There were doubts, amazement, silence and cheers. These were the reactions of the crowd filling Beijing Olympic Stadium. However, the American audience was still at the stage of doubt.
“What? Why is Kraugel here? Weren’t articles released yesterday about how he was going to participate in PvP?”
“Yes. I read the article and naturally thought he would be in PvP...”
"He won’t appear in PvP and will instead participate in the Demon King Subjugation?”
"Wouldn’t he be crazy if he didn’t?”
The American audiences started to notice the circumstances. Third-rate media outlets wrote provocative articles that Kraugel, Zibal and Haster would participate in PvP. They wanted huge traffic and wrote random things instead of the ‘truth’ that other media outlets released. The responsibility would be poured toward the third-rate media outlets so other companies took the opportunity to raise their traffic. Thus, the Americans were hooked by the large number of false articles.
"Aren’t the reporters a complete disgrace? I didn’t sleep yesterday because I was reading the report.”
“Me too. I couldn’t sleep because it felt like two gold medals were flying away. Thanks to that, I got drunk and now I have a hangover. In any case, it turned out well.”
“Yes, it is well done.”
It would be a crisis if the three strongest members of the US team participated in the same event. This was a good thing.
“Kraugel! Have strength! I’m cheering for you!”
The whole stadium seemed to shake as the American audience members started cheering.
On stage, Mei Xiao felt a great deal of pressure. “G-Great...”
Mei Xiao had attended many events in China. She felt confident that she was familiar with the audience members. However, the National Competition was in a different dimension. She felt tense because of the crowd of 100,000 spectators. The other participants had a similar reaction. So far, there had never been such enthusiastic support in the events they had participated in. Everybody was petrified.
However, the protagonist who made the crowd excited was calm. He approached his capsule with no expression, as if he wasn’t feeling nervous or excited. Mei Xiao shouted toward him, “E-Excuse me! Kraugel!”
"C-Can I get a signature later on?”
In fact, she had intended to ask after the event. Yet she felt that Kraugel was getting further away as he walked toward the capsule. Kraugel was so distant it felt like they would never get another chance to talk. The other participants had the same request as Mei Xiao. He might’ve been defeated by Grid but Kraugel’s achievements over the years were phenomenal. Among the high rankers, Kraugel was the target of admiration. They wanted to get his signature and take a photo with him.
Kraugel didn’t reply and entered the capsule like it was annoying. Unfortunately, the other participants also had to enter their capsules after the host urged them. The next time they woke up, they were in the Satisfy National Competition's dedicated server.
‘Did it get caught on camera?’
‘That damn Mei Xiao!’
Zhang Jian from China had asked Kraugel for a signature after being overwhelmed by the atmosphere. He was a popular star in China and got the nickname of ‘Ice Prince’ to match his cold appearance. Now this image could be ruined overnight.
‘I should’ve asked after getting off the stage. Dammit. Dammit!’
At any rate, Mei Xiao was a problem. He really didn’t like that girl. She was Hao’s youngest sister, more popular than Zhang Jian and also had a bright personality that drove the atmosphere.
‘Be prepared, Mei Xiao! I will defeat the Hero faster than you and flatten your high nose to the ground!’
The preparations were perfect. Zhang Jian had analyzed Grid’s power in last year’s PvP finals more than a thousand times. He also found the ideal game settings that fit him like a custom suit. He had been raising his level and equipped himself with legendary items dropped from bosses. He wouldn’t be a match for the Grid of this year but he was confident that he could deal with the Grid of last year.
One year in reality was three years in the game and three years was never short. Hero Grid had his time stopped for three years. It was hard to believe the Hero Grid could defeat Zhang Jian who had been growing nonstop for three years. It was the normal way of thinking.
『 The first challenger, China’s Zhang Jian has appeared! 』
The moment the host called out, Zhang Jian’s body appeared online. The body covered in heavy armour fell to the ground and a loud sound was heard. Hero Grid was leaning against a tree and watched him with an interested look. It was completely different from the blank expression on last year’s Hero.
This was a decisive hint. It was a hint that the AI of this year’s Hero had an aggressive character. It was a big difference from the cool and calm personality of last year’s Hero. The nature of the artificial intelligence had a profound impact on the way of combat. It might be the same name but the super artificial intelligence acted differently according to personality. If Zhang Jian had enough experience, he would’ve modified some of his plans the moment he saw the Hero’s lively eyes.
However, Zhang Jian’s experience was lacking. He couldn’t see the difference between the artificial intelligence that controlled last year’s Hero and the artificial intelligence in front of him. It was a defeat. Kraugel’s artificial intelligence was cautious, and because of that, he gave up seizing the opportunity. Meanwhile, Grid’s artificial intelligence was aggressive and didn’t intend to yield. He rotated like a spinning top and cut twice in succession.
The moment the game began, Zhang Jian crossed a river and couldn’t go back.
[You have blocked a powerful blow.]
[The durability of Crying Warrior’s Sword has dropped by 78!]
[Your right wrist has been fractured!]
[You have suffered 2,900 damage.]
[You can’t move your right hand for 15 seconds.]
