Thank you to jaybirb, diabolomenth, and Luthien for the Ko-fis!
The blind date partner was a young woman who had just turned twenty, and she was currently attending college in Shanghai.
Xiao Bai had never understood why her family wanted her to go on blind dates when she was only twenty years old. Of course, as his mother put it, she was just trying to “make a friend.”
The girl’s hair was bound in braided pigtails, and she wore a white down-filled parka, along with a pink and white pleated uniform-type skirt—he had learned what those were during Jian Rong’s crossdressing stream.
The girl also scanned him up and down.
He looked pretty similar to his photos, if not a bit skinnier—honestly, Xiao Bai’s build couldn’t really be considered fat at all. It was just that his face was quite chubby, and he was also especially pale, so he always gave off the impression of being somewhat plump.
Xiao Bai lowered his head and stared at the girl’s legs for a few seconds. Right as the girl was feeling shy and started to subconsciously twist her fingers together, he looked up and said, “Young lady, it’s five degrees outside in Shanghai today. Aren’t you cold with your legs exposed?”
The girl paused briefly. “I’m wearing tights. They’re flesh-colored, so it’s hard to see at night.”
Understanding suddenly dawned on Xiao Bai. “How badass.”
The girl: “…”
Xiao Bai brought the girl to a barbeque place that their team often went to, which was also close to her school.
The girl had spent two hours doing her makeup, and even her lip gloss was applied exquisitely. Now, she stared at the several dozen lamb skewers on the big metal pan in front of her. “…”
Xiao Bai picked up a skewer and discovered that the person across from him wasn’t moving. “Are you not gonna eat?”
“I’m… not super hungry.” The girl said, “I’m not interfering with your practice, am I?”
“I don’t have any practice today.”
Xiao Bai responded perfunctorily. He was still thinking about that table full of Japanese food… and the look in Pine’s eyes when he grabbed onto Xiao Bai’s hood.
Abruptly, he remembered how Pine was initially even more arrogant than their team’s domineering mid laner was when he first joined TTC. For better or worse, Jian Rong would still pay attention to other people—even though it was mostly just so he could insult them.
Meanwhile, Pine completely shut everyone else out of his world.
He ate alone, he climbed alone, he went out alone—apart from when they had to practice together, he rarely talked to anyone else.
Zhuang Yibai, who was naturally lively and vivacious, had a hard time understanding this type of person.
Therefore, he decided to try and deepen his understanding.
As the bot lane duo, they were the two people who needed to work on their rapport and teamwork the most in the team. So he got close to him, he took the initiative, he forcefully burst his way into Pine’s world.
“Gege? Did you hear me?”
Xiao Bai pulled himself out of his thoughts and realized that the girl was looking at him, head tilted. “Sorry, what were you saying?”
As a result, the girl repeated her words again. “What do you usually do when you’re not in practice?”
Xiao Bai: “Play LoL.”
The girl: “…Isn’t that the same thing as practice?”
“It’s different. In practice, we have to play in high tiers or we have practice matches, and we can’t play other roles, but when we’re not in training, we can play whatever we want. I often go smurfing with P… with my teammate—which means we go play in the lower tiers. We can also switch up our roles and prioritize having fun.”
The girl didn’t get it. “Aren’t you still playing games though? Won’t you get bored?”
Xiao Bai was also baffled. “Why would I get bored?”
Right as he said that, his phone suddenly chimed in his pocket.
One of his former stream moderators was texting him. The young woman had been a mod for him for two years before she got promoted in the first half of this year, but they still remained friends with each other.
[Mod-jiejie: What are you doing right now?!]
With the way she was acting, Zhuang Yibai couldn’t help but suspect that his stream had been banned for 999 years.
[P-Baby’s Little Support: I’m here.]
[P-Baby’s Little Support: I’m eating barbeque outside, what’s wrong? Did my stream explode?!]
Xiao Bai let out a sigh of relief.
[Mod-jiejie: It’s ten thousand times more serious than that, okay?! Jiang Yusong is having an affair!!! And yet you’re still out here eating barbeque!!!!]
