ALL-ROUND MID LANER

Chapter 38

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Chi Shuo was being targeted too viciously. He finally got a rare chance to perform well in the second game, only to be defeated in a critical team fight. How was he to find a breakthrough point now?

If Team Tianhuan's players lost their composure now and lost in a complete 0-3 shutout, there would be no need for Ye Shaoyang to join a team like that. When gauging the potential of a team, it wasn't just how the team played when they had an advantage that mattered. How a team bore the pressure of being at a disadvantage, of having to fight an uphill battle—that was the easiest way to determine the true state of a team.

Playoffs games were best of five matches, with three wins needed for one side to be deemed the victor. After two games were played, there was a relatively long break.

The five players of Team Tianhuan all stood up and grouped up with their coach off to the side, like they were discussing their battle plans. Team Beimu didn't just sit around idly either. Their coach scooted over to the captain Zhao Xinping and whispered in her ear, confirming some strategy or another.

Some time later, the third game began.

Yao Mu smiled slightly and said, "Welcome back! We're live at the S9 playoffs stage. Currently, Tianhuan and Beimu stand at 0-2 in their best of five match. Beimu has taken the lead and brought us to match point!"

Ming Yu said, "It's do or die for Tianhuan now. They only have one path to victory left. If they lose, they'll be eliminated and sent home. Let's see what the third picks and bans stage has in store for us!"

The third game started much like the first two. Beimu continued to ban Chi Shuo's jungling heroes, and Tianhuan banned a marksman as well as Zhao Xin'an's favored top lane hero, the Vampiric Duke.

Both sides began to choose their heroes.

What surprised Ye Shaoyang was that Tianhuan started by choosing their mid laner, top laner, and marksman. They didn't use one of their first three picks on a jungler? That meant in the next round of bans, the opposing coach could ban even more of Chi Shuo's heroes!

In professional games, the picks and bans stage was different from that of online matches. The picks and bans were each split into two phases.

In the first phase, each side could ban two heroes, and then they would take turns each choosing three heroes. In the second phase, each side would ban two more heroes, then alternatingly choose the final two heroes for their team. That made the whole picks and bans stage a little more complex.

Beimu used their first phase bans to ban two junglers, but Tianhuan didn't use their first phase picks to choose a jungler. That meant Beimu could continue to ban junglers in the second phase, ultimately banning a total of four junglers!

What would Chi Shuo do? What exactly was Tianhuan's coach thinking?

Ye Shaoyang furrowed his brow, looking off to the side of the soundproofed rooms on stage. Coach Lin's expression was still relatively calm, and Chi Shuo's expression was mild and composed as well. This was clearly something they had discussed in advance.

The two teams swiftly finished choosing their heroes.

In the instant that the lineups were finalized, a sharp gasp rippled through the crowd.

Tianhuan's heroes were…

The Holy Knight as their top laner, the Destruction Mage as their mid laner, the Godly Sniper as their marksman, the Radiant Shield as their support, and the Black Dragon Knight as their… top laner?

What was going on here? Why were there two top laners?

Of course, the Holy Knight could also be played as a support. But the Radiant Shield was a support through and through. Did that mean there were two supports?

Where was their jungler?

The two commentators were also a bit baffled. They met each other's gazes before Yao Mu hesitantly said, "This team comp is very tanky. The Holy Knight, the Black Dragon Knight, and the Radiant Shield are three very sturdy heroes who can be played on the front lines. But with this lineup… who will be playing jungler?"

Ming Yu said, "The Black Holy Knight is a definite top laner. He's very good in team fights and very good at resisting pressure. The Radiant Shield is a definite support, without much damage potential at all. The Holy Knight can be played as a top laner or a support… but he can't be a jungler, can he?"

Then, the five members of Team Tianhuan started to swap their chosen heroes into the slots where they belonged.

The Holy Knight was, unbelievably, swapped into the second position—the jungler's position, for Chi Shuo to use. Chi Shuo changed the hero's basic skill to 'smite', which was commonly used by junglers. Once again, the whole crowd gasped.

