Team Shanghai returned to their gruelling schedule of training every day! There was no rest for the wicked! The Winter Collegiate Cup was right around the corner and they were still a long way away from being able to compete for the title. And that was exactly what they were going for. Anything less than winning the championship was unacceptable! Not just for Team Shanghai, but also for Fang Hao and Chu Fang. They were well aware of how good Lin Feng was at League of Legends. If Lin Feng really gave it his all, they were convinced he would lead his team to the title.
But Lin Feng wasn’t thinking too much about practicing. He was celebrating the victory against Shanghai University of Finance together with Tang Bingyao and Zhang Hao. That win was a big confidence booster, lifting the pressure right off their shoulders. Zeng Rui was fortunately a realist. He quickly put an end to the joy by reminding the team that the Shanghai University of Finance was only a top 8 team in China. “We’re not playing to get into the top 8. We play to win. Right now, we can’t even win the regionals. There are two other teams in the East China region that are far better than the Shanghai University of Finance. You might’ve heard about them before. They are Fudan University and Zhejiang University. I’ve only seen them play in the last Collegiate Cup, but we should assume they’re better now than they were then.”
An Xin nodded along with everything Zeng Rui said. She spent much of her free time watching replays from the previous Collegiate Cup. And the rest of her free time went towards discussing what she’d seen with Zeng Rui. She looked at Lin Feng and said, “The skill differences between those two and Shanghai University of Finance is really big. I don’t think we can confidently beat them, or at all. It’s a toss up really. A 2-1 result that could go either way. And remember, they only made it to the semis last year. I also watched the finals… Those two teams were good.”
“Really? No! We can’t let that happen!” Lin Feng exclaimed. Then he shook his head and continued, “We have to practice harder! We’re going to win this tournament! Top 4 means nothing!”
Zeng Rui stared at Lin Feng, ready to erupt. That’s what I’ve been saying! Thundering dumbass! Do you always have to be this stupid? Why can’t you use your brain for once? He sighed and massaged his temples. Calm, calm. He finally looked at Lin Feng and said, “Of course we want to win. But it’s not easy. There can be only one!”
An Xin smiled and said, “Yeap. There can be only one! Now let’s focus on our training.”
It was the sign for everyone to sit back down behind their computers. They then turned to look at Zeng Rui and An Xin, who started explaining the strategy and tactics the team were going to practice next. Before long, they were putting the game plan into action against Master and Challenger rank teams. And they won. They always won. The tactics looked perfect, the execution flawless. No one could beat them! Lin Feng got excited again! But then An Xin and Zeng Rui hit the team with a dose of reality. Their opponents weren’t tryharding, nor did they have a Lin Feng on their team. An Xin then pulled up a recording of the game and pointed out all the mistakes they made, so that they could learn from them.
Team Shanghai used this method of planning, playing, reviewing, and adapting to improve as quickly as they could. They played game after game, day after day. The only distraction to the monotony was their old teammates who would occasionally drop by to watch the games. To be impressed. Both the players from Shanghai High School and High School 13 were absolutely amazed by the immense progress Team Shanghai had made in only a few weeks of training.
Ouyang was particularly stunned. He remembered High School 13’s training regime for the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. Back when they started, he was only Gold. But the training had helped him climb up the ladder to Platinum. That practice was just right for him. He understood what was expected of him and how he could improve. But when he listened to Zeng Rui and An Xin discussing tactics and then relaying that to the rest of the team, he was drawing blanks. The level of micro management was so high that he was completely lost. But he could see that it worked. The team won just about every game! He smacked his forehead and said, “Sweet Brosus! It’s like I’m watching my best bros becoming a professional team! I bet the LSPL doesn’t have anything on you! How are you all this good?”
Lin Feng laughed and said, “I told you! I’m really good at League of Legends too! And the others are okay too!”
An Xin glared at Lin Feng. She wanted to say something. HMM? What was that? I dare you to say it again! But Zeng Rui’s old teammates and Wei Dong changed the topic before she could. Their eyes were on Zeng Rui and Tang Bingyao.
“You two are playing so well together! It’s like you two have been at it for years!”
“I’ve never seen Botlaners with such good synergy!”
“You two are the perfect couple! Like a match made in heaven!”
“Right, right! Zeng Rui is the shield who holds down the fort! Nothing gets past him!”
“Yes, yes! And Tang Tang is the spear! She’s sharp and deadly! No one can stop her! All perish in her way!”
“Uhh, yeah, something like what they said. You two are playing really well together!”
Lin Feng was about to say something stupid, An Xin could see it. She raised her finger and grabbed his attention. “Don’t!” she mouthed.
Lin Feng wasn’t entirely braindead. He swallowed back the words that were on the tip of his tongue. I’m really good too! I Supported Tang Tang against a university team during our scrim and totally carried us to a win! You should’ve seen my Support! I’m really good at Supporting too! He instead grinned and said, “Zhang Hao is also doing really well in the top lane!”
It was one of the most sensible things Lin Feng had said. Team Shanghai really was doing well. The bot lane was making large strides, but so was Zhang Hao in the top lane. He was putting in better and better performances, and he almost never lost his lane matchups anymore. An Xin was doing even better. She was the quiet carry of the team, always arriving in time for a counter gank or to help a teammate pick up a kill. But the most impressive player of the team was still Lin Feng. There was just something about the way he played that was different from everyone else. No one on the team could quite explain how it was different, but they all knew they were witnessing something very special when he really started playing.
Liu Yue suddenly clasped Lin Feng’s shoulder and exclaimed, “My god! I bet there’s almost no one in the entire Collegiate Cup who can beat you guys! WOOT WOOT!”
