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Hua City. BLX Headquarters. LoL Division.
The last practice match of the night concluded. The coaches tore into each player, one by one, for all their misses and mistakes. Afterwards, some of the players ordered takeout and streamed for a while. Others went off to train on their own, targeting the faults pointed out during the review of their practice match.
At least, that was what would have happened on an ordinary night.
However, tonight, only one computer monitor remained lit in the training room.
Shen Qiao, wearing headphones, entered the game lobby and chose his preferred position. But not his usual position. Shen Qiao, who'd always locked himself in as a top laner, selected jungler as his first choice and whatever as his second.
LoL, or League of Legends, became a popular game in esports as soon as it launched. The five positions of the 5v5 MOBA are as follows: top laner, mid laner, AD, support, and jungler. Most pro players had experience with a wide range of champions, but typically focused their training on the position they specialized in.
And everyone knew Shen Qiao was a top laner.
Just as Shen Qiao queued for a game, the team's assistant captain Lele came in with a towel on his head. Lele pushed open the door to the training room with one hand while drying his hair with the other. Somewhat hesitantly, he called out, "Qiao-ge?"
Shen Qiao lifted a hand and pulled down his headphones. He spun halfway around in his pitch black gaming chair. His icy gaze swept across the room, and his unyielding features conveyed a wild and strong-willed aura.
"The… welcome party," Lele began. "You're really not going?"
Shen Qiao's brows furrowed. Traces of disdain subconsciously filled his eyes. When he lifted his gaze to Lele again, the coldness in his eyes had been replaced by a gleam of derision.
"Why would I go? So that I can buy a string of fireworks and set them off outside the dining hall to celebrate the fact that, starting tomorrow, I'll be reduced to a water boy?"
As he spoke, a wave of pheromones rolled off him and bore down on Lele. The scent should have been crisp like peppermint, but it struck Lele like the cold steel of a sharpened blade. It was enough to make a person freeze in place.
Lele felt a chill run down his nape. He fell silent.
Tonight's welcome party was hosted in honor of a Korean top laner who'd just joined Team BLX. Ever since the team failed to crack the Top 8 of the Spring Tournament last month, rumors had been floating down from upper management. The team's direct manager had even called Shen Qiao in for a private chat to give him a heads up and reassure him that the new top laner was just coming in as a substitute.
But everyone knew the truth. Considering the tactics Team BLX was running those days, Shen Qiao was the one who was destined to become a sub.
The team's higher-ups had no sympathy for players who couldn't get results. Without sparing a single thought for Shen Qiao's feelings, they'd dispatched someone to summon him to the welcome party. To them, it was more important to give a warm welcome to the new player.
Shen Qiao didn't really mind. But Lele, who'd been sent to get him, felt a pang of guilt.
Lele sighed and caught the towel that was about to slip off his head. Just as he was about to say something else, he caught a glimpse of Shen Qiao's monitor. The champion selection screen had already appeared. Lele watched as Shen Qiao moved his cursor and chose Lee Sin, the Blind Monk.
Lele's eyes widened slightly.
Shen Qiao wanted to become a jungler?
At the tender age of sixteen, Shen Qiao had become the #1 top laner on the KR server. At seventeen, he became a first-string player on the country's top rookie training team. After that team disbanded, he was quickly picked up by a minor league team. He played as a regular there as well, and he played fiercely. He pushed himself to the limit and stood as an equal to the best players in the league. With his bold moves and intense playstyle, he attracted a large number of fans.
After that, BLX snapped him up. In his first year with Team BLX, he showed off an impressive array of classic tactics that further propelled him into the spotlight. Everyone had high hopes for him. Many thought he would become the best top laner that the League of Legends Pro League—the LPL—had ever seen.
Shen Qiao's teammates, including Lele, knew he was good. It was just too bad that…
Lele hesitated for a moment before he asked, "Qiao-ge, how long have you been practicing as a jungler?"
Shen Qiao didn't answer. He only glanced at the time at the bottom right corner of his computer monitor, then fully turned back around to face the screen. With his back to Lele, he said, "You'll be late if you don't leave now."
The game began. Shen Qiao geared up and left the fountain where he spawned. He expertly navigated across the map, guiding his champion Lee Sin to the jungle. Just as he was about to put his headphones back on, he realized the person behind him had yet to leave.
Before Shen Qiao could turn around again, Lele spoke up: "Qiao-ge."
After another moment's hesitation, Lele continued, "If you have time, you should watch Team DG's game from tonight."
"Did they lose?" Shen Qiao asked without turning around. "I'll watch it if they lost."
Lele flashed a helpless smile and decided to bury the lede. "You'll find out when you watch it."
With that, he finally left the training room, gently closing the door behind himself.
As Shen Qiao entered the game, he started streaming to log some hours.
Team BLX had been eliminated from the Spring Tournament in ninth place last month. The trolls and haters had only plagued them for a week or so before shifting their focus to another team that had been eliminated more recently. Shen Qiao figured his livestream wouldn't be especially popular that night—
But in less than five minutes, his screen was densely packed by bullet comments.
