The testing process went very smoothly, with results coming back in only two hours. The domestic doctors were in touch with the US side right away, and the doctors on the other end were very proactive and analyzed the data even with the time difference. The suggestion they gave was that treatment was possible.
But still could not give any guarantees.
The American doctors came out with their official invitation letter. The local nurse did not know what exactly Qi Zui did, but noticed that he was both young and handsome and could not help but remind him: “This invitation letter is so that you can get your visa, do you have a passport? If you don’t, you need to register for a passport first, you need that for scheduling the visa interview, ai…how old are you? If you don’t know about these things, I…”
Qi Zui was preoccupied with thinking about other things but smiled at that. He looked up, “How old do you think I am?”
The nurse smiled coquettishly: “Like, just over twenty? Twenty-two? Twenty-three?”
“I’m twenty-five.” Qi Zui did not tell her that he had already been to the US for more times than he could count, and nodded appreciatively, “Thanks, I’m familiar with the process.”
The doctor who was here to administer the tests walked over with the files, hitting at the nurse’s head: “Don’t be stupid, he’s been playing competitions all over the world before he was even legal. Why would he need you to teach him?”
Qi Zui took the medical profile and invitation letter and left after thanking the doctor.
The nurse and doctor were still whispering behind him.
“Playing competitions all over the world? Is he an athlete? How come I haven’t seen him?”
The doctor said vaguely: “I don’t think he counts as an athlete? People like him count as…competitive gamers?”
The nurse was even more shocked: “There are even competitions for games?”
The doctor: “Of course they have competitions. It’s a well-paid job too, otherwise why would he spend so much money to get treated?”
The nurse was dumbfounded: “He’s even gotten injured from playing games?! And he earns so much? It’s that easy to make money now?”
The doctor frowned: “What do you know?!”
“I really don’t know, that’s why I’m asking…” The nurse said regretfully, “He’s so young, and now his wrist is in this state from playing games…”
Qi Zui let their conversation go in one ear and out the other, not dwelling on it at all. He went downstairs and drove back to the base.
During the drive, Mrs. Qi called again. Qi Zui gave her a rundown but did not actually decide on whether to go or not.
After returning to the base, and after thinking on it, Qi Zui decided to first tell He Xiaoxu in the end.
He Xiaoxu went speechless for a long moment.
“Lao Kai’s back…he got it looked at and treated for so long, and it wasn’t cheap either, but it’s still how it is now…” He Xiaoxu frowned, “If they can’t treat it, it’s whatever if you pay the bills, but if it worsens with treatment…”
Qi Zui did not go into surgery before because of this very reason.
He Xiaoxu sat down and analyzed calmly: “You can play for about two hours each day, and your hand can still take it. It’s not painful, right?”
Qi Zui squinted, knowing already what He Xiaoxu was about to say.
“Of course, because you’re not training anymore, your condition is probably going down too. But they say a starving camel is still bigger than a horse, you know? You still have the touch now.” He Xiaoxu calculated the profits without holding back, “With your current network, you could get a huge contract with any random streaming platform. You can stream for about two hours each day, make easy money. But if you have any accidents and your skill level goes down drastically, or if you can’t play at all, then…you can’t even stream, right?”
Qi Zui said calmly: “Then I won’t stream.”
“Nonsense.” He Xiaoxu frowned, “Don’t the other popular, retired players all make good money? Do you not have the mindset of a retired player? It’s been so long since you’ve retired, and you’re not streaming and not doing events. No thoughts of launching your own brand too. What do you want to do?”
Qi Zui smirked: “I want to be a coach, but didn’t you veto that?”
He Xiaoxu was rendered speechless, then continued sincerely, “Can you not argue with me right now? Is this not for your own good? You’re already the boss here, it’s not like I get a cut if you earn money. You’re doing great now, why would you take the risk? You…”
He Xiaoxu did not dare to say it too bluntly. He hesitated and said gently: “It’s been so long since you’ve trained, and you’re not young anymore…even if you get treated, it’s not like you can…”
Qi Zui nodded: “I know.”
He Xiaoxu was getting frustrated: “Then why are you still on this?”
“I just want to play a match every now and then, simple as that.” Qi Zui looked up at He Xiaoxu, “Without pain, without being distracted…It’s been so long since I’ve played a round without thinking of anything else.”
He Xiaoxu had nothing to say to that. Since he was not able to convince Qi Zui, he told him to wait in the room and went to fetch Yu Yang himself.
