Actions

Work Header

Three Frenemies

Chapter Text

The call that the Esports Bureau gave to Blue Rain went straight to their manager, scaring the manager into thinking that the country wanted to regulate minors playing games out of the blue and was charging headlong towards Blue Rain to bear the brunt of their operations. It was only after quaking with fear and trepidation for a long spiel that he finally realised the intention of the other party. Bystanders watched the manager’s expression change like the April sky in the South; spring, summer, autumn and winter each passed through a turn on his face before settling into a spring breeze, and as he responded, he beckoned Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian over.

After losing early in the playoffs to Happy, Blue Rain announced the start of their summer break. But because of the adjustments the technical department wanted to make to Troubling Rain’s equipment in the recent, the standing captain and vice-captain were called back to the team. These two people were as matter of fact, natives to City G; making a trip down to the club was therefore nothing much of a hassle for them, and they were currently hanging around the technical department.

“This is too incredible, hey Captain!” As expected, Huang Shaotian was extremely excited to be called up, latching on to Yu Wenzhou’s shoulder and shaking it. “Kill those western ghouls!”

“Have you watched too many war films?” Yu Wenzhou was shaken till his head started to throb. Then, he saw the manager’s phone ring again—he glanced over—it was from the Alliance.

On the Alliance’s end, the matters being discussed had already entered much more familiar territory. The manager cupped his phone with both hands, beaming from ear to ear. “Yes, I have already received notice from the bureau. Do you even have to ask this? There’s no issue on our side…”

Midway through his words, he abruptly thought something amiss and hurriedly covered the receiver, turning his head over, “There’s no issue, right?”

Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian both exchanged a look and shook their heads.

“What! Why won’t you even agree to this?!”

“We’re saying that there’s no issue, and you’ve got a problem with your head!” Huang Shaotian laughed his head off.

The manager was several years older than them, but he got along rather well with these pro players on most days, therefore was able to take the two teasing him with good nature. “Yes, yes. Made a fuss over something small earlier… You’ll be faxing the detailed contract over, right? Sure, alright, okay…”

 

“They said that everyone will assemble for training a week later.” The manager hung up the phone, then remembered in a rush the equipment adjustments that the technical department were currently underway in front of him, also the reason that the club had called the two down. He instantly grew anxious. “Oh gosh. I’d even forgotten about this. When you enter the national team, won’t the equipment stats be completely exposed?”

After which, he saw the Blue Rain standing captain and vice-captain stare at him with utterly helpless looks on their faces. Huang Shaotian was even more blunt with his words. “No way. Manager, you didn’t even consider this? Too late too late, you already sold both of us off, Chairman will get a heart attack if you back out now.”

Why are you saying it like it’s my fault?! The manager wanted to puke blood. Fortunately, there was still a veteran fixer-upper in the team. Although Yu Wenzhou was smiling as well, he was still able to catch the gist of it. “It’s nothing to worry about. Shaotian had already discussed most of the issues with the technical department earlier. The upgrade this time is primarily to explore an idea, so there won’t be any major adjustments for now. As for the situation with the Alliance, since we have to begin training next week, we can just bring our account cards along. Regarding equipment stats… tit for tat. Also, didn’t they say that they would send a contract over on the call just now?”

The manager was a sensible person at heart; knowing the Alliance was trustworthy in the way they do things, he was also able to calm himself down then. “That’s true, we will give the detailed contract a proper look through. Oh, right. Chairman also wanted Captain Yu to head over first, likely to discuss the team configuration.”

“I’d reckon they want you to do some management role,” Huang Shaotian casually rested an arm on Yu Wenzhou’s shoulder, “if you aren’t careful, they might even get you to be captain.”

“Regardless, that would still fall to Old Han, no? How can it be passed to me?” Yu Wenzhou reached up and patted the arm on his shoulder. “It’s already tiring enough being your captain. Going to the national team and having to take care of those children will half my lifespan.”

“Hey, you’re cursing Old Han! How devious, how sly!”

Yu Wenzhou was unfazed. “How about guessing who would be on the team?”

“Is there anything fun to guess about this? The healer is definitely Zhang Xinjie. You also mentioned Old Han already, Zhang Jiale on Tyranny’s side would be called up as well, right? Old Wang is a shoe in for sure, Sister Su and Yunxiu are pretty much set too. There’s no more that needs to be said on Samsara’s end too… You’ll know once you get to the Alliance, anyway!” Huang Shaotian said.

“Aren’t you coming?” Yu Wenzhou asked him.

“Why would I head down earlier, I still want to enjoy several more days of the Blue Rain canteen food.” Huang Shaotian shook his head. “When the time comes do you expect me to go there and listen from the side? Old Feng hasn’t thought well of me for a long time already, if he really ends up having to eat some heart medication it’s on your head.”

“You can get Old Wang to treat you to several meals and suchlike.”

“What a brilliant idea! Come on, come on. Two flight tickets!”

 

Wang Jiexi wore a pair of very ordinary black-rimmed glasses along with a baseball cap and openly made an appearance at the City B airport like this. He glanced at Yu Wenzhou similarly dressed in glasses, then at Huang Shaotian decked in the full apparel of sunglasses and mask—it really drew a sharp contrast.

But the cost of taunting Huang Shaotian was too high. This wasn’t QQ, he couldn’t block him with one button, so Wang Jiexi chose to keep his mouth shut and waved his hand towards the two people.

However, Huang Shaotian very quickly took off his sunglasses. There were many famous people in City B; it was easy to catch sight of several high-profile people of all walks of life just by camping in the airport for a day. The pro players famous in City B were also few, so it would not be anything serious even if he were to be recognised.

“Aren’t you going to take off your mask?”

“The air quality in your city can assassinate your mother. Not taking off, not taking off.” Huang Shaotian’s voice was slightly muffled through the mask, but it was completely unable to hinder his loquacious nature. “Old Wang, why didn’t you wear your Tiny Herb leprechaun hat out today?”

What Huang Shaotian was referring to was a popular Tiny Herb fan merch that had been the laughingstock of Weibo and forums even before it was released two years ago. Wang Jiexi didn’t even bother answering that, directly changing the subject, “Where are you staying? Let’s put down your luggage first.”

“Didn’t book,” Yu Wenzhou said.

“…” Wang Jiexi paused in his steps. “Huh?”

“Ah. We didn’t book.” Yu Wenzhou’s expression was ineffably sincere and his tone ineffably cordial. “We’re waiting on Captain Wang to settle it for us.”

This person Yu Wenzhou, had always been very good at grasping societal niceties; he courteously called him Captain Wang, but no matter what he called him on the inside, apart from wishing to pull the rug under him, there definitely couldn’t be any other reason. Wang Jiexi went silent for a while, thinking in his heart that there were truly times when Yu Wenzhou was even more annoying than Huang Shaotian.

“Hey look, your house isn’t far from the Alliance headquarters, help us cut cost on accomms! Might as well do meals and board together, right? Right, host?” Huang Shaotian was insistent to prove that it was still him who was more annoying.

Damned Blue Rain.

 

Of course, Yu Wenzhou hadn’t actually not booked a hotel; more accurately, the Alliance side had directly arranged it for him, and they didn’t even have to worry about lack of room from bringing along an extra Huang Shaotian at short notice. Wang Jiexi held the steering wheel and thought about it for a moment—in any case, he would most likely be tormented having to bring these two veneered monks around for the week, so he might as well resign himself to his fate and bring them straight back to his place.

“Ah, Old Wang is the most refreshing.” Huang Shaotian entered and immediately sighed, “They say that rich people are really different. You’re staying alone, what the heck do you need such a big space for?”

Wang Jiexi scoffed. “You can still go knock on the door of the Alliance for a makeshift bed if you’d rather.”

 

Actually, this wasn’t the first time that Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian stayed over at his. Only, the previous time, the two people were evidently not as shameless about it.

They were only nineteen at that time. Somehow or other, Huang Shaotian had lost his identification card and wallet, and the three of them had blindly searched for it at the train station. Back before, he had yet to fully comprehend how terrifying it was to live under the same roof as Huang Shaotian; Wang Jiexi had a brainwave and straightforwardly smuggled these two illegal tenants back home.

Wang Jiexi hadn’t bought his own place then and was still living with his parents. His family even had a younger sister that was attending junior high. On the way, Huang Shaotian had cautiously asked how he should greet his parents as if he were going to meet the in-laws before proposing marriage; Yu Wenzhou was also hesitant about it and said, don’t worry about us, we’ll definitely figure a way out.

But truthfully speaking, Huang Shaotian was good with words and had a honeyed tongue, Yu Wenzhou was even more of a golden child and a favourite amongst the older generation—such that even a few years later, Wang Jiexi would frequently hear his parents ask whenever he returned home when those two City G friends would come back to play.

The three of them had squeezed in a room that night; and inexplicably, this could be considered a part of their youth.

 

Not at all like the present. Wang Jiexi helped the two fling their luggage into the guest room and clapped his hands together. “What do you want to have for lunch?”

“The Alliance arranged the meeting for two-thirty,” Yu Wenzhou checked his watch, “is there enough time?”

“What are you worrying about time for? I’m still here,” Huang Shaotian chimed in. “When the time comes you can both just head off first.”

“Sure, remember to bring your wallet to settle the bill then.” Wang Jiexi had no qualms about it.

