The next morning, Ye Shaoyang sent Chi Shuo a message: [Captain Chi, what time will you be arriving?]
Chi Shuo answered: [I just got to the airport at the capital. I'll reach Star City at around one in the afternoon, and I'll make a trip home first. I'll pick you up by car at around three. Can you send me your address when you get a chance?]
Ye Shaoyang sent his address over to Chi Shuo, then started to queue up with Mu-jie and Xiao Wei.
They played straight through the day until two in the afternoon, at which point Ye Shaoyang excused himself by saying he had something to do. Then he got up to get changed.
He spent some time rummaging through his closet until he found a fairly suitable casual outfit. He would be going to meet Captain Chi's master, so he couldn't dress too carelessly, but the meeting didn't warrant going so far as to wear a suit either.
A simple pair of jeans and a solid tee would probably be fine.
After changing, Ye Shaoyang turned to the mirror and straightened out his hair.
When Qin Rui saw that his gege was getting ready to head out, he hurriedly rushed over and asked, "Ge, where are you going? Do you need me to go with you?"
Ye Shaoyang helplessly said, "I'm not a child. You don't have to keep me company every day."
He turned back and looked at his didi, who was still dressed in pajamas. "Speaking of which, haven't classes started at your university already? Why do you stay at home all day without going to school?"
Qin Rui laughed and said, "My field of study is pretty relaxed. We have a light course load, and all lectures are simultaneously streamed online. So we can choose to not go to school and take our classes online. We just need to go check in once a week and do all our homework."
"Then you just stay home and attend your classes online. I'm going to meet a very important person today. It isn't all that convenient for you to tag along." Ye Shaoyang stopped by the cupboard next to the front door and took out a bottle of alpha pheromone masking spray, giving himself a good spray all over. Then he pocketed some of Qin Rui's pheromone suppressing patches as well, before turning to flash his didi a smile. "Look, I remember everything you taught me."
It was only then that Qin Rui relaxed. "Ge, I'll have food ready for you when you get back."
Ye Shaoyang waved at him, then turned to head downstairs.
When he reached the gates of their residential community, he immediately saw Chi Shuo's familiar black car. Chi Shuo spotted him as well. He took the initiative to get out of the car, then circled around to the passenger side to open the door for Ye Shaoyang.
Ye Shaoyang thanked him, then slid into the passenger seat. He looked towards Chi Shuo and said, "Captain Chi, I've really inconvenienced you this time. There's really no need to argue for such a high salary for me. I told you before, I don't care about money…"
Chi Shuo looked back at him with a serious look in his eyes. "I told you too. I'll fight for the best conditions for you."
Ye Shaoyang helplessly said, "Alright. Then when we meet your master, we can't show up empty-handed, right?"
Chi Shuo pointed into a gift box in the back seat. "I brought a gift, you don't need to worry."
Ye Shaoyang didn't protest any further. He put on his seat belt and turned to face forward.
Half an hour later, the car stopped in front of a small villa.
The villa was situated in an idyllic area. Green hills, clear waters. A huge garden and small pond stood in front of the villa, making the home look quite fitting for a place where one could thrive in peace.
Ye Shaoyang followed Chi Shuo into the villa with a heart full of curiosity.
As soon as they entered the courtyard, they heard the crisp, clear sounds of piano music flowing out from inside the villa. That smooth melody filled up their ears. Ye Shaoyang couldn't tell what song it was, but the notes sounded out very swiftly, one after another. It must have been a difficult tune to play.
The two visitors silently stopped in unison, not disrupting the music.
A moment later, the sounds of the piano slowed to a stop. A deep, gentle voice sounded out from inside the villa. "Is that Little Chi? Come in."
Chi Shuo led Ye Shaoyang inside.
Ye Shaoyang saw a tall man dressed in slippers and a white, at-home outfit. The man was very handsome and refined, with slightly long hair. He exuded an impressive aura. Rather than an esports player, he seemed more like an artist.
Chi Shuo set the gift he'd brought down in the entryway and politely greeted, "Master."
Ming Sheng smiled slightly and cast his gaze upon Ye Shaoyang.
