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Dream the Impossible, but Don’t Lose Yourself in the Process

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Bloodsucker was a troll. He loved to talk people down on the internet, just so he could feel better about himself. This rang especially true after having played a bad game of League of Legends. A loss stung so deeply into his ego that he needed a release. So, like a trained professional, he hurled abuse at his teammates throughout the game and in the endgame lobby. But then they talked back to him. All four of his teammates ganged up on him and told him it was his fault they lost the game and that he could piss right off. That stung even worse than losing the game, because somewhere deep down he knew they were right. But he’d never admit that. So he took the easy way out. Bully the fat kid.

Tian Tian was one of the biggest names in all of League of Legends. But unlike many of his fellow professional players, he didn’t walk with his chest raised, full of confidence. He was about as far away from that as possible. He slouched, bit his lips constantly, and looked like a nervous wreck more often than not. And on top of that, he was the quiet fat kid. That made him the perfect target for Bloodsucker. Someone who didn’t talk back, regardless of how much abuse was thrown at them. So Bloodsucker bullied Tian Tian until he left the endgame lobby. And then Bloodsucker sent Tian Tian a friend request, just so he could get a little more abuse in.

Lin Feng sat next to Tian Tian in the cybercafe. He watched over his friend’s shoulder as Bloodsucker sent the long string of messages, stewing. His eyes were wide open and bloodshot. He hadn’t blinked once after the bullying started, committing every message to memory. Then he muttered, “I’ll remember this. You’re going to regret this, Bloodsucker.” He spit out the last word. You crossed the line so far that you can’t even see it anymore! Bloodsucker. I’ll remember your name. And I’m going to find a way to pay you back for this! I’m going to make you feel how shitty you make others feel with your words! AND THEN MUCH, MUCH WORSE!

Tian Tian did what he always did when he got bullied. He tried to act like the words didn’t hurt him, even though they destroyed what little confidence he did have. He chewed on his lips, forcing back the tears, and invited Lin Feng to another game. When his friend didn’t accept the invite right away, he glanced over. And his eyes widened. L-Lin Feng! His lips quivered as he muttered, “L-Lin Feng, I’m okay. I really am! D-don’t get angry, please.” T-that guy was just a troll. There are so many of them… And they always go away eventually if you just ignore them. I-I would know… They always bully me. No, no. He shook his head and blinked a tear away. P-pretend it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen. Nothing happened. He looked back at Lin Feng, who looked like he was about to explode, his entire face red in rage. “P-please don’t get yourself in trouble for me…”

Lin Feng looked at Tian Tian and forced the anger off his face. Then he smiled weakly. I can’t ignore this. You’re my friend. Friends stand up for each other. I’m going to get Bloodsucker back for this. He’s going to regret ever having said anything about you! But I know you don’t like confrontation. So don’t worry, I’ll do it. You won’t have to do a thing. He nodded and said, “It’s okay. I won’t get myself in trouble. Anyway, let’s queue up for another game!” Now, how do I find this asshole? And how do I teach him a lesson he’ll never forget?

Lin Feng and Tian Tian played their Top-Jungle combination again in the second game. Tian Tian was still visibly upset at the start, but quickly forgot about Bloodsucker the Bully after Lin Feng helped him get a kill. From there, the two friends found their rhythm from the first game again. They were joking and laughing and completely decimating the Blue team. Towers fell and they were knocking on Blue team’s base after only 15 minutes. Two minutes later, they destroyed the top inhibitor. And another two minutes later, they destroyed the Nexus and won the game.

Lin Feng invited Tian Tian to a third game and started the queue. Then  he looked over at his friend and said, “I think I’m going mid this game.”

“Oh, yeah! Ok, that sounds good,” Tian Tian replied.

The two friends accepted the queue and moved into Champion Select for the third time that day. They were on the Blue Team. Tian Tian chose to play Irelia in the top lane, and Lin Feng went with LeBlanc in the mid lane. Then they went into the loading screen and got a look at their opponents. One of them was the mid lane champion Fizz. His Summoner ID was Bloodsucker.

Tian Tian’s eyes widened and he asked in surprise, “That Fizz, isn’t he…?”

“The Tryndamere from the first game,” Lin Feng finished the sentence. Then he started grinning. This wasn’t his happy-go-lucky smile, but something terrifying. You’re going to regret what you did so badly. A fire blazed in his eyes and he clenched his fists. “What a coincidence that we see him again!” he said, laughing like a maniac. “This makes it so much easier!”

