Jian Rong knew that Lu Boyuan smoked. Before, when he was ‘eavesdropping’ on the balcony, Lu Boyuan had come back inside carrying an ashtray.
With a cigarette in his mouth, Lu Boyuan lost the gentle aura that he usually gave off, and it felt like he merged entirely into Shanghai’s wintry night.
When Jian Rong walked over, he heard XIU ask, “You called him here?”
Lu Boyuan gave a mild “en” and deposited the cigarette onto a napkin on the table. He pulled out the chair next to him and gestured for Jian Rong to sit down.
Jian Rong didn’t ask any questions. He tugged once at his jacket and sat.
“Tch, isn’t that just a waste?” XIU looked regretfully at that unlit cigarette.
Lu Boyuan said, “I said I wasn’t going to smoke, but you insisted on giving it to me.”
“What’s the fun in smoking by myself.” XIU glanced at Jian Rong and tossed his cigarette pack over to him. “Soft, you…”
Jian Rong tossed the cigarette pack back. “I don’t smoke.”
XIU had never watched Jian Rong’s streams, but he had heard of this person before.
Only those same old phrases: arrogant, egotistical, foul-mouthed, condescending. Rumor had it that there weren’t many professional players who could escape being ridiculed by him.
But XIU had never paid much attention to the antis’ opinions. He believed that everyone who entered the world of the internet had to lower their own bottom line, including himself. When he was young and played different games, he had also insulted people behind their back, so he didn’t really have any conflicts or disgust towards Soft.
However, with an outsider present, it naturally wasn’t as easy to chat casually anymore. XIU chuckled. “Why did you call him out here? You should explain yourself quickly.”
Before Lu Boyuan could say anything, a girl suddenly walked over to their table. She was carrying a bag and, after spotting the number printed on the table, she hesitantly asked, “Hello, may I ask if you were the ones who called the delivery service?”
Lu Boyuan said, “Yes, thank you.”
After the girl left, Lu Boyuan placed the bag in front of Jian Rong.
Jian Rong asked, stunned, “What is it?”
“Dinner.” Lu Boyuan said, “Aren’t you hungry?”
…how did he know?
Jian Rong opened the bag. Inside was a steaming bowl of crab roe noodles, and it looked like there was more crab roe than there were noodles.
Jian Rong was starving the entire night, and his stomach couldn’t help but rumble the moment he saw food.
XIU’s face was filled with question marks. “Hey, no way, aren’t we at a barbeque restaurant? You won’t eat the skewers, but you’ll call for delivery and make them buy crab roe noodles for you??”
Lu Boyuan didn’t say anything. He only shot a look at the barbeque stand owner standing not too far away. The man had just picked up a handful of sesame seeds and sprinkled it over the food without even wearing gloves.
Damn. No wonder you haven’t touched any of the food up until now.
XIU said, “Then couldn’t you have delivered it straight to the base? You had to order it and eat it right in front of me??”
Jian Rong, having had the same misgivings, pricked up his ears.
Lu Boyuan actually had considered that.
Except he was worried that this person would go try to solo Hezi again after eating his fill, so he decided that he might as well just call Jian Rong out.
The sound of the phone ringing interrupted their dialogue; the caller ID showed Ding-ge. Lu Boyuan listened for a few seconds after answering the phone before he got up and walked over to the entrance.
XIU’s tobacco addiction emerged again, and he took out a cigarette. “You can handle the smell of smoke, right?”
Jian Rong pulled apart the chopsticks. “Yes.”
Just like that, XIU smoked while he watched that blue-colored head in front of him duck lower and eat noodles.
How come he got the impression that… Soft really did seem to be quite well-behaved? He came over when he was told to come over, he ate noodles when he was told to eat noodles, and he also spoke politely and normally.
Maybe Lu Boyuan hadn’t lied to him, and Soft only acted that way in his streams in order to sell a persona?
XIU was a bit of a chatterbox, and he couldn’t quiet down. With that train of thought, he started to speak like an elder. “How did you get over here?”
Jian Rong was focused on eating noodles, and he didn’t lift his head. “Took a taxi.”
“Not training during this hour?”
