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Chapter 24: The Golden Generation
Translator: Nomyummi Editor: Nomyummi
We’re going to the finals!
Amidst the deafening cheers from the crowd, the Hundred Blossoms players at the side rushed onto the stage, surrounding the two core players of their team.
They were the victors of the battle that had just ended.
They were the ones who had earned victory in the second round of the playoffs.
Team Hundred Blossoms, the black horse of last season, now with a more mature and reliable att.i.tude, had charged through two rounds of this year’s playoffs and slaughtered their way into the finals. Their hands had already lightly brushed against that proof of highest glory, the champions.h.i.+p trophy.
But this wasn’t the end yet; things weren’t finished yet.
With the lesson they’d learned from last season’s failure, Hundred Blossoms’ excitement and celebration was fairly short-lived. It wasn’t long before the cl.u.s.ter of people onstage had already calmed down.
On the other side of the stage, the Tiny Herb players who had just lost this round were also walking out of their compet.i.tor booths.
w.a.n.g Jiexi, Fang s.h.i.+qian. Tiny Herb was another team that had relied on its young players to take on responsibility. They had given everyone the biggest surprise this season, with the name “Magician” dominating headlines.
But ultimately, they hadn’t managed to walk to the end.
Shake hands, exchange respects.
The young captain on the losing side was merely silent; he didn’t display much outward dejection. Their vice-captain Fang s.h.i.+qian, however, was utterly gloomy – he didn’t even come over to greet the opposing team, as was the custom after a match.
“Keep working hard next season,” said Hundred Blossoms Captain Sun Zheping, in a genuine tone, to w.a.n.g Jiexi. He didn’t pay Fang s.h.i.+qian’s disrespect too much mind. As someone who had tasted before the bitter sting of this kind of defeat, he very much understood the mood of the side that had lost.
“Thank you,” said w.a.n.g Jiexi, nodding.
The two teams went their separate ways. Hundred Blossoms lingered in the stadium, waiting for the conclusion of the other playoffs match of this round to see who would become their opponent in the finals. And Tiny Herb, as the eliminated losers, could only pack up their things and leave in low spirits.
The Tiny Herb players walked silently through the long player pa.s.sageway. For a long time, no one spoke. It wasn’t until they arrived back at their prep room that someone finally broke the silence.
“Hey!” Fang s.h.i.+qian opened his mouth, his gaze falling squarely upon w.a.n.g Jiexi, who had just sat down to rest.
The players all felt their hearts jump, and they turned to look at them.
“As the captain, shouldn’t you say something right now?” Fang s.h.i.+qian said.
Everyone couldn’t help but tense. From the very beginning, they could tell Fang s.h.i.+qian had certain emotions toward w.a.n.g Jiexi inheriting Vaccaria and the captaincy. w.a.n.g Jiexi had performed so exceptionally this season that there really wasn’t much to criticize. Yet even so, Fang s.h.i.+qian had still found areas to nitpick. And now, their most important match of the season had just ended in defeat. Was Fang s.h.i.+qian about to completely blow up?
Their defeat this round could be a.n.a.lyzed from various angles. It wasn’t the fault of any one person’s mistake or anything like that. Wasn’t it too irrational to use this as a reason to blow up?
Everyone couldn’t help but feel that that this was unfair. w.a.n.g Jiexi’s performance this season had won over everyone. Never mind the fact that he hadn’t messed up this match, even if he had, they would all forgive him – who didn’t make mistakes? If Fang s.h.i.+qian wanted to nitpick this loss as well, the rest of them wouldn’t stand for it.
Looking at the two of them, Tiny Herb’s members had already decided their position. If there was going to be a conflict between these two core players, they were going to support w.a.n.g Jiexi.
But to their surprise, Fang s.h.i.+qian, without waiting for w.a.n.g Jiexi to say anything, was already continuing to speak.
“Forget it.” He waved his hand. “I forgive you this time.”
What’s with that condescending tone? Fang s.h.i.+qian, you’re really going too far!
A few of them refused to accept that and had already opened their mouths, but once again, the quick-speaking Fang s.h.i.+qian beat them to it.
“But next season, or next next season, next next next season – no matter what, you have to lead Tiny Herb to win a champions.h.i.+p!” Fang s.h.i.+qian said fiercely.
Everyone was stunned. And then, they began to laugh.
Next season? Next next season? Next next next season? He had this kind of patience and belief in w.a.n.g Jiexi. Clearly, this Fang s.h.i.+qian already very much acknowledged him.
