Thank you to riingo, Kitty, and juuree for the Ko-fis!
The self-proclaimed most unbreakable man in the world was stabbed in the heart by that message.
[Bye: …You’re watching his stream?]
[XIU: Our ADC is watching, he put it on speaker.]
[XIU: It’s fine, don’t be sad. If Pine is gaming with girls, you can also game with girls.]
Zhuang Yibai replied with a dry “haha.”
A party invite appeared.
[XIU: Come on, join my lobby, I just happen to be short one person.]
[Bye: Why are there four people in the party?]
[XIU: I invited three accompanying gamer sisters, get in the car so we can take off!]
After a bit of contemplation, Zhuang Yibai ended up joining the party.
The accompanying gamers that XIU invited all had very pleasant voices. Their calls of “Bai–ge” and “world’s number one support” were extremely sweet.
Then Zhuang Yibai picked Darius and went to be an orphan in the top lane.
Xiao Bai idled in the brush and waited for the enemy top laner to get in lane. His camera focus in the game kept wandering around randomly.
If his internal muttering could be heard out loud, Jiang Yusong would’ve probably been annoyed to death by now.
—Why isn’t this ADC eating the skewers I brought back?
—Is playing with an accompanying gamer more important than my skewers?
—In the end, all this doting and cherishing that Grandpa invested over the years was for nothing.
Several minutes later, after confirming that Pine’s attention couldn’t be diverted because he was in the middle of a team fight, Xiao Bai furtively snuck back into the stream on his side account.
The accompanying gamer was still diligently holding an awkward, one-sided conversation.
“He dares to touch my ADC, how despicable~ I’ll definitely help avenge you!
“Ahhh Boss, run for it, their jungler is here! Oh no, we won’t be able to escape… we can fight! Counter-kill! Nice~ Boss, you’re so strong, you’re the most powerful boss I’ve ever met~
“Boss, won’t you consider going pro? Can I reserve an autograph in advance? I’m going to be your number one fangirl!
“Boss, wait for me, I have three seconds left before I revive~”
Zhuang Yibai couldn’t help himself, and he switched screens to go look at the stream.
Pine didn’t say anything, but his Ezreal stopped in place. The accompanying gamer replied with a sugary “thank you Boss” before she controlled Yuumi to sit on Pine’s shoulder.
By the time Xiao Bai switched back to the game, he had been solo killed by the enemy Riven.
XIU’s three accompanying gamers weren’t ranked very high, but they were quite skilled at chatting. The voice chat was filled with cries of laughter, while the other accompanying gamer’s glowing flattery resounded through Pine’s stream; only Zhuang Yibai walked alone on the path to getting thrashed in the top lane.
In the first place, their team was one that was created for fun. On top of that, he kept getting distracted, and his top lane didn’t have the advantage a single time out of the three games he played. Their team continuously lost.
Meanwhile, that scumbag next door had already won four ranked games in a row.
XIU said shadily, “Bro, was your top lane always this good?”
Xiao Bai: “My bad, I’m screwing us over today.”
XIU: “It’s fine, it’s just a normal game… but you seem to be a little silent tonight. What’s up, not happy about losing at cards? Didn’t your bankroller help settle your debt for you?”
Xiao Bai was about to speak when XIU added cheerfully, “Though your bankroller is currently spending his money on someone else right now.”
Xiao Bai: “…”
One of the female accompanying gamers in the team said in surprise, “Ah… are Bai-ge and Pine real?!”
If this was any other time, perhaps Zhuang Yibai would’ve replied, “Yeah, his child is already in my stomach.”
The sound of a flash came from the stream, followed by: “Wuwu Boss actually flashed to save me, the man of my dreams is here… Boss, I’ll give you an extra hour for free, so let’s play for a little longer together?”
“Impossible, I’m completely straight, okay?” Xiao Bai pursed his lips and said to his team, “We’re just teammates who have a pretty good relationship with one another.”
