WHEN AN ALPHA IS MARKED BY ONE OF HIS OWN KIND

Chapter 100

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During the halftime break.

Shen Qiao was in somewhat low spirits. Just now, he'd gotten his best champion Renekton in that last game. But he'd failed to win an advantage for the rest of his team. He felt he was responsible for seeing that game through to the end.

In other words, in Shen Qiao's mind, he was the one who was most at fault for that loss.

If his counter-ganking sense had been a bit stronger, maybe he wouldn't have been ganked by WTG so much early on. Maybe he wouldn't have allowed WTG to build up so much momentum. And maybe now it would be DG who was at match point, and WTG who was feeling more pressure.

But he hadn't played well.

Renekton hadn't flourished.

Shen Qiao sat in silence in the lounge. Lu Zhe looked at him, then looked over at Old Wo who was sipping at his thermos with his head bowed. Er-Hua was looking at his phone, watching something or the other. Qian Bao was able to self-regulate her mood and chat with Coach Fang about how she'd played Azir in that last round.

She felt she hadn't been good enough with Azir either.

But Qian Bao had practiced two types of middle lane champions that year. One was the high-burst, high-damage type like LeBlanc, capable of putting pressure on her opponent or winning an advantage with a solo kill so that she could squeeze in some time to support the top and bottom lanes.

The other type consisted of champions like Nautilus and Galio. These weren't champions who could pursue a solo kill, but would instead weather the damage from the enemy mid-laner. With this type of champion, Qian Bao would be expected to always keep her eye on the other lanes and the situation in the jungle, so that she could rush over to assist wherever she was needed, arriving sooner than the other team's backup.

Through that style of play, she could win an advantage for DG on the other lanes and allow the jungler to collect as many resources as possible. After taking a tower and freeing up all the other champions, Qian Bao herself would have room to grow as well.

The champion Azir was very strong in the middle lane, with a wide range of skills. His sand soldiers were good for extending his range, and his ult was a good way to initiate a fight or to dissuade the enemy from pursuing while he tried to retreat. His passive could also make use of his team's turrets, making him a well-rounded champion.

But Qian Bao felt she hadn't been able to build up the momentum that she should have.

In the first round, Qian Bao had done a lot of damage with Syndra. After that, WTG had been careful to send Syndra to the ban list. Now three games had passed, and the fourth was looming. Since they were already on the ropes, she felt she may as well play it safe in the middle lane again.

She'd gotten practice with that type of champion over the past year, after all. Although she hadn't actually pulled out that trick in many official games before, it was clear that WTG was dead set on ganking DG's top laner in that match. If that was their plan, then why not compete with them to see whose support could arrive faster?

Qian Bao still remembered the practice match in which DG had used this tactic to suppress WTG.

And that was the only time WTG had lost.

Could they have practiced relentlessly to counter this specific tactic after losing that game?

Qian Bao didn't think so.

And…

Even if they'd made some adjustments since that practice game, would WTG dare switch up their current strategy after smoothly winning two games in a row? Would they do that during such a critical match?

Qian Bao didn't think they would.

In any case, DG had Plan A and Plan B when it came to their middle lane. Qian Bao would just have to personally adjust her rhythm to suit their needs. Whichever plan they went with, the others wouldn't have to make many changes to their strategies.

Coach Fang heard her out, then planned on calling Lu Zhe over to discuss the matter. But—

Lu Zhe spoke up in the lounge first.

"These last three games… let's leave the past in the past and forget about it all. Don't replay it in your minds. If you're not satisfied with your achievements in these games, in the coming year, your fans will remind you of your mistakes a hundred thousand times in your streams—so don't worry, you'll have plenty of time to review those moments."

Hearing Lu Zhe's words, Old Wo nearly spat out a mouthful of water.

Immediately after that, he had to admit that Lu Zhe was right.

In esports, only the champion received glory.

It didn't matter if you came in second, third, fourth, or eighth. In the eyes of your fans, you would be a disgrace, deserving of their harsh criticism. The team that lost in the finals would have their games nitpicked from the picks and bans stage to the end. Every single one of their mistakes would be plucked out and magnified, and forever engraved on the pillar of their life's most shameful moments.

DG didn't have to reflect upon their games yet.

If they lost, countless voices would rise up to remind them of all their mistakes, poor plays, and failures.

Coach Fang clapped his hands twice, agreeing with Lu Zhe's words.

"That's how it is—now, let's talk about our strategy for the fourth game."

