During Shen Qiao's self-imposed break from Weibo, two playoffs games took place. DG won the first. They played against WTG in the second game, and ultimately—WTG, whose players were more well-suited to playing best-of-five matches, won that one. As a result, DG would unfortunately have to face off against COCO for the third place position.
Spectators were all worrying over whether or not DG would qualify for the world championship. After all, there were only three spots for the world championship that year. One would go to the winner of the LPL's summer tournament, and now it was already impossible for DG to win that title.
One of the other spots would go to the team with the highest cumulative score from the spring tournament and summer tournament. Judging by DG's fourth-place finish in the spring tournament and the fact that they wouldn't be first or second in the summer tournament, this spot wouldn't go to DG either.
In that case…
DG's final chance to qualify was to duke it out for the third spot.
The third spot would be contested by high-ranking teams, with the two previously seeded teams removed from the competition. The three top-scoring teams that hadn't already secured a position at the world championship would battle against one another to determine a victor for the third and final spot.
This system inevitably raised the suspense for Team DG.
Online, many comments mocked DG for being last year's champions who wouldn't even qualify for the world championship this year. Besides that, other voices all asked just one question—
When exactly would Lu Zhe return?
One night, at one in the morning.
DG's headquarters were still lit up like a beacon.
Shen Qiao had devoted himself to practicing his strategies in Teamfight Tactics over the past few days. That night, he decided he wanted to play a few ranked matches during his personal training time. But, perhaps because the server was extremely busy over summer break, he queued up for ages without managing to get into a match. In the end, he switched over to his alt on another server.
He hadn't used this alt account much since joining DG. Most of the champions he'd unlocked on that account were junglers. When he logged in now, the account was still sitting at a silver rank.
Some people on the friends list of that account were also online, even at that late hour. A few of them were streamers who played LoL. They'd played a few rounds with Shen Qiao in the past, before asking if they could add him as a friend. Now, seeing him come online, they all threw him invitations to join their games.
Shen Qiao glanced at those incoming messages, where he saw a familiar name.
[StandUpLittleO: This account… is this Qiaoqiao-gege's alt?]
[StandUpLittleO: When did I add you? How come I don't have any impression of doing that at all? Well, whatever. Qiaoqiao-gege, come watch over me when you have time… wahhh, I've been losing all day! I worked so hard to get up to gold! QAQ]
Shen Qiao could practically imagine the expressions Lu Qianshuang was making as he read those messages. Originally, he'd planned on queueing up by himself, but now he wrote back and asked, You're staying up this late?
[StandUpLittleO: Don't tell my brother! I made plans with a friend to pull an all-nighter, please don't tell!]
Shen Qiao drummed his fingers against the tabletop. He looked around the training room and saw that Lu Zhe was busy watching footage from previous games with Zhao Yue and Zheng Zhizhuo, analyzing the strengths and tactics of other teams. For the time being, Lu Zhe wouldn't have any time to pay attention to Shen Qiao.
So Shen Qiao simply answered, Mm.
Then he tossed Lu Qianshuang an invitation to queue up with him.
After Lu Qianshuang teamed up with Shen Qiao, she giddily started to type—
[StandUpLittleO: I! I! I can play jungler! I can play AD too! I know how to carry! What are we playing? Ranked?]
Shen Qiao answered, Up to you.
[StandUpLittleO: Then let's go for ranked! We'll be working together, anyway!]
Shen Qiao had created a room for a ranked game already, so he started matching right away. In just ten seconds or so, he got into a game.
Lu Qianshuang was assigned to play ADC. Shen Qiao's preferences were still set to what he'd made them much earlier, so he was assigned the role of jungler. Immediately after that, Lu Qianshuang locked in the champion Ashe.
Newcomers to the game basically all liked to play Ashe, but this champion was actually subject to many limitations. Playing Ashe was a test of a player's skills and awareness of the field. Those who played well could make the enemy support and AD champion chase them around like chickens with their heads cut off. With Ashe's slowing skills, a good player could make their enemies experience death at half speed.