Pine missed a siege minion. He stood in place, expressionless, for several seconds before he flashed and killed the enemy ADC to make up for the gold loss from the minion.
“Boss is so fierce~” The accompanying gamer said, “Boss, how about we add each other on WeChat first? You can find me whenever you need me in the future, I’ll decline my other bosses to come play with you.”
After the game ended, Xiao Bai stared at the large “defeat” written on the screen and his own score of 1/10/3. His mind was filled with thoughts like “I’m so trash, how can I produce this kind of KDA, am I useless, maybe I should just retire tomorrow, it’s not like there’s anyone or anything worth staying for in this team anymore, the ADC I spent so many years raising is already being a dog for someone else now, what exactly is the point of me remaining in this base”……… and so on.
XIU also overheard Pine’s exchange with the accompanying gamer from his ADC’s speakers. “How strange. In the past, whenever I saw female fans ask Pine for a signature backstage, he would never agree. But now he’s even adding a female accompanying gamer on WeChat… are the TTC fans about to get another sister-in-law?”
Zhuang Yibai tossed out an “I’m done, I’m logging off” before he exited the game.
Tonight wasn’t suited for gaming. The sooner he went to bed, the sooner his mood would improve.
As Xiao Bai stood up, he pretended to glance to the side by accident.
Pine had already taken off the scarf. He was on his phone, in the middle of accepting the accompanying gamer’s WeChat friend request. Xiao Bai’s eyesight was good, so he was able to spot the young woman’s selfie profile picture: it was a close-up of her delicate and beautiful face.
He also saw the young woman send Pine a cutesy emoticon via direct message.
Zhuang Yibai resisted the urge to stop behind Pine and peek at the type of private conversation he might be having with the young woman. In a carefree, callous manner, Xiao Bai turned around and left the practice room.
The door closed, and the practice room went quiet.
Pine stared blankly at the scoreboard for a few seconds. Then, he got up and reopened the window in front of him before he pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
The female accompanying gamer sent him another message: [God P~ this is the style I usually have when I’m keeping people company, is it too noisy for you?]
Pine bit down on his cigarette and typed lazily: [No]
The female accompanying gamer: [That’s good, are we going to continue?]
Pine checked the total amount of time they had spent duo queuing together so far. He still had two hours left before he could fulfill the task that the accompanying gamer platform had given him.
He might as well get it all over with tonight and be done with it.
He didn’t reply to her. Instead, he directly moved his fingers and entered the queue again.
A moment later, he picked up a skewer—which had been carefully delivered to him by a certain someone and was already completely cold at this point—and silently stuffed it into his mouth.
Xiao Bai’s hand was sore upon waking up the next day. When he turned his head, he saw that he had slept with his phone cradled in his hand the entire night.
He had fallen asleep while watching the stream.
He rubbed his eyes and glanced at the time Pine went offline. The person who used to find it bothersome to stream for more than three hours had stayed online all the way until 3:30 in the morning last night.
Zhuang Yibai was well-known for being happy-go-lucky. No matter what was on his mind, it would more or less pass after a night of sleep. Just like when Kan had been kicked off the team for matchfixing—the first day Xiao Bai found out about it, it was as if he had been possessed by the god of dejection. But the next day, he revived with full health and started preparing to face the new competitive season—
However, this time, he still felt like the sky was gray even after waking up.
He stared at himself in the mirror and clenched his teeth while he was brushing them. He thought, It’s definitely because Jiang Yusong didn’t eat the skewers that I went through so much trouble to bring back, and he also canceled on duo queuing with me. That must be why he was feeling so annoyed.
He heard some noises coming from the first floor when he walked out of his room, so he stretched forward and peered downstairs.
Pine and Ding-ge were sitting on the living room sofa as they conversed quietly about something.
By the time Xiao Bai got down there, he heard Ding-ge say, “Think it over carefully.” Then Ding-ge reached out and patted Pine’s shoulder.
