Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 69 Battle Preparations - Howard's Side
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"Wait," Dan said. "You really gonna step down from being the captain if you lose?"
"Not sure what I'll do about being the club captain," Howard answered. "But, I will surrender him the Support role as promised. So, yes, this is no joke. It's a serious match if that's what you're asking."
"Huh..." Dan was speechless.
"You really think you can win, bro?" Roi asked. "It'll be me and Dan on Yuel's team, ya know. You don't think Tai and GG can balance us out, do you?"
"Of course not. But, where's the fun if it's not challenging, right?"
"Lol, somebody likes to live dangerously."
"Anyway, that's the gist of it," Howard said. "Until the match on Friday, consider Yuel your captain. Cooperate with him on whatever he asks and prepare for a tough match. I don't want to see you put on an embarra.s.sing performance just because my position is at stake." It wasn't a request; it was an order. They weren't allowed to even entertain the thought of slacking off. It was a serious match through and through.
"Heh," Dan chuckled. "Bet you also gonna say you'll kick us off the first string if we don't play well, amirite?"
[Hmm.] Howard paused for a moment. Normally yes, he'd threaten them with something along these lines. That'd to ensure they're 100% concentrated on the task at hand and will be able to draw out their full potential.
However, right now, these two were his "enemies". Howard wanted a fair match with Yuel, but there's no reason to go out of his way to ignite the enemy's fighting spirit. That's the job of the enemy captain, not Howard's.
"Nah," Howard said. "We all know you're better than Tai and GG in your main roles. No matter who wins the match, I'm sure you'll keep your positions regardless. That is, as long as you don't embarra.s.s yourselves with a shabby performance and play worse than Tai and GG."
"Lol, it takes a special kind of skill to play worse than these kids"
"Yeah," Dan added. "They don't even main these roles. We can play better than them even with our eyes closed"
"Good." Howard nodded. From their tones, they were going to put on a decent fight. However, they won't be fighting with their positions on the line, so they'll be tough opponents but not overwhelming. Unless Yuel ignites a flame in them, there's nothing to worry about... right?
Next, Howard informed Gilbert. However, here he a.s.sumed a different tone. Gilbert was on Howard's team, so he had to treat this match as a matter of life and death. Therefore, maximum motivation!
"Also," Howard added after explaining the basics. "This match will double as a selection test for the first string, which includes you too. It's a good chance to test how much July has improved over the year."
"Hm," Gilbert was silent for a long moment. "You mean it? You really consider picking her for the first string over me?"
"Elly trained with her and said she improved a lot. So, who knows how good she is by now."
"I see. I'll play with that in mind." Gilbert said. There was strong determination hidden underneath his tone. Even though he didn't seem to believe Julia had any chance to steal his spot, he wasn't going to take any risks. After all, it's Gilbert, he hated risks no matter how small they were.
[Alright, nothing to worry about here.] Howard nodded to himself. Gilbert's motivation should now be at its peak, so he'll put on a good show on Friday. Julia will no doubt also be motivated for this match, so Gilbert will have to squeeze every last bit of fighting spirit to overwhelm her.
Next, there's Taison and Gregory. These two will be a little harder to handle because Howard didn't know them that well. He has known Gilbert since grade school, but he only spent one year in the club with Taison and Gregory. They didn't really have that many meaningful interactions.
Nevertheless, Howard had a rough idea of how to press their b.u.t.tons. These two will have to do their absolute best this to get obliterated by Roi and Dan, so their motivation will have to be beyond its maximum. The problem was: they were a rather selfish bunch and they didn't have anything particular at stake this match.
As the captain, that's up to Howard to solve. He had to make sure all his soldiers were psyched for the upcoming match and it didn't matter what he had to do to that end. For starters, Howard invited the problem kids to his house and explained the situation face-to-face.
"Man," Taison was the first to complain. "Why we gonna do this s.h.i.+t?"
"I second that sentiment," Gregory added. "It feels like we're just being used for your little game. We're also players, you know. What about our chances of getting into the first string, huh?"
"They exist," Howard answered right away, he was already prepared for this. "Even though I only made a promise with Yuel, I think of this match as a general 'first string selection test'. In a way, you could say I'm using [him] to test other players like [you]."
"Khaha, I'm lovin' it!"
Alright, they were amused by this little wordplay. Things started off on the right foot-
"Except, there's a problem," Gregory was quick to catch on. "We also wanna play Carry and Support. How does that fit into your test?"
"Hey, the man is right!" Taison flailed his arms and added noise.
[Sharp little...] Howard frowned. Well, this sucked. Then again, he knew this was going to be the main issue with these two troublemakers. They'll be playing Top and Jungler in the upcoming match, but that's not their main roles. Same as Yuel and Lars, these two aimed for Support and Carry. In a sense, they were rivals too.
It's a tough spot. How should Howard wing this? He had multiple ideas prepared, but couldn't tell which of them will lead to success.
"Too bad," Howard said, his tone turning colder. "Support and Carry are taken."
"Yeah," Gregory retorted. "Except, you're giving Yuel and Lars a chance to grab the roles."
