Where the chapter at?

What’s up what’s up guys.

Just wanted to give you a situation update. Devshard recently got hit by something called “Bicep Tendinitis”. If you’re not sure what that means, I was also in the same boat, so I’m just going to share some quotes from Dev:

Apr 25: “Man. I really wrecked my shoulder. My entire arm is screaming in pain.”
Apr 27: “Still can’t lift it out to the side, but it doesn’t spasm with pain from every tiny movement.”

As my layman brain understands it, Dev has an inflamed bicep tendon that causes him a lot of pain every time he moves his arm. Unfortunately, this is one of those “wait and see” situations. Dev is taking anti-inflammatory medicine, resting, and praying to the 1001 Hindu Gods that it gets better ASAP.

We really appreciate every single one of you who continues to read Rise, and we hope to publish new chapters for you to enjoy soon!

Chapter 456 – Deuces, Not Truces 

The challenge and confidence in Qian Lu’s words was too much for Boss Liu to handle. His eyes narrowed, and his narrow lips thinned further into a derisive smile. He replied with, “Hm. Starting to feel confident about our chances, are we? You think this is going to go your way? Well, how about we just wait and see.” With those words, Boss Liu glanced up at the large LCD display above his head. Then he looked at Qian Lu from the corner of his eyes and said, “Your team, they’re still in a practice game?” 

Qian Lu gave Boss Liu his signature smile, friendly and harmless. “Yes, yes. About that. So you see, we were waiting for a long time and no challengers appeared. They got bored sitting up on that stage doing nothing and decided not to waste the time. That’s why they’re in a practice game. Just some harmless fun to while away the time.” 

Right as Qian Lu said those words, Lin Feng happened to be recalling back to the base in the game. He glanced down at Qian Lu, and noticed that Boss Liu was now there. Lin Feng decided to wave at the pair in high spirits and said, “Look! Someone came to challenge us! Just give us a second, we’ll finish this game really quick!” 

Boss Liu looked up and over at Lin Feng. His eyes flickered with hints of disdain, but he kept a polite smile on his face. “It’s fine, fine, fine. Really. Take your time, we’ll just be watching.” Then he turned around and faced his team. “All of you, watch their game! Get a feel of how good they are!” 

All the guys on the Moonlight NetCafe’s team were all pretty young. Their average age was around 20, and the oldest guy on the team was only 25. It wasn’t by much, but they were all still older than Lin Feng and the rest of the gang. That made them arrogant enough to look down on Team Shanghai. Despite the words of Boss Liu, they had zero interest in spectating the practice game that Team Shanghai was playing. They were, however, very interested in oogling An Xin and Tang Bingyao. 

“A couple of high school brats. How good could they possibly be?”
“Looks like this is another free win.”
“Look at those two cuties!”
“Hot-diggity-damn! These high school girls, I’m tellin’ ya, they just keep getting hotter and hotter.”

The Captain on Moonlight NetCafe’s team was more level headed than his teammates. He coughed. “That’s enough! Leave that for after. Let’s focus on the game they’re playing and figure out how good they are right now. I don’t want any of us getting careless because we were cocky, and then embarrassing ourselves. Is that clear?”

The other members didn’t appear convinced, but they were respectful enough to attempt to spectate on the words of their captain. That didn’t stop them from continuing to whisper amongst themselves. 

“How could we lose?”
“They’re just brats…”
“Stop being such a nervous nelly, we got this in the bag.” 

“Oh? It looks like the Blue Team has a huge advantage.”
“It’s only been 13 minutes since this game started, but they already have a 6,000 gold lead!”
“That’s… surprising. Maybe they’re a little better than we thought.”
“No way! They gotta be smurfing. The enemy team is probably all in Gold or something.”

The team captain frowned. “Smurfing? Gold? How does that make any sense? They’re trying to get some practice in, why would they face such a weak opponent for practice? That’s just such a waste of time, and I don’t see this as the kind of team that would do something so useless.”

The Support player clicked his tongue. “Who knows? Maybe they just want to show off in front of all these people? You know how high schoolers are these days? They’re all ego. Since the other team is getting rekt this badly, I’d say gold is the right guess.”

The Toplaner’s lips curved into a smile. “Who knows? Maybe the opponent is Platinum, but I’d find that really hard to believe.”

Little did the members of the Moonlight NetCafe’s team realize that the players they were looking down on, the enemy team in Team Shanghai’s game, were all ranked somewhere in mid to high Diamond! They weren’t even close to being considered bad players. The reason why the game was so tilted was because of how good Lin Feng and the gang had gotten. They outclassed the enemy team so significantly that they could deliver a one-sided beatdown. It looked like they were smurfing, especially to people like the Moonlight NetCafe’s team. It was a misunderstanding of the situation that would soon prove fatal to the Moonlight NetCafe’s team. 

This misunderstanding, or whatever it was that the Moonlight NetCafe’s team thought of Team Shanghai, made no difference to Lin Feng and the gang. They couldn’t be bothered to even think about it. The only thing on their minds right now was that they finally had a challenger for the Battle Bonanza. A challenger they couldn’t keep waiting long. 

They all nodded to each other and started pushing their practice game to it’s finale. Lin Feng and the others pushed down both the Top and Mid lane as the game hit the 22 minute mark. It was too much for the enemy team to defend against, especially considering how far behind they were. They understood that this game was over, and quickly surrendered. Team Shanghai’s second practice game had ended with a Victory crest floating over the giant LCD screen. 

