Ouyang had a very specific selective attention. Girls. League of Legends. Friends. In that order. Anything else he didn’t really pay attention to. Like the big and bold letters the teacher wrote down on the chalkboard. They went in one eye and out the other. But when the words ‘pretty’ and ‘girl’ were mentioned in a hushed conversation on the other side of the classroom, his ears would perk up and his eyes would lock onto the students talking. That kind of conversation got his undivided attention. Right now, Lin Feng’s pencil case had his full focus. There, buried under pencils, erasers and other stationary, he spotted it.
The English teacher hadn’t walked into the classroom yet. There were still a few more minutes until the lesson started. So Ouyang grabbed Lin Feng’s shoulder and looked at his friend. “Yo! Lin Feng, buddy! Best bro! You’ve been holding out on me? Were you hiding that picture from me? That’s not what bros do, my man! Come, gimme! Lemme have a look at that!” He held out his free hand and added, “Hurry up! Give it!”
“Oh, this? It’s nothing,” Lin Feng said, ruffling his messy hair. He emptied his pencil case on his desk and took out the picture. An old memory. He looked at it for a moment and then showed it to Ouyang. “It’s just an old picture I have from a few years ago.”
Ouyang leaned forward, just about pressing his eyes onto the paper, and started scanning it. Something had drawn him to this picture, he was now looking for what that something was. Lin Feng stood in the middle of the frame. It looked like someone had called his name half a second before snapping the picture as only his head was turned towards the camera. He looked the same, with the same messy hair and the same simple clothing. The only real difference was that the Lin Feng in the picture looked a few years younger. But it was just Lin Feng. Ouyang had hoped for something else. He shook his head, disappointed. “I thought it was something better. Not just a picture of you…”
Ouyang squinted his eyes. His special Ouyang senses, as he liked to call them, didn’t lie to him, they never did! There was something more to this photo. But what… He turned to Lin Feng, the man with the answers, and asked, “Yo, you look pretty young in this. So where was this taken? It looks like some kind of auditorium? Was this at your old school or something?”
Lin Feng looked at the picture. It was more than a quick glance this time. “No. That was at the Season 1 Chinese Finals for League of Legends!” He’d almost forgotten about this picture. It’d been at the bottom of his pencil case for the longest time now. But it was a snapshot of a good memory. One he treasured deeply. He smiled. Those were some fun games.
“You forreal? We actually had finals back then?” Ouyang looked up at Lin Feng, his eyes wide and round, then looked back at the picture. “Bro. That’s crazy. Yikes though. Looks like they had no real budget. That all looks really cheap.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and said, “Yeah, it really was low budget. It was also really small. I think there were maybe a few hundred people there?”
League of Legends wasn’t big in Asia in Season 1. It didn’t really gain traction until a year later. That also meant that there were no big sponsors and no big money going around. The Chinese Esports Organization had to work with what they had, renting small venues on the outskirts of Shanghai and trying to make it look better than it was. All that hard work wasn’t even rewarded. There were 500 seats for the Season 1 Chinese Finals, but there weren’t 500 fans willing to come and watch. A good portion of the auditorium had stayed empty. This was something unthinkable with the current stage of the game, where the biggest venues were rented and even those weren’t enough to hold the fans looking to watch their favourite team play.
“A few hundred? No way… That sounds crazy! I saw some numbers online that the LPL Summer Finals last summer had 10,000 people in the crowd! And there were people outside trying to sneak in!” Ouyang clicked his tongue. “But dam, bro! You really were one of the first to play the game! You’re like a living fossil of a League player! I can’t believe you convinced your parents to let you go watch the finals live!”
“A living fossil? Haha! Yeah, I guess you could say that. I’ve been playing this game from the start!” Lin Feng laughed.
“Wait. Wait. Wait! What’s this here?” Ouyang put his hand to Lin Feng’s mouth and zoomed in on a corner of the photo. A small detail in the background. His eyes went wide. He pushed off Lin Feng and jumped up from his chair. Then he held the photo up and shouted through the classroom, “WHOOOO! OH YEAH! SCORE! I found the girl! She’s hot! I knew my Ouyang senses were right! Hehehe!”
