《Welcome to Summoner’s Rift!》
The game started. All Champions were summoned onto Summoner’s Rift and ran to their respective lanes. CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo met Orion’s Zed in the Mid lane before the first minion wave spawned. They danced around each other, poking and testing each other’s defenses. And then the first wave of minions arrived, announcing the start of the laning phase. Yasuo and Zed continued to poke at each other while getting the last hit on every minion.
And then, 3 minutes after the start of the game, the Junglers on both teams decided to roam over to the mid lane for their first ganks. By the time they arrived, Yasuo and Zed were already at each other’s throats, deep in the middle of an intense clash! Zed’s health was dangerously low after taking slash after slash from Yasuo’s blade. But Zed’s Razor Shurikens gave Yasuo just as much damage back. When both Champions were on their last legs, Zed Flashed back towards his tower to avoid a Whirlwind from Yasuo’s blade headed right for him!
CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo saw an opening. He Flashed forward and then seamlessly dashed through one of the Red Team’s minions with Sweeping Blade and arrived right in front of Zed with a graceful spin of his Steel Tempest. Before the attack ended, Yasuo also managed to Ignite the Zed. One last auto-attack was all that was needed to cleave this first life from Zed.
But CN•HOOK2’s Yasuo did not come through the exchange unscathed. Zed’s Razor Shurikens and auto-attacks managed to reap the vast majority of Yasuo’s health. And in the seconds before he died, Zed managed to Ignite Yasuo. And the Ignite continued to burn away at the dregs of Yasuo’s health after the Zed’s death, until Yasuo also died.
《An Ally Has Been Slain!》
The two Junglers who served as witnesses to this first battle both backed away into their respective jungles, clearly unsure about how the rest of this game would play out.
Despite the fact that this was only the first exchange of a game that only started three minutes ago, it was more than enough to thrill and shock the million viewers on Lightless’ steam. They were all laser-focused on the stream with goosebumps spreading across their bodies. Just this first taste had told them that this game would become the stuff of legend.
The first real fight of the game in the Midlane, the first cross of swords between CN•HOOK2 and Orion, had ended in a complete draw. Yasuo and Zed were even in terms of kills, deaths, and minions killed so far. Both of them had even used up both of their available Summoner Spells.
All of the viewers watching the stream were spellbound by the action. That included Lightless Heart, who said nothing for the duration of the fight. He just watched. And then when Yasuo and Zed both died, he jumped up out of his seat and exclaimed, “Hot damn! The pace of this game is even faster than the LPL! I’m calling it right now, folks! This game, this is going to be all about the Midlane. That’s it! On one side, we’ve got the mysterious CN•HOOK2! He’s charged all the way to Rank 6 on the Korean server in a single night and shows no signs of slowing down! On the other side, we’ve got Orion. A King and Midlaner for the OGN team Warrior! These two are going to slug it out, and whoever comes out on top is going to win this game! We don’t even know what’s happening on the other lanes right now, or the Jungle! But that doesn’t matter, because what’s going on in the Midlane is what the absolute peak of League gameplay looks like!”
The first fight was just as thrilling for An Xin, who watched the whole thing unfold from her seat beside Lin Feng inside the hotel room in Beijing. Her eyes sparkled with appreciation as she played it over in her mind.
That was beautiful to see. Everything was timed so perfectly it could’ve been choreographed. Orion waited until his Jungler’s Gragas arrived, and then had his Zed use Living Shadow’s position switch to dash over to Lin Feng’s Yasuo. Then Zed engaged with Razor Shurikens. Just as that attack landed, Gragas rushed into the Midlane and Flashed forward to land a Body Slam on Yasuo. Again, perfect. The stun from Body Slam locked Lin Feng’s Yasuo down, creating an opening for Zed and Gragas to wail on him.
The whole thing was planned and executed precisely. It would’ve worked too, if Blue Team’s Jungler Sejuani had also not arrived at the perfect moment to save Yasuo. She Flashed forward and started an Arctic Assault just as the Flash ended. The Arctic Assault sent her charging into Zed, knocking him up and ending the Zed-Gragas gank on Yasuo.
Sejuani charging in managed to distract Gragas for the tiniest moment. That tiny bit of distraction was more than enough to change the timing of Gragas’ Barrel Roll. He still used the skill, but the stun on Yasuo ended before the barrel could hit. That was enough slack for Lin Feng to avoid the barrel by dashing to Orion’s Zed with Sweeping Blade.
Orion wasn’t slow at all though. The second the knock up on his Zed from Sejuani’s Arctic Assault ended and he saw Yasuo dashing towards him, he reacted instantly with another Razor Shuriken. But Lin Feng blocked that with Yasuo’s Wind Wall. And then he followed up with a basic attack into Steel Tempest combo. That was the second Steel Tempest. Lin Feng used the skill again to send a Whirlwind rushing at Orion’s Zed to knock him up, which would’ve ended the fight if not for how quick Orion’s decision-making was. Orion decided to back away and create some distance by Flashing back towards his Outer Tower, which also let him avoid the Whirlwind from Yasuo’s blade. He would’ve survived, if there wasn’t a perfectly placed Minion between him and Yasuo.
Yasuo went in again with the Sweeping Blade into Steel Tempest combo again, this time following up with an Ignite and an auto attack. That killed Zed. And then the last tick of Zed’s Ignite managed to kill Yasuo.
