Maple’s Rise—Part II

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Over on Lightless Heart’s stream, they were watching CN•HOOK2’s 5th game, where he was playing Zed in the Midlane. CN•HOOK2’s opponent was a Korean player named Clue, who was playing LeBlanc. The viewers on Lightless’ stream immediately recognized the name and chat went into an uproar over it. 

It’s Clue!
I can’t believe it! Is Hook2 gonna be able to win this!?
Korea bringing out the bgi guns to stop hook2!!!!!!!!!
they doin our boi hook dirrtyyy!
crap, such bad timing too!
is there really a good time to get cockblocked????
Hook gonna cuck Clue
Yesyesyesyesyesy! Hook gonna give Clue a clue!

Lightless was just as stunned as his viewers that Clue was playing against CN•HOOK2. “Yeah… this is  definitely going to be a tough game, guys! Or maybe not! Let’s see what CN•HOOK2 can pull out against Clue!”

Clue was currently ranked 15th on the Korea Challenger Ladder, which already made him a great player. But he was far more well-known for being the Midlaner on a professional NLB team. Not only was he a professional player, he was one of the top-rated Midlaners in the NLB and considered to be good enough to hold his own against some of the OGN Midlaners. 

Lightless Heart shook his head and slapped his cheeks to get himself back into a streamer mindset. “Yeah, that’s right guys. Clue is ranked 15th on the Korean Challenger Ladder. But he’s also a professional player on an NLB team. For those of you that have no idea how the Korean League scene works out, they’ve got two divisions. NLB stands for NiceGame League of Legends Battle, which is a tournament hosted by NicegameTV Company. It’s considered the 2nd division or minor league for the professional scene. 

“OGN, on the other hand, is the OnGameNet Champions League. This is another tournament hosted by OnGameNet, and it’s considered to be the 1st division or premier League for teams to play in. This is also the tournament where teams compete to win tickets for the League of Legends World Championships!”

“There’s two ways for teams to get into the OGN. The first is to qualify for the league during the two qualifier rounds. The second is to win in the NLB and automatically receive a ticket for the next OGN. It also gets a lot more complicated with sub-tournaments hosted within the NLB, but that’s not really important for now. What you guys need to know is that Clue is a professional player, and one that’s good enough to fight for one of Korea’s spots in the World Championships! This is going to be a true test of CN•HOOK2’s abilities!” 

Back in Team Rapids’ gaming house, Aurous frowned. “Shit! Your boy Lin Feng pulled a bad straw this time. He’s up against Clue. This isn’t going to be an easy game for him to win.”

“Clue? Never heard of that dude. How do you know who he is?” Shi Hang asked while looking straight at Aurous.

Aurous nodded, his expression grave and tone serious. “I definitely know him. Light Dynasty played a few scrims against some of the NLB teams. Clue was one of the Midlaners we faced.”

“And? How’d it go? Or are you going to keep playing up the suspense for the imaginary audience in your head?” Shi Hang asked.

Aurous wryly smiled. “Alright, alright. Clue was pretty good. Our midlaner was getting pushed back more. During the laning phase at least.”

Shi Hang cocked an eyebrow. “He’s that good? On an NLB team? Light Dynasty’s Midlaner is somewhere at the bottom as far as LPL Midlane players go… but even then. He’s still an LPL player. Beating him in lane isn’t a small accomplishment. Neither is an NLB team pushing an LPL team around. What is happening over in Korea, Aurous?”

Aurous sighed. “The Korean competitive scene is intense. They’ve gotten stronger than ever. Honestly, it’s a little scary. The NLB is supposed to be their secondary league for amateurs and players looking to gain enough experience to break into the primary division, but their standards are insanely high. Underestimating a team from the NLB these days is a mistake. Some of the NLB teams regularly beat OGN teams…” His voice contained hints of helplessness and melancholy as he trailed off.

Shi Hang narrowed his eyes, focusing his attention back on the stream. He slowly opened his mouth and said, “He’s strong. But I doubt this Clue will be able to get any sort of advantage in this game.”

Back in Team Shanghai’s hotel in Beijing, Lin Feng’s expression was still calm and his eyes were still shining brightly  as he heard the announcer’s voice ring through his headphones. 

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

That small audio clip and the words it contained flipped a switch. Lin Feng’s eyes blazed with intensity and fighting spirit! Tonight, nothing would get in the way of his climb.

