There were a lot of universities looking for a spot at the main tournament of the Winter Collegiate Cup. And only a limited number of spots. But to give everyone a chance, the tournament went through local divisions in seven different regions before moving on to Regionals. To fit all of this into the schedule, the tournament officials were forced to move through the different phases at a very high speed. Only days after the local divisions ended, the numerous university teams gathered together to play the first round of Regionals. The format was a 32 team bracket which played down until there were only four teams remaining.
It’d take a few days to get through the first round of Regionals, but that didn’t stop every team in East China from attending Day 1. This was a rare opportunity to watch their potential future opponents play. They could see the team dynamics off the Rift, as well as how their rivals played together on the Rift. From how they argued inside their soundproof booths to how their Champions moved in the game.
There were two teams in the East China Regionals that were so much better than the competition that their spot in the main tournament was almost guaranteed. They were Zhejiang University and Fudan University. This made the fight for the other two spots at the main tournament that much more frantic. But in this edition of the Collegiate Cup, it didn’t stop there for East China. Rumours had started spreading that there was another team that was distinguishing itself from the competition, stepping up above everyone else. They were voted online as most likely to clinch a spot at the main tournament! And it was a team no one expected; the high schoolers from Team Shanghai!
The footage of the local divisions had made its rounds around the various competing universities. Everyone had seen how Team Shanghai had two girls on their roster, and how they stomped on their opposition in their local division. It was this combination that confused the university teams here today. They didn’t really know what to expect from Team Shanghai. So in an effort to be ready for anything, they all paid special attention to Team Shanghai on Day 1 of the East China Regionals.
The venue for the East China Regionals was similar to the one at the East China Medical School, where Team Shanghai had played its first two rounds. University students and League of Legends fans had gathered on the stage and were watching the first series of the day with one eye and the players from Team Shanghai with the other.
“You see them sitting there? What do you think?”
“I don’t know… I saw the replays but it’s just hard to believe it was them. Ya know?”
“It’s going to be really damn annoying if they are that good… That’s another spot gone!”
“We got lucky to get this far. But, uch, I really wanna make it to the main tournament now…”
“Fat chance with Fudan and Zhejiang taking two of the spots.”
“And Team Shanghai… Those kids over there. I really wonder if they can replicate their performance from their local division. They were bloody good!”
“Let’s hope not. Let’s hope not.”
The players from Team Shanghai sat together at the front of the venue, close to the soundproof booths. They were looking around, catching almost everyone in the venue looking at them rather than at the large LCD screen displaying the first series. It was very off putting and Zhang Hao especially made more than a few comments about it, complaining that it felt incredibly creepy to have everyone staring at them. He finally had had enough of it and turned to look at the others. He said, “I really want to win this. That’ll make them stop looking! I hope—”
“Don’t worry!” Lin Feng interrupted, laughing. “We’ll win this! I’m really good at carrying too! The mid lane is mine!”
An Xin curled her lips and said, “Egomaniac.”
Tang Bingyao nodded and added, “Mhm. You’re shameless.”
Zeng Rui looked at Lin Feng and felt a throb at the back of his head. He’s going to give me a headache again! What’s wrong with him? Where does he get his confidence from? We’re playing a strong team today! We need to be on our A-game! He narrowed his eyes. And I’m going to be the one carrying. He said, “Don’t get ahead of yourself. We’ll see who plays best.”
The last few days had been different for Team Shanghai. The trust that was lacking before was slowly seeping into their game. And with that trust came a newfound confidence. They were a team that was preparing to win the Winter Collegiate Cup, a sentiment even Zeng Rui dared to speak out loud! Yet right now they were still in the qualifiers. They all agreed that none of these teams could make them try. Not really, anyway. And they were eager to prove that, both to themselves and to each other.
The first opponent Team Shanghai had to beat at the East China Regionals turned out to be a familiar name. It was East China Medical School. They had reached the Top 8 at Regionals in the previous edition of the Collegiate Cup and were looking to improve on that achievement. They’d trained very hard the last couple of months and had made several improvements to their roster. The two best of three series in the local division went as expected for them. They were easy wins. Now they were looking to continue that streak at Regionals.
But the East China Medical School had the misfortune of facing Team Shanghai in the first round. They were put under immense pressure from the first minute in the first game all the way until the last second of the second game. Team Shanghai was simply the better team in every aspect of the game.
Lin Feng dominated the mid lane throughout the series. He pushed his lane opponent around and grabbed up solo kills on several occasions. One time, he even got close to picking up a penta kill in a fight he started all by himself. The other two lanes weren’t doing any worse. Zhang Hao was crushing his lane opponent while Zeng Rui was setting Tang Bingyao up for double kills every couple of minutes. And whenever East China Medical School tried to send their Jungler to help a lane out, An Xin matched his movements and made sure that Team Shanghai came out ahead.
The audience didn’t know what they were seeing. They expected some kind of spectacle, but the kind where two strong teams were fighting each other for all they were worth! This wasn’t anything like that. This was a one-sided stomp. There wasn’t a second in the series where it looked like East China Medical School had any chance of getting even a single kill.
