Chu Fang shook his head and said, “Fuck me.”
Lin Feng looked up from his laptop and asked, “Hmm?”
“This game. The one you’re playing,” Chu Fang explained, nodding at the laptop. “You’re carrying hard in Korean Challenger and then you get matched with… whatever that ad-carry is.”
Lin Feng shrugged and replied, “Can’t win them all. Two wins and a loss isn’t half bad. Just a shame that I’ll lose so much LP from one loss. That’s going to take another game to make up for…”
Chu Fang watched Lin Feng. How he sat up straight in his chair, his shoulders engaged and his hands moving smoothly. How he licked his lip a bit early in the laning phase and how he scrunched his eyebrows when this last game moved to the teamfight stage. How his breathing remained calm and even, even when his teammates screwed up and lost him the game. This is the staple of Maple. He’s all fun and games until it gets serious. The first two games he was still laughing, but this last one… This was Maple, even if he did lose. He can do it. He’ll make the top 5! And when he does… Life’s gonna be good! He grinned and glanced at his watch. His eyes then grew wide. “Shit!” he exclaimed. “Lin Feng, end the game. It’s over anyway. We need to go! It’s almost 5!”
“Oh?” Lin Feng replied, looking up at Chu Fang again.
“I’ll call BunBun and the others,” Chu Fang said, pulling out his phone and stabbing his finger at the touchscreen. He glanced at Lin Feng and added, “Just surrender and put your laptop away. We’re leaving in 30 seconds!”
The Beijing Esports Association had made an attempt to replicate the grand scene from Guangzhou. But they didn’t have the location. The Chaoyang Sports Centre that they eventually went with was similar in size to the Tianhe Stadium, but it lacked in capacity and aesthetics. But to the players from Team Shanghai, it was still a stunning sight. The soundproof booths in which they were going to play were of the highest quality, with top of the line computers and gaming chairs.
“So cool!” Zhang Hao exclaimed.
“I know right!?” Lin Feng chimed in. He looked around and continued, “Look at all those people running around just so we can play our game! They’re all working for us basically!”
An Xin glanced at Lin Feng and narrowed her eyes, her lips curving up. She asked, “Working for us? Are you going to ask them to bring you foo—”
“Great idea!” Lin Feng replied, grinning.
“Idiot,” An Xin said. She then turned her head to look at Chu Fang and asked, “Everyone here is working for the Beijing Esports Association?”
Chu Fang nodded and explained, “Correct. The Collegiate Cup, like the Shanghai 16 School Tournament, is a tournament organized by the Chinese Esports Association. The Guangzhou branch took care of the phase in Guangzhou and Beijing is now in charge for the final stage of the tournament here. And we were responsible for the East China Regionals. It’s always like this.”
“OhOhOh!” Zhang Hao interjected, putting his hand up. He waited for everyone to look at him and then continued, “I heard— read that the Beijing Esports Association is also giving the trophee! Their boss is, I mean! He’s like the biggest big shot in the Chinese Esports Association people are saying on the interwebs! He’s going to come and give us the trophy when we win!”
Lin Feng stopped, his feet locked to the ground and his eyes growing round and wide. Tang Bingyao bumped into him from behind, but he didn’t notice it. He slowly turned his head to look at Zhang Hao and opened his mouth, the words on the tip of his tongue, when Tang Bingyao groaned and asked, “Why did you stop?”
“Eh, oh…” Lin Feng scratched the back of his head, laughing awkwardly. He looked around at his teammates and pursed his lips together. I’ll just not say it! That’s the easier way! BunBun also likes to keep secrets, and if she does, I should too! He grinned in his usual cheerful way and said, “My leg felt a little numb, so I tried to shake it out by standing still! Sorry! Big woops!”
“Hmm?” Tang Bingyao mumbled, raising an eyebrow in confusion. He’s only ever like this when… She chewed on her lips and tilted her head. He isn’t hiding something again, is he? Mnh-mnh! He wouldn’t! …Would he? She narrowed her eyes and searched Lin Feng’s demeanor for an explanation, but the moment was gone. He was his normal self again. I’ll have to keep an eye on this… Mhm!
Chu Fang sighed loudly and lectured, “Dammit, Lin Feng! I told you to take a nap! But you sat in that uncomfortable chair all afternoon playing League! It’s no surprise your leg is numb! Is your back hurting too? Do we need to hire a chiropractor to crack your back?”
“N-no-No-Nooo,” Lin Feng replied, shaking his head. “No cracking my back! I still need to play League!”
“You’ll go to bed early and sleep it off then?” Chu Fang continued.
Lin Feng nodded confidently and patted his chest. He replied, “Scout’s honour!”
An Xin watched it all play out quietly from the sidelines. She shook her head and mumbled almost imperceptibly, “Idiot.” She then took a long, deep breath. They don’t know what’s bothering you. But I’m not them. You’re not hiding it from me, Lin Feng. I know how you feel. How you really feel.
