From the second Champions were summoned onto the Rift to when the Nexus shattered, each of Lin Feng’s ranking games on the Korean server took about 30 minutes. As far as games went on the Korean Challenger solo queue, this wasn’t fast or slow. But for all of the Chinese League fans and players who were paying attention to CN•HOOK2’s climb, these games stretched out to eternity and felt like they were taking ages to end.
An insanely large number of fans and players who decided to stay on the forums instead of watching the streams joined the F5 Gang, constantly refreshing the Korean Challenger Ladder page every minute to see if CN•HOOK2 had won the game he was currently playing.
For every single one of the Chinese League fans, each refresh was accompanied by a wave of anxiety that bordered on panic. They knew the single undeniable truth of League of Legends. Even if CN•HOOK2 was a God-tier player, it was impossible to end every game in 15-25 minutes. Not even the Four Emperors could manage something like that.
This was the solo queue at the Challenger ELO on the Korean server. There was no one in the world who could carry and win in every single game at this level of play. This was the undeniable truth of ranked games, especially at the Challenger rank. And this was also why so many of the Chinese players rooting for CN•HOOK2 were nervous and anxious. The waters of the Korean Challenger solo queue ran deep and dark, and there was no telling who would emerge to end CN•HOOK2’s climb.
An announcement had come from Riot Korea stating that the ranked ladder would be reset at midnight Korean time. All previous rankings from Season 5 would be reset for the start of Season 6. Korea ran an hour ahead of China. Which meant that CN•HOOK2 had 5 hours left to keep climbing.
And there was a single question that permeated through the entire Chinese League of Legends zeitgeist. How high can CN•HOOK2 climb in the time left? Everyone watching CN•HOOK2’s climb asked themselves and each other that question. But there was no way to know for sure what would happen as the seconds ticked down to the rank reset. The only thing that could be done was to wait until CN•HOOK2 played his last game.
Every game that CN•HOOK2 won sent waves of excitement and celebration throughout China! And now that he’d managed to win three games in a row, the tension was palpable in the air for every fan of League of Legends.
The forums were getting stomped on just as hard as the Korean Challenger players that Lin Feng had just defeated. The thread tracking the Korean Challenger ladder and CN•HOOK2’s climb was receiving hundreds of new comments every second.
“First game win!”
“GUYS CNHOOK@ JUS WON!”
“We already know. He’s playing his second game now trash.”
“GG GET BETTER INTERNETS!”
“Can’t even refresh fast enough wants to talk about challenger smh.”
“Second game stomped! CN•HOOK2 can’t be stopped!”
“CN•HOOK2 won his first game on krn server!”
“WE KNOW MORON HE’S WON HIS SECOND GAME TOO!”
“CN•HOOK2 won three games in a row! He’s rank 9 now!”
“CN•HOOK2 RANK 9!!!!!!”
“TOP 10 FOR CHINA!”
“Everyone that’s watching this, I hope you’re healthy and your lives are filled with joy and happiness!”
“STFU” “FKIN SPAMMER” “BAN”
“I just made RMB 4000 last week working for Baidu from the comfort of my own home! Follow <link removed> to find out how you can too!”
“SPAM” “SPM” “BAN” “BAN”
Beyond the forums, there was another hub for people invested in CN•HOOK2’s climb, and that was Lightless Hearts’ stream. He had managed to reach 790,000 viewers, a stone’s throw away from 800,000, and people were still trickling in as they found out about what was going on in the League sphere and that Lightless Heart’s stream was the only place where they could spectate CN•HOOK2’s games.
Lightless Heart was a phenomenal Midlaner and a great streamer. There was no doubt about that. But even for him, this kind of viewership was absurd and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Lightless Heart was closing in on a million concurrent viewers, something almost unheard of in the streaming space. But considering the circumstances, it made sense. Lightless Heart was the only person in all of China who could spectate and stream CN•HOOK2’s games. Most of the viewers had only shown up when they found out that they could watch CN•HOOK2’s climb on the stream, and there was a large chunk who were watching a livestream for the very first time in their lives.
That’s how exciting this moment was for everyone in China who loved League and gaming. It was a pivotal moment in Chinese League history, and they wanted to be a part of it in some small way. That’s how important CN•HOOK2’s climb on the Korean server had become to China.
