This is definitely not Ye Xiu. Huang Shaotian had known it since the moment he turned up to the coordinates Ye Xiu gave him and discovered a Berserker account standing on the hill, idling; Ye Xiu turns up on all sorts of accounts but he doesn’t favour a Berserker very much. It wasn't enough of a rarity to be certainly not him, though. Lu Hanwen had come crashing into Huang Shaotian’s room to steal clothes and snacks and made too much noise and the Berserker had attacked without even a hairs’-breadth pause, one second still and the next there came a collapsing mountain almost splitting Flowing Tree in two. So fast! But Huang Shaotian was quick too.
And now he’s running, and the Berserker probably doesn’t even know who he is but they’re giving chase, and there’s no let-up, no hesitation for planning, and any time they get close enough out comes another skill forcing Flowing Tree to dodge and roll and jump. Huang Shaotian’s played with Ye Xiu enough to recognise his style, this isn’t it. Huang Shaotian analyses as he moves Flowing Tree out of the way of an Earth Shattering Slash. He can’t dodge entirely but he can move so the angle is wrong and the blow is glancing instead of dead on, and he knows the swordsman classes enough not to move in the expected direction, so the follow-up Whirlwind Strike mis-predicts his positioning. It’s cancelled as soon as it’s clear it’ll miss.
“Who are you? Who are you? Why don’t I recognise you? You’re so good! Would you believe me if I said I could get you into Blue Rain? I can! Join Blue Rain, they’re the best team!” Huang Shaotian says, seeing if he gets any reaction. He does; he gets laughter. “How dare you laugh at Blue Rain! Best team best team! You’ll see, just wait until I stop running away then I’ll show you! I’ll make you admit Blue Rain is best, admit it! Say it!”
He keeps talking, not thinking too hard about the words. Being in the game is the best, he’s missed talking. He spams the chat a bit too, fingers flying over the keyboard, if he pauses even for a second he’s going to get caught, this Berserker is relentless and hasn’t left a single gap. But that’s a benefit for Huang Shaotian, the longer this goes on the more patterns he can find, by now he can predict the skills on cool-down even if he can’t get a hold of which attack will come next. He can at least narrow it down. He doesn’t know this part of Glory very well but he does know Ye Xiu pretty well so he did his homework and did some studying of the map and he knows that in just a little while there should be some rocks behind him.
“This is a really ugly shirt, Huang Shao,” Lu Hanwen says. Huang Shaotian had almost forgotten he was in here.
“So steal a different one, who cares? Do I wear that? No I do not. Take the purple one my mother sent me she has good taste,” Huang Shaotian says. “Ha! There! I knew it!”
It’s not a mistake, the combo is still seamless, but this Blood Sword skil has a tiny animation for the avatar to cut their hand, it’s barely there but Huang Shaotian is fast enough. He only pulls out Upward Slash, just enough to make the Berserker take a step back to avoid it. He follows up with Sword Draw because… yes, the fucker can actually dodge it, they’re so good! Huang Shaotian cancels the skill just as the Berserker dodges. As predicted, they move to the right. Perfect, perfect, there’s a tiny blind spot now, and here is the rock he was waiting for. He moves Flowing Tree and, out of sight for now, runs as fast as he can. He’ll be visible for a moment, between the rock and the tree he’s aiming Flowing Tree for, but the Berserker should hopefully look in the other direction for him to begin with, toward the long grass. It’s better cover.
“Wait,” Huang Shaotian says, “why do you want to steal my clothes? You have clothes. Are you trying to look fancy and grown up do you have a date oh my god you have a date! Why didn’t you tell me? Don’t you know I’ll give you the best advice?!”
“You’re too noisy.”
It’s not Lu Hanwen who says it. Huang Shaotian swears; the Berserker is coming for him again. Huang Shaotian laughs because that was dumb, bad planning on his part, he forgot to be quiet. Oh well. He knows he’s not going to win in a head-on fight with this player, but what the hell, he was only here to fight Ye Xiu anyway. This has to be a pro the speed they play and the way they make such clear and certain decisions. It’s not Yu Feng, he knows Yu Feng’s playing intimately. He’s ready to swear that he’s never played this person before. There is one person who fits these criterie. He needs to turn around and make sure Lu Hanwen gets his dating advice, so it’s time to make his guess. And lose this battle.
