Shen Qiao pulled away from Lu Zhe's attempts to stick to him. Their close proximity had made him sweat all over again. He wasn't sure if the air conditioning in the HQ wasn't turned up high enough, or if some sort of unruly fire from deep inside his gut was flaring up of its own accord.
Lu Zhe had only thrown out that question as a casual joke. He'd never imagined Shen Qiao would actually answer. He blinked a few times, stunned, before a look of immeasurable delight spread across his face. He gazed at Shen Qiao—
But who could have known that Shen Qiao, right after uttering that one word, would swiftly stride up the stairs. He ascended one flight in the blink of an eye, then turned back and flashed Lu Zhe an aggressive grin that showed off all his pearly white teeth.
With that, he threw the words Lu Zhe had once spoken to his fans in a livestream back in Lu Zhe's face:
"Hurry up and get some sleep. All your fantasies will come true in your dreams."
Lu Zhe realized he'd been teased. The spark of excitement that had lit him up was summarily doused by Shen Qiao's words, which washed over him like a bucket of cold water. Lu Zhe crinkled the corners of his eyes and finally made his way up the stairs as well, moving in Shen Qiao's direction.
Shen Qiao had just provoked him; there was no way he would allow himself to be caught by Lu Zhe now. He turned and fled like the wind, but after ascending to the middle of the second floor in one breath, he realized Lu Zhe wasn't actually in pursuit.
Just as Shen Qiao paused in hesitation, he heard Lu Zhe's slow and unhurried voice drift up from downstairs:
"I wouldn't let you off so easily in my dreams. Not only would we shower together, I would press you up against the wall. I would clamp my teeth down on your nape, over your glands. Biting you, marking you.
"With your cries filling up the air, I would fuck you, hard, no matter how you begged and pleaded—"
His voice was neither too loud nor too quiet, but since he was standing in the narrow stairwell, his words echoed faintly between the walls.
Those words left Shen Qiao blushing fiercely, to the tips of his ears. Shen Qiao slapped a hand against the railing and turned back to Lu Zhe, fiercely demanding, "Lu Zhe! Have you no shame?!"
Lu Zhe lifted his head and met Shen Qiao's gaze with a smile that wasn't quite a smile. With half a flight of stairs between them, Shen Qiao clearly had the high ground. But Lu Zhe didn't show the slightest hint of weakness.
He asked, earnestly, "Do I need shame to win you over?"
Shen Qiao said nothing.
Lu Zhe was completely unflustered as he stood in the stairwell, looking up and admiring the blush that had taken over Shen Qiao's face. He was just about to employ his old tactics of asking for something sweet, in exchange for him shutting up, but then…
Before Lu Zhe could speak again, Shen Qiao took a deep breath and said, "Your vividly lewd imagination is wasted on the esports world. The world of smutty fiction is truly suffering without your contributions—should I register a pen name for you, so you can go chase your dreams?"
Those words were full of sarcasm and mockery, and they had a slightly menacing edge as well. Just hearing them made Lu Zhe laugh inwardly. He stepped on the edge of the next step with his right foot, swaying a little before he smiled and gave his answer.
"Sure," he said. "Can I make you the male lead?"
Shen Qiao realized that this person would only become more outrageous with every word Shen Qiao deigned to say to him. Ultimately, he just huffed, "You can try!"
Then, still seething, he marched up the rest of the stairs and made a beeline for his own room.
Lu Zhe shook his head, still smiling. But after that smile finally melted away, his eyes deepened with a thoughtful look.
He'd skimmed through some fanfiction about him and Shen Qiao, but he hadn't found anything that was truly fitting. Maybe someday, when he had time…
Lu Zhe's cell phone began to vibrate in his pocket again, disrupting his thoughts.
He looked at the screen and saw that the caller was Manager Zhou. He answered and listened for a while, before responding—
"…I'm in the stairwell on the second floor, I'll be right there… Qiaoqiao has already gone to rest, you can just ask me. It has nothing to do with him…"
DG's 2-1 triumph over BLX quickly became that night's trending topic. However, tags like #WolfyVladimir# and #Wolfy1v5# weren't the only ones that trended. There was another search term that quickly rose on the trending topics list:
BLX's fans were all old fans who'd supported them through the LPL's years-long slump. Although BLX had lost that night, their fans had enough affection and goodwill towards them to continue offering their support. When they saw the photos someone had taken from afar, of Xu Xiao kneeling on the ground, these fans naturally flew into a rage.