‘Isn’t this crazy?’
Of course, he was aware of it in advance. Grid’s attack power was crazy. There would be serious damage even if it was a basic attack. Yes, he knew this when he permitted the attack. Yet his defense wasn’t sufficient? He had even selected accessories that increased his strength.
Grid’s next attack was coming. This time it was a stab. Zhang Jian moved his sword from his right hand to his left hand and used a skill.
It was a status skill. It was an avatar based skill that made him immune to physical conditions and reduced the damage received. Originally, he planned to use it at the end of the battle but he realized the fight would end immediately if he saved it. He blocked Grid’s sword and Zhang Jian’s counterattack followed.
Then Grid’s cloak flapped in an unusual manner and four golden hands could be seen. Zhang Jian was struck by a bombardment of white flashes. It was magic that ignored magic resistance and the damage was overwhelming. Zhang Jian kept striking at Grid’s chest.
"Who will die first...!”
It was a mud fight from now on. Zhang Jian used a strong attack buff and followed up with a cut.
[The target has received 5,380 damage.]
[The target has received 5,290 damage...]
‘Isn’t this crazy?’
He used an attack buff and wielded a legendary weapon, yet he only dealt this much damage? Zhang Jian’s eyes shook and a dark smile appeared on Grid’s face. It was a provocative smile, as if saying Zhang Jian was cute.
An artificial intelligence was taunting him? The anger of Zhang Jian, who had been crowned as a new hero candidate by billions of Chinese people, was boiling. However, this didn’t last long. It was due to the flames around Grid’s body. They were flames that burnt anyone who approached.
Zhang Jian screamed and involuntarily stepped back. It was because the damage of the flames accumulated faster than the damage of the sword.
Zhang Jian retreated and used a sword technique to block Grid’s path as much as possible. Then he paled as he tried to take a potion. It was because Grid easily broke through the technique and reached him in an instant.
The frightened Zhang Jian started randomly using attack skills but it was useless. The strongest attacks of the famous ranker couldn’t penetrate Grid’s defense.
The Hero laughed like it was fun. He grabbed Zhang Jian’s face and Queen’s Flames of Hell exploded. It was only 1 minute and 13 seconds. This was the time it took for China’s rising star to be destroyed by the Grid of one year ago. The problem was that Grid’s health gauge remained almost unchanged. The people of China were silent from the big shock.
『 Ahh! In the end, Player Mei Xiao was eliminated! 』
『 It was a breathtaking tightrope until the end, but this is the result. It is a shame. Still, Player Mei Xiao fought well enough. 』
Mei Xiao was different from the three players before her. She used a sharp iron whip and her magic power to charge at Grid like an angry bull. In five minutes, Grid’s health dropped by nearly 50%. Of course, it was a brilliant fight against Grid considering he had the recovery effect of Tiramet's Belt and the First King title. Mei Xiao was clearly superior compared to the other participants who died within three minutes and couldn’t even scratch Grid’s health.
The 100,000 spectators and billions of viewers around the world cheered for Mei Xiao. However, Grid sitting in the waiting room wasn’t inspired.
“It is a rough way of fighting.”
The Grid of one year ago. This year’s Hero seemed like a bulldozer under the control of the artificial intelligence. The only thing that pushed the opponents were Grid’s specs itself. There were no skills to admire. Grid smacked his lips together. He had been thinking of using the artificial intelligence as a means of study to improve his control. However, that regret only lasted a moment.
Grid sat upright as soon as the last participant of Breaking the Hero appeared on the stage.
Just like he did to the other participants, the Hero flew toward Kraugel. Kraugel avoided it and stepped on the Hero’s body in the air. At the same time, the White Tiger Sword rose. The Hero’s stomach was pierced and blood sprayed into the air. The Hero who had laughed at the other participants now had his lips firmly closed. The God Hands fired Magic Missiles at Kraugel and then armed themselves with Mjolnir.
The Hero used a sword dance after landing on the ground and the energy rushed toward Kraugel. The Hero combined his high insight stat and the Slaughterer’s Eye Patch to predict Kraugel’s escape path in an exquisite manner. On the other hand, Kraugel had the Control Sword skill. Four swords emerged from Kraugel’s inventory and tangled together with the God Hands.
Grid jumped up from his seat. Control Sword was a difficult skill. Unlike the God Hands, Kraugel needed to mentally control the swords to make them move. Last year’s Kraugel couldn’t fully utilize this. He made a mistake by trying to control the swords and lost concentration. This year was different. He was in complete control of his body and the swords. It was the control of five bodies using one mind.
Kraugel used White Light Steps and appeared behind the Hero. The Hero read this with insight and turned around, his sword moving. The two swords collided and black flames covered Kraugel while sharp stony thorns penetrated the Hero. No, it seemed to penetrate him. The Hero swiftly moved Lantier’s Cloak and bounced back most of the thorns, which were classified as projectiles.
Everyone had their mouths shut. The billions of people were sweating as they focused on the screen. Then...
Grid was filled with joy. He stared with wide eyes, determined not to miss any moment of Kraugel’s fight against the Hero.