115

The Second Qualifier

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“Another win for SSK sees them to 6 wins and 0 losses! Did anyone expect anything else?” 

“What a beautiful win by Season! That secures them the group!” 

“WOOO! Assassins! What was that! How! They did it! They’re through to the next round!” 

“Damn! The warriors from Warriors are REAL! They are the warriors that built this town! They hacked’n’slashed their way into the Quarterfinals!”

The second week of League of Legends World Championships had come to an end. All 12 matches were played and the results proved to be a heavy blow to the thousands of Chinese fans watching. They’d had high hopes for Dust, the LPL’s second seed. That small flame of hope raged into an inferno after KG’s last game a few days ago, where they had without a doubt, undoubtedly, unquestionably made the impossible possible. And then all of those hopes and dreams came crashing down. Dust didn’t perform like their fans would’ve liked to see. They were obliterated by the two Korean teams they got matched up against. It was hard to watch. Dust never really found their footing or had a chance to get their rhythm in any of their games. The Korean teams that Dust was up against, those were the strongest in the world right now. But to the Chinese fans watching, knowing that the difference was this big made them all the more hopeful for a David-vs-Goliath situation. Everyone wanted to see the underdog win. But that didn’t happen.

The Chinese fans had been prepared for this outcome from the very beginning. They knew Dust had pulled the short straw during the group stage draw. But it was never fun to see your team go out like this. Their only consolation was that two of their teams managed to qualify for the quarterfinals; KG and Hand of God. This was an impressive accomplishment. The only region and league with more teams in the quarterfinals was Korea’s LCK.

First place in Group A were the Legend from Europe!
First place in Group B was Korea’s Team Fate!
First place in Group C was Season out of North America!
First place in Group D were last year’s champions, Team SSK from Korea!

Second place in Group A was China’s KG!
Second place in Group B was HoG from China!
Second place in Group C were the Assassins from Taiwan!
Second place in Group D were Korea’s Warriors!

The group stage at Worlds was fun, but the teams here weren’t playing for the hardware or glory just yet. They were just qualifying to play for it. The knockout stage was where it all happened. The main course of the World Championships! The Chinese fans were ecstatic that they had two teams, two possibilities, two beacons of hope shouldering their pride! Fighting for the Summoner’s Cup! Their teams had survived London. The weather, the food, and their matches! Now the time had come to fly a little further south, to the beautiful city of Paris! That was where the knockout stage would be held.

While the World Championships of League of Legends came to the business end of things, High School 13 had their own game to worry about. They’d made it through the first qualification round and now had to play in the second qualifiers. There were now 32 teams remaining and competing for the 16 spots in the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. The second round of qualifiers would be held in the downtown Shanghai branch of the NetCow Cafe, which was where they gathered up today. In this internet cafe, the teams would be matched up against one other team. If they won, they would qualify and advance to the main tournament. If they lost, then their journey would end. They could go home early and watch the rest from their couches and through the haze of their tears.

The Shanghai 16 School Tournament was still a school event at the end of the day. So, in an effort to waste as little of the students’ time as possible, the organizers planned to have four matches going on simultaneously. This way they could keep the event organized and move things along, without too much waiting time for any one team. The goal was to finalize the teams playing in the Shanghai 16 School Tournament by the end of the night. Because if it took any longer, if they kept the students waiting for a second day, then that could take away from the time the students could spend on studying or preparing for exams. A failed exam could ruin a life! None of the organizers wanted to have that on their conscience.

The High School 13 esports team arrived at the NetCow Cafe just after 1 PM. The games would start in 30 minutes. They were one of the first eight teams to play. Lin Feng had them huddle up so he could rehash the strategies, tactics, and plays they’d be armed with for today’s games. He also had some last-minute advice and encouragement. Once that was done with, all of them relaxed and started shooting the shit while waiting for the event to kick off. 

Yang Fan adjusted his glasses as he looked at the others around him. “I heard some rumors, quiet whispers from sources I consider authoritative upon the subject, that this year the main event will take place in a real high quality venue. Based on my analysis of the growth of Lea

“Yep! Yep! I heard that too!” Ren Rou interjected excitedly and shouted. “They also invited professional shoutcasters!”

“Forreals?” Liu Yue asked. It took him a few seconds to process the news completely. Then his eyes went wide as he realized the implications. He grabbed Ren Rou by her shoulders. He looked into her eyes intensely and said, “THIS IS SO AWESOME! Do you know who? Are they the really famous ones? Is it Qinghe? Maybe I can get his autograph!” He let go of Ren Rou and turned to Ouyang. “Hey, buddy! BUDDY! HOMESLICE! You vibin’ with me here? You thinking what I’m thinking? You feelin’ my wavelength? What do you think? WOOT WO-ooo…?” Lie Yue’s excitement died the second he actually looked at Ouyang. The guy didn’t seem like himself. Or all that excited. Quite the opposite. Ouyang was staring off in the distance and his lips were trembling. This was not the Ouyang they had come to know and love. Their Ouyang would’ve hit the roof at the slightest bit of hype. This wasn’t small hype. But he just stood there quiet. Liu Yue put a hand around Ouyang’s shoulders and asked, “Eh? Buddy? Everything ok over there?”

