Seo trailed behind his teammates as he walked down the stage at the Tianhe Stadium. His gaze was locked on Tang Bingyao and An Xin. He slowly went down the steps while scratching his throat and smiling. I’ll get you two bitches! You’re dead! Both of you! When we play, I’ma show you what it means to be a Korean Challenger! You’re gonna learn why everyone says we’re the best! And then… His smile grew wider. Then I’ll have you beg on your knees for me to take you!
Lin Feng sat with his teammates in the player seating area. He’d been looking at Goalie’s pale face, excited. Now he glanced behind Team Guangzhou’s Midlaner at the rest of their team, until he finally noticed Seo. He scrunched his eyebrows and said, “What’s that guy doing? Does he have an itch or something? And why’s he smiling like that at us? He looks like a creep!”
Tang Bingyao nodded and mumbled, “Mhm!”
“He’s Team Guangzhou’s ad-carry. Seo,” An Xin explained, smiling. She then turned her head to look at Lin Feng and added, “But don’t worry about him. You just focus on Goalie.”
Lin Feng nodded slowly. Then he clenched his fist and pumped it up in the air. He shouted, “No need! He’s clearly challenging us! I’ll take his challenge! I’m going to stomp Goalie and him both! Actually…” he ruffled his hair. “… I can play ad-carry too. There’s something about his face… I just wanna stomp him!”
“No,” Zeng Rui interjected.
“What Zeng Rui says,” An Xin said. She then turned her head to look at Tang Bingyao and asked, “You want to beat him, right?”
“MHM!” Tang Bingyao replied, nodding fervently. She stared at Seo and narrowed her eyes. I’ll show him! Mhm! His Korean Challenger status doesn’t mean anything! I’m better than that!
Zeng Rui massaged his temples and sighed. That Seo is definitely better than Tang Tang. But not by much, and Tang Tang is getting better. If she has a good game, anything is possible! More importantly, their Support is B+ at best judging from these two games. That’s far worse than me. Worst case, we go even in lane. Best case, BunBun comes around for a gank and we carry the entire game before the thundering dumbass can! He took a long, deep breath and said, “Bot is for me and Tang Tang to worry about. You stay away from it.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and mumbled, “Are you guys sure? I mean… I can ad-carry a game. I’m really good at–”
“SHUT IT!” An Xin yelped. She glared at Lin Feng and lectured, “Goalie is Team Guangzhou’s best player. By far! You’re going to focus on the mid lane and beat him! I don’t want to hear another word about bot coming from you! Mid! MID!”
“Ok, ok!” Lin Feng replied.
Team Shanghai had dinner at the third ranked restaurant on the list Lin Feng and Fatty had created. The main reason for this high ranking was the chicken cutlet, a must have dish for any restaurant Lin Feng visited. He ordered it as hors d’oeuvre, appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. And when the waiter came around to ask if they were enjoying the food, he asked if his main course portion could be bigger and if they could add a scoop of chicken cutlet flavoured ice with the chicken cutlet.
No one else was especially hungry watching Lin Feng eat. They prodded their food with their chopsticks and took a couple of small bits. When Chu Fang’s phone vibrated, he gladfully grabbed it and checked it. His eyes lit up as he read the message. He then looked up at the team members from Team Shanghai and said, “I just got a message from the organizers. We are not drawn for the next round, which means we get to skip straight to the Round of 16!”
Zeng Rui nodded and said, “The four teams that got drawn will play tomorrow–”
“AWESOME!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grinned and said, “That means we’re free the whole day tomorrow! We can go and explore Guangzhou! I can get the Ashe plushy! And there’s still so many restaurants I have to visit! You know this is only the second best chicken cutlet place!?”
Zeng Rui’s eyes grew wide. Calm, calm. He said through gritted teeth, “Stop. Even if we don’t play, we’re still going to watch the teams that do. And I also want to get in some practice. There won’t be much free time.”
