Ding-ge didn’t expect to be caught by the very people he was trash-talking, which was a rare occasion in and of itself.
He cleared his throat. “I wasn’t being serious—”
“Come on, as if I don’t know you?” PUD’s manager had lost their last battle over the phone, so he definitely wasn’t going to let this one go now that he had the upper hand. “It’s one thing for you to curse us into missing our ults and sleepwalking, yet you’re also cursing us into getting diarrhea! You’re such a malicious person! Cruel and merciless!!!”
Jian Rong lowered his head and made to take the incense that Ding-ge was handing over, but when he reached out, he grasped nothing but air.
Ding-ge also gripped the incense and counterattacked. “Yes, I’m malicious, but it’s not like you’re any better?”
PUD’s manager: “What about me?! You’re going to make false accusations again, huh!”
“Then you tell me, why exactly are you here? To beg for rain?” Ding-ge hit the nail on the head. “I refuse to believe that you didn’t curse a defeat onto us!”
The PUD manager, who had just taught Savior in the car to wish for “Soft getting banned from competing for flaming someone before the match,” felt his face redden. “—of course I didn’t!”
Ding-ge sneered. “Not having the guts to own up to your actions, what kind of middle-aged man are you.”
PUD’s manager pushed up his glasses. “You should take a look at yourself first. A mature middle-aged man wouldn’t teach a child to curse other people.”
Jian Rong listened to them, speechless. The disdain in his eyes was extremely obvious.
What kind of childish insult war was this? If these two people were tossed into his stream, they would have a layer of their skin peeled off of them in less than two minutes by those flamers.
However, miraculously, the grumpiness that he had suppressed the entire trip over seemed to have largely dissipated.
He was about to take a step back to create some distance between him and those two primary school brats when someone wrapped a hand around his wrist.
As usual, Lu Boyuan’s eyes had turned into monolids in the morning. When he looked down, it made him seem somewhat cold and detached.
He split his own incense into two halves and placed one bundle into Jian Rong’s hand. “Let’s pay our respects first. We still have to visit a few other halls.”
It was bright and early in the morning, so all the visitors couldn’t help but glance in their direction.
Two middle-aged men, one with his hands planted on his waist, the other with his arms crossed, bickered back and forth for quite a while. Several young men stood behind each of the older men; they were all wearing hats and considerably expensive athletic shoes, their faces filled with exhaustion.
The other TTC members observed with a ‘watching the show’ attitude, and they even wanted to bet on who would win the argument. Meanwhile, the people in PUD who could understand the fight were still in a dilemma, while the ones who couldn’t looked completely lost.
“Enough, everyone is watching.” XIU paused before he joked, “Also, did you not see that their mid laner is also here? Look at Soft, he’s ready to take over for his coach at any moment… can you out-flame him?”
PUD’s manager swept a glance at Soft.
Soft was currently standing next to Road, head lowered as he took the incense from Road’s hand. Then he turned around and went to burn the incense at the censer with Road.
He didn’t seem to be particularly interested in taking over for his coach.
PUD’s manager scoffed coldly before he turned back and returned the incense to XIU. “Go pray. If we finish soon, you guys can sleep for a little longer when we get back to the base.”
Jian Rong still hadn’t thought of a wish. He didn’t even do this sort of thing when he blew out the candles on his birthday.
Eyes half-closed, he copied Lu Boyuan and bowed a few times without wishing for anything. He stepped forward and stuck the incense into the censer.
XIU’s voice floated over from the side. “All you have to do is bow the way Soft just did.”
Looking over, Jian Rong saw PUD standing next to them, seeming similarly unenergetic.
Jian Rong could faintly hear PUD’s Korean coach talking to 98k—they were actually communicating in Chinese too.
XIU jerked his chin up in TTC’s direction. “Why are you guys also here so early?”
Lu Boyuan brushed off the ashes stuck to his fingers. “Tradition.”
During the first few years, when they were just starting out, Fu-ge used to personally bring them here himself. All business people seemed to believe in this stuff, and supposedly, the earlier you visited, the more sincere your intentions were. They had actually come comparatively late this year.