……

The picks and bans of the fourth game began.

Fans of both teams were on the edges of their seats, with their hearts in their throats. Kassadin was banned by DG, along with Corki. They were clearly trying to limit WTG's options for growth in the middle lane.

WTG wasn't willing to back down either. They banned Qian Bao's LeBlanc yet again, along with Thresh and Lu Zhe's Elise.

Renekton was spared yet again.

Obviously, WTG thought they knew what DG would do when they saw that Renekton was left unbanned. But DG actually used their first pick on Graves.

When that champion was locked in, everyone at the stadium was a bit surprised to say the least.

This champion seemed like an AD, but compared to other long-range champions, he had some truly miserable shortcomings. But Graves had in fact been made to be an AD, so he wasn't an impossible pick to fill that role. In addition, he could also be played in the jungle, the top lane, or the middle lane—all of DG's players had an extremely deep pool of champions, after all.

With Graves locked in, and capable of being played in four different positions, spectators were nearly left dumbstruck.

In the domestic stream, the commentators were trying to analyze what the most suitable role for Graves would be. They talked about the champions's skills and status in that season of the game, as well as each player's personal preferences.

"This… well, everyone knows Graves isn't too powerful in the top lane, but if we look at Wolf Cub's ranked games on the Korean server, we can see that his style in the top lane is very… unique. I remember a day when he played Kalista in the top lane. His results were all a bit tragic, pretty much all negative, but the next day he switched his top lane champion to Soraka."

"That's right. Based on what we know, Shen Qiao has been playing ranked games on the Korean server with champions that you should normally never, ever choose for the top lane—like Vayne, Kai'Sa, and even Ashe. If we take all that into consideration, could he have been training to surprise us with Graves in the top lane?"

"It couldn't be, right? This is their match point game against WTG. Has he played this champion with his teammates before? This season's top lane champions are all tanks and assassins. If you want to throw an assassin onto the middle lane, sure. But what the heck is Graves supposed to be? Wolf Cub also wants to walk down the corrupt path of a top lane AD?"

"No, that can't be right. Wolf Cub has been playing very stable games. Coach Fang usually wouldn't agree to a lineup like that. Think back on DG's lineups over the course of this past year. They've been playing it by the book, for the most part. They don't usually go against the—oh? They've just locked in Galio and Leona?"

"I would guess that Galio's meant for their middle lane, Leona for their support… you know, I just remembered. Lu Zhe has played Graves in the jungle before, hasn't he? We should be seeing Graves in the jungle, Galio in the middle lane, and Leona as the support in this game."

"That makes sense. WTG isn't changing their lineup much. Wow, they've taken Syndra for their middle lane! It looks like they're ready to tank DG's lineup. And here we see them taking Kai'Sa for the bottom lane and Jayce for the top lane now…"

"They really aren't making many changes."

……

The two teams were slowly finalized—

DG had Ornn in the top lane, Graves in the jungle, Galio in the middle lane, and Miss Fortune and Leona in the bottom lane.

It would be on Ornn to engage.

Since Ornn had been chosen first, WTG had one pick left to counter him. They chose Braum, in order to block the brunt of the damage from Ornn's ult. WTG's finalized lineup was Jayce, Lee Sin, Syndra, Kai'Sa, and Braum.

Qian Bao had switched from a damage-oriented champion to a more defensive one. It was clear that DG intended to turn their style of play on its head.

When DG's lineup was finalized, WTG's voice chat filled up with the sounds of discussion—

"Wow, look at their lineup. Looks pretty familiar."

"We had that practice match after the spring tournament. This is how they played, right? But then they went on to play practice matches against other teams, so who knows how long they've been practicing this."

"Ah, who cares? Just charge at 'em and get it done, brothers."

……

That was what WTG thought.

And that was what DG's players were thinking as well.

Both sides started out steady. No one initiated a Level 1 fight. DG didn't go for it because they didn't want to give their opponent a chance to set the pace of the game. WTG held back because they didn't dare underestimate Lu Zhe, and they wanted to tackle the game calmly.

They maintained the status quo until WTG's jungler farmed enough to reach Level 4, then drifted up towards the top lane—

Since Old Wo and Er-Hua were slightly more powerful than WTG's bottom laners, Lu Zhe also headed up to the top lane, obviously wanting to see which of their top/jungle duos were stronger.

Ornn wasn't that easy to gank. Even though Jayce's damage output was high that season, Ornn was tanky enough that he couldn't be killed in a single blow or two.

