After Ding-ge announced that those who reported smokers would be rewarded, not only did nobody report anything, some people even went so far as to cover up and take the blame for someone else—that was really freaking something that Ding-ge would’ve absolutely never expected.
The sound of money entering his wallet rang through the air.
Even though Lu Boyuan had never once been penalized by the LPL in his five year career, he had lost quite a bit of money to Ding-ge. For the past year, it could be said that he, Yuan Qian, and Pine were the three people who had paid for all of TTC’s midnight snacks.
“Transferred the money to you.” Lu Boyuan put away his phone.
Only then did Ding-ge remember: if he could only pick one person who was the most proficient in handing over the penalty fee, then that person would still be Lu Boyuan.
Actually, Ding-ge didn’t ban smoking before. After all, nine out of ten professional players all smoked. The pressure in this profession was too great; newcomers continuously poured in and the audience had strict expectations. A player could be insulted to the point that they entered the hot search just for losing a single match, so the taste of nicotine could grant them a moment of reprieve.
But at the beginning of last year, a professional player found out that he had end stage lung cancer, and he retired then and there.
Getting lung cancer at only 23 years old: that piece of news scared countless clubs, and one after another they internally required that their players quit smoking.
Ding-ge clenched his teeth and came out with this callous rule. However, he used all the penalty money that he received on the players themselves. He was the one who paid for takeout, eating out at restaurants, and even occasionally new clothes. In fact, it was basically the same as everyone putting their money into a savings account with him.
“Didn’t you already quit, more or less?” Ding-ge frowned. “How come you took it back up again recently?”
Lu Boyuan slipped his phone into his pocket. “I only smoked one cigarette, most of it is the smell of the barbeque stand.”
Ding-ge pondered over it briefly. XIU was most likely in a bad mood if he were to call Lu Boyuan over in the middle of the night, and linking that to PUD’s recent internal news…
He gave an almost imperceptible sigh. “In any case, smoke a little less. I bought breakfast, go and eat up.”
TTC’s practice room was especially noisy today—
Yuan Qian took a gulp of water. “What champions have I been practicing lately… of course I can’t say. Just wait and see, you’ll find out soon enough. Water friends who haven’t followed me yet, hit that follow button, I’m only two hundred away from rounding out the follower count.”
Pine: “Thank you for the gift.”
“Come come come it’s the end of the month bros, help me charge onto the rankings, all your free gifts will reset next month! Kongkong just stole 16 points from me, I’m bound to surpass him on today’s livestream ranking!” Xiao Bai leaned in towards the barrage. “What? You’re saving it for my ge? Don’t worry, my ge won’t be streaming again this month, he might not even stream next month. Giving it to Soft? His stream is ranked so high, he doesn’t need it—”
Jian Rong was only wearing headphones over one ear, and he said coldly, “I want it.”
“?” Xiao Bai said incredulously, “How come you’re stealing my business?”
Jian Rong said, “You’re the one stealing my business, they already said that they’re giving it to me.”
Xiao Bai lowered his head, feeling wronged, and fiercely inhaled a mouthful of yogurt.
Actually, Jian Rong was just joking around. He didn’t want to stream today; there were too many people streaming at the end of the month, so the stream traffic wouldn’t be as good as usual. It wasn’t worthwhile to join in the fun.
He had just finished a solo queue game.
Jian Rong stared at the scoreboard for a while. He kept feeling like the last two games had been somewhat boring.
He cast a glance behind him and happened to spot Lu Boyuan tossing his empty soy milk cup into the trash can.
After spacing out in front of the matchmaking screen for half a minute, Jian Rong picked up his phone and sent Lu Boyuan a text.
Immediately afterwards, Jian Rong continued to type out three words: Wanna duo Q
“Captain, are you done eating? I’m on my side account, should we start queueing now?” Yuan Qian turned his head and asked.
“Mn, I’m logging in now,” Lu Boyuan said before he picked up his vibrating phone and glanced at it.
“Ah, yeah, I’m duo queueing with Captain today.” Yuan Qian said to the barrage, “Coach said that our coordination is still lacking a bit in terms of tower-pushing and counterganking, so he told us to practice together more… it’s fine, we’re only practicing our coordination, not any strategies or tactics. It’s fine if I stream it.”
