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The Noise of Experience

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"We need to come up with something really creative for the next match." said Ye Xiu as he flipped through the notes.

He was speaking to Yu Wenzhou and Zhang Xinjie who were looking at the laptop.

"Did you actually say creative??" Yu Wenzhou looked up with a smile.

"Yes. Undoubtedly. So far nobody has escaped the noise of that lot. And we need something completely different to shut them up."

"The only thing that will shut them up is banning the voice chat." said Zhang Xinjie with a sigh as he skipped through the video again.

On quick glance it seemed both team were evenly matched but slowly one side started to make mistakes. Within a few minutes they became sillier and sillier to the point that it seemed they were not even paying attention to the game anymore.

But visuals alone would not explain the situation.

As Zhang Xinjie slightly increased the volume he was overwhelmed by the raucous voices of the Australian Team.

With the exception of a few members, most of team China only had a basic understanding of English but even if they could not understand all the words they certainly got the intention of the Australian Team.

Though a world voice chat had been introduced, most teams did not use it. If they wished to trash talk they preferred to put it in writing but the Australian Team had proved to be a massive headache as they exploited the voice chat to irritate their opponents to death.

But their trash talk was far from nonsensical.

With surgical precision, and even taking the effort to study other languages to make themselves as understandable as possible, it was almost like they spent more time analysing their opponents psychology and with every word they attacked the mind and morale of the person.

Though it was clear that they were talking things to a new level, it wasn't something the organisers could stop. There was nothing obscene or discriminatory in their comments and since the task of chatting was distributed amongst the entire team the organizers couldn't even call a penalty for hogging the voice channel.

Providing a mute option was clearly not a proper solution as the whole point of the voice chat was that it was completely open and had its own risks and merits.

So the Australian Team continued their strategy and the other teams could only grit their teeth and prepare themselves mentally.

Ye Xiu didn't think trash talk would be much of an issue for their team as most of them had great mental fortitude and were also quite attuned to noise because of Huang Shaotian.

But it was not easy to completely shut  out their constant chatter which was again something they all knew because of Huang Shaotian.

"We need to completely confuse them.... " said Ye Xiu finally.

"What do you mean?" Yu Wenzhou wasn't sure why Ye Xiu wanted more confusion "Are you suggesting we release our deadly weapon?"

"No... " Ye Xiu chuckled "But we will need him alright. I had something else in mind.... Note how all their senior players appear in the group arena and  those who participate in the team match are the younger ones."

"So?" Zhang Xinjie said immediately for he doubted that made any difference at all.

The Australian team was different from the others in the sense they had mostly young players with very few experienced ones.

The media said they had no other choice as the Glory scene in the country was relatively young but even otherwise keeping in mind balanced compositions there were only a few senior players they could send for the World's.

It was clear how the junior players had only around an year or two of experience playing in the Pro League. Almost everyone had agreed, quite ruefully, that with some more time for dedicated training the juniors could have been whipped into international-quality players but for now they could only make up with their vigour.

"Young... energetic.... kids." said Ye Xiu "Though being at their prime can make up for their lack of experience, they are still green compared to us in certain areas."

"Do you have a plan?" asked Yu Wenzhou.

He could see a gleam in Ye Xiu's eyes and rather than making him happy he felt deeply disturbed by it.

"I have an idea.... But I will need both of you to help."

Zhang Xinjie's eyes narrowed hearing this.

"So you are coming then..... "

"Yep!" Ye Xiu looked up and grinned wickedly "We can play this game better than them! Let's see how well they can shut out our noise!"

 

 

 

The audience cheered as the two sides lined up for the team competition.

This was the main event that they were looking forward to in that match and everyone was delighted to see Huang Shaotian in the lineup.

Even the audience wished that somebody would find a way to shut up the youngsters of the Australian side in the team match. They were confident that the headache inducing Blademaster with his rubbish text walls would surely give the other team a taste of their own medicine.

The map was a rather large one - jungles and ruins and the description casually referred to traps and hidden mechanisms.

The Australian Team were as decisive as ever as their Battlemage quickly broke away from the rest of the team to confront the Chinese side directly.

Team China on the other hand moved quite leisurely as three of their players headed towards the centre and the remaining two set off on a tangent.

The audience were keenly focussed on the trio though because it was the first time China had brought out three master tacticians together in the team match.

