Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 50 The Right To Stand On This Stage

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The fourth game between the Leopards and StormBlitz came to an end, setting the score to 1-3 in StormBlitz's favor. If this were a best-of-five match, the Leopards would had lost right here and now. They would have been thoroughly defeated by a pack of greenhorns. For a team of seniors, that fact was nothing short of a disgrace. Jennifer had no idea how to face her teammates.

A deafening silence descended on the Leopards. n.o.body uttered a word even though it's break time. Actually, n.o.body even left their chairs. They all just sat there, replaying the events of the previous game in their heads.

Jennifer blamed the team's defeat on her poor performance, but she's not the only one; everybody felt the same. Every member of the Leopards thought back on their mistakes, on what they could have done differently and how they could have brought the team closer to victory with better plays.

Even Alex was in that crew, despite his attempts to wave everything off. He stared at his own hands in disbelief. Whose hands were those? Had he always been the type to make so many errors in a single match?

Multiple times throughout the match, he knew exactly what had to be done amidst a difficult situation, but his fingers refused to cooperate. One time, he directed his Thunderclap blink in the wrong direction while hurrying to flee. Another time, he misplaced Thunderstorm when trying to hit the elusive Trickshooter.

The errors piled up, to the point Alex couldn't excuse them anymore, not even to himself. Even if he called them "misclicks", they occurred far too frequently for somebody who played for the Leaopards' second string. Frankly, it was a disgraceful performance.

[This doom and gloom mood is a no-no.] Jennifer pursed her lips and clenched her fists. [I have to say something.] She was the captain, it was her job to pull the team through such difficult times. [C'mon, stand up!] She commanded her legs, but she couldn't pump up any energy.

What was she supposed to say to the team? They're as good as defeated and there's only one more match left. It was all fun and games calling StormBlitz "scrubs" at first, but somehow it ended with the Leopards having their a.s.ses handed to them by these "scrubs". She had to admit, the enemy... Yeah, they were strong. Especially, that No-f.u.c.ks-Given-Trickshooter.

What should have been an emergency subst.i.tution for the enemy turned out to be a huge blow for the Leopards. That d.a.m.n Trickshooter... Gunz, he was a tough opponent. He was possibly the most mechanically skilled opponent she ever faced, save for Fenrir, the first string's captain.

The more she thought about it, the more frustrated she became. [Stop thinking about stupid c.r.a.p and stand up already!] She had to get up and act like her usual confident self, to pull the team forward. But, her body refused to cooperate. She just wanted to sit here like a scarecrow and mop.


BAM!

[Gah! My ears!] The stage thundered! Everybody felt like a bomb went off inside their eardrums.

[Ugh, so Coach came to talk after all...] Jennifer gulped. This was terrible. She gonna get the scolding of her lifetime. The whole team will get lectured into another plane of existence.

After all, they ended the match with a surrender. They gave up and quit, instead of fighting to the bitter end. They were supposed to be compet.i.tive players, and yet...

"Heads up, everybody." Rodriguez delivered another EAR-SHATTERING CLAP, powerful enough to wake up a person from a coma. "You don't dwell on your defeats when you still have games to play. I believe I taught you that."

"Yeah..." Jennifer mumbled and corrected her slumped posture. It was acceptable for others to act weak at times, but Jennifer had to retain her dignity regardless of the circ.u.mstances. After all, she's the captain.

The others followed her example and raised their heads too. Everybody looked a little less dead now. Good, zombie apocalypse averted.

The only exception was Alex, who looked depressed by the mere fact he was on this stage right now. Well, nothing new there.

"That's better," Rodriguez nodded. "Now, let's talk about how you played, shall we?"

"What can I say?" Jennifer forced a smile. "I played like s.h.i.+t, haha..." The sooner she admitted it, the better. But, Coach ignored her confession.

"First, there's the drafting phase," Rodriguez said. "You pushed your Mid Laner pick to the very end, which enabled postponing the decision of whether to go for a mixup. Who came up with this?"

