Chen Guo carefully cut out the news article and added it to her file.
She flipped through the leaves slowly, almost feeling proud of Team China's journey as if she had been by their side every second.
She had documented every single match - wins and losses and she felt quite happy that there was atleast one article highlighting each player.
All of China was proud of their players and Chen Guo was the proudest because now, these people were more than just stars on a television for her.
As China stormed into the playoffs, the Internet Cafe had exploded with cheers, with Chen Guo screaming the loudest. The playoffs had been truly gruelling and more than once Chen Guo had felt worried about them. But they had fought on, resilient as ever and finally entered the finals.
As predicted by many experts, the finals was between two of the strongest teams in the Championship : China and South Korea.
The first two matches had ended with both teams winning a match each. Realising that such a situation was possible in the very first championships because of the extremely skilled nature of both teams, the organizers had decided to hold the deciding match only after a week of rest.
While Chen Guo was sure that the teams themselves would appreciate this room for preparation after playing back-to-back matches, sh felt frustrated as now she had to live with the stress for a whole week.
She had tried to distract herself by focussing on the customers and taking care of the rest of Team Happy. Though she had an urge to call Ye Xiu or Su Mucheng at times, she resisted as she was sure they would be too busy with the preparations for the final match.
One last match
Chen Guo wished a customer would come in now so that she could stop worrying herself and as if on cue the door to the Cafe swing open.
But seeing the man entering inside, Chen Guo's eyes narrowed.
"You are a little too early for lunch!" she said immediately.
"I know!" shouted back Wei Chen "I'll just check on the kids!"
Chen Guo sighed as Wei Chen went up the stairs humming softly.
If there was a king of leechers then that was Wei Chen. But inspite of her pocket getting lighter each time he dropped around, Chen Guo did not feel like stopping him.
After everything he had done for the team the least she could do was feed him. But it truly annoyed her that Wei Chen did not seem to have any idea of what to do next. Though he claimed to be busy she was sure that it was certainly not because of a job.
He was an adult too and Chen Guo did not think there was any point in scolding or threatening him and so she let him be.
Chen Guo went up the stairs to the training room and smiled hearing the excited chatter.
Inside was Team Happy - Tang Rou, Steamed Bun, Luo Ji, Qiao Yifan, Mo Fan and An Wenyi - along with a couple of new recruits. Due to the World Championship hype, the normal season schedule had been adjusted to have the playoffs only after the World finals and the team was busy training.
Wei Chen was now moving around easily as he made conversation to them, staring at their screens and cracking jokes.
At moments like these Chen Guo did appreciate his presence. Though she had tried to make the team as comfortable as possible she knew that in the absence of all their senior players it would still be quite different. But Wei Chen filled that void by coming around often and even the rookies knew him well enough now to play around with him.
Besides easing the mood, he also had plenty of experience to share with everyone and Chen Guo had to admit that his inputs had been very valuable in helping Team Happy make it to the playoffs.
With almost every big player in Switzerland, the Season 11 Championships had been quitenm strange, but it had revealed many interesting talents and right now Happy had many people rooting for their win.
This again was something that made Chen Guo happy and tensed at the same time and she tried not to get too ahead with her imagination.
"So where are we eating from today?" asked Wei Chen.
"So you only came for lunch then, Senior Wei??" said a rookie with a laugh.
"No! I will never do that!!" siad Wei Chen with a dramatic expression before turning back to Chen Guo with a hopeful look.
"Just soup for you. You are getting fat." she replied dryly.
Wei Chen's jaw dropped but he began to laugh.
"Boss has such a good sense of humor!!" he said "We had chicken yesterday didn't we? Let's try something else today!"
Chn Guo knew he would be deaf to whatever insults she threw at him but she has to try, especially since she did not want to set a bad example to the impressionable youngsters in the room.
"When are to going to treat us, Wei Chen?" asked Tang Rou suddenly with an innocent smile.
"Ah.... soon.... once I win big!" he replied.
Chen Guo rolled her eyes because she had been hearing this for quite a while.
"Ok! Let's have lunch now!" she said with a clap "You can continue practice later!"
"You heard the boss let's go!!" said Wei Chen immediately as he started pulling up the kids.
