Chapter 454 – The Calm Before the Bonanza!

The former Team Shanghai had defeated the Lads, and proved exactly how capable they were to Qian Lu. Once that was done, they all left for their respective homes for the night. The next day, all of them met up at the NetCow Cafe and started preparing themselves inside their usual private room. Today was the first day of the Battle Bonanza, and every match from here on out counted. The Battle Bonanza tournament officially started at noon. Teams aiming for the Conqueror prize would set out to challenge other internet cafe teams, and the teams aiming for the Immovable Mt. Tai prize would stand guard on their home turf awaiting these challengers.

It was only 11:30 AM, relatively early for a normal day at an internet cafe. But the lobby of Qian Lu’s branch of the NetCow Cafe was already packed with customers. And there were even more sitting down at computers, but not playing any games. Everyone’s attention was focused on the center of the room, and hushed and tense whispers carried through the entire internet cafe. Literally none of the customers at the NetCow Cafe today came to play games. They were all here to witness the start of the Battle Bonanza. More than that, they wanted to see how the internet cafe’s team performed. As regular patrons of this branch of the NetCow Cafe, their pride was on the line too. 

“It’s about to start soon, right? It’s gotta start soon!”
“It’s already 11:30, there’s only 30 minutes before the first challenger walks in here.”
“Oh shit! Where’s our team?”
“Yeah! I don’t see them either.”
“They should be here already…”
“Listen listen listen! I got a buddy, he hangs out at the Wyvern NetCafe next door. He was telling me that they signed up for this tournament too, but I think they’re aiming for the Conqueror prize. Those guys are probably going to come challenge us!”
“Shit, real talk? You know how good their team is?”
“I heard a few things. Their team is made up of Diamond 2 players, and they’ve got one who is even a Master!”
“Hot-diggity-damn! A Master? Well, that’s shit luck… that’s kinda strong.”
“Foshizzle my rizzle. My buddy, he was going on and on about how the Wyvern NetCafe’s team is going to walk in here and stomp all over our asses. He even said they’re going to make us their bitchnochizzles!”
“Dude… your friend sounds like a raging asshole. You need to make better friends, no lie. Not only does he sound like an ass, he’s way too cocky about a match he’s not even playing in!”
“I know right! He pissed me off too. Whatever. The only thing I can do is hope that our team does really well… But I’d REALLY like it if they taught those Wyvern bastards a lesson so I can rub my friend’s face in it.”
“Yeah, fuck that dude. He’s a douche.”
“He’s hardstuck in Bronze too!”
“Lol! Lol! Lol!”
“I don’t know why I’m friends with him, he thinks he’s gangster because he has some rap music on his Microsoft Zune.”
“Wtf is a Zune?”
“Sssssshhhh! No one cares about your friend or his Zune!”
“Yeah. Who asked?”  

The customers continued to talk amongst themselves, riling each other up more and more while building up hype for the first challenger to walk through the doors of the NetCow Cafe. All while watching the center of the cafe. 

“I’m guessing that’s where the match is going to take place?”
“You’re a regular genius! What was your first clue? The stage?”
“Hey guys! We got a real Sherlock Holmes here! He’s cracked the case!”
“You bringing those skills over to the army, Captain Obvious?”
“Man’s gonna tell us next that the switch turns the lights and screens on.”
“Nah mate. Ol’ Qian set that stage up because Psy’s gonna come here and dance to Gangnam style for us.”
“What. A. Moron!” 

As far as this whole Battle Bonanza thing went, Qian Lu was all-in. He’d spared no expense in setting things up for the event despite the tight deadline. The stage that he set up in the center of his internet cafe was nothing short of magnificent. It was raised, and two rows of computers sat in the middle of the stage. They were separated by custom ordered sanded glass dividers, and the floor of the stage was fitted with LED tiles that he’d gotten preprogrammed with specific light patterns that corresponded to events in the game. Above the stage, Qian Lu had rented four giant LCD screens that faced all four sides of the internet cafe. Every customer had a clear view of the game, regardless of where they were in the NetCow Cafe. As for the actual computers, Qian Lu had gotten 10 that were as cutting edge as humanly possible. Even the peripherals were all professional gaming-grade. There was nothing that would inhibit either team from playing to the best of their abilities at this branch of the NetCow Cafe, and Qian Lu was proud of that fact. 

“Damn. Ol’ Qian really went all out this time, huh?”
“He really did. I can’t believe he set up a professional tournament stage in the middle of an internet cafe.”
“Probs more than worth it though.”
“Damn straight. People will come in here just to watch teams play on a stage like this.”
“Yeah, especially if our team does really well!”
“Ol’ Qian’s going to bring in way more than he invested into this, that’s for sure!” 

Then, all of a sudden, a wave of silence rolled through the internet cafe. All conversations about challengers, the stage, and speculation about the tournament completely ceased. 

‘They’re here! They’re here!”
“Our team is here!”
“They’ve come out!”

When Lin Feng and the rest of Team Shanghai walked out of their private room and stepped up onto the stage in the center of the internet cafe, all eyes were glued on them. No customer, besides the Lads, had seen the team that would be representing their internet cafe before now. There was a few seconds of silence as everyone took in the sight of Team Shanghai, and then pandemonium erupted from the crowd of customers. The mood had shifted from excitement and curiosity to shock and disbelief.

“T-this, this is our team…?”
“No freaking way.”
“They’re just high schoolers!”
“GG boys. We’ve lost.”
“Shit! They even have two girls on their team!”

The initial shock came from how young everyone on Team Shanghai was, but the disbelief came from the fact that An Xin and Tang Bingyao, two girls, were on the team. That disbelief came from two very different lines of thought though. One side was captivated by the beauty of the two girls, while the other one was mindblown that Qian Lu would hire a team with girls on it to represent their internet cafe. 

“They’re so pretty!”
“Both are hotties for sure!”
“Perfect 10s!”
“I mean, if the tournament was best on looks, we’d definitely win right!?”
“Focus, morons! Does anyone even know if these girls are good?”
“Looking hot ain’t gonna win us matches. All the other net cafes are gonna come correct. They’re not going to throw weak teams at us.”
“Exactly! What was Ol’ Qian even thinking when he recruited a bunch of high schoolers? Those two girls, can they even play?” 

