Zeng Rui stared at his computer monitor. Lin Feng still sat next to him, going on and on about his time as Maple, but he didn’t listen. He was caught in a different quagmire. Sure, I felt some pressure when Shi Hang said you’re Maple. But that was just the first hour, day… Maybe a week, I don’t know. But come on! What did you expect? You almost won it all! Every Midlaner in China wants to be half the player you were! Of course I felt pressure! That’s only natural! He shook his head and sighed. That was when I realized you are on our team. You and me? We’re playing together. I’ve got the best Midlaner in all of China on my team! You think I feel pressure? Piss off! I’m happy, because with you I can see us actually winning this Winter Collegiate Cup! He chuckled. I thought Zhejiang was going to win the tournament because they had AyDeeCee sub in for them. I was calling them cheaters for doing that! Turns out, we’re the cheaters because we’ve got you!
“I’m good, I’m good…” Zeng Rui mumbled. He nodded at Lin Feng and added, “You can go tell BunBun that we’re all okay. All okay.”
Lin Feng jumped to his feet and said, “I knew we were okay! Okay, I’ll go tell BunBun!”
Zeng Rui watched Lin Feng run away and shook his head again. What a thundering dumbass. He gets happy about the strangest things and he looks like a damn kid half the time! But he’s Maple. Fucking Maple! We’ve got the best former professional player ever on our team! We’re going to win the Winter Collegiate Cup! And we’ll be the first high school team to do it! He clenched his fist and smiled. That’ll look great on my resumé if I ever do go pro!
Zeng Rui glanced at An Xin who was chatting with Lin Feng. I’m actually more upset with you, BunBun, than I am with that moron. You knew. You always knew. That’s where your confidence in him came from. You knew from the very beginning that he was Maple, and you didn’t tell me. Telling me not to worry is not the same! I get you were keeping his secret for him, but I really should’ve known… And we both know how the thundering dumbass is! He would never think of saying it himself! He’s too stupid for that! And you knew that! You knew! Yet you didn’t say anything… What else aren’t you saying…?
Zeng Rui shook his head in frustration. Whatever. I’m not going to guess the truth anyway. He turned back to his screen and continued watching the replay of the semi finals series against the Shanghai University of Finance. His screen was focused on the Leona he played that game. Maybe it’s the pressure that I’m feeling. But it isn’t pressure because I’m playing with Maple, but more like pressure because I don’t want to be carried by him! I want to be an equal member on this team! He grimaced. But when I look at these replays, when I see how I play and compare it to what he’s doing… I’m just not anywhere near him! I need to do more for the team! I have to!
A couple computers over, Zhang Hao stared at his own monitor. He’d listened to the exchange between Lin Feng and Zeng Rui. He’d watched the expressions on Zeng Rui’s face. And he’d recognized them as his own. I need to get better! I’m playing with goddamn Maple! I can’t let him down! I won’t be a deadweight on this team! He won’t carry me! I’ll help him to carry harder! This is going to be a team effort! He grinned and balled his hand into a fist. HECK YEAH! I’M PLAYING WITH MAPLE!
Zhang Hao clicked on the ‘Play’ button on his client and went into another game of solo queue. It only took a couple of seconds to find a match. He moved to Champion Select and called the top lane right away. Hmm… What do I practice? My Irelia? Something aggressive, that’s what he likes! Yeah, Irelia it is! I’ll practice with her! He locked in Irelia when it was his turn and muttered to himself, “I’ll get better, climb higher, and make Maple proud! He’ll want me on the team– Oh shit! I’m freaking Maple’s teammate!”
Aurous was a student at Fudan University. He was also the Jungler for Light Dynasty, a team that played in the LPL. He dialed Shi Hang’s number and waited for the call to connect. When Shi Hang answered, he shouted, “Hey, you! What the hell is going on? First you decide to play in that damn kiddy tournament and then you lose to a bunch of high schoolers? The hell you thinking?”
“That it was a good game,” Shi Hang replied, chuckling.
“A good game? A GOOD GAME?” Aurous exclaimed. He clutched his phone, nearly breaking it, and continued, “Seriously, what the fuck!? I got a text saying you guys got reverse swept? And that wasn’t even the most surprising text I got! You know people are saying you got stomped by a high school kid? That… Team Shanghai, I think? Their Midlaner actually beat you?”
Shi Hang laughed and replied, “Yeah, guess he did. But the first two games I was definitely the better Midlaner in the mid and late game! Eh, don’t think too much about it. I already told you, didn’t I? I’m helping a good friend of mine keep a little secret, so there really isn’t anything I can tell you. Sorry. You’ll have to find someone else to tell you who he is.” He briefly hesitated before adding, “And why I’m not upset.”
Aurous gnashed his teeth and cursed, “Goddammit you shameless bastard! I always tell you every secret I’ve got! And didn’t I treat you to dinner just the other day? From what I recall, you pinky-promised me that you’d pay me back! Well, I’m collecting! Give me the juicy details! Who is this kid? Why are you not mad? Or tell me that you lost to him on purpose, and if you did why! What the fuck! This just doesn’t… What the fuck!”
“Not happening,” Shi Hang replied, laughing. “Ah, come on, bud. We’ve known each other for so long already! Are you really going to play this card on me? Give me a break! Actually, you know what? I’ll offer you another secret, how about that? Sound good?”
“Another secret?” Aurous blurted. He briefly hesitated but then asked, “What secret?”
Shi Hang said, “You’re still playing for Light Dynasty, right?”
Aurous rolled his eyes and replied, “You know I am. I’m not you. I don’t randomly retire. Now stop changing the topic and tell me that secret! Either of them, or both! I don’t care anymore, I just wanna know a secret!”
