“Ah!” Tang Bingyao cried out. Her eyes were round and wide and her face red as she looked over at Ouyang and the other guys. They weren’t paying attention to her. She turned back towards Ren Rou and shook her head, hushed-shouting, “N-no! No! Me liking him? No way! Don’t joke around like that! I’d never like someone like him!”
Ren Rou observed Tang Bingyao. The red tint painting her face. The fidgeting with her fingers. The constant glances towards Lin Feng. The signs were everywhere. It was so obvious that Tang Bingyao was crushing hard on Lin Feng. Ren Rou could see it from a mile away. But despite it being so obvious, Tang Bingyao was clueless. She really didn’t know what it was that she felt for Lin Feng. They were feelings unlike any she’d ever had before. She bit on her lips, looking down at her shoes, then said, “R-really… I’m telling you the truth. I don’t like him. I think…” She glanced over at Lin Feng, who was still arguing with An Xin, and whispered. “I… I don’t know…”
She likes him. Ren Rou sighed and looked at her friend, worried. Aww, Tang Tang. She knew how much Tang Bingyao and Lin Feng hung out together. The whole esports team knew, and they’d all supported the two. The two seemed like they’d make a great couple. But that was then and this was now. She looked over at An Xin, who was raging at Lin Feng, only short of getting ready to beat him to a pulp. Those two… Why did it have to turn out like this? There was a chemistry between Lin Feng and An Xin that wasn’t there between Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao. They could all see it, even Tang Bingyao. Ren Rou turned back to Tang Bingyao and asked, whispering, “Did you tell him? Does he know that you like him?”
Tang Bingyao glanced over at Lin Feng again. He was still talking with An Xin. I didn’t tell him. I wanted to tell him… She looked back down at her shoes and shook her head. “I don’t know…”
Ren Rou nodded. Tang Bingyao is quiet and Lin Feng is oblivious. Go figure. She would have to somehow get herself to spell the words out for him, or he won’t get it. He won’t get it, will he… She looked at Tang Bingyao. She looks so nervous. Ren Rou smiled and put her hand on Tang Bingyao’s shoulder. “So, what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” Tang Bingyao said. “She’s just… better.” She pursed her lips and shook her head. Bunbun is prettier, a better coach, has more of a personality… She has everything I don’t have. How can Lin Feng ever like me when she’s around? She’s so much better than me… The last few words came out of nowhere. She hadn’t thought of them before, not that bluntly anyways. But now she had. And it tore her heart apart. They hurt so much that she felt like crying, only she didn’t. She bit down hard on her lips and then said, again, “I don’t know.”
Ren Rou didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. So she hugged her friend. She took Tang Bingyao in her embrace and pulled her as close as she could. There was nothing else she could think of to comfort Tang Bingyao. They’d been good friends for the last two years. She knew Tang Bingyao better than most. She knew how simple and pure Tang Bingyao was, and how she’d never shown more than a moment of interest in a guy. Until Lin Feng. She was different around him. A little more alive. Her first real crush. It’s going to break her… Ren Rou pulled Tang Bingyao even closer, a deep frown on her face as she glanced over at Lin Feng. Does he feel the same for her? It doesn’t look like it…
Ren Rou had been worried for Tang Bingyao, but it seemed there was nothing to worry about. Tang Bingyao wasn’t suffering from a broken heart. At least, it didn’t look like that. She came to school the same as always, and she trained with the esports team, again, the same as always. In fact, she was playing with more focus than before and it was showing. She was making large strides forward and becoming a better player every session. So much so, that An Xin lacked the superlatives for her.
“Tang Tang is damn good! She’s improving the fastest out of all of you!”
“Look how hard Tang Tang is working! You guys need to be more like her!”
“Great job, Tang Tang! I’m damn impressed!”
The guys were tired of hearing this from An Xin. She sounded like a broken record, though she was completely right. Tang Bingyao was doing better than them, much better. They weren’t blind. They saw it too! But that just made it that much worse. They shook their heads and half-heartedly answered back, “Yeah, yeah. We get it…”
That, of course, was the wrong answer. An Xin smiled that smile of hers. Her lips curved up and almost seemed to reach her ears. Yet her eyes weren’t joyful. There was pleasure in them, but then there was also something else. It wasn’t anger. She wasn’t angry, she was strict. And she didn’t allow any laziness. “Hmm? Did I mishear? You guys didn’t sound like you took my words seriously jutt now.”
Be it Yang Fan or Ouyang, all the boys on the team straightened their backs and nodded, hastily. “Yes, you’re right. We were wrong. It won’t happen again. Sorry, BunBun.” They were scared of her. Genuinely scared. So they did as she asked. They watched Tang Bingyao practice and tried their best to imitate her.