BLX's official Weibo page, DG's official Weibo page, the league's official Weibo page… and every single streaming platform that broadcast the game, as well as the personal pages of every player on each team, were bombarded by comments from these irate fans. The fans were demanding an explanation for what had transpired that night.
Losing just one match was no big deal, but insulting a player's honor was another matter entirely.
The publicists from both teams were holding a late-night meeting, trying to think of a way to calm the fans.
As a result, when Shen Qiao emerged from the shower, he found a string of messages from Lele on his phone, all heavily laden with crying emojis.
It's all my fault! If only I'd waited longer after the game before going to talk to you, you guys wouldn't be in this mess… are you and Lu Zhe okay? I've already been chewed out by our vicious manager. I'm bleeding and wounded as I talk to you now. OTL
Shen Qiao looked down at his phone and answered, It doesn't have anything to do with you. We're fine. Don't worry too much.
After typing out those words, Shen Qiao instinctively cut away from their chat and checked to see if he had any other missed calls or notifications on his phone.
But after thoroughly checking all his apps, he found nothing.
Judging by Manager Zhou's naggy and impatient temperament, he should have blown up long ago after hearing the story of what happened that night.
Shen Qiao gave it some thought. If he hadn't been called in to talk to their manager yet, there was only one possible explanation—
Lu Zhe had gone instead.
Shen Qiao sat down on the edge of his bed and stared at his cell phone for a long while before he typed out a message to Lu Zhe:
Manager Zhou got you?
After he sent that message, he stared at Lu Zhe's avatar for a long time. It was an extremely simple avatar. Just pure white. Nothing else.
Shen Qiao waited for about ten minutes before he grew impatient. He threw on jeans and a t-shirt, then headed out the door.
After listening to Manager Zhou and their publicity team talk about how they planned on dealing with the matter, Lu Zhe found he had no objections. He left the manager's office after that, making his way down the familiar hallway to the stairs. On the way, he found a sense of joy and relief rising in his chest.
He couldn't help but think that it was a good thing he'd been with Shen Qiao when they left the stadium that night.
Otherwise, Shen Qiao would have had to confront Xu Xiao's nonsense on his own. Shen Qiao seemed like he wasn't easily provoked, when in reality he was just too lazy to be bothered with these things. So he might have simply taken Xu Xiao's acerbic insults without fighting back. Or, if he did lose it and retaliate, he might have become the sole target of the rage of BLX's fanbase. He might even have had to endure that long, prattling lecture from Big-Mouthed Zhou.
Lu Zhe was also glad for the fact that he'd shelled out such a huge sum of money to resolve the sponsorship issue from before. That investment had made him one of the larger stakeholders in the club, so the publicity team had no choice but to work late into the night to smooth this mess over for him.
Better yet, Shen Qiao wouldn't receive any unwarranted blame for the matter.
In Lu Zhe's eyes, this was the most perfect outcome.
When the memory of that unsavory sponsorship drifted through his mind, Lu Zhe thought back to the call he'd received from Lu Chengzhen earlier that night. Lu Zhe only had to think about it for a moment to guess that Lu Chengzhen had called in an attempt to warn him about his behavior again. In that case, it didn't matter one damn bit whether or not Lu Zhe took that call.
Because neither he nor Lu Chengzhen would ever change their minds on this issue.
They were destined to oppose each other.
Lu Zhe slowly made his way up the stairs. His long shadow grew lighter as he approached the dorms on the third floor of the building, eventually disappearing. When he turned a corner, he saw a figure standing right outside the door to his own room.
Shen Qiao had his back against the door, and the motion-activated lights in the hall around him had already gone dark. Only the faint light of his cell phone screen illuminated his form. His head was bowed, and his hair was getting slightly long. The ends were long enough to tickle the nape of his neck now, painting a stark contrast against his porcelain white skin. The darkness of his hair made his pale skin look almost like it was glowing.
When he sensed some lights turning on at the end of the hall, Shen Qiao instinctively looked up from the game he'd been playing on his phone. Upon spotting Lu Zhe, he switched off the screen of his phone and stuck one hand into his pocket as he looked over.
Lu Zhe quickened his pace a little and stopped in front of Shen Qiao. His voice was low, and tinged with some pleasure and mirth, as he asked, "What's up? Couldn't sleep tonight? Want me to keep you company?"
Shen Qiao was silent.
