Chapter 26

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Ye Shaoyang and Chi Shuo spent a few minutes chatting about new heroes in the game.

Ye Shaoyang had a very good impression of the boss, who wasn't at all pretentious. The boss didn't act like he was better than Ye Shaoyang just because he'd sent so many gifts. He kept a polite distance between them, and he didn't pry into Ye Shaoyang's personal life. Their conversation remained solely focused on the topic of the game.

This kind of meeting with an online friend gave people a very comfortable feeling.

Time passed in an instant, and soon enough 2:00 PM arrived. The stage lit up in dazzling lights. Under the brilliant glow of that high-tech light show, the stage seemed to rise into the air like a blooming flower.

The host Lin Qi's voice also grew louder and more energetic. "Good afternoon, viewers in the audience and viewers watching from home! We are coming to you live from the Season 9 playoffs of the Official Gods War Pro League!"

Yao Mu chimed in, "Today, the first match of the playoffs will be held between Team Jingzhe and Team Huowen! Our players are ready to go. Let's all give them a warm round of applause. Please welcome today's combatants!"

A transparent glass elevator slowly descended from the second level of the stadium, lowering the players to the stage. It gave off an effect like 'gods descending to walk upon mortals', which caused the crowd to erupt in deafening screams and cheers.

Team Jingzhe were the first to take the field. They wore neat, dark purple uniforms, and the team logo printed on the backs of their jackets was in the shape of a scorpion; they radiated an aura of mystique. The captain Fang Zhengqing was handsome and wore a pair of glasses with silver frames. He also wore a lasting smile which made him seem quite good-natured. He was extremely popular; the moment he appeared on stage, fans went wild shouting his name.

The cheers were so loud that Chi Shuo had to scoot closer to Ye Shaoyang and whisper in his ear, "The one standing in the middle is Fang Zhengqing. To his right is Xie Yuan, and to the side is Li Yun'mo. They're the iron triangle of Team Jingzhe, and they're the three players we ran into during that ranked match."

Ye Shaoyang remembered. "Square Square, Round Round, and Cute Cute?"

"Mm. Their professional accounts are called I'm Very Square, I'm Very Round, and Swath of Clouds."

Ye Shaoyang was silent for a moment. He didn't want to offer any commentary on the names of these three big shots, so he resisted the urge to laugh and said, "Their poison comp is really quite strong."

After greeting the audience, the players of Team Jingzhe swiftly filed into one of the soundproofed rooms on stage and started to adjust the equipment. Ye Shaoyang noticed that the five players had each brought their own keyboard and mouse. It looked like Gods War allowed players to use their own peripherals in official matches; players would be more used to these, and would feel more comfortable playing with them.

Immediately afterwards, the five members of Team Huowen descended upon the stage to another rousing burst of applause and screams.

These players all wore red uniforms, and their team logo resembled a circular coat of arms wrapped up in a blazing flame. The man who stood in the middle was the tallest. He smiled and bowed politely to the audience.

Ye Shaoyang was seated very close to the stage. He could clearly see each player's face. He was quickly noticing that all the esports player in the A/B/O world were very attractive. Possibly because most professional esports players in this world were alphas?

According to his research, alphas generally had genes which lent them an air of superiority. They had a strong desire for victory and dominance, which made them suitable for the fiercely competitive world of esports. Omegas, although also very genetically outstanding, tended to have milder personalities. They were more often interested in fields like music, art, or literature. Omega esports players were even rarer than giant pandas.

But the league didn't prohibit omegas from playing. Ye Shaoyang didn't need to worry about his 50% chance of differentiating as an omega — it didn't matter to him, anyway. Nothing could affect his determination to play esports.

Chi Shuo continued to whisper, "The one in the middle is called Zhou Zhou in the game, his name is Zhou Jiawen. He's the captain of Team Huowen, and also the youngest captain in the country at the moment."

Zhou Jiawen? Ye Shaoyang hadn't heard that name before. He couldn't help but ask, curiously, "The ones standing in the middle are usually mid laners, right? He's also a mid laner?"

Chi Shuo nodded. "Mm. He's a top-tier mid laner, ranked in the Top 50 on the international server. Domestically, he can be said to be on par with Fang Zhengqing. Little Zhou is very skilled at playing artillery mages, his hit rate with his skills is over 80%."

