Thanks to Somebody and L for the Ko-fis!
Lu Boyuan very rarely expressed his feelings to other people, including back when he first joined the LPL and faced off against some pro players who lacked character and morals. Oftentimes, he wouldn’t even spare them a single look, and once he crushed them in the competitive arena, he wouldn’t bother wasting unnecessary words on them.
He displayed even less any emotions that went deeper than that.
He looked at Jian Rong. The teenager was just saying earlier that day in his stream how his temper was very bad, but at that current moment, it was as if the moon had fallen into his eyes.
A long pause later, Lu Boyuan spoke. “It seems like XIU won’t be able to play anymore.”
This time, XIU’s waist injury had relapsed.
While he was sitting in the break room waiting for the match to start, he had suddenly felt a pain in his lower back. After that, he couldn’t stand up again.
Waist injuries were the hardest to treat, and even the doctor accompanying the team didn’t dare to carelessly touch it. Although XIU kept saying that they didn’t need to worry about him and he’d be fine as long as he sat for a bit, the coach still ended up decisively calling an ambulance.
In the end, XIU was lifted into the ambulance on a stretcher. At the same time, he was on the phone with Lu Boyuan, and he had laughed as he said that the two of them were brothers in hardship; neither of them deserved to play in the semifinals this year.
Their veteran pro player group chat was very lively, the same as it had been the night of TTC’s semifinals match.
XIU’s voice messages came in one after another, and the chat only quieted down later after he was sent off for an examination.
Out of all the LPL pro players, Lu Boyuan had known XIU for the longest. Though they weren’t in the same team and didn’t contact each other very often, their friendship had never faded. Even including the veteran pro players who had already retired in this group chat, they were all still good brothers who helped each other out whenever someone needed it.
Jian Rong leaned against the railing. “Weren’t his injuries already pretty severe before this? He’s already persevered for so long, this time…”
Lu Boyuan said, “Their team’s management has been wanting to bring in someone new for a while now.”
Jian Rong paused. “That substitute jungler?”
Jian Rong had encountered that substitute jungler in ranked before.
PUD’s criteria for signing pro players was that they had to be strong, and that jungler was the rookie jungler who had the greatest publicity as of late in the LPL. In a previous match, he had used Lee Sin to accomplish a 1v2 outplay, so some esports fans even started to jokingly refer to him as “the next Road.”
Of course, the fans of that jungler were very opposed to this title.
As a Road fan, Jian Rong didn’t like this title either.
Jian Rong rationally analyzed the situation briefly: even though XIU’s playstyle was more stable than that substitute’s and was better in the late game, it seemed like his mechanics weren’t as good as the newcomer’s.
As a result, he thought a bit and said, “It’s fine, XIU is popular. He can still make money if he streams after he retires.”
Lu Boyuan: “…”
Jian Rong: “He can also open a Taobao shop and sell snacks, though I think it isn’t very profitable to sell snacks nowadays? Shiliu tried it before, but his store’s already closed down…”
Lu Boyuan interrupted him. “God Jian.”
Jian Rong still wasn’t used to other people calling him that, and it took him a few seconds to respond. “What?”
Lu Boyuan held back a smile. “If you truly can’t come up with any words of comfort, you don’t have to force yourself.”
Jian Rong fell silent as he turned his head back around and stopped speaking.
His WeChat was still chiming away. Lu Boyuan pulled out his phone and glanced at it before he clicked on the voice messages that XIU just sent—
“It’s over, bro, the hand doctor is here too, and they even arranged a full body examination for me.
“Earlier, there were a few doctors surrounding me with a huge group of interns following behind them. It made me think that I was about to have to enter the ICU.
“I feel like I won’t be able to make it to MSI. Whatever, let’s fight again in the next season.”
He didn’t mention the word ‘retire’ at all in his voice messages.
Lu Boyuan answered: Don’t worry, you guys weren’t going to play in MSI anyway, recover well.
“Have you ever thought about retiring before?” Jian Rong, who was quiet for some time, suddenly asked.
Lu Boyuan looked over, still holding his phone, and met Jian Rong’s eyes for several seconds.
Lu Boyuan said, “I haven’t.”
It seemed that the older generation of famous pro players were all like this. Retiring at the height of their careers was never an option they chose to consider.
When they first started playing competitively, the industry of esports was still a wasteland. A monthly income of 2,000 yuan for official pro players was already considered high, and many professional teams trained in internet cafes. There were even some teams who took public transport to the stadiums—in that era, finding any random part-time job was more worthwhile than being a pro esports player.
