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Sun Ruinian, Sun Ruinian, He’s Brighter Than the Sun!

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It was the next morning that the Winter Collegiate Cup: The Main Tournament officially started! Lin Feng couldn’t contain his excitement. He was up before the sun came up and sped down to the dining hall to wolf down a massive breakfast. By the time he finished his morning routine, the rest of the team and Su Xue also came down to the dining hall. Team Shanghai wasn’t playing on the first day, but Zeng Rui made it a point that they had to watch every game. And the first series started at 7 A.M.

When Team Shanghai arrived at the Tianhe Stadium, there was already a long line of fans looking to buy tickets and watch the games. Chu Fang led Team Shanghai past the crowd and into a side entrance. They walked through the backstage area and then walked out onto the grass field. The multicoloured lights were flashing around the stadium and the first two teams had taken their places in the soundproof booths. Chu Fang pointed to a specific corner right in front of the stage and said, “That’s the player seating area right there.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” Lin Feng replied, though he wasn’t looking at where Chu Fang was pointing. His eyes were locked on the largest LCD screen he’d ever seen. It was showing the Champion Select for Game 1 of the match between Wuhan University and Harbin Institute of Technology. His mouth fell open and he mumbled, “Wow… It’s so big!”

An Xin nodded and said, “The Guangzhou Esports Association really went all out. Chu Fang wasn’t kidding!”

“Come,” Zeng Rui interrupted. He led the team members to their seats and then continued, “Pay attention to the games. Watch for what happens. Either one of them could be our opponent in the next round or the round after. We’re going to be prepared for that.”

Zhang Hao and Tang Bingyao nodded and focused their complete attention on the large LCD screen.

The first game between Wuhan University and Harbin Institute of Technology was incredibly even. Neither team pulled ahead in the laning phase and neither team managed to get a favourable engage for a teamfight in the mid game. It wasn’t until the very late game, nearly 50 minutes in, that Wuhan University found the opening they’d been looking for. They pounced on it, scored the ace, and closed out the game.

The oversized speakers on both sides of the stage boomed with a victory song as the audience leaped to their feet and celebrated the first game in the main tournament. This lasted for a good few minutes until the two teams went into Champion Select for the second game.

“Who do you think will win this one?” Zhang Hao asked.

Zeng Rui glanced at the notepad he was scribbling on and replied, “Wuhan.”

Su Xue nodded and said, “Yeah! Their ad-carry looked really strong in that first game! He was the one who spotted that opening there at the end!”

Zeng Rui looked up from his notepad at Su Xue and explained, “Wuhan’s a B grade team. Their starplayer is indeed their ad-carry. He’s a famous Challenger on the Ionia server. During the previous edition of the Collegiate Cup, the analysts ranked him at B+. But from the looks of it, he’s at the very edge to the A- grade now.”

An Xin smiled and said, “That’s to be expected. We’re all always trying to get better.”

Tang Bingyao nodded and mumbled, “Mhm, yeah.” She then focused her attention on the large LCD screen. I need to watch him! I’m also almost A grade. Or I am already… It’s close! Maybe I can see something in his game that can help me!

The second game got underway. It was completely different from the first. Wuhan University had shaken off the nerves that kept them back in the first game and were now playing at a level befitting their status. All three lanes won, with the bot lane pushing towards the inner tower at only 9 minutes in. When the game reached the 20th minute, Wuhan University was destroying Harbin Institute of Technology’s base. It only took a few more minutes to close it out.

“As expected,” Zeng Rui said.

 ✹

There were still more people entering the stadium when the second match of the main tournament started. This series was between Zhejiang University and China University of Political Science and Law. Two greats in the university scene. Both had made it very far in the previous edition of the tournament and the audience knew exactly who they were.

“Zhejiang! Zhejiang! Zhejiang!”
“China Pol is gonna win this one!”
“Without AyDeeCee, Zhejiang is really making it hard on themselves!”
“They’re both B+ grade! It’s gonna be a good one!”
“I’ma sit at the edge of my seat for this one. Woooooo!”

On the left side was China Pol. Five players sat behind the computers in the soundproof booth, steady gazes on their screens. They’d worked hard over the past six months to make up for getting knocked out in the previous edition of the Collegiate Cup by Fudan University. The team captain looked at his teammates and said, “We’re not letting these damn teams from East China walk all over us! It’s time for payback! This is what we’ve been working so hard for! Let’s show them how much we’ve improved!”

The Midlaner grinned and added, “Without AyDeeCee they ain’t shit!”

