A dozen eyes turned to Tang Bingyao, a stunned silence falling over the private room in the hotpot restaurant. Everyone knew how much Tang Bingyao loved money. She wasn’t cheap by any stretch of the word, but she did enjoy making money and didn’t seem to particularly like spending it. Yet right now, in a situation where Lin Feng, Ren Rou, and Ouyang were going to foot the bill, she offered to pay for everything. No one knew what to say or do, Liu Yue’s mouth even falling open.
It was eventually Ouyang who broke the uncomfortable silence. He rose to his feet with a drink in his hand, which he raised up into the air while shouting, “Come on, bros! We’re celebrating Tang Tang’s birthday! Let’s sing for her! HAAAAAAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TANG TANG! HAAAAAAPPY BIRTHDAY TO TANG TANG!”
Liu Yue was the first to follow Ouyang’s example. He jumped to his feet and started singing just as terribly as Ouyang. Lin Feng followed next, belting “…DEAR TANG TANG! HAAAAAAAAPPY BIRTHDAY TOOOOOOOO YOOUUUUUUUUUUU!”
Tang Bingyao felt her face heat up as 14 of her friends had gathered together on her birthday, thrown her a party, and were now singing their lungs out for her! She smiled brighter than she ever had and raised her glass when the song finally ended. “Mhm! Happy birthday to me!!”
The door to the private room opened and several waiters pushed in carts of food. There was a wide variety of food, from the beefiest meat to the greenest vegetables. Everyone picked up their bowls and chopsticks in anticipation, urging the waiters to hurry up without actually saying the words. The delicious smells coming from the platters made their stomachs growl. They wanted to eat!
Ouyang was the first and loudest to dig in. He grabbed meat and ate it. Then he grabbed some more meat and ate that too. All the while, he was dry heaving when a single speck of green made it into his mouth. “Bros, bros, listen! Meat is the food of kings! Real Junglers eat meat! Only meat! Think Rengar, Kha’Zix, Nidalee! They hunt and then they feast on their prey! As for this green shit? You see this?” He wagged around a piece of cabbage. “I feel sick just seeing it! Only lame ass champions like Rammus eat this crap!”
Ren Rou raised her eyebrows and said, “You? A predator? Hah! More like the prey.” She turned to the others and continued, “He promised that he’d carry me in ranked last night, so we played a few games. Guess who fed the enemy Jungler…”
“H-hey! Rou Rou!” Ouyang blurted out, his excitement collapsing. He fell back into his chair and complained, “Don’t just throw me under the bus like that!” He glanced around him. Looks like they’re all too busy with their own food. That saved me!
Yang Fan and Chen Ze took an entirely different tactic from Ouyang. Picking out the meat from between the vegetables was too much work for them. Besides, there were plenty of vegetables that, when prepared correctly, were absolutely delicious. So they simply located everything that looked delicious and attacked. There was no hesitation. They ate everything. For if they weren’t fast enough, someone else might beat them to the punch and get the best piece of food!
There was one other person who stood out. Lin Feng. Everyone had heard about his eating habits at one point or another. Some of them had even witnessed it first hand. But it was still a sight whenever they got to see him again. He went completely quiet. Not a word slipped from his mouth. He barely breathed! His entire focus was on the food. And he wolfed it down! Every single piece of food that was within his reach ended up in his stomach. There seemed to be no limit to his hunger! Even a fully stacked Cho’Gath, one of the biggest and fattest Champions on Summoner’s Rift, would lose to him in a food eating contest!
An Xin, the guys from Shanghai High School, and Liu Yue all stopped eating, their chopsticks halted in midair. They were staring at Lin Feng’s eating frenzy, shocked. There were some horrified mumbles and whispers. None of them understood how he could eat like that. Their voices grew louder as they watched Lin Feng eat faster, until the entire room could hear them.
“Oh, snap! Lin Feng! Are you being starved at home?”
“How are you eating so fast! This is insane!”
“I-is he ok…?”
Tang Bingyao sat to Lin Feng’s right. She stared at him stuffing himself, feeling a deafening pang in her side. It was where she kept her wallet. I-I… D-do I have to pay for all this? How is he eating this much? He is eating more than I eat in a week! Where is it all going? Uhmm—”
“Idiot!” An Xin yelled at Lin Feng. She sat to his left and was glaring at him, reaching out with her chopsticks and dropping a few pieces of Chinese cabbage in Lin Feng’s bowl. “Stop eating meat like a neanderthal! You also need some veggies!”
