The Korean ranked ladder was the most competitive one in League of Legends. Professional players from every region visited Korea just to have a shot at reaching Challenger on this server. And most of them failed. They got to Master and then found out why it was so difficult to get any higher. Pure, raw talent. There were so many outstanding players on the Korean server that the level of each game was far above the worldwide average. Even the Ionia server, the most competitive server in China, couldn’t come close in prestige to the Korean server. Yet One threw Lin Feng at it as if it were nothing.
Lin Feng still held his phone close to his ear, but he wasn’t talking or listening. His eyes were focused on his laptop and he was chewing on his lip. He wants me to hit Top 5 Challenger? Can I even do that? I know the rankings… Back in the day, yeah, but I’m not there yet. I’m not anywhere near to that point yet. Chinese professional players are better than I am right now. And most of them can’t even make it to Challenger on the Korean server! What am I going to do?
Chinese players challenged themselves to climb the Korean ranked ladder every season. They wanted to prove to their Korean rivals that there was some talent in China. That there was hope for China on the international stage. That the League of Legends world wasn’t centered around Korea! But they never got all that far. The Chinese players who reached all the way to Master were proud of themselves, and the couple who made it to Challenger were either professional players or players being scouted by professional teams. But none of them ever made that final step into the Top 10. It was just too difficult to beat the many talented players on the Korean server.
Top 5, Top 5… Collegiate Cup and Top 5… Where am I going to find the time to even do that? Can I even do that? But I told One… Lin Feng chewed on his lip, biting off a thin layer of skin. His stomach dropped and he grimaced. I wanted to take it one step at a time. Slowly make my way back to the top. But One’s right. I can’t do it like this. There’s no challenge for me here. The Collegiate Cup is just another tournament where I don’t really have to try. I can just… I can take it easy. It doesn’t matter if I screw up a bit, because I can just turn it around later… He scratched his forehead, tense. I can’t go on like this. I need to challenge myself sooner or later. One is right. I need to fight. And the Korean ladder is probably the best bet for that!
Something swirled in the pits of Lin Feng’s stomach. His heart started racing faster and faster, pounding against his ribs. He felt his face heat up. A real challenge! And One gave it to me. He trusts me. He believes I can do it! He believes I still have it! Lin Feng closed his eyes and tried to push the rush of adrenaline down. One trusts in me! I’ll repay him with results! Top 5 Challenger? Ok. Yes. I’ll do it! It’ll be hard. But I’ll do it!
Lin Feng’s eyes shot open. A new fire burned in them. He tossed the Winter Collegiate Cup to the back of his mind. What am I getting all worked up about a university tournament? I made it all the way to the world finals! I need to remember why I’m even competing. To find good teammates and to start building a team! But it’s not to get back in form. I need to do something else for that. This might just be that something! The Korean ladder… He took a deep, long breath and closed his eyes again. Rake. Rake will be there. I’ll have to play against him if I want to make it to the top of Challenger. I’ll have to play against him… I’m not good enough yet… He chewed off a second bit of skin from his lips and then suddenly slammed his palm against his head. NO! I’ll face him! I’ll play against him, with him, whatever! It’s not a big tournament. It’s practice. I need to get better, and to do that I need to face better players. He nodded, confident, and said to One, “I can. And I will.”
“Good to hear,” One said, laughing. “Oh, right,” he added. “Do you have a Korean account?”
“Uhhh…” Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and grinned sheepishly. I was so caught up about beating Rake… My account isn’t Challenger yet. It’s going to be really hard just to get there. He said, “Well, I do. But it’s not in Challenger yet. I can get to the top of Master, but someone needs to lose their Challenger spot for me to take it…”
“Yeah, that won’t do. There isn’t enough time for that,” One agreed. He briefly paused and then said, “I’ll just give you my Challenger account.”
Give a Challenger account? The words went off like a bomb in Lin Feng’s mind. Give a Challenger account? GIVE? He muttered a few incoherent words, trying to make sense of it. A Challenger account is super expensive! It’s way better to just buy something in Plat for $5! How can he just borrow me a Challenger account? That’s insane! I don’t have that much mon—
“Of course,” One interrupted Lin Feng’s thoughts. “If you fail to reach the Top 5, I’ll just take my account back. But how about this. If you do make it to the Top 5, the account is yours to keep.”
…my account. Lin Feng finally understood what One was implying. One has a Challenger account? Is he playing again? He actually made it to Challenger on the Korean server? How is he still that good!? He was so good at DotA, but that was DotA and this is League! How can he still be this good? He’s better than I am right now… He breathed unevenly and his head started swirling. “D-do you… Wait! DID YOU—”
“Alright, I’ve kept you up for too long. You’ll need every second you can get. I’ll send you the account information in a bit. Just gotta change the password around,” One said over the phone. “Oh, and kid, don’t let me down.”
