Pinky and the Brain

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The first thing after the dismissal bell for High School 13’s esports team was a training session at the NetCow Cafe. Eight members of the main team, including Ren Rou, found their way across the street to the internet cafe, like they did every day. It’d become a habit. Even on days that they weren’t coached by Lin Feng, they would still find themselves walking into the internet cafe without even thinking about it. But today was different from other days. That was because there was a ninth member who’d joined the team. She was An Xin.

“So you’re Bunbun?” Liu Yue asked, surprised. Then he extended his hand to An Xin and said, “Hi! Nice to meet you! I’m Liu Yue, the Jungler!” He looked An Xin up and down and then up again, a smirk appearing on his face. He turned to Lin Feng and winked. “Damn! Ouyang is right! You know all the pretty girls!”

Wei Dong and Chen Ze weren’t as straightforward as Liu Yue was. The Ouyang hadn’t rubbed off on them quite as much as it had on Liu Yue. Or perhaps it was a Jungler ailment. They extended their hands and welcomed An Xin to the group, introducing themselves.

An Xin smiled and said, “It’s nice to meet all of you too. Now let’s play some games!” She took half a step towards the computers when she was stopped in her tracks by Lin Feng being Lin Feng.

“I brought her here to help us! She’s very good at shotcalling and she comes up with some of the best strategies. I would almost say that she’s as good as me. But I’m really good at being better than her too!” Lin Feng laughed.

An Xin didn’t laugh. She curled her lips and said, “I see. Running your mouth again…” She shook her head, disappointed. “You got all this big talk, but I don’t remember you ever using that little brain in your head to shotcall or strategize. You’re the kind to run around the map doing whatever you feel like and letting your team face the consequences.”

“Oh, uhh… I don’t remember that, well… Maybe?” Lin Feng mumbled, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment. Then he waved his hand and smiled. “Ah, whatever! That’s not important. We have you now, that’s all that matters!”

Liu Yue looked over at An Xin and asked, “You played with Lin Feng back in Season 1, right? You must be really good at the game then! What role do you play? Are you also an ad-carry like Tang Tang?”

An Xin smiled and shook her head. “No, I’m not an ad-carry main. I’m a Jungler.”

Ouyang walked up to Liu Yue and fistbumped his shoulder. “Ha! Did you hear that? She’s a Jungler. And it gets better. She’s Diamond! Just like you! You’re both Diamond! Isn’t that great? Our team now has two Diamond Junglers! We’re finally starting to get a real team together! And if you get lazy, she’ll just take your spot. Haha!”

“Uh…” Liu Yue looked at Ouyang, rubbing his painful shoulder, then asked, “Aren’t you also a Jungler? If I become the substitute, do you become the waterboy?”

Ouyang felt his stomach drop. This was a variable he hadn’t thought about. Then the gears in his mind started spinning, searching for an answer. I’m no background character! I’m the Broman! The smile that had disappeared for a second reappeared, brighter than before. He said, grinning, “I might be Plat now. But just you wait! I’ll be Diamond in no time! And then I’ll beat both of you and become the best Jungler!”

Chen Ze grinned and said, “Right, with the help of Lin Feng. But Bunbun here got to Diamond all by herself. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.”

Liu Yue raised his hand, impatient to get a word in, and shouted, “Tang Tang is also awesome! She can beat Diamond 1s and Masters! If you compare her to those Huya streamers or other famous female players, she’s definitely the best ad-carry out of all of them!”

“They’re both really good because I coached them!” Lin Feng interrupted, patting himself proudly on his shoulder. He then turned to Tang Bingyao and asked, smiling brightly, “Isn’t that right, Tang Tang?”

Tang Bingyao tilted her head, thought for a moment, and then replied, “Mhm. Yes.”

Yang Fan chuckled, adjusting his glasses in his usual fashion, and said, “The main point here is that we got two really good League players who are also girls. That’s pretty rare. I think there isn’t another team out there who can compare to us on that front.”

Ren Rou listened to the boys fawning over Tang Bingyao and An Xin, her expression faltering. She mumbled just loud enough for everyone to hear her, “Then what about me? I’m feeling pretty left out here. I know I’m only Gold, but still…”

Ouyang’s eyes lit up. A woman in distress! He moved with an agility rarely seen from him as he suddenly stood next to Ren Rou. He nudged her and said, “Don’t worry, Rou Rou. We can duo queue after practice. I’ll carry you to Plat! You can always count on me.”

Ren Rou rolled her eyes and snorted. “Please. I’d much rather play with Tang Tang or Bunbun.” She then turned to the girls and smiled. “Don’t you two feel the same? Wanna play with me later?”

“Of course we do!” An Xin agreed. She stopped for a moment, then added, “It’s so much more fun playing with friends.”

Tang Bingyao nodded to this statement and to Ren Rou. She also didn’t mind helping Ren Rou out and carry her to Platinum, and maybe past Ouyang, just because they could.

Lin Feng stepped forward, making the others go quiet. The discussion was shifting away from introducing An Xin to the group. This was the moment to move on with the training. He looked around the members of the team, one at a time, until his eyes landed on An Xin. He smiled and said, “Bunbun will be our new coach.”

An Xin nodded towards Lin Feng and then turned to the others and said, “Yup. I’ll be the new coach. You guys play a game for me first. I want to see where we’re at, so I can come up with a good plan for the series against Shanghai International.”

“Wait. Wait. Hold on. Woah! You’re not just Diamond, but also a good coach?” Ouyang asked, his mouth falling open in surprise.

