Ding-ge walked downstairs, massaging the space between his eyebrows.
With so many staff right outside of the elevator earlier today, what Lu Boyuan said would probably end up spreading all over Weibo and Tieba in a matter of days. Ding-ge’s one saving grace was that at least Lu Boyuan had said “partner” and not “boyfriend,” or else how could Ding-ge possibly still be living happily at that current moment.
Upon looking up and seeing the two of them come in from the balcony, Ding-ge, as an ultra-straight man, instantly imagined a bout of Revealing_Balcony_Activities.avi. At the same time his inner world was collapsing, he maintained his cool. “…how come you’re still not going upstairs to practice yet? Xiao Bai and the rest want to order coffee, we mentioned you on WeChat but you two didn’t answer. What do you want to drink? It’s the same coffee shop we ordered from the last two times.”
Jian Rong randomly listed off a type of coffee. Lu Boyuan was even more casual about it. “The same as him.”
With the support of coffee, everyone collectively practiced until three AM that night.
Ding-ge had requested a long vacation from his wife and was staying overnight in the base these days. Lu Boyuan was about to start another game when Ding-ge stopped him.
Ding-ge whispered, “Enough, stop practicing, how long have you been playing?”
Lu Boyuan checked the time. “Only about four hours or so.”
“BS, it’s been six hours.” Ding-ge said, “The doctor told you not to train for more than three hours every day. Now that you’ve suddenly doubled that quota, whose fault is it if something happens?”
Lu Boyuan glanced at Jian Rong, who was currently wearing headphones over both ears as he solo queued, and said indifferently, “Well, the doctor also recommended that I retire.”
Ding-ge was immediately provoked by the word “retire,” and no matter what Lu Boyuan said, Ding-ge didn’t allow him to keep practicing anymore.
Lu Boyuan didn’t keep pushing the issue either. He turned off his computer and headed back to his room; as he passed by Jian Rong, he patted him on the head and told him not to play till too late.
As usual, Jian Rong was streaming to pass the time. However, he was a little less talkative than normal tonight.
He kept thinking about Xiao Bai and Yuan Qian’s conversation from a while ago—since Lu Boyuan came from such a good family, would his parents agree to him being together with a man? Even if they did agree, with Jian Rong’s own family circumstances…
But upon remembering that brief kiss, he also felt a little happy.
He spotted yet another person stirring up rumors in the barrage about how “Road was getting special treatment due to his high salary and was the first to leave the practice room every time.” Jian Rong minimized the game interface and picked out that dumbass from among the numerous barrage comments before he kicked and blocked that person from his livestream room.
Lu Boyuan returned to his room and locked the door. Then, he pulled out a box of cigarettes and a lighter from underneath the old keyboard sitting in the bottom shelf of his bookcase and sat down next to the bay window.
Lu Boyuan didn’t often reminisce about the past, so it was easy for some small, trivial matters to be drowned out in his memories. For example, Jian Rong—Lu Boyuan only remembered that he had once given a kid a ticket for free before, and that it had almost been resold for a profit. He couldn’t remember the finer details at all.
But tonight, the appearance of the kid in his memories suddenly crystallized.
He was a little shorter than other teenagers his age, and his hair looked like it had been freshly cut. He sat on the ground, arms around his knees. Disregarding the pout and sour expression on his face from being pissed off by the internet cafe owner, he was a very obedient-looking kid.
Before he encountered Lu Boyuan, how many stores had rejected him?
His parents were gone and his grandpa was in the hospital, so who was there to look after him at home?
Was he able to take care of his own food and drink?
Later on, how did he pass the days all by himself?
Lu Boyuan shook off the cigarette ashes into an improvised, low-quality “ashtray.” He felt like he had to stop going down this path, or else he would probably have to sneak out of the base to buy a few more cigarette packs.
With his cigarette in one hand, he logged into his Tieba account that had sat untouched for quite some time. He entered “SoftBar” and made a post.
The active forum members were all watching Jian Rong’s stream at the moment. After nobody replied within half a minute, Lu Boyuan was in the middle of contemplating whether he should go to Weibo and post there as well when a WeChat message popped up.
Ding-ge sent a photo over. The camera was directed at his exterior window, and the streak of white smoke was extremely conspicuous against the darkness of the night.