Across the stage in the other soundproof booth, the players from Zhejiang University sat up straight in their gaming chairs. Ready. Focused. Relaxed. Sun Ruinian looked at them and said, “Last night’s practice was great. Now let’s show Shi Hang how good we really are. These guys we’re up against? They won’t stop us. We’ll use them to show everyone we belong at this stage!”

“Heck yeah!” the Toplaner replied.

The first game got underway. It was a terrible start for Zhejiang University. China Pol invaded Zhejiang University’s Jungle and picked up three kills, losing no one. On the back of those three kills, they won the laning phase in the mid and bot lane. That gave them enough of an advantage to push them into a relatively easy mid game. They pushed their weight around and finally after 32 minutes they closed it out. Zhejiang University’s nexus exploded, the fans in the crowd cheered, and China Pol was up 1-0 in this best of three series.

Sun Ruinian exhaled through his mouth and closed his eyes. This is just one game. We lost a bit of focus at the start there. Just nerves. These are just nerves. He took another deep breath and then opened his eyes again. He looked at his teammates and smiled. “Alright,” he started. “That wasn’t great. But now that we’ve had a game to get rid of the nerves, we can finally start playing.” He briefly paused before adding, “We need to win this, guys.”

The other players from Zhejiang University all nodded. They gripped their mice a little tighter and flexed their keyboard hand. Then it was time for Game 2. It was a bit different from the first game. Zhejiang University looked like a different team, and it all started with Sun Ruinian. Rather than playing a strong but calm game, he went on the aggressive. He knew he was the better player and he showed it. His Lucian dashed around the lane, dodging skillshots and pulling the triggers on his two pistols. Light bullets lit the lane up and China Pol’s Botlaners died multiple times.

Zhejiang University won all three lanes in the second game. They pushed this advantage into the mid game, winning team fight after team fight and claiming the Dragon and Baron Nashor. It was with the Baron Buff that they also pushed to finish the game. A purple aura increased their stats and also the stats of their nearby minions. China Pol tried to defend, but ended up getting aced. Zhejiang University claimed the second game of the series.

“WOOOOOOOOOO!”
“SUN RUINIAN, SUN RUINIAN, HE’S BRIGHTER THAN THE SUN!”
“GOD DIGGITY DAMN!”

In only the second series of the day it went to an all deciding Game 3. The players from Zhejiang University and China Pol hyped themselves up and got into Champion Select. Both sides went with an early game composition that relied heavily on winning their lanes. Zhejiang University was the one who won those lanes. From there, it wasn’t really a game anymore. They needed some time to destroy the towers and win the game, all the while China Pol desperately tried to defend, but they’d basically secured their victory in the laning phase. Led by Sun Ruinian, Zhejiang University didn’t make any mistakes. After a thrilling series, they moved on to the next round by knocking out China University of Political Science and Law 2 to 1.

Tang Bingyao stared intently at the large LCD screen and mumbled, “So good… Sun Ruinian played so good!”

Zeng Rui looked at Tang Bingyao and said, “That second and third game? Yeah, he played out of his mind good.”

An Xin smiled and chimed in, “He’s almost as good as you are, Tang Tang!”

Tang Bingyao felt her cheeks heat up. She shook her head and replied, “Mnh-mnh. He’s better. The way he played that last teamfight in the second game? When he got that quadra with his Tristana? I don’t think I could’ve done that. He played really strong. If I’m about A-, then he is at least A.” She moved her head back and forth before adding, “Maybe even A+.”

Lin Feng ruffled his hair, grinning, and said, “You guys are right! That wasn’t bad at all! Shi Hang has done well teaching Sun Ruinian!”

There were a few more matches in the morning, but none of them were especially interesting for Team Shanghai. The only one Zeng Rui had them pay specific attention to was when Shenyang Institute of Technology came up to play. They were the runners up in the previous edition and showed everyone why. They crushed their opponents and moved on to the next round after only 40 minutes of gameplay.

Zhang Hao stared at the large LCD screen and mumbled, “They’re even better than Zhejiang…”

“Exactly,” Zeng Rui replied. He looked at everyone and said, “I hope we all understand that we need to pay close attention to this team.”

Lin Feng shrugged and said, “I don’t know. It kind of feels like we’re watching one of those soap dramas, you know? We’re the main characters watching all these side characters come and go!”

“Idiot,” An Xin said, shaking her head.

It was in this fashion that the morning drew to a close. Team Shanghai left the stadium and took a cab to a restaurant. They had a quick lunch, after which Zeng Rui made them hurry back to the Tianhe Stadium for the afternoon matches. Su Xue didn’t tag along for these games, though. She waved Team Shanghai off and said, “I’ve got my meeting with HuyaTV! Enjoy the games!”

