429

Three Seconds

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Zed’s ultimate ability was Death Mark. As far as most players were concerned, this ability allowed Zed to dash to an enemy champion to place the eponymous death mark on them. Once the mark was placed, Zed had three seconds to deal as much damage as possible to the marked enemy champion. After the three seconds elapsed, the mark would trigger and deal a portion of the damage Zed had done to the enemy champion again. Simple. 

But Orion was not a player who could be clumped in with the ordinary masses. He was someone who understood that the most important part of Zed’s ultimate was the small effect that most other players ignored. At the moment of activation, Death Mark rendered Zed untargetable. What untargetable meant in practice was that any skill or attack launched at Zed that had yet to make contact before Death Mark was activated would not land on Zed once Death Mark was activated. That brief window of absolute invincibility was the most potent weapon in Zed’s Arsenal. 

And it was that window of invincibility that Orion used to allow his Zed to dodge the whirlwind that had flown off from Yasuo’s sword with the third cast of Steel Tempest. If that whirlwind had hit, Zed would’ve been knocked up and triggered the condition for Yasuo’s ultimate—Last Breath. That would’ve been the end of the fight. Yasuo would have hacked through Zed’s health and gained the upper hand. That was what all of Yasuo’s moves up until this point in the fight led toward. 

But Orion had mentally played out all of CN•HOOK2’s moves before they had happened, and prepared a counter-strategy in the middle of the fight that would decide this entire game. And then he executed it flawlessly, completely turning things around! With Death Mark, Orion’s Zed had not only broken Yasuo’s onslaught, he’d also positioned himself to bring the fight back to Yasuo. 

Lightless Heart’s stream chat was in complete disarray as more than a million viewers tried to express their frustration, disappointment, fear, and also begrudging respect for Orion. Pulling something like this off not only required skill beyond that of an ordinary gamer. It took an unshakeable mental state, iron will, and balls of steel. 

When it came to the professional players, the faces of Hermes, Nightsong, Read XIII, Tian Tian, Shi Hang, and Aurous all showed disappointment and sadness. All of them instinctively understood the situation better than the viewers, and it shattered the fantasy that had been building up deep in their hearts. The mechanics and reflexes required to perfectly time a Death Mark and dodge an almost point-blank whirlwind from Yasuo’s sword were extremely high. But for a King like Orion, this was a very low threshold to clear. They were all watching the game in real time, but Orion was playing the game several seconds ahead in his mind. 

In a single move, Orion had forced all of them to acknowledge that reality was a cruel mistress and that there was a clear difference between ordinary players and those who had risen to the point where they were named Kings. 

As the four crimson Living Shadows converged onto his Yasuo, Lin Feng’s eyes flickered with a sharp light. His hands on his mouse and keyboard never stopped moving. The whirlwind missing Zed did not phase him in the slightest. Lin Feng already predicted that would happen even before he had his Yasuo let the whirlwind loose. His eyes narrowed. This is fine, no big deal at all. I figured that’s what Zed would do. There’s no way it’d be this easy to outplay Orion. He’s probably sitting there smiling about how he managed to turn things around on my Yasuo. I lost the advantage, sure. But that doesn’t mean anything. Orion’s not the only one who can think a few steps ahead. This battle is far from over!

Yasuo dashed to a nearby Red Minion with Sweeping Blade as the four crimson Living Shadows started to converge on him. The Living Shadows followed him, and placed the death mark on him when he arrived at the minion. Then they dissipated, and Zed appeared right in front of Yasuo. His metal claws ripped into Yasuo with a basic attack. 

Yasuo stood his ground and retaliated with a powerful Steel Tempest. It pierced through Zed and wounded him critically!

Zed’s health was running low, but had not yet reached the point where Zed felt he was in danger. He stayed to slash at Yasuo with another basic attack. The death mark Zed had placed on Yasuo had not yet triggered, and Zed was trying to maximize his damage. Right as the attack ended, Zed lit Yasuo up with the unquenchable flames from Ignite! 

Orion smiled. He’d timed everything perfectly. The damage ticks from Ignite would also be added to the death mark when it triggered. His smile grew colder and more menacing. You’re dead! Done! Kaput! You’re already a goner! You just don’t know it yet! 

“The Ignite is out!” Lightless exclaimed. The million+ people in his stream gasped along with him.

Back in Shanghai, Su Xue was also nervously watching the stream and biting her thumb. Oh no, oh no, oh no! This is bad! Lin Feng is actually in danger now!