Yuan Qian inserted his incense and returned, asking, “Is this your first time coming here?”
“We came here last year too.” XIU yawned. “But before we would always visit relatively late, which is probably why we never ran into you all.”
Even though the two managers got into an argument the moment they saw each other, after lighting the incense, they still ended up walking together with sour looks on their faces as they discussed the follow-up from that stream mishap.
The other team members followed behind them without interacting much with each other. The two teams weren’t all that close in the first place; usually only Lu Boyuan and XIU would contact one another.
Someone sidled up to Jian Rong.
“Soft.” Savior called his name. “Are you playing on the Korean server this afternoon?”
Lu Boyuan shot a look over from the corner of his eye and gave him a lazy once-over before he swiftly withdrew his gaze again.
Jian Rong said, “Yes.”
Savior’s eyes lit up. “Then Aye wait for you?”
“Why would you wait for me?” Jian Rong was perplexed. “It’s not like I’m going to play with you.”
Everyone else: “………”
But Savior didn’t seem too sad. He pulled out his phone. “Then you should add meh on WeChat, you can come find meh when you want to play.”
This time, Jian Rong didn’t reject him.
After adding each other on WeChat, Savior asked without thinking much of it, “The kitty in your profile picture, cute, is it yours?”
This was Jian Rong’s first time hearing someone say Little Orange was cute.
He paused mid-chew on his candy as his expression visibly brightened quite a bit. “My son.”
“This fat cat is your son?” Xiao Bai was so sleepy that he couldn’t keep his eyes open, and he was slumped completely against Pine. He remembered something and subconsciously mumbled, “Your profile picture is your son, my ge’s profile picture is his daughter-in-law, you guys have matching couple profile pictures?”
Jian Rong crushed the candy in his mouth as his shoulders abruptly tensed.
Jian Rong definitely didn’t care if other people knew about his relationship with Lu Boyuan.
Sometimes, he even wanted to pick up a huge megaphone and direct it straight at Xiao Bai, who somehow managed to mysteriously appear near them every single time, so that he could tell him to practice properly and stop roaming around the base all freaking day.
But his rationality told him that Lu Boyuan would most likely care.
Lu Boyuan had more endorsements than any other pro player ever in LPL history. Xiao Bai had listed them out for him before, and though Jian Rong had never heard of a lot of them, it was still, as Xiao Bai had put it, plentiful and impressive.
This wasn’t just due to Lu Boyuan being a strong player. It was also because he was handsome and had a lot of fans—especially those wife fans. Every time, they bought so much of Lu Boyuan’s merch that it sold more than that of some idols.
That was one reason. Another reason was that they were both male.
Which made the issue even more complicated.
Jian Rong’s face turned dark enough to rival the bottom of a pot. He grinded down on the fragments of candy again and started to say “no.”
Lu Boyuan said lightly, “Mn.”
Jian Rong nearly bit his tongue.
His shoulders went rigid as his heartbeat accelerated. All of his drowsiness instantaneously vanished.
“I knew it.” Xiao Bai retracted his gaze. “P-baby and I also have matching pictures. His is a moon, mine are the stars.”
Pine said evenly, “You’re the one who changed it.”
“Fuck.” XIU laughed as he ended the topic of conversation. “What the hell is up with all you TTC people.”
The subject effortlessly flew past, leaving Jian Rong as the only person who was still in a daze as he sucked on his candy.
That was it?
They were done talking about it now?
Ding-ge and PUD’s manager walked out from the shrine. “This hall is small, there are only two spots. Let’s enter in batches, Jian Rong, you go first.”
PUD’s manager reached out and tugged at Savior. “You go too, you can just copy Soft.”
Before Jian Rong could snap out of it, someone took off his hat.
Lu Boyuan lifted his hand and smoothed down the two tufts of hair that were sticking up on Jian Rong’s head. “Go ahead.”
The two teams’ mid laners went in together. There was a lot of smoke in the shrine, so Lu Boyuan wanted to place Jian Rong’s hat inside his jacket to block it, but he ended up grabbing nothing but air. Only then did he recall that he wasn’t wearing a jacket.
A pat landed on his shoulder. XIU was standing behind him, and he twitched his lips to the side.