[The Blind Monk? Is this the beginning of the end? Has he given up on himself?]
[Oho? The nation's shittiest top laner Wolfy is online? Let me get a screenshot.]
[Wolfy is awesome! Our little wolf is the best! Laogong, look at me! A sexy little O is watching you!]
[I heard a little rumor that we'll be calling a new top laner our daddy pretty soon?]
[Fuck off, trolls. You mad DG got wailed on and lost 0-3 tonight? That's got nothing to do with us wolf cubs.]
[Why don't Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe get along? Because opposites attract and likes repel. They're both such chickenshit noobs, of course they don't get along. I finally understand.]
[Hey, while you DG fanboys are crashing a BLX stream, I'm fucking all your moms.]
In the game, Shen Qiao hid his champion in the underbrush and signaled his teammates. Once their opponents lowered the Rift Herald's health, he suddenly activated his skill and jumped into the fray. With a well-timed Smite—
Every single one of their enemies instantly flung their available attack skills at him.
Help from his own team came a split second too late. Shen Qiao's blind monk took down the Herald, but before he could get away—an enemy champion dealt him a heavy blow, and his blood sprayed across the rift.
Shen Qiao took a moment to glance at the bullet comments from his stream. The news he saw there was surprising enough to make him lift his eyebrows.
No wonder the energy was high tonight. And some people had even come into his stream to rag on the pitiful losers of the night. So Team DG had suffered a loss? And an utterly humiliating 0-3 loss at that?
If he remembered correctly, tonight's game had been the semifinals of the Spring Tournament. Team DG had been last year's world champions. They were fierce competitors, and their players seemed to be in good shape that year. When BLX had gone up against them earlier in the group stage of the tournament, Shen Qiao had gotten the feeling they could'v taken another world championship without much trouble. How could they have been eliminated in the Top 4?
Why had Lele told him to watch that match?
Was it just because he knew Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe didn't get along? Did he just think DG's miserable defeat would make Shen Qiao happy?
Team DG had finished their match, but their captain Lu Zhe didn't go back to the team headquarters. Instead, he only stopped for a change of clothes before heading out to a private hospital in the city.
The halls of the hospital were quiet. No one knew that in one of these rooms lay the star of tonight's show. The one who netizens had cursed to hell and back.
A nurse was currently scribbling down some records at the triage desk. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a long shadow pass by. She instinctively lifted her gaze and caught sight of a tall figure with broad shoulders, a narrow waist, and long legs. The man's proportions were nearly perfect, and it was obvious from a glance that this was an admirable alpha.
The visitor crossed her field of vision quickly. She only caught a glimpse of his profile, but it was a sight that left her stunned for a long while—
Although she'd only caught a glimpse, that glimpse was enough to stir up her imagination. Based solely on that man's profile, she could picture a thoroughly wicked face.
Upon entering one of the hospital rooms, Lu Zhe caught a flash of a cell phone screen going dim. The man in the hospital bed was wearing an oxygen mask, and his eyes were closed as though he were peacefully sleeping.
Lu Zhe leaned against the door and said, blandly, "Faker."
The person under the blankets instantly opened his eyes and smiled at Lu Zhe through the transparent oxygen mask. "Oh? The captain is here to give me his love and well wishes in the middle of the night?"
Lu Zhe raised his eyebrows as he approached with a container of soup that had been stewed by the housekeeper back at their headquarters. Subconsciously, he emitted a wave of pheromones as his beautiful eyes swept over his teammate's face.
Maintaining a mild and warm voice, he asked, "If that's what I'm here to give you, are you bold enough to take it?"
The person on the bed practically retracted his neck into his shoulders. He quickly averted his gaze and started messing around on his phone again, acting like nothing had happened.
"You were just resuscitated, and you're already on your phone?" Lu Zhe asked smoothly. "Hand it over."
"Nooo, Captain. My cell phone is my little wifey," the patient protested while hiding his phone. "I swore to her we would never be apart from now on. Even if you're a total ladykiller, you wouldn't steal my wife, would you?"
Lu Zhe watched him quietly, calmly.
This was Team DG's top laner Fish, and he also happened to be the subject of the internet's vilest curses that night. He'd been suppressed by the enemy in three consecutive skirmishes. The first time, he'd messed up in the middle of a teamfight. The second time, he'd traveled too far from his four teammates while their team was trying to gain the upper hand. In the resulting teamfight, they were obliterated.
Ultimately, irate fans even accused him of getting drunk before the match. There seemed to be no other explanation for his god-awful performance that night.
When Lu Zhe joined the team, Fish had already been one of DG's seasoned veterans. He went out of his way to help Lu Zhe acclimate to the team. Before Lu Zhe's first important match, Fish pulled him aside and chattered away about a whole bunch of nonsense just to alleviate Lu Zhe's anxiety. Lu Zhe hadn't even realized, before then, that he'd been nervous.
Fish was like the team's genie in a bottle. Whenever anyone had any troubles or anything to discuss, they would go to him first. Now, it was Fish who was troubled—by spontaneous pneumothorax, a collapsed lung.