Tian Tian shivered, afraid to even look at Lin Feng. He felt a rage that was about to explode bubbling next to him. He uncomfortably moved in his seat, unconsciously inching away from Lin Feng. T-that Tryndamere has really done it. I’ve almost never seen Lin Feng this upset… He bit hard on his lips, fighting to find enough courage to look at his friend. But he couldn’t get himself to. He let his eyes fall to Lin Feng’s legs below the desk and mumbled, “Uh, L-Lin Feng? A-are you sure you’re okay? You sound and look… I mean…”

Breezy was one of 16 professional League of Legends teams that competed in the LSPL, the second highest league in China. They were too small for a headquarters in Shanghai, the esports capital of the world, and instead had a small gaming house in Guangzhou. Their gaming room was little more than a bedroom refitted with six computers, one for each team member and the last one for the coach.

Bloodsucker sat in his gaming chair, chewing on some gum and playing with his red curls. Shit, what a shitty game that was. He took a deep breath and then blew all the air from his lungs. At least I finally got myself to calm down a bit. But damn that Lee Sin… Why do I always get these trolls? He shook his head and looked at his loading screen. Let’s see who I’m up against thi—

Bloodsucker’s eyes went wide. He shot up in his seat and took a double take, then exclaimed, “KG RoundyRound and… MapleInShrub!” The initial surprise quickly disappeared and a smile that turned into full blown laughter replaced it. “Haha! AWESOME! That fucking Rengar! Is he duoing with Roundy or something? Haha, whatever, I don’t care. But I found him again! I can make him pay for that shit he pulled on me!” He jabbed his finger at his monitor and shouted, “I’ll get you back for that, you hear me? Mid is my main role and my Fizz is the best in the LSPL! And probably the LPL! Maybe even at Worlds! I’ll show you! Hahaha!”

Bloodsucker was a relatively new face in League of Legends. He’d started playing not too long ago, and quickly found out he had some real talent for the game. He breezed through Gold, Platinum, and even Diamond. And when he finally reached Challenger, the professional team Breezy reached out to him and offered him a spot on their roster. They called him a big up and comer, and he knew they were right. There’s almost no one who can beat me when I really try! I always win! This is just one season in the LSPL. Then I’ll move to the LPL and qualify for Worlds in the summer. And then I’m going to show everyone that our region does have better talent than that fit fucking pig of a Roundy! 0-3… What a fucking disgrace for a player! The government should have him banished! He suddenly started smiling and mumbled to himself, “Good thing I’m playing on my second account. I can tell that fat pig exactly what I think of him and no one will know it was me. Haha!”

Bloodsucker focused on Tian Tian’s Irelia in the loading screen and said, “So what if you’re a good Toplaner? I’m a Midlaner! That’s the only reason I couldn’t carry the last game. And we only lost that game because my Midlaner was the single worst Syndra in Challenger I’ve ever seen! She belonged in Gold or something!” Then he shifted his attention to the LeBlanc and smirked. “But this game, I’m Mid. My main role. And I’m against this MapleInNoob LeBlanc. Haha, what a joke! I should be competing against the likes of Rake and Phoenix! But this is awesome. I’m going to show this camping bitch just how good my Fizz is. And how good I am!”

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

Lin Feng’s LeBlanc walked from the blue fountain to the mid lane and Bloodsucker’s Fizz came from the red fountain. They taunted each other in the middle of the lane until the minion waves crashed into each other at 1:45 minutes. Both players were out for blood. They played with absolute focus, last hitting every minion while also finding openings to land some poke. This lasted for a little more than a minute when Lin Feng’s LeBlanc completely outplayed the Fizz to secure first blood.

First Blood!

Bloodsucker stared at his gray screen in disbelief. His hand trembled and he muttered, “D-did that just happen? I… Maybe if I…” He couldn’t comprehend how he’d just given away a solokill, so he just sat in his gaming chair, incredulous. Then his Fizz respawned as colour returned to his screen. He shook his head and had hiz Fizz run down the mid lane again. One mistake. No big deal. I got this!

Lin Feng didn’t follow his usual LeBlanc tactic of killing the opposing Midlaner and then looking for a gank in one of the other two lanes. He recalled back to the fountain, bought items, and then returned to the lane. He continued last hitting minions and waited for the Fizz to come back. Then he started looking for openings again. Every small and miniscule mistake by the Fizz was taken advantage of by Lin Feng’s LeBlanc. And two minutes later, he found the opening for a kill. Eat this!

You have slain an enemy!

