Chapter 23: The Future of Excellent Era
Translator: Nomyummi Editor: Nomyummi
“Last year it was Blood and Blossoms, this year we have the Magician. The pro scene’s population is really flourishing!” Ye Qiu couldn’t help but exclaim as he looked at the list of the eight teams who would be competing in the Season 3 playoffs.
“But first place will still be Excellent Era,” he added. As the captain of Excellent Era, there wasn’t really any boasting in his voice – he stated this like a simple truth.
“Tyranny’s fourth.” Next to Ye Qiu stood another player studying the final rankings, Han Wenqing, who said these words coldly.
“That’s nothing to be proud of,” Ye Qiu said casually, earning quite an aggressive glare.
He looked at the rankings again. “Oh, I see. We’re first, you’re fourth…” This meant that they were on the same side of the playoff bracket; only one of them would be able to advance to the finals.
Ye Qiu nodded and looked at Han Wenqing. “This time, you won’t even make it to the finals.”
“We’ll see,” replied the other player.
“You suffer defeat in every battle and yet you still keep fighting. Such spirit,” Ye Qiu laughed.
“As long as you’re not scared.”
“You’re making me laugh, sir.” He added the respectful form of address mockingly, still laughing.
“See you onstage.”
“See you onstage.”
The two of them shook hands and parted. Ye Qiu walked out of the main entrance of the Glory Professional Alliance, made a turn, and strolled along the sidewalk by himself.
Since he never did any interviews or made any public appearances, he maintained his hidden identity to this day. Even if he walked right out of the Alliance headquarters, no one knew that this random youth was in fact the user of the Battle God One Autumn Leaf, who had already won two consecutive championships.
After walking along the sidewalk a bit farther and turning onto a small side road, he slowed his steps and lit a cigarette.
Suddenly, before he even finished one cigarette, he heard a cough from behind him, and then, as though the first one weren’t loud enough, two more coughs in quick succession.
Ye Qiu turned around, cigarette still in hand, and saw Wu Xuefeng walk out of an inconspicuous side door toward him.
“Is this really necessary? It’s not like there’s anyone here,” said Ye Qiu, amused.
“Well, if you don’t mind, of course I wouldn’t care either,” replied Wu Xuefeng with an easy smile.
Although this was only Season 3, the growth and development of the Glory Professional Alliance had surpassed all expectations. In Esports Home, the most authoritative esports media outlet in the country, probably around eighty percent of the articles every week were reports on the Glory Alliance.
This year, following the match schedule of the Alliance, even the release day of the weekly paper had been adjusted. From this, it was clear how high of a position the Glory Alliance had in the competitive gaming circle.
As Glory became more and more popular, the professional players became stars that people would chase after. A championship team player like Wu Xuefeng could be recognized even walking down the street. Hence, he didn’t exit through the main door, and instead took this secluded side one.
“If I’d known it’d be like this, I would’ve done the same as you.” Wu Xuefeng sighed as he walked over, annoyed at how he had to sneak out of the building like a thief.
“Well, you’ll be leaving all this behind soon enough,” said Ye Qiu.
Wu Xuefeng fell silent, knowing what Ye Qiu was referring to. The entire street was quiet, and they continued to walk along.
“The world has no never-ending feast.” After a while, Wu Xuefeng suddenly opened his mouth.
“When Heaven went AFK, she said the same thing,” said Ye Qiu.
“Bro, this is called retirement, okay? Could you be a bit more professional,” Wu Xuefeng said, exasperated.
“It’s all the same,” Ye Qiu said lightly, taking a drag on his cigarette.
Three years in the Glory game, three years in the Professional Alliance – through it all, Wu Xuefeng had been Ye Qiu’s most reliable friend. The Battle Mage One Autumn Leaf stood shining in the spotlight, while the name of the Qi Master, Qi Breaker, didn’t resound through the Glory circle in the same way. But Ye Qiu himself was very clear on just how important this friend, this teammate, was to him and Excellent Era.
But now, it was just as Wu Xuefeng said – the world had no never-ending feast. Wu Xuefeng had chosen to end his Glory career here. At the end of the season, he would announce his retirement and say farewell to the world in which he’d spent six years of his life.
