DG was the blue team. HCG, red team. And so the first ban went to DG.
"Ban Elise," Er-Hua suggested. "If Daddy Lu doesn't take her, the other side definitely will."
Lu Zhe was unopposed to that.
Practically as soon as DG locked in their choice to ban Elise, their opponents fired back with the decision to ban Lee Sin. It seemed HCG had diligently done their homework; they knew Lu Zhe had been playing Lee Sin quite often as of late.
Immediately afterwards, the two teams took turns and banned Orianna, the Lady of Clockwork; Gragas, the Rabble Rouser; Lucian, the Purifier; and Pantheon, the Unbreakable Spear.
Then, DG got the first choice of champion. Lu Zhe spoke up: "Take Qiyana."
It was common knowledge that Qiyana was one of Qian Bao's strongest champions, but Lu Zhe had also used Qiyana as a jungler in official tournaments before. So this choice was a beautifully confusing tactic. Until DG's full team comp was revealed, HCG would have no way of knowing what role Qiyana would fill.
And so, HCG used their first pick to take Miss Fortune as their bottom lane AD. Then they took Jarvan IV as their jungler. Immediately afterwards, DG took the classic pair of Varus and Braum as their two bottom lane champions.
Commentator Jia's exceptionally enthusiastic voice rang out through the arena: "Looks like HCG's coach is communicating with the players—okay, HCG has locked in Rumble now. Miss Fortune in the bottom lane, Jarvan in the jungle, Rumble in the top lane. Let's take a look at how DG's Wolfy will respond to this."
A sweet, feminine voice made a timely interjection: "They have some options with Rumble. Playing Rumble in the mid lane with Jarvan in the jungle, and Miss Fortune in the bottom lane, is also a pretty good combination."
Commentator Jia quickly voiced his agreement: "Makes sense! Okay, now we're seeing that DG has banned Rakan, while HCG answered with a ban on Renekton! If I remember correctly, Wolf Cub has pulled out Renekton in a few games on the KR server. Looks like HCG really came prepared! They know everything about Captain Lu and Wolf Cub!"
As the commentators continued to analyze what they were seeing, the two teams locked in their final formations—
DG had Kennen in the top lane, Qiyana in the jungle, Ekko in the mid lane, and Varus and Braum in the bottom lane.
HCG would face them with Irelia, Jarvan IV, Rumble, Miss Fortune, and Nautilus.
"Everyone is probably just as excited as we are to see how DG will perform in the top and jungle today. Let's wait and see! The first week LPL summer tournament match between DG and HCG… starts now!"
The commentators' voices were completely blocked out by the players' headsets, and the voice channel was silent.
Shen Qiao equipped himself with a very conventional set of keystone runes. As soon as he finished buying his starting equipment, he headed out and made his way towards the top lane. Old Wo and Er-Hua headed for the bottom lane and joined Lu Zhe in the jungle to help him get a red buff.
On the other side, HCG's top laner and two bottom laners stuck to the river and let their Jarvan IV claim the red buff in their jungle. They were wary of DG, taking precautions to prevent them from grouping up. But DG had no intentions of doing such a thing in the first place. Both teams minded their own business, got their respective red buffs, and went back to their lanes.
As soon as Qian Bao came face-to-face with Rumble, she launched her ult without warning. She started wailing on her opponent and some minions all at the same time, ultimately reaching Level 4 before the rest of her team. She pressured Rumble all the way back to HCG's outer tower, where she prepared to trap him against the wall of the jungle and continue her assault.
HCG's Jarvan just so happened to be farming in the jungle nearby. Seeing that Qian Bao had pushed her attack to their outer tower, he rushed over to assist.
Lu Zhe happened to be nearby as well. While farming, he noticed Qian Bao trying to single-handedly take down Rumble. And a glance at the map told Lu Zhe that Jarvan IV was on the move. Lu Zhe couldn't help but smile as he gave out a warning:
"Be a little more reserved, girlie. How could you come up and push someone against a wall as soon as you meet?"
Qian Bao laughed darkly and continued hacking away at Rumble's HP. "Can't help it. I'm thirsty for his body, I'm thirsty for his blood."
