Shen Qiao didn't want to speak.
Next to him, Lele suddenly clicked his tongue. "Tsk."
On the ban screen, Soraka—the champion Lele had indicated he wanted to play—was summarily banned by their team's AD. Yasuo, the champion the mid laner wanted to choose, was also banned.
Their mid laner was, apparently, quite short-tempered. A flurry of enraged messages instantly popped up in the chat box:
[I only ******* know how to play Yasuo. If you ban my pick, the **** am I supposed to play?]
Based on that 'cleaned up' message, everyone got a pretty clear idea of what the mid laner really wanted to say.
The AD quickly replied:
[Low-ranking Yasuo players are ****. They don't deserve teammates. :)]
With that, the mid laner and AD both abandoned their computer mice and started slamming on their keyboards. They fired scathing insults back and forth, sending 'warm regards' to each other's mothers, fathers, and ancestors.
Shen Qiao glanced at the chat, then silently locked in Renekton as his champion. A second later, 'StandUpLittleO' chose the Blind Monk.
Lele observed the fight in the chat box for a while longer. Then, for the sake of getting the match underway, he snuck in a few words to try to calm the two teammates who were at each other's throats:
[Pardon me, folks. I'm sure you're very busy with this thrilling debate of yours, but could I trouble you to pick your champions? I'll help whoever chooses first report the other guy~]
The feud in the chat box didn't let up for a single second, but the two players did eventually choose Lissandra and Vayne as their champions.
Naturally, the mid laner didn't forget to follow up on Lele's promise:
[I don't know how to play Lissandra, so I'm going AFK once we get into the game. Do me a favor and report this ****** later, thanks.]
Lele quickly responded:
Then, he calmly spoke into his headset: "Qiao-ge, remember to report both of them later. For AFKing, and for profanity."
Shen Qiao hummed absently as he took in the combo the opposing team had locked in for their bottom lane—Xayah and Rakan. To Lele, he suggested, "Braum?"
Braum's slowdown passive worked well with Vayne; the two of them could control the opponents' bottom lane duo.
Lele went with Braum. He opened the in-game menu to browse their teammates' information while the loading bar started to fill up, then laughed and turned to Shen Qiao.
"Qiao-ge, have you heard the story of the player in Silver who went 1v9?"
Shen Qiao returned the cigarette he'd taken out earlier to its box. He gave Lele an indifferent look. "As long as you don't troll me, I won't turn against all my teammates and make this 1v9."
Lele shook his head. "2v8 isn't much better. Alright, take a guess. The player who took the jungler position from you. What do you think their stats with the Blind Monk are like?"
"Hm?" Shen Qiao prompted.
Lele didn't leave him hanging in suspense. He read their teammate's gameplay stats off his screen, enunciating each word crisply and clearly: "Lee Sin, the Blind Monk. Matches played, ten. Matches won, zero. So… surprised?"
Shen Qiao fell silent.
He thought for a moment as they loaded into the game. While buying their starting equipment, he switched his usual choice, the attack-boosting Doran's Blade, for Doran's Shield. Then, as he moved Renekton up to the top lane, he said to Lele through his mic, "Let's stay calm. I don't want to crash and burn in Silver."
Lele hummed and watched their AD dart straight into the underbrush. Unhurriedly, he answered, "I do want to stay calm, but—"
"First blood!" the game's feminine, automated voice announced.
Lele continued where he left off: "Look at our heroic AD. Facing all five of our enemies, all on their own."
Shen Qiao glanced at the map. Within the first minute of the match, their mid laner had gone AFK, and one of their bottom laners had charged in to feed their opponents a free kill. Their chances of holding those two lanes were practically zilch.
However, the problems of playing in Silver didn't end there. Their jungler moved into the jungle near the top lane and began to dance around, continuing to act like a complete and utter tool.
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): Little gege, never fear! I'm here!]
Shen Qiao frowned, then ruthlessly responded:
[Stay away. Don't dirty my minions.]
He would never allow anyone to tarnish his pawns!
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): Um, rude! I have the body of a pure and maidenly young woman, y'know.]
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): But I still have some maturing to do. Once I become bigger and thicker, I'll come find you again.]
Shen Qiao acted like he hadn't seen that. He silently approached the nearby tower, just in time to see the enemy champion Akali making a beeline for him. He raised his eyebrows and calmly activated his W. Thanks to his foresight and positioning, he easily took the enemy's head.
It was Lele who took a moment to respond to the Blind Monk:
[Could it be that you're the legendary fairy goddess who can turn big or small or beautiful at will?]
The other party's innocent tone was so blatant in the words they wrote that it could practically be heard through the screen:
[What are you talking about? I'm talking about working hard to level up and thicken my bar. My HP bar, that is.]
Lele fell silent.
He was no match for a menace like that, so he quietly slunk off to provide support for Vayne.
The enemy Xayah and Rakan were formidable; they played well. The vast majority of LoL players fell in the Bronze, Silver, and Gold ranks. Those ranks were a mixed bag of all sorts of players with all sorts of skill levels. The one thing they all had in common was that they definitely didn't play by any conventional rules.
