“I think you’re both pretty.” That one line from Lin Feng echoed around the classroom. A classroom that was now pindrop silent. A moment in time where those words which could’ve only been spoken by the most oblivious of men hung in the air and nothing else. “I think both of you are really pretty.” There wasn’t much Lin Feng could’ve said to make the situation any worse. He was a thick-skinned Nasus, obviously farming up his Siphoning Strike, caught in between a Katarina and Ahri. Both of whom now had their claws out and an intense desire to stain them with his blood. He’d spoken the forbidden words. Tang Bingyao and An Xin turned towards him. They looked at him, stared at him, glared at him.
Ouyang started shivering. He wanted to complain about someone opening a window and letting a cold breeze inside, but the windows were all closed. Then he turned towards Yang Fan and looked at his friend. They’d known each other for years and had built up that unspoken bond of brosmanship. Words were no longer necessary between them. If they wanted to, all they had to do was lock eyes and they could communicate through the force that linked all bros. And in this moment, when their fellow bro Lin Feng needed them more than ever, their eyes found each other and their thoughts communed within the BroForce.
〘D-damn! You feelin’ this? The room got way colder than the shoulder a girl way outta your league gives you when you try to talk to her! We need to do something! If I—〙
〘No! Do not get involved! He got into this mess on his own. There is no way this situation will improve if we get involved. It’ll definitely get worse if you start trying to help him. Let him figure out how to extricate himself from this quagmire on his own!〙
〘YeahYeah, you’re right. Dammit. Even I’m not that stupid. What was that idiot thinking?〙
Ren Rou looked at the two girls glaring at Lin Feng. Then she looked at Ouyang and Yang Fan in the middle of one of their moments where they just looked into each other’s eyes and slightly moved their lips to talk. She wasn’t really a bro, didn’t have the same kind of connection that they had with each other. She wasn’t a bro, but she could be a Sis! She didn’t know how to be one with the BroForce, but she was a woman! She knew how to get a message across without words. She seized Ouyang’s attention without making a sound and pointed towards Lin Feng and the two girls with her eyes. In that single moment, she opened herself to the BroForce, let it wash through and out of her, and synced onto the same wavelength that Ouyang and Yang Fan were on.
〘Do something about this, Ouyang! They’re going to fight!〙
The gears in Ouyang’s head started spinning. It took a hot minute to grease up the cogs and get the engines revving. But when his brain shifted into turbo, he figured out exactly what needed to be done. He grabbed the picture of Lin Feng and An Xin and tapped on An Xin’s shoulder. “An Xin! An Xin! This picture, right? Lin Feng said it was at the Season 1 LPL Finals. Does that mean you’re also into League of Legends? Are you good? I was a Gold scrub, but thanks to Lin Feng I’m at least Platinum now. Probably even better if it wasn’t for those damn teammates I keep getting matched up with!”
An Xin turned to Ouyang, frustrated. But then she saw that twinkle in his eyes and she heard the emotions behind his words. They were genuine curiosity and pride. She smiled, choosing to forget what happened a moment before, and patted her chest. “Yep! I love the game! I’ve been playing since Season 1 and I’m pretty good at it!”
“Right! Bunbun is a really good Jungler!” Lin Feng interjected, oblivious as always to the catastrophe that was just averted. “But not as good as me. I’m better!”
An Xin snorted. She glared at Lin Feng and said, “That’s it. You and me, we’re going to 1v1 later. I’ll kick your ass!”
The last few words never even registered in Lin Feng’s head. All he heard was the challenge. He smiled and said, “Sure! But you’re losing.”
The six people were all League of Legends fanatics and were more than anything happy to shift away from the awkward situation. So they quickly latched onto the new topic. Ouyang started interrogating An Xin on how good she was at the game, and she was happy to tell them that she was currently sitting on Diamond 5 in the Ionia server.
Ouyang blurted, “Damn! Diamond 5 is so good! You’re really good! That’s so amazing!”
Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and said, “People always say how girls aren’t good at the game. But here we got another one who’s better than we are.”
Ren Rou was also thoroughly impressed. She nodded and said, “That’s really cool!”
Lin Feng watched his friends practically falling over An Xin just because of her League rank. They hadn’t done that when he told them about his rank. He looked around, confused and a little annoyed, then shouted, “Hey! What is this? Who cares about some low Diamond player? You guys never acted like this when I told you that I’m a Challenger. I’m way better than she is!”
That was the wrong thing to say. No one cared about Lin Feng right now. They wanted to get to know their new classmate better. So four pairs of eyes shot towards Lin Feng, followed by four quick replies.
“Shut up! No one cares!”
“We know your rank. Stop bragging about it.”
“Yes, yes, you’re good at the game. We know.”
Ren Rou guided the conversation into the direction of the esports club. She’d found a new, strong female player and she was set on recruiting her. So Ren Rou started talking about how great the club was. How much it had grown recently and the achievements that had helped them grow. She spoke about the first years who’d swarmed around Tang Bingyao for her ‘1v1 Love Confessions’ and finally also about the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. First she talked about how they’d been robbed of a win last year. Then she moved on to this year and how well they were doing. They were semifinalists! But it looked like reaching the finals was going to be really difficult, since their opponent was Shanghai International.
“Shanghai International?” An Xin asked, curious. “Are they good?”
Ouyang nodded fervently and said, “Yeah! They’re really, really good! You must know that they made it all the way to the Finals last year. I thought for sure they were going to win. And they’re only better this year. Maybe they’re even better than Shanghai High School this year!”
Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and said, “They’re a lot better than we are. Unfortunately, it looks like they’re too good. I don’t think we can beat them in our current state.”
Ren Rou sighed, then started talking, the words flowing from her lips before she even realized it, “But we’re trying really hard. Lin Feng is especially doing everything he can. You should’ve seen him work over the past week. He’s practically killing himself ov—” She shut up and put her hand over her mouth as an extra measure the moment she realized what she was saying. Crap! I said too much…
“Hmm? What’s that?” An Xin asked, turning towards Lin Feng and looking him up and down. She saw his bloodshot eyes and the large bags under his eyes.
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head, uncomfortable. “Uhh… I don’t know what she’s talking about. I’m fine.”
Third period on Monday morning was Mathematics. After the bell rang, the students from Senior Class 7 returned to their desk and grabbed their textbooks. The teacher walked in and, after taking attendance, started explaining formulas. He turned his back to the class and started writing on the chalkboard. This was the perfect timing for An Xin to pass another note to Lin Feng.
An Xin: ﴾ What is this about you practically killing yourself? ﴿
Lin Feng: ﴾ It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. ﴿
An Xin: ﴾ Liar. ﴿
Lin Feng read the note, then put it away in his bag. He focused back on the lesson, though his eyes kept shifting towards the ideas he’d written out in his notebook on the series against Shanghai International. He forgot about the class he was in and started getting absorbed in his analysis again. Until a ball of paper hit him in the side of the head. It jolted him out of his thoughts and he glanced over towards An Xin. She was glaring at him. Her eyes were saying murder, while she was mouthing, “Open. It.”
Lin Feng looked down to the floor, where the crumpled piece of paper had fallen. He reached for it with his foot and moved it closer towards him, hesitatingly. But when he looked towards An Xin again, and saw the look in her eyes, he knew there was no evading this. So he reached down and picked up the note. He started unfolding it, noticing An Xin from the corner of his eye. She was smiling but she also wasn’t. She looked scary.
An Xin: ﴾ Next break we’re going outside to talk. ﴿
After Mathematics, the students from Senior Class 7 had a 25 minutes break. An Xin stood up from her desk and looked at Lin Feng, urging him to come with her. But he didn’t get up. Instead he raised his textbook and pretended to be busy studying. She sighed, then pulled the textbook from his hands and put it in his backpack. Pushing it in his embrace, she commanded, “Take it and come.”