Below the stage, Boss Liu turned to Qian Lu and asked. “We can start now?”

Qian Lu smiled. “Of course. Let me just ask them first.” He looked up at Lin Feng and the others up on the stage and asked, “Moonlight NetCafe’s members have been waiting for a while. Do you want to start now, or after a short break?”

Lin Feng immediately replied. “No need. We’re good!”

Moonlight NetCafe’s members stepped on the stage and sat down on the row of computers on the other side of where Lin Feng and the gang sat. And with the two teams seated and ready start, sparks started flying between them and the atmosphere heated up.

The customers below the stage started feeling tense and nervous.

“Can they win…?”
“You can do it! We believe in you!”
“Get the victory!”
“Go go go!”
“Go girls! You all can do it!”

“Start out strong! Womp this first game!”
“NetCow! Net Cow! GOOOOOOOOO!!”

In an instant, the air in the internet cafe sparkled and sizzled with electricity, the crowd had found a reason for hope and erupted into passionate cheers. Qian Lu beamed across the crowd, while thunderclouds roamed across Boss Liu’s forehead. On the stage, the match was about to start. Lin Feng looked at his teammates and smiled. “Alright guys. Let’s do our best! No matter what, let’s give it our all!”

A minute later, in the middle of the cheering crowd, the two teams loaded into the first game of this best of three match. And 25 minutes later, the first game ended. Lin Feng and the gang had achieved an easy victory. With no pause or break in between, the two teams loaded into the second game of the match. And just like the first game, the second game ended in 24 minutes with Team Shanghai’s victory. NetCow Cafe’s team had won two games in a row, successfully defending the NetCow Cafe. All in under an hour. 

The whole thing was so unexpected that the crowd didn’t know how to react. There was just pin drop silence throughout the NetCow Cafe. Boss Liu had a dumbstruck expression on his face, as if he couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. “W-we? We just? Wait… did we just? We lost…?”


Chapter 450 – Even if I’m Playing Support, I Can Still Carry!

At first glance, things weren’t going well for Lin Feng in the Support role. His Garen had used Decisive Strike twice so far in the laning phase. The skill gave the champion a burst of move speed and culminated in a downward slash that dealt extra damage to an enemy champion while also silencing them. It was a move to quickly close distance and engage. But both times that Lin Feng had used it, he failed to close in on the enemy Jinx. Making things even worse was that he’d gotten hit with Morgana’s Dark Binding on one of those chase attempts, which resulted in his Garen taking a lot of damage. All in all, things did not seem to be going well at all. But Lin Feng was unfazed, because all of this was part of a plan that he’d been cooking up. 

Everything was within expectations. The truth was that Lin Feng had no intention of actually closing in on Jinx while he was only at Level 1. He knew that he had no chance of actually pulling that off. If the Jinx couldn’t avoid a Decisive Strike charge from Garen, she wouldn’t even survive in the lowest tier of Silver. There was no chance of the Jinx making it all the way to Diamond. Given that obvious fact, Lin Feng never intended to target Jinx. His real target had always been the opposing Morgana!

Lin Feng smiled. I think they fell for it! That first Decisive Strike charge, that was just a feint. I was never going to catch Jinx. But it did get Morgana to drop her guard. And the second Decisive Strike managed to land on Morgana all because of that. But Morgana still doesn’t get what’s going on, and that’s how I need to keep it.

Lin Feng glanced down at his Garen’s experience bar as he continued to lane with Tang Bingyao. Hm… I’m going to hit Level 2 soon. Tang Tang’s Kalista has great wave clear and she’s pressuring the Jinx away from minions hard… we’re going to hit Level 2 before they do. That might be a problem…

“Tang Tang, slow down a little,” Lin Feng said in voice chat. 

“Mhm!” Tang Bingyao nodded, understanding what Lin Feng was trying to do. 

Once it became too obvious that Tang Bingyao’s Kalista and Lin Feng’s Garen would hit Level 2 first, the opposing duolaners start playing far more cautiously and have their guard up. They would start backing up towards their tower and wait for an opportunity. But if Tang Bingyao and Lin Feng slowed down and made it appear like the difference wasn’t too insurmountable, that would change things. Instead of backing up, the Jinx and Morgana would see a chance to hit Level 2 first by pushing a little harder. And in that rush, they would be more reckless and leave themselves open. Tang Bingyao and Lin Feng already understood this at an intrinsic level, which is why Lin Feng didn’t need to explain his plan in detail or use any extra words. 

Tang Bingyao purposefully started slowing down her wave clear speed. And according to the plan, Gang Xi’s Jinx started trying to mow down minions faster in an attempt to hit Level 2 first.

As another blue minion died, Lin Feng glanced down at his experience bar again. Only one minion left… He spoke into the voice chat, “Tang Tang, get ready!” 

Lin Feng narrowed his eyes, and his posture changed to reflect the intensity of the moment. Two seconds later, the final blue minion had fallen to critically low levels of health from Tang Bingyao’s auto attacks. At the exact same moment, Jinx took down another minion. She was also only a single minion kill away from Level 2.

“Go!” Lin Feng shouted. He flicked his mouse and tapped on his keyboard. His Garen charged out of the brush with Decisive Strike, straight at Jinx! 

