Huang Shaotian felt too much, too clearly.
“He’s too emotional.”
“You never stop talking.”
“Why can’t you be like the rest?”
He got swept up, like a single leaf battered by endless gusts of wind. At the mercy of his emotional currents, he could only cling to a single branch. It swayed and creaked in the turbulence, but it held steady. There was no order to the wind, blowing in any direction, beyond Huang Shaotian’s control.
(As he later found out, it was an organized chaos, not that it mattered to anyone besides him.)
Words came easily to him. Language was something Huang Shaotian loved. So he let the words bubble out of him. They didn’t need to mean something all the time, talking was just an assurance, something to ground him. Then it became too much, and he realized that the only words he needed to know were ‘quiet’ and ‘obedient’.
(Words could also hurt, he learnt that the hard way.)
Huang Shaotian wasn’t like the rest. He was too loud and too fidgety, too easily angered and too easily bored. He was too different. Different was bad, because different meant disobedience, and a lack of trying.
(He did try, he really did. But success only ached in a different way.)
“Shaotian is so quiet.”
“Such an obedient child.”
“A little dreamy, but he’s a smart boy.”
Quiet was relative. Huang Shaotian spoke when he was spoken to, in a muted voice, a painfully controlled tone. But in his mind, the relentless mess of thoughts and emotions continued to swirl, pulling him down, without a single lifeline to grab onto.
(Quiet was good, right? Quiet was something adults liked, even if he had to endure all the noise on his own.)
No fidgeting, no talking, no being yourself. Smile when spoken to, greet people politely, do work when given. Keep your opinions to yourself, because the common thought was the right one. These were the things that made Huang Shaotian obedient, made him mature, made him good. Or, as they liked saying, wise beyond his years.
(It worked, a false maturity built upon shallow foundations, of previously established rules.)
Everything that was looked down upon, he took it upon himself. Deeper and deeper, digging so far down that he could no longer see the light. The layers he hid and obscured, only he himself would know. So he dreamed—a way out, one that was accepted.
(In a child, at least. It was a shield that wasn’t destined to last.)
“Has potential, but needs to work harder.”
“Gifted, but his work is careless.”
“Too lazy, he needs to put in more effort.”
Working hard meant results. No matter how many hours you spent, it was worth nothing, nothing at all. If it was like this, Huang Shaotian could simply refuse to try. In the end, his efforts never bore fruit. “Potential” was only another curse, upon everything else.
(If you worked hard, you would always be rewarded, so, he wasn’t really trying, was he?)
It was a mystery to him, too. At times, for no real reason, he would leave out a letter at the end of a word, or even stop a thought right in the middle. It wasn’t like he was being careless, but these little mistakes snuck their way in, even though he could’ve sworn there weren’t any.
(But they were there, that was the irrefutable fact.)
If he was unmotivated when he put in effort, and lazy when he didn’t, Huang Shaotian didn’t see the difference. Either way, they would berate him with words laced with poison, so he would numb the pain with defiance. If he was to be told off for trying his best, he sure as hell wouldn’t be trying.
(Because really, striving so hard only to be throwing himself against a wall, it stung.)
“Such a waste! He could have been successful, and he threw it all away to game.”
“I really wish you would stop your fantasies about making a living out of this, I’m done indulging you.”
“Games are for children, grow up.”
He hadn’t felt so alive in a long time. His attention rarely lingered for more than a moment, even on the things he enjoyed. It was exhausting, to fight an uphill battle with his mind to complete the simplest of tasks. This was different. It felt so good to be able to do something, even if it was just a game.
(At least, he was good at it.)
Getting schooled by a cursing warlock wasn’t part of his plans, nor being entered into a training camp he knew basically nothing about. On the other hand, Huang Shaotian didn’t mind. Anything related to Glory was welcome. Of course, his newfound mentor had tamed some of his teenaged rebellion with his skill.
(No matter how much anyone discouraged him, this was a path that belonged to him.)
A future? A future of being disdained and reprimanded? Growing up? They needn’t worry, their pretentious rules of adulthood had been imprinted onto him far earlier. Huang Shaotian wasn’t sure what people thought he was giving up, but he knew what he stood to gain.
(He had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.)
“Huang Shao, you need to show me how to do that sometime!”
“You’re so good at this, you’ll definitely be able to go pro.”
“Thank you for your guidance.”
It was... all a little overwhelming. He knew the praises went to his head, and he let them. For once, there was something he could do, and no one was going to tell him off for being loud or weird or unfocused. Because he was better than them.
(Maybe it was a little mean to think this way, but he’d been on the receiving end his whole life, it was only fair.)
The flattery urged him on, making him more prideful. No one minded, of course not, when they were throwing out phrases like “the future of Blue Rain”. Huang Shaotian was good, no, great at Glory, and he would milk that for whatever it was worth.
(Resting upon laurel leaves, he thought, this wasn’t so bad, nowhere near the worst.)
That guy from the training camp was different. He kept to himself, always polite, always distant. Their sharp gaze made him uncomfortable, as if they knew what he was thinking, as if he could see the shame Huang Shaotian had drowned away in false bravado.
(They were far too slow anyways, they’d be kicked out soon enough, and he would never have to deal with their searching eyes again.)
“Good job, Shaotian.” Yu Wenzhou smiled lightly when he returns victorious from a match. “You played well.”
Huang Shaotian grins, meeting Yu Wenzhou’s fist bump. A few years ago, he wouldn’t have thought that he’d end up fighting alongside Yu Wenzhou, but he let Huang Shaotian do what he did best, so he’d take it.
(He was grateful, for his easy acceptance and the way he always knew when not to push.)
“Huang Shao Huang Shao Huang Shao! Will you show me how you pulled off that last hit? It was so cool, like from the movies!” Lu Hanwen lunges over, a cheeky grin forming on his lips as he pounces on his back.
“Hey hey hey you little—! I’m gonna die ah you’re so heavy Little Lu goddamnit! Get off get off get off! Zheng Xuan and Li Yuan you bastards, don’t think I can’t see you laughing I’ll kill you! I’ll have you know that the wrath of your daddy Sword Saint is very terrifying!” His mouth continued to run with an endless stream of words, though he couldn’t stop laughing between declarations of murder.
(In any other team, this probably wasn’t possible. Not many could tolerate his endless chatter. In fact, all of Blue Rain had their unique traits, but it was because of them they could grow closer.)
Huang Shaotian finally pries the youngster off his back, stifling his laughter and glaring at everyone in mock anger. “From now on, your friendship with I, this Sword Saint is over!”
Li Yuan starts laughing again, and the team descends into another fit of giggles.
“Okay, that’s enough.” Yu Wenzhou stops them after a while, still smiling. “Celebrations can wait.”
(It wouldn’t be the last victory they shared, Huang Shaotian would make sure of it. After all, Blue Rain was his home, his family.)
Huang Shaotian felt a lot, felt clearly.
Well, if it felt like this, he didn’t mind.