KG would carry on no matter what the obstacles were! They refused to give up! When the going gets tough, they would just get tougher! And, win. SSK was strong. Yes. SSK was great. Sure. SSK was a million things and more. But they weren’t invincible! Someone would beat them, eventually. Maybe it really would be KG. All they had to do was to forget all the reasons why they’d lose, ignore all the paths that led to defeat, and focus on that one singularity that could see them win this series! To that end, they received the unconditional support of their peers and fans!
「The LPL stands with you! Good luck KG!」
「We know you can do it! Show everyone how good we are!」
「Fight! Fight! Fight! And never give up!」
「Play the best you can do! Make us proud!」
Between the many short messages of encouragement, there was the odd essay. Most were written by overzealous fans, but there were also a couple of big names in the scene who joined in. One of them was Qinghe, the official LPL caster for Worlds.
Qinghe:「I’ve followed KG’s Worlds journey since the moment they landed in London. I was there the first week, when everything went the wrong way. They looked lost. Not just in the game, but also outside of it. But sometime in that week off, they started looking better. More excited. Confident. Then came the miracle week. What more can I say? It was a true miracle. We all remember that five man Hecarim ultimate. How they beat the Emperor team Legend. And what about that pentakill? They were works of art from a true legend of the game! Our very own God Roundy!
The Quarterfinals were a continuation of that second week. We got to see the best KG all year. More importantly, what I saw in them was hope. A team chasing their dreams. Don’t get me wrong here. Hopes and dreams aren’t enough to beat SSK. That is going to take a miracle. But isn’t that what KG has been doing? Creating miracles? They beat an Emperor team!
The LPL is no stranger in defeating Emperor teams. We all remember what happened at the Mid-Season Invitational. Hand of God defeated Fate. We’ve beaten two Emperor teams now. Isn’t SSK just another Emperor team? Well, no, they’re the Emperor team. But an Emperor team nonetheless.
Maybe, and mind you, I know this is reaching. I know better than most how absurd this challenge is. SSK is the best team in the world for a good reason. But maybe, just maybe, if the cards fall the right way. If KG has the best day of their lives and SSK loses focus for just a bit. Maybe if we all show our support for KG and help them play at a higher level than ever before. Maybe they can create one more miracle. The miracle of defeating SSK!
I realize this is just a dream of mine. We can’t realistically expect for that to happen. So let’s do what we can and hope that they fight the good fight. That they never give up and do our LPL proud! That much alone is enough for me. And I know it’s enough for the KG fans around the world too. So, KG, this is to you. Do your best! You have my full support! I’ll cheer you on from behind the caster’s desk!」
Qinghe had hit the nail on its head. Between all the support everyone was showing KG, his post was a breath of fresh air. He knew how strong SSK was. And how weak KG was in comparison. There was no comparing the two teams. It would take more than just skill to close this gap. But at the same time, he didn’t give up. There was still hope for KG. This resonated with a lot of fans and other professionals in the scene. They left comments and upvoted the post, using their combined power to get this message to the players from KG. The reality of the situation was tough. But it wasn’t hopeless.
The weather wasn’t great on Ka’anapali Beach, Hawaii. The skies were grey and the waters still. It was the precursor to a storm that was gaining strength just over the horizon. Three walked out onto the beach. His bare feet pushed into the sand, the grains wriggling between his toes. He looked up ahead. A little further on the beach stood One, staring out over the ocean. He raised his eyebrows, surprised, then shook his head and walked up to his friend. “Hey. Did you hear? The semis got announced. It’s KG versus SSK.”
One didn’t react. He didn’t even turn to look at Three. His eyes remained firmly locked on the ocean. The sounds of the water, strangely waveless. It sounded calm. In this almost threatening silence rested something ominous. The calm before the storm.
Three shrugged and clicked his tongue. “I kind of hoped to see them go up against Season or Legend. Who knows, they might have pulled a win out of the Rabbit’s Hat. Don’t see them getting anything in this series against SSK though. Looks pretty hopeless if you ask me.”