Morgana immediately reacted to protect Jinx with Dark Binding. The violet coloured projectile flew at the charging Garen.

Now you’re dead! Lin Feng’s eyes flashed with bloodlust. Right as Morgana’s Dark Binding was about to hit his Garen, Lin Feng pushed down on the D key—Flash! Dazzling motes of light enveloped his Garen and teleported him out of the path of the Dark Binding! But instead of Flashing towards the Jinx, Lin Feng’s Garen appeared right in front of Morgana!

Gang Zi’s heart shook. Shit! He wasn’t after me! It was a bait! He cried out in voice chat, “Watch out!” He was already spamming the retreat ping in lane, but it was too late. Garen’s Decisive Strike ended when he ran into Morgana after the Flash, and his blade had already sunk into her flesh. Morgana’s health was carved away, and the skill also Silenced her!

While this was happening, Tang Bingyao’s Kalista finished off the final minion in the wave. A brilliant light encircled Garen and Kalista as both champions simultaneously hit Level 2! 

But Lin Feng wasn’t even close to finishing with the Morgana. After the Decisive Strike, he unleashed his Ignite upon her. As the unquenchable flames roasted her health with every tick, Garen started whirling around with his blade held out and cleaved further through Morgana’s health with every rotation—Judgment!

Things were not looking good for Morgana, who was currently bleeding through her life. But things were about to get a lot worse. Once Tang Bingyao finished off the final minion in the wave, she had her Kalista leap forward with the skill Martial Poise. That allowed her to get close enough to Morgana to begin attacking. Kalista started hurling spears that pierced through the still Silenced Morgana. One spear! Two spears! 

That’s when the Silence from Garen’s Decisive Strike ended, giving Morgana a brief window to attempt an escape. Which Morgana took by Flashing away. 

“Tang Tang! Chase!” Lin Feng cried out.

Tang Bingyao was already moving before Lin Feng’s reminder. She had her Kalista follow after Morgana with a Flash of her own, and continued raining spears down. Three spears! Four spears!

Gang Zi saw the danger that Morgana was in, and immediately activated the Summoner Spell Heal to try and help. It would give Morgana a little bit more of a buffer to escape. But unfortunately, it was too little too late.

As Morgana frantically tried to flee, Tang Bingyao’s Kalista relentlessly pursued with deadly spears. Five spears! After the fifth spear had dug itself into Morgana’s body, Kalista hurled a final spear. This one was empowered and stronger than the auto-attacks that had been harassing Morgana until now. That last empowered spear hurled through the air and buried itself in Morgana’s back—Pierce!

Then Tang Bingyao stopped, and pushed down on her E key. This activated the skill that Kalista gained upon reaching Level 2. Rend! Kalista telekinetically ripped out every spear in Morgana’s body at the same time, dealing further damage! 

And with the spears came the last of Morgana’s health! 

《First Blood!》

As the announcer’s voice rang out, Qian Lu’s eyes were trembling with emotion. W-what a quick first blood!

Across the table, the two duolaners on the Blue Team had unsightly expressions on their faces. Gang Zi looked like he wanted to kill someone, his hand trembling as he gripped down harder on his mouse. Fuck! Fuck! What the hell was that!? We had no time to react to any of that! How? Just… how? How do you guard against that Garen Kalista double Flash engage!? I’ve never even seen that in a solo queue or anywhere outside pro play! Wait… was Garen playing bad before on purpose?

As he slowly put everything together in his head, Gang Zi’s jaw clenched from rage. 

After picking up first blood on Morgana, Tang Bingyao’s Kalista score became 1/0/0, giving her a lead over Jinx. Of course, Tang Bingyao only managed to get the kill thanks to Lin Feng’s perfect engage. A fact that he was more than happy to point out. 

“See! What did I say! Even if I’m playing Support, I can still carry!” Lin Feng exclaimed in high spirits.

But it wasn’t just in the Bot Lane that Team Shanghai was currently shining. While everyone’s focus happened to be on Bot Lane because of Gang Zi, there was action happening elsewhere on the Rift. Action that, sadly, went unnoticed for the most part. Four minutes into the game, Zhang Hao’s Irelia had managed to solo kill the opposing Rumble. But once the announcer’s voice rang out, everyone paused to take a look.

《An enemy has been slain!》

They found Zhang Hao’s Irelia looking down at the corpse of the Rumble. And on Team Shanghai’s side of the computers, they could feel Zhang Hao radiating pure bliss. This was a big moment for him, especially after the Collegiate Cup. During the entire tournament, he’d been the weakest link on Team Shanghai. Every game of every match was an unrelenting torment of stress for Zhang Hao. He was so consistently outmatched that he couldn’t even dream of getting a solo kill during the Collegiate Cup. In fact, a good game for him was one in which he didn’t die to a gank! So this moment, right now, was a great confidence booster for him. It was easy to forget that Zhang Hao was a Diamond 1 Toplaner during the Collegiate Cup. So easy that he’d forgotten it himself. 

Until right now, as he stared at the dead Rumble on the screen. Ahhh! A solo kill! I haven’t felt like this for months… it feels so good to stomp on someone again. I should really thank the guy I’m up against. I forgot what it felt like to be good, and this guy is playing so bad it touched my frozen heart and woke me up. Truly a lad among lads!