"Not really because there's no chance I'll lose. This is just a way to drop Yuel off my case. Gotta crush him thoroughly, so he doesn't dare to speak about being Support while I'm here."
"Kek, savage." Gregory's att.i.tude started changing, it was easy to tell by his tone. Howard got one step closer to converting these two.
"I'll give you two a chance as well if you really insist," Howard said. "But, you really think you can take on me and Ellen? You don't wanna embarra.s.s yourselves, do you?"
"Heh, well..." Gregory averted his eyes.
"I totally should be a starter, yo!" Taison insisted.
"My," Ellen interjected. "You want to steal my spot? Taitai you're so cruel~ Sob, sob."
"Gah, well..." Taison scratched his head. "Guess I can wait for next year..." Good job, Ellen.
"That's why I said," Howard steered the conversation back on track. "Think of this match as also a test for [you]. Not for Support and Carry as you'd ideally like, but for Top and Jungle. I want to see how you fare compared to Dan and Roi. These are your secondary roles and I know you can handle them well. Who knows, maybe you'll show enough potential to become a starter."
"So," Gregory adjusted his gla.s.ses. "You're saying this is our chance to debut with our secondary roles. Hmm."
"h.e.l.l yeah!" Taison exclaimed. "I'm totally in, man! Gonna blow Roi out of the water, khaha!"
"I believe your opponent would be Dan, though." Gregory corrected.
"Oh, true dat. No matter! I'mma wreck them both! Because I'm da best!"
"Dumba.s.s," Gregory chuckled. He contemplated for a moment, then spoke up again. "You're really saying we got a chance?"
"Perhaps," Howard shrugged. "Anything is possible. You were greenhorns when you first joined, but you've already spent a year in the club by now. The first year is the most important for growing, so only now we can really test how good you are. I'm sure you improved a lot, so let's see if you're good enough to earn yourselves any starter positions."
"h.e.l.l yeah!" Taison nodded exaggeratedly. "Nationals, baby! Here comes yo boi DaBestBro!!!"
"Somebody's here already in LLa Land." Gregory smiled wryly. Judging by his tone, he wasn't entirely convinced yet. Howard had to give him one more push. But, what else was there to offer as a reward?
"My," Ellen tilted her head. "You really don't know how to dream big, GG. Maybe that's why you're not a starter yet. Ever thought about that?"
"Who the f.u.c.k are you calling GG." Gregory frowned at her, but she dodged it.
"Anyway, [GG]. You better think about what's important here."
"And what's important, exactly?"
"That Yuyu is trying to become the team's Support. If you don't cooperate with us, we may actually possibly kinda lose, you know. You really wanna see Yuyu become a starter before you?"
"No way," Gregory replied instantly, his eyes sharp like a blade.
[Here we go.] Howard nodded. Ellen did a good job striking a nerve, atta girl. This should be in the bag now. "You're all juniors, so I'm sure it'll suck to see another junior become a starter before you. Especially, Yuel and Lars."
"You can say that again." Gregory made an expression of disgust.
"If you want to prevent it from happening, we really need your cooperation here. And as I said, who knows? Maybe you'll even beat them to the punch and become starters before them."
"Heck yea!" Taison made noise again. "I gonna get the nationals before Lars, yo!"
[We got this one in the bag alright.] Howard restrained himself from grinning. Unfortunately, the job won't be done until both troublemakers are persuaded.
"Fine," Gregory adjusted his gla.s.ses. "I'm in. I don't think we got much of a shot at the first string, though."
"You never know what gonna happen," Howard objected. "There's always a chance." He told this to Gregory, even though he said the complete opposite to Roi and Dan. But hey, it's not like he lied to either side. There was a chance but it was miniature, especially for Gregory. Taison had a much better chance of proving himself as a valuable Jungler through solid mechanical skill, but he probably won't beat Dan's versatile a.r.s.enal of cla.s.s options.
"Oh, and guys," Ellen said. "You haven't heard the best part yet. If we win, Howard gonna treat all of us to some pizza. From his own pocket, of course~"
"Wh" Howard gasped, but celebrations broke out before he got to react.
"Sweet deal, yo!" Taison pumped a fist and grinned from ear to ear. "You're a real bro, man!"
"You should've started from that," Gregory adjusted his gla.s.ses and smirked. "Now I'm totally in."
[d.a.m.n you, Elly. Good move.] Howard had to hand it to her. In for a penny, in for a pound, literally. "Yeah, it slipped my mind. Pizza for everybody if we win. You can start placing orders now."
With that, everything was set in place. Gilbert was motivated to not lose his spot, whereas Taison and Gregory were motivated to stop their rivals, get a starter spot themselves and most importantly: get some pizza! What a bunch of shallow brats...
Gilbert came over later that day and the team began training for the upcoming match. Before anything else, Howard made sure to study the strengths and weaknesses of the juniors. Especially their weaknesses, because Yuel was undoubtedly familiar with them and will try to exploit them. Howard had to form his strategy around that.
After a first fruitful day of practice, everybody left except for Ellen. She probably planned to sleep over again because she's too lazy to head home; what a spoiled princess.
