Zeng Rui turned back to his computer and browsed through the Winter Collegiate Cup subpage on the China Esports Association’s website. He stopped on the list of qualified teams and said, “See how there’re 34 teams here? And then, when I scroll down a bit further, you see what it says here?”
Lin Feng leaned in and read the words out loud, “Wildcard teams.”
“Exactly,” Zeng Rui replied. He turned back to the others and continued, “The China Esports Association kept two wildcards for the teams with the most impressive performances that didn’t manage to qualify for the main tournament. And after Zhejiang University’s series against us, they were technically knocked out while also basically being sure of getting one of the two wildcard tickets.”
“So it’s like a second life!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He clenched his fist and pumped it up into the air. He said, “Maybe we’ll get to play against Shi Hang again! That’d be awesome!”
An Xin pushed Lin Feng aside and looked at the list open on the webpage. She said, “Looks like the other wildcard was given to Beijing International Studies University. Didn’t they get knocked out by Team Beijing?”
“They did,” Zeng Rui confirmed.
Lin Feng grinned and said, “The high school teams are too good! The China Esports Association needs wildcards to get their uni teams to move on!”
Tang Bingyao nodded and added, “Mhm! We’re good!”
Shi Hang walked into the esports clubroom at Zhejiang University. The other players from the team had already gathered there and were waiting for him. He smiled at them and said, “Got some good news for you guys! I just spoke with Chu Fang and he said he secured a wildcard for us! You guys will get a chance at redemption in the main tournament!”
“Yeah, I just saw it on the website,” Sun Ruinian said. He then shrugged and mumbled, “Screw that.”
Shi Hang looked at Sun Ruinian, surprised. This kid isn’t happy? What’s gotten into him…? He looked at the other members from Zhejiang University’s team, each of them slumped back in their gaming chairs and sulking. What’s gotten into all of them? He raised an eyebrow and asked, “What? You guys not happy with this? It’s supposed to be good news! Cheer up a bit!”
“Cheer up for what, cap?” Zuo Cheng asked. He chewed on his lips for a bit and eventually added, “It’s just a pity spot. Why should we be happy about that? We lost. We got eliminated. We don’t deserve to go to the main tournament.”
Shi Hang looked at the team members, surprised. Then he grinned and said, “Oh, we’ve got a prideful bunch over here!” He turned around to the other people in the clubroom and loudly said, “Look guys, we’ve got a bunch of sulking divas over here! Watch them in all their glory! Woo!” He looked back at the team members and added, “Getting a bit lucky to even out the bad luck of drawing Ma– Team Shanghai is too much for your fragile egos, huh?”
Zuo Cheng stared at his fingers, Sun Ruinian looked at a poster up on the wall, and the others were looking at each other.
The happy expression disappeared from Shi Hang’s face. He narrowed his eyes a bit and said, “You are thinking far too highly of yourselves! This is what you call pride? What bullshit! What’s your pride worth? I’ll tell you. It’s worth jackshit! You’re being offered a second chance and you’re bitching that you haven’t earned it? Piss off!”
Zuo Cheng chewed on his fingers, Sun Ruinian slumped deeper into his chair and found another poster to look at, and the others tried to push their gaming chairs slightly behind their team’s Midlaner and ad-carry.
Shi Hang watched them, one by one, and then asked, “Do you think it’s always sunshine and rainbows? Do you really believe it’ll always go your way? No fucking way! It never does! You’ll face setbacks again and again! And then, once in a blue moon, there’ll be a second chance. You fucking grab onto that with all your might and hold on!” He briefly paused to search for a reaction, one that didn’t come. He continued, “I’ll tell you a little something. The first professional team I signed with? They had me sitting on the bench for the first month! You know what I was thinking? What I was hoping for every fucking week? That they’d give me a chance! Just once! I didn’t care if it was out of pity or whatever! Just let me get up on that stage and prove myself! Show them that I am good enough to be on the main roster and not just some substitute!”
Shi Hang looked at the players before stopping at Sun Ruinian. He shook his head and said, “I’ve pampered you guys too much, as has the university with all this fancy equipment! Back in Season 1, any pro player would kill for a chance to play! Pride be damned! You hope for that opportunity! That chance or whatever you wanna call it! And when it comes? You better damn well hold onto it! Pull with all your fucking might and play! Because that’s what we want! To play!” He briefly paused to gather his thoughts and then continued, “Do you guys have any idea what things we like back in Season 1? We created the foundation for what is now the Chinese League scene! Through our hard work, through our never giving up mentality, through everything we did, you now have a nice gaming room and sponsors throwing money at you! You guys have no clue what it means to fight! You’re expecting people to just give you everything! And when it doesn’t go exactly your way? You become these fucking diva-bitches! Get some grip on yourselves! You’re not the next best talent! You barely even qualify to make it professional, if at all! You want to act all big and special? Fucking win Worlds first! Until then, I better not see this behaviour again or you’re out of here. I won’t have this diva-shit in my club!”