Then, as soon as those words fell, Rumble's skills came off cooldown. He instantly spewed a lash of fire at Qian Bao. Qian Bao hastily retreated as her HP plummeted. At just that moment, Jarvan IV also popped out from the underbrush by the river and gave chase.
Qian Bao instantly changed her tune: "Daddy! Daddy, I was wrong! I won't do it again! I'll definitely change my ways! Save me, save me! He called in a parent to fight me!"
Lu Zhe shushed her, feeling like her squawks were polluting the voice channel.
Qian Bao instantly zipped her lips. She continued fleeing towards the jungle, taking another hit from Rumble along the way. When she only had a sliver of HP left—
Lu Zhe brushed past her and faced off against the Rumble who was trying to claim her head. He beat the enemy back to their outer tower, allowing Qian Bao to make a safe return to their base from the jungle.
"We're focusing in on the top lane now. Let's take a look at Wolf Cub… mm… wait, how did HCG's Irelia lose so much HP?!" Commentator Jia's shock was obvious. Every spectator in the arena could hear the astonishment in his words.
"And he even forced Irelia to use up her health potions, while he himself remained unharmed," Little Yi added excitedly.
"That's right. This ferociousness from Wolf Cub… why do I feel like we've traveled back to the spring tournament from two years ago? As everyone knows, HCG's top lane champion Irelia was the last champion selected today. That means they were extremely confident in their ability to pressure Wolf Cub's Kennen with this pick. But in the end…" Commentator Jia trailed off, letting the audience use their imaginations to fill in the blank.
While Shen Qiao turned up the heat in the top lane, Jarvan IV sensed that his own team was at a disadvantage up there. He started to prowl around in the upper jungle, and Lu Zhe followed suit.
Shen Qiao took a moment to glance at the map, then said, "I'm fine."
He felt that, for the time being, he didn't need Lu Zhe's help for a gank.
Lu Zhe's answer was soft and warm: "Okay. I'll take down Jarvan's ward, then leave you to it."
In the time it took the two of them to exchange those few words, Shen Qiao had pressured Irelia to the base of the enemy tower. Jarvan circled nearby in the red side's upper jungle, clearly hoping for a chance to leap out and gank Shen Qiao. But, in the end, Shen Qiao turned back and retreated to the river, not allowing the enemy top laner and jungler to surround him.
After tearing down the enemy ward, Lu Zhe wanted to take a monster camp in HCG's jungle. But just before he set out in that direction, he saw Jarvan IV turn back. Lu Zhe decided to abandon his original plans and hide out in the underbrush for a while.
Shen Qiao was only halfway to the river when he noticed Lu Zhe's positioning. Seeing that Jarvan IV was cutting through the jungle to assist in the mid lane, Shen Qiao took an abrupt turn and crept up behind Jarvan IV without even thinking about it.
At that very moment, Lu Zhe was waiting in the underbrush right in front of Jarvan IV.
Just as the clueless Jarvan IV charged forward, Lu Zhe leapt out and threw his R skill in his face—
The surrounding walls of the dragon pit were temporarily obscured by a burst of elements, creating a terrifying explosion. In the blink of an eye, Jarvan IV was thrown back against the wall! Two-thirds of his HP vanished instantaneously!
Jarvan IV quickly came back to his senses; when Lu Zhe gave chase, he quickly flashed away!
While the two of them fought, Qian Bao had moved into the jungle from the middle lane. Jarvan IV's attempt to escape was a hopeless endeavor. He had yet to hit Level 6 and unlock his biggest moves, after all. He could only hand over his head.
DG claimed first blood!
Qian Bao let out a sigh of satisfaction. Meanwhile, Lu Zhe spoke up: "First blood is worth celebrating—Qiaoqiao, allow me to treat you to something nice to eat."
He marked the blue buff that had just spawned in HCG's jungle.
Shen Qiao contentedly followed him out to collect the buff. Qian Bao had already gotten the chance to claim an easy kill, but ultimately she couldn't hold in her curiosity. She had to ask, "Next time, if I participate in a fight and don't get a kill, do I get a blue buff as a consolation prize too?"
Lu Zhe casually suggested, "Take a guess?"
"I'm guessing… yes!" Qian Bao declared.
"Take another guess?" Lu Zhe said.
Qian Bao fell silent.
