Bonus Ko-fi chapter 4/6! Thanks to another Anonymous for the Ko-fi!
Lu Boyuan could see that arm floundering behind him from his own video window. Afraid of being recognized, Jian Rong had also temporarily slipped a hat on his head.
Altogether, Jian Rong was fairly thorough, but…
[Ahhh God Lu why is there a woman at your base!!]
[Is that a woman? How come I feel like they’re dressed like a guy?]
[What guy’s arm is that skinny?]
[The little dumbass’ arm is as skinny as his]
[?? Now that you say it, that does seem to be the case hah]
[The brim of the hat that’s exposed… is that from TTC’s merch? Soft also seems to have a hat like that, he wore it at the stadium]
[Ah? You mean the person behind Road is my son?]
[He ran away too quickly, couldn’t tell if Road’s signature was on it or not…]
[You dumbass straight guys have quite some ideas. How could it possibly be Soft, he would’ve been killed and silenced by Xiao Bai and Pine the moment he entered TTC’s base… no, to put it more precisely, no matter which club’s base he appears at, the probability that he can walk out alive isn’t very high.]
[Very hard not to agree]
[Kan likes your comment 100 million times]
Lu Boyuan allowed them to guess and then deny it as they pleased. He closed the barrage helper and didn’t interact with the audience anymore.
Kongkong was sitting in his gaming chair, watching the stream, when someone suddenly struck the back of his head with a pencil. It was their team’s coach. “Instead of climbing properly, you’re here watching a stream? What about your own livestream room? Wake up a little, you’re the only one in the team who isn’t at Diamond 1 yet. Even TTC’s members are working hard, what qualifications do you have to slack off?”
Kongkong didn’t move an inch. “I’ll just watch a few games, pilfer some techniques.”
“The other side’s a jungler, what techniques could you possibly pilfer as a mid laner? What’s more, if his playstyle was that easy to learn, all those Korean junglers in the other teams could just go straight home.”
After the coach said that, he casually swept a glance over the screen and happened to see a team fight take place.
Road’s champion, Camille, was as fierce as ever, and was currently coordinating with his team’s mid laner, Katarina, to carry out a brilliant and exciting… 2v5.
The coach stared blankly as the five people on the other team surrounded them, but Road didn’t reveal any intention to retreat. He used his E skill to dash over to the enemy’s ADC and swiftly unleashed a combo, killing the ADC.
Katarina unhesitatingly entered the scene. Her positioning was abnormally agile, and combined with Katarina’s unique blink skill, she was actually able to dodge countless spells amidst the crowd of champions while also dealing an astonishing amount of AOE damage. Finally, she found the perfect position to release her ult—
Seeing that the barrage was full of comments like “this duo Q combination is undefeatable,” the coach frowned and asked, “Who is this?”
Kongkong: “God Lu ah.”
“I’m talking about the mid laner.” The coach asked, “TTC’s new mid laner?”
Kongkong was startled. “TTC is recruiting a new mid laner?”
“You don’t say. With Kan in such bad shape, the most he can be in the future is a substitute. Their current sub also isn’t quite good enough, so they definitely have to look for someone new.” The coach shot a look at the mid laner’s ID, but it was unfamiliar. He said, “Seems to be a newcomer, probably still in the probationary phase.”
Kongkong let out a half-understanding “oh” before he said, “No, they’re just duo queueing. This definitely isn’t their new mid laner.”
At his confident tone of voice, the coach said doubtfully, “Why?”
“The mid laner is playing on his main account, so you probably can’t recognize him.” Kongkong said, “It’s Soft.”
The coach: “…”
The coach was silent for a moment, before he nodded. “…in that case, probably not.”
Never mind everything else, this brat had offended so many people; if he really was recruited into the team, then wouldn’t every one of TTC’s competitions from here on out become a battleground for vengeance?
Jian Rong trained alone for a week.
The coaches switched out many different opponents for him, and he played many 5v5s. Jian Rong also played 1v1 games, and was busy to the point that he started dreaming about custom game modes.
One weekend afternoon, after Jian Rong won another 1v1, Ding-ge gave him a contract.
“It’s just a draft. You can look over it and let me know if you have any requests,” Ding-ge said.
Jian Rong nodded and asked, “I passed?”
“There’s still one week left in the probationary period,” Ding-ge said noncommittally. “Keep it up.”
As Jian Rong walked out with the contract, he ran into Lu Boyuan, who was about to enter the meeting room.
Lu Boyuan glanced at what Jian Rong was holding and didn’t seem surprised. “Congrats.”
“Thank you.” Jian Rong paused. “It’s only a draft, not the official contract yet.”
Lu Boyuan gave an “en.” “Look over the contract carefully, don’t be cheated.”
As if the one handing out the contract wasn’t his own team.
Jian Rong: “It shouldn’t… be that bad.”
Lu Boyuan was going to say something else, but the door to the meeting room opened then. Ding-ge beckoned at Lu Boyuan while calling someone on the phone, indicating for him to hurry and enter.