Ding-ge saw Xiao Bai come downstairs, and he instructed him to stream whenever he was free to fill up the monthly quota. After that, Ding-ge quickly left. They were still on break, but every team’s management was always busy at the end of the year. Ding-ge was planning on stepping down from being a coach so that he could concentrate on running operations for the team instead, and he was currently holding discussions with a few experienced, veteran coaches.
After Ding-ge left, Pine stood up from the sofa and asked Xiao Bai, “Do you want to eat breakfast?”
Xiao Bai was briefly caught off guard. He thought, We’re not on speaking terms right now, okay? I still haven’t cooled off from yesterday.
“Auntie isn’t here, so I’ll make it for you.” Pine stopped next to him. “Or do you want to order takeout?”
Xiao Bai: “You make it for me.”
As he ate Pine’s tomato and egg noodles, Xiao Bai felt like he could just maybe forgive him a tiny bit.
He swallowed down a mouthful of noodles. “What was Ding-ge telling you to think over earlier?”
“Nothing.” Pine had monolids, and when he was expressionless, he always appeared to be coldly indifferent—and handsome.
After talking to Pine a little, Zhuang Yibai’s flicker of moodiness seemed to vanish entirely. Actually, when he thought about it some more, none of it was really a big deal. Didn’t Pine just hire an accompanying gamer? Didn’t he just cancel on Xiao Bai for playing ranked together? As if Jian Rong hadn’t canceled on Xiao Bai numerous times in the past?
Zhuang Yibai finished justifying the situation to himself and set down his chopsticks. He casually wiped his mouth before he leaned over so that his face was near Pine’s. “Jiang Yusong, look at the area underneath my eyes.”
The young man paused in the middle of eating after his name was called, and he looked up at Xiao Bai.
Pine’s eyelids were very thin, and his eyes were pitch-black. No person or object seemed to ever truly fill those eyes. Every once in a while, a few specks of light would glimmer in his gaze, rare but radiant.
Zhuang Yibai was startled by Pine’s gaze. His heart, which had been maintaining a steady beat since he woke up, started to thump wildly for some inexplicable reason.
Pine asked, “I’m looking, what about it?”
Xiao Bai abruptly snapped out of it and swallowed almost imperceptibly. “Don’t – don’t you see my dark circles?”
Pine said, “No, it’s very pale.”
“…” Xiao Bai paused. “Anyway, I didn’t sleep well last night.”
Pine raised an eyebrow.
Xiao Bai declared, “Because you let down my skewers, and you canceled on duo queuing with me for someone else.”
At that, Pine recalled the cold, dried out midnight snack he had eaten yesterday night.
“You don’t know how pitiful I was last night.” Xiao Bai listed out all the ways he had been wronged. “I kept losing at cards; I was finally able to eat Japanese food, but then my mom forced me to go pick someone up from the airport; I didn’t even chat a lot with the girl for the sake of bringing you a steaming hot midnight snack, and I had to urge the taxi driver to re-enact Fast and Furious the entire way over; back at the base, you paid no attention at all to my love-filled midnight snack and canceled on my duo queue. Even XIU mocked me, he said that you abandoned me…”
When Pine saw Xiao Bai’s expression growing more aggrieved the longer he talked, his brows furrowed before quickly unfurrowing again. In the end, he said, “Yesterday’s skewers…”
A phone ringtone interrupted their conversation.
Pine glanced at the source of the noise. Zhuang Yibai’s phone displayed the incoming caller ID, which was “Cangshu1.”
Xiao Bai told him, “Hold on,” and answered the call.
“I woke up early, I usually wake up pretty early when I don’t have practice… Today? I’m free, what’s up.
“The amusement park?”
Xiao Bai was taken aback. At first, he wanted to refuse, but then he lifted his head and saw Pine leaning back in his chair, looking at him with crossed arms.
All of a sudden, Xiao Bai remembered that even though he had known Pine for such a long time, they had never gone to an entertainment-type place together before.
Xiao Bai hesitated for a moment and asked, “How many people are going with you?
