Every member of TTC had a clean shirt packed in their equipment bag. That way, it was a little more convenient for them to eat out at a restaurant or do other things after a match.
Jian Rong and Lu Boyuan had both brought white short-sleeved shirts. They sat in the backseat of the car they had called via an app, wearing the black masks that Ding-ge had forcefully stuffed in their hands before they left.
The temperature outside was warming up again, but in order to save money, the taxi drivers didn’t turn on air conditioning until the heat of summer hit. At a red light, the driver couldn’t resist glancing in the rearview mirror.
Though both of the guys were securely covered up, it wasn’t hard to tell that they had superior facial features, especially the taller one on the right, with the broad shoulders and long legs. According to the driver’s past experiences… they seemed like celebrities.
Something else was also quite odd. His car was an SUV, and the backseat was spacious, meaning there was more than enough room for them to each take a side. But the two guys were still sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, with a black backpack placed on the far right seat instead.
The taller guy suddenly looked up at him, and the driver hurriedly withdrew his gaze.
Jian Rong didn’t notice this brief interlude. During his livestream yesterday, he had promised his water friends that he would be streaming gameplay on the Korean server for the next several nights.
So at that current moment, he was in the middle of posting on Weibo. The content of the post was simple—[TTC ་ Soft: No stream tonight.]
In less than a few minutes, over 200 comments had popped up, cursing him out and saying that he was breaking his promise, going back on his word, had no ambition, and wasn’t a man.
Jian Rong thought, If I rejected Lu Boyuan and went back to the base to stream, then I really wouldn’t be a man.
The last comment he spotted before he locked his phone was one from a fan asking him what he was going to do if he wasn’t streaming.
Jian Rong hesitated for two seconds, locked his phone, and cast a glance outside the window.
Going on a date—did this count as one?
Apart from the members’ underwear and socks, the auntie washed all their other clothing for them together in the washing machine and then hung them up to dry, which was why their clothes all smelled like the same laundry detergent.
Lu Boyuan’s legs were long, so it actually wasn’t very comfortable for him to sit in the middle seat. Luckily, this was a big car. One of Lu Boyuan’s legs was carelessly bent, while the other one slanted towards Jian Rong, his knee pressing against Jian Rong’s leg without any real force.
Jian Rong tensed his legs and didn’t move an inch. He stared absent-mindedly out the window until Lu Boyuan spoke.
Lu Boyuan looked up from his phone. “Suisui’s mom is also at the clinic.”
Jian Rong was caught off guard. “Who’s Suisui?”
Lu Boyuan said mildly, “The little female cat.”
Jian Rong: “…”
Little Orange was the one in the wrong here, and Jian Rong was the worst at handling this sort of thing. He frowned. “Then how much money should we compensate her with in a bit?”
Lu Boyuan: “It won’t cost that much, don’t worry.”
Jian Rong nodded. A few seconds later, he mumbled, “What do we do with the kittens after they’re born.”
He had been contemplating this problem for a very long time.
The survival rate for stray kittens was extremely low, and even fewer could survive long enough to grow up properly. If Jian Rong still lived in his former neighborhood, he probably would’ve bitten the bullet and taken them in himself. Yuan Qian was allergic to cats, so he couldn’t bring them back to the base… under the current circumstances, he couldn’t just leave all the kittens at the animal clinic either.
“The clinic should be able to help find people to adopt them.” Lu Boyuan paused. “Or I can bring them back to my house to take care of.”
Slightly stunned, Jian Rong turned to look at him.
“My mom likes raising small animals. Pigs, geese, dogs, turtles, she’s kept them all at some point or another. I wanted to bring Little Orange back before, but if I did, it wouldn’t be convenient for you to see him, so I let it go.” Lu Boyuan lowered his eyes and casually straightened Jian Rong’s crooked mask with a light tug. “Now it’s possible.”
The cats can stay in the house, you can come visit my home.
Jian Rong was already used to bottling up his problems, used to handling matters by himself, even though he frequently made a complete mess doing so.
