“So there are three of our teams, two from Japan, two from Korea…Jeez, our sworn enemy Ares will be there too.” He Xiaoxu held the team list, head snapping up with a warning, “Let’s agree on this now, let bygones be bygones, no starting trouble this time, no goading, do you hear me?”
Bu Nana let out a sigh: “It hasn’t even been half a year, but if you hadn’t mentioned them I would have forgotten them altogether.”
These days, Simba was in the habit of watching match replays whenever he had any free time. He was multitasking, so wasn’t completely focused on the meeting and looked up at that: “Which team?”
“At the Busan team event, the team that went crazy trying to go after us all over the map.” Lao Kai laughed, “I remember because their entire team got yelled at by their boss for giving up on the competition itself, and they all shaved their heads after, hahaha…”
“If any of you bring your personal feelings into the competition and go against them for no reason, I’ll also make you all shave your heads as punishment.” He Xiaoxu gave Lao Kai a warning look, then turned to look at Yu Yang and frowned, “Youth?”
“Hm?” Yu Yang looked up, “What?”
He Xiaoxu was exasperated: “God Yang, give us a break, will you? Qi Zui has only been gone for one day, can you not walk around like your soul’s left your body? You’re going to be wrapped around someone’s little finger if you’re like this when you date.”
Yu Yang awkwardly took out a cigarette, letting He Xiaoxu tease without attempting any excuses.
He did not have much to explain, either, since the reason why he was spacing out just now was because he was thinking of Qi Zui.
The day before yesterday, the two of them stayed in the tiny, tiny bathroom for over half an hour.
Because of all kinds of reasons, Qi Zui had been very restrained when he was with Yu Yang, enough for Yu Yang to think that things were great as they were. But just as Yu Yang got used to it, Qi Zui used that half hour or so to forcibly, but gently, take their intimacy to the next level.
It was both unexpected and as natural as breathing.
Yu Yang did not have a single ounce of discomfort, and after the long process of desensitisation training, he had come to accept all of Qi Zui before even knowing it.
Young God Yang, after getting his first taste of something like this, had been thinking of Qi Zui at every resting moment these days.
“I’m fine.” Yu Yang fiddled with his phone. Qi Zui had said that he would call before his bedtime, so Yu Yang’s thoughts were filled with the need for the meeting to end quickly so he can go back to his dorm, “You go on.”
He Xiaoxu said coldly: “What did I just say?”
“No creating conflicts with Ares, I got it.” Yu Yang looked up and said calmly, “There was no need to worry about conflicts with them anyway…our goal right now is TGC and the other European teams, we probably wouldn’t be in the same ranking range as Ares.”
Lai Hua smiled at that, but did not pipe in.
The many months of training was not for nothing–the new four-man team had improved a lot since then. With Qi Zui back on the team to boot, the entire HOG team had been more confident lately.
They were still fighting for the top spot with Ares at the Asia Cup, but at Worlds, it was true that HOG did not even consider Ares as competition.
“Keep that mentality up.” He Xiaoxu grinded his teeth, “I haven’t had it easy these few months, I’m counting on you guys to win so I can hold my head up again too.”
Yu Yang looked back down at his phone, and Bu Nana said: “Continue then, what’s next?”
“Let’s talk about the teams you guys actually care about, then. The first one, our domestic team TGC, our old friends, so no need for me to elaborate.” He Xiaoxu flipped over the TGC page of his notes, “The team that is currently ranked fifth in overall skills is Team FREE from North America…we’ve played them in our practice matches, right now we’re not as strong as they are. We could probably go for it in the team event, but they will destroy us in the duo.”
“And then it’s the Avengers team from North America, though even though they’re from North America, their team members are from all over the place, like Jordan, Bulgaria, Lebanon…so basically they have taken apart some of the strongest teams from elsewhere and combined them into one team. We’ve played them when Qi Zui was still on the team, it was about a 50/50 between us.” He Xiaoxu flipped another page of his notes, “And then it’s Team Gem from Finland. We haven’t played against them, but going by their practice match videos against FREE…they are probably a little stronger than us? But there is still hope for the team event.”
He Xiaoxu flipped another few pages, then said, “The remaining two Japanese teams we can skip over, we destroyed them at the Busan competition already…and this Thai team is worth keeping an eye on. They are noobs, but really daring with their plays, and hot-tempered too, so they’ll go all in on whoever they run into.”
“The Swedish team WER, we’ve destroyed them multiple times at practice matches, so no need to worry about them…” He Xiaoxu flipped to the end of the document, then closed up the folder, “There are eighteen teams in total, and with quite a few teams that are stronger than we are in overall skills. But overall, there is still hope…since we’ve given up on the duos this time and are focusing on the team event.”
Bu Nana was unimpressed by this, complaining: “What do you mean giving up on the duos? There is some hope there, okay? We got silver with the duo from Lao Kai and I at Busan.”
Lai Hua gave Bu Nana a look. Bu Nana coughed and lowered his voice and said meekly, “Let people dream.”
“This is the consolidated data from all the teams’ matches from the last two months. Even though they might not be accurate, and anything could happen in competition–but we have our own hidden trump card, don’t we?” Lai Hua got up, “If I were to speak without any personal feelings, we definitely have hope for the team event. There isn’t any other team in the country that works as hard as us, right? Hard work definitely pays off, but underestimating our enemy definitely does not pay off. But still, don’t stress it too much, as long as there is hope, all we have to do is to do our very best.”
