News of recent events surrounding Team DG at the international tournament quickly spread among their domestic fans.
The post-game interview with Shen Qiao and Hank had been simulcast back home, so everyone had already seen the way Shen Qiao turned increasingly red as he spoke throughout that interview. And they'd already seen the way Lu Zhe and various staff members rushed up to interrupt the interview.
They'd even seen the way Lu Zhe wrapped Shen Qiao up in his jacket before pulling him offstage. All that had been captured by the cameras and broadcast live.
The minds of the fans who witnessed that scene all filled up with question marks. The livestream room was flooded by curious bullet comments.
[What's that jacket supposed to mean? Holy shit, could all the gossip about Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao be true?]
[Huh? Why did Wolf Cub turn so red on stage? He was blushing? Does he have a crush on Hank?]
[Question: Is the relationship between two alphas supposed to be like this? Don't people say the thing an alpha hates most is another alpha's scent?]
[WolfDog is real, WolfDog is real, WolfDog is real. I've already said it a million times.]
[Daddy Lu is so damn forward. Nice, I love it.]
For a while, these rumors consumed the online esports community. Even straight guys who were only interested in the gameplay aspects started to believe there was something going on between Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe. After all, the way they were almost too intimate with each other wasn't normal for a pair of alphas at all.
Eventually, some people started to raise doubts and protests—
[Even if these two are together, this sort of behavior isn't appropriate, is it? Lu Zhe's jealousy is over the top. All Shen Qiao did was accept an interview. Lu Zhe's reaction was too exaggerated, wasn't it?]
[Does anyone else feel like Lu Zhe is getting too full of himself? First he bullied one of BLX's players outside the stadium after a game, and now he's acting unprofessional on stage? He's way too arrogant, it's disgusting.]
[Can you little omegas and betas stop shipping this? Don't you think two alphas being together is gross?]
Just as these toxic comments started to surface, official statements explaining the situation were rushed out by DG's official Weibo, the official account of the LMS team they played against, and the league's official account.
The statement from Team DG offered an explanation for Lu Zhe's sudden appearance on stage during the post-game interview—
In short, the statement said Lu Zhe got on stage out of concern for his teammate. Due to a personal health problem, Shen Qiao had a severe allergic reaction during the interview. As his captain, Lu Zhe was concerned—and that was why he made the abrupt decision to act. Of course, the team officials did not encourage this sort of behavior, but they hoped everyone would understand that Lu Zhe had acted for a proper cause.
Prior to the release of that statement, some of DG's fans had already started to get high on shipping Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe. But they hadn't dared speak up too loudly, for fear of being written off as crazy shippers. However, after seeing that official release, they instantly steeled their resolve and hit their keyboards to fight back against the nasty comments that had been coming.
[Wahhhhhh, I just knew Captain Lu wasn't that kind of villainous person!]
[Lu Zhe, you're the best!]
[Is Qiaoqiao okay? I'm so worried about him. He was red in the face because of allergies?]
[Did you hear that, antis?! Captain Lu went up there out of love and concern for his teammate, not because of jealousy or arrogance. All of you who talked shit about him, comment below and apologize!]
These fans loved Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao from the bottom of their hearts, so they were naturally whipped into a frenzy. They took to forums and comments sections on Weibo, fiercely suppressing all the trolls that stuck their necks out. And in the end, they couldn't help but ask themselves a few new questions—
What exactly was Shen Qiao allergic to?
And how was he doing now? What would they do about tomorrow's game?
The two people who had fallen under the spotlight of concern from their fans were still at the hospital.
After conveying all his thoughts to Manager Zhou, Lu Zhe stayed outside the hospital room for a while longer to make several phone calls. Shen Qiao listened hazily from inside, only catching the vague sense that Lu Zhe was very busy with something.
But that thought only fleeted quickly through his mind.
He was still possessed by that itch.
He'd only just been hooked up to an IV drip, after all. Even if he were being treated with some miracle drug, it wouldn't have taken effect that quickly. The fastest-acting drugs would still take twenty to thirty minutes to kick in. With no one watching him at his bedside, Shen Qiao couldn't keep his hands still. He scratched at his arms, then his neck.
When Lu Zhe came back in to check on Shen Qiao, he discovered Shen Qiao shifting about—not too frantically, but not too carefully either. The needle in the back of Shen Qiao's hand had nearly been displaced by his movements.