Bloodsucker fell back in his gaming chair, stunned. What the fuck is happening? How is he… He bit on his lips and shook his head. No. NO! I can’t let this continue! Where is my fucking Jungler anyway? Why do I have another useless Lee? FUCKING HELL! He started pinging Lee Sin and furiously typed away at his keyboard.

Bloodsucker (Tryndamere):Yo Lee! You could’ve had two kills already! This LeBlanc keeps overextending? What the fuck are you doing? Stop jerking off in your fucking jungle! Come and kill this LeBlanc. FUCK!

Red Team’s Lee Sin came for a gank a minute later. He waited in the brush above the mid lane for Lin Feng’s LeBlanc to overextend. All the while, he was forced to listen to a cacophony of pings as Bloodsucker was pinging him to engage.

Lin Feng grinned. He had a ward in the brush that Lee Sin was hiding in. How nice of you to give me two kills! That’ll make it so much easier to toy with this bully! He then straightened his shoulders and leaned a little closer to his monitor. Let’s get this double kill.

Lin Feng’s LeBlanc moved forward, seemingly overextending. Red Team’s Lee Sin ran out of the brush and Bloodsucker’s Fizz threw his ultimate skill. But LeBlanc was one step ahead. She dodged the Fizz ultimate by sidestepping it, then locked the Lee Sin down with her Ethereal Chains. The Fizz jumped at her, but she jumped away, dragging him with her under her tower–Distortion!

Lin Feng’s LeBlanc didn’t wait underneath her outer tower. She activated Mirror Image, replicating the last skill she used. Then she jumped back out, firing a Sigil of Malice at Lee Sin before the splash damage from the jump killed him. Then she started auto attacking the Fizz, who’d taken two energy shots from the outer tower. Her Sigil of Malice came off cooldown and she threw that in between her auto attacks, shearing away Fizz’s health.

《Double Kill!》

Bloodsucker’s eyes were twitching as he stared at his grey screen. That was three deaths now. And this last one hurt so much that he temporarily forgot to take his anger out on his teammates. He just sat in his gaming chair, numb. When his Fizz respawned on the Red fountain, he rolled his shoulders and said through gritted teeth, “My Fizz is the best. Your stupid LeBlanc just got lucky. I’m going to kill you!”

At 8 minutes, Bloodsucker’s Fizz arrived back in lane. And thirty seconds later, he gave away another kill. It all happened so quickly. He didn’t even really know how it happened. The LeBlanc appeared out of nowhere, linked her skills together flawlessly, and his health just vanished. Then that grating voice from the game announcer echoed in his ears, taunting him with LeBlanc’s success. His eyes looked lifeless as his entire body started trembling and shaking violently.

Unstoppable!

“Unstoppable!”

“Unstoppable!”

“Unstoppable!”

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Bullying

Shanks Thought: I think I can relate to Tian Tian here. I’ve been bullied in the past by guys like this. They just somehow have a sense for all the little insecurities you have about yourself. Then, they hit you right where it hurts and you feel a piece of yourself die inside. Because deep down, you’ve convinced yourself that the hurtful things they’ve said about you is the truth. That you actually do feel that way about yourself, and you hate it. 

I know that the way movies and TV shows like to portray bullying is mostly physical, with the high school jocks giving people wedgies, beating the shit out of you after school, or physically harassing you all the time. But it’s honestly the psychological portion that leaves the deepest marks on you. One of the worst things you can do to another person is to break them down psychologically and make them believe that they’re the worst aspects of themselves.

A lot of the time. These bullies don’t always come in the form that you expect. Sometimes, they’re within your own friend circle. And you watch them as they purposefully single you out and harass you while you wonder why none of your ‘friends’ are standing up for you. So what do you do? You can try to fight back. You can also try to confront them privately. And it might work for a while. But it all falls back to the same pattern in time. And eventually, you become tired of the constant conflict and routine and you become apathetic. Then you leave. 

At least, that’s experience with bullying that I’ve had. The ones that stuck with me. I’ve never really dealt with the kind of troll that Tian Tian is facing. But I can sympathize with what it feels like to have your worst insecurities brought to light and poked at.

Sietse Thought: Shanks makes it sound like the friend is bullying on purpose, and while that may be true in a lot of situations, sometimes people are just as dense as Lin Feng. I remember my days in high school, when it turned out that we’d bullied someone into leaving the school. Some of you might recognize this story, by the way. I’ve talked about it before on the Rise Community Discord.

We had like 25 people in our class. The nerds and the jockeys and everyone else got along relatively fine. There wasn’t any real bullying going on, at first. We poked a little fun at each other. There wasn’t one target. It was whoever had done something dumb that day. Everyone had a good laugh, and then the next day someone else drew the short stick. For example, I got made fun of for an entire day because I wore an orange sweater that made me look like a carrot apparently… But that was the extent of it. Harmless fun.