But ever since he met Lu Boyuan, many issues seemed to become much easier to resolve.
He didn’t know if this was a good thing. Jian Rong stared at the bridge of Lu Boyuan’s nose for a while before he said, “…mn.”
Suisui’s parent was a young woman in her twenties. She gripped her phone, one hand on her hip, and stood in the animal clinic as she sent a voice message to her best friends: “So unlucky, I only left her here for two days, and Suisui was bullied by that terrible, shameless orange cat… of course, the clinic compensated me, and the orange cat’s owner did too, but I still feel angry…”
The front door was pushed open, and the young woman whipped her head around aggressively. When she saw two cute guys walk in one after another, she immediately cut off the voice message.
Little Orange, who had been locked up by the clinic on his own, peered through the glass of the cage before he leisurely got up, yawned, and stretched. Then he shifted a tiny bit towards Jian Rong, as if he had recognized his “owner.”
Jian Rong’s family-cleansing mood lightened a bit.
He cast his eyes downward and walked over to the cage with a sour expression on his face, before he stuck his index finger in through the cage’s opening. “Stupid cat, you’ve grown up, huh.”
Little Orange walked towards the opening. Halfway there, he came to a halt and meowed at Lu Boyuan, who was standing outside the glass with both hands stuffed in his pockets.
Lu Boyuan stopped for a second before he reached out with his hand and pressed it half-heartedly against the glass.
Through the glass, Little Orange rubbed against Lu Boyuan’s fingers. “Meow~”
Jian Rong: “…”
From now on, laozi’s gonna scatter that cat food, toss it, feed it to that black dog from the neighboring street; no matter what, there won’t be any left for you.
The animal clinic director showed up soon after, and they started to discuss the final proposed solution for the situation.
Suisui’s owner eased up quite a bit in terms of her attitude. She raised her head and glanced at the two people next to her. The taller guy’s face was covered up too well, so she couldn’t see much, but the one with blue hair had tugged his mask under his chin—he was good-looking, so good-looking.
Even that little orange cat in the cage seemed much more pleasing to the eye.
“How about this, we’ll go with the same compensation amount we settled on before.” Suisui’s owner voiced her goal for this meeting: “But all the kittens will belong to me. That won’t be a problem, right?”
Jian Rong furrowed his brows hesitantly. “Are you going to raise them or sell them?”
The young woman said calmly, “It depends. If they’re pretty, of course I’ll send them to earn some money, but if they’re ugly, I’ll keep them myself or I’ll give them to other people. You can relax, regardless of whether I sell them or give them away, I’ll inspect the other party’s living situation first.”
The matter was much simpler to resolve than Jian Rong had imagined.
When it came time to pay the compensation fee, Jian Rong was about to ask for her Alipay when the young woman coughed and took out her phone. “How about you transfer it to me through WeChat? Should I add you, or will you add me?”
Jian Rong felt like doing it this way was a little troublesome, but he still pulled out his phone. “I…”
Lu Boyuan, who was sitting next to Jian Rong and hadn’t participated in the discussion at all, suddenly lifted his hand and lightly covered the screen of Jian Rong’s phone. “We have some money saved on an account with the clinic, they’ll transfer it directly to you.”
The young woman was startled.
She blinked and looked at the two guys sitting extremely close together before she looked at their overlapping hands. Understanding abruptly dawned on her.
Once everything was settled, the young woman got up and pretended to browse through the kitty products. In reality, she secretly snuck a picture of their backs and sent it in the chat with her besties.
“Fuck, a beautiful dream is shattered, the orange cat’s owner is gay.”
A sister: “Then isn’t it hopeless for you?”
“But they really fit so well together, it makes me feel like it doesn’t matter if I’m still single for a bit longer.”
By the time they left the animal clinic, the sky was dusky and the air was humid. It just happened to be around dinnertime, and the restaurants lining the street bustled with customers. Waves of thick mist wafted up from opened steamer baskets, blurring the faces of the passersby.
Lu Boyuan asked, “What do you want to eat?”
