was limited, and he had briefly mentioned the important points. Everything else would be handled by Silver Wing's relevant departments.
With Fang Zhao temporarily withdrawing, even if he returned after his military service, the captain position might not necessarily be returned to him. That meant to say that the captain's badge on this team jersey might be the only one of its kind!
Thus, when the auction started, the figure shot up in a straight line.
On the large screen, from the starting bid of 10,000, it jumped to 100,000, 200,000, 500,000, 800,000...
As it went on, the number of people bidding became fewer, but as before, the figure continued to rise.