There were more than a few female gamers at the NetCow Cafe. When they heard all the doubts about An Xin and Tang Bingyao, every single one of them was pissed off.

“The fuck are you on about, twinkledick?”
“What? You think they can’t be good just because they’re girls?”
“If you’re such hot shit because you got a pecker that people need a magnifying glass to see, why aren’t you up on that stage?”
“80% of you are hardstuck at Bronze and Silver, but you’re all god gamers because you’re guys?”
“Sit the fuck down, you’re just embarrassing yourselves.”
“Eat shit and die, virgin!” 

After another minute of insults and fighting the good fight against misogyny in gaming, all the girls started cheering in support of Tang Bingyao and An Xin.

“Do your best, you got this girls!”
“Girls get it done!”
“We believe in you!”
“Ignore the idiots!”

“Oh, it’s pretty packed today!” Lin Feng remarked in high spirits. He sat down in front of his computer and looked around the lobby. 

An Xin turned to Zeng Rui. “What’s the time, Zeng Zeng?”

Zeng Rui checked his watch and replied, “15 minutes until 12.”

“And the tournament starts at 12. Do you think we’ll get a challenger right away?”

Zeng Rui shook his head.  “Can’t say for sure. This tournament is different from others. There’s no fixed schedule for matches, and challengers get to pick who they want to face at any time. It’s possible no one will turn up. There’s also logistics to consider. It’ll take time for people to get from their internet cafe to ours.”

“This sucks! The only thing we can do right now is sit around and wait…” Lin Feng chimed in with a sigh. “Ya know what? Man! If Ol’ Qian thought ahead a bit more and signed us up for the Conqueror prize instead, we wouldn’t have to sit around waiting. We could go out and smash other teams. That’d be so much more fun!”

Zeng Rui massaged his temples. Thundering dumbass. Then he said, “It’s fine. We’re okay. Let’s just keep waiting. We can get some practice games in while we wait.”

Chapter 453 – Humiliation & Newfound Friendship!

The turnaround play that Lin Feng’s Garen had just pulled off with the help of Zeng Rui’s Orianna, it was eerily reminiscent of a similar play made by God Roundy. One that was immortalized in the minds of many League of Legends fans across China, and objectively one of the most spectacular plays in recent memory. It was when God Roundy’s Hecarim pulled off a turnaround 5-man ultimate during the Season 5 World Championships. Neither Gang Zi nor any of his lads expected Garen to pull off something similar, and they were shocked out of their minds when it happened. 

Slowed down, the pivotal point that initiated the play was when LeBlanc used Distortion to close the distance between her and Garen. That was a completely reasonable and normal thing for LeBlanc to do, against any other champion. If something in the engage went wrong, LeBlanc could always just recast Distortion to retreat back to her original position. But this was only true against any other champion. When faced with a Garen, that strategy completely fell apart. Lin Feng’s Garen had Flashed right at LeBlanc with a Decisive Strike cued up and silenced her. This meant that LeBlanc could no longer use Distortion’s recast to escape, nor could she use any of her other abilities. She was trapped and helpless against Garen’s rage. 

The next part of the play was Zeng Rui’s Orianna. When Gang Zi saw Orianna approaching, he figured out what was about to happen. Which is why he shouted “Careful! Dammit! Back! Back! Back!” But it was too little, too late. His warning couldn’t come through faster than Zeng Rui’s mechanics. LeBlanc, Rek’Sai, and Jinx were all close enough to each other that Zeng Rui’s Orianna could lob her ball right into the middle of them and activate her ultimate—Command: Shockwave! The resulting electromagnetic burst swept through all three of the enemy champions and then pulled them right up against Garen’s blade. All of this took place mere seconds after Garen silenced LeBlanc with Decisive Strike. 

But Zeng Rui wasn’t finished after setting up the three enemy champions for Garen. His eyes glinted fiercely as he followed up with Command: Dissonance! A second, smaller electromagnetic wave pulsed and inflicted a further slow on the three champions from the Blue Team. This meant that they would have even more difficulty escaping from Garen’s blade. On top of this, the combination of attacks from Orianna’s ball destroyed half of LeBlanc, Rek’Sai, and Jinx’s health. 

Without missing a beat, Lin Feng followed up on Orianna’s attacks. His Garen did the typical Garen thing, which is to spin-to-win. Garen started rapidly spinning with his blade held out—Judgment! Damage values floated up into the air as his blade cleaved through the three champions around him. 

LeBlanc tried to walk away as Garen’s blade bit into her health, but Garen stuck close to her as he spun. And with the silence from Decisive Strike still in place, she had no way of escaping with Distortion. Her hands were completely tied! And in the blink of an eye, LeBlanc’s health fell to one third. Making things worse was that there was still half a second left before the silence wore off, and LeBlanc’s health had fallen low enough that she could be executed by Garen’s Ultimate. A fact that both the LeBlanc player and Lin Feng recognized at the same time. 

Lin Feng narrowed his eyes. “You’re not getting away!’ He pressed down on his R key to unleash Garen’s ultimate—Demacian Justice! A gigantic and magnificent sword of light descended down from the sky and bisected LeBlanc! Her health dropped to zero, and she collapsed dead on the ground. The LeBlanc player could do or say nothing as his screen faded to gray, much like his face. 

《You have slain an enemy!》

Once LeBlanc was dead, Lin Feng looked for his next target. His eyes fell on the Jinx, and he decided that she was easy prey. Jinx currently had no Flash and no way to escape. On top of this, Zeng Rui’s Orianna had brought Jinx down to critically low levels of health with Command: Attack. Lin Feng’s Garen finished her off with a single auto attack. 

《Double Kill!》

The only one that managed to escape the wheelhouse of slaughter was Rek’Sai, who got away through one of the tunnels she’d dug before. But even with Rek’Sai still alive, Lin Feng and Zeng Rui had dealt a heavy blow to the Lads Team, one that they were unlikely to recover from. 

As for Gang Zi, he was incoherent with rage as he watched Garen walk away while his Jinx and LeBlanc lay dead on the ground. His blood pressure shot up so high that he nearly fainted. 

