“For our first match in the Semifinals of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament, we have Tonji Affiliated High versus Shanghai High School!”
The first Shanghai 16 School Tournament Semifinal was about to begin. Both teams stepped up onto stage, while the host announced the individual players. Shouts and cheers came from a quarter of the crowd, while the rest were booing. It was a fun contest to see which school had brought with them the biggest crowd. The players from both teams sat down behind their computers, waving at the crowd and preparing for the upcoming best of five series. They were only three games from making it to the Finals!
The esports team from High School 13 was backstage, looking out onto the crowd. Ren Rou scanned over the students from High School 13 who’d come to watch and smiled. “That’s a nice crowd,” she said. “I recognize some people from our school. I think more will come after this first series is finished. There should be more room then.”
Yang Fan adjusted his glasses and said, “Tonji and Shanghai High School are both really strong teams. They should both be able to take this series. I’m thinking this will be a very close match-up. I wonder who’ll win it.”
“Probably Shanghai High School,” Ouyang answered, almost bored. “They won last year and their individual members are just better. Watch them destroy Tonji.”
Wei Dong nodded and added, “Yeah. Shanghai High School has Zeng Rui. A top 10 Challenger who specializes in strategies and shotcalling. It’s almost unfair that he’s allowed to participate. I wish I could be anywhere near as good…” He’d been there last year, watching the Finals between Shanghai High School and Shanghai International. More specifically, he watched the two Supports. As a Support himself, he hoped to learn a thing or two from them and improve his own game. But he wasn’t prepared for what came to pass. Zeng Rui carried his team with perfect strategies and even better shotcalling. Every ward placed by him proved useful. Every play initiated by him ended in a win. Everything he did helped his team get closer to victory, until they won.
Lin Feng waved his hand dismissively and said, “Oh, that’s fine. BunBun is a way better strategist than that Zeng Rui! And she’s also a better shotcaller! BunBun is better in every way!”
Perhaps for the first time, An Xin didn’t glare at Lin Feng. She didn’t hit him on the head with a book or pulled him by the ear. She smiled, kindly, and brushed her hair behind her ear. “Yup! I’m better than whoever that guy is. Our strategy will be a lot better. You guys don’t have to worry about that. Just play your best!”
It all happened so fast. The crowd was stunned speechless, as were the organizers. Tonji Affiliated High versus Shanghai High School was supposed to be a thriller of a series. Both teams were highly regarded and strong rivals. But the games weren’t all that fun to watch for the neutral fan. Shanghai High School won easily. They showed everyone just how much better they were than their direct competition. It was a clean sweep. 3 – 0. The longest game lasted for 28 minutes, while the shortest only took 21 minutes. There was no flair to it, no amazing or beautiful skills. It was the raw skill of a master strategist. Zeng Rui had completely outplayed Tonji Affiliated High before the games even started.
The players from Tonji Affiliated High sat in their chairs, staring at the post game lobby. Three losses. They hadn’t stood a chance. The players from Shanghai High School walked up to them for the customary shaking of hands at the end of a game. The crowd started cheering in the background, a painful reminder of all the students from their school who’d watched them play just now. They felt numb. This wasn’t how they pictured this night would go. They could hear the players from Shanghai High School laughing and joking. Those guys were happy…
Shanghai High School’s team gathered at the center of the stage. The crowd was clapping and cheering for them. They recognized classmates and friends and waved in their direction. They started clapping themselves and then made a bow towards the audience, thanking them for their support. Then they walked down the stage, laughing and congratulating each other on a game well played. Except for Zeng Rui. He didn’t join in with the rest of this team. Rather, he trailed behind them, calm as ever. Tonji Affiliated High was never their opponent. He knew that. This win meant nothing to him.
Chu Fang welcomed both teams backstage and congratulated Shanghai High School on their stellar performance. He said some pleasantries to them and didn’t forget to add that he felt they were even better than last year. This last part was especially true. The Shanghai High School of this year looked almost unbeatable. Zeng Rui had taken that next step since last year, and was looking more and more like a real professional player. He was exactly the kind of talent that the LPL desperately needed. If this was last week, I would’ve said you guys would win… Chu Fang looked at High School 13’s team that sat below the stage some distance away. But with those two here… He smiled and mumbled under his breath, “With those two here, I’m not so sure anymore.”
The mood in High School 13’s team had dampened some. An Xin’s arrival had given them the confidence that they could take on Shanghai International. This was an opponent who went toe-to-toe with Shanghai High School last year. But that was then and this was now. They’d just watched Shanghai High School. That team was good. It was far better than they’d ever expected. That pressure that they’d escaped from came back, weighing down on them. Their confidence took a nosedive.
Chen Ze muttered, dazed, “So that’s Shanghai High School… Damn.”
Tang Bingyao nodded and said, “Mhm. Their bot lane is really good. I don’t think we’re strong enough to take them on.” She wasn’t talking down on herself, or lacking confidence. She knew how good she was, and she’d just seen how good Zeng Rui and his ad-carry were. They were better. It was that simple. She became better every day, both individually and in her synergy with Wei Dong, but it was far from enough to beat Shanghai High School. Zeng Rui was really good.
An Xin looked in the direction of the backstage area, where Shanghai High School had just disappeared to, thinking. Then she looked at the others and said, “Yup. They’re better than I expected. I’ll have to go over my strategy for the Finals again and make some changes.”
Lin Feng laughed, unconcerned, and said, “It’s fine! We’ll win anyway! It doesn’t matter how good their Support guy is, you’re better at strategizing! We’re going to win!”
An Xin glared at Lin Feng, her lips curving up into that terrifying smile. “You idiot,” she said, raising her arm, scaring Lin Feng. “It’s not that simple!” Then she rubbed her chin, thinking. But a few moments later she shook her head. “That’s for later. Our game is starting soon. Let’s get ready for that.”
“For our second match in the Semifinals of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament, we have High School 13 versus Shanghai International!”
As if on cue, the host announced the second match. The players from High School 13 stood up from their seats and were about to walk towards the stage, when they noticed something from the corners of their eyes. Further down the row, the players from Shanghai International also got up from their seats. They looked at Ouyang and Ren Rou, recalling what happened a week ago. They’d exchanged some banter, until Chu Fang came running over. Against all their expectations, Chu Fang didn’t come for them.
Liu Zhengjie glared at the kid behind Ouyang. He couldn’t even remember the name. But he did remember how Chu Fang greeted that kid. How Chu Fang pushed him aside to get to that kid. How Chu Fang had dared to ignore him! That god fucking shithead! I’ll fucking strangle him! He felt the anger coming right back to him. I’ll show you how shit they are! They’re trash! I’ll kick them down! He sneered at the players from High School 13, then put his finger on his neck and drew a sharp line, mouthing, “You’re dead.”
Ren Rou put her arm around Ouyang, holding him back before he could try anything. Which he did. He raised his fists and shouted, “Let me go, Rou Rou! That fucker! We need to teach him a lesson! Last week clearly wasn’t enough for him! He wants some more! Just let me punch that stupid grin off his face!”
“Calm down, Ouyang. It’s not worth it. Let’s beat him in the game,” Ren Rou said, trying desperately to calm him down, but to little success.
“They do seem a bit full of themselves,” An Xin mumbled. “Well, since that’s the case…” She turned to the team with that same smile on her face that she had when Lin Feng said something stupid again. That smile that looked like anything but a smile. That smile that sent a shiver running up and down the spine. She said, “I expect a clean sweep. Kick them down! And then kick some more! Don’t let them get back up.”
“Yeah! Let’s win this game! It’s going to be super easy!” Lin Feng cheered, striking his victory pose.