“Do you have any plans?” asked Ye Qiu.
“I’ll probably go abroad,” Wu Xuefeng said.
“Oh.” Ye Qiu nodded. He could only ask; with no experience about future choices, he had no advice to offer.
“This is the last time. Send me off with a third straight championship,” Wu Xuefeng said.
“As we should,” Ye Qiu laughed.
“I saw the final rankings – Hundred Blossoms second, Tiny Herb third, Tyranny fourth.”
“Yeah, I saw. And I just met Han Wenqing in the building, too.”
“Really? What did he say?” asked Wu Xuefeng.
“What else could he say? ‘See you onstage.’” Ye Qiu attempted to imitate Han Wenqing’s gruff way of speaking, without much success.
The imitation earned a laugh from Wu Xuefeng regardless. “Figures, he hasn’t figured out a new catchphrase.”
“Yeah, every year it’s the playoffs, every year he’s the opponent, every year he says ‘see you onstage,’” Ye Qiu sighed.
“But still, if we’re really able to continue like this for ten more years, that wouldn’t be bad at all,” he added.
Wu Xuefeng smiled ruefully, and didn’t say anything else. Ten years? To do this for ten years, it would be pretty good. But unfortunately, a decade like that couldn’t belong to him.
For him, all that remained were the three upcoming rounds of the playoffs.
“Before Tyranny, we first have to defeat the eighth-place team.” Wu Xuefeng began talking about the playoffs.
“301 Degrees,” said Ye Qiu. He didn’t only pay attention to the few experts and strong teams. Every team that he faced, he always respected them, valued them.
“Yes, that rookie of theirs is quite good,” Wu Xuefeng said.
“Yang Cong, Assassin Scene Killer.”
“The new players that have popped up these two years, they’re really so much more skilled than the players of our early era,” Wu Xuefeng said. “Last year we had the duo from Hundred Blossoms, this year we have Tiny Herb’s Wang Jiexi. Who knows how many talents will appear next year?”
“Want to stay and find out?” Ye Qiu said.
“Forget it,” Wu Xuefeng laughed. “I don’t want to let those kids get experience points from defeating me. Let me have that graceful exit.”
“You’ll have it.” Ye Qiu spoke with certainty. The two fell into silence again, and continued to walk forward side-by-side.
They returned to the hotel that the Alliance had arranged for the playoffs this season. As soon as they entered the lobby, they saw Excellent Era’s boss Tao Xuan amidst the scattered tables, chatting and laughing as he spoke with someone. As soon as he saw Ye Qiu and Wu Xuefeng enter, he immediately stood up. But Ye Qiu instantly spun and walked toward the other side of the hall, leaving Wu Xuefeng alone to head toward Tao Xuan with a helpless, wry smile.
Tao Xuan also let out a helpless and bitter smile, and he could only wave Wu Xuefeng over. The person sitting across from Tao Xuan stood to look behind him, and after seeing Wu Xuefeng he smiled warmly.
Wu Xuefeng knew this person, one of the most important sponsors of Team Excellent Era. As the winner of two consecutive championships, Excellent Era never lacked sponsors chasing them. But they should have been the most valuable team in the Alliance, or even the whole competitive esports scene. Instead, the contracts they ultimately managed to sign were never very high.
The reason was that Excellent Era’s captain and core player Ye Qiu never showed his face and never participated in business activities. Lacking this important character, Excellent Era seemed to lose much of its return value in the eyes of countless investors. Especially since this fact wasn’t a secret anymore, sponsors were much less enthusiastic about chasing Excellent Era. Last year’s Hundred Blossoms and this year’s Tiny Herb became their new favorite targets. As for Excellent Era, even after three seasons as the master of kings, they were apparently nothing to write home about.
“Mr. Liao, you came?” Wu Xuefeng quickly walked forward to greet this boss sponsor of Excellent Era. Because Ye Qiu was unwilling to show his face, when it came to matters like this, Wu Xuefeng as the vice-captain had to do his part and be willing to show up in the spotlight.
