Last year…… Three months…… North America……
Yu Yang’s throat suddenly felt tight.
That was when they had just broken up.
“I……” The smile of Yu Yang’s face dimmed, his voice hoarse, “I thought……”
Qi Zui laughed and said in a low voice, “Thought that I didn’t give a shit about you then, right?”
Yu Yang didn’t say a word, he had thought that way when they had first broken up.
Qi Zui was gone for half a year and Yu Yang had just realised what had happened back then.
Qi Zui had left in a hurry, and he had asked for the break-up when Yu Yan wasn’t feeling well, so Yu Yang spent a long time trying to recall the details of what transpired then. He was too slow on the uptake and he wasn’t sure of what Qi Zui had meant. A few days after Qi Zui left, Yu Yang tried all sorts of ways to contact Qi Zui but he had already been blocked on all the messaging platforms. He tried sending a text message to Qi Zui, asking awkwardly due to his urgency, “What are you doing?”
Qi Zui’s phone, then, was connected to American service providers and only had data, so the text Yu Yang sent him went unseen.
The two had just gotten together during the training for the Goblet of Fire, and it hadn’t been convenient for them to meet in private; Yu Yang was uncomfortable with it and Qi Zui was afraid of people flaming Yu Yang, saying that he had gotten awards only because of Qi Zui’s help. The few times they had to talk was also through their messaging apps only.
Qi Zui had joked with Yu Yang, asking if Yu Yang could send him photos of himself with his clothes casually half-off.
Qi Zui was only teasing Yu Yang when he suggested that. Yu Yang was shy too, so nothing ever came out of that.
Yu Yang waited a few days after sending that text message but did not receive Qi Zui’s reply. He remembered Qi Zui’s joke from before, and in a desperate attempt, he sent Qi Zui a photo of himself half-naked.
He wanted to make Qi Zui happy.
During that period, Yu Yang thought that Qi Zui was just giving him the cold shoulder.
A month passed. Yu Yang read about Qi Zui bringing his team to North America to compete, and how they had been gone for over half a month.
At that time, HOG had already made a name for themselves. There were numerous articles about them, and they were interviewed often. Qi Zui had quite a number of female fans in North America, and during an interview, when an e-sports reporter asked if Qi Zui was single, Qi Zui replied with yes.
Qi Zui said yes, so Yu Yang’s short and sweet first relationship came to an end.
A long time passed before Yu Yang finally understood what happened. Qi Zui thought that he had lied to him, that he was pretending to be gay to get on his good side and gain an advantage.
So he tried all that he could to enter HOG, but the criteria to enter HOG was stacked too high, and he didn’t have connections either. In the end, he even went to make a deal with Yu Qianxi……
“I thought……” Yu Yang paused for a moment, eyes reddening. He took a deep breath, “I thought…… you forgot about that really quickly.”
Yu Yang could not imagine how Qi Zui, who had been far away in North America, held in all his anger for three months but still lost his wits when he saw a statue who just looked 30% similar to Yu Yang.
Qi Zui felt helpless, “I knew you’d think that way.”
“So I intentionally told you this, to let you know that……” Qi Zui looked up at Yu Yang, saying softly, “I like you more than you think I do.”
“But I was in the wrong,” Qi Zui laughed in spite of himself, “If I had known…… I would have been more patient.”
If it wasn’t for Yu Yang putting his pride aside and risking Qi Zui taking revenge on him in HOG, Qi Zui didn’t want to even think about what he would have missed out on.
Yu Yang said in a muffled voice, “That wasn’t your fault.”
“Crying?” Qi Zui turned to the side to look at Yu Yang, saying with a laugh, “I did want to tell you a joke to make you happy, but somehow……”
“No,” Yu Yang looked up and he cleared his throat, “I just…… missed you.”
QI Zui’s heart was all warm. His goal of letting Yu Yang know about his feelings had been reached, and he didn’t want Yu Yang to brood on the past. As such, he said casually, “Then, I’ll continue? Do you still want to listen?”
Yu Yang’s head lowered to peel prawns for Qi Zui, nodding vigorously.
He wanted to listen to everything that had to do with Qi Zui.
