A few minutes earlier.
Shen Qiao dodged the syringe aimed at his throat. His back hit the wall, and he spun to say something, only to see that heavy canvas tote bag flying at his face.
If it weren't for the fact that he had plenty of experience fighting people, and the fact that he'd kept working out over the past few years, he would have taken a hit to the head that knocked him out for a few minutes—
He squatted down swiftly and heard that heavy bag of documents crash into the wall.
Then a wave of loose papers cascaded down, scattering all over the floor.
The other man took stock of the situation and immediately donned a look of defeat. He quickly backed up to the emergency exit and pushed the door open, preparing to run into the stairwell. But he called out one last parting shot—
"What a pity. It looks like my employer fed me some misinformation. I'll have to find a more delicate target to squeeze."
Shen Qiao froze. He instantly thought of Lu Zhe. Unwilling to let such a dangerous person escape, Shen Qiao jolted into action and sprinted to the emergency exit.
The beta who'd slipped out the door only climbed one flight of stairs before stopping and looking down at the door he'd come out of. He stopped there and smiled coyly, as though waiting for his prey to fall into his trap.
Shen Qiao lifted his head and met that man's gaze. The light in his eyes gradually disappeared, leaving only a dark, bitter glare on his face.
Lu Zhe rushed to the emergency exit where he'd heard a clamor. He found the door shut, and when he pushed, it wouldn't budge. It was like something heavy had it blocked from the other side. In his panic, Lu Zhe unthinkingly took two steps back and slammed his weight against the door to crash through it.
The door cracked open, just a sliver. A green recycling bin sat on the other side of the door. Fortunately, someone had just replaced the bag inside not long ago. It wasn't too heavy to push aside.
Lu Zhe shoved the door a few more times, and the bin gradually scooted farther and farther away, allowing the crack in the doorway to widen.
Lu Zhe slanted his body and squeezed through the crack as soon as he was able. He looked up, but didn't see anyone on top of the stairs to the next floor. He was more thorough than that, though. The smile on his face was completely gone. His lips were tightly pursed. He sought out the faint traces of mint in the air and continued to search, tracking the scent.
Another loud BAM sounded out!
It was the sound of someone slamming into the metal railing of the stairwell.
Lu Zhe jumped when he heard that noise, then quickly rushed down a flight of stairs. This emergency exit had a wall in the middle of the stairs, so there was no way to vault over the railing, and there was no way to see what was happening on a lower level.
So Lu Zhe could only sprint, taking the steps two or three at a time and ultimately just launching himself down to the lower landing.
He flew down the stairs with one hand on the railing. Finally, after turning a corner, he laid eyes on—
Someone had Shen Qiao trapped against the railing. Shen Qiao had that person's wrist caught in his grip. A sharp, glinting box cutter was dangerously close to Shen Qiao's throat.
Upon sensing the presence of another person, the assailant pushed harder, trying to stab the blade downwards. Shen Qiao matched his strength, gritting his teeth as he fought the man back. He furrowed his brow deeply and thought—
Where did such a monstrous beta come from?
How can he be so strong?
Then, in that instant—!
Lu Zhe had already descended the stairs. He stormed up to the assailant in a few broad steps and swung his leg up, kicking the man in the shoulder and sending him flying towards the opposite wall!
"Qiaoqiao!" Lu Zhe bent down to check on Shen Qiao's condition, but Shen Qiao was already pushing himself back up to his feet. Shen Qiao's gaze was fixed on a spot behind Lu Zhe, cautiously watching the other man who was already steadying himself and regaining his balance.
That man laughed and pressed a hand to his shoulder, drawing a sharp breath before sighing and saying, "This is why I hate dealing with alphas. Whether you people regularly work out or not, you're strong enough to make anyone jealous."
He rolled his shoulder and couldn't contain a wince. If he had been any other beta, facing off against these two alphas, he would have had countless broken bones by now.
Lu Zhe stood at the foot of the stairs. His eyes were narrowed and cold, devoid of all traces of warmth. He glared at the man for a long moment before he straightforwardly asked, "Did Lu Chengzhen send you?"
Without waiting for an answer, he continued, "I'll pay you double to stop this."
