The next day just so happened to be Monday, a business day.
Coach Lin presented the decision to sign Xiao Bai to the general manager of Tianhuan's club, Chen-zong.
Lin Feng and Chi Shuo arrived at the general manager's office together, where they delivered a detailed report of the circumstances with Xiao Bai.
"Although Xiao Bai is already twenty-one years old, he received 5 S-rank scores on his skill trials, which proves that he's in peak condition for professional esports. He isn't at all inferior to seventeen- or eighteen-year-old players. Furthermore, this person's game sense is outstanding. He can play all sorts of mid laners. In just half a month, he took four national #1 titles. Chi Shuo personally played a ranked match with him, and the two of them have an excellent tacit understanding."
Manager Chen smiled brightly and said, "This kind of talent is something our Tianhuan definitely can't pass up! If he's new, how much is he asking for? If he's really as powerful as you guys say he is, a million yuan or so should be good, right?"
Coach Lin was just about to suggest three million when Chi Shuo calmly stated, "Add a zero."
Manager Chen was baffled.
Coach Lin was just as shocked.
The two of them both believed they'd misheard. They turned to stare at Chi Shuo in surprise.
Chi Shuo calmly said, "If we were to poach Fang Zhengqing and bring him to our team, how much would you offer him, manager?"
Manager Chen came back to his senses and said, "Fang Zhengqing is an internationally renowned player who was once named a part of the world's best duo. He's also Jingzhe's team captain. We couldn't poach him if we tried! But… he would be worth at least twenty-five million or more, I suppose."
"What about Zhou Jiawen?" Chi Shuo asked.
Manager Chen said, "Little Zhou doesn't have any world championship titles, but he's very popular. He can be considered the most outstanding player in the newest generation. Huowen has made it to the world championships before. For him to transfer, his salary definitely wouldn't be under twenty million."
Swiftly, Chi Shuo continued, "If you were to pull in a top-tier mid laner from abroad, their salary wouldn't be less than ten million, right?"
Manager Chen nodded. "Well, of course. To have a foreign player come to us would mean asking them to live somewhere they're not accustomed to, where they might not speak the language fluently. We would have to offer them at least eight figures to make them willing to come."
"So," Chi Shuo concluded, "I believe ten million is appropriate for Xiao Bai. His worth naturally can't exceed that of world-class mid laners like Little Zhou and Fang Zhengqing. However, an eight-figure salary will let him know right away how much our club values him. Furthermore, an eight-figure salary is suitable treatment for a top-tier player. He's worth it."
Manager Chen nearly choked on a breath. He took a moment to recover, then lowered his voice and said, "He's a newbie. He's never played a single professional game. At most, we would offer him three million! In the entire professional league, three million is the absolute highest salary any newbie could receive. You're asking for an eight-figure salary on his behalf? Are you out of your mind?"
Coach Lin was signaling to Chi Shuo with his eyes like his life depended on it.
Chi Shuo pretended not to notice. He calmly said, "This is because we aren't signing a newbie. We're signing a mid laner who will help Tianhuan break free from its current predicament, a mid laner who will help take Tianhuan to the podium of the world championship stage."
He paused for a moment, then lifted his brows and said, "Signing a world championship winner. Is that not worth ten million?"
"…if this is a world championship winner, even ten million might not be enough to sign him," Manager Chen said. "But the question was, Xiao Bai—has he won a world championship before? Are you so certain that Tianhuan will win the championship if he joins us?"
Coach Lin coughed lightly and broke through the awkward atmosphere that had started to fill up the office. "About the matter of his salary, why don't we go meet with Xiao Bai and talk to him personally? Is ten million yuan what he's looking for? Maybe we can talk it over?"
Chi Shuo evenly said, "We'll talk it over here on our end, then approach him with the best conditions we can offer. Why should we haggle with him? It's not like we're buying vegetables at the market."
"Ahem…" Coach Lin coughed again. "You do have a point."
Manager Chen furrowed his brows tightly. "But I can't make the final call about such a high salary. We need to talk it over with the higher-ups in the club. Your talk all sounds good, about him breaking us free from our predicament and leading us to the championship trophy. But these are all promises that you're making on your own. Whether or not this player is actually worth such a high fee is something I still have to look into for myself."
