The last two seasons of League of Legends had some interesting lore between China and Korea. No player from China had managed to climb into the ranks of the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder. It had turned into a pride-motivated gauntlet for Chinese players. A few players had come close, but no one had ever shattered that ceiling. At least, no one that the League fans and enthusiasts in China had heard about.
Then came CN•HOOK2. When he first started to climb, it generated some mild interest. But nothing significant. Over the years, others had started out strong and fizzled out as they got closer and closer to that impenetrable ceiling. But then something new happened. CN•HOOK2 didn’t slow down at all. If anything, he accelerated as he moved through the Korean Challenger Ladder. Faster and faster, until he was pressed up against that ceiling at Rank 11. A single step away from making it into the Top 10. That got everyone’s attention. There was suddenly a Chinese player who had a realistic shot at breaking into the Top 10 of the Korean Challenger Ladder. The first one in two seasons! This charged up every League fan in China and filled them with sweet anticipation!
CN•HOOK2 smashing through the ceiling was the cherry on top of this already exciting day. AyDeeCee’s LeBlanc earlier in the day was enough to get most of the fans hyped. Regardless where they felt he belonged on the tier list, he was another strong Midlaner. That was enough to make everyone happy and excited. Another strong Midlaner meant that the LPL as a whole would be stronger.
A stronger LPL could do much better and prove that China was a region to be feared on the world stage when they clashed against North America, Europe and Korea! And that’s what made CN•HOOK2’s climb even more exciting and worthy of attention. The match between HoG and Team Rapids was only a clash between two domestic teams.
CN•HOOK2, on the other hand, was single-handedly challenging the dominance of the Koreans! He was taking on some of the strongest players in the world and winning! And now he would be facing the current crop of the best players in the world in an attempt to plant China’s flag atop that mountain!
This wasn’t just a single guy climbing to the top of an ELO ladder for the Chinese fans. This was a battle of David against an army of Goliaths!
But there was more to the story of CN•HOOK2. Obviously, there was some regional pride tied into it. And everyone wanted to see an underdog win. But there was an aura of mystery surrounding the player behind the moniker of CN•HOOK2. No one knew who he was beyond the Rift. No one knew where he had come from, what his goal was, or anything else about him beyond what was available on the CN•HOOK2 profile page. He had simply appeared and started climbing. In the beginning, his climb was a passing rumor. Then it gained steam and interest. But more people watching and talking about CN•HOOK2 provided no new answers. Just more speculation.
It was a hotly debated topic on the Chinese League of Legends forums. Fans poured over highlight videos and tried to determine who he was by comparing his decision-making and playstyle to other well-known players. Others attempted to dissect CN•HOOK2’s in-game messages to find clues to his identity. There were countless theories, blind guesses, and confidently incorrect statements made. Entire video channels had popped up to discuss the theories, conspiracies, and recap all the posts that were made on the various channels. It was also a constantly featured segment for streamers on HuyaTV. But no one had come close to unmasking CN•HOOK2’s identity.
One of the streamers determined to discover the truth of CN•HOOK2 was Lightless Heart. He felt that he was on the edge of discovering the truth and blowing the whole mystery wide open.
At 7:03 PM, Lightless Heart went live on his stream. But he wasn’t planning on playing any League at all today, Ranked or otherwise. He immediately logged into his Korean account on League of Legends and scrolled over to CN•HOOK2 on his friend list.
“Tonight’s a special night, guys. We’re not playing. We’re just going to spectate CN•HOOK2’s games and watch him do the impossible! CAN HE DO IT? I DON’T KNOW BUT I’m GOING TO FIND OUT WITH YOU GUYS! Who’s excited?” Lightless Heart declared to 200,000+ viewers.
His stream chat erupted with excitement as messages of support flooded in, along with even more viewers. A truly pleasing twist of fate had made it so that Lightless Heart was the only streamer that had CN•HOOK2 added as a friend! When the news got out, many people on the forums abandoned the walls of text that they were crafting and flocked over to Lightless Heart’s stream!
