“COME ON! HURRY UP! WE’RE RUNNING! LATE!”
“Don’t worry, don’t worry! We still got a few more minutes until it’s 6. We can still make it…”
“That’s it. Lin Feng, get your ass over here. Someone grab him! If he stops in front of one more shop, so help me God!”
Ren Rou led High School 13’s esports team up the seat and out of the subway station. She glanced behind her, checking everyone was there and keeping an eye on Lin Feng. Ouyang had grabbed his friend by the arm and was dragging him along. The electronics mall, where the Shanghai 16 School Tournament was being held, was only a small distance from the subway station, though Lin Feng made it look a lot further. It was almost 6 PM when they finally arrived at the entrance.
“Finally! Thank God! Alright. Are we all here? Lin Feng, obviously. Liu Yue, Chen Ze, Wei Dong, stinky Ouyang, Yang Fan, Tang Tang. Ok, good. Looks like we’re all good to go! Let’s go check in!”
Ren Rou pushed her way through the crowd of people, shoving everyone aside with force. People turned around, confused, called out to her for being rude but she didn’t care. Another two minutes and they’d be officially late. Worst of all. It was all Ouyang’s fault. This was all on Ouyang. If everything had gone according to plan, they would’ve been here half an hour ago. Now, because of Ouyang, they were almost missing the event! She cursed and shouted, “Shitty! Stinky! Stupid Ouyang! It’s all your fault! Why do you have to be such an idiot? Now we all have to run because of you! You stupid. Stinking. Piece of… Argh! You made us almost come late!”
Ouyang pushed through the crowd and walked up next to Ren Rou. He lightly tapped her shoulder and awkwardly smiled. “Come on, Rou Rou. Don’t be mad. Didn’t we make it? Look, we’re here. Haha.”
“DON’T TOUCH ME!” Ren Rou erupted. She stared at him. Glared at him. “What if we didn’t make it in time? What if the subway had a few minutes delay? Huh? Then what? Would you have taken responsibility?”
Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and shook his head. He grabbed Ouyang by the arm and pulled him over. “But damn dude, it really was your fault this time. You knew we had to go here today. How could you let something like that happen?”
Ouyang was the reason they were late. By more than half an hour. The original plan was to go to the venue at 4:30 PM, right after the dismissal bell. They would’ve been at the electronics mall by 5:10 PM. Now it was almost 6 PM. Their last class was English. Ouyang had turned in his homework at the start of the class, as was usual. During the class, the teacher went over it while the students were working on an assignment. It went well at first. But then the irritated sounds of a pen crossing things out sounded out through the classroom. Once. Twice. It kept going on for several minutes. Then the teacher had had enough. She looked up over the rim of her glasses and said, sternly, “Ouyang! What is this? You made this at home. You have the internet. Students to ask questions to. You could’ve sent me an email. How can you possibly have every single question wrong?”
Ouyang had tried to explain himself. A poor excuse about how he didn’t really understand the questions and how English was a really difficult subject, hiding the fact he’d copied Lin Feng’s homework. Well, he’d tried anyway. Just that what he copied wasn’t the homework for today, but for last week. The teacher spotted it. She breathed in and then out. In, and out. Letting her annoyance with the worst student in class settle down. Then she looked at him and said, “You’re staying after class. We’re going to have a chat about this.”
Chen Ze walked a few steps behind Ouyang and Yang Fan. He shook his head as he listened in on the conversation between the two. “Man. How do you fail at copying answers? That’s a new low. Even for you.”
Lin Feng laughed, carefree as ever. “It’s fine guys! Haha. It was kind of funny, right? And we made it! We’re here and we still got at least 60 seconds to spare!”
Wei Dong nodded, hesitantly. “I’m just happy we’re in the second group. We’d have been screwed if we had to play in the first round.”
“Quit your yapping! We still have to check in! Let’s gooo!” Ren Rou urged.
When High School 13’s esports team finally entered the venue, the first two teams were already up on stage. The big screen above them was still dark, so they weren’t in Champion Select yet. Most likely, they were sticking in their own keyboards and doing last minute checks on their microphones and settings. A large crowd had gathered, many of whom were shoppers just passing by.