The long and short of it all was that Gang Zi and his lads had no way to counter Lin Feng’s Garen. If Garen didn’t want to fight them, it was impossible for them to chase him down and kill him. But if Garen did want to fight, they had no way to protect their backline from his blade. The worst part about all of this, as far as Gang Zi’s thoughts went, was that Lin Feng’s Garen was only a Support! Gang Zi could not even begin to fathom how a Support was somehow carrying Team Shanghai. 

As for the rest of the lads, they couldn’t figure out what to do in this game. At this point in the game, it was like they were up against two fed Top laners. One was Irelia, and the other was Garen. They were caught in the lowest circle of hell, where they had no counter for either Irelia or Garen! And by the time they figured this out, 20 minutes had gone by since the start of the game. The gold gap had widened to over 15,000. 

The lads all quickly came to the same conclusion. They had no hope of winning this game. Each of them looked at Gang Zi in turn. Gang Zi nodded as he clenched his teeth. He started the surrender vote, and every one of his lads voted yes. Their nexus exploded. The lads had learned a hard lesson by playing this game that they had no way of winning. It took a brick load of humiliation for them to realize that the high schoolers they mocked were far better than them. So much better that it wasn’t funny. 

When the Lads surrendered, Lin Feng clicked his tongue. “Aww, already? I’m not even at full build yet!”

Fortunately for Gang Zi and his lads, they didn’t hear Lin Feng. If they did, whatever shred of dignity they had left would’ve been obliterated. 

The so-called friendly scrim had ended with Team Shanghai’s overwhelming victory.  Gang Zi and his lads stood up with unsightly expressions on their faces. They struggled and failed to come up with a decent excuse for their defeat, and quickly left the room without even saying goodbye.

Qian Lu laughed and shouted at their backs, “Take care! I won’t see you out! Come again!”

Right now, at this very moment, Qian Lu was incredibly pleased with himself. Now that he’d watched this game, he was more than confident in his decision to contract Lin Feng and the rest of Team Shanghai. He knew deep in his heart that this team was definitely more than good enough to represent his internet cafe. More than that, he was convinced that every other internet cafe that came to challenge his branch was destined to lose as miserably as the Lads had!

While Qian Lu was lost in his thoughts and metaphorically patting himself on the back, Lin Feng got up from his seat and walked over to Qian Lu. “So, Ol’ Qian. Did we pass your little test here?”

Qian Lu was stunned by the question. He was not expecting it, nor did he think Lin Feng could see his devious manipulation. But one look at Lin Feng’s eyes snapped Qian Lu back to reality. He clasped his hands together and nodded with an awkward small. “Ah, yes, yes! That was marvelous! All of you got full points!” 

Lin Feng, despite how he came off, was actually not as airheaded as he came off sometimes. The truth was that he’d seen through what Qian Lu was trying to pull the minute the Lads walked in through the door. He just didn’t care enough to question it or do anything about it. The whole situation was one that Lin Feng was more than familiar with. Back in Season 1, when Lin Feng played with Tian Tian, Silent, and the rest of their team, they had to deal with people like Qian Lu all the time as they hopped from internet cafe to internet cafe. Lin Feng understood that the deal was only official once they proved themselves. 

And now that this rote formality was over, Lin Feng smiled and extended his hand out to Qian Lu. “Alright then, it’s settled. We’re friends and officially working for this branch of the NetCow Cafe from now on!”

Qian Lu’s eyes went wide. Then, he broke into a rare, genuine smile. He grabbed Lin Feng’s hand and shook it. “Yes! Let’s be good friends and get along from now on! Haha!”

Chapter 452 – He Moves His Body like a Cyclone!

There were over 100 champions currently playable in League of Legends. But out of all of them, Garen was one of the simplest and most powerful. And he was relatively easy to master. Once he hit the point where he became fed and snowballed, he’d turn into something akin to a raid boss for the other team. Garen ended up developing high armor, high health, health regen, and his skills buffed his armor further. On top of this, his ultimate worked as an instant execution. A fed Garen was a threat anywhere on the Rift. 

Now, Garen was normally a Top lane champion where he could slowly scale and then stomp all over the enemy team during the mid-to-late game phase. But even when Garen was played in the Support role, he could still become a formidable threat as long as he got enough kills and assists. And unlike the more traditional Support champions, he could still hold the front line and tank damage like a Top lane champion.

The gank on Rumble in the Top lane that started with a tower dive earlier was a good example of this. Rumble still had a little more than half of his health left, but Lin Feng’s Garen charged into him under a Tower with zero hesitation or concern. Then in the blink of an eye, he’d shaved away all of Rumble’s health. The way it worked, any champion with health below 50% was within Garen’s killing range, as long as Garen’s ultimate was off cooldown. All Garen had to do was run in, spin to win, and unleash his ultimate. It was that simple. 

And with that Rumble kill under his belt, Lin Feng’s Garen started scaling even harder and better. Now that he’d finished setting the Top lane up, Lin Feng was trying to figure out what to do next. He started running around through the Blue Team’s top-side Jungle and stealing camps from the Blue Team’s Jungler. That was when he spotted Rek’Sai, the Jungler on the Blue Team. Rek’Sai also saw him, and immediately started running away in the opposite direction. Lin Feng shouted, “Hey! Whatcha running away for? Come here! Come on, fight me!” 

Rek’Sai had no intention of fighting Garen, and continued to flee. He eventually managed to make his escape, once Lin Feng grew bored of the chase. It was both hilarious and a testament to Lin Feng’s skill that a lone Support Garen could force Rek’Sai to flee for his life. But since there was nothing happening in the Jungle or with Rek’Sai, Lin Feng decided to recall back to base and then returned to the Bot lane. Just in time for another explosive fight with Jinx and Morgana. 

The second Lin Feng’s Garen arrived back in the Bot lane, Tang Bingyao’s Kalista initiated the fight with Fate’s Call. She shot Garen right into the Blue Team’s duolaners like he was a cannon ball. Jinx got knocked up into the air from the impact. Morgana reacted quickly and started shooting out a Dark Binding. But Lin Feng activated his Garen’s Decisive Strike the second he landed, and took advantage of the increased movement speed to avoid the Dark Binding. He charged at Jinx and slashed down on her just as she landed, which also Silenced her! But Garen wasn’t done yet, not by a long shot. He moved his body like a cyclone, cleaving into her with every blade stroke—Judgment!

