The engines on the airplane rumbled to life. The flight attendants walked down the aisles reminding people to stow their tray tables and put their seats into the upright position. The cabin filled with noise as the airplane got ready to take off. But An Xin heard none of that. None of the noise could penetrate the peaceful atmosphere that had settled over the back row, where she sat with Lin Feng. With the Ashe plushie on her lap. As she looked at it, her heart beat fast and slow at the same time with light trembles of joy.
Lin Feng waited a couple of seconds for An Xin to say something. But she remained silent, and he mistook that for confusion. He picked it up off her lap and waved it in her face, oblivious to everything else in his excitement. “Look! It’s the Ashe you wanted! Remember? You said you wanted it! It’s the exact same one. I helped you get it!”
An Xin’s face flickered with a complicated expression. “You went all the way there just to get me this Ashe plushie? So early in the morning?” she asked quietly and softly. So softly that the question was barely audible over the hum of the engines.
“Yeah! That’s why I set my alarm for 5:30 AM! I really lucked out! My phone had just enough power for the alarm. It died right after I left the hotel. And then I got even more lucky and got the Ashe doll. It only cost me ¥20!”
An Xin stared at the big grin on Lin Feng’s face and the Ashe. She bit her lips to keep herself from smiling. “You’re an idiot. I didn’t want it that much. Why’d you have to go out of your way to get it?” She wanted to yell at Lin Feng for being foolish, but her heart just wasn’t in it. And her rebuke wasn’t even the slightest bit harsh.
“I made a promise! I gave you my word that I would help you get it! A real man always keeps his promise!” Lin Feng exclaimed.
An Xin smiled at Lin Feng’s declaration. He’d said the same thing earlier, back at the hotel. An Xin’s heart fluttered and warmed that he had cared enough to remember his promise to her and had gotten her the Ashe plushie.
“Here, take it!” Lin Feng stuffed the Ashe in An Xin’s arms. “I told you I’d get it and I got it! Hahahaha! I’m really good at claw machines too!” He smiled brightly.
An Xin accepted the Ashe plush and hugged it tightly. She buried her face in it, to hide her blush as she softly whispered, “Thanks.” She kept hugging the soft plushie, but it was clear that she wanted to hug Lin Feng and couldn’t at the moment. So she hugged the Ashe as tightly as she wanted to hug Lin Feng.
An Xin slightly bit her lips as she quietly muttered the word, “Idiot.”
The Collegiate Cup’s Round of 16 had yet to end, but all of Team Shanghai’s members had returned home. In a truly shocking twist, their plane had taken off and landed with no issues. There were no prophetic visions, An Xin was not stuck in a time loop where she was forced to solve issue after issue to find the best timeline, and there were no motherfucking snakes on that motherfucking plane. It was just an ordinary ride on an airplane, followed by the usual hustle and bustle of disembarking from the plane.
Now that they were back home, Team Shanghai would spend the next couple of weeks buried in textbooks as they prepared for their upcoming exams. Even Lin Feng, who’d been complaining the most earlier, had no option but to study. He simply didn’t have enough time to do anything else. After returning to school, he didn’t even have the time to chill with Ouyang, Yang Fang, and the others so he could tell them what happened in Guangzhou. And neither did they. Everyone in High School 13 was busy studying and tense about these upcoming exams. And so, Lin Feng returned to school and dove head first into studying.
An uneasy and thick tension had descended over the hallways of High School 13. There was no happy chatter or jokes. There was only one thing on everyone’s mind and one topic worth not talking about. That was the exams. There were a few hushed whispers in the halls, but that was about it.
“I’ve only got a week left to live! My parents are going to kill me after these exams!”
“Samsies! We gotta ace them! There is no other option!”
“If we don’t crush these exams, we’ll get crushed instead!”
Everyone was nervous. Well, almost everyone. Lin Feng retained his cheerful obliviousness and optimism. “I’m gonna ace this exam! If this were a webnovel, I’d be the protagonist! And there’s no way I’m going to fail because the hero always triumphs! You’ll all see! I’m really good at exams too!” He boldly declared, fighting back against the unseen but palpable tension in the air. And then he buried himself in his textbook.
Even as he studied, Lin Feng knew in the back of his mind that he was the protagonist. This is my story, and I’m not going to be stopped here! These exams aren’t an obstacle, they’re a stepping stone! And I’m not going to be defeated by a step! I’m going to face this exam head-on and sweep through it like I do with everything else! No mere exam will stop my rise!