At that point, some time had already passed since the first cloud dragon spawned. After Jarvan IV respawned, he grouped up with HCG's bottom laners near the dragon pit. Lu Zhe decided they may as well silently agree to a trade; HCG could have the dragon while Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao took down the Rift Herald.
Just as the Herald went down, Qian Bao charged down the middle lane to dive Rumble—
At the same time, Lu Zhe unleashed the Herald in the mid lane, destroying HCG's outer turret!
When HCG's jungler came to protect their middle lane, DG dispersed, showing absolutely no interest in tangling with him. Shen Qiao returned to the top lane, followed by Lu Zhe. The two of them reached an unspoken agreement—they launched a fierce attack against Irelia!
Qiyana's ult was activated again!
Lu Zhe went up to collect Irelia's head, only to take a hit from the tower. He lost a big chunk of HP. While Lu Zhe moved out of the tower's attack range, Irelia hurriedly found a hiding place and hollered for Jarvan IV to come assist. During her second of hesitation, Shen Qiao hit her with a skill that left her with only a shred of HP.
Jarvan IV arrived just a moment too late. He charged into the fray and threw a big skill at Lu Zhe, chipping away even more of his meager HP.
A moment of immense peril had arrived!
Lu Zhe ducked into the underbrush to hide. Shen Qiao struck Jarvan IV from behind. When Jarvan IV was down to thirty percent health, Shen Qiao unleashed his ult! Jarvan IV's death was instant!
"Oh! My! God! Qiyana barely has a drop of HP left! Captain Lu was waiting for Qiaoqiao's ult, can you believe that?! Jarvan is gone!" Commentator Jia hollered excitedly.
Because of Lu Zhe's suspenseful display just now, the crowd in the arena broke out in raucous cheers!
Lu Zhe used a potion to heal up, then emerged from the other side of the underbrush to appear behind Shen Qiao. He didn't bother going back to their team's base. Instead, he headed straight down to the bottom lane to help his teammates take down the ocean dragon.
The match had only started fifteen minutes ago.
HCG trailed DG by four thousand gold.
DG's opponents clearly realized that they couldn't keep going like this. Jarvan IV hadn't accomplished much in the top or middle lanes. He suddenly seemed to remember, at last, that he could try for a gank in the bottom lane.
While Lu Zhe was back at DG's base, Jarvan IV took the opportunity to head down to the bottom lane.
But not everything was going to go according to Jarvan IV's plans; the players of Team DG wouldn't just roll over and take that assault. Shen Qiao and Qian Bao instantly teleported down and chased the three enemies back to the river.
"Kennen has leapt into the fray with his ult! Jarvan has used his ult too, in an attempt to keep Wolf Cub in check! We're seeing Nautilus backing off, trying to lure the enemy away… but it's no use! Qian Bao gives chase with Phase Dive and gets his HP low! And then… here's Wolf Cub, getting the kill with a well-aimed shuriken!"
Commentator Jia took a breath there. With a sigh, he continued, "Today's Wolf Cub really is fierce…"
"And he's been working well with their jungler," Commentator Yi remarked. She had been reserved with her opinions until that moment, but she finally seemed ready to state her view. "After this wave, I get the feeling… as long as DG doesn't make any major mistakes during the Baron Nashor fight, HCG's chances of victory will be vanishingly small."
There was only one reason for that: DG, as a whole, was especially fierce that day.
Before, when Fish had been a part of their team, DG had been extremely strong, but they hadn't exuded this sort of dominating presence. The addition of Shen Qiao seemed to have sharpened the famous blade of DG even further, allowing them to truly show off their indomitable spirit!
"Wolf Cub has pushed through on the top lane all by himself…"
"Are Captain Lu and Qian Bao on a killing spree? This mid laner and jungler combo… what kind of monsters are they…"
"The preliminary stats for this match are already out! Wolf Cub's damage output is in first place! Has Team DG unleashed some sort of demon in this match?!"
"The gap between the two teams is now eight thousand gold. Does Team HCG think they're playing PUBG here in the rift?"
At the twenty-minute mark, neither of the commentators knew how they could possibly speak in HCG's defense now.
At that moment, all five members of DG grouped up around Baron Nashor. They set their wards, then opened fire.
