Although there was a lot that they needed to tell each other, they tacitly chose not to mention anything for the time being. Lin Xiao had originally wanted to look for a nearby restaurant, but Shen Changyu had persisted in wishing to take a look at where he currently lived. Thus, he had no choice but to buy a cap and mask to completely conceal Shen Changyu’s identity before sneaking back home like a thief.
He casually bought two servings of stir-fried thin rice noodles nearby. Then, they both went up to his house together.
The place in which Lin Xiao was currently living was a singles’ apartment1Think something very similar to a studio apartment or a loft that’s large enough for just one person. If you’re interested in seeing some pictures, you can Google “单身公寓”, but of course the one Lin Xiao stays in probably doesn’t look as good.. Its entire layout could be seen at a glance. It had one bedroom, one living room, and one bathroom. It was the type of home where a stove casually placed along the walkway acted as the kitchen. It inevitably looked quite shabby due to the passage of time.
After Lin Xiao placed the rice noodles on the table, he lifted his head and saw that Shen Changyu had an extremely somber expression on his face for an unknown reason. He couldn’t help but ask, “What’s wrong?”
Shen Changyu frowned. “Captain Lin, you’ve been living in this kind of place?”
Lin Xiao followed his gaze and looked around the area. He shrugged and handed a pair of chopsticks to him. “It’s simple, clean and everything is within reach. Apart from it being a little messy, isn’t it pretty good? Compared to the warehouse that I recall us staying in in the past, this is so many times better.”
Shen Changyu did not respond. He lifted and ate a few mouthfuls of rice noodles with his chopsticks, feeling bitter and helpless. After some time had passed, he suddenly looked up and asked, “Why don’t you come back to H City with me tomorrow? If I am the one recommending you, Manager Li should make an exception and allow you to enter the team directly.”
Without even considering it, Lin Xiao rejected his offer. “Now is not the time yet.”
Shen Changyu blurted out, “Why?”
Lin Xiao gave him a look and said, “First of all, if I were to return to the Alliance, I want to continue using the ‘Adorable Ghost’ account. However, the equipment I currently have in storage is still a bit lacking and is not good enough to be used in professional matches yet. Also, it’s because of my current identity…” He did not speak any further. The pools of his eyes darkened as he gave a meaningful and profound look to express “You understand it”.
Since things had been spelled out to this extent, Shen Changyu was naturally able to understand what he was driving at.
He knew of all that the original owner of Lin Xiao’s current body had done during the past fan meetings. If described tactfully, they had been sincere confessions. But if described tactlessly, it could be said that a certain degree of sexual harassment had been involved. Since today, he had suddenly become “friends” with the person that his teammates viewed as a perverted gay. When he returned, he was already destined to have to go through a round of interrogation. If he were really to bring Lin Xiao to join the team and directly enter the professional lineup, then that would really be…
He could have returned with any other identity, but why did he have to become this person in particular…Shen Changyu felt unparalleled distress and dread. He took a deep breath, then sighed. “Then, when will you be ready to come back to the team?”
Lin Xiao noted his unconscious use of the phrase “come back to the team”, and he couldn’t help but curl up the corners of his lips slightly into a smile. While taking big bites of his rice noodles, he casually asked, “When will be the next time that the team will be recruiting for the newcomers’ training camp?”
Shen Changyu replied, “About half a month from now.”
Lin Xiao nodded. “That’s enough for me to reach the First Division on the arena ladder.”
Shen Changyu discerned the meaning implied by his words and exclaimed in surprise, “Captain Lin, are you preparing to enter the newcomers’ training camp?”
Lin Xiao casually explained, “No matter what, all teams will go through a fixed process when recruiting people. Although your recommendation will indeed be effective, it will inevitably cause some unnecessary hindrances as well. When the time comes, I will be able to enter the training camp naturally, and with my skills, it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to stand out from the rest, right?”
As he finished speaking these words, the tone of his voice gradually lifted. The corners of his lips curved up in an expression of unshakeable confidence.
After a brief pause, Shen Changyu gently laughed, “Of course.”
While they ate, Lin Xiao familiarized himself with the current state of the domestic eSports scene and casually asked about how a few of his old friends from back then were doing. After hearing about their current circumstances, he couldn’t help but feel some admiration. “So you’re saying that Zhang Xuannian is now an ace coach that several large teams want to poach, and Ge Han has actually joined the Alliance’s organizing committee? That’s such great news!”
Shen Changyu responded, “Most of the old players have gone on to become streamers on various platforms after their retirement. Apart from one who has completely cut ties with the Alliance, the rest are mostly working in professions involved with eSports.”