Chi Shuo nodded. "That's fine. When it's time to hold a meeting, let me know."
He and Coach Lin turned and left the office.
Coach Lin sighed and looked towards Chi Shuo. "Why are you fighting so fiercely to help someone else get a high salary? Three million, to a newbie, is already the highest possible offer."
Chi Shuo's calm gaze turned towards Coach Lin. "He isn't just someone else. He's going to be my best teammate. If you don't believe me, Coach Lin, you can continue to observe. What if Beimu does make a move and offer him an even higher salary? If we offer him less than Beimu, and he does sign with us, wouldn't you feel bad?"
Coach Lin thought for a while and seemed to realize there was some logic in that.
Team Beimu's investors were extremely wealthy. Plus, it was very likely that Beimu's mid laner would be retiring after this season. They were in dire need of a new mid laner. They would either promote someone from their second-string team, or they would have to find a way to poach someone from elsewhere.
Zhao Xin'an had been the first to discover Xiao Bai. If, hypothetically, he realized Xiao Bai's natural talent for playing mid laner and offered a salary of five million yuan to Xiao Bai, while Tianhuan only offered the three million that would have been acceptable for newbies… that would really be too cheap of them.
Although Tianhuan's condition had been declining in recent years, they were still a well-established team in the country…
Coach Lin thought for a while longer, then nodded and made his decision. "Okay. This time, I'll stand on your side. When the time comes, we'll convince the shareholders together. If you're really sure Xiao Bai has the ability to change Tianhuan, then truth be told, ten million is worth it! After all, even if we could poach Fang Zhengqing, you wouldn't be able to work with him."
A trace of a smile appeared in Chi Shuo's eyes. "That's right. A teammate who works well with me and is a top-tier mid laner is actually very difficult to find. As a team, Tianhuan isn't trying to sign the cheapest player, but the most suitable one. Isn't that right?"
Coach Lin laughed and patted Chi Shuo on the shoulder. "That's right. However, you should still give your master a heads up in advance. As long as he supports you, the other shareholders who don't really understand esports and only care about raking in the cash should all be convinced as well."
Chi Shuo nodded. "I'll contact my master as soon as possible and ask him to make an appearance."
Coach Lin stood by one of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the hall. He gazed downstairs with a complex feeling in his heart. In order to sign a new person, Chi Shuo was willing to fight for an eight-figure salary, and he was even willing to ask his peacefully retired Captain Ming to get involved. It seemed Chi Shuo's heart was set; he was determined to sign Xiao Bai.
Chi Shuo had never been the type to act impulsively. On the contrary, this alpha was almost frightfully calm. Since he was dead set on signing Xiao Bai, that meant there was something special about Xiao Bai. He had something that couldn't be replaced by any other mid laner.
How much change would a brand new mid laner bring to Team Tianhuan?
More and more, Coach Lin was looking forward to finding out.
As per his schedule, Ye Shaoyang got up in the morning and started to train with his heroes. This time, he practiced with the Flame Goddess and the Thunder Goddess. He planned on taking these two heroes up the national rankings next.
Mage-type heroes could be roughly divided into the categories of assassin mages, artillery mages, and utility or control-type mages. Ye Shaoyang's four current national titles had been won with two assassin mages, one control-type mage, and one artillery mage—the most difficult one to play.
This was obviously not an accident. He had done this deliberately.
He was sure coaches would understand his meaning.
Control-type mages could be further divided into a few sub-categories. There were mages who controlled their enemies through status effects, such as freeze, sleep, stun, and so on. These status conditions rendered the enemy incapable of moving. There were also control-type mages who restricted their enemies' movements by altering the terrain of the map, such as the Flame Goddess. She could set the playing field ablaze, making it impossible for her opponents to set foot in certain areas.
So, Ye Shaoyang's next move would be to master a control-type hero who manipulated the terrain.
It was very difficult for this type of hero to carry a whole game on their own. They needed to cooperate with their teammates.
Yao Mu seemed to have realized Ye Shaoyang's plans, and she was also aware of this aspect of terrain control mages. When they queued for ranked matches together in the morning, she actually dragged in a third person to queue with her and Xiao Bai. Ye Shaoyang saw that the person's ID was 'Xiao Wei', and instantly froze for a second.
