164

Supplication to a Forgotten God

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I don’t have time for you. Every word in that sentence stabbed into Liu Zhengjie’s ego, deflating it with yet another cut. His shoulder slumped and he let his head droop backwards and forward a little. He’d just experienced literal verbal whiplash. He didn’t come here to see me? The gears in his mind rumbled and stuttered to life. He started running through everything that just happened, trying to understand the reality of the situation. Chu Fang had shown up, and then had run towards the group. That much was clear to Liu Zhengjie. He saw Chu Fang running towards the group he was standing with. He had turned towards Chu Fang and  started talking. That’s where everything broke down for Liu Zhengjie. Chu Fang had brushed him off without a glance. Chu Feng didn’t run over to talk to me, so… CHU FANG MUST BE HERE TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE! Liu Zhengjie’s struggling brain had finally caught up to the moment. Who… Who is he here to see if not for me? That’s when he realized that Chu Fang wasn’t in front of him at all. He looked around, trying to catch up to what had happened while he was lost in his thoughts. Chu Fang was now sitting on a chair, staring in the direction of High School 13’s team while looking mindblown. But they looked just as confused as he was. Except… Him?

“He’s not me! Completely different Lin Feng! It’s a common name! Not me!” Lin Feng cried out, frantic. He grabbed Tang Bingyao by her waist and moved her a little, just enough to turn her into a human shield and kill any vision Chu Feng had on him. If he couldn’t see Chu Fang, then Chu Fang couldn’t see him! Right? Lin Feng shook his head, fervently, and shouted, “You’ve got the wrong person! It’s definitely not me!”

The players from Shanghai International stared at Lin Feng. They couldn’t comprehend what was going on. The group from High School 13 was much the same. Everyone turned to look at Lin Feng, speechless. They knew him as the odd goofball he liked to be. But this was a new low even for him. This was by far his worst attempt at hiding from a situation!

“IT IS YOU!” Chu Fang yelled, excited. Up until now, the signs were there. Everything pointed towards this being Lin Feng. Maple. Ling “Maple’ Feng! The prodigy from back in Season 1! The Wunderkin who all of China’s hopes rested on back then! But he’d also argued all of these signs away in his mind, he didn’t want to get his hopes up. When Lin Feng disappeared… it was hard on all of them. So Chu Fang convinced himself that there were other explanations and reasons that could, potentially, make sense. But after he heard Lin Feng speak, there was no doubt anymore. There was no way he could pretend he didn’t see what his heart already knew! He’d know that voice anywhere and anytime. It was a little bit deeper than he remembered. More mature, tinged with that jaded melancholy that comes from knowing tragedy. But it was still Lin Feng’s voice! He shook his head, smiling, and said, “Stop hiding! I can see you. I know it’s you!”

Under the confused gazes of the people around him, Lin Feng stepped out from behind Tang Bingyao. He walked forward two steps, then looked up at Chu Fang. He looked right into Chu Fang’s eyes while ruffling his hair and laughing awkwardly. “Uhm-uh… Hi! Hey… Long time no see.”

In that awkward, miraculous, and truly confusing moment, there was no Shanghai International or High School 13. Everyone was united in their shock and confusion. All of them stared at this exchange between Lin Feng and Chu Fang, trying to figure out how this was even possible. Trying to figure out what was even happening! Lin Feng’s friends knew that he was really good at League, and they knew that he’d been playing the game since Season 1. They remembered how he kept telling them how he was “a challenger on the Ionia server”. That was a lot more than what Shanghai International’s team knew about Lin Feng. But even with this extra information, they still couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that the Vice President of the Shanghai Esports Association had come running just to talk to Lin Feng! Chu Fang wasn’t even passing by on his way to do something more important! He had specifically run towards them for Lin Feng! No, not even that. Chu Fang had chased after them and arrived completely out of breath. He’d ignored someone as talented as Liu Zhengjie, and then collapsed into a chair while staring at Lin Feng. Then the only person he wanted to talk to was Lin Feng. Ren Rou, Yan Liang, everyone stared at the two, speechless.

However, even when combining the shock of everyone else together here, it still wasn’t anywhere near the amount of shock Chu Fang felt. It battered at his heart. It tried to knock him off his socks. He smiled, that dim-witted smile of ecstasy, and forgot where he was. The people around him disappeared for a moment, all he could see was Lin Feng. The supreme League of Legends talent. Then he blinked. More specifically, he forced his eyes shut and told himself, Keep it together. Keep it together. He opened his eyes a moment later and smiled, kindly. That’s when he noticed everyone else was still around, too many of them. He nodded at Lin Feng and said, “Come, let’s find somewhere private to talk.”