Lu Zhe jumped with alarm. He rushed back to Shen Qiao's side and lifted his hands to catch Shen Qiao's wrists, preventing him from scratching any longer.
Manager Zhou was still outside the hospital room. Because he knew Lu Zhe's stance on the matter, he was in the middle of contacting the higher-ups in their club and asking them to pressure the league to order the player Hank to submit to a blood test—
After all, no one could be sure whether or not this player's heat had arrived suddenly, without warning, or if he had deliberately concealed his condition and taken some drug to hide his oncoming heat for the sake of being able to compete.
If it were the former, they would have to find some other way of tackling the situation. But if it were the latter…
The league would never stand by and simply allow someone to break the rules that were in place.
Omegas were, admittedly, at a disadvantage in many ways in modern society. But that didn't mean they could use their own weaknesses as an excuse for breaking rules and bringing disorder onto the field.
After making his calls, Manager Zhou looked up with the intent to talk to Lu Zhe some more. But Lu Zhe was no longer there. The door to Shen Qiao's hospital room was open by a sliver, though. Manager Zhou crooked his fingers and rapped his knuckles against the door before lightly pushing it open.
Just as he stuck his head inside, he saw Lu Zhe look back and shake his head, gesturing for Manager Zhou to not say anything just yet. It was a bad time to disturb Shen Qiao's rest.
Manager Zhou had no choice but to retreat for the time being.
Inside the room—
Lu Zhe could tell that Shen Qiao was still restless even after his wrists had been pinned down. Shen Qiao was still trying to break free, still trying to scratch. Lu Zhe could only heave a quiet sigh.
The face mask Lu Zhe had worn earlier, during the match, had already been taken off long ago. Now, the little scab at the corner of his lips was on full display, plainly visible under the hospital lights.
Shen Qiao had scrunched up his face in displeasure as soon as Lu Zhe caught his wrists and stopped him from moving. He furrowed his brows and glared up at Lu Zhe like he owed Shen Qiao eight million yuan.
Lu Zhe kissed the crease between Shen Qiao's brows and helplessly murmured, "Qiaoqiao, are you going to force me to tie down your hands before you behave?"
Hearing that, Shen Qiao's eyes widened. He demanded, "You would dare?"
His voice was a little raspy. It was hard to tell whether that was due to thirst or the rising temperature of his skin.
Lu Zhe released Shen Qiao's hands and got up, preparing to head outside to fetch a cup of warm water from the nearest nurse's station. Before stepping out, he glanced at Shen Qiao's arms again, then pulled back the covers to get a better look at the scratch marks on Shen Qiao's neck.
Then he lifted a hand and pinched Shen Qiao's right ear, like an animal warning its cub to behave. He leaned down and warned, "I've already memorized your current state. If I come back from getting you water and find a single new scratch on you, I'll definitely tie you down. That's a promise."
Shen Qiao balled his hands up into fists. He couldn't help but feel that receiving a warning like that was disgraceful.
But the itch really was subsiding now. In its place, a stinging pain was rising from the places where he had scratched too hard.
Unwilling to admit to feeling threatened, Shen Qiao simply closed his eyes and refused to look at Lu Zhe, pretending to be resting peacefully.
Lu Zhe saw that Shen Qiao was feeling a little better. A smile finally returned to the corners of his lips as he hurried out to fetch some water.
Lu Zhe stayed at the hospital for several hours while Shen Qiao was attached to the IV drip. As time passed, the glaring red rashes on Shen Qiao's skin did start to fade. They were no longer such an alarming, worrying red.
After checking up on Shen Qiao, the doctor asked that he stay overnight for observation.
Shen Qiao listened to Manager Zhou's translation of the doctor's words, but shook his head to refuse. "I don't need to stay at the hospital. I know what my condition is like. I just need to take some medicine for a few days, and I'll be fine."
Lu Zhe gave him a look. "Listen to the doctor. I'll stay with you tonight."
Manager Zhou listened to the two of them argue for a moment. He thought about the fact that they didn't have a substitute top laner on the team at that time, and ultimately decided to simply ask the doctor outright if it was possible for Shen Qiao to go home that night. He promised they would send Shen Qiao back right away if anything happened.
There was a very important match tomorrow, after all.
