34 minutes before the servers for League of Legends Korea shut down.
34 minutes before the Korean Challenger Ladder Rankings finalized for the season.
34 minutes before CN•HOOK2 epic challenge of the Korean gauntlet ended.
With over a million hopeful and tense eyes watching, CN•HOOK2 started his final game of the night. A game that he needed to finish in 34 minutes.
“We’ve seen a lot of miracles from CN•HOOK2 tonight, that’s for sure! But this one… I don’t know, guys. He’s on that razor’s edge and there’s no telling how this could go. We don’t know much about the players on the other team… or the players on his team. But all 10 players in this game know that there’s only 34 minutes left. There’s a definitely chance that they could drag this game out just to stick it to CN•HOOK2. It’d be a bitch move and completely tarnish Korea’s reputation in the League scene, but you never know how these things will play out. All we do know is that CN•HOOK2 is right up against that wall…. ” Lightless said to his viewers. And then he frowned. I know HE pulled off some crazy shit back in the DOTA days. Things beyond miracles. But this… this might be beyond even him. There’s too many variables here, too many things that can go wrong. Lightless shook his head to snap himself out of his thoughts and addressed his stream again. “If this game ends up taking long… or if they stall him out… Even if he does win, CN•HOOK2 won’t hit Rank 5.”
Lightless was absolutely right. All of the viewers on his stream understood that there was no way to tell how this game would go, and that uncertainty only added to the pressure. CN•HOOK2 needed to defeat Orion, a World-class Midlaner and named King, and also win the game before the Ranked Ladder reset. Nearly everyone watching the game understood that they would suffocate and crumble under that much pressure and weight.
But there was something awe-inspiring about watching CN•HOOK2 stand tall against all that pressure. He was doing something that none of the viewers could ever accomplish. Or even dream of accomplishing. And considering that he was doing it after grinding out game after game for hours with almost no break time, that elevated CN•HOOK2 to even greater heights in their hearts. The insane number of games he’d played on this night would leave even the most hardcore professional players exhausted to the point of passing out. But CN•HOOK2 stood there, unwavering, against the most fearsome opponent he’d faced so far in the most important game of his climb!
“Shit. Herm? How many ways can you fuck a duck and still cook it?” Nightsong asked his old friend without moving his eyes from the stream.
The question startled Hermes enough that he asked, “What? Just… what? Nightsong, you say some strange things and I usually know what you mean. But this… I genuinely have no idea what you’re asking.”
Nightsong sighed before replying, “Your thoughts, Herm! On what’s going on with CN•HOOK2 and Orion! The shit that we’re watching! There’s so many ways this can play out and I’m wondering what his chances are! How is that not fiddle-fucking-obvious?”
Hermes rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he considered what to say. Nightsong understood that in a game like the one about to be played, with two Midlaners of that caliber, the only person that could accurately judge which way it would go was another World-class Midlaner and fellow King like Daybreak Hermes. No one else, professional player or not, could play out the possibilities and predict what could happen in this game.
Hermes closed his eyes and continued to think for another minute. Then he opened them and said, “CN•HOOK2’s got a 30% chance of winning? Maybe? If it were me, and I was going into this game after already having played 13 games straight, I’d maybe have a 30% chance of winning. That’s being optimistic about it. But that’s for me. If CN•HOOK2 is really him… then even I’m not sure what the probability is here. There’s no way to tell with that guy. But I know that there’s no way I’d be playing at my best in this game.”
Inside the Team Rapids’ gaming house, Shi Hang and Aurous were deep into the same exact conversation as Nightsong and Hermes.
“It doesn’t matter if he’s playing at his best or not right now! Lin Feng is resilient, and almost always comes through when he’s in a pinch,” Shi Hang stated confidently. He had absolute faith in Lin Feng.
Aurous frowned. “It doesn’t matter how good he was! You said he wasn’t back to peak Maple yet! And there’s no way you can say for sure that he’s still going strong. No shot. He’s played 13 games before this one and he’s had no time to rest or reset mental. There’s literally no shot that he’s playing at peak energy. Even if he goes in strong and looks good in the first few minutes of the game, he’ll start falling off as he gets more and more tired. There’s no way you can say for sure that won’t happen, right? Let’s not forget that he’s playing against Orion right now, who is still fresh. I’d say that even Hermes in peak condition has a 50-50 chance against Orion!”
Shi Hang had nothing to say. He knew that Aurous was right. The argument here really wasn’t about Lin Feng’s mental or physical state. That mattered somewhat, but it paled in comparison to the biggest determinant factor for this game. Lin Feng’s opponent was Orion. A King and the 3rd best Midlaner in Korea.