Lin Feng took the backpack in reflex, but didn’t get up. He leaned over his desk and complained, “I-i’m feeling a little tired. Can we talk another time?”
“What was that?” An Xin demanded, glaring at Lin Feng. “We don’t have all day. Get up.” He hesitated another moment, more time than he had. She grabbed him by his arm and pulled him up, then dragged him out of the classroom. He could only hurry after her, her fingers pinching into his arm.
Ouyang and Yang Fan watched the two walk out of the classroom, keeping their mouths shut. They knew better than to make a funny comment about Lin Feng being whipped into obedience. But when they had left earshot, Ouyang couldn’t help himself. He whisper-shouted, “What do you think those two are going to do? Having a little romantic one on one time? Maybe Lin Feng likes them bossy.”
Yang Fan shook his head, looking at the open classroom door through which Lin Feng and An Xin had walked out. Then he turned to Ouyang and said, “No. You saw them. That didn’t look or sound very romantic. Actually, it doesn’t matter what they’re going to do. Let’s just hope that with her here, Lin Feng’s mood improves. He really needs someone who knows how to get through to him and help him.”
Out in the hallways, Lin Feng was following behind An Xin. There were students everywhere and he searched for a way to escape into the crowd. But An Xin was surprisingly strong, her fingers wrapped around his arm. She would notice if he tried anything and he didn’t want to think what would happen then. So he followed, albeit reluctantly. They walked towards the stairs and went up a flight, and then another. After two months at High School 13, he’d never been in this part of the school. He couldn’t help but ask, “Bunbun, where are you taking me?”
“Somewhere quiet where no one will disturb us,” An Xin replied, curt.
Lin Feng tried to pull his arm free, but An Xin wouldn’t let him. He slowed down, but she pulled so hard that he nearly fell forward. She wasn’t letting him go. He felt his stomach drop. It felt bad, really bad. There was nowhere to escape and there were less students around then a minute ago. He suggested, timidly, “H-hey, how about we talk after school? I still need to do some work before next class.”
An Xin came to an abrupt halt, with Lin Feng almost walking into her. She turned around and raised her eyebrow. “Hmm? Something you want to say? Is there?”
“O-oh, it’s nothing. Nothing. Really. It can wait. Let’s talk now. I’ll follow you,” Lin Feng said, stumbling over his words. He followed An Xin up the last flight of stairs. There was no hallway here, only a door. An Xin pushed it open and he followed after her onto the empty terrace on the roof. The wind blew in his face as he looked around, surprised. “We have a rooftop terrace? Nice! This looks really cool!” He then turned to An Xin and asked, “Bunbun, how did you know about this place?”
“Because all schools have this. Literally every single school,” An Xin replied. She then let go of Lin Feng’s arm and looked around the rooftop terrace. There were no other students here. They were completely alone. Just the two of them. She nodded, happy, and then turned to Lin Feng. “Good. We can talk here without getting interrupted. So let’s talk.”
Lin Feng looked around the terrace. He then walked past An Xin towards the edge of the rooftop, where he looked out over the surroundings. The city center was quite some way away, but he could still see the large buildings in the distance. He heard her walk up to him, but pretended he was engrossed in the scenery. Until a flat palm slapped him in the face and an angry yell sounded in his ears, “Stop pretending! Look at me!” He inhaled, long and deep, then let it all out and turned around to look at An Xin.
An Xin looked back at Lin Feng. For the first time, the two locked eyes and really saw each other. The anger and annoyance disappeared from her eyes. The stern expression disappeared from her face. She smiled the saddest smile and asked, “I saw that KG lost… How are you taking it? Are you ok?”
Lin Feng’s lips quivered. He bit down on his teeth and looked at his best and oldest friend. She knew him. She really knew him. It was never about the Shanghai 16 School Tournament for him. It was always about Worlds and what happened there. He tried to open his mouth and say something, but only a hoarse sound came out. Then he shook his head and lowered it.