But if a player didn't use this champion well…
This was basically a glass cannon waiting to be slaughtered. You would have to be blind not to go in for the kill.
Shen Qiao took a look at Lu Qianshuang's records with the champion Ashe. She'd played a total of fifty games with this champion, and of those fifty games, she'd lost forty-two. There was no doubt that Lu Qianshuang didn't belong to the former type of Ashe players.
Shen Qiao checked out their enemy's team and saw that they'd chosen Master Yi as their jungler. He thought about it for a moment, then locked in Lee Sin as his own champion. This hero was quick to develop. As early as Level 2, he could start ganking the enemy and supporting his team. Regardless of the rank of the game, this was always a popular champion to see in the jungle.
Finally, the two full teams were set. On Shen Qiao's side—
Aatrox in the top lane, Yasuo in the middle lane, Lee Sin in the jungle, and Ashe and Soraka in the bottom lane.
As for their opponents—
Jax, Mordekaiser, Master Yi, and Kalista and Nautilus.
Both teams were fairly standard. There were no wild surprises anywhere. The other side was a bit tanky, while Shen Qiao's side was more well-balanced—they had champions with good DPS, resistance, crowd control, and so on. During team fights, each champion could do what they were best at.
That was just what it looked like on the surface.
Everyone knew that, in the lower ranks of LoL, it was possible for an extremely strong lineup to produce zero results.
Furthermore, the combination of Ashe and Soraka in the bottom lane was really too fragile. Soraka didn't have the ability to tank damage for Ashe if the need arose. If they weren't extremely aware of their surroundings at all times, it would be easy for them to put up a performance that was reminiscent of a supermarket sale—
Buy one get one free.
Shen Qiao finished choosing his equipment, then left the base and headed towards the red buff. He decided to keep an extra close eye on the bottom lane.
After reaching Level 2, Shen Qiao went down to the bottom lane to help Lu Qianshuang take first blood against the enemy Kalista. Then he immediately went back to his own part of the jungle to mind his own business.
As a result—
Aatrox and Jax soon got into it in the top lane, and the low-health Jax was soon taken care of. In the middle lane, Yasuo led his forces against Mordekaiser and kept him on the run for a while. But once he ran out of steam, he was chased back by Mordekaiser and beaten until he was only left with a sliver of health.
Shen Qiao moved his mouse and took stock of their plays, then decided to go up to the top lane to help Aatrox gank the enemy Jax a few more times. Soon enough, they both reached Level 5.
The middle lane player behind Yasuo noticed Shen Qiao helping out in the bottom lane and top lane. After Yasuo was offed by Mordekaiser two more times, the player couldn't resist typing into the chat—
[Yasuo: Hey, blind monk, are you blind to the middle lane? You need to learn to share the love!]
Shen Qiao was silent.
He checked the map. Aatrox was already doing pretty well now. The two top laners seemed pretty evenly matched. In the bottom lane, Lu Qianshuang was managing to stay alive with Soraka's healing. Although she did still die once, her performance wasn't outrageously bad.
The enemy jungler, Master Yi, was focusing on farming in the jungle alone. He didn't ever visit any of the three lanes. Under these circumstances, Shen Qiao felt comfortable going to the middle lane to help take a kill.
His teammates were all extremely comfortable. The enemy, however, had been ganked by Shen Qiao so many times that their minds were practically blown. They frantically typed mass amounts of question marks into the chat, and occasionally dissed their own useless Master Yi as well.
[Jax (Global): Hey! Look at what that Lee Sin is doing. Can't you do the same? Can't you learn from him a little? What are you doing in the jungle anyway? Picking mushrooms for your horse?]
[Master Yi (Global): You think it's my problem that you suck? If your DPS was as fierce as your mouth, we'd be in great shape.]
[Mordekaiser (Global): …guys, stop fighting.]