[Ding-ge: …what the hell is this?]
[Ding-ge: Are you smoking??]
[R: [Incoming transfer of 20,000 yuan]]
[Ding-ge: ……… wtf?]
[R: Let me ask you something.]
[R: What kind of things do you usually do to make our sister-in-law happy?]
When two minutes passed without receiving an answer, Lu Boyuan took a drag on his cigarette before he continued typing.
[R: Don’t you have a younger brother who just turned 18? What do 18-year-old teenagers like nowadays?]
[R: How long did you date our sister-in-law before getting married?]
[Ding-ge: First of all, my brother’s the same age as you. Second—do you think my experiences can be applied to you and your boyfriend??]
[Ding-ge: Wait a sec? What marriage? You guys haven’t even won Worlds yet and you’re getting married? Also you’ll have to go overseas to get married, does your boyfriend have a passport? I’m warning you, you better not cause trouble for me, I’m already over thirty years old I can’t handle a single tiny surprise of any kind………]
Those two texts gave Lu Boyuan an inexplicably nice feeling.
Sensing the weight on his chest lift somewhat, Lu Boyuan put out his cigarette and replied:
[R: We’re not getting married for now, good night.]
With the semifinals imminently approaching, the number of practice matches scheduled actually decreased.
Since the four strongest teams were about to play against each other, of course they couldn’t take the risk of revealing their strategies in a practice match at a time like this. The spring season had already finished for the rest of the teams, so the majority of them were on break by now.
However, as Ding-ge liked to put it, there wasn’t really a point to hugging the Buddha’s feet at the last minute. It was fine as long as they played some ranked every day to maintain their feel for the game—as a result, over the past two days, the five members essentially lived in the practice room. The auntie even brought their dinners in for them so they could eat there.
“My food’s gone cold.” Xiao Bai chatted pitifully with the barrage. “Yeah, we’ve been practicing super hard lately, we train for more than ten hours each day. But I believe that our investment will definitely pay off—thank you ‘Bai Darling Has Worked Hard’ for the Meteor Shower.”
The little bluenette next to him, who practiced for a minimum of twelve hours daily, expressed his disdain for this pity-inducing method of cheating out gifts by attacking Xiao Bai with a cold scoff.
Xiao Bai acted as if he hadn’t heard him and happily accepted his gifts. “Ah, that’s right, didn’t our team’s merch go on sale today? Since I’m in queue anyway, let me go admire my superior sales…”
Half a minute later, Xiao Bai leaned in towards his screen in disbelief. “One, ten, hundred, thousand, ten thousand… damn, how come Jian Rong’s merch has sold so much? It’s almost caught up to my ge’s??! Weren’t all his dad fans swearing up and down that they wouldn’t buy anything—”
Yuan Qian: “Those dad fans also said that they wouldn’t send him gifts even if he were starving to death, but if you pull up the platform’s gift ranking right now, isn’t he in the top ten?”
Xiao Bai sighed. “Men are all liars.”
Yuan Qian: “Also, last time he and Captain wore each other’s merch hats to the competition. That advertising effectiveness, unbelievable.”
“Ge!” Xiao Bai whipped his head around and said magnanimously, “How about I give you one of my merch hats?”
“Don’t, there’s no space.” Lu Boyuan glanced at his minimap and said, “The support and jungler are in the underbrush on the right. Let’s kill them along with their mid laner.”
Jian Rong, who was in the same game as him, said, “Okay.”
Xiao Bai propped his head up on his hand and stared at the person sitting next to him. “With your amount of sales… no matter what, you should be treating me to ten meals.”
Jian Rong said, “Sure.”
He replied somewhat absent-mindedly.
Since he couldn’t duo queue in Challenger, this was his only game that entire day in which he had matched with Lu Boyuan. He didn’t want to spare any of his attention elsewhere.
Lu Boyuan’s Lee Sin ward hopped and struck the enemy support, who had just flashed, with a predicted Q. The angle of his ult was perfect for sending both the enemy support and the jungler in the underbrush flying with his kick, allowing Jian Rong’s Yasuo to successfully follow up with an extremely satisfying ult—
[With Road’s Lee Sin present, even I can play Yasuo too.]
[Good lord, my son writes Road into his family register this very night!]
[If I were that Yasuo, I’d bow to him in marriage then and there, alright?]
