Just as Shen Qiao was hesitating over his decision, one of his teammates suddenly exclaimed—
"How about this! This 'gege'… we'll say it on your behalf!"
Shen Qiao made an inquisitive noise.
He was still deep in thought when he suddenly saw a string of messages pop up in the global chat, one after another.
All of Shen Qiao's teammates were doing their best to protect their idol's dignity while also prolonging the game for as long as possible.
But in the end—
[A Rabbit Who Loves To Eat Carrots (Jarvan IV): It doesn't sound sweet enough coming from you guys. We're attacking.]
Shen Qiao stared.
He watched as Lu Zhe repaid him for the shameful defeat that Shen Qiao had gifted him one round earlier. Just before Shen Qiao's team could respawn, Lu Zhe focused his efforts on blowing up their Nexus.
Shen Qiao's teammates all wailed in misery.
"Well, that's okay!" one of the girls joked in the chat, laughing all the while. "Now I've proven to the whole LPL that I'm just a black hole of talent when it comes to this game!"
Shen Qiao's silence turned into a helpless smile. "Sorry. I couldn't carry you."
Upon hearing his apology, his fans instantly started to reassure him.
"No, no, no, you were amazing! We just suck too much!"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah! If you couldn't carry us, that just means we're not fit to play this game!"
"Good luck at the world championship! I hope I'll get a chance to play with you again in the future!"
A smile flashed through Shen Qiao's eyes. "Mm. Thank you. Have a good one."
After waiting for these teammates to log out one by one, Shen Qiao welcomed a new group of fans for the third game. He was asked to play jungler again in the third round, and he took Lee Sin that time. But for some reason—
The previous match had seemingly afflicted him with some sort of bizarre debuff.
He couldn't win this third match either.
Even though he managed to kill Lu Zhe a few times, he couldn't mesh with his teammates. Either their skills weren't compatible enough, or his team's AD wasn't doing enough damage. In any case, their attempts to attack were cut off by Lu Zhe's team time and again.
Shen Qiao was met by defeat in the third round after just twenty-four minutes.
For the fourth round, Shen Qiao went back to playing as the top laner. He used the champion Maokai, and he actually managed to break through on the top lane. But his jungler in that round couldn't hold Lu Zhe back. Lu Zhe took all the dragons in that game—three infernal, one ocean.
And in the fight for Baron Nashor…
Shen Qiao's team was wiped out in a pentakill.
When Lu Zhe's team destroyed their Nexus yet again, Shen Qiao raised his eyebrows at himself and had to wonder if he was playing way too poorly that day.
[Wolf Cub: That's weird. Why is this different from when I compete?]
[I feel like I'm watching a wolf lead a pack of husky puppies towards the enemy's side.]
[Isn't Wolf Cub just way too unlucky today?]
[I should have savored that first game more. The highlight of the day truly was Wolf Cub beating Lu Zhe.]
[When I think of the way Maokai was surrounded by all five enemy champions just now, I seriously can't help but laugh. It looked like an idol being chased by fans, and then surrounded by security guards.]
Shen Qiao's teammates were all guiltily voicing their remorse in the voice chat.
"We're sorry, Daddy Wolf, we were awful. We made you lose again, wahhh!"
Shen Qiao blinked a few times and came back to his senses. His lips quirked with a slight smile. Even if his mood was already extremely gloomy, even if he didn't want to think about what would happen later that evening, he still showed an extraordinarily soft expression to his fans.
"It's okay," he said. "I'm the one who's awful. I couldn't let you experience the full game."
Hearing that, his teammates instantly retorted, "As if! Getting to play with you at all is already the highlight of my whole year!"
"You'll always be the star of the LPL in my heart! The strongest top laner!"
Shen Qiao laughed and said goodbye to them. At just that time, Manager Zhou came over and lightly knocked on his desk. Shen Qiao pulled his headphones back a little and heard Manager Zhou politely remind him—
"You can clock out now. Today's fan tournament is over."
Shen Qiao tensed.
He opened his eyes wide in surprise and asked, "That soon?"
Manager Zhou was surprised too. He hadn't imagined that Shen Qiao would be so happy chatting with his fans that he wouldn't want to leave even after working overtime for three or four games. He immediately blurted out, "It's not soon at all, it's already past five in the afternoon. It's almost dinnertime, you know."
Shen Qiao swept his tongue over his lower lip. He was already thinking about how he could get Manager Zhou to agree to letting them work more overtime. He'd won one match and lost three, after all. That meant he would have to 'lie down', and how could he accept that? He had to play at least…
He would have to play and win at least four more rounds.
He hadn't muted his mic, so all the fans in his livestream had heard him talking to Manager Zhou. They were all moved by Wolf Cub's eagerness to keep talking to his fans!
[Wahhhhhh, why do you spoil us fans so much! Are you trying to trick me into loving you for the rest of my life?!]
[You're suddenly so nice to us that I'm not really sure how to get used to it.]
[Overtime! Work overtime! I haven't gotten a chance to play with you yet! Please, please, bless me with the chance to play a round with Wolf Cub!]
All the bullet comments were encouraging Shen Qiao to work more overtime. But by then, Lu Zhe had already turned off his camera and ended his livestream. He got up and walked over to stand behind Shen Qiao's chair, lifting an arm to lay it across the back of the chair.
He smiled brightly and teased, "What, you want to work overtime?"
Seeing Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao appear in the same shot, the fans in Shen Qiao's stream screamed even more excitedly.
