On the day of the competition, the entire HOG team got out of bed at 9am.
“Don’t be nervous, okay?” During breakfast, Lai Hua gave everyone some emotional support, “Everyone knows what the situation is now. Worst case scenario is that we don’t qualify, but what’s the big deal with that?”
“Exactly, we’ve lost all our sponsors except the one with the streaming platform, so how worse could it get?” He Xiaoxu put the pitiful face he gave Yu Yang behind him and said to Simba confidently, “We are already prepared for the worst, so don’t worry. Don’t be so scared of all the what-ifs and end up being too cautious and safe, you won’t be winning competitions that way, you know?”
“Let’s do this!” Lai Hua sipped on his soy milk and gestured dramatically, “We’ll do it, that’s all! Don’t back down! There are six matches in total, so no matter what happens before, do not freak out. Forget about each match the second you finish it, and it’s not like we haven’t caught up on the ranks in the last match before, so please, please do not lose it mentally after the first matches like the last online competition, because then the entire thing is over.”
Lai Hua looked at Simba as he spoke, and Simba nodded hurriedly and said guiltily: “I’ll stay calm this time, I promise. Just like God Yang said…we will win no matter what it takes.”
Lai Hua nodded, then looked around upon hearing that, “Speaking of, where’s Youth?”
He Xiaoxu got up and looked around, turning and going upstairs, “I’ll go look.”
Yu Yang was packing his peripherals bag upstairs.
Being both bumpkin-like and superstitious, Yu Yang deliberated over and over before finally taking his own keyboard from his peripherals bag and walking over to Qi Zui’s computer. He disconnected Qi Zui’s keyboard and packed it into his own bag.
He Xiaoxu coincidentally spotted this entire process as he walked upstairs.
“Hey there, what suspicious business are you up to?” He Xiaoxu tsked, “What a feat, I’ve been at HOG for five years, and you’re the first person I’ve seen that dares to play around with Qi Zui’s keyboard.”
Yu Yang did not feel embarrassed about being spotted. He gently put away Qi Zui’s keyboard and said quietly, “If I use his keyboard, maybe it’ll be easier to qualify…they’re both white keyboards anyway, no one will know.”
He Xiaoxu tamped down on his urge to tell Yu Yang that actually, Qi Zui’s keyboard was custom-made by the peripherals company, making it one of a kind. The keycaps were custom-made too; even if the regular audience wouldn’t be able to tell, Qi Zui’s fans would definitely be able to tell with one look.
“Hng hng, God Yang is using his hubby’s keyboard at the competition, so cute” — posts like this would probably start floating amongst trending topics on the forums a few hours later.
He Xiaoxu had given up on cultivating Yu Yang’s wifey fans and did not even bother nagging him. He was worried that Yu Yang would be nervous so he joked on purpose: “Be careful, don’t get water on it or something, or Qi Zui will use it as an excuse to give you a hard time when he’s back…”
“I’ll be careful.”
Yu Yang zipped up the peripherals bag. Deep down, he would be glad to have Qi Zui give him a hard time.
He Xiaoxu did not joke any further and said seriously: “Lao Lai was giving everyone some emotional support earlier. Right now, ether way…things cannot get any worse, so don’t be too stressed about it and just do your best.”
Yu Yang did not even accept Qi Zui’s consolation, so never mind He Xiaoxu’s. He shook his head: “I won’t. I said that we’ll qualify, so we’ll definitely qualify.”
He Xiaoxu smiled exasperatedly, then nodded: “Okay then, good luck.”
At 10am, everyone got in the car and departed as scheduled.
Yu Yang had been to a few big competitions by now, and is very familiar with the process without He Xiaoxu reminding him. He leaned against the car window, looking outside expressionlessly.
This was the first time that he is heading out for competition without Qi Zui by his side.
And he was not even the commentator this time…Yu Yang massaged between his brows, closing his eyes for some rest.
At the beginning of this month, HOG’s team one had just played an official in-person match, and placed fourth.
And yet, there are only three spots for qualifying.
No matter how hard everyone worked, and no matter how Lai Hua and He Xiaoxu tried to console them, the team one members were still more or less a little nervous.
Especially Simba–he sat up straight in the car, both hands shaking slightly, muttering this and that under his breath.
Lao Kai held a laptop before him, still going over one of their practice matches from yesterday; Bu Nana held a water bottle lid with some water in it on his left hand, and gently dipped into it with his right hand, elegantly flicking water droplets onto Simba’s face.
He Xiaoxu was also nervous. He looked back at the people behind him and could not take it anymore: “Nana, what are you doing?!”
“I am giving little Simba some holy water.” Bu Nana said graciously, “Can you not hear? This child is praying.”
Simba swallowed nervously, “I-I-I-I’m asking my great-grandmother to look over me…”
He Xiaoxu was speechless: “Your great-grandmother…knows about e-sports?”
