WHEN AN ALPHA IS MARKED BY ONE OF HIS OWN KIND

Chapter 78

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"DG is putting on quite a cunning show today. Previously, due to Lu Zhe's injury, they could only field the junglers from their second-string team. Now, these second-string players have also become quite formidable. With Lu Zhe back in play, will DG be using their jungler as a wildcard slot?"

"Seems like they want to keep you guessing when it comes to their jungler today."

At BLX's headquarters—

Mo Mo and the others were watching the match between DG and COCO with their coaches. When he saw that Zhao Yue had been replaced by Lu Zhe after playing so well in the first round, Mo Mo couldn't help but swear.

Lu Zhe, Zheng Zhizhuo, and Zhao Yue all had their different strengths, but it was undeniable that Lu Zhe's skill was still at a higher level. His awareness of the field, his ability to control the jungle, and his previous experience in tournaments all gave him an edge. But anyone could see that, in time, Zheng Zhizhuo and Zhao Yue would become permanent fixtures in the next generation of Team DG.

Some teams only made a fleeting impact upon the history of the league. They inspired hope in many fans, but ultimately couldn't carry on at their original strength. Due to a lack of young talent, these teams faded away, only to be mentioned once in a while by nostalgic fans.

DG's ability to sharpen Zheng Zhizhuo and Zhao Yue in such a short span of time really proved one old adage—

When one door closes, another opens.

"They'll ban Elise," Lele blurted out as the game they were watching entered the picks and bans stage. As expected, the blue team COCO swiftly banned Elise right away.

Truth be told, Elise was a champion with very strong support and ganking capabilities, but she was way too fragile. In the late stages of any game, she could basically only throw out a skill, then wait to die.

So why was it that everyone instinctively used their first ban on Elise, after Lu Zhe showed what he could do with her?

The reason was simple. Last year at the world championships, Lu Zhe had used Elise to completely dismantle a European team that had been hopefuls for the finals—all within the first fifteen minutes of their game.

To the LPL, that game from the world championship tournament was evidence of the power of the top teams in the LPL. But to DG's opponent, it was simply an embarrassing defeat.

Although coaches and players were all cautious to keep Elise from developing too well in the early stages of a game…

What if they were unfortunate enough to be decimated by her at the start of a round? What then?

So, in the end, it was better to send her straight to the ban list.

……

The line-ups for the second round gradually started to take shape.

DG chose Jayce, Lee Sin, LeBlanc, Xayah, and Nautilus. It was obvious they wanted to take the initiative to engage in this round as well. Lee Sin and Nautilus both had ults that could help them get the jump on the enemy, while LeBlanc, Jayce, and Xayah were all champions capable of doing a lot of damage that season. Nautilus was also tanky. There was nothing wrong with their line-up at all.

As for COCO—

They picked up some counters.

Ornn, Rek'Sai, Syndra, Kai'Sa, and Thresh.

"COCO has made some good choices here as well. Ornn was their last counter pick, so there was no chance for DG to pick up Braum. Without Braum in play, Ornn can basically start a team fight anywhere he summons his elementals. As long as he picks a good spot, he's an excellent choice. He's tanky enough to counter Jayce in the top lane, too."

The voices of the commentators began to sound out again.

"And both sides are actually very balanced. DG has Jayce, LeBlanc, and Xayah for DPS on their side, while COCO has Syndra and Kai'Sa. In terms of raw damage output, LeBlanc falls short of Kai'Sa, but DG also has Jayce to make up for that in the top lane. It'll all come down to the two junglers and how they manage to establish dominance for their teams. In the early stages of this match, we should be careful to keep an eye on Jayce."

"Alright, now… let's begin!"

……

In DG's voice chat—

As Old Wo waited for the map to load up, he slowly and carefully asked, "Captain, you remember the rules of the playoffs, right? We're playing a best-of-five, you know. Why have you come out so early? Don't you know that the man who shows up for the grand finale is the most charming hero of all?"

He spoke like he was lecturing Lu Zhe and teaching him the ways of life.

Lu Zhe didn't even glance his way. His warm, gentle voice flowed through his microphone. "Is my charm any of your business?"

Old Wo fell silent.

Qian Bao straightened up in her seat and answered Old Wo properly. "It's suspicious, isn't it? Ah, but I can answer this question. Waiting around is a tortuous feeling, isn't it? Captain Lu was just impatient to come out and show off to a certain someone."

