They had three practice matches that night with Fighting Tiger; TTC won two games and lost one.
If one had to pick the top three teams recently in the LPL, the majority of people would answer with TTC, PUD, and Fighting Tiger.
Each of these three teams also had their own style.
In TTC, the jungler drove the entire show, but the top and bot lanes could also step up and control the match. Now, with the addition of a new mid laner, the existence of a weak lane disappeared even more. The only disadvantage was that the new mid laner didn’t have enough compatibility or coordination with the other members yet.
PUD was a standard Korean import team. A while ago, the import rule had been removed, and the restriction that “every team could only have two Korean import players” no longer existed1. After that, they immediately welcomed their new Korean import mid laner, Savior, bringing the number of Korean import players in their team to a total of three. Even the team’s head coach was a Korean coach.
Fighting Tiger was nicknamed “the nursing home” by esports fans. The members’ ages averaged to 24 years old, and they hadn’t switched out their starters for the past four years. Even though their APMs and reaction times had slowly worsened with age, their coordination across lanes was unparalleled.
“Fighting Tiger’s strategy is so flexible ah. In those three practice matches, they used a fast-push tactic, a mid-jungler cooperation tactic, and a jungler-support roaming tactic.” Yuan Qian gave a deeply moved sigh. “And they coordinated so well for all of them… who the hell knows what other strategies they have hidden up their sleeve.”
Lu Boyuan took off his headphones. “You’ll find out at the competition arena.”
Xiao Bai lounged back in his chair and asked, “What week are we playing Fighting Tiger?”
Jian Rong opened the match history for the round they lost. “The first week after Lunar New Year.”
The practice room quieted for a few seconds after he said that.
Sensing Xiao Bai’s astonished gaze, Jian Rong turned his head and frowned. “Am I wrong?”
“…no.” Xiao Bai blinked. “So you’re actually also the type to memorize the competition schedule ah.”
Jian Rong was puzzled. “There’s only fifteen other teams. You can remember it after looking at it once, do you need to memorize it?”
Xiao Bai: “…”
Was this just the retention ability of a seventeen year old teen??
As they were chatting, a line of text suddenly popped up in the custom lobby.
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu2: Anyone there? Is God Lu here, let’s chat.]
[TTC ་ Road: Chat about what.]
Da Niu was 27 years old, the oldest among all of the LPL’s active professional players and also the one with the most experience. Most people would greet him with a ‘Niu-ge’ when they saw him, including Lu Boyuan.
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: I’ve been wanting to see your Lee Sin.]
[TTC ་ Road: En, don’t ban him next time.]
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: Hahaha, that won’t do, I’ll be beaten to death by the coach.]
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: Xiao Bai, your hometown is Shenzhen, right? Let’s go back together for Lunar New Year?]
[TTC ་ Bye: Sure Niu-ge, when the time comes I’ll reach out to you.]
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: Okay. Soft, where are you from?]
Jian Rong stared at that message for a few seconds before he realized that the other person was asking him a question.
[TTC ་ Soft: Shanghai.]
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: Oh. That’s right, how come you guys haven’t invited Soft into the group chat?]
Xiao Bai replied with a question mark.
Why else? Of course it was because they were afraid that he would start fighting with the others in the group chat.
As Xiao Bai chatted, he explained to Jian Rong, “We pulled together a private group with the professional players from quite a few teams. They often use it to go out for meals together, duo queue, and things like that. Of course, Squid’s members aren’t in it… do you want to join?”
Jian Rong unplugged his keyboard and carried it in his arms. “Are there a lot of people in it?”
Xiao Bai nodded and thought, Almost everyone you’ve flamed before is in it.
Jian Rong asked, very naturally, “Everyone in our team is in it too?”
Yuan Qian hummed. “Yup.”
Jian Rong contemplated briefly before he ‘reluctantly’ responded, “I guess I’ll join.”