Ye Shaoyang raised his brows with surprise. "He's that impressive?"

All mages relied on their skills to make a difference in a game. It was very normal for mages to miss with their skills or release them at the wrong time. An 80% hit rate meant that eight out of ten times, Zhou Jiawen hit his mark. If he was able to choose an artillery mage that could do lots of burst damage, and if he wasn't killed quickly in team fights, he could instantly slaughter the enemy's glass cannons.

Ye Shaoyang couldn't help but say, "So it looks like both Team Jingzhe and Team Huowen are teams centered around their mid laner?"

"Right, and that's why I invited you to come watch this game live." Chi Shuo turned to look at him again. His eyes still possessed that rare sort of gentleness. "You like playing mid laner, right? Today, you'll see two of the world's top-tier mid laners face off."

Mid-core teams were teams that developed all their tactics surrounding their mid laner. The jungler would give up a portion of their resources to the mid laner, so that the mid laner could level up as soon as possible and act as the main source of damage output in team fights.

When Ye Shaoyang heard Chi Shuo's explanation, he instantly grew more alert and excited—barring any unforeseen circumstances, the top-tier mid laners Zhou Jiawen and Fang Zhengqing would become his most formidable opponents in the future. He would, of course, have to carefully study the way they played so that he could better understand how much of a skill gap remained between him and these players.

Chi Shuo found that as soon as he mentioned this would be a showdown between world-class mid laners, Xiao Bai became more pumped up.

The eyes of the young man sitting next to him were as bright as stars. He earnestly gazed at the stage. That was the focused expression of a student listening to his favorite teacher's lecture.

From his eyes alone, anyone could tell that he had a fierce interest in esports.

The corners of Chi Shuo's lips curved up. He leaned back in his seat and turned his gaze to the stage as well.

Both teams of players were now adjusting their equipment in their respective soundproofed rooms.

The host at the stadium announced, "Let's turn things over to the commentators' booth now!"

The image on the big screens in the stadium cut over to a shot of the commentators' booth on the second floor.

The booth was decorated very cleanly, with some figures of characters from the game on the desk. One male and one female commentator sat at the desk. The man was dressed in a formal short-sleeved shirt with a tie, and the woman was wearing a nice dress suit.

As the image on the big screens cut to them, the two commentators took over from the hosts.

"Welcome to the Gods War S9 playoffs match between Team Jingzhe and Team Huowen of the winners bracket."

"I'm the commentator Youyou."

"And I'm the commentator Ming Yu."

"First, we would like to extend our special thanks to XXX Group and XXX Group for their support of the Gods War Pro League."

"The official match prediction site is now open. Viewers can all now submit their predictions for the outcome of these games. The coins you win can be used to exchange for merchandise in the game's official item shop, or for skins in the game."

"This match will be analyzed in real time by our official A.I. program, and the referees from the official Gods War Tournament Committee will be in charge of ensuring the fairness of this match."

"Next, let's introduce the starting members of both teams."

The two commentators swiftly rattled off the introductions of all ten players.

As their names were announced, each player's face appeared on the big screens. After all the players were introduced, and after they finished setting up their equipment, the two referees in the soundproofed rooms gave each other a signal, and the game interface soon appeared on the big screens.

The B&P stage of the first game was beginning.

Both coaches started to make their targeted bans.

Team Huowen was selected as the blue team, so they had the first ban.

Their coach practically didn't hesitate for even one second before banning the Cobra King.

Youyou laughed and said, "As expected, Captain Fang's Cobra King has taken a ban spot."

Ming Yu sighed and said, "When you play against Jingzhe, you basically have to ban the Cobra King. This seems to be a tacit understanding in the coaching circle? Jingzhe's poison comp is very strong, after all. If you let them run it, they'll be hard to deal with."

Immediately after that, Jingzhe's coach got a chance to ban a hero.

The hero that was sent off to the ban list was the Flame Goddess.

Youyou said, "Banning the Flame Goddess is also a standard move. After all, Captain Zhou's Flame Goddess is very strong as well. It seems the two coaches are hitting hard right from the start, huh? They've already wiped out each other's strongest team comps."