Yu Wenzhou, Zhang Xinjie and finally Ye Xiu

The fact that Ye Xiu was using One-Autumn Leaf caused an even bigger stir on the telecast channels as many fans turned ecstatic at the sight of this iconic memory.

Many people began commenting that this meant China were taking their opponents very seriously. Ye Xiu had used a few other accounts so far in the team matches but for him to use the class he was the most proficient in - The match to follow would certainly be glorious.

As the Australian Battlemage came closer to Team China's position she slowed down and carefully inched forward.

She was bold but not foolhardy and did not want to rush into a trap laid by those schemers so easily.

Especially since they had all agreed that falling into the opportunistic hands of Huang Shaotian was far too dangerous.

A guy brutal enough to let his entire team die while he waits for a chance was truly too scary.

But the Battlemage's young heart quickened at the sight of Swoksaar standing alone in the middle of a clearing.

She was fully aware of how baiting worked and she was sure Swoksaar was the ideal bait too. But she couldn't ignore him either.

Their team's relatively simple strategy revolved around her engaging as many opponents as she could while her team took out wanderers and then closed the net.

She sent a quick text in chat confirming she was going in and immediately rushed forward with a Dragon Breaks the Rank. She saw Swoksaar step back and she cancelled her skill to use a Dragon Tooth but then her attack was blocked by a Battlemage Spear.

Ye Xiu, One-Autumn Leaf

This was the moment she was waiting for.

The girl quickly jumped back and was about to start her verbal assault when Ye Xiu screamed loudly in the voice chat.

"Step away from my boyfriend!!"

There was a moment of silence as the Battlemage wondered if she had heard it right but immediately she heard a soft voice sigh.

"Don't be so obnoxious" said Yu Wenzhou "I have already told you it's Shaotian and not you."

"He isn't even on the field!" yelled Ye Xiu and swiftly moved towards the Battlemage with an attack "I'm the only one here to protect you!"

Though the Australian Battlemage was bewildered by the nonsensical words she met his blows calmly.

At the same time she sent a quick message in the chat.

Troubling Rain sub. Move in.

Though the rest of her team immediately split up in what seemed to be a planned formation for this scenario, the audience were visibly confused.

Because right now they could see Huang Shaotian's Troubling Rian creeping around a particularly broken down part of the ruins and searching for a good ambush spot.

Too naive was all that they could think

"Shouldn't you be careful in a public space, senior?" said the Battlemage as she performed a well-timed block to generate a chaser before slashing forward with a Sky Strike.

"Oh why?" asked Ye Xiu casually as he jumped back.

"To put your lover in a compromising position on stage" she replied, shamelessly stressing on the words. She was still slightly dazed at the turn her trash-talking had taken, but what was the point if she could not adapt.

"Exactly. You have gone too far." said a different voice and Zhang Xinjie's Immovable Rock appeared from the side.

The Battlemage did not dodge One-Autumn Leaf's incoming Sky Strike and she was knocked up into the air. It would have appeared a mistake but in reality by not dodging to the side like before she had avoided the predictive Hexagram Prison that had opened up.

The truth was that even when faced with three opponents she only felt more excited. If she could hold all three of these senior players here, the rest of her team could easily handle the other two players.

Also with Zhang Xinjie's entrance, she doubted Ye Xiu would continue such a weird conversation in the voice channel.

But she was proved wrong when Zhang Xinjie continued to speak.

"You are so shameless. You cheat! You said you loved me!"

The Battlemage almost forgot to block the next skill hearing Zhang Xinjie's dignified voice joining in on the rubbish.

Wasn't he supposed to be the serious and disciplined Cleric?

"Ah.... yes... but Yu Wenzhou is my first love."

Ye Xiu didn't miss a beat either in the fight or in the conversation and immediately Yu Wenzhou protested.

"I'm not! Zhang Xinjie likes you more than me!"

"And I like you more than him!" exclaimed Ye Xiu with a dramatic sigh as if it was obvious.

"Traitor" muttered Zhang Xinjie and cast a Sacred Flames below One-Autumn Leaf's feet.

The audience almost cried because it looked like Immovable Rock had cast the skill to burn One-Autumn Leaf but at the same time Swoksaar cast a Bind Spell which stopped the Battlemage from retreating and with a Circle Swing from One-Autumn Leaf the Battlemage was thrown into the flames.

The Battlemage could only grind her teeth as she fought back.

Perhaps she had taken on too much by fighting all three people at once.