However, Jax and Master Yi weren't swayed by Mordekaiser's attempts to break up their fight. They continued to bicker and cuss at each other, ignoring the game itself. By the fifteen-minute mark, their team had forfeited, giving Shen Qiao and Lu Qianshuang each a victory.
While they queued up for another game, Lu Qianshuang refused to stop heaping glowing praise on Shen Qiao, claiming she was certain she would be able to rank up to Gold I with him that night.
Shen Qiao thought of her current ranking and calculated exactly how many games it would take for her to reach Gold I. After a while, he reached out and touched his pack of cigarettes, idly wondering how he could convince Lu Qianshuang to just go to bed already.
Lu Qianshuang was completely oblivious to his thoughts. She happily urged him to hurry up and start their next game.
After winning three games in a row, Lu Qianshuang was assigned to the support position in their fourth match.
She sent a long string of ellipses into the chat channel, then said to her teammates, I don't know how to play support.
Shen Qiao didn't think much of it. He typed back, I'll play support, you take the jungle.
They were just playing for fun, anyway. He didn't care much about which position he played.
Lu Qianshuang didn't know how to play all that many champions. She also chose Master Yi as her champion, while Shen Qiao locked in Veigar. Just as the game was loading, Lu Zhe finished talking to Zhao Yue and Zheng Zhizhuo. He passed by Shen Qiao's desk and stopped behind him.
Shen Qiao looked up at him and realized that he'd yet to notice Lu Qianshuang's ID. He hummed in acknowledgement, then finished gearing up and headed out with their AD to help Lu Qianshuang camp out near the red buff.
In the first five minutes of the match—
Lu Qianshuang had learned from Shen Qiao's earlier plays. She was very conscious of opportunities to help her teammates. She went down to the bottom lane once, and over to the middle lane once.
Shen Qiao's Veigar never missed, hitting each enemy he targeted. The team's AD, Lucian, comfortably followed along, mowing down their enemies and farming up experience like crazy. The two of them worked together to pressure their opponents back against the tower.
However, their middle lane champion Ahri still messed up and got herself and Lu Qianshuang killed, one after the other.
[Ahri (Team): Master Yi, can you stop using your feet to play the game? Don't come to my lane just to give your life away, alright? Omegas should just be good and stay home doing embroidery these days. What are you playing LoL for?]
Lu Qianshuang tried to reason with this player—
[Master Yi (Team): You died because you kept missing with your attacks, right? And I only died because I blocked some damage for you.]
[Ahri (Team): Oh, sure. Thanks for that. Let me ask you to never do it again. Can you do anything except stealing kills? If you don't want to play properly, go take a stroll around the base. Don't waste space here.]
Shen Qiao stunned an enemy and glanced at the chat. It had been a while since he got a chance to bicker with people in the game. He started to type—
[Veigar (Team): You play poorly, and you're discriminating against your teammates for their secondary sex? I've never met anyone with as many screws loose as you.]
[Ahri (Team): ……]
[Ahri (Team): I just remembered why your ID looks familiar. Aren't you Shen Qiao? What, you hotshot professional players don't practice during your days off? You just stroll around here trying to get girls? You're always either trending on Weibo or trying to snag a girl, huh? Not even male hookers are as efficient as you. Just stay in your lane and don't butt in, alright?]
Shen Qiao had just gone back to the base to change his equipment. When he saw that message, he had to laugh.
He racked up more kills as he fired scathing insults back at Ahri. Finally, Ahri was utterly crushed by his poisonous tongue. That player couldn't think of any retorts. In the end—
[Ahri (Team): This is the quality of character that professional players possess, is it? Alright, conversation screenshotted. Tomorrow, I'll have to ask your club if they pick up players from the trash. Your breath stinks.]
Shen Qiao was just about to respond when a hand suddenly shot out from behind him, stopping his movements.
Then, Lu Zhe took over his keyboard and typed out a message—
[Veigar (Team): You can run, but you can't hide. When you lodge a complaint tomorrow, make sure you ask for Lu Zhe. He'll teach you how to behave.]
Shen Qiao blinked.