Su Xue’s phone started buzzing and flashing with lights, pulling everyone’s attention towards it. She grabbed it from the table and looked at the message. She then sighed and complained, “That was a message from Huya… They’re saying that I have to wait another day. They’ll tell me when the match ups for the next round are announced. So tomorrow afternoon I think?” She groaned. Just get it over with! Make this suffering end! If you’re going to make me cast some game between two teams I don’t know, just tell me so I can start cramming! I’ll learn their players and their champions and the way they play and with Lin Feng I can ask him questions and then maybe I won’t… Argh!
Lin Feng dragged everyone out of the restaurant and down a busy street. He’d spent the last 10 minutes convincing them that they could take a night off and that they could continue practicing the next day. He argued that a rest day was just as important, if not more important than a training day. It was when An Xin nodded to this argument that Zeng Rui accepted that they wouldn’t go practice with Zhejiang University again.
Lin Feng looked around him at the buildings rising high up into the sky. I think it was left here, or right? Uhm… He glanced over his shoulder at An Xin, who smiled and pointed right with her head. He grinned and shouted, “We’re turning right here! It’s right over here!”
The group walked into the commercial district of Guangzhou. There were shops on both sides of the street. Vendors were announcing their goods and flashy boards drew many eyes. But Lin Feng ignored all of this. He walked straight towards a small shop at the far end of the street. Outside of the shop stood a claw machine with League of Legends plushies inside.
Zeng Rui shook his head and asked, “Did we really skip training so that you could get a plushy…?”
“Wow…” Su Xue mumbled. She looked at Lin Feng and asked, “How old are you? Are you really this excited about a claw machine…?”
Lin Feng wasn’t listening to what the others said. He grabbed a bill from his pocket and waved it in the air. He said, “I came prepared! I brought enough for 10 tries! That Ashe is mine!”
The group gathered around the claw machine and watched Lin Feng operate the machine. They watched him grab nothing, grab one of the few plushies that wasn’t League of Legends themed and grab two League of Legends themed plushies. But neither was Ashe. They then saw his shoulders drop, his smile turning upside down.
Lin Feng let his head drop forward and quietly asked, “Any of you guys got some spare change?”
Zhang Hao shook his head, Zeng Rui ignored Lin Feng and walked over to Chu Fang to discuss something related to the Winter Collegiate Cup and An Xin just shook her head. Su Xue pulled out some money and smiled. But she didn’t let Lin Feng play. She pushed him aside and gave the machine a try herself. She failed at both her attempts and gave up. Finally, there was just Tang Bingyao left. Lin Feng looked at her, expectantly.
Tang Bingyao looked at Lin Feng and pushed her lips together. He really seems to want this. And I’ve got… She grabbed her purse and checked how much money she had left. I still have a bit. Should I…? She glanced at Lin Feng and saw the hope in his eyes. She bit on her lips, something swirling in her stomach. Mhm. For him. She took out the money and said, “Here. This is all I have.”
“Thanks!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grabbed the money and added, “I’ll get you one!”
Lin Feng failed the first time. And the second time. But on his third attempt he got a League of Legends themed plushy. It was a small Lulu. He grabbed it, frowning. Sulking. He gave it to Tang Bingyao and muttered, “Here…”
Su Xue looked at Lin Feng with large eyes and said, “Woah! Nice! You got four of them! I never get any from these stupid machines! Those claws are rigged!”
Lin Feng frowned and complained, “But I didn’t get the Ashe. I really wanted the Ashe…”
Zhang Hao leaned in for a closer look and said, “You were trying to get the Ashe? Dude… She’s in the corner! Those are impossible to grab! You’re never going to get that one!”
Tang Bingyao stepped closer and looked through the glass panels into the claw machine and nodded. She said, “Mhm. Zhang Hao is right. You can’t get that one.”
“Really?” Lin Feng asked. He kicked against the machine and complained, “That’s the only one I wanted…”
An Xin shook her head. That idiot. Why is he still thinking about that? I told him it’s fine! She breathed out loudly and said, “Let’s look around some more! There is so much to do here!”
Lin Feng had forgotten about the Ashe plushy shortly after leaving the claw machine behind and spent the next hour having fun with his teammates. Now, back at the hotel, he was entering his gaming mode. He looked at Chu Fang and asked, “Do you have a laptop for me? I need to rank.”
