278

TOGETHER. APE. SMASH!

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Wang He stared at his monitor, numb. DEFEAT! They were the same letters from a couple of days ago when he lost to Tang Bingyao in solo queue. I-impossible! I lost to her again! This can’t be! No! We were going to win the Regionals this year! We were finally going to make it to Nationals! This… He didn’t even feel angry anymore. Everything he’d worked so hard for crumbled down around him. The long hours he spent practicing with his university team suddenly felt like the biggest waste of time in his life. “W-we lost… We lost to a bunch of high schoolers.”

The other players from East China University of Science and Technology weren’t in much better shape. The game was over after Lux’s play in the mid lane at 18 minutes, yet the game lasted until the 26th minute. They couldn’t surrender, it just wasn’t done in this type of competition. So they played those 8 minutes of pure torture, grinding their teeth and raging at the fact they were losing to high schoolers. Now the game was lost, morale was at an all time low, and they had to play again.

Zhu Feng looked at his teammates and said over the team’s voice chat, “Alright, guys. We can’t sit here and sulk. It’s a best of three series. The next one is gonna be our game! We’re going to win and kick their asses! Let’s make everyone remember how good we are!”

“Just one more game,” Hu Hui grunted. “One more game and we’re out. Out in the first round is bad enough. But out against a high school team? No. Just no. We can’t let this happen. We just can’t!”

Zhu Feng nodded and added, “We can’t! Now let’s focus on the next game. Champion Select is about to begin. We’re just going to have to play our best! We can still do this, guys! We’re starting at zero again. Two wins, same as last game. Two wins and we’re through.”

“Can we ban his Thresh?” Hu Hui asked. It got a quick round of approval from the rest of the team.

That was how the Champion Select started. East China University of Science and Technology banned three strong defensive Supports, while Team Shanghai banned three powerful meta champions. Next up was locking in Champions. East China University of Science and Technology was on the Blue team this game, so they got first pick. They locked in Irelia. Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao were up next, locking in Orianna and Lucian respectively.

Everything pointed towards a lineup that was similar to the first game. But that all changed when Zhang Hao locked in Fiora. He was normally a team-oriented Toplaner. This meant that he chose Champions that provided Support to his teammates. They were defensive Champions like Mundo, high utility Champions like Gnar, or even a teamfight monster like Rumble. What he never played was the aggressive duelist. The kind of champion that won the lane and kept on pushing until they destroyed the Nexus. But that was exactly the type of Champion Fiora was.

There were a couple of raised eyebrows in Team Shanghai’s soundproof booth at Zhang Hao’s choice of Champion. But Fiora fit the strategy An Xin had decided on, so no one said anything about it. But that quickly changed when it was Zeng Rui’s turn to choose a Champion. He glanced at Lin Feng and chewed on his lips. I’ve thought about it enough. That stupid thundering dumbass is right. It’s impossible. It is! But he’s right… I need to trust them. We play aggressively… He scanned through the viable Support options for their game plan and finally landed on Annie. She was a highly aggressive Support, completely different from Zeng Rui’s usual high health and strong crowd control skill type Champions.

Lin Feng grinned and said over the team’s voice chat, “Nice choice, ZengZeng! You really want to set this game on fire, huh! Blast them away with your fire!”

“You’re mistaken,” Zeng Rui replied calmly. “Annie fits in best with our team comp.”

Tang Bingyao looked at Zeng Rui and tilted her head. She said, “Mhm? You’re lying.”

Zeng Rui’s eyelids twitched but he kept his voice calm and steady. “Incorrect. I’m telling the truth.”

Tang Bingyao raised an eyebrow and repeated, “You’re lying.”

An Xin giggled just loudly enough for the others to look at her. She then winked at Tang Bingyao and said over the team’s voice chat, “Alright, let’s move on. Nothing wrong with getting a little pumped up every now and then!”

Game 2
East China University of Science and Technology (Blue Team) vs Team Shanghai (Red Team)

Top lane: Irelia versus Fiora
Jungle: Rek’Sai versus Lee Sin
Mid lane: Ziggs versus Orianna
Ad-carry: Jinx versus Lucian
Support: Nami versus Annie

The audience got excited when they saw the lineups for the second game. East China University of Science and Technology went with a safer team composition that relied more on teamfighting in the mid and late game. It was the safe and expected choice after the first game. But Team Shanghai went fully on the aggressive! They picked powerful Champions, like Lee Sin who was the strongest early game Jungle, to win this game before it could even get to the mid game!

