It was Monday morning. Senior Class 7 was in the middle of their first period of the week. Study hall. This was time intended for doing homework and preparing for upcoming tests. But that wasn’t how these students saw it. They’d just come back from a long and busy weekend, where they stayed up late and got up early to have fun with their friends. Monday morning study hall, that was the perfect window to catch up on some much needed sleep. Of the thirty students in the class, there were maybe five awake.
Ren Rou was the class president. She was supposed to lead these study hall periods. But she also understood that when the students got the option between an extra hour of sleep or doing homework, they would unanimously vote for the former. She shook her head, looking around the classroom. Then she felt drawn towards the very back of the classroom, towards the last row of desks. This was where Ouyang was snoring, quietly, and Lin Feng was scribbling in his textbook, furiously. She couldn’t see what he was writing, but she could tell he wasn’t happy. There was an aggression to the way he pushed his pen into the paper. And whenever he looked up, she could see just how bloodshot his eyes were. And the dark circles around his eyes. It looked like he didn’t get much sleep over the weekend.
Today marked the fifth day since that semifinals match between KG and SSK. It was also the fifth day that Lin Feng had withdrawn from everything going on around him. He was consumed with his notebook, losing sleep and letting everything else in his life fall behind as well. As for what was in the notebook, Ren Rou could make a decent enough guess. She’d seen some of his work only a few days ago. He’d been working on his preparations for the game against Shanghai International. From Champion Select to lane match-ups to habits of all the players, with both main team members and substitutes being taken into consideration. He didn’t leave a stone unturned, thinking of new approaches and searching for that one vital weakness he could exploit.
Ren Rou stared at Lin Feng. She still remembered how the entire team had felt when they saw what Lin Feng was working on. He’d prepared a dozen different scenarios for Champion Select, based on the Champions and strategies Shanghai International played most often. It was thorough. There were even small scribbles next to each Champion detailing the ways in which it was most likely going to be played and how to counter that. Lin Feng’s teammates didn’t know what to think of it. On the one hand, the insights and strategy were impressive. But on the other… It wasn’t healthy what Lin Feng was doing, they all knew that.
The only way the team members from the esports team knew how to help Lin Feng was by stepping up their own game. If they wanted to share the burden with him, they had to play at a level where they could actually share the burden. But they weren’t at that level. They couldn’t help him when it came to the game versus Shanghai International. They weren’t good enough. Ren Rou shook her head, upset. She wanted to help. But she wasn’t good at the game like Lin Feng. Nor did she have his insights in tactics and strategy. She could only put her trust in him and count on him pulling them through. She felt terrible about it, but didn’t see any other way.
Tang Bingyao was one of the few students not fast asleep during study hall. She’d opened her English textbook and was reading the words. Sentence by sentence, page by page, the words flashed before her eyes, but they never entered her head. She didn’t even really know what book she was holding. There was something nagging at her mind, distracting her from everything else. She could hear his pen working away on the paper. I’m so stupid. She glanced over her shoulder, over towards Lin Feng, and started biting her bottom lip. He’s still working so hard. She turned back towards her textbook and tried to continue reading, but found she had no clue what page she was even on. She had to search for the last bit she remembered and that brief moment was enough for her mind to wander back towards him. She looked over her shoulder again and looked at Lin Feng, mumbling to herself, “I’m so stupid.”
He’s spent so much time coaching me, and I’m still not good enough. I can’t even beat that ad-carry from Shanghai International. He’s better. Even after everything Lin Feng tried to teach me, I’m still only here… “Ugh.” Tang Bingyao sighed, shaking her head in frustration. She wanted to help him, but she was no good at comforting people. Not in her mind, anyways. But that was for the most part because she’d never done it before. Because she’d never cared about anyone that much. And then came Lin Feng. She still vividly remembered how he sat next to her at the NetCow Cafe that first time. How he’d watched her play and then convinced her to play with him. From a 1v1 to playing together every day for months. He’d shown her something that was really worth something. He’d always been there for her and now there was this indescribable feeling telling her to do the same. She wanted to help him. She really did. But she had absolutely no clue what to do. “I’m so stupid,” she muttered, slightly louder than before.
