He Changkong ignored the text message, yet an uneasy feeling lingered in his mind.
He had a habit of adding notes to every contact, so receiving a message from an unfamiliar number indicated it was from someone he didn’t know, and he had no idea who it could be.
If he had received only one message, he might have dismissed it.
However, during the training break the next day, He Changkong received an identical message again, from the same number.
He Changkong promptly added the number to his blacklist.
He had heard before that some overly zealous fans1Zealous fans: extremely enthusiastic and passionate supporters of a particular person, group, team, or cause.
These fans often display intense dedication and commitment, going to great lengths to show their support and loyalty.
might manage to find players’ contact information and persistently harass them.
He suspected he might have fallen into such a situation.
He thought that if that were the case, he would need to change his number when he had the time.
After blocking the number, things quieted down for a day or two, and then he received a new message, this time from a different number.
This time, He Changkong was aware that it probably wasn’t from an irrational, obsessed fan.
The sender of the message straightforwardly asked: “Why didn’t you reply to Mom’s message? You have a match in Yun City in two weeks.
Mom wants to talk to you then.”
He Changkong checked the location of the number and confirmed that it was indeed from his hometown, Yun City.
It was possible that it could be one of those fans who claimed to be his mom fan, but ordinary fans wouldn’t talk about having a conversation.
And the tone of the message… He could basically confirm that it was Xu Yun.
When He Changkong and Xu Yun had a falling out, just after leaving school and home to come to the team, Xu Yun had bombarded him with countless phone calls and messages.
She had even chased him to the team’s base.
They couldn’t come to an agreement, and Xu Yun, who always maintained her dignity in front of others, didn’t create a scene in public.
However, during heated arguments, she had left behind a statement: “Don’t bother coming back if you leave.”
Indeed, He Changkong hadn’t gone back.
Later, Xu Yun regretted her words and attempted to persuade him to return.
But every time, He Changkong remained unmoved.
The last time, Xu Yun sent him a lengthy message.
He couldn’t remember the exact content, but he recalled a sentence: “You’re not even a sliver of what your father was.
All you do is embarrass yourself.
The biggest regret of my life is giving birth to you.”
Finally, He Changkong replied to her: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have been born.”
After that, He Changkong blocked Xu Yun’s number.
Apart from sending money to her card every month, he had no further contact with this woman who claimed to be his mother.
Later, if Xu Yun wanted to reach He Changkong, she would have to go through Meng Yan to do it.
He Changkong read the message again.
The fact that he and Shen Yanming were together was only known by a few of their close teammates.
How did Xu Yun find out? Could she have taken online information seriously? But would she genuinely pay attention to He Changkong’s updates online?
He didn’t want to speculate further about Xu Yun’s thoughts and he also felt that there was no need to discuss this matter.
He deleted the message again, treating it as if nothing had happened.
As the chill of winter intensified, the playoffs of the Return to the Throne professional league began.
The first match was at their home ground, and it wasn’t particularly thrilling.
They smoothly won the second and third matches as well, securing points.
Afterward, they went to Yun City.
He Changkong had played matches here before.
In fact, on a previous occasion, he had been invited by a well-known game streamer to record an online variety show as a local guide.
Perhaps because of Xu Yun’s recent message, He Changkong felt somewhat uneasy as he set foot on Yun City’s soil.
He tried to convince himself that everything was fine.
Since he had ignored that message, there shouldn’t be any chance of meeting Xu Yun — just like the last time when Xu Yun claimed to be sick, he hadn’t gone back, and Xu Yun hadn’t bothered him during that period.
Moreover, no matter what, Xu Yun cared about her reputation.
She shouldn’t come to the hotel where the players were staying.
After landing, He Changkong and Shen Yanming didn’t return with the majority of the team.
The reason was that Shen Yanming had been accidentally bumped into by a girl holding a milk tea on the way, and the hot milk tea splashed onto his white down jacket, leaving a large coffee-colored stain.
Since they were only staying here for two or three days, Shen Yanming didn’t want to carry too much luggage.