Ouyang waved his hand and forced a smile. “N-no. I’m fine. Don’t worry. I’m good. All good. Yeah…”

Ren Rou grinned. Then she looked at him and laughed. “Don’t worry about that idiot. He’s just nervous because he found out that he’s playing today. He’s just a big old chicken! Pok! Pok pok pok! Should we check his pants for eggs? It might make him uncomfortable when he tries to sit on them!”

“N-no! No! Liar! T-that’s not true!” Ouyang denied.

Ren Rou stopped smiling and said, “Oh, shut up! You think I don’t know you? We’ve been in class together for years! We’ve been in this esports team together for years! I know you better than your mom does! And right now, you’re absolutely petrified that you’re going to play bad and embarrass yourself.”

Ouyang made some strange expressions. No one knew what he was trying to do. Or say. All they saw was his face becoming progressively more red. Then he shouted, “Dammit! Yes! I’m scared! It’s normal to get nervous before a big game, alright! Everyone’s got a pre-game ritual! Lotsa big athletes do it to get calm right before a game! I just didn’t get a chance to do mine today! That’s all! Okay! Stop riding a brother so hard!” He turned to Lin Feng and muttered, “A-am I really going to play today?”

“Of course you are!” Lin Feng replied, excited and full of energy. “You’ve been training with the rest of us all this time! If you don’t get to play at least one game, then what was the point of all that? There wouldn’t have been one! This is your moment to shine, baby! Go out there and show everyone how good you’ve become! Let ‘em know that nobody puts baby in the corner!”

“B-but–”

“Hmph!” Ren Rou cut him off. “No buts! You’re a grown ass man! Start acting like one! Why are you being this little whiny bitch about it? If Lin Feng says you play, YOU PLAY! Damn, there’s nothing I hate more than a guy without a backbone.”

Liu Yue slapped his friend on the back. “Do your best! I’ll be rooting for you!”

“What he says!” Wei Dong added. “Just play your best! We’re all waiting to see you carry this game! You can do it!”

“F-fine! Ok. I get it. I’ll do it!” Ouyang gnashed his teeth and then stamped his feet. “Uch. Ok. I sit down. I play my game. And we’re all good, yes? No big deal. I can do this! Yes! Watch me carry you guys with my amazing plays!”

As if waiting for Ouyang to find his confidence just so she could crumple it again, Tang Bingyao suddenly spoke up, “Hmm. Seems like everyone is watching us. I wonder what that’s about.”

Yang Fang turned his head around, as if in slow motion. All eyes were on him and the people around him. Everywhere he looked, more eyes were looking back at him. He turned back around and adjusted his glasses before saying, “Seems so.”

Lin Feng followed the gazes of the others around him and found more than a hundred people all looking at them. All the different teams had their eyes trained on them. Those strangers were whispering amongst each other, pointing at them. Lin Feng looked at the others, confused, and asked, “What are they staring at us for?”

Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and grinned. “They’re probably scared after they heard how we won all three games in the first round of the qualifier. Most of them probably watched us play.”

Wei Dong nodded. “Mhm. We defeated High School 7 and Tonji Affiliated High. There were so many people watching us play, especially in the last game. It’d be strange if they didn’t recognize us.”

The Shanghai 16 School Tournament was very important. It was a ticket into the pro scene! So every team had done their research before coming here today. Everyone in the NetCow Cafe had seen High School 13’s game versus Tonji Affiliated High. Most had watched it live, while the few who hadn’t had watched replays. A team that couldn’t even make it through the first round of the qualifiers last year suddenly beat some of the best teams in the entire tournament. This was an explosive piece of news! High School 13 was the dark horse they had to watch out for! They couldn’t let a false sense of security fall over them. High School 13 was the real deal! They were nothing like the team they were last year! This year, they were title contenders!

“Oh, I see!” Lin Feng exclaimed. “HAHAHA! That’s great! Isn’t it? We’re going for the trophy anyway! Hah–Mgmph! Mmphh!”

Ouyang had jumped at Lin Feng from behind and wrapped his hands around his friend’s mouth. Then he whispered into Lin Feng’s ears, “You idiot! Can you not be so loud!”

Liu Yue added, “Yeah! Are you trying to make them hate us? This is how you do that!”

Ren Rou kicked Lin Feng in the shin. “You idiot! If they heard us, we’re finished! They’ll put their energy into kicking us out of the tournament!”

