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He’s Back, Baby!

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Lin Feng had taken the train to the Shanghai Esports Association’s headquarters. Once inside, he went up the elevator and then walked down the wide hallways until he stopped in front of a large wooden door. A plaque on it told him it was Fang Hao’s office. He raised his fist to knock, but left it hanging in the air. He felt a knot in his stomach, and he eventually let his arm drop back down. Why wouldn’t BunBun come with me? And why did she laugh at me when I asked her to come with me! “It’s your mess, you clean it up.” He chewed on his lips and looked at the plaque on the door again. Below Fang Hao’s name it read ‘President’. He was the vice president four years ago. Back when he helped me, even when it could cost his career. And then I walked away. He did all of that for me and I never did anything for him…

It’s Chu Fang’s fault! He should’ve never told Fang Hao that I was back. He promised me he wouldn’t! But he did. It only took him a week to tell his boss about me! Lin Feng shook his head. He wasn’t mad at Chu Fang. He understood very well that there was nothing Chu Fang could’ve done about it. And that it was only a matter of time until Fang Hao would find out. I’m just… I don’t want to talk with Fang Hao yet. I’m not ready. I should’ve been further. I want to show him that I’m back, and that he wasn’t wrong to trust me. But I’m not that far yet. I just won a high school tournament and he wants someone who can fight against Rake. I’m nowhere near that level yet!

Lin Feng clenched his fist and raised it again. Knock. Knock. He gritted his teeth and pulled his hand back again, loathing himself. He did so much for me. I would’ve never played at Worlds if it wasn’t for him. And now I can’t even face him. I’m a coward! A spineless coward! Stop! I can’t keep doing this. It’s only going to be harder to meet him. He took a deep, long breath in an attempt to calm himself down. I made a mistake. I should’ve never walked away like I did. I let him down, just like I let my teammates down. But that was four years ago. I’m four years older. He raised his fist up again. I can do this. Apologize to him and hope that he can forgive me for walking away. He pursed his lips and closed his eyes, then let his fist fall against the hardwood door.

There was a brief moment where Lin Feng thought he hadn’t knocked loudly enough, but then Fang Hao’s voice sounded from the other side of the door. “Come in.”

Lin Feng hadn’t heard Fang Hao’s voice in four years, but he couldn’t be any more familiar with it. His knees went weak and he caught himself looking over his shoulder. The elevator is right there. I can still… He grabbed his head and shook it. No! I won’t run away again! I’ll face the consequences. It’s my mess. I have to clean it up. He grabbed the handle and then pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Fang Hao’s office was by far the biggest Lin Feng had ever seen. His mouth fell slightly open as he took it all in. This view… Wow. He walked to the giant glass windows giving a breathtaking view of downtown Shanghai. The sun stood between two other high buildings, casting a golden glow into the office. Wow… He stood there for a minute, completely forgetting about why he was even here. Then he turned to look at the desk behind which Fang Hao sat. The knot was back in his stomach, his knees felt weak again, and he had to fight back the urge to run while he still could.

Fang Hao didn’t seem to notice Lin Feng. He was intently staring at a document on his desk. He traced his fingers over the information it contained. Then he reached for a pen and made a few scribbles on the edge of the document.

Lin Feng looked down at the ground, his fingers interlocked in front of him, and glanced up at Fang Hao every now and then. I won’t run! But then what am I supposed to do? Do I say hi? Is he busy? Maybe I should come back some other time when he isn’t so busy. Yeah, that’s probably the polite thing to do. I’ll come back later when he isn’t so bus—

Fang Hao placed the document in a folder and then pushed it to the side. He held the pen in his hand and inspected it with great attention before finally saying, “So, you’re back?”

Lin Feng froze. Am I back? I’ve never been here before. What does he mean? I’m here, like he asked. Am I back? Back. Something connected in his mind. Wires uncrossed and connected, giving him a rare moment of clairvoyance. He wants to know if I’m back to complete my dream. He bit his lips, hesitating only briefly, and then firmly nodded and said, “Yes. I’m back.”

Fang Hao raised his head and for the first time in four years looked at Lin Feng. He smiled and nodded. We can both still make our dreams happen. Then he grinned and said, “It’s good to have you back. And you’ve grown taller, I see.” He pointed at the chair on the other side of his desk and added, “Come, sit down. It’s been too long. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Tell me, how’ve you been?”

Lin Feng and Fang Hao chatted about everything that had happened over the last four years. And as the sun disappeared behind Shanghai’s skyline, the tense and nervous atmosphere in the room became warm and relaxed. The two talked about their day to day lives and everything unrelated to League of Legends. But that was also the only subject both of them were really interested in. It was finally Fang Hao who made the first move with a simple question. “Did you watch the World Finals?”

Lin Feng nodded and replied, “Yeah, I did.”

Fang Hao shook his head and sighed. “SSK is so strong. Han Seho, or Rake, is just getting better and better. And just when you think he can’t possibly get any better, he does it again. Lee Dojae’s antics aside, SSK deserved that world title. And it really hurts having to admit that.”