For once, Jian Rong felt like the comments in his barrage were pleasing to look at.
Now that the opposing team’s mid laner, jungler, and support were all dead, of course they were going to seize the opportunity to take the drake.
At that moment, Jian Rong suddenly saw the Lee Sin next to him in the game stop in place.
Jian Rong’s gaze was fixed on Lu Boyuan’s character. “What’s the matter?”
Lu Boyuan slowly stretched his fingers out a few times before he gripped his mouse again. “Nothing, I’m coming.”
They easily won that game. Jian Rong checked his damage output before he closed the scoreboard, satisfied.
He pulled off his headphones on one side and looked back, pretending to act natural as he asked, “Captain… wanna enter the queue together?”
Although he couldn’t duo queue, they were both highly ranked, so if they entered the queue simultaneously, it was extremely likely that they would match into the same game.
Lu Boyuan said, “I’m good, you go ahead.”
Jian Rong paused for a moment before he pressed his lips together and turned his head back. “Okay.”
Flamers typically weren’t very good at concealing their emotions. With his eyes lowered, even Jian Rong’s “okay” sounded somewhat unhappy.
Before, he always thought that things like entering the queue at the same time as someone else were unnecessary and too lovey-dovey. Then today, he wasn’t able to hold back and voiced such an invitation for the first time ever, only to be rejected.
The barrage was full of comments like “as everyone knows Yasuo has no relatives and no friends,” “hahaha he doesn’t wanna play with you,” and “this is God Lu’s first time rejecting you, you better properly reflect back on what mistake you made in the last game.”
Just as Jian Rong was about to turn against them and directly shut off his stream, a man’s hand reached towards the side of his face and pressed very gently against it for a brief second.
“I’ll accompany you in the queue tomorrow.”
After Lu Boyuan left the practice room, Jian Rong joined the queue again.
He evasively rotated his webcam so that it was facing Xiao Bai’s barrage before he tugged up the corners of his lips in a smile.
The barrage went quiet for two seconds—
[Flamers are so easy to please.]
[Flamers are so easy to please.]
At four in the morning, when everyone else had already gone to sleep, Jian Rong turned off his computer and went back to his room to shower. The moment he laid down on his bed, he fell asleep.
Perhaps the more exhausted he was, the less soundly he slept; though he was usually someone who could sleep all the way to noon, he was woken up by the patter of rain that morning just past daybreak.
Jian Rong had been keeping his windows open lately while sleeping, which allowed the spring rain to slip inside, mixed with an earthy soil smell.
He rubbed his eyes and stood up to close the window. All of a sudden, he heard noise come from the corridor.
Jian Rong checked the time: it was 7:30 AM.
At this hour, the auntie wouldn’t be up on the third floor, not even to clean.
Recalling the robbery that had occurred during the Lunar New Year break, Jian Rong picked up a nearby clothes hanger and lightened his footsteps as he went to open the door—
Then, he met the gaze of their assistant coach.
The assistant coach had one hand wrapped around the doorknob to Lu Boyuan’s room. Upon seeing Jian Rong, he was also taken aback. “…you’re up this early? Did I wake you up because I was too loud?”
Jian Rong glanced at the jacket the assistant coach was holding before he looked at the dark room across from his. “What happened?”
The assistant coach coughed. “Nothing happened… it’s just raining outside and the temperature is a bit low, so Ding-ge told me to bring them a jacket.”
An ominous premonition welled up, and Jian Rong asked, “Bring it to where?”
“Just, over to where they are…”
Jian Rong lost his patience and directly interrupted him. “Where are they right now?”
Thirty minutes later, holding Lu Boyuan’s jacket, Jian Rong got out of the car in front of the hospital entrance.
The hospital was as packed as ever despite it being the early morning. While the assistant coach went to park the car, Jian Rong followed his instructions and went up to the fourth floor before turning left into the hospital’s surgical department.
Lu Boyuan was sitting there on a bench outside.
He wore a mask and thin casual clothing. His long legs were bent and spread apart casually, and his head was tilted back lazily, pressed against the wall as he rested with his eyes closed.
When Jian Rong saw the white bandages wrapped around Lu Boyuan’s right wrist, his mind blanked out, and he stopped on the spot with the jacket still in his arms.