The Collegiate Cup had ended and the Stadium emptied. Team Shanghai decided to celebrate their victory with a meal, and they went straight to the restaurant from the Stadium. And so, later on that evening, the members of Team Shanghai found themselves gathered around a traditional Beijing style Hot Pot.
But there was no yelling around that table, no splashing of hot broth, no stealing of various bits of meat from each other’s plates. The atmosphere was strangely subdued. They didn’t look like a group of people who were celebrating winning a major tournament. If anything, Team Shanghai looked like Team Beijing. It was not a dinner ravished with the vigor of victory. They were eating like this was their sad consolation prize for having gotten all the way to the Finals and losing. Everyone on Team Shanghai picked up meats and vegetables and placed them into the broth. They took out bits of cooked food and put it on their plates. And they ate whatever food was on their plates. But every action was stiff and mechanical. Not a single person savored the food, or looked like they were enjoying the company. An awkwardness hung heavy over the entire team, and they were all stealing glances at Lin Feng before looking at each other. No one said anything.
The elephant in the room was, obviously, more of Lin Feng’s backstory that was revealed during the Awards Ceremony. No one on Team Shanghai understood how to process it or what to make of the revelation. The President of the Chinese Esports Association was Lin Feng’s Uncle! It was hard to believe and beyond shocking!
Zeng Rui, Zhang Hao, and the others were still shook and reeling from trying to put all of this together. This entire day felt like an odd dream to them. First they won the Collegiate Cup, then they learned more of Lin Feng’s incredible history. Not only was he Maple, one of the giants who built the Chinese Esports scene, but his Uncle was the President of the Chinese Esports Association. Lin Feng apparently belonged to some enormous and secret Esports Dynasty! The sheer coincidence was inconceivable.
Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao looked at each other, at the complex mixture of emotions and questions swirling in each other’s eyes. Every day revealed new information and raised new questions about Lin Feng. But foremost was the relationship between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi.
Zeng Rui gave Zhang Hao a strong look and slightly shook his head to say no. Don’t bring it up, Zhang Hao! I want to know about what’s going on between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi too, but not now. Don’t do it! The way they talked to each other at the Awards… that was not normal. There’s obviously bad blood between them and we don’t know enough about this situation or how it affected Lin Feng to bring it up. Don’t say anything! Zeng Rui moved his head from side to side again while staring at Zhang Hao the whole time.
Zhang Hao nodded. He’d understood what Zeng Rui was trying to communicate, and started eating whatever food was in front of him again.
Tang Bingyao noticed Zeng Rui and Zhang Hao looking at each other and nodding. She knew what they were thinking about because she was thinking the exact same thing. She looked at Zeng Rui and then quickly looked at An Xin, and back to Zeng Rui. He nodded back. Tang Bingyao, Zeng Rui, and Zhang silently agreed that they’d go find An Xin later to learn more about Lin Songshi and Lin Feng.
On the other side of the table, Chu Fang was mulling over the same thing. Lin Songshi and Lin Feng… this could explain a lot of what happened during the Season 1 World Championships. But Lin Feng is clearly mad at Lin Songshi for something, and Lin Songshi wasn’t particularly warm towards Lin Feng. There’s a lot more to this story… I need to figure it out before it becomes a problem. Lin Feng… no. Maple is coming back and that’s going to change everything for us! I need to talk to Fang Hao and find out what he knows about the situation between Lin Feng and Lin Songshi. He already knew something like this was going to happen. I need to find out what I can to make sure nothing gets in Lin Feng’s way!
Everyone around the table continued to eat quietly while glancing at each other from time to time, and then looking at Lin Feng when they thought he wouldn’t notice. This elephant in the room had become an unofficial and unasked for member of Team Shanghai.
The elephant was clearly making everyone uncomfortable. Except for Lin Feng. He was calm but quiet as he ate his food. It was out of character for him, but in a different way from everyone else. Lin Feng didn’t look disturbed or angry or upset. He didn’t even notice everyone else’s expressions or their quick glances and silent conversations. He didn’t even notice them looking at him. By all appearances, Lin Feng didn’t seem to notice that the elephant in the room existed and made no attempts to elaborate on what happened at the Awards Ceremony or answer the questions swirling around in his teammates’ minds. He just quietly buried his head in his food and ate quickly.