This did so much damage to Jinx that Lin Feng had no need to use his Garen’s ultimate, Demacian Justice. Tang Bingyao caught up and started hurling spear after spear into Jinx, and then ripped them all out with Rend!

《You have been slain!》

Gang Zi watched his screen turn gray, while the Announcer’s voice dispassionately announced his death in his ear. He gnashed his teeth and slammed his mouse down hard on the mat. “Fuck!”

Once Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao picked up the kill on Jinx, Team Shanghai secured an absolute advantage in the Bot lane. Gang Zi was completely shut down, there was nothing more he could do in the lane with his Jinx. Even if Morgana joined in, the two of them together couldn’t take Tang Bingyao’s Kalista out. That’s how fed she was at this point in the game. Jinx and Morgana had no other choice but to be pushed back over and over in the Bot lane, until the Blue Team’s Outer Tower was destroyed. 

With the Tower down, Lin Feng recalled his Garen back to the base to heal up and purchase some items. Then he built up to the Boots of Swiftness. With those secured on his Garen’s feet, he charged out of the fountain and started roaming around the map again. “Come on! LET’S GOOOOOO!” The movement speed buff from the Boots of Swiftness had made his Garen even more mobile than before. Apart from LeBlanc, who had two dashes, there was no champion on the Blue Team who could escape from him now.

Lin Feng’s Garen ran though the Blue Team’s Jungle without a care in the world. While he did this, Lin Feng had no idea how much he was pissing the lads off, especially since none of them could 1v1 his Garen, despite the fact that he was only the Support. And so, blissfully unaware of the effect he was having on the lads, Lin Feng continued harassing the Blue Team in their own Jungle. He cleared all of Rek’Sai’s camps and left a ward behind on each one as a calling card. Lin Feng had decided that his Support Garen was done with camping out in bushes in the Bot Lane. Now, he was going to roam the enemy Jungle like a tiger on the hunt, waiting for his prey. 

14 minutes from the start of the game, Lin Feng finally caught sight of Rek’Sai in Blue Team’s top-side Jungle. His eyes lit up and he yelled, “Don’t run!” With those words, his Garen charged at Rek’Sai with Decisive Strike. While his Garen chased after Rek’Sai, Lin Feng happened to glance down at his minimap and noticed LeBlanc was missing from the Mid lane. “Eh?” Lin Feng muttered. “Where’s LeBlanc?”

“RUN!” Zeng Rui shouted in the voice chat. “Jinx and LeBlanc are closing in on you right now! Come towards me!” As soon as Zeng Rui shouted out the warning, two champions appeared out of the fog of war in the Jungle. LeBlanc and Jinx. And the two of them were running towards Garen as fast as they possibly could!

“Tsk tsk, they must really want me.” Lin Feng said, clicking his tongue. He immediately started running back up toward the river. Rek’Sai joined up with Jinx and Leblanc, and now the three champions from the Blue Team were hot on his tail with no intention of giving up. Lin Feng’s Garen had gone from hunter to being hunted!

During this game, Gang Zi and his lads had truly come to despise both Lin Feng and his Garen. In their minds, Lin Feng’s meddling was half responsible for how badly they were losing this game. So they’d all come together with a singular thought. The outcome of the game no longer mattered to them, all that did matter was making sure that Lin Feng’s Garen died and that Lin Feng suffered!

Jinx, once she was in attack range, used Zap. She fired her plasma rifle at Garen and slowed him down. LeBlanc dashed forward with Distortion and cast Sigil of Malice and Ethereal Chains at the slowed Garen. The mystical conjured chains flew through the air and wrapped around Garen, rooting him in place. 

Gang Zi’s eyes lit up. “We can kill him! Focus the Garen!” He had his Jinx switch to her rocket launcher, then started blasting away.

Garen’s health was quickly dropping.

As Garen’s health quickly dropped, Zeng Rui cried out, “Come over to me! I’m here!” His Orianna was rushing down the river entrance toward Garen.

Lin Feng’s eyes took on a sharp glint as he noticed how all three enemies were positioned. “Nah, there’s no need to run Zeng Zeng! Just follow up on me!” Without giving Zeng Rui any time to respond, Lin Feng had already pressed down on his D key—Flash! His Garen was wrapped around in a dazzling motes of light as he blinked backwards into LeBlanc.

Gang Zi’s pupils constricted as he felt a cold chill run down his spine. T-this isn’t good! He’d finally noticed what was happening, and started trying to back away. But it was too late. 

Garen slashed down on LeBlanc with Decisive Strike, silencing her! 

“Zeng Zeng!” Lin Feng shouted. 

“Coming!” Zeng Rui cried out, immediately seeing the opportunity. He also flashed forward with his Orianna and sent her Ball flying toward Garen—Command: Protect! At this moment, Lin Feng was right in the middle of LeBlanc, Jinx, and Morgana. “Perfect!” He slammed down his R key, and a powerful electromagnetic burst ripped out from Orianna’s Ball—Command: Shockwave!

Standing behind Team Shanghai’s members, Qian Lu’s eyes were beaming. “That turnaround… that was beautiful!”

Chapter 451 – DEMACIA!

The past few months had been tough for Zhang Hao, and it’d been a hot minute since he last savored the taste and the tingle of pleasure that came from solo killing the enemy champion in his lane. Zhang Hao’s mind flashed through the memories of everything that took place during the Collegiate Cup, and a single tear dropped from his eye and streaked across his face. Every single game during the tournament was a hard one for Zhang Hao. There wasn’t a single opponent who was weaker than him as a player. Even during the best games he had, his opponents were at the same level as him. It was not a great situation for Zhang Hao. 

And in that terrible situation, where Zhang Hao was the weakest link on Team Shanghai, the only thing that he could do was play as cautiously and safely as possible. He’d have to wait until a teammate roamed over to help him with a gank, or until he scaled enough to be useful in teamfights. Every single second of every minute in a game, Zhang Hao felt the stress of that bearing down on his soul. But he made it through the entire Collegiate Cup, and it wasn’t that Zhang Hao felt that he was completely useless on Team Shanghai. Or that he was dragging them down. It was just difficult watching his teammates in the Mid lane or Bot lane or even in the Jungle pop off and pick up kills, while he had to play patiently and wait for his champion to scale. Unfortunately, Zhang Hao never had a moment in the entire Collegiate Cup where he felt like the star of the team or was truly popping off. Unlike everyone else on Team Shanghai.