Chapter 448 – BunBun’s Plan for Dealing With the Lads

Once they heard the exchange between Qian Lu and the young men who had walked into their private room, Lin Feng and his friends had a rough understanding of the situation. These young men were part of a local team, and Qian Lu approached them first to represent his branch of the NetCow Cafe. But the lads wanted significantly more than what Qian Lu was willing to offer, which led to negotiations stalling. That’s where things went south for the lads who were regulars of the NetCow Cafe. They thought they had Qian Lu’s back against the wall, and were waiting for him to concede. But Qian Lu found out about Lin Feng and his friends, along with their exploits in the Collegiate Cup. So he gave up on the team of young men and approached Lin Feng’s gang instead, and made a deal with them. 

The lads eventually learned that Qian Lu had made a deal with another local team, and they came over today to check out the interlopers who had stolen their business. To put it another way, trouble had once again somehow found its way to Lin Feng and his gang. But this whole thing wasn’t exactly a simple dispute between two local teams at this branch of the NetCow Cafe. No, no. There was a complicating factor, and that was Qian Lu. His involvement in the whole affair made it very clear to Lin Feng’s friends that he was not completely clean in the matter.

An Xin simply watched what was happening with a smile. She was more than content to remain on the sidelines for this whole thing, and she didn’t say anything out loud. Oh, Qian Lu… You orchestrated all of this didn’t you? You wanted to push those guys into a confrontation with us, and I’m guessing that you’re very pleased with yourself that everything worked out this way. I’m willing to bet that you think you’re some grand puppet master with this mediocre manipulation. Poor Qian Lu… But let’s see what everyone else has to say about this and what they’re planning on doing it. 

Zeng Rui figured it out quickly too. He looked over at Qian Lu with a meaningful glance. Qian Lu… what an asshole. He didn’t tell them that we’re the team that won the Collegiate Cup! Hmm… let’s think about this for a second. It’s obvious that the first part of why he’s doing this is because he doesn’t want to turn them down directly, so he’s letting us take out his trash. He doesn’t want to create an issue with people who are his regulars and be the bad guy. But he doesn’t want them constantly in his hair either. The other part of this is, if I’m reading this situation right, that he’s testing us. If we can’t beat these guys, then he’ll have more than enough reason to back out of the deal with us and go with them. It’s a win-win situation for Qian Lu. 

After coming to this conclusion, Zeng Rui raised an eyebrow. He’s not the owner of this place for anything. After spending some money to recruit us, he already wants to inspect us.

The young man with the toothpick, the leader of the lads, turned to look at Lin Feng and the others after finishing his conversation with Qian Lu. “So, you kids decided to get together and make your team? That’s mighty impressive, that’s for sure. You’ve all been playing together for a while now, right? I’m guessing that you guys aren’t bad at the game. How about a… friendly game with your seniors? Show us how good you guys are! Maybe you can learn a thing or two from playing against my team. You guys probably haven’t had a lot of chances to play against real teams. This sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun, right guys?”

Qian Lu jumped in “Nothing too serious, obviously. This will just be a friendly exchange between friendly local teams, you know? We’re all friends here at this NetCow Cafe!” He said this with a fake smile plastered on his face. Qian Lu’s words were light, but his eyes twinkled with the joy that came from a well-executed scheme. He continued, “I see you were all about to queue up for a 5-man ranked match, right? Well, Gang Zi and his friends have a full 5-man team too! Why don’t you guys play against them instead of that ranked match? It’ll be a good time, and that’s what we’re all about here at the NetCow Cafe! Gang Zi’s team is famous, very famous. They’re well known in all the other internet cafes in the area. Every single person on Gang Zi’s team is Diamond 3 on the Ionia Server or higher. Now that I think of it, Gang Zi is a Diamond 1 Ad-carry!”

Gang Zi’s face lit up from the praise and the smirk on his face transformed into a smug smile. But perhaps the arrogance was something that he’d earned. There were great League players in every internet cafe across Shanghai, but even among that group there were very few who’d managed to climb as high as Diamond 1 on the Ionia Server.

The lads standing behind Gang Zi, his friends, also jumped in to praise their leader. 

“Boss Qian speaks nothing but straight facts. Gang Zi ended last season at Diamond 1!”
“If it wasn’t so hard for Ad-Carries to climb in solo queue, he could’ve gotten to Master!”
“You guys are so lucky that someone like Gang Zi wants to play against you.”
“That’s right! I know you guys are just kids, but do you have enough guts to play us?”
“Tsk tsk, there’s no need to be mean. If they’re scared, they’re scared. It’s okay.”
“Yeah, we’ll understand if you’re scared. Just say so.”

Gang Zi’s friends stared at Lin Feng and the others with mocking smiles, not bothering to disguise their hostility.

Gang Zi didn’t try to hold his friends back. He folded his arms across his chest as his gaze fell on Lin Feng’s group. “So, what’s the answer?” He chuckled to himself. These brats are so easy to read. Provoke them a little, and they’ll take the bait for sure. Besides, how good could these kids possibly be? Platinum, low Diamond at best? Gang Zi’s eyes wandered to An Xin and Tang Bingyao. Tsk, they even have two girls on their team… Actually, these girls are pretty cute. Maybe I can use this as an excuse to get to know them better.  

