Jian Rong didn’t even think about it before nodding. “We have. I was also at the stadium during the last Worlds finals.”
Lu Boyuan paused and laughed in spite of himself. “My memory isn’t that bad. I’m talking about before the finals…”
After he finished sending Ding-ge a message, Lu Boyuan tilted his head and looked at Jian Rong’s hair. “Before you dyed your hair, have we met before?”
Jian Rong opened his mouth but didn’t say anything.
Because he also didn’t know whether their earliest encounter could be considered as “meeting” one another. He was certain that at the time, Lu Boyuan definitely hadn’t seen what Jian Rong clearly looked like.
In the end, Jian Rong said, “I’ve seen you before.”
Lu Boyuan nodded. “Back when I was playing in the LSPL1?”
“Yes.” Jian Rong thought about it and said, “I was there at the competition at the time.”
Which was why he had that merch hat.
That way, it all made sense. Although it had been the finals, the LSPL was the secondary league, and esports hadn’t become popular yet either, so the competition site was very small. With one glance, the entire audience could be seen.
But Lu Boyuan didn’t really remember himself looking at the audience back then.
He knitted his eyebrows together a tiny bit before quickly relaxing them. “How come you’re only wearing a mask.”
“I accidentally got my hat wet, but I didn’t blow-dry it because I was pressed for time. I returned the scarf.”
Jian Rong had already donated his scarf from last year to the little orange cat. Since he hadn’t really gone outside much this winter, he just never bought another one.
Someone knocked on the driver’s side window. They both looked over simultaneously to see two police officers standing outside the car.
Lu Boyuan rolled down the car window. The police officer extended his head forward. “Were you two the ones who called in the report?”
Jian Rong: “Yes.”
Jian Rong put on his mask and was about to get out of the car when the person sitting next to him gently pulled at his arm.
Lu Boyuan tossed the scarf that he just took off to Jian Rong.
Lu Boyuan’s body heat still lingered on the scarf. Jian Rong gripped it and stared blankly at it for a few seconds. “No need, I’m not cold.”
Lu Boyuan didn’t reply. He opened the door and got out of the car while also tugging the collar of his turtleneck higher. He said to the police officer outside, “Sir, you’ve worked hard. The lock to our base has been pried open, and someone should have entered. We haven’t gone inside yet, so we still aren’t sure if there’s been any damage…”
The car door closed, and Lu Boyuan’s voice grew muffled from outside the car.
Lu Boyuan’s back was to Jian Rong. His jacket was wrapped solidly around his upper body, making the man’s broad shoulders and long legs even more obvious. Lu Boyuan’s head was slightly lowered as he talked to the police officers, and he said something that caused the police officer to look over at Jian Rong, who was sitting in the passenger seat.
Jian Rong instantly snapped out of it and hastily put on the scarf before getting out of the car.
The police officer had already gained a rough understanding of the situation. He finished writing down his notes before saying, “Come on, let’s go in and take a look.”
Since they didn’t know whether someone was still inside, the police officers prepared themselves before opening the door. After pushing open the front door, Lu Boyuan turned on the light in the living room.
The drawers underneath the TV were pulled out, and things were scattered all over the floor; someone had evidently rummaged through them. If the first story was already such a mess, it was apparent what condition the stories above would be in.
Twenty minutes later, they had more or less confirmed what was lost.
The desktop computers, televisions, and other large electronic devices were still there. All the cash had been stolen, along with Ding-ge’s and Xiao Bai’s laptops, Yuan Qian’s console, and Pine’s shoes. Lu Boyuan also lost a watch.
“How much was your watch worth?” the police officer asked, opening his notebook.
Lu Boyuan contemplated. “Approximately 200,000 yuan2.”
The police: “…”
Jian Rong: “…”
Jian Rong’s face was full of regret. “Leaving a watch worth 200,000 in the base… why didn’t you tell me?!”
Lu Boyuan: “I only just remembered that I owned such a watch.”
Jian Rong: “…”
200,000 gone, just like that.
He should have just thickened his face and asked someone from the proprietor group chat from before to feed the little orange cat. Someone should’ve been willing to help as long as he provided some money, and he could’ve gone back after the others returned to the base on the third…
With such a huge base, how did he possibly feel reassured enough to go out?!
“Alright then.” The police officer went silent for a few seconds before he said consolingly, “We’ll do our best to track down the thief. There are monitoring stations all around your area, so it should be very easy to catch the burglar. Even daring to barge into this kind of district, that thief really threw caution to the wind… thankfully your teammate wasn’t home, or else I’m afraid that something might’ve happened.”
Lu Boyuan walked alongside the police officer and let out an “en.” “Yes.”
After completing the inspection and before leaving, the police officer warned them, “You guys should either change this lock or stay elsewhere tonight. There are quite a few valuable items inside, I’m worried that the thief might slip back in the middle of the night to steal something else. It isn’t safe.”
“Let him try.” Jian Rong grinded his teeth. “If I see him, I’ll…”
“Understood.” Lu Boyuan said to the police officer, “Sir, don’t worry, we won’t stay here tonight.”