When Jian Rong was invited into the WeChat group chat, it was already three in the morning. Everyone else had gone to rest, only he was still playing ranked. By the time he looked at the group chat, there were already several dozen messages in it.
[Fighting Tiger Luoluo: Would any team be interested in scheduling a practice match for the day after tomorrow.]
[Fighting Tiger Da Niu: Welcome newcomer.]
[UUG Yaqian3: We’re available. Who got added?]
[MFG Kongkong: We’re also available! Luo-ge notice this pitiful Kongkong pls TAT!]
[WZWZ-Mini: It’s actually someone who God Lu added 0.0, who is it, your team’s little substitute?]
[TTC Xiao Bai: Er, it’s our team’s new mid laner.]
With that, the group instantly went silent for a few minutes.
[TTC Yuan Qian: Hahaha, our mid laner is different from how he is in his streams, he’s very easy-going.]
[TTC Pine: . ]
[TTC Xiao Bai: ^^]
Seeing no sign of Soft for quite a while, everyone thought that he had muted the chat and started to chat casually again.
[UUG Yaqian: Ask your teammates this and see if they’ll believe it?]
[Fighting Tiger Luoluo: I thought that my educational level was too low and couldn’t understand, so I specially went to search on Baidu what ‘easy-going’ meant.]
[WZWZ-Mini: He insulted pretty well during the spring season match]
[WZWZ-Mini: Typo, I meant he played pretty well]
Jian Rong wasn’t interested in group chats, nor did he know what to say. He swept a glance over the chat before he went to put down his phone and continue playing ranked.
[R-ong: Hello everyone, very pleased to meet you all.]
A few seconds later.
On Sunday, Jian Rong got up an hour late because he had practiced for too long the night before.
When he walked into the practice room, he discovered that there were two empty seats. Lu Boyuan and Yuan Qian were both absent.
Jian Rong took a bite of his bread and asked indistinctly, “Where are the others? Don’t we have a practice match soon?”
Recently, they had been having practice matches every day starting promptly at three in the afternoon, to the point that Jian Rong was almost accustomed to this kind of daily schedule.
“Today’s Sunday, what practice match… P-baby save me! This ADC wants to kill your little support!!” Xiao Bai found a chance to answer him, “Qian-ge went on a date.”
Jian Rong was startled. “A date?”
“Mn.” Xiao Bai glanced at him, confused. “Qian-ge has a girlfriend, you didn’t know?”
Jian Rong swallowed his mouthful of bread and shook his head.
For the most part, esports players were all robust and vigorous young men in their late teens or early twenties, and it was very normal for them to date. Shiliu had told him about some gossip concerning professional players before, but seeing Jian Rong’s disinterest, he hadn’t mentioned it again.
Xiao Bai didn’t look back as he said, “Qian-ge and my sister-in-law are pretty low-key, so it’s normal for you not to know. His partner is a female streamer.”
Jian Rong: “Female streamer?”
Xiao Bai gave an “en.” “Is that such a shock? Aren’t the people that we have contact with just this sort? Streamers, fans, staff members.”
Jian Rong thought about it before nodding in agreement.
“Speaking of which, did you hear about what happened with that European team recently?” Xiao Bai said, “About them recruiting a female member.”
Jian Rong opened the game client. “That female mid laner? Didn’t she retire not long after? Seems like it was because she didn’t have good coordination with her teammates.”
“You believe that?” Xiao Bai laughed. “Have you seen a photo of that female player before? She’s a beauty, and she also has a good figure.”
Jian Rong frowned and looked at him with a complicated expression in his eyes.
“It’s not that, what’s with that look?! I wanted to say, she started dating the team’s jungler just a few days after joining the team.”
Jian Rong was puzzled. “And then what? Not allowed to date?”
“…well, there isn’t actually such a rule. Almost everyone who plays competitively are guys, what club would add a freaking rule prohibiting workplace romance.” Xiao Bai pondered a bit before explaining, “Have you ever run into couples when playing ranked?”
Jian Rong: “There are a lot of them in Diamond.”