When Graves arrived, Jayce and Lee Sin had already forced Ornn back to DG's tower for cover. Lu Zhe immediately used his Q, firing an explosive straight at the enemy, striking Lee Sin dead on.

With his lumbering body, Ornn did his best to stay close to the tower as he circled around. He managed to predict where Jayce and Lee Sin would strike, deftly avoiding their attacks. When Jayce's first attack hit air, he had no choice but to get closer to continue his assault.

Ornn spewed a mouthful of fire at Jayce. While Jayce used his A against him, he took a hit from DG's defending tower. Jayce had no choice but to retreat after that, but Lu Zhe went after him. Meanwhile, Lee Sin tried to finish Ornn off. Ornn only had a bit of HP remaining, after all; he was a tempting target.

At that moment, a red flash of teleportation appeared at the center of the tower—

It was Qian Bao, coming in.

Qian Bao, at Level 5, teamed up with Ornn to take Lee Sin down. Lu Zhe took a hit from Jayce, dropping his HP to a dangerously low level. He flashed towards the tower to retreat. Jayce saw that Lee Sin had gone down, but he refused to back off; he rushed up to get a kill in exchange.

But after killing Lee Sin, Qian Bao had hit Level 6. She unleashed Galio's ult, knocking Jayce into the air.

Lu Zhe, Shen Qiao, and Qian Bao focused all their firepower on him.

By the time WTG's Syndra teleported in, Jayce was already dead. Lu Zhe retreated to the tower, and Shen Qiao farmed a few more minions. When Syndra rushed in, Shen Qiao had just hit Level 6 with his two assists and minions farmed. He immediately used his ult and sent Syndra flying.

Syndra happened to be in range of DG's tower, so she took two hits from the tower as well.

Qian Bao's HP was in a pretty healthy state. Galio fanned out his wings and bore down on Syndra, hacking away more of her HP. Shen Qiao also took advantage of the situation to hit Synda with a few A attacks, his hands moving even faster than his brain.

At that time, WTG's top lane minions had yet to arrive.

Syndra didn't get a chance to do much damage. She took a crazy amount of damage from DG's tower. Even tanky champions wouldn't have been able to survive, and Syndra was just a fragile little champion. Tragically, before she could use her skills, she was felled by the concentrated attacks of the tower, Qian Bao, and Shen Qiao.

In that wave, DG took three kills and gave up no heads of their own.

WTG was starting to fall apart.

No one had expected DG to come back in such a big way after adjusting their strategies. WTG seemed to be confused by the three deaths that they'd just suffered, and upon closer inspection, they noticed that those three deaths had all been inflicted by DG's carries—Shen Qiao and Qian Bao.

Lu Zhe had also taken an assist. With DG's flourishing top and middle laners, he went on to take the Rift Herald like it was easy.

WTG's jungler didn't lose hope. After respawning, he immediately rushed towards the bottom lane to get a dragon, wanting to get back on equal footing with DG. While Lu Zhe paid a visit to DG's base, Qian Bao had already started to head down to the bottom lane. Shen Qiao's Ornn had toughened up too. After pushing back Jayce's minions, he also used his teleport to head down to the bottom lane.

It seemed WTG hadn't anticipated having to fight over a dragon. By the time Lee Sin arrived at the bottom lane, four people had already assembled on DG's side. Er-Hua's Leona jumped in and initiated the fight, locking down two of WTG's champions right away. Ornn's ult was ready again; he summoned his elemental and immediately knocked Braum into the air, preventing Braum from using his skill.

As Braum flew through the air—

Miss Fortune opened fire.

Just as WTG's champions freed themselves, Galio came crashing down onto them!

WTG seemed to have no way of coping with this quick flurry of blows from DG. Lee Sin managed to use his Q to get out of the fray. Braum barely managed to get his shield up before Galio squished him to death, leaving only Kai'Sa left to face off against them all.

Kai'Sa wasn't yet well-equipped. She was still weak, and she had no ability to fight back.

Another fight, another three kills for DG. No deaths.

After emerging from their base, Lu Zhe headed straight down to the bottom lane and helped Er-Hua push WTG's outer turret.

The illusion of a slow and steady game shattered. DG pushed ahead, launching a fierce and unrelenting assault.

"What the hell! Do they all have hearts of steel or something? Can you believe DG is playing like this at match point? How do they get this sort of momentum when they're behind? Ah, I can't believe it!"

"Ornn, Ornn, Ornn's elemental—! Braum used his ult to block it, but Wolf Cub's ult is fucking outrageous!"