He met a pair of bright and clear eyes which contained not even the slightest trace of anxiety or timidity. On the contrary, the young man seemed very steadfast and confident even when coming to an unfamiliar place. The youth's features were quite attractive as well, and his hairstyle was quite simple and refreshing. He looked a bit like he was mixed race, and his outfit was very neat and tidy. The first impression he gave off was pretty good.
Ming Sheng warmly asked, "This is the new streamer you told me about?"
Ye Shaoyang smiled and greeted, "Captain Ming, hello. My surname is Ye, I'm called Ye Shaoyang. You're welcome to call me Little Ye. Online, my name is Xiao Bai."
Ming Sheng waved for his two guests to follow him inside, then fetched a fishing rod and a pack of fish bait for Chi Shuo. "Little Chi, you go down to the lake and catch some fish. If you can catch any, we'll stew it for soup tonight. I'll chat with Little Ye alone for a while."
Chi Shuo was speechless.
And Ye Shaoyang was as well.
Chi Shuo's expression tensed for a moment. He looked at Ye Shaoyang with a bit of unease.
Ming Sheng laughed softly and said, "Don't worry. This is someone you brought here. I have a sense of propriety."
Chi Shuo had no choice but to take the fishing rod his master handed to him. "Then you guys have a good talk."
He turned and left. It was only then that Ming Sheng led Ye Shaoyang up to the second floor.
Up on the second floor, there was a very large gaming room, lit by dazzling lights that emitted a cool, blue glow. On a desk that was over three meters in length, two extremely high-tech desktop computers were set up.
At that moment, the computers were currently on.
Ming Sheng had sent Chi Shuo off… to challenge Ye Shaoyang to a solo match?
Had he been worried that neither of them would have felt quite right, whether they won or lost, if Chi Shuo was there? So he'd orchestrated an opportunity for them to 1v1 in private?
Just as Ye Shaoyang was thinking this, he saw Ming Sheng point to one of the chairs.
"Have a seat."
Ye Shaoyang sat down. On the computer in front of him, the game was already loaded up and logged in to an account called [Helpless Mingming]. All of the mid lane heroes in that account had already been unlocked. As soon as he sat down, a message popped up on screen—
Your friend [Happy Mingming] has invited you to join a practice game.
Ye Shaoyang accepted the invitation and softly said, "God Ming, I don't know how to play many mages."
Ming Sheng was still smiling as he said, "Then just use the ones you know."
In the first round, Ye Shaoyang chose the Abyssal Lord—a hero he'd taken to the top of the national leaderboards.
Ming Sheng chose the Abyssal Lord as well.
Using the same hero to 1v1 was the one true way to determine someone's understanding of that hero. Ye Shaoyang instantly focused his full attention on the computer monitor—
Both sides started to farm minions to level up, until they both reached Level 6 and unlocked their ults. Ye Shaoyang took the initiative to attack first. However, Ming Sheng seemed to have predicted his move. He instantaneously swapped places with one of his own black shadows, evading Ye Shaoyang's ult, then countering with his own.
After losing the first round, Ye Shaoyang looked over at Ming Sheng with some surprise in his eyes. This was a professional player who'd already retired, the twenty-eight-year-old former captain of Team Tianhuan. How could his reaction speeds still be so fast?
Ye Shaoyang swiftly calmed himself down, and the second round began.
Once again, Ye Shaoyang chose the Abyssal Lord. The second round played out in a very cautious manner, like the players were saying: If you don't make a move, I won't make a move. The two players leveled up by farming minions at blinding speeds. They both flung their skills at each other, and dodged each other's skills. They played an extremely careful game, paying close details to their movements and the management of their minions. The game dragged out until they'd both obtained their core gear, at which point Ye Shaoyang suddenly attacked.
But this time, he remained cautious. He sent a black shadow out first, tricking Ming Sheng into using his flash. Then he immediately flashed into the range of Ming Sheng's tower, swiftly applying his abyssal marks to Ming Sheng's hero and using his ult. Finally, he used his third shadow to make his own retreat.
…launching a surprise attack from a great distance, then fleeing just as suddenly after taking a kill.
This was the sharp, precise killing style Ye Shaoyang could show off when he played his assassin mages.