“Sun Zheping I know that’s you I know that’s you what are you doing fighting old Ye’s battles for him have you no decency?! Coming to the game to bully us! I won’t help you get into Blue Rain! Sun Zheping Sun Zheping Sun Zheping! I know you, old Sun! I’m going to fight you and I’ll win I’ll win I’ll win!”
He doesn’t win, and the Berserker laughs at him while he lies on the ground in a mist of blood, and he doesn’t even get an admittance that it’s Sun Zheping he was fighting. Not from Sun Zheping, at any rate. When Flowing Tree regenerates, Lord Grim is waiting at the regeneration point.
“Did you enjoy yourself?” Ye Xiu asks.
“I’m too busy to fight you,” Huang Shaotian says. “How did you talk a nice respectable player like Sun Zheping into PKing for you?”
“I bribed him. He’s helping me get materials,” Ye Xiu says. “He was early, I was late, you were noisy.”
“I’m busy, way too busy for the likes of you. Tell that Sun Zheping to find me on QQ, though, he’s so good! I’ll find him, I’ll find him and make him PK until I win,” Huang Shaotian says.
He logs off before Ye Xiu can reply, spinning his computer chair to see Lu Hanwen posing dubiously in front of the mirror in the purple shirt. Huang Shaotian prepares to give Lu Hanwen the best possible advice. And maybe he can get rid of this shirt at the same time without his mother being cross. A kind gesture to help out a young team-mate! That’s why he doesn’t wear the itchy thing in interviews anymore! Perfect.
It’s more than a week later when Huang Shaotian’s phone buzzes and chimes softly, lighting up with a new notification.
Another Summer of Sleep says, please stop Ye Xiu from messaging, I think he’s set up an automatic message to send every ten minutes.
Troubling Rain says, it’s 2am I am asleep I was sleeping you woke me up.
Troubling Rain says, hi!
Troubling Rain says, you messaged me! Finally!
Troubling Rain says, I wouldn’t have to keep asking him to ask you to message me if you just messaged me in the first place!
Troubling Rain says, Old Ye wouldn’t know how to do automatic messages, he’s rubbish he doesn’t even have a phone!
Troubling Rain says, !!! hello! Sun Zheping!
Troubling Rain says, Su Mucheng you can turn the automatic messages off now he messaged me he messaged me he said hello he’s sent me a message!
Troubling Rain says, Chen Guo you can turn the automatic messages off now do you have no shame doing these things for old Ye?!
Troubling Rain says, Please can you turn off the messages you set up for Ye Xiu to send to Sun zheping? Thank you. (smiley face emoji)
Soft Mist says, Captain says you don’t need to message everyone, and if you wake up our whole team she won’t be happy.
Soft Mist says, I turned the automatic messaging off.
Troubling Rain says, I’ll make him turn it back on if you don’t reply soon! I’m waiting so long, I’m so patient.
Troubling Rain says, I can be patient I won’t let them turn it back on.
Troubling Rain says, he found a team full of people as shameless as he is.
Troubling Rain says, will you PK with me again? That was so awesome, you’re so good.
Troubling Rain says, I bet my captain would really like it if I convinced you to come to Blue Rain and play with us, we can definitely definitely welcome you here.
Troubling Rain says, PKPKPK!
Another Summer of Sleep says, it was quieter with the automatic messages.
Troubling Rain says, PK! PKPKPK! You can PKPKPK until I do as I’m told, you can PK to make me shut up and behave.
Another Summer of Sleep says, um
Troubling Rain says, hahaha.
Troubling Rain says, well? Well?
Another Summer of Sleep says, go to sleep.
Troubling Rain says, and when I wake up you’ll fight me?
Troubling Rain says, if I go to sleep will you message me again?
Troubling Rain says, please please please can we play Glory again?
Another Summer of Sleep says, if you go to sleep and stop making my phone blow up, I will take you to a place nearby here that does the best sweet buns.
Troubling Rain says, (sleeping face emoji). (sleeping face emoji). (sleeping face emoji). (sleeping face emoji).
Sun Zheping is as good as his word. When Blue Rain go to play Heavenly Swords the next week, Sun Zheping is waiting outside the exit where the car back to the hotel is. Huang Shaotian has seen him before, and he’s seen plenty of pictures, but he’s very tall when Huang Shaotian gets close, and he’s got a very cool denim jacket with all kinds of things sewn on, and his hair is great! Even greater than Sun Xiang’s, and Sun Xiang has a reputation, (undeserved), for having the best hair in all of Glory. He’s leaning casually, running through finger exercises, he’s like his avatar in-game; an idling animation. Then he hears them coming and he turns and looks right at Huang Shaotian, and Huang Shaotian has to hold onto Yu Wenzhou’s arm.
