Lin Feng ran to Su Xue’s room and poked his head inside. “Xue Xue! I’m going out! Meeting up with BunBun! See you later!” He didn’t wait for a reply as he charged to the front door. He quickly put on his shoes and grabbed his coat before slamming the apartment door shut behind him. Then he ran down the stairs and through the streets, all the way to the subway station in downtown Shanghai where he’d agreed to meet up with An Xin.
Lin Feng looked around. Where is she? Why isn’t she here yet? We agreed to meet up here right away! What’s taking her so long! He tapped on his watch, double checking the time, then took out his phone and looked if there were any messages. There was no word from An Xin. It felt like she’d disappeared from the face of the Earth. The minutes ticked by, each next one slower than the last. He impatiently walked back and forth, searching the crowd for a sign of An Xin. Come on! Where are you? Hurry up already!
It was almost 30 minutes later when Lin Feng finally spotted An Xin. He waved at her and shouted, “BunBun! What took you so long? You’re never this slow! I’ve been waiting for 30 minutes! It’s already six!”
An Xin waved back at Lin Feng and walked up to him. “Hey. Sorry. I couldn’t decide what to wear and lost track of time.”
“What to wear?” Lin Feng asked, confused. He looked An Xin up and down. Is that jacket new or something? It looks fancy, but didn’t she wear that to school the other day too? And I can’t really see what she’s wearing underneath… Looks like a blouse and vest? What’s so special about that? She always likes to wear a blouse and vest combo… He kept searching for an answer to his question, his eyes following down the curves of her body to her long, slender legs. That skirt is short, but it isn’t all that different from the school uniform. Maybe it’s her leggings? Did she worry that it’s too cold for them? It is kind of chilly… He scratched the back of his head and sheepishly asked, “Uh, is it because you didn’t know if it was warm enough for leggings? It’s kind of cold, you know…”
An Xin glared at Lin Feng. She’d known something was up when he looked confused. And she definitely knew something stupid was coming when he was inspecting her clothes. But he still managed to catch her off guard. She yelped, “The leggings are warm!” She puffed in annoyance and continued, “I won’t argue with a blockhead like you! Come, we’re going to find a birthday present for Tang Tang!”
An Xin walked Lin Feng to the shopping district. She glanced at him and noticed that he was looking at the shops they walked by in amazement. Go figure. He hasn’t been here since moving to Shanghai. How typical. She nodded at him and asked, “So have you thought about what you want to get Tang Tang? Is there anything specific you’re thinking about?”
“Oh, me? Uhh…” Lin Feng scratched the back of his head. What should I get her? What do people get for their friends’ birthdays…? He suddenly stopped and said, “Oh! Right! What about that mall in Pudong? You know, the one we went to for the tournament? They should have something! Let’s go and see what they have!”
An Xin chuckled and asked, “You do realize that’s an electronics mall, right? They sell computers, mice, keyboards and all of that stuff. Is your big plan to buy Tang Tang a new computer?”
“Uh, hehe…” Lin Feng chewed on his lips, nervous. “I guess a computer is too expensive… But! But what about a keyboard or mouse? Those don’t cost too much! Oh! Oh! I saw a really cool keyboard when we were there for the Finals of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament! Right before the games! It had all different coloured lights on it! I really wanted to get it!”
An Xin placed her palm on her forehead and took a deep breath. Then she said, “We’re here to buy a gift for Tang Tang, and not for you. Do you think she would like that keyboard?”
Lin Feng was taken aback by this question. He looked at An Xin but didn’t say anything. Would Tang Tang like the keyboard? I don’t know… What does she like? Hmm…
An Xin shook her head, smiling. He is so obvious. I should help him a little, or he’ll never get there. She said, “Hey, Lin Feng. Try this. Think about the kind of things Tang Tang likes. Maybe it’s something she talks a lot about, or something you’ve seen her look at in a store window. Just something that she’s passionate about.”