Er-Hua also added, "Here, we should be saying @DG-Wolfy."

After buying his starting gear and heading up to the top lane, Shen Qiao huffed a laugh and said, "You guys are starting all that again, huh? I get the feeling you all act up as soon as Lu Zhe arrives."

Old Wo led Er-Hua all the way to the jungle. "That's because we have a daddy again. Our spines are stronger now. Daddy Lu, shall we launch a little invasion?"

Er-Hua had yet to start leveling up his skills. When he heard Old Wo's suggestion, he waited patiently for Lu Zhe's response before deciding which skill he would focus on first.

Lu Zhe reflected upon COCO's usual habits, then answered, "Sure, we can do that. But they're probably going to come counter us. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. If you give away a life or two, it's not a big deal. But if you give away too many, you'll have to be lectured with me when we get back tonight."

Old Wo beamed and eagerly followed behind Lu Zhe. Er-Hua tagged along as well, hiding in the underbrush.

At that moment, an eagle's eye view would have clearly shown that both COCO and DG had players crouching in the underbrush by the river. Everyone was waiting for someone to make the first move.

COCO waited for a while, then took the initiative to emerge first.

Just then—

A hook shot out from the underbrush! DG's Er-Hua attacked with Nautilus, but only succeeded in grabbing the support of the other team. The other players from COCO all backed up right away, preparing to retreat.

Lu Zhe, however, didn't intend to let this opportunity slip past. "Go, go, go!"

Hearing that command, DG's players charged into the fray, quickly surrounding Thresh and hacking away at his HP. Nautilus also came up once in a while to tank damage for his own team. Both supports took a great deal of damage over a short span of time.

During that battle, Shen Qiao spotted an opportunity. "Kai'Sa came forward. We can attack."

Before he even finished speaking, he launched a few attacks against Kai'Sa.

Lu Zhe had originally planned on calling for them to retreat after seeing that they had doled out more damage in that exchange. The order was already halfway past his lips. But before Kai'Sa could flash away, Lu Zhe rushed over and used his Q to bring Kai'Sa down to her last sliver of HP, making her a very alluring target.

"I'm coming, I'm coming!"

"Captain Lu, how could you do this? You were about to tell us to retreat, but now you're sneaking around and stealing kills behind our backs?" Qian Bao complained as she also turned back to continue the fight.

The commentators were excitedly watching the ebb and flow of the battle. Originally, they had started saying that DG would have come out of that battle with the upper hand if they retreated after doing some serious damage to COCO's champions. However, before they even finished that line of thought, they saw all five of DG's players turn back around to continue fighting, like they were determined to take a kill.

"They're not backing down! They're gunning for the kill! Kai'Sa has already used up her flash, and she was hit by Lee Sin's Q. But Lee Sin was quickly targeted by Syndra and Ornn. Luckily, Ornn's damage output isn't that high just yet, but now Thresh is also charging up to help… only to be hooked by Nautilus!"

"Jayce is still chasing Kai'Sa! Why is he so aggressive?! And there it is, Kai'Sa is down! But Lee Sin also… ai, Lee Sin also used up his flash. COCO is trying to catch up to him, but at this distance, it seems impossible, unless they use their flash as well. They're very close to the DG's tower on the middle lane, though, so this positioning… ah, and they really couldn't catch up."

"So, in this fight, it's DG who walks away with first blood—"

The commentators' voices continued to fill up the stadium.

On DG's side, Lu Zhe returned to their base to buy new equipment and heal up. With a smile lacing his tone, he said into the chat, "I feel like you've developed a much bigger appetite as of late. You're no longer satisfied with a few krugs? You need the taste of blood to satisfy you? I wonder what I'll have to feed you in the future."

Shen Qiao was in the middle of facing off against Ornn in the top lane when he heard Lu Zhe's words, which were heavy with certain implications. Shen Qiao couldn't help but draw a sharp breath. While focusing on leading the enemy Ornn around and dodging those attacks, Shen Qiao also spared a second to answer Lu Zhe—

"Can you not?"

Lu Zhe checked the current conditions of both teams, then returned to the jungle to farm. "Of course. I'll agree to anything you say."

Qian Bao and Syndra were battling it out as well. After deftly dodging a skill from Syndra, Qian Bao happily chirped into the chat, "Did you guys forget that this is the team channel? Dog food isn't sweet when it's force-fed to you. I won't eat!"

