Chapter 7: The Year the Flowers Blossomed
The word flashed across the screen, a sight deeply familiar to every Glory player. But in this situation, that word signified far more than a mere PK victory in the Arena.
This was an ultimate victory, the birth of a championship.
Glory Professional Alliance Season 1, champions: Team Excellent Era!
Amidst the cheers and applause, Team Excellent Era gathered together onstage to accept their award. But they were missing one person, the one player who was most important to their victory.
Ye Qiu, One Autumn Leaf…
Even for this most important victory, he still behaved like he did for every match during the season – a quiet appearance, a quiet departure.
Who was Ye Qiu?
This was the hot topic throughout the entire season, but in the end, there was still no answer. Even during the post-match press conference, when asked this question, the Excellent Era members were as tight-lipped as ever.
“He’s purposely acting mysterious to build hype,” someone said, watching the televised press conference. This sort of sentiment wasn’t uncommon.
“Whether or not he’s purposely building hype, he’s still strong, very strong,” another person replied.
“But Big Sun, you refuse to participate. Otherwise, would he still be so popular?” the first speaker continued. “Say, why did you refuse the invitation to join a professional Glory team? If you did, the one standing on that stage would definitely be you.”
“Idiot, it’s not that simple,” replied the one called Big Sun.
“Big Sun, I just think you’re stronger than that guy!” But after that person finished speaking, he suddenly felt that that statement was too bold, and hastened to add, “At least, you’re definitely not any worse than him. Why couldn’t you be the one winning that championship?”
“Because this isn’t just about one person!” said Big Sun.
“Then what else is there?” asked the first person.
“There need to be helpers! You guys, you can’t even see the importance of that Qi Master in their team!” said Big Sun.
“The Qi Master? You mean Qi Breaker? Wu Xuefeng? You’ve gotta be kidding, you think he’s an expert?” that person said disdainfully.
“What the hell do you know?” Big Sun scolded.
“Okay, okay, the finals are over, prepare to log on!” From the side, another voice came.
This was an ordinary Internet café in City K, a frequent hangout for this group of Glory-loving youths. They often came and played until the deep hours of the night.
A frivolous hobby? Perhaps…
But looking at the youthful faces reflected in the flashing screens, who could be sure that there wasn’t a dream hidden within?
Team Excellent Era, One Autumn Leaf. In this one night, they gained countless fans.
But – championship.
Tonight, this word entered many people’s hearts, a word even more attractive than “glory,” for it was formed by the accumulation of uncountable “glory.”
This time, championship belonged to Excellent Era, belonged to One Autumn Leaf.
Then, what about next time?
Dreams were just this kind of careless imagination, buds anticipating germination.
One month had passed since the end of Season 1 and Excellent Era’s final victory, but the overwhelming publicity still hadn’t ended. Especially in city Internet cafes, which attracted large numbers of gamers, flyers advertising Glory and the Professional Alliance covered every corner. The esports television channel had replayed that final, ultimate face-off between Excellent Era and Royal Style many times by this point.
Big Sun knew this number very clearly. Whenever he saw a replay broadcast, he mentally complained “again?” But every time, he stopped whatever he was doing and watched the match, eyes never leaving the screen.
The channel had replayed the full match nine times, so he watched nine times. Including the initial live broadcast, that made ten times he had watched this match.
Everyone was praising One Autumn Leaf’s power, and Big Sun didn’t disagree. One Autumn Leaf was absolutely very strong. Even though Big Sun was fairly self-confident, when he thought of One Autumn Leaf, his heart trembled a little.
But it was just a little. In a 1v1 match, although he wouldn’t claim a guaranteed win, he wasn’t the slightest bit afraid to declare One Autumn Leaf his opponent.
What really made him feel uncertain was the Excellent Era team as a whole, and in particular, a different player on this powerhouse team.
The Qi Master named Qi Breaker, Wu Xuefeng.
Why didn’t anyone notice his existence? Why didn’t anyone pay attention to his contributions?
Big Sun really didn’t understand. Whether it was the media reports or the player discussion boards, Wu Xuefeng was a name that was constantly left out.
But that shouldn’t be the case!
He was clearly the number two of Excellent Era, and for Excellent Era and One Autumn Leaf, his existence was crucial.
Big Sun had watched the last match of the finals a total of ten times, and after each time, he understood this point more deeply. But too few people noticed this. Everyone seemed to think that as long as there was one strong expert on the team, that team could easily take every victory.
