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“Fuck!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He stared at his monitor and shook his head. Should’ve seen that coming! I should’ve! Braum was gone from top! He was either farming Jungle with Elise or ganking with Elise! How can I be this stupid!? Dammit! That was almost a big mistake! He breathed in deeply, allowing the air to fill his lungs. I didn’t even see the Ethereal Chains coming… That was luck. I Flashed away because of the gank. That’s the only reason I dodged those chains. They were fucking perfect! He exhaled loudly through his mouth. Fuck me!

Across the stage in Zhejiang University’s soundproof booth, Shi Hang grinned and shook his head. So close! Almost had you there, Maple! You would’ve been in for a miserable time if I got first blood there! He chuckled and focused back on his monitor. He had his LeBlanc last hit a minion, nodding. Gotta say, your reaction speed there… How was it that fast? You dodged a point blank E! Those chains should’ve been impossible to dodge! Was there something else… He chewed on his lips. That was either luck or you’re much, much closer to the old Maple than you made me believe in the previous couple of games!

Shi Hang narrowed his eyes. I can’t risk it. I have to assume this is his real skill. He nodded at his Jungler and said over the team’s voice chat, “Make a circle and come back mid, Elise. We’re going for another gank. We have to shut Ma–We have to shut the Zed down.”

Sun Ruinian turned his head to look at Shi Hang and raised an eyebrow. Ma? Ma-what? Maverick? Shit, I can’t get distracted now! He focused back on the game in front of me, chewing on his lips. Ma… Ma… Master? Heh! Nah.

Tang Bingyao’s Draven was together in the bot lane with Zeng Rui’s Blitzcrank. Zhejiang’s Jarvan IV still hadn’t shown himself. This was a typical approach in a lane swap. The solo Champion would farm in the Jungle and wait for the minion wave to collapse into his tower. Which was about to happen very soon.

The third minion wave arrived in the bot lane. This wave was different. The third wave was led by a cannon minion! They were stronger units that also gave more experience and gold when killed! Tang Bingyao changed her approach. Instead of only last hitting, she had her Draven throw his Spinning Axes constantly until all Red minions were dead!

A large Blue minion wave marched towards Red Team’s Outer Tower! Zhejiang University’s Jarvan IV had been waiting for this moment. He’d started the game by helping his Jungler and then he went on to kill the Gromp Camp in the Jungle. The large frog took a large bite of his health bar. So while waiting for the minion wave to come, he’d sat in the tri-brush behind his tower waiting. Now he walked to his tower and started soaking up the experience, still careful to stay back. He was up against a Blitzcrank. One hook could kill him.

Zeng Rui frowned and said over the team’s voice chat, “He’s playing this really safe.”

Tang Bingyao nodded. But if we get him… Mhm! She glanced at Zeng Rui and asked, “Can you get him with a Flash-hook?”

Zeng Rui turned his head to look at Tang Bingyao and opened his eyes wide. He replied, “I can. You sure you can do this?”

“MY AXES HUNGER FOR BLOOD!” Tang Bingyao screamed back.

The unexpected enthusiasm from Tang Bingyao made Zeng Rui glance at her for a second. Then he looked back at his screen and observed the Jarvan IV’s movements. He finally said, “Alright.” He then flicked his mouse, pressed down on the D key, flicked his mouse again and finally slammed down on the Q key! A mottled flash of light carried his Blitzcrank a short distance to the side, creating a gap between the Red minions through which he could hit Zhejiang’s Jarvan IV. Blitzcrank raised his arm and fired! His fist shot out and grabbed onto Jarvan IV, then pulled him back!

Tang Bingyao’s Draven hurled a Spinning Axe at Jarvan IV! Its sharp edges cut into Jarvan IV and then ricocheted! She moved to the side and threw a second Spinning Axe while catching the first!

Zeng Rui’s Blitzcrank redirected all the excess energy body towards its fist, overcharging it! Jarvan IV landed in front of him and he punched Jarvan IV! The bolt of electricity shook Jarvan IV and knocked him up into the air!

Zhejiang University’s Toplaner cursed, “FuckFuckFuck, fuck me!” He hammered his fist down on his keyboard, trying everything he could to get away. His team had given him one job going into this game. To not give Draven any kills. Yet right now, another Spinning Axe cut a large slice out of his health bar! FLASH! JUMP! DASH! ANYTHING! His Jarvan IV landed back on the ground with less than half of his health remaining. He flashed away and then threw down his Demacian Standard in front of him! Dragon Strike! He stabbed at his standard with his lance to pull himself towards it!