The doctor was hesitant, but gave an honest answer as well. "Staying overnight for observation would be the safest course of action. But as long as you can guarantee he won't be exposed to any other allergens anytime soon, and as long as he comes back tomorrow morning for another IV drip, he can go home tonight."
Manager Zhou let out a breath of relief. Tomorrow's match was in the afternoon. Sending Shen Qiao back for an IV in the morning wasn't impossible at all.
He gloomily sulked over the fact that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place now, but he still dutifully translated the doctor's words for Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao.
Lu Zhe hesitated for a while. He looked towards Shen Qiao and asked, "Why don't we at least stay the night? We can leave at around noon tomorrow."
He still didn't feel at ease with the idea of Shen Qiao leaving the hospital now.
But Shen Qiao truly loathed hospitals, and he firmly refused, "No."
"There's not much difference between staying here and going back, so—"
Shen Qiao interrupted Lu Zhe's protest and once again, in a firmer voice, stated, "No."
Manager Zhou, listening to all this from the sidelines, was starting to get a headache. Just as he braced himself for at least five more minutes of this stubborn bickering, he heard Lu Zhe relent.
"Okay," Lu Zhe said. "But if you feel any discomfort, you have to tell me right away."
Shen Qiao nodded.
The three of them left the hospital together. Just as they made their way out of Shen Qiao's hospital room and started heading downstairs, Manager Zhou got a call on his phone. After taking the call and hanging up, he suddenly raised his voice and called out to Lu Zhe—
"The test results are out!"
Lu Zhe gestured for him to cut to the chase.
"That guy took drugs to suppress his condition. Now, it isn't a question of whether or not we want to accept his apology. It's up to the league to punish him now."
At those words, a flash of light crossed Lu Zhe's gaze. "Is that so?" he mused. "Then we'll let the league deal with him first. I'll settle my score with him after that."
Shen Qiao was a little stunned when he saw that look in Lu Zhe's eyes. It filled his heart with an inexplicable warmth.
Lu Zhe felt Shen Qiao's gaze on him and quickly turned to face him. The cold, sharp light that had filled his eyes when he spoke to Manager Zhou disappeared, replaced once more by warmth.
"What is it?" he asked softly. "Do you still feel uncomfortable? We can go back right now and get it checked out."
Shen Qiao shook his head. "It's nothing."
The league officials handled the matter very quickly.
An official announcement expelling Hank from professional esports was released right away. The report condemned him for violating the spirit of fair play, infringing upon the personal rights of other players, and demonstrating a gross breach of ethics. It even specifically spoke of his use of drugs to falsely pass the pre-game medical examination just to participate in the match.
The team from the LMS couldn't just act like none of this was happening. Team DG had no intention of simply letting them sweep this issue under the rug, after all.
A crusade of furious netizens raged against the LMS team until they finally issued a statement. Team DG's domestic fans even worked their way around the firewall just to tear into the LMS team.
The LMS team's statement included an earnest apology, which also revealed the following—
…for violations of the league's code of conduct, we will begin the proceedings to terminate our contract with the player Hank. However, we are still deeply sorry for the effect this incident accidentally had on Team DG's players. We offer our sincerest apologies, and we hope Shen Qiao will recover soon.
Instantly, the esports world was sent into an uproar!
Now everyone knew Shen Qiao had been allergic to Hank's pheromones!
How could there be such a shameless omega in this world? How could someone do such a thing on the sacred grounds of an official stadium?!
From that day on, Hank became a figure of shame in the esports community. DG's fans all swarmed across the firewall to berate him for his actions. Underneath recent posts on Lu Zhe's and Shen Qiao's personal accounts, many fans wrote to express their care and concern.
But neither Lu Zhe nor Shen Qiao could be bothered to pay attention to any of that.
Late that night, at Shen Qiao's hotel room—
Shen Qiao had just taken a shower, bearing the sting of his injuries. When he emerged, he heard a knock at his hotel room door. When he saw Lu Zhe standing outside, a shade of suspicion rose in his eyes.
Lu Zhe took in the sight of Shen Qiao's arms and neck. As expected, he didn't see any of the ointment Shen Qiao had been prescribed. He just knew this person wouldn't behave if left to his own devices.
He met Shen Qiao's gaze and sternly, self-righteously declared—
"Tonight, I'll sleep with you."
Ai, Dog Lu, is this really worth it? You're just asking for trouble.