“What do you guys think? Another win for the high schoolers?”
“Maybe they’re getting a bit cocky here…”
“What? Lol. You saw how good they were in the first game, right?”
“Still… This seems like taking unnecessary risk… If you lose you’re out!”
“Doesn’t matter to them. They can lose one and still be in! Haha! Zhu Feng is the one who has to worry!”
“Annie to win the bot lane! Lee Sin in the Jungle! Fiora smashing in top! And then that fucking GOD in the mid lane!”
“WOOP WOOP! Win to Team Shanghai it is! WOOP WOOP!”

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

The game started. Both teams went with normal lanes and neither side was interested in invading the other team’s Jungle. The first minion waves spawned and the whispers started sounding throughout the venue. This was a boring start to the game. But that all changed in the next couple of seconds. Completely unlike the start of the first game, Zhang Hao’s Fiora suddenly played hyper aggressively! She Lunged at the Irelia every time the skill came off cooldown and dealt poke damage. This culminated into a beautiful kill at Level 3. Irelia underestimated how much damage Zhang Hao’s Fiora did and was punished for it.

First Blood!

The audience barely had any time to cheer for this kill when the excitement continued in the bot lane. Pyromania was Annie’s passive skill. After casting four spells, her next one would stun the target. Zeng Rui had charged Pyromania up and now waited in the brush for Blue team’s Nami or Jinx to step out of line. 

Nami made the first mistake. She stepped a little bit too far forward in an attempt to dish out some poke damage on Tang Bingyao’s Lucian. Zeng Rui’s Annie flashed forward with a mottled radiance and cast Incinerate! A blazing cone of fire spread out in front of Annie, stunning the Nami!

Tang Bingyao’s Lucian followed up with Relentless Pursuit! She dashed forward and raised both her guns to fire a double shot at Nami. She kept both guns aimed at Nami to fire Piercing Light at her, and then another double shot. The burst damage was too damn high! Nami’s health bar simply disappeared.

You have slain an enemy!

“The heck is going on? That’s the second one already! It’s not even five minutes!”
“Sweet jeezsuss! They’re poppin’ off for real!”
“The high schoolers really are gonna knock Zhu Feng out! Shit! Who would’ve thought!”
“That Support and Toplaner are really fucking carrying this game…”
“It’s like they took something after the first game…”
“FUCK THEY’RE GOOD!”

But the most terrifying aspect of this abrupt change in Team Shanghai’s playstyle was the fact that Zhang Hao and Zeng Rui were still the same as before. Just because they slightly altered their approach to the game, that didn’t mean they lost their heads. Zhang Hao was playing as solidly as ever, though he was channeling that into a far more oppressive and overbearing manner than before. And Zeng Rui still commanded over the lane and the game with his cold, analytical approach. Because, as he realised, it was very much possible to combine the trust Lin Feng spoke about with the methodical playstyle he’d mastered over the last couple of years.

It went without saying that Lin Feng, An Xin, and Tang Bingyao were also playing at a very high level. Tang Bingyao found a rhythm in Zeng Rui’s aggressive playstyle that hummed in perfect harmony with her own. The two played better together than ever before, pushing until the Blue team’s Botlaners were either dead or forced to recall back to their base to buy health pots!

An Xin’s Lee Sin was running around the map. She fought the monsters in the Jungle Camps and only appeared to gank when East China University of Science and Technology’s Jungler did. But she always appeared right when he did. It was like she knew exactly where he was. As if she were mirroring his Jungle paths. But it wasn’t completely similar either, because she was very much pulling ahead in experience and gold.

There was one more player on Team Shanghai. Lin Feng. He was the best player on the map, just like in the previous game. His Orianna pressured Zhu Feng’s Ziggs until she forced him back to hide underneath his tower. Lin Feng built up a lead in creep score, as well as in gold and experience. And the few times Zhu Feng’s Ziggs tried to do anything about it, Lin Feng was always one step ahead. He dodged the attempts on his and countered with attacks of his own.