They walked over to a nearby tree.
XIU got straight to the point and asked, “You’re together now?”
Lu Boyuan replied simply, “Mn.”
“…you’re really something.” XIU began counting the days in his head before he realized that he didn’t even need to—they had just finished the regular season.
“Though I told you to chase him before, didn’t you act a little too fast?” XIU thought of something. “Is Soft eighteen yet?”
Pedestrians would occasionally pass by them, and their teammates were all standing in front of them too, so it wasn’t convenient to say too much.
XIU glanced at the little bluenette, who was bowing somewhat half-heartedly in the shrine, and suddenly grew curious. “What do you like about him?
“His youth? His great gaming skills? His sharp tongue? His good looks?” XIU became more and more enthusiastic with each question. “Did you always like guys? Fuck… then back when us bros played around in the internet cafes together…”
Lu Boyuan: “Stop there, it has nothing to do with any of you.”
XIU remembered how Lu Boyuan used to have to pad his ears with napkins if he used one of their headphones in the past, and XIU silently pulled back his diverging train of thought.
He circled back to his previous topic. “Then what exactly do you like about the little blunette?”
Actually, Lu Boyuan wasn’t planning on answering that question.
But when Jian Rong exited the shrine and poked his head out, peering around in an attempt to find someone, Lu Boyuan said without thinking, “Cute.”
What the hell?
XIU couldn’t help but look behind him, squarely meeting Jian Rong’s eyes.
Once Jian Rong discovered that he was standing next to Lu Boyuan, his eyelids slowly lowered, causing his gaze to become extremely unfriendly.
If you said that word in front of Soft’s dad fans, they’d think that you were humiliating their son.
The two teams paid their respects in all the shrines. Finally, the only thing left was the statue of Buddha.
Everyone let out an obvious sigh of relief. XIU raised his arms into the air and stretched. “Let’s hurry up. After we get back, I can still sleep for another two hours…”
As XIU spoke, Jian Rong looked in his direction before pausing.
The weather had been nice lately in Shanghai, so they were almost all wearing short-sleeves. XIU alone wore a thin, long-sleeved shirt. When his arms were naturally lowered, nothing was visible, but when he extended them, several overlapping pain relief patches were revealed, stuck to his wrists.
Jian Rong stared at him, a little out of it. He only silently averted his gaze once Ding-ge hastened him along.
Lu Boyuan casually kowtowed twice, but as he got up, he discovered that the person next to him was still kneeling on the ground.
He tilted his head and glanced over, lifting a brow.
Jian Rong, who had just been giving a few perfunctory bows this entire time before getting up and leaving, currently had his eyes closed and hands pressed together. He stayed in that position for a few seconds before he bent forward and kowtowed.
The trip back was much livelier than the one there. Xiao Bai and Yuan Qian chattered about how their noses were filled with the scent of smoke, while Pine played Fight the Landlord with the sound on. The theme song from last year’s Worlds was also playing in the car.
Jian Rong no longer felt sleepy at all. He leaned back in the seat as he looked outside the window, as if there was something occupying his mind.
His phone vibrated. Jian Rong absent-mindedly checked it—
[R: What did you wish for just now?]
Jian Rong reacted very quickly.
They were riding in a minivan today, which meant the space was limited. No matter how quietly they spoke, the people sitting in front of them would be able to hear.
[R-ong: If I say it out loud, it won’t come true.]
[R: You can tell your boyfriend, Buddha will understand.]
Jian Rong’s brain instantly overheated, and he whipped his head around.
Lu Boyuan’s head was lowered. There wasn’t any particular expression on his face, and someone who didn’t know better would think that he was watching a competition video.
Jian Rong rigidly withdrew his gaze. He ducked his head and stared at his phone as he vigorously ruffled his hair a few times, before he then reached out and pinched the brim of his hat.
Why were there so many small movements.
Lu Boyuan felt amused. Seeing Jian Rong’s internal struggle, Lu Boyuan didn’t keep pressing the issue, and he typed out: It’s fine if you don’t want to say it…
[R-ong: I made one wish.]
[R-ong: I hope that my boyfriend’s hand is okay.]