"What's going on with this Miss Fortune? Using her ult as soon as it's up? I'm getting a headache just from hearing that voice line."

"Baron Nashor is coming out. They'll want eyes on the top half of the jungle. They're heading up there now… these DG players just love fighting outside the pit and stealing Baron Nashor. Everyone, keep your eyes open."

……

Unfortunately, just keeping their eyes open didn't do WTG much good.

WTG couldn't get a carry going, and they couldn't hold their own against DG's skills. Braum had just blocked Ornn's elemental when Leona rushed in. And there was also that tanky and hard-hitting Galio in the mix—

During a fight around a dragon, WTG played cautiously and tried to pull out at the right time, but they still lost Lee Sin.

Without their jungler, they didn't dare try to go after the dragon.

DG's champions were mostly at low health, so they scattered. WTG assumed they would be going back to their base, so they also split up and returned to their own base. However… DG sneakily turned around and regrouped. They stayed out of the line of sight of WTG's wards, careful to remain undetected as they crept towards Baron Nashor.

From WTG's perspective, Baron Nashor was completely undisturbed.

When in reality…

"Baron Nashor is down to seven thousand HP! WTG hasn't noticed yet?! They're heading towards a dragon. Have they not noticed that things aren't right on this map? Oh! Wolf Cub's messing around by their ward to mislead them."

"But Wolf Cub is very close to Baron Nashor's pit! WTG, come on! Ah, they've finally noticed it, but the Baron is down to four thousand HP now! Three thousand! Two thousand!"

"WTG's middle laner has teleported over, but it seems to be too late—"

"Congratulations to DG for stealing Baron Nashor! This is going to hurt WTG a lot! Are they still going to go for a team fight? No? Okay, so DG is going to take another dragon on their side, then split up and push on three lanes. They're relentless on the middle and bottom lanes. Will WTG be able to withstand this push?"

Of course, WTG managed to defend.

But that bout still allowed DG to open up a gap of seven thousand and five hundred gold between them.

As long as DG didn't make any big mistakes or give up too many opportunities to WTG, they could safely take the game.

Lu Zhe was of course no stranger to pressure and intense plays. He calmly commanded his players, leading them to use their dragon buff and gold advantage to change into their best gear before going after Baron Nashor again—where they took down four of WTG's champions in exchange for just one of their own.

This time, when they pushed to WTG's base—

WTG was defenseless.

The score was now tied.

2-2.

It would all come down to a final game.

……

[This is way too exciting! So this is the world championship? I thought DG was finished, but after watching this game, suddenly I'm not so sure? How could they be so bold with their picks and bans! Too cool!]

[I have goosebumps all over! Is this the true strength of the top division in the league?]

[Ahhhhhh, I won't stand for WTG not winning the championship!]

[DG, charge! Two-time champion! Build your own dynasty!]

[Hello? I'll support whichever one of you can get me the championship skin I want! Yes, that's how unprincipled I am! Hmph!]

[Last game!]

The viewers of the domestic livestream were just as excited as the spectators at the stadium. Everyone was looking forward to this final game. Regardless of who won, it would be the last round. Between DG and WTG, it would now depend entirely on who could play better in this final game.

For the last game, no one bothered to overthink things. They knew all that mattered was playing their very best.

WTG didn't hold back. Perhaps they felt like their loss just now hadn't been caused by their lineup, so they remained stubborn and didn't change much in the picks and bans phase. But they did add Galio to the ban list.

However, that left Elise unchecked.

DG immediately snapped up Renekton and Elise, obviously looking to rely on their top laner and jungler to make a big impact in this game.

Both sides kept going through the picks and bans, until—

The final lineups were revealed.

WTG would run Aatrox, Lee Sin, LeBlanc, Kai'Sa, and Thresh.

DG had taken Renekton, Elise, Nautilus, Miss Fortune, and Leona.

……

Truth be told, Er-Hua was the DG player who was most proficient with champions like Nautilus. Qian Bao hadn't imagined that she, an old hat at using damage-oriented champions in the middle lane, would one day be playing sustain-focused champions at the finals of the world championship.

Then again, when she thought about it, she remembered their top laner had played similar champions countless times to keep the enemy at bay. And their bottom laner also often pulled out Tahm Kench to do the same. There was nothing wrong with her, as the middle laner, taking a turn at playing more defensively.

As the game began, DG didn't run into any major problems—

However, after hitting Level 4, WTG's Lee Sin started to lurk around the top lane with LeBlanc.