Yao Mu was stunned silent for a moment. "It really is the Holy Knight in the jungle!"

"My god!" Ming Yu exclaimed. "What is Captain Chi thinking, using a meat shield in the jungle?"

"The Holy Knight can't do much damage," Yao Mu said. "Even if he gets his optimal equipment in late-game, he's only suitable for fending off the enemy and tanking damage. So, usually he's played in the top lane or as a support. Using the Holy Knight in the jungle… this is a first in a professional game."

Somewhat mournfully, Ming Yu said, "Could it be that Chi Shuo had been targeted by the enemy so much that he has no choice but to play a meat shield as a jungler? He's telling the enemy, 'You guys like invading our jungle? Come on, then. I'll run a meaty tank. See if you can kill me now. If you can, I'll admit defeat.'"

Yao Mu helplessly said, "But if they do this, their whole team won't have enough DPS. Unless…"

Her gaze skimmed over the team comp again. "Unless they want their mid laner to C in this round?"

Everyone in the stadium followed Yao Mu's words, which led them to check out the mid laner's hero as well.

Qu Jiang had chosen the Destruction Mage, Rhodes. Among all mages, his base damage was the highest. Qu Jiang could play him as an 'artillery mage', rooting himself to one spot and firing off all his skills.

This hero's attack skill released six blades of black mist that carved a curved trajectory through the air. If all six blades of mist hit their target, they could instantly slay a person, doling out a terrifying amount of damage. However, if they missed, that would just be an awkward magic show. The six blades of mist would dance in a circle in midair, and it would be a very lonely dance.

Could Qu Jiang handle this huge responsibility?

The game began.

When the enemy saw that Chi Shuo had taken the Holy Knight into the jungle, they didn't want to counter-jungle at all. Because the Holy Knight had such a high base defense, Beimu wouldn't necessarily be able to take him down even if they sent four heroes in against him. Everyone could already tell that Tianhuan's core in this round would be either their mid laner or their marksman; the enemy could simply target those two positions.

At the start of the game, Chi Shuo immediately went after Tianhuan's blue buff. But the Holy Knight was just too slow and cumbersome; his farming efficiency in the jungle was very poor. Even trying to kill off the blue buff took ages. When the blue buff was down to 1,200 HP, Chi Shuo used up his smite. But even after using his smite, the blue buff still had 200 HP left…

Chi Shuo had been playing jungler for so many years. He couldn't possibly have miscalculated the buff's remaining HP, right?

At just that time, the mid laner Qu Jiang emerged from under his tower and deftly used a Q skill to take the blue buff.

Everyone in the crowd was stunned speechless.

The bullet comments in the livestream blew up—

[Captain Chi deliberately left the blue for Qu Jiang?!]

[He'll even give up the first blue. Is he becoming an ornamental jungler?]

[Captain Chi is so tragic, he can't get going as the jungler, so he makes himself into a tool and works for his teammates. As a fan of his for four years already, this is really hard to watch.]

[My Captain Chi is supposed to be the jungler, the core. T_T]

Ye Shaoyang sat below the stage and looked towards Chi Shuo with some surprise. After giving the blue buff to the mid laner, Chi Shuo went down to the bottom lane to attack the red buff, whittling down its HP to the last drop and ultimately leaving it to the bottom laner Old Nie.

The jungler gave away both buffs at the start of the game?

That was the same as completely sacrificing his own potential for development, in order to ensure his teammates had a chance to level up quickly.

Even though Qin Rui knew nothing, he couldn't help but feel an ache as he watched this. "Is it that Captain Chi has been targeted too fiercely, so he decided not to take the buffs anymore? He gave the blue buff to the mid laner, and the red buff to the marksman?"

Ye Shaoyang thought deeply for a while. With a rather complex feeling, he said, "As the captain, he's made these sacrifices for the team. This is an opportunity for Tianhuan. They can't lose this third game."

Tianhuan's thought process in this game was to let the jungler become an instrument in creating two carries in the team, leading to a breakthrough in the middle lane.

