Chapter 421 – Canne he do it?

Hermes sat behind the computer he shared with Nightsong in Hand of God’s gaming house. They were both inching towards the screen, eager to see if CN•HOOK2 had enough time left to play and win two games at the top of the Korean Challenger Ladder. But they also both realized how steep of a challenge it was. They’d played at the highest level for quite some time and often spent most of their days working on something League of Legends related. That was why they, better than anyone else, understood the physical and mental toll that came with playing consecutive games at this level, and the pressure that CN•HOOK2 was under.

Nightsong shook his head and frowned. He said, “It’s gonna be tougher than getting your Mum into bed, that’s for sure. Only someone like…”

Hermes chuckled and replied, “Losing some of that energy, huh? Stunned to silence?” He then pursed his lips and shook his head before continuing, “But you’re right. You’re right. I don’t get it. He just played 11 games in a row and needs another 2. And he’s gotta win both of them. How can anyone stand straight knowing that?”

“That’s just it…” Nightsong mumbled. He hit his fingers as he said, “Normal training, scrims, tournaments, streams, fan meetups… I can keep going! We do them all every day all day! We can because we trained for it! And because there is the mixup. We don’t train all day. We don’t scrim all day. We don’t play dicking tournaments all day! FUCK!”

Hermes sighed. He turned his head to look at Nightsong and said, “He’s played 11 games and won 8 of them. He’s grinding so hard and worst… or best. I don’t know anymore. Best of all, yeah. Best of all, he’s looking better than he did five games ago. He’s just getting better and better and better!” He briefly paused before adding softly, “I couldn’t do that.”

“NO ONE CAN!” Nightsong exclaimed. He grabbed Hermes by his shoulders and looked his friend deep in the eyes. “DON’T YOU SEE? THAT’S IT!” he shouted, spittle spewing from his lips. “HE’S A BOT! WE’VE GOT OUR VERY OWN ALPHA ZERO! THAT’S WHY HE’S BETTER THAN YOU AND ME! HE’S NO MAN! HE’S A MACHINE!” He turned back to look at the screen and grinned. He clenched his fists and laughed. “That’s it. That’s gotta be it. No one’s better at banging out straight wins than me, except if that someone is using some illegal support. Yep. that’s it. I’m telling you. That’s it.” 

Aurous was still keeping Shi Hang company in Team Rapids gaming house. But while Shi Hang was sitting at the edge of his seat with a big grin on his face, he slumped back in his chair a bit. He glanced at his friend and said, “I don’t get it. How are you so excited? He’s played 11 games! 11! In a fucking row! AFTER PLAYING THE FUCKING FINALS OF THE COLLEGIATE CUP! BEFORE WHICH HE EVEN PLAYED MORE! HE’S BEEN PLAYING FOR SO LONG… FUCK!”

Shi Hang turned his head to look at his friend and shook his head a bit. He explained, “You weren’t there in Season 1. I guess it makes sense you don’t understand. Actually…” He briefly paused to look back at his screen and make sure Lin Feng hadn’t found a game yet. He then continued, “Let me give you an idea of what it was like for him back in Season 1. Maybe then you’ll understand that if anyone can do it, it’s gonna be him.”

“Okay, okay, talk!” Aurous replied, nodding.

“Here goes,” Shi Hang started, keeping one eye on his screen. “Back in Season 1, Lin Feng… Or Maple… You get it. Anyway, he qualified for Worlds with his team, right? Here in China, we were fucking proud of him. They were basically the wildcard team, the team no one outside of China had ever heard of. But they qualified for Worlds, so they flew to London and were excited to start playing against the other top teams in the world.

“When they got in London, they weren’t really welcomed. They were the wildcard team. You know how it’s at Worlds these years. Everyone makes fun of the wildcard teams. It wasn’t any different back then. You had the Europeans and Americans who thought they were the shit. And then you had those douches from Korea. Assholes those guys. They all thought they were better than some wildcard team. None of them respected Maple, much less his team.

“Lin Feng and his teammates. Oh! And An Xin, you’ve seen her play. But they started looking for scrim partners to prepare for Worlds against the best. Everyone ignored them. They didn’t even get a single message back. No ‘sorry, but we’re busy’ or anything like that. Just complete radio silence. But they still had to practice. They had to be in the best form of their lives for Worlds! So they contacted me and some of the other top players and asked us if we could be their scrim partners.

“Most of us had jobs or school. League of Legends wasn’t what it is now. There wasn’t big money in it yet. We couldn’t tell our teacher or boss that we had to take a sick day to help a friend get better at playing a game. They’d have laughed at us! Right in the face! So we had to do our normal stuff during the day and play with them at night, which wasn’t great for them. They had to adjust their entire sleeping schedule just so they could get more time to practice against us. They were pulling the most insane days, just to get those few extra hours of training in…

“And they never complained. They never asked us if we could take that sick day, or skip that class. They thanked us again and again. They persevered. They pressed on. Fuck! I remember the day of the semis. I played basically all night against Maple! We did full team scrims but also 1v1s. That was fucking awesome. And then, when most people would be too tired to think straight, he went up on stage to play against fucking Phoenix! You know what happened then.”

Aurous stared at Shi Hang with his eyes wide open. He nodded unconsciously and muttered, “He smashed him. Maple smashed him.”

Shi Hang grinned and said, “Exactly! So when you ask me why I’m confident that Maple… Lin Feng will win the next two games and make it into the Top 5, that’s why. I’ve seen him pull this off before. I know him. And I know that if there’s anyone who can do this, it’s him. Because fuck me he’s good.”

Aurous grinned and was about to agree to that when Shi Hang frowned and continued, “There’s one thing that’s got me a bit worried though. He hasn’t played Rake yet and I don’t see him online. But he also hasn’t played Moon yet and he did just log on. They’re both in queue. I believe Lin Feng can beat him. I really believe he’s that good. But that won’t be an easy game. That won’t be the 20 minute game he needs. It’ll be a 50 minute game and he won’t have time to hit that Top 5. And that would fucking suck.”

Lightless had several big names on his friends list. One he was particularly proud of was Moon. The one million+ viewers on his stream saw it when Moon logged on, and they watched Moon enter the solo queue. Before Lightless could say anything—not that he had too—his viewers lost it. They smashed away at their keyboards as a massive wave of messages flooded the chat.

NOT NOW!!! WHY NOW!?!??!?!??!?!?
FUCK! Whats next? Rake gonna come too??!?!??!?!?!
maybe he can beat moon?
Press F to Pay Respect.

An Xin sat next to Lin Feng in the hotel room, scrolling through different online forums on her phone. When she read the news about Moon logging on and getting into the solo queue, she raised her eyebrows and said, “Hey, Lin Feng?” She briefly waited for his attention and then continued, “Looks like Moon’s trying to snipe you.”

Lin Feng paused for a moment. It felt like even his heart slowed to a stop. His mind went blank as the darkness of despair was tugging at his consciousness. But then he grinned. He relaxed his shoulders and sighed loudly. “Got it,” he replied. “Thanks.”

The queue popped a few seconds later. Every player had to click the ready button; it was a mechanism Riot Games had put in place to make sure everyone was still behind their computer. Lin Feng moved his mouse over the button and without pause clicked it. He glanced at An Xin and asked with a bit of excitement in his voice, “So? Is he in it?”

An Xin looked at her phone. It was playing Lightless’ stream which was currently zoomed in on Lightless’ friends list. CN•HOOK2 was in Champion Select and Moon was still in queue. “No,” she replied. “Looks like he’s still in queue.”

Lin Feng shrugged and said, “Okay, guess not then.” He then narrowed his eyes and stared at his screen. I need to win this one fast. I can’t beat Moon in 20 minutes. Maybe 30… He took a deep, long breath. If they’re sniping me now, they’ll snipe me next game as well. I need to buy myself as much time as possible. Fizz. The Champion wasn’t banned, though LeBlanc, Yasuo and Ahri were. Good. I’ll go with her. I’ll stomp them like I did earlier…

The game started a few minutes later. Lin Feng bought Doran’s Ring, which was the normal starter item for an ability power Champion. He then went to lane and played at a level of aggressiveness he hadn’t shown before that game yet. He pushed his opponent into making mistakes and by Level 2 he claimed first blood. He pushed the wave out and recalled back to base, where he bought a second Doran’s Ring to give himself that all important power boost. When he returned to lane, his opponent was there waiting for him. And he continued right where he left off. He pushed and put pressure and killed his opponent a minute later. He then roamed top where he caught the opponent’s Toplaner and Jungler. He killed them both. He had 4 kills before reaching Level 6. It was disastrous for his opponent. It was a deficit they couldn’t come back from.

Lin Feng’s Botlaners weren’t particularly great, nor was his Toplaner or Jungler. It didn’t feel to Lin Feng like they were particularly try-harding either. But he never stopped to care about that. He just kept doing what he did best. Getting kills and securing objectives. The mid lane was the first to fall, followed by the top lane. The opponent tried to force him into teamfights, but he simply ignored that, allowing his teammates to die just so he could split push to victory.

At 26 minutes, Lin Feng’s Fizz destroyed the second inhibitor of the game. His opponent was still trying to draw him into a teamfight, but he never took the bait. When his opponent finally realized they had to do something to stop, it was too late. He was in their base. He was taking down their Nexus towers. And he finally took down their Nexus. All the while, his teammates in their inability to do much of anything useful were doing a perfect job at distracting the opponent which gave Lin Feng all the time he needed to win the game.

The fifteenth game of the night was a victory for Lin Feng. He had a bit more than 30 minutes left before the ranks would rest and he was one victory shy from breaching the Top 5. He turned his head to look at An Xin and grinned. He said, “Five down. One to go. LET’S FUCKING GO!”

“My ears!” An Xin yelped, reaching for her ears. She then smiled and added, “Yeah. Let’s go!”

Chapter 420 – Make Momma Proud

Lightless sat behind his computer in Dark Glory’s gaming room, streaming CN•HOOK2’s ascent of the Korean Challenger Ladder to over a million viewers. But the last few minutes had been tense. After two losses, CN•HOOK2 didn’t immediately jump into another game. There was a long pause during which Lightless didn’t breathe. Or say much. In which his viewers barely dared to type! Everyone was waiting to see what would happen next. And then, it did. CN•HOOK2’s name turned yellow again, and in small letters under his name it read ‘in queue’. Lightless smiled at the camera and said, “He had me worried there for a second, not gonna lie. Thought he might give up… But was I wrong! Look at that! He’s in queue again! I’m thinking he went to grab some water to clear his head, maybe throw some on his face, and he’s going right back at it! Let’s watch him win again!”

11 games…. this is his 11th game… wtf. he a robot?
Here’s to hoping his teammates ain’t dogshit this game.
no way! cant be that unlucky! NORMAL TEAMMATES PLEASEEEEEEE
i really hope he wins!!!

Lightless laughed and said to his viewers, “You guys are the weirdest people ever. First you’re all screaming about how he got tilted and gave up. I think I even saw someone claiming they heard from sources…” He narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “… that CN•HOOK2 threw his computer out of the window! So ridiculous! He just needed a little break. We all do after a few bad losses. Take a step back, breathe deeply, and get right back to it! And that’s what we’re seeing here!”

lol knew that guy was full of shit! I told you guys he was a stupid troll saying he knows CN•HOOK2
but like CN•HOOK2 never said anything! how were we to know?????
He played 10 games already! This is his 11th! You see LPL pros do that shit? Of course you dont! Only crazies do!
maybe he should take a longer break… is five mins really enough?
yeah….. five mins is like nothing!!! TAKE A FEW MORE MINUTES BUD! WE BELIEVE IN YOU!!

“Yep,” Lightless said, frowning. “Five minutes is very short. Hardly enough for most people. But look at the clock. He’s got less than three hours to go to get all the way up to wherever he’s aiming for! If he starts now, he can play a few more games. That’d be enough to reach the Top 5! Honestly…?” He briefly paused and looked straight at the camera. “Honestly, I think that’s his aim here.”

Top 5 his aim………
How is that even possible??? Hesonly got a few more games left at the TOP OF KOREAN CHALLENGER!!!!!
it’s not gonna happen. It can’t…. no one is that good….
fuck me… I really wanted….. less than 3 hours just isn’t enough. Maybe if he started sooner…. next season…

Lightless read through the chat and smiled. He glanced at his monitor which showed that CN•HOOK2 was currently in Champion Select. If there’s anyone that can do this, it’s One. He smiled and said to his viewers, “It’s going to be really tough. But I’ve got a feeling here. This little twinkle in my chest. I think that he might have what it takes. I think… that he just might… PULL IT OFF!”