Both sides were fixated on the idea of duking it out in a 3v3 on the top lane.

But this time wasn't like the last time. WTG's support was quick to arrive. Lee Sin and LeBlanc both dealt a big wave of damage, and their Aatrox was tanky. They charged in against the underleveled Renekton right away.

Shen Qiao knew they were coming. He quickly retreated to DG's tower and adjusted his position so that the enemy wouldn't be able to take him down so easily. He deliberately held back until—

Lu Zhe came up from behind Aatrox.

While farming a wave of minions in the middle lane, Qian Bao kept an eye on the top lane to choose the best moment to leap in.

Lee Sin didn't hesitate. He used his Q to leap to the tower, sticking to Renekton. LeBlanc flashed in and started her assault. Shen Qiao could tell that they were dead set on taking his life. There wasn't much he could do, but he still firmly refused to use up his own flash. Before his death, he used up all his skills to clear away some minions.

LeBlanc started to pull back, but Elise was already on her. And Qian Bao was slowly making her way to the top lane, on the hunt for Lee Sin.

But because Nautilus couldn't do enough damage and because Lee Sin was fast, Lee Sin was able to escape.

Shen Qiao's death went to the enemy LeBlanc, but Elise was still sticking to LeBlanc, refusing to let her live. Eventually, this exchange resulted in a win for DG's jungler as well—

One kill for one death.

DG didn't take much of a loss.

Although LeBlanc's flash had drawn out Lu Zhe's flash as well, at least she didn't manage to escape with her life.

The only thing was… this bout seemed to get DG nice and riled up.

Afterwards.

Old Wo and Er-Hua pushed hard against WTG's minions. Miss Fortune went up to attack their tower while Lee Sin ran down towards the bottom lane. Nautilus used up a teleport to join his teammates, helping them tank damage from the tower while giving Miss Fortune a chance to kill Thresh.

Kai'Sa wanted to flee, but Nautilus hooked her back over, as though predicting where she would try to flash to. Afterwards, Nautilus moved out of the tower's range, and Leona came in to tank the damage instead. Miss Fortune was left free to take Kai'Sa down.

Aatrox tried to teleport over from the top lane, but he was interrupted by Shen Qiao.

Qian Bao did an incredible job of providing support in the bottom lane, which allowed Old Wo to get ahead by quite a significant margin. Lu Zhe took advantage of that time to take a dragon, then brought Er-Hua and Qian Bao up to the top lane to take the Rift Herald.

Shen Qiao heard Lu Zhe's instructions through the voice chat and got ready to join them. He moved Renekton towards the river, catching a newly spawned scuttle crab along the way.

The first big team fight of the game took place right near the Rift Herald—

Renekton rushed into WTG's back line, singling Kai'Sa out. Thresh managed to save Kai'Sa in time, but Lu Zhe dropped into their back line just in time to take Kai'Sa down. Just as WTG's Aatrox and LeBlanc spun around to take their revenge on Lu Zhe, Lu Zhe used a stopwatch to go into stasis!

The stopwatch absorbed all the damage flung at Lu Zhe. At the same time, Nautilus marched into the fray, sending WTG's champions flying. Old Wo chose the perfect position before opening fire with Miss Fortune. WTG's players were trapped in a narrow passage between two rock structures. It almost seemed like they were stuck in a bottle, while Old Wo fired at them from the neck. The ones closest to the front had no choice but to use their flash to get away.

Lu Zhe's stasis had been perfectly timed. After Miss Fortune finished her attack, Er-Hua pinned down one of WTG's badly bloodied champions, and—

WTG's positioning simply wasn't good enough in that bout. They gave three kills to DG without managing to take any of their own.

LeBlanc seemed pissed; she was determined to kill Lu Zhe dead. Shen Qiao used his ult and marched right up to Lu Zhe, battling it out with LeBlanc. Ultimately, Shen Qiao managed to take down LeBlanc, whose HP had been in just slightly worse shape than his.

Then DG took the Rift Herald.

WTG's outer tower on the middle lane fell.

But after that—

WTG wasn't discouraged in the slightest. They seized an opportunity to kill Miss Fortune, then managed to take Qian Bao's Nautilus down once. They managed to catch up a bit in their headcount, and they took every chance they had to claim resources in the jungle as well.

The two teams were locked in a fierce back and forth. The gap in gold between them never exceeded two thousand. The difference wasn't substantial at all.

The team fight around Baron Nashor would be critically important.