He Xiaoxu laid out the pros and cons for Yu Yang: “Your God Qi, might turn his hand from half-disabled into fully disabled. I tried to talk him out of it, no use, you tell him. Is there a point in doing this kind of low success rate surgery?”
Yu Yang took the medical profile over, reading it intently from beginning to end.
Qi Zui sat beside him, looking at Yu Yang steadily.
Yu Yang closed the medical profile, “Of course do it.”
Qi Zui smiled.
He Xiaoxu was so exasperated, he helped himself onto a chair with a hand on the armrest.
“If his hand is fully disabled, then I’ll support him. If he can’t stream, then I’ll do it. Change the contract for me, double my streaming hours, I’ll work hard on making money.” Yu Yang said intently, “I can do commercials and endorsements too. I know I’m not worth as much as Captain, but I can take more. Those ads that they read out on stream, I can do those too, give me all the ones that the others don’t want…”
“Shut up.” Qi Zui smiled, “Don’t speak nonsense, He Xiaoxu’s so stingy he’ll take your word for it.”
Ads that you had to keep reading out during stream were the lowest-ranked sponsorships there was, even the HOG second team members looked down on them.
Now, to make money in Qi Zui’s stead, Yu Yang was open to taking even this kind of gig. He Xiaoxu knew that there was no convincing them.
“We’re lacking in funds right now too, you guys…” He Xiaoxu slapped the table, “Fine then, go if you really want to. It’s no use worrying on your behalf anyway. You know there’s only a one percent chance, and you still…”
“If he doesn’t try even if there is a one percent chance,” Yu Yang cut He Xiaoxu off, “then he’d regret it for years later.”
He Xiaoxu blanked and left the room, completely speechless.
Qi Zui laughed, watching He Xiaoxu slamming the door in his wake, then looked towards Yu Yang.
Yu Yang picked up the medical profile again, reading it again word by word from beginning to end, over and over again.
When he came across English terms that he didn’t recognize, Yu Yang picked up his phone and typed it into the search bar himself, looking things up clumsily, bit by bit.
On closer look, Yu Yang’s fingertips were trembling slightly.
Qi Zui’s lips twitched, but he did not say anything else.
Yu Yang understood him, so there was no need to say anything else.
Yu Yang looked up at Qi Zui, eyes bright: “I’ve looked it up, there are athletes who have gotten treated at this hospital. Maybe it’ll really work out. There’s too much English, I-I can’t really understand it all, but if it’s a hospital that your mom found, it should be no problem…”
Qi Zui nodded. “I’ll go.”
Yu Yang held onto Qi Zui’s medical profile like it was a coveted thing, one step away from taking photos so that he could continue poring over it after training.
As Qi Zui looked at Yu Yang, who was blushing from excitement, his heart went unbelievably soft.
But no matter how exciting this was, there were still things to make clear…
Qi Zui got up and walked next to Yu Yang, saying lowly: “If I were to go, it would be a month at least.”
Yu Yang blanked for a moment, then looked back up at Qi Zui.
Yu Yang licked at his dry lips, “Th-that long? Didn’t it say that this would be a small surgery…”
“I’ll need to do rehab at their centre after the surgery, and this is all according to the best case scenario.” Qi Zui smiled apologetically, “If things don’t go well, then I might need to be in rehab for two months, and then have a second surgery, then rehab again. Three, four months…”
“That…” Yu Yang said dumbly, “That long?”
If it was a month later, the world championship’s invitational tournament would be starting.
“You’re the captain.” Qi Zui said softly, “The invitational championships…you’ll have to lead the team on your own. I won’t be able to come with you, this time.”
“Yeah, that’s true…” Yu Yang nodded, adding hurriedly, “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. We’ll definitely qualify for worlds, and I can bring the team abroad no problem. My English is much better now, and there will be interpreters too. If there aren’t, then I can just gesture, no worries.”
Qi Zui let out a breath. Yu Yang was driven to say so much in one breath, causing a pang in his heart.
There were only three spots for domestic teams to qualify for the world championships. According to HOG’s current state, it was still a question of getting the spot to go at all. It was such a key moment for the team, and he was going to be away…
Yu Yang was still reassuring Qi Zui: “Simba has been improving a lot these days, and we’ve been practising our teamwork. I’m sure it’ll pay off, I…”
“I’m sorry.” Qi Zui cut Yu Yang off, heart full of mixed feelings. He said lowly, “I left you with the team much too early…”
Yu Yang subconsciously started to shake his head.
