Perhaps due to the weather or the fact that today’s matches were not as highly anticipated, the venue that was bustling with crowds yesterday appeared noticeably empty now.

Shen Yanming followed He Changkong and the others to the spectator seats, sitting far away on the top of a hill.

For the sake of fairness, the teams participating in the Return to the Throne professional league were determined through a draw before the matches.
Therefore, for the players—especially those in the early-drawn teams—the preparation time would be relatively rushed.

For example, the match between CTG and JT was the first pair drawn during the opening ceremony yesterday.

Both teams were already prepared in the player rooms, and there were many familiar faces.
Shen Yanming was not particularly excited, but he still wanted to know what He Changkong and Meng Yan were up to, so he patiently watched.

The match was a BO31BO3: Best of 3, so the team who win 2 times first will win the game format, with the first game featuring Aji as the core player for CTG.
In the first twenty minutes, Aji secured five kills against the opposing team.
While this performance seemed decent, it wasn’t particularly surprising since the opposing players were not skilled at solo laning, and they made numerous mistakes today.

Even so, when CTG won the game, cheers still erupted in the arena.

The big screen zoomed in on Aji as he high fived his teammates, wearing a satisfied smile on his face and even whistling.

Since losing to Shen Yanming last time, Aji hadn’t been active on the internet.

The CTG coach approached him and asked him to deactivate his social media accounts to avoid stirring up trouble online.

Although his social media account was deactivated and he couldn’t post anything, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t reading the comments from netizens.
He created a new account and, as if possessed, searched his own name whenever he had free time to see what others said about him.

Since he lost, the forums and Weibo were flooded with discussions about the solo match, making it hard for him to breathe.

He had only recently entered the professional scene and was not yet a star player.
Only a few fans were still cheering him on.

But their supportive voices seemed insignificant amidst the mockery.

Almost everyone was laughing at him, suggesting that he should have admitted his inferiority earlier and not acted arrogantly.
They criticized him for being both unskilled and arrogant, saying that he had made a complete fool of himself.

Anger flared up inside him as he scoured the internet, trying to find any information about [I’m Messing Around Again].

He was sure that this person is a player from a strong team intentionally messing with his mentality.

But no matter how hard he searched; he couldn’t find any evidence.

He refused to admit that he had been beaten to such a state by an ordinary streamer.

These thoughts weighed heavily on Aji’s mind, and his training performance severely declined.

The regular season was about to begin, and it was the first time CTG would participate in the regular season since its establishment.
The club’s top executives had high expectations for the players.

Who would have thought that Aji would be distracted every day, performing poorly in team training, and leading to CTG consecutive defeats in training matches with other teams due to his mistakes?

It wasn’t until the coach told him that he might be demoted to a substitute that he snapped out of it.

He had to play well.
It took him a lot of effort to become a professional player, and he definitely couldn’t fall behind because of a streamer.

But things didn’t go as planned.
Perhaps the psychological pressure was too great.
The more he wanted to showcase his skills, the less he was able to do so.

Seeing the coach’s increasingly stern expression, he contacted a few friends on the team that often played practice matches with them who were short on money.

The first time he arranged a fake match, he was trembling with fear.
The entire training match lasted less than forty minutes, but it felt like forty years to him.
He was afraid of being discovered, so he would deliberately miss simple skills.
But then he realized that he didn’t have to think too much because the opposing actors would cooperate with him and die at his hands.

He calmed down.
Apart from a few initial mistakes, the rest of the match went smoothly, as if he had genuinely secured all those kills and led the team to victory.

No one noticed anything strange.
Even the coach and teammates came over to encourage him, saying that as long as he played well, he would be able to show his true abilities.

He breathed a sigh of relief.

Once the first time happened, there would be a second time, a third time… but it didn’t matter anymore.
He had emerged from the shadow of that streamer.
As long as he adjusted his mindset and played normally, even if he didn’t achieve outstanding results, it wouldn’t be a problem to make an appearance in the regular season.

However, after arriving at the arena, he encountered the lingering presence of that streamer once again.

It was just an entertainment match during the opening ceremony, a friendly water friend randomly chosen to participate, yet he had become the center of attention, even sought after by two strong teams.

A teammate jokingly said, “I didn’t expect the streamer you soloed against last time to be so skilled.
You’re just unlucky.” Aji directly spilled the water he was holding in his hands.

He wanted to win; he must win.
He didn’t want to be compared to that streamer.
He didn’t want others to mention him only as someone who had a brief encounter while talking about that streamer with envy.

But he forgot that no one would really care about these things.

He only wanted to win, by any means necessary.
He wanted to stay longer in this professional scene.

And he did.

He looked down at the cheering audience below and felt like he was finally floating on clouds.

Shen Yanming leaned close to He Changkong’s ear and whispered, “Do you think he played fake matches?”

After all, this kind of thing was a fatal stain for professional players, not something to be mentioned casually.
Even though Shen Yanming was annoyed with Aji, he didn’t dare to say it directly without evidence.

He Changkong felt his ear itch and moved slightly to the side, nodding.

Shen Yanming’s first reaction was, really? Is it necessary to stoop to this level against such an opponent?

Looking left and right, Shen Yanming leaned closer again and asked, “How did you find out?”

Meng Yan didn’t have as many concerns as Shen Yanming.
After all, the tickets for this match weren’t sold out, and the nearest audience members around them were several meters away.
Meng Yan spoke in a slightly lower voice than usual, saying, “Do you know that he has been quite cocky lately?”

Shen Yanming shook his head.

Meng Yan continued, “After he lost to you, his condition was really bad.
He kept losing and even received a warning from the team management.”