Lu Zhe glanced at the map while he answered, "Until the league puts out a voice channel for couples, we'll have to trouble you to put up with it."

At that moment, Er-Hua placed a ward near the river and started leading Old Wo towards COCO's territory. Lu Zhe took stock of the situation on the map and sent Shen Qiao a signal. "Rek'Sai is heading up in your direction. Be careful."

Lu Zhe, for his part, planned on making a play in the middle lane.

The two bottom laners weren't well-suited to ganking, after all. Lu Zhe wanted to help Qian Bao take down Syndra in the middle lane first, so that Qian Bao could get ahead with her champion LeBlanc. As long as LeBlanc got slightly better equipment, she wouldn't be at a disadvantage against Syndra.

Plus, the middle lane was the shortest of all three lanes. It was easier, relatively speaking, to develop more quickly there. Once LeBlanc racked up some more experience, Lu Zhe could take her up to the top lane to help Shen Qiao's Jayce develop as well.

Shen Qiao's counter-gank awareness had improved as of late. While Lu Zhe took some time to farm in the jungle near the middle lane, Shen Qiao could hold his own. He wouldn't be caught off-guard so easily, and he could wait until Lu Zhe was ready to make his way over to him.

And if they didn't stop the enemy Syndra from growing too powerful now, she could easily carry her team and destroy DG in the later stages of the game.

After taking all these things into consideration, Lu Zhe called out, "Qiaoqiao."

Shen Qiao already knew what he wanted to say. He instantly answered, "I know. You don't have to come."

He could already see Rek'Sai's icon on the map. Shen Qiao's creep score was currently ahead of Ornn's. When it was necessary, he could bring his minions back to DG's tower to defend. Jayce had a good range, after all. He could keep farming near the tower, while Ornn would struggle to reach him before hitting Level 6.

Shen Qiao only had to be careful not to let Rek'Sai get too close.

Lu Zhe hummed his acknowledgement, then moved into the middle lane to help Qian Bao gank her enemy.

……

The game unfolded according to DG's plans—

Before hitting Level 6, Syndra was ganked twice by Lu Zhe in the middle lane. Rek'Sai went up to the top lane to try to help Ornn gank Shen Qiao, but Shen Qiao's position was way too good. On their first attempt, Rek'Sai was badly bloodied by DG's tower.

Ornn didn't get the kill that time. On their second attempt, they did manage to take Shen Qiao down. But Shen Qiao swept a wave of minions right before he died, using the damage from DG's tower to take Ornn down with him.

Overall, Rek'Sai came out at a loss.

After all, he sacrificed his own potential for development and only got an assist in return. Ornn had given away his own life too, allowing Shen Qiao to upgrade his equipment back at DG's base.

At that time, Rek'Sai's HP was already quite low. He circled around DG's tower for a while, then ultimately decided against trying to get another kill. He gave up and retreated to the jungle.

Before, while enduring the joint assault from COCO's top laner and jungler, Shen Qiao hadn't allowed his creep score to fall behind. Now that the jungler was gone, Shen Qiao could brazenly charge forward with his E and brutally hit Ornn with his Q.

He was very close to bringing COCO's top laner to tears.

When the commentators took a look at the game stats—

Although Ornn could continue battling it out under DG's tower without retreating to his base, he wasn't well-poised to help anyone in the middle or bottom lanes. Especially not when Lu Zhe came over to lend Jayce a hand. Even if Ornn summoned his elementals right there and then, he wouldn't have been able to escape his fate of handing over his head again.

"I never want to pick Ornn again," COCO's top laner bemoaned.

The early stages of the round were fierce.

Once Lu Zhe claimed the Rift Herald and destroyed COCO's middle lane tower, COCO's troubles only grew. DG forced them into a team fight on the middle lane, where the teams wound up trading two kills for two kills.

But one of the casualties was COCO's support, Thresh.

And the ones DG lost were… Qian Bao and Old Wo.

With that, DG was all charged up and ready to go. They used their advantages to claim two dragons, one ocean and one infernal. They'd had to let the first dragon go since Rek'Sai was camping out nearby in the bottom lane.

After those three dragons were defeated, the time to challenge Baron Nashor drew near.

If the next team fight wasn't over Baron Nashor, it would surely be over the Elder Dragon.

