Thanks to Risey for the Ko-fi!
After TTC accomplished a 2021 grand slam, the extremely excited esports fans waited expectantly in the livestream rooms, hoping for a happy scene like the one that had emerged post-MSI, when all of the TTC members streamed a few days later.
Unfortunately, a week passed, and nothing happened.
Some fans couldn’t sit still anymore, and they ran over to question TTC’s official Weibo account:
[Your team members haven’t been kidnapped because of how much they’re constantly flaunting their wealth, right? Even now, nobody’s streaming, it doesn’t make any sense.]
[Forget everyone else—my son is a model worker for the streaming world! His only dream is to swindle away all of his dads’ money, yet he actually stopped streaming for an entire week when his popularity is at its highest?!]
[Xiao Bai is nowhere to be found either T-T I miss seeing him hug P-baby’s thigh every day.]
[P-fan here, crying. Judging from these circumstances, it looks like I’ll have to wait at least a month before I can see my husband.]
[They should be on break, right? Didn’t Bye say in the pre-finals interview that he was going to take his parents traveling after the competition? He probably hasn’t gone back to the base yet…]
“Ss… I ate too much. This restaurant is pretty good… Yusong.
Pine snapped out of it. He looked up from his phone and glanced at his friend.
He had just left home and returned to Shanghai today when some of his old friends invited him out to dinner in the evening.
“We’re gonna go to a bar, wanna come?” The friend patted his shoulder. “Nobody will recognize you with your mask on anyway.”
Pine stuffed one hand in his pocket as a cigarette dangled from his mouth. Right as he was about to decline, his phone’s preinstalled ringtone suddenly sounded.
He checked the caller ID before he pulled out his hand, removed the cigarette, and answered the call with a lazy “en.”
A familiar, crisp voice pierced through the tranquil night. “Wuwuwuwu P-baby—quick, come and ransom me!!!”
The young man hadn’t really spoken the entire night, nor had his expressions fluctuated much. But at that moment, he raised an eyebrow, and though he quickly lowered it again, it was enough to make his close friend next to him suspect that he was seeing things in the darkness of the night.
Pine exhaled a mouthful of smoke and asked, “Where are you?”
Xiao Bai halted in the middle of tossing out a card. “I’m playing cards in a mahjong and poker place, I’ll send you my location.”
“Who else is there.”
Xiao Bai: “Me, Jian Rong, XIU, and my ge.”
Pine paused for a second. “Brothers of the same mind give away money together?”
“BS, I just have bad luck, all my cards are super bad…” Xiao Bai threw out a card and complained, “My ge’s not playing, but he keeps peeking at my cards and telling Jian Rong what they are!”
When Lu Boyuan heard that, he laughed from where he was sitting behind Jian Rong. “Who are you trying to slander here? Even if I was peeking, I wouldn’t be looking at your cards, not with your skill level… How much have you two lost to XIU altogether now? Do you still have money in your pockets?”
Jian Rong gripped his cards tightly, pissed to the point of a headache because of the trash cards in his hand. But he insisted on saying stubbornly, “So what if I lose, I have money.”
XIU burst out laughing and shouted towards Xiao Bai’s phone, “Your support is the only broke one here. He doesn’t have a single coin left in his pocket, and he still owes me twenty-eight yuan. Hurry up and get over here to pay it off for him, I’m only accepting cash, okay.”
By the time Pine arrived at the mahjong and poker house to fetch Zhuang Yibai, his debt had already soared up to eighty-one yuan and forty cents.
The moment Pine opened the door, someone launched themselves at him, and the pleasant, warm fragrance of laundry detergent slipped into his nose.
Xiao Bai hooked one arm around Pine’s neck. The distance between them instantaneously decreased, and when Pine lowered his gaze, he could see Xiao Bai’s eyelashes.
Zhuang Yibai’s eyelashes were long and thick. Because of that, many fans called him an “eyelash spirit.”
With the appearance of someone whose bankroller had arrived, Xiao Bai looked back and said to XIU, “Come on come on, my baby’s1 here, how much do I owe you? Just say it!”
XIU: “I’ll zero it out for you. Eighty.”
Pine averted his eyes as he pulled out his wallet and found a hundred yuan bill. “Keep the change.”
XIU made a gleeful noise. “Thanks, boss!”
After they left the mahjong and poker house, XIU called a taxi and went back to his base by himself.
It was early December, and Shanghai’s wind at night was cold enough to make their bones ache.
Through a thick jacket, Xiao Bai pressed his arm against Pine’s as he asked Lu Boyuan, “Ge, where’d you park your car?”
Lu Boyuan said, “You guys should call a taxi back.”