Just when Jian Rong was about to step to the side, Lu Boyuan had already inclined his body and brushed past him, and the two of them momentarily bumped into each other.
He heard Lu Boyuan say, “Go ahead and train.”
As a result, Jian Rong practiced all the way from the afternoon to ten at night, only stopping for ten minutes in the middle to eat a bowl of noodles.
When Xiao Bai returned from eating a midnight snack, he just happened to see Jian Rong finish a game. The screen dimmed for a few seconds before a notification window popped up, announcing his promotion to Diamond 2.
While Jian Rong entered the next match, Xiao Bai eventually couldn’t help but sigh softly. “How does he have so much energy? Doing tryouts from morning to afternoon, then playing ranked from afternoon to night, working so diligently every single day… it makes me seem super lazy in comparison.”
Pine lowered his head and took a sip of his drink. “You are super lazy.”
“Shh! Lower your voice!” Xiao Bai retorted, “How am I lazy? I also played ranked for two hours today, okay!”
“Mn, I saw. You failed your Diamond 4 promotion series again.” Pine said, “You might as well slack off instead.”
Xiao Bai was so mad that his hair was nearly bristling. He was about to snatch Pine’s drink when he heard a series of hasty footsteps; Yuan Qian walked into the practice room, looking agitated.
The volume in Jian Rong’s headphones was extremely low, and he also subconsciously shot a look at the door when he heard the noise.
“He’s back,” Yuan Qian tossed out abruptly.
Xiao Bai asked, “Who?”
Yuan Qian said, “Kan.”
Xiao Bai was startled. Pine looked up from his phone, and the practice room was so quiet that the only sound left came from Jian Rong clicking his mouse.
“I saw him get out of the car.” Yuan Qian looked at the ground. “He got a lot skinnier. Ding-ge called him into the meeting room the moment he entered.”
Now, nobody was in the mood to practice anymore.
Originally, Xiao Bai had already pulled up the game client, but he directly turned off his entire computer after hearing that. He dragged Pine over to the living room closest to the meeting room, wanting to monitor each and every possible movement. Yuan Qian also took a leave of absence from that night’s stream and followed them to the living room.
Only Jian Rong was left in the practice room.
Another game finished, and Shiliu asked in voice chat, “You’re going to get off now, right?”
Jian Rong entered the lobby again and turned on his mic. “Not anymore, let’s continue.”
“Didn’t you say that you were tired?” Shiliu paused. “What’s up with you lately, trying to gain points so fiercely?”
“No reason.” Jian Rong said, “It’s too easy to win in this tier, so it’s boring playing in it.”
Didn’t you get by very happily before in Gold while bullying noobs??
Jian Rong played all the way until two in the morning.
The practice room door wasn’t shut, so he heard the sound of the meeting room door opening, he heard Ding-ge urging them to sleep, he heard the other people going upstairs and returning to their rooms.
He only said goodbye to Shiliu, got off, and went back to his room after the lights in the living room went out.
The heater was set quite high in the base. After playing LoL for the entire day and then taking a hot shower, Jian Rong felt like his mind was murky after coming out of the bathroom; even the air felt hot and stuffy.
He laid on his bed for a while before he decided to go to the balcony outside and get some air.
The balcony’s curtains and floor-to-ceiling windows both weren’t shut completely, and the curtains billowed in the wind.
A faint hint of smoke slipped into Jian Rong’s nose.
“I’m sorry, Captain.” The man’s voice sounded faintly choked up. “I’m sorry.”
Jian Rong was about to pull aside the curtains, but he froze upon hearing the voice coming from the balcony.
He had heard this voice in post-competition interviews before; it was Kan’s.
Kan lowered his head and wiped at his face heavily with his hands. After a very long silence, he finally continued, “I really only did it one time…
“Only that time during the semifinals. I came to an agreement with them, that it would just be two rounds… one of the rounds was a small wager about whether there would be a lot of kills or not, it definitely wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the game. I was originally planning to play properly in the match point game, but you switched me out… I – I’m not trying to blame you. I’m sorry.
“They came looking for me many times before, but I only agreed to do it that one time. I thought… it wouldn’t have a big effect on anything.
“I’m sorry, Captain.
“I didn’t really want the team to lose, I wanted to win…”
“You’re a world champion.” After listening to Kan mumble on for quite some time, the other person finally spoke.
Lu Boyuan’s voice was low and deep, without much emotion, so calm that it was like none of this involved him. He asked, “Was it worth it?”
As one of the LPL’s powerhouse teams, just TTC’s annual salary and endorsement fees alone were a large sum of money.
The total price that the other side offered to Kan was no more than the income he would’ve received in two years.
“…you know this, there’s already no next Worlds for me, Captain.” There were tears in Kan’s eyes, and his speech was a bit incoherent. “I haven’t been playing well for the past two years, and the entire internet has been cursing me out. Ding-ge is already looking for a new mid laner too and isn’t planning on renewing my contract. On top of that, my streams don’t usually do very well, so after I leave the team, the streaming platform won’t give me a very high base pay either… Captain, I have three younger sisters, and my parents have both lost their jobs. My dad was also diagnosed with kidney disease this year, so the entire family is depending on me…
“I’m sorry, my willpower wasn’t resolute enough, I’m a good-for-nothing… I just wanted them to be able to get by a little easier.