"This guy over here," Jennifer pointed at Alex. "What a s.h.i.+tty call. I knew we better go with mixup. It worked so d.a.m.n well the game before. If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

"Hmph." Alex scoffed and turned away.

"A 's.h.i.+tty call'? Not at all." Rodriguez shook his head. "It was good thinking. This team only got a partial mixup, because [some] of you have been slacking on their mixup practices." He shot two glares, making the criminals shake like little bunnies. "But, even with this handicap, what you did during drafting kept your opponent guessing until the very end, almost as if you had a full mixup available. Good job, Alex."

"Oh," Alex blinked. "Thanks, I guess." This was rare. He was usually on the receiving end of criticism, not praise.

"The one beef I got with your drafting," Rodriguez continued. "Was Jenny picking Pyromancer first. What was that about?"

"Geh." Jennifer made a face. Yeah, that was h.e.l.la dumb. She got triggered when the enemy banned Alex's Warlock and not her Pyromancer. It's like they thought Alex was more threatening than her! What's with that!?

Yeaaaah, looking back on it, it's h.e.l.la embarra.s.sing. She deserved to be smacked for that s.h.i.+t. But, Coach just went on.

"Beside that," Rodriguez continued. "The drafting went in your favor overall. You counter-picked their Aeromancer with Electromancer and made them pick Beastmaster. I believe picking Aero and Beast was their idea of countering Jenny in Mid, so having her play Carry instead definitely threw them for a loop."

Considering the team's overwhelming defeat, Rodriguez's words were relatively soft. And, that's the entire point. Before dropping any bombs, he pointed out the brighter sides of their performance.

Matches weren't black and white, there's more to their outcome than just victory or defeat. The kids were defeated quite decisively, they even resorted to surrendering, but that didn't mean they hadn't made any good plays that match.

Unfortunately, they were too hung up on their "terrible defeat". Therefore, the first step was to make them realize they made some decent plays too. Only after that, they'd be willing to absorb Rodriguez's criticism.

"With all that said, you didn't handle their Beastmaster right." Rodriguez continued. "You deal with a Beastmaster with aggressive counter-jungling, I believe I taught you that."

"Yeah..."

"I just didn't have any good opportunities..."

They all mumbled. To counter a Beastmaster, they had to periodically invade the Beastmaster's side of the jungle and steal their camps. It was such common knowledge even casuals were familiar with it. Yet, the team failed spectacularly.

"To be fair, some of the blame lies with me," Rodriguez admitted. "I didn't insist you practice many real matches against a Beastmaster. So, I'll cram that in your training schedule. Be ready to stay for even more after hours."

"Eeeeeh? Seriously?" This sentiment was echoed by all members, save for one.

"Please do!" Jennifer nodded.

"You see?" Rodriguez smirked while pointing at Jennifer. "That's how you're all supposed to embrace this happy news. Take an example from Jenny, boys."

"Hmph," Alex shrugged. "She's just sucking up, as usual."

"Or," Jennifer retorted. "Maybe I really think we need more training. Thought about that-"

BAM! A loud explosion put an end to the bickering. Coach's booming claps were so cool, yet so terrifying too. Jennifer felt like she'll lose her hearing if she's. .h.i.t with another one of these bombs, so she fell silent right away.

"Enough is enough," Rodriguez said. "Keep your quarrels for later. We got a strategy meeting to finish here."

"Yes, sir!"

"Whatever."

"Now, where were we?" Rodriguez continued. "Right, your early game. You had some problems at the start. The new player they subbed in, Gunz. He sure has been giving you trouble from the moment he stepped on the lane. He even killed Jenny."

"Nah, that's..." Jennifer twisted her lips. "He's nothing special. There were just some c.r.a.ppy calls on my end. My bad."

"Not quite true." Rodriguez shook his head. "Gunz turned out to be very skilled and he plays abnormally aggressive, in a way many would consider suicidal. All of that was very unpredictable, so it wasn't a mistake on your end. You learned your lesson and played more safely afterwards, that's what matters. No need to beat yourself over it, at least not over your first death. You did make some mistakes later down the road, but I'll return to that later."

