Team Shanghai met up at the NetCow Cafe the day after the lost Finals to Fudan University to continue their training schedule for the Winter Collegiate Cup main tournament. But there wasn’t a whole lot of playing going on. Everyone looked at Lin Feng, who was loudly sneezing. His nose was red and his eyes were watering. He muttered, “Damn colds! Uch, I hate them!”
An Xin glared at him and said, “It’s your own fault for not wearing a coat! I told you…” She shook her head and gave Lin Feng a glass of water and some cold medicine. She offered, “Here, take this. It’ll help you feel a bit better. But how about you listen to me the next time when I tell you it’s too cold outside to walk around in a t-shirt? It’s almost freezing! You need to wear a coat or you get… well, sick.”
Lin Feng shook his head and coughed a bit. He then blew his nose in his sleeve and argued, “The weather was kind of warm last week! It only got cold the last few days, and that came out of nowhere! Plus, when was the last time I got sick? Like years ago!–” He lurched forward and sneezed again.
“Take the medicine already! God, how did you survive this long?” An Xin complained. She rubbed her forehead and continued, “If I wasn’t here…–”
“Do you have any other meds with you?” Lin Feng interrupted. He held the white tablet up and added, “This one tastes terrible!”
An Xin narrowed her eyes and said, “Swallow it!”
Lin Feng pouted and complained, “Nurses are supposed to be nice to their patients…”
An Xin’s lips curved up while her eyes narrowed to two small slits. She said, “HMM? Are you going to drink it or are you going to make me force it down your throat?”
“I’ll drink it, I’ll drink it! Jeesh…” Lin Feng replied. He then threw the tablet into his mouth and gulped it down with the water.
Zeng Rui watched the well-rehearsed exchange between Lin Feng and An Xin, shaking his head the entire time. When he judged they were finally done, he said, “It’s unfortunate Lin Feng got sick. He really wasn’t on his game yesterday. And the same holds true for Tang Tang. Both our carries were out sick. They played well below their usual skill level.”
“Yeah!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grinned and continued, “I wasn’t the only one who played shit, Tang Tang also played shit! She was even worse than I was! Hey, Tang Tang! You also need to take this medicine! It’ll help you get well again!”
Tang Bingyao looked down at her shoes, hiding the dark shade of red on her face. I-I was on my period! It’s not my fault it hurt so bad! It was just a bad month! And I already apologized for it! What more… I-I…
An Xin glared at Lin Feng and shouted, “Show some consideration for her! You’re not a woman! You don’t know how hard it is to focus when you’re on your period! Really! There is blood everywhere and it hurts so much! The fact she could play at all while on her period was impressive enough! You should be grateful she even came out of bed yesterday! God! I wish guys could feel how bad a period hurts! And we have to deal with it every month again!” Her chest went up and down in frustration, her breathing raggard. She clenched her fists until her knuckles were white and yelled, “You should thank her that she played all five games as well as she did! I bet if you had a period, you would lay in bed and cry like a little baby!”
Lin Feng ruffled his hair and mumbled, “Okay, okay. Sorry…”
An Xin shouted out in frustration and then said, “Seriously! Whoever said that idiots can’t get colds hasn’t met you! And you better hope this won’t happen again for you! If I catch you doing something stupid to the detriment of the team again, I’ll punch some sense into you!”
After playing a couple of games, Zeng Rui stopped the team from playing any more. He gathered everyone around him and opened a webpage. He then pointed at it and said, “Look. Most of the teams who are going through to the main tournament have been announced. There’ll be 36 teams in total. Some of the big names from the previous edition are there, like Fudan University, Beijing U-Tech, China University of Political Science and Law and Nanjing University.” He briefly paused to scroll down the list to the very bottom and then continued, “As you guys can see, the high school teams from Beijing and Guangzhou also qualified for the main tournament. Chu Fang already warned us about this, but it seems he was right. We need to be careful about them.”
Zeng Rui browsed to a different page on the China Esports Organization’s website and said, “We don’t know which team we’re up against in the first round, but we do know where we’ll be playing. The organizers just announced that the venue for the main tournament is in Guangzhou. They’ve also said that they’re covering the costs for flying all the teams that have qualified in. So we’ll be going to Guangzhou soon.”
“Guangzhou?” Lin Feng asked. His eyes lit up and he exclaimed, “That sounds awesome! I’ve always wanted to go there!”
An Xin shook her head and said, “That’s what you said last time you went…”
“I never went to Guangzhou!” Lin Feng argued.
An Xin rolled her eyes and explained, “Yes you did. Back in Season 1. You had a tournament there.”
