Seo scrunched his eyebrows. Why is she stepping away from me…? Oh! He shook his head and grinned. How stupid! I keep forgetting they don’t learn Korean in school here! Such a hassle, but… She’s cute enough! He raised his hands up apologetically and said in broken Chinese, “I am Seo. Ad-carry Challenger from Korea now in Guangzhou. You are pretty. Very cute. I like your looks.”
Tang Bingyao raised her eyebrows in surprise. He’s a Korean Challenger…? Guangzhou? Her eyes turned round and she covered her mouth with her hand. He’s the new ad-carry for Team Guangzhou! They got a new Korean import! Mhm! We finally got another girl playing in this tournament! This is great! She giggled and replied, “Thank you.”
Seo felt his heart jump in joy when Tang Bingyao started giggling. Knew she’d like me! Tell them you’re a Korean Challenger and you’re in their panties! Now to seal the deal! Add her to my list! He ‘casually’ leaned against the wall and smiled what he believed to be his most charming smile. He said, “Friends? You, me, coffee?”
Friends? Coffee? Tang Bingyao stopped giggling and looked at Seo again. I don’t like coffee… She shrugged and said, “No thanks. Bye.” She then walked past Seo and back towards the stands.
Seo stared at the air in front of him, stunned. No? Did she just say no? Did she turn me down? He narrowed his eyes and turned his head to follow her. No one turns me down! I’m far too goodlooking for that! All girls love me! Oh! He chuckled. She’s just playing hard to get. Almost forgot about that play because the girls here are so easy! Alright, Seo, she doesn’t want to look too eager to jump into bed with you. You just gotta push her in that direction. Just play along and make her think it’s her choice. Takes a bit more skill, but she’s pretty cute. Yeah, I’ll take the extra effort for her! He rushed after Tang Bingyao and stopped her. He then said, “Is okay. Where you want to go? No coffee? Maybe PC Cafe? Play League? I carry you to Challenger!”
Tang Bingyao looked at Seo, annoyed. Her stomach churned and she lightly shook her head. I said no… Why is he still bothering me? She bit on her lips and said, “No, thanks. Leave me alone, please.” She then tried to push past him.
“어디가? 내 친절한 초대를 너무 차갑게 거절하는데? 이 버릇없는 년,” Seo said as he grabbed Tang Bingyao by the shoulder. He narrowed his eyes and continued in broken Chinese, “Don’t be rude. I’m kind.”
“Let go!” Tang Bingyao exclaimed. She tried to pull free, but Seo only tightened his grip on her shoulder. Tears jumped in her eyes. She shouted, “Ao! You’re hurting me! Let go of me!” She tried to shake herself free, her eyes darting across the hall searching for someone who could help her. Why is he doing this? Just leave me alone! I don’t wanna! Go away! Piss off! Please, someone! Some– “BunBun!”
A minute earlier, An Xin had got up from her seat in the player seating area and excused herself to go to the restroom. She’d walked past the crowd into the backstage area, following Chu Fang’s directions. When she got into a corridor, she saw two people standing close together. Uch, get a roo– Her eyes went wide when she heard Tang Bingyao’s voice, and even wider when she saw the girl was Tang Bingyao. Tang Tang! TANG TANG! She raced across the corridor and pushed Seo from behind and shouted, “Get away from Tang Tang, you creep!”
The push wasn’t hard, but Seo hadn’t expected it. He let go of Tang Bingyao and stumbled a few steps before refinding his footing. He turned around to look at An Xin and said in Korean, “What the fuck! You bitch!”
An Xin ignored Seo, her complete focus on Tang Bingyao. She put her hand on Tang Bingyao’s shoulder and asked, “Are you okay?”
Tang Bingyao sucked back the tears, though a few still escaped and rolled down her cheeks. She nodded and mumbled, “Mhm, thanks.”
“Good,” An Xin said with a warm smile. She then turned around to look at Seo. Her lips remained the same but all kindness disappeared from her eyes. They narrowed, furious. She said in perfect Korean, “You disgusting pig! What do you think you were doing!?”