"Okay." Jennifer wasn't entirely satisfied, but she nodded for now.

"On the other hand," Rodriguez continued. "There's definitely somebody here who should be ashamed of the first time they died to Gunz. Anybody wants to take a guess who that is?"

Everybody exchanged glances. Was it them? Or, the guy next to them? Oh boy, please don't let it be them! When Coach asked this kind of question, 9 out of 10 times it was going to be followed by harsh criticism. A bomb was about to be dropped and it was of the nuclear type.

Jennifer was already excused from this suspicion, so she only looked at others. Rather, she looked at one specific player. No, she GLARED at him, as if drilling a hole through his skull.

"Yeah, yeah," Alex spoke up. "It's me, isn't it?"

"So, you're aware," Rodriguez nodded. "Jenny is excused because she didn't know how aggressively Gunz plays. But, you already saw her die, so you had the information. Not to mention, you had Thunderclap to safely disengage. What's your excuse?"

"I... I misclicked. Can happen to anybody."

"Misclicked, huh. That's one way to make the mistake sound innocent."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Alex frowned.

"Do you recall that 4v3 situation near the end?" Rodriguez answered with a question. "You didn't reach Gunz with your Thunderstorm, missing a great opportunity to turn the tables. Another misclick?"

"Yeah, basically," Alex said. "He surprised me by suddenly changing directions, so I didn't cast Thunderstorm in the best spot."

"But, you knew how you had to respond in that situation, right? And yet, you failed to act accordingly. I wonder, why?"

"Just a misplay. Happens."

"Yes, happens. Happens quite often. Specifically to you, it seems. Again, why?"

"Bad luck."

"Luck, huh." Rodriguez sighed. "How about you face the facts for a change?"

"What facts?"

"That you've degenerated as a player. You're playing even worse than back when you were a rookie."

"Guh!" Alex trembled, barely holding himself from leaping off his chair. That nosy coach! He just had to go ahead and say that kind of c.r.a.p!

"Admit it, you're rusty." Rodriguez continued without budging. "Remind me, when was the last time you played Electromancer?"

"Kh, h.e.l.l if I remember." Alex turned away. "Probably a couple of weeks."

"Be more specific. When?"

"I dunno, okay!?" Alex barked. "It's recorded in my match history. Why should I bother remembering that kind of thing?"

"Yes, you're right. So, dig it up from that history."

"Eh?" Alex turned pale. "What, now?"

"Yes, go right ahead. I'll wait."

"Ah, uh..." Alex's lips trembled. He had a bad feeling about this. A VERY bad feeling. "G-Got it. I'll search it up."

"Good." Rodriguez nodded. "Meanwhile, Jenny," He turned to the captain. "Let's discuss your real faults in that match, shall we?"

"Geh, already my turn?" Jennifer made a face. So much for "returning later" to her. That "later" came after like five seconds! Dang it.

"Well then," Rodriguez said. "You're a dummy, but you're a smart girl."

[How does that even work?]

"So, let's hear it. What do you think were your biggest mess ups this match?"

"Um, well." One idea was at the tip of her tongue, but she refused to share it. She felt like a part of her would be destroyed if she were to say it out loud. "I... I played too defensively, I guess?"

"Not a bad observation," Rodriguez nodded. "During the mid game you were lagging behind, so you did well to play defense. However, you never converted your defense plays into offense. I believe I taught you turtling can only get you into late game, not win it."

"Yeah..." Jennifer nodded, along with everybody else Rodriguez addressed with his eyes. Jennifer wasn't the only one who tensed up in that match and overcompensated for dying with extreme turtling.

"Frankly," Rodriguez said. "I was surprised. You always fight to the bitter end, no matter how bad things get. What happened to your mental image?"

"I... It got foggy halfway through," Jennifer lowered her head. "I couldn't see us winning anymore."

"Interesting. And why is that?"

"I guess... Well, that Gunz dude was kinda strong, He started to s...o...b..ll, so I couldn't see us stopping him anymore."