“Rank? Now? Isn’t it about time to go to bed?” Chu Fang replied, confused. He added, “Weren’t you the one saying you guys needed a rest day? You were whining about it every second you didn’t have food in your mouth during dinner!”
“For the team, yeah,” Lin Feng said. He shrugged and added, “But I made a promise to One and I will keep it. If I don’t, he’ll get mad at me again.”
“One?” Chu Fang blurted. He stared at Lin Feng and repeated, “One?”
Lin Feng nodded and said, “Yeah, One! I promised to climb the Korean ladder. Do you have a laptop for me?”
“Yeah, yeah I do,” Chu Fang replied. He walked over to his suitcase and retrieved a laptop from it. Promised to climb the Korean ladder? What does he want Lin Feng to do? Get to Challenger? No, that’s too easy, right? This is One! The best player ever! He won’t be satisfied with Challenger. How high does he want Lin Feng to go…?
Lin Feng grabbed the laptop from Chu Fang and sat it down on the table. He then sat down behind it and booted it up. The screen flashed to life and he was already moving the mouse to start the League of Legends client.
Chu Fang sat down next to Lin Feng and looked at the screen. At the username Lin Feng typed out. CN•HOOK2? Oh shit! That’s… He said, “That’s One’s account!”
“Yup!” Lin Feng replied. He glanced at Chu Fang and continued, “One is lending me his account. But he told me the account is mine if I can get it to top 5 in Korean Challenger!”
“Top 5?” Chu Fang muttered, his eyes wide in shock. “That’s insane! I don’t think there’s a single Chinese player who’s ever managed to get to the Top 5 yet! We’ve had a few who got high up there, but Top 5? That’s right next to… next to him.”
Lin Feng scratched the back of his head and said, “I think it’s doable. The only big constraint is time. There isn’t much time left.”
“Is that so…” Chu Fang replied. He chuckled and shook his head. Other Chinese players are all talking about their skill and how it’s too hard to get to the Top 5, yet this kid here is talking like it’s just a matter of time… Well, then again he is Maple. If anyone is good enough to get that high, it’s him. And with how far he’s already come… He might really get up there! How amazing would that be!? We can finally make those Koreans shut up for once! Show them that we’ve also got some really good players!
Lin Feng played on the Korean server from China. From a hotel. The internet wasn’t great and the distance meant that the connection was always going to be worse. He played with a rather high latency. But he didn’t let that get to him. He played Ryze, a Champion that didn’t rely on skillshots, and won the first game with great ease. He mumbled, “Not great, but I can make this work. Just a bit of lag. I’ll just ignore it.” He then clicked on the Play button and queued up for a second game.
A soft knocking sound came from the door. Lin Feng glanced over and said, “Chu Fang, can you check who it is?”
Chu Fang grinned. Delegating, huh? He said, “Yes, sir!” Then got up from his chair and opened the door to An Xin.
An Xin had just gotten out of the shower. Her hair was still damp and she smelled of lavender. She wore the hotel’s bathrobe and a pair of slippers. She smiled at Chu Fang and said, “Hi!”
“BunBun?” Chu Fang said, surprised. “You’re not sleeping either?”
An Xin giggled and replied, “I just got out of the shower. Tang Tang is already sleeping and I’m not feeling tired yet, so I figured I’d come and see if you guys were still up.” She pointed past Chu Fang at Lin Feng and added, “That guy never sleeps.”
Chu Fang chuckled and said, “That sounds about right.” He then nodded at Lin Feng and continued, “He just got into another game. You join him. I’ll go walk down the hallways for a bit.”
An Xin’s eyes went round and her cheeks burned red hot. She yelped, “Chu Fang!”
Chu Fang just grinned and brushed past An Xin. He said over his shoulder, “You two have fun. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
“Yeah, See you,” Lin Feng said, absentmindedly. His focus was on his monitor, which was displaying Champion Select.
An Xin closed the door of the room behind her and walked up to Lin Feng. She looked over his shoulder at the screen and asked, “What are you doing? Playing ranked?”
Lin Feng nodded and replied, “Yeah. Getting into my second game.”