But today, in this game, things were very different. Zhang Hao thanked the stars and the Gods of RNG. Then he looked at Rumble’s corpse in front of him one more time as his entire body trembled with joy. Awesome! This is so awesome! This Rumble ain’t bad, he’s mid-Diamond at the very least. But I’m a Diamond 1 player and I’m playing my main, Irelia! Rumble… I, your father, will show you why I belong on Team Shanghai! I will grind you to dust and show you that you are nothing in front of me!

“I’ve got top secured!” Zhang Hao declared to the rest of the team in high spirits. 

“Rodger, rodger! Nice work, Hao Bro,” An Xin said. Then, she turned her attention to the Mid lane and said, “Zeng Zeng, get ready. I’m coming from behind.” 

A few seconds later, An Xin’s Kha’Zix burst into the Mid lane for a gank. Together with Zeng Rui’s Orianna, the two seized an opening and killed the opposing LeBlanc. 

《You have slain an enemy!》

As the announcer’s voice rang out, Zeng Rui glanced down at LeBlanc’s corpse in front of him. He shook his head. 40 points. At best. Pathetic. This LeBlanc’s mechanics are at the mid-Diamond level, but she’s got zero map awareness. Or game sense. As soon as the game started, she decided to be aggressive and used all of her abilities to poke my health down as much as possible. Including her only movement ability, Distortion. Didn’t even think that it could be used as an escape mechanic or that there might be a gank that could cause her problems. Pathetic. That was the opening that An Xin and I used, but I doubt that LeBlanc player can figure that out. When she used Distortion to try and go in again, that’s all we needed to jump onto her and kill her. I don’t see this guy climbing higher than where he is right now. 

It hadn’t even been five minutes since the game started, but things were already tilting in Team Shanghai’s favor. The scoreboard was currently 3-0. 

Gang Zi’s complexion was ashen pale. How the fuck is this happening? We’re losing in every single lane. This doesn’t make any sense! They’re just a bunch of high schoolers with two girls on their team… how… why are they so good? Fuck!

“Play safe!” Gang Zi gnashed his teeth and shouted. “Focusing on farming and scaling! Rek’Sai, come gank bot!”

This was not a bad call. Especially considering the fact that both Garen and Kalista had used their flashes to get the kill on Morgana earlier. If Rek’Sai roamed down to the Bot lane now, the chances of the gank succeeding were much higher. Unfortunately for Gang Zi, reality and expectation didn’t always align. A minute later, the announcer’s voice rang out again from the bot lane. 

《An ally has been slain!》

“Fuck! Shit! Back back back! Now!” Gang Zi cried out in voice chat. But it was too late. The entire plan turned out to be an unfortunate miscalculation for the Lads’ team. An Xin predicted that they would attempt something in Bot lane to turn things around, and started building up a counter-play.  Right when Rek’Sai started moving towards the Bot lane for a gank, An Xin’s Kha’Zix was already there and hidden, waiting for a good opportunity to ambush and counter gank. 

The doomed Rek’Sai had no idea that Kha’Zix was there or that the Bot lane was ready for the gank before it happened. Neither did Jinx or Morgana. When Rek’Sai arrived and grouped up with Jinx and Morgana, all three of them decided to go in on Kalista and Garen. Lin Feng’s Garen soaked up most of the damage and forced all three of them to blow all their skills. That’s when An Xin’s Kha’Zix circled around and trapped all three of them in a pincer. 

That was when the counter-gank officially started. Rek’Sai was the first to die, and Morgana followed to the afterlife shortly after. 

《Double Kill!》

As Gang Zi heard the announcer’s voice ring out in his ear, he felt a chill wash over his body. He only managed to escape after using Flash to get back to his tower. But his Jinx was barely alive, and Kalista had picked up another two kills. He understood in that moment, that he was truly and rightly fucked. There was no coming back from that much of a lead. It was over, Bot lane was lost for his team.

At this moment, the announcer’s voice rang out again from the top lane. 

《An ally has been slain!》

Zhang Hao had taken out the Rumble again. Hao Bro had evolved into Han, because he was stomping all over Top lane solo. And with that kill in the Top lane, the score was now 6-0 with Team Shanghai solidly dominating. 

Gang Zi was on the verge of mental collapse. Why is it like this? Why? Why? Why! None of this makes any sense. This team is way better than I thought they’d be. They’re outclassing us in everything from individual ability to team coordination! That doesn’t make any sense. We’re a Diamond 3 team! How are these high school kids this much better than us? 

While Gang Zi lamented, Qian Lu celebrated. His eyes sparkled with excitement and his shrewd business mind recognized exactly how great of a deal he’d made. Qian Lu understood that fate had smiled upon him and that he’d picked up a treasure. I heard about these high schoolers from my employees, and I looked into them. I knew that Team Shanghai won the Collegiate Cup. But I never understood what that meant or how strong they actually were. Right now though… I’m experiencing their strength firsthand! With my own eyes! I’m standing here watching them clinically dismantle one of the best teams in the area! I… have no words. This Team Shanghai is much stronger than I anticipated or even hoped. This is the best deal I’ve made in my entire life!

It had been 10 minutes since the game started, and Team Shanghai had 9 kills, while the Lads’ Team only had 1. It was an unbelievably pathetic situation, and one that defied expectation. The Lads’ Team was full of players who were ranked Diamond 3 or higher, and they were getting crushed. 

Over in the Bot lane, Tang Bingyao’s Kalista was 4/0/1. At this point, she could single-handedly contend against the Morgana and Jinx. She didn’t need Lin Feng’s Garen around for Support anymore. Which is why Lin Feng took the opportunity to abandon the Bot lane and started roaming around all over the map. “Alright! Hahahaha! Watch me carry, guys. I’m going to start roaming too!” 