Once the police officers left, Jian Rong peered around, wanting to find a convenient weapon that he could use to camp out at the base and wait for the thief.
In order to verify that the remaining valuables hadn’t been damaged, they had turned on the TV in the living room. After the Spring Festival Gala’s host finished a resounding recitation of the script, the countdown to the New Year began.
When the host yelled out a “one,” Jian Rong finally realized that he should be saying or doing something at this time. He swiftly retracted his gaze from the knife in the kitchen and looked at Lu Boyuan, who was standing next to him. “Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year,” Lu Boyuan said at the same time.
Both of them paused, and then Lu Boyuan laughed.
Jian Rong watched him smile, and he thought that he should have first reported the robbery to the police before calling Ding-ge. With the police here, Ding-ge wouldn’t have asked someone else to make a trip over, and Lu Boyuan would have been stepping into the new year with his family at this moment.
“Let’s go.” Lu Boyuan interrupted his train of thought. “Go upstairs and get some clothes, we’re going back.”
Jian Rong pulled himself together. “Going where?”
In the car.
Jian Rong hugged his backpack as he sat in the passenger seat. “It’s better if I don’t disturb you, I can just go back to my own place” circled around inside his mouth for quite some time, but he never ended up saying it out loud.
They had just started driving for a short while when both of their phones rang simultaneously with the ringtone from a WeChat group call. Lu Boyuan didn’t even have to guess to know which group chat it belonged to. He declined the call and said, “You answer.”
By the time Jian Rong picked up the phone and put the call on speaker, the other people had already been chatting for some time.
“I was going to switch out that console anyway.” Yuan Qian didn’t really care. “If it was stolen, so be it.”
Xiao Bai: “Wuwuwu this was the only year I didn’t bring my laptop back. I have so many things stored on that laptop, what do I do if they can’t find it?”
The sound of firecrackers roared from Pine’s end, and he asked indifferently, “Porn?”
Xiao Bai was shocked. “P-baby, you’re so dirty. Fine there are a few videos, I was even planning on sending some to Jian Rong as his eighteenth birthday present.”
Jian Rong instantly interrupted. “Get lost, I don’t want them.”
“Hey you’re here?” Xiao Bai was eating something, so his words were muffled. “Don’t be so disdainful ah, those are all the best of the best. I’ll give you one chance to take back what you just said.”
With a few short lines from Xiao Bai, everyone’s gloomy mood from being robbed dissipated a bit.
“Enough.” Ding-ge cut them off and muttered, “How come Xiao Lu still hasn’t picked up the call.”
Lu Boyuan had one hand on the steering wheel. “I’m here.”
Ding-ge was startled. “You’re still at the base?”
“In the car, on the way back.” Lu Boyuan explained, “Jian Rong is staying at my place tonight.”
“That works too. I was going to find a hotel for him to stay in, but it’s fine if he also goes back with you.” Ding-ge spoke again, “Jian Rong, you weren’t given a scare, were you?”
Jian Rong watched the flurries of snow that had just started falling outside the window. “No.”
Ding-ge let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good. Let me know in the group chat when you guys get back, so I can be at ease.”
Xiao Bai and the rest continued to chat for quite some time in the call. After hanging up, his phone showed that they had been calling for forty minutes.
Jian Rong locked his screen. “We’re not there yet?”
Lu Boyuan glanced at the navigation system. “There’s still a while to go.”
Jian Rong was astonished. “You… drove for so long to come over?”
Lu Boyuan hummed. “It’s been too long since I last drove, I was a little unused to it. First sleep for a bit, I’ll wake you once we get there. Do you know how to adjust the seat?”
Jian Rong sat up straight and shook his head. “It’s fine, I’m not sleepy.”
Although that’s what he said, when Lu Boyuan drove into a gas station, Jian Rong had already fallen asleep with his head tilted to the side.
The light from the gas station drifted in from the car window, casting long shadows underneath Jian Rong’s eyelashes. Lu Boyuan stared at the mole on the tip of Jian Rong’s nose for a few seconds, only looking away once an employee at the gas station walked over to the car.
Lu Boyuan rolled down the window and held a finger up to his lips in a ‘shh’ gesture. He said quietly, “Top it up, thank you.”
While the gas was being filled, Jian Rong frowned and shifted his head, as if he wasn’t sleeping very comfortably.
Sensing the movement, Lu Boyuan glanced over at him again before quickly withdrawing his gaze.
A few seconds later, Lu Boyuan unobtrusively unbuckled his seatbelt, opened the door, and got out of the car.
He pulled open the passenger side’s door. He stretched one hand underneath the seat, fumbling around for the button, while he pressed his other hand against the top of Jian Rong’s head, slowly leaning the seat all the way back.
Jian Rong’s hair was extremely soft. Everyone said that dyeing your hair damaged it, but Jian Rong’s hair wasn’t really affected even after he had touched up his color so many times. Even after Lu Boyuan released him, the soft sensation continued to linger in his palm.