The large screen above the stage lit up. The League of Legends logo played on the screen, followed by the full bracket for the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. Then the screen zoomed in to the top left of the bracket. It zoomed in on the first match of the Round of 16. One team was a familiar name to the players from High School 13’s esports team.
Tonji Affiliated High versus High School 4
Liu Yue grabbed Lin Feng by the shoulder and pointed at the screen. “Hey, look guys! Tonji is playing in the first match!”
Yang Fan looked up at the screen. “Hmm.” He adjusted his glasses and then said, “If I’m not mistaken, High School 4 made it to this stage of the competition last year too. But Tonji is the better team. From what I heard, High School 4 hasn’t gotten any better. This should be an easy win for Tonji. Seems like they’ll be through to the quarters.”
“Haha! Who cares about Tonji anyways? We kicked their asses black and blue!” Ouyang laughed.
Ren Rou got back from checking in. She was just in time to hear Ouyang laugh about Tonji Affiliated High. Wasn’t that ad-carry from Tonji… She turned to the stage, where the players from Tonji Affiliated High were getting ready for Champion Select. Yeah. Hehe. That’s him. She nudged Tang Bingyao and teased, “Hey, Tang Tang. Look, it’s that ad-carry from Tonji. You should go up and say hi to him.”
Tang Bingyao tilted her head, looking from Ren Rou to the ad-carry from Tonji. Then she shook her head and said, “No thanks, not interested.”
Wei Dong snorted and laughed. “Go do it! Haha! He’ll run away again and lose Tonji the game. Hahahah! She really got him good last time! Hahaha!”
While the others were laughing about the Shyboi who’d ran away after Tang Bingyao asked him a very innocent question, something that’d looked equally absurd and hilarious, Lin Feng’s phone started buzzing. He took it out and saw it was a message from Su Xue.
Lin Feng:「Yo! What’s up?」
Su Xue:「You there yet? We’re sitting in the stands to the far end.」
Lin Feng:「We just got here! I think Ren Rou checked us in. Are there still empty seats? I’ll come find you.」
Su Xue:「No. It’s full. People are standing around and all. Don’t bother. Doubt you’d even get through the crowd. You’re playing in the next game, right? Focus on that with your friends! We’ll be cheering you on when you go up on stage!」
Lin Feng:「Thanks! We’ll win this game! I’ll make it awesome!」
“Yo, Lin Feng. Lin Feng!” Liu Yue said, trying to get his friend’s attention. When Lin Feng looked up from his phone, Liu Yue asked, “Who were you texting just now? Tang Tang is right here.”
Ouyang felt his Ouyang Senses tingle. He ran up to Lin Feng and threw his arm around him. Then he leaned in close and looked at Lin Feng’s phone, getting a glimpse before Lin Feng put it away. “Su Xue! It said Su Xue! I saw it! Wait. Wasn’t that the girl you’re living with?” Ouyang’s eyes went wide and round. Su Xue. After Lin Feng had told him about the stream, he’d looked her up. Su Xue. He started smiling and said, “I checked her out on Huya the other day! She’s hot as hell! You’re actually living with her! Nggh! It’s so unfair! You lucky son of a bitch!”
The other guys, all four of them, nodded. Su Xue was hot. They’d seen it with their own eyes. This was the wrong thing to do. They could feel the hair on their backs stand on end. A terrifying gaze landed on them. Ren Rou. The club Prez. She looked at them, one at a time, and curled her lips in disgust. “Ughh. You guys make me want to puke! Simping over girl streamers… You guys have a fucking problem! What’s stopping you from interacting with a real girl in the real world? We have Tang Tang right here! She’s miles better than any of those stupid internet thots! I swear. If Tang Tang tried streaming, she’d become the most famous one out there! EASY!”
Ouyang chuckled. He considered himself somewhat of an expert on the subject. He licked his finger and slicked his hair. “Don’t be so sure about that, Rou Rou. These female streamers are a genre of their own. That Su Xue, right? She’s hella hot, but only a small streamer in the genre. There are others many times more popular. It takes real hard work and dedication!” He then turned to Tang Bingyao and continued, “I don’t want to tell you that you can’t. But it’s really hard. I’m not sure you have what it takes. You could still stream of course! You’re really good at the game! I’m sure many people would come and watch just to see your high ELO gameplays!”