But it was not in her nature to regret her decisions. Surely her team will make use of this opportunity to clear out the other two and come to her rescue.

Meanwhile fifth player Zhang Jiale's Dazzling Hundred Blossoms was surprisingly headed to the exact spot where Australia's Sharpshooter was standing and within a few seconds the two entered into a sharp exchange of gunfire.

Dazzling Hundred Blossoms seemed extremely extravagant today as he started raining down all his explosive skills on the single player and immediately all viewers shook their heads to express their disapproval of his wastefulness.

But Zhang Jiale was focussed only on his opponent and he knew that everything was just a part of the plan.

Having analysed a few videos China had discovered that Australia followed a rather careless approach with their Cleric.

The Cleric roamed on his own so that he would not slow down the rest of the team, but there would always be one member close by and every member seemed to know exactly where the Cleric was in case they needed healing.

It was difficult to pin down the Cleric too as he kept shifting but that was where the plan came in.

As the Sharpshooter's health started to slide drastically, he began to retreat and Zhang Jiale smiled to himself as he controlled Dazzling Hundred Blossoms to follow.

During this time Huang Shaotian had finished his exploration and Troubling Rain lurked around the bushes. He was finally rewarded by the sight of Australia's Spellblade and Qi Master approaching.

But instead of fighting he quickly took off into the jungle. The two players saw the faint retreating figure and hesitated for a second. They would have preferred to fight right here but now they had to continue the chase into an unfamiliar area.

Still it would be fine because logically the player left was Tang Hao's Demon Subduer who they could easily deal with.

It was unfortunate that the players were so sure that Huang Shaotian was not on the field. Tang Hao was a good player but he hadn't done anything remarkable in the tournament so far and though he wasn't exactly underestimated nobody really thought he would be a problem either.

As the two players followed into the jungle, half the audience slapped their foreheads because they could imagine Huang Shaotian's glee at having his prey fall into the net so easily.

Finally the two players stepped out into the ruins and they could see a figure in the distance.

"Isn't that... Troubling Rain?" asked the Qi Master in confusion.

"Who cares?!" yelled the rather bold Spellblade.

The two were mid-range units and they knew that if they closed in a little more they could definitely attack Troubling Rain without getting into his range.

Spurred by this thought the two ran forward energetically towards Troubling Rain who had still not moved.

But as their characters ran across the ground they suddenly noticed that some of the panels on the ground sank down as they passed over it.

There was a sudden rumble and the next second the entire ground collapsed and the two were sent spiralling into a deep pit.

For a few moments their only thought was to save their health from being lost in such a stupid way but it was rather impossible and both characters lost around half their health as they crashed to the bottom.

The pit was ridiculously deep and the two of them swung their camera view up as they wondered how they would now have to struggle all the way back.

A small head peeked over and there was a crow of laughter from Huang Shaotian in the voice chat seeing the two trapped below.

To everyone's surprise, including the two below, Troubling Rain merely turned away and left.

The audience had low-key wanted him to jump in and thrash the other two, but they knew that wasn't practical at all.

But still, why was he running towards the substitution zone?

Huang Shaotian's wicked little laugh had been heard clearly by the other players too and the Battlemage didn't even  get any time to be confused because Ye Xiu had immediately shouted out "Did you hear that?? The devil really did not leave the field!"

The Battlemage wanted to reply but she was too focussed on dodging his spear and also avoiding whatever cursed thing Swoksaar chose to throw into the fight.

"So who do you think is better?" asked Ye Xiu suddenly.

"Huh?" the Battlemage wanted to kick herself for playing along but there was nothing she could do.

"Yu Wenzhou or Zhang Xinjie?? I like them both but I would like a second opinion."

Ye Xiu was pleasantly surprised that the Battlemage in spite of having fallen into an unnatural silence didn't lose her focus on defending against him.

"Yu Wenzhou" she replied finally and with a quick roll she turned towards Swoksaar and used Double Stab. It was extremely accurate and she seemed to be in luck for the Bleed effect had been triggered.

But before she could continue there was a slight swear from Zhang Xinjie.

"How dare you?!"

Immovable Rock cast Holy Commandment Light on the Battlemage.

"Now you have pissed him off" said Ye Xiu with a chuckle.

The Battlemage had only taken her eyes off Ye Xiu for a moment but though she twisted around she could not dodge the Dragon Breaks the Ranks.

