As he watched two unfamiliar-looking players come on stage wearing TTC’s team uniform, Jian Rong momentarily forgot to drink the canned coffee that he had just opened. Question marks swept wildly across the barrage to the point that Jian Rong’s computer even lagged for a few seconds.
Never mind the audience, even the two TTC substitute players who just took the stage—especially the one replacing Road—seemed to look a little perplexed.
All three commentators wore awkward and puzzled smiles as they exchanged looks with each other.
“TTC… must have some tactic in mind, right?” Commentator A stiffly tossed out a new topic.
After receiving his colleague’s signal, another person quickly nodded. “They definitely must have practiced some new ultimate maneuver. But if I’m not remembering incorrectly, this should be the first time TTC’s substitute jungler has ever gone on stage?”
“That’s right. This jungler is also very powerful, and he’s a player excellent at engaging in team fights.”
The game hadn’t officially started yet, and Jian Rong didn’t want to listen to the commentators’ cringey conversation, so he muted the official broadcast. He asked, “When did TTC get a substitute jungler?”
Actually, this already wasn’t the first time TTC’s substitute jungler had been brought up as a subject of conversation.
As early as the competition enrollment period, fans had discovered that there was an unfamiliar face at the very bottom of TTC’s roster. Rumor had it that he was a jungler who came straight from the youth training team. Because of that incident, TTC’s official Weibo had been blown up by the fans before—to be more exact, it had been blown up by Road’s fans before.
After all, TTC possessed the ace jungler Road. Ever since Road joined the team, TTC’s substitute roster had never once arranged for a jungler.
[This sub seems to have been here since the summer season.]
[If the mid sub had gone up last match, maybe TTC would have had a higher chance of winning.]
[This substitute jungler is finally here, after sitting on the bench for an entire season. If he didn’t show up soon I was gonna assume that TTC just grabbed him to make up for team numbers.]
[Just what kind of ultimate maneuver does TTC have, curious.]
Jian Rong lifted an eyebrow and didn’t say anything.
Even if TTC really did have some mysterious trick up their sleeve, there was still no reason for them not to use Road and instead make a substitute who had never gone on stage before cooperate with the team.
His phone rang briefly, and Jian Rong unmuted the official broadcast before he openly picked up his phone and slacked off.
[Shiliu1: Big bro, how the hell do you have the guts to say whatever you want?]
Shiliu was one of Jian Rong’s few close friends, and he was also a male streamer on StarTV. He played LoL before, but now he had changed lanes and was messing around in the PUBG channel.
[R-ong2: What about it?]
[Shiliu: You actually implied that Kan is matchfixing in front of millions of people?? Are you not afraid of his fans going after you?]
[R-ong: I’m not even afraid of the man himself, why would I be scared of his fans?]
Shiliu originally wanted to reply with a “you’re so awesome,” but then he remembered that his friend seemed to have always been this awesome.
[Shiliu: You should just restrain yourself a little bit, I really am afraid that one day these LPL players are gonna band together and hire a contract killer to go after you.]
[R-ong: I didn’t roast Kan, I was praising him just then.]
[Shiliu: …… wdym?]
[R-ong: Before, though he was still trash, at least he was at Diamond-rank level. But his plays today, there’s no way to pull those off unless he had a blood clot in his brain for ten years. If I say he’s matchfixing, aren’t I just secretly praising him by saying he should be much stronger than the way he was performing?]
“…” Shiliu put away his phone with a wooden expression. Forget it, he wasn’t going to argue with a troll over what was right and wrong.
Jian Rong’s thought process was correct. TTC hadn’t prepared any “ultimate maneuvers,” at least not for this match.
Five minutes in, TTC’s jungler was solo killed while strolling in the jungle.
Twelve minutes in, TTC’s jungler went to the mid lane to gank, but ended up being counterganked, and the enemy got a double kill.
With the pillar of the team and two starting players off the stage, the other three starters were also clearly unsettled. Adding on the fact that they couldn’t cooperate very well as a team, when the first big team fight erupted at twenty minutes, TTC’s entire team wiped.