Ren Rou looked at Ouyang, increasingly incredulous at his words. “What the fuck is wrong with you? GROSS! ALL YOU BOYS DO IS WATCH THOSE STREAMERS WITH YOUR HANDS DOWN YOUR PANTS! STUPID PERVERTS!”
Tang Bingyao looked at Ouyang and Ren Rou who were screaming at each other, their faces almost touching, the spit firing off from their lips. Then Ren Rou had had enough. She moved her arm back, flattened her hand, and then struck Ouyang in the face. His scream silenced the entire venue for a moment. But Tang Bingyao wasn’t really paying attention to this. Streamers made money. She liked money. So she figured that streaming might be something for her. She looked down at her chest. Maybe if I use a push up bra? She shook her head. It wouldn’t be enough to compete with those kinds of streamers. Hmm. I can’t do that for now. Maybe later. I’d have to rely on my game skills first.
The Round of 16 of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament would be played over four days. Two rounds were played on each day. The format was a best of three series. Just like the previous round. Tonji Affiliated High was well accustomed to this format. They knew the importance of winning the first game and getting off to a good start. They claimed the win, fast and easy, then moved into the second game. Momentum was really important. They went into the second game with the focus and conviction that they could win, and within 10 minutes they’d pulled open such a big lead that it was hard not to win it.
Chu Fang leaned forward in his chair and watched the game with great attention. These were the most important moments of his career. If he found a talent, his year was made. If he didn’t. Well, then not so much. He nodded, slowly, then mumbled, “As expected. Tonji have a great team. Two Masters is enough for them to win this match. But it’s not enough. It’s just not enough…”
It was incredibly difficult to find the diamond in the rough amongst these high schoolers. But there was always one. There had to be! It was just that the students were in high school for several years, so the teams didn’t change all that much from one year to the next. Tonji Affiliated High was almost a copy from last year, as was High School 4. Chu Fang couldn’t just look at the ranked ladder for talent either. That was just one aspect of skill, and if someone truly talented showed themselves there, they’d be recruited before he’d ever find them.
Chu Fang’s demands for talents were really steep too. Challengers. That was what he was looking for. Preferably those who ranked in the Top 30 consistently. Even better if they did that on the Ionia server! On top of that. They also needed to be great team players. If they couldn’t lead a team, they weren’t worth his time. Then there was pressure. Someone who broke under pressure was no good. Not worth his time. Like this, the list of potential candidates dropped until there was almost no one left. There really was almost no one who caught his eye. So far, there were only Zeng Rui, the Support for Shanghai High School, and the ad-carry for Shanghai International.
It used to be so different… There used to be actual talent. Chu Fang shook his head as he thought back to the past. He entered the League of Legends scene in Season 1. He was just a regular staff member at the Shanghai Esports Association. For the most part, he was assisting the old vice president, Fang Hao, who was promoted to President a while back. They’d even gone to London together to watch Worlds. That was the last time he saw so many true talents together. If only we could get another year like that…
In Season 1, there wasn’t just the Korean kid. Rake, the God Emperor, actually had someone who could go toe-to-toe with him back then. A 15 years old from China. That kid was good. Real good. I bet he’s still just as good… “Ahh, such a waste.” Chu Fang sighed. That kid had disappeared. No one knew where he was now. They really needed to find someone with his level of talent.
The crowd cheered in the background. It sounded dull, but was loud enough to pull Chu Fang out of his thoughts. He looked up at the large screen. Tonji Affiliated High had won the second game and qualified for the quarterfinals. As was expected. He grabbed his clipboard and looked at the next matchup. “Bright High versus High School 13… Bright High made it to the Round of 16 last year. They should be alright. Oh! High School 13! Aren’t they the guys who beat Tonji in the first round of the qualifiers?” He looked up at the stage. The host grabbed a microphone. Maybe?