Shen Qiao clenched and unclenched his fists. Just as he swept his gaze across Lu Zhe's face, pondering which spot needed a punch the most—
Er-Hua, who sat across from him at a diagonal, suddenly spoke up and saved Lu Zhe from impending doom.
"Wolfy, do you want to queue with me?"
Shen Qiao looked over and saw that Er-Hua was wearing an exceptionally friendly smile. This person's ID was well known through the entire LPL. He was clearly a big, strong alpha, but he went by FLOWER in the game. His best champions were tough supports like Thresh, the Chain Warden; Blitzcrank, the Great Steam Golem; and Nautilus, the Titan of the Depths. He was also well-known for his foresight and his well-aimed hooks.
Lele hated facing off against him.
Shen Qiao gave the offer some thought and found no reason to decline. There was no harm in entering the rift with his future teammates and getting used to their playstyle.
Just as Shen Qiao was about to nod, Lu Zhe turned and cast a glance in Er-Hua's direction. An ever-present twinkle of mirth still lingered in his long, dark eyes as he studied Er-Hua for a moment.
Intentionally or not, Lu Zhe began to emit a faintly threatening pulse of pheromones. But he didn't show any hostility on his face. His expression remained gentle and calm, like still waters.
"Er-Hua, have you heard this saying?"
Er-Hua made an inquisitive sound.
"The farthest distance in the world isn't the distance between life and death," Lu Zhe recited, "but the distance between top laners like him and bottom laners like you."
Er-Hua fell silent.
He felt those heavy pheromones rolling towards him for no discernible reason. The scent bore down on him like a palpable weight on his shoulders, like a heavy blanket of snow on pine branches. He almost involuntarily hunched forward, and he nearly dropped the smile on his face.
Silently, he thought, What's wrong with our captain now?
Shen Qiao, who'd also heard those words, raised his eyebrows.
For some unknown reason, he suddenly thought of the omega he and Lele had randomly matched with in the rift some time ago.
He stared at Lu Zhe. A flash of suspicion crossed his eyes.
It couldn't be…
Not even Lu Zhe would pretend to be an omega, would he? And that account had been ranked too low. Shen Qiao's jungler account was in Silver because he'd only recently started trying to transition into a jungler; that was why he'd made a new account. But Lu Zhe didn't have that excuse.
Seeing as this was Lu Zhe of Team DG, if he wanted to practice on an alt, the team surely could have offered him dozens of Gold or Platinum accounts to choose from. They definitely wouldn't have offered him such a low-ranking account with such a perverted name.
Plus, that account had logged ten losses in ten matches as Lee Sin. Even if Lu Zhe just rolled his face across the keyboard, he wouldn't have gotten results that bad.
"Queue with me."
Shen Qiao's attention was pulled back to the present by that soft request. Though soft, it was clearly a request that wasn't meant to be denied.
He turned to the speaker and lifted his gaze. A ripple passed through his deep eyes, like rays of sunlight streaking across a dark sea. The corners of his lips twitched, not quite curving, and he spoke in an indescribable tone that bore an undeniable edge of provocation:
"When did I agree to queue with you?"
Lu Zhe looked over just in time to catch that pinched look on Shen Qiao's face. Perhaps Shen Qiao didn't know how alluring that somewhat haughty, arrogant look could be. In any case, Lu Zhe was effectively allured.
He lowered his gaze, letting his hair fall in front of his eyes to obscure the sudden depth and darkness that filled them.
Lu Zhe swiftly added a few appetizers and a soup to his order. It was only after he placed the order that he answered, "Just now."
Saying that, he waved his cell phone and turned to Shen Qiao with a smile that crinkled the corners of his eyes.
"I'm treating you to a meal. It's not outrageous to trade that for a match, is it?"
Shen Qiao had originally wanted to protest, but he hadn't been prepared for Lu Zhe's warm and radiant smile. That smile was undeniably enchanting, like a dazzling crystal on a silver plate. The lines of Lu Zhe's face seemed to catch the light just right, making him an eye-catching sight.