Lin Feng laughed and said, “She’s a great coach!” The best. But that last part he kept to himself. He thought back to Season 1. We didn’t have a coach back then. Not a real one, anyways. We would’ve been lost if it wasn’t for her. She always came up with the best strategies. Without her drafts and gameplans, we would’ve never made it so far… He looked over toward the girl. Though she’d never been given the name, the whole team had accepted her as her coach back then. And it didn’t look like it would be any different this time around. How she was introduced… Two images merged together.

“Hmph! Just a great coach? I’m also a pretty great Jungler, thank you very much!” An Xin added, smiling. Right now she was only Diamond 5, but it hadn’t always been like that. Back before the ranks got introduced and players climbed the ELO ladder, she’d hit 2,700. When converted to today’s rankings, that would put her at the top of Master. She was really good at the game.

“You were pretty great yeah! Until you fell off hard,” Lin Feng said, enjoying every word of that sentence. Then he waved his hand and said, “But it’s fine. You’re just a girl. Getting to Diamond is already really impressive for you!”

“Excuse me? Just a girl?” Ren Rou raised an eyebrow in surprised shock. A shock that quickly warped to anger. She narrowed her eyes and said, “What’s that supposed to mean? Trying to say girls aren’t as good as guys?”

“He’s playing the sexism card,” Tang Bingyao chimed in.

An Xin didn’t say anything, not at first. She just looked at Lin Feng and waited for his eyes to meet hers. When they did, she lifted the corners of her lips but there was no joy in her eyes. They were steady, staring at him. “HMM? Did you say something? Say it again.”

Everyone went silent. The guys in the room shrunk away. They took a step back, trying desperately not to draw any attention to them. But Ouyang failed. He stumbled into the chair behind him, making enough noise for all the eyes to draw towards him. His face went pale as he tried to make himself small.

Lin Feng looked at his friend, surprised and confused, and asked, “Huh? Why are you looking so pale all of a sudden? Did you not have enough to eat? Get a banana.”

Liu Yue mouthed for Lin Feng to shut up, he begged him, trying to connect through the BroForce. But that was Ouyang’s power. Lin Feng had no idea what Liu Yue was getting at. So with no other option left to him, Liu Yue shouted, “Lin Feng! Shut up! Are you trying to get us all killed?”

The esports team played two games. One with the normal line up, with Ouyang and Lin Feng watching on from the sidelines, and one with Ouyang in the Jungle and Lin Feng in Mid. An Xin walked back and forth along the computers, paying close attention to how everyone played and how the games were unfolding. Ren Rou followed a step behind An Xin, unable to stand still and wait. Then, after the second game ended, she tugged on An Xin’s arm and asked, “What do you think? What do you think?”

An Xin was quiet for a moment, thinking, then said, “Not bad, really. You guys are better than I expected. Everyone did pretty decent. I especially liked what I saw in bot lane. Tang Tang is a super good ad-carry! I was really impressed with her!”

“Mhm, I’m ok. I think I can still improve. I have to keep working hard,” Tang Bingyao argued, hiding away her flushed cheeks behind her hands.

“You don’t have to be so modest! Bunbun only gives compliments when people really deserve it! You’re really good!” Lin Feng said, smiling. Then that smiled turned into a wide grin as he added, “Just don’t  forget. I’m the one who taught you! If it—”

“But,” An Xin said, cutting Lin Feng off. “You guys are too focused on the individual skill. There is some synergy, but no real teamplay and your objective focus is completely out of sync. No one really knows what to do and when. You need a goal before the game even starts and work towards achieving that. The lanes aren’t independent arms, they are part of one big structure. You need to work together and make the lanes become part of that bigger structure. More specifically, that means that you don’t team up for just a Dragon, but for all map based plays.” An Xin let out a long, deep sigh. She shook her head and looked around the team members. “The more I’m thinking about it, the stupider it looks. Who even came up with this strategy?”

Everyone turned towards Lin Feng, who was already proudly patting his chest. “That was all me! I came up with their strategies! They’re great, right?”

“Of course it was you,” An Xin said, shaking her head. She chuckled at herself and then said, “I should’ve expected as much. You like to bruteforce your way through everything. It’s easier than using your head, right? You’re hopeless. I’m happy I got here when I did. If this had gone on for another month…” Then she turned towards the others, her disappointment and exhaustion disappearing from her voice and whole demeanor. She looked full of life. She looked excited and happy and ready to get to work. “But you guys don’t have to worry! I’ll take care of your strategy and gameplans from now on! I’ll show you all what a real game plan looks like.”

How To: Stress Relief

Sietse Thought: Well, this is a little bit later than usual. A whole lot little bit later. Almost an entire day later. We feel pretty shitty about this situation. Another day without Murder Mystery as well, which I hope desperately will see its next installment on the next chapter. Honestly, I’m really sad with this situation. I want to get these chapters ready and released. But life has a way of throwing curveballs at you, or just punch you straight in the face. Devshard is a living example of that. He pushes himself so hard every day, until that punch hits him in the face and he has a terrible migraine attack. Or for me, where I just grow distant and detached when there aren’t enough hours in a day to do everything I have to do, until I fall asleep behind the computer while working on a chapter. Or Shanks, who is still doing laundry, I think. Pretty sure that’s an excuse he uses when he just needs a minute to himself and unwind (Do I need to add the wink wink here?).

So, with all of that said, let’s move this to the comment section. What do you guys do when you have too much to do and you want to do all of it good? Do you drop the less important things, or do you keep pushing yourself until you finally break? And if you do break, what does that mean for you? Are you a Dev or a Shanks? A Sietse? Or something completely different? Let us know in the comment section down below!

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