Seo recovered from his initial burst of shock and got a good look at An Xin. He nodded, satisfied. She’s cute too. And she speaks Korean! That makes this so much easier! Alright, game face on! He smirked and said, “I really didn’t do anything. I was just having a friendly chat with your friend here.”
“A friendly chat?” An Xin asked. She glanced over her shoulder at Tang Bingyao who was trembling on her knees and then looked back at Seo. She said, “Does she look like she was having a fun chat? Does she? I’ll tell you what it looks like to me. It looks like you were trying to assault my friend. Now I’m sure the organizers wouldn’t like to learn about this. Don’t you think? They might even feel the need to send you back home. But my friend is already upset and I don’t want to make her think about this more than necessary. So here’s the deal. You piss the fuck off and never even look at her again!”
Seo paled, his eyes round and wide. He stared at An Xin in shock. This was the first time someone called him out like this. It was the first time since arriving in Guangzhou that a woman didn’t respond to his advances. His stomach was in turmoil and he didn’t know what to do. He moved his lips around and shook his head a bit, and finally he mumbled, “Sorry.” He then turned around and strode away, muttering, “Stupid bitches! Who the fuck do they think they are! Better hope I don’t see them in the tournament! I’ll fucking stomp them!”
“HMM? Did you say something? Come back, say that to my face!” An Xin yelled after Seo. He looked back over his shoulder at her, scared. He then sped up and pushed open the first door he found. The women’s restroom. But he didn’t care or notice. He rushed inside and stopped. Fucking crazy bitches! What the fuck was wrong with that one! Holy shit, her eyes! Fuck her! I’ll show her!
An Xin turned back to look at Tang Bingyao and smiled. She said, “It’s okay, Tang Tang. He’s gone.”
Tang Bingyao slowly raised her head and looked up at An Xin. Her eyes were red and swollen, and her mascara was murky after she wiped it all around her eyes. She tried to smile but also to stop crying. She finally mumbled, “Thank you, Bunbun. Thank you! I… I didn’t know you speak Korean.”
An Xin hugged Tang Bingyao and whispered, “Just a few words. I picked it up while travelling with Lin Feng four years ago.”
“Mhm,” Tang Bingyao replied, nodding.
“Are you okay, Tang Tang?” An Xin asked, worried. “Did he hurt you anywhere? If he did anything to you, we’re going right to the tournament officials.”
Tang Bingyao shook her head and replied, “I’m okay. It was just really scary. He was suddenly there and there was no one else and then and then, and then…” Tears appeared in her eyes again. She hiccuped and the crying followed. She said between the tears, “And then he grabbed me and I thought, I thought…”
An Xin hugged Tang Bingyao tightly and whispered, “It’s okay Tang Tang. He’s gone. I’ve got you. I’m here for you.” She then glanced over her shoulder at the end of the corridor and narrowed her eyes. What an asshole! Team Guangzhou, huh? When there’s one rotten apple, there’s probably more… She mumbled, “I’ll show those assholes!”
“BunBun, please, don’t!” Tang Bingyao said weakly. She shook her head and added, “I don’t want to cause any problems…”
“No,” An Xin replied. She looked at Tang Bingyao and continued, “He assaulted you. Don’t ever speak up for him. He doesn’t deserve it.”
Tang Bingyao’s lips quivered. She mumbled, “I-I… I just don’t want to cause any trouble…” She briefly pressed her lips together and then added, “Thank you for helping me, BunBun. I don’t know what I would’ve done without you.”
An Xin chuckled and said, “You don’t have to thank me. We’re friends! I wasn’t going to let some creep bother you! We’re here for each other!” She briefly paused, her expression dropping, before adding, “But Tang Tang… Let’s not tell Lin Feng what happened. If he finds out…” she shook her head. “… he will make a big scene out of it.”
Tang Bingyao wiped her eyes dry and nodded. I just want to forget this! No one has to know! She shook her head and weakly said, “Let’s just pretend this never happened…”
An Xin put her hands on Tang Bingyao’s shoulders and looked her friend in the eyes. She slowly said, “We’re not going to pretend this didn’t happen. It happened. We just won’t tell Lin Feng. We’ll use a different route to make that asshole pay for what he did to you!” A smile creeped on her face, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes. She continued, “He’s the ad-carry for Team Guangzhou, right?” Tang Bingyao nodded and An Xin went on, “So we’ll show him how worthless he is on the Rift. The way he treated you? He probably doesn’t think much about girls. Let’s make sure to camp the everloving shit out of that guy! We’ll make him go 0-10 and then laugh at him in all chat. We’ll make him regret this so hard!”
