As Ye Shaoyang moved down the VIP entryway, he saw a few lines of warning text displayed on LCD screens in a bold, red font—
Spectators Please Take Note:
- All alphas are asked to please apply their masking sprays before entering the venue.
- If your pheromone value test shows any abnormalities, please contact a member of our medical staff immediately.
- Please be civil while watching the game. Do not smoke, drink, or speak too loudly. Please do not fight or argue. Everyone must do their part to maintain a harmonious viewing environment.
Just as Ye Shaoyang finished reading these notices, a woman in a long white coat approached him and said with a smile, "Sir, your pheromone value test results returned with an abnormality. It says here that your value is zero. May I please ask if you've yet to differentiate?"
Ye Shaoyang nodded. "Yes. I haven't differentiated yet."
The doctor handed him a sealed plastic bag. "This contains the contact information of our medical team here, so you can contact us right away if you feel unwell while watching the event. There are also alpha and omega pheromone suppressants in here, which can temporarily suppress your pheromones and prevent you from experiencing a loss of control should you differentiate here."
Ye Shaoyang accepted the bag and flashed the doctor a small, polite smile. "Thank you, doctor."
The doctor gestured towards the security guards, indicating that they could be cleared.
Ye Shaoyang passed through the security checkpoint with Qin Rui. Once he saw that no one was nearby, he couldn't help but curiously ask his didi, "Are all people like me, who haven't differentiated, given special protection like this in public places?"
He felt like he was turning into an endangered species.
Qin Rui leaned over and whispered into his ear, "That's right, ge. Because you could differentiate at any time. If you aren't prepared and lose control, you could affect the surrounding audience members."
Ye Shaoyang was starting to understand a little more. "A pheromone value of zero means you haven't differentiated yet?"
Qin Rui nodded and explained, "Alphas, betas, and omegas who have differentiated have a pheromone value that can be detected by that machine. Usually, a value below 6.0 is considered safe. If someone's pheromone value is over 10.0, for omegas it means they might go into heat and for alphas it means they might enter their rut. Monitoring pheromones in public places like this is a way to avoid public unrest."
It seemed that not differentiating was quite a hassle. Ye Shaoyang would always have to carry around all sorts of patches and sprays. He hoped he would differentiate quickly. Alpha or omega, a fifty percent chance of either. Whichever was fine. He just wanted a result, instead of being kept in suspense.
Ye Shaoyang took out his phone and swiftly jotted down the key values Little Rui had mentioned. Then he put away his phone and the plastic bag he had been given, before walking into the stadium with his didi.
Star City's Esports Center was massive. It could easily seat over 100,000 spectators.
The seating was divided into a lower and an upper level, with the stage sitting at the center of the arena. Six sections of seating, labeled A-F, fanned out from the stage like the petals of a flower. The venue was temperature-controlled. It was August, and the weather outside was obscenely hot. The ground was hot enough to fry an egg on. As soon as you walked into the venue, however, you were swept up in a comfortable gust of cool air.
Two rooms made of soundproof glass stood on the stage, one on the left side and one on the right. Five gaming chairs and five desktop computers were set up in each of these soundproofed rooms. Currently, the lights hanging high above the stage were all brightly lit, clearly illuminating the stage. Quite a few staff members were working in those rooms to adjust the equipment inside.
In each sector from A-F, a huge projection screen hung overhead. When games were played on the stage, the big screens would display the gameplay in real time so that even those in distant seats could clearly see the action; it was very thoughtful.
Ye Shaoyang quickly found the seats listed on the electronic tickets he'd received.
He and Little Rui had seats 3-51 and 3-52 in Section A. These seats were located right in front of the stage, giving their occupants an excellent view. Ye Shaoyang and Little Rui took their seats together.
There was still some time before the game was due to begin, so Ye Shaoyang got out his phone. Since he had nothing better to do, he created a Weibo account under the name [Streamer Xiao Bai]. Then he logged into the Whale Streaming app on his phone and posted an announcement in his room:
Everyone is welcome to follow me on Weibo @Streamer Xiao Bai.
The stands gradually filled up as the audience flowed in.
