However, when Shen Yanming said he wanted to watch Zhang Xixi’s match, it wasn’t entirely an excuse.
Although based on past performances, the two teams had a slight difference in strength, it was hard to say.
In the past, there were often underdog teams that unexpectedly made a breakthrough and became dark horses.

Since there was nothing else to do, he wanted to see if there would be any surprises.

After the previous drama ended, the players entering the stage this time appeared much more serious.
Previously, there would occasionally be players who made some witty remarks before the match, but now they were gone.
When the pre-match commentators asked the team spokesperson to say a few words, everyone spoke earnestly and without any mistakes.

The only thing that caught Shen Yanming’s attention was the veteran Xu Yin from the RX team.
His game ID was [because_of_u].
When he took the microphone, he smiled and said, “This may be my last chance.”

The commentators followed up, “What do you mean?”

Xu Yin took a deep breath and spoke with a more solemn tone, tinged with a hint of regret.
“If we can advance, I’ll keep playing… If we stop at this stage, I’ll retire.”

The commentators and his teammates patted Xu Yin’s shoulder to show support, and members from the XXL team also shouted, “Yin ge, go for it!”

It seemed to infect the people in the audience as well.
Amidst the limited number of spectators, some joined in the cheering, creating an exciting moment.

It was a stark contrast to the chaos of the previous match… Some people treated the game as a joke, while others put everything on the line—stay if they advanced, leave if they didn’t.

Shen Yanming didn’t know much about this player Xu Yin.
In the previous life, when he officially started his professional career, Xu Yin had already left, and it seemed that he didn’t have any remarkable achievements that could be remembered before retiring.
Therefore, Shen Yanming only had a vague understanding of him, without a deep impression.

Shen Yanming flipped through the match schedule booklet that was handed to him when he entered the venue.
It contained detailed player profiles, and it stated that Xu Yin had been playing since the age of 16, for a total of seven years.
The best result he achieved during that time was reaching the top sixteen in a regular season with his team.

From 16 years old to 23 years old.

For most people, 23 was an age when they had recently left school and had just entered society.
Some were still pursuing further education and might still be on campus.
It was an age full of youthful energy and hope.

However, for a professional player, 23 years old was already considered late in their career.
The golden period for gaming was only a few years, and after that, the player’s physical fitness and reaction abilities would decline.
Declining reaction speed was the best-case scenario.
In more severe cases, under the pressure of high-intensity training and various difficult competitions, players often suffered injuries.
Therefore, few people could persist in playing professionally for such a long time.

Many players, after playing for two or three years without achieving any results, would consider leaving and seeking a different path.
Xu Yin, on the other hand, persisted for seven years.

Shen Yanming let out a long sigh.

Indeed, Xu Yin was truly admirable.

He truly deserved respect.

But during these seven years, Xu Yin must have gained something.
In front of Shen Yanming, a few rows ahead, two girls held up a sign that said, “Because of you, I believe.” When the audience collectively cheered for the players on stage, these two girls shouted at the top of their lungs.
Even as the cheers from the crowd gradually faded, they continued without stopping.

They kept shouting, “Yin ge, fighting! RX, fighting!” and as they continued, their voices became tearful.

To be supported so wholeheartedly, this journey should be worthwhile, Shen Yanming thought.

Soon, the players from both teams took their seats on the stage, entered the game, and selected their characters.

XXL still maintained their strength and didn’t use any new tricks or tactics.
They played by the book.

The cheers and wishes for RX from before the match were beautiful, but the reality was that their strength was indeed inferior to XXL.
After several exchanges and team fights, RX’s weakness started to show.
When the match reached thirty-something minutes, XXL secured victory, while RX suffered a close defeat.

After the break, the second round began.
It started well for RX as they first discovered the crown and the crown’s respawn location was close to their throne.
Coupled with the abundant resources nearby, their players developed well, and they ultimately won over XXL.

In the final and decisive round, RX failed to secure the qualification to the next round.

In the Return to the Throne professional league’s regular season, many teams participated in the first round, and at this stage, there was no round-robin format yet.
So, if you lost, you lost, and you could only leave with regret.

For some people, losing meant they could come back next year.

But for others, it meant a permanent farewell.

As usual, the players from both teams still had to come forward from the player rooms to the stage after the match ended.
The other players had already stood up, but on the RX side, Xu Yin remained seated in his spot, motionless for a long time.

After patting Xu Yin’s shoulder, his teammates left, but Xu Yin remained seated.

The camera happened to be focused on him.

And so, everyone watching from the large screens on both sides of the indoor stadium saw Xu Yin stand up, reach out his hand, and touch the edge of the monitor, as if caressing the face of an old friend.

Then he bent down, closed his eyes, and devoutly pressed a kiss onto the keyboard he had spent countless hours with, fighting side by side.

When he raised his head again, Xu Yin had a smile on his face, but his eyes were shimmering with tears.

The arena erupted in applause that seemed to never end.

Shen Yanming saw the two girls in front of him already huddled together, seemingly unable to speak through their tears.

Xu Yin wiped his eyes, waved his hand, and finally walked out of the player room.

