That afternoon, DG had a practice game against BLX.
The two teams hadn't faced off in a while. In that time, it seemed Xu Xiao hadn't actually changed that much. To put it bluntly, he still liked to ignore all the minions and attack Shen Qiao right away when they faced off in the top lane.
Shen Qiao could clearly feel that Xu Xiao had gotten a bit better at putting pressure on his opponent.
But that was fine.
That was how Shen Qiao liked to play.
In the picks and bans phase of this practice match, Shen Qiao had chosen Ornn. Xu Xiao, meanwhile, had taken Renekton since Renekton was a powerful champion with an ult that could boost his HP. When he rampaged, he was especially effective at putting pressure on tanky champions like Ornn.
In the middle lane, Qian Bao picked up the champion LeBlanc. And Old Wo was playing Ezreal in the bottom lane. In this match, DG was clearly prepared to have Old Wo and Qian Bao develop as their carries, while Shen Qiao played defensively in the top lane.
As long as Shen Qiao didn't lag too far behind Renekton, as long as he didn't allow Renekton to develop too rapidly in the early stages of the game, DG should have had the advantage in this game.
But who could have known—
Even though he was playing Ornn, Shen Qiao had no intentions of simply sitting back and playing it safe. When Renekton came up to attack him, he happily returned the favor and fired right back. This was Shen Qiao's favorite way of playing, after all. He was perfectly happy when someone came to pick a fight with him.
Five minutes into the game, Lu Zhe was helping Qian Bao in a fight against BLX's mid-laner. Renekton saw that Shen Qiao's HP wasn't in a very good state. Since Shen Qiao hadn't hit Level 6 yet, Renekton rushed up to take that opportunity to get a solo kill on him.
Shen Qiao dodged his first attack, then used his minions as cover to charge in and hit back.
Meanwhile, Qian Bao had just gotten her first kill with an assist from Lu Zhe. The sound of 'First blood!' rang out through everyone's headsets. At the exact same time, everyone looked to the top lane and saw that Renekton had also been killed by Ornn.
"Holy shit!" Old Wo exclaimed. "I'm fucking terrified!"
"Daddy, um…" Qian Bao started.
Lu Zhe laughed helplessly and said into the voice chat, "Why didn't you wait for me? Let me tag along and get an assist."
Shen Qiao scoffed and deadpanned, "You're too late."
Lu Zhe checked the map to see where BLX's jungler was. Then he moved into the upper half of the jungle, intending to steal BLX's red buff while BLX's jungler was helping their teammates in the bottom lane. While moving, he said to Shen Qiao, "Nah, I'll stick around. When it comes to hunting heads, you never get sick of the taste."
Er-Hua was doing his best to save Old Wo's useless life down in the bottom lane. The two of them were facing off against three of BLX's champions, and Er-Hua couldn't help but say into the chat, "The enemy bottom laners' heads are delicious too, Captain. You have to learn to expand your palate. Don't always eat the same thing."
Lu Zhe teamed up with Shen Qiao to take Renekton, who'd just returned to their tower after respawning and had already used up his flash, down one more time. It was only then that Lu Zhe answered, "Don't worry. We'll group up by the dragon pit."
Since they planned on taking the first dragon, they would have to go down to the bottom lane. They couldn't keep allowing BLX to put that much pressure on their support, after all.
The game ended.
DG blew up BLX's base in less than thirty minutes.
The whole team had returned to peak condition, playing like they'd played at the beginning of the summer tournament. Coach Fang was getting ready to review the game with them when he looked up and fixed his gaze on Old Wo, who had been the first to stand up.
"How do you feel about this round?" Coach Fang asked.
Old Wo looked left and right, then pointed at himself with his thermos. "You're asking me?"
He thought of his record of 8-0 just now and seriously mulled it over for a moment before he said, "Our mid-laner, top laner, jungler, and support are irreplaceable?"
Er-Hua gave him a rare round of applause, indicating that he approved of Old Wo's assessment of the soul of DG.
Coach Fang was silent.
Well, at least Old Wo seemed very clear on where he stood.
Coach Fang turned to Qian Bao next and asked, "And you?"
Qian Bao sincerely answered, "The picks and bans stage was perfect this time. LeBlanc is totally deserving of being my first love."
Afterwards, Er-Hua and Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao were asked the same question as well.