The classmates of Senior Class 7 turned to look at the far back of the classroom. Ouyang and Lin Feng sat next to each other. Well, Lin Feng sat. Ouyang was jumping up and down and pointing at a photo in his hand, shouting. They were getting used to it by now. Ouyang always screamed over absolutely nothing. Some shook their heads while others sighed. That was Ouyang for you.
“U-uh? A girl? Where?” Lin Feng asked, confused.
Ouyang shoved the picture in Lin Feng’s face. Then he pointed at a corner of the photo and kept jabbing at it with his finger. “Here! Here! Look! Behind you!” There stood a girl behind Lin Feng, looking at the camera from the corners of her eyes. She wore a white t-shirt, had black framed glasses resting on her nose, and had her hair up in two pigtails. Though she stood in the background and Ouyang could only see half of her face, that was all he needed to see.
Ouyang looked at Lin Feng, almost looking angry! He barked, “Pigtails and glasses! You know how much I love those! And she’s rocking that cute-cool look! Totes a 9 outa 10! Dammit! I can’t even call you my bro now! How could you hide her from me? I thought we were friends! What ever happened to us? Get me a better picture of her, maybe with her phone number on it!”
Lin Feng grabbed the photo and looked at the girl Ouyang was pointing at. He directly recognized her. “Oh! That’s Bunbun!”
“H-huh? Bunbun? What’s a Bunbun?” Ouyang stammered, surprised. That didn’t sound anything like a name! Not one he’d heard before, at least.
Lin Feng said, “Bunbun! She’s my childhood friend! I remember now! She went with me to the Finals!”
After the dismissal bell rang, the members of the esports team gathered in the club room. Ouyang was the first in the room. He was jumping up and down on his feet, about to burst! There was something on his mind. Something so important that it couldn’t wait. He had to share it with everyone! Lin Feng had a hot friend from his childhood! The guy who spent all his free time playing League of Legends had somehow found the time to meet a girl and hang out with her! It wasn’t just Ouyang, everyone found this difficult to believe. In the short time they’d known Lin Feng, all he did was League of Legends! So they had him pass the photo around, with everyone zooming in on the girl with pigtails in the background.
Liu Yue stared at the photo and mumbled, “So this is his childhood sweetheart?” Then he looked up towards Lin Feng and squinted his eyes, doing his best Ouyang impression. “Are you kidding me? I can’t believe you have such a pretty friend! The pretty childhood friend… I thought this only happened on TV!”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head, sheepishly. “Uhh, yeah. Me and Bunbun go way back. I’ve known her since elementary school.”
Ren Rou looked over Liu Yue’s shoulder and then shook her head. “Hmph. Yes, she’s pretty. Really pretty. I don’t know how he did it, but it seems like he did. He somehow found himself a really cute girl. Maybe he had more game a few years ago. That could explain how he found her.”
Wei Dong stood on Liu Yue’s other side, looking at the photo. He clicked his tongue and said, “This was taken four years ago, you said? She was already so pretty back then… I wonder how much she’s grown. Ah, shit. Can I have some of your luck? I want to find myself a girl like that!”
While the others were gathering around Liu Yue to look at the picture, Ouyang stood a bit away. He’d stopped jumping up and down. His excited expression had disappeared. Now he was staring at his laces, his smile having turned upside down. Some bro… Doesn’t even share… Keeps everything for himself… Bastard. Bastard. Bastard! He grabbed Lin Feng’s arm and tugged on it. With his other hand he grabbed his chest to hold his broken heart together. He forced tears from his eyes and said, “Y-you bastard! Traitor! What happened to the bro code! What happened to honour! Chivalry! All those things! Is Tang Tang not enough for you? Do you have to hoard all the pretty girls for yourself? What, are you going to build a harem? Take every cute girl for yourself and let your good bro here dry out and wither? I know I’m no first prize! But even a Gollum like me needs some love! Leave some girls for the rest of us!”
Lin Feng tried to tuck his arm free and looked at Ouyang, confused. “Uh? What do you mean? Tang Tang and I are just friends…”
“Mhm. We’re friends. Nothing more,” Tang Tang added while looking at the photo of Lin Feng’s childhood sweetheart. She was the last to look at it. Everyone looked at her. She nodded. “Cute.”
