Edited by Tin
After Yu Yang got his passport, He Xiaoxu collected the four passports from the team to prepare to make business visas for them. He also took the passport of Team Two’s leader, Xin Ba.
Xin Ba was surprised at the sudden favor shown, and was not even able to speak smoothly, stammering, “I… I’m part of this too? I’m going to Busan too? Th-th-this…”
He Xiaoxu fooled him by speaking partly true and partly false words, “Youth doesn’t have any real estate under him, and he doesn’t really have any cash either. Now that they are so strict with the business visas, who knows what will happen. I signed you up to be a substitute player. Go ahead and go to Busan. If something goes wrong, you can substitute and play, if all’s well… You can think of it as going there to help people buy souvenirs from Busan. You won’t lose out either way, so prepare yourself.”
Xin Ba was so happy his face turned red and he hurriedly nodded in agreement. He promised loudly that he would start to do extra training and swore not to embarrass HOG.
He Xiaoxu let out a breath of relief, holding onto Xin Ba’s passport and leaving.
“Thankfully Xin Ba is an honest person,” Lai Hua sighed. “If we met with someone who was more scheming, they would probably be able to guess what was going on already.”
“What is there to guess, even if he realized something, he wouldn’t guess that it has anything to do with Qi Zui. At most, he would suspect that I don’t trust Youth.” He Xiaoxu was still frightened. “Amitabha1, please let Qi Zui be able to hold on until the Busan Invitational Cup is over. If we have to let Simba take his place… I don’t dare to imagine what would happen.”
Lai Hua had a headache. Xin Ba’s skills were not bad, and if his luck was good, he would be able to get a place in another team’s main team, but in comparison to Qi Zui…
“Of course, it would be best to have Qi Zui play.” He Xiaoxu took Lai Hua’s passport. “It’s fine even if his condition deteriorates. Even if he doesn’t do anything, he’s able to scare a few people to death just by standing there.”
“Don’t even think about doing that,” Lai Hua gave a warning look to He Xiaoxu. “If his condition deteriorates, I won’t let him play anymore.”
He Xiaoxu did not understand why Lai Hua suddenly became so stern. He laughed awkwardly, “What’s going on?”
Lai Hua’s tone became even more serious, “I’m not joking around with you. I’m the coach, I’m the one deciding who plays and who doesn’t. If Qi Zui’s condition worsens because of his hand injury, I won’t let him play, not even for a single round.”
“You…” He Xiaoxu felt awkward, “Wh-Why?”
“I’m just warning you beforehand, so that you won’t do the opposite of what I want just for the team’s ranking.” Lai Hua said in a serious voice. “Even if we get last, I will take responsibility. If the haters want to scold me, they can scold me. I can also accept the punishment from the management. This is my decision and arrangement, there is no reason.”
After he finished speaking, Lai Hua felt that he had been acting a little out of the ordinary. He coughed once, then looked at He Xiaoxu. He did not say anything else and he turned around to stare at Team One’s training match.
With the Asian Invitational Cup coming up, aside from Qi Zui, the rest of Team One increased their training by two hours each day.
There was even a day where Yu Yang sat in front of the computer for nineteen hours. If it weren’t for Qi Zui chasing him away, he could still play two more matches.
“I heard from Qi Zui that you don’t really want to direct the game?” Lai Hua was having a one-on-one, heart-to-heart talk with Yu Yang. “Why is that? Do you not want to obey the arrangements of our team?”
Qi Zui was playing on his phone by the side. When he heard those words, he did not even raise his head as he supported Lai Hua, “You don’t want to obey the arrangements?”
Yu Yang felt awkward, saying in a low voice, “I’m the Fragger…”
“How does that interfere with you directing the game?” Lai Hua frowned. “Don’t be difficult! This isn’t the time to throw a fit. This was a decision made by the entire team!”
Bu Nana had just finished playing one match, and when he heard those words, he poked his head out to ask, “Together? Who? Who decided this?”
Lao Lai suppressed his anger, turning around to ask Bu Nana, “You want to try being the commander? Let me tell you! To train your ability to read the overall situation, all of you need to train at being the leader! Not just Youth! It’s just that it’s not your turn yet!”
“I don’t want to,” Bu Nana shrunk back into his seat quickly. “I’ll listen to the orders of whoever leads… don’t ask me.”
Lao Kai also hid away with Bu Nana. “I don’t want to either.”
Lai Hua was angry. “When you hear those trolls scold you and call you a pug2, don’t you get angry?”
“Nope,” Lao Kai said innocently, “Woof woof woof.”
Lai Hua was so angry that his lungs hurt. He held onto the desk and sat down, taking a breath, then continued to persuade Yu Yang, “Don’t learn from them… You’re a substitute player, it was hard for you to get to this position, and you should know that you need to learn everything.”
Yu Yang took a glance at Qi Zui uneasily, confused. “I’m …still a substitute player?”
“Oh, you’re not anymore,” Lai Hua was so angry he was dizzy, slurring his words, “But you can’t forget your roots. Youth, when you spent one day as a substitute player! You’ll forever be a substitute player!”
