In the evening, when Shi Du came out of the shower, he saw Yu Zhaohan sitting in front of the table, lowering his head and writing something on a tablet. He was muttering to himself as if doing homework. When he encountered something he didn’t understand, he even seemed to want to bite the end of the pen.
Just as the pen was about to reach his lips, Yu Zhaohan suddenly remembered what his mother had said about not biting pen caps. He quickly pursed his lips and tapped his own head with the pen, saying: “You can’t bite the pen, baby.”
Shi Du’s kink got teased ruthlessly, but he responded, “Who calls themselves ‘baby’? Hilarious.”
Yu Zhaohan explained, “I’m imitating my mom.”
Shi Du caught onto the important point, “So, your mom calls you ‘baby’? Then I want to as well.”
“You’re so weird,” Yu Zhaohan lifted his head from the tablet, “You told me not to bring up my mom, yet you’re still comparing yourself to her.”
Shi Du blinked, realizing his own silliness, and chuckled while looking down, “I’ve become like this all because of you.”
“I haven’t turned you this way,” Yu Zhaohan said seriously, “I’m sincere with you.”
Shi Du was truly delighted. He walked behind Yu Zhaohan and noticed that he had written a page full of quotes from famous people and internet catchphrases on the tablet. The quotes from famous people were fine, but some of the internet catchphrases were quite cringe-worthy and seemed immature and ridiculous.
Shi Du asked, “What are you doing baby?”
Yu Zhaohan looked at Shi Du with “you are so childish” looks, and said expressionlessly, “Baby is preparing for a conversation with Xiao Jiang.”
Shi Du’s expression became more serious, “What happened to Xiao Jiang?”
Yu Zhaohan explained what he had discovered recently to Shi Du. Shi Du was somewhat surprised, “What did the coach say?”
Yu Zhaohan said, “The coach didn’t say anything.”
During training, Shi Du wouldn’t pay as much attention to others as the captain and coach did. Lu Youshan was a bit foolish when it came to the players’ mentality, so not causing trouble for Yu Zhaohan was already a huge favor.
Shi Du recalled Xiao Jiang’s performance in recent training matches, “His data hasn’t dropped.”
“You can’t tell,” Yu Zhaohan said with a hint of pride in his tone, “It’s my captain’s intuition.”
Shi Du smiled, “I trust the captain. What do you plan to do?”
Yu Zhaohan exuded confidence, “First, we need to understand the reason behind Xiao Jiang’s current state, and then apply the appropriate solution—give him some high-level words to listen to.”
This was Yu Zhaohan’s well-practiced method for solving his teammates’ psychological issues, and it had never failed him.
For instance, Cheese used to get upset when trolls insulted his mother, feeling guilty for his mom’s sake. Yu Zhaohan taught him the phrase he had learned online, “Virtual network, virtual mom; virtual ancestral grave, no need to fear.” Now, Cheese was unaffected by insults to his mom, even if someone insulted his entire family. He took it lightly and shrugged it off with a smile.
Another example was when he had just become the team captain. Qi Xian had been in a state of self-destruction due to a breakup, drinking heavily at bars. Yu Zhaohan’s recitation of the phrase he found online, “Shedding tears for stinky fish and rotten shrimp, is it pathetic or not?” had successfully led Qi Xian to a moment of enlightenment, helping him break free from his emotional darkness.
Shi Du didn’t seem to agree, “Your golden words might only work on someone as naive as Cheese.”
Yu Zhaohan became displeased, “They worked on Qi Xian as well.”
Shi Du suspected that what worked on Qi Xian wasn’t the internet catchphrases but the fact that an eighteen-year-old team captain had carried him back from the bar to the base. However, he didn’t voice his suspicion. He agreed with Yu Zhaohan’s first step, which was to find the cause of the problem.
Shi Du asked, “Are you going to ask Xiao Jiang about this?”
Yu Zhaohan shook his head, “Given Xiao Jiang’s personality, if I ask him directly, he’ll probably just remain silent. If I press him relentlessly, it won’t align with Shine’s image.”
Yu Zhaohan had talked to Jiang Di privately before. Even though Jiang Di was his fan, there were certain things he wouldn’t reveal to him. He had to rely on his own deductions. “I’ve been analyzing it for a while, and I have some ideas.”
Jiang Di’s symptoms had appeared after the match against ZC and Cobra. If it wasn’t for personal reasons, then the problem must lie in that particular match.
Cobra’s playstyle was quite controversial, and anyone would have wanted to criticize them. Although Shine hadn’t directly criticized them, Yuyu had already shredded them with insults. Yu Zhaohan remembered that Jiang Di had asked quite a few questions about this incident. At that time, he didn’t think much of it, but in hindsight, Jiang Di’s laconic and icy demeanor was evident. If he could say a few words about an issue, it proved that he cared deeply about it.