“I’ll treat you.” Jian Rong drew himself back from the fragrant aroma coming from the nearby stall. “I’m more familiar with this street than you are.”
Lu Boyuan raised an eyebrow. Originally, he wanted to take Jian Rong to the city center and eat there, that way they could stroll around the area as well.
He forgot that Jian Rong’s home was just one street over from this clinic, and that he had lived here for eighteen years.
The district where Jian Rong lived actually didn’t really have any fancy restaurants, so he led Lu Boyuan over to the noodle shop that he used to frequent in the past. When he saw the boss roaring out the orders inside the shop, he suddenly realized that this wasn’t a suitable location for a date.
The boss spotted Jian Rong through the door. Jian Rong nodded in his direction before he turned his head and asked, “Do you want to eat Japanese food or barbeque?”
Lu Boyuan’s bag was slung over one shoulder as he withdrew his gaze from the shop. “I want to eat noodles.”
Two bowls of scallion oil noodles arrived at their table.
Lu Boyuan discovered that their bowls were filled with more noodles than that of any of the other customers.
“You’ve finally shown your face again.” The noodle shop boss placed his hands on his hips and said, “I brought some noodles and went to knock on your door the other day, but nobody ever answered.”
Jian Rong was momentarily startled. “Did you need something?”
“No, I just wanted to see why you weren’t coming to eat here anymore. You used to come here quite a few times per week before… also, since you live on your own, I was worried that nobody would even know if something happened to you.” The noodle shop boss glanced back and responded to another customer before he waved his hand. “As long as you’re doing all right, that’s good. I’ll get back to it, you guys go ahead and eat.”
After the boss left, Jian Rong was still somewhat in a daze.
This restaurant was even older than Jian Rong was. His parents often took him to eat noodles here back when he was very young.
Once the accident happened, he became a streamer for the sake of his livelihood and shut himself up inside his home to work. If he came out to eat noodles, he would only silently point at the menu; he never exchanged more than five sentences with the boss during a visit. Four or five years passed just like that. In fact, he couldn’t even remember the boss’ nickname too well anymore.
Jian Rong ducked his head and pressed his lips together. As he mixed his noodles, he said, “Give it a try, if you don’t like it, I’ll take you to eat somewhere else…”
Jian Rong lifted his head and saw Lu Boyuan inhale a huge mouthful of noodles, causing one of his cheeks to bulge with food.
Lu Boyuan’s table manners were casual, but not sloppy.
The scallion oil noodles were indeed delicious. No wonder it could make a person who streamed for thirteen hours a day leave his house several times a week.
They felt particularly satisfied after their dinner of noodles. There was also a little wooden dish placed on the table, filled with candy and gum.
They each picked a different flavor. By the time they left the restaurant, it had already started to rain outside.
The spring rain was light and lingering. It didn’t appear to be raining very hard, but if someone stood in it for more than a few seconds, they would end up completely drenched.
They went to the store next door to buy an umbrella. With it propped open, they slowly made their way over to the taxi stand.
The buildings in this area were all somewhat older, and the streets were narrow as well. It was quieter here than it was downtown, but livelier than the villa district.
Carrying the umbrella, Lu Boyuan asked out of the blue, “Back when you were streaming, did you live by yourself the entire time?”
Jian Rong said, “Mn.”
“I remember that streamers basically don’t earn any income during the first few months.” Lu Boyuan paused. “Where did you get the money for your living expenses? Your family?”
Jian Rong had never told anyone how he had grown up, so before he spoke, he had to take a few seconds to organize his words.
“No, there was no one in my family to give me any.”
Jian Rong wasn’t a very dramatic person. Perhaps it was because too much time had passed, but when he talked about these things, his voice was quite calm, with no hint of sorrow or feeling wronged whatsoever.
“My parents left behind some money, and then… I would participate in tournaments while streaming. At the time, the internet cafe tournaments didn’t have an age restriction, and the prizes were also average. It was rarely ever cash, mostly just set meals or instant noodles. And I was really trash back then too, so the highest I ever got was second place.”
