KG had won the series! They were through to the semifinals! Tian Tian jumped up from his seat and joined his teammates to celebrate! Just for a minute. A short cheer. Because there was someone else who he wanted to share this win with. That was much more important to him. He excused himself and stormed down the stage and to his favourite bathroom stall in the backstage area. His hands were trembling as he pushed the stall door open and sat down on the toilet, his feet up and an arm wrapped around his knees. He had a smartphone in his free hand and stared at the screen. Stared at a picture of Lin Feng with his phone number underneath it. Then Tian Tian hit the call button.
Ring-ring…. Ring-ring…. Ring-ring….Three rings, and then the call connected. A voice came from the phone, but Tian Tian didn’t even hear it. He was already stumbling over his own words, trying to get the message across. “L-Lin Feng! I-i won! W-weon! Win! S-semis!”
“Yeah! I was watching! Saw the whole thing! Good job! I knew you had it in you! Especially during game 3, that pentakill was really awesome! It was a perfect play! But I knew you could do it! You always had it in you!
“I gotta say though… Assassins looked really good. They’re a strong team. You ready for this?”
Tian Tian nodded with his whole body. Team Assassins was strong. Read XIII had played a great series, especially in game 2. If it weren’t for him showing up, KG might’ve lost. He knew this, the excitement of it churning in his stomach. He smiled and said, “Mhm! Thirteen is still really good. He pretty much won that second game all by himself. And we got lucky with that pentakill on my Fiora. Otherwise, we might’ve lost. They were keeping me down pretty hard.”
“Hahah! If Thirteen is still the Thirteen from Season 1, then he’s probably more than a little salty right now. That penta must’ve hit him hard. Hahaha! I bet he’s looking for a wall to run his head into right now!”
Tian Tian bit on his lips, biting down a burst of laughter. That’s exactly what Thirteen would do! Haha! He even looked the part after the last game. Hehe! He took a deep breath, forcing the laughter back into his belly, and said, “Mhm! I can totally see that happening, haha!” He then moved the phone from his ear. Just a little, so that he could hear what was going on in the bathroom stall. Did he…? No.
“Right! You should give Three a call! He’s been worrying about you! Let him know how you’re doing, I’m sure that’ll cheer him up!”
Tian Tian let go of his knee and raised his hand, then made a snap. Right! He nodded and said, “Yeah! I’ll make sure to give him a call next!”
Good news was meant to be shared! After hanging up with Lin Feng, Tian Tian scrolled through his contacts until he found the one he was looking for. His mentor’s phone number. He pushed on the touchscreen and the phone started ringing. A brief moment later, the call connected. Three spoke, “Yo, who’s this?”
Tian Tian’s face started glowing. This was the voice of Three. The man who’d gone through so much trouble for him. And now, now he finally had some good news to share! He said, “Three! It’s me! I did it! We won! We’re through to the semis! And, oh! Oh! I got a penta! I got a penta!”
“Oh, semis is it? I see. That’s fine. Just give me a ring when you get the trophy. I’m about to board a plane, so I can’t really talk now. Let’s chat later, ok? Bye bye, hanging up now.”
“Eh?” Tian Tian held his phone up to his face and stared at the screen. Three had hung up. H-he didn’t even congratulate me… Three had barely said a word. In the background, the faint sound of someone opening the bathroom door rang out. But he paid no attention to it. He didn’t have any attention to spare. His entire focus was on his phone, and the strange call he’d just had with Three.
As for Three, he really was about to board a plane. He was at the airport in Madrid, Spain, waiting for the gate to open. There was a smile on his face as he browsed an online forum to check the latest updates on Worlds. His pupil had made it to the semifinals and secured a penta! Not bad, Fatty! He thought back to the Fatty of Week 1 of Worlds. The nervous wreck. Good thing One called. I should give him a call. He scrolled through his contacts and made the call.
“Huh, why are you calling me? What’s up?”
“Hehe. Fatty just gave me a call. Thought you might be interested in what he told me.. He made it to the semis.”
“Hoh? Is that so? Not bad. Not bad at all. Looks like your little trip to London was worth it.”
“It definitely was. So. You still in Hawaii?”
“Yeah, I am. Uh, why’re you asking? Wait, are those planes in the background? Are you at the airport?”
“Hmm? Yeah, I’m at the airport. About to board a plane to Hawaii. I should be there tomorrow morning. You still owe me a meal, you know. I’m coming for it. Then we can also have a beer.”
There was a long silence on the line. Then Three heard a dull impact. Something light falling onto something soft. Like a phone into the sand. Footsteps sounded out. Hurried. Something else fell. Maybe a chair. It was hard to tell without seeing it happen. A distant voice sounded out, yelling loud enough for the call to pick it up. “BABE! Pack our suitcases and book a plane ticket for tonight! We’re going! That bastard Three is coming to shake us down! We have to go now! Let’s go!”
Tian Tian put his smartphone away. I’ll call him again later. He sounded busy. He then looked around him, at the four walls almost wrapped around him. There was practically no space here. My teammates are probably waiting for me… He put his feet back on the ground and got up, then pushed the stall door open and walked into the bathroom. Walked into the person he least wanted to see right now. His eyes went round. His heart rate shot up. Sweat formed on his forehead and left his armpits wet. He looked at the door out of the bathroom and scuffled in that direction.
Read XIII looked at Tian Tian and said, “Hey! Fatty!”
“I-it’s not me! N-not me! Y-you’ve got the wrong person!” Tian Tian replied, panicked. The door out was still a good few meters away.
“Wrong person my ass!” Read XIII cursed. He walked up to Fatty and put his arm around him. “Got me good today, didn’t you? A fucking pentakill. Damn, dude. What did your fat ass eat for you to pull that out during the game? Yeesh. I’m getting saltier just thinking about it. You got a penta!”