Though having lost health substantially she continued her attempts to break out but was quickly rounded up again by them. Knowing how two of her team mates had already been trapped so efficiently by Huang Shaotian, she could only hope that their Sharpshooter would do something more from his end.

But the Sharpshooter was in a fix himself.

Dazzling Hundred Blossoms refused to stop chasing him and subconsciously he started to head towards the Cleric.

The Cleric was the only one who was not so carried away by the atmosphere and he immediately realised what was happening.

He rapidly sent a text in chat to not expose his position but it was too late and Dazzling Hundred Blossoms had already pinned him down.

The Sharpshooter felt sheepish about his mistake but the Cleric began to Heal him which boosted his confidence to attack back.

The Sharpshooter began to fire at Dazzling Hundred Blossoms hoping that the Cleric would support on the offensive too when there was a sound behind him.

He quickly turned his camera and to his horror saw the Cleric was on fire. Since he had turned his camera around he also managed to see the brick that was flying right at his face and he rolled to the side.

Emerging from behind the trees was Demon Subduer who immediately started attacking the Cleric.

The Sharpshooter raised his gun to fire but Dazzling Hundred Blossoms came out of the shadows attacking intensely. Demon Subduer paid no heed to the Sharpshooter and continued to pummel the Cleric.

A few people wondered why Huang Shaotian had subbed out to Tang Hao if there plan had been as simple as beating the Cleric up, but experienced eyes in the audience and among other teams understood the reason.

Huang Shaotian had already played in the group arena - two and a half gruelling matches against the relatively senior half of the Australian Team.

It was quite possible that he would not be at full capacity for the team match in such a short time, though the trap he had set using the map was something only he could have done.

It was only logical, that after doing his part he would switch out for someone who could continue the fight without feeling any fatigue.

The Australian roster for the team competition relied on their dynamic youngsters and it suddenly made sense how the similarly young Tang Hao was perfectly suitable to match their aggression.

As Ye Xiu was already using One-Autumn Leaf it put the other youngster Sun Xiang out of the question, and Tang Hao was completely rested for playing in the team round.

Yet many doubted if he was at the same level as the others for a team competition. Their opinions of him were same as the one the Australian team had - rather average compared to the rest of the Chinese team.

But right now the "average" Tang Hao under the protective fire of Zhang Jiale would probably kill off the Cleric at one go.

It was strange how though the Australian Battlemage was the one in a 3 VS 1, it was the Sharpshooter-Cleric duo who were struggling.

The Cleric even landed a successful Sacred Flames on Demon Subduer, but without any support from the Sharpshooter there was no use.

A second before that Demon Subduer had cleverly shot out a Paralysis Needle at the Sharpshooter which not just stopped a follow-up but also left him wide open to whatever Zhang Jiale wanted to throw at him.

Australia's Sharpshooter and Cleric were almost dead under the intense assault while their Battlemage was still being toyed with on the other side of the map.

At the same time Dazzling Hundred Blossoms and Demon Subduer finished off their opponents, the Spellblade and Qi Master finally made it out of the deep pit.

Immediately a message from the Battlemage flashed in the channel asking them to focus on Dazzling Hundred Blossoms and Demon Subduer instead of coming to help her.

But nobody anticipated that Dazzling Hundred Blossoms would actually come looking for them.

Zhang Jiale had already decided that there was no point in hiding again. His character had lost quite a bit of health in the previous altercation and leaving Demon Subduer to focus on the sixth player, an Elementalist, he had directed Dazzling Hundred Blossoms to face the other two.

It still seemed the Australian side could change things around but luck was with Team China, because the swapped in Elementalist had unfortunately triggered another trap. 

Demon Subduer had been heading towards him but quickly came to a standstill and watched as the environmental disaster caused half the trees in the area to come crashing down on the opponent. 

Many people who knew Tang Hao from before could sense the change in him. Normally he would be disgusted with using any kind of indirect trick or underhanded tactics to win. 

But now he waited patiently for the mechanism to deal as much damage as it could before charging at the poor Elementalist who stumbled out. 

It was over

"Looks like you have no luck today!" said Ye Xiu as he blocked the Battlemage from another attempt to escape the encirclement. 

"Aren't you the unlucky one, senior?" she quipped up immediately and countered with a Double Stab "Having to borrow your own account from someone to play?"

"I gave it to him in the first place you know?"

"But too bad you don't know how Battlemages work now!"