“First place in the regular season, third time in the playoffs, how could I not come?” Mr. Liao laughed, walking forward and shaking Wu Xuefeng’s hand.
“It couldn’t be done without your support.” Wu Xuefeng was very familiar at speaking these courteous words.
“Hardly. You were the ones who played well, especially Ye Qiu,” said Mr. Liao.
“Haha…” As soon as Ye Qiu was mentioned, Wu Xuefeng couldn’t help but feel more awkward. To be one of the most important sponsors of Excellent Era, and yet still never have seen the face of this Excellent Era captain… Wu Xuefeng guessed that these people weren’t as happy as their outward smiles might suggest.
“I have things to get to, so I’ll take my leave now. Wishing you the best results – you have to get another championship,” said Mr. Liao.
“For sure,” Wu Xuefeng smiled, bidding Mr. Liao farewell. When he turned back around, though, he saw that Boss Tao Xuan’s smile had already disappeared. He leaned heavily against the sofa, looking at the contract laid out on the coffee table, deep in thought.
“Mr. Liao came to discuss the contract?” Wu Xuefeng asked, sitting down opposite Tao Xuan.
“Yes,” Tao Xuan nodded.
After Excellent Era earned the first championship, Mr. Liao signed a two-year contract. After the playoffs of this season ended, the contract would expire. Both sides had entered discussions early on as to whether or not to continue the partnership, but to this day an agreement still hadn’t been reached. Seeing Tao Xuan’s expression, Wu Xuefeng guessed that the negotiations weren’t going very smoothly.
“What did Mr. Liao say?” Wu Xuefeng asked. Even though he was leaving after this season, he still cared about Excellent Era’s future, because all of his dear friends and partners were here. Ye Qiu, Tao Xuan, everyone had known each other since their in-game days, and had swung into this professional circle together.
“He gave two requirements,” Tao Xuan said.
“What are they?”
“First, if we want to continue the contract, then Excellent Era must win the championship this playoffs,” said Tao Xuan.
“This…” Wu Xuefeng was shocked. “How could there be a requirement like that? Who could guarantee something like a championship with a hundred percent certainty?”
“That’s not all,” Tao Xuan continued, a bit powerlessly. “Even if we smoothly win the championship this time, that will only get us a one-year contract. And whether or not we win the championship next year will be an important factor in determining how much money we ultimately get. No, the only factor.”
“Take a look for yourself.” Tao Xuan glanced at the contract on the table.
Wu Xuefeng picked it up and quickly flipped to the section discussing the contract amount. After looking at it, his eyes instantly widened.
“This…” He didn’t even know what to say. In the contract, there was a tenfold difference in the money they’d get between winning and failing to win the championship. Even if they did win, the amount was only slightly higher from this year’s. As for the one-tenth they’d get if they failed, that seemed more like a consolation than anything else.
“If we don’t get the championship, we’re just worthless, right?” Tao Xuan said dryly.
Wu Xuefeng grimaced. “That’s just terrible of them.”
“You’re right, it really is terrible,” Tao Xuan sighed. “If we win the championship this time, we’ll have three consecutive championships! In the competitive scene, winning three consecutive championships means an absolute dominance. It means the establishment of a dynasty. But in people’s eyes, if this kind of three-championship dynasty team then loses the championship, then it instantly becomes worthless. Aside from the championships, do we just not have any value?”
Wu Xuefeng was silent. He knew what Tao Xuan was referring to.
If Ye Qiu were able to participate in these business activities, then Excellent Era wouldn’t be facing these dire circumstances when it came to sponsorships. Tao Xuan had tried to convince Ye Qiu of this problem many times, but every time, Ye Qiu had refused him. In private, Tao Xuan criticized this greatly. Sometimes, after he’d had a bit much to drink, he’d even revealed his belief that with Ye Qiu’s refusal to cooperate, then no number of championships would be able to reflect Excellent Era’s true value.
Even winning championships doesn’t reflect our true value? Then, what is the value that you want?
