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Dreams Passed, Friendships That Don't Last

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Chu Fang felt all the colour drain from his face. Potential candidates… Shit. He’s going to yell at me. Sweat prickled on his forehead and he felt a sudden chill in the air. He looked sheepishly at Fang Hao, who sat behind his desk calm as ever. Maybe he doesn’t know. Just a coincidence. A shiver ran up and down his spine as he desperately tried not to show fear in his eyes. I’ve done nothing wrong. I could’ve told him about Lin Feng, sure, but I didn’t have to. I didn’t do anything wrong!

Fang Hao ignored the sweat on Chu Fang’s forehead and the worry in his subordinate’s eyes. “So,” he started. “What do you think about inviting high schoolers to participate in the Winter Collegiate Cup?”

Chu Fang forced himself to take deep, long, calming breaths. He finally looked up at Fang Hao and smiled. “I think it’s a good idea. It’ll be a good chance for them to experience some higher level competition.” He paused for a moment, hesitating, then added, “Besides, the Shanghai 16 School Tournament just finished, and I’ve watched the final rounds myself. I know how strong all the high school teams are and which players can participate at the university level.”

“Right, the Shanghai 16 School Tournament…” Fang Hao dragged the words, smiling slightly. “Who won again this year? High School 13, was it?”

Chu Fang felt his heart knocking against his ribs in an increasingly violent rhythm. He knows. He knows! Does he? It took all his self control to give Fang Hao a calm answer. “Yes. They were the underdogs for a long time, but they suddenly looked very strong in the semifinals when they beat Shanghai International. Then they won 3-1 in the Finals against Shanghai High School. They have a few especially outstanding players.” He recalled a certain promise he made. I’m trying my best to keep it a secret, Lin Feng. But he’s going to find out. One more question from him and he knows, if he doesn’t already. He probably already knows. I sent him the information. I sent him the…

Fang Hao nodded repeatedly and said, “Yes, yes, so I’ve heard. Very outstanding. Oh, what was the name of their team captain again?”

Chu Fang gulped. “Ahem. Well, uh… You know, it’s… Did you read my repo—”

Fang Hao slammed his fist down on his desk with such force that Chu Fang jumped up in fright. Then he shouted, “YOU LITTLE SHIT! How long did you plan on keeping this from me!? Huh! I thought I could trust you!”

Chu Fang pushed himself back in his chair, as far away from Fang Hao as he could without offending his boss. He knows. Yep. He knows. I’m done for. He’s going to eat me alive. I’m going to be demoted and he’ll have me sweeping the floors. He knew this was coming the moment that Fang Hao had called him and asked for the information on High School 13. But somewhere deep down he’d hoped his boss would glance over the information and miss it. He said, “I can explain. Really! There’s a good reaso—”

Fang Hao didn’t care about an explanation. He cut Chu Fang off with a stare, then leaned forward and asked, “Tell me. Is it really him?”

Chu Fang froze for a moment. Then he slowly nodded and said, “Yeah. It is him.”

“Maple,” Fang Hao mumbled. “Maple…” He fell back in his chair and stared past Chu Fang at nothing. It’s him. He said he’d be back. But it’s been four years, and he was just a little kid back then. He did come back! Maple is back! His eyes started beaming and his mouth moved of its own volition. “He’s back. Maple. Maple…”

“He is,” Chu Fang said. Lin Feng will understand why I had to tell Fang Hao. And I haven’t really broken my promise. But I really don’t want to end up sweeping the floors… He took a deep breath and then explained, “I only found out myself during the semifinals. We spoke for a bit and he told me that he doesn’t want everyone to know that he’s back yet. So he asked me to keep his return a secret for a while longer…”

Fang Hao waved his hand and said, “It’s fine. It’s fine.” He then grinned and looked at his subordinate. It’s been four long years. We haven’t had any luck since he left… This… It feels unreal. But Chu Fang looks serious enough… “T-this isn’t some elaborate joke, is it? It’s really him? I swear I’m firing you if this is all some stupid joke! Tell me. Is he really back? Is this Lin Feng really the Lin Feng? Maple?”

Chu Fang nodded and confirmed once more, “Yes.”

Fang Hao was finally convinced. He looked at his subordinate and started laughing. Louder. Louder! “HE’S BACK! BACK! THIS IS GREAT!” He got up from his desk. He had the urge to throw up his hands and jump in the air. But he managed to stop himself. He lightly coughed and let himself fall back in his chair. Grinning from ear to ear, he looked at Chu Fang and said, “That little punk! It’s about time he showed himself again!”

Chu Fang smiled. He understood exactly how Fang Hao was feeling, because that was also how he’d felt when he found out. They’d both been part of the League of Legends scene since Season 1. They were there when the LPL still competed for the world title. More importantly, they’d both witnessed the raw talent and potential of Maple. He was far better than all the other talents they’d scouted over the years combined. And now he was back.