"That's nonsense and you know it. You're the type who'd seriously believe she can beat an Lv.20 with a full build as a naked Lv.1. Gunz was definitely strong and s...o...b..lled, but you faced tougher situations. So, what really threw you out of your rhythm?"

"I..." Jennifer averted her eyes. "Err, guess I was salty I lost to a scrub who may be a rookie."

"That's what you want to keep telling yourself? I believe I taught you to honest during match a.n.a.lysis, for your own sake. Dodging around your worries will only stifle your growth as a player."

"Yeah," Jennifer raised her head. "The truth is, I felt like insisting to play combo against Gunz was... a mistake." She did it. She finally breathed these accursed words. Her insides twisted with every word, with every letter, uttered.

"Go on," Rodriguez urged. "Why did you think so?"

"Well, I fell behind after dying the first time, right? So, to stay relevant as a combo player, I rushed Spellbook. That was kinda risky and didn't pay off like I hoped. I mean, I had a feeling it'd be hard to fight that crazy Shooter with combo, but..."

"You still went for it."

"Yeaaah, haha..." Jennifer scratched her forehead.

"Why didn't you build a standard DPS Pyromancer?"

"Um, well..."

"I'm sure you thought that's the 'correct' move, right?"

"That's..." A part of her agreed, but another part of her threw a fit. Jennifer? Give up on playing combo? No way, she could never possibly do that. But...

"Here, I found it." Alex announced loudly, interrupting the ongoing interrogation. He couldn't stand listening to this any longer for some reason. But, now the attention switched to him. Great, now he'll be on the receiving end of Coach's criticism. Why did he speak up again? Sigh.

"Let's hear it," Rodriguez said. "When was the last time you play Electro?"

"It was..." A chill ran down Alex's spine. "Almost four months ago." He was tempted to make it one month or at worst two months, but he felt like lying wouldn't do him any favors here.

"Hmm, four months." Rodriguez stopped pressuring Jennifer for now and s.h.i.+fted all his focus to Alex. "So, four months without playing one of your main cla.s.ses and almost two years without properly attending practice. And, you still honestly think you're a good player?"

"Well, I'm here, right?" Alex argued. "I'm on the second string and playing in an official scrimmage. I'm even the vice-captain, in case you forgot. That's gotta worth something."

"You're only here because I put you here."

"Huh?"

"You're here to receiving a beating, so you finally realize how pathetic of a player you've become."

"Eh? Huh?" Alex froze. The floor underneath him trembled as if about to collapse and swallow him whole.

"The Alex I welcomed into the club was a hardworking boy who seriously wanted to be a compet.i.tive player. He wasn't the type to ditch practice, make excuses and drag down his whole team."

[Stop...]

"He didn't sweep his mistakes under the rug. He always learned from them and improved.."

[Stop.]

"And, he definitely wasn't the type to hide behind excuses like 'misclicking'. If he wasn't in top shape, he'd admit so and try to remedy that."

[STOP!!!] Alex slammed on the table. His gritted teeth barely held him from shouting. Who the f.u.c.k that coach thought he was!? Who gave him the right to say all this tras.h.!.+?

"Just so you know," Rodriguez continued as if nothing happened. "I received a lot of backlash for putting you on the second string."

"What backlash?" Alex frowned.

"Many voiced their objections to this decision. After all, how could I pick somebody who's effectively a ghost member?"

"But, n.o.body said anything..." Alex mumbled. The only one who ever expressed her dissatisfaction was Jennifer, so he a.s.sumed everybody else was fine with this.

"They're good kids, they didn't want to pick a fight. But, they voiced their objections to me clear as day."

[So, even on this team, everybody probably thinks...] Alex felt a rift forming between himself the rest. All this time, he thought everybody here saw him as an equal. But, did they actually all want to kick him out? What the...

Of course, there's Jennifer who hated his guts and probably dreamed about murdering him in his sleep. But, the others too? Alex didn't make it into the first string, so he thought at least being in the second string was some sort of achievement. But...