Xiao Bai: “You’ve seen how the couples interact, right? At low health, they’ll flash in and act like a shield, or they’ll pointlessly help their wife gank someone, that kind of behavior.”
Jian Rong instantly understood.
“If it was just that, it’d be fine, but they also fooled around in the base, even skipping practice to go on dates… in any case, not long after the team dismissed the female mid laner.” Xiao Bai shook his head and clicked his tongue. “Some time ago, Ding-ge thought highly of a female mid laner and originally wanted to bring her into the trainee team, but because of the European team incident, he shelved that idea. The girl said that the person she looked up to the most was my ge, so how could Ding-ge possibly dare to take that risk.”
This was actually the first time Jian Rong heard about something like this.
He drank half of his milk, but there was still something he couldn’t really understand. “Why did they only dismiss the mid laner and not the jungler?”
The practice room door was pushed open.
“Dismiss who?” The words floated over from above Jian Rong’s head.
Jian Rong tilted his head up and met Lu Boyuan’s eyes.
He swallowed the milk in his mouth. “…nobody.”
In the sunlight, Lu Boyuan’s eyes were a very light sepia color.
He glanced at the plastic packaging on Jian Rong’s computer desk and asked, “Are you full?”
“In the future, let Auntie make you food. One breakfast won’t interfere with your training.” Lu Boyuan shot a look at Jian Rong’s game client. “Don’t start yet. I’ll turn on my computer and we can duo queue.”
Jian Rong liked to duo queue with Lu Boyuan very much.
Only half of the reason was because he was strong.
“Jian Rong.” Through the headphones, Lu Boyuan asked, “Need blue?”
Lu Boyuan’s voice was naturally somewhat deep, and listening to it made the tips of Jian Rong’s ears itch. He glanced at the blue buff on him that was about to run out before he silently turned up the volume for the in-game voice chat. “Yes.”
“Mn.” Lu Boyuan pinged the enemy’s blue buff. He said mildly, “I’ll take you to get it.”
They duo queued together the entire day, and they even ran into Fighting Tiger’s Niu-ge in the middle of the night.
Niu-ge was playing Caitlyn, and after a team fight ended, Jian Rong fled with low health. From some distance away, Caitlyn released her ult towards him.
Caitlyn’s ult was targeted, and as long as the bullet left her gun, it would hit its target 100% of the time.
Jian Rong gave up on struggling and already prepared himself to recall to base for free after dying. He was about to pull up the shop and buy items when the sound of a flash entered his ears.
Lu Boyuan controlled Lee Sin to ward hop4 and flash, brilliantly helping Jian Rong block the bullet at the very last second. Lu Boyuan didn’t have much health in the first place, and after blocking that, he had less than 100 HP left.
Jian Rong was momentarily stunned.
“Don’t zone out.” Lu Boyuan said, “Run.”
[[All] Fighting Tiger Da Niu: God Lu, your team’s going to win anyway, can’t you just give me the kill]
[[All] TTC ་ Road: Mid is worth 400 gold, don’t want to give.]
[[All] Fighting Tiger Da Niu: You’re worth even more gold than him, were you not afraid of me taking you out with one bullet?]
[[All] TTC ་ Road: I calculated my health, you wouldn’t be able to take me out.]
Jian Rong snapped out of it and made his champion run towards their base, his mouse clattering as he clicked on it.
Fuck, it was all Xiao Bai’s fault for telling him some nonsense earlier that afternoon…
They queued from the afternoon all the way until late at night and only lost one game.
Winning consecutively would put people in a good mood. After that game finished, Jian Rong had just pressed ‘Find Match’ when his teammate canceled it.
Jian Rong subconsciously looked back.
Only to see Lu Boyuan let go of the mouse and lightly rotate his wrist, curling and extending his fingers. His voice was the same as usual. “Not playing anymore.”
Jian Rong watched him for a few seconds before he said, “Oh… okay.”