Jian Rong, who was in the middle of replying to a message from Lu Boyuan’s mom, lifted his head silently when he heard that. Then, he stuffed both hands coolly into his pockets.
Xiao Bai instantly raised an eyebrow in understanding. “In that case… I hope you two have a pleasant evening.”
Jian Rong: “…Get lost.”
Xiao Bai watched their mid laner and jungler walk away shoulder-to-shoulder. He breathed out a mouthful of white mist before he turned his head and saw that Pine was requesting a ride on an app. He quickly reached out and jabbed Pine’s phone screen to cancel their spot in line, causing their hands to touch briefly.
Pine allowed Xiao Bai to do as he pleased. He looked over and asked, “What is it?”
“How about we go back a little later?” Xiao Bai rubbed his stomach. “I’m hungry.”
Pine frowned. “Wasn’t there any food in the mahjong and poker house?”
“There was.” Xiao Bai rambled, “But I got too sucked into the game, so I only ate a few bites, and that place didn’t have good food either. Are you hungry… Oh, I forgot that you went out to eat with your friends tonight… Let’s just go back then, I’ll order takeout once we return to the base.”
As Xiao Bai spoke, he reached out to poke at Pine’s phone again.
Then Pine grabbed his hand and moved it away.
Pine exited out of the app and said evenly, “What do you want to eat.”
Xiao Bai: “Didn’t you eat already?”
“I’m not full.”
Xiao Bai’s eyes curved into crescents. “Then gege will treat you to that Japanese restaurant across the street! It’s super delicious!”
Pine looked at him quietly for a few seconds. “Ge my ass, how old are you again?”
Xiao Bai said proudly, “It doesn’t matter how old I am. In any case, I’ll always be two years older than you.”
Pine huffed out a laugh and turned around. He was about to start walking towards the crosswalk when someone suddenly grabbed onto his right hand.
Xiao Bai had kept his hand bundled up for quite a while, so it felt warm the moment it bumped against Pine’s.
Before Pine could react, Xiao Bai interlocked their fingers and placed Pine’s hand into his own jacket pocket.
“I wanted to say this earlier—why’s your hand so cold?” Xiao Bai rubbed his fingers against the back of Pine’s hand. “Shouldn’t a young person like you have a lot of body heat?”
Pine’s throat bobbed. Under the glow of the streetlight, his sharp features seemed to soften a bit. He tried to gently tug his hand away, but he was unsuccessful.
Xiao Bai glanced up at the traffic light before he let out an “ah” and dragged Pine forward. “Quick, the light’s green!”
The heater was on in the Japanese restaurant, so they both shed their jackets and hung them up in the private room’s closet.
Xiao Bai sat cross-legged on the ground. As he swallowed a piece of delectable sashimi, he seemed to be completely revived. “Why’d you only go home for a few days this time?”
Pine sipped his tea and stated calmly, “You were too annoying.”
He was home for three days. During that time, Zhuang Yibai called him three times per day: in the morning, to ask if he was awake yet; at noon, to ask if he had eaten yet; and at night, to ask if he had time to play games.
As a result, after he sent his parents off on their flight to their hometown in Yunnan last night, he booked a plane ticket for himself and returned to Shanghai.
“If I had known earlier that I could annoy you into coming back, I would’ve called you seven times a day. I was about to die of boredom from staying at the base all by myself. My parents are really way too much, they’d rather go traveling with some lousy senior tour group than take their precious son with them… cough, cough cough… damn…”
Before Xiao Bai could finish his sentence, he was ruthlessly choked by the wasabi. He covered his mouth with the back of his hand and coughed vigorously as he frantically poured himself some tea, only to discover that the liquid in the teapot was so hot that he couldn’t drink it.
He subconsciously extended his hand towards Pine, and a cup of cooled tea was placed into his hand.
Right as Pine was about to bring something to Xiao Bai’s attention, he saw the person sitting across from him slot his mouth against the dark, damp spot on the rim of the cup. Then, he tilted his head back and finished off all the tea in one gulp.
Xiao Bai’s eyes were red from coughing. After he calmed down, he looked up and complained with teary eyes, “P-baby, this restaurant wants to murder the League of Legends’ world champion.”
Pine filled the cup with tea again. “Are you an idiot? You can swallow something the wrong way even when you’re just eating?”
“Is this how you should be talking to your precious support?” Xiao Bai returned the cup to him. “Why aren’t you eating anything?”
Because I’m full.
Pine stared at the sashimi platter in front of them for several seconds before he finally moved his chopsticks and picked up the smallest piece.
Satisfied, Xiao Bai was about to gorge himself when his phone started vibrating on the table.