There were no two ways about it. Lu Zhe had a gorgeous face. When he smiled, he had looks that could kill.
Shen Qiao suddenly forgot what he'd wanted to say.
He could only avert his gaze and hum noncommittally through his nose.
Lu Zhe eyed the sharp cut of Shen Qiao's profile and watched as his Adam's apple slowly bobbed once. When the scent of mint touched Lu Zhe's nose, his breathing slowed. Just taking in Shen Qiao's pheromones was almost as good as tasting him.
Before Shen Qiao could get riled up by his gaze again, Lu Zhe looked away of his own volition. Casually, as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened between them, he said, "The takeout isn't here yet. Why don't we play a round?"
"Queueing together is good, it's great, it's swell—Lu Zhe, you haven't streamed in two months, right? Why don't you take this as an opportunity to satisfy your fans?"
Big-Mouthed Zhou, who'd tried to stay outside but couldn't stop worrying about Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe in the end, came back to the shocking sight of the Lu-Shen duo queuing together. He was thrilled beyond belief.
Ever since Fish went abroad, their fans had been sick with worry. They all wondered if Team DG would be strong enough to tackle the Summer Tournament, and now they'd recruited Shen Qiao of all people. If their fans could see Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe getting along harmoniously, they would surely feel more at ease.
Lu Zhe originally wanted to refuse. He'd never used his main account to pair up with Shen Qiao before; this would be their first time.
If he let other people watch his and Shen Qiao's first time…
Actually, that sounded pretty exciting.
Lu Zhe looked over at Shen Qiao and heard Shen Qiao give an indifferent answer: "Your call."
Soon, Lu Zhe opened up his streaming room. His long-time fans who'd had to live off the scraps of his old videos for months were so elated that their visions blurred!
Everyone celebrated raucously, and they quickly spread the news. The few stray bullet comments soon became a forest—
[AH, AH, AH, AH, AHHHHHHHHH! I see something! Gege, look at me!]
[Emperor Zhe is awesome! Daddy Zhe is the best!]
[How's our captain been doing lately? Wanna turn on your webcam and let us take a look? Has everyone been practicing diligently even though Fish isn't there? Are you guys ready for the Summer Tournament?]
[I heard Shen Qiao went to your team, is it true?! He seems hella fierce! Captain, will you be okay?]
[Quit it with the 'heard' bullshit! Look at the stream info! DG-Wolfy! It really is Shen Qiao, oh my god. Isn't he on bad terms with our Emperor Zhe?]
Lu Zhe had only turned on his mic, not his camera. Originally, he hadn't planned on answering any questions, but his gaze snapped to one particular comment:
Captain, will you be okay?
Lu Zhe laughed softly into his mic and answered with an inexplicable warmth to his voice: "Now that he's here, I'm more okay than ever."
The fan who'd asked that question slowly typed out a question mark.
Had they misheard? Or was there actually a hint of… roguishness in Lu Zhe's tone?
The comments were going by too quickly, and that question mark went unnoticed. Lu Zhe's response hadn't attracted too much attention. Even the people who heard it simply wrote it off as a glib way of implying Shen Qiao was high maintenance. Most fans simply continued screaming for their laogong to speak some more.
But Lu Zhe fell silent.
The game seemed to be taking good care of him today. He and Shen Qiao didn't queue for long before being matched into a game.
Their team banned Ryze, Jarvan IV, Xayah, Yasuo, and Rakan. Their opponents banned Renekton, Akali, Kayle, Jayce, and Jax.
Very quickly, the other team's top laner locked in Vladimir, the Crimson Reaper as their champion.
Shen Qiao took note of that and chose Mordekaiser, the Iron Revenant.
After both teams selected their champions—
Their team was composed of Mordekaiser in the top lane, Lu Zhe playing Lee Sin as their jungler, Nautilus in the middle lane, and Kai'Sa and Blitzcrank in the bottom lane.
