Chapter 31

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Chi Shuo wasn't actually all that surprised that Xiao Bai had discovered his true identity so quickly. As the captain of Team Tianhuan, his photo was all over the place online. Tianhuan's official Weibo page had a group shot of their starting lineup pinned, after all. Xiao Bai could find it with just one quick search.

Since Xiao Bai already knew who he was, there was no reason for Chi Shuo to be all secretive about it.

Chi Shuo swiftly responded: [Apologies, I didn't want to lie to you. I only said I was a coach today, at the stadium, because I wanted to put your mind at ease about coming to the training camp for the player trials with me.]

Ye Shaoyang asked: [So that means, Captain Chi came to find me on his own… secretly, behind his coach's back?]

Chi Shuo: [Mm.]

Ye Shaoyang didn't respond for a while.

This captain was pretty interesting. The players of most teams only cared about doing a good job in official games. When it came to which teammates they played with, it was usually the team's higher-ups and managers that made the final call.

This was actually the first time Ye Shaoyang had seen a captain personally stepping forward to contact a random amateur player.

Ye Shaoyang was a bit curious. He typed back: [Why do you want to invite me to join Tianhuan? I've looked up Tianhuan now, and your mid laner Qu Jiang isn't a bad player. Next season, the ones retiring are your marksman and support. Since you already have a new marksman set, shouldn't your top priority right now be finding a powerful new support?]

Chi Shuo thought for a while, then decided to record and send his response as an audio message. He straightforwardly said, "Qu Jiang's strength really isn't lacking, but there are problems with our teamwork. Furthermore, our current team comps have all already been dismantled by coaches from other major teams. They invade our jungle right from the start. Our support wants to protect the marksman, so they can't protect the jungle as well.

"And when it comes to counter-jungling, Qu Jiang and I don't have any sort of tacit understanding. His crowd control and artillery mages are all very good, but his hand speed is average. Assassin mages are his weak spot."

Chi Shuo paused there, then sent another audio message. "Your style and his are different. If you work together with me, we can bring up the rhythm of the game. We can find a way to break through even when facing pressure in early-game. That's the reason I chose to privately contact you."

Ye Shaoyang clicked on those audio clips to give them a listen. The alpha's voice was as deep and sounded as nice as Ye Shaoyang remembered. In two short messages, Chi Shuo had also managed to strike at the heart of Tianhuan's biggest problem.

They suffered too much from the enemy constantly targeting their jungle.

Ye Shaoyang carefully recalled the few games he'd just watched. It couldn't be denied that Tianhuan suffered crushing defeats against other strong teams. Their strategies had basically all been busted up since the season before last.

These sorts of MOBA games were essentially economy management games.

The economy of the game decided how things played out.

You needed gold to buy better equipment, and you needed better equipment to do more damage.

Besides the minions on the three lanes, which would reward some gold when killed, the rest of the economic resources in the game came from the jungle. And if your jungle was endlessly invaded by the enemy, if your jungler's resources were stolen away, a chain effect would be set in motion—the whole team would fall apart.

By endlessly pressuring your jungle and building their own economic advantage, the enemy team could become too powerful for a team like Tianhuan to withstand. In late-game, Tianhuan wouldn't be able to win in any team fights. Chi Shuo might have been powerful, but no matter how powerful he was, could he take on three other heroes by himself? When the enemy did everything in their power to target him, he was actually left pretty helpless.

In order to resolve the problem of your jungler being targeted, there were two solutions.

One, you needed a marksman who had excellent self-preservation skills. One who could survive on the bottom lane alone. That way, the support would be freed up to help protect the jungle.

Two, you needed a mid laner who was strong enough to help Chi Shuo protect the jungle. A mid laner with the guts to even invade the enemy jungle.

Tianhuan couldn't satisfy a single one of those conditions.

After he understood everything, Ye Shaoyang responded: [So, you want me to join Tianhuan to help you protect the jungle? Or to form a mid/jungle duo with you and take the initiative to invade the enemy jungle?]

Chi Shuo sent another audio message. "That's right. Your understanding of the game is the exact same as mine, and you can keep up with my rhythm. Your sense and skill when playing assassin mages are both excellent. You could form a functional mid/jungle duo with me, and we could bring up the pace of the whole game. Plus, your test results were extremely outstanding. That's why I believe we could be very good teammates."

Ye Shaoyang bluntly asked: [What about Qu Jiang? He's played for Tianhuan for three whole years, and he hasn't made any obvious mistakes. If I play mid laner, what about him?]

Chi Shuo had already considered this question a long time ago. He answered, "Let him become a support."

Ye Shaoyang was silent for a moment.

He really hadn't harbored any intentions of stealing someone else's position. No player in the esports world had it easy. Going to Tianhuan and replacing their mid laner was sure to draw a lot of ire. Hypothetically, if he were Qu Jiang and had earnestly played for three years only to have his position suddenly stolen by a random amateur, could he possibly feel good?

But asking Qu Jiang to become a support… would he be willing?

