Chapter 289: Deimos Is…
Masks were an integral part of a god pilot’s outfit here. In DreamNet, there was no way to change one’s appearance, so they existed to protect anonymity.
When the First Under Heaven removed his mask, all four Divine Monarchs stared in disbelief. Not because he was old, but in fact quite the opposite. He looked like a young man.
His handsome and vibrant face belonged to a man in his thirties, with eyes that twinkled like the depths of the universe. It must have been those he used as inspiration for the color of his mask.
Standing there, he radiated a gentle, dim light. It wasn’t strong, and didn’t bear any powerful sense. It was difficult to express, but not unpleasant.
For reasons unknown, Lan Jue felt something familiar about him, about this aura he released.
Deimos was famous some fifty years before their encounter today. He certainly be looking this young. Perhaps he used some sort of special scientific process to regain his youth, like the Keeper and Bookworm? Or perhaps he wasn’t even the ‘original’ Starlord.
Deimos laughed. “I imagine there’s a lot of confusion in all of you right now. How could Deimos be that young, you might be asking. Let me start by assuring you that I am Deimos – but I am not, at the same time. You’re looking at a mask, just a mask of the former me.”
Lan Jue and his companions were still befuddled, perhaps worse than before he’d started talking. But before any more questions could be uttered, they witnessed a strange change overcome the Starlord.
Hua Li, Chu Cheng and Lan Qing handled the transformation well, considering. It was Lan Jue who was particularly struck by it. As the young man’s face began to age rapidly, he was sure he knew this man.
And indeed he did. He’d known the Starlord, First Under Heaven, for years.
“How… how can this be?” Lan Jue asked in utter disbelief. It was light his lightning Discipline was sending bolts through the recesses of his brain, and yet all the things that weren’t clear before suddenly made sense.
Deimos’ face bore a small smile as he watched their expressions change. As they looked on they watched this heroic individual age a hundred years before their very eyes. Wrinkles sprang up and spread across Deimos’ face, which grew paler and more gaunt with each passing second. Hos body became frail, thin, and weak and he began to stoop like the weight of years lay on his shoulders. Only those two twinkling eyes retained the youth of his former appearance. Eyes that could see the whole of time and space.
“How can it not? Jewelry Master.”
Lan Jue’s eyes were big as saucer. He simply wasn’t prepared for the number of shocking circumstances he’d experienced today. But first among them was this, because never in a million years would he ever have expected Deimos to be…
Yes, Deimos was indeed the Clairvoyant, founder of Skyfire Avenue and the third strongest Paragon to have ever lived. Did that mean Deimos was the Clairvoyant’s real name? Was this truly the frightening powerhouse of DreamNet, known as First Under Heaven?
The Clairvoyant only smiled. “Alright. The rest of you can remove your masks as well.” The statement was directed to the rest of his team.
The Knave was the first to comply.
When Lan Jue finally spied the face of the clown, his mouth curled in to a scowl. It was a face he was very familiar with. The Coffee Master!
The jittery man chortled at Lan Jue. “Yeah, you had no idea the fastest hands ever would be mine, huh!? You know, when I first found out you were Zeus, I couldn’t believe it. And I still don’t agree with these results – if it hadn’t have been for the addition of our Disciplines, I’m positive we’d have won without trouble.”
The Knave was actually the Coffee Master. Lan Jue couldn’t believe what he was seeing, it was like all the surprises from his entire life were rolled in to these last few hours.
After the Knave’s revelation, the next person to remove their mask was the one under continuous assault from Zeus. Bahamut.
“Jewelry Master, I have to say you pack one hell of a punch! Let me introduce myself – I’m the Bartender. We’re not at all familiar with each other since I’m rarely in the Avenue. The Wine Master has, unfortunately, stolen a good deal of my business.”
He was a middle-aged man, handsome, with a head of long blue and red hair split down the middle. He had a calm expression, and gentle eyes . There was no animosity for his destruction at Lan Jue’s hand.
“Hello, Bartender,” Lan Jue replied. He looked at those gathered, wondering if they all were…
Windbreaker stepped forward, and removed his mask. “How…!” Lan Jue couldn’t help but sputter out the word, but was too stunned to finish the thought.