“I didn’t admit that I was the one who wanted it, and He Xiaoxu was so upset with me. He spent quite a lot of money on it and most importantly…… the bunch of them transported it in the snow for so long,” Qi Zui couldn’t bear to relive the memory, but he pushed on forward, saying, “Bu Nana said that because of the bonds forged during the transportation process, the statue had to be brought back. There was no way they were going to leave it behind.”
Yu Yang: “……”
“They said they would bring it back even if they had to put it on a wheelchair. If everyone worked together and held it in place, it would be easier to push it back.” Qi Zui felt helpless, “No matter what, they insisted on shipping it back, saying that it was already a part of HOG. Pure bronze…….. Do you know how much they spent on shipping?”
Yu Yang was trying his best to hold in his laughter. They had just confessed their feelings for each other, and at all costs, he shouldn’t laugh now.
“They wrapped the thing into a mummy and we got checked so many times when going through customs. It even got confiscated for a few days for a thorough inspection to ensure that we weren’t smuggling ancient artifacts,” Qi Zui said in a vexed tone, “Anyway, in the end, we got it back and I sent it to my mother.”
From what little he knew of Qi Zui’s mother, Yu Yang didn’t think that she would have liked the gift.
Yu Yang asked, awkwardly, “Auntie……”
Qi Zui replied lightly, “I told her that it was a local speciality I got for her.”
Yu Yang felt like he was suffocating a little.
“My mother wanted to throw it out then and there but my father stopped her. It’s in the basement now, with the rest of my father’s collectibles,” Qi Zui looked at Yu Yang, “When you go home with me, I’ll show it to you?”
Yu Yang nodded dazedly, clearly having fallen into the trap Qi Zui had laid, and agreeing to the pre-condition of the statement: going home with Qi Zui.
Qi Zui was satisfied.
“What are you two doing?” Soso came over to grab some alcohol and he looked at them, with an expression that seemed to reflect jealousy, “Other people are here for a gathering and you two are here on a date?”
Qi Zui drawled, “Yeah, you’re right…… We don’t have the free time when we’re in base. The coach and manager have their eyes on us all the time as well. It’s so nice to be out.”
“Shameless,” Soso looked at Yu Yang from top to toe, wanting to just pull him away from Qi Zui, “Eh! Youth, you two, if you guys break up one day……”
Qi Zui took his can of cola and splashed it towards Soso with a natural expression, Soso quickly avoided the attack and apologised before sitting down and saying, “I wasn’t the one who said that, I overheard someone else saying it…… they’re wishing and wanting for the day you two break up and then they’ll sign Youth.”
Soso looked at Yu Yang, “Do you know how popular you are right now? Haixiao’s solo is considered top of the class and today, you beat him…… Currently, you should be the strongest in solo matches in the country, right?”
Yu Yang shook his head.
Soso raised a brow, “This little kid is still quite humble, not bad, I like……”
“I can’t beat my team captain,” Yu Yang said calmly, “But I’m unafraid of other people.”
Qi Zui laughed.
The wait staff brought more small crayfish in and Soso carried two plates over, saying as he peeled the crayfish, “You know NCNC, yes?”
Yu Yang had heard of the name vaguely but he didn’t remember where from.
Qi Zui explained, “It’s a team from another part of the country, it’s not very big. That’s the team that Yu Qianxi went to.”
“Not very big, my ass,” Soso laughed dryly, “It’s gone now. Didn’t you realise that there were so many teams here for the competition today, but they weren’t?”
“The team has already disbanded.”
Yu Yang’s brows furrowed a little.
“They didn’t do well?” Yu Yang asked, “Or did they lose their sponsors?”
Soso shook his head, “They didn’t have sponsors to begin with. They survived purely with their owner spending a lot of money on them, in hopes that they would do well and earn the money back. But it’s been half a year and they didn’t do jack shit. Another team poached one of the members and then they just disbanded.”
HOG had been under some pressure lately and when Yu Yang heard Soso, his chest felt a little tight.
Qi Zui was silent for a moment, “What about Yu Qianxi? He got poached?”
“How can that be?” Soso mocked, “His condition has been terrible ever since he joined NCNC. They wanted to give him all the resources too but… that small club…. You know it too, the working conditions are bad, the pay is bad, the benefits are bad, the atmosphere isn’t great either…… In short, everything is just subpar. For someone who’s been in your Young Masters’1 club to have to go there all of a sudden, he could not handle it at all…… His condition wasn’t acceptable and couldn’t even match up to someone from NCNC’s original lineup.”