Yu Yang looked at Lai Hua in disbelief, dumbfounded, “I need to be a substitute player forever?!”
Official team member Bu Nana looked at Yu Yang in pity, heart aching for him, “Tsk tsk tsk, poor child, what a life you live…”
Lai Hua had been angry all day, and he was already a little delirious. He said, as if in a stupor, “If you want to have a firm standing in this team, you need to work harder than everyone! You cannot let yourself be looked down upon by others! Do you understand?!”
The chicken soup3 coming down like torrential rain causing Yu Yang to be completely drenched, with a penetrating coldness in his heart. Yu Yang looked over at Qi Zui repeatedly, his voice rising unconsciously, “I…I’m going to forever… be a substitute player?”
“That’s right!” Lai Hua hit the desk. “You’re naturally of lower status than others, so what?! Are you scared?!”
The corner of Yu Yang’s mouth twitched and he muttered, “…I’m not scared.”
Yu Yang continuously turned his head back to look at Qi Zui. The expression in his eyes that showed he was seeking help was too strong and Qi Zui finally could not bear it anymore. He tried not to smile as he took his phone and headed towards the lounge.
Lai Hua said loudly, “Are you scared or not?”
Yu Yang forced out, “I’m not scared…”
Lai Hua was unsatisfied, “Louder! I can’t hear you!”
Yu Yang: “…”
“Do you think Lai Hua’s menopause started early?”
In the lounge, Qi Zui was leaning on the gaming chair, his face expressionless as he played his phone and listened to He Xiaoxu nag.
When he heard about Lai Hua’s arrangements for the Asian Invitational Cup, Qi Zui was quite surprised, he smiled, “Did he really say that?”
“Of course!” He Xiaoxu said resentfully, “Wow, you didn’t get to see it, but his expression turned nasty on the spot. It seriously scared me to death… I’m less and less able to get along with him nowadays, really.”
Qi Zui looked He Xiaoxu up and down, sighing. Looks like it wasn’t advisable to become part of the team’s management after retiring. In the past, He Xiaoxu was once a man who was as straight as a steel rod. After seven or eight years working on the eSports team, he had actually become someone with gender dysphoria4.
He Xiaoxu felt extremely bitter5, “Do you think that he’s been provoked so much lately that his brain became…”
He Xiaoxu was confused, “Huh? Him? How’s he benevolent?”
Qi Zui placed his phone down, raising his eyes and asking He Xiaoxu, “If I absolutely must retire, when do you think is the best time to do so?”
He Xiaoxu did not know how to reply and said awkwardly, “Why… are you suddenly talking about this?”
“Lai Hua is my Captain and also my coach. He understands my situation and has predicted that during the Asian Invitational Cup in Busan, my condition will deteriorate. However… even if it does, I’d still be better than Xin Ba, so why does he want him to play instead of me?”
He Xiaoxu said dully, “That’s right, why?”
Qi Zui smiled. “Do you remember when Lai Hua retired?”
He Xiaoxu painstakingly tried to recall, “At that time… his waist injury was so serious that he could not even sit down for an hour. In the end, he had a numbing injection, and it got a little better, but his condition kept worsening, and he lost two rounds, then… then he retired…”
“He lost a total of three rounds,” Qi Zui corrected He Xiaoxu, then said mildly, “Do you remember how many rounds Lao Lai8 won?”
He Xiaoxu stammered.
“You don’t remember, and the fans don’t remember either,” Qi Zui sneered, “In the past, Captain was also the Gun God, he was also God-Lai, and he was also the Right Hand of God.
“There are only two kinds of situations in which professional eSports players retire… One is in the moment when they have succeeded, seeking defeat alone and leaving the stage with a smile, leaving behind a legendary story. That’s the most intelligent method.”
“There is another kind, which is what happened to Lao Lai.” Qi Zui tapped the table, his voice calm, “Experienced the peak, earned achievements, enjoyed all the glory of being a professional eSports player, but then, as they grow older… their condition begins to decline bit by bit, however, they refuse to give in to their fate. For their dreams, for their team, for a whole cluster of messy things… they doggedly cling onto eSports, until they are completely trampled on and trashed by new players or when they are badmouthed by all the fans as a useless member in the team. Only then, are they forced to leave.”
“The result of persevering is getting badmouthed until you retire, and after that, you become a joke.”
“There are two roads laid out here, if you were to choose, which would you choose?”
He Xiaoxu felt himself choke up, and suddenly, he was unable to say a single word.
Qi Zui smiled, “Lao Lai is forcing me to choose the first path.”
“Don’t blame him. He’s also under a lot of stress…” Qi Zui stood up. “Don’t worry, I know exactly how things stand and in the worst-case scenario, I’ll just get a numbing injection. Youth, he’s…still young, I need to try my best to hold on.”
After he said his piece, Qi Zui pushed the door open and left. He Xiaoxu was in a daze for a while in the lounge before he left as well.
The lighting in the hallway was bad, so no one noticed that on the floorboards outside the lounge, there was a bit of ash left on the floor.
From that day on, Yu Yang seemed to be a changed person. Suddenly, he was no longer against taking up the commanding position.