Chen Guo went back down even as she heard Wei Chen start one of his many gambling tales.
"Why are you just slouching around, Boss?? Don't you have anything to do?!!"
Chen Guo looked up in irritation.
Besides food and an audience for his tales, the only other reason why Wei Chen dropped around was to annoy her.
"Look who's talking! When are you going to pay back the money I lent you??"
"I will! Don't get so aggressive!"
Wei Chen's voice was earnest but his eyes twinkled mischievously and Chen Guo knew she would never be getting that money back.
Not that she kept tabs anyway.
"But still... less customers than usual." observed Wei Chen as he sat on a chair and wheeled himself over to where Chen Guo was sitting "Maybe you should get out there and do some advertising!"
"Would you like a job then?" asked Chen Guo sarcastically but was shocked seeing Wei Chen thinking deeply.
"I'm just joking...." she squeaked before getting another idea "I mean... if you want to work, it is possible! I can arrange something like how I did with Ye Xiu back then! Food and board and you can work-"
"No way!" shouted Wei Chen interrupting her "Only a fool like him would accept an offer so cheap!"
"Who are you calling cheap?!" Chen Guo pursed her lips "It's better than your situation!"
"Oh I have a room! And I make money in my own ways-"
"Right... by gambling, bullying normal people in-game and whatever else!"
"I'm impressed! Care to be a partner? It pays better than the Cafe!'
"No... I would rather have my integrity than all the money in the world!"
"Really? You can have mine too! I just want the money!"
Chen Guo let out a deep sigh and laid her head on the table.
"I'm too tired to argue with you.... Go away."
"Oh?? Why do you say that? Besides Boss what's the point of trying to hire me when you don't even have any customers?"
Chen Guo looked up and shook her head.
"Not like I can do anything about it... "
"Huh? But the place was pretty full during Christmas right?"
"Yeah... a new Cafe opened down the street. Big and Fancy. With an attached coffee shop too I think. Most of the business is down there now."
"Why don't you start a coffee shop?"
"Do you think I have the staff or the finances to compete with them? All I can hope for is the regular customers when we screen the finals this Sunday."
"Hmm.... " Wei Chen fell silent for a while and scratched at the table.
"Ah I don't mind!" said Chen Guo wondering if she had made things awkward "That's how business is! Maybe after Tang Rou and the others are free I can host some kind of competition and attract a few people but for now I just want to let everyone focus on their priorities."
Wei Chen nodded and got up.
"Don't expect me for dinner! Zhao Yang is treating us to lobster tonight?"
"When is it your turn to treat people?"
"When I lose. Even if I don't win all the time, I take great care not to lose! Didn't I tell you how that bastard Lin Jingyan made off with a brand new phone after beating Sun Zheping?? And I don't want to be a bigger burden on your finances so I try my best to win!"
"Be off with you!! The next time you ask me for money, I'll give you my fist!!"
Wei Chen laughed and left with a wave while Chen Guo sat back in exhaustion.
It was strange that however annoying he was, in the end he certainly was good company.
"Wow, Guo Guo!! You are certainly busy today! There was practically nobody here yesterday!" exclaimed Tang Rou looking around the Cafe.
"Yes! It's crazy!" Chen Guo quickly turned to the next customer and handed him a login card "I even let Ah Ning take the week off thinking there would be no business!"
"Do you want me to help?" asked Tang Rou.
Though she had only come down for a quick drink of water, seeing her friend deal with the rush, she felt compelled to offer her assistance.
"Ah it's fine.... Go continue training!" Chen Guo smiled back and went off to attend to another customer.
After nearly two hours Che Guo sat back at the front desk, tired but satisfied. Tang Rou had come down by then and she smiled at Chen Guo.
"Did you do something to attract all these people here? I thought everyone was at the big Cafe down the street. "
"Yes... that's what I thought too. I asked a few of them and they said the other Cafe apparently has rats running around and that's why they came back here."
"Rats?!!" asked Tang Rou in surprise, for she had seen the other Cafe already and had thought it was a rather fine and well-managed establishment.
"I know right?! I was surprised too! Apparently some customer created a huge ruckus and wanted to file a complaint! And he even claimed the rat ran over his foot and towards the coffee shop!"