An Xin smiled, satisfied, and said, “That’s what I like to hear.”
It wasn’t only High School 13 that was quickly improving. Su Xue was seeing similar successes, though hers were in the direction of recording gameplay. Lin Feng had been busy with the Semifinals match coming up, so he hadn’t had as much free time to spare for her. So, she ended up playing some games by herself on the Korean server. It was a huge success. She played ad-carry, like she always did. One game in particular stood out. She played Jinx and got two triple kills and even scored a quadra kill! Her score was just short of Legendary! This was more than enough for a good video.
“This is it!” Su Xue cried out, slapping down on her desk in excitement. It was only a game in Gold. There were many commentary videos featuring Gold games. It only had one quadra kill. There were many commentary videos featuring quadra kills and even pentakills. But this was her work. She’d given it her all and created something that she could be proud of! Besides, the gameplay was only one aspect of a commentary video. Perhaps the more important aspect was the commentary itself. That was where she could really set herself apart from the rest.
Su Xue had made several videos by now and tried to make a good and enjoyable commentary for them. But she always felt that something wasn’t quite right. Something felt wrong, or missing. She didn’t know what it was, until this video. This was her own gameplay. She knew exactly what she intended to do in every play, and she was excited to share that with everyone who wanted to listen to it. That was that missing factor. The excitement in her voice as she gave the commentary. It brought her videos alive and to that next level. Lin Feng agreed with her as did the few viewers she showed an early cut of her video to. Now, it was all up to Zuo You to work her magic and make this video really good.
Early on Thursday, during one of the breaks, Ren Rou got called to Mr. Zhou’s office. He was in charge of the school’s clubs. Ren Rou had gone to him before to talk about the Shanghai 16 School Tournament and if they could get the school’s help to invite students to come and cheer them on. Back then, he promised to discuss it with the principal. Now he had good news to share with her. The principal was very impressed with the recent achievements and promised that if the esports club made it to the Finals, he would make a school-wide announcement encouraging students to go and cheer the team on.
“An esports tournament is still a tournament. We don’t care that it starts with an ‘e’,”
“You’re representing our school, and we’re proud of how far you’ve come already.”
“Do your best and I hope to see you guys make it to the Finals.”
“Let’s get that trophy!”
The school officials could help get more students to go and watch the games, but that didn’t mean no one knew about it. In fact, there was a constant buzz in the hallways of High School 13. Everyone was talking about the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. They were one of the top four esports schools in all of Shanghai! This was a massive achievement, something they never knew they cared so much about until now. But they did! The team members became overnight celebrities. Students pointed them out and some even approached them, congratulating them and wishing them all the luck in their next game.
“Aren’t you Ouyang? You’re on the esports team, right? Good luck man! We’re rooting for you!”
“Hey! Liu Yue! I heard about the esports tournament! Good job man! You’re playing Friday, right?”
“Look, look! That’s Tang Bingyao. She’s on the esports team! Good luck, Tang Bingyao! Do your best!”
“Wow! That’s Chen Ze! He’s the Toplaner! You can win this, Chen Ze! We’re cheering for you!”
It was a little strange and difficult to get used to this new fame for the members of the esports team. But beyond the cringe and added pressure, they felt happy and proud. They’d done something great and were getting the recognition for it! Their peers were looking up to them! This was an incredible feeling. It ignited their already strong desire to make it to the Finals as every minute of their day became occupied with League of Legends. They trained and practiced and theorized and did everything they possibly could to prepare for the match, right up until the last moment.
The team trained until later than normal on Thursday. This was their last chance to get some practice in before the game. But they also needed to sleep, or they wouldn’t be in the optimal mental state for the series against Shanghai International. So they eventually ended practice and went home to get a good night’s rest.
Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao walked home together, as they always did. They walked in silence, listening to the sounds of the cars and the passersby. Then Lin Feng looked up at the starry sky. He smiled. He laughed. And then he screamed out, “WE’LL WIN FOR SUUUUUUURREEEEE!”
Tang Bingyao recoiled, caught off guard by the sudden scream. Then she smiled and balled her fist. She pumped the air, imitating Lin Feng’s victory pose, and said, “Yeah! We’ll win!”
An Xin walked out onto the balcony of her apartment in Pudong. She put her arms on the railing and rested her head on them. The sounds of cars and the buzz of people sounded out in the background, with the occasional police siren. She looked up at the sky, though the lights around her made it hard to make out the stars. Her hair fluttered in the wind as a cold wind blew past. This fall was cold. Hmm…
An Xin stood up straight and hugged her jacket tightly, looking over in a particular direction. She smiled a happy smile. It almost looked wrong on her. Hmm. She thought of thoughts that were her thoughts, and hers alone. They would never leave her mind. But these thoughts made her happy. Content. Excited for what was to come.