Chi Shuo played the Holy Knight in the jungle, which was a completely unprecedented move. He gave all the resources in the jungle to his teammates. As a result, when Qu Jiang and Old Nie both hit Level 6, Chi Shuo was still only at Level 4.

Then, everyone watched on in shock as the game declared—

First Blood!

Qu Jiang's Destruction Mage immediately used his ult, getting a solo kill on the enemy mid laner!

Chi Shuo had given Qu Jiang the blue buff, and Qu Jiang hadn't failed to live up to his captain's expectations. He reached Level 6 before the other mid laner and instantly flashed forward, unleashing those six blades of black mist that assaulted the enemy like a swarm of pythons!

Once the enemy mid laner was dead, Qu Jiang swiftly led his minions down the middle lane. Then he went up to the top lane to help their top laner hold off Zhao Xin'an. The top laner was Old Qin—Tianhuan's Qin Yizhu. This player's style of play wasn't as abrupt and impulsive as Zhao Xin'an's, but he was a very good anti-pressure player. He was very steady, and after the mid laner came over, the two of them managed to work together to pressure Zhao Xin'an back to Beimu's tower.

In the bottom lane, because Old Nie had taken the first red buff of the game, he could defend himself against Zhao Xinping no matter how fiercely she played.

Tianhuan had a headcount advantage of 1-0 in that game so far, giving them a small economic advantage.

But could they stabilize? The enemy had realized that Qu Jiang would be the main carry in this round. They started to gank the middle lane.

The opposing jungler and mid laner teamed up and charged into the range of Tianhuan's defensive tower, intending on aggressively killing Qu Jiang. But at the critical moment, the towering form of the Holy Knight suddenly sprang out from the side. With a taunt, the Holy Knight immobilized the two enemy heroes, allowing Qu Jiang to successfully get away.

Tianhuan started to focus on advancing with their minions, locking onto the middle lane as their breakthrough point.

Beimu's top and bottom lanes were extremely powerful? Fine! We'll just hold our own on the outer lanes and target your middle lane!

Once again, Qu Jiang unleashed his ult. His six blades of black mist carved through the enemy mid laner again, instantly killing off the enemy once more.

Two solo kills!

That was the scariest thing about an artillery mage. As long as he got enough gold to equip himself with burst-oriented gear, he could use his long range to his advantage. Oftentimes, he could kill you off when you couldn't even see him yet!

Beimu's mid laner collapsed, and their mid lane tower swiftly fell.

Chi Shuo instantly led Qu Jiang forward to invade the enemy's jungle. When they fought the monsters that spawned in the jungle, Chi Shuo would get them all down to their final drop of blood, then allow Qu Jiang to take the kill and get the resources that dropped. Chi Shuo continued to give all their own blue buffs to Qu Jiang. By playing like that, they allowed Qu Jiang to swiftly become the most overpowered hero on the field.

How terrifying was a Destruction Mage when he was equipped with his optimal gear?

He could instakill one glass cannon with one move, and when he was protected by his teammates, you couldn't hack him to death!

The viewers who had gasped their doubt and disbelief at the start of the round were all stunned stupid now. A hint of admiration and approval rose in Ye Shaoyang's eyes—

Qu Jiang's greatest strength as a player was his stability. If he got to play his favored artillery mages, he could stand off in the distance and endlessly kill off enemies as long as he wasn't killed himself.

In this game, Tianhuan had bet on Qu Jiang's stability.

At a 0-2 disadvantage in the match, Tianhuan couldn't make any careless mistakes at all. So, they had thrown caution to the wind and bet on this team comp where Qu Jiang would act as their main DPS while Chi Shuo became an instrument for his success, giving away all the resources in the jungle.

With this, the enemy had no way to target Tianhuan's jungle.

And if they wanted to target the mid laner, they had to deal with the Holy Knight who was there to serve as a guard.

That's right. Chi Shuo was no longer the core of the team in this round—he was the whole team's bodyguard!

He protected his teammates and allowed them to level up at the speed of light. He gave them his own resources, and even near the end of the match, his own hero's equipment… wasn't even as good as that of his support's.

However, Tianhuan won.