“How the fuck is that Ori that good!?”
“It’s mental. Just mental. Fucking crazy!”
“WOOOOOOOOO!”
“ZHU FENG IS GETTING BANGED IN THE ASS!”
“WOOP WOOOOOOOP!”
“Someone call an ambulance! Someone is getting stomped!”

Zhang Hao was completely focused on his screen. He’d already pulled ahead of Irelia and was now looking to extend that lead. Get the last hit, deal some damage. Get the last hit, deal some damage. He looked for every opportunity to attack the Irelia, even if just with an auto attack. In this manner, he’d already gotten her down to about half health. His eyes suddenly narrowed. She’s too aggressive. He glanced down at his minimap. Crap! My ward wore off! Shit, Rek’Sai!

Hu Hui’s Rek’Sai appeared from the river entrance in the top lane. He dug a Tunnel and arrived underneath Zhang Hao’s Fiora. Un-burrow! The Rek’Sai charged out of the ground and knocked Zhang Hao’s Fiora up into the air! Blue team’s Irelia followed up to the gank. She dashed forward to strike Zhang Hao’s Fiora–Bladesurge! Then she stunned him with an Equilibrium Strike!

An Xin saw the gank in the top lane. As expected. She smiled and had her Lee Sin move up into the top lane. That’s why I was killing the Gromp. “Zhang Hao,” she said over the team’s voice chat. “Fight! I’ll be right there!” Oh, wow! I need to hurry if I want to get an assist! He’s killing them both!

An Xin’s Lee Sin ran into the lane and fired a Sonic Wave at the Rek’Sai, who was already below half health. The second part of this skill allowed her to dash at the marked target. Lee Sin flew forward with his leg in front of him, kicking Rek’Sai in the face for some extra damage. She then slammed her flat palm down on the ground for a Tempest of damage!

Zhang Hao’s Fiora was already Level 6, unlocking her ultimate skill. Grand Challenge revealed the four Vitals on Rek’Sai. If he hit all four of them, a healing field would appear on the ground. But there was another way to activate this healing field. And that was by killing the Rek’Sai.

You have slain an enemy!

The healing field spawned on the ground. Zhang Hao’s Fiora had lost nearly half of her health in the gank by  Rek’Sai, but now saw it shoot back up until it was full again. Blue team’s Irelia wasn’t so lucky. Her health was already below half at the start of the fight. Her Jungler was dead now too. She ran away and hid underneath her tower in a final attempt to survive, but that didn’t stop Zhang Hao. He had his Fiora Lunge at the Irelia and finished her off with a couple of quick cuts and slashes.

Double kill!

Zhang Hao grinned, almost looking a little like Lin Feng. It’s so much easier when you’ve got a Jungler that always has your back! BunBun really helped me get the kill on Rek’Sai there before anything bad could happen! He nodded at An Xin and said over the team’s voice chat, “Thanks for that gank, BunBun! You just helped me win the lane! I’ve got this!”

Zeng Rui was playing Annie. The way to play her was to make plays happen. This wasn’t just limited to the bot lane. Zeng Rui scanned the minimap while putting pressure on Blue team’s Botlaners. At 9 minutes, he saw an opening in the mid lane. Red team’s Ziggs was pushing just too far out from underneath his outer tower. That’s a mistake by the Ziggs! Lin Feng can’t kill the Ziggs by himself. But… He’s waiting for me to come, isn’t he? He knows I have to come… Zeng Rui gritted his teeth but still made the move. He had his Annie run up the river and when he arrived in the brush right below the mid lane, he said over the team’s voice chat, “Go in!” Then he flashed forward and activated his ultimate.

Annie’s passive skill was active. Her next skill would stun whomever it hit! She threw her teddy bear up into the air. Fire suddenly blazed from within it! Its eyes radiated a fiery energy as its body grew several times in size! And then it dropped down to the ground, smashing its feet onto the Ziggs. Stunning the Ziggs.

“Coming!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He pressed down on the D key, quickly followed by the Q and W keys. All the while, keeping his index finger hovering slightly above the R key. His Orianna appeared right in front of the stunned Ziggs with a mottled flash of light. He then commanded his Ball to attack! It flew towards Ziggs and landed on top of him. Then it let out a pulse of dissonant energy, rupturing the Ziggs’ health bar!

