Lin Feng knew that running into Chu Fang was inevitable. The first of many people from his past that Lin Feng would bump into on this climb back to the top. The first of many that he’d have to confront since he ran away all of those years ago. Just to name some, there were the friends he’d made along the way all those years ago in Season 1. He wanted to see them again, and he liked to think they’d want to see him again too. Then there were his rivals and other players he’d enjoyed playing against, the fans who’d cheered him on and sent him fanmail, and everyone else who was connected in one way or another to the Season 1 run of his team. There were too many to name, but he remembered their faces and names. He was both looking forward to seeing them again and dreading it at the same time.
But Lin Feng wasn’t planning on looking for them just yet. There was more than enough time to reconnect with old friends and rekindle old rivalries later on. Right now, he wasn’t Maple. He was a regular player getting back into the game and he didn’t want to lean on his old name to do that. This was a path he wanted to walk on his own two feet. That wouldn’t be easy. He was well aware of that. It would take time to find his old form, to adjust to the changes in the game, and further hone his skills. But he had that time as long as he stayed in anonymity. There was no pressure to perform, there were no teammates that he had to work together with, there was only himself and his dream. The dream of stepping onto the world stage. He wanted nothing more than to make it back there and fight against Rake again. But this time, he would win. For that reason, he chose to wait. He would take one step at a time, keeping himself grounded, and only let the spotlight fall on him when the time was right.
That day wasn’t far away, but it wasn’t today. Right now there were different things on his mind. For starters, he’d just qualified with his team from High School 13 for the semifinals of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. This was a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but it meant the world to his school. They’d never made it this far before and would be celebrating through the night if it weren’t for another event taking place halfway across the world. This event did matter in the grand scheme of League of Legends. It was the semifinals match between KG and SSK at the World Championships. Millions of people, both those who played the game and those who just enjoyed watching it or reading about it, tuned in long before the match even started. They were here to listen to the analysts and watch the introductions of both teams. They were only a small fraction of the number of people who would be watching when the series officially started.
Su Xue strapped on her apron and put on her chef’s hat. It was the basic attire for her part time job as Lin Feng’s cook. There wasn’t a whole lot of time today, because the KG versus SSK game was starting soon. So she prepared something quick and easy, though she did start from scratch, and served it. The aromas floating in the air wafted into Lin Feng’s room and the person in question soon followed his nose into the dining room. They enjoyed a quick dinner, which was halfway interrupted by an alarm going off. Su Xue had set it at 10:30 PM, 30 minutes before the start of Worlds.
Su Xue didn’t bother with doing the dishes, nor did she let Lin Feng finish his food. She dragged him along to her room and shoved him down in his chair. Then she turned on her stream and pinged the people in her QQ group chat. This was perhaps the most important match at the League of Legends Season 5 World Championships! It was also an excellent opportunity for her to bring in new viewers! So she had to be on time. She absolutely could not be late.
Su Xue started her stream 20 minutes before the start of the first game, her regulars started flooding her stream chat and soon enough thousands of people were watching her and Lin Feng. They were all here for their stream shoutcasting on the best of five series between KG and SSK.
「This is going to be siicckkkkkk!! Best of 5! I wanna see it go to game 5 woooooo!!」
「FK GAME 5, 3-0 KG LEEZZ GOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!1!!!1!」
「shit tho…. cant belief our shit luck. ssk… rip」
「ah shut up! i’d almost forgotten.. uch. lets just hope for the best」
「FKING DOWNERS! KG DA BEST WOOOOOOO!!!!」
「lmao watch god roundy carry the shit outta this game LOLOLOLOOL!」
Su Xue read through the chat conversation, picking out several lines to read out loud. Then she flashed a smile at the camera and said, “We got our very own li’l bro here with us tonight…” she turned to Lin Feng and asked, “So, what do you think about KG’s chances today?”
Lin Feng rubbed his chin, looking up into the vast nothingness that was Su Xue’s ceiling, thinking. “Hmm…” He let it drag out for a bit longer, but then shook his head with a long sigh. “It’s going to be really hard for KG. Really hard. Nothing is impossible. But, they’re going to have to play the best game of their lives if they want to win this tonight.”
The venue for the Season 5 League of Legends World Championships semi-finals was on the Heysel Plateau in Brussels, Belgium. There was a large arena with a capacity of 15,000. It was full. It was packed. Not just the arena itself, but the area around it too, with the Atomium in the backdrop. The ground was shaking due to fans jumping up and down, watching the large monitors in-and-outside the arena. It was the middle of the day, but it looked like all of Brussels was here. Like everyone had taken the day off to show up and scream their lungs out.
However loud the fans on the Heysel Plateau were, the two teams who’d come in action tonight didn’t hear any of this. They were seated in soundproof booths on the stage. From where they sat, they couldn’t even see each other. Their focus was on their screens, making sure everything was in order before the series started. This was the matchup of a lifetime for KG. This was their chance to make their mark on League of Legends history! Only three games, three wins, stood between them and the Finals. It was the combination of this knowledge and knowing who their opponents were that raised their pre-game jitters to a whole new level. They could barely function, trembling and shaking.
Tian Tian was no exception. His teammates looked towards him, searching for their pillar, but he couldn’t offer them what they needed. Not right now. He was trembling and shaking more violently than any of them. It wasn’t strange that he acted like this. Anyone in his shoes would do the same! After all, he was about to face off against the strongest team in the world! This was an opportunity of a lifetime, but also not really an opportunity. SSK was on a different level entirely. Two teams so close together, yet so far apart. But despite this, despite his every instinct telling him to run and hide, he put his right hand on the mouse and his left on the keyboard. He stared at his screen and muttered through gritted teeth, “I-i’ll win! We’re going to win this! I-i just have to try really hard, and then… Then we can do this! We can!”