Tang Bingyao looked towards Ren Rou, who was trying her best to lead the study hall. I even asked her. I’ve never done that before. But Ren Rou wasn’t much help either. She didn’t have a clue about how they could help Lin Feng. The two girls had talked about it for a long while, tried brainstorming together, but they came up empty. Tang Bingyao looked over her shoulder again at Lin Feng. She was chewing on the inside of her cheek now, watching him write. Maybe… What if I treat him to some food? She stared at Lin Feng as she completely forgot about the English book she was pretending to study. A plan was taking shape in her mind. She knew how much he loved food. He was always talking about it.
Tang Bingyao turned back towards her desk and grabbed her purse. “How much do two cups of milk tea cost? It should be ¥14,” she muttered, counting her money. Then she hesitated. It was more than she’d ever spent on anyone. She turned around again and looked towards Lin Feng. “He also really likes chicken cutlets…” She checked her purse and counted the bills. Then she pulled out another ¥10, confident and decisive, and stuffed the money in her coat pocket.
The study hall period came to an end. The homeroom teacher walked into the classroom and gestured towards Ren Rou that she could take her seat. He then walked to the front of the classroom and cleared his throat, loudly. It woke up most of the sleeping students, and after an extra loud cough, even Ouyang woke up. “Alright,” the homeroom teacher started, giving everyone another moment to wake up. “I’ve got some news. We’re having a new student join us today.”
“A new student? Is it a girl?” Ouyang asked, every last hint of drowsiness quickly disappearing from his face. And he wasn’t the only one. Everyone perked up at the news of a new student and turned towards the homeroom teacher. This was a lot more interesting than anything else going on at school for most of them.
“Uhh, how?” one student asked, confused. “We’re already two months into the year. Aren’t they going to be behind? Will that not create issues? I don’t understand…”
The homeroom teacher cleared his throat again, waiting for the buzz that had broken out to quiet down. When it finally did, he continued, “Our new student is from Hangzhou. I hope you guys can give her a warm welcome to our school and to our class.” He then turned to the door and said in a louder voice, “You can come in now.”
The students from Senior Class 7 all turned their heads towards the door. They were all curious to find out who this new student was. As if for dramatic effect, the door opened slowly. Too slowly. There went a buzz through the classroom as everyone started guessing about the identity of their new classmate.
“I wonder who it is, do you know?”
“What do you think? Sexy or nah?”
“Do you think she’s into turning?”
“I hope she likes the theater. We really need one more girl.”
Getting a new transfer student to the classroom was like opening a box of chocolates. None of them ever knew what they were going to get. The classroom door was pushed open, revealing the new student. It was a vivacious girl! One with a beautiful smile! She was a sweet and tender nougat wrapped in a bittersweet dark chocolate. She walked in with a light blue oversized sweater over her school uniform, and black thigh-highs that only accentuated and contrasted with the uniform skirt. She was that angelic girl-next-door kind of sexy, the kind that made you feel the warmth and comfort of home while stopping your heart. The guys in the room couldn’t help but smile back at her. They didn’t know if it was something in the way that she walked or that twinkle in her eyes, but it made them happy just to see her. Her comfortable, wide sweater was a little bit too big for her. But it fit her well all the same. Somehow it matched her charm and amplified it. Its milky light blue made her long black hair seem even darker and more mysterious. And the black thigh-highs… well, that was almost too much for poor Ouyang to handle. His eyes roamed up her long, slender legs to just where they ended, right before the hemline of her skirt. And then he choked. The girl though, she didn’t seem to notice the guys in the class practically falling over her as she walked up to the homeroom teacher.
“Go on, introduce yourself to the class,” the homeroom teacher said, nudging towards the class.
The girl nodded and turned to face the class, smiling. She bowed and said, “Hi! Nice to meet you all! I transferred here from my high school in Hangzhou. I know the year has already started, but I hope I can still fit in and get along with everyone.” She looked around the class and the people she’d spend the rest of the year with. They were all looking at her, except for one. Her smile turned into a grin and she stuck out her tongue towards him. “Oh right, how could I forget? My name is An Xin. But my friends call me Bunbun.”