There was a fire behind An Xin’s words. Tang Bingyao found herself nodding and clenching her fists. She nodded and said, “Mhm! Sounds good! We’ll stomp him!”
Seo stayed in the restroom for nearly 15 minutes, grumbling and kicking against the toilet stalls. When he finally calmed down a bit, he splashed some water in his face and looked in the mirror at his reflection. You’re fucking hot! Those girls don’t know what they’re missing out on! They could’ve had the best threesome in their lives! He nodded at himself and then left the restroom. He walked down the corridor, his expression dropping again. Fucking bitches! Stupid fucking bitches!
When Seo arrived back at the seats for Team Guangzhou in the player seating area, he was kicking imaginary pebbles and glaring at everyone. The coach noticed it and asked, “Seo, what’s wrong? Did something happen?”
Seo let himself fall down on his chair and waved the coach away. He said, “It’s nothing.” He then looked at the stage and gritted his teeth. Those fucking bitches! I can get any girl I want! What do they think makes them so special? I’ve had far prettier girls! Stupid bitches! And that second one in particular! How dare she challenge me!? I’ll fucking show her! When I meet her on that stage… He grinned. When I meet those two on that stage? I’m going to make them regret that! I was just flirting! What is wrong with those bitches!?
Lin Feng waved at An Xin and Tang Bingyao when they walked back to their seats and shouted, “You two took forever! What kept you?”
An Xin smiled and replied, “There was a line at the restroom. Think some girl clogged the toilet…”
“Mhm!” Tang Bingyao added, nodding.
“You guys missed the ending of the game,” Zeng Rui complained.
Lin Feng grinned and interjected, “It was a boring game! You guys didn’t miss anything!”
Zeng Rui glared at Lin Feng but then shook his head. Not worth the effort. Won’t argue with him. No arguing with the thundering dumbass! Don’t do it! He breathed in deeply and said, “Let’s go back to the hotel. The games are over and the exit will be crowded soon.”
“Hotel…?” Lin Feng looked at Zeng Rui, confused. He then shook his head and said, “No way! It’s time for dinner! I’m starving!”
Zeng Rui glanced at Lin Feng and replied, “We’re going back to the hotel because your roommate is there. Remember how we–”
“Right! Right! I almost forgot!” Lin Feng interrupted, laughing. He nodded at Zeng Rui and said, “ZengZeng, you’re the best! Man, I really wonder how Su Xue’s meeting went! Maybe she’s already working for HuyaTV!”
Team Shanghai and Su Xue arrived back at the hotel at almost the same time. They ran into each other in the lobby. Lin Feng ran up to Su Xue and was about to greet her when he noticed that she didn’t look excited. He scrunched his eyebrows. Does she look anxious? She’s fidgeting with her fingers… she only does that when she’s stressing again! He said, “Hey… Uh, what’s wrong? Did the meeting not go well?”
“Hmm? Oh, hey Lin Feng,” Su Xue replied. She looked at Lin Feng and the others from Team Shanghai behind him before adding, “It went okay I guess.”
Lin Feng looked at Su Xue, puzzled. He asked, “Just okay? What does that mean?”
Su Xue rolled her eyes and explained, “The talk was fine. Basically I just have to sign the contract now.”
An Xin smiled and said, “That’s great! You’re going to become a really big streamer now! Congratulations!”
Tang Bingyao nodded and chimed in, “Mhm! Congratulations!”
Su Xue nodded absentmindedly. It went great. I got everything I wanted and I can stay in Shanghai with Lin Feng and Zuo You and my other friends. I’ll just stay here for a few weeks to receive some onsite training from professionals. Which is also really good! She chuckled and said, “Thanks. It’s good, all good I guess. Just. Just. Huhh! The HuyaTV executive told me he’d gotten me a great opportunity to cast some games in this ‘super big’ tournament.”