Er-Hua gave a somewhat more vague answer. "It was fine."
Lu Zhe thought of the assists he'd gotten on the middle and top lanes earlier. He sighed and said, "Getting easy kills feels amazing."
Shen Qiao was the only one who rattled off a whole speech. "Can I play Nautilus in the top lane next time? Coach, I've been practicing a lot lately. Nautilus is tanky and can hold up under pressure. If that doesn't work, then Soraka would be fine too! She's super strong this season, I've won with her before. Ask Lu Zhe!"
Lu Zhe smiled and nodded.
Coach Fang was silent once more.
"Alright, shut up," he said in the end. "Your turn to speak is over."
That kind of team comp was absolutely out of the question.
Coach Fang stared at these five players, then let out a helpless sigh. There really wasn't much that had gone wrong in the practice match. The team hadn't made many small mistakes at all, whether it was in team fights, gathering resources, or building up their economical advantage.
In the end, there wasn't much to review. He simply said to them, "Just keep this up. Remember that the world championship isn't scored on a point system.
"I arranged a practice game against COCO for you tomorrow. They haven't been able to get into worlds lately, so they have a lot of time on their hands. There's basically no psychological burden on them in this practice match, whether they win or lose. But they did lose to you a lot this season, so they've probably sharpened their claws. I'm sure they'll want to turn the tables. You guys be careful not to screw up."
After saying that, he released the players for individual training. As soon as he stepped outside, he heard Shen Qiao call out to him, "Coach, just watch me play Nautilus or Kai'Sa or Soraka one time! Just one game!"
Coach Fang didn't even look back. "Nautilus, Kai'Sa, and Soraka? Just one game? Did your gym teacher teach you math?"
Shen Qiao quickly amended, "Then… three games?"
Coach Fang laughed coldly. "Dream on. You'd be better off just playing with Lu Zhe."
Shen Qiao blinked.
What was that supposed to mean? Couldn't he win by himself?
The more Shen Qiao thought about it, the more disgruntled he became. He logged into his main account on the Korean server and started to queue up by himself. Lu Zhe looked over from next to him, unable to hold in a smile at the list of champions Shen Qiao wanted to play.
He knocked on Shen Qiao's desk. "Don't want to play with me?"
Shen Qiao hummed and didn't look over.
Lu Zhe crossed his arms and sat back. He didn't queue up right away, intending to watch how badly Shen Qiao would be slaughtered without him around. But in the end…
Because Shen Qiao was highly ranked and well-known on the Korean server, he was easily recognized by many people. The junglers he matched up with were all ready to cuss him out for choosing such weird champions for the top lane, until they saw that it was Shen Qiao—after which they all bounded over, ready to be his loyal dog.
Shen Qiao won five games in a row. He felt fantastic.
Lu Zhe looked like he was wearing an extremely calm expression, but the air around him was tinged with… something ominous.
Just a while ago, Qian Bao had ordered a serving of spicy duck claws to snack on. But when she turned her head, she saw Lu Zhe sitting nearby, leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed. His pheromones were spilling out, scaring Qian Bao to the point that she had to hastily get up and flee.
Shen Qiao had enjoyed an immensely pleasurable afternoon. When he came back to his senses, he found that Lu Zhe was still watching him play. He froze for a second, then took off his headset and asked, "What are you doing?"
Lu Zhe's dark gaze lingered on him for a few seconds before he slowly said, "I'm watching you leave me…"
He paused there, then mournfully continued, "Look how happy you are without me."
Shen Qiao couldn't help but laugh when he heard that. He looked around and saw that the training room had emptied out. "Did they go eat? Come on, let's go. I'm hungry too."
But Lu Zhe didn't move. He continued to pout sourly, glancing at Shen Qiao out of the corner of his eye. Still sulking, he answered, "Don't wanna go. Won't you have a tastier meal if I'm not there?"
Shen Qiao tsked twice, then planted both his hands on Lu Zhe's chair, leaning in towards him. "Your pheromones seem to smell like sour lemons now, Captain Lu."
Lu Zhe huffed and said, "Wrong. It's vinegar."
Even though, rationally, Lu Zhe knew this wasn't actually a big deal at all, he was still rather put out by the fact that Shen Qiao seemed to be perfectly happy playing without him.
