Thank you to Somebody and Kitty for the Ko-fis!
Backstage, on the way to the parking lot, Jian Rong tugged on Lu Boyuan’s shirt.
Jian Rong asked quietly, “What did you say in the interview earlier?”
“I…” Lu Boyuan paused. “There wasn’t a translator in the break room?”
“Ding-ge didn’t let the translator tell me.” At that, Jian Rong’s face immediately darkened. “He said that he was afraid it would inflate my ego.”
Lu Boyuan: “He’s overthinking things.”
Jian Rong was about to say “exactly” when Lu Boyuan continued, “Could your ego get any more inflated?”
Jian Rong: “…get lost.”
Right as he said that, Lu Boyuan reached out and draped an arm around Jian Rong’s neck, drawing him closer to his side. He asked, amused, “You want me to get lost? Not gonna carry me up the ranks anymore?”
The people in front couldn’t help but repeatedly glance back at them.
Yuan Qian said enviously, “…I miss my wife.”
Xiao Bai: “Disgusting!!!”
“Whatever, let them be.” Ding-ge looked very serene. “They can’t even be controlled in China, so who can stop them overseas…”
Apart from that, there was another reason Ding-ge was indulging them.
The bus stopped at the hotel, and the two young men who were sitting extremely close, sharing the same pair of earphones, hastily disembarked.
The bus was one of the rare locations where Jian Rong and Lu Boyuan could be close to each other. Once they left the bus, they either had to attend practice or compete in a match. Especially at night, everyone was wiped out after practice; Jian Rong had once flopped straight down onto his bed without even changing clothes or taking a shower.
Since they won the match today, there were many reporters interested in interviewing them. Worried that it would influence the team members’ mentalities, Ding-ge hadn’t agreed to any of them. As a result, some uncontrollable reporters went to the hotel entrance to take pictures.
The five members silently got off the bus and returned to the hotel without saying a single word. They headed directly towards the third floor conference room to review the match and didn’t even go back to their rooms beforehand.
The assistant manager ordered pizza for them, which they could just pick up and eat. That way, they could have a meal while reviewing the match without interfering with anything.
Ding-ge talked continuously for over an hour at the head of the conference table. Finally, he began wrapping up. “They’re definitely going to revolve their gameplay around Master tomorrow. Jian Rong, watch out for ganks from the jungler and support as you’re laning.”
Jian Rong: “Mn.”
Xiao Bai lamented weakly, “Didn’t we just play against HT today? Why are they back again tomorrow…”
“After tomorrow, we’ll only meet them again during the knockout stage… or the finals.” Ding-ge firmly patted Xiao Bai’s slumped back. “Weren’t you pretty fired up today when you were flashing and tossing out your hook? How come you’ve run out of steam now?”
“I haven’t.” Xiao Bai said, “I’m just a bit tired.”
They truly had gone overboard with their training in the past few days.
Ding-ge nodded understandingly. “Hang in there for a little longer. Other teams don’t even have an opportunity to be this exhausted… is everyone done eating? If so, let’s head out and get back to practice.”
Before this, Xiao Bai had always thought that something like “the optimal age for esports” was very illogical—his ge was already in his twenties, but wasn’t he still the great demon king of their region?
However, at that moment, Xiao Bai was sprawled back in his gaming chair, exhausted, waiting to be revived. When he turned his head and saw Jian Rong sitting bolt upright, clattering loudly away on his keyboard, looking extremely energetic…
Xiao Bai conceded to his old age.
Was this the vigorous spirit of the youth?
He was quite worried that his ge wouldn’t be able to handle it.
After winning another game, Jian Rong checked the rankings. He was still about a hundred LP away from Master.
Master had been playing ranked recently as well, but perhaps due to the system’s mischief, they both had yet to be matched into the same game.
The higher their rank, the longer the wait time. Five minutes passed in the queue without anything changing, so Jian Rong leaned back in his chair and took out his phone.