“If you’re audibly gasping when you see him, I need to reevaluate a few things,” Yu Wenzhou murmurs, kindly keeping his voice low so as not to draw the others’ attention. Huang Shaotian opens his mouth to refute that, he did not gasp. Sun Zheping pushes away from the wall then, though, and he has a very excellent way of walking. “I like to think I’m observant and perceptive, but right now I can’t tell if you want him, want to be him, or wish he was your best friend forever.”
“Yes,” Huang Shaotian says, nodding. All of those. Yu Wenzhou laughs, still soft and just between them. “He’s going to take me to eat sweet things, captain. I love sweet things! I love eating!”
“Just remember that you’re coming home to me, tonight,” Yu Wenzhou says, hand tight and demanding on Huang Shaotian’s arm for a moment before releasing him and smiling, polite and welcoming. “Sun Zheping, your team played very well today.”
“We still lost, you played better. Next time we’ll beat you,” Sun Zheping says. “Do you have time now, Huang Shaotian? I have work to do later, but I have an hour free while the others do interviews and rest.”
Huang Shaotian nods. Sun Zheping inclines his head in a polite way to Yu Wenzhou and leads the way, back in to the building. Huang Shaotian bites back an undignified yelp when Yu Wenzhou pats his butt, reminding him to follow Sun Zheping, not just gaze at his shoulders and jacket and hair and swagger and the bracelets that tumble down his wrist when he lets his thumbs tuck into his jeans pockets. Huang Shaotian jogs to catch up. He has a billion questions to ask; Sun Zheping didn’t play today but Huang Shaotian’s been studying up since their PK in the game and he recognises Sun Zheping’s fingerprints all over Heavenly Swords.
Sun Zheping isn’t talkative, but he’s not stoic or a silent type, and he doesn’t just ignore Huang Shaotian like Ye Xiu does. He listens, butts in to disagree, and tells Huang Shaotian to shut up. Huang Shaotian discerns quickly that he likes talking about Glory, doesn’t mind Huang Shaotian talking through games, gets bored when Huang Shaotian lists things he’s eaten or such like. He’s straightforward, when he catches Huang Shoatian watching his finger exercises he explains easily that he has to do a lot of physical therapy to keep his hand in good enough shape to play. They don’t dwell on that, moving on to talk instead about Tyranny, who Blue Rain played last week and who Heavenly Swords will play next week.
“You should give me some tips,” Sun Zheping says. “You know them, don’t you? Heavenly swords isn’t going to tip the balance of Tyranny’s storming to the playoffs, but playing well against them might make a big difference to us.”
“I’ll tell you all the secrets I know about Tyranny if you like,” Huang Shaotian says. “Don’t you know them, too, though? Zhang Jiale…”
Huang Shaotian trails off, watching Sun Zheping carefully, ready to snatch a new topic out of the air and carry on talking about something different. But Sun Zheping nods, still relaxed, so it doesn’t seem to be a difficult topic anymore. He’s even smiling, like playing against his old partner is something he looks forward to. Huang Shaotian grins back and tucks a leg under him on the chair so he can half-kneel, leaning across the table to grab a napkin to write on; he can tell Sun Zheping lots of things about Zheng Xinjie.
“It is not unethical or shameless! I didn’t tell him anything he couldn’t have found out by watching videos of Tyranny,” Huang Shaotian says, when Zhang Xinjie rings to complain about the game against Heavenly Swords. “Didn’t you still win? Didn’t you?”
“It was unexpected,” Zhang Xinjie says, irritated. “Do you know how disconcerting it is to have that polite Loulan Slash start spitting out trash-talk that he probably learnt by rote from old Blue Rain videos?”
Huang Shaotian cackles. That’s brilliant.
“I didn’t suggest that at all, Xinjie, Sun Zheping came up with that all on his own,” Huang Shaotian says. “He’s-”
“I’ve already let you talk about how brilliant Sun Zheping is for your allocated half an hour today,” Zhang Xinjie says. “I’ll be going if you want to start again.”
“Okay okay! I’m shutting up about him.”
“Did you decide yet what you want from this? You should tell him,” Zhang Xinjie says.
