"Welcome to the Hua City Stadium, home of the LPL's summer tournament! The two teams taking the field today are… DG and WTG! I'm sure everyone is aware of the incident DG experienced during the international tournament a short while ago. We must remind everyone, once again, to exercise moderation in your pursuit of celebrity figures."
A commentator sat in the live broadcast booth, smiling faintly at the camera with an earnest gaze.
The second commentator nodded and voiced agreement before turning to the field and adding, "Due to this horrible incident, the league officials have allowed Team DG to add substitutes to their roster in the middle of the season—this is a first. Today, DG will be fielding two kids from their second-string team. Moon and June, and if I remember correctly… this will be their first appearance in the LPL."
"Yes, and their opponents today are WTG, the champions of the spring tournament. Everyone must be as excited as I am to see how DG will perform today. Will they still dominate the jungle without their king jungler, Lu Zhe? Let's wait and see—!"
While the commentators' voices rang out, DG took their positions on their side of the stage.
Five computers were lined up neatly, and the five players each finished adjusting their equipment and putting on their headsets. The blazingly bright lights that shone down from overhead gradually dimmed.
The computer monitors entered the picks and bans stage.
Old Wo smacked his lips. Without Lu Zhe, their pre-game trash talk ritual was gone as well. It left him feeling a little unsettled.
Coach Fang's voice was already sounding out through their headsets. "Ban Yuumi first, then Irelia and Xayah."
They had to tear apart the formidable Xayah and Rakan duo, and they couldn't allow any particularly difficult support champions to be chosen. This season, Yuumi absolutely had to be banned.
Shen Qiao and the others had no problems with the coach's orders. They did as instructed. Then, the other side banned Vladimir, Qiyana, and Renekton.
It was obvious that, in Lu Zhe's absence, the enemy's bans were targeted against Qian Bao and Shen Qiao.
Coach Fang wasn't surprised by these choices. He picked up his notebook and paced behind the players for a while. DG was the blue side that match, meaning they would choose a champion first.
"Let A-yue take the first pick."
Old Wo unscrewed the lid of his thermos and took a sip of his warm goji berry water. Er-Hua laced his fingers together, stretching his wrists. Qian Bao crinkled the corners of her eyes and smiled as she said, "A-yue, don't be nervous. Choose who you want to choose."
Shen Qiao tilted his head as he heard Zhao Yue's voice sound out through their headsets.
"I'll use Jarvan IV," Zhao Yue said. "Is that okay?"
"Okay," Coach Fang answered.
"Alright, we've just seen DG lock in Jarvan IV! Wow! A totally by-the-book, unsurprising choice. If memory serves, Moon's win-rate with Jarvan IV on the Korean server is extremely high! Of course, this is a very popular champion for the jungle this season… let's see what tactics WTG prepared to deal with DG today! Oh, here we go—they've locked in Miss Fortune and Leona!"
"Leona for support, and Miss Fortune to block Jarvan IV from providing too much assistance. WTG has really thrown a wrench in DG's team comp here. They've always been very stable in the jungle. I wonder who they'll play today? Will Moon see some pressure in the jungle?"
"Whoa, okay! Braum is a must-have. DG has just taken Varus as well. Not bad, not bad. Both sides are in pretty good shape right now. All that remains to be seen is how their top and middle lanes will look."
"WTG won't let DG off that easily in the picks and bans, will they?"
The two commentators continued to discuss the teams' choices. Once the last champion was locked in, the two teams' line-ups were set in stone.
DG's side would be playing Aatrox, Jarvan IV, LeBlanc, Varus, and Braum.
WTG, on the other hand, would come out with Jayce, Olaf, Syndra, Miss Fortune, and Leona.
"Isn't WTG too tanky? And their damage potential is off the charts! My god, these picks… Olaf is extremely versatile, and his damage output is high. Syndra also outclasses LeBlanc. WTG has champions that can carry in their top lane, middle lane, and jungle… looking at these line-ups, DG seems to be starting at a bit of a disadvantage, don't they?"