“Hey! What happened to the meal you were supposed to treat me to?!”

“Who said that I was treating?”

 

In the end, they randomly chose a small restaurant to settle their lunch. Huang Shaotian initially wanted to stroll around, but afterwards would rather shun the heat, so he simply nestled back in Wang Jiexi’s apartment playing games. Yu Wenzhou and Wang Jiexi went straight to the Alliance headquarters.

“The first step was to confirm the name list. It’s roughly like this.” Feng Xianjun motioned for them to take the document that a staff member handed over, “I called you over today mainly to get an insider’s perspective on it. Little Xiao and Little Zhang both said that it isn’t convenient for them to come over for now as they’re still busy with their teams, so I’ll just leave it to you both to see if this works.”

The two of them understood the heart of what the chairman really meant. The name list was mostly already set in stone; when it came to the drafting of players for the national team, how could they let a player call the shots? It was merely that the esports scene was still an emerging industry. Those with the most discerning eyes would still be this group of players, so the Alliance did not hesitate in calling over several master tacticians as a final insurance. Yu Wenzhou swept a gaze over the list. There wasn’t anything too different from what they had previously guessed. However…

“There aren’t many close combat classes,” Yu Wenzhou said. On this list of names, aside from Sun Xiang who was undisputedly a melee attacker, the others weren’t well-suited to take on a core melee position, whether it by nature of their class or playstyle.

“Why isn’t Captain Han on it?” Wang Jiexi cut straight to the chase. Although Han Wenqing was an old general, he was still a top-tier player. When taking the dynamics of the team into account, inviting old generals would be a wise move. Thus, it was really rather surprising that his name wasn’t on the list.

“He declined the invitation,” Feng Xianjun seemed to feel it rather regretful as well. “He said he wanted to focus on Tyranny. The Alliance can’t do anything about it on this side.”

Declined… Wang Jiexi and Yu Wenzhou’s eyes met, and for some time, words evaded them. While Han Wenqing making this choice couldn’t be considered out the left-field, it really made them heave a sigh.

When picking the team, the Alliance had to look at popularity for the larger part, to whether they innately have strong individual strength and how well they would work with the rest of the team. At the same time, both of them thought of someone else, only… nevermind. Everyone got it, there was no need for anyone to mention him.

Ye Xiu and Han Wenqing were the most outstanding offensive melee cores in the Alliance. If it were three or four years back, this definitely wouldn’t be a problem. But at current, Ye Xiu had retired and Han Wenqing had declined the invitation. While it wasn’t that there were no other outstanding cores within the remaining players, it was impossible for them to achieve the same level of recognition both of them held. At the end of the day, the choice was still difficult to make.

“Sun Xiang is indeed the most suitable choice, then…” Yu Wenzhou said. Naturally, the most widely recognised melee core in the present pro circuit would be Sun Xiang. If this were before, they would likely be worried about how he would meld with the team. But everyone had clearly seen Sun Xiang’s performance in Samsara this season; along with Zhou Zekai and a few Master Tacticians, they had it in the bag.

Wang Jiexi nodded his head in agreement. “Tang Hao will do, too.”

Although Brawler was a class leaning more towards crowd control with its midrange offensive skills, its close combat ability was very strong too. When put alongside Tang Hao’s unyielding playstyle, he was rather suited to take the role as a melee core. Only, when it came to working with the team… Wind Howl’s performance in the team challenge this season was certainly rather worrying.

“Captain Wang can play melee as well, no?” Yu Wenzhou smiled. “I think this is fine as it is then.”

Chairman Feng was glad! It was always awkward for outsiders to direct those within the pro sphere for this type of thing, but it wasn’t becoming for the Alliance to pick a bone with the Esports Bureau either. Fortunately, this name list received the backing of these two captains, so there was no longer any need for him to worry. “Alright, it’s settled! The Alliance will arrange the rest over here. Then, as for the role of captain…”

“Just leave it to Yu Wenzhou.” Without beating around the bush, Wang Jiexi straightaway sold Yu Wenzhou out.

 

Huang Shaotian’s comment towards this was: “Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha I can’t believe it, you’re way too lazy! Too shameful, my good fellow, you just dropped the ball like that!”

Yu Wenzhou gave him a look out the corner of his eye. “Why not just say out how much delight you’re taking from my misfortune.”

“What misfortune? Captain, you’re the esteemed national team captain now.” Huang Shaotian blinked owlishly and puffed up with spirited vigour. “Look at how convenient that is, I don’t even have to change what I call you. Hey, Old Wang, I want to hear it, hurry up and call him captain.”

“Captain Yu,” Wang Jiexi replied within a split-second.

“Hang on, that doesn’t count!” Huang Shaotian recognised that he had committed a grievous folly. “You’ve to call him captain! Captain, you got it?!”

It wasn’t as if he was the one being addressed; Wang Jiexi really couldn’t understand what Huang Shaotian was getting all excited for. He simply used his time-worn trick of changing the topic. “The rules are essentially the same, only that the team challenge is 6v6. Ah, right. They mentioned there would be internal voice chat within the team, so don’t be so talkative on the field. When the time comes, you’d only be harming your own team without even doing anything to your opponents.”

“Oh crap.” Huang Shaotian startled. He looked at Yu Wenzhou, then looked at Wang Jiexi. “…Oh CRAP!”

Without a word, Yu Wenzhou smiled.

 

 


 

 

Their ill-fated relationship began from the match they watched in the second season.

 

Only, all Wang Jiexi could remember of it was the rubbish Huang Shaotian spewed that day and did not follow up on.

This wasn’t his fault, really. In the summer break of the second season, Lin Jie had directly handed Vaccaria and captaincy to Wang Jiexi without any fanfare, let alone that there was still Fang Shiqian and his theatrics in the team. Because of the circumstance involving Lin Jie, Fang Shiqian was often disagreeable towards Wang Jiexi, and the main problem wasn’t that he had strong opinions about Wang Jiexi—rather, that he actually didn’t have any conclusive opinion of Wang Jiexi, so he had to act like he had many strong opinions about him.

At the start, Wang Jiexi had simply taken it as Fang Shiqian having a razor-sharp tongue but a tofu soft heart. But dealing with this everyday really made him speechless. Even if Fang Shiqian hadn’t worn himself out, he was worn out… and the worst was that he couldn’t talk back and expose him, for he would be putting his life at stake in the team challenge.

How could he offend a healer that no one would want to offend? Even Ye Qiu had to suck up to the healer in the team challenge, no?

So, who’d have the time to care about those little buddies from the next-door team who hadn’t even debuted? When Tiny Herb met Blue Rain in a regular-season match, Wang Jiexi belatedly thought of those two teens he’d met at the spectator stands. His gaze swept over Blue Rain’s preparation zone a few more times; but never finding them, he shrugged it off.

If Huang Shaotian were to find out that Wang Jiexi had thought of them as the ‘little buddies who have yet to debut’ back then, he would most surely write a long dissertation about it condemning Wang Jiexi. After all, if it really must be said, he was only one month and four days younger than Wang Jiexi. However, the gap between competitive seasons was like the gap between mountains; missing this one year was equivalent to being forever short one step.

“It isn’t wrong to call it one step shorter.”

Huang Shaotian flew into a rage and whacked him. “Are the steps in your house only 5cm high?!”

 

On the other hand, it was impossible for those two over at Blue Rain to feel indifferent about Wang Jiexi. There were a lot of eyeballs in the third season on the dominance of Excellent Era’s reign against the chaotic beauty of Blood and Blossoms. Conversely, Blue Rain was slightly unable to make ends meet after Wei Chen retired. While their placing wasn’t dismal, it wasn’t much worth mentioning.

The weight of all their hopes and expectations fell heavily onto the shoulders of the duo set to debut in the next season. Every day, Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian beelined to and fro through the training room, the canteen, and their dormitories. Aside from basic exercises, they also had to work on their team play, simulating all types of situations for the team challenge. The competition every week was a rare chance for them to ‘while the time away’, assuming one did not count the post-match analysis they had afterwards.

And when it came to the Magician, the scariest thing wasn’t the lack of rookie wall; rather, the terrifying way he beat up a good half of the Alliance black and blue. Wang Jiexi’s play remained magnificent from the beginning to the end of the season, his arena wins chased tightly behind Ye Qiu in the first season. The media blew praises of him to high heavens.

In actuality, the media could not get enough of him, for the Magician playstyle was already beyond praise.

That said, at the end of it all, he was still thrown to the ground by One Autumn Leaf’s spear, ash and dirt mucking his face.

 

“Tsk tsk tsk, what ‘genius of the new era’, ‘unpredictability of the Magician’… he still got trashed when facing off against Ye Qiu.” Huang Shaotian dragged the progress bar of the video, freezing the still-frame to the moment of One Autumn Leaf’s utterly unoriginal Circle Swing, catching Vaccaria in a way impossible to evade. This was the Excellent Era v Tiny Herb team challenge. Yu Wenzhou knocked the pen cap against the table and shook his head. “He’s really a prodigy. Just that Ye Qiu is a cut better… Actually, if this were the arena challenge, Wang Jiexi might not have lost this badly. Look, over here. If Vaccaria had managed to dodge Qi Breaker’s Qi Blade, he wouldn’t have eaten the damage of One Autumn Leaf’s combo.”