“Oh! I’ve just remembered! You made a spreadsheet for Ye Xiu! Last time I saw him he said you made him a spreadsheet to keep track of our 1v1s and he had evreything timestamped it was the worst! This is revenge for that, haha! I knew I was right to help Sun Zheping beat you, you deserve it. They’ll win next time and then you’ll regret helping Ye Xiu,” Huang Shaotian says.
“You should tell him,” Zhang Xinjie says again.
Huang Shaotian doesn’t answer that. It’s not like he’s keeping anything a secret from Sun Zheping. Everyone knows that he’s star-struck, Sun Zheping certainly can’t have missed it. He liked it when Sun Zheping messaged him, he liked it when Sun Zheping took him for snacks and tea, he liked it when Sun Zheping sought him out to go into the game and help or hinder Ye Xiu a few times recently. He’s enjoying how much he likes Sun Zheping’s company, he’s enjoying getting attention from someone so artlessly cool.
“Don’t go giving Ye Xiu anymore of those spreadsheets,” Huang Shaotian says, seeing if he has any luck this time changing the subject.
“I’m just saying, make sure things are clear, don’t get hurt. I’m going,” Zhang Xinjie says. That would be ‘no’ to changing the subject, then.
“Promise! He keeps on sending me pictures of it to prove- Xinjie? Xinjie. Zhang Xinjie! He hung up on me,” Huang Shaotian says. “Yeah, he’s gone. How rude.”
The conversation with Zhang Xinjie makes Huang Shaotian more thoughtful. They’re coming up on the end of the regular season before the playoffs, he has a lot of work and very little free time to sneak into the game. They played Tiny Herb early this year, there’s no reason to be in City B again, no reason to see Sun Zheping. The All-Stars have come and gone. Usually these last few months of the season he doesn’t think about anything except Blue Rain. He tries to do the same this year, but things nag at him.
“Shaotian, are you listening?” Yu Wenzhou asks, late one night.
They’re sitting out on the street outside a cafe nearby Blue Rain, after Yu Wenzhou realised neither of them had left the building for three days. They’ve barely been off the training-rooms level, even, only for sleeping. It’s nearly eleven pm, but they’re still trying to iron out some problems with their strategy. Huang Shaotian isn’t listening, he’s watching the tapioca pearls in his tea, giving them a stir with his straw, and thinking about what he wants.
“Mm,” Huang Shaotian says, sighing. “No, I wasn’t, sorry. I’m tired, captain, I’ll do better I’ll listen.”
“Are you alright? You’ve been quiet,” Yu Wenzhou says, examining Huang Shaotian, intent.
“I’m alright, I’m fine,” Huang Shaotian says.
“Good, I’m glad. What’s on your mind?” Yu Wenzhou says.
“I really like him,” Huang Shaotian admits. He doesn’t need to explain who he’s referring to.
“Ah,” Yu Wenzhou says.
“I really like you too, of course. That goes without saying, I know, but I should say it anyway, have I said it recently? I didn’t forget? I didn’t realise really, I was just enjoying having a crush, but Zhang Xinjie said I should tell him about the crush and usually I’d think well that’s silly! It’s just fun, it’s nice to flirt a bit and have people’s attention, and finding people attractive doesn’t need to be a big deal. You blush pretty much any time Xiao Shiqin walks past, that’s fine!” Huang Shaotian says.
“Don’t deflect,” Yu Wenzhou says, forbidding the subject change to his embarrassing crush before Huang Shaotian can even get started attempting it.
“Fine. It made me think a bit, and I might want to tell him,” Huang Shaotian says. “Sun Zheping I mean, I won’t tell Xiao Shiqin about your-”
“Deflecting,” Yu Wenzhou says.
“Captain! You’re so ruthless! So, so ruthless. You said you didn’t know if I want to be fucked by him, or if I just want his jacket, or maybe I want to be friends with him,” Huang Shaotian says. Yu Wenzhou blinks. “Maybe not those exact words, something like that, I do really want to steal his jacket will you help me come up with a plan? I’m not deflecting I promise this is definitely relevant.”
“It’s not relevant. But yes, if you like, I’ll help you steal his jacket,” Yu Wenzhou says.
“Awesome, you’re so awesome. I don’t know what I want from him either,” Huang Shaotian says.
“I don’t mind,” Yu Wenzhou says. “The usual applies, right?”
“Tell each other before taking steps to having additional relationships, make sure whoever we’re asking knows, remember the privacy and boundaries stuff,” Huang Shaotian lists off. “Will it make you jealous?”
“Hmm. A little bit. I liked when you went for snacks with him after the game, and then came home to me and I got to remind you that you’re mine,” Yu Wenzhou says.
