Thank you to Everybody and Somebody for the Ko-fis!
Actually, Xiao Bai had finished crying a while ago, but his voice still sounded nasally. “Over all these years, I went through so much trouble to try to diligently and sincerely please you, and this is how you treat me.”
After Xiao Bai latched onto Pine’s leg, he felt the urge to cry again. As a result, he pressed his face against Pine’s leg and unceremoniously wiped away his tears.
There was a long pause before he finally heard Pine say from above, “Why are you sitting here?”
Xiao Bai said, muffled, “Waiting for you.”
Pine could roughly guess what Xiao Bai had found out. “Not gonna wait in your room?”
“I was afraid that I would miss you.”
“What if I didn’t come back.”
Xiao Bai said quietly, “That wouldn’t happen. No matter what… you have to at least pack your stuff.”
The hand that had stopped midair continued making its way down. It sank into Zhuang Yibai’s hair, but since Pine was worried that his hand was cold, he didn’t dare to actually touch him.
Pine: “Get up.”
Xiao Bai: “No. Explain yourself.”
Pine opened the door. “Let’s go inside and talk about it.”
Xiao Bai didn’t budge. “No.”
The phone chimed from where it had fallen on the floor. Pine swept a glance at it. “Your phone.”
That reminded Xiao Bai: “Why didn’t you answer my calls? Scared that I was going to interfere with you signing your contract?”
“It ran out of battery and turned off.” Pine said, “It’s in my pocket, if you don’t believe me you can take it out and see for yourself.”
Xiao Bai stopped talking, and he silently tightened his arms around Pine’s leg.
Pine: “If you don’t let go soon, Qian-ge is going to return in a bit, and he’s going to take a picture of you.”
Xiao Bai: “…”
Pine: “Then he’ll send it to Jian Rong.”
Xiao Bai: “…I can’t stand up.”
He loosened his grip slightly and lifted his head. The rims of his eyes were very red. “I sat for too long, so my legs are sore.
“Help me get up.”
Pine gave a soft sigh before he bent over and pulled Xiao Bai up from the ground. Xiao Bai took advantage of the momentum to lean towards Pine, burying his entire face against Pine’s shoulder.
They were extremely close together, almost as if they were hugging.
Ever since Xiao Bai did this the last time he was drunk, from that point on he couldn’t help but scooch over and rest his head against Pine’s shoulder whenever the two of them stood near each other. It didn’t matter if they were backstage during a match or in the middle of a business event. Pine’s shoulders were very broad and comfortable to lean on.
At first, Pine would chase him away, but after he got used to it, he let Xiao Bai do as he pleased.
Xiao Bai turned his head and sniffed Pine’s neck. “You smoked so many cigarettes.”
Pine: “Mn, stay further away from me.”
“It’s not like I dislike you.”
Pine wasn’t wearing a scarf, so even his neck felt cold from standing outside for half an hour. Noticing Pine’s body temperature, Xiao Bai lifted his hand and rubbed the back of Pine’s neck in an attempt to warm him up.
Pine wanted to push him away, but because of that gesture, he paused. In the end, he wrapped his arm around Xiao Bai’s waist and half-dragged him into the room, the same way he usually did when Xiao Bai was drunk.
Once they were inside, Pine closed the door. He lowered Xiao Bai onto the couch and tugged out a few tissues, which he then handed to him. “Don’t cry.”
“I’m not, my eyes are just tired from having too much fun.” After Xiao Bai finished splitting hairs, he felt like even a ghost wouldn’t believe his words, so he amended, “So what if I cry? The entire world knows that my man is about to run off, I’m the only person who didn’t. Am I not allowed to cry?”
Pine turned to face away from him, head lowered slightly as he took off his jacket. “Teammate. Not man.”
Xiao Bai slumped back against the couch. “It’s all the same.”
He watched as Pine changed clothes. Pine appeared to have a thin build, but he was actually very strong; when he lifted his arms, he had rippling lines of muscle. Clearly, they both weighed about the same amount—Xiao Bai was even a few kilograms heavier than Pine—yet Pine still managed to effortlessly haul him away whenever he was in a drunken frenzy.
His phone was still chiming with new messages, but Xiao Bai didn’t care, nor did he go to check the texts. He just kept staring at Pine until the other person turned back around and met his gaze.
Xiao Bai spoke: “How much did MFG offer you for the signing bonus?”
Pine: “Twenty million.”
“…Did MFG’s boss win the lottery?” Xiao Bai suddenly remembered something, and he sat bolt upright. “P-baby, if MFG offers you such a high price, they definitely don’t have any money left to buy more players. You’re gonna walk into the base and then—oh shit, four noobs! Also, it’s not like you don’t know how trash their team’s support is. Don’t you always quit on the spot when you match with him in ranked…”
Pine said mildly, “MFG’s owner changed.”
“An e-commerce company bought their team. Apart from the top and mid lane positions, all the other members are getting switched out.” Pine tossed his lighter onto the table. “They signed a Korean support.”
Xiao Bai’s lips parted. A moment passed before he squeezed out, “Well, so what? Which LPL team is better established than ours right now? After reorganizing their players, MFG will have to practice their teamwork for sure…”
“It’s true that they’ll have to build it up again.” Pine brushed it off lightly. “Their team is going to revolve around the bot lane next season, so most of their previous strategies can’t be used anymore.”
There were too many people who could carry in TTC. You had to fight for MVP, and the resources rarely favored a single lane. If Pine went to MFG, he would be the core of the team; he would receive the most resources, and he would be protected on all sides. Even disregarding MFG’s competitive performance, it would undoubtedly be smooth sailing for the bot lane with Pine’s mechanics and strengths…
As a fellow pro gamer, Xiao Bai knew just how attractive MFG’s proposed conditions were.