Gang Zi licked his lips. From his perspective and understanding of how the world worked, his skills created an irresistible magnetism for female League of Legends players. There was no chance that these high school girls wouldn’t swoon over a Diamond 1 player. In his mind, he was completely sure that they would be begging to add him. Then he’d see how things went from there. Gang Zi’s lips curved into a faint smile as thoughts of romancing An Xin and Tang Bingyao on the Rift danced through his mind. He fixed his shirt collar and then popped it up to make himself appear more rakish and badass. Then he looked over at Lin Feng and the others. “What’s the hold up, small fry? You chicken?”

When Gang Zi and his lads started boasting about their ranks, the expressions on the faces of everyone in Lin Feng’s gang changed to a look of disbelief and confusion. 

Tang Bingyao tilted her head in the cute way she always did. Average rank of Diamond 3? Their best player is Diamond 1? Why are they so happy about that? She looked at Gang Zi and his friends, confused. Mhm… I literally do not understand what they think is so impressive here. A few months ago, I was boosting accounts between Diamond 5 and Diamond 1. Why do they think Diamond 1 is so special? Mhm…mhm… confusing!

Zhang Hao almost burst out laughing. He had to turn his chair around and bite his fist. These guys… they have no idea how embarrassing their bragging is! I must not laugh! I must not say anything! We need to play this game. I must not laugh! Don’t give away the joke, Zhang Hao! You can do this! Use all the willpower you gained during the Collegiate Cup. Keep a straight face, no matter how much these guys beg to be humiliated.

Zeng Rui couldn’t even be bothered to pay attention to the conversation anymore. Insects. Annoying, chirping insects. Forget about the five of us as we are now, even my old team from Shanghai High School would be more than enough to crush them.

In the end, it was Lin Feng who finally spoke up. “Fine, sure! Let’s play a match. It sounds like fun.” 

This sort of thing hardly bothered Lin Feng. As far as he was concerned, it didn’t matter if they were playing against randoms in ranked queue or against these guys. The end result would always be the same. He would crush anyone in his path!

After agreeing to a match, the two teams quickly started to get set up for a game. The private room that Lin Feng’s gang used had 10 computers. There was no need for them to move to a larger room. Gang Zi and his friends sat down in the row of computers across from the ones that Lin Feng and the others had already claimed and started logging into League of Legends.

Team Shanghai’s members didn’t sit down immediately. They huddled into a corner of the room and started talking about their strategy for this match. But the atmosphere in the room was strange. Everyone on Team Shanghai understood that they could crush Gang Zi and his lads with little to no effort. But Zeng Rui projected the same seriousness that he had before every match in the Collegiate Cup. 

An Xin and Zeng Rui glanced at each other. Then, Zeng Rui massaged his temples and said, “We’ll stick with the original plan for today. Nothing’s changed. Also. I cannot believe I’m saying this. But let’s all try to take this seriously and not underestimate our opponents too much.”

Only Tang Bingyao nodded earnestly. Zhang Hao’s eyes flickered with excitement and laughter. “Heheehehehheheeheh! This is going to be so funny! It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten a chance to stomp on someone this stupid.”

As for Lin Feng, he was already fired up. He made a fist pump and exclaimed, “I’ll crush Mid by 10 minutes. Wait! No! I only need 8 minutes!”

That’s when An Xin decided it was finally time to step in and say something. She interjected with a smile and said, “Nope. We’re not going to get anything out of playing against this opponent using our normal strategies and playstyles. It won’t be practice. It wouldn’t even be a warmup. But since we can’t change the opponent, what we can do is give ourselves a handicap. That’ll allow us to develop skills and practice even against someone who wouldn’t normally pose any challenge to us.”

“Huh?” Lin Feng looked bewildered. “What do you mean by that?”  As he saw An Xin looking at him with a mysterious smile, he immediately sensed something off. “H-hey, BunBun! What are you planning?”

An Xin smiled. “Nothing really. Just a role swap. That’s all.”

Chapter 447 – The Immovable Mt. Tai Award

“Net Cafe Battle Bonanza?” Lin Feng scratched his head. “I didn’t think we’d be playing in a tournament the moment we started. And we have to go around to different internet cafes, challenging them? That sounds like a pain, especially when it’s so cold outside. Why can’t they all just come to us? That’ll be so much easier, and it’ll be more fun that way!” 

Zeng Rui, An Xin, and the others all nodded in agreement.

Qian Lu looked confused at first, and then shocked. Lin Feng watched as the expressions raced across Qian Lu’s face. Eventually Qian Lu composed himself and yelped. “Nononono! You guys don’t have to go anywhere! All you have to do is stay here and defend our precious NetCow Cafe!” He shook his head frantically to underscore his statement. Then he took a deep breath and calmed down enough to explain the situation to everyone. “You see, there are several prizes available in the Battle Bonanza. The main prize, and the biggest one, is the Conqueror Award. This is given out to the team who goes out to battle other internet cafe teams and dominates all of them. But there is another prize, and that’s the one that I have my eye on, the Immovable Mt. Tai Award! As the name implies, the award is given out for defense. The internet cafe that successfully defends itself from challengers wins. There’s no need for you guys to go anywhere for us to win the Immovable Mt. Tai award. All you guys have to do is stay here and make sure that none of the roaming teams win! You just need to stay here, don’t go anywhere!”