“The angle was very crafty. Wang Jiexi probably couldn’t see it from his viewport, but even if he did, it would have been hard to dodge. Wu Xuefeng is rather similar to you. His hand speed is so-so, but his grasp of the tempo is strikingly precise,” Huang Shaotian said. “However, don’t you feel that there’s something off about this? Why are the other people on Tiny Herb pretty much non-existent? Only Wind Guard is able to keep up, the rest are clearly out of sync! If Ye Qiu can’t even get this down then Excellent Era is done for, alright! The holes are too glaring!”

“You’re right, but this isn’t out of nothing.” Yu Wenzhou pulled the progress bar a little further. “Lava Flask, a Sweep and an Acid Rain, he even made four sharp cuts in between, at the end of it even putting out a Star Refraction. Mm, Shaotian, do you think you would have been able to keep up?”

“Do you want me to think about it from the perspective of a teammate or from the perspective of an opponent? If I were his teammate, I’d directly charge over with a Triple Slash and snatch in during the second cut with a Rising Dragon Slash. That way, no matter if One Autumn Leaf takes it or evades it, he would still enter Vaccaria’s attack radius for a Sweep and be knocked into the air!”

As Huang Shaotian went on, he realised himself that there seemed to be a flaw in his plan somewhere. Then, he saw Yu Wenzhou smile helplessly. “If it’s Troubling Rain, that is an opportunity that can be explored. But, what would you do after?”

“Afterwards…” Huang Shaotian’s mind worked quickly as well. “Afterwards, yeah. It would be a little hard. The chemistry Excellent Era has within the team is very on point, they should be able to quickly regroup after One Autumn Leaf takes this hit to the air. Vaccaria really can’t do much against him alone. Tiny Herb’s initial plan was likely to quickly patch off One Autumn Leaf from the start, but One Autumn Leaf instead turned their plan on them, completely taking apart the Magician and magnifying the lack of cohesiveness of the team…”

Yu Wenzhou did not have to elaborate, for Huang Shaotian had evidently understood what he was alluding towards.

Not everyone was like Huang Shaotian. What was an opportunity for a play in his eyes could only be seen by a small handful of other people, and the people able to grasp it even less. While Wang Jiexi admittedly had the mechanics and awareness to hold up against Ye Qiu, his teammates were unable to follow his mercurial changes, much less grasp an opportunity to execute a play. Tiny Herb’s lack of cohesiveness was not a one-time error, but a disconnect gradually built up across the entire span of the match.

Simply based on Wang Jiexi’s powerful individual strength and Fang Shiqian’s ability to save the field, Tiny Herb’s win rate in the regular season fared pretty well indeed. However, the problem with their core came to heads in the face of an Excellent Era commanded by Ye Qiu. While the unpredictability of the Magician was a headache for the opponent to deal with, it had also become Tiny Herb’s stumbling block.

“It’s possible that even after much training, Tiny Herb would still have quite some difficulty coordinating with Wang Jiexi in the team challenge.” Yu Wenzhou summed up, and he turned the topic back to their Blue Rain. “It’s clear that an individual’s strength is far from enough to hold Ye Qiu back. We should work on our team play too.”

“Is this something that you even need to tell me? I’ll go call Captain Fang and Zheng Xuan… eh, wtf how is it already so late?!” Huang Shaotian was midway through his sentence when he suddenly felt the pangs of hunger. They had lost track of time reviewing this match; the canteen was soon about to close. “Go go go, we can only knockdown Ye Qiu after we fill our stomachs!”

 

It was difficult to feel hunger when distracted, but once they realised it, they were beyond famished. Huang Shaotian pulled Yu Wenzhou into a small jog, growing more anxious as they hurried. “There definitely won’t be much dishes left in the canteen by now! Wenzhou, do you have any cup noodles over at yours, I finished eating mine last week and still haven’t restocked.”

“No.” As Yu Wenzhou’s mind was still on the contents of the match recording, his mouth did not have on its usual brain filter. “Let’s go over the wall to buy some later.”

“Wtf you’re going to be the future captain, how can you instigate people to break the rules like this?! This is entirely your idea, got it? If Captain Fang asks about this you’re taking all the blame. Oh hey, there are still people in the canteen! Auntie Lin, are you still around!”

“Whose fault is it for always missing your meals? I had to leave something for you two.” Auntie Lin waved her hand over. “Remember to watch the time in the future, don’t come by too late.”

“Yeah alright, thanks Auntie Lin!” Huang Shaotian was ecstatic. Auntie Lin had caringly set aside all of his favourite dishes. Yu Wenzhou glanced at what was left for him. These two portions were not entirely similar. Huang Shaotian’s personality was very open and easy-going; everyone on Blue Rain doted on him. Instead, it was Yu Wenzhou who never had much of a presence before—but, to his surprise, the canteen auntie had still kept an eye out for him. He hurriedly gave his thanks as well. “Sorry for the trouble, Auntie Lin. You don’t have to stay up for us, we’ll clean up after ourselves.”

 

After sending off Auntie Lin, Huang Shaotian devoured the food on his tray. Yu Wenzhou, conversely, only seemed to grow all the more lost in his thoughts as he ate, his chopsticks eventually stilling on his plate for a long time without moving.

“Dear friend, can you eat your food properly?” Huang Shaotian expressed his dissatisfaction. “When it’s time for training, train; when it’s time to eat, eat. Even if I think about what I’m going to eat at night when I train, I definitely won’t be thinking about what to train when I eat. You’re doing the white cut chicken Auntie Lin left for you a great disservice. If you aren’t going to eat it soon, I will.”

“I just keep feeling that there were areas I hadn’t fully analysed in the team challenge earlier.” Yu Wenzhou finally came back to his senses right on time to knock away Huang Shaotian’s attempt to steal food from his plate.

“No way, are you still thinking about it? Has the Magician spirited your soul away just from one watch of the team challenge? Are those uneven eyes Code Geass or the Wicked Eye?” Huang Shaotian’s first offensive was unsuccessful, and he launched his second offensive. “Hey, just give me one—”

“Not giving,” Yu Wenzhou went for his second intercept, but he failed. Huang Shaotian laughed rambunctiously as he picked up a spare rib from his own plate and tossed it over to him. “You never expected a master opportunist to be this powerful, right? Come on, it’s a fair exchange, otherwise they’ll scold me for bullying you… So, what are you thinking about?”

Yu Wenzhou clipped the spare rib with his chopsticks. “I’m thinking… your sleeve is about to dip into the soup.”

“Fuck!”

 

After dinner, the two returned to their own rooms to rest. Yu Wenzhou had not turned off his computer when he left. At this time, his screen was still paused on the match footage.

He closed the video, then opened a folder and started to surmise the contents of his discussion with Huang Shaotian earlier.

In this team challenge, the key was the pro players that played as the core of the team. However, it was not so much the disparity in strength between Ye Qiu and Wang Jiexi that led to this outcome, but the differences in their playstyle that led to this gap.

Ye Qiu’s playstyle is the paradigm textbook playstyle. His thoughts and logic were not hard to make out; even fans more well-versed in Glory meta could list out the one, two, and threes. The more serious ones could even come up with a low-level imitation if they trained hard enough. However, there was only one Ye Qiu.

Precise, meticulous, not the slightest bit of sloppiness; an immaculate hundred-mark answer script—it would not be an exaggeration to call him the Glory Textbook. It was always easy to follow a textbook; it was also because of Ye Qiu’s existence in Excellent Era that the team was able to remain this steadfast, and this impregnable.

Whereas, when it came to Wang Jiexi, if a textbook were to be written based on his thought process, there would probably be a ninety-percent dropout rate. While it may still be a slight overreach to call the Magician completely unpredictable, the situation on the field would undergo a thousand changes in less than the blink of an eye. It would indeed be extremely difficult for an opponent to follow his train of thought.

His unpredictability was a double-edged sword. As Huang Shaotian had said, before giving Excellent Era trouble, it would first plunge a knife into Tiny Herb instead.

If Tiny Herb had someone like Ye Qiu calling the shots hence taking responsibility for making the team plays, that could reduce the burden on the other players. But it was evident that Tiny Herb was chasing a path similar to Excellent Era’s. Wang Jiexi was both the core attacker and the team’s shotcaller. Although he wasn’t bad at that… he couldn’t set the team plays to align with every minute action of his. Most teams weren’t run this way, either.

And if the shotcaller was himself? Huang Shaotian was not the only one who visualised this as Troubling Rain; Yu Wenzhou naturally visualised himself entering as Swoksaar, too. It was a pity that while Yu Wenzhou could see through the changes in his movements and follow his thought process, his hands were completely incapable of keeping up. He could predict, sure. But add on typing to call the shots? This was something that Yu Wenzhou didn’t even have to imagine.

However, this was from the perspective of a teammate. As for the perspective of an opponent… the way Ye Qiu led Excellent Era to win this match could be counted as a model textbook example of how to deal with Tiny Herb of the present. In the fast-paced tempo of the match, Tiny Herb’s team rapidly fell out of sync, ultimately walking towards their defeat.

 

Yu Wenzhou finished writing the conclusion and searched the web for analysis related to this match. Tiny Herb being out of sync was very apparent in this round, most of the analysis used this as the basis for their commentary. They believed that Tiny Herb’s team simply needed more time and training to break in. However, a roaring majority of people were still unsparing of their praise for Wang Jiexi’s individual strength. After all, everyone could tell that it was the others that were incapable of keeping up with him, whereas what he had accomplished was already done well.