Su Xue was back in Shanghai, inside her apartment, reading through the forums on one screen while watching Lightless’ stream on the other. She’d considered streaming herself. Lin Feng would’ve happily added her to his friends list. But her viewers didn’t know Lin Feng was CN•HOOK2 and she felt that rather than trying to explain it to hundreds of thousands of people, it would be less stressful to host Lightless and watch his stream instead.

Lightless had just explained how Lin Feng would have to win the next few games if he wanted to reach the Top 5. She knew that was Lin Feng’s goal. Thanks to Lightless she also knew that Lin Feng could still reach that goal. “But another win streak? That’s so unfair! If it wasn’t for those stupid teammates… He should get some kind of compensation for those teammates! Like some extra LP! Something to give him a buffer in his last few games before server reset! Stupid game!” she grumbled.

But Su Xue didn’t give up. She furiously typed away, downvoting the naysayers and cheering Lin Feng on with everything she had. Her heart was up in her throat, slamming, and she constantly had to remind herself to keep breathing. Then the game began. She stopped typing. Her eyes were drawn to Lightless’ stream. She clenched her fists and mumbled, “Come on, kid! You can do this! I know you can! Make momma proud!”

Lin Feng sat in the hotelroom behind his laptop. An Xin sat next to him. He couldn’t see her, but he could feel her calming presence. It was a feeling he’d come to love during Season 1. She was always there, always by his side. Just knowing she was there for him, with him, helped him. The nerves and frustrations that were bothering him before had disappeared. An Xin was right. I did need a short break. And her massages are the best! He smiled and placed his hands on his keyboard and mouse.

The game announcer welcomed him to Summoner’s Rift in Korean. His Fizz spawned on the fountain and he opened the shop to buy his starting items, like he’d done so many times before. But something was different in this game compared to the previous one. This game felt like 4 years ago. There was only excitement and expectation, the strong desire to keep moving forward and push through everyone in his way! This was where he belonged! This was where he was the best version of himself! He grinned and nodded at his screen. “LET’S GO!” he exclaimed.

Lightless jumped from his seat multiple times that game. His viewers were losing it in chat. CN•HOOK2 started with an early kill at Level 3 on the opponent Twisted Fate, after which he went straight down to the bot lane where he picked up a double kill. From there the game was played. CN•HOOK2 played at such a high level that it didn’t even matter what his teammates did. He carried them. He carried the top lane with a couple of kills. He carried the bot lane. And he drew the opponents Jungler towards the mid lane where he won multiple one versus two’s. The game lasted 25 minutes, but it was played in those first three minutes.

“Unbelievable,” Lightless said. He shook his head and continued, “Un. Be. Lie. Va. Ble.”

best goddamn player in the world. i dont see rake doing that

Lightless nodded and said, “Yes. Oh my god. That was insane. It’s the 11th game of the night and somehow he’s playing better than in all of his previous games combined… Wow!”

Lin Feng turned his head to look at An Xin and smiled. He said, “One down, five to go.”

An Xin smiled back at him and replied, “That wasn’t half bad.”

“Right!” Lin Feng exclaimed with his trademark grin. He then turned his head back towards his laptop. The grin disappeared from his face as he forced himself through a few cycles of deep, long breaths. “Five more to go. I need to play,” he mumbled while clicking on the ‘play again’ button.

Lin Feng picked LeBlanc in his 12th game of the night. His LeBlanc and Fizz were always very similar, which became clear to everyone watching as the game progressed. When he taught LeBlanc her third primary skill, he jumped on the opponent Ahri, predicted where she was flashing away too, locked her down with Ethereal Chains, and finished her off with a combination of auto attacks and Ignite. After which he went straight down the river towards the bot lane. His own Botlaners didn’t even see him coming. None of the 9 other players realized it, until he appeared in the bot lane by jumping on the Lucian and Zyra. They were both squishy targets who were dueling with Jinx and Janna. Lin Feng didn’t have to do much, but what he did, he did perfectly.

The game lasted 29 minutes, a few minutes longer than the previous game. Lin Feng had to carry a bit harder, but he did that all the same. The Nexus exploded and the victory emblem floated on his screen. He smiled and leaned back in his chair. “Two down, four to go,” he mumbled more to himself than to An Xin. He then squared his shoulders and clicked on the ‘play again’ button. “No time to lose!”

An Xin looked at Lin Feng but didn’t say anything. She just smiled and looked at the Korean Ladder. He’s Rank 7 already. He’s doing it. I’m watching him doing it! 

Lin Feng soon found himself in the next game. This time around he went with Annie. But unlike the previous two games, he didn’t get first blood within three minutes and he also didn’t get a double kill in the bot lane. He scrunched his eyebrows and mumbled, “Their Midlaner and ad-carry are good.”

“Of course they are,” An Xin replied. She winked at Lin Feng and continued, “That Zed is a semi-pro currently sitting in 9th on the ranked ladder and that ad-carry is on the main roster of an OGN team. What? You thought you were just going to walk all over everyone?”

“Of course not!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He glanced at An Xin and added, “This just makes it more fun!” He then focused back on his game, his finger tapping in a calm but fast rhythm. He forced his opponent to call in the help of their Jungler and then baited them into giving him a double kill. But that wasn’t enough to win this game. His Botlaners were struggling against the professional Kog’Maw.

The laning phase came to an end after Kog’Maw destroyed the bot lane’s outer tower. Lin Feng grimaced slightly and his touch on his mouse increased. Just for a moment. Then his mind cleared. He grinned and focused on the game. He accepted that his teammates were outclassed by the opponent, and he started playing with that in mind. When the first teamfight happened, he knew they would lose. So rather than fight for a win, he fought to minimize their losses. Kog’Maw still got four kills.

Lin Feng took a deep, long breath. His teammates died, but his Annie was the only one on a killing spree. She was the only one worth any real money. And she’d survived. They had to give up on the Dragon, but he kept an eye on Baron Nashor. I just need to find the right engage before my teammates do their thing… Get the Kog… Patience.

The second teamfight went down much like the first. Lin Feng’s teammates were trigger happy. Their Jinx especially decided to engage with her minigun rather than using her long range bazooka. Lin Feng’s team lost another big fight and were fortunate that they killed the opponent’s Jungler. It was the only thing keeping them from taking Baron Nashor.

But while the game looked bad, though everything looked to be going against him, Lin Feng remained calm. He knew the game was far from over. His Annie was fed from the laning phase and his teammates weren’t completely useless. With the right engage, they could win.

The minutes dragged on. The pressure on Lin Feng continued to grow. Every game had to be a fast win if he wanted to get the six he needed for that Top 5 spot. When the game reached the 35th minute, Lin Feng’s opponents forced a teamfight at the Baron pit. His teammates were walking straight into the bait, because if they didn’t, the opponent would take the Baron and win the game. Lin Feng didn’t run head first into the fight. He looked at the curves in the wall surrounding the Baron pit and estimated where their Kog’Maw was most likely positioned. When his teammates walked into the trap, he flashed across the Baron pit wall and arrived right behind Kog’Maw.

“TIBBERS, I SUMMON YOU!” Lin Feng hollered behind his laptop, causing An Xin to jump up from her chair in fright. “What the fuck!” she exclaimed, but Lin Feng wasn’t listening to her. He was just grinning, his fingers gliding across the keyboard activating skills.

Annie threw her teddy bear up into the sky. It grew rapidly in size, fueled by flames. What fell to the ground was a massive monster. It stunned Kog’Maw who was then incinerated by flames. Annie pushed forward and landed a second stun on Zed, who’d jumped to the backline after assassinating Jinx. He hadn’t noticed Annie. He arrived in front of her and gave Lin Feng the double. And from there, Lin Feng kept pushing. He got a quadra kill, his Jungler picking up the fifth, after which he turned his attention towards his opponent’s base.

It was a race. Death cooldown versus speed. Lin Feng’s team didn’t have their ad carry, but they did have a fast tower killer in Irelia. They took down the inhibitor tower in the mid lane with the help of a large minion wave and pushed for the inhibitor. His teammates started to back away, but Lin Feng kept pinging on the Nexus towers until they followed him. He pressed the tab key and counted the seconds. The first nexus tower fell and they just had a few more to go. The second fell and Kog’Maw respawned. Lin Feng pinged on the Nexus. His teammates attacked it, while he moved towards Kog’Maw and stunned him. Zed respawned next and dashed in. He killed Irelia and Janna was the next one to die. But Lin Feng lived. He used his skills while auto attacking the nexus. His minions helped him. And he won.

Lin Feng leaned back in his chair and breathed out loudly through his mouth. “PFOOH! What a game. That was a tough one,” he finally said. “Alright! Next one! No time to lose!”

An Xin sat next to Lin Feng, speechless. It took her all of the next game, which was a fast 20 minute victory, to recover from her shock. She tugged on his shirt and asked, “How did you know you had enough time to finish the Nexus?”

Lin Feng looked at An Xin confused and said, “What? They were all dead!”

“Not this game, you stupid! Last game!”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. They were all dead!” Lin Feng repeated. He then scratched the back of his head and added, “I guess it was a bit closer than I would’ve liked it…”

An Xin shook her head, incredulous, and mumbled, “No. No. It was good. Really good.”

Lin Feng patted his chest and replied, “I know! I’m really good! Four games down, two more to go! Oh, and look! I’m already Rank 6! So close! I should have enough time, right? RightRight?”

An Xin smiled and replied, “Yeah, you do. You’ve got an hour. Bit more actually. Four minutes to be precise. Find a game fast and you got this!”

“Uh-huh!” Lin Feng replied while smashing the ‘play again’ button for the fifteenth time that night.

In Hand of God’s gaming house, Nightsong and Hermes were watching Lightless’ stream. Hermes moved his hand across his mouth and mumbled, “He’s amazing. He’s…” He shook his head, unable to find the words to say how he was feeling.

Nightsong moved his hand around, scratching an itch on his chest, digging at the edge of his nose and rubbing across his cheek. He chewed on his lips and stared at the screen, his heart slamming so hard against his ribcage that it felt like he would break a rib soon. He finally said, “He’s doing it. He’s actually doing it! Forget about DotA and everything he did there, he’s got the skill to play in the LPL! He… He…”

“He’s got a bigger dick than you, yeah,” Hermes finished the sentence.

Nightsong abruptly turned his head to look at Hermes and exclaimed, “HEY! Not funny!” He then looked back at his screen and chewed on his lips again. “He’s in queue again,” he mumbled. “He’s going for it again. He’s almost there. I can’t believe he’s doing this. FUCK! I want him in the LPL.”

Hermes nodded and said, “Me too, buddy. Me too.”

Chapter 419 – Is There a Better Waifu than An Xin?

Lin Feng looked at An Xin through bleary eyes and said, “Thanks, BunBun.” When he heard what he said, he scrunched his eyebrows and mumbled, “BunBun? Huh?” He looked at An Xin again and then asked, “BunBun! When did you get here? Why aren’t you in bed? It’s late! You should get some sleep!”

An Xin giggled and replied, “I don’t see you sleeping either. Why should I sleep?”

Lin Feng laughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his head. He explained, “We’ve been playing in the Collegiate Cup for months, and then we had to fly to Guangzhou and Beijing. We practiced all the time and also had to study for our exams… I kind of figured that after the hotpot earlier everyone was going to knock out early. Especially since, you know, we’ve gotta get up early in the morning for our flight back home.”

“So you’re saying I have to go to bed but you get to stay up?” An Xin asked.

Lin Feng shook his head and explained, “I want to go to bed! But I also need to keep my promise to One and the ranked ladder is about to reset soon! I have to play!”

An Xin pointed at Lin Feng’s screen that showed he’d lost his previous game and said, “You won’t reach the Top 5 if you’re losing…” She put her hands on Lin Feng’s shoulder and asked, “How many games have you played already?”

Lin Feng opened his match history page and scrolled down a bit before replying, “I think 10? Looks like 10, yeah.”

An Xin shook her head and said, “No wonder you look like a zombie. No one can play at their best for so many hours! And it’s even longer if you count the Finals and this morning!”