Tang Bingyao smiled and pushed down on her E key–Stand Aside! Her Draven raised both axes above his shoulders and then threw them at a curved angle! They flew straight at Jarvan IV and knocked him out of his flag-toss combo mid dash!

“OH MY GOOOOOOD!” Silent Reed cried out. She jumped up to her feet and grabbed the microphone. She then screamed, “A PERFECT STAND ASIDE BY DRAVEN! FIRST BLOOD! THIS HAS TO BE IT!”

An Xin said over the team’s voice chat, “Nice one!” Her Lee Sin then appeared from behind Red Team’s Outer Tower. She engaged Jarvan IV with Sonic Wave! Lee Sin fired a discordant sound wave and located Jarvan IV’s exact location. He followed up with Resonant Strike, dashing at Jarvan IV! And finally, she dashed at Tang Bingyao’s Draven with Safeguard!

Tang Bingyao glanced at An Xin before quickly turning her focus back to her screen. She’s giving it to me! She nodded and ran into the Red outer tower’s range. Jarvan IV had one more bar of health. One auto attack was going to do it. She ignored the energy shot that came flying her way and hurled the final Spinning Axe!

First Blood!

“HOLY SHIT! They actually got first blood!”

At five minutes, Zhejiang University’s Elise had made her circle and found herself back in the river brush right above the mid lane. She looked at the lane while waiting for Shi Hang to give her the go ahead. LeBlanc and Zed were fighting in the middle of the lane, exchanging blows perfectly between last hitting minions. Somehow, they were both the players with the highest creep score on their respective teams. How are they doing this? That Draven is practically getting free farm in the bot lane and still they’re both ahead of Dra

Shi Hang’s LeBlanc jumped at Lin Feng’s Zed! Magic gathered at her feet and when she landed, it splashed all around her! She followed up with Ethereal Chains! They fired at Zed and wrapped around him! Alright, alright… Shi Hang watched his screen, laser focused. His finger hovered over the D key. Where are you flashing to, Maple? He narrowed his eyes when the mottled flash of light appeared. THERE! He pressed down on the D key! The same mottled flash of light now wrapped around his LeBlanc and carried her after Zed!

Lin Feng’s eyes went wide. He shouted, “Shit! He got me!” The unquenchable flames from Ignite started burning on his Zed’s skin. Elise then ran out from the brush above the mid lane. The secondary effect from Ethereal Chains activated and rooted him. Shi Hang’s LeBlanc fired a Sigil of Malice at him!

The root from Ethereal Chains didn’t last long, but it was enough for Zhejiang’s Elise to catch up and fire an easy Cocoon. The web of silk wrapped tightly around Lin Feng’s Zed and kept him in place while Shi Hang’s LeBlanc finished him off with a few more auto attacks!

You have been slain.

Huh, interesting… Lin Feng watched the colours of his screen fade away to different shades of grey. He moved his lips around and glanced across the stage at Zhejiang University’s soundproof booth. Are you really planning to camp me in this game? Is that how you think you’re going to win this series? That’s an interesting twist. He grinned. Bring it!

The caster desk was placed on a raised platform. Rollfire sat behind it, watching the game on the large LCD screen just like everyone else. Nice kill, AyDeeCee! He grinned and said into his microphone, “That kill just now by Shi Hang was crucial! They sacrificed a lot to get an early advantage and now it looks like it might pay off!”

Silent Reed shook her head and argued, “You’re missing what’s happened in the bot lane. And what’s happening in the top lane. The three man gank bot got the Draven rolling. And over up in top, that Irelia noticed very quickly that Braum was missing. She’s been pushing the lane and farming minions! The difference between the Draven and Tristana and the Irelia and Jarvan IV is in both cases falling in Team Shanghai’s favour.”

“Fair enough,” Rollfire replied. He took a deep breath and continued, “We’ll have to see if the focus on mid is worth it. But it’s clear Zhejiang is giving up a lot to help Shi Hang get ahead. Which is kind of strange by the way. Since when does the former pro need help to beat a high school kid?”

“Told you he was good,” Silent Reed said, smiling.

Zeng Rui panned his camera to the mid lane. He said he’d… Thundering dumbass! He gritted his teeth and clicked on the top lane on his minimap. Braum is there helping Sun Ruinian’s Tristana push the lane. Zhang Hao’s got no vision a bit further down the river either… Shit, this might be… He warned over the team’s voice chat, “Zhang Hao, Elise might be coming to towerdive you. There’s no vision on the tri-brush behind you!”