By 1:30 PM, everyone was seated.
Ye Shaoyang turned and looked over his shoulder, finding a densely packed sea of people behind him. The stadium had over 100,000 seats, and each and every one had really filled up.
The fans in the back rows held up huge banners of support. Some were posters and flags with a team logo, some had chibi-style drawings of various players, some were real-life photos of these players, some were inspirational slogans, and so on and so forth. It was like the scene of a celebrity concert.
Qin Rui looked around excited and whispered, "Ge, it's my first time seeing a game live. There are so many people here!"
Ye Shaoyang calmly answered, "It's the playoffs, after all. There would definitely be more people here than at a regular season game. I checked the tournament schedule. The team that wins today moves straight to the quarterfinals. The team that loses will face off against the losers bracket."
Qin Rui was puzzled. "Losers bracket?"
"It's a 'double elimination' system," Ye Shaoyang explained. "In the winners bracket, teams that lose will face off against teams from the losers bracket. As for teams in the losers bracket, they'll be eliminated if they lose even once. According to the rules of the regular season, the top four teams of the season make it into the winners bracket and the next four make it into the losers bracket."
Qin Rui suddenly came to a big realization. "Then wouldn't the teams in the losers bracket have basically no chance of winning? Those are all teams with worse results."
Ye Shaoyang breathed a laugh, then whispered in his didi's ear, "Not necessarily. Teams who do well in the regular season, then crash and burn in the playoffs are a dime a dozen. Every game is determined in the moment, based on how you perform in that game. The playoffs follow an elimination structure, so there'll be a lot of pressure on the players. If their mental states aren't in a good place, it's easy for them to completely collapse after losing just one game."
Qin Rui nodded seriously. "Good point! Ge, you know a lot."
Ye Shaoyang didn't explain any further. He had seen too many players shed tears after being eliminated from the winners bracket, and he had seen just as many who'd fought against all odds and claimed victory from the losers bracket.
That was the strongest allure of esports—
As long as your base remained intact, anything was possible.
At 1:45 PM, the lights on the stage suddenly dimmed. A cheer erupted from the crowd.
A pair of hosts, one man and one woman, took the stage. The man was very tall, and he was dressed in a gray suit. The woman wore a white cocktail dress and a pair of silver sandals with slim heels. The handsome man and beautiful woman were an eye-catching sight when they stood together.
The male host lifted a microphone and announced, "Good afternoon, everyone. I'm your host Lin Qi. There are still fifteen minutes until the start of our opening game. First, we'll be holding our lucky draw. Let's give a warm welcome to the Whale Streaming host, and our special guest host for this game—Yao Mu! Yao Mu, please go ahead and draw the first winner!"
Ye Shaoyang looked up at the stage with some surprise.
Previously, when he had his negotiation meeting with Whale Streaming, he'd taken it upon himself to get a better understanding of the platform and their gaming streamers. He knew that their most popular male streamer was named Xiao Wei, and their most popular female streamer was called Yao Mu. The reason for Yao Mu's popularity was that in addition to her extraordinarily good looks, she was also pretty good at playing games.
She specialized in playing support and often teamed up with her viewers to play ranked games. Some netizens insulted her by implying that she was only ever carried to victory by the big spenders in her streaming room. But Ye Shaoyang had watched a few games from her livestreams; she actually played support very well. Although her operational skills couldn't be said to be on par with that of professional players, her game awareness was excellent. She was nationally ranked with a handful of support heroes as well.
This host was fairly good-natured, and she never bickered with her anti-fans. Ye Shaoyang had a pretty good impression of her.
"Good afternoon, everyone." Yao Mu smiled warmly in her white dress, with her long hair draped over her shoulders. She took the remote control that the male host handed over and said, "This time, our gift is a limited edition garage kit figure of the Forest Envoy. Very worthy of joining any collector's collection. I wonder which audience members will be lucky enough to receive one?"
The other host said, "We'll be drawing three winners for the first round of our lucky draw raffle, randomly selected by the system. Everyone pay attention to your seat numbers. The winner just might be you!"
Numbers rapidly started to scroll across the big screens.