“I liked that too,” Huang Shaotian says. “Oh! I just had an epiphany!”
“Oh? You know what you want?”
“What? No, what? Oh, that, no. About the tactics, Yu Wenzhou! Stop getting off topic. I had an epiphany about our strategy, that’s what we’re here to talk about isn’t it? I wasn’t listening before so I don’t know if I agree with whatever you were saying about Zheng Xuan, but I’ve worked out why we can never beat the simulation. I should switch out with Song Xiao,” Huang Shaotian says. “If you and Song Xiao partner instead, for that bit where everything keeps falling apart, that would work wouldn’t it?”
For a little while, Huang Shaotian forgets about everything except Blue Rain and beating team Happy, and then beating Wind Howl and then beating Royal Style. He lives and sleeps Glory and Blue Rain, Troubling Rain takes over his dreams, and nothing distracts him. Their last game of the regular season is against Samsara, like a boss lying in wait for them. Samsara with Jiang Botao, Zhou Zekai, and Sun Xiang is continuing to be a difficulty. Huang Shaotian misses the days he could just taunt Sun Xiang and have the kid chase him leaving his team to fall apart. Now Sun Xiang’s won accolades for team-work. So stressful! There’s not time to be thinking about anything else.
After Blue Rain have beaten Royal Style, Huang Shaotian is lying in his hotel room letting his mind spin through what worked and what didn’t work in the earlier game, what they can build on and what to scrap in preparation for Samsara. When his phone buzzes he assumes it’s Yu Wenzhou, somehow knowing he’s still up and awake at 1am.
Another Summer of Sleep says, Tiny Herb slaughtered us.
Another Summer of Sleep says, how do I beat Wang Jiexi?
Troubling Rain says, Why would I know that?
Troubling Rain says, Do you think I’m secretly Wang Jiexi?
Troubling Rain says, Do you think I have him here in my bed to get secrets out of?
Troubling Rain says, is someone spreading rumours? Do you think I could say it’s true?
Troubling Rain says, that would be hilarious! I bet Wang Jiexi would lose if he was distracted by me agreeing with the rumours.
Troubling Rain says, why aren’t you answering?! You’re so quiet!
Another Summer of Sleep says, you didn’t give me time to answer. You won your game again Tiny Herb, dumbass, I was asking because you beat him.
Troubling Rain says, oh yeah! Ha! Take that Wang Jiexi!
Troubling Rain says, actually this time we got lucky, they chose a map which Captain made Lu Hanwen do some homework on to practice tactical thinking
Troubling Rain says, poor little Lu wrote four essays about the various advantages and disadvantages
Troubling Rain says, and then Captain made him write another essay about how we could use those advantages and disadvantages in a hypothetical match against a specific hypothetical team.
Another Summer of Sleep says, he wrote an essay on how to use a map to beat Tiny Herb, and then Tiny Herb chose that exact map for their home-game?
Troubling Rain says, yep!
Another Summer of Sleep says, that’s hilarious. Hm.
Troubling Rain says, Are you going to make poor Heavenly Swords write essays?
Another Summer of Sleep says, I am. I’m going to request they do this work over the summer, and then next year I’m going to tell them it was you who gave me this idea. Right before we play Blue Rain.
Troubling Rain says, hahaha! You think making them as fierce as you are will help them beat me? Dream again!
Troubling Rain says, I’ll still win!
Troubling Rain says, I’ll win, I’ll win, you’ll lose, hahaha!
Swoksaar says, why are you still awake?
Troubling Rain says, you’re keeping me awake, my captain is angry. He’s so scary, how did he know I’m awake? I think he’s going to kill me with his giant brain.
Swoksaar says, were you trying to send that to someone else?
Troubling Rain says, um, no?
Swoksaar says, go to sleep.
Troubling Rain says, my captain is too too terrifying, I have to go to sleep, I think he’s reading my thoughts.
Troubling Rain says, just in case he can read my thoughts, he is a great and wonderful captain. The best captain.
Another Summer of Sleep says, you’ve told me that when you didn’t think he was spying on your thoughts.
Troubling Rain says, I’m always taking precautions in case he’s spying on my thoughts.
Swoksaar says, Do I have to come over there and make you go to sleep, Shaotian?
Another Summer of Sleep says, I couldn’t sleep, I kept replaying the game over and over. Thanks for the essays idea, and the laugh.