This was the sort of tantrum that a small child threw on a kindergarten playground when their favorite friend went off to play with someone else.
Oh, wait—actually, it was more like seeing your fiance elope with another person.
Shen Qiao scooted closer and gave Lu Zhe a kiss. His tone was more soothing, like he was trying to placate a kid, when he said, "Alright. Stop drinking vinegar. There's no need to be jealous."
Lu Zhe cast him a sidelong glance. A smile was starting to creep back into his eyes.
"Am I that easily placated?" he asked.
Shen Qiao kissed him two more times. Then Lu Zhe suddenly yanked him forward, tugging him into a deeper kiss that left their lungs burning. When they parted, Shen Qiao instinctively tried to see if anyone had returned to the training room.
It was at just that time that Lu Zhe whispered in his ear, "Tonight…"
Shen Qiao's face was still flushed from kissing. But he pushed Lu Zhe's head back and said, with a restrained smile, "You'll wait for me here?"
Lu Zhe smiled good-naturedly, not caring that Shen Qiao's touch would mess up his hair. He only warmly said, "You have to do a good job of comforting people when you try to comfort them, Qiaoqiao. You haven't comforted me enough yet."
Shen Qiao thought of all the things they'd done last night. The heat at the nape of his neck refused to diminish in the slightest.
He wasn't comforting Lu Zhe enough?
Fine. Forget it. No more comforting.
He got up and tried to leave, only to be captured in Lu Zhe's embrace again. Lu Zhe bowed his head and kissed him once more. Shen Qiao couldn't break free no matter what. He knew Old Wo and the others would be back sooner rather than later, so he could only glare fiercely at Lu Zhe and snippily demand, "Are you done?"
Lu Zhe watched his anger rising. He started to try to win Shen Qiao's pity. "You haven't queued with me all afternoon, because you have other dogs now. If you have other dogs, whatever, that's fine. But now you aren't even trying to comfort me. You've really changed."
Shen Qiao blinked.
He couldn't help but say, "Stop."
After a few seconds, he slowly added, "Just… just once."
Lu Zhe had originally wanted Shen Qiao to just say a few more nice things to him. He hadn't imagined that Shen Qiao would agree to his request so easily. Shades of joy flashed through his eyes.
He finally followed Shen Qiao out to the cafeteria. Along the way, Lu Zhe's gaze was fixed on Shen Qiao's nape. He looked like he wanted to say something else.
Shen Qiao couldn't stand that searing gaze on him. He assumed Lu Zhe was still thinking about what had happened earlier in the afternoon, so he stopped and turned around to say—
"I'm not looking for other dogs."
Lu Zhe didn't react right away. He stopped moving as well and asked, "Huh?"
Shen Qiao fell silent.
He then took a deep breath and explained, "They all came to help me gank because I was on my main account, so they recognized me. If I had been on my alt, none of them would have come."
Lu Zhe seemed to sense where this was going. He deliberately prompted, "So?"
So they're all different from you.
They just show up to chase the glamour and glitz. You're the only one who's always there for me in my hour of need.
Shen Qiao saw that Lu Zhe already knew what he meant. He acted like he was irritated and impatient, and quickly turned his head away. "Are you coming or not?"
"Coming," Lu Zhe said, smiling broadly. "Coming right now."
After following Shen Qiao for a while longer, Lu Zhe suddenly got closer. His breath fell hotly over the shell of Shen Qiao's ear, and the scent of cedarwood enveloped him. Shen Qiao heard Lu Zhe's soft voice call out—
Shen Qiao looked over, signaling for him to speak.
Lu Zhe took a moment to savor the explanation Shen Qiao had just given him, as well as the promise he'd made him earlier.
"What should I do?" he murmured, sighing after a moment. "You're so cute that I want to do you to death."
Shen Qiao was speechless.
After that, all traces of tenderness evaporated from his face. He expressionlessly ground out two final words—
I suddenly want to date Shen Qiao.
Although he seems very irritable, he'll always be good to you if he likes you. Even if you're a crybaby or a little perv. If you act spoiled, he'll pamper you. If you're feeling down, he'll comfort you. He's not very good at it, but he tries. How cute.
How did such a good person become Dog Lu's!
Enjoy the sugar, the world championship begins now! And after the tournament, there'll be more sugar!