“I know you want me to be with you.” Qi Zui took a deep breath, “Before, I was hesitant on whether I should go or not. Not because I’m worried that the surgery will make things worse, but because I was worried about you. It’s your first time leading the team, so I should be there to guide you every step of the way, beginning to end, so you can be familiar with the process. And then…”
“I don’t need it.” Yu Yang shook his head. “I do want you to be with me, but not because I want you to help me.”
Yu Yang’s voice stayed fairly neutral, but still could not cover up his youthful pride, “I’m just worried that when I win gold, you won’t be there to see for yourself.”
Qi Zui blanked for a moment, thinking back to HOG’s current state, and could not hold back his laugh.
“If you can really get the spot to go to worlds, I’ll come watch the Worlds even if I have to bring my IV drip along.” Qi Zui said lowly, “I’ll go for sure.”
The empire’s wolfhound1, who was adopting more and more of a captain’s air, nodded: “It’s a deal.”
“Now that I’ve promised you, you should promise me one thing too.” Qi Zui smiled, “When I’m gone…how about you move into my room?”
“Ah?” The empire’s wolfhound choked on that, ears turning red all of a sudden, “W-why?”
“No reason.” Qi Zui did not even try to make up a sound reason, “My room is bigger than yours, better lighting, bigger bed. What’s wrong with moving over?”
Yu Yang seemed pained for some reason, “But if I move to your room…then every day after training, I’ll go to your room, if the others see…”
Qi Zui did not care: “Let them see.”
“Sleep in my bed, use my blankets, my pillow.” Qi Zui said maliciously, “I’ll change the sheets into clean ones before I go, but only with ones I’ve used before. You’re not allowed to switch to your own.”
Yu Yang thought about it and started to blush a little.
“Will you agree or not?” Qi Zui took half a step forward, looking at Yu Yang. He laughed suddenly, “You’ve heard about this before, right? That I never let anyone touch my keyboard?”
Yu Yang gulped and nodded.
“I’m fussy like that. No one can use my keyboard, same with my room. At home, the ayi2 who helps with cleaning is especially careful with my room, and even when I don’t live there now and there are guests over, no one is allowed in my room.” Qi Zui’s lips curved up, “Same with my dorm in the base.”
Yu Yang said quietly: “Then why are you still…”
“But you’re different.” Qi Zui looked at Yu Yang tenderly, but continued with his crass statements, “I just want you to stay in my room, use my things, do whatever with them. It’s fine if you lose things or throw things out, I still want you to move in there…yes or no?”
Yu Yang was getting embarrassed for some reason, “What if I mess things up…”
“I said, mess things up however you like. It’s okay if you smash my things, no…” Qi Zui changed his mind, “But not for the bedding. The sheets, duvet covers, you’re not allowed to throw out any of those, you have to use mine.”
Yu Yang’s face went red.
Qi Zui leaned forward, laughing softly: “Hey handsome…is that a yes or no?”
Qi Zui acted pitiful on purpose: “I’m going off so far, by myself, to do this surgery, and this is the only thing I ask.”
“Okay.” Yu Yang couldn’t stand when Qi Zui said things like this, “I-I didn’t say no.”
Qi Zui smiled.
And started to take the mile, now that he had the inch.
“Every night, before you go to sleep…can you video call me?”
Yu Yang nodded: “Mhm…”
Qi Zui curled his lip into a smirk: “What about sleeping naked?”
Yu Yang thought about how he would be using Qi Zui’s bed and bedding, face going even redder. He said with some effort: “But wouldn’t that be…”
Qi Zui gave a soft laugh: “What would it be?”
Yu Yang could not bring himself to say this kind of thing out loud, so he looked at Qi Zui for mercy.
Qi Zui did not force him either, “Okay, I won’t bully you. You can wear pyjamas then?”
Yu Yang nodded hurriedly.
Qi Zui smiled again: “But you have to wear mine, you can pick whatever from the drawers.”
Yu Yang wanted to find a hole to crawl into.
“So that’s a deal?” Qi Zui smiled, “Video call every night before bed, wearing my pyjamas, okay?”
Yu Yang could not say anything right now but nodded after a moment.
“Another thing…” Qi Zui himself was finding it hard to say it out loud too. He laughed to himself, then said lowly into Yu Yang’s ear, “Let’s make a deal now, if you have any kind of…reaction when you’re in my bed, you have to tell me when we video call, okay?”
All at once, Yu Yang’s face went completely red.