Yu Wenzhou closed the webpage. He thought for a while, then opened the folder again and edited some of the contents.

At that time, Yu Wenzhou and Wang Jiexi were not as close as they would eventually be. Yet, he knew with a bizarre certainty that Wang Jiexi would arrive at the same judgement as he.

This set the foundation for the telepathic communication between them that Huang Shaotian would roll his eyes countless times at.

 

 


 

 

The golden generation was the last batch of pro players that played against the true Magician.

 

Wang Jiexi felt a little drowsy from his seat in the departure hall. The night flight was slightly delayed. There was still half an hour before the ticket check-in started and they could board the plane, but it wasn’t enough time for him to fall asleep. He could only sit with his eyes half-lidded and resolve to sleep after he boarded. In a groggy haze, he thought back to the match that had just ended not long ago, of Vaccaria’s skill attributes and of the tactics and synergy of the classes within the team. When he came back to his senses a while after, he also felt very speechless about the ability of his mind to think of these even when while sluggish.

He rubbed his temples and looked up at the electronic board of the airport. It still only showed the brilliant red delayed status, so he simply pulled out his phone from his bag to pass time.

Fang Shiqian was holding onto some snacks in his hand. He gave him a sidelong glance and said nothing.

Wang Jiexi turned on his phone. There were a lot of unread notifications in his QQ, the majority of it coming from Huang Shaotian, and one from Yu Wenzhou telling him to update him upon arriving in Beijing.

He swiped through his notification history, reading each message as he went down.

Huang Shaotian really talked too much nonsense, even Yu Wenzhou wouldn’t read all of it. But because Wang Jiexi had the privilege of time to waste in the present moment, he very patiently went through them.

Fang Shiqian continued to give him a few more sidelong looks, but still didn’t speak. Normally, Wang Jiexi would choose to feign ignorance, but he wasn’t feeling that great right now, so he whipped his head over to give Fang Shiqian a what with his eyes.

“Since when were you so close with those two little brats from Blue Rain?” Fang Shiqian did not cover up that he was peeping on Wang Jiexi’s phone screen and asked him directly about it. Speaking of which, he was not much older than Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian. Yet he still called them ‘little brats’ with righteous conviction.

“It isn’t that we’re close. I met them before.” Wang Jiexi replied succinctly, leaving it to Fang Shiqian to blindly fill in himself how they had met.

 

Tiny Herb’s recent performance on the field was extremely volatile, so volatile that those opponents that got whacked upside down by him last season found it hard to make tails of. Could it really be a rookie wall if it came this late? The condition of the team wasn’t great either, so Tiny Herb was naturally the subject of much doubtful questioning all around. Conversely, it was Wang Jiexi, the captain and problematic core of the team, who remained unperturbed by this showing. He would lightly brush over it in press conferences that Tiny Herb was currently making some adjustments, so this instability was merely temporary.

Of course, the pro circuit could tell that Wang Jiexi was changing his playstyle. The Magician and the team being out of sync was a glaring issue, and they all knew that other teams would surely target this when up against Tiny Herb. But those who caught on early that Wang Jiexi would proactively shed his own playstyle in order to cater to the team was still within the minority. After all, playstyle wasn’t something that could be changed just because one wanted to. Attempting to change up one’s intrinsic tempo was extremely difficult; for sure, most people were not supportive of Wang Jiexi making this change, believing that he was on the path of self-destruction.

Whereas, Fang Shiqian simply felt there was something wrong with Wang Jiexi’s brain.

 

Wang Jiexi would not care about those groundless talk, naturally. Or better put, he simply had not the time to care about all that. This transformation was a rather big challenge, and very rare to see in a pro player whose playstyle had already matured. Even when Wang Jiexi informed Fang Shiqian of his decision, Fang Shiqian froze up for quite a while, then with a voice brimming with uncertainty—are you for real; you don’t have a couple screws loose in your head, do you?

As the team’s healer, Fang Shiqian knew better than anyone else the reason behind the team being out of sync. However, he was even clearer how difficult it was to change one’s playstyle. Also, can anyone guarantee that this change of playstyle wouldn’t simply kick you off the pedestal?

In the end, Wang Jiexi disregarded his worries, and asked directly—Otherwise?

Fang Shiqian went mute. Otherwise? Fang Shiqian and Wang Jiexi could actually play quite well together, but as a healer, it wasn’t possible for him to only take care of Vaccaria. As for the other members of the team… their skill was rather limited. The number of people who could coordinate with the Magician could be counted on one hand. Moreover, it was doubtful whether those who could would even need to coordinate with him.

But anyway, you should still be more conflicted about this, no?! If you aren’t careful you might be putting your own future on the line here! Fang Shiqian really wanted to say this, but his personality did not allow him to. Especially when the other party was still wearing a no need for you to worry look. This guy really had something damned with his head.

Fine. Why worry? My worries are worth shit.

Further down the line, many people would feel that Wang Jiexi had made a tremendous sacrifice for the team. But Fang Shiqian believed, at least when it came to Wang Jiexi, this most likely meant nothing to him, and intuitively felt that there wasn’t any need to worry for him either. At that time, Fang Shiqian couldn’t be bothered to care about him. He directly ordered the entire team to do extra training. Although the captain was Wang Jiexi, who would dare not to listen to the God of Healing? Instead, it was the God of Healing himself who loafed off during training and would find excuses to watch Wang Jiexi practise at the drop of a hat. He would even use Wind Guard or Aweto to 1v1 him and test how his transformation was going.

Likewise, Wang Jiexi felt there was something quite wrong with Fang Shiqian’s brain as well.

 

On the flip side, Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou, carrying the title of the golden generation, had at this time smashed against the rookie wall so hard they cracked their heads. Pretty much every team had gone through major adjustments in the fourth season. As if following Tiny Herb’s lead, Blue Rain, Void, Misty Rain, Thunderclap… in unison, all these established teams handed over the core of the team to a rookie, and those that directly succeeded as captain were not few either. Aside from these, the traditional powerhouses Excellent Era and Tyranny also took in many new rookies into their main line-up. What was the most terrifying was that even though these rookies had just debuted, they already showed the makings of a god.

It was a pity, however, that despite the meteoric rise of the golden generation, there were none who avoided the rookie wall as Wang Jiexi had in the previous season. After performing brilliantly for the better half of a season, those few in Blue Rain finally slammed headlong into the rookie wall.

The opportunist requires the presentation of an opportunity; without any opportunity to seize, he would be unable to win. And when fighting Blue Rain in the team challenge, it had already become an unspoken, established tactic to target Swoksaar. This was the pro league. No one would stay their hand. Zheng Xuan fared somewhat better than Yu Wenzhou and Huang Shaotian, if only because those two were too ruthlessly targeted, but it was evident that he was still gyrating around a stagnating line of unremarkability.

After all, with rookies as the cores, how could they not be targeted?

 

So, when Blue Rain went up against Tiny Herb in a match, their showdown directly plunged a knife into both sides.

During this transition period, Tiny Herb was overly conscientious of the team’s tempo in the team challenge. Yu Wenzhou countered this by doing the exact opposite, using this weakness to confine the Magician and create opportunities for Huang Shaotian. Of course, Wang Jiexi wasn’t dumb, either. After realising this, he did not stray from his initial intention and chased fiercely after Swoksaar, clearly using his hand speed to suppress the other. Blue Rain was already used to this tactic. Bullet Rain’s ammunition instantly shrouded over, but Vaccaria took the damage without letting up. There was no way Huang Shaotian would allow this to go on; Troubling Rain spammed the chat and made a roundabout to rescue him, yet was hindered by a Sacred Fire from Aweto.

Tiny Herb won this round in the end. However, the win wasn’t anything spectacular. Blue Rain successfully ripped apart Tiny Herb’s already unstable team formation, and even forced Wang Jiexi to draw upon his original playstyle to salvage the game—but it was also because of the Magician’s quick tempo that Yu Wenzhou was clearly unable to respond in time. At that time, Huang Shaotian was being viciously contained by Aweto. It could also be said that Tiny Herb, tooth for tooth, targeted Blue Rain’s open wounds, through this barely pulling out a win. Only, the tempo of their own team was pretty much in smithereens as well.

Generally speaking, this was sprinkling salt on wounds, as the saying went. And they were even liberally sprinkling salt on each other.

 

Perhaps because of the fate that had previously brought them together, or out of the shared sympathy over their bottlenecked growth—in any case, Huang Shaotian slung an arm around Wang Jiexi’s shoulders after the competition. He said, “I’m borrowing your captain ’kay”, then scampered off along with Yu Wenzhou, in this way shocking Tiny Herb into stupefaction.

“Don’t ask me, I know nothing at all. How stressful…” Zheng Xuan retreated a step, then thought about it and added on a sentence. “Um. How does that saying go, I believe they won’t kill the hostage…”

“Nevermind that. If they kill him so be it,” Fang Shiqian coldly said. “He’s leeching off free meals but didn’t bring me along. I don’t need a captain like that.”

Wang Jiexi, mistaken as a kidnapping hostage and even sold off by his teammate, sneezed.

