Zuo Cheng stood in front of Zhejiang University’s esports club members, leading the chants like a conductor. “Zhejiang!” he screamed at them. And they replied, “Champions!” The rest of the audience had stopped celebrating Zhejiang University’s second win over Team Shanghai and were now waiting for the third game, but Zuo Cheng wasn’t ready to stop yet. He glanced over his shoulder a couple of times and just smiled, proud. That’s the cap for you! Best player in the world! Such a shame he quit pro League… If he starts again, hell yeah! He’d win the LPL no problem!
Zuo Cheng leaned back against the railing that separated the normal stands from the player seating area and sighed loudly. He shook his head and said, “Guys, guys. What did I tell you guys? With Cap on the team, we’re invincible! Team Shanghai? Team Guangzhou? Any of those other potential champions? Screw them all! We’ve got the Captain!”
“Heck yeah! Shi Hang is gonna carry us to a win!”
“We’re gonna have an invincibles run!”
“If Sun Ruinian is the tiger, Shi Hang is the wings! He’ll lift us up and send us flying to victory!”
“AyDeeCee gonna wreck Goalie! Hahaha!”
“They might as well give us the trophy already! This is our competition!”
“The return of the KING!”
“Shi ‘AyDeeCee’ Hang carrying the shit out of these games!”
The section of the audience occupied by Zhejiang University students was loud and proud. Everyone else could clearly hear them blasting over all other conversations. Heads turned and whispers and murmurs rang out through the stands. Everyone agreed that Zhejiang University was putting on a great performance and that with the way they were playing, winning the championship seemed incredibly likely. Then they turned their heads to look at the section with Team Shanghai fans, who were slumped back in their seats and staring at their feet.
“It must suck to be them right about now.”
“I just feel bad for them… Imagine getting this far and getting all hyped, and then having to play a pro player! It’s still stupid I think!”
“Maybe the Shanghai Esports Association can give them a trophy for most effort, or something like that! They really deserve something with the show they’re putting on for us here!”
“Here’s to hoping they take at least one game from Zhejiang!”
“Fat chance with AyDeeCee playing…”
Chu Fang sat in his private room backstage watching the large tv screen that showed the audience. He was biting on his lips and furrowing his brows. How did this happen…? Did I push Lin Feng too hard? He scratched the side of his head and looked at a different screen that showed a replay of Game 1. I knew Zhejiang was a strong team and was going to be a lot better with Shi Hang, but I also thought I knew how good Team Shanghai was! Did I make a mistake? They’re 2-0 behind after only an hour of playing. One more game and they’re out! Maple isn’t going to learn much from this! He won’t be back…
Chu Fang breathed out loudly and shook his head. Was I too impatient? Is that it? Am I pushing him too hard? Is Zhejiang going to kick him out early because I pushed him too hard? I thought he could still carry, that the added pressure from playing against Shi Hang would bring the best out of him! We need him better! We need him back to his old self! We need Maple! I only told Shi Hang that the Maple was back so that Lin Feng could get a real challenge! Why did I do that? He clenched his fist and hit himself on the knee. No! This isn’t too much! Is it…?
A staff member knocked on the door and another tried to reach Chu Fang through the walkie talkie, but he didn’t notice them. His full attention was locked on the screen that was now showing a replay of Lin Feng picking up a solo kill on Shi Hang. He’s good! He’s picking up solo kills on Shi Hang! But that’s… that’s not enough! It’s not enough. Team Shanghai is going to get knocked out and there’s nothing I can do about it! It’s already far too late to do something about it! I should’ve never allowed Shi Hang to play! He bit on his lips and stared at the playercam at the bottom of the screen. I need you to make a comeback! Turn this around! Please! We can’t have you dropping out now! We need you to win this and then quickly move on to the professional scene!
The players from Zhejiang University were relaxing in their soundproof booth, waiting for the third game to start. There wasn’t a single trace of worry to be found, with even the usual cautious Sun Ruinian leaning back in his gaming chair. He turned to look at Shi Hang and said, “It’s a good thing you jumped in here. These games are going so smoothly with you on the team!”
“Yeah!” the Jungler added, laughing. “It’s all thanks to you, Shi Hang!”
The Toplaner nodded and chimed in, “Your Ezreal dude, like holy shit! That was in-fucking-sane!”
“It was! You kept the Fizz down early and made him completely useless after the laning phase!” the Support said.
Shi Hang took a deep breath and replied, “Careful, guys. This isn’t over.” He then turned his head to look across the stage at Team Shanghai’s soundproof booth. I’m only playing here because of you, Maple. You’re still good. Even after your four year break, you’re matching me in lane! That’s damn impressive! He knitted his brows and curled his lips. But it’s not enough. It just isn’t. Your team is worse, simple as that. Your top and ad-carry are way worse and your Jungler isn’t doing all that hot either. They’re costing you these games. Still, the real Maple, the one from four years ago, the one that kicked the everloving shit out of me? He would’ve carried these games! That Maple would’ve found a way to help his teammates win their lanes and carry the game!
“Maple, Maple, Maple…” Shi Hang mumbled. His teammates glanced at him, but he ignored them. He was still staring across the stage at Lin Feng. You’re the successor to One, you were the best Midlaner in China, you made it all the way to the World Finals! This is a kiddy tournament! So what if it’s me you’re playing against? You can kick my ass any day of the week! I know you can! I felt it four years ago! He breathed in deeply and narrowed his eyes. You’re Maple! You’re better than this! So much better! If this is really all you got? Then it’s for the best you lose. With just this skill, you’re not going to get very far. You won’t even get close to where you got before! Come on, man! Give me a real show! Give me a good asskicking!
There was a 15 minute break between each game. Team Shanghai used the first few minutes just sitting behind their computers, staring at the post game lobby that explained exactly how badly they’d lost the second game. Zeng Rui finally got up from his gaming chair and said to the others, “Come. We’re going to the backstage room.”
“Yeah, let’s do that. Nothing good is going to come from sitting here,” An Xin replied, nodding.
The five from Team Shanghai left the soundproof booth, the cheers for Zhejiang University slamming into them, and quickly made their way off the stage to the small break room backstage. There was a table with a couple of chairs. The only real difference with the soundproof booth was that they couldn’t look at the post game lobby. But Zeng Rui, Tang Bingyao and Zhang Hao still sat down and stared into the space in front of them, lost.
“It’s over, isn’t it?” Zhang Hao mumbled.
“Mhm,” Tang Bingyao replied, nodding.
Zeng Rui looked at his two teammates and gritted his teeth. It’s not over until… He breathed in and then sighed loudly. Are we really going to get knocked out of the Collegiate Cup here? After all of our hard work? We were so close to the main tournament! This isn’t how it’s supposed to end! He glanced at Lin Feng from the corner of his eyes. What’s he thinking anyway? Since when has he ever shut up? Stupid thundering dumbass!
Lin Feng stood off to the side, leaning with his shoulder against the wall and staring at his feet. It’s not their fault we’re losing this game, it’s mine! It’s all my fault! I am better than this! What’s stopping me? Why can’t I play like I did four years ago? What’s missing!? I was good enough to beat Shi Hang and still help my teammates! And now, I’m struggling to beat Shi Hang in lane! I basically went even last game! One for one. One for one. One for fucking one! He shook his head, frustrated. What do I do? What can I do to beat Shi Hang and help my teammates? They need me if we want to win this! But what can I do? What can I possibly do to make this work…? He grimaced, tapping his fingers on his forehead. I don’t know… I don’t fucking know!
An Xin stood at the door of the backstage room. She looked from Lin Feng at the other three and then back at Lin Feng again. He doesn’t look like he’s given up yet… He hasn’t given up yet! But he’s struggling. I can see he’s struggling! I know that look better than anyone! He needs me! She took a long, deep breath and then walked up to Lin Feng. She forced her lips to curl upwards and her eyes to start shining. She then straightened her back and said, “We’re still in it, right?”
Lin Feng raised his head to look at An Xin, then slowly nodded. He looked back down at his shoes and moved his head around, chewing on his lips. He finally opened his mouth, hesitating briefly, and replied, “It’s all my fault. I’m not good enough yet. If it was the me from four years ago, we’d be 2-0 up right now…”
An Xin raised an eyebrow, surprised. That idiot! She narrowed her eyes and felt anger and annoyance intertwine and burst forward. Why does he always have to throw everything at himself!? This is a team game! How many times do I need to remind him!? She bit on her lips and then focused on her breath. He’s putting all that pressure on himself again. Why can’t he see that he has us? We’re all here, together! She looked up at Lin Feng and said, “You’ve already done more than enough. Stop putting all that pressure on yourself. How many times do I need to remind you? Lin Feng? Look at me. You’ve got me here. There, see those three sitting over there sulking? You have them. We’re all here, together, as a team!”
Lin Feng rubbed his eyes before looking at his teammates. I know you guys are all trying! I do know that! He closed his eyes and said, “I know, but—”
“No. No buts,” An Xin interrupted. She looked him straight in the eyes and continued, “You need to stop doing this. You’re not Superman. You’re Lin Feng. You’re Maple. You’re human. If you keep putting all this pressure on yourself, it’s going to be like four years ago all over again! You’re going to burn yourself out and you’ll leave the team with one more thing to worry about!” She placed her hand on his shoulder and smiled before adding, “You’re not alone. You’re really not! You have us. Let us in.”
Lin Feng looked back into An Xin’s eyes, a knot twisting tightly in his stomach. I know. I know! I know all of that! And I want to! But…
An Xin stared intently into Lin Feng’s eyes and said, “League of Legends is a team game. You’re never going to win it all by yourself. Remember how you picked us, all four of us, as your teammates? The least you can do is to actually view us as your teammates. Trust us!” She stopped for a brief moment before concluding, “You remember how you trusted Fatty? Eleven? Silent and Autumn? You remember the way you guys played together? We’re the same. We’re your teammates. Trust us like how you trusted them!”
The knot uncurled in Lin Feng’s stomach. The pent up breath escaped and the frown disappeared from his face. He blankly looked at An Xin and nodded. She’s right. She’s right… I did it again. Just like back then, just like against Shanghai International, just like… I keep doing this! When I heard Shi Hang was playing, I lost trust in my teammates. I knew they aren’t at that level, so I wrote them off. And then I decided that I have to do it all myself! But I don’t. That’s not how to win at this game! Solo carrying is just stupid! I’m only making it harder on myself by doing that! He balled his hand into a fist and curled his lips upwards. It’s not my responsibility, it’s ours! All of us! And if we play together, use each others’ strengths, we can win this! We can!
An Xin let go of Lin Feng’s shoulder and smiled. That’s what I wanted to see. She then turned to look at the other three and said, “You guys don’t wanna go out like this, right? Right?” She waited for the lost and dazed expressions from Tang Bingyao, Zhang Hao and Zeng Rui to focus on her before continuing, “We’re two games down. So what? This is a best of five. As far as I’m concerned, we played two warm-up matches and are now going in for the real deal!”
“You want to reverse sweep this…?” Zhang Hao asked.
An Xin raised an eyebrow. Guess that wasn’t enough… She placed her hand before her mouth and giggled, then said, “Oh, another thing. You see this idiot over here? He thinks we lost those two games because of him. You know, because he couldn’t carry you guys hard enough. He’s seeing us as dead weight!”
“What the fuck?” Zeng Rui blurted out. He narrowed his eyes and said, “Don’t get ahead of yourself, thundering dumbass! You’re not some kind of messiah! Arrogant shithead!”
Zhang Hao shot up to his feet and slammed his fist on the table. He turned to look at Lin Feng and shouted, “Yeah! What Zeng Rui says! What do you take us for? Jesus Christ, you arrogant dick!”
Tang Bingyao bit on her lips and glanced at Lin Feng. He played with Fatty, he— Mnh-mnh! I want to play with him, not get carried by him! She narrowed her eyes and nodded. “Mhm! What they say!”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and bit on his tongue. It’s not like that at all! Or maybe, just a little bit… He grimaced. They’re right.
An Xin suddenly clapped her hands, grabbing everyone’s attention again, and said, “Alright! I say a punishment is in order for him! We’ll have to think of something fitting. But let’s worry about that after we win this series!”
Zeng Rui snorted and replied, “Yes. We’re going to win the next three.”
Zhang Hao added through gritted teeth, “I’ll be damned if we don’t pull a reverse sweep here! I’m going to fucking carry your sad ass, Lin Feng!”