By relying on Qu Jiang's accurate and precise skills that could always take a life, by relying on Old Nie's wealth of game experience and attention to detail… they took down the mid lane towers, then the outer tower on the bottom lane. They took a minor dragon, then snatched the grand dragon…

The Holy Knight, the Black Dragon Knight, and the Radiant Shield. When these three tanky heroes stood together, they were like a range of three sturdy mountains. Even if the enemy Zhao Xin'an cut into the back line, he wouldn't be able to find any opportunities to kill.

The match score now stood at 1-2.

In the commentators' booth, Yao Mu expressed her complex feelings. "Tianhuan took the third game! They really gave a showing that no one could have expected in this round. For the first time ever, we saw Captain Chi taking a meat shield into the jungle and playing bodyguard for his teammates. He sacrificed everything for his teammates, and fortunately his teammates didn't let him down."

Ming Yu said, "The MVP of this round is Qu Jiang. He really made zero mistakes here. His hit rate with his skills is absolutely terrifying. If Beimu can't make some quick adjustments, if Tianhuan continues to run this team comp… it'll be hard for Beimu to take them down."

The fourth game started very quickly.

Ye Shaoyang watched eagerly, sitting at the edge of his seat with his back ramrod straight and his gaze fixed on the big screen in front of him.

In the fourth round, Beimu used their first ban on Qu Jiang's Destruction Mage. This way, they could immediately dismantle Tianhuan's strategy of running a sacrificial jungler and a burst mid laner. As always, they reserved their second ban for Chi Shuo's Stealthy Rogue.

Chi Shuo's signature hero, the Bloodstained Assassin, was left free.

Yao Mu's voice was tinged with a hint of excitement. "Will Captain Chi take the Bloodstained Assassin?"

In Ye Shaoyang's opinion, he wouldn't.

Chi Shuo wasn't the 'every man for himself' type, who only cared about his own hero. He wouldn't neglect his teammates just to seize a chance to show off. Although the Bloodstained Assassin was very powerful in the jungle, he was very easily countered. As long as the other team chose heroes with AoE attack skills and AoE crowd control skills, they would easily be able to hit the stealthed Bloodstained Assassin, leaving the Assassin with no opportunities to strike.

And things played out just as Ye Shaoyang had predicted.

Chi Shuo didn't take the Bloodstained Assassin. He took the Brawler, a hero with many movement skills and a relatively good ability to withstand enemy attacks. In the top lane, they would be running the Berserker. In the mid lane, the Tidal Goddess. And their marksman would be the Divine Archer, paired with the Blessed Priest as their support.

Ye Shaoyang studied this lineup with a bit of surprise. Wasn't this lineup a little similar to the team he'd run in his King-rank promotion match? The Blessed Priest could give his allies a haste buff, and the Tidal Goddess could cast slow on the enemy!

…a game of speed. This was a team comp which would truly seek to create a difference in speed.

Chi Shuo's role in this game was to rely on his movement skills to rush all over the map, helping his teammates push forward with their minions and trying to steal dragons whenever they could. And in the bottom lane, with protection from the support's Blessed Priest, Old Nie couldn't defeat Zhao Xinping… but he could run away!

In the middle lane, the Tidal Goddess's water-based skills could all reduce the enemy's speed. As soon as a team fight broke out, Qu Jiang's Tidal Goddess would cast a slowing spell while Tianhuan's support would cast haste on their side's players, creating a difference in speed which left Beimu in the awkward position of not being able to 'catch up'.

The game turned into an intense stalemate.

Zhao Xinping and Zhao Xin'an were indeed very powerful, especially Zhao Xin'an. As long as he could cut into Tianhuan's back line, he could chop up Tianhuan's heroes like he was dicing fruit and vegetables, resulting in a team kill.

However…

He couldn't reach.

Qu Jiang's slowing skills were too damn annoying, and with the support's haste skill, Tianhuan's players all sped away, faster than rabbits.

This was an example of the pinnacle of guerrilla warfare.

These familiar tactics and commands made it so that Ye Shaoyang couldn't help but think of the tactics he'd used when he was in a similar situation, where he'd had to turn the tables from a disadvantageous position.