“BEJEBUS! How good are those kids!?”
“WOOOOOOO! Uh. Why am I cheering for them? PLEASE LOSE!”
“Yeah! PLEASE LOSE! WE DON’T WANNA PLAY AGAINST YOU!”
“WOOT WOOT! GoGo Lin Feng! If anyone can, YOU CAN!”
“This is just silly. How good are they? My god…”
“HOLY SHIT TAP WATER TASTES LIKE SEWAGE!”
“They’ve got that third spot. Everyone on their side of the bracket is properly fucked.”
“Can’t believe our team is losing to some high schoolers…”
The regular audience weren’t the only ones impressed by how Team Shanghai was playing. Even the players from Zhejiang University and Fudan University nodded in respect. They knew a good team when they saw one. There wasn’t a doubt in their minds that Team Shanghai was going to qualify for the main tournament, which placed them in a peculiar situation. On the one hand, they wanted the East China region to do well. Training together with Team Shanghai was a logical next step. Yet at the same time, they also needed to prepare a strategy against Team Shanghai in the event they had to play each other at the main tournament.
Su Xue had brought her good friend, and video editor, Zuo You with her to watch Team Shanghai play in the first round of the East China Regionals. After Team Shanghai won their first series, the two girls walked up to Lin Feng and greeted him. Zuo You did this by waving her arms around, her bright red hair distinguishing her from everyone else at the venue, and shouting, “Good job, kiddo! That looked pretty damn good!”
Su Xue curled her lips in disapprovement and said, “Don’t be so nice to him. It’ll go straight to his head!”
Lin Feng ruffled his hair and argued, “I did almost get a penta with my Fizz. I deserved that compliment!”
Su Xue wanted to say something, get into a typical argument with Lin Feng, but stopped herself. Let’s not do this in front of his friends. She smiled at the other four players from Team Shanghai that approached and said, “Congratulations on that win! It was really nice! I loved that triple kill you got Tang Tang! Oh! I was thinking that we should celebrate this victory with some food!”
“Great idea!” Zuo You exclaimed before Lin Feng could. She grabbed her purse and waved it in front of Lin Feng, adding, “Let’s GoGoGO! It’s my treat! You guys deserve it after that performance! We need to celebrate this win! Come!”
“YEAH! BROS! FOOD!” Ouyang shouted from a short distance away. He pushed himself through a few people until he arrived next to Lin Feng. He then raised his arms and continued, “Us bros need to celebrate this massive win! And we can’t turn Zuo You down either! Bros gotta give their bro’s chicks face! Isn— AAAJJJ!”
Ren Rou grabbed Ouyang by his ear and pulled him away, saying, “I’m sorry for this swine’s behaviour. Please forgive him.”
The other old teammates and classmates from Lin Feng also arrived. Liu Yue was at the front of them. He’d heard the words food and quickly pulled out his phone, which he now held in front of Zuo You’s face. “Here! LookLookLook! There’s this really good restaurant! It’s right around the corner! See these reviews? They’re all super woot woot! I’ve been wanting to go forever! Wanna go here?”
Zuo You looked at Liu Yue and giggled. “Sure. Sounds good. You lead the way. We’ll go have our celebratory dinner there!”
“WOOT WOOT!” Liu Yue shouted. He stuffed his phone away and started leading the way, saying over his shoulder, “Keep up! Keep up!”
Zeng Rui watched Liu Yue running away. Seriously, how do I always get in these situations? I need to go over the footage from today’s games… And I just know I’m not going to have time for that because they’re going to drag me along. Again! He glanced at Lin Feng, who was talking with Su Xue and trailing after Liu Yue. The thundering dumbass will look over his shoulder and go, Oh, ZengZeng… He grimaced, hating himself for using the nickname, and shook his head. Screw it! Celebrating every win it is! No point in trying to argue with him. He caught up to An Xin and matched her speed. “Hey, BunBun,” he said. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get anything done. He smiled and turned his head to look at her. “I came up with a plan for Champion Select last night. Six different team comps fit into it. Can you take a look and tell me what you think?”
An Xin looked at Zeng Rui and replied. “Sure. I can do that.”
Zeng Rui nodded and handed An Xin a sheet of paper that was scribbled full with letters and drawings. “Thanks. Here.”
An Xin reached out to grab the paper and touched it with her fingers. Zeng Rui let go, expecting her to have it. But she didn’t. The sheet slid from An Xin’s grasp and fell to the ground. “Oh, sorry! My bad!” Zeng Rui quickly said. He reached down to grab it, but An Xin beat him to it.
“It’s fine,” An Xin said, reaching out to grab the paper from the floor. “It’s my fault.” Come on. Not now. Please not now. She gritted her teeth and tried to pinch the paper between her fingers. But that only made her hand tremble. The sheet of paper slipped through her fingers again. Please! She closed her eyes and reached out with her other hand too. Just work for me. Grab the paper. Please.
