Maple. That name held a special significance to everyone who was involved in the Chinese Esports scene back during the League of Legends Season 1 World Championships. That name was enshrined in all their hearts.
Back then, Maple was the unquestionable number one Midlaner in all of China. He was also the Captain of the strongest competitive League of Legends team in China. He was the first to lead a Chinese team all the way to the World Championships. Once there, he defeated many powerful European and North American teams to make it all the way to the Finals. Teams who were all considered real contenders for the Finals and the eventual Championship. During these battles, Maple proved that he was truly a world class player who could go toe-to-toe with Han “Rake” Seho, and other players of that caliber. Maple broke records, won titles, and had a nearly endless laundry list of accomplishments.
For all of the old Chinese players who were around to witness his meteoric rise, Maple represented hope. Especially these days, when China was still suffering from a string of defeats in the most recent World Championships. Maple was a dream, an idle fantasy that many of these old players ruminated on frequently these days. They wondered if China could rise again, if the genius Midlaner Maple would return to once again create a miracle.
When people like Chu Fang, Fang Hao, and Shi Hang saw Lin Feng’s return, saw Maple’s return, they were both ecstatic and brimming with anticipation to watch him pull off another miracle. Maple was the herald of a new and glorious era of Chinese Esports. Which is exactly why Chu Feng was so concerned about someone prematurely figuring out who Lin Feng was prior to the Finals of the Collegiate Cup. And also why Lin Songshi’s question and tone completely threw Chu Feng off.
None of the tension up on stage was apparent to the audience members below. They were still cheering and screaming “WIN FENG!” as they celebrated the end of a truly electrifying Collegiate Cup. Lin Songshi wasn’t wearing a microphone, so no one could hear his conversation with Lin Feng besides the members of Team Shanghai who were standing on stage with them.
The tension and awkwardness between Lin Songshi and Lin Feng intensified as the question hung in the air between them. Lin Feng looked at the ground again as he considered how to answer. Why did I come back? I didn’t want to come back. For years. I didn’t want to be back at all. But… I have a dream now! I have a reason for all of this! Lin Feng was silent as he considered everything that happened since the Season 1 World Championships to this moment. And then he finally had an answer to Lin Songshi’s question. He looked up with fire in his eyes and said, “To rise! I’m going to climb over my regrets, my mistakes, my past, and everyone else in my way! I’m going to get to the very top and grab my dream!” His tone was calm, but the determination in his voice was unmistakable. After he finished answering, he raised his fist into the air.
The audience, still completely unaware of what was going on stage, went wild and cheered Lin Feng on even more as they saw the gesture.
Rise above his regrets?
Zeng Rui, Tang Bingyao, Zhang Hao, An Xin and Chu Fang all heard Lin Feng’s answer, and that was the single thought on all their minds. They heard Lin Feng say he wanted to rise above his regrets, and they thought they understood what that meant. Lin Feng regretted his defeat at the hands of Han “Rake” Seho back during the Finals of the Season 1 League of Legends World Championships. The Finals where he lost 2-3. As far as they understood, what other regrets could a player like Maple have? It was simple and straightforward in their minds.
Lin Songshi, on the other hand, understood something completely different from Lin Feng’s answer. He looked down into Lin Feng’s eyes with a thin, mocking smile and asked, “Oh? You think that this is your moment to take to the skies? That you’ll prove yourself and rise? You think you can make them remember you and rise? You think you can push through hell and rise?”
Zhang Hao’s eyes widened out of shock when Lin Songshi first started speaking. But they narrowed and flickered with rage by the end. He didn’t know much about the President of the Chinese Esports Association, but any respect he had for Lin Songshi was on the verge of disappearing. What the fuck is this guy on? He should be happy that Lin Feng is coming back! Instead, he’s standing there making fun of MAPLE like a douche!
The lines on Zeng Rui’s forehead grew deeper and deeper with every word that came out of Lin Songshi’s mouth. He’s crossing the line here… President of the Chinese Esports Association or not, he’s definitely way over the line… But something isn’t right here. Why would someone of Lin Songshi’s position and status speak to a player like that? Especially during an Awards Ceremony in full view of the public? He’s responsible for maintaining the image of the Chinese Esports Association. Not to mention his own. I’m missing something here.
The same thoughts ran through Chu Fang’s head at the moment. As far as he knew, Lin Songshi was someone that conducted himself with the utmost grace to avoid disgracing the name of the Chinese Esports Association. More importantly, everything I’ve heard about Lin Songshi from the old days to today always talked about how supportive he was to players. I can’t think of a single time when Lin Songshi talked down to someone like this! SOMETHING IS VERY WRONG HERE, CHU FANG! DO SOMETHING!