The players from Shanghai International watched Lin Feng nod in agreement to THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE SHANGHAI ESPORTS ASSOCIATION. Then they watched Lin Feng and Chu Fang walk away, neither paying any attention to them. Chu Fang didn’t even say anything to Liu Zhengjie! Their biggest talent. The guy on their team who was good enough to go professional. Their teammate who they’d been bragging about, telling everyone how the Shanghai Esports Association was showing great interest in his development. But that reflected spotlight they’d been basking in? It sputtered out and died. Chu Fang had ignored them, hadn’t even spared them a glance. His eyes were locked on Lin Feng from start to finish. They felt their faces turn red, Liu Zhengjie more than the others.

“Awkward! Awkward, Awkward, Awkward.” Ouyang laughed. He looked over towards Liu Zhengjie, whose red hot face of embarrassment was quickly warping to anger, and continued, “Oh well. Karma’s a bitch. Gnarly, radical, on the block I’m magical. See me at your college campus

“HAHAHAHAAH-haha! Oh my god!” Liu Yue said, laughing and pointing towards Liu Zhengjie. “I’ve never seen someone get hit by tribulation lightning this hard in any webnovel! Hahaha! Did you guys see that? The Vice President ignored him so hard that his brain broke! Haha! Look at his face! Oh my god, this is my favorite minute of this entire event!”

Liu Zhengjie looked over towards Liu Yue. He glowered. He raged. He, he… He cracked his knuckles and raised his fist. That’s it, you stupid shit! Watch me! There was only one way he knew how to deal with this. His words had failed him, so he could only resort to this. He stepped forward, towards Liu Yue, charging his fist up. His foot stamped the ground, drumming his fury. I’ll kick your sorry ass to the hospital! And then he got stopped. Yan Liang grabbed his raised arm and pulled it down. He turned to look at his Midlaner and friend, confused.

“Come, we’re leaving,” Yan Liang said, sullen. He dragged Liu Zhengjie with him, and the others followed as well. There was nothing left to do here. All their big words, the bravado with which they moved, it was all gone. It was smashed under Chu Fang’s feet. But he wouldn’t leave just like that. That wasn’t his style. He raised his voice just loud enough that the group from High School 13 could hear him, “They’re not worth our time.”

“Oh! OH! What was that about resorting to violence? Feeling all big now, are we?” Ouyang shouted after the departing group, savouring this moment of schadenfreude. Then he turned to his friends and sighed, “Man! That was awesome! Serves them right for being dicks. EVEN THE UNIVERSE IS MY BRO, BITCH!”

Yang Fan smiled at Ouyang, but then adjusted his glasses. He frowned, staring in the direction Lin Feng and Chu Fang left in, and said, “Still, I wonder how Lin Feng knows the Vice President of the Shanghai Esports Association.”

Yang Fan wasn’t the only one who wanted to know this. Every one of them did. Ren Rou turned to Su Xue and asked, “Do you know? You’ve known him the longest out of all of us and you two live together.”

Su Xue shook her head, staring after Lin Feng in a daze. She kept shaking her head until she realized everyone was staring at her. “Uhh…” She blinked a few times and then said, “I don’t know. He’s never told me anything about this before.”

Ouyang directly turned to Tang Bingyao and asked, “What about you? Do you know?”

Tang Bingyao tilted her head, but remained silent. Lin Feng had told her he used to play League of Legends professionally. With that in mind, it wasn’t strange for him to know Chu Fang. It even kind of made sense. But that’s his story to tell. She was his friend. He told her things in confidence, and it was up to her to keep his confidence. So she shook her head and said, “I don’t know either.”

“Welp. Guess we’ll have to ask him when he gets back then!” Liu Yue said.

“Haha, watch me when he gets back,” Ouyang laughed, rubbing his hands together. “I’m going to use my super bro power and wring all the secrets out of him!”

Lin Feng waved goodbye to Chu Fang and said, “Thanks for understanding. I’ll be going. Byebye!” Then he bolted away, running back towards his friends who were waiting for him on the other side of the venue.

Chu Fang stared after Lin Feng, shaking his head. They’d only spoken for 10 minutes, barely enough to catch up. He’d wanted to talk more. There was so much he wanted to talk about with Lin Feng. But he also understood that the kid’s friends were waiting for him and that he couldn’t hold him up too long. It was a short conversation about the important things. Important things… He shook his head and muttered, “You punk. Giving me a headache on your first day back. How could you do that to me after all we’ve been through…” Then he started smiling. He covered his mouth in disbelief and shook his head. He’s back… I never thought… He’s back. He’s finally back! He came back!

As for Lin Feng, he ran back to his friends and caught up with them. He laughed and apologized and thanked them for waiting. Then he started walking towards the exit of the venue—

Ouyang pressed his hand against Lin Feng’s chest and forced him to stop. He looked his friend up and down and then straight in the eyes. In a calm voice that allowed no arguing, he said, “Explain yourself. From one bro to another. Tell me how you know him!”