Troubling Rain says, (thumbs up emoji) (sleeping face emoji)
There’s a short break between the regular season and the playoffs, after Blue Rain lost their away game and won their home game against Samsara, with Samsara gaining slightly more in the exchange. Huang Shaotian should stay at Blue Rain and work; when Sun Zheping invites him to City B he says no. But then Sun Zheping says he will buy good food and take Huang Shaotian to good boba tea places, and Huang Shaotian isn’t made of rock.
“As a thank you for getting into trouble with your captain for me, the other night,” Sun Zheping explains, once he’s bought many things for Huang Shaotian.
He’s taller, Huang Shaotian is sure. He’s got a new patch sewn on his jacket, an embroidered version of a book-cover. They’re sat in a park and Sun Zheping has his head back, absorbing sunshine. He’s so relaxed. Huang Shaotian is staring. It takes a moment for the words to sink through.
“Oh! Sure,” Huang Shaotian says. He sips the tea Sun Zheping bought him and takes a deep breath. “Staying up late to talk to you made me realise, um. I made a decision.”
“Did you?” Sun Zheping says, sounding bored! Huang Shaotian huffs, his irritation gets rid of the last of his hesitation.
“I like you. I like playing Glory with you, I like when you message me randomly, I like when you buy me things,” Huang Shaotian says. “I want to kiss you.”
“Is that all?” Sun Zheping asks, annoyingly unruffled by Huang Shaotian’s admittance.
“Right now I want to hit you as well! I’ll PK you! PKPKPKPK!” Huang Shaotian says. Sun Zheping laughs. “I don’t know, anyway. Why do I have to choose now? All these decisions! Can’t I just like you and want to kiss you? Why the thousands of questions?”
“You don’t know what you want,” Sun Zheping says.
“Not really. Besides to kiss you,” Huang Shaotian says, hopefully.
“I know what I want,” Sun Zheping says. “I want… to take you home.”
“Like a pet that’s misbehaved so you’re returning me?! Sun Zheping!” Huang Shaotian says, offended, wondering what Yu Wenzhou will say when he’s brought home in disgrace.
That is not in the slightest what Sun Zheping meant, it turns out. What Sun Zheping meant was home to Heavenly Swords. What Sun Zheping meant was to his own nice rooms and before Huang Shaotian even has a chance to admire the nice place, Sun Zheping has him against a wall to claim the kisses Huang Shaotian offered, mouth insistent. He asks and asks every step of the way, checking each time before biting or kissing Huang Shaotian’s neck or pushing him against walls, before tugging his clothing and hair. Asks and makes him answer.
“You said you invited me here to thank me for giving you the idea to make these poor little swords write essays,” Huang Shaotian pants.
“I had ulterior motives,” Sun Zheping says. “Isn’t this what you want? You said I could make you behave.”
“With PK! This is not PK!” Huang Shaotian says. “This isn’t Glory at all!”
“Do you want me to stop?”
“Fuck, no! Carry on, carry on. I’m happy, this is what I want, I definitely want this, I like your jacket,” Huang Shaotian says. “Can you take it off though?”
“Is that what you want?”
Sun Zheping is very accommodating. He keeps asking Huang Shaotian questions, and when Huang Shaotian is slow to answer Sun Zheping will tell all the things that he wants. He wants a lot of things, Huang Shaotian lets him have all of it. Anything. He remembers being seventeen and watching Sun Zheping and Zhang Jiale, blood and blossoms, exploding out of nowhere. It had been beautiful, so fast and furious, all twisted together and so seamless, perfect team-work, a true dual-core. And then he had watched Sun Zheping play with Happy, and he’s seen him a few times for Heavenly Swords, still glorious, still so relentless. And now here he is, gasping for breath while this god of Glory takes him to pieces.
“I make you no promise,” Sun Zheping says, low, voice smooth and easy while he lays Huang Shaotian out on the bed.
Huang Shaotian nods. He doesn’t need promises, not from Sun Zheping. He doesn’t want any promises, he doesn’t want anything from the future, he just wants now. He just wants to enjoy whatever comes, he’s happy to let it go again, nothing held too tight.
Blue Rain don’t win the championships this year, but they play such a ferocious and cutthroat last game that lots of articles are written and they’re a trending topic for a while. There’s a photograph that keeps getting re-used, Huang Shaotian standing outside the stadium just before the last game, wearing a denim jacket covered in patches and badges, energy barely contained so he almost seems like he’s going to jump right out of the picture, fierce and laughing.