He Xiaoxu nodded and said solemnly: “There are eighteen days until the competition. Work hard till the end.”
The eighteen days flash by.
The entire HOG team felt locked and loaded, ready to go.
The three domestic teams participating in the competition were all from Shanghai, so they all needed to take the same flight route. It did not come as a surprise that they ran into each other in the airport.
Qi Zui had been in a good mood these days. His hand was mostly recovered, and even though he wouldn’t be able to return to how he was at his peak, the post-surgery results were much better than he expected. Since he was in a good mood, he was pretty friendly when he saw the people from TGC and Knight, and even suggested that they all take a group photo to commemorate the other teams’ generous presence in watching them win. Of course, this suggestion was refused by the other two teams.
“Why aren’t they grateful for the compliment…”
In the lounge room, the three teams stake their territories and keep their distance; especially Knight, who was annoyed enough to go and change their flights. Qi Zui sighed, “We’re all brother teams…”
“Backup player, can you calm down?” He Xiaoxu was focused on counting money, then gave everyone their share of the US dollars that he just exchanged. “Watch out, Hua Luo might report you to the competition organisers for verbally harassing his and other teams.”
Qi Zui frowned at the two words, and He Xiaoxu rushed to correct: “Coach Qi, Coach Qi.”
Qi Zui laughed self-deprecatingly, then looked at Yu Yang.
Yu Yang was switching out the SIM card on Qi Zui’s phone.
Yu Yang had his head slightly lowered, intently wrapping up the SIM card into a little envelope, then putting it into his own bag.
Yu Yang closed up the card slot on Qi Zui’s phone, then checked the lock screen while he was at it–the battery was low, so he took out his charger from his bag, then plugged in Qi Zui’s phone.
After he settled everything for Qi Zui, Yu Yang pressed his baseball cap down on his head, then put on his headphones to focus on match replays.
If someone didn’t know any better, they would assume this was someone’s little boyfriend who was focusing on researching for their itinerary.
“Captain Yu, wanna take a break?” Qi Zui gently took out one of Yu Yang’s headphones, “You only slept for three hours last night, you’re not sleepy?”
“No.” Yu Yang looked up, “I’ll sleep on the plane.”
“Take a break now.” Qi Zui took out the other headphone, too, “Your eyes are a little red.”
Yu Yang rubbed at his eyes, uncaring: “That’s no big deal…”
The VIP lounge room had this one drawback: the seats were all standalone, single seats, so Qi Zui couldn’t even get Yu Yang to lean against him and take a nap. With no other option, Qi Zui went and got some drinks, then sat across from Yu Yang, teasing him into chatting.
“You’re as prepared as you can be at this point, take a break.” Qi Zui reached over and rotated the rim of Yu Yang’s hat to the back, then gently brushed his hand over his forehead, “Close your eyes.”
Yu Yang said lowly: “We actually have a lot of hope for the team event, every little bit counts, I…”
“Shh…” Qi Zui cut him off, “Close your eyes.”
Yu Yang gave a laugh and closed his eyes obediently.
QI Zui took out the snacks he picked up earlier and started to feed some to Yu Yang, little by little. With nothing else to discuss, he said leisurely: “Want me to teach you some English?”
Yu Yang swallowed the little pastry in his mouth, then said quietly: “Okay.”
“Never mind.” Qi Zui changed his mind, “Your foundations are pretty solid, you’re basically good to go for communicating with others. Why don’t I teach you some German?”
Yu Yang was surprised to receive such praise from Qi Zui, and stuttered: “M-my English is pretty good?”
“Really good.” Qi Zui smiled, “I’ll teach you some German…”
Yu Yang nodded vaguely, at a loss: “Okay.”
Qi Zui smiled. Yu Yang would probably understand it if it was in English, but definitely not German.
“We’ll start with an easy one.” Qi Zui paused to consider, then said, “Ich liebe dich.”
Yu Yang repeated what he said with some difficulty, then asked: “What does that mean?”
Qi Zui chuckled: “I love you.”
Yu Yang had his eyes closed this entire time, but lowered his head at that, the corners of his lips curving up.
Yu Yang slowly chewed the pastries that Qi Zui fed him, then said quietly: “You’re taking advantage of me.”
“This is taking advantage?” Qi Zui glanced at Mute Zhou, who was across the lounge room from them, then gave a soft sigh, “If we were back home…I’d weasel you into saying something dirty, or even if I were going easy on you, wouldn’t I at least trick you into calling me your husband?”
Yu Yang’s ears were turning a little red.
“We do have some hope for the team event, but we need to be in good condition for that, right?” Qi Zui ran a finger under Yu Yang’s chin, “We’re landing tomorrow, and you will have six hours max to sleep before you have to go record your pre-competition videos.”
Yu Yang suddenly thought of something, eyes opening with a startle: “The pre-competition trash talking?”
Qi Zui nodded.
Yu Yang was hesitant: “I…I have to do it?”
“We all have to record it this time, but of course the focus will be on you as Captain.” Qi Zui laughed, “Have you decided on what to say?”
Yu Yang was horribly suited for this kind of thing. He mulled over this for a long moment, then asked Qi Zui: “Will you record it too?”
Qi Zui nodded, “We’ll have to submit the application to sub players in once we land. Since I’ll be on field, I’ll have to record it too…but I’m just one team member, and a backup one at that, so I’ll probably just say one thing.”
Yu Yang looked up: “What will you say?”
Qi Zui thought about it for a moment, then slowly smiled, “I’m back.”