The curtain finally closed on the second semi-finals match of the League of Legends Season 5 World Championships. Team SSK had won, and Team KG had lost. Miserably so. SSK won three games in a row, utterly crushing KG. The score of 0-3 hovered in the minds of everyone watching. And it was etched in the hearts of every League of Legends fan in China. The entire LPL had been humiliated on this day, and this match would become a permanent black stain on its record. As far as most people were concerned, today was the darkest day in the history of LPL. When that last victory screen floated over KG’s ruined Nexus… the sheer torrent of despair that washed over the tens of millions of Chinese fans watching Worlds was indescribable. It was bad enough that Team SSK had completely and utterly crushed Team KG. What made it even worse was that Team KG never gave up, they kept fighting and never stopped trying to make a comeback. The futility of all that effort though, and the fact that there was literally nothing they could do to resist SSK’s overwhelming strength, that’s what hurt the most.
Team KG’s knockout also meant that the LPL no longer had any team playing that could carry its beacon to the Finals of this year’s Worlds. Even the three Shoutcasters had given up. They just sat there, all gloom and melancholy, not saying a word. They just didn’t know what to say. They felt the blow from this loss just as keenly as any other normal fan, and they did not have the words to express it. Or the will to provide any analysis or hype. So they sat there. Quiet and forlorn.
Then the post-match interviews started, and that was a whole new dimension of misery. Fans watched as the God Roundy broke down live on stream. They watched as he got up in front of the camera, holding the microphone with both hands. They watched him tremble and shake. When he looked straight at the camera, they saw the tears, unfallen, welling in his bloodshot eyes. Then he muttered the words, “I-i-i so-s-so SORRY!” With those words, he could no longer hold it together. He broke down sobbing, still holding the microphone and still looking at the camera. “I’m sorry…. I’m sorry… I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry—” Tian Tian repeated over and over again while choking on his own snot and tears. His tear stained face dead center on every camera and every stream. Finally, he bowed his head to the camera and continued apologizing to the viewers. The rest of Team KG’s players were similarly glum, but holding it together better than Tian Tian. They stood next to him with tears in their eyes as well, and faced the cameras. Then they also bowed and said, “Sorry.”
The Chinese fans, both those who had flown to watch the games in person and those watching it on stream, felt their heart’s ache as God Roundy broke down. His many female followers were livid with anger that the cute and cuddly God Roundy had been made to feel such grief. No one blamed Team KG for the loss. No one could blame God Roundy for what happened. How could they? Just the fact that Team KG had made it all the way to the Semi-finals of Worlds was an incredible accomplishment, both for them and the LPL. No one on Team KG had anything to be ashamed of. The fact that made it all the way to the semifinals of Worlds was already incredible. Standing up to SSK was incredible. God Roundy had no reason to be ashamed or sad! KG had done nothing wrong, there was nothing to criticize about how they had played!
Despite the pride they felt in KG for making it all the way to the Semi-finals and the despair they felt at Tian Tian’s grief, the fact that KG lost to SSK hurt in a completely different but equally painful way. Just thinking about how SSK trampled all over KG with a score of 0-3. That made the blood of every Chinese fan run cold and choked the breath in their throats. For a brief moment, every Chinese fan of League of Legends connected and thought the exact same thoughts. This reality that was etched in stone was difficult to confront for all of them. The pride they had for their region, for the LPL, it had just been smashed to pieces in front of their eyes. The weight of this reality pressed down on them, suffocating them.
“W-why is it like this…” Su Xue muttered. She was also starting to tear up. The mood in the chat was also gloomy. The thousands of people on her stream, none of them knew what to say to comfort her. Or to comfort each other. At this point, anything they could possibly say seemed meaningless.
Lin Feng sat next to Su Xue. Also not saying a word. He bit his lips, so hard that he actually drew blood. His hands both balled up into tight fists. His nails dug crimson crescents into his palms. But he seemed completely oblivious to the pain. All he did was stare at the monitor, at the stream of Worlds, without blinking his eyes. He stared at the score of 0-3. He stared at Fatty, crying and bowing and sobbing. Whatever physical pain was overshadowed completely by the pain in his soul and his heart at all of this.
Now that the Semi-finals had ended, the two teams that would be moving onto the Finals were decided. Team Season and Team SSK. A clash between North America and South Korea. They’d be going head-to-head next weekend to decide who the champion of the League of Legends Season 5 World Championships would be. It was a duel between the Support God Autumn and the Midlane God Rake. A collision between the two top Emperors. As exciting as it all was though, many Chinese fans no longer had the heart to continue watching Worlds. They hadn’t gotten over their disappointment from KG’s loss in the Semi-finals.
This included the regular crew from High School 13. It was now Monday, and they were still struggling to get over KG’s loss. Yang Fang and Ouyang sat in their classroom, still talking about yesterday’s game and what happened.
“Regardless of how many perspectives you analyze it in, there is no possible way that KG can be blamed for the loss. Their gameplay was flawless. It is highly unlikely that any team from the LPL could’ve done better,” Yang Fang said as he adjusted his glasses. Then he sighed.