Lin Feng nodded, too dazed to realise One couldn’t see his response. Oh, and kid, don’t let me down. Don’t let me down… Lin Feng’s hands were trembling. He’s passing his account on to me. His hard work. I have to pick up and carry on for him! One is giving me a real test! To prove to him that I’m good enough to pick up where he left! He balled his fist and grinned. I have the talent! He knows I do! But I have to move forward. I can’t stop taking the safe route. The Top 5 on the Korean server is just the first step. I’ll do it. For One. For myself. I’ll do it. He nodded to himself again and then said, his voice trembling, “I’ll do it. I mean, I won’t.”
One chuckled when he heard the response. Good. It sounds like he understands what this means. He’s going to have to try really hard, but he can do this. He just has to want it. Anyway, that settles that. He said, “Something else entirely, I heard BunBun moved to Shanghai? You two are on the same team then, I take it?”
“Yeah!” Lin Feng replied, rediscovering his usual grin. “We’re on the same team in the Collegiate Cup! She’s our coach and the Jungler! It’s amazing! Just like the old times! She’s a really good coach!”
“Huh? She’s jungling?” One asked in surprise. Did she jungle before? He shook his head and moved past it before Lin Feng could latch on. “Sounds like she’s still a great coach then! Hey, do me a favour. Tell her to give the missus a call. She’s been asking about BunBun a lot lately.”
“Five? You mean five? The missus is Five, right? Right?” Lin Feng exclaimed, excited. “How is Five? Are you two on your honeymoon right now? Is she having a good time? How is Five?”
“Hey! Her name isn’t Five!” One interrupted. He briefly paused to breathe and then complained, “That’s Mrs. One! We’re engaged now! Ha! If she hears you call her Five, she’ll give you a spanking! And a couple of jabs too!”
Lin Feng grinned and said, “Lies! She’d never do that! Five is way too nice for that! She’s the best! How is she doing? Did she ask about me too? What did she say when I won the Shanghai 16 School Tournament? Did you watch it with her?”
One listened to another minute of Lin Feng badgering him with questions before giving up. He shook his head and said, “You’re hopeless. You know what, I’m hanging up. Talk to you later.” He put the phone away from his ear and could still hear Lin Feng firing off questions. That kid. He shook his head and chuckled, ending the call. He’ll understand. One then leaned back on his sofa and looked at the television that was playing Lin Feng’s most recent game at the Winter Collegiate Cup. I wonder if he can do it. I hope he can. It’d be fun to see him up there with Rake again.
One closed his eyes and thought back to the Season 5 World Finals. Lee Dojae really went all out with that award ceremony. That was quite the thing. ‘Passing on the torch’, haha! I like it. It has a nice ring to it. Would be kind of cool if Lin Feng can help me do something like that. But… He chuckled and shook his head. That kid is still far away from getting there. But I’m in no rush. There’s still plenty of time to make that happen. I’ll pass my torch onto him eventually. I’m sure he’ll get there. And my torch is way bigger than Lee Dojae’s torch!
The next couple of minutes were spent laughing about Lee Dojae’s torch. But then One narrowed his eyes. Lin Feng needs time. He’s nowhere near ready to face Han Seho again. Rake… Lin Feng just isn’t there yet. And I wouldn’t mind letting him take his sweet time. It’s just… He took a deep breath and shook his head in annoyance. The Chinese esports circle isn’t going to be so patient. They’re going to find out soon enough that he’s back and then they’re going to push him. I just need to give Lin Feng a couple of pushes right now, so that when it comes to that, he’s ready. Besides, it’s not like a little bit of added pressure is bad for the kid.
One laughed as he remembered the excited tone in which Lin Feng told him about the Shanghai 16 School Tournament a while back. And how excited he now sounded about beating two university teams. He’s having a good time and slowly making his way back. That’s his way. We should respect that. But he’s also going out of his way to not really push himself. A university tournament? That’s just too easy for him. Top 5 on the Korean ladder. He can do it and it’ll also be an actual challenge. He might even start losing some games and remember what that’s like. And he’ll have to play with and against Rake. Against Rake… He nodded and mumbled, “That’ll be good for the kid.”
The television mounted on the wall in One’s living room played scenes of Lin Feng toying around with a random Midlaner. One shook his head and mumbled, “No challenge, no growth. He needs to put himself out there. Just not so much that he breaks again. I’ll have to make sure those esports guys don’t try and push him too hard.” He continued watching the screen that switched focus from Lin Feng to An Xin. One rubbed his chin and wondered, “That girl, did she always Jungle? I don’t recall her ever Jungling…”