“I heard that back when you used to stream, you were pretty accomplished. How come you suddenly wanted to play competitively?”
Jian Rong picked up a napkin and wiped his mouth without answering him.
XIU thought that the other person hadn’t heard him. He blew out a cloud of smoke. “You…”
Jian Rong: “Champion Times, issue 46.”
XIU was startled. “What?”
“My interview. If you’re curious, you can go take a look.” Jian Rong said coolly.
Sure enough, Road was lying to him.
Right after Lu Boyuan finished his call and came back, XIU got a call from his coach telling him to get back to the base.
Before leaving, XIU got up and patted Lu Boyuan’s shoulder. “I’m going now. You and your team’s well—behaved—mid—laner, enjoy your meal.”
Jian Rong choked and swiftly swallowed the noodles in his mouth.
It was just the two of them left at the table.
Lu Boyuan calmly watched him eat. Jian Rong didn’t say anything either, and it was silent between them for a while.
All the way up until LoL’s sound effects came from Lu Boyuan’s phone.
Lu Boyuan seemed to be watching a stream. Jian Rong concentratedly listened for a while, and when he heard, “I know I can’t beat him in solo… he’s just a friend, don’t go and friend request him, you’ll trouble him,” he abruptly raised his head.
If he hadn’t misheard it… that sounded like Hezi’s voice.
“What’s wrong.” Lu Boyuan’s gaze remained on his phone.
Jian Rong knew that he couldn’t hide it anymore. He swallowed the noodles and said after a long pause, “…I didn’t know that he was streaming.”
Lu Boyuan gave an “en” and finally looked up to ask, “Why solo with him?”
The color of Lu Boyuan’s eyes was very dark. Jian Rong met his gaze for a few seconds before he averted his eyes and said, extremely quickly, “He wasn’t willing to acknowledge me.”
If Hezi wasn’t convinced, then Jian Rong would beat him up until he was. It was just that simple in esports.
Lu Boyuan already knew the whole story. The reason why Ding-ge called him earlier was to tell him about that incident.
He asked, “Hezi sought you out?”
Jian Rong shook his head. “I looked for him. He was having a talk with Ding-ge in the meeting room, and I overheard a bit of it.”
“Just because of that?” Lu Boyuan paused. “Hezi played as a substitute for the team for an entire year. If a new starter suddenly appears, it’s very normal for him to be unable to accept it for a while.”
Jian Rong spoke naturally. “I’m very petty.”
Lu Boyuan laughed. He closed the stream replay and placed his phone down to the side. “Are you angry because he wasn’t convinced, or are you angry because he thought that I let you in through the back door?”
Jian Rong put down his chopsticks and slowly wiped his mouth clean before saying, “Both.”
Lu Boyuan nodded and suddenly asked, “Then what do you think, did I open the back door for you.”
Jian Rong pressed his lips together and stayed silent.
If it weren’t for Lu Boyuan’s recommendation, he didn’t think that TTC would’ve discovered him. In addition, that email… it was true that Jian Rong hadn’t gone through the official channel and had sent it directly to Lu Boyuan instead.
Lu Boyuan hadn’t expected Jian Rong to hesitate for so long over it. He couldn’t help but laugh and say, his voice dropping, “Don’t think about it anymore, I didn’t.”
Jian Rong watched him quietly, and when he heard that, he blinked.
“If I had to put it in words, then it should be… I discovered you.” Lu Boyuan said mildly. “I felt like your skill and familiarity with the champions were professional-level, so I recommended you to the team. This was to give you an opportunity, and also to give the team an opportunity.
“But after that, you fought through the tryouts on your own. The team was the one who nodded and let you become a starter, not me. If you played well, then you would get the position; if you couldn’t, then you would have to leave. From beginning to end, there wasn’t really a back door to open.” After saying that, Lu Boyuan paused. “But… if this kind of thing happens again in the future, don’t go trying to solo them again. Right now, you’re a professional player, so you have an even better way to respond.”
Jian Rong blurted out, “What is it?”
“Winning competitions.” Lu Boyuan spoke concisely. “If someone isn’t convinced by you, then you just have to beat them before walking over and shaking their hand.”