Chen Guo didn't want to be happy at someone else's misfortune but it would be stupid to not capitalise on an opportunity either so she didn't really mind.
The door opened and Wei Chen swaggered in.
"Didn't I say business would pick up soon!? " shouted out Chen Guo triumphantly.
"Yes.. Yes... " said Wei Chen scanning the room before looking back at Chen Guo with a smirk.
"I hope there are no rats here!"
Chen Guo' hands went cold hearing this.
"Wait... you...YOU DID NOT!!!!"
Wei Chen merely laughed as he ran away.
He knew Chen Guo was too good a soul to do something for herself.
That's why he had decided to do it for her.
"Everyone's out?" asked Wei Chen as he came in puffing on a cigarette.
"Put that out!" said Chen Guo "I just cleaned the floor!"
"It's a beautiful day Boss!" said Wei Chen as he sat down on a chair and carefully kept the cigarette on the table "Why don't you go out and relax?"
"Who's going to look after the Cafe? Not everyone is like you without a care in the world!"
"Hmm..." Wei Chen nodded amicably.
Before he could speak, the front door opened and Tang Rou entered.
"Hey! Had fun?!" asked Chen Guo.
"Yep! Had to wind it up quickly because Du Ming had to go back for a session."
"Wait? Du Ming?!!" Wei Chen immediately turned around and put on a horrified expression "That young scamp from Samsara?! As your adopted Grandfather I will not allow you to date a man of such lowly origins!"
Chen Guo rolled her eyes and suppressed a snigger. Wei Chen always did have a knack for drama
Tang Rou laughed "Don't worry! It's nothing like that! We just hang out."
"When are you meeting up again?" asked Chen Guo, low-key excited of the thought that Tang Rou was interested in something besides Glory.
"After the season probably" said Tang Rou with a smile "He said that Zhou Zekai is bringing imported chocolates for them and he will have a special box for me on our next meeting."
"Pft! Proposing with chocolate! Only a dolt like him would think up of that plan!"
"Oh then how would you do it?" challenged Chen Guo immediately.
"Eh... you know... romantically.... under the stars. A diamond ring."
"So you have the finances for a diamond ring?"
"Okay! Scratch the ring! Just the stars and a bottle of - or maybe not. That's expensive too."
"How about coke?"
"Yep! That sounds amazing"
Chen Guo gave an exasperated sigh and waved Tang Rou away. There was no reason why she had to listen to their ridiculous bantering.
After Tang Rou left Chen Guo turned to Wei Chen.
"Don't you dare try to put her off this! I'm really happy that she's getting out in life!"
"Why would I do that?! I absolutely support what you said!"
"Really?" Chen Guo raised her eyebrow sceptically and Wei Chen nodded.
"Of course! I get out so much! I have so many close friends - Fang Shijing, Lin Jingyan, Sun Zheping, Zhao Yang, Fang Shiqian - I can go on forever!! And we get together to play not just Glory but real games too!"
"Like cards?? Poker?? Real games huh? And what's this group actually?? Retired old people's community?!"
"Old for Glory but young at heart!"
"Ha! Bunch of no-job scammers! That's what!"
"Not true! Zhao Yang works with a newspaper! Fang Shiqian works at a store! Fang Shijing works in a restaurant! And Ling Jingyan is completing some course to become a teacher!"
"And you? What are you doing?"
Wei Chen looked up hopefully.
"I'm a part of the Internet Cafe right?"
"Like hell you are!! You can consider yourself mentor of Team Happy though... "
"Good enough! I plan to make as much as money as I can and then go on a world trip!"
"Oh nice! All alone or with your friends?"
"They are too busy with their own lives! You can come if you want to!"
"What would I do? I bet your idea of fun is not what I have in mind!"
"We can do stuff you want too." said Wei Chen generously.
Chen Guo just shook her head with a smile. It was quite odd that they were having such a normal conversation.
Sometimes she wondered why Wei Chen still spent his time around at the Cafe. It was strange to think he was here for something more than just food.
But she never criticised him too much about this.
It was not like she didn't want him to come anymore.
Chen Guo took a long look at the handbag. She knew she didn't need it but it was rather pretty and would certainly match with the new pair of shoes she had bought the other day.