“Oh, got it!” Lin Feng said. His eyes lit up. “That makes things way easier! Whenever one of them comes to pick a fight with us, we’ll just crush them! It’s that simple, right guys?”

Zeng Rui noticed something shifty in Qian Lu’s eyes during the whole talk about the defense award. He thought through all of the information, and realized that there was indeed something fishy going on. He glared at Qian Lu with an expression of doubt. “Hm… If my guess is on the mark here, a lot of the other internet cafes signed up for the Conqueror Award, correct?”

Qian Lu nodded and smiled. ‘Correct you are, sir! The last time I checked, I believe there were 28 other internet cafes that signed up to compete for the Conqueror Award. But there may be more now.”

Zeng Rui did some quick math in his head and then said, “Alright. Let’s assume that some of the people who signed up dropped out because they couldn’t put a team together. We can also assume that a few more people also signed up after you saw the list. From that, the safe number to go with is 24 teams who are competing for the Conqueror Award. Now if that number holds, that’s 24 matches for us to play. And you’re paying us ¥500 for every match we win, as per the deal we just agreed to. That brings us to the question at the heart of this. Even if we win the Immovable Mt. Tai Award, how exactly are you planning on making a return on this investment in us?”

Zeng Rui’s quick and analytical mind had pierced through the fog that Qian Lu was trying to blow, and hit the problem at the very core. There was no possible way that the prize money for an internet cafe tournament could possibly exceed a five figure number. If Lin Feng’s team won every single one of their matches, the amount of money to be made was astronomical. Combined with the base stipend, they could easily make ¥25,000. Or more. Numbers like that meant that not only would Qian Lu not make a return on this investment, he’d be taking a loss.

Zhang Hao wasn’t as quick as Zeng Rui. But he was no slouch when it came to money. He figured out what Zeng Rui was hinting towards and also jumped into the conversation, “Yeah! What’s up with that? I thought a small humble business owner like you couldn’t afford to take a loss?”

Tang Bingyao never made mistakes when it came to money. She figured out something was amiss around the same time that Zeng Rui did. But he spoke up first, so she continued to watch Qian Lu for any further suspicious activity.

Qian Lu rubbed his hands and awkwardly smiled. “Oh-hohoho-hahahaha! Well… You see… It’s like this, the prize is one thing and the money that comes with it is nice. But sometimes, there are more benefits than the tangible ones in front of you. For this, well, the truth is that the real money is somewhere else entirely.”

Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao tried to get the truth out of Qian Lu. But he continued to deflect away from it and tried to cover up the deflections with his awkward laughter. It was clear to everyone in the room that Qian Lu had absolutely no intention of revealing his true reasons for participating in the Net Cafe Battle Bonanza. But everyone understood that Qian Lu was a businessman, and a shrewd one at that. There was no realm in which he’d accept a financial loss for no reason. He had a goal. And if it wasn’t the actual prize money, it was something else. 

Lin Feng listened to the back-and-forth for a while, but it was clear from his expression that he couldn’t care less about Qian Lu’s schemes. Eventually, he decided enough was enough and stepped in to say, “Hey! Guys! Why do you even care? We’re getting paid to play League! What more could you want? That’s good enough for us, let’s just be happy with it.” Lin Feng waved a hand at Zeng Rui to tell him to let it go. Whatever hidden agenda Qian Lu had in mind was not something that was of any interest to Lin Feng. He was itching for some good competition after spending the last few days relaxing with nothing to do.

Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao looked at each other to decide what to do. Then they looked at An Xin, who gave them a very small nod. They looked back at Lin Feng, then again at each other before slowly nodding in agreement. 

Zeng Rui broke the tense silence. “Alright, yes. Perhaps the Thundering Dumbass is right. There’s no point to overthinking, which is what we’re doing. Lin Feng doesn’t care because he doesn’t think about anything, let alone overthinking them. Playing in this tournament should be more than enough for us, and we’re getting paid for it too. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Besides, we won the Collegiate Cup! This should be easy for us! Now let’s get into it. According to Qian Lu, the official start date of the Internet Cafe Battle Bonanza is this weekend. That means we’ve got about four days to prepare.”

Everyone nodded as Zeng Rui paused to massage his temples. They knew that when he did that, he was cooking up a plan for them. “Since that’s the case, let’s get as much practice as we can right now. I want us all back in competition shape by the end of this week!” 

Lin Feng wasn’t the only one who’d been getting bored over winter break after the Collegiate Cup. Zeng Rui was also itching for a fight, and everyone could see the fire blazing in his eyes now that there was a good one ahead of them. 

But in an interesting turn of events, the first challengers that Lin Feng and the others had to face appeared before the start of the Net Cafe Battle Bonanza. It all started the next day, as they were preparing to start their practice session. The door of their private room opened, and Qian Lu walked in with a group of people behind him. All of them were somewhere between 22 and 25 years old. But they walked in with swagger and arrogance, and they glared at Lin Feng and the others with contempt in their eyes. 

Lin Feng looked at Qian Lu and yelled, “Oh! Heya Ol’ Qian!”

Qian Lu smiled. “Ah, you’re already starting practice now? You guys are so hard working.”

Zeng Rui looked at the young men behind Qian Lu with a raised eyebrow. “Sure. And these people are…?”

Qian Lu wiped the sweat off his brow and explained, “Well, they’re also frequent customers of this internet cafe. When they heard you guys were practicing for the Battle Bonanza, they said they wanted to come in and take a look.”