"But of course, if Old Wo's Varus can get going and work well with Braum in team fights, DG still has a chance to cut off the opponent's back line."
After the commentators finished analyzing the two team compositions, the coaches of both teams left the stage, and the game loaded on every screen—
The first match was underway.
In the bottom lane, Old Wo and Er-Hua hung around the red buff, planning on trying to help Zhao Yue get a few hits in. But, right away, WTG's Miss Fortune and Leona both crossed the rift, boldly coming over to make trouble for them.
Old Wo couldn't help but swear, "What the fuck… they're really chomping at the bit. Aren't they too reckless? I can't handle this, I've never been so personally attacked."
Er-Hua laughed and answered, "They're bullying us because our daddy isn't here. A-yue, when you get a chance, teach them to behave."
Zhao Yue responded, in a deep voice, "Will do."
While they guarded the red buff and prepared to expel their enemy in the bottom lane, Shen Qiao and Qian Bao were already exchanging blows with their own opponents.
Three and a half minutes into the match—
Qian Bao was facing off against Syndra, and her health was critically low. She had no choice but to retreat to her tower and use two health potions in a row. Zhao Yue, seeing the state of things over there, immediately rushed to the middle lane to assist.
"Moon moves up to the middle lane now," one of the commentators narrated. "The two of them are pursuing Syndra. They're chasing her into the underbrush in the lower half of the jungle… hey, hey, hey, but that's dangerous! Olaf is in there! This is risky! And Jayce is coming down from the top lane too!"
"Moon's positioning… he's been corralled into… ah, and he's gone." Before the commentator even finished speaking, the entire audience saw Zhao Yue become DG's first fatality.
Shen Qiao, seeing Jayce move out of the top lane, let out a shallow sigh of relief. He took the opportunity to lead the charge against the enemy's outer turret. Into the headset, he steadily said, "It's fine."
Qian Bao also chimed in, "My bad, my bad. I didn't take note of Olaf's positioning just now."
Zhao Yue didn't make a single sound. The game was still proceeding; no one could spare the time to worry too much about his psychological state. They could only continue to man their own lanes.
Just as Zhao Yue was farming in the jungle, in the sixth minute of the game, Olaf went up to gank in the top lane. Shen Qiao, facing off against two of the enemy players, couldn't escape. Before dying, he wanted to take Jayce down with him to make it a one-for-one trade. But, unfortunately, he failed in the end, defeated by a bloodied Jayce.
Zhao Yue arrived too late to help. He wanted to slay the wounded Jayce, but couldn't catch up. Ultimately, he could only help Shen Qiao guard the tower for a while.
Shen Qiao, who'd just respawned at their team base, knew that DG needed a morale boost more than anything in that moment. He headed straight back to the front lines and tried to push forward with Zhao Yue—
"Whoa, what is Wolf Cub trying to do? He just died, does he not remember that? A shot from Jayce! Oh! It whiffed!"
"Moon is trying to force a kill! Jayce stays on the retreat! They're approaching WTG's tower! Moon wants to take Jayce down so bad! Wolf Cub is supporting him!"
"Olaf's back… Moon's HP is in danger! And… sure enough, he's been taken out. Uh… but Shen Qiao did manage to take Jayce down this time, making it a one-to-one trade in kills. Seems like DG didn't gain much of an advantage here."
"Yeah, really think about it. Shen Qiao used up his teleportation and flash, and DG lost another life. And they still only took one kill? DG is coming out of this at a disadvantage, alright?"
The two commentators kept their eyes on the top lane, where the battle was still quite fierce and more or less evenly matched. Meanwhile, in the bottom lane, Old Wo had already slain the enemy Leona, silently basking in glory.
Once the commentators realized DG's headcount was about to catch up to WTG's, the camera swiftly panned down to the bottom lane.
Olaf and Zhao Yue's Jarvan IV ran into each other by the river in the upper half of the map.