Lin Feng wasn’t the slightest bit fazed. He picked up Chinese cabbage and said, “Sure, BunBun! I’ll eat the cabb— Oh, look at that lamb! That lamb looks really good too! I’ll just have that first!” He dropped the Chinese cabbage back, saliva drooling from his lips as he watched a waitress bring in a platter of lamb meat.
The waitress was still putting the plate with lamb meat down on the table, when Lin Feng reached for it. He leaned over Tang Bingyao, trying to get to it. But it was just out of reach. He looked at Tang Bingyao and said, “Uh, eh, hehe, Tang Tang?” His eyes shifted between Tang Bingyao and the lamb meat.
Tang Bingyao picked up two pieces of lamb meat and dropped them in the hotpot for Lin Feng. Then she turned to him and said, “Hmm, for you.”
“Thanks, Tang Tang! You’re the best!” Lin Feng said cheerfully. He briefly hesitated before adding, “You should take the lamb meat out as soon as it’s cooked! Not a second longer! Or the others might snatch it away!”
Everyone automatically recoiled back. They’d seen and heard Lin Feng say stupid things often enough to know what was to come next. They all turned to look at An Xin, who was already glaring at Lin Feng. The terrifying murder-smile appeared on her face. She then said, “HMM? What did you say? Did you just tell the birthday girl that she has to cook for you? I dare you to say that again!”
When everyone was more or less done with eating, Ren Rou tapped her nail on her glass and said, “Since we’re all done eating, let’s give Tang Tang her presents!” She grabbed a beautifully wrapped present with a large ribbon on the top from her handbag and gave it to Tang Bingyao. “This is from me, Tang Tang. Happy birthday!”
“Thank you!” Tang Bingyao replied. She accepted the gift and started unwrapping it, careful not to damage the ribbon. I wonder what it is. It’s not super big, so maybe some make up? Hmm… She placed the wrapping paper to the side and held a small box in her hands, which she promptly opened. Inside lay a beautiful crystal bracelet.
“Ohhh! That really suits Tang Tang!” Ouyang commented. He turned to Ren Rou and added, “As expected from my Rou Rou! She has a real eye for presents!”
Ren Rou completely ignored Ouyang. She waited until Tang Bingyao put the bracelet on. Then she started smiling and nodding in satisfaction. “It does fit you perfectly! Great!”
The others all gave their presents to Tang Bingyao one after the other. Ouyang got her a small pendant, Yang Fang a scarf, and the three guys from Shanghai High School had pooled their money together to buy Tang Bingyao a Mickey Mouse watch. Tang Bingyao accepted all of them, the smile on her face growing wider and wider until it looked like she couldn’t be any happier. And then Zeng Rui handed her his gift! She unwrapped it to find a high-end gaming mouse.
Zeng Rui rubbed his nose awkwardly and uncomfortably. He coughed and said, “I, uh, figured you’d play better with a better mouse. That’s all.”
Lin Feng saw the mouse that would’ve fit perfectly together with the keyboard he thought of buying. I really want that keyboard! And that mouse! I’d be really good with those two too! “Hey! ZengZeng! That’s an awesome gift! I wanted to get her something like that too! Hey, how about you get me that mouse on my birth—” He stopped himself when he caught the glare from An Xin. Oh, right, Tang Tang! This is Tang Tang’s birthday! We had to get her something meaningful!
An Xin pushed Lin Feng aside and gave Tang Bingyao her gift. “This is just a little something. I hope you’ll like it!”
Tang Bingyao nodded and said, “Thank you.” Then she unwrapped the gift and found the Teemo shirt. Her eyes lit up. He looks so cute! Mhm! His tiny red goggles on his head! And that smile! It’s perfect! She looked at her own shirt and then at the people in the room. She briefly hesitated before putting the Teemo shirt on over her normal clothes. “It looks great! I love it!” she said. “Thanks, BunBun!”
“Don’t forget about me! Don’t forget about me! There’s still my gift! Last for best! Last for best!” Lin Feng butted in. “My present is the best! Here, I got two of them!”
Tang Bingyao accepted the two gifts that were shoved into her arms. She looked at them, one big and one small. I wonder what he got me. Her hands trembled as she took the larger of the two gifts and started unwrapping it. Please let it be something nice! She took the gift out of the wrapping and found that it was an 18 centimeter tall Jinx figurine!
Ouyang started laughing. First quietly but very quickly very loudly. “Lin Feng! Bro! Bro! Haha! You got Tang Tang a Jinx, haha! A Jinx figurine! Bro! That’s so brilliant! They’re both flat-ch— OUCH!”