As Windbreaker removed the back, their body shrunk like a popped balloon. His large and robust figure became thin and curvaceous. With the mask removed, a smiling face greeted him, one he knew well; Wendy, the Seamstress!
Wendy tittered. “Why not, huh? A pleasant surprise right?”
“Pleasant surprise?” Lan Jue repeated with a sheepish laugh. “Amazing! Our Skyfire Avenue has no shortage of savants! And what about this one? If he’s also part of the Avenue that’s an amazing and welcome coincidence!”
“Hurry the hell up and tell me how you absorbed my Discipline? How’d you do it?!” The second Thunderclaps voice reached Lan Jue’s ears, he knew.
“You!” Lan Jue took a lunging step forward and tore the mask away from Thunderclap’s face, revealing the resolute face of the Driver!
Thunderclap was Lan Jue’s drinking partner!
Lan Jue was temporarily speechless. As he looked out over the crowd of familiar faces, he felt a discontent welling in his heart.
“You all knew from the very beginning you’d be fighting me in the god battle, didn’t you? Hell, I was drinking with you, Driver, just a few days ago! You guys…”
Hua Li and Chu Cheng were just as stunned, and looked on with mouths agape. They weren’t as intimate with the denizens of Skyfire Avenue as their compatriot, but they knew enough. It was stupefying, to say the least. How did they even get themselves in this situation…
Only Lan Qing looked on with dispassionate expression. He fixed the Clairvoyant with calm eyes. “Your Majesty, I think you owe us an explanation.”
The Clairvoyant replied with an emotional sigh. “We didn’t tell you about any of this earlier because we were afraid the surprise would get out. And it looks like our plans were successful.”
Lan Jue couldn’t help but interject. “So this DreamNet upgrade is a result of Skyfire’s involvement? No wonder it was the Wine Master who brought us the new pods.”
But the Clairvoyant shook his head. “No, they’re only relying on us to manage the upgrade and distribution. DreamNet represents the whole of man kind, and I can tell you that everything Piao Hong told you before is true. The real reason behind all of this is to inspire the next generation of pilots to train and grow strong, so that we’re ready when we need to be.”
“But that doesn’t explain the most important thing,” Lan Jue contested. “You’re dead!”
A slight smile wrinkled the Clairvoyant’s face further. “In retreat, and they’ve left a sim pod with me. After all, I was once the First Under Heaven – up until my recent retirement.”
“If that’s the case, then you’re health…” Lan Jue probed.
The old man laughed. “No change. If I still had the years in me we wouldn’t have had to scheme up this competition. And you all performed well, more than worthy for the future I have seen.”
The future he’s seen? The Four Monarchs furrowed their brows in confusion.
The Clairvoyant’s face adopted a deep, serene expression. “I have had the last prediction I will ever see. It is the vision I shared with the Pontiff and Satan during their visit. I told them the result of what I’d seen. But what I shared, was false. My death will serve another purpose.”
“My fortune telling abilities have grown clearer as I near the end of my days. Over decades I’ve watched humanity take to the stars, and I was delighted. The universe was infinite, and with these leap humanity would continue for a hundred million years without threat. For the continuation of the human race, it was undoubtedly a watershed moment. But that didn’t mean peace. We would face many challenges, many obstacles as we pushed toward the stars.”
“We have only just begun to explore the heavens. The universe we know is only the smallest fraction of an unfathomable whole. There is still so much we don’t know, and so many dangers lurking out in the darkness. As we grow and expand, it is inevitable that we should meet them. As we colonized the planets we’ve come across, there have been terrible poisons and powerful beings. Through scientific advancements and stubborn tenacity, humanity has prevailed so far. In that way we have come to the present, treading the path our fore-bearers laid. Modern times see three great Alliances with territories that stretch hundreds of light years. But the dangers remain, out there, waiting. As we take leaps forward, so too do they. What I saw as my power left me, was a great and terrible calamity, that threatened the whole of our species.”
Deep concern was written clearly on the old man’s face. His voice became a whisper. “I have tried many times to peer closer at this, and learn more. I employed everything at my disposal to try and find a solution. My first premonition happened fifteen years ago. At that time, I felt a terrible wave of death emanate from the darkness. It was slight, but clear – and the results were terrifying.”