“How could it be that simple…” Big Sun sighed as he arrived at the Internet café. When he walked in, he quickly realized that today’s atmosphere was different. Everyone turned to look at him, as though they had been waiting for this moment.
Big Sun was confused, but he still walked to the counter. He wasn’t the type to be intimidated easily.
When he took the computer card from the café counter, someone had already come to his side.
“Berserker? Blossoming Chaos?” that person asked.
Berserker, was the class that Big Sun played in Glory.
Blossoming Chaos, was the name of his Berserker.
“That’s me,” replied Big Sun.
“I hear your skill’s not bad?” the other person asked.
“It’s alright,” said Big Sun. “What do you want?”
“We want to make a team. If your skill really isn’t that bad, then we invite you to join us. Together we’ll take part in next season’s Glory Professional League, and win the championship!” said the other person.
“You and…?” There was only one person standing in front of Big Sun right now.
But immediately, five other people stood up from a row of computers, all young, all filled with anticipation. They had been waiting here for Big Sun for a while now.
“I’ll give it a try,” said Big Sun, starting to become interested as he walked toward his computer. The others quickly created the room in the Arena, and a large number of spectators entered. There were many in this internet café waiting to watch this excitement.
Log on, Berserker, Blossoming Chaos.
Big Sun entered the Arena, found the room named “Sword Points To Championship,” and he couldn’t help but feel his heart rate surge.
“Let’s go!” he invited loudly. “All at once, or?”
All at once?
There was a pause as the café spectators digested this, then there was the sound of laughter.
“Big Sun, you really are berserk!” someone yelled. Regular customers of this internet café all knew each other, especially fellow Glory players.
Was this berserk?
Big Sun was confused. If they were just testing his skill, then all at once or not, wasn’t it the same?
The opposing six players also seemed as though they had been greatly insulted, and their stares were rather hostile.
“I’ll go.” But one of them seemed rather calm. If there was anything useful to be said, it had to be said in the Arena.
His character entered the stage, 1v1.
Berserker, Blossoming Chaos.
Battle Mage, Dominating Grudge.
The countdown timer reached zero and the battle began, the characters placed in their respective starting positions. The map chosen was the one players in the Arena used the most often.
Big Sun was a little disappointed.
On such a simple map, you couldn’t demonstrate anything aside from mechanics. What about judgment, prediction, experience… If this was supposed to be a true measurement of skill, then this simple and direct map was definitely a poor choice.
But the opponent was already approaching, waving his spear as he charged in front of Blossoming Chaos.
Blossoming Chaos shifted to the side and lifted his greatsword.
The Battle Mage flew into the air.
Big Sun was further disappointed. It was just a simple dodge and counterattack, yet the opponent had been entirely unable to react in time. If it had been One Autumn Leaf…
He didn’t finish that train of thought. Even he could admit that that anticipation was a little too high.
He controlled Blossoming Chaos to attack. It wasn’t even that ferocious, but the opponent was helpless, and the battle ended forty seconds later.
“So strong!” The spectators wowed in astonishment.
Big Sun smiled bitterly. He hadn’t even been playing seriously!
“You’re just too weak,” he said.
His opponent fumed.
“All at once!” Big Sun didn’t want to waste any more time. Joining a group like this, the thought of “sword pointing to championship” was frankly ridiculous. Still, he wanted to know what kind of skill level the others had.
But the group still didn’t see what they were up against.
“I’ll go,” another one said, still coming onstage by himself for a 1v1. Forty seconds later, he lost.
Another one. Thirty-seven seconds, lost.
Finally, the remaining three set away their reservations and decided to attack together.
Two minutes fifty-four seconds, the three of them lost.
The Internet café was dead silent. All of the patrons knew that Big Sun was very strong. But even one on three, he was still able to win that easily and that completely? The three players attacking together had hardly inconvenienced Big Sun – they were ruthlessly beaten without half a chance to counter.
“Amazing!” But after suffering such a brutal defeat, the six players were even more excited.
“You’re the expert we’ve been looking for!” one of them exclaimed to Big Sun.
Big Sun scoffed. “But you’re not the team I’m looking for.”
The spectators all laughed and started throwing taunts.
“Get lost, noobs.”
“Had us all excited for nothing.”
“Turns out you’re so weak!”
In the midst of these mocking shouts, the six players could only sadly leave. Even afterwards, the crowd continued to buzz with discussion about how bad those players were, how absurd it was for them to claim they were making a championship team.