“Oh?” An Xin mumbled. She pointed at the Korean characters on the client and asked, “Is this the Korean server? And that name… Wait, this is One’s account! You’re still doing that?”
“Yeah,” Lin Feng replied. He then shook his head and grumbled, “The internet here sucks though. It’s almost impossible to play with this ping!”
An Xin sat down next to Lin Feng and replied, “Take it as a handicap. It’ll be good training for you.”
“But it makes climbing so much harder,” Lin Feng argued.
“But it’s good for you,” An Xin argued back.
Lin Feng glanced at her and started, “But–” But stopped when he saw her shaking her head. He bit on his lips, holding back the arguments that were appearing in his mind, and finally asked, “Right, didn’t Five give you her account? Did you play on it yet? I’ve checked it a few times, but I never see you on it. I think I’ve got you on my friendslist too!”
“Uhh…” An Xin muttered, caught off guard. I still didn’t tell him about my… condition. It’s been okay lately, but I really can’t do anything extra, like playing on that account. Do I… She closed her eyes and said, “The internet at home is pretty bad lately. I can’t play with that much ping.”
“Damn internet,” Lin Feng replied. He shook his head and continued, “If only it would work like it should for once! If it wasn’t for my promise to One, I wouldn’t be forcing through this damn ping either! Like, look at that! It’s over a hundred!”
“Are you going to complain about that all game long?” An Xin asked.
Lin Feng nodded and said, “Probably, yeah. Look at that ping! Would you not? I’m telling you, I can stomp this Ezreal without this latency. But now? Now I’ll have to actually try to stomp him!”
An Xin watched Lin Feng’s Ryze walk from the fountain to the lane. Watched him land every single last hit, despite the high latency, and saw how he was forcing the Ezreal back. He’s still too good. Except earlier… She turned her head to look at Lin Feng and paused. He was trying so hard for that Ashe… She finally said, “Lin Feng?”
“Hmm?” Lin Feng replied.
An Xin took a deep breath and then asked, “At the claw machine earlier, were you doing that for me? Getting the Ashe, I mean.”
SIETSE IS A CRITIC
Sietse Thought: I’m busy one week. One week! And I kept an eye on things during that week. I witnessed what was an amazing piece of writing skill by Devshard, for example. I read a fun short written by Shanks! And then. Then yesterday. I woke up this morning, slightly hungover, and read through the thought to see what I’d missed. I couldn’t even get through it one the first attempt. What the actual fuck was that!? Shanks wrote some damn 50 Shades of Grey-esque BL short about me and him in some alternate universe! It was the first sentence where I supposedly looked into his eyes where I noped out. Then, a few hours later on Discord, I called him out for it. He asked me what was gay about it, so I went back to grab that one sentence. That was when I spotted the two or three sentences that came after. I can say I’ve never been more appalled in my entire life.
That’s what happens when I let Shanks write. He writes some damn gay ass shit and then when you tell him his response is (and I quote): “HOW IS IT GAY”
I just… can’t.
I’m broken. First he started his relationship with Devs. Now he wants one with me apparently. And throughout all of this, he still claims he isn’t gay! I HAVEN’T EVEN MENTIONED THE CHINESE ROOMMATE UNTIL NOW! Who is also a dude. And when he does talk about girls, it’s always with a hint of disgust. So this is a request to Shanks.
Buddy, please, come out of the closet. Download one of those dating apps for gay dudes and have some fun. It’ll do you good, I’m sure.
Now on to what I was really wanting to do with this TL thought. Earlier today, right after the disturbing gay conversation, I was editing this chapter and the author showed his splendor by explaining in a grand total of three paragraphs how after the first round ends, 18 teams are left from the initial 36. It was quite spectacular how he managed to draw that one out. Which got me thinking. How short can I make a chapter? Here’s my attempt at making this chapter supremely short!
Chapter 346 – A Whole Lotta Nada
Team Shanghai skipped the next round and moved straight to the Round of 16. The team celebrated this win by chilling at a restaurant in Guangzhou, after which they explored the city before returning back to their hotel rooms. It was late at night, but Lin Feng decided to play a couple of games on his Korean Challenger account. An Xin came by and watched him play, a thought swirling in her mind.