That person shook his head and looked at the two of them with an almost pitying gaze. He reached into his pocket and produced a box, which he tore open with his teeth. Inside, there was another syringe filled with a blue fluid.
His forehead was already shiny with sweat. As Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao watched, the beta uncapped the syringe and unhesitatingly stabbed it into his own muscles.
Shen Qiao could sense that things were about to get worse. He could already guess that the syringe was filled with some drug to temporarily enhance one's physical abilities. He looked left and right, but only spotted the railing next to him. Without pause, he slammed the pheromone bracelet on his wrist against the railing, trying to break it open in order to unleash his pheromones and let them rage against this beta.
After several hits against the railing, no results except a loud clanging sound were produced. The bracelet was extremely sturdy.
Lu Zhe took a more direct approach. He whipped out his cell phone and called Manager Zhou, quickly reporting, "Shen Qiao and I are in the emergency exit stairwell—"
His cell phone was sent flying out of his hand when the drugged up beta charged again, but that didn't matter. Lu Zhe had already managed to transmit the important details.
"Be careful! This guy is strong!" Shen Qiao stopped what he was doing and shifted his focus, trying to kick away the person who'd charged Lu Zhe. But the beta nimbly dodged his kick. It was only after Lu Zhe took a few steps back that it became apparent—
The beta's moves had been a feint. Now, he lunged forward again with the box cutter, stabbing towards Shen Qiao's eyes.
Shen Qiao's back was already pressed to the wall. He had his feet planted on two steps. There was no way for him to move easily; there was no escape.
Lu Zhe saw all this and reacted instantaneously. He didn't think, instinctively lifting his hand to catch the beta's wrist. But the beta changed the trajectory of his attack again, and a glint of silver flashed in Lu Zhe's direction.
The beta was willing to attack anyone who left themselves open.
It was too late for Lu Zhe to snatch back his hand. He instantly decided to take advantage of the attack. Instead of dodging, he lifted his arm so that the box cutter would be aimed directly at the pheromone-inhibiting bracelet around his wrist.
There was a crack, and then—a long, long red gash appeared on Lu Zhe's forearm.
Several drops of blood trickled down the beta's blade as he pulled back.
In that instant—
The dense, powerful scent of cedarwood surged through the air like a caged beast that had been freed, roaring. Besides the spot where Shen Qiao was standing, every inch of the emergency exit stairwell—on that floor, as well as the few floors above and below it—was flooded by that tsunami-like scent.
Everything, absolutely everything, was drenched in those pheromones.
Due to Lu Zhe's uncontrollable rage, his pheromones rampaged like a feral beast, charged with the fierce desire to destroy. It wasn't anything like the controlled scent he usually emitted. No matter how hard he tried to avoid the spot where Shen Qiao was, the scent spread everywhere. It was inevitable that Shen Qiao would detect Lu Zhe's scent as well.
The instinct to fear and tremble rose in Shen Qiao's body again, but as those pheromones washed over him, Shen Qiao felt his blood starting to heat up.
Even as the scent of cedarwood engulfed him, making him quiver, he felt a sudden spark of joy—
Waves of nostalgia overcame him. He couldn't help but remember, fondly, the intensity of Lu Zhe's pheromones.
Since they reconnected, Lu Zhe had only let his pheromones run free at the beginning, when he tried to use them to provoke Shen Qiao. Afterwards, he had acted like the perfect gentleman, keeping his pheromones tightly bottled up. This arrogant, unbridled display of strength, meant to overpower and dominate, was so different from the control he usually exercised.
But Shen Qiao knew that this wasn't the time to reminisce.
His gaze was drawn towards Lu Zhe's arm, hanging at his side. Bright red blood continued to flow down his skin.
Shen Qiao grit his teeth against a sudden wave of dizziness. He mustered up all his strength, trying to lift his hand to reach for Lu Zhe's arm.
How… how could there be so much blood?
A buzzing sound grew louder and louder in Shen Qiao's head.
He gently laid a hand on Lu Zhe's wrist. The warm, still-flowing blood soon flowed over his own hand, staining the juncture between his thumb and index finger and continuing to drip down towards the floor.