Just when you thought an enemy would come up to confront you, they would dash in for only a second before turning on their heel to beat a hasty retreat. Just when you thought an enemy was at a clear disadvantage, they would charge in and let you take their head after a baffling exchange of blows.
That was the chaotic nature of playing in a rank like Silver. Lele would soon be rendered dazed and confused.
One of his Braum's abilities could stun an enemy after stacking four hits on them. He lured out his foes, dodged Rakan's feather attack, and watched as his own attacks landed on Rakan. At just that time, Vayne should have charged in to claim the kill—
But Vayne charged in, hacked away most of the enemy's HP, then fled.
He slowly typed a single question mark into the chat box.
Vayne replied very quickly:
[No point in chasing a cornered enemy. Let's take it easy.]
What the hell is that supposed to mean?! If you can't take down a stunned and wounded Rakan, what can you do?! Pah! You couldn't even Ignite him before walking away???
Lele took a deep breath to calm himself. Then he took another. He was holding back so much fire that he felt like he was starting to burn his innards. Slowly, he typed out:
[You… I… I'm gonna take a walk.]
[Go ahead, don't crowd me and steal my EXP. Carrying you is exhausting. Noobs don't know anything.]
Lele was one of the few alpha support players in the LPL, and he was widely known as the gentlest alpha in the league. But in that moment, he nearly lost that reputation.
He let out an aggrieved breath that traveled straight down his mic. "Listen! The titan of the fountain is whispering to me. He yearns for the sound of war and the scent of blood."
Shen Qiao happily knocked off the enemy team's Akali once more. He was feeling pretty good. Absently, he told Lele, "Speak human."
"Next round, I want to play Nautilus as a mid laner," Lele said.
Shen Qiao nodded. "Sure."
Gragas, the enemy jungler, couldn't tolerate the three kills his team had given away so easily. He hid in the underbrush near Shen Qiao and planned on launching an ambush from behind while Shen Qiao was wrapped up in a skirmish with Akali.
But Shen Qiao had taken stock of his surroundings long ago, and he knew exactly what lay in wait in the underbrush. When Gragas leapt out to surround him with Akali, Shen Qiao was more than prepared to deal with their joint attack.
He dodged the explosive barrel that Gragas chucked at his feet, then quickly flashed back to the tower before Akali could launch a follow-up attack with her R.
At the same time—
Lee Sin also leapt out from the underbrush and handily dispatched Gragas and Akali, who'd both exhausted all their abilities.
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): Gege, I saved your life just now, y'know! Have you thought about how you'll repay me?]
Out of habit, Shen Qiao glanced at the chat box at the lower left corner of the screen just in time to see that message. He gave a curt and concise answer:
[I won't die.]
[Ah! Are you one of the ungrateful ingrates my teachers warned me about?]
Shen Qiao didn't respond to that.
While the enemy's mid-lane champion Swain went back to their base to change his gear, Lele glanced at his own team's stats and got a little surprise. "That blind monk has whipped out a Sanguine Blade?"
Most casual junglers would equip themselves with Tiamat at that point in the game. For a player to bust out the big guns now… it seemed this wasn't just any ordinary jungler.
Shen Qiao also raised his eyebrows, but he didn't say anything.
Shen Qiao swept his gaze down the middle lane and saw that a tower was in danger of falling. He sent a wave of minions at an enemy turret before heading back to his team's base to change his equipment. Once he was geared up, he zipped back out to defend the mid-lane tower.
The enemy Akali seemed to be wounded. While Shen Qiao was away, she frantically farmed the top lane.
Gragas, however, was holding a grudge. He chased Shen Qiao out to the middle lane and teamed up with Swain in an attempt to end Renekton. But the Blind Monk came in again—
And not just him. Braum followed as well, turning that fight into a 3v2 that ended with Gragas yet again turning to ash.
When he respawned at his team's fountain, he didn't move a single step before spitting his curses into the global chat:
[Blind Monk, are you tethered to that crocodile's belt or what? You chasing an idol? You gonna go wherever Renekton goes? You wanna just keep protecting him like a dog?]
Shen Qiao skimmed that message. The pupils of his eyes darkened slightly, and he silently decided he would take five kills.
Lele, however, took it upon himself to respond:
[Don't blame people for targeting you when you play so bad. Just watching you makes me lose my appetite. I only ordered two servings of rice for takeout tonight.]
That sent Gragas into even more of a rage. He spewed vitriol at the three of them, primarily targeting the Blind Monk whose user ID looked like it belonged to a weak, easy target.
[You'd better keep that monk of yours on a tight leash. Don't let him go solo. I'll kill him dead every time I see him.]
Lele was just about to tell their Blind Monk not to pay any attention to those provocations. He didn't want their jungler, whose technique was actually pretty good, to collapse under pressure. But before he got a chance to type out any reassurances, a new message popped up in the chat box.
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): How did you know I was the Year of the Dog?]
[StandUpLittleO (Lee Sin): Gege, look at me—]
Shen Qiao, uncharacteristically, deigned to reply:
A second later, the chat box displayed a new message with a word that was practically audible:
Shen Qiao said nothing.