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The Invasion of Ionia - Part 1

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Not a wink of sleep did Su Xue get last night, and she was miserable for it. Right before she gave up on sleep completely and got out of bed, she had some sort of vague idea in her mind about taking a mini-holiday for the day. She wasn’t in a fit state to stream, anyways. So right before she walked out of her room, she’d made the decision to be lazy today. Then she saw Lin Feng walking out of the bathroom, and a new plan started taking shape in her mind. 

I’m always the one getting up early to make Lin Feng breakfast or running out to buy him something to eat! It’s good that he decided to go get breakfast on his own, I cannot be bothered today. Let him handle everything for once in his life! You know what? I’m going to have him stream for me today too. It’s not like he’s never subbed in for me before, and today is all his fault. If it wasn’t for the bombshell he dropped last night, I would’ve slept like a baby and woken up dewy fresh this morning! I’m this tired and sleep-deprived because of him, so the least he can do to make up for it is to stream for me. Yup! All the tossing and turning I did last night, that’s all Lin Feng’s fault! 

While Su Xue ranted to herself in her thoughts, Lin Feng had stepped out to get breakfast and returned. He walked into Su Xue’s room to find her sitting on her bed. He handed her some of the food he picked up and walked over to her computer to set up for the stream. Lin Feng already finished his breakfast on the walk back to their apartment. 

Su Xue, still on her bed, started nibbling at her breakfast. She wasn’t exactly hungry, but she wasn’t not-hungry either. She was mostly just tired and angry at Lin Feng. She glared at him out of the corner of her eye and thought, I’m going to make him completely balance this debt! He’s the root cause of all my misery today! 

Maple… Lin Feng… Maple! That’s it! He used to be Maple, and we can’t just let something like that go without taking advantage of it, can we Su Xue? Nope! Now that I know, I’m going to use this to make my stream explode. Su Xue’s lips curved with a grin. I mean, come on, what other streamer on Huya can claim they have China’s best Midlaner helping them stream?

As for Lin Feng, he didn’t really mind helping Su Xue out today. He was off from school for the winter holidays, and there was nowhere else he needed to be today. And after the Collegiate Cup and the climb up the Korean Challenger ladder, he had nothing better to do for the time being. Besides, he’d earned some relaxation. Lin Feng could think of nothing more calming than streaming a few games in Diamond and chatting with the viewers on the stream. 

Once he finished adjusting the chair, Lin Feng sat down and turned on Su Xue’s computer. He checked to make sure everything on the stream was set up properly before turning it on. Then he opened up the Chinese League of Legends client and used Su Xue’s username and password to log on. Just as he loaded into the Ionia server, viewers started flooding into the stream. When they saw it was Lin Feng on the camera instead of Su Xue, some were happy and greeted Lin Feng. Others were surprised and wondered what happened to Su Xue. The chat struggled under the barrage of mixed messages from all the viewers.  

What? Where’s xuexue?
LIL BRO!! WELCOME BACK!
BroFeng strem today gonna be good!!!!!!!!
Lil bro your not as cute as Su Xue!!!!
I NEED THE REAL EVENING SNOWFALL
Why is there always a guy when I click onto a cute girl’s stream?」 
Is it just lil bro today?
wut happin to suxue???????
she quit streaminggggg?
Is Su Xue Okay Lin Feng?!Q?!?A
where’d the maaaaid gooooo?
lilbro don need no maid right?
Hihihihihihi LINFENG
LILBROLINGENG

Lin Feng noticed all the questions about Su Xue as he skimmed through the chat. He scratched his head as he wondered how to respond. After 30 more seconds and hundreds of messages asking why Su Xue wasn’t on stream, he decided to reply. “Su Xue? Oh, she’s fine. Don’t worry guys! She said she was feeling lazy today, so she made me take her place.”

What….?
She’s being lazy….?
Didn’t she get off at only 11 yesterday?
Yeah! Why’s she taking the whole day off!?」 

A few of the more eagle-eyed viewers, ones who happened to be watching the stream on large monitors instead of their phones, noticed that Su Xue could be seen in the background of the camera frame. She was sitting on her bed, still nibbling on her breakfast. Once they found her, the viewers considered it their solemn duty to inform the rest of the chat. 

LOOK IN THE CORNER!!!! THERE SHE IS!!
SU XUE ON HER BED LOOOOK
The maid is sitting on her bed eating guys
theretherherherherhereraahs AAGH SU XUE!
omg! there she is pigging out on the bed!
looking at her goofing off and being lazy!
no shame at all! Having poor lil bro take her place!
waht was that about  being a professional streamer and taking things seriously now?
we can’t let her get away with this! BOIS! REPORT HER!