Yu Wenzhou considerately handed him a tissue. “You can’t take spicy food well?”

“No. I can.” He took the tissue. He felt that eating spicy food was certainly the best and most perfect choice, for Huang Shaotian was so busy irrigating himself that his words had halved. It wasn’t that Huang Shaotian could not take spicy food, rather that he had an ardent commitment to challenging himself and added a whole spoonful of chilli oil into his food, a classic example of what it meant to dig one’s own grave.

 

If it really must be said, this was only their second real encounter. Huang Shaotian was always a person who could quickly warm up to anyone; once he was added into the pro group chat, he instantly went to search for Vaccaria from the list and added him as a friend. Right after, he spewed out a whole essay of just wait for next season, etc type of nonsense, almost causing Wang Jiexi to block him.

In reality, he had not blocked Huang Shaotian. Instead, he simply played with the other in the arena for the entire afternoon. When Yu Wenzhou sent him a friend request afterwards, he hesitated for a good while before steeling himself mentally to block him if need be. Thankfully, the other merely gave a run-of-the-mill greeting, his destructive power evidently not as fearsome as Huang Shaotian.

However, he forgot that all Warlocks had a cast time. Of course, this only came later.

The cause of the incident was still Huang Shaotian. He had made a bet with Wang Jiexi on QQ over the match outcome. Be that as it may, it was Blue Rain’s home game. It was impossible for them to let Wang Jiexi foot the bill. The two of them brought him through several streets finding someplace to eat, then when ordering, Wang Jiexi heard them both spout of whole chain of Cantonese and was utterly at a loss.

“You don’t understand Cantonese?”

“Yeah, I don’t.” Wang Jiexi shook his head. His only knowledge of Cantonese was limited to the few Cantonese songs that he occasionally listened to.

“Hehe, isn’t that great, Captain? We can talk crap about him in Cantonese,” Huang Shaotian grew spirited. “Wang Jiexi, keui luk pig intestines! …Mm dak. I just realised my Cantonese vocab is yau di poor.. Hey Captain, hurry up and di gaau faan me to scold people with and la ngo mm hai, teach me! Wa si wa, you jung remember de ah what naau yan gwo di wa Old Wei used?”

(Wang Jiexi, you dumbass! …Nevermind. I just realised my Cantonese vocab is quite poor. Hey Captain, hurry up and teach me a little something to scold people with or the like, teach me! By the way, do you remember what stuff Old Wei used to scold people in the past?)

Yu Wenzhou laughed so hard his shoulders shook, whereas Wang Jiexi felt they were both an annoyance to the soul.

 

When the Magician successfully traded 52% of his health to achieve a shocking reversal, breaking the record for the highest health left after a 1v3, Blue Rain had also finally managed to come out with a beautiful win after three straight losses.

That day, they chatted about this and that for a long time, but tacitly did not bring up the competition. Only when they were about to hang up, Wang Jiexi then half-jokingly told them, all the best.

After returning to Beijing, Wang Jiexi distributed to everyone all the souvenirs that those two from Blue Rain had recommended to him. Then, he replied Yu Wenzhou he had arrived in Beijing and added, “Speaking of which, is there anything?” and towards Huang Shaotian’s barrage of questions about food, he casually said, “Next time you guys come Beijing I’ll show you the delicacies of the Imperial City.”

In the end, Wang Jiexi directly received Huang Shaotian’s reply on his chat window with Yu Wenzhou. “I screenshotted it! When the time comes, you better be a good tour guide to us both, alright!”

“…Where’s Yu Wenzhou?”

“He’s soaking his feet and can’t be bothered to use his phone.”

What’s up with this sort of elderly lifestyle? Wang Jiexi kept the impulse to ridicule him to himself, and asked, “So why did he tell me to contact him when I got back?”

“Let me ask.” Huang Shaotian swiftly replied, “It’s nothing much. Oh, and all the best to you too. Eh, you two are so hypocritical. How can you wish your opponent all the best, all the best of what… Forget it. I’ll use voice message and let him say it himself.”

A voice message was sent over from the other side. Wang Jiexi opened it, and Yu Wenzhou’s voice came through. “It’s nothing much. I just thought of something I forgot to tell you.”

“What?”

“I wanted to say, see you in the finals.”

Wang Jiexi startled. Yet in the latter half of the voice message, the speaker changed. “Yeah, so Wang Jiexi, all the best alright, don’t leave us hanging!”

He stared at the phone for a beat. A smile involuntarily slipped onto his face.

What absurd self-confidence they have.

“Sure. See you in the finals.”

 

 


 

 

But reality proved Blue Rain had a tradition of standing people up. Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou, once for each person.

After the finals of the fifth season ended, Wang Jiexi received a message from Yu Wenzhou congratulating him for winning the championships. In a good mood, he replied a sentence. Aren’t you guys the one standing me up now?

My apologies. Sorry for making you wait a year again. Yu Wenzhou’s words were made rather in jest. But he quickly sent another message. Just this one year, though.

Yu Wenzhou really kept to his word.

 

If something different must really be said about the summer of this year, there really seemed to be nothing. Compared to the regions famous for their sweltering weather (read: Beijing), Guangzhou’s summer was truly not that hot; though, the sunlight was incredibly eye-piercing.

Just like that first day. He towed his luggage and stood at the entrance of the club building. He squinted dumbly as he lifted his head, thinking to himself, Huang Shaotian, you’ve made it, you can game at this sort of place.

Afterwards, Blue Rain changed locations. The building became grander, but the summer sun remained unchanged.

What happened after that, that day? Oh right. Wei Chen rapped his knuckles against his head and said, Impressed already? The more impressive things have yet to come!

Huang Shaotian stared vacantly at the ceiling for a while, then snapped out of it and pulled the curtains to block out the sunlight that had awakened him. The air-conditioning hummed silently in the hotel room. He reached out his hand and unlocked his phone. There was a missed call from Wang Jiexi, and a text Yu Wenzhou had left him, asking him if he had woken up yet.

Right. He was still in Wang Jiexi’s territory.

 

The third round of the finals was Tiny Herb’s home game. Even though Blue Brook Pavilion and Herb Garden waged war and hellfire against each other after the match ended, leaving dropped equipment everywhere, the pro players didn’t need to go so far as to have a real-life PK. Blue Rain had arranged flight tickets for the next evening after the competition; anything else would be settled once arriving back in Guangzhou. So, Huang Shaotian simply turned off his alarm and let himself awaken naturally.

He was too excited yesterday, so overly excited that he felt a little hollow in the aftermath. Huang Shaotian rubbed his head and sat up, then gave Yu Wenzhou a call. “Hey? Captain? I just woke up, why what’s up? Are you with Old Wang?”

“Shaotian, you made a bet with him for a meal again, right? Did you forget?” It sounded noisy where Yu Wenzhou was at. His voice came out somewhat fuzzy. “The hotpot from that place you kept longing for.”

“Yo. I really forgot.” Huang Shaotian glanced at the time and hurriedly sprung off the bed to change his clothes. “Why didn’t you call me when you left, I’ll be right over!”

“There isn’t any hurry,” Yu Wenzhou was midway speaking when another voice spoke over him on the phone. “If you’re going to oversleep the two of us can just eat without you.”

“Hehe. Wang Jiexi, keep dreaming!”

 

Losing a match naturally wouldn’t put a person in that great a mood, but Wang Jiexi was still even-tempered. By the time Huang Shaotian came, he and Yu Wenzhou had already finished ordering the dishes. They were chatting about a sequel to a movie franchise that was released some time ago.

The three of them had quite different tastes in movies. Huang Shaotian was a Marvel fan, Yu Wenzhou was a DC fan, and Wang Jiexi was disinterested in these. He was passionate about niche literary films, thus had more topics in common with Zhang Jiale.

So, once Huang Shaotian was here, he and Yu Wenzhou started talking about superhero films. Wang Jiexi couldn’t be bothered to join in the conversation and he started putting the dishes that had been served into the hotpot. After cooking them, he served the food to their plates.

In an instant, both people fell silent. They looked at their plates, then looked at Wang Jiexi.

“…Wait.” Yu Wenzhou said. “I’ll think that you’re trying to poison me if you do this.”

“I’d say. Wang Jiexi, how can you order okra when eating hotpot?? And salad?? You even specially ordered salad??!”

Wang Jiexi felt that these two people must most likely have something wrong with their heads. So, he clipped all the remaining meat into his own bowl.

Then, they started talking about the dishes at the Blue Rain canteen. Blue Rain’s canteen was widely acknowledged for its good food, but not all the dishes could appeal to the palates of Notherners. Wang Jiexi got misled by Yu Wenzhou once and resolutely decided not to try any other of those weird things that they recommended to him, whereas the other party only expressed that he really felt that it was very tasty himself. This time, even Huang Shaotian stood on Wang Jiexi’s battlefront, believing that Yu Wenzhou had truly mystifying taste buds. Way too mystifying.

“He can even drink mung bean milk,” Huang Shaotian said, constipated.

“Yeah. I can’t even do him in with this.” Saying this, Wang Jiexi clipped another okra for Huang Shaotian. Huang Shaotian kicked him under the table.

Yu Wenzhou had nothing to say to these two picky eaters already in their adulthood who had openly declared their love for junk food.