By then, the game had already entered its twenty-third minute.

DG had yet to gain any sort of definitive advantage.

Both sides scrambled to get into position around Baron Nashor while tearing down each other's wards and waging psychological warfare on the enemy team. Shen Qiao brought his minions up to WTG's inner tower, but in DG's voice chat, he was saying to Lu Zhe and the others—

"You guys go fight. I'll see how many of them will come to me."

Renekton was an important source of damage, so naturally WTG wouldn't let him roam free. LeBlanc, Aatrox, and Kai'Sa all went over to him. He suspected only Thresh was still wandering around, while Lee Sin went back to WTG's base to change his gear.

After hearing Shen Qiao report how many of WTG's champions were headed his way, Lu Zhe said, "Let's go."

And then they launched an assault on Baron Nashor!

Shen Qiao dodged Aatrox's Q, refusing to use his flash. In the next second, he was wrapped up by LeBlanc, leaving him with no choice but to beat a hasty retreat. When LeBlanc tried to burst him down, he finally had to use his flash to get away, which allowed him to avoid Kai'Sa as well.

At the same time, Shen Qiao flung out one of his own skills to stun LeBlanc, then turned and used his ult—

Aatrox also used his ult at that moment, teaming up with LeBlanc to wail on Shen Qiao. Kai'Sa followed up with her own ult. Everyone piled their damage onto Renekton.

Shen Qiao bore the brunt of that damage, managing to reposition himself to dodge Aatrox's attack. LeBlanc got him down to low health, then split into two. Shen Qiao was at his limit. He could only fight one of them, and his brain picked nearly at random—and he caught one!

Before he died in this 1v3 fight, he took LeBlanc down with him.

During that bout, Shen Qiao used up all his skills. He'd squeezed in every bit of damage he could. Then, WTG's Thresh found Lu Zhe launching an attack on Baron Nashor. He rushed in to try to stop Lu Zhe, but Leona was there to stop him in turn. With a Q from Old Wo, Thresh was eliminated.

Qian Bao wandered through the underbrush, trying to run into Lee Sin, who would surely try to steal Baron Nashor out from under them.

As expected—

She sent a hook flying and managed to trick Lee Sin into giving up his flash.

When Baron Nashor was low on health, Old Wo pulled out a creative stunt and strayed farther away. In perfect time to Lu Zhe's moves, Old Wo opened fire on the pit. Er-Hua calmly patrolled nearby, spotting Lee Sin lurking in the underbrush. He took the initiative to flash over to Lee Sin, immediately using up his ult to get Lee Sin under his control.

WTG could only watch as DG took down Baron Nashor.

But very soon after that, DG started to push towards WTG's base with Baron Nashor, intending to tear straight through WTG's defenses. Of course, WTG wouldn't let them have their way. They all regrouped and fought back. With their towers providing cover, WTG managed to pull off a miracle—they took three kills, giving up only one.

Then WTG went and took a dragon.

And after that, they split their forces and launched an attack on DG's towers.

Like something out of a dream, the situation was turned on its head.

Even though WTG's middle lane towers and inhibitor were gone, it was DG who looked like they were at a disadvantage. Because if DG made a single mistake during the next Baron Nashor fight, it was WTG who would be able to push all the way to their base.

And this time, WTG moved in on Baron Nashor first.

Shen Qiao and Old Wo lurked nearby, rushing in when Baron Nashor was down to five thousand HP. Renekton used his ult, followed by Leona—

WTG continued to fight back, unwilling to give up Baron Nashor. Lee Sin continued to focus his attacks on the Baron, while the other WTG champions turned back to confront DG. Lu Zhe cut Kai'Sa down once more, while Leona went up against LeBlanc. Renekton and Miss Fortune went wild, starting to collect heads!

Aatrox used his ult then, swooping over to do some damage to Miss Fortune. But Nautilus immediately hooked him and yanked him away, protecting DG's DPS!

Thresh threw Kai'Sa a lantern, pulling her away before she could be hacked to death.

Lee Sin, while focusing solely on Baron Nashor, was felled by Miss Fortune's ult.

Renekton teamed up with Elise to forcibly take Kai'Sa down, then went after LeBlanc. Miss Fortune was finally taken down by Aatrox, while Qian Bao dragged Thresh over…

Neither side would give an inch!

In the end, WTG's Kai'Sa, LeBlanc, and Lee Sin were extinguished, leaving only a bloodied Aatrox and Thresh behind. On DG's side, Miss Fortune was taken out, leaving Leona, Nautilus, Elise, and Renekton.