“Got it!” Zhang Hao replied. He had his Irelia retreat under her outer tower and gauged the reaction from Zhejiang University’s Braum and Tristana. When they didn’t charge right after him, he ran into the tri-brush to face-check it! It was empty. Elise wasn’t there. Heh! That was lucky! He laughed and said, “We’re all good here!”

Zeng Rui nodded and turned his attention back towards the mid lane. He said not to worry. But that was before they started camping him! Elise has only shown herself mid and Braum has spent more time helping Shi Hang than Sun Ruinian! He’s getting camped hard! Maybe… He shook his head. He’ll just say the sa

“I remember someone saying they’d be fine in the mid lane?” An Xin asked over the team’s voice chat. She glanced at Lin Feng and smiled before adding, “Looks like someone was talking big. Need some help after all? If you ask me really, really nicely, I might just find an opening to come and help.”

Lin Feng turned his head to look at An Xin and narrowed his eyes. He complained, “That didn’t count! This isn’t my fault! Who knew Shi Hang was going to play dirty? They’re camping the crap out of me! And I’m still doing great! They’re wasting so much time here and getting almost nothing!”

“Oh? Is that so?” An Xin asked. She raised an eyebrow and concluded, “Guess I really won’t help you out then. You can fix that mess you made all on your own!”

Vibrant greens and blue returned to Lin Feng’s screen. He patted his chest and said, “That’s fine! Don’t worry about mid! I said I’ll handle it, so I’m handling it!” He then grabbed his mouse with one hand and placed his other hand on the keyboard. Alright, let’s get on with this!

An Xin giggled and replied, “If you say so. I’m eagerly looking forward to it!”

Zeng Rui frowned and interjected, “You should gank mid at least once. We don’t want LeBlanc to get fed.”

“No need!” An Xin replied curtly. She shook her head and continued, “I’ll help the other two lanes get ahead.” She then turned her head to look at Lin Feng and winked before adding, “Besides, he said he’s fine. I trust him.”

Shi Hang’s LeBlanc hit Level 3. With her three main skills unlocked, she had nothing to fear from Zed anymore. On top of that, she was also a kill ahead. Shi Hang’s LeBlanc started to throw her weight around, pressuring Lin Feng’s Zed so far back that he started to miss out on some last hits. Hehe! This is the least I should do. If I couldn’t even do this, all my old friends would laugh their asses off! But he is playing awfully defensive. I thought at least he was going to put up some kind of resistance… He scrunched his eyebrows and tilted his head. Is he that scared of another gank? He grinned. Good. He should be!

Lin Feng looked from the mid lane down to the minimap and up to the mid lane again. He then moved the camera around the mid lane, searching for any signs of an incoming gank. All the while, he was also trying to push back against Shi Hang’s LeBlanc so that he could get last hits on the minions. Everything combined proved too much. He took several Sigil of Malice into Distortion combos from LeBlanc and at 6 minutes, his health was so low that he was forced to recall back to base. He lost an entire wave worth of gold and experience.

“Well, that settles it! LeBlanc is hitting Level 6 first!” Rollfire remarked. He shifted in his seat and smiled. Good! That’s gonna be another kill for Shi Hang! He’ll carry this game! GoGoGo! He grabbed the microphone from its stand on the caster desk and moved it close to his lips. He then said, “Shi Hang is far in the lead in mid now. And if Elise comes around for another gank, we might just witness the end of Zed this game!”

“SHE IS!” Silent Reed cried out, pointing at the large LCD screen. Zhejiang’s Elise was making her way through the river and trying to find an angle to gank Lin Feng’s Zed from. But she passed by a ward and got spotted.

Rollfire shook his head and said, “That was unfortunate for Zhejiang. If that ward wasn’t there, that Zed would’ve never seen this gank coming! He saved himself by placing that ward a bit earlier! But that still means that he’s losing out on even more gold and experience! He’s just going to continue falling further and further behind with the way this game is going!”

“Screw you, Dickfire!” Ouyang shouted from the stands. He glared at the male caster and continued, “That Zed is my best bro! I’ll tell you that he won’t fall behind! He’s gonna kick AyDeeCee’s ass right when that Elise stops camping the ever living hell out of the mid lane!”

Yang Fang adjusted his glasses and said, “I don’t know, Ouyang. I understand your frustration, but the caster is right. Lin Feng is falling behind. And those ganks, fair or not, are making it harder and harder for him to catch up. Just a bit more and that LeBlanc gets so far ahead that she’ll snowball the game. I hope BunBun can go mid for a gank soon. She’ll know how to turn mid lane into a winning lane!”

Zhejiang University had put an end to the lane swap. Sun Ruinian and his Support went to the bot lane, while Zhejiang’s Jarvan IV went to the top lane. He arrived there 7 minutes in. He pushed up into the lane and last hit a low health minion.