“Yeah, yeah,” Lin Feng replied. “I know. I know! But I just don’t have enough time. The ladder is almost resetting! If I don’t get to the Top 5 before then, my promise to One… I… I—”

“You have to keep it,” An Xin finished the sentence. She looked at Lin Feng and smiled. “I know you have to keep it. And I wasn’t telling you to stop either.” Not that anyone could stop you at this point… Everyone in the world could line up and tell you one at a time, or together in one loud scream, tell you to take a break and you wouldn’t listen. That’s your stubbornness, or persistence… either one depending on your results, I guess. But that’s also how you fight to the top, and get to the top. So… She put her hands on Lin Feng’s shoulders and started giving him a massage. She whispered into his ears, “Just relax for a bit. Drink the water and let me give you this massage. You can continue afterwards, okay?”

Lin Feng chewed on his lips and mumbled, “B-but… There isn’t the time—”

“Shh, shh, shhhh!” An Xin whispered into his ears, tracing the back of her hand over his shoulder blades. “You’ve been playing nonstop for too long already. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Just a couple of minutes. It’ll do wonders. Trust me, Lin Feng. Trust me.”

Lin Feng wanted to argue, but she was putting just the right amount of pressure on his back and shoulders. It relaxed his body more than he’d expected it to and he started to realize that he had been putting a lot of tension on his body. He glanced over his shoulder at An Xin who was still smiling at him and smiled back at her again. “Okay,” he finally mumbled.

An Xin moved her hands up the sides of Lin Feng’s head and paused at his temples, putting a bit more pressure as she moved her fingers in small circles. She then continued up, moving across his brows before sending her index fingers down to his glabella. She increased the pressure again there as her fingers made small circular movements.

Lin Feng moaned and said, “BunBun, I forgot how good your massages are. They bring me back to Season 1…”

“Just relax and enjoy,” An Xin said, happy. I gave you a massage every day back then. Back when you had to give it your all every game and I did my best to give you some relief… That’s part of the reason we grew so close. That’s part of the reason I want to play together with you so badly. The memories that started playing before her eyes were vibrant and full of colour for a couple of seconds, but then they turned a dullish grey. She remembered the words her doctor told her. How she’d never again get full use from her hand. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts! She pursed her lips and then said, “I was reading some forum earlier and everyone was going crazy about you. There are thousands of posts and millions of comments talking about you! There are people streaming just to analyze your ranks! Everyone in China is talking about you!”

Lin Feng opened his eyes wide and asked, “Huh, really!?”

“Very really,” An Xin answered.

“Well, I am Maple!” Lin Feng said with a grin.

An Xin nodded and replied, “You are.” She then breathed in deeply and breathed out through her mouth. Her smile disappeared, though her hands kept moving in practiced motion. I’d offer to help you, you know that. But One wants you to do this alone. You can’t get any help. Those people talking about you online, they don’t know that. They just think you’re trying too hard. She gritted her teeth. I want to help you. I really do! You might not know, because I never told you, but I hit the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder early on in the season. But that was then… Now I’m down to the Top 30 and barely holding on. She let her head fall forward a bit, keeping it just shy from Lin Feng’s head, and looked at her right hand. That was before the… That was when I thought we could still go to Worlds together when you returned to the game. I knew you would and I was preparing for it! And then… then… She sucked in a breath of air to force back the tears appearing in her eyes. Then my stupid hand happened. Why? Why…?

“Hey, BunBun?” Lin Feng said.

An Xin raised her head and blinked away a tear. She asked, “Hmm? What’s up?”

Lin Feng stretched his back and took another sip from his water. He then turned his head to look at her and said with his usual cheerful expression, “I think I’m good again! I feel a lot better! Thanks to you.”

An Xin let go of Lin Feng’s shoulders and replied, “Okay. Keep your promise to One.”

“I will!” Lin Feng exclaimed, clenching his fist and pumping the air. He entered the queue and asked over his shoulder, “BunBun, time?”

An Xin looked over Lin Feng’s shoulder at the clock on his screen and said, “There, look. It says 11:10 P.M. which means it’s almost midnight here.”

“But it’s not midnight in Korea yet!” Lin Feng replied, grinning. “I’ve still got 3 hours left! That means I’ve got time for 6 more games if I’m fast enough!” He clicked on his profile while waiting for the queue and continued, “I’m at Rank 8 right now. The goal is Top 5. Given how many points I need to get there… Hmm… If I win five in a row and also win the sixth if I need to… Yeap! If I win everything, I will make it! It’s still doable!”

An Xin asked, “You need to do what other professional players have failed at, and you’ve only got like 6 games to do it in. Are you up for it? Are you ready to play more and win everything? Do you think you can do it?”

“Not one bit!” Lin Feng replied, laughing. He looked over his shoulder at An Xin and continued, “But I’m gonna try all the same! One gave me this task and I’m going to see it through to the end! Three more hours of League. No rest! AND IT’S STARTING NOW!” The queue had popped. He clicked on the ready button and was moved to Champion Select.

An Xin pulled up a seat and sat down next to Lin Feng. She winked at him and said, “And I’m going to stay and watch. Cheer you on and make sure you make it!” She forced a smile on her face. It hurt incredibly much to do so, but she wouldn’t show him how weak she felt. It wasn’t until he focused completely on his screen that she let her expression fall. She chewed on the inside of her lips and focused on taking deep, long breaths. I want to be there for you. No. I want to be here with you, playing. Shoulder to shoulder. As a team. Just you and me. But that won’t ever happen. I’ll be… I’ll be forever this. The girl who sits by your side and cheers you on. Maybe I should start the fanclub, because that’s all I’ll ever… She closed her eyes and mumbled barely audibly, “Stop this. Stop thinking like this! You’re better than this!” She then glanced up at Lin Feng to make sure he hadn’t heard her. When she saw his eyes were still on his screen, she sighed. Good. He can’t find out.

Chapter 418 – つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

“Did you all see that? CN•HOOK2 anticipated that the Lee Sin would come back to mid for another kill and waited for it! Then he played it perfectly to get a turn around kill!” Lightless screamed into his microphone. He slapped his thigh and said, “What a beautiful outplay on Lee Sin!”

The hundreds of thousands of people in Lightless’ stream chat also erupted with excitement, flooding the chat with walls of text.

In the gaming house of an NLB team in Korea, Clue’s eyelids twitched as he watched Zed dance through the gank and a 2v1 to kill the Lee Sin on his team. Goddammit! I don’t know who this CN•HOOK2 is or where he came from, but this guy is way more difficult to deal with than I thought he’d be. I can’t be reckless anymore or treat this as a casual game. I gotta give it all I’ve got or I’m going to turn into a doormat for him to walk all over! 

Can I still turn this around? I was careless at the start… careless enough to completely lose the early game. Now that Zed has two kills… can I still come back? Or have I lost the midlane completely? 

15 minutes from the start of the game, Lin Feng’s Zed had a KDA of 4/1/1. 

Lin Feng’s forehead was unfurrowed, his breathing was slow and regular, and his expression was completely calm. He played with perfect precision and machine-like efficiency. His hands never stopped moving, and the sound of his mouse clicks and keyboard taps created an entrancing rhythm.

By the 20 minute-mark, his Zed was 6/1/2. And at 27 minutes, Lin Feng and the Blue Team secured the victory. 

Everyone following CN•HOOK2’s climb on the forums cheered and celebrated when they refreshed the Korean Challenger ladder page to see the end result of the game. The people following on Lightless’ stream were also ecstatic! More importantly, the number of concurrent viewers on Lightless’ stream had climbed to more than 1 million viewers! His chat was impossible to keep up with as messages flooded in at a breakneck pace from so many people. 

At present, CN•HOOK2 had won four out of the five games that he played and League fans all over China were losing their minds.

However, this ranked climb was still far from over for Lin Feng. He continued onto his 6th game of the night, and this time he was playing Jayce. A midlane Champion who was known as the Defender of Tomorrow. Jayce’s weapon was the Mercury Hammer, forged from Hextech. And it could switch between the Mercury Hammer form and the Mercury Cannon form. 

By the time his 6th game hit the 10 minute mark, Lin Feng had already solo-killed the opposing Orianna twice.

At 18 minutes, Lin Feng completely decimated the opponent’s ranks in a teamfight around the Dragon Pit. And when the game timer hit 32 minutes, Lin Feng had won another game! He was on another win streak with two consecutive victories!

In the hotel room, Lin Feng took another sip of his water and closed his eyes for 10 seconds. That brief respite was all he needed. After taking a deep breath, he dove right back into the battlegrounds of Summoner’s Rift for a 7th game. 

A 7th game where he was, once again, victorious! Lin Feng had reestablished his win streak with a hat trick!

At this moment, let alone the casual League players watching CN•HOOK2’s climb, even the pro players watching Lightless’ stream were completely blown away by his incredible gameplay and perseverance! 

“PFOO!” Lightless exclaimed. He shook his head, incredulous, and laughed loudly. “See?” he asked towards the camera aimed at his face. “See? I knew it was going to be hard and it looked like CN•HOOK2 was gonna get sniped Korean style. But he’s way too good to let that happen!” He paused to read his stream’s chat before continuing, “That’s back to Rank 8 for our Chinese Secret Agent! He’s even closing in on 7th!”

did you ever get this close???
you tried to climb to top 10 too right?!?
tell us how hard it is!!!!
do you think its hermes??
Do you know who it is?
What odds do you give him?

Lightless looked at his chat and smiled. What odds would I give One? A solid 1. If anyone’s going to do it, it’s him. But that doesn’t make it any easier… He grimaced and closed his eyes, thinking back to a time where he tried to achieve the same goal. I failed. I was never good enough. But then again, I’m not one. He opened his eyes and said to his viewers, “We can’t celebrate too early. This is the time that the Korean professional players log on to play a game. If he gets matched up against someone like Rake… Well, rip I guess. But it might not even take professional players. Like some of you said, I tried to do the same a year ago. I got together with a friend of mine and we duo queued, which by the way is far easier than climbing solo. But when we got deep into the top 100, everyone started going against us. Literally everyone. The pressure combined with everyone being against you? That was too much for me. I went on a big ass losing streak. I just hope CN•HOOK2 won’t fall for the same trap.”

CN•HOOK2 won his 8th game and reached Rank 7. He was doing what everyone else dared only dream. They spammed different forumboards and the various streams that were talking about Lin Feng’s games. But there was only one stream that was showing the live gameplay. That was Lightless’ stream. Everyone in China with access to the internet tuned in and many of them flooded his chat with their excitement.

Omg, he actually won again!
Fucking hell! Nobody can stop hook2! Hahaha!
Is he gonna climb all the way to rank!? It’s gonna happene!
God! It’s a new god of league
Hook2 is my idol!

Lightless read through his chat, but he couldn’t share the same excitement with his viewers. All they’re seeing is another win. Three wins, a loss and then a four game win streak. That sounds impossible at this level. But it’s also 9 full games. That takes a lot out of you. This last game especially. It was like his teammates were playing against him too. The amount of mental resilience that asked of him… He can’t keep this up. It just isn’t possible. Maybe he should take a short break… Just then it’s going to be so much harder to hit the Top 5… If that’s even his goal. Probably is. Right. Streaming. He smiled at his camera and cheered, “Yeay for CN•HOOK2!”

“Ah, come on!” Lin Feng yelled at his laptop screen, throwing his arms up in the air. “What the fuck was that!?” He groaned as he was forced to accept the loss. It only took my teammates 18 minutes to screw up so hard that… He breathed in, letting the air fill his lungs. No excuses. I could’ve played that better. I should’ve carried harder. He breathed out and tried to let every hint of irritation escape from his body with it.

Lin Feng gritted his teeth and shouted, “Fuck!” He shook his head and then said to his screen, “How did this Kha’Zix give their Lee Sin 3 kills in 7 minutes? How does that even work!? And this ad-carry? What is wrong with them!? How do you only have half the CS of your lane opponent? This is Challenger, not Challenged League!”

Lin Feng slammed his hand down on his desk in frustration. Frustration aimed at himself and not at his teammates. He knew solo queue was all about the individuals. And he knew there were going to be good games and bad games. And downright terrible games. There were always going to be games that he simply couldn’t win or games where he had to try so hard that the question became if it was worth the effort it would take to win. But those were the simple truths of solo queue. “I’m better than this,” he mumbled to himself, clicking through the menus and finding he’d dropped back to Rank 8. “I’m better than this, dammit! But I’ve only got a bit more to go and I still need so many points to get to Rank 5!”