This was one of LoL’s competition rules. The winning team had to get up and shake hands with the losing team, reflecting the importance of camaraderie in esports’ team spirit.
Jian Rong was silent for a few seconds before he nodded, expressing that he understood.
After paying for the barbeque, they called a car and went back to the base.
Once they arrived at the base’s front door, Jian Rong was in the middle of entering the password when Lu Boyuan suddenly remembered something.
He lowered his eyes and asked, “How come you haven’t been asking to duo queue with me lately?”
It couldn’t be any more normal for a team’s mid laner and jungler to duo queue together. In fact, it was even customary in some teams; after all, those two positions had to practice coordination.
The door lock beeped twice as Jian Rong pressed the wrong number.
Ever since Xiao Bai brought up that incident, Jian Rong had continued to frantically flip-flop between two thoughts: “I’m a pervert” and “how the fuck could I possibly be a pervert.”
Jian Rong didn’t look up. “…I saw that you were playing on the Korean server, so I didn’t ask.”
“It’s because you didn’t ask that I went to play on the Korean server.” Lu Boyuan saw that Jian Rong was about to hit the wrong number again and he grabbed his hand, moving it aside. He input the last number in the password, and the door opened. “In the future, call for me at any time.”
After that, Lu Boyuan entered first.
Jian Rong loitered around at the entrance for a few minutes. He only put on his slippers and walked inside once the wrist that Lu Boyuan had grasped stopped burning.
During the next few days, TTC’s members spent their time playing practice match after practice match.
When the practice matches were finished, then it was playing ranked. In that week, nobody left the base. Jian Rong realized that it was about time for him to cut his hair only after it started to prick his eyelids.
After another practice match with MFG, Kongkong asked for his WeChat in the chat. Jian Rong sent it over before he left the lobby.
“You guys played pretty well tonight.” Ding-ge paused for a moment. “The next practice match is tomorrow, with Squid.”
The practice room quieted briefly at the mention of that team name. Xiao Bai, who was prattling on about something, also abruptly stopped talking and subconsciously frowned.
Yuan Qian was the first to speak. “Ding-ge … why did you agree to a practice match with them ah?”
Pine: “I don’t want to play them either.”
“They’re one of the rare teams who go all out during a practice match. I want to try a new setup, so they’re perfect to test it out on.” Ding-ge said, “Don’t be picky, it’s just a practice match, it’s the same as with anyone else. The schedule for the spring season is about to come out, so I have to hurry up and test its effectiveness beforehand.”
Jian Rong didn’t understand what was going on, and he couldn’t resist asking, “What’s wrong with them?”
Yuan Qian inquired, “You know this team, right?”
Jian Rong thought a bit and said honestly, “I only remember that their mid laner is an ATM1.”
Yuan Qian: “…”
Jian Rong: “What exactly is their problem? Is there an issue with the way they play?”
“It’s not their playstyle…” Yuan Qian dithered. “Their team’s reputation isn’t very good.”
“As if they have a damn reputation.” Xiao Bai clicked his tongue. “They’re just bad and have dirty mouths, especially their team’s ADC—if the two of you were put together, then you would basically be like an angel descending to the mortal world to save mankind.”
Jian Rong said coldly, “I give you my thanks.”
“I’m serious.” Xiao Bai said, “At the most, you just roast someone’s gameplay during a competition. But all he does are personal attacks! He constantly shades other players’ appearances in his streams, and he was even fined for it recently by the LPL.”
Jian Rong searched through his memories. Squid’s ADC did seem to be fairly good-looking; every time during their competitions, the barrage was filled with squealing from fans of his face.
However, he only remembered the barrage. He didn’t remember what the person himself looked like.
Ding-ge furrowed his brows. “I’ve already agreed, it’s not like I can cancel last minute on them.”
“Let’s just play them then.” Lu Boyuan said indifferently, “We’ll still have to face off against them during competitions anyway. If you really dislike them, all you have to do is not interact with them when the time comes.”
The next afternoon, the practice match with Squid went ahead as scheduled.