Yao Mu smiled slightly and said, "Let's count down… 3, 2, 1, stop!"
She pressed down on the control to stop the program.
The big screens stopped on three seat numbers: B3-51, C18-39, and F60-99.
Qin Rui looked down at their seat numbers, then sighed mournfully. "How sad, we were just off by one letter. Ge, you almost won the prize."
Ye Shaoyang's seat number was A3-51, and it was B3-51 who'd been selected as a winner.
Ye Shaoyang laughed softly and said, "That's normal. There are over 100,000 people here. The probability of winning a raffle is very low."
As he spoke, someone suddenly passed next to him.
The man was very tall, dressed in a simple pair of jeans and a black t-shirt. His face was half-covered by a face mask, and he wore a baseball cap on his head. The brim was tugged down so low that it was impossible to see his face at all.
He quickly walked to the third row in Section A and sat down in seat A3-50, right next to Ye Shaoyang.
Ye Shaoyang detected a very unique fragrance—light and refreshing, very pleasant.
He turned and looked at the person in the seat next to his. The other person also turned at just that moment to look at him.
When their eyes met, Ye Shaoyang was immediately stunned for a moment—
His own eyes had met a pair of deep, dark eyes that exuded an aura of calmness and reliability that seemed like it wouldn't be shaken up by even the most tumultuous seas. Paired with a set of very good-looking, angular eyebrows, those eyes left a deep impression even with the rest of this person's face covered up by a face mask.
Suddenly meeting a pair of eyes like that, Ye Shaoyang remained frozen for a moment. Then he slowly flashed a polite smile. The other party was still studying him, though. After a moment, a trace of amusement seemed to surface in his eyes as he asked, "Xiao Bai?"
His voice was very pleasing.
Low and magnetic. If he'd been in the voice acting industry, he would have been very recognizable as a god in his line of work.
Ye Shaoyang suddenly realized something and asked with a bit of surprise, "…boss?"
He'd originally thought the boss would be some sort of successful businessman in his thirties. This person next to him seemed very young?
Chi Shuo nodded. "Hello."
Ye Shaoyang instantly reached out, politely offering his hand. "Hello, boss. You're sitting here too?"
Chi Shuo took his hand and gave it a gentle shake. "That's right. I got an extra ticket from a friend. It just so happened that this seat was next to yours."
Team Tianhuan could take the players' entrance and go directly to the second tier of seating, where a special area for professional players and reporters was reserved. However, Chi Shuo hadn't gone with his teammates. He'd asked their team's event coordinator for an extra ticket so that he could sit with Xiao Bai as an ordinary spectator.
But he was too popular. If he simply walked in, he would have been surrounded by fans immediately. That was why he had to put on a cap and mask and sneak into the venue discreetly, after the lucky draw had already begun. At that time, the only lights in the stadium were the ones on stage. The lights over the audience had already gone out, so no one would notice him.
When Ye Shaoyang heard his explanation, he smiled slightly and said, "I was just thinking I wanted to thank you in person, both for the gifts you send and for the tickets for today. I must be making you break the bank."
Chi Shuo quietly answered, "No need for thanks."
He carefully studied the person in front of him.
Xiao Bai was also wearing a face mask. His eyes were clear and warm, and when he smiled, his eyes filled up with a sort of light. He looked cheerful and outgoing, not at all awkward or nervous.
Calm and confident. Just like the person in Xiao Bai's streams.
The familiar scent of an alpha's pheromone masking spray reached Chi Shuo's nose, although it was very faint.
So, Xiao Bai was an alpha?
While Chi Shuo thought, the hosts' voices rang out from the stage again. The second round of the lucky draw was beginning. Chi Shuo took out a delicate little box from behind him and offered it to Ye Shaoyang. "For you. A meeting gift."
Ye Shaoyang didn't dare take it right away. "What is it?"
"Game merch," Chi Shuo said. "A limited edition Goddess-series set of bookmarks, already out-of-print. I bought a few extra sets back in the day. You like playing mid laner, right? Just so happens they'll be good for your collection."