He sucked that breath of air right back in.
[P-Baby’s Little Support: What do you mean?]
[Mod-jiejie: P-baby is streaming while gaming.]
[P-Baby’s Little Support: Oh, he’s streaming? He didn’t even tell me.]
[Mod-jiejie: He’s duo queuing with a female accompanying gamer, why would he tell you?]
Xiao Bai was startled for a few seconds before he immediately snorted.
If it wasn’t for the fact that he knew that Pine’s duo queue car was even harder to get into than Tsinghua or Peking University, he would’ve almost believed her.
Never mind his duo queue car, Pine barely even added many friends in the game. In the past, when Commentator A wanted to add Pine as a friend to spectate, he had to send him messages for a week straight. Actively seeking out an accompanying gamer was even more absurd………
“What kind of ADC does Boss like to play?
“Boss, is my voice too loud?
“Boss, can I play Yuumi?”
The immensely popular streamer finally stirred, but only so that he could reply with a muffled “en.” However, that sound was enough to solidify his identity—it was, for sure, Pine himself.
“Okay Boss, I’m gonna pick her then!”
Xiao Bai lowered his head and stared at the StarTV app on his phone. His face ached from being slapped.
Pine was indeed streaming, and he was also indeed duo queuing with a female accompanying gamer.
The female accompanying gamer was ranked very highly in the game, so she was able to duo queue with Pine’s Grandmaster account. Her voice was also the mature type; everything she said was flavored with a lazy, coquettish overtone.
The blind date girl also heard the accompanying gamer’s voice, and her expression changed subtly.
Xiao Bai knew that it wasn’t very appropriate to watch a stream in this sort of setting, so he shifted his finger—and turned down the sound.
Pine’s camera wasn’t on, and he was more silent than usual. The female accompanying gamer was the one speaking most of the time.
She was very professional. Even with this kind of boss, she didn’t let things get awkward as she kept the atmosphere going all by herself. Every once in a while, Pine would say something, but it was only either “forward” or “retreat.”
Xiao Bai was watching the stream on his side account. The barrage was full of comments like—
[Everyone, welcome to the scene of a major affair.]
[Traitorous man, why aren’t you turning your camera on?]
[Where’s Bai where’s Bai where’s Bai where’s Bai? Why don’t I hear his voice in the background either?]
[Calm down a little, okay? This is Pine’s stream. Give the accompanying gamer a bit of face, joke around appropriately.]
[It’s obvious that Pine and Bye are just really good friends. It can’t be that some people actually believe they’re a couple, right?]
[Bye is a straight guy. He used to watch female streamers all the time in the past.]
[I’m just confused… Doufu, 98k, and the other pro players also frequently stream with female accompanying gamers, so what’s the big deal if Pine occasionally does it too? Don’t curse at the accompanying gamer, don’t stir up drama.]
Xiao Bai’s mouth hung open slightly, and he felt somewhat enlightened.
That’s right—it was common for guys to seek out female accompanying gamers. Why did he think that it was impossible when it came to Pine?
Pine was twenty-one this year. Of course he would want to play games with girls; he would even want to start dating one day…
Xiao Bai leaned back in his chair and couldn’t help but mutter to himself internally as he stared at one of the comments flying by in the barrage.
It was true that he was straight, but he only went to watch the female streamers in order to study how they streamed… He didn’t have any other intentions at all.
Xiao Bai spotted the stream’s start time at the top of the screen, and he was a little taken aback.
Pine’s stream had started at 22:27.
If Xiao Bai was remembering correctly, he himself left the restaurant at exactly ten o’clock. It took at least twenty minutes to get from the restaurant back to their base, which meant… not long after he left, Pine had departed as well.
Then what about that table of Japanese cuisine? Did he pack it up and take it back to the base?
“How come you’re not eating anymore either?”
Xiao Bai lifted his head and looked at the skewers in front of him. Suddenly, he found that he had lost his appetite. He remained silent for quite a few seconds before he finally said, “I ate some Japanese food before I got to the airport, I can’t really eat much more.”