Lin Feng scrunched his eyes and stared with great difficulty into the distance. “Hmmm… What does Tang Tang like? What does Tang Tang like…?” He suddenly snapped his fingers and shouted, “Oh! I know! She likes money! Does that count? Can I just give her some money?”
An Xin moved her head forward as her mouth fell open. It took her a good few seconds to recover from her shock. Then she exclaimed, “Of course not! Money isn’t a birthday present! That’s something lazy people give to people they don’t really care about!”
Lin Feng ruffled his hair and said, “Ah, guess I can’t give her money. It’d be pretty convenient though… Oh, I know!” He turned to An Xin and said excitedly, “Tang Tang really likes League of Legends! And, and her favourite champion is Draven! I know just the gift for her! It’s perfect! She’ll love it!”
“If you’re going to say that you want to give her a Draven skin I’m going to smack you,” An Xin interrupted.
Lin Feng’s shoulders drooped down in defeat and the smile fell from his face. He asked, “U-uh… But I thought that was a pretty fun gift? It’s something she’s really passionate about!”
An Xin closed her eyes and took a long, annoyed breath. Then she rubbed the back of her head, which had started to throb. He’s going to give me a headache if I let this go on any longer. “Enough. Expecting anything out of you was clearly a mistake! I’ll think of something for you.”
The defeated look disappeared from Lin Feng’s face. He smiled brightly and said, “I told you I wasn’t good at picking out gifts! That’s why I called you! You’re going to help me, right? Right!”
“Don’t be proud of that,” An Xin cut Lin Feng down. She looked into the distance for a brief moment and then added, “You better treat me to an amazing dinner later.”
Lin Feng laughed and said, “No worries! I know the best restaurants in Shanghai! I’ll take you to one that’s really, really good! You’ll love it! Their food is the best! I wanted to go and eat there again anyway, so this is perfect!”
“Wow! This is so cool!” Lin Feng exclaimed, his eyes beaming. He was in a small League of Legends themed shop, browsing through a display of figurines. “BunBun! BunBun! Here! Look at the Sona! She’s so big! And the Garen! He’s also really big! Oh! Oh! Ezreal! They have Ezreal! And Jinx! There’s a Jinx here! Look!”
An Xin stood a few steps behind Lin Feng, letting him browse the different items. She smiled as he grabbed one figurine after the other, checking them out and shoving them in her face. She nodded and said, “They’re really big, yeah. Cool, right?”
“Yes!” Lin Feng said. Then he looked at An Xin and said, “BunBun, you’re the best! How did you find this place?”
An Xin’s smile grew wider and she replied, “Of course I’m the best! What did you think?”
Lin Feng had stopped listening again. His full focus was back on the figurines. He excitedly said, “They’re all so cool! Hey, there’s Graves over there! Ohhh! I really want that Pulsefire Ezreal! It’s the coolest one! Oh, and this one too! This one too! Also that one!” He bit on his tongue and paused for a brief moment. Then he asked over his shoulder, “Should I just buy a whole bunch of them?”
An Xin raised her eyebrow and asked, “Are you buying them for yourself or as a gift for Tang Tang?”
Lin Feng picked up a Jinx figurine and held it up to An Xin. “I feel like Tang Tang will love—”
An Xin smacked Lin Feng across his face, a clear slapping sound ringing out in the otherwise quiet shop. “Stop fooling around! This isn’t for you! It’s for Tang Tang! Think, Lin Feng. Think! Would Tang Tang like this?”
Lin Feng rubbed his face in pain but didn’t argue any further. He turned back to the display and started earnestly searching for a gift. What would Tang Tang like? What would she like? This Darius… No. I don’t think so… Maybe that Ahri body pillow? Eh… Ooooh! He ran to another corner of the shop, which had bobbleheads of famous League of Legends players. “That’s Fatty! BunBun! Fatty! Fatty! BunBun!”