Xiao Bai checked the caller ID before he answered the call and directly put it on speaker mode. He called out indistinctly, “Mom—”
Mama Zhuang asked, “What are you doing right now?”
Mama Zhuang let out an “aiyo.” “Come back and eat later, you have to hurry up and get to the airport.”
Xiao Bai: “Mom, food is the most important, then comes everything else…”
“Enough with that nonsense.” Mama Zhuang said, “The young lady’s plane is about to land in Shanghai. If you head over now, you’ll still be able to make it in time!”
Pine’s chewing slowed down.
Xiao Bai was also taken aback. “What?”
“I’m talking about Mr. Li’s daughter, the one we introduced to you during New Year’s—”
“That potential blind date?” Xiao Bai frowned. “Mom, I already settled things with her over WeChat. We don’t see eye to eye…”
“What can you possibly settle over WeChat?” Mama Zhuang said resolutely, “In any case, I already told Mr. Li that you were going to meet her at the airport. If you don’t go, the young lady is just going to have to wait there all by herself.”
After the call ended, Xiao Bai heaved an irritated sigh.
“A blind date?”
Xiao Bai raised his head and met Pine’s eyes. “Ah… did I not tell you?
“Who knows what some matchmaker on the street said to my mom, but at the beginning of the year, she insisted that I go on a blind date… Although, that girl was actually pretty easy to persuade. When I told the girl that I didn’t want to date for the time being, she didn’t try to look for me again, so I thought this matter was settled…”
Pine unconsciously tapped his finger against his cup. “What’s she like.”
“I haven’t seen her before, and she didn’t open up her WeChat Moments to me either. But my mom did show me pictures of her, she’s actually quite pretty.” Xiao Bai shook his head and sighed. “Unfortunately, back then I was completely preoccupied with planning for my next thirty years in the LPL…”
“Are you done planning?”
Xiao Bai was caught off guard. “…More or less, probably?”
Pine nodded. “So that means you have time to plan for other things now?”
Xiao Bai blinked, holding his chopsticks. Before he could ask “my darling ADC, what exactly do you want me to be planning,” his phone chimed again.
[Mom: Arrival time 22:20, Pudong Airport T1. The young lady’s number is 1XXXX…]
Xiao Bai lifted his head to check the time and blurted out a “fuck.”
He remained conflicted for a while, but in the end, he still hastily got to his feet. He tugged down his jacket and slipped it on. “P-baby, you can keep eating, I gotta go to the airport. The plane’s going to land in twenty minutes… Take your time, I’ll reimburse you later! Order whatever you want! Oh yeah, this restaurant’s baked eel is especially yummy, you’ll definitely love it. I ordered a serving, so you should give it a try.
“I’m going to the airport now—I don’t feel good about letting a young woman be by herself this late at night, I’ll be totally responsible if anything happens…”
Xiao Bai slipped on his shoes as he chattered away. Right as he was about to stand up, he realized that someone was holding onto the hood of his jacket.
He turned his head and locked eyes with Pine.
The young man’s monolids were lowered slightly, and he wore the same expression as usual—or rather, no expression.
But for a split second, Xiao Bai seemed to catch a glimpse of some deep, veiled emotions that typically wouldn’t have been visible.
Startled, Xiao Bai blinked. “What’s up?”
Pine didn’t speak.
A fur trim lined the hood of Zhuang Yibai’s jacket. Just like its owner, it was soft and pale, and it felt very pleasant to touch.
Xiao Bai waited for a while, but his phone went off again.
In the wake of that quiet, crisp noise, Pine let go.
He picked up the scarf that he took off earlier and tossed it to Xiao Bai. “It’s cold, wear this on the way over.”
The door closed, and the private room—which was still lively and bustling with energy half a minute ago—abruptly cooled down.
Pine lowered his gaze and looked at the vibrant, colorful sashimi on the table. He didn’t touch his chopsticks.
Several minutes later, his phone lit up on the table—
[P-Baby’s Little Support: P-baby, I’m in the car.]
[P-Baby’s Little Support: Wuwu my Japanese food—]
[P-Baby’s Little Support: It seems that the world’s number one support won’t be able to aim for the Korean server’s top 10 tonight. My mom is insisting that I take the girl out to dinner T-T eat some more, finish my serving for me too!]
After the other person stopped sending messages and his phone screen turned dark, Pine finally moved.
He braced his hands against his knees and stood up. Then he put on his jacket, left the private room, and went to pay the bill at the front desk, leaving behind a table of exquisite, ice-cold Japanese cuisine.
- He says baobei here (and throughout most of this chapter when he’s using endearments). ^
Yan: Pine… even if you don’t want to eat it… all that sashimi… *clutches chest* give it to me