He starts the sentence in Korean: "I used to be..."
Then he pauses, wrinkling his brows, searching for the right words. He finds them in another language.
"...no-brains aggressive," he ends in English, grinning.
"Hey, what about conducting the rest of the interview in English?" I ask.
He bursts out laughing and shakes his head. Probably best to just translate it all later, he says. He casually slips back into Korean to finish his thought.
"But now I'm going for smart-aggressive. I think through my plays a bit more now."
League of Legends jungler Lee "Rush" Yoon-jae is alive and well. An active pro player being "alive and well" doesn't usually qualify as news, but for Rush, who spent most of 2017 in utter seclusion, then all of 2018 so far on the bench, it almost does.
When KT Rolster announced its signing of Rush last December, many fans were pleasantly shocked. It had been 18 months since he last played in a professional match and close to a year since he had completely dropped off the radar, his enormous Twitch stream and YouTube channel seemingly abandoned for good.
It was understood that he had done so to ramp up his form and join a League Champions Korea team, but not a single update came, and he slowly passed into memory.
Every now and then, Reddit detectives would sniff out what seemed to be a new alternate account of his, but nothing came of such discoveries save communal nostalgia. Long gone was the hype surrounding the 2015 North American League Championship Series Summer Split MVP; long dead were the debates about how well he would do if he joined a top South Korean squad. The wistful consensus was that he had probably failed to overcome his champion pool and consistency issues and might never return to the stage again.
"I hadn't intended to stay dark for a whole year," Rush says, "but things took longer than expected."
The plan had been to take a short break to recover his concentration. He did enjoy streaming, but like many broadcasters, he found it difficult to keep his mind entirely on the game while also keeping thousands of fans entertained. His in-game focus was slipping, and he feared that it might become habitual. So Rush went off air and tried to recondition himself for professional play. He was feeling due for a period of rest, anyway.
But returning to full form didn't come easy. Coming back to League after taking some time to clear his head, Rush found himself playing at a level far lower than he expected of himself. He didn't feel nearly as sharp as he had been in Season 4, when he could rip apart high Korean Challenger games at will through sheer mechanics and intuition. Perhaps he still was that player but time had passed, the game had changed and opponents had improved. More important, his standards had risen; he was noticing many flaws in his play that he hadn't before.
Rush vowed to mend those imperfections before returning to the public eye, and decided to continue his hiatus until he felt truly prepared.
"Even when I wasn't publicly active, I was receiving a lot of offers from Taiwan, China, Europe, North America, from all around the world," Rush says. "But I turned them down because I wasn't ready to immediately play well. I wanted to come back with full confidence. I wanted to come back when I knew I could impress."
Another reason he turned down those offers was because he was determined to play in the LCK. It was one of the larger reasons he had left Cloud9 in 2016: He knew that if he wanted to unlock his true potential, he would need to join a top South Korean organization and learn how to play a team game at the highest level. He had no intention of giving up that dream for a larger payday or a quicker return to pro play.
His long quest was completed last offseason when KT Rolster came calling. The organization was looking for an aggressive substitute jungler to complement Ko "Score" Dong-bin's measured style, and Rush fit the bill perfectly. Rush knew that he would have to stay on the sidelines for a good while get accustomed to the league, but he didn't mind at all; that was what he came back to South Korea for.
He says is satisfied with the experience so far.
"I feel that as a team, KT is close to ideal," Rush says. "When someone falls behind in a game, all that matters is whether someone else on the team got ahead in return. And nobody fights, ever. Everyone is considerate of each other's feelings."
While KT did struggle last year in the teamwork department, the atmosphere has changed for the better, he affirms: "They're all on the same page now."
To join his new teammates on that page, Rush is busy working on blending into the team as well as learning a more cerebral style. That doesn't mean that he is trying to imitate Score route for route, of course; KT's coaching staff has always been keen on preserving its players' natural tendencies, albeit after some taming. Rush says his leanings toward high-risk, high-return plays remain relatively intact -- and scrim results haven't been half bad, either.
Does that mean the Kind Boy will make his LCK debut soon? KT Rolster coach Oh Chang-jong says he thinks Rush has some way left to go.
"Rush is still in the process of building synergy with our lanes and needs some more work on factoring in enemy movements when he makes decisions," the coach says, "but once those issues are solved, he'll be able to play."
For his part, Rush isn't too concerned about the exact date of his return; he's confident the day will come soon enough. Until then, he just wants to keep working on his game so that he can have a successful, memorable debut. What's a few more days or weeks, after all, to someone who has waited nearly two years?
And to everyone abroad who still remembers him, he has a special message:
"I'll work hard so that I can see you again soon." He pauses, then smiles. "Don't worry about me, guys."