Shen Yanming said, “I’ve heard a classmate mention that…”

However, he wasn’t very clear about what happened afterward.
Since that solo match, he hadn’t even glanced at Aji and had no interest in whether he was doing well or poorly.

“After the warning, he seemed to have a complete change.
You know the team scheduled several practice matches, right? Of course, they were against teams with similar results or some players from the second team…”

This didn’t require much explanation from Meng Yan, and Shen Yanming understood as well.
In the competitive gaming world, it was said to be a group of passionate youths chasing their dreams, but sometimes it could be quite realistic.
If you didn’t perform well, strong teams wouldn’t invite you for practice matches.
Occasionally, strong teams would help weaker teams for the sake of charity, but it was rare and only happened once or twice, and even in those rare cases, the weaker teams would still feel overwhelmed.

Meng Yan continued, “Then Aji found a few people, paid them money, and let them intentionally lose.”

Shen Yanming found it hard to believe.
What was the point of this? It was just a practice match, and the opponents were at a similar skill level.
There was no guarantee they couldn’t win… Was it necessary?

Even if he felt disgruntled after being defeated, wouldn’t a normal person regain their dignity by improving themselves and challenging the opponent again with pride?

Shen Yanming thought Meng Yan’s explanation was quite absurd.
At least in their previous life, except for the last incident, Aji had behaved like a normal person.

But Shen Yanming also believed that Meng Yan wasn’t someone who would make things up, so he asked straightforwardly, “How did you find out? He didn’t find you to arrange a fake match, right?”

Meng Yan mysteriously took out his phone and pointed to a screenshot of a five-person group on the screen.
He said, “My cousin sent this to me.”

“Your cousin?”

“My cousin, he works as a professional companion player.
These people in the group are also professional companions, and they are close friends.”

Shen Yanming said, “This…”

As top-tier players, they didn’t have to worry about money.
However, many players who participated in competitions only had a short-lived experience, and some couldn’t even qualify for the league.
Their team was like a makeshift organization, and the players’ salaries were even lower than office workers.
In order to earn more, some players would do live streaming or become companion players as a side job.
It was an unspoken rule in the lower circles of the industry.

Looking at the screenshot Meng Yan provided, Aji offered them a price of 50,000 yuan per match.
Aji came from a well-off family and could indeed afford this money.

This price was neither too high nor too low.
At least for these lower-level players who worked tirelessly every month but might not even earn a monthly income of ten thousand, it was quite attractive.

Moreover, it was just a privately arranged practice match, not an official competition… In addition, the teams that the chosen players belonged to hadn’t qualified for this year’s league qualifiers, so several of them agreed to Aji’s offer.

Shen Yanming frowned as he listened.
“And they call themselves professional players? No sense of faith or dedication at all?”

Meng Yan patted Shen Yanming’s shoulder.
“Kid, not everyone is here for dreams and passion.
Think about it, some people can’t do anything except play games.
They may not be among the top players, but they need to earn a living too…”

He Changkong interrupted Meng Yan.
“Don’t talk about these nonsense theories.”

Meng Yan shrugged.
“I’m just describing the mentality of some people.
I’m not saying it’s right.”

Shen Yanming was aware that such people existed, but he had never interacted with them before.
Hearing Meng Yan’s words now, he was somewhat shaken.

“But that doesn’t justify match-fixing,” Shen Yanming’s face contorted in frustration.
He added, “Moreover, you only have a chat screenshot as evidence…”

At this point, Meng Yan also became frustrated.
“Indeed, my foolish little cousin was hot-tempered.
He argued with the guys in the group who were discussing fixed matches, and he ended up leaving the group after the fight.
He only kept this screenshot, which can’t be considered solid evidence…”

Shen Yanming said, “…What about today’s match?”

Meng Yan took his phone back and said, “Wasn’t today’s match arranged last night? In the backstage area, there’s a small utility room that’s usually empty.
Kong ge and I helped move some stuff there.
It just so happened that we overheard them engaging in some shady transactions.
I never expected Aji to be involved to this extent.
It’s one thing to cause trouble in practice matches, but to do this in regular matches… The key point is that they actually found people willing to play along.”

Shen Yanming sighed with mixed emotions.
Apart from regret, he felt a hint of resentment for Aji’s lack of progress.
“What’s the point? If he goes up against stronger teams, his true abilities will be exposed.”

Meng Yan agreed, “You’re right, but that’s not the point.
The point is, at that time, your Kong ge calmly took out his phone and recorded the audio.
He pulled me aside, and after Aji left, your Kong ge made a very cool entrance.”

He Changkong touched his ear without saying a word.

Shen Yanming looked at him and then at Meng Yan.
“So, Kong ge made a cool entrance… and then what? After recording the audio, what happened next? CTG still ‘won’ the last round…”

Meng Yan played coy and raised his chin, gesturing for Shen Yanming to look towards the big screen.
“Here, take a look.”

The second round had already begun, and if CTG won this round, they would advance to the next stage.

However… the JT team member who had been making mistakes earlier suddenly seemed to have taken a miracle drug and played with extraordinary vigor.
He kept killing AJi, racking up more than ten kills against him.

As the game progressed, Aji’s mentality was shattered, and he even stood up before the match ended.

Although the audience couldn’t hear the players’ voices during the game, they could see Aji’s mouth moving, seemingly saying, “How is this possible?”

The audience erupted in uproar.

Shen Yanming turned to look at He Changkong.
“So… what’s going on?”

Thank you for reading! 

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day

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1BO3: Best of 3, so the team who win 2 times first will win the game

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