Ouyang’s reaction was far less measured, “Fiddle-faddle-frucksitall! SSK is too god-fucks-it-all OP! THEM BITCHES NEED TO GET NERFED! OR BANNED UNTIL THEY GET NERFED!” Then he rubbed his face and grimaced. “Bro, lemme tell you. When I saw Brother Roundy break down like that in the post-match interview. Shiiiiiitttttt! My heart, torn. Like when you give a girl a poem and she rips it apart and throws it in the wind? That kind of torn. Watching a fellow bro feel bad like that, it made me feel bad. I’m telling you, the total amount of awesome in the universe diminished when that happened. It was that bad. Shit. I haven’t felt like that in forever…”
Both Ouyang and Yang Fang fell silent for a minute after that. That’s when Ouyang noticed that Lin Feng hadn’t said a word. Or indicated that he wanted to join in on the conversation at all. Which was odd. Ouyang tilted his head toward Lin Feng and asked, “Bro Feng? Not plannin’ on yappin’, Cap’n?” Lin Feng said nothing in response to that. Ouyang turned towards Lin Feng and looked at him, “YO! What’s up man? Don’t feel like talking right now?”
Lin Feng simply shook his head and didn’t say anything.
Ouyang opened his mouth to say something, and then closed it. He’d changed his mind. He looked at Yang Fang, who shook his head ever so slightly. Ouyang understood and didn’t push Lin Feng any further. Then he continued talking to Yang Fang about yesterday’s game, both of them keeping half an eye on Lin Feng.
Lin Feng remained the same even later on in the day, when the esports club team members had gathered together for practice. Ren Rou, Liu Yue, Chen Ze and the others also noticed that Lin Feng was being uncharacteristically quiet. Aloof and withdrawn. But just like Ouyang and Yang Fang, they didn’t dwell too much on it and decided to let things be. In their minds, he was also reeling from KG’s loss yesterday and they figured it would be best to let him sort his feelings out on his own. He’d talk to them when he was ready, if he wanted to. It all lined up in their minds. Lin Feng was going through the same thing that every League of Legends fan in China was going through right now. He’d sort himself out and be fine in a few days, they thought.
But they soon discovered exactly how wrong they’d been. All of them individually and collectively figured that Lin Feng would perk up and be back to normal in a few days. So they waited. A day passed, and he was still quiet and disconnected. Then two days. There was no change in Lin Feng. Then a third day of this passed, and that’s when they started to get really concerned. It didn’t matter what was happening, Lin Feng walked around like a quiet zombie. In class, he stopped getting involved in conversation and stopped joking around. Even when they were all practicing at the NetCow Cafe after school, Lin Feng was disconnected from everything. He didn’t say much of anything when he was coaching them either. He just stood there, quietly watching. Gone was the constant pointing out of their mistakes, the yelling, the badgering that pushed them to their limits. It was replaced by a quiet and uneasy tension, and a withdrawn Lin Feng.
That’s when they realized that something was wrong with Lin Feng. Something far more than just the loss at Worlds. They were worried about him, but there was also nothing they could do. Every time they tried to ask him what was wrong, tried to even approach the subject, he’d force out a smile and shake his head. Let them know everything was fine in that quiet way that made them all the more worried and walk away.
After school, the club members gathered for a secret meeting. The subject was obviously Lin Feng and what was going on with him.
“Dudes and Dudette, I know that he’s not fine. Especially because he’s saying that he’s fine. You know what it is? Listen, you know when you’re with a shorty and she tells you everything is okay when its not? Its that kind of fine. As the resident playa here, I can tell you for sure that the more he says everything’s fine, the more everything is obviously not fine!” Ouyang fumed.
“He really does seem off lately. I really wonder what’s going on with him. But if he doesn’t tell us, there’s nothing we can do to help him,” Ren Rou said with a look of concern.
Chen Ze and Wei Dong nodded.
Yang Fan turned to Tang Bingyao. “Tang Tang, out of everyone here right now, I think it’s fair to say that you’ve had the longest connection with Lin Feng and know him the best. Do you know what’s going on with him?”
Ouyang protested, “Hold it right there! You saying Tang Tang knows Bro Feng better than me? Do you really think anyone knows a bro better than his bro?”
Yang Fang looked at Ouyang seriously and said, “Ouyang. Not the time. Tang Tang, you tell us what’s going on.”
Tang Bingyao shook her head. “I don’t know either.” Then she looked down at the ground. The truth was that she was just as worried about Lin Feng as everyone else. She racked her brains to figure out what was going on with him and what was causing this strange mood. She thought she had a good idea. Or at least a lead. She knew that Lin Feng was a good friend of KG’s top laner, God Roundy. So that probably had something to do with why Lin Feng was so preoccupied these days. But there was something more to it, something that she didn’t understand. That was why she couldn’t figure out exactly what Lin Feng was going through in his feelings.
Besides, she wasn’t very good at comforting people and that was just as frustrating right now. She tried to talk to Lin Feng about what he was going through a couple times now, but she always ended up backing away in the end. She just didn’t know how to comfort him. Or where to start comforting him. The whole thing was frustrating!
