There was a quote that Zeng Rui placed great stock in. It was a mantra, one that underlined his entire philosophy and thought process. “Know yourself, know your enemy. A hundred battles, a hundred victories.” These words from Sun Tzu created the foundation for all of Zeng Rui’s decision-making. He was the main shotcaller for the team, and he believed that there was no substitute for solid preparation. He watched every second of gameplay he could find on their potential opponents. He analyzed their habits, their quirks, and their instincts. He memorized every mistake that they made over and over again.
Zeng Rui learned what champions they’d pick if they were planning a lane swap at the start of the game. His approach was very different from what An Xin was doing. He wasn’t making the strategies and plays for Team Shanghai. That was An Xin’s job. His job was to learn everything about their opponents strategies, and be ready to face everything they could throw at Team Shanghai in the game.
Knowing your enemy is important. But knowing yourself is just as important, Zeng Rui thought to himself. From all the work that he’d put it, he had a good measure on the skill of their opponent. And his understanding of them grew with every passing day. The real problem is that I don’t know Team Shanghai well enough. Can’t make the right call if I don’t know what the team can pull off. I need to know everything about everyone! That’s the only way I can do what I need to do so we win regionals! I need to understand the team, my time, as well as I can. That’s the only way we’re getting through to the main tournament and beyond that!
There were so many questions swimming around in Zeng Rui’s mind. Questions that he kept asking himself. Questions that he could not answer.
Should we do a lane swap if the opponent does?
Do we play offensively or defensively in this potential situation?
If one lane is at a disadvantage, can that laner make it on their own? Or do they need help?
Which lanes should the Jungler focus on the most?
Zeng Rui looked away from An Xin and towards Zhang Hao, saying, “I’ve played with Zhang Hao for years. I know exactly how good he is and what to expect from him.” He nodded at Tang Bingyao before continuing, “And I’m getting a pretty good idea of just how good she is, and can become. By the time the Collegiate Cup starts, I’ll have a firm grasp on her skill level.” He took a deep breath and turned to look back at An Xin. “You’re really good too. Your map awareness and gank timings are especially impressive. The only limiting factor for you would be your mechanics. But that doesn’t change that you’re a great Jungler. And that I understand you and how you play.” He finally shook his head as he glanced at Lin Feng from the corners of his eyes. “But him…”
The thundering dumbass. The idiot with the big mouth who looked like he was just messing around. He was playing in random lanes and doing nothing particularly impressive. Zeng Rui grimaced. His initial observation on Lin Feng had clouded his judgement. He was finding it incredibly difficult to look past the thundering dumbass part. But despite his goofing around, he kept winning. He always won. Even in the games his team lost, he won. He even beat my Midlaner and became the most valuable player of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. Zeng Rui scratched the back of his head. The more I watch him play, the less sense it all makes.
For the first time since Zeng Rui started playing League of Legends, he had to admit that he didn’t understand a player. Whether it be Lin Feng’s mechanical skills or his vast champion pool, whether it be his awareness or positioning, whether it be his… There wasn’t a single aspect of Lin Feng’s game that Zeng Rui truly understood. I’ve now been playing with him on the same team, and even that hasn’t helped! I can’t even tell how he’s improving. If he is! It just feels like he’s getting better. But I don’t understand how. What is it about him…
Zeng Rui needed an explanation. He’d tried talking with Lin Feng earlier in the night, but that hadn’t gotten him the answers he was looking for. I hope BunBun can help me. I need this information to prepare for the tournament! The mid lane is maybe the most important position on the field. It’s at the center of the map. And just look at the rankings. Rake, Phoenix, Moon, even Hermes! They’re some of the best players in the world and they’re all Midlaners. A good Midlaner is the heart of the team, and it would be stupid if I gloss past that. He gritted his teeth, frustrated. All my work so far will have been for nothing if I can’t understand how he works. I need to know how good he is, so that I can prepare for that!
“Zeng Rui?” An Xin asked, interrupting Zeng Rui’s line of thought. “What do you want to ask?”
Zeng Rui looked back at An Xin. He took a deep, long breath. I don’t want to admit it. The thundering dumbass. He closed his eyes briefly. Pull yourself over this, Zeng Rui! You misjudged him and it’s blinding you. Ask for help. Just ask her. He exhaled all the air from his lungs as his eyes shot open, determined. “BunBun,” he said. “I need to know. How good is Lin Feng?”
An Xin chuckled and looked past Zeng Rui at Lin Feng, who was laughing about something with Ouyang. So he finally admits that he can’t figure Lin Feng out. That was about time. She turned back to look at Zeng Rui and said, “It’s hard to say. I can’t give you a definitive answer. But I can tell you this. No one at the Collegiate Cup is his match.”
“No one?” Zeng Rui muttered, his mouth falling open in shock.
An Xin shrugged and explained, “He’ll win every match up in the mid lane.”
Zeng Rui just kind of stared at An Xin, his mind in a complete mess. No one is his match? He’ll win every match up? She’s telling me that there’s no one in the entire Collegiate Cup who can beat him in the mid lane? That… She must be joking. Is she drunk…? He glanced at An Xin, searching for a smile or anything else that might give away that she was joking. But he couldn’t find anything to support that thought. It can’t be… There are players from the LSPL who help their university teams! Those guys are actual professional players! How can she say that Lin Feng will beat them? Is she saying that he’s a professional player? But I looked his name up! Maple! I searched online, but there was no professional player by that name in the previous two seasons!
