After winning nine rounds in a row while double queueing with Chi Shuo, Ye Shaoyang saw that it was half past noon. He rubbed his sore neck and said to his viewers, "Everyone, go grab lunch. I'll take a two-hour break, then continue in the afternoon."
He ended the stream and instantly saw a private message come through from the boss.
[Jungler No. 8]: Xiao Bai, are you planning to become a full-time streamer?
Being a streamer and being a professional esports player were two different career paths. The focal point was different for each. Chi Shuo still couldn't tell what Xiao Bai's goal was. Did he want to be a streamer, or was he thinking about going pro?
Ye Shaoyang jokingly answered, "I only know how to play three mages right now. My hero pool is more shallow than a washbasin. I'll take the Abyssal Lord up the national leaderboards first, then figure it out."
Hearing that, Chi Shuo sent over a suggestion: [Actually, there's a faster way to practice heroes.]
Ye Shaoyang's interest was piqued. "Oh?"
Chi Shuo: [Go 1v1 in the arena, it's the fastest way to get familiar with a hero's skills and play style.]
Ye Shaoyang considered it for a moment, then nodded in agreement. "Good point. A ranked match takes at least twenty minutes, while 1v1 games are just two or three minutes per round. You get to see how different heroes work out against each other too."
Chi Shuo: [Interested in going 1v1 with me for a few rounds?]
Going 1v1 was the easiest way to test a person's true strength and gauge their skill level and understanding of a hero.
Chi Shuo left Ye Shaoyang's team and entered the 'Arena' mode in the game. He created a room there and invited Xiao Bai in, then typed: [Come on. Let's see if my assassins can solo kill your Abyssal Lord.]
Ye Shaoyang happily accepted that invitation. During all those low-ranked games he'd played, the enemy assassins had posed no threat to him with all the experience he had under his belt. The boss he met today had demonstrated quite a high level of skill, though. Going PvP against him would be worth his time.
Just as Ye Shaoyang entered the Arena room, he saw a notification pop up on his screen.
Your friend [Jungler No. 8] has sent you a gift. Please check your inbox.
Ye Shaoyang froze for a second. "A gift? What is it?"
Chi Shuo wrote: [The Abyssal Lord's legendary skin, Bloody Avenger. This skin changes the special effects of the Abyssal Lord's skills. Should play a bit smoother than the default skin. Try it out.]
Every time Gods War released a new hero, they released new skins for that hero as well. Players could choose the skin they preferred to use while they played. Different skins granted heroes different appearances, but had no effect on their stats.
Ye Shaoyang had been using the Abyssal Lord's default skin, which portrayed the Abyssal Lord as a mage in a black cloak, wearing a black hood and holding a staff of skulls.
After Ye Shaoyang equipped the new skin, the Abyssal Lord's cloak became a red and black set of mage's robes. The hood disappeared, replaced by a mask that covered the Abyssal Lord's face. The mask was adorned with a blood-red decorative pattern. The old staff of skulls also disappeared, replaced by a red crystal ball. A fine mist of blood circled the crystal ball. To emphasize the title of 'Bloody Avenger', the explosive special effects that lit up the screen when the Abyssal Lord detonated his marks had also become much more dazzling than the version that came with the default skin.
Ye Shaoyang liked the new skin very much. He typed into the chat: [Thank you, boss. The new skin is really cool.]
Chi Shuo: [No need to thank me. Let's try a 1v1 with the new skin?]
Ye Shaoyang: [Sure.]
The two of them hit 'ready', and the map soon loaded up.
The 1v1 map was relatively simple. There was only one lane that ran down the middle of the map, dotted with a few bushes and trees that could conceal a hero's presence. The winner of a 1v1 was determined in one of two ways—either the player who killed the other first won, or the player who blew up the other's base crystal first won. Opponents in a 1v1 could decide on a method of victory before starting their match.
When assassins and mages faced off, there was no need to attack the base.
Ye Shaoyang simply suggested: [Whoever takes the other person's head first wins. How's that?]
Chi Shuo: [Okay.]
The game began. Minions started to emerge from the two bases on opposite sides of the map, marching forward to meet in the middle.
The two players began to farm these minions to level up.
Ye Shaoyang discovered that the boss's farming skills were very good. Even when he used his shadows to try to force his opponent out of position, his opponent didn't miss a single minion. The boss was very good at calculating the minions' health and getting the last blow; it was very likely that he'd specifically honed these skills before.
It was common for high-level players to practice farming on their own. Ye Shaoyang didn't give it too much thought. He fixed his gaze on the computer monitor and continued to farm creeps. Once he'd amassed enough gold, he bought the Boots of Cooling for his hero, which increased his movement speed and shortened his cooldown times.
Since mages had a longer range while assassins had a shorter one, Ye Shaoyang had a bit of an advantage in early-game.
Soon, a bolt of light shot out from both heroes at the exact same time. The two players had both reached Level 6.
