An Illusory Fig Leaf of Relief

Bookmark (0)

No account yet? Register

‘Twas the evening of the new moon, and the night sky was dotted with twinkling stars. Below that sky was the bustling metropolis of Shanghai, with all its bright lights. But throughout the city were quiet residential areas, illuminated by the pale-yellow glow of streetlights. These neighborhoods were quiet and peaceful, a stark contrast from the noisy downtown streets. It was nice, the fact that such warmth and comfort could be found in a forest of reinforced steel and concrete. 

That’s what An Xin was thinking about as she spoke to Lin Feng on the phone. She could see it all from the window in her room, high up on a skyscraper. Something about talking to Lin Feng always made her feel calm and peaceful. Cosy, even. Just like those neighborhoods woven through Shanghai. Until he asked her that question. 

“You aren’t lying to me, right?” 

That question was a cold wind, sucking away all the warmth and cheer from the conversation. You aren’t lying to me, right? The question echoed and lingered inside An Xin’s mind, hammering away at the cheerful façade she was trying so hard to maintain. Threatening to break apart the lie she crafted so well that even she started to believe it. Trying to break the box in her mind where she’d hidden away something she didn’t even want to tell Lin Feng. You aren’t lying to me, right? 

There was a long silence after Lin Feng asked her that. A long silence that An Xin used to consider what she was going to say. Should I tell him? Do I want to tell him now? How… An Xin opened her mouth to say something, and then closed it again. I expected this! I should’ve been ready! I’ll tell him! She cleared her throat with a little cough. And then said, “Why would I lie to you?” Not now. I’ll tell him later. This isn’t the right time… She sounded calm and collected, and threw the question right back at him with complete confidence. Like she had no idea what Lin Feng was even talking about. It was perfect. Except for the slight crack in her voice at the beginning, that’s what betrayed her.  

Lin Feng asked again, “How sick are you? Are you actually okay?” 

An Xin laughed. She put everything into that laugh, trying to make it sound reassuring and like she didn’t have a care in the world. Then she said, “I told you that already, didn’t I? Let me say it slowly since you’re having trouble understanding. I’m. Perfectly. Fine. REALLY! Everything is peachy! Look, you’ll see me at practice tomorrow evening. You’ll see that I’m fine. Why would I even lie to you about that? What reason could I possibly have to hide something important from you?” She paused right after that to let it sink in. Then she continued, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with my body. I’m fine… Ask some of the other boys at school, they’ll tell you I’m pretty fine too!” She laughed and paused again. Waiting for Lin Feng to laugh with her at the joke she just made. When he didn’t, she started talking again, “Lin Feng, tell me this. Have you ever seen me get sick? Ever? Nope! I’m the one that was always running around taking care of you every single time you caught a cold. You’re the one that’s always getting sick!”

Lin Feng scratched his head and muttered, “Yeah, I guess that’s true… But… Hm… I don’t know. Something doesn’t feel r–No, not that. Why do I get the feeling that you’re hiding something?”

An Xin smiled. But it was a sad smile. This guy is such a blockhead and oblivious to everything. But this he picks up on? Let’s see… “Stop overthinking! When has that ever done you any good? You think you can figure out everything that’s going on, Sherlock Feng? You sure you’re smart enough for that? Are you trying to pretend you’re Tang Tang now?

Lin Feng smiled. Now that An Xin was back to making fun of him and throwing out roasts, it seemed like everything was okay. He felt the knot in his chest loosening. But it didn’t disappear entirely. Lin Feng thought about everything for a couple of seconds, and decided to ask one last time. “Are you really okay?”

“I am.”

“You’re not lying to me.”

“I’m not.”

“You have to promise. You swear…?”

An Xin hesitated. Then she started to say, “I promise…­­–“  

Lin Feng cut in before she could finish. “Okay! I believe you! See ya at practice tomorrow! We need to get as much work in as possible before the next game. Oh! Oh! Remember to call Five!”  

An Xin laughed. “Alright, alright, I’ll call Five! I remember! Bye now!”