“I’ll catch up to him,” Lin Feng replied, determined. He looked Fang Hao in the eyes and continued, “And then I’ll surpass him.” He didn’t leave any room for discussion. This wasn’t a joke, nor light-hearted banter between friends. This was his conviction. Both his hands were clenched into fists. I’m going to catch up to you, Rake. Just wait. I’m coming for you and then I’ll get my redemption!

Fang Hao would’ve laughed if anyone else had said these words. But he knew Lin Feng. He knew the monstrous talent this young man possessed. So he just smiled and nodded. “That’s what I wanted to hear. I believe in you.” I’ve never met anyone as talented or as driven as you. The way you played and trained in Season 1. The manner in which you could lift your entire team up a level, that was something special. We’ve searched for someone like you ever since you left. We found some with a lot of talent, and others who were incredibly driven. But they never have it all. Not like you. 

But talent alone isn’t going to win Worlds. You’ve been away for four years. That’s four years of catching up you have to do. Fang Hao shook his head and said, “But I think it’s a little early to talk about beating Rake. Let’s focus on the Winter Collegiate Cup first.” He paused for a brief moment before continuing, “Chu Fang should’ve called you about that and given you the details, right? And he also should’ve told you that your opponents aren’t just the university teams but also the two high school teams from Beijing and Guangzhou, right? Let me give you a bit of extra information. Beijing insisted on this change. I can only see them do this if they have a very strong and talented team ready. You shouldn’t underestimate them. Or Guangzhou for that matter. All teams competing are going to be very strong.”

Fang Hao didn’t hold any information back that might help Lin Feng, because this was going to turn into a battle for power between the three great esports cities of Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. A fight for power. But let them come. I’ll fight back. And our high school team is going to give them a nice surprise. We’ve got the biggest talent League of Legends has ever seen. This little tournament is going to be an easy win for us! All their stupid tricks aren’t enough to beat the absolute talent of Lin Feng! Ha! He grinned at himself before looking at Lin Feng again. He smiled and said, “I’ll have Chu Fang send you all the information we have on the two teams from Beijing and Guangzhou. You should also get in touch with the rest of your team. You guys are going to need all the practice you can get. But that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, right? I heard from Chu Fang that you all know each other and are getting along great. So that’s good.”

Lin Feng grinned and replied, “Yeah! We’re all good friends! Chu Fang drafted a great team! It’s going to be a lot of fun to play together with Zeng Rui!”

In an apartment building in Shanghai, Zeng Rui sat at the dinner table with his parents. He had his chopsticks in one hand and a bowl in the other. Then both fell to the table. A cold shiver ran up and down his spine, again and again. Drips of sweat appeared on his forehead. Something feels wrong. Very, very wrong. What just happened? He looked around him, searching for the source of his discomfort. But he couldn’t find anything.

“Are you okay?” his mother asked.

Zeng Rui nodded, though he couldn’t shake that uncomfortable feeling off. “I’m okay, I’m okay.” Then he gritted his teeth as another cold shiver ran up and down his spine. This is the same feeling I got when the Midlaner from High School 13 said something really cringe. Don’t tell me I can now feel it when he… No, that’s stupid. That can’t be. Don’t let this get to your head, Zeng Rui. He clicked his tongue as he grabbed his chopsticks back up. I still have to call him. I actually have to play on the same team as him. This must be some cruel joke.

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Shanks' Log

Log Entry: [Sol 47:  February 16th, 2021] – A new infection is spreading through the settlement. Patient Zero is the crew’s only Doctor, Devshard. He came in contact with the alien virus during an extended expedition in a nearby cavern designated for exploration. Symptoms are mild and noticeable. Further observation is required, but I’m optimistic about the spread being contained.

-Shanks

Log Entry: [Sol 48: February 17th, 2021] – I’ve tentatively decided to name the alien virus “TFT”. The infected appear to mutter this word repeatedly, along with other incoherent ramblings like, “Eh, we’re bringing up the rear, boys.”, “Stop fucking cucking me, DP! You cuck!”, and “Just one more! One more after this! This is the last one! I promise!”. 

Symptoms appear to be worsening. Apart from suffering from delusions, patients report experiencing 3-6 hour gaps in their day.

I’ve also noticed a worrying trend. The initial infected, Devshard, Daoist Piousfire, and Screaming Leaf, have been quarantined. But the virus continues to spread through the settlement.

-Shanks

Log Entry: [Sol 49: February 18th, 2021] – The number of infected grows every day. I’ve received reports that the commanders of two other crews. BornToBe and Etvolare, have come in contact with the virus as well. 

Lately, I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately. My mind is transported to a battlefield where I face seven other competitors. I see familiar faces, those of my colleagues in the exploration crew. But that’s all I can remember. The memories are hazy. 

-Shanks

Log Entry [Sol 50, February 19th, 2021] – My suspicions have been confirmed. I am infected with TFT. The brief moments of mental clarity are getting shorter and shorter. This may be my last possible log entry. I’ve noticed my vice-commander, Sietse, is nowhere to be found. Perhaps he has set out to find help. I’m uncertain. 

Devshard has succumbed to TFT. He experienced full-on psychosis, then he went into cardiac arrest and died. His last words, “Fuck you, DP… You didn’t need that Lee Sin…!”

I fear this may be my fate as well. Pray for me. 

-Shanks

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