Su Xue stretched out in her chair and yawned loudly. She could hear Lin Feng running around the apartment looking for his things and getting ready. And just when it looked like he had everything, he double checked his bag and thought of something he’d forgotten. Another round of running followed, until he stood with his bag in front of her and said, “I’m out! See ya!”
“Face mask?” Su Xue asked.
Lin Feng halted. He bit on his lips and tapped his chin, then slapped himself in the face and put his bag down again. “Woops!” he said before running to his bedroom again and getting his facemask. When he got back, he looked at Su Xue and said, “I’m out! See ya for real this time!”
“Keys?” Su Xue asked.
Lin Feng’s eyes grew round and wide. “Uhhh,” he stammered, scratching the back of his head. “Guess I can’t forget those… heh, heh.” He felt around in his pockets, then ran back to his bedroom and threw it upside down in search of his keys.
“Lin Feng?” Su Xue loudly said through the apartment. She waited for his head to pop around the door, then pointed at the fruit bowl on the table and said, “I think you threw them in there a while back.”
“Of course! That’s where I left them! I completely forgot!” Lin Feng exclaimed. He grabbed his keys and before turning to look at Su Xue. He grinned and said, “Thanks! I’m out for reals this time! See ya!” And then he sprinted for the front door.
Su Xue smiled and replied, “Have fun. See you tonight—” She could hear the front door slam shut. Guess he’s gone. Heh! She looked at the dishes on the table before turning towards her bedroom. Nap a bit more and then clean, or clean and then nap? I’ma hate myself when I have to clean after waking up. But I’m so tired… Why do I always have to go so over the top with food? I spent 3 hours this morning cooking for the kid and he was done in 3 minutes! She chuckled and gathered the bowls and chopsticks. Love to see how excited he gets though. Clean and then nap and then another long night of streaming! Yush!
Team Shanghai had to prepare for the next round of the Winter Collegiate Cup. That meant that during practice there was no goofing around with the new Graves. Everyone played in their normal roles on the Champions they needed to practice for the different strategies and team comps An Xin and Zeng Rui had come up with. And after every game, the two of them would sit the rest down and go over every aspect of the game, both big and small, and point out what went well and what they still had to work on. It was a long day of hard work.
The sun was gone by the time Team Shanghai finished. They’d played a total of 9 games, each followed by lengthy discussions about what worked and what didn’t work. Lin Feng listened for a good while, even contributed a bit here and there, but eventually he felt they were overthinking things. He believed that intuition and trust weren’t something you could plan; they were skills that had to be honed through practice. So when Zeng Rui went on another tangent about how Tang Bingyao could trust him following one of three set paths when he pinged on the right side of the bottom lane, he put his hand up and asked, “Do you know who we’re playing against yet, ZengZeng?”
“Uh, what? I… What?” Zeng Rui said, his train of thoughts collapsing.
“The Winter Collegiate Cup,” Lin Feng said. “Who are we playing next?”
Zeng Rui looked at Lin Feng and narrowed his eyes. He said, “I was just explaining to Tang Tang—”
“You can’t plan for everything! Just trust her! She’s got this!” Lin Feng interrupted. He then turned to look at Tang Bingyao and said, “Right?”
Tang Bingyao nodded slowly and replied, “Mhm… I think. Yeah.”
Zeng Rui took a long, deep breath and massaged his temples. We need to be ready and, and… He turned to look at An Xin, who was smiling that knowing smile at him. I went on for too long, didn’t I? He glanced at the clock on his computer and saw that it was already well past 6 P.M. Oh. Time really did fly. Maybe we should break… He took another deep breath and then said, “The next round is the quarterfinals. Eight teams are remaining. There is us. And then there’s Team Beijing, the Beijing University of Science and Technology, Shenyang University of Engineering, Fudan University and Zhejiang University. They made up the top 4 in the last Collegiate Cup. The other two teams are Wuhan University and China University of Political Science and Law.
“Now the teams we really need to watch out for… First of all there is Team Beijing. We saw them play in Guangzhou and they were really strong. That Yu Ping who got the quadra on the Riven— No, Lin Feng, I don’t care if you got a penta. He got a quadra and his team is strong. We’re going to take them seriously. Anyway, where was I? Right! We also need to watch out for U-Tech Beijing and Shenyang University. The others aren’t weak teams either, but these three are looking to be our biggest competition,” Zeng Rui concluded.
Tang Bingyao nodded and asked, “How strong do you think they are? Like A-? If I play well…”
Zeng Rui shook his head and replied, “No. I’m expecting them to have hit grade A. That means that their ad-carries are going to be really good, as will their Toplaners and every other player on their teams.” He briefly paused and looked at his four teammates before continuing, “It’s going to be difficult, guys. We can’t get complacent. We need to train as long and as hard as we can and hope that that is enough to get the advantage over these guys.”
“Zeng Rui is right,” An Xin said. She smiled and continued, “We really need to work hard to be ready for the next round. But we’ve already played a lot today. How about a break for dinner? We can order some takeout and just chill a bit, then practice some more when we’re done eating.”
“Chicken cutlet! Ain’t I right, Lin Feng!?” Zhang Hao suggested, laughing.
Lin Feng grinned, but then scratched the back of his head and said, “Uh, yeah… It’s just… I’ve already got plans tonight. And… well, since its getting kinda late, I really need to start heading over there!”
An Xin raised her eyebrows and looked at Lin Feng, who was throwing his things into his bag, hurried. He always looks excited when there’s food on the menu and now he’s refusing food and still looks excited! He’s going to get food. But with whom? And where? Hmm… I’ll figure it out later. She sighed and said, “That’s okay. The rest of us can still eat together and then practice some more.”