This delusional level of self-confidence that Lin Feng had wasn’t entirely unwarranted. While he believed that his confidence came from his own patented Trynadamere problem solving method and Nasus study methodology, and that he was protected by protagonist plot armor, none of those things contributed much. The real ace up Lin Feng’s sleeve was that he had An Xin and Tang Bingyao to help him out.
An Xin and Tang Bingyao were excellent students. They were just as good at school as they were at League of Legends. In fact, Tang Bingyao was well-known for being one of the smartest girls at school and a bookworm. An Xin was equally intelligent, and could coach someone through studying just as well as she could coach them in League. And she’d gotten Lin Feng through exams before.
Since he had both of these girls supervising and helping him through studying, Lin Feng didn’t have to worry too much about getting through his exams. Neither did Ouyang, who also had the advantage of Tang Bingyao and An Xin simply because he was Lin Feng’s deskmate and remained in close proximity. And speaking of Ouyang, he’d occasionally try to get Lin Feng to talk about what happened in Guangzhou. Whenever he could get away with it because both the girls were distracted or away. Even though Ouyang was focused on the upcoming exam, the story of how Team Shanghai defeated Team Guangzhou 3-0 was too legendary to ignore. Not just for Ouyang. Everyone in Lin Feng’s class wanted to know what happened. It was a welcome study break, and everyone leaned in to listen as Lin Feng recounted what happened to Ouyang.
“Haha! That’s so awesome! You riggity-riggity-rekt them!” Ouyang exclaimed when Lin Feng finished his story. “You made those douchenozzles your bitch! That’s exactly what Team Guangzhou deserved! Did you throw in a ‘I, your father, have schooled you’? Because what’s the point in spanking them like that if they don’t call you Daddy after?”
Ren Rou smacked Ouyang in the back of the head. But a soft one. She secretly approved of it all. “Yeah. That Seo is a raging jackass. He hurt our Tang Tang! Unforgivable!”
Ouyang rubbed the back of his head where Ren Rou whacked him. But he was too excited by the story to focus on it for long. He asked Lin Feng, “Bro! You played Riven, right? How’d it go! Tell us all about that! Did you really get a pentakill at the end?”
“Yeah! I hard-carried that game with my Riven and got a penta! It was great! Ask BunBun! She’ll tell you how great I did that game.” Lin Feng said. He turned to An Xin and said, “BunBun, I hard-carried with Riven and got a penta, right? Tell them!”
An Xin didn’t even bother looking up from her book as she casually replied, “Oh, is that what happened? Sorry, I don’t remember.”
And speaking of An Xin, neither she nor Lin Feng brought up the Ashe plushie after they got back toi Shanghai. It was a private moment between them, and their secret alone. As far as everyone else was concerned, nothing had changed between them. An Xin interacted with Lin Feng exactly as she did before. She continued to make fun of Lin Feng every chance she got, and smacked him down whenever he did something stupid. As far as the rest of the world was concerned, the incident with the Ashe doll never happened. But for An Xin, it was a treasured moment.
Since An Xin had completely ignored him, Lin Feng turned to Tang Bingyao. “Tang Tang! Tang Tang! Help me out here! Tell them I got a penta, and that I’m not lying.!”
Tang Bingyao was completely focused on studying. Only after Lin Feng pestered her a few more times did she raise her head and nodded. “Mhm? Who’s lying?”
Ren Rou rolled her eyes. “Everyone is busy studying! Stop bothering Tang Tang and An Xin! You guys need to stop gossiping like old ladies and focus on your studying too!” Then she walked back to her desk and got back into her books.
Lin Feng’s cheerful smile faded and he looked gloomy. “But I really am telling the truth…”
“Broheim! I believe you, bro,” Ouyang said, and smacked Lin Feng on the back. Then he inched closer and continued, “So… since we’re best bros and I believe you about your pentakill and all that… how about being a bro back and letting me copy your answers for the English practice exam?”
“Huh? There was an English practice exam?” Lin Feng asked.
Ouyang looked at Lin Feng in surprise. “What? Did you really not know? We’re supposed to hand in our answers tonight!”
“I forgot!? I think!? Did I even know about the English practice exam? Oh no!” Lin Feng cried out. Then he immediately started working on it.