“One of your best friends? Then can I also bring a friend with me… a guy, my teammate.”
Upon receiving a response, Xiao Bai smiled and said, “Okay, that works. Two o’clock? Okay… see you in the afternoon.”
After hanging up, Xiao Bai said animatedly, “P-baby, let’s go out to play today.”
Pine was quiet for several seconds. “Who called you?”
“Cangshu.” Xiao Bai paused and explained, “The girl I went to pick up from the airport yesterday. She said someone gave her some VIP tickets with front-of-the-line access, so she invited me out to the amusement park.”
Pine nodded before he picked up his bowl and chopsticks and got up.
Xiao Bai also stood up. “What were you saying earlier? Something about yesterday’s skewers?”
Pine put the tableware into the sink, turned around, and started to head upstairs. “It’s nothing.”
“Oh.” Xiao Bai followed after him. Pine was walking somewhat fast, so Xiao Bai had to jog a little in order to catch up.
Out of habit, he raised his arm and draped it around Pine’s neck as he glanced at the clock on the wall. “It takes half an hour to get from here to their school. How about you change clothes, and then we can leave?”
“I never said I was going.”
Astonished, Xiao Bai quickly said, “Why not? You don’t want to go? Didn’t you tell me that you’ve never gone to the amusement park before? Gege will take you there to play now… The scenery is good there, we can also ask someone to take a picture of us. It’s about time that I change my Weibo cover photo and phone lock screen anyway…”
This entire time, Xiao Bai’s Weibo cover photo and lock screen was a picture of him and Pine.
At the beginning, he switched it because he thought the picture turned out nice, but he never ended up changing it.
Pine suddenly stopped walking, and Xiao Bai also came to a halt.
Pine asked, “Why should I go with you on your date?”
Xiao Bai was dumbfounded. “This… doesn’t count as a date. We’re just going out to have fun together…”
“It’s true that you should change your Weibo cover photo and lock screen.” Pine said flatly, “You’re already going on blind dates, why are you still using a photo of me?”
Xiao Bai was bewildered by the question. “Because the photo looks pretty nice. Also, doesn’t the picture have a great effect? It lures in so many fans…”
Pine cut him off. “I don’t need that kind of fan.”
Xiao Bai: “…”
“I didn’t need them before, and I don’t need them now.” Pine said tonelessly, “Don’t sell rot on purpose anymore. Just concentrate on performing well in matches from now on.”
Xiao Bai was at a complete loss because of Pine’s words.
It took him a while to find his voice again. “Haven’t I always been performing well in matches? What’s the matter with you? I thought you didn’t care about this in the past…”
“Now I do.
“I don’t want to help you put on a show anymore.”
Xiao Bai’s heart sank; he couldn’t really describe his current emotions. “Why are you venting your morning grumpiness on me…”
“I’m not.” Pine turned to look at him as he said calmly, “You don’t need to use this kind of method to attract fans anymore either, do you?”
Xiao Bai was silent.
Actually, at the start, he had never truly intended to gain fans in such a manner. He just purely thought that it was amusing—it was very fun to tease Pine, and it was also very fun to see Pine occasionally reveal a helpless expression.
Why wouldn’t he do something that was both amusing and beneficial?
“And you should change your WeChat name too.” Pine said, “With a username like that, what girl would want to date you?”
Xiao Bai’s throat felt somewhat dry. “It doesn’t matter, it’s not like I’m dating anyone right now…”
“You will eventually.”
Pine grabbed Xiao Bai’s hand and removed it from his neck.
This was the first time Pine had ever cast his hand away. Frozen in place, Xiao Bai stared at him blankly.
“Go ahead, don’t make her wait.” Pine patted his shoulder. As if he was talking to one of their other teammates, he encouraged Xiao Bai casually, “Have fun.”
- The nickname of Xiao Bai’s blind date is literally Hamster, but because that sounds kinda dumb translated, I’ll just refer to her as Cangshu. (Like Shiliu, Jian Rong’s friend) ^