He looked back at Lu Zhe and saw that Lu Zhe had his phone between his shoulder and ear. As soon as the call connected, Lu Zhe said to the person on the other end of the line, "Log out. I'm getting on."
After hanging up, Lu Zhe took a seat in the chair next to Shen Qiao. He swiftly booted up his computer and entered the game.
Shen Qiao lowered his own headset and looked over at Lu Zhe's arms. He quirked his lips and said, "What are you doing? You can't hone your skills in these low-rank games, you can only sharpen your tongue. What are you taking it so seriously for?"
Lu Zhe glanced at him and shifted his arms. "It's time for me to start practicing anyway. I may as well start today—
"Besides, it's our duty to cure these little kids of their internet addiction. They should study well and play fewer games."
Afterwards, that middle lane player's life became a living nightmare.
For some inexplicable reason, the jungler Master Yi suddenly became much more skilled. Whether it was farming in the jungle or ganking other champions, his plays were extremely smooth.
To make matters even more astonishing, that Master Yi would come up to the middle lane over and over again, practically killing the enemy middle laner before they could even take five steps.
If it was just that Master Yi suddenly seemed to attack like a feral dog, that would have been fine…
But for every kill that Master Yi helped the middle laner get, he would happily compose a colorful message reminding the middle laner of exactly what a waste of air and space their Ahri was.
[Master Yi (Team): The way you play… if I scattered rice over the keyboard and brought in some chickens, they would play better than you.]
[Master Yi (Team): I could place a ward in the middle lane and even it would be more useful than you.]
[Master Yi (Team): If you're going to cower by the tower all day, you shouldn't be in the middle lane. You should be running on home.]
Ahri went offline. They couldn't win against Lu Zhe on the field, and they couldn't win against him in the chat either. After realizing this, they gave up the fight.
Of course, the opposing middle laner also quit in despair.
Shen Qiao and Lucian kept pushing along in the bottom lane. Lu Zhe took down a dragon and Baron Nashor. The two top laners were also very competitive, earnestly battling it out. But Shen Qiao's team had basically taken over all three lanes by then. It wasn't long before they pushed up to the enemy's base, forcing the enemy to surrender.
Upon seeing the victory sign flash across the screen, Lu Zhe calmly took off his headset and quit the game.
Suddenly, a very polite knock sounded against his desk.
Lu Zhe turned and saw that Shen Qiao had a hand pressed to his desk. Shen Qiao moved his chair closer and closer, causing the distance between them to gradually shrink. A smile hung brightly in Shen Qiao's eyes as he smoothly teased, "Our Captain Lu is such a good brother. He'll seek justice for his little sister even when he's injured."
Lu Zhe twisted the wrist of his injured arm, then suddenly looped an arm around Shen Qiao's neck. His eyebrows arched up.
"Is it just that?" he asked, slowly drawing out each word. "It's not only my little sister. I won't stand for anyone bullying my didi either."
Shen Qiao glanced at the lean muscle running up Lu Zhe's arm. Originally, he'd wanted to slap Lu Zhe's arm away, but he wasn't sure if Lu Zhe really was all better or not. Ultimately, he didn't move away. He only scoffed and said, "Who's your didi supposed to be? You're doomed if anyone finds out about this, you know. All of tomorrow's headlines would be about you again."
Zhao Yue and Zheng Zhizhuo had stepped out of the training room by that point. Some of the other computer monitors were still on, but everyone else was currently away.
Lu Zhe immediately donned a pitiful expression. "Are you going to report me?"
Shen Qiao mulled it over for a few seconds. "Depends on your behavior?"
Lu Zhe smiled and answered, "Then, let me amend my previous statement. It's not okay to bully my little sister…
"But it's even more unacceptable to bully my wife. Now, as my wife…"
Shen Qiao instantly stood up and turned to the door. "Manager Zhou!"
Shen Qiao: Are you high or am I not menacing enough?
The world championship is right around the corner! We aren't far from our Captain Lu's return! Hehe!