She wasn't too bothered about what she wore most of the time but this particular bag was so attractive and she lingered for a while contemplating whether to buy it or not.
But finally she gave up on seeing the price tag.
"Let's go!" she said tapping Wei Chen who was looking at a line of biker jackets.
"Huh? Aren't you gonna buy that?" he asked as he took one of the jackets.
"Why were you looking at it for so long if you were not gonna buy it?!"
"Just shut up and come along! We have lots more shopping to do!"
Chen Guo tossed her head and stalked off leaving Wei Chen staring at her bemusedly.
She didn't expect him to understand. After all she was sure his policy was look only for what you want to buy and buy whatever you are looking at.
Unfortunately she could not be so carefree with her money.
She went through her list as she stocked up on snacks and energy drinks. The young men of Team Happy had offered to look after the Cafe for the day in return for her doing the shopping and Chen Guo had been quite glad to get the chance to go out.
But window-shopping alone wasn't very fun - Tang Rou had been invited by the Shu sisters for a shopping trip and Chen Guo didn't want to impose on them. Instead she had taken Wei Chen along to carry the bags and also to make sure he stocked up on some basic commodities himself.
Right now she felt very annoyed though as Wei Chen had disappeared and she carried the two large shopping bags with some difficulty.
Scanning the crowd she finally saw a puff of smoke approaching her.
"Where the hell did you run off to?! Help me with these!"
"Sorry, Boss!" came the quick reply as Wei Chen grabbed a bag and followed her.
Chen Guo noticed he had another bag in his hand and she wondered if she had been too harsh. It was quite possible he had just slipped off to buy something.
They came back to the Cafe and immediately Steamed Bun ran over to inspect the snacks.
He and Luo Ji started to fight over the distribution of the food while An Wenyi came over to convey that the customer ledger was poorly maintained and that he had taken the liberty to correct some stuff.
"Ah...ok" said Chen Guo and looked around "Where's Yifan? And Mo Fan?"
Chen Guo was surprised that Mo Fan was interacting with the customers but seeing how he was assisting the people having trouble with their systems she smiled widely.
As Chen Guo was about to get back to the desk, Wei Chen tapped her shoulder and shoved his bag into her hands.
"What? You want me to store your stuff here too?"
"Take a look!"
Chen Guo looked inside and fell into a stunned silence
The very same handbag she had torn herself away from.
"Indulge" said Wei Chen with a wave of his hands before going over to join Steamed Bun and Luo Ji in their discussion.
Chen Guo went through the articles again. She was sure that she had gone through her collection of news clips a million times today - and it was not a small collection at all - spanning from Ye Xiu's time in Excellent Era when he was still know. as Ye Qiu to the achievements of the China Glory Team.
Chen Guo had no idea why she was feeling so anxious when the match was going to be played miles away in Switzerland.
Tomorrow's match would decide everything and Chen Guo wondered, if she was already feeling on edge how much worse would her state be the next day.
She had tried to do everything to calm herself down but nothing seemed to work and she didn't want to annoy anybody else with her thoughts either.
"Why so nervous, Boss? It's almost like you are going up on stage tomorrow!"
Chen Guo scowled at Wei Chen and continued to rearrange her file.
"Look dinner's over so I think it's time for you to go and do whatever it is you do on Saturday nights!"
"Ok! Come on! Let's go out!" said Wei Chen decisively and before Chen Guo could refuse he whisked the file away from her hands and pulled her up.
"I don't think I'm in the mood...." she replied sourly.
"Ah then you will get into it! Now come on!"
Chen Guo grabbed her jacket and half-heartedly followed him out.
In a way Wei Chen was probably the best distraction for her now.
"You are kidding right?!" shouted Chen Guo but Wei Chen just laughed rudely before sitting at a computer a row ahead.
"Hope you can see my screen!" he yelled and Chen Guo looked down mortified.
She had been wary from the start as the two had gone to a random Internet Cafe and when Wei Chen had handed over her account card, her suspicions had been confirmed.
If there was anything in her list of "things not to do in life", running a black inn was at the top of the list.
But Wei Chen scoffed aside her protests and started Glory and though Chen Guo had a good mind to leave, she found herself logging in too.