That night, after practice ended, everyone on High School 13’s team said bye to each other and went their separate ways.
Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao walked home together, as usual. It was a calm and peaceful night. Not that many people were walking around, and the streetlights gave the sidewalk a warm yellow glow. Lin Feng walked mechanically with his eyes looking down at the ground. Not saying a word. the ground, not saying a word. Tang Bingyao walked in front of him, making sure not to step on any cracks in the sidewalk and occasionally hopping forward if there were too many. But she didn’t try to get Lin Feng to talk, nor did she say anything. But every once in a while, she’d stop and glance back at him just to make sure he was still behind her and okay. Then she’d continue walking. The pair walked on like this in silence for a block. Until Lin Feng finally broke the silence with a question, “Hey, why do you keep looking back at me?”
“I was worried you’d hit your head on a pole. You’ve been walking with your head down this whole time,” Tang Bingyao replied while tilting her head in that adorable way girls do. She looked Lin Feng in the eyes. It’s now or never, Tang Tang! Ling Feng had broken the silence between them, she had to go for it and figure out what was bothering him. Now’s probably the best time. So she asked, “Are you okay?”
Lin Feng forced a smile and said, “Oh, I’m fine!”
Tang Bingyao stared at Lin Feng’s face, “That smile looks super fake.”
Lin Feng’s eyes widened and the smile faltered. Then the mask broke and he looked sad and a little embarrassed. He rubbed his face with both hands before saying, “Really? No way, right…?”
Tang Bingyao didn’t respond. She kept looking at Lin Feng.
Lin Feng started feeling awkward and scratched his head. “R-really. There’s nothing to worry about. I’m fine.”
Tang Bingyao slowly nodded her head, then she asked, “Is it because KG lost?”
The question hit Lin Feng harder than he was expecting. He thought someone would eventually ask and he was prepared. But it still phased him enough to let more emotion slip through onto his face. Then he recovered and smiled. But one that had very little joy or warmth behind it. Then he replied, “I guess. A little bit. But that’s not all of it.”
Tang Bingyao scrunched up her nose and frowned. “I don’t understand.”
Lin Feng chuckled. “Ah, it’s fine. You don’t have to.” He then paused and looked up. It was clear in Shanghai tonight. There were no stars. Only the moon shining brightly overhead, shrouding the entire city in a veil of silver light. He stared at the night sky, calmly, and then suddenly asked, “Hey, don’t you think I’m really useless?”
“Huh?” Tang Bingyao remarked in surprise. The stunned look on her face was cute.
Lin Feng waved his hand and shook his head. “It’s nothing. I was just talking to myself. Come on, let’s go. We’re almost at your house.”
After arriving back home, Lin Feng smelled something delicious the moment he stepped through the door. The dining room table was already set with a variety of dishes.
Su Xue came walking out the kitchen with an apron on, carrying a plate full of stir fried eggplants. When she saw Lin Feng was back, she smiled at him and greeted, “You’re home! Come come! Wash your hands and let’s eat dinner!”
High School 13’s team members weren’t the only ones to notice Lin Feng’s peculiar mood over last few days. Su Xue was actually the first one that noticed something was off. How could she not? They basically spent every day together! She was also worried. But she had a secret weapon that none of the others did. She could cheer him up with food! That’s why she spent the day cooking so many of the things he liked to eat. But she didn’t know what was going on with him either.
At the dinner table, Su Xue watched Lin Feng eating with his head buried in the rice bowl. She couldn’t hold herself back any longer and gently asked, “Hey, what’s going on? Is practice with the team not going well?”
Lin Feng shook his head.
Su Xue racked her brains. Then she made a wild guess and asked, “Did something happen between you and Tang Tang?” Thinking she might have hit the nail on the head, she started giving some meaningful advice. “You guys are still young. Getting into a fight or two is no big deal. But you’re the guy, so you should just let her have her way sometimes…” The more she spoke, the more she was convinced she was right.
Lin Feng flat-out denied her guess, “No, it’s not that! I think your imagination is starting to run a little too wild! Me and Tang Tang, we’re fine! Our relationship isn’t like that! We’re Master and Disciple!”
Su Xue was stumped quiet. Then she asked, “Then… then, what’s going on with you?”
Lin Feng was about to open his mouth, but then he changed his mind and shook his head. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about me.”
“Ahem. Then, what about your midnight snack? Do you want a chicken cutlet? I can order you some,” Su Xue said.
“We’re still eating dinner. It’s way too early for that,” Lin Feng said quietly and curly.
“Oh, right.” Su Xue said.
It was the first time Su Xue had seen Lin Feng be anything other than the happy, cheerful, oblivious kid that he was. The first time he’d been so curt and dismissive towards her. She didn’t know what to say. She was confused, worried, and more than a little hurt that Lin Feng wouldn’t let her in. Wouldn’t let her help him. So she stayed quiet.
They finished the rest of the meal in silence and went back to their respective rooms.