Lin Feng, Shi Hang, and Tian Tian got to the NetCow Cafe. Lin Feng led them inside and to the private room reserved by Team Shanghai. He banged on the door a couple of times before opening it and barging in, “Hey guys! Look who I brought back here!”
Lin Feng walked in first as the rest of Team Shanghai stopped what they were doing and looked at the door. Shi Hang followed Lin Feng in. The team looked mildly surprised, but they already knew Shi Hang from the East China Regionals. Shi Hang casually waved at them in greeting and then moved further into the room. Then Tian Tian squeezed into the room and looked at the rest of Team Shanghai nervously. He put up his hand, a bit awkward, and said, “H-hey.”
Zhang Hao’s eyes grew round and wide. He stared at Tian Tian and stammered, “Go-God-Goo-Goddd-Go—”
“Hey Fatty,” An Xin said, smiling. She got up from her chair and threw her arms around him, pulling him close for a hug. She continued, “Long time no see. How’ve you been?”
“B-bunBun!” Fatty replied as An Xin hugged him. The pressure and reassurance of the hug released some of the tension in his body and a little of his anxiety. “It has been forever since we last saw each other! I’m good! H-how are you?”
“She’s good too!” Lin Feng interrupted. He then looked at the others in the room. At Zhang Hao still stammering in shock, at Zeng Rui slowly shaking his head and mumbling something incomprehensible and at Tang Bingyao who was looking back at him with her head slightly tilted. He grinned and said, “Guys, meet Fatty! He was my Toplaner way back in Season 1! We played at Worlds together! Oh! We watched him play at Worlds with KG a couple of months ago! He looks just the same in real life as he does on camera, don’t you think!?”
Zeng Rui looked up at Lin Feng and scrunched his eyebrows. Fatty? Did he just call God Roundy… Of course he did. Thundering dumbass. He shook his head and chuckled at the strangeness of it all before turning to look at Tian Tian and saying, “It’s an honour to meet you, Tian Tian. I still remember that Hecarim five man ult you pulled off at Worlds. That was… That was immense.”
“T-thanks!” Tian Tian replied, smiling meekly. “Oh, but you can call me Fatty. You’re Lin Feng’s friend and Lin Feng’s friend is my friend!”
Tang Bingyao nodded in understanding and said, “Hi Fatty! It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Zhang Hao heard a ringing in his ears, deaf to the conversation going on around him. He stared at Tian Tian, his throat dry and his heart slamming into his ribcage. T-t-that’s God Roundy! GOD ROUNDY! GOD ROUNDY IS IN THIS ROOM! HE SAID HI TO ME! I’M IN THE SAME ROOM AS GOD ROUNDY!
An Xin looked over her shoulder at Zhang Hao and said, “Hey, Zhang Hao, you still with us? I think Fatty might be here to help you out a bit.” She turned her head to look at Lin Feng and asked, “Right?”
“Yep!” Lin Feng replied. He put a hand on Tian Tian’s shoulder and explained, “So listen… Fatty over here doesn’t have to practice with his team tonight. Which gave me a brilliant idea! I brought him over here so he could coach HaoBro for a bit. Throw out some tips and pearls of wisdom. With a little bit of training from Fatty, HaoBro’s going to get so much stronger! Our team is going to level up, and it’s going to be easy when we’re up against Team Beijing!”
Zhang Hao pointed at himself and stammered, “M-m-me? He came here… to help me? God Roundy is here… for me?”
Tian Tian nodded and said, “Y-yeah. I heard you could use some help.”
Zhang Hao started smiling, brighter and brighter. He asked again, “Me?” And when Tian Tian nodded again, he started laughing. He got up from his gaming chair, ignoring his trembling legs as he walked up to Tian Tian and shook his hand. He continued, “Thanks… Thank you! Thank you! I’d love that! I can’t even believe this is happening! I’m getting a personal coaching session from God Roundy! Oh my god! You’re God Roundy! God Roundy! You don’t know this but I’ve watched all your videos! You’re the reason I started playing top lane! The way you play it’s just… Oh my god! I can’t believe you’re really here! To help me!”
Shi Hang nudged Lin Feng, winked and said, “Think you might have some competition there.” Before Lin Feng could argue with him about that, he added, “Anyway, what about me? Fatty’s here for HaoBro, who am I here for?”
“Oh, you?” Lin Feng asked, rubbing his chin in careful consideration. He then grinned and said, “You can’t really help me, but… What about bot? You used to ad-carry! Help Tang Tang and ZengZeng out while they play in bot lane! They can learn a ton from you!”
Shi Hang clicked his tongue and complained, “Man, I’m a mid main now. Didn’t you hear that I quit playing ad-carry ages ago?”