The people following Lin Feng’s ascent of the Korean Challenger were far more upset than Lin Feng was. New posts appeared on the different forumboards and Lightless’ stream was lighting up with the most obscene curses, all of which were directed at Lin Feng’s teammates. Lightless’ moderators were working overtime, trying to distinguish the good from the bad messages.

fuck! Were hook2’s teammates brain dead or something?
I’ve never seen someone feed so badly in Challenger!
how did that kha’zix and kog’maw even get out of bronze! Can you even buy boosted accounts in Challenger!?!
dox them someone goo doxx tehm.
they had to be doing it on purpose! There’s no way!

Lightless raised his hands and said, “Guys, guys, cool it. Please.” He then focused on his screen again, because CN•HOOK2 was in queue again. Dammit, One! This isn’t like you! Everyone else is too busy with your teammates, but I’m here to watch you. Do you really not see how tired you are? You’re slipping up! This is a game you would’ve won three hours ago! But… I get it. The time crunch. You’ve only got two hours to go. He grimaced and said to his viewers, “Looks like he’s going into his next game. Let’s give him some positive vibes and energy!”

つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ
つ CN•HOOK2 take my energy ༼ つ ◕_◕ ༽つ

The game lasted just short of 30 minutes. Lightless shook his head the entire time. He’s not tilted, or not playing like he is anyway. But he isn’t playing at the level we saw earlier tonight. He’s making silly mistakes and his plays are slower. And of course he is! He’s been playing these high intensity games all day! It’d be strange if he wasn’t exhausted! It’s just… Fuck! I want to see you win, man! Refind yourself, for all of us. Please!

two losses in a row?????
come on! Where are the win streaks from ebfore! Don’t tell me he’s tilted from that loss earlier?
crap, if he’s actually tilted, it’ll be hard to keep climbing!
nooooooo y u do tis to meeeee?!?!??!??!!??
:C I just wanna see him win….
Hes climbing the ladder like I do the stairs… I dont get up my stairs QQ

Lin Feng rubbed his eyes and repressed a yawn. I should’ve won that last game. It’s… He sighed and shook his head. I’m not even frustrated. I’m just… I’m tired. He blinked a couple of times, finding it progressively more difficult to open his eyes again. Maybe I should just take a nap… What time is i— “No nap! No nap!” he exclaimed, his eyes growing round and wide. “Shit! Where did the time go!? I’ve only got a bit longer to go! It’s almost over and I’m losing! ShitShitShit! Drink and play!” He reached for his glass of water and took a sip from it, then scrunched his eyebrows and looked at the glass. Oh… Empty.

“Here, drink this.”

The voice sounded like that of an angel to Lin Feng. It caused tingles in his neck as his exhaustion disappeared. He looked up at An Xin who was offering him a glass of water and smiling at him. He smiled weakly back at her.

An Xin shook her head and pushed the glass into Lin Feng’s hands. She said, “Working hard like usual, eh? Oh, wow wow! Don’t drink that all in one go! You’ll have to go to the toilet in the middle of your next game. We wouldn’t want that, now would we?” She smiled brighter and winked at him. “You got this, Lin Feng.”

Chapter 417 – Maple’s Rise—Part 2

Over on Lightless Heart’s stream, they were watching CN•HOOK2’s 5th game, where he was playing Zed in the Midlane. CN•HOOK2’s opponent was a Korean player named Clue, who was playing LeBlanc. The viewers on Lightless’ stream immediately recognized the name and chat went into an uproar over it. 

It’s Clue!
I can’t believe it! Is Hook2 gonna be able to win this!?
Korea bringing out the bgi guns to stop hook2!!!!!!!!!
they doin our boi hook dirrtyyy!
crap, such bad timing too!
is there really a good time to get cockblocked????
Hook gonna cuck Clue
Yesyesyesyesyesy! Hook gonna give Clue a clue!

Lightless was just as stunned as his viewers that Clue was playing against CN•HOOK2. “Yeah… this is  definitely going to be a tough game, guys! Or maybe not! Let’s see what CN•HOOK2 can pull out against Clue!”

Clue was currently ranked 15th on the Korea Challenger Ladder, which already made him a great player. But he was far more well-known for being the Midlaner on a professional NLB team. Not only was he a professional player, he was one of the top-rated Midlaners in the NLB and considered to be good enough to hold his own against some of the OGN Midlaners. 

Lightless Heart shook his head and slapped his cheeks to get himself back into a streamer mindset. “Yeah, that’s right guys. Clue is ranked 15th on the Korean Challenger Ladder. But he’s also a professional player on an NLB team. For those of you that have no idea how the Korean League scene works out, they’ve got two divisions. NLB stands for NiceGame League of Legends Battle, which is a tournament hosted by NicegameTV Company. It’s considered the 2nd division or minor league for the professional scene. 

“OGN, on the other hand, is the OnGameNet Champions League. This is another tournament hosted by OnGameNet, and it’s considered to be the 1st division or premier League for teams to play in. This is also the tournament where teams compete to win tickets for the League of Legends World Championships!”

“There’s two ways for teams to get into the OGN. The first is to qualify for the league during the two qualifier rounds. The second is to win in the NLB and automatically receive a ticket for the next OGN. It also gets a lot more complicated with sub-tournaments hosted within the NLB, but that’s not really important for now. What you guys need to know is that Clue is a professional player, and one that’s good enough to fight for one of Korea’s spots in the World Championships! This is going to be a true test of CN•HOOK2’s abilities!” 

Back in Team Rapids’ gaming house, Aurous frowned. “Shit! Your boy Lin Feng pulled a bad straw this time. He’s up against Clue. This isn’t going to be an easy game for him to win.”

“Clue? Never heard of that dude. How do you know who he is?” Shi Hang asked while looking straight at Aurous.

Aurous nodded, his expression grave and tone serious. “I definitely know him. Light Dynasty played a few scrims against some of the NLB teams. Clue was one of the Midlaners we faced.”

“And? How’d it go? Or are you going to keep playing up the suspense for the imaginary audience in your head?” Shi Hang asked.

Aurous wryly smiled. “Alright, alright. Clue was pretty good. Our midlaner was getting pushed back more. During the laning phase at least.”

Shi Hang cocked an eyebrow. “He’s that good? On an NLB team? Light Dynasty’s Midlaner is somewhere at the bottom as far as LPL Midlane players go… but even then. He’s still an LPL player. Beating him in lane isn’t a small accomplishment. Neither is an NLB team pushing an LPL team around. What is happening over in Korea, Aurous?”

Aurous sighed. “The Korean competitive scene is intense. They’ve gotten stronger than ever. Honestly, it’s a little scary. The NLB is supposed to be their secondary league for amateurs and players looking to gain enough experience to break into the primary division, but their standards are insanely high. Underestimating a team from the NLB these days is a mistake. Some of the NLB teams regularly beat OGN teams…” His voice contained hints of helplessness and melancholy as he trailed off.

Shi Hang narrowed his eyes, focusing his attention back on the stream. He slowly opened his mouth and said, “He’s strong. But I doubt this Clue will be able to get any sort of advantage in this game.”

Back in Team Shanghai’s hotel in Beijing, Lin Feng’s expression was still calm and his eyes were still shining brightly  as he heard the announcer’s voice ring through his headphones. 

Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!

That small audio clip and the words it contained flipped a switch. Lin Feng’s eyes blazed with intensity and fighting spirit! Tonight, nothing would get in the way of his climb.

The game started. Lin Feng’s Zed was on the Blue Team, up against Clue’s LeBlanc on the Red Team. The laning phase started with a few pokes back and forth between LeBlanc and Zed as Lin Feng and Clue felt each other out. And then the pokes grew into progressively more intense fights as both Champions pushed for an early advantage. 

4 minutes after the start of the game, the Red Team’s Jungler, Lee Sin decided it was time to roam into the Midlane to gank Zed and secure an early roll for his teammate LeBlanc. By the time he arrived, Zed and LeBlanc were already deep into a heated tussle to claim first blood. 

Lin Feng’s Zed brought forth a Living Shadow, a clone formed entirely of shadows. The Living Shadow was in front of LeBlanc, and Zed was behind her. A perfect pincer! Then Zed used Razor Shuriken! Both Zed and the Living Shadow sent a shuriken out that sliced through LeBlanc and tore through her health. 

Then Lin Feng tapped the W key to recast Living Shadow, which allowed his Zed to switch places instantly with the Living Shadow! His Zed was now directly in front of the LeBlanc. Zed stabbed into LeBlanc with a quick auto attack, then slashed out in a wide circle with his metal claws—Shadow Slice!

Just as the attack animation for Shadow Slice ended, Lin Feng used Ignite on the LeBlanc. The fires from the Summoner Spell ticked away the last few drops of LeBlanc’s health!

First Blood!

The viewers on Lightless’ stream held their breath as they watched the fight between Zed and LeBlanc unfold, and then they all cheered as CN•HOOK2 managed to secure first blood by killing LeBlanc. But their joy was very short-lived. 

In all the excitement, no one noticed Red Team’s Lee Sin creeping up into midlane and then pouncing on the dangerously low-health Zed just as LeBlanc died. CN•HOOK2 had no chance of survival, and his Zed was killed in short order by Lee Sin. 

“Alright guys, that was a 1 for 1 exchange between the two teams. Zed died to Lee Sin, but CN•HOOK2 still came out ahead despite the 1 for 1.” Lightless explained to his stream. “Zed got the kill and First Blood. LeBlanc only managed to get an assist because Lee Sin did the cleanup there. This means that Zed got more gold. It’s a small advantage, but CN•HOOK2 is still in danger. Both Zed and LeBlanc burned their Flash in that last exchange, which is a neutral change. But Zed is now more vulnerable to another gank, and the Lee Sin also got gold for that kill. Lee Sin is probably going to roam into mid again!” 

Lightless was either a prophet or an extremely skilled analyst. 6 minutes had elapsed since the start of the game. Both Zed and LeBlanc had respawned at the fountain and gotten back to their lanes to dance the dance of death once again. Which is when Lee Sin decided it was time to scurry over to the midlane for another gank, just as Lightless predicted.

Now, this was probably not the smartest decision that Lee Sin had made. He’d just finished clearing out a few monster camps, and his health had taken a bit of a beating. But for some unknowable reason, Lee Sin had enough confidence in his ability to successfully gank Zed that he still roamed over to the midlane. He flew out of the top side river brush where he’d been hiding and dashed in with Safeguard. 

Lee Sin’s dash placed him right in front of Zed.  And then he sent a Sonic Wave flying out!

Back in Beijing, Lin Feng watched Lee Sin fly out of the brush with middling health and smiled a small smile. Then he watched the Lee Sin dash over and throw out a Sonic Wave, and his smile widened. Just before the projectile of waves connected with his Zed, Lin Feng pushed down on the R key to activate Zed’s Ultimate—Death Mark!

Zed’s Ultimate, Death Mark, was an interesting ability. It rendered Zed untargetable for a brief instant and then caused Zed to dash over to the closest enemy champion. Right before the dash, four Living Shadows would converge on the enemy champion in question and place a Death Mark on them. Three seconds later, the mark would trigger and repeat a portion of the damage Zed had dealt to that enemy champion.

And since Zed was now untargetable, Lee Sin’s Sonic Wave missed entirely. And four blood-red Living Shadows converged onto Lee Sin to place a Death Mark on him from all four cardinal directions!

A bright red mark appeared over Lee Sin’s head just as Zed dashed up to his face. But Lin Feng’s situational awareness tingled. Instead of attacking Lee Sin, he pressed down on his R key again. His Zed dashed back to his original position, just barely avoiding the Ethereal Chains snaking towards him from Clue’s LeBlanc!

Now that the danger from LeBlanc was narrowly avoided, Zed threw a Living Shadow out that dashed over to Lee Sin. Then both the Living Shadow and Zed threw out Razor Shurikens that sliced the air as they whirled towards Lee sin! But before they could connect, LeBlanc jumped at Zed using Distortion. 

Lin Feng, now so focused that it appeared that the LeBlanc was moving in slow-motion, languidly tapped the W key to recast Living Shadow. The Razor Shurikens sliced through Lee Sin, and his Zed switched places with the Living Shadow. Zed had avoided the splash damage and pin-down by LeBlanc while also positioning himself in front of Lee Sin!