Lin Feng ended the call. An Xin’s fine… I think. He believed An Xin. She wouldn’t keep something important from him. But… There was still a knot in his chest and the lingering feeling that he’d forgotten something important. Something that was right in front of him and completely obvious. He just couldn’t figure it out. He thought about it for a couple of minutes, and decided not to bother lingering on it for now. It’ll put itself together in my head. I need to distract myself with something else! With that thought, he pulled his books out and started his homework. 

An Xin still had the phone in her hand after the call ended. She quietly lowered herself onto her bed and sat there with her head down. Silent. Her hand turned white and started shaking from the grip she had on her phone. Lying to you… I didn’t want to. I don’t want to. I tried so hard not to! But I just couldn’t tell you everything, Lin Feng. Please forgive me for lying to you! I just wanted to hide this for a little bit longer, I’m sorry. Please let me keep this illusion going for just a bit longer… 

School started on the next day. An Xin wasn’t there in the morning. Lin Feng wasn’t too worried about this, since she told him that she would be at practice in the evening. 

Evening finally rolled around and Team Shanghai met up at the internet café. And An Xin was there, just as she said she would be. Everyone on the team breathed a sigh of relief that An Xin was well enough to practice. They ran up to her and started asking her questions.

“BunBun, are you okay? 

“Are you feeling better now?” 

An Xin replied with a smile, “It’s okay. I’m perfectly fine now! Sorry for worrying everyone”

“See! What did I say guys? BunBun is always fine! It’ll take a gorilla to knock her down!”

Zeng Rui looked at An Xin up and down. She looks fine. Okay. We can get back on track now! He nodded stiffly at her before saying, “Good! Now we continue practicing! We’ve only got two more days until the Round of 16 starts.”

An Xin nodded back at him with a smile. Then she said, “I wasn’t just sitting around doing nothing for the last two days. I’ve been thinking and I came up with a lot of strategies. For today’s practice, I want to try something different.”

Something different? Zeng Rui cocked an eyebrow and stared at An Xin. She wants to try something different two days before we play? Is she serious? He continued to stare at An Xin, and she stared right back. Her smile didn’t falter even a little bit. 

“Don’t you worry, Zengy! Nothing is going to change on your end. Well. Not much will change. I’m just going to try a new style of jungling. Something different! You’ll see when we get into the Rift.”

Team Shanghai jumped into another intense training session.

An Xin started showing the rest of the team the new Jungle-play and strategy that she came up with. Her new style of jungling. And it started with changing her champion pool up. Her old pool of champions consisted of Lee Sin, Jarvan IV, and Rengar. All three were phenomenal Jungle champions. But An Xin really popped off when she played Lee Sin and Jarvan IV. But she had decided to abandon her well-known Lee Sin and Jarvan IV for completely different champions. 

 The new champions she decided to play were Rek’Sai, Evelynn, and Nunu. These champions had to be played very differently. Lee Sin and Jarvan IV were all about mechanics. The new champions An Xin wanted to play relied more on map awareness and planning rather than mechanical ability.  

Lin Feng noticed the change immediately. And was also the first to complain about her new champion pool. “Why aren’t you playing Lee Sin, BunBun? Why are you playing easy champions like Nunu and Evelynn?” Easy wasn’t the best word to describe those champions, but it was the one that made the most sense to Lin Feng. As far as he was concerned, An Xin had fantastic mechanics and it would be a waste for her not to take advantage of that. Nunu and Evelynn would not allow An Xin to showcase her mechanics.

Zeng Rui also noticed An Xin’s decision to go on a parallel playstyle. Lin Feng isn’t wrong. Lee Sin is deadly with An Xin’s mechanics. It is an advantage that we shouldn’t throw away. But this could also work for us if she can pull it off. She has the map awareness for it. He decided to speak up, “Hang on Lin Feng. This is not a bad idea at all. If An Xin expands her champion pool and adds a completely different play style, it’ll give us far more flexibility in the team comps we can run. It also expands the strategies we can try out. More importantly, everyone knows about An Xin’s Lee Sin already. When we go up against opponents like Zhejiang and Fudan, this’ll be one more ace up our sleeves.”

Tang Bingyao and Zhang Hao nodded, agreeing with Zeng Rui’s assessment. Lin Feng looked confused and glanced at An Xin quickly. Then he looked back at Zeng Rui and agreed with the change. Lin Feng glanced at An Xin one last time before he started playing again. Lost in thought. 