This match was mainly so they could practice a newly developed strategy. Xiao Bai and Pine were both on champions that they weren’t good at, so they frequently made mistakes. Meanwhile, Squid directly used their competition team composition. In less than twenty minutes, the bot lane was starting to crumble.
Because the bot lane lost its momentum, Lu Boyuan’s jungle was simultaneously invaded by the enemy ADC, jungler, and support. Jian Rong was being entangled by the enemy mid laner and couldn’t go to assist.
Although Lu Boyuan’s gameplay was superb and he wasn’t ganked to death a single time, even stealing a Baron Nashor from the other team, they still lost the game at forty-eight minutes.
After they wiped during the last team fight, Jian Rong was about to withdraw from the game when he saw that the other team was continuing to tear down their base. A few seconds later, their Nexus exploded, and “DEFEAT” popped up on the screen.
“Dammit!” Xiao Bai cursed. “What are they doing? With the match history, won’t this strategy be leaked?”
Ding-ge hadn’t expected this to happen either. He frowned and called the captain of Squid. The other side gleefully apologized and offered to make amends, saying that the members got too into the game and accidentally destroyed the Nexus.
“Like hell.” After the phone call ended, Yuan Qian spat, “They can get too into the game when it’s just a practice match??”
Xiao Bai: “They’re still laughing around in the chat, I wanna throw up reading it.”
Everyone else left the game. Only Jian Rong was still in the custom game lobby.
Squid’s ADC had been talking the entire time.
[YY-Doufu2: Hahaha sorry sorry, my hand moved too fast, you guys aren’t angry right?]
[YY-Doufu: Qian-ge? Say something?]
[YY-Doufu: Qian-ge? Big fatty? Chubbers? Fatty?]
[YY-Doufu: Why’d you leave ah]
With a chilly expression, Jian Rong had already placed his hands on the keyboard.
“Jian Rong, pack up your stuff and go review the practice matches from these past few days.” Lu Boyuan picked up his equipment and stood up, his face mostly expressionless. As he passed by Ding-ge, he said, “Those two bot lane champions aren’t suited for the current meta. If they can’t even beat a team like that, this composition shouldn’t be used.”
With the strategy abandoned, the incident wasn’t that big of a deal anymore.
Everyone in TTC just thought of it as an annoying practice match, and after a few hours of feeling disgusted, they got over it.
But nobody expected a post to suddenly appear on a certain famous esports Tieba the next day.
The post’s subject was: [The result of TTC using a newbie mid laner: being crushed by Squid!]
A match history screenshot successfully gave rise to a discussion consisting of several hundred replies.
After TTC’s and Squid’s fans fought with each other and created a five hundred story building, the original poster also uploaded a video clip showing what Squid’s ADC Doufu had said last night in his stream—
– “Ah right, we had a practice match with TTC today.”
– “The new mid laner? Mn… haha, I’ll just leave it at that, it wouldn’t be good for me to keep going.”
– “We were just playing casually, we didn’t expect to win so easily.”
– “Ai, we got too into the game and couldn’t hold back, so we destroyed their Nexus, my fault.”
– “The mid laner himself? I haven’t seen him before, but I did hear that he doesn’t look as good as he does in his streams. Short and skinny, not much different from a monkey, right.”
– “I have seen Qian-ge recently, he’s still fat. Every time I see him, I can fast for two days.”
Jian Rong finished reading through this skyscraper while he brushed his teeth.
Notifications from the TTC’s Workout Club group chat continuously popped up at the top of his screen, but Jian Rong wasn’t in a hurry to click on them.
After he wiped his face dry with a towel, he opened Weibo and randomly selected a comment that he had received this morning.
[I heard that you were crushed by Squid last night??]
Jian Rong clicked repost.
[TTC ་ Soft: What the hell is Squid again… oh, I remembered. The team that’s always beaten to a pulp during official competitions, making even their fans want to cover their eyes when they see it… are you talking about that practice – match – champion team?]
- As in Jian Rong can just farm the hell out of him and get gold (like getting money from an ATM) LOL ^
- For the sake of consistency (i.e. Shiliu/Hezi), I’ll be leaving his name as Doufu, but it means Tofu ^