It was obviously way more exciting to watch CN•HOOK2 play rather than waiting and refreshing a static page of game stats.
For Lightless Heart, this day was special. He didn’t care about the viewers or the numbers. None of his excitement or enthusiasm was played up for the audience either. On this night, for this stream, Lightless Heart wasn’t a League streamer. He was a fan, watching a pivotal moment in history unfold. Especially after he’d gotten a clue that led him to what he believed was CN•HOOK2’s identity. Lightless had zero doubts in his heart or mind that this truly legendary figure could break into the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder.
I wonder how high he’s going to climb? If it really is him… Top 10’s a low estimate. He’s going to get there and keep going. All the way to the t—! Lightless stopped himself from finishing the thought. He didn’t want to even say the words in his head, for fear of jinxing it. He didn’t want to guess and be disappointed. He wanted to watch and savor the anticipation of what was going to happen.
Around the same time, Hermes and Nightsong were sitting in front of a computer in the HoG Gaming house. Even though they had lost their match today, neither of the two pros looked demotivated or dejected. It was honestly too trivial for them to bother with. They were top players who played on the world stage a couple of months ago. The loss against Team Rapids wasn’t enough to shake up their mental.
But they did look restless and excited as they watched Lightless’ steam. Even Hermes and Nightsong wanted to watch CN•HOOK2 play and climb. There was something about him that called out to both Hermes and Nightsong. And both of them thought they knew the player behind CN•HOOK2. The two of them had started playing professionally in Seasons 2 and 3, after carving their own paths through the esports scene. Both of them knew the stories and lore behind China’s most legendary player. And as they watched CN•HOOK2 play, they saw the stories coming to life.
The answer was so shocking that the two didn’t dare to confirm it.
Nightsong sucked in a breath of cold air. “Fuck me with the Emperor’s Dragon dick! It can’t be, right? You really think it’s… him?
Hermes nodded once. Then in a solemn, almost reverent voice, he said. “He’s using the tag CN•HOOK2. I’m at 90% that it’s him.” Even China’s current number one Midlaner watched with an awe reserved for divinity, his eyes shining brightly. I can’t believe he plays League too! What a god! He’s actually good enough to reach the top of the Korean Challenger ladder! And… he’s a Midlaner! Like me! I need to see how good he is… I need to see how good I can become! I’m going to remember this night forever!
Aurous, on the other hand, was lucky enough to have a friend who knew the identity of the player behind the CN•HOOK2 account. Unlike Lightless, Hermes, and Nightsong.
That same evening, Aurous dropped by the Team Rapids Gaming House to visit Shi Hang, and started looking for him. The other members on Team Rapids were busy playing ranked games or their own streams. The entire gaming house was filled with the din of random screaming, communication, and hyped up exclamations.
After walking into the house and popping into random rooms to say hello to the other members of Team Rapids, Aurous found Shi Hang sitting in front of a computer in the corner of a room and walked over to him.
“Aurous! When’d you get here?” Shi Hang said as he noticed Aurous walking in. He pulled a chair over for Aurous and motioned for him to sit down. “Come on, come on, sit!”
Aurous sat down in a huff and asked, “Yes, yes, I’m here! But this is a little… confusing. You had me biting my nails in suspense the entire way over here, now you’re excited to see me… but you’re telling me to sit down in a chair. You sure we wouldn’t be more… comfortable on a couch? Or a bed? I could help you celebrate your comeback with a “comeback” of my own, you know? If that’s not the surprise you called me over for, I don’t know what is.”
Shi Hang facepalmed and glared at Aurous. Then he asked, “Have you not been paying attention to the forums?”