Ming Yu mused, "Who will the second ban spot be dedicated to? Will they continue to target the middle lane?"

"It's possible," Youyou said. "Both of these teams are mid-core teams, after all."

Immediately afterwards, Team Huowen banned Fang Zhengqing's Elven Princess, which was another hero he was skilled with. Jingzhe retaliated by banning Zhou Jiawen's Tidal Goddess.

For the first round, they actually banned four mid lane heroes in a row?

Ye Shaoyang's feelings were a bit complex—he had once experienced this sort of treatment as well. Back when they played in the playoffs, Team GD had always run into coaches who would target their middle lane and ban Ye Shaoyang's favored assassin mages.

This type of situation always left him in the uncomfortable spot of being unable to choose his favorite heroes.

But, on the other hand, it was also the sort of thing that made a player feel honored.

After all, coaches only targeted you like that when they feared you.

The B&P stage ended very quickly, and the lineups of both teams were soon determined.

Ye Shaoyang focused on the mid lane heroes.

The mid lane hero Fang Zhengqing had chosen for this game was the Forest Druid. This hero was a summoning-type mage who could summon green vines to ensnare and bind the enemy. The Druid could also block the enemy's advance by planting trees in their way. Just reading the description of these skills made the hero seem like a headache.

Zhou Zhou had taken the Destruction Mage, who was simple and brutal. His ult could instantly kill off fragile heroes, but if he missed with his ult… there would be nothing more to say.

The two players were evenly matched in strength. Who would come out with the upper hand?

Ye Shaoyang kept his eyes wide open and focused on the game.

In early-game, Captain Fang was at a slight advantage. He planted his trees all over the place so that Captain Zhou's positioning options would be limited, making it difficult for him to farm minions. Probably because Captain Fang's tactics were irritating enough to make Captain Zhou lose his temper, Captain Zhou hit Level 6 and immediately flashed in to use his ult. Fang Zhengqing swiftly used his own flash to get away.

In the eyes of the audience, it seemed like the two players had used their flashes at the exact same time—it was like they were saying, I predicted your prediction.

It wasn't until the big screens replayed that moment in slow motion that the audience saw what really happened. Captain Zhou had used his flash first, rushing in with the intent to use his ult to instakill his enemy. Then Fang Zhengqing used his own flash to get away. All this had happened in a span of 0.2 seconds.

This kind of reaction speed… it was no wonder these were known as top-tier mid laners.

The battle in the mid lane became more and more intense.

The team fights came one after another, and deafening cheers continued to ripple through the crowd.

Ye Shaoyang, however, ignored all that commotion. His eyes never deviated from the action on the big screen before him.

In the first round, Team Huowen won by a narrow margin.

In the second, Team Jingzhe evened out the score.

In the third, Jingzhe took the lead and brought them to match point.

In the fourth round, Zhou Jiawen chose the Frost Goddess, which was a hero well-suited to dragging out the rhythm of the game. He guarded their base for ten minutes, then decisively froze three of the enemy heroes at a critical moment, taking three kills without giving up any of Huowen's lives in return. With one strike, he turned their defeat into a victory!

The score was now tied at 2-2. The final deciding game was about to begin.

Chi Shuo looked at the person next to him and saw that Xiao Bai was very focused on the game. He seemed to watch even more intently than some coaches from pro teams. No matter how loudly the people around him cheered and screamed, he didn't seem to be affected at all.

Sometimes, he lowered his head and fell deep into thought. Sometimes, he applauded a player for making a brilliant move. And sometimes he furrowed his brow faintly, as though noticing a player's small mistakes.

Chi Shuo observed him silently.

The game was intense, and the two of them didn't talk much as the games played out on the screens before them. But Chi Shuo could now be sure that the man next to him had the qualities that were essential for esports players—he was calm and focused.

Xiao Bai's dedication to watching the game earnestly made him seem completely out of place among the other lively fans in the audience, which proved he wasn't any ordinary audience member.

The vast majority of people who came to watch a game live were just there for the commotion. They would clap and cheer whenever someone got a kill. But Xiao Bai watched the game and paid close attention to the team comps, the players' operational skills, the timing, rhythm, and so on… he noticed all the intricacies of the game.