「this orianna is so godly!」
「first stream gang!」
「who is CN•HOOK2???」
「hook2 is freaking amazing!」
「No idea who he is but I wana marry him!」
「Get in line hoe! I’ll be his first concubine!」
「goddam, i cant believe he won that, even after how bad the early game!」
「i have his kids and make my own league team!!!!!!!!!」
「u want my kids instead?!?!? send pics!」
「i’m getting goosebumps all over! All his games are so exciting!」
「CHINA NUMBA 1!」
The stream’s chat was impossible to read. Messages flooded in faster than the servers could handle them, and the chat lagged. But that didn’t stop all the viewers from constantly throwing something up at the wall of text, even if reading them was impossible. Everyone wanted to leave a mark on this moment, carve their names to say that they were there.
Lightless was equally as excited as his chat. His eyes sparkled as he watched CN•HOOK2. He’s playing even better than before! Three wins in a row already!
“Old Maple’s in good form today,” Shi Hang said as he clicked his tongue.
“Good form?! That kid is on fire!” Aurous exclaimed. Then he looked at the stream, looked back at Shi Hang, and then back to the stream. He nodded silently with a complicated expression on his face as he tried to put something together in his mind. Finally, he looked at Shi Hang and asked, “Alright. Be straight with me here. Exactly how good is Maple right now? He beat you in the East China Regional Quarterfinals, right? 3-2? And that was before this… He’s had even more time to grow and get back to where he was in Season 1. Does that mean he’s even better than you right now? Fuck! Hermes is going to have to step aside the day that kid returns to pro play!”
Shi Hang shook his head. “It’s not that simple. My win against Hermes today doesn’t mean a damn thing. It was one game, I was in good form today and Hermes was a little careless. Beyond that, there were a lot of different variables that worked out in my favor. The way I figure, I think I’ve got maybe a 40% chance of beating Hermes if we go up against HoG again.” Shi Hang paused for a moment and looked straight into Aurous’ eyes before continuing. “If Maple were still at his prime, Hermes would be nothing. Maple would absolutely blow Hermes away. But right now? He’s not there yet. He’s still not good enough yet.”
Aurous blinked slowly as the weight of that statement sunk in.
Shi Hang’s eyes flickered with an obscure light. “Lin Feng is still shaking off the rust. He’s slowly getting back into form and becoming Maple. I don’t know how far along he is in that or how much of his old skill he’s gotten back… but I do know that he’s still far away from being back at the very top.”
Back in Team Shanghai’s hotel room in Beijing, Lin Feng was completely unaware of all the excitement his climb was generating or all the attention he was getting. None of that mattered to him. There was only one thought in his mind. CLIMB!
He was planning on starting his fourth game. He hit the button to start the queue, and then grabbed a cup of water on the table and drank all of it. Then he took a deep breath and focused back on the screen, waiting for the queue to pop.
And while he waited, he reflected on his own condition. I feel great right now. Better than I have in a long time. All those hours of practicing, the scrims, and the tournament games, that was exactly what I needed! I’m starting to feel more like myself than I have in a long time. I’m even better than I was when I played Shi Hang right now. But… it’s not enough. I’m not where I need to be yet. My mechanics are better and I’m faster. But not fast enough. Not yet. I need more to get to the next level!
All of the games that Lin Feng had played and the hours he’d put in had induced a quantitative change in his level of play, but not a qualitative one yet. He still had a long road to travel before he evolved into the player he used to be.
Then a match was found and Lin Feng accepted. The game started and ended 36 minutes later. After three wins in a row, Lin Feng had finally lost one. His first loss of the evening.
Over a million Chinese League fans and players moaned in despair when CN•HOOK2 was defeated in his fourth game. That single loss was enough to knock CN•HOOK2 back down to 10th place on the ranked ladder.
On Lightless’ stream, the setback sent chat into spasms of agony and anger.
「hook2 played so well that game too!」
「he even solokilled ziggs early with viktor! Garbo teammates!」
「yeah, they’re shit! If he had better teammates,this game would’ve been a win!」
Lin Feng was still calm and composed after losing his first game of the night. He was unfazed by the defeat. You win some, you lose some. That’s how this works. Losing is completely normal. The game is built to make sure you can’t win every game unless you’re so good that you can solo-carry. And… where I’m at right now, I can’t carry a game at the top of Challenger alone. This is fine, I’m not done yet!
Lin Feng closed his eyes and rubbed the space between his eyebrows for a couple of seconds. Then he opened his eyes again, and they burned even more intensity with fighting spirit!
Nothing is going to stop me from keeping the promise I made to One!