“No.” Simba looked towards the ceiling of the car respectfully, “Her spirit in heaven, bless her soul, will come down to me later and guide me towards the right path…”
He Xiaoxu started to shiver all of a sudden.
Simba drew out a big cross across his chest, reciting faithfully and sincerely, “My ancestors and forebearers, in the heavens above…”
“Okay okay.” He Xiaoxu cannot bear to witness any more and felt a headache coming in, “How come you’re all so superstitious? Even bringing out the ancestors and forebearers…so un-e-sports!”
Lao Kai put down his laptop and sighed: “Don’t scold him now, I also just prayed to the god of e-sports to lend me some godly power.”
Bu Nana hastily flicked some spring water towards Lao Kai as well, sounding troubled, “So pitiful, wouldn’t everyone pity you if they knew. When they do their interviews for all the teams and ask, what game plan have you prepared? There’s going to be the attack and shootout approach, the stay safe and steady approach, and once it’s us…we, HOG, are praying to the heavens above for a miracle…”
He Xiaoxu was angry enough to find something to hit Bu Nana with, “It is just all of you who are embarrassing, okay?! Look at Youth! Can you not act like actual professional players for once?!”
Yu Yang was taken out of his reverie. He paused, “I actually also prayed just now…”
Bu Nana was surprised: “I didn’t know that this day would come for you, Youth. Who was the confident one that told us after our practice match yesterday that we’d definitely qualify? What are you praying for?”
Yu Yang looked down and smiled, not responding.
Yu Yang was praying that Qi Zui’s surgery would be a success.
Bu Nana blanked, then asked suddenly: “Is Qi Zui going into surgery today?”
Lao Kai thought for a moment then slapped his forehead: “It really is today!”
Bu Nana laughed weakly: “We’ve been too busy and tired these days, we’ve even forgotten that animal…”
Bu Nana straightened his back solemnly, extending his legs and reaching out with his arms, then poured out the rest of the water in the bottle cap evenly onto the ground. With a deep breath, he said, “This cup is for our successful qualification!”1
Yu Yang: “…”
Lao Kai solemnly twisted open his own bottle of spring water, filling up Bu Nana’s bottle cap with both hands.
“This second cup!” Bu Nana sighed dramatically, “Is for Captain’s successful surgery!”
Bu Nana was just about to pour when Lai Hua, who had been napping in the very back row, is woken up. Upon seeing the scene, he wacked viciously at Bu Nana’s head, “Who said it was okay to pour water in the car? Huh?! Huh?!”
Bu Nana felt wronged, but could not explain the whole thing to Lai Hua who had just woken up, but was also too scared to actually pour again–but also did not want the holy water to go to waste. Without any other option, he and Lao Kai teamed up to trick Simba into drinking it down.
Yu Yang held back on his laughter and told Simba: “It’s in the bag for us today.”
Simba was only partially sold. But because his idolization for Yu Yang had gotten to the point of being blind trust, if Yu Yang said that he can do it, then he definitely can.
An hour later, HOG’s car arrives at the competition venue.
Yu Yang slung his peripherals bag over his shoulders and got out of the car.
HOG’s fans were there since early morning. Perhaps because they know that HOG has had a difficult time lately, their light-up signs and support banners did not have as many shameless phrases–instead, most of their signs had messages of support. Two fans standing at the front of the group were the most eye-catching; their banner even had a chibi drawing of Yu Yang printed on top, except…their message was written in English.
Yu Yang took his sunglasses off after getting off the car. Because he could not really understand it, he looked back at the fan banner a couple of times.
“What are you looking at?” Bu Nana patted his shoulder from behind, “Let’s go in, we can say hi to the fans after we’re done.”
Yu Yang nodded: “I saw their support banners.”
Bu Nana looked back and glanced at it, “The one at the front?”
[HOG, never give up.]
Yu Yang suddenly felt a weight off his shoulders and understood what the fans were trying to say.
HOG will never go die.
Yu Yang translated it in simple terms, then followed Bu Nana into the event venue.
Before the first match started, the referees took away every player’s phones one by one.
Yu Yang took his phone out and glanced at it out of habit, finding a new message.
It is just about 4am in the States. But for some reason, Yu Yang had a gut feeling that this is from Qi Zui, so he unlocked his phone quickly–
Drunk: Good luck, God Yang.
The referee was starting to rush him, so Yu Yang speedily replied with a few words and gave the phone to the referee.
Youth: Good luck, God Qi.
The competition began.
In the first round, the flight path passes over Gatka as its midpoint.
Yu Yang quickly marked a spot in the southern area of Georgopol, and said, “Jump.”
HOG was the first team to jump from the plane.