“Who would have thought that playing games at home could also be considered a job now, tsk tsk.” Lin Xiao couldn’t help but sigh in admiration. Then, his tone suddenly shifted. “So, is streaming really so profitable?”
Shen Changyu choked a little, then questioned suspiciously, “It should be…very…profitable? Captain Lin, are you really short on cash now? If you are, I actually still have some savings, look…”
The old and worn state of the house caused Shen Changyu to involuntarily make guesses along these lines. Otherwise, why would Lin Xiao’s first reaction be about whether or not he could earn money? He couldn’t help but to start considering if there was a need for him to provide some financial aid to his esteemed captain.
“No no no, I was just asking casually, I’m not short on cash! Ahaha!” What a joke, how could he, as a great senior, spend the savings of a kid from his team? Lin Xiao hurriedly waved him off as he swiftly changed the topic. His expression immediately turned serious and he said, “From what you said just now, it sounds like most of the old players have already retired. Aside from the ones who were newcomers at the time, only Old Yan is still holding on, right?”
Shen Changyu nodded. “Captain Yan is truly deserving of respect. Back then, he said in a press conference that ever since we won the World Championships that year, our domestic teams owe it to the domestic eSports fans to win another championship trophy. Before that comes to pass, he will not choose to retire.”
As they brought up the topic of Yan Duzhou, Lin Xiao couldn’t help but sigh as well. “He sure is stubborn. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the effects of age now and then.”
Come to think of it, that guy would already be 28 years old this year, wouldn’t he? Although most professional players had chosen to work in eSports-related careers after their retirement, when compared to Yan Duzhou’s persistence, their actions really felt quite shameful. Even if Lin Xiao were to search his heart and ask himself if he would have chosen to hold on like that guy had if he had turned 27 this year, honestly speaking, he didn’t dare to make any guarantees either…
Although Team Black Rose had kicked off rapid advancements in the domestic eSports industry when they had won first place in the past, conversely, it had also placed a tremendous burden on the players’ shoulders.
As the domestic scene developed within the past five years, what resulted was a stark contrast between the glory that they enjoyed within national boundaries and the embarassing state of stagnancy that plagued them ever since. There was no need to talk about the championship, as their best result had merely been entering the quarterfinals. They had never even entered the semifinals before. As they were subjected to constant scrutiny and doubts from both the media and the public eye, the pressure placed on every single professional player was truly very great. This was all the more so for Yan Duzhou, who bore the hopes of millions of people on his back.
Lin Xiao said, “But someone like Yan Duzhou, who is especially fiery about gaining honor for the country, always likes to shoulder all responsibility by himself. Thus, the stress is indeed immense.”
Shen Changyu replied, “If Captain Yan knew about your return, he would definitely be very happy.”
Back then, Yama and Old Ghost had been the worst of enemies on the battlefield, and the best of friends off the battlefield. The relationship between them had been like that between the heroes depicted in countless movies, which was that of mutual support and appreciation. It appeared to be very complicated, but was actually very simple and pure.
Lin Xiao laughed, “Don’t worry. Once I return to the Alliance with the Adorable Ghost account, he will naturally find out.”
Shen Changyu recalled the strange feelings he had experienced a week ago, and couldn’t help but observe a moment of silence for the unsuspecting Captain Yan. “…this wouldn’t be a surprise, it is more likely to be a scare, isn’t it?”
After finishing their meal, the pair tidied up the table. Shen Changyu glanced at the computer that had been placed in the room. After switching it on, he fiddled with it a little, then frowned. “Captain Lin, why haven’t you swapped out such broken equipment? ‘Twin Grey Swallow’, I have never heard of this brand before. The sensitivity of both the mouse and keyboard are so poor, haven’t you felt like they have greatly affected your performance?”
“Not at all. When your skills have reached a certain level, you can bully noobs no matter what you use.” Lin Xiao would never admit to his old partner that he was poor. He lazed on the sofa and answered with a completely straight face2Literally without blushing and with no heart palpitations, aka no signs of lying..
Shen Changyu scrolled through the equipment storage of the Adorable Ghost account, and his expression unconsciously darkened3To be precise, it’s like this: -_-|||. “Just how long have you not played this account? The items in your storage can probably be placed in an antique museum!”
“What do you know, there’s still a lot of discontinued equipment in there. They can all be considered treasures now.” In the Alliance of the present, there was probably no one who dared to say the words “What do you know” to Shen Changyu. However for Lin Xiao, these words came to him extremely easily.
He glanced at the figure that was using his computer to diligently put things in place. After a period of solemn silence, he suddenly said, “You fought pretty well in today’s match.”