“It’s been about a week since they disbanded,” Soso said carelessly, “We were thinking of seeing if there’s anyone we could take in, apart from the one who already got poached. There was another one who’s not too bad, but TGC took him for their second team. As for Yu Qianxi…… No one wanted him. I heard that he started streaming.”
Yu Yang frowned, “Streaming? Just that?”
Soso nodded, “Yeah, just streaming, entertaining the fans. Once he gets popular, he can sign a contract with the platform and grow his fanbase before opening an online shop on Taobao to sell stuff…… Nowadays, quite a number of people go into streaming after retirement and they earn even more there, but……”
But, that had nothing to do with e-sports anymore.
Soso was melancholic and he drank half a pint of beer, expression sullen. He got up and with a heavy tongue, “Not gonna say anymore, just…… All the best, we all have it hard.”
Qi Zui didn’t make a snide remark for once, and Yu Yang fistbumped Soso while setting a time for tomorrow’s practice game with Knight.
Soso said, “How much of a workaholic are you? You just had a competition today and you still want a practice game tomorrow……”
When Soso was a distance away, Yu Yang said quietly to Qi Zui, “We won’t disband.”
Qi Zui laughed, “Yes, we have you.”
Yu Yang looked at Soso’s back as he stumbled away, and said softly, “Knight won’t too.”
Qi Zui was surprised for a moment, nodding.
On the ride back to base, Yu Yang fell asleep in the car.
He was too tired.
Everyone else was tipsy and drowsy, mumbling unintelligible nonsense under their breath, Simba was hugging Bu Nana’s arm impassionately. Bu Nana was drowsy to the point of dizziness, and with all the pulling from Simba, he fell to the side,almost pushing Simba under the seats.
QI Zui and Yu Yang were seated in the last row. Qi Zui gently held Yu Yang’s wrist and Yu Yang’s head was on his shoulder.
Qi Zui was pleased and he picked up his phone to see a few unread messages.
He Xiaoxu: I saw the results, tell the rest that it’s all good, they did their best.
He Xiaoxu: Fuck, we didn’t get the sponsorship.
He Xiaoxu: Come home early, don’t play till too late. Especially Youth, keep an eye on him and don’t let him drink too much.
He Xiaoxu: Qi Zui, I’ll tell you something but you can’t tell anyone else yet.
Qi Zui replied, “What’s the matter?”
He Xiaoxu replied immediately, “There’s trouble…… Let’s not worry the team first. I was talking to the boss about the sponsorship thing today and I felt…… that there was something wrong with his tone.”
He Xiaoxu: “I suspect he’s going to sell the team off, and from that conversation, it may be very soon.”
He Xiaoxu: “What do we do? I’m really panicking.”
Qi Zui closed his eyes, his body completely relaxing.
Qi Zui: “Fantastic.”
He Xiaoxu, who was waiting at base for the team to return,: “……”
He Xiaoxu thought that Qi Zui had gone insane from the blow and he sobbed loudly, wiping his tears as he typed: “Don’t be like this! Let’s be more open-minded!”
He Xiaoxu lingered at each piece of furniture on the first floor, touching them fondly as he wailed while typing: “I don’t know if the new boss would accept me as the manager, and I don’t know if he would be willing to spend so much money on a cripple like you, and I don’t know if he would despise Nana who eats too much, and I don’t know if he’s going to kick poor Simba out, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know anything!!! I’m useless!!!”
He Xiaoxu was heaving from all the crying: “Let’s not train these few days? Let’s go do things we’ve always wanted to but never had a chance to do…… Do you have any regrets? Do you? While I’m still here, I’ll satisfy all your desires! As long as I, He Xiaoxu, am here, I won’t let you guys suffer!”
Qi Zui, in the car: “……”
Qi Zui typed: “About that……”
Qi Zui: “Actually, I have always wanted to play on our team’s Official Weibo account.”
He Xiaoxu, who had always been wary of Qi Zui on social media, wailed loudly as he typed, “I’ll satisfy you! I’ll send you the account details later! Wuwuwuwu……”