“A caster?” Lin Feng asked. His eyes lit up and he continued, “That’s amazing! You’re going to cast real professional games then! That’d be so cool!”
Su Xue sighed and explained, “That’s what I’m worried about. What if they make me do a professional game? I’m no caster! I sometimes dabble a bit with it on stream for fun. But I’m no caster! I don’t know nearly enough about professional play– Or even about the Champions! I’ll just end up making a fool out of myself! Everyone will see me make a fool out of myself! Then they’ll come to my stream to laugh at the fool…”
An Xin smiled and comforted, “Your stream casting is really good! I bet you the HuyaTV executive saw that and knew you were perfect for a casting gig!”
Tang Bingyao looked at Su Xue curiously and asked, “Do you know what games you will be casting?”
Su Xue shook her head and replied, “No, they haven’t told me yet. They said they’d have more information about that tomorrow night. All I know is that it’ll be in the Winter Collegiate Cup–”
“WHAT!?” Lin Feng exclaimed. He tugged on Su Xue’s arm and asked, “Really? Really!?”
It wasn’t just Lin Feng, everyone from Team Shanghai perked up from this bit of information. They stared at Su Xue and were about to start asking questions, when Chu Fang said, “Right. The Guangzhou Esports Association has a partnership contract with HuyaTV. That also extends to us actually. It’s how we got the Shanghai 16 School Tournament to play on HuyaTV’s frontpage.”
Lin Feng grinned. He struck his victory pose and shouted, “That’s awesome! Just imagine how cool it would be if you get to cast our games! You can tell them all how good I am! And how you know that I’m really good!”
Su Xue shook her head and muttered, “Who would want to do that…?”
THE STORY NEVER ENDS
Dev Thought: It’s weird how the story in Rise is lining up with this story from my past. I really should have checked ahead before promising you guys this story and starting it. Sigh. C’est la vie, I guess.
But this is where the story really starts to get exciting. I, your beloved narrator of this tale of tragedy—Devshard, finally make my entrance.
It was a night like any other. I’d gotten home from school, eaten a snack, and was in the process of deciding if I was going to read a book that night or if I was going to watch TV. I didn’t have anything new to read, so I was going through the books I had to find something fun to re-read. That’s when my phone rang. I picked it up off my desk and saw that it was my best friend in school. We’ll call him… Phil. This was odd because Phil never called. He was heavily invested in text messaging. And this was in the days when all of us had flip phones with the T9 keyboards. Sending a text message was a pain. But Phil loved doing it and thought it was the future. Turned out to be right.
Anyways, Phil called me and I picked up. He went, “Stop what you’re doing! We gotta get to the Police Station in… <area>!” Sorry about that guys. It’s been 18 years since this story happened and the details get a little fuzzy. Also, I’m just starting to realize that if I’m going to talk about how a law enforcement official was involved in corruption on the internet for thousands of strangers, having a fuzzy memory might be helpful. So I don’t remember which Police Station Phil told me to come to. I also don’t remember the names of any of the Officers at that station the night I went there and I don’t remember what they looked like. There is honestly no way for me to provide that detail if there was even an official or court-ordered reason for me to do so. Memory, it’s the first to go as you age.
Back to the story. Phil calls me and tells me to get to a specific police station in a location that I cannot recall. I go, “… what?”
Phil goes, “Listen! We don’t have time for this! Victor’s been arrested and he’s sitting in jail at the Police Station! I called everyone else. They’re all coming. We gotta help him!”
I wasn’t super sure what a bunch of teenage school children could do in this situation at the time. But I watched Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a child, and I knew that when a bunch of teenagers with attitude were summoned to fight the forces of evil, the world itself could change. And it was morphin’ time!
But more realistically, I changed out of my pajamas and went downstairs to the car and told the driver where we needed to go. He drove me to the police station. The first thing I saw when I got there was the rest of my crew. Just standing outside looking worried. I walked over to Phil and asked him for details. Phil went, “I don’t know anything. My Uncle’s driver lives next door to the Constable who drives the police jeep here. And that driver heard the Constable gossiping about how they arrested someone from our school in our year. So he called my Uncle to make sure I was okay, and my Uncle called my Dad, and my Dad asked me if I knew what was going on. I didn’t. But my Dad called my Uncle back and he sent his driver to go investigate, and that’s how I learned that it was Victor! Now we’re all here.”