That was right. Chi Shuo wasn't just a deadly jungler. He was also a patient commander.

He could also hide his own killing edge and patiently wage a slow war with their minions. He could rely on a steady rhythm to build up an advantage, bit by bit. He was practically an even calmer commander than Ye Shaoyang himself!

Shockingly, at the twenty-minute mark of this game, the headcount was still at 0-0. It was obvious how formidable Tianhuan could be, when it came to evading fights. They wouldn't allow Beimu to even put a scratch on them.

They stuck together, swiftly clearing minions and pushing towers.

Beimu couldn't be defeated? Then Tianhuan wouldn't bother confronting them in team fights. They could focus solely on pushing down their towers.

In the later stages of the game, Beimu had no choice but to start attacking the grand dragon to force Tianhuan into a team fight. Then, something happened. Something that felt like it came straight out of a movie—

Qu Jiang suddenly flashed in and used his ult. The Tidal Goddess flooded a huge area around her, restraining all the members of Beimu who'd been attacking the grand dragon. Chi Shuo used that opportunity to circle around, stealing the grand dragon with a single smite.

Beimu's players were all rendered speechless.

Zhao Xin'an wanted to cuss up a storm! The tactics in this irritating match made him think of a streamer named Xiao Bai. What a fucking nuisance… it was only when he experienced it for himself that Zhao Xin'an realized how frustrating it felt to have all this power with no opportunity to strike!

The fourth game was dragged out to forty-five minutes.

Tianhuan used their careful operations to secure a difficult victory.

Throughout that whole fourth game, Chi Shuo didn't take a single kill. But through his patience and coolheadedness, he carefully led his team to drag Beimu to defeat.

The score now stood at 2-2.

The Tianhuan fans who had been crying earlier were all shocked now, staring wide-eyed up at the big screens without even remembering to stifle their tears. They all sat at the edges of their seats.

The corners of Ye Shaoyang's lips were starting to curve up with a faint smile.

They'd played so well.

While standing downwind, at a huge disadvantage, Tianhuan had stabilized.

In one game, the jungler had served as a tool to allow Qu Jiang to become a powerful burst hero in the middle lane. In the next game, they'd carefully waged war with their minions. Both games demonstrated Chi Shuo's exceptional game sense and skills as a commander.

Tianhuan had two players whose conditions were on the decline, who were about to retire.

But Tianhuan was never weak.

When the score had been 0-2, no one could have predicted this outcome.

Tianhuan had climbed back to match point!

Ming Yu excitedly said, "According to the rules of the playoffs, there will be no bans in the fifth game. Both sides will pick their heroes blind. With this, everyone will be able to play their favored hero!"

Yao Mu added, "Today's match has been a constant back and forth. The games have been truly spectacular! Let's look forward to finding out which heroes our two teams will play in the deciding game!"

Before the final game, there was a fifteen-minute break. Both sides huddled together with their respective coaches to discuss their tactics.

The fans at the venue were all tense with worry, and the bullet comments of support in the livestreaming room completely filled up the screen. The probabilities listed on the game results prediction site had already changed from 45/55 to 50/50—it was anyone's game.

Ye Shaoyang concentrated wholly on the big screens.

Fifteen minutes later, the deciding game finally began. It was already 10:30 PM.

Neither side banned any heroes, directly proceeding to select their team comps instead.

Beimu's team comp rendered everyone speechless—they were running a double fighter comp! They had chosen a fighter-type hero with lots of movement skills for both their top and bottom lanes. They'd chosen the Warlock of Poison for their middle lane, and their jungler and support had crowd control skills as well.

Zhao Xin'an had taken the Vampiric Duke, while Zhao Xinping didn't choose a ranged hero as her marksman—she chose a close-range fighter, the Willful Sword!

Yao Mu instantly understood their team comp and explained, "Big Zhao and Little Zhao have both taken fighters with movement skills, which means Tianhuan's jungler won't be able to gank them on the top or bottom lanes at all. As soon as these two fighters get going, they'll be terrifying in late-game. To Tianhuan's mage in the mid lane… even to Tianhuan's jungler, they'll be a huge threat!"