An Xin’s eyes went wide. Everyone in the store had stopped with what they were doing and were now looking at Lin Feng. And from him they looked at her. She felt her face burn up, slightly embarrassed to be linked to Lin Feng right now. She tried to signal him to quiet it down a bit, but he just took it as an invitation to be even louder. He ran at her with a bobblehead in his hand and shouted, “BunBun! BunBun! Look at this! It’s Fatty! This is so cool!”
An Xin tried her best to ignore the stares. But it felt like they were burning into her. She grimaced for a brief moment, then turned to Lin Feng and forced a smile onto her face. “It’s very cute, yes. But you don’t need to show me everything. I’ll look around a bit for myself. You go and search for a gift for Tang Tang. A bobblehead of Fatty is not a fun gift, by the way. Just saying.” She watched him run off again, this time going straight for another corner of the store. That warm smile returned to her face. I should’ve known this would happen. He’s just like a kid in the ballpark. It’s kind of cute…
Lin Feng eventually settled on two items. The first was the 18 centimeter Jinx figurine he’d found at the very beginning. He was convinced that was the right gift for Tang Tang and An Xin didn’t really fight him on that, though that had more to do with his other gift than anything else. He’d found a Draven keychain that he fell in love with at first sight! Even as the girl behind the counter was wrapping it up, he was telling everyone who’d listen that Tang Bingyao would absolutely love it and that it was the perfect gift.
An Xin just shook her head. He put his mind to it and tried to think what she’d like. They’re meaningful gifts… from a brainless idiot. But they’re meaningful. Tang Tang will like them. She looked at the gift she’d picked out herself for Tang Bingyao. It was a t-shirt with a teemo print on the front of it. I hope she’ll like this… The size should be right at least.
Lin Feng suddenly grabbed the t-shirt from An Xin’s hands and held it up. Then he exclaimed, “That’s really cool too!” His eyes started beaming again before he continued, “BunBun! Buy me a t-shirt too! I saw a Blitzcrank shirt in the back over there! Come, I’ll show you! It’s really cool too!”
An Xin didn’t let Lin Feng drag her along. She stared at him and said, “This is a birthday present for Tang Tang. Last time I checked, it’s not your birthday yet.”
The excitement vanished from Lin Feng’s face. He prowled his lip and said, “Oh, okay… I understand. But!” His normal grin began to surface again. “When it’s my birthday, can you get me the Blitzcrank shirt? Come, I’ll show you!”
An Xin ignored Lin Feng and gave the t-shirt to the girl behind the counter. Then she said to Lin Feng, “We’ll see about that when it’s your birthday.”
Lin Feng grinned and replied, “Good! It’s settled then! And I’ll also get you something for your birthday! I won’t forget about it!”
My birthday, huh…? An Xin paused, staring off into the distance for a while. It wasn’t until Lin Feng tapped her on her shoulder that she remembered where she was. She smiled faintly and said, “I’ll be looking forward to it.”
Lin Feng took An Xin to a restaurant after they bought their gifts. Lin Feng’s sense of direction was suddenly superb. He knew exactly which restaurant to go to for the most delicious food. Time flew by. And before they knew it, it was already 9 P.M. in Shanghai. The street lamps were on and bright lights shone from the large office buildings and shops all around them. Downtown Shanghai looked even more alive now than it did during the day.
Lin Feng grabbed An Xin’s hand and said, “Thanks for today! You really saved me!”
An Xin pursed her lips and complained, “I’ve saved you so often now, and all I ever get in return is a thanks…”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and said, “I also treated you to dinner tonight!”
“Because I told you that you had to take me to dinner,” An Xin countered, frowning.
Lin Feng looked confused and asked, “What else do you want me to do?”
An Xin tilted her head and thought about it for a moment. Then she shook her head and said, smiling, “Forget it. Just remember, you owe me for tonight.”