 

Every time they met, there usually appeared these few trends: those on Blue Rain ganged up on the one on Tiny Herb, those with high hand speed ganged up on the one with slow hands, those with dirty hearts ganged up on the one whose heart is particularly pure.

Towards this conclusion Huang Shaotian came to, Wang Jiexi and Yu Wenzhou only gave a dry laugh. One said, that’s called being brainless. The other said, your heart’s most assuredly not pure.

Huang Shaotian angrily snatched the meat in Wang Jiexi’s bowl.

 

After the meal, Wang Jiexi sent them straight to the airport. And the journey there was naturally another round of grade-school level bickering. The members of Blue Rain got such a great shock from seeing Wang Jiexi deliver their standing captain and vice-captain that they almost started professing their gratitude to Wang Jiexi for not killing them. After the busy day, they boarded the plane and got into their seats—only then, did it all finally quieten down.

The plane flew smoothly through the stratosphere, leaving the heavy clouds far beneath. Huang Shaotian, unlike usually, did not say much. He kept staring out the window in a daze.

In truth, Huang Shaotian and Wang Jiexi were somewhat opposites of each other. Not in the way he is talkative vs Zhou Zekai who is taciturn, but in the baffling sense that he acted fiery on the outside but was cold and calculative on the inside, whereas Wang Jiexi acted cool on the outside but held a fiery passion within. Most people often found it hard to reconcile Huang Shaotian’s cold ruthless Demon Blade playstyle on the field with his person, feeling the wide gap between his playstyle and his personality inconceivable. But Yu Wenzhou and Wang Jiexi didn’t feel that way.

One’s playstyle, at the end of the day, came from their personality. That sort of pride and frostiness was ultimately a part of Huang Shaotian, simply that it wasn’t that apparent most of the time. Seated beside Huang Shaotian, Yu Wenzhou didn’t deliberately try to make conversation either. He simply leaned back into the seat and rested his eyes.

His thought processes were extremely detailed. Otherwise, how could he make such a ruthless opportunist?

“Hey, do you think Old Wei regretted it?” Huang Shaotian suddenly spoke. His voice was not loud. Aside from the two of them, no one else could hear him.

The way he asked this question straight out seemed as though he knew Yu Wenzhou surely wasn’t asleep, also uncaring of how heedless and sudden this question was. Yu Wenzhou knew what he was talking about, of course. He had to.

That night after the competition ended, Huang Shaotian called Fang Shijing, set it to speakerphone and shoved it in front of Yu Wenzhou. His voice sharply rising, he asked, Captain Fang, did you see it? We won the championship.

Yu Wenzhou guessed that he’d surely given Wei Chen a call too, only that the other hadn’t answered.

Did he regret it? Regret that he left that early, regret that he hadn’t stayed on, regret that he wasn’t able to witness this moment with his own eyes?

“…I don’t know.” Yu Wenzhou paused briefly, then continued to speak, “If it were me, I’d probably regret it a lot.”

Whether it was Wei Chen, Fang Shijing, or all the seniors that had already retired… After Tiny Herb won the last season, Wang Jiexi’s first sentence at the news conference was Captain Lin, we did it.

Fang Shiqian likely hadn’t expected Wang Jiexi would spout out such a sentence. He sat frozen on stage, only after a long time passed then repeating what Wang Jiexi had said.

There would always be this one person to whom you would want to tell this news. For Wang Jiexi, it was Lin Jie. For Huang Shaotian, it was Wei Chen. Perhaps it was the philosophy of gratitude for recognition given, or perhaps it was only that they wished to let them know that all the dreams and hopes they had once carried were now realised. Or perhaps, it was simply that they wanted to tell them—

Tell them we did it.

Huang Shaotian turned his head over to look at him. He looked at him for a long time. Then, he smiled. “He must have watched it.”

 

Afterwards, Huang Shaotian laughed so hard about the widely proclaimed sworn enmity between Blue Rain and Tiny Herb in news coverages that he gave Wang Jiexi five successive calls.

Wang Jiexi felt that these two words sworn enemies weren’t wrong at all.

 

 


 

 

From Fang Shiqian’s perspective, those two Southerners were scourges.

Neither better nor worse than the other, one too talkative, one too dirty-hearted.

“Qian’er, our relationship isn’t that bad right, how can you say this about us?” Huang Shaotian spoke with an affected tone, overly exaggerating the Beijing dialect, and the sound of it made the Beijing native Fang Shiqian extremely unhappy.

In the end, Wang Jiexi helped him say it. “Don’t take this Beijing’er dialect of yours out anymore. It’s terrible.”

“Wang Jiexi, how can a person like you who doesn’t understand a word of Cantonese at all feel good about having any opinion on my very, very, very, very slightly off Beijing accent?”

“At least I’m self-aware, whereas you aren’t.”

Fang Shiqian silently added this—they would also raise the childishness of his own captain by 80%.

 

In all fairness, Wang Jiexi and Huang Shaotian could actually converse quite well with each other. Although, neither would be willing to admit this. Wang Jiexi seemed aloof, but the truth was that he simply carried himself more sternly than others on most days. In reality, he was still a homebody who would stock half his refrigerator with coke. Not to mention his unorthodox brain circuit as well and his swift leaps in logic. Huang Shaotian also had a quick brain. So, whenever they chat together, the topic could go from NASA pictures to the cat camping by Tiny Herb’s entrance giving birth, from new product lines at Macdonalds to Fate Grand Order gifting yet another stone—the logic between these was something that perhaps even the people involved themselves could not understand.

And the good thing about chatting with Huang Shaotian was that you did not have to reply to him at all, even such that it was fine if you weren’t listening. There was once that Wang Jiexi sat in the Tiny Herb lounge with his earphones on, eating melon seeds and drinking coke. The entire time, he only made vague sounds of assent and the like, occasionally pipe up with a short comment, and he stayed like this on the phone for half an hour. Deng Fusheng and Li Yihui murmured softly to each other for a long time, saying, this has to be a girlfriend, right?  Right?

Fang Shiqian laughed snidely. He hauled those two outside the door, then told them that the person on the other end of the line was Huang Shaotian.

The two people were in awe of Wang Jiexi. Omg, Huang Shaotian? Captain was really too incredible. Little did they know that Wang Jiexi spent at least half the time daydreaming.

If the call happened during lunch break, Yu Wenzhou would occasionally cut in with a sentence or two as well, and the other end of the call would switch to Blue Rain’s captain. Wang Jiexi would shove the earphones that were just about to fall off his ear back in, then hear Yu Wenzhou attempt to recommend more strange food to him.

So, Fang Shiqian and those two others heard Wang Jiexi abruptly go, “Yu Wenzhou, no more. Don’t think you can trick me a second time.”

“Yo-ho? Is this even a sadomasochistic love triangle you’re in?”

Fang Shiqian’s voice was quite loud. Wang Jiexi involuntarily spurted out his coke, almost devastating the scene.

 

Rumour had it that Wang Jiexi liked to drink tea. Huang Shaotian did not believe it x100.

“If he doesn’t have a carton of coke in his dorms, I’ll renounce my surname and take on yours,” Huang Shaotian said. “Who’d believe that a soda lover can also love to drink tea?”

Yu Wenzhou, though, was someone who would earnestly make tea, which would be condemned by Huang Shaotian as an elderly lifestyle habit. But Yu Wenzhou never took it to heart in any case. The strangest thing about this was that once Wang Jiexi learnt of this, he would mystifyingly receive mystifyingly looks of approval from Wang Jiexi, and would also often receive tea leaves that the other sent him—it was only two years later that he found out that all of these were gifts from someone else, but they would simply gather dust if left with Wang Jiexi, so he was more than happy to regift them.

When it came to Wang Jiexi, it wasn’t exactly false that he loved drinking tea. Seeing Wang Jiexi’s drawer filled with a whole plethora of teabags, Yu Wenzhou would coldly take the coke that Huang Shaotian handed him from the fridge.

If someone were to ask Wang Jiexi why, the reason would be very simple—coke only tasted good when iced. But he didn’t always feel like drinking iced beverages, so the convenience of boiling tea had become his first choice.

Yu Wenzhou felt that Wang Jiexi could be surmised in one word: lazy.

 

So as for whether Huang Shaotian should be surnamed Yu, the answer to this question was indeed that soda drinker Wang Jiexi wasn’t passionate about tea. That varied stock of teabags originated from Fang Shiqian, who indeed loved to drink tea. Only, he wanted to drink all kinds of teas and could never finish them, so would toss a whole bunch over to Wang Jiexi under the noble name of saving the coke addict. Over time, Wang Jiexi also developed the habit of making tea.

After Fang Shiqian’s retirement, he still had a lot of teabags left untouched in his dormitory, so he flat out left them all to Wang Jiexi. The God of Healing dragged his luggage out and stood at the door of the dormitories. He said, Big Eye’r, if you don’t lead the team well I’ll nail you to Aweto’s cross.

In reality, he’d long passed Wind Guard and Aweto on to Yuan Boqing; even if he wanted to the cross wasn’t his to nail anymore. After packing his luggage, Fang Shiqian still dawdled around for a long time, forgetting this one moment and forgetting that the next. Wang Jiexi couldn’t bear to keep watching on anymore; he said, if you really forget anything just come back to get it next time.