“I’ll do it as quickly as possible,” w.a.n.g Jiexi laughed.
“Not ‘as quickly as possible,’ it’s ‘for sure,’” Fang s.h.i.+qian said, very seriously.
“For sure,” w.a.n.g Jiexi replied, also adopting a serious expression.
“Alright. Next season, we’ll be back!” Fang s.h.i.+qian raised his arm and shouted.
“We’ll be back!” Everyone waved their arms, and the originally heavy atmosphere was instantly broken by this uplifting energy. But soon, they heard shouts and cheers echoing down through the long pa.s.sageway, drowning out their excited voices.
“Have the results of the other match come out?” someone asked.
“This stupid TV! How come it doesn’t have signal again!” Someone slapped the television that was in the prep room, but the screen was filled with static, and not even half an image could be shown.
“Want to go out and take a look?”
Tiny Herb’s players left their prep room. As they had guessed, the curtain had fallen on the match between Excellent Era and Tyranny, and the results were out.
The victor was?
The name that the crowd was hollering announced the other team that was entering the finals. This really wasn’t an unexpected answer. Three seasons of the Pro League, three times entering the finals. Excellent Era had already become a looming mountain that the other teams needed to climb and conquer.
The audience’s cheering was thunderous. Excellent Era’s players were high-fiving each other, but they seemed more subdued. It wasn’t because they were already used to victory, but because their celebration was always missing the backbone of their team, their core.
Ye Qiu, Excellent Era’s captain. No matter what match, what victory, he would always quietly come and quietly go.
This made Sun Zheping, who was bursting with energy to exchange a few words with his opponent in the finals, feel like his energy had nowhere to go. That opponent he aspired to defeat wasn’t even here!
Tyranny had lost, but they departed with their heads held high.
After three seasons, no one would look down on them any longer. This team’s perseverance and tenacity was simply unparalleled.
“It’s a shame.” Watching Tyranny’s players leave, someone in the audience quietly sighed and shook his head.
“Who are you talking about?” To the side, Huang Shaotian asked.
“Tyranny,” said Yu Wenzhou.
“What do you mean?” At this point, Huang Shaotian very much trusted this partner of his, and he believed that making Yu Wenzhou Blue Rain’s captain next season was an extremely wise decision.
“Over the course of the battle, there were at least four critical points that determined victory – here, here, here, and here,” said Yu Wenzhou, pointing at places in his notebook.
“What here here here here… Who could understand all this stuff you drew?” After tilting his neck to look at the so-called “here’s,” Huang Shaotian still didn’t follow.
“We’ll talk more when we go back and watch the recordings. In any case, of these four points, in at least two of them, Tyranny’s healer had the chance to control the battle situation. Then, they would have had a fighting chance,” said Yu Wenzhou.
“Tyranny’s healer…” Huang Shaotian thought back to the match, “…isn’t bad, though?”
“I’m not saying he’s bad. But Tyranny as a team has a lot of pa.s.sion, and their healer has been carried along by that sort of style, too. It might be a bit… top-heavy.” After thinking, Yu Wenzhou landed upon this descriptor.
“You’re right.” A new voice responded to Yu Wenzhou’s words.
“Who are you?” Huang Shaotian jumped up and spun around. Behind them stood an intellectual-looking youth, who, after glancing at Huang Shaotian, pushed up his gla.s.ses and returned his gaze to Yu Wenzhou’s notebook.
“But about those four critical points, I have a few different views,” said the gla.s.ses boy.
“Oh?” Yu Wenzhou was immediately interested. He twisted his body around, lifted his notebook, and began earnest discussion with the gla.s.ses youth, who had come forward.
In this position, the two of them continued talking for a full half-hour. The match had ended long ago and the audience was beginning to depart, but at some point, another youth who had been leaving paused in his tracks, stood to the side, and began to listen to the discussion between Yu Wenzhou and the gla.s.ses youth. He didn’t make any sound, but he couldn’t help but nod along.
“And who are you?” Huang Shaotian, dumbfounded, stared at this newcomer.
“Yeah,” the newcomer said absently. He wasn’t answering Huang Shaotian – he had simply heard the two’s a.n.a.lysis, felt that it made a lot of sense, and couldn’t help but make a sound of agreement.
Yu Wenzhou and that gla.s.ses youth finally noticed the newcomer, and together looked at him.