Xiao Bai couldn’t come up with any other reasons for Pine to stay. He lowered his eyes as that uncomfortable feeling surged through him again, the same one that filled him back when he was sitting in the doorway and none of his calls were going through.
Pine looked at him quietly. When Xiao Bai didn’t speak, he asked, “Don’t want me to leave?”
Without any hesitation, Xiao Bai said, “No kidding.”
Xiao Bai was caught a little off guard by the question. “…We competed together for so long, and we have a great relationship with each other. Of course I can’t bear to see you leave…”
“What about before me.” Pine said evenly, “TTC’s former ADC. When he left, did you also cry like this?”
Xiao Bai was cut off in the middle of his sentence, and his mouth hung open slightly as he stared blankly at Pine.
When TTC’s former ADC left, did he cry?
That ADC was his partner for three and a half years, from his trainee days all the way until they won a championship together. They had also gotten along quite well, and though he felt regretful that he couldn’t compete with him anymore after they parted ways, he was still happy that it meant the other person could receive a higher salary instead—
Pine twisted open a bottle of water and tilted his head back to drink from it. Xiao Bai’s gaze lingered for a while on Pine’s protruding Adam’s apple before he contemplated briefly and said, “I was young back then, and I thought that we could still play games together after separating. But once he went to a different team, never mind playing together—he didn’t even add me as a friend in game when I switched accounts…”
“I won’t do that.” It felt like Pine was negotiating with him. “Outside of practice, you can ask me to play with you whenever you want. I won’t delete you from my friends list, and I’ll also add you if I switch accounts.”
“Would it be okay then.”
Xiao Bai felt a certain nebulous emotion inside of him reach a snapping point. Because of Pine’s questioning, he didn’t feel like coming up with any more of those dignified, reasonable excuses. “Why do you have so many ‘whys’? It’s because I still want to live together with you, I still want to compete alongside you, I want to share meals with you and I want to chat with you. I just don’t want you to go to another team…”
A ringtone interrupted him.
Pine glanced down at the caller ID before he picked the phone up from the table and tossed it into Xiao Bai’s lap. “Your Cangshu.”
Xiao Bai exhaled. Quite a few seconds passed before he finally answered the phone.
“Hello.” His voice was a little low. “No, I’m fine. I didn’t see your messages, that’s all… You have my jacket?”
Xiao Bai was startled for a moment before he remembered that he left his down-filled parka in the restaurant. “I forgot about it… You brought it back to your dorm? Okay, I’ll come get it from you the next time I’m free.”
The girl thanked him politely for his willingness to be their chauffeur today, and she also expressed that she had a fun time at the park. Preoccupied, Xiao Bai replied half-heartedly, “It’s good you had fun… Me? I was also pretty happy…”
After hanging up, Xiao Bai abruptly recalled something. His head shot up as he said, “Did Fu-ge offer you seventeen million this season?”
Pine watched him silently and didn’t say anything.
“How about this.” Xiao Bai licked his lips and subconsciously reached out to grab Pine’s clothing. “I’ll go negotiate with Fu-ge and ask for my signing bonus to be reduced by three million, so Fu-ge can offer you twenty million…”
“Don’t talk nonsense.” Pine took a step back, wresting his shirt out of Xiao Bai’s grip. “It’s late now, go back to your room and sleep.”
“I’m not talking nonsense.” Xiao Bai stood up. “Or do you think that it’s still too low? Then I’ll decrease my pay by five million, I’m being serious.”
“Five million?” Pine let out a low, ambiguous laugh. He asked somewhat flatly, “You don’t want to keep that money for your wife?”
Xiao Bai thought that Pine was starting to reconsider it, so he immediately said, “It’s not like I’ll be getting a wife anytime soon. Also, I still have my savings account…”
Pine pulled a random shirt out from his dresser. “Leave, I’m going to shower.”
“Hang on, we’re not done talking yet!” Xiao Bai chased after him, chattering away in his ear—
“You didn’t already sign the contract with MFG, did you?
“So why didn’t you tell me beforehand? If Cangshu and her friend didn’t mention it, would I have only found out on the day you moved out of the base?
“Just what exactly would it take for you to stay…”
Before Xiao Bai could finish his sentence, the person in front of him suddenly turned around, grabbed his shoulders, and pushed him against the wall.
Stunned, Xiao Bai subconsciously searched for Pine’s eyes, only to see within them an expanse of deep, repressed blackness. Pine’s eyes had always been darker in color, and Xiao Bai could clearly see his own reflection within them.
“Why would I stay?” Pine said, “To watch you date someone?”
Xiao Bai smelled the cigarette smoke clinging to Pine’s body. Even though there was clearly more distance between them now than there was earlier, his heart started to hammer away unstoppably.
It took him several seconds to digest what Pine just said. He pondered over it carefully for a while before he frowned and asked uncertainly, “Do you not want me to date? Is that it?”
Pine was silent.
Silence meant that he was agreeing by default.
In a flash, Xiao Bai felt like he understood now—he understood everything.
He raised his hand, as if he was swearing an oath.
“Fine then. Even though I can guarantee that dating won’t affect my performance, as long as you—Jiang Yusong—refuse to give your permission, I—Zhuang Yibai—definitely won’t date! I won’t go on blind dates anymore either! If you don’t retire for the rest of your life, then I’ll be your faithful, dependable, capable support for the rest of mine!”
Pine’s eyes darkened even more.
Xiao Bai thought a little and added, “I’ll keep my promise, but if I go back on my word, I…”
After coldly spitting out that word, Pine reached out and gripped Xiao Bai’s chin. With some force and a bit of frustrated resignation, he kissed him firmly.