DG smoothly took over the fight against Baron Nashor, but Aatrox suddenly lashed out as well. Shen Qiao met his challenge and took him on, one-on-one, until they took each other out… giving DG enough time to take down Baron Nashor!

When DG next advanced towards WTG's base, Leona headed up the charge, rushing in for the kill as soon as she saw the enemy coming to greet them. Qian Bao followed close behind. Lu Zhe's equipment was also in great shape at that point, and Elise's damage potential was extremely high—

The game reached its thirty-ninth minute.

WTG lost their second Nexus turret.

LeBlanc charged out of the fountain after respawning, teaming up with Lee Sin against Miss Fortune before spinning around to take a shot at Elise.

Elise went into stasis, and Nautilus came through with a save. Leona stuck to Aatrox like glue, and the respawned Renekton teleported over to keep doling out damage to the Nexus. The Nexus's HP dropped and dropped…

"Fifty percent!"

"Thirty percent!"

"Can WTG still find a way to fight back?"

"This…"

"Congratulations to Team DG! Once again, they are this year's world champions! They've remained the LPL's one and only championship-winning team, taking two consecutive titles!"

……

Even after he pulled off his headset, Shen Qiao remained in his seat. Not moving, not standing.

The music at the arena was loud and uplifting. Shen Qiao looked to his side, at Lu Zhe. He was still trapped in that moment when the Nexus exploded, like time had frozen in those few seconds.

A few seconds later, a hand stretched out towards him. Lu Zhe was reaching out, to help him up—

Shen Qiao suddenly surged out of his chair and flung his arms around Lu Zhe!

Lu Zhe could feel that those arms around him were trembling.

He lifted his right hand and pressed it to Shen Qiao's nape. As the cheers and screams of the crowd rang out around them, he smiled at Shen Qiao and said—

"See? I told you I would give you a trophy if you came to me. Didn't I keep my promise?"

Hearing Lu Zhe's voice flowing into his ears at such a close range, Shen Qiao nodded slowly and agreed, "Mm."

But he didn't release Lu Zhe.

The two embraced for a long time. The spectators below the stage had taken notice. Old Wo was coughing aggressively to try to remind them of where they were. Qian Bao was just laughing, and Er-Hua seemed to be caught between wanting to also chide them and wanting to just watch.

Lu Zhe heard them and patted Shen Qiao's shoulder. "Don't wanna go grab the trophy?"

Shen Qiao finally released him. His eyes looked a little red from the emotions threatening to burst out of him. He stood still for a moment, then looked to the side and said, "Let's go. Why wouldn't we go?"

Lu Zhe's eyes were full of light. He continued to gaze at Shen Qiao, and then—

He took Shen Qiao's hand, leading him towards the massive trophy waiting for them and their teammates.

Gold rays of light sprinkled down from above, and colorful streamers drifted through the air. In that moment, that whole stage belonged to Team DG. When Shen Qiao and Lu Zhe hoisted the trophy, their rings glinted on their fingers in the dazzling light—one silver, one gold.

Their watches caught the light as well—one with a black band, one blue, both matching in style.

The screams from the crowd were so loud that they nearly shattered the walls of the venue.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhh!"

"DG! DG! DG! DG!"

"I love you all!"

"Two-time champs! Two-time champs! Two-time champs!"

Amidst those raucous cheers, Old Wo and the others—who'd already won one world championship—managed to remain relatively calm. It was only Shen Qiao's mood that fluctuated wildly, because to him—this championship was extremely meaningful.

As soon as they set down their trophy, the screen flashed behind them and showed the FMVP of the match—

But Shen Qiao didn't even care enough to look.

In today's game, his Renekton had been good, and Lu Zhe had set a good rhythm with Elise early on. Old Wo's damage with Miss Fortune has also been considerable, and Er-Hua's control with Leona could only be described as beautiful. Qian Bao's performance was even more dazzling.

But then Lu Zhe suddenly nudged Shen Qiao with his arm.

Shen Qiao looked only at him, meeting his gaze.

The cameras at the venue captured their images clearly, and another wave of shrill shrieks rippled through the crowd.

The bullet comments in the domestic livestream were also blowing up.

[I was just about to say… they were hugging and holding hands earlier? Am I the only one who thinks this feels kinda off? Doesn't anyone remember they're both alphas?]

[The moment they lifted the trophy… who took a screenshot of those rings? Quick, hand it over!]