Jian Rong stared at the text that he had already sent out, and for the first time, he detested his online chatting habit of splitting something that could be sent in one message into two.
Jian Rong: “…”
The hand that he had propped up under his chin slowly traveled upwards, until it was braced against his forehead.
Since he had already gotten Lu Boyuan’s attention, he had no choice but to brace himself and respond.
[R-ong: I’m going to the break room… do you want some instant coffee?]
Jian Rong felt embarrassed right after he asked that. When he made instant coffee, it was either extremely bitter because he didn’t put anything in it, or it was sweet enough to kill someone because he put in too much milk and sugar.
[R: No thanks.]
Before Jian Rong could reply, his phone vibrated again two seconds later—
[R: Once I’m done practicing with Qian-ge, we can Q together for a while?]
Jian Rong’s eyes lit up. With pursed lips and an expressionless face, he swiftly answered with an “okay.”
Everyone practiced from noon till nightfall. While they were eating dinner, they started watching the live broadcast of PUD’s match.
PUD was playing against Fighting Tiger tonight, and it could be considered as one of the bigger highlights of the regular spring season.
“Who do you guys think will win?” Xiao Bai held a bag of potato chips and kicked back in a position suited for watching a movie.
“Not necessarily, Fighting Tiger is fairly stable. PUD is still in its adjustment period.” Yuan Qian was eating a popsicle. “After all, they have three Koreans on their team now.”
“The other two Koreans are really good at Chinese, Savior should be the only one who isn’t quite up to par.” Xiao Bai looked at the people next to him. “What about you two? Who do you think will win?”
Thinking of the text bombardment that he had received upon waking up, Lu Boyuan said indifferently, “PUD.”
Jian Rong chewed on his gum. He didn’t even think about the question, he just also answered, “PUD.”
Xiao Bai: “Why?”
“No particular reason.” Jian Rong said simply, “Randomly picked one.”
Lu Boyuan’s lips curled up, and he checked on how XIU was doing through the camera.
XIU was evidently even more nervous than usual. He sat ramrod straight, as if this were his first competition ever. Someone unfamiliar with the circumstances might’ve even assumed that he was a newcomer that had crawled out of some corner.
In this match, the two teams played the full BO3, and each game took over forty minutes.
Forty minutes could be considered a very long game. Fighting Tiger excelled at playing in the late game, but PUD wasn’t one to be outdone either. The two teams brilliantly embodied the term “macro”1—farming together in the early game, you kill my top laner I kill your ADC, you clear my wolf camp I clear your raptor camp… there were no more than three large-scale team fights in every game.
In a situation where both teams used the same tactics, the individual strength of PUD’s members was clearly a cut above Fighting Tiger’s.
In the end, Fighting Tiger was defeated twice in a row, and PUD won the match with a score of 2:1.
After the match ended, Xiao Bai asked faintly, “We’re playing PUD next week, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.” Yuan Qian paused. “How come I feel like… PUD has become even stronger?”
Pine hummed. “Even though both sides had approximately the same amount of gold at thirty minutes, it felt like PUD was suppressing Fighting Tiger the whole time.”
“No kidding.” Ding-ge was standing behind them. “They just spent 16 million yuan buying their new mid laner, how could they possibly be weaker than before? A language barrier is hardly a big deal, anyone can go on stage as long as they can understand pings.”
Xiao Bai was astonished. “16 million??”
“I don’t know the specific price. In any case, the starting price quoted to me was 16 million for two seasons, but I didn’t agree. He probably quoted around the same price to PUD, or even more.”
“So damn expensive…” Yuan Qian swore before he couldn’t help but ask their mid laner, “Jian Rong, how much was your signing bonus? You only signed on for one season, right? The contract is set to expire right after the spring season?”
“Mn.” Jian Rong stuffed both hands into his pockets and leaned back in his chair. A few seconds passed before he said coldly, “1.4 million.”
Everyone went silent for a moment, before they simultaneously looked at Ding-ge.
Ding-ge coughed lightly.
Originally, he did want to propose a somewhat higher price, but unexpectedly, right after he threw out a number, Jian Rong agreed to it without even thinking twice.
“Why are you all looking at me?” Ding-ge said, “Even though it isn’t that high, it’s already a very reasonable price. What other newcomer could become a starter right after entering the team and get a salary in the millions to boot?”