Shi Hang chuckled and explained, “Wasn’t really changing the topic, just giving you some hints. But I’ll spell it out a little clearer. I’m thinking about coming back to the professional scene.”
Aurous’ hand trembled. He stared at the wall on the other side of the room with his eyes wide open and stuttered, “Wait, what? You? Really? When? On my team? But we have a Midlaner! What…–”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself! I said I was thinking about it! Still just thinking. But it’s been three years and my old bones are itching. That game against Team Shanghai… against that kid? Yeah, I wanna play again,” Shi Hang answered. I’ll get to the LPL before Maple does, and I’ll wait for him there! He grinned and said, “Kinda have to make a comeback to give an old friend a welcome home party.”
There was no League of Legends competition during the holidays in the second half of December. The East China Regionals picked back up in the first week of January. It was time for the Finals between Team Shanghai and Fudan University! The Shanghai Esports Organization had rented a larger venue for this game and sold out all 2,000 seats in a matter of minutes! Everyone wanted to witness the high schoolers from Shanghai beat their last opponent to claim the title of best from East China!
“This series is gonna be so good! I’ve put all of my savings on Team Shanghai! They’re gonna stomp Fudan so hard!”
“Idiot… You know that’s illegal, right? You better make sure no one finds out, and that you get your money back! Someone just scammed you probably!”
“But Team Shanghai is gonna win! Trust me! I’ve watched all the games from both teams! I’ve examined them and considered all possible outcomes! Team Shanghai is winning this series. I’m 100% sure!”
“Sure. Your plan sounds 100% foolproof. Idiot.”
The Finals of the East China Regionals got off to an exciting start. Team Shanghai lost the top lane and went even in the bot lane. But after a gank from An Xin in the mid lane, Lin Feng pulled ahead. His Yasuo snowballed. Soon he roamed around the map and picked up kills everywhere. The game moved to an early mid game in which Team Shanghai took full control of the game. They destroyed Fudan University’s nexus after 21 minutes.
“Told you! See? Team Shanghai is the best! They’re gonna win!”
“TEAM SHANGHAI ARE THE BEST!”
The second game was almost an exact copy of the first one. The Blue team lost top and went even in the bot lane. But they camped the mid lane as much as they could until they grabbed the advantage. They forced the game into the mid game and from there worked hard to finish it. In this game, Fudan University was the Blue team. They beat Team Shanghai in 23 minutes.
“What? Fudan won that game? And Team Shanghai looked kinda… Kinda shit!”
“The fuck was their Midlaner doing? I’ve never seen him play so poorly!”
“What about their ad-carry? She was just lucky that her Support hard-carried her lane to stay even!”
Team Shanghai regained some form in the third game. They came out with a team composition that heavily relied on An Xin and Zeng Rui to roam around the map and pick the players from Fudan University off. This worked far better than anyone expected. Team Shanghai was up 7 kills by the 7th minute, and they won the game in the 20th minute.
“That’s more like it! LET’S FUCKING GOOOOOOO!”
“That Lee and Blitz combo was so strong! Crazy dude! Fudan has to ban those Champions!”
“I’m gonna be a rich man! WOOOOOO!”
Game 4 was another short game. Team Shanghai looked completely out of it. They lost all three lanes and An Xin even lost control of her Jungle to Fudan University’s Shaco. The first tower fell 6 minutes in, and the first inner tower followed 3 minutes later. Fudan University kept pushing all three lanes. Team Shanghai was forced back until they were standing on the fountain and watching Fudan University destroy their Nexus.
“HOLY HOT DAMN! A GAME 5! WE’RE GETTING ANOTHER GAME 5!”
“THIS SHIT IS SO FUCKING TENSE! DAYUM!”
“Come on Team Shanghai! Win this! I NEED YOU TO WIN THIS! MY MONEY!”
“Fudan really stepping up their game here! They’re actually looking stronger than Team Shanghai!”
“I’ll eat my shoe if Fudan loses the fifth game!”
The fifth and final game of the East China Regionals Finals was by far the most exciting game. Both teams pulled everything out of the closet to win. There were constant skirmishes in every lane! Through the back and forths, the game stayed relatively even. The first tower fell 15 minutes in and from that point onwards everyone started to gather up as a team. They fought 5vs5. Team Shanghai scored the first ace, which was countered a few minutes later by an ace from Fudan University. Team Shanghai destroyed an inhibitor and Fudan University followed up with destroying two inhibitors.
The game was 35 minutes in. All 10 Champions were Level 18, and the carries had the maximum amount of six items. One mistake by any of them meant the end of the game. Both teams had gathered up around Baron Nashor’s pit. They were firing skillshots at each other, until Fudan University found the engage. They jumped on Tang Bingyao’s Jinx who’d walked too far forward, and killed her.
Lin Feng as the only other remaining carry on Team Shanghai tried to turn the fight around, but he got caught by a stun. He was the second player from Team Shanghai to die. And it also meant a lost teamfight for Team Shanghai. An Xin, Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao ran away. Fudan University let them and instead killed Baron Nashor, claiming its buff. And with that buff, they charged down the mid lane, destroyed Team Shanghai’s inhibitor and finally also destroyed Team Shanghai’s Nexus. Fudan University beat Team Shanghai 3-2 in the Finals of the East China Regionals!
“WOOOOOO! I KNEW FUDAN WAS BETTER!”
“My money! MY MONEY!”
“HOLY SWEET DAMN! SICK PLAYS!”
“Team Shanghai collapsed under the pressure! That’s the only explanation for that display at the end…”
“That was so crazy bad by them! But well fucking played by Fudan University!”