“I’m sorry…” This person scratched his head, a bit awkward, and introduced himself: “I’m Xiao s.h.i.+qin.”
Only now did the youths all introduce themselves to each other.
“Me me me me! Huang Shaotian.” Huang Shaotian inserted himself with a shout.
“h.e.l.lo,” said Xiao s.h.i.+qin and Zhang Xinjie, practically in unison, and then they once again turned back to look at Yu Wenzhou.
“What do you think about that match between Hundred Blossoms and Tiny Herb?” Zhang Xinjie asked. They’d pretty much finished talking about Excellent Era versus Tyranny at this point, but they still felt like they hadn’t gotten enough, and so they began to look for a new topic.
“Let’s talk somewhere else,” Xiao s.h.i.+qin suggested.
“Alright,” Yu Wenzhou and Zhang Xinjie readily agreed.
With that, the three of them left. Huang Shaotian, still stunned, remained there for a bit before he ran to catch up with them, feeling fl.u.s.tered and exasperated. “Hey hey, there’s still me! Wait, where’d you two even come from?”
Three days later.
In the sold-out stadium, the finals of Season 3 of the Glory Pro League had entered the climax.
“Watch Qi Breaker, watch Qi Breaker, watch Qi Breaker! Important things must be said three times!” In Hundred Blossoms’ team chat, Sun Zheping, whose words were usually simple and concise, didn’t hesitate to repeat himself three times to emphasize the Excellent Era player who was very often overlooked, Wu Xuefeng.
“Hundred Blossoms has already found the key point of victory.” In the audience section, the youths who had a.n.a.lyzed and speculated about the semifinals agreed to meet up and watch the finals together, through eyes that were different than those of ordinary audience members.
Huang Shaotian proclaimed himself to be a very talkative person, but in this match of discussion, he lost. The opinions he gave probably contributed to less than ten percent of the overall conversation. But every time he made a remark, it was sharp enough to draw blood, and sometimes he would have insight on something that none of the other three had even detected. Last time, Huang Shaotian had been treated somewhat coldly during the conversation, but this time he won the respect of his new friends.
The youths very much agreed with Hundred Blossoms’ decision to pay close attention to Qi Breaker on the battlefield.
“Qi Breaker’s aid plays a significant role in increasing One Autumn Leaf’s battle strength. No one has ever effectively cut this connection before,” said Yu Wenzhou.
“More accurately, no one has ever paid enough attention to this arrangement,” said Zhang Xinjie.
“Compared to One Autumn Leaf, Qi Breaker is an easier target in this system,” said Xiao s.h.i.+qin.
“Hundred Blossoms is planning to do exactly that.” As Yu Wenzhou spoke, he looked at the large screen displaying the match.
Gunshots, swordlight. The battle hadn’t paused for a second. The communications within each team’s chat channel were also a part of the battle, and while Hundred Blossoms locked onto Qi Breaker as their breakthrough point, Excellent Era’s chat was also constantly refres.h.i.+ng with their judgments of their opponents.
“More mature than last year,” Wu Xuefeng was saying.
“Careful, they might use you as their breakthrough point,” Ye Qiu answered.
The stadium was in an uproar.
Hundred Blossoms’ chat had only just announced their focus for the next part of the battle, and on Excellent Era’s side Ye Qiu somehow immediately knew. Could he somehow see the opposing side’s private chat?
That was impossible, of course. It could only be said that Ye Qiu’s guess was very accurate.
Was it a guess?
After seeing Ye Qiu’s correct judgment, the youths in the audience exchanged glances.
They didn’t think that this was a random guess from Ye Qiu. This was judgment, one made from experience and awareness. Using available evidence, he hit the nail on the head. But what was the evidence? How had Ye Qiu deduced Hundred Blossoms’ strategic plan? They couldn’t tell.
“Is that so.” On the battlefield, Wu Xuefeng was replying. “Then for this final battle, let me also experience the feeling of being everyone’s target.”
“Go on, don’t worry, leave the rest to me,” Ye Qiu answered.
Once again, an uproar.
Final battle? What did that mean? The finals match was the last match of a season. But the meaning revealed by Wu Xuefeng’s words… it didn’t sound like he was talking about the end of a season.
Wu Xuefeng… was preparing to retire?
Many people immediately thought of this possibility. Judging from Wu Xuefeng’s age, this wasn’t impossible.
So, was this his final performance on the professional stage?