Lin Feng had his Yasuo slash out with a basic attack that connected with Zed. The instant the attack hit Zed, Lin Feng commanded his Yasuo to take a small step back to cancel out the rest of the attack. Then his Yasuo slashed out with another basic attack. 

Sweat ran down Lin Feng’s face. But the fire in his eyes continued to blaze brightly, and he showed no signs of slowing down at all. If anything, he was getting faster. This game, and this fight with Orion’s Zed, had fired him up from head to toe! He’d committed himself mind, body, and soul to this fight! I’m going to keep going until the end. Either I die or Zed dies, but I’m not stopping! Orion is ungodly strong. I haven’t played against someone who was this hard to beat until now. He’s so good that it’s making my skin tingle. But this is so exciting! The more I play against him, the more charged up I get! It’s like… I’ve been walking around chained and contained this whole time and right now they’re finally coming off! 

Being pushed to the very edge by Orion after playing so many games tonight forced Lin Feng to dig deep into himself to find a new strength. One that he wasn’t even sure he had. But he’d found it, and it pushed Lin Feng’s skills and mental state to a peak that he’d never experienced before. Right now, Lin Feng felt invincible. He felt like his old self, back when he was in his prime. And in this newfound state, Lin Feng knew that he could not lose! 

Lin Feng moved his Yasuo a small step to the side to evade a Razor Shuriken from Zed’s Living Shadow. But he couldn’t evade the one that was thrown by Zed at the same time. Yasuo’s health dropped from the hit, but Lin Feng still wasn’t worried or looking for an escape route. He had his Yasuo stab into Zed with another Steel Tempest. As the katana pierced Zed, winds gathered along the length of the blade and waited for the right moment to be released.

“Yasuo’s tornado is up again!’ Zed is backing off! Yasuo’s E is still on cooldown! He can’t dash in and knock Zed up!” Lightless frantically commented over the fight playing out in the Mid lane. “Yasuo’s dashing away to a minion! He’s putting some distance between him and Zed! He’s….!”

The million+ people in Lightless’ stream watched Yasuo whip back around to face Zed and lash out with a third Steel Tempest. One that sent the winds along the blade screaming out as a whirlwind that flew straight at Zed!

“Is it going to hit this time!?” Lightless cried out.

But then a dazzling mottled light wrapped around Zed and he disappeared. Zed had used Flash just before the whirlwind connected, allowing him to dodge the knock up at the very last second!

The viewers in the stream who were about to celebrate too early felt their cheers caught at the back of their throats. Their faces paled, and their expressions sunk. The words “Orion is too strong!” rolled through the chat on the stream. And the statement was not incorrect. This was the second whirlwind from Yasuo’s Steel Tempest that Orion had managed to dodge at the last second in one fight. A single thought ran through the collective mind of many of the viewers, is this the skill of a King?  Despair boiled throughout the stream chat. 

Zed reappeared a short distance away, and then immediately sent forth a Living Shadow towards Yasuo. Just as the Living Shadow reached Yasuo, Zed switched places with it. Then he went in to gouge Yasuo with a basic attack. 

But Lin Feng wasn’t even slightly fazed by the turn of events. He’d predicted that Orion would use Flash to dodge the whirlwind. And that Zed would immediately come back in to try and add more damage to the death mark counter. Lin Feng had his Yasuo dash away to another Red Minion with Sweeping Blade just as Zed started winding up for his basic attack. By the time Zed slashed out, Yasuo was already gone. Zed’s metal claws sliced through empty air. 

You think it’s over? Lin Feng thought as his eyes roared bright with his fighting spirit. Not even close! He had his Yasuo dash back to Zed with another Sweeping Blade, and then sliced into Zed with a basic attack that he chained into a Steel Tempest! Yasuo had landed another critical hit on Zed! 

But Orion didn’t care. His eyes lit up and his lips curled into a cruel smile. There’s only a second left before the death mark gets triggered. That’s more than enough time to get a little bit more damage in. Then you’re done! Hook2 will only be remembered as someone I beat down! Then he looked at the item he’d built out over the course of this game, the Ravenous Hydra. A giant axe that could be used to add 60% extra damage to a basic attack or ability. This is the perfect cherry to put on the death mark sundae! Orion activated the Ravenous Hydra, and had his Zed use Shadow Slash!