Take a look? Zhang Hao looked at the group of young men and curled his lips. My ass… These guys are obviously looking for a fight.

One of the young men who was at the front of the group stepped forward. He had a toothpick in his mouth that he was playing with as he glanced around at Lin Feng and the others. Then he glared imperiously at Qian Lu and said, “These… children? Really? You recruited these guys to represent our internet cafe instead of us? You thought they could put up a better fight than we could? Really? I’m hurt.”

Another one of the young men in the group chimed in, “Right! They still look like they’re in high school. Shouldn’t they be studying hard for the college entrance exams, not fooling around playing video games? We’d be way better!” 

The young man with the toothpick turned to Qian Lu and said with a smile, “You know what really hurts me, Ol’ Qian? Now this might be a misunderstanding, but what I’m understanding here is that you think these kids are better than us. That hurts me so much it makes my heart weep. Is that really what you think? Do you want to hurt me like that after everything we’ve been through Ol’ Qian?”

Qian Lu broke into an amiable smile. “Hey, how could you say it like that? It’s not about better or worse. I tried to recruit you guys! But when I came to you guys and asked you to defend our internet cafe, you weren’t happy with my offer. I’m just the humble owner of a small internet cafe business. There was no way I could afford to pay what you were asking!”

The young man with a toothpick smiled. “You have to understand. We weren’t asking you to pay us more. We just wanted fair compensation. After all, you get what you pay for. These kids accepted your offer, right?” He turned to look at Lin Feng and the others, his expression brimming with disdain. Then he turned back to Qian Lu and smiled. “Sure, it’s cheaper to recruit these kids, but can they really compare with the real deal?”

Chapter 445 – A Serene Winter Vacation

Something inside Su Xue’s heart told her that there was more to the story of Maple and Rake. Which is why her heart was pounding in her chest when she asked Lin Feng the question. To her and countless other ordinary players across China, SSK Rake was a god-like existence. Whenever they watched an OGN game or the livestream of Worlds, they would always pay careful attention to Rake’s play, admiring and commenting on every little aspect. Rake was the number one Midlaner in the World. And someone who existed in a plane that would always be unreachable to them. There was nothing that an ordinary gamer could learn or practice to bring them anywhere close to Rake. Because he existed in an entirely different dimension of skill. 

It was a fact about gaming that was beyond reproach or argument. There were some players who possessed otherworldly talent who could never be reached. Until right now, for Su Xue. She was sitting in front of someone who used to be on the same plane as Rake. She’d been living with someone who had crossed swords with Rake as an equal! The entire situation felt completely surreal to Su Xue, and shattered what she understood of the gaming world. Now that Lin Feng was sitting across the table from her, there was a fundamental shift in Su Xue’s worldview. For the first time in her life, she started to think that the Gods who dominated the world of esports, the ones she always watched in videos and on streams, might be within arm’s reach. 

“Did I go even with him?” Lin Feng finally stopped shoveling food into his mouth as he considered the question. He rubbed his chin, lost in thought for a few moments. Then he nodded. “If we’re talking about the Finals of Season 1 Worlds, I guess you could describe it like that. Yeah.” 

Su Xue’s eyelids jumped at the confirmation, and her heart rate sped up. Oh my god. It’s true. Holy crap! Holy crap! He actually played against Rake! He even went even with him! Then she started getting more and more excited. She asked, “Then, then, what was it like? How was it playing against him? Is he really as good as everyone says he is? You even won two games! How did you win!?” Su Xue bombarded Lin Feng with questions. She’d completely let the fangirl inside go wild, and she wanted to know every detail of what happened during the Season 1 World Championships. 

Lin Feng scratched his head. Then he returned to shoveling food into his mouth, answering as he chewed and swallowed. “Oh, Rake? He was really good. I don’t know. I didn’t feel anything special going against him. That’s about it.”

This kind of answer was far from satisfactory to Su Xue. “Hey, hey, hey! Stop pretending to be too cool to care about this! You were playing against Rake. There’s gotta be more you can tell me. Come on! Give me the deets!”

As Su Xue screamed at Lin Feng for more details, a warning went off in the back of her mind. All of a sudden and too late, Su Xue remembered who she was talking to and what happened in the Season 1 World Championships. She froze. Oh no no no no no… I forgot completely. The Season 1 Worlds Finals was one of the most exciting things to happen recently in Chinese esports. It was a while ago, but there hasn’t been much that managed to top that these days. I lost myself in all the excitement and forgot to think about what it must have been like for Lin Feng… It probably wasn’t as exciting or memorable for him at all. I… well, I don’t even know how he’d have felt about what happened back then. After all, it was Rake who won the Championship Trophy in the end and established himself as the Sovereign… not Maple. Poor Lin Feng… he must’ve been crushed. Maple lost against Rake 2-3 in that Finals matchup! And here I am, yelling at him for details and trying to drag all those emotions back up! What is wrong with you, Su Xue? 

Su Xue felt a bead of cold sweat drip down her neck. All the excitement she’d been feeling vanished. She knew that the higher one climbed, the more painful it was when you finally fell. Back then, Maple was only a single step away from achieving glory by winning the Season 1 World Championships and standing at the very peak. But he faltered at that final step, and was forced to watch his dream slip through his fingers. Su Xue knew that it was one of his most bitter memories and his greatest regret. 