An Xin watched Zeng Rui struggling. It’s a lot. He’ll need some time. But he’ll see that I’m right. She smiled warmly and reassured, “Don’t worry too much about it. Everything you expect from him, he’ll do. You’ll see.”
Zeng Rui leaned back in his chair. He grabbed his glass of beer from the table, which was inexplicably full again, and took a large swig. He then shook his head and started laughing. It sounded so ridiculous to him that he couldn’t keep a straight face any longer. If the thundering dumbass is actually that good. Ha! Winning the regionals is going to be easy! We might win the whole damn thing! I’ll just be along for the ride! He shook his head and said, “Alright. I hope you’re right.”
The festivities for Tang Bingyao’s birthday party were quickly deteriorating. Everyone was too drunk for their own good, with shouting contests in one corner and coin tossing competitions in the other. An Xin and Ren Rou were the only two who were still mostly sober. They looked at each other around 11 P.M. and nodded knowingly. It was time to put an end to this party. An Xin left to clear the tab while Ren Rou announced to everyone it was time to go home. This, of course, was met with heavy resistance.
“N-nu NO! I WANNA DRINK MORE! BEER! BEER! BEER!”
“Yeah! Yeah! I wanna drink more! MORE SHOTS FOR EVERYONE! ANOTHER ROUND!”
“I can go all night! PARTY TILL THE SUN RISES!”
“AFTER PARTY! AFTER PARTY! WHERE WE HAVING THE AFTER PARTY!?”
“DRINKS AT MY PLACE! WOOOOOOO!”
An Xin returned to the private room and was assaulted by the shouting contest. She wasn’t having any of it. A smile that everyone there knew far too well spread on her face. Her lips curved upwards, but they read murder. She glanced at the guys, meeting their eyes, and said, “It’s getting late. Go home.” She briefly paused for dramatic effect and then concluded, “Unless someone wants to argue with me.”
It was like a cold gust of wind blew through the private room, sobering everyone right up. Be it Ouyang or the guys from Shanghai High School, no one dared to argue with An Xin. They obediently nodded, putting down their drinks, terrified to take even one more sip. The cold shivers that ran up and down their bodies kept them sober enough to find their coats and make their way to the exit of the private room, not forgetting to thank Tang Bingyao for a great party.
Zeng Rui was the first at the door of the private room, ready to go home. He glanced at An Xin. How can she get so scary? He shook his head and turned to look at his friends. “Hurry up. We’re leaving.” Then he turned to Tang Bingyao, who was sitting at the table wobbling back and forth. She drank way too much… He shook his head and smiled at her. “Thanks for this party, Tang Tang. It was great. We all really enjoyed it. Goodnight and see you tomorrow at practice!”
The other four from Shanghai High School followed Zeng Rui’s example, thanking Tang Bingyao for her birthday party. Then they said their goodbyes to everyone else before leaving the restaurant and going home. Ouyang, Yang Fan, Wei Dong, Liu Yue, and Chen Ze followed their example. They also said their thanks and goodbyes before leaving.
Ren Rou looked at the four people still there, stopping at Tang Bingyao. What is she trying to do? Is she putting her coat on upside down…? “Tang Tang?” she asked. “Are you alright? Can you get home? Maybe we should call you a cab…”
“I-I’M GOOD! VERY GOOD! MHM!” Tang Bingyao replied cheerfully while waving her hands around and dropping her coat to the floor. Then she leaned forward to pick her coat up and stumbled to her knees. “Woo! I fly so high like a G6! I’m very good!”
Ren Rou sighed and shook her head. “The more you say and do, the more convinced I am that we can’t possibly let you go home by yourself. Someone has to bring you home. Or call you a cab. One of the two.”
An Xin giggled and said, “Well, at least she had fun, right Tang Tang?” She waited briefly for a response, but all Tang Bingyao gave were a few unintelligible shouts and yelps. Then she continued, “She’s just as out of it as the guys. But she’s a girl. And even the guys went home together. We can’t let her go by herself… Oh! I know. Lin Feng can bring her home! They live close together anyway. That shouldn’t be a problem, right Lin Feng?”
Lin Feng patted his chest and proclaimed, “Sure! I’m really good at bringing Tang Tang home too!”
Tang Bingyao threw her coat on the ground again. Then she threw her fist in the air in an imitation of Lin Feng’s trademark victory pose and screamed, “YEAH! LIN FENG TAKE ME HOME! TAKE ME! MHM!”
Tang Bingyao was drunk and Lin Feng was perhaps the single biggest blockhead in the entirety of existence. It was hard, damn near impossible, to be as idiotic as he was most of the time. But it was times like these, where everyone knew what was going on except him, that his idiocy really shined. He believed that Tang Bingyao was just happy that he was bringing her home. There was a thought in his mind arguing against it. He was actually convinced that Tang Bingyao was confident in his ability to bring her home. But Ren Rou and An Xin weren’t as naive. They both froze when they heard Tang Bingyao’s scream. They hesitated, glanced at each other. And then An Xin smiled. She winked at Ren Rou and said, “Lin Feng is a blockhead. He’s literally too dense to figure out that there might be something more here. Or what Tang Tang just accidentally implied. Don’t worry, he’ll be a perfect gentleman. More than a perfect gentleman, honestly. Sometimes I think he was dropped on his head multiple times as a child. Don’t worry though. She’ll be fine, they’ll be fine.”