“Thanks!” An Xin said. She smiled and added, “Goodluck with your interview!”

Lin Feng struck his victory pose and shouted, “You’re going to stomp the interview!”

Su Xue looked at Lin Feng, incredulous. Then she chuckled and replied, “Thanks! See you guys later!” She watched the players from Team Shanghai get in their cab and waved them off. She then hailed a cab for herself and went to the HuyaTV headquarters.

The HuyaTV headquarters were located in the center of Guangzhou. Su Xue stood in front of the large building and looked up at the massive glass panels. She mumbled, “Wow! So impressive…” She chewed on her lips and took a deep breath, then she walked through the revolving door and into the building. When she saw the interior, her eyes went round in surprise. This all looks so clean and professional! I love it! And they want me to work here! She smiled and nodded at herself.

After receiving a visitor tag from the receptionist, Su Xue walked around the entrance hallway and looked at the other people there. Many of them were men in expensive suits. But there was also a group of young women dressed in short skirts and low cut shirts. She watched them, chewing on her lips, and felt her heart slamming against her ribcage. Harder. Faster. They look like streamers… I think… That’s… Shit I forgot her name but I’ve definitely seen her on the frontpage before! Shit! Her stomach twisted into a knot. They’re all dressed the same! Is Huya going to ask me to also wear those kinds of clothes? I really don’t want to…–

“Excuse me, Miss Su,” a man said to Su Xue. He waited for her to turn around and then continued, “If you could follow me please.”

Su Xue nodded and followed behind him. They took the elevator up to one of the top floors and walked through several long hallways before stopping in front of a room. The man opened the door and pointed inside. He said, “Miss Su, please take a seat. Zong Yao will be with you shortly.”

“Okay, thanks,” Su Xue replied. She walked inside and sat down at the small wooden table. There were only two chairs and she chose the one that let her see the door. She waited for a few minutes when a man in his 30s walked inside. She recognized him as Zong Yao, the HuyaTV admin she’d been in contact with. He sat down across from her, smiled at her and said, “We’ve talked a few times over QQ already. It’s good to finally meet you in person, Miss Su. I’ve already given you a rough gist of the situation. Have you had time to think about the offer?”

Su Xue chewed on the inside of her cheek, caught off guard by how to the point Zong Yao was. He sounded far more chilled on the QQ chat? And he only gave me a rough idea. Am I supposed to reply to that? Or did he forget that he didn’t tell me more…? I’ll just… “Uhm…” She briefly hesitated but then said, “I’ve thought about it a lot, yeah. I think I have a decent idea of what you’re asking me, but I’d like to know a few more details before making my decision.”

Zong Yao smiled and replied, “There’s nothing to worry about, Miss Su. We aren’t trying to cheat you here. Our goal is to grow together! You’ll get the full package! We will help you with everything! And I’m not just talking about promoting your HuyaTV channel here. We’d like to see you expand into different markets as well!” He briefly paused, smiling a little brighter, before he continued, “You’ve already had a go at making video’s correct? So we want to help you out with that! What we will do is basically to help you with promoting the videos and adding in advertisements. You’ll also be interested to know that we’ve partnered up with several gaming companies recently. That means early access to new video games, guest appearances on popular programs, you name it! Better yet, we can even get you casting positions in official League of Legends tournaments! Just think about how many people will see your face! And in the description of these streams, there’ll be links to your channel. Everyone will find you!”

Su Xue’s mouth fell open a bit. A lot of what Zong Yao told her she already expected, but hearing him say it was still a shock to her. She wanted to say something, but Zong Yao raised his finger and interrupted, “Now for the important part.” He briefly paused and made sure he had Su Xue’s full attention. Then he continued, “When you grow big enough, we’ll organize fan meetings for you! We’ll open a webshop for you and help you create your own merchandise! After, of course, helping you create your brand! You’ll sell tens of thousands of ‘Su Xue’ T-shirts!”

Su Xue lightly shook her head. It’s too much! I don’t get it! They’re giving me so much! What are they getting out of it? And why me? I’m not even that big! There are other streamers far bigger than me! Why me…? She took a deep breath and asked, “This all sounds really tempting, but I’m just… Can I ask why you chose me?”

