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!」
ALRIGHT BOIS! WE BACK!
It’s been a weird minute, some might even call it a month. Lots of ups and downs, but that’s the rollercoaster known as life. But let’s backtrack a bit all the way to the 18th of August. I woke up in the morning and took a shit, like I do every morning. But it was a troubled shit. The Zen-like state that I normally achieve as the first log of the day plopped down into the toilet water wasn’t there. I started to feel the vestiges of something deep in the pit of my stomach. A little bit of worry, a sharp gnawing sensation, a twisting and whirling. I was thinking about the exam that I was supposed to take on the 24th of August, and the smallest bit of panic hit me.
But your boy ain’t no bitch. So I sucked it up, made some tea, and started studying. The panic didn’t go away. Nay! It only intensified more and more. I started to feel like I couldn’t keep up and that the hours were slipping by. After three hours of distracted studying and wiping away the flop sweat upon my brow, I decided to do something else. I looked upon this very chapter and started trying to edit. But I could not. The words would not come. My mind was too distracted with worries of the exam I had yet to take.
And so, I did the only thing I could reasonably do in such a solemn hour. I messaged Shanks and let him know that I couldn’t keep up with everything and that I needed a couple of days off to just study. When I sent Shanks this message… this admission of my own limitations and mortality, I did so under the assumption that Sietse would be back from vacation on the 22nd of August and could pick up the release schedule on the 23rd or so. The hiatus was to be but a scant 4 days. A fourth, a quarter, 0.25. In the back of my mind, I didn’t think most of you would even notice, since y’all just wait for chapters to stack up before binging anyway. And so, I decided to do the smart thing and spend the next 5 days focused on studying for my exam. Which I did. I stopped talking on the Discord server, I stopped looking at my phone, and I did nothing but study for 5 difficult days.
Then on the night of the 23rd of August. I remember this vividly. I had eaten a meager dinner of bread and beans to prevent myself from succumbing to the stupor of gluttony. And then returned to my question bank to joust with a barrage of medical information. At 10PM, I decided to take a brief break to perform my nightly shit. A dumping of the cares and worries of the day. And also to release the shit in my rectum. Since I was on a break, I decided to check my phone to see what’s going on. That’s when I noticed an email from Prometric telling me my exam was cancelled. My first thought was that this was a scam. Because why would Prometric cancel a major medical exam? So I checked the email headers, and to my surprise, it appeared to be real! So then I logged into the exam portal to make doubly sure, and I was locked out. I did not understand what was going on or what to do. The email said “Please do not report to the exam center.” But when do I listen to anyone about anything?
I immediately emailed and called multiple people, including my University, my Dean, and the main line for the National Board of Medical Examiners. Shockingly enough, no one answered at 11PM at night. So I went to bed, full of confusion and trepidation, determined to solve this mystery in the morning. I woke up and put some clothes on and headed off to my exam center in the exotic locale of Fairlawn, New Jersey.
When I arrived, I found a scene so unexpected, so insane, so horrific that my mind did not process it fully. It turned out that the minor hurricane that had hit us over Sunday and Monday flooded the river next to the exam center, and now the river water was inside the exam center. I discovered why the email stated “Do not report to the exam center.” It might’ve been more helpful if the email stated, “Do not report to the exam center because it is currently filled with water.” But that is not what it said.
So I drove home and tried to figure out what to do and how to reschedule this exam. And to my further surprise, I found out that no chapters had been released for the last few days. Sietse, my bosom companion, my partner in editing, my friend of years, had decided to extend his vacation without telling us for some reason. Which was fine. He’d been looking forward to this vacation for a while and it sounded like he was having fun.
So I spent the rest of August trying to figure out what to do about my cancelled examination and how I was going to finally take this damn thing to become a fully licensed physician. Mine medical peen was only at half-mast without this exam, and I needed to take it and pass it in order to have the truly rock hard cock of a true doctor. I’ll let Shanks take over the story from here.
Shanks Thought: So, first of all, I fully expected this to happen. Sietse did too. Devshard has a terrible habit of taking on more than he can handle, and handling Rise releases while studying for an important exam was definitely too much for him to handle.
As for Sietse extending his vacation, I think that was a misunderstanding between all of us. I was under the assumption that Devshard would be finishing the chapters that he was supposed to do and release those, and Sietse was too, since he agreed to take them on. But that’s neither here nor there.
Because shit completely hit the fan afterwards. Sietse leaving came as a huge blow to me. And I think it took me a couple of days to actually process that he was gone. Three, four years working together, and then suddenly, it’s over. It felt like an end to an era, a chapter of my life. A damn abrupt one too, cause I thought we’d be going strong for at least another few years. But ‘tis life.
With Sietse gone, it means that someone has to pick up the slack and become the new chad thundercock of the group. I have decided to take on that role, for both Devshard and my sake! It’s going to be tough, but I think I’ll succeed! So, the next few months will be interesting…