Now, logically speaking, a champion like Garen who had no slows, stuns, or roots was not very effective for ganking. Which is why Garen was rarely played in the Jungle or the Support role, and also why Lin Feng’s roaming would’ve been considered silly at best and griefing at worst. But there was an undeniable truth in League of Legends that made it permissible. That truth was that as long as you were ahead enough, it no longer mattered what champion you were playing or what their strengths were. You could do whatever it is you wanted. And what Lin Feng wanted to do right now was roam and gank, which is what he did. 

At 11 minutes, Lin Feng decided Top lane was the target of his gank and started roaming up there. Once he got there, he circled around behind the Blue Team’s Outer Tower and charged towards the low-health Rumble with Decisive Strike!

Right as his blade came down and Silenced the Rumble, Lin Feng also cast Ignite. Then his Garen started spinning around with his blade held out—Judgment! With every rotation, more and more of Rumble’s health was shaved off. But Lin Feng wasn’t content with just that much. Before Zhang Hao’s Irelia could even rush over to assist with the kill, Lin Feng had already pushed down on his R key to activate Garen’s ultimate. Demacian Justice!

“DEMAAACIAAA!” Lin Feng exclaimed.

A gigantic sword of light descended from the sky and reaped away Rumble’s life..

《You have slain an enemy!》

Across the row of tables, the Rumble player was dumbstruck as he watched his screen turn black and white. His mouth fell open, and the shock of it all rendered him speechless. 

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 449 – Not Really Good at Support Too!

The reality of this entire farce was that Team Shanghai had just played through the Collegiate Cup. They fought their way through the Quarterfinals to the Semifinals, and all the way to the Finals where they were victorious. The weakest opponents they went up against in the Collegiate Cup were teams from places like Fudan and Shenyang University. Compared to that, well, there wasn’t much that could be said about a team that barely averaged Diamond 2. This opponent was more of a distraction, an annoying mosquito that buzzed and annoyed, rather than a serious matchup. The lads of the NetCow Cafe were just too weak, and there was no way they could force Team Shanghai to their limits. Because of that, it was impossible for this scrim to be meaningful in any way for Team Shanghai. Truth be told, if Team Shanghai played the way they’d become accustomed to playing for the Collegiate Cup, this would turn into an absolute one-sided smackdown. 

That was why An Xin decided it was necessary to give Team Shanghai a real handicap. It was the only way they’d get any viable experience from this scrim. The handicap she decided on was to swap their star player, Lin Feng, from Mid to Support. That one change alone would make Team Shanghai weaker by a significant degree, which made it perfect against Gang Zi’s team. 

An Xin turned to Zeng Rui and asked, “You have no issues with this, right?”

“I’m fine.” Zeng Rui nodded. An Xin was asking because Zeng Rui was Team Shanghai’s Support, and she wasn’t entirely sure if he could play Mid. But Zeng Rui nodded at her again. He was certain he could play Mid well enough at the Diamond level.

Lin Feng was the only one completely unsatisfied with this change, much like every woman who dated Daoist Piousfire after he started antidepressants. He muttered, “Why do I have to play Support? That’s no fun at all…”

“HMM?” An Xin raised an eyebrow. She turned to Lin Feng and smiled at him. “Did I hear you say something?”

“N-no no! Support is fine too!”

Now that their new lineup was decided, Lin Feng and the rest of Team Shanghai sat down at their computers, and the game started. Gang Zi and his lads were assigned to the Blue Team, and Team Shanghai was the Red Team. Champion Select started, and both teams quickly put in their bans and locked in on their champions. Everything was set for the NetCow Cafe Grudge Match! 

Gang Zi’s Lads (Blue) vs.  Team Shanghai (Red)

Top: Rumble vs. Irelia
Jungle: Rek’Sai vs. Kha’Zix
Mid: LeBlanc vs. Orianna
Ad-Carry: Jinx vs. Kalista
Support: Morgana vs. Garen

Lin Feng locked in on Garen. Normally, this champion was played in the Top Lane. In lower ranked games, he could be played as a Support. But it was not commonly seen after Bronze. Lin Feng sullenly stared at his computer screen and muttered, “You want me to play Support? Fine. I’ll play Support. I’m really good at Support too! It doesn’t matter, I’m still going to carry.”

Zhang Hao, Zeng Rui, and the others didn’t know how to react to Lin Feng’s decision. The plan was to treat this like a real match for practice, which is why they could not understand why Lin Feng picked Support Garen, and treating the whole thing like it was a random solo queue game in Bronze or Silver. They let out a collective sigh of exasperation and shook their heads. There was no point in arguing with Lin Feng when he got like this. Besides, all of them were more than aware of how strong of a player Lin Feng was. They were all positive that even if he was playing Support Garen, there was zero chance he would feed or grief the game. In fact, it was more likely that Lin Feng would become a living nightmare for the opposing botlaners. Zhang Hao even started feeling a little sorry for the enemy team.

Sitting across from Team Shanghai, the expressions of Gang Zi and his lads darkened. Gang Zi’s eyes turned cold as he looked deeply at Lin Feng. Garen Support? Seriously… He could hardly believe that he, a Diamond 1 Ad-Carry, was being looked down on with so much contempt.

The Support player on the Lads’ team was sitting next to Gang Zi, and he was fuming. “Gang Zi, we gotta stomp on their balls in Bot lane. Are you seeing this? They’re looking down on us! I’m going to show him exactly how wrong he is!”

Gang Zi nodded, his lips curving into a cold smile. “Don’t sweat it at all, brother. We’ll show them the meaning of real pain.”

 《Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!》


In the private room in the NetCow Cafe, the members of both teams started focusing their attention on the game. The only spectator, Qian Lu, was standing behind Team Shanghai’s members. His interest was in watching the team he had just hired, and he could always walk over to the other side to see how things were going from the Lads’ perspective. Qian Lu was still wearing a friendly smile on his face, but his eyes watched the game with intensity, and flickered with the shrewd calculations running through his mind. He knew that Lin Feng and the others from Team Shanghai were better players. But he refrained from telling Gang Zi and the lads about Team Shanghai’s accomplishments for multiple reasons. First, he wanted Gang Zi to stop hassling him, and this was the easiest way to do it. But he also had an idea of how skilled Gang Zi and his lads were. Even though they were pretty mediocre amateur players, they were still decent as far as internet cafe players went. Using them to test out Team Shanghai’s skills was the perfect silver lining.