But before the Ravenous Hydra empowered Shadow Slash could make contact with Yasuo’s flesh, Lin Feng pressed down on the D Key. His Yasuo Flashed away before Zed’s attack could connect! Lin Feng had read Orion like an open book. 

“HE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOODGED IT!” Lightless cried out, completely losing his composure as a seasoned streamer and veteran professional player. Right now, Lightless Heart was the same as the rest of his viewers. Someone who loved League of Legends. And he reacted to it like he was a kid watching his idol playing the game. 

Hermes was also deeply moved.

Nightsong shot up from his seat in excitement. 

Aurous’ jaw slacked open.

Shi Hang started laughing loudly and exclaimed, “That’s Maple for you!”

Over in Korea, Orion’s pupils constricted as his eyes popped open in disbelief. All of his previous confidence flashed away from him, and it was replaced by a deep, icy fear that pricked into his bones. A fear he hadn’t ever felt before while playing League of Legends. 

After Flashing through Zed’s empowered Shadow Slash, Yasuo turned around. He used Sweeping Blade to dash to a red minion standing next to Zed, and unleashed the flames of Ignite upon Zed once he arrived. Then Yasuo stabbed out with a Steel Tempest that flowed into a basic attack, and stepped slightly to the side to cancel out the follow-through on the basic attack. Then he spun around with a second basic attack!

Before Yasuo could do anything else, the death mark looming over his head triggered. Three seconds had finally elapsed, and all the damage that the death mark had absorbed in these frantic three seconds was unleashed. By the time the death mark disappeared, Yasuo had 16 points of health left. He was literally inches away from death. 

But Yasuo remained standing, and there was nothing Zed could do about it anymore. He had collapsed lifelessly to the ground as the death mark unleashed its wave of damage over Yasuo. In this battle between the Winds and the Shadows, the Winds had come out on top. The deadlock in the Mid lane had been broken, and Yasuo was the victor! Lin Feng had triumphed over Orion!

《An enemy has been slain!》

18
0

I messed up.

Dev Thought: I goofed. See, when I finished chapter 428, I didn’t read this chapter before I posted it. I really should have done that, but for some inexplicable reason I didn’t think it was necessary. I did not expect the author to write an entire chapter describing what took place over three seconds. I didn’t even think that was possible. I assumed that this chapter would go into the death mark triggering and lead into the end of the game. And then I opened it and started working on it, and realized that it really was just a chapter that described everything that happened over three seconds. What this chapter boiled down to before a metric ton of work went into it to make it somewhat decent was essentially:

“You predicted me, Orion? I predicted that you would predict me already!”
“Oh my god! Lin Feng predicted what Orion would predict!”
“Ahahaah! You noob Hook2! I am Orion, your father! I predicted that you would predict my prediction and created a meta prediction!”
“Oh noes! Orion predicted that Lin Feng would predict him and acted against it already! This is what it means to fight a King!”
“It’s not even close to over yet Orion! I’m Lin Feng! I used to be Maple, and now I am him again! I predicted that you would meta predict over my prediction of your prediction of my reaction to your initial action! I have found a way to see into the 5th dimension of prediction!”
“Ignite”
“Ignite”
“Flash”
“Flash”

Lightless Heart screamed “WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING IS THE GAME LAGGING?!?!?!?!”

“Death mark triggers. BUT ZED IS ALREADY DEAD! HE’S BEEN DEAD SINCE BEFORE THIS HAPPENED! EVERYTHING THAT WE’VE WATCHED THIS WHOLE TIME HAS BEEN A SIMULATION WITHIN A SIMULATION OF A PREDICTION OF EVENTS THAT HAVE YET TO TAKE PLACE IN A HYPOTHETICAL FUTURE THAT REMAINED UNFULFILLED BECAUSE OF A DIFFERENT PREDICTION THAT COMPLETELY ERADICATED SEVEN POTENTIAL TIMELINES!”

Yup. I’m not even joking. This chapter was a mess. My brain is in actual pain from the combination of getting all the chronological events and predictions straight, and from cringing. I’m so glad that it’s over.

Also, little bit of housekeeping. We’re currently at 1 chapter/2 days right now. But we’re ramping up the workflow to bring it back to 1 chapter/day, and the idea is to get it there before the end of this week. We’re also working on getting the post scheduler working so we can tell you guys that the chapter goes up definitively at X time every day, rather than working off Discord notifications and RSS notifications. So if everything works out with no issues, you won’t have to check multiple times a day to see if the chapter is up or not.

Now I need a nap. Dev out.

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