Lu Zhe had already looked into it. Among esports players, an average of less than one person per year was afflicted by such a condition. He'd thought that ditching the rest of the team and coming here alone would give him a chance to talk to Fish about some things, but he never got that chance.
Fish suddenly took the initiative and lifted his cell phone, turning the screen to Lu Zhe. "Captain, look who it is."
The first thing Lu Zhe saw was the champion Lee Sin, a jungler. Then he saw the player's name: TheWolfy.
He took in Fish's expression, then skimmed the bullet comments streaming across the screen. His brows furrowed, and he guessed, "Shen Qiao's alt account?"
Fish nodded. "BLX can't handle him. Their core tactics can't contain this wild wolf cub. I heard they recruited a top laner from abroad. They'll probably play that card in the upcoming Summer Tournament."
Lu Zhe stared at the screen; his eyebrows remained furrowed.
Fish breathed deeply. His transparent oxygen mask fogged up. He studied Lu Zhe's face for a moment before he slowly ventured, "His contract doesn't come up for, what, another year or something? It would be a pity for him to rot as BLX's water boy for all that time."
Lu Zhe's gaze instantly flickered over to Fish.
Fish feigned a forlorn expression as he gazed out the window. His lips curved into a smile. "This condition of mine is bound to give me more trouble, and I've already won a world championship. I won't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I looked into it before you joined the team, anyway. I can get this treated overseas. There are good doctors, good facilities. Who knows? Maybe I'll be able to come back in a few years and coach for a while."
He had already decided to retire.
Lu Zhe suddenly, inexplicably felt choked up. If Fish was really as carefree as he seemed, he wouldn't have hidden his condition to stay on the field and play to the very end.
Nobody would ever turn down a second championship title. As long as they could stand on that field, esports players only had one goal—
Fish gazed out the window for a long moment before turning back to Lu Zhe. "Ah, I'm just talking nonsense now. Captain, what I really want to ask is… do you really have a grudge against him?"
Even Lu Zhe's teammates knew he had bad blood with Shen Qiao. But the cause of that bad blood remained a mystery to them all.
Lu Zhe nodded faintly. "I guess."
Fish cocked his head.
He couldn't figure out what that meant. "Did he steal away your crush?" he guessed. "Did he snitch on you in school? Did he slash your tires? Did he hire some thugs to beat you up? Did he force—"
"…why is he the bad guy in all these scenarios?" Lu Zhe asked, amused.
Fish pulled a face like the answer to that should have been obvious. With a sympathetic look in his eye, he said, "Everyone inside and outside the industry knows about that explosive A temper of his. If you'd been the bad guy, would you still be alive right now?"
Lu Zhe shook his head and seemed to think of something pleasant. A nicer, more handsome smile spread across his face. For a moment, it seemed as though vibrant flowers in full bloom popped up all around the room.
Fish was shocked. "No, don't tell me… Captain, were you really the one who did something to him?"
Lu Zhe had no intention of saying anything else on the matter. "Rest well," he urged seriously. "Don't think too much about things that don't matter. Don't forget that you're Team DG's top laner."
Fish heaved a sigh and stubbornly clung to the topic at hand. "Then as a fellow member of the same industry, I'll give him a follow on Weibo. That's fine, right?"
He lifted his phone and tapped a few things on the screen.
A few seconds later—
Fish set down his phone and solemnly informed Lu Zhe, "Captain, I retract my former statement. He's already cracked in the head. We can't take him."
Lu Zhe made an inquisitive sound.
Fish stared blankly at Lu Zhe as he lifted his phone, showing Lu Zhe the screen again. The screen displayed a Weibo correspondence; the last message seemed to be an automated response sent by the party that had just been followed.
If you're here to hate me, remember: my builds and tactics are second to none.
If you're here to date me, don't: I'm not sweet. I'll take your love and I'll take your money.
Lu Zhe stared.
A new disaster is here!
I'll try to write the gaming scenes in a way which everyone can understand. If anyone has any criticisms or suggestions, please let me know (gently)!
A/B/O Trivia —
People are born as betas, alphas, or omegas. The three secondary sexes are differentiated by their pheromones.
Beta (80%) - Average in all regards. Can become pregnant, but children born to betas are rare. Their offspring are prone to premature death. Under normal circumstances, betas are unaffected by pheromones. But they may be affected by extremely strong alphas or omegas in heat. Although mediocre in every way, betas are the largest and most crucial part of the population.
Alpha (15%) - Born leaders with dominant dispositions. Exceptional genes. Superior IQ and physical capabilities. Strong desires. Controlling. Can be affected by omega pheromones to the point of losing all sense of reason and being reduced to base instincts.
Omega (5%) - The rarest type. Bodies are delicate. Easily impregnated; most children are born to omegas. From the age of 18, omegas experience an uncontrollable heat once a year. The 'sweet' pheromones they emit during this time can reduce alphas to creatures of instinct. At the same time, omegas are also strongly affected by alpha pheromones during their heat.