At that point, Ye Shaoyang's Abyssal Lord had 80% of his HP left. Chi Shuo's Bloodstained Assassin was down to 50%.
No matter how Ye Shaoyang looked at it, he was sure he could kill his enemy.
Ye Shaoyang launched a decisive attack. He swiftly slammed the keys to execute his skills, then watched as three shadows rushed across the screen like wind. Those shadows appeared beside the assassin, and three abyssal marks were instantly planted on the assassin's body!
After inflicting his marks, Ye Shaoyang immediately used his ult—
However, a line of text suddenly appeared on his screen.
Ye Shaoyang froze, then saw the symbol of a blood-red dagger appear on his own body.
He instinctively tried to dodge, but the assassin was extremely nimble and agile. The assassin swiftly appeared behind him and stabbed a sharp blade into his body—blood splashed out in a wide arc, and the Abyssal Lord's HP was shaved down to zero in just one second?!
Looking at the grayed out screen of defeat, Ye Shaoyang couldn't help but type: [You can even counter in that situation?]
Chi Shuo wrote: [You were careless. The Bloodstained Assassin has the ability to go invisible. I tracked the timing of your skills so that I could let you waste your ult, then counter-kill you.]
Ye Shaoyang sent his praise: [Your predictive skills are powerful.]
He had attacked so suddenly, thinking he could kill off his opponent in a split second. But in the end, the assassin had used his stealth to slip away and dodge Ye Shaoyang's ult. The counterattack had come so swiftly that Ye Shaoyang didn't even have time to use his flash before his life was claimed.
Chi Shuo typed: [The Bloodstained Assassin is the most capable assassin-type hero when it comes to getting solo kills. Plus, he has a passive—the lower his HP, the higher his attack. He's a 'blood sacrifice' hero, who takes damage to do damage.]
Ye Shaoyang: [666.]
It was only when he faced off a true expert that Ye Shaoyang realized his own understanding of the game was far from comprehensive.
While taking notes on every hero, Ye Shaoyang had gone through all their skills and stats, but he only came away with a general understanding of them. He couldn't possibly memorize the skills of over one hundred heroes in such a short span of time. He'd primarily focused on mid lane heroes, and he hadn't played the Bloodstained Assassin even once. It was no wonder he didn't know all the tricks of this hero.
But the boss was an expert jungler. His timing with assassins was extremely precise.
Stealthing at the exact second Ye Shaoyang used his ult, then swiftly circling around to counterattack from behind—
This kind of terrifying jungler was a fragile hero's worst nightmare.
Chi Shuo continued: [The Bloodstained Assassin deals a lot of damage when he goes in for a solo kill, but he does have one critical flaw—he doesn't work well in team fights. He dies off too easily.]
Ye Shaoyang gave that some thought. He typed back: [Because he needs to be at low health to burst. His damage output is highest when he's wounded. In team fights, there are too many AoE and crowd control skills in play. It's hard for him to find the right opportunity to strike?]
Chi Shuo: [Right. If he goes into a team fight at full health, he can't do much damage. If he goes in wounded, it's easy for him to be killed.]
An assassin like that was sure to put extremely high demands on the player's game sense. Once a teammate initiated a team fight, when exactly was the assassin supposed to jump in? If he went in too early, he could be offed in a second. If he went in too late, all his teammates would be dead already; he would only be able to collect their bodies.
Ye Shaoyang hit 'ready' once more. He typed back: [Let's go again.]
He was much more cautious in the second round. He didn't go out of his way to attack the assassin.
However, the Bloodstained Assassin had a skill that allowed him to sacrifice his own HP. That was the way a 'blood sacrifice' hero played.
Even if you refused to attack him, he could inflict damage upon himself.
This kind of hero was extremely difficult to deal with. If you attacked him and couldn't take him down in one go, he could turn around and take your head once his health was low. If you didn't attack him, he could willingly sacrifice his own HP and get a solo kill on you anyway.
And so, after both players hit Level 6, Ye Shaoyang suddenly used his flash and a shadow to move all the way back to his defensive tower. He escaped Chi Shuo's range before Chi Shuo could even finish using his skills.
Ye Shaoyang grinned and typed: [Can't hit me, huh?]
Chi Shuo: […you run pretty fast.]
This kind of assassin had another weakness—their short range.
The assassin couldn't be defeated? Then Ye Shaoyang would run first, then deal with him once his skills were all on cooldown.
Although Ye Shaoyang didn't have a deep enough understanding of his hero, he had plenty of professional experience. There were many things that he understood in an instant.
Chi Shuo found that Xiao Bai played the game with a great deal of 'instinct'. After taking one loss, Xiao Bai had quickly memorized Chi Shuo's rhythm. He decisively fled with his flash this time. His ability to learn and his ability to apply what he learned in practice were both very strong.
This 'instinct' was a difficult thing to describe. As Coach Lin would put it, this was 'game sense'. Xiao Bai's game sense was extremely sharp. He was always able to clearly and accurately judge his circumstances and determine his next move.