Jian Rong glanced at the gap in economy between the two teams and knew that there was no way TTC would be able to make a comeback this game, so he didn’t feel like wasting his breath explaining anymore. He opened the barrage helper in the livestream room, wanting to have some “friendly interactions” with the water friends3.
[TTC is so fucking trash.]
[Why isn’t the streamer flaming anyone?]
[I finally know why this jungler sub never played a single time last season. Is TTC crazy, putting him on stage at semifinals to disgust people? Road played so well during the last few games, why switch out?]
[Forget it, Road is also a noob, all TTC players are noobs. How well has Road even played these past few years, he should just hurry up and retire.]
Jian Rong moved his finger and blocked the last person who was cursing. The person swiftly opened a side account and rolled back in, stronger than ever.
[I just flame a tiny bit and you block and kick me? Aren’t you also badmouthing players all the time, why don’t you block yourself?]
“If you put me in a bad mood, I’ll block you. If you don’t like that, then hold it in.” Jian Rong was too lazy to explain more. There was no logic needed for confrontations between haters; all one needed to do was piss off the other side first.
He leaned back in the chair and chose a comfortable position before continuing. “The substitute jungler is useless, but since the deciding game for the semifinals is his first time ever playing, it’s still excusable for him to not play very well, right? You can tell that he probably practices very little with the starters in private. And also, it’s not like the rest of the team is playing all that well either. Just think of it as watching a Diamond ranked game.
“Though the substitute mid laner is alright. He’s barely a tiny bit more useful than Kan was in the previous four games… of course he’s still not as strong as me, don’t ask that kind of nonsense.”
Thirty-two minutes in, the deciding game that everyone was anticipating finally neared its end.
In that game, TTC was almost completely crushed.
At the end of the match, HT forced their way to TTC’s fountain and spawn camped4 them for almost thirty seconds.
At that moment, TTC’s break room was dead silent.
The competition staff members were affected by the atmosphere and didn’t even dare to breathe too loudly. They dedicated themselves to their jobs and filmed while carrying their cameras, giving quite a few close-ups to Road, who was sitting on the sofa.
Road watched the screen calmly, his right hand propped casually on the sofa’s armrest. He wore his team jacket loosely, the sleeve engulfing his entire palm.
Kan sat in the very corner. He chewed on his bottom lip repeatedly before he finally couldn’t bear it any longer after seeing his teammates be spawn camped by the enemy. He looked at Lu Boyuan and said, “Captain, I even said that I could play this round.”
It was as if Lu Boyuan couldn’t hear what he was saying; he didn’t even spare a single glance his way.
Kan, “Even though I didn’t play very well before, but…”
“Enough.” The coach interrupted him with a dark face. “Don’t say anything else.”
A few minutes later, TTC’s team members returned to the break room. Their heads were lowered and they looked at the ground. It was like an invisible rope was wrapped around each of their necks, stifling them so they couldn’t speak or express any other emotions.
It wasn’t that they had never lost a competition before, but this time they had lost too completely, too shamefully. Even the older team members who had experience playing in a few World Championships couldn’t help but feel their eyes redden.
The coach breathed in deeply a few times and comforted them simply a little before walking out to the balcony and calling the team bus. The fans were stirred up right now, so he had to tell the competition management to arrange for a few more security guards to maintain order.
In this stagnant silence, Lu Boyuan finally moved.
He picked up the baseball cap next to him and nonchalantly put it on. The brim of the hat was pressed a little low, and he said, “Time to go back.”
The team members stood up after he said that and began to walk stiffly out.
TTC’s substitute jungler was a seventeen year old boy who had been scooped out from the trainees by management the moment he reached the age he was officially allowed to participate in competitions. He walked at the very back of the crowd, looking dazed, his right hand tightly gripping the shoulder strap of his equipment bag as he pressed his lips together hard.