One didn’t bother answering Three. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. KG was good. SSK was better. It was as simple as that. He looked over the water and said, “You see this? The moment you landed, the weather went bad. Me and the missus have only had blue skies and sun all day. Every day. Until you came. Now it’s shit.”
“And that is my fault? Is that what you’re getting at?” Three asked, cocking his eyebrow. He then followed One’s gaze. No longer talking, he could hear the distant sound of thunder. Weak, but definitely there. The clouds were growing darker. He shook his head and said, “Huh, guess what they say is true. Bad news comes with bad weather.”
One narrowed his eyes and said, “A storm is coming.”
The next couple of days were nice and comfortable for the members from High School 13’s team. They were one of the first teams to qualify for the quarter finals. There were three more days and six more series to be played. They could watch them, or just chill and do something else altogether. That was, when Lin Feng didn’t leave them with tasks. His training schedule for them was never empty. There was always something more to do. Some different aspects of the game to get better at.
The extra free time Lin Feng had for the next couple of days perfectly lined up with Su Xue’s plan of recording gameplay for her commentary videos. Of course, he’d done enough for her for free. It was time for her to pay up. So he came with a list of demands if he were to help her record gameplay. It went something like, “Ok, I want more food for dinner. More late night snacks. Extra variation. Think mapo tofu, chilli chicken, stir-fried pork, sauerkraut and pork stew, konjac, roast duck, sliced beef offals, pickled cabbage and fish, Sichuan style braised prawn, pan-fried dumplings, fish fillet, stir-fry bamboo shoots, steamed pork with salted vegetables, shredded cabba—”
“Enough! ENOUGH! ALRIGHT! Alright! I’ll do it. I’ll make you more food. Jeez. Are you afraid of going hungry or something?” Su Xue grumbled, hiding her smile. She enjoyed cooking. Making a little bit more wasn’t much of a punishment for her. Plus, she got to learn some new recipes!
That same night, after enjoying dinner together, Lin Feng and Su Xue set up in her bedroom. Su Xue booted up her computer and prepared her recording software, double checked her settings, and made sure she was good to go. As for Lin Feng, he started his VPN and opened the League client. His account was on the Korean server, so that was where they’d be getting the footage from. This was a little something that would help set Su Xue’s video apart from the thousands of others who were trying to make a name for themselves. After all, the Korean server had a higher reputation than the Chinese ones.
To that end, Lin Feng even came up with a name for the video series. “Smurfing in Korea.” But Su Xue wasn’t as enthused about it as he was. She didn’t think it was all that funny. Quite the opposite, really. She got a little angry with him and shouted, “Smurfing my ass! Do you know how good the players on that server are? I’ll be happy if you don’t get your ass kicked! Smurfing idiot—”
Su Xue found the words caught in her mouth. Lin Feng had just logged in. She could see his name. “CN•Maple? A little patriot we got here, huh? Did you really have to add the CN? Oh well, whatever. Hey, click on your profile. Show me what rank you are!”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and clicked on his profile page. “Oh, I just promoted to Platinum.”
“The hell? Didn’t you say you bought a Gold 3 account?” Su Xue cried out, shocked. He’d only bought an account the other day! She shook her head, trying to clear it up, then looked at him and asked, “How? How did you get to Platinum already? It doesn’t make sense.”
“It does! I’m really good at climbing the ladder too!” Lin Feng laughed. Then he balled his fist, showing off that goofy smile of his, and threw his arm in the air. “I’ll get to Challenger in no time!”
Su Xue rolled her eyes and breathed out heavily. “God. Why, always? Forget it. Enough. You think it’s that easy? There are only a couple of LPL pros who managed to do it! It’s really difficult! You’ll see. Anyways, start the game already! Who knows how long it’s going to take us to get one that’s good for a video.”