What Ding-ge said made some sense; if this were a few months ago, that price would still be considered normal. After all, when the other three people joined the team, their monthly income wasn’t even two thousand. Back then, Pine’s signing bonus was also 800,000 yuan for one season.
The only thing was, Jian Rong had performed too well after entering the team, so people subconsciously felt like he deserved a better price.
The camera switched over to the post-match interview. XIU was the MVP of this match, and after he answered a few standard questions, he said that he was looking forward to confronting Road’s jungle the most.
Lu Boyuan wasn’t really interested in watching the rest. He stood up and very gently patted the hair of his team’s mid laner, who wore a resentful scowl on his face because his market value was one sixth2 of someone else’s.
“You’ll become expensive next season.” He said, “Don’t watch anymore, let’s go duo queue.”
Ding-ge always worked quickly and decisively when it came to business.
Jian Rong had signed the keyboard ambassador contract a long time ago. On Sunday, Jian Rong received the notification informing him that he had to go take marketing photos.
Ding-ge instructed, “I have to take care of some other things today, so I contacted two assistants. They’ll come over soon and go over there with you.”
“It’s fine, I can just go by myself.” Jian Rong was in the middle of a game, and he rejected the offer without looking back.
“Taking brand ambassador photos isn’t the same thing as taking team photos. The photographer will have quite a few requests,” Ding-ge persevered. “Also, you’re a starter, so how could I possibly let you go over by yourself? No matter what, there has to be an assistant with you. Just wait a bit, it’ll take them twenty minutes to get over here by taxi. You should head out after this game.”
When Jian Rong thought about having to interact with two strangers for an entire afternoon, his brows furrowed together. “I said that it’s fine…”
“I’ll go with him.”
Everyone else in the practice room was startled. Jian Rong couldn’t even bother to keep eating the minions, and he turned his head in shock.
Lu Boyuan picked up his jacket and stood up. “What time do they want him to get there?”
Ding-ge was originally thinking that maybe two assistants weren’t even enough. After all, Jian Rong could also be considered a little esports male god at this point. As a newcomer, he was much stronger than the majority of esports players in all aspects, besides his salary.
But for Lu Boyuan to go with him… their combined popularity level would really be a little too freaking high. When Lu Boyuan went to take his own endorsement photos, Ding-ge had arranged for eight people to go along with him.
But Lu Boyuan insisted on accompanying Jian Rong over, and Ding-ge couldn’t really say anything about it. After all, it was Sunday, so the members could request to go outside after fulfilling their practice quotas for the day.
Upon hearing that Lu Boyuan wanted to go over with him, Jian Rong subconsciously wanted to decline.
But at the same time, when the words reached his mouth, he couldn’t quite bear to voice them; he was afraid that Lu Boyuan really wouldn’t go.
As Jian Rong was tossing back and forth between declining the offer or remaining silent, Lu Boyuan had already finished getting ready and was discussing the specific location for filming with Ding-ge.
Ding-ge compromised. “You can go with him if you want, but don’t drive over yourself. It’ll take half an hour to get there, I’ll ask a driver to take you two.”
Lu Boyuan gave an indifferent “en.” “He’s shooting by himself?”
“No way, I already told you, it’s a couple version. Qiuqiu is going too.”
Lu Boyuan nodded and met Jian Rong’s eyes from the corner of his vision. “Done with your game?”
Jian Rong: “…mn.”
Lu Boyuan picked up Jian Rong’s hat from the table and put it on Jian Rong’s head. “Let’s go then.”
There were people everywhere at the film studio. A dozen or so staff members were putting together the set, and the whole situation was much more large-scale than when Jian Rong was taking his team portrait photos.
Although Ding-ge had given him a heads-up in advance, when the makeup artist approached him with eyeliner, Jian Rong’s brows still knitted together tightly enough that he could kill a mosquito between them.
The makeup artist: “Dear, don’t be nervous, I won’t poke your eye, relax~ you’re very sensitive.”
Jian Rong’s eyelashes fluttered wildly, and he pressed his lips together with extreme impatience. After a long time, he finally responded, “…oh.”
Lu Boyuan stood behind him, watching him through the mirror. He was still wearing his hat, and there was a hint of a smile on his lips.