Chi Shuo's appreciation of him grew by a few measures. He typed: [Try the Illusionist.]
Ye Shaoyang switched over to the Illusionist and continued to 1v1 Chi Shuo.
The map loaded. Both players patiently farmed minions until they reached Level 6. Chi Shuo used his own skill to lower his HP, then looked for an opportunity to launch an attack. Ye Shaoyang threw over a 'Dizzying Illusion' and stunned Chi Shuo, then instantly killed him in a second.
As he took in the sight of the assassin lying at his feet, Ye Shaoyang grinned and typed: [This time, you were careless.]
Chi Shuo sent over his praise: [That timing was pretty good.]
Ye Shaoyang: [Mm. As long as I can stun them, I can leave these fragile assassins with no choice but to die.]
Chi Shuo: [Countering picks is a very complex thing. You're already very skilled at playing the Abyssal Lord. It's only a matter of time before you hit the national leaderboards. But once you reach 20 stars at King rank, games will start testing the depth of your hero pool. Being able to play three heroes is far from enough.]
So that was why he'd taken the initiative to go 1v1 against Ye Shaoyang.
Ye Shaoyang's hero pool was indeed very shallow. He only knew three mages, and he was only especially strong with the Abyssal Lord. Forget about playing professionally. He would struggle even in higher-ranked online games.
Expanding his hero pool was a necessity. In his previous life, he had been known by his opponents and coaches as an 'all-round mid laner'. He could play all mage-type heroes, so opposing coaches could never fully lock him down during the B&P stage.
But he couldn't fatten himself up in one meal. Everything had to be done at its own pace.
At that moment, Qin Rui lightly called out from behind Ye Shaoyang, "Ge, lunch is ready. Don't forget to eat on time."
Ye Shaoyang just so happened to be feeling hungry, so he typed out: [Thanks for training with me, boss. Let's go eat lunch first.]
He paused for a moment, then added: [If you're free later, can I hit you up for more 1v1 games?]
Ye Shaoyang's eyes were filled up with the excitement of meeting a true master.
A long winning streak in low-ranked games was meaningless.
Practicing against masters was the only way Ye Shaoyang could improve quickly.
Chi Shuo answered: [Sure, let's play again when there's time.]
Next to him, Coach Lin blinked with surprise. "You're really going to be this Xiao Bai's gaming buddy? And you're coaching him?!"
Chi Shuo had been the Season 7 champion of the World Individuals Tournament.
The Bloodstained Assassin was one of his most famed heroes.
Countless experts and pros on the national server tried to get Chi Shuo to PvP them, but they were all summarily rejected by Chi Shuo. No one could have imagined that he would play some teaching games with a streamer today. It was plain to see how much he valued this Xiao Bai.
Lin Feng leaned in and watched the replay of their earlier match. He furrowed his brow and said, "You went out of position on purpose here, right? How could your assassin be stunned by the Illusionist so easily?"
Chi Shuo calmly answered, "That was the only way to gauge his true potential. Although I did leave him an opening, his reaction was very quick. He instantly seized that opportunity."
Chi Shuo pointed at the replay on the computer monitor. "His reaction time was around 0.2 seconds, about the same as mine. He's incredibly talented. After he practices some more, I might not have the upper hand when we PvP."
Lin Feng fell deep into thought for a moment and studied the screen. "Xiao Bai's reaction speed is indeed very fast. I wonder how old he is? We'll have to observe him for a while longer to determine whether or not he's suitable for professional play."
He paused there, then suggested, "Since Xiao Bai isn't a tactician being trained up by another team, you don't need to spend so much time and energy on him. Playoffs are coming up soon. Let's focus on our games. I'll take care of Xiao Bai. How about you give me this alt, and I'll chat with him?"
Chi Shuo didn't return the alt to the coach. Instead, he said, "I won't let this get in the way of our games. I'll keep an eye on him."
During the few ranked matches they'd played together, Chi Shuo had felt a strange sort of tacit understanding between him and this Xiao Bai.
When Chi Shuo wanted to attack, Xiao Bai would instantly flash in and cripple the enemy, helping him by draining the enemy's HP.
When Chi Shuo wanted to retreat, Xiao Bai swiftly fell back as well. He never dragged his feet.
When the two of them entered the range of an enemy tower to pursue an opponent, they would take turns tanking damage from the tower. Even without exchanging a word, they knew to protect each other.
They didn't communicate much through the voice chat, but they always knew exactly what the other was thinking.
This kind of tacit understanding was exceedingly rare.
Only masters who saw and judged the field in the exact same way could establish such a strong sense of tacit understanding.
Xiao Bai couldn't play many heroes yet, and he didn't know much about which heroes countered others.
But strangely, he and Chi Shuo could still play on the same wavelength.
That was one reason Chi Shuo wanted to continue keeping in touch with Xiao Bai.
He had a gut feeling.
He'd discovered a budding prodigy.
Perhaps they, Team Tianhuan, could once again build up the long-abandoned 'mid/jungle team-up' style of play?