“But I really only did it once. I must have been possessed at that time… I’m sorry.”
The night wind rushed through the crack in the windows, whistling and howling.
The balcony descended into silence; the only sound left was Kan’s heavy breathing.
“I know I don’t have the right to say all that.” Kan’s voice was hoarse. “Captain, I’m sor…”
“You don’t need to apologize to me.” Lu Boyuan interrupted him mildly.
He extinguished his cigarette in the ashtray, his voice so calm it was on the brink of indifference. “If I don’t win the championships, it’s my own problem, I can try again next year. But you can no longer do it over anymore. You should just – leave that apology for yourself.”
Jian Rong was deeply absorbed in listening, and he only startled out of it abruptly when someone pushed open the door to the balcony. He subconsciously hid to the right of the curtains.
Kan walked into the room, rubbing his eyes, and walked shakily away.
Even though he wasn’t purposefully eavesdropping, Jian Rong still unconsciously let out a sigh of relief. He was about to follow suit and leave when another series of footsteps came from the balcony. He hastily leaned backwards and hid back in his original position.
He saw Lu Boyuan enter the room, close the windows to the balcony, and then… walk over towards him.
Lu Boyuan was wearing a very thin long-sleeved shirt, and the smell of the cigarette smoke lingering around him had been diluted a lot by the night wind. He was holding an ashtray in his hand, and it was filled with many cigarette butts.
He stopped in front of Jian Rong. Jian Rong pressed his lips together briefly before he resigned himself and looked up. “Captain…”
After saying that, Jian Rong was also momentarily stunned.
Because of Kan’s endless calls of “Captain” “Captain” just then, Jian Rong ended up being led astray.
Jian Rong was about to backtrack when he heard Lu Boyuan let out a quiet “en.”
“Do you dislike the smell of cigarettes?” Lu Boyuan asked.
Since he had just smoked quite a few cigarettes, his voice was a bit raspy.
Jian Rong blinked, not having expected him to ask that question. He said, “I don’t dislike it.”
Lu Boyuan nodded and then asked, “Do you smoke?”
Lu Boyuan said, “Good boy.”
That “good boy” nailed Jian Rong to the spot.
Perhaps because it had been too long since someone last said something similar to him, his heart was thumping wildly, and his ears also burned in bursts of heat.
“Not sleeping?” Lu Boyuan asked him.
“…my room was a little stuffy, so I wanted to come out and get some air.” Jian Rong paused before adding, “I wasn’t deliberately eavesdropping.”
“En, go ahead.”
Jian Rong nodded and turned to walk towards the balcony, only to hear Lu Boyuan say, “Hold on.”
Then, someone ruffled his hair very gently. Lu Boyuan’s palm was a little cold from being blown by the wind outside just then.
“Ding-ge has recently been forbidding me to smoke, so you have to keep this a secret.” Lu Boyuan said.
Jian Rong nodded like a block of wood. “…oh.”
Lu Boyuan was satisfied. “There’s a practice match tomorrow afternoon, so sleep a little earlier.”
After Lu Boyuan left, Jian Rong walked out onto the balcony and was blown by the cold wind for ten minutes.
Even though the temperature was in the single digits3, he didn’t feel cold at all; instead, he felt like he was so hot that he was about to start sweating.
After standing there for a while longer, Jian Rong suddenly grabbed the collar of his shirt and tugged it up to his nose, sniffing it.
…it seemed to carry the scent of smoke.
Then he should stand here in the wind some more.
Jian Rong didn’t know whether the smell of cigarette smoke really existed or if it was just in his imagination. Every once in a while, he would sniff his shirt again, and he only turned to go back inside once he felt like the scent dissipated entirely.
And then, the moment he turned around, he ran smack into the sight of Xiao Bai holding a pile of dripping wet clothes, intending to hang them out to dry on the balcony.
Drops of water completely covered the floor underneath the clothes, and it was clear that the other person had already been standing there for some time.
Xiao Bai stared at the teenager in front of him, who had stood out in the cold wind for quite a while, occasionally also sniffing his own shirt and touching his own hair. Xiao Bai’s eyes were filled with 30% confusion, 30% bewilderment, and 40% bafflement. After a long silence, he finally said stiffly, “………er, good evening?”
- Acronym for 你说得对 (ni shuo de dui) – means ‘you’re right’ basically ^
- Calabash Brothers is a Chinese cartoon about seven brothers who are born from gourds and have special powers. (Kind of like… Chinese power rangers?? lmao) This really gave me a throwback, I remember watching this a lot as a kid haha. Point is it’s very humorous and should not be taken seriously ^
- Celsius, obviously. (Probably around 32-48 degrees Fahrenheit for American friends.) ^
Yan: Okay but the question is what is Xiao Bai doing drying his laundry at like 3 in the morning too?? *doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry*