There was no one who paid as much attention to the games from Zhejiang University as Tang Bingyao. Not even Rollfire. She zoned everything out. All she saw was the game playing on the large LCD screen. But even then, she wasn’t watching the bird’s eye view when it was focused on the top lane or mid lane. She was only paying attention to the Botlaners. To Sun ‘Samsara’ Ruinian. He’s good. He’s so good. Zeng Rui is right. He’s far better than I am! Everything he does, it just… Mhm. It looks perfect! She chewed on the inside of her cheeks and moved her head from side to side. He’s an A- ad-carry Zeng Rui says. I’m B. Maybe B+ on a very good day. But I’m not A-.
There was an intrinsic difference between B and A grade players. It was a vast chasm separating the cheerful amateur from the real professional. Tang Bingyao stared at the minimap on the large LCD screen throughout both games. She watched Sun Ruinian carry the first game on Tristana and the second one on Jinx. It’s something about the way he plays. It looks so clean and effortless! She briefly glanced at Lin Feng before turning back to look at the LCD screen. Kind of like how Lin Feng always makes his plays work. Mhm! There is something there that I’m not seeing. I’m missing something. She nodded at herself and breathed out. They’re better. Just a lot better. I’ll hold my own against any ad-carry in B grade. But Sun Ruinian? He’s better than I am. I can’t beat him. I might not even be able to stay even against him in lane!
Tang Bingyao had felt pressure before, like in the finals of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament. But the pressure she felt back then and right now were on a completely different scale. I wasn’t always winning the bot lane in the Shanghai 16 School Tournament, but I could see the differences in skill. I knew I was better, even if I didn’t always play better. And maybe in the finals I wasn’t exactly better… But I could see how good my opponent was! But him? Sun Ruinian? I can’t even tell how good he is. He is so good that I just don’t know how much better he is! Everything he does just looks perfect!
Another replay started on the large LCD screen. It was a teamfight in Game 1 of Zhejiang University versus Stepping Stone University. The game was 17 minutes in when both teams gathered around the Dragon Pit. They threw skillshots at each other and were searching for an engage. Zhejiang University found the opening first and jumped on it. More specifically, Sun Ruinian’s Tristana Rocket Jumped on it. She dodged the crowd control skills thrown her way, killed the low health targets first, and then kited back while killing the high health targets. It was a flawless fight where she never stopped firing cannonballs into Stepping Stone University’s team.
Tang Bingyao placed her hand over her chest, feeling her heart smashing into her ribcage. He’s so good! Mnh-mnh, I can’t beat him. I can’t. He’s too good! That was such a beautiful fight! It looked like he was dancing through them! How do you play against that? What can I do against him? We’re playing against them in the next round, and I can’t beat him! I’m going to lose and I’m going to… She clenched her fists and tensed her jaw. I can’t lose! But how can I not lose when I have to play him…?
Zeng Rui noticed how quiet Tang Bingyao was and saw the twisting expressions on her face. From serious to worried to something he couldn’t quite explain. What’s going on in her mind? Is she that worried about Sun Ruinian? He looked from Tang Bingyao up at the large LCD screen above the soundproof booths. He’s good, Tang Tang. Yes. He’s very good. There are only a handful non professional players in all of China who can beat him! But he’s been practicing for years! He’s been playing together with his team and training nonstop, while we only started playing together a few weeks ago. Your first tournament game was like two months ago! It’s normal you’re worse than him. But that’s just right now! You’ll get better than him! Don’t forget that it’s already frightening enough that you got so good so fast! He looked down at his hands before asking, “What do you think about him?”
Tang Bingyao didn’t take her eyes off the screen as she replied, “He’s good. Really good.” He isn’t just really good either… She pursed her lips and then added, “He’s better than me.”
Zeng Rui nodded and replied, “They have a strong team. Their Jungler is a B+ grade player and their other laners are all somewhere in the B grade. But their bot lane is their best lane.” He briefly paused before adding, “I’m not expecting you to reach Sun Ruinian’s level in the next few days. I just wanted you to see how good he is, so that you can prepare yourself for our series against them. He’s going to be your toughest opponent yet. You need to be ready for that.”
Tang Bingyao nodded slowly and mumbled, “Mhm, okay.”
Zeng Rui turned his head to look at the players from Zhejiang University who were sitting a short distance away from them. He massaged his temples. Tang Tang can’t catch up to him. We’re going to have to find a way to play around that. Our best odds are to ban out every ad-carry he likes to play and then aim for a lane swap. But that’s easier said than done. If they see it coming and also do a lane swap, Tang Tang will still be stuck in a 2vs2 against him. And I don’t see her winning that. He’s far better than she is. It’s going to be a real challenge.
Zeng Rui leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling of the venue hall. I knew this was going to happen. We all knew it from the start. The last round in Regionals is going to be harder than the start in the main tournament. There are just too many strong teams in East China. And we haven’t had enough time to prepare for that. We’re so far away from competing against a team like that. They aren’t even the strongest team either. But they could be, and we have to watch out for that possibility. He closed his eyes and thought about Shi Hang. Zhejiang University still has their old team captain. He’s a student there, so he’s eligible. If he decides to play, we’re screwed. He already was an A+ Midlaner four years ago. Luckily I heard he’s busy with graduate school and not interested in playing. But what if he does decide to? What are we supposed to do then? Having to figure something out for Tang Tang and Sun Ruinian is difficult enough. Zhang Hao will also need some help. If the mid lane also struggles—
“Man, I heard Zhejiang University’s captain was good, but this good?” Zhang Hao said, drawing the attention from his teammates. He shook his head and continued, “He has to have basically reached the level of their previous team captain, right? Do you guys think Sun Ruinian is going to go professional just like their old team captain did? You know, AyDeeCee—”
“THAT’S IT! THAT’S HIM!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grinned and put an arm around Zhang Hao’s shoulder, shouting, “That’s where I remember Zhejiang University from! AyDeeCee! I remember him! I was sitting here trying to think why Zhejiang University sounded so familiar, but it was all because of AyDeeCee! Thanks HaoBro, you’re the best!”
Zhang Hao turned to look at Lin Feng in surprise and asked, “You know AyDeeCee?”
“Of course I do!” Lin Feng replied. Then he grinned and added, “I don’t just know him. I played against him, and beat him!”
Zhang Hao’s mouth fell open and he stuttered, “R-really?”
“Uh-huh!” Lin Feng nodded. “Back in Season 1! I kicked his ass!”
Zeng Rui glared at Lin Feng and wanted to shout at him. Thundering dumbass! What is this nonsense!? You were like 15 in Season 1! How are we to believe you beat a professional player back then? Did you even play League!? He forced himself into long, calming breaths before turning to An Xin and asking, “Did he finally break? I know he has issues. But this… even for him this is crazy.”
An Xin smiled and shook her head. She replied, “No. He’s telling the truth.”
He, he’s telling the truth? The words smashed into Zeng Rui’s ears like a battering ram. His head fell forward and his mouth opened. He stared at An Xin with round eyes before slowly turning to look at Lin Feng, stunned in shock. He, he, he, he, he… He, he, he… He felt a cold shiver run up and down his spine, until he finally muttered, “H-he what?”
An Xin explained, “Lin Feng’s telling the truth. He played against AyDeeCee and he won. I actually don’t think he lost a single game to that guy.” She then looked past Zeng Rui into the distance, her eyes glazing over. The first LPL season. AyDeeCee got bullied out of the bot lane by Silent and decided to switch to the mid lane. There he was the best player, very shortly. He beat every Midlaner in China except for Lin Feng. Lin Feng schooled him! But Lin Feng… Maple only played League professionally for a bit. AyDeeCee stuck around for a while longer and became the best Midlaner again. He was never as good as Maple though.
Zeng Rui didn’t hear another word. Nor did he see what was going on around him. The world before his eyes started spinning, dark spots clouding his vision. Breathe. Keep breathing. BREATHE! He tried to calm himself down, but the shock was just too much. I thought I prepared for everything! I’ve even been looking into how AyDeeCee has been playing lately and considering different tactics to face him! We can’t beeat him, I know that. We’re just not good enough. But that’s okay. He is China’s best Midlaner from Season 2. He even played back in Season 1! Yet now, now, now the thundering dumbass claims he beat AyDeeCee? It’s not possible! It’s not! He shook his head and turned to look at An Xin. Why couldn’t she just tell me that he’s lying? Just tell me that I misheard it! My ears aren’t working normally! This doesn’t make any sense! How can he… How can… He glanced at Lin Feng and felt his eyebrow twitching. How can this be real? I saw him play all the way at the start of the Shanghai 16 School Tournament! It didn’t look that impressive! He was the thundering dumbass! How can he have beaten AyDeeCee? How!?
Lin Feng looked from Zeng Rui to Zhang Hao and back at Zeng Rui. He nodded and said, “Yeah! I know him and beat him! Those games were so much fun!” He then turned to look at An Xin and added, “Who said I have a goldfish memory!? I remember him! I knew I remembered him!” My memory isn’t so bad! I remembered him! AyDeeCee! What was his real name again? Hang something… Ah whatever, I don’t care! He was the founder of Zhejiang University’s esports club! See? I do remember things! And, and… and I haven’t seen him in so long. I wonder how he is.
The name was the key to a large number of old memories. Lin Feng traveled back in time to four years ago, reliving his run-ins with AyDeeCee. I remember that he used to be an ad-carry! That’s how he won the Collegiate Cup! The first edition! He was the first to win it! And he was an ad-carry during that time. A really good one too! It wasn’t until he became a professional player that he made the switch to the mid lane. Lin Feng started grinning. Everyone always asked him why he switched to the mid lane and he would never tell them why. But a couple of us knew! He was practicing in the solo queue and kept being matched up against Silent! They played 11 games in three days. And he lost 11 times! Silent kicked his ass so hard that he ran away to the mid lane! It was so funny to watch him rage quit the ad-carry position!
Silent… crap, I miss you dude. Lin Feng grimaced and felt his stomach in turmoil. But he pushed that down and smiled, proud. We had such a good team. Silent was the best ad-carry in China and one of the best in the world! He made AyDeeCee rage quit his role! And then there was Eleven in the jungle. He was better than Read XIII and basically the best in the world! Then we had Autumn in Support and there was just no one better than him. He shook his head and grinned. Toplaner Fatty. He was one of the best and still is. His performance at Worlds this year was so cool to watch! We were all amazing! Our team, every part of it, was perfect! There weren’t any better players out there! We had the actual best team!
Lin Feng suddenly looked at the players sitting around him. Zhang Hao was still recovering from the shock, Tang Bingyao was staring at the large LCD screen, and Zeng Rui and An Xin were quietly talking about something. He bit on his lips and shook his head. We were all amazing. We were the best! But now… This team isn’t that team. That team is gone. They are gone. I left them. I don’t even know where Silent is! I want to see them again. I miss them. But what do I even tell them when I see them again? How do I face them after everything I did? I was the worst friend.
The China Esports Association and its branches uploaded the footage of the Round of 16 from the various regions to their website. This allowed other teams to check out their potential opponents in the next round, which added a whole new dimension to the games. One of the teams who made a lot of use of this feature was Team Beijing. Fan Yuan, the vice president of the Beijing Esports Association, had gathered his players in an empty room and showed them replays of the games from Team Shanghai and also from Zhejiang University. He then asked the players, “We’ve seen the games. One of these two teams is making it to the main tournament. Tell me what you guys think about them. Talk me through Team Shanghai’s games first.”
The players from Team Beijing shrugged their shoulders and one of them said, “They were okay, I suppose. It looked better than their games in the previous round. Maybe they improved a bit? Eh, it’s whatever really. Just that much isn’t going to put any pressure on us.”