Team Shanghai continued training and honing their gameplan for the rest of the evening. And then they said their farewells and went home. 

Except for Lin Feng. After the team session ended, he continued to play. But he was playing on his Challenger account on the Korean server. He’d been secretly climbing on this account. Every night, he’d play at least five games to steadily raise his LP before going home.

Two days flew by with Team Shanghai training every single night. In the blink of an eye, it was 5:30 PM on Saturday. The East China Regionals were about to start. Team Shanghai was in Group A, so they were scheduled to play in the first match. The other team in Group A was Zhejiang University, the team that had gotten fourth place in the previous Collegiate Cup. The team that had Samsara, a God-tier AD-Carry. They were scheduled to play the second match. 

Thirty minutes before the start of the East China Regionals Round of 16. The spectators were just starting to come in to take their seats. The stage lights were buzzed to life and flooded the entire venue with color. The air was electric. The tension palpable before the teams had even taken their places. The giant LCD screen above the stage was counting down the time until the games started. Everything about this particular stage dazzled and added to the hype. From the stage to the seats to the custom-ordered gaming chairs, keyboards, mice. Even the computers added to the ambiance, with flashing LEDs and lights. 

The seats at the venue were divided into two distinct sections. Red and Blue. Even the stage lights dancing over each section were different, highlighting the competitive vibe. As the audience filed in, they took the seats on the side of the team they wanted to support. People were getting ready with their signs and starting to plan out their cheering strategies. Most of the audience was male, but there were a few girls here and there.  

Once most of them had taken their seats, the giant speakers boomed to life. Epic battle music thumped in the chests of the people who had come to watch, amping them up even more. In 20 minutes, the awesome games that everyone had come to see would finally start! Every single team that had climbed this far into the tournament was great! Every single game promised pure adrenaline. 

This year was especially exciting because Fudan University, Zhejiang University, and Shanghai University of Finance had made it back into the Round of 16. They were well-known teams that had played well last year. But a lot of the excitement was reserved for Fudan University and Zhejiang University. In last year’s Collegiate Cup, these two teams placed 3rd and 4th respectively. That was the furthest that the East China region had ever gotten in the last Collegiate Cup. And neither of the two teams had given up. They spent the last year pushing themselves further and getting better. Now they burned with competitive ambition to claim the championship.

More importantly, the audience wanted them to win. They wanted to see the Collegiate Cup brought back to East China!   

“Fudan got unlucky in the semifinals last year, that’s all. They could have totally made it to the Finals and they were good enough to win the whole thing!”

“Well, you can say the same thing about Zhejiang! They’re definitely better than Fudan. But they got unlucky in the semifinals too and had to play last year’s champions. That’s why they’re stuck in second tier with Fudan.”

“Zhejiang? OMG! The Captain of Zhejiang’s team is soooo hot! He’s their AD-Carry! And I heard he’s also one of the top Challengers on the Ionia Server! He’s so intense! I wish he’d look at me like that just one time. My heart would stop but it’d be so worth it.”

That last comment came from a pretty girl in a cute Teemo hat. But the sentiment was echoed across most of the female fans who had come to watch the East China Regionals. They were all here for Samsara, the AD-Carry from Zhejiang University. 

Zhejiang University’s team captain, Sun ‘Samsara’ Ruinian, wasn’t only known for his superb skills as an AD-Carry. He was handsome and charming as well. Great gameplay packaged in such an exquisite container made the hearts of the female fans squeal with glee. 

Sun Ruinian was 181 centimeters tall with sharp eyebrows and deep, black eyes that sparkled like the night sky. He had a great personality too, friendly and polite to everyone. The man oozed charm, and a single smile stole the hearts of many maidens. 

“So what if he’s a little good looking? It’s not like that helps you win a tournament…”  

“He’s not only hot! He’s Hangzhou’s best AD-Carry too! If you think you can do better, go ahead and try!” The girl in the Teemo hat screamed back.