Even so, thought Big Sun, they couldn’t be considered that weak… The six players all had very high win rates in the Arena; their confidence wasn’t without basis.
But they were still far from good enough! That stage is much more difficult than you imagine… Once again, in Big Sun’s mind flashed that battle he had watched over and over, ten times. And he had often imagined, if he had been in that situation, what would he do? What could he do?
But what he could accomplish just by himself… it was severely limited. The scene, as he imagined it, was incomplete.
Big Sun shook his head. Things weren’t that simple!
“Big Sun, Western Desert, hurry!” There was a sudden shout, jolting him from his thoughts.
“What?” Big Sun quickly directed his Blossoming Chaos to exit the Arena.
“There’s a battle, hurry and help!”
“Right away!” Big Sun wasn’t the only one to reply. All of the internet café patrons who had been spectating in the Arena also quickly exited and headed toward the Western Desert area.
As frequent customers of the same internet café, they often played together in-game. If one person in trouble, everyone else would rush to help, together fighting and killing, attacking and retreating.
“Hurry, there’s an expert!” urged the person who had called for help.
Everyone laughed. Right now, especially after what had just happened, calling someone an “expert” sounded like a joke. Too many people these days carelessly claimed themselves to be experts, including those six players who had just left. They had been aiming for the championship, and yet couldn’t even defeat someone in a three on one match.
“An expert? Those are the best!” the café players jeered. From cities all across the Glory world, they began converging on Western Desert.
Western Desert, a level 50 leveling area.
The sun was already low in the west, sprinkling twilight upon this expanse of wilderness, adding a touch of magnificence. But at this moment, few people had the time to admire the beautiful scenery, for a large-scale PK was currently ongoing in this wilderness.
What caused this PK to start?
By the time Big Sun and the others made it to the scene, it was too late to figure out the cause. All they knew was that the ongoing battle was fierce, and once they identified their comrades in the fray, they quickly joined their team.
“Where’s the expert?” Everyone laughed, still remembering that joke.
“It’s that Spitfire, called something Blossoms!” someone replied.
“Something Blossoms?” A derisive voice came from right beside Big Sun, and he identified the speaker as a Knight standing by his character in game.
But Big Sun noticed that in the fading light of the sun, there were long shadows floating in the sky. He lifted his field of vision to look at the setting sun. The light wasn’t especially blinding, and he realized – these shadows were flying toward them at an alarming speed.
“Watch out!” Big Sun yelled, quickly controlling Blossoming Chaos to perform a Colliding Stab to the side.
“Watch out for what?” That Knight was still laughing.
The shadows descended, the blossoms arrived.
In an instant, an explosion of fireworks swallowed the Knight. And it didn’t stop there – deafening gunshots rang out in succession, and the flurry of light and shadow only continued to grow. Big Sun frantically maneuvered Blossoming Chaos to dodge the blasts. Quickly scanning the area, he suddenly spotted a quickly moving shadow.
“Over there!” Big Sun shouted.
“What? There?” No one understood what he was referring to.
“Fuck!” But within the Internet café, two people slammed their keyboards in anger and frustration. It was that Knight, and someone who had been standing very near him. Together, under that gorgeous display of light and shadow, their health had fallen to zero.
“At 1 o’clock direction! No, 11 o’clock! 9 o’clock!” Big Sun fixed his eyes on that character and yelled directions to his partners. That player was moving too quickly, constantly changing his position.
“Big Sun, what are you talking about!” No one could keep up with his tempo.
“That player – something Blossoms!” Big Sun yelled, frustrated. He also couldn’t see clearly the account name of that character, who was really quite sneaky, weaving around the battlefield, using other players as cover, constantly hiding. In such a chaotic battle, it truly could be quite difficult to identify one ID in particular.
If no one else could see it, then he could only depend on himself to take care of this!
Big Sun’s Blossoming Chaos readied his greatsword and charged, meeting head-on a Blade Master who had jumped forward to block him.
Blossoming Chaos had prepared the stance for this attack early on. The slash was sudden, and by the time the opponent realized what was happening, it was too late for him to dodge or counter.
The Blade Master was sent flying. The player’s technique wasn’t bad – he adjusted his motion in the air, using a Falling Light Blade to try and counterattack – but a crimson slash was already coming toward him.
Wild Blood Strike!
A skill that used a sword, but was called a strike.
Most of the skills of the Berserker class were strikes and slashes, less like a swordsman and more like a knife user. But knife or sword, this enemy Blade Master landed and the crimson Wild Blood Strike travelled right through him, slamming into the ground behind.