[Wolf Cub is the FMVP, but he doesn't even seem to know it! He's only looking at Lu Zhe… ah, man. Just take the trophy! Why do we need all this dog food right now!"

[Ever since the end of the game, Wolf Cub has looked totally out of it. It's like he hasn't even realized they've become the champions yet.]

[I don't care about any of that, I'm a Wolf Cub fan anyway! Wolfy, come to Mama!]

……

At the venue—

With Lu Zhe's nudge to remind him, Shen Qiao finally turned and looked up at the big screens. Upon seeing his own Renekton named the FMVP of the match, his eyes widened. The host and interpreter had already come over with microphones, preparing to interview him.

After congratulating all the players, the host first asked Lu Zhe, "How does it feel to lead your team to a world championship win for a second time?"

Lu Zhe smiled. "The first time felt fresh, and the second time feels more familiar. Feels pretty good. But I can't say I'm the only one who led the team here. Everyone was extremely strong this season. Winning this trophy isn't something I could have accomplished on my own. Qiaoqiao, Er-Hua, Old Wo, and Qian Bao all played extremely well. We worked together to become the champions, but it's my top laner's first time standing on this stage. I think he hasn't come to his senses yet."

The host looked a bit surprised, as though unsure of whether Lu Zhe had said 'my' or 'our' top laner.

But they still turned to Shen Qiao with the microphone next and asked, "May we ask our FMVP how he feels after today's game?"

Although Shen Qiao felt almost like he was having an out-of-body experience, he still dutifully answered the interviewer's question. "I feel like my teammates played very well today. They were in a good state, which pulled me into a good state too. In the third game, I actually didn't play very well with Renekton, but fortunately… I was able to play this champion properly in the fifth round."

The host also asked about what Lu Zhe had said earlier—that Shen Qiao had yet to react to his first championship win. Was that true?

Shen Qiao looked down at the microphone. He took a moment to think, then looked over at Lu Zhe and saw that the other party was smiling at him from the side.

For some reason, Shen Qiao smiled as well.

"It's true," he said. "I really haven't fully reacted to it yet. This is like… waiting for something for a really, really long time. Something, someone. Originally, you felt so far away. But you take one step forward at a time. One step, then another. You work hard, you keep trying, and one day—you reach your goal."

The interviewer seized upon the important part this time. "Someone? Is there 'someone' you'd like to thank? You can talk about that now, if you'd like."

The smile on Shen Qiao's lips grew a little wider.

"I want to thank my teammates first," he said. "Each and every one of them is very strong. Old Wo and Er-Hua never fall under pressure on the bottom lane. Old Wo's DPS has always been very stable, and Er-Hua's hooks never let you down. And Qian Bao, in the middle lane, is a master of many styles of play. She can carry, she can sustain. It doesn't matter what her role is, she'll play it well. I admire them…"

He very earnestly listed out his teammate's virtues and strengths.

Then he let out a deep breath.

Like he needed to pause.

Everyone had already realized that in Shen Qiao's words of praise, Lu Zhe had yet to be mentioned.

They also knew what the final moments of Shen Qiao's speech would focus on.

The fans below the stage were extremely nervous, not knowing what they would hear.

As everyone waited with bated breath, Shen Qiao's deep voice rang out again. He didn't dare look at Lu Zhe, who stood next to him. He kept his gaze on the microphone in his hands, and his attention finally settled on the golden band on his finger.

"Finally, I want to thank Lu Zhe—

"I want to thank him for appearing in my life and bringing me all the good, all the joy I could dream of. He said that I was the light in his life, that I was his sun, but actually… he's my salvation.

"I want to say that from the beginning to now, I've never felt a single moment of regret."

Never regretted falling in love with him.

Never regretted leaving home, and walking down the path of a professional esports player.

Never regretted coming to DG.

Lu Zhe heard those words, which were so like a confession, and he heard the shrieks coming from the crowd. He thought back to the moment he'd first met Shen Qiao. Back then, one of them had been standing in the shade of a building while the other stood in the sun.

It had felt like an insurmountable distance existed between them.

Now.

They finally stood side-by-side.

This radiant stage couldn't erase all the shadows of their past or smooth down the thorns of the difficult path they'd walked. But fortunately, the stage cast a golden glow of glory upon them.

All the suffering they'd overcome to bask in this golden rain had been worthwhile.

 

Author's Notes:

The main story ends here!

The rest of the content will be extras. I think there'll be two or three, mm!

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