Before the final round, there was a break.

Chi Shuo took the initiative to say, "In the fifth round, we should be able to see Jingzhe's poison comp."

Ye Shaoyang was surprised. "The coach won't ban the Cobra King again?"

"If a playoffs match reaches a game five, the rule is that bans are out," Chi Shuo said. "Players choose their heroes freely."

In normal B&P stages, the coaches of both teams would desperately ban the other side's strongest heroes. But in the playoffs, the rules dictated that game fives weren't subject to bans from either side.

Which meant coaches couldn't ban a single hero.

All heroes would be available to the players of both teams, and players could choose freely. That meant in these deciding games, each team could come out with their strongest team comp to fight for victory.

Chi Shuo could tell that the person next to him was thinking deeply. He couldn't help but ask quietly, "If you were asked to counter Fang Zhengqing's Cobra King, which hero would you pick?"

Ye Shaoyang considered it for a moment, then said, "Bloodstained Assassin plus Illusionist. Can that mid/jungle duo instakill him?"

Chi Shuo answered mildly, "If you work together well enough, you can take him down."

"But killing Fang Zhengqing isn't enough," Ye Shaoyang said.

Chi Shuo nodded. "Right. Team Jingzhe still has Xie Yuan."

Ye Shaoyang smiled faintly and looked towards Chi Shuo. "Then what if we kill them both?"

Chi Shuo fell silent.

Kill them both?

That was easy to say, but Fang Zhengqing was a world-class mid laner and Xie Yuan was a world-class marksman. They also had a very level-headed, reliable support to protect them. It was hard enough to kill just one of them, but two?

What mid/jungle duo in the league would dare claim they could do such a thing?

But Xiao Bai had proposed that idea so frankly, like it was something obvious that could be taken for granted.

Ye Shaoyang earnestly continued, "Their team has two cores. In order to crack that team comp, you need two cores of your own that are just as strong. The best way to deal with their poison comp is for a mid/jungle duo to quickly off their cores. If you work very well together, if your jungler and mid laner act at the same time and swiftly kill the two of them… it's possible."

He paused there, then smiled slightly and said, "It's certainly difficult, but there's hope. Right?"

Chi Shuo remained silent.

Yes. There was hope.

But the coaches in the league didn't dare allow Team Jingzhe to play their poison comp at all. They didn't dare bet on that hope.

The fact that their domestic teams couldn't win the world championship tournament wasn't due to a lack of skilled players. It was due to a lack of boldness and innovation. Their domestic league lacked the spirit that was necessary to go against convention and make new breakthroughs.

The lineups used in their games more or less always stayed the same. They shuffled through them without ever making many developments or changes. Teams studied the tactics and strategies of foreign teams every day, but they rarely created their own tactics.

Jingzhe's unique poison comp, Huowen's burn comp, and Tianhuan's mid/jungle duo…

These comps were their own innovations, but they were always banned.

No one tried to find a way to break down these lineups. Instead, they just prevented teams from running them.

How could any progress be made in an environment like that? How could they face the pack of wolves that dominated the world championships?

Chi Shuo turned back to the young man next to him—his smile was very calm, and his eyes were bright and clear. It was like he was a newbie to the game who didn't understand anything, who could make all sorts of wild claims. But at the same time, he also looked like a master of the game who'd traversed countless mazes. Like an open-minded expert who saw and understood all.

Those two contradictory traits were perfectly blended in Xiao Bai's body.

Although Xiao Bai could only play a few heroes, he had broken through the knot of unease that had existed in Chi Shuo's chest for a long, long time.

If there was hope, why not try?

The corners of Chi Shuo's lips curved up. He fixed his gentle, warm gaze on the other man and asked, "Xiao Bai, are you interested in playing professionally?"


Author's Notes:

The two main characters in this novel won't do anything as simple as just winning a world championship.

They'll establish a new era.

Their tacit understanding in the game and their shared goals and ideals will become the basis of their developing relationship.

Chi Shuo doesn't have any other intentions towards Xiao Bai at the moment, he's purely looking for a teammate. He'll slowly develop some intentions later. ^_^

Those who want to see the cool Captain Chi lose his cool can look forward to it~

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