Shen Qiao wasn't good at hiding his true thoughts. His gaze darted around shiftily for a few seconds, before he tried to justify himself. "It's all about giving back to the fans, isn't it?"
[Yeah, yeah! Dog Lu, do you think everyone is as heartless as you?]
[Wolf Cub, don't let him lead you down the wrong path!]
[Ahhhhhh, Wolfy! I love you! Look at me, look at me, look at me!]
[I feel like our little Wolfy is really so, so, so much cuter than Dog Lu!]
More and more bullet comments filled up the screen. Lu Zhe only cast them a cursory glance before he grinned and hummed thoughtfully. To Shen Qiao, he said, "But I'm hungry."
This sentence, on any ordinary day…
Shen Qiao would have simply taken it to mean that Lu Zhe wanted to go have dinner.
But Shen Qiao had just been brought to his knees in three consecutive games, and he'd been the one to say, 'Whoever loses will be a good boy and lie down.' Taking all that into consideration, Shen Qiao couldn't help but feel that there was a deeper implication to Lu Zhe's words.
He held his breath for a few seconds.
Manager Zhou had no idea that the two of them had actually placed a bet on this fan tournament. He only knew that his players had to make good use of their time and maximize the value of everything they did. In this sort of publicity event, it was fine to work a little extra, but it wasn't okay to go overboard with overtime.
That would be useless.
And so, Manager Zhou backed up Lu Zhe and said to Shen Qiao, "You guys hurry and go eat. Wanting to give back to your fans is simple. Just host your own livestream later! Isn't that fine?"
Shen Qiao was silent.
That really wasn't fine.
Lu Zhe took in the sight of his muted, emotionless expression and laughed silently, to the point that his shoulders started to shake. He reached over and ended Shen Qiao's livestream on his behalf, turning off his recording equipment as well. In the seconds before Lu Zhe ended the stream, all the viewers heard Lu Zhe say in an exceedingly soft and doting voice—
"Be good. Don't fight it. You would have to win four in a row against me, but judging by your performance this afternoon… that would basically be impossible."
All of Shen Qiao's fans were left thoroughly confused.
[Wolf Cub, are you really going to tolerate that? If it were me, I would PvP him offline!]
[Dog Lu is bullying people just because he got lucky today! Why are we all hanging out in the bullet comments? Next time, let's sign up to kick his ass!]
[You can lose a game, but you can't lose your dignity! Wolf Cub, fight on!]
Shen Qiao furrowed his brow, effectively provoked by Lu Zhe's words. "If you really think you're so good, tonight we can 1v1 in—"
Lu Zhe took off Shen Qiao's headset and pulled him out of his seat, starting to lead him out of the training room. He smiled coyly and shamelessly as he said, "I gave you the chance to 1v1 me, Qiaoqiao. You were the one who chose this.
"Come on, let's go have dinner. Eat lots. You'll need your strength."
Shen Qiao fell silent.
He didn't really want to think about what he was supposed to be using his strength for that night.
After taking a few steps, Shen Qiao self-consciously pulled his hand back a bit. He wasn't used to this act of holding hands in a public place. Just as he did this, they ran into Old Wo and Er-Hua, who'd just come back from grabbing dinner outside the HQ.
Old Wo greeted them with a whistle. "Who won more?"
Shen Qiao's face was expressionless, while Lu Zhe was smiling broadly.
Old Wo understood right away. He continued, "Wolf Cub didn't lose too badly, though. Right?"
"He did fine," Lu Zhe said, biting back a laugh. "Only three consecutive losses."
Shen Qiao glared at him out of the corner of his eye and instantly felt the urge to back out of their bet. After all, just looking at Lu Zhe now was a pain. The guy was such an eyesore.
Old Wo tsked twice, then stepped aside to let them pass. To Er-Hua, he said, "Is this the devil's work? Poor Wolf Cub is the only one suffering—how sad."
Er-Hua calmly answered, "You're right. This is just as tragic as you were yesterday."
Old Wo was rendered speechless.
Shen Qiao followed Lu Zhe all the way down to the cafeteria.
He was distracted even while getting his food. So distracted, in fact, that he accidentally let a serving of chili-fried cauliflower sneak onto his plate. Lu Zhe stood beside him with an unwavering smile.
Once the two of them took their seats, Lu Zhe finally couldn't resist leaning back in his chair, crossing his arms, and asking with mirth twinkling in his eyes—
Shen Qiao froze for a second before he said, "No."
It was just lying down! So what!
Who wasn't capable of something as simple as that!
He took a deep breath and used the calmest voice he could muster to say, "If you bet and lose, you pay up. What's there to be nervous about?"
Lu Zhe raised his eyebrows. "Oh?"
He sat up straight and gazed directly into Shen Qiao's eyes. After a few seconds, he slowly continued, "Is that so? I originally thought, if you were nervous, we could wait until next time."
Shen Qiao froze again.
The smile in Lu Zhe's eyes was like daylight scattering across the surface of a calm, undisturbed lake. His gaze practically sparkled.
Lu Zhe propped his chin up on one hand and took in Shen Qiao's baffled expression. He then said, "But since you're so honest and sincere, I can't disappoint you. Right?"
Shen Qiao, seeing that things could still take a turn here, lost that willful breath he'd been holding in. He sounded a little deflated as he muttered, "I'm not that honest and sincere…"
Lu Zhe savored that defeated look of his until he'd had enough.
"Alright," he said, in the end. "Remember to wait for me tonight."
Shen Qiao said nothing.
He was seriously wondering if he still had time to go back to his room and delete Lu Zhe's fingerprint from the door's list of access codes.