He was still very curious as to what Lu Boyuan had said during the interview.
A video of Lu Boyuan’s interview showed up on his homepage; he didn’t even need to search for it. Jian Rong cautiously pulled out his earphones from his pocket and plugged them in before clicking on the video.
Rough subtitles that a fan had added at the last minute popped up at the bottom of the screen.
Jian Rong had watched this interview live backstage after the competition, but he still found himself a little unable to tear his eyes away as he watched it for the second time.
Their team uniform was centered around comfort. Although the logo design and color choices were quite cool, in the end it was just a simple T-shirt that was casual and loose. Jian Rong had always thought that this shirt didn’t seem much different from a primary school uniform.
But Lu Boyuan was tall and slim, and everything looked good on him. He held one hand behind his back and gripped the microphone with his other hand as he quietly waited for the anchor’s questions.
The anchor was dressed impeccably, his hair full of gel. However, he looked almost an entire head shorter standing next to Lu Boyuan.
Lu Boyuan could communicate with the anchor without even needing a translator, which was why Jian Rong couldn’t understand the interview.
Jian Rong lowered his head and silently finished watching the video.
After the video ended, Jian Rong was still a little stunned. A beat later, he lifted his hand and rewound the video a bit—he repeated that action approximately ten or so times altogether.
Lu Boyuan got up and went to use the restroom after finishing a ranked game.
As he was washing his hands, he splashed some water onto his face. Once he felt a bit more awake, he left the restroom, but on his way back to the practice room, someone grabbed his arm and tugged him into the nearby stairwell.
Lu Boyuan didn’t fight it.
The lights in the stairwell turned on because of their footsteps. Lu Boyuan leaned against the wall and gazed down at the person in front of him, a smile playing across his lips. “What’s up?”
Jian Rong looked quietly at him for two seconds before he asked, “You… practiced for so long, your hand doesn’t hurt?”
“I stuck on a pain-relief patch. I’m aware of my situation, I can still carry on.” Lu Boyuan raised an eyebrow. “You dragged me in here just to ask about this?”
Of course not.
Though Lu Boyuan hadn’t blatantly praised Jian Rong in front of the camera, the underlying meaning was too obvious. Even Jian Rong could understand it.
After watching that interview, Jian Rong grew somewhat restless.
Jian Rong stared at Lu Boyuan’s lips for several seconds before he shifted forward a little.
A moment passed but he still couldn’t come up with an excuse. As a result, he gave up entirely and said, succinctly and tonelessly, “Give me a kiss.”
Lu Boyuan laughed, but what came out of his mouth was: “No can do.”
This was Jian Rong’s first time saying such a thing, and he ended up being rejected. His ears instantly flushed red as he said, flustered, “You freaking… do you still want to be carried or not?”
Lu Boyuan: “There are security cameras in the stairwell.”
Jian Rong immediately went silent.
He sucked in a deep breath and raked a hand through his hair. “Forget it then, let’s go back and practice…”
Lu Boyuan straightened upright. Before Jian Rong could turn around, Lu Boyuan gripped his wrist and pulled him over to the corner, pressing him against the wall.
Not much noise was produced with this movement, and the subpar sound-activated lights swiftly went dark.
Lu Boyuan backed Jian Rong into the corner and said, “This is a blind spot. It won’t show up on camera.”
Jian Rong met Lu Boyuan’s downcast eyes and didn’t respond.
A second later, he tilted his head back and nipped Lu Boyuan’s lips.
Everyone was out of it from practicing so much, and no one noticed that their team’s mid laner and jungler had a bit too long of a bathroom break.
Yuan Qian shot a glance at Jian Rong when he returned.
He felt like he couldn’t turn his head anymore. Right off the bat, he asked, “Xiao Rong, did you not remove all of your makeup from the competition? I think you still have some lipstick on your mouth.”
Jian Rong said stiffly, “…mn.”