Zed stabbed Lee Sin with an auto attack, then slashed out in a circle with Shadow Slash. He continued the combo with a second auto attack, and then a third. All of this had taken place in the three seconds since the Death Mark was placed on Lee Sin. Now that three seconds had expired, the Death Mark triggered and repeated a portion of all of the damage Zed had done to Lee Sin. Which, coincidentally enough, just happened to be enough damage to whisk away the last of Lee Sin’s health. 

You have slain an enemy!

Chapter 416 – Maple’s Rise—Part 1

From the second Champions were summoned onto the Rift to when the Nexus shattered, each of Lin Feng’s ranking games on the Korean server took about 30 minutes. As far as games went on the Korean Challenger solo queue, this wasn’t fast or slow. But for all of the Chinese League fans and players who were paying attention to CN•HOOK2’s climb, these games stretched out to eternity and felt like they were taking ages to end.

An insanely large number of fans and players who decided to stay on the forums instead of watching the streams joined the F5 Gang, constantly refreshing the Korean Challenger Ladder page every minute to see if CN•HOOK2 had won the game he was currently playing.

For every single one of the Chinese League fans, each refresh was accompanied by a wave of anxiety that bordered on panic. They knew the single undeniable truth of League of Legends. Even if CN•HOOK2 was a God-tier player, it was impossible to end every game in 15-25 minutes. Not even the Four Emperors could manage something like that.

This was the solo queue at the Challenger ELO on the Korean server. There was no one in the world who could carry and win in every single game at this level of play. This was the undeniable truth of ranked games, especially at the Challenger rank. And this was also why so many of the Chinese players rooting for CN•HOOK2 were nervous and anxious. The waters of the Korean Challenger solo queue ran deep and dark, and there was no telling who would emerge to end CN•HOOK2’s climb. 

An announcement had come from Riot Korea stating that the ranked ladder would be reset at midnight Korean time. All previous rankings from Season 5 would be reset for the start of Season 6. Korea ran an hour ahead of China. Which meant that CN•HOOK2 had 5 hours left to keep climbing. 

And there was a single question that permeated through the entire Chinese League of Legends zeitgeist. How high can CN•HOOK2 climb in the time left? Everyone watching CN•HOOK2’s climb asked themselves and each other that question. But there was no way to know for sure what would happen as the seconds ticked down to the rank reset. The only thing that could be done was to wait until CN•HOOK2 played his last game.

One win.

Two wins.

Three wins. 

Every game that CN•HOOK2 won sent waves of excitement and celebration throughout China! And now that he’d managed to win three games in a row, the tension was palpable in the air for every fan of League of Legends. 

The forums were getting stomped on just as hard as the Korean Challenger players that Lin Feng had just defeated. The thread tracking the Korean Challenger ladder and CN•HOOK2’s climb was receiving hundreds of new comments every second.

“He won!”
“First game win!”
“We already know. He’s playing his second game now trash.”
“Can’t even refresh fast enough wants to talk about challenger smh.”
“Another win!”
“Second game stomped! CN•HOOK2 can’t be stopped!”
“CN•HOOK2 won his first game on krn server!”
“CN•HOOK2 won three games in a row! He’s rank 9 now!”
“CN•HOOK2 RANK 9!!!!!!”
“Everyone that’s watching this, I hope you’re healthy and your lives are filled with joy and happiness!”
“I just made RMB 4000 last week working for Baidu from the comfort of my own home! Follow <link removed> to find out how you can too!”

Beyond the forums, there was another hub for people invested in CN•HOOK2’s climb, and that was Lightless Hearts’ stream. He had managed to reach 790,000 viewers, a stone’s throw away from 800,000, and people were still trickling in as they found out about what was going on in the League sphere and that Lightless Heart’s stream was the only place where they could spectate CN•HOOK2’s games.

Lightless Heart was a phenomenal Midlaner and a great streamer. There was no doubt about that. But even for him, this kind of viewership was absurd and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Lightless Heart was closing in on a million concurrent viewers, something almost unheard of in the streaming space. But considering the circumstances, it made sense. Lightless Heart was the only person in all of China who could spectate and stream CN•HOOK2’s games. Most of the viewers had only shown up when they found out that they could watch CN•HOOK2’s climb on the stream, and there was a large chunk who were watching a livestream for the very first time in their lives.

That’s how exciting this moment was for everyone in China who loved League and gaming. It was a pivotal moment in Chinese League history, and they wanted to be a part of it in some small way. That’s how important CN•HOOK2’s climb on the Korean server had become to China. 

omggggggg 666666666666
this orianna is so godly!
first stream gang!
who is CN•HOOK2???
hook2 is freaking amazing!
No idea who he is but I wana marry him!
Get in line hoe! I’ll be his first concubine!
goddam, i cant believe he won that, even after how bad the early game!
i have his kids and make my own league team!!!!!!!!!
u want my kids instead?!?!? send pics!
i’m getting goosebumps all over! All his games are so exciting!

The stream’s chat was impossible to read. Messages flooded in faster than the servers could handle them, and the chat lagged. But that didn’t stop all the viewers from constantly throwing something up at the wall of text, even if reading them was impossible. Everyone wanted to leave a mark on this moment, carve their names to say that they were there. 

Lightless was equally as excited as his chat. His eyes sparkled as he watched CN•HOOK2. He’s playing even better than before! Three wins in a row already!

“Old Maple’s in good form today,” Shi Hang said as he clicked his tongue.

“Good form?! That kid is on fire!” Aurous exclaimed. Then he looked at the stream, looked back at Shi Hang, and then back to the stream. He nodded silently with a complicated expression on his face as he tried to put something together in his mind. Finally, he looked at Shi Hang and asked, “Alright. Be straight with me here. Exactly how good is Maple right now? He beat you in the East China Regional Quarterfinals, right? 3-2? And that was before this… He’s had even more time to grow and get back to where he was in Season 1. Does that mean he’s even better than you right now? Fuck! Hermes is going to have to step aside the day that kid returns to pro play!”

Shi Hang shook his head. “It’s not that simple. My win against Hermes today doesn’t mean a damn thing. It was one game, I was in good form today and Hermes was a little careless. Beyond that, there were a lot of different variables that worked out in my favor. The way I figure, I think I’ve got maybe a 40% chance of beating Hermes if we go up against HoG again.” Shi Hang paused for a moment and looked straight into Aurous’ eyes before continuing. “If Maple were still at his prime, Hermes would be nothing. Maple would absolutely blow Hermes away. But right now? He’s not there yet. He’s still not good enough yet.” 

Aurous blinked slowly as the weight of that statement sunk in. 

Shi Hang’s eyes flickered with an obscure light. “Lin Feng is still shaking off the rust. He’s slowly getting back into form and becoming Maple. I don’t know how far along he is in that or how much of his old skill he’s gotten back… but I do know that he’s still far away from being back at the very top.”

Back in Team Shanghai’s hotel room in Beijing, Lin Feng was completely unaware of all the excitement his climb was generating or all the attention he was getting. None of that mattered to him. There was only one thought in his mind. CLIMB! 

He was planning on starting his fourth game. He hit the button to start the queue, and then grabbed a cup of water on the table and drank all of it. Then he took a deep breath and focused back on the screen, waiting for the queue to pop.

And while he waited, he reflected on his own condition. I feel great right now. Better than I have in a long time. All those hours of practicing, the scrims, and the tournament games, that was exactly what I needed! I’m starting to feel more like myself than I have in a long time. I’m even better than I was when I played Shi Hang right now. But… it’s not enough. I’m not where I need to be yet. My mechanics are better and I’m faster. But not fast enough. Not yet. I need more to get to the next level!

All of the games that Lin Feng had played and the hours he’d put in had induced a quantitative change in his level of play, but not a qualitative one yet. He still had a long road to travel before he evolved into the player he used to be. 

Then a match was found and Lin Feng accepted. The game started and ended 36 minutes later. After three wins in a row, Lin Feng had finally lost one. His first loss of the evening. 

Over a million Chinese League fans and players moaned in despair when CN•HOOK2 was defeated in his fourth game. That single loss was enough to knock CN•HOOK2 back down to 10th place on the ranked ladder.

On Lightless’ stream, the setback sent chat into spasms of agony and anger.

hook2 played so well that game too!
he even solokilled ziggs early with viktor! Garbo teammates!
yeah, they’re shit! If he had better teammates,this game would’ve been a win!

Lin Feng was still calm and composed after losing his first game of the night. He was unfazed by the defeat. You win some, you lose some. That’s how this works. Losing is completely normal. The game is built to make sure you can’t win every game unless you’re so good that you can solo-carry. And… where I’m at right now, I can’t carry a game at the top of Challenger alone. This is fine, I’m not done yet!

Lin Feng closed his eyes and rubbed the space between his eyebrows for a couple of seconds. Then he opened his eyes again, and they burned even more intensity with fighting spirit!

Nothing is going to stop me from keeping the promise I made to One!

Chapter 415 – Hope You’re Watching, One

The last two seasons of League of Legends had some interesting lore between China and Korea. No player from China had managed to climb into the ranks of the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder. It had turned into a pride-motivated gauntlet for Chinese players. A few players had come close, but no one had ever shattered that ceiling. At least, no one that the League fans and enthusiasts in China had heard about.

Then came CN•HOOK2. When he first started to climb, it generated some mild interest. But nothing significant. Over the years, others had started out strong and fizzled out as they got closer and closer to that impenetrable ceiling. But then something new happened. CN•HOOK2 didn’t slow down at all. If anything, he accelerated as he moved through the Korean Challenger Ladder. Faster and faster, until he was pressed up against that ceiling at Rank 11. A single step away from making it into the Top 10. That got everyone’s attention. There was suddenly a Chinese player who had a realistic shot at breaking into the Top 10 of the Korean Challenger Ladder. The first one in two seasons! This charged up every League fan in China and filled them with sweet anticipation!

CN•HOOK2 smashing through the ceiling was the cherry on top of this already exciting day. AyDeeCee’s LeBlanc earlier in the day was enough to get most of the fans hyped. Regardless where they felt he belonged on the tier list, he was another strong Midlaner. That was enough to make everyone happy and excited. Another strong Midlaner meant that the LPL as a whole would be stronger.

A stronger LPL could do much better and prove that China was a region to be feared on the world stage when they clashed against North America, Europe and Korea! And that’s what made CN•HOOK2’s climb even more exciting and worthy of attention. The match between HoG and Team Rapids was only a clash between two domestic teams.

CN•HOOK2, on the other hand, was single-handedly challenging the dominance of the Koreans! He was taking on some of the strongest players in the world and winning! And now he would be facing the current crop of the best players in the world in an attempt to plant China’s flag atop that mountain!

This wasn’t just a single guy climbing to the top of an ELO ladder for the Chinese fans. This was a battle of David against an army of Goliaths!

But there was more to the story of CN•HOOK2. Obviously, there was some regional pride tied into it. And everyone wanted to see an underdog win. But there was an aura of mystery surrounding the player behind the moniker of CN•HOOK2. No one knew who he was beyond the Rift. No one knew where he had come from, what his goal was, or anything else about him beyond what was available on the CN•HOOK2 profile page. He had simply appeared and started climbing. In the beginning, his climb was a passing rumor. Then it gained steam and interest. But more people watching and talking about CN•HOOK2 provided no new answers. Just more speculation.

It was a hotly debated topic on the Chinese League of Legends forums. Fans poured over highlight videos and tried to determine who he was by comparing his decision-making and playstyle to other well-known players. Others attempted to dissect CN•HOOK2’s in-game messages to find clues to his identity. There were countless theories, blind guesses, and confidently incorrect statements made. Entire video channels had popped up to discuss the theories, conspiracies, and recap all the posts that were made on the various channels. It was also a constantly featured segment for streamers on HuyaTV. But no one had come close to unmasking CN•HOOK2’s identity. 

One of the streamers determined to discover the truth of CN•HOOK2 was Lightless Heart. He felt that he was on the edge of discovering the truth and blowing the whole mystery wide open.

At 7:03 PM, Lightless Heart went live on his stream. But he wasn’t planning on playing any League at all today, Ranked or otherwise. He immediately logged into his Korean account on League of Legends and scrolled over to CN•HOOK2 on his friend list.

“Tonight’s a special night, guys. We’re not playing. We’re just going to spectate CN•HOOK2’s games and watch him do the impossible! CAN HE DO IT? I DON’T KNOW BUT I’m GOING TO FIND OUT WITH YOU GUYS! Who’s excited?” Lightless Heart declared to 200,000+ viewers.