Zhao Yue fearlessly charged in without hesitation. The HP of both champions dwindled rapidly as they flung their skills at each other. Just in the nick of time, Zhao Yue dodged towards the wall and moved himself out of the range of Olaf's axe.
Olaf's attack missed. He quickly used a potion to restore some health.
Once Zhao Yue exhausted his skills, Olaf gave chase and used flash to pursue him. Olaf knew his own middle laner was on the way to support him.
Zhao Yue dodged Olaf's first Q. Just as he was about to make his escape, he was suddenly struck by the enemy's second attack—his screen instantly grayed out.
His current standing: 3 deaths, zero kills.
The two commentators were clearly confused and perplexed.
"This… this Jarvan… what was he thinking? Trying to go solo against Olaf?"
All of DG's fans at the stadium were sweating bullets on Zhao Yue's behalf. They didn't dare take their eyes off the screen. They could only pray—
DG is a team that can make miracles. It's fine! They can definitely turn things around later in the game. Everything is fine! They've just given away three kills, right? They'll come back with a vengeance and take five kills of their own!
Eleven minutes into the match—
Qian Bao wanted to go down to the bottom lane to help Old Wo and Er-Hua take down the enemy Miss Fortune and Leona. But she was pursued by Olaf. Ultimately, it was Er-Hua—who was providing cover for Old Wo—who was slain.
Zhao Yue was determined to not show any weakness. He also came down from the river to assist. As Old Wo's Varus used his ult, Zhao Yue chased Olaf back to the enemy tower. He managed to take Olaf's head, but… without his own flash available, Zhao Yue couldn't escape the tower's range. He lost his life as well.
"This bout has been… full of twists and turns," the commentator remarked.
Fifteen minutes into the match—
Zhao Yue and Qian Bao headed up to the top lane in hopes of helping Shen Qiao defeat the enemy Olaf and Jayce. But it was obvious that Jayce was already flourishing in that match. His damage output was higher than Shen Qiao's, and his equipment was better as well.
"DG is on the ropes… ah, and Syndra has come over too! Now it's a 3v3, and Money's positioning is no good. Ah, there it is. As expected, she's gone. How could Moon's skills be down at such a critical time? Ah… wait, wait, wait, what happened?! Why is Wolfy suddenly facing down three enemies all by himself?"
"Wolf Cub is still hanging on to his Aatrox's ult?"
"There's no point to using it here. He's… it's no good in this 3v1. His equipment's not good enough, and he hasn't leveled up enough."
The commentators were silent for a few seconds before one of them tentatively said, "Moon… seems to have made a pretty big mistake in this bout."
"Yeah. Maybe he's a bit nervous, seeing as it's his first time on the field."
After that bout in which WTG took three lives without giving up any of their own champions, DG's performance started to steadily decline. At the eighteen-minute mark, Zhao Yue went down to the bottom lane and worked with Old Wo and Er-Hua to hack away at Miss Fortune's HP—only it was Zhao Yue who was killed once more, in the end.
Twenty-three minutes into the match, Zhao Yue died yet again with Qian Bao in the middle lane. They lost Baron Nashor to the enemy as well.
The game continued until the thirtieth minute. At that point, WTG pushed all the way to DG's base. With a decisive explosion—
It was DG's loss.
There was no suspense.
In the livestream, the bullet comments were exploding.
[??? This Jarvan IV reminds me of the Elise that Lu Zhe pulled out when he first took the field… feels very, very similar…]
[This is the standard of their second-string team? This is it? Seriously? This? There's a saying that says you have to see it to believe it. And now I've seen it… the difference between pro players and everyone else is bigger than the difference between human beings and pigs.]
[Wait, wait, don't lose hope! It could be that the kid was too nervous, playing for the first time? There's still a chance! There's another match! Shouldn't DG try someone else?]
[I can't handle it anymore. I'm going to get some food and wait for the results. I seriously can't watch this anymore. It's really just… too shameful to lose like this.]