He said something, but the audience couldn’t hear it since he didn’t have a microphone.

However, judging by his lip movements, it seemed like he said…

“I’m leaving.”

The applause gradually subsided, and Shen Yanming also lowered his hands.

He rubbed his face.

In fact, his eyes felt a bit warm too.

He didn’t know if Xu Yin had made this same gesture when he retired in his previous life.
He had witnessed many other players retiring, and they mostly said a few sentimental words and wrote a few essays on Weibo.
Shen Yanming had seen it all too often.
When someone retired, he would at most feel regret, but he wouldn’t have much sentimentality.

After all, player retirement was just a normal thing.
The e-sports industry evolves rapidly, and each season brought many new faces among the opponents.
It was normal for people to come and go.

But today, he witnessed such a scene, and it truly had a significant impact on him.

Xu Yin must have loved this arena very much.
Seven years, it was only a few simple lines in his resume.

But could these seven years really be summarized in just a few lines?

During these seven years, he must have faced countless doubts and pressures.
Perhaps he had many sleepless nights with tears in his eye, and he might have even thought of giving up.

After all, this industry is very realistic.
Without talent, relying solely on effort, it’s difficult to reach the highest peak.
At best, one can only enjoy the scenery halfway up the mountain or even at the foot of the mountain.

But even so… Even though he himself knew that he might never touch the glory of his dreams, he refused to stop running, just to get closer, a little closer to that radiant light.

When it was time to leave, he still couldn’t let go and chose to bid farewell with a kiss.

Shen Yanming no longer had the heart to listen to the ongoing commentary on the stage.

He felt a bit lost.

He thought some people still want to continue playing, but they will never have the chance.

However, he himself… he still had many opportunities.
He is still in his prime years, and compared to others, he had talents that many envied, along with the accumulation of his previous life’s experience.

He had read some stories before, where if others had a chance to start over, they would use their foreknowledge advantage to rise up and overturn their fate, not only to make up for regrets but also to achieve great success.

But he was not that kind of person.
He was more like an ostrich.

If he were the protagonist of a story, he would surely be heavily criticized for being useless.

But secretly, he asked himself, is he truly content?

If he were content, would he keep saying he wanted to let go, wanted to study, but still have his mind on the game all day? He didn’t want to study at all.
He kept saying he wanted to be a senior high school student, but it seemed more like he was brainwashing himself.

If he were content, would he travel all the way here just to watch a match? Would he secretly rejoice upon learning that the flight was delayed, even though he dared not admit it?

He wanted to stay here for a while longer.
When he was randomly chosen to play in a casual water friend competition, he felt a strong sense of nostalgia.

When He Changkong wanted to recruit him into the team, he was tempted countless times.
It didn’t matter if he couldn’t be a starter and had to be a substitute.
He really wanted to see what a strong team was like and how it felt to be teammates with these top players.

He was unwilling.

But it seemed like he had woven a net for himself, trapping himself.
Every time he had the urge to move forward, that net would tighten.
The net was stitched with many reasons.
He was afraid of disappointment and afraid of getting hurt again… It may sound melodramatic, but that’s what held him back.

After witnessing Xu Yin’s retirement today, that net that enveloped him seemed to have loosened slightly.

There were many reasons why he didn’t want to play, but if one day he said he still wanted to continue, he only had one reason that sounded cheesy.

It was his dream.

But could someone who had abandoned their dream once really have the qualifications to return to the original path?

Compared to someone like Xu Yin, who persisted from the beginning to the end, he was really pathetic.

When he came out of the gymnasium, the rain had subsided, and the sky had turned completely dark.
Shen Yanming found a place to stand, but his mind was still in chaos, replaying the scene of Xu Yin kissing the keyboard.

Unable to come up with a conclusion, he sighed and took out his phone to check, intending to put this episode aside for now.

Half an hour ago, He Changkong had sent him a message, asking if he had finished watching the match.

Upon seeing He Changkong’s message, Shen Yanming’s thoughts immediately turned to hot pot.
When he thought about hot pot, his worries temporarily evaporated.

There was nothing more important than eating!

Shen Yanming replied to the message.

[Shen bird]: Just finished watching =.= What about you guys?

After a while, he received several voice messages.
He opened them and found that it was Meng Yan’s voice: “Your Kong ge is driving, I’m helping him reply to you.
We estimated that you would be done watching by now, so we left early.
We’re almost there now, just come to the entrance number two and find us…”

Shen Yanming:!

He hurriedly ran over with an umbrella, and sure enough, it didn’t take long for He Changkong’s car to stop in front of him.

Upon closer inspection, wow, the car was filled with a bunch of strange looking people.
Fish, in the shape of a ball, squeezed pitifully in the front seat, while Meng Yan was slouched in the back seat like a salted fish, and Pudding, wearing lolita attire with ridiculously long false eyelashes, opened the car door and waved for Shen Yanming to get in.

Shen Yanming greeted everyone and sat in the only empty seat in the back.
Suddenly, he heard a scream.

Pudding frowned.
“Asshole, you’re crushing my petticoat! Sit further away from me!’

Shen Yanming quickly apologized and moved his body to the side.