However, Lin Feng hadn’t kept his calm. He’d screamed loud enough that everyone in the NetCow Cafe had heard him. Among them was a nearby team from Shanghai High School. Their team captain and Support, Zeng Rui, turned around to look at Lin Feng. To look at the fool who now had a teammate hugging him from behind. He turned back to his own teammates and asked, “Who’s that idiot?”

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Dev to Sietse: YOU'RE FIRED

Sietse Thought: 
Devs fired me today. I went to bed last night after getting a bunch of compliments from him. Now this is rare. He never gives compliments. But last night he did. I should’ve known back then that something was up. Something was wrong. I woke up this morning and the bad news was there. Mind you, it wasn’t even Devs who told me. He lacked the cajones for that. The people on Discord saw me pop online and badgered me with the news. I barely had my eyes open and the messages were flooding in, informing me that my services were no longer required. Now, I thought this was all a joke. A cruel joke someone thought was funny. But then there was the “New Rise Team” on the Discord. Team Uprising! I got a little worried. But Devs would at least tell me face to face, right? NO. WRONG. This little piece of shit didn’t even have the common decency for that. No. After leaving me in doubt all day, he threw a random message in general chat.

Devshard (vandaag om 20:49): @Sietse Thundercock you’re fired.

This is how much I’m worth to him. Absolutely nothing! I thought we had something here, Devs! What the fuck, dude… I’m so disappointed. I thought you were better than this! Now I’m off to bed and I’ll let you think of a way to make this up to me. If you want me back on the team, you better come with something special! You know where to find me!

Dev Thought:
Sietse, man. You are. My fire. The one. DESSSSIIIIREEEE. Believe me when I say, I want it this way.

But let me explain. When the Uprising first started, I didn’t take them seriously. They said they wanted to overthrow us, so I threw some raws at them to keep them busy. Like how you give small children a coloring book. I didn’t think they’d actually translate a page, let alone a chapter. But they stuck with it. FOR FIVE HOURS! I’ve never seen you work as hard as they did yesterday on all of Rebirth and Rise combined. They literally put in more effort and showed more heart in one day than you did in four years. How am I not supposed to be impressed by that?

And if we’re really being honest here, I was only into you for your body. The honeymoon has faded. Now I recoil in disgust from the thought of your touch, and hearing your voice in my ears every day makes me nauseous. You don’t have anything to say to me anymore! DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY YEARS IT’S BEEN SINCE YOU WHISPERED SWEET NOTHINGS TO ME IN DUTCH? DO YOU? DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER?

I’m going with Team Uprising. They make me want them! They make me remember the thrill of the chase! I want to be a better man for them! I want them to want me! If I stay with you, I’m just going to fade into a pale shadow of my former glory. And that’s a big deal because I’m brown. It takes a lot for us to turn pale. Legit. Like barrels of Fair & Lovely.  I started this thought thinking I was going to go one way. I thought it was going to bring us closer together. But by the time I got through it, I think I figured out my real feelings. Therapy isn’t going to help. We’re done, man. We’re done. We’re just fond memories, fun stories, and old pictures that we’ll show our new lovers years from now.

Sietse Addendum: Some teams just aren’t meant to be. I’m saddened to see the same holds true for us. Not for me. I’ll be fine. I got my next one lined up already. But I know how hard it is for you. Another drought. More years wasting away, with only the pizza guy to hold you company. Your parents want to see you happy! How will you ever get there if you keep kicking yourself down this road? But, Devs, more than anything, I’m worried for you. I hope you can see that. And although we might not be cut out for each other, I’ll never stop loving you!

Shanks Thought:
Notice how Devshard and Sietse completely ignore me in their thoughts. It’s just the two of them in their own little world. Not a single thing about poor ol’ Shanks. Do you know how hard it is for me to insert myself into this thought? I’m not just third wheeling here. I’m an old rubber tire orbiting them in fucking outer space. I don’t even know why they’re acting this whole drama out. We all know how it plays out anyway. They fight. They break up. Then they get back together and make up with hot steamy sex in bed. Ugh. It’s so predictable. Am I sounding catty? I am.

I feel used and abused. Abandoned and betrayed. Have they always had this relationship behind my back? I can’t help but wonder. Before all of this, I stayed up until 5 AM TLCing for Team Uprising. I didn’t have to. Didn’t need to. Why would I help those treasonous bastards? But I did because Devshard asked. And this is how he pays me back. His infidelity coming to light.

I thought Devs and I shared something special. But apparently not. Is this what it’s like to be NTRed? I feel worse than Guts from Berserk. But you know. I do find solace in one thing. Even the Thundercock couldn’t sate his carnal desire that rivals Slaanesh. After he had his way with Sietse, he started fooling around with any man who crossed his path. Even the poor pizza guy couldn’t escape unscathed.

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