He was still quite some distance away from the back exit, but he could already hear the noise from the fans waiting outside the arena. For a brief moment, he suddenly felt as if all the indistinct chatter was peppered with his ID and some jeering, mocking words. He even fantasized that he had already walked outside and was smashed over the head by TTC LED signs until he started bleeding.
Just when he almost couldn’t take it anymore and stopped walking, someone patted him firmly on the shoulder twice.
“You’ve worked hard,” Lu Boyuan said. “Practice more after we get back.”
It was as if an opening had been created by those two pats, and tears instantly gushed out. He first nodded heavily before he covered his face with his sleeves and couldn’t help but sob.
TTC’s bus drove straight back to the base.
After disembarking, the coach warned the other team members over and over to uninstall Tieba and Weibo5 before he went into a meeting room with Road.
“I’ve already contacted someone from the LPL. They’re on their way to the base right now.” The coach poured a cup of boiled water and placed it in front of Lu Boyuan. He was silent for a few seconds before he asked, “What if the situation really is like what you’re thinking?”
Lu Boyuan said, “Deal with it according to the rules.”
The coach frowned. As someone who had always handled things efficiently, he currently looked hesitant. “Kan, he… he’s been with TTC for seven years, even longer than you or me.”
Lu Boyuan made an “en” noise. “So?”
“Understood.” The coach looked at the untouched paper cup on the table, and his brows wrinkled even more. He asked, “How’s your condition? I’ve rushed the doctor, he’ll be here soon. Tsk… I knew I should’ve made him come to the stadium with us.”
Lu Boyuan extended his arm and exposed his right hand out of the sleeve. “It’s much better now.”
The coach glanced over. “It’s been so long, but it’s still trembling??”
Lu Boyuan said, “The two games in the middle took too long.”
“Don’t mess with me, you could practice for over ten hours a day before, but now you’re telling me that a fifty-minute game is too long? You definitely secretly practiced more!” The coach felt his heart hurt. “Don’t practice these next few days, don’t even open the game, do you hear me??”
Lu Boyuan was well aware of the situation. He really had exceeded the doctor’s set practice time, and by quite a bit as well.
Since there were no upcoming competitions for the time being anyway, Lu Boyuan nodded. “Got it. Have there been any developments in finding a mid laner?”
“You’re already like this, can you worry a little bit less.” After the coach finished lecturing, he still answered honestly, “There has. The team recently selected a few mid laners from among the trainees, national rankings, and players whose contracts are about to expire. We still have to inspect and filter through them one by one before we can reach a conclusion.”
Lu Boyuan, “Give me a copy of the list too.”
“Of course I’ll give a copy to you.” The coach thought of something and couldn’t help but wrinkle his nose. “But there are some things I have to say first. We’re looking for a teammate, not a wife. Don’t be so picky, you have to give them some room to grow… all those people you rejected last time have been snatched up by other teams by now, it really hurts me…”
Lu Boyuan gave a noise of assent with a cold expression. Inside, he thought, if it were as easy to find a teammate as it was to find a wife, then they wouldn’t have to waste so much time doing so.
(press the “^” to go back to your spot in the chapter!)
- Shiliu 石榴 literally means pomegranate, but I’m assuming that’s not his friend’s actual name? Probably just his online alias, so I’m just gonna go with Shiliu rather than Pomegranate ^
- Jian Rong’s user ID is 艹耳, but Cao-Er looks kind of dumb, so I just split up the letters in “Rong,” as his ID is technically just the character for Rong split up ^
- Water friends/水友: a way to address fans or netizens in general, depending on context. If anyone has a better English equivalent please let me know! ^
- EDIT: This used to say Nexus (original t/n: Destroying the enemy’s Nexus is the only way to win the game in LoL.) Fountain refers to the spawn point, and spawn camping is the act of killing players as soon as they respawn. To my knowledge, it’s kinda BM to do this, especially in the pro scene (though it’s a lot more common now in normal play?) ^
- Baidu Tieba and Weibo are both social media sites in China; there’s a lot of discussion forums on Tieba and microblogs on Weibo (kind of like Twitter) ^