In the beginning she felt awkward and stressed thinking if someone where to find out they would be in trouble but Wei Chen's casual jokes and easy-going chatter rubbed off on her. Soon she was too busy with focussing on the two screens that she forgot about everything else.
"That was fun right?" asked Wei Chen finally as he stood behind her waiting for her to log off.
Chen Guo knew he was probably smirking but for once she gave in good-naturedly.
"Yeah. It was fun."
The two left the Cafe and started to walk back home.
Chen Guo felt a bit silly thinking how she had been so worried before. In the end this was Glory and every match had a winner and a loser. She wondered if she would have had such feelings if she did not associate so closely with many of the players on the team.
But that was a question she had no answer for.
"Wei Chen..." she said finally "Do you - do you think they can win?"
Wei Chen was surprisingly silent for a while before he started speaking.
"I don't know..." he said quietly "They have the ability, no doubt. But it is still too early. They have already come so far and I have faith in them to do their best. But when you think about it, they are still young no matter how much they have grown. Whether they can win is quite different from whether they will win."
Chen Guo was silent for a second as she tried to process what Wei Chen was saying.
"Wait... you mean Ye Xiu and the others still need to grow??"
Wei Chen whirled around and stared at her as if she was crazy before realisation dawned and he began to laugh.
"Wait! You were talking about those guys?!" he shouted "I thought it was about Team Happy!! Why are you worried about that lot?! Those upstarts act like they have practically won the Championships!!
Also they better win with all the bragging they did when they got selected as the elite squad of representatives! In fact if they don't get the title, the Alliance is probably not going to get them return tickets so they better win if they don't want to turn into icicles up there!!"
Chen Guo burst into laughter hearing this, but it also made her feel relaxed hearing the confidence in Wei Chen's voice.
"Why don't you talk to them if you are so worried?" said Wei Chen taking out his phone "I bet they are enjoying photoshoots in the mountains now instead of training!"
Chen Guo tried to stop him from making the call but it was too late and the tone was already playing.
The last phone call she had made was a day after Christmas and Su Mucheng had entertained her with all their shenanigans at the Christmas event held for the teams.
After that it was the playoffs and Chen Guo had not called again as she didn't want to disturb their concentration in even the smallest way.
She hoped they wouldn't pick up the call now because of their intense preparations but her hopes were dashed as she heard Ye Xiu's familiar drawl.
Wei Chen immediately tossed the phone to Chen Guo and after a moment she squeaked a response.
"Hey... It's me... I hope -"
Chen Guo felt a rush of happiness hearing Fang Rui's voice on the other side. Soon Su Mucheng joined in and Chen Guo chattered with her three friends excitedly.
Hearing their voices made her feel so much lighter and she finally realised that she was the only one getting so tensed about the match, while the players themselves were composed and relaxed.
After nearly ten minutes of chatter, Chen Guo wished them good luck for the next match .
"Thanks!" said Ye Xiu "Glad you called!"
Chen Guo looked at Wei Chen who was standing nearby and smiled. She gestured if he wanted to talk but even though he refused she handed him the phone with a loud declaration that "someone else wants to say hello."
Chen Guo was sure that after the initial "hi", Wei Chen would just mumble a few pleasantaries but then an energetic voice came over the line.
"Captain!!!" Huang Shaotian burst into a torrent of words and Wei Chen began to laugh as he started shouting back. Soon Yu Wenzhou joined the call and now Chen Guo stood to the side smiling as Wei Chen conversed with his two proteges.
Finally after a thousand goodbyes and promises for bringing back souvenirs they hung up.
"See ya tomorrow! And gotta thank you for putting me on the call!" said Wei Chen as they parted ways at they Cafe.
"Sure! Just one thing I've wanted to ask for a while!" said Chen Guo suddenly.
"I know you don't like sitting on the sidelines and that's why you left Blue Rain and everything. But right now even though you said you don't want to be Happy's mentor you still hang about all the time! Is it because you are reconsidering things or because you don't really have any plans?
Because I meant what I said before, ok? You are always welcome and yeah you can work at the Cafe if you don't want to be too close to Glory anymore - Why are you looking at me like that???"
"What brought this up?!" cried out Wei Chen in amusement.