The male student who made the first comment was jealous. When the girl in the Teemo hat gave him a verbal smackdown, he had no comeback. He couldn’t claim to be a better player than Sun Ruinian, nor was he as handsome as Sun Ruinian. But he had to say something so he mumbled, “Yeah, well, so what? He’s good and good-looking. Big deal. Team Shanghai has TWO pretty girls on their team and they’re amazing too! I’ll bet their AD-Carry Tang Bingyao is just as good as Sun Ruinian! She’s probably better! And she’s way better looking than him!”

Zhejiang University and Fudan University were clearly the crowd favorites in the East China Regionals. They were also the obvious front-runners. Both teams had won the Regionals last year and advanced all the way to the semi-finals of the Collegiate Cup. Everyone assumed the same thing would happen again this year. But an interesting twist made itself known in the form of a dark horse. Team Shanghai, the representatives of the Shanghai Esports Association.

Before the start of the Collegiate Cup, Team Shanghai was a literal unknown. All of the other University teams and even the fans assumed that a team formed from all high school players was a novelty. Something to give high school players experience for when they got to the real University teams. No one assumed that they would be a real contender. All of that changed after the first round of the Qualifiers. Team Shanghai proved themselves not only to be a real team, but also one that could upset what was a stagnant pool of teams and winners.

Every team in East China had heard about the scrims Team Shanghai played against Shanghai University of Finance by now. They’d discussed it extensively, and they were still talking about it. No one thought Team Shanghai would do as well as they did. Nor did they believe that Team Shanghai was capable of blowing Shanghai University of Finance out of the water. But that’s exactly what happened. And the news had trickled all the way down to the fans. 

When Tang Bingyao and Team Shanghai got mentioned again, a group of students from Tonji University who had come to watch the Round of 16 started talking about them. 

“Even Shanghai University of Finance got 2-0’d by them…Doesn’t that mean that Team Shanghai is at least good enough to make it to the quarterfinals of the Collegiate Cup?” 

“Don’t be so quick to judge or buy into the hype. How do we know that Shanghai University of Finance didn’t lose on purpose? They could have used it as a chance to play some mind games on the other teams. Think about it. How could a team that made it to the quarterfinals in last year’s Collegiate Cup get rolled over by a completely unknown team so easily?”

“So they’re better than Shanghai University of Finance. Big deal! Even if they’re good enough to make it to the quarterfinals, so what? It doesn’t matter at all. Team Shanghai is in Group A. So is Zhejiang University.”

That statement rang out in the minds of all of the spectators. Team Shanghai was in the same group as Zhejiang University. Only one of the two teams could advance past the regional quarterfinals, and everyone knew that it would not be Team Shanghai.

The whole team from Zhejiang University sat together at the very front row of the spectator stand. At ground level in a special area reserved for official players and teams. Sun Ruinian, the AD-Carry and Captain, spoke to the rest of his team, “Unless something completely unexpected happens, Team Shanghai is going to win this game. We’ll be up against them in the Top 8. So pay attention and see how they play.”

Sun Ruinan had also done his research on Team Shanghai. He was confident that they were good enough to win this game and advance to the next round. And he was confident that his team could beat them in the Top 8. 

They’ll make it to the next round, but that’s as far as they’ll go… Sun Ruinian thought to himself while nodding. They’re a great team. This is just bad luck. They cannot win against us. He had watched both of the previous matches that Team Shanghai played and was impressed by the skill they displayed. As good as they are, they just aren’t ready to beat us yet. Maybe in a few years, after they play a few more tournaments and get more experience.  It’s going to be tough battle when we’re up against them in the quarterfinals. We can’t afford to underestimate them or take it easy. But Zhejiang’s going to be the team that wins! 

Sun Ruinian’s eyes lit up with competitive fire. This time, his team was aiming for the championship! They would not be stopped! Not again! Then he thought about Team Shanghai’s players and smiled ruefully. I feel a little bad for Team Shanghai. We’ll be cutting their Collegiate Cup run short here, and they’re good enough to deserve more games. But there’s nothing that can be done. The thought that his team might lose never crossed his mind. Zhejiang University had placed fourth in the last Collegiate Cup. Both him and his team had gotten stronger in the year since then, and they were aiming for higher than fourth!

15 minutes before the start of the first match in Group A. Team Shanghai had already gathered in the lobby backstage. They were waiting to be called up to the stage to take their seats. Zeng Rui used the time to talk to the rest of the team about the research he’d done.