Shi Hang took a deep breath and tried to keep the worry he felt off his face. This really is going to be a tough game to win. The Lin Feng from four years ago, when he was Maple, he’d have no problem against Orion. But the Lin Feng of today? Has he gotten enough back to take on someone like Orion… ?
All 10 players in the game locked in on their champions and moved into the loading screen.
Blue Team versus Red Team
Top: Lulu vs. Rumble
Jungle: Sejuani vs. Gragas
Mid: Yasuo vs. Zed
Support: Thresh vs. Janna
Ad-Carry: Tristana vs. Jinx
Lin Feng closed his eyes and took three deep breaths, exhaling slowly after each one as he prepared himself mentally for this final game. He could feel An Xin, still calmly sitting next to him and gazing at him warmly. His sole companion on this climb up the Korean Challenger Ladder. He could feel what she was thinking. This is the last game. Are you confident you can win?
Lin Feng thought about the question on An Xin’s mind. Can I win? Am I confident that I can win? I honestly have no idea if I can win this game. But that doesn’t matter! I’m not going to sit here second-guessing myself over getting into this game. It doesn’t matter if I’m up against Orion, Moon, or anyone else! I’m going to keep my promise to One!
Orion… the only way I’m going to beat him in lane is if I go all out. No, no, no! I gotta pull out even more! All out plus! Orion’s known for being an aggressive Midlaner. He’s going to go in for the kill the second we’re in lane… and that’s the best kind of fight. No tricks, no fancy strategies and overthinking. We’ll be fighting each other with pure skill to decide who is better!
That’s what this game is going to be. A straight and fast slugfest! That’s a good thing too. With Orion setting the pace, there’s no way this game is going to drag out. This is going to be a 15 minute game!
The two teams loaded into Summoner’s Rift as Lin Feng steeled his mental state, and when the Korean Announcer’s voice rang out to welcome them into Summoner’s Rift, he opened his eyes. He took a deep breath and readied himself for battle. This was his moment and he was going to do whatever it took to keep his word to One! He was all fired up and the intensity of his spirit raged out through his eyes. What almost no one knew, from Lightless to all his viewers to the professional players watching, or expected was that this was when Lin Feng was at his best!
The number of people that understood where Lin Feng was at right now could be counted on a single hand. One of those people was currently inside KG’s Gaming House, nervously watching the Lightless steam of CN•HOOK2’s game. Tian Tian.
Tian Tian sat there watching the Champions load into Summoner’s Rift, alternating between a small smile of joy at his friend’s triumphs and nervous shivering. Then his phone started ringing, which startled him and made him fall back in his chair. Tian Tian quickly got up and took his phone out of his pocket to answer it.
“Yo? AYO! Say something! Hello? Hello? FATTY!? You there? It’s Read XIII! I hear you breathing loudly. Can’t you talk?”
The caller was the star Jungler and Team Captain of Taiwan’s Assassins, Read XIII.
Tian Tian tried to gather his breath and composure after the fall and answer. But before he could get a word in, Read XIII started asking another question. “Anyways. Listen. I’ve got something to ask you. Are you watching that Hook2 climbing on the Korean Server? He’s on Lightless Heart’s stream. It’s all over the forums too. Pretty much everywhere. All the other streamers are trying to figure out how to rebroadcast the Lightless’ stream. Anyways. That Hook2 guy, is that Maple?!”
Just as Tian Tian had gotten his breath back, the question knocked it out of him all over again. “Huh, u-uh. H-h-hm. Uh…” The suddenness of the question caught him off guard. But he quickly gathered himself and said, “It is” with a nod.
Read XIII’s voice grew even louder. “HOLY SHIT! IT REALLY IS HIM!? FUCK! I thought it was One in the beginning, but then I realized—wait, that don’t sound right. He definitely couldn’t be assed to do something so annoying. Then I figured it out! Lightbulb! Lightning-on-the-brain! I thought about Maple! Who else would be this bananas? Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! This is nuts! That kid is even crazier than me!”
Read XIII’s mouth was firing off like a cannon, not pausing in the slightest. He was completely lost in his excitement.
“H-hey, calm down. Breathe!” Tian Tian muttered, still confused and bewildered.
Read XIII changed the subject again. “Hey, I wonder how far Maple’s gonna climb? Wait. Well, shit. He’s only got enough time for this one game. God damn! He’s even facing Orion!? This’ll be a tough match! Hey Fatty, do you think Maple can win?”
Tian Tian paused for a moment, then forcefully nodded. “He’ll win! “
“Huh? How are you so sure?” Read XIII asked, surprised.
Tian Tian’s eyes looked back at the stream, pride and joy shining through them. “Because moments like this one are when Lin Feng is at his strongest!”