Zeng Rui was only in high school, but his League of Legends achievements were representative of someone much older. He’d reached the top of the ranked ladder in the Ionia server and became famous as an up and comer Support. On top of that, he was the team captain of the Shanghai High School esports team. His team had won the 2014 edition of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament, where he was voted the most valuable player. And in 2015 they came in second place. Professional teams were scouting him and he had even turned down an offer from an LSPL team. His talent at the game was undisputed.
In all his time playing League of Legends, Zeng Rui stuck to one particular playstyle. What he strove for was the most logical and rational way of playing the game. He didn’t like uncertainty, or leaving anything up to chance. A plan had to be perfect, or it was worthless. He needed to have a grasp on every single variable in the game, which included his teammates. They had to listen to him, move as he instructed them to. And then he’d make sure everything came together seamlessly. Just like Autumn! This is how Autumn plays! He’s an Emperor and the only Support Emperor! So he must be doing something right. And it’s always so nice to watch him play. It’s so clean and methodical. That’s how the game should be played, right?
Zeng Rui stared at his monitor. Team Shanghai had taken down the inner tower in the mid lane and was now recalling back to base to spend their gold. He did the same, moving through the actions though his mind was drifting. It all changed when I was put on Team Shanghai. That first training with the thundering dumbass… He glanced at Lin Feng who was grinning like always. His playstyle is everything I hate! He just does whatever he feels like and lets the rest of his team clean up his mess! We always have to clean up after him! It’s impossible! You won’t get anywhere playing like that! But… he does get somewhere. Every single time he gets there… He even beat me in the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. He… He was better than me.
The top lane was the next part of the map that Zeng Rui wanted to focus on. He made the calls over the voice chat, but his mind wasn’t really in the game anymore. Team Shanghai, his team, was so far ahead that losing wasn’t really possible anymore. He makes me go crazy. My eyelids have been twitching almost daily since we started playing together. I just… I can’t control him! And I can’t make him see that we need my level of control to win! Zeng Rui chewed on the inside of his cheeks. He comes up with the craziest tactics in the middle of a game. He only sticks to a game plan as long as it makes sense to him. When he sees something that he believes is better, he just goes for it. He doesn’t tell me or the others. He flashes in and expects us to be there to support him! It’s impossible!
Zeng Rui closed his eyes. There wasn’t a real need to pay attention to the game. East China University of Science and Technology was too far behind. Lin Feng’s Lux alone was enough to win this game. So Zeng Rui had his team take down towers in an orderly fashion while thinking back to the many arguments he’d had with Lin Feng over the past couple of weeks. I get mad. I try to argue with him. Make him understand how wrong he is. But he just never seems to take it seriously. He just laughs it off and does something else entirely in the next game! Just now with that ridiculous engage on his Lux… He shook his head, exasperated.
But… Zeng Rui’s latest argument with Lin Feng was almost exactly the same as the one before that, and the one before that. But there was something this time around. Between the laughter, jokes and brushing off the responsibility, Lin Feng said a couple of words that made Zeng Rui pause. “You guys are my teammates. I can make these plays because I believe in all of you!” There was something about those words that surprised Zeng Rui. It was an approach to the game he hadn’t considered before. He always makes stupid excuses for his own egotistical playstyle! Don’t let yourself be fooled by him! But… It’s just… It sounded so casual. Like he really believed it. He glanced at Lin Feng and muttered to himself, “Teammates… You can make these plays because you believe in us…”
What nonsense! This is completely illogical! Zeng Rui shook his head and felt the urge to start arguing with Lin Feng again. But there was something about the way Lin Feng said those words that stopped him. He really believes it. That wasn’t a joke. He looked actually surprised that we didn’t understand him. Why does he think that’s so logical? It’s completely illogical! But… Zeng Rui took a long, deep breath. He scrunched his eyebrows and rubbed his mouth. It’s so simple and honest. How can he say it like that? It’s just… Why am I even considering this? He’s just… Argghhh! He’s making sense again! Why? WHY! This doesn’t make any sense! He isn’t right! He… He can’t be! It’s impossible!