Then he heard Mumu's gentle voice make the introductions. "This is A-Wei. A-Wei, this is the Xiao Bai I told you about."
A clear, crisp voice rang out through the voice channel. "Hello. Mumu said you're taking the Flame Goddess up the national rankings. It just so happens I want to climb with the Cannon Master right now. We'll be a pretty good fit if we queue together now."
Yao Mu smiled slightly and said, "Xiao Bai, you don't mind queueing as a trio, do you? The Flame Goddess and the Cannon Master make for a good burn comp. Since A-Wei wants to climb the national rankings with the Cannon Master, we'll be a pretty good team if I join in with the Radiant Shield as your support."
In the livestreaming room, fans were going wild—
[Holy shit, what is Xiao Wei-ge doing here? The number one ge and the number one jie of the platform are here to carry Xiao Bai?]
[Our Xiao Bai is getting spoiled!]
[It's so early in the morning. My eyes aren't still blurry from sleep, right? Why are the three of them in the same room?]
[Xiao Bai, tell me quickly, do you have some secret connections? Exactly who are you?!]
[Mumu has been double queueing with you for two days, and now Xiao Wei-ge is here. This streaming room is full of crouching tigers and hidden dragons!]
Ye Shaoyang was also surprised that the streamer Xiao Wei would make an appearance. After hearing all this, he politely said, "Xiao Wei-ge, hello. It'll definitely be much easier to work together if we're queueing together. Mu-jie is very thoughtful."
Mumu smiled and said, "No need to be so polite. We'll all be getting something we need from this. As a support, it's very hard for me to raise my battle power when I'm queueing alone. As a mid laner, marksman, and support all queueing together, it's less likely that we'll totally crash and burn."
"Then I'll log into a little alt account," Xiao Wei said. "Wait just a sec."
A moment later, an alt account named 'Xiao Xiao Xiao Wei' joined the team.
Ye Shaoyang stared at it for a moment.
That really was a little alt account!
The three of them started to queue together. Xiao Wei wasn't a top-tier streamer for nothing. As soon as they were matched into a team, their other teammates recognized him right away.
[Holy crap, it's Xiao Wei-ge!]
[A-Wei, carry me! I'll let you be marksman!]
Mu-jie's alt 'Ben'niao Xian Fei' typed into the team chat: [We're queueing as a mid/marks/support trio. Could you two pick a top laner and a jungler? If you could pick a hero you know how to play and give just a bit of your resources to the marksman, that would be great.]
The other two players instantly agreed.
[No problem, no problem!]
[I'll just lie down and wait to be carried.]
The two random teammates finished choosing their heroes, and they did indeed leave the middle and bottom lane positions open. Xiao Wei locked in the Cannon Master, Ye Shaoyang took the Flame Goddess, and Mumu chose the Radiant Shield.
This was a classic burn comp.
Because the Flame Goddess could set a huge area on fire, she could strictly limit her opponents' movements and make it so that they had no way to flee. As their support, the Radiant Shield could leap into the fray and stun a whole group of enemies. Then their marksman could dole out damage like crazy…
Although it was the first time the three of them were queueing together, their tacit understanding was unexpectedly excellent.
Mostly, that was because Ye Shaoyang placed his circles of fire in the craftiest places!
The mid laner, marksman, and support invaded the enemy jungle together to steal their blue buff. The enemy jungler realized what they were up to very quickly, but the jungle was already ablaze—it was too hot to set foot anywhere near them! There was nowhere for the enemy jungler to step!
As a result, the 'burn' status inflicted by the Flame Goddess caused the enemy jungler to lose HP and mana like crazy. The Cannon Master fired off his cannons from afar, swiftly collecting the enemy jungler's head.
They scored a very easy win.
In their second game, they didn't invade to steal the enemy's blue buff. They targeted the mid lane instead.
With his incredible hand speed, Ye Shaoyang swiftly laid out a few circles of flames at once, completely trapping the enemy mid laner inside his fire. The enemy's mana dropped like crazy, making it so that the player could only cry and run away, while typing into the public chat: [You're too much! I have no mana, I can't use a single skill!]