Shen Qiao farmed without pause, strengthening his own equipment. COCO's players were doing the same in their own lanes. Both sides were waiting for the perfect moment for the next team fight.

And now—

Lu Zhe put some pressure on Rek'Sai in the jungle, intending to steal the blue buff from COCO. Although Lu Zhe made Rek'Sai use his smite, Syndra came out of the underbrush right behind Rek'Sai. The two of them surrounded Lu Zhe, preparing to take him down.

Syndra's damage potential was extremely high, but because she hadn't managed to level up her equipment enough, she couldn't bring Lu Zhe down right away.

To make matters worse for COCO, Qian Bao and Shen Qiao teleported down to Lu Zhe as soon as they saw Syndra emerge beside him. Old Wo and Er-Hua, seeing a fight brewing, also started making their way up from the bottom lane.

The two sides clashed outside Baron Nashor's pit. Er-Hua's Nautilus entered a beautifully timed invulnerable state first. He was able to tank nearly all the damage from Ornn's summoned elementals. DG kept up the rhythm, forcing Ornn to exhaust his skills.

Xayah attacked fiercely at that point, and COCO's formation was disrupted by Lu Zhe. Almost instantaneously, COCO lost two lives.

Because Lu Zhe overshot his dash and entered the fray, while being very fragile, his own HP plummeted to a dangerously low zone. The enemy Kai'Sa, seeing the opportunity for an easy kill, chased him all the way from the jungle to the middle lane, abandoning the team fight that had already broken up.

Lu Zhe drew away the enemy AD all by himself, but he was out of options now. He ultimately spotted some of COCO's minions, intending to jump over to them with his Q skill—

But.

The damage from his Q was too strong. That little minion was Q'd to death by him.

Lu Zhe was silent for a moment. "…tsk."

He could only run away on his own two feet now.

Shen Qiao also noticed Lu Zhe's little failure just now. He couldn't help but laugh. "Captain Lu, are there a lot of question marks floating over your head right now?"

Lu Zhe also breathed a helpless laugh. "Can you really stand to watch me be mercilessly slaughtered by Kai'Sa?"

At that time, Shen Qiao had already wrecked COCO's inner tower on the top lane. He was pushing his way towards COCO's base like he was playing a single-player game. Coolly, he deadpanned, "Good luck. You can survive."

As soon as Shen Qiao spoke, Lu Zhe was surrounded and killed by Kai'Sa and the recently-resurrected Syndra.

Shen Qiao let out a faux-sorrowful sigh. "Ai. Better luck next time."

"Better luck next time," Old Wo echoed.

"Better luck next time," Qian Bao chimed in.

"With a partner like this, who are you supposed to turn to in times of need?" Er-Hua asked.

Lu Zhe huffed out a bitter laugh.

When he emerged from their base after respawning, he saw that Shen Qiao and Old Wo had just killed COCO's Thresh again. They were already starting to push onwards to COCO's base. As Lu Zhe moved Lee Sin towards the middle lane to meet up with them, he said, "Get the Baron, get the Baron."

That was the safer move. COCO still had four living champions, after all.

But Shen Qiao called out, "We can do it, we can do it, we can do it—Syndra doesn't have flash up right now!"

Er-Hua and the others hadn't received orders from Lu Zhe in a long time. Now, hearing two conflicting commands, they all froze, unsure of what to do. Er-Hua ultimately asked, "The Baron? Do we go for the Baron?"

"Captain!" Old Wo called out. "What's your command?"

On the monitors—

As soon as Shen Qiao finished saying they could take COCO down, Lu Zhe's Lee Sin was the first to spring into action. He sent Kai'Sa flying with a kick, delivering her straight into the middle of DG's forces.

Ornn immediately summoned his elemental and managed to hit three people, but unfortunately his damage wasn't high enough—he had no noticeable effect on the battle. After DG got rid of Syndra, they turned on the tanky Ornn to snuff him out as well.

From the back of DG's formation, Old Wo said, "I get it, Dog Lu, I understand. You just want to get a pentakill with me."

It wasn't until DG crushed COCO's base, without going after Baron Nashor first, that Lu Zhe leaned back in his chair. He turned to Shen Qiao with a smile in his eyes, lifting his brows and saying—

"I didn't want to charge in either. But the thing is… there's someone who didn't want to listen. What choice did I have, but to indulge him?"

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