Lu Boyuan didn’t continue his line of questioning. He thought back to what Jian Rong had looked like when he was younger, but he could only recall Jian Rong being short and skinny, with an extremely grumpy expression on his face due to the internet cafe boss’ rejection.
And when he was being a little scalper and haggling over prices with someone, he had looked a little in need of a smacking.
After walking for some distance, Jian Rong couldn’t help but ask, “Why aren’t you saying anything?”
“No reason.” Lu Boyuan said, “I was thinking.”
Jian Rong: “Thinking about what?”
Lu Boyuan: “Back at the entrance to the internet cafe, why didn’t I buy you some more food.”
Actually, Lu Boyuan was thinking about far more than just that, but he didn’t say it out loud.
“…” Originally, Jian Rong hadn’t thought much of it, but when Lu Boyuan mentioned that, a rush of sudden emotions swept through his mind. He swiftly blinked a few times, scattering those feelings. “It’s a good thing you didn’t buy any, or else I probably would’ve ended up selling it as part of a package deal with the entrance ticket.”
Lu Boyuan gave a very light laugh.
The rain came down harder and harder, and they couldn’t call a taxi or a ride from an app. They had no choice but to sit down underneath the overhang of a convenience store and wait.
The large screen outside of the small-scale shopping center across from them started playing a commercial from a certain famous athletic brand. The man in the commercial was currently sitting right next to Jian Rong, in the middle of sending a message to Ding-ge to ask for a car to come get them.
A few young women came to a halt in front of Jian Rong and finished watching that twenty-second commercial with him.
“Ai, today’s yet another day I want to sleep with Road.”
“Please get in line.”
“Stop dreaming, an insider told me that Road is even harder to get with than an idol. He’s not somebody an ordinary person can sleep with…”
Sensing Jian Rong’s gaze on him, Lu Boyuan inclined his head to the side. “What’s the matter.”
At first, Jian Rong shook his head. After a while, he couldn’t resist leaning in and asking, “Did you hear what those girls were talking about?”
Lu Boyuan said, “You can.”
Jian Rong froze, still looking at Lu Boyuan, as his brain churned sluggishly.
Road is even harder to get with than an idol, he’s not somebody an ordinary person can sleep with.
There were hardly any pedestrians on the street. Jian Rong’s face burned, his heart thumping away to a beat as fine as the spring rain.
Lu Boyuan watched him, amused, and raised his hand. “Your ears…”
Jian Rong: “But right now I seem to be stuck at the first step still.”
Lu Boyuan’s hand stopped midair. “What?”
“Just, you’ve only kissed me on the nose before.” Jian Rong’s eyes were dark and luminous. He paused for a second and licked his lips. “And you won’t let me into your room either.”
A beat later, Lu Boyuan sent the text that he had typed out. Then, he slipped his phone into his pocket and opened the black umbrella that they had just purchased.
Jian Rong subconsciously reached for the strap of his equipment bag. “Is the car here…”
The rest of his words were concealed in the rain.
The umbrella covered them from the front, and both of their masks were tucked underneath their chins. Lu Boyuan tilted his head and leaned in, pressing his lips against Jian Rong’s.
Jian Rong was stunned. Instantly, his entire body stiffened, and his hand tightened around the backpack strap.
The umbrella was quite large, with a wall on one side of them and a vending machine on the other, acting as shelter. From the outside, they just looked like two young men who were extremely afraid of getting soaked, so they used an umbrella to block the rain from splashing in.
The big screen across from them started playing Lu Boyuan’s commercial again.
Behind the black umbrella, Lu Boyuan kissed him very gently, until Jian Rong finally recovered. He released the bag strap and grabbed onto Lu Boyuan’s shirt instead. Though fearful of being discovered by someone outside, he still responded clumsily and frantically.
The sound of the rain pattered around them as their breaths tangled together. The beep of a car horn rang out, and Jian Rong tasted the flavor of orange candy inside Lu Boyuan’s mouth.
Yan: Yeeeeeeee Jian Rong go get your man ❤ this is one of my favorite chapters (as you can probably tell why)