I decided there wasn’t much of a point standing around outside waiting for Victor to come out. Cause that definitely did not seem likely. And we had no idea what Victor did and how serious it was. We didn’t know if we needed to call his parents or call our parents or if this would get settled on its own. So I figured the best strategy at this point was to walk into the Police Station like we owned the place to ask the Inspector what the deal was. But we decided to be smart about it. Phil and I would go inside to find out details. But we sent two guys all the way down to the corner of the street, where they could still see the outside of the Police Station. And we left three guys outside the Police Station. If things went South, they’d work as a redundant system to call in reinforcements. Well… to call our parents and tell them to save us if we also got arrested. The guys outside the police station would run in one direction if things went South. Away from the corner where the second set of guys were. So even if they got caught, the other two would see that things went bad and get help without being caught. It was goonies smart.
Anyways. Phil and I went into the Police Station and (in our minds) walked up to the Inspector like we were hot shit that owned the place. I then politely introduced myself and Phil because I was raised with manners, and explained that we were Victor’s classmates and here to find out what happened and see if we could take him home. For some reason, I thought it was necessary to point at Victor. Even though he was the only person in the little fake jail they have at Police Stations.
The Inspector asked us to sit down. Then he went, “You boys eat dinner? Do you want some tea? How about a Samosa? Curry puff?” I took the tea. Phil, being the skinny-fatass that he was, decided to go for both the samosa and the curry puff. Then the Inspector went, “So you boys study with this boy, ah? Friends in class?”
I told the Inspector that we’d been in the same class since the start of the year, that Victor was a good friend, and that we were all worried because this was an unusual situation. I also felt the need to explain that this was my first time in a Police Station since I was in kindergarten. And the first time I’d come to one because one of my friends was actually in jail. All around very confusing time for me. And I told the Inspector that Victor was just a big guy who was physically imposing. But that he’d never hurt anyone or do anything really violent.
The Inspector went, “Oh? Such a nice boy, this Victor? Never hurt anyone?”
Devshard: “No, Sir. Victor only threatens or intimidates with his size. Look at him! He’s a big guy! We don’t get into fights at all because people look at him and walk away. I’m telling you, Victor is literally the most harmless giant in the city. He’s all bark, no bite.” Inspector: “No bite, eh? Never hurts anyone? Are you sure we’re talking about the same person?”
Devshard: “Yes Officer. I can see him. He’s right there.” I once again felt it was necessary to get up out of my chair and point at Victor in the little fake jail. Inspector: “Wokay, wokay, wokay. Victor very nice boy. I agree. I definitely agree. I agree with everything you are saying. You also seem like nice boy from a good family. You wouldn’t lie to save your friend, no?”
Devshard: “… I don’t entirely know what’s going on. But I believe there has been a misunderstanding where someone thought Victor meant to hit them or something and then things got out of hand. I know Victor and I vouch for his character!”
Inspector: “Sit down, sit down. Why so excited? This isn’t a court room. I’m not a judge. Why are you suddenly being a lawyer? We’re just talking here. But I like you. Standing up for your friends is a nice thing to do. And you’re a nice boy who came here when his friend was in trouble in a nice car, eh? AY! SUB-INSPECTOR! COME HERE! BRING ONE MORE CHAI FOR THE NICE BOY HERE!”
Let me preface this next part by saying that I had absolutely no idea what was going on, and that I missed some of the more… uh subtle hints about the reality of the situation that was going on. In my defense, I was straight off the boat from America and I walked in there expecting to bullshit until I got my way and walked out with my friend.
The Sub-Inspector walked in with another tea for me. And then the Inspector had the Sub-Inspector tell us exactly what happened.