"So," Ellen dropped on the sofa beside him. "Feel confident about our chances?"
"Of course. We got this in the bag. Good thinking there with the pizza by the way."
"Anything for you, darling." Ellen giggled as she rubbed her head against his arm, like a kitten asking to be petted. "So, you gave all of them a motivation boost, but what about me?"
"You really need one?"
"Probably not," Ellen smiled like a fox. "It'll be good enough if I just get Lars off my case. He still tries to challenge me every now and then, saying some nonsense about taking my spot and what not. He's such a pain. I'll gladly break him if you don't mind."
"I don't," Howard shrugged. "He's a strong boy, he can take it. Besides, the only one you ever 'broke' was Trever and he already had stability issues in the first place. You just like playing the witch, don't you?"
"Tehe, maybe~" Ellen stuck out her tongue. Esmeralda was rubbing on her too much. Ellen inherited not only her playstyle from that witch but also some questionable personality traits too. Well, it was endearing in its own way. Kinda. Maybe.
"Anyway," Howard said. "You got plenty of motivation."
"Buuu~t," Ellen rubbed her nose against his arm. "You need everybody in absolutely top form, right? So, giving me something special may make me work even harder~"
"Hmm, I dunno~" Ellen put a finger on her lips. "Something special only couples do. I mean, aren't we dating and stuff?"
"First time I hear that."
"Meanie~" She pinched his arm. "Weeeell, I'm not saying you [have] to, but a kiss could be nice."
"Here you go." Howard brought his lips toward her and gave her a peck. On the forehead.
"W-Wha!?" Ellen jumped backward, her face flushed. "T-Tell me before you do that kind of stuff! Jeez, you barbarian. Hmph. Besides, what I meant is more..." She tapped on her lips.
"This of it as advance payment," Howard smirked. "You'll get the rest once we win."
"I'm holding you on that, you know." Ellen poked his cheek while pouting, but her expression soon transformed into a beaming smile. She was already motivated before, but now her motivation was through the roof. With this, Howard's entire team was guaranteed to put on a strong performance. He did his job.
"I'm beat," Howard leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes. Finally, he could rest a little.
[We're all confident and fired up, just like you wanted.] Ellen caressed Howard's hair. [But, what about you? Who'll rea.s.sure YOU that we're going to win? Who'll promise you a reward for your hard work?]
Ellen was the only one by his side here. She's the only one who could rea.s.sure him, to promise him anything. No matter how tough and confident Howard acted, deep down he was uneasy too. This match was more than just selecting the starters, it'll decide whether Howard's ambition of winning the nationals will come to fruition. Failure wasn't an option.
"Don't worry," Ellen held his hand. "I'll do anything to win this. I'll break anybody who stands in your way."
"Heh, that nonsense again," Howard smiled dimly and clenched her hand. "I'm not worried. It's just warm up for us. Our real battle with these brats will be in high school after they get some compet.i.tive experience. So, in two or three years. Then we'll know for sure who's really better."
"But, aren't they going to Ivy just like us?" Ellen pointed out. "How we gonna face them in high school?"
"I don't plan on going to Ivy," Howard answered. "Remember how I told you about Grandview High?"
"Yeah, the one with the strongest high school team, right? What was it again... Dystopia, I think?"
"Utopia. Anyway, that's where I'm planning to go. "
"W-Wait!" Ellen jumped and clenched his hand. "That's like on the other side of the country!"
"No s.h.i.+t, Sherlock."
"T-Then how you gonna study there? You can't just take a bus or train there every morning."
"A scholars.h.i.+p that comes with living at the dorm. They offer them to promising Mancers."
"B-But what about me!?" Ellen finally asked what was really eating her. Howard planned to leave!? To the other side of the country!? To leave Ellen behind!? T-T-That's just... N-No...
"You can try following me if you want." Howard shrugged.
"Wha... But I... I thought..." Ellen's eyes became glossy. How could this... But they were... She...
"Joking, joking," Howard ran a finger across her cheeks to wipe her tear. "I won't leave you behind. Because then, I won't have anybody to mess around with, right? Haha."
"You jerk! I hate you!" Ellen buried her nose in his arm.
"Playing for Utopia is the shortest way to the pro league," Howard explained. "Many players there receive offers even before they graduate. If I go there and show results, I'll be able to play together with sis as a pro in just a few years. But, if you're not on board, I'll rethink things,
"No, I'm totally fine with it if that's what you want. But, what our chances?"
"Sis talked to the school about us. You know, giving a little 'pro recommendation'. They said we'll have a decent chance if we get to nationals this year and put on a show. If we become the champions, it's pretty much settled."
"So, we just have to win." Ellen rubbed her cheek on his arm.
"Yeah, easier said than done though. That's why the match on Friday is like the first trial. If we can't beat Yuel's team with this arrangement, I won't feel confident about our chances in the nationals."
"We'll beat them."
"Yeah, we will. We have to."
They remained hugged together for a while longer...
Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 69 Battle Preparations - Howard's Side
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Classmancers - A MOBA Esport Story 69 Battle Preparations - Howard's Side summary
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