“Okay!” Lin Feng said, excited again. “Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it!” He then looked up at the signs above the subway station. An Xin had to turn right to catch her way home, and he could run like he had on the way downtown or take the subway in the other direction back home. He looked at her and said, “Really, thanks.”
“I know,” An Xin replied with a smile. Then she winked and added, “See you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow,” Lin Feng repeated.
An Xin took the subway home and walked the last bit. She turned her key in the lock and opened the front door. The moment she stepped inside, her mother poked her head into the hallway and said, “An Xin! You’re finally home!”
Her father’s voice followed soon after from the living room, “It’s almost 10! Where were you so late?”
An Xin took off her shoes and lightly shook her head. Stupid dizziness. She then forced a smile and said, “Nothing. I was just helping Lin Feng pick out a birthday present for a classmate. He couldn’t even do that by himself. He’s really stupid.”
An Xin’s father, An Aang, appeared next to An Lin and replied, “So it was Lin Feng… I see… No wonder you’re home a little later than usual! How is he these days?”
But before An Xin could reply, her mother butted in, “Speaking of Lin Feng, it’s been a while since he visited us. BunBun, tell him to come over for lunch or dinner! I’ll make all of his favorite things to eat.”
An Aang laughed and added, “That’s a great idea! We all know how much he loves your mother’s sweet and sour salmon!” He shook his head before continuing, “I’ve never seen someone eat with such devotion. Your mother is right, tell him to come over for dinner next time!”
An Xin nodded and replied, “Alright, I’ll invite him and tell him you miss him.” She then stretched her back and yawned. “Mom, dad, I’m tired. I did a lot of walking with Lin Feng earlier, so I’m going to lay down on my bed for a bit.”
An Aang looked at his daughter, worry quickly replacing his smile, and said, “Take a bath first. The hot water will help you. Your body has alwa—”
“Okay, okay! I get it! Just let me lie down on bed a bit first. I’ll take a bath later,” An Xin replied. Then she brushed past her parents and walked to her bedroom.
An Lin turned to her husband and whispered to him, “Can you go see if she really is…?”
“Don’t worry so much about her. I’m sure she’ll be fine,” An Aang said. “She went out for a walk. That counts as exercise. That’s a good thing.”
“But you know that she…” Mother An pursed her lips and turned to look at An Xin walking to her room. She took a long, deep breath and said, “I’m just worri— AN XIN!”
An Xin was walking down the hallway when she felt her knees go soft. The dizziness flared, dark swirls blocking most of her vision. She heard someone shouting loudly behind her, but it could just as well have been a church bell ringing. It was loud. And then it wasn’t there anymore. She collapsed to the ground and was gone.
An Lin ran down the hallway screaming, “AN XIN! AN XIN!” She threw herself at An Xin, grabbing her daughter with both arms and lifting her up. “AN XIN! AN XIN! CAN YOU HEAR ME?” She felt for a pulse and pushed her daughter’s eyelid open. “AN XIN! WAKE UP! AN XIN!”
Indistinct shouts started registering in An Xin’s mind. She focused on them, clutching at them, slowly opening her eyes. I was out with Lin Feng… And then… Did I…? She moved around, her mother’s shouts finally starting to make sense to her. I got home… I’m home. She looked up at her mother and then smiled and nodded. “It’s fine, it’s fine. I’m okay.”
“Are you sure? Can you stand again?” An Lin asked. “Do you want me to help? Can I do something?”
An Xin reached past her mother at the wall and slowly pushed herself up to her feet. “Thanks, but I’m good. I just need to lay down for a bit.” She pulled herself free from her mother and then leaned against the wall again. She closed her eyes and tried to dispel the last bit of dizziness. Seems like I pushed myself too much… I need to get some rest.
Shanks Low Key Flexes to Dyrus!
Dev Thought: Before we get on with the thought, there is something that I would like to get off my chest. In the 6 month feedback survey, I make THREE small PP jokes. I thought they were very good. I chuckled when I wrote them and when I read them over again.