“Oh, I remember,” Lin Feng replied, laughing. “I’d never forget the games that made that happen!”
“Hey!” Shi Hang exclaimed. “Rude!” He then chuckled and added, “Yeah, I won’t be much help teaching you how to play mid. I’ll see if I can help Tang Tang and the Support out in bot.”
“Zeng Rui,” Zeng Rui introduced himself, sticking out his hand. “Thanks for helping us.”
The private room at the NetCow Cafe had five computers placed against the wall. Team Shanghai took place behind their computers, just like they would in a tournament game. Zhang Hao sat to the far right, next to him sat An Xin, then Lin Feng and finally Tang Bingyao and Zeng Rui. Tian Tian got a chair and sat down behind Zhang Hao, while Shi Hang pulled up a chair between Tang Bingyao and Zeng Rui. When everyone was in position, Lin Feng pumped his fist into the air and shouted, “IT’S TIME TO D-D-D-DUEL!”
Team Shanghai got into their first game. Lin Feng and An Xin played their usual game, strong and confident. Then there were Tang Bingyao and Zeng Rui. Shi Hang was pointing things out to them, giving tips and sharing everything he knew about the bot lane. It gave them a massive boost of self confidence while also increasing both their personal skill levels and their bot lane synergy. And finally there was Zhang Hao. He was a nervous wreck. His body was tense and his gameplay was disastrous.
“I-I’m sorry, God Roundy!” Zhang Hao apologised. He shook his head and continued, “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m not usually this bad! Well, I’m not good either. I’m not saying I’m good like you are! I’m just… I’m usually not this bad! I can play decently! I even got to Master on the Ionia server! But it’s really hard and, and…” His breathing turned into hyperventilating and his vision started spinning.
Tian Tian looked at Zhang Hao and noticed how stressed he was. The nerves were eating away at HaoBro. Tian Tian knew exactly how it felt. Because he had to fight through that same gnawing anxiety all the time. He then glanced at Lin Feng and felt a calmness wash over him when he breathed out. I was freaking out at Worlds, and then Lin Feng called. He told me everything would be alright, and it really was! Just hearing his voice… Hearing someone say they believe in me… He breathed in and said on the exhale, “I-it’s okay. You’re more like me than you think. I also stress a lot. L-Lin Feng knows. Back at Worlds, I almost missed a game because I was stressing so much. Just try and calm down…” He glanced at Lin Feng before adding, “A-and I believe in you, HaoBro!”
Zhang Hao’s hands stopped moving. He turned his head around and looked at Tian Tian, searching for something and finding it in a nod from Tian Tian. I never thought pros get nervous… They always play so well! But if even he gets nervous… He said he almost missed a game! His vision stopped spinning and he got a hold of his breathing again, though they still came in short and fast bursts. He finally said, “Thanks. I needed to hear that.”
The game was almost over by the time Zhang Hao found his confidence. But he carried that newfound confidence over into the next game. He started playing at the level he knew he could play at, and then began improving, putting to practice every bit of information Tian Tian gave him. And by the time Team Shanghai got into their third game, he even started asking Tian Tian questions, actively looking for the help he was being offered.
The impromptu coaching session came to an end at 10 P.M. Tian Tian and Shi Hang both had early training sessions the next morning, so they wanted to sleep at reasonable hours. Zhang Hao thanked Tian Tian a thousand times over until Lin Feng closed the door to the private room behind him, leaving with the two active professional players.
Zhang Hao turned to look at his other teammates and said, “Can you guys believe that? I just got coaching from God Roundy!”
Tang Bingyao nodded and added, “Mhm! And we from AyDeeCee!”
Outside the NetCow Cafe, Lin Feng waved Tian Tian goodnight as he drove off in a cab. Shi Hang walked up from behind him, having just bought a new pack of cigarettes. He lit one up and said to Lin Feng, “Man, you really know how to find them. That Tang Tang girl really is something. Her reflexes and mechanics are really good, even for LPL standards!”
“I know right!?” Lin Feng exclaimed, grinning. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it the first time either!”
Shi Hang nodded and said, “At this speed, it won’t be long til you make it to the LPL.”
“Yeah, but that’s for later. I’ve got a couple of things I need to do first,” Lin Feng replied. He glanced at Shi Hang and continued, “I need to win the Collegiate Cup, cause I don’t wanna poop on your legacy… Heh! And then I also need to climb to the top of the Korean Challenger ladder… before the start of Season 6.”