Their opponents ran Vladimir, Gragas, Lucian, Varus, and Tahm Kench.
Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe entered the rift in silence. The giddy chatter in the livestream began to diminish, and the swarm of bullet comments gradually thinned.
[I'm starting to wonder if our captain will stay silent the whole time.]
[Ai… is it because Shen Qiao is here?]
[The team must have forced them to queue together. Poor Emperor Zhe. DG's bosses are shameless, forcing him to do this just for publicity.]
[Shen Qiao sucks so bad. DG must not have been able to recruit anyone else, so they had to dress up this dead horse as a live one.]
Just as all sorts of wild speculation brewed in the chat, Lu Zhe suddenly spoke again:
"Qiaoqiao. Do you want to… eat this?"
Lu Zhe pointed out something on the map. It was a spot across from Baron Nashor, right where their team's blue buff had spawned.
Shen Qiao had always suffered a low resistance to the temptation of red and blue buffs. He only hesitated for a moment before he rasped, in a slightly sandy voice that was audible to the livestream viewers, "Coming."
At that moment, the bullet comments became a sea of ellipses.
[Lu Zhe, if you're being held hostage, just blink. Oh, wait, I can't see you even if you blink.]
[Is this Lu Zhe the same dog we all know and love? He's giving up the blue buff? If I recall correctly, he never once let his teammates have the red or blue buff in a tournament.]
[DG has gone too far! This fake teamwork is way too fake! Wahhhhhh, Captain! You're suffering so much!]
Inexplicably, the bullet comments all started to rage over the wrongs being committed against Lu Zhe. But Lu Zhe didn't pay them any mind. He crouched in the underbrush when he saw the enemy Gragas approaching Shen Qiao. He asked, with a smile, "Want me to save you?"
Shen Qiao had just been about to flash away; he hesitated.
Then, still smiling, Lu Zhe added, "Call me gege, and I'll come to the rescue."
Shen Qiao remained silent.
He'd only hesitated for a second, but by the time he finally activated his skill to escape, it was too late.The enemy had caught up. The attack landed, and Shen Qiao's corpse was strewn in front of the tower.
Lu Zhe eyed that corpse and let out a mournful sigh. He offered a gentle word of praise: "Using this flash to mark your grave really makes for a beautiful sight."
The bullet comments turned into a sea of ellipses once more.
[Captain Lu, you're a real dog.]
[I suddenly seem to understand why Shen Qiao doesn't like him.]
And so, even with the game still in progress, Lu Zhe's fans and Shen Qiao's fans broke out in a debate over the history of the two players' bad relationship. One side firmly asserted that Lu Zhe was a miscreant who asked for a beating with every word he spoke, and the other side insisted that the wolf cub was just too haughty and cold.
Thirty-five minutes later, Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao disbanded.
Big-Mouthed Zhou, who'd been watching the bullet comments from the sidelines the whole time, let out a heartbroken sigh.
But neither Lu Zhe nor Shen Qiao had time to comfort the beta with the fragile heart. They both got up and headed out the door. Shen Qiao wanted to go wash his hands, and Lu Zhe had to go downstairs to pick up their takeout.
However, as soon as they exited the training room, Lu Zhe suddenly raised a hand and pinned Shen Qiao to the cold, hard wall. He shifted closer with a smile hidden in his eyes. The scent of cedarwood enveloped Shen Qiao.
Once he'd wrapped Shen Qiao up in his scent, Lu Zhe sighed and murmured, "Why are you so stubborn?"
Shen Qiao looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Then, he lifted a hand to the collar of Lu Zhe's shirt and dragged him down.
His thin lips curved slightly, and he deepened his husky voice. That huskiness lent a complex significance to his words, which were both mocking and provocative. Those words and Shen Qiao's breath ghosted over Lu Zhe's skin before Shen Qiao continued:
"Do you want to mark me again that bad?"
Lu Zhe, you dog! Are you impressed? Anyway, I'm impressed!