Jiang Di’s pursuit of fairness was well-known. He had chosen the path of professional E-sports because it was a realm where only skill mattered, offering him the fairness he desired.
But what if it wasn’t true? If E-sports could also be manipulated, and the manipulators went unpunished due to the referees’ bias, would Jiang Di question the meaning of his professional gaming career?
The belief required for a professional E-sports career is of utmost importance. Once doubt creeps in, the entire career may be at risk.
Yu Zhaohan poured out his analysis in one go and eagerly looked at Shi Du, his eyes silently spelling out: Praise me.
Shi Du, quietly listening, couldn’t help but envy himself. He felt like he’d found a real gem in Yu Zhaohan, who seemed to effortlessly switch between being intelligent and acting like a fool.
Shi Du didn’t disappoint Yu Zhaohan. He smiled and praised him, “Captain, you’re really smart. Come, give me a kiss.”
Speaking of kissing, Yu Zhaohan remembered something, “Shi Du, I want to try that thing I saw in a comic.”
Shi Du asked, “What thing?”
Yu Zhaohan picked up his phone and showed Shi Du a saved comic panel. In the comic, the female lead was sitting in a gaming chair, leaning against the backrest, tilting her head backward, while the male lead, much like Shi Du, was standing behind the chair, leaning down to kiss the female lead’s lips.
Shi Du: “…Are you sure you want to try this?”
Yu Zhaohan nodded: “This is very cute, I want it.”
Shi Du knew there was a dimensional barrier between comics and reality, but when your boyfriend wanted something, what could you do but try to accommodate him?
Half a minute later…
“No, no, Shi Du, my neck hurts like crazy in this position. It feels like it’s about to break.”
Their kissing training ended with this rather unsuccessful attempt, and the goal of mastering breath control wasn’t achieved. For the remainder of the evening, Shi Du spent his time massaging his not-so-bright boyfriend’s sore neck.
The next morning, Yu Zhaohan woke up at eight and was shocked to find the bed next to him empty. He quickly checked his phone and saw a message from Shi Du from an hour earlier.
[Timeless: Good morning, Yuyu. I’ve gone for morning exercise.]
Shi Du went for morning exercise?
Yu Zhaohan read Shi Du’s message several times to ensure that he understood it correctly. He would have called the police if it hadn’t been for ‘Yuyu’ being Shi Du’s exclusive name for him and no one else knew about it.
If Shi Du was doing morning exercise, it was most likely nearby. Yu Zhaohan went out to look for them and found Shi Du and Jiang Di at the neighborhood basketball court.
Jiang Di was wearing professional sports gear, with tight-fitting shorts and a tank top that displayed his bulging muscles. To someone who didn’t know him, it would be easy to mistake him for a fitness trainer. In contrast, Shi Du looked much more casual, wearing a loose T-shirt and shorts, like a student passing by the basketball court after class, suddenly inspired to play.
Yu Zhaohan chose not to disturb them as they were deeply engrossed in their game. Shi Du controlled the ball, and Jiang Di stood in his way like an insurmountable mountain, even seeing through Shi Du’s feints. After considerable effort, Shi Du finally broke through this defensive line using his agility and successfully attempted a layup under the basket. However, Jiang Di swiftly and decisively blocked it.
Yu Zhaohan furrowed his brow slightly.
Oh my, his boyfriend wasn’t great at basketball. He hoped no one saw that.
The two played for an hour, took a break, and stood on the sidelines sipping water while chatting. Yu Zhaohan was curious about what they were talking about, but his captain’s intuition told him it would be best not to disturb them.
Yu Zhaohan rubbed his slightly sore neck and left.
After their basketball game, Shi Du and Jiang Di returned to their room, took showers, and indulged in a short nap. It was only during lunch that they reappeared. Training resumed after lunch, and Yu Zhaohan didn’t have the opportunity to spend time alone with Shi Du. Even though Shi Du was sitting right next to him, they had to communicate through WeChat.
[Shine: I saw you playing basketball with Xiao Jiang in the morning, Xiao Jiang is better than you]
[Timeless: …I feel so grateful.]
[Timeless: Xiao Jiang used to be a professional basketball player. With more practice, he might even make it to the CBA. I’m already pretty damn good if I’m just a bit worse than him, okay?]
[Shine: How do you know?]
[Timeless: He told me some things, and I did some research on my own. Take a look at this.]
Shi Du sent him a link, which led to a post on a campus forum. He remembered that Jiang Di dropped out of this university to play professionally.
[This year’s university basketball team roster has been announced. Can someone explain why Jiang Di, who can carry the entire game, isn’t on it?]
[1l: I don’t get it, wasn’t Jiang Di always the starting center for the university team?]
[5l: I’ve got this one. I heard from my younger brother in the sports institute that he apparently got reported for using banned substances by his teammates, and then he got banned by the basketball association.]