"Well... you looked happy now" said Chen Guo awkwardly "I think... you want to connect with people but you are too proud. I was just wondering if you know... someday when you actually make all the money and leave would you even bother with a phone call unless you were forced to!"
Wei Chen looked at her for a moment and chuckled.
"Don't worry... I'm not leaving."
"Really?" Chen Guo wasn't very convinced by his tone but Wei Chen just winked.
"Not this time. Especially when I've got more than one reason why I keep coming back."
Chen Guo wanted to demand a proper explanation but Wei Chen had already left.
Chen Guo's eyes were glued to the screen.
She dared not look away due to the superstitious fear that her movement might cause Team China to lose.
When the roster for the team match had been announced, Chen Guo had immediately started to panic seeing Ye Xiu was not there but Wei Chen had comforted her with a smile.
"He doesn't even have to be on the field to make his presence known."
Chen Guo noticed how seriously Ye Xiu was discussing with the players going up and she immediately realised the meaning of Wei Chen's words.
Yu Wenzhou, Huang Shaotian, Zhou Zekai, Sun Xiang, Zhang Xinjie and Su Mucheng
They were not Ye Xiu but each one of them had a little bit of Ye Xiu in them.
Whether it be teamwork, cunning, tenacity, confidence, strategy or his unwavering spirit - together they embodied what made Ye Xiu the legendary player he was.
And it was clear Ye Xiu knew this exact point as he watched his team go on stage.
The match was full of twists and turns but in the end the sound of cannon fire ushered in the winner of the Championships - Team China.
All of Happy jumped up cheering and from the other parts of the Cafe and even the streets they heard more cheers resonating.
They were the champions.
As Team China received the trophy, Wei Chen smiled. Like any other player in China now he felt the pride of the victory.
Many years back, he would have felt bitter at a moment like this.
Bitter that he had not received such an opportunity.
But now he only felt contentment.
And he knew the person next to him was partly responsible for that.
He sometimes failed to understand why she bothered with him at all. But that was one of the many things he appreciated about her.
His contentment came from the feeling that perhaps there was still more to life than just Glory.
Last night when she had asked him why he was still around the answer had hit him crystal clear.
It was not really for Happy or for Glory or even for the food.
It was for the company.
Chen Guo's company to be precise.
He couldn't find any words to express himself and so he had just tried to do it with his actions.
But after last night he wasn't sure if it had made any impact at all.
Wei Chen followed the team towards the door and as they discussed about where to have a celebratory dinner he finally decided to take the leap.
Sometimes words were the only way to go.
"Hey" Wei Chen tapped Chen Guo's shoulder to catch her attention.
"Yeah? Any ideas on where to eat?!" she asked happily.
"Actually I wanted to ask you something."
"Do you want to get married?"
There was a long pause as Chen Guo stared at him in silence.
"Why are you asking me that now?!!" she shouted "Is this a joke?!!"
"Not a joke! And it's a great moment right?! Winning the Championships and all!!"
"What?! They won it in Switzerland!! What did you do?! Are you drunk?!"
"No!! I mean think about it! We are old-"
"Speak for yourself!"
"Ok! I am young! You are whatever! We like Glory! You are a miser. I am a spendthrift. We run a great black inn together! "
Chen Guo suppressed her smile and tried to stare fiercely at him.
"Atleast think about it...." he added.
"This is kinda sudden." replied Chen slowly but Wei Chen rolled his eyes.
"Not my fault you can't pick up hints! I even said I have another reason for sticking around!"
Chen Guo's expression slightly softened but she laughed and patted his shoulder "I'll think about it... Let's see if you can say the same thing tomorrow after a hangover!"
Before Wei Chen could say anything Chen Guo slipped her arm around his and pulled him forward.
"Let's go! The others are waiting!"
As they followed the team, Chen Guo wondered why she hadn't picked up all the hints.
Perhaps it was her comfort and closeness when around him that made her think things were perfect the way they were.
To be honest it was the timing of the question rather than the question itself that had thrown her off but if Wei Chen had actually decided to put something like that into words then it was as sincere as he could be.
Chen Guo looked up and smiled seeing the starry sky.
"So pretty!" she exclaimed and was pleasantly surprised when Wei Chen responded.
"Yeah... It's beautiful."