Ming Sheng mildly said, "Not bad. Again."
In the third round, Ming Sheng took the initiative to pick the Destiny Goddess. Ye Shaoyang followed his lead and took the Destiny Goddess as well.
This round didn't last very long. Ye Shaoyang was quickly killed off by an unexpected skill combo from Ming Sheng. But Ye Shaoyang was naturally predisposed towards refusing to accept defeat. In the fourth round, he chose the Destiny Goddess once more and pushed his hand speed to the limit to even out the score again.
The two of them cycled through five mage-type heroes, all ones which Ye Shaoyang currently knew how to play. The Abyssal Lord, the Destiny Goddess, the Illusionist, the Frost Goddess, the Flame Goddess… they played a total of ten rounds of 1v1, ultimately resulting in a 5-5 tie.
Ye Shaoyang's voice was full of admiration as he exclaimed, "Captain Ming's game sense is really strong!"
Ming Sheng released his mouse and smiled slightly. "It's too bad, my hand speed is no good anymore. I can manage, but only for a few minutes. Professional games last hours. In games that go on for longer than thirty minutes, I can't keep myself in this condition."
He looked at Ye Shaoyang with a warm and gentle gaze. A trace of admiration rose to his eyes. "Chi Shuo said a lot of good things about you to me. He also told me he wants to give you a salary of ten million. This salary, is it what you asked for?"
Ye Shaoyang fell silent.
It wasn't me! I didn't!
Ming Sheng saw his expression shift, and quickly understood. "Chi Shuo made that decision on his own."
Ye Shaoyang coughed softly, not knowing what he was supposed to say.
Although Captain Chi was fighting for him to receive better treatment, Ye Shaoyang didn't want people to think he was the greedy type who only cared about money.
Ming Sheng suddenly changed the subject. "What are your thoughts on the position of mid laner?"
Ye Shaoyang's expression became extremely serious and focused, like a student being quizzed by a teacher. He gave it some careful thought, then answered, "My personal opinion is that if you imagine a team is like a person, then the heroes in the top and bottom lanes are like the person's limbs. Without those limbs, the person can't move. The support is also like the person's eyes; without eyes, the team would be blind. The jungler is like the equipment that's wielded in the hands of this person. The jungler can be a sharp blade that pierces straight through an enemy's chest. The jungler can also be a sturdy shield which protects their teammates."
Ye Shaoyang paused for a moment, then looked directly into Ming Sheng's eyes and continued, "And the mid laner is the person's spine."
A very faint smile appeared at the corners of Ming Sheng's lips.
A spine. That was the first time he'd heard an analogy like that.
Why was the mid laner important?
Because the mid laner was positioned at the middle of a map, just like a person's spine. When it moved, the whole body moved.
The outer tower on the middle lane was an extremely important strategic objective for both sides.
Once a team lost their mid lane outer tower, a chain reaction would be set into motion—they would lose their visibility in the jungle, then they would lose control of their territory in the jungle. They would lose the grand dragon and minor dragons. Their opponents would continue to snowball an advantage, eventually crushing them into defeat.
So in many games, there were situations where teams had no choice but to give up their outer towers on the top and bottom lanes. But they had to guard the middle lane to the death. In truth, this wasn't to protect the middle lane—it was to protect their control over the jungle, their visibility in the jungle, and their ability to contest dragons later in the game.
An outstanding mid laner couldn't just learn to kill enemies and assist teammates. They had to learn to protect their tower as well.
Ming Sheng had originally assumed Xiao Bai was the same type of sharp and aggressive player as Chi Shuo. He played assassin mages well and would want to team up with Chi Shuo, moving through the jungle and killing everyone they met. But after personally meeting Xiao Bai, Ming Sheng realized—Xiao Bai was much more levelheaded than he'd imagined.
In the 1v1 games they'd played, Ye Shaoyang's understanding of the middle lane, big-picture thinking skills, and ability to patiently seek out the right opportunities to strike decisively were all outstanding. It was no wonder Chi Shuo thought so well of him.
Ming Sheng added, "If the team needs you to be a mid laner that supports the rest of the team, if they tell you to hide your own sharp edges, if they tell you not to play the heroes you like, would you be willing to do that?"