Qi Breaker, this character hidden by the radiance of Battle G.o.d One Autumn Leaf – for the first time, he took on a fearless att.i.tude and charged straight toward the opponents.
“Qi Breaker’s coming! Qi Breaker’s coming!” Hundred Blossoms players shouted in the chat. The character they had wanted to target now all of a sudden voluntarily jumped forward.
This wasn’t Excellent Era’s normal strategy.
“Beware a trap!” Sun Zheping warned his teammates.
“Just cut his connection to One Autumn Leaf,” said Zhang Jiale. Dazzling Hundred Blossoms rushed forward, and an array of flas.h.i.+ng gunfire and explosions flew toward Qi Breaker.
“Focus fire and attack!” Sun Zheping ordered, and the rest of the Hundred Blossoms characters swiftly turned their attacks to focus on Qi Breaker.
Sun Zheping’s Blossoming Chaos charged at the very front, slamming toward the incoming Qi Breaker with all the force of Mount Tai.
As Qi Breaker dodged to the side, he used the Qi Master’s subtle knockup skill. A cloud of qi was hidden in his original position, waiting for Blossoming Chaos to land and be hit.
But Sun Zheping discovered this hidden trick early on. He canceled the Collapsing Mountain in midair and switched to a Falling Light Blade. A Falling Light Blade used with a greatsword didn’t lose to a Collapsing Mountain in terms of the shockwave it created, which was sent rus.h.i.+ng toward Qi Breaker. At the same time, the rest of Hundred Blossoms were all in place, aiming their attacks at Qi Breaker.
Was this the kind of situation that Ye Qiu always faced?
Facing all of these different attacks, Wu Xuefeng couldn’t help but wonder.
To deal with an offensive like this by himself, it really was a bit of a struggle for him. But over the course of these three years, Ye Qiu had broken through such tyrannical barriers again and again, winning victory after victory for Excellent Era.
Wu Xuefeng couldn’t accomplish this himself.
In the end, it’s still up to you!
Dodge, move, find an opening, use a skill.
Wu Xuefeng controlled Qi Breaker to move around within the encirclement. He was always very clear with himself on his own abilities. To be like Ye Qiu and forcefully break through, it was cool, it was eye-catching, but it wasn’t something that he could do.
“You know, I should really win an award for Best Supporting Character,” he said in the chat. This sentence didn’t carry any bitterness – if anything, there was pride and satisfaction. Wu Xuefeng believed that he had done what he could to the best of his ability. There was nothing to regret.
“The main character’s here,” Ye Qiu replied, very naturally taking up the role of protagonist.
“One Autumn Leaf’s here!” Zhang Jiale shouted.
“Good timing!” Sun Zheping’s fighting spirit was high. All was going according to plan. Two years ago, before he’d even entered the professional circle, he’d been watching Excellent Era’s first champions.h.i.+p victory. And ever since then, he’d been dreaming, if he stood in that place, what he would do.
Now, two years later, he obtained this chance. The plans he’d thought up were being beautifully executed by the talented teammates beside him.
One Autumn Leaf had arrived, breaking into their encirclement.
Focusing fire onto Qi Breaker, that had only been a premise. To topple Excellent Era, the one that had to be defeated was ultimately One Autumn Leaf.
“The kill begins!” Sun Zheping shouted.
Dazzling Hundred Blossoms’ Smoke Bullet was released at the perfect time. A cloud of smoke swiftly expanded on the battlefield, impeding One Autumn Leaf’s view and covering the movements of Hundred Blossoms.
The strategy they’d practice was now going incredibly smoothly. Sun Zheping’s Blossoming Chaos abruptly but precisely switched his attack target to One Autumn Leaf. The light and explosions from Dazzling Hundred Blossoms swirled tightly around him. The performance of Blood and Blossoms had only just begun!
But then – he missed!
One Autumn Leaf wasn’t in the position Sun Zheping thought he’d be. He rapidly turned his camera view, and a silhouette flashed before him.
He hadn’t even seen his target clearly, but Sun Zheping was already controlling Blossoming Chaos to slash forward. His body was spinning, his blade was spinning, his view was spinning, but he only managed to brush the silhouette who had already swung past him.
“Missed!” Zhang Jiale shouted.
In his view, One Autumn Leaf had practically touched shoulders with Blossoming Chaos, but Sun Zheping still hadn’t managed to catch him.