There were two gaming booths, with windows all around. The fans could see their players preparing for the games from a distance, but also up close with the facecams on the large screen above the gaming booths. On one side, players were looking around, visibly unwell and searching for anything to latch onto to ease their nerves, while on the other side players were joking and laughing and almost looking bored. To one team this was the game of a century. It was their opportunity to beat the best and become the best! While for the other team it was just another game they had to play. Play and a win would come. They were too good not to win. There was too much talent that combined into flawless teamwork to lose. Talent on each part of the team, but most of all on their Midlaner. Their starplayer was the best player in the world. There was no denying his skill. He really was the best. The other team had a good player, a very, very good player. But that was just it. One team consisted of very good players to form a very good team, while the other was built on the best players in the world to make the best team in the world.
《Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!》
Game 1 of the second semifinals of Worlds was finally underway! It was KG on the Blue team versus SSK on the Red team. Both teams had gotten the Champions they wanted. Their signature Champions. When the fans saw God Roundy picking Riven, they cheered so loudly that most of Brussels could hear them. And all throughout China, people were bonking with brooms on their ceilings, yelling for their neighbours to not scream so much. But the screamers couldn’t be blamed. This was God Roundy’s Riven! They all knew what he could do with her. And if he could do that again this game, then they were in for a really good game!
However, the first round of cheers was quickly drowned out by the second wave of cheers. This one was far louder, with windows trembling, breaking, and car alarms going off in the distance. There was only one thing that could get these fans so excited. Rake. He had chosen to play LeBlanc. It was his signature Champion. It was the Champion he almost always played when it wasn’t banned. More terrifyingly, he’d never lost with her in any official game all year. His win-rate was a perfect 100%!
From the comfort of her own bedroom, live commentating on the game, Su Xue lost her shit for a brief moment. She clutched her armrests and screeched, “ShitShitShit! How did we let him have LeBlanc? This is cheating! Cheating!”
Lin Feng moved away and covered his ears in reflex. He bit on his lips, keeping them sealed. This wasn’t great, both Su Xue screaming in his ear and Rake picking LeBlanc. But there was nothing he could do about the latter, except for cheering Tian Tian on. So that was what he did. He clenched his fist and mumbled, “Come on, Fatty! You can do this! I know you can!”
Back in the game, the minions had spawned and were charging down their respective lanes. Tian Tian was up in the top lane with his Riven and had to face off against a Gnar. The minion waves arrived and started fighting, while the Riven and Gnar did the same. They jumped in and out, getting last hits in on minions while also using every opportunity to dish out some poke against each other. And after only a couple of these exchanges, it was clear that Tian Tian was pulling ahead.
At the caster desk for the official Chinese broadcast, Lolo was jumping up and down and pointing at the screen, screaming, “That’s our God Roundy! God Roundy is doing it again! He’s seized the advantage! He’s going to carry the game and bring KG the win! It is possible! It is!”
Stone moved his hands up and down in front, calming the non-existent audience in the room, and said, “That’s great and all, but look at mid lane. KG picked Lulu, a very defensive Champion for mid lane. Their plan is clearly to not lose. Look. Do you see what I’m seeing? Lulu is losing. Rake is outplaying her so hard that a lane that should never be lost is actually losing. This is a masterclass.”
Lulu was a very defensive choice for the mid lane. She had a shield and crowd control in her kit, which she could use to mitigate a lot of the LeBlanc’s damage. Everyone used her these days to stop aggressive Midlaners, and so had KG. It was how they were going to shut Rake down. If Rake never got rolling, he wouldn’t be any good! But Rake didn’t care that it was a Lulu. He knew how to play against her perfectly. So he went about farming minions, baiting out Lulu’s shield and crowd control in the process, and waited for that moment where her skills were on cooldown to jump in and attack. Then he backed out, making sure to hit another auto attack on the way out. He played it so perfectly that not even four minutes into the game, the Lulu was running low on health and was at real risk of dying. She could only sit under her tower and give up on getting last hits, while he could do whatever it was he wanted to do. The lane was his.
At 4:25 minutes, Rake officially declared mid lane his. KG’s Midlaner knew he was safe against the LeBlanc as long as he stuck underneath his tower. His Lulu had a shield that could help him survive any tower dive. However, no plan was perfect, especially when made in a pinch. SSK’s Jungler was a Rek’Sai, a Champion with its own unique set of skills. One of them was Unburrow, which allowed her to knock Champions Airborne, which was a state in which the victim couldn’t use any of their skills. But this wasn’t the Rek’Sai show, this was the Rake show. He positioned his LeBlanc to perfection, moving in such a precise manner that the Lulu didn’t even realize her pathing was being influenced by him. She moved up a little, completely of her own volition it seemed. That was a fatal mistake. The Rek’Sai burrowed a Tunnel and then flashed forward, arriving right underneath the Lulu, where she Unburrowed and knocked her victim up in the air. And of course, Rake was there for the follow up. He had his LeBlanc jump towards the Lulu–Distortion. Then she shot out her Ethereal Chains. They wrapped themselves around the Lulu, binding her in place and leaving her with nowhere to escape. One more auto attack flew from LeBlanc’s staff before she jumped back, away from KG’s outer tower.