A train came rolling into the station. Lin Feng and Tian Tian were watching it come to a stop. Then Lin Feng turned to his friend and said, “Fatty, you have to practice hard! And let me know when you’re free again! I’ll come hang out and I’ll bring BunBun and Tang Tang too!”

Tian Tian nodded and said, “I will! I’m going to train really hard! Uhm, you should also do your best!” Then he suddenly thought of something and asked, “The Winter Collegiate Cup is happening soon. Are you going to participate?”

“Huh?” Lin Feng blurted out. Then he grinned and shook his head. “I won’t. That’s a university tournament, right? I’m still in high school!”

“Oh… Right,” Tian Tian mumbled. He scratched his head in embarrassment and apologized, “I forgot you were still in high school…” He shook his head. W-why do I keep forgetting this? He’s a few years younger than me… 15 plus 4 is 19…

Tian Tian’s daytime job was being a professional League of Legends player as the Top Laner for KG. But he also attended university. There was a special arrangement in place for students playing professional sports. He was allowed to skip his classes and work on assignments on his own time. Then he had to report to his professor every couple of weeks. They’d discuss where he was at and what he should do next. The last time he’d spoken with his professor was just a couple of days ago. Tian Tian thought back to that meeting and mumbled, “I talked with my professor. He said I should join my university esports team… I was thinking it might be fun to do if you were also playing…”

Lin Feng chuckled and replied, “How could they let you play? You’re a professional player! And you’re the best in China too! The other teams might as well give up if you join!” Lin Feng took a deep breath and then added, “Though it would’ve been fun!”

The train conductor blew her whistle, interrupting the conversation between Lin Feng and Tian Tina. Lin Feng looked behind him and saw the doors closing. He hopped on the train and shouted through the closing gap, “Let’s meet up again soon, Fatty. See you!” Then the doors closed. He waved at Tian Tian as the train started moving, his friend waving back at him. He smiled until the train left the station. And not a second longer. He stumbled to the nearest seat and fell down in it, every last speck of joy disappearing from his face.

Back in the restaurant, Lin Feng had asked Tian Tian about his old teammates. Tian Tian had hesitated at first, but Lin Feng had pushed for an answer. That was how he learned about how their other three old teammates were doing.

Eleven was the only one still playing League of Legends competitively. But circumstances had forced him to join a second-rate LSPL team, where his talent was going to waste.

Lin Feng bit on his lips. Playing in the LSPL is as good as quitting… But at least he’s still playing… Autumn and Silent were the names of the Support and ad-carry of his old team. Both of them had quit the competitive scene shortly after him. I abandoned them, and then they left. They left because of me.

Autumn had returned to his hometown where he’d opened a small cybercafe. He hadn’t cut off contact, but he wasn’t trying to keep the friendships going either. Tian Tian had dropped by the cybercafe multiple times, and he’d chatted with Autumn over the phone. But he was always the one instigating, and friendship was a two way street. He eventually gave up and contact between them  slowly withered off.

Lin Feng banged his head against the side of the train in a slow but steady rhythm. I tore our friendships apart by leaving. They all stopped talking with each other after I stopped talking to them. After I left them… I didn’t even tell them that I was leaving. I was a terrible friend. The worst friend.

Tian Tian hadn’t had much to say about Silent, whose name fit him incredibly well. Silent never spoke much, even when the team was still together. But after Lin Feng left, Silent had mostly become a mute until he left through the backdoor just like Lin Feng had. Tian Tian had no clue what happened to Silent after that, except from little tidbits he heard from Autumn. Silent had apparently moved back in with his parents to help them with their family business.

I guess they all landed on their feet, in their own ways… I didn’t ruin their lives. Lin Feng didn’t believe it. He’d abandoned them and broken up their friendship. And from what he could see, none of them were really friends with each other either anymore. They’d come together with a shared dream. To become the best and win the world title! That dream was gone. There was nothing left of it. They’d given up, just like he had. All their long nights talking about becoming the best and every long session, it was all a thing of the past. They’d moved on, because he left them behind to fend for themselves. He was the glue that had kept everything together. And when he left, he tore the team apart. This group of brothers was now nothing more than strangers.

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The Loneliness Gets to Sietse

Sietse: How often do you clean your bathroom? I thought it was pretty obvious you want to do this once a week, maybe twice. But I was speaking to some friends and now I’m starting to doubt my own sanity. Weekly seems to be often. They were talking about doing it every other week. One dude was even talking about every 1-2 months. It just sounds disgusting to me. All the hair piling up. That dirty look on the walls. The soap and sweat smell combination that lingers even after throwing the window open. So it seems like only common sense to clean it at least once a week, preferably twice. 

But friends and strangers alike, somehow including more than a few girls who’ve known me for less than an hour, tell me I can whine like a girl about stupid stuff. Fair game. I love to whine, it’s my go-to tactic. But I need to know. What is your cleaning schedule like for your bathroom? Once a week? Once a month? NEVER?