Soon enough, waves of requests to report Su Xue roiled through the chat. The viewers had all gotten riled up with righteous fury! While this was happening, Su Xue decided to take a quick peek at the chat to see what was going on. When she noticed all of the anger and threats to report her to Huya, her face turned completely pale. She jammed the bun she was eating into her mouth and huddled underneath her blanket. She yelled, “I’m not here! I’m not here! You guys can’t see me!”

in what world did you think that would work!
talk about being an ostrich!
we literally saw you eating just a moment ago!

But before long, the people watching the stream chat turned their attention back to Lin Feng and gave up on tormenting Su Xue. A game had popped up and he was loading into the Champion Select screen.  

bah, whatever! Lil bro is way more fun to watch anyway!
yeah, i was getting tired of watching xuexue feed all the time!
we’ll let you off this once!
you’re lucky lik bro is so nice!
come on, lil bro! Let’s see you stomping in diamond today!
I wanna see a yasuo game!
play a xerath game!

Su Xue, still hidden under her blankets, continued to watch the chat. When she noticed that they’d given up on making her even more miserable and flooding the chat with what champion they wanted to see Lin Feng play, she breathed a grateful sigh of relief. Now that all of the viewers’ attention swerved completely away from her, she could finally get some sleep. Su Xue started to get comfortable and her eyes slowly closed.

Then, all of a sudden, her eyes popped open. Su Xue had just realised something. Waitaminute! That’s my channel and all of those stupid fickle morons are my viewers! They saw me and they decided to pile on instead of begging me to get up and play. None of them care about me at all. All of them jumped onto the Lin Feng bandwagon and completely forgot about me. They have no loyalty at all! It’s all about Lin Feng now. But… well, it’s not like I can blame them. Lin Feng is a living legend and I’m hardstuck in Diamond… I’d probably jump ship over to him too if I was a viewer. That’s just how it goes. But imagine if Lin Feng revealed his identity as Maple to the world… my stream viewership would jump up by a couple million!

Ahhh! It doesn’t matter! Su Xue shook her head. Sleep! Sleep! I need sleep!

Shortly after turning on the stream, just as he was about to start his first game, Lin Feng was surprised to discover that the number of viewers on the stream had spiked. By a significant number. What made this even more perplexing was that Lin Feng had started the stream in the morning. There really weren’t a lot of people who watched streams on Huya TV in the morning. Yet somehow, Su Xue’s stream already had 30,000 viewers!

The number wasn’t particularly high for the normal viewer count on Su Xue’s stream. But that was because she usually started her stream up in the afternoon or evening. If Lin Feng kept the stream up into the evening, there was no question that the viewer count would be somewhere north of 100,000. Su Xue had worked hard and built up a large following for her stream. And 30,000 viewers showing up for an off-peak stream in the morning was an indication of how popular she’d become as a streamer. 

Lin Feng glanced at the viewer count again. It was ticking past 35,000. Guess I’m not the only one who has been working hard these days. Su Xue’s really been taking it up a notch on her channel. She’s grown so much recently… Oh! Time to focus on the game. Okay. Diamond on the Ionia Server… this is going to be a piece of cake after all those Challenger games on the Korean server! 

In his first game, Lin Feng was playing Xerath in the Mid Lane. One of the viewers had suggested it, and he saw no reason not to play Xerath. So he picked the champion and started. 10 minutes after the game started, Lin Feng had 3 Kills/0 Deaths/1 Assist. At 20 minutes, his KDA was 7/1/2 with a CS of 240. His Xerath floated around the map, stomping any enemy champion who happened to be unlucky enough to cross his path. After 8 minutes of constant harassment and overwhelming defeat, the opposing team surrendered. Lin Feng had ended his first game in 28 minutes.  

With that game out of the way and the viewers on the stream absolutely enthralled, Lin Feng decided to continue onto the next game of the stream. And then a third game. Two and a half hours flew by like this, and Lin Feng had played five games. There was one game where his team lost because his teammates were unable to keep it together long enough for him to carry, but the other four were all easy victories. 

But something about the five games he’d just played nagged at Lin Feng. There’s something… off about all of these games. I’m not sure what it is… but… something doesn’t feel right at all. This is supposed to be Diamond on the Ionia server, but the players I was up against didn’t feel like Diamonds. They’re all much stronger than their rank… weird. And there were a few who were Diamond 4 or Diamond 5 but they moved like high Diamond players! Oh! Oh! There was even a player who was only Platinum 1 but played like he was at the top of Diamond! What is going on? 

Now that I’m thinking about this… hm. Some of those guys didn’t play like everyone else on Ionia either. Their mechanics were way cleaner and their decision-making was decisive… something is definitely going on. I mean, it’s possible that I ran into a group of players who just happened to be above the normal Ionia player… but there was something wrong with their summoner tags too. All of the players who stood out to me had odd names! Some of them were in English but they were different from the normal English summoner tags that people pick. And there were a few that were in Chinese characters… but they made no sense at all. Sorta like someone just randomly mashed Chinese characters on a keyboard to make a name… why would someone do that? 