Ye Shaoyang nodded very bluntly. "Of course. I enjoy playing assassin mages, but I know that playing assassin mages isn't the only way to win a game. As professional esports players, our ultimate goal in any game is to win, isn't it? As long as we win, then it doesn't matter which hero I pick."
Ming Sheng sighed lightly. "That's right. Chi Shuo likes playing the Bloodstained Assassin the most. But he hasn't been able to play this hero in an official game for three whole years. He's sacrificed a lot for Tianhuan."
Ming Sheng looked towards Ye Shaoyang with warmth and a smile in his eyes. "Can you protect Chi Shuo well and allow him to become the core of the team in the jungle again?"
Ye Shaoyang calmly answered, "I believe I can."
"…you're very confident." Ming Sheng stood up and passed over a contract to Ye Shaoyang. "I love confident players. This is Tianhuan's standard contract for new players. You can take a look first."
Ye Shaoyang accepted it with some surprise. He carefully flipped through.
Ming Sheng continued, "We'll still need to adjust the details. The salary for new players is typically between one and three million, but you're someone Chi Shuo values very deeply. I've also met you now, and your talent and reaction speeds are all outstanding. Truth be told, although I'm retired, there aren't many mid laners who can go 5-5 with me in 1v1 games. Giving you three million would really be an insult to your talent."
Ye Shaoyang realized that in the salary column on this contract, a number had already been filled in: 5,000,000.
Ming Sheng continued, "Five million will be your one-time signing fee, while another five million will be set aside as your bonus. The second sum will be paid to you once you guys win the domestic championship."
Ye Shaoyang very quickly understood Ming Sheng's meaning.
It would be very difficult for the club to simply agree to a salary of ten million yuan. Ye Shaoyang was a newbie, after all. In their eyes, he had no practical game experience. Giving him five million yuan was already something they would only do for Chi Shuo's sake. It was a condition that Ming Sheng would personally have to argue for.
The remaining five million being paid to him after Tianhuan won the domestic championships—in reality, that was simply splitting the ten million into two payments.
And if he couldn't help Tianhuan take the domestic championships, then he truly wouldn't deserve an eight-figure salary. Many players on teams that have won the domestic championships before only had salaries of around ten million, after all.
If Ye Shaoyang was confident in his ability to win the domestic championships, then wouldn't this ten million yuan, even in two sums, be his in the end?
Ming Sheng smiled and said, "It's not that I won't pay you the full sum at once because I'm petty. It's that I'm not the only shareholder in Tianhuan. There are some bosses who don't understand esports and just worry about making money. It's very difficult to convince them to spend ten million on signing a newbie who hasn't played in any official games before. Splitting it into two sums and calling the second payment a bonus is the best way I can think of to convince them. I hope you'll understand."
He lightly patted Ye Shaoyang on the shoulder. "I have faith that after you join Tianhuan, the team will be able to take the domestic championships."
Ye Shaoyang nodded vigorously. "Mm, I understand. I can accept these conditions."
Such a high salary had actually already far, far exceeded his expectations.
"Also," Ming Sheng said, "I'll discuss another condition with the club. If you guys make it into the world championships and take the trophy, the club won't take a single cent of the winnings from the grand prize. It'll all be fairly split between you players."
Ye Shaoyang fell silent.
Offering the entire grand prize to the players was an extremely impressive thing! What Tianhuan lacked wasn't money. They still desired the world championship trophy that they had narrowly missed years ago.
Ye Shaoyang tightly grasped the contract in his hands. He earnestly said, "I owe God Ming and Captain Chi my thanks for fighting for these conditions for me. I can only pay you back with my accomplishments."
And there was nothing that could be better than achieving practical results with the team.
Tianhuan was giving him such a generous treatment. For this team, and for the sake of his own dreams, Ye Shaoyang would give it his all.
Ming Sheng smiled softly and gazed into Ye Shaoyang's eyes. He extended a hand.
"Welcome to Tianhuan."
Actually, the pace is already pretty quick. If this were a longer piece, Ye Shaoyang and Ming Sheng could have played 1v1 for ten chapters~