“Mhm!” Tang Bingyao hummed. She clenched her fist and nodded. I’m going to show him that I can face an A grade! I’m going to beat Sun Ruinian and show him!
Lin Feng was completely caught off guard by the intense reaction from his teammates. He looked at them in turn, finding a fire blazing in their eyes. Maybe I was wrong… He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, letting the air fill his lungs. His eyes suddenly shot open, blazing with that same determination! He breathed out and said, “That’s the spirit! I’m loving this! You guys are right! I’m the ass! It’s all of us together! Let’s win this!”
An Xin nodded and smiled. Good. Morale is back. That just leaves me… She looked at her teammates and said, “We’ve still got a few minutes before the next game starts. You guys head back to the soundproof booth, I’ll be there in a bit. I just need to go to the ladies’ room. Be right back!”
An Xin walked into the washroom with her purse strapped around her shoulder. She checked the stalls to make sure no one else was there before she walked up to a faucet and turned the water on. She then reached into her purse and retrieved a cup and several vials with medication, which she placed down in front of her. Just a bit. It’ll help, the doctor said. I shouldn’t, though… It’s too early. She looked up into the mirror, her reflection staring right back at her. But I promised Lin Feng. I made a promise! I’m not going to give up now!
An Xin filled the glass with water, then took the medicine her doctor had prescribed her and swallowed it all. A few minutes and I should feel better. This should be enough to get me through three more games! Why didn’t I do this at the start? Maybe we wouldn’t have had to… She bit on her lips and shook her head. I shouldn’t at all, but… But I made a promise and I’m keeping it!
The sounds of people talking came from the entrance to the washroom. An Xin’s eyes went wide and she quickly stuffed her medication back into her purse. She then turned her head and smiled at the two women who walked into the washroom before turning back to look at her reflection in the mirror. Why can’t it just all work out for once? Why does it always have to go like this? I know what the doctor said! I KNOW! BUT I JUST WANT— She closed her eyes and forced herself to take long, calming breaths. All I want is to play with him, just for a little longer. That’s all I’m asking. She shook her head and then walked out of the washroom, the whispers from the two girls reaching her ears.
“That’s the girl from Team Shanghai, right?”
“Yeah, I think it’s their Jungler.”
“Did you see all that medication she stuffed away?”
“Are you thinking drugs?”
“Maybe something to help her focus? Some Adderall…”
“I wonder if they do drug tests…”
An Xin pushed the door to the soundproof booth open and walked in. She flexed her right hand a bit and smiled. This should work. It will! She then looked at the others and said, “Let’s give it our best! We’re going to win this one! Starting with Champion Select!”
Zhang Hao grinned and shouted, “Heck yeah!”
Zeng Rui glanced at An Xin and then at Lin Feng. I’ll show them how good we can be! Fuck the thundering dumbass! He’s the dead weight! He put on his headphones and said over the team’s voice chat, “Get ready. We’re going to be banning Fizz, Yasuo and Ahri!”
Lin Feng looked up from his screen and raised an eyebrow. Is he really mad? Ah, whatever, maybe it’ll help his play! He grinned and said, “Sounds good! I’ll play LeBlanc then!”
“We’re going to play a late game team composition that has some early game potential,” Zeng Rui continued, ignoring Lin Feng. He turned to look at Zhang Hao and said, “Mundo for you.” He then turned to Tang Bingyao and continued, “Something like Vayne for you.” He nodded at An Xin and said, “Something strong for you, Rengar maybe?”
An Xin nodded and replied, “That’ll work!”
“And as for you?” Zeng Rui said, glaring at Lin Feng. Thundering dumbass picking what I wanted him to pick, dammit! He glowered and concluded, “Yeah, LeBlanc.”
Both teams locked their Champions in and it didn’t take long before they moved to the loading screen. The large LCD screen above the soundproof booths shot to life and showed the audience the lineup for Game 3 in the best of five series between Team Shanghai and Zhejiang University!
Game 3 of the East China Regional Quarterfinals
Team Shanghai (Blue) vs. Zhejiang University (Red)
Top: Dr. Mundo vs. Irelia
Jungle: Rengar vs. Maokai
Mid: LeBlanc vs. Orianna
Ad-Carry: Vayne vs. Jinx
Support: Leona vs. Janna