It all sounds so simple when I play it out in my head like that. But all of this happened over seconds! The reflexes and mechanics both Lin Feng and Orion just displayed though… Nothing about that was simple. Everything was done so precisely, and both of them managed everything from timing to distance to skill cooldowns perfectly!
Orion! He really does live up to his reputation as a King. His Zed is absolutely flawless! More importantly, he managed to stay calm and make optimal decisions in the middle of such a chaotic and fast battle. Literally, the most optimal! He never gave up for a second and managed to keep everything perfectly even!
As for Lin Feng…
An Xin stopped thinking about the fight and turned to face Lin Feng. She studied his face and then continued her train of thought. Lin Feng was just as brilliant! He’s been playing all day, and he’s still just as quick and focused as Orion is right now!
An Xin saw tiny droplets of sweat forming on Lin Feng’s forehead as he continued to play. She smiled. What a blockhead… he’s already going all-out and the game has just started. But I haven’t seen him like this in a long time. A very long time. But when he gets like this, he’s almost never lost a game. Except that one time against Rake during the Season 1 World Finals… Hm. That doesn’t matter though. Lin Feng isn’t up against Rake. He’s playing Orion. There isn’t going to be a second exception!
“Fucking nine hells! Spank me with Lux’s wand cause I gotta be dreaming! A Yasuo that isn’t playing recklessly and actually playing with strategy? I didn’t think that was even possible! Did it really happen? You say that right, Fatty? You saw Yasuo getting the turnaround?” Read XIII screamed into his headset as his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
The fees for calling internationally were too expensive, so Read XIII and Tian Tian switched to QQ and started watching the game together.
“Maple! That bastard! Just how much of his form has he recovered? He’s going even with fucking Orion! ORION! He played against high schoolers for a couple of weeks, and he’s already this close to being at his prime again!?” Read XIII screamed at Tian Tian. Then he took a deep breath to calm down and continued, “Listen, listen! We’ve played against Team Warriors in so many games. I don’t even remember how many times. And I’m the Captain of Assassins! I’ve played against Orion, I’ve studied him, I’ve tried to come up with strategies to beat him for a while now. I can tell you, FOR A FACT, that Orion deserves to be a member of the Seven Kings. His mechanics and skills really are the best in the world! I know EXACTLY how good Orion is!”
Read XIII stopped again to gather his thoughts and some air. “Lemme tell you this, Fatty. The scary part of this game isn’t Orion. The scary part is that Lin Feng was evenly matched with Orion in that last fight. We both know how much of an advantage even a tiny fraction of skill makes at this level of play. LIN FENG WAS DEAD EVEN WITH ORION! NEITHER OF THEM HAD THE ADVANTAGE! DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS, FATTY? That rotten son-of-a-whore Maple is already at the level of a King! A KING! Is he going to be an Emperor again next week?”
From Read XIII’s point of view, if Maple had already recovered to the level of a King, it wouldn’t be long before he reached the level of an Emperor again!
“Fuck! How many years has it been since he left pro play? He comes back yesterday, plays in a few high school tournaments against kids who couldn’t hope to ever beat him, and suddenly he’s at the level of a King again? That’s nuts! I’ve literally got sweat running down my balls and making them stick to my thighs! Complete balls to the wall nuts! “ Read XIII muttered. “Fuck! He’s making all of us from the old days look bad! We’ve all been working our asses off for the past four years, and then the Amazing Fucking Maple pops up to make it look like we’ve all been standing still!”
Tian Tian ignored Read XIII’s rambling and continued focusing on the stream. A moment later, he shook his head and said, “I don’t know how much of his form he’s recovered, but I can tell that he’s still far from where he was at his prime. As for how strong he is now… that’s hard to say.”
That was the real question that everyone watching Lightless Heart’s stream pondered after that last fight. Exactly how strong was the mysterious CN•HOOK2? It was beyond obvious that he was an expert and unusually skilled. Everyone understood that before this final game started. But the fight between CN•HOOK2 and Orion had completely shaken everyone’s perspective. CN•HOOK2 had gone toe-to-toe with a King and ended it in a draw. That was something that no one had expected. And no one knew what that even meant. The first three minutes of this game raised more questions than it answered.
Lightless Heart fell back into his chair after his impassioned speech to his viewers. The implications of the fight didn’t hit him in the excitement. But once it did, his heart skipped a beat. There was one question screaming and echoing through his mind right now, drowning out every other thought. Does this mean that the LPL has another King? Another King Midlaner besides Daybreak Hermes?
Daybreak Hermes’ eyes flickered with mixed emotions as he considered the same question, and he hesitated coming to a conclusion.
Shi Hang and Aurous looked at each other, at the shock and doubt in each other’s eyes, and asked each other the question at the same time.
“Just how strong is Lin Feng right now?”
“Just how strong is CN•HO—no. Just how strong is Maple right now?”
Apart from An Xin who was sitting next to Lin Feng, there was only one other person that really knew the answer.
Los Angeles, California, United States.
On the top floor of a five-star hotel, a beautiful woman was sitting against the window. Her hair draped down her shoulders, exposing one half of her slender neck.
The woman was looking at her phone. Suddenly, she raised her head and looked at the young man standing next to her and smiled. “It looks like Lin Feng’s climbing the Korean ladder tonight. He’s playing his final game. It’s all they’re talking about on the forums. If he wins this one, he’ll complete that task you gave him!”