It did take more than a few games. Just like Su Xue feared. She watched Lin Feng play five games. Each game was more boring than the last. None of them were worth a dime for her videos! She wasn’t even going to bother trying to make them work. The reason for this was simple. Lin Feng. He wasn’t just really good on the Ionia server. He was also really good on the Korean server. Five games. Five one sided stomps by him. Four lasted 20 minutes after the opposing team surrendered. As for the fifth, it ended after only 14 minutes, when the other team gave up. They stopped protecting their lanes and base and let Lin Feng and his team push through mid to win the game.
Su Xue looked at her recordings. She scanned through them, searching for anything of value. There was nothing. She grabbed her hair and said, “Why! Everyone always talks about how the Koreans never give up! A bunch of liars! They gave up after 14 minutes! They stopped trying… Why won’t they play for the late game and try to get a comeback! I just want to see a good game. Please…”
“A comeback is impossible!” Lin Feng laughed. He looked at Su Xue and pounded his chest. “I carry too hard!”
Su Xue put her elbows on the desk and leaned on her palms, rubbing her eyes. “Yes yes yes, you’re amazing at the game. I bow down to your greatness. Great.” She sighed and looked at the five thumbnails on her screen. “A-are these kinds of games even worth anything? It was too easy. Of course they aren’t… What happened to the whole Diamond in China is Silver in Korea? These games don’t look like Diamond to me…”
Dev and His Mighty Steed
Dev Thought: So I’ve been having a series of strange dreams. Like weirdly vivid, cinematic, action-packed dreams. I’m not sure if they’re just dreams or prophetic visions from the PoniGod. But I thought I’d share the ones that I’ve had so far with you. Bear in mind, they are a bit disjointed and hard to interpret as all potential prophecies are. But I believe that together, we of the PoniHerd can decipher their meaning. We can lead humanity to a brighter future. For both Man and Poni kind!
I was on a yacht. Like a huge yacht. On the middle of a river. It was night. We drifted slowly, languidly, on the river with nothing but verdant jungle on either side. The music of the insects and the band on another deck of the yacht mingled. It was a formal party, I was in a tuxedo. I walked onto the outdoor deck. There’s a woman there. Beautiful. In a fantastic dress. She smiles at me, and I walk over. I tell her that it’s a nice night tonight, a nice night to look at the stars. She giggles. It sounds like bells on the wind, the loveliest of chimes. Melodic. Then she looks up at the sky and says, “It would be. If it wasn’t for these clouds.”
I look up, take a deep breath in and blow. The clouds wisp across the sky and now we can see the clouds. I look at her, all swagger and arrogance and sexy smoulder. Then I say, “Now we can see the stars, eh” But there was a storm on the horizon. Thunder rumbled, then there was a flash. It was the lightning before the thunder. The girl pulled the shawl tighter around her shoulders. But I wasn’t about to let a measly storm stop me. I hold out my hand and capture the lightning, capture the storm. It coalesces into a ball in the palm of my hand, and I toss it away. Apparently I can control the weather.
Then the scene cuts. Shanks and I are just walking down a block in New York City. We’re talking, shooting the shit. Then we see people screaming and running towards us. They’re scared. Something is happening. Explosions boom in the skies. I can see Shanks’ face. He’s staring at the source of the commotion, an unknown enemy attacking. His face is etched with righteous fury, the desire to save lives. He looks at me, I can see the fire in his eyes. Then he says, “DEVS! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!” He lifts his right foot up and stomps it down on the sidewalk twice. I hear it echo across the city, bouncing off the buildings. Then Shanks is engulfed in a bright white light and begins transforming. Where once stood Shanks, there was a marvelous Pegasus. Shanks lifts himself on his hindlegs and lets out a mighty NEIGH of warning, unfurling his massive wings. He is a Stallion of the Skies. I hear him in my mind, I know what needs to be done.
I jump up onto his back and yell, “HI-HO SILVERSHANKS!”
Shanks starts running, and then takes off into the skies. I hold my hand out and summon my spear. Gungnir. Then we set off to battle. To defend the helpless. To fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. We are a team, two halves of an epic duo. My spear and his wings, against all those that would threaten humanity. My fists and his hooves, ready to smite down injustice!