Zhang Hao raised his eyebrows and laughed. He said over the team’s voice chat, “He didn’t even try to ward…? Okay.” He then dashed at Jarvan IV with Bladesurge and stunned him with Equilibrium Strike!

“We’ll just get him now,” An Xin replied. She had her Lee Sin run out from the tri-brush below the Red team’s outer tower and dashed at Zhang Hao’s Irelia. She followed up with Tempest! Her Lee Sin slammed his flat palm on the ground, sending a wave of energy through the ground and up Jarvan IV’s feet! When it invaded his body, An Xin detonated it with Cripple!

Zhang Hao’s Irelia was a level up on Jarvan IV, as was An Xin’s Lee Sin. Together, they dealt a ton of damage to the Jarvan IV who hadn’t gotten any gold from the bot lane. Before the stun from Equilibrium Strike wore off, Irelia’s blade claimed Jarvan IV’s life.

You have slain an enemy!

“Sorry, guys,” Zhejiang University’s Toplaner mumbled over the team’s voice chat. He stared at the grey colours on his screen and gritted his teeth. I’m getting camped so fucking hard here! This is such an unfair game! Can’t they just let me get some farm in!?

Zhejiang University’s Elise pinged on the mid lane and said, “Shi Hang! I’m coming mid for another gank!”

“Alright,” Shi Hang replied. He last hit one more minion and then retreated to place some wards in the river brushes below and above the lane. He won’t see this coming. I think… He panned his camera and watched Lin Feng’s Zed push the minion wave back from under his tower. Yeah, he doesn’t see it coming.

Shi Hang took his time to place his wards in just the right location, giving Lin Feng a couple extra seconds to push the wave. Hehe! He just keeps pushing! Is he going to push it all the way to my outer tower? He waited a few more seconds, until he couldn’t justify being away any longer, then said over the team’s voice chat, “In we go!”

Lin Feng’s Zed was in the middle of the mid lane. Zhejiang University’s Elise appeared from the river brush beneath the lane and ran straight at him! And Shi Hang’s LeBlanc came at him from the opposite side! Shi Hang grinned, his fingers gliding over his keyboard! W! Q! R! E!

Shi Hang’s LeBlanc jumped towards Lin Feng’s Zed with Distortion! Magic energy gathered around her feet and splashed out around her when she landed! She followed up with Sigil of Malice and Mimic: Sigil of Malice! The second sigil detonated the first and tore through Zed’s health bar! And finally, she fired the Ethereal Chains at Lin Feng’s Zed!

Lin Feng grinned. His finger was resting on the R key. He gently pressed down. Death Mark! His Zed placed down a Living Shadow and then disappeared. The Ethereal Chains shot through the Living Shadow but couldn’t latch onto it. Four blood red shadows suddenly materialized around LeBlanc! They dashed at her and placed the Death Mark on her!


Cancel Culture

Dev Announcement: Oh, quick thing before I start. Today’s chapter was late because of me. It’s my birthday today. I… well. I forgot my birthday completely last year with all the COVID stuff that was happening. Literally didn’t even notice that I circled the sun one more time. Anyways, my parents wanted to do something special for this birthday because of that. Which led to me getting to work on the chapter late. And hence the late release. Sietse’s off doing… something. I don’t know. That dude’s got a weird life. He told us that he’d be busy today a couple of days ago, so I said I’d take the chapter and roll with it. But when I told him that I was free, I also forgot that today was my birthday once again. 

You hit a certain age, it stops being all that exciting. I’ve been old enough to do whatever it is I want to do for a while now, so there aren’t any milestones to look forward to or reasons to care about birthdays. Also, ya know, I’m a grown ass man and not a 16-year-old girl. Anyways, that’s my bit on what happened with the chapter release. Onto the thought!

Dev Thought: This one is going to be a serious thought. Not too many jokes, if any. I don’t know if you guys know this, but we’re huge fans of DisguisedToast. Especially back in the day when he made a ton of TFT videos. Anyways, there’s a whole thing going around about cancelling him for saying stuff that some people deemed offensive. I didn’t particularly care to dig into all the details because I found the whole thing asinine. But there were a couple of comments/messages that got me thinking about the whole cancel culture thing. One was something like, “We’re not trying to destroy Toast, we’re trying to educate him about why what he did was wrong.” 