This went on for months. At the time, I didn’t realize this, but the pool of people that got made fun of grew smaller and smaller. Some people reacted fiercer than others, or didn’t react at all. It was more fun to find them doing something stupid. Some of them spoke up for themselves, they bit back like we’d always done. One of them did not. She kept taking the jokes that really weren’t all that funny anymore. But we were stupid kids and didn’t realize they weren’t funny anymore. We just saw the response and thought that it was funny.

She left the school and we got a fun talk with the principal. He explained to us why we were the assholes and how we now had to attend this new bullying course for a month. I remember how it didn’t make sense to us at the time. I always believed it was all in good fun. That we were all doing it to each other. That everyone was in on it. It wasn’t until a while back, when I thought back to it for the first time in 10+ years that I realized how fucked up that whole situation was. I was definitely one of the bullies, unfortunately.

Dev Thought: Man. Sietse’s kind of an asshole, right guys? Dude made a girl rage quit school. Who does that to someone else? 

But I was bullied too, as a child. Both IRL and on the internet. And it took me a long time to figure out exactly what was happening. See, when someone bullies you or comes at you, they come at you for a personal reason. Something about you bothers them or frightens them or makes them insecure. Something about you shakes fundamental truths about the world that they’ve accepted as fundamental truths. But that’s not really where their power comes from. Their entire schtick is to mask their bullshit in some kind of a defense-of-others/defense-of-society veneer. Then when they come at you, it isn’t them alone for a personal reason. They’re coming at you as guardians of society/humanity/all that is good and right and just in the world. 

But that’s all bullshit. It’s a made up justification that they hide behind, and that is what gives them the power in numbers. And it also fucks with your head and makes you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong about you, and something fundamentally right about them. You start seeing yourself as deserving the abuse you’re taking. And in some sick twisted way, you internally believe it to be a cleansing fire that burns your impurities away. You start telling yourself that if you fix everything about yourself that they hate, they’ll leave you alone. And that you’ll be better for it. 

All of that is a lie. Absolute and complete bullshit. It is an illusion the bully is creating and you buy into. The whole thing is a complete lie. 

The justification that the person doing the bullying comes up with is nonsense about being in the moral right. They come up with it to hide the fact that they have a personal reason for not liking another person and targeting them. Because, on the whole, human beings are all cowards. Most people do not have the strength or force of will to stand on their own. They need a pack behind them, protecting them and joining in with them. That’s where all their power to enact personal vendettas comes from. 

Even this bully in the novel. He’s tilting because he’s the worst player in the game and on the team. But he cannot admit that to himself. He’s a Challenger and the biggest dick in the room. But Tian Tian is an easy target. Fat dude, soft, well-known and in the public eye. Most importantly, Tian Tian just lost at Worlds. So this dude justifies his behavior in his head as, “God Roundy is overrated. If he was ACTUALLY good, he wouldn’t have lost at Worlds. If I had the chance to play for KG instead of him, the LPL might have had a real chance to win at Worlds. I need to pick on him so that KG, the LPL, and all of China can Rise! Other people will agree with him on this! We lost because God Roundy is not as good as he pretends to be! The guy is a fraud!” 

He knows that this will work because Tian Tian lost at Worlds, and other people will agree with him. So he’s got the strength of the crowd behind him. That is what allows him to mask his own fears and insecurities that drive this vendetta as something he’s fighting for on behalf of society. What gives him the imagined power of the moral right. 

It does not exist. That, children, is how you really get a bully to back down. Not by “standing up to them”. Not by “engaging in dialogue and understanding one another”. Definitely not through “teacher guided conflict mediation”. You need to look your bully in the eye and read his soul. Figure out what this dude is hiding behind the flimsy veneer of the moral right. And then you shatter his justification in front of everyone else. Once he loses the approval of the pack, that’s when he’s weak. But you’ve only got one shot at this before he manages to regroup. That one moment where he hesitates and tries to figure out what to do next, that’s where you go in and crush him. There’s no right or wrong or morality or anything else here in this moment. You go in and you break this one pretender completely so he never has a chance to come back up or come at you again. 

Then you walk away, and no one will ever fuck with you again. One moment where you see the world as it is, rather than the vision of it that someone else is trying to sell you on. And then one moment of courage, where you do what needs to be done. And finally, one moment of absolute force of will, where you show everyone that you cannot be fucked with. And then you’re golden until the day you die.

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