Shen Qiao moved his lips, wanting to say something. But his throat felt blocked up.
No sound came out.
Right in front of his eyes—
The beta succumbed to his instincts and physical limitations. No matter how strong he was, he couldn't hold his own in the face of Lu Zhe's raging pheromones. He lost all his strength. His fingers went slack, unable to even continue holding on to his box cutter. It clattered to the ground.
The beta himself also collapsed to his knees. His face paled, turning a ghastly white.
The pheromones in the stairwell reached such a dense concentration that it was detected by the sensors in the building. A piercingly loud and shrill alarm, like a fire alarm, began to blare out through the passageway.
The screeching alarm echoed in the stairwell, drilling into everyone's ears.
Very soon after that, the sounds of emergency exit doors being thrown open rang out. A large number of staff members and security guards spilled into the stairwell, calling out in alarm. Even Manager Zhou's voice was among them—
"What's going on?! Lu Zhe! Shen Qiao! Are you two okay?"
In the chaotic clamor that filled up the stairwell, the beta lost the fight against Lu Zhe's pheromones and quickly slipped into unconsciousness.
Seoul. At exactly 5:00 PM.
The arena stands were packed with fans eagerly awaiting the start of the finals of the international tournament. Those who were invested in the tournament but couldn't attend the match in person were all camped out in various streaming rooms, shooting the shit and cracking bad jokes while waiting for the event to begin.
[Why hasn't it started yet? I can't wait anymore.]
[Daddy Lu, good luck! Wolf Cub, good luck! DG, go, go, go!]
[Ah, ah, ahhh! LPL, bring home the championship for me!]
[Our LCK is here today, and they won the spring tournament, you know. I dunno if DG can win this one.]
While all this lively chatter went on, both online and at the venue, the commentators prepared to face the cameras and go live. Just then, they each suddenly lifted a hand to their ear as a message started to come through their headset.
Before long, all three commentators stopped smiling. They looked at each other, then turned back to the cameras.
"Please accept our apologies. Unforeseen circumstances have arisen at the venue, and the first game of the finals will currently be postponed."
The bullet comments—
[WTF, don't scare me like this.]
[It couldn't be our Team DG again, right? Could DG be having an unlucky year? Say it isn't so! My motherly heart can't take it!]
While the fans whipped themselves into a frenzy, all sorts of rumors started to emerge from the venue. Some said the venue had become the target of a terrorist attack, some said a rabid fan had broken Lu Zhe's hand, some said Shen Qiao had been injected with omega pheromones, and so on and so forth.
All these rumors quickly traveled back to DG's domestic fans, leaving them tense and on edge.
At 7:30 that night, the league issued an official statement. The matter was already being investigated by the local police, and a preliminary investigation had confirmed that someone had posed as a staff member to harm one of the players.
Soon after that, various tags leapt up the trending topics list—
And the entire esports community… blew up.
Yesterday, I saw many comments telling Shen Qiao to be more careful.
I want to explain this part a little.
Firstly, the esports industry isn't the entertainment industry. Nothing this wild has happened to these players before, so they aren't too wary of their fans. Of course, they do experience verbal attacks from fans quite often when they play poorly.
Secondly, Shen Qiao was previously targeted by an omega. This time, the other party wasn't an alpha or an omega, so Shen Qiao naturally let down his guard a bit. Alphas are naturally stronger than the other secondary sexes, after all. It's impossible for an alpha to instinctively fear a beta. Shen Qiao also didn't know Lu Chengzhen had such malicious intentions towards him, because he didn't know about the phone call that Lu Zhe took for him.
Thirdly, where there's a will, there's a way. Even if Lu Chengzhen hadn't succeeded this time, he would have found another way to get to Shen Qiao in the future.
I hope everyone will be able to be more understanding towards Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe. If the plot is garbage, that's definitely my problem, not their problem. Mm!
And finally… the confession countdown continues! 1!
PS — Here's another detail to the setting! Under normal circumstances, betas can't perceive the pheromones of alphas and omegas. But they might be influenced by alphas and omegas whose pheromones are out of control during periods of heat or rut. So, Dog Lu is super duper extra strong! He can bring a beta to their knees!