“Won’t this be a bit of a waste then?” The girl was momentarily surprised before she suggested, “Maybe you could take it to-go and bring it back to the base for your teammates?”
Xiao Bai nodded. “Okay.”
The girl raised her hand and called the server over. “Pack all of this up in a to-go box.”
Xiao Bai said to the server, “Could I order another twenty lamb skewers, ten beef skewers, and a serving of pig brain? Make it extra spicy, and pack it all up for take-out too. Please wrap it up in aluminum foil, thank you.”
The girl’s eyes widened. “Do you have a lot of teammates at the base?”
“No, just one. All the others are out on dates.” Xiao Bai laughed. “But my teammate prefers it when cooked food is hot. These skewers are too cold, he won’t touch them.”
After Xiao Bai sent the girl back to her school, he immediately turned and called a taxi to go home.
He sat in the middle of the back row and propped a hand against the driver’s seat. “Sir, if you don’t mind, could you drive a little faster? The speed limit is sixty here, your forty-five is a bit too slow.”
The driver stepped on the gas. “Okey-dokey, are you in a rush?”
“Yeah.” Xiao Bai said anxiously, “Any longer and my barbeque take-out is gonna get cold!”
The driver: “…”
Back at the base, Xiao Bai touched the aluminum foil. Thankfully, it was still hot.
Even though the window was open in the practice room, the smell of cigarette smoke still filled the air, and only the sound of tapping keys and a clicking mouse could be heard. The young man sat quietly in front of the computer as he controlled his character in the game without saying a single word. He hadn’t changed out of his casual clothes yet, and his bangs were somewhat messy. The ashtray next to his keyboard was full of cigarette butts.
The first time they met, Pine also looked just like this.
Pine entered the team through tryouts. At the beginning, he didn’t practice in the same place as the members from the first team. As a result, late at night after the first day of the tryouts, Xiao Bai stealthily crept downstairs to take a peek at him.
Back then, Pine was skinnier than he was now. He had on a thin white short-sleeved T-shirt, and the dim practice room only contained him, the sounds from his computer, and wafting cigarette smoke.
“Lonely” was Xiao Bai’s first impression of him.
The window behind Pine’s computer was half-open, and the cold wind was a painful scrape against skin.
After winning a team fight, Pine listened to the female accompanying gamer compliment him in his headphones as he picked up his cigarette box, wanting to have another smoke. Suddenly, someone’s palm cupped his chin, and he complied with the force exerted by the owner of the hand as he tilted his head back, meeting Zhuang Yibai’s eyes.
“Your face is so chilly, yet you’re still keeping the window open?” Xiao Bai frowned. His hand shifted upwards, and he rubbed Pine’s cheeks with the back of his hand. “Aren’t you cold?”
Pine put the cigarette back. “No.”
Xiao Bai brushed Pine’s neck and sucked in a breath of air through his teeth. “You’re so freaking cold.”
He shed his scarf and wrapped it around Pine before he turned to close the window. “I saw that you started streaming at 10:30. Did you not eat any of the Japanese food? Was it not to your taste? Why didn’t you pack it up and bring it back, what a waste.”
Pine silently tried to come up with an excuse. Before he could find one, Xiao Bai lifted the bag in his hand and said, pleased with himself, “But it’s okay, gege brought you some barbeque.”
“I told the owner to wrap it in aluminum foil, so it’s still hot.” Xiao Bai paused. “What, do you not want it?”
Pine: “I do want it.”
Satisfied, Xiao Bai praised himself internally for thinking on his feet and ordering take-out. “I’ll go get a plate from the kitchen to put the skewers on, for convenience.”
Xiao Bai put his phone down on Pine’s computer desk and picked up the barbeque. As he was walking away, he heard the female accompanying gamer’s voice float out from the headphones that Pine had just removed, and he stopped in place again.