Sitting at the neighbouring desk, An Xin raised her head and smiled. Well, at least some things never change. Lin Feng is still an idiot. But every once in a while, a very thoughtful and sweet idiot. My idiot… An Xin continued to smile that secret smile as she went back to studying.
Su Xue flew back to Shanghai from Guangzhou two days after Team Shanghai left. But the night before she left, Zong Yao, the executive from Huya TV, invited her to a dinner with a few other well-known streamers and shoutcasters who were from Guangzhou. That had been a big night for Su Xue. It was her foot in the door. She was now officially a part of the shoutcaster circles.
Once Su Xue got back to Shanghai, she started streaming again. And told her viewers all about her experience as a shoutcaster and the dinner. “Guys! The dinner went so well! Mr. Zong Yao introduced me to everyone and told them how much all the viewers liked my shoutcasting! It didn’t hurt that all the other streamers and shoutcasters saw the matches I was commenting on and how great I was. They were all so friendly! You guys wait and see, I might become a really famous professional shoutcaster one day!” Su Xue declared to her streamer.
It goes without saying that her viewers were happy for her. But they were even more happy to have an opportunity to roast her and bring her back down to earth.
「Oh deer! Is she getting big-headed or did they feed her too much?」
「Snofell gettin fat? 」
「Dreans are em-t calories! she must be eating her feelings again!」
「xuexue! You’re already really famous with us! You don’t need more that me, bb!」
「she’s bronze at league, but a Challenger at pipe dreams」
「Maid-chan dreaming of seducing domineering CEO and becoming Misteress!」
「tsk tsk, I almost believed her」
After returning from Guangzhou, Su Xue resumed her regular streaming schedule, which included a daily session of roasting by her viewers. Truthfully, though, all of them were happy to see her face on stream again, and they were glad that her journey as a shoutcaster was going smoothly.
The fact that Su Xue’s viewers had spammed the Collegiate Cup livestream’s chat with phrases like, “SNOWFALL ARMY”, ‘The maid is surprisingly good at casting too!,” and “Su Xue is a streamer too! You can check her out here!” was proof enough of their support.
Su Xue was also aware of this. So, she didn’t get mad when she saw her chat roasting her. “I see you guys really missed me when I was gone for the past few days, huh?”
「u were gone?!?!?」
「Masters don’t notice when the maid is gone!」
「I missed you like a hiker misses a wet sock!」
「We wanted to watch lil bro win! But you showed up there too!」
「we missed lil bro more!」
「yeah! Get lil bro to stream his ranked games some more!」
「maid, stop hogging all the liemight!」
Su Xue finally had enough and rolled her eyes. She said, “Hey, your ‘lil bro’ is busy right now. He’s a high school senior, you know? He has exams to worry about!”
Speaking of which, Lin Feng was completely swamped with homework these past few days, so much so that he had no time for anything else. Not even a free meal. Once Lin Feng got back to Shanghai, Shi Hang, the newly recruited Midlaner of Team Rapids, had called him up to invite him out to dinner.
“Sorry, can’t make it! I have homework!”
“What?” Shi Hang asked, surprised. He refused a free meal!? Lin Feng. Turning down a free dinner? OH! OH! “Hahaha! Right, you have exams, don’t yah? I thought ya were sick for a second there. Can’t see you turning down food otherwise. But no wonder. Or maybe this is a miracle. We should put the news up everywhere. Dark Horse League Talent Lin Feng turns down food to study! Easy 25 million view video! Hahahahahaaha! It’s tough, being a highschooler. Ain’t it, son? ”
Lin Feng ignored Shi Hang’s taunts and hung up, but Shi Hang quickly called him back.
“Hey wait, real talk for a moment. S6 is about to start soon. I’m still trying to get used to the new meta. Want to play some duo queue with me?”
Lin Feng nodded. “Sure, just do my homework and take my exams for me!”
“…” Shi Hang rolled his eyes and hung up this time. High schoolers these days, ain’t no reasoning with them.
Lin Feng thought about what Shi Hang had said after the call. Despite being busy with studying and homework, Lin Feng had kept an eye on what was going on with the new season. The meta was going to change with Season 6. Apart from the release of another marksman and the previously teased Aurelion Sol, Lin Feng had also read about several old champions getting a rework.
The one that caught his attention the most was Graves. The Outlaw was getting a huge change.