And that was the weirdest part of the night. Lin Feng always ate quickly, but he ate with gusto and joy. None of that was present at this moment. None of Lin Feng’s customary delight at eating delicious food was on display. He wasn’t yelling or celebrating. It didn’t even look like he knew what he was eating. This was one of those rare few moments where food was not important to Lin Feng. He was not eating because the flavors tickled his taste buds and warmed his heart. He was eating today to replenish his energy. Because he had one more difficult task to accomplish before this night ended.
Lin Feng still had to climb the Korean Challenger Ladder and make it into the Top Five. That was the only thing on his mind during this dinner. He glanced at a clock while reaching for some more food, and his chopsticks paused for a moment in mid-air. Pure unadulterated intensity flashed in his eyes for a moment as he thought, Not much time left! But I gave One my word that I’d get this done, so I’m going to get this done! I don’t break promises!
Team Shanghai returned to their hotel immediately after dinner. Chu Fang dropped them all off and left to finish the final few administrative details required for the end of the Collegiate Cup. Lin Feng went straight to his room. It was 7 PM. Lin Feng sat down in front of his laptop and logged into the CN•HOOK2 account on the Korean Server. He clicked on the profile page for the account and checked his ranking on the Ladder. He was still sitting in 11th place. A single step away from the Top 10.
Lin Feng closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then he exhaled slowly and opened his eyes. He was completely focused now, and the intensity in his eyes continued to grow sharper. Alright. Let’s get started!
Lin Feng clicked on the play button and started his final summit to the very top of the Korean Challenger ladder.
6 PM. League of Legends players across China were all glued to their screens, talking on every League forum and chat about the LPL match that had just taken place that afternoon. Obviously, the focus of the conversation revolved around Team Rapids and AyDeeCee.
AyDeeCee’s second match after his return to the LPL created a complex swirl of emotions in all of these League enthusiasts. An old player, someone who hit his prime four years ago and retired from the Esports scene had come back and proven that he was just as good today as he was back then! The veterans in the community glowed in nostalgia and pride that one of their own had come back, and the newfrogs couldn’t help themselves from developing a new respect for AyDeeCee and the rest of the players from that era.
That said, it was only a single match. The victory didn’t have much impact on the fate of either team over the course of the entire Spring Split. But that wasn’t the important thing here. No one on the League forums really cared much about the outcome of the match or the Spring Split.
The important thing was that they had witnessed the return of another top player! There was another star Midlaner in the LPL now, and the overall competitiveness of the LPL would rise! None of this was up for debate.
But there was a question related to it that was currently being hotly debated on the forums. Exactly how good was AyDeeCee? As far as the tier list went, Daybreak Hermes was at the top. He was S-Tier, China’s number one Midlaner. There was no one else up there with him. In the A-Tier, there were a few Midlaners from the other top LPL teams.
That tier system was the center of the debate. According to one camp, AyDeeCee logically belonged to the A-Tier. But there was a newly emerged camp that believed that AyDeeCee belonged in the S-Tier, right alongside Hermes. An even more vocal faction within that camp argued that the title of China’s Number One Midlaner now belonged to AyDeeCee because he now appeared to be even better than he was four years ago.
Unfortunately, these people were in the minority. After all, this was only one game. It was too early to tell anything. Even if AyDeeCee had played an amazing LeBlanc today, that was far from enough to earn him the title of Number One.
Hermes had only earned the title after proving himself to the entire world and becoming China’s sole King..
And so, the debate between these two camps raged endlessly across the League Fan Sphere. Interestingly enough, there was a neutral faction between both camps that came to a common understanding. They believed that AyDeeCee had proven that he was one of the top Midlaners in China, and that he was possibly close to, if not already at, the same level as Daybreak Hermes. This was the ultimate Fence-Sitting Faction.
The entire night would’ve been devoted to this debate. If something more interesting didn’t happen at 7PM that distracted every League enthusiast, fan, and player across China.
「CN•HOOK2 IS ONLINE AGAIN!」
「EVERYTONE COME WATCH!」
「CN•HOOK2 IS CONTINUING HIS CLIMB ON KOREAN CHALLENGER!」
「WHAT ARE YOU ALL WAITING FOR? HE’S STARTING HIS FIRST GAME ALREADY!」