“How strange…” Lin Feng muttered, rubbing his chin. 

The viewers on the stream knew exactly what Lin Feng was thinking without him explaining what he found strange. Chat exploded as all the viewers tried to explain the situation to Lin Feng.

lil bro, those players were probably Korean!
yeah! A lot of em were Korean.
i don’t know why, but there’ve been a lot of Korean players in the Ionia server today.
I bumped into a few when iw as ranking earlier.
check the forums, i think they’re here to get revenge?
revenge for what? Seriously, we’re not even allowed to get top 5 in their server?

After reading the chat, Lin Feng understood. Ionia was being invaded by the Koreans, and it was all his fault!

5
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The Internet is becoming a Problem.

Dev Thought: This is old news by now, but y’all saw the cringe poem that actress wrote and recorded to Putin? For the 20 of you who aren’t complete internet degens and live such a blessed life that you’re insulated from trash like this, here’s the YouTube link. Anyways, the poem popped into my head randomly this afternoon. I have no idea why or what even prompted it. But it showed up and I figured I would give it a second chance. The first time, the cringe was just too much and I couldn’t finish the whole thing. So I listened to the whole thing. Still just as cringe.

But the internet is becoming a problem. And I’m deeply conflicted about this. On the one hand, I’m a writer and someone who cares deeply about creative pursuits. I want to believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, and that the right words can alter reality. On the other hand, I also know that complex geopolitical issues cannot be solved by a truly cringe poem written by someone who has zero understanding of the political context of the situation at hand. Look, ordinary folks like us are generally simple-minded when it comes to things. We like to see the world as black and white because it makes our daily lives easier to navigate. And when there’s war or military conflict, there’s a good guy and a bad guy. Everything breaks down that way because that’s just how we see things. The person threatening the stability and security of our lives is the bad guy, and the one trying to preserve order is the good guy. That fundamental breakdown is the basis of all propaganda, and when it comes to geopolitical conflicts of this magnitude, there’s all kinds of propaganda floating around from every side. It’s hard to figure out what’s true or not in that quagmire. And if I’m being really honest with you guys, I don’t really care what the truth is in this situation. Because we’re all going to side with whoever promises us the most stability and security in our lives. None of us really care about the truth or why this situation is happening. It doesn’t matter. We just all want to go back to the world the way it was in 2019.

But that horrendous poem. Look, the fundamental assumption in that whole thing is that Putin was some poor unloved child who grew up to become a sociopathic warlord. Except he’s not. I mean, he could be a sociopath, sure. I don’t know. I’ve never met the guy, let alone spent enough time with him to diagnose him with a personality disorder. The only thing I can say for sure is that there is a non-zero probability of it. But that exists for pretty much every single person on the planet. I also don’t know if you can draw a direct correlation between being unloved as a child and becoming a warlord. I know nothing about Putin’s childhood or his mother. The man was in his 40s by the time I was born. I don’t even know if Putin’s mother was around by the time I was born. Or how she lived her life. And now I’ve spent an uncomfortably long time dwelling on Putin’s mother.

Look. The internet is amazing. It connected everyone on the planet with each other, and allowed us to transcend the limitations of destiny and geography. This is a truth-fact. It allowed for technological advancements that changed the way we all live. Lots of good. But when you’re just talking to someone over a screen, there’s no real way to know that they’re actually a person for the most part. Which gave birth to the phenomenon known as “I feel, therefore I am.” Because only humans have feelings. Only humans can be fucked up. And when we’re fucked up, we’re real. Sharing our feelings with strangers thousands of miles away from where we sat allowed us to forge very real bonds and connections. But things have a tendency to snowball, and that’s exactly what happened on the internet. We validated, commiserated, shared, offered comfort and solace to each other. And step-by-step, the only way we could be was to be as raw and extreme with our feelings as possible. That’s a problem. We learned that raw feelings gathered people together against a common enemy, and that cohesion allowed us to direct all of those feelings at a goal. We learned that there was real power to being fucked up, and the problem compounded.

And now, after a pandemic made the world stand still for a year, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a new world order. That world where feelings had power, where you could put a terribly written and emotionally pandering poem on the internet to affect change in reality, it’s ending. When the world is stable and we all know for sure that the next minute will be exactly like the one that came before it, it’s alright to say “when I’m fucked up, I’m the real me.” It’s alright to be raw and extreme in your emotions, and try to weaponize that power. But when the world is in transition and chaos rules over order, we need to figure out how to be stable again. Because that’s the only way to walk through chaos untouched. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself drowning in other people’s fears, doubts, and the garbage that they desperately want to believe in hard enough until it turns to reality. Or you’ll find yourself thinking its a good idea to publicly put out a poem telling one of the most powerful men in the world that his mother didn’t love him, and wondering why antagonizing someone like that didn’t turn out well for you.

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