"That's right!" Ming Yu exclaimed. "This is a true two-lane team comp. Beimu are throwing everything into this round! We all know that the Warlock of Poison is the core of a poison team comp, but he can also be built with attack speed equipment in order to be played solo as a marksman.

"With this, Beimu's mid laner is a mage who can fill the role of a marksman with the right equipment. Their top and bottom laners are both fighters with huge damage potential. In team fights, if these two fighters cut into the back line, Tianhuan might not be able to handle it…"

And what kind of team comp was Tianhuan running? They had once again taken out a team comp that would focus on evasion, like in the fourth round. This was a relatively safe choice. If they couldn't win in head-on fights, they could subdue the enemy and flee. Then they would slowly earn their victory by setting the pace of the game themselves.

Chi Shuo still didn't take the Bloodstained Assassin. That wasn't because he didn't have enough faith in his own signature hero. Rather, it was because the Bloodstained Assassin required teammates who could beat all their opponents to low health, giving Chi Shuo the opportunity to cut in at the last moment and harvest their heads. If his teammates couldn't cripple the enemy, Chi Shuo's assassin would be useless.

In S6, why had Chi Shuo's Bloodstained Assassin been so formidable?

It was because, back then, he hadn't been the only incredible player on the team. In S6, every player on Team Tianhuan had been amazing. Old Nie had been in peak performance back then, and their mid laner had been Chi Shuo's master, Captain Ming. The team had been able to swiftly hack the enemy down to low health, allowing Chi Shuo to swoop in for the kill.

Viewers had only seen the young Chi Shuo taking pentakills left and right, like no one on the field could stand up to him.

But if Chi Shuo wanted to reclaim the glory of those days… the current Tianhuan was still incapable of protecting his fragile junglers who could act as the core of their team.

This kind of glass cannon assassin was very easy to target in early-game, which meant it was very easy for the whole team to collapse.

Seeing all this, Ye Shaoyang let out a breath of relief—it was a good thing Chi Shuo hadn't gotten ahead of himself. If he'd taken the Bloodstained Assassin, the dual fighters on the other side would have obliterated him. It was very possible that the opposing coach had decided on that dual fighter comp specifically after assuming Chi Shuo would take out his Bloodstained Assassin. Because assassins were very afraid of fighters, who could hack away half of an assassin's HP in one stroke, these fighters would have been the perfect counter. 

Tianhuan had once again chosen a very speedy and mobile lineup, which would allow them to be quite agile. Chi Shuo wouldn't be targeted too severely. He would at least be able to pose a challenge to the enemy.

The game unfolded as a constant back and forth, eventually being dragged out to late-game once more.

At the forty-minute mark, both sides were 'imprisoned'.

Their outer and inner towers had all been destroyed. Only their lonely base towers remained.

Chi Shuo led his teammates forward, fighting their way to Beimu's base tower. However, Beimu's dual fighters were too formidable. The two of them simultaneously cut into Tianhuan's back line, instantly killing off Tianhuan's mid laner and marksman. Tianhuan had no choice but to retreat.

Beimu turned right around and led their minions to Tianhuan's base tower. Chi Shuo and Old Qin staked their lives on fending off those minions. Ultimately, all five of Tianhuan's players were wiped out, but Beimu's minions had all been cleared away as well. They had no way to continue their attack, so they had to pull back.

Both sides continued to push and pull like that, until the suspenseful game was dragged out to the fifty-minute mark.

Another fight broke out around the grand dragon.

This grand dragon was an absolute necessity, because the team who claimed the grand dragon would gain superpowered minions that were very difficult to kill. These minions would be able to destroy the enemy team's base towers very quickly. Plus, the players on the team that got the grand dragon would all receive a damage and defense buff.

Both sides fought to stall each other outside the dragon pit.

Suddenly, Zhao Xin'an and Zhao Xinping simultaneously used their flashes, like their two souls were acting as one—

One circled around from the top, one from the bottom.