“What? The forums? You asked me here to talk about what’s going on in the forums…? Sweet Shi Hang, you really don’t know how to pick ripe fruit, do you? But yes, I do have a smidge of an idea what you’re talking about. Are we going to talk about CN•HOOK2 climbing the Korean Challenger Ladder?” Aurous replied. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper and got much more serious, “I talked to Nightsong about it earlier today. He and Herm think the person playing the account is One. They’re probably watching him play on Lightless’ stream right now. ”
Aurous paused for a moment, then looked at Shi Hang. “Is that the surprise you wanted to tell me? No… that can’t be right. You were talking to me about CN•HOOK2 before the forums popped off about him! Wait! Do you know something else!?”
Shi Hang shrugged and smiled. “I do. Nightsong and Hermes are right. That account belongs to On—”
“Wait! WHAT!? REALLY!?” Aurous gasped.
“Let me finish before you blow your load. Like I said, the account belongs to One. At least it used to,” Shi Hang continued. “But right now, someone else is using it. You know who he is, since you just watched him play. The person climbing the Korean Challenger Ladder on that account right now is Maple.”
Lin Feng rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. A few more hours is all I’ve got! I need to win! I can only win dammit! Time to break the limiter! He grinned and opened the League client. CN•HOOK2 was currently at 11th in the ranking. He needed to climb 6 more ranks before the end of the day. “ALRIGHT!” he shouted. “LET’S PLAY!”
A burning desire sparked a fire and a desire to play that Lin Feng hadn’t felt in years. Everything fit. His opponents tried to ban his Champions, they camped his lanes and did everything they could to stop him from climbing any higher. It even felt like his teammates didn’t want to win; that wasn’t to say they wanted to lose, they just didn’t play like they wanted to win.
Lin Feng played Fizz in the first game. It was one of his favourite Champions and one he felt incredibly comfortable on. He knew exactly how much damage he could deal, how much he could take, and how to make his cooldowns work just right for him. He showed this in the third minute of the game when he picked up first blood with a solo kill on his opponent in the mid lane. An early kill for an assassin like Fizz was all he needed to win the game. He pushed his advantage and only got further ahead. After claiming kills on his lane opponent and their Jungler, he started roaming. The Toplaner died twice to him in the laning phase and he picked up five kills in the bottom lane. That was also when the game ended, because the opponent surrendered.
The second game was much like the first. The only real difference was that Lin Feng chose to go with Zed in this game instead of Fizz. But while Zed and Fizz were very different Champions with very different skills, they were both assassins with high mobility. More importantly, they both relied heavily on the mechanics of the summoner. Lin Feng used his mechanics to set himself apart from the nine other players on the Rift. He first beat his opponent in the mid lane and then started roaming across the map again. No one was safe from him. Each kill gave him more gold which sponsored his high cost items, items his opponents couldn’t afford.
Lin Feng took a slightly different approach in the third game. He felt like playing Viktor, so he did. Viktor wasn’t quite as strong in the early game, though with Lin Feng playing it was hard to tell. He got the early kill just like he had in the previous two games. The big difference was that Viktor didn’t really start shining until the mid game. So Lin Feng allowed the game to get to that stage for the first time. Both teams gathered in the mid lane 25 minutes into the game and fired skillshots at each other. Lin Feng observed this and waited patiently for his opponents to move too close to each other. When they did, he flashed towards them and hit them with the area of effect stun. He threw his area of effect ultimate on top of that and fired his single target skills at the high health targets. The voice announcer didn’t even have the time to call the triple and quadra kills before she got to scream, “PENTA KILL!”
Three games and three wins. Lin Feng leaned back in his chair and grinned. He clenched his fist and mumbled, “Nice going! I finally did it! Top 10! 9th even! Just a few more places to go! I got this! I just have to win everything! WIN! WIN! WIN! I GOT THIS! HECK YEAH!” He squared his shoulders and put his hand on the mouse again. He then moved it until it hovered over the play again button and pressed it. “I hope you’re watching me, One.”