Ye Xiu had to admit he was a bit caught off by that comment as the girl used Hundred Dragon Meteor Strike which was a rather common move. But even as he made One-Autumn Leaf weave through the spear shadows he saw her smashing her spear into the ground. 

Shattering the Lands

Ye Xiu actually did understand the skill she had used quite quickly but before he could even do anything One Autumn Leaf was hit by an Ice chaser. 

Ye Xiu could only laugh as the brief stun prevented him from avoiding the full on damage of Shattering the Lands. 

The Battlemage after her sudden burst immediately tried to escape but her character turned unresponsive as it started to rain. 

Chaotic Rain

"And this is why I love him!" shouted Ye Xiu. 

Yu Wenzhou let out a loud laugh and made Swoksaar use a Soul Slice and the slashes fell upon the Battlemage in succession. 

"Oh really?? Then who is going to heal you huh?!" came Zhang Xinjie's exasperated tone. 

The Battlemage almost wanted to bash her keyboard as she saw Immovable Rock use a Great Cure and One-Autumn Leaf recovered his health quickly. 

"Thank you!" shouted Ye Xiu as One-Autumn Leaf immediately charged back at the Battlemage. 

The confusion had worn off and the Battlemage readied herself.

In a way her diligence was rather impressive.

While she was struggling with Swoksaar's attack a sad message had popped up that their Elementalist had fallen. 

Regardless of that she urged the remaining two teammates to finish their task while running through a counterattack plan in her own mind. 

She was no strategist and knew her opponents were far more experienced than her. But she hoped to use her speed to chain together as many skills as possible and deal damage to all of them. 

Even as she prepared to use a Draconian Crusher to stop One-Autumn Leaf, Zhang Xinjie let out an exasperated sigh. 

"I don't want your thanks. Just give me what you gave him the other night."

The Battlemage was so shocked by that statement that her skill missed and One-Autumn Leaf used a Circle Swing to smash her down. 

"Oh come now! That's hardly fair!" protested Ye Xiu. 

"It was very good... " said Yu Wenzhou suddenly "Honestly you missed the experience.... "

"You didn't even ask me!" shouted Zhang Xinjie.

"I thought you wouldn't be interested-" 

Ye Xiu's words were broken off by Zhang Xinjie again but he continued with his combo on the Battlemage effortlessly. 

"Why would I not be interested?!" Zhang Xinjie continued in his annoyed tone "You don't even know if I love-"

"I think he does." said Yu Wenzhou as Swoksaar started casting "But it's so hard to do something spontaneously with you because of how rigid you are-"

The Battlemage suddenly felt her mind clouding hearing all this. She wasn't an innocent or pure girl but it was hard to focus on the game when whatever they were saying felt so inappropriate to her. 

The second-hand embarrassment only made her more angry and finally she grabbed an opening to break free and with a Dragon Breaks the Ranks she lurched into the bushes before rolling into a hiding spot. 

She quickly noted the chat to find that her two teammates had come through and defeated Dazzling Hundred Blossoms and were now making their way towards her. 

The Spellblade and Qi Master were already close to 50℅ health after the fall into the pit, but they managed to minimize their health loss against Zhang Jiale.

Even though Dazzling Hundred Blossoms had tried to retreat back they chased him until they cornered him in a pincer formation and using their strongest skills they took him out quickly. 

Unfortunately as they began to move a Scared Flames landed on them and the two confused players looked around wondering how Immovable Rock had sneaked up on them. 

But it wasn't Immovable Rock. 

Rushing towards them was Demon Subduer

The unremarkable Tang Hao had pulled another trick which the audience had barely noticed. Having used the Tooth for a Tooth skill a while back to save the Sacred Flames from the opponent Cleric, he had waited for the best opportunity to release it. 

Using Street Riot, Demon Subduer launched into another explosive attack and the two opponents almost wanted to cry. 

They finally realised how they had been played. 

The audience could sympathize with them too. 

Dazzling Hundred Blossoms had been retreating towards Demon Subduer and the two players had followed him blindly in their eagerness to wipe him out. 

China's chat was filled with Zhang Jiale constantly updating his position for Tang Hao's benefit and it almost appeared to be the perfect coordinated attack as Dazzling Hundred Blossoms made his final stand in a place that was suitable for Demon Subduer to launch a sneak attack from the side. 

The most marvellous thing about the whole scenario was that the whole time there was not a single text from the three master tacticians to coordinate this plan.

Currently they were blabbering heatedly in the chat about how it was unfair that Ye Xiu favoured Yu Wenzhou over Zhang Xinjie. 