This was the essence of the Flame Goddess—attacking the enemy's positioning, and attacking the enemy's mana.
Her skills didn't actually do a lot of damage, so she couldn't get her enemies' HP down too low. But as soon as they touched her flames, their mana would swiftly zero out. Mid laners who faced off against her would often be scorched by her flames, and once their mana was depleted, they wouldn't be able to release their own skills.
She was even more terrifying in team fights. When the enemy heroes were all drained of their mana, they could only stand by and collectively stare as the Flame Goddess's marksman swiftly took their lives.
This burn comp was one of the signature strategies that had been devised by Team Huowen.
In professional league games, teams would have some measures to counter this comp. They could choose mid laners and junglers without mana bars, so that they could shut down the other team's Flame Goddess core. But in online games, very few randomly matched teams could cooperate well enough to counter the burn comp. To make matters worse, Ye Shaoyang typically chose his Flame Goddess last, after the opposing team locked in their mid laner and jungler. That made it very difficult for the enemy team to counter him.
In one morning of queueing together, the three streamers went on a nine-game winning streak.
When it was time for lunch, Xiao Wei took his stream offline and privately wrote to Mumu: [This Xiao Bai's game sense is pretty good. He isn't the scheming sort that they say he is in the group chat?]
Mumu sent back a smiling emoji and wrote: [Xiao Bai stole away their national titles, after all.]
Xiao Wei suddenly realized what she meant. He wrote: [Oh, so that's what it is. I was wondering why they badmouthed him all day, every day. What's all that nonsense about using a cat to lure people in, about using other people as stepping stones… those guys are just salty because they lost their national titles and can't get them back!]
The streamer Xiao Wei only played marksmen. Ye Shaoyang had taken a bunch of national titles with mid lane heroes, so he'd only offended a bunch of streamers who played mid laner. Lately, the streamers in the group chat had been insulting Xiao Bai nonstop. Xiao Wei had inevitably gotten curious, so he'd come over to queue with Mumu.
After personally playing with Xiao Bai, Xiao Wei realized that Xiao Bai was genuinely powerful.
His way of using the Flame Goddess to seal off his opponents' paths was truly awesome, and the speed at which he set his fires made for sharp and precise attacks. He often managed to leave his opponents with nowhere to run, wrapping them up like dumplings and causing them to suffer a team kill.
Xiao Wei was named the MVP in several games in a row. With help from the Flame Goddess, he'd even gotten a pentakill!
That time, when Xiao Wei got the pentakill, it was obvious that Xiao Bai had graciously allowed him to take those kills.
Xiao Wei wrote: [When you have time in the future, let me queue with you guys again. Hahaha, getting a pentakill today was just too cool, cool, cool!]
Yao Mu sent back an eye-rolling emoji and wrote: [You're such a dog.]
Xiao Wei: [Doge.jpg]
At just this time, a message was sent to the cell phones of both Xiao Wei and Mumu.
It was the head of the talent management department at Whale Streaming, Liu-zong—
[Mumu, why are you hanging out with Xiao Bai? You met him on your own?]
[Xiao Wei, ah… why are you queueing with Xiao Bai? Do you have something to do with him?]
The two streamers both looked at these messages with question marks in their eyes.
Mumu wrote back to explain: [We met by chance in the summit tournament, and I thought he was a pretty good player. I added him as a friend, so we could rack up points together. What's the matter? We're all streamers with Whale Streaming. Queueing together is perfectly normal, isn't it?]
Xiao Wei: [Mumu pulled me into the group. What's going on? We're all streamers on the same platform, queueing together is a totally normal thing, right? Liu-zong, you scared me half to death when you texted me.]
Liu-zong was speechless.
But Xiao Bai hasn't signed with us yet!
Why are you all tripping over yourselves to promote him?!
Xiao Wei's main ID is 小玮 (xiǎowěi) and his alt account is named 小小小玮 (xiǎoxiǎoxiǎowěi), where 小 (xiǎo) means 'little' or 'small'. An alt account is called a 小号 (xiǎohào), which can be more literally translated as 'little account'. So Xiao Wei has a 'little' account with a lot of 'littles' in the name of that 'little' account.