He traveled light, wearing only the team uniform and this down jacket.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t borrow a thicker coat from his teammates, but he wanted to explore the lively areas and see what He Changkong’s hometown was like.
He suggested that He Changkong take him to buy a new jacket.
After wandering around and having a meal, when they returned, the other team members had already settled into the hotel.
As they entered the hotel, the lobby was relatively empty.
Shen Yanming was in front of He Changkong.
Even though he had bought a new down jacket, he insisted on unzipping He Changkong’s jacket and squeezing inside.
The two big guys almost distorted the jacket.
Shen Yanming wasn’t worried about what others might say if they saw them.
This kind of behavior could be seen among any pair of close male friends.
The two of them moved forward at a slow pace.
He Changkong helplessly asked, “Is it fun?”
Shen Yanming was thoroughly enjoying himself, “Yeah, it’s fun.”
He Changkong held a bag of food for their other teammates.
He lifted it in front of Shen Yanming and said, “Let’s go upstairs first.
Meng Yan and the others will be waiting…”
He Changkong suddenly stopped halfway through his sentence.
Shen Yanming turned to him in confusion, only to see his expression abruptly darken.
Following He Changkong’s gaze, Shen Yanming turned around and spotted a middle-aged woman in professional attire, looking sophisticated and elegant, standing up from the sofa in the lobby’s resting area.
She slowly walked toward them.
When she reached them, the woman smiled and said, “You won’t even call me ‘Mom’?”
Shen Yanming was startled, and he immediately stopped playing with He Changkong’s jacket, hastily wriggling out.
But as he was about to step away, He Changkong held onto his hand.
Xu Yun glanced at their joined hands, her expression unchanged as she said, “You must be chaos.”
In reality, almost no one usually called Shen Yanming “chaos.” Shen Yanming was caught off guard, hesitating for a moment before responding, “Yes… Hello, Aunt.”
When exchanging greetings, Shen Yanming discreetly sized up Xu Yun.
Although she was middle-aged, she had maintained herself well, still appearing radiant and beautiful.
There was a resemblance between her and He Changkong.
Xu Yun didn’t reply to the greeting.
She continued to smile, though the smile didn’t reach her eyes.
She said, “I need to talk to my son.
Could you give us a moment?”
Shen Yanming felt a bit awkward and glanced at He Changkong.
He Changkong gently squeezed his hand and said, “Sure, wait for me upstairs.”
Shen Yanming left first, glancing back three times as he walked, watching He Changkong and his mother leave the hotel entrance together, his heart hanging in his throat.
He sent a message to He Changkong, asking him to send his exact location once he was seated.
Soon, He Changkong sent him a location, a restaurant downstairs in the hotel.
He even included the name of the private room.
Shen Yanming carried the food upstairs and knocked on Meng Yan’s room.
However, when the door opened, it was Sunday who had come over from another room.
He took the things from Shen Yanming’s hand and said, “The brothers are insulting each other.”
Shen Yanming peeked inside.
Meng Yan and Pudding were playing Overcooked on the Nintendo Switch together — Pudding wasn’t playing in the match, but he still came along.
Meng Yan and Pudding were engrossed in the game.
As Shen Yanming entered, he heard Meng Yan roaring, “Could you stop throwing tomatoes? Are you a pig?”
Shen Yan Ming found a place to sit, and Pudding, with a sheet mask on his face, turned to him and said, “Hey, Luan Jiang is here… Huh? Why do you look a bit off?”
Shen Yanming thought for a moment and said, “It’s nothing.”
Pudding tossed his game controller aside and, ignoring Meng Yan’s yelling, sat down next to Shen Yanming, resting his head on his shoulder.
“What’s wrong, Luan Jiang?”
Pudding’s appearance resembled that of an elder brother ready to listen to someone’s troubles.
Shen Yanming suddenly felt overwhelmed by his kindness, but he wasn’t sure if he should share the matter, as it seemed like He Changkong’s private business.
It was Meng Yan who first asked, after glancing around, “Where’s Kong-ge?”
Shen Yanming hesitated to speak, then said, “He… um…”
Seeing his strange expression, Meng Yan suddenly realized, “Uh, did he meet his mom?”