Lin Feng and Lin Songshi continued their conversation, ignoring the reactions of everyone else up on the stage.
After Lin Songshi’s biting words, Lin Feng paused. Then he shook his head slowly, “I’m not sure-sure,” he answered honestly. He paused for a brief half a second, then added, “But I’m still going to try!” His tone contained unwavering determination and confidence.
Lin Songshi’s mocking smirk turned even more severe, and the look in his eyes turned sharp and piercing. “Oh? Because you won this… Collegiate Cup Championship? Now Maple is back and ready to knock down Rake?”
Lin Feng continued looking Lin Songshi right in the eyes and replied, “Of course not. Just keep watching. You’ll see!”
The tension in the air between them continued to intensify. But the initial awkwardness shifted towards aggressiveness. The heat was palpable. This was most definitely not a conversation between someone receiving an award and someone presenting an award. Everything about this exchange was strange. It looked more like an argument between a disapproving elder and a rebellious teenager than a very public award ceremony on a stage in front of a roaring crowd of spectators.
Chu Fang and the other members of Team Shanghai were stunned and confused. But it was clear enough that they didn’t have enough information to butt into this situation, so they stayed out and continued to let it play out.
Lin Songshi’s eyes narrowed as he glared down at Lin Feng.
Lin Feng met Lin Songshi’s gaze without backing down, his eyes filled with a rare intensity and the stubbornness apparent on his face.
After a few seconds of this, Lin Songshi blinked and looked over at the other members of Team Shanghai. All traces of the mockery and anger from a few moments ago were completely gone and he had a kind and polite smile on his face. “All of you played fantastic in your games today! Congratulations on winning the championship! You absolutely deserve this victory and trophy!”
Zhang Hao, Zeng Rui, and Tang Bingyao were taken aback by this sudden shift and warmth. They quickly mumbled out thanks and fell silent.
Then Lin Songshi look at An Xin. His expression softened, and his smile became wider as he said, “BunBun, your Lee Sin in that last game was fantastic.”
An Xin smiled. “ You’re flattering me, Uncle Lin! But thank you!.”
Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao were shook. All three of their eyes popped open at the same time. And they all had the same exact thought running through their heads. BunBun and Lin Songshi know each other?!?
Lin Songshi smiled and continued addressing An Xin, “I must say, I was very surprised to see you here. Never would I have expected to see you playing in this tournament.”
An Xin smiled. “Haha! Yeah, Lin Feng. He dragged me into this, and someone needs to look after him.”
Lin Songshi turned his attention back to Lin Feng. His expression relaxed a little, and he asked, “Would you like to come to dinner with me tonight? We can catch up and continue discussing your… plans.”
The twists and turns and surprises from this brief Award Ceremony were too much for Zhang Hao. His eyes turned vacant and glazed over. He had fainted standing up.
Tang Bingyao’s jaw dropped.
The vein on Zeng Rui’s forehead throbbed violently and his eyelid started twitching again.
Chu Fang’s expression was also filled with shock.
Lin Feng had gotten into an intense exchange with Lin Songshi, one that had not been resolved or explained, thirty seconds ago. And now the President of the Chinese Esports Association was inviting him to dinner! As far as most of Team Shanghai understood, they understood nothing of what happened in the last few minutes. Nothing made sense!
Lin Feng’s eyes sparkled after hearing the word dinner. The thought of food had completely changed the atmosphere between him and Lin Songshi. But then he quickly shook his head and said, “I’d never turn down a meal… but I’m already going to go get hotpot with BunBun and the rest of the team. We always celebrate winning with a meal!”
Zhang Hao’s eyes almost popped out of his sockets. My god! Lin Feng, you actually refused an invitation from the President of the Chinese Esports Association! That takes some balls! Shit, I hope he doesn’t get offended…
Lin Songshi politely chuckled at Lin Feng’s refusal and smiled, “That’s completely fine. My apologies. I should have considered that you’d want to celebrate with your team and made plans already. But aside from that, you still won the Collegiate Cup Championship. Congratulations on this victory.”
Lin Feng politely nodded and replied, “Thanks, Uncle.” His tone held no sincerity or warmth.
Chu Fang, Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and Tang Bingyao were floored again. U-UCNLE!? The word exploded in their ears and minds like a bomb.