Shi Hang had spent every minute of every hour he wasn’t practicing with his new team spamming Lin Feng’s phone, asking Lin Feng to please go out to dinner with him. That was how Lin Feng experienced it, anyway. But Lin Feng had good reasons to turn Shi Hang down. “I can’t! I’ve got exams and I can’t screw them up!” “BunBun will get really mad with me if I don’t study with her and Tang Tang!” “They’re forcing me to sit in between them and then they both grab my arms!” “It’s like I’m in shackles here!”
When the exams for High School 13 had ended, Lin Feng no longer had any excuse to refuse. But he also really didn’t want to have dinner with Shi Hang alone. He just couldn’t understand the appeal of two people eating together. No matter how he looked at it, it always looked boring. A man and a woman, or two men or two women… The combination didn’t matter; all that mattered was that when he saw them sitting together at their table, staring deep into each other’s eyes, they always looked so bored! He wasn’t going to let that happen between him and Shi Hang, so he invited Tian Tian to come as well.
Tian Tian was more than happy to tag along, mostly for the food but also to see two of his old friends again. He was already waiting at the restaurant with Shi Hang when Lin Feng appeared around the corner. A smile blossomed on his face. His heart skipped a beat. “LIN FENG!” he hollered, waving.
“FATTY!” Lin Feng shouted back.
The two old friends, best friends, ran at each other. Fatty’s layers of fat jiggled up and down with every step until he embraced Lin Feng in a big bearhug. He said through heavy breaths, “LIN FENG! I… I MISSED YOU SO MUCH!”
“Missed you too, bud!” Lin Feng replied, laughing. He’d chatted a bit with Tian Tian over the last couple of weeks. But due to his exams and Tian Tian’s busy schedule, it wasn’t much more than a “Hi” here and a “How are you” there.
Shi Hang chuckled and said, “Now kiss!”
“No way! We ain’t gay!” Lin Feng exclaimed, grinning. He let go of Tian Tian and looked past him at Shi Hang. He asked, “I heard you’re back on Team Rapids. What’s it like to play for your old team again? Happy to see all your friends from back then again?”
Shi Hang raised his shoulders and replied, “Not really seeing much of them, to be honest. Most of them quit. There’s only like two guys left in upper management, but I never really knew them. My team is all new.”
“So you get to make new friends!” Lin Feng cheered.
Tian Tian nodded and added, “Lin Feng is right! Y-you need to make friends. Knowing each other well and trusting each other is what really makes a team!”
Shi Hang rolled his eyes and replied, “Yeah, yeah. I get it. That’s enough out of you two. I invited you guys to talk about the good old times, not to nag me about my new teammates!”
The trio walked into the restaurant and started by ordering dessert. Tian Tian argued that it was healthy to start a meal with icecream and Lin Feng was more than happy to follow with that belief. They spent the next couple of minutes chatting about the old times, but then the topic shifted to current events. The new LPL season had started together with the release of the Season 6 patch. Shi Hang and Tian Tian had even played their first match against each other and they would go at each other again a couple of days later.
Tian Tian poked the icecream with his chopsticks and said, “Team Rapids is a lot stronger this season. T-they’re not at KG’s level yet, but they’re good. Once Shi Hang gets settled in, I-I can see them making it all the way to the top 4! Think of that! B-both of us at Worlds this year!”
Shi Hang waved his hand and replied, “It’s still far too early to tell! I’m just trying to fit in with the team right now. We’ll have to see how that pans out before we start thinking about qualifying for Worlds.” He briefly paused, his lips curling up and his eyes starting to shine, and then added, “But I’ll try and become the best Midlaner in China again! And qualifying for Worlds would be really cool!”
Lin Feng snorted and said, “Until I get back. Then you’re back to second best!”
“You worry about getting back first!” Shi Hang replied, laughing and winking at Lin Feng.
“Yeah!” Tian Tian chimed in. He turned his head to look at Lin Feng and asked, “When are you coming back? I’m still waiting. I guess you first have to win your tournament, right? How far are you now? Quarterfinals yet? Or still Round of 16?”
Lin Feng grinned and replied, “Quarterfinals! We did really well in the Round of 16 and stomped Team Guangzhou! You should’ve seen it! I got two pentas! Now we’re just a few matches away from winning the tournament!”
Shi Hang clicked his tongue and said, “What are you bragging about? You’re the one, the only, you’re mister legendary himself! What? You wanna tell me Maple is proud of winning some damn uni tournament? Come on, dude, you’re better than that. I’d worry more about not winning. I mean, you’re Maple. If you lose, just think about the stain on my legacy! Me losing to some random nobody in a uni tournament!”
Tian Tian snorted in laughter, the beer in his mouth fighting its way up his nose and out. He yelped in pain and grabbed his nose, then started laughing again. Tears appeared in his eyes as he pointed at Lin Feng and then at Shi Hang. He said, “S-stain on Shi Hang’s legacy! Lin Feng poops on Shi Ha— Haha!”
Lin Feng narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, but then started grinning again. He rubbed his chin, acting like he was thinking long and hard, and finally said, “I think we might have some trouble, yeah. It’s like… We don’t have the most balanced team and Team Beijing does. Tang Tang in bot is still getting better and better, but she isn’t up there yet, you know? And then we’ve got our Toplaner, HaoBro. He’s a great dude but he’s just not the most talented player ever. I think he’s going to have a really hard time against Team Beijing’s Toplaner. And then it’s going to come down to me to pick up the slack in bot and top while I also have to win mid— Wait.” He turned his head to look at Tian Tian and asked, “Are you busy later tonight?”