Shanks and Devs are both missing in action right now, so I can only guess at what their answer is. So let’s do that. I’m creating a fake Shanks in my head and asking him the question: “Yo, bud. How often do you clean your bathroom? And I’m talking about your bathroom, not your groceries. We all know you clean those whenever the delivery man shows up. Because you just want an excuse to see him again.”

Fake Shanks: WHAT THE FUCK! Just Shfoehgfohe. Fuck you, Sietse! That happened once! ONCE! And that wasn’t even my fault! I had nothing to do with that! It had already happened. I just opened the bag and there it was. All the detergent over my groceries!

Anyway, let’s get to your question. How often do I clean my bathroom? Well, first we have to talk about the fact that I live in dorms. I have to share everything with my Chinese roommate and that bitch who keeps stealing my utensils. God, I can’t stand her. You know, her dirty dishes are still on the stove! It’s been four days! She still hasn’t gotten the hint that it’s disgusting! And don’t even get me started on the trashcan. It’s her turn to empty it. But does she do that? Noooooo. I gotta do that. AndAndAnd, my pan, she scratched it. I’m 100% sure it was her! She’s the only one stupid enough to use a knife in my pan. Fucking bitch.

Ok, but how often do I clean my bathroom? I don’t know. I like it clean. So I check on it every now and then. Sometimes I tell them that they have to keep to the schedule. But like, I have to do it once a month and those disgusting people never do it. I tell them, but they never do! So then I end up doing it. So yeah, I think like once a month? It’s not that bad, you know. I’m Chinese, we don’t have much body hair, so it doesn’t get all that dirty.

Sietse: That’s something. You’ve got some real anger for that girl. There’s a fine line between love and hatred bud. You sure you don’t wanna explore that? Maybe that red thong you found a while back is hers! Eh, let’s not delve back into that, or we won’t be done before the end of the night. Still gotta ask fake Devs about how often he cleans his bathroo—

Fake Devshard: I’m Indian, guys. I’ve got more body hair than all one billion+ Chinese people combined. If I don’t clean my shower at least twice a week, I end up with a small lake and a big leak. So I got a cleaning lady and then I do a bit of extra ‘maintenance’ throughout the week. Pretty standard stuff.

On a side note. This might be the most boring translator thought yet. Worse even than the ridiculous shit Shanks comes up with. When he talks I fall asleep on a good day and want to strangle him on a normal day. But this? This is just a whole new level of stupid. Clearly I’ve been going too easy on you guys, if this is the shit you’ve been coming up with. I think it’s time I take a little more control again. Get this ship straight. Just look at the comments on the latest chapters. You see that dip? Yeah. It’s because of your stupid ass translator thoughts. We went from 70+ comments to what, 10? 15?

On top of that, we got this awesome new feature (Check it out here: https://www.wuxiaworld.com/page/rise/rise-donations !!!), but are we promoting it? No. People on mobile can’t even see it! You guys were supposed to write a nice outro, so that they can also see it. And click on it. We’ve got this great opportunity and we’re just throwing it away! Sigh. I can’t even be mad. This is just so bad. A part of me died because of how stupid you two are. That’s probably why I’m sick. Because you two dumbfucks are being so stupid that I literally can’t deal with it anymore.

Enough bitching at these two dumbfucks. They’re beyond my help. But that doesn’t mean we all give up! We all know how to get Shanks to do stuff. Just tell him how awesome he is! So hit that comment button. Type out a nice comment. And tell Shanks and Sietse how they’re the two biggest dumbfucks in all of creation.

Devshard out.

Sietse: I was alone and didn’t know what to write. My hands just kind of moved and now I find myself here, not entirely sure of what to do. If you got this far, I love you. If you skipped past everything above, go and read it. It’s so terrible that you’ll probably enjoy it! And then leave a comment! Wish Devs well (he sounds like a truck ran over him and then backed over him for good measure, but he’s refusing to admit that), and tell Shanks the laundry can wait! Oh! Also let me know if I’m going crazy about the bathroom cleaning, or if my friends are just dirty pigs.

Sietse out!

Real Shanks: Okay. I’m back. I wasn’t missing in action. Sietse told me he needed to shower and do his nightly routine first. Then we could get started on the thought. So, I thought I had enough time to make a quick run to the campus grocery store to buy some milk. We’re out of milk in the fridge! And—

Right, the chapter thought. I’m still a little speechless after reading what I came back to. I can tell that Sietse is clearly still drunk after that little zoom party he had. In the span of 15 minutes, he managed to come up with proxy representations of both Devshard and me. I can’t tell if I should be mildly amused or highly offended that this is how he sees us. Fake Devshard is 100% accurate btw. I disagree with Fake Shanks, though. I know I whine about my roommates sometimes, but it’s not that much. Screw you, Sietse! 

Anyway to answer your question for real, I clean my bathroom once every one to two weeks, usually every week! Once a month…do you take me for some kind of filthy barbarian? Jesus. At least, I don’t cook in a half renovated kitchen with only one working sink. 

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