Yu Yang and Bu Nana landed quickly, and Lao Kai opened his parachute early on, watching the other teams as he floated up high. Lao Kai said: “There are two other teams that jumped. One of them probably wants to go to Gatka, the other I can’t see clearly, but they might have split up into teams of two to stay away from the action. There’s also the possibility that they’ll find cars and come to southern Georgopol.”
Yu Yang nodded: “Fly towards the shipping containers, I’ll spot for you. Let me know right away if there is anyone that want to go towards the northern side from the shipping containers. Try to destroy all the cars you can, if you can’t, popping tires is okay too. I’ll be there right away.”
Yu Yang, Bu Nana, and Simba had landed for a while, and Lao Kai was still floating up high. He nodded: “Got it.”
Simba got in the driver’s seat. The three of them arrived promptly at the southern side of Georgopol; the other team that jumped here heard the sound of the car from afar and turned and left after deliberating.
Bu Nana laughed: “Which team is that? Cowards.”
“Cowards get their chicken dinner, rash movers get taken out.” Lao Kai finally landed on the ground, “There are two people that drove towards the shipping containers, they saw me, I don’t have a gun right now.”
Yu Yang did not even have to think: “No time left then, get in the trees first, if you get hit then you get hit. Remember to report on locations.”
Yu Yang had already made it to the shipping containers as he spoke. He raised his gun, ready to take out the people driving over.
Lao Kai quickly got behind the trees, watching the situation as he clenched his teeth: “You’re really the new generation Qi Zui…where are your morals?”
Even as he said, Lao Kai knew that Yu Yang was right in his call. This area of the map is all flat ground, and he definitely could not outrun a car, if he brought the car over out of the blue then he would probably be hit and die, so it was better to regroup where he was.
Since he had just landed, Yu Yang did not find a single scope and could only aim with the gun itself. He did not let himself get distracted with what Lao Kai was saying and laid down on the shipping container, waiting with bated breath.
Fortunately, the two people did not try to get too involved with Lao Kai, leaving after a few random shots. Once they go by the shipping containers and are about to cross the bridge, they are unsurprisingly taken out by Yu Yang and his bare gun.
Two kills, 20 points.
Bu Nana shared some resources with Lao Kai who finally made it to them, and laughed, “Is it just me or is Captain Yu’s directing more and more like QI Zui’s?”
Lao Kai was just on the edge of dying at the start of the match and sighed at that: “I didn’t notice before, but during matches he really is just as shady and ruthless.”
Simba gave Yu Yang his 8x scope and first aid kit, “Give me the bandages.”
Yu Yang gave some of the bandages to Simba. The team did not always split resources evenly; the best resources were usually given to Yu Yang and Bu Nana right away, and Lao Kai and Simba took over whatever they did not need.
The safety circle was updated to be around the airport.
“Heck.” Bu Nana ground his teeth, “Can we not have a blessed circle once? Just once?”
“Simba grab the gas, there are a lot of cars here, we’ll each take one and drive over.” Yu Yang double checked on the meds supply and marked another spot, “Go right away. Unless there is enough cover later, no going back for people that get hit later.”
The team got onto the cars right away. Simba drove at the front of the group, which was HOG’s modus operandi these days–if they are crossing a bridge, the Simba is definitely the first to go, so that if someone was lurking there, they will rescue Simba if they can, and if not, the three of them will give up on Simba and retreat before striking back.
When the four of them are playing together, Yu Yang never went out of his way to rescue his teammates; similarly, if he was the one on the verge of death, he also did not allow anyone to go out of their way to save him if there was no point to it. One time during a practice match, Yu Yang was cornered by three people in the lighthouse and confirmed that there was no way out, and in order to stop anyone from getting the points from his kill, he made Bu Nana snipe him from afar.
On the topic of ruthless, Yu Yang could only be more ruthless, not less, than Qi Zui.
HOG was too far from the safety zone, and was about to be stopped by a lot of teams on the way there. But the good thing was that Yu Yang was careful in choosing the spot that they were navigating to and avoided crossing paths with quite a few teams, and yet, they were still tolled as they crossed the bridge.
There was no cover at the first part of the bridge, so when Simba was hit from the car, Yu Yang did not let the others get off from the car and rescue him, speeding up in the car instead and driving past the cover objects. They got off the cars there and circled around to strike back.
Simba has already been knocked over by then, lying down in the middle of the bridge, not far from Yu Yang and the rest of the team. The other team did not finish Simba off, letting him lose health on his own, obviously trying to goad them into rescuing him so that they can finish off a few more.
Yu Yang did not even have to think before giving Simba a headshot from his own gun.
“This move of Youth’s…” Commentator A was speechless, “I wouldn’t have thought. But is this really necessary? Even if they give up on rescuing him, Simba was going to die soon anyway from losing HP, this…hahaha, is he copying Qi Zui’s ruthlessness a litle too much?”
