Chapter 5: A Game of Prestige [5]

----- This translation belongs to konila.com -----

----- THIS TRANSLATION BELONGS TO konila.com -----

----- This translation belongs to konila.com -----

----- This translation belongs to konila.com -----

It was the usual fanfare when it came to Hope’s videos. Chen Yang had become accustomed to the typical comments, offering either respect or jest in forms of laughter depicted in text. It was such that he no longer found it weird that the entire screen was crammed to the gunnels with the scrolling comments exclusive to Site B, and they obscured his view of what Hope was doing in the video.

The oncoming hail of scrolling commentary which now peppered admiration could only mean one thing: Hope must have outdone himself again, and the only way to know how was to watch the video, just like he did with the last episode and those before.

He could still remember how hard he was breathing when he tapped on the button that turned off the commentary panel, and when the iconic, Einstein-like smurf Lovely came into view.

“With the main structure of the droid now complete, I will now continue with the power source…”

Lovely conjured a complex-looking 3D polygon and it grew, expanding to fill the whole screen. It teemed with formulas and calculations.

“What the—” gasped Chen Yang.

He has never missed any of Hope’s video uploads, yet there was hardly anything he knew about this mysterious Site B uploader called Hope.

Watching him deal out one trick after another that has never failed to keep everyone thrilled and entertained, one might wonder if he had truly accomplished the feats presented in his videos for real, despite him continually dismissing all of it as “cinematic parlor tricks”.

The screen swarmed with equations, formulas, and calculations before Lovely quickly put them away and Hope’s voice came ringing again.

“Patriot One is built to carry such potent functions, that no system in the market today offers anything that could ensure a smooth and permanent operation. For this reason, we shall be manufacturing a power source of our very own making.”

Right after his introduction, the robotic arm right beside the work table began operating. Hope no longer said anything, leaving only the mechanical whirls and twists of the robotic arm in work to pierce the silence.

The device gradually began to take shape and Chen Yang’s eyes stretched to their limits in awe.

Ten minutes. That was all it took, and the all-recognizable power supply system was ready, sitting augustly on top of the work table.

“Good God…” gasped Chen Yang again.

Hope’s voice came ringing with a hint of wry amusement.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, the Ark Reactor.”

“...” Chen Yang was speechless.

It really is the Ark Reactor?! Surely this is not just some visual effects mumbo jumbo?!

Now that the Ark Reactor is complete, Hope left one last message: the next episode will feature a test run of Patriot One. With that, he concluded the episode.

Disbelief and bewilderment painted across Chen Yang’s face. He must be hallucinating. There’s no way anyone could build an Ark Reactor right before everyone’s eyes!

He furiously grabbed his mouse and clicked “Replay”, only this time, he kept the scrolling commentaries.

As the robotic arm once again demonstrated the construction, the comments and remarks began to change.

“Good Heavens, this is goddamn funny! An Ark Reactor! I would have fallen for this if I had not watched Iron Man before!”

“Dammit, Hope. I have always believed you in your droid-building endeavor! How could you expect me to go on believing you after a stunt like this!”

“I wonder how much money Hope’s tossed in for this episode’s special effects. I’m betting a dollar. That robotic arm and that Ark Reactor must be another of his tricks, I’m sure.”

“This is like making jokes while keeping on a straight face. Damn, you really need an Oscar, Hope.”

“What if… Just a big what if… Hope has really built an Ark Reactor and the Patriot One?”

But the last particular comment was quickly engulfed by a stampede of other onrushing comments surging through the screen. Everyone praised Hope for his ever-improving special effects, which only seemed to grow more real every day. They also commented on how the country’s filming industry would prosper with people like Hope, to produce flicks that could easily defeat blockbuster hits of the West.

Eventually, Chen Yang, whose heart had never stopped shaking since he saw the Ark Reactor, felt at ease after he saw these comments.

They’re right, he mused quietly at that time. There’s no way anyone could build an Ark Reactor. Not with today’s technology. That must be it, a stunt. A stunt that Hope uses to keep us wanting for more.

Nevertheless, Chen Yang could hardly curb his curiosity. He needed to watch a new episode after that marvelous Ark Reactor stunt in the last one.

He was about to click “Play” when his roommate and fellow member of his droid-building team came in, patting him fiercely on the shoulder.

“The competition’s on the day after tomorrow, Chen, so we need to run a final test. Why are you still here watching videos?”

After almost half a year’s worth of preparation, their droid was reaching completion and the latest version of their droid was better than its predecessor. Chen Yang and his teammates were confident that they would emerge as champions of the competition.

His teammate peered at the screen when he realised Chen Yang was ignoring him, and saw a name even he was familiar with.

“Come on, Chen! Now of all times you want to watch the videos of this fraudster Hope?”

Inadvertently, Chen Yang objected, “He’s no—”

But his teammate brusquely cut him off.

“Not what? A fraudster? What else would he be if not one? Or do you really believe he can build a droid? What makes you think that it’s even possible?”

Chen Yang could find nothing to support his suspicion. Up until now, he did not yet know who—or what—Hope really is.

Only that there were times when Hope looked like a true maven in science and robotics. There were also times when Hope seemed to behave completely incoherent with the science and technology of today, leading him to feel that Hope is nothing more than a gifted whiz in visual effects.