Zhu Feng’s eyes went wide. “STUPID! Fuck!” he cursed, slamming down on his W key–Satchel Charge! The exact moment that the stun broke, his Ziggs placed down an explosive charge underneath his feet. And then Zhu Feng pressed the W key again. The charge exploded, knocking Ziggs away towards his outer tower. For a brief moment.

Lin Feng’s finger fell down on his keyboard, activating Orianna’s ultimate. Orianna commanded her Ball to send out a shockwave. The pulse of energy wrapped around the Ziggs, who was in midair, and pulled him back towards the Ball. Gotcha! Haha! Lin Feng clicked on the Ziggs. His Orianna threw out a fidget spinner. Its sharp edges cut away the last bit of Ziggs’ health.

You have slain an enemy!

Lin Feng turned to look at Zeng Rui with a grin that reached from one ear to the other and said, “Nice roam! See? Didn’t I tell you, ZengZeng? This is far more effective! We should’ve played like this from the start!”

Zeng Rui didn’t give Lin Feng the pleasure of being right. He ground his teeth and stared at his screen. I hate him so much. I hate him so much! Why does this thundering dumbass have to be right? Why can’t he just be wrong about this? Yes. YES! I’m feeling great! I’m loving this, you stupid thundering dumbass! Dammit! I hate him. I hate him so much!

While Zeng Rui had his Annie return to the bot lane, he glanced at Lin Feng. He took a deep, long breath to calm himself down. Trust. It’s all about trust with him. But he’s right about that. There’s something so… so liberating about playing the game like this. I don’t have to worry about what he might do. All I have to do is trust that he’ll have my back. And he had. He always has. We have each others’ backs. That’s how you play. And together we win. That’s teamwork. Why is this working so well? Why can’t it just fail? He pinched his eyelids closed and took another deep breath. Because it works. Because it’s a really good way of playing the game. He chuckled and said over the team’s voice chat, “Let’s do that again.”

Team Shanghai had more skilled players in each role compared to the East China University of Science and Technology and on top of that, they were the better team. They pushed for an overwhelming advantage in the three lanes, while An Xin started to call Blue team’s Jungle her home. All three outer towers from the Blue team fell before the 10th minute. And a few minutes later, Team Shanghai found themselves in such a commanding lead that it was hard to see them losing the game.

It turned out that it wasn’t just hard to see them lose this game, it was impossible. Lin Feng’s Orianna had the items to burst down any Champion that came her way. And Lin Feng had enough mechanics to outplay every second, third and fourth Champion that came at him to help their teammates. It wasn’t any different in the other lanes. Everyone kept pushing, brute forcing their way towards the East China University of Science and Technology’s base.

The 21th minute of the second game came around. Team Shanghai was pushing all three lanes. Red minions were crashing into the blue inhibitor towers. The East China University of Science and Technology team could only passively defend, and even then had to be careful not to give away a kill. They were too far behind. There was nothing they could do to turn this around anymore.

“FUCK THIS BULLSHIT!” Wang He suddenly shouted over the team’s voice chat. He slammed down on the Enter key and typed /ff.

Zhu Feng bit on his tongue. He wanted to tell Wang He off for starting the surrender vote. This is an official tournament! We can’t surrender! That’s bad manners! We have to play this out! And we’re still in it! If we can somehow win… STUPID! He stopped himself. He knew they couldn’t win. Two more green bars lit up, signaling that two teammates had agreed to the surrender vote. He let his head fall down. “Fine. Let’s surrender,” he finally said over the team’s voice chat.

The energy contained in the blue Nexus broke free. It twisted and turned and morphed into the victory emblem for Team Shanghai. It was game over for the East China University of Science and Technology. Team Shanghai was moving on to the next round after winning the first best of three series in a promising 2-0 fashion!

VICTORY!