The players from Zhejiang University didn’t say anything. They sat in their expensive gaming chairs and looked at the expensive computers around them. Behind them were two soundproof booths, another expensive investment made by the university. Their analyst was coming by later to talk them through a game he’d watched so they didn’t have to. All they had to do was play the game to practice and get better.
Shi Hang breathed deeply. Looks like they got the message. Time to throw them a lifeline. His lips curved up just a bit as he said, “I know you guys. I’ve taught you everything I could! You’re better than this. Does it suck that we got knocked out? It better! I’d be furious if this loss didn’t mean anything to you guys! But this wildcard? It’s an opportunity. And you grab onto opportunities with both hands!” He sighed loudly before adding, “And if you really feel that humiliated? Just play your damndest and win! Prove to yourself and everyone else that you belong at the main tournament! Win games and beat the teams that did qualify the normal way! You’re more than good enough to do that.”
Shi Hang nodded at the team members and concluded, “Your move now.” He then turned around and walked to the door of the esports clubroom. When he got there and put his hand on the handle, the team members finally talked. They shouted after him,
“You’re right! We’ll do our best!”
“We won’t let you down!”
“We’re going to show everyone that we’re still a contender for the title!”
“We’ll make you proud!”
“Come and watch us play! You’ll be proud of us!”
Shi Hang paused for a brief moment and smiled. Stupid kids. I already know. You guys are far too talented to let me down. He glanced over his shoulder and gave them a thumbs up. Then he pulled the door open and walked out. Now it’s time for me to stop babysitting them. I’ve got my own things going on… He grabbed his phone and read the email he’d just received from Team Rapids’ management. Guess I’m back. Season 6 is starting soon and I’ve got myself a spot on an LPL team’s main roster. That was easy. Now the hard part. I need to train and get back into form and also form some synergy with those guys! He grinned and mumbled, “Don’t make me wait too long, Maple. I’m only back for you.”
Su Xue was streaming like she did every day, yet she also wasn’t. The stream was on and there were tens of thousands of people watching her play a game of League of Legends. It was just that she was missing last hits on minions and getting caught out far more often than she usually did. She gritted her teeth and tried to focus, but her eyes kept getting drawn away to a message she had open on her other screen.
CatFish (Huya Admin):「If you’re interested, let me know. We’ll get it moving asap.」
I’m really interested! And it is such a big opportunity! But… Su Xue bit on her lips as she missed another last hit on a minion. I’d also have to give up so much. Everything would change! I… I don’t know… What should I do…?
「I can’t wait for the new season to start! AYDEECEE IS BACK BABBEEEHEHHH!!」
「I HEARD TOO! OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOGM!!!!」
「hes my idol! maybe i can be good like him soon!!!!!1!」
「stream so boring we chatting bout aydeecee’s return… anyones got some webpage I can read more about it??」
「Yeah… What the fuck’s up with this streamer girl? Thought she said she was here to provide quality gameplay…」
「THAT”S WHAT THEY ALL SAY BEFORE SHOWING SOME DEEP CLEAVAGE!!!!」
「do they look bigger than usual??!?!/1/?」
Su Xue didn’t see the messages. Her focus was on the conversation she’d had with the administrator from HuyaTV. They’d offered her a great deal. One she really couldn’t turn down. Yet at the same time, it meant change and it meant having to give up on certain things. She wasn’t sure if she was ready for that. She bit her lips and turned her head back to look at the game she was playing. Huh? Dead again? What… I’m playing like I’m in Silver again! Dammit, Su Xue! Get a grip of yourself! You’re streaming, focus on that! The thing with Huya can wait for later! I’ll go chat with Zuo You tomorrow! Until then, no more distracting thoughts!
「she kinda looks heartbroken if ya ask me….」
「Lawl. Maybe Lil bro broke up with Her.」
「Shit! That could be it! I’ve always told you guys those two looks to close together! OMG IS THAT THE BED!??!?!?!??」
「….. wow….. wtf are you horny fuckers thinking…….. Damn stream chat, always those damn horny trolls…..」
「suresure… lotsa trolls. but she does really look outta it. Maybe it really is lovesickness?」