Ye Shaoyang almost couldn't bring himself to accept them. The boss had sent him so many gifts on the streaming platform, he'd given him game tickets, and now he'd even brought him merch as a meeting present. He didn't know why this person favored him so much. He didn't show his face when he was live. It couldn't be that his boss had taken a liking to his cat, right? Or was his boss just really, really impressed by his gaming skills?
Chi Shuo saw his hesitation and lightly said, "Take it. Game merch isn't worth all that much, it's just to commemorate something significant. There are six mid lane heroes in here. You can take your time practicing them later."
Hearing him say that, Ye Shaoyang calmly accepted the box. "Then I won't be shy. Thank you, boss."
Game merch really wasn't like expensive, luxury goods. They could be accepted. Not accepting would just make things more awkward for both of them. Ye Shaoyang would just gift the boss something in the future, if he really felt bad.
Ye Shaoyang looked down. The blue gift box was stamped with the golden logo of the game. When he opened it, he saw six metal bookmarks neatly arranged inside. Under the light, they seemed to emit a faint glow. The bookmarks were of the six female mid lane mages in the game. The metal was as thin as a set of cicada wings, and the delicate designs were imprinted as 3D carvings. They were exquisite.
The names of the six heroes were printed at the bottom of the bookmarks—
The Frost Goddess, Shirley. The Flame Goddess, Nicole. The Storm Goddess, Vivian. The Thunder Goddess, Blanche. The Tidal Goddess, Heidi. The Destiny Goddess, Angelina.
Ye Shaoyang hadn't yet gotten a chance to practice with these six heroes in the game, but he knew they were all very popular mid lane mages. The boss's gift was indeed very significant and meaningful.
Ye Shaoyang gently brushed his fingertips over the bookmarks. The metal was smooth and slightly cool to the touch. This special sort of bookmark wouldn't fade and grow weathered with age, even after many years. Ye Shaoyang liked them very much. He couldn't help but say, "The bookmarks are really nice. Unfortunately, out of these six heroes, I can only play the Frost Goddess."
Chi Shuo gazed at him. His voice was warm and gentle, in a way which it rarely was, when he said, "These six mages correspond with six different types of team comps. I trust with your advanced understanding of the game, you'll be able to learn to play them very quickly."
Ye Shaoyang boldly accepted the other party's praise. He smiled towards the other man and said, "Since the boss thinks so highly of me, I'll take these six heroes up the national leaderboards next."
National rankings with six heroes? Could he take those titles just because he said he would?
To anyone else, this would have seemed like crazy talk.
But Chi Shuo knew it wasn't.
He liked Xiao Bai's confidence very much.
To become a professional esports player, confidence was a necessity.
Moreover, Xiao Bai really did have the ability to take a hero to the national leaderboards. He wasn't making empty promises.
Chi Shuo quirked his lips and looked towards Xiao Bai. "After you took the Abyssal Lord to the national leaderboards, the system started recommending your build. I tried it out over the past few days and found that it does play very smoothly."
Ye Shaoyang modestly said, "I just blindly tried things out until something worked. This hero's style of play is very flexible. His ability to get kills is really strong. There should be other builds that work with him too. I can figure them out bit by bit."
Chi Shuo nodded. "Mm. The Abyssal Lord is currently only live for online matches. He hasn't been officially added to the tournament server yet. Before he's added, the game might still adjust his stats."
Ye Shaoyang joked, "But let's hope they don't nerf him into a useless little didi. I worked so hard to become nationally ranked with him."
Chi Shuo whispered back, "No, at most they'll do some fine-tuning. The skill mechanisms will stay the same. This hero's killing potential will definitely stay at the T0 level."
Qin Rui was silent.
Who was he? Where was he? What was he supposed to say?!
Qin Rui could only prick up his ears and listen to his gege and the boss chat.
It was really strange. These two people had clearly only met for the first time, and yet there was no sense of them being strangers at all. They were chatting about the heroes in the game, like they would never run out of topics to discuss. It seemed like they were already old friends who'd known each other for a very long time.
Qin Rui couldn't get a word in edgewise at all.
He could only sit back and silently return his gaze to the big stage.