Two minutes later, Lu Boyuan returned to the driver’s seat, started the car, and drove out of the gas station.
Lu Boyuan might have said that he was a little unused to it, but his driving was very steady.
The streetlamps crisscrossed and slanted their light into the car. Half a minute passed, and Jian Rong stealthily opened his eyes.
Lu Boyuan’s jawline was sharp and clearcut, smooth and defined. When he swallowed, his Adam’s apple, a symbol of masculinity, bobbed very lightly.
Thirteen-year-old Jian Rong thought that Lu Boyuan was the most handsome man in the entire world; seventeen-year-old Jian Rong still did as well.
A very long time ago, Jian Rong had also once looked at him like this… perhaps his angle back then had been even a bit lower.
At that time, Jian Rong’s job application had just been rejected by the boss of the internet cafe.
Jian Rong said, I know that you hire child labor here, the manager in charge of the second computer section is only sixteen. I know everything, and also he doesn’t play as well as I do in the game!
A thirteen-year-old child’s voice was very loud, and all the customers sitting nearby were laughing.
The internet cafe boss scowled and said that a sixteen-year-old was child labor, but you, a thirteen-year-old, would be damn baby labor. Hurry up and scram, don’t disturb laozi’s business.
After that, Jian Rong was driven out. By that time, he had already visited quite a few shops, and he was truly tired. As a result, he patted his pants and sat down at the entrance of the internet cafe, freeloading off of the air conditioning. Even after the boss verbally tried to chase him away numerous times, he lounged around and refused to leave.
Until someone patted the top of his head. Jian Rong covered his head and swiveled around. “I already said I’m leaving soon—”
When he saw unfamiliar blue jeans, Jian Rong froze momentarily before he looked up—but this person really was way too tall, and he had to raise his head a lot in order to see who it was.
A teenager he didn’t know was looking down at him, eyelids lowered, with an indifferent expression in his eyes.
This kind of assessing gaze truly couldn’t be interpreted as friendly in a thirteen-year-old child’s mind.
But the teenager was too handsome, and Jian Rong stared at him blankly for a while before he finally copied the internet cafe boss and scowled, fiercely asking a ‘what do you want.’
The teenager didn’t say anything. He only fished out an admission ticket from his pocket and handed it to Jian Rong, along with a coffee that he had just purchased.
Even though Jian Rong was young, he still understood the meaning of that gesture. As he was hesitating over whether or not to accept it, the teenager suddenly withdrew his hand, turned around, and went into the internet cafe.
Little Jian Rong: ?!
Feeling like he had been played, little Jian Rong was infuriated, but he also felt like he wasn’t a match for this person. Consequently, he vented his anger out on his hair that had just been patted.
All the way up until the teenager came out again.
This time, the other person was also carrying a bottle of milk. When he saw that Jian Rong was in the middle of tousling his own hair, the teenager furrowed his eyebrows in confusion but didn’t question it. Once more, he handed over the admission ticket along with the milk.
“Come watch if you want.” The teenager’s voice was a little deep. “If not, take it inside and sell it for some money.”
A few seconds later, he added, “But you can only sell it according to the ticket price.”
In a daze, Jian Rong took the items being handed over and momentarily didn’t respond. He also forgot to thank the teenager.
“League of Legends LSPL Finals Admission Ticket” was written on the ticket, and it was taking place that very afternoon.
Back then, he had already been playing LoL for two years. Even though he didn’t know what the LSPL was, he could tell that this was a competition.
The teenager’s phone rang, and he glanced at the incoming call before answering it. “I’ll be back soon.”
By the time little Jian Rong collected his thoughts, the teenager had already crossed the street, only leaving behind a blurry silhouette.
Later, he entered the internet cafe holding that ticket and negotiated a price for it that was twice as expensive as the original value.
The other person cursed him for being a little scalper while simultaneously pulling out money. As the person was handing over the cash, little Jian Rong suddenly remembered the look in the teenager’s eyes when he was giving him the ticket.
Jian Rong reneged on the offer and ran away with the ticket.
Afterwards, he walked over to the competition venue. Because he was young, the staff member hesitated for quite a while before allowing him to enter.
He waited for ten minutes before he saw that teenager walk into the competition room, holding his keyboard.
He was wearing the black sweatshirt and jeans that Jian Rong had just seen him wear earlier that morning. The teenager’s lips were pressed together, and he didn’t talk to anyone around him, standing amidst the crowd like a crane amidst a flock of chickens.
There was only one commentator, and with a dialect, he introduced to the audience—this is TTC’s jungler, Road.
The car stopped, and Jian Rong abruptly snapped out of it before immediately closing his eyes.
“We’re here.” After parking, Lu Boyuan turned off the car’s engine.
When the person next to him didn’t move, Lu Boyuan stared at Jian Rong’s trembling eyelashes for a few seconds before he smiled and looked away.
“Jian Rong… You’re even worse at feigning sleep than you are at pretending like you can’t beat your opponent.”
- Referring to it as LSPL here bc that’s what it was called when LBY was playing in it back then ^
- ~$30,000… boi ^