"With all said and done," Rodriguez continued. "Many of them still remember you as the golden rookie you were two years ago. They all know you're just a sh.e.l.l of your former self now, but they decided to not say anything in front of you."

[So, that's how it is.] Alex hung his head. His arms went limp, like those of a puppet whose strings were cut. From being the strongest rookie, he fell all the way down here, even lower than the level of the second string. He was a n.o.body. He's just some random kid, who pretended he played compet.i.tively because he was in a club.

Deep down, he had been aware of this for a long time. "When was the last time he played Electromancer?" Wrong question. More like: "When was the last time he played anything other than Warlock? Or a mode other than Casual?" Only playing Ranked wasn't exactly the best practice for compet.i.tive players, but it's still useful for staying in shape. It's the least he could have done as somebody who didn't show up for practice, yet he didn't even bother doing that.

His eyes naturally gravitated toward Jennifer. She was like the other side of the coin, the struggling rookie who climbed her way to the top, despite playing her meme tier combo.

During the first year, they walked side by side as fellow rookies who trained harder than anybody- no, not really side by side. Alex was way ahead and Jennifer chased his back with everything she had. He was the golden rookie and she was the memer newbie.

But, before he realized, everything flipped on its head. Now, he was the one left behind, chasing her back. No, he didn't even chase. He just let her walk ahead without giving a d.a.m.n. Her back had long since vanished from his sight.

Despite playing with a huge handicap that was combo and despite being repeatedly told she'd never make it into the first string like that - she never gave up. And, her hard work paid off. She came this far.

If only Alex also had that level of determination, who knew where he'd be by now. Captain of the first string? Or, at least the vice-captain? Definitely possible.

Still, even Jennifer couldn't escape criticism after the recent match. Coach made it clear he was going to criticize her build choice and her decision to stick with combo. [Stop. Don't tarnish it.]

It's not like Alex cared about her. That loud and bad-tempered girl could go f.u.c.k herself for all he cared. But, she was a hard worker, just like Alex a long time ago. After so much sweat and blood, she had to succeed. He [wanted] her to succeed.

It's Alex who was the villain here. It's him who gave up on everything and became a ghost member. He's the one who stopped trying and dragged the team down. Everything should just be pinned on him.

"Heh. Haha." He produced dry laughter. "I see how it is now. You're right. You're all absolutely right." He looked at each of his teammates in order. There's no doubt at least some of them condemned him and they had every right to do so.

"I've been dragging the team down this whole time, I see that now." Alex wore a self-scorning smile. "Our previous losses and this one - they're all my fault." He stared intently at the coach. "It's all my fault. I should be the only one criticized here."

"Hoh," Rodriguez paused at this unexpected outburst. "So, you're saying you should be held accountable for everything? How admirable."

"Yeah, it's all me. All me. Just me. Heh." Alex chuckled and threw a glance at Jennifer. Heh, her stoned expression was priceless. But, he wasn't doing this shock her. He only wanted to convey a message: [Don't turn out like me.] That's all he was asking for.

"I'll just leave," Alex hung his head, a broken smile still plastered on his face. "I'm sure anybody can replace me."

"Indeed," Rodriguez said matter-of-factly. "There are plenty subst.i.tutes waiting for a chance to get on stage."

"Right." Alex walked down the stage, avoiding eye contact with everybody else. He wasn't somebody who deserved to stand on this stage, the realization finally sunk in. Only players who worked hard for the past three years had a right to be here, and he wasn't one of them.

Rodriguez found himself dumbstruck by this development, but not because it was completely unexpected. It's the development he wished for, but not the one he truly believed would come to pa.s.s.

Alex coming to terms with his mistakes, embracing his flaws and admitting he had no right to be here - it's impossible to ask for a better outcome. Thanks to that, the kid will now be able to move forward.

But, this meeting wasn't over yet. After all, there was another kid here who had to face her flaws. Now. that one problem kid was dealt with, Rodriguez could focus on Jennifer.

Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 50 The Right To Stand On This Stage

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Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 50 The Right To Stand On This Stage summary

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