“Shit, you’re right!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He smacked his forehead and continued, “I remember now! We were going all around the country searching for tournaments to play in!” He shook his head and laughed before adding, “We actually took the train to Guangzhou because we couldn’t afford plane tickets! And that hostel we stayed in was so bad! Even Silent complained about it, and he never talks! OhOh! And that internet cafe! It took Autumn and Eleven like an hour of haggling for the owner to let us practice for free! And then he got so pissed when Fatty and I ordered food!”
“And rightfully so,” An Xin butted in. She said, “You didn’t have money to practice but you did have money to buy large piles of food…”
Lin Feng ignored An Xin’s comments and continued, “But it was so much fun! It was a real journey! We lived on the little tournament money we made! We rented tiny apartments, ate rice gruel and cup noodles… those were the days! We had to put in so much effort just to get to play that everyone tried so much harder to be good! The pros from Season 1 are the best of all Seasons!”
Zeng Rui listened to Lin Feng recounting the events with complete attention. He’d read up about the life of a Season 1 League of Legends professional player. But hearing it from someone who’d experienced it was still different somehow. It gave life to the words he’d read. Only the best and most motivated players would go to those lengths! The average skill level must’ve been so high in those days! Now we need coaches and fancy gaming rooms and, and… He shook his head, impressed. The best players from Season 1 are still the best today. I wonder if Lin Feng will get back there too… He actually played Rake! That series was so cool! If he can get that good again… Even Hermes isn’t that good!
Lin Feng laughed and said, “Everything is so different these days! Free plane tickets, hotel rooms, food… The China Esports Association is paying for everything! This is great! I can eat all I want!”
Zeng Rui’s eyelid twitched. He bit on his lips and closed his eyes. Right. Still the thundering dumbass.
“Alright, enough reminiscing,” An Xin interrupted. She looked around the private room at the other players from Team Shanghai and said, “We can’t be careless like we were against Fudan. The teams at the main tournament are all the best of the best. We need to be ready for that.”
Zeng Rui nodded and chimed in, “Agreed. And from the data I’ve been able to gather, it looks like the average skill level of the 36 remaining teams is substantially higher than it was in the previous edition of the tournament. I already named a few of the big names before. If we have to play against any of them, it’ll be just as hard as our series against Zhejiang! Maybe even harder.” He briefly paused before adding, “And beyond everything else, we absolutely cannot underestimate Team Beijing and Team Guangzhou.”
An Xin nodded and said, “There’s almost no information on Team Beijing. Someone is pulling some strings to make sure that their recent games aren’t uploaded online. Really a petty move.”
“Correct,” Zeng Rui said. He massaged his temples and explained, “They’ve also been playing mostly with their second roster. So we really don’t have a clue about how good they are. They made it to the main tournament, though. That says something. Again, their road to the main tournament was easier than ours. East China is simply the most competitive region. But that doesn’t make the other regions weak. Long story short, we absolutely cannot underestimate them!”
Zhang Hao listened carefully and when he found a lull, he asked, “Then what about Team Guangzhou? Do we have any information on them?”
Zeng Rui smiled and replied, “We actually do. They don’t care about hiding their games. Seems like they’re pretty confident in themselves.”
An Xin nodded and chimed in, “I saw the results of their Finals in the South China Regionals. They won 3-0. Quite a convincing win too from what I read.”
“Yeah, they’re strong,” Zeng Rui agreed. He continued, “Their starplayer is Goalie. We all know that he’s good. He made it all the way to the Top 7 on the Korean Challenger ladder! His latest rating was A+, but who knows how good he exactly is! Though I’m not too worried about him…” He pointed at Lin Feng. “… We’ve got him.”
Lin Feng patted his chest and said, “Exactly right! You guys can leave mid to me! I’ll score some goals against Goalie!”
Zeng Rui turned to Tang Bingyao and continued, “A bigger concern is their bot lane. They decided to bring in another Korean import. I don’t know too much about this one, but from what I did manage to gather it looks like he’s an A grade ad-carry. So Tang Tang and I are going to have to figure out a way to beat them. Only positive point from that is that Team Guangzhou doesn’t have a lot of time to practice with him.”
Tang Bingyao nodded and said, “Mhm! I’ll do my best!”
“When did Chu Fang say that? Why didn’t he tell me? Why is this the first I hear of this!?” Lin Feng complained.
“Remember last night when he called to see if we were okay after our loss?” Zeng Rui asked. He then chuckled and continued, “You know, when you were hungry and tossed your phone to me before walking away in search of a food place? Yeah, that’s when he told us.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and asked, “I did that…? Sounds like me…”
Zeng Rui breathed in deeply, gathering up all his bubbling frustrations, and exhaled. He then asked, “So I’m guessing you also don’t remember what happened to Zhejiang University? Chu Fang told you about that while he still had you on the phone!” He waited for a brief moment to see Lin Feng shaking his head. He then said, “You’re really something… Your head has more holes in it than Swiss cheese!”