“A SURRENDER VOTE! THEY SURRENDERED!”
“HAHAHAHA! The high school kids got Zhu Feng to surrender! This is brilliant!”
“Oh my god, what a disgrace! Absolutely hilarious!”
“SWEET LORD! GOOOOOO TEAM SHANGHAI!”
“WOOP WOOOOOOOOP! HIGH SCHOOLERS FOR THE WIIIIIN!”
“GG to the high schoolers. They carried the shit out of that game!”
“Fuck they were good… Who’s gonna beat them?”
“DID YOU SEE THAT? THEY SURRENDERED! HAHAHAHAHA!”

Wang He walked out of the soundproof booth behind Zhu Feng. He slightly bent his knees, just far enough to hide his figure behind his team captain. He didn’t want anyone to see him now. We’re going to have to… I’m going to have to… He glanced across the room at the door of the other soundproof booth. Team Shanghai was walking out, cheering and laughing. I’m going to have to shake hands with… with her. After everything I’m going to have to… He chewed on his lips, his stomach twisting in a knot and pulling tight. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!

Zhu Feng looked over his shoulder and said to his teammates, “Be nice guys. Good sportsmanship and all that. Just congratulate them.” He grimaced before adding, “I know.”

The two teams shook hands. East China University of Science and Technology did the best to hide their shame and disappointment. Even when Lin Feng was telling them how much fun the games were, they just nodded and wished him good luck in the next round. It was especially difficult to face An Xin and Tang Bingyao. When they first saw them, they joked about the two girls. They told each other that the first round was in the bag, because Team Shanghai had two girls on their roster. But they were proven wrong about that in a painful fashion. The two girls had torn them apart.

Wang He glanced past Zhu Feng at Tang Bingyao. He dreaded having to shake her hand. Please don’t recognize me. Please don’t recognize me. Please tell me you didn’t watch my stream. You don’t know who I am! Please tell me you don’t know who I am! He didn’t dare to meet her eyes, extending his hand to her and quietly mumbling a few congratulatory words. Please don’t recognize me. Please don’t recognize me…

Yuck. Why is his hand so sweaty? Tang Bingyao looked at Wang He, surprised and uncomfortable. A cold shiver ran up and down her spine. What’s wrong with him? He gives me the creeps… She squinted her eyes a bit. Do I know him? Mhm? Lin Feng was pushing her forward, dispelling those thoughts. She moved on to the next person in line and gave them a hand. “Well played.”

Wang He glanced over his shoulder at Tang Bingyao. She isn’t looking back. Good. She didn’t recognize me. She really didn’t recognize me! She didn’t! The short burst of excitement disappeared again. She didn’t recognize me. She didn’t recognize me… He shook hands with the next person on Team Shanghai, but kept looking at Tang Bingyao. She… She doesn’t even know who I am. His shoulders slumped and he kicked against an imaginary pebble on the floor. The knot in his stomach tightened so hard that it tore him apart. I spent all day worrying about her and she… she didn’t even recognize me! SHE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW WHO I AM!

Wang He’s world collapsed around him. He stood in front of the soundproof booths. The audience was clapping and cheering, his teammates were trying to push him along, and Team Shanghai was celebrating in the background. None of it registered in his mind. Why did I worry so much about her? I haven’t even thought about the game. All I wanted to do was get my redemption against her… She doesn’t even know who I am! What am I doing here? I had a bad game, that was all. How did I turn that into this big storyline? He shook his head, listless. She doesn’t even know who I am. I’m such an idiot. Everything, it was all just in my head… He gritted his teeth and looked at his teammates who were walking away, leaving him behind. I need to stop living in my head. “Hey, guys!” he shouted after them. “Wait for me!”

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Sietse's Thoughts on Lockdown

Announcement:

We just keep on giving with these merged chapters. This is another one (284 + 285 in the raws)! What does that put us at, like 12 chapter releases this week? That must be a new record for us!

Translator Thought:

Sietse Thought: We’ve talked a bunch about this whole Covid-19 mess. Stupid lockdowns, rising cases, and so on and so on. But I never fail to be amazed at how hard people search for ways to circumvent the rules. Ya know, there’s this deadly disease doing the rounds, and we’re more concerned with going outside than getting rid of the virus. I’m obviously part of the problem. Just the other week I saw this bar that was open. People drinking beers, having fun, it was a lot of fun.