Wu Xuefeng very much wanted to ask Tao Xuan this question, but he didn’t say it, because in reality, he already knew the answer. In game, they were ordinary gamers playing side by side. But now, he and Ye Qiu were pro players, while Tao Xuan became a businessman. Even in the early days, he’d been the one running Guild Excellent Dynasty, and he’d demonstrated exceptional ability on this front. After they’d formed a team, Tao Xuan was prepared to continue to flex his muscles, but because of Ye Qiu’s refusal to cooperate with business matters, his hands and feet were tied. It was true that Ye Qiu had helped build much of Excellent Era’s current value, but Tao Xuan wasn’t satisfied with what they were limited to.
The failure in negotiations this time was a huge blow to his morale – his expression right now was one of utter dejection. He looked at Wu Xuefeng and said, frustrated, “And the news of your retirement after this season hasn’t even been announced yet. If announced, I doubt that we could even sign this sort of beggar’s contract.”
“Don’t joke around, I’m not nearly that important,” Wu Xuefeng said, trying to reassure him.
“This isn’t a joke,” Tao Xuan shook his head, still wearing a heavy expression.
“When the time comes, new people will emerge. There are more and more talented people in Glory now. Last season’s Blood and Blossoms, this season’s Magician, next season there’ll definitely be even more exceptional talent, hm?” As Wu Xuefeng spoke, Tao Xuan didn’t seem to be paying attention at all. Wu Xuefeng had no choice but to continue anyway, but soon, he noticed a shift in Tao Xuan’s expression, as though he had discovered something. His gaze landed behind Wu Xuefeng, and his eyes suddenly gleamed with the light of anticipation.
“What’s wrong?” Wu Xuefeng turned around. Had something happened behind him?
Nothing had happened behind him, but at the other end of the hall, a beautiful girl filled with youthful energy was laughing brightly as she stood in front of Ye Qiu.
“Little Mucheng?” Wu Xuefeng recognized this girl. He called her by this name because when he’d first met this girl, she really had been very little, only twelve years old. After he’d joined Excellent Era, this girl had always been beside Ye Qiu. No one questioned the relationship between these two. As old friends from the game who’d come to the professional circle together, the Excellent Era players all understood the relationship between Ye Qiu and this girl.
Looking at her, Wu Xuefeng couldn’t help but think of another person.
If he were still here, wouldn’t all these problems be solved? Whether fighting for victory in battles, or dealing with this issue that was currently giving Tao Xuan headaches, they would probably all have more elegant solutions.
Thinking about all this, Wu Xuefeng felt saddened. That person had been his good friend as well, a friend he’d made in-game. But sadly, they hadn’t gotten the chance to spend much time together in real life.
Wu Xuefeng turned back to see that Tao Xuan had already stood up. The boss’s eyes were upon Ye Qiu and Su Mucheng, and he immediately began walking toward them, even forgetting the contract that was still lying on the table.
Wu Xuefeng retrieved the contract, and as he followed Tao Xuan, he thought of that passionate anticipation in Tao Xuan’s eyes just now.
It wasn’t like Tao Xuan was unfamiliar with Su Mucheng; in fact, he’d met her in real life even earlier than Wu Xuefeng had. In recent years, now that he’d become the boss of a team, he was more distanced from the daily lives of the players, but they still worked together, and he would have met Su Mucheng relatively often. Why was he so excited now?
Wu Xuefeng thought and thought. He came back to the problem that had made Tao Xuan so dispirited earlier, and suddenly, he sensed a possibility. His gaze went around Tao Xuan’s silhouette to also land upon Su Mucheng. Ye Qiu had originally meant to head toward the elevators, but Su Mucheng had seen Tao Xuan and Wu Xuefeng approaching them, and she tugged at Ye Qiu and pointed toward them.
Ye Qiu didn’t turn around, but said something to Su Mucheng, and the two walked together toward the elevator. Tao Xuan hastened his steps, and in the end, he and Wu Xuefeng made it to the same elevator as Ye Qiu and Su Mucheng.
“Brother Tao, Brother Feng.” Su Mucheng still greeted them with the familiar names she’d been using for a long time.
“Little Mucheng is here too? I didn’t even know,” Tao Xuan laughed.
“It’s the playoffs! Of course I came along to watch them live,” said Su Mucheng.
“That’s to say, you understand Glory now?” The light in Tao Xuan’s eyes intensified.