Graves was a grumpy looking man puffing on a big cigar and firing 9mm bullets from his shotgun. This suboptimal combination resulted in him not being nearly played as often as Riot Games wanted to see, so they decided to change him up. The first of two major changes was his ammo. The 9mm bullets were replaced with shotgun shells, and since his shotgun was a double-barrel, he could load two shells at a time. What he lost in firing consistency to this change, he gained in power. His auto attacks did more damage and now had a spray effect and knockback effect. Beyond his auto attacks, his Buckshot skill also needed a change. The suboptimal version saw him fire three bullets in a cone from a double-barrel shotgun, which wasn’t very effective. That was why Buckshot was replaced with End of the Line. Graves could fire two shells from his double-barrel shotgun that morphed together into an explosive shell and would fire straight ahead! After two seconds or when the shell struck terrain, like a tree or a tower, it would explode.
The changes to this champion were interesting enough that An Xin relented and let Lin Feng sidetrack her into a conversation about it instead of studying. “He’s not going to be a viable ad-carry anymore, Lin Feng. You can’t play Graves as an ad-carry when he can’t auto attack consistently. This rework doesn’t make much sense to me. Unless…”
Lin Feng jumped in before An Xin finished her thought, “Its about skill, BunBun! If you’ve got skill, I think he’s very playable as an ad-carry.”
An Xin shot him a look. “Not everyone is Maple, dingus. Balance changes and reworks are supposed to make champions more playable for everyone across all tiers! Not just the best players!”
“Fine, fine. You win. He’s not an ad-carry. I’ll play him in mid! The changes make him way more fun!”
“I don’t know about that…” An Xin read through the changes to the champion again and calculated how much damage the new Graves could do and how much damage he could take. “Yeah, I don’t know if he’s good for mid lane. But… he looks like he’d be great as a Jungle champion. Early game damage that scales better than Lee Sin!”
The rest of Team Shanghai had kept up with the new patch notes as well. When they all met up at the internet cafe to blow off some steam and get a little practice in, all of them started talking about the changes to Graves.
“Do you guys think this is a buff or a nerf for Graves?” Zhang Hao asked. He was unsure about how to interpret the changes listed in the new patch notes.
Lin Feng jumped in immediately. He’d been talking about this with BunBun for a day now. “I think it’s a buff, but it looks like you won’t be able to play him as an Ad-Carry anymore.”
Tang Bingyao tilted her head, perplexed. “Mhm? Not an Ad-Carry anymore?” She’d played a few games with the new Graves recently, and noticed how much more difficult it was to play with Graves. And how awkward it was to wait for Graves to reload after firing two shots.
An Xin laughed. “Very astute, Lin Feng! Did you figure that out all on your own? You’re not just telling them what I said yesterday? But he is right, guys. The new Graves is looking like a Jungler.”
“We can test it out ourselves,” Zeng Rui suggested. He had his own opinions about the changes for Season 6. Especially the massive buff to ad-carry champions. If Season 5 was the League of Top Lane, Season 6 was shaping up to be the era of Ad-Carry dominance.
“The bot lane is going to be even more important now,” Zeng Rui remarked. For a support main like him, this was both good and bad news. The good news didn’t need to be elaborated, but the bad was because it meant the bot lane was going to become even more chaotic.
Lin Feng laughed and patted Tang Bingyao’s shoulder. “So Tang Tang has to try even harder. She’s going to be our carry in the future!’
Tang Bingyao nodded firmly. She’d understood what was happening after reading the patch notes, and she’d also experienced how much stronger champions like Corki and Ashe were on the new patch.
“It’s a shame that the Collegiate Cup is going to continue with the Season 5 patch. We won’t get to play with the new changes,” Lin Feng said with a sigh. Then his smile perked right back up. “It’s fine! Once we win the Collegiate Cup, we’ll get to play the new patch in other tournaments!”
An Xin rolled her eyes. ‘Idiot. How about we focus on the Collegiate Cup first before thinking about other tournaments?”
“No need! We’ll win for sure! I’m the protagonist, remember? I can’t lose!”
An Xin narrowed her eyes and smiled. “Oh, is that so? You can’t lose? Why does the hero need to sit around studying then? I’m guessing that you’re all prepared for the exams, right? Maybe because you already took them in a previous timeline and then went back to the past to set things right? What’s this webnovel called again? Rebirth of the Maple Who Rose to Fail His Exams?”
Lin Feng’s expression immediately changed and he grumbled. “Hey, BunBun! Don’t bring that up!”