At five in the morning, TTC’s practice room was still brightly lit.
Xiao Bai was the first to give in. His jacket draped around him, he dragged his broken body back to his room.
Before leaving, he gave Lu Boyuan a profound look.
Lu Boyuan was watching a match recording. He sat in a relaxed manner, as if he could effortlessly pull another three all-nighters in a row.
Pine: “Are you going or not? What are you looking at?”
“Nothing.” Xiao Bai walked out of the room, a hand propped against his waist as he sighed, “I’m suddenly getting this feeling that my ge should still be able to handle a mere eighteen-year-old teenager just fine.”
On day three of the group stage, TTC played against HT once again.
Up till now, TTC had won all of their games. HT had only lost one match, and the two teams were respectively ranked first and second for the time being.
After the host finished giving a brief explanation of the process, both teams went on stage to check their equipment. They confirmed their status with the referee, and the game entered the pick/ban phase.
It was obvious that Master had learned his lesson for this match. Right away, he went for his commonly used champion, Zoe. Jian Rong and Ding-ge shared a quick discussion before Jian Rong picked Syndra, a champion that excelled at laning.
Prior to leaving the stage, Ding-ge emphasized, “Just farm if you can’t beat him and look for opportunities in the mid-late game. Don’t panic if you start to fall behind while laning in the early game. Our team comp is strong, good luck!”
With the team compositions settled, the coaches shook hands and left.
Half a minute later, the game officially began.
HT focused intensely on Lu Boyuan’s jungle this time. Soon after the game kicked off, HT’s bot lane duo helped their jungler forcefully steal Lu Boyuan’s buff. The jungler’s goal was also extremely evident—raise up Master, so that his power spike would come even earlier.
Master farmed well. While Jian Rong was back at the base, he went to assist the top lane and successfully killed Yuan Qian while he was there.
Although his buff had been stolen early on, Lu Boyuan was always someone who could haul himself out of a disadvantage. Six minutes in, he stole the drake from HT’s jungler and completely cleaned out the lower half of his opponent’s jungle.
At twenty minutes, both sides basically had the same amount of gold, and the situation was tense.
Right as the third drake spawned, Jian Rong finally tore an opening in the deadlock—
Jian Rong predicted Rish’s positioning and unleashed his skills in his own blind spot, directly oneshotting Rish!
“Beautiful.” As Lu Boyuan said that, he sent the enemy jungler and support flying through the air with a flash, E, and Q from his Jarvan. Then, he trapped them securely in his ult.
“I’m here I’m here! Fight! My flash and CC!” Xiao Bai shouted in excitement, “P-baby, charge!”
Without any hesitation, Pine immediately rushed in for the reaping. Yuan Qian also adjusted his positioning in preparation to tank the enemies’ damage for Pine—
At that exact moment, the screen went gray.
All ten pro players’ screens went gray.
The only thing left was a blue loading bar, along with five words—[The game has been paused.]
Jian Rong furrowed his brows in confusion as the referee’s voice came through his headphones. “Do not talk to one another! While a game is paused, team members are prohibited from communicating!”
The referee: “The reason for the pause is because an issue has occurred with Rish’s equipment. Everyone, please remain patient, we should be entering the game again shortly.”
As a result, Jian Rong had no choice but to sit there and wait.
In the camera, the look on Jian Rong’s face grew worse and worse, and he had already made a complete mess of his bangs.
The LPL’s commentators were also conversing awkwardly with each other, unanimously puzzled, and question marks covered the barrage—
[What kind of problem requires the game to be paused for so long?!]
[It’s been almost half an hour, the players are gonna completely lose their feel for the game!]
[In the middle of a critical team fight, hm? Can that also be paused??]
[Dammit, I was just on my feet shouting ‘nice,’ and then it freaking fizzled out…]
[Even I’ve lost all my patience waiting, never mind the players.]