[Kids get nervous. We understand, we totally understand. But you got so fucking nervous that you destroyed all three lanes… I gotta peace out.]
[I could tell. Wolf Cub, Money, and Old Wo… they were all trying their best.]
[This jungler has shown us the true extent of how shitty a jungler can be. Not only did he play like shit, he dragged four other players down with him!]
Amidst a sea of complaints and groans, DG did indeed switch over to Zheng Zhizhuo as their jungler for the second match.
Perhaps he'd learned a lesson from Zhao Yue's performance. Zheng Zhizhuo exercised more caution when he took the field. He managed to snag Olaf as his champion, and he was extremely careful to maintain a good field of vision. He was on guard at all times, for fear of the enemy jungler sneaking up to attack him.
DG led the match for the first seventeen minutes.
WTG's top laner, middle laner, and jungler grouped up in the middle lane, clearly intending to initiate a team fight.
Out of all of DG's players, Shen Qiao had powered up the most so far. When he saw June and Qian Bao in the middle lane, not yet engaged in a fight, he prepared to cross through the jungle to get some more experience. But, unexpectedly, he ran into WTG's two bottom laners who had just gone back to their own base to switch gear.
They wiped him out.
At the same time, Zheng Zhizhuo failed to avoid WTG's assault. He was a split second too slow in his reaction. The other team locked him down before he could activate his invulnerability, and he was instantly eliminated. Qian Bao and Old Wo instinctively rushed up to save him, but they were too late.
In the end, only Er-Hua survived.
WTG lost only their jungler in that bout. The four surviving players on their side charged onwards and confronted Baron Nashor. They pushed straight towards DG's base after that and, without delay, seized victory in the best-of-three game of the day!
[The last jungler was way too aggressive, and his bodies filled up the entire rift. But this one… hello? Was the jungler invisible or something? I didn't see him come out to lead an attack even once!]
[What the fuck did DG even bring a jungler for? Just to ruin the rest of the team?]
[I convinced a friend of mine to watch one of DG's games with me a few days back, and now my friend is asking me why I support such a shitty team. I have no idea how I'm supposed to respond.]
[Let's look on the bright side. Although Lu Zhe didn't take the field today, he used his absence to show us exactly how important to this team he is!]
As the livestream room continued to rage on in chaos, the lights in the stadium came back up.
The five players of Team DG silently packed up their belongings. The DG fans in the audience were silent as well. They'd even extinguished their light-up signs of support.
Zheng Zhizhuo had his head bowed. He looked extremely despondent. Shen Qiao and the others had participated in many more matches, at least. When the camera panned over them, it didn't catch any strong emotions on their faces.
Lu Zhe, along with Manager Zhou and Coach Fang, was waiting for them in the dark, just off-stage.
At just that moment—
From somewhere in the audience, someone hollered, "DG! See you next year!"
The meaning was obvious. If they were going to play this badly, why the hell should they play at all? Why should their fans look forward to seeing them at the world championships? They would have to wait until next season!
In the silence of the stands, that one voice was strikingly loud and clear.
The five players on stage could hear perfectly well. They stopped at almost the same time and looked over. A commotion was breaking out in the crowd. Some of the more reasonable fans started to speak out against that person, declaring that sort of statement too harsh and irrational. But other louder, angrier voices quickly drowned them out.
At that moment, Lu Zhe suddenly walked onto the stage.
Qian Bao and the others turned to look at him, watching as he stopped next to Shen Qiao, without any trace of his usual smile on his lips.
And then, Lu Zhe took the lead to bow down, from the waist. He bowed deeply, to the crowd.
Old Wo and his other old teammates instantly knew what he meant by that, and it wasn't long before Shen Qiao realized as well—
Before long, all members of Team DG standing on that stage turned and bowed deeply to their fans in the audience.
The message was clear.
Sorry. For playing such an awful game, and for disappointing you.
You guys will get better! (crying)