Su Xue’s expression dropped, and she apologized to Lin Feng. “S-sorry, I probably shouldn’t have brought that up, huh?”

After swallowing his food, Lin Feng waved his hand and said, “Oh, it’s fine. Winning and losing is normal in competitive play. Last time, I lost to him. Next time, I’ll definitely win.” His eyes shone brightly with confidence.

Su Xue breathed a sigh of relief. Then she exclaimed, “That’s the spirit! I believe in you! Plus, you defeated Orion yesterday. If you can already beat a King, then that means it won’t be long before you can face Rake again!”

Lin Feng scratched his hair and shook his head. “Nah, I wouldn’t say that. I got lucky with my win against Orion.”

Su Xue’s eyes rounded open. “Then… I guess… What would happen if you faced Rake right now?” 

“Oh, I’d get crushed for sure!” Lin Feng answered without any hesitation. He paused for a moment and looked Su Xue straight in the eyes. Then the seriousness in those eyes passed, and Lin Feng’s normal twinkle returned. He pumped his fist into the air and yelled, “That’s why I need to keep working hard!”

Lin Feng had grown and learned hard lessons since the Season 1 World Championships. One of the most important ones was that it was fine to work hard for a dream. But after working hard, it was important to cut loose and take a break. One had to find and maintain a perfect balance between progress and rest. Which is why Lin Feng decided to spend the next two days at home. He did nothing except browsing the internet, watching movies and anime, and reading manga. Every now and then, he’d join Su Xue while she was streaming and duo queue with her for a game or two. For these two days, Lin Feng hit a point of perfect relaxation and recovery. 

But on the third day, Lin Feng was invited out by his classmates. Ouyang, Yang Fan, Ren Rou, Wei Dong, Chen Ze, Liu Yue, and other others spent the first few days of their winter vacation doing exactly what Lin Feng did. They relaxed at home. But after a few days, they started to get bored. Playing League all day was fun, but there was something lacking in the game when one played it alone. That was because League of Legends was a team game, and it was best played with a group of friends at an internet cafe. And that’s exactly what Lin Feng’s friends decided to do. They made plans to meet up at the NetCow Cafe, their regular spot.

When everyone arrived at the NetCow Cafe, they went to the private room that they always used. First they talked about what had been going on in their lives during break and shared some of the latest gossip. Then they talked about interesting things that were happening in the League scene, like CN•HOOK2’s climb up the Korean Challenger ladder. Eventually, the conversation hit a lull and they split off into smaller groups to play games of League of Legends. And they spent the next three days of their winter vacation at the NetCow Cafe, together. 

Apart from the members of High School 13’s esports club, Shanghai High School’s members would also drop by to visit, which included Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao. After the Collegiate Cup ended, everyone had still kept in touch.

“Oh? You’re so free these days, ZengZeng! I thought a bookworm like you would still be studying hard on break!”

Zeng Rui massaged his temples and replied, “I’m almost finished with my assignments. Taking a breather every now and then is important too.” 

“Damn straight it is. But… Oh! Wait! I get it!” Lin Feng exclaimed. Then he patted Zeng Rui on the shoulder and laughed. “You could’ve just said you missed us! You don’t need to make up excuses to see your good buddies, you know.”

The corner of Zeng Rui’s lips twitched. “Who’d miss a thundering dumbass like you?”

“Huh… so you didn’t miss us at all?” Lin Feng asked.

“Hmph! I was just a little bored, that’s all.” Zeng Rui replied, expressionless.  

Lin Feng eyed Zeng Rui’s expression closely. Then he turned to An Xin and Tang Bingyao and asked, “So, ZengZeng is what you call a tsundere, right!?” 

Tang Bingyao nodded. “Mhm! A tsundere.” 

An Xin’s lips curved into a smile. “Alright, that’s enough. It’s a good thing that we’re all still meeting up and hanging out.” 

Right now, life was great for Lin Feng and his crew. And several days later, they heard something that was going to make it even better.

Where We’ve Been

What’s up what’s up everyone! I meant to post this earlier, but here’s what’s been stopping us from posting chapters recently.

It’s been kind of a shit week or so for Dev, who is the only editor on Rise and without whose work much of (some would say “all of”) the magic we do with our chapters would be lost. Someone stole the license plates off his car and put it on a stolen Mazda that got pulled over. It’s a whole thing. Dev’s been running around between the DMV and two different police stations to try and get all the paperwork filed correctly so he can get my license plates back. And also not be a part of whatever other crimes the dude driving the stolen car with Dev’s plates was a part of.

And this is coming at a spectacular time for him because he’s supposed to be studying for a major exam for his medical degree. When’s the exam? Even Dev wishes he knew. It’s been postponed like 4 times because of covid, a flood, more covid, basically a whole host of issues. The more the exam gets postponed, the longer dev has to keep studying so he can remember information.

So that’s why there haven’t been chapters. Dev is currently living in his own personal hell and hasn’t had a lot of time to edit between studying, the stolen license plate, contemplating suicide by stethoscope, and irl commitments. Sorry that we haven’t kept you guys updated. Even if we couldn’t maintain our release rate, we should have notified you about what’s going on with us. We hope to figure out most of these issues relatively soon as get back on a regular schedule for you guys. Thank you for sticking with us this long!