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9. Compulsion Loop

For Brushstroke, the real business with All-Stars was actually conducted in a tea room. Duan Gexing’s petite appearance belied the speed at which basket after bamboo basket was devoured by her before they could get down to brass tacks.

“Thanks for meeting me on such short notice,” Duan Gexing opened the meeting. “Our guild leader has given me all powers to represent Guild Happy’s interest at this table.”

No wonder, Brushstroke spat in his heart but did not say. Were Happy’s Dawn Rifle here perhaps the situation was more tense, but Happy was definitely up to something by sending this newbie up against Changing Spring. A girl! A beauty!

Happy is rubbing in the fact that they have beauties and we don’t, is it?!

“My proposal towards the 13th server was to ally up,” Duan Gexing started without preamble. “As Blue Brook Guild is aware, Guild Happy does not currently have the resources to match the big guilds. Although we are a Club guild, the guild of the current champions, that situation is set to change. Happy has no realistic hopes of keeping the throne.”

Changing Spring mulled it over. What Duan Gexing had said was a simple statement of fact – Happy’s dark horse win could not repeat forever, and had only appeared by a combination of luck, a five-guild alliance to take advantage of the game update, and much more hard work from the pro-players. What Team Happy needed right now was time to build up their resource base, or a way to relieve the pressure on them temporarily. As things stood, Team Happy’s goal was now to enter the play-offs – their current focus was to reorient themselves into a formation without the Glory Textbook which had led them before.

Team Happy would certainly lose their crown this year; to whom the deer falls was not yet settled.

Duan Gexing was a Happy fan – why else would she work for their guild? Yet, she was clearly a logical person, and the fact that she could lay this all out so clearly was because Dawn Rifle was already of this mind, which meant...

“Boss Wei is planning a strategic retreat?” Changing Spring asked first.

At her nod, Changing Spring hummed and took a sip of chrysanthemum tea. “So Boss Wei told you to approach us first due to old links between us, er...”

“My name is Duan Gexing in real life, and I am currently assisting technician in Happy’s joint guild operations,” Duan Gexing clarified.

“Duan Gexing, Endless Song.”

“My parents were a fan of Cao Cao,” Duan Gexing acknowledged. “I made Soft Mist’s new spear.”

“That was you?!” Brushstroke exclaimed. “The umbrella?!”

“En,” came the nod.

Changing Spring’s eyes narrowed. “Technicians,” he said, “do not usually publicise themselves.”

“Technicians, especially those involved in the forging of Silver equipment and weapons, don’t get the chance to publicise themselves,” Duan Gexing clarified with a smile. “Happy combined their technical and guild departments.”

More like Happy still hasn’t hired enough people to make up for the shortfall – Changing Spring and Brushstroke exchanged looks which shared this idea.

Duan Gexing’s phone, laid on the table, vibrated. Nobody paid attention to it.

“Guild Leader Wu – you know him as Dawn Rifle – has allowed to concede two records in the 13th server,” Duan Gexing finally said. “The upcoming Fire Forest is Happy’s for sure – we’re using it in the next broadcast. The next upcoming are Thousand Waves Lake and Gloom Forest. Of course, there is no chance to repeat the siege of Thousand Waves Lake at this juncture.”

Liang Yichun sat up straighter. The tenth server’s siege of Thousand Waves Lake was a nightmare for the great guilds – outnumbering the enemy and still dying, and having to concede reparations in the end...

“Also,” and here Duan Gexing smirked, “as a show of faith, I will tell you one thing; Silver Umbrellas will become part of Guild Happy’s guild storage in the 13th once it is set up.”

“What?!”

Brushstroke was the first to rebut: “That’s insane! The materials to forge the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella alone- Guild Happy can’t afford to make that many umbrellas!”

“Did I say that they were all the Myriad Manifestations Umbrella?” Duan Gexing commented. “Let’s take an example – tonight, Soft Mist displayed Sunset, a prototype of a shield-and-spear combination. In Endless Song’s hands is Moonlight, another combination. There are six workable prototypes, spread across different weapon combinations. Once Happy puts them out, the fact that we offer Silver equipment in our guild storage would get out.”

If Orange equipment were already the highest tier of goodies offered to guild members in exchange for contribution points, Silver equipment would be a different story. Considering also the claim of having six workable prototypes, and those umbrella prototypes must cost the earth in materials.

Even if Blue Brook Guild sent their spies to try and steal it, would that work? With Lord Grim last time, a mandatory distribution and a level priority were all it took to cheat them. Boss Wei could only be more savvy about the tricks that guild staff could get up to – some of Blue Brook Guild’s old tricks had Windward Formation’s presence in them. Someone like Wei Chen could only have more spies in all guilds to entrap the big guilds.

As for positive reputation... when had Guild Happy cared much about that?! The team had not cared, the boss was less likely to care, and thus their guild really had the bare minimum of standards by Club guild rules. Duan Gexing putting Silver equipment to entice contributions from the player base of Guild Happy would be decried as shameless by the Club guilds, an expensive move to entice people, but...

...but the fact that Duan Gexing could say this so confidently, implied that not only were the Silver umbrellas one-of-a-kind, they could also be manufactured cheap enough to make the cost of putting them up into the guild storage for all guild players to fight for worth it.

“And then what?” Brushstroke said. “Why does Guild Happy putting up expensive bait mean anything? Doesn’t that imply that more spies would steal from Happy? Happy’s move would increase its reputation but ruin its player base! All those Silver weapons, we just have to target their wielders and loot them!”

Changing Spring growled. “Brushstroke.”

“Yes, Guild Leader.”

Humming, Changing Spring regarded Duan Gexing. “Once this is publicised, Happy becomes the definite leader in the Silver equipment race. In any other situation, the big guilds would be happy to steal... but this is in the wake of the World Glory Competition.”

He nodded. “All the teams are aiming to make their mark. Samsara’s Sharpshooters copy the Gun King, Herb Garden dress up like Vaccaria, Tyrannical Ambition has more Clerics and Spitfires than ever – even outnumbering their Strikers. Even if Han Wenqing manages to play Season 11 to the grand finals, his national reputation cannot compare.”

Duan Gexing smiled. “Guild Leader is obviously guild leader.”

“...why would the team approve this?” Changing Spring exclaimed in surprise. “Releasing a new weapon... releasing this weapon would start up another arms race, the struggle for materials would deepen. Not even God Ye can win all his BOSS tussles!”

“For Glory. For the next generation.” Duan Gexing shrugged. “What consequences publicising my creations would bring, how does it matter? I’m just their maker.”

If one party had a transforming weapon, other clubs would definitely try to copy it. Happy’s Myriad Manifestations Umbrella was the current target of all other technicians in the Alliance clubs. Happy releasing the same scaled-down version would prompt not only a massive tussle to get them, it would also mark Guild Happy as a technology leader.

Changing Spring’s lip curled.

The fact that Duan Gexing had told him this much at all, meant that... she had been allowed to. Dawn Rifle, Windward Formation...

...Lord Grim.

Lord Grim was behind this, and Liang Yichun had to tell Blue Rain’s captain. Now.