An Xin giggled and said, “We just have to make sure that we beat the few teams who do stand a chance against us. It’s not going to be so easy. We still have a lot more training to do.”
“BunBun is right! We have to beat everyone!” Lin Feng agreed. Then he struck his victory pose and shouted, “And we’re going to beat them all! First place will be ours! No one can stop us!”
Tian Tian was back to work after his short holiday break following Worlds. The new LPL season was around the corner and he had to practice for that. But more time consuming were the large number of sponsorship events KG had lined up for him. He went from one event to the next and barely even had the time to call Lin Feng, let alone meet up with him for an afternoon of gaming. But he did want to talk with his best friend, so he eventually made the excuse that he had to go to the bathroom for a number two. Once inside, he took out his phone and dialed Lin Feng’s number.
The two good friends talked briefly about random subjects, until Lin Feng couldn’t contain himself any longer and shared that he was playing in the Winter Collegiate Cup after all. “Y-you’re really going to play in the Winter Collegiate Cup?” Tian Tian asked, incredulous. “That’s so unfair for everyone else, haha! You’re the best player in the world. Y-you’ll easily win this!”
“I know, right? I think so too!” Lin Feng replied, grinning. “Oh, right! Fatty? Remember Tang Tang? She’s going to be our team’s ad-carry. Well, her birthday is this weekend. We’re giving her a big party! You should also come! It doesn’t matter that you don’t know her yet! You’re going to be best friends when we make the team anyway!”
Tian Tian sighed and said, “Sorry. I-I can’t. I’m really busy. Maybe I can meet her some other time? When I’m not so busy. I-it’s all these sponsorship events…”
“Oh, okay,” Lin Feng replied, disappointment thick in his voice.
Tian Tian didn’t want to linger on this particular bit. His time with Lin Feng was short and he wanted it to be good. So he asked, “What are you getting her? Y-you know, a birthday present.”
Lin Feng forgot to reply to Tian Tian. He stared at the wall, utterly confused. A birthday present? Huh? Why would I have to give someone a birthday present on their birthday?
“Are you actually stupid?” Su Xue asked Lin Feng, who was wolfing down a late afternoon snack. “What were you planning? Going to Tang Tang’s birthday party to stuff yourself? A birthday party is to celebrate her birthday! Not to stuff yourself!” She rolled her eyes and lectured, “Of course you need to bring a present! And you better put some thought into it! If I hear you bought her a gift card, I won’t ever make dinner for you again! You need to get her a gift that means something to her!”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and said, “Oh, I see. I didn’t know…” A gift that means something to her? What even is that? Where do I get that? Is there a special store for those kinds of gifts? Maybe I can search online for them.
Su Xue noticed the confused look on Lin Feng’s face. He looks like he really doesn’t know. Is it really that… She frowned and probed, “Don’t tell me you’ve never given someone a birthday present before…?”
Lin Feng stopped eating for a moment and looked at the food in his bowl. He finally said, “I think I have, once. I gave BunBun something when it was her birthday when we were young…”
“You did? What did you get her?” Su Xue asked.
Lin Feng smiled sheepishly and said, “Oh, uh… I gave her an eraser, I think? It was something like that! Something for school! But you can’t blame me for not remembering! It was all the way back in elementary school! That’s just too long ago!”
“You’re stupid. You’re actually stupid,” Su Xue said. She stared at him, trying to think about what to say. She finally shook her head and asked, “In what world does an eraser count as a birthday gift? How did that gift mean something to BunBun!?”
BunBun! Lin Feng started grinning, a mischievous glance shining in his eyes. He ignored Su Xue and started planning out his next moves in his head. BunBun is great at buying gifts! She’ll know what I should get Tang Tang! This is perfect! She’ll know what a meaningful gift is too, so I won’t have to look it up online!
An Xin held her phone to her ear and listened to Lin Feng blabbering about needing help to buy Tang Bingyao a meaningful gift. Does he even know what meaningful means? She shook her head and asked, “So you want me to help you pick out a birthday present for Tang Tang? Why should I?”
“Because I don’t know how to pick one out myself!” Lin Feng replied, excited as always. “You know I don’t have any experience buying birthday presents!”
An Xin curled her lips and asked, “Oh, is that so? I seem to recall you have a lot of experience. Like back in third grade, when you got me an eraser… That was a pretty meaningful gift, don’t you think? Very meaningful.”
Anyone could hear the thick sarcasm in An Xin’s voice. But Lin Feng wasn’t just anyone. He was someone special! He laughed and said, “Yeah! I got you a birthday present back then! So now you can return the favour!”
An Xin was speechless. Dumbstruck. Everything was a blank for a brief moment, and then a world of abuse flooded her mind. She forced herself to take deep, calming breaths. But they didn’t help. She only got more upset the longer she thought about it. I NEED TO PUNCH YOU!
“Please! BunBun! I need your help! I’m no good with these things and you’re the only one I can turn to! I’ll even treat you to dinner as thanks! How does that sound?” Lin Feng begged.
Dinner? An Xin’s anger and rage disappeared, replaced with a smile. Dinner sounds good. I’d like that. But I can’t let him know. He’ll just think he did something right… She said in a stern voice, “Fine. I’ll help you. But only this once.”
“REALLY!?” Lin Feng exclaimed in excitement.
“Yes,” An Xin said. She then paused for a brief moment before adding, “But you better treat me to some really fancy dinner after we get you a present for Tang Tang. And I swear, if it’s not fancy, I’ll make your life hell!”