Tang Bingyao had been walking behind An Xin when the piece of paper fell. She stopped walking and tilted her head. Why did she drop that? Mhm, probably nothing. She shrugged and was about to walk around An Xin when she noticed it. An Xin’s hand trembled. Tang Bingyao narrowed her eyes. Why is her hand trembling? She can’t grab the paper? What— Her eyes went wide. She can’t pick up the paper! She crouched down next to An Xin and put an arm around her friend’s shoulder. She asked worriedly, “BunBun, are you okay? Do you need some help?”
An Xin bit on her lips and pinched her eyes closed. She ignored Tang Bingyao and focused as hard as she could on her hand. Please! She pinched the sheet of paper with everything she had and finally managed to hold on to it. Why does this… She grimaced and quickly put the paper away in her pocket. Her hand relaxed again. An exhausted breath escaped her lips. She could feel Tang Bingyao standing beside her and Zeng Rui in front of her. Act natural. You’re okay. Just tell them… She opened her eyes and smiled. “Don’t worry, Tang Tang. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m okay, really.”
You’re lying, was what Tang Bingyao wanted to say. But she stopped herself after glancing around. Zeng Rui stood next to them and Lin Feng had stopped walking too. If she’s trying to hide it… She’s trying to hide something. What is she… Tang Bingyao bit on her tongue and nodded at An Xin. I won’t say anything. That’s your choice. Her stomach heavily disagreed, but she pushed herself to say, “Mhm… Okay. If you say so.”
WE ARE THE UNICORN!
Shanks Thought: Every day is a surprise on the Rise Team. Today, Sietse sent this image to me on WhatsApp.
It’s the inspiration we’re apparently basing the branding of the Rise Team off of. You guys thought we were joking about Devshard being the horn, Sietse being the majestic mane, and me being the base pony. But no, we’re completely serious about this, apparently. I, sure as heck, didn’t know! Honestly, the dumbfuckery knows no limits. I’m half wondering if that’s a picture of the chad Thundercock himself donning a unicorn head mask. The lengths these guys will go for a joke. If I’m not questioning the life choices I made to get here every morning, then it wouldn’t be the Rise Team.
Sietse Notepad: linker foto past wel goed. Leuk idee met de 18/chinese letters/eenhoorn… heeft eigenlijk alles, ook de kleuren. Achtergrond daarnaast is iets minder chill. Te langzaam/rustig/saai. En in hoeverre kan je het plaatje rechts aanpassen? Ziet er niet super inspirerend uit nu. Hebben we wel nodig om te kunnen verkopen. Wat nou als we hem een iets grotere hoorn geven? Met wat roze op de achtergrond? Knalt hij er echt uit. Dat zouden we kunnen verkopen.
Shanks Thought (Continued): I can’t read Dutch, but I can use Google Translate. And now I’m mildly concerned for my own safety. I fear Sietse is pimping me out on some Dutch fetishist escort site. I know the Rise Team needs money, and I’m all about taking one for the team… But no, this is too much. ADDING ‘VIRGIN’ TO THE DESCRIPTION IS NOT A SELLING POINT!
Oh God. I can already imagine it. This is going to be my life from now on. Lone poniboi Shanks walking the streets every night, doing the best he can to earn a living to keep Rise going. One night, he comes back home after a session with a client with particularly deviant tastes. He opens the door and sees Sietse with a haggard face and baggy eyes, still slaving away in the editor sweatshop. Then he walks upstairs to find the door to the bathroom wide open. Devshard has fallen over on his back beside the toilet. He’s like a helpless turtle that can’t flip himself over. But much angrier. He yells at poniboi Shanks for only earning so much today, but yelps out in pain midway as he strains his back again. Poniboi Shanks sighs and walks away. He returns to his room and collapses on his bed. Dead tired. He shuts his eyes, knowing he’ll have to do everything all over again the next day.
Sietse Thought: I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with Shanks. I’m kind of scared to ask. But his thoughts are clearly something we should delve deeper into. Normally I’d suggest he go see a therapist for this, but we all know he can’t afford one of those. So we can be his therapist. He can open up to us, and we’ll crack a joke about it. Laughter is the best remedy, right? I don’t know. I’m not a therapist. Not even a dollar-store one. But as long as it’s as demented as the shit above, I’ll stick around to listen to it. For my own entertainment, primarily.
Anyway, the Dutch was just some mundane feedback I was giving my girlfriend on something pony related. I wasn’t planning to sell Shanks off, though I’d totally do that for the right price. Seriously, you guys can find me on Discord. Serious prices get serious reactions!
Now back to Shanks’ virgin stuff. This had me think back to my days in high school. Did anyone else have these girls in their class who were really proud of being virgin? Like, weirdly so? They’d walk around with this big sign on their head saying, “I’M VIRGIN!” And then they’d date older dudes who were supposedly really into virgin girls. There was apparently a big market for virgins. It was honestly the strangest thing, because they’d date these guys but never actually have sex. That would ruin the whole virgin part. And when they got bored with one dude, they’d move to the next one. When you asked them, they’d just say that there was a high demand for virgins. Just writing this I’m confused all over again. Who cares about this? What does it even matter?
Shanks Thought: I don’t know how this thought ended up here, but I’m proud of it.