Lin Feng looked at An Xin through bleary eyes and said, “Thanks, BunBun.” When he heard what he said, he scrunched his eyebrows and mumbled, “BunBun? Huh?” He looked at An Xin again and then asked, “BunBun! When did you get here? Why aren’t you in bed? It’s late! You should get some sleep!”
An Xin giggled and replied, “I don’t see you sleeping either. Why should I sleep?”
Lin Feng laughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his head. He explained, “We’ve been playing in the Collegiate Cup for months, and then we had to fly to Guangzhou and Beijing. We practiced all the time and also had to study for our exams… I kind of figured that after the hotpot earlier everyone was going to knock out early. Especially since, you know, we’ve gotta get up early in the morning for our flight back home.”
“So you’re saying I have to go to bed but you get to stay up?” An Xin asked.
Lin Feng shook his head and explained, “I want to go to bed! But I also need to keep my promise to One and the ranked ladder is about to reset soon! I have to play!”
An Xin pointed at Lin Feng’s screen that showed he’d lost his previous game and said, “You won’t reach the Top 5 if you’re losing…” She put her hands on Lin Feng’s shoulder and asked, “How many games have you played already?”
Lin Feng opened his match history page and scrolled down a bit before replying, “I think 10? Looks like 10, yeah.”
An Xin shook her head and said, “No wonder you look like a zombie. No one can play at their best for so many hours! And it’s even longer if you count the Finals and this morning!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Lin Feng replied. “I know. I know! But I just don’t have enough time. The ladder is almost resetting! If I don’t get to the Top 5 before then, my promise to One… I… I—”
“You have to keep it,” An Xin finished the sentence. She looked at Lin Feng and smiled. “I know you have to keep it. And I wasn’t telling you to stop either.” Not that anyone could stop you at this point… Everyone in the world could line up and tell you one at a time, or together in one loud scream, tell you to take a break and you wouldn’t listen. That’s your stubbornness, or persistence… either one depending on your results, I guess. But that’s also how you fight to the top, and get to the top. So… She put her hands on Lin Feng’s shoulders and started giving him a massage. She whispered into his ears, “Just relax for a bit. Drink the water and let me give you this massage. You can continue afterwards, okay?”
Lin Feng chewed on his lips and mumbled, “B-but… There isn’t the time—”
“Shh, shh, shhhh!” An Xin whispered into his ears, tracing the back of her hand over his shoulder blades. “You’ve been playing nonstop for too long already. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Just a couple of minutes. It’ll do wonders. Trust me, Lin Feng. Trust me.”
Lin Feng wanted to argue, but she was putting just the right amount of pressure on his back and shoulders. It relaxed his body more than he’d expected it to and he started to realize that he had been putting a lot of tension on his body. He glanced over his shoulder at An Xin who was still smiling at him and smiled back at her again. “Okay,” he finally mumbled.
An Xin moved her hands up the sides of Lin Feng’s head and paused at his temples, putting a bit more pressure as she moved her fingers in small circles. She then continued up, moving across his brows before sending her index fingers down to his glabella. She increased the pressure again there as her fingers made small circular movements.
Lin Feng moaned and said, “BunBun, I forgot how good your massages are. They bring me back to Season 1…”
“Just relax and enjoy,” An Xin said, happy. I gave you a massage every day back then. Back when you had to give it your all every game and I did my best to give you some relief… That’s part of the reason we grew so close. That’s part of the reason I want to play together with you so badly. The memories that started playing before her eyes were vibrant and full of colour for a couple of seconds, but then they turned a dullish grey. She remembered the words her doctor told her. How she’d never again get full use from her hand. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts! She pursed her lips and then said, “I was reading some forum earlier and everyone was going crazy about you. There are thousands of posts and millions of comments talking about you! There are people streaming just to analyze your ranks! Everyone in China is talking about you!”
Lin Feng opened his eyes wide and asked, “Huh, really!?”
“Very really,” An Xin answered.
“Well, I am Maple!” Lin Feng said with a grin.
An Xin nodded and replied, “You are.” She then breathed in deeply and breathed out through her mouth. Her smile disappeared, though her hands kept moving in practiced motion. I’d offer to help you, you know that. But One wants you to do this alone. You can’t get any help. Those people talking about you online, they don’t know that. They just think you’re trying too hard. She gritted her teeth. I want to help you. I really do! You might not know, because I never told you, but I hit the Top 10 on the Korean Challenger Ladder early on in the season. But that was then… Now I’m down to the Top 30 and barely holding on. She let her head fall forward a bit, keeping it just shy from Lin Feng’s head, and looked at her right hand. That was before the… That was when I thought we could still go to Worlds together when you returned to the game. I knew you would and I was preparing for it! And then… then… She sucked in a breath of air to force back the tears appearing in her eyes. Then my stupid hand happened. Why? Why…?
“Hey, BunBun?” Lin Feng said.
An Xin raised her head and blinked away a tear. She asked, “Hmm? What’s up?”
Lin Feng stretched his back and took another sip from his water. He then turned his head to look at her and said with his usual cheerful expression, “I think I’m good again! I feel a lot better! Thanks to you.”
An Xin let go of Lin Feng’s shoulders and replied, “Okay. Keep your promise to One.”
“I will!” Lin Feng exclaimed, clenching his fist and pumping the air. He entered the queue and asked over his shoulder, “BunBun, time?”
An Xin looked over Lin Feng’s shoulder at the clock on his screen and said, “There, look. It says 11:10 P.M. which means it’s almost midnight here.”
“But it’s not midnight in Korea yet!” Lin Feng replied, grinning. “I’ve still got 3 hours left! That means I’ve got time for 6 more games if I’m fast enough!” He clicked on his profile while waiting for the queue and continued, “I’m at Rank 8 right now. The goal is Top 5. Given how many points I need to get there… Hmm… If I win five in a row and also win the sixth if I need to… Yeap! If I win everything, I will make it! It’s still doable!”
An Xin asked, “You need to do what other professional players have failed at, and you’ve only got like 6 games to do it in. Are you up for it? Are you ready to play more and win everything? Do you think you can do it?”
“Not one bit!” Lin Feng replied, laughing. He looked over his shoulder at An Xin and continued, “But I’m gonna try all the same! One gave me this task and I’m going to see it through to the end! Three more hours of League. No rest! AND IT’S STARTING NOW!” The queue had popped. He clicked on the ready button and was moved to Champion Select.
An Xin pulled up a seat and sat down next to Lin Feng. She winked at him and said, “And I’m going to stay and watch. Cheer you on and make sure you make it!” She forced a smile on her face. It hurt incredibly much to do so, but she wouldn’t show him how weak she felt. It wasn’t until he focused completely on his screen that she let her expression fall. She chewed on the inside of her lips and focused on taking deep, long breaths. I want to be there for you. No. I want to be here with you, playing. Shoulder to shoulder. As a team. Just you and me. But that won’t ever happen. I’ll be… I’ll be forever this. The girl who sits by your side and cheers you on. Maybe I should start the fanclub, because that’s all I’ll ever… She closed her eyes and mumbled barely audibly, “Stop this. Stop thinking like this! You’re better than this!” She then glanced up at Lin Feng to make sure he hadn’t heard her. When she saw his eyes were still on his screen, she sighed. Good. He can’t find out.