You guys remember how I told you yesterday that Victor started following Sara home? And watching her hang out with Cody while dying a little bit more inside? Well…. turns out that he followed Sara home to her apartment on this particular night too. And Sara and Cody was a little bit closer and a little bit more touchy-feely than normal. So Victor hung around covertly spying on them even longer. Eventually, Cody picked up on all the hints that Sara was slapping in his face and decided to make his move. He went in to kiss her, and she went in to kiss them, and Victor stood at the top of the Stairway looking down on this. In that moment, I think whatever tenuous grip he had on sanity completely broke.
Victor charged down and started beating the crap out of Cody. And Cody couldn’t do much about it. In his defense, the night was truly turning out to be an emotional rollercoaster. First he was hanging out with the girl he liked, building up the courage to finally make his move. Then he made his move with his heart pounding in his ears. AND THE GIRL KISSED HIM BACK! Next thing he knows, its Victor pounding on him and the heart pounding is all but forgotten.
So Victor and Cody are falling down the stairs, brawling. Cody’s getting all cut up and trying to catch his breath. Victor is angrily pounding on him and trying to keep hold while rolling down the stairs, spittle and sweat painting the walls of the stairwell in angry swathes. Sara’s running after them, bawling. Yelling and screaming for them to stop. Eventually, all three of them get to the ground floor. Cody’s on the ground, sprawling. He’s got a dozen cuts all bleeding and his nose is broken and gushing blood. Victor’s picking himself up off the ground and walking towards Cody. Sara’s over there, still crying and yelling.
And that’s when Victor decided to do something utterly unique and mindblowing. He saw that Cody was bleeding. He had his backpack on him with the fountain pen in it and his notebook. So he decided that THIS was the moment he needed to capture in blood poetry for Sara. Except it wouldn’t be his blood. He’d use Cody’s blood that was now very available. So when he started dipping the pen in Cody’s nose and writing with it, Sara stopped crying and stood there watching. All the other people who lived in that apartment building and came outside because of the commotion also stood there around Victor and Cody. Watching Victor write poetry with a fountain pen that he kept dipping in Cody’s blood.
And someone obviously called the police. Who arrived there to find Victor doing this demented thing. The Sub-Inspector who told Phil and I this story was the one on scene. And he didn’t know what to do so he called the Inspector. Eventually, they decided the best thing to do was to wait until he finished writing his poem. Victor took another 15 minutes to write his poem. Then he ripped it out of his notebook and handed it to Sara. Who took it.
Then the Sub-Inspector slowly and gently led Victor to the police car, and then they put him in the fake jail at the Police Station because they had no earthly idea what to do with him.
Once the Sub-Inspector finished his story, the Inspector looked and went, “Eh, nice boy. Never heard something like that before, right? No. Of course not. Why would you? I’ve never seen anything like this before either. Your friend, the other nice boy who’d never hurt someone…. is he a good poet?”
Devshard: “… he’s not a great poet, no. But we found his poems entertaining.”
Inspector: “Oho! Looks like nice boy isn’t so nice, Sub-Inspector! Laughing at your friend’s heart pain. Tsk, tsk. Shame! Shame! Listen nice boy, he’s not in jail because this is a serious matter. Boys got in fight over girl! That happens every night! We don’t arrest schoolboys for that. But we put him in that jail over there because we didn’t know if he was going to hurt himself. You never know with these one-sided love stories. I don’t want a nice boy like your friend involved in all this love suicide business, you know?” Devshard: “… so we can take him home now?”
Listen. My mind was reeling. My boy just beat the shit out of a dude that kissed the girl that he liked and then tried to write poetry with that dude’s blood! And this Inspector is going on about suicide. I literally couldn’t process everything going through my mind at that moment. And Phil was very focused on finishing his samosa! My mind broke and the only thing I could think about was getting Victor out and home so I could go home and sleep to end whatever demented nightmare I’d stepped into.
Inspector: “Well… there’s procedure there. This form, that form, get stamp here, get stamp there. So many things to do. Police work is messy business. Nice boy like you wouldn’t understand all that. Its too much for you to handle. No? But I like you. Very good boy. Very nice boy. Maybe I can help you and then you can take your friend home. Would you like my help?”
AND this got way beyond insanely long. So we’ll continue with the rest of this tomorrow. You’ll hear Victor’s side of the story, the Inspector has more strange one-liners, and Devshard fights against corruption in India. It’s all very exciting.