Chi Shuo quietly added, "Having Qu Jiang become a support isn't an idea I came up with on a whim. This is actually something I've been considering for a long time. First, Qu Jiang has an excellent understanding of Tianhuan's players. Next season, Tianhuan's marksman will be a newcomer. Newcomers will definitely encounter all sorts of problems when they start playing big games. With Qu Jiang protecting the new marksman, I can feel a little more at ease.

"For another thing, Qu Jiang is extremely steady and stable. As for me, I have a stronger desire for change."

Chi Shuo calmly continued, "The current Tianhuan must change in order to break free of our plight."

Ye Shaoyang fell into thought.

He had been a captain before as well. He could understand Chi Shuo's struggles.

Tianhuan absolutely had to think of a way to change.

If they continued like this, their performance would only become worse and worse.

The once prestigious Tianhuan had become like a caged beast, incapable of freely wielding its might. Chi Shuo couldn't even exercise thirty percent of his ability to deftly assassinate the enemy, and they would often suffer complete collapses in team fights.

This kind of feeling was unbearable—they were clearly full of might, yet didn't have the means to show it.

When faced with this feeling of being 'bottled up', the vast majority of players would listen to their coaches.

And the players who actively sought change would have to withstand huge amounts of pressure, both from within the team and from the outside world. With regards to this matter, Ye Shaoyang was actually very impressed by Chi Shuo's steadfast determination.

Ye Shaoyang earnestly answered: [I play mid laner, Qu Jiang switches over to support to protect the new marksman. The top laner remains the same, Tianhuan's veteran Qin Yizhu. You set the tempo in the jungle, I work with you to roam the map, to gank, to find breakthrough points. Is this Captain Chi's ideal team?]

Chi Shuo said, "As the mid laner, you can also set the tempo. I can work with you."

Ye Shaoyang felt a bit surprised by that. He wrote: [I set the tempo? You wouldn't worry if you let me do that?]

"Of course not," Chi Shuo said. "I believe in your talent. In no time at all, you'll be a world-class mid laner."

Where exactly did Chi Shuo get all this confidence in him?

Ye Shaoyang thought it over, then suddenly understood. He asked: [In that King-ranked promotion game we played together, my minion management and tactical orders were all identical to the orders you would have given?]

"That's right," Chi Shuo said.

Ye Shaoyang was quiet again.

That was a huge coincidence!

Teammates who had a tacit understanding when it came to operations were common, but to meet someone with the exact same big-picture tactics as you was an incredibly rare thing!

Do you initiate this team fight or not? Exactly who should deal with this wave of minions? Should we try to contest that dragon?

Every single decision when a question like that came up could have an effect on the outcome of a game.

In top-tier teams, there was typically only one tactician who called the shots. And that shot caller issued all the commands.

When two tacticians were on the exact same wavelength, playing for the same team, that was an extremely terrifying thing. Because in critical moments, they wouldn't even need to speak. They would simply know to make the exact same decision.

For example, the enemy has staged an ambush. Do you fight, or do you retreat?

There would be no time to wait for orders in moments like that. Decisions had to be made instantaneously. If Chi Shuo and Ye Shaoyang instantly made the same call at that moment, without the need to communicate, they could fight back. They might even be able to counter-kill their opponents.

That was why a strong tacit understanding was a key tactical advantage.

Ye Shaoyang could now at least understand why Chi Shuo had taken the risk of meeting with him privately.

He truly did agree with Chi Shuo's definition of a good teammate—someone who was willing to fight, who was willing to take risks, who was good at playing assassin mages. The two of them could definitely stay on the same wavelength during key moments. They could become a formidable mid/jungle duo who understood each other without saying a word.

If their positions had been swapped, Ye Shaoyang would also want to test this person to see if they had the physical skills needed for esports, then try to win them over to his team.

After understanding Chi Shuo's motivations, Ye Shaoyang decided to send an audio clip as well. He earnestly said, "Captain Chi, I'm really grateful for your recognition. However, having me join Tianhuan is currently just your wish. Qu Jiang doesn't know yet, right? Tianhuan's coaching team probably hasn't agreed, right?"

Chi Shuo saw the notification of that voice clip pop up on his phone. He tapped it to play it, and—

The voice that sounded out in his ears was extremely calm, without a single hint of anxiety or awkwardness.

It looked like Xiao Bai had truly started to think about the matter of joining Tianhuan.

Chi Shuo walked over to the window and answered, "You're right. I contacted you on my own before I had a chance to tell them. Tianhuan has a game this Thursday, in the losers bracket of the playoffs. I'm sure you know what this game means for us. I didn't want to influence anyone's state of mind, so I haven't said anything yet."

Ye Shaoyang also found typing too troublesome now. He answered with another audio message. "I get it. It's best if you don't say anything to them for now. You guys worked hard all year to get into the playoffs. It wasn't easy. It's best not to affect their state right before your playoffs game."

Chi Shuo quietly said, "Right, so I intend to discuss this matter with them, thoroughly, after the playoffs."