Lu Boyuan turned off his computer and glanced down at his wrist. After a long pause, he opened the drawer and took out a pain relief patch before putting it in his pocket. He stood up and started to walk out of the practice room.
“Captain.” As he passed by a certain computer desk, someone tugged on his jacket.
Lu Boyuan stopped. “Mn.”
Jian Rong stared at his wrist. “Does your hand feel uncomfortable?”
Lu Boyuan was silent for a few beats. “Mn, it’s sore from playing for a long time.”
Jian Rong let out an “oh.” “…that’s normal.”
Although he said that, he was still gripping Lu Boyuan’s jacket.
Even though Jian Rong had only heard bits and pieces of what Ding-ge said last time, for some reason he had never forgotten it.
He didn’t let go, nor did Lu Boyuan urge him to.
“I know a kind of massage technique…” A long while later, Jian Rong spoke. “My dad taught it to me, and I feel really good every time I do it. Do you want to give it a try?”
Lu Boyuan lifted an eyebrow and stared at the little mole on Jian Rong’s nose for a bit. “Okay.”
They went to the living room on the first floor.
Jian Rong used his right hand to press against his left and demonstrated to Lu Boyuan, “Right here, rotate it like this while pressing down. You can use a little force…”
Lu Boyuan extended his hand in front of Jian Rong.
Jian Rong’s movements paused. “?”
“My hand is sore, I can’t press down on it from any angle.” Lu Boyuan leaned against the sofa, his shoulder propped against Jian Rong’s. He had exceeded the practice time set by the doctor today, so he really did feel somewhat weary. “You help me massage it for a while?”
Jian Rong gazed at his hand and didn’t move.
Jian Rong’s eyelashes were very long, and it was especially obvious from the side. Lu Boyuan watched him for a few seconds before he started to retract his hand. “Just teasing you…”
Jian Rong grabbed his hand.
In order to maintain a clear-headed state, Jian Rong would crack the windows open a bit when playing the game, so his hands were a little cold from the breeze.
“I’ve never tried to do it for someone else before.” Jian Rong paused briefly. “If it hurts or feels uncomfortable… let me know.”
Ding-ge and the assistant coach returned to the base, each person carrying two bags of crayfish.
When they were almost at the front door, the assistant coach remembered something and said, “That’s right, Ding-ge, the female player that you rejected last time went to be a trainee in MFG.”
Ding-ge said, “I know.”
The assistant coach cleared his throat. “Actually, I think that the young lady plays pretty well. If we put her in the second team and let her get some experience, maybe she could’ve even kept pace with the starting team’s rhythm…”
“She does play pretty well, but the risk was too high.” Ding-ge shook his head. “It’s because you’ve never seen the way that she looks at Road… if we really did recruit her into the team and they ended up living together all the time, who knows what would’ve happened. Forget it, forget it.”
“But it’s not like our team prohibits members from dating.”
“We don’t prohibit members from dating, but dating within the team is out of the question. Did you not see what kind of state that European team ended up in?” Ding-ge pushed open the door to the base. “And we did the right thing by not recruiting her, I feel like our current mid laner is already pretty…”
Ding-ge’s voice petered out halfway through.
Seeing him suddenly stop, the assistant coach followed his line of sight, confused, and looked into the room—
In the living room, their ace jungler was sitting slouched on the sofa. His head drooped downwards, and he seemed to be nearly asleep.
Their newly recruited bluenette little mid laner was sitting sideways. His head was lowered as he clasped their jungler’s hand in his own, concentrating on massaging and kneading it gently and slowly…
Ding-ge remained frozen in his movement to enter. After a long pause, he finished the last word of his sentence. “Good.”
- The author notes here that as of right now, the import rule has not been lifted, but for the sake of ICDI just pretend that it has ^
- Literally it means ‘big ox’ ^
- Yaqian = toothpick, this author’s names lmao ^
- When a champion dashes/leaps over to an ally ^
Yan: Never fear, Ding-ge’s words are not a flag 🙂 there is much intrateam sugar to be had~