Qian Lu was feeling quite pleased with himself and how beautifully his genius plan unfolded. Until Team Shanghai suddenly decided to swap their Midlaner to Support. Why is Lin Feng playing Support now? Isn’t he supposed to be their star Midlaner? What was the point of this move? If I’m being honest, I never actually watched any of their games in the Collegiate Cup. But I heard about how incredible they were, and Lin Feng was always playing Mid… There’s also this whole futzing about with Support Garen. That’s not something I’ve seen before either. I wonder… is this some special tactic of theirs that they decided to use so they could go all out against Gang Zi? Is Lin Feng actually a Support main?

In the end, Qian Lu shook his head. He would figure the truth out soon enough.

2 minutes after the game started, Lin Feng’s Garen and Tang Bingyao’s Kalista walked into the Bot lane.

“Tang Tang, shove the lane out,” Lin Feng said in voice chat while wearing a noise isolating headset. “We’ll hit Level 2 first and go in on them!”

Tang Bingyao nodded earnestly, her eyes blazing. “Mhm!” 

The early game in bot was fairly standard, with both Ad-carries farming minions and the Supports helping to clear the minions or poke the opponent.

But before long, Gang Zi was starting to feel beads of sweat forming on his forehead. This Kalista… I thought she’d be a pushover because she’s so cute and small. But she’s way better than I expected her to be. She’s hyper aggressive in lane and she’s planning on getting to Level 2 first… she’s also got amazing mechanics. Her ability to dish out poke and farm at the same time is beautiful!

Gang Zi’s eyelids twitched. Alright! Playtime is over! I was going to take it easy on her, I’d feel bad if I pummel such a cute girl. But I can’t toy around with Kalista at all, not now. It feels like I’m playing against another Diamond 1 or higher Ad-carry, and my Jinx is at a disadvantage at Level 1! Hm… if not Kalista… well, her Support is a Garen.

Gang Zi glared at the opposing Garen, his eyes flickering with disdain. 

Garen had just tried to rush him with Decisive Strike, but his Jinx was already in the process of backing away. His ally Morgana then rooted Garen with Dark Binding, and the two of them turned around and hacked away at a significant amount of Garen’s health.

Gang Zi smirked. This guy doesn’t even know how to play Support at all… 

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 446 – The Gang Gets an Offer!

The next day, the gang met up at the NetCow Cafe as usual. They just started to get settled into their private room, but they hadn’t yet queued up or started a game. Then the door to the private room opened and a fat middle-aged man walked through. It was unexpected, and everyone turned around to gawk at this stranger. “Why hello there! I’m the owner of the NetCow Cafe. I heard from one of my managers that you’re the youngsters who recently won the Collegiate Cup, and that you’re regulars here. I heard you even did some of your practice sessions for the Cup in this room. Is that true?” 

Lin Feng scratched his head, confused by the appearance of this stranger. But he slowly nodded. He didn’t know what to say or how to respond beyond the nod. Zeng Rui decided to step in after shooting an exasperated look at Lin Feng. “Yes sir. We’re the team from Shanghai who won the Collegiate Cup, and it is true that we held our practice sessions here. I don’t mean to be rude, but you seem to know a lot about us and we don’t know who you are at all.”

The portly middle-aged man took a few steps into the room and closed the door behind him. Then he chuckled and said, “Oh-ho-ho! That’s right, that’s right. Where are my manners? As I said earlier, I am the owner of this fabulous NetCow Cafe! My name is Qian Lu.” Then he fished around in his pockets for a business card, which he handed over to Lin Feng. “As for why I’m here, it’s because I’ve got an opportunity for talented League players such as yourselves! I’d like you to be the official NetCafe Team of the NetCow Cafe! Doesn’t that sound exciting?”  

“A NetCafe Team?” Lin Feng muttered, scratching his head. He’d just accepted a business card from the internet cafe owner. Now there was talk of a NetCafe Team. It was more than he could process at the moment. Lin Feng had questions, but he didn’t know where to start or what to start asking. Thankfully, Zhang Hao jumped in to ask the most important question that Lin Feng bungled. 

“Yeah, what does that mean? You want us to be the team for the NetCow Cafe?”  Zhang Hao asked, equally confused. “Does that mean… Well, I think what it means is… you… IS THIS THE SAME THING AS A SPONSORSHIP OR SOMETHING?”

The large-bellied owner of the NetCow Cafe let out a laugh that made his belly shake like a bowl full of jelly. “Oh-ho-ho-ho-hahahaha! No, no, no. Nothing like that at all. I’m just the humble proprietor of a small business, this tiny little internet cafe. Sponsorships and that sort of thing, that’s something beyond us.” Qian Lu waved a hand to dismiss the thought entirely. “No, no. What I’m asking you to do is represent the NetCow Cafe. You guys are the winners of the Collegiate Cup, and that makes you very famous. All I’d like is for you guys to continue playing exclusively at this branch of the NetCow Cafe, using it for your practices, and be seen here. That will attract other customers to this establishment, and make us much more famous and renowned. I’d also like to use your pictures on posters, maybe hold a few events where you play against local teams. It’s all very small-time and simple, you see. Oh-ho-ho-ho-hahahahahaha!” 

“So, what should we call you? Boss Qian?”  Zeng Rui asked. He’d glanced at the business card in Lin Feng’s hand and saw the name, Qian Lu.

Qian Lu waved his hand with a flattering smile. “Hahaha! Boss? No no no! What? Do I look like a boss? Oh-ho-ho-hahahahaha! I’m just a humble business owner. Feel free to just call me Ol’ Qian.”

Ol’ Qian? Old money….? Zeng Rui’s eyelids twitched. 

Zhang Hao almost burst out in laughter. He was amazed by Qian Lu’s thick skin. It was only their first meeting, but Qian Lu was already trying to have everyone treat him like they were old friends.

Lin Feng finally caught on, and decided that there was nothing odd about this at all. He jumped into the conversation and asked, “Hey, Ol’ Qian. If we’re gonna be representing you, what do you want us to do?”