Zong Yao smiled and replied, “Because of your endless potential of course! You’ve grown from nothing to tens of thousands of concurrent viewers in only a few months! You know how many streamers manage that?” He made a zero with his fingers and continued, “None. Just you. And it still looks like you’re growing quickly! Sure there are other streamers out there who have more viewers right now. But in a few months from now? In a year from now? We can see you blow them away with far greater numbers! You should know, your audience retention rate is one of the highest on all of HuyaTV! And the same is true for your conversion rate for followers and subscribers!”

The sudden burst of compliments caught Su Xue off guard. Her face heated up and she slumped back in her chair a bit. She looked down at the table and smiled. I’m really doing good! I knew my stats were okay, but he’s saying they’re some of the best! That’s like, like so much more than just okay!

Zong Yao gave half a minute for the information to settle and then asked, “Do you know why this is?”

Su Xue looked up at Zong Yao and mumbled, “Why this is…?” She looked back down at the table and bit on her tongue. What is this for a question? How am I supposed to answer? Whatever I say, I’m going to sound like a narcissistic bitch! ‘Because I’m so good’ or ‘because no one is as much fun as me’…

Zong Yao didn’t wait for an answer. He continued, “It’s because you’re genuine. A lot of streamers sit behind their camera and play a role that is specifically aimed at making money. You’re not like that. You’re yourself, even if that means you don’t make that quick buck. And people connect with that. They connect with you. They form a kind of kinship that runs far deeper than the artificial relationships a lot of streamers build up with their fanbase. That’s why your retention and conversion numbers are so high. Because consciously or unconsciously, people can tell the difference.”

Su Xue waved her hands and said, “No, no! I’m not better than other streamers! They’re also doing good! I was just trying to build a community that I’d want to be a part of myself, and, and…–”

Zong Yao winked at Su Xue and interrupted, “Miss Su, I see so much potential in you. Will you please consider my offer?”

It was already late in the afternoon when the host of the Winter Collegiate Cup announced the eighth game of the day. Team Beijing, the first high school team to play in the main tournament, was facing off against Nanjing University. When the audience heard this, they sat up a bit straighter in their seats. The announcement that three high school teams were competing in this university event had initially led to a lot of resistance from both fans and the university teams. But after all three high school teams qualified for the main tournament, most people became excited to watch them play.

“Didn’t Team Beijing scrim against the best teams from North China and beat all of them?”
“Not just the scrims. They won the North China Regionals!”
“Damn high schoolers… Those kids are on steroids or something!”
“No kidding. It’s like they’re all A grade teams!”

The discussions in the audience suddenly came to a stop. Everyone had done a bit of research on the three high school teams. They knew the players. And they could now all see that Team Beijing was not playing with their strongest line up! They were playing with the same team that had helped them win the North China Regionals! A murmur went through the crowd.

“Are they for real? What the hell! This is the main tournament!”
“Holy shit! It’s the same line up as the regionals! They’re playing with their subs!”
“Two subs, right? Damn! They’re so cocky!”
“I don’t think their real Toplaner and Midlaner have played a single game this entire tournament!”
“Do they really think they’re that much better than Nanjing?”
“Maybe this is their best line up and they’re just saying those two are their subs…?”

Zeng Rui looked over his shoulder at the stands rising up behind him. He listened to the discussion, knitting his brows. He finally turned back around and mumbled, “They’re not being cocky. More like, they know exactly how good they are and how good their opponents are. They know they won’t need their best players for this series.”

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THE LONG AWAITED DEVSHARD STORY TIME

Dev Thought:  So I promised you guys an epic story before we left on break. Here it is:

So when I was but a wee li’l Devshard, my parents decided to move us back to India. Get in touch with our roots, learn what the motherland was like, all that good stuff. So I went along because I’m kind of an idiot and I thought this would be some grand adventure. It was not. There was a lot of culture shock and adjustment.

Anyways. Cut-to several months later. I adapted to my new life, made some friends at school, and I was generally chillin. My new friends quickly realized that I was good with the words and writing, and that I spent a lot of time reading and focused on literary pursuits. Skills that they utilized when they wanted to do random degen shit or write letters and poetry to give to girls. And I was (and still am) a jackass, so I used it as an opportunity to troll the shit out of them in ways that they couldn’t figure out. This story is the story of one of those trolls, and what happens when a prank gets completely out of hand.

There was a guy in my class. Let’s call him Victor. Imagine Chonc but as an Indian 15-year-old. And he was generally a super nice guy, but with a quick temper and odd tendency to resort to violence. But he was cool, and he was the muscle for our crew. People didn’t mess with us because of Victor. Anyways, puberty and hormones hit Victor pretty hard and he started feeling funny feelings for a girl in class who we’ll call Sara.