Su Mucheng looked at Ye Qiu, seemingly unsure of her own level.
Ye Qiu smiled. “Not only does she understand, her skill right now is quite high.”
Hearing this answer, especially from Ye Qiu’s mouth, appeared to make Tao Xuan genuinely happy.
“What class do you play?” he asked Su Mucheng.
“Launcher,” said Su Mucheng.
That gave Tao Xuan and Wu Xuefeng pause.
Because, to this girl, this class had special meaning.
That person, about whom Wu Xuefeng had just been thinking with melancholy, Su Mucheng’s older brother Su Muqiu – before he’d passed away, he’d been training with a new character with which to enter the Glory Professional Alliance alongside Ye Qiu, Wu Xuefeng, and the others. Hadn’t that character been a Launcher? And if Wu Xuefeng remembered correctly, that account had been female, and the character name had contained the name of his younger sister Su Mucheng.
“It’s Dancing Rain,” said Ye Qiu, as though he’d guessed what the two of them were thinking.
The two remained silent.
This was a tragic inheritance, and they didn’t know what they should say at this time. Even if Tao Xuan already had plans in mind, he felt that this wasn’t an appropriate time to bring it up.
He let out a faint sigh. Just as he was about to say something, though, Ye Qiu had already turned to Wu Xuefeng.
“So, in fact, you can run along with peace of mind,” said Ye Qiu.
Wu Xuefeng paused, but quickly understood the meaning of this statement. But still…
“Why does it feel so uncomfortable when you put it like that?” he said, putting on an unhappy face.
“If it’s uncomfortable, then you should just stay.” Tao Xuan also understood the meaning of Ye Qiu’s words, and he was delighted. Since they already had this intention, that saved him from bringing it up, and so he also made a joke at Wu Xuefeng.
“Forget it, I’ll leave the future to you youngsters,” Wu Xuefeng said, putting on the airs of an old man, which made everyone laugh.
The elevator arrived at its destination, and the four of them walked out, each heading to their own rooms.
As Su Mucheng walked with Ye Qiu toward his room, Wu Xuefeng suddenly called out, “Little Mucheng.”
“What is it, Brother Feng?” Su Mucheng turned toward him.
“Work hard,” said Wu Xuefeng.
“I will,” Su Mucheng nodded.
Tao Xuan had entered his room a second earlier, but hearing these words behind him, his hand curled into a fist of triumph.
It was here!
What he had always hoped for was finally here.
Right now, his mind was filled with the sight of Su Mucheng’s youth and beauty. What kind of attention would this type of beautiful female player earn in the Alliance? How many gazes would she attract in the Glory circle?
Especially since her skill level was quite high. If even Ye Qiu confirmed this, then it was certainly true.
Originally, Tao Xuan had been thinking that even if Su Mucheng didn’t know how to play, he would try and see if she could be trained. But this answer that Ye Qiu had given erased all his worries on that front.
Maybe her talent was just like that of her deceased brother. After all, they were of the same blood.
When he thought of this, Tao Xuan couldn’t help but feel even more excited. He retrieved a random bottle of wine from the cabinet in the room, opened it, poured himself a full glass, and downed it.
The wine wasn’t particularly good, but Tao Xuan felt very happy as he drank.
On the table, he spotted the contract that Wu Xuefeng had picked up for him and handed to him before returning to his room. His face split into a scornful smile.
He walked forward, set down his wine glass, picked up the contract. Without even looking at it, he tore it to shreds.
He picked up his phone and dialed Mr. Liao’s number.
The other person was in the middle of a call, but Tao Xuan didn’t feel like waiting or calling back later. He directly switched to voicemail.
“Mr. Liao, regarding that contract, I’ve given it consideration,” he said. “My answer is no.”
His tone was firm and confident. Without giving any additional explanation, he hung up. After he thought about it, he turned off his phone altogether, his heart filled with a strange kind of joy.
After pouring himself another glass of wine, he walked to the window and gazed upon the brilliantly shining world just outside.
“Gentlemen, just you wait. Excellent Era’s legend is only just begun!”
And he raised his glass in a toast to the sky.