“God Lu?” A man walked over: it was the representative who the manufacturer sent over to supervise the filming. He extended a hand in surprise. “How come you’re here?”
Lu Boyuan shook his hand. “I brought our mid laner over to take marketing photos.”
The man was dumbfounded for two seconds. “You brought him over to take…”
“Mn.” Lu Boyuan smiled. “I had some time, so I wanted to try moonlighting as an assistant.”
“Aiya don’t open your eyes!” The makeup artist shrieked, “It’s over, it’s crooked now, we have to redraw it.”
Jian Rong, who just wanted to peek at who Lu Boyuan was chatting with: “………I’m sorry.”
Once Jian Rong was done with his makeup, Lu Boyuan was sitting in the seat next to his, playing on his phone.
The makeup artist heaved a sigh of relief and arranged the makeup kit before looking at Jian Rong in satisfaction. “Done! Aren’t you so handsome?”
Lu Boyuan looked up.
Jian Rong was already pale, so they hadn’t put too much foundation on him. The eyeliner wasn’t exaggerated either; it only traced his original eye shape.
Lu Boyuan couldn’t really tell the difference. “Mn, handsome.”
Jian Rong resisted the urge to rub his eyes. He narrowed his eyes and looked at himself in the mirror. “I’m… even paler than the wall??”
The makeup artist: “It’s fine, it’s perfect this way. You won’t appear so pale on the camera in a bit.”
Jian Rong: “My eyes look like someone punched them.”
The makeup artist: “…it’s your misperception.”
Jian Rong: “There’s some dust stuck to my nose.”
“…………that’s contour.” The makeup artist forced a smile and complained in a Taiwanese accent, “You’re really such a straight man.”
Lu Boyuan’s smile froze for a moment.
The makeup artist went to take a break. Jian Rong pursed his lips together forcefully, wanting to make the lipstick appear a little lighter.
Lu Boyuan thought that his eyes were still bothering him. “Very uncomfortable?”
Jian Rong turned his head. “A bit. Does this makeup artist not know how to…”
Before he could finish speaking, Lu Boyuan suddenly reached out with his hand and wiped next to his lips, very softly, with the pad of his finger.
Jian Rong went motionless.
Lu Boyuan withdrew his hand, and a blotch of color dyed his finger. “Don’t press your lips together anymore, the lipstick is getting messed up. They’ll have to touch it up if it fades, bear with it.”
Jian Rong kept staring at Lu Boyuan’s hand. Quite a few seconds passed before he finally said, “…got it.”
A few people walked in, escorting a young woman.
Qiuqiu was still young, and with her light and neat makeup, she looked just like a beautiful campus idol in high school. She wore a youthful sweet fragrance, and the entire makeup room was filled with her scent right after she entered.
“God Lu, Soft, hello, it’s nice to meet you both.” Qiuqiu smiled slightly and explained, “I’m missing a pair of shoes on my end, but a staff member already went back for them. It’ll probably be another ten minutes before we can start shooting, so you might have to wait a moment… you two don’t mind, right?”
Jian Rong retracted his gaze and shook his head. “It’s fine.”
“That’s good.” Dimples appeared on Qiuqiu’s cheeks when she smiled. “I really enjoy watching your streams.”
Qiuqiu left soon after, and the door to the makeup room closed again.
“Is she pretty?” Lu Boyuan suddenly asked.
Jian Rong said honestly, “She is.”
Jian Rong always told it like it was.
Qiuqiu was indeed pretty. She brimmed with youth and seemed pure and natural.
Lu Boyuan looked up from his phone. “This is the type that you like?”
Jian Rong was startled, and he answered very quickly, “It’s not, no way.”
Lu Boyuan watched him. “Then what type of girl do you like.”
Jian Rong’s eyes shined under the lights in front of the mirror, and Lu Boyuan was reflected within them.
A long moment later, Jian Rong said, “…I don’t know. I don’t have any girls that I like.”
- Short for macromanagement, refers to the overall strategy/long-term planning of a team (knowing when to take objectives and when to move on, etc) ^
- Savior is 16M for 2 seasons, meaning 8M for 1 season. 8M divided by 6 is roughly 1.3M ^
Yan: Quick announcement! A new novel is up on our site: Panguan by Musuli. You can check out all my ramblings on it at the novel page! It’s basically completely different from ICDI, but I promise it’s so, so good.