Tian Tian eyes were wide open. He grabbed Read XIII’s arm and tried to push him away. But he wasn’t strong enough. He tried to duck, but Read XIII followed him. Then he stood back up and also shoved Read XIII away. That did it. The guy let him go. He took two steps back and raised his hands defensively in front of his face. “W-what do you want? B-back off! I’m against violence!”
Read XIII stared at Tian Tian for a brief moment, then rolled his eyes. “Screw off! Who told you to play so good today? You know, I was just thinking about you. Thinking about what’d I’d do if I got my hands on you.” He paused and gave Tian Tian a wink, then continued, “And here you are showing up right in front of me! Hehe. I finally have luck on my side after that terrible series!”
Read XIII walked up to Tian Tian and raised his arms. He jumped back and forth on his feet, and then went in. In for a hug. He laughed and let go of Tian Tian a few seconds later. “You played pretty well today, huh? Those were some good games.”
“E-eh…” Tian Tian hesitated, but then said, “I wasn’t too bad.”
“Not too bad my ass!” Read XIII cursed, laughing. “What’s there to be humble about? You were real good today. I bet you played better than Seven ever has. Just accept the compliment. I’ll get angry if you don’t!” Then he breathed in deeply, pursed his lips, and blew it all out. “Fuck me. Some shit luck. This is the game you decide to be a fucking god. Why did we have to be matched up against each other? Any other team and we would’ve made the semis! I’m sure of it!”
Read XIII walked back to the sink and looked in the mirror. He grinned, self deprecating, and then nodded towards Tian Tian. “Well, you making it to the semis is the second best thing. You’re representing basically the same region! If you win, I win, sort of. Since my team is out now, I can only cheer for you. So you better not let me down, or I’ll have to come and find you in Shanghai! That won’t be fun! Haha!”
Tian Tian was fidgeting with a slip of toilet paper. Something to kill the nerves. He nodded, short and quick, and said, “D-don’t worry! I-i won’t let you down!”
Read XIII smiled and turned the faucet on, letting the water splash on his hands. Season 1 was a lot of fun. With Fatty here, Eleven… The name struck him before he even realized it. An old rival. One he wanted to play against to this day. So much so that he’d even give up a chance for the Summoner’s Cup for it! He turned around to look at Tian Tian and said, “Hey, how’s Eleven doing these days? Haven’t heard from him in a while.”
Tian Tian looked down at the ground and started counting the bathroom tiles. One. Two… He pursed his lips and started breathing faster. “E-eleven. He’s not in the LPL anymore—”
“I know he isn’t,” Read XIII cut him off. “You already told me last time! I’m asking you where he is now. Don’t tell me he’s still wasting away in that third rate LPSL team? Such a waste of talent…”
Tian Tian scratched the back of his head, his elbow close to his side. His breathing became heavy, as though he was going through labour, or something that wasn’t quite as exhausting. Then he nodded. A silent affirmation. Yes. That was where Eleven still was.
Read XIII slammed down on the faucet handle, frustrated. Eleven was his rival! Eleven was a great Jungler! He wasn’t someone who should be stuck on some shit-tier team! He can’t have fallen this far. This is stupid… But Fatty wouldn’t lie… Not about this. He didn’t want to accept it. He wanted there to be another explanation. Anything that could have it make sense to him. But there was nothing. Eleven’s path down the ladder made no sense to him. He shook his head, shaking away those thoughts, trying desperately to latch onto something else. Something to draw his mind away. “Right,” he said, holding up his finger. He turned to Tian Tian and asked, “Weren’t you on a call with someone when I walked in? Who were you talking to?”
Shanks Thought: I loved imaginary roleplaying back when I was a kid, and I luckily had a group of friends who were just as into it as me. We would act out our own scenes from the cartoons we watched, stuff from shows like Beyblade, B-Daman, Shaman King, etc., and you’d often find me screaming out lines like, “HOW COULD YOU BETRAY ME LIKE THIS! YOU WERE MY BEST FRIEND, BRANDON! DRAGON, UNLEASH YOUR FINAL GIGA ATTACK!” Then I’d dramatically collapse on the ground and pretend to die while my friends stood around, awkwardly wondering how to continue for a while. Yeah, that was a regular occurrence, and kid Shanks was a bit of a drama queen. But it was fun. I had fun, my friends had fun, and it’s just normal kid stuff.
But apparently that kind of behaviour is NOT normal for kids these days. I have a nephew who’s 9 years old. He’s hyperactive, has a vivid imagination, and is really into Minecraft and Fortnite. Sounds pretty normal so far, right? Well, his parents and the rest of the family are getting worried about him. They catch him talking to himself a lot, and it always looks like he’s lost in his own little world. So some aunts and uncles are starting to think he’s autistic. But here’s the thing, he’s only allowed 30 minutes of media consumption a day. Besides that, he only gets to read a book or play by himself in his room. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. But isn’t it kind of obvious that a kid in this situation would look to his imagination for entertainment? I tried talking to his parents, but I belong to the minority opinion. Either I was really weird as a kid or kids have changed.
Sietse Thought: What Shanks really wants to know is what embarrassing things all of you did when you were kids and did stupid shit. Because that is what kids do, right? Stupid shit. The good. The bad. The downright stupid. And yes, Shanks, rolling on the ground screaming bloody murder is downright stupid. But it’s also fun. Just the other day, I saw a kid running down the street a la Naruto. It’s that innocent fun that we shouldn’t try and take away from the next generation. That freedom those first few years to discover what you like, and not worry about the world arounds you think you should like, are magical. So Shanks, FIGHT ON MY BROTHER! Tell those parents they’re stupid! Kids aren’t adults. They shouldn’t have to act like them. And when they don’t, that’s not what autism is.