“Zhejiang University’s Captain is their AD-Carry, Sun Ruinian. He goes by Samsara in-game. He’s a Challenger on the Ionia Server and he’s also the best AD-Carry in all of Hangzhou” Zeng Rui paused to flip the page in the small notebook he carried around with his notes. He also massaged his temples for a couple of seconds, and then continued reading. “According to everything that I’ve been able to find about their team, Zhejiang University is somewhere between a B and a B+. Sun Ruinian’s individual skill as an AD-Carry is rated at B+.”

Zhen Rui paused again to look at the rest of his team. “All of this information is based on last year’s stats. We don’t know if Zhejiang University as a whole has improved as a team after last year’s Collegiate Cup. But I can tell you from what I’ve seen, Sun Ruinian has most certainly gotten better.” He flipped to another page in his notebook and glanced at what he’d written down. Then he looked up at Lin Feng, Tang Bingyao and Zhang Hao. “Hm. He’s probably an A- now.” 

Zeng Rui looked straight at Tang Bingyao as he said those words. Everyone understood what he meant by that. Zhejiang University was going to be a tough opponent for Team Shanghai. But most of the pressure was going to be on bot lane. And even more specifically on Tang Bingyao. She had improved considerably, and very quickly too. And she was still getting better with every game they played. But she had not gotten to the point where she was better than the best AD-Carry in Hangzhou, Sun Ruinian.

Tang Bingyao nodded. Slowly. Then she asked, “Zeng Rui, what’s all this B+ and A- stuff mean? You didn’t explain your rating system. Mhm! I know he’s better than me, but I don’t know how much better.” 

Zeng Rui massaged his temples again. “Sorry. Let me explain how this works. A player or team rated at a C+ or higher is considered to be at the semi-professional level. Above that, we have B and higher. That means that the team is a real contender for the Collegiate Cup championship. B+ means that the player is skilled enough to be a star player on B rated teams like Fudan or Zhejiang. He’s good enough to carry on teams that are already really good. Understand?” Zeng Rui paused to make sure that everything was clear. He saw Tang Bingyao nod at him, and then continued on.

“An A-, that means that the player has already passed the threshold of the amateur scene and is at the level of a professional player.”

Zeng Rui explained all of this calmly. There was no excitement, no dramatic flair, nothing. Every word was spoken in a completely detached tone. It didn’t sound like he considered any of this to be extraordinary or shocking. But his frank delivery did very little to soften the implication of what he’d just said. Team Shanghai was going to be up against an AD-Carry who was at the professional level in the quarterfinals of the East China Regionals. And all of that pressure was going to be on Tang Bingyao’s shoulders! 

Lin Feng thoughtfully rubbed his chin after Zeng Rui’s explanation. “Hm. So that’s what you meant. I didn’t know either. Good thing Tang Tang asked.” He thought about it for a couple of seconds longer and started to get curious. He snapped his fingers at Zeng Rui and asked, “Hey! Wait. ZengyZeng, what grade would you give yourself?”

Zeng Rui’s eyelids twitched. Thundering dumbass. But he quickly composed himself and calmly replied, “Last year, I would probably say that I was at a B+. As for where I am right now… I’m not sure. I don’t have enough information to come to a definitive conclusion on that.”

For anyone else, a grade of B+ would be cause for celebration. Zeng Rui was still only a high school student, and he was only a step away from being as skilled as a professional player. And that was last year. He’d grown since then and gotten even better. Zeng Rui was unquestionably a genius at the game. But it was not worth much for the current situation that Team Shanghai was in. 

“It’s not good enough,” Zeng Rui coldly stated. “There is no reason for us to believe that I can do anything about bot lane in the game against Zhejiang. Even if I had gotten to the point where I could say that I was A- now, it wouldn’t change anything. I’m a Support main at the end of the day. Zhejiang University has Sun Ruinian as their AD-Carry. What I can do against him is limited. At the base level, I won’t be able to exert as much pressure as I did in our previous games. This is going to come down to Tang Tang, and if she can hold her own against Sun Ruinian.”