The game started. Lin Feng’s Zed was on the Blue Team, up against Clue’s LeBlanc on the Red Team. The laning phase started with a few pokes back and forth between LeBlanc and Zed as Lin Feng and Clue felt each other out. And then the pokes grew into progressively more intense fights as both Champions pushed for an early advantage. 

4 minutes after the start of the game, the Red Team’s Jungler, Lee Sin decided it was time to roam into the Midlane to gank Zed and secure an early roll for his teammate LeBlanc. By the time he arrived, Zed and LeBlanc were already deep into a heated tussle to claim first blood. 

Lin Feng’s Zed brought forth a Living Shadow, a clone formed entirely of shadows. The Living Shadow was in front of LeBlanc, and Zed was behind her. A perfect pincer! Then Zed used Razor Shuriken! Both Zed and the Living Shadow sent a shuriken out that sliced through LeBlanc and tore through her health. 

Then Lin Feng tapped the W key to recast Living Shadow, which allowed his Zed to switch places instantly with the Living Shadow! His Zed was now directly in front of the LeBlanc. Zed stabbed into LeBlanc with a quick auto attack, then slashed out in a wide circle with his metal claws—Shadow Slice!

Just as the attack animation for Shadow Slice ended, Lin Feng used Ignite on the LeBlanc. The fires from the Summoner Spell ticked away the last few drops of LeBlanc’s health!

First Blood!

The viewers on Lightless’ stream held their breath as they watched the fight between Zed and LeBlanc unfold, and then they all cheered as CN•HOOK2 managed to secure first blood by killing LeBlanc. But their joy was very short-lived. 

In all the excitement, no one noticed Red Team’s Lee Sin creeping up into midlane and then pouncing on the dangerously low-health Zed just as LeBlanc died. CN•HOOK2 had no chance of survival, and his Zed was killed in short order by Lee Sin. 

“Alright guys, that was a 1 for 1 exchange between the two teams. Zed died to Lee Sin, but CN•HOOK2 still came out ahead despite the 1 for 1.” Lightless explained to his stream. “Zed got the kill and First Blood. LeBlanc only managed to get an assist because Lee Sin did the cleanup there. This means that Zed got more gold. It’s a small advantage, but CN•HOOK2 is still in danger. Both Zed and LeBlanc burned their Flash in that last exchange, which is a neutral change. But Zed is now more vulnerable to another gank, and the Lee Sin also got gold for that kill. Lee Sin is probably going to roam into mid again!” 

Lightless was either a prophet or an extremely skilled analyst. 6 minutes had elapsed since the start of the game. Both Zed and LeBlanc had respawned at the fountain and gotten back to their lanes to dance the dance of death once again. Which is when Lee Sin decided it was time to scurry over to the midlane for another gank, just as Lightless predicted.

Now, this was probably not the smartest decision that Lee Sin had made. He’d just finished clearing out a few monster camps, and his health had taken a bit of a beating. But for some unknowable reason, Lee Sin had enough confidence in his ability to successfully gank Zed that he still roamed over to the midlane. He flew out of the top side river brush where he’d been hiding and dashed in with Safeguard. 

Lee Sin’s dash placed him right in front of Zed.  And then he sent a Sonic Wave flying out!

Back in Beijing, Lin Feng watched Lee Sin fly out of the brush with middling health and smiled a small smile. Then he watched the Lee Sin dash over and throw out a Sonic Wave, and his smile widened. Just before the projectile of waves connected with his Zed, Lin Feng pushed down on the R key to activate Zed’s Ultimate—Death Mark!

Zed’s Ultimate, Death Mark, was an interesting ability. It rendered Zed untargetable for a brief instant and then caused Zed to dash over to the closest enemy champion. Right before the dash, four Living Shadows would converge on the enemy champion in question and place a Death Mark on them. Three seconds later, the mark would trigger and repeat a portion of the damage Zed had dealt to that enemy champion.

And since Zed was now untargetable, Lee Sin’s Sonic Wave missed entirely. And four blood-red Living Shadows converged onto Lee Sin to place a Death Mark on him from all four cardinal directions!