[Soft looks like he’s about to pick up his keyboard and throw it at someone.]
[Tsk, I don’t know how to describe it, but I have a bad feeling about this…]
The barrage was abuzz with activity. Twenty-three minutes later, the match finally started again, and a countdown appeared on the screen.
But when the players returned to the game, the spectators were rendered even more freaking speechless—
There was no intense team fight taking place in the game. Road’s ult wasn’t encircling two people, and Rish was still very much alive.
In the stream, Commentator A’s voice was low, filled with a bit of reluctance and resentment. He forced himself to smile as he said, “We have received an announcement from the officials. Because of some bugs that appeared in HT Rish’s game, the officials have decided to use ‘Chronobreak’1 to rewind the game to eight seconds before the moment the bug showed up.
“Consequently, the solo kill and team fight from earlier have been declared invalid. May we… continue to look forward to how this match will further develop.”
The entire audience was in an uproar.
The barrage exploded.
The instant the game resumed, Xiao Bai finally couldn’t hold back any longer, and he bellowed in their voice chat, “Fucking pieces of shit!!!”
They had played for so long under pressure and managed to seize a chance at last, only for it to vanish into thin air because of this pause.
“What bug? Shouldn’t they freaking clarify the situation for us? Not a single explanation, what’s the meaning of this?” Yuan Qian also grew angry. “Just like that, they can pause and restart the game? Are these competition rules established by Koreans?!”
“They didn’t establish the rules.” Pine said coldly, “But they’re the host this time.”
Jian Rong watched as Rish slipped away well in advance. His expression was extremely dark, and he glared at Rish’s character from behind, fuming with rage. “Dumb—ass.”
“Don’t lose your head.” Lu Boyuan’s voice was steady, but it was also filled with emotion. “Place a ward next to the dragon pit. Rish most likely won’t roam around on his own anymore. Qian-ge, if you have Teleport, push the wave in the top lane; assess the team fight situation before deciding whether or not to teleport over. Hang in there, we still have opportunities, maintain your feel for the game.”
Everyone had spent the last couple days living in front of their computers. It was impossible for them to lose their feel for the game simply because of a twenty-minute pause.
The biggest blow to TTC was still the loss of the major advantage that they were about to seize; you could even say that they were about to have victory in their hands—
Naturally, they couldn’t compete well when they were bursting with all sorts of negative emotions, including rage and an unwillingness to back down or give in.
Forty-one minutes into the game, HT strenuously destroyed TTC’s Nexus and won this group stage match.
Most of the live audience was screaming and cheering. They didn’t seem to care at all how their league’s team had just won.
Meanwhile, the domestic stream had already detonated completely.
At that moment, the esports fans, who took great pains to argue pointlessly with each other every single day, stood in unprecedented solidarity.
Ever since the pause began, there weren’t many legible comments in the barrage—insults against the competition officials, insults against HT, insults against the LCK… there was everything one could imagine. The barrage was packed all the way up until the match concluded.
Amidst this convoluted barrage, the camera focused on their pro league’s team.
It was unclear whether it was done on purpose or not, but the officials gave Jian Rong a big close-up.
On the screen—
The usually unbridled and unrestrained young man sat there, expressionless. His hands were still resting against his keyboard, and he didn’t move for a long time.
If you looked closely, you would see that the teenager’s eyes were somewhat red. The watery sheen only lasted for a second before he clenched his teeth and forcibly choked it back down…
That camera shot directly demolished all of the LPL fans’ defenses.
The author has something to say:
Chronobreak, or rewinding the clock, is a competition super-tool. It has been used many times before in pro play when the need arises. The novel merely applies the competition rules; it has nothing to do with any team (in real life).
- Chronobreak: a feature that allows officials to rewind the game to a certain point in time to deal with bugs and other issues. Examples in LoL pro play: a recent article, a video example. (The video itself is kind of funny to watch – personal fave is #2, stopping the match for a new chair.) ^