Since Meng Yan had guessed it, Shen Yanming didn’t hide it any longer.
“Yes, how did you know?”
Meng Yan curled his lips.
“She asked me for the hotel address before, but I didn’t tell her… Damn, she went around asking?”
Shen Yanming: “…”
Shen Yanming weakly asked, “So, what do you think his mom wants from him?”
Meng Yan spread his hands, “She’s probably just trying to convince him to come back home.
I don’t get it, honestly.
In the beginning, if they were worried about him not succeeding in esports, I could get that.
But Kong ge has already won two championships, and his mom still hasn’t given up on making him come back home.”
Sunday, baffled, chimed in, “Is it because Kong Kong ge has a mine at home that his mom wants him to take over?”
Meng Yan responded with a wry smile.
“You’re overthinking it.”
Shen Yanming sat uneasily.
“I have a bad feeling about this.”
Meng Yan stood up and handed both pairs of game controllers to Sunday.
“Where are they? Let’s go find your Kong ge together.
His mom might be a bit difficult privately, but as long as there are outsiders around, she won’t do anything.”
Shen Yanming nodded.
Pudding pointed at the face mask on his face, “You guys go, I’ll stay behind.”
As they headed downstairs together, Meng Yan recounted some past incidents to Shen Yanming, like how He Changkong’s mother was never satisfied, even when he was doing well in school.
Shen Yanming had heard most of these incidents from He Changkong himself, but he had downplayed them.
Meng Yan’s third-person perspective made the stories sound more infuriating.
He mentioned an incident where He Changkong had missed a few points on a math test, and his mother was furious.
She sent him back to school, forbidding him from entering the house and not even providing him with food money until he finished a certain number of exam papers.
If Meng Yan hadn’t coincidentally returned to the classroom to retrieve something, he wouldn’t have known about these events.
One year on He Changkong’s birthday, Meng Yan gave him a model as a gift.
He Changkong accepted it and seemed quite happy.
However, the next day, he returned the gift in its original condition.
There was no other reason for this action except that his mother believed that indulging in material possessions was detrimental to one’s character.
Meng Yan concluded, “These are the things I know.
There’s certainly more I don’t know.
Kong ge tends to keep things to himself.
Well, it’s truly tough for him.
However, he’s been a bit better since joining our team… How should I put it? And it seems like he’s been happier after getting to know you.”
During their conversation, they arrived at the restaurant He Changkong had mentioned.
At the entrance to the private room, Meng Yan added, “You go in first.
I’ll wait outside in case something happens.”
Shen Yan Ming felt heavy-hearted.
He nodded and knocked on the door of the private room.
First, he looked at He Changkong, who was sitting to the side.
Despite his lowered head, Shen Yanming could tell from his profile that He Changkong’s face was devoid of color.
As Shen Yanming entered, He Changkong seemed to belatedly notice someone had come in.
He Changkong turned his head and saw Shen Yanming.
The usually calm expression on his face was now replaced by traces of panic.
On the other hand, Xu Yun’s smile appeared somewhat strange.
She scrutinized Shen Yanming and said, “Oh, it’s you.
You’ve come at the right time.
I also have something to tell you.”
He Changkong stood up, attempting to stop Xu Yun, “Mom—”
Xu Yun ignored him, focusing her gaze on Shen Yanming.
She continued, “Do you know what I hate the most? Homosexuality.
Do you know why?”
He Changkong quickly moved to Shen Yanming’s side, ready to take him out.
He also addressed Xu Yun., “This has nothing to do with him!”
“How could it not?” Xu Yun continued to smile, “Homosexuality is disgusting and morally corrupt.”
Shen Yanming had initially thought that in this day and age, such attitudes had vanished.
Yet, he listened as Xu Yun continued, “My ex-husband, He Changkong’s father, was gay.
He deceived me into marriage and then abandoned me.
Do you understand now?”
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
1Zealous fans: extremely enthusiastic and passionate supporters of a particular person, group, team, or cause.
These fans often display intense dedication and commitment, going to great lengths to show their support and loyalty.
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