Ren Rou wrapped her arms around Tang Bingyao from behind and rubbed her cheeks. “You’re also very cute! Don’t let the guys make you think otherwise! You’re at least as cute as that girl in the picture!”
Chen Ze turned to Lin Feng and asked, “Hey, why do you call her Bunbun? That’s a pretty strange name…”
“Oh, that.” Lin Feng grinned. “You see, she was pretty round and chubby when we were young. It reminded me of a steamed bun! So I called her Bunbun once and the name kind of stuck. Hehe.”
A stunned silence fell over the room. The seven people turned to Lin Feng and just stared at him. Ouyang even had to push his mouth closed. They were shocked. Stunned. KO’d. Lin Feng had done it again! He’d showcased just how dense he really was. He actually nicknamed a girl after a steamed bun and didn’t seem to see anything wrong with that! It looked like he even thought it was funny! Ren Rou shook her head and said, “I feel for that girl. It sounds rough being your friend.”
“Ahem.” Yang Fan adjusted his glasses. He didn’t like this awkwardness, so he changed the subject. “You’ve told us this before. But wow. You really did start playing in Season 1, huh? You’re the super veteran. We all started playing in the later seasons.”
Liu Yue nodded. “Yeah. I only started playing last season.”
“SCREW THAT! Are you guys stupid?” Ouyang shouted. “You’re just ignoring the most important part here! He went to the finals with a girl! A PRETTY GIRL! Who cares about him playing League in Season 1? There’s only one thing we should be looking at. THAT GIRL! He already took such a pretty girl out on a date before we even met… I feel like he just stabbed me in the back before we even met! Here! Look at the scar! That’s what Lin Feng did!” Ouyang pulled up his shirt and jabbed at his side, where there was no scar.
“Uhh, no?” Lin Feng shook his head and looked at Ouyang, confused. “She was there to cheer me on. I was playing…”
“Sure, whatever. You went there to play. Of course,” Ren Rou said, her voice overflowing with sarcasm.
Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and said, “It’s not that we don’t believe you. It’s just that we don’t believe you.”
Lin Feng kept claiming that he used to be a pro. And they had to admit that he was really good at the game, far better than anyone else they’d met. But Lin Feng also said that was in Season 1. The year he was only 15 years old. The rules were clear. Everyone knew them. You had to be at least 16 years old if you wanted to compete professionally. Lin Feng wasn’t 16, so he couldn’t possibly have competed. And he’d done nothing to prove the opposite. They were a little bored with his nonstop claims of fame.
However, none of them had played the game back in Season 1. They knew the rules from Season 2 and onwards. Back in Season 1, the rules weren’t as strict. Exceptions were made. This was why Lin Feng, a 15 year old, was allowed to compete. But because of the special circumstances, extra measures were taken. His real name and age were never revealed. To the world, he was Maple. Nothing else was revealed by the Chinese Esports Organization or his teammates. It was kept under such a tight seal that even most people he played against didn’t know how old he was.
Lin Feng got home early again. Tonight was the second match of the quarter finals at Worlds. Season versus Fate. The first clash between Emperors in this edition! The millions of League of Legends fans across the world had been waiting for this moment. This once in a year opportunity where two of the best players in the world would go toe-to-toe against each other, putting everything on the line! And they were rewarded for their patience. They were treated to a spectacular best of five series! Full of ups and downs, and even some loops! The games were long and it went all the way to a fifth and final match to decide the winner.
Right before midnight in China, with Lin Feng and Su Xue commentating on the game, the series deciding play happened. Autumn, Season’s Emperor Support, caught Moon out of position. Fate’s Emperor Midlaner slipped up after a grueling five hours of playing League of Legends. One moment of losing focus cost him and his team a teamfight. The death timers were more than a minute. Season ran down mid lane and finished the game. They secured their place in the semifinals! The Korean Killers had done it again!
This second day of the quarterfinals had it all! But there was still more to come. There were still two series in the quarterfinals. One of them was KG versus Assassins. A matchup that wasn’t half as exciting as the match between Season and Fate. The other matchup, however, that was something the whole world looked forward to. Even the Chinese fans wanted to see how their first seed would do. The next match, played on Saturday, was none other than Hand of God versus SSK! A finals worthy matchup! The best of two regions would fight it out! The challengers would face the title defenders! This was the ultimate hurdle for HoG!