Ren Rou smacked Ouyang in the head. She turned to look at Tang Bingyao and smiled. “It’s a really cute gift. I can tell that Lin Feng put a lot of thought into it.”
Lin Feng excitedly said, “Of course I did! It’s for Tang Tang!” Then he turned back to Tang Bingyao and added, “Tang Tang! Tang Tang! Open the next one now!”
Tang Bingyao opened the second present at Lin Feng’s urging. She fumbled with the wrapping, trying to preserve as much of it as she could. There was a keychain inside. She took it and held it up to get a closer look. That’s Draven! My main champion! He got me a Draven keychain! It looks so nice! Mm-hm, it’s perfect!
The others also saw the present Lin Feng had brought for Tang Bingyao. It wasn’t just Ouyang anymore, all of them burst out laughing. They pointed at the keychain and started teasing Lin Feng.
“A Draven keychain is the cutest gift ever! Haha!”
“Of course Lin Feng gets her the Draven keychain! No one else would’ve thought of that!”
“He got Tang Tang her main champion! So smart! Hahaha!”
“Hehe! It looks so rough and manly, what a present for Tang Tang!!”
Tang Bingyao didn’t listen to what anyone else had to say about Lin Feng’s gifts. Her eyes were locked on the Draven, sparkling. She grabbed her backpack and carefully attached the Draven keychain to it. Then she turned to Lin Feng, her cheeks flushed scarlet red, and said, “Thank you! I-I really love your gifts. They’re perfect, mhm!”
There was a rare moment of shared understanding in the room. Everyone was in on it except for Lin Feng and Tang Bingyao. Their thoughts all merged into one. She doesn’t care about the gifts, she cares that you gave her those gifts!
Lin Feng grinned, happy. His eyes were beaming and he nodded fervently. “Yes! Yes! Of course you like them! You know, I’m really good at picking out gifts too!”
Tang Bingyao was officially 18 now, so it was only to be expected that they had to celebrate it with some alcohol. The original plan sounded smart. Nothing would go wrong. But it always went wrong when alcohol was involved. It all started going wrong when Zeng Rui started talking about the Winter Collegiate Cup. The list of teams in the East China Region was online and he’d read through it multiple times already. Now he felt the need to complain about it and explain to everyone just how difficult it was for them to make it through the regionals, not to mention what’d come after.
Lin Feng wouldn’t hear anything about it. He ordered a round of shots and placed them in the middle of the table, except for one. That shot he placed in front of Zeng Rui. He explained, “We’re here tonight to celebrate Tang Tang’s birthday, and not to talk about the tournament! We can do that tomorrow! So whoever starts talking about the tournament has to take a shot! It’s a fun drinking game!” He laughed and pointed at Zeng Rui. “You talked about the tournament, now drink!”
Ouyang and Liu Yue cheered Zeng Rui on, tempting him to play along. And he did. After some complaints, Zeng Rui grabbed the small glass and swallowed the clear liquid within. He retched but kept the alcohol in. “This is disgusting! What is in it?” he complained.
“Who cares?” Ouyang asked, roaring in laughter. Then he called over a waiter and ordered a round of beers for everyone. It took only a few minutes before everyone had a pint in front of them. There were a few frowns and worried expressions. They were only 18. Most of them hadn’t had more than a sip of beer and weren’t sure whether they liked the bitter taste of it. But that thought was quickly forgotten. This was Tang Bingyao’s birthday party! They were here to celebrate! They raised their glasses and shouted, “CHEERS! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TANG TANG!”
Tang Bingyao cheered with the others and then took a small sip from the beer. Her eyes went wide and she wanted to spit it back out. This is really bitter! She was struggling to keep a straight face. Then she looked at the small glasses with the clear liquid. Hmm… “Collegiate Cup.” She smiled and grabbed one of the small glasses and downed it in one swift movement.
The others stared at Tang Bingyao in shock. That only lasted for a moment, when they burst out laughing and cheering.
“Tang Tang is amazing!”
“Nice! Shot, shot, shot!”
“She downed it! She downed it!”
“Another one! Another one!”
“I want one too! COLLEGIATE CUP!”
Tang Bingyao didn’t hear the sounds around her anymore. There was far more alcohol in that clear liquid than she expected. It burned on her lips and set fire to her lungs, until it twisted and twirled warmly in her stomach. The world in front of her started spinning and she heard herself giggling, though she wasn’t quite sure why. W-what’s happening? Is… Is this drunk?’