Upon hearing these words, Shen Changyu’s hands immediately stopped moving, and he turned around with a serious expression.
Every time Lin Xiao mentioned this sentence, he would always follow them up with some additional words. Listening to his words with a humble heart was a habit that had been ingrained in him from the past. Although five years had passed since then, this action still came to him so naturally that it was as if he was acting on reflex.
Lin Xiao sat up straight on the sofa and looked at him in a rare display of seriousness, his face lacking its usual lackadaisical expression. “However, it is best if you don’t ever use such a high intensity battle strategy again in the future. Considering You Jing’s hand injury, he cannot be allowed to act rashly.”
You Jing’s hand injury had been kept a secret from the other team members all this time. Apart from Shen Changyu, only Li Bochuan, the manager in charge of the team, was aware of it. Shen Changyu would never have thought that Lin Xiao could actually discover this issue just by spectating their match. However, as he heard his later elaboration, Shen Changyu’s eyebrows unconsciously screwed up. “So when you stopped him at the match venue just now, it was to tell him about this?”
Lin Xiao looked him straight in the eye with a severe expression. “How could that be? At that time, I was merely reminding him to remember to apply his medicine after going back. Who would have thought that he would actually try to kick me! Seriously, your Captain You has no faults in terms of his looks and skills, but his temper is way too bad! He will never be able to find a girlfriend if he is like this!”
“If someone else had done those things to you, your temper would probably not be any better than his.” Shen Changyu couldn’t help but chuckle. Then, he earnestly replied, “But I’m already aware of all you said just now. After I go back, I will adjust our strategy. We will never adopt battle tactics as intense as we did today ever again.”
Satisfied, Lin Xiao clapped him on the shoulder and spoke with in a deeply gratified manner, looking as glad as if his own child had grown into an adult, “Little Shen, you have become an extremely dependable vice captain now.”
Shen Changyu: “…”
Lin Xiao had always enjoyed seeing his speechless expression and smiled at him. “It’s been hard on you these past few years.”
This time, the corners of Shen Changyu’s lips quivered slightly. Countless emotions welled up in him as he shook his head. “It was what I should have done.”
Lin Xiao dug out his cigarettes and began smoking. After the other rejected his offer of one, he laughed, the cigarette dangling in his mouth. “Who would have thought that after so many years, you still have not learned to smoke.”
Shen Changyu replied, “I did pick up smoking for a while, but I still ended up quitting.”
Lin Xiao did not ask why he wanted to start smoking back then. After breathing in, he exhaled a puff of smoke as he suddenly recalled something. “Speaking of which, I saw Chen Anqi at the match venue today.”
Shen Changyu: “…”
Lin Xiao looked towards him with a wide smile. “Who do you think drew her to buy a ticket to watch the match? If I remember correctly, out of everyone in the Alliance, she loved to stare at you and curse you the most back then. It was such a tragedy that it was hard to look at, tsk tsk tsk…”
Shen Changyu seemed to have recalled some unspeakable matter from the past, and his face suddenly revealed a pained expression. “Captain Lin, can we not talk about this?”
Upon seeing such an expression on his face, Lin Xiao couldn’t help but feel tickled as he continued to smoke. He glanced at the clock hanging on the wall and said, “Alright, it’s already past 9pm. I’ll send you downstairs. Today’s match has been hard on you, go back early and rest.”
The lights in the stairwell were a little dim. After the pair arrived downstairs, Shen Changyu looked at the slightly indistinguishable features of the person before him and felt an indescribable emotion.
Lin Xiao stood in the middle of the lit area. One of his hands was placed into the pocket of his pants, while the other hand waved towards Shen Changyu as he said, “See you at the club next month.”
Lin Xiao’s eyes harbored a deep emotion of joy. As Shen Changyu’s eyes met Lin Xiao’s, he also waved and said, “I’ll wait for you.”
As the rental car began to drive off, that person’s figure gradually grew more and more distant, before vanishing from his line of sight.
Although Shen Changyu inevitably felt unwilling to part, the outcome he had attained today was enough to satisfy him. Half a month was not long at all. He believed that they would be able to meet again very soon.
TL comments: So soft and fluffy <3 I love the dynamics between these two…I see them as the carefree, but capable (when necessary) older brother and the serious, but cute (only to his brother) younger brother.
Also…is that a new ship for our best boy that I see?!
- 1Think something very similar to a studio apartment or a loft that’s large enough for just one person. If you’re interested in seeing some pictures, you can Google “单身公寓”, but of course the one Lin Xiao stays in probably doesn’t look as good.
- 2Literally without blushing and with no heart palpitations, aka no signs of lying.
- 3To be precise, it’s like this: -_-|||