The Battlemage felt a twang of despair now on realising that she couldn't wait for her friends to help her. There was no way she could move without being picked out by the trio who were searching for her. 

It had been a few seconds since she had escaped but her head was still ringing with their annoying chatter that she finally began to understand what the other teams probably felt like. 

"Ok! You use Chaotic Rain at those bushes and I'll use a Rising Dragon Soars the Sky! That will smoke her out!"

The Battlemage wondered for a split second if it was a ruse but she heard the sound of footsteps near her spot and instinctively she sprinted away. 

But as she rushed out of her spot she heard Zhang Xinjie shout "Over here!"

Confused, she moved her camera and saw Immovable Rock floating in the air with Angel Wings. 

From behind she heard the sound of One-Autumn Leaf approaching and in a moment of panic she rolled to the side and back into the clearing. 

And appearing right in front was a Death's Door. 

"Shall we end this?" Ye Xiu said in an amused voice but he only felt respect as the Battlemage shot out a Falling Flower Palm at him before she twisted around and sent the generated Fire Chaser at Swoksaar. 

As the chaser hit Swoksaar the Death's door got deactivated. The Battlemage used a Cloud Whirling Storm and with a small movement switched her target back to One-Autumn Leaf and sent the skill at him. 

"It's no use holding out for your friends.... " said Yu Wenzhou quietly "Our secret weapon is here"

Suddenly the voice chat erupted with a flurry of loud words from Huang Shaotian. 

"Finally I am here!! Don't kill them Tang Hao!! It was really hard to find that trap where I shoved them in!! I wanna see their horrified faces again before you kill them!! Some idiots they are!! Don't you know to be careful of traps and even trees in a place like this!!! Trees can kill!! And Ye Xiu! What do you mean Captain's yours?!!  Captain's mine!! Get your grubby hands away from him!!!"

Hearing Huang Shaotian announcing his arrival, the Battlemage hesitated for a split second before trying to make off into the bushes again. 

But she couldn't stop herself as she moved forward and hit the faint light prison that was forming around her. 

Hexagram Prison

The Battlemage watched the screen numbly as One-Autumn Leaf and the others strolled over. 

She could still hear Huang Shaotian chattering away energetically and in the chat she saw the messages from the other two that their situation was grim too. 

It was rather depressing how after having held on for so long and even avoiding a damn Death's Door, it was a Hexagram Prison that was her undoing. 

"Glory is not meant to be played alone." said Zhang Xinjie. 

"So.... " Ye Xiu laughed before speaking in a dramatic voice "Surrender and we will spare your life!"

The Battlemage's jaw almost dropped hearing this shameless statement and that too on such a stage. 

But these people seemed to have no such thing as shame, for they didn't even care about expressing their untold romantic feelings or thoughts in public. 

"I hope you learnt something" said Yu Wenzhou. 

The Battlemage could imagine the uproar such a condescending statement could cause  but thinking about the match again she suddenly felt silly as it was almost impossible that she had not been killed right in the beginning. 

Did these three actually run a coaching match with her?!! 

"We are done!!" came Huang Shaotian's happy shout "And Tang Hao has copied some Qi Master skill and he wants to try it so you better not finish stuff before we get there!!"

"Your response?" asked Ye Xiu again. 

There was a second of silence and then the Battlemage laughed. 

"Fuck you, seniors!"

The Hexagram Prison disappeared as the Battlemage used Rising Dragon Soars the Sky. 

The match was over, but if anything she was going out with a bang.

"Youth... " said Ye Xiu with a laugh as he lifted his own spear. 

In the end, there was nothing more satisfying than a real game of Glory. 

 

 


 


As Team China stepped out of their booth the audience clapped awkwardly. Everyone felt there had been more to it than what they had seen but the conversations in the voice chat was still too weird to ignore. 

On remembering that Team China winning was actually something everyone had hoped for and that too by smashing the Australian team's tactics in such a brutal way, the audience became more lively and cheered for them. 

"Well done!" said Ye Xiu to everyone with a grin before turning to Tang Hao. 

"Especially you Tang Hao! You played excellently today! Very few people would have noticed that our win was purely thanks to you and Zhang Jiale and a little help from Shaotian's trap! "

"They will only know when they check the kill count." said Yu Wenzhou with a chuckle "I believe Tang Hao defeated 3 people."