[13l: The version I heard is the opposite of 5l’s. He reported his teammate for violating the rules, which led to his teammate’s suspension. Then all his teammates turned against him, and now even the coach doesn’t want to deal with him.]
[24l: The basketball association should investigate this matter. Let’s wait for the results of the investigation.]
[245l: Breaking News—Jiang Di dropped out of school!]
[300l:Huh? The investigation results haven’t been released yet, how did he drop out?]
[305l: It seems like the results are already out, they just haven’t been made public [shrug].]
[319l: So, who actually violated the rules?]
[325l: It must be Jiang Di. If he was innocent, there’d be no reason to drop out.]
[400l: Such a shame, he’s talented, why resort to cheating?]
[403l: Screw this, cheating is disgraceful. People like him should stay away from the words “competitive sports.”]
Yu Zhaohan’s expression became colder the more he looked. He seemed to understand why Jiang Di had such an almost pathological obsession with “fairness.”
[Shine: Do you believe this?]
[Timeless: Whether I believe it or not doesn’t matter. What matters is the outcome.]
[Timeless: Xiaojiang dropped out, giving up competitive sports. That’s the outcome.]
Yu Zhaohan looked up at Jiang Di. Jiang Di was solo queuing, his mouse and keyboard movements were skillful, his gaze fixed firmly on the screen. He appeared completely focused, but there was a void hidden in his eyes.
After competitive sports, has E-sports let him down too?
Yu Zhaohan couldn’t help but say, “Jiang Di.”
Yu Zhaohan couldn’t help but speak up, “Jiang Di.”
Jiang Di had headphones on, and theoretically, he couldn’t hear his voice, but he still removed his headphones immediately, “Captain.”
Yu Zhaohan collected his thoughts, “Do you have some time? I want to talk to you…”
“Does anyone want to go watch today’s match live?” Old Tan entered the training room, interrupting Yu Zhaohan’s words. “I got a few tickets from ZC’s manager.”
Today, there was a match between ZC and JSE, which was also ZC’s most likely chance to secure their first victory. After the “kill but don’t capture” and “freeze but don’t kill” strategies, R.H and ZC had developed a big brother and little brother-like friendship. The little brother goes in to eliminate the enemies, and the big brothers all want to go watch and cheer.
“Me, me, me!” Cheese jumped up from the chair, “ZC’s mom came here uninvited!”
Shi Du, who didn’t know that he was once regarded as a male mother, said: “Zc said thank you, but no thanks to male moms.”
Stone shyly said, “Can you take me along?”
Yu Zhaohan asked Jiang Di, “Do you want to go?”
Jiang Di hesitated for a second, “Yes.”
Qi Xian said, “Then let’s go together, after watching the match, we can stroll through the Korean night market.”
Old Tan said: “But I only got three tickets in total. You can decide which three people will go.”
Everyone looked at each other in blank dismay. Yu Zhaohan said: “Old rules.”
The way professional players choose someone is very simple; they play a solo game, and the one who performs the worst withdraws.
To be fair, when they play solo, they use the same hero, and it can’t be a hero from their main position. For example, Stone and Jiang Di, one was a tank and the other was a support, so in this solo game, they were both playing short-range damage dealers.
Stone had joined the team not long ago, and he hadn’t even had enough time to practice his main role, the tank. He rarely played other roles, so he wasn’t a match for Jiang Di in this game. Jiang Di won this round.
Yu Zhaohan and Qi Xian played a solo game as support heroes. Qi Xian wanted to surrender as soon as he drew the Captain. As expected, Yu Zhaohan let him experience the unpredictable nature of the world once again within a minute. Qi Xian’s healing speed couldn’t even keep up with the speed at which Yu Zhaohan used his Bio-rifle to headshot him.
In the end, it was Timeless and Cheese soloing as tanks. Tanks have thick health bars and average damage, so when two tanks duel, it’s a battle of skill. The health bars were both reduced to 250 points, with neither willing to give in.
Timeless, who was accustomed to hunting down squishy targets, quickly lost patience and found a spot by the river to hide. When Cheese passed by, he charged forward. They both ended up in the river almost simultaneously, but the system determined that the one who fell into the river later was the winner.
Cheese cursed Timeless as a sneaky old jerk.
Yu Zhaohan, Jiang Di, and Old Tan felt relieved, but Timeless was the one who made them the least at ease. Old Tan reminded Timeless to quietly watch the match and not cause any trouble. Timeless reassured him, “Today’s star is not me. I’m not interested in stealing ZC’s limelight.”
Jiang Di asked Yu Zhaohan, “What were you about to say earlier?”
Yu Zhaohan and Timeless exchanged a glance and Yu Zhaohan said, “Not here, let’s talk outside.”
In the afternoon, the three of them finished training early and took a taxi to the match venue.