His stream chat erupted with excitement as messages of support flooded in, along with even more viewers. A truly pleasing twist of fate had made it so that Lightless Heart was the only streamer that had CN•HOOK2 added as a friend! When the news got out, many people on the forums abandoned the walls of text that they were crafting and flocked over to Lightless Heart’s stream!

It was obviously way more exciting to watch CN•HOOK2 play rather than waiting and refreshing a static page of game stats.

For Lightless Heart, this day was special. He didn’t care about the viewers or the numbers. None of his excitement or enthusiasm was played up for the audience either. On this night, for this stream, Lightless Heart wasn’t a League streamer. He was a fan, watching a pivotal moment in history unfold. Especially after he’d gotten a clue that led him to what he believed was CN•HOOK2’s identity. Lightless had zero doubts in his heart or mind that this truly legendary figure could break into the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder.

I wonder how high he’s going to climb? If it really is him… Top 10’s a low estimate. He’s going to get there and keep going. All the way to the t—! Lightless stopped himself from finishing the thought. He didn’t want to even say the words in his head, for fear of jinxing it. He didn’t want to guess and be disappointed. He wanted to watch and savor the anticipation of what was going to happen.

Around the same time, Hermes and Nightsong were sitting in front of a computer in the HoG Gaming house. Even though they had lost their match today, neither of the two pros looked demotivated or dejected. It was honestly too trivial for them to bother with. They were top players who played on the world stage a couple of months ago. The loss against Team Rapids wasn’t enough to shake up their mental. 

But they did look restless and excited as they watched Lightless’ steam. Even Hermes and Nightsong wanted to watch CN•HOOK2 play and climb. There was something about him that called out to both Hermes and Nightsong. And both of them thought they knew the player behind CN•HOOK2. The two of them had started playing professionally in Seasons 2 and 3, after carving their own paths through the esports scene. Both of them knew the stories and lore behind China’s most legendary player. And as they watched CN•HOOK2 play, they saw the stories coming to life. 

The answer was so shocking that the two didn’t dare to confirm it.

Nightsong sucked in a breath of cold air. “Fuck me with the Emperor’s Dragon dick! It can’t be, right? You really think it’s… him?

Hermes nodded once. Then in a solemn, almost reverent voice, he said. “He’s using the tag CN•HOOK2. I’m at 90% that it’s him.” Even China’s current number one Midlaner watched with an awe reserved for divinity, his eyes shining brightly. I can’t believe he plays League too! What a god! He’s actually good enough to reach the top of the Korean Challenger ladder! And… he’s a Midlaner! Like me! I need to see how good he is… I need to see how good I can become! I’m going to remember this night forever!

Aurous, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have a friend who knew the identity of the player behind the CN•HOOK2 account. Unlike Lightless, Hermes, and Nightsong.

That same evening, Aurous dropped by the Team Rapids Gaming House to visit Shi Hang, and started looking for him. The other members on Team Rapids were busy playing ranked games or their own streams. The entire gaming house was filled with the din of random screaming, communication, and hyped up exclamations. 

After walking into the house and popping into random rooms to say hello to the other members of Team Rapids, Aurous found Shi Hang sitting in front of a computer in the corner of a room and walked over to him. 

“Aurous! When’d you get here?” Shi Hang said as he noticed Aurous walking in. He pulled a chair over for Aurous and motioned for him to sit down. “Come on, come on, sit!” 

Aurous sat down in a huff and asked, “Yes, yes, I’m here! But this is a little… confusing. You had me biting my nails in suspense the entire way over here, now you’re excited to see me… but you’re telling me to sit down in a chair. You sure we wouldn’t be more… comfortable on a couch? Or a bed? I could help you celebrate your comeback with a “comeback” of my own, you know? If that’s not the surprise you called me over for, I don’t know what is.”

Shi Hang facepalmed and glared at Aurous. Then he asked, “Have you not been paying attention to the forums?”

“What? The forums? You asked me here to talk about what’s going on in the forums…? Sweet Shi Hang, you really don’t know how to pick ripe fruit, do you? But yes, I do have a smidge of an idea what you’re talking about. Are we going to talk about CN•HOOK2 climbing the Korean Challenger Ladder?” Aurous replied. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper and got much more serious, “I talked to Nightsong about it earlier today. He and Herm think the person playing the account is One. They’re probably watching him play on Lightless’ stream right now. ”

Aurous paused for a moment, then looked at Shi Hang. “Is that the surprise you wanted to tell me? No… that can’t be right. You were talking to me about CN•HOOK2 before the forums popped off about him! Wait! Do you know something else!?”

Shi Hang shrugged and smiled. “I do. Nightsong and Hermes are right. That account belongs to On—”

“Wait! WHAT!? REALLY!?” Aurous gasped. 

“Let me finish before you blow your load. Like I said, the account belongs to One. At least it used to,” Shi Hang continued. “But right now, someone else is using it. You know who he is, since you just watched him play. The person climbing the Korean Challenger Ladder on that account right now is Maple.”

Lin Feng rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. A few more hours is all I’ve got! I need to win! I can only win dammit! Time to break the limiter! He grinned and opened the League client. CN•HOOK2 was currently at 11th in the ranking. He needed to climb 6 more ranks before the end of the day. “ALRIGHT!” he shouted. “LET’S PLAY!”

A burning desire sparked a fire and a desire to play that Lin Feng hadn’t felt in years. Everything fit. His opponents tried to ban his Champions, they camped his lanes and did everything they could to stop him from climbing any higher. It even felt like his teammates didn’t want to win; that wasn’t to say they wanted to lose, they just didn’t play like they wanted to win.

Lin Feng played Fizz in the first game. It was one of his favourite Champions and one he felt incredibly comfortable on. He knew exactly how much damage he could deal, how much he could take, and how to make his cooldowns work just right for him. He showed this in the third minute of the game when he picked up first blood with a solo kill on his opponent in the mid lane. An early kill for an assassin like Fizz was all he needed to win the game. He pushed his advantage and only got further ahead. After claiming kills on his lane opponent and their Jungler, he started roaming. The Toplaner died twice to him in the laning phase and he picked up five kills in the bottom lane. That was also when the game ended, because the opponent surrendered.

The second game was much like the first. The only real difference was that Lin Feng chose to go with Zed in this game instead of Fizz. But while Zed and Fizz were very different Champions with very different skills, they were both assassins with high mobility. More importantly, they both relied heavily on the mechanics of the summoner. Lin Feng used his mechanics to set himself apart from the nine other players on the Rift. He first beat his opponent in the mid lane and then started roaming across the map again. No one was safe from him. Each kill gave him more gold which sponsored his high cost items, items his opponents couldn’t afford.

Lin Feng took a slightly different approach in the third game. He felt like playing Viktor, so he did. Viktor wasn’t quite as strong in the early game, though with Lin Feng playing it was hard to tell. He got the early kill just like he had in the previous two games. The big difference was that Viktor didn’t really start shining until the mid game. So Lin Feng allowed the game to get to that stage for the first time. Both teams gathered in the mid lane 25 minutes into the game and fired skillshots at each other. Lin Feng observed this and waited patiently for his opponents to move too close to each other. When they did, he flashed towards them and hit them with the area of effect stun. He threw his area of effect ultimate on top of that and fired his single target skills at the high health targets. The voice announcer didn’t even have the time to call the triple and quadra kills before she got to scream, “PENTA KILL!”

Three games and three wins. Lin Feng leaned back in his chair and grinned. He clenched his fist and mumbled, “Nice going! I finally did it! Top 10! 9th even! Just a few more places to go! I got this! I just have to win everything! WIN! WIN! WIN! I GOT THIS! HECK YEAH!” He squared his shoulders and put his hand on the mouse again. He then moved it until it hovered over the play again button and pressed it. “I hope you’re watching me, One.”

Chapter 414 – The Elephant in the Room

The Collegiate Cup had ended and the Stadium emptied. Team Shanghai decided to celebrate their victory with a meal, and they went straight to the restaurant from the Stadium. And so, later on that evening, the members of Team Shanghai found themselves gathered around a traditional Beijing style Hot Pot.

But there was no yelling around that table, no splashing of hot broth, no stealing of various bits of meat from each other’s plates. The atmosphere was strangely subdued. They didn’t look like a group of people who were celebrating winning a major tournament. If anything, Team Shanghai looked like Team Beijing. It was not a dinner ravished with the vigor of victory. They were eating like this was their sad consolation prize for having gotten all the way to the Finals and losing. Everyone on Team Shanghai picked up meats and vegetables and placed them into the broth. They took out bits of cooked food and put it on their plates. And they ate whatever food was on their plates. But every action was stiff and mechanical. Not a single person savored the food, or looked like they were enjoying the company. An awkwardness hung heavy over the entire team, and they were all stealing glances at Lin Feng before looking at each other. No one said anything. 

The elephant in the room was, obviously, more of Lin Feng’s backstory that was revealed during the Awards Ceremony. No one on Team Shanghai understood how to process it or what to make of the revelation. The President of the Chinese Esports Association was Lin Feng’s Uncle! It was hard to believe and beyond shocking!

Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and the others were still shook and reeling from trying to put  all of this together. This entire day felt like an odd dream to them. First they won the Collegiate Cup, then they learned more of Lin Feng’s incredible history. Not only was he Maple, one of the giants who built the Chinese Esports scene, but his Uncle was the President of the Chinese Esports Association. Lin Feng apparently belonged to some enormous and secret Esports Dynasty! The sheer coincidence was inconceivable. 

Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao looked at each other, at the complex mixture of emotions and questions swirling in each other’s eyes. Every day revealed new information and raised new questions about Lin Feng. But foremost was the relationship between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi. 

Zeng Rui gave Zhang Hao a strong look and slightly shook his head to say no. Don’t bring it up, Zhang Hao! I want to know about what’s going on between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi too, but not now. Don’t do it! The way they talked to each other at the Awards… that was not normal. There’s obviously bad blood between them and we don’t know enough about this situation or how it affected Lin Feng to bring it up. Don’t say anything! Zeng Rui moved his head from side to side again while staring at Zhang Hao the whole time.

Zhang Hao nodded. He’d understood what Zeng Rui was trying to communicate, and started eating whatever food was in front of him again.

Tang Bingyao noticed Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao looking at each other and nodding. She knew what they were thinking about because she was thinking the exact same thing. She looked at Zeng Rui and then quickly looked at An Xin, and back to Zeng Rui. He nodded back. Tang Bingyao, Zeng Rui, and Zhang silently agreed that they’d go find An Xin later to learn more about Lin Songshi and Lin Feng.

On the other side of the table, Chu Fang was mulling over the same thing. Lin Songshi and Lin Feng… this could explain a lot of what happened during the Season 1 World Championships. But Lin Feng is clearly mad at Lin Songshi for something, and Lin Songshi wasn’t particularly warm towards Lin Feng. There’s a lot more to this story… I need to figure it out before it becomes a problem. Lin Feng… no. Maple is coming back and that’s going to change everything for us! I need to talk to Fang Hao and find out what he knows about the situation between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi. He already knew something like this was going to happen. I need to find out what I can to make sure nothing gets in Lin Feng’s way!

Everyone around the table continued to eat quietly while glancing at each other from time to time, and then looking at Lin Feng when they thought he wouldn’t notice. This elephant in the room had become an unofficial and unasked for member of Team Shanghai.

The elephant was clearly making everyone uncomfortable. Except for Lin Feng. He was calm but quiet as he ate his food. It was out of character for him, but in a different way from everyone else. Lin Feng didn’t look disturbed or angry or upset. He didn’t even notice everyone else’s expressions or their quick glances and silent conversations. He didn’t even notice them looking at him. By all appearances, Lin Feng didn’t seem to notice that the elephant in the room existed and made no attempts to elaborate on what happened at the Awards Ceremony or answer the questions swirling around in his teammates’ minds. He just quietly buried his head in his food and ate quickly.

And that was the weirdest part of the night. Lin Feng always ate quickly, but he ate with gusto and joy. None of that was present at this moment. None of Lin Feng’s customary delight at eating delicious food was on display. He wasn’t yelling or celebrating. It didn’t even look like he knew what he was eating. This was one of those rare few moments where food was not important to Lin Feng. He was not eating because the flavors tickled his taste buds and warmed his heart. He was eating today to replenish his energy. Because he had one more difficult task to accomplish before this night ended.