But yet, how could he be a mere tech whiz in computer-generated imagery when many of his contents about droid-building seem to make sense? The main reason that Chen Yang and his team could build their droid so smoothly was partly due to Chen Yang taking tips from the programming that Hope is using for Patriot One.

But how could anyone explain the realisticity of the Ark Reactor?

“Quit racking your brain over nonsense like this. Come, we need to run a final test. Win this competition, and then you can do whatever you like after.”

With that, the teammate dragged Chen Yang away with him.

With so much work still waiting for them, they could hardly waste away time watching more buffoonery concocted using CGI and special effects.

Chen Yang spent the remainder of his time completing the final touch-ups to his team’s droid, making sure that the droid is at its finest. With not even a minute’s worth of respite from his toil, he retreated back to his dorm late that night, immediately falling asleep. All thoughts about Hope’s unveiling of Patriot One were forgotten.

The next morning, he woke up as early as he could and joined his team before they set off together to the municipal sports complex.

This year’s competition venue was just as boisterous and crowded as the last, with students from all over the nation seen with droids of their own construction.

This was Chen Yang’s first time joining a national-level tournament and he could hardly prevent feeling tense as his fingers clasped around the number tag given to him.

A total of fifty teams from schools nationwide have come to attend the contest. Chen Yang and his team were assigned as Number Twenty Eight.

“You reek of anxiety, Chen Yang. Trust in our team if you don’t trust yourself. We’ll be the champions, I’m sure of it.”

Chen Yang nodded nervously. Strangely, he began to think about Hope and his droid, Patriot One.

If he really was the real deal – a true authority of robotics and science – and was participating in this competition, he would undoubtedly become the champion.

But part of what Hope employed on his droid had exceeded the capabilities of the technology today. As much as he wanted to believe that Patriot One could be realistically built, much of its functions could not be possible with today’s technology.

Hence, he concluded that constructing a droid like Patriot One was just impossible.

Chen Yang convinced himself so quietly. He must be having too much pressure lately, he thought again, or he couldn’t be troubled by such ludicrous thoughts now of all times.

Unbeknownst to Chen Yang who hadn’t gotten to watch Hope’s latest upload, the latter first installed the Ark Reactor into Patriot One, just before embarking on an introduction about the droid’s basic functions. Finally, at the end of the episode, he revealed that he would be joining the National Droid-Building Competition organized by the Institute of Technology.

Despite having attracted legions of fans during his five-month-long journey of building his droid and uploading the footage online, most of them merely laughed away Hope’s intention of competing with Patriot One.

After all, he was only a maven of cinematics special effects to anyone who had watched his videos, in which everyone had spurned as mere displays of his prowess with computer-generated imagery. The National Droid-Building Competition?! What is he using to participate? A green screen? This is a droid-building competition, not a tournament for the best special effects!

The commentaries filling and scrolling past the screen peppered scorn and ridicule at Hope, with some even asking Hope to pipe down and take a breather. Another also said that him building a droid using computer CGI does not mean that he could actually turn fiction into fact.

Everyone was rather thrilled that Hope had mistaken his own “masterfully-constructed, computer-generated invention” as real.

Nevertheless, a number of fans clinged onto the hope that Hope was a real master in science and robotics. They commented that they would watch the live broadcast of the competition online, and see if Hope would appear in person with Patriot One.

That compelled more of his fans to express their enthusiasm to watch the live broadcast. Hope might be able to impress them once again.

All eyes were on Hope, a visual effects aficionado, on how he would unveil his Patriot One.

Surely he’s not really planning to appear with a green screen?

Exactly because of this, the live telecast of the competition was swept by hundreds upon thousands of viewers, causing the staff of the channel station to wonder if they were receiving the wrong numbers.

What’s going on!? This should be the least popular program for tonight! But how is the viewer ratings skyrocketing?!

However, this hardly affected the proceedings of the competition, as one after another, contestants and their teams stepped onto the stage to present their droids.

In the blink of an eye, they reached Contestant Number Twenty Five.

Chen Yang and his teammates were filled with glee as they watched what other droids their competitors had built. They felt that victory was within grasp.

“We’re bagging the prize. Look at all those droids; none of them can possibly come near to the functions of ours.”

“Heavens, that’s three hundred thousand dollars! That would mean about seventy thousand apiece! But that won’t matter more than the merit points for our degree programs!”

As his teammates began to discuss euphorically about how they would celebrate their victory, a strange, inexplicable, and foreboding dread began to loom over Chen Yang.

Somehow he did not share the same optimism that his teammates seemed to enjoy. Something is going to happen, he anticipated apprehensively, and it’s coming fast.

“Next, we have Contestant Number Twenty Six, Qi Wang! He’ll be presenting his droid, Patriot One!”

Chen Yang’s eyes shot wide when he caught the familiar name of that droid.

A split-second later, a recognizable droid – the very same one that he had been seeing for weeks, how it had been built from scratch to the lumbering robot he last saw in Hope’s episode – shot from the sky and landed vertically on the stage.

It really was Patriot One.


Author’s Notes:

Thank you all for your support! I’d be sure to keep on going!

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----- This translation belongs to konila.com -----

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