Zeng Rui looked at Lin Feng and said, “Nonsense.” It was his go-to response. But there was something hidden in that message, a small jump in his voice. Because no matter how much he wanted to disagree with Lin Feng, no matter how much everything he knew about the game told him that Lin Feng was being a thundering dumbass, there was something in the honest, almost childlike way in which Lin Feng said those words. “You guys are my teammates. I can make these plays because I believe in all of you!” Maybe it does hold some merit… And that ‘maybe’ sounded through in his voice. “Nonsense,” he repeated.
An Xin turned her head to look at Zeng Rui in surprise. They’d just taken down Baron Nashor and were preparing for a final push to end the game. She was just waiting for him to make the call. Nonsense? She read his expression. He’s been distracted ever since Lin Feng flashed in. And now he… She smiled. It all made sense. Looks like Lin Feng made you believe in him too… He’s good at that. You’re not the first. This is the same thing that happened four years ago. He has a way of charming people into playing his style. A kind of game that relies so much on pure trust rather than a carefully planned strategy and game plan. I know how difficult this is for you. I’ve seen you prepare for the Collegiate Cup.
“Push mid inhib,” Zeng Rui ordered over the team’s voice chat.
An Xin looked back at the game and had her Jarvan IV lead the charge. But she didn’t really need to focus or try all that hard. The game was played more than five minutes earlier. She had her Jarvan IV flag-toss combo onto the players from East China University of Science and Technology that were hiding underneath the inhibitor tower in the mid lane. She followed up with her ultimate skill. All the while, her mind wandered. I wasn’t really part of the team four years ago. They called me the coach, and I did help them, but I was more of a spectator. I watched Lin Feng build that team from nothing. And he built it all on trust. He found the players that fit his unique style of play. And I got to watch all of that happen. She smiled, reminiscing.
Lin Feng’s old teammates weren’t always happy with the way Lin Feng played. He had this weird habit of doing something completely random in the middle of a game, forcing everyone else to adapt on the spot. The game plan was gone and they suddenly found themselves struggling to keep up with him. Then, after the game was over, they’d give him a piece of their mind. They scolded him and made him promise never to do something like that again. But that was part of Lin Feng’s charm, the unique way in which he played, and so he did it again in the next game.
Tian Tian, Eleven, Autumn and Silent would complain again in the next game. They’d tell Lin Feng that he was a terrible team captain and that it was impossible to follow up on him when he kept changing their plans halfway through the game without informing anyone. But they followed up on him. They stuck by his side. And no one could put up any kind of resistance when they swept through the LPL. They were invincible. Lin Feng’s style of play paid off every time. Their complaints lost their vigor. The annoyance in their voices disappeared. They started to see the value in Lin Feng’s approach and learned to play like that too.
On their journey to the World Finals, Lin Feng’s teammates became true comrades. They had absolute trust in each other, which helped them grow to become some of the best players in their respective positions. In that process, a bond took shape between them, one where they didn’t need to talk to know what they needed from each other. It was a special situation where skill and trust came together to form an incredibly strong team.
An Xin sighed and shook her head. They got so close. But in the end, they were all following Lin Feng. He was so young. Maybe too young… He really took it hard in the World Finals. That wasn’t fun to watch. He wasn’t playing well and forgot the most important part on which his team was built. Trust. The trust his teammates had in him, but also the trust he should have in his teammates. He forgot about that. But now… She looked at Lin Feng who was grinning while picking up a triple kill inside East China University of Science and Technology’s base and smiled. But that’s all in the past. He’s back now. And he still has that special playstyle. He’s better. All he needs is to find a group of… A group of— An Xin’s expression froze.
Team Shanghai was cheering over the team’s voice chat. The Red Nexus had exploded and morphed into a victory emblem for Team Shanghai! She could hear them compliment each other, but it was more like background noise. She bit on her lips and glanced from Tang Bingyao to Zeng Rui. He’s already found two members for his new team. And then there’s also Fatty… It won’t be long now until he gets his team together. I just hope… She breathed in sharply to push back the tears that were wetting her eyes. I just hope it’s still possible for me to watch him get all the way to the World Finals again. One more time, that’s all I’m asking for. Just one more. That’d be great. She blinked away a tear. It rolled down her cheek and as it fell down she caught it in the palm of her hand. If only that were possible…