He paused for a moment, then warmly added, "Actually, Qu Jiang isn't a petty person. He was trained up by Tianhuan's very own rookie training program. He has very deep feelings for Team Tianhuan. I believe, as long as your strength is enough, he'll welcome you to the team, and he'll be willing to make a change for the sake of the team.

"Coach Lin was part of the first generation of Tianhuan players. He's very good-natured. I'll be able to convince him. The whole coaching team listens to him. As long as we convince Coach Lin, we won't have to worry about the team managers either.

"If we really hit a wall, I'll ask my master to come out of retirement. My master is a shareholder in Team Tianhuan. He can influence all the other shareholders. This is why I can promise you that I'll fight for the absolute best signing conditions for you."

Ye Shaoyang was silent as he listened to Chi Shuo's earnest words. His heart was filled up with complex emotions.

The way Chi Shuo treated him… it was like Chi Shuo was carving out his heart and wearing it on his sleeve, wasn't it?

He was even willing to call his old master out from the peaceful hills of retirement. It was obvious how much he valued Ye Shaoyang.

The level-headedness and sincerity of Tianhuan's captain were things Ye Shaoyang appreciated very much. He could tell that Chi Shuo had been tirelessly looking for a way out of the woods for the team. A team with a diligent, responsible captain who thought about the future… as long as the players were outstanding as well, what did this team have to fear?

In the esports world, all that mattered was a player's performance.

There was no team that would dare claim, We'll definitely win the world championship.

Ye Shaoyang had also led a team before. He knew that the results of a battle depended not only on each player's personal strength. The five members of a team had to be of one heart and mind as well.

He believed Chi Shuo had the ability to stabilize the heart of Team Tianhuan.

That meant this team had the ability to make another charge, to try to take another step to a higher place.

Ye Shaoyang thought in silence for a long time, before he sincerely said, "Captain Chi, I have no way of giving you an answer immediately. How about this? Let's both leave ourselves a little leeway. Let's not set anything in stone. Don't tell them that Xiao Bai will definitely join Tianhuan. Test the waters with the coaches first, see how they feel. Ask Qu Jiang and see what he thinks. If they're adamantly opposed, I don't want Captain Chi to offend too many people just for me."

Chi Shuo was the captain of Team Tianhuan, after all. Could he turn all of Tianhuan upside down for someone who wasn't even sure if they wanted to join the team? That definitely wasn't something Ye Shaoyang wanted to happen.

Chi Shuo was a bit surprised. "You're being considerate of me?"

Ye Shaoyang smiled and said, "Captain Chi has been very honest, after all. You directly told me about Tianhuan's situation. Regardless of whether or not I can become your teammate in the future, at the very least, we can be friends, right?"

Chi Shuo nodded. "Mm. Don't worry. I have a sense of propriety. I know how to talk to the team."

He paused, then softly said, "You can do your research into other teams as well. Your style of play wouldn't actually be a good fit for a lot of teams. Tianhuan is really your best option. I'll pave the road for you. When you want to sign with Tianhuan, there won't be any obstacles standing in your way."

Ye Shaoyang's heart trembled. He earnestly said, "Then I'll also improve myself as quickly as possible. I can't make you lose face, after all. I only know how to play three heroes right now, and I don't have enough of them on the national leaderboards. Wait until I'm nationally ranked with eight or more heroes, then talk to the team. That way, you'll have a stronger argument on your side."

Hearing Ye Shaoyang's earnest words made a smile surface in Chi Shuo's eyes. He pressed down on the button to record another audio message and softly said, "That's right. In order to become a world-class mid laner, you need to learn how to play all the mid lane heroes, and you need to master at least eight of them. Although the professional league doesn't rate players by the national leaderboards, this is the best way for you to prove your might."

Most professional players who didn't get many national rankings simply didn't have time, so the league never based your value on how many leaderboard achievements you had. They looked only at your professional tournament records.

But to an invisible passerby with no presence in the esports world, increasing their number of nationally ranked heroes was the best proof of their achievements.

Ye Shaoyang turned back and looked towards the box of bookmarks on his desk. The six metallic colors of Goddess bookmarks sat neatly in that box, reflecting the overhead light's warm glow.

This was the meeting present Chi Shuo had given him.

Back when he received that present, Ye Shaoyang had already said that he would thank his boss for his respect by bringing those six heroes up the national rankings. It was the least he could do.

And the Top 10 in the country wouldn't do.

He wanted to gild these heroes with the National #1 trophy.

Chi Shuo would only be able to negotiate with his team if Ye Shaoyang was outstanding enough.

Was Tianhuan the best choice for him? At that point, Ye Shaoyang still had no way of being completely certain.

He was only sure of one thing that he had to do right now—

He had to improve himself.

He had to become known throughout the domestic esports world as a nationally ranked amateur king.


Author's Notes:

Joining the team won't be that fast. For the sake of Xiao Bai joining the team, Captain Chi will have to do a little more work. Xiao Bai will also continue improving himself.

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