This was as close to sugar coating something as Zeng Rui could possibly get. He didn’t want to throw so much pressure at Tang Bingyao before the game even started. But he did need to get the message across as nicely as he could. The truth was that he wanted to say something very different. He wanted to say that if Tang Bingyao couldn’t hold her own against Sun Ruinian, then they could not win. Bot lane would become Team Shanghai’s weak link, and would get targeted by Zhejiang University. And that was enough of a disadvantage to cost them the game. 

To make it even simpler, the bot lane would be the crucial factor that decided the game between Zhejiang University and Team Shanghai. And all of it revolved around the matchup between the two AD-Carries.

Tang Bingyao bit her lips. Hard. She had a complicated expression on her face as she processed all of this and the weight settled on her. Then she nodded at Zeng Rui and said, “I’ll do my best! Mhm!”

Zeng Rui nodded back at her before continuing, “Tang Tang’s probably a B grade AD-Carry right now.” He looked at Zhang Hao and said, “You’re a C+ Toplaner.”

Zhang Hao’s expression crumpled into disappointment with a hint of shame. In all fairness to him, a C+ was already very high for an ordinary high school player. In Shanghai High School’s team, he was the second best player after Zeng Rui. But when it came to Team Shanghai, he was one of the weaker links. Especially when compared to teams like Zhejiang University or Fudan University, where all of their players were at B- or higher.  

Zeng Rui turned to An Xin next. He frowned before saying, “BunBun…” He paused after he said her name. Zeng Rui was hesitating because he found himself having trouble giving An Xin’s skill an honest evaluation. Even though they’d played so many games together on top of all the training and practice sessions, something told him that he could not see her true skill at the game just yet. If I had to guess, I’d say somewhere between a B+ and A-… maybe? “I can’t figure out where BunBun stands accurately, but I can say that she’s higher than a B.” 

An Xin wasn’t the only person Zeng Rui had difficulty getting a read on. There was one person that he absolutely could not see through at all. He looked at Lin Feng for a couple of seconds, not saying a word. This thundering dumbass of a Midlaner… what would he be?  

Lin Feng noticed Zeng Rui glaring at him and asked, “Me?” Lin Feng pointed at himself. “You’re trying to figure out my grade?” He waved his hand and laughed, “I’m really good at getting graded too! I’m definitely an A+. But ZengyZeng, your grading system kinda sucks. Everybody gets an A! The standards are way too low.”

The vein on Zeng Rui’s forehead throbbed. This thundering dumbass thinks my standards are too low? MY STANDARDS ARE TOO LOW? Sun Ruinian is Hangzhou’s best AD-Carry! He’s the Captain for Zhejiang University’s Team! AND I ONLY GAVE HIM AN A-! How the hell is that too low of a standard? Wait. Is he just trying to make fun of me? 

The truth here was that Zeng Rui was wrong about his standards, and Lin Feng was being completely sincere. But Zeng Rui didn’t know that. 

An Xin glanced over at Lin Feng and smiled. She didn’t say anything to Zeng Rui or the rest of the team. But she was thinking along the same lines as Lin Feng. Zeng Rui’s system is great. But it’s limited. It only works if you’re trying to rank players from the amateur level to the base professional level. Beyond that, it has no value. 

The system used to evaluate and rank players in the professional scene was completely different, and it was based on a percentage system.

The base professional player threshold was 70%. This was what Zeng Rui determined to be an A- in his system. But this was where the ranking started for professional players. It was not the ceiling. Or even close to the top. 

Between 80-90% was where the real stars of the professional scene grouped up. All seven of the Seven Kings where somewhere at this tier. 

Beyond 90%, that was reserved for players at the pinnacle of the professional scene. Each of the 4 Emperors were beyond 90%. 

Back in Season 1, when Lin Feng was at his prime and stood at the same level as the current Four Emperors, he was also beyond 90%. One, his most respected mentor and coach, had given him a score of 95%. The same score that Han ‘Rake’ Seho, Sovereign among the Four Emperors, received.

This entire conversation was chronologically out of order. Zeng Rui and the rest of Team Shanghai were talking about the team they’d be playing against in the Top 8. That was the next round. But in the next ten minutes, Team Shanghai was about to play the first game in the Round of 16. They had yet to win that game. They had not even started that game. But everyone spoke as if it was a foregone conclusion. 