He pressed his lips together. A long moment later, he glanced back and asked tentatively, “Then, once I bring the skewers back… we can eat and duo queue together at the same time?”
Pine looked at his ears, which were completely red from the cold, and said, “Okay.”
Xiao Bai hummed as he walked out of the practice room.
Several seconds passed before Pine withdrew his gaze.
During their short conversation, the enemy team had already chosen to surrender. The game ended, and the computer screen returned to the lobby.
The stream was filled with comments about Xiao Bai. Pine didn’t typically respond to the barrage, but when he checked on it casually, he just happened to see the following comment: [This little brat Zhuang Yibai is actually pretty good at doting on people.]
“Boss, you’re really super strong, even stronger than a pro player… When I play games with you, I feel like I’m hugging your thigh and getting carried, haha~” The female accompanying gamer laughed and said, “Should I be paying you a booster fee?”
Pine focused his gaze back on the game. Ding-ge had accepted a sponsorship from a standard accompanying gamer platform for him, and this female accompanying gamer was specially arranged by the company. Of course she knew that he was a pro player; all of this flattery was merely for show.
Pine said, “No need.”
“Heehee, in that case, thank you for carrying me Boss. Mwah mwah~”
Pine moved his mouse over to the button that would let him leave the party. “Mn. Tonight, let’s just…”
The phone on the table vibrated. Pine glanced down at it—it was Xiao Bai’s phone, and the lock screen wallpaper was a photo that he had forced Pine into taking with him by hooking an arm around his neck.
[Munching Hamster: Gege I’m back at my dorm~]
[Munching Hamster: Actually, before we met, I had already watched your competitions. Even though I don’t understand the game, you’re really very adorable and handsome on the stage. Next time we see each other, let me treat you to a meal instead…]
[Munching Hamster: Thank you for sending me back to my school ^^]
Xiao Bai came back, still humming, still out of tune. “P-baby, do you wanna drink Coke or Sprite? That damn bluenette put the Coke in the fridge, so it’s a little cold. Maybe you should drink the Sprite?”
“Either’s fine.” Pine picked up Xiao Bai’s phone and handed it to him. “You got a message.”
When he saw Xiao Bai smile as he typed back a response, Pine aimlessly swirled his mouse around before he muted himself.
“How was it?”
Xiao Bai’s eyes remained fixed on his phone. “What?”
Pine said, “That girl.”
Xiao Bai moved his phone away and glanced at him with an enigmatic expression on his face. “This was my first time meeting a girl who looks better in real life than in pictures.”
Xiao Bai continued to text back, though his mouth twitched to the side when Pine said that. “But how do I put this, she and I…”
Pine interrupted him and said, “She called you gege.”
Xiao Bai didn’t pay too much attention to the tone of Pine’s voice. “Yeah, since she’s younger than me! She’s only twenty years old.”
After Xiao Bai was done replying, he lowered his phone. “Okay, I’ll log in now…”
Upon seeing the game interface on Pine’s computer monitor, Xiao Bai was taken aback. “Why did you start another game? Didn’t you agree to duo queue with me?”
“Not anymore.” Pine bought some items and left the base. “I’m going to play with her for a while longer, you can go play by yourself.”
Xiao Bai: “…”
Xiao Bai: “Are you going back on your word?”
Pine said, “Mn.”
Xiao Bai sat down in his chair, turned on his computer, and logged into the game. In his mind, he secretly vowed that if Jiang Yusong didn’t coax him for three days and three nights after this, he was never going to duo queue with that untrustworthy scumbag again.
If Pine didn’t wanna play, fine! Grandpa could solo queue on his own!
With quite the backbone, he clicked on the ‘ranked’ button. Just as he was about to enter the solo queue, a chat popped up right in his face—
[XIU: Hahahahahahaha! Your ADC doesn’t want you anymore!]
Yan: Tiny Salt is hosting a two-winner giveaway for a book of choice from MXTX’s three English novel releases! See the announcement channel in our discord to learn more + enter 🙂 Giveaway ends August 12 at 10 PM GMT-5!