55 PEOPLE COMMENTED WITH FEEDBACK! PEOPLE WROTE PARAGRAPHS AND ESSAYS! AND NOT ONE PERSON SAID ANYTHING ABOUT MY SMALL PP JOKES! NOT ONE!
My feelings are hurt.
But also. Huge thank you to everyone that took the time out to answer our questions and give us their thoughts. Now we have a bunch of things to work on as we go forward, and we’ll see if that makes the novel better. We’ll do another one of the feedback/state of the translation chapter things in a couple of months or after a few meaty story-arcs. Enough time for us to make changes and for you guys to see them reflected in the story over time.
Also, it was super cool that someone independently came up with the biggest behind-the-scenes project that we’re working on. Honestly, we were going to announce it when we had a novella arc decided and we figured out some of the production process. But it turned into a surprise announcement today because BootMoon had some kind of prophetic vision.
P.S Yajuu – We’re experimenting with putting the Translator Thoughts into spoiler boxes today. I guess this counts as the announcement about that for the rest of you. That should hopefully make it easier to find the next chapter button if you’re not into reading the Translator Thoughts. If you’re all okay with this and it works, let us know. And if it doesn’t work or there are some issues with it that we didn’t really think about or notice, let us know that too. Kthxbye.
Actual Thought for Today: Last night, I told Shanks that we needed to do things to start advertising Rise and pulling in more readers. This morning, he woke up and decided what I meant was for him to send a tweet to Dyrus (a former Professional League of Legends player who is now a huge Twitch and YouTube content creator). And then strangely enough, Dyrus replied to Shanks. After which, Shanks replied to Dyrus’ reply. So now there’s just a conversation about Rise and Shanks casually humblebragging to Dyrus’ 700,000 followers on his Twitter feed.
I’m not sure what has happened. Either Shanks’ anxiety has gotten to a point where it turned into reverse-anxiety and he no longer gives a shit about anything. Or over the course of the night, Shanks’ testicles finally dropped and he found some courage like the Cowardly Lion. Who had it inside him all along.
Shanks Thought: I wasn’t humble bragging to Dyrus! Far from it! Dyrus is my literal idol, and one of my favourite pro players ever. The fact that he even bothered to reply to my tweet really made me happy! That wasn’t humble bragging! I was just feeling really down about the whole situation with Rise, and I was desperate in looking for answers! And I turned to Dyrus!
Also, Devshard conveniently left out the background to this conversation. He told me to do some outreach beyond the community! He said there was no criteria and that I could talk to anyone. So, in actuality, it’s Devshard’s fault that I reached out to the person I admire the most in the League community.
Sietse Thought: You guys know those out of body experiences where you’re sitting somewhere and everything is registering but not really? And then someone is doing something so monumentally strange that you are just amazed by how weird and strange it is? Which only got stranger as Devshard was having the same experience. I don’t know what Shanks did to himself today, or last night. It happened sometime in the last 24 hours. But I’m scared for him. He isn’t making any sense. He’s talking, rambling, shouting, neighing, and I don’t know what more. But he can’t hear us anymore. He’s lost in his own world talking in a language I don’t think I quite understand. Maybe I need to hire a pony interpreter for this, Doctor Pol or someone like him.
I’ve known the dude for years. I’ve seen his ups and downs. Experienced far more than I probably should have. But never have I been as confused as I am right now. Something is wrong. Something has gone really wrong. And I don’t know what. He’s acting weird. Loud. Excited, yet also not. How do you explain it when someone has just stopped making sense.
Shanks is telling me he’s all right. He keeps repeating that same combination of words: “I’m perfectly fine!” It just sounds faker and stranger with every repetition. It’s been hours now. I’ve heard him say those words at least a hundred times, probably more. Is someone holding a gun to his head? Is a new jockey training him? Riding him?
What do we do? How do we get the normal Shanks back? This one scares me.