Meng Yan, who was still slouched before, perked up after hearing Pudding’s words and provocatively said, “Ding jiang1Ding jiang: nickname for pudding, be polite.
If you keep acting so fierce, He Changkong will come to your room in the middle of the night and cut off all your skirts.”

He Changkong: “…I won’t.”

Pudding turned around, lifted Shen Yanming’s chin, and said, “Indeed, you’re a precious baby.
Your eyebrows are so delicately shaped.
Just a little more trimming and they’ll be perfect.”

Shen Yanming: “???” Trim his eyebrows? Why would he need to trim his eyebrows?

Although he knew the person in front of him was a man, the makeup and wig were done so well, making him look so much like a girl.
Shen Yanming couldn’t help but blush when he had his chin lifted by this person.

After all, he had never been so intimately close with a girl before, so he felt a little embarrassed.

Meng Yan, however, had a troubled expression on his face and shouted, “Wow, you’re really shameless.
Why are you blushing in front of Pudding?”

Pudding withdrew his hand.
“Who with a normal aesthetic wouldn’t blush when they see me? Let’s have a staring contest.
If you can look into my eyes for more than ten seconds without blushing, I’ll admit defeat.”

Meng Yan exclaimed, “Damn, this bastard has reached a new level of shamelessness.”

Fish, in a daze, asked, “Isn’t blushing a sign of innocence? Why do you say it’s shameless?”

Meng Yan reached out to pat Fish’s head.
“You don’t understand.
He only blushes for one person.”

Shen Yanming himself didn’t know.
“For whom?”

Meng Yan said meaningfully, “…For his wife.”

The term “wife” had a hidden meaning, but unfortunately, Luan luanzi, who was usually clever, didn’t catch Meng Yan’s implication this time.
He thought Meng Yan was mocking him.
In order to save his face, he forced himself to show a cool and arrogant expression.
“Yan ge, don’t talk nonsense.
I definitely won’t blush in front of my future wife.
I will be imposing, and my petite and lovely wife will snuggle up to me and act spoiled…”

“Pfft,” Meng Yan’s entire expression cracked.
“Are you sure it’s ‘petite and lovely’?”

Shen Yanming asked, “What’s wrong?”

Fish excitedly turned around.
“Wow, Luanzi ge, you also like someone smaller! I like that too…”

“Yeah, it’s best if she’s a short younger schoolgirl with a mushroom haircut, chubby cheeks, and big eyes… And she should call me Oni-chan, hahaha.” Shen Yanming was just casually saying whatever he liked, imitating the appearance of his favorite anime characters.

Shen Yanming said it without much thought, but Meng Yan shook his head as he listened, even sighing repeatedly.

Meng Yan then placed his hand on He Changkong’s shoulder and said, “You have it tough, seriously.”

He Changkong kept his gaze on the road ahead and didn’t give Meng Yan a glance.
“Stop talking nonsense.”

Fish asked, “What’s going on? Why do you guys speak in riddles?”

Shen Yanming, a bit slow on the uptake, seemed to have figured it out, so Meng Yan was teasing him just now?

That old scoundrel was really wicked.

After realizing about who Meng Yan’s “wife” referred to, a wave of embarrassment surged up … and his face became hot again.

He glanced at He Changkong from the corner of his eye, but the other person didn’t seem to mind much, maintaining his usual calm and composed demeanor.

Shen Yanming abruptly changed the topic, asking about something he had been curious about.
He asked Pudding, “What did Pudding ge mean by telling me to trim my eyebrows earlier?”

“Makeup, of course, will make you beautiful!” Pudding clapped his hands.
“Are you interested in wearing skirts with me? Let’s start the male liberation movement, no longer restrained… Empty down below, happiness in this world.”2empty down below, happiness in this world: It implies that by embracing the freedom to cross-dress and break traditional gender norms, one can find happiness and fulfillment in life.
The phrase suggests that societal expectations and restrictions can be limiting, but by breaking free from them, one can experience a sense of liberation and joy.

Shen Yanming: “…” He would have been better off not asking!!!

The car stopped at a traffic light intersection, and He Changkong turned around, scanning the people in the back seat with a gaze similar to that of a homeroom teacher.
He didn’t say anything and after a quick glance, he turned back.

Meng Yan cleared his throat and touched his nose.
“Ding Jiang, I told you not to tease Luanzi anymore.
Look, the air conditioning has started cooling.”

Pudding: “…”

Fish: “???”

Shen Yanming: “=皿=!!!” What’s wrong with this Meng Yan!3=皿=: text emoticon, it represents a frustrated or annoyed facial expression, similar to a frown or scowl.

Author’s Message:

Kong: Don’t bully him (glares)

Thank you for reading! 

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day

If you like reading my translations, do consider supporting me with ko-fi

1Ding jiang: nickname for pudding2empty down below, happiness in this world: It implies that by embracing the freedom to cross-dress and break traditional gender norms, one can find happiness and fulfillment in life.
The phrase suggests that societal expectations and restrictions can be limiting, but by breaking free from them, one can experience a sense of liberation and joy.3=皿=: text emoticon, it represents a frustrated or annoyed facial expression, similar to a frown or scowl.

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