The Beijing Esports Association hadn’t prepared the draw for the quarterfinals yet. So after registering, Team Shanghai left the venue and wandered through the streets of Beijing. They eventually stopped in front of what looked like a back alley. Lin Feng pointed inside and told them there was a really good restaurant just hiding around the corner. He got a couple of worried looks, but everyone followed him. What they found was a patio with a half dozen tables and some of the best food they’d eaten to date.
With full stomachs, Team Shanghai left the small restaurant and went in search of an internet cafe to practice. Zhang Hao asked if they were going to scrim against Zhejiang University again, but Zeng Rui explained that since the odds were high they had to play Zhejiang University, it was better not to practice against them. An Xin chimed in that they had to keep a couple of aces up their sleeves.
Team Shanghai found an internet cafe with a free private room and started their practice. They logged into their League accounts and then turned to An Xin, waiting for her speech. She gave a couple of ideas she wanted to try out, followed by some personal tips. They then started their first game of the night, during which Zeng Rui took the reins and told the team how he wanted them to play. A second game followed soon after. And it was during this second game that Chu Fang received the message they’d all been waiting for.
Chu Fang showed his phone to the others and said, “Look! We know who we gotta play against!”
“Already?” Lin Feng asked, turning his head away from the game he was playing. He continued, “That was quick! Who are we playing? WhoWhoWho?”
“Not the worst draw…” Chu Fang mumbled. He took a deep breath and then said, “Our opponents are the runners-up from the previous edition—”
“Shenyang University,” Zeng Rui interrupted.
Chu Fang nodded and said, “It’s not too bad, really. They’re strong no doubt, but at the same time they’re no Team Beijing or U-Tech Beijing. This is pretty much the best average scenario for us.”
“What are you guys bitching about?” Lin Feng asked, confused. He looked at the pensive expressions of Chu Fang and Zeng Rui and then said, “Who cares about some second rate team? We’re playing for the championship title. If we start worrying about this shitty team, then why are we even here!? I say we stop worrying and start stomping!”
An Xin giggled behind her hand and said a moment later, “Lin Feng is right, you know? We stomped Team Guangzhou and Shenyang University is only a bit worse than them. So we should just stomp them too!”
“Of course we’re going to stomp them,” Zeng Rui said. He took a deep, long breath and massaged his temples before adding, “But we need to practice and be prepared to stomp them. Just saying it won’t make it happen. So how about we stop chatting and start focusing on the game we’re playing right now!? They’re in our base because we’ve been sitting in the fountain!”
It was the 28th day of the year. A Thursday. Su Xue woke up to her alarm buzzing. She opened her eyes, drowsy and looked at the time. 8 A.M. Why did I… Why am I getting up at 8? Oh! Right! SHIT! She jumped from her bed and ran to the bathroom, rambling, “Brush my teeth under shower. A bit of soap. Some quick makeup. Nothing fancy. Quick bite to eat. Just a sandwich. ShitShitShit! Where’s my phone? Did the game start yet? Did it start. Shower first. First a shower, Su Xue.”
Su Xue had her toothbrush in her mouth and the shower was heating up. She threw her pyjamas on the floor and took one step into the shower cabine when she paused. Do I…? Yeah I do. She got out again and hurried through the apartment to get her phone. On the way back to the bathroom, she searched for a stream of the Winter Collegiate Cup and finally confirmed Lin Feng wasn’t playing yet. U-Tech Beijing was playing against Wuhan University, and they were 2-1 up.
Soap and toothpaste washed down the drain as Su Xue jumped out of the shower cabine. She grabbed a towel and, still wet, ran through the apartment to her bedroom to search for her clothes. Loud cheers sounded behind her and she knew U-Tech Beijing had just won their series. Lin Feng was up next. She still had to have breakfast, get dressed, open her stream… “Shit! I’m never going to make it!” she complained. She then chewed on her lips, hesitating briefly, before running back to the bathroom to grab her phone and order some chicken cutlet. Lin Feng lives on this stuff, so it can’t be too bad, right?
Su Xue finally sat down behind her computer, dressed and with a chicken cutlet, steam twisting and twirling up. She turned her stream on and announced on her various social media she was live. Viewers started streaming in, from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands. When there were more than 40,000 with her, she clenched her fists and shouted, “GO LIN FENG! TO THE FINALS! WOOOOOOO!”
「AYYYYY LIL BRO FOR THE CARRY!」
「SHOW US THE WIN FENG LIN FENG!!!!」
「sooooo excited! I never get up before noon, but TODAY I DID!!!!」
「this gonna be liiiiiiiit!!」
「gunna be a 3-0 stomp. Who wanna bet me? I do $10k on WIIIIIIIN FENG AND THE GANG!!!」
“Shut up, shut up! It’s starting!” Su Xue said to the camera.