His mind went blank for a moment. He looked like he was wondering, Why the hell was I worrying about a disgusting cretin like this? Was I bored out of my mind?
He looked Lu Zhe up and down, then straightened and turned as though to walk back to his own room. He lazily drawled, "I wanted to ask if Manager Zhou made any trouble for you, but now that I think about it… you were probably the one who made trouble for him."
As he watched Shen Qiao start to leave, Lu Zhe quickly realized why Shen Qiao had been waiting outside his dorm room this late at night. Fondness overflowed from his heart, and he instinctively lifted a hand to block Shen Qiao's escape.
"Since you're already here…" Lu Zhe began. "How can you be sure I haven't been troubled, unless you take a closer look? You can't tell just from looking at me. That means I've already suffered internal wounds from all of Big-Mouthed Zhou's prattling."
Shen Qiao scoffed, not believing a single word that came out of Lu Zhe's mouth. But he'd been a little too slow in his retreat. By the time Shen Qiao managed to react, Lu Zhe had already unlocked his door with his fingerprint and pulled Shen Qiao inside.
The lights in Lu Zhe's room were off. There was no light whatsoever spilling into that room.
In the dark, senses other than vision became heightened. Although there was clearly still some distance between them, Shen Qiao could strangely already feel the heat emanating from Lu Zhe's body.
His thoughts drifted for a moment. And in that moment, Lu Zhe spun to face him and laid a hand on Shen Qiao's shoulder.
Their breathing intermingled in midair.
Shen Qiao reflexively turned his head away. He lifted his right hand and haphazardly pushed Lu Zhe's face back, catching his chin. His voice, saturated with mockery, filled the room:
"Captain Lu, what are you doing? Taking advantage of a teammate isn't appropriate, is it?"
Lu Zhe stifled a laugh, but his chest still rose and fell with his barely concealed amusement.
Originally, he'd only planned on drawing near and stealing a kiss. But with Shen Qiao calling him 'Captain Lu' all of a sudden, Lu Zhe felt a hot rush of fire wash over him. In the dark, the intensity of every little movement and word was magnified. All Lu Zhe wanted now was to fiercely bully the person in front of him.
The hand he'd placed on Shen Qiao's shoulder began to drift, sliding back to Shen Qiao's nape. Lu Zhe's heated palm came to a rest there, gently cupping the spot where Shen Qiao's glands were located.
The scent of mint had been almost undetectably faint. It came surging out now. That chilling scent quickly spread through the whole room.
It was like Shen Qiao had been holding his breath, but he'd held it all in for too long. Now, with Lu Zhe's teasing, he couldn't control that scent any longer. Everything came flooding out.
Lu Zhe's imagination was running wild, and his vivid fantasies had gotten his heart racing. His fingers shamelessly massaged Shen Qiao's glands, and he noticed it right away when Shen Qiao's breathing slowly became uneven. Shen Qiao couldn't even seem to control his pheromones; they fluctuated with his breathing, sometimes growing faint and sometimes spiking to greater intensities again.
It made the grin on Lu Zhe's lips grow wider and wider.
With a smile laden-voice, Lu Zhe suddenly asked, "Didn't you want to bite me today? Why did you change your mind?"
He was referring to the moment that had passed between them earlier that day, during a break after their first round against BLX.
Shen Qiao had gone completely tense with Lu Zhe's touch assailing his nape. His every breath trembled. He reflexively reached up to grab Lu Zhe's wrist and tug his hand away, but Lu Zhe—as though vengefully—only squeezed down harder on Shen Qiao's nape. As a result, Shen Qiao only wrapped his hand around Lu Zhe's wrist, not pulling, but just squeezing. As though inviting Lu Zhe to continue.
He shifted his shoulders in an attempt to throw Lu Zhe off. The sensation of losing control made his breath come a little short, which in turn made his voice sound somewhat impatient.
"I suddenly don't want to bite you anymore," he said. "Got a problem with that?"
Lu Zhe huffed a laugh when he heard those words. He chased the scent of Shen Qiao's pheromones to the source, gently nosing at Shen Qiao's chin. That light sensation made Shen Qiao itch all over. He finally tipped his head to warn Lu Zhe off, but then froze—
His lips brushed up against a familiar softness.
Lu Zhe smiled warmly. The gentle words that spilled past his lips were full of fondness and mirth:
"Qiaoqiao. You're the one who's seducing me."
In the next instant!
Lu Zhe's fierce kiss bore down on him.