HCG recognized that this was their final chance. They surrounded DG and closed in. Qian Bao stayed on the outskirts of their team perimeter, throwing out her skills to prevent HCG from getting any closer.
As everyone watched on, the Baron's HP dropped to forty percent. Shen Qiao peeled away from his team and joined Qian Bao, charging into the five-man group of HCG and flinging out his ult!
Qian Bao swiftly fell in sync with him. The two of them joined forces and faced off against five enemies, speedily offing both of HCG's bottom laners in quick succession!
Lu Zhe joined in a moment later. Just as a low-health Shen Qiao was about to take a hit from an enemy skill, Lu Zhe fired off Qiyana's ult to lock down the opponent, letting the weakened Shen Qiao escape to their group's back line.
HCG's Irelia took Lu Zhe's ult and had no choice but to follow her team's bottom laners into an early grave.
Only Old Wo and Er-Hua continued to diligently attack Baron Nashor.
As soon as the Baron fell—
"Should we push?" Er-Hua asked.
"Congratulations to DG on taking the first round! It could be said that HCG had no chance to fight back in this round. What kind of adjustments can they make to do better in the second?"
Lu Zhe took off his headset just in time to hear those words from the commentator. He remained seated and let out a soft laugh.
Shen Qiao glanced over and met Lu Zhe's gaze. He heard Lu Zhe explain, "The commentator asked if HCG has any chance of taking the second round."
Shen Qiao nodded and distantly answered, "Nope."
Lu Zhe's smile grew a little more brilliant.
Twenty minutes into the second round, DG pushed their way to HCG's base again.
As soon as HCG's inhibitor exploded under DG's assault, the whole arena burst out into celebratory cheers. Shouts and screams resounded through the building.
"Let us congratulate DG on their strong start in the summer tournament! They shut out HCG! This match tells us… that the kings of the last season are back!"
"DG certainly hasn't disappointed us! They've become even stronger since the spring tournament…"
"Once again, let us say a hearty welcome back to the strongest team in the LPL!"
Qian Bao lifted her hands and scrubbed at her face. Hearing the almost deliriously excited commentary sounding out, in an elated voice that was nearly hoarse from cheering, she turned to Old Wo and asked, "Is this commentator a fan of our team?"
The whole time, that commentator had basically only mentioned DG by name. HCG barely even got a shoutout. It was like they'd evaporated, turning into air.
Old Wo nodded calmly. "Listen to those rainbow farts. Gotta be a fan—ai, which one of us is going on stage later?"
"Wolf Cub, obviously. He's the MVP today, plus he's a new member of our team," Er-Hua said, sidling up and sticking his nose into the conversation.
In the end, they saw a staff member lead Lu Zhe and Shen Qiao away together.
The remaining players blinked in unison.
"Isn't the post-game interview just supposed to be with one person?"
Hearing their confusion, Coach Fang turned to them and woodenly answered, "Yes, it is. But Lu Zhe just successfully convinced the organizers. He said Shen Qiao is a little shy after just joining this team, so he tagged along."
Qian Bao, Er-Hua, and Old Wo all stared in silence.
The lights backstage were somewhat dim. All the brightest and most dazzling lights in the venue were focused on the stage. Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe stepped out from the dark, walking shoulder-to-shoulder as they followed a staff member onto the illuminated stage.
They could hear the commentator still raving that DG was stronger than they'd ever been in the entire history of their club. Shen Qiao listened for a while and felt somewhat speechless. He turned to Lu Zhe and asked, "Did Big-Mouthed Zhou pay him to talk us up?"
Lu Zhe lightly shook his head. "Nope."
After thinking for a moment, he added, "I don't know whether or not DG is stronger than ever. But I do know that right now, I'm personally stronger than I've ever been, in the history of my life."
Shen Qiao blinked.
Was this guy completely shameless?
The corners of Lu Zhe's lips quirked with a smile. The stage lights flickered and flashed around them, dancing through Lu Zhe's eyes like summertime fireflies. A pale, sporadic light rippled through those eyes.
He drew a little closer to Shen Qiao, paused for a moment, and quietly spoke again:
"When you're here, I'm invincible."
Hehehe, Dog Lu's sweet talk skills are pretty good, huh?