It seemed as though the earth shook to its core. One blade sliced a road of blood, and Blossoming Chaos rushed forward to slash again. The greatsword danced chaotically, and in the blink of an eye, sent countless more enemies flying.
“Watch out, watch out for that Berserker!” On the battlefield, the opposing players were beginning to shout.
“Which, which?” someone asked.
“That one, that Blossom something!” someone hollered.
This side had a blossom, the other side had a blossom. And right now, this blossom was charging toward that blossom.
But it wasn’t that simple.
At the beginning, his opponent only used other players for cover, but suddenly, another impressive display of light and shadow began, and his opponent used the explosions to flash in and out of visibility.
Let’s see how long you can maintain that!
Big Sun refused to give up. This sort of Spitfire playstyle required lots of skills to be used in rapid succession, and the mana consumption would be very high.
But a second later, Big Sun realized, even though the Spitfire’s mana consumption was high, he was dealing a significant amount of damage with this onslaught of explosive attacks. Practically no one could dodge his attacks, which had a wide range of effect. Not only did the display of light and shadow seal the movements of this Spitfire’s opponents, it also served to augment the Spitfire’s own attacks and those of his allies. Originally, this had just been a chaotic free-for-all, but because of his intervention, his side was suddenly beginning to gain an attack rhythm.
But if a rhythm can be established, it can also be broken!
Charge! Continue to charge!
Big Sun continued to fixate on his target, and purposely tried to disrupt his opponent’s attack intentions. His constant slashing had long since dyed his blade red, his greatsword sending blood droplets scattering. It wasn’t any less impressive a display than that dazzling show of explosions.
“Stop him, stop him!” the shouts continued, but fewer and fewer in number – not because they were ignoring him, but because they had already fallen.
Falling under the light and shadow, falling under the spray of blood.
Throughout the battlefield were the prone bodies of the defeated players, throughout the battlefield were dropped equipment. But there was no pause in battle – at this point, whoever stopped to take a breath would be the next to fall.
It was a battle; therefore, there would be a victor and a loser in the end!
“Where are you running!” yelled Big Sun. Blossoming Chaos, who was currently under the Berserk status, swung his sword as he rushed forward.
The greatsword slashed down. The battlefield was strewn with bodies – after such an intense and chaotic battle, all except for two players had fallen. The Spitfire, no longer able to use other players as cover, was finally vulnerable to Big Sun’s direct attack.
Indeed, it was something Blossoms.
Finally, Big Sun could see the name clearly. Hundred Blossoms – Dazzling Hundred Blossoms.
Dazzling Hundred Blossoms couldn’t dodge the greatsword in time. But he still managed to lift the automatic pistol in his hand, and a spurt of bullet fire blasted out.
Blood splashed from Blossoming Chaos’ body, but although the attack landed, the damage wasn’t high; it was just an ordinary attack that had no chance of stopping the Collapsing Mountain. When the greatsword connected, the flying blood droplets became more vivid. Dazzling Hundred Blossoms crumpled to the ground – he had a sliver of health remaining, but for all purposes, victory had been determined.
But Big Sun didn’t let Blossoming Chaos finish the job.
Was victory determined?
It was, but the reason Big Sun had won was because he happened to arrive at the scene a little later; his condition was a little better, a little fresher, while the opponent had already been in battle for a period of time, draining his mana and energy.
If that last shot had been a true Spitfire skill, this battle would still be ongoing.
Big Sun pulled back his greatsword and braced it against his shoulder.
“Heh…” he laughed. Looking at the fallen player before him, Big Sun suddenly felt that the scene that he had long imagined was suddenly becoming complete, moving from a mere possibility into a reality. This scene here, the two of them, flashing explosions and scattered blood… It should be worthy of that grand stage, no? Worthy of that battle he had watched ten times over?
“Your skill is pretty good,” he said. “Want to partner up?”
“Huh?” The fallen player was clearly caught off-guard. “Who are you?”
“Sun Zheping, Berserker, Blossoming Chaos. You?”
“Zhang Jiale, Spitfire, Dazzling Hundred Blossoms.”
“Then what about our team?”
“Team?” Zhang Jiale looked at the names of their two characters and thought. “Double Blossoms?”
“How is two blossoms enough? Better Hundred Blossoms,” said Sun Zheping.
And so that year, in Western Desert, springtime came for Hundred Blossoms.