Tang Hao broke into an awkward smile "Thank you.... But I couldn't have done it without all your help. And there was some luck too... "

"Yeah! True! But still, good job!" said Huang Shaotian patting his back "That Sacred Flames! Pure genius! Scared the shit out of them!"

Tang Hao felt surprised by Huang Shaotian's friendly gesture. In fact for the first time wherever he looked he could see warm and appreciative smiles for him. 

Were they always like this? Or was he only noticing it now? 

Tang Hao looked at Zhang Jiale who smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. 

"You did good! I told you I believed in you!"

Tang Hao laughed. 

It had been a difficult journey for him so far - to know he was a weak link, to battle his own worries and his awkwardness at being around the people he had mocked and ridiculed at the beginning of his career. 

But the very same people had believed in him and though he had been bewildered by Zhang Jiale's acts of kindness, he had been grateful for his support and encouragement. 

That was why he had put in extra effort to prove that his trust in Tang Hao was not misplaced and agreed to be a part of the grand plan this match, which required him to coordinate with Zhang Jiale. 

If anything Zhang Jiale deserved half the credit for having given him the confidence to believe that he could change and grow. 

Someday he would express his gratitude to him, but for now he was content with listening to him talk about what new dish he wanted to try for dinner. 

 

 

 

As the teams stood in line to shake hands, the few senior members of the Australian team smiled rather apologetically as if to excuse the behavior of their youngsters.

But there was also a faint glimmer in their eyes which suggested they had understood the "instructive" nature of the match and were happy with the lesson taught. 

Most of the youngsters were rather subdued though and the unfortunate duo who had suffered at Huang Shaotian's hands seemed extremely traumatised. 

As Ye Xiu shook the hands of the Battlemage he smiled. 

"You played very well."

The girl looked surprised by this unexpected compliment. But she knew the worth of these words.

Though they played for different countries, even she knew that the person standing before her was not just China's greatest player but also one of the greatest Battlemage's ever. 

"Thank you, senior." she replied in a low voice. 

"And if I may offer a suggestion... if you focus on the actual match, you will be quite a formidable force. Trash-talk isn't an easily acquirable skill."

The Battlemage turned slightly red because this was an obvious call out to their team's strategy which had failed completely this time. 

"I forgot seniors were stronger in that area too!" she replied cheekily. 

"Haha.... and by the way... it was ice cream they were talking about, ok."

The Battlemage grinned as she realised what he was referring to. 

"Thank you for the match!" she said again before moving down the line. 

As Ye Xiu went back to the bench Zhang Xinjie scowled at him. 

"Why are you advising our opponents?! Do you have some obsession with training every single Battlemage you see?!"

"Haha! I'm sorry..." Ye Xiu smiled "Shouldn't break their young hearts right? But we have struck fear into them so they will be very wary next time!"

"You and your stupid plan!" Zhang Xinjie finally let out his true emotions and Yu Wenzhou laughed seeing this. 

"We better receive compensation for this mental torture!" 

"Huh?" Ye Xiu looked at the two of them "How can you both be so cruel? After I have finally let out those untold passions.... and revealed how much I truly care about you -"

Ye Xiu couldn't even finish his sentence and began laughing as the two grabbed his arms roughly, glaring at him. 

"Don't you dare!!" Zhang Xinjie said "If you so much as mention this incident again I swear I will-"

"Haha!!!" Ye Xiu wriggled his arms out and placed his hands lightly on their shoulders "But honestly, I couldn't have done it without you.... "

"Now... why don't you treat us? As an apology for putting us through this embarrassment??" said Yu Wenzhou sweetly "And this time from your own pocket."

Ye Xiu laughed weakly, almost regretting how he had made the other two pay for everything when they had gone out to the city on their off-day. 

"How about a romantic date at the park again then?" he said "That same old uncomfortable bench, in the cold wind, eating ice-creams and talking Glory?"

"I'll take the ice-cream and Glory." said Zhang Xinjie immediately "And the entire team is coming because I can't have my reputation ruined after the stunt you pulled off today!!"

"We might be trending.... " said Yu Wenzhou with a laugh as he scrolled through his phone. 

"Good! Let's give old Han and old Wei a little shock! But for now why don't we go in and analyse the match? I bet the others are eager to walk through the intricacies of our conversations!"

Drowning out the wails of protests from the two, Ye Xiu turned away with a smile. 

As much as he loved Glory, it truly was more fun when he could enjoy it with the people he loved.