Qian Lu’s face lit up, and his cheeks turned red. He looked very much like a smiling Buddha. “You don’t need to do much at all! Your presence here is more than enough. But I would like you to do a few tiny things… you know, like participating in the occasional competition. Or helping us defend our turf if a rival cafe’s team shows up and challenges us. Simply put, you’d be the honorable defenders of our little NetCow Sect! Oh-hoho-ho-hahahahaha!”

Qian Lu was a shrewd businessman. Before anyone could notice or object, he’d managed to convince them all that the honor of the NetCow Cafe and his own honor as the owner of the establishment was, in fact, everyone’s honor and that Lin Feng’s gang absolutely had to help defend that honor.

“Oh, I see. That makes sense!” Lin Feng slapped his thigh. “So, we’re basically like your hired muscle, right?”

Qian Lu’s expression froze for a couple of seconds. Then he let out another one of his frequent laughs from deep in his belly. “Oh-hohoho-hahahahaha! Hired muscle? That makes it seem so violent and dangerous. Nothing like that at all! No, no, no. I’d just like you to defend the honor of our humble NetCow Cafe dojo. Yup! You’d be our guardians. Yes, yes. That sounds perfect! The Guardian Deities of the NetCow Sect!” 

Zeng Rui’s lips faintly twitched. Guardian deities… Seriously?

An Xin finally joined in on the conversation and asked with a pleasant smile, “Boss Qian. We’d be happy to defend the honor of this cafe, of course. We practice here and we spend so much time here. But… well, the thing is that even guardian deities need regular offerings. Or they become displeased and bring down disaster on the villages they’re supposed to protect, if you get what I mean.”

Qian Lu gulpd. Then he broke into a flattering smile, “O-of course…”

The ‘offerings for guardian deities’ that An Xin was referring to, that was her roundabout way of asking about the compensation they would receive in return for representing the NetCow Cafe. The deal that Qian Lu offered them was that the members of Team Shanghai would receive a base stipend ¥2,000 a month. On top of this, they would receive a bonus of ¥500 for every match victory in a tournament. Qian Lu also promised them that if the tournament was especially difficult, the bonus for each victory would increase accordingly.

Lin Feng considered the offer carefully. Hm… the compensation for the match victories sounds fair to me. But the stipend… that seems a little low. I should say something and try to negotiate. But make it seem like I don’t actually care. I can do this! I’m really good at negotiating too! “¥2,000…” Lin Feng appeared to be mulling the number over as he thoughtfully rubbed his chin. Then he turned to look straight at Qian Lu and said, “That’s only ¥400 for each of us. Ain’t that a little low? Unless you mean that we’re each going to get ¥2,000 a month. In that case, it’s a very generous offer Ol’ Qian!” 

Qian Lu blanched. “No, no. I meant ¥2,000 for the whole team. So, yes, that would be ¥400. But if you feel that is too little… err, well… I’m just a small business owner… Still! Let me think. How about  ¥3,000 every month? Does that sound fair?” Deep within his heart, Qian Lu was conflicted. On the one hand, he was relieved that he did not accidentally created a misunderstanding that would result in him having to pay ¥2,000 to each team member every month. But on the other hand, he felt the pain of losing an extra ¥1,000 from his wallet every month.

“That sounds good to me. Deal!” Lin Feng agreed.

Qian Lu breathed a sigh of relief. “Deal!”

The two didn’t haggle any further and immediately agreed on the price.

An Xin watched on from the sidelines with a faint smile as Qian Lu and Lin Feng ended the negotiations and agreed on the terms of the deal. She didn’t have any plans of jumping in and haggling for them. If I tagged in… poor Qian Lu. I’d milk him for every penny he’s got stashed away in that belly of his! That would be fun. But this is fine too, Lin Feng did well getting some extra money out of him. Our goal isn’t to make money right now, but a little bit of pocket money could always come in handy. Yes, this is fine.

Zeng Rui suddenly thought of something and asked, “Boss Qian? No, I will not call you Ol’ Qian. But I do have a question. Are the other internet cafes putting together teams like this too?”

Qian Lu replied, “Yup. Over the past couple of months, all the internet cafes across Shanghai have started forming their own teams.”

Zeng Rui nodded. Then he continued asking, “So, what kind of players are these other internet cafes recruiting for their teams?”

“Oh, some recruit semi-professional teams who already use their cafes for practice. Others recruit top players from elsewhere and wrangle them up to form a team,” Qian Lu answered, wondering what Zeng Rui was getting at.

Zeng Rui raised an eyebrow. “So I assume these semi-professional teams get paid more?”

Qian Lu dryly coughed. “Oh well, you know. It depends on the situation. Of course the better you are, the more you’re compensated. But I’m just a humble owner running a small business…. There’s no way I could afford to recruit people like that.”

“Is that so?” Zeng Rui nodded, his lips curving into a faint smile. “I wonder…”

Qian Lu looked at Zeng Rui oddly, not understanding what he was saying. He could only smile and nod along.

However, Zeng Rui’s words were correct. Qian Lu had no idea that the team who won the Collegiate Cup was far more skilled than he thought. Or could possibly imagine. He also had no idea that he’d somehow managed to recruit the former number one Midlaner in all of China, and one of the best in the entire world, for only ¥600 a month.

A businessman never did anything without profit in mind. This applied to Qian Lu, who recruited Lin Feng’s team for a very good reason. Just like he told Zeng Rui, many internet cafes across Shanghai were starting to recruit players to build powerful teams. And the point was not to create a stable of influencers to attract customers. The bigger prize was that more and more tournaments and competitive leagues for internet cafes were popping up across Shanghai. And there was a rather large and important tournament coming up soon. That was the primary reason for Qian Lu approaching Lin Feng’s gang. 

The tournament was called the Shanghai Net Cafe Battle Bonanza, and the details of the whole thing were sparse at the moment. All anyone knew was a few vague inklings and rumors. But the fundamental idea was that every internet cafe across China would send in teams to represent them in battle. Then the teams would duke it out, after which the tournament organizers would tally up all the points and announce the final results. That’s when they would announce the prizes, and what each team earned for their internet cafe. At this point in time, only the lowest of the prizes had been revealed. But those were more than generous enough to get Qian Lu salivating. He immediately signed up for the tournament, and then started trying to put together a team. That’s when he heard from one of the workers at his NetCow Cafe that there was a group who played there regularly in a private room. A group that won the Collegiate Cup.

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.