He started talking about Sara a lot, staring at her with an unsettling intensity, and following her home. I found all of this hilarious, so I didn’t tell him to cut that shit out for like a month. Then it stopped being funny and started getting creepy, so I decided to redirect his energy. Told him that the best way to woo a woman was with heartfelt poetry. Victor mulled this over for a day and then came to me at lunch to ask how one learns to write poetry. This is the point where I truly fucked up. See, I thought it’d be funny to introduce Victor to a style of poetry more oriented towards obsessive love rather than the sweet puppy dog kind. Poems like Porphyria’s Lover, which involved becoming so obsessed with a woman that the poet kills her to possess her forever. In my head, I thought this would just be a joke where he writes degen creepy poetry and we laugh at him.

And that’s exactly what it was for a while. He wrote poems and handed them to my other friend who we’ll call Bernie to give to Sara. I’d already talked to Bernie about not delivering any of these romantic missives, so he kept things on the downlow. We’d hang out after school reading these demented poems where Victor wrote about making pillows with Sara’s hair and laugh. In hindsight, I’m starting to realize this was a very mean thing to do. But it was funny at the time.

Then the plan went haywire. Bernie got Dengue Fever and stopped coming to school. And most of us were worried about our boy and making sure he was okay. We also had exams coming up, so everyone was focused on that stuff and making notes so Bernie wouldn’t fall behind or fail. Which is why everyone forgot about Victor and his poetry and his borderline insane love for Sara. Well. Everyone except for Victor. He kept at it. Wrote poem after poem professing his burning ardor for her, how he went to sleep every night wanting to kill himself because she wasn’t there with him, how he wanted to make a quilt with her clothes so she’d always be near, and other truly demented shit. He hit his stride with the poetry and ramped up his output too. Pages upon pages of poems stacked in his backpack, all waiting for Bernie to come back and be delivered.

But eventually, it was too much for Victor to handle. He started delivering the poems himself. In the creepiest way possible. First he put them inside Sara’s backpack when we were all out for lunch. Then in her desk. Then he started hiding them in the girl’s bathroom. I have no idea how he accomplished this. But it got bad. I found out about all this when the girls were talking about the poems in their bathroom, and quickly deduced that it was Victor. And I felt terrible because I let the situation get out of hand. So I figured the best solution was to distract Victor in some way.

That was my second mistake. My chosen method of distraction was calligraphy. I went to Victor and told him that he needed to up his game, and the best way to do that was to improve his handwriting. I write exclusively with fountain pens and wet ink. Habit from when I was in Catholic school and the Nuns made us do that shit. But it makes my handwriting look fantastic and unique. So I told Victor to start practicing with some of my fountain pens. And I wasn’t trying to be an ass, so I gave him a pen with a normal pointed nib rather than a flat-tipped nib. I figured Victor would fuck around with the pen and break it in his massive hands, and then I’d give him another pen, and we’d go round-and-round on this dance for a couple of weeks. Which would be more than enough time for me to figure out how to completely diffuse this situation.

And I thought this whole thing was solved. Except it was not. AT ALL. See, Victor got real good at writing with wet ink and filling up the plunger on the pen with wet ink. And at some point, it occurred to him that there are other substances you can put into the pen and write with. Namely, blood. I found out much later that one night while he was trying to do something, he slipped and stabbed himself with the pen. Blood got into the nib and the channel, and when he wrote with it the blood acted as an ink. Which is what spurned his next great innovation.

Creepy poetry written in his own blood. With the fountain pen that I gave him. Sigh.

I found out this was going on one day when I walked into class and Sara was in the corner crying with a bunch of girls around her. And everyone else was gossiping about it. Turns out that Victor’s creepy ass blood poetry was the cause. So I cornered Victor and asked him what the fuck he was doing. That’s when he showed me.

Idiot took a pencil sharpener and unscrewed the blade from it. Then he’d cut himself and let the blood drip out into a little beaker that he stole from the chemistry lab. He would then dip the pen into this blood and write poetry with it. His reasoning was that this was the best way to convey the feelings in his heart. Directly through the blood from his heart.

I facepalmed. You’d think this is as bad as it gets, but unfortunately, that’s not even close to true. There’s more to this story, and for that you need to know Sara’s point of view through this entire epic saga of creepiness. I’ve just realized that this got very long, so we’ll continue with Part 2 tomorrow, where you’ll find out what Sara was up to this whole time, her reaction to the creepy poetry, her reaction to the blood poetry, and how Victor managed to turn the insane factor over 9000.

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