Disregarding an opponent in a major tournament and casually speaking of the game after that was rude and insulting. But sadly, that was the reality of the situation that Team Shanghai was in at the moment. Team Shanghai’s opponents in the Round of 16 was Fuzhou Tech from the Fuzhou League. They had also made it to the East China Regionals last year, but they were a mediocre team at best. According to Zeng Rui and An Xin, Fuzhou Tech was the perfect opponent to test out their new strategies.

Five minutes later, the first match in Group A of the Round of 16 started. Team Shanghai versus Fuzhou Tech!

Following a wave of cheers, both two teams walked up to the stage and sat down in front of their computers.

Sun Runian, seated in the spectator stands with the rest of his team from Zhejiang University, watched every player on Team Shanghai closely. And focused on the game that was about to be played. Team Shanghai… I want to see exactly how good these high schoolers are!



Okay. So this chapter (291) was originally meant to be released last Saturday. Stuff happened, I’ll tell you about it in the actual thought. So I decided to merge 291 with 292 (Sunday’s chapter). But 292 was originally also a merged chapted. So this beast of a chapter that you’re looking at right now is a merge between 3 chapters. I could have separated them into 291 and 292. But you’re getting all of these chapters that we’re behind on in one shot, so I figured I’d save you a few clicks. 


Chapter Thought: 

Dev Thought: Okay. Here’s the skinny on what happened with the clusterfuck that led to us being 5 days behind and dropping all of the chapters at once. Sietse decided to go on a camping trip with his girlfriend. All of us told him to go and have fun. Because why not, right? So Sietse starts telling me about this camping trip that he’s taking and the chapters I have to do while he’s gone two weeks in advance. Which led to some confusion, because I thought he was going to be gone a week earlier than he was actually leaving. 

Anyways. Shanks translates the chapters. I’m looking at them and thinking I’ll work on them a little bit at a time so they’re ready on Saturday. That was the plan. Except it didn’t go that way at all. I don’t live 5 minutes away from the hospital anymore. (Some stuff happened. There was a gang fight in front of my old place. Some people got shot. Then someone else got stabbed a couple days later. It was a whole thing. I didn’t get shot or stabbed. I had very little to do with this entire violent crime spree. But my parents decided that I would not be living in my conveniently located shithole anymore.) Now that I have to drive an hour and a half to work, I can’t just dip out whenever I feel like it. And I have to wake up much earlier to account for the commute time. 

That screwed up both my available time to do stuff on Rise and my sleep schedule. Which culminated in the masterpiece of a shitshow that I performed on Saturday. I meant to wake up at 5AM to get to the hospital by 6AM. And instead, I was woken up at 9:45AM by a ping from Shanks. Ironically, about the chapter for Saturday. I saw the ping, closed my eyes again, and then woke up at 10AM panicked about being 4 hours late. In my confusion, I decided to drive to work instead of just writing the day off. But the hospital is an hour away. So I walked into work 5 hours late. 

Then I spent most of Saturday and Sunday trying to make up the hours I missed and also maybe get myself out of the doghouse. It did not work. I started slowly working on the chapters, and that’s when Spectrum decided to also get in on the fun. They decided to upgrade the wiring in my apartment building. Which led to the internet being out for three days. And because cell tower reception is so spotty in this building, I couldn’t tether my phone. Or play games on it. Or watch stuff. I literally had nothing to do besides work and cleaning my house for three days. 

I know some of you are thinking “But Dev! Why didn’t you go to a place with free wifi? Like Starbucks!” And that is a very reasonable option. Solid line of thinking. Except for two very small issues. I don’t have a laptop anymore. And I’m not about to haul my desktop into the middle of a Starbucks to work on a chapter. I don’t think they even allow that shit. But the more important issue is that I have no idea if there’s even a Starbucks with WiFi where I live. There’s one of those Starbucks Express places. And also, COVID. I’m immune, but I don’t think they’re going to let me chill inside a Starbucks when they’re not open to the public for that yet.

All in all, it was glorious. Sietse thought he’d be having fun in the woods for two days. Instead, he got 5 days of pure entertainment out of the random spiral of misery that my life has become. 

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments