At 10 am in the morning, the HOG base was completely quiet.
Simba, who had been getting up an hour earlier in order to get extra training in, squatted in the third floor hallway, gaze level with a big suitcase, eyebrows slowly furrowing into a frown.
Simba carefully held up the checked luggage tag still attached to the suitcase, peering carefully at the passenger’s name printed there and startled.
Simba looked up at the dorm name plate on the door that the suitcase was placed next to—Youth.
Simba felt completely awake immediately. He dug out his phone…and not long after, a private group chat within the HOG team one started to get chatty.
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: [Picture] [Picture]
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: I have reason to believe that God Qi is back, and he is currently sleeping in the captain’s room!
[Flaming Hot Chick Banana]: ?????
[Flaming Hot Chick Banana]: Holy shit! God Yang has fallen into the old jerk’s clutches?
[Kay]: Relax, that’s no big deal. So Captain Qi is back?
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]:
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: He’s back, I’m sure of it. Ge, look at the picture I sent earlier, that’s God Qi’s suitcase and the luggage tag is right too.
[Flaming Hot Chick Banana]: So what’s going on? A long distance…booty call?
[Kay]: How’s his hand?
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: I don’t know! They’re still in bed, I’m scared.
[Flaming Hot Chick Banana]: Probably still tired…sheesh!
[You’re Nothing Compared to Tomorrow’s Me-Xu]: …Change your display name, Bu Nana, you’re disgusting.
[Flaming Hot Chick Banana]: Why do you keep picking on me?! I like this ID!
[You’re Nothing Compared to Tomorrow’s Me-Xu]: Change it, immediately. You’re making this perfectly good group chat look like a fucking brothel.
[Little Nana the Casanova]: Changed it.
[You’re Nothing Compared to Tomorrow’s Me-Xu]: …Fuck.
[Lai Hua]: Qi Zui is in Youth’s room?! When did he come back?
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: In the AM? I blacked out from drinking, I can’t remember.
[Lai Hua]: I’m going to go look.
[No Proxy Shopping During World Invitationals-Unbeatable Simba]: That doesn’t seem appropriate…
[Little Nana the Casanova]: Don’t, Youth doesn’t have a look in his door. If you go straight in…I can’t imagine how that would look like.
[Kay]: Do not dare to imagine +1
[Lai Hua]: …
[You’re Nothing Compared to Tomorrow’s Me-Xu]: …So can Youth still train today?
[Little Nana the Casanova]: Would be rough.
[Kay]: Rough +1
[You’re Nothing Compared to Tomorrow’s Me-Xu]: My starting player, the money tree for the rest of my life…Is Qi Zui an animal? Ahhhh why does he have to pick now of all times to get in the way…
[Little Nana the Casanova]: Animal.
[Lai Hua]: …Is this really true? You guys haven’t seen it yourselves.
[Drunk]: Not true.
The group chat was suddenly quiet as a mouse.
Qi Zui sat up, massaging his neck. He was still jet lagged, barely getting any sleep last night, and was currently sore all over. He was already pissed that he couldn’t get his hands on Yu Yang, and it only got worse looking at the messages in the group chat. After muting every single member in the chat, Qi Zui went to wash up.
At 11 am in the morning, the entire team one had arrived at the training room.
Everyone circled around Qi Zui, joking around, asking after this and that. Qi Zui was too sleepy to fully open his eyes and responded absently. Lai Hua was pretty happy, and said: “I was talking about this with He Xiaoxu earlier, good that you’re back now. Give me your passport, I’ll get him to put your commercial visa in for the Worlds.”
Qi Zui nodded: “I was about to say too. Don’t forget my visa.”
He Xiaoxu looked at QI Zui, expression convoluted. He wanted to say something, but after looking at the rest of team one blissfully unaware, he held back and didn’t say anything.
“Don’t make this an excuse to slack off now.” Qi Zui was done chatting and wanted to go back to the dorms for a nap while they played practice matches, “Don’t you see your captain already started training? Go train.”
Everyone made their way onto their spots, pushing and shoving as they went. Qi Zui walked outside; after hesitating, He Xiaoxu followed after him pensively.
Yu Yang had been on a custom match for a while now, practising shooting; watching He Xiaoxu walk out, he took his headphones off and frowned.
“What are you following me for? You want my passport?” In the hallway, Qi Zui glanced back at He Xiaoxu, “Come here, I’ll grab it.”
He Xiaoxu said vaguely: “Uh…sure.”
He Xiaoxu stepped into the dormroom with Qi Zui.
It was broad daylight now, so Qi Zui did not shoo him out, letting him step into Yu Yang’s room while he opened his suitcase to get his passport.
“Here.” QI Zui handed his passport to He Xiaoxu, “I’m going to nap for a bit. Keep an eye on the time and wake me up before dinner.”
“Ah…sure.” He Xiaoxu hesitated and was about to go back outside, but could not help feeling unsettled inside and turned back around, “What are you getting the commercial visa for?”
Qi Zui paused, then started to unwrap the bandages on his right wrist, not responding.
In the dorm room, one could hear a pin drop.
After a moment, Qi Zui chucked, “What now? You get it already, so what are you asking me for now?”
He Xiaoxu looked at Qi Zui’s flippant expression and wanted to grind his teeth out of anger.
Qi Zui had a long-term tourism visa for the States. If he wanted to go with the team to the Worlds, there wouldn’t be a problem—no need to apply for a redundant commercial visa. With the visa he had now, he can do whatever he wanted in the states, including getting through the border, staying at a hotel, getting medical treatment, shopping…no restrictions whatsoever.
Except playing in competition.
It was only on the commercial visa, that allowed one to participate in relevant competitions after getting through the border.
Qi Zui looked back at He Xiaoxu and said lazily: “What are you scared of?”
He Xiaoxu’s breath caught from anger, “I am scared that you’re not thinking straight, that you’re doing something stupid! I didn’t want you to do the surgery in the first place, precisely because I was worried you wouldn’t be content with just that, that you’d want more…”
Qi Zui laughed, “You would be right to say that.”
Qi Zui threw the ointment-covered bandages into the garbage, revealing the newly-healed wound. The scar left behind by the surgery felt like a gash to the heart, “I’ve never been content with just this.”
If he really felt that he had enough, why would he see that many doctors?
If he really did not want more, why would he go all the way to the US to get cut open, despite all the things that could go wrong?
Even moments before the actual surgery, the doctor did not give Qi Zui a single promise.
Qi Zui stayed at the hospital himself, signed for the surgery himself, and went into the operating room himself.
No one knew how the results would be.
Out of the operating room, the doctor did not even tell Qi Zui whether the surgery was successful or not, saying that it was all up to how recovery goes. Immediately after, the wound started to hurt, and in the following days, his entire right arm was basically numb; painkillers barely had any effect. Once the wound just about started to close up and heal, he started to do rehabilitation every other day—in the first week, blood would be ebbing out from the wound after every rehabilitation session.
Normally, Young Master Qi would swear and curse just from the pain of drawing blood. If he didn’t want more, why would he go abroad to suffer like this?
In the hallway, Yu Yang leaned against the wall next to the dorm door, lips quavering.
Once he heard Qi Zui say that he’s “never been content with just this”, he looked up at the ceiling.
In Yu Yang’s room, He Xiaoxu swallowed back his emotions. He sat down, trying to calm himself down, “I…I won’t argue with you this time. Let’s just be realistic, how long have you been out of training?”
Qi Zui said: “Three months.”
“You haven’t trained for so long, and we don’t know how your right hand will heal…yes, I know what you want to say, let me just ask you.” He Xiaoxu was ready to kill with his words, he said straightforwardly, “Drunk, can you even beat Simba right now?”
Qi Zui’s lips pressed into a thin line, expression cold.
He Xiaoxu felt the pressure on him mounting, almost finding it difficult to breathe.
He Xiaoxu braced himself and continued: “Objectively…I need to be responsible for the entire team. If you don’t have the skills, then I can’t let you play.”
“Subjectively.” He Xiaoxu was getting lung palpitations from anger, he could not help but yell angrily, “Lao Lai was ready to throw punches with me precisely because he was worried that you’d have a depressing ending like him! Before Busan, the entire team was on edge, Youth lost so many pounds to train extra because of you! And we finally managed to get gold, so you could retire on a good note, and now that the team is in shambles, you’re telling me you want a comeback? Come to what? What did you say back then?! Did you forget it all?”
“I said back then, I choose the second path.” Qi Zui said calmly. “You’re the one who forgot.”
He Xiaoxu paused, then said furiously: “No matter what, I won’t allow it! In order to stop you from thinking about what you shouldn’t, I’m not going to apply for the commercial visa for you.”
Qi Zui was exasperated: “You think I’d listen to you?”
He Xiaoxu was getting chest pains from the anger.
“You…” He Xiaoxu patiently tried to reason again, “Did you forget how Lao Lai ended up back then? They photoshopped his funeral photo, they kept asking all the time when he would scram, when we went to competitions…before it even started, everyone in the audience would be chanting for Lai Hua to retire…”
He Xiaoxu could not bear to continue.
“Retire quietly, and go and make money and be a nice, rich, young master, what’s wrong with that?” He Xiaoxu was going crazy, “We barely managed to get someone to start and end on a good note, do you all have some kind of problem? Did you all decide to do this?”
He Xiaoxu was sincerely trying to look out for Qi Zui; he would rather the team have a gap between retired and new players, would rather lose all the sponsorships, and would even rather give his all keeping the team in operation, growing a thick skin to ignore all the taunting and scorn from others—all of that over continuing to work Qi Zui to the ground.
Qi Zui knew all this.
“It’s not as serious as you think.” Qi Zui did not expect He Xiaoxu to get this worked up, “I didn’t say I wanted to come back, it’s just that the team’s not in a good place right now, so isn’t it nice that a retired player can come help out every now and then?”
“No!” He Xiaoxu was not budging, “And let everyone see how far you’ve fallen?”
Qi Zui scoffed: “What makes you think that I’ve fallen far?”
He Xiaoxu retorted: “Then why do you think that you can even beat Simba right now?”
“Just for your information…”
He Xiaoxu startled, whipping back to look at the doorway, and said awkwardly: “Youth…W-when did you get here?”
Yu Yang did not look at He Xiaoxu, continuing on calmly, “Next Sunday, we have a pretty official practice solo match. The top tier domestic teams would basically all be present.”
“In e-sports, we let results speak for themselves.”
“If you can get into the top three in the solo competition…” Yu Yang looked at Qi Zui, “I’ll agree to let you become a backup player for team one.”
Half a year earlier, He Xiaoxu said the same thing, almost word for word, to Yu Yang.
He Xiaoxu grit his teeth and was just about to retort, when Yu Yang said calmly: “Manager He, the current captain of team one is me.”
He Xiaoxu was speechless.
Yu Yang looked at Qi Zui, “Do you agree?”
Qi Zui’s heart was in turmoil.
Yu Yang understood him.
So there is no need for more words.
“Who are you putting up this front for?” Qi Zui reached out and gently pinched Yu Yang’s cheek, “Me, a backup player for you guys? I’m the saviour you desperately need, okay?”
Yu Yang looked down, touching his own cheek. He said quietly: “Win the competition first.”
Qi Zui nodded: “Okay, next Sunday.”