“The top of the Korean Challenger ladder? What?” Shi Hang blurted in surprise. “By the start of Season 6? Hasn’t Season 6 already more-or-less started? The ladder hasn’t been reset yet, but the season rewards have been given out already. Why would you still care about your rank?”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and explained, “I don’t really care about end of the season rewards. It’s just that I promised One that I’d climb to the top of the Korean Challenger ladder. I want to keep that promise, but I’ve only got like a week left and I also need to practice for the Win—”
“Hold on, hold on, hold on!” Shi Hang interrupted. He grabbed Lin Feng by his shoulder and stared straight at him. He then asked, “One? The One?”
“Yeah?” Lin Feng said, confused.
“You’re climbing the Korean ladder for One?” Shi Hang asked. He felt his heart rate going up and butterflies swimming around in his stomach. One! The most legendary player ever! Shit, I wish I was so close to him… The things I could learn from him. If I can be half the player he was one day… He shook his head, stunned.
Lin Feng shrugged, wryly, and said, “One gave me a Korean Challenger account and told me to climb. He told me to get into the Top 5. I was going to show him I could make it to the Top 3! But I just don’t have enough time! With my exams and the Winter Collegiate Cup… It’s just really hard to find time for everything!”
Shi Hang breathed in long and deep. He then sighed loudly and said, “Top 5? Jesus. That’s a you and One kinda thing. Only you two can make those crazy things happen.” He briefly paused, shaking his head repeatedly, before asking, “Where are you at now?”
“Not even in the Top 30… Still a few places off,” Lin Feng replied. “It’s those stupid exams! Without the—”
“Top 30?” Shi Hang interrupted, gasping. He jabbed his forehead with his finger and said, “You’re nuts. Both of you are! Top 30 is insane enough already and you’re still not satisfied! You two are both monsters! Still… You’re right. It’s going to be really hard to hit the Top 5 before the ladder resets. You basically need to stomp OGN pros every game.”
Lin Feng nodded, prowling, and replied, “Yeah. That.”
Shi Hang noticed the drop in Lin Feng’s demeanor, from his usual smile disappearing from his face to his shoulders slumping by his side. He hurriedly said, “But I’m sure you can do it! One wouldn’t give you an impossible task. I’m sure he believes in you, and if anyone can do it, it’s definitely you.”
Lin Feng nodded and replied, “I know!” His shoulders rose up again and his usual grin appeared back on his face. He pumped his fist in the air and proclaimed, “I’ma win the Collegiate Cup and get to the Top 5 on the Korean Ladder! Just watch me!” He then scrunched his eyebrows and asked, “I watched a bit from the LPL the other day, with Team Rapids playing… Why weren’t you playing?”
Shi Hang shrugged and explained, “I’m still new to the team. We’re still working on meshing me in with the others. Don’t worry. I’ll get my shot and I’ll make sure I won’t need a second shot. I’ll claim the starting position in no time. Actually, with a bit of luck, I might already get to play in our next game against KG.”
Lin Feng laughed and replied, “I’d love to see that!”
“I bet,” Shi Hang said. “You better be cheering for me though. I’ll make sure to put on a show!”
Team Shanghai met up with Chu Fang the next day at Pudong Airport. They got a flight to Beijing at 9 A.M. and safely landed two hours later. Lin Feng pulled a brand new list of restaurants from his pocket and showed it to everyone, explaining which restaurants they had to check out and which one he wanted to start with right away. They went there for an early lunch, much to Lin Feng’s delight. After which they walked to the hotel, where they checked in and retreated to their rooms.
“Be back here at 5 P.M.” Chu Fang reminded everyone as he saw the doors to the different rooms close. He then shook his head and mumbled, “Kids these days really should work on a healthier sleeping schedule. Talking about…” He turned his head around and looked into the room he was sharing with Lin Feng. Lin Feng was sitting behind a desk with his laptop open. Chu Fang squinted his eyes and asked, “Are you in Champion Select already? When… Why… Are you not tired?”
“No time,” Lin Feng replied.
Chu Fang walked over and looked at the screen. He asked, “Playing on the Korean server again?”
Lin Feng nodded and explained, “Yes. I’m so close but there’s no time left! I need to play every second that I can!”
Chu Fang shook his head and said, “I still can’t believe it… Top 5 Korean Challenger. Only One would ask something so absurd. Anyway, what rank are you at now?”
“34,” Lin Feng replied.
“34?” Chu Fang muttered, shocked. His eyes grew round and wind and he covered his mouth with his hands. What the hell! He was like Top 100 back in Guangzhou! How did he get so high up!? He had exams! How did he even find the time to play at all! Shit… Shit! He might actually do it! He might actually reach the Top 5! He’d be the first Chinese player to ever do that. He’d be right up there with Rake… Oh my god, I can already imagine the waves that’s gonna cause! Every team is going to try and figure out who he is, and when they do… He chuckled. Everyone will know, soon enough.