Those who were able to enter the industry and persevere in it relied completely on their passion and dreams.
Lu Boyuan had experienced days where he couldn’t afford to smoke, being betrayed by teammates, and having to endure through many unavoidable nights filled with pain from his injuries. But he had never once thought about retiring before.
Before, it was because he felt like he still wanted to fight and could still outplay. But now, apart from all that, there was another additional reason.
Jian Rong rubbed his face and clicked his tongue very lightly.
Lu Boyuan: “What’s the matter.”
“The year you guys won Worlds, I sent my resume to Ding-ge. I passed, and he even sent me a text telling me to come in for tryouts.” Jian Rong pressed his lips together. “If I had gone in back then…”
Lu Boyuan raised an eyebrow. “We couldn’t have dated, you’d have been too young.”
Jian Rong gritted his teeth. “What I’m trying to say is… I could’ve been teammates with you for a few years longer.”
“So confident in yourself?” Lu Boyuan said, “There were a lot of people participating in tryouts at that time. Even if you had come, it’s not guaranteed that you could’ve become a starter.”
Right as Jian Rong’s swears were about to leave his mouth, his hair was ruffled several times.
“But fortune’s wheel is ever turning.” Lu Boyuan laughed. “Now it’s my turn to think about how I can play with you for a few more years.”
Jian Rong was slightly startled, and there was instantly a sting in his heart.
The evening wind blew comfortably against his face. Jian Rong stared silently out into the night for a long while before he said, “…I’ll work harder.”
“I’ll work harder during practice, carry more games, and reduce the match durations as much as possible.”
If the match duration was cut down by one minute, that meant Lu Boyuan’s wrist could rest for one minute longer.
Its effectiveness was probably next to nothing, but besides that, Jian Rong couldn’t think of any better methods for the time being.
The sound of Xiao Bai and Yuan Qian shouting came from inside the base. It seemed like one of the pro players had pulled off some flashy play.
Jian Rong didn’t think that what he just said was arrogant at all. He straightened up and said, “Let’s go in and watch the match.”
As he turned around, Jian Rong suddenly recalled something, and he asked, frowning, “Where’d you get the cigarettes from?”
“Ding-ge left it on the dining table, I took it when I was passing by.”
“It’s fine, I only smoked one, he won’t find out.” Lu Boyuan collected his thoughts back from Jian Rong’s earlier statement and said, “Before we go in, comfort me one more time.”
Remembering Lu Boyuan’s previous evaluation, Jian Rong narrowed his eyes and said stiffly, “Didn’t you think that my comforting skills were terrible?”
“What you did when you first came out here wasn’t too bad.” With one hand stuffed in his pocket, Lu Boyuan leaned his head down towards Jian Rong.
In the second semifinals match, PUD beat KUG by a narrow margin of 3:2 and officially advanced to the spring season finals, becoming TTC’s opponent for the upcoming match.
However, due to the unexpected absence of PUD’s starting jungler, everyone’s attention was directed elsewhere after the match concluded.
After returning to the practice room post-match, Jian Rong browsed through the comments in the hot search topic “XIU hand injury absent from semifinals.” They were all saying things that he didn’t like to read—
「The end of legends… Road and XIU both are plagued by injuries, I feel like the LPL’s native junglers are about to crumble down.」
「It’s an unlucky year for the LPL, both of its great junglers fell. At least PUD had some foresight and signed a rookie jungler, TTC only has that little trash sub left… I heard that in private, Road completely suppresses substitutes, so no jungler with a bit of fame is willing to enter TTC. Now, it looks like all I can say is that he deserves it.」
Jian Rong slouched back in his chair, waiting to match into a game. When he saw that comment, he immediately clicked on it and swiftly responded—[I also heard that there’s something wrong with your head. Now, it looks like all I can say is that you deserve it.]
「Insider info, my cousin is a staff for TTC, she said that Road is going to announce his retirement this month. TTC has already started preparing for his retirement!!! [sobbing]」
Jian Rong replied lazily—[Then your cousin is pretty incredible.]
Jian Rong queued into a game and set down his phone. Right as he was about to pick his champion, Ding-ge called him.
Probably because he had gotten into quite a bit of trouble by this point, Jian Rong faintly had a bad feeling about this. Before answering the phone, he first checked the Weibo page again—
[TTC ་ Soft replied to QiaoYao: Then your cousin is pretty incredible.]
Jian Rong: “…”
He had forwarded the merch advertisement post the day before yesterday and had forgotten to switch accounts.