Zhang Jiale hurriedly controlled Dazzling Hundred Blossoms to move, chaotically firing off explosions to restrict One Autumn Leaf’s advance.
But One Autumn Leaf’s steps didn’t stop, and he quickly approached Dazzling Hundred Blossoms. The attacks from the bullets and grenades didn’t seem to have any effect on him at all.
It wasn’t that they had no effect at all. Zhang Jiale confirmed that as One Autumn Leaf rushed forward, he was dodging some of the attacks that came his way. He would avoid those attacks that would impede his movement, but for the attacks that only dealt damage, he would simply take them.
He was losing a bit of health, but he was approaching Dazzling Hundred Blossoms very quickly, faster than Dazzling Hundred Blossoms could retreat.
Had he seen through his Hundred Blossoms style?
Zhang Jiale was stunned. Even just looking at his flashy Hundred Blossoms style was difficult, never mind actually seeing through it. For Ye Qiu to be able to grasp this offensive well enough that he could move forward against every attack, that at least proved one thing: that Ye Qiu was extremely familiar with the Spitfire cla.s.s. No, familiarity wasn’t enough – he must have had profound understanding.
Can’t stop him!
His own Dazzling Hundred Blossoms wasn’t enough to stop him.
“Big Sun!” Zhang Jiale called for his partner.
But Ye Qiu’s partner had already quietly made his move.
A Cloud Pus.h.i.+ng Palm landed upon Dazzling Hundred Blossoms’ back. Wu Xuefeng, who had gotten a slight opening after Hundred Blossoms turned their fire on One Autumn Leaf, immediately seized the opportunity and a.s.sisted Ye Qiu with his offensive.
Hit by the attack, Dazzling Hundred Blossoms was sent flying toward One Autumn Leaf.
“Thanks.” Ye Qiu didn’t forget to acknowledge him in the chat. One Autumn Leaf’s Evil Annihilation jumped forward, and Dazzling Hundred Blossoms was sent high into the air.
“It’s what I should do,” Wu Xuefeng answered. Qi Breaker rolled on the ground, dodging the attacks that came from Hundred Blossoms. A Qi Bullet was sent out, toward Blossoming Chaos, who was currently rus.h.i.+ng toward One Autumn Leaf.
But Blossoming Chaos wasn’t stopped by it. With a powerful stance, he charged through to arrive in front of One Autumn Leaf.
Slash slash slas.h.!.+
Blossoming Chaos slashed at him with several skills in quick succession.
One Autumn Leaf dodged, managing to keep Dazzling Hundred Blossoms airborne all the while. It seemed that Blossoming Chaos’ attack was entirely within his calculations.
Not only was he unusually familiar with the Spitfire cla.s.s, his Berserker knowledge was also at the professional level.
Sun Zheping’s flurry of attacks missed. Dazzling Hundred Blossoms was still flipping in the air, and yet his Blossoming Chaos was, because of skill cooldowns, stuck awkwardly and silently waiting.
Ye Qiu had completely broken their hunt to kill him.
Dazzling Hundred Blossoms was at One Autumn Leaf’s mercy.
Blossoming Chaos lost control of the situation, his rhythm now completely off.
Hundred Blossoms’ core Blood and Blossoms was crushed. And the Hundred Blossoms system that relied on them as their core naturally began to fall apart.
“It’s over…” Watching from the audience, Yu Wenzhou let out a long sigh as he reached this conclusion.
“So… so strong…” Xiao s.h.i.+qin was almost stammering.
“It really is incredible. One Autumn Leaf has already reached this level, and yet he is still underestimated by his opponents,” said Yu Wenzhou.
“It’s because they don’t understand him well enough. Only an opponent that truly understood him would have the chance to defeat him,” Zhang Xinjie said thoughtfully, watching One Autumn Leaf charge toward victory on the battlefield.
“Then who will be the one to defeat him?” Yu Wenzhou chuckled.
“Me, of course,” Huang Shaotian said, boldly slapping his chest.
“Next season, we will see,” said Zhang Xinjie.
Glory Professional Alliance Season 3 ended with Excellent Era defeating Hundred Blossoms to win the third champions.h.i.+p of the Glory Pro League. With their three consecutive champions.h.i.+ps, Excellent Era truly established their dynasty.
And outside the battlefield, the new generation of youth who had borne witness to the entire season now welcomed a season that belonged to them.
This was the most brilliant season of rookies in Glory’s history, the group who would later come to be known as: the Golden Generation.