A bright red mark appeared over Lee Sin’s head just as Zed dashed up to his face. But Lin Feng’s situational awareness tingled. Instead of attacking Lee Sin, he pressed down on his R key again. His Zed dashed back to his original position, just barely avoiding the Ethereal Chains snaking towards him from Clue’s LeBlanc!

Now that the danger from LeBlanc was narrowly avoided, Zed threw a Living Shadow out that dashed over to Lee Sin. Then both the Living Shadow and Zed threw out Razor Shurikens that sliced the air as they whirled towards Lee sin! But before they could connect, LeBlanc jumped at Zed using Distortion. 

Lin Feng, now so focused that it appeared that the LeBlanc was moving in slow-motion, languidly tapped the W key to recast Living Shadow. The Razor Shurikens sliced through Lee Sin, and his Zed switched places with the Living Shadow. Zed had avoided the splash damage and pin-down by LeBlanc while also positioning himself in front of Lee Sin!

Zed stabbed Lee Sin with an auto attack, then slashed out in a circle with Shadow Slash. He continued the combo with a second auto attack, and then a third. All of this had taken place in the three seconds since the Death Mark was placed on Lee Sin. Now that three seconds had expired, the Death Mark triggered and repeated a portion of all of the damage Zed had done to Lee Sin. Which, coincidentally enough, just happened to be enough damage to whisk away the last of Lee Sin’s health. 

You have slain an enemy!

China Hates FemBois

Dev Thought: Now, I don’t know if y’all are up-to-date on what’s going on in China these days, but things have gotten kinda crazy. And not in a good way either. There’s a lot of odd ‘the rich are too rich’ type sentiment going around, movie stars are being wiped off the internet, the guy that runs AliBaba got told to stop peddling stuff from Chinese factories on the internet, and one of China’s biggest real estate developers is about to go bankrupt. 

The impetus for all this economic upheaval and weirdness is because China’s ruling party decided they had enough with FemBois on TV. I wish I could say that was a joke, but it’s not. The leader of the CCP has decided to embark on a very drastic reimagining of Chinese culture and reworking of the Chinese economy. And FemBois have no place in that new world. Which, to be fair, I kind of agree with him on. Now I might be a boomer, but I like to live in a clean world where I can look at a person and immediately determine if they’re male or female. It bothers me when I can’t tell if a dude on TV is a dude or a chick. I feel like Asian fashion has gone too far when traps leave the screen and enter IRL. 

Anyways, the CCP’s also got some issues with gaming so they restricted that heavily. They also seem to want to exercise much greater control in the way China is represented in culture. Grandpa Xi Jinping talks a lot about Chinese arts and culture and what their place in society is. Is it because the FemBois on TV pissed him off? Who knows? I certainly don’t. But he’s very concerned with technology, arts and culture, and the view of China that gets exported out to the rest of the world. In that very confusing venn diagram, the intersection of all of those things is webnovels. 

Now, as far as we know, there hasn’t been a lot of guidance or demands from the Chinese Government regarding webnovels that are currently being published in China or about the translations that we publish over here. But there’s also no way of telling if it’s going to continue to be like that or if things are going to change. That’s not me bullshitting you guys either. We checked. The response is basically, “Who knows? We have to wait and see.” And that’s from people who are way more in-the-know about what’s going on inside China than we do. 

Rise is also kind of in a weird position as far as that whole thing is concerned. This is a gaming focused novel, which the CCP isn’t exactly too fond of these days. It also presents a view into “modern” China. As far as we’ve seen over the past ~500 chapters, that isn’t a very negative window into modern life inside China. But it also might not align with what Grandpa Xi Jinping wants the view of China to be. Another one of those unanswerable things that we just have to wait and see about. 

Internally, we’ve been talking about this whole shake-up in China for a while now and trying to get contingency plans in place. We also weren’t exactly planning on talking to you guys about it until we had something more concrete to communicate, because this is really just a very long essay on “Things are happening, we don’t know how that affects us just yet.” 

But it got brought up in the Discord Server the other day and I kinda talked about it there for a bit. I figured the rest of you that read but aren’t on the server or didn’t notice the conversation deserved a bit of an explanation. Lucky enough for us, we’ve got a ton of chapters in the Chinese version of the novel that are already published and we can work from even if the novel gets taken down. And we’re working on the presumption that we’re not important enough for the CCP to bother chasing us down for translating a webnovel. So nothing changes for the time being. And if something does, we’ll let you know what we know. 

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