Then just yesterday, I went out climbing. Right. A small place with some 50 people close together. Me is very smart. But it was early in the morning, so it wasn’t that bad. A few people were dancing their capoeira routines and making funny sounds and some others were bootcamping. Because what’s a better place to do that than right next to an outdoor climbing place? Not to mention that you’re not even allowed to give any of these lessons to adult classes because of lockdown rules. (What I did was technically allowed, since it wasn’t a lesson! HA!) Anyway, everyone was there having a great time. The sun was shining. And for a moment, it felt like the world was normal. Like there was no damn pandemic.

There is no pandemic here. Not to most people, anyway. They don’t know anyone who has it and don’t know the damage it does to the body. So they chill, enjoy a beer, and sport in groups. Heck, there are even birthday parties! Yep! I kid you not. 30 kids were jumping around, having a good time. They were rolling around on the concrete at the command of their tutor or whatever that’s called. Looked kind of disgusting, but hey, those kids were having fun!

We’re travelling across the country to have a couple hours of fun in this pandemic. We search for ways to circumvent the rules or just stretch them. Test what the cops just give warnings for and when they hand out fines. It’s not like there’s one person doing this either. There isn’t a single person I know who isn’t doing this. We’re all looking for what is allowed, and in doing so are basically handing this virus everything it needs to keep infecting people. The number of cases here has been steadily rising for a bit now. No one sounds concerned. Not about Covid-19 anyways. They are worried that what little freedom they now enjoy gets taken away again.

We’re, as a species, absolutely fucked because of how absolutely stupid and braindead we are. You guys whine and moan about Lin Feng being unreasonably dense. Just look around you in real life and tell me you can’t spot multiple such people in your direct social circle. We’re all fucking stupid. You’d think this virus would wake us the fuck up. But nope, we just keep being our own selfish, idiotic selfs. And then we wonder why other people are braindead.

They are. We all are. Lin Feng isn’t the stupid one. The others in the novel are too smart. That’s the unrealistic part about the novel. There are far too many people who actually have the mental capability to be semi-functioning beings. We, as a species, are clearly incapable of that.

For everyone who stuck it out ‘till here, thank you for listening to my little rant! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me go enjoy a beer and hopefully catch some more sun.

– Sietse out

Shanks Thought: Man, Sietse. That was deep. It took a weird philosophical turn that I didn’t expect. Dumber than Lin Feng, huh? Shit, I can’t help but agree with your point. Honestly, even Lin Feng would listen to lockdown restrictions and wear a mask when going outside. He may be a clueless idiot about a lot of things, but you notice how he always stays on top of his schoolwork? 

I was actually on a call with my mom earlier today, and she was asking about how the pandemic situation was going in the UK. It’s still going… But now that the weather is starting to warm up, you’re seeing more and more people go outside to enjoy the sun. That’s all fine and dandy, except none of them are really social distancing. Nor are they wearing masks. My mom asked why, and I didn’t know how to really answer except for that they’re dumb and don’t really care. Like, there’s really no other explanation. It’s a mix of, “It’ll never happen to me,” and “It’s okay cause I have a good reason!”

That said, I like how Sietse tries to distance himself from the others, like how he’s not as big of a moron. You’re all morons. Remember what I said about, “It’s okay if I break the rules cause I have a good reason!”? You’re seeing it in action right there. I even bought him a box of chocolates to try and keep him home bound, but he ended up going through it in a span of four days. That’s like 6 Chunky White Kit Kats a day. God damn.

Sietse’s Defense: So the KitKats lasted for more than a week AND I shared them with my family and girlfriend! I didn’t eat 6 a day… I ate one a day! ME! The candy/sugar addict, resisted the urge and had like 1 / day! But am I getting any compliments? Nooooooo. This mothafucka goes and tells me I’m fat. YOU’RE FAT, SHANKS! YOU!

But there is a way to do something about that! You don’t have to go through life like this! I’ve got the perfect solution for you! The fitness channel on our very own Discord server! Join in on fun exercises every day! Get that little bit of movement needed to get the ball rolling! And before you know it, you’re a fitness junkie coming up with stupid challenges that you see through to the end for no other reason than your own hardheadedness! I would know, I’m working on a pull up challenge that’s absolute hell. Almost at the end of week one and seriously reconsidering every life choice that led up to this point.

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