“No, no.” Commentator B shook his head, “I made a note of this earlier, but Simba had a level three helmet in perfect condition. Yu Yang’s move just now was probably to destroy the helmet. That was pretty decisive of him; he knew that he could not rescue his teammate and destroyed his teammate’s resources right away as best he can, so that the other team cannot have it so easily.”
Commentator A laughed, amazed: “I see, okay okay, I’ve learned something today…It hasn’t been long since Youth has been calling the shots, right? His approach seems very clear, and very decisive. No hesitation, no dragging things out. It wasn’t even a second before he got a hold of the situation and decided to destroy the resources after knowing that he can’t save his teammate. Nice, nice.”
Commentator B laughed: “He’s God Qi’s disciple, that’s to be expected.”
In the game, Simba said worriedly: “I tried to avoid it earlier, but still…”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, whoever was first would’ve been hit.” Yu Yang said very quickly, “Simba look over Lao Kai’s POV, help him keep an eye on the south side. Be careful of getting goaded into fights. Nana, cover for me on snipe, I’ll bring the car over for cover…let’s finish these guys off.”
Bu Nana props up his gun from behind the cover, “No problem.”
Two minutes later, HOG finished off NNC’s team with a 3 vs 4 and moved into the safety zone successfully.
HOG had lost a member, but because they finished off two fully-equipped teams, their resources were very wealthy. They made it all the way to the final circle like this; even though they were finished off by TGC and Knight at the end and placed third, because they had a lot of kills, they pushed their ranking to second place just from the score from their kills.
After the second match, HOG’s match rank was seventh, and their overall ranking was third.
In the third match, HOG finished tenth, and their overall ranking was fifth.
Backstage, He Xiaoxu and Lai Hua consoled each other that there was still hope, still hope.
In the fourth match, HOG finished fourth, ranking fifth overall.
In the fifth match, HOG finished sixth, and their overall ranking was still at fifth place.
TGC’s overall score was much ahead of the rest at 1750. In second place, Knight’s overall score was 1510, and in third was FFTB with 1465 points. FIRE was fourth with 1350.
HOG’s overall score was 1310.
He Xiaoxu had had his heart in his throat while backstage for a few hours, and was almost at capacity with his thinking skills, too. He patted Lai Hua anxiously: “How many points do we need to get into the top three? Is there still a chance? How much do we need to catch up on in the last round?”
In the competition stage, the sixth match had already begun.
Lao Kai did not even need to calculate and said straightforwardly: “Right now we are 155 points behind FFTB in third place, and 40 behind fourth place. If we want to qualify, then we have to have over 155 points over the current third place.”
Bu Nana knows very well that there is not much hope, but still steels himself to say: “That’s not that much of a gap! There is definitely hope, let’s all get ourselves together.”
Lao Kai hesitated then said: “But the sixth place right now is only 55 points behind us too. We do have hope this round, but that is assuming that we can beat the current third and fourth place right now and are not passed by the sixth place.”
Simba’s face paled from nervousness, but commendably, he did not start freaking out. He did not dare lose his marbles now, and joined in the calculations: “The teams that are third, fourth, and sixth, if any of them place high this match, then it’s over for us. It’s not enough that we pass by the third place by 155 points, since we don’t know which team will catch up too. We woud really need to rack up as much points as we can this round…are we still going with attacking and shootouts? Or play it safe for a bit?”
“What little points we get from playing it safe and ranking high is not enough anymore.” Yu Yang marked a spot, “Jump.”
Bu Nana followed blindly and jumped behind him, still worried: “The power plant…Captain Yu, I’m worried something will go wrong.”
“It’ll be fine.” Yu Yang took a deep breath, “What time is it?”
Simba responded immediately: “It’s 8:30!”
Yu Yang landed hurriedly and picked up a firearm, loading it as he spoke, “Captain is already in surgery by now.”
The other three members blanked.
Yu Yang picked up a silencer and loaded it as well, saying calmly: “I want to go see him in the States.”
Bu Nana’s pupils zeroed in, then said with his whole chest: “Let’s fucking do this thing!”
Lao Kai was still floating up high. He squinted and said calmly: “A team is approaching from the west side.”
Yu Yang propped up his gun, “Give them a good welcome.”
In the sixth round, HOG finished first, with 16 kills. Their overall ranking flew up to third place.
The young man who held up a sign at Busan that read, “Drunk, please don’t retire” jumped up onto his seat and raised his banner high, eyes red–
[Old generals never die, the torch is carried on. HOG will never give up.]
This is two updates in one. The qualifiers are over now; HOG has had a tumultuous time recently, and was fortunate to have their fans’ support the whole way. Even though the team has been stripped of a lot of things, the new players continue to work hard. Thanks, everyone.
Thank you for your support.
Taking a bow.
Updates will continue to be more irregular
til mid Feb till March. Thanks for your patience!