Fang Shiqian rolled his eyes at him. I’d say, Wang Jiexi. Can you have a little basic EQ and more of a conscience? How can you show this kind of attitude to your retiring senior?

If you don’t want to go then just stay. Wang Jiexi said. You don’t have to retire now, Senior.

It had been a long time since Wang Jiexi last called him that, and he conversely froze up at that. But Fang Shiqian quickly huffed out a laugh after he recovered. Better not, the press conference has been done and the contract has been signed. Is there any point in regret? Even though the skill of my disciple is still far from mine, he is still my disciple. I feel a lot better leaving it to him. You, too. Didn’t you take notice of a little Witch from the training camp last time? You’ve to teach your disciple well as I had…

Wang Jiexi didn’t cut in. He only quietly listened to him speak.

Fang Shiqian was a person whose personality was very direct. When he couldn’t see eye to eye with someone, he would really be at loggerheads with them. In the third season he had pretty much bothered Wang Jiexi for an entire year, but ultimately, it was simply that he was afraid of hurting Lin Jie’s feelings. This time, he finally couldn’t continue nattering on; he no longer cared if he had forgotten anything either. He dragged his luggage and left without a turn of his head back at all.

Logically speaking, Fang Shiqian’s place was a mere few train stops away from Tiny Herb. There really wasn’t any need to make this scene appear like a permanent farewell.

Perhaps, he was afraid that once he turned back, he really would regret it.

 

Despite getting coined as a sadomasochistic love triangle, the time Wang Jiexi had for personal get-togethers with those two from Blue Rain actually wasn’t much. One team based in the North, the other team based in the South, and half of China between them. Aside from when they play matches, they would only occasionally see each other over the break.

“Liu Hao looks like a hungry wolf. He isn’t a good crop.”

“…What’s he saying. Captain, help me translate this.” Huang Shaotian remained silent for a while, then directly whipped his head over to ask Yu Wenzhou.

“He means that he doesn’t have good intentions,” Yu Wenzhou said. “Shaotian, don’t spread things without intellectual basis.”

“Captain, our academic qualifications aren’t that shabby, why pull us both under the bus! Speaking of which, Wang Jiexi, how incredible, you even know how to read faces? Are you talking about the tarot cards we saw at your house the last time, do you know divination too? By the way, is there any issue with learning both Eastern and Western practices? Hey, I also feel that that guy Liu Hao looks like he’s up to no good, Excellent Era’s recent team challenges are a complete mess, I’ve no clue what’s going on. If it weren’t for the more stable condition of Old Ye and Sister Su, they’d probably have lost their pants by now.”

Huang Shaotian’s existence dealt a devastating blow to the good habits that Wang Jiexi had all long nurtured. Especially the good habit of earnestly listening to others as they spoke; when he and Huang Shaotian chatted, it would wither by at least eighty-percent, the words going in his left ear and coming out the right, so he only heard the last sentence. “They’re pretty much at that state now. The team challenge can’t be fought by two people, if Excellent Era continues to lose…”

They all knew what the numbers on the scoreboard signified, and they all knew exactly how ugly Excellent Era’s results were. Other people might not feel so, but those standing at the peak of the industry could tell that aside from Su Mucheng obstinately guarding One Autumn Leaf’s back, the rest of them were harbouring malicious intent.

The basis of a team was trust. But at this point, there was no trust within Excellent Era at all. Ye Qiu’s isolation was all too clear, and he himself must be the clearest of this.

“The dynasty is going to be completely taken apart,” Huang Shaotian continued and shook his head. “Man, Old Ye haven’t been responding back no matter what I do, what’s up with that? It’ll be weird if he can’t see the problem at Excellent Era, right? Just hurry up and chase off Liu Hao then fix the team, it won’t be as ugly as the situation is now then.”

“I don’t think it’s that simple…” Yu Wenzhou sighed.

For a time, none of them could muster any words.

Out of the blue Yu Wenzhou said, “But can you really read faces, or does looking at Liu Hao rub you the wrong way?”

“Guess?” Wang Jiexi prevaricated and instead answered with a universal rhetorical question.

“My guess is that there’s some of both.”

“I’ll grudgingly give it to you, then.”

 

After the chaotic slandering at Excellent Era, the three of them more or less understood that Ye Qiu hadn’t reached the point of desolation and was still composed in the face of the doubts thrown at him. Between them, they no longer discussed Ye Qiu’s situation; first because they themselves were not clear on Ye Qiu’s condition, secondly because however Excellent Era ended up had nothing much to do with them.

In the regular season, Blue Rain advanced triumphantly, whereas Tiny Herb was wholeheartedly nurturing their rookie. Gao Yingjie was undisputedly a prodigy, but his lack of confidence in himself was a big issue. Wang Jiexi understood well that the guidance he could give Gao Yingjie’s Witch was not lacking, but self-confidence was something much more difficult to build up.

So, he came up with a plan. A very painstakingly planned match.

When he got off the stage, Wang Jiexi saw Yu Wenzhou standing in applause over there, and for some reason, he felt it slightly amusing.

Huang Shaotian, conversely, did not stand up with him, nor did he applaud at all. When he saw Wang Jiexi looking over, he lifted his chin and actually went to make a face at him.

Yeah. Yu Wenzhou had most likely told him. Wang Jiexi ignored Huang Shaotian and merely smiled towards Yu Wenzhou, and he didn’t know what that smile meant either.

This ought to be a secret. But it seemed that there wasn’t any issue with those two finding out. He didn’t have any intention to ask them for their thoughts on this, and he didn’t care how more people would critique this match. Just like that, he walked back to his seat.

 

“The telepathic communication between you two is dastardly annoying.” Yu Wenzhou pulled back his gaze and heard Huang Shaotian roast him and Wang Jiexi while looking up towards the replay on the electronic display board. He spoke as if to himself, “The future of Tiny Herb, huh. He isn’t that old yet, what is he in such a hurry to find the future for?”

Yu Wenzhou didn’t say anything. But Huang Shaotian very quickly went on heedlessly, “Fine, fine, I’ll give it to him. Captain, should we blackmail him for hush money, that isn’t too bad an idea, last time I saw that place at Shanghai on Weibo, we can just get him to treat us…”

On the field, Lin Jingyan was overthrown by Tang Hao in a shocking upset. Using One Autumn Leaf, Sun Xiang charged straight up to challenge Han Wenqing. An account card was everlasting, but the player would change generation by generation. When he looked back at himself again, he realised that they were already amongst the oldest on the team.

 

They were the future in the eyes of their seniors, once upon a time.

He thought—Ah, time really flies.

 

 


 

 

Having had prior notice of the name list for the national team, there should have been nothing that could have surprised the three of them.

Until they saw Ye Xiu.

Then, their feelings grew so complicated they didn’t know where to start roasting.

 

But in the end after they roasted Ye Xiu, the one that surprised everyone the most was still Wang Jiexi. When Xiao Shiqin asked him if he rejected captaincy because he was thinking of returning to his Magician playstyle, Wang Jiexi said he would just see how it goes, after all, he didn’t have to take responsibility for it as captain.

Then, in front of all the old gods present, he said. Step it up, everyone.

Huang Shaotian smacked the table. “Yo, if any of us here drag you down we’d better leave! Come at me, if anyone’s scared they can just go hide in the arena.”

“Are you seriously suggesting you’re going to play support for him?” Zhang Jiale side-eyed Huang Shaotian disdainfully.

“Yeah, so Zhang Jiale, you come along too.” Huang Shaotian abruptly smacked down again, this time landing on Zhang Jiale’s back. His eyes then swept the room. “Sister Su, you as well!”

Zhang Jiale narrowly avoided choking from this smack, and he instantly reached out to whack back at him, the two of them getting into a scuffle. Su Mucheng watched the situation play out and whipped her head over to look at Yu Wenzhou. “Is this your idea?”

Wang Jiexi cut in, “He’s not scared of not keeping up.”

“Isn’t the plan to let your Magician charge on ahead?” Yu Wenzhou did not refute. “Do your best!”

 

Of course, their line-up wasn’t limited to just this one. Each line-up uses six from the thirteen in the national team. Aside from the fixed placement of the healer, the rest were fair game. The key point was in how to arrange the line-up that could best flaunt everyone’s strengths. In particular, the three Master Tacticians in the teams had different tactical styles and would require the most suitable cards to play with. This wasn’t an All-Star game where players could be drawn at random.

But for the Magician, they ultimately left only one team configuration.

 

This line-up was finally taken out by Team China in the semifinals.

After going through many rounds of matches, Team China was widely recognised as a strong team. Each of their playstyles and weaknesses has pretty much been picked apart already.

For example, that hand speed of Yu Wenzhou was never a secret.

However, it wasn’t as easy as that to interrupt Swoksaar’s chant in actuality. On the competitive stage, the opponent’s Elementalist and Sharpshooter currently had their viewports blocked by the light screen from the Hundred Blossom’s playstyle. They were simply unable to find Swoksaar’s positioning, their long-range cut so short that they appeared powerless.

But even if their long-range was being impeded, they still had close combat! The Ninja at this time wasn’t far off and had top-tier manoeuvrability amongst the classes. No matter what, even if he had to use the powerful skill Shadow Dance, he had to interrupt Swoksaar from finishing Death’s Door.