In the short span of two minutes, countless comments emerged underneath his—
[Even after one spring season has passed, my dumbass son is still the first to be up in arms for Road.]
[Wuwu, dumbass darling stop sucking up, Road has already betrayed you, he has a partner now]
Jian Rong answered the call. “If I told you I didn’t do it on purpose, would you believe me?”
Ding-ge was about to say ‘like hell laozi would believe you,’ but then he lowered his head and looked at his phone again—
[TTC ་ Road replied to TTC ་ Soft: Done with practice? Let’s voice call?]
What? You also need to flirt underneath someone else’s Weibo comment, is that so?!
Ding-ge was overwhelmed by fury, and he hung up the phone to lecture that damn jungler instead, who was at the hospital late at night removing his bandages and applying ointment but still didn’t forget to play on his phone and reply to his boyfriend’s comments.
The spring season finals were being held at Chongqing this year. The day before the match, TTC packed their suitcases and departed from Pudong Airport.
In order to avoid being mocked by Zhuang Yibai, on the way to the airport, Jian Rong kept thinking about how to check in once they got there so as to make it seem like this wasn’t his first time flying in a plane.
However, he was clearly overthinking things. The manager took care of checking in for them, and all he had to do was hand over his ID.
As soon as they got on the plane, Xiao Bai looked back and said, “I heard that XIU won’t be playing in the finals this time.”
For the sake of catching their opponents off guard, many teams only handed in their starting rosters at the very last moment.
“I think so too.” Yuan Qian murmured, “He was just lifted into the ambulance a few days ago. Under those circumstances, I bet that it’ll take him at least ten days, if not half a month, to recover…”
Xiao Bai glanced at Lu Boyuan. “Ge, did XIU reveal anything to you?”
“Mn.” Lu Boyuan said lazily, “He keeps giving me smoke bombs, saying that he’ll play the first three games and the sub will play the last two.”
Jian Rong scoffed and asked, “What did you say?”
“I asked him if he can get out of bed yet.”
Even though it was a very heartless reply, a burst of laughter instantly floated out from business class.
Soon, the plane’s cabin door was closed, and the gentle and pleasant boarding announcement was transmitted from the PA system. “Please take your seat and fasten your seat belt. Make sure your seat back and folding trays are in their full upright position…”
Jian Rong was distracted for one brief moment, and by then, the flight attendant in front of them had already finished demonstrating how to fasten their seat belts.
Jian Rong: “…”
He tugged out his seat belt from behind him and scrutinized it closely.
First, he attempted to pull open the metal piece. With a thunk, the seat belt clasp returned to its original shape.
Two seconds later, Jian Rong discovered the sunken section in the middle, and understanding dawned on him.
He was about to attempt to plug the other piece in when someone took away the seat belt from him.
Lu Boyuan leaned over and helped him fasten his seat belt. Then, he stuck his hand into the space between the seat belt and Jian Rong’s stomach, checking its tightness.
“Is it tight.”
Jian Rong shook his head. “…it isn’t.”
—that scene was reflected right into Xiao Bai’s eyes, who was about to ask Jian Rong for his opinion on the beautiful flight attendants.
Xiao Bai remained frozen in his peeping posture and spaced out for a while. In his head, many minor details that he had ignored in the past suddenly all connected together.
A beat later, his eyes widened abruptly. He turned his head and forcefully knocked his shoulder against Pine’s.
Pine opened his eyes impatiently. “What is it?”
Xiao Bai scooted towards him and acted like he had uncovered some huge secret. “P-baby… I feel like there’s something weird going on with my ge and Jian Rong!”
Pine looked at him. “What’s weird?”
Xiao Bai lowered his voice. “My ge just helped fasten Jian Rong’s seat belt for him.”
Pine reminded him calmly, “When you first rode a plane as a country bumpkin, I also helped fasten your seat belt for you.”
“…that’s not it. I thought about it carefully, and I think that a lot of their behavior has been really strange lately—for example, Jian Rong obviously spent the night in my ge’s room, but he wouldn’t admit it. When he heard other people say that my ge has a partner, he also reacted very strongly, and my ge even gave Jian Rong his own coffee to drink. And lastly… the way my ge fastened Jian Rong’s seat belt was completely different from the way we did it!”
Just as Pine was going to tell him to shut up, Xiao Bai suddenly reached out and placed his hand against Pine’s lower abdomen, separated by his shirt—
“Just like this! They did this too!” Xiao Bai whispered eagerly, “Did you do this back then? You didn’t, right? Normally people wouldn’t act like this, right??”