"Oh, hey. I just remember something, Lu… huh?"
After getting back to the hotel, Manager Zhou had originally planned on arranging the players' meals for the next day. Then he started thinking about activities that would be lined up for the team following the summer tournament. When the matter of sponsorships came up, he suddenly remembered something and went to deliver a message to Lu Zhe.
But when the hotel room door opened after he knocked, Manager Zhou found himself facing Shen Qiao—
Manager Zhou stared.
Then he stepped back and checked the number on the room door. "Did I remember wrong…?"
Shen Qiao didn't show much of a reaction to the manager's appearance. He knew right away that Manager Zhou was looking for Lu Zhe. Although Lu Zhe had temporarily been benched and was unable to practice, he'd stayed active in talking strategy with Coach Fang and their team analysts. Lu Zhe had taken up a portion of Manager Zhou's work as well.
Shen Qiao simply turned back and lazily called into the room, "Lu Zhe, Manager Zhou is looking for you."
After saying that, he left the door open and headed back towards the bathroom, where he continued helping Lu Zhe pack up.
This had already become their routine. Whenever they traveled, Shen Qiao always visited Lu Zhe's room.
Manager Zhou stared at the back of Shen Qiao's tall figure and wondered, When did these two start living together?
While he was still fretting over that matter, Lu Zhe came over and asked, "What is it?"
Manager Zhou fixed his gaze on Lu Zhe's injured arm for a moment. He could sort of tell that the bandages had just been changed for new ones. His expression wavered with a bit of uncertainty, and after a long moment, he asked, "You… just put on some medicine?"
Lu Zhe didn't understand where that question was coming from. He followed Manager Zhou's gaze to his own bandages, then nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
He'd just gotten back to his room to take a shower. After showering, he'd applied some medicine. Was there something wrong with that?
Manager Zhou couldn't stop his thoughts from traveling in a certain direction. DG's next game wouldn't be for four or five days, and Lu Zhe wouldn't be playing anyway. When they stayed out, like now, the club always booked the best hotel rooms for the players. The air circulation system was very good. Even if an omega went into heat, their pheromones would be concealed. So with two alphas…
Just one question remained.
These two… exactly which one of them was the top?
Shen Qiao had that temper of his. He didn't seem like a bottom at all. But Le Zhe… although he was good-looking and well-spoken, he had that habit of riling people up with a few inappropriate words every other day. It was very possible that he could entice Shen Qiao into…
Manager Zhou shook his head firmly and shoved those thoughts out of his mind.
However, he did still have to think—
Regardless of which one of them was the top, wasn't this an inappropriate time for them to be fooling around at all?
Lu Zhe had just gotten his stitches out. If he and Shen Qiao got a little too… intense and somehow exacerbated Lu Zhe's injury, Manager Zhou wouldn't even know who he could cry to.
As for Shen Qiao, if he wasn't careful and managed to somehow hurt himself, how would that affect the team's ability to continue playing?
Manager Zhou carefully scrutinized Lu Zhe for a moment longer, then suddenly said, "You two, as players, have a sense of propriety. Right?"
Lu Zhe's smile slipped off his face. "What are you trying to say?"
Manager Zhou took a deep breath and thought over his words some more. Finally, a perfect solution suddenly popped into his mind—
If these two did get in the 'mood', the only way to ensure that neither Lu Zhe's hand nor Shen Qiao's ability to play would be affected… was for Lu Zhe to take the passive role.
So, with a look of immense trust, Manager Zhou said to Lu Zhe, "It's nothing. I just want to say, for now, you'll have to… bear with it some more."
Lu Zhe watched as Manager Zhou's expression changed again and again. His dark gaze swept over that conflicted face, until his lips finally quirked into a grin again.
"Do you mind telling me exactly what was going through your head just now?"
Manager Zhou cleared his throat. "There's no need to talk about the details, I'm not interested. Ahem. Anyway, that's right. I came to talk to you about the sponsorship—"
It was an obvious, rushed attempt to change the subject. Manager Zhou hastily continued, "Do you remember that company that wanted to sponsor us last time, Sai'na? Recently, they…"
Lu Zhe's expression abruptly changed. He hadn't imagined Manager Zhou would suddenly bring up that matter. He instinctively glanced into the room, towards the bathroom, where he heard the sound of the sink running. Before Manager Zhou could continue talking, he suddenly raised his voice and said, "I remember. Let's talk outside."
Manager Zhou froze for a few seconds, like he'd suddenly remembered something. He trailed off into silence.
Lu Zhe stepped outside and reached back to pull the door shut behind him. But he only got it closed halfway before a set of still-damp fingers caught the edge of the door, holding it open and causing Lu Zhe to jump.
Shen Qiao pulled the door fully open again. He'd just come out of the bathroom, and he was still holding a travel-sized bottle of shower gel in one hand. His gaze traveled back and forth between Lu Zhe and Manager Zhou. His eyes, which were a little sharp even when he was calm, were like pointed daggers now.
His features were well-defined, and he had relatively deep-set eyes. Light and shadow often played across his face, making the contours of his features much more dramatic. The shadows cast under his eyes made them look all the sharper now.
"Sai'na Biotech wants to sponsor us?" he asked. "When did they reach out? Let me hear all about it."
Lu Zhe was silent.
Manager Zhou was speechless as well.
He knew, intuitively, that the air must have been thick with alpha pheromones at that moment. He even felt a chill run down the nape of his neck.
Of course, that could have just been because the look Lu Zhe was giving him was exceptionally cold.