“Yeah! Tell us!” Liu Yue chimed in.

Ren Rou waited a moment, just long enough for Ouyang and Liu Yue to shut up but not so long that Lin Feng could answer. Then she said, “Tell me what you guys talked about. What did he want from you?”

Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and said, “Oh, that? Uh, we didn’t really talk about anything specific. We were just catching up.” That was the excuse he was going with. Two old friends catching up. Then he went on telling a story that was loosely based on the truth, about how they’d met at the Chinese regional Finals back in Season 1. Since then they hadn’t seen each other for years, but it’d left a lasting impression. So when Chu Fang saw him today, he just really wanted to catch up. That was what they were chatting about, and that was the story Lin Feng was sticking to, despite him scratching the back of his head and refusing to look up at his friends for more than a quick glance.

Everyone knew Lin Feng was lying. He wasn’t fooling anyone. They’d all seen how Chu Fang reacted after recognizing Lin Feng. There was no way that he’d act like that after seeing a random person he met once several years earlier. That just wasn’t how life worked. But the KG versus SSK game was on and they had to hurry home if they wanted to make it. So they let him get away with it. They could badger the truth out of him another time. There was no hurry. They had at least until the end of the year.

Su Xue and Lin Feng took a cab home after separating from the others. That was also how long Su Xue could keep her mouth shut. When they sat on the backseat of the car, her curiosity got the better of her. She turned to Lin Feng and said, “You weren’t telling the truth. I’m not that oblivious. Tell me the real story!”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Lin Feng asked, innocent as ever.

Su Xue rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Hmph. Quit the act. I’m not that stupid. Whatever, if you don’t want to tell me, don’t tell me. But don’t lie to me. Just say you don’t want to tell me. I don’t care.”

“It’s not that…” Lin Feng scratched his head, awkwardly. He really hadn’t talked much with Chu Fang. For the most part, it was just two old friends catching up. Beyond the pleasantries, he’d also informed Chu Fang about his intentions. His plans for returning to the professional scene and had asked him to keep that quiet. He didn’t want the people he knew from back then finding out he was playing again. Not for any reason in particular, but just because it didn’t feel right to him at the moment. I’m not back yet. He chewed on the inside of his lips as he thought back to their talk, staring out of the front window of the cab. Then he mumbled, barely audible, “I’ll tell you when the time is right.”

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Big Thank You To All Our Readers for Getting Our Discord Server to the Level 3 Boost!

Shanks Thought: We’ve gotten pretty far into the chapters so far, and I’ve been thinking it’s about time we put some faces on the characters we’ve all been reading about. I want to hold a fan art contest, and I’m wondering if any artists in the community—if you are out there—would be interested? It’s something that I’ve wanted to do since back in Rebirth Thief, but never got around to. This was mostly because apart from Nie Yan, the rest of the characters in that story didn’t really have any personality. But, Rise is different. I really love the cast. I like Tang Bingyao. I like Su Xue. I like Lin Feng, Tian Tian, Ouyang, Nightsong, and the rest of the gang. They actually feel like a real cast of characters that I want to follow around. So, I’d like to see if we can put a face to them and bring them to life on canvas. Because so far, they’re only vague images in my head. That, and I think it’d be something really fun to do with you guys.

Dev Thought: Just a couple of housekeeping things first. Today is still going to be a double chapter release. We’re pushing the first one out early so you guys can savor the cliff and the moment for a bit, and then getting the second one out later today. As for the art contest, hell yeah! Just so you guys know, we had a truly hype moment yesterday and the Rise Community Discord Server hit level 3 boost. Actually, we’ve got 32 boosts at the time of this thought. More than the actual WW server does. The community we’re building here is beyond fantastic! But the nice thing is that the whole Server Boost Level 3 thing lets us have a custom server banner and everything. Some artwork from the community for that would be nice too. Oh, and we’ve got a vanity URL invite for the server now. https://discord.gg/risethewebnovel to join the phenomenal community that’s sprung to life around this silly little webnovel! Tell your friends, don’t tell your parents!

An art contest would be super cool though! And we’d finally get a bunch of art to put up on the front page for the novel! OUYANG CLAN, THIS IS OUR MOMENT TO BRING OUYANG TO LIFE! I KNOW THERE ARE SOME OF YOU OUT THERE WHO CAN DRAW AND UNDERSTAND THE TRUE ESSENCE OF OUR FAVORITE DUDE-BRO!

Sietse Thought: OUYANG GANG LET’S GOOO! And maybe also some love for Zuo You? She’s the best girl. Fight me!

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