Ten shadow clones winked into existence. Zhang Jiale was already fully engaged in a 1v2 battle and really hadn’t the capacity to cover the rest of the field; Dazzling Hundred Blossoms only had the time to pithily knock down three shadows, but it was clear that these were not the heart of the Ninja’s shadow clones. Su Mucheng also couldn’t risk him getting caught in the Battle Mage’s close combat range, so she immediately got Dancing Rain to turn her fire in an attempt to snatch more time for the chant to finish. But all of a sudden, there came a loud shout. “Reverse!”

On the field, pro players needed to have unquestionable faith in their shotcaller. Su Mucheng reacted swiftly; the Battle Mage thought that this was a good opportunity to impede Team China’s tricky support, but he did not expect Dancing Rain would forcibly change the angle of her Stinger at the last second. In an instant, he was engulfed by the artillery fire, once more falling deep into Su Mucheng’s firing line. At the same time, however, the heart of the Ninja’s Shadow Dance swiftly approached Swoksaar.

His viewport suddenly spun. The Shadow Dance was instantly disrupted, but he had already used the Ninja’s Body Replacement Technique and Shadow Clone Technique as a means of movement earlier and could only use other skills to forcibly shift away. He was only a few body units away from Swoksaar; even be it his last drop of health, he had to go for it. However, he never expected that the series of inputs he burst out with couldn’t find a target, and only the fragments of stardust unceasingly streaked across his viewport.

How could a Vanishing Step from a Witch be easy to break? The pro player behind the Ninja felt hopelessness set upon him, knowing that it was soon about to be too late.

The chant for Death’s Door ended. The four avatars on the opposing side were entirely in its range. The Ninja who ran over to interrupt the chanting escaped at this moment, but Vaccaria immediately used a powerful flying skill to blow his avatar back in the direction of the Death’s Door.

But, it was just a little short! The cooldown for the Shadow Clone Technique was almost up. He had the confidence he could instantly return to the carbine and disrupt—

From between the dancing light and shadows of the Hundred Blossom’s playstyle, there came a resplendent sword light, and right at the fleeting moment that the cooldown for Shadow Clone Technique was about to end, it struck.

Troubling Rain; Sword’s Divine Judgment.

 

The Death’s Door was so perfectly executed that victory almost seemed to be set in stone. Excited roars flooded the stadium in waves, everyone beneath the stage nervously watching the reversal in defence and offence on stage. Those that stood on the world stage were definitely not weak; the opponents swiftly readjusted and got back to their feet. This wasn’t a finishing blow, after all.

The match had yet to end. Everything was still up in the air.

Every person could tell that the core of this team challenge was Wang Jiexi’s Vaccaria. However, not a person could comprehend how a team with the real Magician would be like. Because, there had never been a team fully able to operate with the Magician as a core.

Now, they saw it. Extremely quick changes in positioning, attack targets that couldn’t be predicted… When Stardust Extermination changed its attack target, the artillery fire and warlock curses would follow hard on its heels, not to mention the sword light that flitted in between. Once caught, there was no breaking away.

 

The practice match at that time didn’t last long.

For the national team, the individual challenge was an area that they didn’t have to worry about at all. The crux of the difficulty lay in the team challenge. They had been opponents for many years and never really had much experience in being teammates. The most classic would be those three in Blue Rain and Tiny Herb who hadn’t even been in the same All-Stars team before.

As for the result of that… at least it proved one thing. All-Stars not placing them together was an extremely wise decision.

“Too terrifying.” Chu Yunxiu watched the recording then, fear lingering in her heart. “It’s been too long since we’ve seen Wang Jiexi play like this. But it’s really unexpected that…”

“Had you long thought up this team formation?” Zhang Xinjie looked at the match replay on the screen and asked Ye Xiu.

“Not really. Only after finding out that commands can be given through voice chat,” Ye Xiu shook his head. “Besides, did you forget? Wenzhou was the one who came up this line-up.”

With Vaccaria as core, Swoksaar as shotcaller and crowd control, Troubling Rain to act on opportunities, Dazzling Hundred Blossoms and Dancing Rain to provide cover and support, along with Immoveable Rock guarding the rear.

This was a most assuredly a support team. A team specially put together to bring out the true potential of the Magician.

A magic that couldn’t be finished by one person, a show put together for this time and place.

Only here, on the world stage.

“It’s always difficult for a genius to enter society,” Xiao Shiqin sighed heavily. “Just because he immersed himself in the sea of people doesn’t mean that his genius can be overlooked.”

“This has to be a secret weapon, right?” Unmoved, Fang Rui looked at it very practically. “Don’t even talk about spooking those guys overseas. I myself am half spooked to death already.”

 

Lava Flask was flung down, Vaccaria swiftly made two sharp cuts and attacked at extremely tricky angles. Although the opposing Battle Mage took the damage, he also took this chance to complete an attack parry, leveraging on as Vaccaria had swept in before the Sweep to attach an Ice Chaser, causing Vaccaria’s movement to momentarily slow by a beat. This type of debuff is clearly quite targeted for the Magician who goes for high-speed changes. An impenetrable play cannot exist in the world; ultimately, the opponent had touched on a way to restrict him.

Seeing that Vaccaria’s attacks were going to miss, however—Rising Dragon Slash, Headwind Strike! Troubling Rain actually threw aside his own opponent, directly chaining two skills from behind, sending the Battle Mage who was about to escape back into the attack radius of Stardust Extermination’s Sweep.

“Wang Jiexi, can you chill a bit! Aside from me who else can grasp this kind of positioning!!”

“You’re too noisy.”

The Witch did not have strong knockup skills, but a star card flashed and stabbed into the Battle Mage’s chest. Under the sprinkle of Frost Powder, the inputs under Wang Jiexi’s hand came out quicker the more he fought, the attack pathing also becoming more and more mystifying. The Battle Mage finally understood why Vaccaria made no adjustments and took the debuff of the Ice Chaser; but by then, his avatar had already taken the damage of a whole chain of combos.

At present, the situation on the field was already unfavourable to them, they couldn’t let the Battle Mage get knocked off further. The opposing Sharpshooter only hesitated for the briefest of a split second, then turned the focus of his Rapid Firing towards Vaccaria in an attempt to extricate the Battle Mage.

Or, if they can force Troubling Rain to take a more support role instead, then their Cleric can…

A dark thundercloud suddenly descended at this moment.

No one knew when Swoksaar had tossed off the opponent on him, nor how he could appear at this moment with such unfailing precision. But to the players on the field, thinking about it at this time was already way too late.

Forgetting the existence of a control class at any point in time was a grievous mistake. After this Chaotic Rain descended came Death Entanglement and Immoveable Rock’s Holy Commandment in unison. The premonition the Sharpshooter had was accurate, only it was foreboding—Troubling Rain actually took this chance to forcibly pull their Cleric into the attack radius, and when the Sharpshooter looked back towards the Battle Mage over there, the situation was completely unsalvageable.

As for the spectators watching on the stands, they saw this all unfold extremely clearly. The light and shadows of the Hundred Blossom’s playstyle had always been the best cover for the Warlock to spell cast. But obstructing the opponent’s line of sight by skill effects was not something unique to Spitfires; likewise, Launchers with long attack range and powerful skill effects could do it, too. The opponent put too much of their attention on Zhang Jiale and Wang Jiexi, so they utterly failed to notice Swoksaar’s chant, which was covered by the gunfire and smoke raised by Dancing Rain’s firing line. If it weren’t that the concealment offered by a Launcher was a tad less effective than that of a Spitfire, casting a Death’s Door wouldn’t even be an issue.

There had never been only one opportunist at Blue Rain.

The outcome was sealed.

 

Before the semifinal match, Huang Shaotian posted something oddly concise on Weibo.

Welcome to the show.

The image attached was a secretly taken photo of Yu Wenzhou and Wang Jiexi from the back, and himself making a V with his fingers.

By the time the match ended, the post had already spiralled upwards with hundreds of thousands of comments.

 

 


 

 

It was hard to pin down the way Huang Shaotian and Yu Wenzhou had watched on end match recordings of the Magician to gain insight on his thought process back then, and it was hard to pin down the number of times Wang Jiexi picked apart and thought up countermeasures to Yu Wenzhou’s tactics and played private PKs with Huang Shaotian in his downtime. They were diametrically opposed to each other from their very first meeting, afterwards were even called sworn enemies. Their names were always mentioned together, and the fighting between their fanbases seemed endless.

Perhaps there would be a new title now. After all, this was the first time that even Zuo Chenrui couldn’t bring himself to denounce the Tiny Herb captain—but perhaps, in essence, there wasn’t much difference either.

In the spectator stands of the stadium, or in restaurants hidden in alleyways; page after page of chat records and folders of analysis of match recordings; at Beijing International Airport and the sunlight by the lakes of Zurich. Huang Shaotian’s Beijing’er dialect finally sounded more natural, Wang Jiexi would occasionally hum out a few lines of Cantonese songs, whereas Yu Wenzhou stayed the same as before, simply that whatever good life habits he had were upended by these two.

 

What was the term that most people used to describe a three-way relationship? Huang Shaotian spent a long time mulling over this question. All his mind could come up with was the sacred trinity of gaming, and that would be the tank-healer-dps trio. But the three of them had not a smidge of likeness to that at all.

Also, what the heck is with people calling them super tight friends; they’re clearly enemies, you hear?