Manager Zhou knew he'd slipped up. He backed up by a few steps, until his back was nearly pressed up against the wall on the other side of the hallway. He looked at Lu Zhe, then he looked at Shen Qiao. Finally, he hesitantly said, "Oh, I… just remembered I need to find Coach Fang for something. You two chat first, I'll go—"
"Freeze," Lu Zhe commanded. His lips were still curved into a cold smile, but it was a smile that didn't reach anywhere near his eyes. How could he possibly face Shen Qiao alone right now? There was no way he would let go of this scapegoat named Big-Mouthed Zhou.
He slowly continued, "You're here already. At least finish what you were saying. What has that company done recently?"
Shen Qiao leaned against the door and also rested his gaze on Manager Zhou for the moment.
Manager Zhou suddenly felt the weight of a mountain bearing down on his shoulders. He carefully said, "I just wanted to tell you… it's a good thing we didn't let them sponsor us last time. I just heard their boss got wrapped up in some sort of lawsuit. He was even taken away for the investigation. The news was on the finance channels a few days ago."
Lu Zhe studied Shen Qiao's face for a moment, then calmly asked, "Oh? How many years is his sentence?"
Manager Zhou's expression went blank. "I don't know that."
But after thinking about it some more, he continued, "I did hear that someone from the legal department at our headquarters was talking about it today, though. It seems like this guy's crimes aren't minor. He'll probably be sent to the slammer for a few years, at least. If you're interested, should I tell you two when the trial begins?"
Lu Zhe nodded faintly, looking more relaxed. "Sure."
Manager Zhou had half a heart to ask these two exactly what their relationship with this company was. But then he thought of how he'd already slipped up earlier, and how he probably wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut if he did learn something. Ultimately, he decided he just wanted to escape from this bizarre atmosphere.
"So, I'll head out first? You guys rest well."
However, this time, it was Shen Qiao who called him back. "When did Sai'na ask to sponsor us before?"
Manager Zhou subconsciously glanced at Lu Zhe. "A few… a few months ago, I think?"
Lu Zhe sighed inwardly.
He had to wonder how someone with as severe an EQ deficiency as Big-Mouthed Zhou ever got into a position like this.
Shen Qiao wasn't blind. He could tell from how these two were behaving that something fishy was going on here. He lazily continued, "I'm going to ask one more question. I'd like both of you to answer this one—
"When Sai'na asked to sponsor our team last time, did the team agree to it?"
Lu Zhe and Manager Zhou exchanged a look. Then…
"Yes," Lu Zhe said.
"Nope," Manager Zhou said.
Shen Qiao flashed them both a smile that wasn't quite a smile. He crossed his arms and leaned against the doorframe again.
Manager Zhou frantically turned to Lu Zhe with a question in his eyes—
Didn't you say you wanted to hide it from him? How come you're telling the truth now? Are you setting me up to take the fall?
Lu Zhe said nothing.
He took a deep breath, then turned to Shen Qiao. "I can explain."
Manager Zhou couldn't take this anymore. He tensed up, ready to bolt. This time, no matter what they said, he was getting out of there! If they wanted to stop him, they would have to force him to stop with their pheromones!
He'd already learned his lesson. He didn't even say goodbye before taking off this time, pushing away from the wall and darting down the hall. He waited until he was a long, long distance away before glancing back over his shoulder. A bit of aggrievement rose in his heart.
He couldn't help but think, Is there any team manager in the country who suffers more than me?!
No! There wasn't!
He was the most miserable one of them all!
As he watched Manager Zhou escape, Lu Zhe felt a little helpless. He lifted a hand and brushed a finger over his nose, realizing he had been left alone to face Shen Qiao.
He turned back to Shen Qiao with an extraordinarily soft smile and tentatively suggested, "Let's go and talk inside?"
Shen Qiao steadily watched him for a few seconds before pushed off the doorframe. He turned and headed back inside first, drying off the toiletries he'd picked up earlier and packing them away in Lu Zhe's suitcase. Then he casually said, "Go ahead. Talk."
Lu Zhe was speechless for a while longer. He knew that he was busted. There was no way to continue hiding this from Shen Qiao. Eventually, he slowly recounted everything that had happened.
After he finished talking, silence descended upon the room for a while.
Lu Zhe observed the shifts in Shen Qiao's expression. The tension in the air made the hotel room feel like an interrogation room. After a while, Lu Zhe unthinkingly approached Shen Qiao and stooped down, softly whispering, "I'm sorry. I… didn't want this to affect your mood or state of mind, so I didn't tell you back then.
"You can think I'm stupid or naive, but I didn't hide this from you just for the sake of hiding it."
Shen Qiao was still crouched down in front of Lu Zhe's suitcase, helping him pack. His movements froze now. Then, before Lu Zhe could react, Shen Qiao's hand lashed out and grabbed hold of Lu Zhe's collar. Lu Zhe was completely caught off-guard when Shen Qiao suddenly got right up in his face.
In the next instant—
Shen Qiao's slightly reddened eyes met Lu Zhe's. Their gazes locked, and Shen Qiao spoke in a tone that was obviously fierce, but still made Lu Zhe's heart skip a beat.
"Stupid? Aren't you supposed to be very smart? Why would you do something like this?" Shen Qiao asked through gritted teeth.
Lu Zhe licked his somewhat dry lips. He smiled at Shen Qiao, so warmly that his eyes crinkled with it. His tone was unbelievably gentle as he answered, "I didn't think about it. I only thought that you shouldn't have to face such bad things ever again.
"Didn't I tell you? I want to make you happy every single day, for the rest of our lives."
Shen Qiao closed his eyes. He couldn't hold back any longer. He fiercely kissed Lu Zhe's lips, mumbling against them—
You're both stupid! You're two little idiots in love! This is obviously such a sweet moment, but why am I crying so much? Wahhhhhh!