Lin Feng still had to climb the Korean Challenger Ladder and make it into the Top Five. That was the only thing on his mind during this dinner. He glanced at a clock while reaching for some more food, and his chopsticks paused for a moment in mid-air. Pure unadulterated intensity flashed in his eyes for a moment as he thought, Not much time left! But I gave One my word that I’d get this done, so I’m going to get this done! I don’t break promises!

Team Shanghai returned to their hotel immediately after dinner. Chu Fang dropped them all off and left to finish the final few administrative details required for the end of the Collegiate Cup. Lin Feng went straight to his room. It was 7 PM. Lin Feng sat down in front of his laptop and logged into the CN•HOOK2 account on the Korean Server. He clicked on the profile page for the account and checked his ranking on the Ladder. He was still sitting in 11th place. A single step away from the Top 10. 

Lin Feng closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he exhaled slowly and opened his eyes. He was completely focused now, and the intensity in his eyes continued to grow sharper. Alright. Let’s get started!

Lin Feng clicked on the play button and started his final summit to the very top of the Korean Challenger ladder.

6 PM. League of Legends players across China were all glued to their screens, talking on every League forum and chat about the LPL match that had just taken place that afternoon. Obviously, the focus of the conversation revolved around Team Rapids and AyDeeCee. 

AyDeeCee’s second match after his return to the LPL created a complex swirl of emotions in all of these League enthusiasts. An old player, someone who hit his prime four years ago and retired from the Esports scene had come back and proven that he was just as good today as he was back then! The veterans in the community glowed in nostalgia and pride that one of their own had come back, and the newfrogs couldn’t help themselves from developing a new respect for AyDeeCee and the rest of the players from that era. 

That said, it was only a single match. The victory didn’t have much impact on the fate of either team over the course of the entire Spring Split. But that wasn’t the important thing here. No one on the League forums really cared much about the outcome of the match or the Spring Split. 

The important thing was that they had witnessed the return of another top player! There was another star Midlaner in the LPL now, and the overall competitiveness of the LPL would rise! None of this was up for debate. 

But there was a question related to it that was currently being hotly debated on the forums. Exactly how good was AyDeeCee? As far as the tier list went, Daybreak Hermes was at the top. He was S-Tier, China’s number one Midlaner. There was no one else up there with him. In the A-Tier, there were a few Midlaners from the other top LPL teams. 

That tier system was the center of the debate. According to one camp, AyDeeCee logically belonged to the A-Tier. But there was a newly emerged camp that believed that AyDeeCee belonged in the S-Tier, right alongside Hermes. An even more vocal faction within that camp argued that the title of China’s Number One Midlaner now belonged to AyDeeCee because he now appeared to be even better than he was four years ago.

Unfortunately, these people were in the minority. After all, this was only one game. It was too early to tell anything. Even if AyDeeCee had played an amazing LeBlanc today, that was far from enough to earn him the title of Number One.

Hermes had only earned the title after proving himself to the entire world and becoming China’s sole King..

And so, the debate between these two camps raged endlessly across the League Fan Sphere. Interestingly enough, there was a neutral faction between both camps that came to a common understanding. They believed that AyDeeCee had proven that he was one of the top Midlaners in China, and that he was possibly close to, if not already at, the same level as Daybreak Hermes. This was the ultimate Fence-Sitting Faction.

The entire night would’ve been devoted to this debate. If something more interesting didn’t happen at 7PM that distracted every League enthusiast, fan, and player across China.  


Chapter 413 – Waiting for Tonight

“Thanks, Uncle.” 

That was the last thing that Lin Feng said to Lin Songshi. Lin Feng had said those words with no emotion whatsoever just as the audience erupted into a final round of applause and cheers. The din from the crowd was more than loud enough to drown out the words. But the words, however muted, exploded when they hit the rest of Team Shanghai’s ears. 

Zhang Hao, who had only just recovered from the odd conversation between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi and returned to his senses, was once again floored. This time, his eyes didn’t glaze over. They closed. Whatever it was that just happened at this Award Ceremony, it was too much for Zhang Hao’s mind to handle and he shut down. He swayed back and forth slowly before finally leaning over and resting against a stony Zeng Rui, eyes still closed. 

Zeng Rui did not notice Zhang Hao. He was playing back everything that just happened and trying to piece it all together. Uncle. Uncle! Now everything makes sense! That thundering dumbass… how many more secrets is he hiding from me? I didn’t know he was Maple… and apparently, I didn’t realize that Lin Songshi was his Uncle. The President of the Chinese Esports Association! Lin! Lin Songshi and Feng. Why is this a surprise to me? It should’ve been obvious from the minute they were on stage together! But what’s with all the friction? I can understand why Lin Songshi is a little upset with Lin Feng over leaving after Season 1. That’s logical enough. But what happened between them that pissed Lin Feng off to this degree? I need to research everything that happened during the Season 1 World Championships! Hm… Why… why is Zhang Hao sleeping on my shoulder? 

Tang Bingyao’s jaw dropped. Then closed. Then she waved at Lin Songshi and said, “Bye Uncle!”

The briefest look of confusion showed up on Lin Songshi’s face when he heard Tang Bingyao calling him Uncle. But he politely smiled and waved farewell back. 

Chu Fang’s eyes glimmered with disbelief for a few seconds. And then his body language completely changed. Uncle! Of course! Chu Fang’s shoulders relaxed as exhaled every last drop of tension. His expression was peaceful. This revelation, shocking as it was, seemed to be enough for Chu Fang to attain enlightenment. This is what Fang Hao meant when he said everything would sort itself out organically! HE KNEW! HE KNEW THAT LIN SONGSHI WAS LIN FENG’S UNCLE! That’s why he wasn’t worried about the Beijing Esports Association figuring out that Lin Feng was Maple! Because the President of the Chinese Esports Association already knew Lin Feng was Maple! 

The only one on Team Shanghai who was unperturbed by all of this was An Xin. She stood there calmly with the same smile on her face the entire time. She already knew about Lin Songshi, and none of this was a surprise to her.

Lin Songshi finished waving goodbye to Tang Bingyao after she called him “Uncle”. He gave her a fleeting puzzled glance and then motioned to the Host that it was time to conclude the Awards Ceremony and declare the end of the Collegiate Cup. Then he turned to look at the audience and gave them a goodbye wave before walking off the stage. 

That was it. Team Shanghai had the Collegiate Cup trophy, and Lin Feng had the MVP medal around his neck. The Awards Ceremony had ended. 

The Host walked back onto the stage and screamed out to the crowd, “Let’s give our new Champions one last round of applause! Congratulations, Team Shanghai! You’ve done it! You’re the new Champions of the Collegiate Cup! There were a lot of people who doubted you. Many who dismissed each of your victories on luck or circumstance or trickery. But you proved all of them wrong and advanced step by step until there was no one left!” 

The entire stadium erupted into cheers, applause, random cries of ‘WIN FENG!’, and odd monkey noises from a corner of the stadium. 

It had been a long month and a half for Team Shanghai. From the local qualifiers to the regionals and then finally the main tournament. And in between, they had to take their exams. The last few weeks had been a blur of endless practice sessions, strategy meetings, late night chicken cutlets, and high-tension league matches against the best teams and players outside the professional scene. But it had finally ended, and now they could go home with victory in their hearts. The Collegiate Cup was finally over, and Team Shanghai had seized the championship!

Just as the Finals for the Collegiate Cup wrapped up at the Chaoyang Sports Centre in Beijing, an important LPL match also concluded in Shanghai.

Team Shanghai had stunned countless spectators by defeating Team Beijing and claiming the Collegiate Cup Championship. But the LPL Season 6 Sprint Split match that had just taken place at the Hongkou Stadium in Shanghai left half the players in all of China in shock. 

The match was between Team Rapids and HoG. The game was a fierce 37 minute clash between the two teams.

Team Rapids and Hand of God were evenly matched in most lanes. The Toplaners fought all through the laning phase but no clear winner came out and Nightsong threw his big dick around, yet couldn’t get the edge he needed to carry the game. It all came down to the mid lane, where AyDeeCee played against Hermes. It was a pure skill matchup in LeBlanc versus Zed. Both Champions were assassins and both champions relied entirely on the mechanics of their summoner.

The early laning phase had no clear winner. Shi Hang and Hermes threw everything they had at each other, they made the most breathtaking plays, but ultimately neither side could get the all important first kill. Because that was what they needed. Both their Champions didn’t really start shining until they got a few kills under their belt. It was eventually Shi Hang’s LeBlanc in the 8th minute who picked up the first kill. Hermes stepped away from his minions and got punished for that right away. Ethereal Chains rooted him to the ground, after which a full damage combo from LeBlanc killed him.

That first kill set the tone for the rest of the match. Shi Hang’s LeBlanc got the items she needed before Hermes’ Zed. Shi Hang used this to his advantage, pushing Hermes around and forcing Hand of God’s Jungler to come to the mid lane. All the while, he had his Jungler hiding near his Outer Tower, waiting for the countergank. It was a perfect outplay by Team Rapids. They got the countergank, played it perfectly, and two more kills went to Shi Hang’s LeBlanc. From there on out, it was a stomp. He’d gained such an advantage in gold and items that Hermes’ Zed was forced to abandon the mid lane. And every time Hermes’ Zed tried to return to the mid lane, Shi Hang killed him.

Shi Hang showed everyone in China that he was still at the top of his game. He proved all the naysayers wrong. That he still had a lot left to give. By the 15th minute of the game, he’d gotten his 5th kill. 10 minutes after that, his LeBlanc was declared Legendary. Hand of God was struggling to defend, because Shi Hang’s LeBlanc could jump their backline whenever he felt like it. And there was nothing they could do to stop him. He dealt too much damage and LeBlanc was far too mobile to be locked down.

At the 35th minute of the game, Hand of God pushed their lanes out and rushed the Dragon in a final desperate attempt to make something work. They engaged the Dragon and tried to kill it, until the voice announcer informed them that Nightsong had died. They moved their cameras and found Nightsong’s corpse, with no sign of his killer. LeBlanc had jumped in and then back out again. She then waited for her skills to come off cooldown again while her teammates ran over, before fighting the 5 versus 4 and winning it convincingly.

Team Rapids breached Hand of God’s base 10 seconds after scoring an ace. They destroyed the Mid Lane Inner Tower, then the inhibitor behind it, and one of the Nexus towers. Then they took a small break to kill Nightsong, who had just respawned, once again. After that, they took out the second Nexus Tower. Once the tower was down, Team Rapids started attacking Hand of God’s Nexus. And they destroyed it just as the remaining Champions from Hand of God respawned. It was a decisive victory led by Shi Hang and his LeBlanc. Shi Hang had just beaten the King Hermes.

Team Rapid’s Coach had watched the entire game backstage. And when his team won, he lost his mind from the sheer overwhelming joy. He jumped around screaming “OH MY GOD! WE DID IT! WE DID IT! WE WON! IT WAS AMAZING! DID YOU GUYS SEE SHI HANG? I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING! IS THIS A DREAM? NO! IT CAN’T BE! THE LAST TIME I FELT THIS MUCH JOY IN A DREAM WAS WHEN I DREAMED THAT MY WIFE DIDN’T LEAVE ME AND THAT DIDN’T FEEL AS GOOD AS THIS DOES! THIS IS REAL! WE WON!” 

The Coach had dedicated his life to ESports, and specifically League of Legends. He poured everything he had into Team Rapids. So much so that his wife had left him. She declared that their marriage wasn’t a real one since he’d spent the last 8 months sleeping at the Team Rapids headquarters. It had devastated him, but changed nothing in his resolve to push Team Rapids to new heights. He’d bet everything on Shi Hang and brought him back into the professional scene and Team Rapids. Even then, the Coach wasn’t certain about Team Rapid’s chance for victory in this match against HoG. But all doubt had vanished now! This victory was the turning point for Team Rapids and himself! He was so delusional with joy that he convinced himself that his wife might take him back.

“WE WON! Hahahah! I TOLD YOU ALL THAT AYDEECEE WAS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH! WE WON! SHE’LL LET ME COME HOME AGAIN NOW! We actually did it!” Team Rapid’s Coach cried out. He wasn’t just happy for himself or for his team. Most of his joy came from the fact that his old friend of many years, Shi Hang, had done well. The debut game that Shi Hang played for Team Rapids against KG had not gone well at all. Team Rapids had lost. But the worst part was that his performance in that game was average at best. Shi Hang was forced to bear an onslaught of criticism from fans to commentators to analysts to critics. 