The duo attacked ferociously, cutting into Tianhuan's back line. Old Nie and A-Ning had no chance to react. They were instantly slain!

The two Zhao twins worked together with a terrifying sort of tacit understanding. They practically didn't waste a single skill on the same target—Zhao Xinping's Willful Sword took care of Old Nie while Zhao Xin'an's Vampiric Duke got rid of the Blessed Priest in one skill combo.

Without their support to give them a speed buff, it became very difficult for Tianhuan to continue stalling.

Chi Shuo instantly signaled his team to retreat. The three surviving players swiftly fell back to their tower, but they lost the grand dragon.

With the buff from the grand dragon, Beimu pushed their way up to Tianhuan's base. Chi Shuo and the other two players guarded their base's crystal with their lives, but they fell one after another. They used their resurrection gear to get back up and continue clearing minions…

But the three lines of evolved minions continued to advance. They had no way of clearing them all away.

Right in front of their eyes, their crystal was blown to pieces.

The curtains finally fell on this sixty-minute game.

Silence descended upon the whole stadium. Immediately afterwards, a wave of ear-splitting applause rang out through the crowd. Beimu's fans were very obviously excited. The cries of Tianhuan's fans were mixed in with that applause. Anyone listening would feel that those were heartbreaking cries.

However, Ye Shaoyang was applauding—he was giving his applause to Team Tianhuan.

He was applauding the brilliant tactical command of Tianhuan's captain, Chi Shuo. He was applauding Tianhuan's intelligent coach, Lin Feng. And he was applauding the four players who'd remained calm and fought with all their might through the entire match.

Tianhuan had lost, but it wasn't a bitter and pathetic defeat.

In their later games, they'd demonstrated their extraordinarily brilliant teamwork.

In the fifth game, even after forcing Beimu to run a powerful dual fighter comp, Tianhuan still managed to drag things out to the sixty-minute mark.

During that final team fight, the Beimu siblings had flashed in simultaneously and killed off Tianhuan's support and marksman. Old Nie had been quick to use his cleanse; he couldn't escape, but he'd already done everything in his power.

This was a player who'd given five years to the professional league already. What else could anyone ask of him?

In this game, Ye Shaoyang saw the true tenacity of Team Tianhuan.

Maybe… this was the true spirit of Team Tianhuan.

Generation after generation, even as their captains changed, their team persevered endlessly.

Even when they faced a huge uphill battle, they didn't give up and they refused to compromise. They fought until the very last moment.

Even when they stood at a score of 0-2, they'd done everything in their power to find a breakthrough point. They'd taken out a team comp that no one had ever seen before, to fight tooth and nail for a victory. Chi Shuo gave up on being the core of their team as the jungler, in order to play bodyguard for his teammates and show his absolute faith in them.

Ye Shaoyang remembered the words Chi Shuo had said to him—

The current Tianhuan must change.

In this match alone, Tianhuan had changed. They'd taken two game points by playing one game in which their jungler served the rest of the team and one game in which they carefully coordinated slow, deliberate pushes with their minions. In the last game, they'd taken things to the sixty-minute mark before suffering a regrettable defeat.

Chi Shuo had fought those final minions with his dying breath, before collapsing right in front of Tianhuan's own crystal.

This was what he wanted to show Ye Shaoyang—

Tianhuan never feared defeat. In the face of adversity, they would stand their ground to the final moment. They would never give up until their crystal exploded.

Ye Shaoyang took out his cell phone and typed out a long message: [Today's game was incredible. You worked hard. Each and every one of you is outstanding. Old Nie can take this as his final game before retirement and leave without regrets that are too deep.]

[You are… the best captain I have ever seen.]

[If I can be fortunate enough, next season, I want to stand at your side. I want to fight with you, shoulder-to-shoulder.]

 

Author's Notes:

Chi Shuo really doesn't have it easy, he deserves Ye Shaoyang's admiration and respect.

Ye Shaoyang doesn't decide to join Tianhuan out of pity. It's because he's seen how Tianhuan will always persevere and never give up. This is the sort of team that has a chance at the world championships.

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