That one in particular got to me. Because it strikes at the heart of this entire dog-and-pony show. We’re talking about morality here. The conception of right and wrong. And it seems like that’s at the heart of literally everything that’s been going on in the world these days. When it comes to right and wrong, there’s times when it’s perfectly clear. Let’s say I’m having a bad day, so I go outside and kick the shit out of some old dude who happens to be taking way too long to order at a coffee shop or bakery. This is clearly wrong. We all agree to that, yeah? It’d be funny as hell if I did it, yes. But it would also be wrong. There are things that we just can’t do if we want to live in a peaceful society with each other. That’s the moral good. 

But once you get past the real easy ones where you shouldn’t be running around raping, killing, assaulting, basically anything that’ll get the Boondock Saints on your ass, that’s where morality becomes a lot more complicated. It isn’t black or white anymore. It goes back to how everyone really lives, in shades of gray. And that’s also where the differences between individual/personal morality and the societal moral good start become distinct. 

Let’s go with a simple example here, like developmental delay. There are parameters/metrics that indicate adequate cognitive growth in a child. Stuff like how by 2 years of age, they should be using simple 2-5 word sentences and have the ability to understand primary language and point to things, etc. That 2 years of age thing is a rough estimate. Some kids take until 3 or 3 and a half to hit one particular milestone on those metrics. They’ll get everything else though. So it isn’t really an issue. But when there’s gross cognitive delay for years across multiple domains, that’s a congenital issue. It happens. The word we use in medicine for it these days is “developmental delay”. The word we used to use for it was “retard”. Which isn’t really an incorrect descriptor. To retard something means to stop or impede progress. It has no derogatory context and isn’t a value judgement. It’s a descriptor of a state of being for the purposes of treatment and management. 

But because we’re dogshit people, we turned a descriptor into a mild childhood insult. Someone does something dumb, clearly the cause of it is profound developmental delay. Rather than, ya know, simple stupidity. One of those things that’s no big deal when a child does it. You teach the kid what it means, the context surrounding it, and how it can be hurtful to someone who has a sibling who has developmental delay. Then you let the kid make their own choice in the matter. 

That’s individual morality. And that particular morality is born from understanding and empathy. Not from an authoritarian force telling you what can be said and what cannot be said. Because let’s face it here, if someone tells you not to say a word, that’s probably THE BEST reason to use it as often as you can. I’m in my early 30s and that childish reasoning makes perfect sense to me. But back on topic. You guys see how there’s a difference between you personally deciding not to say something vs other people telling you not to say it because it is wrong? 

That’s the situation we’re in with cancel culture or whatever you want to call the batshit crazy nonsense going on in the world today. All of us have our individual morality, and obviously there’s going to be people that agree with our particular policy and people that do not. But when you gather 5000 people who either agree with an individual moralistic stance that you’ve taken or are ambiguous enough in their own stance on that particular issue to tilt over to your view, it stops feeling like an individual moral choice and more like a societal one. 

And that’s what gives everyone license to enforce their own personal brand of morality on everyone else. The whole, “I believe this is wrong so you can’t say/do it either!” nonsense that underlies this whole trend. But that’s not how morality works. Because morality is born from understanding and empathy, and is viewed through the lens of our own experiences and thoughts. You can’t really insist that someone else subscribes to your individual moral standards. Or that society itself forms around what a few people collectively believe to be the moral good. That’s not morality anymore. That’s just forcing someone to think and feel and believe the way you do. 

The real tragedy of all this is that it takes away from our ability to form our own opinions on things. It shreds away at the fabric that allows people to develop their own moral standards. That’s not a world we want to live in. That’s a world where no one knows what to say to each other and everyone lives in fear, and the only place where we can truly say what we want is in our own minds. Which brings us to the conclusion of this particularly long thought-piece. Why is this fight important? Because let’s be real, why should anybody really care about Twitch streamers, YouTubers, TV celebrities, movie stars, musicians, producers, and general public personalities? They really aren’t important. You knock one down, another one pops up in their place. The world goes on. We’ll always be entertained. 

But here’s the deal. There is power that comes with enforcing one’s moral standards on the world. Real power. Being the arbiter of what the human condition deems right and wrong is pretty much the highest degree of power that a person can achieve within our understanding of the universe right now. The problem with that particular brand of power is that it constantly remains in flux. As long as you can convince enough people that X is bad and enforce it through collective fear or prohibition, the power remains. But if you’re not doing it often enough, someone else will come in to take that power from you. Or you’ll eventually abuse that power to create conditions necessary for you to retain it. That’s just the nature of the thing. 

Unless we stop bending to the individual moral quibbles of the few now, we’ll be bending to them and shackling ourselves for a very long time. Possibly forever. Because creating a source of power draws the people least worthy to wield that power. And freedom is one of those things that we absolutely take for granted until we no longer have it.

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