But Shi Hang proved all of them wrong with this victory! He’d shown every single person who called him a hasbeen that he could hold his own, even against China’s current number one Midlaner and the only King in the country, Daybreak Hermes!

Team Raid’s Coach wanted to call and message every single person who claimed that Shi Hang was well past his prime and couldn’t compete in today’s professional scene. But he couldn’t, so he settled for yelling at one of the assistants backstage responsible for technical maintenance. “YOU STILL HAVE THE BALLS TO CLAIM THAT AYDEECEE IS A RELIC? You want to keep talking about how Shi Hang peaked in Season 1 and can’t compete with the professionals in Season 6? LISTEN TO ME! Someone like Shi Hang, who managed to claw his way to the top back in those days, you can’t underestimate them! My wife underestimated me, and now she’s probably twisting the bedsheets in regret! AYDEECEE IS BACK HOME NOW AND SOOON I WILL BE TOO!”

Among the cheers and applause of the audience, Team Rapids’ members walked down from the stage.

Shi Hang had just returned backstage, when Aurous, who had also come to watch today’s match, ran over and slung his arm over his shoulder. “Hahaha! WAY TO POP OFF, QUEEN! You even beat Hermes! How’s it feel to be you again?”  He was clearly happy and excited for his old friend.

Shi Hang shrugged his shoulders. “I did alright. Hermes… eh, he was careless during the early game. Probably didn’t think he needed to try against me after that game with KG. If he was really going all out from the start, it would’ve been way tougher to win today’s game.”

Aurous laughed and pinched Shi Hang’s cheek. “So modest and coy! If you keep this up, you’ll catch the eye of some CEO’s son and he’ll come sweep you off your feet! What does it matter if Hermes underestimated you and played carelessly at the start? This is Hermes we’re talking about! Even if he played carelessly, how many players do you think there are in China who could’ve caught that and taken advantage of it? Be proud, sweet AyDeeCee! Even if you don’t have a real bust, your booty more than makes up for it! You snowballed your advantage and hard-carried the game!”

Shi Hang smiled. God damn Aurous! I can’t tell if I’m laughing at his nonsense or if I’m happy about winning today’s game now. But it was a good day. I’m back!

With this match, Shi Hang had proved that he was one of China’s top Midlaners. He’d finally announced his return.

Shi Hang suddenly stopped smiling and grew thoughtful. He looked at Aurous and asked, “Hey. Do you know if the Collegiate Cup ended?”

Aurous was puzzled by the question. This sweet untouched chrysanthemum just beat a King… and he wants to know what’s going on at the Collegiate Cup? Aurous looked at Shi Hang for a brief second before replying, “Yup. It just ended. Team Shanghai beat Team Beijing 3-0.” He waved his out dramatically and continued, “But why are we worried about what’s going on in some tournament for the next generation? They’re still ripening, forget about them. We should be talking about you! Everyone said that you’d gone rotten. And then you go an win against HoG! You, my friend, are still very ripe and plump. With how amazing your LeBlanc was today, I’d even say that you’re… bursting with springtime firmness. Hahahaa! I’m 100% sure that anyone and everyone who plays League in China will be talking about your LeBlanc. You’re going to be just as hot on the forums are you are in real life!”

Shi Hang bonked Aurous on the head to calm him down a little. Then he raised an eyebrow and smiled at his friend. “I’m not so sure about that.”

Aurous stared at Shi Hang, baffled by the turn of events. “What? Something else happened? What do you know? Tell me everything! ”

Shi Hang turned around to look at the stands. At all the spectators still cheering. His eyes flickered with a strange light as he took it all in. Then he said, “You’ll find out later tonight.”

Chapter 412 – Rise

Maple. That name held a special significance to everyone who was involved in the Chinese Esports scene back during the League of Legends Season 1 World Championships. That name was enshrined in all their hearts. 

Back then, Maple was the unquestionable number one Midlaner in all of China. He was also the Captain of the strongest competitive League of Legends team in China. He was the first to lead a Chinese team all the way to the World Championships. Once there, he defeated many powerful European and North American teams to make it all the way to the Finals. Teams who were all considered real contenders for the Finals and the eventual Championship. During these battles, Maple proved that he was truly a world class player who could go toe-to-toe with Han “Rake” Seho, and other players of that caliber. Maple broke records, won titles, and had a nearly endless laundry list of accomplishments. 

For all of the old Chinese players who were around to witness his meteoric rise, Maple represented hope. Especially these days, when China was still suffering from a string of defeats in the most recent World Championships. Maple was a dream, an idle fantasy that many of these old players ruminated on frequently these days. They wondered if China could rise again, if the genius Midlaner Maple would return to once again create a miracle.

When people like Chu Fang, Fang Hao, and Shi Hang saw Lin Feng’s return, saw Maple’s return, they were both ecstatic and brimming with anticipation to watch him pull off another miracle. Maple was the herald of a new and glorious era of Chinese Esports. Which is exactly why Chu Feng was so concerned about someone prematurely figuring out who Lin Feng was prior to the Finals of the Collegiate Cup. And also why Lin Songshi’s question and tone completely threw Chu Feng off. 

None of the tension up on stage was apparent to the audience members below. They were still cheering and screaming “WIN FENG!” as they celebrated the end of a truly electrifying Collegiate Cup. Lin Songshi wasn’t wearing a microphone, so no one could hear his conversation with Lin Feng besides the members of Team Shanghai who were standing on stage with them.

The tension and awkwardness between Lin Songshi and Lin Feng intensified as the question hung in the air between them. Lin Feng looked at the ground again as he considered how to answer. Why did I come back? I didn’t want to come back. For years. I didn’t want to be back at all. But… I have a dream now! I have a reason for all of this! Lin Feng was silent as he considered everything that happened since the Season 1 World Championships to this moment. And then he finally had an answer to Lin Songshi’s question. He looked up with fire in his eyes and said, “To rise! I’m going to climb over my regrets, my mistakes, my past, and everyone else in my way! I’m going to get to the very top and grab my dream!” His tone was calm, but the determination in his voice was unmistakable. After he finished answering, he raised his fist into the air. 

The audience, still completely unaware of what was going on stage, went wild and cheered Lin Feng on even more as they saw the gesture. 


Rise above his regrets? 

Zeng Rui, Tang Bingyao, Zhang Hao, An Xin and Chu Fang all heard Lin Feng’s answer, and that was the single thought on all their minds. They heard Lin Feng say he wanted to rise above his regrets, and they thought they understood what that meant. Lin Feng regretted his defeat at the hands of Han “Rake” Seho back during the Finals of the Season 1 League of Legends World Championships. The Finals where he lost 2-3. As far as they understood, what other regrets could a player like Maple have? It was simple and straightforward in their minds. 

Lin Songshi, on the other hand, understood something completely different from Lin Feng’s answer. He looked down into Lin Feng’s eyes with a thin, mocking smile and asked, “Oh? You think that this is your moment to take to the skies? That you’ll prove yourself and rise? You think you can make them remember you and rise? You think you can push through hell and rise?” 

Zhang Hao’s eyes widened out of shock when Lin Songshi first started speaking. But they narrowed and flickered with rage by the end. He didn’t know much about the President of the Chinese Esports Association, but any respect he had for Lin Songshi was on the verge of disappearing. What the fuck is this guy on? He should be happy that Lin Feng is coming back! Instead, he’s standing there making fun of MAPLE like a douche!

The lines on Zeng Rui’s forehead grew deeper and deeper with every word that came out of Lin Songshi’s mouth. He’s crossing the line here… President of the Chinese Esports Association or not, he’s definitely way over the line… But something isn’t right here. Why would someone of Lin Songshi’s position and status speak to a player like that? Especially during an Awards Ceremony in full view of the public? He’s responsible for maintaining the image of the Chinese Esports Association. Not to mention his own. I’m missing something here.

The same thoughts ran through Chu Fang’s head at the moment. As far as he knew, Lin Songshi was someone that conducted himself with the utmost grace to avoid disgracing the name of the Chinese Esports Association. More importantly, everything I’ve heard about Lin Songshi from the old days to today always talked about how supportive he was to players. I can’t think of a single time when Lin Songshi talked down to someone like this! SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE, CHU FANG! DO SOMETHING!

Lin Feng and Lin Songshi continued their conversation, ignoring the reactions of everyone else up on the stage.

After Lin Songshi’s biting words, Lin Feng paused. Then he shook his head slowly, “I’m not sure-sure,” he answered honestly. He paused for a brief half a second, then added, “But I’m still going to try!” His tone contained unwavering determination and confidence.

Lin Songshi’s mocking smirk turned even more severe, and the look in his eyes turned sharp and piercing. “Oh? Because you won this… Collegiate Cup Championship? Now Maple is back and ready to knock down Rake?”

Lin Feng continued looking Lin Songshi right in the eyes and replied, “Of course not. Just keep watching. You’ll see!” 

The tension in the air between them continued to intensify. But the initial awkwardness shifted towards aggressiveness. The heat was palpable. This was most definitely not a conversation between someone receiving an award and someone presenting an award. Everything about this exchange was strange. It looked more like an argument between a disapproving elder and a rebellious teenager than a very public award ceremony on a stage in front of a roaring crowd of spectators.

Chu Fang and the other members of Team Shanghai were stunned and confused. But it was clear enough that they didn’t have enough information to butt into this situation, so they stayed out and continued to let it play out. 

Lin Songshi’s eyes narrowed as he glared down  at Lin Feng.

Lin Feng met Lin Songshi’s gaze without backing down, his eyes filled with a rare intensity and the stubbornness apparent on his face.

After a few seconds of this, Lin Songshi blinked and looked over at the other members of Team Shanghai. All traces of the mockery and anger from a few moments ago were completely gone and he had a kind and polite smile on his face. “All of you played fantastic in your games today! Congratulations on winning the championship! You absolutely deserve this victory and trophy!”

Zhang Hao,  Zeng Rui, and Tang Bingyao were taken aback by this sudden shift and warmth. They quickly mumbled out thanks and fell silent. 

Then Lin Songshi look at An Xin. His expression softened, and his smile became wider as he said, “BunBun, your Lee Sin in that last game was fantastic.”

An Xin smiled. “ You’re flattering me, Uncle Lin! But thank you!.”

Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao were shook. All three of their eyes popped open at the same time. And they all had the same exact thought running through their heads. BunBun and Lin Songshi know each other?!?

Lin Songshi smiled and continued addressing An Xin, “I must say, I was very surprised to see you here. Never would I have expected to see you playing in this tournament.”

An Xin smiled. “Haha! Yeah, Lin Feng. He dragged me into this, and someone needs to look after him.”

Lin Songshi turned his attention back to Lin Feng. His expression relaxed a little, and he asked, “Would you like to come to dinner with me tonight? We can catch up and continue discussing your… plans.”

The twists and turns and surprises from this brief Award Ceremony were too much for Zhang Hao. His eyes turned vacant and glazed over. He had fainted standing up.

Tang Bingyao’s jaw dropped.

The vein on Zeng Rui’s forehead throbbed violently and his eyelid started twitching again.

Chu Fang’s expression was also filled with shock.

Lin Feng had gotten into an intense exchange with Lin Songshi, one that had not been resolved or explained, thirty seconds ago. And now the President of the Chinese Esports Association was inviting him to dinner! As far as most of Team Shanghai understood, they understood nothing of what happened in the last few minutes. Nothing made sense!

Lin Feng’s eyes sparkled after hearing the word dinner. The thought of food had completely changed the atmosphere between him and Lin Songshi. But then he quickly shook his head and said, “I’d never turn down a meal… but I’m already going to go get hotpot with BunBun and the rest of the team. We always celebrate winning with a meal!”

Zhang Hao’s eyes almost popped out of his sockets. My god! Lin Feng,  you actually refused an invitation from the President of the Chinese Esports Association! That takes some balls! Shit, I hope he doesn’t get offended…

Lin Songshi politely chuckled at Lin Feng’s refusal and smiled, “That’s completely fine. My apologies. I should have considered that you’d want to celebrate with your team and made plans already. But aside from that, you still won the Collegiate Cup Championship. Congratulations on this victory.”

Lin Feng politely nodded and replied, “Thanks, Uncle.” His tone held no sincerity or warmth. 

Chu Fang, Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao were floored again. U-UCNLE!? The word exploded in their ears and minds like a bomb.